Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: Pretty Much Now
Author: Ailie
Rating: G
Spoilers: New Moon Rising
Summary: An Alternate ending for "New Moon Rising."
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN.

"This thing looks pretty good, considering you drove it overseas." Willow struggled to keep the conversation light. She hated to see Oz beat himself up like this over something that wasn't his fault.

"Well, it broke down outside of Mexico, and I traded my bass to have it fixed and garaged." Oz looked at the floor. If his eyes met her's, even for an instant, he would lose his resolve. "I shouldn't have come back now ... I just thought I'd changed."

Oz's pain was written all over his face. What was to have been his greatest victory had ended in defeat. Willow tried to reassure him "You have changed. You stopped the wolf from coming out. I saw it."

Tears were forming behind his eyes, but now wasn't the time to let Willow see him cry. He needed to be strong, for both of them. "But I couldn't look at you, I mean, it turns out... the one thing that brings it out in me is you... which falls under the heading of ironic in my book."

"It was my fault. I upset you."

"Well, so we're safe then, cause you'll never do that again." Oz commented sarcastically. Willow almost smiled. This was the Oz she remembered, the one she loved. "But... you're happy?"

"I really don't know," Willow bit her lower lip. "I missed you, Oz. I wrote you so many letters... but I didn't have any place to send them, you know? I couldn't live like that. And I tried to move on, I really did. And now, poof! Here you are again. And I don't know what I'm supposed to do, or how I'm supposed to feel."

This is what Oz had been afraid of. His coming back had complicated her life, and made her suffer. "I think I better take off."

Willow's heart almost stopped. "When?"

"Pretty much now." After a moment's hesitation, Oz leaned across the gap between the seats. His arms wrapped around Willow's small frame. It felt so familiar, so right, but he knew he couldn't stay. That wouldn't be fair to Willow. Oz was so distracted by the feeling of her tears soaking through his t-shirt that he didn't hear Willow's mumbled comment. "What did you say?" He cut himself off an instant before he added the endearment "baby."

Willow pulled away from her love so she could look him in the eye. "Take me with you."

Oz was at a loss for words. "But, I don't even know where I'm gonna go."

"To Nepal. To the monks. To whoever we have to see to help you learn the control you need." Willow's eyes were bloodshot and swollen, but there was light behind them, and determination.

"Willow," he ran a gentle finger along her tear-stained cheek. "I can't. It's not safe for you to be with me."

"I know. I bring the wolf out of you. All the more reason for me to go." Oz's mouth opened to protest, but she cut him off. "How can they help you if the catalyst isn't there? Were you planning on just popping in every year or two to see if you can be around me? Do you really want me to live that way?"

This was too much. Oz could no longer hold back the floodgates behind his eyes. "Of course not. I want you to move on. To find someone who can make you happy."

"But I have. I found you. And I'm not going to lose you again." Oz knew what Willow was about to do and tried to turn away, but the feeling of her slender hand against his cheek broke the last of his resolve. With a sob, he let Willow draw him into her arms. Their lips met, the salty taste of tears mixing with their kisses. When it was over, they sat quietly, foreheads touching. Neither was willing to break this moment of pure happiness.

"So," Oz finally said quietly. "When can you be ready to go?"

"Pretty much now," she replied with a smile.