Rating: R // 15
Feedback: All feedback, please, whatever it is.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters.
Summary: Tara is killed by a demon. Willow tries to deal...
Notes: I rated it R mainly for the strong language.
Buffy burst through the door to the Magic Box and stopped just before she reached the round table. She collapsed. As she hit the hard floor, Xander left Anya and rushed over to help her.
"No! No, Xander, please! Just...dont!" The slayer spluttered through her tears.
"What happened, Buffy?" Willow asked, running to meet her friends. She knew something terrible had happened.
She could feel it.
Dark and cold. It hung around the slayer. An invisible barrier from humanity.
"No! Oh, God..." Buffy managed to hold back her sobbing for a moment, looking at her best friend, "Tara..." The built up tears started rolling down her blotchy face once more.
A wave of nausea hit the witch, causing every muscle in her body to weaken. She fell to the ground.
"Tara. I-I...There was a demon," Buffy explained to the other Scoobys, who were oblivious to what was the matter, "I tried to stop it...But-but it knocked me down...A-And Tara... I-It got to her before I could -"
"Oh God." Xander said, struck with disbelief.
"Buffy?" Giles pushed her to go on.
"It...It killed her Giles! It killed her a-and I couldnt fucking stop it!"
Willow crawled to her feet and stumbled outside.
The cool night air didnt subside the pain aching throughout her body and mind. Willow began to run.
She didnt know where to go. Her legs awkwardly moved her from one street to the next.
A new, stronger bout of nausea filled her head and stomach.
She bent over, leaning on a nearby wall for the support it offered. She released the acidy vomit that was eating into her insides.
She walked away from the mouth of the alley, covering her face with her shaking hands.
She stopped half way down another dank alley. She slid down the wall, scraping her back on the rough stone.
She closed her eyes. Images of how her girlfriend could have died swooped in and settled in her brain, steadying claws gripping deep.
Tears ran down her pale cheeks, she felt only sadness and grief.
Willow slept. She didnt emerge until the next night.
Willow drifted into a bar on the far side of Sunnydale.
Stale cigarette smoke and the smell of sour beer and spirits hung in the thick air.
The redhead slumped onto a stool at the end of the long bar, the need of an antidote for the agony tearing through her, "Whisky." Her voice came out in a dull croak. She hardly noticed it as her own.
The tall, dark bartender slammed the drink down in front of her and held out his dirty hand. She dug into her pocket and passed him the money she found there.
"No 'please'? What happened to you?" He jeered.
Willow turned to see a girl, about her age, sitting beside her. She was short, with black hair and lifeless eyes; the beer glass in her hand was almost empty.
"I dont smoke." Was her simple answer.
"Neither do I. Bad day?"
"Im Lydia. You?" She said anyway.
She paused, "Willow."
The redhead gulped at the whiskey again.
As the alcohol travelled around her body, she didnt feel much more relaxed. The pain and aching would never go away. She knew it.
"So. Willow. Why the attitude?"
The redhead downed half of the second glass of whisky in one gulp. She winced at the hot, burning sensation in her throat and stomach. She hated drinking. She told herself she would never intoxicate her body like this. But then she also told herself she would never be apart from her love.
"Does it matter?"
"Does it matter to you?"
She downed the rest of her drink. "More than anything in this fucking awful world."
Willow ordered another drink.
"You like whiskey?" Lydia tried to make conversation.
"Takes away the pain for a second, I guess." Willow paid and took a few small sips.
" know what you mean..."
The memories from the day before rushed into Willows cloudy head. As she watched the smoke from Lydias cigarette rise and dance, the pain stabbed harder. She closed her eyes, imagining her lovers beautiful face smiling. Smiling at her. Smiling because she loved her with all of her heat and soul. Smiling because she knew she was loved back equally.
Willow jolted back to the gloomy bar as she felt a gentle hand on her thigh.
Tara used to touch her like that...
"Willow, listen I -"
The redhead jumped up, throwing Lydias intruding hand away from her, "N-No. You cant...You cant replace her. No one ever could!" She ran out of the bar.
The silent blanket of darkness enveloped Willow as she melted onto the curb, her knees drawn up to her face, which was buried in her folded arms.
Her devastated cries filled the night.
About an hour later, Willow re-entered the bar.
Lydia turned to greet her, "Im so sorry...I didnt realise..."
The redhead stepped up to her vacated seat and sat down.
"Two whiskeys," Lydia ordered the bartender, "on me. You look terrible. Go clean yourself up, girl." The dark-haired woman told her softly.
Willow walked into the small restroom at the back of the building.
She caught her reflection in the cracked mirror on the wall beside her. She turned on the tap in the sink below.
She looked at the unfamiliar face looking back from the glass. Her usually sparkling emerald eyes were dull grey-green, framed with matted eyelashes. Dark circles loomed around them. Dry lips frowned with the weight of the world upon them. Her hair and clothes were ruffled and dirty.
She felt the grazes on her back with her fingertips. She didnt cringe at the sharp pain. The despair devoured all physical pain.
She let the water trickle over her hands.
The warm water and rising steam brought with them memories of the not so distant past; hot showers that Tara and herself shared. Hands roaming wherever they pleased, lost in ecstasy.
But that was never going to happen again. Ever.
Willow leaned over and bathed her face, cupping her hands around the water. She dried herself and brushed down her clothes and hair.
Lydia lit another cigarette, drew deep and inhaled.
The redhead reached for the small whiskey glass and took a sip. She hung her head low, her hair falling over her eyes. She felt the alcohol in her blood stream. Her head felt light and her vision was slightly blurred.
"Whatever happened to you cant be bad enough to waste your life like this." Lydia gestured around the bar with her slender hand.
"I dont have a life. The only reason for my existence has been taken away from me. From everything."
Lydia inhaled again and didnt answer. She knew the other girl didnt want to talk about what happened.
Willow continued to sip at the whiskey.
She took on the concept of sitting in the dull, stale bar. The other people around her were lost in their own crumbling worlds, drunk and choking on their own failure. She had become one of them. She knew this was the only place now where she belonged.
She was ashamed of it, but really didnt care much for herself now that her love was never going to breathe, never going to live.
The burning tears returned.
Not a sound escaped her mouth as they made new tracks down her cheeks, as the old ones had been washed away.
She looked up at the familiar face.
Willow put her glass down and jumped up and into her welcoming arms.
The slayer held the witch tight, crying with her at the loss of Tara, Willow was glad of her arrival, she needed a friend so badly.
"Im so sorry..." Buffy told her as they parted.
"Its not your fault." Willow replied looking down, her hair fell across her face, trying to hide.
As she spoke, Buffy knew the hell Willow was feeling. It echoed in her voice and in the depths of her eyes.
Willow smelt her beloved on the slayer, she pushed it aside.
Buffy looked at the glass on the bar and then back at her best friend, "...Willow?"
"I-I needed...I mean I couldnt deal, I mean, uh, a-a-after...After she died."
Buffy understood. There was a long silence. She sat the other side of Willow.
"One for the road?" The witch quietly asked her, sitting down again.
"Vodka and a whiskey." She paid and took the glasses, giving the clear liquid filled one to her friend.
The slayer held up her drink. "To Tara."
The scent of rain inhabited the late evening air, it was surprisingly dark for this time of year. The wind whispered through the trees and the thickening clouds blocked out the moonlight.
Willow sat with her back to the window with her knees pulled up to her chest. Her eyes were motionless and glazed.
She reached forward and picked up the half-empty bottle of whisky and pored some into a glass on the table in front of her. She put down the bottle and picked up the glass, lifted it to her lips and took a sip.
The familiar taste that filled her mouth didnt burn as it did two weeks ago.
To say that Willow missed Tara would be the biggest understatement ever. It was unbearable; she felt like she was dying. The smoke rising from the ashtray on the table caught the redheads eye. She reached for the cigarette and drew deep on it.
As she inhaled she remembered her love; from the way she yawned to the look on her face when she burned her tongue...
A lone tear rolled down her face and she didnt move a muscle, a cloud of smoke escaped her nostrils.
Smoking was just a way to pass the long daylight hours and the sleepless nights...That and drinking.
She jumped as she heard knocking on the door. A muffled voice came soon after.
"Willow?...Will, please. I can smell smo - ...Will, can I come in?" She didnt answer. She took a few small sips of the whiskey.
The door handle turned and the door opened slightly. Buffy slipped in and closed the door behind her quietly. She stopped a few steps in front of her best friend, "What are you doing?" She asked softly, looking at the young woman in the chair.
When Willow still didnt answer, the blond sat down beside her and placed her hand onto the redheads knee. Her touch was warm and gentle. So loving, so caring. Buffy looked into Willows blank eyes. She felt a tiny insight to what she must be feeling...If only she could have stopped the demon.
The witch sipped at the whiskey but didnt look at her friend.
Willow hadnt stepped out of that dark smoky room in the last two weeks except for the bathroom. Buffy and Dawn brought her food and drink, and tried to talk to her, if the door wasnt locked.
"I brought you a coke," She said, putting the can onto the table next to the bottle, "Xander called today, he wanted to know how you were doing..."
"Oh..." The redhead whispered, drawing on the cigarette between her fingers.
"Will you cant keep doing this...I know you feel really bad, we all do, but you have to try to - "
"To what? Forget her?" She cut in, her voice wavering.
"No..." Buffy breathed, "She wouldnt want you to live like this."
"I cant live without her..." She swallowed a gulp of whiskey then looked at the slayer, tears in her eyes.
"Theres nothing you or anyone else can do to bring her back. You just have to try to...cope."
Willow didnt answer. Her face was twisted in grief as she drew on the cigarette, inhaled and put it out in the ashtray. She grabbed the bottle and poured more of the liquid into her glass and sipped it.
She closed her eyes tight shut and tried to make the visions and memories go away. She just wanted them to go away. The haunted her, she couldnt bare them. She wanted, needed Tara so much, she couldnt stand living without her.
"If you need me - or anyone - well be downstairs." Buffy stood up and leaned close, she planted a tiny but loving kiss on the redheads forehead and left the room, the door clicking shut behind her.
Tears started to stream down Willows cheeks as her whole body trembled. She gulped more whiskey through her tears.
"Tara, I need you, baby..." She cried, hugging her arms around her legs tighter, "I love you..."
Willow woke at the rumbling of thunder.
She looked down at the glass in her hand; it was almost tipping over. She held it up and gulped the last of the whiskey and set it onto the table as she stood up.
Heading for the door she grabbed her jacket and paused as something on the desk caught her attention. She picked it up and saw it was a photo.
Tara and herself. Kissing in the park.
Nausea took over her body and she dropped the object back onto the desk and slumped against the solid wood. Tears threatened to spill over her cheeks but she held them back.
Everything reminded her of Tara. 'I need to get out of here', she thought.
The old jukebox in the corner was playing some old music that Willow hadnt even heard. The bartender smiled at her as she sat onto a stool.
"Double whiskey." She mumbled, the ever-present frown still upon her pretty face.
The glass was placed in front of her and she handed her money over.
"Hello little girl. Lookin' for some fun?" A ruff voice slurred from behind the redhead. She turned to see a man of about fifty looking at her.
Without a word she turned away and took a small sip from the glass.
"I said, are you lookin' f - " His angry tone was cut off as afist-meet-face sound emitted from behind Willow. Without looking back she knew it was Buffy.
"Will..." The blond's soothing voice travelled around to Willows right, "Please don't do this to yourself."
The witch didn't look at the other woman.
"Please. I need you to live...We all do."
Willow closed her eyes, tears welling up.
"Buffy..." She breathed, turning to look at Buffy's pleading face, "I..."
"I know." She placed her hand over ther redheads'.
Willow closed her eyes again for a moment, letting the warmth and love caress her skin. She had not felt this for so long.
The slayer noticed the slight change and smiled. When Willow opened her eyes she squeezed the redhead's hand gently, "Come home with me." She offered.
After a pause, a tiny smile tried to show itself on Willow's lips, "O.k."
"Buffy...I can't!" Willow cried against the slayer's chest.
Buffy held her friend tight and gently rocked her in an attempt to soothe her.
"How will I live without her?" The redhead sobbed, more tears spilling over her blotchy cheeks.
Buffy pulled away from her so they were face-to-face, she looked into those beautiful emerald eyes and said, "You'll make it, Will, I promise." She brushed the hair away from Willow's eyes, "I'm here for you."
Willow melted back into the young woman's strong arms, she was flooded with emotion, from unbearable grief to utter thankfulness. Buffy was with her, and she would always be.
"I'll help you through this...I promise." The blond cooed in her ear and she planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
The morning light filtered through the curtains and Willow bagain to stir from a restless sleep.
She rolled over, curled up and hugged the sheets to her body. Tara was meant to be there beside her, but she wasn't. A lone tear formed in her eye and began it's path down her cheek and dropped onto the pillow. Tara's pillow.
"I love you..." Willow whispered. She felt so empty inside. She thought she could never feel this way. It felt as if she wasn't alive alnymore, as if part of her soul was missing.
It was. Tara was part of her soul, she was part of her.
Willow knew that she had to go on living, though. Not just for herself, but for her friends, for Tara.
She knew that one day she would be together with her love, but for now she had to try to get through life and make the best out of it that she could.