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

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 Post subject: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'N7 Day'
PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:28 pm 
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17. Mega-Witches
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Anthology of Interest!


Note: In the vein of the old Futurtara version, only without having to write a Futurama-themed framing device each time, this is... well it's just a thread I'll post random short fics in, since unlike the last couple of times a random idea has popped up, this time it isn't in the course of feedback to someone else's challenge entry, and it does seem like this is going to keep happening every now and then. Enjoy!

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Kiss like a Pirate Day

Author: Chris Cook
Email: alia@netspace.net.au
Rating: M for sauciness
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy, and who knows what other stuff I'll end up borrowing from elsewhere in this, but for now nothing else specific.

Sit ye down, weary traveller, and harken to me tale of the high seas! I see ye be wantin’ the latest news of none other than Cap’n Tara, the fiercest, fairest, and flirtiest pirate hunter that ever sailed, pride o’ the Admiralty and scourge of all lawbreakers ‘tween here and Barbados? Well let me tell ye, lads and lasses, she be the subject of a fine tale of intrigue and romance, so she is..

T’all began one fine day when our dear Tara was sailin’ along in search of wrongs to right, and spotted a sail on the horizon. What this, she wondered, putting a telescope to her emerald green eye, be this some honest merchantman about his business, or plucky explorer charting the seas at the behest of the Royal Society? Nay me hearties, her fair brow creased as she saw the black flag of a pirate, and no mere two-piece buccaneer of no note either. For t’was the kitten and crossed whips flag of no less a lass than Red Willow! Aye, ye’ve heard that name, and the tales of treasure fleets vanished and strongholds pillaged of their loot from one horizon to t’other, and let me tell ye those tales be but a pale shadow of her true audacity and cunning. No bounty be safe from Red Willow, who gathers to herself all things fine and fancy in these Caribbean seas, but be she ever so daring there be not a man in the Navy who’s come close to reeling her in, for she be not that way inclined you understand.

Now Cap’n Tara had many a time run out the guns and run some piratical scoundrel to ground amid shot and shell, but she knew such malarky would avail her not against such a wily and comely lass as Red Willow, and so she shadowed her foe’s ship, the feared Sea Sweetie, awaiting her chance to enact some clever scheme to entrap its devious mistress. And such a scheme she devised when her quarry put into port at none other than Port o’ Bronze, where sailors from all the seven seas revelled and likewise partied their fortunes away on drink and dancing and bewitching sirens o’ the night. Knowing that Willow were no bilge rat who wasted her time on grog, Tara suspected it was the finer things in life she sought at that den of delights, and thus contrived to sneak herself ashore and infiltrate herself stealthy-like into the assortment of likely lasses vying for Willow’s attention.

Now betwixt her beauty and her famed wealth there was quite a crowd seekin’ to be chosen to entertain Red Willow, but Cap’n Tara proved herself as fine a seductress as she were an officer, and bedecked in finery of the silkiest and frankly most scandalous nature, which she had had delivered direct from Gay Paree in the hope that just such an opportunity would present itself, she danced the dance of love before Willow, moving in such a ways as to arouse the ardour of the dreaded pirate lady until nothing would do but that she must have Tara aboard her very own ship in her luxurious and well-appointed cabin to sample all her earthly delights. So did Tara play the role of the lustful maiden of Venus looking forward to following her calling as Willow’s crew, who were in fact a polite and well-mannered group, fetched her at their captain’s request, brought her aboard the Sea Sweetie, and invited her to make herself at home in the stateroom, never suspecting that that was exactly where she wanted to be, or rather that was the impression she gave, but for reasons of passion, whereas Tara had in fact her mind set on apprehension of the dastardly pirate, although truth be told passions be stirring alongside such noble thoughts and no mistake.

And so, at the dark hour of midnight did Red Willow find Cap’n Tara fetchingly bedecked in jewels and lingerie of a highly suggestive make, all fit to stir the lustful thoughts of the scarlet pirate to the high heavens and back again, and as Willow sat back in her comfy captain’s chair and invited Tara to work her skilful whiles on her heartstrings, Tara did contrive to dance across to the wall where a sabre be hanging among the assorted trophies of piratical victories, and drew it to make good her capture. Red Willow be no clueless landlubber though, and so had ensured that for just such an eventuality her chair be fitted with a concealed blade of her own, which she now drew to drive off the Crown’s champion in all her golden and nearly-naked glory.

The prospect of a duel between two such peerless swordswomen would no doubt cause any audience worth their salt to be imagining a great cavalcade of acrobatics, death-defying leaps and lunges, parry and thrust, and all manner of artful manoeuvres, and Willow and Tara did not disappoint! All over the piratical stateroom did they fence, across table and bed, balancing on chairs, swinging one after t’other from the chandelier, swatting at gilded cords to bring down tapestries from the ceiling in attempts to trap one another which were lithely evaded, all the while their supple and outstanding bodies did work up a gleam of sweat, and bosoms did heave as they pushed their stamina to its very limits. Red Willow was as wily as you might imagine a practiced pirate lady to be, and at one moment seemingly on the verge of defeat did distract her opponent by the cunning ploy of slicing through the gauzy fabric of the fine negligee holding Cap’n Tara’s bountiful chest at bay, causing her to burst forth most distractingly, but even though she be an officer and a gentlewoman, Cap’n Tara proved to have her own stock of cunning ploys up her nonexistent sleeve, for seeing Red Willow entranced by the oceanic undulation of her fine boobies she did use her free hand, whilst their blades were locked, to reach behind Red Willow’s magnificent posterior on which she bestowed a most lascivious slap, causing her foe no small amount of panty-wettin’ distraction herself.

And just as they... wait a minute, I’ve got this... wait!” Willow shook her head and pressed a hand to her mouth in a futile attempt to prevent herself bursting out laughing.

“So does this mean Cap’n Tara prevails, and puts the dastardly Red Willow in irons?” Tara asked mischievously, keeping her feather duster ‘sword’ locked against Willow’s kitchen spatula above their heads.

“Uh... um, nay, dear lass,” Willow managed to resume, “or at least, maybe every now and then but not permanently, for y’see, such was her enjoyment of their duel that neither wished for it to conclude, so their ongoing rivalry for command of the fair waters of the bedroom waged on over and over and... hmm, over and over,” she purred as Tara leaned in to nuzzle at her neck, “and probably in the end I’m sure they retired together to some tropical paradise island or something?”

“A proper and fitting reward to two such daring lasses of the high seas,” Tara agreed, struggling not to giggle herself. “Happy talk like a pirate day.”

"Happy kiss like a pirate day."

“It's called that now?”

“I'm stealing the day and renaming it.”

"Very piratical of you, so how do pirates kiss?"

"It involves plunderin' ye booty."

"Yarrr," Tara managed, as they collapsed onto the bed in a shared fit of giggles.

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


Last edited by Artemis on Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:47 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 12:58 am 
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Yay for excellent and funny story...

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:41 am 
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See, Roleplay can be both fun, AND sexy :)

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:01 pm 
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Thanks both :grin

I did want to hit the fun button pretty hard, yeah - naturally the whole pirate setting could go very steamy and sultry (one of these days...) but for this one I really liked the idea of the two of them just being doubled-over-laughing silly. I didn't want to overcomplicate the fic itself, but my headcanon for it was that Willow had started with the pirate-speak just as a joke, then kept at it just to make Tara laugh, then Tara had started acting along with whatever she made up about Cap'n Tara, and it just snowballed from there.

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:45 am 
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I really liked this funny pirate-speech story. Was Willow doing all the "pirate-narrator-stuff" or were she and Tara taking turns in spinning the story along?
One tiny mistake I spotted:
Quote:
putting a telescope to her emerald green eye

Shouldn't Tara's eye be (sky, azur or any shade of) blue?

Since I just finished rereading Hellebore again (one of my alltime-favourite Willow-and-Tara-stories) I can't help asking if there is any chance that you might post some shortstory(ies) about our beloved amazon-sorceress-couple again, one day? I would love to see a glimpse of their travels through Westmark and I'm really curious what your ideas of an amazon-wedding are...
If your muse happened to lead you into the Hellebore-verse again I would be forever grateful! :bounce :banana :dumbo


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:20 pm 
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Drat! Well-spotted - I actually switched their roles while I was writing (Cap'n Willow and Golden Tara, originally), since I could kind of more imagine Willow cheekily narrating Tara disguising herself as a dancing girl (and Tara then hastily stripping down to her underwear to play along). Got the names, but missed that one - she'd probably have gone with something like "blue as the morning skies over the far-off South China Sea". In my head it was Willow doing the whole story, with Tara alternately acting out whatever Willow described her doing, and laughing, but it works either way.

Re: Hellebore - thanks, and I'm tremendously flattered :blush I think I'm kind of resigned to not doing the story that was going to follow it - Hellebore itself was a year of pretty much non-stop writing, and I don't know that I have that kind of focus in me these days (not to mention, job and all that). Also Diablo III happened, which was a fun in gameplay terms, but really reduced the world to a bit of a thin caricature of its original self, so that sapped away some of my enthusiasm for Sanctuary. I used the basic storyline I'd planned out as a Mass Effect adult film adaptation of an asari epic poem, of all things, if you're curious. Short stories though, that's a possibility, there are a couple of ideas I never got around to that wouldn't have to be too enormous in length to write out, so maybe one of these days. I didn't have the specifics of an Amazon wedding worked out, but I did have a few basic ideas, and I ended up using them for the wedding at the end of She-Ra season one - the main element I wanted to get in there was that the marriage ritual didn't actually form the marriage, that was the couple themselves, and the ceremony was an expression of thanks from the Amazon culture generally to Willow and Tara for deciding to express their love through its traditions. I did actually write a brief scene of the Hellebore marriage itself, but that was as a private gift (for an actual wedding) and if I ever got around to it in the course of the rest of the story I'd have written it fresh again anyway. So the She-Ra ceremony is kind of how it would go. Um, sorry it's not 'I'll start posting next week', but it's what I've got :ashamed

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:41 am 
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Hero


Author: Chris Cook
Email: alia@netspace.net.au
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy. Captain Marvel is the property of Marvel (although that’s a sentence with a long and tumultuous history, if you’re curious about the bizarre convolutions of the name’s ownership, this is a good watch.
Notes: Inspired by her being the only Rock Candy figurine available to accompany Willow, and helped along by thespian_phryne and Laragh playing the shoulder angels whispering “Go on, do it.” I kind of threw together a couple of separate ideas, and this could probably use another draft, but it’s 3:30 in the morning (it’s okay, public holiday tomorrow), so let’s just throw caution to the wind and go. Hope it kind of comes across as it's meant to.


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“Did you get to the hairdressers- wow.”

Tara chuckled, blushing, and tucked an errant - and short - strand of hair behind her ear as Willow slowly moved around the edge of the bed, wide-eyed, to gaze at her full height as she stood in front of the bedroom mirror.

“So, you’ll be okay with this until it grows out again?” she asked, venturing a grin.

“Are you okay with it?” Willow asked at once, taking Tara’s hands and gently squeezing. “Honestly?”

“I’m okay,” Tara nodded. “Honestly. It’s just I haven’t had it this short in ever, it’d be weird if it didn’t feel weird. You know?” She glanced at herself in the mirror, and smiled at Willow’s reflection there smiling back at her.

“You like?” she asked, running a gloved hand through her hair.

“Baby you’re stunning,” Willow said. “I mean, that’s a given, but - you’re like - your eyes, your face, it’s like... You’re beautiful as ever but this is, like normally it’s beautiful like a lake, an especially gorgeous lake, of course-”

“One of those Italian ones?” Tara suggested.

“Yep that’s what I’m thinking,” Willow agreed, “and now, this is you beautiful like, like lightning, is this simile off the rails? I feel like comparing you to a lake started it off on a weird footing and it’s not getting any more rational.”

“My Willow,” Tara smiled, kissing her.

“My hero,” Willow smiled back. Tara glanced down.

“So you did notice?” she teased.

“Hand on heart, I genuinely didn’t for the first few seconds,” Willow insisted. Tara laughed, then stood fully in front of the mirror, and tried a hands-on-hips pose. She was pleased the costume had come together more or less as planned, but the reflection staring back at her - navy blue bodysuit, red boots and gloves, a sash sitting around her hips, and red shoulders bordered by golden bands merging with the gold star in the centre of her chest - just didn’t fit into her mental image of her, even if it was her face atop it all, framed by short hair tightly bound at the sides.

“Does she have a catchphrase?” she asked. “Like to infinity and beyond, or up up and away?”

“Captain Marvel? Not sure,” Willow admitted. “Xander’ll know. He’s going to be blown away when he sees you, you look great. And that’s me being as objective as I can possibly be with regards to how good you look.”

“How objective is that?” Tara asked, a grin tugging the edge of her lips.

“Not very?” Willow said. “Seriously though, just... it’s great, you look amazing. In terms of, of accuracy to what it’s supposed to look like, and the costume fitting properly, and everything looking really top quality and all that important costume stuff, on top of the standard Willow feelings vis-a-vis any time you’re in my line of sight.”

“Your hero?” Tara joked, sitting on the edge of the bed. Willow sat beside her, and Tara glanced at her curiously when she didn’t reply.

“You are, you know,” Willow said after a pause.

“What?” She was no stranger to Willow staring at her, and the warmth spreading through her as her heart sped up was as welcome as always, but there was something deeper in her eyes.

“Remember your bag, at school?” Willow said softly, and Tara understood, and felt her eyes well up as she smiled and nodded.


Image


One year, Willow thought, as the din of the rest of the class gossiping washed around her without registering. A whole year. Her heart was beating ridiculously fast, but she had rehearsed this moment over and over, all through the summer break. One year ago, that first day then, she had fallen in love. Looked across the classroom as Tara had come through the door, and seen not Tara the quiet girl who seemed nice, but Tara, who... Tara who was incredible, who was beautiful, who was radiant, and how had she never seen her like this before? How had she not noticed the most beautiful girl in the world? The sensible explanation, as-you-grow-up-you-start-to-have-feelings, seemed like it may have had something to do with it, but still, she had wondered, and replayed every memory she had of Tara before, and couldn’t believe she had thought she was just another girl.

And for that whole year she had gazed, nervously and covertly, and marvelled, and dreamed, and hoped... and done nothing. Certain that Tara was the one but uncertain what that meant, she had imagined talking to her so many times - all the paths their conversations could take, all the possibilities - but the one possibility she hadn’t imagined was the one that had happened: that she never spoke to her to begin with, any more than the pleasantries of everyday school life. And it was over the summer, cut off from Tara, missing her painfully each day and finally awake to the possibility that she could be in love with a girl, that all the happy endings in stories and movies could be her and Tara - she realised that all her dreams depended on her taking the first step to make them real. And now she was going to.

And there she was.

Impossibly perfect.

And Willow’s heart leapt as, just as she had hoped, Tara skirted the edge of the crowd of children still on their feet chattering, and took a seat at the same desk she had the whole year before. The one that, who knew when and how, some long-ago art class perhaps, had been painted all over with random splashes of colour, one of a kind amid all the interchangeable clean wooden desktops around it. The one Tara sat at, and somebody else alongside her, but not somebody else, Willow told herself, not this time. Please.

“H-hi,” she managed to say, only because she had imagined saying it so many times even her scattered nerves couldn’t quite trip up her tongue. “Can-I-sit-here?”

Tara seemed to understand the sentence as it came tumbling out, smiled - smiled! - and nodded.

Willow sat.

A moment later the teacher arrived, and the school day began. There was work to do, and No Talking In Class, but that didn’t mean absolute silence. Tara found the eraser on the end of her pencil worn down a bit too far, and borrowed Willow’s for a moment. She offered her set square when it was called for, and even though Willow had her own in her bag, she shared Tara’s with giddy elation. During morning recess, and lunch, they talked - actually talked - about home, and school. Willow desperately hoped telling Tara about her extra math tutoring wouldn’t seem boastful, and had to fight to conceal a great gasp of relief when Tara seemed interested. Tara’s mother had agreed she could learn to play the violin, and she was looking forward to her first lesson. The day flew past. The best of Willow’s life.

And at the last minute, it all came crashing down.

“Can I sit next to you again tomorrow?” she had asked, after the final bell had rung and people were packing their bags and heading for the door. She didn’t want to just assume she could, and every time she had run the conversation through in her head, the bloom of affection in her chest when she imagined Tara agreeing had been irresistible.

“Why, you gonna kiss her?”

It came from one of the trio of girls who always hung around together and looked down on everyone else with scorn - Willow was so stunned she couldn’t even tell which of them had actually spoken - and as they sauntered away, already talking loudly about something else and the moment forgotten, Willow’s cheeks burned with panicked shame. She dimly heard Tara call her name as she muttered something about having to go, but her legs carried her away, out of the classroom, out of the school, and it was over.

In her room later, she dreaded seeing Tara again. She wouldn’t be angry, she was sure - Tara wasn’t mean, Tara was kind, and gentle, and wonderful - but she couldn’t take back what she had done. She had spent a year, a year, falling in love, wanting to be in love, with Tara, and a single snide remark had sent her running for her life. Away from Tara, who would never hate her, but must have been hurt, and deserved better. Better than Willow. Willow wrestled with such a pang of sorrow that she wondered how it could be real, how her life could have gone so wrong in an instant, how she could have chosen so wrong - how wasn’t it a nightmare she’d wake up from, and heave a sigh of relief that that was all it was? But reality continued.

The next day she had actually considered feigning illness to stay home, but the prospect of her mother calling out the lie she knew she’d never be able to follow through with kept her silent, and there was nothing for it but to face Tara, and the future she had earned without her. And there Tara was, at the colourful desk that for one glorious, agonising day had been their desk, looking up at her, and smiling, and... and her hands on her bag, her grey canvas backpack, sitting on the desk in front of her, only not grey any more. Coloured, and the edges of the stripes were a little ragged because she had obviously done it herself with markers, but Willow had had a whole year to process that she was a girl and she was in love with a girl, and had been too shy to ask anyone but had learned haphazardly from television and the internet what a rainbow could mean. And Tara, with her rainbow bag in front of her, was looking at her, hopefully.

Anxiety had made her slow to arrive and the class started almost as soon as she sat down, which was just as well because it took half an hour of steady breathing and focusing on exercises before Willow felt like she wasn’t going to burst into tears. And it would be years before she had matured and learned enough to understand what she had felt, truly, and tell Tara - as if she hadn’t known, but Willow wanted to say the words to her anyway, because every day it seemed she was learning more about herself, and how she felt, and loved, and she wanted Tara to know all of it - how much that rainbow meant to her. Right then, she only knew Tara had given her back her dreams.


Image


“My hero,” Willow said, suddenly filled with a meaning that had nothing to do with Tara’s costume, as she held her gaze and willed Tara to see completely inside her and feel what she felt, right from her heart. And so, so in love, because Tara met her stare, and Willow knew she did.


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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:39 am 
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Excellent story...

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Kiss like a Pirate Day
PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:45 am 
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Seriously... I mean. How do you do it? It seems so effortless for you to write our favorite ladies. Especially your Willow, she always comes through genuinely Willow.

Your writing moves me in so many different ways. I chuckle, and grin... laugh and cry. All in the span of a short story. You are truly gifted.

Kiss like a pirate day... The silliness was amazingly endearing, sweet and loving. I love how seamlessly you weave their story to again, seamlessly bring us into this little moment in time with them. Intimate and sweet. I love love loved it!

Hero... You made me cry. That bag, the rainbow. Those are the facts of the story but, the way you used words was striking. I could feel hope well up in my chest, as if I was Will sitting there, wishing and hoping.

I'm so grateful to you for sharing your work! Thank you sooo much :love

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Hero'
PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:09 pm 
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The rainbow bag, the secret language of us gays <3 That was just...

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Hero'
PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:41 pm 
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Thanks all :grin

That little fic really came about by total fluke - I only spotted that Willow figurine because I was browsing around a shop that was having a sale, and I only found out that shop existed a couple of days earlier. And I only have the Captain Marvel (now Tara) figurine because I only have one other figure of Captain Marvel in that costume, and it's just a regular action figure that doesn't really look that impressive, whereas the Rock Candy one is cutesy but good within that style. As I recall I nearly got a Rock Candy She-Hulk at the same time, but passed since I've got a few good She-Hulks already, so if things had been different Willow might've been helping Tara with the green body paint. (Actually, that'd be a fun twist on the calligraphy on her back scene, so maybe one day... Tara might decide cosplay's a lot of fun and make a habit of it.)

CopperAndGold wrote:
How do you do it? It seems so effortless for you to write our favorite ladies. Especially your Willow,

Thanks :blush Honest answer, I don't know, I just wing it - you can tell in this case, since (I realised after finishing it) I wrote a fic to explain why Tara's dressed as Captain Marvel, but forgot to include an explanation for why she's dressed as Captain Marvel. (There was going to be a bit about Sunnydale Comic-Con, but it interrupted where I wanted the conversation to go and I forgot to get back to it.)

I've actually often felt nervous about writing Willow, since I'm more smitten with Tara (obviously both of them, but more Tara) - although in a weird way, I've come to think that makes Willow easier to get into character for, since "You're in love with Tara" is an easy thought exercise :heart

Laragh wrote:
The rainbow bag, the secret language of us gays <3

The notion from that actually came from Love Heals, the bit with Charlie and Vickie looking at the house and our girls being openly a couple - and also the various 'vote yes' signs and chalk hearts and whatnot springing up because of our (stupid) marriage equality postal waste of time just do it already argh... Anyway. But yeah, that's where Tara and the bag came from, that her moment when she was Willow's hero was her raising her rainbow flag (or bag rather) to tell Willow (and everyone) there's nothing to be ashamed of, at a moment when Willow really needed that. I imagine the evening before Tara poured out the whole story to her mum, who helped nudge her in the direction of making a statement, because Tara's mum is also awesome. (The one desk being randomly painted with colours all over though, that was from my school years.)

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Hero'
PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:19 pm 
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Sunnyvania


Author: Chris Cook
Email: alia@netspace.net.au
Rating: G
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy, and this one’s partially inspired by a comic I read ages ago called Clockwork Girl.
Notes: It’s Friday the 13th, so here’s something spooky... a little bit. Not really, but it’s kind of using the spooky aesthetic?


Image


While much of the rest of the world regarded the day with degrees of superstition and wariness, Friday the 13th was a cause for much celebration in Sunnyvania, where the town’s population of monsters, critters, creepers, ghouls, goblins, and a handful of humans who liked the whole gothic-cute look of the place, were enjoying the traditional fair and public market to mark the occasion. Not everyone was out having fun though - the windows of Mad Professor Rupert’s workshop, overlooking the bustling fairground, were lit with the glows and erratic flashes of scientific mayhem, and as a convenient thunderstorm rolled in (fully expected by the townsfolk, who had brought umbrellas) a lightning rod was being squeakily winched into position above its tiled roof.

“So what’s this one gonna be, boss?” Xander asked, dropping down from the winch platform and landing on the laboratory floor in an ungraceful heap.

“My greatest creation!” Rupert boasted, sparing a glance to make sure his patchwork manservant hadn’t broken any limbs that would need replacing. Before him, reclined on a steel table and plugged into an assortment of the kinds of things Tesla would cobble together in idle moments, was a woman made of metal. Rupert finished tightening the final bolts holding her together, and stood back proudly.

“Behold, the Transcendant Analytical Reasoning Automaton!”

“Tara,” Xander read from the chalkboard off to one side of the table, where the acronym was helpfully on display. “What does she do?”

“She is the pinnacle of science,” Rupert explained. “I’ve incorporated into her a multitude of instruments capable of perceiving every facet of the material universe, and her peerless intelligence will comprehend every law and principle of existence.”

“Nice figure too.”

“Don’t be lewd, I could only miniaturise the radio-telescopes so much.”

“What about magic?” Xander asked innocently.

Magic,” Rupert shook his head scornfully. “Don’t be such a credulous simpleton, there’s no such thing.”

“Uh, we live in a town full of monsters and ghosts and stuff.”

“There’s a perfectly scientific explanation for everything,” Rupert insisted. “As Tara will prove to the world - and specifically that unbearable witch down the street - as soon as she is brought to life.”

“Yep, storm should be a good one tonight,” Xander agreed, picking up a heavy-duty insulated cable and attaching it to the dormant automaton’s head.


Image


Down, as the professor had indicated, the street, a similar scene was playing out in the eclectic cottage of Janna Kalderash, witch, herbalist, fortune-teller, tea-leaf-reader, astrologer, and so on and so forth.

“Rupert’s got his lightning rod up,” her assistant, a tame forest sprite, noted from her perch atop a bookcase which gave her a view out the window.

“Let him play with his toys, Buffy,” Janna smiled confidently. “My latest creation will put his pretentious lectures about ‘science’ to rest once and for all! Ridiculous notions.”

“What about that clock he made for the town square?” Buffy asked innocently. “That whole clockwork idea he came up with seems to work pretty well. There’s little painted figures come out and do a dance every hour.”

“There’s a perfectly magical explanation for everything!” Janna snapped. “As Willow will prove to the world.”

“Willow huh?” Buffy said, dropping down from her perch and inspecting the carved wooden figure in the centre of the cottage, surrounded by magic circles and candles. “Cute name. Cute butt. Slightly jealous. What’s she do?”

“My ritual will imbue her with life, and understanding of the totality of magic - every principle of mysticism will be at her fingertips. And then we’ll see what mister smarty-pants ‘rational explanations’ has to say for himself!”

“Okay, I’ll start stirring the mana pool,” Buffy nodded.


Image


Later, once the lightning had died down and Janna’s cottage had stopped phasing in and out of reality, the townsfolk mortal and ethereal gathered in the square around the debating stage, sure of another evening’s good entertainment as Rupert and Janna both emerged from their respective residences with armfuls of charts and diagrams, and inscriptions and grimoires as appropriate, and began to set up their presentations. The good folk of Sunnyvania were not disappointed, as three minutes in the ‘debate’ had degenerated into a shouting match, while Xander and Buffy scurried about throwing cabbages at their opposing patrons, and intercepting said cabbages on behalf of their own (Xander was reckoned a good blocker by the locals, but Buffy was known to have a knack for topspin).

At the periphery of the mayhem, remaining untouched by it, two women found themselves seated beside one another on a bench - one of shining metal, the other animated wood.

“H-hi?” Tara ventured, after a hesitant pause.

“Hi,” Willow replied, with a hint of a smile. They held one another’s gazes for a moment, then looked back at the stage.

“This wasn’t quite how Miss Kalderash explained it to me,” Willow admitted.

“Or Professor Rupert to me,” Tara nodded. “I think I was s-supposed to be doing a presentation to everyone. I’m not sure when my cue is.”

“Yeah I think the part where I demonstrate magic got skipped over too,” Willow sighed. She ventured a sidelong glance at Tara.

“So,” she said, “you... you know all of science?”

“Uh-huh,” Tara nodded. “Apparently it’s all I need to understand everything. I’m... not sure about that. It seems a bit... everyday.”

“I get what you mean,” Willow agreed. “Miss Kalderash said there’s only magic. I mean there’s a lot to it, obviously, but it’s kind of... I don’t know.” She shrugged, and the two sighed at the same time. As they waited for their possibly forgotten cues to join the debate and prove their creators right about everything, snow began to drift down over the town square.

“Oh hey,” Willow piped up, still sounding unenthused. “Snowflakes.”

“Mm,” Tara nodded. “They nucleate around atmospheric particles. Supercooled water freezing in hexagonal crystals.”

“Nucle-what?” Willow asked.

“Formation of a structure,” Tara explained. “Self-organisation or self-assembly. Also entering a new thermodynamic phase.”

“Huh,” Willow said, intrigued. “As in, water turning to ice below zero?”

“Yes,” Tara nodded, turning to face her. “Although if a volume of water is only a few degrees below zero, it can stay ice-free for some time. At lower temperatures ice nucleation is much more rapid.”

“Really?” Willow said - all of a sudden she seemed much more animated, and Tara found herself smiling as well. “I only know snow spells, not all like this.”

“There’s snow magic?” Tara asked, wide-eyed.

“Oh, yeah,” Willow nodded. “The individuality of the snowflakes actually creates a sympathetic form of sorcery, based on the coexisting unity of the snow and its inherent individuality, one thing existing as more that one thing, so it’s actually really useful in all sorts of transformation and transfiguration spells. Like water freezing, at a basic level, for instance - water’s water, but ice and liquid are individual expressions, so if you magically link them to the concept of a snowflake, which can be so many different things while still being the same thing - actually I guess that’s tied to, what did you call it, thermodynamic...?”

“Phase,” Tara said, taking Willow’s hand without realising it as they leaned closer to one another. “Where physical properties are uniform across a region of a thermodynamic system - so a phase transition, which I think is like what you were saying about transformation-”

On the stage Rupert and Janna continued proclaiming, at the tops of their voices, the superiority of their preferred fields of study, blissfully oblivious to their respective creations becoming enthralled in one another as the evening wore on.


Image

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Sunnyvania'
PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:14 pm 
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Awe. Some.

That is all.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Sunnyvania'
PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:18 pm 
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Excellent as usual! Nice how you changed Tara to be the manifestation of science and Willow be the manifestation of magic.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Sunnyvania'
PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:06 am 
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Chris, Chris, Chris.

We are blessed to have you in this fandom and on this board. You wield these universes so well, showing us such wonderful and full snapshot, like glimpsing into a snowglobe and knowing there's a little world inside ticking away. Your site tagline 'A Willow and Tara for every world' always stayed with me and helped me through the hard arc in the show, knowing there were so many worlds where they were safe and sound and happy. You popping up with all of these wonderful ficlets and broadening their happiness just makes me so...

:heart

Thank you.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Sunnyvania'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:56 am 
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Thanks everyone :grin Well, that was the story idea I'd had in my head as maybe something to do for Halloween, so now I have to think up something else - lucky there's still time.

Probably unsurprisingly, I did at first imagine them the other way around - Tara magic, Willow science, with this vague kind of idea that they'd be created with different names, and take their real names and start building their true identities by encountering each other (Tara naming herself from the initials on Willow's CPU, Willow naming herself after Tara's willow tree hair - I hadn't figured out both of them but Willow would have been called Mathematica up to that point). Seemed a bit awkward though, and deciding to do this quickly as a Friday 13th thing (it didn't occur to me it was coming up until the evening before) I ended up making it simpler, and the story overall lighter and funnier. I kind of like it that way, that the thing they're most passionate about isn't built into them, it's each other.

Laragh wrote:
We are blessed to have you in this fandom and on this board.

Aw :blush Honestly, without the board there's no way I'd be doing this, so the credit needs to be shared around a lot.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Sunnyvania'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:26 am 
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@Chris Well I love you.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Sunnyvania'
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:54 pm 
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Paint


Author: Chris Cook
Email: alia@netspace.net.au
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy.
Notes: So this is what I came up with for Halloween - unrevised, unbeta'ed, unrehearsed, but on time, so that's something right? Enjoy :wtkiss

*****


“Could’ve been an alchemist,” Willow muttered to herself, “but nooo. Had to aim high, be an enchantress. Now look at where we are.”

She trudged onwards along the path, keeping her gaze fixed on the solitary house up ahead, and holding her staff tight to keep her hands from shaking. There was nothing else nearby - no place to hide among the grey, leafless trees that stretched off into the mist - but still, she couldn’t force away the feeling that something was behind her, and no matter how many times she stopped, looking in every direction and listening for any sound in the silence, the feeling persisted. The nearer she came to the house, the harder it was not to break into a run for it - for something solid, anything, to put her back to.

At least the villagers were right, this is real, she consoled herself. Can’t be an enchantress if you never break an actual haunting. She was by no means fearless, but she knew the difference between common anxiety and the real presence in the woods around her. The spectres her imagination conjured stalking her in her wake may not have been real, but the pressure behind them was, and it wasn’t coming from her own mind.

At last she reached the end of the path - glancing back as she stepped onto the porch, and of course seeing the way behind her still and silent as she knew it had been all along - and tested the door. It was closed from the inside, but a whispered incantation lifted the simple latch, and with a creak it swung open to admit her. The dim interior was by no means welcoming, but it felt good to close the door behind her.

“Alrighty,” she said in a hushed voice, dropping her heavy travelling pack to the floor and rummaging in her satchel for candles. “Let’s see what we can see.”

Placed about the room, the candles’ light - and the blessings in their wax - helped Willow feel more at ease, and she set about studying her surroundings much as she had used to approach exercises at the Great School, putting aside for the moment thoughts of the nebulous presence outside the walls. It was obvious nobody had lived here for a very long time - dust caked every flat surface, even the shards of glass on the floor, where one of the windows had been broken. The stone hearth was long cold, the mantle bare, the shelves of the wooden cupboards collapsed to the floor as the years had worn them down. Nothing of the least value remained, no plates or spoons or pots, nothing adorning the walls, no furniture that wasn’t broken and lying forlorn where it had fallen. Willow imagined how it might have been - boys and girls daring each other to venture into the local haunted house, during the bright of midday when its foreboding would be weakest, poking some branch or stick through the warped old door frame to lift the latch, and ‘escaping’ with some mundane trophy or other... long before nightfall. The remains of leaves were scattered about the floor, and she guessed there had been many days when the house remained open to the elements, until some chance gust had blown the door closed again. Even the days of fearful bold children venturing out here seemed long gone. Willow wondered how long since anyone had actually lived here - since whatever violence had created the spirit that plagued the place. Perhaps centuries; the village magister had told her the house had been haunted since his grandmother’s day, and nobody knew how or why. Maybe, she mused, even the presence outside didn’t remember how it had come to be.

There was what might have been a bedroom, separated from the rest of the house by a door that had wedged just a few inches open from the wood slowly warping, leaving just enough space for Willow to squeeze through, leaving her long coat outside and holding her satchel in one hand. The one window was too crusted over with dirt and age to admit any real light, and it was only Willow lit a candle and looked up from placing it on the floor that she saw the last thing she would ever have expected in such a forlorn place. Amid the dust and age, one wall was a splash of vivid colour - a painted mural, so lifelike it seemed but for the grain of the wood and the slim gaps between planks to be a portal into some other world, where the sun shone bright and the wind was a gentle caress through the leaves, not the fitful zephyrs that tugged the bare branches outside. Sitting on a smooth rock, gazing peacefully at the storybook landscape, was a woman, her naked form glowing in the sun, her face turned towards the distant horizon hidden by a curtain of honey gold hair.

Willow approached the mural and gazed at it and into it, letting her eyes slowly move across the bright, perfect detail somehow surviving on the old and weathered wall, as if it had been painted just a day ago. And by a master, too - even the irregular grain of the wood that bore it seemed to work in its favour, the faint ridges of growth from the tree that had born it settling into natural contours in the painted scene, as if they were always meant to be together.

“You’re magic,” Willow whispered, gazing into the painting. Her eyes travelled across the figure’s bare back, and she blushed slightly, then muttered “I’m being professional,” and kept her gaze fixed. Studying for an enchantress’s commission didn’t leave a lot of time for social pursuits; some of the students snuck out of the Great School after curfew to steal an hour or two with boyfriends and girlfriends, but Willow had focused on her work, and there hadn’t been anyone she had been desperate to see anyway. Still, though, she had imagined. There was far more to the painting though - a sense of peace, a warmth that promised that, whatever life brought, all hurts would be healed, and tomorrow would always hold hope. Something more than a skilled hand had created this, and was still sustaining it, all while the house around it slowly succumbed to time.

A branch banged on the roof in a sudden gust, and Willow swore as she saw the sky beyond the grime-streaked window was dark. Quickly she snatched up her satchel and squeezed back through the door into the main room, cursing at being so careless as to be distracted, and let night fall without having made any preparations of substance. Away from the mural’s comfort she could already sense the tendrils of fear from the unknown outside, tempting her to check every corner for an intruder, every window for a face looking in. She knew there wouldn’t be anything so overt - a centuries-old haunting wouldn’t muster a flesh-and-blood monster - but now the sun had set and it was gaining strength, she needed to be on her guard for the mental assaults that would try to make her question her convictions, fear for her safety, hide instead of confront, everything that would scuttle any attempt to break the haunting itself.

“I’m safe,” she muttered to herself, glancing quickly down at the protective pendant hanging from her neck, and the faint sigils sewn into her dress, and the coat she snatched off the floor and tugged on. Trying not to let her hands shake she found a vial of coloured sand in her bag and carefully tipped it into a circle on the floor. For a moment she considered simply sitting inside and waiting out the nameless panic she could feel trying to insinuate itself into her thoughts - she had rested during the day, and had time to work with before she grew tired again. The spirit wasn’t that strong, it would tire before she did. But annoyed at herself for delaying already, she pressed on with her ritual, walking the perimeter of the room, touching the walls and windows, feeling the slight tug on her mind as her own spell began to permeate the structure, and insulate it from the threat outside.

For a second, as she passed a window, she caught sight of a distant figure standing by a dead tree, waiting.

She swallowed and pressed on, reciting calming passages under her breath as she worked, trying not to snatch her hand away from the wall each time she touched it. Her vision seemed to be narrowing, and she told herself not to be distracted by it; this was a real experience, not something in training, but - she whispered - that didn’t make it more powerful than it was, only more than she had felt before. She knew she was ready.

The door - by necessity the last thing she had to touch - creaked and moved under her hand, and her eyes darted down to see the latch undone. Had she left it open? She couldn’t have - could she? She pushed the door closed, sighed as the latch slid back over its catch, locked, and-

Something crashed against the door, Willow screamed and bolted for the safety of the other room. The stuck door wouldn’t close but she braced herself against the wall and managed to shove it a few inches further before sinking down to rest against it, taking deep, steadying breaths. There was no other sound - no wind, no branches creaking, nothing moving outside.

“Got scared,” she told herself fiercely. “That’s all, could have happened to anyone. Doesn’t mean you’re in danger, it was just a little trick to scare you, and it worked, but that’s all it was.” She nodded to herself. “Still going to do this.” The candlelight from the main room still shone in a strip across the floor, brighter than the single flame lighting the bedroom, and when she risked a glance through the crack of the door, the circle was unbroken, and the front door latched closed.

She rested for a moment with her hands in her lap, and then, turning them over, noticed a smudge of paint on one fingertip, and glanced up at the wall where she must have touched it.

“Oops, sorry,” she whispered without thinking, then frowned in puzzlement. Experimentally she reached out, as she had done when she had pushed to close the door, but nowhere on the edge of the mural where she must have touched it could she see a smudge from her finger. Inwardly glad of the distraction she looked back at her fingertip - green/blue, the shade of the leaves meeting the sky, but the edge of the forest painted on the wall was pristine. Her eyes moved further afield, across from where she had, or hadn’t, touched, eventually reaching the seated figure who-

Was half-turned, no longer staring away at the horizon. The edge of her face was almost visible through her hair, her shoulders had turned, her ...yup that’s a visible boob, would have noticed that before, Willow realised, reddening. Warily she leaned closer, alert for the slightest motion - but there was nothing, just paint on wood.

“Are you something to do with that?” she whispered, glancing over her shoulder at the door. She mulled over the possibility, thinking back on how easily she had lost track of time and endangered herself (no stop thinking that, I’m not in danger here, it can only scare, nothing else). A lure? But she dismissed the possibility - she was no seeress, but she had studied hard, she could tell the difference between real and unreal, even when the unreal was pushing on the boundary between the two. The scene was beautiful, and it was real beauty, the kind that never took, only gave - not an imitation designed to fool the unwary.

Frowning in thought, trying to remember details of obscure lore read in books once years ago, Willow looked from the painted figure to her hand and back, and slowly raised her fingers to touch, ever so softly, the grass beneath the rock the woman sat on. Just for a second - and just for a second she moved, so that when Willow drew her hand back and everything was still, she could now see the edge of a gaze staring back at her. She glanced down at her hand - paint on all five fingertips now - then back up, and realised the woman was still moving, but ever so slowly, her full lips starting to part.

“A-are you...?” she began to ask, then swallowed, and let her hand touch the painting again. The woman’s barely-perceptible turn became real again, and before Willow’s startled eyes she turned fully to face her, stood, and walked forward until she seemed to be standing on just the other side of the wall, looking out of the painting at Willow just as Willow was looking in.

“Can you... hear me?” Willow wondered, and the woman slowly raised her hand to touch her fingertips to her side of the barrier between them, matching Willow’s - to touch her. Willow gasped as she felt warmth, life coursing through the connection, up her wrist and arm to swirl through her body, making her legs tremble with the unexpected vitality, and how intimately it caressed her.

“Are you alright?” she heard, as she half-stumbled, and by instinct she nodded.

“Yes,” she said, straightening back up. “Yes, just... I wasn’t ready. For the contact, for... you.” She gazed in awe at the living image in front of her. “Who are you?”

“...I don’t remember,” the woman said, after a pause in which fear seemed to flicker behind her eyes. “I don’t... everything is fuzzy, like... I’m asleep, or... Who are you? Where are you?”

“I’m, I’m in a house,” Willow said quickly. “An old house - haunted.”

“Haunted?” the woman asked, worry creasing her brow.

“It’s okay, I’m an enchantress,” Willow insisted. “I came here - on purpose, I mean - I’m here to fix it. Stop the haunting.”

“No,” the woman said, shaking her head in rising panic, “no you have to go! She- There’s... I can’t remember, why can’t I remember? There’s something, a... she, a thing, person, she’s out there and you’re in danger, please, go!”

“I’m not in danger,” Willow said, hoping her voice sounded as certain as she wanted to be. “I promise. I’m protected - my clothes, and I’ve done a ritual, the house is safe, I’m okay. It’s okay, nothing’s going to happen, okay? She, whatever she is, she can’t get in.”

“You’re safe?” the woman asked, caught between hope and doubt.

“I’m Willow,” Willow said, hoping that would be taken for reassurance.

“Willow,” the woman said. “I’m... I can’t, my name... I had a name but it’s, it’s gone.”

“It’s okay,” Willow said, trying to sound soothing. “It’s okay, you’re... um well, you’re in a painting, so things are probably going to seem a bit weird, but... I think you’re okay? Nothing seems wrong I mean, so, yeah.”

“Painting,” the woman echoed. “I... I remember paint. Colours and, and imagination. But there’s...” She closed her eyes, then shook her head and looked at Willow again. “I feel like I should be able to remember things, but I can’t. Just the sense of... empty space, but it isn’t meant to be that way. A-are you alright though? When we touched, you... it seemed...”

“I’m okay, promise,” Willow nodded. “I’ve just never... whatever this is, it’s not something I’ve ever seen before, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was uh...” She trailed off, looked away from the woman’s eyes, found herself looking down, blushed, and quickly looked to the side.

“We touched,” the woman said, slowly, as if the thought was only gradually forming.

“Yeah we sure did,” Willow agreed, grinning in spite of her embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“No! No it’s not- nothing’s wrong,” Willow said. “I’m... no harm done. Not even, on the same spectrum as harm, it was actually... I mean I guess no sense being coy, it felt - is it awkward, for you, that I felt that from you? - it was great.” She risked a glance at the woman, and found her staring, surprised, but slowly smiling in return.

“I felt it too,” she said softly. “It was... I’m glad, we... we felt, we connected.” She swallowed, and then her voice was a little more resolute. “You’re an enchantress? A magic user?”

“Uh-huh, schooled and mentored,” Willow replied automatically. “I mean... in a sense I’m kind of still in training, only, trained enough to be out on my own, doing this.”

“Dealing with hauntings?”

“Yep, facing all the... whatever goes bump in the night, and stuff. Settling it down so, no more bumps.”

“This is what you do?” the woman asked. “What you want to do, come to places like... here, haunted places?”

“That’s what enchantresses do,” Willow nodded. “I mean part of it - there’s a lot of possibilities - but a major part. A haunting is, well, it’s something not at peace - something in the world that’s hurting. We, enchantresses, we go where there’s hurt, and heal it. That’s really the heart of it. Lots of ways, but haunting, demonstrating I can handle this kind of magic encounter, it’s kind of a milestone.”

“You’re brave,” the woman said admiringly.

“I, kind of, I’m trying?” Willow admitted. “I mean... someone’s got to fix what’s happening, and I’ve got the know-how, so better me than someone else right?”

“You can fix it?” the woman asked. “Face the... her?”

“I can try,” Willow nodded. “Can you remember anything about her? I know there are gaps, but anything - even a tiny thing - just knowing what’s going on and why, what made this place the way it is, that’s going to be the key to it all.”

“I... I remember,” the woman said, frowning with effort. “Fear. And, helplessness? Not being trapped, exactly, but... like, wanting to do something, anything, but- This sense that, that everything’s spiralling, down, and there’s no way to stop it, to make things right.” She looked at Willow, and something in her gaze was imploring. “I remember not understanding why. Just... being alone, and afraid.”

“You’re not alone,” Willow promised. “Not now. And I’ll find a way to stop her, I will, and then undo whatever got you in there in the first place, if it was her or something else. There won’t be anything to be afraid of. Can you, if I go look out for a moment - I mean, stop touching the painting - is that alright?”

“I think so,” the woman said, biting her lip.

“I’ll only be a moment. I just, honestly, I’m feeling kind of confident at the moment, and that’s the best time to do something like this - and it’s what I need to do. Face the ghost, or whatever she is, see what she is and start to figure out what will dispel her, and make everything okay.”

“Be... be careful?”

“I will,” Willow said. She took a deep breath, then stepped back, and watched as the woman’s image slowed again - still moving, and not quite so slowly as before, but out of keeping with time. Willow moved back to the door, pushed it open enough to slip through, and at the last looked back, to see the woman’s head turning, slowly, to follow her.

The smile that she gave in reply without conscious effort remained as she crossed back to the magic circle in the main room, and only then became a determined frown. Moving her hands in well-learned gestures and whispering under her breath, she raised her arms as if lifting, and a ghostly echo of the circle rose from the floor and hovered around her, following as she walked slowly towards the door and, with a deep breath, opened it.

“I’m not afraid,” she said, with conviction, as the door creaked open, and she stepped into the dark beyond. The candles behind her lit the porch enough for her to take the steps to the ground, and after a few more paces she paused, on the edge where the glimmer of light vanished completely into the night. A few stars shone above, keeping the surrounding mist just on the edge of grey rather than pitch black, and the nearest trees were visible as dead silhouettes.

“I’m not afraid,” she repeated, louder. “So come out, let’s see what you are.”

Something moved on the edge of her vision, and she clenched her fists to keep from turning to watch it. Again the flicker of motion, on the other side, and then the mist seemed to stir, closer now, as if something unseen was passing through it, leaving zephyrs in its wake.

“Come on,” Willow said. “Give me your best shot. I’m...”

She trailed off, and peered at something in the mist - not a form hidden by it, but a pattern within it, the random trails and clouds seeming to drift into the image of something. She whispered another spell, enhancing her sight, and peered at the slowly forming shadows - two of them, vaguely circular, and then another, below them, growing.

“No,” she murmured to herself in thought. Not growing - opening - a mouth. And above it, eyes, eye sockets hidden in shadow. A face, slowly becoming in front of her eyes. She braced herself as the shine of moonlight on the forehead and cheekbones appeared, ready for a sudden sound or a rush towards her, anything to startle her, but the face remained still, watching her - not shouting or wailing, as she had read of haunts doing, but... yearning. And almost familiar...

So entranced was she with the face, the sudden tug on her fingers took her by surprise, and she snatched her hand back and whirled around, just quickly enough to see the outline of a body in the mist next to her vanish into immateriality, dispersed by the gust of her motion. In the split second it took her to look ahead again the face had vanished, and she was left alone in the dark, staring around herself, and then, at last, at her hand.

“How’d you touch me?” she asked, startling herself with her voice, loud in the total silence. “That’s not... you couldn’t have gotten into my head like that, not to fake a touch, not through the runes and sigils and, and I wasn’t even scared really, how-” She stopped, her mouth hanging open as her thoughts derailed the sentence and rushed on ahead, until finally she slapped her forehead and dashed back into the house.

“I’m such an idiot!” she said as she rushed back into the room with the painting, sounding halfway between scorn and elation. Skidding to a halt she pressed her hand to the wall, feeling the enchanted paint move under her palm, feeling the intoxicating surge of connection even before the woman touched her own painted hand to Willow’s.

“You’re alright?” she asked at once.

“Fine, I’m fine,” Willow said in a rush, “but I think I’ve got it, the, the ghost - only I don’t think- She touched me, my hand, which shouldn’t be but I think the paint- sorry, I need to slow down,” she said, grinning sheepishly as the woman frowned at her in incomprehension.

“I need you to try to remember,” she went on, “please - if you can, just anything you can. I know it’s difficult, but - you knew about her, out there, you warned me about her. But the fear you remember - was it her you were afraid of, or something else? Someone else?”

“She’s...” the woman began, and hesitated. “I feel... fearful of her, but, I think... I don’t remember fearing her. When I try to think about it she... she doesn’t fit, somehow?”

“You were afraid of something else?” Willow prompted.

“Not... one thing,” the woman said slowly. “Just... fear. Oppressive, like... nowhere to turn, it would be the same everywhere. Closing in.”

“I think I know how I can heal this,” Willow said. “If I’m right - this is asking a lot, but, trust me? Give me your hand.”

“My... how?”

“You’re not just the, the image here, the picture of a person,” Willow explained. “I think all of this, the whole painting, is you, and a part of you was still with me - the paint on my hand - outside. I think you can come with me. Can you try?” The woman stared at her for a long, thoughtful moment, then nodded.

“I’ll try,” she said. Her hand in the painting pressed against its side of the wall, against Willow’s hand. For a moment there was nothing, then the colours bloomed outward, the woman’s fingers emerging, lacing between Willow’s and clasping around her hand - and then flowing over it, up her arm, and the entire landscape was becoming liquid, a swirl of colours, leaving bare wood in its wake as it coalesced around Willow’s hand and spread over her body.

Gods,” Willow gasped, her heart thundering as the woman surged into her - not just covering her, but permeating her, filling her with the sensation of another existence, another heartbeat echoing her own, other lungs drawing in air, other eyes seeing through hers. As the last of the paint vanished from the wall it was as if a tether holding her in place let go, and she caught herself on shaking hands as she sank to the floor, trying to think through the intoxicating bombardment of sensations.

“Are you alright?” she heard herself say - but not her voice, and the mouth she felt move wasn’t exactly hers, even though it was. She nodded - again the strange sensation that she nodded but her head at the same time didn’t move - and slowly got to her feet, leaning against the doorframe to get her bearings.

“We’re together,” she managed to say, staring in wonder at her arm, where instead of her usual pale skin tone she was now the blues and greens of the forest landscape, and the texture of brushstrokes in the paint, but within her, not covering her. Slowly she moved her hand, and watched in awe as the colours that were part of her moved too, but not quite at the same pace, two forms occupying the same space, echoing each other.

“I feel it too,” the woman said through her, and she recognised the heaviness in the voice, as if she was on the verge of sobbing at the sheer weight of feelings within her.

“What do we do?” the woman asked, after a moment in which she seemed to gather herself.

“We find her,” Willow said. “We show her that there’s... there’s nothing to be afraid of.” She looked down at her body - the vivid colours, including the woman’s skin, covering her entirely - shrugged off her coat, and began to undo the laces on her dress.

“I was doing it all wrong,” she said as she disrobed, trying not to be distracted - because Gods she was on the verge already - by how the woman’s colours covered her, everywhere, underneath. “Thought I was protected, but all this is to ward off malevolence, that’s not what’s happening here. Wearing this shows her I’m afraid, of her - that’s the problem, that’s what she’s afraid of. I think, what you were afraid of. People fearing you, and there’s no way to calm them, nothing you can say or do, and because they’re afraid, they lash out, and, and you hid. But she didn’t, she... she’s the part that didn’t hide, the part that wanted to protect herself, yourself.”

She slid off her boots at last, and took a deep breath, naked but untroubled by the cold night air, feeling like her skin was radiating heat.

“She’s me?” Willow heard herself say, and nodded.

“That’s why she could touch me,” she said. “The paint, the part of you on my hand - it’s part of her too. Now you’re here, and there’s no armour, nothing to make her think she’s threatened, I’m hoping... well... I’m kind of making this up as I go, but I hope she... she won’t be afraid, and something good can happen.”

“I trust you,” the woman said through her. Willow sighed, and then stilled as she saw the echo of something in the mist.

“I think maybe so does she,” she said. Again there was the suggestion of a face, in shadow - not scowling, but sombre, pale cheeks catching the moonlight as if they were streaked with tears - and then it dissipated, but slowly, not recoiling in flight, but changing. Willow heard the slightest sound behind her, like the ghost of footsteps on the dry leaves, and let out a shuddering breath as she sensed a presence nearing her.

“It’s alright now,” she said out loud. “I’m here to help.”

Something touched her then, on her hip, and then the other - fingertips on her skin. Willow looked slowly down to see two hands slowly encircling her waist, so pale as to be almost white, starkly colourless against the mural of vibrancy her own skin had become. The hands were touching her so lightly - hesitant, she realised, ready to dart away at any moment, any hint of threat - but while they stiffened for a moment when her own hands slowly moved to cover them, they didn’t withdraw.

“No more fear,” Willow and the woman said together, pressing the hands gently to her stomach, and feeling something else press against her back, slowly embracing her, and letting out a long-held sigh of relief.

“I remember,” the woman said, and with her another voice, just beneath Willow’s ear as something nestled against her shoulder. “I... I, I can... if you trust me...?”

“Trust you,” Willow whispered, closing her eyes, and feeling her lips move with the ‘thank you’ that wasn’t said out loud. The sensations behind her were solidifying, familiar now - the woman hugging her, holding her, pressed against her back, her legs touching Willow’s, and then she stepped forward and through Willow and-

scattered thoughts of warmth and contentment and peace, in a dream

-and Willow blinked blearily, opened her eyes, and squinted at the bright sunlight bathing her as she and another person lay, cuddled together, in the grass in front of the old house. The woman stirred, she too realising where they were and how close, and together they sat up, disentangling from one another, but neither of them especially hurrying to do so.

“Willow?” the woman said, meeting her gaze - exactly as beautiful as she had been in the painting, but alive and whole and (kind of naked still Willow realised and quickly pushed the thought away, lest bringing it up cause her to say something to change that particular situation).

“Y-yup?” she said, finding her voice. “Present and accounted for, all good. Are, are you...?”

“Tara,” the woman said. “I remember it all now - my name is Tara.”

“Tara,” Willow smiled. Tara smiled back, for a long moment, then looked around.

“There was a... a movement, a cult,” she said, swallowing. “They said witches were evil. People listened to them, and...” She sighed and shook her head.

“I saw ruins back near in the village,” Willow spoke up. “A temple - the Lighted Path. That’s what they used to call themselves. There’s no more now, they, um. I read about them. They built into a crusade, eventually, but... it’s all over, gone. Hundreds of years ago.”

“Hundreds,” Tara whispered.

“I’m sorry,” Willow said, hesitating on reaching for her, but only for a moment before her hands settled on Tara’s shoulders and gently pulled her into a hug.

“I... I was alone,” Tara said at last, after a quiet sob had passed. “There was nobody who... some of the villagers left - fled - and the others, they, they went along with the speeches, and the... the hate.”

“It’s over now,” Willow promised. “No more. Not that the world’s nothing but peace and sunbeams, but nobody’s going around preaching hate like the Lighted Path used to, saying people are evil just because they’ve got some magic to them. I mean, look at me, I travel around doing magic, and people are glad to see me. If they don’t mind that I talk a lot.” Tara laughed softly.

“I think, I don’t mind that at all,” she said.

“Tell that to a couple of the mages who tutored me,” Willow grinned. “But um, there’s, I bet the people in the village would be glad now, to have a witch nearby. I know this is, this must be a lot to process - I’ll stay, if you’d like, to help you, get used to... to y’know, being back, and...”

“Not being a painting,” Tara chuckled. “I’d like that... but maybe, I could...”

“What?” Willow prompted when she fell silent.

“It’s a long time since I lived here,” Tara said, glancing at the old house, worn down by so many years. “If you didn’t mind, I could, come with you? Instead of staying here? Maybe find somewhere else, something new, or...”

“I mean, yeah, yes,” Willow nodded, smiling and trying not to focus too much on the possibility of ‘or...’ You two just went through something very intense together, and it’s natural to, well, you and she, that was... you know what actually, let’s not ruin this by analysing it. “I’ve, I’ve got some spare clothes in my pack, and we can get something proper in the village and then... I’d like the company, that would be great. And your magic - I mean, I’m sure we could teach each other a lot, maybe if you wanted you could help, when we find something that needs doing, as well?”

“Healing whatever’s hurt?” Tara said. “That’s... that sounds a good way to live. Willow?”

“Yup?”

“Thank you? For, for healing me.” Tara took a deep breath. “When I... I tried to hide the part of myself that wanted to be left alone, that didn’t want to fight back... but that left the part that did.” She looked down, wringing her hands together in her lap. “I was what they thought - something to be feared.”

“Hey, no,” Willow insisted. “I... Everyone’s got, got light and dark in them. You didn’t want to hurt anyone. And... that world I saw in there, the painting, that was beautiful, and that was you too. That’s still you.”

Tara found Willow’s hand, and held it softly.

“I don’t think I can say thank you enough to you,” she said with a faint smile.

“You don’t have to say it at all,” Willow replied, “but you’re welcome.” There was a soft silence between them, which Tara finally broke.

“Uh we, we should...” she murmured, glancing at the house.

“Hm? Oh right,” Willow grinned. “Yeah up and, clothes, and stuff.”

“Clothes and stuff,” Tara agreed, and Willow told herself it was her imagination that Tara sounded a little reluctant on that score. She got to her feet and gave Tara a hand up, biting her lip as the woman straightened up in front of her, with nothing obstructing her view if she peeked, I’m not checking, maybe she peeked.

“O-oh,” Tara said suddenly, surprised, as Willow was distracted noticing her nipples weren’t exactly soft. Willow looked at her and saw her looking down at her, and followed her gaze.

“That must have been... left over,” Tara said, lightly touching Willow’s hip, where there seemed to be a streak of paint - under her skin, within her, a single brush stroke of vibrant blue, the colour of the sky, or Tara’s eyes.

“I can fix that,” Tara said quickly. “I didn’t mean for...”

“Actually- y’know, maybe wait on that,” Willow said, tilting her hip to get a better look at herself.

“Wait?”

“I, uh... what we did,” Willow said, blushing, “what we shared, your magic - you - being... with me? That was the most...” She trailed off unable to find the words, then smiled.

“Well, then,” Tara said hesitantly, her lips turning up slightly, “if you want to look at it as a gift...?”

“Suits me don’t you think?” Willow grinned impishly, and Tara giggled.

“I can teach you,” she offered. “If you want?”

“I do.”

They looked at one another for a moment, then by unspoken agreement turned and walked back towards the old house, hand in hand.

*****

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:10 am 
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Cool!

Like, what Dreams May Come, but without as much sadness.

Sweet.
Good story :)

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:13 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness...

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:13 pm 
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Artemis,....I needed to add my "two cents" here. AND, since I'm self-employed I don't have much more than that!!! But I must let you know that I have loved these stories; excellent writing and just great all around W & T goodness. This last one, "Paint" was very touching, sweet and yet so totally Willow & tara. Great job,....keep it up.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:42 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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That was AMAZING!

I hope that's a world you decide to revisit someday because it's just so ripe full of possibilities. That's the kinda world I'm gonna make own stories up in my head when i need to cheer myself up. I love the idea of Tara teaching Willow magic while Willow teaches her about the more modern world.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:13 pm 
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Thanks everyone :grin

Funny story about this, it started out very different in tone - the original idea was to do a horror/thriller/dark fantasy story with Willow searching for Tara in some kind of literal hellish underworld, stalked by a terrifying monster, and it turns out the monster is Tara (having been driven to turn herself into that as basically the only way to escape her father), and Willow managing to get her to rediscover her humanity. Sort of Hellraiser-ish, although not specifically the BDSM costume shop aspect of it (although 'monster Tara' would have been some kind of unearthly-scary version of her, not just claws and fangs). I'd had that idea and kept it on the back burner for months, since a) I guess I didn't really want to put Tara through the wringer like that, and b) the initial motivation of her being trapped with her family and resorting to being a monster to free herself seemed like it was copying Shadow and Sunlight, and I wanted to see if I could think up something more original.

(That did provide the idea of the painting though - the vague idea for the start of the story would be Willow investigating the decades-old disappearance of Tara and her father (an unsolved mystery because there was no evidence at all of what actually happened - since it was Tara vanishing into a magic portal, then coming out as demon!Tara and dragging her father off to hell, and good riddance to him, and this would be set in the real world so nobody would suspect anything like that), and the reason Willow was doing so, to the point of obsession, was that Tara had left all these beautiful paintings - nothing magical specifically about the paintings, just that they would be the basis for Willow's faith in Tara's humanity, even in the face of demon!Tara.)

So I kind of put the idea aside as not really coming together the way I wanted it to, until I went and impulsively used my Clockwork Girl-inspired idea for the Friday 13th fic, and had to think of something else for Halloween, and this was what was sitting on the metaphorical shelf when I went to see what I had in stock. I can't recall exactly where the idea came from to switch it from Hellraiser Demon!Tara to Haunted House Ghost!Tara, but that was kind of the key to it, lightening it enough that I thought it'd work as a short story. (For clarification, the ghost side of Tara never actually hurt anyone, even when she was first 'created', just scared the willies out of people.) I think there was kind of a glimmer of the original Hellraiser-inspired thing in Willow using her body as a kind of conduit to bring Tara back into the real world and reunite her with her 'ghost' side - none of the sadomasochism stuff obviously, but Hellraiser's all about actual physical stuff, not intangible magic, and I think that was kind of in the back of my mind, just subtract the hooks and chains and add body paint sexiness. So it ended up as this weird haunted house, kind-of scary, somewhat fairy tale-ish but also sexy mishmash, which actually turned out to be a fun mixture. Glad you all liked it.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:22 pm 
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LOVED reading your background to this.

Hey, I'm gay, I like a good processing.

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'Paint'
PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:46 am 
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There isn't really very much background to this one - just that it's November 7, aka N7 Day, a day for Mass Effect fans, so I whipped up a teensy little ficlet to mark the occasion. Joss Whedon et al own Buffy as usual, EA owns Mass Effect, and this is what Tara's wearing, improbable as that may seem.

Image

“Games, games,” Willow muttered, navigating the crowded aisles of Sunnydale Comic-Con, “right area, just where is- there it is!”

“And she’s off,” Xander chuckled, following Willow as she took off towards a particularly lavish stand decorated with all manner of sleek spacecraft and exotic aliens. A crowd was slowly gathering in front of the screens showing gameplay videos, and waiting on the countdown clock promising further entertainment shortly, but an attendant watching the door to the backstage area nodded at Willow’s flourished pass, waited as she excitedly waved Xander over, and let them through.

“Hey Tara,” Xander said, grinning at the sight of Willow struck speechless. “How’s being blue?”

“Hi,” she smiled back. “I wasn’t sure you’d get in in time, they said there’s quite a queue outside the venue?”

“Yeah, bit crazy out there,” he nodded. “Buffy held a spot for us, she got in early for the SMG autograph line, you know how she is.” Tara laughed, and looked again at Willow.

“Sweetie?” she prompted.

“You look amazing!” Willow blurted out. She took another step forward, and Tara grinned and struck a pose as her girlfriend’s eyes travelled all over her, taking in the sight of her transformed into an asari Justicar.

“Thanks,” Tara said, ducking her head; Xander guessed there would be a faint blush on her cheeks were it not for the blue facepaint. “Quite a step up from homemade?”

“I mean- seriously, your costumes are great,” Willow insisted. “It’s just, this is so, wow, armour and... is it metal? Can I...?”

“Carbon fibre, or something,” Tara shrugged, turning slightly for Willow to feel the texture of her shoulder plates. “I didn’t get all the details - plus a great paint job. And look!” She held up a hand, which suddenly glowed blue.

“Biotic goddess,” she smirked.

“That’s seriously cool,” Xander nodded.

“Wow, how does it- Oh wow,” Willow whispered, studying Tara’s gloved hand up close. “Fibre optics and, what, the lights are down around the wrist?”

“Uh-huh,” Tara showed her. “There’s a button in the palm to switch them on and off.”

“It’s gonna be a great show,” Xander put in. “Speaking of which, I should go hunt down Buffy, she’ll have her signed Blurays by now. Catch you later.”

“Thanks for coming, see you outside,” Tara smiled as he nodded and left.

“Now we’re alone,” she grinned, gently nudging Willow into a quiet corner, out of sight of where the other booth attendants were doing pre-show checks of their laptops, “tell me... sexy?”

“Like you could ever not be,” Willow laughed softly. “I don’t suppose you get to keep the suit...?”

“No such luck,” Tara said with a rueful shake of her head. Willow gave a quick frown for show, then smiled.

“Well that’s okay. They can keep the Justicar armour, so long as I can keep the Tara.”

“Everyone wins,” Tara agreed, leaning close, then blinking and taking a breath. “Sorry - have to remember, no smudging the makeup with kisses.”

“Aw, pout,” Willow protested.

“And you’re not making it easy,” Tara pointed out, cupping Willow’s face in a gloved hand and touching her lips with the tip of her thumb.

“What’d I do? I’m the soul of decorum, I’ll have you know.”

“Uh-huh,” Tara agreed, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Like, last time I had body paint on?”

“Oh no, no fair reminding me of that right after instituting a no-kiss rule!” Willow complained. “So is it all day, or...?”

“I’ve got a lunch break after the morning show,” Tara said. “And a touch-up before the afternoon appearance anyway, so if my lips just happen to get smudged-”

“Smudge you senseless,” Willow chuckled.

“-I won’t tell the makeup lady how it happened.”

“Everyone wins,” Willow echoed her. “I mean, I’m genuinely, it’s a really great job, I don’t want to mess it up.” Tara tilted her head this way and that, letting Willow examine the soft shades of sky blue fading into cyan across her face, and the prosthetic alien scalp covering her hair.

“And you’ll probably get mobbed out there if the audience sees you with a blue palm, and me with a handprint on my cleavage,” Tara pointed out, squaring her shoulders to draw Willow’s gaze down.

“Heh, that’s a point... wow,” Willow murmured. “The makeup lady did...?”

“Just airbrushing down the middle,” Tara smiled. “And she was very professional.” Willow grinned, slightly bashful, and Tara chuckled and lightly poked her nose.

“C’mere,” she murmured, taking Willow’s chin and guiding her closer.

“The makeup...?” Willow pointed out, sounding very reluctant to be bringing it up, and not resisting Tara in the slightest.

“Softly,” Tara said, very gently touching her lips to Willow’s.

“Hm-mmm,” Willow purred, savouring the moment. When they finally parted she glanced down at Tara’s lips.

“Still perfect,” she confirmed. “Also so’s the makeup.”

“You’ve got a bit of blue on you,” Tara chuckled, touching Willow’s lip where a tiny smudge of her lipstick had coloured it.

“Tempted to keep it,” Willow said, biting her lip playfully, before pulling up the edge of her sleeve and rubbing the colour away. Tara smiled, then glanced over Willow’s shoulder, noticing the other attendants and the stage host getting ready to start the PR event.

“You’ll be great,” Willow said, giving her a quick hug, careful of her faux-armour. “You are great.”

“Love you,” Tara whispered.

“You too, biotic goddess,” Willow murmured.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'N7 Day'
PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:11 am 
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8. Vixen
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Excellent!

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring 'N7 Day'
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:27 pm 
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I'm really enjoying these little vignettes. Please keep them coming!

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