"Once there were mountains on mountains and once there were sunbirds to soar with and once I could never be down..."
Oz sat in the train station, his walkman turned up high, watching the people surrounding him. People meeting friends, family, loved ones, businesspartners, enemies, strangers, milling around, climbing en masse onto the trains, departing to and from the stations on time, the cycle repeating over and over and over.
He looked back down at the faded, slightly worn envelope in his hands, looked at it and considered unfolding the letter inside and re-reading it, reading it one more time, maybe it'd be the deciding blow, the spark of resolve he needed. Or maybe it changed in the past day, the letters rearranging to form a new sentence, a new paragraph, an entirely new letter.
He slipped it back into the pocket of his thick winter coat, purchased in Geneva, smelling of sandalwood incense, clove cigarettes, musky perfume and an faint underlying scent, a deeper, wilder musk, the scent of three wolves who played upon it one moonlit night in the woods, a pack unto themselves, who woke up in the morning with their arms wrapped around each other, a perfect trio, bonded by...well...if it wasn't love, it was something close enough.
He inhaled deeply of the scent, trying to imprint it onto his memory, tucking it into a deep, permanent space in his mind for when the scent had faded from the coat, when the other memories had faded from his mind along with the other memories he had been trying to forget.
Oz lifted up another box of books from off of the table. "Okay, that's the last of the necronomica," he said cheerily.
Giles looked up from the small stack of books he was categorizing. "Good, good," he said, a bit distractedly. "Start on the...um...Rudebeckian martyrdoms...there's twenty in all..."
Oz nodded and moved to another bookcase. "And after that, there ought to be enough to fill up the van...you sure you have room at your place?"
Giles looked up at Oz with a faint look of amused annoyance. "As I said several times already, yes. There will be room in my house for all these books. I did have them in my house before I moved them to the library."
"And you've gotten several large crates of books since then. I'd bet dinner that there'll be at least one box I end up going home with."
Giles opened his mouth, about to retort, when the library doors opened and Cordelia Chase strode in. "I should've known you'd both be here..." she said dryly.
"Oh hey Cordelia," Oz said. "We're moving books."
"Care to assist?" Giles asked.
Cordelia shook her head. "Sorry, but I'm actually on my way out of town...for good."
Oz and Giles shared a look. "Where are you going?" Oz asked.
"L.A. Do a bit of this and that, try my hand at acting, you know, the usual stuff a pretty young woman who isn't going to college ends up doing." She shrugged. "I figured it beat sitting around here serving snotty high school students their lattes."
"So instead you'll be serving snotty wannabe actors?" Oz said, quirking an eyebrow.
Cordelia chuckled. "So, you see, I wanted to see both of you before I went. Because, well, you know, you'll probably be one of the few things I'll miss. Sure won't miss Xander and Willow, that's for sure....did you see them being all lovey-dovey at graduation yesterday? I nearly puked!"
Giles paused for a moment. "I'm sure Sunnydale won't be the same without you, Cordelia," he said dryly.
Cordelia smiled sweetly, then looked at Oz. "So what're you doing? I heard that Devon decided to go solo or something...guess that means the band's gone, huh?"
Oz shrugged. "Yeah...he said something about how it worked for David Bowie...or was it Michael Jackson? I wasn't really paying attention anyway..." He looked down at the books in his hands. "Alexa's been bugging me to go to Germany with her...I might do that..."
Giles looked up sharply. "You didn't tell me that," he said, almost rebukingly.
Oz shrugged again, nonchalant. "Haven't decided if I am..."
"Well, Germany is filled with dark and depressing statues and buildings and everyone looks so angry. I'm sure you'll love it, since you're into that whole dark and gothic thing," Cordelia said. "And you'll be with Alexa, and I'm sure she knows all the really interesting places...interesting or deeply frightening, I don't know which."
Cordelia looked down at her watch. "Oh, I have to get going...the traffic's already going to be murder..." She looked back at Oz. "I...I just wanted to say thanks...for everything you've done this past year..."
Oz nodded. "Thank you too," he said softly.
Cordelia paused for a second, then sighed. "Oh what the hell," she said right before taking him into her arms and hugging him tightly. Oz responded with just as tight of a hug.
The doors slammed open and the loud clacking of heels echoed throughout the library. "They're gone!" Buffy shouted as she stamped towards the table.
Cordelia and Oz separated, Cordelia glaring and Oz looking thoughtful. "Who?" Giles asked, frowning.
Buffy took a second to catch her breath. "Xander and Willow."
Giles stood up slightly. "Gone how?"
"They left together this morning. Willow's parents said something about a summer program in Illinois..." She took another breath before dropping the final news. "Xander proposed last night."
"Oh God..." Cordelia said, looking pale.
Oz just closed his eyes, his hands clenching into fists at his sides. He took a long, deep breath, held it, then slowly let it out, opening his eyes calmly.
Giles looked at the two with concern in his eyes, then turned to Buffy. "Do you know why they didn't tell us?" he asked.
"Because they knew that even if they told just you and Buffy, we'd find out," Oz said, his voice flat. "And they'd have to look at us every day knowing that we knew their plans."
Buffy looked at Oz, then back at Giles. "They...they...uh...they didn't want any of us to know....they thought we'd try and stop them..."
"And their parents didn't?" Cordelia asked sharply. "I'd think that eighteen was a little young to be married..."
"Why shouldn't they get married?" Buffy asked. "They've known each other since they were babies..."
"All the more reason! They seriously need to grow up before they can even think about marriage!"
As Buffy and Cordelia continued to bicker, Oz looked down at his hands, still clenched into balls, the nails digging into the skin. He closed his eyes tightly, willing himself to calm down, to relax, to not let it get to him, to block out the image of her red hair and her gentle scent.
It didn't work. He had to get out, had to breathe, slamming a book down onto the table before dashing for the door, before going outside where he could breathe, cry, feel.
The sun hit his face and he blinked, reaching for the sunglasses in his pocket. After putting them on, he leaned against the wall, trying to get control again.
He heard the sound of someone walking towards him. "Oz?" Cordelia said, keeping her distance, but sounding concerned.
"Yeah?" he said through a choked voice.
"They don't deserve it." Cordelia's voice was flat, emotionless. "They don't deserve you being upset over them. No matter what happens, no matter what they do, we're better."
Oz looked at Cordelia through his sunglasses. "Why?" he asked harshly. "Because we have a hell of a lot more fashion sense?"
She smiled bitterly. "Because we survived."
Oz took off his glasses and looked right at her. "Cordelia, I..."
She shook her head. "It's okay, Oz, I know." She leaned closely and gave him one final hug. "Bye, Oz," she said softly.
Cordelia started to walk towards her car, obviously straining under the weight of all her boxes. She paused midway, then turned to face him. "Oz?"
He straightened. "Yeah?"
"Go with Alexa. Get out of this fucking town before you lose yourself completely."
The harsh drone of the announcer echoed throughout the train station as he read off timetables. Oz could barely make him out over the music running through his ears, but he looked up when someone lightly touched his shoulder.
Alexa stood there, smiling. Oz pulled off his headphones, the music still playing. "C'mon, babe," Alexa said. "That's our train..."
Oz grabbed his bag and stood. "Where's Christian?"
"Getting coffee before he gets on board..." Alexa said as she strolled through the crowd elegantly. "You'll love London, sweetie...all the shops and clubs...and the food, God, I've been wanting curry for so long..."
Oz just nodded, following her. His hand slipped down into his pocket, stroking the letter lightly with his fingertips as if to remind himself that it was still there, that he still had that option.
They boarded the train without fuss, quickly settling into their seats. The train slowly pulled out of the station, heading for the Chunnel, heading for the English coast.
Christian appeared suddenly, the way he always appeared suddenly, two cups of coffee in his hand. "Alexa," he said, handing her a cup. He looked at Oz. "Sorry, Oz, I only have so many hands, you know. And besides, you hate coffee."
Oz shrugged. "Whatever," he said, looking at the never-changing hypnotic grayness of the tunnel outside. His fingers again slipped down into his pocket, feeling the envelope again, his mind lost in memories.
Giles looked at Oz regretfully. "You're sure?"
Oz nodded. "I...I need to get out of this town for awhile..." He looked at Giles. "I think...I think going with Alexa would be good..."
Giles nodded, sighing heavily. "You're...you're right. But that doesn't mean I don't like it." He frowned. "I don't like the...company Alexa keeps."
"Christian's harmless." Oz paused. "Mostly." He stood up, pacing around the living room, weaving his way around stacks of books.
"And what about the full moon?"
Oz stood up and walked around the living room, weaving through stacks of books. "Alexa and Christian have a place...out in the Black Forest...no one around for miles..." He looked out the window, up at the tiny sliver of moon sparkling in the sky. "I want to know what that feels like..." he said quietly. "To run with the pack...not trapped behind a cage in a library..."
Giles looked down at his hands, and sighed. "I...I have something for you," he said quietly. "I was...I was going to wait...until I thought you were ready...but..." He stood up and went to his desk, rummaging around in papers. He found a thin envelope and handed it to Oz.
"What is it?" Oz asked.
Oz slid his fingers over the top, slowly, gently opening it. He slid the letter out and opened it. After a quick scan, he looked up at Giles. "Is this for real?"
Giles nodded. "I had to make some long phone calls...and cash in a few favors, but, yes." He smiled slightly. "If you are willing, you can become...a Watcher."
Oz frowned. "That's..." He searched for words. "Huh." He looked down at the letter, lost in thought.
Giles paced around the room. "You...you wouldn't have to go right away, of course....it's a standing acceptance into the Watchers...all you would have to do is show up at the address on the letter...they'd have to let you in..." He took a deep breath. "You've shown remarkable qualities. You're calm, collected, intelligent, and have an interest in the..." He paused for a moment. "Otherworldly. You've dealt with vampires and other creatures already..."
"And I'm a werewolf," Oz said flatly. "You did tell the Council that when you arranged all of this, right?"
Giles looked up at him, frowning, then looked back down. "They weren't....pleased... But as I said, I had a few favors..."
Oz looked back down at the letter, his expression blank.
Giles looked down. "You...of course...you don't have to do it...but I...I thought it'd be good..." He looked at Oz. "And after your training, you'd come here...and I..." He took a deep breath. "I'd like you to stay..."
Oz carefully put the letter back into the envelope and gently put it into his pocket. "I'll be leaving with Alexa tomorrow," he said quietly. "I...I don't know what to think of this...but..." He looked at Giles levelly. "No matter what I decide, I'll come back."
Giles nodded, smiling sadly. "Of course." He stood up. "I'll miss...I mean, I..." He sighed. "Be careful."
"I will..." Oz moved towards Giles, and quickly gave him a hug, surprising the older man.
"Goodbye, Giles," he said softly.
Christian sighed dramatically. "Christ, I would kill for a cigarette right now..." he grumbled.
Alexa patted his head comfortingly. "We'll be at Waterloo in a half hour, dear...you can hold out until then... Why don't you go to the back and see about some tea? You'd like some, right Oz?"
Oz looked up, then nodded absentmindedly. "Yeah, sure."
Christian rolled his eyes. "Great. Instead of being the all-mighty leader, I'm now waterboy. See if I let you into my flat," he said mockingly, standing up. "Be back in a few..."
Alexa looked at Oz, studying him for a few minutes. "You going to tell me what's going on or do I have to guess?"
"What?" Oz looked up.
"Something's going on, babe. I can tell. Ever since we were in Paris. So what is it?"
Oz paused for a second, trying to figure out what to say. "I..." He sighed. "I won't be going to Christian's flat with you." He paused again. "I...I have to do something else."
Alexa raised her eyebrows. "What?"
"I'm...I'm joining the Watchers."
She stared at him in shock. "You're kidding, right?"
Oz shook his head. "I was accepted back before we left. I just waited until now to decide."
"And you didn't tell us?" Her voice was low, but strained. "Damn it, Oz, I thought we were...family..."
"I didn't want things to change," he said quietly. "I wanted us to be happy..."
"Did you even think about what Christian is going to say? You're one of us, Oz. Not one of them."
"I'm both," Oz looked at her. "I've always been both. You know that."
She sighed, slumping back in her seat. "Damn it..." she said, tears glittering in her eyes. "I'm going to miss you, babe..." She smiled. "And I don't have a fucking clue what I'm going to tell Christian..."
He smiled lightly. "You'll think of something. You always do."
She nodded, sniffling a little. "Do you think they'll let you see us? At least a few times?"
Oz shrugged. "I don't know...I hope so..."
She nodded again. "You at least better write, damn it. I'm not letting you escape that easily." She reached out, grabbing his hand. "Oz, I...well..."
He nodded. "I know..." he said quietly. "These past few months have been...you've shown me things that I didn't know I could be a part of. And I'm glad I came."
She smiled, her cheeks a little tear-streaked. "Baby, I...hell, Oz, I love you. You're like my baby, you know? And I'm so glad you were here..." She chuckled. "Christian would've been damn near impossible to handle without you..."
"Conspiring against me again, are we?" Christian's smooth voice rang out near the seats. He set the tea down on the small table, then looked at Alexa. "You're crying...what happened?"
Alexa wiped her eyes as Christian sat down. "I'll...I'll tell you when we get to the station." She looked at the tea. "Get any milk?"
While Christian and Alexa lightly bickered, Oz leaned back in his seat and watched them. He smiled, and, for the first time, looked forward to London.