Notes: This fic was inspired by "The Drugs Don't Work" by The Verve and was intended to be the final, wrap up, part of a long series (or to be more precise three overlapping series: "A new Beginning", "In Harms Way" and "Past Redemption") I had mapped out. Unfortunately shortly after writing the first few parts and this one (just after S4 had finished it's RUN in the US and in the UK on Sky1) writers block set in (triggered largely by real life and workplace stress) so I never got around to writing most of the series.
Just to give you some background. "A New Beginning" started at the end of S4 just after the end of the college year, Buffy had just moved back in with her mother for the summer. Dawn was present from the start but obviously I didn't know any of the S5 stuff about her, I was writing her as Buffy's little sister who had been there all along. Riley is still away being debriefed and discharged fro the Initiative. At the opening of the fic Buffy discovered that she was pregnant by Riley (probably due to a faulty condom) and went to have al the usual new pregnacy checkups and stuff, Joyce slayed a vampire. The next step was Riley was coming back to see her but died in a car crash, I hadn't quite decided if it was just an accident or whether it was deliberate. the fic was going to explore the trials of young motherhood with the added slant of pregnancy on the Hellmouth. Buffy having to choose between her child and saving the world as a metaphor for the choices young women have to make between motherhood and career.
"In Harms Way" was really a subplot of "A New Beginning" and was only intended to run for about half a dozen parts. In an attempt to stop Spike from commiting muggings (like he attempted with Anya in "Where the Wild Things Are" but actually hitting people enough to grab their purse or wallet but not so much as to make the implant pain unbearable) Willow and Tara try to give him his soul back. Unfortunately due to a problem they land up giving Harmony her soul back and in the process linking the three of them together. the series was intended to examine the nature of relationships and love, also the way people change as they grow up or have to change to adapt to external forces (how would you react if the person who picked on you in high school now literally shared part of your soul and you thier's).
"Past Redemtion" was set further in the future and dealt with Faiths story. It was to be told mostly in flashback. The basic idea was that Faith had been sentenced to death for the murders of Alan Finch and Lester Worth (the fact that Wolfram and Hart were 'assisting the DA as a pro bono' may have had something to do with this). Now, sitting in the final holding cell for her last 24 hours on Earth, Faith reflects on her life and discusses what has happened and what is going to happen with Willow, her spiritual advisor. Through the flashbacks I was going to examine how Faith could have got to the point she was in the TV series and how she redeemed herself on Death Row and made peace with her self and the world. The ideas for this series were heavily influenced by my anti-capital punishment feeling and my Wiccan beliefs, it was intended to examine the nature of redemption outside of a strictly Christian frame work (the basis of Christian redemption is belief in Jesus, the basis of redemption in the tradition of Wicca that I practice is to demonstrate a true desire to be forgiven and to correct the wrongs you have done).
I will not now be writing those series. If anyone wants to take my ideas and run with them then drop me a mail and we'll discuss it. I'm fairly open to negotiation and flexable, although I would insist on the anti-capital punishment slant in "Past Redemption".
And now on with the fic:
Willow sat beside the hospital bed that held all that she held dear, her wife of 15 years. Tara lay on her side, her breathing laboured and rasping, her skin stretched parchment like, her once beautiful hair reduced to a few thin wisps by the treatments that had failed to exorcise the demon of disease. Willows eyes filled with tears as she took Taras hand. In contrast to her loves debility Willow, at 40, was at the peak of her beauty. The shy girl lost forever and replaced by a woman of supreme confidence and power. Her beauty was marred somewhat by the strain and lack of sleep of the past year. Her usually thick and lustrous hair hung flat and limp, her bright and intelligent eyes were dulled by dark rings, fatigue and sorrow.
"Why?" she asked "Tara, I love you."
The nurse at the door looked at the pair with sorrow. She had seen this scene so many times. So many battles lost. So many hopes destroyed. Despite her professional exterior she, still, was affected. No matter how detached she tried to stay she still felt for the families and loved ones. She still raged within at the unfairness of the world and the apparent callousness of the god the hospital chaplain sought to speak of as a merciful being. She scanned the clipboard in her hand. 'Name ; Tara Rosenberg', 'Age : 41', 'Next of Kin : Willow Rosenberg (spouse)', 'Additional Notes DNR, JMC'.
Willow negotiated her way through the tubes and monitor wires that ran between Tara and the equipment around her. An hour ago she had been at the home they had shared for 18 years, the house they had bought together in Sunnydale a year after graduation. Bought together with a joint mortgage, paid for within 15 years. A home of love. Now she was with her wife, kissing her tenderly on the forehead, tracing on her arms the track marks of countless failed injections and chemotherapy's. Willow had been woken from an exhausted slumber by a call from the hospital suggesting that she come in. She had called Buffy as she did not trust herself behind the wheel of a car. Sitting in the Slayers SUV she had felt frozen, sitting unresponsive as her long time friend had bent if not broken every traffic regulation to get her to Sunnydale General.
When Willow had called Buffy had been with her mother visiting Xander. Joyce sat in the front of the SUV whilst Xander had cradled the Wiccan.
Now at her loves side Willow sobbed. Buffy, Joyce and Xander had remained in the waiting area, drinking coffee and talking in unnaturally high voices.
"I love you Tara." Willow said through her tears.
"I can't be without you."
"Why did this have to happen?" repeating the question asked so many times but never answered since the day Tara had returned from her routine medical checkup, "three thousand mile service" she had jokingly called it, ashen faced. The day that Tara had uttered those phrases "cancer...", "might have metastasised...", "have to go in for chemotherapy".
Tara stirred a little and her eyes flickered open. "I love you Willow" she whispered.
"Oh Tara, I love you" Willow kissed Taras cheek and wept "I'll love you forever."
Tara let go and felt pain no more. The slow, steady beep of a monitor turned into a keening whine. The nurse at the door signalled to a doctor. She stepped into the room and silenced the machine.
"NO!!!!!" screamed Willow as the doctor entered the room. The nurse took Willow into her arms as the doctor performed her final checks and marked the charts.
"Are you the next of kin?" she asked.
Willow managed to nod.
"I'm sorry." the doctor handed the chart to the nurse as she left the room.
"Would you like to go to your friends? I'll tidy up in here."
Willow nodded and turned from the room as the nurse began to remove the tubes and wires from her loves body. Willow didn't know how but her body managed to put one foot in front of the other to carry her along the corridor to where Buffy, Joyce and Xander waited. Willow rounded the corner and faced her friends. Giles had arrived whilst she had been with Tara. They all stood.
"Is...." Buffy began stepping up to Willow.
"She's dead." Willow would have collapsed to the floor had Buffy not caught her. They held each other tight and wailed into each other shoulder. Joyce pulled them both into a hug whilst Giles simply stood shocked and Xander collapsed into a chair weeping silently.
A hairs breadth and a billion light years away Tara stepped into a meadow and walked up a slight hill. Looking in a limpid pool at the base of the hill Tara saw the face she had worn at her wedding peering back at her. At the brow of the hill an aged woman sat, she turned to look at Tara as she reached the top. As she stood the woman changed to a maternal figure of middle years.
"Welcome home my daughter." she said and shimmered to become a young woman "There's someone who has been waiting for you."
"Thank you goddess" Tara breathed.
"Danu." the woman replied as she pointed to a figure waiting at the base of the hill.
Danu kissed Tara on both cheeks "Your friend is waiting."
Tara walked towards the dark haired girl. "Faith."
"Great to see you T. I mean... I... I didn't mean..."
"I know what you mean.", Tara briefly hugged Faith to her and placed a comforting kiss of friendship on her hair.
Danu joined them in her mother form, she held both of their hands within hers. "The time for pain is over."
Faith looked from Danu to Tara. "How's Red?"
"She's hurting" Tara replied.
"The path for my chosen daughters is never easy." Danu had a tone of sadness to her voice but said confidently "She will find comfort."
"Can I see her?" Tara asked turning to the goddess, behind her Faith nodded vigorously.
"Of course. Your souls are joined for eternity. She carries part of you within her and you part of her." Danu bestowed a beatific smile on them both "She has people who cared for you both who love her. She will never be alone."
A few days later.
Tara and Faith stood in the woodland side by side. Before them a small party gathered. Willow, wearing a simple black robe, scattered ashes from an urn incised with varied symbols of love, hope and faith. She laid a single red rose against a stone. Carved into the surface of the stone were the words "Tara Rosenberg, 1980 - 2021, Loved, lost, missed". Buffy stepped forwards to lay a rose on the stone then laid another on the older one adjacent. The stone read "Faith, 1983 - 2014, Safe from pain.".
Giles murmured "Rest happy" and patted the stone as he placed his offering of lilies. He returned to his wife who hugged him tightly.
Buffys daughter, Roseanne, placed a pebble carved into a dove in flight before the stone and whispered "Goodbye Auntie Tara". She returned to Gile's son, her fiancee.
Supported by Spike and Angel, all wearing thick cloaks against the afternoon sun, Harmony stepped up to the stone. She knelt before it. "I'll care for her." she said then stood and returned to their lover silent tears running down her face as both Angel and Spike whispered a few words and placed flowers. Buffy handed Harmony a handkerchief from the copious supply she carried with her. Seeing Harmony, Willow began to cry again.
"We'll be ok." Buffy told the sobbing women as she hugged then both close, "We'll be fine. We'll see Tara some day."
Xander and Joyce approached the stones and placed a rose each. Xander touched each stone and said "Faith, watch out for our girl. OK?"
Unheard, Faith replied "Sure thing Xand.".
As the party left Tara and Faith turned to see the mass of Wiccans, trainee Slayers and Watchers file past the stones, each laying a flower, pebble or other item at one, the other or both.
Many years later.
"Welcome home my daughter"
"Thankyou goddess" replied Willow.
"Danu, please. You have quite a group waiting for you"
"But why do I look so young?" Willows face was that of her at 25 yet retained the confidence she had gained in later life.
"You're soul reflects your inner self, it appears as you at the moment when you knew true love and happiness. Now go to you friends."
Willow walked down the hill to the group.
"Buffy! I'm so sorry I couldn't stop them."
"It's OK. Just my time I guess. 57 is a better age to go than 15."
"Hey Red. You kept us waiting long enough." Faith butted in.
Willow hugged the ex-slayer. "Glad to see you're here."
"Wouldn't have made it without you."
Willow turned to face her wife. "Tara."
"I Love you."
"For all eternity."
Responses to Reviews
*(), Roseanne is Buffy and Riley's daughter born during "A New Beginning", she was named after my own neice. The descriptions in the Heaven bits are based on the tradition of Wicca that I follow, it's very similar to the Greek/Roman concept of Elyssia, a rural paradise. If I get inspired or someone takes it over from me we might cover what happened to Xander, Joyce, Anya, Giles &c in the interveneing years and where they are now. I'm assuming that they are around somewhere and probably wandered over to greet Willow shortly after she and Tara had gotten reaquainted, just as Tara's mother probably was around and greeted her after she had finished talking to Faith and Danu.
MissKittyFantastico, I'm glad you liked it. I was going for an angsty but hopeful message, something like that we die but true love extends beyond death and in the end we are reunited with our loved ones. At the tome that this was written there were still a lot of people around who wanted Tara to die so that Willow would go back to Oz and there were a lot of complaints on Willow/Tara fanlists about fics where Tara died. I set myself the challenge of writing a fic where Tara died but that dealt with death beautifully and showed that Willow and Tara truly would be together forever. I also wanted to include the fact that those who we think are lost to us in death can still check back and take an interest in our live and that we will be reunitied with the people who are important to us in the end. I hope that I have achieved that goal.