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Not Just Through Sickness and Health

Title: Not Just Through Sickness and Health
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Willow/Tara
Rating: G/K
Challenge/Prompt: halfamoon Day 6: Sickness and Health
Warning(s): Character Deaths, Future Fic
Word Count: 1,333
Date Written: 10 March 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.

She stood there between the veils and waited with the patience that only death could bring. She had been waiting so long for this moment, well over fifty years, and it was here at last. When she came to her, her arrival was like a gentle breeze on an early Spring morning. “You never married,” she whispers, and there were musical notes in the breeze of her voice, notes of longing and dismay, notes of sorrow and yet also hope.

“Of course not,” Willow said, turning toward the sound of her beautiful voice but not yet being allowed to see the woman for whom she had waited so long. “You were the one I was meant to marry. You were the only one I ever wanted to marry. I was going to give myself to you in sickness and in health. I was going to make it right. But I never got the chance. Just because I never got to say the vows doesn’t mean I never felt them.”

The waiting was over with Willow’s last heartbeat. On Earth, women cried real tears of sorrow and grief, but here in this moment, the woman for whom she had always cared the most let slip tears of joy. “I always loved you, you know, my Willow tree,” she said, reaching out and taking Willow’s hands into hers, “and I was always near you. I . . . I wanted you to be happy.”

“I was happy, Tara,” Willow confirmed. “You know I was.”

“But you never married. You never had children. I never meant to end your future before it had really had the chance to begin.”

“You didn’t end my future!” Willow cried. “If you were near me, you know that’s not true! You know I was happy, and you know I had a wonderful life! It wasn’t conventional, no, and it wasn’t what I’d thought it would be, but I never wanted conventional! I never wanted to be stuck in the roles expected of a strong, intelligent woman! I always wanted more, and you gave me the courage to never stop pursuing that part of my life!”

“If it hadn’t been for you, baby, I would never have become a real Witch. I would never have let myself love a woman. I would never have known true love. There’s so much I got to do that I never would have gotten to do if it hadn’t been for you, Tara Maclay! You gave me the courage to not just be the Sorceress but to be the Knight too, charging off to save whatever women needed me! You gave me the courage to do so much!” Sometime during the time she had been talking, she had grabbed Tara’s hands; now, she squeezed them with love, confidence, and reassurance.

“Loving you paved a path for me that I never would have found otherwise! I got to do so many things I never would have gotten to do if I had stayed that shy, little girl who’d first developed a crush on you! I don’t regret one minute of loving you even when we were fighting -- although I do wish we hadn’t been at the end -- “

“That wasn’t the end,” Tara said, now beaming up at Willow. Her shy, sweet smile had never changed. “You, of all people, know that. That was only the end of that one chapter.”

“And now we get to write the rest of our book together!” Willow enthused. She pulled her closer, released her hands, and wrapped her arms around her body. She knew neither of them were corporeal, but Tara felt strong and real in her hands. She was real, Willow knew, even if she wasn’t solid.

“That’s one way of putting it,” Tara returned, her smile growing bigger as she slid closer to Willow and wrapped her arms around her as well, hugging her and returning her embrace.

“I literally flew because of you,” Willow reminded her, grinning.

“But there are so many things we never got to do,” Tara admitted gently, almost hesitantly. “I never got to have your last name.”

“It doesn’t matter what you name something,” Willow reminded her just as gently. “We are going to be who we become regardless of names. That’s like your last name, Maclay. Your family could put their name on you all they wanted, but they were never your real family.”

“I never had a real family,” Tara acknowledged, “until I met you. I know they didn’t come to the funeral,” she added.

“They didn’t deserve to come! They didn’t deserve you!” Willow’s voice dropped a couple of notches, and her eyes fell away from Tara’s. “But then I never deserved you either.”

“Willow, you loved me! You loved me so much that you dedicated your entire life to me! You could have married, could have had another family -- “

“I never wanted another family! I only ever wanted you! Even when I did take other lovers, I only ever wanted you!”

“But you deserved to be happy -- “

“And I was. I may have wanted you, but somehow, the women I did date always found a way to make me happy! It just never lasted.”

“Because you never let it!”

Willow shrugged. “It’s like something Xander said once: After you’ve had steak, you don’t want hamburger.”

Tara laughed. It was a sound that made Willow positively beam, a sound she’d missed so very much. “Leave it to him to put it that way!”

A meow suddenly pierced the air between them. Willow heard a purr and felt a furry body pushing up against her bare ankles. She quite nearly squealed with surprise and joy when she looked down. “Miss Kitty Fantastico!” She bent and picked up the only baby she and Tara had ever known. Even as she did so, though, she still didn’t entirely let go of Tara. She held to her hand with one hand and lifted Miss Kitty in her other arm. The cat bumped her little, black forehead against Willow’s cheek, kneaded her shoulder, and deepened her purr.

“We’ve been waiting for you a very long time,” Tara admitted softly.

“I’ve been waiting for you, too, a very long time,” Willow agreed, “but I don’t regret a single moment of my life except that I didn’t get to love you as long in life as I will in eternity.”

“Even if I had lived,” Tara told her, “you still couldn’t have loved me for as long as we both can and will love each other now.”

“You’re right.” Willow beamed again, smiling more brightly than she had in decades. “Eternity is eternity after all.” There would be no sickness through which she could stand beside her, and they would never get to wear each other’s names, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they were together at long last and nothing would separate them now.

“It’s still too short a time to love you,” Tara whispered to her, leaning closer, closing out the last of the space between them, and kissing her full and deep on the lips she’d missed for so very long.

Back on Earth, Dawn gasped through her tears. “Did you see that?” she asked urgently. “Did you see that?!”

“What?” Willow’s partner asked.

“She smiled!” Dawn brushed tears out of her eyes and looked again, but Willow’s smile was still there, having happened she’d breathed her last. Their friend was gone, but she was happy at last and had left them still with a touch of magic to reassure them all and let them know she’d finally reached where she belonged after all this time.

Dawn looked up at the ceiling, but through the ceiling, she could easily picture the sky and two lovers, dancing together on the clouds, as they sailed up to spend eternity together in a world where, one day, she and the others would see them again. Dawn’s tears started again, but she smiled through them: Willow was happy!

The End

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