Driving Away From Home

When she came out the door, he saw the aborted hug on the front porch and the pain on her face as she walked down to the car alone. For a second he fought the urge to step on it and drive away. Instead he popped the trunk and got out to help her load the box into the car. They both got in and pulled out into the night.

The drive to campus wouldn't take long, so he had to ask. "You know... I think you may be the best thing ever to happen to Willow. I've never seen her happier than she was with you. Not with Oz, certainly not with me... And it really seemed like it was mutual."

"It was. It is." Tara kept her eyes fixed on the dashboard. "Sh-she's in trouble, Xander. She needs help."

"And thus the running away?" That got her looking at him, eyes brimming with tears, barely keeping it together. He felt like an asshole. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean... stupid reflex. Grade-school thing. Willow hurt, Xander defensive. But... she slipped up, I get it, it's bad, but..."

"It's not 'bad', Xander. It's not a slip-up. This has been a long time coming, and we've all been too close to see it... She's..." Tara looked back out into the darkness, a hint of anger to her sadness. "It shouldn't have come to this. S-someone should have known that she was out of control, that she can't handle... You've known her her whole life, how come you couldn't see it?"

"I dunno, she's..." He frowned. "She's Willow. She's always known about... stuff."

Tara nodded.

"So stick around. Help her. Support her. You know she just gets crankier when..." He grew quiet. It got awfully cold in the car as he thought about the last 20 years, about every single time Willow had said something and he had believed it without a moment's hesitation.
- How does this work, Will?
- ABCDEFG, 3x39, Earth is round and kinda flat on top, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident', Buffy's in Hell, trust me, I have an A in this, I know what I'm doing.
- Whatever you say, Will.

They drove in silence for a while before Tara spoke again. "It took me 15 years to realize I had to leave my dad. Three more to actually do it. And I would still have gone back to him a year ago if it hadn't been for W-Willow... even after everything he did to me. I can't... I can't go through that again."

He shook his head. "Yeah, but... I mean, that was different." She didn't reply. "Willow loves you. She wouldn't... I mean..." He wished someone could tell him how to finish that sentence.

They pulled up in front of the dorm and she thanked him for the ride and shot him one last tearful look as if to make a point. He drove home with the heat turned up. This was different, right?