Another big fancy party with tons of weres and vampires all over the place. He guessed that was kind of a regular occurrence around here, nearly every meal some big production, another chance to drag out the formal wear.
He pulled on the collar of his dark red button up shirt. He didn't really like the whole having to dress up thing... but looking around at some of the nearly naked people, he would rather be overdressed than under. It looked a little chilly.
"So, how cool is this, huh?"
Oz turned to Jason and raised one eyebrow.
Jason looked at him, then laughed. "Yeah, really. Still, Jean-Claude likes doing this kind of thing so it's in all of our best interests to just play along. Now, look pretty and let's go mingle."
"Do I at least get something to drink?" Oz asked.
"Several something's if you're doing things right," Jason said. "Maybe some wine, some vodka, some champagne, and some brandy, or some rum, some whiskey, some vodka, and some tequila, or..."
Oz held up a hand to stop him. "I get the idea. This party is a perfect opportunity to explore my future as an alcoholic. Okay. But what else are we supposed to do?"
"Like I said, we're here to look pretty. We're here for ornamental purposes only. So try not to pick your nose, scratch your ass, or in any way look like you have a personality. 'Cause if you do? Some of these guys will eat you alive."
"And that's not scary at all," Oz dead-panned.
Jason shot him a grin, and though he couldn't explain it, it felt as though someone had lightly slapped him in the chest. Oz shook off the sensation as being nothing but pure imagination. Probably a side effect of being in a strange world.
"Come over here," Jason said, grabbing his arm. "Let's get something to snack on while we languish in flamingo land."
"You know. We're like those crazy pink flamingo lawn ornaments. To be seen and not heard from."
"I don't really see myself as being quite that flamey," Oz said.
Jason laughed. "Ooh, you made a funny. Now come on."
Oz let himself be dragged across the room to the buffet-like tables. He was feeling just a little snackey, so it wasn't like he was going to say no to something delicious and not-very nutritious. Like these crazy little stuffed crab shell things oozing with melted cheese.
"For a bunch of vampires, I would think they would want their food to be just a tad bit more health conscious, you know?" Oz said.
"Please. They could give a rats ass whether we're eating good as long as our blood is red and juicy."
"Excuse me? And what sort of conversation are you having with our little guest from another land?" Jean-Claude asked, just kind of appearing behind them.
Oz turned to look at him, catching him with one perfect brow arched and a little bit of a frown on his face. The guy was entirely too pretty for anyone's good. It felt like a trap.
Jason went all tensed and whirled around with a guilty smile jerking at his lips. "Oh, hey Master. Look, I'm really sorry I said that. You know me, total foot-in-mouth disease, you know?"
"Perhaps you should look into getting your disease cured," Jean-Claude admonished, then just kind of ghosted away.
Jason wiped an arm across a suddenly sweaty forehead. "Wow, that could have been a total catastrophe right there."
"What would he have done?" Oz asked, honestly curious. The vampires in this world tried to be a kinder, gentler breed, but he wasn't quite buying the hype. A convicted serial rapist would try to get the public to think he had reformed, but there was always that desire to go out and carve just one more notch in the bedpost. And a vampire was always going to want to experience the ego trip of having perfect control over someone.
"It wouldn't have been so bad," Jason said, but he didn't elaborate any further. Which kind of gave Oz the impression that even if it wasn't so bad, it was still plenty bad.
He highly doubted that there would ever be a world where he would see a vampire as being his best buddy. It just wasn't ever going to happen; though Angel was still a somewhat cool cat, just a little socially inept.
"Well, what do you want to try first?" he asked, gesturing at the spread of expensive delicacies.
Oz looked at him for a moment longer, knowing that he should probably want to say something, but not knowing what. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and decided to let it go for now. "Those little crab cake things look kind of good to me," he said.
Jason looked relieved that he wasn't going to be grilled about what his "master" did to him, and instead led the way closer to the table. "I don't know. I think those little mini-quiche things looks pretty damn good."
"We might have to taste test everything here to find out what's good or not," Oz suggested, quirking a lip.
Jason grabbed his arm and pulled him through the crowd of people massing around the buffet table. If there was one thing to be said about a group of lycanthropes, it was that they could really desecrate a buffet.
Oz glanced down at the hand on his arm, but didn't even think about pulling away. There was something nice about the others' touch, something he hadn't known in a long time.
It should have probably been something for him to think about, the fact that while he didn't really welcome the touch of most people, he was completely comfortable with Jason being there. But it just felt so completely natural that it wasn't even a consideration.
They made their way through the buffet, the only deterrent being the tiny size of the plates.
"This stuff's really delicious," Jason said, poking his fork in a mysterious cake-like something. And it really was incredible tasting, even if neither of them knew what was in it.
Sitting next to Jason in a shadowed corner, watching the vampires watch everyone else eat was oddly relaxing. At least it meant that Oz didn't have to be at the center of things, wondering what was going to happen next.
"Ooh, what's this now?" Jason murmured, his eyes brightening.
"What do you mean?" Oz said, trying to see what had caught the others' attention.
It was Asher and some other man--woman?--gorgeous person wearing an expensive looking pantsuit outfit. They were standing not too far away, but didn't seemed to have noticed Oz and Jason in their little nook.
"Who's that?" Oz asked. The man--woman?--had a slender build and dark hair cut in a short, chic style. His makeup was dramatic and eye-catching, but really not all that feminine. There was just something about him that screamed "Beware, predator!" And Oz had never been one to ignore his instincts when it came to danger.
"That's Narcissus, the Oba of the werehyenas. He's bad news, but him and Asher had a thing awhile ago."
"A thing?" Oz asked, raising an eyebrow.
Jason nudged his shoulder. "Yeah, a thing. Really, though, Asher only had anything to do with him because Anita got herself in a situation and Asher had to bail her out. Still, I think Narcissus had some real feelings going for him. Warped feelings, but real, only Asher won't have anything to do with him."
"Until now," Oz said.
"Until now," Jason nodded. "Sh!"
Oz kind of wanted to walk away, since it was wrong to be listening in to other peoples' private conversation, but then it would just be a case of him revealing that he was there in the first place. Plus, Jason looked very sort of interested and probably wouldn't take too kindly to missing out on what was happening.
Oz felt a little as though he was caught in a never ending episode of Passions. Everything was all just witches, werewolves, and vampires--it was like "As the Coffin Turns" crossed with "Lycanthropy Now," very dramatic, but without quite the amount of probable world-endage he was used to.
He stilled, then glanced down at where Jason's hand had grasped his arm. They were sitting pretty close together, their plates on their laps and their knees brushing. Jason was leaned so far forward that his shirt was in real danger of getting red velvet cake on it. His thin face was intent, his blue eyes bright and curious as he tried to catch every word between Narcissus and Asher.
Oz thought that maybe he should have been kind of upset that Jason was such a gossip monger, but there was just something about the expression on his face that kept Oz from being able to say anything or leave. He was like a kid with a new toy, or like Willow back when she'd been his bright-eyed girl.
He flinched a little at the thought of Willow, still a sore subject even after all these years. It was just that she'd been the center of his everything and the only reason he had ever left her was the fear that he would hurt her. He had always meant to go back to her, make amends, be happy the way they used to be.
But looking at Jason's face in the shadowed corner of the large room, he felt some of the same wonder he used to feel around Willow. That strange sense where he could only ask himself over and over why someone so great would ever want to be around him, and then just had to be grateful that she was there.
Jason made him feel special in a way he hadn't for a very long time.
So he would stay quiet while they eavesdropped on Narcissus and Asher, though he barely even knew Asher. And in the meantime, he would be able to look his fill at Jason's face, tracing every line and gentle curve with his eyes.
* * *
"What do you want?" Asher demanded, crossing his arms.
Narcissus' eyes were like razor blades trying to peel his skin off so he could get at the meat underneath. "I just wanted to spend some time with you. What's so wrong about that?"
"I do not want to have anything to do with you, n'est pas?"
"But I want to have things to do with you," Narcissus' said, quirking his lip. "You are a very hard man to get a hold of, did you know that? And Jean-Claude--what a meany--he refused to arrange a meeting between us. He said that you didn't want to see me."
"It is true," Asher said. "Our agreement is over. You have nothing I want."
Narcissus snorted delicately. "Please. Wasn't it good for you? We can have such fun together."
Narcissus interrupted, "Jean-Claude doesn't give you the attention you deserve. You and I could have such a wonderful time. No strings attached, I promise."
Asher looked at him for a long moment, trying to read any deeper meaning. But Narcissus was just as cruelly amused at life as he usually was. He thought that he was probably making a gigantic mistake, but he had been so lonely for so long that any bit of something was to be grabbed onto and never let go. "Oui. No strings attached."
Narcissus smiled, a surprisingly delighted smile. He reached out and grasped Asher's arm, leading him off back toward the party so they could plan their own private afterward.
* * *
"Did they just agree to what I think they did?" Oz whispered.
Jason turned his head to give him a shit-eating grin. "Yep."
"Heavy." He felt a little weirded out by what they'd heard. Sure, Willow becoming a lesbian had been a real shock to the system, and he'd seen quite a few things in his travels, but there had just been something so real about the Asher/Narcissus thing.
"Are you totally weirded out?" Jason asked.
"I'm a little bit, but not as much as I think I should be, and that's what weirds me out the most."
"Cool," Jason said. And then, before Oz knew what he was going to do, he leaned across both their plates to steal another kiss. "Now you have a reason to be weirded out."
Oz looked at him thoughtfully. That first kiss earlier in the evening had completely thrown him for a loop, but this second one felt realer and had the added benefit of Jason not running away right after. "Strangely, I'm not."
Jason smiled at him.
* * *
She hadn't really wanted to come, was a little weary after three raisings, though they had barely tapped her necromantic powers at all. It was just that she wasn't feeling really welcome in her own life at the moment and she wasn't sure she wanted to deal with any people at all. Except she'd said she was going to show up tonight, so here she was.
She smoothed a hand down her hip, making sure the lines of her black silk dress were straight. She pretty much just wanted to get in, eat a little, and get the fuck out. She was in no mood to deal with anyone right now, especially not a bunch of people that had turned against her and were talking about her behind her back.
Anita sighed and ran her eyes over the crowd real quick, just to see who all was there.
She was surprised to see Asher talking to Narcissus next to a table covered in champagne glasses. They were standing just a little too close together and there was an air of intimacy about them that made her want to grit her teeth. There was no way they were supposed to be that comfortable with each other. Part of her wanted to stomp over there and jerk them away from each other, to tell Narcissus to leave what was hers alone. But that was pretty stupid.
She forced herself to keep looking over the crowd, then had to squint to make sure it was really them. Yep, there was Jean-Claude standing there, looking almost too-perfect to be real, and lounging against the wall next to him was Richard. They should have been at each others' throats, but instead they were just talking to each other quietly, looking completely comfortable and as though they'd never had a problem. It was pretty surprising.
She stepped further into the room, planning on going over there and asking them what was going on, why they weren't going at each other like cats and dogs. Then she saw Micah talking to Rafael.
There wasn't really anything wrong with them talking to each other, they had always pretty much gotten along. Except that she'd caught them glancing at her, and when she's tried to meet their eyes, they'd both quickly looked away. There was something definitely suspicious about it.
She thought about what Buffy had told her. There were definite signs that people were talking about her, tearing her apart with their words when she wasn't there to defend herself. Muttering behind her back like a bunch of cowards.
She caught Micah glancing at her again and tried to catch his eye, giving him a nice smile. But he didn't smile back, just looked at her for a long moment before turning back to talk to Rafael.
She felt as though she'd been smacked in the face.
It had been a long time since she wasn't the center of attention, and even though she's always said that she hated it, she hated being ignored even more.
That's when her eye fell on Oz, cuddled up all cozy in a shadowy corner of the room with Jason. They were talking to each other and nibbling on whatever they had on their little plates of food. They looked intimate and friendly and...
And more than anything she just wanted to smack that self-contented look right off Oz's face. He was the reason why everyone had suddenly turned against her. The minute he'd shown up, her life had gone to hell.
Everything was his fault and there was no way she was going to ignore him anymore.
* * *
He couldn't really explain it, but right in the middle of listening to Jason babble about his job, he had this sudden sense as if someone had just poured a glass of ice water down his back. All his Sunnydale senses were screaming that something bad was going to happen.
He quickly glanced around the room, trying to see what was giving him the wiggins.
"Oh shit!" Jason hissed just when he caught sight of Anita stalking toward them, a dark look on her face.
The way she moved was pure rage, only her high heels keeping her from stomping hard against the floor. Her dress swirled around her legs, swish, swish, fabric slicing through the air. Even the way her black curls bounced screamed "I'm gonna fuck you up!" There was definitely a very aggressive air around her.
"I think we're about to experience some trouble," he said.
"Ya think?" Jason said, his body going tense.
* * *
She couldn't have really explained why she was suddenly so angry, but there it was. Usually she was able to push down most of her rage, just squeeze it out until it was largely gone, but that wasn't really working for her right now.
All she knew was that she wanted to wipe that smug look off of Oz's face.
She stalked over to their little corner, watching them scramble to their feet in preparedness for facing her. And the way Jason stepped in front of him... just made her angrier. As though she was some kind of ogre other people had to be protected from.
She had started to think that she might be one of the monsters, but she didn't want to be treated like one. It wasn't like she was out there constantly causing trouble and just doing whatever she wanted. She was a human woman, dammit, and people better start remembering it. Or she would show them all just how much of a monster she could act like.
Before she could start yelling at Oz, Jason raised his hands in a placating gesture that honestly had the opposite effect with her. "Please Anita, I don't know why you don't like Oz, but he's a really nice guy and..."
"Shut up!" She snarled, glaring at him with the full weight of an angry alpha behind her. There was something oddly delightful about making him whimper and squirm, about bringing the dominance so heavy against him that he had to drop to his knees, then kicking it up a notch and making him squirm on his belly, whining and begging, supplicating himself before like he was supposed to. It sent a surge of dark satisfaction through her, as though things were finally getting back to the way they were supposed to be.
"Stop it!" Oz suddenly yelled, stepping forward. "Leave him alone!"
She looked at him and it was like the rage just flowered through her, turning everything brittle and bright. She felt her skin flushing with fever while her lips went white and pulled as tight as her eyes had gone.
She didn't have anywhere else to send her overpowering rage, so just this once she decided to embrace it fully. And even though she would never admit it to anyone but herself, there was something satisfying about just letting it all go.
She didn't possess her anger. Her anger possessed her. And she just didn't fucking care.
* * *
One minute everything was fine, then Anita showed up and it all went to hell.
He had opened his mouth to tell Jason that he didn't need his protection, that he could handle her himself, but by then it was already too late. Anita walked on the scene, Jason stepped in front of him, and then... it had felt like a wave of heat and pressure, this kind of dark presence that had made his beast howl in his breast with defiance. It was the kind of thing that made him want to stand up taller, to show that he was stronger and better and no bitch was going to bring him down. He had faced tougher than Anita and he'd never backed down.
But Jason... He had kind of realized that Jason wasn't the strongest of guys. He was funny, and sweet, and charming, and sometimes he could be so smarmy it was kind of annoying, yet amusing at the same time. But Jason was definitely not the alpha type.
So when Anita came on full-press alpha... It was the saddest thing ever to see Jason pressed down on the floor, whining and crying, sounding more animal than man, unable to even form words at this point. It should have been pathetic, but really all it did was make Oz want to charge forward and protect his friend.
He had always been pretty mild, but this kind of shit couldn't help but to make him MAD.
"What did he do to you that you have to humiliate him in front of all these people? What is your problem?" Oz demanded. The little power play had made the rest of the party goers sit up and take notice, and the fact that they'd attracted an audience just made things worse. Jason was in full submission mode on the floor, and all these people were just going to watch Anita abuse him? It was disgusting and infuriating.
"You. You are my problem," Anita snarled, her lips drawing back from her teeth unattractively. She practically blazed with psychotic rage, her dark eyes glittering maliciously. "Ever since you showed up everything's been all different and I can hear people whispering about me behind my back. Whisper, whisper. All the time judging and whispering and it's ALL YOUR FAULT."
Oz just looked at her for a moment, honestly surprised. This was why she was so angry, because people were talking about her? Or rather, she THOUGHT people were talking about her? That was why she was being such a bitch to him and being cruel to Jason?
He cocked his head at her, his face showing his confusion. "I have no idea what you're talking about."