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Tabula for One

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It was at the impromptu meeting at Xander's apartment that the group had reconvened following last night's ghastly revelations at the Bronze. They were shocked and disgusted to find out they had - by accident or malpractice - dragged Buffy screaming out of heaven when they resurrected her six weeks earlier. The tense silence was finally broken by the most likely suspect as Anya finally began.

"Do you think she walked around on clouds wearing, like, birkenstocks and played a harp? 'Cause those are just not flattering. You know, the clunky sandals, not a harp. I mean, who doesn't look good with a harp?" Willow looked at her in frustration while Tara turned to her cup in embarrassment. Xander just looked at her in confusion. "What? I-I'm just saying what everyone's thinking. Right, baby?"

She turned to Xander who offered his boilerplate grin of appeasement.

"You are attractive and have many good qualities."

Anya looked back at him, hurt, but bit her tongue to hold back the venomous retort that first came to mind. Tara looked up at her and gave her the acknowledgement she expected.

"It's totally not stupid... To wonder what it was like for Buffy. But it could have been any one of a zillion heavenly dimensions. All we know is that it was a good place and she was happy there."

"We took her away from that. We wrecked it for her," Willow whispered guiltily as her gaze remained locked at her tired hands. The hands who had hurt her friend so very much.

"We didn't wreck. We didn't know," Xander tried as he attempted to soothe their broken hearts as best as he could. 

It was of no use. "We didn't want to know. We were so selfish. I was so selfish," she admitted while silently continuing her train of thought in her mind. 'Why couldn't I just had left her be and kept things going. We could have made it work eventually, we were getting better and dealing with it all.'

Xander shook his head in frustration. "Maybe we were. I just feel weird feeling bad that my friend's not dead. It's too mind-boggling. So I've decided to simplify the whole thing. Me like Buffy. Buffy's alive, so me glad." He didn't know he wanted to convince the most; Willow and the others or just himself. All he knew that it wasn't working and Willow's small nod was an empty gesture that satisfied nobody.

"Not to be miss psycho pep squad, but we have got to stop obsessing about what we did... And start trying to make things better for Buffy," Tara offered. They had screwed up but they could still help if Buffy let them. They could still try to make it easier for her in some other way.

Anya's spirits rose slightly. "I'm with miss psycho pep squad!"

Xander decided to approach the problem head-on. "We need to spend more time with her, just hang out. Maybe have weekly dinners over here, or a book club... Short books... videos." He'd always been one for solution-based approached. It was the planning for said solutions that he was more lacking in.

Willow looked up at him. "I can fix it. I know a spell-"

"No," Tara interrupted harshly. "No more spells."

"Then what?" Willow was grasping for straws as she felt overruled at every turn. How was she supposed to help if nobody would let her even try? "This isn't something that's gonna be fixed by a video club. I know I messed up, okay, and I wanna fix it."

Tara's frustration was obvious to everyone at the table. They hadn't failed to notice the repeated butting of heads between the two witches in regard to their respective attitudes when it came to magic, spellcasting and the situations that warranted them. "I can't believe that we are talking about this again. You know how powerful magic is, how dangerous. You could hurt someone. You could hurt yourself."

"But I know a spell that will make her forget she was ever in heaven," Willow offered. She knew the spell would work. She had used it before

"God, what is wrong with you?!"

Tara's outburst was a signal that no, things were not going to be solved that evening. It would get a lot worse before it got any better. Xander stood up and moved towards the bedroom.

"I'm gonna go get that phone you probably don't hear it. High-pitched ring. Ears like a dog."

Anya followed him soon after. "I'm gonna help you with that."

As the door closed behind them Tara sighed deeply at her girlfriend. "Do you think I'm stupid? I know you used that spell on me."

Willow had been frozen in place - her mouth gaping open as Tara let loose on her - but now realized the situation she herself had put them in. "Tara, I'm sorry, I..."

"Don't. Just... don't. There's nothing you can say." She shook her head in frustration and still had a hard time believing that Willow would ever do something like that to her.

"Tara, I didn't mean to-"

"To what," she spat out. "Violate my mind like that? How could you, Willow? How could you after what Glory did to me?" Her voice lost its edge and quickly moved from justified anger to despondent sadness.

Willow's brain, usually a wonder of activity that could juggle several complex processes simultaneously while maintaining a regular conversation on expert subjects, suddenly froze with only one train of thought slowly limping through her head. "Violate you? I... I didn't mean anything like that. I-I just wanted us not to fight anymore. I love you."

"If you don't want to fight, you don't fight. You don't use magic to make a fight disappear." Tara suddenly realized with the utmost clarity where this conversation would inevitably end up and felt her heart shatter into a million pieces as it dropped to the bottom of her stomach.

Willow, however, had no idea what was coming. "But I... I just wanted to make things better... better for us."

"But you don't get to decide what is better for us, Will. We're in a relationship. We are supposed to decide together." Tara felt as if she was reading from a script - that she was just regurgitating the words that her heart already knew she had to say to lead them to the now inevitable conclusion.

"Okay. I realize that I-I did it wrong," Willow offered. She now knew she had screwed up beyond recognition. This was worse than anything she had ever done before and she knew it.

"You did it the way you're doing everything. When things get rough, you-you don't even consider the options. You just... You just do a spell. It's not good for you, Willow. And it's not what magic is for."

Willow had heard it before and hadn't listened to it then. "But I... I just wanna help people." She pleaded but knew she was grasping at straws.

"Maybe that's how it started, but... You're helping yourself now, fixing things to your liking." Willow knew Tara was right. During the summer she had been forced to use magic to manage the responsibilities of Buffy's funeral, fostering Dawn, organizing patrols, repairing and reprogramming the Buffybot and helping Tara recover from both physical and mental trauma. "Including me," Tara then sadly added.

"Tara, no!" That was not what she was trying to do. Willow was so afraid of Tara leaving her, she always was. Not that she didn't trust Tara but ever since Buffy died things hadn't been the same between them. Willow was always exhausted and when she had free time it was as if she didn't have the energy for anything anymore - not until she started to use a few spells here and there to get the schedule to work enough that she actually had time and energy to be with her love.

Tara looked down at the table and sighed as she gathered the willpower she required to utter the seven words she had never thought she would have to say to Willow. "I don't think this is gonna work."

"Hey. It is. It... it's working. Tara, please. I... I need you, baby. I... I need you. I-I don't need magic. I-I don't. I... let me prove it to you. Okay? I-I will go a month... Without doing any magic. I-I won't do a single spell. I swear." Willow already knew it was over. She had driven away the only one who could still stand to be around her these days. She had ruined everything. Again.

"Go a week. One week without magic." Tara didn't know why she gave Willow this final hope. She already figured Willow wouldn't be able to manage a week but at least she would know she had given Willow the chance to prove herself. She'd given herself an out with definitive parameters.

"Fine. Fine. That's easy." She would do this. Willow would do this to prove her love and then Tara would see that Willow had nothing else to offer her.

"Go a week, and then we'll see. I don't know, I just... I think we both need some, I don't know, space." Willow felt her blood turn cold. There would be no doubt what was coming for them. "I can't believe I'm saying this," Tara continued while fighting back tears.

Willow had to ask despite already knowing the answer. "Are you saying you're gonna leave me?"

Tara couldn't even summon the strength to look at her. "One week, Willow. One. Week."



It was early morning the next day when Dawn and Tara stood by the end of the stairs and waited impatiently for Willow to join them for today's meeting at the Magic Box. Giles had summoned the Scoobies for some news and expected everyone to show up.

It was the teenager that finally had enough. "Willow, come on. You ready?"

"Not so much," Willow confirmed as she appeared at the top of the stairs newly showered and covered in towels. "You go ahead. Tell Giles to hold up. I'll be there in a sec."

Tara didn't have the patience for this. She just wanted the meeting over with as she knew what would happen. They'd find a new monster and Willow would manage to convince Buffy and Xander that they just had to let her cast a spell to save the day and thereby validating her continued magic use. "Fine," she almost spat out.

Dawn noticed the added venom in the reply but kept her cool demeanor. "Hurry up. You don't wanna miss the lowdown on our latest featured creature."

Willow nodded with a mirthless smile and watched as the two left the Summers Residence. She heard them talking as she moved back up the stairs while the tears kept pushing their way to the forefront.



November 13

I might have been wrong. Willow apparently did understand just how serious I was when I told her yesterday that I'd leave if she couldn't go without using magic for a week.

So she left us first. Left me. Once Dawnie and I had left for the Scooby meeting that Mr. Giles had called she packed up all her stuff and moved out of Buffy's home. She left a note and explained she'd keep her promise and stay clean but that she wouldn't be able to do so surrounded by all the magic paraphernalia and the danger that always appeared at Revello Drive so she's moved back to her parents.

Dawnie and Buffy doesn't know yet. After Giles told us that he's going back to England tomorrow (for good?) none of us were much in the mood to talk. Anya wasn't in a good mood at all once a group of vampires came for Spike's head and made a mess of the Magic Box. He and Buffy disposed of them easily and then went out on patrol but she was really upset by the news from Giles so I don't know how she'll take Willow moving out on top of everything else.

Despite everything I still miss her. I think she'll come back after the week though. She hasn't taken any pictures with her and only took clothes, her laptop and her toiletry when she left. I did find a bag filled with that damned Lethe's Bramble in a drawer so it doesn't seem like she's going to try that crap again so hey at least that's something. Going to see if Anya want to buy them off me. If I never see the plant again it'll still be too soon.

The time apart will do us both some good and even though she hates it at home she'll at least be safe there. Amy the rat doesn't seem to appreciate her absence though - just how much does the poor girl understand from her surroundings? Should we have put a blanket over her during our private time?



November 14

Giles is on a plane back to England for the second time in three months. Nobody saw him off this time as I think we're all pretty mad at him for abandoning not just Buffy but everyone else. Isn't he still a Watcher and if so isn't Buffy his, well, job if nothing else?

As soon as we got the call that he's about to board the plane Dawn finally asked where Willow were hiding and why she didn't show up at the Box yesterday. I gave her the note and explained what had happened since Halloween - she deserved to know why we're taking a break - and she said that it's probably for the best that Willow is out for a while or Dawn would kick her ass for what she had done to me.

I hate that I didn't find feel bad for not defending Willow.

I hate that we've become so broken.

I hate that I fear that we might not be able to fix this. I love her but can't trust her and it hurts so damn much.

Later in the day I heard her tell Buffy that Willow had moved out. Buffy just asked if Dawn knew if Willow had paid this month's rent before she left. I think she's a lot more detached from the world than we had feared but she just refuses to talk about it.



November 18

Okay I'm actually getting kinda worried here. Nobody has seen or heard from Willow(other when I think I got a quick glimpse of her at the campus but she moved out of sight before I could confirm it was her) since she moved out. All we've gotten is an automated letter from the USPS that contained a receipt and confirmation of her change of address to her childhood home.

I fear she has failed at her goal and is cutting us all off so she'll be able to abuse magic without intervention from her friends. Her family.

I think I have lost her for good.



November 20

A week has passed and still nothing from Willow. I've caught another glimpse at her again and this time I know it was her despite the clothes she was wearing. Haven't seen them before but they did resemble some of the stuff I saw in the old pictures she tried to hide when we first moved in together. I also found the Doll's Eye Crystal hidden in the back of a drawer. If nothing else she must come back for that.

I asked Spike to keep an eye out if he is ever around in her area. He answered noncommittally but said he would try to keep me updated if he ever spotted her.

I asked Anya at the Box if Willow's been around but she hasn't seen her since the fight at Xander’s place either. She didn't even know that Willow had moved out and was gonna ask Xander if he knows anything. So yay at least she hasn't been buying supplies but I thought that Xander and Anya had been told already; this might be the longest that Willow had gone without speaking to him since I met her.