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

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 Post subject: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 2:39 pm 
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Location: Canada
When Erynn found herself

Author name – CopperAndGold
Rating - NC-17 (Strong)

Disclaimer - This is an adult fic. There will be some angst, smut, bad language, difficult subject matters (They will be noted prior to posting) The characters' development were taken from season 5 - A bit after the episode: Family. Anything that is canon and prior to this episode is fair game. Oh, there's also a small reference to a funny exchange in season 6 between Anya and Tara that I just couldn't stop from using. Even with all this, there's comedy too! Everything after Family becomes A/U.

Feedback - Please, I love your words.
Summary - Willow and Tara make a new friend. She's... interesting.

Notes - I've always been a Tara lover. Probably because I felt her character could have been better developed. We see hints of who she might be throughout the seasons, but I always felt the writers let her down. She was ripe with possibilities, character-wise, being that she grew up in a controlling environment believing she was partly evil. Then, to learn that it was all a lie. This fic is basically me waxing lyrical about who I think Tara might be. Of course, being she's part of a family now - the whole gang comes out to play.




So, this is what settling down feels like she thought, sitting against the biggest tree she could find on the UC Sunnydale campus. Her black and white Chuck Taylors sneakers where tapping along to the music only she could hear, through the earphones jammed inside her ears.

Erynn turned her sketchbook slightly so she could get the angle right while drawing a particularly intricate section. Moving in wasn’t so bad. Lucky me, there was a single available. After a few moments of applying details to paper, she lifted her head to rest her eyes and flexed her fingers while a sensual and serene melody played a soundtrack to her day.

She tipped her head back against the tree, making her fedora slip over her eyes before toppling down onto her stomach. Erynn huffed, raking a hand through her dark shoulder-length hair making her tussled curls look all the more disheveled and laid her hat on the ground next to her bag.

It was Friday and, as luck would have it, she had no classes today. Her new schedule would start on Monday, which afforded her all the time needed to settle in and soak up all her new environment could offer. She would have to write Loreli and let her know about her decision to stay put for a while. It’s not that she was worried her great aunt would be disappointed… it just felt odd. She’d been on the move for so long now, it was like stepping off a treadmill after an hour-long workout.

Part of her was still catching up.

On her 18th birthday, Erynn was sent out by her great aunt who said such a restless spirit shouldn’t be cooped up. Of course, there was more to it than that… but, through her teachings Loreli opened up possibilities in Erynn’s mind that needed to be explored, questions to answer. Life to be lived.

She subconsciously fingered her pendant when a dark mood struck her, thinking on her past before shaking it off. Alright, change of scenery needed. Erynn closed her sketchbook, gathered her pencils and dropped the lot into her bag. Her hand reached out for her hat when something caught her eye.

Black boots. Really, nothing spectacular about them… but Erynn’s lips quirked into a grin at their jaunty skip. Yes, that’s a skirt. Boots and skirt skipping happily along.

“Excuse me, do you have the time?” He was tall, and cast a long shadow so Erynn was surprised to have been caught off guard. Her grey eyes shot up in an instant as a loud squeak passed her lips.

“You scared the bejesus out of me!” She chastised, a hand against her chest while the other pulled her earphones out in one yank. “Quoi, Time?” Ok, English only now, thank you. She ran through translations while her eyes darted between Mr. Tall-tree-guy and the path behind him. Skip, hop, step step… skip. Huh, is there a pattern?

“Sorry, didn’t mean… sorry. Yeah, if you have it – the time would be great.” He looked over his shoulder for a moment and Erynn wondered absently what kind of student didn’t constantly have the time on him.

She glanced at her phone before answering in her odd French-like accent, “It’s three thirty five.” She craned her neck sideways so as to not lose track of skipping skirt-boots while pulling her fedora back onto her head.

Mr. Tree stepped back and began to turn away, “Thanks, sorry again for scaring you!” his long legs taking him away in wide strides.

Erynn reached for her bag and replied absently, “Uh huh.” Her hand gripped the strap, and with a quick scan of the path ahead she found the skipping boots peeking out from behind a group of people. Her eyes followed the skirt and dancing legs up, but she was gone again. I’m playing peek-a-boo with a pair of boots.

The group and, she assumed, the woman with the skip in her step walked passed her and Erynn stood up to follow on instinct. As she stepped onto the path, she spotted her. Ok… whoa. Clutching her pendant and grinning like a lunatic, her feet sped up trying not to lose the happy woman in the crowd.

Her mind turned swiftly to more physical interests, Hips... lovely hips. Skipping along in a satiny soft skirt… with boots. She quickly made out the hair color to be dark blonde, before Erynn noticed something slip from between the pages of a book tucked in the crook of the woman’s elbow. It clattered onto the ground, but its owner was oblivious to its escape. Erynn smiled. Follow the synchronicities.

She hurried forward, crouched down to pick up what turned out to be nothing but a pen. Erynn made her way closer to the blonde, reaching her as she was about to take the first step up to the building.

She cleared her throat, “Excuse me, miss…” and reached a hand out to pat a slender shoulder. Wisps of hair falling from a loose bun tickled the back of her hand for a fraction of a second before happy-skippy-booted woman stopped and turned. “Y-yes?”

Erynn stumbled a bit, halting her steps and held the pen up between them. Her eyes wide and unblinking. Eyes!! And she sparkles, oh wow… she’s in love! “Stylo… “, She barely managed to form the word. Her belly filled with butterflies. Ok, breathe… she’s in love. Stupid pendant!

With a bemused look on her face, the blonde placed a hand on Erynn’s arm and gently guided them out of the way of other students walking past. “Um… I’m sorry?”

Erynn took her hat off, “Oh, sorry… that thought bypassed the translating part of my brain before coming out. Pen. This pen, um. It fell…” She pointed at the book nestled in the woman’s arms. She could feel a blush taking over her cheeks and chest. She was still quite self-conscious about her accent and sometimes misunderstanding… things. “Oh, and, allo! I’m Erynn.” Her lips curled into a smile.

The smile was returned with a warmth that swept over Erynn like blankets fresh out of the dryer, “Oh! T-thank you. That’s kind of you Erynn. I’m Tara.”

Ok, my face is starting to hurt from smiling. “Tara, of the skippy boots,” Erynn giggled good-naturedly, scuffing the sole of her shoe on the ground.

Tara quirked an eyebrow, “Skippy boots?” She asked with an amused twinkle in her eyes. Reaching up with an elegant hand, she brushed away a strand of hair that had stuck to her lips.

“I don’t know who makes you so happy you skip when you walk, but it’s a beautiful sight.” Erynn handed the blonde her pen, “It suits you.” She pulled her hat back on, and stuffed her hands into her jeans pockets rocking back and forth on her heels.

A blush graced Tara’s cheeks, “Heh… well thanks. Love, ya know.” Her head lowered bashfully.

“Yeah,” Mon Dieu, she’s beautiful. “Well, I should be going I guess. I’m new here and would like to check the place out.” Erynn squinted at Tara, “You wouldn’t happen to know where I could get a good cup of coffee somewhere near?” Her eyes widened, “Somewhere not Starbucks.”

Tara giggled, “Um, there’s the Espresso Pump a couple blocks away. Just walk out onto the main street, and turn left. Just a couple b-blocks, you can’t miss it.”

Hiking the bag higher onto her shoulder, Erynn tipped her head forward and stepped back, “Thank you, I need the caffeine. Don’t sleep well in new places.”

“You’re welcome,” Tara said, before turning around with a smile she added, “It was nice meeting you, Erynn.”

“You too, Tara.” Ok, what was that? She took a deep breath and made her way to Main Street. Just follow the flow, like Loreli said. It’ll clear up downstream. But, was that me or her? She could feel old anxieties bubbling up.

She clasped her pendant and turned left down the street as Tara had said. One day I’ll get a hang of this.

***

Tara opened the door to find her girlfriend laying on her stomach across the bed, tongue peeking out while her fingers tapped a tuneless staccato over the keys of her laptop. A green eye peeked from behind a copper curl when the door closed, a wide smile gracing Willow’s face. “Hey baby!”

“Hey sweetie,” Tara smiled and made her way to the desk to deposit her books on its surface. Opening her Contemporary Arts book, she flipped through the pages trying to find where the pen was keeping track of her progress up until now, “Ugh, was it before this page… or after this one…”

Willow put away her laptop and made her way towards Tara. Stepping up behind the blonde, she wrapped her arms around her waist and placed a small kiss on the back of her neck. “What’cha doin’?”

Tara huffed, “Trying to find my page. I had a pen in here to mark it, but it fell out.” She flipped a few more pages.

The redhead looked smug, “I told you, there’s nothing like a good bookmark.” She said this as she trailed a finger down a long, delicate neck, “You know I love when you put your hair up, don’t you?” The redhead punctuated this with another kiss, this time open mouthed and lingering.

The blonde purred, “Mmm you know I know. And, you also know I love that you like my neck,” A chill ran down her spine as she flipped more pages over, scanning the images quickly.

“Ah, yes… Me and necks go way back,” Willow said, placing more kisses down on warm flesh, “And you happen to have a delectable one. Ms. Maclay, would you tilt your head to the right, please?”

Tara shivered and let out a tiny whimper before tilting her head. “…s-stupid pen,” she reached back with her right hand and gripped a small hip. “You have a neck thing?”

She could hear the chuckle, as well as feel it on the side of her neck right below her ear where Willow’s questing mouth was now busy nibbling, “Ok, so you know about my oral fixation already...” she demonstrated giving a tiny lick where she’d been nibbling. When she felt goosebumps rise on her lover’s skin, she smirked.

“Uh huh,” Tara’s hand gripped the small hip tighter, her other hand abandoning the book to reach up, tangling her fingers into curly red hair, “Mmm, how could I forget? I’m a lucky girl,”

Willow’s desire was heavy on her breath, nibbling and kissing along while she continued, “I told you about vamp-me, right?”

She remembered vaguely. Although not much information had actually been divulged when her girlfriend had brought it up as means to explain an inside joke between herself and Xander. “Yes. Skanky, leather clad Willow with fangs,” Tara tilted her head to the other side, “What about her? I mean… the leather s-sounds nice.”

Willow giggled and filed that away, “She had a preference, you see… and a habit,” She pressed her open lips against Tara’s neck and tickled the skin there with the tip of her tongue before continuing, “Preference being female… as in, kinda gay. And her habit, well...” She kept a firm grip across Tara’s stomach with her left arm while bringing her right one up and slowly pulled the blonde’s head aside, stretching her neck out. Tara’s breath caught in her throat. Her hands gripped. One, the desk and the other, her girlfriend’s hip. She felt Willow’s tongue lap the length of her neck in one long stroke, before lowering her teeth to latch onto the sensitive flesh, moaning.

“Oh, God… Will,” Tara groaned as her hips lurched, “I’m having all kinds of n-naughty visuals,”

The readhead laved the light bite mark with her tongue, “Mmm, my baby likes that,” She wrapped her right arm back around Tara’s waist, but this time cupped a full breast and gently squeezed.

A whimper left the blonde’s throat, “Oh, I like…” She reached back and grabbed Willow’s pert bottom, pulling her closer, “Makes me want to be-“ She moaned as Willow circled her nipple with warm fingertips through the thin fabric of her shirt, “Mmm, be your Kitten.”

The readhead’s ministrations paused, “My kitten?”

Tara let out a breath that was part sigh, part chuckle, “Um, yeah… kind of a-a fantasy thing,” She reached up and covered Willow’s hand, “M-Mistress and her Kitten. Will…” She said pleadingly and squeezed their hands over her breast.

Willow felt an instant surge of arousal hearing her girlfriend’s fantasy, images flitting through her brain at warp speeds, “Oh, God… I’ll remember that,” She turned Tara around and brought their lips together in a searing kiss.

Lips parted, tongues entwined. Tara’s moan was lost within warm fleshy walls, her hands holding Willow’s mouth against hers, fingers tangled in soft red hair. She pressed back and up onto the desk, her left calf rising up the outside of her girlfriend’s jean covered leg in a long, sensuous motion. Her skirt riding higher and higher up her thigh until finally hooking her boot above Willow’s rear. She gave a little tug.

Willow panted out of the kiss. “Tara,” Her left hand reached up the blonde’s thigh, pressing her fingers against warm, toned flesh as she stepped between widening legs. She groaned, “You are so sexy,” Her right hand found the hem of Tara’s shirt, her fingers reaching under to trace skin. The redhead lowered her head and licked along the blonde’s collarbone in one long, wet trail.

“Oh, God…” With both hands on the desk, Tara arched her back, pressing her aroused nipples against her form fitting shirt, “You make me feel sexy,”

Willow brought both hands under Tara’s shirt, pressing her palms against the blonde’s warm stomach, she pushed her pelvis forward, “You don’t understand.” She ran her hands upwards, Tara’s shirt pooling around her wrists, “Your body, your responses... You are the most sensual woman ever.” She cupped bra clad breasts and brushed her thumbs across stiff nipples. “I can’t get enough of you.”

Tara’s head fell back onto her neck, her leg tightening around Willow’s waist – her hips rocking forward as a deep moan left her throat. “Willow…”

“Anything, tell me,” Willow’s breath was hot against the blonde’s throat, her hands gripped tighter, grinding needy nipples against her palms, “Bring your other leg up here, baby,”

Tara gripped Willow’s shoulders, she dipped her head and captured her girlfriend’s lips with her own. Holding tight, she ran her other leg up and hooked both feet around a tiny waist as she sucked on her girlfriend’s lower lip. Willow pressed into her and broke the kiss, “I love your voice Tara, when you’re aroused like this… tell me what you want,”

Talking, ok – right. Words. Willow’s mouth was at her ear, warm breath sending bolts of sensual energy down her spine. “S-skin, shirt off, please… Will, I want your mouth,” Her breath coming in gasps.

A small yet strong arm held tight around her back, another pulled her shirt up and over her breasts. Tara raised her arms and the shirt was slipped up and over her head before being carelessly discarded to the floor. Willow was panting slightly, “Where do you want my mouth?”

The blonde’s hands were back, gripping slender shoulders. She lowered her head, opened her eyes and was met with emerald fire staring back, “On my breasts… m-my nipples. Your tongue, your lips,” Her lidded eyes fell to Willow’s slightly parted mouth, her devilish tongue peeking through her teeth. “… your teeth,”

The redhead’s chest was heaving now, her fingers dug into Tara’s waist. She gripped lower and pulled, grinding her lover’s need against her lower abdomen, eliciting the most delicious sounds from between kiss-swollen lips. A growl formed in the back of her throat, “My pleasure,” Willow reached up Tara’s back and swiftly unhooked her bra. Again, she supported her with one arm while the other slipped the undergarment down the blonde’s arms and flicked it off to the floor.

Tara pulled her hair down, loving the feel of it cascading against her bare skin. A sigh passed her parted lips as she felt Willow’s mouth trail a wet line down her chest. When she felt the wet warmth of her girlfriend’s mouth close around the sensitive flesh on the underside of her breast, she let go with her arms and opened her chest up to be lavished with attention.

Willow didn’t let up, tracing circles around her nipple with her tongue, nipping gently, she rumbled her pleasure against heated skin. Her hand was paying just as much attention to the other breast, teasing its nipple with deft fingertips, pinching lightly as she bit on the other.

Tara reached further back on the desk. He hand brushed up against what she guessed was a pencil holder, it fell noisily to the ground. She found her purchase and gripped for dear life – arching her back, “God, yes, Willow…”

“I was thinking about you all day,” Willow pulled up her shirt just enough so her bare stomach could make contact with what she knew would be warm, wet cotton. She moaned deeply when she was proven right. Her hand resting hotly against Tara’s lower abdomen, she pressed into her with her hips and closed her mouth around the nipple she’d been teasing.

“Ngmmph” Tara gnawed at her lip, trying to contain her reactions. Her thighs tightened around Willow’s waist when she felt a slight pressure against her hot core. Willow was suckling and lavishing wet attention on her nipple with her agile tongue. She felt a pinch around her other nipple and her hips lurched forward. Her throat let out a keening, desperate sound.

Willow let go of the engorged nub with a pop, “Shh baby, I’ve got you,” She pressed her hand against Tara’s lower abdomen, “I know you want more. I can feel it against my stomach,” A finger dipped past the elastic of the blonde’s underwear teasingly. When she heard another moan, she looked into dark blue eyes, “Tell me,” She smirked before lowering her head again and capturing the nipple that was, until then dry, with her mouth. Willow bit down gently and flicked her tongue over the hard nub.

“Oh God, you’re driving me insane,” Tara’s arousal was chart breaking at this point, “You’ve always had this effect on me,” She arched her back again, pressing into Willow’s mouth, “I’m throbbing, please… touch me, Will,”

She felt a grin forming against her breast and fingers grasping the top of her panties. Tara pushed her hips up by pure reflex, her arms and legs tensing – supporting her weight for the time it took Willow to pull the offending material over the swell of her ass. “Always, huh?” Willow grinned as she pulled the panties as far as they would go with her girlfriend’s legs wrapped around her waist. “What about the couple of times I slept over, before our first anything?”

Leaning back, Tara unhooked her legs and pushed aside her books before resting on her elbows, bringing her legs up. “It was torture. Pure, exquisite torture.” Willow stepped back long enough to pull the blonde’s panties the rest of the way off her legs. She couldn’t help but notice how Tara was glistening at the center of her hiked up skirt. She subconsciously licked her lips and stepped within the firm embrace of her lover’s legs once again. Pulling her own shirt off in one swift motion before pressing back against the blonde’s warm need.

Willow reached behind Tara’s waist, palms flat against her lower back she pulled her girlfriend against herself – grinding wet, engorged flesh against her overheated skin again and again. “Mmm, so hot,” She quickly took a nipple into her mouth, salivating with the need to taste her girlfriend. She could feel Tara spreading her arousal against the skin of her stomach, the warm wet trail being traced over and over again with each rock of her womanly hips.

“The first time… you slept over,” Her breath caught in the back of her throat when Willow switched breasts, “I thought I would do something completely s-stupid,” Tara sat up and reached for her girlfriend’s bra clasp undoing it before bringing her arms back to the desk behind her. Willow’s mouth followed along, her hands leaving Tara’s skin only long enough to let her bra fall away. “You were wearing a pair of my sleep shorts and a tank top,” The blonde continued, her eyes glued to her girlfriend’s chest. The flush of her skin, the rise and fall of her pert breasts… Tara drank her in.

Reaching up with her hand, the redhead let out a shaky breath before cupping the breast that was in her mouth, pressing the soft yielding flesh deeper, greedily. She pulled back, sucking gently and closed her teeth around the hard nub applying increasing amounts of pressure. When Tara’s voice reached that perfect pitch of pain/pleasure ratio, she released it and sucked gently while flicking her tongue against it, “Mmmm”

“Oh, God that’s good,” Tara gulped down a breath, the light pressure against her wanting sex now doing little to relieve the incessant throbbing, “I wanted you so much, Will. You were sleeping right there, and you smelled so good. I felt guilty laying there fantasizing about you,” She bit her lip and reaching out with her right hand, she ran her fingers over one of Willow’s perky breasts before centering the nipple in her palm and squeezed. She shivered at the resulting groan vibrating against her breast.

“You were thinking about me while I slept?” Willow mumbled, her lips tickling over the blonde’s nipple. She reached a hand down and laid it flat against Tara’s thigh, drawing small circles with her fingertips.

Tara flexed her hips, “I couldn’t help it. You’re so beautiful, Willow. I’d watched you so often. I knew the shape of your body before ever having t-touched you, or having seen you naked,”

Willow’s lips were against her own then, a determined tongue pressing on the blonde’s lower lip. Tara opened her mouth and met her half way. She moaned into the kiss when she felt warm fingers edging closer to her need.

Pulling away again, Willow took a deep breath, her fingers teasing the edge of Tara’s mound, “What did you want to do to me?” She ran her fingers through soft curls, eliciting a string of sounds that stoked the redhead’s fire to a blazing heat.

“I wanted to curl up behind you, press myself against your ass,” Tara loosened her legs as her girlfriend ran her fingers the length of wet, swollen lips, “Oh, F-fuhh.. Will…”

“Keep talkin’, baby,” Her fingers gliding across wet, warm skin, “You’re making me so hot,” Willow closed her mouth over a hard nipple again, sucking it hard while flicking her tongue in rhythm with the fingers tracing slow patterns over Tara’s engorged flesh.

“I-I… Oh, God don’t stop,” Her knees splayed open, boots pressed against her girlfriend’s ass, “I w-wanted to touch you, run my hand up your leg, under your loose fitting shorts. I wanted to kiss the back of your neck, run my tongue over your skin. I wanted to make you moan, wondered what it would s-sound like,”

Willow pressed a finger between hot, wet folds and was met by bucking hips and a low groan from her girlfriend, “Were you this wet, Tara?” She asked, sliding her slick finger up and down achingly slowly.

“Yessss,” The blonde’s head lolled back onto her neck, her hips digging towards the probing finger, “I-I… I had to go to the bathroom to touch myself or else I would have done something monumentally s-stupid,”

Willow’s will power evaporated, her voice lowering by a whole register, “Mmfuck,” She groaned, barely audibly. She straightened up and pressed another finger into wet warmth, coating both with copious amounts of Tara’s arousal before pushing them through a ring of fluttering muscles. She kept them there, teasingly poised at her girlfriend’s entrance.

Willow loved the sounds Tara made. Her voice, she found, was one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs on earth. Her breasts being in the same category. Her legs… her neck… She’s just a walking aphrodisiac.

Part of her ever-active brain thought back to when she came up with the idea of getting her girlfriend to talk during sex. She had been quite proud to have figured out a way to help with Tara’s stutter AND get herself all worked up at the same time.

Her left hand gripped a rocking hip. Her eyes fixed on the writhing body of her lover, head thrown back with lips parted. Beautiful, swaying breasts pushed up in the air that were accentuated by a deep blush over the blonde’s chest. Tara was so sensual, it took Willow’s breath away.

“Please, pl-,“ Tara couldn’t spread her knees any wider if she tried, “I need you deeper, stop teasing,”

Fingers pressed deeper obediently and Willow was surrounded by Tara’s womanhood – felt muscles tighten around her, then release. She tucked her elbow into her body and started rocking against her girlfriend’s rhythm, each press of her tiny hips pushing herself deep into her welcoming sex. “God, you’re beautiful, Tara,” She sped up her thrusts when Tara’s moans rose to a level that brought a tinge of pride out of the redhead.

“H-Harder, take me harder,” Tara collapsed onto her back, jagged edges of inconsequential things pressing into her naked skin. “Ohh sweet heavens, so good Will,”

Willow watched her favorite breasts bounce as she thrust harder into her girlfriend. The desk was moving by small increments until it hit the wall and rocked back, before being knocked back into the wall again with every thrust. She was about to ready another finger, when the sound of wood against thin dorm walls registered. With a primal sort of growl she gently pulled out of her girlfriend. “Up, I want you on the bed,”

“Wha-huh?” Dazed blue eyes flittered open and cast a befuddled look towards Willow, “Up? My all of me is jelly,” Tara’s legs fell from their perch atop Willow’s hips, shaking and noodle-like.

“I believe in you,” Reaching out with both hands, Willow waited for her girlfriend to accept the help, “I’m not done with you yet,” Damnit, Damnit! Look at her… stupid fucking dorms.

Grudgingly, Tara grasped Willow’s hands and, with a small grunt, sat up on the edge of the desk. As soon as she was upright, she was hit by a wave of dizziness. The blonde swayed a little, “Oh, ok… head-rush,” Draping her arms around the redhead, she lowered her head onto a slim shoulder - her lips moving against her girlfriend’s neck, “All the way to the bed?”

Running her fingers through mussed dark-blonde hair, Willow continued, “I seem to remember my last instruction being ‘take me harder’. Can’t do that here on the desk. And I’m going to, Tara. I’m going to take you hard, and fast and leave you breathless,” She ran her tongue down the edge of the blonde’s ear, “I need you on the bed, baby.”

Their eyes met as Tara lowered their foreheads together. Her booted feet fell to the floor letting her skirt run down her legs once again, “Hold me,” She whispered as her fingers fell against the button of Willow’s pants. She twisted, pulling the material apart and lowered the zipper.

The redhead’s hands were firm against Tara’s back, holding her in place while she took care of her pants. Keeping eye contact, the blonde bent her knees and pulled the thick material of her girlfriend’s jeans down her legs. The hands that were warm against her back, now cradled her head as blue eyes fell forward again, millimeters from wet, dark purple panties. The scent of her lover’s arousal so close to her mouth stopped Tara in her tracks.

Lifting one leg and then the other, the redhead noticed Tara had stopped moving. Her eyes were fixated between her legs. Willow could feel her panties were soaked. She wiggled her leg and the pants finally joined the growing pile of discarded clothes on the floor. “You do that to me,”

Kneeling fully, the blonde’s hands gripped Willow’s firm butt and pulled her towards her mouth without a moment’s thought. “Mmmph,” She pressed her lips against wet cotton and groaned at the resulting tightening of fingers through her hair. Tara parted her lips and pressed her tongue against the slight bump beneath the damp material of the redhead’s underwear. The taste of her girlfriend’s need was intoxicating. She rumbled a groan against Willow’s sex, pressing harder with her tongue while moving it up and over, then down again.

“Ohhh, yeah,” Willow’s hips rocked forward, her hands holding Tara’s head against herself.

Something in Tara woke up. She recognized it instantly; her base, carnal, primal-self. Not that long ago, she was afraid of this side of herself. Having thought it based in something evil. She would have stopped, reeled herself in. She would have held back from Willow.

But, she was free of that lie now… and she reveled in it.

Tara knew her girlfriend’s eyes were on her the moment she heard that tone of voice. Looking up, she locked eyes with Willow and the need and desire she saw there pulled another moan from her throat.

She kept eye contact and grasped Willow’s panties with her fingers, pulling them down slowly.

“This, above everything else; that night you slept over - This is what I wanted to do to you,” She licked a tantalizingly slow, feather-light trail over wet, swollen lips. “I wanted to taste you so bad,” She leaned in for another taste. Small delicate hands pressed firmly against the back of her head – fingers massaging her scalp, desperate movements. “Ta-raa!” Her name broke in Willow’s mouth as Tara sucked her clit in between her lips, flicking her tongue against it lightly. Nuzzling deep between her girlfriend’s legs.

The blonde reached behind herself to undo her skirt, all the while licking and sucking as if she’d been hungry for Willow her whole life. Once the skirt fell loose around her bent knees, she returned both hands to her lover’s ass, gripping the yielding flesh. “You taste so yummy,” she whispered before diving in again.

“God, you’re amazing,” Willow panted, her words rushed, pushed through panted breath, “you build… me up… so high, so, so fast…”

Tara let go of the bundle of nerves with a wet pop, “Mmm not too fast I hope, you made me thirsty,” She lifted herself onto her feet, her skirt falling to the floor. Stepping out of the ring of material, she guided Willow towards the bed and pushed down on her shoulders until she was sitting on the edge of the mattress.

Willow exhaled sharply, “Please,” She pressed an open mouthed kiss against the skin below Tara’s navel. Her tongue flicking out like butterfly wings flittering against sensitive skin. Her hands gripping and releasing the blonde’s ass cheeks. She wanted everything, all at once.

An aroused chuckle brought the redhead’s attention back up to her girlfriend, “What?” she smirked.

Tara ran her fingers through Willow’s hair and grinned her lop-sided grin, “We keep getting distracted,” She lowered herself to her knees again, between freckled legs. “Lie down,”

She raised Willow’s legs up onto her shoulders and pulled on her small waist until the redhead’s ass was flush with the edge of the mattress, “Mmm,” Tara’s hands ran up the outside of shaking thighs. Then she lowered her mouth onto Willow’s glistening mound, nuzzling through soft, wet curls.

The blonde felt her girlfriend’s heels dig into her back before her feet locked together, trapping Tara’s mouth against Willow’s need. She stuck her tongue out between wet folds and dipped lower making it dance at the entrance to her lover’s depths. “Mmmm-mpph” She kept up with the writhing hips before her with practiced ease.

Willow arched her back high off the bed, “Ohhh, God-Ta-“ She reached down between her legs, fingers tickling her outer lips. Her neck craned back, digging her head into the mattress as she spread herself open for Tara with trembling fingers. “T-Tara, you’re making me crazy baby,” She lifted a finger far enough to reach her clit and flicked back and forth against it – matching the movements of Tara’s tongue. “Oh, oh God…”

Tara pushed in, her heated gaze locked on the erotic display before her. Her tongue pressed passed fluttering muscles, a growl escaped her throat and her hands gripped the thighs that were framing her head. “Mrrmmmph…” Her eyes rolled atop when she felt Willow drip hotly down her chin, guttural sounds released from deep in her chest. A primal hunger being sated.

Passion filled blue eyes flickered open again as Tara felt a hand press against the back of her head. Her girlfriend had herself spread open with one hand, dark green eyes blazing down at her in desperation – her throbbing clit proudly presented. A gentle tug on her hair and Tara’s mouth was covering the offered nub. She flicked her tongue against it, fast and rough, and ran two fingers through her girlfriend’s wetness before pushing them in.

As if all her strings were cut at once, Willow’s arms flew apart – hands gripping the sheets, “Yes, yes… that’s it, oh God, yes,” Her hips writhed against Tara’s mouth, she felt the fluttering of fingers deep inside. Wet sounds building with every thrust of the blonde’s fingers as they curled up and pressed against spongy walls.

“Mmrrphhmm!” Primal, instinctual, uninhibited – Tara was devouring with rapturous abandon, her arm flexed as she thrust into her girl again, and again. Unrelenting, she absolutely loved everything about all of it, “You’re gonna come for me,” She growled inevitability against swollen, wet flesh.

Willow’s legs opened up as she rested her heels on the edge of the bed. Her knees wide, begging, “m-more, Tara… more,” A plea in the sweetest voice, dripping with passion and lust.

The blonde instantly let go of Willow’s clit and dipped her mouth towards her hand, fingers still pressed deep inside. She uncurled her ring finger and sucked it into her mouth – wetting it before pulling out of girlfriend. With all three fingers now, she pressed back in – feeling muscles tense, then release their hold the deeper she went. “That’s it, God you’re so open, s-so wet,” She gnawed on her lip and flexed her fingers, releasing a trickle of warm juice from deep within the redhead, “You’re gonna come for me, Willow,” She repeated as she started thrusting her fingers again and licked across Willow’s clit before closing her mouth around it. She sucked it into her mouth, hard – her teeth grazing its surface.

“I am, I am, I-“ Willow’s head thrashed left and right, her biceps taught as bow strings as she pulled at the sheets, “It’s built up so… much, baby… I-I can feel it, I can’t hold back,” She panted. Oh, God. Oh, God.

I know, I know, I know. Tara wouldn’t have stopped if the building caught fire, “I know, God, I know – I can feel it. I want it Will… I want all of it,” She pressed in harder, “Come for me,” Her fingers grew more attentive, pressing in circular motions in one spot in particular. Knowing by feel what was about to happen.

It started as a mild prickling sensation behind her knees, Willow recognized the signs. Even though it hadn’t happened often before, it wasn’t the kind of thing you forget. The prickling quickly ran the length of her legs and reached her belly as Tara’s unforgiving tongue flicked and licked across her clit, and Tara’s fingers rubbed against her hidden depths with a bit more precision – the prickling stopped for a fraction of a second, then her scalp felt like it was vibrating, “I-I’m coming… I-“ And then her whole mid-section felt like it exploded, and fizzed, crackled and contracted before exploding again in a cycle of seemingly unending rapture. “Tarah-aahh-ahh!”

The blonde pulled out when a rush of liquid bubbled up and with every contraction of Willow’s climax, Tara felt the result splash against her chest, “Mmm, Goddess,” She spread Willow’s legs wider and licked the length of her sex, in long languorous strokes. She gripped the redhead’s thrashing hips, holding them down as best she could as she kept gently licking her down from her climax.

When all movement stopped from above, Tara gingerly stood up on wobbly legs dutifully ignoring the cracking sound in her knee – wiped a hand across her brow and face. She then crawled up next to Willow ready to hold her tight. When this happened; when Willow came this hard…

Her arms circled her girlfriend and, as expected, she heard the pitiful sound, “Mffk,”

“Shh sweetie, deep breaths – come back to me, I’ve got you.” Tara ran her hand up and down Willow’s back, soothing away the frantic energy from her spent body. Trying as best she could to steady her own throbbing, wanting need – she took deep breaths along with Willow.

After a few peaceful moments in which only their combined breathing could be heard, Willow shifted her leg up over Tara’s and started drawing lazy circles around her navel with her fingertips. “You still have your boots on,” she sniffed.

Tara’s chest bounced with laughter, “Skippy boots,” Her fingertips tingled as she ran them tenderly across Willow’s skin.

A disheveled red head popped up, curious, “Skippy boots?”

Tara began to explain, “Yeah, I met someone… Erynn. Remember my pen-bookmark that wasn’t?” She asked as she placed a kiss on a crown of copper hair.

“Yup, offending pen bookmark. The biggest failure of its kind,” The words came out of her parted lips in between placing kisses across Tara’s chest.

“I was walking over here and the pen must’ve fallen from my book without me noticing,” Tara shifted her leg, pressing her thigh tighter against her girlfriend. “Mmm… I was about to come into the building when Erynn patted me on the shoulder, she’d picked it up.” She let go of one hand from around Willow, and threw it out over the bed, opening her chest up to her girlfriend’s waking mouth’s ministrations.

“And,” Kiss, kiss, “where do the skippy” kiss, “boots come in?” Willow kissed and trailed a warm hand across the blonde’s drying chest.

Tara giggled, “Apparently she saw me walking. She said she didn’t know who made me so happy that I skip when I walk, but that it was a beautiful thing. That it suited me. She called me ‘Tara, of the skippy boots’,”

“Huh. You know,” Willow began after a beat, while her hand leisurely made its way towards a taught nipple, “I don’t know whether I should be jealous, or proud.” Her palm rolled the hard nub around as her hand pressed in circles against Tara’s breast.

Tara’s back arched, “Mmmm, I vote for proud,” She moaned softly, “No reason to be jealous. You got me naked, on your bed, wanton with my boots on.” Willow’s mouth closed over her nipple, chuckling at the rhyme. “Aahh, you can see what you do to me,”

Willow played with the nipple in her mouth for a bit, mulling her thoughts over. She’s right, ya know. No need for this stupid feeling. But, why is it there?

There was a grumble in the chest bellow her mouth. The redhead looked up, eyebrows raised with the nipple still firmly tucked between her lips.

“What is it, Will?” Tara, her beautiful and patient Goddess was… frustrated, “I can tell you’re thinking thoughts that are like, full sentences. Your tongue moves differently.”

Willow let go of the nipple, “Nuh huh! Not true,” She tried on her best convincing face and looked straight into… unimpressed blue eyes, with an added raised eyebrow, just for emphasis. Crap. She exhaled, “Can you give me a minute? To organize my thoughts?”

Tara ran her fingers through her girlfriend’s hair, “Of course,” Ok, hormones. We’re doing the good girlfriend thing. She squeezed her thighs against a dull ache. Shut up!

Willow cupped the blonde’s breast, “I don’t want to stop doing this though,” She said before taking the nipple back into her eager mouth, tongue leisurely dancing over puckered flesh.

Tara breathed deeply and flexed her hips, “O-okay,” Oh, for crying out loud… She’s driving me nuts!

A few moments and whimpers later, Willow finally piped up.

“Charm. That’s what it is – really. She sounded charming,” Vulnerable green eyes peeked up from under long lashes.

Ok, Tara. Patience hat on. Breathe. “And, you think what? You’re not charming? Baby, you ooze charm.” She tightened her arms around her girlfriend when she felt her tense to sit up, “No, stay. Just talk to me,” She ran her hand gently up and down Willow’s arm.

Willow relaxed against her girlfriend’s body and laid her head on her chest, “It’s not the same… I mean, there’s different kinds of charm I guess.” Her delicate fingers trailed a path across Tara’s skin as she talked, “I’m like this childish, bubbly-nerdy kinda charming ya know? She sounded all… smooth, and suave charming.”

Good thing I didn’t tell her about the accent. Tara sighed, “So, what do you mean? You’re jealous of her charm in general, or jealous of me having met her? What is it?”

“Huh,” Willow was stumped for a minute, her brow furrowed.

The blonde continued, “There was nothing childish about what got me f-fantasizing about you while you slept. It was just you, your intellect, your beauty, your sexiness, your caring attitude, and yes – your Willow-y charms. Which involve babbling, connections made out of thin air between s-seemingly incompatible ideas, the way your hands move when you talk about something that excites you, the quirk of your lips and the blush on your cheeks and chest when you’re turned on,” She looked down towards her girlfriend, “Look at me, Willow.”

The head that was resting against her chest rose and Tara finally had clear sight of her lover’s eyes. “You know all this already - I know you do. There’s something there baby, a memory. A hurt. What is it?”

Willow closed her eyes for a second to center herself before speaking up, “Oz, h-he… well, Veruca, she was – kinda dipped in sex-appeal. And, I tried to-to be that, you know? But, it didn’t work and he ended up ‘releasing his primal urges’ with the bitch. And well, you know the rest.”

Huh, I found a Willow puzzle piece. “Ok, let’s recap. Oz cheated on you with a sk- someone else. For whatever reasons, which were his own. You don’t own his reasons, or his opinions. They don’t define you at all, they just are.” Tara took a moment to filter through her thoughts.

“It’s obvious it hurt you badly, it’s only normal. He betrayed your trust, that’s true. But the rest? I don’t know the details about how you ‘tried to b-be that way’ – and really, I’m not that curious. But, Will, the reasons why he did it have no b-bearing on the facts. Fact is, you can only be yourself and he loved you as best he could. If he couldn’t be himself with you, well… that’s not your fault. Keep in mind, I doubt he was totally himself with Veruca, either. Oz’ identity issues, Veruca’s sex-appeal, Erynn’s charm… they shouldn’t impact how you see yourself. And, by the way… my primal urges? They are quite satisfied with sexy-you.” She winked, her mouth pulling at the corner in a lop-sided smile.

With thankful adoration in her eyes, a quirk slowly rose up Willow’s lips, “I love you so much, you know that?”

Tara rolled her eyes, “I’m just laying here a horny p-puddle trying to reign my girlfriend back into a mental space where she’ll just ravage me already.” She looked pointedly down her body, “And I’m still wearing my damn boots.” She scowled at the offending footwear.

Willow’s body shook. It started as a giggle but quickly grew into a chuckle, “Aw, baby. I’m sorry – here, let me…” She reached down and started work on the blonde’s right boot, untying the laces with nimble fingers.

They both jumped and Willow squeaked as the shrill sound of the phone cut through the quiet of the room.

Tara puffed out her cheeks, “You have G-GOT to be kidding,” Looking towards the clock, her eyebrows instantly shot up to her hairline in surprise.

Willow was already picking up.

“Hello? Oh, hey Buffy. Uh… yeah, what time is it?” She snapped her head towards her girlfriend, matching expressions on their faces. “Wow, ok, ok. I am so full of contrition – contrition city, that’s me!” Her free hand gesticulated wildly as she paced, “It’s not like I’m the best help when it comes to fashion advice, Buffy.”

Pre-bronzing fashion critique session and pizza - right. Tara draped her arm across her eyes, “I’m never getting off,” She mumbled under her breath. Stupid pen. Stupid boots. Stupid time. Stupid Tara, “Oh, let me do you first! I’ll make you come so hard you get all emotional, and we end up having to talk about stuff that isn’t sexy at all.” She kicked her booted feet petulantly over the edge of the bed, sighing deeply.

A moment passed before Tara rolled her eyes and chuckled derisively at herself. Are you done now, hormone-brain?

Willow’s voice lowered an octave, “Uh huh, I do like women. What’s your point?” Her hand came to rest against her cocked hip. “Well, ok that does kinda make sense… but still, why not ask Xander then?”

From her position on the bed, Tara could hear the raised tone of the Slayer’s ire over the phone. She peeked up from under her arm, curious.

The redhead’s chest heaved before she let out a deep breath, “Buffy, Buff…” A loud squawk sounded from the earpiece making her pull it away from her ear, “Buffy! I’m sorry, I really am. We lost track of time, an-“

Tara watched as a deep blush formed on her girlfriend’s face, her eyes wide in shock as Buffy cut her off, saying God knows what.

Willow’s mouth hung open, her hand flitted about quickly in an exasperated gesture. But, suddenly her face took on a cute kind of resolve, “Yeah, well I’m so sorry we take longer than five minutes!” The redhead heard a snort-giggle-snort sound coming from the bed. She had to bite the inside of her lip to keep from laughing.

“Ok, so obviously I missed the opportunity for fashion time with my bestie. What about pizza, still time?” She nodded, “About an hour, an hour and a half.” Her hand suddenly came down against her naked thigh, making a slapping sound, “I’m about to say something we’ll both regret, Buffy Summers. Something involving the serious need for showers.” There was a quiet pause, “Hello? Buff-“

The sound of a dial tone rang clearly in her ear. Willow looked down incredulously at the receiver, “She hung up on me!”

Tara stood up from the bed and stretched out her back, “So, pizza then bronze? After showers?”

After thoroughly admiring the view of the back of her girlfriend’s body while she stretched, Willow wrapped her arms around the blonde’s bare waist and whispered huskily in her ear, “How about you wear a nice, long skirt… and forget to wear panties, like a naughty girl?” She nipped her neck and smirked evilly.

Tara flushed from head to toe, “I-I,” She swallowed, “O-okay.” She jumped as a small hand slapped one of her ass cheeks making a loud smack sound fill the room.

“Good! Showers, then.” Willow sauntered over to the door where her robe hung from a hook and pulled it on. “Last one there is a rotten egg!” She peeked over her shoulder with her tongue between her teeth, wiggled her hips and grabbed her toiletry bag before walking out the door.

I’m a masochist, that’s what. I like torture. Tara thought glumly. You’re twisted, Maclay. She prepared to follow her girlfriend to the shower block. As she was about to cross the threshold, she glanced down at her feet and rolled her eyes in exasperation. Stupid fucking boots!

***

Unblinking grey eyes stared up at the menu, the sound of a throat being cleared stirred her from her thoughts, “Fish tacos? You sure that’s like… staple Californian food?” Her lips twisted into a distasteful sneer, “Tacos with fish in them?” Erynn stared into apathetic, teen-aged eyes.

The young man behind the counter shuffled his feet, “Yup.” He reached up and straightened his cap. Tourists.

On the one hand, she could just eat something she knew. But, in the spirit of her walkabout, she’d resigned herself to be as adventurous with her taste buds as she was being with her life. But, tacos with fish in them?

She let out a resolute sigh, “Bon, ok. I’ll take a number three, I guess.” Erynn pulled her bag across her chest, reaching in for her wallet.

A few beeping sounds later and the employee of the month piped up, “That’ll be five fifty.”

After paying for her mystery food and sitting at a table by the windows, she pulled out a flyer she’d picked up at the Espresso Pump from her pocket. The colors were bright against a black background, announcing a band she didn’t know – at a place called the Bronze.

Erynn took off her hat and placed it on the seat next to her before she unwrapped one of the offending fish tacos. She eyed it suspiciously. En avant, mes braves…

She glanced at the counter once before warily taking a bite. Huh, not bad. She flipped the flyer over, having noticed a crude map drawn there, before. This IS a small town.

The first taco was gone in mere moments. She watched people walk by on the street while idly unwrapping her second one. The sun was low in the sky, the day drawing its end. Live music sounds good. A thought dawned on her, she stopped mid-chew and rolled her eyes. Right, California. US – Drinking age: 21.

She mentally groused at the silliness of being able to drink in one part of the continent, but not in another. She didn’t do well with alcohol really, anyway. But, it was the principle of the thing.

Finish food, go back to the dorm, shower and change. Live music here I come.

Her mental running list decided, she doubled down on her food, anxious to get out from under the fluorescent lighting of the sterile restaurant.

***

“And then she had the gall to tell me the dragons’ blood was overpriced!” Tara glanced back to catch a glimpse of her girlfriend’s eyes. True to form, they were rolling.

With a giggle in her throat, she tried to soothe the shop keeper, “Anya, not everyone understands a-and appreciates the value of impotency cures.” She offered her elbow which Anya took, “You know, that’s just like, her opinion man.” Tara drawled, knowing her self-conscious friend would get the reference.

They’d watched the movie together a couple of weeks ago.

A few steps behind them, Willow shook her head as she heard Anya’s peals of laughter. She glanced over at the shops they were passing on the way to the Bronze and sighed.

Buffy, having noticed her friend’s mood, elbowed her arm gently, “What’s up, Will?”

Willow indicated Anya and Tara with her raised chin, “That, I don’t get it. The two of them.”

Buffy took in the scene of two friends, chatting and having a good time. “What’s there to get? They seem to get along…”

The redhead huffed, “See, that’s the thing. It’s… Anya! Who in the frilly heck gets along with Anya? A-and, hello! Tara? Who would put those two together and go ‘podded peas!’?”

Tara’s laughter rolled through the air, swelling Willow’s heart and tugging at her lips. A grin grew there despite herself as she shook her head again.

The petite blonde squeezed her friend’s arm affectionately, “You don’t like Anya and you wonder what Tara sees in her. And, I guess vice-versa. You wonder what someone as crass as Anya would find interesting in a gentle and unassuming woman like Tara.” She bumped her hip against her friend’s, “You were never good with the not understanding something. It makes you cranky pants.”

Willow’s shoulders slumped, “Well, duh. Ok, makes sense in a: ‘I still totally don’t get it’ kinda way.”

Buffy shrugged, “You know, you do have the opportunity to actually get to understand. At least part of it; Tara’s part. You could always ask her.” She opened her coat to double-check she had her trusty stake tucked in the hidden pocket.

The redhead’s mouth opened, but any effort at making sound was cut off by Xander’s shouts behind them. “Hey, guys – wait up!”

They regrouped, couples swapped and kept walking towards the club.

Tara’s hand was warm in her own, fingers entwined. Her cheeks were flushed with joy, eyes twinkling. Willow’s thoughts cleared and she smiled. I owe her big time, I’d be all kinds of cranky in her place.

As they entered the club, they were assailed with a thrumming beat making the air vibrate. A male voice sang in a passably talented way, guitars and drums painting a picture of some kind of dungeon of pain scenario. People were milling around, some dancing. All in all, par for the course when it came to mystery music night at The Bronze.

The group made their way through the crowd and found themselves a couple of tables. “Drinks, who wants what – I’m the getter guy.” Xander pointed at them all with both hands, eyebrows raised expectantly.

A chorus of drink orders rang out and, with practiced ease, Xander moseyed over to the bar with them all memorized.

Tara stood next to a seat shuffling her feet. She knew she should sit down, it was getting to be a bit awkward what with everyone else sitting. What did I get myself into?

Willow leaned in close, “You ok, baby?” She asked with concerned eyes fixing her in place.

The blonde whispered in her girlfriend’s ear, a blush forming on her face in the darkened club, “Remember how I’m a naughty girl?” Her eyebrow quirked, trying to explain.

The redhead gasped, then whispered, “Oh! Right, I forgot about that.” She waved her hand dismissively.

Tara whirled around, outraged, “You forgot!?” She hissed through her teeth, “You… FORGOT?”

Oh, crap! Rosenberg, Red alert! Red alert!

Willow was nervous now, “No! No, no that’s not – ok, not what I wanted to say. Or, at least not like that.” She twisted her fingers together anxiously, “Momentary lapse of mindfulness is all, like… The music, a-and then a thought bubble happened and I just hopped on for the ride. I totally knew you were, you know – a-and I was just thinking on the way here how much I owe you for-for the whole leaving your hanging thing…” She whispered pleadingly.

Smoothing her skirt behind her, Tara sat down gingerly and let go of a deep breath. Hyper aware of anyone who might be watching. She leaned into her girlfriend, “I get it. I kinda forgot for a minute there, too. You know, until I had to sit down.” She wiggled in her seat and whispered in Willow’s ear, “This feels so weird, Will.”

Willow’s hand fell on her thigh as Xander came back, with drinks. “This music is special, huh?”

Buffy cocked her head to the side, “It’s… theatrical in a darkish kinda way.” She twisted an unruly curl in her bangs, frowning.

Tara’s mind, not having totally climbed out of the gutter yet, let slip her thoughts as words just tumbled from her mouth with a far-away look in her eyes, “Leather clad Mistress kinda dark.”

Heads turned, slowly. Realization struck the blonde and her eyes could have popped right out of their sockets. Willow let out a startled squeak next to her, covering her mouth to keep her beverage from shooting out all over their friends.

Anya was disappointed, and a little hurt. After all, Tara knew about that thing with the sexy pirates and the timber. They’d talked about it at length over tea. The ex-vengeance demon was still quite befuddled. How someone doesn’t like timber was beyond her. But, she was pacified somewhat by the fact the pirate thing wasn’t just her. “Hey, you never told me about that! We talk; we’re platonic girlfriends!”

Xander looked from Tara to his girlfriend, curious, “You two talk about Tara’s sex life?”

Buffy caught Willow’s eyes, she mouthed ‘Mistress!?’ Her face a mask of perfect shock, a finger pointed accusingly at the redhead.

Oh, God… kill me. Tara looked to her girlfriend for mental support, but was denied, “You talk to Anya about our, our stuff!?” An incredulous expression covering her lover’s angelic face.

Stick a fork in me! “I n-need to go to the bathroom. Now!” Tara stood up, turned on her heel and walked away briskly.

Silence, but for the droning bass notes accompanying a melodic male voice, greeted the group.

“Well,” Xander finally said, “That’s something. I mean, wow – the mental images.” He recoiled as Anya slapped his arm, “Ow!”

Willow flared up, “You know, she was just describing what the music felt like to her. It’s not like she painted a picture of our sex life.” She looked toward the bathroom and grabbed her purse, “I’m gonna go look for her. And, when we come back? Not another word about this!” She pointed and glared at the group, before taking her leave.

Anya picked at some chips absentmindedly, “Odd, I always thought Tara would be the Mistress.” She could totally pull it off. She thought.

Xander cocked his head, eyes glazed over until he recoiled again – this time, it was the Slayer who slapped him out of his reverie. “Ow!! Slayer strength!”

***

Tara was leaning back against the bathroom sink, killing time. She wasn’t upset, per se. Embarrassed? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. But, logically, she knew things just happened so fast; everyone grasping onto whatever their imaginations threw at them and running with it. Time. Just enough so they start talking about something else and then we’re good.

She shifted her legs and the particular friction caused by the movement made her shiver. Did she even know asking me to go without panties is a very Mistress-y thing to do?

“Tara?” Willow peeked into the bathroom, “You ok?”

The blonde smiled at the concerned green eyes of her girlfriend, “I am, sweetie. Just… killing time, I guess.” She let her arms fall from where they had been resting, crossed over her chest.

Willow joined her at the counter, wrapping her arms around Tara’s waist. She tipped her head back, and brought their lips together. It was a tender kiss at first, but with Willow’s inquisitive tongue flirting over hers, her warm hands seeping through the fabric of her shirt, gripping fingers pulling her in – Tara’s hands tightened their hold around her girlfriend’s shoulders, a moan escaping from her mouth as the kiss ended, her bottom lip jutting forward as it was released from between her girlfriend’s teeth.

“You know,” The redhead whispered against Tara’s neck between nibbles, “You’re a good Kitten.” She felt the body pressed against hers tense up, “You didn’t refuse, or even object.” Her hand pulled up on the hem of her girlfriend’s skirt.

Tara’s thighs started tingling, she could feel her arousal manifesting. So, she did know. Um… Gulp.

Willow’s hand rested flat against the inside of her girlfriend’s thigh, “I’m the curious type, you know. I read about stuff; all kinds of stuff.” She pressed her hand up Tara’s thigh, “I’m also the type to double-check the facts. Call me…” She paused and looked into dark blue, “Quirky.” She said in a sensually quiet tone, her lips twisting at the corners sexily.

Tara glanced toward the door and back, Oh, God, Oh, God… “I-“ The hand that was on the inside of her thigh made its way towards the outside of her hip – fingers teasing bare skin. “I-“

Willow licked up Tara’s neck, “Shh, Kitten. No talking.” She then closed her teeth around the blonde’s pulse point, biting down and held on tight as the supple body in her arms shuddered. She flicked her wet tongue over the captured skin, moaning softly at the response in her lover’s body.

Tara heard herself making new sounds, low and mewling, her throat tight. I trust her, I trust her, I trust her. Her running mantra blazed a trail across her mind. Knots untangled, things became simpler.

The redhead kissed her way to her girlfriend’s ear, took the soft lobe into her mouth and sucked on it gently, her fingers moving down across Tara’s hip where normally she would encounter some restrictive material. As expected she found none, “Can you be quiet, Kitten?”

The blonde rested her forehead against Willow’s head, nodding yes. But, this wasn’t enough for the redhead.

“Can you? Speak up,” She licked up a jaw line, nipping the skin bellow an ear.

Ok, here goes… Tara cleared her throat, “Y-yes, Mistress.” She felt Willow’s smile against her neck.

“Mmm good, turn around.” The redhead took a step back, letting the skirt fall around her girlfriend’s legs once more.

The blonde complied, holding the countertop for stability she turned around. Is this really happening? When she felt Willow’s body heat radiating from what was obviously a very short distance between them, she closed her eyes and bit her lip.

A cool breeze; a rush of air hit the backs of her legs and ass. Her skirt had been unceremoniously flipped up, revealing naked skin. “Look up, Kitten,” Willow’s voice was commanding, her body pressed against Tara’s backside. Her hands gripping yielding hips.

When she looked up, Tara realized with a start she was facing a mirror covering the length of the wall. First, she noticed how lidded her eyes were, how flushed she looked and totally… vulnerable. Her initial instinct was to hide, be embarrassed. But, then she found the green of Willow’s eyes looking into her blues through the mirror’s reflection. A look of total control and confidence covered the face she was so used to. Tara knew, this wasn’t Willow so much as Mistress Willow now. Her reactions weren’t her own anymore, “Open your legs,” She felt a foot nudging her boot to the side.

She let go of the last of her insecurities and widened her legs.

The redhead rubbed a warm circuit around a beautifully round cheek with her hand, “Bend over a bit, that’s it. Such a good Kitten.” She purred.

The door knob jiggled. Tara jumped, her heart raced and her eyes darted to the door. “Kitten!” Willow admonished in a low growl, “Look up.” Eyes met in the mirror again, the knob jiggled once more, “Who’s in control?”

“Y-you are, Mistress.” She answered automatically, the only thing the blonde could focus on were those eyes staring back at her. Pinning her in place. Hear heart could break her ribs.

Willow nodded, “That’s right. If I say no-one gets in, no one does. Kitten,” Her voice switched suddenly to a soothing tone, “You have to trust me.” Her eyes softened.

Tara felt a pang of guilt. She looked down. “I’m sorry, Mistress.”

***

Erynn’s legs were in constant motion, her hand falling away from the door. Ok, I should’ve used the bathroom before coming here. Come on, I’m having flashbacks from my Goth phase out here!

As she looked around frantically, her eyes caught sight of something on the ground.

Picking it up, she saw it was a note. Her face registered understanding and, with a resigned huff, she pressed the sign that said: “Out of Order” back on the door.

Making sure it was well stuck on, she turned to quickly find the men’s bathroom. Please let there be more than urinals.

***

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Tara noticed the music change. She heard it as the muffled beat turned throbbing; a racing heartbeat of bass tones vibrating. Her arms shook, knuckles white gripping the countertop. A sharp bite against the tender underneath of her ass cheek made the grip she had on her lower lip tighten painfully.

Willow was performing a test. Could Tara be quiet? She ran a hand flat between her girlfriend’s legs – cupping wet, engorged flesh in her palm. She heard a whimper, but nothing more. Good. She grinned devilishly.

The redhead stood up, pulling her hand away, “You were so good to me earlier,” She took a step closer, her pelvis against the blonde’s ass. Willow ran both hands over soft cheeks and squeezed. She heard Tara’s hitching breath, “I don’t know where you learned how to do that, Kitten. But, making me squirt?” She shook her head in amazement and ran her fingers down the sensitive cleft of Tara’s ass cheeks enjoying the shudder running through her lover’s legs, “Well, that deserves a reward.”

When she heard Tara’s aroused groan, Willow felt herself suddenly switch gears, “Take your shirt off. I want to see your tits bounce while I fuck you,” Whoa, go me! A small part of her brain celebrated.

Holy Mother of Gawd! Tara’s hands flew to the hem of her shirt and pulled it off in one swift motion. Her hair was a mess, she was panting – she didn’t care. She rested her hands back onto the counter, the shirt bunched up around her left wrist. Her legs widened automatically.

She felt Willow’s eyes on her, “Oh, see now you’re spoiling me.” Her girlfriend’s lithe body draped over her back, reaching to tickle the flesh she could see through the sheer lacy fabric of her black bra. “You’re wearing my favorite. But, this isn’t about me,” She closed her fingers around a stiff nipple and pinched. Tara’s hips pushed back, her head fell forward.

Still, she didn’t make a sound.

She felt it then, when Willow peeled herself off her back – it was a gentle tickle moving slowly down the inside of her leg. The cool air of the room accentuating its presence; a trickle of arousal drawing a wet line. “I haven’t forgotten my promise, you know.” The redhead ran her hand up the inside of a thigh, finding Tara’s need painted there, “I’m going to take you hard and fast,” The back of her fingers made contact with the blonde’s wet sex, she heard a small whimper, “I’m going to leave you breathless. Ready, Kitten?”

Tara looked up into the mirror, staring into fierce green, “Yes. Th-thank you, Mistress.” The words were pushed through her clenched jaw, her legs tense. She was wound tighter that a rattle snake.

“Don’t look away, don’t close your eyes,” She felt the fingers on her heated flesh tense and move slightly. Willow’s expression was primal – pure, undiluted lust. Tara felt a pressure, a split second passed and then fingers plunged into her – pressing down. Tara’s mouth fell open in a strangled cry, her eyes rolled up – lids heavy. The fingers retreated and, without pause, thrust back deep into her, “Look at me, Kitten.”

Again and again, she was thrust into – her body moving with the impact, breasts swaying within their confines. She redoubled her efforts to keep her eyes locked with those of her Mistress. The look on Willow’s face turning her on more than she could have imagined.

Willow reached for a breast, squeezed it before pulling the material covering it down and over the soft, full swell. Her greedy fingers covered it for a second, before pulling back and grasping Tara’s hip. She pulled as she thrust with the other hand. The uncovered breast bounced and swayed, its nipple hard at its center. The redhead heard herself growl.

Tara felt her Mistress’ fingers flare and wiggle deep inside. “Mmm you want more, don’t you?” She pushed against her lover’s hand, her hips flexing. “Reach down and touch yourself, Kitten.”

Moving faster than she thought she could, her hand reached between her legs, fumbling with her skirt for a second. Tara cupped herself at first but, when her fingers bumped into those thrusting into her, she lingered. She was so wet, her slick fingers tingled as they touched Willow’s, gliding along them as they pushed and pulled in and out of her. Just that feeling alone was enough to bring her to the edge. It was like HD tactile vision. She ground her clit against her palm and, as she was about to retreat her fingers toward the needy bundle, she felt the ones inside her shift. Felt the redhead’s hand offer up another finger.

Tara grasped it and guided it desperately into herself.

Willow made a sound between a moan and a low growl. “Nrrmmfuck,” She fleetingly thought about how she surprised herself ever since being with Tara. It was as if the redhead’s sexual arsenal had been dormant, waiting in the recesses of her psyche for the blonde to unleash it. Tara’s sensuality was plain to see once Willow had overcome her own insecurities about being with a woman. Now, she couldn’t imagine not ever feeling this way. Sex with Tara was all encompassing; it ran the gamut of emotions, it felt like they were linked souls – Willow felt free.

She focused on the physicality of it all, trying to ground her over-active mind in this moment. She was deep inside her lover, pressing against her walls and thrusting all the while, with Tara’s hand encouraging her. The redhead pressed herself desperately into the blonde’s hip, trying to relieve some of the pressure that was built up between her own legs. “That’s it, Kitten. God, you’re so sexy,” Tara’s fingers retreated and mercilessly attacked her clit – the distinctive squelch of wet skin being frantically rubbed filling the air. “You’re close, so close,” The blonde nodded wildly, eyes closed and biting her lip.

“Look at me, Kitten. I want to see your eyes when you come.” When Tara looked up, it was as if a dam had burst. As soon as she made eye contact with Willow, she came hard. Her legs shook, her throat made tight, strangled sounds, her vision unfocused. She felt sparks, all over – sparks shooting off her body. “That’s it, that’s it…”

The redhead clenched her jaw and changed her grip. She wrapped her left arm around Tara’s waist to support her, but she kept her fingers deep inside, working against contracting muscles. “Don’t you dare stop.” The blonde shook her head, rubbing herself harder. “I want my mouth on you so bad, Kitten.”

Tara’s throat let go of a strangled, deep and desperate whimper. Her hips bucked and she came again.

The room swam around her head, the arm around her tightened suddenly – she could hear a distant worried and questioning voice.

Suddenly, the music from outside the room wasn’t background anymore, but loud and clear in her ears.

Or, was that her heartbeat?

As the color faded from her vision she felt the telltale signs of her magic seeping through. She became weightless and, as her senses shut down one at a time, realization dawned.

Damn, I forgot to breathe.

***

“No, no I’m telling you, it was a moose!” Erynn’s dark curls were bouncing along as she laughed while retelling an anecdote to what ended up being a small group of people surrounding her at the bar. “There was me, a canoe and a moose with her baby.” She took a sip of her drink, “You messed it up now. I’m gonna have to start over.”

The bar tender patted her arm to gain her attention, “Chick over there gives you this,” He handed her a folded napkin. “Thanks,” she said, quizzically looking over to the other end of the bar where he’d motioned with his head. There was a cute brunette with big doe eyes giving her shy glances. Huh.

Erynn opened the napkin and read: “You’re funny. I’d come talk to you, but I don’t like groups.” Well, that’s new. She looked at the girl again and grinned while thinking over her choices. By this time the group had somewhat fractured off. The people comprising it talking amongst themselves. She stood up and walked over to take a seat next to her pen-pal.

“Allo,” She put on her best welcoming smile, hoping the girl wouldn’t run away.

Erynn was met with a deep brown gaze and a shy smile, “Hi. I-I’m Sandy.” She ran her fingers through her hair, and tucked a strand behind her ear. “What’s your name?”

“Erynn. It’s nice to meet you, Sandy.” She motioned to the bar tender when he looked over, “Would you like a drink? Mine’s all the way over there, I don’t feel like getting it.”

The music rose up from its slow melody, booming the start of a new song.

Sandy shook her head, declining the drink, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Erynn leaned in, “Sorry?” She motioned to her ear and squinted slightly.

The woman brought her mouth closer to Erynn’s ear, “There’s a bench in the back. We could sit and talk there. This music is… not my thing.”

Something tickled at her, in the back of her head. Erynn took note of it even though she didn’t understand it. It’s like she’s two people.

***

Xander put his drink down, “I guess she was really upset, huh?” He pushed the fries over to Anya, who promptly plucked one from the basket.

Buffy seemed distracted, “Who now?” she said, glancing towards the bar.

“Tara. Willow’s been gone a while now,” He clarified, “I guess she’s really embarrassed.”

No-one noticed Anya rolling her eyes. Do they even know Tara? She thought, reaching for another French fry.

The slayer’s eyes stayed trained on the bar but she still contributed, “Well, she’s the shy type. You know, just don’t bring it up when she comes back.” Her brow furrowed, “It’ll blow over.”

Anya made a snorting sound and swallowed her fry quickly, “They’re probably having sex in the bathroom.” Xander coughed loudly next to her, patting his chest.

Buffy’s head snapped to attention, “Um, no. Definitely not – When I called earlier… let’s just say that ship has sailed.” She dismissed the thought quickly.

The ex-vengeance demon and her boyfriend exchanged a quick knowing glance. Buffy was restless, she looked at the bar again and stood up.

Xander cleared his throat, “You know Buff, some ships… sail more than-” When he noticed she was moving he dropped it, “What’s up?”

Buffy inched away, “Not sure yet, gonna get closer.” Her vision tunneling as she moved.

***

She gently leaned her girlfriend against the cool, tiled wall. “You scared the crap out of me!” Willow nervously brushed the hair away from Tara’s eyes. “Good thing you floated instead of falling a-and cracking your head open!” She said shaking her head, completely frazzled.

The blonde’s breathing finally steadied, “I’m s-sorry. Breathing… kinda stopped doing it.” She opened her eyes slowly, her lips forming what Willow could only describe as a dopey grin. A giggle bubbled up Tara’s throat, quickly followed by another – and then, uninhibited, her laughter filled the stark fluorescently lit bathroom with joy.

Willow couldn’t stop herself from giggling along, she tugged Tara’s shirt back over her head, and straightened it before motioning for her to lift her arm, “I love you so much, baby.” She kissed her lover’s forehead before reaching for her other arm. “But, you didn’t have to take the whole breathless thing quite so literally.”

Her shirt was bunched up above hear breasts, but Tara reached for Willow’s face anyway and looked into her eyes, “I love you, Willow. So much.” She pressed a soft kiss on her lips, “I’m so happy.” Her eyes were shinning, a smile spread wide across her face.

The redhead pulled down the shirt, eyes twinkling, “Can you stand, giggle face?” She stood up and offered out her hands. Can I love anyone any more than this? Impossible.

Tentatively, Tara stood up with her girlfriend’s help. After straightening up her skirt and her shirt, she looked in the mirror. “Yikes,” Her hands quickly busying with the unruly mass of hair.

Willow ran some warm water over a bunch of paper towels before kneeling behind the blonde. She promptly disappeared under her skirt, “Did you order a tune up, ma’am?” She said in a chipper voice from below.

The blonde leaned closer to the mirror, inspecting her eye makeup. “What are you doing back there?” Willow shuffled a bit between her legs before Tara felt her gently cleaning her inner thigh.

“Just takin’ care of my amazing girlfriend.” The redhead pressed a kiss against warm skin before carrying on with her task, “Can’t have you going out there all sticky. Oh, look in my purse baby, there’s something in there for you.”

Purse? Where? Oh… Tara opened it up to find… “Panties? You planned this?” She looked down between her legs, as if she could see through her skirt.

Willow giggled, “I had a good shower. Not so much planned as, you know, prepared in case things fell into place. Oh, remind me to take the sign off the door.”

Tara could only smile adoringly, “Willow Rosenberg, you never stop surprising me.” She snickered, “You know, those drama classes are really paying off.”

***

Something was definitely off; Buffy had the wiggins. She was leaning against a pillar watching the interaction between two women at the bar. One was kinda cute, had mid-length dark brown wavy hair, wearing a white button-up blouse with, jeans, Chuck Taylors shoes and… suspenders. Suspenders!?

It was the other one though, who gave Buffy bad vibes.

Long flowing brown hair, pretty with shy body language. She was wearing a dark blue dress, but it wasn’t her appearance that caught Buffy’s attention. Every time the first woman looked away, the other’s eyes would… darken. Her stare was unnervingly predatory, but vanished as soon as it had appeared.

When the women stood up and started walking towards the back of the building, Buffy waited a bit before following them.

***

Xander turned around when he heard something land on the table, “Oh, hey Wills! Hey Tara!” He smiled up at them. Don’t think about sexy lesbian Mistresses. Cars, Batman, Apocalypse Now…

The couple sat, hand in hand. Willow picked a fry out of her newly purchased basket, “Hey, where’s Buffy?” She offered the fry to Tara with a smile.

Anya stared at Tara expectantly. She’d been waiting. When the blonde opened her mouth to take the French fry from her girlfriend, their eyes met. Tara blushed and looked down bashfully. A crooked grin tugged at her lips as she looked back up through her lashes, chewing her fry demurely. Eyes dancing with mirth.

With a smug look on her face, the shop keeper mouthed triumphantly, ‘I knew it!’ I should really bet on these things. She thought.

Xander looked towards the back of the club, “Last I saw her she was heading out back.” He glanced around, not spotting his friend. “I think her spidey senses were tingling.”

As in a well-practiced routine, each piped in one after the other.

Tara spoke up first, concerned, “Should we go find her?” She looked at her girlfriend for her opinion.

Willow shrugged, “That is what we do,” She glanced at Xander.

“I’m in.” He nodded, “Coming, Ahn?”

They made their way through the crowd, separating and regrouping along the way when their paths were blocked. As they neared the back exit, they heard a strangled scream and a scuffle.

As one, they all rushed towards the door that led to the back lot.

***

“Gurrbg!” Buffy was pressed against a brick wall, a strong hand wrapped around her throat. She kicked wildly, the stake she held was useless as her hand was pinned against the wall as well. Her other hand scratching at her assailants face. Punching her sides, nothing seemed to work.

“Let go of her you psycho!” Erynn yelled, pulling on Sandy as hard as she could until she saw her face and jumped.

The vampire easily shook her off, making her trip over a crate. Erynn landed hard on the ground. “Stay down, you prude! I’m not done with you.” Sandy hissed through her fangs.

Erynn was uncharacteristically offended, “Hey! Not ‘cause I didn’t want to make out with you, I’m a prude!” She sat up straight, brushing off her jeans and stretched her arm out wincing.

Buffy watched, incredulous at the turn of conversation. “Grrargb!” Her fingers pulled at the vampire’s hair.

Xander came through the door, “Buffy!” He ran towards the pair and jumped on Sandy’s back – punching the back of her head. The jolt was enough for the vampire’s grip to loosen and the slayer was free. “Xander, get back!” She kicked Sandy square in the chest, sending her flying backwards.

Erynn looked from the tiny blonde, to the vampire - yes vampire - and to the girl again, amazed. More people came out of the door and then the one they called Buffy jumped onto Sandy and… Wait, what just happened?

Willow rushed forward, “Are you ok?” She reached out her hand, concern radiating off her face. Erynn took the small hand thankfully and stood up, “Ok? No, not ok. That was a vampire right? She was right there,” The brunette pointed to where Sandy had stood moments ago, stunned. Her feet moved toward a bench by the wall without realizing it, “Where did she go?”

“Erynn? Is that you?” Tara walked over to the bench Erynn had settled onto. Brushing the hair back from her face, the brunette looked up surprised, “Tara?”

Buffy brushed the dust off her clothes while exchanging questioning looks with Xander and Anya. Xander shrugged. Anya quirked an eyebrow, eyes glued on the bench. If she had popcorn, she’d be munching.

Tara sat next to the frightened woman, “Yeah, it’s me. I barely recognized you w-without the hat.” She smiled comfortingly and bumped shoulders with her. The blonde reached up to her girlfriend with an open hand, “This is my girlfriend, Willow.”

Willow stepped forward, fingers wringing together. “Hi,” She waved and took Tara’s hand.

Buffy cut in, “I hate to break up the introductions, but I think I’m all Bronzed out.” She looked around at the group for signs of disagreement, rubbing her neck. When she saw none she continued, “We can talk while we walk.”

Tara looked at Erynn with caring eyes, “Wanna tag along?”

The brunette shook her head, “Does that mean I can come with you?” She looked up at the group, eyes wide and frightened. “Sorry, I’m kind of…” Her hand made some vague gesture, not finding the words to describe how she was feeling.

Willow reassured her in a soft voice, “We get it. Come on,” She nodded her head towards the exit. Ok, so that’s Erynn. Weird accent, cute… huh. She thought back to the moment she and Tara had just shared in the bathroom of the club and suppressed a proud giggle. You ain’t got a chance, French girl.

***

Two by Two, they made their way down the street. Xander and Anya at the rear, talking animatedly about some show they were missing on the Discovery channel. Buffy and Willow were both seemingly lost in thought. Tara and Erynn were a few steps ahead, talking quietly.

Willow felt her best friend bump her shoulder before speaking up, “So, Erynn. Do you know her?”

The redhead shook her head, “Nope. Tara met her earlier today, though.” She glanced ahead and saw Erynn look at her girlfriend and chuckle. “I think she flirted with her. Erynn with Tara, I mean.”

Buffy waited for a moment, but when nothing more came of it she spoke up again, “Ok, spill.”

Willow sighed loudly and rolled her eyes, “Really, it’s all good. She was really sweet and, I trust Tara.” A grin tugged at her lips, “Besides, I’m a hot momma-yama.” Her tongue peeked out from between her teeth as she waggled her head with pride.

The slayer barked a short laugh before covering her mouth.

Indignant, the redhead looked at her friend, “What? I am!” She shoved her gently, then giggled at the look on the Slayer’s face.

“Of course you are, Will.” Buffy wrapped an arm around her best friend’s shoulders, she bumped her hip. “You are a redhead after all.” She appeased, smiling.

Mistress Willow, yeah right.

***

After having enjoyed some mild banter to mend frayed nerves, a quiet hush fell between Tara and Erynn for the time it took to walk two blocks.

Erynn ran her fingers through her hair and spoke up again, “I really thought I’d seen it all.” She glanced at Tara, “I have so many questions…”

Tara tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear, “Well, depending on how badly you w-want answers… it seems people here deal in different ways.” She watched her boots hit the pavement one at a time, her brow furrowing in thought. Either I’m still in an altered state of mind, or she’s… what? Her colors keep changing.

The brunette huffed loudly, “She felt like two people.” She reached up and absentmindedly toyed with her pendant.

The blonde turned her head to look closely at her new friend, but kept walking. “Two people?”

Erynn fell silent. She liked Tara, what was there not to like. The blonde seemed caring and trust worthy, and she obviously had an open mind when it came to ‘weird’ stuff. “I think we should talk.” She pushed her hands deep into her jeans pockets, “Not now, I mean…” She sighed loudly, annoyed with herself, “We are talking now, just not about… it would take a while.”

Tara agreed easily, “Ok, no problem.” She smiled and returned her gaze toward the road ahead.

After a few moments, Erynn’s mood shifted, “So, Willow huh?” She looked at Tara and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. Her lips twisted in her best lascivious smile.

The blonde giggled and skipped, “Yup. I’m a lucky girl.” Her smile wide and bright in the night.

The brunette glanced over her shoulder at the redhead behind them who was shoving her friend good naturedly. “Well I can see why your step is so springy.” She looked forward again, “She’s beautiful.”

Tara blushed and dipped her head, “She is... I’m really lucky.”

Erynn frowned, “You know, you keep saying that.” She looked at the blonde, “I barely know you, still I’m as certain as anything luck had very little to do with it.” When Tara looked at her confused, she explained, “You’re all that beautiful woman back there needed to fall in love.” Her tone was convinced, unwavering.

The blonde looked forward again, at a loss for words, “I…“ She considered a particularly interesting spot across the street, “Th-thanks.”

Erynn shrugged, “Sorry, I’m mostly French… that makes me pretty forward with my emotions and thoughts. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” She glanced toward her friend to see she was shaking her head, letting her know it was ok.

Nodding her thanks, she ran her fingers through her hair, “We can’t help it, really. The French, I mean.” With a chuckle she added, “Makes for dramatic reunions.”

They made a right towards the campus. Things seemed quiet, no bumps in the night so far. They felt themselves relax a little more.

“So, are you from France then?” Tara asked. She’d been curious, it seemed like the right time.

Erynn adjusted her suspenders and shook her head, “No, not France.” She underlined this with an unpleasant expression before continuing, “I started from Quebec.” She looked at Tara, “Do you know it?” The blonde grinned apologetically, shaking her head. Erynn waved it off dismissively as if not surprised, “It’s a Canadian province on the East coast. Mostly French; that’s where I was born. So was Celine Dion. But, you know… don’t hold that against me.”

Tara chuckled sofly, taking in the information while her friend talked. Huh, Canada? How… quaint.

“I haven’t lived there since I was eighteen. About two and a half years ago.” She scratched the back of her neck before sticking her hand back into her pocket, “Since then, I’ve been on the move. The longest I stayed in one place was short of a month.” She kicked at a pebble before continuing, “Well, up until now… at least, I think.” Staying is definitely up in the air now.

Tara considered this, “Why so nomadic?” When she saw Erynn’s puzzled look, she clarified, “I mean, why move around so much?”

The Canadian’s mouth opened silently, mouthing ‘Ah’. Expressing she understood the question. “Nomadic, I like that.” She sighed, “That would be part of the long talk.” Then looked ahead dejectedly and whispered, “Sorry.”

The blonde shook her head, “That’s ok.” She changed tracks, “I like your accent, by the way.” She grinned and bumped Erynn’s shoulder. “V-very distinctive.” She winked.

Erynn smiled and waved her hand dismissively, “Yeah, well… It’s weird, makes me feel dumb.” She cocked her head in thought at this, “Non, that’s not it. It makes me feel like people think I’m dumb.”

Tara nodded, “I know what you m-mean.” She rolled her eyes, “Stutter.” She said, pointing at herself with a self-effacing smile.

The campus came into view and Tara felt Erynn suddenly tense up – anxiety radiating off her friend almost visibly. She glanced over her shoulder and exchanged a quick communicative look with her girlfriend.

Willow patted Buffy’s arm and pointed ahead before hurrying her steps to join Tara. The slayer fell back with Xander and Anya.

Erynn heard hurried footsteps coming up behind her. Her heart thudded in her chest. She let out a loud, startled squeak and whirled around to find Willow with her hands up, wide eyed. “Eep! Just me, just me!”

The Canadian felt claustrophobic all of a sudden. She wondered quickly how that was possible, being outdoors and all. Her hair swayed violently as her head kept shaking back and forth, hands on her knees and mumbling unintelligibly. Her emotions whirling, she felt sick to her stomach as it contracted convulsively. Don’t think about fish tacos, don’t think about fish tacos. STOP thinking about fish tacos!

Willow and Tara shared a worried look. The blonde reached her hand toward her friend. She hesitated before pulling back without making contact, “Erynn?”

They heard a sniff from below the curtain of hair, “Sorry,” Erynn shook her head again and stood upright, wiping at her eyes. “Sorry.” She crossed her arms tight over her chest, head lowered – retreating into herself. Flashback after flashback assailing her mind. Something is wrong. Something is so, so wrong!

Buffy walked up slowly as she kept an eye on the scene. She leaned into Willow, “Xander and Anya are on their way home. I’m gonna go in…” The slayer squeezed her friend’s arm gently before heading towards her building with a nodded goodnight for Erynn and Tara.

Tara felt a nudge against her arm. She turned towards her girlfriend who was holding up a pen and asked, “You have a scrap of paper on you, baby?”

The blonde opened her purse and rummaged through it for a moment, “No… I don’t.” She looked up, disappointed.

Willow made a ‘no matter’ gesture, “Erynn, we really should go in.” She looked at Tara, then back, “We’ll stay with you for a while and give you our phone number.”

Tara smiled at her girlfriend, “You can call if you need to, anytime.” She motioned for them to start walking again.

All three walked together in silence, Erynn’s body language betraying her all the way.

I need loreli, now.

***

Willow closed the window, the night’s chill had permeated the room having forgotten to close it before heading out. The lights were low and it was long past time for sleep. If her brain would just shut up.

She unfolded the extra blanket from the end of the bed and draped it across its surface. The only irregularity in the fabric being Tara shaped. A quivering Tara shape, “Brrr… It’s cold. Cuddles, please.” She pouted, looking at her girlfriend with puppy-dog eyes.

Pulling the blankets down, Willow slipped into bed and gathered her girlfriend into her arms. She kissed the top of her head and sighed contentedly, “I love cuddles with you.” The arms around her squeezed in agreement, “Mmm”

They were quiet for a while, neither of them reaching for the light. As if both knew there was too much between them and sleep.

When they’d brought Erynn to her room earlier, she had become agitated as soon as the door had closed. It had made them uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable that stems from having no clue what to do, or say – scared of unpredictable reactions.

Eventually, sooner than they’d thought, they had exchanged phone numbers and separated with promises to meet again. But, it was all so… weird.

“Tara?” Willow’s soft voice barely broke the silence. She felt Tara’s breath against her chest as she replied, “Hmm?”

The redhead shifted her body so she could look down, “Am I jaded?” She asked in a vulnerable tone.

Tara’s hand that was, until then, running tenderly up and down Willow’s arm, stopped mid stroke. “What?” She asked, baffled.

Willow sighed loudly, “I had no idea what to say. I’ve been there, you know? The whole ‘scared out of my mind’ thing.” She ran her fingers through her girlfriend’s hair, “It’s like I forgot how scary it is. She was so… frightened and I had no clue what to do to make her feel better.”

Tara resumed her stroking and, after a few moments contemplating what Willow had said, she spoke up, “When you first realized vampires existed, could anyone have said or done anything to make you feel better?” She felt her girlfriend shake her head, “I don’t think you’re jaded. And, neither am I. We’re not indifferent to the dangers out there, we just have knowledge about it – Once you understand something it becomes less s-scary.”

Speaking of scary. The blonde sighed after a moment, “The energy in her room was all over the place, Will. We couldn’t have guessed how she felt if our lives depended on it. She was beyond being able to feel better. It was r-really weird in there.”

Willow made a curious sound, “What do you mean? We both know how it feels to have the crap scared out of us.”

Tara leaned up onto her elbow, looking down at her girlfriend, “I think there’s more to it than that. I-it’s like, as soon as she set foot in that room she exploded. Her energy, her aura just – boom.” She’d lifted a fist in the air and, as she finished speaking, opened it up with fingers splayed. “I don’t know, it was w-weird. It kind of scared me.”

Willow was surprised, “I thought that was me! I mean, I thought it was all weird and extra zappy in there because I was so uncomfortable I felt like a spaz.” She took a moment to put the pieces together, “Do you think she’s like, dangerous?”

Tara rested her head back onto the redhead’s shoulder, draping an arm over her slim frame, “No. And, yes. She’s… interesting.” When she felt Willow tense she clarified, “I mean, her energy? It’s kind of…” She worried her lip, trying to find the right words, “You know magnets, how they can a-attract and repulse?”

“Uh-huh, I know magnets.” Said the redhead cautiously.

Her girlfriend continued, “We all have energy obviously, but it’s not like this one layer. Different layers express different aspects of ourselves and what those contribute to the world as a whole – how we affect the world. All those layers together form our polarity, if we’re s-speaking magnets. But we’re not a duality: negative/positive. We’re all kinds of different p-possible permutations, with different levels of attraction and repulsion all at once. Does that make sense?”

Willow squeezed her, “Yeah, it makes sense. What does it mean when it comes to Erynn, though?”

Tara sighed loudly, “She shifts.” She said this as if it would explain everything, letting her arm drop to the sheets dramatically.

The redhead grimaced, “Is that lesbo talk for swinging? ‘Cause you know I’m not big with the lingo.”

Laughter rose up from Tara’s throat, “No, doofus.” She took a breath before continuing, “She shifts… like, she doesn’t repulse. Only a-attracts? She shifts to fit. Or, at least that’s what it feels like.” She frowned and took a moment. When she was met with silence, she continued, “And, even with all that, I have no idea what it means. Hence the scary.”

Silence fell, but even in the quiet Tara could hear Willow’s brain chugging along. Her own was going at hyper speed, she knew. She could only wonder at the level of activity in her genius girlfriend’s head.

Willow grumbled, “I don’t like it.”

Tara sighed, “I know.” After a moment she added, “I can’t imagine what it’s like for her.”

The redhead considered this as if for the first time. She’d felt empathy for Erynn at first, but now she was more wary than anything else. “So… you don’t think she controls it. Like, to manipulate people?”

Her girlfriend’s body tensed, she felt it. Tara objected to this line of thought vehemently. “No. She was not in control.” Her tone brooked no argument.

Willow quickly acquiesced, “Ok.” It’s still unnerving, though… that was mighty defensive there, Tara Maclay. She frowned in thought.

She knew sleep was still a long time coming. But, Willow switched the lights off nonetheless.

***

As soon as the door closed, Erynn reached for her phone. She was grateful for her new friends’ concern, of course – but, she was crawling out of her skin. And, they couldn’t help - they didn’t know.

She quickly pressed the speed-dial button to ring Loreli. It was past three in the morning in Quebec, but this was an emergency. Erynn knew this was the right thing to do.

Come on, Come on, Come on…

After what felt like thousands of rings, the line finally picked up, “Papillion, first thing’s first. Breathe.”

Loreli’s husky Quebecois lilt sounded over the phone, sleep thickly coating her words, “Breathe, that’s it. You gave me a fright, Erynn.” There was a bit of a scuffle on the other end, Erynn felt herself relax a tiny bit.

“Lo-lo, I don’t know what’s happening.” The brunette curled into herself against the side of her bed. Her eyes tightly shut, hands gripping air, “Everything burns. I’m seeing and hearing things. I want to do things. My thoughts aren’t… Lo, what’s happening!?”

Loreli quickly rushed in, “Are you alone, Papillion?” There was rustling of papers being shuffled around over the line.

Erynn nodded wildly, “Yes, yes, finally.” She quickly reached up and turned off the lights before returning to her spot on the floor, rubbing her eyes frantically trying to get the images to disappear.

Loreli was suddenly alert, “Maudit, ok – it sounds like an overload.” More papers were being shuffled around, “Take your pendant off, do it now.”

The phone thudded against the floor. With shaking fingers, Erynn reached for the clasp of her pendant and, after a few futile tries, she finally got the catch undone.

“Ohhh,” She let out a deep, relieved breath as the necklace tumbled down her heaving chest. Her hand reached for the phone, “Thank you… Lo,” Every muscle in her body was trembling, finally letting go of the tension that had wound them tight moments before. Her mind cleared, things started to settle.

“I’m making tea, this is going to take a while,” The sound of wood scraping linoleum rang through the phone. Erynn knew Loreli was pulling up a chair in the kitchen. “Make yourself comfortable and relax for a bit, ok? I’m sorry, Papillion – this must have been horrible.” Her great aunt’s voice faltered, concerned.

“Give me a moment, auntie.” Erynn quickly changed into her sleepwear. After retrieving a bottle of water from the mini-fridge, she returned to the bed and slipped under the covers. She picked the phone back up, “Ok, I’m back.” She took a sip of water, “So, overload. That’s new.” She said, trying to keep her voice steady.

“Yes,” She heard her aunt sipping her tea, “You must’ve had an eventful day.” There was a specific tone to her aunt’s voice, she recognized it. Things were about to get weird. “Did you have sex?”

Yup, weird.

“What!?” She sputtered, “No! You know how I feel about that.” She crossed her arm around her stomach, wondering where her aunt was going with… that.

She heard a loud sigh over the phone, “Yes, I know how you feel about it and I understand. But, things happen. Wonderful things. It wouldn’t have been such a surprise, you’re a catch you know.” She proudly concluded.

Silence was thick between them for a few seconds before her aunt continued, “Ok, so no sex. Fine, kind of a pity, but fine.” She chuckled, “Tell me about your day.”

As if those words had jostled the part of her brain that was holding back a piece of crucial information, Erynn exclaimed suddenly, “Vampires!” She sat bolt-upright in bed, the bottle in her hand shook and let some of the water splash out through its top.

“Did you put your pendant back on!?” Loreli asked, incredulous.

Erynn put the bottle on her bedside table, “No, no. Vampires… they exist. I saw one tonight! Did you know they exist!?” She asked accusingly, wiping her bedspread with her hand.

“Oh, look. My cup is empty.” Wood against linoleum again, “Just a moment, Pap-“

The brunette cut her off, “Lo-lo,” Her tone warning of impending doom, “It’s a cordless. Keep talking.”

Loreli sighed, “I’ve never seen one, Erynn,” She could hear water running into a cup, “Yes, I knew they existed. But, like I know higher powers exist… I didn’t think it wise to contemplate it too closely.”

After a few quiet moments she continued, “So, you saw a vampire? That’s exciting.” She said in a flat tone, “What happened?”

Erynn leaned back into the pillows and pulled the covers up high under her chin, “I went out to a club, a-and I was having a good time. I got to talking with some people and then she sent me a note saying she wanted to talk. She singled me out, I should’ve known. She said she didn’t like groups.” She gulped down her breath, having rattled it all out without pause.

“She?” Her aunt softly asked, “Was she the vampire?”

The brunette nodded wide-eyed, even though her aunt couldn’t see her, “Sandy, she was a vampire. I-I didn’t know. She felt weird, but I was curious. Flattered? But, I didn’t know…”

“Papillion, try to relax. Of course you didn’t know,” Loreli switched the receiver to her other ear, “Can you continue?”

Erynn wiped her eyes, “Yeah, I’m ok. Sorry.” She sniffed, “She invited me out of the club, in the back. The music was so loud we could barely hear each other.” She sniffed again.

Her aunt’s jovial chuckle sang through the phone, “For the love of lords, child – blow your nose.”

Oh, aunt Lo-lo. What would I do without you? Erynn reached for the box on her bedside table, “Heh, yeah – Gimme a minute.”

After a few noises that sounded like muffled, wet trumpets - Erynn continued recounting her night. “We were sitting outside, talking and she got really pushy. It was like she switched on a dime, you know? I pushed her away and I was about to stand up but she gripped my arm. She was so strong, Lo-lo.”

“Erynn?” Loreli’s concerned voice was clear and straightforward, “Did she hurt you?”

“No! No, auntie. I promise, I’m fine.” She quickly reassured, “I was rescued.” Erynn’s brow creased, finding the words odd sounding. “By someone tiny and blonde named Buffy. A-and some guy named Xander or something.”

“Huh,” Her aunt exclaimed in a rush of air, “You know, if I were to keep a journal of your wanderings we could make beaucoup money.” At the resulting grumble she continued, “Ok, so they stopped the vampire from attacking you. Is that when the overload happened?”

Erynn thought about this for a second, “No. No, it was later when I got scared again, I think. That’s when the flashbacks and stuff started happening.” She picked at the bed covers, “I must’ve looked like a total freak.” She added glumly.

Loreli fell silent.

“Auntie?” The brunette knew her aunt’s mind was frantically putting pieces together. This always ended up with her lovely great aunt, blindsiding her. She braced.

“Erynn, it’s not like you to worry about what you look like or what people will think.” Loreli’s voice was sure and determined, “Who was with you?”

Erynn was taken aback despite having braced herself, “What? I was with friends and those who saved me.” She was completely puzzled, it’s as if they were jumping all over the place. “They brought me home. I got spooked, then bad stuff.”

Loreli pushed, “Right, ok. They brought you home.” She was getting frustrated, “Names. One at a time, name those who were with you. Just names. Go.”

The girl knew better than to disobey when her aunt was in this mood. She sulked like no-one else, “Some of them I barely remember.” She huffed. Ticking them off her fingers, she continued, “Buffy, Xander, Anika or something, Tara, Willow...”

“Who’s Tara?” Came the automatic reply.

Erynn’s brow furrowed deeply, “She’s a friend. I met her today.” She glanced at the clock, it was getting really late. “Aren’t you tired? I’m feeling better…”

There was a loud sigh over the phone and a thump against wood, “Erynn Lavoie, don’t you slither ‘round my garden, little miss.” She hissed into the phone, “I will not accept it, you hear? I’m not tired. I’m not going anywhere and neither are you.”

The girl ran a hand through her hair nervously, “Pardonne moi, Lo-lo… I-I met her this afternoon.” She swallowed loudly and fiddled with the bed covers, “She got my attention and one thing led to her dropping her pen and me picking it up. It was nothing.”

Loreli took a deep breath, “Ok, one thing at a time. She got your attention, how?” There was a loud clatter over the phone and some mild cussing, “Great, now I have to boil more water.”

Erynn blushed, “Well, I’m not sure really. She was just… skipping along in boots and it made me, I don’t know, happy? Like, like – when you watch fireworks, you know?”

“Uh-huh,” Her aunt replied, waiting for more.

“I was sitting there watching her and I didn’t want to stop… She was so happy, or I was…” She shook her head, “It was weird, actually.”

Loreli cleared her throat, “And you met her? She drops a pen, you pick it up. I guess you get her attention and then you two are talking, right?”

The girl’s brow creased, “Yeah, pretty much. Like I said, it was nothing. Just a ‘Hi, here’s your pen.’”

Her aunt took a deep breath as if exercising every shred of patience she had, “How did you feel when you were talking? You said it was weird.”

Erynn quickly amended, “She’s in love, auntie. I-That’s what I felt, it was just weird because I felt it… more?” She shook her head frustrated, “I don’t know how to explain it. It just felt…”

“Like you were in love.” Loreli said in a flat tone.

The girl huffed, “Yeah well, we both know that’s not it. It was her - she’s like, madly in love with Willow. So much so she skips when she walks. I was just getting the feedback.” She rolled her eyes, her mouth twisting in disgust at herself, “And, apparently getting off on it.”

“Hmm” Came Loreli’s non-committal reply.

“Don’t ‘hmm’ me! You got me talking to this point and now it’s super late and I still don’t have my pendant!” Erynn was getting grumpy, “I like her, alright!? She’s nice. It just gets confusing sometimes which I thought the pendant was supposed to help with.”

“Alright, let’s talk about the pendant.” Loreli huffed, dropping the matter, “An overload is when your pendant overflows from having too much to buffer in too short a period of time. It doesn’t buffer anymore, so much as heightens emotions now. That comes with nasty side-effects. It should take quite a bit for it to overload, but with the day you’ve had and the high emotions you’ve encountered…” She paused, sipping her tea, “Plus the fact you were in a crowded place...”

She continued, “You have to cleanse it. It usually cleanses itself at night, when you’re in your room – which I presume contains your cleansing talisman?” She asked, fully expecting a positive response.

Erynn nodded her head, “First thing I brought in. So it won’t work now?” Reaching to the floor, she picked up the necklace and looked into its stone. It looked normal enough.

Loreli explained, “No, the pendant is… well, it’s locked in this state of overflow. To cleanse it now, you need to strip it clean.” The girl could hear papers being shuffled, “You’ll need a few things…”

“A few things!? How long will this take?” Erynn’s anxiety could be felt through the phone. She hadn’t gone without her pendant in years.

“I guess that depends on how quickly you can get the ingredients.” She mumbled under her breath, “Ah, here we are. There’s a list. These are magical in nature… most of these, anyway.”

“Great.” Erynn grumbled, “My favorite subject matter. Well, I did see a shop in town… box of magic something. It might be the real deal, I wouldn’t know.” She rolled her eyes self-deprecatingly.

Loreli clucked her tongue, “Easy Papillion, you know full well you have the ability. You just have… hurdles.”

“I have brick walls, auntie.” She quipped, “Can I get the list? And, I guess there are instructions, too?” She yawned despite herself.

Erynn heard some commotion on the other end, “Lo-lo?” she asked, concerned.

“Yes, yes. Sorry,” More shuffling about, “I was just getting the laptop. I’m going to send you one of those electronic letters. Easier this way.”

The girl giggled, “Electronic letters.” She yawned again, “Lo-lo, you’re precious. I have more to tell you, so I’ll reply to the ‘electronic letter’ you send me.”

Loreli chastised her good naturedly, “Quit making fun of an old lady, you ungrateful child.” Her tone became serious, “This is considered a spell, mon amour. You might need help.”

“Help? I can’t do this alone!?” Erynn ran her fingers through her hair worriedly, “How am I supposed to get help?”

Her aunt thought for a minute, “The people you were with tonight. They obviously know about things that are… different. Maybe they could help?”

The girl sighed, “Auntie, do you get the feeling sometimes that life just toys with you? That, no matter what, you just end up where it wants you?”

She could feel her aunt’s smile over the phone, “Sleep well, Papillion. Je t’aime.”

***

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~M
CopperAndGold


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 10:50 am 
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10. Troll Hammer
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DIBS!

I'll be back with more comprehensive feedback later... but I'll say for now that I am really enjoying the start of this fic.

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 3:28 pm 
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DarkWiccan wrote:
... but I'll say for now that I am really enjoying the start of this fic.

Cheers
DW



I'm really glad you're enjoying it!

I'm having a twisted kind of fun writing it. I'm used to writing short stories... this is a challenge for me.

Anyway, all that to say, yay! you like it! :bounce

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 Post subject: When Erynn found herself - Post 2 (update)
PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 5:04 pm 
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When Erynn found herself - Post 2 (Update)

Author name – CopperAndGold
Rating - NC-17 (Strong)

Disclaimer - This is an adult fic. There will be some angst, smut, bad language, difficult subject matters (They will be noted prior to posting) The characters' developments were taken from season 5 - A bit after the episode: Family. Anything that is canon and prior to this episode is fair game. Oh, there's also a small reference to a funny exchange in season 6 between Anya and Tara that I just couldn't stop from using. Even with all this, there's comedy too! Everything after Family becomes A/U.

Feedback - Please, I love your words.
Summary - Willow and Tara make a new friend. She's... interesting.

Notes - This update contains hints to darker subject matter. No details, but we're hinting at... things.




She loved when this happened. Usually, Tara was the first to wake up. On mornings like these, when Willow was awake before her girlfriend – she luxuriated in the warmth in her heart whenever she could watch her lover sleep.

The redhead reached out and gently brushed aside a fallen strand of golden hair from her girlfriend’s lips. She loved those lips. They spoke truth, wisdom, love. They tasted of tenderness and passion. In slumber, they were gently parted – her lover’s even breath making wisps of hair dance in the morning light.

Willow had had a long night. Her brain kept her awake with all kinds of unpleasantness. But, it had all calmed down once she thought about who Tara was. Her girlfriend – her strong, loving girlfriend – was nothing if not compassionate. Tara was fiercely compassionate; she naturally defended and supported those who she felt needed it.

And she loves me. Amazing.

“I feel green eyes on me,” Tara’s eyes fluttered open and Willow fell into blue, “Stalker.” The groggy blonde poked her tongue out teasingly. She grinned up at her girlfriend, the hand that was laying on the redhead’s thigh started lazily caressing her through pajama bottoms.

Willow looked down at Tara from up on her perch, leaning on her elbow. With an adoring smile spread across her lips, she kept looking into the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen. Feeling tongue-tied; words just couldn’t...

In the span of moments their gaze intensified – building love out of thin air. Promises exchanged, love declared over and over. Poets and artists would have to spend lifetimes trying to capture the intricacies of their exchange. Yet… It was all there between the two of them. It was simple - the most complex simplicity ever known to either of them. It just was. Love, deep and true.

When Willow’s mind would think of the universe, the world, in a way that was too scientific - In a way that made life clean, austere and boringly efficient - she would think back on moments like these. Moments when nothing was quantifiable, yet held so much weight… so much mass.

There was too much she wanted to say. Her mouth attempted it, but the words shriveled and died on her tongue, inadequate. She reached out a hand to cup Tara’s cheek. With that one touch she hoped to convey at least a fraction of what she was feeling. If Tara knew a fraction of how she loved her, then she could spend her whole life showing her the rest in installments. With interest.

The blonde leaned her cheek into Willow’s touch, her eyes flickered closed at the softness of it. “I used to listen to music with momma, growing up.” Tara said quietly, reaching her hand up to cover her girlfriend’s. “She had all kinds of music, you know. But, I had my favorites.”

Willow kept quiet, acutely attentive. Rare were the times her girlfriend talked about her childhood, or of her family life. It wasn’t that long ago her father and brother had come to take her back home. Until then, the redhead didn’t even know her lover had a brother.

That day, her sweet Tara learned of her family’s betrayal. Learned that, for all these years, she had painstakingly analyzed each and every one of her thoughts, her actions and feelings - fearing their evil source. Doubting herself constantly. As it turns out, that dark source never existed in the first place. It was a lie fabricated to control, a lie perpetuated by her male family members; her father, her brother. Willow often had to stop thinking about it when her thoughts inevitably turned toward other means of control she suspected had been used against her loving girlfriend.

“They write songs about this, moments like these.” Tara’s eyes opened slowly, “They used to make me sad because I’d never felt that. What they were singing about, you know?” Tara kissed Willow’s palm and continued, “I thought it wasn’t for me to experience that, that kind of love. So it made me sad. But the songs we so pretty… they were still my favorites.”

Their hands joined, fingers linked and dropped between them onto the sheets. Willow didn’t want to talk, she was worried she would mess this up. This was too… real, too valuable to meddle with.

“They don’t make me sad anymore, Willow.” Unblinking, Tara looked into her lover’s eyes, her gaze laden with emotion, “You gave me songs. When I hear them now, I feel you. I feel this. Us.”

Willow sensed everything in that moment in sharp detail. Every particle of dust in the air, every soft note of her lover’s voice, every minute shift in the covers from their combined breathing. Every part of her was alert and receptive. Open and completely vulnerable. Their eyes had not broken contact once, “I’m going to kiss you now.” She heard herself breathe out slowly.

Tara smiled, “I know,” She ran a finger along Willow’s bottom lip, her eyes tracing its path. “They write songs about that, too.” She looked up again, her eyes betraying her desire in shades of blue.

The redhead’s lips pursed to kiss the finger tickling them. Reaching up, she took Tara’s hand in hers and pressed it against her chest, over her heavily beating heart. They leaned into one another, both slowly savoring the tension. Breaths apart, eyes closed and then, their lips met.

They exhaled as one, having held their breath since leaning in. They stayed like this, unmoving for a heartbeat. As if a pebble had been cast into a pool of water, their senses rippled with the soft contact. Willow inhaled and slowly tipped her head to the side – her mouth opening to capture Tara’s lush bottom lip between her own.

They moved languorously tasting each other’s lips – hands caressing softly along arms, sides, hips and necks. Sweet sounds flittered through the air around them and, after a while, the thing they were slowly building between them took a life of its own.

Willow’s tongue ran the length of Tara’s bottom lip, while the blonde’s hand was at her girlfriend’s pajama top – fingers working half-mindedly with fiddly buttons. When the redhead pressed into the kiss, deepening it, Tara’s fingers curled into a fist around the soft material. Buttons forgotten, she pulled her lover closer, her tongue answering its mate’s call.

She felt the lithe frame of her girlfriend shift in a way her own body responded to by instinct. Tara rolled onto her back to receive the weight of Willow’s body against hers. Legs entwined then, she raised her hands into soft red hair. Her fingers sifted through it lightly, until she felt her girlfriend’s hips sway in the most sensual way. Her hold tightened on impulse, Tara pulled Willow’s mouth tighter to hers, her thighs tensing for a moment. She ran a naked calf along a soft pajama covered leg, her hips rocking up.

They broke the kiss then, foreheads pressed together and panting slightly. Their eyes opened, both amazed at the amount of power they were able to create so quickly between them. Neither wanted to stop – this, they knew, was only a brief pause to share in the sensation. They grinned at each other, Willow nudged their noses together.

Tara ran her hands down her girlfriend’s neck, to the first button of her pajama’s top. Her intent was clear. Willow sat up, straddling her girlfriend’s right leg. One button at a time, Tara uncovered her lover’s chest. When the last button was undone, her eyes found green again and she sat up. Her legs bent at the knees to support her movement, pressing her thigh into Willow’s growing need. She heard the redhead’s pleasured sigh and with both hands under the fabric of Willow’s top, Tara kissed her deeply while she pushed the material off of soft, freckled shoulders.

The redhead’s bottom lip was caught between her girlfriend’s teeth when she flicked her top off the bed. And then, Tara’s mouth was on her jawline, hands pressed against her lower back. Willow ran her fingers through golden hair, holding the blonde’s mouth to her. When Tara let her tongue trail circles and swirls along her neck, she tipped her head to the side - a tiny keening sound leaving her throat.

Each and every response had only one effect, it stoked the fire that was building between them hotter by the heartbeat. The blonde’s mouth never left her skin, trailing wet kisses along her chest. When Tara’s mouth closed around her nipple, Willow arched back and leaned into her girlfriend’s hands. Her mouth fell open, her breath caught in her throat.

Tara tugged on Willow’s back and bent her knees slightly. She fell back down to the bed, bringing her girlfriend with her. Her mouth still latched onto her rosy nipple, she ran her tongue in circles around the hardened peek while sucking on it.

The redhead’s hands were framing her lover’s head, straddling her thigh. The blonde’s hands at her lower back pressed down as she tensed her leg, encouraging small hips to move. Willow rolled her hips and Tara’s hands gripped her waist, her tongue flicking against the nipple between her teeth.

Willow reached down between them to grip the hem of Tara’s nightgown. Pulling it up, she rocked her hips all the while. The sounds they made were building along with them, each wordless sigh and groan expertly pulled out of them.

Tara’s fingers once again tangled into bright, red hair as she let go of her girlfriend’s nipple, allowing the redhead to lower her mouth to newly exposed skin. Her hips rocked in tandem with Willow’s, their thighs pressed into dampening fabric.

Willow followed with her mouth along the path cleared by pulling the nightgown higher and higher, up her girlfriend’s body. When she finally uncovered Tara’s beautiful breasts, she had to restrain herself. She absolutely loved Tara’s breasts. They were perfect, full, firm and soft at the same time, pink areolas and nipples that darkened when her girlfriend was aroused. They fascinated the redhead; she could lose herself in Tara’s cleavage and never come back.

As she was about to reach one of these tantalizing swells, Tara sat up slightly and quickly pulled the nightgown off her body before laying back against the pillows. Willow started by running her tongue on the sensitive underside of Tara’s left breast. The redhead was multitasking, her left arm was supporting her weight. Her right was busy pleasuring her girlfriend’s left breast with agile, greedy fingers. Her mouth was pleasuring the other, all while she rocked her hips along with Tara’s rhythm.

Tara loved feeling Willow move against her, holding her small hips while they swayed and rolled. It always served to make the blonde’s arousal rise. She trailed her fingers along the elastic at the top of her girlfriend’s pajama bottoms. She bit her lip trying to steady herself – Willow’s mouth was, as always, magic. She had nipped and teased her whole breast, before sucking her nipple into her mouth and latching on for dear life. Willow’s tongue, Tara thought, was the best surprise she’d ever had.

The blonde’s hands slipped under and gripped naked hips. A groan was ripped from her throat, “Willow,” She ran her hands down the swell of her girlfriend’s ass, feeling it tighten and roll against her, “I love you… so much.” She squeezed the soft flesh, pulling Willow into her.

The nipple popped out of Willow’s mouth, “So much,” She titled her head up and kissed her girlfriend thoroughly. Knowing Tara wanted her pants off, she raised herself a bit up on her knees. As expected, she felt the blonde’s hands push the material down her hips.

Willow brought both her legs in between Tara’s widening ones. Panting out of the kiss, she brought her mouth to her girlfriend’s neck instead. She felt long, toned legs encircle her own – The blonde wrapping herself around her.

Reaching down as much as she could, Tara tried to push the superfluous material further down her lover’s legs to no avail. “Off… off…” Her feet came down onto the mattress, her pelvis pressing up impatiently.

The redhead made short work of her pajama pants and returned kneeling between her girlfriend’s legs. She ran her hands under Tara’s thighs and pulled her legs up onto her shoulders. Raising herself up onto her knees, she was able to pull the blonde’s underwear down her hips. Once she lowered herself back down again, she pulled the fabric off and returned long legs to the bed. Laying between them, she covered Tara’s body with her own, kissed her deeply and started moving against her lover.

Tara widened her knees as much as she could, her hips rolling up to meet Willow’s downwards movements. She gripped her girlfriend’s ass again, pulling her closer, she needed more contact. Her girlfriend understood and widened her knees to push against her fully.

It was the most intimate of kisses; the most exquisite of touches.

“Oh God, Tara,” She pressed her forehead against her girlfriend’s, “You feel so good.” Willow’s skin was covered in goosebumps.

Tara nodded, panting, “Kiss me,” She pleaded. Tipping her head back, she was instantly met with her girlfriend’s lips. Their bodies started moving together again, a sheen of sweat developing over their skin, breaths sharp and shallow.

They knew that, as nerve-meltingly wonderful as this contact was, they were reaching a plateau. Willow thought she could easily spend a whole day doing this, but they didn’t have a whole day. Well, I could reschedule with Buffy… and Tara could stay home…

Tara made the decision for them. She ran and hand down Willow’s stomach to the top of soft curls. At the contact, the redhead pulled her hips back in invitation. The blonde guided her girlfriend’s left leg over her right, and slipped her hand between wet, needy skin and her thigh. Her other hand gripped a small hip and started a rocking motion.

Willow rose up unto her knees, Tara’s thigh and hand tight against her – fingers gliding along her engorged, wet skin with every movement. “Oh, baby,”

Tara was transfixed, “You are so beautiful,” Her lover looked… radiant. Glowing with pleasure and passion. Her red hair was surrounded by a halo of red-tinted sunlight. Her eyes were heavily lidded, lips parted and kiss-swollen. A blush ran down from her cheeks all the way to her chest. Tara really wanted to sit up and take a taut nipple into her mouth – but the vision before her was too compelling to look away. “So beautiful,”

She decided on a compromise. The blonde let go of Willow’s hip and brought her hand to her right breast. It fit perfectly into her palm; she loved how the taut nipple felt rolling against her sensitive skin. Squeezing the small swell, she brought her fingers inward and tightened them around an engorged nipple. With each rock of her lover’s hips, she applied pressure around the captive nub and released. This was something she’d discovered early on; Willow really enjoyed synchronized sensations on different parts of her body.

The redhead’s hips bucked, “Ohh, Tara,” She felt Tara’s other fingers move against her. Wetly searching, reaching – asking. She fell forward, covering the blonde’s body with her own again. Her hips rocking in a sensual wave along her girlfriend’s thigh and hand. “Yes. Please,”

Tara reached for Willow’s lower back before curling her slick fingers inward. She pressed on her back at the same moment she entered her girlfriend. “Ohh, God,” She felt the redhead’s eager mouth against her neck moan. Tara shivered and turned her head, nuzzling red hair, “I love you,”

Willow ran her right hand down between Tara’s breasts, not wanting to get distracted. Her hand continued its journey along the blonde’s lower abdomen. When she reached the soft curls of her lover’s sex, she felt the fingers inside her flex and press in deeper. “Wil-low,” Her name rolled out of her lover’s mouth in a needy groan.

Her hips rocked forward against the movement of the fingers inside her while her own fingers reached her girlfriend’s wet need. They were quickly coated with her lover’s arousal. She rubbed them against Tara’s clit in tight circles and rocked her hips, gliding herself along her girlfriend’s fingers.

The blonde’s hips rolled, “Ohh,” They’re combined moans could wake up the dead, but neither were conscious of anything but each other. “Ohh God, yes,” She could hear Willow’s breath against her ear, shallow and hot – she was making little desperate sounds that made Tara crazy.

“Baby!” Willow gasped against Tara’s ear, “Close, baby… So close,” She closed her mouth around the sensitive skin below the blonde’s ear, her teeth grazing the surface. Her fingers pressed tighter against her girlfriend’s sex, gliding lower into the dip of her lover’s landscape.

Tara gripped her girlfriend’s tight bottom and pressed harder against her hidden depths. She widened her legs, wanting Willow inside her. Her hips rocked forward as she felt her lover’s fingers enter her fully, her palm slick and flat against her engorged clit. “Ohh, sweet heavens,”

The bed rocked along with them, the headboard drumming passion out in Morse code against the wall.

She felt it then, the tell-tale signs of Willow’s impending orgasm. Her hips were coiled tight, her movements sharper and less coordinated. Her lover’s womanhood was clamped tightly around her. Tara felt it all. “That’s it, Will… that’s it, baby,” Holding onto her girlfriend’s ass, she felt each thrust of her small hips, “God, I love the way you move,”

Willow took a deep breath and held it. Her whole body was tightly wound, right on a knife’s edge, “Tah-rah,” She moaned in her lover’s ear. She shuddered and let go in a long, keening cry. The redhead’s hips jerked and twitched through her climax, the fingers inside her stilled as she rocked back and forth slowly along them. She worked through each moment of pleasure, kissing along her girlfriend’s neck. Pleasure-filled murmurs unconsciously exhaled against warm, soft skin.

Tara’s hips were still moving against Willow’s hand in slow circular movements. Her free hand running up and down the redhead’s back, feeling each twitch of flexing muscles as her girlfriend came down. “So beautiful,”

Willow knew Tara had been focused on her. As powerful as her orgasm had just been, she found herself – not uncommonly, mind – just as aroused as when they’d started. The way her girlfriend felt against her, the movements of her hips, the wet arousal coating her fingers…

Crawling down slowly, Willow took one of her girlfriend’s nipples into her mouth. She shifted her fingers inside her lover, curled them upward and started thrusting slowly into Tara. Her tongue and teeth payed short attention to the captured flesh, though. As Tara let out a deep moan, she carried on down her lover’s body. Leaving a wet trail in the wake of her tongue.

Tara’s fingers were tangled in her lover’s hair, the air hitting her wet skin leaving a cool trail down her body. She shivered when she felt Willow’s wonderful mouth on the inside of her hip, “Will,” Her hips flared up, “I want your mouth so bad,”

“Mmmm” Willow was nuzzling her girlfriend’s sex, building anticipation in herself just as much as in her lover. She withdrew from inside Tara and slid her slick hand up – framing her girlfriend’s clit between wet fingers.

Running her tongue flat against the backs of her fingers, the redhead licked up and over the captured clit once. She grinned devilishly at the resulting jerk of her girlfriend’s body. Redoubling her efforts, she licked against it a little faster, this time with a bit more pressure. The fingers in her hair tightened. Tara groaned, “You’re driving me insane,”

Tara really tried not to move too much. It was really difficult. Willow was a natural at this.

Willow smirked, “Am I doing something wrong?” Her fingers tightened around Tara’s clit. She lowered her mouth around it, closed her lips against it and sucked gently.

“Ohh,” Tara’s hips pressed up against Willow’s mouth, “No, nothing wrong!” She gnawed on her lip trying to reign in her body’s reactions. “Right, everything is s-so right. Ohh God!” The flicker of her lover’s tongue against her clit made her legs shake.

Willow slipped her fingers down the length of Tara’s wet sex and sucked her clit deeper into her mouth. Her fingers teased the blonde’s entrance following the same movements her tongue was making against the bundle of nerves. “Mmmrrph”

Tara couldn’t keep her voice down. She was beyond caring, beyond anything but the feel of her lover’s mouth against her. Of her fingers teasing her, “Will-Ohh! God, you’re good at that,”

The redhead let go of her girlfriend’s clit and pressed her tongue flat against wet flesh. Dipping her head, she licked the length of Tara’s sex to where her fingers were still teasing. Her fingers went up as her tongue went down. “Mmmph” Willow pressed into her girlfriend with her tongue, tasting her fully. She wiggled it happily at Tara’s entrance. Her fingers hard at work rubbing circles into the needy bundle of nerves.

Tara had to let go of her girlfriend’s hair. She was worried she would hurt her; she could barely control her body’s movements anymore. As it was, she was grinding herself onto Willow’s mouth, “Ohhh, Will,”

After having thoroughly licked her lover’s entrance, the redhead switched again between fingers and tongue – this time, as she sucked Tara’s clit into her mouth, she thrust two fingers inside her as well. The blonde cried out, her hips rocking back and forth. Willow’s tongue played with the bundle between her lips, reveling in how wet her lover was. “Mmmm-Mmpph!”

“YesssAhGoddess… yes… yes…” Tara’s vocabulary was seriously lacking. Her voice rose with every thrust and every lick. She was quickly approaching the cliff’s edge. Her heels dug into the mattress, her fists clenched at the bed covers.

And then, Willow did that thing with her tongue. It was like a twirl and a flip – Tara had no idea, but it always made her crazy. She rolled her hips, grinding herself onto Willow’s mouth – her sex clamped down around her lover’s fingers and, as she felt her girlfriend’s fingers press against her walls, and Willow’s tongue brush against her clit in a deliciously rough swirl - she tipped over the edge in a loud, explosive and unintelligible scream.

Willow wrapped her arms around Tara’s thighs, holding onto her hips. Her tongue slipped back down, and tasted her lover’s climax as she wound down slowly. “I love you,” She kissed Tara’s sex over and over until she saw her girlfriend extend her arms. She crawled up into them.

The room fell quiet as they held each other, hands caressing naked skin tenderly. The sun rose higher into the sky making a shaft of light widen across the bed. Morning had officially started. They could hear muffled sounds of students getting ready for their day. Birds called from outside, life was happening around them, but they just basked in the love they’d shared – not wanting the feeling to end.

Willow’s soft voice broke the silence, “Can we stay like this forever?” She planted a kiss on her girlfriend’s shoulder.

The blonde giggled, “Well, if there’s a world full of shrimp, there might be one where p-people are constantly in the afterglow of lovemaking.” She kissed the crown of red hair below her mouth. “I should ask Anya.”

As soon as she said it, Tara knew it was a mistake. But, she couldn’t suck the words back in. She heard a grumble from below, making her chest rattle slightly. The blonde sighed deeply; the mood had shifted and she was the cause of it. Way to go, Maclay.

“Baby?” Willow’s voice broke through, tentative and uncertain. “Can I ask you something?” She was running tiny circles around her lover’s navel with her fingers.

Tara ran fingers through her girlfriend’s hair, “Anything, you know that.”

There was a heavy pause in which the blonde figured Willow was trying to find the right words. She heard her lover take a deep breath, “I just don’t understand. Your friendship… with Anya.” The name came through her lips tasting of vinegar.

The blonde shifted to her side, bringing them face to face. “You don’t like her, I guess it’s hard to understand why I would.” She was stalling, she knew. Tara just didn’t know how to… explain.

Willow huffed, “I understand why I don’t understand.” Her brow furrowed.

I guess stalling doesn’t really work here. Tara took a deep breath and looked into her lover’s eyes. She saw no anger, jealousy or anything like that. Just plain curiosity. “I think… because of the way I met Anya and the fact you warned me about her, I guess I was prepared?” She shook her head, annoyed at not being able to express herself clearly. Knowing it fell way short of something more complicated.

Willow grimaced and raised an eyebrow, as if to say ‘that’s it?’ “You’re prepared for a gyno’s exam, doesn’t make you like it.”

Tara rolled her eyes, “It’s – I guess I admire parts of her and she makes me laugh a lot. She’s also sensitive… and I think people don’t give her a fair shake because she speaks her mind.”

The redhead frowned, “By people you mean me, don’t you?”

“You’re allowed to not like someone, sweetie.” The blonde looked up to the ceiling for a moment, mulling over her thoughts, “I first got to talk with Anya when we were stuck in Mr. Giles’ bathroom. Before then, she was just there and we hadn’t talked or really met.”

Willow fell silent, wondering where this was going.

“Until that day, I’d watched her – how she interacted with people, you know? Yes, she said things people didn’t like to hear, but she was honest. Yes, she said things in a tactless way… but that kinda made me giggle inside. I saw how sensitive she was, how vulnerable. She had the strength to speak her mind, but at the same time felt h-hurt when people told her she shouldn’t.” She looked back to her girlfriend. Her confused girlfriend.

“We became friends in that bathroom. It was uncomfortable in there, you guys were fighting outside – we were both trying to escape. We didn’t know each other at all… after saying something about the bathroom tiles, we fell silent. If there ever was a picture for awkward silences that would’ve been it.”

A grin grew on her face, “Anya rescued us though. Well, you did, really. We’d just heard you ‘coming out’ through the door. I must’ve been blushing like crazy. She was looking at me with a thoughtful expression, nodding her head.” Shaking her head she continued, “I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I had no idea what she was going to say, how she was going to say it… I couldn’t leave.”

Willow was intrigued, “What did she say?”

Tara looked into her girlfriend’s eyes, “Don’t get mad?” After receiving a nod she said, “She asked me if we were playing around with s-sex magic. That it could be dangerous and, that you might be confused. But, she thought I was a good choice in spell partners.” She kept a close watch on her girlfriend, making sure she wouldn’t blow a fuse.

She continued when Willow kept quiet, “I got defensive a bit - told her we weren’t, you know, playing. A-and, that we weren’t using sex magic. I told her that you weren’t confused anymore and that we were happy. She seemed to take it at face value, which I ap-appreciated. I didn’t want to be questioned about it all… we’d just gotten through the whole Oz thing. But then she started up on her experiences with lesbians throughout the millennia.” She giggled, remembering the whimsical way in which Anya had talked about it.

“I think it was the first time I realized that, to be Anya’s friend, you just have to be… real. Like, confident in who you are and not be apologetic about it, just be you. If you thought, for one second, she was judging you? You missed the point. If you try to read between Anya’s lines, you miss the point. The first thing she did was to be concerned about you, Will. The way she said it wasn’t diplomatic, it wasn’t sugar coated to s-spare my feelings. But, that’s when I knew we were going to be friends and that she was a difficult gift.”

Willow’s face was priceless, it was as if it was trying to convey conflicting emotions. “Huh? Difficult gift?”

Tara smiled, “Yeah, momma taught me that, in life, I’d meet all kinds of people. People I’d just as soon cast aside because they would make me feel b-bad in some way. That, some of those people would become difficult gifts if I let them. They would, through caring about them, show me parts of myself I’d rather not be. With their difficult friendship, I could change into who I wanted to be – to grow. The best gift really, one that makes you love yourself for who you are. Anya does that for me, Will. Since knowing her… being her friend, I’m better at being me. Does that make sense?”

She could see in Willow’s eyes thoughts flying around that big brain of hers. Tara reached up and tucked a strand of red hair behind her lover’s ear.

She finally piped up, “So, she’s that important to you? Why does she just piss me off?” Willow was feeling two things clearly: She was humbled by her girlfriend’s wisdom and she was feeling somewhat shallow. Never thought I’d feel bad for not liking Anya, of all people.

Tara answered easily, “Each and every person in my life right now is that important to me. I didn’t know it for a while there, but when Buffy said we were family? It all kind of made wonderful sense.” She took a deep breath, “And, as far as you not liking Anya… I have theories, but they’re just that. I think you’re the only one who can really know. You just have to want to and be prepared to meet parts of yourself you’d rather not. Hence the difficult part.” She winked and smiled.

Willow kissed her girlfriend softly, “You know, I love you more and more every day, Tara Maclay.” She scooped her up into her arms and rolled them over so Tara was laying partly over her, cradled in her embrace. “But, if I start talking in graphic details about our sex life in public, it’ll be your fault.”

***

Buffy was annoyed. He knew this was planned and, yet he was giving her those eyes. “Riley, I told you about today a week ago. Will and I need some bonding time.” She pulled on her pants, looking around for her bra.

Riley was sitting in his chair, wearing his sweatpants and a glum expression. They’d woken up about an hour ago and, looking down at his girlfriend, his chest had grown tight. He missed her, but it was like he missed parts of her he still hadn’t even met. “I know you did. I just thought… I don’t know Buffy, I just want to see you… more.”

The slayer pulled her shirt over her head, “We see each other all the time. School, slaying, and you know… like last night.” She said, smiling. “Which, by the way, was wonderful.”

He didn’t want to be that guy. The needy guy who smothered his girlfriend. Riley wished he could just be content, happy with what he had. He had a lot to be happy for, really. “It was. And, yeah we see each other a lot. You’re right, let’s drop it.” What he wanted to say would have fallen into the needy category.

He wanted to ask when his bonding time would be.

He really didn’t want to be that guy. Riley knew he was, though… and he hated it.

***

She looked outside her window at the students milling around, enjoying their Saturday morning. Erynn had been dreading this. Thoughts of anxiety attacks, flashbacks and all kinds of bad stuff had kept her awake most of the night. It had been so long since she’d faced the world without her pendant, she was worried. There were so many people out there.

Glancing at the clock, she noticed time was flying by. She really needed to get those ingredients. She also needed to find help, somehow. The longer she was procrastinating, the worse things would get.

Exhaling a long breath, she walked over to her desk and picked up her pendant, the ingredients list, the spell details, and her fedora. She didn’t feel like messing with her hair, she’d brushed it. That was plenty. Stuffing the necessary items into her bag, she pulled the hat over her head and grabbed her keys.

Here goes nothing.

She gingerly opened her door and peeked outside, her feet firmly on the room’s side of the threshold. A girl walked passed her and Erynn closed her eyes. Worry, fear, longing, love, loneliness… She opened her eyes again as the girl rounded a corner. She felt herself shifting back and shook her head. This is going to suck.

***

Buffy looked at the clock over the counter again. Willow was late. Going on thirty minutes late, to be exact. She sipped her mocha, tapping her fingernails against the table’s surface. Come on, Will. I had to deal with sad face for this.

As she was weighing her cup, trying to determine how much was still left, she saw red hair from the corner of her eye.

Willow rushed into the coffee shop, completely flustered. She quickly made her way towards her friend, “I am so sorry. I got delayed by my stupid neighbor.” Glancing at Buffy’s drink, she motioned toward herself, “Just gonna go get myself one of those, be back in a jiffy.”

The slayer watched the redhead quickly turn around and walk toward the counter, “Ok, then.” She sipped at her mocha, made a face before swishing the drink around the cup a bit. She took another sip, nodded her approval and set the cup back down. She looked up when she heard the scrape of a chair being pulled from under her table.

Willow flopped down, sipping her mocha, “Mmm”. She sighed loudly and leaned back in the chair, puffing out her cheeks.

With a grin on her face, Buffy piped up, “So, what did your neighbor want?” She loved frazzled Willow.

“Oh! Um…” The redhead blushed, fiddling with her cup, “Nothing really, just a noise complaint. He had a lot to say.” She looked down at the table, avoiding her friend’s gaze.

The slayer laughed, “Noise complaint, huh?” Hmm decisions, decisions. Do I make her squirm? “I guess some of those spells you guys do must be pretty intense.” Buffy was good at playing dumb.

Willow grinned into her cup, “Yeah, intense. I need to switch my room around.” She took a mouthful, and finally looked up to see the slayer’s eyebrows high up on her forehead with an evil grin on her face. Oh, jeez. Here we go…

Buffy took a drink of her mocha and grimaced before putting it back on the table. She pushed it away from herself, “Let me guess, your bed is against his wall.” She giggled at the deepening blush on her friend’s face, “First rule of dorm life, your bed goes against the outside facing wall.”

“The desk too, apparently.” The redhead grumbled under her breath subconsciously.

The slayer leaned back in her chair, hands up with her palms out towards her friend, “Did I hear desk!? Willow Rosenberg… why I never!” She feigned a shocked expression.

“Buffy…” Willow shifted in her chair uncomfortably. Damn Slayer hearing!

Her friend shook her head and chuckled, “I’m just teasing, Will. I can’t say I’m not surprised, though. You two are so quiet and stuff. I was picturing a Lilith fair thing: roses and candles, soft music in the genre of Enya or Sarah Mclachlan… you know, the girly stuff.”

Willow raised an eyebrow, “Ok, first off… you were ‘picturing’ my sex life? You have something you want to tell me?” A grin tugged at the corner of her mouth.

Buffy sputtered, “No, not like that! You know, just… since you came out I’ve been thinking about… stuff. I guess I’ve been trying to understand the whole thing.” She shook her head, “I see what you did there, Rosenberg. You’re not off the hook.” She said, pointing at her friend.

The redhead sighed, “I wasn’t aware I was on a hook. What is it, Buff?” She sipped her mocha and looked around. There weren’t that many people at the Espresso Pump this morning. This suited Willow just fine.

The small blonde took a deep breath. She’d been curious for a while now, wondering about things and worrying about her best friend, too. Buffy just didn’t know how to bring it up. This was the perfect opportunity, really.

But, as fun as a squirming Willow could be, she didn’t want to make her uncomfortable for real. “You know I’m not big on the whole sexual orientation thing. I mean, I get it… Gay, lesbian, bi… it makes sense.” She looked at her friend before continuing, “I just don’t know… I guess I don’t know where you fit in there.”

Willow was confused, “I’m with a woman, Bu…”

Buffy cut her off, “I know, I know. But, you were with Oz too. And, you seemed happy with him before the whole… Veruca thing.” She scratched her head, “I don’t know, I guess I don’t understand why you say you’re gay and not bi?”

“Oh.” The redhead was a bit stunned. She’d jumped all these hoops herself in the last year or so. Now she felt a bit guilty about not letting her best friends in on the whole process. It had been confusing. “Well, yeah I was happy with him I guess.” She frowned, trying to think how she could explain.

Her friend cut in again, “I don’t want to make things uncomfortable or complicated, Will. I just want to know… I guess I want to know how you knew.” Buffy looked at her beseechingly.

Willow sighed, “How about you go get another mocha while I organize my thoughts?”

Buffy nodded, pointing at her discarded drink, “Yeah, that one’s dead. I’ll be right back.” She stood up to make her way to the counter.

Well if I’d have known this is how it would go, I’d have been prepared. Thought Willow ruefully. How did I know? How do I explain that without it getting all… sexy?

The slayer came back with a fresh mocha and sat back down across from her friend, “Ok, hit me.”

Willow let out a deep breath, “I guess I’ll start with Oz.” She looked at Buffy who nodded for her to continue, “You’re right, I was happy with him. As happy as I thought I could be. I mean, he was a great guy, you know? Considerate, loving, understanding, wise… he was a lot of good things. And he loved me. Because he loved me, I loved him back I guess. I felt lucky. He was the first person who’d shown an interest in me like that.” She leaned back in her chair, mulling her thoughts over.

“I was happy, yes. But, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. I noticed you with Angel, and then Riley and saw how you couldn’t stay away from each other. I didn’t feel that… passion, I guess. It was comfortable, but not… complete?” She shook her head, “You know, I never looked at Oz, or any other guy for that matter, thinking ‘I want to jump his bones’. It was never that intense… it was more about comfort or something. The Fluke with Xander was about the thrill of getting away with it, sad to say.” She grimaced.

Buffy tentatively asked, “So, you weren’t… I mean, satisfied? With Oz?” She winced, knowing full well if she were on the receiving end of that question, she’d be squirming a hole into her chair.

Willow shook her head, seemingly undaunted by the question, “No, I wasn’t. It’s weird because, at the time? I figured that’s just the way it was supposed to be. I thought I was looking for something that didn’t really exist. Like I had my hopes up, or something.” She pulled at her sweater, “Then I met Tara. We were voiceless, she entwined her fingers with mine – we moved a soda machine together. And, there it was… what I was missing. I couldn’t let go of her hand; I didn’t want to. Everything in me woke up all at once. It scared me and I freaked a bit for a while… but I couldn’t stay away. And, when we finally… you know, slept together, it felt like the most natural thing ever. I’d never felt like that. It was more than just physical.” She shrugged and looked down at the table, blushing.

Silence fell between them, each lost in their own thoughts for a moment.

Buffy broke the silence, “You told me you guys met when the Gentlemen came to town. But, we didn’t meet Tara for a long time after that.” She fiddled with her cup, “Were you scared of us?”

Willow laughed unexpectedly, “I was scared of everything. Everything outside of Tara was up in the air, and I just wanted to stay in that simple place with her. I didn’t want to share her… I didn’t want to have to explain her. Defend myself…” She shook her head self-deprecatingly, “It was selfish of me, really. It made Tara feel bad, like she was something I was embarrassed about.”

The slayer reached for her friend’s hand, squeezing it gently, “I’m sure it wasn’t easy, Will. Tara must’ve understood that.”

The redhead nodded, “Yeah, she did. She’d been through the whole coming out thing, she knew it wasn’t easy.” She let out a deep breath, “So, that’s how I knew I was gay-gay. I started looking at women differently after that… kinda clarified everything.”

Buffy was still curious, “So, you had no idea before then? I mean, you didn’t meet girls and, I don’t know, get crushes?” She drank the last gulp of her mocha.

Willow thought for a minute before answering, “Life is weird like that, I guess. You only understand something so far as what information you have at hand, you know? In high school, I assumed I was straight – read: ‘normal’. I would look at girls and think they were pretty, they smelled good or they seemed soft… I don’t know, I guess I thought it didn’t mean anything. I was just being observant or something.” She chuckled, “Even when I had steamy dreams. Looking back though, I realize they weren’t just friendly feelings.”

Buffy’s thoughts took a sharp left turn, “Huh.” She frowned and stared at a fascinating muffin crumb that was sitting on the table in front of her.

The redhead caught the change in the slayer, “Ok, what?” She asked, wondering what could make her friend’s mood switch so fast.

The blonde shook her head, “Oh, nothing - Just thinkin’.” She said quickly, flicking the crumb off the table with her finger. She played with her empty cup avoiding eye contact.

Willow knew better, “This bonding thing goes both ways, Summers. I did my spill, now it’s your turn. You have something face.” She scowled.

Buffy rolled her eyes, “It’s egotistical and stupid. I’m not sure I want to know, anyway.” Her eyes fell to the table again.

Her friend’s brow furrowed deeply, “Buffy, what is it? You can ask me anything.”

The slayer looked up into concerned green eyes, “I mean… in high school, did you crush on me?” She shook her head quickly, “Don’t answer that. It’s stupid.” She felt her face grow hot.

Willow stared at her friend intently for a moment, “I can answer that, you know. It’s up to you if you want me to, though.” She thought for a second before adding, “Whether I do or not, it won’t change anything between us Buff. I can promise that much.”

Buffy looked up again and took a deep breath, “Ok, yeah… I wanna know. I don’t know why, but I do.” She stilled herself. Don’t freak. Don’t freak.

There was an evil part of Willow’s psyche that just wanted to play with her friend like a cat with a mouse. Make her squirm and blush…

But, the considerate part of her brain was much bigger. “You were beautiful, strong, loyal, brave, friendly, and considerate. You were inspiring and the best friend I’d ever had, Xander included. I crushed hard, Buffy.” She smiled, shaking her head. “I had no clue, but yeah. If you don’t pay attention to something though, soon enough it changes on you. Our friendship grew, my crushy feelings receded and then one day you were my best friend. Buffy Summers: Vampire Slayer.” She paused before adding, “You know, I’m glad I didn’t know I was gay back then. It would’ve sucked, really… a lot.”

Buffy was surprised. She thought she might find out Willow had a thing for her in high school, but it didn’t bother her the way she expected it would. It all made a lot of sense really, and it didn’t feel like her friend was different with her in any way because of it. “Wow, well I’m flattered,” She smiled genuinely, “And, yeah, I get that you being out back then would’ve been rough. I’m glad things happened the way they did though, our friendship is something I don’t ever want to lose.” She took her friend’s hand in hers and squeezed it gently. Affection reflecting off her deep hazel gaze, “I can’t imagine my life without you in it, Will.”

Willow smiled, eyes shining, “Me too.” Her stomach took this moment to growl loudly, “Heh, I guess it’s food time. What do you think, how about some fish tacos?”

***

Tara reached behind her head and tightened her pony-tail, humming along with the music playing over the speakers. …Then I spent so many nights Just thinking how you did me wrong, and I grew strong, and I learned how to get along… Her foot tapping the rhythm out on the carpeted floor.

She took the mail notice from between her teeth, looking at it again as if it would tell her what she received. …Did you think I'd lay down and die? Oh no not I, I will survive. For as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive…

The line moved forward a bit, so she two-stepped ahead. Her blond head bobbing along with the tune, pony-tail swinging. Unbeknownst to Tara, she received smiles from most the people in line behind her. Only a couple of odd looks, but she was happily oblivious. She was just full of joyful feelings and she wouldn’t entertain anything that would change that.

Even this interminable lineup.

Her eyes peered at the clock on the wall again. She was supposed to be at the Magic Box thirty minutes from now… with lunch. Tara hated being late, but even that wouldn’t mess up her groove. …And I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself. I used to cry, but now I hold my head up high. And you see me, somebody new... Another two-step forward.

***

Erynn grumbled internally. Why everything needed to be on the busiest street in this town confounded her. She zig-zagged her way through the Saturday hubbub of Sunnydale, fists clenched and jaw in a tight line. À la claire fontaine, M'en allant promener. J'ai trouvé l'eau si belle, que je m'y suis baigné... The song went along in her mind, anchoring herself.

The Canadian tried to stay away from those around her, making her look more than a little paranoid. She glanced up from under her hat from time to time, gauging her direction and destination. She mainly navigated by shadows. Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, Jamais je ne t'oublierai…

Truth be told, so far things were going much better than she’d anticipated. No flashbacks to speak of, no overwhelming emotions that weren’t her own. Erynn just felt the normal queasiness from rapidly shifting, her connection to strangers automatically enhanced by the lack of her pendant.

Looking up, she was relieved to see the store she was looking for. The Magic Box stood proud just across the street. Making sure to look both ways, Erynn crossed quickly and dashed into the store.

The loud jingle of the bell above the door made her jump. She pressed her back against the closed door, taking a deep breath, eyes darting left and right.

“Welcome to the Magic Box,” Said a chipper voice from further into the shop, heels clacked loudly against the floor towards her, “Our goods and services of the magical variety will surely…“ When the voice stopped mid-sentence, Erynn looked up and squinted. Isn’t that Anika something?

Anya cocked her head and quirked an eyebrow at the new arrival, “I know you. You’re Tara’s friend. Are you feeling better than last night?” That was nice right? Asking about someone’s wellbeing is a good thing.

Erynn looked around and noticed the shop was empty save for themselves. She took her hat off and extended her hand, “Erynn. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name last night,” Her brow creased and suddenly said, “This must be a profitable business.” Ok… suddenly I like money a lot.

The shop keeper brightened, “Oh, yes! It’s all about location you see. Sunnydale is prime location for magic suppliers.” Shaking Erynn’s hand vigorously she continued, “Anya’s the name. Shop-keep’s the game! Please, come in and spend your money.” Her smile was wide across her face as she nodded and waved for the Canadian to follow her further into the store.

Eyes unblinking, Erynn stood still for a moment. Money, sex, pretty things, love, confusion, passion…

Shaking her head, she followed Anya into the store. She took in everything on the shelves and the books on display. I guess this is the real deal. She walked along with the shop keeper, ending up at the counter.

Anya returned behind the counter where she’d been reading the back orders log. She looked at Erynn expectantly, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

Erynn reached into her bag and pulled out the ingredient’s list, “Ouais, um, yes… I think you can. I have a list here. I’d like to get whatever you have that is on here.” She pushed the list over the counter with a shaky hand and poked it with a finger.

The ex-vengeance demon happily took what seemed to be a lengthy list of items. She read through it carefully, “This shouldn’t be a problem, but…” She looked at Erynn with a stunned expression, “We have packages that would save you money. Depending on the purpose for the spell…” She quirked an eyebrow expectantly but, when Erynn remained silent, she huffed, “Is this for a talisman? A charm? A person? A dog?”

Taken aback by how much Anya seemed to know her stuff, Erynn stumbled over her words, “A- it’s a pendant. Cleansing spell, right?” She fiddled with the brim of her hat, “You wouldn’t happen to be a witch, would you?”

“It’s a cleansing spell, yes. A powerful one. Done wrong it might strip all mystical properties from your necklace.” Anya cocked her head, “You’re an empath? These ingredients… ”

They regarded each other curiously in silence for a moment before Erynn piped up, “So, these packages?” She pulled her fedora back onto her head. “I could get all these ingredients bundled together and save money?”

Anya nodded, content to let it go for now, “Yes. We have two different packages. One of which would be missing a few items from your list. Another that would have a couple items extra. Unnecessary for the spell you’ll be casting. Since the spell changes depending on the focus, the bundles were put together to satisfy all needs.” She was proud of these, having convinced Giles that they would make them money in the long run. So far, they already had. “Of course, we have the missing ingredients from the first bundle in stock as well.” She beamed.

She was not a haggler by any means. Erynn never did like money; found it quite stupid how a piece of paper could make or break you. Decide whether you’re fed or not. But, right here facing Anya – she wanted to pinch every penny she could, scratch a bargain out of every ingredient.

She took a deep breath, ignoring those urges. “If I take the one with too much in it, would the ingredients left-over be dangerous?” She hiked the strap of her bag further up her shoulder, “I just want to be safe.”

Anya shook her head, her brow creasing, “No. Who will cast this? You?” She asked, concern clearly written on her face.

Erynn shook her head, “Not me. That’s another thing I need. Help,” She rolled her eyes, “Again.” She scratched at the countertop with a fingernail, looking sheepish. “What I need is to know a witch.” Letting out a deep breath, she continued, “I’ll take the second package, please.” She smiled at Anya, liking her straightforwardness. For all her abruptness, she cared.

Oh, crap. What’s the socially acceptable thing to do? Do I tell her Tara’s a witch? That Willow’s a witch? Is that like, outing them? The ex-vengeance demon was uncomfortable. I don’t want Tara mad at me.

Oh! What would Tara do?

Anya grinned suddenly, “I’m sure I can help you find someone. If you leave your phone number, I’ll make sure to contact you when I get a few names.” Yeah! That works. She nodded once, decisively.

The Canadian was all smiles, “Wow, really?” She looked around the shop at the far wall, picking out a large, dark suede map of the universe. Different constellations depicted in thin, bright lines; it was a beautifully colored piece that had caught her eye. “That map on the wall there, if it’s for sale I’d like to buy it.” She pointed to the wall and winked at Anya.

The shop keeper frowned, “I’m not having sex with you.” She crossed her arms over her chest. The nerve!

Erynn’s eyes could have popped right out of her face, “Maudite Marde!” She backed away from the counter, hands up ahead of her in surrender. “I-I just wanted to thank you for being so helpful!” She could feel her face light up bright red.

This seemed enough to pacify Anya though, “Oh! Well, thank you. That’s an expensive piece!” She beamed. Who winks at just anyone like that?

The rest of the transaction went without problems once the Canadian regained her composure. Erynn paid for her purchases with her credit card, not having that much cash on hand. After giving her phone number, she made her way out, “Thanks again, Anya. You’ve been great.” She smiled genuinely at the pretty Shop-keep.

Anya waved, “You’re welcome! We appreciate your business.” She smiled to herself. What a nice girl, and generous, too! Odd, she sounded French… Generous and French? The ex-vengeance demon shrugged.

If she’d learned anything in the last thousand years, it’s that she could always be surprised.

***

The box slipped from the hold she had around it with her arm when she tried to look at her watch. Tara fumbled ungracefully trying to catch it, her other hand incapacitated by a bag of Chinese food. The bag swayed dangerously to and fro. The box bounced off her fingers once, teetering in the air on its length. She quickly reached up and grabbed at the space ahead of her on impulse.

She caught the box. Tara smiled, pretty pleased with herself. Hurrying her step, the witch suddenly tripped on an uneven section of the sidewalk. She rolled her eyes when she regained her balance and continued on her way toward the Magic Box. Blowing a sharp breath up her brow, she tried to remove an annoying loose strand of hair dangling in front of her left eye. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late… Anya would hate that reference.

A few minutes later, she was at the door to the shop. Tara reached for it with her Chinese food laden hand. The bag made twisting the knob almost impossible, counteracting each rotation she made like a pendulum’s swing. The blonde tucked the box under her chin and used that hand instead. Once the door was open, she pushed against it with her bum while she retrieved the box again with her now free hand.

The bell announced her arrival as she pushed the door closed behind her with a booted foot. Tara looked around making sure there weren’t any customers, “Anya, I’ve got Chinese!” She tried to make her voice carry, without actually… shouting.

“You’re late! I’m hungry.” Came the agitated sound of Anya’s voice, “You’re all red and out of breath,” She reached for the sign on the door, switching it to: ‘Sorry, We’re closed’. “Are you ok?” She asked while they made their way toward the research table.

Tara deposited her load on the tabletop and puffed out a breath, “I got a mail package notice. I had no idea the line would be that long,” She poked at the box on the table as she sat down, “I still have no clue what it is. It’s s-sent to me, the return address doesn’t ring a bell.” She shrugged and started unpacking their lunch.

Anya sat across from her friend, “What did you get?” She bounced in her seat, she was ravenous.

The witch stared blankly at the ex-vengeance demon for a beat. I just told you… but she quickly caught on, “Oh, the food. Um…” She sifted through the neatly folded containers, “We have two wonton soups. I got you your general Tso’s chicken, water chestnut and broccoli for me, with enough steamed rice for a small village.” She grinned at her friend, “Sound good?”

Anya clapped excitedly, “Yay! I haven’t had Tso’s in so long!” She got up quickly to gather plates and utensils, bringing them to the table. “I’m not using those sticks. Forks and spoons are much more sensible.”

Tara’s eyes twinkled with mirth, she really enjoyed Anya’s enthusiasm for the mundane. “Thanks,” She said when she was offered a plate, a fork and a spoon. She decided to follow her friend’s lead and use the more commonly used utensils as well.

Being they were both quite hungry, they dug into their food in companionable silence for a while.

Once their soups were done, Anya broke the silence, “I meant to ask you last night, did you get anything delivered here?” She reached for the rice, scooping a helping onto her plate.

Tara’s brow furrowed, “Huh? No… why?” She dabbed at her mouth with her napkin before doing the same with the rice as Anya had.

Anya swallowed quickly, “Because we received a large package for you yesterday after-noon. A trunk. It’s odd, no return address.” She stabbed a piece of chicken and popped it into her mouth. Her cheek suddenly popped up, apparently having tucked her chicken away to speak, “It’s in the training room, I’ll show you when we’re done.”

“Huh,” Was all the blonde witch could say, “Ok.” She dumped some water chestnuts and broccoli onto her rice before opening a soya sauce packet with her teeth. “Now I’m curious.” Tara dribbled some of the sauce onto her meal, biting her lip in concentration.

The ex-vengeance demon finished chewing and said, “I have to admit, so am I.” She looked towards the other package Tara received, where it sat on the table. “What about that one? You’re not curious?”

Tara shrugged and finished her bite before answering, “Kinda, but I want to enjoy my meal first.” She smiled, “This is really good,” Her eyes widened and sparkled in delight.

Anya smiled back, “It really is, thank you for buying lunch!” She reached out for Tara’s upper arm and shook it awkwardly, although amiably.

The witch’s eyebrows shot up, a grin spread wide across her face at her friend’s exuberance, “My pleasure.” She giggled, “So, how’s the day been so far?”

“Oh, it’s been pretty quiet,” Anya dumped a second helping of Tso’s chicken onto her plate, “Although, that friend of yours came in and made a big purchase!” She beamed, “That was exciting.”

Tara quirked an eyebrow, “Friend of mine?” She looked quizzically at the shop keeper.

Anya nodded, “Yes. Erynn, right? The French girl?” She chased the last bit of her rice around her plate with her fork, ultimately failing at her attempt to pick it up, and quit. Anya eyed the taunting rice grains with disdain, “Rice is annoying. She’s very generous for a French person.”

The blonde absently said, “French Canadian,” She chewed a new bite carefully while mulling over her thoughts. Erynn was here? Is she a witch? She eyed her friend over her plate. Taking a breath, she spoke up, “Anya, I’m curious about what Erynn was doing here.”

Her meal was done, so she focused her attention on the conversation at hand while making tea. “Ah, Quebecoise then. Lovely place, Quebec. Very busy for me during its founding.” The ex-vengeance demon looked at her friend intently, “You two haven’t known each other for very long have you?”

Tara dabbed at the corners of her mouth with her napkin, “No, we just m-met really. She feels weird though, energetics wise.” Bringing the last bite of broccoli from her plate to her lips, she paused, “She shifts,” She said and finally took her favorite veggie into her mouth. Closing her eyes to savor it just because it was the last one she would have.

“Shifts? You mean… becomes someone else?” Anya was intrigued, she’d only known of two shifters in her lifetime. Both of whom she’d learned about through stories passed down over centuries.

Thus throwing the validity of her knowledge into murky waters.

A thought hit her and she cocked her head, perplexed, “Wait, isn’t she an empath?” She quirked an inquisitive eyebrow at Tara.

Tara replied with two raised eyebrows of her own and a shrug, “I have no idea,” She reached for the containers, closing those with food still in them and putting them back in the bag. “I think it’s more complicated than her just becoming s-someone else, though.” Peering into the bag, she made sure the chopsticks were still there and that there were still a few napkins left.

Anya busied herself with the empty containers and picking up the dirty cutlery and plates, “Well, she has an empath’s buffering pendant.” She shuffled the plates together, placing the utensils on top of the pile. “Pretty sure it overloaded last night. She bought the ingredients for a powerful cleansing spell to fix it.”

Tara bit her lip, playing with the handle to the plastic bag in front of her, “Huh, well things make a bit more sense. I mean, I still have no idea what’s going on, but pieces are coming together I guess.”

Something needled at her, “When Will and I brought her home last night, something weird happened.” She looked up at Anya who was sitting back down across from her after having settled two tea cups onto the table’s surface, “Thanks. She was all over the place before getting to her room, but as soon as she crossed the door she kind of exploded – her energy. When I think about it v-visually, it’s like a flower blossoming at super high s-speed, all these colors popping – like, she became all p-possible shifts at once or something.” She twisted the plastic handle between her fingers nervously, “It scared the crap out of me, to be honest.”

After a minute of silence, Anya wasn’t more the wiser, “I don’t know what that’s about. But, we could do some research if you think it’s worth it.” She smoothed over her skirt anxiously, “She asked for help, for the cleansing spell. She can’t do it herself. She needs a witch.”

“Oh.” Tara blanched a bit, “D-did you tell her about W-will and I?” She tried to steady her pulse, but she could still feel her skin crawling from the night before.

Anya shook her head, “No. I told her I’d try to find names for her. She left her number.” Her lips twitched up in a small smile, feeling like she’d done the right thing.

Tara nodded once, “Oh. Good.” She blinked a few times, wet her suddenly dry lips, “I’m going to talk to Willow about it, see what she thinks. Whatever hap-happens, I’m not doing anything without her.” Resigned, she took a deep breath and smiled at Anya, “Thanks Anya. You’re a good friend.”

Anya was moved and it felt… odd, but good. She looked at the clock, “Well, I still have half an hour!” She clapped, “You have two mystery packages, what do you say?” She said excitedly.

The witch quirked an eyebrow, “Mr. Giles gives you a full hour for lunch, now?” She asked, dubious.

The shop-keeper waved a hand through the air dismissively, “I’ve been asking for an hour lunch for what feels like forever. Giles is out of town, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” She rolled her eyes, “Besides, I make him money hand over fist anyway.”

Tara giggled, “Well, ok then,” She reached for the package she’d gotten earlier, “We can start with this one I guess.” She worked at the tape with her short nails for a minute but, smiled gratefully at her friend when a pair of scissors landed in front of her on the table.

Anya shrugged, “Maud, one of the lesbians I knew in the 1800’s, she was all about the short nails this, short nails that. I get it,” She patted Tara’s shoulder in solidarity, nodded and sat back down. “The only reason her lover didn’t end up with razorblades for fingertips was because she was a woman. I was very set in my ways, you know.” She finished while inspecting her perfectly manicured nails.

The blonde blushed, “Th-thanks,” Grinning despite herself, she made short work of opening the box with help from the sharp implement. She opened the flaps, “Eeep!” Jumped up and quickly closed the box again.

Her face now bright red with embarrassment. Memories flooding back.

The box flaps kept popping up, taunting the witch, “Um-” She slapped them down again as if swatting at a spider. Of course, they just popped right back up, “Ok, Anya?”

Anya was amused, intrigued, and not a little curious about… “What’s in the box!?” She asked loudly, craning her neck - desperately wanting to know.

Tara couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing. She covered her face with both hands but only laughed harder.

The ex-vengeance demon thought her friend had lost it, “Tara, what’s in the box?” She frowned.

“S-stop saying that!” She was crying, she seriously thought she might pee. The embarrassment the witch felt pushed her emotions to overdrive, sending her on an all-out giggle fest.

Noticing how Anya was getting upset though, she took a few breaths and tried to compose herself.

Tara consoled her now grouchy friend, “It’s a famous line in a movie. ‘What’s in the box!?’ If you haven’t seen ‘Seven’, we’ll watch it together. Great movie – right up your alley. Brad Pitt’s in it.” She smiled apologetically, rubbed her stomach and took another breath.

Anya nodded adamantly, “Yes, definitely! I love watching movies with you.” She beamed, then frowned, “So, uh…” She pointed at the box, “What’s that?”

Tara sat back down and sighed, “You remember that night we hung out and watched a rerun marathon of Hollywood Squares?”

Anya nodded, “We got quite inebriated. It was fun,” She grinned wistfully, “You’re a funny drunk. You get all sassy and giggle a lot.”

Tara thought about when she made it home that night and blushed, “Um, yeah. Well… you r-remember how we got to talking about stuff?” She quirked an eyebrow, willing her friend to catch on, “You got your laptop out… we did some um, sh-shopping?” She eyed the box, then back.

Her face, she was sure, was catching fire that very instant.

“Oh My God!” Realization struck Anya right between the eyes. She bounced up from her seat, “I want to see it!” She ran towards the box, but Tara snatched it up into her arms as if she was holding a football. If the witch knew where the end zone was, she’d have made a run for it.

“Oh, Tara! Please!?” Anya pouted and stomped a high-heeled foot.

The blonde gnawed at her lip, torn between two parts of herself. “You don’t tell anyone. Not Xander, not anyone. Promise me.” Tara held Anya’s eyes in her steely glare, willing her to understand she meant it. Don’t fuck this up, Anya.

Anya shook her head solemnly, “I wouldn’t jeopardize our friendship, I promise.” She looked at the box in her friend’s arms, “So, can I?” The ex-vengeance demon asked with trepidation, bouncing in place with barely contained excitement.

Tara winced, placed the box on the table and motioned for her friend to come closer. She didn’t want to actually take the items out of said box. Once they were side by side, the ex-vengeance demon nudged the witch’s shoulder with her own, urging her to just open it.

She took a deep breath to steel herself and opened the box fully for the first time. Tara looked down, blue eyes wide in innocent shock, unblinking, and mouth agape.

Anya gasped, “Oh, wow…” She reached tentatively towards the cardboard container, but Tara promptly slapped her hand away. “Ow!”

“No t-t-tou-” Tara closed her eyes and sucked a quick breath in, “Touching! No touching.” She bent at the waist, moving her head towards the table’s surface. Looking sideways into the package, she tried to get another angle on the box’ contents. “Well, this is… n-new.” She grimaced slightly. What was I thinking? She rolled her eyes and sighed out loud. You know exactly what you were thinking. She stood back up straight, shaking her head.

Anya quirked an eyebrow at Tara, a self-satisfied look on her face, “I knew the timber would grow on you sooner or later.” She smirked.

The witch shot her a glare so cold, the shop keeper’s mouth shut closed with an audible snap.

***

The cool vanilla flavored indulgence was melting slowly in thick, white rivulets down her sugar cone. Willow ran her tongue all the way around its circumference, “No sense in trying, I will get you vanilla goodness.” She smacked her lips contentedly once the cone was clean again.

She was practically skipping home, having had a great day with her best friend. After mochas and some heart to heart, they’d gone for food then shopping and finished off with an ice-cream treat. She was carrying a bag which swung from her left hand. A new dress she thought her girlfriend would appreciate her wearing. Not revealing, yet form fitting and soft to the touch. Just like my girl likes’em. She thought proudly. Even Buffy had said it accentuated her feminine curves. Tee-hee, I have hips!

Willow rounded the corner and spotted a familiar figure in the distance. She smiled, recognizing her girlfriend instantly even though she was a little more than a block away. Her step sped up excitedly, but she made sure to not spill her ice-cream. When she got close enough to make out what Tara was doing, she noticed she was talking with an elderly lady who was sat on the sidewalk wearing tattered clothing.

The redhead ducked into an alley and peered around the corner, knowing Tara would be embarrassed if she knew Willow had seen her. She licked her ice-cream happily and watched as her girlfriend handed the lady a plastic bag.

An adoring smile pulled at Willow’s mouth.

The blonde bent down and opened the bag for the lady to see its contents. She saw the woman’s old hands reach inside and pull out chop-sticks, giggling in delight. Tara glowed, she looked so happy Willow’s heart skipped a beat. She absentmindedly threw her ice-cream cone, half-eaten, into a trash can next to her.

Eyes fixed on her beautiful Tara.

The, she assumed, homeless lady had a couple of boxes opened in front of her now, happily eating what looked to be Chinese food. With warm smiles and a wave, Tara walked away towards home. Away from Willow’s position hiding in an alley. She quickly made to move forward, wiping her sticky hand on her cargo pants.

As she passed the lady she had been watching, they exchanged bright smiles and nods hello. Willow was slowly but surely catching up to Tara. When she rounded a corner and noticed her girlfriend had stopped to look in a shop’s window, she called out, “Tara!” Smiling and waving at the blonde excitedly.

Tara turned her head, having heard Willow’s voice. She fiddled with the Magic Box carry bag slung over her shoulder nervously. Nonetheless, she smiled and walked towards her girlfriend.

“Hey,” Said Tara, blushing slightly, “Fancy meeting you here.” She gave Willow’s mouth a soft kiss, “Mmm, vanilla lips.” The blonde beamed, eyes sparkling.

Willow blushed, “Hi, baby. Missed you today,” She reached out for her girlfriend’s hand, “Did you have a good time with Anya?” She asked, motioning forward questioningly. Tara nodded, so they set forth toward home together.

Tara entwined her fingers with her girlfriend’s, “Yeah, I did. We had Chinese for lunch and chit-chatted. There’s some stuff I want to talk with you about once we get to your room.” She squeezed the small hand in hers gently, her gaze falling to the sidewalk in thought.

The redhead nodded, “Ok, as soon as we get settled we can talk, if you want.” She smiled for a second, before remembering something, “Oh, right. My room. Um… Keith kinda ripped me a new one this morning.” She winced, looking sideways at her girl.

The blonde frowned, “How come?” She asked, tilting her head in concern. Willow’s neighbor wasn’t a friend or anything, but he seemed nice enough. If not a bit stuck up.

The bag Willow was holding flopped around in the air as she gesticulated while she talked, “He said we were being too loud. He heard… stuff. Banging and um… we apparently woke him up this morning. Anyway, I need to move my room around and once that’s done, no problemo.” She blushed and swung their clasped hands looking straight ahead.

Tara snickered, a little embarrassed but nonetheless finding it oddly humorous, “Ooops.” She said sarcastically, her eyes sparkling mischievously. “What we really need is soundproofing. I doubt moving the bed will change much.” She said, biting the inside of her lip to stop herself from grinning like an idiot.

The redhead gave her girlfriend a sideways glance, “Did you guys drink again?” She questioned, somewhat surprised by Tara’s reaction.

Tara knocked their shoulders together and feigned annoyance, “That happened once!” She raised an eyebrow, “And, as I recall, you didn’t seem to mind taking advantage of me, drunk and vulnerable as I was.” She said, chin raised in the air righteously. Her demeanor completely betrayed by the gleam in her eye and the lop-sided grin she couldn’t help sporting.

Willow snorted, “Vulnerable? The way I remember it, you came home and pretty much attacked me. I was being all research-gal and suddenly, there’s a lioness in the room with me.” She squeezed the hand in hers gently, “Not complaining, mind you.” Her nose crinkled up, tongue peeked between her teeth as she bared them in a snarl that was nothing but cute on her impish face, “Rawr!”

The blonde fiddled with the strap leading up her chest. Finding it more than a little Ironic how they were finding themselves recalling the same night she and Anya had drunkenly ordered the contents of the fabric bag slung over her shoulder. Her face grew hot, “I remember,” She gulped, nothing seemed to keep the images, the words, from flooding her brain. Her hand subconsciously covered the side of the bag protectively. Oh, boy. I’m gonna go through with this, aren’t I?

Willow was also recalling that night, quite content to mosey down the scenic route through memory lane. But, then her brow creased and a pout developed on her lips. I don’t wanna be quiet! She thought petulantly.

The redhead was contemplating the idea of soundproofing when her girlfriend’s voice cut through her internal process of design and placement. “So, um… Someone sent me something at the Magic Box.”

Tara desperately needed to change the subject, there were too many things going on at once. Each vying for priority, it wasn’t time for her libido to take over. She cocked her head, her eyes grew cloudy… Shaking herself out of it again, she blinked rapidly and spoke up before she could get lost in her thoughts, “I-it’s a trunk. There’s a letter but, I haven’t opened it yet. I left the trunk at the store, it was too big to deal with today.”

The couple walked up the steps and into their dorm building. Willow was about to ask about the trunk when they had to suddenly unlink hands violently. A group of students rushed passed them, sending Willow’s bag flying up and slapping her square on the chin.

The look of utter shock, indignation and offence painted across her lover’s face had Tara cover her mouth. With both hands. But, it did little to hide the rhythmic hopping of her shoulders, or the crinkles around her gleaming blue eyes as she somewhat silently – save for some choked, strangled sounds - dissolved into laughter.

Willow was stood stock still, cheeks tinged red and mouth working soundlessly for a few seconds, “Can you believe that!?” She turned suddenly towards her girlfriend and took in her mirthful countenance, “Are you laughing at me?”

Anger melted off the redhead like chocolate left out under the high-noon sun, in the dead of summer. Her lips quirked up at Tara’s glow. She shook her head in wonderment. I’d get bowled over by bulls in Spain to get to see her like this.

“I’m s-sorry,” Tara had leaned back against the wall, “But that look on your face…” She wiped at her eyes, “A-and the bag!” Her hand swung up into the air in a perfect arc towards her chin. Another round of laughter bubbled up her throat but, this time her joyful sniggers were joined by those of her girlfriend.

Willow reached out a hand for the blonde to take, “You know, you should work for a bomb squad or something.” She shook her head once again in astonishment.

Tara took the offered hand and wrapped herself around Willow’s arm, pulling their bodies tight together in a sideways hug. As they started walking, she turned her adoring, deep blue gaze towards her love, “You just like the uniforms.” She poked the redhead lightly in the ribs.

The redhead went on disbelievingly, “No, it’s true! In less than a nanosecond, you effectively diffused a Willow-bomb.” She waved her bag in front of herself, “I was ready to wrath all over the place and you just…” Her thumb and forefinger came together in front of her eyes, miming the snuffing out of a flame, “Pfffthss!”

They walked up to Willow’s dorm room but, instead of reaching for her keys, the redhead leaned against the door and pulled her girlfriend to her, “You’re amazing, baby.” She kissed her tenderly before pressing their foreheads together, noses lightly nuzzling.

Tara closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. Her heart thundered in her chest. She was bubbling over, it seemed, with love, happiness and desire. Holding this woman against her… never in her wildest dreams would she have allowed herself to even contemplate ever feeling this way.

Yet, here I am.

They both lost themselves in the moment until the sound of a male throat being cleared jostled them out of it, “Harhum,” Came the gruff voice of Willow’s neighbor, Keith, “Don’t get carried away or anything, I’m studying.” He pushed his glasses up his nose and pursed his lips derisively. His robe was tightly tied at the waist, fuzzy blue Captain America slippers peeked from the corner of the door.

Willow’s body tensed at the intrusion. She could feel the anger that had so expertly been swiped away, return full force. Though, when she tried to turn her head towards her annoying neighbor to give him a piece of her mind, a warm hand cupping her cheek stopped the movement. She inhaled sharply when she found herself captivated by the deep, stormy and desirous cerulean of her girlfriend’s eyes.

Tara’s honey-laced voice barely made it the distance between them, “Will,” She caressed the skin of Willow’s cheek with her thumb, “Open the door.” The command vibrated the air separating them in a low rumble, fingers of her other hand tracing the skin above the waistband of her girlfriend’s pants.

The redhead blinked once, then again. She spun around in the circle of her girlfriend’s arms and scrambled for her keys, swallowing a groan as she felt Tara press herself against her back and nuzzling the back of her neck. Warm fingers dug into her waist.

Keith didn’t appreciate being ignored. Not one bit, “You know, I got a single to get some peace and qui-“

Tara’s voice cut him off, “Keith?” She turned her head towards the irritant, holding him in a dominating glare, “Take a break from studying.” Hearing the jangle of keys, she pressed tighter against the warm body in front of her, “The cafeteria is open. You must be hungry,” She leaned closer to a small ear and breathed against it, “I know I am.”

“Uhmguh,” Willow was pressing against the wood of the door with one hand laid flat with its bag swinging lightly back and forth against the surface. Her other hand was desperately trying to twist the key she’d just about been able to slide into the lock. Her fingers slipped from it when she heard the way Tara was speaking. She rested her forehead against the cool wood and took a shaky breath before trying again.

The click of the lock and the sound of Keith’s door slamming came simultaneously.

The redhead twisted the knob, pushed the door open mainly with her body’s weight as they took synchronized steps into the room. The heat against her back cooled, she heard the door close and felt Tara stop her forward momentum.

Willow cleared her throat before turning around to find her girlfriend’s gaze fall much lower than her face. Letting her bag fall to the floor she wrung her fingers and said, “I think he’s serious you know. If he complains…” She was so very turned on. But, part of her brain couldn’t stop worrying. She didn’t like getting in trouble.

Tara raked her eyes the length of Willow’s body, drinking her in until their eyes met. She saw the worry plainly expressed there and her ardor instantly calmed at the sight. She leaned back against the door, “I know.”

The blonde pulled the strap of the bag up over her head and let it fall to the floor next to the dresser. Her hands found their way behind her body, flat against the door. She leaned against them, subconsciously trying to hold back.

The redhead’s fingers kept twisting together anxiously, “Maybe we should unpack your room,” Trying to think on her feet and come up with a solution, her mind grasped at the first thing it thought of, “We don’t even know your neighbors, right?”

The semester hadn’t started very long ago. They had decided on separate rooms, both thinking they weren’t ready for the whole ‘moving in together’ milestone. They made it as far as unpacking Willow’s room, making sure to have Tara’s sleepover drawers and necessities fully stocked.

They hadn’t gotten around to the blonde’s room, yet. It seemed more a storage room than a bedroom at this point. The irony of this wasn’t lost on either witch, but neither spoke about it.

Tara’s mind was stuck on one idea. It had occurred to her while they were walking home. She’d quietly thought it through in the back of her mind, but wanted reassurance her girlfriend felt the same way.

Willow took her girlfriend’s silence as lack of enthusiasm for her idea. She flopped onto the bed and puffed out her cheeks, “I don’t want to have to be all quiet.” She pouted and twisted the fabric of the bedspread with her fingers.

“Why?” Tara asked, still leaning against the door. She brushed a fallen strand of hair behind her ear, crossing her legs at the ankles.

The redhead fidgeted and looked down, “Well, you know… I like hearing you and stuff.” She tucked her hair behind an ear, a blush appearing high on her cheeks. “A-and if I have to be quiet I’ll have to actively think about it an-and that’ll just ruin the whole losing control thing!” She waved her hands around in the air exasperatedly.

“Why do you like hearing me?” She questioned, cocking her head. Tara was pushing, she knew. But, she really wanted to know they were on the same page.

Willow’s brow crinkled, “What are you trying to do, make me burst into flames?” She rolled onto her back and let out a deep frustrated sigh. “You know, I bet he never even had just the tiniest bit of sex.”

Pushing off from the door, Tara walked over to the bed and took a seat next to her girlfriend, “Just answer the question, Will.” Reaching for Willow’s hand, she entwined their fingers together.

She was hit with a shyness that surprised her in its intensity. Having to express in words the reasons why she would desperately miss hearing her lover while in the throes of passion, struck a nerve she didn’t even know existed. Willow cleared her throat, “Um…”

She started playing with the fingers laced with her own, “Different reasons.” Her eyes flickered up to Tara’s face once, then fell quickly back down to their clasped hands. “If you want to talk about technicalities, I get a lot of cues from the sounds you make. The tone of your voice, the volume. They all guide me, you know?” She chanced a glance and saw Tara nodding in agreement, “A-and if you want to talk feelings or energy, when I hear you enjoying what I’m doing… sometimes, just the words you say, it-it builds the intensity up. Like, I can feel it physically… like a shot of electricity up and down my spine.”

Tara laid down on the bed, keeping her girlfriend’s hand in hers. Laying on her side, they were face to face, “I feel the same way.” She kissed each finger grasping her own, “I have an idea that I think might work.” Frowning slightly, she waited a beat before continuing, “There’s a spell we could do. It would keep sound from leaving the room.”

Willow’s face lit up, “That’s a great idea!” She wiggled in place, “What do we need?” She asked, ready to get started.

“I’d have to check, I haven’t read it in a long time.” Tara tucked an errand strand of red hair behind a small ear, “It’s in my mother’s Book of Shadows.”

She tried to gauge how her girlfriend was feeling, but Willow was met with shaky yet determined stoicism. “Oh,” She wiggled her fingers, “Have you cast it before?”

“No,” The blonde spoke softly, “Momma did. I read it after she died.” She ran a finger down Willow’s nose, across her brow, down her cheek. Wanting to anchor herself in the moment and not slip away into past experiences, “She cast it on the basement so D-donny and I wouldn’t hear things.”

Acid roiled in Willow’s stomach, she felt the room tilt around them, “We don’t have to.” She shook her head against the pillow, “We’ll rearrange the room and we’ll be quiet, baby. Really, it’s no big deal.”

“It’s a big deal for me,” Tara tried to smooth out the deep worry in her girlfriend’s forehead with a gentle finger, “It means a lot to me, being able to be with you like that. Free, without holding back.” She tucked her head in her girlfriend’s shoulder, Willow rolled onto her back and wrapped her arms around the blonde. “Momma used the spell with fear and shame as reasons to cast. If we use it, it would be freedom and love driving it instead. In a way, it would be like freeing my m-mom. Cathartic, you know?”

Willow kissed the top of her girlfriend’s head. “I love you.” She squeezed her precious cargo, “When do you want to do it?” There was suddenly only one solution to the problem.

Tara shrugged, “As soon as we can,” She propped herself up on an elbow and quirked a mischievous eyebrow, “I don’t know about you, but I won’t be able to hold back for very long.” She dipped her head and rubbed their noses together, grinning.

The redhead leaned up and pressed her lips against the fullness of Tara’s mouth. She captured and re-captured both the top and bottom lip, over and over again slowly and sensuously. Her fingers trailed a feather-light line down the blonde’s throat. She pulled away slightly, both their breaths heavy, “I know what you mean.” She said, now trailing a finger the length of Tara’s bottom lip.

Her lip tingled where Willow’s finger traced the skin. The blonde tipped her head down just enough to seize the soft digit between her teeth. She closed her mouth around it and sucked it in slowly, pulling it in past her lips to the first knuckle. Her tongue tickled the soft pad of Willow’s index finger.

“I t-think this is the kind of thing we’re supposed to be avoiding right now,” The redhead said in an unsteady voice, her pupils dilated, “If you keep doing that, we’ll have an angry Keith banging on the door real soon.” Gently, she pulled her finger from Tara’s mouth and took a deep breath.

Tara grumbled petulantly, “You started it with the kissing,” She rested her head back onto Willow’s shoulder.

A few quiet moments passed, both content in their proximity. In the silence, Tara’s mind wandered back to her day’s previous events. “Erynn was at the Magic Box today. Anya says she has an empathic buffering pendant. She bought the ingredients for a powerful cleansing spell for it.” She tightened her hold around Willow’s waist, “I think that’s what happened last night, her pendant overloaded. Not sure what that m-means exactly, but I think we saw the result.”

“So, she’s an empath?” Willow’s voice came out half surprised, half disbelieving. “Is she a witch, too?” Her brow creased as she tried to figure the Canadian out.

Tara smoothed over the fabric of her girlfriend’s shirt that laid across her stomach, “Not a witch. Anya seems to think she’s an empath.”

The redhead ran a hand up and down her lover’s arm, “You don’t sound convinced.” She felt her girlfriend shrug.

“I don’t know,” Her fingers fiddled with the hem of Willow’s shirt, “I didn’t think empaths shifted.”

They fell silent then for a few moments. Each lost in their own thoughts until Tara broke the silence, “She needs help. For the spell I mean, she needs a witch. She doesn’t know about us being witches though, Anya didn’t tell her.”

More silence filled the room, this time it wasn’t a comfortable one.

The redhead twitched, “So, this pendant does what? Buffers the emotions she would feel from others if she’s an empath?”

“I think so.” Tara sighed, “My instinct is to help; I don’t think it’s dangerous. But, I don’t want to do it without you. I’m still kinda freaked about last night.” She reached behind her head and took the elastic out of her hair letting it fall loose across Willow’s chest.

Automatically, the redhead’s fingers started massaging her girlfriend’s scalp. Having learned a long time ago how much the blonde appreciated the loving gesture once taking her hair down, it was now more a reflex than a thought out response. Tara’s pleasure-filled murmurs flittered to her ears, “Well, there’s a lot we still don’t know about her and everything. If we do decide to help, I think we should talk first.”

“Mmm,” Tara nuzzled into her girlfriend’s chest, her scalp tingling in relief, “I think that’s fair.”

***

The deep and melodic trill of Leonard Cohen’s voice filled the room, the only other sound that of pencil scratching against paper. Erynn was sat on her bed, surrounded with drawings and supplies.

She had made her way back home unscathed, other than a short run-in with a mother and child. The child felt strongly about his mother being a big meanie; life’s injustices rendered him furious. The mother on the other hand, was exasperated and wanted to run away.

Erynn, having almost physically bumped into the pair, had been thrown by the sudden set of emotions. Her energy shifted in ways that made her want to curl up with a pint of ice-cream and play with Hotwheels while sipping a margarita. She really wanted a onesie and a tall, dark handsome dude named Ramon or anything exotic sounding.

When she got home she took off her shoes and hat, and put on some music. She unloaded her art supplies onto the bed and started drawing. This was a couple of hours ago now, the only proof of time having passed at all being the myriad of sketches littering the bed and the floor.

She was lost to the world until the phone rang, violently dragging her back to reality.

Uncurling herself from the bed, she lowered the volume on her stereo before picking up. “Allo?”

Willow’s chipper voice answered, “Hey, Erynn! It’s Willow,”

Erynn pulled her desk chair out and sat down, “Hi, Willow. How are you?” She ran a hand through her hair and curled a leg under herself.

“I’m good! How are you, you know… after last night?” Her voice lowered, concerned.

The French-Canadian couldn’t help but smile at the worry obvious in Willow’s voice, “I’m much better, thanks. You guys were amazing.”

There was a slight pause over the line before the redhead answered softly, “I can’t help but feel like we could’ve done more.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” Erynn immediately placated, “I was in a bad way. I’m sorry if I scared you guys.” She twirled a feisty brown curl around her finger as she spoke.

There was a barely audible smack of lips over the line before Willow piped up, chipper as ever, “How do you feel about pizza?”

Erynn’s eyebrows shot up her forehead, “Pizza?” Her stomach took that moment to remind her she hadn’t eaten all day, “Who doesn’t like pizza?” She rubbed her tummy. I should order myself one…

“Sorry, Erynn. Hold on a sec.” The sound of Tara’s voice filtered through, although muffled. “… of course the box it was in… it took me… here… -adows.” She heard the sound of a kiss and that of the redhead saying her name.

“Ok, sorry about that,” Willow came back, loud and clear again, “Pizza. How about getting some, you me and Tara? We could have dinner together. Whaddya say?”

“Oh,” Erynn fidgeted in her seat, “I don’t know if this is such a great time…”

There was a pregnant pause in which the brunette was thinking up excuse after excuse, before Willow broke through her inner rhetoric, “Even if you’d be having dinner with a couple of witches?” She asked sweetly.

The French-Canadian stood up so fast, she sent the desk chair rolling back, standing on one leg like a flamingo, “You mean, you and Tara? Witches?” She pressed her free hand against her forehead in disbelief, letting her leg finally fall to the ground, “Tabarnak,”

“I don’t know what that last thing was but, Yep!” Willow chirped, “So, pizza at your place?”

“Please,” The word came out rushed and much more desperate sounding than Erynn had intended, “Um… I’m really hungry.” She tacked on lamely.

“Yeah,” The redhead said tentatively, “Erynn, the energy in your room… is it calm? Calmer than last night?”

“Much.” Was all the brunette could say, nodding frantically, “I-it was my pendant. It overloaded a-and the cleansing talisman in my room re-“

This seemed to have sealed it, Willow cut Erynn’s babble off like only a babbler can, “What do you like on your pizza? We guarantee door to door service!”

***

Tara shuffled her hands under the piping hot box, trying to relieve the prickling heat dancing across her palms. She was attempting to keep up with her girlfriend who was having the same issue with her own pizza box. Willow, it seemed, had decided speed-walking was the answer. “Will, you’re gonna trip and squish the pizza!”

“Oh, sure!” Came the breathless voice from ahead, “Worry about the pizza! Ouch,”

They quickly made their way up to Erynn’s building, Tara catching up to her girlfriend moments later to find her eyeing the entrance door with determined intensity. “Will?”

“The ground’s wet,” Willow voiced her dilemma, “You know if I hold this one handed, I’ll just drop it like a spaz.” She said, rolling her eyes self-deprecatingly.

The solution was obvious to Tara, “Put your box on my box.” She extended her arms, waiting for the redhead to add her load on top.

Red tinged Willow’s cheeks, a mischievous glint appearing in her eye, “Well, that’s mighty forward of you. I really like that too baby, but…” She waggled her eyebrows, “This is kind of a public place.”

Tara giggled, “You’re incorrigible,” She tipped her head towards Willow’s pizza and back, “Come on, this thing’s hot.”

The redhead wanted to keep going about boxes and their radiating heat but, truth be told, her hands felt like they were being pricked over and over again with hot needles. She slid her pizza over to her girlfriend’s arms and quickly opened the door for them.

They rounded the corner for the stairs, “Shouldn’t we, you know… have a plan?” Tara was uneasy. She didn’t know all that much about empaths or shifters. All she was certain of was, she didn’t want to be anywhere near that room if what she felt the night before was to happen again.

Willow stopped in the stairs, “You nervous, baby?” She shifted the box in her hands, “We’re just here to talk, get to know each other. Nothing major.”

Tara nodded, trying to take comfort in her girlfriend’s confidence, “Ok, let’s go,” She indicated the stairs with her chin and attempted a smile.

Reaching the second floor there was a slight fumble when a guy, who looked to Tara to be at least six and a half feet tall and built like a brickhouse, rounded the corner at the same time Willow came the opposite way.

Tara winced, her shoulders hiking up her neck as she mentally braced for Willow’s impact. It never came. Through squinted eyes, what she saw astounded her. He pirouetted, graceful as a swan – a kind of giggly squeak bubbled up his throat as he did so, avoiding a head-on collision with a startled redhead holding a large pizza box. “Whoa!” He said with excitement, “That was fun!”

The blonde stood, wide-eyed with a goofy grin on her face, “Top marks,” She giggled.

He bowed good-naturedly before waving at them and walking off.

“Well,” Willow said once her heart crawled back into her chest, “That was… so many things.”

They made it to Erynn’s room, neither of them making a move to knock on the door. Willow eyed her girlfriend, “Do you feel anything weird?”

Tara cocked her head, brow crinkled in concentration, “No. Nothing.”

The redhead shuffled her feet, “So… we knock, then?” She asked tentatively, wanting to make sure her girlfriend was still on board.

When the blonde reluctantly nodded her acquiescence, Willow pushed the box in her hands flush with the door so she could rap her knuckles against the wood. She gave it three small knocks and stepped back.

They heard a loud clatter and what they knew to be cussing by tone alone, the words meaningless to them, “Hold on, sorry!”

Willow and Tara exchanged looks, wondering what was going on. But, before they were able to let their imaginations take off, the door swung open.

Erynn stood in the doorway, disheveled. Her black buttoned up shirt was partly undone, half tucked in her jeans. Her red tank-top peeking through the shirt’s buttons. Red suspenders hung loose at her hips, black smudges marred her otherwise spotless face, dark jeans rolled up above naked feet, “Holy crap, that’s fast pizza!” She pulled the door all the way open, gesturing for them to enter. “I must say, best looking delivery I’ve ever had.” Oh, great. Who’s the flirt?

Willow’s eyebrows shot up her forehead, Tara blushed. Erynn cleared her throat and closed the door, “Well, make yourselves comfortable,” She eyed the bed which she hadn’t had a chance to finish clearing, “Let me just…” She rushed towards it, pushing her art supplies into their tote.

Tara had taken the opportunity to deposit her pizza box on their friend’s desk, she smoothed down her skirt and glanced at Willow. Her girlfriend seemed stunned, standing there holding her box, watching Erynn move around the room, frazzled. “Did we call at a bad time?” The blonde asked, noticing sketches and art supplies littering the room. She cocked her head, trying to make out the music playing over the stereo but the volume was too low. Definite piano… Female voice…

Hearing her girlfriend’s voice snapped the redhead out of her trance. Looking around the room, she noticed Tara’s pizza box and went to deposit hers as well.

With the bed cleared, the Canadian ran a hand through her hair, “No, no. I was drawing most of the day… it tends to get messy.” She shuffled her feet, “I wasn’t expecting you so soon. That’s some pizza service.” Walking to her closet, she pulled out three over-sized, fluffy throw-pillows and threw them on the floor, “Well, have a seat. How much do I owe you for the pizza?”

Tara bent over to unlace her boots, “Don’t worry about it,” She kicked one off and reached for the other, “We invited you.” She stood back up and smiled, reaching out for the pizzas.

Willow had already kicked off her shoes and chosen a pillow. She was comfortably sprawled across it, “This is great! So comfy.”

“Well, thank you for dinner,” Erynn said on her way to the mini-fridge, “What would you guys like to drink? I have water, Coke and apple juice.” She pointed at the door with her thumb, “There’s a vending machine right around the corner, too.”

Placing the boxes at the center of their semi-circle, Tara smoothed her skirt around her legs and gracefully sat into a pillow of her own, “Apple juice for me, please.” She wiggled in her seat, “This is comfy.”

“Coke, please!” Chirped Willow, “We should get some of these, baby.” She said, patting the pillow beneath her.

Erynn handed off their drinks and kicked her over-sized ball of fluff with her naked foot a couple times, then flopped down in a heap, “These have been with me for over a year. Indispensable. Got them in British Columbia.”

The boxes were opened and the French-Canadian lit up, “Yay! They had green olives!?” She hopped in her pillow, making air puff out of it loudly.

Willow giggled, “Yeah, they did! Usually they use black olives. I’m a green olive gal myself, just never thought to ask.” Her tongue peeked out between her teeth in delight, “You bet I’ll be asking for them now!”

Tara hovered over the lid of the box with her piece, “Good thing I like them too,” she said, wiggling her socked toes against her girlfriend’s shin and grinning.

The atmosphere was light and companionable, they relaxed in each other’s company as they ate their pizza. Tara noticed how Erynn would discretely reach for her ankle which was sporting a beaded anklet. From time to time, the French-Canadian would run a finger through the beads and take deep breaths.

The blonde witch took note of this, but didn’t say a word.

Curiosity, wariness, impatience, confusion. Erynn closed her eyes and let out a deep breath, having taken in the changing emotions in the room. Standing up, she made her way to the closet, “So, I’m sure you have questions…” She pulled out a washcloth and walked to the small sink in the corner of the room. Wetting and wringing it, she handed the cloth over to Tara for her to clean her hands.

Sitting back into her pillow, she brushed the hair from her face, “I’m not really sure how to do this.”

The blonde handed the cloth to her girlfriend once she was done, “Well, we should tell you we know you need help.”

Erynn nodded, “I figured Anya would have told you.” Reaching above her, she grasped the pendant that was sitting on the desk, “This is my buffering pendant.” She handed it off to Willow, who immediately brought it up to her face to inspect closely. “It overloaded last night. It never happened before, not something I want to experience again.”

Tara decided to get something out in the open, “Erynn, are you an empath?”

The Canadian held Tara’s gaze for a moment before answering, “Yeah, I am.” When she noticed the blonde’s brow creasing, she felt confusion, “Among other things.” She tacked on.

Silence. Willow wondered how it could be so heavy, being it wasn’t an actual thing. After what seemed to be hours, she heard Erynn continue, “I’m sorry. I’m being all vague, I know.”

“You’re an empath and an energy shifter.” Tara said in a flat tone, “Is there anything else?” She felt uncharacteristically cross, like she was being played with.

Erynn stood up suddenly, “Yes. And no, nothing else,” She walked to the far wall, looking at the ground. “You’re angry.” Her fingers fiddled with a button on her shirt nervously.

Willow felt like she was at a tennis match. Her eyes kept darting from her girlfriend to Erynn, at a complete loss as to what was happening. “Angry? She’s not angry, are you baby?” Her fingers could break off, she was twisting them so much.

The blonde rubbed her forehead, “Erynn, I’m sorry.” Tara hated feeling this off kilter. She felt betrayed in a way but had no idea why, “I think I need to understand better. I don’t get how an empath can also be a shifter… and not be, I don’t know-”

“Suicidal? Homicidal? Crazy? Self-destructive?” Erynn rattled off, “Manipulative? Oh, how about a complete slut…” Her sentence ended on half a breath. She all but threw herself onto the bed and sat at the center of it. Pulling at her toe self-consciously, she continued softly, “I also make a very good puppet if I don’t stay vigilant. I had to learn that one the hard way, too.”

Willow’s brow was heavily creased, “Sorry,” She waved a hand in the air, “I’m a bit lost,”

Tara had thought about these possibilities. It didn’t make her feel any better knowing she was right to worry. She was torn between worrying for herself and her loved ones, and wanting to help Erynn. The blonde couldn’t imagine living like that. But, the Canadian could be very unstable. Dangerously so.

“Being an empath means I can feel other people’s emotions as if they were my own.” Erynn started explaining, “The shifting means I change energetically depending on who I’m around, whatever would attract them or part of them.” She raised her eyebrows at Willow, “I’m basically human play-doh in my natural state. Without focusing and the pendant, the line between my true self and… what others want me to be, blurs.”

Tara stood up, crossed her arms and started pacing uncomfortably, “But, even with the pendant you still shift, right? Am I wrong in thinking you don’t control it? That it’s automatic?”

“Not wrong.” Erynn grabbed one of her pillows, squeezing it to her chest, “Without the pendant it can get pretty intense, though. If I shift and feel others’ emotions full force… I’ve lost myself in the past. It’s the finding yourself again that’s hard. Knowing what you’ve done…” She trailed off, not wanting to continue down that path.

“I’ve never heard of something like this before,” The redhead had been uncharacteristically quiet, gleaning as much information as she could from the conversation going on around her, “Is this common?”

The Canadian shook her head, “Not that I know of, but I don’t know much really. If it wasn’t for my great aunt, I don’t know where I’d be.” The pencil between her fingers jumped rhythmically as she continued, drumming a soft rat-tat-tat against the pillow in her arms, “All I know is that in my family there are empathic witches and empaths. If you go far back enough, there was one shifter in the mix. What I was told is that my dormant shifter gene got activated.”

“How?” Willow asked the simple question. But, for a long moment no answer came. Erynn was quiet, seemingly deciding whether or not to answer.

Willow and Tara exchanged questioning looks before the Canadian finally said, “Trauma.”

In the resulting silence, she continued, “I’m sorry, but I don’t really want to go into detail about that.” Erynn squirmed in her seat on the bed, “I really don’t like talking about it.”

“Of course,” Tara was quick to reassure, knowing all too well how trips down memory lane can be devastating, “You don’t have to, you’ve shared a lot already.” She smiled comfortingly. Casting a look towards her girlfriend was all she needed to do to decide on further actions, “We’ll help you with your pendant, Erynn.” A small freckled hand slipped into hers. Tara turned her head to ask Willow, “Tomorrow?”

At her girlfriend’s nod, Tara confirmed, “We’ll give you a call tomorrow, ok? I’m sure you’d like to have it as soon as possible.”

Erynn let go of a long, deep breath, “Thank you so much,” Getting up from the bed, she had to clasp her hands together to keep from doing something she’d regret. “Um… I have classes on Monday, so I was getting pretty nervous.” She blushed, trying to reign in the feelings wafting off the witches. Just holding hands? Whoa…

Willow handed Tara her boots, “Do you have the spell on paper, or in email?” Bending over, she started to slip her own shoes on, “I’d like to give it a once over before doing anything.”

Tara was doing a very good job at hiding her discrete yet blatant ogling of her girlfriend’s butt as she bent over. The blush forming on her cheeks was her only giveaway. I’ll give you a once over. She bit the inside of her lip.

“Both!” The brunette exclaimed a bit too loudly, “I mean, I printed it out from an email my aunt sent me. So, whichever you’d prefer.” She shifted awkwardly, her eyes darting towards Tara. Stop it! If that’s all it takes, how do you get anything done!?

“- edRed at gmail dot com,” Erynn jolted to attention, realizing she’d been lost in thought and missed what the redhead was saying, “Sorry. I should write that down.” At Willow’s nod of approval, she let out a nervous sigh before picking up a pencil and paper at random around the room.

Willow repeated her email address so Erynn could write it down. At this point, the Canadian was beet red from discomfort. She was turned on, no doubt about that. But, them not being her emotions, it always came with a big side of guilt. Her shifting was getting to be a bit much, too.

She chanced a desperate look at Tara and their eyes met.

There was a short moment before recognition came over the blonde’s face, her eyebrows shot up her forehead, her blush darkening. She winced and mouthed ‘Sorry’. Erynn could only shrug and smile.

The redhead was oblivious to all of this, having been busy shuffling the boxes and waste from their meal.

“Well,” Tara cleared her throat and rubbed the back of her neck, “We should get going.”

Erynn smirked, “Uh huh, I’m really glad you guys… came today.” She opted for nonchalant body language, but winked at the blonde mischievously, “Thanks again. Really.”

***

He never went through the sewer access. Hated the soddin’ sewers, he was better than that. A drop of water fell from a pipe and extinguished Spike’s cigarette with a soft ‘tssst’.

“Bloody hell!” The soiled cigarette flew across the tunnel, finally plopping into a pool of murky water. It floated there, mocking the vampire. Reaching into his coat, he pulled out his pack only to realize it was empty. “RRraaah!” He roared at the ceiling, crumpling the meaningless cardboard in his fist. His body vibrating with rage, the empty box quickly met the same fate as the ruined cigarette.

Shaking off the anger, he shrugged sharply, hiking his coat back onto his shoulders. He closed his eyes and sniffed loudly, shaking his head once before continuing on his way.

He wouldn’t be doing this normally. Last time he went to Willy’s, Spike was left bruised and battered – on his back in the street. Sure, it was a fun ruckus. A bit of the ole’ rough and tumble, but his ego had been bruised nonetheless.

Lately though, he’d been preoccupied with a small, blonde firecracker. Just his luck he’d get a hard on for the Slayer. Centuries of hunting them down… it must be a Freudian thing, he was sure of it. Of course she rejected him off hand. Her dismissal aggravated an old wound though, serving only to solidify his obsession.

So, Spike desperately needed a distraction.

He’d heard of this job at poker night. A new bloke in town was recruiting, something about finding talent. His ears had perked up when money was mentioned, the sum offered being more than generous. The contact would be at Willy’s right now. Unfortunately, the sun hadn’t set yet which meant Spike had to resign himself to using the sewers.

Climbing up the rungs to his right, he ascended into the back room of Willy’s bar. A red, flashing light welcomed him from the top corner of the dark space. A few seconds later, the nervous face of the bartender peered into the room from between the beaded separator hanging in the doorframe.

“Spike!?” Willy squeaked nervously. He rung the towel he was holding in his hands and walked into the room, glancing over his shoulder, “What are you doing here? I don’t want no trouble.”

Spike raised his hands, “Easy, mate. I’m here on business,” He fingered the corner of a torn box sitting on a shelf next to him, “There’s a bloke here I need to see. Gurtrall demon.”

Willy shuffled his feet nervously, “He’s been here hours,” Scratching his head he added, “Ate me out of chicken wings.”

The vampire was surprised, “Since when do you have wings?” They sounded good right about now, dipped in some O’ neg. The only thing missing would be… “You should look into that blooming onion thing.” He pointed at Willy thoughtfully.

“I heard he was coming,” The bartender rushed his words, “I was prepared. Not someone you want to disappoint, apparently.” He dashed towards the door, glanced around the bar and came back. “Normally, I’d be over the moon with the amount of traffic he’s generating. But, he scares the crap out of me.”

Spike wasn’t expecting this level of anxiety. That made him both curious and cautious, “What do you know about him?”

Willy got agitated, “Look, I have a bar to tend…” When the vampire took a menacing step forward, words starting streaming out of his mouth, “Hired right hand of some big head owns a business dealing in ugly stuff. Just got here last week. Set up shop at the edge of town.” He gulped, “That’s all I know.” He slung his towel over his shoulder and pointed at the doorway behind him with his thumb, “Now, seriously, things can get ugly in there without service.”

Spike tipped his head dismissively, “Smoke machine stocked?” He asked, following the barkeep into the bar.

“Yeah, yeah…” Willy hurried behind the bar counter, “Help yourself,” He waved at a scaly, grey demon at the other end of the counter, quickly making his way over to take his order.

Spike leisurely made his way toward the cigarette dispenser, shooting furtive glances around the bar. It wasn’t difficult to pinpoint the Gurtrall he was here to meet among the other patrons. He took up two chairs. The vampire figured the demon was too big to fit in a booth. He towered over his companion sitting across from him. A nervous looking Wrorsht demon talking animatedly and waving his suction cupped extremities around.

The vampire bent down to grab the pack of cigarettes he’d just bought. He turned and noticed the Gurtrall shake his huge head at the Wrorsht, promptly ignoring him for the peanut basket on the table.

Spike followed the Wrorsht demon with his eyes, only stopping when the dejected looking fellow disappeared through the door behind him. Well, guess I’m up.

He sidled up to the vacant chair across from his contact and took a seat, “I hear the chicken wings are to die for,” He tried to remain nonchalant, but the sheer size of the Gurtrall was unnerving. Not to mention the dark red glow of his almond-shaped eyes.

“Vampire,” The demon said in a deep vibrating bellow, “Old for a half-breed.” Popping three peanuts into his maw, shells and all, he continued while chewing, “Are you influential in this town?”

The rumble of the Gurtrall made Spike’s eardrums tingle, “Spike’s the name,” He fingered a peanut shell on the table, diligently ignoring the half-breed comment, “I get things done. I have contacts and the like, been around a while.” Chancing his luck, he added, “What should I call you?”

The demon regarded Spike intently for a moment, “They call me Jurrot,” He closed his eyes and bared his teeth for a second, “You’re not liked here.” He said, popping more peanuts into his mouth before asking, “Why?”

Spike had noticed the looks, he wasn’t surprised by them of course. He did worry it would ruin his chances at some decent money, though, “I tend to get into trouble. Bad attitude, they say.”

Jurrot made a sound the vampire assumed was laughter, “Have friends left in this town?”

Spike shrugged, “As long as folks need something, I have friends.” He tapped his cigarette box before looking up, “Mind if I smoke?”

The Gurtrall waved a hand, “All incense to me,” When the vampire lit his cigarette he asked, “Need a magic user. Powerful, discrete. Know one?” He looked down at a paper pad laid next to him on the table while he waited for an answer.

“I know a few,” He said through a cloud of smoke, “Depending on how powerful you need. The discrete thing narrows your choices, though.” The vampire tapped his cigarette, letting the ash fall to the floor.

Jurrot rumbled, “Discrete is important,” He held Spike in his gaze, “Nasty repercussions if not.”

Spike tried to shrug it off, “So, your choices are limited. Don’t mean you don’t hav’em.” Nervously, he craned his neck back, looking around, “What’s in it for me, if I bring in this bloke?”

“Big piece of puzzle,” Jurrot said cryptically, “Do you deal in currency?” He twisted his head towards the counter.

Willy jumped at attention and quickly ran over. “Yes?”

“Best blood for Spike,” The demon said, “Ressgurt mucus, for me.” Glancing at the table he added, “More nuts.”

The barkeep nodded frantically, “Right away,” He said and scurried off.

The vampire bowed his thanks, “I’m highly motivated by money,” Lifting his leg over his knee, he extinguished his finished cigarette on the sole of his boot. “I’d need to know what to tell them the job would be, though.”

Jurrot hissed a rattling breath, “Getting ahead of yourself,” He stopped when Willy returned with the drinks and nuts. “There you go, anything else I’ll just be…” Pointing over his shoulder, the barkeep backed away slowly.

“Drink.” The demon continued, “This is first job. You know nothing, will know nothing.” Twisting the pink straw jutting from his blueish green drink, he awkwardly pulled in a mouthful, “You give card, that’s it. If your choice fails, both of you die.”

Spike shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but said nothing. Instead, he opted to gulp his blood.

“If you live, you get more jobs. Jobs are money. This one is a thousand moneys.” The chairs creaked beneath him as he moved around. “Bigger jobs, more moneys.”

Bloody hell, that’s more than I thought! Spike quickly slipped on his poker face, “Not bad,” Tapping his fingers on the tabletop he asked, “What does failing mean, exactly?”

“There is test.” Air ran through his straw making a loud slurping sound, “If they fail test, they become loose end. So do you.” Finished Jurrot, wiping his mouth.

“What test?” Spike didn’t want to be a loose anything.

Jurrot hissed again, “You give card. That’s it.”

Argh! Be bloody reasonable! “How am I supposed to know who’s the one for the job, then aye? If I don’t know anything!” Spike’s attitude problem was rearing its ugly head.

The demon leaned over the table and answered in a low rumble, “Make sure to choose best you know.” His body moved in a way resembling a shrug, “If you accept, that is risk.”

Spike shifted his shoulders and ran his index finger around the inside of his glass, wiping up the blood stuck to the slick surface. What the hell? He thought, sticking his finger in his mouth. He sucked it dry and sniffed. “Right then, where’s this card?”

***

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~M
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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 10:26 am 
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Ok! Back with actual feedback this time.

I love how you've established how solid W/T are as a couple. At first I was a little concerned about Erynn trying to horn on our ladies, but you did a fantastic job of making it abundantly that this is not the case.

As for the love scenes, I'll simply quote directly from part 1:

Quote:
Holy Mother of Gawd!


and also,

Quote:
Damn, I forgot to breathe.


Yes, that sums it up quite nicely, I think.

I really, REALLY, loved your Willow's explanation of identifying as "gay-gay" and not bi. It had to be the most thoughtful, simple and eloquent explanation I have seen given. Brava.

Erynn is a very intriguing character. At once mysterious and open-faced. Quite a dilemma she has as an empath/shifter. Tara is so particularly concerned that I can't help but be really worried also. What does this combination mean in the larger context? The implication of Tara's fears that Erynn could be extremely dangerous has me all sorts of intrigued.

Finally, this Jurrot character... hmmm... very interesting. LOADS of red flags going up. What does he want, why does he want it, and what does this mean for whomever Spike "picks"? Yipes.

Welp, safe to say you have my attention good and locked.

Cheers!
DW

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 2:36 pm 
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DarkWiccan wrote:

I love how you've established how solid W/T are as a couple. At first I was a little concerned about Erynn trying to horn on our ladies, but you did a fantastic job of making it abundantly that this is not the case.


Erynn was developed partly as being Willow's "difficult gift". She, among other things, serves the purpose of making Will deal with her insecurities. She does this just by being herself, who happens to be confused by her feelings for Tara.

Confused is the main word here.

The love scenes... I wanted their sex life to be expressive. For them to find a physical communion with each other, in a sense. I'm approaching this fic. very much with the psychology of the characters in mind. (At least, what I perceive them to be.)

And, you know. Hot. *shrug*

DarkWiccan wrote:
I really, REALLY, loved your Willow's explanation of identifying as "gay-gay" and not bi. It had to be the most thoughtful, simple and eloquent explanation I have seen given. Brava.


Ok, now this. This makes me so, so happy. For years... watching the show that I absolutely adore would make me cringe when Willow would say "Gay now" as a throwaway explanation. Or the generally loved: "I think I'm kinda gay". The 'now' in Gay Now, and the 'kinda' in Kinda gay irritated me to no end.

I found it difficult, being a gay woman, watching the transition between Oz and Tara. So little was explained, until one episode she says "Gay now" and that should be that.

I've gone through this myself, having had a serious boyfriend in high school before coming out. Before actually realizing what I was missing - who I was. I was disappointed how easily it was all swept under the gay rug. I understand, they wanted to make as little fuss as possible. But, hello... it's a big honkin' deal.

My friends and family sure as hell had questions.

Anyway, sorry. Rant over.

DarkWiccan wrote:
Welp, safe to say you have my attention good and locked.


Yay! I'm very pleased! :bounce

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 6:50 pm 
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I've actually only read the first chapter so far, but I wanted to drop some feedback (so I don't get too far behind for one thing - mostly I read at work, and several times I had to stop and pick it up later, because, well, I'd feel kind of weird reading the sexy bits at work :blush ). I'm really enjoying this - what with my whole uberfic thing Sunnydale is actually a setting I haven't ever been that familiar with in fics, but I'm enjoying it, and Erynn is a nice 'in' to the setting, following along with piecing together the mystery of what's going on with her. You write her well, she does indeed have charm - not forced or 'engineered' into her, it comes across naturally.

Willow and Tara... wow :grin It's great how you've got dialogue and thoughts running through the sexy goodness, making what they're doing physically a proper part of their characters interacting, rather than a sideshow - and how their developing roles of Mistress and Kitten didn't just switch on and off, but weave through their larger personalities (I particularly liked Willow's very classic-cute-Willow 'whoa, go me!' while she's being all outwardly commanding). It's a really convincing portrayal of their sexual sides flourishing in a major way, and it's incredibly sweet, as well as hot.

I'm glad to see another chapter already, although I think I'm just going to have to wait until I get home to get started on it - not that the customers would know what I've been reading, but I can't just switch off the mental images of Willow and Tara being all Willow and Tara and gorgeous - as you say, walking aphrodisiac.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 12:25 am 
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Artemis wrote:
I've actually only read the first chapter so far, but I wanted to drop some feedback (so I don't get too far behind for one thing - mostly I read at work, and several times I had to stop and pick it up later, because, well, I'd feel kind of weird reading the sexy bits at work :blush ). I'm really enjoying this - what with my whole uberfic thing Sunnydale is actually a setting I haven't ever been that familiar with in fics, but I'm enjoying it, and Erynn is a nice 'in' to the setting, following along with piecing together the mystery of what's going on with her. You write her well, she does indeed have charm - not forced or 'engineered' into her, it comes across naturally.


Ok, first off - I have to say this. I'm pretty damn honored that you - the author of Hellebore, Smut Bunnies, etc... - are enjoying my first actual fic that isn't just short smut stories.

Erynn is an amalgamation of two people I know and love dearly. I'm glad I was able to create a character out of these two strong personalities in my life, and for her to be believable.

As far as this being set in Sunnydale... well that's mainly due to my lack of experience in writing. I found creating a whole setting - a world - daunting, so I decided to start off by using one I already know. I'm pleased as punch that, even though Uber is your thing, you're enjoying this! :grin

Artemis wrote:
Willow and Tara... wow :grin It's great how you've got dialogue and thoughts running through the sexy goodness, making what they're doing physically a proper part of their characters interacting, rather than a sideshow - and how their developing roles of Mistress and Kitten didn't just switch on and off, but weave through their larger personalities (I particularly liked Willow's very classic-cute-Willow 'whoa, go me!' while she's being all outwardly commanding). It's a really convincing portrayal of their sexual sides flourishing in a major way, and it's incredibly sweet, as well as hot.


Short smut stories are fun... but I got a bit bored with the lack of context. I became much more interested in the psychology of the characters and I happen to think human sexuality is pretty darn important in the adult psyche. Read: Meaningful, Purposeful, Communal, Restorative, etc...

So, yes, yes, yes - I'm so very happy that it comes through as more than just smut for smut's sake... because that was far from the intent of it. What they choose to explore together isn't as important to me as to why they do.

I can't blame you about not reading at work - it's a bit spicy. I'm one of those people who happens to have a very expressive face. It's all eyebrows really... I can't hide much. They tell on me constantly. Reading something like this at work would be, well... probably embarrassing.

Don't worry too much about falling behind. I'm working on the next update now, it won't be up for another week I'd say... I'm really trying not to rush it.

Thank you for the reply, and for reading! :grin

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 12:34 pm 
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I just wanted you to know that I am really enjoying this. I look forward to the next chapter!

- Floof


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 10:23 am 
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Floof wrote:
I just wanted you to know that I am really enjoying this. I look forward to the next chapter!


I'm really glad you're enjoying it! Thank you so much for reading :grin

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 7:17 pm 
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Finally up to date :grin So, first, thanks for mentioning my old fics, it's gonna give me a big head :blush

The whole chapter was great fun to read (and the sexy was, as before, very sexy... also I had this mental image, when Willow mentioned maybe having to move the desk against the outside wall as well, of the room just ending up with all the furniture up against one wall) - the Willow/Buffy scene really stood out for me. You and DW already covered a lot of what I was thinking about it, in terms of really putting Willow's sexuality in the sun, whereas the show itself left a lot unsaid (though it's good they did what they did - it's crazy the limitations the tv suits can insist on, I remember a story about an episode of Star Trek TNG where the executives had got wind that there was going to be a same-sex couple in the background of a scene - not even speaking roles, just two guys sitting together at a table in Ten-Forward while the main characters were talking in the foreground - and sent someone down to the soundstage during filming to make sure that didn't happen. Like, really, this is what you guys think you need to do? Sheesh). So, it was great - especially in a Sunnydale fic, directly picking up the show's setting - to see Willow being gay brought up, discussed, and affirmed, and in a way that completely made sense looking back at how she'd been in the early years, especially her unconscious crush on Buffy and how she described it changing into their present friendship. Also besides the significance of the scene, it was just good - fun to read, a lively, interesting conversation.

I liked the Willow/Tara chat about Anya as well - I like the Tara/Anya friendship, and it was nice seeing her and Willow talk about that, and look at it from various angles. And it was nice, too, they way that came about - that Willow took the advice of talking to Tara about Anya to figure out her uncertainty, and did and - while both of them had to figure out how to express themselves along the way, it wasn't just a dispassionate explanation, and they both had moments of being uncomfortable - they talked and opened up to one another. I like that they have that maturity, from both of them.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 5:43 am 
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Artemis wrote:
Finally up to date :grin So, first, thanks for mentioning my old fics, it's gonna give me a big head :blush


Seriously though, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your work. It did exactly what I love about reading - it transported me to another place and time. I felt and could imagine the scenery and the people... anyway, gush gush gush. Big head or not, it's well deserved. :bow

Artemis wrote:
The whole chapter was great fun to read (and the sexy was, as before, very sexy... also I had this mental image, when Willow mentioned maybe having to move the desk against the outside wall as well, of the room just ending up with all the furniture up against one wall)


My brain tends to dwell in the gutter. At my very first viewing of Hush, when they were in that laundry room? The chemistry and the looks they shared... well my brain just went on a merry sex-capade. I always thought their chemistry was a sexually passionate one, and I wanted that to shine through since - in my mind - the sexual aspect between two people in a relationship is as important as the friendship aspect of that same relationship. So, yes... they tend to get very sexy. :blush


Artemis wrote:
...the Willow/Buffy scene really stood out for me. You and DW already covered a lot of what I was thinking about it, in terms of really putting Willow's sexuality in the sun, whereas the show itself left a lot unsaid... So, it was great - especially in a Sunnydale fic, directly picking up the show's setting - to see Willow being gay brought up, discussed, and affirmed, and in a way that completely made sense looking back at how she'd been in the early years, especially her unconscious crush on Buffy and how she described it changing into their present friendship. Also besides the significance of the scene, it was just good - fun to read, a lively, interesting conversation.


By now, I think I might have watched the whole series about 30 times (no exaggeration) so I've had a lot of time to think about what I didn't like about the show. This was one of my biggest pet peeves. I understand the show is called 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' not 'Willow, I'm gay now'... and, I also understand that Joss himself didn't write it into the show so people would have a role model on t.v. But, all in all - it was all there if you wanted to read between the scenes. So, this scene was mainly for myself - setting the record straight, as it were. I'm so very happy that it struck a chord with you as well. :grin

Artemis wrote:
...it's crazy the limitations the tv suits can insist on, I remember a story about an episode of Star Trek TNG where the executives had got wind that there was going to be a same-sex couple in the background of a scene - not even speaking roles, just two guys sitting together at a table in Ten-Forward while the main characters were talking in the foreground - and sent someone down to the soundstage during filming to make sure that didn't happen. Like, really, this is what you guys think you need to do? Sheesh.


That's the problem with T.V. - creative constraints based on societal discomforts. It's been an issue throughout history where art is concerned. All I can say about that is, woohoo internet! :banana

Artemis wrote:
I liked the Willow/Tara chat about Anya as well - I like the Tara/Anya friendship, and it was nice seeing her and Willow talk about that, and look at it from various angles. And it was nice, too, they way that came about - that Willow took the advice of talking to Tara about Anya to figure out her uncertainty, and did and - while both of them had to figure out how to express themselves along the way, it wasn't just a dispassionate explanation, and they both had moments of being uncomfortable - they talked and opened up to one another. I like that they have that maturity, from both of them.


Tara/Anya - This friendship was hinted at throughout the series. I always wished we'd seen more of them interacting in a meaningful way. I think they both can learn something from each other and have a great deal of fun while at it. In Tabula Rasa, when they're thumb-wrestling at the research table? Heart melt.

Willow/Anya/Tara - This is a big reason why I set the fic in the season 5 timeline. I liked the way the W/T relationship was written then - I actually felt they were more mature than in season 6. Well, Willow anyway. When it comes to these three, I could easily see Willow be bothered by the fact Tara not only enjoyed Anya's company, but that they were friends. Willow's obvious dislike of Anya was kind of explained in Triangle, but... it fell kind of flat for me. The issue isn't just that she's worried about Xander... or else she wouldn't get so irate when Anya just says something inappropriate - which, everyone expects her to do at this point.

The next update... It's a heavy one. Light on the funny, heavy on the angst. I'm drawing parallels between certain characters, delving into their past. This is important - in my opinion - for the story to have the right feel. I wanted to move away from metaphor and into more of a real life kind of feel. The characters are so rich, I thought it would be interesting to delve deeper into what made them tick.

But, it makes me nervous. Especially when it comes to Tara. What I've written... isn't easy to read. Not in the way most would expect (i.e. Tara being mistreated) - but something most wouldn't think about. I love psychology and studying human behavior. Tara fascinates me... but it makes me very nervous about posting it. I'm worried about how it will be received.

I'm almost done writing it, and will definitely post it - nerves be damned - but, yeah. Gulp.

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 Post subject: When Erynn found herself - Post 3 (update)
PostPosted: Sat May 27, 2017 8:19 pm 
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When Erynn found herself – Post 3 (Update)

Author name – CopperAndGold
Rating - NC-17 (Strong)

Disclaimer - This is an adult fic. There will be some angst, smut, bad language, difficult subject matters (They will be noted prior to posting) The characters' developments were taken from season 5 - A bit after the episode: Family. Anything that is canon and prior to this episode is fair game. Oh, there's also a small reference to a funny exchange in season 6 between Anya and Tara that I just couldn't stop from using. Even with all this, there's comedy too! Everything after Family becomes A/U.

Feedback - Please, I love your words.
Summary - Willow and Tara make a new friend. She's... interesting.

Notes – This is a heavy update. It talks about a day in Tara’s past. It’s probably not what you think, but if you’re not interested in seeing Tara as anything but pure-white, and perfect woman… this is probably going to offend you. Just a warning.

I am nervous about this update, but feedback is always welcome.



“… I’ve lost myself in the past. It’s the finding yourself again that’s hard. Knowing what you’ve done…”

Tara bit at the skin on the edge of her thumb nervously. They were walking back to their room, hand in hand but, quietly on the blonde’s part.

When they’d left Erynn’s room, Tara’s mind started racing. At very high speeds, into oncoming traffic.

That exchange with the Canadian; her picking up on Tara’s want of Willow… not as an observer but, as a participant. Trauma… that could mean so many things. But, it’s not usually good…

“-Ice person really. A bit, you know… weird. But, I wanna help.” Willow was pulling open their building’s entrance door, “I’m still not really clear on the whole thing though.”

“Hmm,” The blonde half-listened, lost in her thoughts. To feel what your aggressor feels while they hurt you. Feeling yourself becoming something they want you to be. Goddess, what does that do to someone? What if Rache-

Tara blinked out of her dark musings with a jolt. She’d become adept at stopping this line of thought, but it had snuck up on her right then. And now, it was too late. She could feel it… it was just too late.

Somehow, they’d made it to their room. Willow took off her shoes and walked towards the dresser, “You’re really quiet… Are you ok?”

Crossing her arms over her chest, her eyes fell on her mother’s Book of Shadows sitting on the desk. A distinct prickling at the back of her eyes made Tara blink rapidly, “That’s a l-l-loaded question right n-now.” She was shaking, when did that start?

“Tara?” Willow heard it, the tremble – she was immediately concerned. Letting the tank-top she was about to pull on fall back into the drawer, she walked swiftly but cautiously towards her distraught girlfriend, “Baby?”

Shit, shit, shit. This hadn’t happened in so long, she’d become complacent. “W-will,” A sheen of sweat coated her whole body, her breath short and shallow. Tara barely made it to the floor, holding herself. “P-p-pa” That’s not me. Not me.

The redhead crouched next to her girlfriend, “Baby, breathe!” What the fuck!? “What’s wrong, Tara?” Willow didn’t even dare touch the blonde right now. Suddenly, she had vague flashes across her mind of a study she’d read about panic attacks. Is this, that?

“Tara, look at me.” Willow made her voice calm and commanding. Inside though, she was anything but. “Look at me, baby.”

The blonde was rocking back and forth, hugging her knees tightly across her chest. She looked up and tried to make her eyes focus. Tara was seeing through things, it seemed. Her brain wasn’t registering anything concrete. She knew she was looking at Willow but she was sure that, if she were to reach out, her hand would just pass right through. “W-w-wil,”

Ok, she hears me. “You’re ok Tara. We’re in our room on campus, we’re safe. I love you baby, just… breathe.” Come on eidetic memory, what else did it say!? Tears were marring Willow’s vision. She frustratingly wiped them away, “I know you’re scared, baby. I promise you you’re safe. Breathe with me,” She started taking steady breaths, encouraging Tara to copy her. “That’s it, baby. Just breathe, you’re ok.”

Time seemed to stand still for Willow. She was breathing, so she knew time was actually happening but, change wasn’t. Tara was still looking through her, shaking and crying and Willow just felt like the most helpless, the tiniest of things on earth.

Time was irrelevant until she felt the brush of clammy skin against her hand.

“W-will, I-I’m ok,” Tara barely choked out, “I’ll b-be ok. P-panic at-at-” She threw a hand up over her shoulder, letting the words trail off. Giving up on speech. She felt exhausted and gross... so gross.

At hearing her girlfriend’s voice, seeing her eyes focus once again, Willow’s tears finally fell down her face openly, “Can-can I touch you? I want to hold you…”

“P-please,” Tara uncoiled herself and gratefully leaned into her girlfriend’s arms. She would allow herself this much.

They laid on the floor, Willow holding onto Tara for dear life. Not caring in the least she was topless, it not even registering. She just needed to hold Tara.

The need was too big. She didn’t have enough arms.

Time became irrelevant again. Willow rarely wished she wasn’t so curious. But, this was one of those times. She had so many questions. Part of her wanted to pry, to try and understand what had just happened. The other part of her wanted to protect Tara at all costs. Even from herself and her questions.

So she said the only thing she knew wouldn’t hurt, “I love you.”

Over and over again.

***

12th August, 1997 – Wheatland, Wyoming

Twisting her head left and right, she peered at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She looked the same but, she felt different. Tara took herself in: The dark-blonde bob, the blue eyes… her face.

Her eyes finally settled on the reflection of themselves. After a few moments, it was plain to see. Sitting right there, nestled in her pupils.

Rage.

“Tara! You’re making dad wait!” Her brother’s voice snapped her out of her dark musings. It would be just them now. One person – It shook her to the core just how much one person could affect her life. In both their life, and their death.

“C-coming,” The young woman looked down at herself one more time, making sure her dark clothing were clean of any lint or cat hair. Her dark blue blouse was without wrinkles, the black skirt sat straight down to bellow her knees. At least I look how I feel… Like a big bruise. With a resolute sigh, she made her way downstairs and out of the house.

Tara opened the back passenger door to the family car and sat in her usual seat. Glancing ahead and, seeing Donny sitting in the front passenger seat again, made her want to punch something. Her hands balled up in her lap. Why couldn’t it be you?

He seemed to take his father’s absence as his chance to use foul language, “Seriously, sis. What’s with the fuckin’ boots?” His head swiveled around the seat’s headrest, “Can’t you be normal for like, one day?”

Tara turned to look out the side window, “I guess not.” She mumbled under her breath.

The trunk closed with a loud thud. A moment later, Aaron Maclay was sat behind the wheel. “You know how I hate tardiness, Tara.” His voice boomed from the front as the car was started, “The whole family will be there. Think how it would look if we were late.”

“I’m s-sorry, sir.” With her jaw clenched, she reached for her seatbelt and secured it. “Will we b-be back for-for dinner?” Why couldn’t it be you?

The car pulled out of the driveway, passing the horses on the way to the main road. Tara looked for Chestnut but, couldn’t see her.

“Not tonight,” He said, reaching for the radio dial, “It’ll be too late for you to make anything. There’s still lasagna from last night. We’ll make do with that.”

Johnny Cash’s voice came over the speakers, the volume was raised and the rest of the fifteen minute trip was made in silence but for the sound of music.

Until a few days ago, she’d harbored doubts about the whole demon thing. Not enough to make her reckless, of course. She still knew enough to be very self-aware and to respect where her magic came from.

But, now?

Oh, she was self-aware alright. Something had cracked inside her the day her mom died. Now, she knew she had some kind of darkness in her. How else could it be she was this angry, this resentful?

What made her take notice was her acceptance of it. Not just acceptance, but apathy. She felt like she could shrug the whole world’s pain off her shoulders without a care. There was only room for her own now.

The trees stood still for a minute longer than she’d expected them to. The car was turned off, doors opened. I guess we’re here.

The church was modest in both size and style. There was a gathering of family members at the entrance, everyone looking solemn in their dark clothing. No matter how hard she tried, Tara couldn’t remember most the people she saw as she walked up the street.

Her father hadn’t touched her in years other than to reprimand. No loving touches, or hugs – unless there were other people around. Like now. She expected it, really. But, she couldn’t help it, the flinch was automatic when he placed his hand on her shoulder.

The whole proceedings were a blur. A lot of talking by a priest, a box. People crying. And, she’s still gone.

Aaron had told the family about his wife’s ‘decision’ to get cremated. Tara didn’t believe it was her mother’s choice, and she hadn’t known what to expect. But, when the coffin containing her mother’s body rolled passed that stupid curtain, it was as if she could see the whole process in her mind’s eye. The flames, the ashes.

They’re burning the witch.

“Tara?” Her head snapped towards the voice, startled, “It’s been a while, dear.” Her aunt, Margaret. Her mother’s only sister. She hadn’t seen her in years despite living twenty minutes away, “Aunt Margaret, H-hi… ”

The woman looked so much like her mother it made Tara’s heart ache. Margaret was obviously sad about her sister’s passing, it was plain to see on her darkened features. “Could I ask you to step outside with me for a minute?”

They sat on a bench, side by side, in silence for long moments before Tara’s aunt finally spoke up, “Your mother asked me to tell you something.” Margaret was looking straight ahead at the church, as if looking at her niece would take her courage away. Pain laced her voice, “She wanted you to leave. For me to make sure you did. Everything is prepared.”

Tara rolled her eyes and scoffed, “No way he’d l-let me.” Her thumb found its way to her mouth, where her teeth quickly began nibbling at the skin on its side nervously, “I can’t j-just go, in three years I’ll just have to come b-back anyway.”

Her aunt looked down at her hands and asked softly, “Why?” There was a haunted kind of knowledge behind the question.

For years, Margaret had been trying to find a way to free her sister. Lilian, Tara’s mother, had met Aaron in a whirlwind love affair. His hold on her sister grew tighter through the years – slowly isolating her from friends and family. Until one day, whatever he’d done or said had caused Lilian to cut ties with Margaret completely. Going as far as to say it was for her own good. That she, Lilian, was evil – a demon, even. Not a witch anymore.

Call it brainwashing or mind control, all Margaret knew was that it was devastating to her sister’s life. She tried, Goddess she did – but, ultimately, she failed in saving Lilian. How do you go about saving your sister when she lives with her programmer/handler who sees you as a threat?

Worse, how do you go about telling her daughter – who was born into that situation - that her whole life, she was lied to. Controlled to be… less than who she truly was. Assuring that the girl grew up thinking so little of herself? Of her gifts? How would Tara react to that… now her mother was gone?

To say Margaret was worried for Tara’s mental health was an understatement. The woman had done a lot of research on the subject, she knew the devastating effects this could have. So, she’d decided this wasn’t the time for that revelation.

Sure, she’d been asked when a moment of clarity hit her sister on her death bed, to be the one to help her niece. To get her out of that damned house. That was a phone call she’d never expected to get, but… the girl needed to want to accept the help. Actually see it as being help.

Tara looked askance at Margaret, “You know why. The same reason m-momma never left.” Anger bubbled right below the surface, “Was that it?” She fleetingly wondered where she’d learned such insolence. This was something she didn’t allow herself. No one allowed her that, not dad or Donny. Even momma. It just wasn’t polite, after all. ‘Evil starts small, Tara.’ Yes, sir.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t around; your mom and I… we had a falling out because of… well, because of your father.” Her aunt pushed, turning in her seat to look at her niece more closely, “It’ll only get worse, sweetie. Like your mom… and, she didn’t want that for you.”

“She didn’t want…” Tara had had enough, “She didn’t leave, did she?! She s-stayed here, with him!” Pushing off from the bench, her boots clomped on the ground as she stomped a few paces away. Hands balled tightly into fists, “Now I’m stuck here, alone! She-she made herself my wh-whole world… my rock. And now I’m just… I can’t fight this thing w-without her.”

Margaret wanted to stand up, she really did. But, something kept her sitting on that bench, “Your mom made her choice. Hers was to stay, maybe that was a mistake. But, darling… you have your own choice to make now. You can fight this. Just, not here.”

Nothing made it through though, “I don’t get to have choices. I don’t get to have friends, be hap-happy, find love or have a f-fucking family!” Tears filled Tara’s eyes, anger seeped into her every pore, “I can’t leave, I’m not right! You know that. Just, leave me the hell alone!”

The ground sped below her feet as she ran away from her aunt, from the church and her blood kin. She felt something she had, until then, never felt. She’d been angry before of course, but it had always come with a lot of fear. The kind that made anger shrivel up and die in a corner.

Not now. Not today.

Something that had been beaten into her - Once or twice, literally. Mostly figuratively - was that she shouldn’t let anger rule her behavior. To prepare for the demon, this was crucial. There were a lot of emotions to feel guilty/afraid of because they were, after all – evil or derived from evil. She was, at least, partly evil. Or, would be soon enough.

All she had now her mother was gone was a sense of acceptance that she’ll never be more than this. Why did her mother make her believe she was more? That she could be more? It just felt… cruel.

Life felt overwhelmingly cruel. She was angry at it all… and she wasn’t afraid of it today. So then, what about guilt? To her, it kind of acted as a life-preserver. Guilt was a friend, it told her when she strayed… but, no. She couldn’t feel it right then.

Wheatland wasn’t a big place. She didn’t have far to go to get somewhere. It seemed fitting, like every little thing she decided to do in these moments would have an immediate impact on her whole life. Going home, taking shortcuts across the fields, she’d be there sooner than you can say… “Rachel?”

Her boots thumped the dirt ground as she came to an abrupt stop, having looked up just in time to miss running into the family mail box. A cloud of dirt billowed around her feet making the moment feel a bit surreal. Well, more surreal than it already was. Life was playing some kind of painful cosmic joke on her today.

Rachel stood there, in the open gate to the house, “Hi, I um…” She was wearing her horse-riding gear. Tall brown boots, fitted tan pants, flowing white blouse. Her hair dark-brown and wavy, shoulder-length in a high pony-tail, dark and penetrating eyes. As always, she looked beautiful to Tara.

This only served to make her angrier. “What are you doing here?” Her tone left no doubt as to how she felt, “Where’s Tony?” She shot over her shoulder as she walked passed her… What? Friend? No.

Tara could hear the hurried footsteps on the gravel path behind her, but she kept walking towards the house anyway. “Y-you really choose your m-moments, don’t you?” The door wasn’t locked, it never was.

“Tara, wait.” Rachel quickly followed her in, “I just want to talk. I’m supposed to be in riding class, I don’t have long.”

The blonde turned around sharply, “No. You really don’t.” She crossed her arms over her chest, hands tightly balled into fists. Every nerve ending twitching out signals of fight or flight. They all seemed to contradict one another. She could feel herself shaking from the internal conflict. “Th-this is really not a good t-time.”

Rachel fiddled with the seam of her pants nervously, “Yeah, I’m really sorry about your mom…” Her eyes seemed pained but, the blonde didn’t buy it – she saw it for what it was.

Tara did learn from her mistakes faster than most.

Things were set into motion without as much as a warning. Her vision started to blur, she felt a sickening twist in her stomach. So it was fight then, not flight, which had won the conflict.

To say this was unprecedented would have been an understatement… it just didn’t happen. Caught off-guard? That would be one way of putting it. Saying it flew right over Tara’s head would be more accurate.

“Are you serious?” Her blue eyes flashed menacingly, “That’s your opening? My mom was sick for m-months, Rachel! But, that didn’t stop you, did it?” She took a decided step forward, hands balled by her sides now, furious.

“It didn’t make you think twice b-before lying to me, using me, experimenting on me, taking my first away.” Tara took another step forward and, as if stepping on a dry branch, something inside her snapped.

“I know one thing you weren’t faking, though.” Her voice suddenly had a sharp and intimidating edge to it. All traces of her stammer, gone.

Rachel was about to take a step back, but her wrist was suddenly caught in Tara’s grip, “Does Tony know?” The blonde stood up straight, at full height - right up into Rachel’s personal space. Her eyes almost unrecognizable they were so menacing, “How hard I make you come? How I can make you scream? Remember how you spooked the horses?” A low chuckle punctuated her question.

“What’s gotten into you!?” The brunette stumbled back trying to wrestle her wrist free, “I’m sorry, alright? I just can’t! I don’t want to be like that!”

“Immobiles.” She crackled, her skin tingled with the power rushing through it. Letting go of Rachel’s wrist, she walked around to her right. “Don’t want to be like what?” When she made it just outside of the brunette’s peripheral vision, her anxious voice cut through the air.

“Tara, I-I can’t move!” She was frantic, the only movements Rachel’s body allowed her were facial expressions, “Tara? Where are you?”

“Why’d you come wearing that?” Tara sounded amused, “Were you expecting something?” After having walked a slow circuit around Rachel, she came to a stop in front of her again. She quirked an eyebrow, “We’re not at the stables, babe.” The pet-name Rachel used to call her was pushed through her lips mockingly.

“I told you, I’m supposed to be in class.” The brunette grunted and whined from exertion, “Why can’t I move!?”

Tara smirked and brought her mouth an inch from Rachel’s ear. She whispered, “Because I don’t want you to.”

She stepped back, pleased with the whimper she elicited, “Today’s Tuesday. You ride on Mondays and Thursdays.” She cocked her head, “You lie a lot. You know that?”

Wet, petrified brown eyes stared at her. The silence was thick between them until only Rachel’s soft cries filled the air.

Tara only went on, “Let me guess. You thought… I’ll go see poor, shy, stuttering Tara. I’ll wear what I wore when I made her go down on me in the stables. She’ll surely need a shoulder to cry on today… Am I close?”

Everything was blurry and oily feeling. Lines were just ugly smudges and smears. Hate, hate so strong… She was evil after all, wasn’t she? Of course she was.

That’s why she was stuck here.

Tara stood up to Rachel, nose to nose now, “Is that what you wanted, Rache?” Dark blue eyes darted to trembling lips, “Tony’s not cuttin’ it, huh?” Her lips almost brushed against Rachel’s, her voice a whispered, darkly seducing breath, “Come on, you can tell me…” Rachel’s eyes were wide and frightened when Tara looked into them.

She smiled a twisted facsimile of innocence, “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

“Tara!” Margaret stood in the doorway, stunned, “W-what’s going on? Stop, don’t… don’t do this.” She made to walk into the house but something in her knew to hold back, “Calm down, sweetie.”

When Tara looked up at the doorway, she saw – not her aunt - but her mother standing there, shocked and petrified.

With a loud gasp of realization, the air in the room suddenly vanished leaving behind a giant vacuum. The rage, the hurt, the fear, the loneliness – everything, all of it was just sucked out instantaneously.

What am I doing!?

In that moment, it wasn’t her father’s authoritarian voice or harsh belt telling her she did wrong. It wasn’t Donny and his cutting words or fists, or momma in her soft, understanding and caring way.

She felt it deep, deep down in her soul.

She felt how wrong that was… How it didn’t fit in her, at all. Like her conscience had been forced out by pain and anger, only to rubber-band back into her with the strength of an F5 tornado.

Fear, although a latecomer, crashed the gates of her small world with a ferocity that made her physically stumble back. She frantically pawed at her face, sure she’d be scaly and have horns or… something.

Something!

Rachel scrambled, having felt herself be freed, she lurched her way out the door, hysterical. Margaret could only look on as the poor girl tripped her way out onto the road. “You’re hurting badly,” Her voice shook with tension and fear, “But, don’t be this. You know this isn’t you. You can feel it, Tara. This isn’t you.”

Tara blinked rapidly a few times. No, no, not her mother. Her aunt, “What? M-me?” Her head shook from side to side, confused, “I don’t know who that is anymore…” Sobs surprised her as they were ripped from her throat, she was shaking like a leaf when…

Everything exploded – she could feel herself unfurling, expanding. A flower blossoming at super high-speeds. Colors and possibilities of who she might be, of who she might become sprung out of her and made her head spin with terror. What…

Like a house of cards facing gale force winds, 17 year old Tara Maclay crumbled to the living-room floor as all her pieces were swept away.

***

She was staring at the ceiling. She just didn’t want to sleep, knowing she’d probably dream. She didn’t want to dream. But, she was so tired.

After turning up the music and cleaning her room, Erynn had slipped into her sleepwear and sat on the edge of the bed. Willow and Tara had left and, as pleasant as the meeting had been, it had left her drained.

Not only because of the concentration she’d had to exercise just to stay herself, as much as she knew who that was anyway. But, also what she’d talked about. Although she had skipped over most of it, her brain knew the story by heart.

The subject matter of their conversation had set her mind on a path she was having a hard time letting go of. So, now she lay there… just, staring and thinking. Probably too much.

Glancing at the clock, she weighed whether or not she could call Loreli. Surely she’d want an update? Eight thirty here is… Eleven thirty there. That’s not so late, is it?

Erynn had just made up her mind when the phone rang, “Allo?” She asked, surprised.

“Bonsoir, Papillon.” Her aunt replied calmly, “I’m calling to check up on you. I know if I tell you otherwise you wouldn’t believe me.” She chuckled, “So, how are you?”

“I was just about to call you,” Erynn shuffled her pillows to give herself more height, “I’m much better. I mean… The same, but I have good news.”

“I’m listening,” Said Loreli.

The girl squinted in concentration, she could hear a man’s voice, “Is that… Peter Mansbridge?” She rolled her eyes, “Auntie, you’re watching the news aren’t you?”

The volume on the television dropped, “You know I love that man. So English and handsome.” She sighed longingly.

Erynn huffed, “You don’t even understand half of what he says; he speaks English.”

Loreli wasn’t moved, “Your point? Anyway, good news. Go ahead, mon amour.”

“I had a good day, despite the lack of pendant.” Erynn snuggled in, letting the matter drop easily, “I got all the ingredients for the spell and I have help!” She smiled, excited.

“That’s wonderful!” Loreli was pleasantly surprised, “Who did you find to help?”

“Well, as it turns out, Willow and Tara are witches.” She giggled, “We had dinner together tonight.”

“Go on,” Her aunt said, mid-chew.

“I went to the magic shop. Anya, she was there last night too, she works there. She helped me with the ingredients and said she’d contact me with help. I think she told Willow and Tara about it. They called me, asked if I liked pizza.”

“So, they know you’re an empath? And, about the pendant?”

“Yeah, they know I shift, too.” Erynn squirmed uncomfortably, “Tara already knew. It made her kind of mad that I wasn’t straight forward about it.”

“Huh,” Loreli chewed some more. Erynn could only guess she was having her late night snack, probably some fruit, “She was angry? Did she say anything?”

“No, it was all in her body language and you know – I felt it.” The brunette fiddled with the bedspread, “I scare her. She’s not dumb…”

Her aunt cleared her throat, “Listen to me. How long will you carry that with you? Judge yourself against it?” It came out well-rehearsed. She had, after all, said it many times before.

“Lo-lo, it’s still possi-“ Erynn was cut off.

“No. We learn from our experiences Erynn. Good and bad.” Loreli said, “You’ve changed because of what you learned. You understand better how not to get to that point.” She was adamant.

Erynn knew she wouldn’t win this one. Her great aunt had always been her main cheerleader. “Fine, but she’s still scared.”

“And, what can you do about that?” Asked her aunt, “No matter what you say, only time and familiarity builds trust.”

“Yeah.” Was all Erynn could find to say, “Well, anyway. They’ll call tomorrow and probably come over to do the spell.” She felt deflated all of a sudden.

“Well, that’s fantastic news.” She could hear Peter in the background getting louder again.

“Ok, I get it. Go hang out with your stud.” Erynn sighed, “Good night, Lo-lo.”

“Goodnight, Papillion.” Loreli said, in a distracted but warm tone.

She lay there, under the covers staring at the ceiling again. This is ridiculous… I’ll have to sleep at some point. Still early, but… so tired.

A thought took hold. She reached for a sketch pad and a basic HB pencil – she would draw. Doodle, or even color eventually.

All Erynn knew was that, whatever thoughts were in her head needed out.

***

Tara desperately wanted a shower. She felt like she was covered in dirt and her skin was crawling, “Will, I can take a shower by m-myself.” The blonde said as she adjusted her robe. Part of her wanted the comfort, another didn’t feel she deserved it and wanted to be left alone with her self-loathing.

Willow pulled on her tank-top, “I’m going with you, Tara. I don’t give a damn about dorm ethics, or who might see.” Slipping her own robe on, she grabbed her toiletry bag.

They still hadn’t talked. After spending over an hour on the floor, they were just sore and more tired than they were when they had first laid there. Both were anxious, not knowing how they were going to navigate the usually simple act of going to sleep.

If they didn’t talk.

Luckily, there weren’t many students taking showers at eleven thirty on a Saturday night. They made their way to the shower cubicle the furthest in the back. Willow tested the water temperature, Tara put out their products. All in silence with only furtive glances at one another.

The redhead stepped under the warm water, letting the spray hit the top of her head. It cascaded down her face. Red, darkening hair following the flow, sticking to her skin. Her shoulders slumped, she just let the water pressure do the work of relieving her tension.

Tara’s eyes prickled with unshed tears. The woman standing in front of her meant everything to her. It scared her so much, knowing how losing that could feel. How would her girlfriend react finding out what she’d done? Would things change? And, she had to tell her… That wasn’t a question. Not knowing would only make Willow imagine things to fill the gaps.

And there’s no telling what that might be.

The blonde sniffed and stepped forward. She brushed the hair away from Willow’s brow and kissed her forehead. Water was trickling down her face masking her tears, “I love you, Willow.”

They embraced under the water, holding onto each other as it swept away some of their anxieties. Slowly, they went about the business of washing. Rinsing involving them holding onto each other under the spray. Both holding onto the moments before.

Before that one moment they knew something might change.

They slipped into bed after their shower, neither wanting clothing. As if they needed to be as close as possible, both vulnerable. The only light in the room that of moonlight filtering through the drapes.

They lay facing each other, fingers entwined. Eyes roaming each other’s features tenderly.

“I’m scared,” The room had been so quiet, Tara’s whisper managed to make the redhead start.

“I love you,” Willow said, “That’s not going to change. No matter what you tell me.” She was convinced.

“I-I,” Tara closed her eyes for a second to center herself, “I really want to believe that.”

The redhead shifted closer a bit, “Well, I’m more scientifically inclined. I like to know more than to believe. So, I vote for testing the hypothesis. Then, when we have, you’ll know too.” She lifted their joined hands to place a reassuring kiss on the back her girlfriend’s fingers.

The blonde steeled herself, taking a deep breath before starting, “What Erynn said about l-losing yourself brought back memories… m-made me think of something really b-bad... That I did.”

Willow fell silent, rubbing her thumb over the skin of Tara’s hand. Trying to calm her as much as she could.

“When I told you about Rachel, I left s-something out… I didn’t want to talk about it, or for you to think l-less of me. But, something happened the day of my mom’s funeral. It was the worst day of my l-life. I woke up so angry… I’d never been that angry before. I ran from the church to the house, my aunt had just told me momma w-wanted me to leave. It made me furious, l-like she was passing on the work of actually leaving onto me… Knowing that I couldn’t. Until that day, I’d never been an-angry at my mom. Ever.”

At her girlfriend’s nod, she went on.

“When I got to the house, R-rachel was there. I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks, since she’d told me her ‘phase’ was over. That she was with Tony. She was a friend before… like I told you. At least, I thought she was. Then the s-stables thing happened and after that she got mean – said I was gross and stuff. I just felt used up. Cheap and m-meaningless.”

“Seeing her there on the day of my mom’s funeral, w-wearing her riding gear – knowing she didn’t have r-riding class. I knew why she was there and it made s-something inside me snap. That she would see my mom’s death as a way to take advantage of me... I hated her. Really hated her. But, on that day… I-I didn’t care that I did. I actually felt like it was right. I felt… righteous.” Tara sniffed, having started crying softly. She didn’t want to go on.

Was this enough? Did she say enough to make it right?

There’s no making this right, Tara.

She fell silent then, looking into deep understanding green. Tara knew she had to continue, “I terrorized her, there’s no other w-word for it. I immobilized her with a spell, she was s-so scared. But, I liked that she was scared… it made me feel in control, like there was no room for pain anymore. The more scared she was, the more I wanted to s-scare her again...”

When Willow wiped a tear from her cheek, Tara took her hand and pressed it against her face. She closed her eyes, “My aunt stopped me... Will, I thought I was a demon, but I wasn’t. That was me.” She cried.

Her lover’s eyes opened, letting go of more tears than Willow could manage. She just left her hand there, resting on her girlfriend’s cheek. Letting the salty drops connect them together. “I love you.” For her, it was that simple really.

“How?” Tara shook her head in disbelief against the pillows, “I’m not a demon… I’m not evil, I had no excuse! I’m just… ”

“Human.” Willow brushed the hair away from her lover’s eyes, “You’re human, baby. I can’t imagine how much you were hurting. It doesn’t make it right, we both know that. Now’s not the time for psychobabble, though. Just know I love you. Still. Always.” She kissed her nose, her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips, “More. Still, more… I don’t know how you do it. When my heart feels like it can’t possibly contain more… you make it fit.”

“I-I don’t understand…” Tara couldn’t believe it, there must be something Willow was missing, surely. “I’m not who you thought I was.”

“Of course you are,” Willow ran her fingers up and down her girlfriend’s arm and back soothingly, “What you did, what you went through growing up. They don’t change who you are now, they’re part of why you are who you are today. Remember, we’ve been through this. All romantic, with the floaty dance and everything?”

She looked down her chest when Tara didn’t respond, “So, you found out you’re human and can get really angry, really hurt – so much that you could do something you’ll regret, lose control if you’re not careful. Good people do bad things sometimes. Doesn’t make them bad people. Your circumstances made something bad, much worse. You believed you were evil, so you acted how you thought evil acted.” She kissed the top of her girlfriend’s head.

“I love you, Tara. Not because you’re perfect. Because of who you are, imperfections and all. But, if you keep leaving the cap off the toothpaste, we’ll have words. I love you, but there’s just so many times I can clean my toiletry bag without being snippy gal about it.” Willow smiled, took Tara into her arms and squeezed her affectionately.

Tara wasn’t sure she could ever forgive herself for what she’d done. But, she felt Willow’s love for her wash over her scars and make her believe that one day, she might. She just might.

“Willow,” She could feel herself trembling with emotion. Tara lifted herself up onto her elbow so she could look into Willow’s eyes. She vowed solemnly, “I will always be yours.” Before she kissed her slowly and reverently.

The contact wasn’t one that stirred them to arousal. The passion behind it had a different taste, a different color and purpose. It was a golden laced embrace with a common threaded breath.

A world created between two sets of lips. One that now suited them both more perfectly than ever before.

Emotionally exhausted but sated in their renewed connection, they snuggled up tightly and fell into calm silence. Holding onto each other and just being together.

It was too early for sleep. They had things to do still to prepare for tomorrow. For right now, though, this was all that mattered.

***

The fireplace crackled and popped as the new piece of firewood was added to the flames. Doc made his way to the microwave when it sounded out its merry chime. He hummed to himself, pulling the warm mug out of the machine.

His voice rose and fell wordlessly to a tune only he heard as he walked his way to the living room. After placing the mug on the table next to the chair across from where he sits, Doc straightened back up.

As his melody ended, so came a knock at the door

“Come in,” He said cheerily, “It’s never locked.” Doc smoothed his bathrobe around his legs and sat down in his favorite chair.

Spike peeked through the doorway to the living room, “Evenin’ Doc,” With his hands in his pockets, he pulled his coat tighter around his waist, shuffling his feet, “Mind if we talk?” Magic users always gave him the creeps.

With a cup half-raised to his lips, the old man turned toward the vampire for the first time that night. An enigmatic smile graced his lips. Fog spread on the edges of a lens in his glasses - making his eye look dark and cloudy, “Not at all, please.” He gestured toward the opposite chair, “Join me.” He said before taking a sip of his... tea?

As he approached the chair, Spike picked up on the scent of human blood. Noticing a mug sitting there, he had to make a snap decision. He wasn’t accustomed to human blood anymore, so he didn’t crave its particular properties as much as he used to.

Weening off the stuff had been difficult, to say the least. Drinking it now would just mean having to go through that again.

But, if he declined the drink… He knew Doc would take it the wrong way. Spike was sure he would think he’d gone soft. The old man would think less of him and that’s never good around people with power.

So he sat down, picked up the mug and decidedly took a big mouthful.

“There,” Doc said grinning contentedly, noticing the shiver running through his companion’s frame, “Now, to what do I owe the pleasure?” He pursed his lips questioningly, head tilted slightly to the side.

With a deep and sated sigh, the vampire said, “You know, I don’t get you magic types. You obviously knew I was coming.” He gestured at the door behind him, “What’s keeping you from knowing why I’m here in the first place?” Spike asked, wiping the corner of his mouth with his thumb. That was bloody good blood… bloody blood, blood… He shook his head, trying to get the buzz and his thoughts to settle.

Doc looked up from his cup, eyebrows raised patiently, “The what, the when and even the where aren’t that difficult to know,” Placing the cup on the saucer in front of him he continued, “The why is always… tricky.”

The vampire sniffed derisively, “Yeah, well the why is simple. Money.” He raised his eyebrows, “As in, I was offered quite the sum to recruit someone.” Leaning back in the chair he continued, “Someone with your… qualifications.”

“Ah,” Doc crossed his legs, “So I’m a contender, then.” He thought for a second, “It’s been quiet. But there is a subtle shift I’m aware of, at the edge of town.”

Spike wondered right then if Doc might know more than he does. Again, curiosity niggled at him, “New player in town. Some say he’s big - his right-hand sure is. Gurtrall demon, nasty one at that.” Give a little… let’s see if he returns the favor.

The old man fixed the vampire in his gaze for a moment, as if piecing information together and deciding what to say next.

Finally, he spoke up, “Nasty, yes. You know I’m no shrinking violet, Spike.” Reaching for his cup again, he said, “Although, there are some things – like lions or sharks – which I respect enough to steer clear of.” Taking a sip, he looked up into confused blue eyes staring at him, “Oh, not in fear, mind. I respect their strengths, their presence and their purpose. So, I give them their… turf.”

Am I in over my head here? Spike was getting nervous. After all, he knew very little… and if Doc was wary about dealing with this new bloke, then there was reason to be. But, he had the card now. He’d accepted, and he seriously doubted his new contractor would agree to just let him back out.

There was only one other person Spike had in mind. He might do, in case Doc didn’t want to… but, between the two?

Well, there were good reasons the vampire came here first.

“Right, then,” Spike leaned his elbows on his knees again, “Suppose a lion comes to you and says, let’s work together. Still my turf, but you’re welcome here.” He shrugged, “Isn’t that a good deal?”

“Lions are noble and honorable things,” Doc said without hesitation, “We’re not dealing with a lion. We’re dealing with a human.” He grasped the top and bottom of his glasses with his index and thumb, and hiked them higher up his nose. “We both know being noble and honorable are not common human traits.”

A human? Spike was surprised to say the least. The whole operation reeked of the demon underworld. Sitting back in the chair, he said, “Yeah. Well, I’m in this whether I like it or not at this point. You’re my first choice, out of exactly two.” He looked at his cup and frowned in thought. Now why did I go and say that?

The fire popped as the chime of the clock rang midnight.

“I’m curious. Who is your second?” Asked Doc. He knew the vampire was vulnerable now. Just how vulnerable was his next point of interest.

Spike’s jaw clenched in disdain, “Used to be he was a Shaman somewhere out in Africa,” Slicking his hair back, he huffed, “He’s been here for a few years, goes by Rack now. Figured a way to make all kinds of spells addictive. Deals in highs.” He rolled his eyes, “Scum. Nothin’ more than a pusher, but he has power.”

Doc’s eyebrows raised up his forehead in amused disbelief as he heard the name, “Rack? Well, my dear Spike,” Shifting in his chair, his mouth twisted at the corners in a predatory smile. He clucked his tongue in feigned concern, “I’m afraid I’m your only choice then, aren’t I?”

Oh, bugger.

***

“I know I don’t have Will’s big brain, but even I can appreciate how odds weren’t in your favor there, Buff.” He pulled on a distracted Buffy’s arm so she wouldn’t walk into a headstone. Xander continued, “What possessed you to wear a new shirt on patrol?”

The Slayer pulled at the sweater where her last opponent – a newly risen vampire, no less – had grabbed and pulled so hard, the polyester blend had ripped in an ugly gash along its side. “I know, I just thought… woohoo, I bought a shirt today! I wanna wear it now, now, now.” She grumbled, letting the shirt go with a pout.

Xander nodded sagely, “Ah, yes. I know that feeling. I remember it as clearly as the one where I just know that if I wear bigger shoes, I’d run faster.” He looked at his friend from the corner of his eye, amusement pulling his lips into a grin. “Obviously, color is important, too.” Adding in a conspiratorial tone, “Red is the fastest.”

Buffy mock-glared at her best friend, “So, why are you here, making me feel like the least adult-adult ever, instead of being curled up with your ex-vengeance demon?” Her step faltered when she almost stepped in something vaguely familiar. Her nose curled up peering closely at the lump in the grass, “Ok, gross. Who walks their dog in a cemetery?”

Her friend pointed at her, a thought hitting him, “You know, it might not be a dog! Vampires… um, huh. Do vampires poop? There’s a book, everyone poops. Very educational, although the title kinda gives the story away.” Stepping over the offending lump, they carried on their way.

“You’re avoiding the subject,” Buffy said, “That means there’s something to avoid. And, as far as I know, vampires don’t… poop.” She grimaced.

“So, Angel didn’t…” He was quickly cut off, “Xander,” Buffy said in a warning tone, “Drop it.” She winced and mumbled, “Bad choice of words.”

Xander sighed, “Anya and I kinda got into it earlier. Buttons were pushed, I said things… she said things. It was a button pushing spree.”

They kept walking towards the east end of the cemetery, things seeming quiet so far. “You know, if you want to talk about the buttons? I’m trying this active listening thing.” The petite blonde linked arms with her friend, “I’ve had great results with Willow. If I ever had a kid who told me they were gay, I’d be able to just shrug it off and say ‘Nice, no unwanted pregnancies!’ I totally get it now.”

Frowning in confusion, her friend asked, “Wait, Will’s gay ‘cause she doesn’t want to get pregnant?” He scratched his head, “I didn’t think that’s how it worked.”

The Slayer rolled her eyes, “Nooo. Will’s gay because the kind of feeling you get from falling in love for real, she only gets with women.” Her brow furrowed, “Well, one woman. I want to say ‘so far’ but I’m worried Tara will somehow pop out from behind a tree and turn me into a toad.”

They rounded a mausoleum, making their way up a path through a more secluded part of the cemetery.

Buffy continued, “Anyway, I was just saying I get it now. Back to buttons though,” She poked his side, “Wanna talk about it?”

Xander pushed his hands into his pockets, “I’m just an impatient idiot.” He looked down at his feet as they kept walking, “Sometimes I feel like it only takes one little thing for her to say or do, and I go from zero to a hundred in a flash.”

“Well, the kind of things Anya says and does aren’t your typical girlfriend things.” The Slayer said, “She can’t be easy to be with.”

He looked at her, conflicting emotions plain to see written on his face, “She’s not that bad. Really, if your ego’s in check you have no issues with Anya.” Xander made a derisive noise, “That’s my problem, not hers.”

Buffy asked, “What’s your ego problem?” Genuinely curious. I’m turning into Loveline.

“It’s really stupid, I should know better.” Xander ran a hand through his hair, “I act like my dad. I get these moments when I feel and act like she’s beneath me or something.” He rubbed his face agitatedly, “It just happens! I can’t control it. She says something ridiculous and snap… I say something mean and degrading. I don’t get it, I don’t mean it.”

“Muscle memory.” If she wanted to understand something, Buffy could always relate to physicality, “It’s like muscle memory. You grew up hearing and seeing how your dad was with your mom. Years of that, and you probably get it stuck in your brain as a reflex. Happens without even thinking about it.”

She was expecting some kind of ribbing from her friend for being insightful or something. But, it never came. “Xand?” Buffy was worried now. When she heard a distinctive ‘sniff’ coming from her best friend, she stopped in her tracks, “Xander?” Placing a hand on his upper arm, she also stopped his forward movement.

Xander looked defeated, shoulders slumped forward. He wiped at his eyes, “I don’t want to be like him.”

Ok, when did our life problems become scarier than the Hellmouth? Buffy felt like she was in over her head, “You’re not, though.” She hung onto one thought, “If you were, you wouldn’t be beating yourself up right now.”

“Yeah,” He didn’t sound very convinced, “Doesn’t change that I act like an ass. I don’t know how not to.” Xander suddenly seemed angry, he waved his arms in the air and said, “It’s affecting Ahn now! She’s changing, shrinking. I’m doing that!”

“Ok, stop.” Buffy knew he was on a downward spiral, “Stop beating up on my best friend. Xander, I don’t have the answers. I’m just the Slayer... but, I’m sure there’s other people who go through the same thing.”

“I get so angry, like I have to do something. I’m supposed to be pro-active guy.” Xander gestured from the left to the right, “See a problem. Fix the problem. But, I don’t know how.

There was a metal grating against metal noise to their left. Buffy picked up on it, “I don’t know either, but I’m sure there’s a way. We’ll figure it out Xand, I promise.”

She started moving in the direction of the noise, “In the meantime, why don’t you talk with Anya? Tell her what you told me. I’m sure she’d appreciate it.” A thought hit her, “Plus, if you do you could work on the problem together. I’m sure that’s like, good for relationships and stuff.”

Among the mausoleums and trees, a distinctive glow in the near distance had them walk towards it. Keeping alert and well hidden, they saw three ‘people’ walk up and into a crypt. A shaft of light widened across the lawn until the door was closed again. The only remaining glow that of the inside seeping through the cracks in the doorframe.

“Well, that can’t be good.” Said Xander in a hushed tone, “Even if those aren’t vamps; a group of people hanging out in a crypt past midnight isn’t your typical plot setting for a light-hearted romantic comedy.”

“Stay here,” Buffy said, “Pretty sure they’re vamps. If they’re grouping up, I need to know what’s going on.” She started to move away when her friend stopped her.

“What if there’s more coming? They’ll see you!” He half-whispered, fidgeting nervously, “We already know there’s three in there. There might be more.”

She had to admit, he had a point. “Ok, change of plans. We stake it out, wait until they leave.” Buffy crouched back down, “Grab the last one and make him talk. You know, with punching.”

“I’m liking this new plan.” Xander said, relieved. “That’s a better plan. Wish I had chips.”

***

She was running late. Her boot slipped on the slick snow, making her stumble and reach for a lamp post to steady herself. Erynn didn’t know where she was going.

One thing was for sure, she was late.

Pulling her coat hood on, she tucked her gloved hands into her pockets and carried on. It wasn’t snowing at the moment. But it had not long ago – the girl was up to her knees in it. The tip of her nose tingled as her warm breath billowed up around her face.

The scenery was familiar, although incongruous. Parts of different places where she’d lived stuck together side by side. The silence was deafening. Everything seemed frozen in time, except for Erynn and her persistent steps forward.

Snow covered the sign she suddenly found herself reaching for with a thick wool glove. She brushed it off and read the white-on-red letters: “Erynn, is that you?”

An echo of the words bounced around her head. Looking up, she tried to find where the voice came from. Erynn turned around and noticed that, where there had been a street and buildings before, she now faced a park. She took two steps in that direction and suddenly, she was standing in the middle of the park. Trees and benches lined a walkway to her right. The snow had vanished.

Something caught her eye. Making her way towards a tree, she looked at the ground and found a beer bottle. Empty and chipped. There was a rock laying there as well, specks of red against dark grey. The wind blew the autumn leaves around her feet. Stepping back and looking at the tree again, she noticed something engraved in the bark. She read: “Erynn, is that you?”

Erynn ran from the tree, from the park. Her lungs burned from exhaustion, the echoing voice lingered above her. Repeating the question over and over.

She passed dirty alleyways, secluded underpasses, and dark corners between buildings. All of which she recognized. Erynn wanted to run away from those places but, no matter what she did, she found herself…

On a sidewalk, in downtown Montreal late at night. She knew what she’d see when she looked down at herself. The torn jeans, big heavy boots, dirty hands, loose shirt, and broken broom stick in her fist. Erynn looked around, expecting to find a group of people with her. But, she was alone.

Across the street stood the biggest strip joint in the city. Patrons, mostly men, stumbling out being belligerent. Crowning the building was a big neon sign of a woman wearing a dress, reclining on a sofa with her leg flickering up and down. The air felt thick with humidity; everything was sticky.

Erynn heard the voice again, this time closer. Swiveling her head she still couldn’t see anyone. When her eyes fell back onto the sign over the strip club, she read: Erynn, is that you?

With a jolt, she turned her head when she felt someone touch her shoulder.

Her sketchbook tumbled out of her hands, landing on the grass face up. Tara was crouched behind her, next to the tree. She pointed at the sketchbook, “Is that you?”

She didn’t even look at the drawing, “I don’t want it to be.” Erynn reached up and traced Tara’s nose with a fingertip, “Not with you here.” She absentmindedly noticed how her hand was daintier and that the skin covering it was speckled with freckles.

The blonde closed her eyes, took the small hand in hers and clasped it in her lap, “You’re trying to let go of the wrong thing.” Blue eyes flickered open again, “You know I’m not here.” When Erynn caught a glimpse of her hair as Tara rand her fingers through it, it was copper-red. “Whether I’m here or there, you are who you are.”

Picking up the sketchbook, Tara looked at it for moment before placing it back onto Erynn’s lap, “If that’s you, you need to finish it.”

Erynn was nervous, “But, I need an eraser…” She said, rubbing her thumb over a stubborn line.

The blonde stopped her movement, “No, you don’t. You draw around it; through it – make it part of something else. Something better. Look at me.”

Blue, deep unfathomable blue took her in. Erynn felt like she was falling, “Tara, I…”

Tara shook her head to stop her, “I’m not here, remember?” Shrugging apologetically, she pointed at the sketchbook, “I might still be in there, though.” She smiled.

Erynn could only nod. Her eyes darted down once, then back and widened, “I should wake up.”

The blonde looked down at herself and noticed she was wearing much less than before, “I think that would be wise.” She looked up from under her lashes, a blush gracing her cheeks, “I won’t tell.” She winked, her lips pulling up on one side.

“Mumgrud?” She blinked against the light a few times. Part of her vision was obscured. Erynn brushed at her forehead with a lazy hand. A piece of paper that was stuck to it flittered to the mattress.

After a few disoriented moments, she took in her surroundings. Her bed was littered with sketches, pencils were laying haphazardly around her. She’d fallen asleep drawing again.

She ran a hand through her tussled hair and looked at the alarm clock. Good thing I’m still tired.

Not having enough energy for much else, she put her pencils away and stacked together her sketches in a messy pile to put on her desk. She’d go through it all tomorrow.

Erynn changed into her bedclothes, slipped into bed and turned off the lights.

A few moments passed before the quiet of the room was broken by longing sigh in the dark, “That was a really nice bra.” She grumbled, “I’m so screwed.”

***

The ceiling of their room was white. In the dark, it looked grey. The stucco making tiny shadows dance against the surface in the moonlight. Willow had been staring at it for what felt like hours.

The woman who meant the world to her was sleeping soundly, seemingly peaceful in rest. Between the talk and this moment, they had prepared things for tomorrow. Both avoided talking about the silence spell, not wanting to bring up more memories.

Even as she’d heard Tara’s breath become shallow in sleep, Willow’s brain had been thinking.

A lot.

Truth be told, she felt guilty. Living on a Hellmouth seemed to have dulled her emotional intelligence. When Tara’s family had come and Willow learned about part of her lover’s life, she had almost taken it in strides. Once Spike had proven - even if it was with a smack to the nose - that Tara wasn’t a demon, the redhead somehow didn’t think to analyze what the rest of it might mean for her girlfriend.

No demon, no problem. Right?

She’d never witnessed one of her lover’s panic attacks. Willow didn’t even know about them; that Tara experienced them. As good as her girlfriend was at helping others, getting them to talk and not judging them… She was the opposite when it came to herself. Tara kept things in, tried to work on her issues alone. Didn’t want to be a burden. As if she could ever be a burden.

With that thought, Willow slipped out of bed knowing full well she wasn’t going to be able to sleep yet. Besides, she needed her laptop. She wrapped herself up in her bathrobe, grabbed her laptop and sat in the papasan chair.

She would do what she did best. Willow would research.

Her limited knowledge was making it difficult. Not really knowing what exactly she was searching for, or any technical terms that would help. Not only that but, she also had a limited knowledge of her girlfriend’s past.

Willow had so many questions.

She sighed and closed her eyes. Ok, what do I know? When things started popping up in her mind, she quickly opened a document and made a list.

• Tara’s father (and brother?) lied and manipulated both Tara and her mother into believing they were partly evil - Demons.•
• Tara’s father and brother enforced control on her and Mrs. Maclay. (behavior control)
• Tara was taught that every ‘negative’ feeling or action was because she was evil.
• Tara had few friends, if any. (Isolation?)
• Tara definitely flinched when her brother was angry. (Physical abuse?)
• Tara and her mother were very close. Practiced magic together in secret.
• Mrs. Maclay needed a silence spell to keep her children from hearing ‘things’ (Phys. Abuse?)
• Mrs. Maclay died when Tara was 17. (Cancer)
• Tara’s aunt helped her move away. (?)
• Tara came to Sunnydale still believing she was part demon.

Willow had to stop. Her vision was blurred by tears as she looked towards the bed. Tara was still sleeping. She’d turned and was now gripping her girlfriend’s pillow to her chest.

She wiped at her face angrily. How clueless can I be!?

Willow’s resolve hit her full force. She opened her search engine and typed in ‘Mind Control’.

Acid roiled in her stomach at the results. Cults, Holocaust experiments, Korean War, etc.

The list of techniques was extensive. Willow knew very little about what Tara had gone through… but what she did know figured in the list. What she suspected had happened also figured in the list.

She felt a sense of resigned calm wash over her. Knowing there was a problem was step 1. Step 2 was figuring out what the problem was.

Not sure how step 3 will work… But, I’m not going anywhere.

With calm finally came exhaustion. She closed her laptop, making sure to clear her history. Took her robe off, draped it on the chair and slipped back into bed.

Willow was without a pillow. Tara still had it clutched to her chest. With a smile pulling at her lips, she tentatively pulled on the pillow at the same time as gently lifting her girlfriend’s arm.

The blonde stirred and grumbled, “Mm-no, mine,” Tightening her grip. Willow had to stifle a laugh, Tara could be so cute. “Tara, baby. I just want my pillow.” She whispered in a sing-song.

Tara’s lips quirked slightly, “MmWillowPil-low,” Her hand reached out for her girlfriend, freeing the pillow enough for the redhead to take it.

Looking down her chest at the blonde now wrapped around her body, Willow made sure she was still asleep. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Once she was about to slip into that mid-awake/mid-sleep state, she felt Tara stir.

They were almost imperceptible as far as movements go. Just a tightening of hips, a twitch of the fingers laying across her stomach, a slight tensing of thighs against her own. But, it was the low moan that accompanied them that really got Willow’s attention. Yep, I’m totally awake now.

She laid still, eyes now wide open. Her heart thumped against her ribs, her breath felt heavy. Anticipation was making her nerve endings tingle, now painfully aware of them both having gone to bed naked.

Another moan and Tara’s thigh rose up her leg. Willow could feel the tickle of her girlfriend’s soft curls against her hip. She gulped, her arm automatically tightening around the blonde, holding her closer. Exquisite torture.

The hand that was laying on her stomach started slowly caressing her warm skin, the head on her shoulder shifted. Tara was gently, sleepily smoothing her cheek over Willow’s chest, her hips pressed in and the resulting moist embrace against her thigh made the redhead moan softly.

“Mmm,” Tara replied in her sleep, her cheek cresting the swell of Willow’s breast. She turned her face towards it, her lips parted and rested on the smooth skin, the nipple instantly erect when met with her warm breath. Her mouth was open and caressing the redhead’s breast with her lips, moving closer and closer to its center.

Willow held onto her girlfriend with her left arm, her right thrown to the side gripping the sheets, trying not to move. She looked down her chest, watching Tara’s lips move against her skin. The shifting of her body under the covers. The blonde’s hand slid up her girlfriend’s stomach, up over the covers and cupped the breast near her mouth. Willow closed her eyes and groaned softly when Tara’s leg slid up and over hers, resting a thigh against her now excited sex.

All at once, Tara dug herself into Willow’s thigh, rocked forward and pressed her own thigh more firmly into Willow’s center. Her hand squeezed the captured breast as her mouth closed over the puckered nub and licked it.

“Ohh,” The combination of sensations caused her eyes to fly open and roll up. She let go of the sheets, her hand quickly moving to hold Tara’s head against her chest. Willow turned her head away and took a shaky breath. “Ohh,”

The movements stilled, a slight jolt in her girlfriend’s body alerted her that she was waking. “Mmm, good dream?” She asked teasingly, rocking her hips forward.

Willow felt the fluttering of lashes against her chest. Tara groaned against her breast, her voice thick with sleep and incredulous, “Again?” She was about to shift away when the redhead held her in place. “I keep molesting you in my sleep. That’s so creepy.”

“I am so not complaining,” She ran her hand up and down Tara’s back and looked down her chest, “I might be a little curious though.” Willow smirked, “That… felt like a really good dream.” She said as she waggled her eyebrows.

The blonde groaned and hid her face, her embarrassed giggle was muffled against her girlfriend’s chest.

Willow poked her in the side, “I hope I at least had a supporting role.” She grinned, her tongue peeking out mischievously.

“You’re not gonna let this go are you?” Tara asked rhetorically peeking up through her hair, “Aren’t you tired?” She smoothed her hand across her girlfriend’s toned stomach leaving trembling muscles in her wake.

“Nope,” She wriggled her hips, “My body’s fully awake now.” Willow gently pushed the blonde’s hair away from her eyes, smiling, “And my brain is pretty much sitting on the edge of its seat. You know how it likes Tara naughty dreams.” She wiggled her toes against Tara’s shin in anticipation.

The blonde giggled, “Well, you were definitely the star.” She smoothed her calf along her girlfriend’s leg, “There um…“ Faltering a bit, she felt her face grow hot, “There was also a-a p-prop.” Tara resisted the urge to hide her face but, said nothing more. Prop, yeah… ok, let’s go with that.

Prop? Willow’s brows scrunched up for a moment, until they were propelled in the opposite direction, “Oh! A-a prop.” Swallowing as subtly as she could, she continued, “That’s interesting…” Interesting!?

When Willow had admitted to herself that she was attracted to Tara, she’d gone into full research mode. From reading up on lesbianism throughout the ages, to more practical and sexual subjects. Toys had come up in her searches and, at the time, it had overwhelmed her a bit.

Ok, a lot.

“I mean, it’s m-more than just interesting. It’s intriguing, really… It’s a prop, all with the propiness and-and purpose and… There’s many different kinds and sizes, different purposes and…c-colors...” She trailed off, nervous and embarrassed.

“Will,” Tara soothed her girlfriend’s tension away as much as she could, running her hand along her arm and chest, “We don’t have to talk about it. It was just a dream.” Crap, where’d I put that bag!?

Willow took a deep breath, “No. I want to talk about it.” Covering Tara’s hand with her own, she continued, “I’m just… I mean, when Xander wanted to play doctor when we were younger, I brought a statoscope, you know? I guess I’m still a bit… naïve. But, you were enjoying it in your dream… so, I’m curious.”

The blonde pulled a face, trying to ignore the mental images of her girlfriend and Xander playing doctor.

“Well, what do you want to know?” She asked, hoping to get away with just answering questions instead of retelling her whole dream.

The redhead fiddled with the bedspread, “Where were we? I-in your dream, I mean.”

Tara played with the fingers entwined with her own as she answered, “Here, in this room.”

“In bed?” Willow asked, trying to imagine it.

Her girlfriend grinned, “Not in bed.” She answered and ran her hand up and down the center of the redhead’s chest.

The redhead rolled her eyes, “Fine, better question: Where were we in the room?” She asked, shivering as goosebumps rose along her skin.

“I had you against a wall,” Tara replied, “Not sure which, wasn’t very important.” She shifted slightly, reminding herself how aroused she was as she tightened her legs around her girlfriend’s. “We moved at some point though, from the wall to the cozy chair.”

Willow was liking this dream so far, “Sounds intense,” Running her foot up Tara’s leg resting between her own, she continued, “How did you have me against the wall?”

“You were facing it and I was behind you,” The blonde answered while she ran delicate fingers gently around the soft swells of her girlfriend’s breasts watching in rapt attention as her nipples tightened.

The redhead’s breath hitched, “So far there’s no prop.”

Tara blushed, “Y-yes there is,” Her thumb brushed against a hard nub eliciting a soft moan, she gave a hint, “My hands were free.”

Her hands were… “Oh!” Willow’s brain kicked in with images, “Oh…” Her back arched involuntarily, her body craving more contact, “Wow.”

“Mmmhmm” Memories of the dream kept flooding Tara’s brain, making it difficult to focus through her escalating arousal, “It was very wow.” She squeezed her thighs around the one between hers, “Mmm even if I was w-wearing that thing, I was focused on my hands and your reactions.”

When she felt her girlfriend squeeze her legs and the resulting moist caress against her thigh, Willow tightened the arm she had around Tara to roll her more fully on top, running her other hand across the blonde’s lower back.

The fuller contact made Tara groan. She rocked her hips once, nuzzling her face into her girlfriend’s neck, “At first, my hands were all over you,” The blonde brushed her lips against the sensitive skin as she spoke softly, “Your back, your waist, your hips, your stomach, your breasts. I could feel every movement you made.”

Willow’s breath quickened, easily imagining what her girlfriend was saying. Her skin tingled where the words hit her neck. She wrapped herself around Tara’s leg, entwining her right with her girlfriend’s left. Tensing it, she was able to encourage a rocking motion. Her hands were firm against Tara’s lower back, almost gripping the yielding flesh. “Ohhh,”

“Mmm,” She leaned on her elbow so she could run her hand up her girlfriend’s leg. She took hold of the back of the redhead’s knee and pulled it up to hook around her ass. Tara held onto Willow’s leg, her fingers tickling the back of her thigh as she rocked forward. Grinding her thigh into the redhead’s wetness, “But, then you started pushing back,” She licked up the smooth neck to her girlfriend’s small ear, running her tongue along its edge.

“Hard-,” Willow groaned, running her hands down to Tara’s ass and gripping the soft flesh, “I wanted it harder,” She raised her hips, her breath shaky.

“Mmhmm, you did.” The blonde let go and ran her fingers down the underside of her girlfriend’s thigh, to where her ass met her leg. She traced little swirls on the sensitive skin there as she rolled her hips, “I had to grip your hips so I could give you what you wanted.”

“Baby,” It was as if her whole sense of perception was focused on Tara’s fingers. She swayed her hips left to right, her voice a deep, yearning groan. “Baby.”

Tara’s voice was a whispered, honey-laced breath against her ear, “You know how much I love giving you what you want.” Pulling back her hips, she ran her fingers in slow circles inward, encountering a patch of damp skin, “What do you want, Will?”

“Ohh, God,” She turned her head and quickly found Tara’s lips. Sucking the bottom one into her mouth, she moaned when her girlfriend’s sex grinded against her thigh. Letting go of the blonde’s lip, she whispered in an unsteady groan, “Fuck me.”

Tara grinned mischievously, “But, we haven’t even made it to the chair yet.” Good purchase. She half-mindedly patted herself on the back. “I really liked the chair bit.” Pulling her thigh away from Willow’s need, she purposefully grinded down onto the freckled leg pressed against herself, “Ohh, you definitely need to know about t-the chair.” She said, a shudder running through her frame.

Willow’s jaw clenched shut, every muscle in her body tensed up. Not least the ones in her thigh which was coated with Tara’s arousal as she kept rocking against it. She groaned deeply in frustration. I should’ve known she’s in a teasing mood.

Tara had two reactions to being told ‘Fuck me’. It all depended on context and circumstance. The first being to do exactly that, to great – mind blowing – effect. But, sometimes… it brought out the tease in her. The one who loved having that kind of effect on her girlfriend and wanted to tease and torture with it. Of course, always with the intention of following through. But, still. Willow was usually impatient and this amused her girlfriend to no end.

“Ohh, God,” The blonde rocked forward in one sharp movement. She pushed up onto her hands and looked down into her girlfriend’s eyes. The look in those dark green eyes was immeasurably arousing.

Willow had the most intense, hungry and frustrated look on her face. Her lips a thin line; it was as if a wild animal was being held back.

Tara shivered, “Hi,” She said suddenly bashful as she bit the inside of her lip, feeling something shift between them. That look… Willow was having none of it. Her head lowered instinctively, feeling like she’d been caught with her hand in the warm, sexy and wet cookie jar.

“You’re being bad,” Growled the redhead, “Teasing me.” She grabbed a hold of Tara’s hips and maneuvered her between her legs. In a quick burst of movement, she had her girlfriend pinned to the mattress with her hands against the pillows. She pressed down onto wiggling hips as she sat up, “Tell me about the chair. And, don’t move your hands.” Two can play that game, missy.

Tara looked up at her girlfriend, eyes wide in wonder. Her hands were itching to reach and touch, grip and soothe the beautiful freckled skin in front of her. She clenched them into fists to resist the urge, “W-when I had you against the wall a-and I was, I was…” The sudden switch in power between them threw her for a loop, her instinctive nervousness kicking in at an embarrassing time.

Willow’s lips curled almost imperceptibly into a smug little smile. She ran her hands up her thighs sensually and looked into Tara’s eyes, “Say it, baby. What were you doing to me?” Keeping eye contact, her hands roamed over her own body. Her right tickled the skin of her inner hip, while her left trailed a feather-light touch up and down her stomach.

Her eyes strayed from Willow’s as she watched her small hands touch what she, herself, would die to touch. “I was f-fucking you,” Tara gulped audibly, her eyes never leaving the redhead’s hands, “H-hard.”

The redhead watched the changing expressions on her girlfriend’s face, “Then what?” She cupped her breast and rocked her hips forward once, grinding herself into the blonde’s pelvis. Her breath now coming in labored gasps.

Tara squeezed her thighs together against the mind-numbing, throbbing ache. She could feel how wet she was as well as Willow’s arousal as she rocked her hips, “Your legs buckled,” Her pelvis pushed up involuntarily, making the lightweight of her girlfriend’s body jump slightly. “I had to h-hold you up by your waist.”

Her girlfriend’s nipples were taut even before she witnessed her small fingers curl around one, rolling it between them in time with the movements of her hips. Tara groaned when, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Willow’s other hand dip lower between her legs. “Then you were straddling me on the chair, riding me.”

Willow’s head lolled back onto her neck as her questing fingers made contact with her clit. She squeezed her nipple and her hips bucked, “Ohh, God… that’s, a-a good dream,” Once her slick fingers pressed against her clit, she started rubbing them over the small bundle of nerves side to side. “Ohh, Fuhh,”

Tara’s whole body was shaking, coiled like a spring. “Willow,” Her voice pleading, begging, “I’m sorry for teasing.” She felt like she might cry from frustration, “I need to touch you.” Her girlfriend’s moaned response caused her hips to jump again, “Please, let me touch you.”

Without pausing her ministrations to her clit, the redhead looked into deep, desirous blue eyes. She pressed lower still, pushing her two middle fingers into herself. Her hips rocked back and forth, her other hand catching her body on its way down as she fell forward. Willow kissed her girlfriend thoroughly and pulled back, panting.

With her face centimeters away from Tara’s, she pulled her wet fingers out of herself and brought them up. Looking her lover in the eye, she pressed her fingers against the blonde’s kiss swollen-lips. When her fingers were sucked into her girlfriend’s greedy mouth, Willow groaned at her ear, “No more teasing.”

Tara ran her tongue between her girlfriend’s fingers, cleaning them at the same time as she lowered her hands down Willow’s body. She gripped her hip with one and, without hesitation, slipped her own fingers between shaking legs. Bucking her hips high off the bed, she flipped them over so the redhead was under her and thrust her fingers deep into wet, waiting warmth. “Mmmph,” She bit down on the fingers in her mouth and straddled a tensed up thigh.

She found her fingers swimming in Willow’s juices. Her legs wide apart, she was open, dripping and needy. The blonde flexed her fingers before making them flutter against spongy walls. The resulting writhing of her girlfriend’s body, the pleading moans, all let Tara know her lover needed more.

Letting the redhead’s fingers slip from between her lips, she lowered her mouth against her neck. The blonde licked the soft skin as she uncurled another finger. At the same time as she pressed into Willow with all three fingers, she also bit down on her pulse point. Tara growled deep in her throat and started a purposeful and hard thrust in and out of her lover, following the rhythm of writhing hips.

“Ohh, my Goh-Ohh!” Willow’s hips bucked and thrashed under Tara’s hand, “Ohh, baby… we need to… Ohh, fuugh,” She grabbed a fistful off blonde hair, “We need… to go… shop-PING!” Her voice rose an octave as the insistent fingers inside her hit that specific spot her lover knew so well.

Tara smirked against her girlfriend’s neck, grunting slightly, “Hold… that thought,” Bringing both her legs between her lover’s, she kneeled up and pulled Willow’s right leg over her shoulder to be able to put more power behind her thrusts, “Just… a little… longer,” Gnawing on her lip and wrapping her left arm around her girlfriend’s thigh, she flicked a finger over Willow’s clit as she thrusted harder and faster.

The redhead’s hips lifted right off the bed, “Ohh, so good baby,” She reached up to the headboard, gripping it. She felt like she could rip it apart with her bare hands. Her jaw was clenched and she was grunting, “God, yeah… uh… fuh-uh-uck!” Her climax took her by surprise, slamming in and out of her body, over and over again. Her hips jumped and jerked, her leg fell from Tara’s shoulder to the bed, shaking.

The blonde left her two middle fingers inside her girlfriend, loving being able to feel the spasms around her as Willow slowly came down from her orgasm. She laid on her back, on Willow’s left side with her fingers still inside, her hand now flat against the twitching clit. She could feel the redhead’s heartbeat in the center of her palm.

She really needed to come. She didn’t care how, it just needed to happen. Tara felt like she was about to either cry, burst or die. Watching her girlfriend attentively, she started pleasuring herself with her left hand. She groaned involuntarily. This wouldn’t take long.

When she heard the groan, Willow turned her hazy eyes towards her girlfriend. “Tara,” She rolled onto her side, taking the blonde’s hand from between her own legs. Seeing the need in those blue eyes only served to make Willow want to fulfill it.

Tara softly shook her head against the pillows, switching hands so she could build a rhythm between her legs, “You don’t have to,” She gasped, pinching her nipple with her now slick fingers, “Just let me… look at you.” Her legs fell open, letting her girlfriend see just how much she affected her. “It won’t… Won’t take long.”

Wow… that’s my girlfriend. Shy, quiet, modest… and so frickin’ hot. Willow’s eyes roamed her lover’s writhing body, finding the display extremely erotic and arousing. “Look at you, God… baby, you’re so hot.” She looked into Tara’s eyes again and that eye contact seemed to have been all the blonde needed.

“Mmm, Yesss,” Reaching up behind Willow’s head with her free hand, she pulled her into a searing kiss as her body jerked and writhed through her climax. “Mmmph,” She pressed her fingers against her clit and left her hand there, letting the sway of her hips cause a slight friction to extend her orgasm as far as it would go.

Ok, am I supposed to not ravage her now!? Willow was conflicted. Tara had thoroughly… satisfied her. But, having seen her girlfriend pleasure herself and, now kissing her, was making the redhead slightly bonkers. She didn’t really know what to do or not to do, but she sure as heck knew what she wanted to do.

“Tara,” Her hand traveled down her lover’s stomach to rest over the one cupping the blonde’s sex, “I still want you. So much,” Willow’s mouth trailed kisses down the blonde’s throat, to her chest.

Tara tangled her fingers in her lover’s hair, “Will, h-hold on,” Her back arched at her girlfriend’s touch, her body betraying her words, “I need to tell you something,”

The redhead cupped a full breast and, with her tongue flat against the skin, licked over the hard nub at its center. “Mouth’s busy, ears aren’t,” After giving it another lick, she flicked her tongue back and forth over it and pressed slightly against Tara’s hand still cupping her sex.

Holy Goddess. Will, t-the prop,” Tara panted, “I need to tell you…” Pushing her hips up, she felt her girlfriend’s fingers entwine with her own slick ones, over her wet sex. Her small fingers curling inward, parting her lips, “Ohh,”

“No more dream,” She switched breast, quickly taking the nipple in her mouth. “You’re so wet,” Willow bit down on the hard nub and groaned when she noticed Tara’s legs parting.

“Not the d-dream,” Tara suddenly felt a distinct tingling in the center of her palm, right over her clit. Oh God, I know that tingle. Her hips bucked involuntarily, “Will, y-your magic,” She tried to control her own as it instinctively responded to her lover’s, their fingers being entwined. Her hand was trapped by Willow’s, her palm flat against herself. Research. This is… wow. Later. After research. But… wow.

“Mmph?” Willow was slightly preoccupied with the nipple in her mouth. Truth be told, whenever she needed to calm her mind, make it shut up – all she needed to do was ask for Tara’s breast. If it was offered, well… then she could completely Zen out. The reason why didn’t matter much to her but, she suspected this would only work with Tara. Tara-boobies.

Now, she was bathing in a sea of Tara-calm at the same time as being totally sexually aroused. And, there was tingling?

“Will, baby,” She squeezed the fingers in hers gently, “You’re reaching for me,” Tara gripped the sheets, “Will, l-listen,” Oh, Goddess help me.

The redhead’s body shivered as she let go of Tara’s nipple, “You’re all around me,” Her breath a shallow, slow rhythm calling for her mate.

Tara could feel herself slipping, her magic pushing to reach out and connect. Her heartrate slowed, her breath copied Willow’s.

Ok, emergency procedures! “Platypus!!” She yelped.

Willow’s head instantly shot up, all movements stopped. “What! What?” Wide-eyed, she looked into her girlfriend’s eyes, “What did I do?”

The blonde lifted a shaky finger, asking for a brief pause. After a few deep breaths she explained, “Y-your magic was seeping through, reaching for mine.” She tried to wet her lips but, her mouth felt dry.

Their hands were still between Tara’s legs, “Like when we cast. I feel it.” Willow said, her body was vibrating. It was taking all her will power to keep herself from opening her channels up. “I’m all… vibratey.”

Tara nodded, “I didn’t want to let it go,” She moved their hands, still clasped together, to her lower stomach. “I’m n-not sure what it would have done. Hence the safeword.” She said apologetically.

Willow nodded, “Y-yeah, ok. You’re right… I mean, it wouldn’t have been the nether-realms but who knows, right?” She couldn’t shake it off, couldn’t seem to pull back.

The blonde bobbed her head from one side to the other, in a ‘kinda’ gesture, “We’re m-more into sex magic territory,” She hugged her thighs together, crossing her ankles. How to dissipate this now?

“Um,” The redhead looked at their hands, “Should we let go? Our hands, I mean…” She clenched her jaw when a chill ran up her spine, “I’m all magically pent up.” Willow was starting to worry a bit.

Tara’s brow creased in sympathy, “All I know to do is a grounding,” She winced, “Don’t see how we can get dressed and go outside with our hands linked. And, there’s no circle cast… so if we just let go of our hands,” She shrugged, “Erratic, unfocused… hyper-sexual energy bounces around everywhere doing who knows what.”

“Ok, Tara,” Now she was worried, “I don’t hear a solution here,” Her mind was kick-started, whirling around all that she knew.

She looked at the alarm clock, it was one thirty in the morning. “Short of research…” The blonde shrugged, “I don’t know if it’s related, or anything – but as much as you seem to be magically pent up?” Tara wriggled her hips, “So am I, in the physical sense of the word.” In all honesty, she was ready to burst.

Willow put two and two together and came up with Damnit! “I bet if you have an orgasm my magic releases and vice versa. And, with the no circle and no focus…”

“If there’s dancing penises,” Tara said, “I’m so going to have nightmares.” She grimaced, “I just grossed myself out.” And yet, still all super horny… and it’s getting worse.

The redhead wasn’t amused, “My mind goes worst places than dancing penises,” She took a deep breath, “Right, ok. Can we just use this energy to cast a simple spell? Like, the Tinkerbelle light?” Every hair on her body was standing straight up.

Tara was shaking, “We could power a city, Will.” She tensed up her legs, gripping her girlfriend’s hand in hers, “If you’re anything like me, we need s-something big.”

Willow’s eyebrows shot up her forehead.

The blonde rolled her eyes, “You know what I mean.” She grumbled. “This is not good, I’m not pleased with what my brain keeps showing me.”

That tone. That was a pissed off Tara if ever Willow heard one. “Kinky, huh?”

The look Tara shot her made the redhead shrink away, “Sorry.” But, hot. Sorry, but hot… I do that on purpose way too often.

A few moments passed before Tara couldn’t take it anymore, “Fuck this.” She sat up, “Will, I’m sorry but I’m calling Anya.” Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she left no doubt as to what her intentions were.

Willow followed, although quite reluctantly, “What!? No, no way!”

“Not a discussion,” She pulled on her girlfriend’s hand, “This is not pleasant; I’m starting to be in real pain.” Tara picked up the phone, “Sorry if you don’t like the idea of Anya knowing, but she’s the only one who I think might be able to actually help.”

“What about Giles?” As soon as it came out of her mouth, Willow grimaced. “Never mind.”

Tara just arched an eyebrow and started dialing. “Hand me that towel over on the chair, please.”

Willow did just that and watched as her girlfriend half-mindedly wiped down her inner thighs. She cleared her throat and averted her eyes. So not fair.

“Anya? Sorry to wake you,” She heard her girlfriend say, “It is, I’m spending two friendship cards.” The redhead gave Tara a quizzical look and only got an impatient head shake in return.

“Well, obviously the ‘call any time’ card.” Tara ran her fingers through her hair, “The other’s the ‘this is top secret’ one.” She bounced her leg up and down and mouthed ‘ow’ while retrieving the phone from under her chin.

Willow was starting to feel a bit woozy, the pent up energy was building and without a release it was making her extra sensitive to everything around her. “Baby, I need to sit down.”

“We stumbled into sex magic,” She took the phone with them back to the bed, “Yeah, stumbled.”

They laid back down, hands still linked, “We were having sex and Will’s magic reached out for mine,” Her legs twitched, she was covered in sweat. “Anya, I’m sorry but my vagina feels like it’s turning inside out. Can we just focus on how to fix it?” She pushed through gritted teeth.

Willow stared in disbelief, “Who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?” She whispered.

“Why? No.” Tara was so past annoyed, “I don’t want you two bitching at each other, that’s why!”

“Fine.” She reached for the speaker button, “There, you’re on speaker phone.” Tara looked at Willow and gave her a proper ‘be good’ stare.

“Alright, I need to know a few things. Hi, Willow.” Said a chipper Anya, “Tara’s left the building, huh?”

“Um, h-hi Anya,” The redhead said tentatively, ignoring her girlfriend’s grumbles, “What do you need to know?”

“When did you start reaching out with your magic?” She asked in her matter of fact way.

Willow’s brow furrowed, “I-I don’t know…” Closing her eyes helped focus a bit, “Pretty much as soon as our fingers entwined, I think.”

Anya was cutting something in the kitchen, or so it sounded like, “Huh. This never happened before?”

Tara’s eyes were also closed. She was doing breathing exercises and trying to focus on the conversation. But, contributing to it was proving very difficult.

“Not in this context,” She looked at her girlfriend and her worry racked up a whole notch, “Anya, Tara’s not well. I’m magically pent up and she’s sexually pent up – we’re linked, a-and there’s no circle. We’re holding hands still… and it’s building.”

“Well, you could do a grounding ritual.” The ex-vengeance demon suggested.

Willow closed her eyes again and ran her thumb over her girlfriend’s hand, “We can’t get dressed to go out. If we let go of each other’s hand… wouldn’t that just release the energy in a chaotic way?”

“Without a circle, yes. But, who cares about clothes? Just use a sheet or something.” Anya said, impatiently.

She has a point. She looked at her girlfriend, “Baby? Can you walk?”

“Hmm?” Dazed blue eyes opened, “To where? Will, I need…” Tara’s voice came out in a needy growl, “Fuh-uck...” Her free hand gripped the sheets, her legs tensed up as her hips raised from the bed.

“Nope, that’s a no. Can’t go out Anya.” Willow quickly said, “But, this? I can’t stand this much longer. Neither can Tara.”

Anya sighed, “You’re lucky Xander isn’t around.” The fridge opened and closed, “I had cheese all cut and ready to nibble, too.” She huffed.

“Anya, wha-“ The redhead was cut off, “We have succubus and incubus stones at the shop.” Anya continued, “I’ll go get the succubus one and bring it to you. Simple incantation and the sexual energy will be sucked into the stone.”

“What about my build up?” Willow asked.

“Yours is sexual as well, just laced with magic. It’ll go the same way as Tara’s.” There was shuffling over the line, “Alright, I’m on my way. Tell Tara she’ll need to work those cards back. Oh, and no sex!”

The line disconnected.

Wow, now that’s ironic. Wait. Succubus? Wouldn’t it be Incubus? Her thoughts were broken by her girlfriend’s groan, “Baby, hang on… Anya’s on her way.” Willow was having a hard time holding back from just taking Tara over the edge. She was sweating and panting from holding her magic back as it was. In a subconscious move, her thumb once again rubbed at the soft skin of the girlfriend’s hand.

“Ohhh God, don’t…” Tara screwed her eyes shut tight, “I could come just from that.” She pulled the sheets to her face, “And then it’s d-dancing penises all over the place.” Biting down on the sheets, she tried to distance herself from her body. Mr. Giles in a speedo, Mr. Giles in a speedo…

Holy crap. The redhead stared at the ceiling, concentrating on her heartbeat and her breath. “You really need to stop saying penis.” Note to self: Research Succubus Stones.

Twenty-five agonizing minutes went by in which Willow almost conjured up a Hadron Collider and, Tara developed cramps in her calves and toes… and other places.

“Hadron Collider, Will?” The blonde pushed through gritted teeth.

Willow panted, “Biggest… non sexy thing… popped into my head.” She shivered, “Stopped it. No big.”

There was a knock at the door. “Psst! It’s me!” Anya half-whispered from the hallway, “Anya!”

Oh, God. Please let it be unlocked. “T-try the door!” Tara almost shouted. If she moved her legs at all, she knew that would be it.

Willow patted the covers around them frantically, “I don’t remember locking it,”

Luckily, the door opened, “I have the stone,” The shop keeper walked in and closed the door.

Willow and Tara both stared wide-eyed and completely baffled by what they were seeing, “Wha…”

Tara asked, “Anya, what… are you wearing?” She had to admit, it did take the attention off some more pressing, throbbing, dripping… um, issues.

“Oh, I didn’t want to tempt you.” The ex-vengeance demon said while she made her way to the desk. “So, I borrowed some of Xander’s clothes”

It was a funny sight, really. Anya wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, a big Hawaiian shirt and ridiculously large and brightly colored pants. “We’ll put the stone here on the desk,”

“Tempt who?” Willow ground out, “Presume much?” Don’t turn her into a frog, or a bunny. Oh, a bunny! No. Don’t. Can’t. Shouldn’t.

“Will,” Tara whimpered, “S-stop it… calm down.” Her jaw clenched shut, “You’re making it h-harder. T-that collider was close enough.”

The shop keeper took her sunglasses off, “I’m not going to comment on how Sapphic it smells in here. You should think about incense.”

“Anya!” The blonde snapped, “S-stone. Incantation. Now.” Tara took a breath, licked her lips and added, “Please.”

Willow mumbled almost inaudibly, “Don’t turn her into a bunny, big no to bunnies,”

She opened her bag and pulled out some items, “I’m just saying, it would help with the incantation if you had some sage.” Opening a wooden box with runes carved in it, Anya pulled out the succubus stone, “You two are cranky when you don’t have orgasms.” She said, reaching over to Tara and showing her a piece of paper. “That’s the incantation. I just need to set the stone up.”

“Give it to Will, I shouldn’t move.” Tara barely ground out.

Willow took it, “There’s sage in the dresser. First drawer on the left.” She started reading it over, tipping the page towards her girlfriend so she could also read it.

Anya made her way toward the dresser while the two witches went over the incantation. “I brought a book on sex magic. I think you two should at least learn about how to avoid this kind of thing.”

She walked back to the desk once the incense was lit, “Of course, I’ll need it back. It’s from the shop.” Anya set up three small candles - one white, one grey and one black – around the stone, and lit them with the matches she found on the dresser. “We’ll talk about the price of the stone another time.”

“Ok, I got this,” Said Willow, “You, baby?” She asked her girlfriend.

“Yesss, I have it.” Tara breathed out. She was starting to feel light-headed. “Things are liquid and s-spinny.”

“You really need to do this now,” Anya interjected, quickly grabbing her things as she made for the door. “I’m not staying around to watch the big show and I totally could. So, you owe me Tara!”

The door closed and they were alone again.

Owe you what!? Willow was once again perturbed by her girlfriend’s friendship with the ex-vengeance demon. “Ready?”

“Mmm, I’ve never been this ready,” Her body felt warm and syrupy, Tara was slipping, “Will-llowww, I love your name,” She licked her lips, “Rolls off the tongue,”

Uh oh, this isn’t good. “Focus, baby.” Willow said, “Remember? Incantation, then big ‘O’ and poof, into the stone.”

“Poof,” The blonde’s whole body was vibrating, “Hey, I bought a strap-on!” She giggled and stopped abruptly. “Will, I’m really, really horny.” Her plaintive whine said.

If it were any other situation, Willow would’ve have laughed and/or been shocked. But, as it was… “I know, me too. Just,” She took a deep breath, “Do you remember the words?”

“From us sparks the flame that licks the wick…” She recited half-mindedly until she was cut off.

“Good, good. On the third heartbeat,” The redhead was twitchy, pent up and anxious.

They closed their eyes and focused on their heartbeats. On the third synchronized one, they started reciting the incantation together.

“From us sparks the flame that licks the wick of your light,”

They both gasped as they felt warmth spreading from between their hands, outwards like a shell forming around them.

“Passion burns and feeds the very kernel of your life,”

The stone started vibrating and glowing a light aqua color. Their breaths were loud in the silence of the room, the air pulsating around them in ripples of warmth.

“Take from us what we give. A measure of our craving for each other – onto you!”

The green-blue glow shot out of the stone and hit the witches with a sizzling sounding snap.

“Aauughh!” The release was sudden, intense and a little on the zappy side, “Aahh… Goddess!” Tara didn’t care about the zappy though, “Ohh, Holy mother!” It was… interesting.

Willow didn’t know if it would ever end, “Fuuuhh!” But, she really didn’t want it to, “Nnngghh!”

They thrashed, side by side, holding hands as the stone grew brighter and brighter until…

The redhead felt Tara’s energy flow through her and out again and vice versa in a seemingly endless circuit.

Like a bottle filled with water, spun and turned upside down – a vortex of their pent up energies swirled out of them until they were emptied.

The candles’ flames shot up high, starting from the darkest to the lightest. As one, they blew out. The stone stilled.

The only remaining sound, that of the witches panting.

“Whoa,” Willow said after a few moments, “That was…”

“Nifty.” Finished Tara, in a post-coital haze.

Laughter bubbled out of them, completely spent. They gingerly untangled their fingers, making sure it didn’t cause anything untoward. Both sighed in relief when nothing happened.

“So,” The redhead started, rolling onto her side to face her girlfriend, “Strap-on, huh?” She grinned mischievously.

Tara hid her face in the pillow, a mumbled, “You didn’t mind earlier!” She said before peeking from under her hair, “Is, is that ok?”

Willow pulled her love into her arms and planted a kiss on the top of her head, “If you would’ve asked me that yesterday, I’d have been a spaz about it.”

The blonde snuggled in, “But, now?”

“Now, not so much a spaz.” The redhead answered, “Seeing that chair in a whole new light, though.”

***

She was usually here most nights. Spike had been looking for over an hour but, Lucile was still nowhere to be found.

He really should have known better. It wasn’t like Doc was a saint. Ruthless, more like. Of course he’d see this as an opportunity to grab Spike by the short-and-curlies. I should be in my crypt wanking off to the Slayer.

Spike leaned against the wall facing Lucile’s usual haunt. He lit a cigarette, took a deep pull and let out a breath of thick smoke. Doc knew, of course he did. The vampire shook his head disbelievingly. Bugger already knew. He just wanted me on a soddin’ hook.

He fingered the card that was still in his coat pocket. As long as it remained in his possession, Spike was good and well screwed. He couldn’t even read the damned thing, it was magically encrypted.

“Well, if it isn’t my sexy feline,” Lucile shambled around the alleyway corner, her clothing tattered and dirty. She looked to be in her seventies, human and homeless. “Waiting at my door like a love-struck Tom.” She chuckled and took him into a warm hug.

Spike returned it and smiled, “Hello, luv.” He took the bag she was holding, offering his other hand to help her sit down on the sidewalk. “I still don’t understand the homeless thing,” He leaned back against the wall, “I could make sure you’re comfortable you know.” He said, taking a drag off his cigarette.

Lucile smoothed her raggedy clothing around her legs. She reached into the bag and pulled out a bottle containing a bright-pink liquid. “You know I’m not homeless darling,” The cap came unscrewed and she promptly gulped down a mouthful. “This whole town is my home.” Her face pulled in a grimace, “Besides, my kind doesn’t like being cooped up.”

The vampire quirked an eyebrow, “What did you eat this time?” He pointed at the knockoff antacid bottle, “You drink more of that stuff and you’ll turn pink.”

She smiled, excited, “I had a treat today! Chinese!” Her immaculate teeth glimmered in the night, “That’s what I love about this town. The extremes.” Lucile took another mouthful of the vile liquid, “In one meal, I had spicy chicken and almost bland broccoli and water chestnuts. Extremes.”

Spike shook his head disapprovingly, “Human food, still? That’s bound to catch up with you in the long run, luv.” Twisting his boot over his discarded cigarette, he added, “You don’t want to know the lengths I go to so I can eat Weetabix and things.” He sneered, “You want to talk extremes.”

Lucile chuckled, “Well, it’s a good thing my metabolism isn’t dead, so much as finicky.” She leaned on her right hip, her coat raised up her back as a long, grey tail unfurled at her side. “Ahh, much better. Besides, I can’t deny the lovely young woman who brings me these gems.”

The vampire slid down the wall, sitting across from his friend, “Ah, I see. You know, how people believe you’re just a homeless lady in Sunnydale is beyond me.” He waved a hand in the air, gesturing around them, “It’s not like they last very long here.”

“She knows I’m not human.” She said plainly, “She… cares, but doesn’t.” Lucile’s face broke out into a bright smile, “She has a bit of you in her!”

Spike’s eyebrows shot up his forehead, “What, now?” Is she… Harmony!?

He looked up when footsteps approached the pair. A short yet sturdy demon with blueish skin, wearing a hat and a long coat walked passed. He tipped his hat at the woman and rumbled, “Lucile,” As he stepped over Spike’s outstretched legs and continued on his way.

“Night, Chris.” She said at the retreating demon. “You’ve touched her,” The woman continued, “I want to say… nose.” Lucile scowled at Spike, “You know I don’t want to know what you do in the bedroom, darling… But, she doesn’t strike me as the type.” She held him in a warning glare, “I’ve grown quite fond of Tara. I won’t take you hurting her.”

“Tara!? Oh!” Spike patted his coat and reached in for his cigarettes. He needed a smoke right then, “It’s not like that. Not that I would mind but,” He lit his cigarette and took a deep pull, “If she didn’t turn me into a slug, her feisty redheaded witch-lover would.” Exhaling he added, pointing a finger at Lucile, “Now, she can be scary. She’d be ready with the bloody salt and everything.”

Lucile smiled, remembering seeing a redhead that after-noon, “Oh! How sweet…”

“Yeah, sweet.” He leaned his head against the wall and looked up to the night sky.

Spike sighed after a few minutes of silence and mumbled out his thoughts, “Stupid git.”

The old woman turned concerned eyes towards her friend, “What is it? A mood shift like that could cause a hurricane in Puerto Rico if you’re not careful.” She grinned, “Butterfly Effect and all.”

“Got myself in a spot of trouble,” Spike rolled his eyes, “Again.” He said, flicking his cigarette into the street. “I was bored and heard about a new player in town.”

Lucile grew serious and pensive, “Speaking of extremes.” She held him in a measuring gaze, “You don’t know who they are do you?”

I knew I should’ve come here first. Spike thought ruefully, “I only know what they want me to see, so I’m going blind. What do you know about them?” He asked, genuinely curious.

Her tail wrapped itself around her waist in a move that seemed to bring comfort, “A week or so ago, I was walking along the pier at night. You know how I like my nightly walks.” She reached back into the bag and took out a Twinkie, “I saw a ship being unloaded. Now, it was well past midnight so I wasn’t expecting any activity. I was curious, so I got closer.” Lucile bit into her chemically enhanced treat, “Mmm. So, this young devil sees me and tells me I shouldn’t be there.” She quirked an eyebrow, “I set him straight, of course. This is my town – I belong everywhere.”

Spike’s eyebrows shot up his forehead, surprised, “You said that?” He pointed at her, “You have balls, luv.” He nodded approvingly.

“I can assure you, I don’t.” She said, taking the last bite of her Twinkie, “Looking like I do has its advantages. Others tend to underestimate someone like me, which suits me just fine.” Lucile chased her Twinkie down with some more pink antacid making Spike grimace. “He didn’t hear a threat, he heard a feisty old woman trying to hold onto some sort of control over her life.” She smiled, “So he told me what I should be afraid of.”

At Spike’s nod, she continued, “It’s a business. As in, corporation – big, very profitable, founded on the idea of capitalism. At the head is a human: Damien Brice. He surrounds himself with demons of all kinds, so he walks in both worlds. Damien has the intention of opening these ‘centers’ around the world, mainly where both humans and demons somewhat coexist. The prototype will be in our very town. He caters to sadists, being one himself. For a good sum they can witness and… well, let’s just say they get their money’s worth.” She shook her head, sighing, “I still see ships come in late at night. The center is nearly finished. As far as I know they’re staffing it now.”

The vampire rubbed his face, “Yeah, I was hired to recruit a ‘discrete and powerful magic user’. I went to Doc and he tricked me into being his bitch before accepting.” He scoffed.

Lucile laughed, “Doc? Oh, that old geezer. Still up to his old tricks I see. What is he having you do?”

Spike barked out a laugh, “Git’s off his rocker again. He wants a trophy from the burned down school.” He took on a mock-serious tone, “Not just any trophy. A cheerleading trophy.” Shaking his head in disbelief he added, “That school got blown to bits, how he expects me to find anything of the sort beats me.”

The old woman clucked her tongue, “He’s always been an odd one. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you, dear. But, he’s not one for fool’s errands.” Cocking her head, she asked, “Are you sure you want to be working with these… people?” Her expression turned to concern, “They sound like bad news. They’ve even infiltrated parts of the government. It’s also the kind of bad news that attracts attention from people like the Slayer.”

Slayer, of course. “Yeah, I’m getting that.” Spike stood up slowly, “I don’t have a choice right now. Doubt I’ll take another job, though.” He looked up at the sky, noticing it getting brighter, “I should head to my crypt.”

Leaning down, he placed a kiss on Lucile’s forehead, “See you soon, luv.” He smiled when she purred.

“Spike,” The woman called to his retreating back. When he turned around, she asked, “I don’t usually do this kind of thing… but, Tara?” She looked at him earnestly, “Could you look out for her?”

Spike cocked his head, peering intently at his friend before his features softened. He nodded once and walked away.

***

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2017 11:29 pm 
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I haven't finished the chapter yet (and there's more I want to raise in the parts I have that I'll mention later) but I know the nervous-posting feeling, so I wanted to drop in sooner rather than later to say I really enjoyed (as a reader, if you get what I mean) how you handled and developed Tara's past, how she acted then and how she feels about it in the present. Tough to read through, but the horribleness of the feelings didn't linger - rather it set the stage for what I did take away from it, understanding what's behind Tara's anguish/panic attack, and thus understanding what a beautiful moment it is when Willow manages to get through to her and comfort her, and finally get her to a place where she can see hope on the horizon for forgiving herself. I've been in Willow's place, but it wasn't a struggle reading this - it rang true, but it was ultimately heartwarming, not painful. So, yeah, so far as I'm concerned you can relax about the chapter :grin

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 3:25 am 
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Artemis wrote:
I haven't finished the chapter yet (and there's more I want to raise in the parts I have that I'll mention later) but I know the nervous-posting feeling, so I wanted to drop in sooner rather than later to say I really enjoyed (as a reader, if you get what I mean) how you handled and developed Tara's past, how she acted then and how she feels about it in the present.


Ok, big honkin' sigh of relief.

Thank you for being so considerate of how nervous I was/am about this update. I really appreciate the fact that you sent feedback so soon. :grin

My thinking about what Tara's past might have been like for her started at Tabula Rasa. Only the Glory Brain Suck was hinted at for pointing out how egregious Willow's violation of Tara's mind was... when really, the first instance of that type of abuse in her life was from the very cradle. Her own family. Which, to me is much closer to what Willow did to her - being she was betrayed by the one she trusted most. As she'd trusted her family, growing up.

How did Tara know to walk away from Will? What taught her to be strong and to stand up for herself? These are the types of questions I try to answer for myself. And, since I find it interesting - being a nerd - I figured others might too.

I'm so happy you enjoyed how I handled it. :grin


Artemis wrote:
Tough to read through, but the horribleness of the feelings didn't linger - rather it set the stage for what I did take away from it, understanding what's behind Tara's anguish/panic attack, and thus understanding what a beautiful moment it is when Willow manages to get through to her and comfort her, and finally get her to a place where she can see hope on the horizon for forgiving herself. I've been in Willow's place, but it wasn't a struggle reading this - it rang true, but it was ultimately heartwarming, not painful. So, yeah, so far as I'm concerned you can relax about the chapter :grin


Again with the relief. :)

I've been on both sides of the dreaded panic attack. It's not an easy place to find yourself... I'm thoroughly relieved I was able to make the journey an emotional one that didn't linger in the depths of depressing feelings. That, through the love she was given, she was able to find hope.

If you weren't words on my screen, I'd hug you! :grin

Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it muchly.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2017 7:25 am 
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CnG,

Another gobsmackingly good chapter!

Chris has said everything I would have, (he's better at feedback than me) but there was one element I was curious about.

Did you take inspiration for Tara's "prop" dream from Willow's dream in Chap 44 of Neverland by EasierSaid? Because (if so) that is both awesome and HOT.

I am so excited for this story I'm literally (as in literally) bouncing in my seat.

Cheers!!
DW


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2017 8:26 am 
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DarkWiccan wrote:
Did you take inspiration for Tara's "prop" dream from Willow's dream in Chap 44 of Neverland by EasierSaid? Because (if so) that is both awesome and HOT.

I am so excited for this story I'm literally (as in literally) bouncing in my seat.


Um.... :blush I might have been inspired by the dream sequence in Neverland.... ok, yeah you found me out. I just really liked that scene, it WAS hot and since I had Tara buy a prop I figured... :grin


Thank you, I'm so pleased you like it!! :grin

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:04 pm 
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And back - I see what you mean about where the inspiration for Tara's backstory came from, it does make sense. Moving on to the rest of the chapter though, oh my Tara's dream - and I enjoyed, unexpectedly, the swerve into magic and having to get Anya in to help fix the situation, rather than the scene playing out to its happy conclusion uninterrupted. That was really imaginative, and interesting seeing them deal with that angle of magic, and their bedroom escapades being intertwined with it - rather than it just being the supernatural side of their existences and the 'mundane' side (not that that's in any way an appropriate word for saucy W/T, but you know what I mean) existing one at a time, here they're completely interrelated, happening together. Tara popping the safeword to avert magical overload really sums that up (also, nice use of a safeword, and I liked how it immediately served its purpose, and as soon as Willow understood why Tara stopped it, safewording was no big deal - as earlier, nice and mature). Also, Anya in Xander's clothes, and her reasoning for it, was very cute.

I seem to keep having comedy mental images, and this chapter, from when the solution turned out to be a stone, was a scene in the Magic Box the next day when Willow and Tara roll a ginormous boulder out of the storeroom and out the door, 'just in case'. (Also, the chair - that's another piece of furniture that needs to be against the outside wall now... :laugh )

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:38 am 
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Artemis wrote:
Moving on to the rest of the chapter though, oh my Tara's dream - and I enjoyed, unexpectedly, the swerve into magic and having to get Anya in to help fix the situation, rather than the scene playing out to its happy conclusion uninterrupted. That was really imaginative, and interesting seeing them deal with that angle of magic, and their bedroom escapades being intertwined with it - rather than it just being the supernatural side of their existences and the 'mundane' side (not that that's in any way an appropriate word for saucy W/T, but you know what I mean) existing one at a time, here they're completely interrelated, happening together. Tara popping the safeword to avert magical overload really sums that up (also, nice use of a safeword, and I liked how it immediately served its purpose, and as soon as Willow understood why Tara stopped it, safewording was no big deal - as earlier, nice and mature).


The inspiration here came from Entropy: "I forgot how good this could feel. Us, together... without the magic."

I figured, yeah - it would have to happen at some point, right? Willow isn't really the restrained type when it comes to magic and its uses. This is in Season 6, though - which I'm trying to diverge from. Just a dash more maturity on Willow's side should do it. Oh, and sorry but my Tara doesn't go along with magic being used willy-nilly in the bedroom.

We're talking witches who moved a soda machine just by linking hands and thinking about it. So, it just seemed inevitable that something like this would happen. Yes, it could've been a heck of a funny if I'd have let it go - Poofed in all kinds of weird sexy things. But, ultimately... it wouldn't have shown much about their relationship.

Artemis wrote:
Also, Anya in Xander's clothes, and her reasoning for it, was very cute.


It made me giggle, therefore it made the chapter. I have a soft spot for Anya... I think that's obvious by now. :)

Artemis wrote:
I seem to keep having comedy mental images, and this chapter, from when the solution turned out to be a stone, was a scene in the Magic Box the next day when Willow and Tara roll a ginormous boulder out of the storeroom and out the door, 'just in case'. (Also, the chair - that's another piece of furniture that needs to be against the outside wall now... :laugh )


I'm glad my comedy doesn't fall flat! Nothing worse than having an Insect Reflection moment. :laugh

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:23 am 
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Just a little note to say the next update will take a bit longer before being posted.

Life has a way of intruding like that but, I'll try and keep it as close to a week as possible. My apologies to those disappointed.

There's lots of things happening in the story, so the next is likely to be a bigger chapter. :kgeek

Until next time,

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:58 pm 
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Interesting story.

Very well written.
Interesting new characters.

And Anya to the rescue. Of course she knows all about sex magic.

Looking forward to more :)

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:37 am 
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Azirahael wrote:
Interesting story.

Very well written.
Interesting new characters.

And Anya to the rescue. Of course she knows all about sex magic.

Looking forward to more :)

R :flower


Thank you for reading! :grin English not being my first language, I'm very flattered you find it well written. :blush

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 Post subject: Post subject: When Erynn found herself - Post 4 (update)
PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:43 am 
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When Erynn found herself – Post 4 (Update)

Author name – CopperAndGold
Rating - NC-17 (Strong)

Disclaimer - This is an adult fic. There will be some angst, smut, bad language, difficult subject matters (They will be noted prior to posting) The characters' developments were taken from season 5 - A bit after the episode: Family. Anything that is canon and prior to this episode is fair game. Oh, there's also a small reference to a funny exchange in season 6 between Anya and Tara that I just couldn't stop from using. Even with all this, there's comedy too! Everything after Family becomes A/U.

Feedback - Please, I love your words.
Summary - Willow and Tara make a new friend. She's... interesting.

Notes – We are broaching more of Erynn’s past through flashbacks/memories. Rape is alluded to in this update. Please, if you are at all upset by the topic – don’t read.



It was quiet and cool in the classroom. She could hear the clock on the wall tick the seconds by. Willow had to concentrate though, this was a test after all.

Her tongue peeked through her teeth in concentration as she wrote down her answers as quickly as possible. She knew she had this down pat. All she could think about was handing the thing in to the teacher and having her go over it.

The redhead ran her fingers through her long hair, inwardly wishing her mom would let her cut it. Speaking of, she could do with a wardrobe change as well. Maybe Buffy could help. Softer side of Sears… why do clothes even matter!?

She looked up at the clock and determined she had plenty of time left. Before her eyes fell back to her test though, they caught a glimpse of her teacher. Ok, so clothes might matter some…

She only had two questions left to go. Come on, concentrate… almost done.

Willow went over her answers twice before taking a breath and walking up to the front desk with her test clasped in her hands. “I’m done, miss.” She set it down next to the apple she’d brought earlier.

Ms. Maclay looked up from her work, surprise written on her face, “Already? I should’ve known.” She smiled, “You are my best student.”

The redheaded student stood in front of the desk, eye’s twinkling with pride at the compliment. Those same green eyes widened slightly when Ms. Maclay stood up. She couldn’t help it…

Her dark blonde hair was put up in a tight bun, her face – those gorgeous features Willow loved to look at as if they were a painting hanging in the Louvre – open and visible. Deep blue eyes, beautiful full lips, that smile, and her neck… And, that’s just above the shoulders.

Ms. Maclay was wearing a white blouse that seemed to have been made just for her. It hugged every curve perfectly. Through it, she could see a dark bra pushing those gorgeous full breasts up. The first few buttons of the blouse being undone, it let the bounty of the woman’s chest grace the open air in a tantalizing cleavage.

Willow swallowed audibly when her teacher rounded the corner of the desk. Her black pencil skirt was painted onto her hips, down her thighs and stopped an inch above her knees. A slit in its side facilitated her graceful movements, letting a toned thigh peek through as she walked. Black nylons and high-heels complimented the ensemble making her calves stand out, taught and strong.

Ms. Maclay sat on the corner of the desk, facing Willow. “Well, let’s see how you did.” She took the test in her hands and started at the top.

The student clasped her fingers together, wringing them nervously. She really wanted to do well in this course. Looking at the empty classroom, the redhead couldn’t help but wonder why there weren’t any other students.

“Willow,” She heard her teacher say, “This is really good… but,” She took a breath and pressed her lips together in thought. Willow watched in rapt attention as a dimple developed on the side of Ms. Maclay’s cheek, “There’s something missing. You’ve got the techniques right, perfect even.”

Willow was nervous, “But, I studied really hard… I know that technique at number 5 isn’t proven but I’m sure it would work!”

The teacher nodded knowingly, “I think that’s the problem.” She looked at her student intently, “There’s no passion, no experience to back it up. This is… good, but ultimately meaningless without the feeling behind it.”

The redhead was dejected, “I’m not sure what to do about that.” She shuffled her sneakered feet, “All I know I get from books.” She said looking at the ground.

Ms. Maclay lifted her chin up with one finger, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” She smiled, “Are you willing to work hard?” She asked, keeping her student’s gaze locked with her own. Although her tone was soft and caring, there was no doubt as to the seriousness of the question.

Willow nodded frantically, “Yes! Of course, I always am.”

“Mmm,” The teacher said as she ran her thumb across her student’s cheek, “Best student.” Her lips pulled up on one side. The blue, that deep ocean blue of Ms. Maclay’s eyes seemed to twinkle then.

Where’d the desk go? The redhead wondered as the front of the class now had a double bed instead of a desk at its helm.

“Now,” Ms. Maclay sat on the edge of the bed, “This isn’t going to be easy, Willow. I know this is supposed to be an easy A class… according to students who don’t know me very well.”

Willow shook her head from side to side, eyebrows high on her forehead, “I don’t think that, Miss.” She denied vehemently, “I’m really willing to work hard, I swear.”

“Good,” The teacher said, seeming very pleased, “Come here.” She indicated the spot on the ground in front of her.

The redhead dutifully kneeled at her teacher’s feet.

“Here’s your test,” Ms. Maclay handed it over to her student, “Start at the top. Always start at the top, remember that.” She lifted an eyebrow to emphasize her point. “And, no skipping.”

“Yes, miss.” Willow looked down at her test, reading the first entry. She stood up and shakily approached her teacher. Her heart thumped her ribs she was so nervous.

She reached out to cup Ms. Maclay’s cheek with a trembling hand. The student leaned in and tentatively pressed her lips against those offered. “Mmm,” She couldn’t help the small sigh from escaping her throat. So soft…

Pulling back, she could see a blush gracing her teacher’s cheeks. Her lips were slightly parted and her eyes opened before she spoke, “See? Different, isn’t it?” She smiled.

Willow could only nod, looking at number 2. She leaned in again, this time with more confidence. The redhead started moving her lips once they were against those of her teacher. I know this. She opened her mouth and ran her tongue on her teacher’s bottom lip. When Ms. Maclay moaned, Willow wanted to skip to number 5.

But, she didn’t. No skipping, the teacher had said as much.

When Ms. Maclay’s tongue touched her own, the redhead’s knees wobbled. Strong hands caught her by the waist and pulled her onto the bed.

They were still kissing, but Willow opened one eye to look at her test. She wanted to get on to number 3.

She heard her teacher chuckle through the kiss so she pulled back. “Did I do something wrong?” Willow asked, worried.

Ms. Maclay tucked her student’s hair behind a small ear, “No, sweetie. I just like how eager you are.” She smiled reassuringly at her student.

Willow blushed, “I-I really like your class, Ms. Maclay.”

Her teacher was leaning in when she whispered, “It shows,” Her lips were millimeters from her student’s when the ring of the school bell broke the silence.

The redhead jolted back, surprised. She was sure there were still hours left to the class…

“Aw!” She heard exclaimed from the other side of the room, “It was just getting interesting.”

The bell rang again and Willow turned around.

Buffy, sitting in the front row, snapped her gum and shook her head, “I was starting to get it…”

“Huh!?” Willow sat straight up in bed, the covers slipping down to her waist. “Wha?”

“Mmrugh, Will,” Tara groaned, “Please, get the phone,” She rolled onto her other side and pushed her face into her pillow.

The redhead blinked a few times, “Phone, right.” After getting out of bed, she picked up the annoying dream wrecking object. “Hello?” She said, groggily rubbing her eyes.

“Hey, Will!” Said an altogether too awake Buffy, “Were you still asleep? It’s eleven o’clock!”

Willow sat at the desk, “Yeah well, we had a long night and I don’t have that Slayer metabolism of yours.” She yawned, “What’s up?”

“Speaking of long nights,” Buffy continued, “Xander and I were patrolling last night and there’s stuff we need to talk about. Can you guys come to a Scooby meeting today?”

The redhead looked towards the bed and saw her girlfriend still laying down with her eyes closed, “Maybe later today. We have something to do first, and Tara’s still sleeping.” A chill ran up her body, the cool air of the room hitting her naked skin.

Willow stood up with the phone to get her bathrobe, “We need to eat, too.” She said as she slipped it on.

“Well, it’s kind of important so I don’t want to leave it to another day.” Said the Slayer in a pensive tone, “How about after dinner? Around seven, at the box?”

“That sounds ok,” The redhead said, her brow crinkling in thought, “I’ll call you if anything comes up. I’ll have to tell Tara.”

“Tell me what?” Said a groggy voice from the bed. “I’m up.” Tara had an arm draped over her eyes, laying on her back with the covers pulled all the way up to her chin.

“Hi, Tara!” Said Buffy over the phone, “Tell her I said hi.”

Willow rolled her eyes but smiled, “Buffy says hi. There’s scoobiage afoot, baby. Is a meeting at seven at the box ok?”

Tara looked at the alarm clock before answering, “Hey, Buffy. Shouldn’t be a problem. The spell for Erynn won’t take too long.” Her stomach growled suddenly, “Ugh, I really need to eat something.”

“I feel like spoiling you today,” The redhead said with a giddy grin, “I’m going to bring you out to breakfast. That little mom and pop place you like so much, with all the fixins!” Her tongue poked out in delight.

The blonde smiled, “You spoil me every day. But that sounds great, sweetie.” She yawned and stretched her body out under the covers. I feel like I ran a decathlon.

“Can I come?” The Slayer interjected, “I could eat some more. I like that place, the bacon is amazing.”

Willow took a seat on the bed next to her girlfriend and ran her hand up and down Tara’s arm, “I don’t see why not. Is Riley with you?” She whispered at the blonde, “Buffy wants to come to breakfast.” Which received a smile and a nod of approval.

“Nah, he’s not here.” Buffy said dismissively, “It’s just me.”

The redhead kind of expected it, “Ok, well we need to shower and get dressed so let’s meet there at noon. Let’s hear it for all day breakfasts.”

“Great! See you guys there.” Her friend said before hanging up.

“Eep!!” Willow was suddenly pulled into bed as soon as she put the phone down, “Give a girl a warning!” She laughed and wriggled, trying to escape Tara’s grip.

The blonde’s fingers started their attack as soon she had her girlfriend pinned to the mattress, “That wouldn’t be as fun!” She began to tickle the redhead’s sides mercilessly. Dainty legs kicked from under Willow’s robe.

The redhead was squirming and thrashing around, her laughter bouncing around the room, “You can’t escape,” Tara redoubled her efforts, “The Crone’s Claws!!” Pulling a face that she thought might look like an old crone, the blonde crooked her fingers and wiggled them between her girlfriend’s ribs.

“Arrgh!” Willow bucked and laughed, “Naw! The… argh! The crone…” She tried to speak between wriggles and giggles, “She’s all jiggly!”

Really, there’s nothing Tara could do about that in her state of undress. “These are the best bait though,” She said leaning over slightly and shaking her chest, “To catch a little boob-nymph like you.” She said, winking.

The redhead stopped thrashing, being there were boobs being wiggled in her face… there was also the lack of tickling. “Tara-boob-nymph, to be precise.” Her eyes were fixed on said Tara-boobs.

Tara chuckled, “Mmhm, sure sweetie. Whatever you say.” She grinned and made to get up, but Willow stopped her by holding onto her hips. “You can’t say that and just go.” She frowned, “I didn’t like how that sounded.”

The blonde was somewhat confused by her girlfriend’s reaction, “You love boobs.” Shrugging, she said, “I catch you looking sometimes.” She raised her eyebrows, smiling, “You know, not at mine?”

Despite the fact that Tara didn’t seem perturbed by this, Willow on the other hand was feeling all kinds of guilty, “I don’t mean to! They’re just there and they jiggle a-and it’s like they’re saying hi…” Her brow crinkled, “They’re distracting. But, I’m only in love with yours.” Her mouth formed a cute pout, her eyes pleading for forgiveness that wasn’t needed.

Tara smiled her crooked smile, “It’s ok Will, really. The first time, yeah… if looks could kill that girl would be six-feet under.” She giggled as she remembered how jealousy had made her momentarily insane. It had been early in their relationship and she’d had a lot of insecurities fueling that fire. “It doesn’t bother me anymore, though. I promise.” A small kiss punctuated her words.

Willow grumbled, “I’m the creepo boyfriend who checks out other girls.”

“Willow,” The blonde sighed, “Come on, you’re not and you know it.” Fine, I’ll share. “I look too, you know. I’m just… more discrete.” Grinning, she added, “Not really boobs though. More butts… sometimes legs. Like you said, they can be distracting.” She shrugged again and hoped this would be the end of this discussion.

Really, it wasn’t one she wanted to be having right now, sitting naked astride her girlfriend’s hips.

And they had things to do, like eat.

“I’m hungry,” The redhead said as if plucking the thought out of the air, her tone all too stoic, “We should get ready. Buffy hates waiting.”

That was the end of that. Tara was confused again, easily picking up on her girlfriend’s sour mood. But, she made no effort to stop her from getting up from the bed. O…K then. I guess I’m not allowed to look?

That thought made her slightly grumpy too, so she decided to leave it until later. Instead, she went through the motions of getting ready to go out for breakfast.

***

“Would you like more coffee?” Her nametag said Sheryl, “I noticed you’re on empty.” She said, smiling at Willow.

They had lucked out getting a table by the window. The place was packed, as it always was on Sundays. Being by the window meant feeling like you had more room to move. Even though it was just an illusion, being there was glass there.

The redhead nodded and smiled in return at their waitress, “Thanks,” She said, cutting into her eggs benedict.

Buffy was mid-chew, “So, here I was trying to do my job,” Swallowing her bacon she continued, “And Riley shows up… again.” Rolling her eyes, she went in for another bite.

Tara was listening but, at the moment she was busy. Her omelet needed some sour cream, and by golly, she would do anything for that omelet. Luckily, she’d ordered some sour cream ‘on the side’.

“Why does that bother you so much?” Willow asked, sipping her coffee. “You used to see it as a perk. You know, working with your boyfriend.”

Buffy dipped a piece of buttered toast into her egg yolk, “I don’t know… things changed.” Taking a bite, she continued around it, “It’s not the same. He tries too hard.” She swallowed and scowled, “It’s annoying.” Looking from one witch to the other, she asked, “I sound like a bitch, don’t I?”

Tara licked her lips clean of sour cream, her eyebrows high on her forehead, “No, you don’t.” Taking her napkin, she finished the job, “You s-sound annoyed.” She smiled at her friend.

She didn’t know Riley very well. Tara didn’t like to judge people, or think ill of them. Something about the ex-commando did rub her the wrong way, though. She couldn’t really put a finger on it but, she caught herself rolling her eyes a few times when in his presence.

Willow felt like she should defend him. After all, he wasn’t here to do it himself, right? “Tries too hard? What do you mean?” She meant it to sound more offended on Riley’s behalf but, it came out sounding pretty tame.

“I don’t know,” Buffy cut into her pancake, “It’s like he’s trying to prove something. And when we’re not doing the patrolling thing, he keeps whining about not seeing me enough.”

They went on eating in silence until Sheryl came back.

“Is everything ok here?” She asked pleasantly, holding a pitcher of water.

Tara’s glass was empty, “I could use m-more water, please.” Before she could hand Sheryl her glass though, the waitress had bent at the waist to reach it lengthwise across the table. As her glass was being filled, the blonde looked up at Willow sitting across from her, knowing full well what she’d see. My little boob-nymph.

Indeed, Sheryl’s blouse was undone at the top. There was cleavage dangling over the table. Tara could’ve laughed, but she opted to bite the inside of her lip instead. As expected, her girlfriend, the boob lover, was transfixed. She made sure to keep her eyes riveted on the redhead, willing her to look up.

When Willow finally did look up – once Tara’s glass was full – their eyes met.

Tara’s raised eyebrow said ‘caught you’ loud and clear, a wicked grin crossed her face as she chewed her omelet. Willow was good enough to look contrite for a moment. She rolled her eyes in a self-deprecating manner. Ok, fine. I was a jealous dork.

“So, did you move your room around yet?” Suddenly asked Buffy, trying to find something to fill the empty air. She caught herself too late, Tara was coughing around her omelet.

“Buffy!” All Willow could do was sputter.

The Slayer winced, looking in the blonde witch’s direction, “Sorry.”

Tara took a sip of water, “It’s ok. You just s-surprised me.” She could feel her cheeks were red, “Do you really want to know, or was that an attempt at small talk?” Chuckling, she took another sip of water.

Buffy shook her head, “Totally small talk… it was the first thing that came to mind.” She cringed, “That doesn’t really help does it.”

Willow couldn’t help but laugh, “Cool your bi-curious jets there, Summers.” Which elicited a giggle from her girlfriend. She knew that giggle. Oh, she wants to play…

Both witches caught each other’s eyes at the same time, a plan forming wordlessly.

“What?” The Slayer looked nothing but petrified, “I am so not curious!”

“Really, Buffy.” Tara patted her hand patronizingly, “It’s n-nothing to be ashamed of.” Her eyes were nothing but understanding and compassionate.

This only made the Slayer’s eyes go wider and shake her head vigorously in denial.

“Yeah,” Willow picked up, “I mean, Riley’s on your nerves, guys haven’t been the best.” She shrugged, “Who could blame you for being curious?”

“Penis!” Buffy said a bit too loudly, “I like penises!” She whispered then, squirming in her chair.

Tara almost lost it but she kept her cool, “Hence the bi part.” She said, taking another sip of water to hide her grin.

The redhead was so proud of her girlfriend right then. “Really, I’m glad to see you have an open mind.” She turned towards Buffy and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “I have books you can borrow.”

“No, my mind is so closed!” The Slayer looked as if she was facing an army of Mayor-snakes, “I’m totally straight. Like, an arrow straight.” She shook her head, “I don’t need books!”

The lady doth protest too much, methinks… Tara thought, but kept her mouth shut.

“Relax, Buff.” Willow giggled, “We were just messing with you.” She bumped shoulders with her best friend, letting her off the hook.

“You guys are evil,” Buffy glowered at the witches, “I might have to stake you.”

Tara giggled, “Sorry, Buffy. It was just too easy.” She shrugged apologetically.

Sheryl took this moment to interrupt, “Are we all done here?” Pointing at the empty plates, looking slightly frazzled. It was a busy day.

“All done. Thanks Sheryl, I hope it calms down for you soon.” Willow reached for her bag.

“Sundays,” The waitress grumbled, “I shouldn’t complain, they’re my best days.” She turned to walk away, “I’ll be right back with the check.”

“So,” Buffy started, “Where are you guys off to now?” She slipped money onto the table to cover her meal and a tip.

“Erynn asked for our help,” Willow answered, “We’re going back to the dorms.” She reached a hand across the table, palm up. Offering it to her girlfriend as if extending an olive branch. ‘I love you’ her lips mouthed as Tara took it. She was smiling, things would be ok.

“Help with what?” She didn’t want to break the moment. It was a sweet moment. Really, Buffy would’ve liked to not have been there… to give them some privacy. She couldn’t help but smile though. Her Willow was happy, what else could she want? “Is it a school thing?”

“No,” Tara was starting to explain when Sheryl came back with the check, “Here you go ladies. Thanks for coming today.” She said, smiling but obviously in a hurry.

All three said thank you at the same time, although in different ways. The waitress got it though, they were sure. Even if they were saying it to her retreating back.

Looking back at Buffy, Tara continued explaining, “Erynn needs a spell done. We offered to help.”

Willow was looking at the check, going through her wallet – calculating tip percentages. She was preoccupied.

“Huh,” The Slayer said, “What kind of spell?” Her curiosity was piqued. Erynn hadn’t really made an impression on her. Other than being afraid of vampires, which was nothing if not normal. There was her dress sense… Look at who I’m sitting with, though. Suspenders aren’t that big a deal.

“Well,” Tara was uncomfortable. She didn’t feel it was her place to ‘out’ Erynn as being and empath and shifter. Yes, she’d talked to Anya about it… but, did she really want to involve the Scoobies in the Canadian’s life? “I-I’m not-“

“She’s an empath,” Willow interjected absentmindedly. She didn’t notice Tara’s wince though, she was looking at the table counting money. “She wears a pendant to help. She does this weird energy thing too that makes it hard for her without the necklace. It went kablooey the other night. We’re going to fix it.”

Buffy seemed to be satisfied with this information. This is not to say she understood it, but she was satisfied nonetheless.

There, the money was all laid out. Tara grinned lovingly. Multitasking, it was her girl’s way of life.

Another way of life for Willow, which her girlfriend also understood, was to trust The Slayer with everything. Keeping her out of the loop of anything mystical wasn’t what the Scoobies did. So, Tara let it go, trusting her girlfriend’s judgement. It’s not that big a deal, anyway.

The couple exited the restaurant, satisfied with their meals. Buffy needed to use the bathroom, so they waited for her on the sidewalk. The sun was warm and the streets were busy with life.

“Thanks for breakfast, my little nymph,” Tara said to her girlfriend before giving her a peck on the cheek.

“You’re welcome, baby.” Willow squeezed the blonde’s hand affectionately, “I’m sorry about this morning. I was a jealous poop-head.”

Tara chuckled, “I fell in love with a redhead. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Clasping their hands together, she kissed her girlfriend’s knuckles. “Although, I should get a plaque or something.”

Willow wasn’t sure what her baby meant right then, “What for?” She asked, pulling Tara closer towards her.

“For being a sneaky, sneaky lesbian.” Her eyes twinkled with mirth, “Sheryl, she um, has n-nice legs.” She said, biting the inside of her lip not to laugh.

Tara squealed right there on the street. She couldn’t help it, she had a redhead on her heels. “Tara Maclay, when I catch you!”

They were both laughing and thoroughly enjoying the chase but, after a circuit around a lamp-post, the witches heard Buffy calling for them, “Hey guys, ready to go?” She giggled at them. Can they be any cuter? That is what I fight for.

***

“Ok, run that by me again.” He made a ‘don’t bother me’ gesture to his secretary on his way to his office. Closing the door, he walked towards his desk. “Stop chewing, you’re hard enough to understand as it is.”

His office was white. Everything, white. The only splash of color were the paintings adorning the walls. They had been painted and given to him by his mentor. Live action shots, brightly colored in reds and oranges. Blacks and greys gave boundaries, each scene a labor of love. Damien had learned a lot from him. These were reminders of the inspiration behind his current endeavor.

In contrast, Damien himself was dressed in a plum colored, tailored suit and a white shirt. No tie, he hated ties. “The Slayer, here?”

“Yes.” Jurrot said over the line. The rumble of his voice made the connection crackle. “Many talk of her.”

The man sneered, “Hold on a minute,” He picked up his desk phone and quickly connected to his secretary, “Yes, Mr. Brice?” Came the voice over the line. Male or female, well that was debatable.

“Send me the head of research, ASAP.” Damien ordered calmly, “And I mean, now.” He quickly hung up.

“What else do you know?” He asked Jurrot. Surprises were not something he enjoyed.

“People help her.” Said the demon, “They say friends.” In the background there were voices, whines and pleas from two or three others.

There was a moment in which Damien waited for more but, nothing came. “That’s it? That’s all you know. No details? How many people?” He asked patiently. Jurrot was a demon of few words, getting information from him was always like pulling teeth.

Which wasn’t so bad in its own right. Fun, really.

A loud scuffle and some shrieking pierced the phone’s speaker. After hurried and mumbled words were exchanged, Jurrot came back on the line. He was chewing then, “Witch, two.” More chewing, “Others, basic human. Three.” He swallowed audibly over the line. The pleas came louder then until the demon growled and it became quiet again.

His lips quirked at a corner, “Good work.” Damien’s office door opened, “Stay on the line.”

“Mr. Brice, sir.” He was a tall and lanky human in his mid-twenties. Dark, short hair and bright blue eyes. Some would say he was cute, “You sent for me?”

“Sit.” Damien ordered, not even looking in his direction. Once his head of research sat on the floor, a couple of feet in front of the desk – there were no chairs in his office other than his own – The founder asked, “Donovan, what happened the last time you missed a vital piece of information?” Finally gracing his employee with eye contact.

“Um, I inspired you a poem, sir.” Donovan said, wriggling in place uncomfortably.

Damien smiled, “Yes. You did, didn’t you?” Steepling his fingers together, he continued, “I’m feeling creative, Donovan. Do you know why?”

“You don’t get angry, sir.” Came the automatic reply. Donovan was starting to sweat and fidgeted in place.

“I don’t get angry.” The founder nodded, “Why get angry? I enjoy what happens next, you know that. No, I don’t get angry. I get… inspired.” He grinned, “You, Donovan, have missed the mother of all intels, my boy.” Shaking his head from side to side in disapproval, he tsked and stood up, “The Slayer lives in this town.”

Donovan blanched, his eyes grew wide and were glistening. His lips trembled, wanting to apologize or say anything that would change his fate. The words didn’t come, he knew they would be useless.

“Tell me,” Damien went on, “How could you have missed a Slayer when you had contacts in both the government and law enforcement?” His face twisted in bafflement.

“The information, sir.” Donovan’s voice was shaky, “A lot, most of it was redacted. There was a secret governmental project here last year.” Clasping his fingers together, he cleared his throat. “It failed. They whitewashed the whole thing.” He looked up, anxious, “That might be why, sir.”

The founder crouched in front of his employee, looking him in the eye, “You mean to tell me the government failed to establish a foothold here.” Cocking his head and scrunching his features in an incredulous expression, he added, “And, you thought this was the place to launch the prototype?”

Donovan wept, “Kill me quickly, sir. Please?” This was it then, he’d fucked up for the last time he was sure, “I’ve been a good employee for five years.” He cried, his hands wringing together desperately.

Damien shook his finger at Donovan, declining, “No, no, no. See, my man Jurrot had to work overtime because of you.” He stood up and walked towards the desk, “Jurrot?” He asked after pressing the speaker button on his cellphone.

“Here.” Said the demon, his voice was faint but clear in the echoing room.

The founder sat on the desk, “Donovan and I will be spending some quality time together, later tonight. In my chambers.” He winked and grinned at a crying Donovan, “I could pay you for your overtime in currency. Or, you could join us? It could be… fun.”

The head of research sobbed, “No, please. Please, please. No, no, no...”

“Chicken wings.” Jurrot gave as an answer, “Julie Andrews.”

Damien rolled his eyes, “No chicken wings.” He glanced at a terrified and sputtering Donovan, “Shush, we’re planning.” Returning his attention to the phone, he asked, “Mary Poppins, or The Sound of Music?”

***

She’d known about magic for a long time now. Loreli was a powerful witch in her own right and she’d never hidden the fact of who she was. Erynn used to love to watch her cast or do rituals. It made her great aunt look half her age. The reverence and peace that would permeate the room always made Erynn feel connected. To everything and everyone.

Her aunt had taught her a lot about emotional control. That being one of the major tenets of Wiccan magic, Loreli was well versed being an empathic witch. She’d have to practice that emotional control now, if she wanted to watch without affecting the spell.

The space around her was changing. Sitting on her bed, she could feel a bubble forming at the very edges of her room. Willow and Tara were preparing for the spell, calmly going about setting items in their place. Drawing out the shapes that would form and contain. Mixing the ingredients that would, with the right intent, become more than the sum of their parts.

Sums and parts; math had no place here. It was clear once their hands linked that, together, these two became much more than Willow and Tara ‘together’. Their energies fit like a lock and key; accessing the hidden power that was ‘them’ was as easy as breathing, it seemed.

Breathing - she’d been focused on her breathing since Tara had entered the room. Erynn may have been slow on the uptake but, she was no fool. Feelings for Tara were there and painfully obvious right now. Painful only because, in this moment, Tara was feeling emotions along those lines as well.

Just, not for her.

Painful because, from the very moment she’d laid eyes on the blonde witch, it was her love for Willow that had made her notice. Erynn knew as well as she knew her own name, there was no way she could ruin that, even if she wanted to. But, nothing could make her want to take away what made Tara so obviously happy.

It’s funny how fast you can work through grief when you’re in love. Is that what this is? Even if the grief is caused by that very state of being. Erynn was on the verge of tears, though. She felt like she needed to get out of this room but, didn’t want to disturb the witches. So, redoubling her efforts, she centered herself with the help of her beaded anklet.

Of course part of her was sad that her feelings wouldn’t be returned. But, there was something about knowing that before realizing how you felt that made it… sort of ok. It was all very strange but, at the same time, empowering… invigorating. Inspiring, even.

Suddenly, the bubble wasn’t empty anymore. The room’s air vibrated once the spell started to kick in. Her pendant was bathing in a liquid, the bowl containing them resting between the witches. Their clasped hands framing it.

There was a smell to it once the liquid started bubbling. It had a faint odor of sulfur mixed with something sweet. The color of the fluid started to change, crackles of dark reds, blues and black expanding as it bubbled.

Her eyes had been riveted on Tara for long moments when she noticed the flinch. It wasn’t just a flinch, though.

The blonde’s face had contorted for the briefest of moments. Her whole body had jerked once and her eyes, closed as they had been, had screwed tightly shut as a deep furrow crossed Tara’s brow.

The emotions that suddenly hit Erynn coming from the blonde were like a Mack truck bearing down on her. Jumbled, knotted and incongruous but ultimately culminated in dread.

And then it was over. The room became the room again, the liquid was a dark brown that wasn’t at all appealing, and its consistency seemed to have thickened.

She could’ve gone a whole lifetime without seeing that look in Tara’s eyes directed at her. Erynn didn’t need to feel what Tara felt when the witch looked up, it was plain in those clear blues.

Those eyes could tell stories and, right now, the story could’ve been a Grimm fairytale.

“I-I need to go to the bathroom,” The Canadian said, quickly darting out the door.

It was clear something had happened. Something that made Tara look at her that way. In a way that said ‘Don’t come near me.’

The tears started to fall before she made it into a stall. Loreli had taught her that life was about growing up, learning lessons and becoming something more than when you were born. Erynn couldn’t help but wonder at the lessons, though. Meet someone and fall in love pretty much at first sight. Someone totally unavailable, at that. Oh, and don’t forget the part where you scare the shit out of her.

She rubbed at her eyes agitatedly. What the hell happened?!

***

“Ok,” Willow turned towards her girlfriend once the door closed, “What the frilly heck was that?”

“L-let’s clean up,” Tara didn’t know where to begin when it came to how she even felt, explaining anything wasn’t something she felt comfortable doing right then, “I d-don’t know exactly.” She said, discretely wiping her hand on her jeans. Bringing it up to her face, she inspected the skin for a minute.

She hadn’t felt it when the spell was under way. But, once it had touched her, the drop from the bubbling liquid in the bowl had caused Tara to see and feel things. Things she knew weren’t hers. Things that had scared her.

They weren’t things of hallucinations, with their distorted realities and twisted faces. They were more like memories. They felt factual; written in stone. Some felt like past events, others… possibilities, or more like probabilities.

All she was certain of was that they were Erynn’s.

Even as the redhead started clearing things up, she kept pushing, “Something happened. I felt it, Tara.” She reached for the bowl, “Something scared-“

“D-don’t touch that!” The blonde cut her girlfriend off, catching her wrist to stop her from touching the bowl.

Willow recoiled, “Whoa! Baby,” She lowered her head to try and catch a glimpse of her lover’s eyes, “Talk to me.” Concern clearly evident in her voice.

Tara took a deep breath, “I don’t know w-when she’ll be back.” She offered up as explanation for stalling. Pointing at the bowl she continued, “All I know is you don’t want any of that on your s-skin.”

Her girlfriend nodded as if to say ‘uh huh, and?’, “Yeah, it said so in the instructions. I was going to be careful.”

It had said so, of course. Tara knew as much, they’d studied it together the night before. Her accidentally being put in contact with the vile stuff hadn’t been in the plan, though. That did make her quite jumpy about dealing with it.

“Didn’t I bring gloves?” She asked, pointedly looking at Willow’s bare hands.

Looking quite sheepish, the redhead reached for their bag, “I guess I forgot about those.”

Tara was surprised then to hear her girlfriend giggle, “What’s so funny?” She asked while putting some items back in their bag.

“I laugh now,” Willow said while stretching on a latex glove, “But that joke you pulled the first time we slept together wasn’t funny at all, Maclay.” She wiggled her latex covered fingers at her girlfriend.

She couldn’t help but laugh along, glad for the subject change, “Oh, come on. It broke the ice… or at least, mine.”

Once she’d gingerly picked up the bowl and made her way to the sink, the redhead said, “Not that I think you’ll need this information ever again. But, asking your soon-to-be-lover if she’d brought latex gloves on the big night… not so much a turn on. Especially when said would-be-lover had no experience at all, and freaked out when she read about lesbian safe sex. I thought I was gonna die, baby.” She turned the tap on, “I was sure you were going to bring up dental dams next.” Her face scrunched up in disgust, “Don’t get me started on those.”

All Tara could do was laugh. Yeah, it had been kinda mean… but funny. Really funny, to her. “I was nervous,” She explained, “And, I have a weird sense of humor. You didn’t mind for long, though.” She laid out a thick pile of paper towels and a plastic bag.

Willow walked back towards her girlfriend with the pendant and bowl in her gloved hands, “Well, no I didn’t.” She placed the pendant on the pile of paper towels, “Hard to mind when, to prove it was a joke, the girl of my dreams just strips right there in front of me and puts my hands on her.”

Indeed, seeing Willow so discombobulated and listening to her nervous babble, had emboldened Tara on that fateful night.

She didn’t regret that joke. Not one bit.

The pendant was dried, as well as the bowl. The paper towels were put inside the plastic bag along with the gloves, as a precaution. The bag would be thrown out after a week.

As the blonde was contemplating how to deal with the circle and runes they’d drawn out on the carpet, the door opened. “Hey, sorry I had to bolt like that.” Said Erynn, closing the door behind her. “I’d been holding it in, you know how it is.”

She couldn’t keep the hard edge from her tone. When she’d resigned herself to the fact she’d have to come back here and face Tara, a wall had erected itself around her. Cutting off all possibility of being affected by the judgement she’d surely see again in blue eyes that she now knew she loved. “Wow, you guys work fast. Thanks again for doing this.” She said, shuffling her feet awkwardly.

Willow stood up and handed the Canadian her pendant, “Here you go. All clean.” She smiled.

“D-do you have a vacuum or s-something,” Tara asked trepidatiously, pointing at the symbols on the ground, “I c-could pick that up.” She fought against the urge to lower her head, although her eyes still fell short of the other woman’s face.

The redhead noticed her girlfriend’s pronounced stutter and turned towards her with a quizzical look on her face. Why is she so nervous?

Erynn waved it off, “Don’t worry about it. I can take care of that.” She clasped the pendant onto her neck and sighed deeply. “Oh, that’s much better.” There was a distance between the witches’ emotions and her own now. In perspective, theirs felt smaller. “Thanks again, so much. I owe you.”

“No.” Tara exclaimed a bit too quickly, “I mean, you don’t owe us an-anything. Really.” Picking up their bag, it was obvious she was uncomfortable and wanted to leave.

Willow was really curious and worried now. Ok, what the heck is going on!?

The Canadian nodded knowingly, “Ok, well… thanks. It just seems too small a word.” She could feel tears prickling the back of her eyes. That wall wasn’t as thick as she’d hoped, after all.

The goodbyes felt final. There were no ‘See you soon’ or ‘I’ll give you a call’. It was all so, final.

When the door closed, Erynn turned the lights off and curled up on her bed.

She needed a good cry.

***

The red light on the answering machine blinked the seconds away. Neither witches bothered with it being all too preoccupied at the moment.

“Did you wash it!?” Willow brought her girlfriend’s hand near her face, inspecting the skin inch by inch, “Does it burn or-or hurt at all?” she asked nervously.

Tara let her girlfriend fret over her hand patiently, “No, it doesn’t feel like anything anymore.” Her words were loaded with double meaning and the fact she knew her girlfriend wouldn’t get that right now, made her feel guilty.

The way the blonde had brought it up didn’t hint at the fact there were visions and emotions involved. Willow had bridged the informational gap herself, musing out loud that the jolt of fear she’d felt in her lover during the spell must’ve been when she felt the liquid hit her skin. A shock of surprise, nothing more.

Tara hadn’t denied it but, she hadn’t confirmed it either.

She just needed to calm herself down, add reason to her emotions and try to get an idea of what exactly it was she saw and felt before thinking of explaining any of it to her girlfriend.

Discussing it in detail right now, through her own confusion, would only serve to make Willow worry more and that wasn’t something she felt she needed right then. One thing at a time.

As it was, they were on their way to the bathroom, “Seriously, Will? I can wash my hands by myself.” Tara grumbled.

“Humor me,” The redhead followed her into the women’s bathroom block, “I don’t pull the nagging, Jewish mother routine often.” Turning on the taps, she tested the water and handed the soap over adding in a stern tone, “Now, don’t be a kvetch and mach shnel.”

Tara took the soap grumpily, “Rude, you know I don’t understand Yiddish,” Wetting her hands, she looked at her lover through the mirror, “Do I even want to know what a kvetch is?”

Willow smirked, she loved teasing her girlfriend. The looks she got from her were just so expressive, “See, now that’s something you could look up online.” Her grin widened when Tara’s eyes rolled in exasperation, “The internet could answer that question for you. I, on the other hand, just want to tell you it means all kinds of naughty things.”

Rinsing off the soap from her hands, the blonde couldn’t help but smile a little, “I’m not as bad as Mr. Giles but, you know how I feel about the internet.” She turned towards her girlfriend, hands dripping with water, “Besides, getting the answer from there isn’t as fun as getting it out of you.” Flicking her fingers in Willow’s face, she giggled as the redhead sputtered through the water drops.

“Stop it, you nudnik!” Squinting through the assault, she was able to grasp her girlfriend’s wrists and pull her towards herself, “You really need to dry your hands, Ms. Maclay.” Willow said saucily as she pressed the blonde’s hands against the front of her shirt and pulled them down over her breasts.

Tara glanced around, keenly aware of the fact they were in a public bathroom. Again. This was definitely not planned, though. “Ok, first of all. Those two words? You’ll repeat those when I can write them down.” Wrapping her arms around her girlfriend she continued, “For what I want to say next, we need to be in our room.” Her eyes darted to the right when she heard someone walk into the block.

They pulled apart slowly after a quick peck on the lips, aware of the girl who’d just entered a stall behind them, “I’ll get the soap.” Willow said, attentively watching Tara walk away. My baby makes jeans look so damn good.

After putting the soap back into its container and rinsing her hands, the redhead made her way out into the hall. It didn’t take long for her to notice that her girlfriend hadn’t made it to their room yet. She was apparently stuck in the hallway outside their door, with Keith.

Before she could make it to Tara though, her neighbor had retreated to his room. “Everything ok?”

“Um,” Tara was obviously confused, “I think so?” She said over her shoulder as she opened the door to their room, “He seemed… different.”

Willow, so quick to jump from curiosity to worry, said, “Did-did he complain? Last night…” She winced. Yeah, no way he missed that… damnit.

The blonde took a seat on the bed, “He-last night didn’t come up.” An incredulous look crossed her face, “I was sure, I mean, when I saw him in the hall… but,” Looking at her girlfriend, she continued tentatively, “He-he asked me about girls?”

Willow, after flinging her top into the hamper, flopped down in the papasan chair, “Girls? What about them?” From the moment she’d met Keith, she knew he wasn’t the type to put much thought into carnal desires. He’d always seemed pretty asexual to the redhead.

Tara watched as the top landed perfectly into the bin, she huffed slightly, “Will, that wasn’t even dirty.” This had been a source of slight annoyance for the blonde, “It just adds to the laundry for nothing. It was just wet.”

The redhead knew how to distract her baby from silly things like laundry. With a mischievous glint in her eyes she said, “What if I’m doing it on purpose?” Getting up from the chair, she slowly walked towards her girl, clad in her bra and pants, making sure her hips were swaying, “What if I want to be stuck in a laundry room… with you, for longer than is absolutely necessary?” She asked, grinning saucily.

The blonde found her lap straddled by her girlfriend’s lithe body, “Trying to relive old memories, darling?” Her hands were firmly holding Willow in place, flat against her lower back. She placed a light kiss against her lover’s chest, “Nothing very sexy happened.” She trailed kisses up Willow’s neck.

Her girlfriend had to disagree, “Oh, you’re so, so wrong.” Tilting her head to give better access, she ran her fingers up the back of her girlfriend’s neck and tangled them in soft, golden hair, “I was so turned on it freaked me out.”

“Really?” Tara nipped Willow’s ear as she reached up her back with one hand, to the clasp of her girlfriend’s bra, “You didn’t seem freaked.” With a twist of her fingers, the garment came loose. She pulled back with her fingers under the narrow straps, “I mean, other than about the baddies at the door.”

The redhead wiggled her shoulders wanting the bra off, “When you squeezed our palms together and you gave me that look.” A shiver ran down her spine as her bra was slipped off, “You were so shy at the meeting, just that look would’ve been enough. You radiated so much strength, confidence…” She trailed off as her back arched involuntarily, her nipple having been caught between her girlfriend’s teeth. “But, then I felt the zap of energy you sent through me when we connected.” Her hips rocked back and forth slowly, a shuddering breath passed through her parted lips, “I could feel you inside me, all over.”

The blonde felt her lover move against her, it sending a thrill through her own body, “I’d never been more certain about anything in my life,” She kissed up Willow’s neck, her fingers rolling her wet nipple gently, “I knew if we connected, we’d be ok.” Trusting her girlfriend could sit up without her help, she cupped both of her pert breasts and licked up the redhead’s throat, finally kissing her full on the lips as she squeezed the hard peeks between her fingers.

“Mmmph,” Willow moaned as her movements became more deliberate. Breaking the kiss and pressing their foreheads together, her hips rolled as she panted, “You made me so wet baby. I was so confused.” The seam of her pants was doing wonders for stoking her need, “I couldn’t stop looking at your lips,” As she said it, she trailed a fingertip along Tara’s bottom lip, “I love your lips,”

She peeked her tongue out and licked the tip of her girlfriend’s finger. When she looked up and made eye contact, Tara closed her lips around the digit and sucked lightly. The encouragement wasn’t needed she realized, feeling her prize being gently pushed deeper into her mouth. Her eyelids drooped with arousal, “Mmph,” She wrapped her tongue around it, bathing and sucking it. Loving the resulting quickening of tiny hips writhing on her lap and the moan it ripped from Willow’s throat as her head fell onto her shoulder.

Her oral fixation was sparking, she could feel her clit jump every time Tara sucked and lapped at her finger, “Ohh,” Her hips bucked and rolled, “I didn’t know… what I wanted.” Her mouth latched onto the blonde’s smooth neck, she nibbled and licked at it, feeling the body pressed against hers shudder, “I had no idea what, but I wanted you… so bad.”

Tara’s fingers fell to the button of her girlfriend’s pants, quickly twisting it out of its eye she made short work of pulling the zipper down as well. She didn’t hesitate before slipping her hand inside the now loose pants, her fingers flat against the wet cotton of her girlfriend’s panties. Biting down slightly on the digit in her mouth, she raked her nails along Willow’s back and rubbed her fingers up and down swollen lips, over the damp material covering them. Want you so much.

“Ohh, God,” Gently, she pulled her finger out from inside Tara’s mouth so she could hold onto her shoulders, “I’d never been that wet before.” Rolling her hips, she grinded into her lover’s fingers more urgently.

There were times when Tara just didn’t want to talk. It had been that way since she could remember, at different times, in different circumstances. Words, forming them at least, would have distracted her from being present in the moment.

Feeling Willow move against her now, hearing pleasure lacing her words. She could smell her arousal, feel it against her fingers. Slick cotton, something about the feel of wet, slick cotton against her fingertips... A tremor ran through her.

If words were to form sentences on her lips, she would surely miss something. No, she didn’t want to miss a single thing. Involuntary sounds were inevitable though, as if her body needed to express its pleasure in any way it could. “Mmm,”

Flesh must have memory. Odd thought to have in a moment like this but, she was never one to be deemed perfectly normal. Tara figured it had to be memory of some sort because, she could feel where the longing for wet, fleshy contact was coming from. Right from her fingertips. Not her brain, not her sex. It was as if they remembered the feel of it, the deep satin warmth and liquid desire that was Willow, and wanted to experience her again. Whatever it was, she had to agree with her fingers wholeheartedly.

Slipping her left hand under the redhead’s pants and panties, she cupped her ass cheek and held her girl in place. Meanwhile, her other hand had pulled out and slipped under Willow’s panties quickly pressing her fingers against soaked and engorged flesh. “Will,” The name was pulled out from her in a groan, instinctual and unconscious.

“Ohhh, yeah,” Her hips had a mind of their own, rolling one moment in a sensual wave and jerking the next when she’d inadvertently caused a more precise friction against her clit, “Ohh, God baby, right there,” Tiny hips lurched forward and back again, “Right there, right there,” She panted against Tara’s neck.

No conscious thought went into disobeying, but her fingers dipped lower into a pool of warm and slick arousal, rubbed the sensitive flesh there in a circle that brought her fingers right back up over Willow’s clit. Another circle over the sensitive nub this time sent her back down to the well. Over and over, she caused her girlfriend’s hips to writhe and shake against her as figure eights were drawn into her sensitive flesh. “Mmm, Will,” She groaned.

The redhead’s hips followed the movement, “Ohh my God, so good,” She pressed her right thumb against Tara’s lower lip. Willow felt a hunger that made her tremble when her girlfriend’s tongue wet it with the slightest flick. Before the tongue could retreat, she chased it into the blonde’s mouth with her own, “Mmmph,”

Tara let her girlfriend lead the kiss, mirroring their tongues’ movements with her fingers down below. “Mmm-mmph,” She moaned her approval as she felt the telltale signs of her lover’s approaching release. Her left hand pushed lower over the swell of Willow’s ass, down past damp skin to dip her fingertips between dripping, parted lips.

Her arm was tight against her girlfriend, the pants constricting her movements. She could barely reach but, it was just enough to tease as she moved her fingers back and forth. The resulting trickle from between those velvety lips, down the back of her fingers told her it was well worth the effort.

“Ggah,” Willow needed air, “Ohh, baby,” She panted. Whichever way she rocked her hips, her excited flesh was in contact with her lover’s fingers, “You’re gonna make me come so hard,”

The blonde focused her fingers tighter around her girlfriend’s clit. Pressing against it, she rubbed across the needy bundle, side to side in an increasingly rapid rhythm.

“Uhnnn, fuuhg,” She was right there, right on the edge. Willow’s muscles tensed up, her ass clenched pushing herself into those fingers, “Baaaby, yesss-ss-ss!”

Moments after her climax hit, she felt her girlfriend roll both of them over on the bed. Once the redhead was lying on her back, Tara stood up and pulled off her pants and underwear. “You too,” She heard Willow say shakily.

The blonde took off her clothes, aware of her lover’s eyes tracking her movements. Once she was naked, she crawled onto Willow and kissed her deeply.

Tara hadn’t realized just how aroused she truly was, having been so focused on giving her girlfriend pleasure. But, when she straddled Willow’s thigh and noticed just how easily she could glide along it, she almost came right there. “Ohhh, Willow,” Her hips jerked. She reached her right hand under her girlfriend’s head, fingers tangled in red hair, mouth open and panting against the soft skin of her neck. Her left hand pressed against the mattress, steadying her body above that of her lover as her hips rolled and rocked in tandem with Willow’s. “Will,” Her voice was deep and heavy with need.

“Mmm, you feel so good baby,” Holding onto her girlfriend’s hips, the redhead felt every sensual movement, “You’re making me so hot again,” She pushed herself into Tara’s thigh, “Can’t get enough of you.” Her greedy hands ran down, over round ass cheeks and squeezed as she pulled her lover closer still.

They moved against each other, a sheen of sweat quickly coating their bodies. After a few moments, as if of one mind, both started shifting around. “I want my mouth on you,” Willow explained, which only resulted in her girlfriend smiling, “Me too. Mine on you, I mean.” A little amusement laced her voice, the solution was obvious. This wouldn’t be the first time.

“Oh,” Her fingers flexed reflexively, the redhead grinned and said, “I’ll stay right here, then.” Pulling a pillow from the head of the bed, she rested against it. She watched in rapt attention as her girlfriend moved, catlike on all fours turning around. Tara’s leg lifted up, above and over her, framing her head now with her knees. Willow ran her hands up trembling thighs, a longing sigh left her throat as she felt her girlfriend’s breath against her own sex. Holding onto the blonde’s hips, she pulled her closer towards her mouth. “Mmm, come’re,”

They tasted each other at the same time, both already close to climax from the advantages the position offered them, “Mmmph,” Tara ran her tongue against the clit she’d sucked between her lips, holding her girlfriend’s thighs apart with her hands. Willow’s tongue slipped inside of her, the resulting jolt of pleasure making her lose hold of the bundle of nerves, “Ohhh, God,” She tried to concentrate on not pressing down against her girlfriend’s face.

When the hips below her pushed upwards, she quickly lowered her mouth against the redhead’s sex again, “Mmmrrphh,” The blonde ran her fingers down below her mouth, quickly finding her girlfriend’s wet and needy entrance, she pressed in with two fingers. Although the angle wasn’t right for thrusting, she could easily stimulate her lover by rubbing against her tight inner walls.

“Mmhmm!” Willow was close to tumbling over again, she redoubled her efforts on her girlfriend’s clit with her tongue, “Mmrrrph,” When she teased the blonde’s entrance with her fingers, Tara’s back dipped low, lifting her ass up, pressing her sex against the redhead’s hand. This was invitation enough.

Willow came the moment she entered her girlfriend, “Ohhh, God!” Her hips jerked, she clenched her jaw and started a deep thrust in and out of her lover as her body twitched through her girlfriend’s ministrations. Once she regained her breath, she latched onto Tara’s clit and sucked on it. “Mmph,” She flicked her tongue against it rough and hard over and over, still thrusting in and out of her.

Tara’s arms gave in, she found herself face down on the mattress between Willow’s legs. Her ass was sticking straight up in the air. Her girlfriend was inside of her, she was all around her, “Ohh, Will, don’t stop, don’t stop,” Tara latched onto the inside of Willow’s thigh with her teeth and sucked the skin into her mouth. A few thrusts and tongue lashings later and it was her turn to come hard. She pressed her face into the mattress, “Aauugghh-Fuck!” Her screams were muffled as her hips thrashed above Willow’s mouth.

She tumbled onto her side when her legs failed to keep her up any longer, her head resting on Willow’s thigh, “Oh, wow,” She panted, “wow,” Tara was stuck in a loop, running her hand up and down her girlfriend’s stomach, “Wow, baby.”

“Uh-huh,” Said a very dazed Willow, “We’re good.” She giggled drunkenly when she heard Tara’s grunted approval from below.

“As soon as I can move again,” The blonde said while wrapping her arms around Willow’s leg, “I’m coming up for snuggles.” She laid her head down again and closed her eyes.

“Mmmhmm,” Was all the redhead could say, her eyes closing as well, “I’ll be right here.”

It wasn’t long before both witches fell asleep without having moved a muscle.

***

The bell over the door chimed loudly, “Have no fear, caffeine-man is here.” Xander announced as he walked into the shop, hands laden with coffees of all kinds.

Even after years of being together, Anya couldn’t help but light up when he walked into a room, “My man is so thoughtful,” She wistfully said before adding, “Did he get me a latte?”

After depositing the drinks onto the table, Xander took one out and walked towards the counter and Anya, “Made special, just for you.” He placed it down and leaned over the counter, “It’s missing some sugar though, gimme sugar.”

The shop-keep was more than happy to oblige.

“Did I hear something about caffeine?” Buffy walked in from the training room, slightly mussed from having been hitting the bag. “Mocha?” She asked hopefully, glancing at her friend with a smile.

He shook his head, “Gin and juice,” He sat down at the table keeping a straight face, “I thought we could drink up, hop in the car and crank up some dirty rap with the windows down.” Xander bobbed his head, “Go cruisin’, you know?”

The Slayer just raised an eyebrow and grinned, “So, mocha?”

He sighed loudly in mock exasperation and handed Buffy her mocha, “Yes, mocha. You know Buff, for a super hero you’re pretty boring.”

“Thanks for the coffee,” The tiny blonde said and took a sip before adding indignantly, “Not for the boring. And, hey!”

Anya went to sit next to her boyfriend, “We can’t go cruising in that car of yours.” She sipped her latte, “It would only look like it’s old and broken down.”

“And, that’s a valid point Ahn.” He covered her hand with his, “It’s not a showoff, but it gets the job done. Right?” He asked, grinning.

The Slayer’s eyebrows twitched. We’re still talking about his car, right?

His girlfriend smiled reassuringly and patted him on the shoulder, “I happen to think you have plenty to show. And, it’s still quite young.” Glancing at Buffy and back, “But, you better not show it off.”

The bell rang over the door again, along with a set of footfalls it announced someone else’s arrival.

“I think that’s a different kind of cruising, Anya.” Buffy said as she turned around to see the new appearances.

Willow and Tara skipped into the shop holding hands and grinning goofily like two witches in love. “We’re here!” The redhead chirped, “Oooh, mocha!?” She asked excitedly, looking at Xander.

“For you Will,” He waved it off, “Same old mocha. But,” Xander brought a cup towards Tara, holding it reverently in both hands, “For the third beautiful blonde in my life, I present to you: Pumpkin Chai.” He beamed with pride.

Ever since Tara’s birthday, he’d been paying more attention to her in general. Wanting to know more about the woman who’d so completely swept his best friend off her feet. He’d overheard the blonde witch talking with the barista at the pump about chai tea. She was happy when she learned they had it and, he was told tonight that this being fall, they had special pumpkin chai.

The redhead smiled lovingly and let go of her girl’s hand, “Stop hitting on my girlfriend, Harris.” She couldn’t help it, she was so happy to see her best childhood friend and her girlfriend hitting it off. “You’re being way too suave.”

“Xander,” Tara took the cup and looked into his eyes, “Thank you.” She smiled, genuinely touched by his thoughtfulness. Her eyes twinkled, blushing slightly at the attention she looked down at her cup, “I love pumpkin chai.”

He waggled his head, “Oh, yeah. I did good.” Smiling he turned back to sit with his girlfriend who beamed at him. He whispered at her, “I made a lesbian blush!” Which earned him a proud pat on the shoulder.

Once they were all sitting at the table, Buffy asked, “Will you still need my help tonight, before I patrol?”

When the answer was silence, Tara looked up from her cup to notice all eyes except for Willow’s were on her, “W-what?” Turning towards her girlfriend, she could see in her expression she was just as clueless.

Xander filled in, “I left you guys a message earlier today. I could take the van from the shop and bring that trunk over to your dorm with Buffy’s help, after the meeting.”

With everything that had been happening over the weekend, Tara had completely forgotten about the trunk, “Oh! Right, um… s-sure. Thank you.”

“Sorry we didn’t get the message,” Willow said, a bit sheepish, “It was a busy day.”

“Mm!” Buffy exclaimed around a mouthful of mocha before swallowing, “How’d that spell go? You know, for your friend, Erynn?”

Erynn… Tara had been distracted most of the day after leaving the Canadian’s room. Now, with a bit of distance between herself and what she’d experienced, she thought about how Erynn had looked hurt when they’d left. Knowing she’d put that pain there, based on vague reactions to a spell, made her feel guilty. Maybe I should call her…

“-went great, though.” She heard her girlfriend say as she snapped out of her thoughts, “Her pendant is all spotless now.”

“Well,” The Slayer started, “She seems nice enough. Although,” Her face scrunched up, “Who wears suspenders nowadays?”

He likes this, loves it even – she can feel how much she does. His body is heavy against hers, sharp joints pinning her down in the grass. She could smell the stench of stale beer on his breath as she struggled against him. Against herself. He wants this, it’s not me. I don’t want this. He does, not me. Her feet kept slipping against the muddied patch where she’d all but scraped the grass and fall leaves off with her kicking sneakers. “Non!”

Tara gasped quietly and blinked back to the present. “I-I’ll be right back,” Quickly standing up, she made her way towards the bathroom. Once inside she locked the door and pressed her back against it for a moment to calm herself. A ghost of an echoing scream streaked across her mind, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. That felt like the past… her past.

She turned the tap at the sink and let the cold water run over her hands. Tara tentatively looked into the mirror, half expecting to see someone else in its reflection. Get a grip, Tara.

This had been different than what happened to her during the spell. The memories and flashes, the emotions were all jumbled together then. One overlaid the other; she had a sense of what she saw and felt. It had been scary but, nothing more.

This had been… Not mine. Tara reminded herself. She bent over the sink and ran her cold, wet hands over her face. Looking at herself one more time, she wiped the water off with paper towels and took a steadying breath before exiting the bathroom and joining her friends.

Willow knew something wasn’t right the moment she’d heard her girlfriend gasp and leave. When Tara sat back down next to her, she took her hand and squeezed it. When she noticed how cold it was, her eyes asked ‘Are you ok?’

The blonde’s lips rose into a small smile as she nodded, “Later.” She said for only the redhead to hear.

“Ok,” Buffy announced, “This Scooby meeting is now in session.” She stood up when all eyes turned towards her. “Xander and I found a group of vamps last night in a crypt. But, it wasn’t a nest. They were meeting there, grouping up.”

“Ooh, did’ya run in there and poof them all?” Asked and excited Willow, “Thwart their evil schemes?”

The Slayer and Xander exchanged a brief knowing look, “Uh, not exactly,” He said, “We hid and made the last one out, talk.” He cleared his throat, “With punching.”

The redhead was disappointed, “But, there were quips right? There had to be quips.” She said dejectedly which garnered a loving grin from her girlfriend.

Buffy shrugged, “When I grabbed him from behind and covered his mouth I asked ‘Guess who?’” She frowned in thought, “Huh, that doesn’t really work if you don’t cover their eyes, though.”

“So, what are they grouping up for?” Anya asked once she was done picking lint off Xander’s sweater. “I take it you did get some information? With the physical violence?” Her tone, nothing but chipper, belied her words.

The Slayer winced at the wording, “Well, sort of, yeah.” She paced away slowly, “They were trying to come up with a plan to impress someone. They want to work for them, I guess.”

“What’s th-their plan?” Tara asked, “Impress who?” Willow asked at the same moment. They shared a brief glance and smile.

Buffy grinned, “Two very good questions. The plan never really came together, them being stupid vamps and all. But, I’m curious about who they wanted to impress. He had nothing to say other than ‘you only meet with his right hand’.” She shrugged, “Gurt demon or something.”

The redhead grimaced, “A GERD demon? Ugh,” She rubbed her stomach subconsciously, “That’s got to be unpleasant.” Tara smiled and shook her head in affection. She is just so adorable. And sexy… that new dress is all kinds of good. She ran her fingers over her girlfriend’s thigh. What fabric is that? So soft… Drawing circles, she could feel the fabric move and shift under her touch. Is there such a thing as tactile fixation?

“Not GERD,” The Slayer rolled her eyes, “Gurt, like yogurt. Only, not… it was longer than that.” She tried to concentrate, “Gurtrude… Gurtball… all, something all.”

Blank stares was all she got for a moment until Willow broke the spell, “I guess this means research.” Mmm, my baby likes my new dress. She tensed her leg and pressed it against Tara’s hand which responded with a light squeeze. The redhead gulped, she could feel a blush starting to grace her cheeks. Whoa, down girl. Meeting isn’t finished yet. She thought, sitting up straight with an innocent look on her face.

“Oh, joy!” Xander exclaimed in mock cheer, “Hours of research in dusty old books for a yogurt demon.”

“Trall,” The ex-vengeance demon said in a bored tone to no one in particular. Really, if they wanted to ignore her years of experience in these things, why should she bother? ‘We can’t read your mind.’ She remembered Tara explaining to her one day. ‘We have no idea how much you know.’

“What-now?” Buffy asked, “Trall what?”

Tara looked at her friend with a supportive grin on her face.

“The demon,” Anya huffed and waved her hand in the air dismissively, “It’s a Gurtrall demon.”

The Slayer pointed at Anya, “That’s it! She’s right.” She smiled at her, “Thanks, Anya. You just saved us hours of research.”

The shop-keep nodded, “You’re welcome. You’re not having Xander again, tonight.” She looked at her boyfriend with a twinkle in her eye, “He’s all mine.” She said, smiling.

The goofy grin on Xander’s face was priceless.

“Do you know anything m-more about these Gurtrall demons?” Tara asked her beaming friend. Cute. Just, too cute.

She nodded, “They’re big, like eight feet tall big. And, wide.” Crossing her legs, she continued more animatedly now she had the attention of the group, “They’re grey but, there’s usually a hint of green or blue to their tone.” Anya looked at the ceiling for a moment, as if trying to remember something, “Oh! They’ll eat anything.” She shrugged, “That’s all I know. They’re usually bouncers and stuff like that. Not the smartest but far from the dumbest demon out there. Very strong.”

“Huh,” Buffy said, trying to remember having seen a demon of that description on her patrols, “Pretty sure I’d remember something like that.”

“New demon in town,” Willow clucked her tongue, thinking out loud, “I guess you can go to Willy’s and rattle his cage.” She shrugged.

Nods all around, “Yeah. Who else was thinking Willy’s?” Buffy asked the group.

Everyone raised their hands. “I so love my life.” The Slayer Groused sarcastically.

***

“Anya,” She walked into hers and Willow’s room to find the ex-vengeance demon on her knees, looking under the bed. “What are you doing?” Tara asked as she sat at the desk.

They were waiting for the others to bring the trunk up, too many sets of hands and all that. As it was, Tara had no idea what Willow was supposed to be doing do down there.

“Didn’t you have a cat?” Anya’s voice came from under the bed, “Miss Kitty wonderful, where is she?”

“Oh, Miss Kitty Fantastico.” The witch said sadly, “We had to give her away.” Opening a drawer in the desk, she pulled out a picture of the adorable black and white kitten, “We got caught when she chased an imaginary something out the door.” She continued when her friend took the picture, “Will still blames herself, says she gave her too much catnip that day.”

Anya placed the picture on the desk, “Well that’s too bad. Lesbians without a feline pet is weird and sad.” She huffed, “I wanted to annoy Willow by petting her pussy.”

Tara chuckled and was about to say something when she heard whistling from out in the hall. She’d left the door open so she could hear. Thinking it might be the others, she quickly made her way out in case she might be needed.

When she looked into the hall though, she didn’t find her friends but Keith whistling merrily. “Tara! Hey pretty lady.” He smiled at her.

Did he just wink at me? “Um, Hey Keith,” She replied although hesitantly.

He was dressed up. Leather jacket, polo shirt, dark jeans… slicked back hair. She even smelled cologne. Since knowing Keith, this was a definite first. “Going out?” Tara asked as she felt Anya come to stand next to her.

“I am!” He said happily before looking at Anya more closely, “Oh, it’s you! Hi again.” He smiled at her too. Smiling at women was becoming easier and easier.

Anya waved, “Hi,” She was surprised he recognized her at all. “I hope you find yourself a nice orgasm friend tonight.”

Hi again? Tara looked from their neighbor to the shop keeper and back again. Do they know each other?

Keith blushed, “I wouldn’t put it that way…” He cleared his throat, “I should go, though. I don’t want to be late.” After locking his door he was gone. “Night!”

The witch just stood and watched him go for a moment until she noticed her girlfriend passing him going the opposite direction. The redhead joined her, a completely confused look on her face, “Was that Keith?”

Tara nodded and looked at her friend, “Do you guys know each other?”

“No,” Said Anya on her way back inside the room, “I just met him last night, in the hall here. He was upset at the noise, wanted to knock on your door.“ She giggled, “He didn’t listen to me. Got himself a nice surprise.”

Willow was confused, “What happened?” Moving Amy’s cage to the other side of the room, she was able to make a space big enough for the trunk.

Her grin didn’t subside, “You must’ve just finished the incantation. When we heard you guys through the door, he got angry again and went to knock. I told him not to touch the door – but he did. Just barely a knock was enough.”

Tara stared at her expectantly.

“You made him ejaculate in the hall. In his pants, in the hall.” Said the ex-vengeance demon matter-of-factly. “I hope you liked him. This pretty much makes him at least a friend by your social standards.”

“What!?” Both the witches exclaimed at the same time.

Anya giggled some more, “It was funny, really. I heard Tara scream ‘Holy Mother’ and then your neighbor was grabbing his crotch with the funniest look on his face. He waddled back to his room completely dazed and twitchy.”

“Oh, God,” Tara covered her face with her hands, mortified.

“Big ass trunk, coming through,” Xander grunted through the door aided by Buffy on the other end. She seemed more at ease although the trunk looked as big, if not bigger than her.

“There better not be a body in here, Tara.” Buffy said jokingly as she maneuvered the chest towards the spot Willow indicated mutely, still looking shocked. “Jeez, Will. You look like you’ve been watching Bambi without skipping the part when the mother dies.” But, the redhead didn’t seem to hear her.

Tara recovered quickly, “That’s doubtful,” She grinned at the Slayer, “I don’t use dead bodies, much. Thank you, both of you, for b-bringing it up.”

Xander wiped his brow, “No problem. I have to win my manly street cred somehow.” Stretching his shoulders he continued, “Hanging out with The Slayer kinda makes the old male ego feel inadequate sometimes. Nothing lifting heavy things can’t fix.” He grinned.

Anya felt she needed to defend her man’s honor, “Xander is more than adequate.” She pointed at him, “Just the other night he did this new-“

“Please, no.” A plaintive Willow said. She’d been brought back to reality from having been in an ejaculating Keith shock, only to almost hear details about Xander’s sex life. “We get it, no details. Really.” I need Tara-boobs, STAT.

“This is my cue to go kill stuff,” Said The Slayer, “It’s patrol time. Gotta swing by Willy’s, too.”

Once Buffy had announced her departure, everyone decided it was time to call it a night as well. With a round of thank yous and goodbyes, the door closed leaving the witches alone.

Willow was moving things that had been inadvertently displaced now they had a big chest in the room, “You must be curious.” She said, bending over to pick up wood chips that had fallen from Amy’s cage.

“Hmm,” Tara replied, not really thinking about the chest right now. The dress her girlfriend was wearing, although anyone else would say it was at the very least modest, made the blonde’s hands itch. It was form fitting, showing off the slight curves she loved to hold onto when her lover moved against her. Those slender hips, accentuated by soft, pink and yielding material. Willow, bent over as she was, was giving plenty for her girlfriend to ogle. Willow-butt. Mmm, round, firm and all soft…

Once the redhead stood up straight, Tara walked towards her, “It feels familiar.” Pressing against her girlfriend’s back, her hands fell against her hips. She squeezed gently, saying softly into Willow’s ear, “I love your dress, Will.” Placing a kiss against the soft skin of her lover’s neck, she ran her hands down the outside of her thighs slowly. The soft material made the skin of her fingertips tingle, sending direct ghostly echoes down between her legs.

Willow’s lips quirked in a proud grin, “Good, I was thinking of you when I bought it.” She covered her girlfriend’s hands with her own, “I knew you’d like how soft it is.” Tara’s hands continued their trek up over her stomach.

“Mmhmm,” She kissed behind her girlfriend’s ear, “The color suits you so well, too.” Tara noticed a blush forming at the top of her girl’s chest, “Don’t get me started on how it fits you. You are sex on legs, Will.” She licked up Willow’s neck to her ear where she nipped at the edge before taking it into her mouth and flicking her tongue against it. Running her hands higher up the soft body pressed against hers, she cupped her lover’s breasts in her palms. “Mmm, so soft. You’re beautiful, baby.”

“Mmm,” The redhead squeezed the hands against her, “You’re insatiable today,” Her head lolled back, falling onto her girlfriend’s neck. “We have class in the morning.”

Tara chuckled, “Leave it to you to bring that up now,” She bit on Willow’s neck gently, knowing her girlfriend’s diversionary tactic when she hears it, “If you don’t want to, we won’t.” Bringing both their hands down around her girlfriend’s waist, she hugged her tight, “You just light me up inside.” She kissed her girl’s temple, “I love you.”

“Mmm, I love you too, baby,” She said leaning into her girlfriend’s embrace, “I think I’m more in snuggle mode, though.” Her voice came out sleepier than she’d intended.

The blonde turned her around, “Then snuggles shall be had.” She punctuated this with a chaste kiss and a genuinely loving smile.

Willow pressed their foreheads together, “You’re the perfect girlfriend. You know that?” She smiled adoringly at her girl.

Tara squeezed her girlfriend’s waist slightly and grinned, “Like you had a lot of them to compare me with.”

“I don’t need or even want to compare,” She looked into her love’s eyes, “You’re perfect for me in every way that matters.” Willow kissed her tenderly, “Even in a lot of ways that don’t.”

The blonde kept the meaningful eye contact, she could get lost in those eyes, “Are you sure I can’t ravage you right now?” Her lips pulled up on one side, “You’re giving me mixed-signals here, toots.” She drawled in her best Brooklyn accent.

Willow giggled, “Toots? What are you, a private eye in some sort of seedy crime story based in the 50’s?”

They separated then, both started getting ready for the next day.

“Very nice,” Tara pulled her books together for her classes, “That’s exactly what I was going for.” She was proud her impersonations were getting better.

They went on getting their things together and changing for bed, “I’ll be right back” Willow said as she made her way out to the bathroom.

Walking past the trunk, Tara remembered it’d come with a letter. The bag was still next to the dresser. She pulled out the envelope and placed it on her nightstand before grabbing her toiletry bag. She wanted to catch Willow, she was the one with the toothpaste. Remember to put the cap back on, Maclay.

Their nightly routine done, they got into bed and wiggled into their cozy spots. “Help me make a decision?” Tara asked.

“Of course,” Willow responded, “Put my brain to work.” She said, nuzzling her girlfriend’s hair.

She sighed, “I’m curious about the trunk. But, tomorrow I have class until later in the day. It came with a letter and now I’m wondering if I should read it before bed.”

“Hmm, you’re worried it’ll just make you more curious. That you won’t be able to sleep?” The redhead asked, wondering if she understood.

“Exactly,” Tara nodded, “I have a test in the after-noon.”

Willow squeezed her gently, “Sounds like it could hurt not to wait, but wouldn’t if you did.” She frowned, “That made sense, right?”

Her girlfriend giggled against her chest, “Yes, it did. It does, thanks sweetie.” A yawn caught her off-guard, “Goodnight my smart and sexy Willow.” Raising her head just long enough to give her girlfriend a peck on the cheek, she added, “I love you.”

Willow kissed a crown of golden hair, “Goodnight, my everything. I love you, too.”

Fifteen minutes and twenty two seconds. That’s how long it took before the calm was broken by Tara’s soft exclamation, “Crap!” Her eyes shot open. She made to get out of bed.

“Wha-Baby?” The redhead had been so close to sleep, things were fuzzy, “What’s going on?”

“Nothing, ow!” Tara yelped in the dark, “Go back to sleep. I’ll be right there.” Note to self: There is now a chest here.

At the yelp, Willow got worried, “Are you ok?” She squinted in the dark, trying to make out what her girlfriend was up to.

“Y-yes,” The blonde found what she was looking for on the dresser, “I just stubbed my toe.”

“Oh,” She heard the sound of a zipper. Semi-hard plastic crinkling, “Are you in the toiletry bag?”

“Ugh,” Tara groaned, “Yes.” Of course she’d know.

“Tara,” Willow made her name stretch, “Did you forget to put the cap back on the toothpaste again?”

She sighed, “Don’t I get points for remembering now?” Asking as she twisted the cap onto the tube. “I got out of bed and everything.”

The light came on and, although it was dimmed, their eyes took a moment to adjust. “Don’t want you stubbing your cute toes again.” Willow grinned smugly from the bed.

***

_________________
~M
CopperAndGold


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:55 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

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Location: Budapest, Hungary
Hey! :) I'm kinda new to the board and I registered to let you know that I TOTALLY LOVE this story!!! I come back to check for updates regularly and it definitely makes my day when I see a new post from you. Please please please keep on posting, don't leave me hangin'! :)) Cheers from Hungary!


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 10:17 am 
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3. Flaming O
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warrior_barbie wrote:
Hey! :) I'm kinda new to the board and I registered to let you know that I TOTALLY LOVE this story!!! I come back to check for updates regularly and it definitely makes my day when I see a new post from you. Please please please keep on posting, don't leave me hangin'! :)) Cheers from Hungary!


Wow! Well, welcome to the board as a full fledged member! :)

I'm so flattered, you have no idea. :blush Thank you so much for the kind words and, I don't plan on leaving anyone hanging. I want to see this story to completion.

I was wondering the other day if I should've written it out before posting any of it. Being that I'm writing as I'm posting, it makes updates difficult to schedule. But, there's also a freedom to it that I wouldn't want to do without. So, all this to say stick around - the posting might be erratic at times but, it will happen!

Thanks again for your feedback!

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2017 12:40 pm 
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8. Vixen
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And this is why modern toothpaste has a non-removable cap!

Seriously though, great story.
Normally not a fan of stories with lotsa sex, but this one's good, so, yay you!

And you're doing a great job of hinting that there's something going on in Erynn and Tara's past, so bravo!
And extra bonus points for writing a trory this well, with English as a second language :)

Looking forward to more :bounce

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:19 am 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Another terrific chapter!

As Erynn's past continues to be revealed slowly, I can't help but wonder if there is a connection between her and this Damien fellow. Maybe they're completely unrelated... and the story works either way... but you seem to be a writer who likes to build layers (which is awesome), so I'm curious to see how things continue to unfold.


Speaking of unfolding... initially (though I may have misunderstood) you indicated that Erynn is Willow's difficult gift. So far it seems like Tara is the one having to "deal" with Erynn more. I'm wondering if this is because you're setting up a mildly antagonistic relationship with Tara toward Erynn (similar to Willow's difficulties with Anya) so that when Willow eventually becomes more of Erynn's friend, this causes some tension on Tara's part? .... Ok... did any of that phrasing make sense? To summarize - will Erynn and Willow's eventual friendship be the foil to Tara and Anya's?


Also, glad that you have Erynn both recognizing her feelings for Tara and realizing that the idea of acting on them is a "NO FLY ZONE". It adds a depth of reality to her as a character. "I want this, but can't have this, and just have to deal with it," is something I'm sure most of us have dealt with at some point in our life. And that she isn't developing some nefarious scheme to break our ladies up to her advantage is also much more realistic than the classic trope showcasing the opposite scenario that we've all seen so often.


I loved how you explore the tiny hurts and injustices that pop up and are just as quickly smoothed away in a solid relationship. E.G., Willow's jealously flaring at Tara's admittance that she occasionally checks out other ladies' "ass"ets. This despite Willow herself becoming hypnotized at the sight of a nicely presented rack (whether it belongs to Tara or not). I love how you showed us Tara's thoughts (reasonably miffed) and Willow's dawning realization that she was being emotionally stupid. Also appreciated that they didn't have to have this long, "processing", conversation to remedy the slight. A simple apology, a little teasing, and all was well. Again, a nod to the real when a relationship is healthy and works.


Finally... and keeping on the theme of "real, healthy, relationship"... I loved how you showed that just because our ladies are hot for each other, they aren't both always ready to go at a moment's notice. Tara was horny, Willow was not and Tara was ok with this. She didn't push, she didn't wheedle. She teasingly double-checked once and then accepted her lover's snuggle-mood and there were no hard feelings. YAY. (Also love the idea of Tara as being an equal aggressor to Willow... rather than Willow always taking the lead).

So, you may think that I completely missed the terrific plotting you've laid out in this recent update... but I haven't. I'm immensely curious about what Damien is up to and I am on the edge of my seat to know what is in that trunk and the letter that came with it.


I am very much looking forward to the next chapter!


Keep up the fantastic work!!


Cheers
DW

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Check out some of my most popular works: Special ... Leave It to Giles ... The Inimitable Giles ... Giles at Christmas

Challenge Fics!: You Could Be Her ... Glasses ... Graffiti ... Pizza Day

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:45 am 
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3. Flaming O
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Azirahael wrote:
And this is why modern toothpaste has a non-removable cap!

Seriously though, great story.
Normally not a fan of stories with lotsa sex, but this one's good, so, yay you!


I understand, really. Even if I am a bit of a dirty mind, I've read plenty of fics that had my eyes rolling (here we go again) at the amount of seemingly meaningless sex thrown around. The story easily gets lost in there... as well as my interest.

All this to say, I'm so glad you're sticking around for the story even though the sexy parts might not be your favorites. You didn't see me, but I just patted myself on the shoulder. :grin

Azirahael wrote:
And extra bonus points for writing a trory this well, with English as a second language :)


I'm, as Erynn is, French Canadian (Otherwise known as Quebecoise) French is my mother tongue (I just like saying that). So, if there are little grammar or spelling mistakes here and there, I can tell you right now - that's going to be my excuse. :laugh

DarkWiccan wrote:
As Erynn's past continues to be revealed slowly, I can't help but wonder if there is a connection between her and this Damien fellow. Maybe they're completely unrelated... and the story works either way... but you seem to be a writer who likes to build layers (which is awesome), so I'm curious to see how things continue to unfold.


Maybe Erynn is Damien, and Damien is Erynn. But, is there a link between them? :eyebrow

DarkWiccan wrote:
Speaking of unfolding... initially (though I may have misunderstood) you indicated that Erynn is Willow's difficult gift. So far it seems like Tara is the one having to "deal" with Erynn more. I'm wondering if this is because you're setting up a mildly antagonistic relationship with Tara toward Erynn (similar to Willow's difficulties with Anya) so that when Willow eventually becomes more of Erynn's friend, this causes some tension on Tara's part? .... Ok... did any of that phrasing make sense? To summarize - will Erynn and Willow's eventual friendship be the foil to Tara and Anya's?


Short answer to that would be no. Erynn is definitely Willow's difficult gift. They just don't know it yet. They being Erynn and Willow. Tara having to "deal" with Erynn is part of why Willow will have difficulty dealing. Stick around, it's bound to get interesting.

DarkWiccan wrote:
Also, glad that you have Erynn both recognizing her feelings for Tara and realizing that the idea of acting on them is a "NO FLY ZONE". It adds a depth of reality to her as a character. "I want this, but can't have this, and just have to deal with it," is something I'm sure most of us have dealt with at some point in our life. And that she isn't developing some nefarious scheme to break our ladies up to her advantage is also much more realistic than the classic trope showcasing the opposite scenario that we've all seen so often.


Indeed, these are women in their 20's. Some emotional maturity is expected, at least. Erynn has an unusual take on Love as well, which helps her accept things as they are. She takes the strength it seems to have inspired in her and, internalizes it. Erynn was taught by Loreli, an Empathic Witch - her take on emotions, and how to deal with them is somewhat different from the familiar.

Oh, and yeah - the whole "I'm going to steal your girlfriend" thing... kinda restrictive as far as plots go. To be honest, I find it boring.

DarkWiccan wrote:
I loved how you explore the tiny hurts and injustices that pop up and are just as quickly smoothed away in a solid relationship. E.G., Willow's jealously flaring at Tara's admittance that she occasionally checks out other ladies' "ass"ets. This despite Willow herself becoming hypnotized at the sight of a nicely presented rack (whether it belongs to Tara or not). I love how you showed us Tara's thoughts (reasonably miffed) and Willow's dawning realization that she was being emotionally stupid. Also appreciated that they didn't have to have this long, "processing", conversation to remedy the slight. A simple apology, a little teasing, and all was well. Again, a nod to the real when a relationship is healthy and works.


Ah, Willow and her insecurities and jealousy. They will resurface, of course... Hinting at the difficult gift part, here.

I like it simple, in a lot of ways. I find the simple resolutions are the sweetest ones. The kind that happen over with a glance and a knowing smile. They don't need drama, seriously - check out their lives. Who needs drama?

DarkWiccan wrote:
Finally... and keeping on the theme of "real, healthy, relationship"... I loved how you showed that just because our ladies are hot for each other, they aren't both always ready to go at a moment's notice. Tara was horny, Willow was not and Tara was ok with this. She didn't push, she didn't wheedle. She teasingly double-checked once and then accepted her lover's snuggle-mood and there were no hard feelings. YAY. (Also love the idea of Tara as being an equal aggressor to Willow... rather than Willow always taking the lead).


We've all been there, right? On either side of the non-reciprocal horny line. It can go smoothly or stupidly wrong... Being this is a healthy relationship, I couldn't see Tara being a nag about it.

Their relationship isn't based on a dichotomy - Willow's the top, Tara's the bottom. BORING. I can't see that holding Willow's (or anyone's really) attention for very long. Nah, Tara can totally take the first steps. She can woo and seduce with the best of them. :flirt

DarkWiccan wrote:
So, you may think that I completely missed the terrific plotting you've laid out in this recent update... but I haven't. I'm immensely curious about what Damien is up to and I am on the edge of my seat to know what is in that trunk and the letter that came with it.


I have to admit, I was worried this update might have come out stale. Things were laid out subtly, so I wondered if it could retain people's attention. So, I'm so pleased that you're still along for the ride, and that you took so much from it! :grin

Thank you for the wonderful feedback, I appreciate it so much when I get a notice... I admit, I might get a bit giddy. :blush

Until next time,

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~M
CopperAndGold


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2017 5:54 pm 
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16. Pancakes in Bellies
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DW actually covered pretty much everything I was going to say, so, have a second helping of praise for all that :bow But redundant or not, I did want to say how much I enjoyed the little thread of Willow's jealousy re: asses, and the way it wove through several scenes without either dominating them, or having to be 'dealt with' in a heavy conversation scene to put it to rest. It was actually really refreshing to see how this thing came up in an awkward moment, left a lingering discontent, Tara found an opportunity to make a point of it later, Willow realised what she'd been doing, acknowledged it, and they moved on happier - all without it being a big deal. It was just something that happened, because people are flawed in little ways as well as big, but it was just a little thing, nothing they had to make a scene out of or sit each other down and discuss it until they were sure everything was fine - it felt in a way like an affirmation of their relationship, that a little thing doesn't have to be anything more than a little thing, and if as in this case Willow does something to mildly upset Tara it's not a case of alarm bells and can they save the relationship?! (It's a nice contrast to tv shows that can't seem to have a romance without continually having one or other partner behave like an idiot just to keep things 'dramatic', I love The Flash but yes I'm looking at you Barry.) So when (as you've mentioned) Willow's jealous does come back in a more problematic way, I feel like it'll be more dramatic, because we've seen them able to handle some degree of difficulty there already - obviously they're not bad at relationships, so if there's trouble, it has weight. Like how the menacing alien of the week is shown to be a legitimate threat because it beat up Worf. (Although that's actually not a great analogy since it happened so often...)

And I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I am taking note of the brewing antagonist plotline - Lucile was neat, I really didn't suspect anything of her incognito introduction before we actually got to see who she really is, so that was a fun surprise.

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic :: 2017 :: When Erynn found herself NC-17
PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:50 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Artemis wrote:
have a second helping of praise for all that


Oof, good thing they're empty calories. :lol

Artemis wrote:
I enjoyed the little thread of Willow's jealousy re: asses, and the way it wove through several scenes without either dominating them, or having to be 'dealt with' in a heavy conversation scene to put it to rest. It was actually really refreshing to see how this thing came up in an awkward moment, left a lingering discontent, Tara found an opportunity to make a point of it later, Willow realised what she'd been doing, acknowledged it, and they moved on happier - all without it being a big deal.


You know when you want to try something out and, you're not sure at all if it's going to work or not? So, you have this feeling that, because you're the one who came up with it, of course you get it... But, you're not too sure if others would? Yeah, that's what that was...

My face hurts from the stupid grin stretching it. I'm so happy it worked and that it didn't come across as boring. :grin

Artemis wrote:
Lucile was neat, I really didn't suspect anything of her incognito introduction before we actually got to see who she really is, so that was a fun surprise.


Yay, for Lucile!! :grin I love her. She's based on a friend of mine who lived on the streets. His name was Donald. I wanted to add him to the story as a process of sorts. Totally selfish of me, really - He passed a month ago. This is my little homage, of sorts. :)

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