Ae Fond Kiss
by Dolores

But to see her, was to love her; Love but her, and love for ever.

The first time Oz saw her he thought, "who is that girl?"

He didn't recognise her, but that wasn't so surprising; as both student body and teaching faculty at Sunnydale slowly dwindled they'd had to start combining classes, and so sophomores were now sitting in on his senior history class. Or was that the other way around?

Anyway, that probably explained the non-recognition. Though it was still weird that he'd never seen her before in the corridor. Someone like that he'd have remembered.

Maybe it was because it looked like she made it her business not to be noticed. She sat at the back, hunched over what appeared to be a weighty tome, red hair obscuring her face. Hardly a picture of flamboyance.

She looked kinda sad, like most people in school were these days - there couldn't be one amongst them who hadn't lost friends or relatives or both. She also looked pretty and sweet, so Oz felt it would be remiss of him if he didn't sit next to her and strike up a conversation.

Sliding onto the chair next to hers he leaned across and looked at the book she was reading. It was a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the former first lady smiled toothily at them both from a black and white photograph.

"You know that she ate three chocolate covered garlic balls every morning," he said, still leaning across.

She jumped in her seat, surprised. "What?"

"Eleanor Roosevelt. To improve her memory. Didn't do so much for her dating prospects."

She blinked a few times, and glanced from Oz to the page and back again. "Oh. Okay."

"Hi, I'm Oz."

"Uh, hey. I'm Willow. Are you new?"

"Oh, no, I'm old. Or at least, not new. I've just kinda skipped all my classes for the last, well, term."

She smiled the smile of someone who was guilty at being amused by other's delinquency.

Oz looked back at the book. "So: we're doing women's rights now. Or is it the New Deal, or what?"

She shook her head. "We haven't been studying actual history for a while. This is just personal interest, I guess."

It was nearly ten minutes into the class and they still had no teacher. "Doesn't anyone take this class any more?"

"Not since Mr Miller died. We get Mr Nyman sometimes."

Oz was slightly confused. "The calculus teacher?"

"Well, Principal Snyder says as he's the oldest surviving member of the faculty he's the most qualified to teach history."

"Right. How's that?"

"Last week he told Harmony Kendall that Canada seceded from us in the Civil War."

Oz nodded slowly. "Okay. So good then." He paused, smiling cheerfully at her. She ducked out of the gaze, shy. He took the plunge. "Hey, so what are you doing for lunch? We're not allowed off campus, but I know this great little place that does excellent cafeteria food."

Willow's eyes went wide. "You want me to go to lunch with you?"

"Sure. They got these little boxes of juice and everything."

She bit her lip, cheeks flushing. "Uh. Okay."

He grinned, a very un-Ozlike expression. "Cool."


Curfew was strict, and even if it wasn't they still wouldn't have risked meeting up after dark. They saw each other at school of course, every break and every lunch, but school was a reminder of those who were no longer there, drab and depressing and rather unromantic.

It's true that most teenagers live for the weekends, but in Sunnydale, then, it was really all you had. Oz liked to go to flea markets in his battered van, picking up vintage t-shirts and old books, Willow holding his hand and listening intently as he rhapsodised about Lou Reed or Suede, always blushing as he'd lean in to brush her lips with his own whenever she least expected it. Not that she ever really expected it; she still couldn't quite believe that anyone, least of all as intelligent and cool and wonderful as Oz, would want to kiss her once, let alone dozens of times.

There was only ever the two of them. She knew he had been in a band before, they had been his friends - but by the way he talked she could only assume they were all dead now. For her part, she never talked about Jesse or Xander. Jesse was dead and that was bad enough, but Xander was out there, and that was worse.

Some things were better left unsaid.


The first time Giles met Oz, it was a little after half past seven in the morning and the boy had broken into his office.

Giles had nearly dropped his coffee mug in fright, and had thrust a wooden cross into the pale face before him before realising that this intruder was mortal.

For someone who should be at least somewhat bewildered when a librarian brandishes religious symbols in their face, he seemed remarkably unperturbed.

He looked tired, dark circles under his eyes, skin taut over the cheeks and brow. Without preamble, he asked, "is there a cure?"

"I beg your pardon?"

Oz waved a hand around to indicate the piles of books on vampires and demonology scattered about Giles' office, most of which he seemed to have been consulting. "You know about the vampires. You fight them, I think. You've got too many cuts and bruises to be just a librarian. So you must know. If someone becomes a vampire, is there a cure?"

Giles set the mug down on his desk and ran the now spare hand through his hair, sighing heavily. "A relative, is it? Mother? Father?"

The boy shook his head a fraction. "My girlfriend."

"Ah. I see. Well, I - I am truly very sorry about your girlfriend, but I'm afraid there is simply no cure. Despite how it must look, the person you knew is quite dead."

"But I've seen her. She's out there. She's not... right, but it's her."

Giles nodded. "I don't doubt you have seen her, but you must understand that what you have seen is not your girlfriend. At best, it's a terrible mockery of the person she was." He paused, trying to gauge how harsh he should be. "That creature may look like her and sound like her but in no other respect is she who you once knew. That girl is dead. And there's no way to reverse what has happened. Believe me, many have tried."

There was silence for a moment, as Oz seemed to consider Giles' words. Giles thought about mentioning the possible exception to an otherwise unbreakable rule: the strange case of Angelus, who had seemingly acquired a soul at some point over the last century or so. But in any case, it wasn't a cure as such and Angelus had disappeared again and Giles had no idea how this had come about or whether it could be replicated. There was no point in raising this boy's hopes.

"Would you mind if I kept looking anyway?"

Giles offered a sympathetic smile. "Stay as long as you need."

It ended up being rather longer than Giles had anticipated.


Oz was still looking over a year later, though he'd long since ceased to expect to find an answer. When the opportunity presented itself to end the existence of whatever it was Willow had become he took it, though he could not bear to look at her as he did. Then his world ended.

It seemed quite appropriate.


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