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

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 Post subject: My Dark Disquiet
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2021 4:53 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
Posts: 28
Topics: 2
Location: Uppsala/Sweden
• Title: Tabula for One
• Author: Rutkowski
• Feedback: Please do.
• Distribution: Archived on AO3
• Spoilers: Everything in show
• Rating: Teen
• Disclaimer: An edited kitten-friendly version of my already finished story previously posted on AO3. Some dialogue from Chosen but otherwise it's all-new.
• Summary: Post-series Willow retire from the Scoobies and tries to live a normal life while grieving her big lost love.

Slow and angsty. Ignores most things from the comics, everything in show is canon.
• Note: Post-chosen. All as depicted in show except there's no JFK and have never been.

Italics indicate journal entries, '.' is thoughts and "." is dialogue.

All chapters(except one) are named from songs from the band Poets of the Fall.

As such I've made a spotify playlist to accompany the fic. It's all Poets of the Fall(except for the song Revachol Dawn by Berlin Child) and all of the good stuff. Listen and enjoy!

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2zblG ... HMBD_8FEtQ


We can't seem to let go
The thread's so thin it just doesn't show anymore
It seems like we're playing charades
Playing like we're afraid to live



No End, No Beginning

The bell rang and the students quickly began the usual process of gathering their books and supplies - to prepare the weekly ritual that took place at the end of Friday's classes.

They packed their bags and put on their outerwear - if applicable - socialized with friends, avoided their bullies and then moved to start the journey back home. Some walked, others biked, were picked up by their parents or took the bus and a decent percentage of the older students drove either their own or borrowed vehicles.

Amongst the students hurrying around the corridors of Revachol High there was a small woman who silently dodged and weaved her ways through the crowds. She had made avoidance an artform by never saying a word outside of class or the obligatory parent-teacher meetings and kept to herself during all her spare time in the school. Her results were excellent, as they had been almost her entire life, but she constantly had faculty members commenting that she needed to form social connections to function properly in the school.

She never gave the comments any weight. She knew how it was back in the day before everything happened. Before everything fell apart. She was the third wheel in a small group of friends that was her entire social circle until tenth grade back in Sunnydale. After that the group grew even as old friends disappeared but was never stable, was never safe. She was still a weirdo and a loner in many ways and was always considered to be an eccentric for her love of learning. At home she was even more lonely. No siblings and parents who saw her except for a couple of days per month on average. She was raised by impersonal post-its and bundles of cash that paid for the food they didn't cook and the love they never gave.

She hated her solitary life back then but appreciated it now. It gave her a proper training and mental preparation for how her life was now going to be. She got her coat from her locker, retrieved her private laptop and put it in the designated bag. As she came outside she was greeted by the light summer rain. She opened her umbrella and headed for her old car. It was a classic, the old type of red Mini Coopers. She never had an eye or interest in cars but when she saw it on the used car lot she decided to splurge for once. It wasn't like she had anything else she wanted to spend the money on.

She drove home in the rain as the asphalt provided an almost magical reflection from the light rain forming pools that the sun illuminated with glee. She kept to the main road until her street opened up on the right side of the road. Her suburban house wasn't big but it was cheap and acquired quickly after a spot was found at Revachol High for her. It was initially out of budget but after selling all her assets bar clothing, the bare essentials, a memento or two and her computer she had a bit of leeway in regard to money issues.

That wasn't too long ago but to her it felt like a lifetime. Not that it was much of a way to measure time for her, she felt tired beyond her years and the last thing she said before she had left, back in the day, is that she felt like she had survived for several lifetimes and that it was time to actually live at least one.

She didn't do too well in that regard. She had been forced to admit to herself that she still hadn't learned how to live.

She parked the car in the driveway and hurried under the umbrella to the front door of the small two-room house. After dropping her keys only once - an improvement since yesterday when she fumbled her keys three times in similar weather conditions - she moved inside and deposited the umbrella in the kitchen sink.

After that, it was back to her critical routines. The green coat went up on the hanger, rainwater dripping down on the assigned towel she used to prevent damage to the wooden floors, and her black boots were lazily left on the inner doormat. The front door lead directly to the living room that was attached to the kitchen area in an open-floor plan that worked great for her. Had anyone else lived there, or even visited at all, it'd be very hard for them to have any privacy at all since the only other two doors led to the bathroom and bedroom respectively.

The woman was dressed in drab colors, a grey skirt and brown shirt that invited others to not pay her any attention. They fit her slender form well but her mousy posture ensured that she easily would be able to dodge any potential suitors.

She put the laptop on the table next to the recliner by the backyard window and headed to the kitchen to start the electric kettle. As it noisily started the appreciated - if unglamorous - work she took out a bag of tea and a pair of sugar cubes. She deposited them into a mug that she had placed on a small wooden tray. While the kettle continued it's loud craft she took out a can of spaghettios and a spoon that she put next to the mug.

Once the kettle was ready she filled the mug and then moved to the recliner, tray in hand, and sat down for her usual friday afternoon dinner. The same dinner she ate all other days of the week.

After finishing the dinner and tea she pulled up a blanket from the side of the chair and opened her laptop to get to work on what remained of the semester's work from the school. It was dark when she finished and she put the laptop back in the charger, replacing the place of honor in her lap with an old and torn poetry collection. She had read the book dozens of times but found it a safe haven to remind her of better times. She read in silence - the fireflies who had started their summer visitations in her backyard being the only company she needed - and allowed herself a hesitant smile in remembrance of the past.

It didn't linger long.

She put away the book and continued to observe the fireflies in silence. She never had any music on these days as the lyrics and instruments providing only unwelcome distractions to her self-imposed isolation. She also never spoke unless directly confronted outside of the walls of Revachol High. Her prepaid cell phone had never once been required to charge beyond the initial amount as her only calls was those made to utility companies and other essential contacts. Even her emails outside of school were extremely sparse with only a quarterly reminder to one of her old friends to ensure them that she is alive and well.

If they ever responded she didn't know about it. She had set up a filter to delete all responses years ago and she never gave any updates on her own life past her survival. They didn't know where she was, what she was doing or even if she had the same name as before.

In the beginning she wasn't sure it was fair to them. She only sent the emails to ensure they won't try to track her down - she was very clear that she would have no part of her old life but knew that if they found her she'd never be allowed to stay at peace for long. There was always another crisis, always another emergency, and she'd be forced to go back to the war and life she had finally managed to leave behind.

She knew she was a coward and she was perfectly fine with that assessment of herself.

She quickly abandoned the idea of unfairness since she never read the responses(if there were any) and she hadn't even once tried to see what they were doing once she left the group. A long time had passed since she last trusted her own self-discipline to stay away from trouble.

She whispered a silent incantation and the lights in the house turned off and she eased into a comfortable position, the long red hair was moved to the side so she could fall asleep watching the dancing fireflies in the backyard. They moved in seemingly random patterns, circling around each other and acting like drunk teenagers at their first beach party. Only one of all the fireflies - the one shining a little bit brighter than the rest - seemed to have a purpose. It was noticeable from a distance and went straight for the window with no deviation in its path and not even bouncing against the window stopped it. Not the first time it tried, not the fifth time. After being barred by the window for roughly a dozen times it slowly faltered and disappeared into nothing.

Willow's consciousness followed soon thereafter.






Three years ago

Faith couldn't contain her excitement as she moved towards Buffy. "Looks like the Hellmouth is officially closed for business."

Behind her Giles and Dawn followed and a couple of yards after that Willow and Xander slowly moved up to join them. Buffy remained in place as she was facing the crater that was all that remained of the city she had given her life to save. Twice. The city that held her home for the last seven years. She let her friends come up behind her and Willow almost felt the smile that was forming on her best friend's face.

It hurt. Willow wished she could offer a genuine smile herself but she couldn't. With the destruction of Sunnydale there was nothing left of the life she had lived until then. There was nothing left of Tara. Nothing left of her 'Forever'.

All she had to remember Tara by was the Doll's Eye Crystal and a worn photo that she kept in her jacket's inner pocket. Everything Tara Maclay had ever been was reduced to a crystal and a picture with no name. No longer a grave. She had no belongings of her remaining and one thing Willow had learned this last year there would be no-one else remembering the woman that once was such a huge part of their lives.

She had thought they'd at least keep some pictures up for her when she returned from England the past summer. Instead they had scrubbed the Summers house clean of anything that proved Tara had ever lived there, that she had ever been part of their family. She knew it was to prevent triggering another Willow breakdown when she came back from her 'magic rehab' but that only made it worse. It proved both that they would never trust her again and that they only saw Tara as an attachment to Willow's personality even after her death.

"There's another one in Cleveland." Giles pointed out, as if bound by law to be the wet blanket his job often required him to be. "Not to spoil the moment."

Of course. Why should they ever get even a day's worth of rest. Or even an hour. They were conscripted child soldiers since the age of fifteen and she'd never be allowed to become a civilian again. She was by now the most powerful Wicca in the world by a fair margin; there's no way Buffy would let her 'Big Gun' stay on the bench.

Xander seemed to still be in shock and Willow understood him. She thought she understood how he felt better than anyone else. He had just lost Anya and he couldn't do anything to prevent it. "We saved the world." Willow let go of him. She kept the empty smile plastered over her face but questioned if they really had saved the world. There were more Hellmouths in the world.

Where there's Hellmouths, there's demons.

Where there's demons, there's cults.

Where there's cults, there's prophecies.

Where there's prophecies, there's the apocalypse.

Where's the apocalypse, Willow will be sent to support Buffy in stopping it. And it's sent. Dispatched. When the Coven had kept her alive last summer - instead of binding her powers or killing her - they had sealed her fate as a fighter for the rest of her miserable life, indentured in a debt in blood she'd never be able to repay. She'll be ordered to fight, not asked.

It hurt her to be treated like a dangerous weapon. It hurt that they all thought that she had murdered some local townie the first thing when she returned. It hurt that her friends didn't really see her as anything but a volatile burden most of the time.

It hurt to know that every day that they didn't trust her to not go insane as soon as something reminded her of Tara. She remember their first dinner together once she returned from England and Anya had accidently mentioned Tara by name. Willow didn't remember the subject but she remember how they all froze mid-motion and stared at her. They waited to see if she'd explode, to see if those four letters were a dark incantation that would detonate the Willowy suicide bomb.

She had just continued eating, pretending like she hadn't noticed their reactions, but the scene was a common feature in the scenes of her head during the frequently recurring bouts of uncontrollable crying when she couldn't sleep at night.

A rug over a stained carpet and a set of photos moved to the attic. Tara's dresser was put in the basement and her clothes stored next to the photos in the attic. They couldn't handle remembering the failures - both Willow's and their own - had lead to a misogynic monster killing the love of her life. Her reason for not completely detaching from reality to silently waste away into nothingness.

Willow slowly walked forward Buffy. "We changed the world." 'But was it for the better,' she silently asked herself. How many girls had she been tasked to sentence to a short lifetime of nightmares both prophetic and inherited? How many actually had the choice that Buffy had offered them earlier that day? How many would've said no if given the chance? She knew that Buffy had wanted to get rid of the Slayer in her many times in her early years. Buffy had hated what was forced upon her and now she had ordered Willow to get do the same - to get it done - to hundreds, perhaps thousands of other girls around the world. "I can feel them, Buffy. All over. Slayers are awakening everywhere." She sighed, both happy and sad that she hadn't been consumed by the magic as she activated the Slayers.

Mostly happy though. Especially happy that her friends wouldn't be forced to kill her. She knew the pain that having your dead close one's blood on your hands curtailed. She had been a monster to demand of them to do that to her if everything went bad.

Dawn returned Willow's mind to the situation at hand. "We have to find them."

Willow panicked inwardly. 'Oh God no. I can't be part of another army made out of child soldiers. I have to get out now or I'll be damning myself even worse.'

"We will." She couldn't tell them. She needed to get out but if they knew about it in advance she'd be forced to stay; either by physical force or guilt.

"Yes, because the mall was actually in Sunnydale so there's no hope of going there tomorrow." 'Giles had become better at the inane banter the group used to cover the emotional scarring that had damaged them all beyond normality,' Willow admitted to herself as she frantically tried to come up with an excuse that could give her an opportunity to disappear for good.

Dawn acted up an obviously mocking rendition of being upset. "We destroyed the mall? I fought on the wrong side."

Willow seethed inwardly. 'We lost good people today. Well mostly good people. Anya and Spike were our friends in a way and several young girls had died and they were joking about the fucking mall? And they had the gall to demand of me to regret what I had said and done after Tara's murder when they were just as callous as I had been back then?'

She did regret attacking her friends, that was a given. But ending the existence of a parasitic warlock that exploited young women and teenage girls? Flaying the murderer of Tara and attempted rapist and murder of his ex? No, she didn't regret that. She was glad she killed Warren and if she got the opportunity to change the outcome after she caught up to him she wouldn't ease his suffering at all. If anything she'd do the opposite.

She only regretted that she hadn't killed Warren before that dark day. And that Xander hadn't stopped him once he saw the gun. Or that Buffy hadn't stopped him so many times before when she got the chance; especially after she had realized that Warren had murdered his ex Katrina and tried to frame Buffy. Or when he and his friends had poisoned Buffy and almost led her to murder her family and friends.

No, she did not regret killing Warren. She had a lot of other things that she wished she could change but not ending his threat once and for all.

Xander kept the facade going. "All those shops gone. The Gap, Starbucks, Toys-R-Us… Who will remember all those landmarks unless we tell the world about it?"

Giles returned to the role of token straight-man. "We have a lot of work ahead of us."

"Can I push him in?" Faith asked in jest but their history made the joke hit a bit too close to home. Willow felt a pang of guilt as she - just for an instant - considered it as a valid option.

Willow turned towards Faith; knowing that she had to take part of the conversation to avoid any suspicion of her plans. "You've got my vote." She knew that just like with Faith's comment the banter would send shivers up the spines of those around her that saw what she did a year ago. When she stopped living and started surviving.

"I just wanna sleep, yo, for like a week." Faith was tired, that was obvious. She looked fatigued in a way that Willow hadn't seen before, not even after waking up from her almost year-long coma.

"I guess we all could if we wanted to." Dawn added with a smile that heralded the collapse into fatigue that would inevitably happen as soon as the bus started rolling again.

Willow felt she needed to probe the group for their next move, to keep them set towards a common goal. "Yeah. The first is gone, so... Whaddya think we should do, Buffy?"

Faith grinned. "Yeah, you're not the one and only Chosen anymore, you just gotta live like a person, how's that feel?" Faith had won, in the end. Willow suddenly realized that ironic fact. Faith had won since Buffy now had to accept that she wasn't the Chosen One, or even Chosen Two. She was just one of many Chosen. Far from a nobody but no longer the only one.

Dawn turned back to her sister and continued. "Yeah Buffy. What are we gonna do now?"

Buffy's smile grew wide and she turned to the group to offer words of comfort, of gratitude for their collective efforts and sacrifices despite all they had faced together. But just as she opened her mouth to answer her baby sister she instead just blinked out of existence altogether.

The following chaos put the mustering to war that morning to shame. Dawn ran around in a panic and shouted for her sister while Giles stood frozen in fear. Faith moved towards the bus to see if Buffy had somehow appeared in that area. Xander turned to Willow with an accusing stare.

"Will, did you do this? Did you do the whole 'invisible-to-everyone-but-me' thing again?"

Willow's face fell and she was reminded again that she would always be suspect number one no matter what. When the supernatural threw them a curveball - when it appeared in a way that they didn't immediately recognize - they would always blame her before applying even a semblance of critical thinking. Willow knew she had to get out right then or it would never happen. They'd break the last remaining shreds of her willpower and she'd become a kept witch, a household asset. Their Big Gun.

"Xander, I can't do this again. We didn't even get ten minutes of rest before another crisis appeared. I can't live like this. It feels like I've only just barely survived for what feel like several lifetimes and it is time for me to actually be able to live at least one, to be anything else but a dangerous weapon. I hope you find Buffy safe and sound but this is our final goodbye. Apologize to the rest of them and tell them that I'm going to be okay but I'm not coming back. I love you and I'm sorry about Anya." She embraced him quickly and then pulled back. "Bye."

She was gone before he got the chance to respond. It was the last time Xander Harris would ever see his best friend.

_________________
My Dark Disquiet[AO3]
Tabula for One[AO3]
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Last edited by Rutkowski on Sun Feb 07, 2021 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Children of the Sun
PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:47 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
Posts: 28
Topics: 2
Location: Uppsala/Sweden
When you're done with all the strife
When they echo the minds in the streets
You know your heart beats
A solitary call
For a change in the tone of it all
You'll be scaling that wall
And the higher you climb
The more you can see of this life
On the edge of that knife
You hold on to me
Hold on to me




"Okay everyone, class dismissed. Have a nice summer and I'll see you in the fall. Except for those of you with remedial classes in three weeks, obviously. We'll see each other in, well, three weeks."

The majority of students collected their textbooks and associated equipment for the last time that semester. The grades were set, final classes were finished and few of them had any reason to stay in school for even a minute longer than was demanded by school policy.

One of the few exceptions was a lanky guy with short black hair who just finished his junior year at Revachol High. He remained in the class but had, just like his classmates, packed up his supplies when the bell rang. Instead of moving towards the exit he started moving the tables closest to the teacher's desk, forming a small half-circle of three tables that all faced towards it.

Willow let him do the reorder in silence, remaining her introverted self whenever she wasn't required to speak. The teen had gotten to know her over the last year and knew it was not an act of ill will or frustration, just a character trait of his enigmatic tutor. She was more open to him and the other students who were about to join them than she were with anyone else and appreciated the implicit trust that she had given them.

Once the student - known Rick to his friends - was all but finished he was joined by three other students who arrived after finishing up their respective final classes of the school year. They were all girls but of different ages. The tall and stout girl with brown hair that was bound together in a single long braid headed the new arrivals with a bashful grin. Bella had - together with Rick - been the founding member of the Gay-Straight Alliance back in October and acted as the 'shield' and protection for her fellow members.

As the oldest daughter of a former pro wrestler Bella was known to be strong and sturdy and - after getting a week's suspension for beating up a linebacker who had shouted slurs at Rick soon after the formation of the student club - her presence in the club ensured that any attempt to harass her fellow GSA members dared retribution from someone who valued her friendships more than a perfect school record. The unspoken - but always present - question that lingered in the back of their mind was what would happen the next year since she had just graduated and would no longer attend Revachol High. The school wasn't overly ripe with abuse and harassment but their suburb wasn't big and tolerance of minority sexual orientations and gender identities was tenuous at the best of times.

Taking a seat between her and their faculty sponsor was Sandra Jones. She was a sophomore and the youngest of the group. Small, thin and with her blonde hair usually set in a high ponytail she often reminded Willow of her best friend in High School. She did not possess any supernatural strength or speed and as far as she knew there were no prophecies of Chosen Ones in her future. She had joined the small club after the new year break when a fellow student and former close friend had spitefully outed her as a lesbian during a bitter fight at a party. Her social circle had evaporated almost immediately but she found a sense of kinship in the club that gave her an anchor in social connections at the school.

At the other end of Willow's desk was Sapphire, the other senior of the group. She had been elated when she found out about the formation of the club after having spent many afternoons patching up cuts and bruises from fellow students who refused to accept her chosen name, instead using the deadname Simon as a slur every chance they got. Up until a couple of months ago Sapphire's parents had been in a battle with the school administration for them to recognize her name and identified gender but had been stonewalled until Willow went against the administration and openly pushed for her acceptance.

Rick Andies - proudly out as gay since he was thirteen and spouting several pins promoting inclusivity, acceptance, rainbows and equality - finished reorganizing the tables and took his seat in-between Sapphire and Bella. He pulled out his notebook to serve as the record keeper of the Gay-Straight Alliance club for the last time of his junior year, the meeting serving as the conclusive gathering for their inaugural year. As soon as everyone were seated they were joined by Willow who put down her paperwork and took out a fist-sized green crystal from her bag and placed it on her desk.

The group knew the quiet teacher was a follower of the Wicca faith. They also knew that nobody else in school - including the administration - were to know about it without her expressed approval. She had offered it up as a piece of private information to give them the confidence to be open and honest with each other and themselves while the club was in session.

In a nutshell it was giving trust to encourage trust.

And it was potentially dangerous information for Willow.

Willow was the only teacher who was willing to act as the resident faculty advisor that the school board required for any student-led clubs to be permitted to organize on school grounds. By going against the grain of her colleagues she ensured a career under the microscope and if it weren't for her excellent educational records she probably would have been let go after the first year once they realized she wasn't just an ally but an open lesbian as well. If some of the more conservative members of the board, or even the more loudmouthed parents, found out that she were of a fringe religious group that had been heavily stigmatized just a decade before then she'd risk her job at Revachol High and would either have to find a new career or move out of town since it was the only high school in the suburb.

They used the Doll's Eye Crystal - affectionately nicknamed 'Dolly' by Sapphire(and soon thereafter the other members as well) - as a 'speaking stick' to ensure that everyone got the chance to talk. It was Bella, the loudest and most vocal of the group, who had suggested the method since she knew of her own tendency to unwittingly take over conversations, a trait she had inherited from her very extroverted father. Willow threw the crystal to Bella who was the elected chairwoman of the club and it landed perfectly - something ordinally out of character for the otherwise quite spazzy woman - in the senior's hand, allowing her to catch it one-handed.

These four members of the GSA were really the only students that actually knew Willow as something else than a quiet but skilled teacher. They knew she was clumsier than most but somehow she had never thrown Dolly in a way that it risked falling to the ground, no matter the recipient's talent or skill in catching it. It was something they had asked her often - becoming a running joke of sorts - but she always blamed it on luck or good karma.

She had never told them that she was a practicing witch and that she used magic to ensure the crystal would never be even slightly scuffed. It was a lifeline for her by providing a magical masking spell that ensured that no spells practiced by any living mystic would ever be able to find or identify her. She had also found out that it provided a calming effect for anyone who held it with good intentions - bolstering confidence and one's self-image - which made is a natural choice once Bella proposed the 'speaking stick' method to the club.

She also knew for a fact that Tara would have loved to see it used in such a manner, especially with these kids. The crystal had only been imbued with the masking charm that would not provide the kind of spiritual boost that was present. Willow had used detection magic to identify any lingering effects that Tara might have put into the stone in the past but came up short every time. Other than the masking charm it was a completely mundane crystal.

Except for Tara's influence. Willow didn't know why or how but she knew that it was the spirit and good will of Tara that lingered in the stone; providing spiritual aid to those of good souls that needed it. It did nothing for Willow herself.

It was how she knew that those of corrupted souls had nothing to gain from it. She did not fail to see the irony in the situation.

The situation reminded her of her first - and only - boyfriend who went to the other side of the world and back to get control of the wolf that he blamed for sleeping with another woman. Only when he got back with the cure in hand that he realized that Willow was the only exception to the cure.

Not that it would've changed anything with her feelings for Oz. She had come to terms with her previously repressed homosexuality by then. Even if she hadn't she had enough pride to not let someone who disappeared for months and who just expected her to sit around and wait for him to return without even knowing he was alive. He had been in contact with his friends but refused to even speak with her by letter or phone and she had realized that she'd rather be alone by choice than lonely while in a cold relationship with someone who she felt never prioritized her.

"Okay sisters. I hereby open the final meeting of the Revachol Gay-Straight Alliance Club's inaugural year."

Bella grinned at Rick who returned the friendly jest with a smile. The members of the group, Bella in particular, were the only ones at school who he didn't mind using feminine pronouns when referring to or speaking to him. It was kind of ironic since it was the same kind of language that had gotten Bella into the fight that led to her suspension in the first place.

"All current members and faculty advisor miss Mactrista are present. I have received only two scheduled requests to give the word to members, Sapphire and Sandra. I also have one thing I'd like to announce myself but I'm saving that for last, we don't have to rush that shit. Sandy, you up?"

Sandra smiled and held out her hand for Bella to hand over the crystal.

"You didn't make it very far this time with the official-ish speak, are you slipping at your old age?" Bella blowing raspberries was the not-so-dignified response she gave back.

"Anyways, it is actually a question for the next school year. I know we've all thought about it but never spoken about it. We all know that the only reason we've been able to stay safe is because of Bella and miss Mactrista providing physical and institutional protection and," she anxiously turned to Willow, "with no offense intended miss Mactrista but a teacher can never have full insight into the doings of the other students. Bella has protected us in a way that you can't, not without risking both legal and worky consequences."

Willow offered a knowing smile. She knew exactly what Sandra meant, she had been both the protector and protect-ee when it came to other students back when she was the social outcast. Sure her demons were often of the more literal kind once Buffy entered her life but she had far too much experience with tormentors of the more mundane inclination. Sandra accepted the reassurance she gave through the smile and continued.

"My point is what we do next year? Bella is graduating now but some of the worst assholes - sorry about the frenchiness - are Juniors and will leap on any perceived weakness next year. I'm, well," she finished with a whisper as she retreated into herself and shrank into her seat, "afraid."

Rick nodded in recognition, as did Sapphire. She was graduating as well but had more experience than her peers when it come to the depth of the hatred that their schoolmates could display for that which they did not understand. Sandra handed the crystal back to Bella who put her other hand on Sandra's shoulder for reassurance.

"I get it squirt, I really do. I even considered flunking out on purpose just to be able to keep you girls safe," she chuckled. "But I knew that if I even tried miss Mac would flay me alive for avoiding my scholarly responsibilities!"

The students laughed at the notion of any kind of violence from their timid teacher. What they didn't see was the growing feeling of nausea within their sponsor, nausea spurred on by vivid memories of Warren's skinless body shaking seconds after being violently skinned by her will alone. She took a few seconds to gather herself again, safe with the comfort that the students never expected any kind of jab in return even as they were comforted enough to jest at her.

She smiled to reassure them that she appreciated the friendly barb, suddenly realizing that she's become the Giles of the club. Not only as the adult in the room but also as the willing butt of their jokes. There were a couple of times she did respond in kind which both shocked and amused her wards, something she always appreciated when Giles did to her and her friends as well. He was shaken out of her reverie when Bella continued.

"But I got good news for both you and Rick. You see my sis is a freshman next year and girls, she makes me look a meek wittle kitten. And don't you worry miss Mac. She isn't violent but she is almost as big as me and a total ally to the family. She have promised to join the club first chance she get and actually become the first S for the GSA!"

Sandra calmed considerably while Rick showed no outward reaction to the news - confirming Willow's suspicions that Bella had already given him the heads up. While all four kids were friends Bella and Rick had become close as siblings during her suspension and were known to be almost inseparable. While Willow would usually be a bit sad that Bella wouldn't go to college she was happy that the young woman would remain close to her friends as she joined her uncle's shipping company by the docks.

And if her own history had taught her anything it was that college was by no means any signs of success. Everyone used to think that Willow would become some tech wiz millionaire and that her best friend Xander would bounce between entry-level jobs with no future or success. It only took three years until Willow almost killed herself in her addictive spiral and ended up living as a leech at Buffy's home while Xander were on his way to getting married after securing a good career as a carpenter.

Willow had salvaged some of what she had destroyed and changed her college courses to become a teacher - to help other kids be better people than she were(and according to her, still was) but abandoning everyone you had ever known and living alone without friends or family was not exactly the milestones to success that she once had expected.

Bella handed 'Dolly' over to Sapphire who silently accepted it with a nod. Willow had heard from Bella that Sapphire used to be loud and outgoing before she came out as transgender but the violent and cruel reaction to the news had quieted the girl. Her quiet and mousy demeanor reminding Willow of both herself at that age and of Tara when they first met. Willow had promised herself early on that she would do everything she could to ensure that Sapphire would have some kind of safety while under her protection. It was a promise made much easier to uphold when she found out that Sapphire's parents gave their daughter full support both morally and with practical matters. She knew that it was unfortunately a rarity for most other trans teens.

"I just want to say, uh, big thanks to miss Mactrista. The school board had refused to use my name on my diploma and forced me to accept one with the deadname. But- but then; look what the vice principal reluctantly gave me this morning before first period!"

She pulled out two diplomas. One was crumbled and dirty and Willow surmised that it was probably caused by Sapphire herself once she noticed the wrong name on the document. The other was pristine clean and she excitedly pointed towards her actual name with a face-splitting grin.

"Thanks so very much miss Mactrista! My parents were over the roof when I snuck away to call them at lunch and told me to say thanks from them as well. They also reminded me to offer our full support if you or the club ever need help with anything we can provide in the future, no questions asked!"

Willow offered a smile of a size she rarely managed anymore. She hadn't heard her battles with the board had actually gotten the intended results and it was a perfect milestone for both her and the club in general, documented proof of their group helping people live a better life.

"W-wow, that's awesome Sapph! I'm so very happy for you, you know? Say thanks to the elder Carmichaels for their support, I'm always happy to have the support of parents who doesn't shy away from fighting for their kids' rights."

A sarcastic cough led Sapphire to hand Dolly over the chairwoman who moved it along to their tutor. "Now now, miss Mac. I think your infamously overt displays of emotions and joyful exuberance have made you forget the very important protocols we've put in our founding documents here."

She motioned to Rick who pulled out the infamous 'GSA Constitution' they had adopted at their first official meeting. It was written in shaky letters on an unruled paper with a pink marker and was a mockery to everything approaching respectability. It simply had four simple rules.

1. GSA is the shit and all queers rule
2. Terfs can jump off a bridge
3. Don't speak without the speaking stick Dolly
4. If in doubt, see rule one or two.


Willow accepted the offered crystal with a smirk. "My apologies honored chairwoman. Still, I'm really happy for you all. I wish the best of luck for both you and Sapphire in the future and remember, you're never alone. Never. Now before we finish up for the summer and I start waiting to meet both the littlest Bella and our returning members I think you had an announcement yourself?"

She handed the crystal back to Bella who grinned. "Nah, it was about my sis but that's already done and dealt with. If nobody else had something to add I think we're done here. Love to all my sisters and good luck finding a better chairwoman than myself next year!"

Bella stood up and held out the crystal as if she were to drop it like a mic. She faked the releasing motion before Willow yelped in protest, the panic in her eyes displaying the lack of any humor in her motion.

"Shit. Sorry miss Mac, bad joke. I'd never do that, you know that right?"

Willow stood frozen mid-motion but yet again managed to reorganize her emotions and nodded slowly. "It's okay. Really, just weren't prepared. Now all of you go, I'll clean up here so the janitor won't get cross on us all. Don't want to return next year with all the computer lab equipment unplugged and overturned."

The students offered their farewells and well-wishes for the summer and quickly exited the classroom. Soon, silence overtook the empty halls of Revachol High and the quiet footsteps of Willow Mactrista were the only signs of life left in the building.

Despite her contentment of the victory in Sapphire's struggle for name recognition Willow sighed inwardly; knowing that she had resigned herself for yet another summer where the sum total of her spoken words would likely be confined to the back of a very small postcard.

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 Post subject: Love Will Come to You
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:32 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
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Location: Uppsala/Sweden
Love is there when you open the door
And you step off the trail you knew before
Through the streets and the houses of gods you roam
And on their altars you lay your heart of stone
Till all laughter is claws on your skin
And your moments of clarity scream the hell within
When you fade like a rose in the gloom
Love waits outside your room





Willow got back into her car once she had finished the bulk shopping for the next four weeks. Boxes of tea, an immense amount of spaghettio cans, some planting dirt for her herbs and half a dozen bottles of Jack Daniels was really all she needed to survive until the end of June at the very least, she had no plans of ever leaving the yard until her next trip to the store.

Back to normal for the last time in months. Drive home, drop the key while unlocking the front door, shed outerwear and deposit the foodstuffs.

Routine.

Put the kettle on, heat spaghettios and then take a seat by the window to eat dinner and drink her tea in silence.

Routine.

Back to the computer once the mug was empty, finish up the last paperwork for the summer so she could reduce her useage of the device to a safety check of her mail every day - maybe every other day if she was lucky.

Routine.

Pour a glass of Jack and relax by the window, watching the familiar firefly visitors gather for their end-of-the-school-year-drunken-bonanza while she relaxed in the recliner covered in a soft blanket under the watchful eyes of the photo on the table.

Routine.

'Wait, that's strange.' Willow stirred from her almost-slumber. 'There's never more than one of the "knocking" fireflies per day, if they even show up at all, and now there's been two in just a couple of minutes?' She sat up to observe the second "knocker" of the day(a nickname that suddenly amused her greatly) and watched it eventually fade into nothingness.

She sat up for a few more minutes while she considered the feasibility of doing some research at this hour on why some fireflies exhibited those suicidal tendencies. 'Maybe they have more in common with human teenagers than I thought. I mean who hasn't been that wallflower at a rowdy party who felt like nothing else but just driving their head through a wall to make it all stop. At least it's better than the time I stumbled upon an apocalypse by taking a nap next to a random corpse.'

She realized the eventual outcome of the thought process and treated herself to an extra glass of Jack before allowing herself to fall asleep, for real this time.

Less than a minute after she finally lost consciousness the third "knocker" arrived outside her window.






First day of summer meant it was the first day of new routines. Well, it was the first day of slightly modified routines.

Early morning without any work led to a shower that was three times the usual length. Her usual comfortable clothes made way for more practical wear that allowed for her hobbyist gardening but the drab colors remained a staple. Nothing that could lead to obvious stains, nothing that could lead to reminding her of your shirt.

It was back to spaghettios for brunch and dinner and three cups of tea per day, all ending with her usual glass of whiskey by the firefly kegger. She noticed the first evening that the "knockers" had stopped visiting and amused herself with imagining them packing up their stuff for the summer and going to Florida to join the firefly keggers there on vacation. Eventually she would realize with a strange kind of sadness that the "knockers" would never return.

She spent her days reading and rereading her vast amount of books that filled the shelves that covered the walls of the barely lit house. The exception to this was during the two hours that followed the brunch spaghettios where she instead spent the time on her knees in the yard, trying to follow the HOAs strict guidelines while also growing plants for her own use.

The hour after dinner was spent on playing at being a herbalist in what would normally be the bedroom of the house. She had darkened the walls of the room and put up a series of lamps and humidity controllers. She grew rare - but mostly legal - plants that she eventually would dry and ship to different magic shops around the country and sometimes even internationally. She didn't do any personal sales - nothing that invited strangers into her fiercely protected private sphere - and it was always she who contacted the stores as she actively worked to avoid name recognition.

She was better than she would ever admit when it came to the hobby. She hadn't experienced any store dropping her as a supplier due to quality or reliability. The only store that had to cancel their agreement was shut down after local police found out they sold illegal plants in the back of their store. Willow had lucked out and avoided any judicial investigation in her connection to the store but had become even more careful in what contacts she maintained as a result of that snafu.

Due to her infamy as the most powerful Wicca in this dimension - and her role in activating the Slayers and closing the Hellmouth - she knew that keeping her given name was a dumb risk rooted in vanity at best. She had taken the surname Mactrista knowing that if any old enemy or friend wanted to find her there would not be many Willow Rosenbergs in the world. By changing the surname she hoped that once they couldn't find her under her real name they'd expect her to go with a completely new name and either hunt some red herring or give up completely.

The classic double bluff. Or something like that. It had worked so far at least.

She was five days into her summer routine when she realized there was a new kind of knocking in her life. Someone was at the door while she was drinking her dinner tea, watching the kegger.

She panicked. She had one visitor when she first moved in, the secretary of the Homeowner's Association, and none since. That was by design. She had planned to live a life of privacy, to avoid any risk of hurting those around her as she had before. She just wanted to live a life where she had the microscopic risk of being granted visitation rights to Tara's glorious afterlife. And then, after maybe half an eternity of ignored visits she could get the chance just to apologize for Tara for ruining her life, for being the cause of her death.

She didn't expect forgiveness, she never would. She didn't expect to even be able to talk to her, not after what she had done, but she had to live her life and try to get the shadow of a chance.

Not after Kingman's Bluff. Not after the Temple of Proserpexa.

She expected an eternal torment - probably by the First Evil for her insolence and rebuke of his attempt to take over the world in that last war - and she had grown a strange kind of acceptance of that fate. She had surmised that Angel and Faith were wrong, there was no kind of redemption for everyone. You only get the storybook ending when you end. When you die. And she would never be able to go out in a blaze of glory, saving the world. She would first become too reliant on her strength and become the cause of the apocalypse, not to stop it.

Good people stop apocalypses. Willow hasn't been one of those for a long time. She's the apocalypser, not apocalypse-ee. Both of the last two the Scoobies had stopped in Sunnydale were due to her causing them.

The knocking continued and she realized that the visitor wouldn't go away. She put the cup of tea back on the table, accompanying the dirty plate that sat next to the Doll's Eye Crystal and the framed photo. Before unlocking the door she withdrew a thin blade from the umbrella stand and held it by the side of the door, out of view of any visitor.

Her mind had run wild with the possibilities of the mysterious visitor. Buffy coming to conscript her, Giles coming to detain her. Xander coming to spit at her cowardly face.

Or maybe it was Amy coming for bitter revenge - again - or some old demon trying to settle an old score. It could even be Faith - she was from the New England region after all - looking for a place to crash while passing through.

And maybe to boink. She understood Faith a lot better these days.

She also completely understood why Faith chose prison.

Maybe it was even Warren's parents who had somehow figured out her role in his death and who wanted revenge. She'd laugh in their faces if that were the case. Anyone who held him to any kind of worth that surpassed the rotting heap of flesh that he ended up as deserved nothing but her vitriol and scorn.

That the guest would be one of her wards from the GSA, the young Sandra Jones, was not a possibility that Willow had managed to entertain.

The teen offered a bright - but very shy - smile as she stood in the dark. "Hi miss Mactrista." She was dressed in a nice, but still very casual, sleeved blue dress and had her hair up in her favorite ponytailed manner.

"Uhh, hi miss Jones." Willow stood still, confused on the motive of her unexpected visitor. She was well-aware of Sandra's schoolgirl crush on her - not unlike the ones Willow had for both Giles and Calendar back in the day - and was afraid that the teen had completely misread Willow's support in school for something else entirely, something that could ruin both the teen's frail confidence and Willow's career.

"Call me Sandra, miss Mactrista. May I come in?"

Willow froze as she feared an everyday aspect of her old life was coming back to haunt her. She knew - very intimately - that vampires found and used the repressed urges of their dead hosts. A poor cute girl with a forbidden crush on a teacher would very likely go to feed and maybe even try to turn her after slaughtering their own family and closest friends.

"S-sure mis-" She corrected herself. "Sure, Sandra. And call me Willow." She stepped back, never voicing the invite in a way that would have allowed a vampire to cross the threshold. When the girl passed into the house she released the breath she didn't know she had held and carefully put the blade back into the umbrella stand.

"This is a nice home, Willow." She smiled as she scanned the dark room. It wasn't dirty or poorly maintained but it was far from hospitable, more resembling a shut-in's library than a place that people inhabited. Which, to be fair, was not entirely wrong. Willow didn't see herself as people and she was a shut-in if nothing else.

"I hope I'm not intruding." Sandra continued. "I was just in the area and one of your neighbors is a friend of the family and spoke of their 'silent but well-mannered new redheaded neighbor' so I figured out who you were pretty quickly." She flashed an innocent smile as she continued to survey the somber living room.

Willow liked the girl. Sandra was pretty smart and of a good heart, the similarities to Buffy in her teenage years were making themselves known the more she got to know Sandra. She did not, however, have any kind of romantic interest in the spirited tenth-grader. Even if she weren't almost ten years older she had long since realized that her last chance to be happy died in their bedroom, the victim of a cruel world who sent a rapist kill Tara and end the living of Willow when she was happier than she had ever been since.

She had never been one to subscribe to the soulmate idea. She had loved Oz, in her own way, but she had no illusion that they were the only ones for each others out of six billion people. She didn't believe she was The One for Tara either, far from it. The One would not violate her. Hurt her. Lie to her. Betray her. Lure her to a life of danger that took away the one light in Willow's life just because she happened to be so good that she forgave Willow despite everything she had to endure.

What she did know is that Tara was the only one for her. Tara was Willow's everything. Nothing, no-one, else could ever compare.

"Do your p-parents know you're here, Sandra?"

Sandra glanced into the opened door into the refurbished bedroom before she turned back to her CompSci teacher. "Yeah, they know. They really appreciate the support y'all gave me this spring and when I told them I'd go out to see if you wanted to talk they were okay with it. I mean it's barely 7PM right now so it's not like I'm breaking any curfew."

Willow nodded and calmed down slightly. With the parents knowing it put the biggest risk out of the way; the risk that there would be someone misinterpreting the visit as some illicit affair between the one gay teacher and one of her wards. She soon realized that the teen had seen her herbalist equipment and knew she had to explain the situation before the kid thought she was some suburban cartel boss.

"That's restorative herbs, nothing illegal. I grow them for other practitioners of Wicca who can't do it themselves for various reasons, they're used for religious and magical rituals."

"Magical? You mean you believe in elves and spells and such?" The girl looked at her curiously. She knew that miss Mactrista had a reputation as a rational and no-nonsense individual that listened to reason when a student would argue their point, she did not peg her as the superstitious type. "I don't mean anything by it, I just know very little about you and even less about Wicca. It's not exactly covered in school, you know?"

Willow smiled shyly to show the absence of ill will. "It's okay. What is magic may have different meaning to different people, even within Wicca. Dolly, for example, is very important to me as you must have realized. It was a gift from someone very important to me and it is more than any other kind of Doll's Eye Crystal, it's like it have a part of her spirit imbued."

Sandra observed the older woman's sad smile and didn't fail to see the pain hidden beneath, almost radiating in its clarity. She continued to pace around and was barely able to contain her shock at the sorry life her favorite teacher lived. Books, thousands of them and outnumbering the school library by a decent margin, but little else to her name. In the kitchen and by the living room's back window she saw one set of utensils, one mug, one set of plates, one glass and one empty bottle of Jack Daniels on the bench. There was no bed in the apartment, the blanket by the side of the recliner practically shouting that this was where she spent most of her day.

Willow herself was dressed in yoga pants and a black tank top, her hair braided to help maintain the wavy curls that was the only outward sign of any attempt to style herself in a fashion. Sandra didn't expect any kind of party girl from her introverted tutor but that she'd be in this state on her first friday off for the summer before 7PM was a shock even to her.

Then she saw the crystal they all knew as 'Dolly'. Next to it was a photo of a brown-haired woman looking up at the camera from the old tome she was reading. She was seated in what appeared to be some kind of library and offered a crooked smile that invited warmth. Her hooded blue eyes were matched by the hoodie that covered the grey patterned top. She was obviously looking at whoever took the picture and the look extruded unconditional love.

"So, that's her huh? The one who gave you Dolly?"

Willow figured that she had given out too much information when she earlier had talked about the crystal. "Yeah, that's Tare."

Sandra leaned forward to get a better view of the picture. Even though the table was stained and worn through use, the crystal and the picture were both in pristine condition, obviously held of more importance than anything else in the room.

"Do you want to talk about her? I mean I completely understand if you don't but I if you want to I'll listen. And I won't mum a word about it to anyone else, not even her existence. I know the value of privacy and trust." Sandra sat down in the recliner with her hands resting on her knees as she gave Willow her most reassuring smile.

Willow was torn. On one hand she felt it was incredibly inappropriate to talk about her private life. Not just with a student who held a teenage crush on her but also in general. She was private to a fault and often enjoyed it that way.

On the other hand she had always hated how her friends pretended how it was like Tara almost didn't exist after she had been murdered. It was as if they had almost scrubbed all traces of her existence once Willow returned from magic rehab. Even Dawn, the one who loved Tara almost as much as Willow did, barely ever mentioned her in the presence of Willow which often led her former foster parent to believe that she had gravely overestimated the affections the teenager held for the older Wicca.

"I could. I mean, only if you're absolutely certain." Sandra nodded. "Tara was born a year before me. Her dad and brother were abusive hicks who gaslit Tara and her mom into accepting physical and verbal abuse for years, barely being treated better than kept slaves. Tara's mom died when she was 17 and that last year alone - before she went to college was hell for her. She had to flee in the middle of her graduation as soon as she had gotten her papers and fled from Oregon to my hometown in California. I met her in my freshman year in a Wicca society and once I realized I was in love with her I also realized that I was kinda gay."

Willow smiled as she reminisced about one of the best times in her life. It was a year of danger, loneliness, betrayal and abandonment but it was one of exploration, magic, love and trust that she would and could never forget.

"You see, I was closeted until then. Even from myself. From the beginning of my junior year of High School I had a boyfriend. He had... anger issues but was never violent towards me. He had ways to control the anger and it wasn't really his fault that he got the issues anyway, it was something that was done to him." The confused look of the teen would have to remain, Willow was not going to induct her into the supernatural world. "Long story. Anyway, up until October of my college freshman year we were going steady. It was just something that was expected of me as the good jewish girl with the best grades and boyfriend and huge future prospects. Oh yeah, I'm ethnically jewish but it's not of importance to me anymore so nevermind that. I loved him, in a way, but these days I also know it was because he was really the first person to ever really show any romantic affection to me at all."

She sighed as she put the dirty dishes into the sink.

"He cheated on me with another musician. I was actually desperate enough to try to patch things up but he just left the night he was caught and then expected me to sit around and wait for him without any word of him at all. I didn't even know he was alive." She realized she was getting riled up and the wounds still felt fresh almost seven years later. "I was in a hole but joined a Wicca society to find some way to ground my identity. It was a bust as almost everyone there were trendy posers but that was where I met Tara. She was far too shy for someone with her enormous amount of love and kindness and especially for someone that gorgeous."

She caught herself staring at the photo with a smile. "She accidently ran into me while fleeing, well, some very aggressive men. We managed to escape the group and barricade ourselves in a laundry room and struck up a friendship from there. She was out, I weren't. It wasn't until she declared her love for me that something switched in my brain and everything fell to place. I remained in the closet to everyone but her for quite some time and we were really glad she had a single in her dorm."

Sandra giggled as she listened to her teacher being more open than Sandra thought she could ever be.

"Then Oz, the ex, returned. He thought we could go back to what we had just because he had gotten a handle of his anger. Phooey to that, he lashed out and tried to attack Tara once he realized we were together and then left the city again. Which was good because I'd have crushed his balls with a rusty flail if he hadn't."

The girl looked at her with shock, awe and confusion.

"A flail is a medieval weapon, a spiked ball attached to a handle with a chain. Not important. I came out during the events of his return where my friends had expected me to come back to my ex who was an old friend of theirs. But then soon after that we all became friends again. Tara especially became something of a bonus sister to my roomie's - who was also my best friend - younger sister. When Tara turned 20 her family arrived and tried to force her back into slavery-in-all-but-name but we all stood up for her and chased them out of town. That day was one of the best days of my life, dancing with her in the club we had rented for her party. Then things went bad. My roommate's mother died and the dad was a deadbeat so the roomie had to drop out to support her sister. Tara was attacked by a religious cult," She gave a glance that screamed 'don't ask' to her solo audience, "and she were force-fed a kind of drug that almost gave her permanent brain damage."

She wiped the corner of her eye with a paper towel.

"She got better but at the same time my roomie was apparently killed by the same cult. Her sister - who was about to turn fifteen - was suddenly alone so me and Tara moved in with her and became foster parents. We were barely adults but Dawnie, the sister, needed help. It was horrible and the loss of my best friend was crippling for us but it was also kind of lovely for our makeshift family. We eventually found out that she wasn't dead though, that she had been kidnapped and hid away. We and some other friends freed her but she was so traumatized by the entire affair that she wished to go back."

Willow cringed inwardly, she didn't like to lie and hated to minimize her own grave mistakes and bad choices of that time but she couldn't tell the complete truth without involving magic.

"I didn't handle it well. I got addicted and spiraled, bad. I mistreated Tara while using the drugs in a way that should've been unforgivable and she left me, as was right to do. I almost killed Dawnie while DUIng and then went cold turkey. Against all odds and reason Tara later forgave me and we got back together. I was on cloud nine and we promised ourselves to each other for eternity, everything was perfect."

"Turns out that eternity was less than 36 hours for us." The blissful look changed to a stone-cold grimace in an instant. "A wanted rapist and murderer shot my friend, almost killing her, and Tara was killed by a stray bullet. Straight through the heart, dead on her feet. The asshole got what was coming for him but Tara died for no good reason. She had never hurt a soul but was constantly forced to suffer pain and abuse until the world decided to just end it all."

Sandra looked at her with sympathy, teary-eyed but silent as to not interrupt the telling. Willow handed her a paper towel that she accepted without a word.

"I fell off the wagon and hurt all my friends again. They sent me to rehab but nothing was the same when I returned. My old roomie opened a house for stray teenage girls and I was basically drafted to help out. After our city fell into a giant sinkhole and became what is now known as the Sunnydale Crater Bay I lost everything that remained of Tara. All our memories were there. Her grave, her belongings, her pictures. Other than that photo - which I had in my jacket - and the crystal that I never left home without there was nothing left of Tara Maclay."

"Wait!" Sandra suddenly interrupted. "I remember when that happened! You're from Sunnydale? It was weird how an entire city would just disappear like that, sinkhole or not. Especially how nobody died in the accident."

Willow shrugged. "I was on the last bus out and the claims of a perfect evacuation are, well, bullshit. I lost friends that day. Anya was the ex of my oldest friend, Amanda was Dawnie's classmate. We barely made it out in a stolen bus. But my life was over and I left the group after that and haven't met them since. I finished my education in Boston and then got hired as a teacher here."

Willow smiled without any joy. "So yeah, that's her. Tara was my everything - she still is - but she's gone and there's nothing I can do about it."

Sandra stood up and gave a bold hug to her teacher. "Thank you for telling me Willow. I'm sorry for your loss." She had gotten what she asked for; the story of the enigmatic miss Mactrista. In the process, however, she was also given the realization that she would never have a chance with the object of her affection. Willow was obviously still grieving, she probably would for years, and was in no way open for any kind of secret sexy affair. It hurt her but she knew that it was probably for the best in the long run.

"Thank you yourself, both for listening and the rest. I appreciate your discretion in this, I just don't want people to know too much about me. Too much Private McPrivatey, you know?"

Sandra released her with a smile. "Yeah, I know a bit about necessary privacy."

They continued to talk for a while after that, the subjects ranging from Sandra's plans for the summer to the fireflies and the different herbs Willow was growing. She was growing more guarded as the time ran on so Sandra called it a day an hour after first showing up at her front door. When her parents came to pick her up the final anxieties about the nature of the visit were put to rest for Willow. She closed the door and turned around while internally debating if she were to get another cup of tea.

The door behind her opened and she cursed herself for not remembering to lock it as the previous disturbance of her routine had obviously rattled her more than she first realized.

"Sandra, did you forget something? I'm okay with you coming here you know, but please knock if you do so."

"Sweetie?"

Willow's veins grew cold as ice and she turned around to face an exact copy of her dead girlfriend.

"Oh."

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 Post subject: Choice Millionaire
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 10:58 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
Posts: 28
Topics: 2
Location: Uppsala/Sweden
This is the chapter with by far the most rewriting due to the TKB rules but I think I got it to work.

Mostly.



It's a wide wide world out there
And life can be a love affair
Or a cage of sheer despair
You're a choice millionaire
It's a wide wide world out there
You can travel in your easy chair
So build your castles in the air
You're a choice millionaire





Three years ago

She heard the voice of her younger sister, the mere presence of her reminding Buffy why it had all been worth it. "Yeah Buffy. What are we gonna do now?"

Buffy's smile grew wide and she turned to the group to offer words of comfort, of gratitude for their collective efforts and sacrifices despite all they had faced together. But just as she opened her mouth to answer her baby sister she instead just blinked out of existence altogether.

She suddenly materialized in a white void. She didn't feel anything. No noises, smells, cold, heat or anything but an infinite void of white emptiness.

"Okay, what gives?"

No response.

"Is this about destroying Sunnydale? Because I don't have time to negotiate with otherworldly insurance investigators, I got a family to take care of and a bunch of kids who need to get back home."

Still nothing.

"Just-... Just send me back if you're gonna give me the cold shoulder! Except here I guess it'd be a lukewarm shoulder. Still, suit up or send me back!"

She tried to stomp the ground in frustration but got no sound, not even the touch of hitting solid ground was felt to give her an outlet to her frustrations.

"Wow you really haven't gotten better at chilling out, have you? Still the same Crybuffy I left behind in Sunnydale four years ago."

Cordelia's form materialized in front of Buffy with a smirk and the Slayer just knew she was messing around with her.

"Oh? At least I don't try to hook up with my friends' exes."

The retort was weak and Buffy knew it. Cordelia was in charge here and she would have had the time to prepare her barbs.

"No you're just happy to jump into the bed with the first vampire - souled or unsouled - that gives you the time of day."

'Wait, how much did Willow tell her when she visited LA this spring to collect Faith?' she pondered. Buffy hated being the one flailing in the darkness. The very bright and white darkness.

She really hated this place.

"At least I'm not getting pregnant with my crush's son, I got some standards here."

Cordelia looked as if she had been struck.

"HEY! That was a turncoat Power That Be that was in control of my body, not me. I've been here since roughly when Willow went all evil-eyed. What a thing that was, 'in the calmest waters' as they say. Who's 'they' by the way? Still, I've always known you couldn't trust that boyfriend stealing fashion catastrophe, she didn't even recognize that it was someone else driving my body a couple of weeks ago."

Buffy didn't have the strength to contest the point. She had ignored the warning signs around Willow - even before she died and was brought back - and had actively promoted the use of dark magic when it served their purpose. She still did it, she would do whatever it took to win the never-ending wars against evil. Even if it cost her the soul of her best friend.

"Cordy, just tell me what you want? I have friends waiting for me."

"Fine, ruin my fun will you. I rarely get the chance to advice old friends as an agent of the Powers That Be and when I finally get the chance it's Buffy the Happiness Slayer?"

Cordelia was back to her carefree attitude that the Scoobies had experienced in the past.

"Anyway, I'm here to reward you. Not me personally; the PTBs want to grant you one wish as thanks for turning the tide in the war against their enemies, not just the First Evil. And before you ask, this is no Anyanka wishy-washy curse. You'll be informed of the consequences before you finalize your wish and as long as it's in their power it'll be done, no muss no fuzz."

Buffy was staggered by Cordelia pre-empting her first three questions. Was this part of her seer power? Or maybe it was because of her new status as an agent of the Powers That Be? Or maybe it was just old and annoyingly observant Queen C showing off.

"So... Sealing all the Hellmouths and that type of wishes are off-limit?" Cordelia nodded. "How much time do I got?"

"Well that's actually the only real drawback. We need to know within five-ish minutes. Don't ask me why, orders from above. Probably to avoid legal mumbo jumbo that could cause more trouble than it's worth, Wolfram & Hart have taught us to never butt heads with the lawyers of evil if we can avoid it. Don't rush it though, you'll only be gone a couple of minutes from your friends. Oh and no wishing for more wishes either. We're going full Aladdin here."

"How about bringing someone back from the dead?"

Cordelia smiled. "That's no problem. As long as their soul is unbound and they're willing you can bring them back with you, no problemo! They'll arrive dressed, fully conscious and well-fed. And yes, you'll be allowed to speak with them before making your final decision so no accidently wasting the wish. And before you ask, I'm happy here and won't say yes."

Buffy had the decency to blush, bringing Cordelia back was far from the top of her priorities. She also knew that Cordelia already had realized that and wondered if she pre-emptily denied the offer to save face for both of them. But Buffy already knew what she was going to do.

"Bring me Spike."

Cordelia closed her eyes and briefly glowed with an otherworldly aura before she opened them again with a frown.

"Sorry but his soul is apparently bound. It's weird, I saw him doing the Big Standy thing and he should be available but he's not. Sorry about that, not much I can do. Especially since I don't know where his soul is."

Buffy sighed as she realized that it was probably some drawback of the way he achieved his soul. Plan B then.

"How about mom? Can I bring her back or will the cancer get her again somehow?"

Cordelia repeated the process and didn't look any happier.

"She isn't willing. Partly because you're right; she would still have her health issues, but also she said no and gave no option for reconsidering it. She says 'hi' though!"

Buffy started to pace back and forth. 'What's the point with these wishes if they can't actually do anything. They got more drawbacks than magic and seems even more unreliable. No wonder Anya loved to dish them out to mess with people. Wait!'

"How about Anya?"

Cordelia didn't even start the process again, shaking her head with a sad expression.

"Sorry, she's D'Hoffryn's property now. Part of her initial contract of becoming a demon actually. A contract she signed twice even. So you can't even use a single wish to release her from the contact to get to a better afterlife. It's a shame but she knew what she was doing both times."

Buffy growled in frustration. 'I need some help here. Why can't Giles come here? Or no, he'd just advice me to not take the help from people who he can't control. And Willow is far too deep into her never-ending slump to be of any use, she'd-'

"Tara," she suddenly exclaimed. "Tara Maclay! Can I bring her back?"

Cordelia repeated the process again and this time she opened her eyes with a smile, one returned threefold by Buffy once she saw who was standing next to the former cheerleader.

"Hi Buffy!"

The Slayer ran up to embrace her old confidante but only met air. She pouted in confusion and disappointment.

"What? You're just here to say no to the offer as well?"

Tara laughed, having seen the entire meeting from her favorite place in the Summerland.

"No Buffy, I guess it's just the rules here. If you want to waste your wish on me I'll accept it with joy and gratitude."

Buffy grinned. "Score! But, uh, you won't be all suicidey like I was when I returned?"

Tara shook her head with a reassuring smile. "No, I won't. I want to live, both now and for a long time."

Buffy started to fiddle with her fingers, shifting her eyes back and forth. "Uhh, you know what happened back home? With Willow and the city and-"

"I know. I mean, I'll forget everything past my death once we return but I also know I'll learn to live with it and I feel it's still worth it. I know how rough it's been for Willow; I don't fault her for what she's done. I'm not coming back for her OR for you or even Dawnie. I'm coming back for me. I'm not going to lie though, I'd love if Willow were to choose me again but I do not expect it at all."

Buffy turned to Cordelia with a grin and Tara followed suit.

"I wish to bring back Tara Maclay with me. Oh, and thanks Cordy. Sorry about the whole dying thing."

Cordelia shrugged. "Meh, I've had worse. And good luck Buffy, you'll need it! And it was nice to meet you Tara. Say hi to Willow and Xander for me."

The two Scoobies shifted slightly and then appeared back where Buffy had been by the crater before Cordelia had given her the wish.







What Buffy returned to was pandemonium. She saw Giles shouting in a cellphone, clearly upset at something. Buffy also heard but didn't immediately see Dawn who was calling out for her. Xander was trying to regain his composure while Faith was looking for something - or someone - beneath the worn school bus.

And then - to make it all worse - Tara collapsed to the ground next to her. Faith paced over to Buffy.

"Where is Willow?"

Buffy knelt down and checked Tara's pulse. All seemed good, it was just the shock of reviving.

"Buffy, where the hell is Will?"

The Slayer took a deep breath to calm her already overly frayed nerves and lifted up Tara in a fireman's carry.

"Is Willow gone? I was kind of preoccupied elsewhere."

Faith looked down at the unconscious girl. She recognized the face but couldn't place it but she did know for sure that the girl wasn't one of their group.

"Xanman said she vanished seconds after you did. He said she was quitting being a Scoobie and was not going to come back! Are you telling me she was with you?"

Then Buffy almost collapsed herself. Had Willow just waited for a few minutes she'd have realized what was going to happen. If she had managed to contain her impulses just this once she'd see what Buffy had brought back, who Buffy had brought with her from the other side.

"If she is gone there's not much we can do right now. She can teleport wherever she wants and I'm carrying probably the only person who can find her."

"Oh yeah? Who's sleeping beauty?" Faith looked at the woman with a skeptic glance, still unable to fully recognize her.

"Buffy!" Dawn's screech called to attention that Buffy had come back and people started to move towards her with Dawn leading the pack in a sprint. "Where did you go? Willow is gone and everything is going wrong and OHMYGODISTHATTARA?"

Buffy and Faith cringed at the teen's loudness and Buffy muttered something about her sister still needing to be housetrained. Tara seemed to recognize the sound though and started to stir in Buffy's arms.

"Hey Dawnie. W-what's going on? Why aren't we back home and shouldn't you be in school by now?"

Dawn grew pale as a ghost even as she kissed Tara's forehead. She turned to her sister with her hand gently resting on Tara's head. "Buffy, what did you do?"

The others had seen the commotion and those that recognized the carried witch moved up to join them. Xander moved up to Buffy and took over the job of carrying the exhausted woman towards the bus, giving a still-injured Buffy the chance to get a few moments of physical rest. He looked back to his friend's tired expression.

"Buffster, what's going on? How did Tara get here?"

She sighed, she wouldn't get the chance to even sit down for a moment at this rate. 'Better to get it over with at once so we can find some shelter before it got too dark.'

"The Powers That Be gave me a wish as reward for stopping the First Evil. It had a bunch of rules but the short of it is that I got to ask Tara if she wanted to come back and she said yes."

The witch looked up from Xander's arms with her squinted eyes locking with Buffy's.

"What? I don't... I last saw you making up with Xander in your backyard."

Buffy ignored the interruption and continued. "They told me that she wouldn't remember anything since, well, you know? Still, she wanted to come back. Now she's back and you tell me that suddenly Willow is missing?"

Giles removed his glasses and let loose a frustrated sigh.

"Buffy, please don't tell me you've doomed the poor girl to suffer the same trauma that you still begrudge Willow for?"

Dawn slapped his arm and glared daggers at him, angry at his immediate attempt to question and judge Tara's return.

"I told you," Buffy hissed, "Tara was asked first and she said yes without a doubt."

Faith sighed loudly. "Willow told me back when she drove me from LA what she had experienced these last three years and you guys know what? It's up to Red to decide her own life, she's earned that much. I don't like her disappearing any more than any of you do but I think I get why she did it even if some of you won't. Blondie here coming back is a wicked miracle even if Red isn't here, it's a shame she didn't wait to see it herself."

The group stared at her as if she had grown a second head. What they hadn't realized was that Willow had confided more in her the last few weeks than the rest had noticed. Faith felt their confused glares but tried to shake them off. It was obvious to her that they hadn't realized that Willow needed to talk to someone else who had gone dark but was trying to do better. They could never really see further than their nose when it came to that kind of pain, if it wasn't completely black and white it wasn't worth their notice.

"Alright Faith, stand down. She is right though, this was never about Will. It was about Tara. I didn't bring her back for Willow, I brought her back for Tara." She looked at her recovering friend with a smile. "Now then; we need to load up and get to LA. We're going to Angel's hotel but first we need to check in a bunch of you to a hospital. Willow teleported god-knows-where and as much as I want to we can't do anything to find her right now. We're spent and need to rest and lick our wounds."







It was dark when they entered the off-ramp from the highway. Tara had recovered and rested her head at Dawn's shoulders, both just finding comfort in a familiar friendship that was once lost to a random bullet. They hadn't spoken much since they got on the bus, it had mostly been Tara reassuring the teen that she was fine and didn't need anything at the moment but her support and comfort. Dawn had told her of their current circumstances and of their home being lost and of the death of Anya and the awakening of all the Slayers. She had also told Tara that she had been dead for year.

"Dawnie?" The teen turned to her with a waiting smile. "Can you tell me what happened? The last thing I remember is Willow being covered in blood and then falling down."

The teen shifted in her seat having expected this question for a while but still not sure how to approach it properly.

"Are you sure you want to know? It's really Will's story to tell, I don't want to overstep-"

"I'm sure. I don't know how or when we'll find her and I can't wait forever to find out the truth. I trust you to be honest even when it might feel better or safer to fib a bit, okay?"

Dawn swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded nervously.

"Okay. But please listen to everything before you get mad at Will. She's had a very hard time but she is much better now. Well, better than how it was after you... Better than then." Tara nodded as she was preparing for the worst.

"Okay. You were killed on May 7 a year ago. Warren - the psycho nerd head honcho - shot at Buffy and almost killed her. One of the shots went wide and you were killed by a bullet through the heart. Willow held you as you died. She summoned Osiris," Tara's eyes went wide and she sat up as already the story had outgrown her expectations. "Yes, she summoned the real Osiris. She tried to force him to bring you back and he refused, claiming that a bullet is a natural death."

"Wait, what? I was murdered by an evil man who tried to end the Slayer, that's natural to him?"

Dawn shrugged. "I know I know, it was bullcrap. Willow thought so too and hurt him bad enough to banish him from our dimension according to Giles. Keep in mind that this is pieced from what I remember and what Willow, Andrew and the others told me so some details may be wrong and you'll have to ask Will about it once we get her back. Anyways, she stormed out and found out Warren killed you and put Buffy on her deathbed. So she went to the Magic Box and drained all the dark magic from the tomes there and absorbed them into her own spirit."

Tara whimpered and Faith extended a napkin from the seats in front of them while acting as Tara's guard in case any of the newcomers decided to interrupt her reunion with Dawn.

"She used the magic to save Buffy so that was good. Xander said that she was dying on the operating table before Willow saved her. But then she convinced Buffy and Xander to drive her as she tried to hunt down Warren. They eventually did find and destroy a bot he made to trick her and then she teleported away from them. I wasn't there though. They only found me once they got back home after Willow ditched them."

"Found you? Oh yeah, you were at school. What were you doing at home?"

Dawn looked elsewhere as she whispered. "...keeping you company."

Tara realized the meaning behind the words and embraced the sobbing teen as she let out some badly-repressed tears. Faith handed them another napkin, listening to the story while keeping her distance. Dawn and Tara had realized that Faith was tuning in but didn't mind as it was obvious Faith had heard most of it from Willow herself some time over the last few weeks.

"Buffy sent me to Clem - that floppy demon guy - to keep me safe but that wasn't a good plan. I convinced him to lead me to Rack who was Will's old dark magic dealer. Meanwhile Anya was back to her demony self and helped Buffy and Xander find Willow. They arrived just as Willow hunted Warren down outside the city. There they saw her flay him alive and burn his body."

Tara gasped but Dawn continued sternly. "Do you want to know something? I'm glad she did that. He killed you and tried to kill both Buffy and Willow. Let's not forget his ex that he murdered after he tried to rape her. He put an axe into Willow's back before she caught up to him too you know? If she hadn't become invulnerable by then he would've killed her too. And to be honest I often think she would've liked that more. She gave up her spirit for revenge but she wanted the pain to end, she never wanted to be without you."

Dawn took a deep breath and let Tara rest her head in the teen's lap.

"Willow did lose control after killing Warren. The dark magics corrupted her spirit and she went bananas and teleported to the police to kill the other two nerds from the trio. In the process she put Rack in a coma and, err, tried to turn me back into the key." Tara's eyes grew wide again in shock but Dawn held up her hand to prevent interruptions. "It's okay. I know she was out of it and I've forgiven her long ago. Please try to do the same because she wasn't herself. To make a long story short she easily beat up Anya, Buffy and Giles in the Box, destroying it in the process. And then as an encore she kinda, well, wenttoendtheworldbyanoldtemplebythecliffs."

Tara felt her body growing numb. She hadn't expected her worst nightmares to be as bad as what she was hearing.

"Once again, in her twisted mind - that was corrupted by grief and dark magic - she was trying to do good. She wanted to end everyone's suffering in her own troll-logicy way. Xander stopped her though," She giggled at Tara's continuously shocked expression, "yeah I know, who'da thunk it? But eventually Giles took her to England to some witchy rehab and she returned after the summer. She was hurting, she still is. She cried for you almost every night when she returned and spent every chance she got by your grave."

Faith handed them a juice package each and Tara was starting to get curious what kind of stash the Slayer was keeping and how she had obtained it.

"Then this whole mess started. The embodiment of the First Evil arrived and started killing potential Slayers worldwide. Some came to us for protection and Buffy built a small army. Anya became a human again and Willow eventually got some of her fragile confidence back."

Tara nodded. She understood Dawn's argument on a logical level but could not deny that it hurt to realize that Willow had suffered so much. For Willow it had been many months but for Tara it was only earlier that day that they had their morning snuggles. The heart is very rarely a rational thing.

"Will really stepped up, Tara. She respect the magic, maybe even too much, but she managed to create and cast the spell that made every potential into a full-blown Slayer. Without her and Spike's sacrifice we would've died today, the world would've fallen to the First Evil. It cost us our homes and our friends though. And for Willow it seems to have become too much. I don't know - I didn't see her leave - but she'll be back once we tell her you're back, I promise!"

Tara nodded reassuringly but was far from confident that it was the truth of the matter. For Willow to abandon her friends and the only real family she's known she'd had to be broken in a way that Tara wasn't sure she could recover from. She looked out the window, seeing little else but the sky from her position in Dawn's lap, and cried silently over the suffering her family had experienced in the wake of her death.

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 Post subject: Illusion & Dream
PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2021 3:44 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
Posts: 28
Topics: 2
Location: Uppsala/Sweden
So can you name your demon?
Understand its scheming
I raise my glass and say "here's to you"
Can you chase your demon?
Or will it take your freedom?
I raise my glass and say "here's to you"






Two years and six months ago



Tara groaned in frustration as she slammed the front door of the small studio apartment. She had moved in with Faith on a bad lease and shared the Cleveland apartment building with most of the leadership of the Slayer Organization that Buffy had formed in the last six months.

With no other real alternatives on what to do with her life - her legal status was tentative at best as she was still considered deceased - she had joined what remained of her chosen family when they migrated from Angel's hotel in Los Angeles to the closest active Hellmouth in Cleveland, Ohio.

Money was always tight for the fledgling organization. Access to most of the vast resources of the old Watchers' Council were lost with the destruction of their headquarters a year earlier and few of the old guard remained. Giles was the most senior member and the number of identified and recruited Slayers grew for each week, taxing the limited resources beyond normal limits.

She had hoped - and had been promised - that she would get the chance and resources to properly seek out the still missing Willow. She knew her girl - and she still considered Willow to be the only one for her - was keeping Xander informed of her physical well-being with quarterly emails. Willow had also, however, told him that she would not even open any replies to her cold updates, remaining firm in her decision to be kept out of the struggles between the Slayers and the different groups that opposed them. Tara had asked him to write to Willow and inform her of Tara's return but the lack of any kind of response confirmed the witch's intent to stay out their world for good.

At least that was the alternative Tara dared to think of. The other was that she knew that Tara was alive again but wanted nothing to do with her anymore. The fear of this possibility kept niggling at the back of her brain but she refused to give it much credit, especially after their friends had been very adamant of Willow's despair and longing for her in the year that she had been gone.

The third alternative - that Willow had killed herself and put up an automated mailing script to falsify her good health - was one that not even her darkest fears ever dared to entertain. What she had told Anya the night they brought Buffy back still rang true; she would feel it in her soul if Willow were ever to die. Their magic had connected their spirits in a way that no time or distance could ever separate them and she felt that connection establish again as soon as Buffy had brought her back to the land of the living.

The source of her current frustration was that very same person. She knew she would be forever indebted to Buffy for bringing her back and it was a debt that weighed heavy on her mind. Today Buffy had wielded it as a cudgel by reminding Tara that she wasn't brought back to spend her entire life looking for someone who didn't want to be found. Buffy had reminded Tara to live her own life and if that just happened to coincide with the current goal to relocate the Slayer Organization to a castle they had acquired on the cheap in Scotland; so much better!

Tara ground her teeth as she realized she didn't have much of an argument to stand on for remaining in the states. She wanted to stay in the US as she knew that Willow had only left the country once and the risk of being located in the old Council's homeland was too great. She estimated that Willow would stay in the English-speaking world as the only languages she had applied her talented studying abilities to learn had been the dead languages they used in spells and research. She had hoped to get the time to dedicate her efforts fully to find her lost lover and moving to the United Kingdom was a heavy step in the opposite direction.

But Buffy had pushed and she relented. Instead it was Faith that would remain in Cleveland and lead the local department of Slayers together with the former principal Robin Wood. The rest of the Slayers leadership would relocate to Scotland within the week and then split up to the different regions they'd begin to establish their different branches as their reach grew. As the resident hedge witch they had repeatedly reminded her of her utmost importance as their new 'Big Gun', the role that Willow had previously held but then abdicated when she had disappeared six months earlier.

With each day that passed Tara was starting to understand Willow's choice better and better. She knew she had miles to go before she could fill the big - but still very tiny - sneakers of the most powerful witch in their dimension. She also knew that she did not want to fill those shoes.

The Slayers treated her magic as a tool which chafed against both her personal principles and her will. The lone reprieve was that they had at least respected her complete and total refusal to even casually dabble in the dark magics that Willow had managed to master - first while ignoring the dangerous side effects and then by managing to prevent them altogether.

Faith wasn't home and Tara yet again had the apartment for herself. The two had grown close over the months and became natural friends after Faith had approached Tara with an apology and with tales of her recent interactions with Willow. She also provided the witch with an insight into someone scarred by their own faults and mistakes but who tried to better themselves through helping others - providing a much appreciated counterweight to the black and white perspective that Tara and her friends had often applied to both themselves and others.

Faith had also tried to come on to her a couple of times but backed off once Tara made it clear it was not and would never be an option, leaving them to restrict themselves to friendly flirting that served as friendly banter for them.

Other than Faith it was Dawn that was the most obvious confidante to Tara's thoughts. Buffy hadn't wanted to restore the strengthening bond between her and Tara - the General Buffy role that Buffy had adopted over the last eighteen months was one that Tara wasn't comfortable with - and their friendship was almost as distant as it had been before Tara's 20th birthday. Giles was away most of the time while seeking out and recruiting new Slayers to the organization. Not that the two had ever been that close in the first place despite the mutual appreciation of their respective fields of expertise.

Xander had talked a lot with her in the beginning and confided in Tara his grief over Anya's death in a way he couldn't with the others, especially ever since Willow had left the group. Within the group only Xander and Tara had really gotten close to Anya and after Giles abandoned them all following Buffy's resurrection their already shaky friendship had simply fallen into disrepair.

The loss of Anya hit them both harshly and provided a mutual bond of sorts in the beginning. In the last few months Tara and Xander had grown apart again as his refusal to accept that Willow was worth the effort of being found. He considered her rash and sudden departure to be a betrayal to the entire group but in particular to him personally. It had become such a divisive issue and unfortunately became the wedge that would ensure their continued emotional distance. Tara refused to back down on her stance of finding Willow despite her acknowledgement of his grievances and their friendship more and more reverted to bitter arguing as the Willow subject somehow always appearing when they spoke.

Tara had lobbied for remaining in Cleveland - an action many late-night comedians would consider to be the first sign of an impending apocalypse - but Buffy had a pair of the Devon Coven's witches assigned there in her place. She claimed a familiar witch was needed close to her instead than a stranger that wouldn't fully understand the group dynamics. What Tara herself wanted was not really something that Buffy paid much heed to in that question as she claimed her role as Head Slayer gave her better insight into their needs than any other could understand.

Buffy had become a lot more ruthless since she was brought back from the dead, that much was obvious to those around her. She had assigned - not asked - Dawn and Andrew to the Rome branch of the organization and used two other Slayers as body doubles and risked their lives to draw danger and fire from her, much like infamous dictators were known to do. It was not something Tara supported and her silence on the matter was not something Buffy were able to afford and the issue became a recurring and contested subject during strategic meetings and gatherings.

Buffy had filled the leadership with her closest loyal friends and allies and as such ensured that the Slayer Organization would grow in the direction she wanted it to. Xander, Andrew, Giles, Wood, Rona, and Vi formed an inner council that Tara nominally was part of as the expert on many things mystical. In actuality she was only there to fill a role rather an opinion and if she or anyone else went against the majority voice - Buffy's voice - they were promptly ignored.

She still had the debt she felt that she owed Buffy. Buffy was still her friend - of sorts - and she did owe her resurrection to her actions. So she'd go with them to Scotland and things would be better. Eventually. Dawn was scheduled to join them once she had graduated and Tara could learn a lot from the Devon Coven that she would never be able to experience in the run-down apartment she lived in. Yes, the future looked bright for Tara Maclay. She would be happier there and do a lot of good.

Maybe one day she'd even believe it herself.








One year and five months ago



Tara went to bed and prepared for another night of poor sleep. She rarely got more than a couple of hours per night these days and the workdays grew longer and longer as her responsibilities grew. Somehow - despite her repeated opposition to many of the decisions the leaders kept making - she had kept her position as the representative of all witches and warlocks within the organization. That meant that she was in charge of maintaining the protective spells around the castle, providing magical support for the alpha teams, organizing the training for newly recruited wiccans and also handling much of the magical healing necessary in an organization that thrived on physical feats.

She was more and more often going to bed completely drained of her ability to cast magic and wouldn't even be able to light a candle if she wanted to. With Tara being pushed to greater feats with every passing month she was in turn forced to lean on the Coven for support. It was a sore subject with them and something that had started to cause backlash from an increasingly independent-minded gathering of witches.

They hadn't completely withdrawn their support of the organization - yet - but they had been more and more distant with the Slayer Organization. On the other hand they had repeatedly underlined to Tara that it was the Slayers they were getting frustrated with and not her. They also informed her that she would always be welcome within their group if she ever left her current assignment.

Maclay was kind of stuck though. She had no saved money and her 'job' didn't really pay except in room and board and some petty cash for clothing. Even if she wanted to strike out on her own she would have nowhere else to go - the Coven wasn't a full-time occupation but rather an association of witches. Since she was still officially dead all of her paltry savings had been inherited by her father and brother as her last remaining legal family and she knew she would never see that money again. Even her high school and college records were gone as they were buried at the same time her body was put in the ground.

Dawn had gone on to college in California by now and Faith was somewhere in the US which left Tara increasingly isolated. To make it even worse Rona had been appointed to head of security at their headquarters. It led to repeated forced interactions between her and Tara and they never managed to completely shake off that initial rivalry and distrust that formed in the days following her resurrection. There was never any violence or even threats of violence but it was not conductive to a healthy work environment for any of them and their clashing personalities and ideologies impaired any ideas of forming any kind of truce.

Especially not for a Tara that was feeling more lonely as more and more of her social circle moved away. There were few witches and many Slayers and since Rona interacted with many of the fighters - both on duty and when training - she had grown a healthy social circle of young women and girls who looked up to her as a veteran of the Sunnydale Hellmouth and often took her side by default when Tara clashed with her.

Out of Tara's old friends few had remained in Scotland. She got along with Buffy outside of their respective offices but they argued almost daily over the use - both the amount and application - of magic in service to the organization. The increasingly militarized structure of the group also caused conflicts between them and Tara had to be escorted out by Xander - for her own safety - the time when she reminded Buffy of her own history of rebellion against strict hierarchies and the almost forced conscription of teenage girls. It was something that the old Council had started but the Slayers now themselves continued in their stead.

To make everything even more frustrating for her she no longer had any energy left to try any kind of magical search attempts to find Willow. By using public records Dawn had found thousands of Willows in the United States but not a single Willow Rosenberg. They had also tried Willow Danielle and Danielle Rosenberg but with no successes. Any magic Tara had managed to try was too weak as her efforts were drained by her overworked schedule and the rescinded support from the Coven meant that she had no other magical sources to draw from.

One thing above all others kept her up at night. For months there had been Slayers who were starting to lobby for the use of dark magic, completely ignorant of the consequences. The leading council hadn't voiced those suggestions at first as they knew of Tara's unrelenting opinion on the matter. But that day it was Rona who had finally broken the unspoken rule and suggested the use of it at the weekly gathering.

Tara had pretended she didn't hear the suggestion and motioned to move to the next subject but Rona had stood her ground and repeated herself. She still said nothing but after Rona's third attempt - this time more forceful in her tone - and Tara had decided that if they were not going to respect her principles then she would not respect theirs either.

So she promptly stood up and left the room without saying a word, ignoring Xander's attempt to convince her to return and try to find a compromise that worked for everyone. He still didn't realize that it was no compromise for her or most other spellcasters and once you started to use dark magic you opened a door for evil to corrupt your spirit for the rest of your life.

It was just the beginning. Tara knew that Giles, Buffy and even Xander knew of the consequences of dark magic. They had stopped Willow from ending the world when she were consumed by them but they still kept pushing the boundaries. Willow had to endure years of them going "you're our 'Big Gun,' just this once it's okay and then you can stop" when it came to the dark arts. Tara hadn't realized before just how heavy the burden of being the 'Big Gun' really was. How she had to choose between potentially sacrificing friends and allies or sacrificing your spirit and principles for certain.









Six months ago



"Tara please don't go. We need you here."

Dawn sat at the end of the single bed and clutched the throw pillow in her arms. Tara was in the process of packing her duffle bag in a cold and methodical manner that the younger girl didn't often see in the usually calm and collected woman.

"Just let me talk to her. Buffy just doesn't understand magic and she didn't mean anything by it!"

Tara slowed down and took a deep breath to calm and center herself.

"Dawnie, she doesn't want to understand. She knows that I won't bend on this but she refuse to stop pushing me towards the dark magic. She's remaining willfully ignorant so she can claim innocence once I start going down the path that Willow did before me."

Dawn was desperate. She didn't want Tara to leave and she hated that once again it was a fight over dark magic and trust that drove her away from Dawn. "But maybe if-"

"No!" Tara hissed raptly and started the younger woman. She caught herself and moved up to sit next to her on the bed, embracing her with one arm.

"I'm sorry Dawnie. It's just.. Neither I or Buffy can bend on this. I owe her my life but not my spirit, not my soul. She promised me I'd get the chance to go and look for Willow and she has reneged on that promise several times. It's been over two years now and I'm stuck in another country all but isolated with no money and no future outside the Slayers due to still being legally dead. I'm going to take what little money I have saved and visit Faith. She's promised me in the past that I could borrow a bit of startup money so I could make a real effort in finding Will."

Dawn nodded but her eyes remained locked on the embroidered pattern on the pillow. "How'll you get there without a passport or identity?"

"The Coven have offered me a one-time teleportation to a location of my choice. In a few hours I'll finally be free to really go out and look for her." Tara's lips formed the crooked smile that had become all too rare during the last year.

"I will never hear from you again, just like with her? This is the last time we'll talk isn't it?"

"Oh Goddess no. Dawnie, I still got my phone and email. Well I'll need to find a computer to use the mail but when I do I'll check it as often as I can. I just want to find her and talk to her. If she doesn't want to see me again then at least I'll know for sure." She tried to sound upbeat but the fear in her voice was almost tactile for her friend.

"How do you even know that she is alive? Other than those standardized mails that Xander receive like clockwork every three months there's been no traces of her at all."

"I just know it, Dawnie. We've had a spiritual connection - one we can literally feel in our souls - since we first met six years ago. Goddess it's been six years already. It feels like both just yesterday but also several lifetimes ago. We used to say that we'll always find each other and I has to believe that's still true."

Dawn had heard it before but something suddenly dawned on her.

"Wait a minute; how did you find each other back then?"

Tara looked at her, nonplussed. "We had our homecauldroned Tinkerbell spell. We could both summon it and it'd seek out the other. Why?"

Dawn just stared at Tara like she was completely dense. "And why are you not using it at this very moment to find her?"

Tara opened her mouth to answer - to give the obvious explanation that was unavoidable - but found she didn't have one. "Uhhm. Well... You see it's for shorter distances. I can't really chase the light over the ocean now can I?"

"No but you can start casting it repeatedly once you get back to Cleveland. Cast it and follow until you can't and then you recast it. Eventually you'll be able to reach her, won't you?"

And that's when the penny finally dropped for the Wicca. She had used all kinds of fancy and powerful spells in the past but always came up short while she forgot the very basic one that the couple had created together. It was almost poetic that it would be the possible solution to a problem she had struggled with ever since her return to life. She climbed to the middle of the bed and sat down indian-style and closed her eyes. After a few seconds a small light appeared and flew out of the opened window.

"She's alive! It works!" The open-mouthed smile may have made her look doped up and completely out of it but it also displayed a hope that Dawn hadn't seen in her since she caught the Wiccan love birds the morning after their short-lived reconciliation four years earlier.

Dawn took out an old laptop from her bag and handed it to Tara with a wide grin. "Here you go. This is Willow's old clunker. Almost everything is password-protected but she left it in the bus the day she disappeared and I just couldn't part with it, it was all I had to remember her by. Please take it and give it to her once you find her, okay?"

Tara crawled up to Dawn and embraced her as the tears freely ran down her cheeks. She finally had a map home. Home was where her heart was.

Home was Willow.

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 Post subject: Re: My Dark Disquiet
PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:57 pm 
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hey, I enjoyed this on AO3 and am glad to see it here, I love that we have fics to explore what Willow really would have been like after S6, and I love that Tara has such and important role here but also is brave enough to leave when things go so against who she is- after leaving her blood kin though, I guess she's had practice.

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 Post subject: Re: My Dark Disquiet
PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 2:01 am 
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Yeah I mentioned in one of the comments of the original version that I wanted to write a story where Willow's grief and how it's ignored by the Scoobies in canon is actually taken seriously.

Well, that and I wanted to do the Wishrezfic but with a twist I haven't seen before.

Oh and I also wanted to explore the child soldier aspect of the Buffyverse. And the 'Buffy weren't in heaven'-thing but that comes later on.

In general it's one of my several attempts to explore the angst that the show ignored because they had to get more SITs and Spuffy crap.

(also that they allowed Andrew to remain in the house after TKIM was a dumb thing that really show how little they regarded Willow and Tara both as characters and as showrunners)

EDIT: Oh yeah Tara get the role Willow had post-S7 and that was to show that hey even after the actual series they still treated Willow like a disposable weapon and then almost killed her because Buffy just had to save Angel even after he murdered Giles and[RANT CUT FOR SPACE]

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 Post subject: All the Way For You
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:00 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
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Seems to matter what I do, so I'm saving this for you
'Cause it seems to be the last piece there is
And you haven't had a chance yet to taste this
Fragments of a life you shouldn't miss
Seems to matter what I say, so I'll hold my tongue at bay
And rather use my mouth to kiss your frown away
So your doubts no longer darken your day
So you can hold your head up high come what may





Two weeks ago


"Alright I've wired the cash to your account T. It shoulda be enough to keep that old wrecker bait up and running for another two months at least, maybe three. Are you sure you don't need any more green for motels and shit?"

Tara smiled as she relaxed under the night sky. She rested on the worn hood of her old Volvo 240. It was a slow, cheap and ugly car but easy to repair, extremely reliable and with enough space in the trunk to allow her to pack everything she had to her name as she set out on her search.

"No thank you Fay. I'm doing great as it is. I've made the back seat quite comfortable actually and it's not even cold at nighttime anymore. Besides; I'm getting the Tinkerbell dissipation faster each time I try it and I'm pretty sure which city she's living in."

"And I wage you still won't tell me which that city would be?"

"Sorry Fay. I'm already going against her wishes by trying to find her. If she allows me to tell you once I find her, I will do that as soon as possible. But otherwise I'll contact you when I've found her and then we'll see how it goes from there."

"Yeah, I get it." Her frustration was obvious even without the visual signals that the call concealed.

"No you don't Faith. I'm not even telling Xander or Dawn where she is. Not even her parents even though they both believe she died in the crater. Once I find her I'll initiate contact but you know I'm risking both rejection and despair here."

"Hah, likely story. I'm expecting to not hear a word from you in at least a month. You both got four years of wicked screwing to catch up on."

"You know I never kiss and tell."

"Girl, as long as I've known you you've never kissed, period. Take care now and give my best to Red. She might not want to believe it herself but she is missed."

"I'll do that. And Faith? Thank you for all the help, I never would've made it this far without you. I'll see you soon."

"It's chill. And no, we won't. We both know that. You'll be too busy seeing stars."

Tara indulged herself with a hopeful smile as she listened to Faith ending the call. It had taken three years - four if she counted the time she was dead - but she would finally meet her Willow again. She was afraid - terrified even - but she could not rest until she at least knew for a fact where they stood, if there was a chance for a future together.

The search had started hopeful but slow after the Coven had teleported her back to Faith's apartment in Cleveland. At first Buffy - in retaliation of what she perceived to be a personal betrayal to the cause - had tried to block all aid from members of the organization but Faith did as she always did; whatever the hell she wanted. Faith had used some of her discretionary budget to get the Volvo as well as food and spending money for Tara. It was partly out of loyalty to her friend but also out of spite to Buffy.

Okay, it was a lot of spite but she would've helped Tara anyway.

The political backlash of their fallout was unavoidable. Buffy had tried to push her old nemesis around and relations soured between the two factions enough that the Cleveland Slayers started to grow more and more independent of the umbrella group.

At the same time the Devon Coven had all but ended their cooperation with the Slayer Organization. Once Tara left there was no longer anyone who could take her place to smooth over conflicts between the coven and Buffy. After the Coven informed the witches that were still part of the Slayer Organization that they would not give them any training or shelter if they ever dabbled with any dark magic - under orders from the Slayers or otherwise - Buffy was forced to promise that the Slayers would not go down that path in any way as long as she was in charge.

Buffy was also forced to concede several contested issues in order to keep the Cleveland group within the organization. Had just one of the two groups started to break away she would've been able to contain it but the concurrent acts defiance ensured that the leading council's prestige and authority would be shaken for years to come.

Tara had kept herself updated on the events with regular calls to both Dawn and Faith. After Tara left the Slayers Dawn had returned to her studies at Berkeley as her semester started a few days later. She also secretly provided electronic support from her end and employed the skills that Willow had taught her over the years in Sunnydale to help her old foster parents find each other again.

Faith had offered both a Slayer escort as well as the use of local Slayers on Tara's route to provide lodgings but Tara always politely declined the offer. She knew it might've given away her tracks as she was searching for Willow. Not that she expected anyone to want to hurt her but Willow had made many enemies and the friends she still had were likely to try to bring her back to the Good Fight against her will.

Tara did trust Faith to keep her word - that wasn't the issue - but she didn't know the other Slayers in the area and who could be relied upon not to loosen their tongue, unwittingly or not. In short the fewer that knew about her location the better.

But now it was time for her to climb back into the back seat and prepare for what she hoped was the final leg of her search, the last hurdle for her much longed-for reunion.







This was finally it. Tara had observed Willow's home for almost a week. She had been using the driveway of a neighbor - who was out of town if the lack of activity was any indication - as her parking spot where she would observe Willow's comings and goings from a distance. But tonight it was time to finally act - to cross the Rubicon and roll the dice.

She hated doing this - stalking and spying on someone who it should just be so natural to be with - but if her girl were under surveillance of any other groups or under some magical curse that triggered if she got reunited with someone from her former life Tara did not want to risk it.

And yes, she was well aware it was insane troll logic but she had not gotten this far - passing beyond the veil of death and crossed two oceans - just to stumble at the finish line.

She had first gotten fast results to her summoned Tinkerbell when she arrived in Revachol. It was a small seaside suburb outside Boston with a small shipping industry and roughly ten thousand inhabitants. She had done some probes and found no noticeable levels of either magic use or demonic activity - it was nothing but a slumbering american suburb in New England where Willow had chosen to start over.

After sending out three of the magical spirits in a single evening - personally following the last one on foot - she knew for sure that Willow was inside the house in front of her. She had yet to understand just how the extremely talented Wicca had managed to block all the different types of scrying and detection spells she had tried over the years. Even at this short distance Tara was unable to penetrate them with anything. Anything except their customized Tinkerbell spell.

Since then she had been extremely careful and refrained from any further detection spells and was content with observing from a distance using mundane means. She had noticed Willow was out for only a few hours a day and always through a rigid schedule that she never once deviated from.

Willow never left her yard and spent her hours outdoors maintaining her humble but well-kept garden. Tara did not fail to notice the lack of magical herbs that were used in magical spells and concoctions. The only noticeable item that didn't fit with the rest of the milieu was the Salix Nigra - the black willow tree - that provided shade to the front door entrance and formed the centerpiece of the front yard.

Tara had wondered if Willow had chosen the house for the tree or if the tree was of her own creation - a kind of signpost to mark her territory. She never noticed any kind of interest in gardening or herbalism when they took care of Dawn together. In fact; it was Tara who adopted Joyce's old garden and it was a project that Willow showed no interest in at all. But on the other hand it had been four years since they last met. People change.

She knew for a fact that Willow had changed.

Due to her distance she never got the chance to get a clear view of the elfin witch while she worked her 'fields'. She wore large sunglasses and a wide-brimmed sun hat that would have maintain her anonymity to almost everyone. But Tara wasn't everyone, not when it came to the subject of Willow Expertise. She had graduated Willow Studies with a master's degree.

She did however take notice of the complete lack of interactions with anyone else. No phone line was even connected to the house and there was no TV dish on the roof. The windows were never completely covered but there was barely any light from the house - even at night. When Willow was working in the yard the passing neighbors and pedestrians never paid her any attention. Not even casual greetings were exchanged but also Tara never noticed any ill will from them towards Willow or vice versa. It was like Willow had established a reputation to be left alone - to live in peaceful solitude.

Through Tara's sleuthing she had found that Willow kept her given name but had changed her surname to Mactrista - meaning Of the Sorrow - a fact that made Tara very conflicted when she had understood the weight of the name. Willow was a teacher at Revachol High School where she taught computer science, english and math. Other than that she had no real social or digital footprint in local society. No mentions in local media, no photo on the school website and no known affiliation with social events and associations that Tara could identify.

And she was capable to find more where others would find nothing. When Dawn had given her Willow's laptop she had yet again proven her nature as the Key by giving the solution to the puzzle called Finding Willow. After guessing the password on the first try - it was willowtara4ever - Tara suddenly had access to all of Willow's old snooping scripts. It was the stuff she had used to datamine police, morgue, city hall and public records with the application of a few keystrokes in their war against those that go bump in the night.

The scripts weren't as effective as they had been in the past - IT security had made a lot of progress the last couple of years - but they were still useful enough to find almost everything there was to find when it came to the subject of Willow Danielle Mactrista.

It was how she found out that the name change was done through forged documents and therefore never formally approved. It explained Dawn's earlier inability to find the papertrail when she had sought it out in the past. Tara also found Willow's college credits after Sunnydale; that Willow had transferred her credits to Boston U and graduated with just good enough grades to be amongst the best of her peers but not high enough to warrant any special accolades or notice - likely to avoid any scrutiny or mention in any publications. She had then moved to the Boston suburbs immediately after graduation and was hired to begin work only days later and began her new career teaching summer remedial classes.

It wasn't until this very evening that had shiften her Willow's strict routines but when it finally happened it was - if nothing else - a radical detour.

It was a young blonde girl - very likely a minor - who appeared at the front door wearing a good-looking dress as if she were meeting to Willow for a date. Tara would have been lying to herself if the possibilities of the meeting didn't terrify her. When she considered if Willow had fallen enough to start courting students - something that naturally wigged the bejeebers out of her - Tara feared that she had lost her for good to a life she couldn't be part of. It wasn't until she saw Willow's expression as she opened the door that Tara relaxed somewhat. It was obvious that Willow was not expecting the sudden visit and had no idea how to react once she regained her composure.

Well, other than letting the young girl in without actually inviting her that is. Some security measures never really change once they had become second nature.

Willow had told her of how she had invited vampires to her home twice in the past. First her friend Angel and how her goldfishes had paid for it once Angel lost his soul and started hunting down Buffy's friends. The second time was an accidental invite of Spike where only the first appearance of the behavioral modification chip had saved her life. After those two mistakes Willow had become extremely vigilant with how she treated any potential visitors and had drilled both Tara and Dawn on proper invitation security when they lived as a family in the Summers residence.

The teenager had stayed at Willow's place for about an hour before she was collected up by what appeared to be her parents. That was another good sign that nothing illicit was going on behind the her and Willow. Instead Tara felt sick that she had ever doubted the other witch; was she still that fast to lose the trust she had promised herself - and both Faith and Dawn - to grant Willow at their reunion? Tara should've known better; there were some lines that Willow didn't even cross when she was at her worst. She had never been evil - it had been grief and desperation that drove her to hurt Tara and the rest of their friends. It wasn't an excuse for the behaviors, only an explanation to the causes for them, but it was enough for Tara to refuse giving up on their love.

As the car drove away in the darkness with the teenager on board finally Tara rose and paced towards the now-closed front door. Her palms were sweaty and her breath staggered as every step sped up her pulse and the reality of the situation suddenly became unavoidable. The next few minutes would decide. She would know if her old life was nothing but a tumultuous - but also cherished - memory or if she still had a future with her girl.

And Willow was her girl. The only girl for her.

Tara stepped up to the front door and didn't even knock. Instead she opted to open the front door where she saw the back of the woman she had sought and longed after for three eternally long years.

Willow spoke without even turning to face her. "Sandra, did you forget something? I'm okay with you coming here you know, but please knock if you do so."

Tara froze as she suddenly blanked; not knowing what to do or say. In just a couple of seconds her mind raced as it contemplated hundreds of different ways she would start the reunion but eventually she opted to go with the simple and familiar.

"Sweetie?"

Willow froze and Tara felt the tension growing within her former lover - a tension confirmed by the pale face that greeted her as Willow turned around towards the front door.

"Oh."

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 Post subject: The Sweet Escape
PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:25 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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Lying in the arms of night
In the shadows of the firelight
Suspended by this feeling of fading away
I wanna run away with you
So meet me by the cut through
Together we'll make our sweet escape





"Oh."

Tara first did nothing. She simply didn't know how to respond to Willow. She said nothing while she took in the long sought after appearance of her great love who stared at her in complete silence. Finally Tara nodded towards the inner doormat to query if it was okay if she entered. Willow nodded in response with her mouth agape as if stunned in both awe and horror.

As Tara entered the residence her eyes adjusted to the poor lightning in the house. She wasn't shocked at the sparse furnishing or the multitude of books and tomes covering every single wall. She was more worried at the almost complete lack of personalization that Willow otherwise loved to indulge in. No posters or paintings and no quirky mugs or kitschy lamps. Nothing but the barest essentials for survival. And books. Hundreds - if not thousands - of books.

Willow was dressed in dark yoga pants and a simple tank top. It the same type of sleepwear that she used to wear back when they were a couple in Sunnydale. Her braided hair masked the true length of her red mane but Tara had caught glances of the wavy curls during her observations in the last couple of days. Willow's face was drawn and pale and completely lacked the signs of life - the little microexpressions and twitches that were so quintessentially Willow - that Tara had fallen in love with.

She resembled more the appearance she had during the worst depths of her addiction. Or rather what Dawn had described she had looked like during that time. Tara had avoided her during that entire period for her own sake - letting Willow recover and rebuild her life in peace - a decision she had second-guessed hundreds of times since her return. What if she had just remained and helped Willow recover instead of forcing her to face it all by herself? But would've Willow realize the cost of her spiral into darkness if Tara had stayed with her and what would have prevented her from repeating the actions that drove them apart?

No. Tara knew she had done the right thing back then. It hurt them both but it had to be done - the best choice is very often the easiest or most comfortable one.

Willow eventually realized she was being observed and felt like she was being judged. Her face fell and her shoulders dropped as Willow lowered her head in shame. She quietly shuffled to the indoor garden and retrieved a ceremonial blade - an athame - with ritualistic markers covering the black handle. She held it by the blade as she went to the small table by the back window and retrieved a picture frame as well as a crystal that had been placed next to it. Willow never lifted her eyes from the floor but always felt Tara's eyes in the back of her head as she completed her final duties.

When she returned to Tara - who in confusion had watched the strange proceedings with an eerie silence - the older Wicca suddenly recognized the crystal Willow was holding on to for dear life. It was the Doll's Eye Crystal that Tara had given her when they first got to know each other; the one her grandmother had given her as a child.

In the other hand was the photo that Willow had taken of Tara during their second year together. It had been taken while they were researching Glorificus at the Magic Box not long after Tara's 20th birthday and a cherished memento of the brief period both considered to be the best of their lives.

Willow handed the blade - handle first - to Tara who accepted it on reflex as she didn't comprehend the intention behind Willow's actions. The despairing woman knelt on the floor and held the crystal in one hand and the picture in the other as she pressed both mementos to her chest with her eyes shut.

Willow lifted her chin to present her throat in submission. "I accept the punishment of this vengeful spirit with full knowledge of my sins and transgressions. If at all possible please make it quick and make sure it's not one of my students who find me. I don't want to traumatize them with my own sins and failures as they are innocents still."

It took a few more seconds of shocked observance of the teary-eyed woman before Tara came back to her senses.

Willow was not just in a slump or deep depression; she had been completely broken. She only went through the days waiting for her death to claim her and when she saw the form of the woman who had died in her arms she had the - to her very obvious - conclusion that it was her past finally catching up to her. For Willow it was finally the time to receive the sentence she had been expecting for years.

It wasn't that Willow had given up when she saw what she thought was a vengeful spirit in the form of her dead lover. No, she had given up a long time ago and Tara knew the exact moment when it happened. In essence both of them had died the day Warren went to the Summers residence with a gun in hand and murder in his eyes.

"I will not beg for forgiveness or leniency. I do not regret the death of the murderer of my only light and I will not apologize for it. Just end this torture and send me to whatever hell is expecting me. Don't force me to kneel here and wait for it any longer - I know I have lost."

Tara dropped the athame and covered her mouth with her hands in a futile attempt to conceal the rapidly approaching whimpering that soon overtook her.






Willow saw nothing as she kept her eyes closed and waited for the end she had expected - longed after - for years. She hadn't considered that whatever vengeful spirit or demon that would eventually claim her life would take the form of Tara but found it a just retribution considering the circumstances.

'Just do it don't force me to wait any more end it and let me face my eternity in hell with some shreds of my remaining dignity. I'm sorry Tara and Dawn and Buffy and Xander and Giles and even Faith. I'm sorry I couldn't be better and I'm sorry for what I forced you to suffer,' her mind raced as she internalized the panic that she tried to hide from her executioner.

She kept her eyes closed and clutched her mementos so close to her chest they were starting to chafe. She heard - but didn't react to - the sound of something metallic hitting the floor but kept her eyes closed. Willow was simply unable to gaze upon the spirit who she thought would look at her with hatred through Tara's loving eyes. She didn't want her last memory of her love to be one of hatred and anger - not even when the alternative was that of Tara's empty eyes staring into nothing as she bled out on their floor.

In the end she couldn't keep it together anymore. The floodgates opened as the tears she had tried to contain poured freely down her face and she failed to stifle the sobs that eventually fled her throat.

"Okay. I'll beg. Please end it. Just kill me. I'll do anything you want if you would just end it all."

She did not receive the death that she was begging for. Instead she was embraced by familiar arms and her crying was echoed by the visitor. They remained kneeling on the floor for over half an hour as Tara embraced her love while they both cried and wailed without any attempt to preserve their dignity.

Willow had refused to relinquish the desperate grip on her prized possessions and kept repeating desperate apologies and pleas for forgiveness while Tara tried to reassure her in turn that she was the real thing - not a simulacrum or demon or ghost. Finally, Tara released the embrace and rested on her heels as she sought Willow's eyes.

"Will? Could you please open your eyes for me."

Willow shook her head defiantly; too afraid that the illusion would dissipate if she dared to comply with the request.

"S-sweetie just look at me. I've missed those beautiful emeralds so much. I just want you to see that I'm here and that I'm real and I'm not going anywhere."

Willow remained still for a moment before she slowly opened her eyes. She was willing to risk the danger of crushing despair - one that she would never be able to recover from - for the smidgen of a chance that Tara was telling the truth. As her blurred sight slowly regained its focus she started to realize the form in front of her was real.

The real Tara.

She was dressed in a pair of worn blue jeans and a yellow sleeved top that brought back vivid memories to the younger woman and the many precious memories they had forged together.

Tara saw her counterpart's eyes first get into focus and then growing wide in wonder of what Willow perceived to be the miracle in front of her. She gave the crooked smile that Willow adored above all else - the smile that could form the beacon that lit up the darkest of days - to reassure her that she was the real Tara. Slowly a warm sense of utter bliss grew in Tara's belly as she saw the shy smile that was forming on Willow's lips.

"Tare, I got so lost."

Tara smiled in recognition of the reminder of Willow's greatest show of complete dedication to her - the familiar repetition forming a new oath that none had to speak but both understood.

"I found you Sweetie. I'll always find you."

Willow sobbed with an elated smile on her face as she carefully put her mementos to the side and freed her hands to grasp one of Tara's own. She took her other hand and put it behind Willow's neck as she dared the first kiss between the pair since the day their world fell apart. The night was young and they have a mountain-load of baggage to overcome about but for now - for this very moment - life was just perfect.

Willow was her forever and she knew that she was Willow's.

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 Post subject: Moonlight Kissed
PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:48 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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For my words are the salt of lust
On that ivory skin
Difficult to hear at all
Through the everyday din
What is this if not some witchcraft?
Wrapped up widdershins
To lead us all astray
Hook in mouth
On through some webs of lies
Truth's a distant star
In our eyes
Moonlight kissed





The couple remained on the floor as they traded both chaste and passionate kisses for another hour before Willow failed to contain the stiff groan she had kept back.

"I'm sorry. Knees are chafing and back is sore." She stretched her neck and a familiar popping sound appeared.

Tara giggled momentarily. "Do you want us to get up?" Willow nodded. "Okay, then we get up."

She stood up and extended her hand in support of Willow as she also got back to her shaky legs after retrieving the picture frame and crystal from the floor.

"Hey Tare? Do you have a place to sleep? Because you can take the recliner. It's what I use for bed. I can find some blankets and make myself a mattress. It's no problem I've slept on the floor many times before!"

Willow gave a shy smile to underline that the offer was genuine and her heart raced as she both feared and expected a rejection of both her and the lodgings.

"Sweetie, it's your beddyish chair. I got a car only two minutes away that I've been living in but if you want I can go collect it and my sleeping bag within. It's more comfortable than the floor - trust me on that. But that's only if you really want." She hid behind her long hair as both of them walked on the conversational eggshells that had formed by the history that had separated them in the past.

"Tara, go get the car. There's space next to the mini and I'll go and make us some tea? You are welcome here as long and little as you would ever want. Mi hovel su hovel and all that jazz!"

Willow's smile grew in both size and confidence and was rewarded with a quick peck before her returned lover hurried out to retrieve her Volvo.

When Tara returned minutes later with her bags in hand she was amazed at how quickly Willow had changed both her own posture but also the general vibe of her home - all without using any magic that Tara could sense lingering in the area. She had quickly prepared tea to both of them - keeping the sole mug for Tara while using her water glass for herself - and made space next to the recliner for her visitor.

The door to the refurbished bedroom was now closed and the previously discarded athame was nowhere to be seen. Tara realized it had probably been returned to where she had earlier taken it in the back room. There it likely served as the ritual implement used for the retrieval of the magical herbs that served as proof of Willow still keeping touch with her spirit despite abandoning the demon-fighting lifestyle.

Willow was still gaunt and worn from years of emotional trauma and solitude but now she radiated with an energy that was nowhere to be seen just hours before. She was still jittery and moved eerily silent as if she snuck around to avoid waking up the ghosts of her past. Once she noticed Tara's return she hurried to lock the door and then held out her hands expectantly.

"May I?" Tara handed over the duffle and sleeping bags with a smile and watched as Willow swiftly deposited the luggage behind the recliner and then rolled out the sleeping bag with an efficiency that almost seemed practiced.

"Wow. This almost seems like routine for you Will, do you often have girls over?"

Willow froze and looked at her with nervous eyes.

"N-no, never. There's no other girls. Well there's Sandra who was just here but she is a only student in the GSA club and wanted to talk now that she doesn't have the support system in school that she is used to. Not that I shut down the club but it's summer and I don't talk with other people outside of work and I forgot to tell you I work at the school and I'm back in high school I mean I work there and my grades didn't crash that badly and I'm running out of breath now so no, no girls."

Willow panted as she managed to finally stop her panicked babble and Tara chided herself as she guiltily loved to see a tiny bit of the neurotic girl she had fallen in love with. She hated how she had gotten Willow to shed the small amount of confidence she had started to regain and discarded her backpack on the floor as she moved up to kiss Willow's head.

"I'm so sorry Sweetie, it was a bad joke. And for the record I did know you were a teacher but I had no idea you were helping the GSA. I'm really proud of you, it's a great thing to do!" She withdrew into herself as she had been unable to stop the words escaping from her mouth. "Not that I really have any right to be proud of you. it's not like I've had anything to do with it." Tara cursed herself as she feared she was being too forward. In her exuberance she had forgotten that Willow accepted her own execution earlier that evening and even though they've reconnected and started what could be a reconciliation it was leaps and bounds before they'd be anything close to healed.

Then it was Willow's turn to offer comfort. "Baby? It's all due to you. You taught me the importance of acceptance - of a safe space - and everything good I've done ever since has been because of what you have taught me. I know I have lied and failed you so many times but know that I am yours if you want me, before and always."

Tara hugged her again and held back the tears she thought she had already exhausted. They soon disengaged and Tara went to the bathroom to change into her sleepwear while Willow finished setting up for a long night of catching up after years of mutual longing. When Tara returned from the bathroom she shuffled down into the sleeping bag and sat up to drink the tea that Willow had made for her. They enjoyed the relaxing tea in silence and Tara smiled as she realized that Willow still remembered exactly how much milk she wanted in the drink.

It was Willow that broke the comfortable silence when she put her empty glass on the table. "How did you come back? I mean, I'm overwhelmed with joy and over the moon and back that you are alive but Osiris said it couldn't be done. Because I tried. Oh Goddess I tried and you have no idea how much I hated my failures when I tried and couldn't save you."

Tara put a hand on Willow's knee to calm her down. "I know. Dawn and the others have told me and I don't fault you for not succeeding. It was almost impossible but I'm glad you tried. I didn't want to die."

"So it's not a Suicidal Buffster situation?" Willow had considered the possibility of Tara being forced to endure the same torment that Buffy had when they resurrected her.

"No, nothing like that. I wanted to come back. I wanted to live and I wanted to see you again. I wasn't finished here." Willow smiled sadly. "But it was actually Buffy who saved me. The Powers That Be gave her a wish after you all closed the Hellmouth and she asked for my return. Cordelia says 'hi,' by the way!"

Willow grew pale as she realized just when and how it had occurred. "Oh Goddess. Oh no. Please tell me she didn't bring you back for me, I don't want you here if it's a wish forcing you be here. I can't do that to you. Not again. I can't force you to stay with me. I'm sorry." She hugged her knees as she curled into a ball as she feared the revelation that her biggest dream had become a monkey-pawed nightmare.

"No Sweetie. I came back for me and I - according to Buffy as I have no memories at all of the Summerlands - told her as much before I accepted the offer to come back. I mean I still want you and only you but it is of my free will. It has always been of my own free will that I've come to you."

Willow calmed down gradually and peeked out of the cover of her folded limbs. "So... no lingering heavenness or compulsions? Goddess Buffy must hate me for fleeing as a coward just as she did this for you. She could have wished for anything, wished for anyone, and I repay her fulfilling my biggest wish with abandoning her as a craven poopyhead."

Tara's eyes nervously shifted in avoidance between the closest bookshelf and Willow. "Wellllll, that's not actually completely true. There was apparently some limitations on the wish and she once told me - actually she shouted it at me during an angry argument - that I was her fourth choice. The three ahead of me just couldn't or wouldn't accept for different reasons."

That was something Willow wouldn't have estimated. "Only fourth? Okay I can see Joyce. Aaand maybe Spike as she always saw something in him that the rest of us didn't. But who else and why didn't any of them accept?"

"Spike's soul was trapped in an amulet at the time. He's back now though for what it's worth. Joyce refused to return as she wanted to enjoy her afterlife instead. It was Anya who was third but she," Tara sighed sadly before continuing, "she is held captive by D'Hoffryn due to her history as a vengeance demon. The Powers couldn't bring her back even if she wanted to."

"Oh heck. Poor Anya. I mean we almost never got along but I don't think she's in a good place if she's with D'Hoffryn. He wasn't exactly happy with her the second time she became a human. How did Xander take that bit of info?"

"Not well. He took a sabbatical for a couple of months and lived with Dracula of all people. Or all vampires. I guess. He's better now though! He got a long-distance relationship with Dawn as she's completing her studies actually. She says hi and misses you, by the way." She smiled at Willow who stared into the distance as she was processing the updates on her old family.

"Wait! Dawnie knows you're here? Who else knows? I love them all but I don't want them to come and try to bring me back. I can't go back again." She nervously stared out of the window as if she would see a team of Slayers waiting in the darkness to drag her back against her will.

"Only Faith and Dawn know that I have found you but they only know that you're still in the US. They don't know the city or even the state: I've kept my search and locations hidden because I didn't even know if you wanted me here at all." She hid behind her hair again with the implication of the statement obvious to them both.

"Tara? Listen to me. If I had thought there was even a thousand of a percentile of a chance that you were alive I would have spent day and night trying to find you. I guess you have told Xander to tell me by email?" Tara nodded. "My promise in the updates were kept as I've never opened any replies and they're automatically deleted when I receive them. I knew that if I read them I'd be tempted into trying to help and I just can't do that anymore. I appreciate that you've kept my secret. I am happy - if a bit surprised - that they were invested in this but I can't talk to them yet. I don't know if I can ever meet them again."

Tara nodded. "That's okay. I'm happy to know that you wanted to meet me again despite everything."

"Please trust me when I say that being rash when Buffy disappeared would have been considered the biggest mistake of my life if I didn't have so many other good candidates to pick from." She chuckled nervously. "You know. Getting addicted and violating you. Or abandoning you at the fair. Or causing your death. Or trying to kill Buffy, Giles and Dawn. Or trying to end the world. Or awakening all the Slayers. Or almost killing Dawn that other time. Or-"

"Or flaying a man alive?" Tara interrupted with an expressionless face as she probed Willow for her stance on a subject they would have to confront eventually.

"No!" Willow sat up with her back straight. This subject was the one thing she did not regret. "I will not ever apologize for that. I never have. He murdered you and would have killed Buffy as well if I hadn't overdosed. He deserved everything he got and more and if being given a chance to change history I would only choose to do it without dark magic. But trust me when I say I'd end him every single time." Her famous resolve face hid the anxiety she held that Tara would never forgive her for both the murder but also the complete lack of remorse of it.

"Good." Willow did not anticipate that response. "He was a murdering rapist and Dawn told me that he tried to kill you several times during that day. I'm glad he is gone and unable to hurt anyone else again."

Willow looked at Tara as if she had turned green and grown horns.

"Willow; listen to me. I know you and the others had the idea that I was some kind of good and pure paragon. I'm not. I'm human. I curse, I stumble and I mess up. I can forgive many things - including everything you've ever done - but I can't forgive him for killing me and trying to kill you and Buffy. I'm not a saint, I'm only human. It was you who taught me that I was nothing more than human."

Willow giggled in remembrance of Spike punching Tara's nose and hurting himself in the process before she returned to her somber self.

"I do regret hunting Jonathan and that other one though. They were little shits but I shouldn't have tried to kill them for Warren's actions."

"No you're right; you shouldn't have. But they survived and Andrew seems to have found his way, finally." Tara made no effort to hide her frustration with the diminutive geek.

Willow nodded understandably. "Yeah. I never could accept how easily he was accepted with the others. Even if he didn't pull the trigger himself he was part of many efforts to hurt us and Buffy in particular. He also murdered Jonathan. Oh and let's not forget that when I temporarily turned into Warren," Tara's poorly hidden surprise revealed her ignorance of those events, "he was overjoyed of Warren's apparent return like I've never seen him before or since. That he was allowed to stay in the house after that - the house where his best friend and accomplice murdered you - was an insult to both you and me."

Tara nodded somberly. She knew some of Andrew's history with her murderer and how she had never felt safe when he was around - she never had those six months where they got acclimated to him. "He's a Watcher now you know? He's in charge of the entire southern European division based out of Rome."

Willow groaned in frustration and was both shocked and completely unsurprised that they had given him so much power and influence. "Buffy's brainchild?"

"Giles' actually. Buffy is the real head of the Slayers but Giles is like the head Watcher and in charge of Andrew's training. Xander is a watcher now too. Dawn is outside the organization and enjoying the college life while Faith run the Cleveland group. She is the one who loaned me the funds for the search, actually."

Willow's eyebrows shot into orbit. "Wait, really? Give me her account number and how much, I'll cover every penny of it."

"There's no need to Will, I'll do it eventually. She know it'll take a while to get it back but I will." Tara yawned as the fatigue of the day was catching up to her.

"Please Tare, let me do this. It's my fault you had to do it in the first place and I have almost no expenses and a decent salary. Well for a teacher anyway. I got a lot of money for a rainy day and those clouds out there are sure looking shifty." In an exaggerated manner Willow gazed out at the clouds hidden in the darkness. "Please? I mean, it's the least I can do and don't take this the wrong way but if you're living in a car on borrowed money then you need it a lot more than I ever could. There's no strings attached as I won't miss the money any way so you won't be in my debt in any way at all."

Tara considered protesting but soon relented with a smiling nod that was interrupted by another even bigger yawn.

Willow beamed and shuffled to the side in the recliner as she lifted the covers. "If you want there's space here for cuddling. Only if you want and no pressure and no funny business but it's a lot more comfortable than the floor, sleeping bag or no sleeping bag."

Tara gave her a crooked smile and started moving to relocate but stopped mid-motion.

"Are you certain? Because I'd love to snuggle tonight but only if you really want. You're already being the bestest of best host by letting me sleep here."

Willow didn't answer but gestured empathetically for Tara to join her under the covers. Tara quickly got comfortable in the now quite crowded recliner as she knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

"So you don't have any money or a place to live? Where have you been the last three years then?"

Tara shrugged nonchalantly. "Just with the Slayers. I was their resident Wicca and magic advisor until we had some... irreconcilable differences but it was a room and board deal only, as there's no budget for any salaries. And with being legally dead and all it's not like I have any records to apply for an apartment or a job. Any money I had left when I died was inherited by dad and Donny so that's gone too."

Willow frowned and mourned the years Tara had lost - both the real and academical.

"If I still had my laptop there is something I could do about that."

Tara grinned as she whispered an incantation and her backpack hovered to the girls. She withdrew Willow's old mac and returned the long-forgotten but previously constant companion to its first owner.

"Dawn had kept it and wanted me to return it to you. I actually had use of some of your old data-mining setups when trying to find you, Willow Mactrista. It's all charged up and ready to go!"

Willow kissed her cheek and grinned as she booted up her old friend. She connected to her Wi-Fi and then brought up a hidden file called 'Dreamlands' but refrained from starting the application; her index finger hovering above the touchpad.

"If you really want I can bring you - all of you - back to life with the press of a button."

Tara leaned forward to read the screen. "Dreamlands? I haven't seen that file before, what's it for?"

"It was what I dreamt of every day after I returned from England. I hoped every day - every second - that you would return to me one day so I wrote a script to modify all your records by using hidden and dormant backdoors in all the relevant systems. When I run this you'll be back alive. You'll also get immediate access to a hidden bank account I set up where I had, uuhm, appropriated some money from the old Watcher's Council to start over. Your college records will be valid again and it'll be as if your death was nothing but a clerical error."

Tara fought back the tears as she burrowed her face in the nape of Willow's neck. "You did all that even though the chance of me coming back was all but nonexistent?"

"I had to in order to survive. I was dying every day and needed to preserve a smidgen of an echo of the shadow of a hope to make it through every single day. The only thing I couldn't account for was your tombstone. I refused to do any damage to it in any way but that's no longer an issue these days with the city buried under millions of gallons of the Pacific Ocean." She spoke as if she was explaining her morning routines or the recipe of white bread; as if the application was something completely natural for a grieving computer whiz with magical inclinations.

"I just need to put in a new place of residence and your word and Tara Maclay will once again legally join the world of the living. Oh and there's no backdated taxes either. It'll forge those records too because that would just be a nasty surprise for no good reason." She smiled as she still hovered her finger over the mousepad while awaiting the confirmation or denial from the judicial zombie next to her.

"Do it! BUT only on one condition!" Willow turned to her as she waited for the demands. "If you are okay with becoming a landlord I'd love to become your tenant, miss Mactrista."

Willow beamed and she performed an elaborate happy dance in her head while she entered the address and activated the script. A series of windows opened up and displayed what was to Tara completely incomprehensible lines of code and after a minute they all shut down and were replaced with a single window - a picture of the two of them dancing in the air in the Bronze.

"Welcome to your new home, miss Maclay. My rules are: No smoking, no vampires and no chosen ones. I hope you'll be staying here for a long time because we'll need to get some new furniture to make you comfortable. And if there's one thing I can guarantee it's complete Tara Comfortableness."

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 Post subject: Lift/Kamikaze Love
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:23 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:47 pm
Posts: 28
Topics: 2
Location: Uppsala/Sweden
Like the other day
I thought you won't be coming back
I came to realize my lackluster dreams
And among the schemes
And all the tricks we try to play
Only dreams will hold their sway and defy

The way you walked in
I would kiss the earth beneath your feet
Take me where the angels fall
You take it all
Here give no quarter for my love
You raise me up to tear me down
Leaves you reelin', feels like stealin'
Frantic moments of kamikaze love





The morning that followed their reunion was one of the most tumultuous - but also one of the most exciting - in Willow's life.

She woke as usual at seven in the morning - just as she had done ever since she moved to the suburbs following her college graduation - but instead of rigorously following her set routines she felt the warm body of her light behind herself and turned around to embrace the sleeping woman.

She watched Tara with a side splitting grin and almost shook in utter contentment. She had woken up a couple of times during the night - both due discomfort in the crowded furniture and due to returning fears that the day before had been but a cruel and wonderful dream - but was still more relaxed than she had been in years. Normally she wouldn't have shaken her routines for almost anything except a complete collapse of civilization but that day? That day she felt completely fine with fudging the numbers as much as she would ever want to.

She had realized the importance of the routines during the first break at Boston U. As soon as she weren't forced to follow the set schedule of her course plan her entire world had collapsed and she suddenly spent all her waking hours crying in her dorm with the only bright spot being her luck in getting a single room instead of a double. She lost both weight and health during that first break and ever since then she had set plans for all her previously unscheduled time.

It meant that any hypothetical social events was an early casualty but her fellow students had started avoiding her soon after her admittance anyway. She was an excellent student - always completing her coursework quickly and diligently - but she never spoke unless being addressed first and outside of class she was even more monosyllabic than Oz had ever been. The few students who had tried engaging with her soon grew dispirited and eventually it became common knowledge that the small and red-haired Mactrista girl - who always sported a sad expression of grief and regret - was to be left alone unless absolutely necessary.

One cocky frat boy had thought she would be an easy lay - that she was nothing but a shy wallflower - and that any type of interaction of the amorous kind would be both appreciated and returned. When his overly frisky hand ended up with five broken bones and a fractured thumb there were no further attempts from him - or anyone else - to touch or court her.

The boy in question never reported her to the school or police as he feared social suicide if it turned up on record that he had been humiliated by a girl that was barely half his size and who often appeared like she would fall over by a strong gust of wind. Instead she eventually developed a reputation that reminded some students of the type that solitary individuals in small towns often attracted; one of a hidden murderer or a psychopath just waiting to go off the reservation at the slightest provocation.

They had no idea how close to the truth that had been. That she had almost ended them all not that many months in the past.

Willow did however appreciate the fringe benefit of her closest dorm neighbors being extra careful not to break the noise pollution rules or to speak too loudly in the corridor outside her room. Not that she told anyone of that. That'd require interacting with people. Fear was the only means of communication she needed.

The fearsome reputation didn't follow her when she started working in Revachol. Plenty of rumors surrounded the cute woman who had appeared out of nowhere and who nobody knew but once she became the faculty sponsor of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club at Revachol High the rumors were supplanted by another type. When she eventually confirmed her homosexuality - following repeated intrusive accusations from a conservative parent - and refused to back down or stay silent on issues relevant to the GSA she was left alone by the majority of the locals and many of the students. The few that knew her well(relatively speaking) - the members of the GSA - did get occasional peaks behind the protective curtain she had surrounded her private life with but other than Sandra's visit the day before she never gave anything but the most basic answers to any probing into her personal life.

Even Sandra - she who had been told the most private secrets Willow felt she would ever be willing to share just twelve hours earlier - was now hopelessly outdated with the info on her teacher she had accumulated. The small but very game-changing fact that Willow's dead The One had recovered from that usually very terminal condition was the most obvious example.

Willow remained in the recliner for another thirty minutes - her arm wrapped around the waist of her returned lover - silently appreciating the facial features that she would often describe as nothing short of angelic. To further support her description Tara's hair had been spread out in a manner that made it appear like a halo of more mundane origin. It wasn't until the subject of her desire started to stir that she was torn from her devotion.

"Mmmhm. Just how long are you going to lay there and sneak a peek on your tenant?"

Willow grinned as she was reminded how Tara were so good at faking sleep in the morning without Willow ever noticing it.

"Oh I don't know, the rent needs to be paid somehow and I think this was a rather harmless way to collect it." She leaned in and kissed Tara on the top of her head. "Did you sleep well?"

"Much better than I have done in a very long time. Okay, maybe it wasn't the most ergonomic bed but by far the most comfortable and relaxing one I've slept in for years." She sat up and stretched her back. "I do have one request though but only if you're still willing to let me move in on a more foreverishy basis."

Willow's morning got even brighter as she watched as Tara started her own morning routines. "Baby, you can live here until the end of days if you so wish. And you can request anything you want, Tare. Well, almost anything. I'm still not going back to hero business and I'm not putting in a frog aquarium or starting to host any social events for the neighborhood."

The musical sound of Tara's laugh was another reminder of a life Willow had lost but now had one more chance to regain. A life where she would spend every single day trying to provoke the sound that filled her soul with joy and happiness.

"Nothing that bad. I just wonder if we can get a bed and maybe an extra set of plates and utensils. And - but only if we're really daring and adventurous - some food that isn't just pasta rings drenched in tomato sauce?"

Willow blushed as the thought that Tara would like to actually make the house liveable on a long-term basis hadn't crossed her mind. No matter how many times Tara would affirm her decision in staying put, and how much Willow really trusted her, there would always be the lingering doubt in the back of her head that it was just a dream; that nothing she did would ever make her deserve to live with the woman of her dreams.

"Sure. My mini isn't that good with furniture though so we're gonna have to use your car for that."

Tara nodded eagerly and started to scan the area; clearly searching for something in particular. "Hey where's your stereo?"

Willow nervously shifted in the recliner. "I don't have one."

"Okay then. Any CDs we can put into the laptop? I would love a morning soundtrack while I got ready and cleaned up my now obviously obsolete bedroll."

Willow looked down at her hands and mumbled a reply.

"Come again sweetie?" Tara turned to her with gentle eyes and stopped searching.

"I don't listen to music anymore." Her eyes didn't shift target.

"Never? You used to listen to music when doing, well, everything!"

"All songs - all music - only reminded me of the one song I would never hear again. The one song I didn't - that I couldn't - record and was lost forever due to my own stupidity. I tried listening to other kinds of music but my mind always eventually regressed to that day in the park. To that song on the bridge. So I had to stop."

Tara's heart ached as she again was reminded of the crippling agony that Willow had experienced and how she was unable to let herself recover from what she felt was the suffering she was due. Eventually Willow looked back up at her.

"And then there was silence."







It wasn't until late afternoon that they had managed to purchase some furniture for the remodel. After much awwing and humming back and forth between them - neither of them daring to overstep any imagined boundaries - Tara finally put her foot down and asked directly if Willow wanted to share a bed or if she was going to stay in the recliner. She also made it very clear that Willow was extremely welcome in her bed if she desired to but that they needed to know that day so they wouldn't buy a single that both were going to use anyway.

Willow - upon being confronted into making her will known - finally answered clearly that yes; she would enjoy sharing a bed with Tara. Very much so actually. Willow being Willow she still couldn't refuse to jest that it made her seem kind of creepy by being such a pervy landlord.

With the pair living together as a couple it meant some of the invisible walls no longer hindered their communication and shopping plans. They suddenly became much more efficient and bought another recliner for Tara - it similar to the old one that Willow refused to throw out - and enough plates and other kitchen utensils to actually have spares.

Sheets, towels and other household items soon followed and after some prodding Willow even accepted the purchase of a 5th generation iPod with an economical speaker setup. She wasn't that opposed really since her main reason for her avoidance of any and all types of music had evaporated the moment Tara stepped through her front door.

And she would never force Tara to give up music like Willow had. Tara had always been a creative soul and had displayed her talent with painting and handcrafted nicknacks early on in their relationship. She never used to sing in front of people - not even in front of Willow. The crippling shyness had never really completely vanished in that area until the last hurdle had been removed the day Sweet was summoned to Sunnydale.

Other than the wonderful ballad in the park Willow hadn't experienced it herself. Tara had left her soon after Sweet's disappearance and Willow never got the chance to hear her sing again before she had been murdered. Willow would not try to delude herself into denying that she really was looking forward to getting another chance some wonderful day in the future. She just hoped that Tara had not curtailed her creative spark while living in Scotland but if she knew her as well as she did that was completely out of the question.

They were now at the last stop of the day. It was Willow's regular place of purchase that they used to refill their food storage. The other regulars in the local shop were not only confused when the notoriously introverted teacher completely changed the contents of her shopping cart. Instead of her spaghettios, tea and Jack Daniels she now bought basic ingredients. Fruits, vegetables, juices and other foodstuffs that required actually cooking something instead of using nothing but a microwave.

What really made the local townies take heed was Willow's unexpected and rather sudden change of persona. She was still a girl of very few words when others were around but she was not only with a woman that was a complete unknown to the other regulars but obviously one who was very close to Willow. The couple giggled as the other woman joked about her usual eating habits and generally acted like teenagers in the spring by sending small smiles that they thought were kept hidden from the others but were as if broadcasted from miles away as far as the bystanders knew. Had Willow not been so distracted she would have realized the spectators who were likely taking notice of as much as they could to feed the otherwise undersupplied rumor mills - the summer had sent many of the locals on vacations once the schools ended - of the suburbs.

It was while Tara was comparing two local brands of butter - not recognizing either of them as she hadn't seen them in Oregon, Ohio or California - that Willow suddenly changed the subject. Their friends in the past were usually caught unaware when Willow did one of the apparently random subject changes but Tara had learned to catch the early warning signs and had quickly reacclimated herself after four and a half years of being out of practice.

"Just how did you manage to find me?" She whispered - knowing the subject was far too delicate for the small suburb - and suddenly felt very aware of the not-so-discrete spectators.

"I told you before; I'll always find you." Tara answered with a teasing mirth.

Willow embraced her from behind - ignoring the intrusive stares from the other customers - and put her chin on Tara's shoulder. "Yeah but how? I mean I had enchanted the Doll's Eye Crystal with a charm that blocked all kinds of detections that I could find. And just trust me when I say that I can find a lot of them. And I know for a fact that my datamining scripts would not be enough for a global search. What exactly did I manage to overlook?"

"Me, obviously." She rested her head on Willow's. "I would've thought you had noticed the Tinkerbells that I summoned out at stable intervals. I simply sat by my car and summoned one; following it until it outpaced me and eventually dissipated. Repeat until I found a gorgeous hacker with a very rigid schedule and poor eating habits."

Willow wondered how she could've missed both the spell itself and the Tinkerbells. 'She's right Willow,' she thought to herself. 'You'd think that you'd see those glowing little balls. I mean they're pretty goal-oriented and noticeable. Especially in the nighttime where they'd look like-'

"It was YOUR knockers I saw those nights," she exclaimed.

The store went quiet as Willow realized she had almost shouted the conclusion and her face started the process of turning into the same color as her wavy curls while she tried to find a high shelf she could hide behind in embarrassment.

"Sweetie? I happen to know very well you have always been a fan of my 'knockers' but I don't think the entire store needs to know." She grinned as she turned to give Willow a quick peck on the cheek before they had to disentangle themselves from each other. Willow had already spawned enough rumors for the day.

"Har-de-har. The 'knockers' were the fireflies that kept tapping my windows until they died. Or so I thought. I don't know if you noticed yesterday but my backyard is filled with fireflies during the summer nights and they provided some pretty good camouflage for the little sneaky Tinkerbells." Willow appeared as if she was vigorously studying a packet of margarine on the shelf as she was considering the reason the spell managed to pierce her protections.

"What did you actually use to block the usual spells I tried at first, my little Will-o-witch?"

"Well I created my own spell, naturally." Tara had in the past been worried about the casual tone Willow had when it came to customizing the spells she often used even though some were older than any still existing civilization. Tara had learned a lot since then - of Willow's due diligence in the year Tara spent in the Summerlands - from the Devon Coven who had informed her that the uncompromisingly conservative ideas about the spells she and many others held prevented any development of the black arts and was seeing the process with new and more open-minded eyes.

Willow had become a lot more careful too and had abandoned the casual and sometimes disrespectful stance on magic that she used to entertain. That was the biggest reason for Tara's acceptance to the process that in the past used to keep her up at night. "What did the spell actually entail," she asked while being very careful to not put in any trace of judgement or worry in the question.

Willow shrugged as she didn't follow Tara's train of thought. "I just blocked any scrying, detecting and tracking spells practiced by any living mystic or written in any book. It's one I created about a month before Sunnydale went bye-bye in case we had to flee and had to hide from the First Evil."

"And when I was dead just who actually practiced the Tinkerbell spell that you and I had customized." Tara glanced pointedly at her with a knowing smirk as Willow caught up with her and smiled shyly.

"I guess I shoulda known that my own subconscious would never allow me to completely close all doors for you to find me. You really know me better than I do." Willow happily skipped to their cart and began to do a mental inventory to see if they were missing anything they'd need.

"Actually the Tinkerbell was Dawn's idea, not mine. I had tried every other spell under this sun - and some suns found only in other dimensions - but had gotten nowhere. It was with her fresh eyes on the problem that we made a breakthrough and after that it was just time to get in the grind on the ground floor." She finally deposited one of the butter packs into the cart as they moved towards the checkout line.

"Boy am I glad that Dawnie have no reason to hunt me down for revenge these days. That kid is scarily efficient when she wants to. Did she tell anyone else of the solve?" Willow leaned forward over the handle of the cart as they waited for the customer ahead of them to finish unloading their basket.

As soon as the customer was finished Tara moved them up to the cashier and started unloading their wares. "No but would it even matter at this point? The Tinkerbell is made for us only. Also when I left Buffy lost almost all her real magical support and resources - other than Giles and Andrew obviously - so the Slayers won't find us that way unless you ever let them."

Willow grinned contently with being repeatedly outsmarted by her girlfriend. It was a humbling experience; one she had missed more than she had even realized.

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My Dark Disquiet[AO3]
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 Post subject: Re: My Dark Disquiet
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 10:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:32 pm
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OH EM GEE! A new story!! YAY!! And I must say, it is a good one. I don't recognize your user name, Rutkowski, but this is a great start to, I hope, a great Willow/Tara saga.
Brava

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