"Let me tell you a story of the time I had to make a decision bigger than any other. It at started at Christmas 2002. Things were pretty quiet considering I live on a Hellmouth. Willow was still so broken over Tara's death and, although she had seen four different therapists she had found a weak excuse for not going back more than three times, I think the final one was that the woman used to wear four rings on her right hand and it disturbed her trail of thought. She had spent some time in England with Giles and a coven of witches, they were helping her understand her magic but she became homesick really quickly and returned after only five weeks. She never attended Tara's funeral and when we met her at the airport, she insisted on going to the cemetery to say her goodbyes.
Xander drove us to the graveyard, I sat in the front with him while Willow curled up in the tiniest ball you could ever imagine in the back seat, I looked back a few times, y'know to check she was ok. She looked so small and empty, the one time she met my eyes, hers were so, I don't know, she looked haunted and desolate. I've never wanted to hug her so much.
Willow, when she cries, is easily the most heartbreaking person in the world. She just lets it go and everything that has ever hurt her comes pouring out for everyone to see. At the same time, she is beyond cute. The whole thing breaks your heart but makes you remember why you love her so much. Anyway, Dawn was away with Janice and so we had all the time that Willow needed. Xander stopped the car at the cemetery gates not long after two o'clock. He stepped from the car and opened Willows door, taking her hand and helping her out.
She looked so fragile, like a strong breeze would blow her over and smash her into a million pieces. He said something to her but I couldn't quite make out what it was, she nodded slowly and I saw a single tear glint in the sunlight. Rather than walking up the hill to where Tara was… I don't want to say buried, it sounds so final. Resting, that's better. Rather than walking up to Tara's resting place, Willow gazed up the hill, well, her head was turned in that direction but she wasn't seeing the huge oak tree and neat rows of headstones, she saw Tara, it was clear from the look on her face that she was all that Willow could, probably would ever see!
Xander had started up the hill and turned when he finally realised that Willow wasn't behind him. He called out to her but she didn't move, didn't even seem to hear him. I got out the car and brushed her hair from her face, she looked up in surprise when she saw me there. "Buffy?" she said, it was the only time in my whole life that I'd really hated my name. I mean, it's a weird name, right? But I'd never actually hated it before. I wished I could be called anything else at that moment and prayed silently that she wouldn't say it again. I didn't answer her; I wrapped her in a hug. She went rigid in my arms. It hurt me more than any beating from a demon, more than everything that had happened with Spike the previous year. I'd say it hurt as much as my mothers death. One simple movement that caused so much pain. I pulled back from her, trying to hide how I felt, she needed me and Xander to both be strong for her. She needed her friends — her family.
We knew we were nothing compared to Tara. Willow doesn't believe this now, she remains adamant that we were all important but I know that, without Tara, she felt like a piece of herself was missing. It's not a bad thing, I mean, I'm not complaining. I just wish she would've opened up more to us, let us help her through it.
Anyway, I pulled back from the hug and looked at her. "I can't do it!" she'd whispered. "If I go up that hill, then it means she's really gone. She's really…." Her voice had trailed off as though saying the word would bring reality crashing in around us. I told her she didn't have to go if she wasn't ready but she shook her head. I could see the internal battle and the intense babbling that was going on inside her, her eyes flicked back and forth between both sides of the argument she was having with herself. "I have to tell her!" she said, despite the sadness in her eyes she didn't cry.
I skipped town when Angel died, I was so lost and cried for days, but Willow. Oh no, Willow is the strongest of us all, she's been through so much and it doesn't matter how many times you knock her down, she gets right back up. I truly believed that that Christmas she was invincible, you could see the cracks in the veneer but she still got up every morning and functioned. I would have given up and hidden under a rock, or walked out into one of the cemeteries and waited until something scary came along and killed me, but not Willow.
It was hard that Christmas. We tried to keep things as normal as possible. Tree, eggnog, turkey, carols, the whole works. Willow had brightened when she'd helped us decorate the tree. I mean, she almost smiled genuinely. Xander wrapped her in tinsel and did the Snoopy Dance until she looked less like she was going to burst into tears, she managed a half smile and it warmed our hearts, we knew that she would get to the end of this. She dug back into the box of decorations and froze, honest to God, froze like someone pressed the 'pause' button on her.
I rushed to her side and followed her arm to where her hand lay in the box. I had to choke back my own sobs when I saw what lay there. Her fingers were wrapped around an angel for the top of the tree. She had found it the year before and rushed back to the house, completely thrilled.
Opening the box, she pulled out the most perfect blonde haired, blue eyed cherub from within. I knew instantly why she'd bought it.
'It looks exactly like Tara.' I'd told her, her face had lit up with elation and she'd nodded furiously.
Now, one year on, the thing that had delighted her and filled her with joy, now broke her. She'd collapsed to her knees and sobbed so hard you could hear her heart shattering all over again. Both me and Xander hugged her fiercely until she'd cry herself out. It took almost two hours. She refused to let that angel go though.
She apologised and took herself to her room, angel in hand. Almost as soon as her door closed, we heard fresh sobs and I fixed her a glass of water, I was so scared she'd dehydrate. She had barely eaten since arriving back but was becoming really good at making sculptures from her food. She didn't even notice when I gently opened the door and left the glass on the small nightstand.
Then it started. I don't know what happened that night but her sobs just stopped. They didn't ease away like you'd think, one minute she's sobbing hysterically, then silence. We went to check on her and she was sleeping, curled up in her bed, the angel was resting in her arms like a teddy bear and she was smiling. Genuinely smiling.
In that moment I almost forgot all the bad stuff, Tara's shooting, Willow going all black-eyed and world destroyee, all of it melted away in the look of absolute bliss on her face.
We knew she hadn't slept more than an hour at a time since she'd been back but for the first time, she slept and I hope she had the sweetest dreams.
I was up first the next morning and Willow came down an hour later, grinning and whistling. I had to take a double look to be sure it was her, but it was. She refused to tell me what had happened to cause her transformation but she was almost back to being Willow again and so I was happy for her.
And then The First started making itself known. Potential Slayers arrived and Willow met Kennedy!"