Title: Standing In

By Robinyj

Rated: PG 13, I rate almost everything that. It's a safe rating as I say.

Category/Warning: Let's see, Violence, H/C, Action/Adventure, Humor, a little bit of everything really. Setting: Somewhere in Season 3, anywhere really, it's all good.

Summary: There's a new evil in town that's after the Slayer to be his sacrifice, but what happens when the Scoobies stand in the way?

A/N: I try to write as if this was an actual episode, so all the regular characters are in the story and they each have a role, but there's a nice amount of Oz h/c cause I can't find any stories that have that, and I crave it. So let's move on.

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"A little support is all I'm asking for here."

Willow looked to Oz for help but he just shrugged, effectively leaving the conversation in her capable hands.

 "Buffy, I know you're trying, but I just don't think that the feeding pattern of vampires is exactly a valid topic for your Biology paper," Willow confessed, being honest as always.

 Buffy huffed and kicked a rock on the sidewalk. She had a lot of schoolwork to catch up on because of the sudden increase in demonic activity in the last week, and this particular essay, worth twenty percent of her mark, was really bringing her down. Willow and Oz were walking with her as far as Willow's house and then she was going on patrol, as usual. She appreciated their company, because they easily could have just driven in Oz's van, but they really weren't helping with her school issues.

 "I just don't have time to learn about something new and do the research and everything," Buffy said, then turned to Oz. "What's your paper on?"

 "Mating habits of werewolves."

 He received blank stares from his companions.

 "Joking. I don't have one yet," Oz told her, not seeming to care.

 "Well thanks for jumping aboard the topicless train with me. It seems I bought a ticket to ride until the end of the semester though."

 The three walkers slowed as they reached Willow's house. It was getting late and the vamps would be coming out soon so Buffy had to be on her way.

 "Good luck on patrol," Willow called out. "Kill the bad, save the good, and make sure you eat supper."

 "Stay safe," was the solemn advice Oz offered as the couple watched her continue on her way.

 Buffy waved and yelled, "See you at school, hopefully with a Biology topic on something that is actually alive."

 As she walked away Oz and Willow strolled hand in hand up to the front steps of the Rosenburg home.

 "I thought you were doing your paper on Bald Eagles or something," Willow questioned her boyfriend.

 "I am," Oz replied simply. "I didn't want Buffy to feel alone on that train of hers."

 "That's my man, always thinking of others."

 "Nah, I'm mostly thinking of you," Oz said, making Willow blush but also making her smile widen significantly.

 "So, since we both got our topics do you want to come over tomorrow night and we'll work on them together," Willow suggested.

 "Actually, I'm already finished mine," Oz said, and was somewhat surprised Willow wasn't done hers.

 But Willow smiled and punched his arm, "And you say you have no ambition. I'm glad you're taking school more seriously."

 "You cause me to be strangely motivated," he replied, smirking.

 They had all too quickly made their way to the front door and stopped on the step, "Ah, here we are, maison Rosenburg. My home, where I sleep and live and keep all that I own."

 "Thanks for the update. I should be getting home too," Oz said regretfully.

 Willow frowned, "You can come in you know."

 Oz shook his head, truly sorry, "No, your parents are home. We both know that it would end up being of the not cool."

 Willow wanted to argue but he was right. Though her parents didn't take the most active role in her life, they knew that Oz was a musician, and had somehow found out that he failed his senior year, and resolutely didn't approve of him dating their daughter.

 "If they just got to know you …"

 "They still wouldn't change their minds." Seeing how much this statement saddened Willow, Oz quickly added, "But I will meet with them soon, have a long talk with them about how much I love you and respect you and will assure them that I will always take the best care of you. I'll even bring them a bunt cake."

 "What if that doesn't work?" Willow asked as their lips moved closer for a kiss.

 Oz smiled his quirky half smile, "Then I'll bring two. And a jello mould."

 "Ah, the power of jello. They won't be able to resist," Willow agreed as their lips met passionately. The kiss broke when they needed air and they pulled away to look deeply into each others' eyes.

 "Jello mould it is then. Good night," Oz whispered, kissed her one last time, and then slowly backed away down the step, never breaking their eye contact.

 "Night, see you tomorrow." Willow said. She sighed as he disappeared down the walk and then, smiling, she finally went inside.

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 Elsewhere, Buffy was definitely not feeling the same amount of love. She was in one of the many Sunnydale graveyards, ducking and dodging attacks while at the same time kicking and quipping with all her might.

 "Wow, I hope you didn't pay for that facelift." She commented as a particularly ugly demon came in front of her. The creature was green and slimy, and its flesh was pulled tightly across its skull. In fact, its face looked as though its skin was trying to escape its mouth. After Buffy smelled its breath she could understand why.

 "Whoa, brush much? I suppose not with you having no teeth and all."

 The demon stopped for a moment, perplexed because it did in fact have a great mouth full of teeth. Then Buffy kicked him in the jaw and as he fell back against a tombstone he felt a number of them loosen.

 "You're going to pay for that Slayer!" It announced, spitting out blood.

 "This is me trembling," Buffy suddenly backflipped and kicked another demon that had been sneaking up on her in the face. "And this is me kicking your ass. Note the similarities."

 As the last monster fell it dropped its weapon, a long sword, which the Slayer quickly picked up and impaled him with. Buffy smiled, she liked being armed and she liked how scared her assailants got when she was. The green demon on the ground was spitting out teeth and starting to rise so Buffy kicked him in the face again and then drove the sword through his chest.

 There were two members left in her quarry and she faced them, lavishly twirling her blood stained sword.

 "Do you really want to try it? Cause I don't need the exercise and you guys seem to be enjoying having your heads attached to your body," Buffy said casually as she took a step closer. The demons, of course, took a step back, but then gathered their courage and charged.

 Buffy easily side stepped and plunged her new weapon into the back of the first creature. It cried out in pain and then turned around to swing at her. She cut off its head.

 "I warned you," she murmured. When she turned around she found the second demon had also picked up a discarded sword and they exchanged parries for a few seconds.

 "Your form's good but your footwork sucks," Buffy commented as she easily found an opening and then stabbed the demon in the shoulder. Pushing hard, she forced the creature up against a tree and pinned it there by forcing the sword into the trunk. The demon yelled and foamed as Buffy wiped off her hands.

 The four demons were all different races but they each had the same strange armband around their wrists (black leather with a Greek-like symbol on the front) which led her to believe they were working for a larger power and she wanted to know who. It appeared to be interrogation time.

 "Okay scale-boy, so who is it that you're working for?" Buffy asked, a morbid smile on her face as she twisted the blade in the demon's shoulder.

 The creature didn't cry out, it just clenched its teeth and answered, "I'm not going to tell you anything Slayer. You'll have to kill me."

 "That's doable. But what's also really nifty is that I know a few people that could bring you back from the dead, so then I could kill you again. So, once more, who is your boss and what's his deal?" Buffy repeated twisting the weapon even more.

 The pain laden creature let out a pitiful sound resembling a laugh and then squeaked out, "Why don't you ask him yourself?"

 Buffy felt a presence behind her and turned around, ready for attack, but the sight of the monster in front of her took her by surprise; it was nine feet tall and wide as a tree.

 How did that sneak up on me? Buffy thought to herself as she momentarily stood stunned by its size. The creature took the chance to lash out with its massive arm and backhand her hard across the face. Buffy flew through the air and landed on her back a few feet away.

 Then the monster spoke, its voice was deep and hoarse, but it sounded intelligent, not like her usual 'kill slayer, be famous' kind of demons, "I am Trogar and I am here for you."

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 "It's about time you got home."

 Willow jumped and dropped her house key. Twirling around, she saw her mother standing there, hands on her hips and not looking pleased.

 "Oh, Mom, hey. What do you mean 'about time', it's only …" Willow looked at the clock on the wall, "Oh."

 Quarter to twelve, that's pretty late. And it's a school night.

 "Well, where have you been?" she asked.

 "I … I was at Buffy's helping her with her Biology paper," Willow stuttered, honestly surprised at the late hour.

 "Unless there is something about Buffy that I don't know then I don't think it was her voice I heard on the step with you," her mother accused and Willow felt herself becoming angry.

 "Oz was with us, he takes Biology too you know. We left pretty early but we decided to walk since it was nice out and … I guess it took longer than I thought."

 Her mom shook her head, "Ever since you met that boy … I don't know who you are anymore Willow."

 Willow snorted in disbelief, "Did you ever know me Mom? When's the last time we talked to each other? Two weeks ago? Three?"

 "Just because I'm out of town a lot doesn't mean I don't care about what's happening in your life," she tried to defend herself, but they both knew it wasn't a strong argument.

 "Since when have you cared? When I was all 'look I got another A and I'm captain of the nerd squad' you didn't even acknowledge me, and now that I'm actually starting to have a life and a boyfriend you finally start to get all parental," Willow accused, suddenly very glad Oz hadn't stuck around for this. "And let me tell you something, 'that boy', Oz, cares me for me than you ever have. Or will."

 Willow was breathing hard now and her mom just stared at her, dumbfounded. Willow shook her head, fighting tears.

 "I have to go to bed, I have school tomorrow."

 Her mom broke out of her trance and called to her as she retreated up the stairs but Willow did not turn around. She closed her door, shutting off the world, and went to bed.

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 Buffy winced as she got up, rubbed her back, and picked up her sword again.

 "You're here for me eh? Well that's a surprise. So what's your sitch? You taking over the world? Gonna plunge the land into everlasting darkness? Or just give me a migraine?" she asked, no longer awed by the creature's size.

 "I am here to sacrifice you to my all powerful master, who will then teach you a pain deeper than even I could ever dream," Trogar announced maliciously. He had a long, sloping forehead with eyes that reflected a cat-like yellow, and his body was devoid of hair. His massive arms were tight and corded with muscles and the only clothing he wore was a baggy pair of pants that seemed to be made of animal fur.

 "Just a quick question, what kind of animal was that before you made it into a pair of pants? Cause I got this Biology paper …" Buffy didn't finish her quip, instead she ducked under Trogar's arm as he went after her again. The slayer ducked low and then kicked the creature in the stomach and then moved out of reach again.

 Trogar was thrown back slightly by her kicks but didn't seem very hurt. Buffy decided to take a chance. She rushed the creature, flipped over his arm as he moved to strike her and landed directly in front of him. Then, with all her might, she swiftly stabbed the demon in the chest with her sword, burying the weapon into his flesh, all the way to the hilt.

 She stepped back and watched as Trogar screamed out in pain and stumbled backwards, clutching at his chest. He fell back against a tree and desperately tried to pull air into his lungs.

 "Guess you'll have to tell your master that I have other plans, but thank him for the nice invitation," Buffy said with fake sincerity as she watched the demon die.

 Trogar smirked, pushed away from the tree and stood up, "You may tell him yourself," he bellowed and then reached up and pulled the sword out of his chest. Buffy cringed and took a step back as the gaping hole that the sword had caused in his upper body almost immediately closed in on itself and healed.

 "Uh oh," Buffy exclaimed, not liking that the huge demon that was probably stronger than her and now had her weapon could also heal itself pretty easily.

 Maybe it's research time, Buffy thought, having no idea how to kill this thing. She looked him over for weak points but saw nothing; he had no jewels to smash or magical objects to steal, he was just big and strong.

 Buffy wasn't giving up yet though. She had a feeling it probably couldn't regenerate its own head so focussed on ways of taking it off, but now she had no sword or anything useful to work with in the graveyard.

 "Alright big and ugly, so you know a nifty little trick. Well, I have a few of those too," Buffy said, sounding confident. Trogar came at her and swung the sword for her neck; the Slayer jumped, landed on the demon's arm and then jumped again, kicking him hard in the face.

 He barely stumbled.

 She landed in a crouch and smiled as she found another sword from her earlier fight. She picked it up and called out, "You want me for a sacrifice, you gotta earn it, kind of like a merit badge."

 Then she turned on her heel and sprinted towards the edges of the cemetery where the larger crypts stood.

 "You cannot escape me Slayer, my master calls for a sacrifice and it shall be you!" Trogar yelled, seemingly enjoying the prospect of a chase. He took off after her, through the tombstones and trees. Buffy was faster and knew the area better so could have lost him easily but she wanted to get rid of this thing tonight. She sprinted ahead until she could see the end of the cemetery; this was one of the few in Sunnydale that was surrounded by a large iron fence. The crypt she was looking for was just ahead. She ran to the edge, used a grave for leverage and launched herself onto the roof of the ten foot structure. Then she quickly hid behind the marker on top and waited for her prey.

 Trogar was surprisingly silent for such a huge demon but she just barely made out the sound of his breathing as he came out of the woods. Buffy could see his shadow as he walked and watched it to determine his location.

 "I'll find you Slayer and then my master will rise."

 His words didn't scare Buffy, in fact, the talking helped her figure out where he was, so she encouraged it.

 "And when he rises the world will shudder, just as you will in time."

 Blah blah blah, Buffy thought, just hurry up.

 "And you may watch from Hell as the world burns and … Ah!!!!" Trogar screamed in pain as Buffy executed her plan. She jumped off the roof of the crypt once he had passed her and sliced into his neck as she fell past. When she landed though, she already knew the plan had not worked. The sword was imbedded in Trogar's neck; she had sliced through the flesh and muscle easily enough but his spine was harder than she had thought it would be and she couldn't sever it.

 The demon screamed in pain, but reached out once more and pulled the sword from his flesh. The wound closed as quickly and easily as the last one had. Buffy didn't know how to kill this thing, and now she had made it very mad.

 "You will pay for that Slayer, not only from my master but from me as well!"

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 Oz was in deep thought as he walked. Well, he was Oz, which meant he was usually in deep thought about something, but tonight he was in deep thought about Willow. She meant the world to him, and he wanted to make her happy. He personally didn't care what her parents, or anyone else, thought about him, but he knew that Willow cared what they thought, so he wanted them to like him for her sake. He just didn't know the right way to go about doing it.

 Looking up, he saw the moon was only a sliver in the sky. He wouldn't be wolfing out for another three weeks, and the thought made him sigh with relief. It was not just the three wolf-moon nights that caused him anxiety, but the few days before were quite stressful for him as well. There was always that tiny bit of doubt that he had read the lunar calendar wrong and would be changing on a different night, though that had not happened yet.

 As he reached Buffy's house he took out the keys to his van and continued contemplating the 'Willow's parents' issue. He started the van and decided to swing by the cemetery to see Buffy. She knew Willow's parents a lot better than he did and might know a way of getting on their good sides.

He turned off the van as he reached the entrance to the graveyard and peered in. The iron fence was locked and he didn't see Buffy around. He knew better than to leave the van or walk around the graveyard without her, so he decided to just head home and ask her tomorrow. As he was about to start the van again he suddenly spotted movement and watched as Buffy sprinted out of the trees and then catapulted herself onto a crypt roof.

 Intrigued, he decided to watch and was stunned to see a giant demon emerge from the treeline. Hell, he was even taller than some of the trees.

 How is Buffy going to kill that? He thought to himself, worried for her safety. But it seemed Buffy had a plan and he had to watch to see if it worked.

 It didn't though. The sword couldn't slice through the creature's neck, as hard as Buffy tried, and the wound it caused healed almost immediately. And Oz could tell by the look on her face that Buffy was now out of ideas.

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 What is it that the Army calls it when you run away? A tactical retreat? I think it's tactical retreat time. Get Giles, do a little research, find out how to kill this thing, that's a good plan.

"So that healing thing, must go over great at parties right? I bet all the chicks dig that."

 Trogar was not amused and tried to hit her once more. Buffy was faster though and the tombstone behind her was demolished by his fist as she rolled out of the way.

 "Okay, so not the chicks. What about this master of yours, what's he like? I mean plunging the world into darkness, he must have some ambition. Probably offers a great dental plan too."

 Buffy rolled again and wondered how long she could dodge his blows. She was trying to get around him and make it to the fence but he could tell she was trying to escape and kept between her and her escape route.

 "My master is a God; he has more than ambition, he has strength enough to tear your pitiful world apart." Trogar bellowed.

 "You know what I don't understand, you evil types always put down this world, we're weak, we're pitiful, we're mortal, we suck, so why are you always trying to take us over? Shouldn't we be beneath you or something?" Buffy asked as she went on the offensive and delivered several quick kicks and punches, then moved out of reach.

 "We will better this world and make it a worthy land for my master to dwell in."

 Trogar attacked doubly this time and Buffy couldn't avoid both blows. She was caught hard in the side of the head with a right hook and was further stunned when she crashed into a tombstone. Trogar stomped over to her as she attempted to rise.

 "Now you will …" Trogar was interrupted by the cemetery gates crashing into him, knocking him down and pinning him momentarily.

 Buffy looked up to see what had saved her.

 A zebra?

 Oz's van was damaged but somehow still running. He flung open the side door and shouted for her, "Buffy come on!"

 She didn't have to be told twice and quickly started to rise.

 Trogar growled as he flung the gates away as if they were a blanket covering him. Oz had to buy time and turned on his high beams. It was a long shot, and he was fortunate they even worked, but luckily Trogar was a night creature and the sudden intensity of the headlights was enough to disorient him long enough for Buffy to make it into the passenger side of the van.

 "Let's go!" Buffy ordered and Oz gladly complied. Putting the van in reverse, he pulled away and charged down the road, thankful there was no oncoming traffic. Trogar was immediately behind them though and his hand scraped along the side of Oz's van before they were able to safely pull away and speed into the night.

Trogar hissed, mad that he had lost his prey, but he would not give up. He had two more nights to find the Slayer, 'Buffy', and then his master would rise.

 Taking a deep breath, Trogar closed his eyes and focussed. If one had been watching from nearby it would have been possible to see the shadow of the beast as it changed. There was a growl of pain that came from the cemetery but when it was finished there was no nine foot creature to be found anywhere; only a lone man, dressed casually in an overcoat and jeans, that walked away from the quarrel and into the night.

TBC

I'll have more really soon. Xander, Cordelia and Giles are in the next chapter and there's lots more Oz, Willow and Buffy. Not to mention the origins of Trogar. I wouldn't miss the next chapter, but first tell me what you think of this one.

Also, I'm looking for good Oz fics, so if you know of any you would recommend I'd love to hear about them. Many thanks, Robinyj.

Review? Please. They'll be bunt cake.