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)
Three months pass and the world continues to spin. Her loved died and still the sun shines. Her heart shattered to a million pieces and people still smile, still dance, still make love. The whole world didn't end just because hers had.
Willow kneels, the sun shining brightly overhead, a cool breeze fluttering at the sleeves of her shirt. She takes in the trees, the sounds of the birds, and the relative quiet of her surroundings. She takes in the smells of the flowers and the grass, well-kept, vibrant, green. Sees the grey headstones protruding out of it. Turns and focuses on the one in front of her, the one that tells her that it's true, that it isn't a nightmare and that Tara is indeed dead.
She sighs. Tells herself to try to get through it without crying this time. She has these conversations weekly, comes to the graveyard, brings flowers, tells her love about the life that she is trying to lead, the existence that she is trying to forge. She hasn't managed to get through one without breaking down, the tears streaming down her face. She will this time, she promises herself. She won't let Tara know she is holding on by a thread.
"Dawn is getting better with her technique," she says softly. "She's finally managed to handle a crossbow. Buffy was so proud."
She moves, sits with her back resting on the gravestone, plucks a blade of grass and continues.
"She came into the house smiling like a crazy woman," she continues. "She came right up to me and started talking a mile a minute, telling me that she had finally done it, that Dawn had killed a vamp using the crossbow, that she just stood there, calm as can be, told the vamp her own little quip and poof, vamp be gone. Of course she said that the quip isn't nearly as good as the one's she says but still, points for effort. Then Dawn came in, head held high, trying to be dignified, not smiling. Trying to make it seem as if it was just another day at the office, you know? Until she sees me that is, she ran up to me and hugged me, moved me up off the couch, started jumping up and down. 'I did it Will, I did it!' she said. You should have seen her, baby, you would have been so proud.
"Still no word on Spike. Can't say that I mind. Still, I don't know how Buffy is taking it. She said she's fine, that she's glad he's gone but still, sometimes she gets this look in her eyes, like she misses him, you know? I just want her to be happy, but hopefully not with him. I think she can do so much better. Oh and Xander and Anya are dating again, well sorta. He went to the movies and bumped into her. He says it was awkward but that they decided to just see one together. He hasn't stopped talking about it, said that during the middle of it, she reached over and grabbed his hand. Said she didn't let go until the houselights came up.
"So you see? Everyone is fine. And I," she stops, sighs. "I hate it. I don't get how their life can continue. I don't get how they can still smile. Baby, I don't get why they get to be happy. Buffy was laughing the other day, a deep resonating laugh. The kind where you hold your stomach and tears start coming down your eyes. Dawn had said something and it just set her off. I heard them, went into the kitchen. I stood there staring at her, seeing my best friend be happy and I broke down into tears."
Tara ran. She felt terrified. Terrified that she would get caught, terrified that they would stop her, hold her, keep her there. She ran hoping that she was smart enough, hoping that she was a good enough actress. She ran, hoping that no one was following.
They shouldn't be, she thought. They had no idea that she remembered, no idea that she was anything but content. No idea that the memories had returned.
The had come slowly, terrifying her at first. She had been under a tree, in a field, her eyes closed, her ears attuned to the music that seemed to be prevalent in this place, constant and serene. In her mind's eye, there were ponies, running free, stunning in their beauty, breathtaking in their power, and she was running with them, somehow able to keep up without tiring. The hand struck her suddenly, snapping her head back, bruising her cheek. There was a voice, deep, male, angry. Telling her she was worthless, making her feel as if she deserved the pain.
She snapped her eyes open and focused on getting air in her lungs. She sprang up, intent on telling her guide, intent on making these horrible visions stop.
They kept coming.
A voice raised in anger, sweet sickly breath blowing on her ear, telling her to be a good girl. Hard fingers, piercing pain. She doubled over, tears streaming down her face, not wanting these images, not wanting this torment.
More visions, more anguish. A blackened eye, a broken bone. She saw a body, knew it was her mother's, saw it wasting away, thin, grayish, rapidly disappearing. She felt the loss swiftly punching into her gut. Tearing at her insides, ripping her bare. Saw the casket being put into the ground. She turned and looked at the man that was her father, the man that was her tormentor and felt all hope fleeing. Knew that the last line of defense against his sinister punishments was gone.
She got up and forged ahead. Breaking into a run, calling out for her guide, hoping that he could explain. Then a flash of red appeared and her step faltered.
Hands clasped together, holding tight. A resonating laugh. A voice, distinct, unique. A face, green eyes, emerald, loving, hers.. A body. Soft sighs, low moans. Limbs tangled, touches exchanged in the dark. The smell of vanilla mixed in with the musky odor or arousal, of wetness. Her back arching, her lips trembling. Her body wanting.
She stopped moving completely as the images of the redhead flood her.
A hesitant touch. A shy voice. The feeling of hope returning. The fear receding. Long talks into the wee hours of the night, bodies bundled together in sleep, waking up not feeling afraid but rather content.
A feeling flooded through her. Happiness engulfed her, much like what she had been experiencing only moments before the visions appeared; only this version was more distinct, more primal, more essential. A name flashed in her mind.
She lost her balance and fell unceremoniously in the grass. Willow.
A cry escaped and she wondered how she could have forgotten, even for a second, the love that they shared. The visions came more rapidly, filling in the holes that were missing. The pain of the breakup, the sweetness of the reunion.
She used her hand to get up, managed to get in a sitting position. Her memory now in tact, she began crying, crying for the loss of the memories of her love, crying for the return of the memories of her childhood.
Now she is running and she has a plan. She just hopes it worked. She sees the door and her heart beats faster. If her source is correct, all she needs to do is go through it. She would never be able to return, she would never be able to forget, but she would have her life back, she would have her love. She reaches for the handle and pauses. Taking in what she is about to give up. She feels the loss of ignorance tugging at her momentarily, but pushes it aside. She turns the knob, walks through the darkness
And steps into light. She sees the grass, sees the sun. For a moment she thinks she's back under the tree in the garden, that it was all a dream. Then she turns and sees her.
Her eyes are closed and her head is resting against the stone. She has a blade of grass between her fingers and a silent tear is running down her face.
"I'm sorry babe," she says. "I wasn't going to cry. I'm just trying to understand how it is that the world can keep on spinning if you're not in it. Doesn't it realize that you're essential? Doesn't it realize how much I need you?"
With that the tears over take the petite redhead and she begins crying in earnest. Tara springs from her frozen stance a few feet away and starts toward her love.
She kneels down beside her and reaches out her hand to stop the tears.
"Willow," she says, "Honey, I'm right here."
Willow jolts as the hand reaches her. She seals her eyes firmly - a child in a darkened movie theater not wanting to see the monster kill the girl.
Her breathe quickens. Her heartbeat accelerates. Her fingers twist and deform the desolate chunk of grass.
Again Tara speaks, causing Willow's lungs to stop functioning mid-air. The hand on her cheek squeezes firmly. She gasps and expels the breath she's been withholding.
The words, the meaning of those words, penetrate her mind.
"Willow, I need you to open your eyes," Tara says.
Willow thinks, shakes her head no.
There is a sigh then another hand touches her cheek. Her face now cradled lovingly in both.
"Why not?" Tara questions.
Willow pauses, thinks, answers softly. "If I do, you'll go away."
"I won't!" she says. "I promise."
Like a petulant child, Willow once again shakes her head.
One of Tara's hands reach toward her hair, caressing the locks softly. Willow moans. The tears, dried up by the shock of the touch, start flowing again.
She squeezes into herself, pulling away from the voice and the body.
"This," she stops, catches her breath; try's to keep her voice from breaking. "This is cruel."
Tara's hand stops mid-stroke. "Wil-"
"No!" she states, pushing the hands away from her. She scrambles to her knees and faces the tombstone. Her body is positioned as if in prayer, hands held tightly across her chest, face touching the ground.
"It's not real," she cries, the words flowing repeatedly from her lips.
She hears rustling then feels the hands on her body once more. "Oh god," she moans. "Please, god, make it stop."
Tara, sounding desperate, tries to break through the barricade, "Listen to me," she says. Willow shakes her head, begins rocking back and forth. "Please make it stop, Please, oh god, please just make it stop," she says.
Grabbing a hold of her shoulders Tara states more clearly. "LISTEN," she cries desperately. "I came back. Baby, I had to come back to you."
Willow considers this then continues rocking. "No," she says. "You're happy Buffy said. You're in heaven."
"Heaven is with you."
"But it's where you belong!" Willow states almost desperately.
"No," Tara says clearly.
"NO!" she yells. "I belong with you. Don't you see?" She pulls the redhead closer, enclosing the resisting woman into a firm embrace. She leans in, murmurs in Willow's ear. "I don't care about heaven. I don't care about angels and cities filled with gold. I don't care about weightlessness and erasing all the bad memories. All I care about is you."
Willow tentatively reaches out to touch the other woman.
"Baby, if this isn't real "
"It is," Tara interrupts. "Honey, you have to believe me. Heaven was wonderful but it wasn't near as wonderful as you."
Willow pulls back and Tara tenses, afraid that Willow will once again resume her mantra of disbelief. Instead she grips Tara's shoulder and slowly opens her eyes.
Tara sighs, finally able to look into the deep emerald green she so desperately missed. In them she sees shock, fear but also a glimmer of hope. Slowly the fear begins to recede and the hope expands. A hand reaches for her cheek and takes hold. There is a gut-wrenching moan, and then Willow's voice cries out, "Oh God, Tara."
She finally believes.
"Oh God, Tara."
"Baby," Willow says, her eyes filled with tears, her voice straining to sound normal. "Oh God, baby. How?"
Tara shakes her head, "It doesn't matter, not now. All that matters is that I found you."
Willow looks at Tara, searching for answers in the depth of blue eyes; all she finds is love and understanding. She brings the other girl closer, encircling her in her arms tentatively, afraid to move to fast, afraid she will disappear. Once she finds purchase, a sigh escapes. She begins kissing Tara on the cheek, her lips soft, delicate, adoring. She feels the skin of her love, the distinct texture, the smoothness, the taste.
She moves her mouth to the other girl's forehead, again, tasting slowly. She's branding the girl, marking her as her own with her mouth. Her lips travel to Tara's eyelids, kissing one, then the other. To her temple, to her other cheek. She reaches the edge of her lips, brings her tongue out to taste there, just there.
Tara's lips open in response, a soft moan escaping. But instead on moving in and kissing her, Willow's mouth moves to the other edge, again exposing her tongue to taste the edge.
Tara whimpers, wanting the contact. "Will "
Willow moves her hand up, her fingers travelling the same path as her mouth. Her hands touch Tara's forehead delicately- a blind woman remembering the contours of her lover's face. Tears are flowing down her cheeks freely, the joy she is feeling threatening to burst her heart. Her fingers reach Tara's mouth, again Tara moans. She uses her index finger to feel the shape of the full lips, moving it back and forth over the top lip, then doing the same with the bottom. Tara's mouth is open slightly, her breath coming out shallowly. Willow's finger slowly seeks entrance and Tara opens her mouth more fully to accommodate. Taking the digit in her mouth, she begins tasting it with her tongue.
Willow feels the shock flow into her body, the thrill. She remembers the feeling, the nerves brought alive through a taste by her lover. She takes her finger out, running her hand through Tara's hair.
She moves in again, feels Tara breath on her lips, she sighs. Then leans in and kisses her. There is a shock, an electricity coursing through her. A familiarity her body can not deny. The tears flow more freely, the joy soars higher; her heart feels like it could burst. Not out of pain, not because it's shattered but because it's true, because she believes again.
Miracles happen-her love had returned.
Minutes later and they pull apart, each panting for breath. Tara takes hold of Willow's hand and they pull each other up. She looks around, sees her name on the tombstone. A sad smile enters her eyes at the inscription.
Forever my love, it says.
She looks at Willow and knows that statement holds true for both of them. Nothing could keep her apart from her girl, not even angels.
"Take me home."
Willow nods and the begin walking. The sun setting behind them, their bodies moving in conjunction, clasping hands, silhouetted by the darkening sky.
A figure emerges from the bushes and follows. There is no glee in its heart, no cynicism, no malice, just an overwhelming sense of duty and understanding for the task it must perform.
The task he must perform isn't easy, isn't desirable, but it's duty and duty prevails. He follows them on their journey to what he assumes is their home and smiles at the way they walk. They lean into each other, their bodies holding each other up, unwilling to lose the physical contact that reinforces the truth - the solidness of their bodies both being next to each other, in motion, with breath.
They stop in front of a house and speak to each other animatedly, then the redhead brings the girl in for what looks to be a reassuring hug. She again takes her hand and leads her up the steps.
The door opens and Willow peaks her head in.
"Hello?" she says tentatively.
"Willow? Hey come in the kitchen, I'm like cooking and stuff!"
Willow looks at Tara at the sound of Dawn's voice and quirks her head toward the kitchen, beckoning Tara to follow. Tara hesitates, then reluctantly threads behind her girlfriend, her feet dragging, her stomach churning at the notion of seeing her Dawnie again. Nervous that she'll be feared, or worse rejected.
They stop at the doorway and see Dawn rapidly put a top back on a saucepan, shaking her arm in agitation at the burn she just gave herself.
"Stupid hot things." she mutters.
She squats down and begins rummaging the cabinet below the sink for more cookware.
"Dawnie." Willow says softly.
"Hey," she answers distractedly with a precursory glance over her shoulder. "This cooking thing is way harder than I thought. Do you know where we keep that thing with the holes in it? You know to wash the salad?"
"Sweetie, can you stop for a second. Um, there is something we have to tell you."
"Uh-huh." she answers as she continues searching and banging pots together in the progress. "I can never remember what the heck it's called, is it a colander or a strainer or what? I mean you'd think they'd give the thing a better name you know?"
"A-HA! Found it!" she says standing up. "Now I just need to get the tomatoes sliced and did you say we?"
She turns around and finally looks at Willow.
It takes her a second, just one second for her eyes to focus on the person standing behind Willow. It takes her just that second to take in the features of the face and the contours of the body. It takes her mind at least ten times as long to associate a name to the body, and her heart what seems like a full minute to begin to believe what her mind is telling her. Once her heart begins believing, her body reacts, causing her grip on the stainless steel colander to loosen. It drops loudly to the floor, filling the now eerily silent room with resonating sound.
Dawn jumps at the sound and looks at the object, not able to phantom how it reached its current destination. She looks up and sees that the woman is standing before her and forgets about the metal on the ground. Her heart tells her mind to speak and she opens her mouth to try. When no sound comes out, she shakes her head and tries again. This time, there is success.
One word conveying such huge possibilities in the mind of the young woman. The possibilities of a dream, a cruel trick or a twisted form of torture enter her head. But there are other possibilities, coming from a secret recess of her heart, a piece of herself she thought closed off, hardened by the cruelties that life had dealt her and the realities of living on a Hellmouth. Those possibilities were of hope, of love and miracles. Or perhaps of the miracle of love. That she wanted this to happen was true, that she chalked it up to the unrealistic fantasies and logic of girlhood was a given. Love is more powerful than death. Tara is dead. She loves Tara, therefore Tara should no longer be dead. Unrealistic logic and childlike fantasies. And yet...
"Dawnie." Tara says and begins walking toward the girl.
Tara reaches her destination and grasps the younger girl into a hug. Dawn stands unmoving, hands on her side as she feels arms come around her. Then, like a beast unleashed, a dam broken, she latches on. Her hands seeking to solidify the image grasping on to her, making her mind believe that it is true. She leans in and rests her head against Tara's shoulder and listens intently for a heartbeat. Hearing one, she sighs and begins crying. She doesn't consider herself a young girl any longer but she still believes in the power of love.
Hours later and the sun is setting. He had stood outside and seen it all. Had seen the reunion of a family. He saw the phone calls and the frantic running into the house by other people. The girls family, he thinks and smiles again. He saw the hugs and the tears and he felt the joy and while the joy made him happy, it didn't deter from the duty.
He looks up and sees the silhouettes coming from the bedroom window. Sees two bodies close together, sees them leaning their foreheads on each other then begin kissing. He sees as the bodies descend on what he assumes is a bed and then the lights turn off. He sighs and wishes it were easy. It is love, one might even say true love, but it doesn't make a difference. Love does not rescind death. Death happens, whether love exists or not. It is there, a constant, a main-stay, a fixture. And death had come back to reclaim one of its own.
It all started with a kiss-the reunion of two lovers. Mouths moving toward each other.
The feel of each other's breath on their lips. A whisper. An invitation. A murmur. It was just
a kiss. And yet. The kiss led to more, had to lead to more.
In the afterglow of the events that transpired from that kiss, Tara lays on their bed and reflects.
It's a wonder that it's their bed, their room; that she's able to think that again, that it's able to be so.
She feels...spent, languid even. Her body feels tired, used and sated. She runs her hand up her shoulder to the nape of her neck, feels the rapidly cooling sweat.
How long since it began? she thinks. Minutes? Hours? Days? How long have she and Willow been in this room? This sanctuary of lovers?
The questions cloud her mind for a second and then she smiles. Why does it matter? All that matters is that it happened.
She looks down and sees her lover draped halfway across her body, her head lying on her shoulder, her arm holding on possessively to her waist. Is still happening, she thinks. All that matters is that she was able to love Willow again and cherish her body. That she was able to solidify her memory of the contours of that body once again. She tasted her wetness, felt her tremble, heard her scream.
And God, Willow had done the same. Tara closes her eyes and sees Willow, moments (it had to have just been moments) ago, her head buried between her legs, wantonly using her tongue to give her pleasure. And she sees her own hands buried in Willow's hair pushing her towards her center. The feeling of her lover's lips on her, tasting her, was indescribable. She sees how her hips thrust up to meet each flicker of the tongue. She sees Willow stop feasting and look up at her.
Tara lays in bed and shudders at the memory of that look, but not out of fear. She shudders because that look means she is incapable of logical thought, that rationality has gone out the window. It is that look that confirms that Tara is still totally and completely under her lover's spell.
The look was feral, primal - a wolf calling out to his mate. Willow's green eyes were darker, dilated; filled with desire and dominion. Tara saw that look and she ascended, or fell, as the case may be. She saw it and her body tightened, her nerves heightened and her hands sought purchase as release washed over her. She saw the look and any lingering thoughts of returning to where she fled from dissipated.
A short time later and Willow finally stirs. Tara moves her hand from her neck and softly caresses Willow's cheek.
"Tara?" A groggy voice inquires. When she doesn't receive an immediate answer her body stiffens and the hold she has on the other woman tightens forcefully. She opens her eyes tentatively, as if afraid of what she'll find. Blue eyes stare back at her questionably. Willow breathes a sigh of relief.
"Baby?" Tara probes.
"I thought it was a dream." Willow says softly.
"What was sweetie?"
"You. You coming back. I thought it was all up here." She moves her hand to indicate the side of her head and sighs. "I thought I had the dream again."
"You've had it before?"
Willow nods. "Constantly. Only whenever I'd wake up you'd be gone and I'd be empty again... waking up was torture."
Tara cups Willow's face with her hand. "Sweetie, we've been through this, I'm never leaving you." She sighs and grins halfheartedly, "You make me complete remember?"
Willow laughs softly and leans in to kiss the other woman. Her lips hover over Tara as their breathes mingle, "I remember." She whispers.
The kiss became heated, become passionate, become more.
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