Standard disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all such related things, © Mutant Enemy and many other people with big scary lawyers. We're borrowing them without permission, but you said you were done with 'em, so we're hoping you won't mind so much. Stories, images, characters you don't recognize, those are all by 4Paws. Yes, we'll take the blame.

Setting: Set in the continuation-verse, which picks up about three months after the end of "Chosen". So, spoilers for pretty much everything, including any "episodes" in this series that have come before it.

Notes: Here we go with my most ambitious 'fic project ... well, ever, basically. A virtual continuation of a show with a whole heck of a lot more story to tell. Since deciding to do this project I've discovered that there are, in fact, many Season 8's ... but this is the only one with the Jet Wolf Seal of Involvement, so that guarantees freshness. Or something.

Episodes are posted to weekly, at 8pm EST on Tuesdays, all pretty and HTML'd with graphics and oo! Credits. We have credits, too. Eps will appear the following Friday or Saturday on So if you don't want to wait all that extra time (and really, how could you?), the site is the way to go.

(9 July 2004)


The Chosen: A Buffy Virtual Continuation

Episode 10: "Waxing and Waning"
Story by: Jet Wolf & Ultrace
Written by: Jet Wolf & Novareinna

Act Four

In the private training room, Kennedy had commandeered a large section of the available space. Dressed in workout clothes, with her dark hair fastened securely away from her face, she was in the throes of executing a series of extremely intricate and precise martial arts moves. Concentrating solely on the image reflecting back from the mirrors which lined one wall, the Slayer only barely acknowledged Hannah's entrance until the woman greeted her with a friendly, "Evening."

Similarly dressed, Giles' ex-wife smiled at Kennedy and was treated only to a very terse nod. Refusing to break her form, the Slayer continued to work on her exercises – executing a sequence of lightning fast jabs in the air and elbow strikes. Her actions were measured and exact and she moved with the elegance of a lithe panther. Still watching the younger woman closely and with much interest, Hannah settled down at a nearby machine and, after adjusting the weights, began her own workout.

As her performance came to a close, Kennedy brought her hands together and bowed crisply at her own reflection.

"I'm impressed," observed Hannah with admiration. "Kusanku kata."

Kennedy grabbed a small towel from the mat on the floor and mopped at the glistening perspiration on her face before hooking it over her shoulders. She turned to face the older blonde.

"Hey. Good call." Her expression registered surprise and even a little heartfelt admiration of her own at Hannah's statement.

Hannah grinned and pulled down on the bar grasped between her hands. The heavy weights at the rear of the machine glided effortlessly upward. "Made for nighttime fighting," she remarked, repeating the action. "Good choice."

"Thanks," acknowledged Kennedy. "You, uh ... You know karate, huh?"

The blonde smirked but there was truly no trace of smugness. "Among other things," she admitted casually.

Kennedy nodded and appeared to remain suitably impressed as Hannah continued to work the weights throughout the conversation without breaking a sweat. Tossing down the hand towel, the Slayer turned back to the mirror and began her routine from the beginning. The blonde moved to the stationary rowing equipment and pulled on the oars as though she were stroke for the Oxford Blue Boat. She watched Kennedy more appraisingly this time.

"Very good," she confirmed as the brunette executed a second neat bow toward her reflection. "Your form is excellent," she added. "You want to watch yourself at the beginning of series six, though. You should step back, in case of attack. You don't bother, you just progress to the next move."

Kennedy cockily dismissed the advice. "Don't think I need to worry too much by that point. I doubt anything's lasting that long."

Hannah dropped the oars and shrugged. "No, quite possibly not ... but anything that does is probably planning on a counterattack right about then." She tilted her head to one side. "Wouldn't you say?"

Kennedy considered the question. "You have a point," she conceded grudgingly.

Hannah grinned. "In addition, when you step back, it allows you room to move forward for the next swing, giving you a momentum you can't gain otherwise."

Kennedy quirked an eyebrow. "You're pretty sharp."

Hannah chuckled and retrieved the oars. "In-out ... in-out ... " she muttered under her breath.

Kennedy squatted on the floor next to the machine. "Don't suppose you'd like to replace a skinny little repressed Englishman as my Watcher, would you?"

"You still have a Watcher?" asked the blonde in astonishment.

Kennedy stomped over to an exercise bike. "Believe it or don't," she stated grumpily, swinging herself into the seat.

Hannah tutted. "That just seems an absurd waste of resources to me. I'll talk to Rupert, see what we can possibly do about that."

Kennedy's face brightened. "That'd be cool. Thanks," she offered.

Hannah shrugged. "My pleasure."

The bike rocked precariously as Kennedy's legs pumped furiously at the pedals. "So what other surprises you got?"

"Well if I told you, they'd hardly be surprises, now would they?" chuckled the blonde.

"Oh come on," the Slayer urged. "Some little tidbit. The rumor mill's already churning out reports faster'n I can keep up 'em, and believe me – you can't possibly say anything more shocking than some of the stuff I've already heard."

Hannah threw back her head and laughed. It was an infectious sound and Kennedy found herself joining in. "All right. Something interesting," she pondered. "Let's see ... I made it to the casting semi-finals of the original 'Survivor'."

"Get out," accused the Slayer. "Seriously?"

"Believe it or don't," replied the blonde with a mock display of petulance as her rowing slowed and then stopped. She winked and Kennedy's face broke into a wide grin.

"What happened?" asked the excited Slayer, reducing her speed to something slightly less break-neck. "Lemme guess, you got beat out by Sue Hawk."

"Oh, please," scoffed Hannah with a wave of her hand. She looked into Kennedy's eager face, obviously anxious to know the full story, and smiled. "Not entirely. I removed myself from the competition when I realized, much to my disgust, that nobody would actually be surviving anything."

"Just between you and me?" confided the Slayer. "I watch every week in the hopes that someone, some time, will actually have to do something.

"Well they do run an awful lot," Hannah pointed out with a grin.

-=-=-=-

Her breath coming in short gasps, Jemma raced toward the park. The sun had almost disappeared beneath the horizon and the pale moon was beginning to dominate the darkening sky. The temperature had abruptly dropped several degrees but she barely noticed, Oz's words still ringing in her ears. Upon reaching the entrance, she paused hesitantly for a moment then, with a tiny sob of desperation, increased her stride once more. She soon arrived at a secluded area, obviously some type of nature trail. She glanced fearfully toward the dense thicket of trees at her right, unsure whether she should go any further. Panting and with perspiration trickling down her forehead, Jemma nervously scanned her surroundings.

"Almost didn't make it," commented Eddie emerging from the shadows. Ignoring the cold, he wore no jacket, only an old t-shirt, its design long since faded, and a pair of oil-stained jeans. His dark curls had been slicked down and combed away from his face. A rifle was slung over one broad shoulder and there was a handgun tucked neatly into a holster over the other. A large hunting knife was safely encased in a sheath attached to his belt. In his left hand, he carried a sturdy chain that he swung back-and-forth with ease despite its apparent weight.

"Thought you were gonna make me do somethin' I really didn't wanna do," he told Jemma gruffly with a sneer.

The girl said nothing, but her eyes widened as Eddie tossed the length of chain carelessly onto the dirt path and moved closer. He nodded emphatically. "You made the right choice."

"Did I?" whispered Jemma.

"'Course," insisted Eddie with a grin, not altogether pleasant. "You're savin' the pup. S'what you really want, right? Not like you'd come back for me ..."

He stretched out a hand toward her cheek but she flinched and took an involuntary step backward. Gritting his teeth, Eddie's fingers balled quickly into a tight fist, but he seemed to be fighting the urge to lash out and instead, crouched down to retrieve the chain.

"That's alright," he told her with forced calm. "You came back. All that matters."

Hefting the rifle from behind his back, he checked to make sure it was loaded.

"Where's your brother?" he asked, voice clipped and eyes narrowed.

"Don't hurt him!" cried Jemma in alarm.

Eddie chuckled. "Relax baby doll, it's a tranq gun." He patted the holster. "The silver bullets are in this one. Now where is he?"

"I– He's still with the others. The group. They ... have him locked away. For safety."

"Yeah, and we see what kinda job their portable cages did last night, didn't we?" he sneered, his expression ugly.

A puzzled frown crossed Jemma's face. "How did you know—"

Eddie swiftly dismissed the potential question. "Prob'ly gonna wake him up early tomorrow and make him sing 'Kumbaya' or some other crap," he stated with scorn. "An' that's what it is, y'know? See, I got this wolf thing all figured out. It's not about chants and herbs and moons. It's about power and control. Your brother, he's weak, see? He don't got the control."

"And you like control. Don'tcha Eddie?"

Eddie spun to face the intruder, momentarily startled when he realized that he and Jemma were no longer alone. Buffy stepped confidently into the moonlight and Eddie took careful measure of the rifle she carried over her shoulder. With a sharp intake of breath, a fearful Jemma stumbled backward.

Eddie snorted. "Slayer, huh?"

"The Alpha," agreed Buffy. "Which, considering the circumstances, takes on an entirely new level of irony, don't you think?"

Slowly, Eddie took stock of the blonde from head-to-toe. Obviously unimpressed with what he saw, he grinned. "You're just a little girl."

"Yes, and you're just a big dumb guy with some serious issues," replied Buffy. "I mean look at that gun!" She waved a hand toward the bulky holster and blew out a puff of air. Overcompensate much?" she asked innocently.

"Look Slayer, I don't got a problem with you," snarled Eddie. "We're just gonna collect her kid brother an' then get outta here."

"Right," responded Buffy, inclining her head. "See, that's where I'm kinda having trouble. I don't make it a habit to let murderous creatures get away." She paused for a second before adding an apparent afterthought. "As a general rule."

Jemma's eyes were wide as she cautiously took a step forward. "Please! Miss Slayer!," she begged. "Toby didn't mean to! I know it was wrong, and I know he feels so bad about what happened, but it's not his fault! Please, just let us go, you'll never hear from us again! Please!"

Buffy glanced at the girl. "Toby? This is nothing to do with Toby. His talking to Dawn aside, he seems like a nice, normal, occasionally furry guy. I'm talking about him." Her finger jabbed accusingly at Eddie.

His laugh was laced with contempt. "What?"

Jemma stared at Eddie before turning back to the Slayer. "But ... but they said the body was torn apart. An animal."

A small frown creased Buffy's forehead and she wrinkled her nose. "Huh. So they did. Wonder what that could mean?" She fixed her gaze knowingly upon Eddie.

"You're nuts," he scoffed as his upper lip curled menacingly.

Buffy was inclined to disagree. "Nope, pretty sane really. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's was a decent enough plan, as really stupid plans go. Kill someone and frame Toby for it. Then scare poor Jemma into thinking you're the only choice she's got left and she comes running back to you."

Eddie tightened his grip on the chain, veins standing out starkly against the back of his hands.

The Slayer smiled. "Boy, it must've just killed you when she ran away, didn't it? After all the work you'd done to make sure she could never leave you."

Jemma ran her fingers through her hair and looked around in confusion. "I don't understand."

Buffy crossed her arms and maintained a wary eye on Eddie. "Mr. Control Freak here, he's had the hots for you for a while now, huh? Before Toby's little 'accident'?"

"We were together," the girl admitted in a whisper, hanging her head. " He ... I had to break it off."

Eddie whipped the chain into the dirt. "You left me," he growled.

Buffy nodded in an all-knowing fashion. "Uh-huh. And I'm willing to bet that just after you found out about Toby, he came to you, right? Said he knew, that he could help you? Didn't the timing ever seem a little ... I dunno, too convenient to you?"

A light of awareness began to dawn in Jemma's eyes. She turned to Eddie. "You told me you'd seen him change."

Eddie discounted the thinly veiled accusation. "And I did! Look, haven't I kept you safe? Both of you? You belong to me, Jemma." With a swift lunge, he roughly seized the girl's wrist.

"Let her go!" commanded a low voice as Oz materialized from the darkness.

Eddie roared with laughter. "Oh, look at you," he sneered before pulling Jemma closer. Releasing her wrist to grab her neck, he forced the girl to look in Oz's direction. "Isn't he just adorable?" he asked, the tone dripping with sarcasm. "I can see why you left me for him!"

Viciously yanking her off the ground, Eddie shook Jemma as though she were a rag doll. She choked and kicked her legs before landing with a sickening thud as Eddie threw her behind him. Crouching, Oz moved forward with a muted growl but Buffy cautioned him back with a wave of her hand.

"You like that, huh?" she asked, her tone dangerously soft. "Picking on someone small and defenseless. I'm guessing that when you bit Toby, it wasn't even just about controlling Jemma, was it? You liked it."

Gasping, Jemma raised herself on one elbow and gaped at Eddie, her expression one of utter astonishment. "You?," she labored, still fighting for breath. "But ... but he's not—"

"He is," confirmed Oz, body still taut and poised ready to strike . "I can tell."

"He's got his wolf suppression mode on, but it was him, Jemma," the Slayer told the girl.

Oz relaxed a little, but continued to remain prepared for action if necessary. "Toby told me. This morning. He thought that Eddie let him out last night. He told me everything."

Buffy nodded in confirmation. "Turns out that Eddie here had something over Toby, too. If he told you what was really going on, Eddie threatened to turn you, too."

Jemma's hand flew to her mouth as she made dry, retching sounds. "Oh my god." Her blue eyes spilled with tears. "Oz ..." she pleaded.

"Dont you talk to him!" raged Eddie, furiously lashing the chain around a nearby branch and letting it hang. "I'm here. I'm right here. I've always been here for you. And you don't care, do you? You've never cared!"

Jemma clutched at her stomach., cheeks wet and streaked with dirt. "I cared Eddie. I just can't be with you."

"Ungrateful bitch!" he thundered with a powerful backhand that sent her sprawling once again. A thin trickle of blood oozed from her split lip.

With amazing agility and speed, Oz launched his attack, surprising the much larger man with a solid punch that landed directly in the solar plexus. Unfortunately, it was a brief advantage. Quickly recovering, Eddie threw an uppercut which caught Oz squarely on the chin, sending him slamming into a tree. Momentarily stunned, he sank to the ground.

"Oz!" cried Jemma as she scrambled frantically to his side. She cradled his head in her lap and gently stroked his face.

Overcome with fury, Eddie raised his head to the moon and howled. His clothes began to rip and shred as his body transformed. The straps holding his weapons snapped as his torso grew larger and shaggy fur became visible. The elongated mouth opened to reveal teeth, razor-like and deadly. He extended his hands, now sporting cruelly hooked claws. Dropping to all fours, jade eyes glimmered maliciously as the massive wolf surveyed his surroundings, looking first at Oz and Jemma before focusing on the Slayer. He howled again at the moon and wavered, as if trying to determine his first target of choice.

"Okay, seen enough. Naptime for you, big doggy," remarked Buffy with a flat tone as she raised the barrel of her tranquilizer gun. Seeming to have made his decision, or perhaps had it made for him, the wolf now directed his full attention to the Slayer instead of the other two. He growled a low and somewhat apprehensive warning, almost as though part of him recognized the weapon she was holding.

"Sorry," she apologized wryly, "but puppy dog eyes never did work on me."

Without hesitation, she pulled the trigger. The dart traveled swiftly toward the wolf's hindquarters, which would have caused him to promptly collapse in an unconscious stupor, had Eddie not leapt clear at the last moment. With a thunk, the dart imbedded itself into the bark of a nearby tree.

The Slayer puffed. "Really gotta talk to Giles about more training time with these things," she grumbled.

Before she had the opportunity to reload, the werewolf charged, and she resorted to using the long-barreled gun as a makeshift club. Turning wolf hadn't made Eddie any smaller, and he was a huge target. It was easy for her to catch him in the face and torso with the butt of the weapon, and this seemed to give him pause, but only for the first few hits, afterwards only serving to anger him. In wolf form, both hands and mouth were all rapid and lethal, and it only took a few seconds for Buffy to realize that useful as the range of the club might be, it was too slow to deal with assaults from all those fronts.

She tossed the weapon aside and started in with the good old hand-to-hand which, while no more effective at harming him, allowed her to use all her limbs in the fight. The constantly snapping jaws made landing any blows to the face difficult, and Buffy had connected three solid hits in the chest with no effect when he managed to get a claw on her shoulder, ripping her shirt and drawing blood. Turning to the side to favor the arm, she tilted and brought up one leg into his midsection – a straight kick that knocked him back a few feet despite his size. The Slayer took a look at her arm, and Eddie paused, nose quivering as he sniffed the air in her direction.

"Fine," said Buffy with a wince. "Plan C."

Almost on cue, he charged again. She braced for the attack and made to grab him by the wrists and start grappling, wrestling with the beast to force it into a position where she would have useful leverage. The match-up was difficult—although she was stronger, he had more mass and a pair of sharp, slavering jaws that snapped at her any time she started to get the upper hand. When Buffy tried to spread his arms apart, he went after her face, and when she tried to force them together, he nearly bit her arms. To make matters worse, Eddie showed no signs of slowing down. She wasn't going to be able to wear him out anytime soon.

Buffy stole a moment to look back at the other two. For all intents and purposes, Oz still appeared to be out of it. Jemma was next to him, eyes riveted on Buffy and the wolf, staring with a sort of horror at what her former boyfriend had become and what he was doing. The Slayer looked back just in time to dodge a vicious chomp. She swerved her head and avoided having most of it ripped off, but he had also pushed forward with all his weight, causing Buffy to lose her balance, and the two of them fell to the ground, Buffy landing on her back.

The wolf, sensing weakness, renewed his efforts to tear out her throat, face and anything else he could get his teeth on. She had managed to hold firm the paws in her hands, and resorted to bringing a knee up into Eddie's stomach, but it had no visible impact.

"Get out of here!" she yelled at the other two.

Using the ground as a brace against her back, she began to push up, forcing the wolf off of her. Before she got far with this, however, he thrashed about, and the shift of a couple hundred pounds weight brought him back down again, even closer than before. Eddie reared back for a full-force bite, and lunged forward at the Slayer's vulnerable throat.

Suddenly, just as Buffy felt the hot wolf breath on her neck, the sound of a single gunshot rang through the air. With a yelp of pain, the creature slumped unmoving to the side. Looking over, the Slayer saw Jemma standing like a statue, Eddie's silver bullet-loaded gun, still smoking, braced rigidly in front of her. Almost in slow motion, she allowed it to drop from her hands. The vacant gaze of her eyes barely registered Buffy and Oz as they approached. Then, hot tears began to well. Opening his arms, Oz enveloped her in a close embrace and she clung to him like a small child. He smoothed her hair and whispered to her comfortingly as Buffy stared down at the body. No longer wolf-like in appearance, Eddie had returned in death to his human shape.

With a great show of readiness, Faith burst into the clearing armed to the teeth with suitable weapons – several daggers sporting silver blades and a crossbow complete with specially made arrows. Planting her feet firmly upon the ground and with a huge grin, she was very the image of delighted anticipation and sheer excitement. She looked around expectantly and then her face began to fall when she found nothing of particular interest taking place. She noted the weeping Jemma enveloped in Oz's arms and then spotted Buffy.

"Where's the wolf?" she demanded in hushed tones.

Buffy said nothing, simply pointing to the deceased Eddie. Faith threw up her hands in disappointment.

"Dammit!" she spat, "I always miss the good fights!"

Buffy shrugged. "Maybe next time."

"Yeah?," queried the Dark Slayer regretfully. She spared a glance in Oz's direction. "Think he's got any more big bad wolves need takin' out?"

Buffy regarded Jemma and Oz with a smile before shaking her head. "Nope," she stated with conviction, treating Faith to a consoling pat on the shoulder. "I don't think we'll be hearing any more huffing and puffing for a while."

-=-=-=-

The night crowd had swarmed in and taken over the Vortex. The floor was packed with bodies dancing to the musical selections of the DJ on stage. In the center of the action, Faith moved to the energetic beat, orbiting around Wood who was managing admirably to keep up with her. Not far away, Kennedy had found herself a tall, curvy blonde and they were each obviously enjoying both the music and the other's attentions.

The tables were also filled nearly to capacity and waitresses ducked around in their ceaseless circuits to the bar and back again to fill orders. Oz and Willow had staked a table in good location to the stage, while nearby Buffy, Xander and a very dejected Dawn were embroiled in conversation. Two tables away from Willow and Oz sat Jemma, an untouched drink in front of her and a vacant, stunned look lingering on her face.

"I can't believe you lied to her," Willow said in a vaguely admonishing tone. She fished the olive out of her martini and popped it in her mouth, shaking her head at the werewolf.

"Didn't want to, but it was sort of a necessity." Oz's tone was level, as usual, but there were traces of regret just beneath the surface. "She had to believe she was really going back to him. He would've been able to smell if she wasn't telling the truth. He might've attacked her, or just run off."

Willow was sipping her drink when she heard that and choked a little, quickly setting the glass back on the table. "You can smell emotion?" she marveled, obviously never having heard that tidbit of information before.

"Yeah," he replied as though she'd just pointed out his hair was spiky.

"That's ..." she quirked her eyebrow at him, filing the information away as she searched for the right words. "... really freaky," the redhead finally summed up.

Without registering a change in facial expression, Oz responded, "Absolutely."

Mulling over this new insight, Willow leaned forward a little conspiratorially. "So what's a lie smell like?"

"Sort of buttery."

Dawn sat between Buffy and Xander, blowing bubbles dejectedly into her soda. Her cheek didn't so much rest on her hand as her hand had somehow managed to sink into the flesh and possibly meld with it.

Xander patted her comfortingly on the shoulder. "There there. Someday your prince will come."

Nodding enthusiastically, Buffy cheerfully added, "And he will be sweet and polite and of the non-monster variety."

"It just sucks that he's a werewolf," the teenager complained. "I mean, I guess I should've known ... but I didn't think to ask. I mean, usually you ask, you know ... 'What grade are you in?' or 'Do you like Good Charlotte?' Not, 'Are you planning to eat me tomorrow?'" She blinked. "Okay, that came out wrong."

"Well, you could just overlook the whole werewolf thing," Xander suggested helpfully. "I mean, Will did it for a couple'a years and—"

He glanced up. Buffy was glaring. Big glares. Xander gulped.

"Or you could be pen pals," he backpedaled.

"It just sucks!" Dawn's quick exhalation of air somehow seemed to emphasize exactly how much suckage was contained in this situation. "My first kiss is with a vampire, then I fall hard for a guy and his magic jacket, now a werewolf ..." She looked despairingly from Xander to Buffy. "It's like I'm turning into you guys!"

Buffy and Xander's sympathetic expressions instantly dissolved.

Willow was twirling the now olive-less toothpick around the rim of her glass. "How'd you know it wasn't Toby?" she inquired.

Oz shook his head, draining the last of his herbal tea. "We didn't. Not for sure. But this morning, Toby told me that when he was the wolf, he sensed something. Someone."

The redhead nodded. "Eddie."

"He thought so," confirmed Oz. "When he told me everything, seemed a definite maybe."

"Good hunch. What if it wasn't, though?" queried Willow, peering into Oz's face.

"Toby wanted to be locked down and tranq'd up. If it was him, he'd be where we left him until tomorrow morning."

Willow's expression melted. "Aww, that's sweet. In a visually disturbing way. Do you think he'll be okay? With the wolfie?"

"Eventually," replied Oz. "Sense memory from the wolf's a good sign."

"So," intoned a meaningful Willow, "What now?"

Oz frowned at the question, seeming to think that the answer should be obvious. "We keep working. Keep teaching."

"No," huffed the witch impatiently. "I mean for you."

Oz appeared to be rather surprised. "Oh. We have a gig in Logan Town ..."

The redhead laughed and poked at his arm with the toothpick. "No! For you you."

Confused, he gazed at her. She grabbed both sides of his head with her hands and swiveled his face until it was directed at Jemma. Oz widened his eyes.

"Ah," he smiled slightly, finally making the connection. "Don't know. I guess she'll be coming with us. Gig and all."

With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Willow shook his head from side-to-side. "Ask her out, you big dork! Geez, do I hafta put you two in a wolf-cage or somethin'? Cuz I will."

Oz was uncertain. "I don't know, Will."

"Well I do!" announced the redhead. "She's so obviously totally into you. And you ..." the poking of the toothpick moved to his shoulder, "You like her too." Oz made to open his mouth in protest, but Willow tutted and dismissed the unspoken thought. "Ah-ah-ah! Don't even try to deny it. I can tell. You've got your little chivalrous protective aura thing goin' on."

Tilting his head, Oz regarded Jemma solemnly but still failed to make a move, the expression on his face indicating that something seemed to be holding him back.

"Oz," murmured Willow, swiping affectionately at his nose to get his attention. "You know I love you. I always will. So when I say this, know that I say it with every ounce of infinite affection for you I have in my heart." Her tone grew stern. "If you don't ask her out, Daniel Osborne, you are a very dumb man and I will seriously consider cursing you with itchy palms for at least a week."

Scratching his head, Oz smiled at the threat.

"Now go," insisted Willow. "Make her as happy as you made me."

Getting to his feet, Oz leaned over and gave Willow a kiss on the cheek. She beamed and touched the place where his lips had been with her fingertip. His eyes were wistful and she nodded encouragingly, seeming to acknowledge his desire for what had once been but could never be again. Tugging on his shirt and thrusting his hands into his pockets, Oz walked with determination to Jemma's table. Willow beamed as the girl looked up, expression growing brighter with every stride Oz took. He smiled down at her, one of those enchanting enigmatic smiles that only Oz could produce, as he pulled out a chair and sat down. Willow heard the echo of his voice over the loud music. "Hey."

The redhead sighed happily at the developments and looked up in surprise as a frazzled waitress placed a fresh martini in front of her, complete with three olives. The girl waved unenthusiastically at the table where Xander was sitting. He grinned and gave Willow the thumbs-up. Willow returned the gesture and promptly downed one of the olives before taking a sip of the drink. Her eyes scanned the dance floor, finally coming to rest on Kennedy. Her smile was warm as she took note of the fact that Kenn appeared to be having a thoroughly good time, apparently as much into the music as she was into her swaying partner.

Willow's gaze darted briefly to Oz. He was holding Jemma's hand and smiling, their heads close together in conversation. Jemma looked so happy. Willow sighed contentedly. The lights dimmed and a slow number filtered through the audio equipment. Willow watched as Kennedy slipped an arm around the blonde's trim waist and whispered in her ear. The blonde nodded and closed her eyes, cheek resting on Kennedy's shoulder. Willow sighed with contentment once more before popping both remaining olives into her mouth at the same time.