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Do you know the moment when something hits you in the chest?

When you can't quite breathe and it hurts like hell, but there's nothing you can do about it?

And you can't move and can't speak, you can only wheeze and scrabble at the ground, hoping it will help you?

And your friends crowd around and tell you 'It's going to be okay, you'll be okay.' But they can't help you?

You know that feeling when you're helpless, betrayed by your own body, and part of you feels like its been ripped away?


Yeah, I know, it sucks. But at least it ends. At least you can finally breathe again, at least you can stand up again and laugh it off. Until you can't. Until it doesn't go away, until you are left alone, crying, on the cold floor because everyone else has moved on. And you have to learn to live with that pain. Or at least, everyone says you have to.


But how can you live without air?

Willow Rosenburg was not asleep. She knew that her friends thought she was. They tiptoed around her, desperate not to wake her. They were so busy trying not to wake her that they didn't see that her eyes were wide open. Willow wasn't crying. She couldn't cry. She couldn't even make a noise. Air hissed through her clenched teeth, and she was sure for a second that Buffy had heard her, that she would stop and check on Willow, see Willow's open eyes and clenched teeth, eyes that Willow couldn't close, because if she closed them all she could see was red.

If Buffy had stopped, Willow wasn't sure she would have been able to make any noise. It's easier to pretend to be asleep. That way she doesn't have to see her friend's hearts breaking for her, because to compassion in their eyes makes it impossible to forget what she lost. Willow wants to scream at them, tell them that she doesn't want their
sympathy . She doesn't want their condescending looks and burning compassion. And above all, she doesn't want their pity. All Willow wants to do is curl up on the floor and cry. Not the pretty, adult kind of crying, but she want to sob, cry in the way babies do. She wants to sob, face red and snot running from her nose, cry until she can't cry anymore.

But she can't. Every breath she takes doesn't feel like enough to fill her lungs. There has to be a way out of this pain. Any way out. Any balm or help or kind word that can make her stop hurting, but there isn't. There's only pain and more pain. Maybe this is how Faith feels. What was it she said? "There's only rage and pain and hurt, and nothing you do makes sense." Yeah. Willow wonders idly what Faith would have thought of this. Of lying with your eyes open and your head on a book, because moving hurts too much.

She would probably think Willow was pathetic.


But it's hard to move when you've been shattered.