Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: Odd Moment
Author: Magpie
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None
Summary: Oz alone at a bar... That's not gonna last.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN.
Author's Note: O/B Well getting there anyway. It's my first,

The biggest difference between Haven and the Bronze is that here you're never carded. No questions, apart from 'Can you pay?' and 'What's your poison?'. The Dingoes performed here a couple of times, that's how I know it. I come here when I want to not be around people, and tonight, two days before the full moon, fits the bill.

The place is dark, but not cheap. Everything's well maintained, subtle and discreet. The other services offered here are also discreet and expensive. It caters for everyone, private parties by arrangement. Today though, that's not why I'm here. I'm here because I need to be somewhere that's not home. I feel too edgy to be around Dev or Willow right now, which is why I'm sitting at the bar alone instead of with my oldest friend or my girlfriend. The public rooms anyone can walk into of the street, and are like any small club or bar. The dance floor is half full, and the bar thankfully empty.

"Same again?" The bartender asks. Her voice is quiet, British, and for a moment I'm reminded of Giles. I nod my head and determinedly try to stop thinking. This is helped by the small glasses of colourless liquid I've been downing me for the past hour. She pours me my drink, then lowers her head to whisper to me. "Oz, there's a guy there named Kyle who's been checking you out for the past ten minutes." Seeing my blank look she goes on "I know him, and this is someone you don't want to be alone with."

"Thanks for the warning Luce," I offer. "I'm not looking for company anyway." She shakes her head. Lucy's pretty in a distant, icy sort of way, and it's nice to know that I rate a little concern. "He's very persuasive. It's more than my jobs worth to interfere between customers, but if he looks like he might get stroppy just yell for me."

I tell her I will then forget about it until five minutes later, when a tall blonde man sits beside me. He's attractive in the muscular way that I like, and something about him make me wonder what he does on full moons. I don't want to get involved with him, but it's late, I'm drunk and he's being very insistent. I worry at the look in his eyes- greedy, with an edge of power-crazy. It doesn't surprise me when he starts to tell me about alpha wolves and pack dominance.

"If you don't have a pack with a pack leader, who's going to protect you?" He says. His voice is low, rough. Attractive, but that whole ownership gleam in his eyes is not a turn on. "You need a pack for safety and friendship."

"I'm really more of a lone wolf myself. And I have friends and a girlfriend." I tell him. My voice is cool, amused. Not giving away anything.

"Humans." Contempt and dismissiveness are almost tangible. "Sheep. You're..."

"Taken." Neither of us heard her approach. He voice is fake-cheerful, the threat almost hidden. She looks, as always, as bubbly as champagne, though her smile doesn't quite reach her eyes. She looks young, vulnerable on the outside. But instinctively, the wolf sitting next to me knows better. He backs away, intimidated by her although I bet if I asked him he couldn't say why. I've seen her do it before- face down football players who don't even know why they're giving way to this tiny little girl.

"Hey Oz." She sits down next to me. For some reason I like the closeness. Usually when I'm getting wolfy I don't like people in my personal space. Wolves are territorial by nature, and Devon's always said I'm an antisocial bastard at heart. With a few exceptions of people I'm very close to, physical proximity makes me less comfortable close to the moon. I realise she's looking at me, so I start to pay attention to what she says. "I've been worried." There is a look concern in her eyes, almost protectiveness.

"It's nothing slayery." I reassure her. "Slayery. Is that the right word? Maybe it should be slayerish or..."

"Oz how much of that have you drunk?" Her voice is exasperated now, and for a moment I want to apologise for... something, I don't know what. Annoying her, worrying her. Dismissing her worries maybe. "It doesn't have to be a slayer thing for me to want to help."

She's right. There is a feeling about her, something she gives off that I can smell now. Kyle was talking about pack leaders for protection, and that's what I feel off Buffy right now. Bone deep there's the knowledge that she's dangerous and strong and that she'll protect me. At the moment she's looking me straight in the eye. This makes me nervous, like she'll read something in there I don't want her to see. She reaches out to touch my shoulder and hits a bruise. I try to cover my wince and hope she hasn't noticed. "It's nothing. Just personal stuff."

"Oh Oz." She sighs. There's a look in her eyes that I recognise. I've seen it there before, often. It's an old tired grieving look. I breathe in sharply, and this carries her scent to me. I can feel old instincts drumming away at me to tell her, that she can protect me, that I shouldn't keep secrets from her, she's too powerful and strong and...

"I figured that out already. If it was hellmouth-related you'd have told us. You wouldn't be sitting here drowning your sorrows in 90% proof." Buffy's voice is low, keeping our conversation private. "What is it, family, friends or business?"

I don't answer, not even to lie, 'cause I have the feeling I might reveal too much even with a lie. It's not such a big thing. Home is just not that happy at the moment. My mother pretends she doesn't see her six foot fucking six ubermacho marine son 'toughen up' his freaky little brother, just like she never saw her boyfriends do it. It's nothing big- just little shoves when he's walking past me, but I bruise easy so it shows. Power games more than anything. Anyway, he's off to sea in a week, so why stir things?

"You can always talk to me Oz." She says. Sitting close to her has now become awkward. Her scent has gotten stronger and is whispering to me of strength and protection. I try not to listen, as I realise that being around Buffy has always made me feel this way. It's not like being around Willow. Being around Willow makes me feel happy. Being around Buffy makes me feel safe. Well, not entirely, 'cause Wolfy Oz is reminding me that she's female and lacking in significant others. She is human, which to part of me means vulnerable. Even though I get the strength vibe off of her I still get the instinct that tells me she's, well, prey. Attractive prey. It's interesting. My attempts to ignore this are hampered by the vodka that seemed like such a good idea at the time.

"It's nothing." Judging from her expression this isn't enough, so I add,

"My brother's in town and we don't get on."

"Well, if you need a place to crash, mi couch es su couch." She's says the last with a smile tinged with a faint edge of sadness. She's not gotten over Angel yet, and I don't think she'll live long enough to stop loving him. For a moment I want to make her happy, to stop her feeling the silence, so I agree. Her smile widens, becomes genuine and I feel an echo of it on my own face.

"Well, I'd leave you to get drunk in peace, but I think lover boy in leather over there might try to have his wicked way with you if I did." The edge of humour in her voice is reassuring, as I know she hasn't had much reason to laugh recently. I look over, and sure enough Kyle's watching me like a, well, like a horny werewolf. Also angry. I guess backing down to a blonde teenage girl has wounded his pride. He sees us looking and this gives him the nerve to come over.

"Are you his girlfriend or his keeper?" He asks Buffy jerking his head towards me. She smiles, knowing that she's a lot more dangerous than him.

"I take care of my friends." She says, almost purring the words. He's drunk and angry and full of wounded pride, but Buffy can handle him. She looks him over than says "You haven't been in Sunnydale long, have you?" He shakes his head. "I'll give you some advice. Find out what you're getting into before you start making plans to stay, 'cause there are a lot scarier things than you in Sunnydale. And I'm one of them."

"Wow." I say as he backs away to the far end of the bar. "Intense."

"Oz, what are you doing here?" Buffy asks. "This isn't a safe place to be."

I shrug. Devon always makes fun of me for my lack of speech. It's not that I don't have lots of thoughts, it's just that I don't really say them. I prefer just to watch and listen. Words are so clumsy when I say them. What am I supposed to say? I'm getting drunk here to avoid thinking about my home. I'm here 'cause I didn't think I'd see anyone I know. Buffy looks at me, like she doesn't quite trust me.

"I'm done patrolling for the night. I think I'll wait and walk you home," she says.

"I don't want to go home yet." This comes out too quickly, but before she can pick up on it I distract her. "Do you want to dance?"

She laughs at this. "Oz, you don't dance. You told Willow you only started a band so you'd be making the music instead of dancing to it."

"True, but I'm very drunk."

"Oh well, since you ask so nicely..." We get on to the dance floor just as the music changes from the frantic beat of a moment before to something low and slow, played loud enough that I can feel it vibrating up from the floor and through my bones. The dance floor's a little more crowded by now. I really can't dance, so I revert to the usual swaying in time to the music and watching Buffy. This is not a hardship, as she's glowing on the dance floor.

I catch more than a few admiring glances, including a raised eyebrow from Lucy. I step closer, so it now looks more like she's dancing with me. Protectiveness, or maybe just being territorial, but I want other people to know that she's not up for grabs. _She's vulnerable now._ The thought goes across my mind. Wolf me likes this thought and before I know it, I've pulled Buffy's hand so we now are really dancing together. Her eyes widen, but she doesn't pull away. Really she's doing all the moving and I'm just standing next to her.

The music's stopped suddenly and with it the lights. The groans of dismay around indicate that the power's gone out again. Not an unusual occurrence, as the storms recently have been messing with the power station. A back up generator kicks in and in the sudden over bright light I have a clear view of Buffy's face as she realises how close we are and how much of us is touching.

I see the knowledge slide in to her mind, but she doesn't immediately pull away. My hands are still on her waist and I can feel her warmth through the faded black jeans. For a moment I'm not sure what either one of us will do, then we both drop our hands and step away at the same moment. There's a moment of awkward silence, the we both move to the door.