DISCLAIMER: I don't own any characters herein, and I will return them (mostly) unharmed once I'm done playing. I am making no money from writing these stories. As a non-profit interpretation of the original work, this constitutes fair use under USC 17.107.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Set post-"Seeing Red" (BTVS 6x19)
FEEDBACK: To rachel.mercer[at]hotmail.com

Fade Away
By hnsnrachel


Willow's heart was broken, a million jagged pieces, scattered across the distance between Sunnydale and Bath. She knew that there was no point trying to gather them up, fit them back the way they were supposed to go. Even if she found them all, she'd never feel whole again. Her heart was bound to another, and without Tara, the gaping wound in her chest would never close. What was the point in pretending otherwise?

Giles had done his best to shake her from her misery, but Willow ignored him, knowing that the only time he'd ever force anything upon her was when the fate of the world was at stake. With the rage and danger nullified, his concern was less urgent and he let her sink into the next stage of her grief, waiting for the time that she felt ready to face the world that, in her blind search for vengeance, she had nearly destroyed.

He didn't seem to realize that she never intended to leave the cocoon of her dreams again.

Sleep was her only respite from the pain that ripped at her chest whenever she opened her eyes and realized that Tara was gone, that this time, there was no hope for her return. She'd lost people before – too many times – but Willow was still certain she'd trade anything for just the faint hope that one day she could pull her soul mate back from the abyss into which she had fallen with one bullet that was never meant for her. Osiris had torn that last shred of hope from her with his proclamation that Tara's death was a natural one, so Willow was left wishing for strength she didn't have, courage she couldn't hold to in her depression.

She knew that Buffy and Xander would both tell her that it wasn't strength she was asking for, but cowardice. And secretly, she worried that the things she'd done would land her somewhere different than with the beautiful soul who had been ripped from the world far too soon.

So she turned to her dreams to soothe her pain. Tara was always waiting for her, just the other side of the veil that separated wake from sleep, her shy smile holding Willow's attention, her arms strong and comforting. In them, the blonde almost glowed with life, her eyes soft and loving the way they'd been that last, wondrous day they'd shared together. Magic of a different kind than that Giles had made her swear away from colored their interactions in a world that didn't really exist, Tara's voice soft and lilting, a melody that Willow knew she would never forget, even if she bucked the odds of life on a Hellmouth and lived a hundred years.

Soft, pillowy lips breathed that life back into the redhead's heart, mended the cracks that broke back open every time she emerged from the comfort of sleep. Hands trailed across her skin, a feather light caress that made Willow squirm, let laughter she was sure would never come again in reality bubble from her throat. Blonde hair fell across her body, a waterfall that tickled her skin, drew moans as Tara's lips drank her in, worshiping, made Willow feel as special as the first time their lips had met... as every time she'd held the precious woman to her breast.

Hands, strong and sure, gentle and loving, drew fire beneath her skin, gave light to a life that seemed so dark before, and after, the blonde had entered her life. She felt each touch like it was real, a warm and welcoming wave enveloping her body as Tara whispered words of love and devotion, words that Willow carried in her heart.

"I'm yours," Tara murmured, as Willow's body burned beneath searching lips.

"Can you just be kissing me now?" a siren call to a woman too tired to live but too scared of what awaited her to sink into the thoughts that crowded her mind each time she woke.

"I love you," a balm to soothe her pain as familiar fingers played her body like an instrument, drew echoes from her own throat as she tumbled into a bliss she knew she could never have again.

Better to sleep than face the reality of life without the woman Willow needed more than the air she breathed. Better to sleep.

The End

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