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Postcards from the Edge (Three Chord Overdub)

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A couple of months and four hundred miles after Sunnyvale, Oz splurges and books a hotel room for a couple days to sleep in an actual bed with (at least marginally) clean sheets. Despite the fact that it's a pretty crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere, it's trying to be classy enough to advertise, ‘cause there's a stack of postcards sitting next to the table lamp on the bureau when he walks in. Pre-stamped, they must be extra desperate.

That night, he’s feeling pretty low and tired in a way that has nothing to do with needing sleep, so he writes a long rambly note to Jordy and Aunt Maureen, saying that he's sorry he left without much notice, but that he'd try to keep in touch. Hopefully Maureen could find a calm way to break the situation to his mom. He knew she wouldn’t take it that hard; after living at the periphery of all the weirdness that blew through Sunnydale on a regular basis, Oz was pretty sure she’d look on his traveling as one of the safest things he’d done in years.

He finds himself stuffing the other postcards (there are four of them, all equally silly looking and overly earnest about selling the advantages of this hotel in Absolute Nowhere) into his duffel when he checks out.

Then the full moon happens and after that he finds a lead about some guy teaching meditation as a way to “tap into physical transformative energy” (which sounded like a not-so-subtle code for the kind of thing he’s looking for) and in Chicago there's an occult bookstore with some great references on medicinal herbs--and he forgets about the postcards. Mostly.


*

The idea of entering a library is too hard for a while; too many memories of sitting next to Willow and how she smelled when she was preoccupied with reading, the change in scent when he distracted her, when she lost track of where they were and just focused on him. Slowly, finally, he worries more about discovering different methods to try (with various successes and failures; he wasn't going to forget his long weekend in Boise anytime soon, yikes) and theories about the whys and hows of being a werewolf.

Oz has filled a few dozen pages with his findings--somewhere his middle school English teacher who always told him off for never taking proper notes is feeling smug without knowing why--and is on the trail of a pretty solid sounding lead, for once. He's been spending a few days in Pittsburgh but makes tracks for Philadelphia with a sense of excited purpose. This energy has long since died by the time he pulls into a gas station after mindless hours spent pushing his way slowly through glacially slow traffic. Oz doesn’t even wait to get to the cash register before he’s cracking open a soda from the cold case to wash the dusty irritation away with a flood of caffeine.

“There some kind of event going on?” he asks casually as he pulls out his wallet to pay. The cashier raises an eyebrow.

“It’s Thanksgiving break, dude. Everyone’s headed out of town to see family and shit.” For some reason, the guy reminds Oz of the surfers who’d hang around in downtown Sunnydale, which is strange: Pennsylvania is not exactly prime beach territory, to say the least.

“Oh, right.” Oz says, and wonders when he lost track of time so completely.

Thanksgiving at its most basic is about being grateful for friends and family, and so Oz finally sends the second postcard.

*

Hey Giles,

I’m sure you’re keeping busy killing nasty things with horns—I try to keep an eye out for you guys in the papers, but it’s not like there’s a Monster of the Week section right next to the weather report, at least outside of the Sunnydale Times—but I wanted to send you this to say that I'm okay and actually on to something new. Or at least I hope so.

You've always been decent to me, despite what could have been a pretty enormous conflict of interest, and I don't know if I ever told you how much that meant, because otherwise I'd probably be dead and you wouldn't be getting this ugly postcard. So thanks. And you're welcome?

I know I’d hear if something major happened to you or the Scoobies, but take care of Willow all of them for me, yeah?

- Oz

*

In Tibet, everything that happened in California seems like something from a book. A mixture of herbs, meditation and a heavy dose of luck means that he finally makes it through a moon without shifting.

The second moon he makes it through whole, he feels the anxiety, the feeling of certainty that it would fail and end in blood and screams, all that tension fades into a sort of peace he'd never thought possible.

He never hears back from Giles, although for a while he'd gotten emails in his inbox about Buddhism, which made him smile.

Still, he feels a different kind of restless energy and so one day he hands one of the postcards to the guy who takes the mail drop to the city.


*

Xander,

I’m in Tibet, of all places, which would sound crazy but then it’s not like our high school graduation speaker wasn’t a giant snake demon, so.

If everything continues to work out, I have my animal problem under control, fingers crossed. I might be headed back your way and I thought I’d give you a heads up.

Don’t spread it around though, all right? I kind of want it to be a surprise for her everyone.

Be cool,

Oz

*

The look on Xander's face tells Oz that the postcard never go there. The look on Willow's face... he doesn't have words for.


*

Will,

I’m not angry. Not really. There are some things that change and I guess we’re one of them. But I hope you’ll be happy with. I know you’ll be happy. I guess we’ll just have to be happy in different places. Watch out the Initiative. I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to stay.

Take care of yourself.


your

Oz

*

Oz has lost track of all the different towns he’s visited; he doesn't shift at the moon, but some are more comfortable than others. He stays away from cities and closes his email account.

So it’s a long, long while before he picks up a newspaper and reads about the mysterious explosion that pretty much took a huge chunk out of southern California. And even the normal news can’t keep it entirely quiet when Willow activates all the potential Slayers—he knows it had to be Willow, they wouldn’t trust anyone else with that kind of magic—and then one day he's digging through his suitcase (a new one, the duffel fell apart) and finds a dog-eared and muddy postcard.

He books a flight to England the next day.

*

“Oz, I can’t believe it’s you! What brings you to England?” He's almost surprised she's happy to see him, but Buffy's always had his back.

“A plane,” he replies with one of the first genuine smiles he's had in a while. The last postcard is in his coat pocket. Maybe he’ll give it to Buffy sometime, if he can think of the right words.


*