The whole of Sunnydale had been swallowed, nothing had survived and although it had happened 6 months ago there was one thing which weighted heavily on Willows mind. Tara. Willow could no longer go and visit the headstone which marked Tara’s last resting place, a place where despite everything Willow had felt closest to Tara. She used to feel as though Tara was there listening to her tales, watching and giving her strength. She used to feel almost complete as she sat staring at the headstone her fingers playing with the grass whilst she told Tara of what had been happening. It had made the hole in her heart diminish to nearly nothing, yet as soon as she left the hole widened once more till Willow wondered if she had a heart left at all. Willow used to tell the Scoobies, of course they all used to be very sympathetic and tell her that she had to let Tara go. Willow even tried talking to Buffy to see if she didn’t feel the same when she visited Joyce’s grave. Of course getting anything like that from Buffy was like trying to get blood from a stone. In the end Willow gave up and kept her visits to the graveyard secret and personal.
Despite the victory they had claimed the day Sunnydale was destroyed, Willow couldn’t help feel that she had also lost. Lost a huge part of her. The places she and Tara used to go together, laugh together or cry together were lost forever with just a hole in the ground to mark that they ever existed. Those places held all the memories Willow held dear to her and although the memories were still there she could feel them fading like old photographs left in the sun too long. She found it harder and harder to picture things clearly and it felt like she was betraying Tara’s memory by doing so. Ordinarily she would go to the graveyard and everything would feel better but that wasn’t a possibility anymore and Willow felt lost. Yet no-one seemed to understand or care anymore. Tara had counted them all as family and now it appeared as though they had all forgotten she had existed at all.
Willow sighed. Today had been a hectic day of moving into a new apartment. Everything felt odd and uncomfortable and the floorboards creaked disturbingly as she stepped on them. There was damp all up most of the walls and the single glazed windows did nothing to keep out the cold. Yet it was the only thing Willow could afford at the moment and she had to be grateful she had her own place at all. After sharing a cramped box of an apartment with the other Scoobies for 6 months they had all been ready to move to their own places, lest their friendships were ruined forever by the never ending squabbling. Xander, when he had first seen Willows new home, had offhandedly said that it was nothing a bit of magic couldn’t solve to which Buffy had shot him a withering look. Willow had promised that she wouldn’t be using magic and had smiled reassuringly.
Yet it was a cold night and as Willow curled up under her pitifully thin duvet clutching a hot-water bottle to herself, she was sorely tempted to utter the spells which leapt to her lips. Instead however, she curled up all the tighter and tried to imagine that Tara was there with her, keeping her company and heating the bed with their combined body heat. Slowly Willow found herself drifting off into the world of dreams.
Willow didn’t know where she was but it was beautiful. So many flowers of so many different colours and smells it made her feel giddy to walk among them. Perfect white fluffy clouds dotted the blue sky and floated along peacefully, allowing the sunlight to drift through and warm Willows face. Songbirds danced in the sky trilling love songs to one another whilst butterflies flitted from one flower to another in search of nectar. It was the place that only occurred in dreams.
“You’re safe now” the breeze seemed to whisper. No. Not the breeze, it was an altogether more familiar voice than that. A voice which Willow longed to hear every day but knew she couldn’t hear it ever again. Yet here it was taunting her.
“You don’t have to be scared here, strong like an Amazon remember,” The voice was growing into something more than just a mere whisper on the breeze. Willow turned and there she stood wearing the same blue top and the same jeans she had worn the last time Willow had seen her. Yet her eyes seemed to glow with more life than Willow could recall. Tara held out her hand. It seemed so real yet Willow was scared to reach out and prove that it wasn’t. She knew how much it would hurt if she reached out and there was nothing there to meet her touch.
“Strong like an Amazon” Tara spoke softly yet firmly and her lips crept into a warm smile. Willow reached out cautiously, reaching for the hand she had known so well and which had fitted so perfectly with her own. Slowly their fingers interlocked and Willow could feel the soft smooth skin of Tara’s hand entwined with her own and with that the strength she had almost forgotten she had.
“I miss you,” Willow felt the tears trickle down her cheeks and could feel herself choking on her words. She had thought of so many things she had wished she had told Tara but now she was here again she couldn’t give them a voice.
“I miss you too. But I am not real; you have to remember that, this is but a dream. I cannot be brought back,” Tara looked into Willows eyes with an intensity that stopped Willows sobs. That seemed wholly unfair. What made her think that Willow would try such a thing? She knew that you could not bring people back from the dead and although she wished otherwise, she had forced herself to accept the fact. Yet before she could retort Tara continued. “You need to let go of the sadness and let happiness into your life again. The Willow I fell in love with is not the one standing in front of me,” Tara looked sad and Willow wished she could hug her yet something was holding her back.
“You don’t understand. You were my world. Now you are gone and Sunnydale is gone. All trace of you is gone from the world and I feel like I am the only one who still remembers. I don’t want to forget about you. I don’t want to let you…” Willow stumbled on her words and cast her eyes on the floor to hide her tears. Tara tenderly hooked her finger under Willows chin and lifted it so their eyes met once more.
“Die?” Tara finished Willows sentence and studied her face intently, “I have gone from the world. I do not belong there anymore and I do not wish to return there. Buffy was right. The world is hard, filled with doubt and fear. I am happy here and you should be happy too till your time comes to an end on Earth. Then we will be together again, but not before. I will always be with you to give you strength and to watch over you but you must let me go. You have a whole life to lead and so much good to share with the world. You have happiness to find, love to find and friendships to keep.” The sun was starting to grow orange and start to lower in the sky.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“To show you that I am happy. To show you that I will always be here. To make sure you do not waste your life yearning for me. We have had our time and it was a glorious time. But your friends are going to need you. There are troubles ahead that you cannot comprehend right now and which will become clear in time. But you have to be strong. Now is not your time to die. Now is your time to embrace your magic and use it for good. You have a good heart, don’t let it be shaded by grief forever,” Tara reached out her hand softly and touched Willows chest above where her heart lay. Warmth seemed to grow from the spot, slowly reaching to every part of Willows being and making her tingle as though electricity was running through her. Tara removed her hand and slowly turned and began to walk away. Yet Willow didn’t call to stop her nor run after her in a bid to make the moment last for eternity. Tara had given her something special and Willow knew that the moment to awake was now. She did not belong in this place. Not yet.
Willows eyes fluttered open as the sunlight shone through her broken blinds. Yet it was not the sunlight which was making her feel warm. It was something else entirely. She tentatively touched her chest and felt her heart beat, strong and whole. She smiled. Tara. She had given Willow her magic. Willow knew it, it felt absurd thinking it and she didn’t know how it could be, yet she felt the same warmth and tingling she had felt in the dream. She felt more alive and strong than she had in months. Tara had given Willow a part of herself and in turn had made Willow whole again. She had set Willow free…..