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Chapter Five: Oz, Seattle, Music, and the Hellmouth

Whoa, that was intense. Ana Lucia seems like a very intense woman. But then again, pretty much every one in Willow's life that I have had the pleasure, or the discomfort in this case, of meeting has an intense personality. That's just the way she lives her life. That's one of the many things I love about her.

"Sorry about that, " she seems embarrassed and averts her eyes.

"No, it's fine. I mean, you don't get to be our age without having some baggage from past relationships. I don't have an unmarred past either." I squeeze her arm as a sign of affirmation. "But, why didn't you ever tell her about me?" Yeah, I definitely didn't hide the hurt in my voice there. But it's okay; it's Willow. I'm sure she understands. I don't have to put up a macho façade around her. Maybe she didn't know how her girlfriend would feel about her dating a man in the past, even though she clearly did too. Who knows.

"Well, honestly, it was mainly because I felt like the story about what happened to Tara was enough for her to swallow. That was hard enough, without also explaining that you left freshman year of college because you transformed into a werewolf every full moon and had trouble controlling your werewolf tendencies." I can tell she doesn't want to talk much more about Tara right now, and I know not to press it. This isn't the right moment.

"Yeah, I can understand why that would be hard to tell someone, although the story about the plane crash and their time on the island is pretty fucking weird, from what I know of it, at least. After going through that, she just might have believed you. And wow, it's really weird that she was on the plane with Claire and Charlie. It seems almost serendipitous that we have that common connection."

"It is pretty weird. I'm not really sure what to make of it." She pauses, clearly wondering if she should continue. "So, what exactly happened between you and Claire, if I may ask." She gestures toward the couch, and we both plop down appropriately. It's the kind of story that's better told sitting down.

Ah Claire, who went from being the most important part of my life to the bane of my existence in a short period of time. She's why I stayed in Seattle for almost two and a half years, and she's also why I had to leave.

I sigh, "well, after I left Tibet and not long after I moved to Seattle, I met Charlie and Claire. Charlie and I played music together, and Claire was his girlfriend at the time. Over time, we all got to know each other and became friends. Then Charlie's drug habit got the better of him, and he was still having some PTSD from what all happened to them on that weird island in the middle of…nowhere. Claire was too, but she was handling it better than he was. So Charlie went to rehab for a while, and he told Claire, to be fair, that she wanted her to visit, him but that she was free to date other people while he was gone because he didn't know how long he'd be in rehab. And he asked me to look after her while she was gone."

Willow nods, in a very kind and non-judgmental way. I was afraid it would sound weird, but compared to some of what she experienced while continuing to work with Buffy and the new slayers, it probably doesn't sound like much of a soap opera.

"So I did, as promised. There were other girls who I dated, but no one who was super special. She and I were spending a lot of time together, since we had mutual friends and all. I was lonely because I was fairly new in town, and she was lonely because she missed Charlie. And then, it just kind of happened."

"Did Charlie ever find out about it?"

"We told him, but not until he was back and fully recovered. He wasn't angry at us, but he was surprised, and he was hurt. Fortunately, though, he forgave us both. He knew he was out of sorts and not very emotionally available for a while. But it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that Claire was going back to Charlie and I was out of the picture." I can hear the bitterness in my voice, but I should have known. Getting stranded on a magic island in another dimension together is history I just couldn't compete with. "They just seemed so right for each other, and they had been through a lot together. I knew I needed to back up, but it was weird, since we played music together and hung out in the same circles. Plus, I really was happy for them, but…I just couldn't bear seeing them together all the time."

"I can understand that," chimes in Willow's voice, sounding sympathetic. Even the sound of it comforts me.

"So I left town, and well, here I am."

"I'm glad," says Willow, smiling.

In spite of how things just went down tonight, I am too.

"Me too. So, I think we should rain check on cooking tonight. I'm a little tired for that. Is there a good Chinese take-out place nearby?"

Willow grins ear to ear, "I think we should order Sprig. It's really good farm fresh food, and it comes to your door in about twenty minutes. Welcome to San Francisco!"

"Well, I just might have to stay here for a while," I wink at her. "I sure as hell don't plan to return to Sunnydale anytime soon! I still can't believe what happened to that place, by the way. I think I'd have to see it to believe it." Just thinking about it gives me the shivers, and I'm pretty sure it would even if I had my fur coat on. I'm just glad most people were able to get out before the worst happened.

"You know, I haven't been back since it all went down. I felt like it would be too hard, to emotional." Willow clicks the computer a few times, ordering our food. "So…this might seem weird, and I know we've unloaded a lot on each other tonight. But would you want to go back there tomorrow with me? If there's anyone I can face it with, it's you." Her eyes look pleading, almost as if she's begging me for something.

"Well, I never have been able to say no to that face, and plus, I think I do need to see it to believe it. So it sounds like our first Sunday adventure together will be…the Hellmouth."

We both laugh at the irony.

"Hopefully, though, it will be the first of many," says Willow.

It seems as though we're on the same page. It's nice, after so much being unsure with Claire for so long, and the few other women I've met since my divorce who come even close to Willow.

I stretch across the couch, letting my head rest in her lap. "So, wanna watch a movie? I never did see that Can't Hardly Wait movie that was big when we were in high school, and somehow, it seems appropriate tonight."

Willow laughs. "Yeah, I can't hardly wait to see the hole in the ground that used to be out hometown."

"Well, my dear, I can't hardly wait to spend a day with you," I say, pulling her into a full embrace. And that's true, but a part of me wonders how I'm going to react to the huge hole in the ground. But if there's anyone I can face it with, it's Willow. In fact, I think we both need to face it, together.