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i missed you so much when i couldn't find you

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The truth is, Willow always misses Buffy. Even when she’s right there, close enough for Willow to breathe her in, she’s missing her. Right now, she’s missing her, and they’re closer than they’ve ever been: fingers linked, exchanging strength, breath mingling between them. The air is warm with sunlight, full of dust specks and magic emanating from the earth. Willow can feel it now, after England. She can always feel it, everywhere, just like she’s always missing Buffy.

But even while she’s missing her, she’s got her right there, in front of her. Willow can see her even with her eyes closed. She looks like what clementines taste like: bright with summer and clean in the sunlight.

Willow used to eat clementines every afternoon after school. Now she sleeps in the afternoons, stays up in cemeteries til 3 am, trades out fruit for Buffy- no, Tara- no- Buffy-

She breathes in sharply and grips Buffy’s hands to ground her. Focuses on the healing, now, pulls in a little of Buffy’s energy to help her out. It feels good to have that in her body, growing new skin with the strength of a Slayer.

But the connection runs deep, deeper than Willow thought she made it. She realizes it’s Buffy making it deeper, unconsciously opening herself up. It amazes Willow how much she trusts her still, after going dark. But then she’s always trusted her, always come to save her. She can feel that through their bond, the trust. On both sides. It’s surprising how strongly she can feel it, actually. Buffy’s got more latent magic than either of them thought- Buffy doesn’t even know she has any.

“Thank you,” Willow says quietly. “For the strength. And for the- the forgiveness. I needed it.”

“Anytime,” Buffy replies. “I don’t want you to hurt.” Neither of them open their eyes. There’s no need. They can feel everything, see the other’s emotions. Willow’s reminded of that awful mind reading power Buffy got back in high school. She still can’t believe Buffy never realized what a crush she had on her, how much she thought about her. She still can’t believe she managed to stop herself from loving Buffy that whole time.

“You didn’t.” Buffy opens her eyes. Smiles. Pushes some more energy at Willow. “You dummy, I knew the whole time.”

Willow is crying. Just a little. She opens her eyes as well, looks at Buffy. Smiles. “Why didn’t you say anything? I was so scared.”

“I guess I was scared too. And then, well, Tara.” The sadness comes in waves, from Buffy and from herself. But the Buffy-sadness is comforting as well. It makes her feel so much less alone.

“Yeah. Tara.” She wants to wipe her eyes, but she can’t bring herself to let go of Buffy’s hand. It’s so warm, and her belly is almost healed now.

“Listen, Wil, you don’t- you don’t have to rush anything. Okay?”

She hesitates. “You know how I feel. You’re feeling it right now. I'll wait for you, Wil. As long as you need.”

Willow is crying more now, the hot, silent kind of tears. They hurt her wounds, but they feel more like they’re cleansing than punishing. Buffy understands without asking. She sends out little threads of calm and love, and Willow’s tears stop after a minute or two. She sniffs a little, and smiles again.

Buffy’s always understood without asking.