The Lightning Time

Years later, decades later, after a marriage and a divorce and a marriage again, after Jesse and Starlight had both grown up and left home, Willow would still lie awake at night and think about what she and Tara had never shared.

It wasn't the big milestones that broke her heart, although those were there: apocalypses and magical conjunctions; marriages, births, and funerals; leading the Watcher's Council and then quitting it in a huff; a bris, a sweet sixteen, and a whole set of proms and graduations; a daughter who was called to be a slayer and a son who became the head witch for North America's governing council. No, it was the everyday which she'd never experienced with Tara. Getting a pedicure. Bringing her home to mom's for kugel and hot chocolate. Signing a lease. Morning sickness. Bollywood movies. Getting excited for the DVD releases of You Can't Do That on Television and Robot Chicken. Perms coming back in style, and Willow's terrible, terrible mistake in getting one. Catching a cold, eating a steak, finding a box of Dorrie paperbacks in the attic of her parents' house. Watching Starlight's dog throw up on her favorite slippers. Hanukkah and samhain, Saturday morning cartoons and Xbox games.

She hadn't shared all of these things with everyone else she'd ever loved, of course. But all of the others -- Oz and Kennedy, Miriam and Cesar and Dawn -- had gone on, had experienced life after Willow. Only with Tara was life forever frozen in that terriblebeautiful moment of taking life for granted. With Tara, she'd been too caught up in the moment, and her youth. With Tara, Willow remembered studying for exams and casting spells. She remembered babysitting Dawn and researching with the Scoobies. They'd shared the crushing grief of Buffy's death, but, with the single-mindedness of youth, had never extrapolated from that evidence of mortality, never found time to share histories before it was too late: look at my sticker book from third grade; this photograph is of me dressed as a pomegranate in nursery school; let me tell you about going to the beach with Xander and Jesse and getting horribly sunburned. Willow didn't even know what Tara's past held that she hadn't gotten around to sharing. What comfort food? What favorite books? What most hated teacher?

Instead she had this: A sunlit Sunday afternoon. Tara spread sleepily over the comforter, naked and wanton and glowing in the sunshine. Willow, laughing, spooning Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream into Tara's mouth. Two young women, frozen for ever in the now they lived in. An imaginary time but oh, so real.