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He had been in Sunnydale for months now, visiting Tara’s grave and hoping to see her
, the one Tara had loved. He went nightly. Months had passed with no visit. Finally, as he approached the grave on the final night of his third month in the demon-ridden town, he found himself shocked to see her standing over her deceased lover’s grave.
Her red hair was cut short, mid-neck. She was dressed in a pale green peasant skirt with a nicely matching peasant blouse that came off the shoulders. He froze, his own blond hair caught in the slight breeze. He was several rows of graves away from her, and, although he had been waiting for her, he did not approach now.
He had not practiced a speech, and he had had no real question for her. But he knew he had to see her. The woman that Tara had stayed for. The woman that Tara, essentially, died for.
“You’re of the night,” she said, without turning.
He approached, stopping just behind her. He glared at the back of her neck.
“I’m a half-blood, if you must know, witch,” he snapped.
She turned, showing her bright, youthful face, which was illuminated by an equally bright smile that spread nearly from ear to ear.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m kind of half and half too.”
“Yes, I heard about your descent into evil.”
She frowned. “Who are you?”
Her frown deepened. “Tara murmured your name the night before she died. Did you know her?”
“Yes, in a manner of speaking. She talked of you often, Willow,” Alucard said, now coming to stand beside her.
Both turned to stare at the headstone marking Tara’s grave. Willow now had a sad smile on her face.
“How did you meet her?” Willow asked, not tearing her eyes away from the engraved name.
Alucard smirked. “Oh, well it feels like a dream now…”
Willow laughed. “Yeah, she was like that.”
They were silent for a while, simply staring ahead. Alucard was still unsure of what it was that had compelled him to seek out Willow. He searched his mind, over and over, trying to come up with some logical reason. He felt like it was some sort of unfinished business.
“It was too quick,” Willow said suddenly, and even in the dark of the moonless night, Alucard could see her tears. “I lost her before I could even hope to save her.”
His brow furrowed. He dared not tell her the truth. He would not torture Willow by letting her know that Tara had known, in advance, that she would die that day. No one should have to deal with that pain.
“If only I had said no,” Willow said.
“What?” Alucard asked, confused.
“She came to me, two days earlier, and wanted to get back together. I was so happy that I said yes. Honestly, there was nothing I wanted more. But…I had worried that I was taking advantage of her in a vulnerable time. I should have just gone with my gut and told her to wait. Then…then she wouldn’t have been there when Warren…”
Willow turned away from Alucard and the grave, trying to wipe her tears away. Alucard shook her head.
“I spoke with Tara before she died, Willow,” he said suddenly. Willow turned, her eyes wide.
“How? When?” she asked, sniffling.
Alucard sighed. He should not tell her anything further. But…was it any more right to leave Willow believing that her lover’s death was her fault? Would that be what Tara had wanted? The answer to that was simple. No.
“I can’t explain why…but Tara and I had been dreaming of each other. I…became aware of the fact that she was going to die, Willow. I tried to get her to run…she didn’t want to leave you.”
Now the red-haired witch looked horrorstruck.
“Then it is
my fault!” she all but wailed.
Alucard shook his head and stepped forward, hesitantly putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. Willow did not shrug it off, but she now stood rather awkwardly before him.
“No, it isn’t. I told her what would have happened if she had run…and she chose the lesser of two evils. This is the bed she chose to make, Willow, and now she lies in it. I think her soul is at peace. And she would want yours to be too.”
He was not just throwing out idle words. Prior to seeking out Sunnydale, he had seen to the destruction of his father…and more importantly, the release of Tara’s soul into the afterlife. It was the least he could do for a friend.
“She chose to die? What could have possibly been worse than losing her?” Willow spat, anger coloring her face crimson.
“Losing everyone else,” Alucard answered.
Willow gasped. She stood there, her tears drying as she processed this information. Finally, she looked back to the grave.
“She sacrificed herself…for who? Me?”
“And two others. You would have done the same, I presume.”
Willow nodded. A sudden relief spread through Alucard, and he smiled. This is why he had come. He had to know that the woman that Tara had given her life for had been worth it. In his long life, he had had a handful of true friends…to lose one he could have saved…he had to know why. Now, as Willow stood staring in a kind of reverence at her lover’s grave, he knew. And it was enough. Without making a sound, he slipped away, disappearing into the night.
Tara was right to have not questioned her choice. Her bed was one that she could lie comfortably, peacefully, in for all eternity. And that was all that Alucard and her dear Willow Tree had needed to know.