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

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:01 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
Posts: 975
Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
AN: New chapter, enjoy!
Also, apologies to any Spanish or Italian speaking folks, my Latin languages are a little rough :P


Willow dresses Faith


“Uh, Red, this is gonna sound a little weird, but I kinda need your help to get dressed up,” Faith said, nervously fiddling with her hair.

“Huh? I though your hands were all better now?” Willow said.
Faith wiggled her fingers. “Still a bit stiff, but basically, yeah. No, I need help getting dressed up. Like, to go out.”

Willow’s eyes vanished into her hairline. “You want fashion tips from me? Hello, have you met me? Talk to Buffy, she’s the fashion expert around here.”

Faith grimaced. “That’s the problem, it’s for a date with B. I mean not a date-date, but like a coffee-date kinda thing, so I can’t ask her, it would be too weird... What?”

Willow was grinning fit to bust. “Wow it is true, babbling is catching. So what’s the problem? You got lots of clothes, wear some of them.”

“My gear comes in 2 types Red: sporty and sexy. I’ve got track pants, leather pants and little black dresses for when I really want to melt someone’s brain. I’m not trying for sexy, I just wanna look... nice.”

“Wait, you: Faith Lehane, own dresses?” Willow said. “I thought you were like, constitutionally unsuited to skirts?”

Faith shook her head. “Uh-uh Red. Got lots. Hell, I got a ball gown. Think though, when do you usually see me? Training, going on patrol, or coming back from it. Any of that sound like a good time to wear a skirt?”

Willow blinked in surprise at the ball-gown comment, but shrugged it off. “Okie-dokie, let’s raid the bad wardrobe and see what we can find.”


+++


An hour later there were clothes strewn everywhere.

“Girl, you own entirely too many primary colours, especially orange and green,” Faith grumbled.

Willow bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yup, I’m an autumn. Orange and green really work for me. You on the other hand with your darker skin and whoo-dark hair and eyes are a winter.”

Faith stretched. “Heh, must be my black-Irish blood coming through, ‘cos my folks are pretty light.”

Willow looked puzzled. “What’s Black Irish? Is that like green Irish and orange Irish?”

Faith shrugged. “Hell if I know. Something people used to say to me when I was a kid. You might be orange Irish with that hair, but what’s green?”

Willow waved her hands around uncertainly. “Something political I think. But anyway, not everything in here is orange and green, keep digging.”

Faith pulled out a pair of leather pants in Willow’s size and gave her a funny look.

Willow squirmed. “Um, yes, well. You’ve met my ex? That was her idea.”

“Huh, didn’t figure you for leather,” Faith said.

“Um, well I’m all for adventurousness every once in a while, but it’s not really my thing. She sort of... insisted.”

“Yeah, Princess is kinda pushy. And entitled. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m kinda glad we keep shipping her overseas.”

“Um,” Willow said.

“Seriously Red, what were you thinking?”

“I... Wasn’t?” Willow said uncertainly. “After Tara, I managed to work myself up to ‘numb.’ I just couldn’t bring myself to care. She did all the work, pushed me around. Kinda the anti-Tara, which was good, because anyone y’know, nice, would have been awful.”
She looked out the window wistfully. “No one could be nice like Tara. Anyone even remotely like her would have been a mockery.”

Faith looked thoughtful for a moment. “Yeah, I get it. Like I couldn’t date anyone even slightly like Buffy. I guess that’s why I was hangin’ with Woody. I mean, two feet taller, black and a guy, can’t get much more different than that.”
Faith crowed with delight. “Yeah! Now we’re cooking!”

She held up a long flowing gypsy dress in red and black.
The black was on the outer layer, so the red showed through as the dress moved.

“I, um, got that for a gypsy costume thing,” Willow said.

“Wicked! I can totally do this.” Faith said.

“Here you go,” Willow said as she handed her a cream coloured, off-the-shoulder peasant blouse with a few ruffles.
“You’ll look very gypsy-like in that outfit.”

Faith grinned. “I am a gypsy, all dark and mysterious.”

Willow smiled. “I thought you said you were Irish?”

“Irish, Gypsy. Whatever,” she said, checking the outfit in the mirror. “I think I have some girlie boots and some scarves that’ll go with this.”
She grinned. “B’s gonna think she’s run into my exotic, respectable cousin or something.”
"¡Hola! Debes ser amigo de Faith, Buffy. Encantado de conocerte ", she said in Spanish.
Spoiler:
“Hi! you must be Faith’s friend, Buffy. Pleased to meet you.”


Willow blinked. “You speak Spanish?”

“Uh, yeah? Doesn’t everyone?”

Willow shook her head. “Nope, not that I know of.”

“Seriously Red, how can you grow up in southern California and not speak Spanish?” Faith said, looked incredulous.

“It was an elective. Um, I guess we just never elected?” Willow said.

Faith just shook her head slowly. “I swear, you Scoobies have to be the whitest people I ever met. You telling me none of you speak anything other than English?”

“Um, well I know some Hebrew because, um, Jewish. And-and Giles knows German and French and a bunch of other stuff, but um, we are the monoculture.”

“Man, this is embarrassin’. You got girls from all over, not even all the ones from the US all speak English.”

“Do you know any other languages?” Willow asked.

“Italian, bad Irish, Dutch German, little bit of Russian. Why?” Faith asked, giving Willow a suspicious look.

“Wow. You, Faith Lehane, are a woman of hidden talents,” Willow said.

Faith shrugged. “You grow up in the shitty Irish part of south Boston, you learn to speak the language. Mafioso types, shady Dutch drug dealers and latino immigrants. And they were the good parts.”

She grinned. “Maybe I can make B think I’m my sexy cousin Isabella or somethin’.”

“Ooo-ooo! Or a foreign visitor that just happens to look like you,” Willow said, waving her hands around with excitement. “You could be all ‘que? I no speak inglish’ and things like that.”

“I just hope she doesn’t punch me one for messing her around. B’s kinda famous for her lack of a sense of humour.”

“Um,” Willow said.

Faith smiled. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. So, help me with makeup, I wanna do ‘nice’ instead of ‘sexy,’” she said.

“Ah, you’re in luck there, I happen to be a fan of the ‘nude’ look,” Willow said as Faith smirked.

“Never really seen the point of putting in all that effort to look like you aren’t wearing makeup, but this is a special occasion. Wanna break Buffy’s image of me a little, let her know the world don’t fit into neat little boxes.”

Willow grinned impishly. “Messing with your best friend is part of the best friend code. I’ll hide in the back of the Peach, I have to see the look on her face.”

She wriggled. “It’s been too long since I just had harmless fun with Buffy.”

Faith grinned. “Let’s go to work.”


+++


Faith was sitting at one end of the corner couch at the Peach.
Willow could tell she was trying to relax as she sipped her coffee.
But this was not the utterly relaxed, boneless Faith, the one that usually just flopped down on the couch.
No, this was exotic and demure, foreign-visitor Faith.

Regularly, every few seconds, she would glance around to see if anyone new had arrived.

Willow smiled and scribbled in her journal. Ever since Tara had first spoken to her, she had kept a journal of the important or funny events in their lives, so she could tell Tara about it if... no. When she came home to them.

She looked at Faith. Faith did occasionally wear skirts. But the leather and denim she wore so frequently were such a big part of her image, that people tended to forget everything except ‘leather pants’.
Even fidgeting slightly, Faith looked beautiful, and very different.
Willow smiled to herself. There was a better than even chance that Buffy would come in looking for Faith, and walk right past her.

As if the Powers That Be had heard her thoughts, Buffy bounced in through the door.
She was wearing another pretty summer dress with a floral theme, and her denim jacket against any possible cold. Although it was a lovely late-summer day, she and Willow both had grown up in southern California, and still tended to get surprised by actual changes in the weather.

Willow recognised the outfit as Buffy’s semi-official ‘goofing off’ look. A throwback to a younger Buffy, when she didn’t have to save the world or fight for her life every 10 minutes, and dress appropriately for it.
She glanced at Faith sitting demurely on the couch and swept the seating area of the Peach, clearly looking for someone.

Willow covered her mouth to stifle her giggle.
Faith grinned at her as Buffy took off upstairs, clearly searching for Faith.
She pulled out her phone and sent Buffy a text.

To: <Buffy Summers>
Msg: You here yet? I’m downstairs when ya show up.


Willow was starting to wish she’d brought Xander along, he could use a dose of humour lately.
Her expression saddened. For all that the Scoobies seemed to be gaining in happiness, Xander seemed to be becoming more lonely.
He laughed at all the jokes. And he seemed genuinely happy that Buffy and Faith had finally made friends again. He had shared with Willow several times, how happy he was that she seemed to be picking up and moving on with her life.
But Willow knew her best friend. When the spotlight was not on him, he had a faraway look in his eye, and his laughter was stilled.
She knew why.
Anya.

For all that they argued and fought, Willow missed the slightly crazed woman.
And she missed the way Xander was, when she was in his life. For all she drove him bonkers, Anya had truly loved Xander, and he had loved her in return.

She was struck by another sad thought, that she couldn’t share the reason for her good mood with her best and oldest friend.
She knew it was selfish and maybe even a little crazy, but couldn’t face the pitying look she knew he would get in his eye, and the worried look he would get right after. It had been more than a year since Dark Willow had existed, but the scars were still fresh.

She frowned as she was struck by a thought. How had Xander survived with only a few scars? He had stepped into the path of enough magic to end the world, and walked away with only a few scrapes and bruises.
She grimaced at the touch of one of her least favourite memories.
She was pulled from her dark thoughts by the sight of Buffy bouncing down the stairs, putting her phone away.

Buffy looked around, unable to see Faith anywhere. Her eyes fell on a pretty, dark-haired lady by the door, a lady who looked eerily like Faith except for the attitude, total lack of leather, and pants.
Faith looked up and spoke in rapid cheerful Spanish. “Hola extraño! No sé quién es usted, pero usted parece bastante agradable. Por favor, siéntate conmigo y hablar todo el día. "
Spoiler:
“Hello stranger! I don’t know who you are, but you seem quite nice. Please sit with me and talk the day away.”

Buffy’s eyes widened in confusion. “Um, ah, sorry mystery lady, I’m a very bad Californian and don’t speak Spanish beyond ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ and maybe ‘tacos’. You look weirdly like someone I was supposed to meet. Nice to meet you and that’s a spiffy outfit. Oh hey, there’s my thing!” she said pointing off desperately to a random object.

"Dios B, te quiero, te lo juro. Sale el sol en tus ojos." Faith said softly in Spanish.
Spoiler:
“God B, I love you. I swear the sun rises in your eyes.”


“Um, something about sunshine?” Buffy said.

Faith took pity on her and smiled, patting the seat next to her. “Chill B, I was just messing with you.”

Buffy went from confused to stunned almost instantly, her mouth opening and closing goldfish-like.
“Faith?!”

Faith smirked. “Somethin’s gonna fly in there if you don’t close up a little.”

Buffy’s mouth snapped shut and she sat almost reflexively where Faith had gestured.

“Y’know, Red’s right about you. Ya don’t handle changes well do ya?”

“But... where... huh?” Buffy said.

“Jesus girl, if I’d known that all it took to break your brain was a change of clothes, I’d a done it ages ago.”

“But, but... pretty! And… legs!” Buffy sputtered as she took in the bare-leggedness barely visible below the long skirt.

Faith raised an eyebrow. “Damn B. You sure know how to make a girl feel special.”

Buffy grimaced and put visible effort into getting her brain under control.
“Sorry Faith, I just wasn’t expecting, well, this,” she said gesturing to Faith’s colourful outfit.”

Faith smiled. “’S’ok B. I did kinda do it to mess with ya. You know I can never miss a chance to mess with your head.”

“This is a really different look for you, and hey missy sneaky pants, when did you learn Spanish?”

Faith frowned. “Why does everyone assume that just because I didn’t like school, that I’m some kinda retard?”

“Uh, would that be… because we’re dummies?”

“Well as long as ya know.”

They sat in silence for a bit, Buffy fidgeting with the hem of her skirt, Faith sipping her coffee.

“Hey guys!” Willow said as she wandered by.

Faith waved, Buffy spoke up. “Hey Will! Whatcha doing?”

Willow held up a tray of cardboard cups. “Coffee run. I thought the busy beavers could use a little pick me up, and you know: coffee good.”

“Good call Red. Ya wanna cuppa joe, B?”

Buffy nodded.

“See you back at the ranch guys,” Willow said, hefting the coffee tray and making an exit.


At the counter, Faith waved to the small woman behind the counter. “Hey Birdie, two mocha’s with all the trimmings, if ya would.”

“Wow Faith, that’s a really different look for you,” she said as she assembled the drinks. “You look nice. Not sure anyone else could pull off the gypsy look, but on you it looks good.”

Faith smiled. “Thanks Birdie. Hey, when am I gonna meet this badass girl of yours?”

The tiny young woman made a face. “Ugh, I don’t know. My hours here are all over the place. Mary is low girl on the totem pole, so she gets to work all the crazy hours. It’s not that often that we see each other, let alone meet new people together.”

Faith grinned. “You know there’s a joke about totem poles there, right?”

Birdie lived up to her name and flipped Faith the bird.

“Bummer. Well I hope that shit changes for ya.”

She glanced over her shoulder. “I kinda know what it’s like to be kept apart from your honey, and I gotta say: it sucks.”

“Oh yeah. Here’s your mochas, all the trimmings.”

“Cheers,” Faith said, paying for the drinks.

“Say hi to your girl for me, yeah?” Faith said.

The woman smiled and nodded, before turning to another customer.

“Here ya go B. All the trimmings.”

Buffy smiled and dove in. “Ooo! Whipped cream, yummy!”

Faith smiled. “You know your whole face lights up when you do that. It’s kinda cute.”

Buffy smiled, her top lip lined with cream and cinnamon. “Behold the cuteness that is Buffy.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment and examined her mocha. “This reminds me of you.”

Faith blinked. “Huh?”

“It’s all cinnamon and coffee, just like you.”

Faith smirked. “Since when have you been tasting me B?.”

Buffy looked embarrassed. “Uh, ah, well we have been spending lots of time together and I did borrow your jacket for a while. It was all cinnamon and cloves-y. It was nice.”

“There’s a place in town, does all kinds of scented body wash. Shampoos and organic junk like that. It’s expensive, but it’s real nice,” Faith said.

Buffy smiled. “You’ll have to show me. I’ve been such a busy little beaver, I’ve barely gone down town.”

Faith choked slightly on her coffee. “Damn girl, why do you just hand me this stuff?”

Buffy looked puzzled for the second time in under a minute. “What?”

“Damn B, I’m gonna have to get a journal or somethin’. To write down all the stupid shit you say, so I can embarrass you with it later.”

“Hey! No fair, I didn’t say anything stupid!” Buffy said, huffing.

Faith’s heart fell as she realised her mouth had gotten her in trouble again. Buffy looked genuinely upset.

“Ah shit. I guess I’m still not safe to have around real people yet.”

Buffy’s upset expression cleared a little.

Faith looked at Buffy with deep sadness in her eyes. “I’m sorry B, I didn’t mean that you were stupid. I’m still getting the hang of people y’know?”

Buffy’s face melted. “Hey Faith, be relaxing girl, ok?” she reached out and squeezed her hand. “I’m not mad, just a bit not liking of the phrasing ok?”

Faith almost had a breakdown when Buffy held her hand.
“Shit B, what’s wrong with me?” she said hoarsely. “Everything that comes outa my mouth just hurts you, and I hate that.”

Buffy was moved by the look of sadness on Faith’s face.
She put her arm around Faith’s shoulder. “Hey, don’t be like that Faith. It’s ok, it’s forgotten already.”

Faith still looked sad.

“You know something? Old Faith would have blown that off and I’d be nursing another tiny sliver of hurt and resentment. You apologised and showed me you were hurting. I love the new Faith. If I was your sponsor or mentor or something, I’d be so totally proud of you right now.”

A huge jolt of longing and hope shot through Faith at Buffy’s words.
“B? You ever learn Italian?” Faith said.

Buffy shook her head. “Nope. Why?”

Faith pulled her close and spoke softly to her in Italian. “Perché ti amo con tutto il cuore. Tu sei il lieto fine a tutti I miei pensieri, e se il sole non è risorto sarei ancora felice se avessi te.”

Spoiler:
“Because I love you with all my heart. You are the happy end to all my thoughts, and if the sun never rose again I would still be happy if I had you.”


Buffy looked up at her with a little smile. “That’s so pretty. It sounds kinda poetic.”

Faith had an almost overpowering urge to just lean in and kiss Buffy. It felt like a drug, she could feel her limbs tingling, aching with the need to just throw caution to the wind and kiss Buffy.
She didn’t.
As much as she wanted to, and oh god did she want to, she knew it would wreck things. And then they would go back to fighting or being weird around each other.
She knew if that happened it would break her heart.

Buffy spoke softly to her. “Hey. Where did you go?”

“Mmm?”

“You kinda spaced out on me there Faith.”

“Sorry B. Was thinkin’ about some stuff is all.”

“What stuff?”

“You and me stuff.”

“We have stuff now?”

Faith nodded. “I got a confession to make B.”

Buffy blinked in surprise.

“Promise ya won’t laugh?”

Buffy nodded solemnly.

“I prayed B. I was so worried, so freaked out about screwing up this second chance thing we got? That I, uh, prayed to one-a Red’s Goddesses for help to not screw it up.”
She looked sadly at Buffy. “How messed up is that?”

Buffy had tears in her eyes.
She hugged Faith tightly. “I don’t know if it worked Faith. But the fact that you would go that far, would care that much, to look for help? It means the world to me.”

Faith shrugged. “Just words B. No big thing.”

“Stop Faith. You know, and I know, that they’re not just words. You meant to ask for help, and that’s what matters.”

Faith said nothing for a moment, just looking silently into Buffy’s eyes. Eventually she nodded.
“It’s true B. I’d do just about anything to not screw this up.”

They sat in companionable silence for a while, Buffy holding onto Faith, Faith with her arm around Buffy’s shoulder, until eventually Faith started to fidget.

They sat back on the couch, side by side.
“So now we’ve talked about how awesome I am, what do we do now?” Faith asked.

Buffy snorted into her mocha and rolled her eyes.
“Let’s start with everyday stuff and go from there. How’s your favourite squad of crazed maniacs doing?”

Faith smirked. “Purple pants and her gang of psychos? Pretty good. I swear, they are bound and determined to be the best Slayers in history.”
Faith smirked as she sipped her mocha. “Nothing I throw at them phases them even slightly. I swear B, I feel like a mama wolverine, proud of her killer kids.”

Buffy smiled at the sight of Faith talking proudly about her ‘kids’.

“Only one problem. There’s no way we can separate Purple Pants, Pinkie and little D. Seriously, they’re like you, Red and Xan-man, they do everything together.”

Buffy smiled at Faith’s description. Sooner or later she was going to run out of convenient descriptions and have to start calling someone by their given name.
“That’s not a big, Faith. Even with teams out around the world, Giles and Xander still want teams nearby to patrol the local hell mouths, and to jump in when others need reinforcements.”

“Wicked. Ya want I should float the idea to Pinkie and Purple? I mean they’re kinda sorta local, and I know they get twitchy whenever I bring up anything about deployment away from here.”

Buffy bobbed her head. “Yes Please. I know Dawn has been acting weirder than usual whenever I bring up stuff about the future. I had no idea it was because she was worried about her bestest buds.”

“Well yeah. Also Red gets twitchy whenever anyone mentions deploying squads. I think she’s worried about losing Danni.”

Buffy cocked her head in question.

“Hey she likes the kid. Also she swears that she’s the best assistant anyone could ever have. I think the only reason Danni hasn’t switched to the Guardian program, is ‘cos alla her buddies are in Slayer training.”


“See, that wasn’t so hard was it?” Buffy asked.

“Nah. Five by five.”
Buffy smiled. “Hey, what are you getting Xander and Willow for their birthday?”

Faith thought for a moment before she spoke. “Yeah, I meant to ask you about that. How come X-man and Red have the same b-day?”

Buffy smiled sadly. “They don’t. Their real birthdays are in the same week though, so it’s pretty close.”
She fiddled with the end of Faith’s scarf.
“Willow and Xander have been friends, like, forever. Since crayons and play-doh.”

She leaned her head against Faith’s bare shoulder.
“Neither of them had the best home life. Willow’s parents kind of ignored her most of the time. They didn’t even celebrate her birthday most years, they just deposited some money in her bank account. Xander was the same, except for the money part.”
Buffy’s voice became sadder. “His parents used to drink and fight all the time. And... I don’t know for sure, but I think they used to hit him sometimes.”

“You weren’t sure?” Faith asked softly.

Buffy shook her head. “He was always covered in bruises and stuff, but you’ve seen him fight, always front and centre.”
“I asked him about it a couple of times, but he always got all squirrelly and changed the subject.”

Faith spoke softly. “Never makes any sense does it? The guy is six foot, built, and has been killing demons and vamps since he was a kid. And yet asshole Harris’s could get away with beating him up.”

Buffy shook her head sadly.


“So, the B-day thing?” Faith prompted.

“Xander, Jesse and Willow, all they had was each other, and Willow’s money. So they would get together on the weekend of their birthdays, split all the money they had and go shopping to buy each other presents and yummy treats. Now it’s just the two of them.”
Buffy’s face fell. “Jesse was the second person I couldn’t save,” she said sadly

Faith rested her head atop Buffy’s. “That is really sad and really, uh, sweet I guess. I wish I had a Xander or a Willow growin’ up. One person who’d stick by you no matter what.”

Buffy nodded. “Me too. So for the last, forever, they celebrate their birthdays together. It’s pretty fun, and now the rest of us are invited too.”

“Uh, yeah, about that... I got Xan-dude something I think he’ll like. I got him some top notch gear for workin’ on the cars when I was in town, and an ace jacket.”
“I ain’t so sure about Red though. I mean we’re friends and all I guess, pretty tight really. But I ain’t known her for that long, and we ain’t into the same kindsa shit at all.”

Buffy grinned. “Buffy to the rescue, with secret best friend knowledge!”

Faith chuckled.

“Willow is incredibly easy to buy for. Anything you get that shows you were thinking about her, makes her go all giggly and spazzy. She likes food, anything sweet or crunchy. She likes soft toys and anything that smells nice, like incense or fancy body wash. And she loves things with little lights on them.”
“Just whatever you do, don’t give her money or a gift certificate because… well, you can figure it out.”

Faith nodded thoughtfully, absorbing the information.
“And um, Faith? Never get her a blue top. Or any of us really, but especially Willow.”

Faith looked puzzled for a brief moment. “Random. How come?”

Buffy looked lost and fell into silence, eventually whispering a word. “Tara.”

Faith asked softly. “She like blue or somethin’? This like the pancake thing?”

Buffy nodded. “She wore the occasional blue thing and it suited her,” she said softly.

Faith saw her expression change, crumpling to something sad and broken. “When... when she was shot, she had on a new blue top,” Buffy stammered. "She was so happy. Her and Willow had just gotten back together, and she got the top to celebrate."

Faith squeezed her hand, realizing at that moment, that they had been sitting on the couch holding hands the whole time.

“It’s not fair,” Buffy said.
She went on in a hollow voice. “Slayers fight and die, it’s part of the job. Xander and Willow know the risks and they step up, they accept them. It’s not right that someone like Tara had to die. She was the kindest, sweetest person I have ever met. And she didn’t even die for anything, just some stupid random thing.”

Faith put her arm around Buffy and held her tight. The urge to tell her about Willow’s secret was strong, but she fought it down. She’d made a promise and she wasn’t going to break it now.

“C’mon B, let’s talk about something else.”

Buffy looked up sadly.

Faith gave her another squeeze. “I ain’t sayin’ I don’t wanna hear it or anythin’ like that. You wanna offload about Red’s girl, I’ll listen. Just maybe we should talk somewhere private, y’know?”

Buffy nodded. “Um, sorry about that. I’m all of the stupids, forgetting where we are and everything. Sorry I wrecked our fun thing.”

Faith gently bumped her head against Buffy’s. “Naw B. It’s all good. Did you wanna talk about it, or do something a bit more fun? ‘cos our tree is only a few minutes away if ya wanna go there to unload.”

Buffy sniffled. “Nope. Today is all about being angst free. Next time we’re at our tree, I’ll tell you all about it, I’ll spill the beans and be a terrible blubbery, Buffy mess. But today I want everything to be fun in Buffy-land, and spend time with my old-new friend.”

Faith smiled, her dimples making an appearance.
“So, what did ya wanna do?”

Buffy sipped her drink thoughtfully. “I’m filled with uncertainty and indecision. What is there to do?”

Faith grinned. “That depends what ya wanna do. This place does decent food, there’s this pinball arcade down thataways,” she said waving downtown. “There’s a mall over there with a movie place and uh, dancin’ and drinks here in the evening if ya wanna wait that long.”

“Neato! Let’s mall-crawl.”

Faith grimaced. “Really walked into that one didn’t I?”

Buffy’s head bobbed cheerfully. “You really did.”

She sighed. “Ok B, let’s go shopping I guess.”

Buffy bounced to her feet. “Don’t be a sourpuss, shopping now is an entirely different thing. We can both afford stuff now. Not like before, when I had to work the double-meat palace and you lived in a motel.”

“Yeah, that was all kindsa fun. A’right B, let’s go save the economy, singlehanded.”


+++


Half an hour later, the pair were poking through a quirky herbal-type shop filled with soaps, scents and body washes.
Faith figured it was exactly the kind of place Willow would enjoy, but Buffy swore she didn’t know about the place.

“She’s been as busy as a bee,” Buffy said.
She grinned. “She’s been as busy as a me!”

Faith sniffed a perfume experimentally, not paying a whole lot of attention.
“Bummer,” She said absently, as she picked through various scents and lotions.

Buffy pouted. “Hey, I finally make a joke and you miss it! Some ‘find the fun’ gal you turned out to be.”

Faith focused on Buffy and grinned a little. “More like a limerick, but yeah, pretty good ‘Bee.’”
She held out a bottle of scent. “I thought Red might like this. Smells pretty good, but it’s bugging me, ‘cos I know I’ve smelt it before.”


Buffy sniffed experimentally, and turned white as the bottom dropped out of her world.

Faith panicked as she saw the colour drain from Buffy’s face almost instantly. Buffy grabbed hold of the sturdy wooden shelving to keep herself upright.
“Jesus B! What is it? The bottle don’t say ‘essence of apocalypse!’”

Buffy closed her eyes, as the sensation of terrible loss roared through her soul, unlocked by the scent of vanilla and honeysuckle.

Faith’s strong hand gripped her shoulder tightly. “B? B! You’re scarin’ me here, what’s wrong?”

Faith’s voice seemed far away. The scent, the achingly familiar scent of vanilla and honeysuckle dragged Buffy back. Back to the terrible time over a year ago, when the heart had been torn out of their little family.
What was once a smell of comfort and support was now indelibly the scent of horror and loss.

Faith was freaking out. Buffy looked like she was going to faint and Faith just didn’t know how to deal. This was Buffy frikkin’ Summers for cryin’ out loud! The woman had brought down a god and driven back the First Evil, and here she was, having a major freak out over a little bottle of scent.
She put her arm around a traumatized Buffy and was immediately grabbed as though she was the last life preserver afloat on a stormy sea.

“S’ok honey, I gotcha. Uh, you’re safe, ok B?”
She stroked Buffy’s blonde hair and tried her best to comfort the terrified woman. She was kind of out of her element, giving comfort was not really being her strong suit, but she tried her best, murmuring “I gotcha B,” and “It’s gonna be ok.”

After Faith exhausted her meagre repertoire of comforting words, she figured more drastic methods were called for and she scooped Buffy into her arms.
If anyone were tempted to say anything callous or cruel to the dark woman, as she carried the crying blonde, the look of protective ferocity and the tender way that she carried her most precious cargo would have stilled all comment.
She set course for the only place she felt safe, and god help anyone who got in her way.


+++


That evening, Faith knocked on Willow’s door, and was surprised when Willow answered wearing green Kermit pyjamas.

“Thought you didn’t like frogs Red?”

Willow blinked in surprise and smiled shyly. “I don’t, but these aren’t frogs. They’re pictures of a Muppet, only loosely based on a frog.”

She took in Faith’s tired face and slightly fidgety expression. “Um, are you ok Faith? Did something happen on your not-date?” she asked softly.

“Uh yeah. Can I come in? I got somethin’ for ya, an’ I need to tell you some stuff without an audience, y’know?”

Owl-eyed at the apparent seriousness of Faith’s missive, Willow stepped aside and gestured for Faith to come in.
Faith entered carrying a wide flat box wrapped in cling film.

Willow closed and locked the door behind her.
She sat on the bed and waited for Faith to speak.
When Faith showed no inclination to do so, she asked. “So, what’s in the box? Did you have my outfit dry-cleaned? ‘cos if you did, that was nice, but you didn’t have to, I figured ‘cos you’re back to jeans and a leather jacket. Um.”

Faith said “I might have done a dumb thing. I dunno.”
She put the box on Willow’s desk and ran her hands through her hair nervously.

“Hey look, if you wrecked the outfit don’t have a spaz, I can always get another, or, um were you talking about something else?” Willow said, a little on edge with Faith’s slightly stressy non-communication.

Faith finally stopped pacing.
“Huh? What?” she said, as her eyes finally focussed on Willow, rather than her inner monologue.

“Um, you were stressing out just a little bit, and it was starting to wig me out,” Willow said.

Faith closed her eyes and groaned, leaning back against Willow’s closet door.
“God, I have no idea what I’m doin’ sometimes. I’m swingin’ in the dark with no idea what I’m going to hit.”

Willow shook herself and put on her resolve face, her mouth a flat line like a letterbox. “Faith? Tell me what happened.”

Faith opened her eyes and blinked. “Pretty good poker face there Red.”

Willow simply waited, resolve face firmly in place.

“Uh, right. I figure I should start makin’ sense then.”
She flopped down on Willow’s recliner and kicked the footrest out.

“So, yeah, the coffee thing was pretty cool. It was fun messin’ with B. Turns out she sucks at Spanish, so I kinda told her how I felt in Spanish and Italian, which I can tell you is a whole weird kinda feelin’.”

Willow’s expression softened as she smiled.

“So, we went shopping. Buffy is kinda cute as she rushes about comparing prices and materials and crap, so it was fairly fun. We played a little pinball and I took her to the body shop. Y’know, the place where I got alla them shampoos and body wash an’ stuff?”

Willow nodded. “Yup, I’ve been meaning to go there, but somehow never manage it.”

Faith nodded, scowling at some invisible scene that only she could see.
“That’s the place. Anyhow, me and B were talking about you and Xan-man’s birthday, which is why we were there shopping.”
Faith was staring at the scene in her mind, her expression intent. “B had been acting kinda squirrelly for a bit, after she told me about not buying anyone a blue top, and why.”

Willow nodded slowly, though Faith did not see, lost as she was in her own memories.

“So we were in the place with the bitchin’ soaps an’ candles an’ shit, havin’ ourselves a time, when B has a frikkin breakdown,” Faith said.

Willow looked surprised. “What!? Buffy?”

Faith met her eyes and waved her arms. “I’m serious Red, she was white as a sheet and shakin’ like a leaf.”

“But-but why?” Willow sputtered.

“I did eventually get it out of B, after we got somewhere we could talk. Anyways, after she told me and we’d hung out for a bit and generally chilled a little I went back and picked something up. Which is why I’m here.”

“Um, ok? Why are you here? I mean, I’m glad to see you, and it’s not really late, so: yay? But you seem like you came with a purpose and everything,” Willow said in her rambling fashion.

“I got ya a birthday present Red. One that I can’t give you when the others are around. Especially B.”
Faith met Willow’s confused gaze. “I’m serious Red, you can’t let B know about this, ‘cos she’ll think I’m being deliberately cruel and tear my head off. She doesn’t know what we know, y’know?”

“Um, no?” Willow said, still confused.

Faith groaned. “This is why I said I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m tryin’ to do a good thing for you while hiding it from B, ‘cos if she finds out she’ll be all kindsa pissed. And with our history, there’s no way she’ll see reason. Also I’m not sure how to deal with B anyways, but that’s a whole other thing.”

“Nope, still clear as mud over in Willow land. I have no idea what’s going on,” Willow said.

“Screw it. I’m gonna go crash. I got ya some nice soaps and body-wash and shit for your public present, but this is your real present, ok?”

“If I say yes, will you explain what the frilly heck is going on?” said Willow.

“Look, I’m tryin’ to do a nice thing for ya, ok? You don’t want to open this present in public, ok?”

“Wait, did... did you buy me lingerie?” Willow squeaked.


Faith looked at her as if she had gone mad. “What?! Why would I buy you freakin’ lingerie?”

“I don’t know?” Willow said hesitantly.

Faith’s eyebrows came together in a puzzled frown. “Your brain is weird. Why would you think I got you lingerie?”

“I don’t know?” Willow said again. “Maybe because you said all that about ‘do not open in public?’”


Faith just looked at her for a moment. “It’s not lingerie,” she finally said. “It’s not a vibrator or any kind of embarrassing sex thing, ok?”

“Oh. Yay?” Willow said, stuck somewhere between relieved and horrified.

“Never show it to Buffy or Dawn. Please? Right, my bed is calling. It’s saying ‘please crash on me.’ So I’m going to. ‘Night Red.”

Faith turned in the doorway. “Uh, in case I read this all wrong, don’t get me out of bed, just kill me tomorrow afternoon sometime, yeah?”

And with that, she was gone, closing the door softly behind her.


+++


Willow locked the door and flicked off the room light, leaving only the soft glow of her bedside lamp. She returned to her bed with the mysterious package.
It was flat and wide, looking like the boxes that fancy clothes sometimes came in.

Carefully she unwrapped the box, and saw that the revealed label showed the fancy clothing place in town.
She lifted the lid.

Inside was a lovely cream sweater. It was cashmere wool, thick and buttery soft, with a turtle neck, perfect for a cold winter.
And then the smell hit Willow.

Vanilla and Honeysuckle.

Tara’s scent.

Tears pricked at her eyes as she picked up the soft sweater, dropping the box, forgotten, to the floor.
A few short months ago, this would have destroyed her, shattering the fragile veil of normality over the yawning core of her loss.

A few short months ago, the smell of vanilla and honeysuckle would have been the scent of unutterable loss, a bottomless abyss of pain and quiet desperation, a reminder of the daily horror of life without Tara.
But that was months ago. Now Willow had her centre, the yawning void was almost filled. Willow had her soul back.

She had hope.

And now Vanilla and honeysuckle was the scent of hope. Hope and endless love.
With a happy squeak of joy and a sigh of uttermost contentment, she buried her face in the soft creamy wool and breathed deep the scent of hope and joy.

It was missing that subtle scent that was Tara’s unique something, but it was close enough for now.

With a happy sigh and a joyous wriggle, she fell sideways onto her bed clutching the sweater to her chest.
That night she slept better than she had in years.


+++


Over the next few months, Willow prepared the grove with huge chunks of quartz crystal, strategically arranged around the perimeter of the clearing.

If something important were to happen, she wanted to be prepared. She blessed the stones regularly and meditated in the grove daily, wanting to be ready, come what may.

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:00 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Nice to see Faith wearing other than leather and Buffy completely not seeing her... I really hope Faith & Willow fill in Buffy into the Tara's return so that she doesn't freak out too much...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:20 am 
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Um, no.
Sorry, much Buffy-drama is involved there.

On the plus side, this is the last Tara-less episode :)

R

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:20 pm 
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yay!!! update!!!

I only read a little before my ride showed up to take me to the grocery store.Stupid bad timing. But I just got back and finished reading.

And just awww faith coming to willow for help getting an outfit picked out. I think I've said it before, but I really like the friendship you're building between them. It's genuine.

I laughed my ass off at buffy not even recognizing faith! And faith telling her her feelings in spanish and italian too! That was great!

And go faith. that was just such a sweet gift to get willow.

I can't wait to see everyone's reaction when Tara returns!

Can't wait for the next update!!


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:35 pm 
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I liked this chapter. It was great to see Buffy take a moment and open up about how much losing Tara affected her. It really drove home the fact that Faith is the only person Willow could confide in about Tara primarily because they only had a twelve second conversation one time when Faith wasn't even in her own body.

If I recall the early story time chapters Tara returns in the middle of some serious crisis that had serious repercussions for Faith. Hope that wasn't a spoiler.

Can't wait for the next bit. Long awaited reunions are always fun.

PS. In case it wasn't obvious I totally support dumping most of the relationship angst onto Buffy and Faith early on and letting Willow and Tara just be happy that they are together after all the things that stood in their way.

Makes the payoff when the Slayers finally get their act together all the sweeter.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:49 am 
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Heya citanul!

Glad you're enjoying it :)

Yeah, Willow and Tara talk through some heavy stuff. And some silly stuff.
But the drama pretty much all lands on Buffy/Faith.

Despite the occasional look at every body else, it's Willow & Tara's story.

I wrote in the 'We were all too hurt to talk about Tara' bit, based on the way she seemed to vanish from the narrative, immediately after the episode which must not be named.
I kinda stopped watching around then, but i remember it was like she suddenly never existed.
Fuck season 6.

So this is my explanation.

You'll find out more about Buffy and Tara's relationship later.

You have a humorous story involving ice-cream to look forward to ☺

And yes, there's crisis in the offing.
Largely my attempt to spin a narrative around some of the inconsistencies of the canon plot.

I hope you'll enjoy it.

Tune in next week ☺

R

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 1:49 pm 
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Well isn't that a slow, painful build for Faith and Buffy. We know they get there eventually based on the first story but boy does Buffy need a 2x4 to the side of the head to figure things out sometimes. I like that you took Faith out of the usual leather and attitude image and showed a different side of her in the last chapter. Actually, I really enjoyed the conversations Willow and Faith have had. It is building more dimension to Faith compared to what you often see and strengthens your version of Willow as well.

The gift from Faith to Willow in the last chapter was very poignant. I'm looking forward to Tara actually making it home. I gather from the inferences in the first story that her arrival will be well timed and fairly epic. I'm also looking forward to the proverbial 2x4 finally hitting Buffy.
-H.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:29 pm 
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Hi Lois!

Yeah, i'm doing Buffy as generally cheerfully oblivious, and smart, but bad with words.
A sort of 'throwback' Buffy. mainly because seasons >5 depress me, and i know stuff all about them.

The 2x4 is coming. Along with some pain. It ends happily, i promise.

And you REALLY don't have long to wait for Tara's return :)

Just don't hate Buffy. She's not in a good place right now, something that's probably not obvious, given how she is with Faith sometimes.

Update this weekend :)

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 7:33 pm 
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oooo ominous.

I've always liked how Buffy and Tara were getting to be closer friends during the second half of s6.

Your warning about not hating buffy makes me think she's maybe not going to believe at first that it's really Tara. Or maybe she's not going to be happy she wasn't told earlier about Tara's contact with Willow.
Or maybe I totally misunderstood your warning completely. lol

At any rate, I'm excited about the next chapter!


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 Post subject: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 1:02 am 
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Heya Kittens!
I actually got organized this weekend, so here it is, a bit earlier.
This shows a bit of the other side of Buffy, and some of what Faith was talking about.
Aaaaand, our favourite couple are reunited :)

And this becomes a proper Willow and Tara story, at long last.
Less D&D, more Buffy :P

Sorry D&D fans :(

Enjoy :)


Hope fulfilled


Willow had been feeling restless for most of the day, a little apprehensive with a vague sense of impending... something, definitely impending.
Impending-ness even.


Willow was meditating fairly late in the day, her schedule thrown off by her generally grumpy and slightly wiggy day.
As the sun touched the horizon, she felt something strange in the air, a shock hitting the world. It as though she had been leaning against a garage door when something had slammed into it.


The grass carpeting the grove rippled in the setting sun and a few errant leaves were shaken from the trees around her. The sensation did not touch Willow, though it obviously affected the grove.


She felt the air pressure start to build rapidly, until she had to pop her ears.
The air fairly groaned with tension and the ground started to shake.
A hole tore in the world above the grove, bathing the whole area in a weird blue-white light.
A huge column of blinding light poured into the sky from the tear. It pulsed and throbbed alarmingly, as though it were a living thing, as though it were trying to close and was being forced open by desperate strength.


Willow squinted against the brilliant, rippling light and saw a figure above her, struggling to break through an invisible barrier. The figure was visibly losing strength while Willow panicked, unsure of what to do.
A despairing cry sounded in the wind, galvanizing her into action “Willow! Help... unhh!... me!”


She knew that voice, it was written on her heart, engraved on her very bones. A voice she thought she would never hear again. All hesitation vanished, and she knelt beneath the light, driving her fingers through the grass and into the rich soil beneath. And she called upon the power that dwelt in that earth.


Once she had made the earth scream in pain, her own pain, and she was willing to do so again if need be. She reached up with her other hand and sent her strength and her magic to the struggling figure, the figure that represented her world.


She poured the power of the earth into that barely seen shape.
She gave every breath of strength she possessed, every scrap of energy in the grove.
She channelled her loss and her despair.
She tore at the hole with her fury at an unjust creation, she screamed in pain as she channelled staggering levels of power, enough to tear a hole in the world.


The pain grew. And grew again, becoming unbearable.
It felt as though she was being torn apart, and still she channelled the power.
The pain was more than she thought any mortal frame could bear, but compared to the last 2 years without Tara, it was as nothing.
She embraced her pain, opening herself to it, revelling in it, she let her desperate hope stand against tearing agony.


She screamed into the howling storm of leaves. “Goddess... HELP... ME!
There was no surrender in her.
None.


She commit everything she had to this task.
Either her love came home or she, Willow, died here tonight.
She had lived without Tara, for two years. Compared to that pain, death would be welcome.

She flailed desperately into the storm, unable to break her connection within the earth, unable to reach, unable to make contact. She screamed with frustration, raging at her inability to pull Tara through the barrier.
Until her flailing hand caught the tree branch.


Images flashed into her mind, images of the fallen, of the lost, of the loved.
Jesse, one of her oldest friends, and the first to fall.
Jenny, her mentor.
Joyce, mother to all the Scoobies.
Anya, Xander’s love.
And Tara. Her everything.
She threw back her head and screamed into the storm “TARA!”
She hurled the last dregs of her strength into the portal, and her love, and the love of her friends.
The portal erupted with light, a beam of rich, leafy green reaching to the heavens.
And at the end of hope, of despair, at the uttermost end of need, was love.


And love was enough.


Love was enough to tear down the barriers between worlds.
To call the dead back to the land of the living, to ignite hope.
To bring Tara home.



The portal closed with a snap, leaving Willow in darkness.
The evening sky was no competition for the blazing fury he had been staring into.
Moments after darkness fell, there was a metallic crash, followed by a groan.


The grove was silent save for the sounds of laboured breathing and the gentle whisper of falling leaves.
Willow’s eyes slowly adjusted to take in the metallic form on one knee, just a few meters away. The sheer power of the magic she had channelled left her in a stupor, barely able to string one thought together with the next.
Though calling out for Tara and receiving this metallic form would have thrown her off at the best of times. “Wha...?” she got out in an exhausted gasp.


With a metallic groan the figure levered itself to its feet and fumbled with its head... ‘Helmet,’ Willow eventually realized with her stunned and reeling brain.
With a sigh of obvious relief the figure pulled the helmet from its head, dropping it on the grass with a distinct thud.
The figure shook out its long hair, a burning halo of gold against the setting sun. As she turned, she revealed to Willow a profile she would recognize anywhere, a profile etched into Willow’s heart.


“Tara?” she croaked, her voice hoarse from screaming her agony.


“Baby?” Tara said, peering into the shadows beneath the trees, her own sight slowly recovering from the blazing light.
Willow levered herself to her feet. Swaying with exhaustion and shivering with pent up hope and fear, she staggered the few meters over to Tara.


They met with a slight crash and a tiny muttered “Ow.”


For a moment there was no sound but their laboured breathing, until Willow’s shivering broke into shuddering sobs.
She wept, racking sobs that were torn from her slender form.
She poured out her sense of loss, her grief and her fear that this was some terrible, hope-shattering dream.


“Shhh, baby,” Tara murmured as they sank to the grass, holding onto the broken woman that held her soul. “I’m real sweetie, I promise you I’m real.”


“You’re really here? You’re really real?” Willow said in a small, almost childlike voice.


“Oh yes,” Tara sighed. “Really real, I promise you.”


“But how... Oh baby, I got so lost without you,” Willow cried, tears spilling down her cheeks.


Tears running freely down her own cheeks, Tara held her love’s sweet face in both her hands and locked gazes with Willow.
Her watery blue gaze met an equally wet green one.
She declared with a mix of heartbreaking tenderness and ferocity “I will always find you sweetie... Always.”


She stilled Willow’s words with a kiss.
Her lips sought Willows, and in the fading evening light, two halves of a soul rejoined.
Willows soft lips felt like rose petals. Like love.
Like home.


Willow was exhausted and still stunned from the sheer power that had thundered through her, but when Tara’s lips met hers, the hordes of questions stampeding through her brain vanished.
She moaned as she fell into the kiss. Tentative at first, still not truly believing, even after everything that had happened.
When Tara’s tongue slipped into her mouth she felt herself giving way to hope and returned Tara’s passion with her own desperate fervour.


It wasn’t the most genteel of kisses, lips pressed together with desperate force, tongues wrestling, tears wetting cheeks and a certain amount of snottiness from all the crying.
Neither woman cared, the world could have ended for all they noticed, nothing existed outside that kiss. When they finally broke for air they were both gasping. “Wow...” said Willow in a small voice.


“Oh yes,” sighed Tara.
More kissage ensued.


When they finally separated long enough for coherent thought, Willow looked around, amazed that the grass around them hadn’t caught fire with the passion of their kisses.
Save for a carpet of fallen leaves and a dent in the ground, the grove was undisturbed by the evening’s dramatic events.



Willow’s head filled with questions, each clamouring to be heard. Some questions were just too deep and dark to be asked now, in desperation she asked the first harmless questions that popped to the surface.


“Why are you dressed like Joan of arc? And why is your hair white, I mean not that I mind ‘cos it’s pretty and kinda reminds me of that peroxide experiment you had just before you met me, and why does your metal suit have windows in the back and, and, and you’re supposed to stop me before mmm...mmm!” Willow blurted out, before Tara cut off her questions with a gentle kiss.


When Tara broke the kiss she quirked a shy half-smile that warmed Willow’s heart.
“Breathe sweetie. I haven’t heard Willowbabble in such a long time. I was enjoying listening to you, I was um... basking in Willowy goodness”.
“I have answers to all of your questions baby, but can we go somewhere first? Somewhere with a bed and showers? I’ll tell you what I can on the way, but I am barely standing. And I don’t smell so good” Tara said wearily, with a sniff and a wrinkled nose.


“Oh!” willow chirped “Yup! we have showers and baths at Slayer central, and I have a bed there too. Foody goodness is also available, if you have a growly tummy.”


Willow extended her hand shyly to Tara, offering to lead them from the grove. Tara grasped Willow’s hand firmly and followed her from the grove.


“Willowhand,” said Tara warmly “I’ve missed Willowhand, along with the rest of Willow-goodness.”


Willow blushed as the two walked hand in hand across the field toward the buildings of Slayer central. The buildings were lit against the woods by the golden light of sunset. Tara jingling gently with the motions of her armour.
“Explaining this is gonna be all sorts of fun, I’m not really looking forward to the strange looks and the ‘What did you do now’s’” grumbled Willow.


Tara thought for a moment and replied “You mean after bringing Buffy back? And um... her mom?”


Willow nodded glumly. Almost instantly she perked up, a goofy smile lighting up her face. “You know what? I don’t care! Pshaw I say! Phooey even! I’ve got my baby back and that’s all that matters.”


Tara squeezed Willow’s hand tight.
After years of struggle she was home.


She had fought her way across an alien world and torn down the walls between dimensions to get to this point.
Home.
With Willow.


“Yes you have sweetie. I promise you, I’m not going anywhere.”
Tara leaned in close to Willow as they walked “I promise you snuggles tonight and smoochies tomorrow when we are less exhausted,” she Whispered in willow’s ear.
Willow blushed furiously and Tara stopped dead in her tracks. “Th-that is if you, umm... don’t have anyone and are umm... okay w-with that of course” Tara stuttered, her confidence evaporated. Her self-consciousness brought back her stutter with a vengeance.
For more than a year, all she had focused on was one simple thing: getting back to Willow. It had never occurred to her, she had never let herself think about it, that Willow might have found someone new in the time she had been... gone.


Willow chose her words carefully, she did not want to hurt her beloved with careless words.
“No Tara, I don’t have anyone special in my life but you. I’m all yours. Even when you w-were... gone. There was someone who tried...” she trailed off until Tara raised an eyebrow.
“Um... it didn’t work out, she... she wasn’t... you.” She squeaked out the last word, fresh tears running down her face.


“Oh sweetie, I-I’m sorry, I didn’t think... I didn’t let myself think. All I could think of was coming back to you... I had no idea how long I had been um... gone.” Tara stammered out, her awkwardness and embarrassment clearly visible.


“One year, 10 months, 15 days and this afternoon,” Willow said automatically.
“Um, not that I obsess about it or anything,” she muttered in a small voice, nearly lost in the swishing of their footsteps in the long grass.


“Oh Willow, I’m so sorry.” Tara replied, squeezing Willow’s hand. “It’s going to take quite a while to explain what happened to me after... you know.”


“Um, ah and other sounds of hesitation,” said Willow. “Normally I’d be bouncing up and down in anticipation of an explanation, but I am happy to wait. I have my Tara back. All is well with the world. The end,” said Willow succinctly.
In a soft whisper, Willow gave voice to her biggest secret, something she had trouble even telling herself. “You saved me baby,” she said, squeezing Tara’s gauntleted hand.
“I wasn’t alive without you, I was just existing. I was as dead as any vampire, I just happened to have a heartbeat. And then I felt you... Oh baby, you saved me, you weren’t even... here. And you saved me. How do you always do that?”


“Love. True love,” Tara said. “Also magic.”
She smiled. Other things would be difficult, explaining to the Scoobies, adapting to a new life, holding each other through their nightmares and rediscovering their relationship. But not this.


Willow gazed with naked longing and hunger at the profile of her beloved, seeing a small frown crinkle her forehead as she pointed across the field.
“Um... I think that explanation is going to have to come sooner than I expected,” Tara said tiredly.


Looking across the field to where Tara’s gauntleted hand was pointing, Willow saw two figures pounding across the field at astonishing speed. Both figures were gilded by the setting sun, one light, one dark, both carrying swords, the blades burning in the dying light.


“Buffy and?” Tara asked.


“Faith,” Willow replied.


“Faith?!” Tara blurted out, astonished.


“Yup, she’s helping train the new Slayers, sort of a redemption thing,” explained Willow with a sniffle, wiping some of the tears from her face with her sleeve.


“Wow, new Slayers, Faith working with Buffy. I have missed so much” Tara said, wonder and exhaustion audible in her voice.


“You have no idea,” Willow said with a brave smile, new tears visible in her eyes. “Am I ever going to stop crying?” she said with a sniffle.


“Tears of joy, my Willow. You cry all you want sweetie.” Tara said as she gathered Willow into a gentle hug. “I am home now, and no one is going to separate us again. Not demons, not gods, and certainly not men,” she said fiercely.
“I think between us we can handle Buffy.”
“Besides” she said with a small smile. “I have a few surprises to convince her, if all else fails.”


Willow gave Tara a confused look, one eyebrow up, one down.


“I’ve spent nearly two years in another dimension, I’ve learned a few new things” she said with a false huff, her mock seriousness betrayed by her tired smile.


+++


Blood pounded in Buffy’s ears as she kept pace with Faith’s longer stride. Together they tore across the fields making up the southern portion of Slayer central.


The blazing green light show had been visible for miles. Worse, Giles had reacted with shock, gripping the tabletop to stay upright. “Dear god!”


His stunned expression had terrified Buffy. Whatever was happening had shocked him in a way she had never seen before.
When he had gathered his wits he’d said “Someone... someone just tore a hole in the fabric of the world. Without even the courtesy of going through a Hellmouth.” The shock of the event eradicated his usual verbal ground-breaking.
He’d leaned against his desk, utterly stunned. “This speaks to a terrifying level of power Buffy,” he’d said, his voice hoarse.
“Enough that anyone with even a trace of magical ability will have felt it.”


Buffy had never seen Giles so obviously worried before. Usually there were signs and prophesy to warn them, Giles looking concerned and being stuffy for a week or so. Something more than just a bright light in the sky, and Giles falling over.


When she was about to press Giles for more traditional stuffy British exposition, Faith handed her a sword. “The grove, B.”
A look of alarm crossed Buffy’s face “Willow!” she’d gasped, the shock and fear evident in her voice. She’d exploded into action, diving across the table and out the door with desperate speed.
Giles’ shouted warning echoed in her ears “For God’s sake be careful!”



Now as she sprinted across the grass, sheer desperation allowing her to keep pace with Faith’s longer stride.
Fear filled her, fear for her best friend, fear of whatever new evil had Giles so utterly stunned.
The lights had faded from the sky, but she could see two figures in the field, lit by the fading golden sunlight, the slender figure of Willow and another bulkier figure, one wearing gleaming armour.


Armour was never a good sign.


The armoured form had Willow wrapped in a close embrace, an embrace that could mean only one thing: Danger!
“Willow!” she howled, the extra surge of terror and fury driving her to outpace Faith.


“Buffy! Stop!” Willow yelled desperately, as the enraged Slayer closed on them with shocking speed, a naked blade in her hand.
“Stop dammit!” she screamed.


The impassioned cry penetrated the Slayer’s terrible focus and she stumbled to a stop at a wary distance from the pair, Faith slowing to a more controlled halt behind her.
“Willow?” called a tense and panting Buffy.


“Hey Red,” said a slightly more sedate Faith. “Since when did you hold hands with random armoured chicks?” the caution evident in her voice.


Willows fiery hair was backlit against the indigo sky, the stranger’s bare head was sunlit with a halo of golden fire, making a view of her face impossible.
“Um... so, this is difficult to explain,” said Willow as she watched Buffy circle cautiously, to get a view that didn’t include a halo.


Willow and Tara slowly turned to follow Buffy, until the sunlight fell on their faces.
Faith caught on before Buffy did. “Holy shit Red! It worked?”


Willow shot Faith an exhausted but triumphant grin, and opened her mouth to speak. She was cut off by Buffy’s shocked whisper.
“Tara?” she said, her hand reaching out slightly towards the gleaming newcomer.


“Hey Buffy.” A tired Tara replied with a small wave.


“I’m impressed Red! You really pulled it off? Damn!” Faith interjected with amazement.


While Willow was looking at Faith, a series of emotions passed across Buffy’s face. Tara saw shock, the beginnings of joy and tears, calculation and then hatred. The last shocked her completely.


“I don’t know who you are, but you made a big mistake!” Buffy ground out in a tone of hammered iron. “You should not have worn that face. Not that face! I swear, after I’ve dealt with you, I’m gonna find whoever sent you, and tear out their fucking heart.”


Everyone gaped at Buffy.


“Shit, B!” said Faith, visibly stunned. “That’s pretty dark, even for you.”


There was a crash as Tara hit the ground in a dead faint.
Willow glared at Buffy, her fists clenched by her hips, her slender body shaking with suppressed emotion.


“What the fuzzy heck were you thinking Buffy?” demanded Willow fiercely, literally shaking with rage.


“Can’t you see she’s... she’s...” Willow paused mid rant, managing to look both angry and woozy. Without further warning, her eyes rolled up and she fainted. She hit the ground with a thud next to Tara’s still form.


Faith poked Willow’s unconscious form with the toe of her boot. “Damn. The big bads are always coming up with new tactics,” she said with a snort. “This new one? passing out cold at the feet of armed Slayers? That’s kinda different.”


+++


Dawn and Xander were waiting anxiously at the back door to Slayer central, Dawn clutched Mr Pointy. Xander twirled a short battle-axe.
“Don’t worry Dawnster, Buffy and Faith can handle...” he waved his hands around vaguely. “Whatever the heck is going on” Xander said.


A pale-faced Dawn gave him a worried look, clearly not reassured.


“I’m not worried about them,” she said, as an armed squad of junior Slayers quietly arrived. “I’m worried about Willow,” Dawn said as she fiddled with Mr Pointy, a gift from Buffy.
“You’ve seen how she’s been, kinda sad. But better than she was, then suddenly, Boom! Happy Willow, back in action. She’s been chirpy, happy, making jokes and everything.”
Dawn looked sad and much smaller “You know. How she was with... with Tara” she said in a small, sad voice.


Xander put his arm around Dawn and pulled her close. “If it was anyone else Dawnster, I’d have said she was moving on, at long last.” Xander said with a sad voice. “But I truly don’t think that anyone could move on from Tara.”


“I know I haven’t,” Dawn said, her sad voice barely above a whisper.


“Me either Dawnie. Me either.” he said glumly.


“Ages ago, when we thought Willow had been vamped. Giles was devastated, we all were. He described Willow as ‘truly the best of us’. Y’know I think he was wrong. I think Tara was the best of us. I think... I think she was the soul of the Scoobies .”


Dawn nodded as Xander spoke the words that she felt.
“And like a soul, we didn’t notice how important she was, until she was gone,” he said, his voice husky with emotion.


They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, sharing their sense of sadness and loss.
“I feel kinda woozy,” Dawn said.


Xander was about to say something when Faith’s voice cut the night.


“Coming through!” shouted Faith.
“Xan! D! move your butts!” she called as Buffy hurried toward them, carrying a limp Willow in her arms. Faith followed some distance behind, carrying another figure in gleaming armour.
They both scurried out of the way of USS Buffy at full steam.


“Ohmigod Willow!” Dawn squeaked as she registered the limp form in Buffy’s arms. Buffy waded through the junior Slayers and up the staircase without a word, her expression grim,
as she vanished inside.


The junior Slayer squad drilled Faith and her passenger with their stares as she walked down the aisle Buffy had ploughed through them.
“Don’t stand there staring!” she groused. “Go get some floodlights and search the grove for anything weird!”


Faith caught the gazes of Xander and Dawn.
‘Oh shit!’.
“Uh, D you might wanna go inside,” she said as she ground to a halt a few meters from them, Tara’s ragdoll form lolling from her arms.


Faith noticed that the juniors had not yet moved.
“What? You waiting for engraved invitations? Move, dumbasses!” she growled at her trainees, jolting them into sudden motion.
“If you find anything, don’t screw around with it, get it to G-man, ok?” she yelled as they took off toward the grove.


Dawn was half way up the stairs, clearly planning to follow her sister inside, when she heard Xander’s hoarse whisper. “Tara?”
Shocked, she turned to look at him, her gaze drawn from his pale features by the intensity of his stare. Her gaze locked on a head hanging at an unfamiliar angle, tanned skin pale in the exterior floods, hair a mane of snow-white trailing below her. She cocked her head to one side, trying to recognize... “Tara?!” she let out in a shocked whisper.
Her legs gave out and her butt hit the stairs with a thump as she stared at the limp figure dangling from Faith’s strong arms.


+++


Xander strode through the hallways of Slayer central, a man on a mission. As he approached the infirmary, he saw that the door was guarded by Heather, one of the junior Slayers, and his self-appointed assistant.


Tall, long dark hair, slender as a reed. Kinda Dawn-like, cargo pants, boots and a bright pink top with a kitten on it. And the sleeves torn off. A style Faith had described as “Hello-Kitty Punk” and Buffy had once described as “The insane love child of Willow and Faith.”


“Hi Heather,” he ventured.


Her face lit up with a thousand watt smile. “Hi Xander!”


Xander grinned back. “I’m here to check on our newest guest, see how she’s doing, maybe put her somewhere a bit nicer” he said.


“Oh. Ok I guess” said Heather, doing her best to put the sun out of business.


Xander put his fingers to his lips and quietly opened the door.
Heather bounced up and down on the balls of her feet behind him, visibly excited, but managing to stay silent.
At the far end of the ward-like infirmary, Tara was lying in a hospital bed.


In restraints.


Xander sighed. A few brisk strides had him by the bedside, Heather bobbing along with him.


“Who is she?” she asked in a hushed whisper.


Xander looked down on her angelic features, taking in the tan on her skin and the messy cloud of hair, now white as snow. It hurt just to see her. No matter how hard he looked, all he saw was Tara. She reminded him of all he had lost. When he looked at her, he could not help but see his Anya, who had forged a close friendship with the shy woman.


“Her name is Tara. She was... is the soul of the Scoobies,” he said with quiet conviction. “She is the best of us. And she deserves better than this.”


“Help me,” he said as he started to undo the restraints on his side of the bed. Heather hesitated for a moment, gnawing her lower lip nervously before moving to the other side of the bed.


In less than a minute the restraints were undone. Xander scooped her up in his strong arms. “Time to take her home,” he said softly to his accomplice.
The trio made their way through Slayer central without incident, Heather alternating between nervousness and joy as she bobbed along in Xander’s wake. She was clearly enjoying helping Xander with his ‘secret’ mission, but equally worried about getting in the path of Hurricane Buffy.


In any event they made it up to Willow’s room without encountering anyone. Out of politeness Xander had Heather tap quietly on Willow’s door, getting no response he nodded to her to open the door and carried Tara home.


To Willow.


Willow was lying on her bed, the comforter wrapped around her slender form. Almost reverentially Xander lay Tara on the bed by Willow. Gently he folded the other half of the wrapping over Tara and exited the room.
As he closed the door he let out a breath that he didn’t realize he was holding.
“Yeah, you might wanna find a safe place to hide, Buffy is very likely to kinda... explode... slightly,” he explained with a grimace.


“Er... I’d rather encounter her with you to protect me. So if it’s ok with you I’ll stay and err... guard her. Them,” she said somewhat uncertainly.


“Sure, the more the merrier,” he said with a shrug. “Though I was kinda hoping you’d protect me, being a Slayer and all,” he grinned.


Heather lit up the room with her smile and started to bounce up and down again.
Just being near Heather made Xander feel old. She bounced even more than Dawn, and that was saying something, plus he was starting to wonder if she had a serious case of hero worship, or worse: a crush. Years of hanging around with the female of the species had eventually clued him in to a few things, though he was still at a loss for what to do with the information.


Heather was putting in heroic efforts to keep quiet for any length of time. It was pretty obvious that Xander was worried and equally obvious that something important was going on. Plus Buffy was going to be seriously upset, plus Xander was being all cryptic and deep earlier.
She sighed a dreamy sigh as she thought about Xander, standing next to her, that eye patch made him look very roguish, and he was kinda sad earlier... she couldn’t look him in the eye because he would see what she was thinking written all over her face. So she did what she always did when she was waiting: she bounced.


Xander spoke “You remind me of Tigger when you bounce like that. Y’know from Winnie the Pooh?”


Heather squealed at a pitch certain to give any neighbourhood dogs reason to flee in terror. “Omigod! He’s my favourite!” she wriggled with obvious delight.


All that showed on his face was a slightly embarrassed grin, inside Xander groaned, ‘Now what am I gonna do?’


10 minutes later, Xander and Heather were deep in a discussion about Eeyore and why he was so sad, Heather of the opinion that Eeyore really needed a cuddle.
Luckily Buffy saved his day, by entering the room with a thunderous expression.


He sighed, getting his butt kicked by Buffy was definitely less awkward than dealing with sophomore Slayer crushes.
Xander meaningfully parked himself in front of the door to Willow’s room.


“She in there?” said Buffy, striding toward the door.


“Yeah Buff. Yeah she is,” Xander said in a tired tone of voice.


Buffy stopped in front of Xander, just a little too close to be friendly in the current circumstances. “I don’t see any injuries, so I’m assuming that she didn’t overpower you and escape” she challenged.


“Nope. She didn’t. I brought her here, still unconscious” he said, still sounding tired.
Heather managed to be both quiet and still, an astonishing accomplishment, that was completely missed in the middle of the
unfolding drama.


“Xander! What were you thinking?” Buffy all-but shouted, anger and reproach colouring every word.


Xander looked Buffy in square in the face with his one good eye, he spoke with quiet conviction “I was thinking that Tara came back somehow. I was thinking we don’t know what she went through to get here. I was thinking that when she wakes up, she might like to wake up next to Willow. And not in restraints. We owe her more than that Buffy.”


“Great, but that in there is not Tara. Tara died Xander! She can’t just suddenly show up again. We don’t get that lucky!” Buffy said, anger and a hint of desperation in her voice.


Heather tried her very best to be invisible while the tension built. Being piggy in the middle was not fun.


“Maybe this time we do Buffy, maybe on this day of days, we get a reward for all the pain and loss we have suffered, on behalf of people who will never know what we gave for them.”
He said, picking up steam. “Jesse. Tara. Willow. Anya. Joyce. Jenny. Angel. Dawn. God even Spike! It’s about time we got something good out of all of this pain, all the good people we lost,” he said. “And Spike,” he added as an afterthought.
Xander thought perhaps he had said the wrong thing, perhaps those names hit too close to home, Buffy’s face closed down.


“You need to stand aside Xander,” Buffy said flatly.


‘Time to lay it all out Xander,’ he thought to himself, ‘time to man up.’
“No,” he said, not a millimetre of give in his tone.


He was met with Buffy’s raised eyebrows of disbelief.


“Buffy, I know you love Willow, I know you are trying to help her. I know she’s your best friend and I know you’d do anything to protect her,” he said in a placating tone.
“Well so would I. She’s been my best friend since we were out of diapers, my only friend sometimes. And if you do something to Tara? You will do her more harm than anyone has ever done before. And I won’t let that happen,” he said in a voice containing compassion, and an undertone of iron.


“I stood up for Willow. I stood between her and the death of the world, I stood between Glory and Dawn, and I stood between Caleb and you,” he said tapping his eye-patch significantly.
“If you decide you’re gonna hurt Willow? You gotta go through me Buffy.”


“And me,” said Heather loyally.


“I’m trying to protect Willow, Xander!” Buffy pleaded.


“You’ll make her hate you Buffy. Stop thinking like the Slayer and think like a best friend. Trust her. Trust Tara. Or if that’s too much, trust me,” he said, compassion evident in his dark eye.


Buffy was clearly suffering some kind of internal struggle, after a few moments she threw her hands in the air and flounced out of the lounge without a word.


Heather turned and unleashed a thousand watt smile, worship clearly visible. “Wow, that was awesome Xander, you were so brave,” she sighed.


‘Oh crud biscuits’ thought Xander, a worried grin on his face.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:02 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana

Yay for great update-y goodness... Big yay for Tara being back... Faith really needs to tell Buffy about what she and Willow have been up to lately... I'm really glad that Xander stood up to Buffy to defend Willow & Tara...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:32 am 
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Congrats on the dibs :P

Yeah, Faith and Buffy eventually talk... a lot.
Much drama between now, and then, though.

And yeah, Xander has his good side. He's basically insanely loyal, once you get past the fact that he's also a standard young male.

So yeah, Xander gets some love. And pride.

more to come, in a little while.

This was probably the shortest chapter, probably beacuse it was the first.
It was originally intended to be the end of the previous story, but then i wrote all this other stuff, so yeah... :dumbo

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 7:25 pm 
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More please.

That is all. :wink

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 7:31 pm 
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No problem, more coming up!

Uh, in a couple of weeks.
I have some i could put up, but my output is low enough that you end up waiting forever, which sucks :(
This does not happen: :buried


But yeah, it's coming :P

R

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:02 am 
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Great chapter. I really enjoyed the bit where Tara was glowing so much the Slayers couldn't recognize her.

Sadly Buffy reacting the way she did after a year or so of dealing with an all powerful, face stealing evil was more than understandable. Hope the morning after drama resolves itself quickly. I wonder which Scooby is going to be the one to remind her that they were already told about this in a prophecy. That'll be a fun conversation.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 12:42 pm 
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Heya Citanul!

The 'Halo' thing was just the setting sun, no glowyness, honest.
Tara tends to glow when she's both fully charged, and happy, which happens more often these days.
But that's not what happened here.

Now i'm worried i missed something, What prophesy did you mean?
I want to make sure i didn't miss anything, so if you let me know, i might be able to fix it up :)

:flower R

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:20 pm 
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Hi Azirahael. No, I was just talking about all the foreshadowing in Faith's "Life is your gift." slap fight dream. Good stuff all around.

It might not have been a full blown prophecy but it was on the prophetic side.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:47 pm 
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Ah, cool.

Was just worried i'd missed something :)

A virtual cookie to anyone who can guess what the 'Life is your Gift' thing is referring to :P

R

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 1:38 am 
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Today’s episode (and probably most of the rest) has Music™ attached.

*Gasp*

Given that much of it comes from movies that are thematically divorced from what’s happening in the story, I suggest ‘open in background tab’ or something similar on your browser.

Kind of a short one this weekend :P

Enjoy!

Home
Music

Willow woke up feeling a like a butterfly encased in a Tara cocoon.

She felt warm.
Complete.
Right.


She felt as though a great void inside her had been filled, and filled with sunlight.
And somehow subtly different.
Also she felt hungry, terribly thirsty and with a painful need for a visit to the bathroom.


She was about to catapult... well stagger, out of bed to attend to her needs when she realized she was not alone, it was not a dream. In the bed next to her was a sleeping form.
Willow smiled, felling safe, complete, loved. Her beloved was clad in a somewhat stinky blue tunic and pant set and was surrounded by a mane of snow white hair. Willow leaned over and gently hugged her, revelling in the smell of stinky Tara.


“Mmm... Baby” Tara moaned sleepily, making happy sounds for a few more moments. She opened her eyes to see the most wonderful sight she could imagine, the beautiful green eyes that held her soul.


No words need be said in that perfect moment. Blue eyes held green, and the rest of the world just stopped.


“You are home! Oh baby, you are really home! I can see you, I can touch you and smell you and I can feel you inside, and I am somehow still not sure this is all real y’know?” Willow babbled, the wonder evident in her breathless voice.


“Oh Willow” she whispered, tears filling her eyes. “I can’t believe I’m finally here, home with you,” she said in a quiet voice, a silent tear rolling down the side of her face.
“It was so hard,” she said in a sad voice.
“I was fighting so long to get back to you. I... I couldn’t let myself give up hope. Baby, I swore I would tear down the sky to get back to you,” she said as tears began to flow in earnest.


Willow nuzzled her face “Shhh... It’s alright baby, you’re home now, you’re here with me and everything is going to be ok, I promise Tara, you hear me? I promise,” she babbled softly as Tara cried.


“Oh Willow, I’ve missed you so,” she said softly. “I’ve missed Willowbabble, and Willowcuddles, and Willowsmoochies so much” she said with a tear-filled smile.


Tears filling her own eyes Willow responded “Me too” with her own wrinkled, tear-filled sad smile. “oh baby, I was dead without you, I wasn’t alive, I was just existing, you were the best part of me.”
Willow broke down into wracking tear-filled sobs. “I wanted to die!” She said into Tara’s shoulder. “Every night I fell into bed, and prayed I wouldn’t wake up. I did such terrible things, baby.”


The two sobbing women held each other tightly as they poured out their fears and sense of loss. Minutes seemed like hours as they held each other, pouring out their pain and beginning the first small steps of healing. They would have stayed there for hours if not for the pressing needs of biology, making its presence felt more painfully with each passing moment.


“Um... Willow?” said Tara tentatively.


“Bathroom?” Willow asked.


Tara nodded her head vigorously.


Willow winced and pointed at the bathroom door attached to her room. Tara staggered to her feet, and all but ran to the little room.


+++


Xander was sitting on the couch talking with Buffy.
“All I’m saying is... and believe me I can’t believe I’m saying this...” Xander said. “I agree with Faith. I don’t think a big bad is gonna dress up like a Joan of arc version of Tara and then have her pass out in front of you and Faith. Even for our lives, that’s an extra-crazy kind of uh... craziness.”


Buffy opened her mouth to speak, when the door to Willow’s room slammed open. A rather scruffy and rumpled Willow bolted out.
Buffy leapt to her feet, and Willow sprinted right past her at high speed, chanting, “Bathroom bathroom bathroom bathroom.” She vanished through the open door into Xander’s room.


“Uh, yeah so, as evil plans go, that’s not exactly got us shaking in our stylish yet affordable booties,” commented Xander, gently kicking Buffy in the aforementioned footwear.


Buffy was still grousing when Willow emerged from Xander’s bathroom, gulping down a large glass of water.


“So... thirsty,” she gasped between swallows.


“Yep, you’ve been asleep for two days, nearly three,” said Xander, with a big grin. “We were starting to get worried.”


“Wow, really?” said Willow. “I’m all for the lying-in thing, but three days is excessive even for me,” she said with an ear to ear grin, pointedly ignoring Buffy’s glower. “We were really tired. Reallyreally tired.”


“Yeah Will, about that...” began Buffy, trailing off.


Willow shrugged. “Tara tore down the sky Buffy. To get back to me. And I helped her do it,” she said as though discussing the weather.


“Will...” Buffy began, a note of caution in her voice.


Willow held up a hand, cutting Buffy off. “Later. I’ve got nearly two years of Tara cuddles and smoochies to catch up on.”
She tossed the empty glass to Buffy and walked off.


She stopped at the door to her room, looked over her shoulder and said, “Later, I promise.”
She looked thoughtful for a moment and said under her breath, “Much later.”
She winked at the pair and then shut the door.
The click of the lock could be heard.


Xander let out a low whistle “And that ladies and gentlemen was Wonder Willow. Wicked... uh, Wonderful Witch of the West”, he said sounding impressed.
“What?” he said as he caught Buffy’s expression.


“Xander... I want this to be true. God! You’ve no idea how badly I want Tara to be back! But we don’t get that lucky, we don’t get second chances like that,” she said, tension visible in every part of her body.


“Look Buffy,” Xander said in a gentle tone. “I don’t have Slayer instincts or witchy-fu, but I’m telling you, there is no evil here.”


Buffy’s fierce hazel eyes made contact with Xander’s single dark eye. “You can’t know that Xander! Look at all the things that have tried to kill us or mess with us over the years. What if it’s a trap, by something like the First? Or an imposter? Or what if-”


“Buff stop, please. Let me be thinking-Xander for a bit.” He said, pulling a reluctant Buffy into a hug.
“If it was an evil plan by a big resurrecting-badguy, who would Tara be aimed at?” he said, putting emphasis on Tara’s name. “Willow, right?”


Buffy nodded uncertainly.


“Well not only did she have the chance to do something nasty to Willow, way before you and Faith got there, but Wonder-wiccan Willow doesn’t sense anything amiss from her. Now I’ll admit that that a Tara clone-thingy could distract her for a moment, but they’ve been snuggled up for days, plus they were together when you found them. No one could pretend to be Tara for that long, and not with Willow. Remember the witchy-fu?”


Buffy lay against Xander, a look of intense thought wrinkling her brow, or possibly a pout.
She grumbled into Xander’s chest as he held her close. “But what about panicky Giles? He said that whatever came into our world unleashed more power than veiny-dark-Willow, and she kinda nearly blew up the world.”


Xander could tell by the pouty expression and tone of voice that he was making some headway with Buffy’s fears. “What about Willow and Tara together? Pushing the mojo so darn hard that they pass out in front of you? How’s that for power?”


“Man’s got a point B,” said Faith, finally making her presence felt.
She quit slouching against the Scooby lounge doorway and wandered over to flop down on the other side of Xander.
“Look guys, I’m no Doctor Phil, but I know a fair bit about screwing up.” She looked at Buffy cuddling up to Xander. “I dunno what snow-white is gonna do. But how much damage will you do to Red if you total this Tara chick?”


Buffy tried to burrow further into Xander’s sheltering hug.
“Buffy sad,” said a muffled voice from Xander’s chest.


Faith gave Xander and Buffy a strange look. Wordlessly Xander lifted his other arm, inviting Faith to join the group hug.


Faith looked at Xander as though he had grown a second head. Wordlessly Xander beckoned with his raised hand.
Faith shook her head slowly.
Xander repeated his beckoning gesture.


Cautiously, Faith joined Buffy in cuddling up to Xander. At first tense, she eventually relaxed and Xander gently wrapped his arm around her.
Never one for closeness, the simple human contact melted something hard and cold inside the dark Slayer and she gently wrapped her arms around Xander and Buffy.


“We will never speak of this,” Xander pronounced as both Slayers rested their heads on his chest.


“Wise Xander” Buffy said, fiddling with the button on his plaid work-shirt.


They stayed like that for some time, eyes closed, taking simple comfort in human contact.

While they cuddled, Giles wandered into the lounge, balancing books and folders, a pen between his teeth. He looked up to see the resting Scoobies on the couch and paused, clearly surprised.
He watched them for a moment, taking in the tender scene. Quietly he exited with his books and folders, a quiet smile raising the corners of his mouth.


Almost immediately thereafter, a worried Dawn paced in from the other entrance, her arms wrapped tightly around her body. She took in the trio on the couch, almost screeching to a halt, a confused expression colouring her features as she took in the presence of Faith.
Cat-like she tilted her head sideways trying to absorb the scene. Eventually she smiled, a huge grin splitting her face. She bounced over the couch and joined the pile, happily resting her head on Xander’s tummy and joining the cuddle.


“Dawn Good,” said Buffy’s muffled voice.


“Xander happy,” said Xander.


Faith made snorking sounds as she tried to pretend she was not laughing.


Dawn giggled.


+++

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“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:14 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness!

Yay for great update-y goodness... I'm glad that they finally woke up... Big yay for X-man and Faith for stopping Buffy going on a murder rampage and convincing her that Tara is really back...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 3:39 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Not... quite.

That bit is coming up, after a shower scene and some... other things :D

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 14)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 2:25 am 
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I liked that so many characters were able to share such tender moments during what might be their new benchmark for highly tense moments. I get the feeling that Buffy's Slayer instincts are only biding their time. Might not be out of the woods just yet.

Also, I can't wait for the shower scene. Shower scenes are just about always a good time.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:17 am 
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As before, there’s music for this :)
Open it in the background.

It's another short one, so i'm gonna post another chapter soon. Sooner than normal.
Tomorrow if i can manage it.
Enjoy the soapy goodness, and drama of course :P



The Blessing

Music




Willow pushed the button on the door lock, and leaned against the door.


Through the other door she could hear the happy splashy sounds of Tara singing in the shower. Just thinking about naked soapy Tara made feel warm and giddy.


Tara stopped singing. “Willow honey? You can come in if you want to.”


Willow didn’t need to be told twice, and she quickly scooted into the steamy bathroom.
She could see her beloved ‘Naked! Soapy!’ Tara through the glass of the foggy shower door.
Just looking made her shiver with delight.


“See anything you like sweetie?” came a voice from the shower.


“Um... you caught me. I was basking in the wonder of Tara goodness,” came Willow’s hesitant voice.


Tara smiled. “It’s all right Willow, you’re allowed to look all you want. I’m not going anywhere.”


A goofy grin plastered itself over Willows face as she savoured every inch of Tara’s slippery, wet skin.


“I seem to be having trouble reaching this one spot, do you think you could help me out?” came a coy voice from the shower. Tara looked over her shoulder and batted her eyelashes at Willow, though the effect was lost through the steamy shower door.

The door to the shower opened and closed almost instantly, and Willow appeared in the shower.


Tara looked over at her pixie-grinning love and smiled. “Goof. You’re supposed to take your clothes off when you get in the shower, you know.”


Willow had a silly grin plastered all over her rapidly dampening face. “That would have taken ages,” she said. “I didn’t want to be away from soapy Tara skin for that long,” she said, tracing her fingertips across Tara’s rib, just under her breasts.
This delicate action elicited a shudder from Tara.


“Maybe I could help you sweetie” said Tara, reaching for Willow’s top, already soaking wet.


“Oh, yeah, I’m definitely voting in favour of my Tara helping me get naked,” said a very excitable Willow.

Music

Tara went still, and in a soft voice she said, “I am you know.”

Willow swallowed, remembering those words, the words that had once changed her whole world. She leaned in close to Tara, Her Tara. With heart-stopping anticipation, she echoed the words that she had spoken two lifetimes ago. “What?”


A lump in her throat, Tara closed the circle. She said with all her heart, the one word that meant so much. “Yours.”


She opened her eyes and looked into the green eyes that held her soul. She looked and gave voice to her darkest fear. “If you still want me.”


Willow understood what Tara was saying, that she was laying bare her deepest fears. Fears that Willow had moved on, that Willow didn’t need her.
She had never been so naked, so utterly and absolutely vulnerable.


Willow knew that she truly held Tara’s soul in her hands.
That this strong woman, that had overcome death in the name of love, could be destroyed by one word.
She looked into the blue eyes that held her whole world. With the same commitment that the Goddess herself made to the world, she said one word.
“Always.”


Tears of joy flooded Tara’s eyes, as the warm water sprayed her shoulder “Oh, Willow. My Willow.” She whispered. “Oh Goddess, I love you.”
She held on tight to her soggy, but radiant beloved. “Willow, you are my life.”


Willow rested her forehead against Tara’s and spoke with a solemnity that spoke of deep meaning.
“Don’t urge me to leave you, or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your Goddess, my Goddess. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Goddess deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
She pronounced this with the absolute, iron conviction of a knight swearing his holy vows.


“Oh Willow.”


Their lips met. Time stopped. Each shining drop of water frozen in midair, sanctified, witness to one perfect moment in time, a kiss that lasted forever.


Aeons later they broke their kiss.


“Wow,” said Willow breathlessly.


“Oh yes,” sighed Tara.


“Did you feel that baby?” a stunned Willow asked.


“Oh yes,” Tara repeated. “I think... Willow, I think the Goddess heard us,” wonder shining in her eyes. “I think she just blessed us.”


“But, but, how? Why?” stammered Willow.


“Water is sacred to the Goddess, love is sacred, w-we just commit ourselves to one another, under water, in the name of the Goddess. Oh Willow, I didn’t think I could love you more, I didn’t think a person could feel more love,” Tara said.
Tara looked Willow in the eyes. “My mother taught me that love grows on love, that each person that we love makes our heart bigger, so the more you spend, the more you have.”


“Love defeats the laws of thermodynamics, or possibly economics. Take that nasty laws!” Willow giggled, raising a smile from Tara.


Tara responded. “I don’t know how, but I hope... no. I believe that she is telling us that it’s time for the pain to end, that we have suffered enough.”


“Oh, Goddess I hope so. Tara I’m telling you the naked, gods’ honest truth, I can’t take it again. I meant what I said. Where you go, I go. I am never living without you again.”
She met Tara’s eyes. “Being without you is not living, in her name I swear, I am never going to suffer than pain again,” declared Willow.


“Oh Willow,” Tara said, pride and sadness warring in her eyes. “We had better finish up our shower, there are some things I need to tell you,” a serious-faced Tara said.


+++


Much soaping and shampooing later, Willow and Tara were both sat cross-legged and somewhat prune-like on Willow’s bed.


“I hope our shower doesn’t become a holy relic or something, monks turning up on our doorstep to worship in our shower would be both inconvenient and weird, plus bathing in the holy shrine is probably frowned upon, and I don’t want to get the Goddess all grumpy, though I am definitely going to enjoy showers more from now on.” Willow babbled.


Tara reached out and gently put her finger on Willow’s lips.
“Shhh. Sweetie I know you’re nervous. I do have big news, big huge news that you need to hear, but before Willowbrain goes crazy with panic, I am not going to tell you bad news. I am never going to leave you, I am not being sent away, I am not dying or any awful thing like that.”


Willow visibly relaxed, relieved that her most immediate fears had been dealt with.


“Oh my love, I have so much to tell you, I’m not even sure where to start,” Tara said, confusion and anticipation both visible on her face.


“Where were you baby?” asked Willow, clearing away some of the confusion.


“Truly I don’t know for certain, It wasn’t what we normally think of as heaven or hell, though one of the things I have to share is going to make it hard for you to believe that,” she said with a shy smile. “Oh Willow, I have something so wonderful to show you later. And there might be something of a present-ly nature in your future. I brought presents for everyone, but you get the best present.”


“I already got the bestest present I could ever get, and the blessing of the Goddess, what more could I ever want?” Willow beamed.


“Then you sweetie, are going to get, ah, four presents all up. You can have the third one tonight and the fourth one when the time is right,” Tara said enigmatically.


“You know I’m going to go bonkers trying to figure this out, right?”


“Then I will tell you about your fourth present tonight, when you get your third.”


Willow wriggled with child-like glee, the thought of special presents just for her, made her light up with joy. “I like the numbers,” she said.


“Well just to give your Willowbrain something to nibble on, I will tell you that your fourth present is for me as well as you, and though you may not want it right away, it will definitely blow your socks off. Though it’s maybe not as much as tonight’s surprise.”


“Grrr, Argh.” Willow complained, clutching her head. “I’m just gonna take a leaf from Buffy’s book and say: ‘Presents good!’ and stop there. Though whatever your surprise is, is going to have to be a showstopper after all that build up.”


“Oh yes,” said Tara with her unique half-smile. “But that’s for later I promise, back to feeding the Willowbrain some answers”


“Om nom nom,” said Willow. “My brain and I, thank you.”


Tara giggled. ‘Oh Goddess above, I’ve missed this. Never again.’
“Giles said once that there are many dimensions that could be considered Hells and many that could be considered Heavenly. Which is this one?” she asked, gesturing around at the room and by extension, the world.
“Is this a heaven or a hell?”


“Hmmm,” said Willow, brain fully engaged. “Well, technically it could be considered a hell dimension, because demons once ruled the earth.”


“Exactly,” Tara responded. “I woke up in a place like a lot like earth, though there were some significant differences. It too was once ruled by demons back in the dawn of time. Though parts of it were certainly heavenly. There was a city with towers of glass and gold reaching miles into the air, there were ships that sailed the sky, there were angels.”


Willow was owl-eyed as Tara described where she had been, her hands tucked into her lap and listening with child-like intentness.

Tara’s heart melted just a little more, ‘She’s so totally adorable’ she thought.
‘One day, our kids are going to be so cute, that all the other parents are going to demand a refund.’

“There were also parts that were less heavenly, there were dragons, and demons and vampires. So I’m not sure any world can automatically be declared a ‘Heaven’ or ‘Hell.” Tara explained.


Willow visibly pondered what Tara was saying, nodding as she processed.


“I had months of adventures and leaned many new things, more than I have time to tell you here. Enough that it might make for a nice evening’s entertainment for the Scoobies to hear the stories.”
“We do still have Scoobies don’t we?” she said somewhat anxiously.


“Yup,” said Willow cheerfully, before her face clouded. “We lost Anya and Spike, but we got Faith back. Um, good Faith, Faith like she was in the beginning.”


“Oh Willow, I’m so sorry,” Tara said softly, taking willows hands in her own. “What happened?”


“Spike died a hero, fighting the First Evil, he got what he wanted I guess. Anya? She died saving the life of Andrew, of all people. Since then he’s pretty much devoted his life to Xander, much to Xander’s embarrassment,” Willow said, smiling fondly.


“Oh, Willow, I’m going to miss her. She was good for us I think,” Tara said sadly.


“I’ll tell you about it later, now is a happy time where you tell me about your adventures. And presents,” Willow said with a cheeky grin.


Tara nodded. “Definitely, I want to know what happened to my friends, but you’re right. Happy time now.”


“So you woke up...” Willow prompted.


“On a Hellmouth,” Tara finished, smiling slightly as Willow’s eyebrows vanished into her fringe.


“It shouldn’t come as much of a shock, but other worlds have Hellmouths just as we do here, though they called them by other names. Over there they had an ancient order of druids that guarded over the gates to other dimensions with magic and steel. And like the Watchers Council, few knew they existed or paid them any attention.”


“Wow, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” said Willow.


“The druids said my soul was travelling to its intended destination, or perhaps hanging around waiting for you to catch up,” she said, squeezing Willows hands.
“Either way, it made me a convenient target. Their world had an ancient and powerful vampire queen, much like the master, though she wasn’t acting like a stopper in the Hellmouth.”


Willow looked stricken.


Tara reassured her. “Don’t worry sweetie, it turned out for the best.”
“She was the last of her bloodline, a bloodline of dark sorcerers with power over death itself. Thankfully these particular powers could only be wielded by the living,” Tara continued.


Willow grimaced. “Kind of ironic that a vampire could not wield death magic, due to being dead.”


Tara smiled. “As you might imagine, a different world had different gods, and the gods of light in that world had had taken for themselves the power of resurrection, made it a spell of light magic. Vampires, no matter how powerful, cannot use light magic. So their plans to resurrect the queen’s mortal bloodline were never going to happen.”
Tara’s voice sounded hollow. “So they made new plans. To wield light magic they needed a pure soul, a soul of light. And they found one. Me. They... made a new body for me, one that would be a good fit for my soul, and dropped me in it.”
Tara’s tone had been even up until this last revelation. Sorrow, regret and guilt clouded her features and she looked down at her hands. “They made a deal with me, my resurrection for the Vampire queen’s. I’m so s-sorry Willow, but I was so desperate to get back to you, that I took the deal.”
“This is what I needed to tell you Willow. I’m not quite the same Tara that you knew.”


Willow started to look panicked. “But! But! But!” she said, starting to freak-out. “But how could that happen? I mean you just said the vamps couldn’t bring someone back ‘cos, hello vamps? All with the dark and evil and not with the happy resurrect-y goodness, and how could they bring you back to do the deal and-and-and.”


“Shhh, sweetie. Breathe,” Tara said, laying her finger across Willow’s lips. Willows cheeks puffed in an out as she struggled to control her rapid breathing. “Please believe me, I am in every way that matters, the woman who has always loved you. I am the woman who told you that you should be with the one you love. I am the same woman who helped you raise Dawn when Buffy died. I am the same woman who played with Miss Kitty Fantastico. Your baby is home, I swear by all that is holy.” She said as Willow managed with some difficulty to calm down.
“But Willow, sweetie? I died. My body is buried here in Sunnydale. This body is mine, but it is not the same body you know, however much it may look like my old one.”

Willow looked terribly sad, her eyes brimming with tears.

Tara’s heart melted, ‘it’s so hard for her, she looks like a child who’s been told Christmas was stolen.’

“I want you to do something with me baby, we’ll do a proper ceremony later to mark the occasion, but I think there’s something we need to do together,” she told her woebegone Willow.


“Umm, you mean...” Willow trailed off, using her waggling eyebrows to fill in the details.


“Vixen,” Tara said, with a crooked smile. “That’s not what I meant, though I predict smoochies and snuggles in your near future.”
She sighed. “We are going to have readjustments to make for a good while. I can’t imagine letting you out of my sight for a long long time and there will be some other frictions I can imagine,”
“You have lived without me for nearly two years, and I have been fighting my way across a another world for just as long. We both have new skills and new scars, and these will take some time to adjust to.”

Music
“Baby, I want to help you dispel a few more of those lingering fears and to help me dispel some of mine, ok sweetie?”


Willow nodded apprehensively.


“We can’t leave anything unsaid anymore, we know where that path leads. So I need you to say this with me baby, it’s going to be hard, but afterwards we’ll be free. It’s not a spell, it’s a letting go of pain, a little ritual.”


Willow swallowed nervously “I trust you”.


Tara smiled briefly before assuming a serious expression, and recited for Willow “Tara died.”


Willow was white faced, but she recited in a hoarse whisper “Tara died.”


“Her body is buried in Sunnydale,” she continued.


Willow was shaking when she said the words, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. “Her body is buried in Sunnydale,” she said, her voice filled with heartbreak and pain.


“And she never stopped loving me.” Tara forged on through the pain.
Willow’s voice was almost wistful as she said “And she never stopped loving me”
“She loved me so much, that she fought her way out of hell for me.”


Willow spoke the words, gaining in strength from Tara. “She loved me so much, that she fought her way out of hell for me.”
“She gave her heart and soul to me, to keep safe forever.”


Willow was crying openly now, her expression one of pride and joy. “She gave her heart and soul to me, to keep safe forever.”


“And we will never be parted again. We will be together until the stars go cold.”


Willow said fiercely. “And we will never be parted again. We will be together until the stars go cold.”


They hugged fiercely, coming together as they scoured one more dark corner clean of their fears, bringing light to what had remained hidden and unspoken.

Willow would never speak lightly of Tara’s death. But she could speak of it. Much of the poison was drawn from the wound, and the healing could begin.


They held together, washed clean by their tears. Until the tears finally dried and they could smile again.


“When I was there, I found some words of wisdom, words that gave me strength, that reminded me what I was doing, and why I was doing it. These words got me through some tough times and kept me going, and I wanted to share them with you, sweetie.”

Her gaze drifted as she recalled the words:
"All else is transitory; the time will come when even the gods fade away. But love endures. Cherish love; nurture it, protect it, rejoice in its coming. Be true to love. And should any being, be they man or woman, demon or god, seek to take from you that which you love, defy them. For love gives you that power."

“For you baby, I would defy the Goddess herself.” Tara said to Willow, iron in her voice.


“Oh Tara. I love you so much.” Willow replied.


They rested together, snuggling on the bed, wearing only a set of bathrobes, each taking simple joy in the company of their love, holding each other and stroking the other’s hair from time to time.


“Do you think you can handle the ‘new me’?” Tara said gently.


“I like the ‘new you’ I saw in the shower,” said Willow.


“Hmmm?” Tara enquired, playing with a lock of Willow’s damp hair.


“You’ve been working out. My baby’s got muscles,” Willow said proudly.


“It’s clonking around in all that armour that does it,” Tara replied.


“You had metal boobies,” Willow said, cheekily.


Tara raised an eyebrow. “Not too butch for you then?” She asked.


“Nu-uh, missy! Definitely liking the butch. Uh, not that I didn’t like original recipe Tara, she was my absolute favourite-est, it’s just that I’ve got extra crispy, new recipe Tara and that’s my new favourite, and I probably should have used an example that didn’t involve chicken, and hey, do you come with pepsi or coke?” Willow babbled.


A mischievous grin spread across Tara’s features and she breathed in Willows ear. “I come with Willow.”


Willow shivered with delight. “Yes you do, lots and lots.”


“Willow? Kiss m-mmpf” as Willow pounced.


No more words were needed.


+++


The Scoobies’ rest was shattered by a muffled cry and a blaze of light shooting out from around Willow’s door.


Buffy catapulted herself to her feet, before she even registered that she was vertical.
“Willow!” she cried, vaulting over the couch and moving to the door with rattlesnake speed.


Faith flattened herself against the wall by the door, sword in hand.
With a nod to her, Buffy smoothly turned the doorknob, the lock shattering with a small crunching sound. With an oiled smoothness that spoke of long practice, she opened the door and stepped into the doorway.


Faith and the Scoobies saw Buffy open the door into a shaft of blazing light, reminiscent of an 80’s UFO movie.


They saw her look up towards the ceiling and then cock her head sideways, an almost identical copy of her sisters puzzled expression.
Then with a jerky movement she backed out and shut the door.

Silently she marched robot-like to the couch and sat down, clearly disturbed.


Faith stared into space, visibly listening. A grin slowly spread across her features and she sauntered back to the couch, swinging her sword in a jaunty fashion, a lethal Fred Astair swinging a sharp cane.


“Buffy!” whispered Dawn tensely. “What’s going on?”


“Gnn,” was Buffy’s only response, other than a furious blush.


“Why were you looking up at the ceiling?” Dawn prodded as Faith flopped onto the couch.


“Gnn,” Buffy grunted, clearly incapable of coherent speech.


The couch jiggled as Faith tried vainly to keep the laughter inside.
Finally she grabbed a couch pillow and tried to smother herself with it.
Muffled howls of laughter were emitted from the pillow.


“What...” began Dawn. “They weren’t in trouble?” she asked.


“Uh-uh,” grunted Buffy, shaking her head vigorously.


“Were they... Oh!” gasped Dawn as the penny dropped.


“Ah-huh,” grunted Buffy.


Faith laughed hysterically into her cushion.


“Oh!” said Xander as he finally clicked.
“Were they... floating?” he asked.


“Ah-huh.”


“Have you been drinking beer again?” he teased.


“Urgh... Nope. just learned way too much about my friends, plus I can’t help wondering if I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.” She complained.


“Huh?” responded Xander, going nonverbal himself.


“How come I never get to float?” she whined.


Faith was now trying valiantly to suffocate herself with the cushion, and fell off the couch with a thud.


“Aww, Buffy. Are you re-evaluating your lifestyle choices?” teased Dawn.


“Humpf!” she huffed. “Keep in mind Dawnster, the monks made you out of me. So where I go, you go,” Buffy grumped.


“Eeep!” Dawn squeaked, going suddenly silent.


“Only not ‘till you’re like 30... actually, 45 sounds better,” she said.

Dawn poked out her tongue at her sister.


Faith seemed to have been successful in her attempt to pass out from laughter.


“Come on gang, let’s go to the food-place for munchies, ‘cos they’re gonna be... a while” said Buffy waving her hand in the direction of the door.
She hauled a smirking and red-faced Faith to her feet and lead the way.


“I-know-someone who’s-waiting-in-the-kitchen for-Xaaaander!” sang Dawn as she bounced down the corridor.


Xander groaned.


+++


“Wow,” said an awestruck Willow.


“Ah-huh,” was the only response.


“Just... Wow.”


“Mmm-hmm,” hummed Tara, a lazy smile on her face. “I’m definitely a happy Kitty,” she said happily.


“The floating was nice, I’m definitely voting in favour of more floaty goodnesss,” said Willow.


“Oh yes” replied Tara.


“Though the light show is... new,” Willow said thoughtfully.


“Um... Well... ibnmlngtme” Tara mumbled into her pillow, blushing furiously.


With a cheeky grin, Willow verbally prodded. “Sorry baby, I couldn’t quite hear you, I seem to have the deafness,” she said with a matching prod to Tara’s shapely bottom.


“I said it’s been a long time,” Tara replied, in a tiny voice, clutching her pillow in embarrassment.


“But it’s only been a few minutes!” Willow exclaimed.


Tara looked puzzled.


“This time,” Willow said, and pounced, again.

“Oh my!” breathed Tara. She was never quite so glad to be a woman as she was right at that moment.


+++


Much, much later, when the door finally opened, Willow found an empty Scooby lounge and a neatly folded pile of clothing sitting beside the door.
She retreated back inside to watch Tara get dressed.


Tara held up the black track-pants and scarlet halter-top with a raised eyebrow.


“Faith,” said Willow. “She’s the only one your size.”


Tara shook the top, her eyebrow still raised. It was a very close-fitting top and had ‘Bitch Queen’ in feminine letters on the front.


Willow grinned. “She wears stuff like that to work-out.”


Tara said with a wry smile. “I suppose I should be glad it’s not leather.”


Willow laughed gently.
“Xander just about passed out on a daily basis when Faith & Buffy began training the junior Slayers,” Willow said.
“It was good for him I think, he sees so much toned female flesh every day that he doesn’t notice it anymore.”


She giggled for a moment as Tara rummaged in Willow’s underwear drawer for something to wear under the tracks, eventually settling on a utilitarian pair of snug-fitting boxers.


“He actually complained about it the other week, he said that the only thing that attracted his attention anymore, was a woman fully covered from head to toe.”


“Poor Xander,” Tara sympathized.


“Yummy,” said Willow as her girl shrugged on her scarlet ‘Bitch Queen’ top.


“I like you in that top, though it’s not really your colour,” she said.


“Lycra is a wonderful thing,” Tara said, looking down at herself. “Well, the twins are nicely restrained, but I can’t go out like this, this top is so tight everyone can see what I’m thinking!”


Willow wittily replied with “Huh?”


Tara turned sideways and a certain level of pointy-ness became obvious.


A goofy expression crossed her features and she said “I’m pleased my girl is ‘up’ and ‘about’.”


Tara pulled on her black track pants and said. “Do you have a top or something? I prefer not to advertise quite so much.”


Willow pointed to her wardrobe and Tara immediately grabbed a very fuzzy pink sweater. “Nice to know some things don’t change,” she said with a lopsided smile.


“Hey! Nothing wrong with the fuzzy goodness. I mean I have other stuff in my wardrobe, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some fuzzy stuff.”


“With kittens,” Tara interjected, pulling on the pink sweater.


“Yeah, with Kittens,” Willow said, looking a little sheepish.


“Well I love it sweetie, it’s like I’m inside Willow,” she said, hugging herself with her fuzzy pink arms.
“You know that seemed less... dirty, in my head,” she said with a half-smile.


Willow laughed. “You should see Heather, she wears ‘punk’ versions of this stuff. You know, pink camouflage pants, hello kitty shirts with the sleeves torn off, stuff Faith wears, but in pink. Xander calls it ‘Pink Punk’, Buffy says it makes her brain hurt. I think Faith encourages her, just to watch Buffy squirm.”


Tara smiled. “Someday you have to explain the ‘Faith’ thing to me. Last time I heard she was Buffy’s mortal enemy, now she’s here training the next generation of Slayers and hanging with Scoobies in Sunnydale.”


Willow shrugged. “Things change. We aren’t in California anymore, we’re in Colorado now. We grew up a bit, Faith grew up a bit... well a lot actually. She’s actually kind of wise when you get to know her. It’s the kind of wisdom earned from suffering and pain, which gives her a weird kind of insight into screwed-up situations.”


Tara took Willow by the shoulders and smiled a gentle smile. “Did you make a new friend sweetie?”


“Uh yeah,” said Willow, looking a little sheepish. “I was president of the ‘We hate Faith’ club and Buffy was the treasurer and Xander was the secretary.”
She looked up at Tara’s open face. “But after you d-died she came to help. She helped us beat back the First Evil and helped us set up this place, all while Buffy was away finding herself again. She’s a rock. A crude, slightly slutty rock, but a definitely a rock.”
She let out a big breath. “We’re pretty good friends now, believe it or not,”

Willow sighed. “When you first called out to me, she was the only person I could talk to about it. Buffy, Xander and Giles were too close, too hurt by your loss, and by what I did afterwards. It would have hurt them too much to talk about it, plus they would have thought I was crazy. Again. I mean hey, sad-depressed-girl is hearing her dead girlfriend talking in her head, and telling her she’s coming back? Too textbook.”


“Oh Willow.” Tara said as she drew her beloved into a gentle embrace. “No more pain sweetie, no more pain.”


Willow jerked back, wringing her slender hands. “No but there is pain! More pain! I can’t keep secrets from you Tara! Not after what happened. I did such awful things, to you and-and then when you died I did such unforgivable things to everyone and-and-”



Tara looked at her girl, writhing in self-loathing. “Willow! Stop it!” she said sharply, her tone melting into one filled with gentleness and compassion.
“I need to know, we need to share everything, to uncover all the pain, all the hurt.”
She took a deep cleansing breath. “But not today, today is a day blessed by the Goddess, and today there is no more pain.”


They hugged again, something they would never have their fill of.


“So we’re in another state? What’s Colorado like baby?” Tara asked turning to lighter topics.


“Crazy! They have actual y’know, weather here,” said Willow waving her hands to punctuate the bizarre idea.
“It’s kinda trippy, I have to remember not to look shocked when it gets cold and windy. Giles is over the moon ‘cos we have snow in winter. Faith’s from Boston, so she’s not too surprised.”


Tara’s brow furrowed in thought. “Baby? Why aren’t we in Sunnydale? And where is Miss Kitty Fantastico?”


Willow took Tara’s hands in her own. “This is going to take a while to explain, so much has happened. It’s been a while, too long, and our lives are wackier than any lives have a right to be. For starters-”


Tara’s tummy growled, interrupting their tender moment.


“A growl-y tummy waits for no woman!” Willow giggled. “Come on baby, let’s get you down to the food place and fill you full of delicious treats.”


“I, and my tummy thank you.” Tara replied.


+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:43 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that they have started to tell each other what has happened between Tara's death and return...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:34 pm 
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Great reunion chapter. Can't wait for the somewhat probable dining hall shenanigans to erupt when the couple makes an appearance. Now if only Buffy's embarrassment about seeing the sexcapades holds out long enough for Tara to assure everyone she's the real deal.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:40 pm 
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Dining-Hall shenanigans ahoy!

There's a scene there.

I was totally inspired by a similar scene from a VERY famous story.
A virtual kitty, if anyone spots where it's from.

A virtual kitty doesn't need it's litter tray changing :)

I'll post it tonight, if i can.

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:00 pm 
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Sorry about the lack of extra post.

Real life got in the way, in that someone hacked my Steam account, and used it to clean out my bank account.

So... stress, yeah.

It looks as though things may be fixed soonish, but sorting this stuff out has kinda dominated my week.

Sorry about that.

The regular update should appear on schedule, and i'll drop in the extra bit whenever there's a short update.

Cheers

R

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:18 am 
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Oh my god Azirahael, I feel for you. That has to suck on so many levels. I think I've been fortunate on that front. The last time I had a scare like that was the really big PSN hack/leak a few years back. And I got lucky, nothing happened and I just canceled one credit card preemptively and changed a few passwords.

BTW changed you passwords, update antivirus software, clear browser cookies and or internet history. Also get tested. That's completely unrelated, just good medical advice.

I hope things turn around for you. Take your time with posting, no worries.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 16)
PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:57 pm 
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Hi Citanul!

Thanks for the support :)

Yeah, did all of that. Uh, except the testing, because... well what would i test for?
Pretty sure you can't give yourself STD's :P

Anyway, incoming chapter shortly.

R

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall (Ch 17)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:07 am 
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As promised, here are some 'Dining-Hall Shenanigans.'
Less food-fight, more drama.

Uh, there is a food fight later on, but not this chapter, sorry :P



The Power of Love


“God-dammit B! What is your freakin’ malfunction?” Faith growled, one impressively angry Slayer.

When Tara and Willow walked under the sparkly banner (proudly declaring the room to be the ‘Food Place’), they entered into turmoil.


Buffy and Faith were on their feet, tension visible in every aspect of each frame as they stood a couple of metres apart. They were glaring at each other with sufficient ferocity that anyone getting between them was likely to combust.
Xander was covering his head, face-down on the table. Giles had his glasses in one hand and was pinching the bridge of his nose, a pained expression on his face. Dawn looked as if her world was ending, her arms wrapped over her head and an utterly wretched expression on her face.


Music
She noticed Willow and Tara, and her face whitewashed with shock.
“Tara?” she whispered, slowly rising to her feet.
She drifted ghost-like over to Tara, unnoticed by the Scoobies.

“You’re a fine one to talk...” the row continued in the background, the trio unnoticed by the combatants.


Dawn stopped just short of Tara and, her eyes brimming with tears, asked in a tiny voice filled with impossible hope. “Is it really you?”

Tara nodded. “Oh Dawnie, look how tall you are,” she whispered as she reached out to stroke Dawn’s cheek. “I’ve missed so much.”
Tears filled Tara’s eyes. “I’m so sorry I missed you growing up.”

That was enough for Dawn, she hurled herself into Tara’s arms, hot tears spilling freely down her cheeks. She held onto Tara as though her life depended on it. Tara gently stroked her hair and murmured reassurances to the sobbing teenager.

Buffy’s voice cracked like a whip. “Dawn! Get away from her now!” she commanded as she closed on the trio, in full General Buffy mode.

Faith planted herself squarely in the way. “Dammit B! Haven’t you heard anything anyone said over the last few days? What happened to ‘Wise Xander?’ Buffy I’m begging you, please don’t do this!”

Buffy ignored Faith, her predatory focus on Tara, and her alone. “Let her go!” she hissed, closing on the trio.


Without warning Faith wrapped Buffy in a vice-like grip, pinning her arms to her sides. “Damn your stubborn ass B! I’m not gonna let you do this!”
Without effort, Faith lifted Buffy off the ground, denying her the leverage to escape.
Faith held her in a grip of steel as Buffy kicked and thrashed with full Slayer strength. Buffy’s boots slammed into Faith’s shins, but other than a grunt of pain, Faith gave no reaction.

Buffy slammed her head back into faith’s nose with a horrible crunch. Blood streamed from Faiths broken nose, but still she held on. “Not nearly good enough B,” she said. She twisted and body slammed Buffy into the ground. Slayer or not, without any way to brace herself, the wind was brutally driven from Buffy’s lungs, leaving her gasping for air like a beached fish. Faith interlocked her legs with Buffy’s and turned her head away, denying Buffy any avenue of attack.
Buffy writhed and thrashed in Faith’s python-like grip, completely unable to get purchase.

Xander and Giles had gathered with the others, powerless to intervene in a wrestling match between Slayers. The room was silent save for the sounds of laboured breathing and Buffy’s frenzied scrabbling.

Eventually Buffy stopped thrashing. Faith didn’t let up for a moment. On an instinctive level she knew that Buffy simply did not know how to quit, she was simply waiting.


“Let her go,” came Tara’s quiet voice.

Everyone looked at Tara like she’d grown a second head.

“Please. Let her up Faith,” she repeated.

“You nuts?” Faith growled, her voice muffled by her broken nose. “If I let her up, she’ll try an’ take your head off!”

“All she sees is danger, Faith. I need you to let her go, so I can prove that I’m not a threat,” Tara said firmly.

“Alright Blondie, you asked for it. Though I really hafta say, B? You’re really bein’ a bitch today.”
With that, Faith let go of Buffy and rolled to her feet.

Buffy likewise leapt up.


Tara stepped forward, Willow frantically grabbed her arm. “Tara no!” she hissed.

“Please Willow, let me do this.”
She smiled at her love. “Trust me.”

Willow let her go, reluctance visible in her eyes.

She turned to Buffy “Hi Buffy,” she said with a little wave. “I think I might understand why you might be having trouble accepting...”

“You smell different.” Buffy interrupted.

“Or... not,” said Tara, blinking with surprise.
“You don’t think perhaps that spending 2 years in a hell dimension, eating different food and using foreign hygiene products might do that?” she ventured.
“Demonic deodorant is not to be mocked,” she said, trying to lighten the mood a fraction.

“No. You look like Tara, you sound like Tara, but you don’t smell like Tara. You can’t be Tara.” Buffy growled, her voice rising.

“Woah, time out missy!” said Willow, jumping in.
“I happen to know that stinky Tara smells stinky, in a very Tara way! And clean Tara is soapy-fresh and clean, and smells very Tara, um... clean.”

“To you maybe, but not to me,” said Buffy flatly.


Willow looked at Faith. Faith shrugged helplessly, pinching her broken and still bleeding nose, clearly having issues with anything nose related.

Tara sighed. “Buffy, I died. I am not quite the same person I was before. Please accept that death changes a person. Maybe Slayers can smell that.”

Buffy said flatly. “It’s really quite simple, you can’t be Tara.”
Her expression flooded with a mix of grief and rage. “You can’t be!
Her small frame shook with terrible tension as she ground out the words. “Life is pain and hurting. It doesn’t make any sense, and it never stops!” she hissed.
“We fight and we hurt and we die, and the evil keeps on coming. We have demons and vampires, we have evil on every side and where are the good guys? Where are the angels? Nowhere! It’s just us[b] versus the dark!” she cried.
“You can’t [b]be
Tara, because we don’t get that lucky. We don’t get it that good, we never get it that good!” Buffy shouted.

Tears were brimming in Willows eyes as she heard the pain and despair in Buffy’s voice.

Hot tears of shame and loss ran shown Faith’s face. They mixed with the splashes of red on her shirt, as she heard the words she herself had once screamed out, long ago. She knew the agony and despair it took to wring those words from her heart, and she felt again the pain as she realized intimately how deep Buffy’s suffering went.


Tara looked at Buffy with brimming eyes “Oh Buffy, you’ve been hurting for so long, why didn’t you tell someone?”

Buffy glared at her, her expression a cauldron of fear and rage.

“Well no more. Not today. Not on this blessed day. Today there is no more pain,” Tara said with determination.
Tara knelt in front of Buffy and concentrated for a moment, her hands glowing faintly with warm golden light. “Take my hands Buffy, take my hands and see the real me.”
“No more secrets, no more fear, no more pain. See as I see,” she said gently.

“You have got to be joking! You expect me to just let you put the mojo on me? Just like that?” said a disbelieving Buffy.
“Buffy, your friends will keep you safe from anything. Giles would never let you get hurt. You’re the Slayer, what have you got to fear, here in this place?”


Hope warred with fear and anger, the struggle visible in her taut frame, the Scoobies held their breath, no-one wanting to break the fragile hope.
Reluctantly Buffy took Tara’s hand. It felt warm, solid, real.

Tara smiled up at Buffy, ‘Just Relax’ she said.

“Uh, you realize that your mouth didn’t move when you said that”, Buffy responded, the shock knocking the suspicion from her voice. For just a moment, she sounded like her old self.

‘Of course. I’m showing you the real me, showing you the world as I see it, no secrets Buffy. I can’t hide my soul from you, nor can you hide from me.’

‘Well this is handy for passing notes in class, but it’s not exactly grand revelation stuff here’
thought Buffy back.

‘We are working into this slowly Buffy,” Tara gently chided.

Buffy flushed, she felt warm, almost as though warm honey was flowing languorously up her arms and into her body, filling all the numb and empty spaces.
It made her skin, her whole body, feel alive for the first time since she had died. She gasped, she took a deep breath, the clean air filling her lungs, feeling as though it was the first breath of air she had in years.

She felt as though a suffocating layer of plastic was peeled from her, allowing her skin to breathe, to feel, for the first time in an eternity.
She felt Tara’s love pouring from her. It was radiant and limitless, like the sun, strong and pure. It was a force of life, a power to grow, to heal.
And she felt it reach out to her.
She shied away from it, fearing it, understanding instinctively what it would bring.
And it touched her, she felt love touch her, for the first time in her life, love truly touched her soul.


Silent tears spilled unheeded down Buffy’s cheeks, as she remembered how it felt to taste anything other than emptiness and pain.
She realized she’d never in her life felt love that strong, for anyone, or from anyone.

‘Oh Buffy, I’m so sorry that I wasn’t here for you.’

Buffy gasped as a spike of heart-deep pain hit her, she felt Tara’s pain... for her?

‘You love me,’ Buffy realized.

‘Of course I do,’ Tara responded, ‘We’re family.

‘I’m... I’m loved?’ Buffy sent, a tiny quavering voice.

‘You are so very loved, Buffy.’

‘Why?’


Tara smiled, and said the words that had changed her life. ‘Go ahead and take her. You just gotta go through me.’

Tara’s soul wrapped around Buffy, holding her close, cradling her, nourishing her battered spirit. Tara saw all the fighting, all the pain, all the dark nights alone, she saw the darkness of despair in the Slayer’s burning soul.
[/i]‘No more pain Buffy. In the name of the Goddess. No. More. Pain,’[/i] and she poured her love into Buffy.
She gave of herself without hesitation or limit, to heal her broken friend.


“Oh my god!” Buffy gasped out loud. She fell to her knees, eyes streaming.
Love flooded into her, filling all the dark places, washing them clean. She felt sanctified, nourished.
She could feel herself growing inside as Tara’s endless love filled her. Warm and nurturing, it was like coming to life, she felt parts of her spirit awaken, parts that had been asleep for too long.

‘Oh God Tara, I failed you! I didn’t protect you, I let you die,’ Buffy wept. ‘I’m the Slayer, I am supposed to protect people and I couldn’t protect the people closest to me.’
‘No Buffy. No. The Slayer does not protect. The Slayer kills, the Slayer destroys, the Slayer is not a power of light. But Buffy Summers is. You protect, you are of the light, you fight to protect your family. You are loved and cherished.’
Tara sent, backing her words with fierce pride.
‘You stood between your family and a madman with a gun, you took a bullet for your family, the bullet that k-killed me was random, not meant for anyone, it was a cruel twist of fate.’
‘Forgive yourself Buffy’


Buffy nodded. Some part of her wanted to protest, to hold on to the guilt and pain that had been part of her for so long.
But here, with Tara’s soul exposed to her, she knew that she was forgiven, that there was never even the need for forgiveness, and yet it was given anyway.
She looked at herself. She saw the weight of her grief, tied up with guilt and failure. She looked at what it had cost her, and she let it go.

‘No more pain Buffy, not anymore,’

Buffy took a deep breath, the simple act given new meaning, she could feel life filling her, she could feel joy.

‘See as I see, Buffy,’ Tara sent to her as they stood and turned to face the Scoobies , still linked by one hand.
‘Look at your family Buffy. See them, as I see them’ she sent.

And Buffy saw, she really saw them.


The Scoobies stood together, aware on some level that something powerful was happening, something special.

She saw Xander, brave Xander, who had given so much for her, and would do so again without hesitation, her rock when all else was chaos. “Oh Xander,” she said softly.

“Hey Buff,” he smiled back.

Buffy looked at Giles, and saw her watcher, no... a man who loved her, as much as any father could love his daughter. She saw the love and pride he had for her as clear as day, so obvious. “Giles,” she said, her smile radiant amidst her tears.

“Buffy,” he said simply, a gentle smile lighting his face.

‘Why didn’t I see it before?’ she sent.

‘There was too much pain, too much suffering and no-one knew how to handle it. We had to grow,’ Tara sent.

She saw Dawn, lit from within by a beautiful green light. Green, like the sun shining through the leaves of a forest. “Oh Dawn!” she sobbed. “You are so beautiful.”

Dawn’s eyes were huge as she tried to absorb what was happening.

‘You two are closer than any sisters, you know. The best of her comes from you.’

Buffy looked at her best friend, Willow. Reliable Willow, who had given without complaint, and given, and given again until she broke.
And still she gave. “Oh god Willow, I’m so sorry. What have I done?”

‘No more pain Buffy. See her as I see her.’


And Willow blazed.
She burned like a star given human form, love fierce and strong radiating from her. It grew brighter when she looked at Buffy and smiled.

When she looked at Tara she shone.
And Buffy felt Tara’s love for Willow.
It was boundless, it outshone the stars.
So unwavering, so limitless, it was the totality of Tara’s being.
This was truest love, love that would outlast the world, that could outshine the sun.
Love that could overcome death.

It took her breath away.
‘Is it always like this?’ she sent.

‘Always.’

This one word defined Tara.
She was not a complex person, she loved with every part of her being.
It would never occur to her to do anything else.

‘She’s everything I need, and more,’ Tara sent.

Buffy felt a pang of deep sorrow, that she would never feel love like that for herself. Having felt such limitless glory she felt lessened by its absence.

‘No more pain Buffy, there’s something waiting for you, something wonderful. Keep looking. There is someone you’ve missed, someone you have missed for so very long,’ Tara sent.


Buffy saw Faith, almost hiding behind Willow, unable to meet her gaze, unable to look upon Buffy’s naked soul, shining in her eyes.

“Faith,” Buffy breathed.

Faith’s gaze met hers with a jerk, and Buffy saw.

Faith blazed like a forest fire with a dark centre, her gaze a furnace of terrible need and soul-shattering fear.
Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of further pain. “Oh Faith, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

Fresh tears spilled down Buffy’s cheeks.

‘No more pain’ Tara gently reminded her.

Buffy held out her arms to Faith.

“Buffy?” Faith said in a tiny voice, the invincible Slayer reduced to a hurt child, terrified of further pain.

“Faith,” Buffy said softly, her arms open wide.

Faith shuffled closer to Buffy, unable to close the final distance and accept Buffy’s comfort.

Buffy stepped forward and enfolded the taller girl as she broke down. Terrible sobs were torn from Faith’s frame as she allowed herself to hope, to feel. Their legs folded under as they sank together to the floor, each holding on to their last hope in a dark world.

Wordlessly the Scoobies gathered around. Tara laid her hands on Buffy’s back and Faith’s. Willow laid her hand atop them with a tender smile “No more pain,” she whispered.

Each of the Scoobies whispered the phrase like a prayer, and between them, love lit the dark places and allowed the healing to begin.


+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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