Title: Digital Ghost
Character/Pairing: Willow, Willow/Tara
Rating: PG
Warnings: Angst
Word Count: 705
Summary: After her return to Sunnydale in S7's Same Time, Same Place, Willow has to face the memory of Tara in digital form on her laptop.

Author's note: You know, I didn't want to use the Tori Amos song as the title for this one, but, dammit, it just worked so well. Not that this is at all related to what the song's actually about, but the title is appropriate for this piece.

She had a system.

It was something she'd perfected on her first computer. At first, she hadn't known what type of organizational method she'd need (Alphabetical? By date?). Computers were new. Nobody knew exactly what they would be used for. As time went on and technology advanced, Willow learned the ins and outs of effective folder layouts. She knew what she kept stored on her hard drive. It was a hodge-podge. A less determined person would just stick it all together in a folder labeled 'miscellaneous'.

Not Willow, though. Her Documents folder gave way to 'Slaying' (for files or photos she'd saved in the course of Slaying-related activities), 'Websites' (Had she really set up a 'We Hate Cordelia' website on Geocities? She had to laugh at that now.), 'Writing' (Her writing consisted of attempts at Doogie Howser and Xena fanfiction. She never was any good.), and 'Friends' (for anything and everything related to her friends). 'Music' (all the mp3s she'd grabbed before Napster went kablooey). Each folder then gave way to more folders that subdivided the main categories. Rigidly arranged nesting folders that allowed her to easily hone in and find anything she might want.

It was the other folder that she was staring at now, though. The one that shared the screen with 'Slaying' and 'Friends' under the Documents heading. One of the newer folders. 'Tara'.

Dawn had assured her that nobody had touched her laptop while she was in England. No, it was exactly like she'd left it when...

She'd initially put 'Tara' under 'Friends'. It had made sense. Buffy, Xander, and Giles had their own folders under the Friends heading (Microsoft needed to figure out some way to allow files to share folders for when she had something that included Buffy, Xander, and Giles. Like a labeling system of some sort).

It hadn't taken long, though, for the 'Tara' folder to grow beyond Friends. Bigger than Friends. It needed its own place.

Willow still knew the sub-folders it contained:

Photos. Photos of Tara. Of Tara and Willow. Of Tara with others. So many pictures capturing her love in precious drops of moments, saved in digital form. Information now. Tara used to be made up of body and soul. Now she was made up of bytes and pixels. Did she really exist at all, then? Bursts of electricity translated into data and rendered into graphical form on a monitor. That was Tara now. You can't hold a data stream.

Website. Willow had made a website for Tara. Tara wrote. Beautiful writing way, way better than Willow could ever do. Willow made her a website for her birthday to host her writing. Tara's readers were probably wondering why it hadn't been updated all summer. Hadn't Tara been in the middle of a piece when they'd...? Incomplete. Never to be completed. What would Willow tell the readers?

Emails and IMs. Willow didn't usually save emails. But she'd saved Tara's. Tara preferred IMs sometimes. She said it was easier to chat when she didn't have to make eye contact. That was back at the beginning, when Tara was still nervous around Willow. Later, they'd put AIM to use during classes to talk to each other. Silly things. Unimportant things. Minutiae. So unimportant. All the trivial moments she now never wanted to forget.

Music. Her Tara music. These were separate from her other mp3s. It's her Tara collection. Songs that reminded her of Tara somehow. Everything ranging from Anais Mitchell to Tracy Bonham with a whole bunch of memories stacked in between. Indigo Girls were so cliché, but hearing 'Power of Two' playing while they were practicing spells at Tara's place late one night...well, give her a mullet and a truck. Clichés weren't all bad.

Spells. Willow had kept a carefully detailed index of the spells she had Tara had done together. Text files that she could peruse at her leisure and remember what had brought them together - tore them apart. She'd almost deleted the folder in the midst of her frustration after Tara had -

Willow closed the laptop with shaky hands. Too soon. It was too soon to deal with any of that.

It wasn't obsolete yet.