I feel her eyes on me, watching me. Kennedy. The fate of all mankind rests in my hands and she's measuring the size of my breasts. I couldn't stand it when Tara stood back, hesitated, but this is worse. This cry-on-my-shoulder, tell-me-your-deepest-secrets attitude asks me to be someone I'm not – healed.
Don't forget you're new. You're aligned with good, but it doesn't make you mine. I'm a broken woman. I lost her, my flawed, beautiful beloved, my only. And now you come along and lower yourself over my skin, wrapping me. I feel stifled. The wrongness of it is overwhelming and yet I do nothing. I'm afraid. I'm still. If I don't move, Tara won't be dead.
And so I slough everyone off me, even Buffy, the whole world. I did destroy it, just no one knows, and now this is my hell. Kennedy, you forgive me without knowing, without understanding my sins, my grief. You are a sieve through which I pass and all you feel is yourself: the steel bars – keeping me strong, you think, but I'm just fluid seeping through you. Secretly, you love the way I give. I give way, give you anything you ask for, and without a doubt in the world you remake me.
Forgive me, Tara. She isn't what I wanted. I just need her.
Willow puts down the pen, magic-spelled and fuelled with red ink. A whispered incantation and her arm returns to clean skin. All the same, bloody prints lie across the desk as though her heart had spilled. No healing spell in the world can take away what she has lost. Blood and love. Innocence.
She wonders anew at the crassness of Kennedy's love. Love offered on a silver platter as though it were sweet and saucy. Instead, it tastes like ash, burned and bitter. The aftermath of the furious burn. Willow likes fire, the way a candle burns through the night. But there's no denying there's a cost. If she has a wick, it's smoldering low. It feels good to flicker. That's allowed, when you're past your brightest.
The stains on the table fade to black flecks with a simple immolation spell. She can pull her sleeve down over her wrist now and no one will know. Skin heals, but it helps to hurt first. Each time is a reminder that maybe healing is possible. Secretly, she doubts it. Magic can only do so much.
She turns towards the open curtains, flexing her hand. There is no pain now, but its memory is always there, always real. The window pulls in the moonlight and for a moment she thinks of Oz, who made the world a dangerous place. Each time the world looked up and saw its neighbour full, he hated himself. She understands now, even if he never could, why it matters to go beasty, wild away from the sunlight. She needs the night so she can lose sight of the day: where she can howl and be unafraid. Be not guilty. Take away the guilt, she thinks and sparks crackle across the room. Take out the ceiling, remove the walls, tumble down the avenue until the world turns blue with smoke. She wanted to destroy it once. She finds that hard to believe. It wasn't in her, ever, to pull a beloved thing to the ground. She was never a destroyer.
Outside where the earth is moist and fragile she feels the entry-point, where she lay gasping on the ground, black turning to red, a wick relit. She hasn't burned brightly since. She's an afterglow.
A warrior? No. I'm not an Amazon anymore.
The pen slices sharply into her arm. A line of scars are sandbags between her and the flood. Kennedy doesn't realise, though they share a bed and fluids, that she is just another scar, large and thick, to seal away the pain.