The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (7/25/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 10:04 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
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Wills_redemption:
Quote:
Sad to think that unbeknownst to Willow and Buffy they were both so close to each other in this moment, both lost and alone and too weak to resist some kind of numbing "drug" although deep down they know it's bad for them.


I think this is one of the more tragic aspects of S6 for sure

Quote:
It feels like cheating on Tara that Willow shares her magical bond with another magic user, worse still with a "dark" wizard.


I feel like Willow is cheating on herself too, poor Wills :(

Quote:
I can understand that Amy resents Willow for not restoring her to her human form sooner. From canon I didn't have the impression that after Willow met Tara they ever tried or at least searched for ways to "derat" Amy. From Amy's point of view Willow let her down.

I'm wondering what fate you have planned for Amy. I hope she will be saved from Rack's clutches too and won't become a "bad guy" as in canon. I'm also curious how you're going to get rid of Rack in the end (trusting that Willow won't turn into "Dark Willow" and kill him in your story).


Yeah, this was an area I wish the show had looked at a little more, just because it leaves such loose ends and I feel like Amy would be angry and resentful, especially seeing how powerful willow has gotten, but also, Willow did have a lot going on....

I have vague-ish plans for Amy.....

thanks for your feedback!





WILDERNESS

Author: shirrey (Beth)
Rating: PG (for now)
Distribution: please ask
Disclaimer: I own nothing that ME created, except in my dreams.
Feedback: I would love it!! It is such a gift and helps me be a better writer. But thank you for reading mostly, feedback left or not - this is also such a gift
Angst: mid




Ch 20: Strong Like an Amazon



The scent of honeysuckle imbued the morning air, its warmth and citrus carried by the light breeze, caressing Tara’s senses. She hugged her wool sweater tight around her small, ten-year old frame, inhaling deeply. Content, simple, and complete. Wide blue eyes drifted open revealing the world. And at the center of that world was her mother, humming softly as she gathered lemon balm, sage, and juniper. Today was Saturday, hunting day for Daddy and Donny, and the day Tara spent the morning listening to her mother, her voice soft and reverent, as she spoke about the plants’ magical and medicinal uses. Tara smiled, enraptured.

Shadow crept across the screen, distorting that smile, its presence visceral and bleak. Dread clawed in Tara’s chest, her young features melting into a horror made from guilt. She watched as her mother’s form, her bright tulip colors, was swallowed and rendered gray. A dark silhouette against a monochrome world. Tara squeezed her eyes shut, denying the vision before her.
“You have a gift, Tarebear.” It was her mother’s voice again, its soft tenor unmistakable; Tara opened her eyes to a smiling face. “I am going to show you how to use it,” her mother continued as she stroked her daughter’s cheek.

“I have a gift Tarebear” the voice shifted to a more recent familiarity. Tara stared where green eyes, wide with curious impatience, had replaced her mother’s blue. “We both do. We shouldn’t turn our back on it.”

“Why do you think this is happening?!” her father roared and Tara was suddenly in her mother’s kitchen, slightly slumped over the counter as her knuckles whitened with the fierce grip she held on its edge.“You can’t even control it, can you? Do you even want to? Do you like being an evil thing?”

Tara felt Donny’s presence as he was now sat on the counter next to where she stood. He leaned his body toward her, his sneering face inches from her own. “Whatcha gonna do about it, sis?”

Alone again, Tara sat on the edge of her old bed in her childhood home. It felt wrong, she was grown now, and had left that place behind. Something was scratching in her right palm. She unclenched her grip and turned her hand over, opening it to reveal a sprig of Lethe’s bramble. She looked up and into darkened green eyes and Willow whispered, “Forget.”

The shrill of the phone pulled her awake but not aware. Tara instinctively curled her body into a fetal pose as she tried to make sense of the insistent noise, trying to separate the sound from the ghosts of her dream. The doctor had called, because Tara hadn’t been there, hadn’t been allowed to be there. What if she drained her mother again?

Two rings, then three, and things finally clicked, this was the here and now, and someone else was calling. But this dream had been so vivid, so accurate. It clutched.

Tara stumbled out of bed and across the looped carpet, picking up the receiver just before her answering machine would have clicked on. Her sleep addled voice croaked and split, “Hello?”

“Tara?”

“Dawnie? Wha’s- What time is it?” Rubbing her free hand across her face, Tara turned and checked her clock.

“12:23, and I’m ok and I’m sorry I woke you, especially after–“ worry and fear laced Dawn’s words as she stumbled on, “I mean, I tried to call Xander but no one picked up.”

“No, its ok. You can always call me,” Tara said, her mind working arduously to clear the rest of the remaining fog, “Wha’s goin’ on? Is someone- is everyone ok?”

There was a slight pause before Dawn answered, “There not here.”

“Who? No one’s there? Are you alone?”

“Yeah, a- and I’m trying not to be a wuss about it, but it’s late and-“ Dawn’s voice tapered away.

“You’re scared.” Tara pulled the phone into her as she sat cross-legged on the floor.

“I guess.”

“Do you want me to come over?” Tara offered softly, sincerely.

The drizzle that had been falling for the last hour quickened to a downpour pulling Dawn’s attention to the living room window. The drapes were closed, but the slight wavy part where the two pieces met let a glimpse of the outside world in. Dawn had been fixated on this sliver of the night until she had finally called Tara, too scared not to.

“No, Tara, it's way too late,” the tone was uncertain, “Just if you could stay on the phone with me for a while?”

“Dawnie, are you sure? It’s n-not a problem to come over, just until someone comes home.” Tara stood up, already gathering a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.

“But….. what about Willow?”

“If…” Tara stilled momentarily before drawing in a steadying breath, “I mean, it’s not about Willow, it’s about you.”

“What was that?” Dawn gasped, startling Tara. She heard Dawn shifting on the other end of the line.

Tara stood paralyzed, her heart thrumming. Her vision began to swim.

Keep it together, Maclay.

Taking a deep breath she pushed away memories of footsteps; of loud abrupt sounds echoing from her childhood living room. “Dawn? Dawnie? What do you hear?”

“I don’t know,” Dawn rushed out, “I- it’s probably nothing. Just like wind through the trees or something. It's kinda stormy out so I’m sure it's just, like storm sounds, right?”

Tara waited and listened, realizing the sounds of rain pouring down. The natural sound reacclimated her to the present and she felt a sigh of recognition leave her. “Okay, Dawnie, I’m coming over.”

Also releasing a small sigh of relief, Dawn attempted a last, obligatory, rebuttal, “But, the storm, and you’ll get soggy shoes.”

A small chuckle tickled Dawn’s ears, “Have you seen my boots? Besides,” Tara pulled on and laced said boots, her tone falling into a familiar mock-solemnity, “Witches like storms, it’s like Mother Nature is throwing a rager.”

The words sounded so unnatural, yet so endearing, being spoken by the shy woman who so carefully chose her words.

A fond smile was clear in Dawn’s voice, “A rager?”

They both chuckled and Tara could almost see the playful roll of Dawn’s eyes.

“Will you call a cab?” Dawn asked, serious again.

In her room, Tara nodded, “Yes, I will call a cab. I’ll be there soon, everything will be fine, Dawn, okay?”

“Thanks Tara.”

“See you soon.” Tara triggered the hook-switch and dialed for a cab.

Thirty minutes later Tara arrived. She was drenched during the short walk from the curb to the Summers’ door. Afraid to further startle the young woman waiting for her, she rapped softly. Tara saw the drapes shift and wide blue eyes peer out to check who was at the door. The sides of Tara’s lips pulled up into a small smile, the Slayer’s sister, she thought with amused pride.

The door opened, and Dawn pulled Tara in by her sleeve. Without letting go, Dawn shut and locked the door behind her and threw her arms around Tara. Tara returned the embrace fully.

“Ugh!” Dawn protested teasingly, “You’re soaked!”

“Hazard of travelling when raining,” Tara half smiled and bobbed her head wisely, “Besides, you’re the one who hugged the soaked woman.”

“Duh,” Dawn smiled and took Tara by the hand, “C’mon, I’ll make you some tea. And, um, lay down a towel for you.”

“Ha ha,” Tara retorted as she tugged Dawn back slightly. Tara released the other girl’s hand and slipped off her raincoat, hanging it on the hooks just inside the front door. Dropping her hands to her sides, she followed Dawn into the kitchen.

Plates were stacked in the sink, a sugar container left in the middle of the counter, white granules surrounding it. A slight coffee stain sat on the floor. A wave of guilt rushed Tara as she took in the disarray. Her brow creased in self-judgment and she drew in a deep breath, trying to shake the feeling, It’s not that bad, a few missed things. Guilt was smothered by a prevalent sense of dread. A stern male voice rang in her ears This is your ONLY contribution! You think you’re above it? Do you? Seconds stretched into a void of time and Tara swayed. She grasped the door jam, digging her nails into the wood, imploring for some physical pain to pull her out of the fog.

It was a resonant CLANG that brought her back, as Dawn put another plate on the dirty stack, its weight causing the balance to over shift.

“…. Or herbal?” Tara caught.

“Um, h-herbal, please. You too, you should have herbal.”

“Yeah, I know. Besides, I like the berry flavor.” Dawn faced the counter, pulling tea bags out a drawer and ripping open the pouches. The kettle sounded and Dawn carefully poured the water over the herbs. “Um, Tara?” She hedged, her head lowered bashfully as she held out a steaming drink, housed in a mug inscribed with the Magic Box logo. “Thank you, for coming over, I know you had a hard day.”

Tara reached out and gently grasped the mug, holding it stationary between their hands before drawing it close. She felt the heat warm her abdomen.

“I am always here for you Dawn, you’re family, remember?”

“Yeah, especially when my real family is nowhere to be seen,” Dawn flashed a sincere smile at the older woman as she moved past her and into the living room. Real family Tara echoed internally, the trivial phrase suffocating her. Stop it! Tara steeled herself, eyes closed, mouth pursed, a short blunt exhale through her nose. She was always sensitive, she liked that about herself, but she wasn’t this raw, this insecure. Not anymore. Except, for the last few weeks, this was exactly how she had been feeling. The world felt barren, a sea that had withered away, leaving dry cracked earth in its wake, the sky open and hostile; and Tara walked without armor.

No
, Tara resolved, not here. Not with Dawn. And despite the ferocious wind, Tara knew here she was sheltered. Blowing on her tea, Tara returned to the living room and sat beside Dawn. She took a sip before setting the mug on the coffee table.

“Wanna watch TV?” Dawn pulled her sock covered feet onto the couch and tucked them under her thighs.

Tara turned her head and looked at Dawn. A silent moment passed and Tara smiled shyly, gratitude lifting the corners of her lips.


“Sure.” Tara bent over and unlaced her boots, mirroring Dawn’s pose as soon as they were off.

Tara giggled as she watched Dawn fish for the remote; she laughed aloud when Dawn’s arm disappeared into the recesses of the couch, then at the triumphant expression that declared “Eureka!” on Dawn’s face as she yanked her arm free and held the remote above her head.

“Goof,” Tara giggled again, shaking her head in merriment.

The women sat snuggled together, watching late night cartoons and drinking the tea away. Tara knew in time that Dawn would ask questions: about where Buffy and Willow could be, about what had happened at the ice cream parlor just hours ago.

A slight weight lay against her left shoulder as Dawn rested her head and Tara leaned her own head in kind. She hooked her hand around Dawn’s and squeezed once, her eyes never leaving the television screen, where the images blurred in formless animation, an afterthought in her vision.

Thoughts battled in her mind, concern tumbling over anger, fear grappling with hope. Dawn had mentioned ditches, still close enough to her childhood to use the phrase earnestly. “What if they’re in a ditch somewhere?” And Tara had of course reassured her that no one was in a ditch. Buffy could more than take care of herself, and Willow, as powerful as she had become, would be able to handle almost anything that came her way. With magic. That magic which had taken Willow away, that Willow had chosen over her. That now Tara was grateful for because it meant that Willow could protect herself. It would have been ironic, but the magic wasn’t why Tara left. It was Willow’s choices, her continued overuse and misuse of her power. Tara hadn’t ever considered asking Willow to stop using magic altogether, but when Willow had offered during that terrible fight, Tara had grasped onto something she could quantify. One week, Tara had conceded. A week where she could see if, without the magic, she and Willow could make it work. It was a desperate move at the time, knowing in her gut that it wouldn’t be enough. They, she, needed time and space to unpack what had happened between them. She’d told Willow “We’ll see”. Go a week and we’ll see. Not a very strong guarantee Tara knew but, as much as her heart was screaming in protest, she couldn’t pretend. Then Willow had tried to take that choice away too, take away Tara’s free will to choose with all the information intact.
And that was what it all came down to. Choices. No matter how alluring the pull of magic, the safety of power, there was always a choice. Until there wasn’t. And that was what scared Tara most of all.

It had to be Willow’s choice and Tara knew that, if she had stayed, she risked being torn into nothingness in the process. She couldn’t, wouldn’t do that herself. Not anymore. Leaving didn’t stop the worry, didn’t cancel the love. Both were there, tangled in the chaos of emotions that had stolen her sleep and disrupted her days. That had become a tumbleweed keening in the desert of her soul, raw and thirsty in Willow’s absence.

Where was Willow? Neither Buffy nor Willow would have left Dawn alone purposefully. It had to be a misunderstanding. Miscommunication. Was anyone even communicating? Buffy had become so withdrawn. Willow? Tara truly didn’t know. And then Tara started to think about ditches.

Tara felt Dawn return her gesture with a quick, weary squeeze. “They’ll be ok,” Dawn whispered, slow and somnolent. Be strong Tara. Be an Amazon. A sad smile tugged at her lips, she felt like no Amazon.

Tara lifted her head and placed a grateful peck on the girl’s forehead. Dawn shifted slightly, rubbing her cheek once on Tara’s shoulders and with a sigh drifted off. Tara heard the shift in Dawn’s breath and she let her eyes close. The thoughts remained, until they too exhausted themselves, and Tara joined Dawn in sleep.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (8/10/2020)
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:08 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 421
Dibs! :whip

Poor Tara! It's so sad that she is almost drowning in bad dreams and flashbacks to her father's hurtful words! :cry

I love that she rushed to comfort Dawn in the middle of the night.

Quote:
The world felt barren, a sea that had withered away, leaving dry cracked earth in its wake, the sky open and hostile; and Tara walked without armor.

Quote:
Leaving didn’t stop the worry, didn’t cancel the love. Both were there, tangled in the chaos of emotions that had stolen her sleep and disrupted her days. That had become a tumbleweed keening in the desert of her soul, raw and thirsty in Willow’s absence.

Powerful imagery!

Quote:
Where was Willow? Neither Buffy nor Willow would have left Dawn alone purposefully. It had to be a misunderstanding. Miscommunication. Was anyone even communicating?

Not really, sadly - and Tara herself is no exception.

Is it too much to hope for that you might deviate from canon when Willow stumbles home the next morning, that Tara doesn't flee hurt the house and disappointed over Willow's magic trip with Amy like I (dimly) recall she did in canon but instead sees or feels that Willow is figuratively drowning and needs her help?


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (8/10/2020)
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:16 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Posts: 80
ANOTHER great update (not that I'm surprised!)
I have to begin, though, with an ENORMOUS apology. I have not been keeping up with responses and adulation for ALL the authors who continue to provide me with excellent Willow/Tara reading material and stories to become engrossed in. It is a SORELY needed escape, especially now, and I CANNOT thank you enough.
Shirrey, the Willow/Tara you bring us in this story are wonderful.
THANK YOU,...and keep up the GREAT work.
Stay Safe & Well,
Blessings

_________________
[font=][font=]Strength in our arms, Truth on our tongues, Clarity in our hearts[/font][/font]


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (8/10/2020)
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 9:13 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
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Location: Pacific Northwest
Will's_redemption: Dibs! :whip


Quote:
I love that she rushed to comfort Dawn in the middle of the night.
I love their friendship/ sistership

Quote:
Quote:
The world felt barren, a sea that had withered away, leaving dry cracked earth in its wake, the sky open and hostile; and Tara walked without armor.

Quote:
Leaving didn’t stop the worry, didn’t cancel the love. Both were there, tangled in the chaos of emotions that had stolen her sleep and disrupted her days. That had become a tumbleweed keening in the desert of her soul, raw and thirsty in Willow’s absence.

Powerful imagery!
Thank you!!

Quote:
Quote:
Where was Willow? Neither Buffy nor Willow would have left Dawn alone purposefully. It had to be a misunderstanding. Miscommunication. Was anyone even communicating?

Not really, sadly - and Tara herself is no exception.


Yeah, Tara is definitely in that camp

Quote:
Is it too much to hope for that you might deviate from canon when Willow stumbles home the next morning, that Tara doesn't flee hurt the house and disappointed over Willow's magic trip with Amy like I (dimly) recall she did in canon but instead sees or feels that Willow is figuratively drowning and needs her help?


Um, er, various sounds of hesitation. I don't want to crush anyone's hopes but.... I will say it's a little different... I will also say this is the beginning of a turning point, kind of.....



MotherD
Quote:
ANOTHER great update (not that I'm surprised!)
I have to begin, though, with an ENORMOUS apology. I have not been keeping up with responses and adulation for ALL the authors who continue to provide me with excellent Willow/Tara reading material and stories to become engrossed in. It is a SORELY needed escape, especially now, and I CANNOT thank you enough.
Shirrey, the Willow/Tara you bring us in this story are wonderful.
THANK YOU,...and keep up the GREAT work.


Thank you so much!! I wish I was faster at updating! and no worries nor apologies needed- life is WEIRD right now, like on a collective global scale so I get it- but I do appreciate the feedback you did leave!! and I am really glad it is serving as a respite





WILDERNESS

Author: shirrey (Beth)
Rating: PG (for now)
Distribution: please ask
Disclaimer: I own nothing that ME created, except in my dreams.
Feedback: I would love it!! It is such a gift and helps me be a better writer. But thank you for reading mostly, feedback left or not - this is also such a gift
Angst: mid


Note: This one is pretty short- I usually try and have several chapters almost ready to go before I update, but I will updat esooner than I been doing. Thanks as always to Zooeys_Bridge (who I am waiting very patiently for an update to Lotus from, Very, very patiently :g:)




CH 21: A Little Stumble Home



Willow woke, drool crusted down the side of her mouth and chin. Placing her palms flat against the stained rug, she pushed her torso up, arching her back slightly as she blinked to adjust her vision. A wide yawn spread as she pushed herself back, sitting on her heels and rubbing a weary hand across her mouth, then pushed the rest of the way up to her feet. Her eyes scanned the fetid room and she found Amy, half on the floor, half on a blue chair that once could’ve been described as plush, her head pillowed by arms crossed over the tattered seat. Just above Amy and to the left was Rack, his eyes shut as he sat upright on an equally worn green-gray couch, eerily motionless. Willow felt a momentary chill run through her veins, before she giggled at her reaction.

The after-effects of Rack’s magic made her head deliciously fuzzy and she struggled to be subtle as she moved toward Amy. Willow shook Amy’s shoulder and the sleeping woman jerked upward with a loud gasp. Willow attempted to shush her through an amused smile, gaining a sheepish look from Amy. One hand cupped her mouth, muffling snorts of laughter, Willow’s other pointed to Rack and then to the door. Amy stared through glassy eyes, stuck on the still man until a tug on her sleeve propelled her to move. The waiting room was still littered with desperation as they shuffled through and out into the near cusp of night and day.

Amy half stumbled into Willow and rested her weight fully, leaning on Willow’s side. They staggered and giggled together, making their way through the streets and toward the cemetery.

“It gave me the serious wiggins,” Amy said, the statement coming out of nowhere, “I mean who sleeps like that? Was he even sleeping? Maybe it was like meditation or something.”

“He’s gotta sleep sometime, “Willow shrugged as she ungracefully side-stepped a grave marker, “Ooh or maybe not! Maybe he magics away his need to sleep? Like, just gets all meditate-y for a bit and blammo! Sleep-be-gone!”

“I dunno Will, I am pretty fond of it- nothing like a good nap-“ Amy tilted her head slightly, listening. Was that a whoosh? She shrugged and scrunched her nose as she continued, “and suddenly I’m picturing snuggling down on a bed of wood shavings.”

Willow laughed loudly, uncaring of her surroundings even as the heady effects of Rack’s magic was waning. “Well not sleeping might help me actually get my papers written. I’ve got three due in a few days.”

“You? Miss – every-teacher’s-wet-dream? Behind on school?” Amy felt the twinge of jealousy return but she pushed it away, not ready to leave the bliss that had enveloped her this night.

“Ok, ew,” Willow said as they stepped onto the residential streets, nearing Revello Drive.

The long brown coat of a vampire caught the updraft with a whoosh as he descended from atop a mausoleum. His superior eyesight caught a glimpse of the two women walking dozens of feet away. The blood in his veins hummed as the predator stalked with the shadows, a smug curve to his lips as he listened to the women chat amiably, cluelessly.

Closer. Closer.

He ran his tongue over his right fang and prepared to attack. A light caught his attention and he realized they were coming from the redhead’s chatty fingers. Sparks. Red and yellow sparks, small but furious, erupting as the woman moved. With wide eyes, the vampire slowly moved backward then ran fast and far. Witches. He’d been undead long enough to know to stay away from them. He reached the other end of the cemetery and took an unnecessary breath, closing his eyes in relief. When he opened them again it was to the sight of a stake speeding toward him. The last thing he saw was the Slayer, hip cocked and twenty feet in front of him. “Fuc-!” Clouds of dust can’t talk anymore.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (8/25/2020)
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:04 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 421
Dibs! :whip
It's sad that Willow has already come so far that she doesn't feel shame or regret after waking up in this disgusting place. At least she still showed care for Amy, waking her up and leaving with her.

Quote:
A light caught his attention and he realized they were coming from the redhead’s chatty fingers. Sparks. Red and yellow sparks, small but furious, erupting as the woman moved. With wide eyes, the vampire slowly moved backward then ran fast and far. Witches. He’d been undead long enough to know to stay away from them.

Very worrying that Willow is "leaking" magic without even noticing it. It's good that the sight drove the vampire away though because I'm not sure if Willow and / or Amy would have been in the state to defend themselves with magic if the vampire had attacked them.

From your reply to my last comment I gather that I won't like the encounter between Tara and Willow when the latter comes home. I guess that I'll just have to trust that all will turn out well in the end.


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (8/25/2020)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:35 am 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
Posts: 204
Topics: 8
Location: Pacific Northwest
Wills redemption: I promise that things will turn out well in the end, its the KB for one thing, but more so , I have no interest in writing them if they aren't going to be together and well and super in love. Thanks for the FB.


WILDERNESS

Author: shirrey (Beth)
Rating: PG (for now)
Distribution: please ask
Disclaimer: I own nothing that ME created, except in my dreams.
Feedback: I would love it!! It is such a gift and helps me be a better writer. But thank you for reading mostly, feedback left or not - this is also such a gift
Angst: mid

Notes: Set in S4, after NMR has happened. It was originally posted as a one-off called Blush, it has been seriously reworked (and renamed) and has not been beta'd, hoping there aren't any really glaring mistakes that I missed.





Little Cages
set in S4, after NMR


The house stood in front them, large and pleasant. Suburban. From the outside it was a thing of wood, nails, and glass, but on the inside, reminiscences of past emotions and events filled in the foundation. Houses are collectors of memories.

Willow slipped her hand from Tara’s, retrieving her keys from her pants pocket and opening the front door. The interior was silent but for the steady tick of a grandfather clock and an infrequent click-whoosh when the air conditioner readjusted to the temperature. The walls were functional, all wood and plaster and slightly off-white, decorated with folk art pieces collected from her parents’ international travels. There was no one home, Willow had known that; her parents were three weeks into a twelve week ‘working vacation’, a term Willow found both perplexing and manipulative before deciding it wasn’t worth getting upset over. She shrugged to herself, If it makes them feel better….

Willow turned to see Tara, having entered behind her, taking everything in, her wide blue eyes scanning the room carefully, her lips tipping up into a small wondrous smile. Willow followed Tara’s gaze with a curious frown to see what was making Tara smile, what she was missing. Nothing. Everything was as it usually was: tidy, modern, museum-like. Tara slipped forward, moving further into the large room, looked closely at every inch of space, studied it, wanting to catch every detail. Somehow, Willow spotted the frame photo, placed at a meticulous angle on the mantle, before Tara did. It was the only picture of them as a family in the main room, taken when Willow was ten, and in her mind, impossibly awkward.

Tara stumbled slightly as she surged forward, pulled by Willow’s sudden grasp, her wondering eyes never faltering while Willow led her up the stairs, hurrying them past the two photographs hung in the upstairs hallway, wishing she had thought about those before asking Tara to come with her that day.

They had been officially together for a month and a half, although they had both agreed that there had always been something between them. During long talks, interrupted by stolen kisses, they had admitted their immediate attraction to one another, although that it was a romantic attraction was much clearer to Tara early on. Willow had frowned then, blaming herself for being so clueless that things took as long they did until the frown was kissed away, Tara softly reassuring that they were going just the pace they were meant to be.

After the night of the “Extra-Flamey Candle”, as they’d named it, any uncertainty of their feelings for one another had been extinguished, carried away in wisps of smoke. They had declared their love in the darkness, freeing the energy to settle into the walls, part of the structure now.

When Willow had asked Tara to come with her to her childhood home, she had just wanted to be with her. She hadn’t thought about what being here would unveil, but now, dread swept through her as she approached the last barrier to her destination.

She had changed since she lived in that room. Tara knew the new, better, witchier, version of Willow. Stepping into the time capsule on the other side of the door seemed like walking into a graveyard where ghosts still haunted her. If she opened that door, would these ghosts announce themselves? Reveal bits of Willow she had buried in holes that wouldn’t stay covered. She wanted to share herself with Tara, just maybe not now, not so soon after they had found each other. Not when Willow was so smitten with this beautiful girl. But they were here now and she couldn’t ask Tara not to come in, not without hurting her.

“Ready?,” Willow placed her free hand on the knob, swallowing hard/ Tara stepped beside her, nodding eagerly and bouncing forward on her toes, lifting herself up a bit. And when she smiled she beamed with such delight that Willow couldn’t help being swept up, wanting so much to let herself trust and hope, to close the lid over her worries. She opened the door, her hand ushering Tara inside. The benign embarrassment of tacky posters and childish sheets still lingering, Willow blushed and shrugged, “It’s just my old bedroom.”

“I know,” Tara examined the room, taking in every piece like it was a precious artifact, stored and protected at a national museum, “but it’s like a piece of you from before, I get a glimpse of what littler Willow was like.” Her beaming smile was paired with a look of pure adoration shining from cornflower blue eyes.

For a perfect moment, forest green eyes accepted and returned the adoring stare, until Willow spied her open closet door, a familiar gingham monstrosity peaking through. Moving hastily, and Willow hoped sneakily, she swung the closet door shut, wondering why she hadn’t burned those old relics years ago.

“Believe me that stone is definitely best left unturned,” Willow said with an exaggerated puff of air and goofy grin which, Tara noted, wasn’t reflected in her eyes. Tara watched carefully, reading Willow’s body language, as Willow moved about her room, getting the box pellet food as she talked to her rat.

“Poor Amy , you’ve got to be hungry,” Willow soothed, taking the empty food tray from Amy’s cage, “If we were any later you’d probably start gnawing off her own paws.”

“W-well that’s your fault, you know?” Tara flirted, knowing that she could often bring Willow out of ‘overthinking brain’ when she did. Not that she didn’t mean it. Willow often made her feel flirtatious, even though Tara would swear she didn’t know how to flirt. But, here, watching Willow’s slender body move, the low waist of her jeans hugging a subtly curved hip, the perfect ass in full view as Willow bent, Tara was feeling very very flirtatious. She couldn’t help but blush when Willow glanced back at her, eyebrows raised. Tara ducked her head shyly before lifting her gaze under hooded eyes, smiling coyly “I’m-um- not the one who made us late.”

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Willow blushed, turning back to her chore, and then, she felt the slow graze of Tara’s hands around her, the press of Tara’s body against her. Tara’s low giggle sent ripples down her back and Willow stopped all motion.

“I, um, really didn’t mind,” Tara spoke softly, her low voice both tentative and husky. The warmth spread across Willow’s collarbone as Tara leaned into her. Willow stiffened slightly, pushing her body forward.

“Good,” she replied, the sound underlined by the tiny sounds of scratching as Amy paced the floor of her cage, “I mean, I wouldn’t want you to really be upset,” Willow continued, focused intently on pouring food into the bowl, “‘Cause, why would you be upset? You aren’t the hungry one. I mean, the one I let go hungry. Not that… I, mean you could be hungry, we haven’t eaten since lunch, but that’s not, I mean, you don’t… um, well-“ A soft hand on her hip stooped the babbling.

“Willow, are you ok?”

Willow stood quickly, “Yeah, just um, worried about Amy.” Tara stepped back, giving Willow her space, relaxing when Willow placed a quick peck on her cheek. Willow resumed caring for Amy, moving items around the cage so she could tidy it, but she kept a side eye on Tara who was now looking more closely at the room.

Tara felt Willow’s watchful glances as she peered at the large poster hung over Willow’s desk. It showed the Periodic Table, and Tara wondered if the color coding was the influence for Willow’s habit of using different colored pens. It was organized, she conceded.

There was a framed picture of a middle aged man, sitting in honor on Willow’s bookcase. Tara quirked a half smile as she moved toward it, curious. Quickly, Willow was next to her, hands wringing and a look on her face that said she was ready to explain. Wide eyes met wondering brows.

“Who’s this hunk?” Tara joked, trying to ease the obvious nerves rolling off Willow. It seemed to at least throw Willow off because all fidgeting stopped and Willow’s mouth dropped open.

“Hunk?” Willow asked disbelievingly.

“Well, he h-has to be right? I mean, why else would he be framed?” Tara turned red even as she smirked.

“That’s Neil deGrasse Tyson,” Willow said sheepishly, almost mumbled, in her embarrassment

“The, um, the physicist?” Tara asked watching Willow press her arms down rigidly, her hands squeezed before her. Willow was closing in on herself.

“Um yeah.”

“Sweetie?” Tara brushed her fingers down Willow’s arm softly, “Are- are you uncomfortable with me in your room?”

“What? No,” Willow protested, breaking easily under Tara’s concerned look. She sighed and crossed to her bed, picking at a loose thread on her coverlet, thick pastel stripes shifting slightly with the movement. “Well, being here kinda makes me feel like I’m still in high school, or worse junior highschool- more like junior hellschool,” Willow grumbled, feeling Tara slip behind her and wrapped her around the middle, “I wasn’t exactly Miss Popularity. I wasn’t even in the same county or state- or possibly even continent- as the popular kids.”

Tara rested her chin on Willow’s shoulder, a sweet smile crossing her lips when Willow laid their temples together “I think I was on another planet,” Tara shared, “but I never wanted to be like them.” Willow tilted her head back and Tara giggled when her hair tickled Willow’s face.

“No me neither really,” Willow agreed with an unsettled sigh, “besides it’s in the past right? I have a brand spankin new livin the college life- life and….,” Willow placed a feather light kiss on Tara’s cheek, “a gorgeous girl to spend it with.”

Tara couldn’t speak past the flush that heated her cheeks or the warm breath that caught and remained in her chest. A ridiculous smile wanted to stretch across Tara’s face and live there forever. She closed her eyes and nuzzled against Willow’s lips, “So your parents are out of town?”

“Generally always,” Willow returned with a knowing smile, “I need to change Amy’s water.” She kissed Tara chastely on the mouth and moved back to the cage, unhooking the water dispenser that hung from its side. “I’m not even sure how great they are at feeding her when they are here.”

Tara followed and crouched beside Willow reaching out her index finger to smooth over Amy’s back, “Why didn’t you just bring Amy to the dorms? That way you wouldn’t have to worry.”

“Because I’m not a sneaky rule breaker like you,” Willow teased, bumping their shoulders together.

“I only break the dumb rules,” Tara said with a sheepish smile.

“Well now that we have Miss Kitty,” a blush swept up Willow’s collarbone to the backs of her ears. It’s that word ‘we’. It made Willow giddy and shy at the same time. It made lumps form in her throat, “I am not sure if it’s a good idea to bring her there, I don’t want to give poor Amy a heart attack.”

The blush seemed to leap from Willow to Tara, two flushed faces gazing just inches apart. “Miss Kitty is a huntress,” The low sensual tone in Tara’s voice said ten thousand lovely things.
Amy scratched in her cage and Tara blushed again, feeling too bold and oddly public. She reached her finger through the now closed cage and tickled at Amy’s fur again, “She’s cute.”

“I hope you don’t still think so if I ever figure out how to turn her back.”

“Depends on if she still has these whiskers or not.”

“Tara!” Sometimes Tara was wonderfully strange.

Squirming, Tara shook her head trying to erase the words, “I’m not really into whiskers!”

“I wasn’t really worried.” Willow giggled.

“Good.” Tara stood, desperate to change the subject and wanting to relish in the place where her love spent many years growing up, “I-is it okay if I look around?”

“I mean, there’s not much to see besides my geek infested roots,” Willow said with a shrug and a strained chuckle.

Tara stepped forward and stood before Willow, she ran her fingers through red hair and Willow leaned into the caress, “I love all your roots.”

A small giggle erupted from Willow, and she nuzzled into the smooth pale skin of Tara’s neck “I thought you were going to say infested roots turned you on.” Tara pulled back in mock horror, “Ew.” There was a moment when neither spoke, a moment where each wondered if they had said something wrong. Then eyes met and both women burst into laughter, squeezing together as one.

“Let’s go back to the dorms, baby,” Willow said, giving her best puppy eyes, “I’ll buy you a mocha on the way home.”

“Sure love,” Tara replied then bent down beside the cage again, sticking her fingers through the gaps and wiggling them at the rat, “Bye Amy, I’m sure I’ll see you again, maybe next time,” her voice dropped to a stage whisper, “Willow will even let me explore.”

“Maybe,” Willow retorted, stretching her hand out and helping Tara stand, “Come on now, those mochas aren’t going to drink themselves.”

“Well, they might,” Tara giggled, shutting the door behind her, “It is the Hellmouth.”

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (9/9/2020)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:13 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 421
Dibs! :whip
Quote:
From the outside it was a thing of wood, nails, and glass, but on the inside, reminiscences of past emotions and events filled in the foundation. Houses are collectors of memories.

Quote:
Stepping into the time capsule on the other side of the door seemed like walking into a graveyard where ghosts still haunted her.

Great imagery again!

Quote:
She had changed since she lived in that room. Tara knew the new, better, witchier, version of Willow.

Quote:
She wanted to share herself with Tara, just maybe not now, not so soon after they had found each other. Not when Willow was so smitten with this beautiful girl.

I think deep down Willow never lost the fear that Tara might love her less if she knew how she was in highschool. And subconsciously she felt that she might somehow revert into her highschool self when she stopped using magic and it would lead to her losing Tara. This is so sad, considering that her clinging to the magic and continuing to (over)use it drove Tara away.

Quote:
“Bye Amy, I’m sure I’ll see you again, maybe next time,” her voice dropped to a stage whisper, “Willow will even let me explore.”

“Maybe,” Willow retorted, stretching her hand out and helping Tara stand, “Come on now, those mochas aren’t going to drink themselves.”

“Well, they might,” Tara giggled, shutting the door behind her, “It is the Hellmouth.”

:laugh I love Tara's qirky sense of humour!
I guess the next time Tara will see Amy (whisker-free this time) will be right in the next chapter and that it won't be as pleasant for Tara as this first encounter was...


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (9/9/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:58 am 
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4. Extra Flamey
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I've been obsessed with this story for a while, please keep going!

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- I am a poster girl with no poster, I am 32 flavours and then some -


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (9/9/2020)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:49 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
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Wills redemption:

Quote:
I think deep down Willow never lost the fear that Tara might love her less if she knew how she was in highschool. And subconsciously she felt that she might somehow revert into her highschool self when she stopped using magic and it would lead to her losing Tara. This is so sad, considering that her clinging to the magic and continuing to (over)use it drove Tara away.


100% agree. They both have so many things to work through personally.

Quote:
:laugh I love Tara's qirky sense of humour!


Same. And I so relate to being the girl that tells jokes nobody else thinks are funny lol. Thanks for your feedback.


leftindust

Quote:
I've been obsessed with this story for a while, please keep going!


Thank you so much! I am working on keeping it going :)




Wilderness

Rating: PG for now
Distribution: please let me know.
Feedback: YES PLEASE!!
Angst Level: High
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my dreams



Ch 23: Choices



A swift jab in the thigh startled Tara awake. She blinked her eyes open, her heart thudding from the sudden change in consciousness. A glow of the TV hued the furniture into staticy blue-gray shapes. Sleep- bleary eyes struggled to interpret the shapes for a moment until furniture pieces shifted then sharpened in Tara’s view, orienting her to the Summers’ living room. Her thigh throbbed and she absently rubbed where, it seemed, Dawn had kicked her in her sleep. With a quick glance- laced with a mock glare- Tara confirmed that the girl was sleeping. Dawn had pushed her limbs across the length of the couch, her right arm extended into the air off the front side of the couch and onto the coffee table. Tara had been pushed into the far side of the couch by the lengthy body stretched around and across her. Gently, Tara shifted out from under Dawn’s right leg, eliciting an annoyed grunt from the sleeping girl. Joints popped in a string of sounds as Tara stood up and stretched her back.

The blue-gray lit Tara’s way through the dark room and into the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water and glanced at the microwave clock. 5:42 A.M. The world was in the last throes of slumber, silent for a little longer before the day awoke. In this stillness, the kitchen held her in a place in-between, the scent of fresh pancakes an afterthought in the air. It was so familiar, had been so full of life and love. Now it was the blue-gray stillness of irresolution.

Tara looked again to the clock. 5:43 A.M. She hadn’t heard anyone come home. Rolling her sore neck, tweaked by the awkward sleeping position, Tara thought about what to do next. She knew she should check the bedrooms, but the thought left her with worry and apprehension and a body that refused to move. What if Willow was in there? What if Tara woke her up? What if Willow wasn’t there? Where is she? Tara sent a silent plea for Buffy to return home now. For them to be safe. For her to be able to avoid seeing Willow. She waited. One second. Two. Thirty. Almost two minutes went by before Tara released the breath she was unaware she was holding. No wish upon a star tonight.

Tara’s hands slipped slightly as she reached back and propelled herself off the cold lip of the sink and into motion. Her lips pursed with determination; at odds with the worried frown she wore and the bats beating mighty wings in the cave of her stomach. She climbed the stairs, pausing to glance at the door that used to open to her room. Turning left, Tara reached Buffy’s door and lightly knocked. When there was no answer, she edged the door open just enough to see the vacant bed. She shut the door, passed Dawn’s room, sense memory guiding her through the dark hall and back to the first door. Taking a breath for bravery, Tara raised a shaking fist and knocked quietly. She received no response. There was relief but mostly, it scared the hell out of her.

Tara placed her hand around the doorknob, knowing she would have to see if Willow was there. She felt like an intruder as she finally pushed the door open, and her eyes were immediately drawn to the double bed, empty and unruffled. One look at that bed and its red duvet, the bats flew into a frenzy, trying to force their way up and out of Tara’s chest. In and out of her throat. Unease swam in her mind and the bats suddenly dropped, crumbling into a leaden heap that staggered her as she opened the door wider.

It was strange, she knew this room. Familiar scents and sights greeted her. Skittered snapshots of familiar times combed through her mind. When they had lived here and it had been home. But now, being here felt… wrong. Forbidden. Still, Tara moved forward, compelled into the crossroads of past and present. Slowly, wide blue eyes scanned the space, searching for ties to her time there and noting the vacancies left by her departure.

Her gaze stopped on two large tomes resting on the dresser. They were magic books. Old books from the loft in the Magic Box, filled with dangerous knowledge and forbidden power. Choices. Anguish bristled up Tara’s spine and resolve took over her features. This wasn’t her room anymore, but she still had things here, things she wanted. With a glance over her shoulder, she searched the hall quickly, reassuring herself unnecessarily that she was alone, and moved to the closet. She opened the slatted door and pushed aside a few pairs of shoes and a fallen knitted scarf that Willow had given her last Solstice. She hung the scarf on a hanger and reached into the small space. With a tug, she pulled out a medium sized cardboard box labeled: Tara- Photos and Books.

“Purple,” Tara murmured. Willow had labeled it in purple. Photos and books hold magic and beauty, hence, purple.

She shut the closet and carried the box to the door, a mass of emotions rolling through her frame. Relief at finding the box she hadn’t really even thought about but now knew she needed. Grief as she was removing another piece of herself from Willow’s life. Lingering anger and profound hurt that Willow seemed unaffected. She had left and it seemed that Willow was unaffected.

Tara stood in the threshold of that room, body facing the hallway, head turned to look back once more. She shifted the box’s weight to her hip as she pulled the door shut behind her.
Moving carefully, Tara took the box downstairs and set it next to the front door, far enough to not be in anyone’s way, close enough to grab when she left. Tea was needed. It was the salve to a heavy heart passing time in the early morning hours. She was at the sink in the kitchen, kettle in hand, when she heard the key turn in the front door. Her heart fluttered as she stilled. Silently, she reset the kettle and tilted her head, straining to hear any clue for who had come home. Two voices sounded, one unfamiliar, the other too familiar- both too loud and excitable for the hour.

“Why don’t you just- you know….” The unfamiliar voice said.

“Trust me, the thought has crossed my mind.” And there it was, the unmistakable lilt of Willow’s warm voice. Tara wanted to flee. She wanted to run out the back door- leaving no trace. And she wanted to run through the living room and into Willow’s arms. Instead, she waited.

Willow shrugged off her jacket as she continued, “I mean the amount of oomph I’ve put into academia, I should be earning mileage. Or brain-use credit that I can redeem for some get-out-of-research-kickback.”

“Yes, that kickback is called a glamour,” Amy smirked, following Willow down the two stairs into the main room.

“I don’t know. Maybe I can just translocate Dr. Swanson to Mazatlan, somewhere sunny,” Willow pushed open the swinging kitchen door, “the woman could def --” and her brain shut down.
There Tara stood, body pushed back against the sink, arms crossed and squeezed together under her breasts. Willow watched Tara’s face twitch with emotion. Tara’s eyes darted back and forth across the floor tiles, finally stilling at a central pinpoint. Her features tightened, and Willow recognized the static anger, the sight both rare and unforgettable.

A rush of shame tried to push through Willow, and Willow pushed back, hardening herself. She looked squarely at Tara and greeted her with a flat, “Hey.”

Blue eyes jerked up and Tara looked uneasily at Willow, “Hey. I, um, Dawn called me late last night, no one was here, she asked me to come.”

“Oh.”

“I was just going to stay until someone got home, so…”

Tara shot a quick glance at Amy, who stood by the kitchen door, watching the events unfold before her. The glance shook Willow out of the tense moment as she realized how the situation looked. Here she was waltzing in at almost morning with another woman. As much as Willow didn’t want to experience Tara’s disappointment, she wasn’t going to hurt her unnecessarily.

“Oh, this is Amy! Amy, Tara. Tara, Amy,” Willow waved an introductory hand between the two women.

This stranger unnerved Tara. First the magic and now this. Tara’s heart broke twice over as she felt the weight of being replaced. Of being forgotten. Willow watched the beautiful features crumble before Tara ducked her head, hiding her shame.

“Amy!!” Willow reiterated, her tone compelling Tara to put the pieces together. She received nothing but a confused glance. “Amy! The rat? Sorry,” Willow looked back at her friend with an expression that said ‘oops.’

“S’ok.” Amy shrugged, “I was a rat.”

Willow turned back to find Tara’s look of hurt had shifted to disbelief.

“H-how?” Tara stuttered, shaking her head.

Willow paused, conflicted, her eyes nervously darting around the room, as Tara’s had done just minutes before. The silence told Tara everything.

Amy watched her friend fidget. “Transmutation,” she chimed, breaking the impasse and continuing forward, “This spell Will found in some old magic tome. Super intense. I mean the power it took-“

“Amy,” Willow hedged, hoping her friend would clue in. Tara pressed her lips tight in anger.

“No, it’s true! I mean, the amount that she has grown in the three years I was in a cage, you should have seen what she was working at the Bronze.”

The room grew claustrophobic and Willow could feel her cheeks pale. She chanced a glance at Tara and witnessed the open soul of blue eyes harden and retreat. Willow felt the skin around her ribs tightening, threatening to crush her. “Amy!” This time the tone was clear, angry, and desperate.

And Amy went on, “I mean, conjuring, transmutation, mind control.”

The tense stillness of the room shattered.

Willow startled and glared dangerously at Amy, “WHAT? NO!”

At the same moment, Tara tore out of the room, seething like an impatient volcano.

Tara stalked through the living room still hearing Willow’s voice from the kitchen. “What the hell, Amy?!” Willow yelled, careless of the fact Dawn was sleeping in the next room. But Tara couldn’t think that far. She moved quickly to the foyer, snagged her jacket and thrust the front door open.

With her key in the lock, Buffy reacted to the violent swing of the door, shifting her weight to her back foot and drawing out her stake. The face that appeared wasn’t expected, and the only response she had as she eased her stance was, “Oh.” Tara didn’t even pause, sidestepping Buffy and continuing on, her path a thin red line. Buffy watched as Tara stormed into the dawn, the early sun’s glow giving deference to her pain.

Buffy stepped into her house, closing the door quietly behind her. She could hear Willow yelling in the kitchen. Was she yelling at Dawn? An angry flash of protectiveness flared and died. Tara had been here, Dawn might have yelled first. Dawn always protected Tara first. Cautiously, Buffy approached as the voices lowered. She listened.

“Did you want me to lie to her?”

“It wasn’t your place, Amy. And not lie?! You were the one with the mind-control!”

Not Dawn, Buffy thought, the small relief easing her muscles.

A timid voice reached her from the living room couch, confirming Dawn’s location, “Buffy?”

“Dawn. Are you ok?”

Nodding silently, Dawn stood and opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. She glanced to the kitchen door once then moved to the stairs, climbing the way to her room. Buffy watched her go for a few moments longing to follow her, to crawl up in bed and shut it all away. But something had happened, and it was affecting Dawn, and it was Willow affecting them all, again. Buffy breathed out the tension that threatened her weary body and entered the kitchen. She eyed the two women curiously, “What’s with the pre-dawn showdown?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just lots of un-expectations,” Willow demurred, moving to a cabinet and pulling out a bag of coffee.

Buffy popped a hip in irritation, “Lots of loud un-expectations.”

The smell of ground coffee filled the air as Willow opened the bag with fidgety fingers, “Oh, sorry about that, were you sleeping?”

“No, but Dawn was.”

Willow winced, she glanced in the direction of the upstairs bedrooms, “Oh, oops.”

Buffy realized that Willow hadn’t known that Dawn had fallen asleep in the living room, she tried to soothe her annoyance and focused on the other un-expectation of the morning, “So…. Tara was here?”

“Yeah, I guess she stayed with Dawn.” Willow tried to and failed to sound aloof. She kept her rigid back turned to Buffy as she poured water in the coffee maker.

Resentment rushed through Buffy’s veins and her tone came out harsher than intended, “You guess? Where were you?”

Amy thumbed toward the door, she’d had enough tension for the night, “Willow, I’m going to go. See you later?”

Nodding a flat acknowledgment to Amy, Willow continued with her task, concentrating on each step with forced focus, “I was out. I didn’t know you’d be out all night.”

“I have duties, remember?” Buffy flared, moving just steps behind Willow, “what I was put on this earth for? Again.”

Willow stopped what she was doing but did not turn around. Her blood ached like bile, hot and acidy. Poisoning her. The words slipped through her tight mouth like the low hiss of a viper. “And here I am left looking after your sister. Again.”

Silence.

Buffy stood, wearing a shocked expression, vulnerable in a way she hadn’t been since she was resurrected. Willow dropped her head, the acrid sting receding, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. And I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”

“No, You’re right. Dawn’s not your responsibility,” the walls around Buffy re-emerged, icier, but cracked.

Willow’s shoulders slumped as she reflected on what she said. The words had escaped her on a wave of vitriol that felt unnatural and foreign in her system. And now guilt had soured her stomach and she felt hot tears of frustration pool behind her eyes. She had to make this right. She was so tired of being sorry. “I’m sorry, Buffy I’m just, I’m tired and cranky. Maybe we can make up a Dawn watching schedule tonight?”

When Buffy didn’t respond, Willow fought the urge to flee, escape like Tara had just minutes ago. But what she had said had bordered on cruel, and she couldn’t leave it there. She took a step toward Buffy, voice soft and apologetic, “Buffy, I love Dawn, and I am honored that you trust me enough to give me responsibility for her. I don’t know why I said that, I’m really sorry.”

After a few more moments, Buffy gave a barely perceptible nod, “I guess we should coordinate our schedules better.”

“Definitely, we’ll do that,” Willow felt the last dregs of the dark magics she’d consumed leave her. In its absence, she felt an abyss – its edges coated with lye- expand with her. Exhaustion rocked her body. “Do you want coffee? Cause I think I’m just going to shower and hit the hay.”

Buffy shook her head no. Willow squeezed her arm as she passed by and sluggishly walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Minutes later and equally depleted, Buffy followed Willow’s path. The shower was on full blast, but Buffy could still hear the frenzied sobs through the roar. She paused near the bathroom door and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, for just a moment. Then she stepped into her own bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (9/20/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 12:09 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 421
Dibs! :whip
I'm sad that in this new chapter there is once again no divergance from canon - at least not in a positive way. Tara flees the house totally crushed and probably even more frightened of what Willow has become and will certainly avoid Willow and the Summer's home like the plague from now on. Dawn probably is even more angry with Willow because she drove Tara away again. Buffy is still alternating between emotional numbness and being lost in her own suffering and simply not capable to help the others. And Willow is stumbling into her downfall lost and alone, without anyone to save her because her soulmate, her best friend, her "little sister" and her "new" friend can't really see the danger she's in because they are each blinded by their own emotional turmoil. What a mess! :cry

Quote:
Lingering anger and profound hurt that Willow seemed unaffected. She had left and it seemed that Willow was unaffected.

I'm wondering how Tara came to this assumption. In truth she has no idea how Willow feels or what she does to cope. All what she knows is that Willow apparantly reads "dark" magic books now and stayed away from home all night (at least the latter is highly unusual for Willow and an indication that she is not "unaffected").

Quote:
“I was out. I didn’t know you’d be out all night.”

“I have duties, remember?” Buffy flared, moving just steps behind Willow, “what I was put on this earth for? Again.”

Yeah, but you didn't do your duty all night, most of the time you had sex with Spike. I'm wondering if Buffy is not only lying to Willow here, but to herself too. Somehow trying to believe herself that she spent the whole night slaying instead of screwing a vampire?

Quote:
Willow stopped what she was doing but did not turn around. Her blood ached like bile, hot and acidy. Poisoning her. The words slipped through her tight mouth like the low hiss of a viper. “And here I am left looking after your sister. Again.”

Silence.

Buffy stood, wearing a shocked expression, vulnerable in a way she hadn’t been since she was resurrected. Willow dropped her head, the acrid sting receding, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. And I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”

“No, You’re right. Dawn’s not your responsibility,” the walls around Buffy re-emerged, icier, but cracked.

Willow’s shoulders slumped as she reflected on what she said. The words had escaped her on a wave of vitriol that felt unnatural and foreign in her system. And now guilt had soured her stomach and she felt hot tears of frustration pool behind her eyes. She had to make this right. She was so tired of being sorry. “I’m sorry, Buffy I’m just, I’m tired and cranky. Maybe we can make up a Dawn watching schedule tonight?”

When Buffy didn’t respond, Willow fought the urge to flee, escape like Tara had just minutes ago. But what she had said had bordered on cruel, and she couldn’t leave it there. She took a step toward Buffy, voice soft and apologetic, “Buffy, I love Dawn, and I am honored that you trust me enough to give me responsibility for her. I don’t know why I said that, I’m really sorry.”

So sad that Willow lashed out at Buffy like this. :cry I fervently hope that Dawn really was upstairs in her bedroom during this conversation and didn't hear this remark. The only thing that gives me a little hope is that Willow not only felt sorry for what she said, but really made an effort to apologize and "take it back". But the damage was already done.

Quote:
The shower was on full blast, but Buffy could still hear the frenzied sobs through the roar. She paused near the bathroom door and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, for just a moment. Then she stepped into her own bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

:cry So sad that although Buffy knows how much Willow is suffering, she isn't capable to console her. She probably wouldn't even need words, just holding Willow and letting her cry would help (maybe not in the shower, because that would be awkward, but after Willow has dragged herself to her bedroom).

I'm really wondering if and how you will keep Willow from hitting rock bottom by causing the car accident in her dark magic high and injuring Dawn. Maybe when Willow wants to leave the house to visit Rack the next time she will stumble over Tara's photo box and that might spark some positive change? Because when you wrote about Tara's flight from the house you didn't mention her taking the box with her, so do I assume correctly that it's still at the front door where she put it?


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (9/20/2020)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2020 3:05 pm 
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I love this story, Willow is so... Awful lol, like in an understandable darkness taking over way, but she's genuinely unpleasant to read and it's rare for fan fics to "go there", it makes this story fascinating. Tara's pain is so well done, as is Buffys detachment.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (9/20/2020)
PostPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:50 am 
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Wills redemption:

Quote:
What a mess! :cry


It is a mess.

Quote:
I'm wondering how Tara came to this assumption. In truth she has no idea how Willow feels or what she does to cope. All what she knows is that Willow apparantly reads "dark" magic books now and stayed away from home all night (at least the latter is highly unusual for Willow and an indication that she is not "unaffected").


I see this differently, hopefully this next chapter will explain some more, make it more clear how Tara is feeling.

Quote:
So sad that Willow lashed out at Buffy like this. :cry I fervently hope that Dawn really was upstairs in her bedroom during this conversation and didn't hear this remark. The only thing that gives me a little hope is that Willow not only felt sorry for what she said, but really made an effort to apologize and "take it back". But the damage was already done.


It is sad, there was a way I meant for Buffy's comment to her (about her duty. again.) to come across that would have made Willow's reaction a little more understandable, It seems it wasn't successful - but Willow is still lashing, she has a lot going on.

Quote:
I'm really wondering if and how you will keep Willow from hitting rock bottom by causing the car accident in her dark magic high and injuring Dawn. Maybe when Willow wants to leave the house to visit Rack the next time she will stumble over Tara's photo box and that might spark some positive change? Because when you wrote about Tara's flight from the house you didn't mention her taking the box with her, so do I assume correctly that it's still at the front door where she put it?


For all this, I will have to say, it will be covered :) thanks for your feedback!



leftindust I mentioned this above as well, I think I maybe didn't describe the situation between Buffy and Willow as well as I had it in my head. It's weid, I shouldn't be surprised to read that Willow is being unpleasant and you are not the first one to sat that, but I was. I am glad it is understandable. I just hope I can redeem her successfully, because all of her reactions are coming from very hurt places and unwise choices. Thanks so much for leaving feedback.


NOTE: So I wrestled a lot with this chapter, it was finished then I tore it apart in an effort to make it less angsty, then went back to a lot of the original because it just wasn't working.
As it is now, I am not 100% pleased but I can't fight it anymore lol- let me know what you think. This latest iteration has not been beta'd.

I don't want this fic to be a suffer fest, but I also know that for where I am hoping to go with it, the hard emotional work has to be done by the characters, I only hope I can make it all worth it. Thanks for reading and especially thank you to those who leave feedback. It is invaluable and really does make me think about the choices I make, it helps shape the story.

That said: it's still pretty angsty. It will get better, I promise.




WILDERNESS

all the disclaimers still apply




CH 24: Sparks



Anger never settles in her. For so long, it was pushed and molded and squeezed under fear and self-recrimination without being recognized. Anger was the tight slash of her father’s mouth, the simmering tremble of energy that clung to her brother, the demon inside her. And anger was fuel for the reckless use of magic. It wasn’t safe to be around anger and it wasn’t safe to feel it. But now, she felt the protesting surge of anger that cannot settle. It was loneliness and futility and the scream of being dismissed. Echoes sparked in her mind.

She had run because she’d known, with every fiber of her being. She’d run because no one had come to get her. Tara had been sitting in her back row seat, listening to Ms. Howard’s desperate attempt at engaging her students in the tragedy of Othello, when she felt the world go wrong. She knew. Something had happened and it veiled her in dread. Books abandoned on an inconspicuous desk, Tara bolted to the office. Panic overrode her usually shy demeanor and she startled the woman who occupied the front, “Did anyone call for me? For Tara Maclay.”

“I know who you are, Ms. Maclay.” Of course she did, everyone knew ‘that Maclay family’, and the woman’s derisive tone would have shamed Tara had it been any other moment. “No one has called for you.” The least she could do done, the woman turned back to her typewriter and began punching the keys. The dread was becoming a crippling constriction and Tara knew she had to go, she had to see her mother. So she ran. She ran off the school grounds, ran until her lungs burned, until she skidded to a stop in front of the boxy white building of St. Charles Hospital. Stars exploded behind her eyes and she gasped in air, but she moved forward, walking the familiar path to her mother’s hospital room. At the door she hesitated only a moment, grounding herself with a deep breath, before carefully pushing it open. Tears rushed in immediately, shimmering in a pool and distorting Tara’s vision before they fell. She stepped in, broken and afraid, “Mama?”

Her father was sitting on the small metal framed bed, and Tara saw his head had been bent before he turned to look at her. “Tara?” he asked, surprise and regret evident in his voice and etched in his hard face. She felt sparks, agony and rage at being kept out of this moment igniting, threatening.

“Tarebear?” It was the soft, deep tones of her mother’s voice. The sparks simmered and cooled.


The sun momentarily blinded Tara and she was jolted back to the present, even as the maddening pulse of her heartbeat tied her to the echoes of that terrible day. Tara remembered rushing to her mother’s bedside, clinging desperately to her body. She had been so grateful that her Mama had asked her father to leave, just for a minute. Just a last moment for only them.

Donnie had said Mama hadn’t wanted her there, had hissed lies at her while their father said his goodbyes. Like a wildfire, the anger and hurt and betrayal resurfaced and Tara had fought hard to keep it controlled. “Maybe she didn’t want you here because she wanted to die with some dignity.” These were Donnie’s last words to her that day and they had unleashed the flames. From where she stood Tara had raised her head, the swollen red vessels of her eyes framing an inferno of blue. She’d felt magick swell within her, but this energy was sullied. It was volatile and insistent. And then Tara’s father was there- distant and blank- and the magic in Tara died.



Exhaustion slammed into Tara’s frame, dispelling the anger and quelling the memory that had overtaken her. She stood in front of UC Sunnydale, although she couldn’t recall any of the journey that took her there. As Dormer Hall came into view, Tara slowed, clearing the thoughts that had crowded her and in the stillness was struck with clarity. She had not been able to understand why her past was haunting her, but it all made a terrifying kind of sense. She hadn’t dealt with it, not really, and it was resurfacing because she was too raw to deny it, because these feelings; the devastation, the betrayal had lived under her skin, buried and forgotten under the wonder of loving Willow and the lives they led. They had been unearthed.

She climbed the stairs to her room wearily, arms limp at her sides when she remembered the box of photos she had taken from her old room, now sitting in the foyer. She winced as she thought about how she had left, brushing past Buffy without even a nod of acknowledgment, forgetting the box in her haste. She would apologize. When she went back for the box later. After sleep.

Tara keyed into her room and fell onto her bed, curling under the star patterned blanket. There was a chance that she would see Willow if she went back, and Tara wasn’t sure she could handle that today; though her heart beat with longing at the possibility.

She’d been losing herself in daydreams, floating away without realization into scenarios where everything was better. In them, there would be a knock on Tara’s door, and Willow would be on the other side, red hair mussed from running, cheeks stained by tears that fell from clear, knowing, green eyes. Willow would declare her love, tell Tara that she was more important than the magick, no matter how powerful it made her. She would swear she would never hurt Tara again. Tara would cup Willow’s cheek, crying with relief and neither would know who started the kiss, but they would melt into it together. And they would be ok.

It was a fantasy and Tara knew it, it wouldn’t be that easy, they had to build trust, they had to heal. But it was also hope and Tara desperately clung to it. Seeing the books on Willow’s desk, hearing Amy talk of the recklessness with which they had used magic had dissipated that hope, because Tara believed that if her leaving didn’t cause a change in Willow nothing she did would. She felt helpless. She felt inconsequential. It was a lonely agony she knew well, its marking had been etched into her skin like an ancient tattoo, and for much of her life, she wore it with a learned comfort.

It wasn’t comfortable anymore.

As sleep claimed her, still caught in the liminal space, Tara heard Willow’s voice, heard the words that had once been given to her, “You’re essential.”

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/03/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2020 3:16 am 
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Poor Tara, once again being plagued by very painful memories! Donnie, what an arsehole! :fit

Quote:
She’d been losing herself in daydreams, floating away without realization into scenarios where everything was better. In them, there would be a knock on Tara’s door, and Willow would be on the other side, red hair mussed from running, cheeks stained by tears that fell from clear, knowing, green eyes. Willow would declare her love, tell Tara that she was more important than the magick, no matter how powerful it made her. She would swear she would never hurt Tara again. Tara would cup Willow’s cheek, crying with relief and neither would know who started the kiss, but they would melt into it together. And they would be ok.

It was a fantasy and Tara knew it, it wouldn’t be that easy, they had to build trust, they had to heal. But it was also hope and Tara desperately clung to it. Seeing the books on Willow’s desk, hearing Amy talk of the recklessness with which they had used magic had dissipated that hope, because Tara believed that if her leaving didn’t cause a change in Willow nothing she did would. She felt helpless. She felt inconsequential.

I feel for Tara, but I also think she is too passive here, just waiting for Willow to "come to her senses" and seek her out to ask for forgiveness (although Willow doesn't even know where she lives right now). I don't like that with the decision to leave Willow Tara seems to have given up any fight for her. And although she knows and fears the danger of dark magic and "overusing" magic she seems to underestimate how much it affects Willow, not seeing an addiction but only a "bad habit" that Willow could overcome without any outward help if she just "really" wanted to.

Quote:
She winced as she thought about how she had left, brushing past Buffy without even a nod of acknowledgment, forgetting the box in her haste. She would apologize. When she went back for the box later. After sleep.

Tara keyed into her room and fell onto her bed, curling under the star patterned blanket. There was a chance that she would see Willow if she went back, and Tara wasn’t sure she could handle that today; though her heart beat with longing at the possibility.

I hope that she will encounter Willow when she goes back to the house to get the box and that finallysome positive change will come from this!
Hopefully Tara will be subconsciously spurred on to realize that Willow needs active help and to fight for her by this dreamlike memory:
Quote:
As sleep claimed her, still caught in the liminal space, Tara heard Willow’s voice, heard the words that had once been given to her, “You’re essential.”


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/03/2020)
PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 5:38 pm 
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Wills-redemption: I have gone back and forth with responding to your feedback. I really do appreciate that you always read and comment- thank you for that, sincerely. But, more and more I feel like you just don't like the story, that you are looking for a different story. There are many many, really wonderful, stories where Tara goes and saves Willow, some even deal with Tara's background a little, but in the end it is generally focused on Willow's struggles- For me, why I am writing this is so Tara also gets to process, so that the traumas she has gone through are recognized and so she gets a chance to heal for herself, this is her journey as much as Willow's. As I have said over again- all will be happy in the end. If Tara was giving up, then that would never happen.




Wilderness

All disclaimers and want for feedback apply.

Notes: This episode really has nothing to do with the episode Harsh Light of Day. Don't forget to vote!!!





Ch 25: Harsh Light of Day

Beams of sunlight poured aggressively through the gap in the living room curtains, indicating that it was now just after noon. The harsh light blinded Buffy, stark and unyielding like judgment. The shadows had called to her and she had answered, chosen it over the light of day and family and living. Buffy rotated her neck against the back of her hand, wincing as she tried to mollify the resounding effects of last night. Her thighs quivered in remembrance of Spike’s firm hands on her, urgently tearing at her zipper. He’d touched her with a gentle ferocity- on the knife-edge between monster and man. She replayed the moment she’d let go, head thrown toward the sky, screaming everything and nothing but release. Blinking sharply, she forced herself into the present. Here, now, in the living room. Home.

A tapping caught her attention and she shaded her eyes against the light to see Dawn, perched on the couch, back slumped over the coffee table. “You know Willow will murder you if get milk on that thing.” Buffy said, the banter familiar if half-hearted.

Dawn sat with the coffee table pulled close to her legs, eating a bowl of sugary cereal while typing one-handed on Willow’s laptop. Dawn looked up, the spoon aimed precariously toward her mouth, “I’m being careful,” she grumbled just as a sip of milk slipped off the spoon and dribbled down the front of her. Placing the bowl back on the table, Dawn slowly pushed it several inches away from the computer. Buffy watched the white soak into the fabric, discoloring the chipper yellow ‘Meh’ scrawled across the shirt. She thought about how the Buffy of last spring would have reacted to Dawn’s mishaps and wanted that back: the quips and eye rolls, playful, teasing, annoyed… something. Things that felt inaccessible. Some days were better than others, but after the night spent with Spike- the things she had let him do- after this morning’s guilt and the tense conversation with Willow, all Buffy felt was a stagnant shameful weight in her solar plexus. It demanded almost everything she had to give, but Buffy fought through the impulse to shut down. Dawn needed her to. “Homework?”

“No, I’m um, I’m just up looking up stuff on panic attacks,” Dawn hedged, feeling guilty though she couldn’t figure out why, “I want to know how to help if… I mean, if it happens again.”

The couch cushion dipped as Buffy sat beside her, hands clasped in her lap. “I think she’s dealt with them for a while, Dawn.”

Dawn blinked in surprise as she turned to face her sister, “You do? Did she say something [br1] ?”

“Not much, but she knows how to take care of herself.”

Dawn nervously turned the ring on her forefinger, “She looked so scared.”

Buffy surprised herself as she reached toward her sister, gently pushing long brown hair over Dawn’s shoulder. There was something pushing at her, somewhere inside her, that made Buffy hopeful and terrified, “You did great Dawn.”

The moment lingered just a bit, then Dawn flicked her eyes toward her sister, face flush and smiling softly, “She seemed a lot better last night.”

“Good,” Buffy hesitated, “did you guys have plans to hang out?”

“No, I called her- it was really late and no one was here…” Dawn watched Buffy’s face fall, “I tried to call Xander first, I wouldn’t have-“

“I’m sorry,” soft-spoken words interrupted, “someone should have been home with you.”

The harsh light moved behind the curtains and eased into a diffused dandelion hum. Dawn shifted in the muted glow, “If Tara still lived here, someone would have been.”

“Dawn, you know it’s not that simple.”

“I know. It’s just…. they were yelling at each other this morning.”

“They were?”

“You were here- what did your Slayer hearing go defective?” Dawn teased but her voice remained soft, and a small smile lifted her lips. It felt good to dig at Buffy, it felt normal.

With a matching smile, Buffy gave Dawn a sideways glance, “That wasn’t Tara, that was Amy- Tara left right as I got home.”

Pieces fell together and Dawn nodded. She had thought someone had left, but when Buffy walked in, she figured it was just Buffy coming home. Dawn mentally built the scene, trying to understand and becoming agitated by the picture that seemed to be forming, “Are Willow and Amy- like a couple now? Because it hasn’t even been a month, and Tara’s really hurting.”

“Dawn, I am pretty sure Willow and Amy are just friends. And, you know, Willow is dealing how she needs to, she’s hurting too.” The words were right, but they held little conviction. Buffy had kept a distance, physically and emotionally, from Willow since she came back. She hadn’t let herself examine the reasons but there was an icy barrier that stood between them. Buffy had struggled with all her relationships but she felt most of those walls starting to melt with time; she couldn’t melt with Willow. She could barely look at Willow. Part of her wondered if that was why she had found it easier to talk to Tara, it wasn’t the same- it probably wasn’t even fair- but Buffy felt that she and Tara shared a wound formed by Willow’s betrayal. It felt unfair, on both counts- Tara was easy to talk to because she was Tara- and misery loves company, and all that. It didn’t stop feeling partially true.

Dawn’s pitched worry broke her thoughts, “But, she’s out with Amy all the time and she’s still messing around with magics.”

“Look,” Buffy stood, aloof, clearly wanting to change the subject, “it’s not really our business.”

Dawn scrambled against the apathy that once again filmed over Buffy’s eyes, “But it is- I mean we’re supposed to be a family, aren’t we?”

“We are, but some things are private.” Buffy turned away, closing the discussion, “I’m going to get some juice.”

Dawn stood, fighting, challenging for her sister, “I don’t get it.”

“Get what, Dawn?” Arms dropped in weary exasperation as Buffy turned back. The sunlight now slanted across Dawn, cutting her in half as she stood defiantly across the room.

“Does there have to be a crisis happening for you to care?” Dawn was electrically alive, ions pulsing like an aura . The sight and Dawn’s words jolted Buffy, stunning her momentarily.

Three loud, precise knocks broke the moment, and the sisters looked at each other curiously. Neither was expecting anyone. Dawn stepped out of the severing light and toward the door and it struck Buffy like loss.

“Hello! I’ve come for Tara’s box.”

There was a moment of silence before Dawn lost her stoic resolve, trying and failing to hide a snicker behind her hand giggling even as Buffy shot her a bemused look.

“Hi, Anya,” Buffy waved her inside, “you’re looking for Tara’s box?” A snort got Dawn swatted out of the foyer, “I mean, what?”

In type-A form, Anya stepped into the house with an agenda and a timetable. The full blare of the sunlight echoed off her yellow kick-pleated dress, hanging in neat lines around a slim figure. “Tara called me this morning at the shop. She was thoughtful enough to not call during peak business hours when I need to be tending to customers.” The ‘not’ was emphasized, the words pointed and loud enough for Dawn to hear from the living room.

“I’m sorry, geez.”

“Well, anyway, Tara said she left a box here, by the door,” the yellow pleats swirled as Anya moved her body right then left, eyes finding the box tucked against the wall, “Oh! Like this one- ‘Tara- Photos and Books.” The heavy box was easily lifted into Anya’s arms and she smiled, her task completed. “Well, I’m on my way, Xander is watching the shop and that’s just not good for business,” and then she was gone.

The whirlwind of Anya settled and Buffy turned to see the still waters of Dawn, facing her from the other room, arms tucked like armor, the brevity of mirth gone, “She’s really moving out isn’t she?”

“She already moved out Dawn, and she needs her things.”

“Can we invite her to Thanksgiving?”

“I don’t know, it’s probably too soon, we’d have to check with Willow.”

“Check with Willow about what?” Running a hand through addled hair, Willow stepped into view at the top of the stairs. Her face was pale and drawn, her lips taut, eyes cloudy and introverted.

Dawn looked at Buffy, who stared at her feet in avoidance, and straightened her back bravely, “Inviting Tara for Thanksgiving. She shouldn’t be alone.”

Dawn tracked Willow’s movement as she continued down the stairs, running shaking fingers along the banister and taking each step with an awkward caution. The sunlight glimmered off red hair just once as Willow continued her movement into the kitchen, mumbling, “She won’t come.”

“I think,” Buffy started, and Dawn looked to her, hopeful, begging for Buffy’s guidance, “I think I’m going to go train.” Dawn stood motionless. She watched the light bounce off Buffy’s keys, left on a side table, as the front door clicked shut.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 11:52 pm 
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I'm a little unsure how to respond to your reply to my last feedback. I wouldn't say that I don't like your story. It's a very well written study of the emotional suffering of Tara, Willow, Buffy and Dawn. Plus you use beautiful imagery, gems like:
Quote:
Dawn was electrically alive, ions pulsing like an aura .


But I have to admit I find it hard that (apart from the flashbacks to our couple in times before the breakup) every chapter I've waited 2 weeks for just brings more misery for our beloved characters and any hope I had for some "breakthrough" or any positive change from the dark canon story line is dashed - like reading in this chapter that Tara shied away from going back to the house to get the box herself but send Anya instead so there was no chance for a real conversation between her and Willow and Willow probably doesn't even know that Tara's "memory box" is gone at all. I can't even blame Tara for not having the strength to go back and face Willow again, but the hopelessness in which all of our beloved girls are trapped in with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel is really starting to pull me down (especially in the difficult times we all live in right now).

I don't know if it's too much to ask for, but could you give us an approximate timeline when (I assume in the next year?) things will finally start to change for the better (like Willow realizing and starting to fight her addiction, may it be with Tara's help or without)? I might decide to take a break in reading the story until then and read all the other sad, "dark" chapters in "one go".


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:31 pm 
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Hi Wills_redemption, thanks for replying and expanding on your feelings. I had been reading some of your feedback (outside of the very kind words you have given me) as a disappointment in Tara's choices and actions, that she is judging Willow unfairly and being too passive and like she is not putting herself aside to go help Willow- and I pushed back because, while I understand the want for that story, it isn't what I am going for here. I really wanted to give Tara space to find herself, and more so, to deal with the trauma that she must be dealing with- and part of that has to do with Will's actions- I felt like you were not liking the bits of Tara struggling because she wasn't helping Willow - I think I may have said this before but this started as a solely Tara's journey story, but I realized that I really had to address Willow's as well (and I am finding that I love her even more as I explore all that she has been through). I want to explore what they are both going through psychologically during this dark part of S6.

It is taking a looooooooong time- I recognize that, and part of that is wanting to do a deep dive and part of it me being aI new writer probably. I absolutely understand that it is a lot. Especially right now. I started writing this well before Covid and the racial justice uprisings and everything else that is going on, and I have considered stopping because of of all that but I don't want to lose steam and definitely don't want to drop off and leave it in such a dark place (and believe it or not, I have made it a little less angsty). But again, I do realize that it has been a lot of pain and angst, I have tried to have a purpose for it but that doesn't make it any more tolerable (I add the flashbacks as a little bit of reprieve as well as them just being a delight to come up with) , I totally respect where you are coming from there. Below I will map out some of what I have written so you know what to expect (I do edit a lot which is why things are posted slowly but I have the whole story more or less mapped out).

If anyone else is reading this, below be possible spoilers.....................................

The next chapter is a flashback- it is actually one that has already been posted here as a one-shot, I will put that up in a few days.
Then, there is a connection made, and things slowly get a little better- at least in W and T's attitudes (for lack of better words)- this is about 7 or 8 chapters-
Willow has not yet hit bottom though, so briefly they get a little worse- it won't be precisely what happens in the show. Tara is going to find someone from her past, this will help her find clarity. this isn't fully written yet but I am guessing 3-4 chapters (?)
They will begin connecting more and healing together after that, it will be slow but hopefully by then the light will be bright and shiny and just at the end of the tunnel.



I hope that helps- they will get there, I promise, but it will still take a bit of time. Hopefully I can stay ahead of myself and post more frequently. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 3:50 am 
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For what it's worth, I actually think you're managing this dark story really well. Willow is borderline unlikeable but considering what she's going through it makes sense. I love how you've written Buffy, and as someone who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety I think Tara is done brilliantly.

Yeah, the story is super sad and angsty but there's loads of fluffy W/T fics out there. I like this darker exploration and can't wait for more - even if its sad, its intriguing.

I do wish you'd post it more frequently though haha, I'm glad you didn't give up on it considering the world's current craziness.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 2:58 pm 
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Leftindust: it's worth a lot (it's actually my birthday, this was nice to wake up to) thank you!

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:40 pm 
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Happy Birthday Shirrey! :heart :banana :dumbo


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:48 am 
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To piggyback off of Leftindust, I think this story is very well written and laid out. Willow is one of my favorite characters from the show and you have depicted her in such a realistic way (selfish, arrogant, self pitying etc.) that the show touched on slightly in the beginning of season 6 but never fully grasped, that she's coming off as unlikable which I'm liking immensely. I'm also digging your portrayal of Buffy; her disconnect from the world is so wonderfully illustrated that it's hard not to feel sorry for her.

I'm all for angsty stories that take a slow dive into piecing back together a broken relationship, it makes the buildup to the reconciliation feel so much better. Looking forward to the next chapter.

_________________
Alyson, oh, Alyson why don´t you join my band? So you could play the flute like this one time in band camp.
I Am Forever / A Special Christmas of Sorts / Maybe It's Just Me / Honeysuckle Rose /Blackouts and Breakthroughs / When Love Arrives


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2020 10:54 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs

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I disagree to the Leftindust's and mmmh-Hot-Sauce's opinion that you write Willow as "unlikeable". My heart aches for her struggles in the trap of beginning addiction and isolation that is mainly self-inflicted but I think the others "family members" are also to blame for the total mess they are all in now. And it's not as if Willow doesn't make any effort to reconnect with the others (she practically BEGGED for an honest conversation with Dawn and profusely and sincerely apologized to Buffy for her mean comment about having to take care of Dawn). I actually love about your story that you don't write anyone as the "bad guy" (well except from Rack and I have no problem with being able to hate him uncondtionally :wink ).


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/18/2020)
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2020 9:40 pm 
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For Wills_redemption, leftindust, and mmm-Hot-sauce: Thank you all so much for your comments!
Willow being unpleasant: Yeah, she is, people on other sites have commented on that as well. But I keep thinking back to how horrible Willow was to Tara in All the Way at the Bronze, Willow was being a jerk at this point in the show (although I actually think what she said to Tara about keeping her mouth shut was a little too far and teetering on out of character.) I am glad that her unpleasantness works and makes sense overall.
As for writing her: I am coming at her actions from the places Wills_redemption talked about (and of course, what BtVS gives us)- Willow is in a world with new found power but also of pain and confusion and all sorts of other feelings that are weighing on her. I know this isn't news to anyone :)

Leftindust
Quote:
I love how you've written Buffy, and as someone who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety I think Tara is done brilliantly.


Thank you, I definitely have dug into my own experiences when writing Tara


Mmm-Hot_sauce

Quote:
I'm all for angsty stories that take a slow dive into piecing back together a broken relationship, it makes the buildup to the reconciliation feel so much better
thanks, I (obviously) also enjoy the long road, I want them both to be able to heal

Quote:
I'm also digging your portrayal of Buffy; her disconnect from the world is so wonderfully illustrated that it's hard not to feel sorry for her.


I am so glad that is coming across, thank you!


Wills-redemption: thanks so much for the birthday wishes!!:) and I agree, Willow is not the only one making things difficult, and she is trying.

Quote:
I actually love about your story that you don't write anyone as the "bad guy" (well except from Rack and I have no problem with being able to hate him uncondtionally :wink ).


Thank you, I think everyone has their demons to fight (pun intentional :)) - Rack does too, but he is too much of a dumpster fire to care about.








Wilderness

All disclaimers apply
feedback yes please
Please ask if you want to post this elsewhere
I own nothing but my dreams




Notes: This is a flashback and has actually already been posted on pens as a one-shot, so it's not totally new, but here it is in it's place in the larger story.




Ch 26: Thanks Given


Set the previous Thanksgiving



The house smelled warm and buttery, like fresh bread. The scent welcomed Tara, dipping and swirling around her like cleansing sage. It was the scent of her mother in the mornings, pulling a fresh loaf from the oven. Tara remembered her mother would always hum while making bread and Tara would watch her trying to catch the tune so she could hum along. These moments were stolen and serene, just Tara and her mother and the scent of rising dough.

Tara stood, momentarily stunned, her hand in Willow’s as they crossed the threshold into the Summers’ home. It was Thanksgiving Day and Tara felt the exquisite weight of gratitude as she exhaled.

“Baby?” Willow had stopped when Tara had, their steps in tune, “Everything ok?”

Tears shimmered in Tara’s eyes, reflecting Willow in a sea of blue, her smile watery and thoughtful. She squeezed Willow’s hand, “The smell, it reminds me of my mom.” A tear broke loose and tumbled down the pale cheek.

“Oh baby,” Willow moved in close, taking Tara’s other hand and squeezing them both, sending stability and love through the connection. Tara placed her forehead against Willow’s, and shook her head slightly against it.

“I’m ok, I’m so ok,” Tara reassured and a joyful giggle erupted from her belly, “I’m with my family.” Tears fell freely now and Tara pulled back with a slight dip of her head, embarrassed to be crying in the foyer of someone else’s home. She stepped back once more, planning to continue her way into the house but Willow tugged the hand she still held, bringing Tara into her embrace. The question in Tara’s eyes was answered in Willow green. And then Willow placed her hand softly on Tara’s cheek and pulled them together into a kiss that promised ‘Always’.
Their lips pressed together softly, knowingly. Tara’s kisses had always been amazing, Willow thought, but since Tara’s twentieth birthday- just over a month ago now- her kisses had been more… free, complete. As the secrets between them had dissolved, Tara was finally able to believe in the truth of Willow’s love, in her place as part of a family. The kiss ignited them and they pushed closer together. Willow bit Tara’s lower lip gently before tongues slipped together. It was tender, it was sensual, it was whole; it was interrupted.

“Whoa kissin' wiccans!” Xander stepped back bumping into Anya who stood in the open front door, an expensive bottle of wine held away from the impact. Tara pulled back, ducked her head and wished she had left her hair down today. A bright blush broke over her chest and spread up to her cheeks. Willow stood tall, proudly grinning at the new arrivals.
Anya simply brushed past Xander while using a finger to nudge his chin, “Close your mouth, Xander.”

Willow and Tara smiled at each other and followed Anya into the house.

Soon all were sitting at the dining room table while Joyce and Buffy took turns moving in and out of the kitchen, bringing and replacing plates of food and drinks. Laughter and endless chatter filled the air. Dawn rattled on about her friend Melinda’s older brother and Anya told horrifying stories of the demon Santa Claus- single-handedly crushing everyone’s childhood. Xander complained that he felt like barfing more than once, and Giles leered each time, while Joyce patiently took it as a compliment. And Tara’s smile was beaming as she looked around, engaging in the lively conversation with a foreign ease. The fire crackled as the scent of warm apple cinnamon seeped into her skin. She and Willow had held hands even as they ate and both felt enormously full joy. And, in Willow’s case, nog.

Willow slumped into her chair with a decidedly uncomfortable look on her face, “I had too much nog.”

“Oh, baby, want me to rub your tummy?” caught up in the ease she felt, Tara turned with a smile toward the group. It was the smile of a woman so giddy in love she couldn’t help but share everything about their life together. “She likes it when I…” Then in a moment of mortification, she realized what she was sharing, and she dropped her eyes, “stop explaining things.”

Time seemed to slow and lingering insecurity crept in. Tara was sure all eyes were on her, judging her as the embarrassment she was. She had embarrassed Willow too and that was worse. But Willow squeezed her fingers again and laid her head on Tara’s shoulder. Tara sighed and nuzzled her cheek into Willow’s hair. She dared a look at the group sat at the table.

No one was watching, no one was judging. Okay, Dawn was glancing at them. And snickering behind her hand. But the grin was playful and her eyes danced with glee. Joyce and Giles were conversing. Anya and Xander shared a knowing smile. And Buffy. Tara had to look beyond the table to see Buffy, leaning against the kitchen entryway, watching the group with a thankful grin. Tara caught her eye and in silent agreement, they communicated how grateful they were for this time, these people.

………….

The November air was crisp and woody as Willow, Tara and Buffy reached the entrance of the residence hall. The walk from the Summers’ house had been lively and silly, Buffy and Willow both animated as they regaled Tara with tales of the previous year’s Thanksgiving.

“I practically had to sit on Will to make her stay,” Buffy related with a smirk.

“Well it’s a horrible holiday!” Willow protested, wearing her most indignant frown, “all with the yay us! We slaughtered and diseased and took child brides! Let’s celebrate with dead flesh!”

Buffy rolled her eyes before looking to Tara to share the sentiment. But Tara just scrunched her nose.

“It’s true; it’s a pretty horrific tradition.” Tara shrugged.

Buffy feigned betrayal, putting her hand over her heart dramatically, “Not you too?”

Willow smiled smugly as her hand snaked around Tara’s side, “My baby’s got my back.”

“Actually, history’s got your back, sweetie,” Tara clarified before whispering lowly just for her girl, “but I’ll get your back later, and your front if you let me.”

Eyes widening, Buffy stopped dead in her tracks, “Tara! Slayer hearing!” Tara couldn’t help but blush but she refused to duck her head, a sly smile curving her lips.

“My girl’s not as innocent as she seems.” Willow’s proud statement tipped the scales though and Tara did duck her head, squeezing more tightly into the safety of Willow.

“Oh, really?” Buffy teased. She shook her head and laughed internally, it was so good to see this side of Tara; Buffy was finally starting to understand the wonderful, quirky, woman who had stolen her best friend’s heart.

Taking in her girlfriend’s discomfort, Willow ended the conversation, but she couldn’t help teasing both women a little further, “You can use your imagination from there.”

Tara sputtered, feeling her face grow even hotter. She wanted to be part of the gang, get to know them all, but Willow had just thrown her in the deep end when she was just starting to wade her way in. Thankfully, Buffy decided not to pursue it any further.

“Um, I’ll pass. Not that you aren’t lovely Tara, just…”

“No explanation needed, or imagining,” some side-eye duly chastised Willow for completely over-sharing.

With a well-practiced pout, Willow gave her best puppy-eyes, “Sorry, baby.”

Maybe the water was warming, because Tara boldly placed her lips on Willow’s, kissing her softly, “Forgiven.” The trio continued walking, but for Willow and Tara, there was nothing and no one else as they glanced coyly at each other.

“Anyway Will,” Buffy spoke up, suddenly feeling like the third wheel, “you seemed all in the T-day spirit this year.”

“Well, this year is special,” A soft glow seemed to emanate from Willow as she stopped again and pulled a dreamy Tara fully into her arms.

Tara’s face was open and beautiful and she fell into adoring green eyes. “Very special,” she whispered, and Buffy would say later that she actually saw love hearts float up between them. They were at their destination, and Buffy was keen to make a smooth exit.

“Ok, love birds, I’m a-hunting,” a slight wave accompanied Buffy’s swift departure.

“Wascally wabbits,” Tara tried to call in response, but her voice remained soft, captured in the intimate world she stood in with Willow.

“You’re so cute.” Willow giggled.

“Shall we?” As one they turned, hands slipping together instinctively. They were silent as they climbed the stairs to their shared room. Tara’s gaze never left the beautiful planes of her lover’s face as Willow unlocked the door. No words were spoken as Tara reached first for Willow’s bag and coat, placing them on a chair, then reached for Willow. Tara continued to study Willow’s features, her forefinger trailing her gaze to caress each brow, each cheekbone, across slightly parted lips. It was a forest fire and ice on a leaf. It was the aurora borealis, awesome and beautiful, and rare. It was Willow. It was them.

The moment overwhelmed her and Tara looked down, watching as slim fingers came into view and slid down the low-cut v in her blouse, slipping under the fabric to trace the swell of her breast. Tara gasped lightly, feeling her nipples harden at the light touch. What had overwhelmed her now ignited. Her skin tingled with want and her body flowed like lava, hot and needy, and liquid. She pulled Willow in fiercely, devouring her mouth with the hunger of a god. Willow felt her knees dip and her senses fall into the heat pulsing between her legs, radiating through every nerve. They fumbled together, clothes torn off and over and down, and fell on the bed, limbs entwined. Their language was low moans and rhapsodic gasps and hot breath that left sonnets on skin. And as they entered each other, held each other in that intimate embrace, as they stroked and kissed and touched, one word came forth, whispered like a benediction, “Love.”

The chill rested against the window glass, unable to penetrate the room where Tara laid with her head on Willow’s chest, listening to the slowing breath as her lover rested. Their bodies were wrapped tightly under a red comforter, limbs crossed over limbs, hands ever caressing.

Willow twirled the ends of Tara’s hair, it was darker than when they met, Tara had grown out the blonde and let her natural honey-color show. It was earthy and warm and, Willow thought, perfectly Tara. She used the tip of hair to tickle Tara’s cheek lightly and Tara giggled, looking up with deep blue eyes heavy with satiety. Willow felt her chest flutter at the look, and then dip when Tara half-smiled. The smile was enigmatic, and it held so many meanings, but Willow had learned to read it. This time that smile meant, ‘Vixen.’

Willow dropped her head and kissed the small upturn of Tara’s crooked mouth, “I’m thankful for you.” Tara paused, letting the words seep in before pressing her lips fully against Willow’s.

“I cannot express how thankful I am for you, darling, how lucky. I- I probably wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for you.”

The words alarmed Willow; she shifted and gave a light push under Tara’s arm so they could sit up together, “What do you mean?”

Tara ran her finger over Willow’s brow, smoothing it out, “I mean, I p-probably would have, I probably would have gone home.”

“I thought you were home?” Willow played and Tara kissed her forehead.

“You know what I mean.”

“I don’t think you would have.” Willow’s voice was low and assured. It wasn’t a rebuttal; it was faith in the woman before her.

Tara’s brow crumbled in confusion, she hadn’t yet shared that faith, “But I was going to leave –“

“Only because you thought you’d upset us.”

“I did upset, at least Buffy, I did.” Tara insisted, and there was that look in her eyes, the look of submission to a punishment never earned. Willow sat up, bringing both hands to cup Tara’s face. She held it firmly, waiting to speak until Tara looked at her fully.

“You made a mistake baby, we’ve been over this.”

“I know, and I know everyone forgives me, I just- I don’t know how I will ever repay them.”

“It’s not a loan,” Willow chided softly, tugging slightly at Tara’s waist in a gesture that emphasized how silly Tara was being.

Tara tilted her head in acknowledgment, but she felt indebted to the group, “I know, I just- if it weren’t for you all-“

Suddenly Willow understood and she interrupted before Tara could go on, “You think we saved you?” She watched in empathy as Tara shrugged and then tucked her arms around her torso, sinking into herself.

In the small glow of moonlight, filtered through the foggy glass, Tara was infinitely vulnerable. Tears stung the backs of Willow’s eyes as Tara sat before her and she wanted to weep because Tara still couldn’t see how strong she was. “No, we stood by you. Because you are loved, because you are our family, and because it was the right thing to do. And you told me you wanted to stay-“

“Of course I wanted to stay.” Tara started, still on shaky ground.

“So, what? We’re just going to let some – your father rip you out of here, no way,” Willow smiled as Tara visibly relaxed, squeezing Willow’s shin once for her almost slip before shifting her body against Willow’s side, her head resting on a welcoming shoulder. Willow placed a kiss on Tara’s head then leaned her cheek against soft hair, “but Tarebear, you made the decision, in the end it was yours to make, and you did. You saved yourself by getting out of there in the first place- which is a story I have yet to hear- and you saved yourself on your birthday. You fought for you, and you make me proud.”

For several moments Tara didn’t move, didn’t respond as she felt the words seep in, and she felt a rush of peace as she let herself try to accept them. When she raised her head Willow was looking at her, waiting. No words could express the way Tara was feeling, but she knew her chest was tightening and tears sparked in her eyes. She simply shook her head, ever so slightly, in awe of the gifts Willow gave her. Tara placed their foreheads together again and left a long kiss on the back of Willow’s fingers before she finally spoke, “You know my mom used to call me that?”

“Proud?” Willow guessed, knowing it was true whether or not it was the answer.

Tara smiled wistfully and nudged her nose softly against Willow’s, “No, Tarebear.”

“Really?” Willow felt special, connected to the woman who had loved and raised her beautiful girl, but it was potentially becoming Oedipal, so, “Oh, is that weird….”

“No,” Tara breathed out the word, this was so important, “it makes me feel loved.”

“Well then Tarebear,” Willow moved over Tara, straddling the other woman’s lap. They moved in together and met with parted lips, tasting and connecting and coming home. Willow spoke in gasps between kisses, “since I love you and I want you to feel loved, I will use it every chance I get, Tarebear. Tarebear, Tarebear.” Their lips met again and again and hands roamed clenching and stroking each other’s hair. Tara slowed the kiss and moved her lips to caress Willow’s cheeks and down her jaw. She would touch Willow forever; she would give to her forever. She felt like the words to express what she felt had never been created.

“I love you so much, I just… I can’t even explain…” Hands smoothed over Willow’s shoulders as Tara kept kissing every bit of skin before her.

Willow once again took Tara’s face in her hands, stilling her movements. Their eyes said everything they needed to, “Then don’t, just kiss me.”

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/24/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2020 12:46 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

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Dibs! :whip
Wonderful flashback to much better times when Tara could bask in her newfound freedom and their relationship was kind of in the honeymoon stage.
These parts I loved the most:
Quote:
Tara continued to study Willow’s features, her forefinger trailing her gaze to caress each brow, each cheekbone, across slightly parted lips. It was a forest fire and ice on a leaf. It was the aurora borealis, awesome and beautiful, and rare. It was Willow. It was them.

So beautifully written! :flower
Quote:
She would touch Willow forever; she would give to her forever. She felt like the words to express what she felt had never been created.

“I love you so much, I just… I can’t even explain…” Hands smoothed over Willow’s shoulders as Tara kept kissing every bit of skin before her.

Willow once again took Tara’s face in her hands, stilling her movements. Their eyes said everything they needed to, “Then don’t, just kiss me.”

:bigkiss True love needs no grand words.

Reading about them so happy together and madly in love makes their bleak present state even harder to bear. But if I understood you correctly things will start to get a little better in the next chapters, so I'll try to be patient.


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/24/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2020 7:14 pm 
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8. Vixen

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I like how you are sharing your imagination of Tara's back story. It makes total sense that the breakup has triggered the last major trauma of Tara's; her mother dying. This is a sad story, and I too want the happily ever after, but the wait is worth it. Thanks for writing this story.

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Atlantic Antics Meeting Expectations
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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (10/24/2020)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:28 pm 
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Replies will come after I post-

Notes: nothing new.


Wilderness




Ch 27: Faith


Dormer Hall was draped in a hush that vacillated between tranquil and eerie. The long Thanksgiving break meant that most people had vacated and the lack of usual chaos left behind a ghost town quiet. Finally.

An annoyed grumble drifted from the occupant sprawled sideways in the disheveled bed. There was no movement save one eye reluctantly prying open as Tara lay with rag doll limbs, not bothering to push away the sleep-tangled hair draped across her face. For several moments she maintained the cranky look of too little sleep before popping her eyes open in realization. She turned and rested the bridge of her nose on the inside of a closed fist, propping her head slightly. She listened, eyes darting back and forth before releasing a grateful sigh and letting her head drop onto the pillow. Quiet.

Last night had apparently been someone’s last hurrah before the break and they’d celebrated by blaring 80’s pop tunes well into the night. Tara would swear she heard George Michael’s Faith played at least seventeen times as she tossed around in her bed, desperate for much needed sleep. She had liked that song once upon a time. Hearing it now would be sound motive for – well not murder, but some sort of retaliation. Finally at 3 A.M. , at least that was the last time Tara remembered checking the time, exhaustion claimed her.

Now awake, Tara rolled her pillowed head to the side and squinted at the new clock radio sitting on her nightstand. The glare of numbers clicked from 7:12 to 7:13 A.M. and Tara groaned pitifully at the early hour. Throwing an arm over her eyes, she flopped back on the bed. Then the thoughts started, rushing in like a flood. Ironically, she thought about sleep and how little she had been getting lately. Four hours was actually a good night, comparatively, but Tara had been looking forward to the quietness of the holiday, hoping it and a free schedule would let her catch up on much needed slumber. Tara grunted indignantly and pulled her pillow over her head pressing the end over her ears in a vain attempt to stave off reality. Then, ear-worming its way front and center: I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith. I gotta have faith.

Arms tossed to the side in a gesture of defeat, Tara rolled off the side of her bed only barely landing feet first. She ran her hand through her hair, finally pushing it back, and moved toward the bathroom to complete her morning routine, humming compulsively as she went. She stopped in the common room to make a cup of tea and some toast for breakfast and was halfway through the door when she spied a small radio tucked in a corner shelf. Shifting her mug to the crook of her arm, she took the radio in her other hand determined to flush out the catchy tune.
Bach filtered statically through the small speakers as Tara moved around her room, lighting candles and creating as open a space as possible on the floor. She set her barely eaten toast on the small desk and regarded the cardboard box placed beside it. The box had been sitting unopened since Monday. Tara had meant to retrieve it from the Magic Box on Sunday, but the encounter with Willow, and its aftermath, had stretched her nerves raw and Tara had spent most of the day in bed. Anya had surprised her with a drive-by drop off on her way to work Monday morning, scurrying away after a quick hello to open her shop. As the week progressed, time was swallowed by classes and frustratingly long hours trying to finish coursework with an unfocused mind. The early morning interaction with Willow played on an unbidden loop in her head, memories of her mother filling in rare gaps. Trying to force herself on task, Tara read aloud, paced the small space in front of her bed, drank copious amounts of hot tea- Lady Grey with a heavy splash of milk- and dropped into a short meditation once every few hours. In the end, her papers had been mediocre, enough to get by, she hoped, but nowhere near what she was capable of. Worrying about her grades and the grant tied to an expected GPA had only spiraled her anxiety further so, in an effort of self-care, she had convinced herself that she could only do what she could and hope for the best. School had always been easy for her, she learned quickly and had a sharp mind that made unique and deep connections- it was these skills she’d had to put her faith in. And dammit, that song was in her head again.

Tara visually traced the crumpled corner of the box, smiling wryly as she remembered Xander catching it on the banister in the Summers’ home when he’d helped she and Willow move in last summer. He’d looked like he’d ruined the finest china for a moment until Tara had assured him with a sweet smile. He’d blushed and continued up the stairs, shooting a crack about needing a wide berth.

Mug set to the side, Tara pushed the box to the open floor space. She felt the nervousness of anticipation but, thank the gods, no panic. Scooting on her knees, Tara pulled a pen from her desk top and used the point to slice through the clear tape that stretched over the box flaps. Inside sat a shoebox tied shut with an elastic band. She removed it carefully, reverently, and rolled her eyes at her own dramatics. After all, she’d seen these photos before, even if it had been a few years- but somehow it felt different- it felt important to look at them again. Maybe it was a clue to where to begin, how to deal with the unbidden memories that dragged her emotions behind them. And maybe when that was done, Tara would be able to mourn the loss of Willow, to learn how to start to heal. To maybe be in her life again, somehow.

Soon, photos sat ready in a small, messy pile on the floor. There weren’t a lot - maybe twenty-five in total - most of them taken since her time with Willow. Their favorites were still at the Summers’ house. Navigating by the shape of the photos- square and crisp for the newer ones, rounded and aged for the older- Tara quickly created two piles. She kept the newer, crisper photos face down, knowing she would be drawn into images of happier times with Willow. It was still too raw and she needed to focus, this time was about her past- her childhood- and the ghosts that had resurfaced.

The first rounded photo was of her mother, Kathryn, unaware of the camera as she looked out a window, her serene face half lit by the morning sun. Tara smiled softly, tracing her mother’s small crooked smile, so similar to her own. Every photograph was of her, either alone or with a young Tara, small and awkward and always looking at her mother. Tara spent time with each image, her gaze tracing every detail delicately. Grace and love allayed her heart even as loss sat heavy in her gut.

The fifth picture showed the front of the house, her mother standing in front of the big brown truck. She was smiling at someone who had been scratched out of the scene. Tara frowned, an uneasy pull shifting in her belly. Why would someone have scratched this person out? And why had she chosen to keep this photo? She certainly didn’t remember it. Careful eyes swept the image again, looking for clues. In the back of the truck was a red bicycle with blue and yellow tassels attached to the handles, captured in a still flow as the wind blew them upward.

The memory slammed into place.

Jaime. That was Jaime’s bike- the bike Tara had learned to ride on. God, she hadn’t thought about her aunt Jaime in years- no one had even spoken about her in so long. Jaime had been a constant presence for the first 8 years of Tara’s life, until one day she just wasn’t there anymore. Her mother had only said that Jaime had to go and when Tara pushed for why, her mother had uncharacteristically snapped at her, telling her to leave it be. The moment had shaken Tara enough that she held back any questions until the questions just went away. Was that Jaime under the scratches?

Tara leaned her back against the side of the bed, grounding herself to the solid form. With one hand, she reached behind her and wrapped the star-covered blanket around her waist, spreading it out over her legs as she continued to gaze at the photograph. A tremor of knowing danced on her spine. Tara sat for nearly an hour pulling up memories of Jaime. The first she recalled about her aunt were the jeans- a pair of well worn Levi’s that Jaime seemed to never take off- and the black Dr. Marten’s that were almost always on her feet, when she wore shoes. A lopsided grin tugged Tara’s lips as she gazed at her own boots, one toppled against the other next to her closet, she had never realized where she’d gotten her love of Doc’s before.

Further images formed- medium brown hair cut just above the shoulders, deep blue eyes that held both ferocity and delight, a frame more slender than her sister’s curvy form- curves Tara had inherited. Curves Willow loved.

Tara didn’t remember being alone with Jaime much, except for on the bike rides. In fact, as much as Tara was kept near the homestead, Jaime seemed to avoid it as much as possible. She had been tough, and silly, and always kept an eye out for Tara when she was around. How could she have forgotten?

A soft adagio was playing now, the only sound permeating the heavy silence. It struck Tara how different this day was, just a year ago, when everyone had gathered at Joyce’s and it had been noisy and wonderful.

Tara frowned in confusion at the eager knock on her door. She certainly wasn’t expecting any visitors today. Cautiously, she pulled the door open revealing Anya, wearing a thousand watt smile and a polka-dotted red dress straight out of the Golden Age. The look was completed by a full pie that Anya was now thrusting toward Tara, “Happy Thanksgiving! I bring you the traditional food offering of pie!”

Half stunned, half amused, Tara accepted the offering as she stepped backward, giving Anya space to move into the room and shut the door behind her.

“Oh! It’s pecan,” Tara smiled, shy but genuine, “it’s my favorite, thank you.”

“You are most welcome. I found it much more satisfying than pumpkin.”

Tara laughed softly and shrugged a single shoulder, “I like pumpkin too, but pecan is, like, tradition.”

Anya sat herself comfortably on the edge of the bed, gesturing at Tara to continue. Traditions fascinated her- they were like rituals.

“Oh, um, it j-just was something my m-mom and I used to make, um, together?”

“You’re stuttering, am I upsetting you?” Tara found the odd combination of frankness and sympathy endearing, so many people told stories around the truth and Anya’s honesty was always refreshing. Besides, Anya paid attention when it mattered.

“N-no,” Tara shook her head at the continued stutter, but managed to steady her voice “I’m fine, just, holidays, you know?”

“Oh I know!” Anya’s hand flew around in a dramatic flourish as she spoke, “Xander and I had Thanksgiving brunch with Mr and Mrs who-needs-eggs-when-there’s-free-mimosas Harris. That’s plural, many mimosas. I ducked out as soon as we got back, Mr. Harris is forcing Xander to yell at the TV and cheer when men pat each other on the ass - plus, I wanted to check in and bring you pie. You look terrible, by the way.”

“Gee thanks Anya.” Tara shifted in place, not from offense but wanting to avoid explaining how she looked.

“Well you do. You look even worse than when I saw you on Monday. Are you sick?”

“No, just, not sleeping much I guess.” Tara shrugged trying to brush off the conversation. This was Anya’s trademark frankness.

“Because of Willow?”

And sometimes the frankness was just uncomfortable. “Because of a lot of things,” Tara shifted and fought the urge to cross her arms, instead clasping her hands in front of her, “n- not that it’s not nice to see you, but shouldn’t you be having Thanksgiving with the others?”

“Oh we are, Xander and I will be bringing some chicken over at four.”

“Buffy’s not cooking?”

“Says she’s not up for it. Why don’t you come? I’m sure you’d be welcome.”

“I know, Dawn, um, called yesterday to invite me, I just-“

“Too soon,” Anya nodded.

“Mmm, p-plus I wanted the time to look at the photos you brought over,” Tara glanced at the piles before looking back at Anya, “th-thank you again for that by the way.”

Anya waved away the gratitude and peered at the piles on the floor, “Why are these turned over?” She asked as she placed the pile upright without thought. The top photo showed Willow and Tara at the Magic Box, leaned against the side of a bookcase, kissing softly, Tara’s palm resting lightly on Willow’s cheek. A quick glance at Tara’s downcast eyes alerted Anya to her mistake. Chagrined, she replaced the pile, “You really miss her don’t you?”

Tara nodded and crossed to sit on the bed. She sighed at the words pressing against the back of her teeth- pushing her tongue for release, “I keep thinking about h-how much she hates Thanksgiving but, last year, she made it wonderful, she made me feel so loved.”

“She still loves you,” Anya said, sure as fact.

Long hair draped her features as Tara lowered her head, eyes fixed on a spot on the carpet, “M-maybe. S-sometimes I w-wonder if she-“ Tara cut herself off with a shake of her head. Willow had loved her, Tara knew it was the truth, felt it deep within her. But now? She breathed deeply and looked at Anya, “I know a part of her still does- “ She had meant to sound more assured but it came out uncertain and lost.

“But?”

“But… nothing.” The look on Anya’s face reminded Tara she was a terrible liar. These were the things Anya noticed.

“You doubt it, ‘cause she did the magic whammy on you. More than once.”

Tara ducked her head again. She didn’t know anyone else knew about that- the first time.

“It’s hard not to… doubt, s-sometimes,” her voice was barely louder than a whisper but it strained and clipped. The bevy of tangled emotions sought release through a crack in the dam and Tara struggled not to cry. She didn’t understand why Willow would do those things to her, it was hard to not come up with her own reasons. She didn’t mention how carefree Willow had seemed, chatting happily about magick with Amy that early morning, how tense things had gotten between them.

Anya sat on the bed and lightly tapped Tara’s hand. The response was a small but warm smile and Anya felt a glow spread beneath her chest. For Anya, touch was a paradox, she touched Xander often and as she pleased, touch was sexual and proprietary. Touching friends, however, was confusing- everyone’s boundaries were different and how were you supposed to know what was ok and with whom? When Tara and Willow had been fighting- before the mass total lack of recall- Anya had found herself reaching out to touch Tara’s hand. She had felt the need to offer the other woman solidarity and comfort. It was then that Anya realized how comfortable she felt around Tara, how much she cared for her. They had always had common ground as Scooby-core girlfriends and Tara had always treated her well. They were friends.

After several moments of heavy silence, Anya spoke more seriously, carefully, “I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

Tara blinked back her tears as she nodded her thanks.

“If it’s any consolation, Xander says that Willow is to,” Anya brightened as if she’d found the silver lining.

“What?’

“Willow. Hurting. Xander said that she’s wallowing in her pain. I remember because he said I should cut her some slack, even though I also got magick whammied, and that whole thing was….” Anya trailed off, looking almost wistful, before shivering once and waving the thoughts away, “well, there’s no need to rehash that day now, is there?”

“Oh,” Tara frowned, not sure how to reconcile all that Anya had said. She let the odd reaction to that terrible day go, but the phrase ‘wallowing in her pain’ sat heavy in her throat, as if the words were trying to find somewhere to lodge, wishing they were stuck and unspoken, untrue. Tara remembered the day she’d left, hearing Willow’s jagged sobs coming from behind the closed bathroom door. It had almost stopped her from leaving, her broken heart turning to ash at the knowledge that Willow was in pain because of something she, Tara, was doing. In the end, self-preservation gave her the strength to go.

There were so many caveats, so many complications and uncertainties and reasons that no one feeling stood alone. Anya’s words had separated Willow’s pain from everything else, made it stark and pure for just a moment. Tara ached to burst out the door and run to Willow, gather her up and never let go. But, like the night she’d left, the story was so much more complex, for both of them.

Anya had been thinking on the same phrase, reaching a different conclusion. A glint flashed in her eyes, and an idea danced excitedly in her voice, “But if she’s wallowing in pain that must mean it hurts right? It wouldn’t hurt so much if she didn’t love you,” Her smile faded a little, “Why does love have to be painful?”

Tara shook her head, “It doesn’t have to be- not always.”

“If she does though, and I think she’ll realize she does and she’s being an idiot right now- but if she does,” Anya looked at Tara pointedly, “Do you want her back?”

Tara considered the question with a long sigh, then her brow and lips scrunched in their effort to help find the right words, “I love her, so much, b-but there are things- I mean, it’s really complicated.”

“So un-complicate them,” Anya shrugged.

“It’s not- “Tara started glancing quickly to the pile of curved-edged photographs. “Some things have come up- I think, I think there are things I need to work through, before I can – I just need to work through some stuff.” Tara hoped the conversation would close there, but Anya continued.

“Is that what the pictures are for?”

“Um, yeah, kind of,” Tara’s gaze travelled back to the scratched figure in the photograph lying by her feet, “I actually think I might try and contact my aunt- if I can find her, she lived with my family when I was little- I just, I think I need to reconnect with someone who kn-knew me then, who knew my mom.”

“Your aunt? Is she from the scary side of your family?” Tara tried to hide the flinch beneath an awkward stretch but Anya caught it and shifted uncomfortably where she sat, unsure of how to react.

“No, she’s, um, my mom’s sister,” the ending inflection rose making it seem like a question, a trait Tara had developed when she felt vulnerable and unsure, “But I have no idea where she is.”

Action. Anya could do something to help. “Write down her name and anything you know- I’ll see what I can find.”

“Really? You can do that?”

“Sure- I’m not great on the computer but I know a few guys who are.”

Two eyebrows rose bemusedly, “I shouldn’t ask should I?”

“Its all above board…. ish,”Anya stood to go, brushing her hands down the front of her skirt. “I should get back.” She paused, sniffing the air. The sight reminded Tara of Oz and flower embroidered sweaters. “Do you smell that?” Inhaling deeply, Tara nodded and watched Anya move to the door. As soon as it opened, a light yeasty scent permeated the room. Tara swooned in recognition.

“Someone brought you bread,” Anya informed, bringing the gift inside, “My pie is better, but it’s still a nice gesture.” She started to hand the bread to Tara but stopped when Tara didn’t move, confliction written across her features, “Do you not like bread? I’m sure Xander would eat it.”

“What? Oh n-no,” Tara’s hands trembled as she received the bread and cradled it to her chest. Everything in Tara stilled in deference to this moment, she felt sobered, shaken into a new perspective. Centering herself with a deep breath, Tara set the bread in her lap, “Thank you.”

“You are welcome,” Anya smiled as she gathered her bag, “Let me know if you want help finding your aunt.”

Tara stood and opened the door, leaving the bread on her side table, “I will. Thank you for stopping by, and the pie.”

Brushing her hand lightly on Tara’s arm, Anya turned to go, “Happy Thanksgiving, Tara.”

The door closed with a soft click. Tara stood immersed in the scent of warmth and home and love. She moved to the table, tears pricking behind her eyes as she looked at the unexpected gift. It was warm, fresh, and perfect. Tara slowly pulled her fingertip over the crisp, layered top.

“Oh, Willow.”

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (11/06/2020)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2020 6:56 pm 
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8. Vixen

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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Location: North Carolina, USA
I hope Tara can find her aunt. I suspect you wouldn't write about it if it wasn't going to happen... I love Anya, you've gotten her perfectly. Should we understand why Tara would know that the fresh bread is from Willow? I can't imagine Willow baking bread... Well, great story, I enjoy reading it. Thanks for writing.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (11/06/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2020 12:41 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 421
I'm relieved that things are starting to get a little better.
Bless Anya for visiting Tara and helping her to sort out her feelings with her bluntness paired with kindness. That Willow is suffering under the seperation from Tara is a truth Tara needed to hear which none of the other scoobies would have told Tara out of fear it would hurt her.
That Willow baked a bread and left it as a gift in front of Tara's door is proof that like Tara she remembers the last Thanksgiving they spent with each other (especially the detail that the smell of freshly baked bread reminds Tara of her mom). That proof will hopefully help to renew Tara's faith that Willow still loves her.

The new story element of the remembered aunt is intriguing. I'm wondering what happened that caused her to vanish out of their lives and Tara's mom refusing to speak about her. Another big question is if Tara's aunt was / is a witch like her mom and Tara herself. If she is an experienced witch maybe she might be able to help Tara in helping Willow overcome her addiction later in the story.


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (11/06/2020)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:28 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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taranwillowforever Thanks for your thoughts on Thanks Given- writing Tara's backstory was a huge impetus for this fic and...
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I hope Tara can find her aunt. I suspect you wouldn't write about it if it wasn't going to happen...

your suspicion is correct :)

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I love Anya, you've gotten her perfectly.
Thank you! She is incredibly fun to write!!

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Should we understand why Tara would know that the fresh bread is from Willow? I can't imagine Willow baking bread...


There was a brief mention in the beginning of Thanks Given, and I explore a little more in the next chapter. As for Willow baking, yeah she's not really the bread baking type....

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Well, great story, I enjoy reading it. Thanks for writing.
Thank you!!



Wills_redemption

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I'm relieved that things are starting to get a little better.
Better, hopefully more hopeful all around, but there are still things to be dealt with...
Quote:
Bless Anya for visiting Tara and helping her to sort out her feelings with her bluntness paired with kindness. That Willow is suffering under the seperation from Tara is a truth Tara needed to hear which none of the other scoobies would have told Tara out of fear it would hurt her.
Agree!

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That Willow baked a bread and left it as a gift in front of Tara's door is proof that like Tara she remembers the last Thanksgiving they spent with each other (especially the detail that the smell of freshly baked bread reminds Tara of her mom). That proof will hopefully help to renew Tara's faith that Willow still loves her.
I think Tara is very touched.

Quote:
The new story element of the remembered aunt is intriguing. I'm wondering what happened that caused her to vanish out of their lives and Tara's mom refusing to speak about her. Another big question is if Tara's aunt was / is a witch like her mom and Tara herself. If she is an experienced witch maybe she might be able to help Tara in helping Willow overcome her addiction later in the story.
All will be answered in a yet-to-be-written chapter (or two). Thanks!!



Notes: Still angsty, but less so all around. I hope the timeline makes sense. Thanks so much for all who are sticking with this story!! It is really appreciated.
Feedback: Yes please!!





Wilderness



CH 28: Bread



Buffy had said, “We need pie,” and despite the lethargy that weighted her bones and the remnants of a hammering headache, Willow had nearly leapt out the door and set the course of events that would lead her to the front stairs of Dormer Hall.

With a pause that seemed too long and not long enough, Willow took each shaky step, trembling like a faun, clutching a warm bundle of bread between both hands. The errand should have been quick, Willow should have been back an hour ago, but she didn’t care and besides, in her agitated state, the passage of time was incomprehensible.

When Willow reached the end of Tara’s hall, she stopped, looking behind once for the assurance of an escape route. Every nerve felt exposed and her heart battered, preparing itself for flight. Willow considered that this might be a mistake, that her decisions were being fueled by the raw desperation that followed last night’s events. Last night had been bad.

A line had been crossed and Willow had crossed it with willed ignorance. She had welcomed it; basking in thrills of euphoria and psychic expansion, writhing in magical ecstasy, imbibing the steady stream of magic that flowed from Rack’s pointed finger into every recess of her mind. Below her Amy spun with wild intoxication. Absently running a hand over her exposed belly, Willow’s head lolled left then right on the dingy white plaster, lost and exposed as she let the magic move her into oblivion. In her hallucinations, the room below her turned green and lush, the natural world claiming the indoor space. Chairs and couches flourished into trees and bushes and the stained rug was overgrown with clover and grass.

In an instant something had shifted. Blood ran cold as darkness swept through her. Willow felt the magic take charge. She tried and failed to jerk her body lucid, fighting to pull herself out of the nightmare world that formed behind her eyes. The lush green turned gray hiding the shadow that moved in and out of the foliage. And then she was still, paralyzed in terror. A demon emerged from the thick gray trees, its face twisted and feral. It rose tall with a growl, tossing aside the naked body of the woman it had been carrying just before. Green eyes, glassy and lost, stared in horror as the demon moved toward her, stopping mere inches from her face, looking in with a malicious red glare. The vitriol in its eyes poured into her system and the magic twisted in her bloodstream, invading like a parasite, merging with her life force. Willow felt like her soul would shred apart. It forced her into action and Willow screamed from where she clung to the ceiling, breaking the connection and sending her plummeting to the floor, the wind knocked out of her.

Too frightened to wait for her breath to return, Willow pushed and staggered until she was standing. Toppling past Amy, she bolted, fleeing the face of the demon and the chill of dark magic. A graffitied wall stopped her momentum as she burst out of Rack’s den into the night. Willow retched against the wall, her head dropping between outstretched arms, fingers dug into sharp spray-painted lettering. The bile tasted of metal and sulphur. The retching stopped leaving Willow weak, spent, cloaked in shock and terror. She ran from the alley, her unsteady feet causing her to trip and fumble but Willow barely noticed, her only focus was a desperate need to be home.

Everything crashed into her as she trembled and sobbed, chilled even under the hot spray of the shower: the fear, the guilt, the loneliness, the terror of losing herself, the mourning wail of her shattered heart and the knowledge that the world was falling down around her. The strength that Willow had demanded of herself since before Buffy died was unreachable. She shuffled on weary limbs back to her room, her spirit heavy and weighted and desperate for Tara’s arms. As the sun peeked over the horizon, Willow lay curled in the lap of soft sea-green, air thickened by magic filling out clothing Tara had left behind, shaping them into Tara’s form.

When the tears subsided, Willow rejected the idea of sleep and ventured out hoping to find someone awake, hoping to find someone to talk to despite the tension that had seemed to become a permanent fixture at Revello Drive. If only for some sense of familiarity, or a distraction.... or absolution. The smell of coffee drew her to the kitchen and she drew a long breath through her nose before pushing inside with a small but brave smile.

“Hi Buffy,” a tiny and somewhat pathetic wave accompanied her greeting.

Buffy was looking at the morning paper, though it was clear she was staring rather than reading. “Morning. There’s coffee,” Buffy all but mumbled with a quick glance and a gesture to her side before returning to not reading. Willow nodded once and went to pour a cup. Buffy seemed to be coming back little by little to the self she used to be, and not the self that pretended to be happy to be alive. She smiled at Dawn more often, giggled at Xander’s jokes, and with Willow… she was polite. Polite and distant. Willow noticed.

“You’re doing ok, right?” Buffy had asked at some point, long after the silence had become uncomfortable. She was facing away, bent over the counter and pulling out toast after it popped with no indication that she was affected by its inevitable heat. With a slight sigh Willow sipped her coffee and returned in an equally rhetorical manner, “Yeah, you?” Buffy shrugged. They were dancing around each other but neither seemed to be willing to make the first move. Truthfully, they were barely swaying, and often it was like they were standing against opposite walls in the gymnasium, avoiding the dance floor altogether. Willow wasn’t even sure her name was on Buffy’s dance card. This morning was the most Willow had seen Buffy alone in a while; but Buffy wasn’t present. Not really. Her body was there but everything about her was distracted and removed, always wanting to be somewhere else. Willow felt the familiar sting of tears gathering and her chest squeezed as she let herself realize how much she needed her best friend. How much she missed her and how far away she was right now.

From her seat at the kitchen table, she watched Buffy spread jam on her toast so carelessly that half the slice was left dry. Willow wanted something more tangible to cling to. She felt needy and wounded and too exhausted to push these feelings aside anymore. She needed her friends. Buffy’s movements were listless and distracted, they had been for months. They needed each other. Resolve crept across her face. It was feeble and made Willow look strained, but it was there nonetheless. It was Thanksgiving Day and Buffy and Xander and her would be together. Willow felt the lump rise in her throat and sipped at her coffee to keep it down. It wasn’t everyone Willow would have liked to be there, it wasn’t the most important person, but it was a start and Willow wanted things to be right again. Most of all- second most- Willow wanted her best friend, needed to talk to her and ask her advice and just be in the company of someone who loved her. But the chasm between them had grown too wide and now they all seemed at risk of falling off the ledge and plummeting somewhere too far down to see. Setting down her cup with a slight thunk, Willow raised her chin, ready to speak. She wanted to try. “Hey Buffy?”

Blinking slowly, Buffy turned her head only an inch, “Hmm?” Willow pulled at her shirt sleeves, her mouth dry and her courage fading quickly. And it hit Willow how wrong this all was. After all they had been through together this shouldn’t be so hard. Buffy was her closest friend. It wasn’t the first time they had drifted apart, but this felt different than Buffy’s “I only have eyes for Riley” phase or even her “I’m dealing with trauma by running away” phase. Buffy may have been mere feet from her, but her friend was not present in this kitchen and Willow felt like a strange ghost, haunting the wrong house.

Not for the first time, Willow wondered if their friendship was repairable. But it never broke- it just seemed to die. Something between a gasp and a sob rose in Willow’s throat and she clasped her hands to her mouth to stop the sound. Buffy died. And she came back. Things didn’t have to be forever. Except, Buffy coming back, being pulled back, might be an unforgivable act. But, Willow reminded herself, no one had known, Willow had convinced herself that Buffy was in a hell dimension- it wasn’t an outlandish thought- Buffy had jumped into the portal and that portal was spewing out creatures that could only come from hell. There were no angels in the sky that day. And the fact was, Buffy was here- she was alive again, and Willow wanted her friend back, for both of them. Clearing her throat, Willow tried again, “Buffy…I-”

Her words were interrupted by the swing of the door followed by Dawn entering with the grace and subtleness of a June bug, and Buffy turned to her sister, smiled, noticed the missing jam and respread the rest of her toast. Willow faded a little more.

For the next few hours Buffy stayed in the kitchen, doing something, Willow knew she wasn’t cooking this year but Buffy had taken to silent hours of organizing and cleaning and other solitary things. Dawn was watching TV and Willow hovered, sitting for a few minutes on the chair off to the side, not wanting to crowd Dawn, then busied herself rearranging the tables and chairs for later then back to sitting. A few times Dawn glanced sideways at Willow, curiously peeking at the fidgeting and fussing. Each time, Willow felt a swell of courage in her chest and she opened her mouth to say….something. To push past the awkwardness and try to reconnect. But Dawn’s looks were fleeting and Willow couldn’t think of what to say. It was during Willow’s fourth attempt that Buffy walked in from the kitchen, the distant look on her face still present but tinged with a hint of wistfulness.

“We need pie.”

Willow was spring-loaded, nearly yelling as she soared upright from the chair, “I’ll go!” then winced at the shot of pain that aggravated her magic hangover headache. Startled by the sudden outburst, Buffy raised her eyebrow and a small flitter of remembrance trickled across her face starting a tiny smirk at the corners of her mouth. Willow saw her friend there, saw the look that Buffy would give her whenever Willow was tipping over with spaz. Willow’s heart jumped then stalled when, with a blink followed by a small curious frown, the moment was over. No longer looking at Willow, gaze to the side, Buffy nodded once before returning to the kitchen.

Willow turned back to find Dawn’s eyes on her and they looked at each other directly for the first time that day. Nose crinkled slightly, Dawn gave a sympathetic smile that Willow couldn’t return before turning back the television. Excitement dampened, Willow rose, took her coat off the hook in the foyer, and left.

The bakery was only a ten minute walk from Revello Drive, and Willow was in no hurry to get there. She ambled slowly onto Main Street, arms wrapped around her middle as she tried to distract her mind with window shopping. In each storefront, holiday décor ranged from decadent to garish, some with blinking lights, others with dancing Santa Clauses or angels in flight, one even had holly berry laced through the wood of a woven pentacle. But in each window, Willow could only see her muted reflection and the tired, troubled gaze that looked back at her.
Upon reaching the bakery, Willow opened the door prepared to wait in the scattered crowd. Even as she winced sympathetically at the clerks who looked overwhelmed, she couldn’t help but be impressed by the business tactic in place, this was supply and demand at its finest. Anya would have a profits-induced orgasm. Steam feathered in through the back room, adding to the allure of freshly baked goods, but it was the smell that seemed to hold the crowd entranced.

Fresh bread.

The smell struck Willow with a force like lightning and Willow could not stop the low but primal keen that tore from her. She felt it all like it was one year ago; Tara’s watery smile, kissing without restraint in the Summer’s living room, their hands clasped together under the table, soft touches and easy laughter all borne of irrefutable, ardent love. Hand caught over her mouth, she trembled in the center of the bakery, eliciting looks of wary concern from the people around her. Willow smiled weakly and waved her hand in an indication that ‘all was good’ despite the track of tears trailing endlessly down her cheeks. With great effort and a noisy blow of her nose, Willow finally gathered herself and took her place at the counter. There was no questioning, the order given without forethought: a pumpkin pie and a fresh loaf of white bread.

Willow’s course was set, she moved on automatic back to the Summers’ house where she dropped off the pie, deftly placing it on the table in the foyer and swapping it for the keys to the SUV. The radio played muffled 80’s tunes but Willow did not appear to be paying any attention, her focus was her destination. It wasn’t until Willow reached the stairs to Dormer Hall that she reflected on her choice, realized there had even been a choice.

And now she stood in the hall, cradling warm bread that still permeated the air with treasured memories, wondering how Tara would react. Would she even know that it was Willow who had brought the bread? Did it matter? What if it didn’t? What if it did? She moved despite her uncertainty, drawn toward Tara’s presence.

One desperate night, Willow had hacked into the student records, needing to know where Tara was; what she found was a room number burned into her mind- a reminder that left her stricken like the last nail. Tara lived somewhere else now, and it wasn’t temporary. Willow had shook, hammerstruck, reverberating from the blow. She’d trembled with anguish and regret followed by the sting of abandonment and then the tremors eased, but did not cease, into an indignant clutching to the person she felt she had to be- strong, powerful, infallible. She stood before those imprinted numbers- and yet Willow was still a stranger at her door.

Aromatic steam rose from the bread, circling Willow like sage. This wasn’t the whole narrative. The truth of their story went beyond numbers on closed doors and hurt and lies and muddled beliefs. Did anything matter beyond the misery and pain that was etched on Tara’s beautiful face early Sunday morning? Their brittle interaction, the coldness between them, the defensiveness and wounds of betrayal- Tara didn’t deserve that. Their story didn’t deserve that. They were Thanksgiving dinners with a small sea of friends, they were shared memories and new stories, they were late nights in each other’s arms.

No matter what had passed, Willow needed Tara to know that she still loved her, that she missed her. That she was sorry. She placed the bread before the closed door, traced the numbers with careful fingers, and walked away.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (11/19/2020)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2020 1:12 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 421
Dibs! :whip
You really are on a roll, juggling two great stories at the same time. :bow

Willow's experiences at Rack's were very creepy (I actually can't remember if that stuff happened in canon too, I surpressed most memories of those "dark episodes").

So sad that poor Willow wasn't able to reach out to Buffy.
Quote:
Willow felt the familiar sting of tears gathering and her chest squeezed as she let herself realize how much she needed her best friend. How much she missed her and how far away she was right now.

Quote:
Most of all- second most- Willow wanted her best friend, needed to talk to her and ask her advice and just be in the company of someone who loved her. But the chasm between them had grown too wide and now they all seemed at risk of falling off the ledge and plummeting somewhere too far down to see.

Quote:
Buffy may have been mere feet from her, but her friend was not present in this kitchen and Willow felt like a strange ghost, haunting the wrong house.

:cry The last line made me suddenly think of their first Halloween episode where Willow turned into a ghost (although the association is kind of inappropriate because that was a pretty funny episode and right now Willow is lost in despair).

Quote:
The smell struck Willow with a force like lightning and Willow could not stop the low but primal keen that tore from her. She felt it all like it was one year ago; Tara’s watery smile, kissing without restraint in the Summer’s living room, their hands clasped together under the table, soft touches and easy laughter all borne of irrefutable, ardent love. Hand caught over her mouth, she trembled in the center of the bakery, eliciting looks of wary concern from the people around her.

Poor Willow! I really want to reach in and hug her right now!

Quote:
One desperate night, Willow had hacked into the student records, needing to know where Tara was; what she found was a room number burned into her mind- a reminder that left her stricken like the last nail. Tara lived somewhere else now, and it wasn’t temporary. Willow had shook, hammerstruck, reverberating from the blow. She’d trembled with anguish and regret followed by the sting of abandonment and then the tremors eased, but did not cease, into an indignant clutching to the person she felt she had to be- strong, powerful, infallible.

That explains how Willow even knew where to bring the bread. So sad - but also so very human - that Willow took on that armour instead of facing the reasons she gave Tara to leave her and trying to win her back.

Quote:
Aromatic steam rose from the bread, circling Willow like sage. This wasn’t the whole narrative. The truth of their story went beyond numbers on closed doors and hurt and lies and muddled beliefs. Did anything matter beyond the misery and pain that was etched on Tara’s beautiful face early Sunday morning? Their brittle interaction, the coldness between them, the defensiveness and wounds of betrayal- Tara didn’t deserve that. Their story didn’t deserve that. They were Thanksgiving dinners with a small sea of friends, they were shared memories and new stories, they were late nights in each other’s arms.

No matter what had passed, Willow needed Tara to know that she still loved her, that she missed her. That she was sorry. She placed the bread before the closed door, traced the numbers with careful fingers, and walked away.

This chapter ending is the much needed silver lining. Willow at least admitting to herself that she wronged Tara and feeling sorry for that is a start and the gift of the bread a good gesture. But now they really have to start talking to each other again. One of them has to make the next step to call or better personally approach the other (maybe on "neutral" ground like on campus). I kind of hope Tara will make this next step as a reaction to the gift...


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