a/n I made some edits to the last chapter, since I realized there were some inconsistencies with when this story takes place. It's set after season six, episode five. Thank you to TazFlan93 for the review on the last chapter!
"You're home." Tara rises from the kitchen and hugs me as I come through the door. I embrace her back, looking towards Dawn and Buffy seated around the table.
"I hope I didn't make you guys wait," I say.
"It's alright," says Dawn, "we were just talking."
I glance towards Buffy, who's staring into her spoon like it's a portal to another world. I want to believe Dawn, but I'm not sure how talkative Buffy is right now.
"Hey," I say, and hug Buffy too.
She looks up and smiles. "What was that for?"
"Nothing. Just missed you."
"I missed you too. But really, you don't have to worry. I'm not going away again." Her words at the end sound tired; I guess she's had this discussion a lot lately.
"We know," says Tara. "But having you back, it's been a big change - the best kind of big change, of course."
"Speaking of courses, I think the pasta should be ready," Buffy says.
"How was school, Dawn?" asks Tara once we're eating.
"Anarchy versus dictatorship - you know, the usual."
"Your day - how was it?"
"It was... day-y. Job hunt is slogging along."
"That's good," I say. "Well, not the sloggy part, but the job - that should be good."
"I don't know. At this rate I'd be happy with McDonald's."
"Any job would be lucky to have you," says Tara.
"Yeah," I echo, "You have tons of skills."
"Thanks. I just wish apocalypse-stopping looked a bit better on a resume."
We don't talk much more for the rest of the meal.
Tara slides in next to me in bed and I try to keep my eyes fixed on my sociology textbook. It's not easy. All my instinct and muscle memory wants to curl up next to her, but I stop myself.
"So what did Giles want to talk about?" she says, leaning her head on my shoulder. Her hair is warm and soft, but I don't let myself lean back.
"You mean you don't know?" My voice is bitter without the energy of anger.
She looks at me like an outlet that's given her an electrical shock. "What's wrong?"
"I - nothing, I... forget I said anything."
"Willow." She strokes my arm and okay, it feels good. Okay, I really want to kiss her, what with her being all close, and beautiful, and Tara. But that doesn't make me not upset.
She says, "If I did something wrong, I want to know. The last thing I want is to hurt you."
I set the textbook on the bedside table. "This morning in the kitchen... I heard you with Buffy."
It takes a moment for understanding to fall across her face.
"If I'm doing something wrong, I want to know too," I say. "It's just... I don't understand why everyone suddenly thinks I'm so different and scary."
"Hey," says Tara. She touches my cheek and the corner of my mouth twitches up, despite how I feel. "No one thinks you're scary. We're worried, is all."
"But... there's nothing to be worried about. I'm still me."
"I know," says Tara. "And you're the only person like you I've ever met, and the only one I could ever love like I love you, and... it's hard, to see you put yourself in danger. I need you in my life. You're my Willow."
"And you're my Tara," I say. I kiss her; her lips are warm and inviting. She smells of mint toothpaste and jasmine shampoo and our home together. "You don't have to worry. I really am safe."
"Some of the spells you do... Of course I worry. You're doing things that have never been done before, and I just wish you'd do them a little more carefully."
"I know, but the way it feels in the moment - you know, how your thoughts start rushing, and you tap into that reservoir of power, and everything just feels so boundless?"
"I'm not sure," says Tara.
"What? But you've been doing magic for years, you have to know..."
"I think it's different, for you. When I do a spell, I feel... anchored. The way the earth moves through me, it reminds me I'm real."
"That's the same for me! Everything moves into place, and you're so plugged into the universe, and then everything feels kind of faded once it's over."
"That's not really how it is for me," she says. Something must show on my face, because she quickly adds, "I mean, I do love magic. I love how our energies flow through each other, that feeling of closeness. But... I'm just as happy being close to you in other ways."
I lean in and kiss her deeply. Her hand moves along my back, lighting up my spine like a trail of sparks. When we seperate, breathless, I say, "I love you."
She kisses me again. "I love you too." Then, hesitantly, she adds, "You are happy, aren't you?"
I run my hand through her hair. "Of course."
She falls asleep before I do, and I sit in the dark and listen to her breathe.
Of course I'm happy. Buffy's back, and Tara and I are okay, and Giles isn't even angry anymore... why wouldn't I be happy? And if Tara and I don't feel the same way about magic, that's not like it changes anything. We still love each other. Even if magic is different for her, that doesn't mean I'm the only one out there who experiences things like I do.
There are others who could do what you did. You just wouldn't want to meet them.
I take a deep breath of night air. It's okay. Everything worked out; I'm still the good guy. And it's not like I'm planning any big new spells, anyway.
I don't know when I fall asleep, but I wake up to the sound of a scream.