The world was a cruel and difficult place, but Oz could understand its simple motions. He tried to think of things in terms of actions creating reactions. There was often a whole chain of reactions that led to each outcome they faced and he could grasp this much. Despite his love for creating music, he had a very scientific thought process. His emotions were always calm and cool because he could see the world logically. A lot of terrible things had happened in the lives of people he cared for and he did feel the losses deeply, but he was able to maintain equilibrium. This since of emotional homeostasis was needed for him to keep his inner wolf at bay. Each event was a catalyst of sort that sparked something inside of him, but the small flame was always quickly neutralized before it could turn to rage. If he did not keep himself poise and composed, any strong negative emotion like grief or loss could quickly magnify into rage.
There were many small rituals that Oz performed to keep himself in control. It was admittedly much easier with time, but with everything going on recently he liked to be completely assured that he would be able to hold himself together. One of these small acts was seeking comfort and joy in the people he called his friends. For some reason the guilt of biting Callie had been getting to him on this particular day. He had run into her at the coffee shop before she went to class and she was just different. She still had light to her, but her smile was not quite as bright and he could not help but feel the small twinge of guilt that tugged and pulled at his stomach. He knew it was not his fault, but he figured he would still try to have some fun this afternoon so his mind did not linger on it. It had been way too long since he had seen Xander and he knew the dude had a lot on his plate as well. All of them always had a lot to deal with yet somehow always managed to pull through.
He had been eating lunch at a small café near the Trevi Fountain and decided he would take the trip over to Xander’s. It was nearby and it would probably be a good hang out for the both of them. They had always had a certain bond since they had been the guys of the Scooby group. Oz was the more laid back one of the pair, but he had always enjoyed Xander’s company. It evened out all the girl talk he had to listen to. Neither of them minded listening to the girl chat, but it was nice to have someone else around who understood guy stuff. Once he finished eating his pizza, he quickly paid for his bill and made his way out to walk to Xander’s. The Rome air was starting to get chilly as the fall season took over. It was much nicer to be able to walk around without getting hot and sweaty. Plus, Oz really liked his trench coat. It was dark beige and he usually wore a black scarf with it. The ensemble was nothing too fancy, but Oz liked it that way. He did not really do fancy unless it was absolutely necessary.
As he walked through the streets of Rome, he noticed that there were not nearly as many tourists as there had been just last month. Summer had been the worst, but there was a clear difference between the locals and the tourists. Almost all of the conversations he was picking up on around him were in Italian and their eyes did not have the same fascination for the city. He still found the city to be beautiful, but he knew that even he did not have the same wide eyed wonder that most of the tourists had. He would always enjoy the smell of Italian cooking lingering in the air though even if it did leave him feeling hungrier all the time. It was not too long before he found himself approaching the cozy apartment that Cordelia, Xander, and Fred had all taken residence in. Last time he had checked, Friday was Xander’s day off and Cordy would be at the magic shop. He admittedly did not know as much about Fred’s schedule, but it was always nice to run into the cute Texan.
He slowly made his way up the stairs before arriving to their floor. When he got to their door he knocked firmly so that Xander could hear him. His hands relaxed in his pockets as he patiently waited for the door to swing open. When this did happen, Oz was pleasantly surprised when he saw a surprised Fred standing before him. He lips quirked up in a shadow of a smile while greeting, “Hey, Fred. Is Xander here?” When the lanky brunette informed him that the carpenter was not there, he was not too disappointed. If Fred was not busy, this would mean they could take some time to get to know each other. She had seemed like a really cool chick and when he had first met her he had even had a bit of a crush on her. That was before he found Gen though and things were going well. Either way, the woman was still a part of their band of heroes so bonding would be a good thing. So Oz quickly asked, “Well, are you up to anything then? Just like hanging out.”
The man seemed confused at Zedekiah’s question and he bit his lip. Whatare you probably wasn’t the most gracious thing to ask a man, not knowing their name, let alone the tiniest thing about them. But his mind was still ringing with alarm and a newly presented sense of panic and he narrowed his eyes at the man who was considerably shorter than he. “Oz?” What was an Oz? Was it some kind of nymph? A faerie? A misguided spirit? A demon? Some lost angel like he? No. It couldn’t be any of those things. This Oz seemed so very human, but his energy seemed to echo of something not. It was closer to that of a dark, overbearing creature, but the man appeared harmless enough. “My name is Zedekiah.” The angel scanned the young man over, scrutinizing his features and trying to find something vaguely evil, vaguely wrong in them but could find nothing. Was this man possibly harboring a creature in his body?
“I am alright, sir.” He quickly retorted, still going over every aspect of Oz. “Are you though? You seem to be giving off the strangest essence. I was able to feel it and almost catch the bizarre scent on the block over and it puzzles me greatly.” He took a deep breath, still not being able to come to any enlightening conclusions. “You are not entirely human, am I wrong? There is a certain coldness and animalistic presence of your being that I sense…” He swallowed hard and continued, “I do not bring these words to confuse or harm you, sir, I am merely in a state of unknowing what sort of a earthly being you are.” Silence seemed to fill the air around them, even though there were still hoards of people that bustled to and fro, brushing against the two men.
“Would you mind telling me? I mean no harm, sir.” Zedekiah spoke as calmly and truthfully as he could before clasping his hands behind his back, waiting for the interesting man’s reply. The essence did not scare the angel, he realized, but it gave him goosebumps that ran down his spine, and he appeared to be the only person in the vicinity who felt so strange. He swallowed for the second time in the conversation and centered his weight on evenly on both feet, hoping a stable balance would help his busy, thought-crammed head. It wasn’t but it made breathing easier and it made him wonder why this was such a challenge. Asking the man why he was such a peculiar being shouldn’t be so difficult and acting defensively was what the angel had least expected…he knew he had so much more to learn from there.
This conversation with the innocent looking young man was definitely taking a turn he did not usually like his interactions with strangers to take. However, Oz could smell something different about this Zedekiah guy and maybe he even felt a bit lighter. It was hard to put a finger on it and it was definitely not the sort of thing he had ever picked up on before. There was also the fact that this guy could tell he was not completely human. That was not an ability that any normal person had so Oz found himself growing curious. Zedekiah felt inherently good and it was something about him that just gave off that vibe. It was almost peaceful and Oz kind of enjoyed his Zen mojo thing. He was already a pretty chill person and with everything happening it was a bit harder to maintain. It was kind of nice to have a feeling of relief around this guy. He was weary on whether or not he should trust it, but he supposed what harm would telling him about the wolf deal be? Clearly he was some sort of supernatural being as well.
The confusion in Zedekiah’s tone and questions was undeniable and Oz was not quite sure how to answer them. They all sounded so innocent in nature that Oz even pursed his lips at a more upward angle. The only way to approach this was the truth so he explained, “I’m a werewolf. I don’t hurt anyone though. I don’t wolf out anymore and when I did I had a cage.” There was a small tug in his stomach as he said he did not hurt anyone. His mind instantly drifted to Callie and how her life had been changed so drastically because of him. She insisted he did not blame himself because Willow had done this to him, but it still felt like a lie. He sighed slightly and realized he had no idea what this guy was still.
His eyes tried to observe the angel before him closely, but no answers were arising. Everything about him looked human. His features were particularly soft yet still had the ability to portray strength. It did not seem possible for Zedekiah to be evil, but he should still be aware of who/what he was talking to. He would suppose he would have to take the tactless approach and just ask. Cordelia would be proud of him and that thought amused him a bit. He quickly inquired, “So what are you anyway? You don’t smell quite human and you can sense that I’m not.” Oz was not sure if the questions came across politely so he added, “I also do not mean any harm. Just curious.”
Allison heard English come out of this wild haired man’s mouth and she smiled gratefully. She kept forgetting that English was a rarity here, and she knew she needed to appreciate it where she could find it. As she assessed her injuries momentarily, he stood up on his own. He spoke in a very calm tone, giving her his name and offering to help take care of her injured areas.
“Oh, um, hello, Oz. That’s a bit of an odd name, no? I’m Allison… I… I would like to get cleaned up, but…” She was still watching the last path of her hat, though the hat itself was nowhere to be seen. Her heart throbbed, yearning to not let it get away. But she had collided with the seemingly kind Oz and she had also gotten hurt, and she found herself torn between what to do. It didn’t take long for her to choose to continue to chase her hat. That hat… she couldn’t lose it. Not that one. Not ever.
Still, she couldn’t just run off. She didn’t know when she’d meet more English-speakers. She’d contacted Giles shortly before arriving in Rome, but he had never responded. There was no way for Alli to find the Slayer without his assistance. Oz smiled just slightly and glanced at her hands and wrist again. Alli looked back and forth nervously. “But… my hat…”
Oz followed her eyes out into the road, but he clearly didn’t see her hat, either. He asked Alli where she was from. “Not Italian. Yes. New York. New York City. What about you?”
He responded, still talking with such a soft sounding voice. Sunnydale. Allison had heard that name before. Sunnydale, Sunnydale… Where had she heard of that place? Her brow furrowed in concentration, but with her split focus, it was a wasted effort. She gave it up for now and stored the information away to think about later. Her hands unthinkingly moved to adjust the hat that was no longer there, and she frowned, glancing again at Oz.
He watched her as if he were waiting for her to speak. Had he asked her something, or was it just her flighty behavior? “Um… I know we just met and everything, and I’d really like to talk to you more, but my hat flew away. It’s from someone who means—meant—a lot to me.” The blood on her hands was drying, but the presence of it recalled to her the smell and sight of blood pouring all over her deep green coat as a man—a vampire—sneered at her. As always, she shook these thoughts away. Her eyes met with Oz’s as he offered to try and help her find her hat. She was warmed by his sweetness and she expressed her gratitude towards him before she turned to follow the road.
Oz stopped her, however, and pulled her to a nearby drinking fountain to wash her hands first. That was probably a good idea.
Oz surprisingly found himself smiling slightly at her comment about his name being a bit strange. He supposed it was a nickname, but no one ever called him Daniel. That would just be kind of weird for him. It had many years since anyone had called him Daniel. The nickname had been picked up in elementary school and his mom was the only person who ever called him by his first name and even then it was only if he had gotten into trouble. He’d skip out on explaining the nickname portion in case she was the kind of girl that would decide to call him by his given name. She seemed pretty laid back, but explaining was not really necessary anyway.
The peppy brunette girl seemed to be slightly distracted as she answered his question. Her eyes were trailing the surrounding area. It seemed as if she had lost something during their fall but he hung on to her words anyway. The cool breeze had danced by them again and Oz took a moment to enjoy the aroma it brought with it. The bakery was right next door and was reminding him of how hungry he was. Maybe after this he could have some company for lunch. He had spent a decent amount of time alone this morning and another English speaking friend was always welcomed.
Apparently Allison was from New York and lost her hat. He had been to the city a few times and had enjoyed it enough. It was kind of too industrial looking for his taste, but it did have a certain excitement in the air. He could see Allison fitting in well with the New York crowd. Oz commented, “Nice, I’m from Sunnydale, California. So opposite end of the country, but still with the English speaking.”
The girl was now rambling on about how she lost her hat and it was from someone important. Oz felt like he should help the girl. She seemed really sweet and was clearly upset over the loss of her hat. He could understand putting sentimental value into things so he figured he may as well offer to help her out. He shrugged slightly and offered, “Well, I can help you look for it. You know which way it went?”
Oz followed her as she led the way to find her beloved hat. She had a bit of an eager bounce in her step as her eyes frantically eyed the area for the accessory. He looked around carefully trying to find a hat floating around in the wind, but he was not finding anything so he asked, “What does the hat look like?” It was easier to spot something if you knew exactly what you were looking for. She went on to describe the hat as they continued their search and Oz began to look more carefully now that he had a description.
Just as planned, Allison joined Missy on her job hunt as soon as they had eaten. It seemed Missy had already been looking at online ads for work in the area before the two had arrived in the city. Allison hadn’t really thought of getting a job, much less on trying to get one so soon after moving. Of course, Allison also was never particularly good at keeping track of expenses, so she didn’t know if they were in need of money or not. Ever the optimist, she simply assumed everything would work itself out given time. Allison cheerily placed her favorite hat on her head as they left their apartment.
It wasn’t exactly surprising that Missy was impressing potential employers without hardly seeming to try. Allison soon was left feeling out of place while Missy filled out some of her applications on the spot. Allison stood about with her hands in her pockets. She was feeling somewhat anxious and beginning to look how she felt. Missy glanced at her periodically, and Allison noticed this a full half an hour before she chose to comment on it.
“What?” She bit her lip and rolled back and forth on her heels. Missy sighed and mentioned that she felt kind of bad for dragging Allison around with nothing for her to do. Alli looked out the window of the shop they were in, still chewing her bottom lip. “Um… I’m not so sure if this is a good idea or not, but I kind of just feel like taking a walk around by myself for a while.” Missy checked to make sure Allison had her cell phone, then suggested that Allison follow her whim, as Missy would be busy for a while yet. She’d call her later.
A grin split across Alli’s face, and she thanked Missy before nearly skipping out of the quaint little shop. It was a bit chilly out, but Alli didn’t mind. She liked being able to see her breath. Her breath was proof that she was alive, and she rarely ceased to revel in that knowledge. As she walked, she tried to take in the beautiful buildings that surrounded her. She didn’t know much about architecture, but she was sure these exquisite buildings must be highly regarded by those who did. Nonetheless, she could appreciate the buildings in her more simplistic manner. No thought of the functionality of things. She inhaled the elegant beauty of the chiseled marble and the grainy stone. This place was so far removed from the environment of New York, and she was fascinated to explore the area and find what gems she could.
She did already miss New York a bit, though. It had it’s own aesthetic value, and she was much more accustomed to the feel and the scent of the skyscrapers and the crowds bustling about without pause. Visions of the city in the midst of a snow storm crept up in Alli’s memories. The cold gray skies and the snow falling into the path of streetlights, lighting up and dancing in the air. The neon signs showing through the haze with the fresh white décor lining their tops. Her fingers entwined with a young man’s. His laughter sounded around them… A flash of his face as the light left his eyes, and he fell limp at her feet…
Alli snapped back to the present as a gust of wind stole her hat from her head. Alli’s face contorted from vague sadness to shock as she watched her hat fly away through the roads. “Oh, dammit,” she cursed the wind, anger seeping into her mind.
She didn’t have to think to start running after it. Her arm uselessly reached out before her as if she could somehow grasp the hat that was so faraway so quickly. Alli didn’t pay much mind to the people she was pushing through, and as a result she tumbled one of them over, tripping herself in the process. “Oww…” She had scraped her hands and knees. Alli’s attention shifted to the person she’d toppled. “Oh my god, I am so sorry! Are you all right?” She began to put out her hand to help the person up, but remembered the still trickling blood on it and instead awkwardly tried offering her wrist. Her eyes frequently darted after the hat as it bounced away.
Time spent at work was usually enjoyable for Oz. The little music shop did not get too many customers so he mostly sat around messing with some of the different guitars the store had. He even had a few students who he gave private lessons to. Those were becoming a nice chunk of cash to store away. It could get him out of his crappy apartment and into somewhere nicer. He would hold off on that though because he enjoyed spending most of his nights at Genevieve’s. The night always had an inevitable chill that crept threw the smallest cracks in the window and reached the bed, but with Gen he was always just warm.
Today was one of the quiet days. He had dusted around the shop and made sure all the instruments were safely in their place. Oz then began the mundane task of making sure all the music books and sheet music had stayed organized when the customers had perused through them. It was very unlikely this happened. People would always take out a book or sheet of music and forget where it had come from. Rearranging the music did not bother him even if it was a boring task. Sometimes as he would pick up music, his eyes would quickly scan over the music and play the notes in his mind. Music was something that came naturally to Oz. School had never really been his thing, but when he had been with Willow he respected the value she placed on education because he did recognize its importance. A few times he had found himself contemplating going back to school for music, but it seemed like an awful expensive path to take though. He’d continue messing around for now and make that decision later.
He mostly waited around the shop helping the occasional customer as he waited for his boss to return so that he could end his shift. Oz was feeling kind of ravenous and was more than ready to go get his lunch. He usually got of the place not too long after lunch time so he typically opted to skip a lunch break and just get food after his shift ended. Gen did not usually get home until the evening, so Oz would often either go hang out in the magic shop with some of the Scoobies or he would wander around town a bit. As a world traveler, he very much enjoyed exploring. He had actually learned his way around town pretty quickly, but he still enjoyed his wandering.
When Angelo arrived back to the shop, he excused Oz from his shift and Oz made his way out the door. The little bell jingled over his head as he pushed the glass door open and took in a breath of fresh air. The sun was beating down on the cobblestone roads around him and he began to walk in the direction of a café he particularly liked. They had really good sandwiches and Oz thought that sounded like a good lunch plan. The nicer sneakers he wore to work were quiet against the sidewalk so he focused on the sounds of the wind and people chattering around him. The weather was chilly, but still beautiful which made it a popular tourist time. The excitement was everywhere.
As Oz walked, a book in the window of one of the shops caught his eyes. It was an older looking book and definitely resembled the style of some of the books that had been in Giles’ collection. As Oz stared at the book, he felt himself colliding with someone. He fell flat on his ass while grumbling slightly. He looked over in front of him and saw the girl he collided with. She was a tiny brunette that seemed to be around Dawn’s age. He had not seen anyone in front of him seconds before and he felt bad for knocking the girl down. He quickly pulled himself up and noticed the girl’s wrist was bleeding and she was apologizing. Oz shook his head and responded, “It’s fine, really. I wasn’t paying attention so I’m sorry.” His eyes fell back down to her small wounds and asked, “You wanna go somewhere and get those cleaned off? I’m Oz, by the way.”
He offered her a very small smile, but his face remained mostly in its normal calm form. The girl definitely seemed to have a lot of energy and did not sound Italian. Making another American friend was always a welcome surprise so he questioned, “So, you don’t sound Italian. You from the States as well?”
Posted By Alyson On Her Twitter!
(Makes You Kinda Think, Aww Oz & Willow Together Again!)
Zedekiah had been walking for a while now, having just remembered how far away Rome was from his new home when one was walking so slowly. Steps seemed slow, and regardless of whether he moved faster or not, the colossal distance between his location and where the lively part of Rome began seemed unrealistically far. Perhaps when he had ventured over towards the home the first time whatever had led him there was making him move faster. At any rate, Zedekiah broke into a slow jog every now and then, when there were no humans making there way around their little homes, talking to each other or performing small mundane chores.
They were interesting to watch briefly, at least. Human interaction was full of emotion, whether those partaking in it meant for such a thing to occur or not. Couples smiled and kissed, an action Zedekiah himself knew he wasn’t familiar with in a past life. Or they would hug for prolonged periods of time, a look of happiness and desperation overcoming their faces in a confusing manner for the angel. How could two such emotions exist at the same time? And then there were the children, the ones that played in the streets with a ball or a small and beaten toy, like little plastic cars or dolls with tangled masses of hair. The children were loud, but always appeared to be blissful, shouting in italian at each other, their back and forth banter and laughter filling the air in the most pleasant way. He even captured a glimpse of the less plausible human emotion. It was that of sadness or anger, he couldn’t quite decipher which it truly was, but it fascinated him no less than the children or young couples. Two men had been shouting at each other, much like the children had, but the joy was missing from their tones, their words were drenched in hot fury, their cheeks red with anger, fists clenched so tightly their veins rippled from their arms. An old woman sat on her porch, looking longingly at the empty chair beside hers, as if something was missing, but what?
Zedekiah kept walking, looking down at his shoes for a while but began kicking a small pebble along the road as he walked, the sound of bustling life and energy growing louder and louder as he approached what he knew was his favorite city. A smile stretched across his face as he walked through the dense crowds of people. There were groups of people of all ages, presumably a family and they laughed and yelled out to each other when they saw each other, hugging and kissing and talking at great volumes. There were people yelling everywhere, from higher-story windows of buildings down at someone on the ground, old women and men shouting their wares and what they were selling which ranged from vegetables to clothing to small caged birds. It was a busy day and Zedekiah was relentlessly happy with the energy moving about him.
The happiness that came with the whooshing, hugging, warm energy began to be dulled, when a different cooler energy, almost a brash, rough scent, clung to the air and followed the angel around. What was it? More importantly, where was it? He could sense it away from the main square, and since he had no plans currently, why not take a little trip to find out what it was? It seemed increasingly peculiar, the closer and closer he got to it, the more his nose itched with the strange odor that he knew didn’t actually exist, with the cold feeling that clenched to his bones making him shiver every now and then. But he found it soon enough.
It was a young man, probably somewhere in his twenties with light hair and eyes, sitting in the window of a local pub. Zedekiah turned sharply, pushing the heavy establishment’s door open and quickly making his way over to the young man. “H-hello, sir.” He swallowed hard, and tapped him on the shoulder. “What are you?”
The world had this remarkable ability to keep spinning even in the face of multiple crises. It was always on the verge of ending, yet somehow it always got through. The people that had been happily walking through the streets all around him seemed to be oblivious to how much danger their lives and world was at any given moment. Most of them would live to be eighty or so and would probably never know of the evil that lurked around every single corner. When you were a fighter, it seemed almost crazy sometimes how the world could just keep spinning around you. The couples would keep walking hand in hand with smiles across their face, the children would still play, and the beggars would still harass you for money. The city was moving just as it should be while everything in the life of the Scoobies was falling apart all over again. Ever since he had arrived to Rome, things had been going in a downward spiral but now it had seemed they were finally drifting into a time of peace. The seeming quiet after the storm did not last long at all.
Giles had only died a few weeks ago. Angel and Dark Willow had both been around just at that time. Cecily had been tortured. Cordelia had been kidnapped. But for a few short weeks they lived in an intermission before having to fight at full force again. Buffy and Willow were both in the hospital. Buffy had apparently been beaten to death and no one knew what had happened to Willow. Oz was very concerned for both of them, but he was especially nervous over Willow. This also meant they had another big bad around the corner that they needed to start figuring out. He had somehow managed to not get caught in the main front of the action, but he wished he could have helped.
Tonight his mind was kind of crowded which led to feeling even less chatty than normal. He walked through the streets as the sun was beginning to sink in the sky and bleed pinks, oranges, and purples into the light blue that would slowly dim into a dark indigo as the moon took the sun’s place. Oz did not really cook and Gen had to work late tonight so he was in search of some sort of pub or café where he could get a decent dinner. He usually liked to explore the city aimlessly when he searched for new places to check out. As a result he had gotten pretty well acquainted with the city. It was a nice place to walk around. Everything had such a rich history and there was always a certain positive vibe in the air despite the unreasonably high demon population in Rome. Oz had been just outside of the main square when he spotted a pretty decent looking Thai place.
He began to walk across the street when he was approached by a very eager young man who did not look to be much younger than him. The guy seemed very confused so Oz watched him expectantly as the odd man asked him what, not who, he was. Oz nodded slightly with his lips pursed before he remarked, “Uh, hi. And what do you mean what am I? I’m Oz. Who are you exactly?” It was not every day that some innocent looking guy was asking you what you were. The confused state of the angel in front of him led his to question, “Are you alright, man?”
Whoever this friend Oz said was that could help it her, it was like a beacon of hope. A light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel, but no matter how far away that light was - it was still there. And Callie was determined to reach it. She was determined to be in control of herself, her actions and whatever else it was that came along with being a werewolf. ”Thank you,” Callie said quietly, nodding her head. Oz wasn’t the one responsible for this. That was all Willow, Willow who she’d worked with. Willow who had been her friend, and now Willow who had destroyed her life. It was Willow’s fault she was a monster, and no matter what - there was no forgiving that. Oz though? Oz had just been caught in between. Like most people were. He was just a casualty in the bigger picture of things. She couldn’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for him.
Callie had always had a big heart, and seeing Oz apologize for something that was beyond his control tugged at her heart strings. She gently put her hand on his, leaning forward. Not in a romantic way, just to establish contact with him. Her big eyes looked up into his and she sighed heavily before she spoke. “You shouldn’t be…you were a victim. Just like me, and you are right. This totally sucks. But you being here to help…I think it’s most than more would do. So I’m not mad at you. I’m thanking you.” Callie forced a small smile, then looked out the window and at the stars that clouded the pitch black sky.
Pulling her hand from his, Callie leaned back in the chair and looked back at him. “I just have one question for you. When you…were you born a werewolf? Were you bitten?” It wasn’t exactly a lighthearted topic and actually a rather personal one, but Callie wanted to know. Whatever was on the road ahead of her, waiting patiently - she wanted to know what it was. Callie didn’t want to be the one walking in blindly, with no idea of what to expect. That was just asking for disaster. Oz had done it fine, and apparently his friend who had taught him so much had as well. Callie Cooper wasn’t a monster, and she refused to give into that lifestyle. She would be willing to do whatever it took to prevent it.
A wave of relief washed over Oz as Callie told him to not blame himself. There was still a bit of guilt that he could not help but hold on to, but at least Callie did not resent him. He could be there for her without hurting her more and it made him feel renewed. The poor blonde would still have to suffer through being a werewolf, but he could stay by her side and make it easier. Oz could ne her friend and be the person that understood what she was going through. In high school he had been lucky enough to have friends like Willow, Xander, Buffy, and Giles who helped him through the whole wolf thing. He hated to think of someone going through the transition without any sort of support, especially someone as sweet as Callie. Hopefully Jace could get to town soon and they could have their own wolf pack going, but for now he had to be enough for her. He knew he had it in him and she was willing to accept his help. She didn’t look at him with disappointment, but rather with understanding. She knew this had been done to him and even sympathized. She was able to dissociate him as the cause of her pain and for that Oz would be thankful.
Callie had actually been very reassuring in her explanation for not blaming him. She had gently placed her hands on top of his and it somehow spoke worlds more than her vocalized reasoning. There was something simple about contact. A hug, a handshake, a pat on the back, a high five- the list went on and on, but they all communicated something simple and pure. Giving someone your hand in any way was some form of trust. They were friends. They shared something important in common and they were bonded because of it. It was an odd twist of events, but they could understand each other. Oz could remember the way it felt to discover what you were. It’s hard to believe there are other people out there who accept it, but somehow they both had a network of support in the Scoobies and in each other.
As they continued talking, Callie had slowly removed her hands and asked him how he had become a werewolf. His story was not nearly as exciting as hers and he hardly ever spoke of it. It was a simple enough story and there was not any painful baggage with it. His nephew had not known any better, he had only been a child. He wished Callie could have a story that was trauma free like his, but unfortunately she had been terrified when he attacked her. Innocently studying at the café one minute and being mauled by a rabid werewolf the next. Definitely a trauma factor in that one. Oz kind of shrugged slightly and explained anyway, “My nephew bit me. Not as a wolf, but as an annoying toddler. Don’t know how he got bitten, but I was 17. Nothing too exciting or anything.” His story was not nearly as personal as most people’s. He knew that a lot of people who had studied under Bayarmaa had been initially shocked and unprepared for the attack they had experienced.
He sat there quietly for a moment not really sure of what to say. Oz hardly knew Callie and he supposed that now would possibly be a good time to change that. They were literally a wolf pack now. It seemed like getting to know Callie was the natural thing to do. There was not really anything entirely appropriate to ask about given their situation so he just decided to go with the basics. He looked up at her and implored, “So you were studying something. You go to the University? You don’t sound Italian.” He offered her a slightly happier stoic face and listened.
Someone wanted to talk to him. Someone he had something in common with. It felt kind of… surreal. At college he was surrounded by academics. People got along but for the most part, they had their own friendship groups. He lacked the confidence to intervene. He could stand up to a five hundred year old vampire but he couldn’t make conversation with strangers without his palms sweating. It was funny how that worked. He offered a small smile as the red-haired guitar player began to speak to him. “I don’t really have a preference. My girlfriend is… just kinda stuck in past decades, I guess.” His lips curled slightly, enhancing his smile as he spoke about Maryann. He was relatively amused at his own inside joke, though he wiped the smile from his face pretty quickly when he realized Oz wouldn’t get it and he’d just seem as if he was grinning like an idiot.
“She’s big into history so she’s got stuff from like, every era all over. I guess I kind of know more about the past than the present,” he explained, hoping his words would prevent further questions he didn’t have the answers to, or at least, not that he could share. ‘I live with a vampire’ wasn’t exactly the greatest ice breaker. Having a girlfriend who was interested in history probably would explain enough. Everything else could remain behind closed doors. He knew what would happen if he ever placed Maryann in danger by revealing her secret. “Yeah, I go to the University of Rome,” Shawn said in response to Oz’s question. “My name’s Shawn. Shawn Morgan,” he added upon realizing he had forgotten to introduce himself. “And hopefully my social discomfort can be explained by the fact I’m a history and philosophy major. We spend most of our time with dusty text books, not beers,” he joked, lifting his bottle.
Not too long after sitting down at the bar, another person came up and started playing a Coheed song. He appreciated the band just as much, but classic rock would always have his heart. Regardless of whether or not someone was a musician, he had an appreciation for others his age that recognized good music. He got a bit smiley when he mentioned his girlfriend but as far as Oz was concerned that was good for him. He had his own lovely lady to go home to- his own angel of music as he liked to think of her. Oz did find it cool that Shawn’s girlfriend had an appreciation for older music. This Shawn guy did not seem to be the chattiest guy either, but Oz kind of liked that. He himself was not really big on long winded conversations so just chilling and drinking a beer with someone was cool.
While Shawn commented on how she was really into history, Oz nodded along and finished off his beer. He made a small motion toward the bartender to bring another and it appeared the message was understood. Within a minute he had another cold bottle of Guinness in his reach. History was a pretty neat subject, but Oz was never really into the whole school thing. He was not really one for structure in his learning. He mostly just lived his life which had worked well enough for him so far. When he was with Willow he made an effort to do the whole school thing, but it all seemed so silly now. He supposed school was just not for some people. Oz was still a smart guy who had worldly knowledge since he had seen most of it. He simply offered, “That’s cool though. Stuff from other eras is awesome.”
The comment was noted before Shawn explained that he was in fact a student at the local university. He wondered if he knew Callie or Dawn, but he’d let the guy explain first. Maybe throw in his own lack of enthusiasm toward the education system. Seeing the world certainly beat reading about it and he got by. It’s not like he was trying to live the American dream or whatever. So he nonchalantly responded, “History and philosophy. That’s cool and the social discomfort is chill. I’m not very talkative either. School was never really my thing, but I’ve done a lot of traveling.” There was a moment of quiet before he questioned, “Have you ever met Callie or Dawn? They both go there. Nice girls.”
Open mic night at the Scholar’s Lounge. It wasn’t Shawn’s usual preferred social activity but he needed to get out of the mansion tonight. After she trouble he had caused by not-so-accidentally eavesdropping on Maryann’s last important business meeting, she had decided it was best to have him leave the premises completely this time. To her credit, at least she asked nicely. She even gave him cash for the night, told him to spend time with some friends. Friends. He was working on that part. Shawn surmised that his owner must have wanted to discuss some relatively private things if she was actually encouraging him to go out and do things. She was usually rather condemning of any kind of social life he attempted to have. College was enough. Classes were during the day, but when it cut into her time, into their nights together, she became unhappy. “Hi, I’ll have a Corona, please,” Shawn asked the bar tender, pulling out his wallet. It was an Irish Pub. Everyone spoke English. It didn’t affect him much either way though, considering he was fluent in both English and Italian. Just that every once in a while, it was nice to communicate in his native tongue.
Seconds later there was a cold beer in front of him. He found a place to sit, out of the way so that he didn’t have to go through the effort of making conversation with people he didn’t know. His green eyes scanned the room, wondering if anyone from his classes would be there. The bar was a popular college spot, especially for International students. Shawn supposed he still classed as one of those, even if he had been in Italy for the last five years. Nobody needed to know why. He lived with his girlfriend, who worked long hours at a law firm and was an Italian national. They had met while she was in America, studying, and he had returned to her home country with her. That was the story. Nobody needed to know any different. Nobody needed to know that he’d been raised in something rather akin to a concentration camp ruled over by vampires, a place in which they raised humans and sold them to the fang who offered the highest price. Nobody needed to know he wasn’t normal.
Shawn watched as a relatively small red-headed guy took the stage. Shawn didn’t know much about music, other than the classical stuff Maryann listened to. A vampire trying to keep a human up-to-date on pop culture was kind of problematic, but he enjoyed the classic rock that the young man played. Shawn tried to estimate his age. Probably the same age as he was, which meant he had been either a baby or a sperm cell when most of these songs had been written. He couldn’t explain why, but the sound relaxed him. There was something familiar and soothing. When the guy, whose name Shawn hadn’t caught, left the stage, Shawn went to the bar for another beer. He was waiting to be served when the same guy took up residence in the spot next to him. “I thought I was the only guy in Italy uncool enough to like the Velvet Underground,” Shawn said with a tone of friendliness and humor. It was rare for him to speak to a stranger so candidly, but it was somehow easier when he had something to talk about. “You were… pretty good. I can’t touch a guitar myself without breaking the strings, but it was nice to listen to.” Something about that compliment didn’t sound quite right, and Shawn directed his attention back to his empty beer bottle, peeling at the label absent-mindedly.
Open Mic Nights had always kind of been Oz’s thing. Even back in Sunnydale and he had the band, he liked going out to bars and getting the chance to play alone. Dingoes had mostly been about playing catchy rock songs that would help the other members get laid, so Oz enjoyed the occasional going somewhere just to play music for music’s sake. When he had gotten to Rome, he had made it a point to go to different open mic nights all over town. It ended up being a very interesting experience to hear the music both Italian and English played at the different types of establishments all across the town. Even though he had not picked up enough Italian to really understand any words they sung, he could appreciate listening anyway. Music was a language all its own. Words were not necessarily needed. Chords and rhythms could speak in ways that vocabulary just could not. Oz himself had never been one for words. They all conveyed so many different meanings and half the time the words people spoke were not even meaningful. In high school most of the things people spoke about were useless. He didn’t care for popularity or clique-y drama. He could speak when he was really trying to get a point across, but he did not like to put in more words than he needed to say what he had to say.
On this particular evening, Oz found himself stumbling into a college bar with his guitar. It was mostly people around his age so he figured he would probably be hearing a variety of more recent music. He found he preferred the older crowd because he was a classic rock junkie, but this place seemed fun enough. It was your typical college pub with wooden booths, pool tables, dart boards, ski ball, and a stage. The students definitely seemed to at least prefer the rock styling of music so tonight had potential to be a good night. That and it was two dollar beers until midnight. He could work up a nice buzz and play some jams. He could definitely use some beer and music after the month he had been having. Accidentally biting a girl and losing friends definitely took a toll even on the emotionally stoic. So a night out was just what the doctor ordered.
He had gone up on stage and began to play a song that was familiar to him. It was I’ll Be Your Mirror by Velvet Underground. Oz was not entirely sure how many people in the crowd would recognize the song, but it was one of his favorites. It was from an older band that was before his time which meant it was before most of the crowds’ time, but they all seemed to be enjoying it. He was definitely enjoying himself. His fingers gracefully moved across the strings of the guitar while he calmly sang the words. It was a simple calming ritual for him that was there with him through good and bad times. Music was his constant. So he played on until he reached the conclusion of the song and got some cheers before leaving the stage.
After he finished his number he decided he would go up to the bar and grab himself a Guinness from the bar. He took a seat and decided he would enjoy the next few numbers from the bar so he could keep the drinks coming. The stool he sat on was next to another guy that looked to be about his age and before he realized it, the guy was talking to him. He had recognized the song Oz had chosen to play so he wrote him off as good company right away. Oz nodded his head and remarked, “I think us liking Velvet Underground makes us the cool ones, but then again, I’ve always preferred older rock.”
Oz acknowledged the compliment and offered, “Thanks, I’m big on music. I’m Oz, by the way, and you are?” The guy had introduced himself as Shawn. He seemed cool enough and it would be nice to have another guy friend around. He quickly took a swig of his beer before asking, “So are you a student?”