by Te
May 2002

Disclaimers: Not mine, so not mine, not even close to mine.

Spoilers: All kinds of things, right up through Two To Go/Grave.

Ratings Note: PG-13.

Summary: Willow's moving on.

Author's Note: Yeah, I know, *everyone's* gonna write one of
these. I had to write one, too. I'm feeling the Buffy love, yo.

Acknowledgments: To my We, for squeeing with me, my parents
for not giving me too many weird looks when I kept running at
them to tell them the plot of the last *six seasons*, and to Jenn
for audiencing.

Feedback: Dude. It rocks the house.


The hardest part of grieving is.


It goes on, whether or not you're ready for it, friends surrounding
you, snuggled up close on the couch that replaced the one fouled
with Joyce's death, snuggled up so close you could almost forget
there was someone missing.


Tara had a way with that, a shadow-love that, in her darker moments,
Willow wonders about.

Had she seen the shadows in Willow? Was that why...?

Tara could make herself unseen, quiet. Noticeable only for her
discomfort in being noticed. Except toward the end, of course. Tara in
leather, head held high.

Tara's smile, bright and without a hint of hesitation. Strong broad
shoulders, strong broad hips of a woman, welcoming the child Willow
suspects she'll always be (except now you're *ripe*), petulant and

Grief is constant, demanding in its own way. Shocked and angry as
a schoolmarm by the way the flowers didn't cover the scent of
embalming fluid and decay at the wake the McClays demanded -- and,
really, there'd been no good way to explain that, in Sunnydale,
autopsies always took much too long.

And every wrongful death required the further indignity of the scalpel,

Grief screamed, and raged, but there was nothing to be done about
any of it. Hard enough to have the service *in* Sunnydale, and that
had required a fight she'll have to thank her bruised and battered
friends for.


Buffy had handed her a damp handkerchief as Willow walked to the
raised casket, something Willow hadn't understood until...

Well, of course people like the McClays would do everything they
could to make Tara over in death when they couldn't in life. Petty,

The grief is a lot like the power centers inside her, burnt and
crumbled for the most part, but anything but numb.

Anything but dead.

Death is easy. (bored now)

She'd knelt on the prie-dieu, knelt until her legs grew first sore, then
numb, then sore again. She could hear the family members muttering
behind her, throats cleared ostentatiously.

Willow kept the handkerchief wet with easy tears, and when there
was no one left in the gaudy little chapel but her friends, she'd wiped
the awful makeup away, gently and thoroughly.

And kissed her beauty, her love, one last time.

Grief, she thinks, is all about learning, and the way that there aren't
ever any simple answers. Killing is wrong, murder is wrong. She
knows this. Down deep, she knows this. When she forces herself to
remember what she had done to Warren, what she had tried very
hard to do to Andrew and Jonathan, it sickens her. The simple answer
would be to trust this response, to chalk up the past several days to
rage, to grief, to the powers raging within her and far beyond her
conscious control. (oh, but that's a lie...)

And yet...

She'd do it again.

Perhaps not the same way (slower), perhaps not so...

Willow remembers feeling *out* of herself, remembers the freedom
of it, but here, today, with her feet on the warm Sunnydale ground
and the sun shining on her face and her lover, her sweet and
beautiful lover rotting so far away...

She thinks she got some things right. The vengeance of women is
always personal, always close. Of earth, and blood, yes. All of that.
And yet, what of the spirit?

Magic... magic had never been the problem, no matter what anyone
said, no matter what the niggling, nagging voice inside her head
(insects, rats, oh Tara, not *you*...) had to say about it. No. No.

It was always control, and pride, and power, and the way those
three things could combine within her to create such terrible things.
Hubris of the sort the gods couldn't help but punish, whether old or

She who had reached into the minds of gods and made them hurt.
She who had made gods scream.

Such terrible pride...

*That* had been the problem. There was a certain clarity to this
new weakness. Temptation, after all, was infinitely easier to bear
when most of the time she could only call up a few sparks, when
nudging a pencil was enough to give her a migraine.

Most of the time.

But... she's healing.

And she's smarter now.

Humbled the way the girls at school had never been able to, the
way she'd only thought she'd been. Face in the dirt, hair for a

Grief is the taste of salt and acid, even when you're smiling.

Giles left again yesterday, ribs taped, head bandaged. Willow had
been too weak to try any sort of internal healing without alerting
him, without knocking herself unconscious. He'll have to heal on
his own.

He'd taken her face in his good, scarred hand, the one he rarely
touched anyone with if he could possibly avoid it (oh, you'll never
tell us how you got all those scars, will you, Giles?), and Willow
knew there was meaning in even that small gesture.

So much love in those eyes, so much regret, and understanding.

"I should've --"

She'd shaken her head, still a little shocked by the brightness of her
own hair. Strange the things you grow accustomed to. How fast. "I
should've listened. I... I think I get it now. Magic's not a game, and
life isn't fair, and no matter how powerful you are, there's always
someone, always something..."

Grief is crying, endless crying.

They've all hurt each other so badly this year, but she's always been
the overachiever among them, hasn't she?

Lessons learned. Shadows acknowledged, at last, if too late for
some. She wonders if Katrina would've thanked her.

It's an idle thought as she picks through the rubble of the shop,
denuded dark magic books whispering, whispering from the Dumpster
outside. "Your power shone," Tara had sang to her, so sweetly, so
true. Honesty in magic.

Purity, even when its forced.

Anya and Xander are talking again, or trying to. Using the excuse of
getting lunch for the three of them. More honesty in magic, demon
magnet that he always is, and will be. Willing victim in him, despite
the strength born of years. Humility beaten into him, one way and
another. Deep brown eyes showing every hurt, every love.

So very human.

Buffy and Dawn are at the house, sparring. Buffy alive at last, in a
way Willow had never been able to give her, and yes, that stings,
but... was that not magic, too?

A sister who'll never break the way Faith did. The way Willow did.

Powerful in her own right, loving Buffy the way only family can. Blood
magic, so dark and dangerous.

So real.

Grief is all about learning, and acceptance, even if she's not ready for
that, yet. But friendship is about those same things, so she has a
good start. After all, years pass and you never really know as much
as there is to know about your friends, no matter how close you get.
She never would've guessed that the same Buffy who helped her play
little pranks on Cordelia would eventually have an affair with Spike.

Or that the same Xander who kept extra tissue in his backpack for
when the mean girls made her cry would choose those same mean
girls, again and again, over her.

But that was friendship. You accepted your friends because you
loved them, even when they hurt you, even when they were the
ones who made you cry, even when they made terrible, hurtful

Even when they could be blindly hypocritical about something as
basic, as *vital* as magic.

Magic is all around them, all through them. It saves their lives, it
*is* their lives. It's one of the few things Willow has left, now that
Tara is gone.

She'd used it neither wisely nor well. She'd attracted and offended
powers in ways that will likely come back to haunt her in the future.
Her friends are not thinking of this when they expect her to go back
to the magic-free existence she'd taken up to please Tara, to
appease Tara, to be a woman Tara could love again.

It's all right. Willow understands.

When the time comes, Willow will be ready.

Sunnydale is full of those who use magic for ill, those not powerful
enough for their magics to take control if and when Willow
commandeers them and burns the users out. (Twinkle twinkle little
rat, how I wonder what you're at...)

She will make her friends understand.

They've been...

They've been very selfish this past year. Closed in on themselves
and their own petty problems and insecurities. Sacrifices must
always be made.

Willow has known that intellectually for a very long time. She knows
it in her bones now. Buffy does, too, whether she'll admit or not.
Anya is a pragmatist. And Xander... Xander will come along.

She reaches inside herself, searching. Pulling. It hurts. It *burns*,
and she feels herself shuddering all over as perhaps a fifth of her
power centers flare to uneasy life within her. She holds them
steady for a moment, two, and lifts a bit of rubble.

Wetness on her lip distracts her and the world goes black for a
heartbeat. The rubble falls.

Willow tastes iron, and wipes the blood away with the inside of
her sleeve. Checks her appearance in a bit of unbroken mirror
and nods.

She is healing. It would probably be faster if she trapped some
hapless witch or warlock and drained them dry, but she suspects
some things are better left to nature.

Grief is the sweet-sharp pang of raw feeling when it occurs to
Willow that Tara would approve.