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Personal Hell

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Set in Season 5

Warning: Some very brief homophobic language and mentions of bullying. I´m so sorry! It ends happily, I swear!

Tara Maclay knew that she should be grateful. Grateful that she had friends who cared enough to host such a birthday party for her. And she was. Really. It was only a few days until the bittersweet day.

She just couldn´t bring herself to fully relax around them, knowing that soon, the Scoobies would see her for who she truly was, and then Buffy would have to do her duty and stake her. She was the slayer after all; she couldn´t be friends with a demon. 

Little did she know that Anya, one of Buffy´s friends, was actually a vengeance demon, not just she knew that. Nobody had thought to ever bring it up; they simply didn´t care.

But she was so ashamed. Ashamed of her own thoughts. Her mom had made sure that Tara, at a young age, knew exactly how dangerous magic could be, and why it shouldn´t be used for self-serving purposes. It was cowardly to do so and that was exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to scream; to rebel. To tell the whole world to, that wouldn´t do anyone any good. 

Throughout school, she had always been bullied. People would pick on her all the time, trying their very hardest to make her life utterly miserable. Stealing her things and tripping her in the hallway was a luxury compared to the other crueler things they had subjected her to. She shuddered at the memory. Humans are sick creatures. A voice - her own voice - traitorously whispered to her. 

And they had succeeded. More than they´d ever know. After years of abuse at the hands of her - sick, depraved, hurt them, kill them -  classmates, she had quickly learned to mask her true emotions, not that it had been easy. She was naturally a very empathic and expressive person, but years of being verbally beaten down by the remarks of cruel, sharp-tongued girls, who had always managed to hit her exactly where it hurt, had worn down upon her, leaving her a hollow shell of who she once was. The light had almost been snuffed out, unwilling to face her own joyless reality.

Oh, she knew that the world outside wasn´t quite so bad as her own personal world; her own personal hell that her father had created and maintained. Nevertheless, sometimes it was difficult to continue looking out at the beautiful, miserable world with such rose-tinted eyes. 

For her life hadn´t given her any evidence of it.

"Hey, isn´t that Tara?"

"Yeah, that´s her."

"Isn´t she the one with a terrible taste in clothes and that sick mother of hers?"

"Oh God, what a fashion disaster!"

"I heard that there is something wrong with her mother´s head." 

"Oh yeah! Me too! My Dad knows her Dad, and he says that they might get divorced!"

"I heard that she´s a dyke!"

"Do you think that´s why she´s so weird?"

"Oh yeah, totally."

Tara clenched her fists together. Her father had always had a loose tongue when drinking and didn´t seem to care what kind of things he sprouted so long as it benefited him. He had managed to turn the whole town against her mom, and to an extent, her. 

"Everyone now knows your secret, you freak. What are you going to do now?" Donny sneered at her. 

When she had gotten that scholarship to UCSD, she had wasted no time whatsoever. No last words to Dad and Donny. No final goodbyes. She´d simply packed her bag and caught a bus out of town the next morning. Nobody there had ever liked her. She had desperately needed a fresh start, but not even that was possible. Life at UCSD, while radically different from her previous life, was...boring. There, she was most often known as "The shy girl with weird, hippy clothes". People were polite and typically ignored her, but apart from that, it was boring. She liked her poetry class well enough though. 

But it was a better life than back home if it could even be called such. Life at college was busy and quick-paced, and the professors (some of them anyway) always had time to give out advice to academically struggling students. 

It was better than the life she´d had before, she thought to herself, but nothing special. 

Then she met Willow. Never had she thought in her wildest dreams that she´d ever meet a person like her, or that she even deserved such a gift. The redhead was intelligent, quirky, and always had a sweet smile stretched across her face. She was like a beacon of light, always shining brightly in the dark, bleak world. She truly was a gift. Positive, strong, beautiful, damn cute. There wasn´t anyone like her in the world. 

And she was about to give it all up. As soon as she´d been able to shake off Buffy´s worried hovering, she had headed right to her dorm room, about to do something nobody would expect her to do.

The younger blonde had offered to walk her home, and Tara had eventually given in. Willow was right. The girl sure was stubborn; bless her loyal heart.

Tara stared down at the spellbook she was holding. Her hands were shaking; her tears threatening to fall from her eyes. 

 And for what? Her own cowardice? Could it be possible that the woman she loved so much would be able to accept her? Would her friends do the same? Buffy? Xander? Dawn? Giles? Any of them?

I-I, can´t. What am I doing? Is this what Mom would´ve wanted? 

Her grip slackened, and with an eerie thump, the spellbook fell from her shaking hands onto the carpet.

I´m so sorry. She put her hand over her mouth, silent sobs escaping from her mouth. 

Had she failed in her beliefs as a dedicated Wicca? She wasn´t supposed to use magic like this, tempting as it was. Even if she wasn´t a demon, was this what her father meant by evil? Was she the evil because of her own bitter thoughts? It was almost ironic. Her father had constantly reminded her with a strong hand and a quick, sharp tongue that she was an evil demon who should expect, and deserved nothing. And yet, that was exactly what made her who she was today. A withdrawn, meek, socially-inept, girl with no notable strengths apart from her own magical abilities - or mojo as Buffy called it - Who was apparently evil because of that very strength. See what you´ve done to me, Dad? Could you even stand to look at me?

So lost in her own thoughts she was that she didn´t notice the door opening until she heard her beloved´s familiar voice. Tara froze, so shocked that she stopped crying at once.

"Tara...?" Oh my Goddess, Willow. 

She wasn´t supposed to be home yet! Her girlfriend had told her that she´d be hanging out with Buffy, Xander, and Cordelia at the Bronze...right? Maybe she had forgotten something. Or...

"Hey, whatcha doing there?" She could practically hear the smile in Willow´s voice. You are always so positive, no matter what you do. How do you do that, my love? 

Tara turned to face Willow, quickly wiping at her moist cheeks, but to no avail; Willow saw her tears and immediately snapped to it, concerned for her love´s wellbeing.

"Oh my gosh! Tara! What´s the matter, baby? Did someone hurt you?" Her voice took on a protective tone to it, which almost made Tara crack a smile.

She felt the strong, soft arms wrapping themselves around her torso, enclosing her in a tight, loving embrace.

"N-No, no, t-that´s not...Willow...I´ve..." She couldn´t hold it in any longer and burst into tears once more, gripping onto Willow´s shoulders like they were her lifeline, drawing her to safety.

Willow shushed her as she held her lover closer to her, stroking her hair and prepping tiny kisses into Tara´s dark-blonde hair. "You can tell me anything, you know?" She whispered into Tara´s ear. 

"Willow, you don´t understand." Tara sobbed. "I-I-I´ve-" She pressed her face into Willow´s shoulder, her whole body shuddering with shaking sobs.

"Shh, baby. It´s okay." Her girlfriend pressed a kiss to her hair, then to her cheeks, slowly rocking her back and forward. Tara wondered, not for the first time, how did she deserve this girl-no, this woman?

Tara knew in her heart that she couldn´t ever lie to her. Not to her Willow. Not to the one person who she loved the most in the world.

So she poured out her soul, wishing with all of her heart that her lover would understand.