by Shiai Mata
Rating: PG-13 (for a suggestion of violence that sensitive individuals might be bothered by)
Pairing: Willow and Tara
Summary: Overcome by grief over her turn to the dark side, Willow makes the decision to commit suicide. But she is saved from taking her life by the last person she would expect to ever see again.
The beast had almost come out.
There were incidents, momentary flashes, where she felt the darkness deep inside of her straining against its shackles to arise again. Mere heartbeats when her defenses were down, and the unrelenting poison tried to seep out. It never rested, never tired. It was always there, screaming profanities in her mind and clawing bloody scratches across her soul.
"I'm sorry," A tearful Willow said to the empty room. "It's just too hard."
At least now, she mused without a trace of irony, she understood just what Oz went through. The unrelenting fear of losing control, of giving in to the animal side.
Why couldn't Giles and the coven do the right thing? They can't cure her, only work to try and keep her dark side suppressed.
They should have killed her.
Because if...when...the black magick seizes control again, she will destroy Giles and the coven. She'll kill Buffy before her best friend even realized what was happening, before she could mount an attack. She'll kill Xander before his honeyed words could draw forth her good nature again. She will destroy the world to end her pain.
The surest way to kill a witch and her magick was enchanted absinthe. Willow held the vial in her hand, felt its slight weight, mulled that so little liquid could end so much suffering. One swallow, that would drain the ampule dry.
In both her Wiccan and Jewish faiths, suicide is a sin. But, surely, God might show mercy to her in this act. The Blessed Creator would understand Willow's sacrifice, as it is done in order to save Her works. But, even if She doesn't condone it, it doesn't change anything. If eternity in hell is the price to pay for preserving the world, then so be it.
Just drink the absinthe, Willow. Drink it and end all of this pain, she told herself.
But first...meditate. Clear your mind, be at peace. Let your final thoughts be of beauty, not misery.
Think of Tara.
The redhead sat in the lotus position, allowing the perfumed aroma of the incense fill her. She felt herself going light, and then slipping away. She was achieving a state of nirvana far quicker than she ever had before. She felt as if her body and spirit both were floating in a peaceful haze.
And then she hit the ground...hard. And when she opened her eyes, she was no longer in her room.
It was a barren wasteland. There were signs that it was once been a lush field, but the bare, gnarled trees, arid ground and dry stream bed made it clear that the life had been stripped from this place.
The woman looked around, and then suddenly came face to face with herself. Her evil self.
"Do you honestly think I am going to let you kill us?" the dark witch spat out. "If you're so quick to give up on life, then set me free, and I'll do the task properly."
"No!" Willow shouted, although her defiance rang more of fear than firmness.
"You're here with me now," the black-tressed woman said. "I'm in control in this place. And I am the one who will be leaving, not you!"
Instinctively trying to cast a spell, Willow moved her hands before her, fingers gesturing, a Symarian chant rolling from her lips. But nothing happened.
"You magick doesn't work here," her dark doppleganger said. "After all, your magick is a part of me now...and you can't use me against myself."
The redhead sank to her knees, distraught. Dark Willow stretched her hand out, her fingertips moving to brush her victim's cheek, to strike her down with a cursed touch. But then, a glimmer of light reflected off of the evil witch's large black eyes. She looked up and behind Willow, her own dread now erupting in her face.
"You!" the dark sorceress screeched. "Stay back!"
There was no verbal response. Instead, the light grew until it was nearly blinding, driving the witch back. Then, like mist, she began to dissolve.
"You can't stop me forever," the sorceress cried with an increasingly-fading voice. "I'll escape somedayyyyyyyyy...."
And then she was gone.
Flower buds began to poke out of the ground, then bloom. Water bubbled up from the earth to fill the stream. Leaves sprouted on the trees, a thick carpet of grass covered the ground. In the sky, Willow could hear birds singing.
She turned to see her benefactor. The halo of light surrounding the figure made it impossible to discern features, but a squinting Willow had the strangest sense of familiarity.
"Um, thank you." Her voice was timid and drained.
The being said nothing. But slowly, the aura dimmed, until it was little more than a few sparkles in the air.
And there, with the beatific face of an angel, stood Tara Maclay.
"Oh...God." It was the most that Willow could muster to say.
"Willow." There were no trumpets blaring, no choirs of seraphs singing. Her voice was as it was in life. "What am I going to do with you, silly girl?"
"Tara...is...is this Heaven. Or...?"
"No, this is not one of the realms," the blonde said soothingly. "This is you...your spirit."
"H-how did that...thing...bring me here?" the redhead stammered.
"She didn't. I did. I could not let you do such a terrible thing, Willow."
The young woman fell to her hands and knees and broke down, tears flowing forth. "Thespia help me, Tara...I-I can't take it anymore. It just hurts too much!"
The celestial being knelt beside Willow and wrapped her arms around her quivering body, gently rocking her back and forth, one hand stroking her hair. "Shhhhhh. It's all right, Willow. I know, I know. But the pain is there to help you. You have to work through it, love."
"But if that thing escapes...." the redhead protested.
"You have to be strong, Wil. And you aren't alone."
Looking up until their gazes meet, Willow asks, "Tara...why haven't you come to me yet? I've tried to bring your ghost to me, but you haven't come."
"I couldn't, Wil. I'm here, not in a heavenly domain."
"I felt your pain, heard you crying out. There was light, and I felt so serene. But then I felt you, Willow. I shared your pain. I...I couldn't leave you.
I tried to come to you, but you had already absorbed the black magick, and it pushed me away. But then, when you relinquished the evil, I could enter into you, join with your spirit, and fight to keep the darkness back.
But I can't do it by myself. I can only help you, darling. I need you to be strong, to fight.
Don't let my death be in vain."
New tears came to the redhead. "Why can't I just be with you? Why do we have to be apart?"
Taking the sobbing woman by her shoulders, Tara gives her a penetrating look and says, "Do you remember what I said to you when we first met?"
Willow silently searches her memory, but the recollection does not come. After several moments, the blonde continues to speak.
"I told you that you were special. And you are...I knew that even then. You have a purpose in this world, Willow, and it's not to blow it up. You have a special destiny, just as much as Buffy does. The world needs you. You can't run away from that!"
A sense of tranquility fills Willow. For the first time in a long time, she's not alone.
"But now, you have to leave. Leave, and never come back." Tara tries to mask the disheartenment in her voice as she says it, but she never could hide her true feelings from Willow.
Willow opens her mouth to protest, but she knows that Tara is right. She can't exist for long within her own spirit this way, for fear of causing irreparable damage to her soul. And that might free the darkness.
The two women stand up, then embrace in a parting kiss. Tara's lips tingle upon Willow's mouth, as if she is charged with static electricity.
Then, Tara steps back, and she begins to glow again, brighter and brighter. The glare becomes near-blinding, and Willow can feel herself being carried back to her physical self.
But there's so much still to be said. Yet in the seconds still left to her, one question is paramount.
"Tara," Willow asks. "Why did you give up Heaven for me?"
A smile crosses the blonde's face. "Oh, Willow...you are my Heaven."
The redhead snaps out of her trance with a start. How much time has passed? All recollection is lost to her.
She looks at the murderous vial sitting on the floor before her.
She picks it up and walks to the bathroom, where she pours the golden liquid down the sink.
She doesn't know why. All she knows is that she feels a little bit at peace for the first time since...that day.
And all she knows is, she wants to live.
She thinks of Tara, and she smiles.