Iím still here. . .somewhere. I know it. There are times of such overwhelming clarity that I see everything -- including our future together. There is one. I refuse to think that itís just another wiggy part of my brain that pushes me further into madness. Other times, itís like a Technicolor rainbow in my head, complete with purple elephants that tell me the future and other strange creatures that whisper nonsense. I feel like a child trapped in a cartoon, not the good ones but the lame kind with crappy characters that donít really make sense.
The past few nights there have been times when Iím beyond lucid. Tonight is one of them. I hear the distant roar of cars filtering in from the open window. I hear the shifting of leaves as the wind blows through them. I even hear the screams of innocents that even The Scoobs canít save. Okay, now that could be just my imagination. Iím trapped in here, but I feel; I see; and I still need Willow like never before.
Right now, I feel the cool softness of cotton sheets covering my body, along with the Yummy sushi pajamas that match hers. She put them on me a while ago. Yeah, weíre one of those couples who like to dress alike now and again. Sweet? Yeah, maybe even a bit mushy, but thatís okay because our mushiness quotient is way up there.
With my eyes still closed, I soak in the feel of her behind me, spooning me. Sheís next to me all warm and small, so small. Every part of her body is tangled with mine. I take a deep breath, taking in her scent -- the hint of jasmine that always clings to her. I canít help but smile. At least, I think that Iím smiling. Itís hard to tell even at moments like this. There are so many pills that I have to take. They make me so tired. I feel like Iím moving through thick mud, but I guess itís the pills that give me these few moments. Or, it could be the constancy of the woman behind me. Either way, Iíll wade through the murkiness until I get to where I need to go -- back to Willow.
My eyes open slowly, and I look around the spare room that Giles let us have. The darkness -- Iím more than familiar with it now since I met Willow, since I became part of the Scoobs. Iím not complaining. My life has never been richer or more exciting until now. My eyes adjust to the darkness just like my life has. With the help of the moon, I see the multi-colored candles that we use for spells. I see a small shelf that contains knowledge that the denial laden people of Sunnydale couldnít comprehend.
My eyes continue to scan. That scuffed piece of wooden furniture near the small shelf is now Willowís desk, and she has made it her home. The outline of her laptop is visible as well as that blue skirt she was wearing today. Itís thrown over the desk chair now. What I can only guess as her text books along with the errant spell book, are littered around the desk, finding a home on the dark carpet. Thatís my Willow, closet slob.
I glance near the corner of the room to see Miss Kitty safely asleep in her basket. This is our room now. I think Xander and Anyaís is down the hall. Thereís supposed to be safety in numbers, so we all came here. Where does that leave Buffy? Sheís out there somewhere alone with Dawn, running for their lives along with everybody elseís. Otherwise, all is well with the world, but this is reality. I only get to visit. I donít live here anymore.
Willow shifts behind me and mumbles, "No more fish." I almost snort in reaction. One day I told her that I would compile a list of the things she said in her sleep and post it on Giles refrigerator. I havenít gotten around to it yet, but maybe someday, I will. "Creamed spinach. . .big yuck." I hold in a snicker, but I have to agree that itís way up there on the yuck scale. Somewhere near rutabagas I think. I really hate those things.
I feel her breath on my neck as she tightens her hold on me. Iím not going anywhere, but I like the feeling nonetheless -- still safe, loved, and invincible. I feel it though. Somethingís missing. Still, no one but Willow has ever held me like this. Iím really not sure though. I think my mom did, but it seems so long ago. Despite it all, I feel like myself here. I feel sane here.
The other Scoobs try to act normal around me, but they really donít. Anya has taken to calling me Coma girl, but thatís okay. She doesnít know any better, but it doesnít stop the stares she gets. I maybe stuck here, but I still see them and listen to them. They all look at me with pity. I see it as soon as I open my mouth and try to explain whatís going on in my head. But, it all comes out like Dr. Seuss on a bad day. They get all quite and jittery. Itís the same when Willow feeds me. Itís humiliating. Regardless, Iím still here . . .somewhere.
To go along with the pity, there is worry in their eyes for Buffy and Dawn. There hasnít been word for two days, I think, but the worldís still turning. I guess their okay. I hope they are. I remember the day she left not too long after we escaped from Glory. . . again. There was a lot of yelling and tears, but I think Buffy gave as good as she got. "I donít want you guys to end up like Tara or worse." Thereís a worse? I donít think so not for me.
I understand why they had to leave though. It was me, after all, who revealed Dawn as the key. I didnít want to, but it came out anyway. After we got away from Glory, I tried to tell them how sorry I was, but Buffy gave me a tight smile and patted me on the shoulder. I felt poo-pooed. I know she was poo-pooing me. I turned to Willow, and I think she knew it too. There was a fire in her eyes, making them the brightest of green. I whispered her name, and when she looked at me the fire banked to a warm glow.
She still believes in me. She always have even when I felt my most useless; even when everything I said came out wrong just like before the Multi-cultural fair. Sheís here now. That day is like a jumble of images, but I recall the feelings. I donít think Iíll ever forget them -- the ache and fear in my chest that made my words come out all wrong. She is growing more powerful more Willow, and I didnít want to be left behind. I wanted to say, "Donít forget me. Donít leave me." But, it came out as hurtful words that made pain shine in her eyes. Still, sheís here.
I want to see her and touch her. So slowly, I turn my body. She mumbles but doesn't wake. I stare transfixed as the moonbeams that slant into the room highlight her hair to a fiery red. Awkwardly, I reach out to touch it, with my good hand. It's the same as I remember, soft like silk. Peering down at her face, I see it gleaming in the pale moonlight. It's the same image of her sleeping that I always see -- her face child like and relaxed, except for the one crinkle in her brow that remains. It let's me know that even now, Willow is thinking, processing. The soft smile is there too like she knows a really good secret and isn't going to tell. I grin as I see her yummy sushi pajamas, exactly like mine. I would prefer skin on skin but we are in Giles' house after all. They're out patrolling. I know because it's too quiet.
I turn my thoughts back to Willow. Right now, she's the one who counts. In the waning light, I see the dark smudges under her eyes. I know she's barely slept -- worried about me, Buffy, and Dawn. She'll be up soon. She hasn't slept the whole night since all of this happened. I've watched her sleep the past couple of nights. I feel her around me. I've wanted to wake her, and tell her that I'm still here. I haven't, and I don't know why. Maybe, I'm scared to finally see the pity in her eyes. Maybe I'm scared that she'll poo poo me too. Despite what I said earlier, reality and the goings on inside my head gets so confusing. I sometimes don't know what's what. Part of me screams that my Willow would never do that, and part of me wants so bad to see that cloud lifted from her eyes. I continue to soak in every feature, just like I did that first day just like I did everyday after that.
She looks so fragile, but it's a big misconception. Willow is the strongest person that I know. She stood up to my father and brother when I just wanted to slink away and become the nothing I used to be -- afraid of life and myself. Willow helped me become a woman. Um, yeah that way too. Sheís made me strong, strong enough to love her completely and to be there when itís too hard for her to be resolve Willow.
I miss touching her, kissing her, hearing the little whimper when I start to make her burn. I miss our talks. Sometimes, I think that sheís the only one who can understand me. Iím pining away for babble mode, especially the way I stopped it by pretending to whisper in her ear when I was really nibbling on it. Itís one of her most sensitive places. Only I would feel her shudder, but the Scoobs get a taste of the red flush that follows.
Theyíre all up here, all the times weíve made love. I recall them more during these times. There is the way her body arched into mine; the wildness in her eyes; the sweat that slicked down her back and brow; the breathy moans; the way she shared with me, with wide open eyes, her jump to oblivion; and the way she would not rest until I joined her there. Goddess, I miss it. I want to touch her so bad right now that my fingertips ache. "I'm still here!" I want to scream.
I put my own resolve face on. I have to touch, to feel, and see her looking at me the way she used to all banked heat and tenderness. Somehow the fear of the last few days just flitters away. This woman has that much power over me. I reach out with gentle fingertips to trace the curve of her cheek, and I bite my lip to keep the tears away. The heat thatís always been between us engulfs me. I have to see what's in them, those eyes, when she's most vulnerable, most truthful. I want to know that she's taking care of me because she loves me and not out of some sense of responsibility.
"W-Willow?" I watch her brow scrunch, and I lean over to whisper in her ear, "Willow." She murmurs and I feel her stiffen. With cautious lips, I kiss her ear then trail the caress to her cheek. Itís then that I hear what has become the most precious word to me in the English language, my name from her lips. "Tara?"
I move out of the way as she raises up on her elbow. Bright green eyes stare back at me warily. She looks so tired but so beautiful. I canít help but grin. Surprise and recognition fight for dominance on her face. The fight is followed by a tremulous smile. "Itís you isnít it?"
I reach out to trace her trembling lips, and I nod causing strands of my hair to fall into my face. Willow reaches forward to move them behind my ear like she has so many times before. Then, she grabs my good hand, kissing it, squeezing it in her own. Tears are outlined on her cheeks, but itís no biggie. I feel mine coming too. Willow blinks and looks around to make sure that this is not a dream. "This is real," I whisper, and my heart seizes up when I hear her sobs.
"Oh, baby thereís so much. . ." her voice trails off, but I fill the silence.
"I know. I heard. Iíve been in here somewhere."
A slow quirky grin starts to form on her face. "What does this mean? Are you back?"
I hate to break her heart, but I wonít lie to her. Not anymore. "N-no just sometimes at night."
"Why didnít you ever say anything?"
I look down at our joined hands then back at her, letting her see the fear in my eyes. "Scared. I didnít. . .just scared."
She sobbed again. "I miss you so much. Xander tries to . . .well you know, but goofiness is so stale after a while. Anya is Anya with the bad words then the weirder words, and Giles with his tea. I donít like tea. Did I ever tell you that? Tried to tell him, but I think he wanted to pour somebody named Earl Gray down my throat."
I smile and shake my head -- Willowspeak. For some reason Iíve always been able to understand everything that came out of her mouth.
"Then he tried to get me to try chai, but I told him mine was fine."
I do the only thing that I can at the moment. I lean in and capture her lips with mine. Thereís that little whimper. Her hands find their way into my hair, and I tremble against her. So soft and sweet. I get addicted to her all over again. Willow holds me close, clinging to me as if Iím going to disappear. We both know that I will. I crush her sitting form to me, winding my good arm around her. I learn her all over again -- her tongue, the smooth and roughness of it; the heat of her mouth; the taste of her moans; the taste of her. My heart pounds in my chest and my lungs burn. I should let us breath, but I donít want to. We can do that any day.
Finally, I relent, but she protests, so we continue touching, clinging moistly to each other. Leaning back, I see in her eyes what I need to. There is no pity and no poo pooness, just fire and love. But, there is something missing as I said before. I know what it is now, hope. I have to give it back to her.
I watch as she tries to catch her breath. Awareness prickles over my skin. The connection we share is still there. The overwhelming need to crawl inside her is still there. "Youíre my everything." I say hoarsely. Her face lights up with recognition.
"You heard me?"
"Yeah, I did. I do. I want to reach out, talk to you, hold you, but it all gets jumbled up, but I hear and see."
Her eyes are pleading. "Thereís got to be some way we can reverse this. I just need to look for the spell."
Shaking my head no, I remind her, "No, no selfish use of your power remember?" It astounds me, but I watch as her face turns to stone.
"I already went after that evil, skanky. . .skank. I wanted her to hurt. What difference does it make if I push a little further." Her voice is low and menacing.
Now, this scares me, the way she looks. Itís like sheís shutting down. I lash out. "Willow no! You canít do that again. I canít lose you."
"But, I already lost you," she murmurs brokenly.
I grab her by the shoulder, shaking her. "No! Iím still here. I still love you."
Her features soften. "I love you too. Donít think I can ever stop." Willow reaches out to caress my face. I lean into her touch. "Itís so lonely. Come back to me."
Iíve never heard so much pain and longing in her voice. I close my eyes not wanting to see it, after seeing the love not too long ago. "Iím trying, but I donít know how. Be strong. Youíre always so strong."
She tries to snatch her hand away. I donít let her. "I canít anymore. Canít you see? Iím so tired. Buffyís gone, and I donít know when or if sheís coming back. Youíre gone. Nobody understands!" Green eyes tear away from my gaze.
"Willow, look at me." I squeeze her hand, hoping to regain her attention. "Willow, please?" She hears something in my voice and raises her head. I think itís my desperation. Her gaze is hollow and filled with pain. I have to tell her though. "Youíve never run away from anything as long as Iíve known you. Trust in Buffy. Trust in me. Donít run from us or yourself."
We stare at each other for a long time. I watch the emotions chase themselves across her face until a look of resolve forms. I do love that expression. "You need me. Buffy needs me." I nod my head and pull her close until we are lying down with her head on my chest. "I can so do this, right?" I kiss the top of her head as an answer, and Willow sighs as she again entangles her body with mine.
Small hands tug on the bottom edges of my pajama shirt, and then without warning, sheís touching me. Her hand is scorching against the skin of my belly. "How much time do we have?" Her voice is velvety, sensual. "I need you."
I swallow, and a sense of urgency fills me. It transmits to her. "I donít know. Ió" Before I finish the sentence, Willow straddles me, grabbing the edges of my shirt only to rip it open. I hear the sounds of buttons flying and Miss Kitty protesting the noise with a mew and hiss. Then, I hear my own moan. Her mouth is on my skinóhot, moist, leaving a trail of fire. We need this. She needs this. Her movements are frantic, wild and passionate. Her hands are everywhere, mapping me, healing me, scorching me. Willow cups my breasts, and I hiss in reaction, arching for more. She mumbles, "Stay with me," as her mouth meets the pebbled hardness of my nipple. Her tongue darts, flicks, and wraps around it in expert fashion. At the same time, her hips start a hard grind that makes me cry out and buck under her.
There is no time for gentleness just hot urgency. A warm suction envelops me and arousal does the same. "Stay with me. I love you." Her voice centers me. She breaks away, and I look into her eyes, glinting in the still prominent moonlight. I see it, just a little, hope mixed with the overwhelming need. Maybe itís enough. My hands fumble to divest her of the hindering pjís. I hear another voice in the distance, a tiny one, girlish like. Distracted, I glance around to see Miss Kitty sitting on the floor beside the full-sized bed, and sheís smiling at me. I smile back. Her mouth moves and the most interesting things come out. I giggle, and the pleasant weight on my body lifts.
I know that voice. I turn to look. I reach for her but itís as though Iím moving through very sticky glue. The world has gotten cartoony again.
"Oh, Tara." I hear her sob. Willow collapses on top of my chest, and I feel the tears running over my naked torso.
I want to help her, hold her just a little longer, but tonight is not the night. I can do nothing. I open my mouth to say, "Iím still here." But, it comes out as, "Miss Kitty said that I could walk on the rainbow. I just have to have the right shoes or Iíll fall." I hear another sob, and her arms tighten around me. Her head lifts off my chest, and I find myself again getting lost in her eyes. This time they are full of determination, love, pain, and hope. I see it all. I vow in some deep recess of my mind not to lose it.
"Iím not the strong one Tara. You are," she whispers before I feel the softest flutter on my lips.
I hear you. Iím still here.