Together Again

A.N.: This is the sequel to I Still Sing to You. Willow finally rejoins the other half of her soul. The verse Willow sings is from the BWitched song "It Was Our Day."

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"Happy birthday, Buffy," Willow said with a smile. "Thirty…wow." In truth, Willow and the other Scoobies didn't think that they'd all last this long, especially Buffy. The fact that she had made it to thirty was astounding to all of them. The blonde Slayer grinned at Willow's comment.

"Yep, and still kickin'…yet no longer single." Buffy smiled as she snaked her arm around her lover's waist. It was not Angel, but Faith. The sturdy brunette smiled and wrapped her arm around Buffy.

"And neither of us intend to die any time soon," Faith quipped. Buffy laughed and tenderly kissed her girlfriend's cheek.

"But you still intend to go to the diner with us, right?" Xander asked, wearing a tie-dye eye patch one of the new Slayers had made for him. "It'll be a great celebration – thirty years of Buffy not dying. Well, not more than twice, anyway."

That got a laugh out of everyone.

Just as they were all putting their coats on and getting ready to head out for dinner, Willow smacked her hand to her forehead.

"I almost forgot – be right back!" The redhead turned and bolted up the stairs of the giant mansion they ad all managed to purchase just outside of L.A. Willow got to the second floor quickly and burst into the room she shared with Kennedy. The Slayer looked up from where she was reading on her bed.

"Aren't you going to the diner?" she asked in confusion.

"I forgot to do something," Willow explained, pulling a key out of her pocket and starting to unlock to door to the adjoining room.

Kennedy watched her girlfriend fumble with the knob before she finally got it unlocked. "Are you ever going to tell me what you do in there?" she finally asked just before Willow shut the door behind her. Willow turned and smiled ruefully at her girlfriend.

"No. Not anyone." And then she shut and locked the door.

Willow turned to face the interior of the room and sighed. She purposely made sure that there was no electricity in her sacred spot, but she could make out the silhouettes of what was before her. She slowly walked forward and knelt before the small table on the far wall. Opening the table-drawer, she pulled out a box of matches, striking one so that it shattered the darkness. Slowly, the redhead lit two candles on either side of the table before blowing out the match and placing it in a glass ashtray on the far corner of her shrine. Then she looked longingly at what sat between the two candles.

It was a smiling picture of Tara – happy, carefree, and in love. Willow had chosen that picture because her true love looked so alive and vibrant in that tiny capture of time. Willow kissed the picture gently before singing in a voice that almost resembled a whisper.

"I'll lay a rose beside you forever, and light a candle to remind me of you. You're in my heart, you'll be on my journey, wherever I go, whatever I do." She kissed the image again before whispering, "I love you, Tara."

Kennedy had never heard those words from Willow, and never would. Tara still held all of Willow's heart. The souls of the two witches were eternally and unbreakably bound, and nothing could ever change that.

Smiling slightly, Willow blew out the candles and stood up from where she knelt on the hard floor. She had done this ritual without fail every day since the moment she'd claimed the room as hers alone. Sometimes she would stay even after she'd done the ritual, to talk to Tara's picture, tell her about life, or even spend the night. She would continue to visit Tara in this way for as long as she lived.

"Have fun at dinner," Kennedy said as Willow closed and locked the sanctuary door behind her. Willow smiled warmly, feeling a little bit better now that she had paid her respects to Tara.

"Thanks," the redhead replied, kissing the Slayer's cheek gently before leaving the room and heading back down the stairs.

……………………

"That was the best meal I've had in a long time," Buffy commented as she, Faith, Xander, and Willow all left the diner. Indeed, dinner had been fantastic. So had dessert, for that matter – giant banana splits.

"I think I couldn't eat any more if you paid me," Willow added, clutching her stomach dramatically and causing Xander to laugh.

"Thanks for a great birthday, guys," said Buffy sincerely. "It's good to have you in my life. It makes it…well…livelier," she ended on a humorous note.

"Aw shucks, Buff," said Xander. "You don't need to exaggerate just 'cause we paid for the food."

"No, I'm serious." Everyone stopped walking and looked at Buffy. The Slayer looked at each of them in turn. "I don't know what I'd do without you guys. I mean, we've saved the world a couple of dozen times, and we did it together."

Faith smiled and wrapped her girlfriend in a tight hug. Xander and Willow looked on with large grins on their faces as Buffy accepted the embrace.

"We'll always be here for you, Buffy," Willow said softly. "No matter – DUCK!"

Everyone dropped to the ground along with Willow as a demon flew over their heads, having miscalculated its jump. It took a grand total of a second for the Scoobies to spring into action. Faith pulled a knife from her boot while Buffy ripped off her jacket and unslung the hidden crossbow. Though Xander had a club, Willow's only weapon was the Doll's-Eye crystal Tara had given her just after they had first met – a super boost for spells. As the four turned to face their foe, they realized the demon was not alone. Three vamps and yet another demon were headed their way.

"Why does this kinda thing always happen on your birthday?" Faith asked Buffy sarcastically.

"Dunno, and I'm thinkin' I'm going to take Spike's once-upon-a-time advice and not celebrate them anymore." Then talk-time was over and the melee began.

Xander took on one of the demons – a slimy-looking humanoid with forward pointing horns and claws the size of butcher knives. One look at the creature made Xander wish that his club had a spike at the end of it. Nevertheless, he locked himself in a tight battle, barely avoiding lethal claw strikes and scoring a few good hits.

Faith and Buffy had taken a vamp each, pummeling them quite efficiently without even needing to use their weapons yet.

Willow backed up from the fray, clutching her Doll's-Eye crystal tightly. Seeing the third vamp coming for her, she raised the crystal in his direction. "Inflamatus!" The vampire's body instantly caught on fire and he howled in agony as he turned into dust. But the four Scoobies had forgotten one thing – the other demon. So when Willow turned around to find herself facing it, she didn't have time to protect herself when it stabbed her straight through with all ten of its claws.

"WILLOW!" the witch heard as she dropped to her knees, but she felt as if the voice was coming from miles away. What started as a dull ache in her stomach and chest was now transforming into a fiery agony that spread across her torso. Willow tasted blood in her mouth as she fell backwards, still clutching the crystal tightly in her hand. All around her the separate sounds of the skirmish blended into one jumbled noise – the death shriek of her assailant, Faith's cry of rage, the sound of a vamp turning to dust. And then it was over, and Willow felt her head being lifted into someone's lap. When she looked up she saw through her slowly fading vision that it was Faith.

"Willow? Willow?" Buffy was by her side, stroking the redhead's hair as Xander held the hand that wasn't clutching the Doll's-Eye. Willow turned her head slightly so that she faced the blonde Slayer.

"Hey Buff…" the redhead coughed as blood spewed from her mouth.

"Shh, you'll be fine. We'll just call an ambulance, and…oh God…" Buffy trailed off in mid-sentence. Willow could tell that she was looking at the claw wounds and how much they were bleeding.

"It's ok…Buffy," Willow struggled to say. "I'll be…fine… I'm gonna…be with…Tara."

"Oh God…Will!" Xander cried, grasping his friend's hand tighter. "No, don't leave! You can't leave!"

"It's her time," Buffy whispered quietly, the realization hitting her like a ton of bricks. "We have to let her go."

Willow smiled at her best friend. "Thanks, Buffy. For…understanding." Willow coughed again and more blood spilled from her mouth and onto her shirt. The world was blurry, and it was beginning to fade to black. Buffy was right. It was time.

"Buffy…Xander…Faith…" Willow began. "Say goodbye…to the others…for me. Love…to Giles. Tell…Kennedy that…I'm…at peace." The redhead smiled again. "I love you guys," she said as she felt herself fade.

"We love you too, Willow," said Buffy.

"Always," added Faith.

"Say hi to Tara for us," Xander said, smiling through his tears.

Willow closed her eyes. "Tara…" And then she was gone.

……………………

Wherever she was, she was comfortable and warm. Whatever she lay on was soft, and a gentle breeze caressed her face. But that wasn't the only caress Willow felt.

Gentle hands rubbed her shoulder and stroked her cheek, love radiating from the touch. Though Willow would have been content to submit to the tenderness for just a bit longer, she knew it was time to open her eyes. The world was bright, but not harsh. The sky was a radiant gold, and she was lying on a bed of soft clouds. She was back in her twenty-one year old body, as she was before her dark days. And the hands soothing her…

Willow looked into a pair of ocean-blue eyes set in a smiling face framed by dark blonde hair. "Hi Willow," her true love said softly.

"Tara!" Willow cried out as she sat up and embraced the woman she had yearned to be with for so, so long. The two halves of one soul were finally together again.

Both witches sobbed uncontrollably into each other's shoulders, clutching each other tightly as if to reinforce the fact that they could hold each other again. When they pulled away it was only to come back together in a sound kiss, savoring the utter bliss of the moment. When their tears finally subsided, the two girls lay facing each other on the clouds, rubbing each other's arms as they snuggled close – the way they had so many years ago when they were alive.

"I'm glad you loved again," Tara said softly, referring to the Slayer back in the land of the living.

"But I didn't, really," replied Willow. "I cared for her, yes, but I didn't love her."

Tara smiled. "Just caring was enough to keep you smiling. I always love to see you smile." She made it a point to kiss Willow gently before continuing. "And you love your friends. That's the most important of all."

"Not quite as important as loving you," Willow replied, kissing Tara for a moment. "Your memory kept me alive."

"Mmm, I did like the little shrine," Tara giggled. Willow blushed, but Tara continued to smile. "And when you'd stay and talk to me, I'd listen. I'd always listen to whatever it was you had to say. When you laughed, I laughed. When you cried, I wished I could have been there to dry your tears. And when you slept…I would sing to you. Always."

"I think…" Willow began. "I think I knew that, deep down. Whenever I slept in that room, I knew that I would be safe, and that I had nothing to worry about. I knew that…somehow…you were there."

"Oh darling, I was always there. Whenever you needed me, I was there, even if you couldn't see me."

"Always?"

"Always," Tara confirmed. She smiled adoringly at Willow and stroked her hair. "I love you so much, Willow."

"Oh, Tara, I love you too." Willow smiled, kissing Tara's forehead, then cheek, then lips. She moaned slightly at the feel of her lover's soft mouth moving against hers. She had missed this sensation so, so much, and experiencing again sent waves of relaxation all over her body. "And now we're together again," Willow spoke against Tara's lips, never stopping the kiss. "Forever."

"Forever," Tara agreed, wrapping Willow in a warm embrace, enveloping the redhead in comfort and love.

The dams that held back all their longing finally shattered, and passionate desire coursed back through their veins. Kisses became more heated, hands clutched in desperation, needing the touch. And as the two lovers lay beneath the beautiful golden sky, falling deeply into love all over again, the wind carried their tender whispers to each other of "You make me complete."