DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story are the property Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and FOX.
SPOILERS: Everything up to "The Gift"
The young man stood at the grave paying his respect.
"I'm sorry. I wish I could tell you this in person, and it's too late now. I know you were mad at me when I left. Not just for hurting her, but not for coming to you for help. They always come to you, Xander and Willow. I used to think they were too dependent on you. But I should have asked for your help. Of course, I was ashamed of what I'd done. I found it more difficult to face Willow than when I thought I'd killed that boy. But the truth is I find it hard to rely on others. I don't know how to ask for help anymore. When I would ask for something. Mom would always say 'Danny, can't you get it yourself. Danny don't be a baby. Danny, real men don't cry. Danny, can't you do something for yourself.'
"I got so sick of being Danny who could never do anything right, that when Devon suggested I needed a cool nickname, I jumped at the chance. Oz could be all the things Danny couldn't. Cool. Self-Reliant. A rock. An island. But I never wanted to go totally hard. And then I saw her face. Did I just go from Art Garfunkel to the Monkee?. Anyway, I knew Willow was my salvation, that she would save me from total isolation.
"And I blew it. Veruca awakened things in me that I didn't want to face. But I never really wanted her . At the time, I thought I locked Veruca up with me to keep her from hurting anyone. But the truth is I needed to unleash the beast, and I thought maybe Veruca would sate those desires. But it didn't work. The Wolf didn't really want Veruca either. When given a choice, he made it. Buffy, if you came just a little late, Willow wouldn't have been dead or seriously harmed. But she would have had my mark, and we'd be together now. Even that witch could not have broken our bond. But I didn't want that for her. That's why I had to leave. I knew if I stayed, I would succumb to temptation. All it would take is one passionate hickey, I even could pretend it was an accident that I broke the skin. And I knew Willow would enjoy being a she-wolf. That's what frightens me the most. I've spent my life building walls around myself, but Willow's spent her life trying to shatter them. Everybody forgot how much Willow liked Faith when she first came to town. I think part of Willow has always wanted that Wild, No Restraint philosophy. She was drawn to it and afraid of it at the same time. That's what always worried me about her witchcraft, that she would get in over her head. "
"Do you know how long I've been waiting for you to talk to me, Oz. To tell me these things. Why is it someone has to die before you open up to them! " A startled Oz turned around to face a familiar redhead.
END PART 1
Oz drank in the sight of Willow. She looked different than the last time he saw her. Her hair was longer, and was now a reddish brown, closer to Willow's natural color. Willow was wearing what looked like a hooded cloak of American Indian design. And the scent was heavenly. She was wearing some sort of organic fragrance made up of vanilla beans, rose hips, and assorted spices.. But it was what he didn't smell that pleased him the most. "Willow, what are you doing here? Xander told me you were still in L.A. and that Tara had gone to join you."
"Tara?" said Willow almost as if she never heard the name. "Oh yeah,. Tara. Well I'm back." Willow marched to the grave, her grief obvious. She traced the letters with her hand. "She saved the world a lot? Not very grammatical."
"Probably costs less. I was told you picked it out."
"Oh? Well, I was probably very grief-stricken at the time. I can't believe she's gone. I should have .. I should have done more."
"From what I hear, you more than pulled your weight."
"Oh, that's good to know. Oz, it's getting dark."
"On it. Got stakes and crosses."
"That's not the point, Oz. You should know better. Tonight's the night before the full moon. We have to get you inside quick."
"Willow, you don't know? Do you? I've gotten control."
"You have? You've beaten the wolf?"
"Sort of? I got to avoid getting too excited."
"You mean like sex?"
"No, negative emotions like anger and fear. Kinda like the Hulk."
Willow jumped into his arms. "Oz, I'm so glad. It's been hell without you. I managed to carry on, but there hasn't been anyone else. You do believe me, don't you."
"I want to."
"Is there anyone else in your lif?."
"Oz, what are you doing?
"I can see that. Why?"
"I want make sure this isn't a dream."
"Believe me, I feel the same way but in a dream Buffy wouldn't be dead. Could you hold me, Oz."
"I won't let go." Oz wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but he didn't particularly care.
"Bloody hell! What in Blue Blazes is going on?"
"Spike!" exclaimed Willow. "What is he doing here?"
END PART 2
"I bloody don't believe it! You're using the Slayer's grave to cheat on your girlfriend."
"You have a girlfriend!" Willow exclaimed jumping out of Oz's arms.
"No, Willow, I don't." Oz assured her.
Spike cackled. "You know what I meant, Red. This is too much.! Anyway, let me do what I came here for."
"You still have that chip in your head, right?" Willow asked.
"Yes, I still have that sodding chip in my head."
"Well, you're not going to desecrate her grave. Just because you couldn't kill her yourself!" said Willow crossing her arms defiantly.
"I am not going to desecrate her bloomin' grave. I brought her flowers. I'm not the one turning her grave into a bloody make-out point." Spike laid some hand-picked flowers on Buffy's grave.
Willow seemed shocked, "Don't tell me you're all broken up about Buffy's death! You've always wanted to kill her!. Is that why you're upset, because you didn't get the chance to kill her yourself?"
Spike was struck by this. "You don't know me, Red. You don't know me at all. I ought to blow this stupid town once and for all! But I made her a promise, and I failed her. There's no excuse! If I had been man enough to kill that demon, she'd still be alive. I failed her!" Spike could not control his tears as he flailed about wildly.
"Don't tell me Someone gave you a soul?"
Spike looked for a second as if he had heard the world's stupidest idea. Then something occurred to him. "Why yes., Red, you did."
"I did? Oh yeah, right. I wasn't sure it would work."
"You realize," Spike said in a more cultured voice than Willow and Oz were used to. "You brutually ripped my poor soul from its heavenly rest and now I have to deal with the trauma of having the blood of thousands on my hands."
"Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"That's all right , good chap. We each have our cross to bear. Now let's get to the Shop, the Nibblet would like to see you."
"You know, Buffy's sister, Dawn."
"Buffy doesn't, didn't have a sister."
"I just can't put anything past you, Red. Can I?" Willow did not like the wry look in Spike's eyes. "Seriously, Giles is going to want to see you."
"So soon?" Willow added nervously. "But I just got back?"
"The man wants to see you, says it important. The fact that you're here is what he'd call a 'fortuitous coincidence'. Oh is Blondie with you? "
"Blondie? You mean Amy?"
"Why would I call a rat Blondie? I mean your," Spike interrupted himself "your friend, Tara."
"Oh, um Tara. Yeah, she's been a real pal through this crisis."
"She's been more than that, I'd say," said Spike suggestively.
:"What do you mean by that?" It suddenly hit here. "Ewww, Vampires have such dirty minds. Look two women can be close without being that close. And the whole 'witchcraft makes you a lesbian' theory is pure Fundamentalist propaganda crap."
"So, you're saying there's nothing between you and Tara."
"No Spike. Nothing like that. Look, Spike I have nothing against gay people. I was raised to be a tolerant person. But you have to be born gay. When you're gay, you basically know at age 6 or 7. If I was gay, I wouldn't have spent half my life chasing Xander."
"Sounds logical, Red. This has been an interesting conversation. Now let's go to the shop."
"The bleeding magic shop, of course."
"Oh no, don't tell me you want to try casting a love spell on Drusilla, again."
Spike gave a Willow a stern look. "No, I told you Giles wants to see you."
"Oh and he wants to meet me at the magic shop?".
"Xander told me all about how Giles bought the Magic Box," Oz added in.
"Oh! And that was a really great idea! Giles really needed something to do. I'll bet it makes a better headquarters than Giles house. Whatever happened to …" She cut herself off.
"What happened to who?" asked Spike.
"Never mind. The Magic Box is still on the Corner of Main and Maple, right?"
"No, Red, Giles packed up and moved while you were in L. A. without telling you."
"God, I've forgotten how sarcastic you can be. Well, no sense waiting around for the dead to rise. Let's head to the shop."
"Ladies first!" said Spike wearing a wicked smile.
'OK," and Willow started heading for the shop.
Spike gripped Oz's arm. "A word with you, Wolfboy," said Spike softly."
"I don't want to let Willow out of my sight. "
"Probably not a bad idea. Look, I know what you're going through. There was a time when I'd do anything if Drusilla would take me back, so I don't blame you. But surely, you realize that's not Willow."
"A lot of strange things going on here." Oz seemed to be commenting on Spike's new attitude as well as Willow's behavior. "But you're wrong. I don't know the how and why, yet. But that's the real Willow!"
END PART 3