Healing Crystals

Author: Holly

Rating: G

Timeline: Season 6, post-Grave.

Summary: She missed the mornings most of all.

Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They are being used out of love and admiration, and not for the sake of profit. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: I have no idea where this came from, but it wanted to be written. It's a short-short; a stolen moment, and it's for elizabuffy, who made Willow/Tara my second BtVS OTP. I don't know if she'll love me or hate me for writing this, but it just wouldn't go away…therefore it's all hers.

My thanks to therealmccoy1 and yutamiyu for doing the quick read-through.

She missed the mornings most of all. The sleepy, listless mornings. Waking up with her lover's fingers exploring her skin. Her lover's hair waterfalling over her shoulders. Her lover's lips teasing her ear. The sweet fight against sleep. She remembered mornings that stretched for hours. Mornings lasting long after the sun had already dipped below the horizon. Long after night's blanket had fallen over the sky. Mornings lasting all day.

She missed the mornings.

It was strange looking back, for in a way Tara had always known they were living on borrowed time. Willow saw it now in ways she couldn't before. Small memories dancing across her eyes—a certain look or the way Tara would voice manipulated words. She would suggest an activity—an everyday activity—and relish every second in ways Willow never could. Then again, Tara had always been mystical. Perhaps she'd seen something. Perhaps she'd felt something. Perhaps she'd just known.

So much wasted time. So many days apart when they could have been together. So much misplaced fear—so many misgivings. Never had she fully believed Tara was hers. It had been too surreal, too amazing, and too wonderful to be something that would belong to her. She'd exhausted herself fighting to keep something she'd never lost. And now that time was gone—gone somewhere far away, and she would never get it back.

Nights were the worst. Nights nearly killed her. Her days were spent in the company of a witch's coven. Learning things about herself, about magic, about the world that she'd never considered. Unlocking the soil's secrets while returning respect to nature. Once, Willow had worshipped the Earth. Now she feared its retribution for how she'd betrayed its trust. Nature had bent under her will and she hadn't batted an eye. She hadn't realized the awesome responsibility crackling at her fingertips. She hadn't realized how the smallest wave of her hand could ripple across dimensions and change the destiny of a thousand lives. She hadn't cared—she'd dabbled, because it was what suited her.

Days were spent re-learning herself. Nights were spent alone.

Alone. No Tara beside her. No Tara with whom to trade smiles and whisper secrets until drops of sunlight sprinkled across the sky. No Tara to snuggle. No Tara to hold. No Tara at all.

Just the memory of what had been, and thoughts of those who had suffered Tara's death. Her friends, who were really her family. Her friends who might very well never care to see her again. She closed her eyes and there was nowhere to hide. In a flash she'd return the Magic Box or the hill. She'd see herself from miles away, black and twisted, screaming silently while the part of her that was still Willow had tried vainly to escape the hardened shell she'd closed around herself. But then she hadn't wanted to escape. She'd wanted to lose herself. She'd wanted to feel the world tremble and end.

To know she had that sort of magic inside her made her chest ache. Sometimes she saw Xander's face; sometimes she felt his arms around her. Sometimes she thought she was still there—still on the hill, still sobbing into his shirt. She'd hidden so far within herself she barely recognized pain when she felt it—but it had been there, and she doubted she would ever stop crying.

Nights were the worst. The witches weren't with her when she tried to escape her ghosts. The witches weren't with her to hide the truth of what she'd done from meeting reality. There was nothing they could do for the jolts of pure electricity—aftershocks, they said—that tore through Willow's body. Aftershocks. There was every chance she would feel the aftershocks until the day she died.

And when she wasn't jerking with echoes of her crimes, she was staring at the other end of the bed. The empty side. The side that would always be Tara's.

Borrowed time. It had always been borrowed time. It had always been just seconds away from slipping through her fingers. Glory had stolen her away, but Willow had won her back—won her back only to chase her away with shades of her own selfishness. She'd thought magic could reel Tara in; magic was what Tara was, after all, therefore one had to be magic to keep her. She'd thought that for so long—believed for so long that without the mystics she wasn't worthy to touch such a goddess, or even smile under her warmth. Tara proclaiming there was such a thing as too much magic had been inconceivable. How could there be too much of a good thing, especially if that was what allowed Willow to keep her?

She was so foolish. So damnably foolish. The only thing Tara ever wanted was Willow. It took losing her to see it. To realize what had been right in front of her from the beginning.

Sometimes she heard Tara's voice. Sometimes she caught a glimpse of Tara's sunshine hair. Sometimes she felt Tara's arms around her waist. Sometimes she tasted Tara's mouth against her lips. Sometimes…but when she opened her eyes, the brief touch of warmth would vanish, and she'd find herself alone.

Tara couldn't return. Tara was gone.

It could have happened differently. A thousand different ways, a thousand times. She saw it over and over again. A shot. A flash of red. Tara falling forward, her eyes fastened on the splatter of blood decorating Willow's shirt. It could have happened differently—in a different world, a different time, a place where Willow hadn't tried to capture a star and keep it for herself. Had Tara never entered her life, she would still be alive. Knowing Willow—loving Willow had gotten her killed.

They would have had no time rather than borrowed, but she would still be alive. Willow didn't know which hell was worse. Never knowing her or living after she was gone.

Living with the knowledge the best thing in her life had already happened.

Living when she was gone.

"There was no place she would have rather been," Giles said softly. From where he had appeared, she didn't know. Willow spent a good part of twilight taking long walks along the English countryside. Sometimes he would come with her, sometimes she went alone. Sometimes, like tonight, he would join her when she returned. When she took a seat under one of her favorite trees and exercised her mind through magic.

Willow licked her lips. "You always know, don't you?"

A gentle smile crossed his face. "Now, it seems…I don't even need to ask what you're thinking anymore."

"My mind's not the best place to lurk, Giles. I can't guarantee your money back."

"Be that as it may, I know I'm right. I know she died where she was happiest."

Her heart leapt into her throat and her eyes stung with tears. The pressure on her chest would sink her one day. But not now. Not today.

Not when she owed the world her life for what she'd stolen.

"I know," he said, "because she was in your arms."