All That's Left
Title: All That’s Left
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things HP belong to JK Rowling, et al.
Distribution: The normal places.
Summary: Challenge from Candle to me on my Yahoo! Group. What if Tara never got her mind back after the defeat of Glory and ended up in St. Mungo’s, where Willow meets a very grown up Longbottom visiting his parents.
A week had gone by. No change had come. In her heart she knew that there was nothing to be done for her love now. She washed her each morning, brushed out that long dirty blonde hair, and clothed her just as she knew Tara would have wanted to be clothed. Pretty flowing skirts, a little tank top, and sometimes a sweater over top, if the morning was chilly. They would sit on the front porch, Tara’s eyes on the street, unseeing; Willow’s eyes on Tara, trying hard not to feel the loss that kept threatening to overwhelm her.
The red head looked up, green eyes wide with questioning. “Morning, Giles.”
He smiled gently, as if afraid she would break if anyone showed a strong enough emotion around her. It was silly, really; she wasn’t going to break. Her heart was broken, not her mind. He sat on the porch railing across from her, face tight with an emotion she couldn’t begin to put her finger on. Next to her Tara was still staring at the street. She would do that until someone gave her something else to look at. There really was nothing left in there. Nothing of the girl she had fallen so head over heels for. The mind that had once belonged to her fellow witch and lover had died, likely with the very death of the Hell Goddess that had stolen it in the first place.
Willow knew she should have been angry about it. Angry that the love of her life was less than a vegetable; she just couldn’t bring herself to it. Tara wouldn’t have wanted her to be hysterical.
“I think its time that we made some decisions, Willow,” Giles began slowly, his blue eyes never leaving hers. “Tara needs constant care. . .and, unfortunately, that won’t be possible here.”
She nodded, the pain in her heart throbbing fresh. It was one thing to know that this moment would come, another thing entirely for it to have finally arrived. She sniffled, wiping her cheeks as if the tears that still pooled in her eyes had already fallen.
“There is a place in England, called St. Mungo’s,” he continued quietly. “They specialize in injuries caused through magical means.”
“Can they cure her?” Willow whispered, not daring to get her hopes up. She knew that, in another situation, the idea of such a hospital would have been a curiosity for her, though now it was nothing more than an option in a list of options that was depressingly short.
Giles paused and then shrugged slowly. “They will try. Mostly they provide care for those that can no longer care for themselves.”
“They have offered to take her in without a single cent in fees. She presents something of a medical anomaly to them, and they would like to give their specialists a chance to try for a cure.”
The smile that flashed across Willow’s face was thin, bitter. “You don’t think they’ll find anything, do you?”
He shook his head. “And neither do you, if you’re honest with yourself.”
She shrugged. Honesty wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with these days. But now, she supposed, was as good a time as any. She could either continue to watch Tara on her own. . . or send her away somewhere where there was a slim hope that maybe one day she could be something of her old self again.
“Alright.” Willow sighed, after ten minutes had passed during which no one spoke and Tara didn’t so much as move a muscle. She bit her lip hard, refusing to cry, and turned to Tara. “I’m sorry, baby.”
The blonde didn’t even look her way.
“Good morning, Miss Rosenberg.”
Willow forced a smile on her face, nodding in greeting to the mediwitch that had welcomed her. Dana, she thought was the witch’s name, though she couldn’t really remember. There were dozens of staff members that she had met since originally placing Tara in the ward six months previous; and few of them were memorable enough to rank filing away their names in her brain. They were clones of each other, in their white robes and tiny little old-fashioned nurses hats. Stepping into St. Mungo’s was, in many ways, like stepping into the past.
Thank goodness they had magic to aid them, she sighed to herself.
The door to the ward swung open gently at her touch, admitting her to the room where others, in similar states to that which Tara was in, were grouped together.
The red head couldn’t help but grin at the witch standing in front of her, bed gown ruffled from too much time spent just sitting and lying around. She was one of the few others, aside from Tara, that were confined to this ward. Supposedly the events that led her to where she, and her husband, now resided were quite tragic, but nothing the mediwitches could divulge.
She had been lucky enough to get their names.
She kept walking, her eyes on the girl that sat at the back of the room. Alice’s husband, Frank, was there talking to Tara, though the blonde made no move to reciprocate the effort. It was probably all gibberish anyway, Willow mused. The type of thing that was so off the wall that Tara would have been hiding her laughter behind her hand to keep from being offensive. Frank and Alice were only a little better off than Tara – their minds, too, were hopelessly damaged.
“Hey, baby,” Willow greeted, smiling warmly at her fellow witch when the blonde turned. She could see some spark of recognition in Tara’s eyes, but that was it. And she didn’t know if that was because Tara truly remembered her, or just knew her to be someone ‘nice’, like Alice and Frank. “Brush your hair?”
It was one of the things that Tara seemed to enjoy more than others, this ritual of hair brushing. The mediwitches were all very fastidious about keeping their charges well-groomed, of course; but Willow enjoyed the time with Tara, and the blonde witch seemed to be pleased for the contact.
They moved over to one of the beds, Tara sitting in front of her. Willow waited until she had pulled her legs up, sitting neatly Indian-style, before beginning. Slowly the brush ran through the silken strands, Willow’s fingers moving down after them, running through the hair she had once loved to feel brush across her skin while they were in bed together. That was never going to happen again, she knew; more and more lately she’d begun to think to the future. Tara was still a big part of her life, but that life was beginning to get lonely.
She felt the weight of the bed shift as Alice joined her on one side, whispering on about something to do with the food they had served for breakfast. Waffles, she thought she heard the witch murmur. Waffles with fruit. Willow was sure that Tara had loved it just as much as Alice seemed to have.
Willow thought back on her life since moving Tara to St. Mungo’s, continuing to run the brush through the other witch’s hair. She had moved to England with Giles. There was little left to keep them on the Hellmouth now. Buffy had died during the fight with Glory. . .and Dawn was with her father. Xander and Anya were staying to keep things under control, but supposedly all was quiet. She had gotten a job in a shop that catered to collectors of rare magical texts, and was living a peaceful life.
Peaceful. . .and alone.
It was the alone part that was bothering her. She felt guilty on so many levels for feeling like it was time to move on; especially when Tara was still there, a permanent part of her life.
She just missed the touching. . .the conversations. She had Giles to fulfill the talking, of course, but more and more he was caught up in his relationship with Olivia, and she didn’t begrudge him that in the least.
The red haired witch turned to look at the door of the ward. The man that stood there looked to be almost the same age as she was. He had a kind looking face and short brown hair. Not drop dead handsome, but definitely cute. Tall, but not overly so, he looked like he had the type of body one got from working out on a regular basis. His eyes turned in her direction, widening with something akin to surprise.
“Hullo,” he offered by way of greeting to her. “Not used to seeing someone else in here with them.”
Willow smiled, with a small nod. “I usually come on Wednesdays. . .but work was busy this week – so, here it is, me on a Saturday.” She laughed nervously, wondering who it was that he could be here to see. There were only about a dozen patients in this area of the hospital, and most of them were on their beds, just staring up at the ceiling at little pictures that the staff conjured to give their eyes something to look at.
“That would explain it, then. I’m Neville, by the way.”
“Willow.” She offered in return, her hands still moving with the gentle motion of the hairbrush in her hand. “And this is Tara.”
“Hi, I’m Alice.” The witch of the same name piped up, smiling brilliantly at the newcomer to the room.
“Yes,” Neville sighed, his face falling into slack lines of sadness and resignation that Willow knew all too well. “Yes, mum. I know.”
~*~End Part One~*~