Thanks to those who have reviewed so far. It's appreciated :) I've poured alot of time and effort into this fic. This thing is basically my baby, my way of 'fixing' the numerous things that I think were wrong with Season 7.
Just a side note, there will be alot of flashbacks throughout this entire story. For anyone confused as to why Tara is still alive, Warren still shot her, but instead of the bullet hitting her heart, it simply went through her shoulder. Non-fatal wound. She was still knocked out when the bullet hit her, considering that there had to be a fair amount of shock flowing through her brain when she felt the bullet hit her. So, in response, Willow thought she was dead, which is due to the amount of shock that she was feeling herself. All the Dark Willow stuff still happened as portrayed in the show, apart from the numerous changes that had to be made because Tara wasn't dead.
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or any of the other characters. They belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
As she stood under the shower head, Willow closed her eyes, letting the sensation of warmth flow over her otherwise cold skin. She hated knowing that the memories had returned to her dreams the previous night, had taunted her and nearly broken her all over again. But it was a necessary part of why she was here, as Giles had told her numerous times when she had let him know about the after-effects of the cleansing rituals the Coven performed. It wouldn't do her any good to simply run away from what she had done, she had to confront the horror and pain of what she had caused. That didn't make it any easier though.
If it wasn't for Tara, she didn't know what she would do at night when the dreams made her wake up in a cold sweat, with her heart racing inside her chest. She couldn't even think of what it would be like to go back to waking up in a bed without seeing and feeling the other girl by her side. There had been the months after she had left, had made her see the addiction to Magick that was inside her, and it had been hard enough dealing with those feelings once. She couldn't go back to that.
Tara had promised to help her get better, to be there when she needed to be helped back up, saying that it was her fault that everything had gone so wrong that day. The red-head knew that it was a lie, that she had been the sole one to react by absorbing the Black Magicks and going on a suicide mission against Warren and the others. If she could, she would have taken all of it back. She should have been able to feel the pulse that Tara had still had when the bullet had gone through her shoulder. But she had been in a panic, had been so overwhelmed by the thought of losing her love forever that she had begged for something to overtake her.
"Willow, are you alright in there?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Tare-bear." Opening her eyes, the Witch's hand reached out and turned off the water. She remained standing underneath the still dripping faucet, the drops landing with a subdued plop on her drenched red-hair. The cold inside her body was still there, although it had started to fade away, just as it always did. It would be back again later, once the cleansing rituals were done once more. And then Tara could comfort her through the pain.
"I'm fine!" Shouting out the answer in order to make sure that the other girl could hear, Willow almost immediately regretted it as she felt the Magicks inside her mind starting to tug with more strength. As they kept pulling, trying to work their way into control using her emotions, she fell to her knees, the sound echoing out of the bathroom and into the surrounding rooms.
"Let us take control, you want it, crave it."
"No, no, no, I'm not angry, I'm not angry..." Wrapping her arms around herself, she continued to fight the Magicks, actually able to feel them trying to work their way into her brain.
"She can't hide you from us. Let us in. We can make it all go away, just like we did before."
"I'm not angry, Goddess, please stop…" As she pulled back the curtain, Tara caught sight of the other girl curled into a ball, her entire body starting to shake as she muttered underneath her breath.
"Willow?!" Gathering the shaking girl into her arms, the blonde Wiccan pressed the girl's body against her chest, ignoring how wet her clothes were becoming. As she realized what was happening, her heart dropped to the bottom of her chest. "Honey, it's alright, come on, fight it!"
"…not angry, not angry, not angry." Continuing to mumble as she fought off the Magicks inside her brain, Willow's body kept shaking, the chills starting to return in full force as she struggled inside. Minutes passed before she felt the Magicks lose their newly found strength and return to their dormant place inside her mind. As she continued to shake, she looked up at the girl holding her with fearful eyes.
"Tara?" She said, her voice shaky and almost breaking despite its low volume. "Oh, God, I'm sorry."
"It's alright, y-you didn't give into them." Pressing the girl's head against her chest, Tara kissed the top of the red-head's hair numerous times, allowing the other girl to cry into her chest. "It's alright."
"I was angry for just a second and it came back..." Willow managed to push out in between sobs.
"It's alright, just be quiet. You're fine." Helping the girl onto her feet, she led her towards the bedroom, easing her down into a sitting position on the edge of the mattress. Her body still soaking wet, Willow's chest rose and fell into quick succession as she tried to prevent herself from sobbing any further. Returning with a towel in hand, the other girl wrapped the soft material around the Witch's cold and wet body. As she ran another one through the girl's red-hair, Tara felt herself at a loss for what to say. It had been months since Willow had almost relapsed, and for a moment, she had let herself believe that neither of them were in any danger. In one single instant, that feeling of security was gone.
"Goddess, I'm so sorry. Tara, I shouldn't have yelled. That made them want to come back, gave them a window. It's my fault."
"No, it's not. You couldn't help it. The Coven w-will help you."
"They're going to make me start all over again." Looking down at the floor while she let the other girl continue to dry her off, Willow's eyes lacked any emotion whatsoever. "I'm going to feel all that pain again."
"They w-won't make you start again. Willow, honey, you didn't give into the Magick. You're alright." Setting the towel down, the blonde cupped the other girl's cheeks and gently turned her head until the red-head was looking at her. "You didn't give into it, you did exactly what we came here to do."
"But you don't know how much part of me wanted to give into them. Tara, a part of me wanted to be in the dark again." As a single tear escaped from her eyes and fell down her cheek, Willow looked at the other girl with a frightened look on her face.
"And the other part?"
"It wanted to stay here with you, it wanted to get better. But, Goddess, it was so weak, it almost couldn't stop the Magicks." Still crying, the red-head's hand reached out and gripped part of her love's shirt. "Tara, help me, please."
"Just calm down, I'm here." Kissing the girl's forehead, Tara kept her gentle grip on her cheeks. "Freaking out won't help y-y-you."
"Goddess, I'm so scared."
"Tara, please, I don't want to go back to that, it hurts when I do. But it hurts when I don't."
"Willow, look at me!" Her voice rising in volume, Tara watched as the red-head nodded silently. "Y-You. Are. Fine. Nothing is going to take over you. If it was going to, it would have done so already."
"It's alright. Stop crying." Taking the towel back into her hands, Tara gently wiped away some of the tears staining the other girl's cheeks.
"I don't want it to come back" The last of her tears finally wiped away, Willow buried her head into Tara's shoulders. "Tara, please…" She managed to push out before her voice crumbled into sobs once more.
"I promised that I w-would help you." A small tear creeping down her own cheek, Tara's fingers gently caressed the other girl's fiery red hair.
"Ta-ra, I'm sorry…I'm sorry…" As the tears again rolled down her cheeks, the red-head buried her face even further into her love's shirt "I'm so-rry."
"Sssshhh, it's alright." Pulled the still crying girl away from her shirt, the blonde offered her a small smile. "Let's get you back to bed."
Nodding with the tears still running down her cheeks, Willow allowed herself to be led back onto her feet and around the side of the bed. As she laid down onto the waiting sheets, the Witch closed her eyes as Tara covered her body with the still warm sheets.
"Just try to get some sleep, I'll be right here."
"I'll try." Her body starting to shake again, the red-head felt the other girl's touch on her cheek, the warmth and care that seemingly pooled out from the simple touch calming her slightly. As she tried to focus on nothing but the breaths that she was taking and Tara's touch, the Witch felt the feeling of exhaustion taking over her. She hadn't realized how much strength could be taken away from fighting with the Magicks inside her, or how much she relied on her strength to keep herself awake.
As the sheets underneath her grew with more warmth, Willow finally felt consciousness ebbing away until she finally drifted back into sleep.
"Giles, w-w-we need to talk." As he looked up from the ancient volume he had been absorbed in, Giles watched as Tara charged into his room.
"Willow. W-W-Why else w-would I come charging in here like an angered idiot?" The stutter returning to her voice in order to accommodate the anger she felt, the blonde girl came to a stop only a few feet from where the man was currently sitting. "W-When is she going to be back to the w-way she was before?"
"I won't lie to you, Tara. The progress Willow has made, it's tremendous. But I fear that it might not be enough." Giles said with a sigh as he sat the book down onto the table.
"What do you mean?"
"The Dark Magicks that she absorbed, they're some of the most potent forms of Dark Arts that I've seen. Many people would have completely succumbed to that kind of power." As he removed his glasses, the former Watcher nevertheless kept his gaze focused solely on the young woman in front of him. "There exists the chance that what she has done to herself may be completely undone. I've told her as much. The Darkness that she absorbed in a part of her now."
"Giles, she's fighting it. Y-You weren't there this morning when I found her on the floor of the tub. She wouldn't let it take over her again." Crossing her arms across her chest, Tara continued to stare the man down. "She's getting better."
"Again, she's made a remarkable progression since our arrival. But I fear that it may not be enough simply to have her constantly fighting with these Powers inside her."
"What does the Coven think of this?"
"They claim that what they are doing is working. The amount of Magick that they have collected thus far is substantial."
"Then w-w-why don't you agree with them?" Holding her ground, Tara looked back at the former Watcher with accusing eyes.
"Because I have experience in dealing with the kind of Magicks that she now finds herself at odds with. I was barely able to pull myself out of it when I was in my youth. I fear that Willow might not be as strong."
"She's stronger than you know." Strong like an Amazon. Closing her eyes, the blonde girl sighed. "Is there anything w-we can do about what she goes through after the Rituals? She's in nothing but pain after them."
"I'm afraid not. Once you told me about the side-effects at first, I asked them. There truly is nothing that can be done about them, other than to let her weather them."
"Giles, it's like she's going through a withdrawal, like a drug addict would do. I read about them in college."
"I'm not entirely sure that you're aware of what she's gone through. It was Willow's addiction that gave her a place to run to once you sustained your wound. That addiction was part of her response to what happened." As he returned his glasses onto his face, the former Watcher pushed himself away from the table and back onto his feet. "In a manner of speaking, Willow overdosed on Magick when she absorbed the Power contained in those books."
"Are the Rituals going to eventually cure her?"
"That is a matter that would best be brought to the Coven. I can't speak for them, only for myself." Turning away without any further questions, Tara left the room. As she closed the door behind her, the girl made her way through the rest of the massive cottage, her mind focused solely on the girl that she had helped into bed only half an hour earlier. Finally reaching the door, she opened it slowly, trying to avoid making any unnecessary sounds that could disturb the sleeping girl. The small rooms held inside were utterly silent, save for the somewhat constant sound of Willow's breathing as it echoed through the air.
Silently making her way into the darkened bedroom, Tara could see Willow underneath the sheets, even despite the closed blinds. As she watched the girl sleep, she saw that she looked somewhat peaceful, a welcomed sight from what she had looked like this morning. Making her way around the side of the bed, she looked down at the girl's sleeping form. As she lifted her hand and gently laid her hand against Willow's cheek, the blonde could feel the dried tears on her cheek. My poor girl…
Withdrawing her hand, she made her way along the edge of the mattress until she reached the other side, the sound of her footsteps subdued as much as she could possibly manage. As she slipped off her shoes, she could hear Willow's breathing stop for a moment before it resumed its normal pattern. Letting out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding inside, Tara slipped underneath the sheets and wrapped her arm gently around the red-head's stomach.
"Tara?" The girl asked, her voice groggy and exhausted.
"Ssshhh, just go back to sleep." Entwining the half-asleep Witch's fingers with her own, the blonde girl gave them a small squeeze before closing her own eyes, suddenly aware of how tired she actually was.
My poor Willow. What have you done to yourself?
I'm sorry for not writing. Guess you could say that I haven't been myself lately…I guess I haven't been for a long time now. I have no-one to blame for that but myself.
I guess maybe I should ask how everyone is doing, but I don't think I need to. I'm sure you're all getting along fine now that I'm no longer in the picture. My Magick use made a lot of things worse, not just for me, but for all of you. All I can say is that I'm sorry. I can say it a million times, but I'll still feel like you won't truly accept it, especially Dawnie. She of all people should hate me, after what I did to her, what I tried to do to her. I can bear the thought of her hating me, if only because I know that I deserve it.
I don't know what else to tell you. I'm sure Tara's been writing you, and she's told of you of how well I'm doing. Every day is a challenge when I wake up. What I did, what I took into me, it's still there, fighting me, talking to me, begging me to let it take over and do what it wants to the world. It hurts to know that I did this to myself, but I don't know if I would change what I did. Giles told me that things happen for a reason. I don't know why this happened to me, but there has to be something behind it. Until I know for certain what that is, I'll take whatever pain is thrown at me.
I don't know if you still feel the same, but I love you all with each breath that I take.
P.S. Tell Dawnie, I'm sorry.
"That's all she wrote?" As she read over the last part of the letter once more, Dawn could barely believe that Willow could have written such a short letter compared to the long ones Tara sent home almost monthly. The handwriting on the paper seemed so familiar but yet so different from the scrawling that she had once seen on notes taped to the fridge. Where once there had been a certain confidence in each little line, there now was an almost apathetic approach to the words.
"That's it. Remember, Tara said she's doing better."
"I didn't say that she wasn't. I asked if that was all she wrote." Setting the paper down onto the counter, the younger Summers child eyed her sister with a forced casual look. "You know, if she had anything more to say after what happened."
"Dawn, she said she's sorry. The least you can do is pretend like you actually care."
"I didn't say that I didn't!" Barely able to contain herself, the younger girl closed her eyes for a moment and breathed out. "I just feel like we're kinda brushing this underneath the rug."
"Buffy, you've basically acted like Willow going all evil wasn't something that was a big deal." As her hands came to rest on her hips, Dawn looked at her sister with a growing look of anger and slightly hidden hurt crossing her pupils. "Aren't you?"
"Dawnie, I thought we went over this. What Willow did…she wasn't in control of herself. She thought Tara was dead, and that set her off."
"So what happens if she comes back and discovers that someone stole the last piece of toast? She gonna start killing people then?"
"No, Buffy, don't 'Dawn' me, I'm right. She's a threat to all of us, including Tara and Giles." Making her way around the side of the counter, the younger girl stormed out of the room, leaving it virtually impossible for her sister to have the last word.
"Dawn! We're not done here!"
"Yeah, we are!" Hearing the unmistakable sound of a door being slammed, Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. Dawn had matured over the past three or four months, but this truly brought back bad memories of how she had been much earlier.
"I'm really a guardian of the year, aren't I?"
"The Dawnster really thinks that?" As he sat his drink down onto the table, Xander looked across the table at his second-oldest friend.
"I heard it straight from her mouth." Eying the other teenager from across the table, Buffy was pleasantly surprised that he had heard her the first time. The Bronze had gone through a massive renovation in the past few months, and as a result, the entire room shook with the music blasting out of the new PA system. "Guess saying that she's still a little bit angry about what Willow tried to do to her is a little obvious."
"You could say that." Rolling her eyes with boredom, Anya continued to stir her drink with the small red straw that say in the middle of the liquid. "If only it had been a man that had scorned her like that. I could help her just like that."
"Anya, not really helping here." Raising her eyebrow, the blonde Slayer rested her gaze for only a moment more before she shifted her attention back onto Xander. "So, what do you think we should do?"
"Honestly, I don't know. I'm not really one with the whole 'little sister' trouble thing."
"Still, do you think you could talk to her? She'll probably listen to you more than she would with me."
"I can try. No guarantees."
"Again, I completely offer her my services." Smiling, Anya nodded at the Slayer.
"Thanks, but no thanks."