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Willow was restless. Restless and unfocused. This weekend had been set aside to catch up on her studies. She had used a specific red marker and written it on her calendar and underlined it three times, in a different red marker, to remind her how important this time was. The girl who had never missed a deadline, who had all her papers written at least a week before they were due, had fallen behind. She now had three papers waiting to be researched, outlined, and produced, all due before the Thanksgiving holiday only four days away. It wasn’t like her and she knew it.

Shaking her hands in front of herself, Willow tried to distract away the pull of the magic books that sat on her dresser, mere feet away. Her feet were fidgety and legs on a constant pulse as she anxiously waited for the sun to go down. Rack only took clients in the later hours of nighttime and the anticipation of going there was the only thing keeping her from falling apart. She craved the escape. Escape from what she knew, deep down, was the tick tick tick of a time bomb, lodged in her gut, fueled by the razor sharp sorrow housed in her soul. It simmered, this sorrow, it ran through her blood like screams and pushed up under her skin and, one day, Willow knew she would explode and there would be nothing left of her. So she grasped desperately at the escape Rack’s magic gave her. Magic that allowed her to push away her terror, her gnawing grief, and to just float into an unawareness that was both numbing and euphoric. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced.

She picked up her Computational Biology text and tried pacing while she studied, anything to keep her restive body occupied. Her thoughts would not be so easily harnessed. They drifted over her studies and shifted back to the thrill of being there, at Rack’s, of having access to his kind of power. Most people, most witches, didn’t get to experience this level of magic use. But Willow Rosenberg wasn’t most witches, she was clever and powerful, and she felt like she had earned her way into a secret club. Willow liked the feeling of belonging. She liked feeling like she was at a magical level where she could finally protect her friends. Protect Buffy from dying. Protect Tara from losing her sanity. Protect herself from losing Tara again.

Schoolwork had been pushed aside to maintain these feelings. Through magic. Studying it during the day and experiencing it into the late hours of the night. Sleep became an afterthought, creeping in when the effects wore off and Willow would feel a crushing fatigue; it made focusing while in class near impossible.

So she had giving herself a timeline, set aside these days. And she couldn’t get her head around any of it. Pictures in her mind kept away hope of concentration. She saw Buffy, turning at the Bronze, her hazel eyes a storm of sorrow and pain as she confessed that she had been ripped out of heaven. Guilt flooded Willow’s slender frame and she redoubled her efforts. Buffy’s face shifted to Tara’s and she saw the tear heavy blue eyes. Those soulful blue eyes, eyes whose depths had offered an eternity of grace, eyes that now refused to look at her. Unable to pull herself away from these painful memories, Willow shook her head, effectively giving up the attempt to read.

School work set aside, Willow placed a tome from her dresser in her knapsack and grabbed her jacket off the back of her desk chair. With a quick swirl of her wrist, the window curtains closed and Willow set out for the Magic Box, thinking that a change of setting might help her clear her mind.

She considered using magic to complete at least a few of the papers before deciding she would give it one more try tomorrow. She could pick up some benzoin resin while at the shop, it was good for spells of focus and enhanced academic success.