Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: A Part Of It
Author: Lily
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Post New Moon Rising - future fic
Summary: A few years later in NY...
Disclaimer: Willow and Oz are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and Sandollar Productions. I, most unfortunately, have nothing to do with BtVS except having a complete love for the show. The plot of this story, however, does belong to me.
Author's Note: This is my attempt to get W/O back, because I found myself incapable of forgetting NMR. Besides, I always wanted to write a fic set in NY. Represent! <--you'll have to forgive my gushing over NY for a paragraph or two. I am a strong believer that my hometown is super. The Farmer's Market in Union Square is basically this big green market that happens a few times a week, where farmers/fishermen/bakers/etc from upstate and New Jersey come and sell their stuff. It's really cool.
Hope for everyone who had their heart stomped on by the monkey-crack smoker and is now a broken, hollow mockery of the human condition.
Okay. A semi-abnormal of dedication...   
Shannon and Joy: super beta'ers, even though I guess I didn't give you much to work with. Sorry!
    Tara/Trin: Your the best and you know it! Thanks for doing all the unofficial beta-ing.
    Min: Even though she'll never know it's for her...
    Pixie: You deserve it.
    Other people: You're really cool too. I sweat.


Prologue

"Thank you." Willow smiled at the woman and took the bag she was offered, clutching it to her chest so that the strawberries inside didn't fall out of their carton. She came out from under the tent and blinked in the bright sun.

The Farmer's Market in Union Square was beautiful in the summer. Not that it wasn't beautiful in other seasons. Willow could just imagine the smell of apple cider in the fall. She'd yet to smell it herself. She had only been in New York for a few days, spending the first two in the conference for computer science professors that she had initially come east for. But she had fallen in love with the city, and extended her stay. Although, at first, she'd disliked the noise and the hustle, she found that it was that same constant rush that made her feel more alive than she'd felt in, well, it had been years now. With so many people always around, it was harder to feel
lonely.

She readjusted the bags she was carrying. Moving away from the stand where she had bought her berries, she continued through the throng, pressing through the broad aisle that was created by the two rows of booths lining the curbs. A bright blur of colors caught her eye at the turn, and she moved quickly towards the flowers that had looked so brilliant even from a distance. Rows of tables with flowers on them stretched from the curb, but Willow felt drawn towards more than just the smell or the colors. She wandered in and out of the rows, searching for whatever it was that drew her.
   
She focused completely on the flowers that she passed, stopping every once in a while to smell them. Pure white daisies contrasted the dark leaves and bright petals of the impatiens on the opposite table. She pulled back her shoulder-length hair and crouched down, closing her eyes as she brought her face level to the bright white flowers, inhaling deeply. She opened them quickly though, when she felt another pair of eyes on her.

There was someone on the other side of the table. She looked down and saw black boots and a pair of legs, belonging to someone similarly crouched. She looked ahead again, but her vision was impaired by the leafy plants on the table. An odd sense of anticipation knotted in her stomach as she slowly straightened up, moving out of the foliage.

The eyes were still locked on hers, although neither could see the other, as the person on the other side of the table rose in sync with Willow. Reminding herself to breathe, Willow was able to choke out a single word.

"Oz."

*****

Part 1

"Hi," Willow said softly, managing another word. She turned her feet up onto their outer edges, shifting her weight from left to right uncomfortably. His gaze seemed to bore into her head, as if he were competing in a staring contest with her heart, and she snapped her eyes away, looking at the flowers on the table that stood between them. She looked up and sideways, as if to inquire why he wouldn't speak, yet still not maintaining eye contact with him.

Oz felt something inside of him. He wasn't sure what it was, and when he regained control of his brain in the brief seconds after she looked away, he struggled to figure it out. Maybe it was love and he just didn't recognize it after all those years. Scratch that. He would never forget. Maybe it was hate. Scratch that, too. Maybe he was going to throw up.

Oz searched for something to say. Because that's what people did. They replied when they were spoken to. And, hey, he was Oz. He always knew what to say and when to say it. But, then again, this was Willow. She always had left him speechless. And, at the moment, nothing but lyrics from old songs occurred to him. That wouldn't do. Hi. That was what most people said when another person greeted them. But "hi" didn't cut it. He didn't know how to make those two letters carry all the meaning he needed. But "I love you" was only eight...

"Oz?"

"Sorry," he spoke the first word that came to mind. He hadn't meant to trust that word with more than an apology for his silence, but it had been all mangled. He had put it all in there. I'm sorry I left again. I'm sorry I left in the first place. I'm sorry I never called. I'm sorry you never called. I'm sorry I never gave you a phone number so you could call. I'm sorry I love you. I'm sorry I lost you. I'm sorry...that I have to be sorry.

He winced at hearing the word come out of his mouth, reminding himself that she wasn't interested. He couldn't let her know that he hadn't moved on. It would hurt her too much.

"Would you like some help? Any information on the plants? These here grow well in indoor conditions, as long as they're kept moist," A woman came up behind Oz, breaking the silence between he and Willow that had seemed like it had lasted an eternity.

"Actually, I'd like to buy this one." Willow pointed to the daisy through which she had been looking, unknowingly, at Oz. She smiled at him as she walked with the woman over to the counter with the old-fashioned cash register, and he followed her wordlessly.

"That'll be five fifty, miss. With care, this plant should last a good while. Have a nice day."

"You too." Willow flashed another smile at the woman, and Oz's heart stopped again momentarily. She turned to him, and without the table between them, he had the most incredible urge to reach out and touch her, but he restrained himself. "Do you want to...um, talk?"

Oz just stared.

"Because, you know, if you don't, if you want me to just go and we'll be just, you know, acquaintances, and I could go, or we could..."

"Talk." Oz smiled, stopping the flow of her words.

"Talk." she repeated.

*****

Part 2

"So I went all around the world, stopped in the city–on my way to Niagra Falls–and never left. I got a job, an apartment. I'm...holding up." Oz paused in his story and looked hard at Willow, who was seated next to him on an old green bench in Union Square Park.

"What kind of job?" she inquired, half out of curiosity, and half stalling the inevitable "What about you?" that was to come.

"A little store in the East village. Sells all kinds of stuff. I also do some stuff on the internet and play with this band sometimes," he added, sensing that she was dreading the coming words. "And you? How have you been?"

"I'm...holding up. Also."

"Is that all I'm going to get out of you?"

"Well, where do you want me to start?" she asked, willing him to stay away from the memories that she had worked so hard to lock away.

"Sunnydale. May, 2000." He tried to catch her eyes, but she had dropped them so that her hair covered much of her face.

"Oh." It wasn't that she didn't want to talk about Tara. That was far from an issue anymore. But she would need all the composure she could sum up
to talk about her feelings for the man who, against all odds, was sitting next to her...if only because she had no idea what her feelings were. "Tara. We tried. We both realized that it wasn't what we had thought. We had a connection, we were both lonely, and we thought we could make more out of what was there. That was a few weeks after...after you left."

"And after that?"

"Finished college. Finished grad school. Became a professor of computer science at UCLA. I get to teach, it's not too far from home...it's great."

"Good. It's good that it's great. I'm glad," he looked up at the leaves of the tree they were sitting under. There was so much he wanted to say. He had spent these last years dreaming of seeing her again. He had known exactly what he was going to say. Every gesture and every word rehearsed to perfection. And now, in the perfect setting, sitting with her on a park bench on a beautiful day, he was speechless. He didn't know how she felt about him and he didn't want to risk anything. He mentally kicked himself for being such a coward. He could sense that she was uncomfortable, and it only increased his own discomfort. Sitting in silence with her used to be a good thing. And before that it had been a sweet kind of awkwardness. But now it was torture.

"So..." she searched her brain for something to talk about. She didn't know whether it would be right to bring up the wolf, or anything directly related to the two of them, in a together sense.

Oz looked at his watch and, lying through his teeth, spoke. "I have to go." The second the words were out, he regretted them. What if this was his only chance? But he was scared to death, and needed some time to think, even if it meant bailing. Again. 

"Okay. Well...it was nice seeing you."

It was obvious she thought that she would never see him again.

"Mutual, and I'd...like to see you again," he hoped he could compensate for his error in judgment. "Are you free tomorrow? We could, you know, do lunch or something."

"That would be good." Willow hoped she didn't look as scared as she felt. Oz's complete calm was actually a bit unnerving, and she didn't know what to make of his invitation. She dug through her bags, looking for a piece of paper to write her phone number on. Finding one, she did so and handed the paper to Oz.

"Alright. I'll call you." Oz smiled, and hoped it didn't look like too much of a cover-up for his fear of screwing up again. Her calm wasn't helping, and he wasn't sure whether she thought they had a date or a casual meeting planned. He stood, remembering that he had told her he had somewhere to go.

"Great."

"Later," Oz said after another pause. He turned and walked away, using all his will power neither to look back or to jump for joy, clutching the paper with her phone number on it and hoping she didn't think he was trying to get away from her.

Willow watched him walk off with his hands in his pockets. Gathering her bags, she sighed. Why did he always feel the need to leave her?

*****

Part 3

"It was...surreal." Willow moved the phone so it could rest on her other shoulder, and continued looking through her drawers, which were fairly empty—considering she'd expected her visit to New York to last a much shorter length of time.

"And you're having lunch with him? When?" Buffy couldn't keep the smile off her face, picturing her friend, on the other side of the country.

"Today. In an hour! What do I wear?"

"Wear what you would normally wear to have lunch with Oz."

"But that's just the thing! I'm having lunch with Oz! Am I having lunch with Oz the old friend? Oz the ex-boyfriend, Oz who left me, Oz who I made leave," Willow was exasperated, "or Oz the...never mind. Just help me, Buffy!"

"I don't know! How DO you feel about him?" Buffy was genuinely curious. Her friend hadn't been in a relationship for years, and she couldn't help thinking that the real problem wasn't the worldwide deficiency of "Willow's type." But it had been so long, and Willow would have mentioned something if she still had some feelings for Oz...

Buffy's thoughts were interrupted by a strangled noise from Willow. "I've gotta go! I have to shower. I'll call you later."

"Okay. Bye then."

Willow heard the phone click on the other end, and slowly hung up the receiver. Buffy's question had caught her off guard. To be honest, she herself had no idea how she felt. She had automatically shifted a manner that was not unlike the way she was around Oz before they had ever been an item, without wondering whether that might have been a little weird. She had to admit, she had felt *something* when she'd seen Oz. She shook the thought away, labeling that something as nostalgia, the same feeling you would get at seeing any old friend. That's what it had to be, she convinced herself as she turned the shower on in the small hotel bathroom. After all, she had long since gotten over Oz, and she had tickets for a plane to Los Angeles in three days, and that's all there was to it. All there was to it.

*****

Willow pushed her sunglasses up onto her head as she walked into the small restaurant. Scanning the room, she spotted Oz, sitting at a table near a window. As she watched, he put the magazine he had been reading away and looked up, almost as if he had sensed her presence. Or smelled it. He half-stood as she walked over to the table, and they both sat down.

"Hey."

"Hi." She nervously ran her hand over her hair, knocking her sunglasses onto the table. He handed them back to her and she smiled. And he smiled. But neither spoke. He could hear the thump-tap of her feet on the floor and saw her eyes dart around the room.

He noticed the single flower in a bud vase on the table, between the napkins and salt, and without a word, pushed it to the middle of the table—right between the two of them. Turning at the sound, she smiled her brightest smile at what she saw. After all the years, she was proud of her ability to still understand his silent humor. This was an obvious reference to their meeting the day before. She looked into his eyes and, at seeing the laughter there, she felt the years between them fade away and she relaxed.

By the time the waiter brought them menus, their conversation was as if they had been apart for only a week or so.

"So how long have you been in New York?" he asked, "Maybe I asked already...in either case, I forget."

"About a week," she answered, knowing that she hadn't told him. He'd never forgotten anything she'd said. "I've got two full days left."

"And you like it?"

"I can see how you could visit and never leave. I love it."

"Me too," he said, looking down at the table. When he looked up, it was with a smile, "and a million times more...now that you're here."

She smiled back. "It's nice to see you too."

Over the food, she filled him in on everything happening in Sunnydale, and they finished their meal as two old friends. Willow absent-mindedly wondered why she had ever felt nervous about meeting him. They walked out of the restaurant and stood blinking for a few seconds in the bright sun. They both turned as the sound of footsteps on sidewalk got closer and closer. A couple of kids, maybe middle school age, were running down the street, laughing loudly. Willow and Oz both stepped back, so as not to get run over.

Her bright red hair dropping down onto her back, the girl to the left in the group caught Oz's eye. As she stopped at the corner, she turned back and the smile on her face transferred itself to Oz's face.

"Look, Will...it's you," he said softly, nodding towards the girl. She smiled at him as the light turned to "walk" for the girl on the corner.

She turned to him excitedly and grabbed his hand. "Show me around? I mean, you live here—I'm sure you know all the really cool places. I want to see everything!" she changed the subject eagerly, caught up in the moment.

Oz felt electricity shoot up his arm from her hand, but recovered enough to speak the first thing that came to mind. "I know where As Good As It Gets was shot..."

She jumped a little and squeezed his hand tighter. "You know I love that movie! And I have my camera! I can have a picture of us where it was shot! That's so neat! And then, after that, we can go to the Empire State Building, which I haven't seen yet, so we can see the entire city. Then we can go shopping around here at all the really cool stores that I'm sure you know of, and then we can go to Central Park! That is, if you want to..."

She looked at him, questioning. He squeezed her hand back. "Sure."

"Great! And I'm sure there's so much else to do. You can show me all your favorite places, because then I'll know all this stuff about you that I've missed..." They began to walk off. "And in Central Park, we can see the penguins at the zoo. I heard they have really great penguins. Maybe we can see the penguin feeding. I like penguins..."

*****

Part 4

"That entire day was just...amazing," Willow turned to Oz and smiled breathlessly as he closed the door behind them. He glanced at his watch as she continued farther into his apartment. 11:30.

"Hungry?" he asked, realizing that they hadn't really eaten since lunch.

"Starved," she admitted.

"Chinese?"

"Great."

Oz gestured for her to sit on the couch, and then went to get a menu from another room. While she was alone, Willow took the chance to get a look at her surroundings. The small, but not cramped, apartment was decidedly Oz. She stood and walked over to a table by the window, where several framed pictures were. The Dingoes, his family, some people she didn't recognize, and a small picture of herself and Oz, half hidden behind a larger frame. She smiled, glad she had been at least a tiny bit in his life in the years between then and now. She picked up the picture, looking closer at the happy faces from years ago, and, for the first time that night, tensed with nervousness at the thought of Oz.

What was she doing here? Late at night, in her ex-boyfriend's apartment, looking at his things while he ordered Chinese food? Her ex-boyfriend...her ex-boyfriend who still kept a picture of the two of them.

She quickly put the picture down and spun around as footsteps came closer.

"What'll it be?" He held up a menu.

"Surprise me," she smiled tensely as he sat down next to the phone. She half listened as he made the order. Moo-shu pork...her ex-boyfriend who still kept a picture of the two of them...extra pancakes...the two of them...white rice...No! No, no, no! No two of them. So what if he had a picture of a Willow and Oz that didn't, shouldn't, couldn't exist anymore? Spring rolls...she had everything going to plan back in LA, where it was Willow and Oz, not WillowandOz and this was way too complicated. Wait. There was no reason she should even be worried about anything. Nothing was complicated. She was imagining it all. She was going home soon, and he had made no effort to show her she was more than a friend. Until the picture, she'd been completely relaxed. Her life wasn't complicated. Why was she even thinking like this. Thank you. Bye.

Oz put down the phone and turned back to her. "Want a drink?"

"No thanks ."

He searched for a topic. Something had obviously changed while he was menu-hunting. She was fidgeting with the buttons of her sweater, her gaze darting for one spot to another, always avoiding him. And everything had been going so great...

He sat on the couch and she hesitated before sitting next to him.

Come on...remember? Nothing complicated.

But then why did she have such a huge knot in the pit of her stomach?

"TV?" he ventured.

"Sure."

Casablanca was just starting and by the time the food came, they were relaxed again.

As the credits rolled, Oz glanced at Willow, asleep next to him, and closed his own eyes.

*****

Willow's hand was interrupted mid-stretch by a face.

"Ouch."

"Sorry," she yawned and opened her eyes all the way. Oz was sitting on the couch next to her, rubbing sleep out of his eyes with one hand.

"I think that breakfast is in order, don't you?"

She looked at her watch. "Or lunch."

"French toast. Brunch."

"Deal."

He stood and extended a hand, helping her off the sofa.

Eating in companionable silence, Oz noticed Willow's gaze on him several times. But every time he looked back, she was seemingly fascinated by her
plate.

"I've missed this," she said softly.

"Yeah, it is pretty good French toast."

"That too. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you," she continued, " for everything. I haven't had this much fun...in a long time." She was shocked at how true her own words rang. She was happy.

He smiled. "The pleasure's mine."

*****

Part 5

She smiled back. This was...good. He reached across the table for her hand and she gave it willingly. Dazed with sleepiness and the smell of maple syrup, she hardly realized his lips were on hers until the hand that wasn't holding hers touched her cheek.

She jerked back.

He searched her face desperately for something other than shock, some sign that she was the least bit pleased with the move past platonic.

Her wall of self-assurance torn down, she pushed her chair back and stood. He cast his eyes down, hiding hurt.

"Sorry," he whispered.

"M-my coat...I have to go." She was practically shaking.

"At least finish your toast..." he said apologetically.

"No, I can't stay here." Forgetting her coat, she was already at the door. Not even a goodbye.

"Wait."

"Oz...it's better this way."

"Is it?" Oz was desperate. He's been waiting for a second chance for too long.

"Goodbye." Willow was surprised at his pleading.

"Why?"

"Oz! I don't know why. It's just..." Just what? she asked herself. Just that she hadn't made allowances for emotional attachment...that she didn't want to be hurt...that she'd spent too long building a fortress around her deepest feelings, making sure that she could stand back and say to herself, No. Just that she was too scared. Just that she didn't want to deal.

"Are you happy? In LA?"

"I'm...content." This was more like Oz, and she could handle it. But she couldn't lie to him.

"Were you happy last night? This morning?" She had certainly seemed it.

"Yes, but..."

"But what?"

"I have a job. I have plane tickets. I have plans."

"Plans..." he trailed off for a second, "Just tell me you don't want me and I'll stop. Tell me you don't feel anything...just say so." Oz was sure he'd seen something in her eyes when they first saw each other though the leaves, two days ago.

"Oz!" She was on the verge of tears, her voice getting louder as she went on, "Just let me go!"

"I'm not holding you here, am I?" he said with uncharacteristic bitterness, but internally he registered the fact that she hadn't said she didn't feel anything towards him.

"Not physically, but all the same..."

"Look, maybe I made a mistake. If you're just going to shout at me..."

"I'm not shouting!" she shouted.

"Fine!" He turned away from her, and, with effort, spoke unwaveringly, "go."

Willow's mouth seemed to open and close of its own accord. She grabbed her things off the back of the couch and let the door slam behind her.

*****

Part 6

Tears welled up in Willow's eyes as she jammed her clothes violently into her suitcase. She roughly wiped them away with her sleeve, before thrusting a pair of pants into the bag with so much force that the hotel bed that the suitcase was on bounced back, causing her to lose her balance for a moment. All his fault. Why couldn't he just have accepted a friendship?

But she couldn't be sad. The decision had long since stopped being conscious. And it was all his fault. He had left, but she couldn't be sad then. She needed so badly to be sad—to grieve, but...it hadn't been the time. And so, slowly, the walls had come up. Locking away her heart. She could still love her friends openly, but any romantic commitment scared her to the bone, and so she hadn't gotten into any relationships that went deeper than the 'like' that she labeled as love, in an attempt to forget the walls. Once before, she had been scared, and embraced someone else so that she could avoid the fear. And he had left, the walls sturdy. And now she would leave. She didn't even know of the existence of the walls, past the vague knowledge of a change within her dating back a few years. But she fought to protect
them. She had spoken the truth when she said she was content. She was content. For the price of love, she had a relatively stable emotional life.

She sat on the edge of the bed, breathing deeply. She emptied the suitcase and calmly folded her clothing, stewing. In go the pants, back in the bag. How dare he? Shirt. Invade her personal space like that without her permission? Socks. Had she acted like she wanted that? Another shirt. She hoped not. More pants. Maybe it had been unconscious. Skirt. But that would mean she *had* wanted that? Another. Had she? She glanced at the remaining clothes, dumped them in the bag, and zipped it with a flourish.

She called the hotel to get a wake-up, and turned on the television, drifting off eventually.

*****

Oz sat on the edge of his couch. He was sitting exactly where he had been sitting that morning. He could tell because he could smell her right next to him. He got up, moving into the bedroom, where he could be free of her scent. But not of thoughts of her. Lying down on his bed, he slammed a free pillow on top of his face. He slammed it again, and began to chant in his head in the rhythm of the pillow hitting his head. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? He switched the pattern. Why?-Slam. Why?-Slam. Why?-Slam. Why?-Why?-Slam. Why?-Why?-Slam. Slam.-Slam.-Why? Why? Why? Why?

And then he began to laugh. At himself, at the world, at fate, at her, at his pillow. He stood up and, still laughing, threw the pillow against the wall. She brought it on herself. Giggling over Chinese food. Saying "Here's looking at you, kid," and raising her soda in toast. Falling asleep on his arm. Noting that she had missed his French toast. And expecting him to just sit there? She must have known that he'd always love her...

She had to know...

He let out a breath of frustration and went to watch television.

*****

The wake-up call had come at 4:30 in the morning, and she had dressed in the dark. She noted with some relief that her clothes matched, as she sat on the runway under the harsh lights of the airplane. She exhaled, feeling as if she had been holding her breath forever. The plane began to move and she relaxed.

She half listened to the pilot and flight attendants, confident that she was competent enough to fasten a seatbelt.

She early morning lights of New York shone up through the gray fog. Coming in, she had been awed by the rainbow of colors in the dark, the skyscrapers practically glittering—bright enough to blot out the sight of the stars. Now all she saw was the gray, hiding the busy streets full of people. Some of them miserable, without a doubt. She didn't see the buildings piercing the mist, the colors of the Empire State building fading away as they ascended.

A single tear crawled unnoticed down her face, and she promised herself, without considering reasons, to never return to the city that she had fallen in love with. Goodbye forever, she told the island of Manhattan and everything on it.

"Would you care for a drink, miss?"

"No, thank you." Willow turned away from the woman and began to read the in-flight magazine.

*****

Oz woke with a start at 6:30 in the morning. In the gray light, he looked around. The noise of a plane—like the tearing of fabric, ripped apart—passed loudly overheard.

*****

Epilogue

The fluorescent lighting in LAX beat harshly on the rows of seats in front of the gate. But Oz felt the light as soft as starlight. Not caring that he wasn't one of the people being met by loved ones at the airport, he swung his carry-on slightly, in time with his walk. This was right.

Oz had stared at the wall in his bedroom for over an hour. And then the bedroom wall had worked its magic, and everything was suddenly perfectly clear. He didn't think about consequences or what she might think or anything--he just knew that he needed to make sure. Because he couldn't live with having let a single chance slip by.

So he had taken a cab straight to JFK and gotten on the first plane to California, which happened to Los Angeles. He could be at her door in a matter of hours. Not that he knew where her door was or anything. But he knew that it would work itself out. He had a feeling.

"Car rentals..." he murmured to himself as he scanned the airport signs that would point him in the right direction, "Rentals...car rentals. Got it."

He moved off towards the escalator.

"Please! I need that ticket!" Oz heard a woman's voice over the crowd.

"Miss, I'm sorry. This plane is already overbooked, and I'm sure these people need to get to New York just as much as you do," the response came.

"But I need..." The woman was cut off.

"Miss, if it was really that important, you would have booked a ticket in advance. However, there is another flight in...three hours."

"Three hours!" came the voice again. Oz had been glancing around the airport as the escalator took him higher, searching for the source of the voice that was getting louder. And then he saw it—the back of a head, with red hair falling neatly over the shoulders and brushing the back that was turned away from him. "I. need. to. go. to. New. York. now," she said, straining on her tiptoes, trying to tower over the lady at the desk.

"Miss. Please lower your voice."

"Lower my voice?" she half-whispered fiercely, but not low enough to keep Oz from hearing, "Listen, I have just made possibly the single worst mistake of my adult life. There is a man in New York who thinks I don't love him. And you see, this could ruin everything, and it would be all your fault, because I need to go to New York, and you're not letting me. So get me a ticket."

"Watch it!" Oz was started by a voice coming from behind him, on the escalator. He looked forward and noticed that he was almost at the top. He stepped onto the floor, his mind still downstairs, realizing fully what she had been saying. And there she was, a floor below, while he just stood there at the top of the crowded escalator. He needed to get to her. Down escalator. A few feet away. But he couldn't move.

"All right Miss, there are seats on the next flight," he heard the lady's voice say, continuing to give Willow a gate number. He had obviously missed some of the conversation. He watched Willow turned around, catching a glimpse of her face for a few seconds, and then watching as she walked off briskly. He jerked into motion, sprinting down the escalator, three steps at a time. He sped across the floor after her.

"Willow!"

She spun around and froze when she saw who it was. Her mouth hung half-open but she said nothing and didn't even appear to be breathing.

"Willow..." he said again, breathing hard from catching up with her.

"I was..."

"I know."

"And you?"

He just smiled.