Author:  Meltha

Rating: G

Feedback:  Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com

Spoilers:  For "Doppelgangerland" in Buffy season three.

Distribution: Fanfiction.net, the 500 Club, and the Blackberry Patch.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  Set just after the events of "Doppelgangerland," Oz finds his voice.

Author's Note:  Seventeenth in the Jewel Box series, a collection of stories that are exactly 500 words from title to end (a challenge from the 500 Club) and that revolve around a character, an emotion, and a piece of jewelry, a concept from Challenge in a Can. This time, it's Oz, relieved, jewelry.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.

E-Flat Diminished Ninth

He doesn't talk much.  It's not that he has nothing to say, but words seem too obvious to him.  Other ways of getting his point across feel less blunt.  Why question someone's plan aloud when a raised eyebrow does the same?  Why say words other people have said a thousand times without really meaning them when his guitar says them in notes that have never lied? 

He sits on the floor of his bedroom, his bass cradled carefully on his knee.  He grasps his favorite pick, the one Willow gave him on his birthday, and plucks the strings absently as he dwells on today's events.  The smoothness of the mother of pearl triangle held between his fingers lulls his spirit.  His life, he decides, is weird.  He realizes this when he comes to the conclusion seeing vampires puff into dust doesn't startle him anymore.  He isn't stupid enough to be unafraid. Now, though, it's like facing his third grade teacher, the one who had a moustache and a tendency to crack her ruler against her desk as her eyes shot fire at him when he skipped doing homework. He spares a moment to wonder if, since this is the Hellmouth, Ms. Barathrum might have been a demon. Anyway, yeah, scary, but by February it was normal.

Today wasn't normal.  Fear had stabbed through him like a javelin.  His darkest nightmare had confronted him:  Willow, dead but not.  The thing that had taken over the Bronze scared him more than anything he'd ever seen.  For an hour he'd thought she'd been killed.  As horrible as that was, the idea he might have to stake her had been even worse.

Angel had understood.  Oz had taken control, something he rarely did, and actually ordered the quarter-millennium-old vampire to fetch Buffy.  Angel had automatically obeyed.

Oz had stood still and watched as his now dead girlfriend terrorized everyone around her but never glanced at him.  His features were forced into their customary controlled expression, but his heart hammered against his ribs, knowing that in spite of everything he still loved her.  And he had just sent Angel for the one person who was sure to kill her.

It ended happily.  When he'd seen his Willow enter, he'd known immediately and almost passed out in relief.  Afterwards he hadn't said a word to anyone. He'd held her tightly for a very long time instead.

Now he sits in his bedroom, plucking his bass, putting into music what he feels.  As he completes what he can only call a "love song" even though the words are, as usual, not enough, his fingers alight on that perfect chord that he's striven for so long, and as he thinks of her, the note sounds clear.

He nods, satisfied, and slips the pick back onto the piece of multi-colored twine around his wrist.  Exhausted, he crawls into bed.  When he plays it for her tomorrow, he knows she'll understand what he's saying.  She always does.