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Toby Daye

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Jan 24th, Year 109 || @Ozma
[box= none, none, 3px #7f9cae solid]
It had finally happened. Oz had told Toby to come find him if he wasn’t answering her calls and by this stage, Oz wasn’t answering her calls. Or her texts. This wasn’t the first time that someone had done this to the changeling, it had even happened recently for her, but Oz had told Toby to come find him if he did this… so that was exactly what Toby was doing. She was tracking down one wizard to make sure he hadn’t gone off the deep end with his magical connection to his boyfriend. Something that Toby still didn’t fully get but she didn’t have to. Her friend wasn’t answer and now Toby was on his trail.

Of course, finding Oz when he didn’t want to be found could be really difficult. She had stopped by his office but the wizard wasn’t there. She had even looked in the little nook that had served as his room in the corner of his office. Then she had checked the courtyard, Merlin’s office, Wanda’s office, and a couple other places just to find out that Oz simply wasn’t at Schola that day.

The smell of his magic seemed pretty recent, but she moved her search to Cascade Bay after a comment from one of the students that the Professor was somewhere in that general direction. Maybe running errands. Maybe going to see someone. Toby didn’t care about the details. She just cared about checking up with her friend. The changeling wanted to catch up with the wizard and well, it was time to see him.

She managed to figure out the general area that he was at and then Toby finally caught a whiff of his magic on the edge of a park. Walking Henry. Likely the reason he was here, though Toby wasn’t entirely certain if Henry was actually with Weiss or Oz anymore, but it was just another fact that didn’t matter to the brunette.

Instead the changeling followed the scent of mint chocolate chip and morning grass until she spotted the brown haired young looking man. With his back to her. Toby wasn’t about to take any chances with the wizard. He was as slippery as an eel as Ozma. So she muttered a spell to make her invisible for a second and then snuck up on the wizard as quietly as she could. Once she was within grabbing distance, Toby dropped the illusion and snagged the wizard by his shoulders with a grin. ”Hey Oz!” Her grip was tight. No running away now, wizard.
[/box]
 

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Having Henry back in his life (by force) had not necessarily been on Ozma's list of things he wanted to achieve. In fact, he had been quite content to leave the dog with Weiss, who seemed to love him intensely and happily catered to his needs. Unfortunately, Oz supposed no one had told Henry that, and the foolish dog had managed to rub his scarce braincells together hard enough to realize that Ozma was Ozpin.

Since then, he had been back to his annoying habit of teleporting into whatever room Oz was in at any given time. Space at the foot of the bed (and the middle of the bed... and the head of the bed... and the side of the bed...) had been relinquished to Henry, who was now sleeping there every other night at least. Oz hated him for it, but... he supposed he had spent more than his fair share of time curled around the idiot dog lately, using him as a living, breathing pillow in Merlin's absence.

Henry had also shaken Ozma out of the reverie he was stalled in, where his life began and ended with Merlin. Suddenly, Oz found himself needing to leave Merlin's side more than he liked, venturing further and further, to the point where he could only feel Merlin's magic as a distant, glowing presence in his soul, rather than something actually tangible.

Standing with his back to the wind, Oz hunched his shoulders as Henry pranced enthusiastically from one snow drift to the next, bounding exuberantly between piles while frequently turning to look at Ozma with an expression of such stupid, glowing adoration that it made his heart do a strange flip, even though he hated the damn animal. He crossed his arms. "Hurry up. It's cold." He complained. He wanted to return and find Merlin and just... live in his orbit for another month at least.

Abruptly, Henry turned to Oz with a puzzled look on his face. He crept closer, tail high and alert and his head lowered. Much to Oz's alarm, he issued a low, deep rumble of a growl that he'd never heard before. Not that he was going to allow a dog to make him nervous, but Ozma found himself looking around uncertainly. "Henry--" All at once, the world rocketed into action. The dog lunged, something grabbed Oz's shoulders, and

Well, he screamed. He wasn't going to deny it. He shrieked like a twelve year old and automatically threw himself backwards, catching Henry on his chest as they both attempted to teleport away from harm. The resulting transportation was chaotic and disjointed - it felt like they were all being shot through a dozen weaving, twisting tunnels through space, until they eventually dropped back into existence on the mossy forest floor of a place Ozma didn't recognize at all.

Henry, barking ferociously, circling Toby like a wolf, fur on end. Oz waved his hand at the dog. "Enough. Enough!" Turning to address Toby fully, Ozma tried not to look as frustrated as he felt. He probably failed miserably. "What's wrong with just saying hello, Toby? Was that really necessary?"


 
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Toby Daye

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Toby had her reasons for thinking that Oz might have tried to dodge her. All things considered, the wizard didn’t have the best track record at being forthcoming with this Ozma side of him. He was still Oz but Toby had noticed a few subtle differences in the wizard all the same. More so, this wasn’t just a check up to see how Oz was doing. He had asked her to follow up with him if she hadn’t heard from him in awhile. This was out of concern and Toby wasn’t taking any chances he’d just run away from the sight of her.

Still, Toby had been halfway expecting the sudden teleportation. Oz had bitched about that enough that the changeling felt decently prepared for the odd, motion sick feeling that overcame her from the sudden teleportation. The thing that stuck with her was Oz’s scream and Henry’s growling. One was far more high pitched than she had expected and one was much more menacing than she had expected. Toby couldn’t help the sudden laugh that bubbled through her lips, but she had been on edge for her own reasons and this over reaction coupled with Oz’s sudden sputtering made it difficult for her to keep a straight face.

Sorry! Henry, sorry honey. Look, look, I’m not hurting him.” Toby let go of Oz without looking around, holding her hands up for the golden retriever to see them clearly. She did feel a little bit of guilt and that expression danced across her features before she looked at Oz with her hands still raised in the air. ”Wasn’t sure you’d stick around if you saw me.” Oz couldn’t have been so oblivious that he had missed her calls or her text messages. No, he had been avoiding those on purpose.

”Haven’t heard from you in a few weeks, Ozma.” Toby was still grinning, couldn’t quite help it, but the changeling worded things in a very careful way to make sure that he’d remember their previous conversation before Christmas. Or at least, would hopefully remember their conversation. Toby had to admit that pissing off Oz was likely a bad thing to do, but she meant to keep her promise. Even if Oz got irritated at her for it. ”You doing okay?” Her hands were still raised but her tone had calmed to something just mildly amused.
 
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Something about Toby laughing at him set Ozma on edge, and he bristled defensively, eyes widening and then narrowing angrily. "After everything that has happened in the last few months... you really thought I would react well to that? Toby, I could have killed you. You're-- you are so stupidly lucky my first reaction was to flee!" He cried in frustration. Henry remained leery of Toby for the time being, though his hackles settled down again and he crept forward enough to give her a very brief sniff. Then he circled back around Oz and glared sullenly out from behind his legs.

Breathing in deeply, Oz squeezed his eyes shut, feeling his hands shaking ever so slightly as his body worked through the rush of adrenaline, leaving him feeling tired and nauseous. After a few moments, he heaved a sigh and opened his lids, focusing on Toby with a touch of resigned acceptance. He knew why she was here. She knew why she'd felt compelled to approach the matter as she had. "I'm fine." He said, with a sullen expression that matched the dog's.

"I was just distracted. I haven't been speaking to anyone, really. Not much. I went to James's on New Year's." That was only a few weeks ago. It counted. He hunched his shoulders. "I was going to reply to your texts. I just..." They had seemed so unimportant, compared to wrapping himself around Merlin and resting in the comfortable warmth of his presence. Everything seemed unimportant. Oz just wanted to teach and then fall back into bed with Merlin at the end of the evening each day. It was his favorite thing.
 
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Toby's reaction had been... well, Toby was in an odd mood herself. There was a lot of good that had happened recently but there had been a lot to put her on edge as well. Mostly to do with the whatever the fuck was killing kids and trying to start a fight in a million different ways but that was a minor detail right then. The brunette had some questions in that direction for Oz but that wasn't the main reason Toby was looking for him.

She did just miss her friend.

Could he have killed her? Well... probably. More than likely. But Toby also knew that Oz's first instinct wasn't to lash out despite everything he had been through. Because this? Well, she had a feeling that even all the terrible they had been through might not have been the worst he had ever seen. Oz was a kind man at his core, no matter how jaded and bitter he felt, and Toby trusted that enough when interacting with him. But Toby still felt a little more guilty at his reaction. If only by an ounce.

Both Henry and Oz were pouting at her. Toby took in both looks, including Henry hiding behind Oz's legs, and she had to wonder if this was how a number of her friends might have felt about her at some point or another. The brunette didn't know what to think about that in the least bit. Her hands dropped from where they had been raised in the air to settle on her hips. One eyebrow lifted when he trailed off about his texts.

"Distracted is alright, Oz. I just didn't know if you were going to dodge me or not." Her tone softened and then Toby offered him a shrug. He might have already figured that part out but she felt like saying it all the same. "Next time I'll... act more naturally." Normally, might have been what she meant. "Sorry." She wasn't normal and Oz wasn't normal, but she didn't like the idea of Oz being upset at her either.

"Things have been going good then?" Just a check up. Her eyes looked around at wherever the hell they had landed, but she wasn't too fussed about that either. Toby had come with a couple of lotus flowers on her person on purpose. Just in case Oz had been trying to dodge her.
 
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Part of Oz wanted to stay upset at Toby, because his heart was still racing and he still felt adrenaline coursing through his veins. He didn't want to give her excuses when she could have scared him into driving them both off a cliff, but then... Oz forced himself to breathe, rationalizing that Toby didn't necessarily know that Oz had never been the best person to play tricks on. He was too hardwired to be on edge and ready to fight - even moreso than many huntsmen, given his history. What was a harmless joke to Toby didn't necessarily translate well to Oz, but what mattered was that, to Toby, it had been a harmless joke.

So, after a few seconds, Ozma deflated and heaved a low, frustrated sigh. "I'm sorry as well. I shouldn't have yelled at you." He said at last, dipping his head. "I didn't mean to avoid you, Toby. Really." Or, maybe he had. Maybe Oz had been avoiding everyone, because as long as he was within Merlin's orbit, they all seemed unimportant and inconsequential. He didn't know. He didn't want to think about it any closer than this.

"Things are fine. I haven't died in two months." Ozma assured her, reaching down to nervously scratch the top of Henry's head. He didn't bother to look around. It didn't matter where they were, really. Oz could still sense Merlin in the far distance, and as long as he felt him, he could make his way home. "What about you? It's a two-way street, and you haven't sent that many texts." Oz pointed out directly, raising a brow. "Let me guess: Work?" It was always work with Toby. Oz wondered how she even found time to sleep.
 
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Toby Daye

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Oz apologized and Toby's lips curled into something that was a little more like her natural smile. They understood each other in a way that wasn't common. They didn't always make the same choices if they were put in the same situations but they could at least understand each other... most of the time. In that family sort of way.

Of course things had to go back into the slightly depressing when Oz brought up the fact that he hadn't died in two months. "Kind of a low bar to set for fine, but I'll take it." Toby gestured lower to the ground but still with that smile on her lips. Because she was teasing him in a way. Not dead was good and well, but things could still be terrible while he was still breathing without any serious interruptions.

He then turned it around on her and Toby looked a little sheepish for two seconds. "Work... plays a part, yes." It was more like Toby's free time had also been eaten up by someone. Someone she wasn't exactly public with yet but this was Oz. If anyone could be trusted to keep a secret it was the wizard. "Kind of keeping it under wraps but I started seeing someone." Toby shrugged her shoulders a little bit like what can you do, but she was still.. happier for what was going on.

"So between a normal workload, Gilly, training, and... new boyfriend, kind of been a little preoccupied." She really hadn't brought up dating in any way beyond trying to get laid and that one emotional night where they had gotten drunk. Toby had been keeping more to herself on that front since Oz had died that first time around. Mostly because it had seemed utterly unimportant compared to everything else that was going on and also because Toby sometimes had a hard time talking about things she was... well, it was just difficult. After everything she had gone through with Qrow, it was like stretching a limb you hadn't properly used in awhile. Like breaking your legs and not being allowed to walk on your own... until you suddenly had to run. Odd way to describe it, maybe, but Toby's life hadn't exactly been a normal one.

So... she had her own "Merlin" in the mix, though it wasn't as intertwined as Oz's situation was. "Maybe I can introduce you sometime." Because Oz was her friend and Toby liked her boyfriend. It only made sense that one day they'd bump into each other because of Toby.
 
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"And yet that's how my life is in Pandora." Oz demurred. He attracted trouble regularly, and not all of it had come from Salem. Oz had died more during his trek back from that icy cult in the Wastes, as a matter of fact, though that had had more to do with the elements and strain on his body than it had to do with the cult itself. And the situation had never felt quite as dire as the one with Salem - Oz had rebounded from his murder by the cult with vigor.

Probably because he'd still had Merlin, even just as a friend. When Salem arrived, Oz had been devastatingly alone.

His expression wavered briefly, but he pulled himself back into the present. He could still sense Merlin in the distance, and Oz used that faint presence to ground himself. "I'm happy for you, Toby." He smiled, though it had a slight falter to it. Part of Ozma - the part that had been Ozpin, and had become an old hand at manipulating the people around him - didn't necessarily like that Toby had a partner now who was far outside his sphere of influence. He was happy for her, but part of Oz always thought of how the shift in dynamics could (would) change things between them.

But then again, Toby had still extended a hand to him. It was Oz who had dropped off the map in favor of his love for Merlin.

Oz felt the conversation stall, and automatically he froze in the face of discomfort. His new gut response to stress was to run back to Merlin and let the soothing interaction of their magics wash his anxiety away, but he knew he couldn't do that now. Not without abandoning Toby in the middle of the wilderness with no way home. His hand clutched at his opposite arm, and Oz offered her a tentative smile. "This is awkward and I don't know why." He blurted abruptly.
 
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He had a point. His life in Pandora had been... complicated. Toby really hoped that things were less complicated for the wizard now that Salem wasn't in Pandora. Supposedly not in Pandora but Toby knew how that could be a really big maybe. After all, the brunette was someone who had made a lot of enemies in her life. Any of them could crop up in Pandora at any given time and then everything would change for her.

Maybe.

Toby was also a different person and she didn't know if she would be in the same position a second time around. If any of her old life problems came back at her now she'd... simply put them in the ground and be done with it. Drag them out to the Dread Wastes or something akin to that and just kill them in cold blood. Their names were few but Toby knew that no matter what world they were in, they'd hurt others... so that was that in her mind. Perhaps it had been the same for Oz with Salem? Toby would never know.

Of course things could never be smooth between them for very long. Not Toby and Oz. This is awkward and I don't know why. Oz suddenly said it and Toby tilted her head back to laugh. Not at him, but at them, and herself included. It was a quick burst of laughter but Toby was still smiling when she finished. "Because we're both awkward people who never know how to act around others, let alone people who remind us of... ourselves." That was how Toby saw it. If she had been pushed into a situation like Oz's... Toby was pretty sure she would have wound up like Oz. If Oz had been put in her shoes... maybe he would have been different and maybe he wouldn't have. They were both masters in the "do as I say and not as I do" school of thought.

"Doesn't have to be awkward at all." Even if they were both prone to awkwardness. Even if they couldn't figure out what was always going on between them. "You wanna teleport us back and then I can walk you home?" One hand reached out to clap Oz on the shoulder and give him a friendly squeeze. She had missed him. "I want the Merlin updates. And general life updates. I've missed you, you short twat." There was nothing but a tease in those words to go along with the grin that suddenly painted her features.

Everything would be alright between them. No matter what got thrown their way. Toby wasn't someone you could easily shake off, so as long as Oz put up with her lurking in the corners of his life, he was stuck with her.
 
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Oz offered her a smile that was sardonic and a touch timid, or perhaps even shy. Though he and Toby had become great friends during his time in Pandora, she, like James and Qrow, seemed to treat him differently since he'd returned to life in this body. Ozma didn't know if it was deliberate, or if it was just Toby's natural response to a younger appearance, but he couldn't help but feel uncomfortable with it.

Then again, maybe she wasn't treating him differently at all, and it was Oz who was behaving differently. He didn't know.

Instead, he simply smiled and nodded. Toby wasn't wrong. Both of them could be painfully awkward about things even on a good day - even when they were utterly at ease with one another. This was to be expected, really. "You're nothing like me. Lucky for you," Ozma demurred modestly, waving a hand at Toby with an easy-going grin. Stepping closer, he didn't comment. He merely wrapped his hand around her wrist and waved Henry closer. As soon as he was touching the dog, they disappeared all at once.

Touching down on the snowy ground of the park, less than ten feet from where they'd started, Oz released Toby and caught Henry's leash before the foolish lab could take off for another snow pile. "First of all, I'm average height, thank you." Ozma pointed out in a tetchy tone, though his expression remained earnest and fond. "I just have a tendency to befriend giants, which is not my fault. So I wouldn't call me short. I would call you tall." Sniffing derisively, he started walking, looking over his shoulder at her.

"Merlin is fine. I'm fine. I haven't really done anything exciting lately, Toby, unless you want a breakdown of how Merlin and I wile away the hours." He gave a harsh, amused scoff. "I've been sleeping a lot, if you want the truth. More than I ever have in my memory."
 
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Oz's younger apperance did play a part in the slight adjustment Toby had towards Oz, but it wasn't a big one. She would have treated him similar like even in his old body. She just felt a touch more protective over her friend because of his young face, but that was about it. Not the worst thing in the world, but Oz had needed time to adjust and Toby figured most of the awkwardness between them was because Oz was just adjusting to everything. Fine and understandable to the changeling.

You're nothing like me. Toby didn't know about that but she didn't say anything in response. Instead the brunette held his hand as the wizard teleported them back to the park they had started in. There was a smile still on her lips and Toby had relaxed straight back into that comfortable manner she had around Oz. She didn't let the wizard get too far before she hooked an arm in the loop of his, so they could walk at the same pace back to the castle.

"I'm tall? James is like 6'6"!" Not that Toby could say much. She was friends with Hellboy. Dude was seven feet tall no matter how he tried to slouch through doorways. She was laughing slightly while they walked along though, because the majority of people that Oz knew did seem to be tall. Except for those like Merlin and Wanda, who seemed to be on the shorter side of things.

Sleep was a good thing though and Toby honestly wished she had been getting more of it. But with her life... well, coffee was a life saver in that direction. "Sounds like you might have needed the sleep." An innocent enough statement though Toby's mind slowed around the thought. Remembering what Oz had said about being sick. About his body dying at some point soon and how that had been what sent Salem over the edge. She hadn't forgotten. Toby was still looking into it in an attempt to help her friend. She just hadn't found any good leads yet.

Soon, she hoped. Soon she'd have some options for him to look at. "Have you moved into his room or did he move into yours?" The changeling brought up something else instead, wearing that same grin on her face. If they were sleeping together, it had to be that they had "moved in" together. That was an update that deserved telling.
 
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"I didn't say James was short. James gives me a sore neck from straining to look up so much." Oz quipped back easily, enjoying the way their conversation had flowed back into familiar, comfortable territory. They were retracing their steps back to where they had been before. Before Salem, and before Oz had died and come back in a new form. He liked it, and he was quietly grateful that Toby was willing to tolerate him at all.

Oz shrugged. "Probably. I think I've told you before: I don't historically sleep well. Even with Merlin, it's not perfect, but it's better than it has been for centuries. At least I don't feel half-dead all the time now, and I don't need to rely on caffeine boosts just to get through a day." Not that he had ever minded such things - over time, Ozma had stopped noticing in Remnant. He'd simply adjusted, and accepted perpetual exhaustion as his lot in life. Now, with Merlin, he often found himself oddly out of sorts and baffled at the sheer amount of energy he had during the day after a decent night's rest.

Without skipping a beat, Oz shot Toby a look and then smiled. "My room at the school. Merlin's is probably larger, but mine is more comfortable and I usually have more students coming and going at odd hours in my office. It made more sense." He lapsed into silence for a few seconds, watching Henry wander happily at the end of the leash as he brewed over his thoughts. "We'll probably find a better place eventually. I don't want to push or insist. Merlin might not want to." Oz demurred tentatively.

He didn't know when Merlin might come to his senses and realize how much better than Oz he could do. The last thing Ozma wanted was to feel like he had trapped the other mage in a relationship he no longer wanted.
 
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She chuckled at his description of looking up at Ironwood. Toby had to admit the man was pretty damn tall, but she had taller employees. She had once had two employees who were seven feet tall. One half demon and one... fish man? She had never gotten the full scope on what Abe technically was but it had never really mattered. But both had been tall as hell.

It did sound like things were going a lot better for Ozma and Toby couldn't help the soft smile on her features as her friend spoke. These were the things she was glad to her, overjoyed really, and she knew that Oz deserved all of this and so much more. No matter what he might have thought about himself, he was a good man and he tried hard. That was what mattered and she was of the opinion that Merlin was a lucky guy to be able to spend time with Ozma.

She did laugh a little at the idea of needing caffeine to get through the day. "Gunna be honest. That's why I drink my coffee. Same boat." Toby slept like the dead but she never really slept well. How could she when she had to sleep at night? Dochas Sidhe were naturally nocturnal creatures and Toby lived a diurnal life. The reason she drank so much goddamn coffee? Toby wasn't living her natural life. She could sleep all she wanted but unless she slept during the day and reset her clocks, it would never be restful. And how could she ever manage that with her business, Gilly, and everything else going on in her life?

But there was a little in the verbiage that Oz used that suggested that he had his own reservations about things. "Well, it is his school." Toby supplied an easy, innocent answer but her hand squeezed his arm in a reassuring way all the same. She thought she knew what sorts of things he might have been thinking because in that avenue, they were alike. How many times had Toby completely changed her life on account of what was better or easier for her lover? Toby had promised herself not to do that this time. She wouldn't be moving in with Gabe within two months. No declarations of love before they naturally had time to figure that out, no matter how Gabe might have been able to make her heart race with a smile.

One day, he might decide his smiles were meant for someone else and then Gabe wouldn't be smiling at Toby at all.

That day would come. One way or another, she'd lose that smile and Toby's own insecurities on the matter always tried to scream in her ear every time she felt like she was getting ahead of herself. It had happened every time. Her hand tightened a little more than she intended but Toby loosened her grip, feeling an odd set of emotions because she felt like Oz would have known better than anyone else what it was like to live her life. "If you do though, even to a bigger room at Schola, lemme know so I can send you a house warming gift." There was a wriggle of her eyebrows as she tried to lift her thoughts and joke around with her friend.
 
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"Only because your body wants to sleep at the appropriate time for you..." Oz pointed out without any heat or malice. He understood why a nocturnal life wouldn't suit Toby in the long run, but sometimes he wondered if she didn't cling to her human nature so tenaciously only because she hated everything faerie. Toby could have easily taken a day or two each week to sleep. Anyone would gladly watch Gilly for her.

It was like the average human working night shifts - as long as there were a few days available to regulate one's sleep schedule, it was doable, but Ozma didn't push the matter. He knew Toby's feelings well enough to see that he would have better luck trying to argue the stars into coming down for a visit.

Besides, he preferred talking about Merlin. That made him happy, and it was apparent on his lackadaisical expression. "It is, though recently it feels like I have to remind him of that." Oz sighed. He didn't want to air Merlin's struggles to the world, but in the same breath, Ozma felt slightly out of his depth with the situation. He could see that Merlin was... Merlin was happy, at least to some extent, but not always. There was something there that Oz couldn't seem to fix with blind devotion and love, and it rankled him endlessly.

Her grip on his arm tightened, and Oz patted Toby's hand without thinking. "I don't know about that. It's hard, being as old as we are, with so many experiences. I feel like I'm being jostled between feeling like we're being reckless and hasty... and feeling like we're going too slow and we might as well just get married." He gave a breathless laugh, surprised by his own words and positively glowing at the thought. A moment later, Ozma shook his head. "Not that we will. It's not like that. Goodness knows how much of this is natural and how much of it is just a strange reaction to each other's magic. Has Gabe met Gilly yet? How are you dancing around that subject so far?"
 
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Toby Daye

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He had his point but Toby just... didn't know how to live any other way. For awhile, when she had first arrived in Pandora, she had been able to live a life that was "normal" to who she was. Up during the night and sleeping during the day with the blackout curtains pulled tight. But then she had gotten a human assistant, after the werewolf assistant, and then she had started dating Qrow.

Then Gilly had arrived and any attempt at normal sleep was thrown out a window.

Oz mused about Merlin and then talking about being older and having so many experiences. That Toby could understand to a certain degree. Minus a handful of people, she was older than everyone else she knew. The changeling was even ten ish years older than her boyfriend. She snorted slightly when he brought up marriage but that was because Toby had a less than favorable view on "marriage". Why couldn't people just commit to each other without all that bullshit? Or maybe she was just bitter over other aspects of her life. Toby still didn't think there was any point in getting married herself... because she didn't expect any of her relationships to last long enough to get to that stage. So why rush? Why care?

Toby started to say that the wizards would figure it out when Oz suddenly brought up Gabe. Her eyebrows rose slightly and she shrugged. "We're taking that a little slow." Toby thought one of the better lessons she had learned with Qrow was the fact that she had gotten too serious with him too fast. Baby steps were needed in many emotional ways. Yet it sometimes felt like she and Gabe tripped over each other's emotional landmines while trying to also ignore anything too obvious. Everything was endlessly complicated.

"For now Gabe's just Mommy's friend. That Mommy likes as more than a friend." Toby was trying to baby step her daughter into the subject too. Toby didn't want Gilly latching onto Gabe the same way she had with Qrow. Thankfully Gilly was older. That made things a little bit easier. "But yeah, they get along. They high five before he leaves or when she has to take a nap. He's got a kid twice her age, but... he's good with Gilly so far." The brunette smiled again but shrugged her shoulders before looking away. "I'm trying not to run head first into this." And in a way, everything about it hurt. Because Toby thought she was keeping her distance on borrowed time. It was a lonely, bitter thought borne out of decades of like treatment. Nothing would heal it but time.
 

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Ozma nodded once approvingly. He didn't know Gabe, nor did he claim to know Gabe, but Oz knew children well enough to feel a touch defensive at the idea of someone swooping into Gilly's life only to swoop right back out of it. It was no way for any child to live, and he appreciated that Toby wasn't allowing her feelings to blind her. His smile grew a fraction wider, and Oz abruptly reached over and caught her hand in his.

It didn't feel odd with Toby. It was something comforting and grounding that he supposed he had fallen into the habit of doing when either of them were stressed. His fingers curled around hers in a gentle squeeze. "One step at a time, right? You need to stop worrying that you'll break something before you've even built it." Ozma scolded warmly.

"It's good not to run in headfirst, but... you still have to go in eventually. You're such a victim of extremes, Toby. It's either one or the other for you. Black or white." He squeezed her hand again with a grin. "All or nothing."

He turned his attention up to the barren trees and sighed. "Sometimes I would prefer your dilemma to my own. After so long trying to avoid... this... I suppose it's frightening. As nice as it is. Merlin feels like he's too much for me... if that makes any sense? I feel like I can't be everything he deserves or that I should be. I don't know." Oz shook his head.
 
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Toby Daye

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Oz suddenly reached over and took her hand in his. That was one thing that neither of them had exactly been shy about, had it? They were both the sort of people to offer comfort. They didn't shy away from it either, at least not from each other. They trusted one another on that level and knew that even if they didn't understand each other, they knew neither of them would be malicious to one another. Or... something. Toby's thoughts were scattered, she had no idea what she was even thinking anymore.

Her friend understood her though. She was scared of breaking something before she built it and she had lived a life of extremes. All or nothing and many, many times in her life it had been nothing. "Maybe I'd trade you." There was a little bit of a half smile, though Toby knew they were straying back into the territory of dark humor. "Only things in my life that's ever lasted a decade or more was bad." Or wound up hurting more than she could put into words. Her only relationship that had lasted more than ten years had been Devin and that had been abusive in about every way it could get.

"I get that feeling." Funny enough, Toby wondered that with Gabe in a way. Not over the fact that she was good enough for Gabe. Toby was a good person and Gabe had his own troubled past. He had shared the darkest parts of it with her already, a big step in a lot of ways, and Toby had told him somethings too. But, and wasn't there always a but? But Toby wondered if she could be enough to keep him. To keep his attention. To keep it on her.

She wondered if she was actually enough to love, in general. Qrow had been the straw that broke the camel's back in that regard but that problem had started with her mother before she had been a decade old. Looking down at Toby and saying-- well, it was no wonder that Toby had problems wondering if she would ever be enough for someone to care about on that level. Her entire life had helped build that answer up in a certain direction.

"Merlin wouldn't be with you if he didn't want to be, Oz. You're both too old for that nonsense." She lifted her free hand and poked Oz in the face, letting a more natural smile appear on her lips. Focusing on Oz and talking about Merlin was so much easier for Toby than thinking about when... when things would fall apart, one way or another. She didn't let go of his hand though. Instead the changeling held on, not wanting to let go just yet.
 
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Ozma

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Ozma eyed Toby and rolled some thoughts around in his mind, ruminating on them before speaking with great care. "I have a long and storied history of not making wise choices with my heart, Toby. If I can do this, so can you. I understand why it's not as easy as people imply it to be." He spoke primarily to the trees, though his hand clenched on hers and Oz absently swung their arms as they walked. Up ahead, Henry woofed in delight as he continued to race through snow drifts. Oz felt a shot of fondness hit his heart with such force that it almost hurt.

"I'm not going to diminish your suffering by comparing our pasts, but the past is in the past. We have to be able to move beyond it, or... I don't know... whoever did bad things to you wins, don't they? Even if they aren't here, they still won." Ozma muttered, scuffling his shoe against the snowy ground. He flicked his gaze over to Toby and his lips curled into a self-conscious smile.

He breathed in deeply, letting the cold air wash over him as he tried to clear his mind. Opening his eyes at last, Oz shook his head, shooting Toby a lightly disapproving look when she decided to poke him in the face. "I know, but I already have a questionable self image, and being back in this body, with these memories... it makes it worse." Ozma admitted softly, looking down as they walked. "I don't know if I'd be self-pitying enough to call myself broken goods or something so dramatic, but... I feel secondhand. Especially compared to Merlin. I'm nothing compared to Merlin." Absently, Oz's hand wandered up to his lips, and he worried at his fingernail with his teeth. "Which I know isn't true, Toby. Before you tell me. It's just a thought that keeps worming its way back into my head."
 
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Toby Daye

October Daye
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Oz didn't know Toby's entire life. He didn't know the ins and the outs. Didn't understand that almost everyone in her life, no matter how "important" or "loyal" they were supposed to be, had all walked away from her sooner or later. He didn't understand that before she was double digits, her mother had told her that life would be better without October Daye in it. That lesson had been pounded into her head over and over and over.

Life in Pandora had its ups and downs, but it was good over all. Toby had a lot more confidence here. She had more friends, more ability to take care of herself, but she was broken goods. She would always be broken goods. Friends, lovers, family, Gilly. They had all left Toby behind. And their lives had been better for it. Couldn't quite forget that lesson, could she?

The world had moved on without October Daye for fourteen years and when she came back, everyone had been better for it. Gilly had been safer without her mother in the picture. Everyone had been happy. Gotten married, had more kids, continued on with life. Like they should have. Then Toby had locked herself away from everything and had tried to just fade away. That depression was lurking beneath her skin at all times, even if it wasn't normally visible.

So she took Oz's words in stride but the didn't hit home in the way he might have intended. Those "bad people" weren't all bad. In fact, most of them weren't. They were just regular people, with regular lives, and Toby couldn't blame them one bit if they didn't want her in their lives. That was their goddamn choice. A right they had. "I understand what you mean." Toby did. She knew that those thoughts could wiggle in when you least expected them.

Her eyes trailed Henry and she smiled slightly. Dog sure was energetic as all hell. No wonder Gilly liked him. "Gilly keeps asking if we can get a dog." Toby changed the subject without touching on what he had spoken on before. Oz may have been trying to encourage her but Toby... Toby had sixty years of that life in her pocket and it wasn't about to be changed so easily. "I told her when she's old enough to take care of one. Problem is, I dunno when that is and she keeps asking how old she has to be." There was a chuckle. Toby loved talking about her daughter. That was always clear to anyone with a pair of ears.
 
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At a glance, Oz knew he'd missed the fucking mark, and he couldn't help the soft, exasperated sigh that rushed from him. It wasn't that he necessarily wanted to talk about any of this, but... maybe he did, in his own way. Maybe because part of Oz understood that this all needed to be talked about. Neither of them buckled under the weight of what they kept to themselves, but Ozma was starting to realize that it couldn't be healthy. It wasn't right.

"Toby--" Oz huffed when the conversation was steered away from sensitive topic and his expression tightened with vivid annoyance, but he didn't pull his hand away and he didn't say anything. He merely watched the dog and weighed his options until he trusted himself to speak with a level tone. "That depends on what you realistically expect her to do with it. If you expect her to do everything, then save yourself some anger and the dog some suffering and don't do it at all. If you're comfortable taking on the brunt of the hard work, she's already at a good age for it. She understands boundaries, for the most part, and she knows how to be gentle... with supervision." He shot Toby a look that clearly communicated that he didn't quite feel as strongly as she did about her five year old's maturity.

But that was another sensitive topic, so Oz didn't say anything more on it. He simply watched Henry. "They're worth their weight in gold, you know. As much as I yell about him..." He said pensively. "I don't know if I would sleep at all, without him. Especially if Merlin isn't there."
 
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