Author: Goldy

Title: Silent Night

Email: thegoldoneb_a@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: Joss'. Not mine. I would never be as mean to them as he is

Apologies: It's my first attempt at something that isn't B/A. Be gentle.

Pairing: W/T… don't read if that kind of stuff offends you.

Timeline: It's this year, but I'm sort of discounting all that about The First and everything else going on.

A/N: Written as a Christmas present for my W/T friend. Merry Christmas, Laura! You better like this, I worked really hard to get it out in the span of two days.

It was Christmas.

A time of rejoice and love, of candy and giving. Little children went to bed and dreamed of toys and goods. People caroled, lights twinkled. An affect of happiness and good-will spread. There were smiles, there was laughter, and there were pretty Christmas trees.

And there were tears.

Christmas was a one of the loneliest times of year. Every person who was left alone for the holidays felt it that much more acutely. The fear, the despair, the feeling of loneliness that could cut bone.

Of course, Willow was Jewish, after all. She didn't celebrate Christmas. But that didn't stop her from staring out the window with tears in her eyes and a heavy pain in her heart. She could hear them all downstairs. Giles, and Xander, and Buffy. Dawn, and Anya, and Spike, the two slayers in training.

She loved them all, but couldn't listen to their sounds of laughter. Every smile hurt, every gesture pained her. The feelings of guilt tightened until she thought she might explode.

Tara. Tara was dead.

And she was alone for the holidays.

Her mouth tasted bitter. She went to the bathroom, stared at the face in the mirror. She touched her cheek gently, wincing at the paleness. She looked older, she realized. She looked old, and drained, and used, and worn. She took a long gulp of water, stumbled back to her bedroom.

She flipped the light, letting out a sigh of relief at being immersed in darkness. Curling up on her bed, she closed her eyes. It didn't make any difference. The ghosts sounded in her head. It was a painful noise. A ceaseless noise. It guffawed, torturing her sensibilities.

i"My feet are cold…" soft laughter. "I'll warm them for you, baby…"/i

"No," she moaned. Squeezing a pillow to her chest, she willed her heart to stop pounding. She couldn't relive the memories. It hurt too much.

She heard laughter from downstairs. It was like a rude awakening. Her head throbbed. Her hands quivered. The room seemed to change. She became further away. She was standing on a large needle overlooking it all. Balancing back and forth.

Something was different. The air around her seemed to shake, change. She could almost smell the magic. She opened her eyes. She was still in her room, lying on her bed, hands clutching a tiny throw pillow with a grip that hurt.

And she wasn't alone.

"Tara…" she whispered.

Her lover smiled, smoothing a piece of hair behind her ear. "Merry Christmas."

"Are you…" Willow gulped, "real?"

Tara laughed softly, sitting down gently beside the redhead. The bed shifted, the extra weight causing the springs to squeak. Willow strained her ears. She could still hear the festivities going on downstairs, but they were farther away. The clinking of glasses, the sounds of laughter, it was all muted.

"I'm dreaming, aren't I?"

Tara ignored the question. "You're sad."

Willow sat up, staring at her dead lover intently. "Tara…" her lip quivered, and she bowed her head, staring at her hands. "I miss you."

Tara grasped her hand firmly, causing Willow to let out a sharp sigh. "I miss you."

"Are you real?" she asked again.

"You called for me."

"I did…" she trailed off, eyes dawning with comprehension. "You came because I needed you."

"Why else would I come?"

"Oh, god… Tara…" She lifted her head again and her eyes were red. "I'm sorry… so sorry for everything that I did to you. If it weren't for me…"

"I don't blame you, baby."

"How can you not? I blame me."

Tara smiled at her fondly, her eyes glinting with cheer and love. "Because your heart is full of good. It's pure and bright, and I know that you only want to do the right thing."

Willow sniffled. "I don't understand…"

Tara shook her head. "Don't. Just accept."

Willow nodded, wiping her tears away with her free hand, smiling despite the pain she felt. "How are you? How are things up there?"

Tara brushed her cheek gently with her hand. "I've been watching you."

Willow shifted, hesitantly moving so she could rest her head on Tara's shoulder. "It's been difficult," she admitted, "I have so much power. I don't even really know if it's for good."

Tara rubbed her back soothingly. "I'm proud of you."

Willow closed her eyes. "How can you be? I killed people."

"Shhhh…" Tara lay a finger on her lips. "And you've come so far since then."

"Every day, it's so hard. I think I can't go on… then I think of you…"

Tara smiled. "You'll make it."

"Sometimes I don't want to. Sometimes I think of how close we were…" Willow trailed off, glanced down at their entwined hands. Her nails were painted light pink, she noticed. She remembered how Tara only liked using light colours.

"You'll go on, baby. And one day, maybe you'll find someone else."

Willow lifted her head, sudden fear on her face. "Tara… I can't."

Tara chuckled. "I want you to be happy."

Willow quietly took that in, accepted it. "Are you happy?" she asked. "Where you are?"

Tara thought about it. "I don't know how to answer that question."

"Oh."

"I'm at peace," she offered. "I just… I feel like something is missing. That I went too soon."

Willow shook her head. "I want you to be happy. I need to know that you're in a better place."

Tara touched the tip of her hair gently. "I think I am."

"You better be. Or someone up there is going to have to deal with a pissed up wicca. We all know how I can get when someone I love is threatened."

"Scary, Willow."

She jutted out her chin, "You'd better believe it."

Tara opened her arms and Willow sunk against her, leaning her head against her breast. "You don't scare me," she playfully whispered in her ear.

"I'd never hurt you, Tara," she vowed, "not even when I was at my worst."

Tara pressed her lips to the top of her hair, "I know."

Willow smiled, snuggling deeper against her lover. "Do you know any Christmas songs?"

"Christmas songs?"

"I never knew any," Willow admitted. "Partly because of the whole being Jewish thing, partly because I couldn't sing."

Tara combed her fingers lightly through Willow's red hair. She began humming 'Silent Night' sweetly under her breath.

"What are the words?" Willow asked softly.

Tara shook her head. "I never learned them. I only know the tune."

Willow closed her eyes, breathing in the sweet familiar smell. "You have a beautiful voice."

"I remember Christmas as a kid. It was one of the few happy memories I have of being around my family. For that one night Dad was always kind and caring. My brother was sweet and teasing. We'd feast and open gifts together. Hum the songs that we could never remember."

"Mmmm… sounds nice."

"I also know what it's like being with you and your friends. To know what a real Christmas was where the affection wasn't fake. For that, I have you to thank. I would never trade in anything you've given me."

Willow swallowed, her heart filling with happiness at hearing her love's heartfelt confession, but with a deep emptiness as well. "I would never trade in anything you've taught me."

Tara leaned down, pressing a long, soft kiss to Willow's lips. Willow moaned, almost having forgotten how sweet her lips could taste. Tara pulled away, staring intently at Willow's face.

She knew that her eyes were still closed, but was suddenly afraid that if she opened them Tara would be gone. She forced herself to say, "You have to go now."

Willow felt her response, the air seemed to choke her. "I'm sorry."

A single tear slipped out of her closed eye. "I don't know if I can do this without you…"

Tara pressed her hand to Willow's heart, and it thumped strongly against her hand. "Yes you can. You were always the strong one."

"I can't let you go," she protested meekly. "Don't leave me again…"

"I never really left."

Willow opened her eyes, focused them on her. "You're the most amazing person I've ever known."

Tara smiled. "I'll never really leave you. You know that, right?"

"I know. It's just—"

"Hard," Tara finished.

Willow nodded miserably. "I love you, Tara. More than anything."

"And I love you. One day we'll find each other again."

"You can't know that."

Tara chuckled and brushed her lips softly. "I have no doubt."

"Tara…" it was a half moan, half plead.

"Don't forget me."

"I couldn't. Never."

Tara touched her cheek, "Be happy Willow."

Willow rolled over, opened her eyes. Her room came into focus. She could hear the other's laughing downstairs, their merry sounds loud and clear in her ears.

She was alone.

She buried her face in her pillow, wanting to cry, but not having the energy. Then, like the brush of the wind, she felt a hand smooth over her hair, her covers pulled up to her chin. She smiled just a little bit. Tara would always be with her.

"Merry Christmas," she whispered to the empty air.

End