First Slayer

Fic: You Had To Be There

Title You Had To Be There
Author Brutti ma buoni
Characters Oz, Anne, Gunn and briefly the rest of the Fang Gang
Setting Not Fade Away, so 2004
Rating PG13
Words 1400
Prompts solidarity, Oz joins the Fang Gang, for the Oz ficathon at trdmarkstoicism, which starts posting today (and for the next month)



Oz knows that donating computer skills to a kids' shelter doesn't impress some people he meets. "But, those kids, they need food and medical help and…" Some kind of psychiatric treatment, says their handwave, something difficult that I don't have to think about. Certainly something more serious, more compassionate, more interventive, than your ability to perform minor miracles with virus-laden software, or outdated hardware.

But, number one, Oz is not a doctor or a shrink, and he does donate food, clothes and cash when he can, but he doesn't have enough of each to help the whole shelter. Number two, not all the kids need any of those things as much as they need somewhere safe and apart from the craziness of their lives. And number three, the killer, is that by keeping a couple of ancient PCs halfway alive and online, and scrounging spares when he can, Oz keeps those kids connected to the real world. They can apply for jobs or schools and look for housing, if they're in shape for any of those things. Email distant relatives and ask for help when they've lost their nearest and dearest. Mess with message boards and fansites and have some fun. Because, the way Oz sees it, practical only gets you so far. After a while, you have to feed the soul. If cat macros get through to these kids, what the hell.

"Yup," he says, when people say that kind of thing. They do need clothes, food, doctors, important stuff. Just, computers too.

Besides, he likes Anne. Sunnydale refugees are pretty frequent in LA these days, but few got out before the fall, and few really know what they left behind them. She knows, and she deals. Oz can relate.

*

This is why Oz was there on the day that Charles Gunn dropped by, with a casual attitude that didn't match his rigid spine or his sweaty, odorous fear. Oz knew Charles to nod to, the way Oz knew most people he liked. Charles didn't quite give up the good fight. (Even when he became a sudden, mysteriously high-powered lawyer at a law firm Oz knew by its stench was pure evil. But Angel was in the mix, and Oz had some time for the vampire, so he trusted it was all some world-saving fake thing. Wondered why the lawyers hadn't worked it out, but maybe they didn't have Oz's nose for heroes.)

This smelled like the day the shit (whatever it was) hit the fan (whatever that turned out to be). So Oz made sure to end his minor defrag about the time Gunn looked like heading out, and the two of them left the building pretty much in step. Gunn looked wary, though he knew Oz's bona fides well enough. Didn’t trust anyone much today, it appeared.

Oz wasn't a natural small talker. This talk wouldn't be small anyway. So he went for the big. "Should I be warning Anne?"

"What's that?" Gunn's eyes shifted, awkwardly, failing to look surprised.

"Tonight. Whatever it is, will the kids get hurt?"

Gunn paused. "Keep them away from the Hyperion. You know it?"

"Yeah. I checked it out." Oz liked to know stuff. This kind of stuff. It helped, come Apocalypse time. "That all?"

Shrug. "Could be. Won't know till it hits, you know? It could be big. But…"

"You gotta do?" What you gotta do, and all that. Oz didn't bother to finish.

"Yeahhhhh." Long out-breath there. Gunn half-turned to face Oz, as though to speak again, but instead held out a hand, silently. Oz grasped, shook briefly, and went off to his van.

Deep in thought. But that went without saying.

*

Later, Oz was failing to attend to his modly duties. So badly that one of the other wolfers called him on it. Which: when your yahoo group notices you're distracted, it's a sign you should get off the internet and do something more world-savey instead. As Buffy would say, assuming she had time these days. (Oz kind of hoped Buffy was in truth coming to save the world, because the way Gunn was feeling earlier, it was going to need the cavalry.)

Oz wasn't used to his mind wandering like this. Not except on moon nights, and even then he'd be working hard to control it. But this was a bare crescent-night, and he was antsy. Maybe just the wolf senses?

No. He well knew what the issue was. The issue was that you didn’t leave comrades to stand alone. Maybe for the small stuff. Maybe helping out Annie, running his wolf group, meditating the hell out of his own wolf… maybe that was enough most days. But not tonight. Tonight, the fight was on, and you needed to pick a side and stand by it. He hoped his guesses about Angel's good intentions held up, or he was seriously going to wish he'd asked when he had the chance. Being accidentally pro-evil during the Apocalypse… embarrassment potential: high.

Oz rifled the hidden drawer in his closet. Crossbow and an axe, probably all he could carry, and even if he'd been able to find a rifle at this short notice, he'd never met a demon yet that died when you shot it. Had to be the old weapons for the old enemies.

He was aware, even as he thought this through, that heading for certain apocalyptic death downtown wasn't really the time to be strategising about weaponry. He'd be lucky to get in a couple of blows on it, whatever it was. That sun-swallowing Beast from last year, maybe that Hellmouth demon that had burst through the library at Sunnydale High a couple times. Whatever it was, it would be big, and it would probably have minions. As a fighter Oz wasn't even minion-worthy these days, out of practice and without his wolf.

But he had to be there. That's what solidarity meant. That's what the white hats did.

*

The alleyway was pretty much deserted, which was anti-climactic. But there was something there, not something in the air, something in the earth instead. A rumble, a heat, the faintest stench of brimstone.

And vampire. But that was only Spike. And Angel, pretty soon. They regarded him once they'd greeted each other, heads tilted, eyes narrowed, mirroring suspicion. Scent was low, restrained. They weren't hyped. They knew what was coming.

They were baffled by his arrival, and yet it wasn't important. They knew him, enough to know he didn't matter tonight. Oz signalled his friendly intent with a half-wave anyway. Should have been military, he thought, some kind of salute. But no, who was he kidding? He wasn't army, and neither were they. No medals for today.

No medals for Charles Gunn, whose walking-bloody wreckage joined them in the alley presently. No medals for Wesley, whom Oz hadn’t seen since graduation, and still couldn't picture as a serious fighter. But who was being mourned in this alley, briefly but sincerely, by three heroes and some kind of lethal goddess.

The rumbling and the heat increased. Sulphur in the air, and then dragons, demons, hell itself unleashed. Oz and his tiny weapons absurd at the heart of it.

*

Oz didn't die. It was ridiculous, but it was true. He did not die that day, in the alley, next to Gunn, as all logic said he should. He ended by being as much hindrance as help, with the three immortals surrounding him as he shot off a few arrows and whacked axe-blades at whatever came within whacking distance. But he was there.

They held the stand, somehow, till the cavalry came and evil was beaten back for another time.

Then it was just a case of picking up the pieces. They left LA in Oz's van. Angel and Spike in the windowless back, blue eyed goddess in the front. It wasn't what Evil Law Firm had accustomed them to. That felt right.

Oz drove, steady and calm, to nowhere in particular. They needed to move, he had wheels and a need to help.

Few words were spoken. That suited him fine.

Wherever they were going, they'd pick up and start again, and fight another day in memory of those they had lost.

Oz might stick around to help. Find another shelter, help some more people.

He's a white hat. It's what white hats do.

*
Tags:
Oz fic is such a good thing. I'm hoping to find another story to write for this one as the posting window is nice and long.

ETA Ooops! Forgot to say thank you, and I'm glad you enjoyed this. *g*

Edited at 2011-05-18 05:47 pm (UTC)
You let Gunn die again. *look stern*

This Oz is very relatable, with his acceptance of the "trivial" being food for the soul. I like how he thinks he's a hindrance, but follows through anyway. One does what one can...

It's lovely to see Oz fic from you, especially Oz fic that shows what he's up to in parallel with the main story. Nifty!

Who was the cavalry, and where did they go, after? Not that it matters much to Oz's story — I'm just curious.
*hangs head* I know... but, but, is practically canon! Prompt me a live Gunn post-NFA scenario, and you never know what might happen.

I love to write Oz, but I can't often think of excuses to do so. He's so *there*, in the moment, doing what he can. I'm hoping to do a second fic for this, but it'll be later Rulesverse and therefore a bit exclusive so I wanted to do something everyone could enjoy first.

Oh, Buffy and friends. Pretty sure. I just don't see it that they wouldn't have noticed and helped with the Apocalypse situation after a bit, whatever relations with W&H were by then.
This was wonderful!

I think Oz would have fit in just fine with the Angel team.
Thank you!

I agree. I can see Oz fitting in with the whole team (and driving Cordy insane by not engaging with her apart from the odd eyebrow twitch!)
old weapons for the old enemies.
Oz would be there - all practical - van ready!

Loved this take on Oz and NFA.

[I have no Oz icons, drat.]
Oh, YAY. Ozfic makes me so happy, you have no idea, and this is a lovely example. I especially love the idea of Oz moderating a mailing list for werewolves - that's fabulous.

Very nice indeed.
Thanks! I adore Oz fic too. There should be more.

I was trying to remember what the cool kids were doing online in 2004. Yahoo groups is about all I could scrape out of my memory.
I love Oz.

Few words were spoken. That suited him fine.

Just perfect, stoic Oz!

He ended by being as much hindrance as help, with the three immortals surrounding him as he shot off a few arrows and whacked axe-blades at whatever came within whacking distance. But he was there.

Great imagery! Just love it. How brave is Oz!!

Wonderful story.





Thanks so much! Oz is a real hero; scared and not tough enough to know he'll survive, but helping all he can in a tight spot.
I'm so sorry that it has taken me so long to read this. (Bad mod!)

I love that Oz is helping out at Anne's shelter and learns of the big take down through Gunn.
Oz, the very definition of stoic hero.

A lovely piece and excellent Oz voice, and not a little heartbreaking towards the end.
That is a very nice Oz voice you have there.
The whole piece has a melancholy optimism about it that feels like real bravery and resignation.
Very nice.