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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: For "Tabula Rasa"
Things That Weren't Lost in the Fire
The tile is still cold, even though she's been sitting here an hour. Her eyes stay fixed on the frayed thread of the shower curtain, as she tries not to become a sobbing mess. If Tara came back through that door- all hesitant with a soft smile and apologetic eyes- Willow couldn't let Tara find her all blubbering and puffy.
Tara won't. She won't walk through that door and say it was all a big mistake, that she loves Willow, and it'll be enough to carry them through. Willow just needs to keep pretending she will.
She comes home late from a night with Amy. Magicks still linger in her, the strength she gained from them fading and pulsing. She laughs as she knocks over a trinket on the nightstand with a spell, and falling into her bed. Her eyes flutter as she shifts so she isn't lying uncomfortably on her belt, and she pauses to look more closely at the trinket. Of course it's Tara's, a small silver Tibetan prayer scroll she found at a fair trade store. The trinket doesn't really matter anyway- these days everything Willow sees reminds her of Tara.
Willow leans out of the bed to grab the scroll. She considers flinging it across the room, but instead she ends up asleep, the scroll clutched tightly in her hand.
Last week, Willow started bargaining with Tara, but only in her head. She tells in-her-head-Tara that she'll never snap, that she will be honest and truthful from now on, if Tara will just come back. Even for only in-her-head-Tara, Willow can't find a way to promise that she'll stop using magicks.
Tara smells like the rose incense that she wasn't allowed to burn in her dorm room, but did anyway. In the morning, Willow would kiss her, and she would taste like toothpaste, and combined with the rose incense would be a sugary flour scent from the pancakes she cooks every morning for Dawn. At night, when her kisses taste like toothpaste again, they would curl up in bed, and Willow would put her hand on just the right place on Tara's waist, so she felt comfortable and safe. Before they left for school each morning, Willow would always tell Tara she loved her, and hug her just a little too tight, because you couldn't control the world, and Tara needed to know she loved her if anything ever happened.
That's what she thinks of when she tries to fall asleep in her cold bed, when she wakes up to remember she's not there, and in every moment of silence in the day.
When she gives up magicks, it's easy to feel powerless. She knows that if she misses that power too much, she could easily go back, so instead she tries to think of moments of power without magicks. At first, she thinks of her early days with Buffy, when running fast, outsmarting vampires, and computer hacking were her tools long before magick. It's only a couple days later that she realizes that when Tara was lost, it wasn't magicks that Willow needed to look after her. Each day Willow had been scared out of her mind that the Tara she once knew would never get back to her, but her love for Tara, despite any condition Tara was in, gave her the strength to take care of Tara each day, with patience and hope.
It's then that Willow knows she needs to be strong for Tara again. Tara doesn't need to be found this time. Willow needs to find herself, and prove to Tara that she has. Willow needs Tara, because she loves her. It's not enough by itself to brave the problems of life. When it comes to what matters though, it's everything.
Tomorrow she'll say "hi" to Tara. Tomorrow she'll refuse to use magicks. Tomorrow she'll be one step closer to toothpaste kisses.
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