Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Tara/Willow, Spike/Buffy
Challenge/Prompt: nekid_spike A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words Challenge: Day 2: and femslashbb August Challenge: Another Life
Warning(s): AU, Character Deaths
Word Count: 1,459
Date Written: 6 August 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
It’s a solemn procession as she and others make their way down the main street of Sunnydale, each carrying a candle. She supposes, in a way, it might be beautiful. Willow probably would have seen the beauty in it, and perhaps Tara could have too -- if her beloved Willow Tree was here with her, carrying her own candle, walking beside her, her beautiful, red head bowed, still with her, still living . . .
The thought chokes Tara, and she almost stops walking. She would if it wasn’t for the throng of people all around her. She blinks back tears as she thinks if Willow was here, none of this would be needed. After all, it had been Willow’s death that had hurt them all to the point that Buffy had no longer cared about keeping the Supernatural hidden and the other people, the “citizens” as she’d come to call them, safe in their little hideaways of lives away from the Big Secrets. It had also been Willow’s death that had them all grieving until it was too late to see what the Slayer was doing. They’d lost Willow -- she’d lost her own private, personal heroine --, and soon afterward, the world had lost their hero.
Things hadn’t gone as badly as they could have after Buffy’s death. The Vampires had ruled for some time, but military forces around the world had risen up to fight them -- and had actually listened to Giles, Xander, and the rest of the Watchers Council in how to fight them. Now most of the Supernatural lay once again in hiding. Spells were forbidden, but Tara no longer cared about magic. Magic hadn’t saved her Willow Tree; it had instead been the reason they’d been fighting the day Willow had been killed right in front of Tara and Buffy.
Gradually, Tara becomes aware of singing. It’s a wordless, ancient song, a song originally began by Witches to grieve their dead, a song Giles and Spike had brought back into the world after Buffy’s death. She realizes, after a moment, that she’s singing it too and blinks back more tears.
She focuses her gaze on her candle and keeps walking. This is the least she can do to honor Willow. Every step seems to break her heart more, but she won’t back down. She won’t dishonor her memory by not being here, participating in the walk that’s become a new tradition on a the newest global holiday, a day to honor the dead. Mexico and several other countries had had their own Days of the Dead. They still do for all Tara knows, but now they celebrate this day too, which isn’t even the day her Willow died.
It’s the day Buffy died. She supposes she could be mad at the Slayer. After all, if Willow had never befriended Buffy, she might still be here now, but Buffy had always stood by both herself and Willow. She had sent her family packing not once but twice, the second time when they had come to bring her back after “Satan had claimed the girl who had ruined her”.
Tara’s grip tightens on her candle. Her tears are falling now, and she lets them flow, but through them, she sees the sun on her candle. Willow would have liked this one. She looks around her, seeing friends; secret, fledgling Witches; and strangers alike all pouring out into the street, each holding a candle. There is no moon tonight, and the stars are hidden, all of which is quite fitting. Not a single street or porch light is on. Even the insides of the houses by which the walkers pass are dark. Yet the street itself is as bright as day from all the candles being carried.
None of this, Tara remembers again, would have come to pass if her Willow Tree had lived. Buffy would probably still be alive, still fighting the good fight. Xander wouldn’t have joined the military, and Giles surely would not have returned to the Council or fought to wrest control away from Travers. Billions of people would still be in the dark, still peacefully unaware of the Supernatural beings all around them, still easy targets for the Vampires and others who prey upon humanity.
That, Tara recognizes glumly, would have been just fine by her. Anything would be fine with her if she only had her beloved Willow back. Willow’s happy now though she misses her. Tara knows that for a fact from the seance she conducted a year after her lover’s death, but it does little to comfort her. She may be happy, but she knows she’ll never know joy again as long as she’s not with Willow. She could take her own life and would do so gladly if she thought she’d get to be with Willow, but Willow’s warned her: Suicide isn’t the answer. Those who make a perfectly conscious decision to end their lives prematurely are always punished, and although she’d eventually get to be with her again, that punishment would probably make their time apart far longer than a simple, mortal life.
But Goddess, how she wants to leave this world! Every part of her craves to be home again, but no house on this physical plane can ever again be her home. Her home is her beloved Willow’s arms, and she can’t reach them until she’s dead like her. A sob breaks free from Tara’s control.
She jumps as a hand suddenly touches her shoulder. “Easy, soldier.” She looks sharply, curiously up and is surprised to see Spike only now withdrawing his hand. “We’re all soldiers,” he whispers to her. “We’re surviving this war not for us but for them, so we can be with them again. Life is war.”
She nods slowly, recognizing the truth of his words. “We might not enlist,” he continues, jerking his head back in the direction where Xander and Dawn are walking with his troop, “but we’re still soldiers. Maybe some of the bravest or stupidest of the lot. Nobody will ever know our battles, but we know. They know.” His voice cracks. “And they love us more for it.”
She’s not surprised to see the tears in his eyes. In his own way, he had loved Buffy as much as she loves Willow. She nods and looks around them again, trying her best to keep from breaking down and just sobbing openly. There’s nothing more she’d like in what little this life can still give her than to give in to her grief, but if she does so, she’ll drop her candle. She’ll break the candle she made to honor Willow, and worse, she’ll draw more attention to herself and away from those they’re here to honor tonight.
“I wonder,” she whispers hoarsely, “could it have been any different? In another life, another world, could she . . . could they,” she corrects for Spike’s benefit, “have lived?” If there is one, where her Willow still lives, can she find it if she studies hard enough, digs deep enough, tries with all that’s left of her heart and soul? She still studies although she doesn’t practice, and she now understands why the dark arts were so compelling to Willow.
“Yeah. There’s a bunch more worlds like ours, blondie. In another world, you might have died, I might have died.”
“I would rather -- “
“Me too,” he agrees quickly. “Me too.” Then he shakes his head. “But that’s not the life we were given. All those other worlds, those other dimensions, they have other Buffys, other Willows.” From the way he talks, she knows he’s spent a lot of time thinking about this possibility, probably even studying it. Hell, maybe he’s even gone to another world or two. “But they’re leading different lives. They have the names and the looks of those we love, but for some, that’s where it stops. Some of them are complete opposites from the ones we love, but even if they’re not that different, they’re still different. Going anywhere else, doing anything else, isn’t going to get us back with our loves. There’s only one way we can do it.”
“By living these lives the Gods have given us,” Tara snarls and nearly spits in disgust and anger. She’d give anything to be back with her Willow, but she knows he’s right. There’s only one way to get back to her.
Spike looks at her in sympathy. “At least you have a lot shorter time than me, pet.”
She nods, and for the first time since Willow’s death, she feels sympathy for someone else. “Walk with me?” she asks.
He nods and files in beside her. Walking side by side, they both tick away the moments until they’re back with those they love.