"Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful Past. "
::Alfred, Lord Tennyson::
She idly picked at her knitting, pulling a few stitches through out of habit rather than anything else. Tara needed to keep her hands busy. She'd discovered early on that if she had something tiny and focused to do, her brain would quiet itself down for a few menial hours.
Which is how Tara came to be knitting in the first place. She had never aspired to make sweaters, caps, or mittens for various acquaintances until she was at least fifty-two and desperate for middle-aged activities to fill her spare moments. And she expected to do it wrapped in blankets, being softly mocked by Willow, who was equally engrossed with the daily crossword sitting by her side.
A sigh escaped her lips.
Tara hated knitting.
Knitting meant she had to jump start that future for the sake of necessity, and Tara disliked starting things too early. Especially without Willow. She mindlessly completed a row of the burgundy and cream scarf she had been knitting for what seemed like forever.
Too long, she thought.
1, 823, 069 stitches and she had come no closer to easing her aching heart than she had at stitch number 1.
1,823, 070. Enough for now.
Tara placed the long train of fabric beside her on the bed, flexed her aching fingers, and sat up. Feeling pressure in her bladder, she swung her legs to the side and put on her bunny slippers. Before she could stop it, as she stood mid-step to the bathroom, a memory swept her, powerful in its grasp.
"See?" Willow urged happily, her hands busy fidgeting with an apparently fascinating tissue. "They're bunnies! For my snuggle bunny."
Tara's grin stretched across her face, slowly and with a hint of flush in her cheeks. Rising to her feet, Tara took a few steps to meet her by the bureau. "Will, they're lovely," she said, gathering Willows hands in her own. "And they'll keep these frigid feet of mine toasty warm for you."
"Oooh, all ready for bedtime snuggles?" Willow bounced excitedly.
Chuckling, Tara replied, "Yes, Willow. All ready for bedtime snuggles."
A devilish glint in her eyes, Willow's mouth turned up at the corner. "Good. 'Cause you know, there's nothing I like better than making sure you're all warm and toasty. Especially during bedtime snuggles," she says mischievously.
"Oh really, Miss Rosenberg? And how were you planning on doing this exactly?"
The glint in Willow's eyes twinkled, "Well, I had kinda planned to throw you down on that bed and have my way with you, if that's all right."
"Oh, yes," Tara rasped as she felt strong arms wrap behind her thighs.
Tara gasped, thrusting her right arm suddenly on the doorway to balance herself. Assaulted by her memories, Tara didn't even realize that tears were slowly migrating down her cheeks, collecting in heavy drops on her chin. It felt like a horse had kicked her in the chest, leaving Tara reeling, shell-shocked, and heart broken for at least the tenth time that day.
Will it ever stop hurting this much? Being here without Willow? Tara wondered, still slightly dazed.
Steeling herself, Tara made her way to the bathroom determined to prepare for bed without further disaster. After finishing her routine, Tara flicked the switch, bathing the bathroom in darkness. Placing her knitting on the bedside table, she turned on the lamp and made her way to the other side of Joyce's old room.
Tara shut off the lights and closed the door before shuffling wearily back to her side of the bed. Removing the extra pillows, she peeled the blanket down and settled under the covers. Picking up the picture frame on the table by her pillow, Tara lovingly cradled it in her hands. She paused, staring at the figure that had haunted her. Tracing her fingers along Willow's face, she hesitated before taking a deep, shuddering breath and placed the picture back on the table.
No, I suppose it won't.
Before turning off the lamp, Tara turned on the radio like she did every night Since, and waited with bated breath.
Not even the hiss of static or the rambling of car commercials could be heard. An abyss of sound pervaded the room, and Tara sighed. Again.
The room, now silent and dark, howled its emptiness back at Tara as she clutched the sheets to her chest and laid her head on her pillow, quietly succumbing to another night of restless sleep and broken nightmares.
Willow jolted awake, her head jumping up from its resting place on the inside of her arm, elbow crooked beneath her head on the table. Willows eyes were unfocused and panicky, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she panted, still hearing echoing screams from the chasms of her dreams.
Sliding into the chair next to her, Ms. Harkness slowly began rubbing Willow's back. She had gotten used to waking Willow with a soft hand. But no matter how gently she was woken, Willow would always wake with a start. There would be several flustered moments before awareness would settle and Willow would realize where she was.
"Willow, you've been asleep for hours. Aren't you the least bit sore on that table, dear?" Ms. Harkness posed quietly in a sweet Irish tongue.
Taking several slow deep breaths to settle herself, Willow blinked and turned her head. "Why do you keep doing that?" she asked softly, a slight frown on her face and crinkle between her brows.
"Do what, dear. It's nothing that I haven't done dozens of times now."
Sure in her convictions, Willow knew more than anything the kindness this woman was showing her was wrong. A murderer like her didn't deserve being woken tenderly. A torturer like her wasn't entitled to warm biscuits and jam in the morning. Malicious and destructive villains like her don't warrant clemency. The Big Bad doesn't get a break. It went against every Scooby bone in Willow's body. And she knew it.
"That doesn't make it better," her voice cracks. "I don't deserve this. Any of this."
Before she would let herself soften and melt in tears of Tara and sobs of 'sorries', Willow pushed her chair back and stood. Looking downward, she took a few small steps, away before letting out a quiet "Please excuse me," and closed the door to her room behind her.
Ms. Harkness sighed and turned to look as the latch to the door slid quietly into place with a small click.
"You're right, Willow, " she said sadly, shaking her head. "You don't."