Thanks: Big thanks to Jaime for beta-reading and helping me find a title! and platinumchan For finding a few errors I missed!

Dedication: For Kelsey, For talking me into this.

Feedback: Please? I haven't written Buffy fanfic since I was 14, and that was all really crappy.

Notes: The title comes from Fate, by Four Star Mary (aka Oz's band!) . I'm really hesitant about this, so feedback would be ever so awesome. I have a hard time writing in first person POV, and first-person present-tense is the worst combination ever, but I tried!

"She'll be waiting in Istanbul."

-Istanbul (Not Constantinople); They Might be Giants

-- -- --

It was perfect, for a while at least. We'd won. Defeated the big evil. Given the bad guy the boot to its ass. Even with all the loss, it was the happy ending. The fade to black for us all. The credits would roll and the theme music would play. What happens after the big battle doesn't matter; all that matters is that the evil was vanquished. That's the way it's supposed to go, isn't it?

"Life's not a song" Someone said once. Someone who's gone; one of the many. The story ended but the pieces of our hearts remained scattered. While the audience files out of the theatre, we're left with the mess our victory has caused us.

It's funny, really. In those first few moments afterwards, while we stood on the edge of what was left of our homes, I believed in happy endings. The part of me that remained a naïve little girl continued to believe that we would all walk away from the crater with ourselves intact. We'd all hold hands and continue our lives together, never alone.

What a silly dream that turned out to be.

Xander was the first to head off alone. His grief was too raw, even for the company of his friends. We hadn't been in Los Angeles a week when he left. He told us, it wasn't like he disappeared into the night, but that didn't make it any easier. I get the occasional email from him, with the bare minimum of details about the shell that is his life. One day, when he's ready, he'll stop wandering aimlessly through life and begin living again. It's just not time for that yet.

He and Anya were a funny pair. Even after he shattered her heart, even after she betrayed him, they weren't lost. As long as they were still in each others lives they had a sense of direction we often lack. They'd become lovers again, and while they never talked about it, they were both happier for it.

Now she's gone, and Xander lost his purpose. He doesn't know where he's supposed to be because he can no longer be content with just being near her. So, he wanders, on the proverbial road trip through life.

Even after he left though, I still clung to the belief that we'd all stay together.

More people began leaving, then. Various potentials who wanted to go back to their old lives. Faith left soon, too. The constant struggle to evade the law had finally stretched her too thin. Unlike Xander, she did disappear into the night without a trace. I don't doubt that she's off causing mayhem somewhere, but she, too, is without a destination. Faith, like the rest, is lost.

The group continued to dwindle as we left Los Angeles. We saw the world over the next few months. Most of the United States, a great deal of eastern Canada. I took pictures the whole time. Dawn and Buffy at the CN Tower in Toronto, Giles in Vermont, Kennedy and I at Niagara Falls. So many pictures.

Kennedy left soon after Halifax, as we were preparing to go to Europe. I wish I could say we had been falling in love, but that's just not how it happened. She packed her things and left, talking about how she needed to find her place in the world as a slayer. For all her outward displays of confidence Kennedy was as lost as everyone else.

Surprisingly, Buffy held out much longer than I would've expected. Then again, she never was one to do what people thought she would. We'd been in Italy, helping Giles find another one of the new slayers. She never once spoke Spike's name, and nobody else ever mentioned him. That's how it was, the unwritten rule we all adhered to.

Like Faith, Buffy slipped away into the night.

She spoke to Dawn before she left, and the younger Summers relayed words of reassurance. Buffy would be back, but right now she needed to be alone with her grief and with her heart. Now, months after it had happened, she needed to go off on her own and accept everything.

I can't blame her.

Slowly everyone filtered from the inner sanctum of Giles' new council. The only constants were Giles, Dawn and I. Looking back on the aftermath of Sunnydale, I got off pretty easily. I'd left my family's home behind years before this particular apocalypse. While I felt and grieved for everyone we lost, there was no casualty that stung me particularly. It might be a heartless thing to say, but it's fact.

In the wake of all the destruction and new beginnings we brought on when we changed the world, everyone became lost.

Everyone except for me.

Part of me has been heading in this direction for longer than I care to admit. Probably since the day I truly said goodbye at Tara's gravestone. As I wandered the world, my feet were always carrying me in this direction. It's been seven months since the destruction of Sunnydale, and twelve days since I arrived here.

I have a ritual, a routine I perform every day. Giles supplied me with funds, seems the council was rather well-off. I have a nice hotel room here, it's small and snug. Every morning when the light from the world outside filters through the window, I shower and dress and head out into the city.

I turn every corner I come across, just walking. There's no apprehension in me as I follow every twist and turn of every street. This ceaseless wandering has become the solace my soul craves.

I rarely stop, only nodding in passing to the vendors who try and get my attention. Occasionally I see something that catches my eye and purchase it. I have gifts of jewelry for Dawn, carved bookends for Giles, a skirt for Buffy, even a present for Xander. But most of the time I just walk.

Throughout these journeys I think of many things. Sometimes, I think of the women in my life. Of Cordelia, the popular girl I'd thought I hated and ended up hurting more than I'll ever understand. Of Buffy, who opened my eyes to the world and been my best friend through the hardest times we'd ever faced. Some days my thoughts drift to the brash sometimes-demon I'd never entirely liked, but still managed to make my heart ache with the strength she'd shown.

Finally, I think of Tara. The brightest point in my life, even when things were at their darkest. It's strange; thoughts of her bring nothing but smiles to my face now. I can't go on regretting or grieving her forever, she'd never want that. Instead, I go on loving her, and living the life she'd have wanted me to live. It's the very least I can do for someone who gave me so much.

Other days, my thoughts turn to the men in my life. All the way back to a boy named Jesse who I had loved like a brother, to Xander, who I spent most of my life longing to love me and who's love for me saved the world. Sometimes it's Giles, who had never stopped caring about me, even when I treated him like dirt. Occasionally my thoughts drift to others, like Angel who I'd never truly known, or Spike who I'd never given a real chance.

The faces of every man and woman I'd ever known filter through my daily musings. Except for one. As I make my way through the busy streets of Istanbul, there's one person I never think of.

-- -- --

It's nearly dusk, and today's walk has led me far from my hotel. Right now, my thoughts are with Buffy. I can't help but wonder is she's found her peace, wherever she is...

But then, I turn a corner and there he is.

His hair is black today, a little shorter than I remember it, and he's sitting on the ground, strumming softly on a guitar. My eyes rest on his hands, and I can feel the smile that's tugging at the corners of my mouth. Beautiful hands, calloused from playing the guitar, yet gentler than I'd ever dreamed. Fingernails coated in dark polish, but surprisingly slender wrists. His hands are capable of clutching tightly to a cross to keep the evil away but they are also the same hands that play truly beautiful music. I've always liked his hands.

"Hi." My voice is calm, the smile hinting on my face also creeping into the word.

He looks up from his instrument, studying me for a moment. I'm sure he knew I was there before I spoke, and there is no shock or surprise in his features. Just the gentle depths that have always brought me comfort. When he speaks, the casual observer wouldn't hear the smile in his voice, but I do. I've always been able to find the little things he keeps hidden from everybody else.

"That's what I was gonna say."

The smile that had been threatening bursts onto my face and I crouch before him, the simple familiarity of his phrase not lost on me. Setting his guitar aside, his own smile begins to show. "You still have the sweetest smile I've ever seen."

My smile grows even wider. "Thank you."

Then I'm sitting beside him, on the ground of a side street near the edges of Istanbul. Neither of us are old, and while my hair isn't blue, there's a blue scarf holding it back from my face. Idly, I can't help but wonder if that counts.

The silence stretches for a few minutes, but it's not awkward. It's a comfortable silence that comes from years of practice. When it ends, surprisingly it's Oz who speaks.

"I heard about Sunnydale."

I nod slowly. The press had fabricated lots of different theories about the mysterious disappearance of the town; I believe the leading theory was a mudslide. Something ridiculous like that, anyway.

"Wanna tell me what actually happened?"

Again, I nod. I have a story to tell, after all.

-- -- --

We spent the good part of three hours sitting on that street. Ever patient, Oz listened to everything that had happened since he left Sunnydale. I'd almost forgotten how easy it was to talk to him. The gentle pressure of his hand on my arm is easily enough to re-assure me through the tougher parts of my story.

Once I'd finished, he told me of his years. He'd seen so much of the world; it was almost hard to believe we'd both spent the bulk of our lives in southern California. Here we are now, in my hotel room in Istanbul. Lounging on my bed, just as we did the last time he'd been in Sunnydale.

Only this time there's no secrets. We've told each other everything. He knows of Tara and of Kennedy... and I know he hasn't been with a woman since he left Sunnydale. Strangely, that admission hadn't brought the guilt I'd feared it would. Just a smile and the conversation had continued.

It's past midnight now, and I'm growing weary from the day spent wandering. My head's at the foot of the bed, my feet are in his lap, being lightly massaged by those hands I love so much.

"What brought you here?" He asks, finally. I know he's been wondering since I showed up in front of him.

"I've always been headed here." It's cryptic, I know, but he understands the meaning. He's always understood me in a way no other man has.

It's funny, for all my insistence that I'm "gay now!" or whatever other ridiculous things I'd said on the topic, I don't believe in the label. I loved Tara, but that doesn't mean I don't love Oz. I don't love either of them because of their gender; I love them for who they are.

It's time to tell him so.

So, I pull my feet away and return to a sitting position. He watches me quizzically, but says nothing. Always the silent questioner, Oz was.

"A lot of things have happened since you left." It's simple, but it's true. "And I know we've both changed a lot... I guess what I'm trying to say here is: I love you. You know that though, you'd have to be blind not to. I've never stopped loving you. And my love for you is entirely different from my love for Tara, and that has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with who each of you are. But I'm losing my train of thought again. I just don't want you to think that I'm saying this because she's gone, or coming to you as a replacement or..." I sigh, I've lost track of myself, that's for sure. Blowing the hair off my face, I slump my shoulders.

"You're supposed to stop me when I do that."

"I still like it when you do that."

I cast another smile at him and then take a deep steadying breath, the familiar dialogue prompting my next words. It's now or never, isn't it? "What I'm trying to say is... I'd still... if you'd still."

He smiles, a full happy smile. Coming from him, it's the equivalent of jumping for joy. "I'd still." His voice is low, filled with the undercurrent of emotion that I'd grown to recognize over our years together. "I'd very still."

This time I don't walk away from him after that, this time there's no hesitation. The only similarity this kiss bears to our first one, all those years ago, is the promise in it. But this time it's deeper, carrying more meaning... a kiss between adults and a promise between two people who've finished searching for their place in this world.

The kiss promises forever.