"I was going to show you I care, like I often forget to do..." -- "Wrong" Big Fish Ensemble
The phone rang again and the slightly graying man picked it up without looking up from his notepad. "Oz's Occult," he said, his voice slightly rough. "Occult Chemistry? The original, the revised, or the recent reprint? Yep, we have all three." He grabbed another notepad from the desk. "Okay," he said, scribbling on the pad. "What else? Esoteric Christianity? The Annie Besant book? We have the reprint. No, the first edition was sold two weeks ago. Sorry. Anything else? Shi'ur Qomah?" He chuckled. "We have a very large Kabbalah section." He scribbled some more on the paper. "Okay, pick-up or mail? We'll have it ready by closing time tonight. Yes, 6 pm. Thank you." He hung up the phone and looked up, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. "Jeanne?" he called, peering into the other room.
A young girl, no younger than fifteen and no older than twenty, poked her head out from behind a bookshelf, several feet above the ground. "Yeah?" she said, wobbling slightly on the ladder.
Oz ripped the order off the notepad and held it up. "Get this order together, lock up the back rooms, then meet me in the gym for training."
Jeanne jumped off the ladder with all the elegance and grace years of Slayer training could give and, in a few short bounds, had the note in her hand. "'Kay," she said, already jumping back onto the ladder.
Oz resumed his work, a large book sitting in front of him. "I constrain you...." he muttered to himself, scribbling the translation onto a notepad. "...in a most comely shape...." He paused for a second. "Huh." He shrugged and continued translating. "Hain, Lon, Hilay, Saboth...." He heard the bell on the door tinkle and looked up. Looked like another window-shopper. He returned to his translation. "...Ischyros, Emmanuel, Agla..." He lost himself in the translation for a few minutes, lost in the sheer academic pleasure of obscure texts making perfect sense.
He heard a slight cough in front of him. He glanced up, and dropped his pencil in shock. "Oh..." he whispered. He blinked. "Willow?" he then said, his voice filled with stunned disbelief.
The woman in front of him looked different. Maybe it was the graying temples (much like his own), or the faintest sign of crow's feet at the edges of the eyes (and he had to admit that those were there too), but when she smiled, it was that sweet smile he remembered from twenty years ago. That smile that had taken his heart back then. "Hello, Oz," she said quietly. "It's been a long time."
"Twenty years." Oz grinned. "You look...you look great."
Willow smiled. "You too. You look so....dignified. It's hard to believe you used to drive a zebra-striped van and change your hair color on a weekly basis."
Oz shrugged, looking down. "Twenty years will do that to you." He looked back up at her. "How's Xander?"
"Oh, he's fine. Fine, fine," she said, her voice a little too quick. "How about you? Did you...?" She left the question unvoiced.
Oz smiled lightly and shook his head. "No, no. There's only room for one woman in my life, and she's more than enough for anyone." He saw Jeanne peeking out from the doorway. "Jeanne, c'mon in." He gestured towards Willow. "Jeanne, this is Willow Harris, a..." He paused for a second. "A friend from back when I was in high school. Willow, this is Jeanne Duchamp, the current Slayer." Jeanne gasped slightly, and Oz chuckled. "Don't worry, dear. She's known about Slayers and Watchers and vampires longer than I have."
Willow nodded, smiling. "I was best friends with Buffy," she said.
"Ohh....You're a Slayerette! Mr. Giles told me about you!"
Willow turned back to Oz, raising an eyebrow. "Giles is still here?" she asked.
Oz nodded. "For a man in his late sixties, he can still fight with the best of them. He takes over for me during the full moon." He turned back towards Jeanne. "Find those books?" When Jeanne held up one, he shook his head. "Better not have been lingering in the tantric section again. Go on...find the rest..." He gently pushed her back towards the bookshelves.
Willow watched the Slayer leave. "How is she?"
Oz shrugged again. "Definitely one of the better I've seen," he said. "But I think I'm biased."
"And her parents?" Willow asked.
"You're looking at him. Legally adopted from birth." Oz beamed. "It's been...it's been fun." He looked at Willow critically. "What about you and Xander? Any children?"
Willow smiled tenderly. "Two. Nicky and Michelle. Nicky's fifteen and Michelle's thirteen."
Willow looked down at the ground. "Yeah....I guess....I..." Her voice broke off. She sighed heavily and then looked up at Oz. "Xander and I are getting a divorce."
Oz blinked a few times in surprise. "Why?"
Willow sniffled slightly. "He....he's not happy. He says that I haven't changed in the past twenty years..." Her voice broke. "I...I thought that was what we wanted....things to be the way they were before....Before all this..." She gestured at the occult books around them. "Happened..." She looked up at Oz. "It felt so right...But it went wrong....just like before...."
Oz looked down. "Yeah...." He removed his glasses and sighed, then looked up at her. "Willow, why are you here?"
"I....I wanted to see you again. I haven't seen you, or Giles, or Sunnydale even, in fifteen years. I wanted to remember what it was like....When it was Buffy, and Xander, and Cordelia, and me..." Her voice grew quiet. "And you..."
Oz closed his eyes for a moment in disbelief. "What it was like? What it was like to not know if you were going to be dead the next day? What it was like to be chased by vampires? What it was like to not have a normal life?" He shook his head. "You left all that behind, Willow. You left that behind when you and Xander took off for college and never bothered to look back."
"But...I..." She looked at him, tears in her eyes. "I'm back..."
Oz looked down at his books, a sick feeling coming to his stomach. "I know...And it's just like that night in January twenty years ago, when you caught Xander and Cordelia kissing in the library and decided that was the perfect time to be interested in me." He looked up at her, his eyes cool. "I've grown past that, Willow. Have you?"
Willow stared at him in shock, then ran out of the store, the little bell on the door banging against the wood. Oz gazed at the closed front door for a minute, then resumed his work.