Tara feels the tears slide down her cheeks as she watches Dawn run back into the house and up the stairs. “Goddess, what next?” Tara murmurs, wiping the tears from her face as she hears the taxi pull up behind her and honk. Turning back, Tara takes a deep breath and picks up one of her boxes. Slowly walking down the stairs, she sets the box in the back seat before dejectedly making her way back to grab her other box, turning around and stopping in surprise at Buffy standing there with her arms crossed across her chest.
“What’s going on?” Buffy questions hoarsely, her eyes taking in the tear tracks on Tara’s face. Sharpening her hearing she hears two more people crying in the house, realizing it has to be Willow and Dawn crying. “And why is everyone crying?” Buffy quirks her eyebrow at the blonde Wiccan.
“I… I can’t.” Tara shakes her head as she shifts and walks around the slayer as she heads back to the car.
“Damn it! Where the hell are you going at roughly midnight?” Buffy growls, jogging after the witch. “Like we haven’t dealt with enough shit today with our memories being taken from us and almost being killed, you packing up and leaving isn’t going to help matters.” Buffy grasps the witch’s arm gently, frowning heavily as Tara flinches hard. Releasing her arm, Buffy shoves her hands in her pockets. “Come on. Whatever it is it can be worked through.” Buffy offers quietly.
“No. No it c-can’t.” Tara shakes her head and sets the box in the back seat, shutting the door before opening the front door to the cab.
“The meter is running.” The cab driver comments looking at the two women.
“Tara…” Buffy calls out softly, her eyes sad as she watches Tara climb in the taxi.
Tara hesitates for a moment hearing something in the slayer’s voice that she hasn’t heard before. Turning to look into sad hazel eyes, Tara’s considers the woman for a few minutes. “I’m leaving W-willow, Buffy.”
“Why?” Buffy questions hoarsely, seeing the pain in Tara’s eyes. “And do you have to leave altogether?”
“I c-can’t stay here with her, Buffy.” Tara shakes her head, her eyes unconsciously looking to the house for a few minutes, before sliding back to Buffy.
“Where are you going to stay?” Buffy hesitantly moves closer to Tara.
“I… I don’t know.” Tara admits, shaking her head.
“Don’t go, please.” Buffy pulls her hands out and clasps Tara’s hand gently. “You don’t have to stay with Willow, but can’t you stay here? At least until you find somewhere else?”
Tara bites her bottom lip, looking into sad hazel eyes, seeing the need and pain in Buffy’s eyes. Never able to walk away from someone that needs her, Tara sighs quietly. “Help me with my boxes?”
Buffy doesn’t quite smile, but relaxes from where she’d been unintentionally tight as a bowstring. Not knowing or understanding why, but something inside her making her do whatever she has to, to keep Tara here. Quickly opening the door to the back of the cab, Buffy sets one box on top of the roof of the cab before pulling out the other box. Setting it on top of the other one, Buffy picks them both up as Tara pays the driver while apologizing.
Tara silently follows behind the slayer, the two women walking quietly into the house. Tara stops and shuts the door, locking it behind her as she watches Buffy start up the stairs.
Buffy stops halfway up when she realizes Tara isn’t following her. Turning to look at the Wiccan, Buffy nods her head towards the top of the stairs. “My room, Tara. You can sleep there and I’ll take the couch tonight. That way you don’t have to worry about running into Willow.” Buffy explains softly.
Tara swallows and nods, slowly following Buffy, stopping as the slayer turns to her and mouths the word ‘wait’. Tara nods and watches as Buffy steps up the last few steps from the landing to the upstairs. Glancing right quickly into what used to be her and Willow’s room before the slayer disappears to the left going down the hallway leading to her and Dawn’s bedrooms.
Buffy breathes out a sigh of relief that the doors to everyone’s rooms are shut. Quickly placing the boxes inside her door before heading back, holding her hand out for Tara’s, smiling gently as Tara’s warm hand clasps hers. Leading the way down the hallway and to her room, she quickly shuts the door behind her, flipping the lock for the time being. “Do you want to talk about whatever is going on?” Buffy questions softly, waving a hand to the bed for Tara to sit down.
Tara sighs quietly, rubbing her face with one hand as she hesitates before sitting down on the edge of Buffy’s bed. “N-not really.” Tara murmurs dropping her hand to her lap and plucking at her pants.
“Avoidance. I can understand.” Buffy mumbles, sighing heavily. “I need to shower… vampire leftovers along with other stuff.” Buffy sighs as she turns to the dresser grabbing out her pajamas.
“B-buffy…” Tara stares at the disheartened slayer.
Buffy slowly turns and looks into hurt blue eyes. “Whatever it is, it’ll be just between us, Tara. I promise to keep my mouth shut, if you need someone to talk to.”
Tara nibbles on her bottom lip, looking at Buffy for a long few minutes. “It isn’t fair to y-you, Buffy. You’ve g-got your own p-problems, you d-don’t need me adding to them.” Tara admits sadly. “If you w-would want to m-maybe…” Tara waves her hand back and forth between them.
Buffy clenches her pajamas tightly in her hands as she looks at Tara, before looking down at the floor. “I don’t think you want to hear what I have to say, Tara. It’s pretty raw and hateful, the things going through my mind. Not really something you should hear.”
“Who better? I’m p-part of the r-reason you’re h-here, Buffy. Maybe I sh-should hear what y-you have to say. It’s only f-fair.” Tara murmurs, swallowing hard at the thought of being there with the rest of the group when Willow brought Buffy back here from Heaven.
“Did you actually help, Tara? Or were you just there? From what I’ve heard and understood, it was pretty much all Willow and the rest of you were there as support, not active participants.” Buffy growls lowly, fighting the anger she’s feeling at being here, literally in Hell on Earth.
Tara whimpers quietly, unconsciously shifting back from the slayer as she feels the anger literally flowing from the woman, something she’s never picked up on before from the slayer. The woman usually keeping all feelings and thoughts locked down tight behind a protective barrier.
Buffy narrows her gaze on Tara as she watches her shift back onto the bed more, almost as if she’s afraid of her. The low whimpers coming from the Wiccan making Buffy fight down her anger, getting control of it, watching Tara intently as the woman slowly relaxes again. “Shit.” Buffy growls, running a shaky hand through her hair. “You’re an empath. Why the hell didn’t you say something? And why am I just now figuring this out?” Buffy grumbles under her breath, wondering how she could know the woman for roughly a year and a half without knowing this about her.
“N-nobody knows, Buffy.” Tara sighs in relief as the slayer brings her feelings under control. “Usually m-my own mental b-barriers block out the m-majority of people’s f-feelings.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Buffy waves her hand around, her eyes sad as she looks at Tara. “And why doesn’t anyone know?”
Tara looks up with pain-filled eyes. “I try to keep that p-part of m-me under l-lock and key, Buffy. People that understand what it m-means always end up n-not w-wanting me around. Th-they are afraid th-that I am a m-mind r-reader or something.”
“You only get extremely strong emotions, right?” Buffy frowns as Tara nods her head.
“I’ve n-never f-felt anything f-from you before, Buffy. You h-have your own b-barriers and w-walls you k-keep your f-feelings behind.” Tara admits running a shaky hand over her head. “You n-need to talk to s-someone, Buffy. The anger is g-going to eat you up f-from the inside if you d-don’t let it out.”
Buffy grunts quietly and stares at Tara for a few minutes. “I need to shower. I’ll be back in a few minutes. I’ll knock three times quickly on the door if you wouldn’t mind to let me back in after you lock it behind me.”
Tara watches as Buffy quickly leaves the room. Sighing quietly, Tara stands and steps to the door, locking it behind Buffy before sitting down to wait for the slayer to come back from the bathroom.
Buffy stands under the hot spray after cleaning her body, silently thinking about the blonde in her bedroom. Wondering exactly how much there is to Tara that no one knows. Going over the conversation they’d just had, Buffy starts to frown heavily as it finally registers that the woman had been stuttering badly. Something she hasn’t done in a very long time.
“What the fuck is going on?” Buffy questions hoarsely, out loud. Taking a deep breath, Buffy silently wonders if she can talk with Tara about the pain and anger ripping through her. About not being able to sleep because when she closes her eyes all she remembers is waking up inside a box and having to dig her way out, Buffy unconsciously looks down at her hands and the pale scars across her knuckles noticeable probably only to her. Reaching down as the water starts to turn cold, Buffy turns it off quickly. Wondering if they should buy a bigger water heater, because that’s the only time she feels halfway warm anymore, is when she’s taking a hot bath or shower.
Quickly stepping out of the shower and roughly drying her body, Buffy runs a towel over her hair and brushes out the tangled mass before brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas. Sighing heavily, Buffy finally exits the bathroom, listening silently. Thankful all she hears is the quiet of the house. Walking softly up to Dawn’s door, she listens to the soft snores and relaxes before heading down the hallway to Willow’s room. The quiet half snores, half whimpers letting her know that Willow had fallen asleep still crying and was probably dreaming about whatever had happened. Trotting downstairs quietly, Buffy hesitates for a few minutes before grabbing a couple large mugs down and filling them with water. Throwing them in the microwave, she digs around, sighing quietly as she finds the packets of hot cocoa mix and the small marshmallows. As the microwave goes off, she places everything on a small tray along with a couple spoons to stir the cocoa with.
Quietly walking up the stairs, being careful with the tray, Buffy shifts it to hold underneath with one hand before knocking three times quickly on the door. Easing into the room as the Wiccan opens the door Buffy sets the tray down on her dresser.
Tara locks the door after Buffy steps in, surprised to see the tray with the hot cocoa on it, turning curious eyes to Buffy.
“Don’t trust myself to make the real stuff. I ran the hot water out, but if you want to freshen up, Wills and Dawn are asleep.” Buffy offers quietly.
Tara debates for a second, before nodding her head willing to put up with the cold water to clean up after spending the time down in the sewer. Grabbing a pair of shorts and a tank top out of her boxes, having only grabbed immediate items that she would need when she packed, Tara heads to the door, hesitating for a moment. “Are w-we going to talk?”
Buffy watches Tara for a few minutes and sighs quietly. “You won’t unless I do, right?” Seeing the slight nod that comes from Tara, Buffy runs a hand through her hair. “Yeah, I guess we’ll talk.”
Tara lets out the breath she’d unconsciously been holding before easing the door open, checking first before hurrying across the hallway to the bathroom. Quickly stripping, Tara pulls the hair bands out of her hair, letting it fall loose before brushing her teeth, giving the hot water heater a few extra minutes before grabbing a new towel and wash cloth, stepping into the shower Tara grabs the shampoo, squirting a dollop into her other hand before working the shampoo through her dry hair. Quickly turning the water on, Tara steps under the cold water letting her hair get wet and her body while she wets the washcloth. Smiling as the water becomes warmer Tara turns it off quickly to save it to rinse with. Working up a rich lather in her hair, Tara grabs the body wash and quickly washes her body, feeling about eighty percent better. Silently praying to the Goddess that she’ll get around to the other twenty percent in time.
Buffy opens the cocoa packets and dumps them into the mugs, stirring the hot water until the cocoa dissolves. Unconsciously she listens to Tara in the bathroom while keeping an ear open to the other sounds in the house.
Buffy looks at the bedroom door as it eases open, Tara coming in with her old clothes gathered in her arms. “Just set them in the hamper until we figure out what we’re going to do.” Buffy offers softly, locking the bedroom door after Tara finishes entering the rest of the way into the room. Picking up the two mugs of cocoa, Buffy hands one to Tara before sitting down at the end of the bed motioning Tara to sit down at the head of the bed.
Tara sits down gingerly smiling at the bag of marshmallows sitting on the bed. Opening the bag, Tara dumps a handful of the marshmallows in her mug before offering them to Buffy.
“Thanks.” Buffy dumps some in her cocoa before sipping, looking occasionally at Tara. “Do you want to start?”
Tara licks her lips and dips her finger into the marshmallow laden cocoa. “Maybe you c-can start. Then I’ll t-talk for a bit as w-we swap back and forth?” Tara offers, looking up at Buffy.
Buffy looks up into blue eyes, a partial smile on her lips. “Making sure I talk, huh?”
Tara blushes and looks back down. “It occurred to m-me that you m-might try to get out of it.”
“True.” Buffy admits quietly, sighing deeply. “I’m going to try and keep my anger under control, but if I don’t, let me know and I’ll put some distance between us.” Buffy waves to the window, figuring she can open it and climb down like she used to do in the past.
“You d-don’t have to do that, Buffy.” Tara shakes her head, smiling softly at the slayer. “I was j-just so used to not having to have m-my shields up around you, that I automatically l-let them down. I can put them b-back up to where it w-won’t be so strong.” Tara explains quietly.
“But you will get some overflow if it happens again?” Buffy picks up on the Wiccan’s meaning.
“Probably. The anger and pain is literally…” Tara frowns and looks at Buffy. “It’s tearing you apart.” Tara finally whispers softly, looking down.
Buffy watches the blonde as she pales with her words, realizing Tara doesn’t mean it just emotionally, she means literally too. “How can I make it better? I hate being here, Tara! I was warm, comfortable and at peace. I wake up in my fucking coffin, having to dig myself out of my own grave to hell on earth. Everyone wants me to be like I was, but I’m not! I’m fucking pissed and angry at everyone!” Buffy growls angrily her eyes darkening with the anger inside her. “I’m cold and I don’t feel anything else but hatred and anger… or nothing at all.” Buffy finally admits, looking down at her cocoa. Lifting the mug to her lips she finishes it before easing off the bed and placing it on the dresser. Unconsciously standing there, clenching her hands so tightly that her nails dig into her palms.
Tara sets her mug on the nightstand, watching Buffy intently as she slowly lowers her shields, wincing at the emotions flowing from Buffy. The hatred and anger are foremost, but a tendril of fear and worry is buried deep beneath. Watching the blood slowly drip down Buffy’s hands, Tara jumps and crosses the distance between her and the slayer. “Don’t fight me, please.” Tara whispers before slowly wrapping her arms around the tense slayer, holding her tightly against her as she hooks her chin over the slayer’s shoulder.
Buffy shivers uncontrollably as Tara pulls her back against her. The warmth slowly seeping into her body makes her shake even more.
“Easy, sweetie. Easy.” Tara whispers softly, continuing to hold Buffy as the slayer shakes harder. Burying her face in Buffy’s neck, Tara slowly starts to cry. “Goddess, what did we do to you? I’m sorry for putting you through this, sweetie. So sorry…” Tara hugs Buffy tighter against her as she continues to cry for the slayer.
Buffy closes her eyes as the Wiccan’s warm tears drop on her neck and her warm breath caresses softly over her skin. The pain she’s feeling is obviously hurting Tara also, Buffy continues to shake as she fights the feelings trying to come through before a hard sob breaks through. “It isn’t your fault, Tara.” Buffy admits, as hot tears streak down her own face as she can almost feel the caring coming from Tara.
Tara loosens her tight grip on Buffy as she feels the slayer’s body start to relax as the tears start to fall from her. Turning Buffy around, Tara hugs her tightly, pressing her lips to the side of Buffy’s face as the slayer practically collapses into her arms.
Buffy wraps her arms around Tara’s waist as she buries her face in the woman’s neck, allowing the tears to continue to fall, not that she could stop now if she tried.
Tara holds Buffy tightly with one arm while stroking the other hand soothingly over the back of the slayer’s head, closing her eyes as she silently cries with the slayer. Knowing that Buffy’s going to need help getting through this, but not knowing if she is the one to help her… Or if the slayer would even want her help.
Unaware of the time passing, Buffy continues to hold on desperately to Tara, the warmth soothing her more than anything else she’s been able to find. Being touched by anyone or anything something she couldn’t stand since being back.
Continuing to hold Buffy, Tara presses a soft kiss to Buffy’s head as the slayer’s hard sobs slowly taper off, though the slayer’s death grip on her body doesn’t lessen. Slowly moving both of her hands up and down the slayer’s back, Tara frowns at the ribs she feels, knowing Buffy hadn’t been eating well, but not realizing how much weight the woman had lost. Knowing that Buffy could ill afford to lose weight even before with her being so tiny.
“Thank you.” Buffy whispers as she brushes her cheek over Tara’s shoulder.
“I’m not sure I d-deserve a thanks, Buffy.” Tara whispers just as softly, continuing to run her hands up and down the slayer, taking a shaky breath. “This may not be something you want to hear, but I’m not sorry you’re here, Buffy. I’m sorry that we took you from Heaven, and I’m sorry for the absolute hell you’re living through now. But I’ll n-never be sorry that you’re here. This place needs you in it. As do the people that live here. And… I missed you.” Tara admits as the tears start to flow again even as she buries her face in the slayer’s strong neck.
Buffy holds Tara in stunned silence at the woman’s words. The one person that probably knows her the least out of the group admitting she missed her and refusing to apologize for bringing her back, even though she was obviously sorry for what she’d been taken from. Buffy’s scratchy mind remembers how Tara had called in a panic when she’d realized that Dawn was going to try and bring their mom back. Something slowly settles inside Buffy at that remembrance. “It’s against everything you believe in, isn’t it?”
Tara frowns as she tries to figure out what Buffy’s saying. “I’m sorry, sweetie… I’m not s-sure what you’re asking.”
Buffy slowly eases back, but doesn’t break her hold on the woman. Looking into swollen, red-rimmed eyes, Buffy sighs quietly. “Bringing me back, you didn’t want to do it, did you?” Buffy gets her answer, as Tara looks away, breaking eye contact. “Why did you help?” Buffy questions curiously.
“I didn’t.” Tara whispers as she slowly turns back to look at Buffy. “Goddess help me, I didn’t. I was against it the whole time. Yes, I knew there was a chance that you were in a Hell Dimension, but I also knew there was a better chance that you were somewhere happy and at peace. You’re too good of a person to go anywhere bad. I tried…” Tara swallows and looks up at the ceiling, taking a deep breath. “Willow said she needed us there, but she didn’t. It was all her.”
Buffy reaches up and strokes a finger gently down the tear stained face, curious at the soft feeling skin. “What did Willow do to you?” Buffy finally questions softly, leaving her finger on the Wiccan’s cheek.
“She did a spell on m-me to t-take away my memories of a f-fight we had… I found out by a c-comment Dawn made.” Tara nibbles on her bottom lip as she frowns at the thought. “Then when I confronted her th-that I knew, she p-promised me to go a month without magic. I t-told her a w-week and then w-we would see.” Tara looks sadly at Buffy. “That was last n-night that she promised me. Today she d-did the spell that backfired.”
Buffy feels a hard knot of anger start to burn in her gut. “Who does she think she is? God?” Buffy snarls angrily as she pulls her hands away from Tara as she starts to pace her room, frowning as she notices Tara flinching as she shifts away from her. “Fuck!” Buffy runs shaky hands through her hair as she tries to get control of her anger. Breathing heavily with the effort of fighting her own emotions, Buffy looks at Tara as the woman slowly relaxes. “Has she ever performed any other spells on you?” Buffy finally questions after a few minutes.
“Honestly?” Tara whispers, looking sadly at the slayer, she slowly shakes her head. “I haven’t a clue. And truthfully… I d-don’t think I’d w-want to know if she d-did.”
Buffy swallows hard at the words spoken softly but with so much fear. Rubbing both hands over her face, Buffy takes a couple deep breaths before sighing. “Why don’t you lie down, Tara. We’ll figure out something tomorrow.” Buffy slowly makes her way to the bedroom door, surprised when Tara sets her hand on top of her shoulder.
“I’m not kicking you out of your room, Buffy. If y-you d-don’t mind sh-sharing, the bed is b-big enough for b-both of us.” Tara offers quietly, not knowing where the offer’s coming from, but part of her remembering the way Buffy had held onto her as if her life depended on it floats to the surface.
“I haven’t exactly been sleeping well, Tara. I’d probably keep you awake.” Buffy whispers softly, not turning to look at the woman.
“If you d-don’t want to share, that’s fine. That’s all you have t-to say. As for n-not sleeping well… I really h-haven’t s-slept well for months, myself.” Tara admits.
Buffy slowly moves her hand from where it was reaching for the lock on the door and moves it to the light instead. Flicking the overhead light off, she’s surprised as she feels her lip curl up in a half smile at the soft thank you she gets from Tara. Turning she follows Tara to the bed, sliding in after the Wiccan, Buffy reaches up and turns off the lamp. Surprised when she feels a hand gently resting on her shoulder and squeezing.
“Maybe if y-you don’t m-mind, I can t-try holding you to see if it helps you s-sleep.” Tara offers softly.
Buffy slowly nods, realizing her body had already been gravitating towards the heat that was coming from Tara.
Tara smiles softly as Buffy shifts to lie against her side. As Buffy rests her head on her shoulder while wrapping an arm around her waist, Tara wraps the slayer in her arms and presses her lips softly to her forehead. “Get comfortable, sweetie. Throw your l-leg over me if you want.”
Buffy grunts quietly, but does as suggested. Rubbing her cheek over Tara’s shoulder, Buffy feels her eyes getting heavy even as the warmth slowly invades her body from the blonde Wiccan. “Thank you…” Buffy whispers as she falls asleep.
Tara whimpers quietly as she presses her lips again to the slayer’s forehead. Stroking her hands gently over the slayer’s arm and back, Tara stares up at the darkened ceiling not knowing what tomorrow might bring, but silently praying that Buffy might feel just the tiniest bit better. That way they can work some more on the slayer and hopefully make things better for her.