DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. There is angst ahead.
SPOILER: Up to the season 6 finale.
RATING: R (US) 15 (UK)
The world spins and her stomach revolts, like a too-dizzying ride at the carnival. She goes up, not knowing why, not knowing how. In the back of her mind there is a distant memory. Something happened, someone got hurt. Her breath is caught in her throat then resumes shallowly.
Willow is dead.
Wait. No. Not dead. And not Willow.
She. She is dead.
And she remembers.
Something painful, tearing at her, tearing her insides apart. She sees the red, sees the splatter. Willow's shirt. She sees the shock in her love's eyes then the blackness engulfs her.
And now, there is spinning. There is also light and an overwhelming feeling of belonging. The spinning stops and she stumbles, catching herself before she falls on her knees. She looks at her surrounding. It is indescribable, beauty personified, perfection incarnate. She turns, tries to take it all in. Her eyes roaming everywhere at once. Suddenly-darkness. In a place filled with light, this is the shadow. Yet it isn't threatening, isn't foreboding, she can discern no evil coming from it. She is able to make out a body emerging from the darkness, a man, his features not seen. Without explanation, she knows. This is her guide.
She opens her mouth to speak but is silenced by a careless waving of the hand.
He talks but no words are heard.
"Welcome" he says, seemingly speaking directly to her mind.
Does she answer? Does she think and he automatically knows?
"Yes it is."
"And will I stay here forever?" Her mind replies.
"We've been expecting you," he says. "We are pleased to have you here. You have a beautiful soul."
She lowers her head. Her eyes now obscured by loose strands of hair.
"Never?" She asks, knowing he understands the question.
He shakes his head no.
She nods her head in understanding, appearing to take it well. Then, fully grasping the meaning, realization dawning, she falls to the ground and begins clawing. She wants in. She wants back. Her nails are imbedded with dirt, her jeans, stained. She is a wild woman, eyes desperate, tears streaming down her face.
This is heaven. She is dead- and this is heaven.
"Tara," the guide says.
But she ignores him. She has one goal.
"You'll be happy here, this is where you belong."
She looks up, sees the beauty all around her, she can't deny that, she knows it's probably true. Knows that she could achieve peace.
"It is no longer your concern," he says kindly.
She looks up, astonished; she shakes her head at him and goes back to her mission. Knowing that it's illogical, knowing that it's probably impossible. She doesn't care. She needs to get back.
"She is always my concern."
She keeps digging, her clothes now covered in dirt, her hair infused with it. She doesn't care. She is inconsolable, the tears streaming down her face, the dirt mixing in with them, turning them into a muddy river of despair. She doesn't feel she is making progress, the more she digs, the more the earth replenishes itself. An ever-filling hole. Yet she continues.
She hears the voice in her head, urging her to stop, urging her to see reason. She ignores it.
The voice becomes more insistent, she become conveniently deaf.
She is flying in the air, pulled forcefully, she lands wrong. She hears the wrist crack, feels the pain radiate in her body. She cries out, then thinks fleetingly about the dynamics of feeling pain and having a body in heaven, she ignores the thought. She gets up, cradles the dangling limb for a minute, then drags herself back to the hole. She continues digging with her one useful hand.
Again the voice speaks, again she ignores it.
She is pushed back once more, landing on her worthless limb, invoking a deep-seated cry of anguish.
It tries to speak, tries to make her see reason, but she is impervious. What he is saying might make sense, if she bothered to hear it, but she is stubborn, she is adamant, Willow needs her and she won't fail again. She left once, by choice, and it nearly killed her, she left again, and ironically, it killed her indeed.
She drags her bruised body on the ground, pulling with her one useful hand, intent on trying until she succeeds.
Having enough, her guide's voice resonates in her head.
She too is capable of yelling.
Inside her head, her voice screams, inside his, the scream echoes.
"She is out there and she is alone!"
The guide sighs. Seemingly understanding.
No longer insisting, no longer trying to make her see reason, he pulls her up from her sprawled position on the ground.
"And if you get to see her again?"
She calms, tunes in and listens.
"Now?" Can I see her now?"
He takes her hand, cradling the useless limb and with a few murmured words, repairs the damage he has done.
He nods his head.
Relief filters through every bone in her body.
"I get to go back?"
He hesitates, choosing his words carefully. "No," he answers honestly.
She tenses, prepares to pull her hand from his grasp, prepares to keep digging.
"You get to say goodbye."
She opens her mouth to argue but is again silenced by the waving of a hand.
"It is more than you had a minute ago, it is more than other people receive," he says, anticipating her protests.
"It is not enough!"
"Would you rather not have it at all?"
"I would rather not be here," her voice resonates in his head, desperation evident.
He stops, silenced by her words. His love for this place, for the beauty and sense of belonging, is long engrained. He is shocked that someone should not feel the same. Shocked that, she, a beautiful soul, should not be honored to be here.
"I don't understand," he says hesitantly. "This is where everyone wants to be. Tara, you are privileged, you have been found worthy, we are ecstatic that you are here."
"I don't care!" She cries out, tears evident in her voice. Then more softly, "I just don't care."
He lets go of her hand.
She calms, speaks softly. "It isn't that it's not wondrous, it isn't that I don't feel as is I belong. When I first got here the sense of calm, of happiness was overwhelming," she stops, her voice faltering. "But, I belong with her more. I need her more. More that this," she says, gesturing towards her surroundings.
"I we understand what it is to love," he says kindly. "We understand the difficulties of letting that love go."
"I'm not letting her "
"You have to," he interrupts. "It is the only way."
He puts his hand in front of him, palm up. Light shoots out of it, then an image of the world emerges. It zooms in quickly, localizing on her home.
Suddenly they are there. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and she stands outside her lover's house. He puts his hand on her shoulder, turns her attention towards him.
"You have only a short time," he says. "Use it well."
With that he disappears.
Tara stares at the spot where he used to be and then runs up the stairs. When she reaches the knob, her heartbeat accelerates, her breathe quickens. She pushes the door open and calls out for her love.
She doesn't receive and answer, she bounds up the stairs, quickly making way into her room. No one. She stops, sees the blood on the floor. Her blood. Her death. Shaking her head to clear the thought she quickly turns and opens Buffy's door.
Her heart stops.
There she is.
In Buffy's arms.
A stab of jealousy hits her. Making her growl deep within her throat, making her rush forward to reclaim her love. But then she sees that Willow is crying and Buffy is comforting.
Her pain is overwhelming. Coming off of her in waves, it hits Tara full force.
"I just don't understand," she says, her voice hoarse from the sobbing session she had just finished moments before, now the sobbing was reduced to quiet weeping and sniffling. "Please Buffy, please, just help me to understand."
Buffy strokes her best friend's hair. Her own heart breaking at the pain she is going through. She pulls her closer, engulfing her more fully in a hug. She has no words, no explanations.
"Shh, honey, it will be okay," she says softly, letting her get it all out. They had just buried Tara this morning. Willow wasn't taking it well.
"This can't be real, it just can't be." Willow says into Buffy's shoulder. She calms, tries to get the words that she wants to say out. "Is it some sort of punishment," she asks. "For my magick, for my abuse?"
"What Will?" Buffy says shocked, pulling back so she can look at her friend in the eye. "NO!"
Willow nods, not believing, but for the moment accepting her friends answer. She sighs, collects herself. She leans in and puts her head on Buffy's lap, finding comfort in the love offered there.
"I'm not sorry," she says softly, almost imperceptibly.
"I mean I am, I'm so sorry about what I did to you and the gang, I'm so sorry about that," she says hurriedly.
"I know, I know you're sorry, we all do. It's okay."
"But," she continues. "I'm not sorry about him."
"Warren?" Buffy asks, although she knows the answer.
Willow nods. "I'm glad he's dead. I'm glad I I, killed him."
At the doorway, Tara gasps. Willow killed Warren? She tries to rush forward to speak, to find out what happened, but finds she can't move, her feet feel cemented to the ground. When she tries to speak, no words come out.
Buffy pauses stroking her friend's hair, taking in the revelation. She thinks for a minute, then continues. She too, speaks softly, letting go of the secret held in her heart. One that she wasn't able to voice, for fear of not doing her duty, for fear of being unjust. But what was justice in the name of friendship? What was right when in the face of evil?
"I'm glad you did too," she says, instantly feeling better for voicing her thoughts. Sometimes vengeance was justice in itself. "He deserved it for what he did to her."
Tara try's to think with the entire question jumbling inside her head.
Willow killed Warren?
Because Warren killed her?
She feels a stab in her heart, a twinge for the darkness that must be inside of Willow, the pain that she would have to live with for her actions. All for her. All because Willow loves her.
Again she try's to speak, again she try's to be noticed, again her vocal chords refuse to respond.
"Buffy?" Willow asks.
"Is she happy?"
"What?" Buffy asks, fearing the question. Fearing at how she would have to respond.
"Is she happy in heaven?"
Tara opens her mouth to scream in frustration, finding that still no words escape.
Is she happy? That's Willow's question?
She can feel hysterical, almost maniacal laughter building up inside of her, the sounds streaming silently though her agape mouth, given her the illusion of a psychotic mime. Before she can delve too deeply in the mania, she hears Buffy's response.
"I think so Will," she says quietly, almost wistfully. "I think she is. Heaven is, um, I want to say beautiful but I don't think that is a strong enough word. It's how beauty should be you know? Pure, clean, not tainted I guess. It's beauty in its perfect form."
"She would like that," Willow interrupts sadly.
Willow can feel the tears starting up in the back of her throat, the grief waiting once more to take possession and devour her. She grabs a hold of Buffy, seeking the comfort that she so desperately needs.
"I, I'm glad," she says, the words choking in her mouth "I'm glad she's, um, happy without me."
With that the tears once again take over, the grief once again moves up, grabbing its victim by the heart and shattering it into dust.
At the doorway, Tara's laughter is overwhelming, her body doubling over with it, tears of despair flowing steadily down her cheeks. She roars at the heavens, intent on making them hear her, intent on making her case known.
How is this fair? Her mind screams. How is this just?
You let me see her but you don't let me close enough to comfort her. You let me hear her you don't let me refute what she's saying. She thinks I'm happy, I know I'm miserable. This is your way of letting me say goodbye? This is your way of getting me to let go?
She shakes her head decisively and vows to get her love back despite the will of the gods. Determined to let Willow know she's not leaving her, she uses every once of her will to get her voice heard. Inside her head she is screaming out her love's name, inside the room, the scream is almost imperceptible, barely above a whisper. Yet it is enough.
Willow stiffens in her friend's arms, the hair on the back of her neck standing up. She heard her. Tara was calling, she is sure of it. She rises from her lying position and sits, facing away from the door. She pauses, afraid to turn around, afraid that what she sees there will be an illusion, a figment of an ever-hopeful imagination.
Tara too, waits anxiously. Willow heard. Hope is not lost. She sees her turn, sees that she will see her; she longs to look into those emerald eyes again.
Just as Willow turns, Tara feels the blackness one more.
Willow sits facing away from the door. She breathes deeply, filling her lungs with much-needed bravery. Determined, she turns, looks towards the door and sees
nothing. She sighs, defeated.
Buffy tenses, prepares herself to ask what is wrong, prepares herself to face whatever new torment has possessed her friends mind and help her overcome it, or at least learn to live with it. She reaches out, strokes her friend hair.
Willow shakes her head. "I thought, um," she gestures towards the door. "Tar um, no. It's nothing Buff."
Buffy hands still momentarily in Willow's hair. "Are you sure?"
Willow once again feels the despair and solitude taking over. She was sure she heard her lover's voice, sure she heard her calling but there was nothing. For a moment there was hope, a small flame illuminating her shattered heart, now that flame was extinguished. To think that her love had called. Laughable, ridiculous even. Tara is happy where she is. Isn't that what Buffy had said? There is no way she would feel the need to call on her, to pay a visit to now forgotten lover.
She leans in to Buffy once more, lays her head down in here lap. "I'm sure."
She feels the exhaustion, the need for sleep long since ignored. She closes her eyes and gives into it, hoping that in dreams she can escape reality.
Tara opens her eyes and sees that she is back. She turns and sees her guide. She opens her mouth intent on telling him what she thinks of him and the situation they have put her in. Before she can get a word out she sees his hand reach for her, touching her forehead. She feels dizzy, light, airless.
It comes out of her in waves, the darkness, the things long-suffered. The pains inflicted on her since childhood. She sobs. Every word spoken to her in anger, every put-down that shattered away at her delicate confidence. Every cut, every bruise, every humiliation pours out. The sadness, the horror, the mitigating fear that accompanied her since the first time her mother wasn't able to stop her father's anger towards her. The grief that had been a constant companion after her mother's death is gone. It's all gone. The awkwardness that was her speech. The shyness that was her character. The sweaty palms, the erratic heartbeat, the dry mouth that was her existence is gone. In its place is love, confidence and peace.
Filling her in waves. This is what happiness is, this is what pure joy feels like. She feels complete. Sure. At home. There are no more insecurities, no more questions. She is where she belongs.
She turns and looks at her guide once more. No longer recalling what she meant to tell him, no longer remembering why she was so upset.
She smiles, radiant, luminous, complete. She looks at her surroundings, realizing that she hasn't taken the time to explore. She tugs on his hand and begins walking.
"Show me around?"
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