She manages to stop sobbing for the time that it takes for Giles to bring her from Xander's arms to England.
She's not really sure how, because she's not really sure of anything any more, but she does. She didn't cry on the plane, didn't scare the other passengers, didn't bother the flight attendants.
Once Giles shows her that room she will call hers until she's not in danger of ending the world, though- once she puts her bag down, and sinks onto the mattress- Willow cries for two weeks.
“I just wanted to say- thanks. For saving my life.”
Tara alternates between blinking and staring wide-eyed at her. “W-what do you m-mean?”
“In the laundry room. When the Gentlemen were chasing us? I would of been toast if you hadn't gotten the door blocked.” Willow smiles her thanks.
The blonde woman shakes her head, disagreeing. “F-first of all, y-you wouldn't of needed to get a-away from them if I h-hadn't been there. And second, y-you did most of th-that yourself. I j-just helped.”
“Knowing me, actually, I probably would of ended up getting chased by them anyways,” Willow rolls her eyes.
“Stuff l-like this happens a lot h-here, doesn't it?” Tara guesses.
“Yeah. Well, not exactly like this, you know? But, uh...”
“Other demons?” She suggests. “I-its a bit w-weird. S-small town in C-California, d-doesn't seem like monster c-central.”
Willow considers something for a moment, then leans closer to the other woman. “Have you ever heard of a Hellmouth?”
Eventually, she can look at a blonde woman without feeling her breath catch in her throat.
Its stupid, she knows. At first it had been not only blonde hair (it didn't even have to be the right shade), but the same hair style, or length, or a woman with the same nose.
One of the Coven members has eyes the exact same shade as hers had been, and she gets irrationally angry at the poor woman.
But after a while, she learns to not look too closely, not notice the similarities. However vague they might be.
“I miss him, you know? But I only actively miss him when I think about it. I'll probably love Oz forever, 'cause he was the first, for me. Lots of firsts, actually. I think I'm moving on, though. Which- I didn't think that was going to happen.”
Tara nods in understanding. “That's good. I-I mean, you c-can't spend y-your life waiting f-for him.”
Willow shrugs. “I could. It would be stupid and not fair to me, but if I put my mind to it, and locked myself in a room so I never met anyone else...” she smiles to let Tara know she's joking.
“H-have you? Met anyone, e-else, I m-mean?”
“Nah. It's too hard, dating. People who don't know about all the magick and monsters, I mean.”
Tara looks interested. “O-Oz knew, then?”
“Well. He saw some vamps get dusted. Then he sort of... became a werewolf.” Willow decides its a testament to how much she trusts Tara that she hardly needs to think about revealing Oz's secret. Well. It's not like she could do much with the information, anyways. Since no one knew where Oz was.
“W-werewolf?” She raises her brows. “Wow. Th-that's, I mean- more i-interesting than anyone I've e-ever dated.”
“Come on, none of your boyfriends were demons? Not even a little bit?” Willow teases.
Tara blushes, and looks away. “I-I don't r-really date... I-I mean, b-boyfriends, th-they a-aren't... my t-type, b-boys a-aren't, I mean.”
It takes Willow a moment to figure out what her new friend means by that, especially with how her stutter had suddenly gotten much worse.
“Oh! Never had a demon girlfriend, then?” she switches her teasing.
Tara watches her with wide eyes, then grins.
“After Jenny's death, I once very nearly broke down in supermarket. I saw her favourite brand of tea, and I thought, I should pick some up. For when Jenny comes over. And then I remembered.”
Willow has her fists pressed into her eyes, attempting to hold in the tears which are leaking through anyways. Because she had seen a vase of flowers, and they were Tara's favourites.
“It's just- I miss her so much. And it hurts so bad. And when things hurt, Tara makes it better. But if she were here to make it better, there wouldn't even be anything for her to make better, and I just want her back so much.”
“I know.” Giles says quietly.
“I had a dream she was alive, last night. I've just been having nightmares about- but last night, I dreamed at she was standing a couple inches to the side, and she didn't even get hurt. Then I woke up.”
“Tara? Can I talk to you, maybe?”
Tara gives her a confused look. “Of course. Is e-everything okay?”
“Yeah. Well. Maybe? It's just...” Willow sits down on the edge of Tara's bed, then stands up and began pacing again. “Did I ever tell you about the time another me accidentally came through from a different dimension?”
Tara gives her a surprised look. “No. H-how did th-that happen?”
“Anya. Trying to become a demon again. Spell went a bit wrong. But the thing is, uh, the other me? Was a vampire. And, I mean, she wasn't that different than me, except you know, how she dressed and how she wanted to eat everyone and was evil.”
“Except that,” Tara teases.
Willow smiles for a moment, then grows serious again. “I remember being sort of freaked out by how, certain things she did, it was like she was me, if I didn't care what anyone thought anymore. And Angel, he said vampires personalities aren't that different than who they were when they were human. Besides the evil, soulless part.”
Tara nods in understanding, but asks, “Angel?”
“Uh, Angel's that vampire I told you about. The one who I gave his soul back.”
“Y-your first spell,”
“Yeah. He's also Buffy's ex-boyfriend, but that's a story for another day. The thing is, uh, vampire me, she was, well, uh, kind of gay.”
“And, I sort of, I mean, I've never had a specific, uhm, crush on a specific girl, or. Well. Until now.” Willow silently begs her to understand what she means.
She does. “Oh,” Tara says again.
“Its just... I don't want to ruin our friendship, you know? But I've done the silent, unrequited thing before, and I don't want to do that with you. Because... So. I just thought you should know. I'm... going to run away, now.”
Willow turns quickly, but Tara catches her wrist gently, and pulls her so she faces her. “Willow,” she says softly.
They are really close together, and Willow can't really seem to keep her eyes away from the blonde's lips. “Tara?”
And then something really, really good happens.
Tara kisses her.
Its soft, and chaste, and as amazing as the connection they have when they do spells together is, this is a million times better.
They part, too quickly, and Willow opens her eyes halfway, to find Tara looking at her with such adoration she simply has to kiss her again.
There's a whole list of reason's Willow is afraid to go back to Sunnydale, and the whole 'unreasonably high death rate and way too many demons' thing is not on it.
She wonders if Buffy will be able to stand having her living under her roof again.
She wonders how she'll be able to sleep in the room where Tara bled out.
“I was thinking,” Willow begins, then doesn't say anything else.
Tara smiles at her. “When are y-you not thinking?”
“Okay, fair point, but this time I was thinking about dating. And how you and I should go on one. Together?”
Willow nods. “I know I said, before, that I was sort of nervous, about, uhm...”
“B-being with another girl in p-public.” Tara finishes. “I know. I-It's alright. I understand.”
“Yeah, I know you do. And I appreciate that, I really do. Because, its, well, an adjustment, you know? But I really like you, Tara. And I want to go on a date with you.”
Tara grins. “Alright. We'll go on a date.”
For the first few days after Willow gets back to Sunnydale, thanks to the demon who tried to eat her, piece by piece, she bleeds through her bandages every time she climbs the stairs in the house. After the first time that happens, Buffy decides that all of Willow's meditation will be a waste if she keeps hurting herself, and tells her to sleep in the living room until she heals.
Two weeks later, she's still sleeping on the couch.
“Willow?” Buffy looks nervous, but determined.
“Yeah, Buffy?” She can see Dawn hovering in the hallway. “What's up?”
“We were thinking that you should go to a doctor.”
“You're still hurt. With the meditation, I thought you said you'd be healed by now. And even without, you should be able to at least climb the stairs.”
Willow looks away. “Oh.” she shifts nervously. “I am. Healed, I mean.”
Buffy furrows her brow, confused. “Then why have you been sleeping on the couch? It can't be comfortable.”
“It's just, my room...”
“Oh.” Dawn says quietly.
“I'm sorry, Willow. I didn't think.” the younger girl says sadly.
“What? What do you mean?” Buffy asks.
“Tara,” Dawn explains softly. “She died in Willow's room.”
Buffy freezes, then sits down heavily. “I'm sorry too, Willow. I didn't think.”
“No. It's not... it's silly. I've just been... I'll sleep in my room from now on. It's no big deal.”
They're walking hand-in-hand down the street, laughing and grinning at each other about nothing in particular, just enjoying each others company, when they run into Spike.
Well, first they run into some random vamp, when he tries to eat them, but their energy is already combined from being so close all night, and the two witches blast him before he knows what happens, then Willow pulls out a stake, always in her bag, and sticks it in the undead man's chest.
Tara stares as the dust blows away. “Wow.”
Willow pulls the other woman into a hug. “Are you alright?” she asks.
Before Tara can answer, a man with bleached-blonde hair yells, “Bloody hell, Red. I've been chasing that tosser for blocks. I was going to rip his sodding head off.”
Tara takes a step back, knowing instinctively, from the aura he was giving off, that he was as much a vampire as the one Willow just dusted.
“Oh, hey, Spike. Sorry. He attacked us.” Willow doesn't seem overly concerned.
“What? Running for his life, and he stops for a snack?” He grins. “Told you you were a treat, Red. And your friend here-”
Willow moves in front of her girlfriend.
“Woah, Red, I'm kidding. Well, not really, I'd eat you both in a heartbeat. But you know I'm not going to.” He seems to consider the woman. “I don't know you, do I?”
“This is Tara. Tara, this is Spike. Don't worry. He can't bite you.”
“This is the vampire with the ch-chip?” Tara clarifies.
Willow smiles at her. “That's him!”
“I-its nice to m-meet you.”
Spike sighs. “I dearly wish that stutter was because you were afraid of me, but its not, is it?”
Spike waves her apology off. “I'll be on my way now. You two try to finish your date without dying, alright? The Slayer would have my head.”
“Date?” Willow squeaks, then glances apologetically to Tara, who smiles, understanding.
“It sure smells like a date, Red.” A flash of understanding comes over his face. “Oh, right. You humans and your silly ideas about sexuality.” He rolls his eyes. “You wanna shag someone, does it really matter what parts they got?”
“Uhm...” Willow doesn't really want to have this conversation with Spike. “Thanks?”
“No problem. Now sod off, unless you two wanna play bait.”
The house is full of people, and Willow can only hope there isn't a repeat of Buffy's latest birthday, because with all these girls, that would be even worse than before.
Kennedy's been sleeping in her bed, and although she knows she's more than welcome to join the other woman, every night she lays down on the floor alone, and every morning she wakes up with a stiff back.
She briefly considers simply giving in, because she actually is attracted to Kennedy, and it would be easier than this. But every time she walks into her room, or, their room, now- her eyes automatically go to the window, then to the place where Tara stood.
Where Tara fell.
Where Tara bled.
Where Tara died.
“I want you to meet Buffy,” Willow decides.
“A-are you sure?”
“Yeah. I mean, I might not tell her about us. At first. I will, I promise, but I don't think I'm up to that yet.”
“Th-that's fine, Willow. You should take all the time you need.”
“But I want her to meet you. Because she's been a big part of my life for years, and now... well, now you are, too.”
Tara grins shyly.
“Plus, you already met Spike. Sure, he's been a part of our lives for a while- longer than Anya, even- but he is evil. I'd like you to meet friends of mine who don't want to eat you.”
“You make it sound like you have more than one.” she observes.
“Well, Angel was a vampire. And Xander would of eaten our old principle, if he hadn't been too busy attacking Buffy- but he was possessed by a hyena at the time.”
“You have a strange life, Willow Rosenberg.”
She sighs, but smiles playfully. “But its pretty good anyways.”
Trapped in the body of the man who killed your love.
Trapped in the body of the man you killed.
Trapped in the thoughts of that man.
If Willow had been asked to pick what part of this whole thing had been worst, she might even say it was Andrew's face when he thought Warren was back.
The rest? That was just too confusing.
And it was all Kennedy's fault. She knew it. That bitch-
Yeah, okay, maybe the being trapped in his thoughts was the worst part.
Or maybe, just maybe, the worst part was that she wasn't sure all these thoughts were Warren's.
Buffy looks up from cleaning her weapons. “So what?”
“Tara. What do you think of her?”
“She's nice. Kind of quiet. I am forever thankful to her for clearing up the whole Faith thing for everyone.”
Willow smiles. “Yeah. She's pretty great, isn't she?”
“Glad to have someone to do magick with?” Buffy asks.
“Not only the magick thing. I mean, that's pretty great, too, since the only magick people I've known all that well are currently rats, and, uh, dead.” They both wince. “But Tara and I, we do other things.” Immediately after saying that, she blushes.
Buffy doesn't notice, rubbing fiercely at a spot of demon goo on a battle axe. “Well, I'm glad you've made a friend.”
“Kennedy's a... okay, maybe 'nice' isn't the word I'm looking for, but she's a good person.”
“She better be. The last thing we need is an evil Potential.” Willow supplies. Buffy gives her a mock glare.
“Not what I was talking about, but okay, fair point. I meant, you and her...”
“As long as you keep your own face from now on.”
The redhead laughs nervously. “Not anxious for that to happen again.”
Afterwards, they lie in bed, Willow wrapped around Tara and Tara wrapped around Willow, intertwined in a way that neither of them ever want to forget. Or stop.
“I thought, for sure, you would be with Oz. I never thought... I mean, I hoped, I imagined... but I never thought you could...”
Tara nods, and it breaks Willow's heart. “Well, I do. Love you.”
“I love you too.” her voice is soft, and her eyes shine with something new. Willow trails her fingers down her loves spine.
“When all this is over, if I'm still alive, we are going on a date.” Kennedy announces.
“Huh?” Willow shakes her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“A date. Its where two people who like each other go somewhere and do stuff, which ideally, leads to getting some action.” she explains.
Willow could see a shine of doubt behind the other woman's seeming self-assurance that Willow wanted to date her.
“No, I mean... what makes you think, that if one of us dies, it'll be you?”
“Well, you're wicked powerful, yeah? Able to slay vamps with a single thought, or whatever?”
Willow grimaces. “Uh, able to skin a man alive with a single thought. Magick and me, they're a bad combination. I really shouldn't do anything too powerful.”
“I thought that Coven told you it was okay, though? As long as you don't try to end the world. Them and Giles, they're the professionals. Listen to them, not whoever told you to never do magick. What do they know?”
Willow turns to watch The Spot. Wonders if Spike can still smell the blood.
Sometimes, she thinks she can.
“You and Tara. Seriously?”
Willow glances at Xander, before pointedly looking back at the ancient text. “Uh. Yeah.”
“Why wouldn't you tell me? Buffy knew. Giles knew. Anya knew, and you don't even like her.”
Xander drops the pen he's holding. “You're kidding me.”
“He sort of knew before any of you guys. He ran into us on a date. Said he could smell-” she cuts herself off. “Well. He knew.”
“You used to tell me everything, Will. Why wouldn't you tell me about this?” he pleads to understand.
“You remember Larry?” Willow asks casually.
Xander shifts nervously. “Uh. Tall guy? Used to beat me up every chance he got?”
“He was gay. And you got totally wigged around him after you found out.”
“That was just because he thought I was gay.”
She fights a smile. “Okay. But you see my point, right? Larry is, like, the only gay person I've seen you deal with, and you didn't handle it well.”
“I think I did in the end,” he protests.
“Sure. At his funeral. I don't think that counts, to be honest. You acted the same at all of them.”
“Like I was the one responsible for getting them killed?” he mumbles. Willow ignores it. It's an old argument.
“I just... I was wigged about telling everyone, okay? But you've been my friend, for, like, ever. I couldn't stand to have you judge me.”
“I wouldn't judge you, Will! I don't have a problem with it if you want to date Tara. She's not any weirder than any girl I've dated.” he jokes. “They seem to all be demons.”
“I was counting her.”
It had been different.
Which, of course it would be. Kennedy was not Tara. Their kisses were different; their touches were different. Why would this be the same?
Lying in the bed afterwards, Kennedy beside her with an arm thrown over her torso, curled up against her and breathing slowly in the gentle rhythm of sleep, Willow thinks.
Everything is changing, and even more people she knows are dead. The house is a couple less people crowded, the town is rapidly emptying, and her oldest friend only has one eye.
She shudders thinking about it, and Kennedy shifts slightly with the movement.
She had to restore Angel's soul, again. That was a blast from the past- the first spell she ever really did.
It was easier this time, and that scares her a bit.
Last time, she felt a presence with her, whispering the Romani words to her. She's always thought (but never said) that it was Ms. Calender.
This time, it wasn't her old teacher, but someone even more familiar. Willow wants to put it down to imagination and wishful thinking. But she finished the spell with Tara's scent in her nose and her voice echoing in her ear.
Kennedy hums in contentment softly beside her.
“S-so, is Spike good or bad?”
“Well, he still has his chip, so we're not staking him. But I'd say working with Adam is a pretty big 'bad guy' sign.”
“Helping you g-guys get out a-alive is good, though.” Tara points out, softly petting Mrs. Kitty Fantastico.
“I guess we'll just treat him with suspicion and assume he's going to double cross us. If we do that, we should be fine.”
“If y-you treat him l-like that, he a-always will.” The blonde Wicca considers something. “He doesn't f-feel... like most vampires. Not t-totally evil, I mean.”
“As long as the chip stays in his head, we should be okay.” she agrees.
“Do you e-ever consider giving him a s-soul?”
The question takes her off guard. She has, in fact, and tells Tara. “But, even if I felt right, doing that, we couldn't use the gypsy curse. What with the happiness clause and all. Spike, celibate? He would loose his soul like that.” she snaps to demonstrate.
“Happiness clause,” Tara mutters. “The K-Kalderash don't s-seem like very nice people.”
“The only one I ever met was Ms. Calender. She was really nice.” Her smile drops. “It was so hard on Giles when she died.”
Tara nods. “I can't i-imagine loosing s-someone you love l-like that.”
Willow lies back on the bed, and Tara moves with her, pulling her onto her chest. “If I ever lost you, I don't know what I'd do.”
“Excuse me? We need some help!”
Willow stumbles through the emergency room, the Scoobies and Potentials- no, Slayers, now, thanks to her- limping in behind her. Faith snags wheelchairs as she see's them, first pushing Robin into one, then the other most injured girls.
The doctor's in the quiet hospital stare, wide-eyed, at the invasion of young women (and two adult men, and two teenage guys), all looking like they had been through war.
Which they had, but they couldn't tell the doctor's that.
“We came from Sunnydale, there was, ah, an earthquake.” Giles explains, loud enough for everyone to hear him.
Best to not have contradicting stories.
Almost all of them have to be treated for something, but Willow is perfectly healthy. Better than healthy, actually. Still faintly humming with the energy from the spell, the whispers of new Slayers echoing inside her.
“You should have seen it, Giles.” she hears Kennedy tell the Watcher. “It was amazing. She was so... beautiful. She looked like a Goddess.”
“So the magic didn't over power her?” He doesn't sound surprised.
“It sort of did, but she didn't go all dark haired and veiny like everyone was worried about. She was... glowing. Literally.”
“And now there are hundreds of Slayers.” he muses.
Willow walks up to them. “Faith told me to tell you guys that the doctor's say everyone should be alright. Specifically, Robin will be. The girls are all healing like Slayers.”
“Its weird. But cool.” Kennedy shares.
And it hits her, she's dating a Slayer.
A werewolf, a witch, and now, a Slayer.
Maybe Xander and Buffy weren't the only ones with questionable taste.
“Why does no one tell me anything?” Dawn asks, one night when she's babysitting her (not a baby).
Dawn pouts. “Why did no one tell me you and Tara are dating?”
Willow frowns. “I thought you knew.”
“No. Mum didn't, either, until Buffy said something about a double-date you guys were going on with Xander and Anya.”
“Oh. That was an interesting experience.” she remembers.
“I'm sure. But seriously, why does no one tell me these things? They're important.”
“Its just, uh..” she trails off, knowing how much Dawn hates being reminded of her youth. Knowing she likes Willow so much because the witch makes a point to treat her as an adult, even if she doesn't always succeed. Instead, she checks, “Are you okay with it?”
Dawn gives her a weird look. “Uh. Why wouldn't I be?”
“Well. I'm a girl, and so is Tara...”
“I noticed.” The weird look doesn't leave.
“The gay thing wigs some people.”
With a roll of her eyes, Dawn says, “Stupid people, maybe. Plus, you know, this is California.” She says it like it explains everything. “I like Tara. More than Riley, even. And way more than Anya.”
She suppresses a grin. “Okay. Want to play monopoly?”
The emergency room only has five non-Scooby/Slayers/former-principles/formerly-evil-geek patients, and they were openly staring, except for the one who had been hit by a car and was distracted by all the bleeding and broken bones.
“Hey. You were in the earthquake?” A teenage boy asks her as she leans against a wall, exhaustion slowly overtaking her as adrenalin left.
He looks a bit awkward, and shifts in the bed. “Uh, so you lived in- Sunnydale?”
It hits her, then. “My entire life.” Unless she counts the short time in England. “I was born there.”
“Shit. I'm sorry. Did you... you lost pretty much everything, then, didn't you?”
On the heels of her realization that her home was in a giant crater is another realization. “Her grave,” she whispers, and before the kid can ask her what she means, Willow is gone, searching for Buffy.
Its irrational, she knows, and hardly something to get upset about- not right now, when Spike is dust and Anya- god, Anya, her pretty face and giant smile and Andrew said she had been cut in half- is dead. But Tara has never really brought out the rational emotions.
Not with Glory, not with Amy, not with Warren.
“Buffy.” Willow chokes out her best friends name.
“Willow? Whats wrong? Is everyone okay?”
She bursts into tears and Buffy hugs her and they sink onto the not-so-clean floor, and shouldn't a hospital have cleaner floors? She can feel some dampness on her scalp, where Buffy has her face pressed, and she realizes she's crying, too.
“Her grave.” Willow chokes. “I know its wrong to be upset about that, of all things, when we've lost-” she sobs. “But it was the last thing of her I had.”
“I know. I was thinking about my mum, too.” Buffy whispers.
They cry quietly for a moment, and when they're done, Willow turns to Buffy. “Don't tell Xander,” she asks of the Slayer. “Don't tell him this is what I'm upset about.”
“I won't.” Buffy wipes her eyes. “I won't.”
“No! They're listening! They want to eat the stars!”
Willow strokes Tara's hair, calming her. “I know, baby. I know. It's going to be okay. I promise, I'll make it okay.”
Tara ceases movement, and for a moment, as she meets Willow's eyes, she looks like her sanity is back. “Promise?” she asks.
“I promise.” Willow can't help but quickly press her lips to her loves. “I will fix this. No matter what the price.”
“Do you remember,” Xander asks, exhausted, sitting in the commandeered school bus because the hospital was getting to be too much. “That time, after Willow's boyfriend turned out to be a demon trapped in the internet-”
“Not my best moment.” She observes.
“-and we said we were never going to have normal, happy, relationships?”
Buffy laughs, slightly incredulous. “Maybe we jinxed it.”
Giles climbs in, and they turn to him. “Hey, Giles. We were just being amazed about our doomed love lives.”
“Oh.” He chuckles. “Yes, you three do seem to be-”
“Hey! What about you?” Xander asks. “You had your share of tragedy.”
“Just the one.”
“Buffy wins,” Willow decides. “Two of the three have...”
“Died. Funny how it was the ones that were already dead...” the blonde muses.
They are silent for a long moment.
“I miss Anya.” Xander declares.
“It gets better.” Giles tells him. “It takes a while, but it does. And she died a hero.” He thinks on that. “I don't think that really helps, though.”
“It does, a bit.”
Buffy is silent, and Willow wonders if its easier this time around, for her, because she didn't have to send Spike to hell herself, because Spike wasn't trying to suck the world into hell, because Spike chose his death, because he died a hero.
“I miss Tara,” she whispers.
“We should move into the house,” Tara decides, a week after Buffy's death. The second one, anyways.
“What?” Willow blinks away the tears that seem to constantly be in her eyes. “What house?”
“Buf- D-Dawn's.” She corrects herself at the last second, looking a bit shocked.
“Oh. Why should we move in?”
“Dawn can't l-live on her own,” the Wiccan says softly. “And... well, she's gone through so much. Had so m-much change in her life. It's not fair to make her move, too. Besides... where would she g-go?”
“She does have a dad.”
“You saw her w-when we suggested that. You saw Spike when we suggested th-that. She may not h-have been born here, b-but this is her home. Like its mine.”
“Sunnydale's your home?”
Tara meets her eyes, her gaze as serious as they've ever been. “My home is where you are.”
Willow is breathless with how much she loves this woman, with how true the statement is. She has to kiss her, and he has to whisper how much she loves her as they gently undress each other, for the first time since Glory took Tara's mind.
As they lay together, afterwards, Willow agrees to move into Dawn's house. It will be home, she decides. Because that's where Tara will be.
As motels go, Faith declares, the one that they have checked into (once again causing a scene like the hospital, although Robin and two girls had to stay there, and no one is dripping blood as they enter) isn't bad.
It might not be bad, Willow decides, but its not great, and when you realize they could only afford two rooms- they hadn't exactly brought money or bankcards to the apocalypse, so it was emergency cash Giles kept in his shoe and discounted rates- and they had twenty people, which didn't divide well. The rooms were more cramped than the house had been.
Giles and Xander opted to stay at the hospital, looking after the girls and Robin, which at least meant it was all girls. And Andrew.
All girls, who, other than Dawn and Willow, had newly acquired super-strength.
“Oops!” One of them yells, startling Willow from her spot on the bed, staring at the wall. “I think I broke the remote.”
Faith chuckles. “Yeah. That happens. Just treat everything like glass until you have a chance to get used to your strength.”
Kennedy wraps an arm around Willow, more loosely than before, obviously heeding Faith's advice. “You okay?”
Willow wants to lean into her, wants to be alone with her and loose herself in purely physically feelings, but she's pretty sure that's not going to happen anytime soon.
“Glad we didn't loose more people than we did. Missing Anya, and Amanda, and- even Spike.” She sighs. “Missing Sunnydale, too. I don't have a home anymore.”
“Home is where the heart is. That's what they say, anyways.”
She realizes her heart is buried under the rubble, too.
“I screwed up, Xander.” Willow decides. “I screwed everything up.”
“A little bit,” he agrees reluctantly.
“A little? I pulled Buffy out of heaven, I almost killed Dawn, and I chased Tara away. For what?”
“Hey. You weren't the only one who brought Buffy back. I was there. Anya was there. Tara was, too.”
“I was the one who insisted it could be done. And now- Xander, everything is wrong. I just want everything to go back-” she exhales shakily. “And my first thought is, 'how can I turn back time?'”
Xander grinds his teeth. “Look, addiction is strong, alright? I know a lot of addicts. I was raised by two people addicted to alcohol. They never even bothered to try and get better. Want to know how I know you will?”
Willow shakes her head miserably.
“Because you're worried about how you're hurting people. You want to stop, not for yourself- which, this will help you, too- but for the people you love. That's whats the magic was about in the first place, right? Helping people.”
“Yeah. Good job I did, there.”
“At first, you did.” He pulls her into a hug. “You messed up, Will. We all do. You'll get through this, and they'll forgive you.”
Angel is happy to let them stay in the Hyperion for as long as they want, and since the entire hotel is empty, everyone gets a room.
“I thought Fred and Cordelia lived here?” Willow asks when he mentions this.
He looks incredibly sad, suddenly. “Fred got a new apartment.” he informs them. There's something else, though.
“What about Cordy?” Xander asks, hesitant.
“She's... she's in a coma. It doesn't look good.”
Xander falls back onto the circular couch in the middle of the lobby, the one that does a poor job of hiding the pentagram on the floor. Willow wonders, absently, why its there.
“What happened?” Xander asks.
“There was... did you hear about Jasmine?” Angel asks as Buffy comes down the stairs.
“The girls are all settled... who's Jasmine?”
“Mystical being who tried to enslave the human race. Took over almost all of Los Angelus. Cordelia... sort of gave birth to her.”
“...huh?” Buffy gives him a shocked look. “Where is Cordelia, anyways?”
“She's in a coma, apparently,” Xander shares weakly.
“The birth was too much. Actually, it should have killed her immediately, but I guess she was just too strong.”
“Is she going to wake up?” Buffy asks.
Angel turns away. “It doesn't look good. But we have the best mystical medicine working on her. Thanks to Wolfram & Hart.”
“Remind me to ask you why you're suddenly in charge of an evil law firm after I get over the Cordelia in a coma thing.”
“She's been with us since the beginning,” Willow comments shakily.
“She was the first person I met in Sunnydale High.” Buffy remembers.
“She's Cordy.” Xander breathes.
“She has to get better,” Willow decides desperately. “We can't loose someone else. We've already lost too many.”
“I missed you. So much.” Willow whispers to Tara, afterwards. After they've made up, and Willow has decided they are never going to have to do that again. She will never loose Tara again.
“I missed you too, Willow.”
“I'm so sorry. I really am, you know. And I'm never going to-”
“I know. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. No matter how much I missed you.”
Willow hesitates. “Should we start the trust-building now?”
Tara leans forward, brushing her lips against her own. “I think that can wait a little longer.”
Cordelia is still in the bed, her hair longer than last time Willow had seen her, looking a bit more like the girl she had gone to high school with than the former higher power/private investigator/mother to a monster that she now was, apparently.
Kennedy is standing next to her, grasping her hand. “She doesn't look in pain,” she observes.
“Yeah. I guess that's good, at least.”
Kennedy continues, “Faith told me, when she was in a coma- which, by the way, when did Faith go into a coma?- she didn't feel anything. Dreamed, mostly.”
“That was just plain old got-stabbed-and-jumped-off-a-building coma, though, not a I-gave-birth-to-an-evil-monster coma. Plus, the part-demon thing.” She exhales. “But, I guess it can't be that different, right?”
She shifts uncomfortably. “Could you, you know...?”
“Do a spell? Wake her up?”
Suddenly, Willow is back to the time when Joyce had just been diagnosed, to when Buffy had pleaded for a spell to heal her. To Tara reminding them how dangerous it was to mix magick and medicine.
“It could make her worse. The risk is too big.”
Kennedy shrugs. “Alright.”
“I wish I could.” The witch leans against her, appreciating the new Slayer-strength. “I wish I could do a lot of things.”
No no no nonononononono....
How is this possible? This isn't happening. This isn't blood. That wasn't a bullet. Tara isn't lying limp in her arms.
This. Isn't. Happening.
There's a memorial for everyone lost in the Sunnydale earthquake, and the list of names, although so short it surprises the official people who put it together (apparently, when an entire town falls into a canyon, the death toll is usually pretty high) its longer than Willow thought it would be. Turns out, they hadn't been the only human's left, like they thought.
The rubble of the town is too far down for the bodies to be searched for, the officials decide. Since it was impossible for anyone to have survived the collapse, it came down to money.
“It's for the best,” Giles decides. “We don't know how many demon corpses are down there. It wouldn't do for them to start uncovering those.” He frowns. “And, since we are now the Watcher's Council, it would be our job to cover it up.”
The memorial with the names of the dead on it isn't complete, though. Spike, for instance, isn't there. Willow see's Buffy's drawn face and whispers a few words, burning William into the shiny black stone.
“I wonder what the list would look like if it was everyone who the First killed?” Andrew wonders aloud. The thought hangs heavy in the air as the Scoobies and Slayers consider it.
“A list of everyone who was killed by evil forces in Sunnydale, now that would be long.” Xander shakes his head. “It would reach the bottom on the canyon.”
“A lot people we've known,” Willow agrees.
“Jesse,” Xander volunteers.
“Dave and Fritz.” Willow continues.
“Ford,” Buffy grimaces. “Although he tried to get me killed.”
“Jenny.” Giles says.
“Kendra.” Buffy looks towards Faith. “Remind me to tell you about her sometime.”
“Jeff and Debbie.” Willow adds.
“Harmony,” Willow smiles. “Although, uh, not exactly dead.”
“Larry,” Xander adds.
“Uh... pretty much everyone we went to high school with.”
“Two principles. Both eaten!” Dawn chuckles, glancing at Robin, who blinks.
“Annabelle. Eve. Chloe. Molly. Dianne. Amanda.” Buffy says in the voice of someone who has memorized the names, the sisters lost.
“And... the obvious others.” Xander grabs Willow's hand, and they lean against each other.
The silence is heavy and solemn as the group remembers.
“But we're still here,” Faith reminds them finally.
“Yeah. We're still here.”
The afterlife was different than Willow expected.
Different than Buffy had told her it was like, in the few times her friend had spoken of it to her. From the way the Slayer had described it, she had expected to float around, no solid body, nothing to do, but not really caring because of the whole 'eternal-bliss' thing.
Instead, it wasn't all that different than Earth, physically. Just... cleaner. And quieter. And it just seemed... nicer.
Everyone was drifting around, smiling at each other and occasionally stopping to talk. No one seemed to be in a bad mood.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned to see a dark-haired man, a lopsided smile on his face. “Hello. You're Willow, right?” He asks her in a thick Irish brogue.
“Uhm... yeah. I'm Willow.” Her voice has lost the years of age, and she could swear she was twenty again. Looking down at her hands, she thinks she might be.
“I'm Doyle. Welcome to the afterlife.”
“What does that mean?”
He shrugs. “Dunno, to be honest. I only know what the PTB tell me, and these days its mostly just when and where to pick up the newest heaven-bound California evil fighter.” His smile grows. “The others are real excited. They've been yellin' at you to get up here, already, for awhile now.”
“The others?” She squeaks, because that can't mean what she thinks it means.
“Oh, you know- Wesley. Fred.” He teases. “Cordelia” his smile softens on her name. “A pretty woman by the name Anya. Giles, Dawn, some guy named Xander. Some Slayer, think her name is Buffy.” He suddenly drops the joking manner. “Most of all, a woman's been missing you something fierce. Tara, her name is.”
Willow wonders if you can faint in Heaven. “Tara? I can see Tara?”
“'Course you can.”
Suddenly, they're in the Magic Box, and for the first time in decades, she's with her friends. Her family.
The blonde Wicca is exactly how she remembers her, although the picture she had in her head didn't come close to how beautiful she actually was.
“Tara,” she chokes out.
“Willow.” Her smile is radiant, and Willow can't help but throw herself into her arms. After all these years, and she has ever stopped stopped missing her touch.
“You're really here,” the witch tries not the sob, clinging to her desperately.
And Tara is holding just as tight. “So are you. I've missed you so much, Willow.”
“I'm sorry,” she whispers. “I'm so sorry.”
“The time for apologies is over, baby. We're in heaven.”
Willow loosens her grip, looking over Tara's shoulder at her other friends; Giles, in front of the counter, smiling proudly at her. Anya, not in two pieces, behind the cash, Xander's arm wrapped around her- and goddess, Xander has both eyes, and his silly smile doesn't have a trace of exhaustion or pain in it, like it had for so long before he died.
Dawn is sitting on the counter, grinning just as enthusiast as she had last time the youngest/oldest of the Scoobies had seen them together.
Buffy stood serenely to the side, smiling softly. Doyle had moved to Cordelia's side, where they stood, not touching, but still somehow connected. Fred and Wesley were the same.
“Everyone...” she begins.
“Not everyone ends up in this heavenly dimension,” Anya pipes up. “Like Oz, for instance. Or your parents. Joyce is in a connecting dimension, she visits sometimes. Like Jenny does.”
“Jenny?” Willow swerves to look at Giles.
“She'll be by soon. We only just got word that you'd be joining us,” Giles smiles.
“This heaven is for the world-saving people. Since we're heroes, we get visiting privileges. As long as you don't try and pull someone out of hell. They don't like that.” Anya continues, turning to glare at Doyle.
“Hey! Not my fault, 'Ya. You're the one that tried to bring an unrepentant mass-killing demon out of hell and into Heroes Heaven for a tea-party!” Doyle exclaims.
“It wasn't a tea party, it was a 'Welcome To Being Dead' party for Xander. And Halfrek wouldn't have caused any trouble.”
Tara chuckles softly as the half and ex demons argue. “How are you?” She asks softly, wrapping her hand around the redheads own.
“Uh... honestly? My mind, its a bit blown. But other than that, I'm...” she turns to look at Tara. “Really good.”
If she got to spend eternity like this, with the people she loved happy and Tara holding her hand, she was pretty sure the label 'heaven' was accurate.
But then Tara kissed her, and she was proven wrong. That was heaven.