Willow is turning the problem of the uber-vamp army over and over in her head. She has been since Buffy told her about the vision. Willow knows she has to be the smart one and think of something before the hellmouth explodes and the Turok-Han take over the world.
There are other things to think about, too. Buffy is distant again, almost worse than she'd been the year before. Kennedy has been keeping her distance from Willow, too, ever since Willow reopened the portal to get Buffy back.
It's a cautious distance, and Willow doesn't think it's permanent, but it still hurts.
Willow needs a rest, to get her mind off things. She's under too much pressure, and she's still worried about going all dark-Willow again during the last spell. She's so grateful for Xander bringing her back, and for everyone who've gone out of their way to show her they aren't afraid.
There's no way she can sleep, though. Kennedy is downstairs talking to the other Potentials, and Willow is left to her own devices. The only thing she can think to do is go through her things, the ones that were boxed up after she had to go away.
She's hesitant. She knows Tara's things are likely to be mixed in with her own. But she steels herself, walking over to one of the boxes, and places it on the bed so she can go through it. She'll probably have to make piles — give away, keep, trash.
The first box is full of memories. One of Tara's floofy blouses, a pendant, a smooth stone. A candle, never lit. A catnip mouse.
She knows things weren't perfect, but the memories that come to her now are almost all sweet. She's not sure which is worse: the good memories or reminders of her failings in the relationship.
She can't handle any more.
She walks around to the oldest box, one she recognizes as having been from her parents' place. It won't hold anything of Tara's, so it should be safe.
It's heavy. Shabby paperback classics, a small stuffed Snoopy, and … a gragger?
She smiles and glances at the calendar. Wonders when Purim falls this year. Soon, she thinks. She has good memories of being small and cranking the noisemaker. Of dressing up in costumes and singing and dancing. Celebrating life.
Maybe that's what's been missing lately. She's been busy missing Tara and trying to move on with Kennedy, but has she really been celebrating what she has?
"Hey," Xander says, standing in the door. "No sleeping for you?"
"Too busy being a worrywart to sleep," Willow says tiredly, but she gives him a genuine smile.
"What's that?" Xander asks, pointing to the gragger.
Willow whips it around and the noise fills the room. It's loud, and she suddenly remembers how late it is. "Whoops," she says, hoping she didn't wake anyone.
Xander's still looking at the noisemaker. "Where'd that come from?"
"Oh. A box of my old stuff," Willow says. Not wanting to talk about finding Tara's things, she says, "It's for Purim."
"Ooh, I know this one," Xander says. "Evil guy, woman power, cookies that look like little hats?"
Willow smiles. "You remember."
"I remember you crying because you wanted a green princess costume instead of the pink, and the both of us slathering the pink one with green poster paint to make it right," Xander says.
She giggles at the memory. "I forgot about that! We were how old? Seven?"
"Something like that," Xander says. "I can't believe we didn't get in trouble for that."
"My parents were a little tipsy at the time," Willow says. "Part of the whole holiday experience."
Xander nods. "I remember." His eyes wander to the one 'keep' pile on the bed. "So, there's this."
Willow bites her lip. "I miss her."
Xander hugs her and her eyes feel overly dry, like she's already cried too many tears and she can't do it anymore.
"You should do that again." Xander nods to the gragger. It's gaudily painted.
"It's loud. It'll wake everyone up."
"It's happy," Xander counters. "All that loud noise to drown out the bad?"
He remembers a lot more than Willow thought. Maybe she should. There's so much dark around them. A little noise to drown it out might not be a bad thing.
Xander senses her reluctance and gently takes the gragger away from her. "Tomorrow morning. So everyone can hear."