Title: Restitution

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: All your Buffy are belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, & etc.

Rating: PG

Summary: Vignette, Willow POV after her first encounter with the First Evil

Spoilers: B:tVS "Conversations with Dead People" (7.7)

Feedback: Yes, please! Be honest!

Notes: This one's been in my slushfile for awhile, and on rereading I thought it might deserve to see the light of day. I don't usually write Willow, but I couldn't help it, in this instance.

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Oh, Tara.

She almost had me, you know, whoever that was wearing Cassie Newton's face. I wonder if I would have noticed, sooner, if I'd actually met her, that it wasn't really her behind those wise, dead eyes? It doesn't really matter, I guess; what matters now is that I nearly bought her story.

There's no way, there's just no way that you would ever ask that of me. Suicide? Not that I would anyway, not after everything, after Warren and Rack and what I did to the Magic Box and all the things that I said to my friends. That was hurt, and pain, and reacting; it was as much about joining you as it was about vengeance. Make them *pay*, and then make it all *stop*. But it's over now, and I'm better, Tara; you loved life too much, loved *me* too much to ever ask that of me.

Besides, there are things I have to do.

Strange, isn't it? I think I understand now, just a little, why Angel never staked himself in some alley a long time ago. Salvation and repentance, now it's time for me to make restitution ... I'll never make up for it, not ever, but what you do along the journey can sometimes be more important than the place you end up. At least, that's what I tell myself when the future looks bleak and the choices get hard.

It made so much sense, you know, what she said. The Cassie-thing. I've always been afraid, ever since Xander talked me down, that it was going to happen again. That I was broken now, foul, and everything I touched was going to turn to ash. Giles armed me with logic and techniques and was firm with me when I needed it; the witches talked a lot about consequence and balance and taught me all the rules I'd never learned. I bet you knew all those rules. I should have asked. I should have listened more.

It was all just candles against the darkness, though. I mean, they hoped for me, and taught me, and my friends all forgave and loved, but it didn't seem like it would ever be enough if I snapped again. I couldn't help but wonder when the wax would melt down and leave me alone again, with the evil.

Like I was just now, I guess. She got right to all those buried doubts, that place inside that burns me up with fear. If you thought that, Tara, if you saw that, when you watched over me and sang ... but it isn't true, it isn't. I can't let it get to me; if the end was wrong, if she lied about that, then *everything* she said was wrong.

Tara-love, I'm so sorry. I wanted to hear from you, so, so much, that I bought into her little story .... how did she know about all that, anyway? If you weren't really there, didn't tell her those things ...

Oh, God, I really need to talk to Buffy. Something that can take other people's shapes, and know all their secrets, and whisper haunting half-truths in their ears ...

I've got to go now, Tara. I'll never forget you ... and I hope that one day, if you are watching, you can forgive me.

~fin~