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

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Dec 23, 2021)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2022 10:13 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:37 am
Posts: 337
Topics: 9
Location: Pacific Northwest
I am hoping the length of this makes up for how long it took me to update
Thank you for the comments on the last chapter- I will reply to them soon!

* I chose Prineville for its geography, anything else said here about it is completely made up



CH 49 Homesick


A light mist had settled on Tara’s paisley coat, moisture sinking into a swirl of pink and beige when she rubbed her arms, searching the restaurant for signs of her aunt. A waving arm from a back corner booth caught her eye and Tara smiled shyly at the hostess before gesturing and moving in its direction. Jaime sat at a table under a large, white paneled window that looked over the Puget Sound- the aroma of salt and seafood filled the air.

Denim clad arms held open, Jaime stood, engulfing Tara before she could sit, “Hey, kiddo!”

“You know I’m 21 now, right?” Tara smirked as they released the embrace, sliding into the bench like seat.

“Uh huh. Kiddo,” Jaime teased, plopping down again, “but hey, miss 21 what’ll it be? Martini, beer, shots of Jagermeister?”

Tara scrunched her nose at the last offer, “I don't even know what that is.”

“You’re better off, trust me,” Jaime returned, moving her hands to make space as the busboy filled their waters.

“Thank you,” Tara offered the young man a smile, completely missing the flush that overtook his cheeks before he scurried away. Jaime barely held back her laughter, raising an eyebrow at Tara’s complete oblivion as she poured over the menu. Tara chewed the side of her lip thoughtfully and Jaime felt a knot wrap around the laughter in her throat- it was something Katie had done with those same features. But as she focused on her niece, she saw the patchwork that was Tara- revealing itself in unique bits- and she let the knot unravel. The parts of Katie were simply the threads that helped create this young woman. The beautiful result of the little girl she’d once helped look after.

“It is wild to see you all grown up, though.” Jaime cleared her throat and took a quick sip of water.

“Feeling old?” Tara teased with a mischievous smile, unable to help the blush that stole across her cheeks, undermining her bravado. She tucked loose hair behind her ear, giggling as Jaime swooned back in feigned offense.

“Hell no! The thirties are the best.” Jaime said, slapping the table as she leaned forward again.

The waitress arrived at the table, skillfully masking any reaction to Jaime’s slap, and asked for their orders with a practiced smile. They both chose clam chowder, and non-alcoholic drinks, quickly settling back into conversation.

“Th-thanks for meeting me down here,” Tara gestured around the area near her hostel, grateful she hadn’t needed to navigate the city.

“Of course,” Jaime nodded, “I’m sorry we weren’t around yesterday, did you get to see the city?”

Tara swallowed her water quickly, “Please don’t ap-apologize, I feel bad just dropping in on you.”

Jaime waved her hand, dismissing the worry, “Don’t. Tell me what you did.”

Their drinks arrived, and the soups soon after. They ate as Tara talked about the day she had had alone in Seattle.


There had been a series of Gerhard Richter paintings at the Seattle Art Museum. Tara had spent the late morning lost in the patterns of rusted oranges and aqua blues, the colors woven like mythology, communicating where words failed. There was a comfort there, amongst emotion that didn’t need to make sense, even as the longing for Willow threatened to crush her.

The previous winter, almost spring, she and Willow had laid in bed, giggling over the abstract paintings in Tara’s Art History textbooks. Tara had given up trying to actually talk about the works, enjoying Willow’s giddy creations of meanings, telling wild, absurd, stories about what each artist was trying to say. Tara remembered rolling her eyes as Willow turned the page, tongue caught between her teeth eager to spin another tale. But Willow had said nothing, staring with her fingers pressed against a certain image, a Richter, different from the one Tara sat across at the museum, but similar enough. The image had taken Willow, left her silent, her jaw softening as Tara watched her curiously. And then Willow whispered the smallest ‘wow’, her green eyes glassy, and Tara knew that Willow understood a part of her.

Tara left out that bit, her memory of Willow, but she knew it lingered in the inflections of her voice.

“I love Richter,” Jaime responded, dipping a chunk of thick bread into thicker soup, “very cool stuff.”

Tara nodded, spooning her own clam chowder into her mouth, swiping the side of her lips where a bit remained.

“I just walked around a lot after, sat in that small park,” Tara indicated to the tiny urban greenway that could just barely be seen from the restaurant, “looked at the water.”

There hadn’t been a secluded enough place to do a proper Solstice ritual, at least not one Tara felt comfortable finding in a foreign city, and so she had settled for watching the Puget Sound, hands nearly numb cold in the winter air, imagining the lights along the harbor were candles, the salt-scented air her incense.

The cold night drove her back inside, and Tara had stopped in the common room at the Green Tortoise, drawn in by the sounds of ukulele and mandolin, finding two sisters entertaining a small crowd, comfortable with their skill. Tara thought of Dawn, she had forgotten to call earlier to wish her a Happy Solstice. It had been too late to call by then.

It had felt lonely last night, laying in her small, rented bed, her eyes skimming the text in the book she’d brought, remembering none of it. She had gone to sleep with an ache in her chest, missing home desperately, missing even more the reason she wasn’t there right now.

“You feeling homesick?”

Tara looked up sharply, realizing she had drifted, possibly even sighed, judging by the sympathetic look being sent her way. Tara shrugged a shoulder, an awkward grin tugging her lips.

“A little.”

When the check arrived, Jaime had it plucked and tucked away, completely ignoring Tara’s offer to pay, before turning with a smile and gesturing Tara toward the exit. They walked side by side toward Pike’s Place, eyeing crowded vendors’ booths filled with knick knacks and antiques once they were inside.

“Sounds like you got some good Seattle sightseeing done,” Jaime said, pretending to bite into a stuffy shaped like a donut cat.

Tara nodded with a giggle, enjoying the open silliness from her aunt. It made her feel welcome.

“So, are you staying with us tonight?”

They took the stairs to a lower level, another sea of goods for sale laid out before them.

“Oh. I- um- I don’t want to intrude,” Tara began, wrapping her arms around her middle and stepping out of the way of traffic once they stepped onto the new level. Jaime stepped next to her, registering Tara’s body language, the automatic way her niece folded into herself. She had seen it on Sunday, when there had been just a hint of friction from Mari. It was an ingrained response, and Jaime tried not to frown as she considered its origins. They needed to talk, as hard as it might be. She brushed Tara’s arm, jerking her head to get them moving again.

“Like I said. You are welcome,” Jaime said with a hint of tough love, “trust me, if it was an intrusion, Mari would have never offered.”

Tara released the knot of arms, rubbing them to give her hands something to do, “Okay. That would be nice.”

“We have beer, Miss twenty-one.” Jaime grinned.

“Do you have whiskey?” Tara countered.

-------------------------------------------


On the way home, Jaime stopped at a liquor store and Tara, after much searching, found a small bottle of the whiskey Giles liked. He’d shared with her during a few of their late night talks, dropping a splash or two into their teas.

They arrived just as the sun dipped an early farewell behind the clouds, deepening the gray hue of the day. Jaime showed Tara to the spare room, leaving her to settle in as she warmed and tended to the house. Mari was due home soon, and Jaime pretended to grumble about dishes she’d promised to clean.

The guest bedroom was sparse but comfortable, furnished with a small bed that occupied most of the space, a black nightstand and a four drawer dresser that fit into the far corner. She set her luggage carefully against the side wall and hung her coat over its top. A few steps in took her to the edge of the bed, and Tara immediately sprawled onto her stomach, the messenger bag in her hand landing beside her, bouncing a little off the denim blue bedspread. She laid, unmoving, for several minutes, allowing herself a brief respite and absorbing the privacy she had been craving. With a final long breath she rolled to her back, scanning the white textured ceiling before pushing herself upright. She tugged the handles of her bag closer as she sat, legs in a criss cross. The phone was found easily in the front pocket, and Tara flipped it open, dialing a number she knew by heart- hoping to catch Dawn at home.

After two rings, Buffy answered and Tara beamed at the familiar voice.

“Buffy, hi,” she said brightly, her face dropping a bit when she was met with a long second of silence. “It's,um, Tara.”

“Hey Tara,” Buffy finally replied. Tara worried her lip at the greeting. Buffy sounded off.

“Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No, no. All’s well that ends well,” Buffy chirped, “how are you? Did you find your aunt?”

Tara could hear the familiar open and shut of the Summers’ refrigerator and Buffy shuffling around the kitchen- she missed those sounds. It may not be where she lived anymore, but it was still the place she thought of as home.

“I did, I’m here right now” Tara nodded to herself, her fingers running the grooves of her corduroy pants as she filled Buffy in. She took a deep breath, hand paused on her thigh, “We, um, haven’t really talked talked yet. I’m fairly terrified.”

The sounds of movement stopped. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want,” Buffy said with surprising fervency, “just, take care of yourself. Even if you don’t have a big talk, I’m sure she’s glad to see you.”

Tara smiled, touched by Buffy’s words- the protectiveness behind them. They had a bond of sorts- one that had begun at the hospital, after Joyce’s death, but had never had time to flourish. But now, through another bout of loss, they had grown a little closer, and Tara brightened in the warm hand of friendship.

“She is, she’s great and her girlfriend, Mari, they’re both really great,” Tara gushed.

“Runs in the family huh?”

Tara rolled her eyes at Buffy’s chuckle, but the smile stayed. “Yeah, you know, different trees, same orchard.”

“Um,” Buffy faltered and Tara could picture the blank stare.

“N-nevermind.” Tara giggled, half- embarrassed, half- amused. Buffy never got her jokes.

“Well, I’m glad it's going well so far,” Buffy said.

The conversation lulled and Tara shifted her knees up to her chest, gathering courage, her hesitant voice deep as she began, “How’s-”

“I would hand you over to Dawn but she’s helping at the Magic Box.”

“Oh,” Tara blinked, thrown by the abrupt cut off, “th-that’s ok. I’ll call on Friday for sure.”

“Cool, ok sure.” The evasive tone was back- it was subtle, but Tara was attuned to the nuances others often missed. She gripped the phone tighter to her ear and spoke carefully.

“Buffy? Are you ok, you seem distracted or…”

“Just tired.” Buffy interrupted again, the distracted sounds of shuffling back, “And, you know, Sunnydale.”

“A-anything big?”

“No, nothing like that. Spike being an ass, that kind of stuff.”

It was like Buffy to shrug her way through conversations, but the almost dismissive tone pulled a frown across Tara’s lips- made the warmth they’d found a little cooler. It worried her, Buffy worried her. She wished she was there, could see Buffy’s expression, and if it was wanted, help in some way. She knew she wasn’t needed for the Slayer stuff, not really, but if something else was going on…?

Her memory flickered, bringing forth that feeling from Sunday morning, the gnawing wrongness that had plucked her from her sleep. She hadn’t been able to figure out what had caused the reaction and with everything else that had happened, it had gotten rolled up and tossed around until it sat in a muddled corner of her mind. She briefly considered saying something, but the thought of adding any more worry to Buffy’s life pained her, not when Tara had perfectly viable reasons why she had felt so bothered. Even if none of them seemed to be the right answer.

“Oh- ok, well I won’t keep you, say hi to Dawnie. A- and everyone, ok?” Tara worked to keep her voice light.

On the other end of the line, Buffy cleared her throat.

“Tara?”

“Yeah?”

Silence lingered again.

“We miss you.” Buffy said with no caginess and no distraction. Tara placed her hand across her heart, the hint of tears stinging her eyes.

“I miss you all too.”

Tara clicked her phone closed and placed it beside her on the bedspread. She trusted Buffy to tell her if something serious was going on. Maybe it was just Spike and his unnerving, yet oddly endearing, fascination with the Slayer. Or, Tara sighed, maybe Buffy doesn’t want to field potential questions about Willow. It wasn't ideal to be the friend in the middle of a break up.

And Willow was on her mind constantly, scrolling in the background of everything else going on. When she let the thoughts surface, as she did now, they were consuming and crisp and she ached to talk to someone about them.

Shutting her eyes again Tara imagined turning back time. Somehow fixing things before it all went so wrong for her and Willow. Before they were both broken hearted, because Tara knew Willow felt it too. They loved each other. Her frightened mind had doubted, but her heart knew.

A part of her demanded that love should have been enough, that no matter what, it should have kept them together- but it wasn’t that simple. A mountain of their own making loomed before each of them, its layers made of fears and fantasies. They had to climb, both of them, before they could stand at the summit, see the horizon beyond, and try to rebuild.

She wouldn’t turn back time, couldn’t change what had happened. Eyes opening slowly, she took in the light blue walls. This, being here, was a step in her own path. She tied her hair back with a band from around her wrist and unfolded her legs to stand. Shutting the door quietly behind her, she stepped into the hall, thoughts of Willow scrolling in the back of her mind.



A little later, after Mari had come home, immediately trading her collared shirt for another flowing top, the three women settled into the living room. Tucked in a corner, next to the couch, a Christmas tree was blinking like fairies and Tara sat near to enjoy the scent of pine. Jaime had carried in an overflowing bag of gifts from Mari’s car and Mari was lining them up to be wrapped, taking tape duty while Jaime folded the shiny red and green paper. Tara was grateful when they accepted her offer to help, taking on wrapping duties herself. She always felt more at ease when she had something to do with her hands. Pulling the backing off a sticky bow, she smiled as Mari looked over at her.

“Tara, are you going to be here for Christmas? If you celebrate that is.”

“I do, in a secular kind of way. And I’m, um, not sure, actually, where I’ll be.” Tara nodded, fighting the quiver in her voice.

“Well, we’re going to see my nieces and nephew on Friday,” Mari jiggled a box of Space Lego’s, undoubtedly waiting to wrapped for one of the children, “but you're welcome to be here- we should be back around seven or so-”

“Or you know, earlier...” Jaime grumbled, smirking impishly at Tara until Mari threw a bow at Jaime, the soft point bouncing off the side of her head.

“You love the kids,” Mari reached over and plucked the fallen bow from the tabletop.

“The kids, yes, your sister, she’s awesome. Greg, not so much,” Jaime said, stage whispering to Tara, “guy’s a tool.”

“Not gonna argue there,” Mari agreed, eliciting a surprised laugh from Tara. “But we’ll still be there until at least six.”

“I don’t mind,” Tara said kindly, accepting an extra piece of tape from Jaime and putting the final touches on an oddly shaped stuffed penguin, “Thank you for the offer to stay, and j-just to be with family, it’s really kind. Plus it will give me time to call home, um Sunnydale, wish everyone a Merry Christmas.” Tara wondered how she could feel so grateful for this time, for the roof currently over her head, for Jaime, and at the same time, be so lost. There must have been a hint of wistfulness on her face because Mari was looking at her with sympathy- and, Tara realized, a hint of scrutiny.

“Tara’s feeling homesick,” Jaime filled in and Mari simply tilted her head.

Tara dropped her chin, letting her hair hide the flush on her cheeks, before raising her head and letting the redness show. Buffy had told her to take care of herself, hiding away wasn’t doing that.

“I am. Things are com-complicated right now. And really, Solstice is my holiday so...” She trailed off, letting the information sit, unsure if it would be welcome. She released a breath, following Mari’s quick peek at Jaime, who remained neutral.

“So you’re Wiccan?” Mari asked, her voice direct.

Tara shifted nervously. She knew Jaime had been raised Wiccan, as her mother had, but she didn’t know if it was a practice her aunt still kept. They’d certainly never discussed it when she was younger- growing up, magic was a thing kept shrouded in secrecy, shared only between Tara and her mother. Later, when her father found out, he had tried to bury it, smother it underground- along with so many other parts of her that were held under bitter sharp stones. For a long time, they had crushed her, stolen her voice, but slowly, Tara was setting each aside.

Her eyes met Jaime’s over a mess of wrapping paper scraps and, with simple smiles, they exchanged histories that freed Tara to continue.

“I am. I mean, kind of, n-not like Gardnerian or anything,” the slight nods in response told Tara they understood the reference and she relaxed further, “I’m more nature-based. Elemental I guess.”

“I was wondering,” Jaime nodded, “Katie kept teaching you then?”

“Yeah. Yes. I didn’t kn-know you knew.”

“Growing up in the house I did?” Jaime raised an eyebrow, collecting the scraps into a wrinkled ball, “Mom had us all ensconced in the witchcraft so I figured Katie was teaching you too. I asked her and she told me she was.”

“Oh,” Tara blinked, reeling with surprise that her mother had said anything to anyone, even her own sister. She placed her final wrapping project on the floor within Mari’s reach before leaning forward, her hands clasped on her thighs- she realized her palms were sweating. “Do you still practice?”

Mari stood and placed a kiss on Jaime’s forehead, flicking their gazes together as she pulled away and gathered the trash.

Jaime nodded. “A little, here and there. It's mostly spiritual now. We were actually at a Solstice gathering yesterday.”

“Happy Solstice,” Tara beamed, her tense fingers relaxing. While she wasn’t ready to reveal the degree of magic she and Willow practiced, the ability to talk more freely, to relate on this level to her mother’s sister, was wonderful. “So, are you a witch too, Mari?”

“I grew up Catholic, so yes,” Mari laughed, a wry smile on her lips, “my Abuela was a curandera. It’s like a healer,” she explained.

Tara nodded, sharing excitedly, “I wrote a paper about curanderas for my women’s history class.”

“That’s great,” Mari nodded politely as she carefully worked the finished gifts back into the bag.

It was less of a response than Tara had hoped for, but, she conceded, one five page paper from book study did not mean she understood the practice. She had been excited to find some common ground with Mari, something to ease the uncertainty that lingered between them.Tara piled together a few stray pieces of tape, trying not to feel stupid, when Mari spoke again.

“I have taken on some of those practices, kind of melded some beliefs with my own. But, yes, I’m a witch, a bruja. I’m not Wiccan.”

“Cool,” Tara breathed out. Jaime studied her niece- recognizing the relief that poured from her.

“We’re a witch friendly house here.”

“But Jaime won’t let me get a cat and complete the stereotype,” Mari swept a faux glare at her girlfriend who simply eyed her dead on.

“Do you want me to die of asphyxiation?”

“I’ll buy you some Claritin,” Mari shot back, blowing a kiss when Jaime shook her head.

Multicolored lights from the tree blinked faintly off Jaime’s skin as she leaned forward, mirroring Tara’s stance. She ran a hand through her short hair, rearranging the spiky tufts into disarray. “What’s going on at home, kiddo. What’s got things complicated?”

“Oh,” Tara faltered slightly, her hands drawing together, fingers twisting over themselves.

“I um, j-just broke up with someone and,” Tara squeezed her eyes tight, fighting against the swell of tears that pushed at her lashes, angry at herself for not even making it through the sentence.

“Oh, baby girl,” Jaime soothed as Tara swiped at the wet slipping down her cheeks.

“S-sorry, it's just hard to talk about.”

“When did you split?” Mari asked gently, resuming her spot at the end of the coffee table.

“Last m-month, I’m sorry, I didn’t expect this,” Tara gestured to her sad face, “I just- I miss her.” A sob tumbled free, choking back the words and suddenly Jaime was there, sliding onto the couch beside Tara with strong arms that pulled her in and held on.

“Oh, your heart is broken,” Jaime squeezed her niece tighter and Tara couldn’t stop the gulps of wet air that shook her frame, nor the stream of tears that soaked into her aunt's t-shirt.

“I feel like I’m missing half of me. It’s so empty,” Tara managed through starts and stops, words dissolving and saturated in sorrow. They stayed like that for minutes, Mari reaching out to rub Tara’s back, pulsing with the heaves from Tara’s chest, before rising to collect a glass of water.

Tara accepted the glass gratefully, taking small sips to calm, finally murmuring a thank you as she slipped the drink back on the table. Jaime pulled back and tucked Tara’s damp hair behind her ear.

“Is there any way to patch things up?”

Tara blinked helplessly, the muscles in her face twitching without direction. Her lips parted but the words wouldn’t form, too tangled in the messiness of it all- she didn’t know where to start.

“Tara?” Mari asked, bringing Tara’s lost stare into focus, “you want that whiskey now?” It was so sincere that Tara barked out a laugh, breaking the momentary grasp of grief.

“Definitely time for some intervention of the alcohol kind,” Jaime nodded her agreement, still watching Tara, who blew her hair from her face with an upward sigh, settling into an awkward smile.

Mari stood, stretching her back with the movement, “I’ll get it. Tara, how do you want your whiskey? I have soda or ice or I could make it with some hot cider.” Mari dipped her head toward Jaime, indicating that it was Jaime’s preferred drink.

“You’re the best, babe,” Jaime murmured.

“Cider would be great, thanks Mari,” Tara added, blinking back the tears that threatened again. It wasn’t tea, it was better. Hot cider was Tara and her mother, reading together on cold nights. Tara wondered if her mother and Jaime had the same traditions when they were younger, Katie reading to her little sister.

It was both comforting and overwhelming, sitting there, with an aunt she hadn’t seen since she was eight. There were bits of Katie in both of them, each a reminder of the woman they had loved and lost. There were the years they shared, and the ones they hadn’t- and there were the questions that Tara had brought with her, ones she wasn’t sure how to ask.

“I’m sorry, I didn't mean to come and dump all this on you-” Tara shook her head, wiping the remaining tears away.

Jaime caught her eye. Tara could hear the ding from the microwave, preparing the water for the ciders.

“I don’t take family lightly Tara, not after losing Katie,” Jaime shrugged, dislodging the weight of the moment, “You’re my niece. Come and cry all over my couch anytime. But you’re cleaning up any snot.”

Wrinkling her nose, Tara made a show of pulling a tissue from the carved wooden box, giggling as she wiped any moisture away. Jaime tilted her head toward Tara.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Three steaming mugs brought the aroma of apple-cinnamon. Jaime moved to her own seat as they were placed on the coffee table. With a smile of thanks, Tara brought hers into her hands, letting the warmth soothe her.

“I’m guessing she’s why Christmas is complicated,” Mari offered kindly, opening the space for Tara to share. She curled her legs under her at the end of the couch, cradling her own drink.

Tara nodded, and with a deep inhale, raised her head. She hadn’t intended to bring up Willow, not like that, but Willow was part of her story, part of what had led her to Seattle. It would be painful, and it may pave the way for more things that were hard to say, but Tara knew that no matter how she approached her reasons for coming, there was a wounded path ahead of her. The only way is through, the feeling inside her said.

“Willow- her name is Willow. She lives with our friend Buffy and her sister Dawn,” Tara cleared her throat, covering the hitch starting to escape, her fingertips skirting the lip of the mug, “I lived there until we broke up.”

“Where are you living now?” Mari asked.

“In the dorms at school.”

“Are they even open right now?” Jaime frowned.

Tara shook her head. She sipped at her cooling drink, the sharpness of the whiskey awakening her throat, although it still wasn’t as strong as Giles poured.

“Well, you are welcome here until they re-open,” Jaime offered, sharing a glance with Mari that was hard to read. Tara missed the slight tug on Mari’s brows.

“Thanks, I can't though, the car is due back Monday,” Tara placed her mug on the table, assuming an assured front as she explained her situation, “I’ll f-figure something out- a motel or something.” At Jaime’s worried look she added, “maybe my friend Anya’s,” knowing she wouldn't be comfortable sharing with Xander, unless it was dire. As much as things weren’t ideal, they weren’t dire.

Jaime bent her elbows on her thigh and made a show of puffing her shoulders, “Want me to kick Willow’s ass?” It was an edgy statement, skirting the lines between humor and fervor and it triggered something in Tara. She met Jaime’s eyes steadily.

“You wouldn’t get close enough to touch her.”

Hidden behind her mug, Mari smirked, “Don’t fuck with Tara.”

“Nope,” Jaime agreed, hands up in surrender, vowing,“Just lookin out for you, kiddo.”

“I know.” Tara blushed, surprised at her vehemence- but a spark of pride flared within. She was never stronger than she was for Willow’s sake.

They sat under the pine tree, sipping whiskey cider, and Tara spoke. She told them what she could of her time with Willow, starting with when they first saw each other- the stolen glances that felt like revelations in the midst of a failing Wicca group. How she had fallen so fast, so completely, for this wonderful, brave, beautiful girl. How she had found a family with Willow’s friends- but not that they had all declared it in her defense, not knowing yet how to explain why her father had come for her. There were no stories of the Slayer, or the Hellmouth. Just tales of a group of stragglers who had somehow come together.

The hot ciders were refilled, this time with a little more whiskey. Mari lit a candle and Tara recognized the act of comfort.

Finally, Tara talked about her fights with Willow, keeping the details vague. She shared that Willow had hurt her deeply, that she was trying desperately to find trust again, that she was frightened by how much she still trusted.

“I just, some things happened, with the break up why, we broke up, and um, before… and it - S-some things came up I guess, about home,” Tara’s clasped hand twitched in her lap, “from growing up. And then I found a picture of you and I just needed to talk to someone who knew me when I was little, who knew my mom.”

She raised her eyes and looked from Jaime to Mari and back, settling on her aunt.

“I didn’t even really plan to come, I mean, I just felt compelled?” Both women nodded their understanding, giving Tara their full attention, “I don't know what I expected. And I’m s-sorry for not trying to get in touch with you first. I just- I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t come if I didn’t just… go, you know?”

“And you didn’t want to go back to Prineville. To your dad?” Jaime asked, though it was much more of a wary statement. Mari sunk into her seat, suddenly engrossed in her drink, but Tara could see the tightening around her mouth.

“No.” Tara replied simply. The mention of her father didn’t upset her, not like she expected it would. The hurt, the trauma, was still there, but she wasn’t afraid of him anymore. Not even here, far from home, with someone who had known him.

“So, what was this picture? ” Mari broke the quiet tension.

Tara tucked her hair behind her ear, only to have it fall loose again, “Um, you were by Dad’s truck, mom w-was smiling at you.” Tara remembered finding the photograph, how Jaime’s face had been scratched out, she didn’t share that part. “Your bike was in the bed. I r-remembered the tassels.”

“I taught you to ride that thing,” Jaime nodded, fighting back the signs of anguish even as she smiled.

“I remember,” Tara said with a soft, empathetic, smile of her own.

Mari shifted upright and stood, “I’m going to order some dinner. Tara, you feel like Thai?”

“Oh,” Tara stood, ready to retrieve her back and some cash from inside. “That sounds great. Let me just-” she gestured forward awkwardly, then slipped out from between the couch and the table to head to the guest room.

Mari watched her go, running her fingers through Jaime’s already disheveled hair, “Please be careful.”

“Please give me some credit,” Jaime whispered, looking back at her hands. Mari hovered, sighing heavily before she moved away, taking the cordless phone into the kitchen.

The air had shifted when Tara returned, her natural empathy taking in the tension. She approached cautiously, laying a ten on the table before reclaiming her seat.

“You know,” she started, wanting to dispel some of the situation she was sure she helped cause, “I’m p-pretty sure I got my love of Docs from you.”

“Please tell Mari that,” Jaime chuckled, “she doesn’t believe me when I say I wore them before they were cool.”

Tara smiled, “I always thought they were cool.”

The kitchen door swung open. “Food’s ordered, Tara I got you pad thai, I hope that’s ok,” Mari announced, crossing through the room and placing the phone back in its cradle. After receiving a confirming nod from Tara, she sidestepped toward the master bedroom, “I’m gonna go read for a bit.”

Jaime caught Mari’s hand before she got too far, peering into her eyes, whispering, “Will you stay?” A few heartbeats passed, the two women observing each other. Then Mari nodded and squeezed the fingers in her palm and sat down again.

“So kiddo. You have questions,” Jaime leaned forward, her wagging fingers indicating ‘let’s hear them.’

To Tara it was like finally reaching the head of a path and finding it divided in too many directions.

Start from where you are…

“Did you,” Tara began, finding her footing, “did you know that mom was sick? Before?”

Jaime nodded, slowly.

“An old friend from Prineville tracked me down,” she shared, eyes flickering to where Mari listened quietly, “she told me Katie was really bad off. I couldn’t go there, but I called and left a message for her. At the hospital. She left me a voicemail a few days later. I wasn’t able to get through to her. In time.” The grief had been tempered by time and acceptance, but Tara knew her own scars well enough to recognize them in Jaime. She studied the table top, taking in the spots of dust highlighted by the twinkling tree lights.

“I wish I’d known,” Tara said softly, “I wish that we could have been there for each other.”

“Katie never- she never talked about me, did she?” Jaime asked with a forced strength, an aim at resignation. Mari’s hand brushed over Jaime’s arm, squeezing gently then dropping back onto the cushion, waiting for Tara’s answer.

Tara squeezed her lips. She swallowed.

“Not really. No. I remembered asking her what happened when you left. She said to d-drop it. It w- was one of the only times she snapped at me. I didn’t ask again. I’m sorry.”

“You were little,” Mari put forth.

“I was only there a short time,” Jaime said at the same time. Deep histories were forming, Tara registered that she hadn’t even begun to put together their depths. Tara wet her lips, suddenly dry in the warm room, and faced her aunt, taking in the reminiscent slope of her nose, the high cheekbones. They were kin, and they both had history from that small town, nestled between the Three Sisters.

“Aunt Jaime,” Tara began, her gaze steady and kind, “what happened?”

“I’m gonna grab the whiskey,” Mari nearly whispered, moving off like a wisp of air, making Tara’s heart pound, unsure if she should take back the question.

“You don’t have to answer that. N-nevermind,” Tara said quickly, dropping her gaze to the rug. She steadied on a red bow that had fallen under the coffee table.

Jaime glanced toward the kitchen, both avoiding the moment and explaining Mari’s departure, “she likes to be useful.”

A loud knock broke their attention. Tara had forgotten they’d ordered food. As Jaime went to get the door, Tara moved into the kitchen to help gather plates, drawn by her own need to be useful.


Three small glasses were lined on the counter, each clinking when Mari dropped a few cubes of ice inside. She acknowledged Tara’s entrance with a slight bob over her shoulder.

“The food’s here,” Tara said, realizing it was probably unnecessary, “can I help get plates?”

“They’re just in there,” Mari pointed to a deep wood stained cupboard to her right, “thanks. We ran out of cider, hope this is ok.” Tara brought a stack of plates down, having to reach a bit, removing the top three and replacing the rest.

“It’s fine, thanks. D-do you mind if I have some more water as well?” Her hand hovered near a tall glass on the lower shelf.

“Of course.” Mari gestured toward the tap and for a moment, the only sound was the glass filling.

“It’s tough for her to talk about,” Mari said, her sight narrowing on the fall of whiskey, how it veered and dipped over the ice.

“I- I won’t push,” Tara answered softly as she gripped the stack of plates, caught between her need to talk about the past and the guilt she felt for ever bringing it up.

“I just thought you should know,” Mari replied, just as soft, then jerked her head toward the door, “let’s go eat.”

The meal provided a reprieve and they talked about simpler things like the weather in Seattle winter and how Tara hoped for snow. They shared Solstice traditions and their favorite Tarot decks, a topic that captured Tara and Mari in an excited exchange of information and an agreement to read for each other on Christmas Eve. Jaime had remained mostly quiet, content to watch these women she loved as they got to know each other.

When the table was cleared, Jaime lifted her drink into the air. Tara’s was watered down by then, but she followed the gesture in tradition.

“Drunk twister?” Jaime clowned. She wore a toothy smile that reminded Tara of Xander.

“Hell no, those positions are reserved for my yoga mat,” Mari raised her eyebrow at Jaime, “and you when you're lucky.”

And he brought Anya, Tara mused.

“In all seriousness,” Jaime raised her glass again, Tara tentatively following this time, “to my wonderful partner, and my amazing niece. I am lucky to have you both in my life.”

“You too, baby,” Mari clinked her glass to Jaime’s, doing the same to Tara’s.

“I’m really lucky too, thank you,” Tara looked between them and sipped her drink. And at that moment, with these women, she felt lucky.

Jaime set her tumbler down with a defining thud and a preparatory inhale, “Ok.”

Tara leaned forward, “Aunt Jaime, it’s o-ok.”

“No- you deserve to know why I wasn’t around.”

“Really, I didn’t mean-” Tara started. After Mari’s words, after her own guilt, Tara wasn’t sure where she wanted the conversation to go anymore.

“I know, but we should talk about it,” Jaime took another sip of her drink, when she lowered the glass again her features were set and ready. Tara flicked her eyes to Mari and, receiving a tight but resigned grin, turned back to Jaime.

“Ok.”


They talked for an hour. Some things Tara had remembered. Like that Jaime had come to live with them for a short time after her mom, Tara’s grandmother, died. Other things were familiar; the small town living that was filled with smaller minded people. How hard it was to fit in. Then Jaime talked of Hannah, a high school senior she had fallen in love with, how no one knew except Katie, and even then, Jaime had been vague- the whole family had become part of the big church in town by then.

Mari stayed close, ever watchful. They all sipped at their whiskey. Mari lit another candle.

“We were careful, Hannah more so than me. She was part of that church too. I met up with her one night after youth group and we went to the park off Foster, you know the one with the big trees?” Jaime checked with Tara who nodded, her attention rapt. “There was this guy, one of those church kids who think they’re Jesus,” the hiss behind those words was still fresh, “he had a thing for Hannah and he and his buddies followed us to, I don’t know, show off or scare us or something. We were only kissing, at the top of the slide, but everything went to hell after that. I messed up, big time, and then I had to go.” Jaime finished the story with a shrug that only moved slowly under the weight of her past.

“It wasn’t all on you,” Mari’s voice cut the air. Jaime turned her dipped head halfway in Mari’s direction as Tara took it all in.

“I messed up Mari.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said flatly, “but it wasn’t all on you.”

Tara averted her eyes as Jaime and Mari shared silent secrets, feeling both like an intruder and a strange bit player in the tale. She looked back up when Jaime spoke again.

“Sorry Tara, a lot happened. I was 19, almost 20, and stupid and hurt and in love and-” Jaime wagged her head.

“It’s like a demolition cocktail,” Tara near whispered, not even sure where that thought had tumbled from. But she knew what it was like. She thought back to the phone call with Buffy and further back to all the things they faced, the Scooby gang. All just in their very early twenties, Dawn not even there yet. They were all so young and they had all made mistakes for each of the reasons Jaime listed. Together, they had seen so much, been through so much. It had bonded them, and made it unbearable when those bonds were strained.

Jaime leaned back in the chair, and chuckled mirthlessly, “Kinda, yeah. I’m sad it all happened. I’m so sad for all I missed. Including seeing you grow up, I missed your face.”

The smiles they shared were bittersweet and it hit Tara hard. Not even two months ago, Jaime had been a forgotten piece of her past, a memory shoved away with so many from her childhood. Now, they had this chance to be family again.

“W-well I’d like to show it to you more often, or I mean, m-maybe just my voice, hearing it,” Tara flustered. She gave up with a sigh, hoping she had made some semblance of sense. .

Again it was Mari who filled in the gap, “We’ll keep in touch.”

The conversation was unofficially put on hold as they made plans for the next few days. Soon, they were tired and tipsy and made off for bed.


At the spare room, Jaime drew Tara into a steadfast embrace and Mari brushed Tara’s arm before they said a final good night.

In the master bedroom, Jaime stiffened, mechanically pulling off her jeans and into cotton bottoms. Mari brushed her teeth and changed as well, keeping silent until they were both in bed, the light clicked off.

Rolling to face her girlfriend, Mari spoke into the dark, “Are you going to tell her everything?”

Jaime laid on her back, seeing only the faint line of light from a street lamp outside. She was sharper than she intended to be, “I don’t know Mar.”


Tara rolled on her side, hazily watching the night clouds through the open curtains. All she could think about was that she didn’t want any regrets. And that she wasn’t sure what exactly that meant.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


Last edited by shirrey on Fri Sep 16, 2022 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2022 2:06 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2021 2:34 am
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Topics: 57
New Pokémon and a new chapter of Wilderness this is becoming a very good weekend.

No worries about the wait. It’s completely worth it for the quality of story you provide.

What you have provided with the last three instalments is nothing but brilliant character progression aided through reflection. The thing that makes it brilliant is none of them is the same. The tones are very similar but each progression and reflection is suited so well to the character and what they uniquely require.

I’ve said about the atmosphere countless times but the thing I like about your writing most is the way you pick up on details that seem insignificant but you can inflate them into the most emotionally charged thought in order to fuel an action or decision.
In this chapter it’s the art. Tara looking at some art and her mind goes to an average day of being with Willow and looking at a textbook. That section felt so much like the stargazing scene in the show. They both have such different views on things but they are willing to look into each other’s worlds and come together in understanding. So like Willow did with Tara’s constellations, this is Willow and Tara connecting over art. Its not so much the topic but it’s the deeper meaning behind it which is so great about the couple and you’ve picked up on it wonderfully throughout this chapter with memories.

It’s very much like Spike says in ‘Lovers walk’ to Buffy and Angel. How they will never be just friends. Tara may say she has just broken up with Willow but if someone is constantly on your mind and every mundane thing casts your mind to a memory and you’re constantly fighting to keep those thoughts at bay to function, how on earth are you not together. I think that goes more into my qualms with labels, restricting and not allowing natural growth and exploration but that’s not relevant here. You display that thought process with Tara insanely well.

The more I think about it the more I see reflection in multiple meanings all throughout this chapter.
You have the phone call with Buffy. Its uncomfortable, As a reader we know what’s gone on but Tara knows nothing but her sixth sense about it all does kick in a bit (Which I think after series four the show wrongly abandoned). So you have a conversation of non-malicious deception going on however it could also be that Buffy just isn’t at that stage of communication yet.

Then that also goes into the Jamie stuff. You have Tara and Jamie talking at the restaurant both withholding some significant details as to their current situation. Equal mirror. Then some opening up happens through the medium of tears. Which I know people find annoying at times of oh a sad girl crying but Crying and laughter are nature’s language. Humans do it and animals do it and its all instinct. There are different types of cries and laughs and sometimes to breakthrough you just have to give in to one of them which in this chapter allows progression in the mirrors withholding of important information, helping aid the progression of Jamie and Tara’s relationship.

Obviously they are not 100% with each other yet but I’m not going to go into too much detail as I don’t want to become fixated on an idea that might be completely off the cuff and then become disconnected with what you are actually providing. I am sticking with the notion of reflection and I think Jamie’s past is exactly the reflection needed for Tara to look at and understand Willow to find that thing in Tara she needs in order to go back to the relationship. If It is what I’m thinking, you’ve tapped into pure genius in a non-clichéd way. I’m very excited to see where this story thread is going.

Best part of this chapter for me
Quote:
“Want me to kick Willow’s ass?” It was an edgy statement, skirting the lines between humor and fervor.

Tara met Jaime’s eyes steadily.

“Only if you want me to take you down.”


One line providing perfect Tara inner workings. Selflessness, strength, caring and protecting the ones she loves.

I don’t care if it takes five years, I’m going nowhere because wilderness has turned its high gear into a higher gear and Its thrilling.

Shirrey you're kicking its ass, definitely not the other way round.

_________________
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One Shots - Basement Grotto - "You're My Always" - "Do You Like Cats?"
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*Rides in on a tricycle* Wanna play a game? - Five Minutes of Artistic Integrity - Those Three Little Words - Sassy Synonyms - Aradia's Antonyms


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2022 4:18 am 
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5. Willowhand
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I love this story and your approach to these characters as you know, so glad we started to beta for each other because I get to read all this great stuff before everyone else lol.

Love this update like all others!

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2022 1:56 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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Replies to December feedback (how is it February??)

Grim City Girl:
Quote:
Obligatory "I've already read it for beta purposes, but" comment -
lol I always appreciate the feedback here

Quote:
I love how you focus on each character for these huge emotional pieces, you really flesh them out and I love your take on each of them, especially Buffy.
Thank you, it surprises me sometimes when I get like this need to focus on someone other than Tara or Willow... but I like the outside reflection of them as well (and I have just realized I need to do a Dawn pov)

Quote:
The Willow part, as someone with depression, is hard to read from a "goddamn why is it relatable even though magic doesn't exist and I don't do it" sort of way, it's very well done. You continue to outdo yourself!


also have depression, and anxiety, and .... magic as metaphor, baby.

Thanks as always GCG!!


Dub:
Quote:
So you have Buffy stalking her prey while Buffy’s thoughts are trying to prey on her. It’s a fight on two sides. The hunter and the hunted are one of the same.
yes, absolutely- I think it's the Slayer meshed with a really hurt and damaged Buffy but also, they aren't really able to be fully separated. I think Buffy, in the moments when she is able to introspect would find some common ground with Faith, not in the self-loathing as much but in the deep discomfort of being in her skin.
With Buffy asking Spike for help, and the relating to the other Scoobies- I think it is that grudging, annoying, but insistent pull out of the depression- and she will go there b/c she does care, b/c at her core- she can't not

Quote:
Nearly beat someone to death, have a kitten pop out of skin folds.
:laugh :laugh :laugh works every time

Quote:
And that right there Willow is what real strength is. It’s not the magic, it’s not the look of awe in people’s eyes at your intelligent prowess. It’s looking at yourself and choosing the harder path not because of what others want but because it’s what you want.
Exactly- and damn that is a hard place to be

Quote:
I’m not a Willow fan for so many reasons, yes she has her moments and I can pick certain periods where I do really like Willow but over all, she is Tara’s soulmate, she makes her happy so OK dream team, I’m on board. Tara balances out what I don’t like in Willow and brings out more of what I do like in her when they are together. Separate the team and Willow can stay in that alley.


Tara is my number one always, but I absolutely adore Willow- I love how complex and flawed and raw she can be - I feel like she is the realest character tbh, and the more I write her (ie think about her journey) the more I love her- the big exception to all that is the choices Willow makes after the show ends halfway through SR- altho I do still like her arc in some ways even in S7 (from memory anyway b/c haven't watched it in... decades?)

Quote:
This chapter for me gives what the show just failed to do with Willow at any point. She isn’t using anyone, she isn’t trying to impress anyone, she isn’t trying to fit in and she isn’t trying to be something she isn’t. She looks at herself and sees her. She sees how she has mistreated magic, she sees how her actions have consequences on others. She makes the choice to change, it’s not forced on her, its 100% Willow.


I'm glad I am managing some of that- it is my hope for this fic, for both Willow and Tara, to give them voices where the show silenced them. I think the most I feel for Willow in her magic 'addiction' is when she talks about not being enough, even for Tara, w/o the magic- that is the deep fuck-up-your-perception-pain that I can understand driving stupid, selfish decisions- but it all crumbled away because the writing on the show largely did .
I hope I can do Willow some justice. Thanks so much for your thoughts Dub!!


Mother_D:
Quote:
ANY time she stops barreling her way along alone and remembers that there is lots of merit in the things that Tara tried to teach her can only be for her good.
Hard agree!! and thank you so much for commenting :)


Wills_redemption:
Quote:
Amy taunting Buffy like this seems pretty stupid, she should have expected that Buffy would attack her afterwards. But then again she might have been fuelled by some subconscious self-hatred - Amy is a complex character.
I strongly suspect we haven't seen the last of her here- I'm curious what fate you have planned for her.


I think you are correct, and Amy has never been good at holding back her comments, and I think she thinks there is no way Buffy would attack a human... which usually Buffy wouldn't

Quote:
Clem hiding the kitten in his skin folds was hilarious.
:grin

Buffy is still struggling, and I believe that the struggle out of where she is/was will be tough but obv. worth it.
Thank you for letting me know my typo! that was an especially important word to have correct

Quote:
I'm proud of Willow for her choice. I don't see her as a suicidal person but that she played with the thought for a few minutes here is believable
Yay Willow! I am proud of her too :) I do see her having some seriously self-destructive tendencies, not actively suicidal for sure (at least not yet in canon terms) but .... I am glad it worked in this moment and thanks so much for your feedback!!

Rutkowski
Quote:
I have to give props for daring (and doing it really well) to address Willow's suicidal tendencies.

Because they're there, in canon. I personally see three rather clear events (even though I can see the arguments that the first two aren't as obvious as I perceive them to be) in the show where they highlight them.

First one is when she steps out in front of a car following Oz' infidelity. Second one is in Wrecked because really, she couldn't have missed the huge slab of concrete like that. Third one is suicide by Cop/Buffy at the end of S6.

Then there's also the way she totally seems rather fine with dying in the process of casting the spell in Chosen.

So Willow, pills in hand being on the brink as she stands in the ruins of what had been her life? Totally in character.


Thank you. I think it's in character too, for all the reasons you wrote - like I wrote to Wills redemption, I don't think she is actively suicidal (except at the end of season 6 when she 100% is) but yes, Willow has self-destructive urges and when the distractions and self medication fall away, she is left with looking at all the angry wounds (until the defenses come back b/c it is never just a straight line)

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2022 7:38 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:01 am
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Quote:
Leaning forward, mirroring Tara’s stance, Jaime asked, “What’s going on at home, kiddo. What’s got things complicated?”

“Oh,” Tara faltered slightly. Her hands drew together in a knot, fingers twisting over themselves.

“I um, j-just broke up with someone and,” Tara squeezed her eyes tight, fighting back the swell of hot tears, angry at herself for not even making it through the sentence.

“Oh, baby girl,” Jaime soothed as Tara swiped at errant tears.

“S-sorry, it's just hard to talk about.”

“When did you split?” Mari asked gently, resuming her spot at the end of the coffee table.

“Last m-month, I’m sorry, I didn’t expect this. I just- I miss her,” A sob tumbled free, choking back the words and suddenly Jaime was there, sliding onto the couch beside Tara with strong arms that pulled her in and held on.

“Oh, your heart is broken,” Jaime squeezed her niece tighter and Tara couldn’t stop the gulps of wet air that shook her frame, nor the stream of tears that wet her aunt's t-shirt.

“I feel like I’m missing half of me. It’s so empty,” Tara managed through starts and stops, words dissolved, saturated in sorrow. They stayed like that for minutes, Mari reaching out to rub Tara’s back, pulsing with the heaves from Tara’s chest, before rising to collect a glass of water.

I just realized that this in the first time Tara gets to cry in someones arms about the breakup and just be comforted - and that Willow is still missing that opportunity.
Quote:
Jaime bent her elbows on her thigh and made a show of puffing her shoulders, “Want me to kick Willow’s ass?” It was an edgy statement, skirting the lines between humor and fervor.

Tara met Jaime’s eyes steadily.

“Only if you want me to take you down.”

Hidden behind her mug, Mari smirked, “Don’t fuck with Tara.”

“Nope,” Jaime agreed, hands up in surrender, vowing ,“Just lookin out for you, kiddo.”

“I know.” Tara blushed in reflection, but embraced the spark of pride she’d elicited within. She was never stronger than she was for Willow’s sake.

Good. I just hope that Tara will become aware soon that Willow needs her strength and protection right now.
I'm actually wishing that there will be some confrontation between Tara and Amy (and maybe even between Tara and Rack) in the future so Tara gets to be the fierce protector for Willow.

Quote:
Finally Tara talked about her fights with Willow, that Willow had hurt her deeply, that she was trying desperately to find trust again, and was so scared of how much she still trusted.

Since Tara obviously hasn't told them that she and Willow are very active and powerful witches (extremely powerful in Willow's case) I'm wondering what reasons she claimed for the fights ("Willow was using too much...internet / social media" or something?)

Quote:
Mari watched her go, running her fingers through Jaime’s already disheveled hair, “Please be careful.”

“Please give me some credit,” Jaime whispered, looking back at her hands.

Quote:
“We were careful, Hannah more so than me. She was part of that church too. I met up with her one night after youth group and we went to the park off Foster, you know the one with trees?” Jaime checked with Tara who nodded, her attention rapt. “There was this guy, one of those church kids who think they’re Jesus,” the hiss behind those words was still fresh, “he had a thing for Hannah and he and his buddies followed us to, I don’t know, show off or scare us or something. We were only kissing, at the top of the slide, but everything went to hell after that. I messed up, big time, and then I had to go.” Jaime finished the story with a shrug that only moved slowly under the weight of her past.

“It wasn’t all on you” Mari’s voice cut the air. Jaime turned her dipped head halfway in Mari’s direction as Tara took it all in.

“I messed up Mari.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said flatly, “but it wasn’t all on you.”

Tara averted her eyes as Jaime and Mari shared silent secrets, feeling both like an intruder and a strange bit player in the tale.

Quote:
Rolling to face her girlfriend, Mari spoke into the dark, “Are you going to tell her everything?”

Jaime laid on her back, seeing only the faint line of light from a street lamp outside, she was sharper than she intended to be, “I don’t know Mar.”

I'm very curious what secrets Jaime is keeping. How exactly did she "mess up, big time"? My guess is that she used magic to attack those guys who caught her and Hannah kissing (and probably outed them as lesbians in the meanest way afterwards). So maybe Jaime went "black eyed Jaime" back then - and unwillingly gave back up to the story that "the women in the Maclay family have demon in them".
If Jaime overcame a dark magic influence in the past maybe she'll be able to help Tara in helping / saving Willow.
I'm looking forward to the next chapter!


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2022 3:53 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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I’d argue it’s not Tara’s responsibility to save Willow. Willow needs to save herself, and Tara need to take care of herself. No relationship works if one person sets themselves on fire to keep the other warm.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2022 12:29 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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I agree on the responsibility aspect. However it could be because I laughed hard at the mental image of someone nonchalantly setting themselves on fire and inching closer and closer to the other person, arms spread, their dying wails screaming "hug me." The other person inching away not willing to accept the hug while being oddly flattered and warmed on a chilly night but the flattery disappears as the smell of burning flesh and sounds of popping blisters enter their senses. Giving the dilemma of do they friend zone now or wait it out until the person dies giving them the false impression of happiness in their last moments. Alternatively if they do hug, their skin fuses and they will be together forever tightening the bond. might be a bit much for a first tinder date but hey ho sometimes you have to shoot your shot. Have I said I'm morbid.

But at the same time I think Willow does need Tara or at least the acknowledgement that Tara is there for her in some capacity even if it is just amicable co-existence. Likely vice versa too. Willow hit her worst after Tara left town but she has also come a long way in accepting she needs to work on herself as she does have a problem.

Possibly its a case of applying your own oxygen mask before aiding others.

I trust whatever Shirrey does will fit the characters perfectly, She hasn't failed on that yet and doubt she will.

_________________
Curator of the KB Pens Advent Calendar 2021, I'm self-gratuitously Door 25.
One Shots - Basement Grotto - "You're My Always" - "Do You Like Cats?"
You don't have to write to contribute to the board, feedback can be its own event - Dubs Festive Advent Challenge - Fic Club
Existing at some point, maybe - The Justice for Tara series.
*Rides in on a tricycle* Wanna play a game? - Five Minutes of Artistic Integrity - Those Three Little Words - Sassy Synonyms - Aradia's Antonyms


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2022 1:58 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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I don't want to enter into a huge discussion here. Let me just say I do agree that the decision to not go to Rack anymore and resist the siren's call of (dark) magic had and still has to come from Willow herself. Just like the decision to stop drinking alcohol has to come from the alcoholic. But I think the partner and other loved ones of the addict can and should try their best to help support her / him (f.e. helping finding therapy). And since Willow simply has no knowledge where she could find a therapy for magical addiction Tara might well be able to at least help "save" her if she f.e. happened to get such information from Jaime.
And if Amy or even Rack should hunt Willow down and try to force her back to the magic den or "dose" her with magic against her will then I'm certain Tara won't hesitate to do everything in her power to protect Willow without thinking if it's her "responsibility" to do so. But Tara won't be able to protect Willow until she's back at home and aware of the danger, of course.

Like all the other readers I have faith that you will find the best solution for all the characters, Shirrey.


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2022 11:56 am 
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5. Willowhand
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Location: Pacific Northwest
I have to admit that it makes me happy to see people discussing/debating over Wilderness- it's pretty rad. And thank you for having faith in me as the writer and in where I am taking the characters.

I have said this a lot already, but this story started as a look at Tara's journey- her past, her hurts, her struggles/triumphs/questions/you get the picture- because we got so much and yet so little from the show, and even less regarding her dealing with her and Willow's breakup.
Tara's story here, is intended to be Tara's story- for Tara, about Tara, to give her agency and a fleshed out background, and while Willow is part of her story, Tara's story is not about Willow, or for Willow, or as a supplement to Willow- the show did this, I will not. Tara will not be merely a pawn in Willow's experience- that goes against every reason I started writing this.

Nor is Willow's story for Tara. What I am hoping to do is write two individual experiences (three if you count Buffy but then things get tricky and ...) that are connected but not dependent on one another.

Dub- there are now pictures of fiery, sticky people trying desperately to warm each other stuck in my head lolol. it shouldn't be funny but it is


Also, since I am here- life has, well, kinda sucked lately- I am currently several states away from home. My mom is in rehab after a trip to the hospital, my brother is falling apart as her caregiver and I am here trying to help- I haven't had the mental, emotional, or physical space to write so Wilderness is unfortunately not being actively worked on right now. The beginning of the next chapter is done though- and I miss writing it (soooo much) hopefully next week I can start again, hopefully so many things- but wanted to put out there that my next chapter will be even longer coming out (insert gay joke here)

Thanks all and be well

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2022 12:17 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2021 2:34 am
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Shirrey wrote:
Tara's story is not about Willow, or for Willow, or as a supplement to Willow- the show did this, I will not. Tara will not be merely a pawn in Willow's experience- that goes against every reason I started writing this.

This is the exact reason why Wilderness is awesome.
You stick to your core purpose and motivation and its the indestructible foundation of the story. With such a strong foundation you've added scaffolding to make it a high rise that accommodates others story, which in a kind of way is very Tara-like. looking out for others and being able to because of her infinity of strength.


You're doing an amazing thing looking after your family. I think I can speak for everyone when I say if you need anything (within context and reason) we've got your back.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2022 7:05 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Though the angst in this is too much for my little fragile, gay heart; I just wanted to offer my support to one of the best writers on the KB and I respect you so much for committing to telling Tara's story :bigkiss

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Jan 29, 2022)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2022 9:51 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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So... it's been a while. But I'm working on finishing- here is the next part :)


Wilderness


Ch 50



Rift


Willow crossed into the living room, slipping the key to the Summer’s house in her pocket. The space was dim, lit only by the low afternoon sun as it filtered through west facing curtains. Everything was in its place- the furniture sat in correct angles, blankets were thrown haphazardly over the back of the couch, small piles of clutter indicated the Summers’ presence- but there was still a change in the air, a faint residue of lingering magick. Acid churned in Willow’s belly as she sensed it- the sounds of shattering glass and Dawn’s frightened cry echoing in her head.

She stepped backward slowly, shaking her head to the room, Never again.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she paused, her body still- the house was quiet, but she listened for sounds anyway. Everyone was gone, as Xander had promised.

Of course they were, they were all avoiding each other- and that fact replaced the acid in her belly with a core of lead that weighted her as she climbed upstairs to her room.

A duffle bag sat on the still unmade bed, the crumpled blankets setting it askew, as Willow moved methodically through her room, pulling clothing from her drawers and stuffing them inside. The Sunnydale High sweats and plain blue t-shirt she had worn the day before were the only things in her old dresser that she could bear to put on- the rest of the sugary, over-colored remnants from her high school wardrobe remained shut away where they couldn’t disgust her. Wash things were diligently tucked under her favorite stuffed dog as Willow tried to ignore the essence of magick that draped the room. It was different than the stark, desperate power of the living room- here, the power was layered, the whispered remains of Tara’s energy in synthesis with her own spellwork. The muscles in her shoulders and neck tensed as she waited for the urges to begin, because she couldn’t deny that she longed for these magicks.

Focus, Willow.

She swept her eyes to where her laptop slept on the desktop, swiftly closing its lid and packing it away, crossing to the bookcase to find something that could keep her mind occupied when she returned to her parents’ house. Only a spattering of candles remained on the shelves. Several books had been removed and packed away with Tara’s things leaving gaps between the titles and a constant reminder of her absence. Willow didn’t linger, quickly choosing two novels and a textbook on computer languages while her heart fluttered like a snapped string.

When everything was settled into a pile, Willow made a final circular scan of the room, stopping all motion when her eyes landed on the Doll’s Eye crystal, still waiting on her bedside table.

With purposeful, slow breaths, she knelt before the table, her eyes roaming the smooth, glass-like purple planes. It had been the first gift Tara had given her- and when Willow had finally accepted it, it had been when Tara had allowed herself to hope.

Carefully, Willow reached out, longing to trace the edge, her fingers shaking. She had been enamored, mesmerized when Tara, so young and shy, had held it out to her with trembling, outstretched arms, offering it like a love letter. The Doll’s Eye had symbolized who they were- exquisitely precious and deeply rooted in magick.

She ached to take it with her, to have it within reach, but her hand closed into a fist. She couldn’t trust herself- not around something that intrinsically magickal, and as she drew her hand away, Willow felt the ties that bound her to the person she was beginning to tear- leaving behind a rift. Tears stung, blurring the image of the purple stone, as her hand flew to her lips, catching the gasp that fell. A despairing ache seeped into the opening- rising like dirty flood water, dragging her away and threatening to drown her. A scratch pushed under her skin, the ache for release beginning.

Willow stood abruptly, stumbling backwards toward the bed, her momentum toppling the crystal onto the carpet. She turned away and gathered her items haphazardly, her cheeks wet, books threatening to fall from under her crossed arms as she bolted from the room, her bedroom door rebounding behind her.

Bypassing the living room, Willow flew into the kitchen- dropping her things onto the countertop and rushing to the sink. With trembling hands she turned the faucet, spilling cold water from her cupped hands as she splashed it across her face- it dripped onto her shirt collar as she glanced at the microwave clock- Xander would be there to pick her up in twelve minutes- he was likely already on his way.

By the time he arrived, Willow was outside, legs crossed in a lotus position on the slightly yellowed grass in the front lawn, her palms flat to the earth as she tried to ground. She looked up when the car door shut, forcing a smile and standing on weak limbs she hoped wouldn’t give her away. The urge had waned into a sense of unease, a tired vibration that hummed in her arms and across her chest. She gathered her belongings and moved toward the passenger seat, feeling as if she had sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

“You got everything you need?” Xander asked, taking the cue from Willow’s full arms and rounding the car so he could open the door for her.

“Yeah, I think so,” Willow nodded slowly, awkwardly shifting her belongings as she pulled the seat belt across her chest. Straightening her posture, she glanced at Xander as he slipped behind the wheel, “thanks for arranging this.”

“No problem Willster.” He flashed her a quick grin as he turned his head to back out of the driveway into the street, “wouldn’t want you without your trusty computer. Gotta do the drop and run thing though- Anya takes break parameters seriously.”

“That’s fine,” Willow traced the edge of her laptop case in an absent motion, her slightly shaking fingers drawing in Xander’s view.

“Was everything ok?”

Willow meant to nod but she found herself facing away to stare out the window, trying to regain control of her crumbling expression, hating the tightness in her voice, “It was fine.”

“Have you been drinking that tea?” Xander asked after a moment.

Willow could hear the tremor in his voice, one he tried valiantly to mask. He had been the only one to come around, the only person she had spoken to in days, but he was never at ease with her anymore. She couldn’t blame him for it, but it wasn’t helping her feel better. She forced some cheer into her voice, hoping to sound more like nothing was wrong.

“Some, did you tell Anya thanks?”

“I did,” he nodded back at her with a small grin.

They pulled to a stop at the sign, waiting for cross traffic to pass and Xander drummed his fingers on the plastic beneath, the pattering sound nagging at Willow.

“I’d invite you to the Magic Box but you know Anya would put you to work, and who wants to work when they don’t have to?” Xander eased them into motion again.

“It’s probably better to stay away then,” Willow joked back but her smile was weak.

It wasn’t something she had thought of- being at the Magic Box again, and it seemed ridiculous on one hand to fear it- she had been there countless times and never had she been overtaken by the temptation to break out the dark books and start summoning demons- but she’d never reigned herself in either. Now, would she just literally be a witch in a magick shop- craving and tempted?

They made a left onto another side street, the sun beginning to dip, casting the neighborhood in the blue of dusk. Willow returned her gaze outward- to the holiday lights strung between streetlamps, focusing on their glow to try and settle her thoughts away from the pieces of her life that seemed to be falling away from her.

Neither spoke for the next few blocks, the space filled by generic Top 40 music kept at a low volume. Xander shifted in his seat before clearing his throat, drawing Willow’s attention back to him.

“Will, you know I am familiar with the whole not being around things that make you do not great things, right?” he asked, skirting widely around what he was really saying, “is there anything you wanna talk about?”

Willow’s head snapped up to find Xander looking directly at her, compassion and worry filling his brown eyes. For a moment everything that strained them melted away and they recognized each other- lifelong friends who had weathered the world together. Willow raised her left hand and briefly squeezed Xander’s forearm, for his concern, for the childhood he’d spent witnessing his parents’ addiction.

“I don’t know,” Willow whispered in answer, dropping her hand back to her lap, her gaze following, “all I do know is I thought I could handle it. I had been handling it.” She swallowed hard and looked at him again, “But I’m done.”

Xander simply nodded as he drove the car onto her parents’ driveway, turning the key to kill the engine. His seat belt came loose and he turned his upper body to face her, quickly wrapping his arms around Willow's slight frame.

“I’m proud of you Will.”

If the awkward angle she was kept in by the seatbelt was gone, if she fully gave into Xander’s embrace, Willow knew she would lose the fight within her and break apart. Saying the words aloud, declaring it to Xander, had seemed to seal her fate.

Forcing her thoughts to shift, Willow let her arms drop from the embrace and collected her belongings, finally releasing the belt from across her chest.

“So, how dictatorial is Anya being?” Willow asked, needing to end their conversation somewhere less heavy, grateful when Xander took the cue.

“She’s being Anya-ish- but at the end of the day…when all the money is counted,” he easily slipped into a devilish grin, “it’s like Faith after a good slay.”

“Ok, ew on three counts, and when is Anya not like that?” Willow rolled her eyes, unlatching the car door and pushing it outward with her elbow.

The words almost oozed from Xander, “It’s extra.”

“Ok, I’m going home now,” Willow felt herself laugh, the momentary joy incongruent with the heaviness of her heart, yet so familiar when she was with Xander. She closed the door and stepped away, leaning through the window so she could see her friend, “thanks.”

“Anytime Wills, drink the tea. In no time you’ll be back to your old self,” he pulled into the street, turning the stereo up, and drove away.

Willow waved an awkward small hand from where it held her books, the music fading off as Xander turned the corner. He was proud of himself for helping, for making her laugh- it was evident in the easy slope of his shoulders and the gleam in eyes- and Willow hoped he held onto it because he deserved it. He was proud of her, and she hoped he held onto that too, because she had no place to hold it herself.

The night had settled in, shading the pathway Willow took to the front door, its blue color darkened into almost black. With arms full of books, she climbed the stairs onto her porch, feeling closer and closer to her old self. The rift inside her ached.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Sept 12, 2022)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2022 11:34 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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*does the update dance*

I loved this chapter. Willow’s expertly described pain, yearning and guilt, Xanders awkward concern and care. It’s all very precarious and unsettling - like Willow is going in the right direction but there are no guarantees because of the fragility of it all.

I especially love Willow accepting that Xander is proud of her and wanting him to be even though she can’t feel that way about herself.

Wonderful update dear, cannot wait for more!

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Sept 12, 2022)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2022 10:42 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2021 2:34 am
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I’m in an internal conflict about leaving feedback in Pens until I learn to understand where the limits are and respect those boundaries without causing collateral damage, however I don’t want you to think after your absence that I’ve lost an ounce of interest in Wilderness. For those reasons I’ll keep it brief.

You touch on an aspect I am very fond of, which is, how do you show such intensity, comfort, unease and nostalgia of someone who is no longer there? A feel of two people being in the same room, when there’s only one present.
I guess it’s like when you have a song full of strong beats but you notice the little twinkle of high notes playing on top. It’s not prominent but you know it’s there and something so delicate leaves a larger impact than what’s in front of you. In this analogy the beat. It’s always those delicate notes that makes it unique. Every person leaves a unique print on one another.
In Wilderness it’s the connection between Tara and Willow without them being together. This chapter you had the sensing of her magicks, the gone items in the room, then the ever symbolic doll’s eye crystal. You do display it so well, the sense of them being connected emotionally still even though physically and socially they aren’t.

I could say more but as I said, keeping it brief. You’ve written a great story here, you’ve still got dedicated fans to it.

One question though
Shirrey wrote:
So... it's been a while. But I'm working on finishing

Does this mean you are wrapping up Wilderness?

_________________
Curator of the KB Pens Advent Calendar 2021, I'm self-gratuitously Door 25.
One Shots - Basement Grotto - "You're My Always" - "Do You Like Cats?"
You don't have to write to contribute to the board, feedback can be its own event - Dubs Festive Advent Challenge - Fic Club
Existing at some point, maybe - The Justice for Tara series.
*Rides in on a tricycle* Wanna play a game? - Five Minutes of Artistic Integrity - Those Three Little Words - Sassy Synonyms - Aradia's Antonyms


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (UPDATED Sept 12, 2022)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2022 2:56 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:01 am
Posts: 544
I've just returned from a vacation and I'm thrilled to see that you've updated "Wilderness".

But I had to fight tears while reading this new chapter. My heart aches for poor Willow.
Quote:
The Doll’s Eye had symbolized who they were- exquisitely precious and deeply rooted in magick.

She ached to take it with her, to have it within reach, but her hand closed into a fist. She couldn’t trust herself- not around something that intrinsically magickal, and as she drew her hand away, Willow felt the ties that bound her to the person she was beginning to tear- leaving behind a rift.

Quote:
With arms full of books, she climbed the stairs onto her porch, feeling closer and closer to her old self. The rift inside her ached.

I think that is the biggest reason why Willow clung to using magic for so long although she must have been aware on some level that it has turned addictive for her: she feels that she'll revert to her "old highschool self" when she "gives up" magic and she despises that "old self" and thinks that Tara couldn't love her anymore if she turned into it again. And that is so damn sad! :cry That poor girl doesn't only need some professional guidance how to master her magical abilities again in a controlled way (f.e. by the coven in England) but even more a good therapist who helps her overcome her self hatred and the traumas of her childhood.
But then again all those poor kids are in severe need of therapy, aren't they?

Now I'm really looking forward to the next chapter with Tara and all the revelations Jaime hopefully has to offer.


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