Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Oz/Willow, refers to several different Willow/female pairings
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words A to Z Challenge: W
Word Count: 1,266
Date Written: 22 November, 2015
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Even after all these years, he can still smell her. A wolf's mind never forgets, nor does his nose. Unlike what he claimed in high school, unlike the vows he took a few years later, a wolf also only mates for life. Willow was his first; she was also his only. But he was holding her back. He had to let her go like the wild Witch he knew she was going to become. He had to let her find her own self and joy and not depend on him.
So he had done what he'd had to to let her grow, and also to protect her from the dangers of his wolf, but despite what he's always told everybody else who's asked, Oz never once stopped regretting those decisions as a young wolf who thought she needed to run wild as much as he did. If he hadn't, perhaps she wouldn't have almost destroyed the world. He knew it was her before he was ever told. He could smell her scent on the air wherever he went, sense her power as she held the world her hands, hear her voice as she cried.
The day the world almost stopped was the day the sky bled, the first and only day he thought that perhaps he had wronged her by leaving her, and the day her best friend had proven to be more to her than he ever was. Daniel knows he could not have simply talked her down. He could have stopped her, with enough time and enough love, but he could never have done it with mere words. But Xander had. He had been there for her when he hadn't, and Oz had known on that day that he had forever lost his Willow.
But she's still his, although she does not know it and has mated with many others since their time together. The girls' scents are only on her for a short time, but his aroma, strong and heady in his possession of her, can still be smelled by any one with a nose half as adept as a wolf's. He still smells her, even after all this time and all this distance. He smells her everywhere he goes. He sees her every time he shuts his eyes. His hands ache to hold her, his fingers to comb through her red hair, his body to curve around hers in the perfect unison that he knows they've both only ever had together.
He can still feel her sometimes when he lays alone in the mornings after his wolf has ran. He can still feel her soft, supple skin, still feel the change in the air as his Witch smiles, still feel her meeting him in sheer perfection. Sometimes, he even hears her calling his name, but he knows that is only the voice of her ghost in the past. She doesn't need him not any more, not for a long time now, but he will always need her.
He'll always be incomplete without her. He can remember, as a human boy going hiking, hearing the wolves howl at the moon and wondering why they howled. Humans have all sorts of theories and stories about it, but Oz knows. He's known for years. They howl, because they're still looking for that missing piece of their soul. A lucky few of them find the better halves, but such unions never last for long. The hunters, those like Buffy and her friends, won't let them. Every time, one or both of the pairings are gunned down, and Oz would like to hate the people who kill them.
He would like to, but he's been on that side of the line before himself. He knows already. The wolves are evil; they're a danger to human kind. They must be put down to protect the humans, just as he had to put himself down in all but the literal tense to protect Willow. Sometimes, he
Now, she's free, and she's helped save the world more times than he can even imagine. Buffy couldn't do half the things she does without her. Willow doesn't get the acknowledgement, but he knows his mate. The acknowledgement doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that the world was saved, lives were saved, and yes, even if she won't admit it to any one but herself, the magic matters, too. She's as addicted to the magic still as he was to her, as he still is.
Some addictions fade with time, but when love is the addiction, it never fades. It never sways. He tried every trick in the book to make it go away. He tried to give in to the predator's instincts, but when the predator demands his mate, it's always Willow to whom he turns. He's stood beneath her window many a night and howled for her to join him, but she's never taken notice.
Just as she doesn't notice tonight. They're across the world from where their love story began. They're miles and miles and decades away from the shy girl and boy who first found love on the Hellmouth. They're so far apart, and yet he could reach her in just a few bounds. He could reach her, draw her to him again, claim her once more, and she'd find the old feelings still burning within her. But she'd hate him for it in the morning.
She's moved on, and not just away from but beyond him. She doesn't need him any more, but a secret part deep inside of her will always want him. He knows he could find it, wake it up, make her love him again, but it still wouldn't be fair to his Witchy Woman. She's become so powerful; he'll never try to master or top her again, although he could.
What she holds now in her hands is her own destiny, undeterred by anybody else. Even the Slayer has let her go. Willow makes every one of her decisions for herself now, and for the little coven she's leading. She answers to no one but her own Gods. She is her own woman, heeding to no man, and he won't take that from her.
But he'll always love her, and that's why he stands so far and yet so near to her tonight. It's why, when he caught a whiff of her scent that he knew was fresh and not just fragments of a fondly remembered past, he ran across the desert to reach her. It's why he whimpers now, aching for her to need him even if just once more, and it's why he howls, howls at the very top of his lungs, howls a low, lonely serenade which he knows she can hear.
But within the safety of the city's walls, his soul mate turns from him. She turns from him. His ears perk forward to catch her soft voice, and his heart falls with her words. "It's not Oz," she tells herself, and he howls to her that it is, that he's only waiting for her to reach out for him one last time, she tells herself the same lie over and over again until once more, this night, she believes again that the one man she's ever loved never loved her. And so they pass through this world, surrounded by friends and the occasional lover, but always, always without each other, always so alone.