So... I'm a terrible person. I don't really have an excuse. Just apologies and a chapter of dubious quality.

Basically nothing. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy. If I did, GUESS WHICH CHARACTER WOULD STILL BE ALIVE?

Within You Without You

"I'm leaving" Tara said, with that jaw set look of determination Willow had so often treasured. Now that it was aimed at her, she just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. She had to take an abstract moment to admire Tara's beauty. Her hair pulled back from her face; her head held high; her mouth, so often curled in a glistening half smile, or capturing her own in a kiss...

Now it was a stern line, and somehow no less encapsulating.

"I know" she said, letting her own hair fall in front of her face, hiding her own conflicted emotions. She saw Tara falter for a second, a moment of doubt, before hardening. She then went to the box she'd taken from downstairs and began packing.

Those were the only words they had said to each other since the crystal broke.

She didn't know what else she could say as she walked in to their bathroom-her bathroom-as she sunk to the floor.

Her old room had only recently been repaired, so was mercifully free. Of people at least. The second she'd stepped in to the empty space, memories had flooded back. Weekends spent naked in bed. Late night, half drunken games of Life with Anya and Xander. Doing that one thing they'd both agreed to never mention again, but do every third Sunday of the month.

Dumping the box unceremoniously on to the floor, she fought back tears for a moment, before defiantly looking at the wall, wondering where she could get a good set of fairy lights cheap.

The tears slowly stopped welling in her eyes. She'd been strong this far. She hadn't cried in front of Willow. She hadn't cried in front of Dawn.

Now all she had to do was not cry in front of herself.

A loud knocking woke Tara. Without even considering the lack of clothing on the lower half of her body, she swung out of bed and dazedly wandered to the door. It opened to reveal Xander and Anya, both wearing big, false grins.

"Hi, guys" Tara said, not trying to hide her shock that the two had appeared. Outside of dawn, she hadn't expected much contact with the Scoobies. She'd figured that, feeling they had to choose a side, the group would automatically default to Willow and she would be left to spend more time alone, or with the scant friends she had outside of the Scoobies.

"Hey Tare" Xander said, Anya nodding behind him. After a long moment she stepped aside, letting them in. Brain awakening, she fluttered ahead, pulling a pair of sweatpants on and quickly making the bed as they watched.

"Sorry, I was sort of... sleeping?" Tara said, turning to the pair. Anya nodded eagerly in response.

"We noticed. Do you always sleep without underwear on?" she asked. Tara blushed and Xander grimaced. "Don't worry, Xander didn't notice. The shirt pretty much covered it"

"Why are you here?" Tara asked bluntly. She was too tired to censor herself, although she hoped the genuine joy she felt at seeing them showed as well.

"We thought, because you hadn't watched it and we have them all on tape, you'd like to watch Daria at ours some time? But we didn't have your number and we didn't really want to ask Willow so..." Xander trailed off, grinning nervously.

"You couldn't have come later?" Tara asked. Her voice lacked an edge though, just a blossom of relief. They had reached out to her first. They cared about her enough to keep in contact, and offer to do something that would probably involve multiple visits. It was a smart way of making it clear this wasn't just a one time pity thing. Even if they weren't the closest group members, they were still trying.

"Later?" Anya asked. "It's five o'clock"

"Its five oh WHAT?" Tara replied. "I have lessons and... and... Oh god" She sunk in to the bed. "My first day back on campus and I miss all my lessons"

"I'm sure if you went and explained it would be fine" Xander comforted.

"Yeah... I'd love to come and watch Daria with you guys some day" she changed subjects quickly. She grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled her number. "Here's my number, I'm going to go and see if I can catch some of my professors. See you?"

"Yeah, see ya" Xander said amiably, he and Anya heading towards the door.

"And guys?" she said. They turned to her. "Thanks"

She didn't know why she'd visited the public library that day in particular. The UC Sunnydale Library was probably better than it really. But that day, she'd felt like getting away from the college students. Even if they were quiet in the library, it was always so full, unless you went in the middle of the night. Presumably.

So instead she'd headed for the much quieter local library. She wasn't really looking for books. Just somewhere to read that would count as going outside her room. She didn't really do it often enough. Same as she had been when she had first come here. Except now she was not only aware of her wallflower ways, she was actively trying to combat them.

So, she was reading 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' in the dead silence of the library. It was quite nice, actually. Calm.

So when Buffy dropped in to the seat opposite her, she was quite shocked.

"Hi Tara" Buffy said easily, grinning at her.

"Hi Buffy" she replied warily. She'd seen Buffy on occasion since her and Willow's break up, but they hadn't really talked. Shed missed Buffy more than she cared to admit. Ever since the incident with her father, she and Buffy had grown far closer.

"How've you been?" Buffy asked, smiling warmly at her.

"Good. Pretty dull really, nothing compared to whatever you guys are up to" she replied.

"It's been pretty dull actually. Not that I'm complaining" she said lightly, before affecting a slightly more serious look. "Tara, I know we haven't talked since..." She sighed. "But, you are my friend. I don't want you and Willow splitting up to come between that"

"Buffy, I'd understand if you didn't want me around... People rarely do" she said with a self depreciating half smile. Buffy's face dropped.

"Tara. I called you family once, right?" Buffy said. Tara nodded slowly, remembering that day caused a warm feeling in her chest, a sense of belonging she'd rarely felt before. "I mean it, always. You don't drop out of the Scoobies that easily. You could still come to the group meetings if you want..."

"No... There are too many hurt feelings there" she said with a sigh. Buffy watched her quietly for a moment.

"That doesn't matter. We'll keep you in the loop, definitely" she said finally.

From there, they just talked for a couple of hours.

It was nice.

So... review? Or just babble incoherently through my window for an hour or two. Both work.