Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: I Don't Need You (to rescue me)
Author: Karen
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Post BtVS Season 4 and AtS Season 2 - future fic
Summary: Oz bumps into an old friend just when they both need it
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns Oz and Cordelia. Plot all mine.
Website: OzMIA
Author's Note: For Ems. She likes variety. And for Nickle.


It was in-between gigs. He didn't expect to see her there. It was...awkward. Mostly, because he'd decided never to see her again but she kept coming back. Apparently she couldn't read his mind. Had no clue he never wanted to see her again and was all about showing up in-between sets.

Oz watched her approach him, warily. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. It made her fairly threatening. Her leopard skin pants, print, and halter top was predatory. He'd only gone out with her the first time to well, make her go away. Most women were lured in by his silence, then promptly driven away by his silence. Mouth shut, he let her touch his arm. He was afraid if he didn't she'd spear him on her lacquered blood nails.

"Oz, you never called." Statement, half threat.

He blinked, maintaining his silent routine with all the ease of someone who never spoke...which he rarely did. Her fingers clawed at the bare skin of his upper arm. Oz suddenly wished he had sleeves. And a flak jacket. "Why?"

"Phones," Oz responded, drawing a blank. He was definitely nervous about the truth which was he'd never call her ever not even if he was on fire. Her make-up frightened him worse than her nails. "I'm not really capable of using them."

A frown marred her over painted lips and creased her pan caked forehead. She was either a twenty something trying to hide her real face or a one-hundred and fifty something with enough gloss to cover an era or two. "Oz," she purred. It grated. "How are we ever going to get together again if you keep dodging me?"

Oz opened his mouth but nothing came out. What he wanted to tell her wasn't exactly friendly. He had issues with being rude. He also had issues with people who wouldn't let go of him. Gently disentangling her hand from his arm, he offered her a nonexpression.

"There's a good reason we're not together." Oz told her.

"And?" She asked, her nails tapping against the bar counter.

Oz's mom was a good women who gave him two things, a love of music and a code of honor. The code thing was troublesome. The music...that worked out for the most part. But point was, he had nothing nice to say and was finding it difficult to forget the adage about not speaking since, Oz rarely spoke.

"And," A new voice said, "it's all my fault."

Oz spun and got a mouth and noseful of scent. His eyes widened ins delight. "Cordelia."

The brunette grinned, "Honey, don't say my name as if you haven't seen me in years! Honestly I just saw you a minute ago! He's kind of forgetful."

"And who are you?" Blondie demanded, her nails clicking angrily.

"I'm his wife. Get it?" Cordelia widened her eyes slightly. Her posture had changed to 'woman guarding her man' and her brown eyes blazed. "So why don't you take your over made up, over priced off the rack wearing freak nailed self off to some other end of the bar before I kick your ass."

Raising an eyebrow at Cordelia, he gave the blonde a sympathetic shrug. It said quite clearly, 'What can you do? I'm whipped.' The woman growled and stalked off. Oz turned to Cordelia and before either of them got a chance to speak, he enveloped her in a bear hug.

Surprised laughter escaped her as she returned the hug. "Hi Oz." She breathed in his ear. "Hey, Cor." He whispered back. Letting her go, he stepped back so he could look at her.

She had to be thirty by now but she was still gorgeous. Tall, slim, dark hair long and straight, just the right amount of make-up and perfume enhanced everything nature gave her and her eyes and smile made Oz feel at home. "You're the same." He told her and he meant it.

"Oh what?" Cordelia's smile widened, "With the attitude and the save? Ha. Consider it a reminder of who I used to be, 'Queen C' for a minute there anyway. You look exactly the same! Look at your hair!" She reached out and touched a spike. The hair in question, was purple again with an option on magenta.

"We should talk." Oz told her, smiling gently.

"Okay." She smiled back. "Oh but your set?"

Oz looked back towards the stage. One of the guys was motioning him back. He frowned. "Can you stay?"

"Not like I have anywhere to go." Her smile brightened, "Besides seeing you again is worth the wait. Good friends are hard to find."

Oz smiled again. It felt good and almost natural. "After the set."

"Right. I'll be here. Chasing off the groupies." Her eyes narrowed in mock sternness.

"Please." Oz said desperately. Smiling for her again, Oz moved off to the stage door. He turned back to see Cordelia settling into a table close to the stage. Walking backstage he couldn't help feeling happy for the first time in a long time.

*****

Cordelia tapped her foot in time with the music. Oz liked the was she seemed to actually be enjoying the music. He knew the rhythms were just bearable and the guitar work was the same stuff Jordie was knocking out when he was four. The lyrics were all right, even if Oz had to listen to Jimmy slur them all together unintelligibly. It made him miss Devon. But seeing her smile at him every once in a while was nice and the drums were okay, so it was pretty much the best set he'd played in two years.

When Jack crashed the symbols, Oz unplugged and stepped directly off stage. Jack gave him a look but shrugged it off when Oz settled himself at Cordelia's table. She grinned, "You guys were really..." She trailed off, smiling overly brightly.

"Adequate."

"Yeah. What happened to Devon?" She asked, stirring her soda straw.

"Married. Wife doesn't like bands." Oz shrugged.

Cordelia arched an eyebrow.

"He was only into this to get women. He got one. End of band. New band." Oz glanced over his shoulder "They're not awful. And they care."

Cordelia nodded.

Oz decided he was impatient. "How far along are you?" He asked.

She knocked the soda over. Oz righted it and grabbed napkins, muttering apologies. Cordelia mumbled too and it all melded together. Cordelia tossed the napkins onto the table next to them. The couple at that table gave Cordelia a startled glare. "What?" She demanded. "You've got plenty of room on your table."

Oz touched her hand. She jumped again. Leaning forward she whispered, "How did you know? Who told you? No one knows. I just found out yesterday!"

Oz leaned closer and whispered in her ear, "I don't normally tell people I meet in bars this but, I'm a werewolf."

Rolling her eyes, Cordelia stood up. Her hands were on her hips, "Let's go. We're going for a walk." Oz blinked, "Now, Oz. Let's go."

It was an interesting offer. He didn't get many of those these days. Oz stood up. "Walk." He followed her out of the bar and a cool breeze hit him in the face. He smelled stale alcohol and sex streaming out of the bar hitting the smell of garbage and fresh air. He revelled in the new scents for a second before remembering he wasn't alone.

Cordelia was starring at him. Curiosity was written all over her face. She wanted to ask him what he smelled but she also wanted to tell him about herself. Oh, and she also didn't want to offend him by asking. Oz stared back.

He decided another subject would be good to break the awkward silence. "Thanks for the save back there."

"Oh the blond bimbo? No problem. You're welcome. But in a fight, I think you could take her."

"Oh I don't know." Oz balled his hands so they looked like claws. "Pretty fierce nails. So are you happy?"

"Happy?" Cordelia was thrown off by his abrupt change of subject. Oz did that a lot. His thoughts were a little too nonsequitor. When he was old they'd probably think it was Alzheimer's.

"About being pregnant." Her eyes lowered. Her face flushed. That was a no. "Unplanned." Oz guessed.

"Just a little."

"Father?" Oz asked.

"Getting a little personal for a guy I haven't seen in years, aren't cha?" Before he could pull away, Cordelia looped her arm though his and steered him to a seedy bus bench. Sitting him down, she delicately sat next to him. "I used to be rich Oz."

"Not money rich but friends, well I was money rich and God, I miss the money sometimes...But it never made dear old Mom and Dad happy so whatever. But I had good friends once or twice. Wesley died. Did you know that?" Soft brown eyes filled with tears, "It was over a year ago. I still..."

Oz hadn't known. He felt a stabbing pain as he remembered the pseudo Giles. He'd turned out to be a great guy and a good man. Cordelia sniffed. Oz turned all his attention back to her. He could mourn later, privately.

"Well, after that, you know Angel. He shut down everything. Said first Doyle, then Wesley...Said he was too afraid for me. You know Angel, when in doubt go into a funk, brood and separate yourself from everyone who loves you. But see, I still have visions so what's the point of getting all broody and not sticking with me? Gunn, he tried to go after the thing that killed Wes and he, he, they say he could wake up any day now...I saw him and he does look better." Cordelia rubbed at her eyes.

"So I was lonely. And trying to help people on my own. I met this guy. We kinda had a relationship." She rolled her eyes, "If you call making out in the car once a month a relationship. And after a while he left me too and I'm pregnant. I'm pregnant and he's a loser." Cordelia wiped at the tears on her face but they just smeared around. "I can't go back to Angel, not like this. And can you imagine what would happen if I went back to Sunnydale? Yeah Buffy's dead but Willow can still be pretty damned vicious...Oh and without my pay check from Broody I'm going to lose the apartment."

Oz grabbed the tail of his T-shirt and wiped the tears off of Cordelia's face. He gave her a reassuring smile and she jumped into his arms. He found himself with an armful of warm Cordy. It was odd. "Hey, if you need anything..."

"I don't need you to rescue me, Oz."

"Maybe I need you to rescue me." Oz told her.

*****

"So you can stay on the couch." Cordelia told Oz. He offered her a smile. The couch actually looked comfortable as hell. Better than the lumpy thing Jack was letting him use. "And we split the rent." She gave him a look that brokered no arguments.

"Oh, and you have to sit still while I get us some sodas. And then you have to tell me how you've been. All the good stuff. Gossipy I hope."

Oz watched her bustle around the kitchen happily. He tossed his nap sack onto the couch and relaxed. The whole place smelled like Cordelia. It was comforting and very feminine.

She came back in and propped a soda can in front of him. An invisible force opened it. Cordelia smiled at the air, "Thank you, Dennis."

Oz decided not to comment.

Cordelia plopped down next to him. Oz was unnerved. Her scent was all around him and coming from her and it was extremely feminine. He'd spent the last two years solely in the company of the band, all male. The fluffy pillows were vaguely disconcerting. Plus there were no open bags of chips lying around in pools of stale beer.

"So, Oz, tell me where you've been and why if you're in a band making all the money, you need to crash on my couch?" She turned on the couch, pulling one leg up and under her so she was facing him. "So, spill."

"Formed new band. Travel a lot. I have trouble settling since Sunnydale. I think I may find hellmouths comforting. It's worth looking into in a scary way. I make enough to fix up the van every third week. That's about it." Oz shut his mouth.

Cordelia stared at him, smiling.

"Hmm?" He asked, nonplussed.

"Same old Oz." He found himself engulfed in another hug. Her scent crushing him. He couldn't help it, he let out a laugh. And then she laughed. He laughed at her laughing and she let go to cover her mouth.

"So how long can I stay?" Oz asked.

"Long as you like. Oh, I snore. And, I wake up really early. Aerobics." She smiled sweetly.

Oz nodded. "I'm a clean freak."

"Ew, weirdo." She laughed again. "I'm so glad you're here."

*****

"Oz! Get the phone!" Cordy shouted from inside the shower.

Oz rolled off the sofa as Dennis handed him the phone, "Hello?" Oz listened for a few seconds then tossed the phone. The poltergeist caught it and hung it up neatly, "Thanks Den." Oz stood up. It was seven AM. "Cor, doctor's appointment at three."

Cordelia stepped into the living room. Her hair was in a towel turban. Another towel just barely covered the rest of her and a toothbrush was hanging out of her mouth. Oz found her strangely attractive that way. "Okie dokie. Can you still drive me?" She said around a mouthful of mint rabbis.

He nodded. "Shower free?"

Cordelia waved a hand and her towel slipped. Oz averted his eyes until she organized herself. "Oh sure, I can rinse out in the sink."

He stepped into the steamed up bathroom. Dropping his worn out jeans to the damp tile, he pulled his T-shirt over his head. Scratching his head and stepping into the shower, he closed the stall door as the bathroom door opened. Cordelia stepped in.

"Sorry Oz, forgot my bra." She grabbed it off the hamper. Oz smiled at her through the glass doors. "Hey, you sure it's okay? You going to the doctor's with me today? You're my roomie not my boyfriend."

Oz turned on the hot water and got a face full of cold. It warmed slowly. She must have been hanging out in the bathroom a long time in a towel to let the water cool off. "I want to." He told her through the glass.

"Are you sure? It's not your fault I'm stupid enough to get myself pregnant. And here I am dragging you into everything a million years after we were friends...So there's no pressure if you want to back out. I'll totally understand."

Oz shut the water off, "Cordelia."

"I know, fine. I can go by myself. No big."

Oz whipped open the glass doors. "I'm going. We're friends. I care. How could you think I wouldn't want?"

Cordelia's face lit up, "Really?"

"Really." Oz frowned, "I'd hug you but right now I'm naked."

Cordelia looked down and to her credit, didn't blush. "Very naked."

*****

Oz sat in the doctor's office. It was the third visit he'd been to with Cordelia. They were falling into a routine. She kept saying she didn't need him to come with her. He kept saying he wanted to and it always seemed to happen when he was getting into the shower. Oz was thinking suspiciously that she might like seeing him naked...

Cordelia came out of the bathroom in the backless wonder that is a hospital gown. She kept tugging at it. "Well, it's not Gucci..."

"It could be." Oz told her, "The early years. Gucci's a struggling young designer. Falls in with the wrong crowd, the K-Mart people or what have you and makes the biggest mistake of the career minded designer. Backless paper gown sacks."

It had the desired result. She laughed. "For a guy who never talks, you never shut up, Oz."

He gave her a look, asking her if that was a request. Her laugh kept going. Oz found himself surprisingly moved by the sound. Again, it reminded him of when he's been really happy. And he actually felt happy now. It was interesting. Not so much as a lightening of heart but a solidifying as if it were returning.

"What?" Cordelia put a hand on her hip. The gown rode up, exposing a lot of leg. Oz pretended not to notice. "You're smiling at me."

Oz shook it off. "Wolf instincts. Pregnant woman. Protective. Instincts." He avoided meeting her eyes. But that gave him a better view of her legs. He felt something warm rush up into his face. Luckily the doctor came in before she could see.

*****

"So, I'm fine. The baby's fine. Ugh, more horse pills for vitamins. Yech. I'm going to pound them up into little bits with Wesley's old mortar and pestle then suck them up through a straw or something. I could put them in tea! Yes, tea which would then turn yucky and green.." Cordelia dropped her folic acid pills on the counter. Dennis lifted them up and carried them into the kitchen.

Oz sighed. Over the last few days her scent had been changing. Becoming even more attractive... He put it down to her being pregnant but it was getting harder and harder not to growl at people who got too close to her. Plus he hadn't had a close friend since Devon settled down and his wife cut him off.

Cordelia walked in and sat down too close to him. Her scent was overpowering. "We need to talk."

"About?"

"About this. This arrangement. I can't pay my half of the rent and the medical bills for," she tapped her tummy affectionately, "junior. So...What are we going to do about it?"

"I could pay..." Oz had enough money saved.

"NO." Cordelia's eyes flashed, "I don't need you to do that. I need to get a job until I can't be on my feet anymore. Get us some money coming in. I really don't want to be poorer than I am." She grimaced. "What do you think?"

Oz thought. "Can you promote? Because I have this band.."

"No hand outs." Cordelia warned. "I work for it."

"You've heard us. You'll *have* to work for it."

*****

Oz and Cordelia walked into the latest dive the band was playing. She reached out impulsively and squeezed his hand. "I don't think I can do this."

Oz gave her an encouraging nod. "You're Cordelia Chase. You can do anything."

*****

Three sets of eyes settled themselves on Cordelia. "Hi." She offered them a small wave. A tall lanky guy with blonde hair waved back. The dark haired guy next to him blinked, his eyes half closed. The curly haired brunette offered them a puzzled frown.

Oz nodded, "Guys. Cordelia's going to promote us."

"Do we get a vote?" The lanky blonde asked.

"No."

"Oh." Blonde shrugged. "Okay. Just checking."

"Cordelia Chase. Jimmy," Oz pointed to the blonde, "Jack," the dark haired guy with the earring waved, slightly dazed. "And that's Mike. Jimmy and Mike were in Dingoes. Jack joined us when we became 'Sheep In Wolf's Clothing' and now we're Laconic and Single."

Cordelia stared at them. They were all wearing torn up or worn out jeans and T-shirts. Their instruments were expensive as hell. Each one had a distinct style but Oz was the looker. His wacky hair and tiny stature was going to be a draw, plus he had nice eyes and that mysterious lack of speech thing, going for him.

"Hmm. Play for me." She resisted the urge to clap her hands together like some sultana.

Oz shrugged. He lifted his guitar and slid the patched strap over his head. Jimmy headed for the drums while Mike plugged in his base. Jack flicked on his keyboards, hit a few notes and looked to Oz. Oz held up two fingers.

Cordelia leaned against a pole in the small loft. Oz had been staying here on the couch until she took him in and now she knew why he wanted to live on her couch instead. The place was definitely made for playing and not for living. Every space was devoted to instruments and distortion pedals and amps. Graph paper was everywhere and take out boxes littered any space left unmiked.

The music started. Oz hit a chord. The sound was mournful but not in a desperate way, just in a nostalgia way. He slid his fingers along the fret bars and Cordelia felt the band following him. But it was a surprise when Oz opened his mouth to sing instead of Jimmy.

"Oceans away and you're still here.
Trapped inside me, butterfly wings.
Ten days without you and I know it's too late.
You've got butterfly wings."

Cordelia's eyes widened appreciatively. He had a soft tenor voice. And it was good!

"I sailed away, I ran away, I crawled away.
Inside me I feel your wings flapping against my cage.
Ten days from ten days without you. I know it's too late.
Your winging away at this stage."

"Because you're beautiful.
Like I wish I was.
Wings silk and beautiful.
Like I wish I was."

"But I'm so far away from ten days away from you.
My love is so far from yours that its fading.
Your wings are beautiful.
And you've got to fly away."

Oz repeated the refrain and his guitar let out a harder sound than Cordelia thought the song needed. It fit because it was bitter. She knew who it was about. Biting her lip, Cordelia listened to them, feeling what Oz must have felt.

"If I came back to see you fly.
On your rainbow wings, fly.
Would you see me on the ground?
Ten days from ten days away from you?"

Oz hit the refrain again and let the song die out. Cordelia nodded once. "Oh yeah. I can definitely sell you." Her smile was bright and thoughtful. "Now all we need is an image."

*****

Oz was tired. Cordelia had dragged him through ten different malls. He was loaded down with bags and boxes of his 'new look.' Jimmy had begged off after the third mall. Only he and Jack had made it to ten and Jack had passed out outside of Penny's.

"This is going to be so great! You'll see, Oz! In a month I'll have you guys playing places bigger than the Bronze back home!" Cordelia grinned from ear to ear.

The apartment door opened. Oz gladly let Dennis lift a few of the heavier packages away from him. The poltergeist set them down gently on the coffee table. Oz nodded his thanks as Cordelia rambled on about T-shirts and promotional pictures. His eyes drooped as he reached the couch.

"...And then we'll set it up for Tuesday." Cordelia finished. She set herself down next to him on the couch. He blinked blearily up at her. Impulsively, she reached out and ruffled his hair. "I kinda wore you out, huh?"

He nodded, sleepily. Her scent was doing wonders for the comfortable feeling seeping into his bone marrow. Oz was thinking Rip Van Winkle had the right of it when Cordelia leaned down, "I'll leave you alone then." She came closer and pursed her lips as if to kiss his forehead.

On a whim, Oz moved, so she kissed his lips. It was a shock to both their systems. Oz's eyes widened in surprise. Cordelia's eyelashes lowered. Her lips pressed gently against his for more than a second. Then she straightened up, shot to her feet and mumbled, "Definitely tired." She rushed into her room.

"Cordelia?" Oz propped himself up on one elbow, "Cor?"

"We're just tired, that's all. Nothing. Tired. Honestly, Oz. Get some sleep." Her door closed tight.

*****

Oz woke up. Cordelia jumped. She had been inches away from his face with...A Kodak camera. Eyes wide and blinking, Oz shot up into a sitting position. "Cor?"

"Promo shot!" Cordelia's brilliant smile lit her and him up.

Oz scrubbed at his eyes and rolled off the sofa. "Time?"

"11:30. You slept through the breakfast I made. It's in the fridge. I called Jack and Jimmy, they're going to see about studio time. I think you guy's need a new demo. The last one sounds like someone garbling razor blades while cats are chucked into blenders." She shuddered, "Oh and you're singing this time around."

Oz opened his mouth but as so often when he did, no sound came out. So instead, the corners of his mouth pulled to one side. Cordelia gave him a push toward the shower. "Clean. Now. Wasting daylight! Go. Go. Go."

Oz closed the bathroom door. Stripping down, his mind turned back to the kiss. Oz shook himself. He hadn't been that interested in a long time. It had to be connected with her scent. Every day it got worse for him. He was starting to think about wanting things. And that wasn't fair to either of them if it was just the Wolf.

Naked, Oz stepped into the stall. His hand flipped the cold water faucet. The jet of ice hit him full in the face. Pushing his hands through his hair, Oz tried to dismiss her scent. But somehow it was getting stronger.

The bathroom door opened. "Oz?"

Oz turned the water off. Cordelia was inside the bathroom. And he was naked again. Oz was starting to think she did it on purpose. "..."

She pulled open the door. "Oz, um, I forgot! You have to be at the photo shoot at one and I have a doctor's appointment at three... So are you going? Because if you are, I thought we could get lunch at two..Why aren't you washing? We'll be late!"

Oz cocked his head to one side.

"What? Oh. Sorry. With the. And me." Cordelia grinned.

Oz grinned back.

"I'm gonna go...So you can wash." She backed away from the stall. Turning back she got a face full of cold water. "HEY!!"

Oz held the shower head up and in her face. She grabbed for it and slipped forward. Oz caught her before she could hit the edge of the tub. "Oomph!"

"I got you." Oz breathed.

Cordelia's mouth worked for several seconds before any sound came out. "Well, you should...Getting me all wet. Soaking!" She straightened up, carefully. Wet hair blinded her. Something occurred to her. "Oz, why are you taking a cold shower?"

*****

Oz didn't smile for the first hundred pictures. The lights hurt his eyes. The people were nice but loud and the catering scent was driving him crazy. Cordelia had just about shoved him out before he'd had a chance to find out what breakfast looked like.

Jack gave him a playful shove. Jimmy joined in and the tension broke. The band started jockeying for position in front of the lens. Oz actually laughed as Jimmy fell forward. Mike dove over him and the photographer got a great shot of him midair. Oz jumped on top of Jimmy. The band dog piled. Wrestling on the floor and smacking Jack in the face on every clear shot, Oz started laughing in earnest.

"Wrap!" The photographer dropped his camera. Oz heard him lean over to Cordelia and whisper, "Those guys are worse than teenagers. And I got all that energy." Beaming, he walked off. "Good shoot everyone!"

Oz got to his feet as Jimmy ruffled his hair and Mike smacked Jake upside the head. Cordelia pulled him out of the sphere of band influence. Her smile was overly bright. "Great great!" An impromptu hug ensued. Enveloped in her warm arms and scent, Oz sighed. He returned the embrace.

Cordelia let go. "Lunch time! Let's go." Her hand lifted in a wave to the rest of the band. "Good job guys! See you tomorrow?" A grumbled bunch of "yes" sounded. "Good! Bye!"

Her arm slipped through Oz's and he was suddenly close to her again. Her body was touching him all down the right side. It was...distracting. Taking a deep breath did nothing. It actually dragged more of her warmth and scent into him. The smile she hit him with aggravated his senses further in the best possible way.

*****

"Lunch was great." Cordelia sighed, falling down onto Oz's couch/bed. "The doctor's was great! Everything was great! Great pictures. Great. Mmm."

Oz watched her unwind on his bed. The doctor had given her a clean bill of health. Her baby was fine. Heart beat good and strong. The supplements were on the table, courtesy of Dennis and she was ready for some downtime.

Oz clicked on the TV. Flipping to Lifetime, he dragged off his shoes. His over shirt went next. Then he was settling himself down into the cushions to watch some quality mystery solving. Cordelia sighed next to him. He noticed her shoes had joined his on the floor.

Cordelia settled back, imitating him. Her large brown eyes were half closed. "Long day?" He asked.

"Good long day." She mumbled. "Robert Stack is creepy." She remarked.

"In a 'there's a killer in my yard" kinda way or just an odd voice way?"

"Killer." Her eyes drooped again.

"Why don't you get some sleep? You need to rest for two." Oz reached out and touched her hair.

"Mmm." Cordelia's eyes slid completely closed. Her body slid down until she was resting against his shoulder. Her breathing slowed. As she fell completely asleep, her body lost its rigidity and she half fell into his lap.

Turning the volume down on the TV, Oz stroked her hair until he fell asleep.

*****

Oz opened his mouth and no sound came out. Three weeks in studio was taking it's toll. He had no idea how they were going to afford another day of this. Cordelia had taken over the budgeting for the group and swore they were good for it. Oz stretched out and grabbed the pitcher of water. He twirled his finger in the motion for 'let's go' as he swilled down as much water as possible.

Sweat made his fingers slick, so he handed his guitar reluctantly to a studio hand. He'd have to give in and do it their way. Sing the track first and do the guitar work separate. Cordelia gave him a bright encouraging smile and rested her hands high on her swelling belly. Oz nodded once to her. His hair fell in his eyes, damp and lank.

He held up his fingers for song three. It was a new one. The melody and chords were old but he'd never had lyrics before. Jack nodded approvingly. Oz made an attempt to brush his hair out of his eyes. It failed. Opening his mouth he breathed, "hit it."

The music swelled. Oz concentrated on the lyrics. He always forgot the ending. "I met an angel in a bar. Her eyes were brown and sultry. Her smile was warmer than hot chocolate. She lit up the room in a thousand ways. It made me feel ten feet tall. Then like lightening she stuck a pin in me."

Jack bobbed his head. Jimmy attacked the drums. Mike's bass stilled. Oz wished he was hitting the hard chords. But he had to sing it just right.

"I don't need you. I don't need you. To rescue me."

Cordelia rolled her eyes, smiling.

"I can handle it. I'm a big girl.' I told her, hey the world's falling down. Your house is on fire. Everyone's left you all alone in the house with a serial killer..."

*****

"Nice song, Oz. When did you write that one? I'm particularly happy about the whole Robert Stack reference. Serial killer? You're crazy!" Cordelia looped her arm around Oz's.

He smiled.

"C'mon! That was just perfect. If not for that corny refrain, I might have been flattered." Her eyes lowered slightly. Oz sensed her scent shifting. It was definitely intoxicating. "No one's ever written anything about me before."

"No? Because I think the guy you buy bagels from is working on his second book of poems about your eyes." He loosened his arm and draped it over her shoulder. Cordelia's arm came up and fell against the small of Oz's back.

"Mmm? Then maybe I should tip him?" Cordelia grimaced.

"We can't afford to tip everyone who thinks your eyes are gorgeous." Oz told her honestly. He stepped off the side walk and onto the grass. Cordelia let him slide away from her but caught his hand. Oz's grin appeared for a split second before he let it fade away.

"What? What? Oz?" Cordelia let go of his hand. "You're having an expression."

"Unusual. Must be stopped." Oz remarked, vacantly.

Cordelia tugged him back to her side. "Let's go home."

"Home." Oz hung his head for a moment. "Good. We need to get you off your feet."

"This isn't about me and my swollen feet. Even though, yah, I love that part of being pregnant." She playfully slapped his arm, "This is about other stuff."

Oz raised an eyebrow but stayed quiet until they were back in the apartment.

Cordelia sat down. Oz automatically went out to the kitchen and got her a bottled water. Handing it to her, he settled himself on the coffee table. She nodded her thanks. Breaking the seal, she drank. Swallowing she asked, "Okay, what gives?"

Oz's eyebrow climbed again.

"Don't play silent with me Mister. We're getting really comfortable here. At least I am and I know you're enjoying the poltergeist maid service. So why do you have to go screwing things up by making them awkward?" Cordelia dropped her bottled water on the coffee table next to him. "One minute you're complimenting my eyes and the next you're in outer space...And another thing, you kissed me. Like almost a month ago now and then nothing. What was that about?"

Oz blinked. "You've seen me naked twice. Because you like to share bathrooms. One kiss and I'm in trouble?"

"Not for the kiss, Oz!" Cordelia waved her hands around. "And not for the letting me fall asleep on you late at night or the long talks or the hanging out or any of it. That's not why I'm upset! Over the last couple months we've become the best of friends! And that's great. But...Is there something else going on here?"

"Cor," Oz wasn't sure where to start. "You're pregnant..."

"Uh huh. I know. Look at me! I'm showing a bit now. Cute little baby pudge...I'll have to work out forever to lose it. That's not a reason to be all hot and cold. Last night I saw you! You were all happily watching me sleep. Not like a friend. Like a boyfriend, Oz."

"No, listen...You're pregnant." Oz rushed forward before Cordelia could interrupt him again. "And I'm a werewolf..."

"So? I'm a seer. Big whoop." Cordelia rubbed at her feet. Oz pushed her hands away and raised her left foot into his lap. He pulled off her sock and started kneading. She moaned and leaned back.

"That's not it."

"What's it then?" Cordelia's eyes were half closed. "No fair distracting me ooo, don't stop."

"Your scent is different. I'm worried. That the wolf is what's drawing me to you." He confessed, switching feet. Oz kept his eyes lowered as he worked. The swelling made her feet like hot water bottles. He wondered if he should invest in one of those foot massagers for her... "And I don't want it to be the reason."

"Oz." Cordelia reached down and tapped his arm, "Look at me." He did. Her eyes were incredibly soft and brown. "I'm not sensing a nesting vibe from you. I don't think you're just protecting a brooding female. I mean, this isn't your baby. So why would the Wolfie part of you care?"

"I just want to be sure." Oz let go of her foot.

Cordelia put her feet on the ground. "Okay. Then let's be sure." Her hand snagged a fistful of his shirt. Pulling him in close, she pressed her lips against his. Startled, Oz back-pedalled but Cordelia had him. Her tongue tapped his lips impatiently, so he parted them. His left hand touched her face.

Warmth crept up between them. Oz leaned in to the kiss when she tried to break away. His arm went around her as he slid off the coffee table to get closer to her. Pressing her gently back against the couch, he held on to her for as long as he could. Gasping for air they both had to let go. But Oz didn't move away.

Cordelia's hand went up and pushed against his chest. "Definitely animal magnetism."

Oz laughed, relaxing.

"Oh, I love that!" Cordelia grinned like a maniac. Oz looked at her in askance. "When you laugh! Do it some more."

"But..." Oz began.

"Don't go all broody on me again, God are all men like Angel? Twenty-four seven brooders! Oz, who cares if it's you or the Wolf right now? Why not just relax and enjoy it? God knows we both need some happiness and with you I'm happy."

A gentle half smile lit up Oz's face.

"Now kiss me again, before I get comfortable and fall asleep on you."

*****

Oz woke up incredibly warm. The nagging pain in his back was gone, so he wasn't on the couch. Disoriented, he opened one green eye. He was in a bed. He was in Cordelia's bed. Actually he was half sliding off Cordelia's bed. Now he was... "Oopmh."

Cordelia rolled over above him and a pillow landed on his face. Oz lay there, pillow over face for a few minutes, thinking. He felt pretty good. Fall off bed notwithstanding. The carpet felt good against his bare ass. He was feeling warmly towards the lady on the bed above him. And the pillow was actually comfortably positioned so he could breathe. Life was good.

Oz closed his eyes.

They had been kissing on the couch. Then she'd stood up. They were kissing standing up. Cordelia had turned them around, so she was facing her bedroom door and the next thing Oz knew he was on the bed, pinned down.

"Cor," Oz began.

Cordelia ignored him, her hands had gone to the zip of his jeans. Oz wanted to resist her but the look of concentration on her face was too much for him. In a practiced motion, he flicked the top button of his fly open but made no move to urge her on. He instead trailed a hand through her hair and across the side of her face.

She stopped. Her eyes were half closed, "Oz."

"Cordelia." He answered.

"If you don't want to..." She started to button his jeans.

"I want to. Showers with hot water, I miss them." He twisted a piece of her hair around his finger. "You're beautiful."

Cordelia kissed him. "You're kinda handsome there yourself. So make with the kissing." Her hands tugged at Oz's shirt. He stopped resisting her with the not helping. Lifting his shoulders, he helped her get him out of his shirt. "Much better."

Oz opened his eyes.

Pushing the pillow off of his face, he sat up. He leaned against the edge of the bed, watching her. Her eyes were moving in R.E.M sleep. Her brown hair was wild. Naked under the sheets, her stomach was exposed. He could see a little bit of "baby pudge." Reaching out with his left hand, he pushed a stray piece of hair our of her face.

His right hand rested gently on her stomach.

"Hey," Cordelia reached out with one hand and ruffled his spikes. "Why are you on the floor?"

Oz smiled at her, his eyes laughing. "There wasn't enough room...for you. I think."

"Sorry." Smiling, she didn't sit up. "So climb back up in here." Her beautiful brown eyes glanced at the clock. "We don't have to be at the studio for another fifteen minutes and...whoa no. We're going to be late."

The blankets flew off the bed and pooled over Oz. Bright laughter escaped Cordelia. She tugged until she could see his face. "We should shower."

"No time." Oz sighed.

"There is if we climb in together." She winked and hopped out of the bed wearing his T-shirt from last night and nothing else. Oz didn't need a second invitation.

*****

"So this guy's here to listen to us." Jake told Oz around his Styrofoam coffee cup. "Just wish I hadn't partied my ass off last night. I'm going to play flat."

Jimmy rolled his eyes. "He always plays flat. Oz, Cordelia, what do we play? We've gotta be good. This guy's going to be in the studio for all of ten seconds after we get going."

Oz deferred to Cordelia. "The one about Willow," she nodded to herself.

Oz blanched, "After last night..." She pressed her finger against his lips.

"You loved her. It ended painfully. That's what they'll want to hear. Save the happy stuff for later when they like us." She dismissed any arguments with a wave of her hand. "Oz's voice kicks ass on that one and Jake doesn't sound flat. Just tell Mike to watch the base on the refrain. He tends to let it slide instead of pressing the frets. Go go."

The band scurried off. Cordelia smiled. They were so good at taking orders. Oz stood next to her. Well, most of them... "What? I've made my decision. Go play." She shooed him. He grabbed her elbow and pulled her close enough to brush his lips against hers.

"It's hard to think about her near you." Oz told her.

"Yeah right Oz as if you ever stop thinking about her." She gave him a little shove. He favored her with one of his intense green eyed stares. It made her insides still. Cordelia growled at his back when he finally turned around, "This better not be some damned brooding instinct." Shaking her head, she went in search of this scout guy.

*****

"Nothing yet?" Cordelia eased her bulk down into a chair.

Oz handed her a paper. "He said he'd set up the audition. Concentrate on the CD."

"It's been two weeks. That's dead and gone in the music business. I got you two more club dates. So, more clothes to buy. And you owe me half the rent." Cordelia wiped her forehead, "Did we stop paying the air conditioning? I'm so hot."

A cold rag hit her fore head two seconds later, "Thanks Dennis." Cordelia waved her hand feebly in the way of the poltergeist.

Oz placed a glass of cool water in front of her. "Hey, hey, I'm not an invalid. I'm not even in my third trimester yet. Kay? So everyone calm down." The rag dropped away from her head. She laughed. "Okay, so what tracks did we choose last time?"

Oz sat down. "We didn't. We argued. Jake passed out. Meeting at bar, not good planning."

"Right, and then Mike started dancing on the table. Yeah, I thought that was a bad idea when Jimmy suggested it. Okay what about promo photos? I love the one where someone's half in the air...Where's that one? Oh and the one where Mike wrestled you to the ground. Get me those proofs."

Oz obeyed.

"This is it!" Cordelia held up her hand. Then grunted. "Oh, I don't feel so good. It's so damn hot in here, Oz. Open a window or something." She swayed. Her eyes glazed over. Her whole body tensed. Cordelia let out a short scream, clutching her head.

Oz caught her as she slid out of her chair and onto the floor. "Cordelia?"

*****

Cordelia lifted her hand to her eyes. This was nothing new. But the images... "It's not bad. It's not bad." She shoved Oz off of her. He couldn't touch her right now. Not right now. "Oz. I'm okay. Really. Let go. Please?"

His arms gently let her go. Oz tried not to look hurt. This was about her now. "What did you see?"

"Nothing." Cordelia pulled herself back up into the chair, refusing help.

"Cordelia." Oz pleaded with his cat green eyes. Cordelia covered her eyes. "It was nothing. I didn't see anything." She stood up and fast walked into her bedroom. Waving her hand, she watched Dennis slam the door shut.

*****

Oz sat on the sofa. His hands flopped uselessly beside his body. He wasn't sure what had just happened. Whatever she'd seen had been bad. He was sure she'd been crying when Dennis slammed the door shut. He wasn't sure what he should be doing right now.

Getting up, he decided he didn't know and sat back down. Getting up again, he walked over to Cordelia's door and knocked. A muffled, "Go away," almost deterred him. But he implored Dennis to open it with a sad look. The poltergeist eased the door open. Oz stepped in.

"Traitor!" Cordelia waved her fist at the invisible spirit.

Oz sat on the edge of her bed. He was distracted by their scents mingled in the sheets. "Hey,"

"Hey sorry. I just got kinda upset back there," She wiped at her eyes, dabbing around ruined makeup. "For no reason." She plastered a fake smile on her beautiful face. The effect was not flattering.

Oz didn't want to know what the vision was at this point. He just wanted her to not be upset. Reaching out, he gently put his hand over hers. She let him entwine their fingers. His other hand came up to touch her face, "It's fine."

"What is?" Cordelia placed her free hand over the on her face, holding him there.

"Everything." He smiled at her.

She laughed.

*****

"I'm too big to go outside."

Oz lead Cordelia outside to the van. She was showing finally at six months. He thought she was beautiful. That's what today was about. Oz was taking Cordelia out to dinner. The dress he'd bought, the restaurant he'd reserved and his outfit, she'd chosen.

Cordelia fussed in the soft fabric. It was almost exactly the same as that moss like new material they were using in stuffed toys. The color was the darkest red Oz could find. Cordelia kept fingering the fabric and worrying that she was too fat to be seen in public. "This dress is beautiful! I shouldn't be in it. I should be in a moo-moo." Cordelia muttered for the tenth time.

He closed the door. Hopping in the other side he didn't compliment her. That never worked. Oz just looked at her for one long beautiful moment. Giving himself a break, he allowed himself to think about how much she meant to him. A soft smile split his features and melted away her doubts. "That good, huh?" She whispered.

Oz turned the van on. Shaking his head, he forced himself to concentrate on the road. It was hard.

*****

Cordelia kept smiling sadly. Oz watched her do it three times during dinner. He'd noticed that smile a lot lately. It appeared whenever she thought he was busy. Or when she was watching him sleep. He could feel the smile. "You all right?"

A sigh escaped her, "I'm better than fine. This is, this is just the best." She raised her sparkling cider and took a delicate sip. "I'll be happy when I can have champagne again."

Oz let her change the subject by staying quiet.

"Celebrating, right? Gary called last night. He wants to book three more shows. Our little guy or girl...is on the way. What?"

Oz had the dopiest smile on his face. "Our."

Cordelia's eyes filled up. "Oh great, now I'm really fat and my mascara's running!"

*****

In bed later, Oz sat up late watching her sleep. Resting his head against her stomach, he fell asleep listening to the baby.

*****

Jimmy hit the roof, literally. "I'm too tall to be in here."

Jake shrugged. "Storage space is storage space. My sister swears she still has hers. It's blue." He leaned down out of the space, "Oz, you, boy or girl?"

Oz jammed his hands in his pockets. It was getting chilly in Jake's sister's house. "Not sure. Sonogram again tomorrow."

"Secretive. Like Oz." Mike stated.

"Oz isn't secretive." Jake snorted. "Guy's an open book. Bet I can tell you everything about him in a minute."

Mike laughed, "Right. This guy's an enigma man, back in Sunnydale, he used to disappear for days. Come home all covered in battle scars. He got shot once you know."

"No shit, really?" Jake shimmied down the ladder while Jimmy grunted a yes. "When?"

Oz narrowed his eyes. Sometimes he forgot how long he'd been with these guys. It made him think of...

"Yo, somebody told my a whole lot of dingoe bitches were holed up in here."

Oz's eyes widened. He turned around to see Mike screaming and jumping up and down. Devon MacLeish stood there looking stunned as Mike thumped him on the back. Oz couldn't believe it. His expression shifted to pleasantly shocked. Devon was laughing. His hair was clipped short. His T-shirt said, "I used to rock." in white on black.

"Hey, Oz." Devon held out his hand.

Oz took it and pulled him into a tight hug. They engaged in manly hugs for a few minutes while Jimmy slid down the ladder and made it a group hug. "You, bastard. I missed you." Oz thumped him again.

*****

"Dumped me." Cordelia heaped another slice of pizza onto Devon's plate. He was telling them why he was here while Jake examined the cradle they'd swiped from his sister's, along with a bunch of other baby stuff. "She caught me cheating."

Cordelia slapped him, "You were with another woman!?"

"Ow, woman! No!" Devon poured Cordelia some more ice tea. Oz leaned forward to snag his own slice. "She caught me," Devon lowered her voice, "in my room playing guitar."

Oz raised an eyebrow.

"Sweet lick came to me in a dream. I had to, Oz! I know I promised Sheila I wouldn't! She thinks like music is this whore I'm fu-" Devon glanced at Cordelia, "sleeping with. But it's my soul. It's the only good thing I do. So she kicked me out. Man, I didn't even get to say good-bye to my daughter. I gotta sue for rights and sh-stuff."

Cordelia patted his shoulder, "That's awful."

"Thanks Cor." He smiled at her and grabbed a handful of chips. He eyed her stomach, "Is it Oz's?" He asked bluntly.

Cordelia choked on her pizza. Oz tapped her arm, gently. "Yeah." He told Devon. His eyes on her were a mute apology. Cordelia offered him a soft smile.

"Cool." Devon downed his soda. "So am I back in the band?"

Oz rolled his eyes. "Did you ever leave the band?"

"Fu-no. I wrote songs on the weekend when she was at work. Got 'em all inked for ya." Devon handed Oz a graph book. "So?"

Oz grinned, "Well, I don't want to speak for anyone..." He glanced at Mike and Jimmy. They were nodding. Jack looked up from the pile of baby stuff long enough to give a thumbs up. His gaze hit Cordelia's.

She sighed, "It means new promo pics...But..." Everyone eyed her, "Yeah. Okay. You're back in. But I restructure the band, get it? I tell you what you do and when you sing." She wagged her finger at him sternly.

"You got it. Just like when we used to date." He shocked her with his lopsided grin.

Oz smacked him.

*****

Devon sacked out on the couch. Cordelia comforted herself with the thought that it was just for one night. Oz pulled off his shirt. She tugged off her robe. She was halfway out and he helped her the rest of the way. Then he waited for her to choose a side of the bed. She liked that. It showed he wasn't taking her for granted yet.

"That was really nice."

"Hmm?" Oz climbed into bed next to her. His eyes were half closed already.

She touched his arm, "Telling Devon the baby was yours. I really didn't want to tell that story in front of the band. And it was nice. Not true but nice. I'll tell him quietly later..." She plucked at the covers.

"Why?" Oz asked. His green eyes opened fully.

"Because the baby's not yours, Oz." Cordelia growled, "And I don't need you lying or covering or protecting me or whatever. I'm a big girl. Big enough to get myself into this mess. I can handle an embarrassing scene with Devon. With anyone."

Oz blinked at her. She could tell he was surprised and not sure how to react. So she prodded him, "Well?"

"..."

"You think I can't handle this alone?" She demanded.

"No. I just thought...maybe you'd let me handle it with you." He ran a hand through his hair. His expression didn't change but he was hurt. And she knew it.

"No, no, Oz, that's not it at all. I just... I don't want you lying about things you don't have to be lying about or things.. This isn't your responsibility and God, you really want to help. I'm sorry." Cordelia let Oz put his arm around her. "I just don't want to trap you here. You're my friend."

Oz brushed her hair with his fingers. "I'm your friend."

*****

"..sings the first song. Then Oz gets to sing the butterfly one. I want to get at least one track with Devon's voice on the album so people get used to him." Cordelia placed markers in her date book like a military general. "Jake is back up until, 'Love's for Animals.' He's the only one who can sing it. Okay, new promos are going to press tomorrow. Devon, you've got two days to get yourself a wardrobe."

Devon nodded. The spotlight in the back of the studio added to the war room atmosphere. Jimmy was sweating. Cordelia tapped him, "Relax Jimmy. We'll pull this off." She smiled at all of them. "Get ready for tonight. You're playing the Red Room."

Oz's brows raised. "They booked us?"

Devon clapped Jake on the back, "All right! You are amazing, Cordelia!"

She smiled brightly, "I know. Two hours of studio time left! Move it people. I've got to get everything into place for the CD launch." She clapped like a quarterback and the impromptu meeting broke up.

Cordelia wiped at her forehead, "I'm getting too pregnant for this," she told Oz. She was exhausted. "Adding Devon didn't take as long as I thought. We're on schedule. Good good."

Oz gave her a hug. It was getting harder with her little tummy. Pressed against her, he felt a sharp pressure against his stomach. "Oooh! The baby kicked you!" Cordelia laughed. "C'mon Oz, you're going to be famous." She grabbed his hand and lead him back into the studio.

*****

Jimmy hopped up and down. Jake smacked him but Jimmy bounced back. Mike got into the act by rocking back and forth saying, "open it." Over and over again. Oz shoved him and he quieted. Thirty-somethings should be a little dignified. Devon grabbed the package out of Oz's hands.

"Whee!!!" Devon sliced the envelope and ripped. He chucked bubble tape everywhere and bits of packaging hit Oz in the face. Oz didn't even blink. Then they all gathered around as Devon held it up. "It's FUCKING BEAUTIFUL!"

The band broke out into applause. Oz felt all teary. Of course it could be because he still hadn't blinked. He blinked as Cordelia snatched the newly minted Laconic CD off of Devon. She was smiling so hard her teeth had to hurt. "WE DID IT!"

A cheer exploded out of the band! Cordelia found herself in the air as the band lifted her up over their heads. She let out happy screams. Oz managed to pull her down. Devon then hefted Oz up onto his shoulders as he read the liner notes. With a flourish he handed them to Cordelia, "The band would like to express enormous affection and gratitude for their promoter and friend, Miss Cordelia Chase."

She rolled her eyes, smiling broadly. "You guys! C'mere! Group hug!" She waved her hands emphatically, her eyes all teary. Oz lead the hug. Cordelia felt herself getting smushed and held up her hands. "Enough with the affection! Suffocating." They all backed off.

She held up a bottle of champagne. "Now I can't drink this because of the baby. So, I get to open it. At least I can smell the expensive stuff." The cork popped and a stream of bubbles hit Mike in the face. Devon let out a whoop and the party started for real.

*****

Oz was tired. He'd let Devon drive Cordelia home so he could clean up. Jake was asleep on the empties. Mike was scooping up the pizza boxes. And Oz honestly thought if he heard their CD one more time tonight, he'd puke.

Now it was after three. He waved his hands in a vaguely emphatic way. "Leave it. Tomorrow. Home."

"What about Jake?" Jimmy asked, dropping his bursting trash bag.

"Leave him too." Oz ran a hand through his drooping spikes. "Later."

Oz turned the lights out on them. He left Jake's and walked the ten blocks back to the apartment. He waved at the homeless guy. He tripped over a stick on the pavement and finally stumbled up the stairs to the apartment. Luckily, Dennis opened the door for him. He was too tired to search for keys.

He stumbled into the living room. Dennis pulled his outer shirt off for him. And before he knew it, his shoelaces had been neatly undone. "You're the best, man." Oz muttered, stepping out of his sneakers.

A light was on in Cordy's room, so he just pushed the door open. The light blinded him. But he made out Devon and Cordelia on the bed.

*****

"Hey." Oz walked over to the bed and collapsed on the edge of it. Devon sat cross-legged on top of the covers. Cordelia was tucked in. "Thought you were tired."

Cordelia yawned, "I am."

Devon grabbed Oz and dragged him farther up onto the bed. "I was talking her ear off, man."

Cordelia flopped back against the pillows. "He's suing for custody." She told Oz, running her fingers lightly through his sweaty, droopy spikes.

Devon grimaced, "I'm going to see Angie. Cordy said I could go for the 'she's crazy ' angle. And the whole thing about me and my guitar... It was like I was screwing around on her. So, Cor says I've got a chance. You've got to see her Oz. She's got my hair!"

Oz stared up at him. "Then she's blessed. Truly. You'll win Dev." He closed his eyes. He was asleep in seconds.

"Thanks Oz."

*****

Cordelia slapped Oz playfully in the arm. "I can't even get up now!" She was so pregnant, Oz had trouble dealing with other people in the room. Anyone got within ten feet of Cordelia and his hackles went up. The band was okay. He scent marked them as safe but the mailman...

"Stop growling. It's only the mail guy!" Cordelia slapped him again.

Oz stopped growling. The door opened before he could reach it and Dennis dropped an armload of bills into Oz's hands. "Thanks. If we ever move, can you talk Dennis into coming with us?"

Cordelia shrugged. "I bet. He likes me." As if to prove it, Dennis started refilling Cordelia's water glass. "See?"

"You're cheating on me with a poltergeist, aren't you?" Oz raised one eyebrow. Cordelia laughed. He walked over and dumped the bills on the kitchen table. Ripping open a blue envelope, Oz blinked, "Fan mail."

"Ooo. Read it to me before I have to pee again." She tapped her swollen belly.

"Dear Laconic,

You're album rules. You guys kick so much ass! My Mom says I shouldn't say you kick ass. But ya do. So you kick ass! I got your album cause my friend downloaded the song off Napster. Which kicks ass!! Sorry about saying ass again. Are you guys going to be on MTV2?

Sean Gibson."

Cordelia covered her mouth to stop from laughing. "You're famous!" Giggles escaped between her fingers. Oz moved over to the couch and sat down next to her. "He's got to be so little, oh Oz! So cute!"

Oz laughed. He passed her the letter. She held it up. "We should frame it."

The phone rang. Dennis dropped the cordless into Oz's laps then flipped on General Hospital. Oz glanced at where Dennis would be if her were visible, "Thanks, is Jax back on yet?" He thought he heard a soft sniff. A voice in the phone screamed, "OOOOUUUU!!! FAN MAIL!"

Oz held the phone away from his ear. "Jake?"

"Damn, Oz we got fanmail here today! This kicks ass!" Jake's voice lowered to a bearable level for humans. He was frying Oz's delicate ears. "Three for me, one for Jimmy. Mike that bitch got five! I'm going to call Devon! This is it baby! We made it! All the small gigs are paying off! The CD is selling! OOOUUUUU!!!" Click.

Oz laughed. It was a record, twice in one day.

The phone rang again. Oz clicked talk. "Hey, is Cordelia Chase there? This is Jan Keenan from MTV. I heard she promotes Laconic. We're getting a lot of buzz about them. Is she home?" Oz handed the phone to Cordelia. Her eyes grew wide.

"Yeah. Yes. We'd love to. Yes, yes we do have a video. Yes. We can have it to you..." Cordelia pretended to look up dates. She flipped the pages of her Cosmo. "How's Friday? Good? Okay. Great. Thanks Jan. Oh yes. The band, oh they'll love it. Do you need a copy of our CD? Yes, I can have on shipped overnight...Okay. Yes. Yes." Cordelia's smile was so wide all her teeth were showing. "Thanks. Good-bye. See ya Friday Jan." Cordelia clicked the phone off. "MTV OOOOOUUUUUU!!!!" She shrieked.

"Cordelia." Oz was jammed into a hug. The baby pressed up against him as Cordy squeezed. "Cor?"

"What? Oz! MTV!" She squeezed harder.

"We don't have a video."

She let go. "Oh my God. You're right!" A determined glint appeared in her dark brown eyes. "We will by Friday."

*****

"I can't do it anymore. I gotta put it down." Jake was sweating. "Can't we get a tripod?"

"Just film. I need a video by tomorrow which means editing tonight which means lip-synching now which means you better just stand there and hold the damn camera." Cordelia's smile stayed in place as her voice became threatening. "And you did five keg stands at the CD party. So I know you can do it."

Jake shrugged. "Beer muscles."

Cordelia jammed a Coors into his hand. "Here. Drink up. And hold still. OZ GET OUT HERE!" She pulled her hair back away from her face. She was starting to sweat and her back was hurting. And the baby was kicking. She grabbed a bottled water. Twisting the cap off too quickly, she watched it jump out of her hands and spin wildly away, like the shoot.

Oz came running out, he was half into his costume change. Cordelia waved him into the scene which was just a white sheet blocking off an awful wall. Devon, Mike and Jimmy were already there, banging on their instruments. "Get in there, Oz. Get the fans going. Jake, gimmee the camera. Get in the shot. Camera guy?" She's hired one for the shoot. It was all they could afford. And the regular VHS was campy. It'd get her points with the artsy crowds. She hit the CD player. "GO."

It was pretty much a half baked, band singing, running around type video. Cordelia only had a week, so she called a few exmodels for the pretty girls every video had to have, put together a wardrobe and let the band pick the song. It was now the second day of the shoot. Editing was tonight. And she really needed to talk to Oz about something.

Her head really hurt. Hugging the water bottle to her roiling tummy, Cordelia tried to concentrate on not sweating. Or how incredible Oz looked in the leather pants she's forced him to wear. Devon was shoving Oz playfully. She let them go. The fun the band had together had to be obvious in the video. It was why she loved these guys. And why everyone else would love them too.

The fans finally came on. Devon's hair floated around in the artificial wind. He posed and his stage presence was obvious as Jimmy beat the hell out of his drum set. Mike was getting in on the antics while Jake and Oz sang, 'Animal in my Pants.' Devon had written it. Oz had dropped in the funny lyrics and Jake sang it with a single-mindedness that was beyond dirty. MTV would eat it up.

Cordelia wiped at her forehead again. The damned vision kept popping up. She told herself she wouldn't think about it and pulled up the camcorder. Running it, she dropped the water bottle and focused. The baby kicked again. Cordelia swore. She was sweating more now. It was stinging her eyes. Another kick, doubled her up. Man, baby was being fierce today.

Oz stopped singing. Something dragged his eyes up to Cordelia. He dropped his guitar. "Cor?" He waved at the band to stop. "Cordelia?"

"What? What?" Cordelia let the camera down. "Oz? I'm fine. Video. Remember? MT..Ow." She waved her hand, "Baby's really kicking today..."

"You're in labor." Oz blinked. "You're having the baby!"

"No way, nuh uh. I've got another three weeks...Ooo." She tried to wave Oz away but he gripped her forearm tightly. She tried to fight him off. Video had to be done today. But Oz inhaled her scent and shook his head. "Hospital."

"No, Oz. NO." Cordelia growled. The band started to swarm around her.

Oz whispered in her ear, "I know. Trust me. And get them away before I hurt one of them." She stared at him. His green eyes were brown and flooding the pupils.

"Fine. But ow. We'll go. But it's a false alarm, Oz." She waved at them. "Finish the video. NOW. Oz'll take me." She waved at the camera guy, "WHAT AM I PAYING YOU FOR? FILM. Devon's in charge."

*****

Cordelia made it to the van before her water broke. "Oz DAMN IT! I've got three more weeks...My baby!" Tears were leaking out of her eyes. She wiped them away, angry at herself. "I'm not ready!"

He lifted her into the van, surprising her with his strength. "Everything's going to be fine, Cor."

"No, no it's not! I'm a bad mother!" She thumped the sides of her chair, angry at herself for getting upset and not being able to help it. "And look what it's doing to you!"

Oz looked away. His eyes were the wolf's now. He didn't answer. Starting up the car, he reached out and grabbed her hand.

"Oz, do something for me. Us." She felt another twinge.

Oz stared at her with his animal eyes.

"Put your name on the birth certificate."

He didn't answer. He just pushed the gas pedal to the floor. "Oz, damnit! I want you to be my baby's father!" She doubled as her whole belly spasmed. "Ow! It's not like I want a commitment out of you! Just a name!"

"Cordelia," Oz hissed, "don't talk."

Tears streamed out of her eyes. It hurt so bad. She wanted this baby out. But it was too early. "OZ!"

He screeched into the parking lot of LA General. He leapt out of the van. "WOMAN IN LABOR." He ripped open her door and lifted her out. She gritted her teeth. People started streaming out with a gurney. Oz started to shake. Cordelia heard the growl rumbling up in him. She punched him dead in the chest, "GET IT TOGETHER OZ."

Oz blinked. "I need you. Damnit." His eyes faded to green.

"I'm here." He smiled at her. "It's my first baby too." He dropped her gently onto the gurney. The nurses rushed her into the building, Oz jogged to keep up.

"Get a room ready. This woman's ready to pop." A nurse shouted. "How far along are you?"

"I've got three weeks left!"

Oz nodded, "Cordelia Chase. Her doctor's Kim Fields. She's on staff here."

"Are you the father?"

Oz glanced at Cordelia. "Yeah."

*****

Oz walked out of the delivery room and into Devon. "How is she? Did she have the kid yet?"

"Ice chips..." Oz told him, holding up his empty cup. "Exhausted. Fine. She wants me to be the father." He brushed at his sweaty hair.

"How long does it take to have a baby? I mean it's been three hours since we finished the video and don't you think it's a little late on her part? Since she's already having the baby...But you know next one.." Devon grabbed the cup out of Oz's hand and whisked it off to be filled.

Oz stood there staring at his empty hand. "I've got to get back in there."

"So are you?" Devon scooped a handful of chips out of the ice machine.

Oz blinked.

"Going to be the father to her baby?" He dropped the cup back into Oz's hands. "Because you two are good together. Jake's on his way up. Mike's going to get you something to eat. When we found out you were here we decided to camp out. Jimmy said he's sorry he can't be here but someone had to edit the tape or Cordelia'd come out of their and kick our asses." Devon turned Oz around and was gently leading him back to the delivery room.

"Yes," Oz told him, catching up mentally.

"Good. Name him Devon if it's a boy and Jake if it's a girl. Mike lost the coin toss." He gave Oz a push. "Hurry up. You're having a baby. Pop."

*****

"WHERE THE HELL IS OZ?" Cordelia screamed. She was hurting and she was tired of being here strapped to this damned table when everybody knew that gravity dragged things down. It did not pop babies out up into the air. If she could just roll over and get loose...She could still have the baby, next week. "And you with the epidurals. STAY. Ow! Damn it!"

Oz moved back into the room and handed her an ice chip. She spit it at him. "Tell them I don't want to push anymore. Tell them I don't want to be here anymore. I want to do water birth. Tell them ANYTHING! I WANT TO GO HOME."

He pulled her sweaty hair back away from her face as a beleaguered doctor appeared from between the stirrups. "She's fully dilated now. All she needs to do is push."

"I DON'T WANT TO PUSH! I'VE BEEN PUSHING FOR HOURS! I HATE YOU." She clutched Oz's hands, brutally crushing one. "Not you Oz. HIM! THE GUY WHO DID THIS TO ME." She growled at Dr. Fields, "And I'm not to happy with you right now. OW!"

"Push Cordy."

"STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO." Cordelia squeezed Oz's hands again. "Oh fine! I'm pushing!" She gritted her teeth. "Kill all of you."

Oz winced. He wouldn't be playing guitar for a week. The scents in the room were driving him crazy. Blood and fluids and all the sweaty people. He was gritting his teeth too. Cordelia squeezed again. "Oz, don't leave me, okay?"

"Not going anywhere."

"Please Oz, don't leave me." She pushed again, her eyes popping, her veins and muscles putting a lot of effort into having her first baby. Oz was amazed. And confused, "Cor, I'm not going anywhere."

She nodded. She pushed. It hurt. She screamed. Oz grabbed the cold rag off the counter and wiped her face. Her fingers spasmed, then gripped tighter. "Swear."

"Cordelia..." Oz shook his head. "Push. I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm seeing the head. The baby's crowning...Just a little more Cordelia. Push."

Oz tried to peer over the sheet covering Cordelia's legs. She dragged him back to her side. "Swear, damn it."

His eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "I swear. I'm not going to leave you. Either of you." He reached out and brushed her hair back away from her face again. Cordelia's face relaxed. Her beautiful brown eyes focused on him and she screamed.

A little cry echoed. Oz's eyes perked up. "Is that?"

Cordelia fell back against the sheets. "I want to see my baby." Her eyes were shining. Her death grip relaxed on Oz's hand but she didn't let him go.

"It's a boy!" Dr. Fields brought the tiny wrapped bundle around to her mother. "He's healthy, Momma, for all he's a little early."

Cordelia reached out with her free hand. Oz helped settle the tiny bundle against her chest. "Ooo ten little fingers." There was a deep sigh.

"He's beautiful." Oz whispered, voice hoarse.

"And he's all ours." Cordelia glanced up at him. He smiled down at her.

*****

Oz padded down the hospital corridor. He was following his son's scent to the baby room. It was five am. Cordelia was asleep in her room. Oz had gotten up to see the baby again. The scent was light and mostly Cordelia's but it was starting to develop into it's own little person. Breathing it in just made him feel incredibly content.

He found Jake and Mike asleep in chairs. They were outside the little baby observatory like guard dogs. Oz nodded to Devon, who was asleep on the floor. Jimmy was against the glass, making faces. Oz tapped the drummer, scaring the crap out of him. "Geezus...Oz. My heart, man."

Oz looked past him to the tiny bundle marked, "Baby Chase-Osbourne." A smile built up within him and lit up his whole face. "He's beautiful."

"Kinda wrinkly and tiny. That's okay though. You're getting wrinkly. Always been small." Oz gave him a light shove. Jimmy laughed. "But what's with the Coal black eyes?"

Oz shrugged. "When did you get here?" The kid could have a tail and horns, Oz would still think he was the best thing ever.

"Editing went on until four-thirty. Devon said Cordelia had him at four-thirty. That's an awesome omen, man. Nothing but blue skies." He tapped the glass as if the babies were goldfish.

Oz grabbed his hand and pulled it away from the glass. He shook his head once. Jimmy shrugged and let his arms drop to his sides. "He's a cute kid. You're a lucky man." He put his hand on Oz's shoulder and gave him a squeeze. "I'm going to take them home." He pointed at the band. "Let you two rest."

Oz nodded his thanks. Jimmy woke up Jake, keeping him quiet while Oz had another look at Cordelia's baby, their son. He exhaled in surprise. He was happy as hell right now. He padded back down the corridor to see Cordelia.

Her eyes were open. "Name him." She whispered, her hand reaching out for his.

"Cor, together. We can do the name thing and the book name thing..." Oz settled himself into the bed, throwing a comfortable arm around her.

"No, I made him. You name him." She snuggled into his arms. "Do it before I name him Armani." Her head was against his heart.

"Cole." Oz told her, his fingers going instinctively to her soft hair.

She struggled to look up at him, "Cole?"

"His eyes are almost black..." Oz rationalized, "It suits him."

Cordelia's face lit up, "Who won the coin toss?"

"Devon."

"Cole Devon Chase-Osbourne. Very classy. Sounds rich." She snuggled back down against his heart.

"Sounds like the son of a seer and a werewolf." Oz told her, settling in for the night.

*****

Cordelia held onto Cole. He was so tiny that Oz was afraid to do anything other than sniff him. Cordelia kept offering him to his father. Oz kept nervously touching the boy's head. "He's going to think you don't like him. Two days Oz, and you haven't even held your son." She tisked. "Watch this, it's perfectly safe."

Cordelia held her son up in the air and gently let go. Oz lurched forward but the baby hung suspended in midair. She was laughing at him. "I wouldn't drop him!"

Dennis held the baby gently. Oz envied the ghost's ability to not crush the tiny bundle. Oz was terrified that he'd break the baby. The baby tilted, floating closer to Oz. Oz blinked. "Hold out your hands." Cordelia told him, patiently.

Oz did. Dennis lowered Cole gently into Oz's arms. Oz felt the warm light bundle against his skin and got a breath of strong scent. Dennis moved his arms into position so Oz was holding the baby correctly, then let go. Oz gasped. But the baby wasn't crushed by his hands holding him. Utterly amazed, Oz lifted the baby up to his face for a closer inspection. "Hey." The baby opened his huge black eyes and burped.

"Definitely a male child. And since you are holding him. You can change him. My poltergeist will help..." Cordelia flipped on the TV. "Oh my God, is that you?"

Oz held the baby against his chest and stared as familiar lyrics burst out of the TV. "Our video."

Cordelia hopped up. "We're famous! We did it!"

Oz was so surprised he didn't realize Cole had spit up all over his T-shirt.

*****

"No, I don't care.." Cordelia growled. "Hold on to him while I get more diapers." She stomped into the other room.

Oz watched her go. Cole sniffed. She was miserable today. "Cordelia? Are you okay?"

The door slammed shut. Oz blinked. Cole blinked. He shifted the baby weight against his shoulder. Walking to their bedroom, he knocked lightly. She didn't answer. He pushed the door open. Cordelia was sitting on the edge of the bed, crying. She looked up at him, her beautiful brown eyes were red rimmed. "Damn it Oz. It's today."

She crushed a tissue in her hand. "And as much as I don't want it to be today. It is. And," She wiped her eyes. "I have to deal with it." She nodded once and stood up. "So no more crying. Right. Good. Diapers." Briskly, Cordelia dropped the tissue into the can next to the bed, stood up and walked over to the changing table.

"What's today?" Gently, Oz moved closer to her. His free hand moved to her shoulder. Her head lolled back, enjoying his touch. He kneaded her muscles one-handed. Everything was knotted up tight. "What's today?" He repeated, loosening her up.

She turned around, her soft hair brushing the back of his hand. She shrugged. "Just hold me of a second, okay, Oz?"

Oz smiled, touched her face and pulled her into a family hug. Cole giggled between them. A ghost of a smile lit Cordelia's face. Oz held onto her and stroked the small of her back with his Cole-free hand. She melted against him for just a second. "I love you, Oz."

Shocked. Oz didn't say anything for a few seconds. "Cordelia, you know that I..."

The doorbell rang.

Cordelia stiffened. She backed away from him. "Go answer it."

Oz waved his hand in a 'we're clearly in the middle of something important' gesture.

"Go. Do it now." She stared past him to the door. Then back at him. "Now Oz." She sniffed. "NOW DAMN IT."

Oz's eyes widened in confusion. Cole started to whine. Oz shifted the baby into a more comfortable position. "It's just Devon...I called him earlier. For the show Thursday. Cor, I want to tell you that I..."

She turned around and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door shut. "Cordelia! Cor? It's importan-" the doorbell rang again. "Damn it."

Oz walked out of the bedroom. He pulled open the door, ready to yell at Devon and stopped still. "Willow?"

Red hair spilled halfway down her back. Green eyes smiled at him and her lips were turned up nervously. She was paler than he remembered her. Her scent hit him like a wave. He almost shook. "Willow."

"Hi, Oz."

Oz blinked. This wasn't real. Willow wasn't here. Except that Willow was here. He stared behind him. Cordelia was standing in the living room, watching him. He tilted his head. Her vision? Oz turned back to Willow. "You're here." Oz was trying to take it in.
"In the sense of actually being here."

"Yep. Can we talk, Oz?" She smiled at Cole. The baby grumbled a little. "Who's baby? He's so cute!"

"Cole." Oz shrugged the baby shoulder. "Talk." He was feeling ambushed. And confused. And not sure about anything. His world was behind him. But Willow...was...everything? "Sure?"

He closed the door behind him.

*****

Willow smiled at him. "I've missed you."

"Yeah, I get that." Oz waved his hand, vaguely.

They walked away from the steps. She was beautiful. He couldn't deny that. He'd missed her. He couldn't deny that either. "Devon told me you were living here with Cordelia. He didn't tell me she had a baby." Oz was going to kill Devon, no denying that either.

Oz also noticed the emphasis on "she." "Cole." Oz responded, again vaguely.

"I've missed you so much." Willow's smile brightened. "Nothing's been the same since you left Sunnydale. It's been years and I still think about you. I kinda thought now that I'm unattached. And you're unattached...Oz." She reached out her hand for him. She held it and Oz stared at his hand in hers. It was so strange and familiar and disturbing. "I know, things are different now. I know I chose Tara over you...But I was wrong." Willow's eyes brightened. "I've been with a few people since her but they're not you. I just can't be without you anymore. Oz, I lo-"

Oz pulled his hand free gently and placed it over her mouth. "Stop." His heart started bleeding. It was like dying inside all over again. "Don't say it."

"Oz..." Hurt, Willow pulled his hand away from her. "I came all the way out here...to see you."

"Willow. I love you." He kept talking as her eyes became all glowy. "But I'm.." He couldn't tell her how he felt. It was impossible. She was Willow. His heart had been hers for so long. He'd wanted this for so long.

The baby sneezed.

Oz blinked and stars fell from his eyes. He saw Willow as she was now. Laugh lines crossed the corners of her eyes. Her green eyes blazed with magic. But her scent was turning stale and all Oz could smell Cordelia's tears. He remembered dinners and rehearsals and the look in her big brown eyes when she had Cole. Her hair was softer than Willow's. Her scent was stronger. She was stronger. "But I can't be what you need, now."

Her eyes lowered. "I love you. I can't be in love with you." He touched her face. "You're always going to be with me. As a seventeen year old girl who loved me. But...this is Cole."

"Cordelia's baby...Oz what's..." She closed her mouth. Tears welled up.

"Cole Devon Chase-Osbourne." The baby blinked sleepily. "My son."

"Oh."

"I have a family. And a life. I love you. But I'm in love with Cordelia. She's..." Oz sighed. "She's a beautiful person. Everything in her is what I want." A smile brightened Oz's face. "I love you, Willow."

"I know, Oz." Tears spilled down her cheeks. "I knew I should have dyed my hair blue before coming here. I jinxed it."

Oz wiped them away. She took his hand and looked at it. "I always loved your hands."

"I know. But she loves all of me."

Willow sighed. "I love you, Oz."

"I know."

"I'll miss you."

"I'll miss you Willow." Oz felt tears of his own.

"Good-bye." She sniffed and turned away, walking off. She stopped a few steps away, "Be happy, Oz." Then she ran off.

*****

Cole sniffed. "Hey, it's okay. That's just Willow. We'll go see Mommy now." Oz stared after Willow for a second. Part of him wondered if he'd done the right thing but the rest of him knew he had. He'd always miss her. But she hadn't been his in a long time. He knew what and who were his.

Opening the door, Oz shifted the baby to his other shoulder. "Cor?"

She was curled up in the corner of the couch. Eyes red, face puffy, she stared up at him and even miserable she took his breath away. "I won't fight you. Just pack up whatever you need and go...with her."

"Cordelia," Oz knelt down in front of her, jamming his back up against the coffee table.

"It's okay, Oz. I understand. You love her. Everybody does. Xander did. One day you see specialness...Next day you see manipulative redhead. Well, I understand I'm no Willow. I'm no Buffy either...not that I'd want to be. But go okay." She snatched Cole out of Oz's hands. "I'm not alone. I don't need you. I have Cole."

"Cordelia," Oz reached out and she slapped his hand away.

"Don't 'Cordelia' me! You love her, right? RIGHT?"

"Yes."

"So go GET OUT. Be with her. Be with Willow." She hugged the baby tightly. He made a little strangled sound.

"Cordelia.."

"No, I don't have to listen to platitudes about Saint Willow and how..."

Oz put his hand against Cordelia's mouth. "I don't say much. I know that's my thing. Nontalker. And maybe that's why you don't know how much you mean to me. But you matter. More than I thought you would. We're friends. Always. Now we're more. And I want that. I want you. Of course I love her. Love doesn't die. It changes." He let go of her mouth. "You are everything. You and Cole. I love you. Now that's not just me saying something you want to hear. It's me saying what I want to hear. I love you, Cordelia. I know you don't need me. But I kinda need you."

Cordelia's brows arched up and she started to cry again. "Damn it Oz! I thought you were going to leave me!" She thumped his chest. "I need you too, you freak!"

Oz was crushed against the coffee table as Cordelia dragged him into a family hug. Cole gurgled. The door opened. "Whoa strange love triangle!" Devon laughed.

Oz couldn't help it, he laughed. Laying his head in Cordelia's lap, he just laughed.

Devon snatched up Cole and swung him around. "We're on MTV little Oz!" The baby jammed a fist into his mouth and slobbered all over it. "Yo, dad. Check this out. We're on MTV new music. And we've been booked all over town. Jake's phone is ringing off the hook. We did it! We''ve been discovered Tiffany. Let's get the hell out of the minimal!"

Oz got up off of his knees, his fingers catching Cordelia's. "Cordelia did it."

"Behind every man..." Devon winked at Cordelia. "I got visiting rights for Angie."

Oz clapped him on the back. Cordelia wiped at her eyes. "That's great Devon! Really!"

There was a knock on the door. Mike poked his head in. "I know there are minors in here..." He glared at Devon and the baby, smiling at Cordelia. "But I brought champagne!"

Jimmy pushed him through the door. "I brought a keg. I'm all about corrupting minors." He patted Oz on the head. He gave Cordelia a gentle hug. "Lucky Momma."

Jake bounced in. "Dude, here." He handed Cordelia a list of phone numbers. "We're on our way to becoming a one-hit wonder!"

Jimmy hit him in the face with champagne bubbles.

Oz put his arm around Cordelia. Cordelia hugged him back tightly. He was damned glad she rescued him in the bar.