What are the odds?

By Norwalker

Pairings: Briefly Buffy/ Willow(in memory) and potentially Willow/ Oz

Timeline: Oh, say…45 years after " Chosen"

Summary: inspired by that little line in " New Moon Rising", in the last scene. Where Willow tells Oz that when she's an old, blue haired lady, she'll turn the corner in Istanbul and there he'll be…

Rating : PG

Disclaimer: The characters in this story belong to Joss Whedon, Fox and Mutant Enemy. Not writing for profit; only fun.

-1-

If she could just get used to the heat, she'd be ok.

Willow Rosenberg looks out her hotel room onto the streets of Istanbul. It was her first vacation in longer than she can remember.

The last few years had been tough on her. Buffy Summers, her long time friend, companion and lover had died just a few months ago. Not from demons, or vampires, or any of the other monsters they had expected. No, she'd retired from being a slayer decades ago. No, it was some tiny little cell in her body that went mad, Creating others of it's kind, finally destroying Buffy from the inside.

Cancer had claimed her, after a long fight with remissions, hopes and hopes dashed. Never a heavy woman, at the end Buffy had shrunk to a mere 90 pounds. Everything seemed to cause her pain; even the slightest movement was an act of will at the end.

Their last night together still weighed heavily on Willow's mind. Buffy lay in her bed; she hardly left it towards the end. Gaunt, sallow, her hair in a fan on the pillow, Buffy looked up at her. Despite the pain and the drugs to ease the pain, her gaze still held its intensity. Her eyes were clear, and her mind sharp. It took all she had, but she reached up and touched Willow's cheek.

" Hey," She said, her voice low and a little raspy. " This has been hell on you."

" Oh yeah, and it's been a picnic for you, huh, Buff?" Willow said, her eyes starting to mist up. She didn't to be able to not mist up these days. She knew that any time could be their last.

" Hey, now none of that stuff, " Buffy forced a smile. " I'm getting better, I know it, Will. No little cell's gonna take out the Slayer!" She coughed, " Damn, guess I should've stopped smoking sooner…"

'" You never smoked a cigarette in your… oh… joke… ha, ha, Buffy." But Willow did chuckle.

" Will, lets get serious here, " Buffy said, " I'm probably not gonna get better this time…"

" Buffy, don't say that!" Willow protested. She couldn't bear the thought of no Buffy… ever again.

" Will, we've been together too long to sugar coat it, " Buffy paused to catch her breath. " God, what's it been? Over 40 years…"

" 44 years, 8 months, 17 days , 22 hours and …" Willow looked at her watch,"… 33 minutes. But who's counting?"

Buffy started to chuckle, then coughed some more, then chuckled. " God, you never fail to make me laugh…" She shakes her head. And grimaces. " Thing is, Willow, I don't… I don't want you grieving over me…"

" Dammit, Buffy Summers, you're not going to die on me, so stop this talk!" Willow's face went in its resolve mode. " you can see my resolve face. Don't mess with me!"

" I love you, Will, " Buffy suddenly let her emotions come to the surface, " god, I'm so gonna miss you."

" Buffy, stop it!"

" Will, please. I want… I need to know you're going to be ok. I need you to promise that when I'm gone, it's not gonna be like Tara. I don't want you going … I mean, I don't want you doing that to yourself again."

" Buff, I haven't done the black arts in decades. Not going to go all veiny and destroy the world. Promise" Willow raised her hand in the Girl Scout salute. " Anyway, this is stupid talk, because you're not going anywhere!"

Buffy gripped Willow's hand. " Just promise me, Willow. If you love me, you'll promise me!"

" Buffy, I just did…"

" That isn't what I meant, and you know it. I mean, I don't want you sitting around, grieving for me when I've gone. I need to know that you'll go on, live… and if it happens, love again. You're too young to give up on life."

" For God's sake, Buffy, I'm nearly 70 years old. Not exactly looking for another…." Willow finally couldn't deny the truth to herself, and started to tear up. " God, Buffy, I don't want to talk about this!"

" But if it happens… it can happen, Will. God you're still gorgeous!"

" Yeah, and you're blind as a bat, you old… bat!" Willow couldn't help smiling through her tears.

" If it happens… be open to it. Promise?"

" Buffy… stop …."

" Promise me, please." Buffy's eyes reflected her urgency.

Willow sees the look in Buffy's eyes, and her heart swells with love. It's so her. She's dying, in massive pain… and thinks of me and what I'm gonna go through. I so want to punch her silly… and then kiss her till my lips hurt. Willow felt the burning in her eyes, and tried to hold back the tears. Damn you, why do you have to do this? We weren't supposed to do this… we were gonna live forever, you and me…

" Ok, Buffy, " Willow's voice was soft, and a little scratchy, " I promise. But not gonna happen for years."

" Yeah, I know…" Buffy played along, " … no one messes with Willow's resolve face. Not even the PtB's dare mess with you." She lets out a sigh. " Anyway, I'm too darned stubborn to die."

" Darn tootin' you are, mister! " Willow agreed, and laughed. Being around Buffy never allowed Willow much time for tears. Buffy wouldn't stand for it; never had.

" Will, baby. I'm feeling kind of bushed. Think I'm gonna take a little nap. We'll talk some more later, ok? Really got so much to tell you…"

What can you tell me after 44 years Buffy? What could you tell me about you that I don't already know? Willow thought to herself.

" Ok honey, you just rest now. We'll talk later." Willow stood up.

" You betcha, " Buffy said, as her eyes closed.

But the never got to talk again. Buffy slipped away that night, 6 months ago, just before midnight. She didn't cry out, or make a noise. She'd made so large a noise in her life; it was ironic that her death was so quiet.

Despite her promise, Willow was inconsolable for months after her death. Her life seemed to implode around her. She barely seemed to function; each day was like the last, no light, no dark, just this gray that wouldn't clear. Her heart seemed to slow to a near stop. Breathing became a chore. She wished for nothing but lie down and not wake up again.

She knew this was wrong. She'd made a promise to Buffy, to go on, to live and not die.

So, tell me how do I do it, Buff? I mean, everything everyday just reminds me of you. How do I just turn that off?

Often her friends mistook her sweetness for being softness. But inside Willow there is a core of strength, and she finally picked herself up, and got on with it.

She closed the house, and decided to travel. She figured that a change of scene might help. Or maybe, she just needed to get away.

So, here she was, in a small hotel in Istanbul, looking out the window, complaining of the heat.

Trying to figure out what to do with herself. And her life.

-2-

She's walking down the bazaar, stopping here and there to dicker and haggle, picking up gifts for people back home. She found some joy in discovering unique little things to send back to the people at home. In her travels, at each place she stopped, she would make sure to find something to fit the personality of the receiver.

As she walks down the dusty street of the bazaar, the only thing she wishes is that Buffy were here with her. They had planned on making this trip together. First London, then Paris, then Rome, then Istanbul, and finishing up in Cairo. They had wanted to revisit the places they'd traveled when young, see how things had changed, and how things had remained the same. But time always seemed to be short; they had just finalized plans when the lump was discovered.

So now, Willow made that journey alone. She didn't feel alone, however. Even if Buffy wasn't with her in person, still she was with her in her heart. She pushed herself, sometimes beyond her normal limits, because she wanted to see more. She felt by her seeing something special, Buffy would see it to. Through her. It wasn't easy on her. At 70, she wasn't near young anymore. But she was healthy, and spry, and she kept on. It was important to her.

The heat is getting to her, and the dust is getting to be a bit more than she can handle. She turns the corner on the bazaar, knowing of a little hole –in –the- wall café she'd discovered on second day in Istanbul. Right now she just wanted to sit down in the cool café, get out of the sun, and sip on a cool drink. Catch her breath a little before she soldiered on.

She is just sitting down with her drink when a voice called out from behind her.

" Willow? Willow Rosenberg?"

Setting her glass down, she turns and smiles. A man, her age or just a year or two older, is standing behind her, looking at her intently. She feels a little uncomfortable.

At first, she doesn't recognize him. It takes a few seconds, but maybe it's the smile, or the way he holds himself, a little loose but with an inner intensity. But she really thinks it's the eyes that tip it.

" Oz? Is that you?" She asks, her smile widening. " Oh, my god! OZ!"

Before she even can think she's hugging him. For a brief second she feels 18 again.

The last time she saw Oz, it was in his van. He'd just learned about her and Tara, and he realized that he had to leave; that he couldn't control the wolf like he thought he could. She remembers what she said to him that night. About someday, when she was a blue haired old lady, she'd turn the corner in Istanbul, and there he'd be.

What were the odds of it actually happening? 1 in million? Billon? Who cared? She's here, and he's here… and right now, that's enough.

For a minute, she just hugs him, feeling an intensity of emotion that she hasn't felt in a long time. She breaks the hug, and holding him at arm's length, looks him over.

" Well, Oz, this has just got to go on the weirdness scale at like, 1000 or so. I never…" She shakes her head, still a little amazed.

" Me, either, " He says, in his usual laconic manner.

" Oh, goodness. Where are my manners, " Willow laughs, feeling a little…flushed?" Sit, please, with me. Here. " She giggles, " Geeze. Now, I'm beginning to sound like you." She laughs.

"I kind of doubt that, " Oz says as he sits across from Willow." The Willow I remember could go on for minutes on something that most would seconds to say."

" You're teasing me now!" Willow cries out.

" Well, yes, I guess I am, " Oz grins. " But that doesn't mean I didn't love listening to you."

" Oz, my god, it's been… oh, my, over 50 years! What … how… when…" Ok, Will. Get it together. Organize your thoughts, girl. " I never heard from you after you left Sunnydale. What happened to you? What did you do? Are you married? Kids? What?"

For the next few hours(to Willow it seemed like minutes) they caught up with each other's lives. Willow told him of how Tara died, and how she went all veiny and evil and tried to destroy the world. It got a rare surprised look from Oz. Then she told about the First, and how she and Buffy changed the rules for the Slayers, activating the potentials world-wide. About her affair with Kennedy, and how it ended; and how Buffy was there to pick up the pieces. And More.

" So, it finally came down to you and Buffy?" Oz asks, " I guess that makes sense. You two were always close."

" It was kind of silly of us, actually, I guess. I mean, we looked everywhere else for love except for that one place that was right in front of our noses." She smiles sadly, " I guess it took me awhile to realize that after Tara was gone, the only other person I could give my hear to was Buffy."

" So, is Buffy here with you?" Oz asks, looking around, " I wouldn't mind seeing her again…" it's then that he sees her expression. " What?"

" Buffy died 6 months ago, Oz." Willow, who thought she had cried out all her tears, feels the tears welling up again." She had cancer… " She can't help it. She puts her head down on the table.

She feels a gentle hand caress her head, and she looks up, seeing the tear streaming down Oz's cheeks. She can't remember ever seeing Oz cry.

" I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you…"

" No, Will, I'm sorry. I didn't know, " Oz takes her hand. " I…I'm so sorry …"

She smiles. It's sad, and tears are still falling, but somehow she feels a little less pain. Still, she decides to change the subject.

" So, Oz, tell me about you."

Oz tells her that after leaving Sunnydale, he spent most of the next decade wandering around the globe. He wanted more than anything to find a way to truly control the beast that lived inside him. It was at the end of this time that he met his wife, Tzan Si, in Burma. He almost didn't hook up with her.

"… I was still afraid, you see. I still wasn't sure I had the beast in control." Oz pauses, " I hadn't told her about my… affliction. After what happened in Sunnydale, I was afraid to fall in love again…"

" Oz, I'm so sorry…"

" It wasn't your fault, Will. I just … was afraid I'd hurt her, like I almost hurt you and Tara."

" So what happened?" Willow is caught up in it now.

" She wouldn't let me go, " Oz smiles.

Willow notices his smile has changed. It's not the tight, knowing, cool smile he always affected before. Now it's open, and genuine, showing a depth of feeling.

" I told her about my curse, " Oz continues, " told her I had some control on it, but it still could come out under extreme emotions." He looks at her, an amazed expression on his face. " She wasn't afraid. Maybe it had to do with her culture, or her beliefs, but she didn't fear the beast. I feared it, but she didn't. Isn't that odd?"

" I don't think so, " Willow looks at him raptly.

"Thing was, she encouraged me to bring out those emotions, Will. Always, I'd put them away, detached myself from them. Kept them bottled inside. I think maybe that's why, even with the stuff I'd learned to control the beast, I failed. I still had this swirling river of emotions deep inside me. It's kind of strange now, to think back on it. I've… we were together for so long, that I can't even really remember that ' old ' Oz. Well, I do… but it's like a different person. Do you know what I mean?"

Willow nods. Then it hits her. " Were together? You're not now?"

" Some years back, we were in Jerusalem. I don't even remember why. But I know she wanted to go there. Anyway, we were planning on going out to Tel Aviv. She got on the bus, then realized she forgot her purse at the hotel. She asked me to go back and get it. She promised she'd get the driver to wait for me. I turned to go, got about 10 yards away… and then…" Oz stops.

Willow can see this is painful for him. He's choked up, and the he's looking down at the table.

" … and then… there was an explosion. A suicide bomber picked that day, and that bus… " Oz trails off. " I should've been there… on the bus… I would've died… if she hadn't forgotten her purse…"

" Oh, god, Oz… I'm so sorry…" Willow takes his hands in hers, squeezing them sympathetically. " So horrible…"

" I lost it for awhile, Will, " Oz says, looking up. His eyes are dull, a little listless. She can feel the pain; knows the pain all to well.

" I understand that, Oz…" She begins.

" No, I mean control, Will. I lost it. I wanted revenge…on those… things that killed her. I let the wolf out…"

" Oz? OZ… " Willow stares at him. " You mean… you became the wolf? Deliberately?"

Oz nods, looking down. " Not proud of it, Willow, believe me. But I couldn't feel anything but hurt and anger and hate. I couldn't think of anything but getting the men that… that…" He stops, gulping air. " I tracked them down. One by one. I tracked them down… and let the wolf take revenge…"

Willow just stares at him. She feels his hurt, but can't help feeling appalled, nonetheless.

" I spent two years tracking them and taking revenge." Oz's voice sounds distant. " Thing is, Willow? It didn't help. Doing what I did? Didn't make the pain go away, or even easier. All I felt after … was dirty."

Willow stands up.

For a moment, Oz is afraid she's going to leave. He looks up at her.

" I understand if you don't want to stay."

But she walks over, and wraps her arms around him, hugging him. She leans her chin on his shoulder.

" I understand, Oz, I really do. I nearly destroyed everybody and everything, in my grief and pain over Tara. I know how it is to work from a place of rage and pain. I know. How can I judge you?" She looks deep in his eyes. " I suspect you don't sleep well these days."

" No, I really don't. " Oz sits, seeming to be looking at something only he can see. " I can't forget the explosion, how it looked after. Blood everywhere, and bits of people… and things… it just…"

" Shhh… don't, Oz, don't do this to yourself."

" Worse, much worse, is the images of the men I killed. The blood …and how I savaged them… I remember it all."

She holds him for awhile longer, then goes and sits across from him again. She doesn't want to leave him alone, feeling like this. She knows how horrible it is, how much it hurts. How it eats at you until you feel nothing is left.

" So now what?" Willow breaks the silence.

" Actually, I'm on my way to Tibet. I think I want to spend my remaining years in the monastery where I stayed. Try to atone for my life, and my actions…"

Something has been at the back of her mind ever since she met Oz a few hours back. Something that finally seems to break through.

" I think that'd be wrong, Oz." Willow says simply.

He looks at her questioningly.

" I don't think our meeting here, like this, was an accident, Oz. I guess maybe I've hung out with Buffy too long, but I really believe in fate, and destiny. I don't think meeting you today was just chance… I really believe it was meant to be…"

" Willow…"

" Please, let me finish, Oz." She takes his hand. " I know I've been grieving over Buffy. Until a month or so ago, I stopped living. I really believed my life was over. But something inside pushed me on this trip. Buffy and I were supposed to do this together… were going to, until she got sick. I'm here, now, because I needed to do this…"

" I don't know what brought you to Istanbul at this time… but it was something. I think we were supposed to meet, because Oz, I really believe this is our time. Like I said half a century ago, we'll meet again, and this will be our time."

" Willow, I just don't know, " Oz looks pensive." I don't know if I can … if I can ever…"

" Oz, I'm not asking for love. God, I just lost the woman I loved for over 40 years. That's not what either of us needs right now. But I think we do need each other. We both know what the pain is. We both know how hard it is to go on. I think we just need to help each other, try to heal each other. I don't think you'll find that at the monastery, Oz. And I'm pretty sure I'm not going to find it alone…"

" I just don't know, Will, " Oz stands up, clearly uncomfortable, " I can't answer you … not right now."

" I get it, " Willow says. She pulls a pad of paper and pen from her purse. She writes something, then gives Oz the note.

" That's where I'm staying, and my room number. Call me. I'll be in Istanbul a few more days. " She stands up. " No pressure, Oz. I'm just offering …I don't know….friendship, a shoulder… whatever you need."

Oz looks at the paper, then back up at Willow. His face is unreadable.

" I'm sorry, I just don't think this is going to happen. Too much has happened…and… too much time has passed. I'm sorry Will, I really am." He crumples the paper. Not seeing anywhere to toss it, he pushes it in his pocket. " Goodbye, Willow. I'm glad I saw you again." He turns and starts to leave. He stops, and turns back. " I never forgot you, you know? I never stopped thinking about you." He turns again, and is gone.

Willow tears up.

" Me either, Oz. Me either."

Picking up her purse, she leaves the café.

-3-

Three days later, Willow is packing her bag for Cairo.

She feels out of sorts. She's felt that way since her encounter with Oz three days ago. The heat feels worse, everything feels off, somehow. All she knows is that she needs to leave Istanbul as soon as possible.

Going to the phone, she calls the front desk for a cab. She returns to the suitcase, and finishes packing. She's working on autopilot. Her mind is a million miles away.

I was so sure he'd call. I know I'm right. This just didn't happen. Things.. coincidences just don't happen. Or maybe they do. Maybe it just was an accident, running into him like that. I don't know… I guess I won't ever know…

Her thoughts are interrupted by a soft knock at her door. Grabbing her suitcase, she goes to the door to meet the cabman.

Standing in the doorway, hands clasped in front of him, is Oz. Willow, surprised, nearly drops her case. She doesn't move.

" Hi. I understand there's a position open for friend? I understand the requirements include having been where you've been, and understanding. I think I might be able to do that. I might even be able to listen . I'll try. Oh, I've got to tell you, I'll probably make a lot of mistakes. Like the one I did three days ago. Almost blow the whole deal. But I'm hoping that you could overlook that? Maybe give me a chance at it, anyway? I'll work hard, really try to…"

He's interrupted when Willow drops her case and takes him in a hug. For a few minutes, neither says anything. Then Willow breaks the hug and steps back a step.

" I dunno. I've had other candidates. I'm kind of skeptical, but I guess we'll just have to see if it works out."

Stepping back, a faint smile on her face, she invites him in.

Fin.