Chapter Six: Willow

On the road we are to Sunnydale! I did not think this was how I'd spend my Sunday. Oz stayed over last night, but we literally just went to sleep together, rather than "sleeping together." I think Ana Lucia kind of spoiled our mood. Plus, Oz has never been pushy about these things. He's always let it happen naturally and when it felt right, which is one thing I like about him. But it sure was nice to wake up to French press coffee and him making both of us eggs and toast.

We're headed south in my red VW beetle. I don't drive it much during the week, since public transit in San Francisco is good, but it's perfect for days like today, when we head south. It'll be a long day, but hopefully, Oz will make it seem shorter. Plus, he'll get to see some of the awesome water views and hills of San Francisco as we leave the city.

"We'll definitely have to stop at In-N-Out Burger as we leave the city," I tell Oz. "Unless, of course, you've become a vegetarian."

"Nope," he replies. "And that sounds like a plan. I haven't had In-N-Out Burger in forever. The things that happen when one becomes a Cali expatriate."

I nod. "You know, I just can't stop thinking about your friend Charlie. I hope he's doing better now. I can relate to what he went through, with my magic addiction and all." I know Oz wasn't really around when I was going through all of that, but we've stayed in touch over the years just enough to where he knew about it.

"I think he's doing better. We're still talking occasionally. Some days are better than others, but I think rehab really helped him, and music gives him a good outlet. I'm not sure he'll be able to stay in Seattle, though, since a lot of his friends there gave him easy access to drugs." Oz stops, ponders for a minute. "We'll just have to see. Claire's keeping an eye on him, so hopefully it'll be fine."

"I'd really like to meet them. They sound like really nice people." I just hope Claire isn't super pretty, but I won't reveal that to Oz just yet. I don't want to seem too jealous, even though I am. I can't help wondering, is he over her? And am I really over Ana Lucia? It has only been about a month since Ana Lucia and I split, and I feel terrible that she knows I'm already moving on to someone else. But there's no way I could have anticipated that my ex-boyfriend from high school and early college would show up in San Francisco. Sometimes, life just happens in ways we don't expect it to.

I'm loving this time with Oz. I just hope we're not only going back to each other because we're both on the rebound. I've read articles about this, and some say that finding one relationship to replace another can actually be a healthy thing. But we need to be able to talk about losing Ana Lucia and Claire, and the others that came before them. Otherwise, we can't really trust each other. Sometimes, I feel jealous of those people who just stayed with the person who they met as a teenager. There's less baggage that way, less heartache. Then again, if Oz and I hadn't gone our separate ways, both of us never would have had the experiences we had, which make us who we are.

"Uh…Willow?" Oh gosh, Oz has been talking, and I totally haven't been listening.

"Oh gosh, Oz, I'm so sorry. My mind was…somewhere else."

He laughs. "That's cool. Just don't get us lost on the way to the Hellmouth."

"I'll do my best."

We both laugh. "I was just saying maybe Charlie and Claire could come down and visit, sometime, when the dust settles a bit and I'm more moved into my place."

"I'd like that," I say, and I mean it.

"So, what were you thinking about?" He looks like he really does want to know, not like he's only asking to be polite.

"Just about the past. I'm happy that I had what I had with Tara, in spite of what happened. But there are times when I wish, you know, we hadn't ever split apart."

Oz's face suddenly gets grim, seriously. "I know. I realize it was my fault. I'm sorry, I really feel bad about what I did to you in college."

I shake my head. "It's okay, really. We were both in a different place then, and the werewolf in you took over. I understand that now, even though I was devastated when you left. And in a weird way, I think I needed to go through what I did with Tara, and Kennedy, and well…other experiences." I don't think I need to elaborate more than that. "Plus, if we had stayed together, I don't think I could have helped Buffy as much as I did with the new slayers. So in a weird way, I think we needed that time apart, you know? It was harder that way, but I think it was worth it in the long run."

Oz nods. "I get it. I can't say I regret going to Tibet, even though it didn't work out with Bayarmaa and me. It taught me how to both embrace and control the wolf, you know? And I think I've been more centered since I got back.

I nod. "I think we should just take it slow, you know? I mean, after all, we both just got out of intense relationships with people who got exported to a mystical island on another dimension. That probably took a toll on us both."

Oz laughs, "God, that's so weird. I can't believe we both know people who were on that bizarre plane crash. I'm glad they came out of that whole situation okay, though, even though they have their scars from it. And maybe, you know, maybe we needed to be in their lives because we've been through some weird shit too, and we would understand in a way some people wouldn't…. I don't know. I've never been a Bible thumper, or a super religious kind of person. But sometimes, I feel like the universe…."

"Takes care of us," I finish his sentence. "Honestly, I haven't always felt that way. Things were dark after Tara died, really dark. That's the worst I've ever felt in my life. And that teasing I went through as a kid, that was awful too."

"I'm sorry." He holds my arm, stroking it gently to try to comfort me.

I pause. "It's okay, though, I got to high school, and it got better. Buffy came, and she was willing to stick up for me and to help me make new friends. In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to go over and talk to you, that first day you asked me out." I looked over at him and smile.

"That makes sense," he nods. "How is she doing, by the way? I haven't talked to her in a long time."

"She's great! She's working for the police department in Los Angeles as a detective and dating a really nice guy who's a half demon."

"That sounds like her," Oz says. "There was this TV show that Bayarmaa and I used to watch with this blond girl detective who kind of reminded me of Buffy, only she wasn't a slayer. The name is escaping me…."

"Veronica Mars! Yes, I love that show." It's getting to where he can say his ex-wife's name without me cringing. She is, after all, all the way back in Asia, or so it appears.

"Yeah cool. And what happened to the rest of the Scooby Gang?"

"Giles moved back to London. He got a little scared after Angel, well, went all Angelus again and almost killed him. So he's back in England now. I might try to go and visit him again at some point."

"Good guy, Mr. Giles. And what about ole Xander? I'm so sorry all of that happened with his eye."

"Yeah, that was horrible." Even to this day, I don't like to remember that incident. "He moved to New York, and he's actually doing quite well with his stand up comedy. And he gets an acting gig from time to time. He's another one I want to visit, even though the flights to the East Coast aren't cheap."

"Good for him," Oz says. "I'm glad he finally found his way."

"I always knew he would." I can't help laughing. "I can't believe I used to have a crush on him. He's one of my best friends, and I love him dearly, and I literally owe my life and the fate of the world to him. But I just don't feel that way about him anymore."

"Well, that's a relief." Oz does look relieved. A lot has happened since high school, but I know he'll never forget when I kissed Xander while we were dating. Fortunately, we both seem to be able to let water flow under the bridge.

Thankfully, the exit sign to In-N-Out Burger looms ahead. "All right, time to fuel up on gas and fuel before we head on to the Hellmouth!"