November 14, Y109Like most school functions, the winter ball had started out fun and light-spirited, and while the fun had continued, the spirit of the thing had gotten a little skewed as the night went on. Ozma had initially attended with every intention of just... focusing on getting Merlin through the worst of it and then returning to the castle, but before long he had found himself branching away from the other mage to alternatively scold and chat with the students who began to stream in. He had confiscated several flasks of bootleg that were likely to leave someone blind, and Oz had witnessed three times as many being consumed. The bartender seemed to be aging before his very eyes from stress.
For the most part, it was fun. Even breaking up squabbles and doling out discipline was fun (one unfortunate teen was sitting pretty with fourteen consecutive weeks of detention for the creative but vitriolic cascade of profanity he had spit in Oz's direction), but it wasn't how Ozma had wanted to spend the night, and by the time he circled back around to Merlin for what felt like the hundredth time, he was noticeably frazzled. Reaching out automatically, he grabbed Merlin's nearest hand tight in both of his.
"Let's go for a walk before I somehow get roped into another... something." He insisted plaintively, tugging him towards the deeper part of the forest. There were still fairy lights twinkling, and the moon was full and snow was falling. It would be hard for them to get lost, and it was bright enough that Ozma wasn't nervous of venturing off into the darkness. Besides, with Merlin at his side and a liberal amount of alcohol floating in his system, Oz wasn't sure if he could feel much fear at all in his current state. Only ecstatic, bubbling happiness.
His smile softened a bit, nevertheless. "I'm sorry for being absent, Merlin. I really wasn't planning on chaperoning, but..." He shrugged his shoulders. "It's hard to turn off. Are you all right? How are you holding up?" Oz hesitated at the edge of the deep, winding forest path. "Would you rather go back to the castle? We don't have to walk."