Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: Half of Me is Lost
Author: Ailie
Rating: PG
Spoilers: After the Replacement.
Summary: Willow knows how to get Oz back.
Disclaimer: Willow and Oz don't belong to me. If they did, this is what would happen next.
Author's Note: For Pixie, just because. This story was in my head screaming "WRITE ME! WRITE ME!" since I saw The Replacement. My fingers couldn't move fast enough to keep up with my brain, so this was written *very* quickly. *L*

Willow adjusted the left strap of her pack, wincing as it grated across raw skin. The locator spell had led her to the right mountain ... supposedly. But other than that the goddess Thespia had proved rather unhelpful. Not that she was ungrateful; without the aid of the goddess Willow never would have thought to look in the Allegheny mountains. She figured Nepal or India, places with great spiritual history. Or maybe someplace quiet and with a relatively sparse population, like Greenland or Alaska. But Pennsylvania?

But after exploring for three days, she could see why Oz would choose to settle down here. The trees were thick and close, with sunlight filtering through the leaves in narrow beams, like some kind of religious painting. The approaching autumn had brought with it several cold snaps, and there was just the faintest hint of red and gold on the leaves that would fall to the ground over the next month. It was anything but quiet. When Willow stood completely still she could hear all the sounds of the forest; birds singing, squirrels chasing each other from tree to tree ... she had even caught a glimpse of a doe before her approaching footsteps scared it away.

Besides her hiking pack, Willow carried a small bag slung over her right shoulder. This one never left her side; she even slept with it for fear an animal might scurry off with it. Her right hand moved to the pouch, as it had countless times during the journey. She needed to know that it was still there. Without it, all of this was pointless. Willow relaxed a bit as she felt the familiar cylindrical contour through the canvas. Logically there was no way it could have fallen out, but the reassurance was comforting none the less.

Willow watched the ground as she walked, partly to look for roots and rocks that might cause a sprained ankle, mostly for traces of another human presence.

Or a wolf.

She didn't see the small cabin until she was practically on top of it. The logs and moss it had been built with meshed with the surrounding forest so closely that at first she thought she had imagined it. But no, it was there. No bigger than 10 by 10 feet, just enough room to sleep and build a fire. And around from around the corner came the sound of an axe. Willow's heart pounded through her chest as she slowly worked her way to the north side of the small home. 

There he was. Despite the chill in the air he was shirtless, apparently keeping warm from the exertion of chopping wood. For a split second she just stood there, enjoying the moment. It had been months since the last time they spoke, and Willow had replayed that last conversation over and over again in her mind. For the life of her, Willow still couldn't understand why she had sat in the van that day and told him to go. Tara was an amazing person, someone she would love for the rest of her life. But Oz ... he filled her soul. Just his mere presence a few feet away made her feel more complete than she had in almost a year, since the day he had left her the first time.

After a few seconds Oz lifted his head, testing the air. He turned. "Willow?" The word barely escaped his lips before she threw herself into his arms. Oz was damp from his work, but Willow didn't mind. It brought out this smell, this Oz smell. There was no other way to describe it. Not cologne or shampoo, not even deodorant. Just Oz.

"Willow, what are you doing here?"  Oz's face was a mixture of emotions. Worry, surprise, wonder ... still basically expressionless to the untrained eye,  but Willow knew how to read him.

His hair was a light brown, natural and falling in soft waves around his face. She had always wondered what it really looked like ... but there was time for all this later.

"I have, I have something I need to show you." Willow dropped the heavy backpack to the ground, careful not to jostle the pouch she still wore over her shoulder. "Just close your eyes." Oz gave her a quizzical look, then did as he was asked. Willow stepped back a few paces, and removed the object from the bag. After murmuring a quick prayer to the goddess, she fired.

A ball of light stuck Oz in the chest. Propelled by the impact, he flew several feet before falling to the ground. There was a startled growl, and then the wolf was there, heading straight toward her.

Without missing a beat Willow dropped her first weapon in favor of a second, the small pistol tucked into the waistband of her pants. With only seconds until the wolf reached her she aimed and fired. Silver bullet, straight to the heart. Giles had prepared her well for this moment.

An inhuman scream ripped through the forest as the creature crumpled at her feet. Willow waited a moment, watching the creature's chest rise and fall with its last breath.   Strange, it didn't look so large and dangerous here, lying on the ground. Yet this was the thing that had kept her separated from her love for all this time. She hauled her right foot back and kicked as hard as she could, knowing that there was no more damage to do but still feeling the better for it.

A thoroughly confused Oz rose from the spot where he had landed. "Willow?" She was at his side in an instant, helping him limp toward the cabin. "What hap ..." He froze, sta ring at the bloody mass of fur and muscle only a few feet away.

"A souvenir from a demon Buffy killed a few month's back. Let me help you inside. We have our whole lifetime for explanations."