Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: Those Left Behind
Author: A. Price
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Post Season 4
Summary: Oz and Buffy become closer after tragedy strikes
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN.


The rain pounded on the roof and the darkness outside shown through the windows of the apartment. A small, blond woman tossed and turned in the bed, crying out in her sleep obviously in the midst of a terrible nightmare. She finally sat up screaming "Giles."

Giles sat down the scotch he was nursing and ran up the stairs at the sound of Buffy's terror stricken call.

He found her balled up on the bed, tears running down her bruised face, one arm in a makeshift sling.He sat down beside her, gently pushing her hair back from her face, speaking in a soft soothing voice. "It's okay, Buffy. Calm down, he's gone. It's over."

She'd been like this for three days now. He had watched her lose those dearest to her, taken by a new master vampire invading the city. Willow and Riley were both dead, buried today. Buffy had not even been strong enough to attend the funerals.

It was just he and his wounded Slayer left. Buffy had been through more then any 19 year old should have to endure, and at this point he wondered if she was too fragile to go on.

Giles had tried to contact Angel, thinking maybe he could help, but he had gone to Ireland for some research and Cordelia couldn't reach him as he was enroute. She and Wesley came for Willow's funeral.

Neither had known Riley. Cordelia's tears were as much for the broken Buffy as they were for her dead friend. She had thought Buffy could withstand anything, maybe she was wrong. She promised to let Angel know what was going on as soon as he contacted them.

Wesley offered to stay, but Giles saw no reason and had said goodbye to he and Cordelia just hours ago along with Joyce, Xander and Anya. He had sent them to LA also, hoping they would be safe there.

Buffy looked up at Giles with swollen eyes, eyes that looked far older then they were. "Are they gone?" She asked pitifully.

"Yes." Giles nodded his head slightly.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't stronger." She bit her quivering bottom lip.

"They understood, Xander, your Mom and Anya went back with Cordy and Wesley, like we talked about." Giles explained patiently.

"Good. Maybe they will be safe there. I couldn't save Willow and Riley, Giles, I tried. I did...but...there were too many of them. It was too much." Buffy sobbed softly again as Giles lay her down and tucked the blankets around her.

"Shhh...you did everything you could, Buffy. No one blames you." He patted her good arm and turned to go. "Rest." He told her as he left the room.

*************

Giles settled himself on the couch once more and picked up his drink. He took a long slow sip and leaned back closing his eyes. The knock on the door startled him and he got up slowly to answer it.

"Hello, Giles." The visitor said tiredly. He had the look of a man who had lost his best friend. Well, he had lost his best friend.

"Oz." Giles said softly as he ushered the young man in.

"I'm sorry I missed the funerals. I got here as quickly as I could. My Mother called, when Mrs. Summers called her. How, Giles?" Oz asked as he sat down.

"A new master vampire with hundreds of minions decided the quickest way to get to the Slayer was through her friends. Willow was caught walking home from Tara's place and Riley from a patrol. Unfortuanately Buffy found them too late, she managed to take out the Master vampire and the minions scattered, when I found her she was between the two bodies, staring into the sky. I'm sorry Oz." Giles said as he patted the mans arm.

"Did Willow suffer?" He asked unshed tears glowing in his eyes.

"No, it was swift." Giles assured him.

"At least we can be thankful for that." Oz muttered then looked at Giles again, "How is Buffy?"

"Not well, I'm not sure if she'll recover this time."

"Buffy's strong, she'll be okay." Oz said as his attention was drawn to the sound of footsteps on the staircase.

Buffy looked frail as she walked down the steps cautiously, her bruised body resisting every step.

Oz gasped out loud, he had never seen her look this beaten before. She walked slowly towards him, "Oz?" She asked softly, then she passed out at his feet.

Oz had her in his arms and on the couch in seconds flat, her eyes fluttered open and a very faint smile crossed her lips. "It is you."

Oz placed a gentle hand on her cheek, "Yes, Buffy it's me."

"I'm so sorry, I'm sorry Oz. I couldn't, I was too late, there wasn't anything I could do. Can you ever forgive me?" Fresh tears ran down her cheeks.

"Nothing to forgive, Buffy. You loved her too. I know you did everything you could."

He wiped the tears from her cheeks and gathered her in his arms pressing her to his chest. "Shh, shh, don't cry now." He whispered into her hair.

She laid pressed against his chest, sobbing lightly for a half hour. Then the sobs quieted and Oz looked down to find her sleeping. "She's sleeping." He said softly over her head to Giles.

Giles nodded then spoke, "It won't be for very long, she wakes up with nightmares constantly."

Oz moved to lay her down, but she burrowed her head deeper into his chest and sighed. He moved on the couch to get more comfortable, lying her head on a pillow in his lap. He absentmindely played with a strand of her hair as he asked Giles about the others.

"We think that the minions dispersed after Damien's death, but I sent those closest to Buffy to LA for safety reasons. I thought I could care for Buffy, they are all well intentioned but sometimes there prescence seems to make it harder on her." Giles sighed tiredly.

"Go get some sleep, Giles. I'll keep an eye on her." He picked up the tv remote and turned it on keeping the volume low.

"Are you sure?" Giles asked as he stood.

"Yes. If she needs you, I'll wake you."

"Alright, thank you." He told him as he climbed the steps to his room.

**********

Oz flipped through the channels until he found an old movie. Bogart and Bacall in "To Have or Have Not". He was engrossed in the movie when Buffy began to whimper in her sleep, he gently shook her shoulder as she began to cry louder in her sleep.

When he finally roused her she was sobbing hysterically, looking around the room as if she was lost. He held her close to him again until she calmed.

"Buffy, you have to find away to move on. You can't go on like this. Willow and Riley wouldn't have wanted this for you." He looked into her red rimmed eyes and smiled. "Willow is looking down right now with her resolve face on and she's saying Buffy it's okay. She doesn't blame you. No one does."

Buffy smiled a little bit, "Her resolve face, huh?"

"Yeah, and you know how she was when she got that face. You've got to let it go, Buffy. You can't save everyone, and Willow and Riley both knew the risks." He explained in a soft steady voice.

Buffy looked at his calm smile and listened to his calm voice. "But if they hadn't been involved in my life....."

"This is still Sunnydale, Buffy, they had a better chance of surviving knowing the Slayer then being igrnorant to what goes on here. I loved Willow, I owe Riley my life. And I will miss them both, but it's not your fault and torturing your self will not help."

She settled into the couch next to him, "I'll try to do better Oz. But it's just so hard."

"Well, if you just go a day at a time. And Giles will help, and I'll be here to help too." He put an arm around her and pulled her close, "Now have you ever seen this movie?" He asked with a grin.

"I don't think so." Buffy replied.

"Well, then you are in for a treat. Are you hungry?" He asked as he got up and went towards the kitchen.

"Maybe a little." She admitted as she began to watch the movie.

Oz came back in with a couple of sandwiches and explained the plot to her. When the movie was over, Buffy was yawning and trying hard to keep her eyes open.

Oz turned off the tv and took her hand, "Let's get you tucked in." He made the couch up for her and tucked the blanket under her chin.

"Where will you sleep?" She asked, unable to hide the anxiety in her eyes.

"Right over here." He pointed to the floor. "I have a sleeping bag."

"Okay." She said relief evident in her voice.

"And Buffy? If you need me, just like Bacall said in the movie, 'just whistle,"he told her as he climbed into the sleeping bag. Smirking slightly, he added,"you know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."

He laughed as he saw the smile on her face.

"Thanks, Oz." She said sleepily as she rolled over.

"Your welcome."

He watched her in the dark for a few minutes until he was sure she was asleep. Then closed his eyes and thought about what he was going to do. He had meant to only come for a short visit. He needed to get back to the mountains, he was at a camp with other werewolves, studying and researching lycanthropy in depth.

But watching Buffy sleeping, knowing the pain she was in, he would just have to stay a while and make sure she was okay. She had been Willow's best friend, he couldn't leave her like this. He'd always liked Buffy, and he and Willow had fallen into a deep friendship after their breakup. Angel and Buffy had not been that lucky, although they cared they were still emotional around each other making friendship hard at times.

*******

"Want some breakfast?" A soft voice was asking him as he cracked open a single eye.

Buffy was looking down at him, still tired but with a small bright smile on her face.

"I've cooked, well, I've attempted to cook." She giggled softly before turning to go upstairs,"I'll go see if Giles is hungry."

Oz watched her go upstair as he got up and folded the sleeping bag. She looked better this morning, maybe he had helped last night. He ventured into the small kitchen to find a plate of only slightly burnt toast, what appeared to be scrambled eggs with cheese and three glasses of orange juice.

"Are you feeling okay?" Giles voice could be heard asking as they entered the kitchen.

"I'm better. Thank you, Giles." Buffy smiled at him then kissed him lightly on the cheek.

The Watcher smiled his first real smile in days. He noticed that Buffy was looking at Oz like he was her lifeline. Thank goodness he'd come. Pehaps Buffy needed someone who knew the situation but at the same time wasn't as close to it as those in Sunnydale. Giles had always like Oz. He admired his quiet manner and honesty.

After cleaning the dishes, Buffy left the men to shower. She seemed almost like her old self, only her eyes seemed a little haunted still.

"Oz, I don't know what you said, but thank you."

"I didn't say anything she didn't know, guess she was just ready to hear it."

The three friends spent the day talking about their lost friends comparing stories and laughing out loud at memories. Night fell and Giles caught Buffy staring out the window into the darkness, a confused look on her face.

"Buffy, you okay?" He asked in a fatherly tone.

"I need to patrol, Giles." She said fear faintly showing in her small voice.

"Not yet, soon, Buffy." He patted her shoulder and left her to her thoughts.

********

Days turned into weeks and Buffy began to show signs of coming back to them. Although she wasn't patrolling she was getting stronger mentally and working out to regain her physical strengh also.

Oz helped in any way he could, smiling as she and Gile sparred with each other. Watching them was poetry in motion.

After a very grueling workout on a rainy evening, Oz rented "Casablanca". Giles went to bed early and he and Buffy sat on the couch munching popcorn while they watched the movie. Buffy was yawning as the movie ended, but seemed hesitant to leave Oz's side.

Smiling, he lay her head on a pillow in his lap again and sang softly to her, he'd thought she was asleep, and had to smile when she opened her eyes and murmured softly, "it's like the movie, Oz."

"Hmm......." He replied.

"I think we have the beginnings of a beautiful friendship." She sighed as she closed her eyes and fell into a peaceful sleep.

Oz smiled at her, something inside of him twinged slightly, "The beginings of something, Buffy." He whispered to her sleeping form, he placed a light kiss on her forehead before he untangled himself from her and got into his sleeping bag.

*******

The next night Buffy got dressed in patrolling gear. Tight jeans and a light cotton tee with her leather jacket over it. Oz admired how lovely and powerful she looked in the simple ensemble. "Going somewhere?" He asked with a grin.

"It's time to patrol. It's past time, actually." She laced up her boots as she spoke.

The phone rang and Giles entered the room to answer it, he noticed Buffy's attire and frowned. "Hello." He spoke into the phone. "Ah, yes, she's right here."

Giles motioned for Buffy to take the phone. "Hello."

Oz looked questioningly at Giles. "It's Angel. He's calling from Ireland." Oz nodded his head and watched Buffy as she spoke to Angel.

"I'm okay. I know. It's okay, Angel, I understand you couldn't be here, there's no way you could have known." Buffy spoke softly, her voice cracking ever so lightly. So lightly, that if he hadn't gotten so intuned to her over the weeks, he wouldn't have noticed.

Oz realized the conversation was none of his business but he found himself wanting to know what Angel was saying.

Shortly he heard Buffy ending the conversation. "I promise. You take care, too. Me too. Bye." She smiled and hung up the phone.

"I'm going now." She told Oz and Giles as she walked to the door.

"Do you really think it's a good idea?" Giles asked her worry lines creasing his forehead.

"Giles, I'm ready. Don't worry." She gave him a small hug.

Oz picked up his jacket, "I'm going too." He stated simply and went to her side.

"You don't have to, Oz. I'm okay, really." She assured him with a smile.

"Nah, I want too. Nothing on tv tonight anyway." He nodded at Giles as they went out the door.

The patrol was fairly uneventful. They sat atop two tombstones in Restfield Cemetary looking up into the starry sky. Oz finally spoke, curiosity was killing him. "So, Buffy. How is Angel?" He asked nonchalantly.

"He's fine." She replied as she continued to stare at the sky.

"Oh, well thats good." Oz anwered he'd hoped for a more detailed answer.

"Yeah, he's upset about Willow and Riley like we all are. But he couldn't help being out of town. But no one can brood like Angel, and he of course worries too much about me." She turned to look at him trying to figure out what the serious expression on his face meant. He almost seemed...jealous.

"Oz." She said soflty.

He seemed lost in thought, "Oz" she repeated.

"Huh. Oh, I'm sorry. What?"

"You okay? Are you thinking about Willow?" She asked as she hopped down from the stone and walked towards him, concern on her face.

"Oh no. I mean I still think about Willow. But I was thinking more about you and.....Angel"

"Me and Angel? Why?"

He sighed deeply, "I just wondered where the two of you stand?"

The question caught her slightly off guard. "Where we stand? Oz we don't have a choice on where we stand. Curse still in effect here. We have a friendship, well more than friendship but not more. It's hard to explain. He said he didn't like Riley, but I think he did. He knew Riley cared for me and I think that eased some of his worry. Riley was a great guy, you know."

Buffy smiled at him then, and it was a real genuine smile. The kind he had always loved to see on her face, even when he was with Willow.

She looked at him again, "Why do you want to know?"

"Because, well, to tell you the truth, over the last few weeks, I've been watching you and realizing I care for you." He admitted to her with a small smile.

"Care for me?"

"Yeah, I mean more then friends care for you. Does that scare you?" He was on a roll might as well get the rejection over with now.

Buffy cocked her head to one side and looked at Oz, he looked pretty miserable for someone who had just confessed feelings for her. She gently put a hand on his cheek, "Does caring for me, make you feel like someone is going to kick you? Cause that's how you look." She said semi seriously.

"Depends, is someone going to kick me?" He asked with a small smirk, his eyes never leaving hers.

"No, Oz, no one is going to *kick* you. Now kiss, that's a different story." Buffy told him with tenderness and a touch of teasing in her voice.

She started to lower her hand from his face when he caught it in his hand, and leaned in quickly brushing his lips over hers.

"No kicking is good, where do we stand?" He asked bluntly.

Buffy could still feel his warm breath on her face and the gentleness of his hand upon hers. It felt good, and in typical Oz fashion he just put it out on the line, with him she would always know where she stood.

She could see what Willow had seen in him. She swallowed once and began to speak, "We stand in a good place. I have feelings for you, too, Oz. Warm, fuzzy feelings, but...."

He frowned, "But?"

"Don't frown," She gently chastised him with a small grin before contiuing "But we have to go very slow. Okay, neither of us should rush now. Can you do that? Can you go slow?"

"Snail's pace, I can go at a sn..ai..ls........pace." He stretched the word out slowly.

She grinned and reached for his hand, they left the cemetary hand in hand. They spoke little on the way back to Giles apartment. Oz flipped on the late show, it was in the middle of "Gone With The Wind". They got sodas and sat closely on the couch, Oz's arm gently around her shoulders.

The credits were rolling when Buffy turned to him. "What will everyone think, Oz? I mean about us." She said a small amount of nervousness in her voice.

He grinned at her and laughed before he said "Frankly, my Dear I don't give a damn." She giggled as he pulled her closer his lips finding hers in a sweet, gentle kiss.

As their lips softly learned each other, the kiss turned more passionate. Tongues tentavily touched and bodies flattened together. Moans brought Oz out of the fog first. Though he wasn't sure who the sounds came from.

As he gently pulled away, Buffy didn't argue, even though her body wanted to.

Looking into her flushed face, he whispered huskily, "Slow, Buffy, slow."

"Uh huh, like a turtle." She giggled as he tucked her in on the couch and then settled into his sleeping bag.

"Slowly but surely" Oz whispered.

"Patience is a virtue." Buffy countered.

"Good things come to those who wait."

They kept up the quiet banter until they both fell into a peaceful dreamless, sleep.