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  • Istanbul

    'Istanbul'

    written for one of the BW callenges- and I won! A Willow/Oz reunion.
    ___________________________

    It's not Istanbul, but it never is.

    The travelling thing. The on the road all the time thing. The ?I don't remember my last shower and I don't know when I'm going to have another one' thing. The ?I miss my own bed' thing.

    And then I remember that the last time my bed was my own was back in high school and after that it was a dorm bed, and Tara's bed and a bed with Kennedy and it all just kind of falls away and the beds all melt together and I'm sure the Tara bed was special too. I know it was. But after all these years, Tara and bed thoughts together in my brain scramble me up and I think: high school bed- and Oz. And Oz is a safe thought, and out of everyone, it's Oz who is with me.

    Xander tried driving to all fifty states one time, but apart from that, it was only ever Oz who went and saw the world. The rest of us just stayed in Sunnydale. Funny how the demons seemed safer than the rest of the world. Better the demon you know, even when the demon you know wears the face of all too many friends.

    So I think of Oz a lot, these days. Safe thoughts, red hair green eyes thoughts. Ironic, since for Oz, last time I saw him, Willow thoughts wolfed him out. But he is my safe place, even if I'm not his. And that was years ago, maybe he doesn't wolf out so much anymore. Maybe he doesn't think of me so much anymore either.

    The travelling thing. Starting with Brazil, Kennedy and I had it all figured out. She had, anyway. We were going to find the slayers there, use Brazil as a base for the rest of South America. She'd dreamt of the first slayer: Africa was on the list too. For me, I figured each place was a new place to try out new magics, each place a geographical and emotional step closer to Istanbul. Get back to the beginning maybe. Find a place in which I could remember, recreate the high of the first time I floated a pencil. Without the black eyed girl aspect, of course. Rediscover my innocence, so to speak. I just wanted to be Willow, I guess. Seemed like there must be a way to do that. In her own way, Kennedy was sweet and innocent. The perfect partner for such a journey.

    Some journeys are meant to be undertaken alone, I guess.

    I've gotten better at the answering part. People want to know what the trip was like. "Oh," I say, "Oh, it was just wonderful." They want to know if I missed America, in the time I was away. I've learnt that the right answer is to say yes. They don't really care if I found home in Brazil, Africa or Russia. They used to want to know whether Kennedy came back with me too. I was really good at answering that one. Some of the time.

    I remember a conversation I had with Buffy, one time. Back in the beginning, just as we all realized what we were entangled in. "..I walked in there, it... it wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs?" At that moment, the world had changed or my world had, anyway. And I changed with it. For that I still hope to be forgiven.

    Today. Unlike most of the places I go, today is a little special. No-one really knows I'm here. If I'm in America I usually just fly straight to LAX, get Faith to pick me up. Funny, how she's the easiest one to talk to these days. She hasn't changed, I think that's the thing. A lot less murderous than when she was seventeen, granted. That aside, pretty much the same. "Red," she'll say, looking me up and down, and smiling almost manically. Almost sweetly. And for that, I trust her because I figure if she hasn't changed her M.O. in fifteen years, she's probably reliable.

    In fifteen years, I've never been back to the hellmouth. I mean, I've been to hellmouths over the years but never the hellmouth, ?til now. Fifteen years on, the reports Dawn gave me are accurate. The hole has been filled in, construction is in full swing. I smile, thinking of Xander. But it's not for him I'm here. Not that I know why I am here, as such, just... it felt like time.

    Oz thoughts, Xander thoughts, Buffy and Dawn thoughts. Still not any Tara thoughts, I try to squeeze them out, I'm walking along the new main street and I know from beneath me it can devour and I know that she is buried here, somewhere, beneath this rubble and somewhere here lies she who deserves more than to be twisted below ruins of a town visited by hell itself. Anya thoughts and who would have thought I would miss that girl demon? But she's another one who I will mourn until my dying day and the Oz thoughts are safer since nearly twenty years on I can jump from bed to bed and dream at night of the day we will meet in Istanbul.

    It all looks different, almost like I'm in a dream now, but I know where I am. Not far from the Bronze, feels like a dance and a drink. The air is thick with the memory of blood and I wonder how the builders can stand to be here, for whom they are rebuilding the town- are we taking back the night, or welcoming home the demons?

    Today, I came back alone. I flew into LAX from Melbourne this time, followed my heart there, for a five minute fix of who knew what, who knew who, then followed my conscience back here, tiring quickly of the millionth fling I had engaged in. Flew in from Melbourne, hired a car and drove here. Driving while jetlagged? but I don't seem to get jetlagged anymore. My body doesn't know what time it is, and I'm never in any place long enough to acclimatize. So I stay awake without a problem, I'll sleep when I get the chance. Any given place, a few months at the most, seems like it's never long enough. I'm a frequent flier with about six different airlines. The Melbourne to L.A. route seems long, if you think about being in a flying box for sixteen hours straight, but given how I've travelled over the last few years, it's a walk in the park.

    I am still walking and I'm close to the old school grounds now. Oz and I met at school. Hellmouth or no, it wasn't all bad, what came from there. Snyder aside, the memories have settled into a misty watercolour and I can imagine that somewhere here I used to laugh with Buffy, tease with Cordelia. Part of me knows, of course, that it was Cordy who was nasty to me more often than not, but the ?we hate Cordelia club' is clouded in rose too. The long researchy nights in the library make me feel like high school was one long slumber party and? I wish I could be seventeen again and crawl into Oz's arms. And I think to myself, it's not Istanbul yet. And I have to smile, because of all the rainbow's I chase, this one is the one the most real to me. I'll never get back what I had with Kennedy, and I'll never get back what I had with Tara. I'll get so little out of what I create with the many new lovers in the years to come, but one day, one day I'll have Istanbul. Because of all of them, lovers and friends, it is Oz who is with me.

    ***

    It's not Istanbul, but it never is.

    The real life thing. The ?I have to go to work and then cook dinner for my family thing'. The ?Will anything good be on T.V. tonight?' thing. The ?Do I have time to post on my favourite forums after dinner?' thing.

    After all the travelling I did, the running which I tried to disguise as travelling, it strikes me as kind of ironic that when I finally stopped running it was to find myself just a few hours drive from the Hellmouth which had been my hometown. Halfway between Sunnydale and Los Angeles, I'm close enough to the wreckage that was home to have heard it's being rebuilt and I'm close enough to L.A. to know that Faith and a few others are vigilanting things there.

    I always thought I'd be a bigger part of it. Thought of myself as quite the vigilante, being a Scooby had always made a certain kind of sense, figuring out the vamp thing was quite the opposite of being an eye opener or a revelation, it was just, life made more sense when it was explained like that. And amongst it all there was Willow, and in all my life, I'd loved nothing like I loved her.

    And then the travelling and real life thing all caught up and wound itself together. She's blonde and blue eyed and as un-Willow, as un-Veruca as anybody could be. We met, it was like apple pie and Rebecca made so much unsense to me that it somehow had to work. She had never left America, only occasionally left California. And I had to ask myself, why was she so damn appealing? To me, who had been a sort of monster for so many years already by then. Maybe that was why. Too long on the edges of society and middle America, Californian girls, the Boston twang- suddenly, all mysterious and new.

    It was like, I made it to thirty and the idea of having a stainless steel kitchen with cornflakes and a toaster was simply too alluring for words. Words. I never used to talk so much, seemed like there wasn't so much to say. These days, the explaining and trying and confusing and understanding that Rebecca and I go through seem to require a lot of words. And sometimes I think of Willow and her babbling and I remember that in spite of how she could talk like crazy if she was nervous we never really needed words to communicate. Seems like another world.

    It's like she's with me. Which is confusing because I go to bed with Rebecca, lie next to Rebecca, wake up beside Rebecca, dream of Rebecca, yet every so often I find myself thinking about the red haired girl I once knew.

    I remember saying goodbye, all the while thinking I was saying hello after a time away. "Coz you were such a spaz" she laughed at me, all ironic and sarcastic and yeah, I was calm and chilled and laconic, but I was also pretty lost and my world changed right around the time I met her and still she wanted to date me as long as there was "no biting" and she held me steady and kept me upright. I mean, I fell down anyways, but who doesn't? After that, though, I lost her.

    I get chills when I dream of Veruca. Sometimes I dream of her and I wake in a cold sweat and I think- you lost her. You lost Willow then. Then I remember that I am lying beside my wife and I roll over and hold her and she doesn't stir because she doesn't have these nightmares to haunt her waking hours, let alone her dreams.

    I think of them all. It's Xander I talk to these days. Rarely, mind you, but he's on the net, and we email. I got wind of Wesley's death, went to the funeral and met up with Xander, reopened that door. So I hear about Buffy's latest exploits, I hear quite a bit about Dawn and I know that Faith is in L.A. I hear very little about Willow. Sounds like she's travelling around a lot, a bit of a roving watcher, checking up on various slayers the world over. I imagine that she loves travelling the way I used to love travelling and I hope the appeal of waking in a different city every month hasn't lost it's appeal.

    It's late at night now, today has been a long day for Rebecca and she's in bed already. Our first child is due in the next month and she gets tired easily. In my mind I can picture our little girl, blonde and smiling like her mother. Rebecca has picked out a name for a boy, she's sure we're having a boy. I'm equally sure we're having a girl.

    And now the world I live in is neatly packaged in a three bedroom home, nursery already painted in pastels, kitchen stocked with several different kinds of tea and decaf coffee, bench tops wiped clean and shiny jars with pasta and rice and sauces, some of them homemade. The magazine rack is overflowing with housekeeping magazines and the occasional Hollywood gossip rag.

    However, there is a small shelf at the back of the closet in the master bedroom, and an assortment of herbs, spices and charms are there, taken daily, alongside meditation, to keep the wolf at bay. There is a stake there too, because, in spite of my brick veneer life, I know the score. You can't be too careful. I know what's out there waiting. I've seen it. I've been it. And I know, Xander told me years ago, I know that Willow has been it too.

    We grew up on a hellmouth. So she may be travelling, keeping herself a step ahead of her demons, and I may be spending my time in my safe house playing pretend, but at the end of the day, we have been changed irrevocably by what we've seen and what we've become. And I know, one day we'll find an Istanbul. Because of in spite of what I have and love now, of everyone, it's Willow who is with me.

    ***

    It's not Istanbul, but it never is. For the last few years, each of them has returned intermittently to the hellmouth. It's not the demonic hub it was in it's heyday, but it the new housing estate certainly has some kind of pizzazz that the new residents don't understand, can't put their fingers on.

    They've both stood in the housing estate, realizing full well they are standing upon the mouth of hell, 'Boca del Infierno', more than that, standing where the library used to be, back to the beginning.

    Today is a special day. They're both in town. It's not planned, they're not in contact. Indeed, Oz hasn't heard even from Xander for months, and Willow didn't tell Faith she was coming to Sunnydale. Just took off. Told Faith she was meeting a friend for coffee. Why she had to lie she wasn't sure, it was just? easier. Oz, on the other hand, had told Rebecca exactly what he was doing, even if he didn't know why. Just woke up, on a whim decided to jump in the car and head to Sunnydale.

    Deciding to get a coffee, Willow pulls up at the coffee house. It's not the Espresso Pump, but she's glad that there aren't any Starbucks in town either. There's one at the mall, but not here in main street. The coffee house is an eclectic mix of colours and located close to where the magic box was. Today Willow feels safe. Oz too, after the drive, stops in for coffee. He's at the counter, ordering and turns around, deciding where to sit. And there she is.

    It's not Istanbul, but it never is, and he feels his heart skip a beat, and he smiles. Taking the paper cup of hot caffeine, he walks over to her and sits down.

    "Hey."

    Willow looks up, surprised that someone is taking a seat in the chair opposite. And sees who it is. Breaks into a smile. "Hey." She's not surprised anymore. "Oz!" She can feel that she'll start babbling, wants to curb the impulse, and succeeds, for a second at least. "But what are you doing here? Where do you live? Not here, right? I mean, you could live here, but I think you live someplace that's else, Xander told me you were in California, and I mean, sometimes I'm in California, but a lot of the time not in California, I mean, I was in Cleveland for a while until last week."

    "Yeah, I live a few hours from here. Between here and L.A." He pauses, there's a lot that could be said, but probably some of it can be left unsaid too. "How was Cleveland?"

    She waves her hand, dismisses it. "Hellmouthy. You know, kinda apocalypsy. There's a team of slayers there, but they needed a bit of a witchy hand."

    "Oh yeah? I guess you were the woman for the job then."

    "Yeah, I was." Not wanting to talk about Cleveland, Willow wrinkles her nose. "Oz," she hesitates. "Oz, I miss you sometimes. Is that crazy? I mean, it was so long ago, but sometimes it feels so real."

    Oz takes a deep breath. "I miss you too, Willow. Some part of me always misses you. I mean, we have our own lives now, you're a super witch, and I'm- Will, I'm a father. And a husband."

    "Wow." She's impressed. Motherhood has been the furthest thing from her mind. "Does he look like you?"

    "She. She looks like her Mom." He goes to fish a photo from his wallet, and hesitates. Does Willow understand the changes he has undergone since they were last together? "Wanna see a picture?"

    "Do I!" Willow is surprised to find she's not at all envious of Oz's wife, the mother of his daughter. More, she's just curious, fascinated by the twists their lives have taken. "She's a cutie."

    It all makes a kind of sense, the running and hiding they've both done over the years. Losing friends, so many, from such a young age and so often. Losing themselves in the process. Finding each other thing is a nice aside, a nice holiday from the everyday, a way to feel safe in the world where they both know nothing makes sense and the demons keep on coming. Sitting there, there is a calm between the two of them as they look at the photo of Oz's daughter- she'll grow up in a world so different to theirs- and in spite of the bustle of the caf?, the near radiant energy emanating from the ground beneath them, for a moment, they're free.

    "I felt, for a long time, that some part of me would always be waiting for you Oz." Would he understand? "But I'm not waiting anymore, you know. My life, it's crazy, and I'm crazy in it, but it's okay." She takes a deep breath. "I've lost so many people, so it seems crazy, but even though I think of you, and miss you? well, it's not Istanbul, is it?"

    Oz looks at her sadly. "It never is."

    "All the same," she adds, smiling again, "We survived growing up on the hellmouth Oz- and that's something."

    "We did." Oz smiles too. He understands. Because, as different as their lives were, Willow was with him. Istanbul or not.
    Veverka
    Detective
    Last edited by Veverka; 06-07-07, 07:43 AM.

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