||[Monday, May 17th, 2004 @ 5:02pm]
Willow and I spent most of the afternoon and evening just lying together, our skin touching, our fingers and limbs tangled. I felt like my heart was going to burst. The joy I felt was painful because it was so great, and it stopped me speaking. I think both of us felt a little overwhelmed.
Eventually though we started talking. Willow left the room briefly to get us some food – I heard her run down to the kitchen and run back because she didn’t want to be away too long – and after we had eaten we sat on the bed, facing each other.
“You’re so beautiful,” I said. Her face was practically glowing. “I mean, I always knew that, but it means so much more now, y-you know? Because it’s b-been so long.”
”I’ve missed you so much, baby. I can’t begin to describe how much.”
“I-I know,” I said quietly.
“But if you could have only seen how I was,” she began.
There was a pause.
“You did?” Willow’s forehead wrinkled. “I – I don’t understand. Buffy didn’t know what had happened to us after she…”
“I wasn’t where Buffy was,” I explained. “I-I could have been, but … I chose not to be.”
Willow took my hands.
“What do you mean, baby?”
I sighed. There was so much to explain, and I didn’t know how to begin.
“Ok, sweetie,” I said eventually. “I’m gonna start, and I don’t want you to interrupt, if that’s ok. It’s going to be hard to explain everything, and some of it might upset you… Once I’m finished w-we can talk about anything you like, but I-I’d like to get through it first.”
She nodded, her forehead creased anxiously. She squeezed my hands. I sat for a moment and then cleared my throat.
“The – the afternoon that it happened, I remember that so clearly,” I began. “I – I remember putting on my sweater. That blue one you liked. I can still feel it under my fingers…” I shook my head, thinking. “I spotted Xander out of the window. I was so pleased to see him, to know that he and Buffy were making up. When we were so happy, it seemed that the rest of the world had to be. I turned to you and thought how beautiful you were, just getting your things from the dresser. And then…” I paused as I saw Willow’s eyes narrow in pain. “It’s ok, sweetie,” I said, squeezing her hand. “It didn’t hurt. I felt an impact, and then a great moment of stillness. There was blood all over your shirt, and I was worried that you were hurt. Then everything was dark.”
I paused again. Sunset light poured through the window, turning the walls pink. I wrinkled my forehead, thinking of how to explain.
“When I – I didn’t wake up. I don’t know exactly what I did. But I was conscious, somewhere. I was in a great tunnel, it seemed. Black and warm. The darkness was thick, but I wasn’t afraid. I was moving along it, and eventually I came out, blinking, into sunlight. There was a great field, I think, although sometimes it didn’t look like a field… And in the centre was a tree that wasn’t a tree. I knew that I should go to the tree. I felt a great desire for it. But then – then I thought about you. I knew, you see, that the tree meant I was dead, and choosing the tree meant I would be leaving. I wasn’t ready for that.
I walked for miles it seemed through that field, the sun warmed grass rubbing against my legs, and I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. It took a long time for me to realise what to do. I’m not sure how I knew, but eventually I managed to – to look past the edges of the field and back to you.
You were walking through the woods. I held onto my vision of you through effort of will, but it was hard. The world kept slipping away. You were crackling with power. I could almost smell it, the darkness, and I was so afraid for you.” I had to look away from Willow at this point; her eyes were so pained, it was too much to bear. “I slipped, and I was again in the field. When I managed to refocus on you… Warren was dead.” I bit my lip. “Then you turned him into flame and he… he was gone.” I felt my throat constrict. “I could understand, sweetie, I could. I wish you hadn’t done it, but I knew why you wanted to kill him. Part of me, I guess, was even a little glad. He’d broken me, after all, and sent you into – into the dark. But I was so afraid for you.” Tears came to my eyes and I rubbed them away clumsily. “I saw that you were disappearing. Willow was gone, nearly, under the weight of the magic. You’d started out wanting vengeance, but then – you just wanted to be nothing, didn’t you? Nothing mattered because I was gone.” I couldn’t help the tears falling down my cheek. “I tried to call out to you, I tried and tried, but I was too far away. I was watching from a distance, and there was no way to touch you.
I had to stay and watch, though. I had to see you get saved. When Giles – when Giles arrived I had hope. He and Buffy, they could save you, I thought. But you pushed them aside and I felt such despair. I guess I underestimated Xander,” I said with a small smile. “He brought you back, and for that I loved him more than I ever had.
I was with you constantly for days after that. I saw the gang nurse you because you couldn’t do anything for yourself, and then I saw Mr Giles put you on a plane. You looked like a little broken doll, and I wondered if you’d ever be ok. I’d never felt so much love for you, that’s what you need to understand. I saw what you did, and it was terrible, but I still loved you more than anything in the world.
All this time I was still in the field, and the tree was still behind me. Sometimes it didn’t look like a tree, but like a door, and other times merely a great glowing space. It was so beautiful, I can’t even begin to describe it to you. But I never dared go near it. If I did, I knew I’d want to go through, and I wasn’t ready. Heaven was waiting, but there I wouldn’t be able to see you. I knew this instinctively. I would be part of something… different. I’d be consumed by the light, and it would be wonderful, but I would lose myself, in a way. I wasn’t ready to give you up.
I didn’t always watch you. At first it was very difficult to keep my vision on the world. It took great effort to keep focused. I thought it would get easier, but in fact it became more of a battle the longer I was gone. Eventually, though, I got used to the struggle. Learned to accept it, to stop raging that I couldn’t be with you. From then things were easier. But it still hurt, to be away from you, and I felt terribly lonely. I was caught in a strange in between place. I couldn’t go back and I didn’t want to go forward, and even in the beautiful sunlight of my field I felt cold.
I looked at you all often. I was so worried about Dawn. She’d faced so much, and it broke my heart to see her hurting. Sometimes I’d secretly thought of Dawnie as my little girl. I know that sounds silly, because she wasn’t that much younger, but I think – I think sometimes she thought of me as her mother, too. She grieved terribly, although she hid it most of the time. She lay on her bed crying, and I just wanted to stroke her hair. And you – oh, my love, I hurt so much seeing you struggle to become yourself again. You were so brave, and I only wished I could be there to help you through it.
You got better, slowly, and I was glad when you went back to Sunnydale. You were still so frightened of your power, scared that you might slip again. So I was –.” I paused and swallowed. “I was almost glad when you met Kennedy. She – she gave you strength.” I took a deep breath. “It did hurt, though,” I continued quietly. “It had only been six months. It seemed – it seemed to happen quickly.” I glanced at Willow and squeezed her hand. “I don’t blame you, though. I knew you still loved me, and you knew I wasn’t coming back. It – it made sense for you to try to move on. I felt bad for her, though. You did… you did use her a little. It wasn’t really your fault, but you did. She – I think she loved you, but you didn’t love her, although I could tell you cared for her and were attracted to her.” Willow’s eyes widened. “Don’t worry,” I said with a wry smile. “I didn’t watch… that. There were some things I didn’t need to see.”
I paused again, breathing hard.
“After – after the first time you… I thought maybe it was time for me to leave. You were repairing your life, and I was just hurting myself watching you. But I knew I had to stay until the end at least. I had to see you either save the world or disappear from it. Even if you didn’t know it, I had to be looking over you.
That spell you did – it was astonishing. I never had any doubt that you could do it. And it’s what brought me back, you know. You were channelling so much power right then when you made the slayer. Let my will be done, you said. You thought you were just asking that all the girls be slayers… But Willow, whatever you could have asked for would have been yours in that moment. You turned the world upside down. As the magic flowed through you, you thought “if only my Tara were back with me.” You thought it so loudly it was like a beacon, and through my field a great light shot. A great space was torn open, and I could see the whole world waiting. I knew Sunnydale was probably going to disappear, so I chose LA. I guessed you might go there afterwards…
But coming back, it wasn’t straightforward. I was breaking the rules, and maybe I was punished, or maybe you were. I couldn’t remember who I was when I arrived, or how I’d got there. Maybe the shock of it was just too much. But I remember now, feeling my spirit forced into flesh. New flesh, because my old was gone, turning to dust in the earth. You made me again, Willow. The pain was terrible. I could feel my bones growing, my skin shaping over muscles, my blood forcing itself through my heart for the first, tearing beat. And then I was in LA, in an empty street, panting and frightened and naked. I could barely speak, and I was eventually taken into a shelter. They dressed me and fed me but I ended up on the streets again, and that’s how David found me.
You know the rest.”