“Are you getting the feeling he’s picturing us on a platter surrounded by garnish?” Piper mused from her spot on the old loveseat in the attic.
“No, I’m pretty sure he’s not seeing the garnish.” Paige replied as she flipped through the Book of Shadows.
“Wait, what about that one?” Phoebe read over her shoulder.
“That’s the big, bad wolf spell, not a werewolf spell.”
“There’s a difference?”
“Yeah, I would think so.”
“What does it call for?” Piper kept her eyes on the pacing wolf.
“Well, for starters, a red cape.”
“Yeah, I’m thinking not the right spell.”
“I don’t hear you coming up with anything better.”
“It’s been a long night; between Zankou and P3, I’m just tired of it all. Besides, if it’s a real werewolf, won’t it just become a person again at dawn? Isn’t that how the myth goes? We just keep the crystals up for a few more hours.” Piper offered her idea with a yawn.
“You should know by now that not everything in the movies is true. What if that only works for Hollywood werewolves?” Phoebe shifted the book away from Paige and started flipping the pages faster. “Come on, there has to be something in here.”
“I’m beginning to side with Piper on this one. Can’t we just put it off until sunrise? It’s almost four.”
There was a loud rattle and crunch outside the windows reminiscent of a garbage can getting run over, causing both the witches and the werewolf to perk up. The wolf turned up its nose as if about to howl, but then thought better of it and settled for wagging its tail. “What are the odds that’s the rest of the band?” Piper stood up to go answer the door just as the doorbell rang.
“Wait!” Paige called out. “Here.”
“What do I need a needle for?” Piper looked at her sister in confusion.
“To prick them.”
“Yeah. Let ‘em in. Freeze ‘em. Then prick them all. Gotta make sure they aren’t demons or evil or anything before we let them up here.”
“And if one of them is evil? Won’t that have tipped our hand?”
“Do you want me to come with?” Paige was ready for a break; having Phoebe reading over her shoulder was getting annoying.
“Sure.” Paige and Piper passed a glance over to Phoebe. “We’ll be right back. Don’t let the werewolf out.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Phoebe waved them on without lifting her nose from the book.
Paige opened the door to give Piper room to freeze the band members. “Hey guys, come on in.”
“Hey, sorry about the trash can.” Devon said, leading the remaining Dingoes into the Manor. Piper threw up her hands, freezing the boys. Quickly, Paige pricked each one on the hand.
“Okay, all done.” Paige nodded at her sister. Piper unfroze the band. The boys blinked as they came out of stasis.
“Ouch! Dude, is it just me, or are there like wicked mosquitoes in your house?” Devon itched at the spot that was now bleeding normal red blood. His brother echoed thought, “Yeah, man, that’s not cool. You should have someone fix that.”
“We’ll get right on it.” Piper assured the boys.
“So did you get Oz?”
“Come see for yourselves.” Piper led the band members up the stairs to the attic. The wolf paused in its pacing when the Dingoes entered, took a sniff, decided they were not interesting, and returned to staring at Phoebe.
“Wicked.” Devon muttered.
“That’s just what we were wondering. Can you confirm that this is your friend?”
“Dude, I don’t know. It’s not like we planned a lot of jam sessions during the full moon, ya know?” The band mates backed up their lead singer with dull nods.
“Great, so this may not even be Oz.” Paige sighed.
“You know who would know? His girl.” Jim offered. “She knows everything. She scares me.”
“Dude, like that time she took out Percy with the pool cue? She is one scary chick.” Chad agreed.
“You’re sure she’d know if this was him?” Piper eyed the Dingoes suspiciously. The last thing she wanted to do was bring another innocent into this mess.
“It is four in the morning.” Paige pointed out.
“If it’s about Oz, Willow won’t mind. She probably doesn’t sleep anyway, unlike some of us.” Jim eyed the overstuffed couch in the corner longingly.
“Yeah, it’s totally cool. She’s like nocturnal or something. She’s all into midnight séances and girl-power and crap, like oooh, I’m a witch, praise the goddess…” At the cough from his hosts, Devon paused, “… not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Great, so do you have her phone number?” Phoebe diplomatically offered.
“Yup, Oz always keeps emergency contact info in his case.” Devon pulled a slip of paper out of his wallet. “I’m guessing that this counts as an emergency. Can I borrow your phone? I’m getting crappy reception around here.”
“Sure, knock yourself out.” Piper nodded to the old phone in the corner.
“Dude the buttons don’t work.”
“It’s a rotary.” Piper grumbled.
“Sweet, an antique.” Devon dialed the number. The phone range three times before a tired voice picked up on the other end. “Hey Willow, the Willster, Will-o-rama…”
“Devon, is that you?”
“Um, why are you calling at…” there was a brief pause, “four in the morning?”
“I just wanted to know, is it like that time of the month again?”
“DEVON!” The shrill voice on the phone was echoed by the three witches in the room. Even the wolf whined a bit at the sound of the familiar voice.
“Hey, chill, I didn’t mean your time of the month. I meant Oz.”
“Huh? You made a long distance call at four a.m. to ask me a question that could be answered by going outside? Or better yet, why don’t you ask Oz? He’s on tour with you. He is on tour with you, right? He said you guys were going to Seattle…”
“Yeah, we came, we saw, we rocked the house. We’re in San Fran now. So, how about it? Is it that time of the month?”
“No. That was two weeks ago. Why?”
“Well, either there’s someone else running around in a dog suit and we lost Oz at the club, or there’s something else up with your boyfriend.”
“What? Why? What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything! Gah, you sound just like Cordelia. Blah, blah, blah, it’s your fault, blah, blah, responsibility, blah, blah.”
“You woke me up to tell me something’s up with Oz; now either start talking sense, or I’m going to hang up, pretend this call never happened, and give Oz a lecture on letting you make prank calls. I mean it, mister!” Willow threatened.
“Here, let me talk to her.” Piper held her hand for the phone. Devon just shrugged and handed the phone over. “Hello, Willow? My name is Piper Halliwell. I own the club your boyfriend was playing at this evening.”
“Devon if you’re playing a trick…”
“I assure you this isn’t a trick. Evidently, something happened to Oz, and he reverted to a giant wolf form. We’ve got him contained, but we’re a bit concerned.”
Piper glanced up at Devon, “I thought you said she knew Oz was a …”
“Werewolf.” Willow finished for her. “But that only happens on full moons, and it’s still in the waning crescent phase. He shouldn’t be able to shift.”
“Well, the wolf in my attic seems to say otherwise.”
“Wait, I thought Devon said something happened to Oz at a club. How did he get to your attic?”
“This is going to be a bit hard to believe, but I swear to you I’m telling the truth. My sisters and I are witches, and we transported Oz to our house using magic.”
“Okay, not so difficult to believe, actually.”
Willow sounded reasonably calm, so Piper decided to continue. “We had a demon attack the club tonight, and somehow Oz transformed into a wolf to attack the demon.”
“Huh, I thought that kind of stuff only happened around here.”
“You’re not at all surprised by this?”
“I’ve heard stranger things. Besides, it’s amazing what someone’s willing to believe at four in the morning.” Willow remarked dryly.
“So, since you have experience with Oz’s condition, I don’t suppose you have any advice for turning him back?”
“Let him sleep it off? That generally works here. Of course, generally he sticks to the full moon, too. Hrm.”
“Is that a hrm, you have an idea?” Piper asked hopefully.
“That’s a hrm, I need to talk to Giles.”
Piper covered the mouthpiece in order to address the group looking at her expectantly. “She wants to talk to Giles.”
“That’s cool. I mean, he’s an old dude, but pretty cool for a librarian.” Devon nodded.
“Can you call me back when the sun’s up, just to make sure he doesn’t sleep it off? If he’s still furry by breakfast time, then we’ve got a problem.” Willow yawned into the phone.
“I guess that works.”
“And if he is just normal Oz, can you please tell him to call me… after he gets dressed of course. Not that I have any problem with my boyfriend not wearing clothes when he’s talking to me, but it would be weird if he was standing in front of another woman and calling me, and okay, yeah, maybe I would have problems, and this is so not the time to get into that. Stupid mom and stupid Freud.” Willow muttered.
“So, we’ll call you back in a few hours. Goodnight!” Piper hung up the phone, before the girl’s babbling got worse.
The reapers had all cleared from their morning meeting, except for Mason, who was still trying to get another refill from the bottomless cup of coffee he had ordered. It wasn’t that he needed the coffee, it was just a principle of getting all you paid for, or in this case all George paid for that he had sworn he’d pay back. “We’ve got a few hours before we need to meet R. Williams. Is there anything you want to do this morning?” Mason asked his tagalong spirit.
“Actually, I was wondering if you could do me a favor.” Oz watched Mason stack the cream packets into a little pyramid.
“Does it involve a pawnbroker, a bicycle, or a used car?”
“Then maybe.” Mason added one more packet, watching the tower tumble as he did so.
“I was wondering if you could call my girlfriend. She might know how to put me back, or at least check in on my self.”
“And just what I’m supposed to tell your girlfriend?”
“The truth. She gets it.”
“Can’t this be about a pawnbroker? I’m better with them than with girlfriends.”
“Relax, she’s cool with it. Just tell her the truth.”
“Fine, but you owe me. What’s her number?” Mason left the table and wandered over to the pay phone by the restrooms.
Oz recited the number patiently, watching Mason dial to make sure he didn’t make a mistake. “Busy signal.” Mason announced after a minute of hearing the phone beep.
“We’ll just have to call back soon. She’s probably talking to Buffy.”
“Alright, in the mean time, I’m going to finish my coffee.” Mason headed back to the table to find that Kiffany had already cleared away the dishes and put up the pile of creamers. “Damn, I guess I have to start my day now.”
“Better luck next time, dude.”
“Xander, my bestest buddy of all time!”
“Willow, do you have any idea what time it is?”
“It’s after sunrise.” Willow said, a tad bit frantic.
“On a weekend too. You do still remember weekends? Just because it’s summer break, doesn’t mean we don’t sleep late on weekends; it just means we sleep extra late.” Xander lectured his friend.
“Something’s happened to Oz. He went on tour on Friday, and Devon called to say he’s turned into a werewolf and won’t turn back, and if they can’t turn him back they’re going to have to euthanize him or send him to one of those cruel animal shelters where they’re going to spay him, and I don’t want my boyfriend spayed or neutered, no matter what Bob Barker says …”
“Whoa, hold on a moment. Use small words; I just woke up.”
“Oz. He’s stuck as a wolf. We need to go help him.”
“Well, I’ve got some books and the tranq gun from Giles, and you said you wanted to take a road trip this summer…”
“Where is he?”
“Oh.” The line went silent for a moment. “What time do you want to leave?”
“I’ll be over in ten minutes. Thanks, Xander! You’re the best.”
Mason glanced at his post-it note before shrugging and entering the furniture store. If he had to wait around for someone to die, at least there’d be comfortable chairs.
“Huh,” Oz muttered, as he followed Mason into the recliner section.
“Hmm?” Mason glanced back at the spirit.
“Oh nothing, I was just thinking that Willow’s number might be busy because she was trying to call me. If she had pulled an all-nighter researching and wanted to get pancakes, she might have called or something.”
“Wait, it’s summer vacation - why would your girlfriend be pulling an all-nighter?”
“We research non-school-y things all the time. Like just last week we spent four hours trying to find out where hellebore is grown.” Mason shot him a ‘you must be crazy’ look. “It’s a perennial. The species we wanted is actually only found in Montenegro.”
“Do I want to know why you were looking up random plants?”
“Probably not. It was a false alarm anyway. The point is, she might have finished the research party by now. I don’t suppose you could try calling her back when you get a chance?”
“I don’t know; Rube will get mad if I miss another appointment.”
“No worries, you don’t have to call right now; whenever you have a chance.” Oz shrugged and glanced at the clock. It wasn’t like him to get impatient, but he’d been without his body for over 24 hours now, and it was getting to be a bit wiggy, even for someone raised on the Hellmouth.
“Tell you what, I’ll call when I have the chance.”
“May I help you, sir?” A slightly pudgy, pasty-faced salesman had approached Mason and was looking rather cynically at the sloppily dressed reaper.
Mason grinned at the sight of the man’s nametag. It’s not everyday his reaps came right to him. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Williams. My name is Mason. I’m waiting for my fiancé. She wanted to pick out furniture for our new place over her lunch break. You know how girls get.” Mason stood up and offered his hand to shake.
“Of course. The bachelor pad look doesn’t get too far with her, eh?” The man warmed up considerably at the idea of a fiancé with hopefully better taste. “Do you want to start looking at living room, dining room, or bedroom furniture first?” As their hands met, the faint wisp of the soul transfer floated up, visible only to Mason and Oz.
“Actually, I’m a bit worried, she never runs late like this. Can I borrow your phone to give her a ring?”
“Of course, right this way.” The salesman led Mason over to customer service desk.
“Thanks, this is great, now what was her number again?” Mason looked to Oz for assistance.
One of the other salesmen approached the desk, took a look at Mason then glanced back at a wealthy elderly couple standing in front of a safari room set-up. “Hey, Roy, can you give me a hand in the back; this couple wants to see the marble elephant planter in white.”
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment,” Mr. Williams followed his friend to the back storage room, giving Mason the opportunity to call Willow without being overheard. Oz rattled off the phone number.
“You have reached the Rosenberg residence. If this is a medical emergency please dial 1 to page Sunnydale General’s help desk. If you would like to leave a message for Dr. Ira Rosenberg, please press 2. If you would like to leave a message for Dr. Sheila Rosenberg, please press 3. If you would like to leave a message for Ms. Willow Rosenberg, please press 4.”
“You have got to be kidding me.” Mason shook his head at the odd greeting.
“Press 4.” Oz suggested.
“And what am I supposed to say?” Mason asked even as he pushed the button.
“Hi, I’m not in right now, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Unless this is a matter of life and death, in which case, try calling the library. Thanks! Bye!” Beep.
“Umm, hi. My name is Mason. I’m in Seattle with Oz’s… um, something. Look Oz lost something here, and I’d like to return it to him, so if you could um, damn, I don’t have a number you can leave a message at. Um, you can call my friend George, I mean, Millie, at…” Mason looked up at the click. “Damn, I think it hung up on me.
“Yeah, it doesn’t have a long tape.” Oz agreed. “Don’t worry. She’s got a clue now.”
“Yeah, well, fat lot of good it’ll do her. I…” Mason was cut off by a loud CRASH! A white marble trunk rolled out the back room door, but the rest of the marble elephant was resting on the body of the furniture salesman, a large sofa piled on top of that.
“How many times have I told Todd not to put the heavy items on the top shelf? Wicker only, that’s the rules!” The spirit of the furniture salesman wafted over to the reaper.
“Well, hopefully he’s learned his lesson. So, ready to move on to the great furniture store in the sky?”
“God, I hope not, don’t you have anything nicer?”
“There’s always the choir of angels you could join. Or you could take up a new hobby. I hear they’ve got some good fishing holes, if that’s your scene.” Mason muttered looking around for the white light. There it was, looking eerily like the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign. “Or you could go to the casinos.”
“24-7 buffets; now that’s what I’m talking about.” The salesman followed the sign, soon disappearing in a flash of light.
“Yeah, I didn’t see anything like that at the club.” Oz confirmed, having now witnessed the white light for the third time in as many days.
“Yeah, well, my job here is done. What do you say we get a bite to eat and then go see a friend of mine? He runs this yoga studio down in Georgetown.”
“You do yoga?”
“Nah, but I can generally bum a few bucks off him in exchange for running some errands.”
“Works for me.”