Sitting cross-legged on the floor, her hands calmly folded in her lap as she focused on the visions flashing across the backs of her eyelids.
Her body may have been safely ensconced in her Workroom, but her astral self was far away, sifting carefully through the various worlds, searching for even a trace
of that familiar and beloved presence. So far there was nothing.
She had woken up this morning knowing that she was going to have to track down Oz, find out if he was all right or not. The fact that he had been so panicked the night before had left her a bit unsettled, especially once her mind had woken up enough to realize that there really had to have been some apocalypse-level badness going on for him to have lost his cool to such a degree.
Now that she knew he wasn't in the world anymore, that he was somewhere out there, hopefully
on an alternate Earth, she knew she had to do whatever necessary to find him and save him if he needed saving.
Willow had long since accepted the fact that what she and Oz had shared was long over. But that didn't mean she didn't still love him, wouldn't always love him. He had a piece of her heart that he carried with him wherever he went, and no matter what happened, she would always do whatever was in her power to make sure he was as safe as she could manage.
He was still her Oz.* * *
He was buried under the blankets on his borrowed bed when the door burst open and Jason bounded in.
"All right, no more mopey face!" Jason yelled, throwing himself knees first on the bed. Oz barely managed to move himself out of the way before he ended up a falsetto.
"What's up?" Oz said, deciding to ignore for a moment the events of the night before. That old Sunnydale mentality was raising its little head and he was going to let it.
Jason gave him a momentary weird look, then shrugged. "I just wanted to say thank you." He leaned over and slapped Oz on the arm, a very guy kind of thing to do, though not nearly as demonstrative as Oz had come to expect Jason to be.
"Okay," he said.
Jason cocked his head, as though waiting for more, then just grinned when nothing else was forthcoming. "Yeah. I'm really grateful that you did that for me. I really thought I was a goner. I just can't believe that Anita would really shoot me."
"I don't really know her, but it seems to me that she's got some control issues," Oz said softly.
Jason sighed. "Yeah. It's weird though, she wasn't always like that, you know? She actually used to be pretty cool. I just don't know what happened to her."
Oz didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything. He didn't
know Anita, and that was a fact of the matter. He had suspicions
, but no real knowledge.
Even though he had left the Scooby gang before events in Sunnydale really started getting scary, he had been there through enough to know the kind of horrific stress his friends had been facing. He had been there long enough to watch as they were slowly sucked out of themselves, until sometimes it was impossible to tell where the monsters ended and the people began. And the things Willow had told him about in her infrequent letters... it had made him kind of glad that he had left when he had.
Battling dark gods and killing humans, even if they were trying to get Buffy's sister Dawn... it was all very Bad News Bears. It just felt as though things in Sunnydale had steadily been getting worse, heading toward some final showdown that would probably end in dead friends and mind-crushing grief.
He didn't know what he would have done if he had had to watch Willow die and been helpless to stop it. Which made his leaving a good thing, even though he still felt kind of guilty about deserting his friends right when they were being dragged down into the muck.
So even though he didn't know
Anita Blake, on one level he kind of did, because he could totally understand that stress did crazy things to the human brain. And even in the few minutes he had really seen her, it was obvious to him that she was under some serious pressure and really not handling it at all well.
"Yeah, man," he said, because really, what else could
Jason shook his head and flopped forward on the bed, relaxing limply into the pile of blankets. "So, what do you wanna do today?"
Jason grinned. "Come on, man, we're young and we're breathing. Let's enjoy it while it lasts."
Oz snorted, amused. "Okay."
"Great." Displaying an entirely inhuman agility, Jason leaped from the bed to land on his feet. "Let's go have some fun!"* * *
From the minute he had woken up, Jason had been filled with this vibrating kind of energy. The fact that he was alive just left him completely overjoyed, and he had the undeniable need to share the feeling with the people around him.
Leaning against the door with his arms crossed, he watched as Oz got dressed. He probably shouldn't have been keeping such a close eye on the other man, but there was something fascinating about the guy.
Oz slipped on a pair of black jeans and a close-fitting black tee shirt with "YES, IT'S THE APOCALYPSE ALL RIGHT (i always thought i'd have a hand in it)" on the front in electrical blue. All that smooth pale skin covered up in black cotton was oddly appealing, the shine and twinkle of piercings only drawing more attention to that lean, not overly tall body.
"What?" Oz asked, catching him looking.
Jason shrugged. "Just thinking that you're tougher than you look."
"It's not hard when you consider the fact that I look about as tough as a wet noodle," Oz dead-panned.
Jason laughed a little. "Okay, whatever. You ready to go yet, or you need more time to get beautiful?"
Oz glanced down at himself. "Shoes, pants, shirt..." He looked at Jason. "I'm ready."
"But is the world?" Jason opened the door and stepped out. "Come on."
"The world, baby, the world. We shall see the many sights and visit the wonders of this earthly plain. And if we're real lucky, there might possibly be beer in our future."
Oz in a club was like a fish in water. He just seemed to fit amongst the crowd of young, happy people, even if he didn't talk a whole lot and his mere presence created a mote of silence in the otherwise hectic environment. He just kind of swayed a little, watching the band on the stage, his fingers twitching slightly as though he were the one playing guitar.
Jason danced his way through the crowd back to where Oz stood. "Here," he said, holding out a plastic cup.
"Thanks." Oz's fingers brushed his as he took the cup. Strangely, Jason felt a flash of warmth go through him.
"Yeah. So... What do you think of these guys?" He jerked his chin toward the stage.
Oz's lips quirked slightly. "They're pretty good. Guy knows his chords."
"So... you wanna dance?" Jason felt his eyes go wide and his lips twist in a grimace as the words just kind of popped out of his mouth.
Oz looked at him.
"Uh," he said, flushing. He shuffled his feet a little and took a gulp of his beer. "Yeah. Um, honest truth, man, you wanna dance... with me?"
He knew that he was kind of a flirt-slut, but there was something about Oz that made his usual lines feel completely awkward. He didn't want to come off as some horny dork, but he had a feeling that that was exactly the image he was presenting, and he really wished he could impress Oz, but that wasn't happening.
Oz cocked his head, a thoughtful look on his face. Then he shrugged. "Okay."
A wave of exultant relief went through Jason as he reached out and grabbed Oz's hand, pulling him forward through the crowd toward the dance floor. He knew he had a too-wide grin on his face, but he couldn't help himself. This was just such a perfect moment.
Writhing on the dance floor, rubbing his body against Oz's lean form, he was happier than he had been in a long time.
The last few years of his life had seemed like an out of control downward spiral. He had tried hard to hold it together, but he had known that he was slowly losing it. And somehow, the mere presence of Oz had saved him, or was going to save him, or something he just didn't have the words to express.
Whatever was going on with him, he was just happy to have Oz here with him, in this place and time. It just felt right on so many levels.
So throwing all deeper thoughts to the wind, he wrapped his arms around Oz's neck, leaned his head against the other man's shoulder, and breathed in the scent of him. There was just something so familiar about Oz's smell, something that made him think of home
, which he had never really had before. Sure, being around Pack made him feel safer and more welcome than anything in his life ever had, but it was different with Oz, more realer, honest.
It was just too bad Oz wasn't a werewolf. That would be the only thing that could ever make it better. To have Oz be Pack.