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

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 26th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: R

Chapter 34



India

(Part 1)



Give Me What You Alone Can Give
A Kiss To Build A Dream On



“Is it bad that the first thing we bought when we get to Delhi is a bunch of American candy?”


Willow watched Tara roll her lollipop over her tongue and decided she’d answered her own question with a definite HECK NO.


The raid on the international candy cart had been well worth it.


Tara popped the candy out of her mouth and twirled the stick. The fellow travelers in the minibus from the airport were all jaded and half-asleep but they didn’t have the benefit of a sugar rush.


“I wonder how many licks it really does take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”


“They’ve tried to do real scientific studies, it’s really anywhere between 70 and 400,” Willow answered knowledgeably, then smiled fondly, “Remember when we were eight and we tried to do our own experiments, but you kept crunching through to the middle?”


“My stamina in licking has evolved,” Tara replied, her gaze fluttering up through her eyelashes in a sultry display, “I wonder how many it takes to get—”


Suddenly there was a cacophony of beeps and the bus lurched as it entered into erratic city traffic. The whole bus was awake now.


The lollipop went straight down Tara’s throat but thankfully popped right back out again.


“Whoa!” Willow exclaimed, slapping Tara on the back quickly, “Are you okay?”


Tara nodded and rubbed her throat.


“Guess I have a pretty established gag reflex,” she replied, not noticing Willow pursing her lips to keep from laughing, “Maybe we shouldn’t eat in vehicles over here.”


She looked out the window at the chaos of unruly traffic and gulped.


“Or…get in them at all.”


“Yeah, no kidding. I don’t want to taste the rainbow that badly,” Willow quipped in reply, then lowered her voice, “Not the kind that comes in a packet anyway.”


Tara offered a tiny smirk but was more focused on staying in her seat. She hoped their hostel stop was one of the first.


It, in fact, was the very last and they arrived frazzled and very ready to be on solid ground again. They could have used a minute to get their bearings, but almost immediately everyone who’d gotten off the bus was approached by street sellers, a lot of whom were young children, to push their wares.


They had to weave their way out and left a few unsavvy tourists standing there trying to retreat from the mob. Unfortunately, that was the kind of lesson you could only learn by experiencing it. They walked into the lobby of their hostel to check-in and find their room from there.


They were able to nab the corner bunk bed, as was their preference, with only a couple of the other beds claimed and no one else even there right at that moment.


Both of them opted to lie down for a few minutes until their stomachs returned to their usual spot.


When Willow noticed the sun starting to set outside the window, she slid out of bed and stood up on the frame to look in on Tara in her top bunk.


“You wanna go get some dinner or is your belly still north of your boobs somewhere?”


Tara pressed her palms on top of each other over her belly button.


“I think it’s appropriately positioned again,” she said with a small smile, “I’ve been looking forward to going to an Indian restaurant that doesn’t have chicken nuggets on the menu.”


Willow’s nose scrunched.


“You know what’s worse? Anu’s Kitchen was in the top five restaurants in Sunnydale on Trip Advisor.”


“Do we even have five restaurants?” Tara questioned with an arched eyebrow.


“Exactly,” Willow replied pointedly.


Tara sat up and stretched, treating Willow to a brief glimpse of skin as her shirt rode up.


“I just need to use the restroom, then we can go exploring.”


Willow hopped off the bed and Tara climbed down the ladder. Willow looked around and took advantage of a rare moment of solitude in a shared room, pulling Tara to her by the hips.


“C’mere.”


She kissed Tara for several seconds and dipped a finger under the waistband of Tara’s pants.


“I miss it when we’re not… alone-alone.”


Tara lifted her hands to Willow’s face, holding her cheeks gently under her fingers and popped a chaste kiss on her lips.


“All of me loves all of you. Alone or not.”


She left and Willow leaned back against the bedframe, smiling.


She turned back to gather her things for going out and didn’t notice that anyone had come into the room until she heard a rustling behind her. She looked around to see a dark-haired guy shoving something with reflective foil into his pocket.


He sensed eyes and looked up too.


He smiled like he had a secret.


“Hey! No way!”


Willow looked behind herself as if someone else could be there. The man scurried over to the other side of the bed to stand nearer her.


“We met before. Down under,” he said, smirking lasciviously, “You liked to get freaky in the men’s bathroom.”


Willow was bewildered and tried to turn her body away.


“Um, sorry…I don’t remember.”


The guy stepped forward, much too close for comfort.


“I can make you remember.”


Willow backed up and ended up falling down to sit on her bunk.


“Whoa.”


The guy tried to look relaxed and openly sneered in her direction.


“Come on, don’t be a prude. You’re wearing nipple clamps on your clothes for god’s sake.”


Willow’s eyebrows shot upward and she looked down at herself urgently.


“What are you talking about?”


He gestured at the top of her sweater, where the sides were being held closed by her newest set of sweater clips, which Tara had made her with monkey clips after they had visited a gibbon sanctuary in Thailand and learned about conservation efforts. It had been an enlightening and humbling experience and Willow blushed furiously at the association the man was erroneously making.


“These are sweater clips,” she said defiantly, closing her palm around one of the little monkeys, “Clearly.”


“Right, clearly,” the guy scoffed and Willow suddenly had a flashback to being holed up in the bathroom in Adelaide guiding Tara out of the bush.


And that same scoff and same face greeting her when she left.


“Wait, I do remember you. Aren’t you here with your…boyfriends or something?”


A vein popped in his head.


“Boyfriends?!”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“I hear polyamory is very popular these days. Not for me but hey, I don’t judge.”


His jaw clenched and something came over his eyes that terrified Willow.


“I like women! I get a lot of women!”


“Okay, then,” Willow replied quickly, spinning out of bed to hide better behind the frame, “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet my girlfriend.”


He dropped the anger again and leered in Willow’s direction.


“If you two are on the look-out for a guy to offer some entertainment I’m a very entertaining guy.”


“We generally find ourselves sufficiently entertained,” Willow replied, clearing her throat silently.


Another head of black hair stuck in through the door and looked straight at them.


“Warren, come on. If we don’t get there early all the pretty ones will be taken.”


Warren smirked at Willow again.


“See ya later sweet cheeks.”


He walked out backward so he could keep grinning at her until he bumped into the doorframe and quickly left through it with a scowl. A minute or so later, Tara returned, rubbing her hands together.


“Everything okay?”


“Yep” Willow replied quickly, shaking her head of the strange encounter, “Starving though. Can we go eat?”


“Yes, absolutely,” Tara replied, gathering her hair up into a ponytail, “Let’s go. On foot.”


“On foot,” Willow agreed quickly.


They stopped by the kitchen to refill their water bottles, where lots of other travelers were gathering to eat. They chatted to a Polish couple about good places to eat and how to spot bad street vendors. When they were accepted as friendly, they were given a flyer for free entry to a bar that the other couple wasn’t going to be able to use before leaving.


They headed back out onto the street which was screaming with car horns and intermittent yelling. Willow wrapped her hand around Tara’s upper arm.


“Do you have your maps downloaded? I don’t want you getting lost in all of this.”


“Yes, honey,” Tara replied diligently but affectionately, “I always do it at the airport when you remind me.”


“You’ll be thankful for my nagging one day,” Willow grinned, which was promptly wiped off her face when a rickshaw sped past them and came inches to running them over.


She pulled Tara back and only the shock stopped her from yelling after it.


“I guess on foot isn’t any safer!”


While Tara waited for her heart to slow again, she had the opportunity to take a slow look around in their surreal, chaotic surroundings. She placed her hand on Willow’s shoulder.


“Just stop for a second. Look around. Smell the air.”


“I can certainly smell it,” Willow grumbled.


“No,” Tara breathed softly, letting her gaze fall on Willow, “We’re in India. We’re really standing on the side of the street in India about to go grab some dinner that the locals eat and go to a bar that the locals go to and we get to live this and experience this in all its insanity.”


She stopped and looked away.


“I’m sorry. It just still stuns me sometimes that we’re here and we’re doing this. We’ve seen so much. We’ve done so much. We’ve grown so much. We’re just so lucky.”


The loud congestion became background to Tara’s sweet voice for Willow, who clung to her again and smiled.


“Yeah, we are. Thank you. Sometimes I need that reality check.”


Tara returned the smiled and squeezed Willow’s hand on her arm. They set off again, more careful about where and how they walked this time.


The city was bustling; completely packed with people. Derelict on one street and abundant on another. Touts everywhere vied for their attention but this wasn’t their first rodeo when it came to avoiding tourist traps.


“Tara, look!” Willow said, suddenly pointing ahead.


Tara’s eyes followed and she saw a cow meandering down the street like it owned it.


“That’s amazing,” she commented, watching it strut along with the old cars and motorbikes weaving around it, “You definitely don’t see that in Sunnydale.”


Willow smiled impishly.


“I saw Cordelia being followed down the street being yelled at by Percy West once but I guess that’s a different kind of shitbox following a cow.”


Tara cast her eyes sideways toward Willow.


“You’re proud of that one, aren’t you?”


Willow nodded with that pleased, devilish grin stuck on her face.


They were staying in the backpacker’s neighborhood, so while they had to continue to dodge the street sellers, they had endless options to eat. Soon the city smells were completely forgotten to that of fresh spices.


They walked through the main bazaar, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the local art and fabrics. They ended up in a restaurant they noticed had a rooftop that looked out over the market and the stories-high buildings surrounding it. As they walked through to a table, they dodged potted plants and bookshelves.


The whole place kind of looked like a bookworm’s mountain hideaway but smelled like an early morning market place selling spices; rich and earthy and mouth-watering. They sat on a table under the slanted corrugated iron roof like they were in their own little hut and spent a moment appreciating the stars beginning to settle in the sky.


They played it safe with their food for the first night, ordering pakora and butter chicken and naan to share and the taste absolutely lived up to the smell.


“I think that was the best meal I’ve ever had,” Tara said when they were finished, “I didn’t even know pakora wasn’t supposed to be mushy.”


“It was really good,” Willow agreed, “We’ve had so much good food though; I don’t think I could rate it without at least a basic spreadsheet.”


Tara smiled and bumped Willow’s foot under the table. Willow blushed and averted her gaze, but lifted it again quickly.


“Do you want to check out that bar?”


Tara nodded and they slowly extracted themselves to pay and find their way around the neighborhood. With a quick look at their maps to figure out exactly where they were going, they found the bar in question and realized it was actually an open-air terrace.


The bar itself was made from an up-cycled shipping container with big speakers either side. They got a drink each and fell into the crowd, which suddenly became electric as four guys started to breakdance in front of the bar to loud Hindi pop music.


Willow watched Tara’s whole face, then body, light up as she processed the new style of music. It was upbeat and fast and almost immediately Tara was dancing on the spot.


“This is amazing!”


They must have been in a crowd of hundreds, but Willow only had eyes for Tara as she watched her feet jump and tap with the eccentric beat. She radiated joy and it was infectious.


When she held her hand out for Willow to take and join, it was taken without hesitation.



Tara swirled some Greek yogurt on her spoon and turned her back on a penetrating gaze she could feel upon her. She leaned toward Willow across the breakfast table and lowered her voice.


“Why does that guy keep staring at us?”


Willow momentarily glanced up to see Warren staring them down from across the kitchen.


“Garden variety creep,” she answered flatly, refusing to keep his gaze.


Tara covered Willow’s hand and squeezed.


“I’ll keep you safe baby.”


Willow put her other hand on top of Tara’s again and smiled just for her.


“I always feel safe with you,” she answered, rubbing her thumb over the back of Tara’s hand as her eyes found the little blinking clock on the microwave, “Hey, we should head out.”


Tara nodded.


“I’ll clean up and fill up our water bottles. Have you got the train tickets?”


Willow jumped up to head for the door.


“I’ll go print them at the desk.”


“Don’t forget the other ones,” Tara called after her.


Willow left and Tara brought their dishes to the sink to quickly wash up. As she went to follow Willow, she passed the table with Warren and couldn’t help notice his unctuous grin as he laughed with his buddies.


“Two for the price of one, gentlemen.”


Not caring for whatever retail exchange she assumed they were talking about, she left to fill their water bottles and join Willow in the lobby.


“Ready?” Willow asked, taking her water bottle from Tara.


“Ready,” Tara answered with a smile.


The train station was only a couple of blocks away but neither had gone past it since they’d been there. It wasn’t the most modern building, but it wasn’t decrepit either. Old signage, plastic seats; it wasn’t unlike a train station back in the US.


The platforms were busy, very busy as they might expect but their platform was the first one there so they were only seconds on the ground before boarding and didn’t have time to be overwhelmed by it.


It was a relatively short trip compared to how vast the country was, less than two hours, so the train wasn’t a sleeper and had just groups of seats with a table between them. It too resembled a train they might have caught at home. It wasn’t even that busy; they had a choice of seats and Tara noticed little footrests beneath each one as they walked down the aisle.


She sat down comfortably in one seat while Willow sat opposite. The seats even reclined a little. Tara’s eyebrow lifted at that feature. It majorly exceeded her expectations but it dawned on her why pretty quickly.


“Is this first class?”


“Yep,” Willow replied smugly, then frowned off the look Tara gave her, “Come on, Tara, It was $20 instead of $10. We’re not even talking dozens of dollars. There isn’t someone coming round to rub our feet; it’s just enough room to be comfortable.”


Tara looked down.


“I just wish you would check with me.”


“I’m paying for them,” Willow countered.


“I can pay for myself,” Tara replied, soft in voice but firm in tone.


Willow sighed.


“I feel like we’ve had this argument before. Why can’t I treat you or you treat me sometimes? We’ve done it before; you bought me dinner last night.”


Tara shook her head softly.


“It’s different on dates.”


Willow sat up straight.


“Well guess what then?”


Tara looked at her curiously and Willow grinned across to her.


“This is a date. And you can’t tell me a visit to the Taj Mahal isn’t romantic.”



“So romantic,” Tara mumbled as they stood deep in a line of people waiting to enter the monument with the midday sun hot and high overhead and camera flashes going off in every which direction.


Willow frowned, displeased.


“I didn’t manufacture the line.”


“I didn’t say you did,” Tara replied a little curtly, then closed her eyes for a moment, “Sorry.”


Willow just shrugged and kept her hurt eyes forward.


When they got to the front of the line, Willow suddenly realized she’d need to produce the tickets before they could get through security. She brought her bag forward and started rooting around, casually at first, but more erratic as seconds ticked by and now they were very much at the front of the line.


She looked up and swallowed audibly.


“I think…I think I left them in the nightstand.”


Her face scrunched up awkwardly.


“I’m sorry, I thought I had them,” she said to the expressionless Indian man waiting to check the tickets, “Tara, I’ll pay for new tickets.”


“That’s not the point!” Tara replied, frustrated and uncharacteristically indifferent to their surroundings, “We’ll have to line up for them and then join this line all over again. It’ll take an hour, if not hours.”


The ticket-collector tried to intervene.


“Madams, if you do not possess a ticket please return—”


“Maybe they’ll let us skip ahead again?” Willow said to Tara, now also oblivious to the frustrated people around them.


“It’s just irresponsible Willow, why didn’t you check?” Tara shot back and Willow couldn’t avert the hurt this time.


“Why didn’t YOU check with me? Why is it always on me?”


Tara gestured with her hands in frustration.


“I did, I told you when you were printing the train tickets!”


Willow pulled a petulant face.


“Well…I clearly didn’t hear you!”


“Madams—”


“Shut up!” they both said loudly at the same time; tension bubbling out from between them and to the larger circle.


And that was ultimately what earned them an escorted walk off the premises.


Later, the story of being kicked out of the Taj Mahal before ever getting to see it would be told through laughter with a shared fond smile between them.


Right now, Tara only wore an unfamiliar scowl.


“Well done, Willow. Well done.”


She marched away from Willow, away from the curb they’d been kicked to and disappeared further into the horizon.


“Tara!” Willow called after her, but sensed not to follow, “Damn it.”


She threw her hands up in exasperation and let her head fall into her hands for a moment. What was she supposed to do now?


She slinked off to a quieter restaurant to mope and ordered a cheese paratha and a coke because breakfast seemed a long time ago. She spent a few minutes contemplating whether to text Tara or not but opted against it. She wasn’t even sure this one was entirely her fault. But she realized pretty quickly that she didn’t care whose fault it was, she just wanted them to be okay.


Wow. I guess growth sneaks up on you.


They had to get the train back together, so Willow figured she’d have to see her by then. She knew Tara must have been incredibly frustrated to tell someone to shut up like that. Her redheaded temper got the better of her often but Tara never acted like that. Maybe she just needed some time alone.


She stopped pushing around her food and started to eat, piggybacking on the Wifi as she did so to look up the local city and what other attractions it offered.


It turned out, not a lot.



Tara looked west to where the sun was just starting to dip in the sky as it started its descent into nightfall.


She’d spent the day just walking around, seeing nothing but her own shoes walking forward at first, but then she looked up. And she couldn’t look down again.


The poverty was apparent even more than in Delhi with trash overflowing everywhere, all kinds of excrement and flies circling it. Hungry dogs, hungry people. It had hurt Tara’s heart. She felt so ugly for daring to complain that Willow had bought them nicer seats. For speaking with such a harsh tone.


She couldn’t even handle the surroundings for a day. The people who lived here — this was their whole life.


Eventually, she’d just gotten into a tuk-tuk that promised a tour of the city and had gotten out when she’d seen a nice park that didn’t seem too crowded. The grass and hedges were such a vibrant green in contrast to the drab and dark city and she could see water shimmering in front peacefully.


In fact, it had surprised her when she walked to the front of the park that she had almost as good a view of the Taj Mahal as if she was right in front of it; a square full-on picture of its unique shape directly across the river with nothing but the clear sky behind it.


She would have to move in a bit, to get to the train station, but she found herself unable to get up from sitting there, looking on at the monument in all its symmetrical wonder.


She felt a body slide beside her on the bench and didn’t need to look up to know who it was.


Willow’s scent was unique; strawberries and cream decorating a mocha cake, freshly baked with a cup of steaming chai tea on the side. Tara had spent years narrowing down that smell and could always tell when Willow was close by.


Willow didn’t say anything and Tara let there be silence between them for a moment before speaking softly.


“We got to see it after all.”


Willow stared ahead at the view; it looked like a painting, perfectly still.


“Do you know the story?”


Tara shook her head.


“I listened to a podcast guide earlier,” Willow explained, “Not quite the same as listening while you’re there, but I did learn some stuff.”


After another small silence, Tara reached out and lightly brushed her fingers against Willow’s arm.


“Tell me?”


Willow scooted over the last inch between them so their legs hit against each other.


“Back in the 17th century, there was this guy called Shah Jahan. He was just a teenager and he was in line to be emperor but wasn’t yet. His grandfather was this BFD who everyone loved, so he had this legacy to live up to. One day he’s showing off around the royal bazaar, flirting with all the daughters of the statesmen, showing off his dreamy eyes and whatnot. So he gets to one of the little booths and there’s the daughter of the soon-to-be prime minister. And he’s like whoa, y’know?” she stopped and sent a sidelong glance Tara’s way and added on softly, “I know.”


Tara met Willow’s gaze but quickly looked away with a blush. Willow turned her head back toward the white building as it took on a soft glow under the orange sky.


“Anyway, that’s it. Boom. Love at first sight. Soulmates, engaged, the whole deal. They knew young.”


She paused again for a contemplative moment but didn’t stop looking ahead.


“He’s not allowed marry her right away, though. They have to wait five years for the court astrologist to pick out the best date for a happy marriage. And in the meantime, he’d had to marry another woman, a princess of Persia, for political reasons. Then, finally, on the allotted date, they were married and fortuitously, it was a very happy marriage. He was devoted to her and she to him. She was his advisor and confidante and just as politically astute as he was. They truly ruled the nation together for nearly twenty years. She had fourteen of his children, though only seven of them actually survived. And then, unfortunately, on her fourteenth child, she hemorrhaged and died in his arms. The emperor was distraught. Crying. Paralyzed. She was buried quickly, but six months later he had her dug up and had a procession in her honor with the streets lined with mourners and was buried again. This was when the emperor got his grand idea to build a mausoleum befitting of his wife. He worked on the architecture himself so he could be sure it represented heaven on earth.”


She smiled as she saw low-lying cloud hug the peaks of the building and had another ‘whoa’ moment of realization that she was here, now, doing this.


“It took twenty thousand men to build it in the timeframe the emperor wanted. The marble was dragged from hundreds of miles away by elephants and oxen. Everything had to be perfectly symmetrical, right down to the mosque and guest house flanking each side. There’s passages from the Quran written in perfect calligraphy into the marble and intricate flower designs are inlaid into it. The garden is full of Islamic symbology to represent paradise forever for his beloved.”


She took in a soft breath and exhaled slowly.


“It’s not just brick, it’s love written in stone.”


Tara’s breath slowly left her body in an awed sigh.


“Wow.”


“Wow,” Willow agreed softly.


They lapsed into silence again, watching the sun travel behind the Taj and cast it in different hues.


“How’d you find me?” Tara asked eventually, though it wasn’t accusatory.


“One of my special skills. I can always find you,” Willow answered, then held her phone up sheepishly, “You checked in and I got notified.”


“I didn’t even know I checked in,” Tara answered jadedly, “Must’ve been when I was taking pictures.”


“Did you take a lot of pictures?” Willow asked, rotating her thumb around the air in a discreet fidget.


Tara shook her head.


“No, only here. I just… walked around.”


Willow nodded.


“Me too. Not much else to do,” she answered, then slowly gulped, “It was intense, just walking.”


Tara’s eyes closed painfully for a moment.


“Very.”


The silence hung until Tara opened her eyes and sent a penetrating stare Willow’s way.


“Made me feel grateful.”


“Me too,” Willow replied quietly.


Tara’s eyes creased and she reached out to slip her fingers into Willow’s hand.


“Willow, I’m sorry I—”


“I’m so sorry I—” Willow blurted at the same time, then continued when Tara stopped, “Messed up the tickets.”


Tara shook her head.


“You just made a mistake. I shouldn’t have flown off the handle. I’m so embarrassed. I never act like that,” she said apologetically and looked down, “Do I put too much pressure on you to be in charge of things like that? You book all the tickets and accommodation and things. You just seem to know how to get the best deals.”


“No, baby, I’m happy to do it,” Willow reassured quickly, “You did years of research…the day-to-day stuff is the least I can do. And you’re right, I know how to scour the internet. I’m happier knowing I’ve done the best for us. So, no. No pressure whatsoever.”


Tara looked up again.


“If you ever want me to do anything, you’d ask right?”


Willow nodded.


“Yes. And I have. And you have. I know you’re perfectly capable. You got yourself around Australia.”


Willow suddenly saw a tear threatening to spill and reached up to catch it on her thumb before it could fall.


“Baby? Did I say something wrong?”


Tara shook her head again.


“A little PMS,” she admitted. She didn’t succumb to it often but the combination of events today and overnight had her on edge, “And I didn’t sleep well. I kept hearing someone else moving around the room. I was too scared to get down to get my ear plugs.”


“Who was it?” Willow asked and Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“I don’t know, I couldn’t see without sitting up. But it’s no excuse. I wish I could apologize to that man and all the people in the line.”


Willow let her hand fall to Tara’s shoulder.


“Don’t beat yourself up, baby. I’m sorry you couldn’t sleep. If I’d known I would have snuggled you.”


Tara glanced at Willow, a different kind of glassiness coming over her eyes.


“Is that an open offer?”


“Always,” Willow promised with a sweet smile.


“Now?” Tara questioned with the smallest of eyebrow arches.


Willow looked around at the few but still very much there people walking around and back at Tara.


“Um…”


Tara blushed as she realized what she’d made Willow think.


“Can we, um, go back and have an early night? Just listen to some music or something?”


Willow’s shoulders slumped in relief of the day’s tension.


“I love doing that. I’ll make us some dinner.”


Tara grimaced.


“It’s not going to be those spaghetti tacos again, is it?”


“Hey, that was an experiment,” Willow replied indignantly but with a smile, “How does your mom’s tuna casserole sound?”


“It’s a date,” Tara smiled.


“Hope it goes better than this one,” Willow replied, scrunching up her nose.


Tara lightly squeezed their fingers together.


“This one didn’t work out so bad.”


Willow smiled and quickly glanced at her watch.


“We better get to the station. I don’t want to be stuck here for the night.”


“Not when I’m craving snuggles,” Tara replied in a discreetly sultry tone.


Willow looked back with flirty eyes.


“And never let it be said that I left a Tara craving unsatisfied.”

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 29th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:32 am 
Offline
5. Willowhand

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 335
Dibs! :whip
Quote:
“Wait, I do remember you. Aren’t you here with your…boyfriends or something?”


A vein popped in his head.


“Boyfriends?!”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“I hear polyamory is very popular these days. Not for me but hey, I don’t judge.”


Although Warren acted like a sleezy arsehole, I'm surprised that Willow of all people insinuates him being gay without knowing anything about his sexual orientation. I really hope she didn't do this with the intention to insult or ridicule him. But even if it was just out of thoughtlessness it bothers me considering that Willow herself would have probably freaked out / panicked if some other traveller had called Tara her girlfriend during the first weeks of their journey.

I wonder how far Warren would go to prove he is a "true man" and to what extend his friends (Jonathan and Andrew I presume) would aid him. I fear Warren meant our beloved couple with this comment:
Quote:
“Two for the price of one, gentlemen.”

So I worry for our girls' wellbeing a bit but also trust that you won't let them be harmed by Warren and his "henchmen" in this fic.

I'm glad that our girls reconciled quickly after their quarrel. I recommend that they should both make a quick check together if they have everything they need before going on a daytrip from now on.
Quote:
She felt a body slide beside her on the bench and didn’t need to look up to know who it was.
Willow’s scent was unique; strawberries and cream decorating a mocha cake, freshly baked with a cup of steaming chai tea on the side. Tara had spent years narrowing down that smell and could always tell when Willow was close by.

:flower How sweet that Tara can identify Willow by her smell (although I have to admit I had an unpleasant memory of Rack calling Willow "Strawberry" in Season 6).
I loved to learn the background-story of the "Taj Mahal". Like you Willow is a good storyteller. And what a perfect description:
Quote:
“It’s not just brick, it’s love written in stone.”


Quote:
“How’d you find me?” Tara asked eventually, though it wasn’t accusatory.


“One of my special skills. I can always find you,” Willow answered, then held her phone up sheepishly, “You checked in and I got notified.”

:laugh Thank god for modern technology!
Quote:
“It was intense, just walking.”

Sneaky canon-easteregg (with the letter w instead of t)?

Quote:
“We better get to the station. I don’t want to be stuck here for the night.”


“Not when I’m craving snuggles,” Tara replied in a discreetly sultry tone.


Willow looked back with flirty eyes.


“And never let it be said that I left a Tara craving unsatisfied.”

:flower :wtkiss
Hopefully their snuggles won't be interrupted by Warren and his pals...


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 29th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:38 pm 
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Grrr Warren is back and he's come with cronies- he is deplorable and frightening here as well as the show, I trust you will keep the girls safe and make him go away soon

Quote:
“Come on, don’t be a prude. You’re wearing nipple clamps on your clothes for god’s sake.”


it was a shitty comment b/c of the source but I can so see Tara buying nipple clamps thinking they are sweater clamps and Willow not knowing any better either- btw, are there such things as sweater clamps??? when i first read about them I just figured I hadn't heard of them, but now... maybe Willow IS wearing very fashionable nipple clamps on her clothing


Quote:
Willow watched Tara’s whole face, then body, light up as she processed the new style of music. It was upbeat and fast and almost immediately Tara was dancing on the spot.


“This is amazing!”


They must have been in a crowd of hundreds, but Willow only had eyes for Tara as she watched her feet jump and tap with the eccentric beat. She radiated joy and it was infectious.

there is little more beautiful than watching someone in their element and in their passion- I am so glad Tara is relishing in the music around her- but I mean, of course she would. I remember when OMWF feeling aired and seeing Amber just looking so joyful and radiant and free when she sang- I felt like I was seeing an artist in her element and it stole my heart

I was so glad that Willow just recognized that maybe Tara (and herself) needed some alone time- its good for everybody and especially when having a crappy PMS day/ their frustration is so normal - thanks for not letting them be saints.

Seeing that poverty and struggle would definitely have humbling (and heartbreaking)

I loved the Taj Mahal story and how Willow shared it across the water

they are still talking and sharing and taking care of themselves- these are good things

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 29th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Location: Ireland
Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


Woo!

Quote:
Although Warren acted like a sleezy arsehole, I'm surprised that Willow of all people insinuates him being gay without knowing anything about his sexual orientation. I really hope she didn't do this with the intention to insult or ridicule him. But even if it was just out of thoughtlessness it bothers me considering that Willow herself would have probably freaked out / panicked if some other traveller had called Tara her girlfriend during the first weeks of their journey.


Have to hold my hands up here, I messed up! There was a larger scene that was cut back in Adelaide that featured a fellow traveler telling Willow about the occupants of the room and that woman described Warren and 'his boyfriends' (hence Willow's recollection 'your boyfriends or something?' That person meant it insultingly but Willow didn't pick up on that at the time. I ended up cutting it because I wanted Willow to explore her growth with Tara on their reunion instead of giving too much of it away (that's why that chapter ended up so tiny!) But I completely forgot that it was called back here. I do apologize!

Quote:
I wonder how far Warren would go to prove he is a "true man" and to what extend his friends (Jonathan and Andrew I presume) would aid him. I fear Warren meant our beloved couple with this comment:

So I worry for our girls' wellbeing a bit but also trust that you won't let them be harmed by Warren and his "henchmen" in this fic.


You are entirely right with that last sentence :)

Quote:
I'm glad that our girls reconciled quickly after their quarrel. I recommend that they should both make a quick check together if they have everything they need before going on a daytrip from now on.


They will, but everyone makes mistakes from time to time. From this I hoped they learned to keep cooler heads and to recognize when they need some time alone without any antagonism.

Quote:
:flower How sweet that Tara can identify Willow by her smell (although I have to admit I had an unpleasant memory of Rack calling Willow "Strawberry" in Season 6).


Random historical sidebar, I too used to feel all icky when strawberries were brought up too (sometimes even in my every day non-fanfic life!) and then I read a fic that described Tara tasting Willow as strawberries and it was done in such a sweet way that it replaced the other unpleasant memory. So, for me, strawberry is totally reclaimed and in my mind, Tara's the only one who gets to know she tastes like that :)

Quote:
I loved to learn the background-story of the "Taj Mahal". Like you Willow is a good storyteller. And what a perfect description:


It really is a lovely story for the ages.

Quote:
:laugh Thank god for modern technology!


Certainly helpful when there's no teeny tinkerbell lights around!

Quote:
Sneaky canon-easteregg (with the letter w instead of t)?


:wink

Quote:
:flower :wtkiss
Hopefully their snuggles won't be interrupted by Warren and his pals...


Nah, I'll let them have their snuggles :)

Thanks for your feedback!

shirrey

Quote:
Grrr Warren is back and he's come with cronies- he is deplorable and frightening here as well as the show, I trust you will keep the girls safe and make him go away soon


Away soon, definitely. Away forever...eventually :wink

Quote:
it was a shitty comment b/c of the source but I can so see Tara buying nipple clamps thinking they are sweater clamps and Willow not knowing any better either- btw, are there such things as sweater clamps??? when i first read about them I just figured I hadn't heard of them, but now... maybe Willow IS wearing very fashionable nipple clamps on her clothing


:laugh :laugh :laugh

Sweater clips are a real thing!

Image

But when undecorated, they do have an uncanny resemblance to...

Image

So both are real, but you are definitely right that Tara could think she's buying one not the other.

Quote:
there is little more beautiful than watching someone in their element and in their passion


We are so on the same wavelength on this. I LOVE listening to artists wax lyrical about their art. I get so mesmerized.

Quote:
- I am so glad Tara is relishing in the music around her- but I mean, of course she would. I remember when OMWF feeling aired and seeing Amber just looking so joyful and radiant and free when she sang- I felt like I was seeing an artist in her element and it stole my heart


The 'now I'm bathed in light' line in particular in UYS makes me gasp even still when I watch it. It's just so ethereally magical to see a character embodied so perfectly.

Quote:
I was so glad that Willow just recognized that maybe Tara (and herself) needed some alone time- its good for everybody and especially when having a crappy PMS day/ their frustration is so normal - thanks for not letting them be saints.


You know what they say, if you want to know someone, travel with them. There's bound to be little disagreements, even if you've worked hard to figure out the big ones.

Quote:
Seeing that poverty and struggle would definitely have humbling (and heartbreaking)


I've never been to India but my brother still gets choked up talking about it.

Quote:
I loved the Taj Mahal story and how Willow shared it across the water


Sweeter heard for Tara for it to be from Willow.

Quote:
they are still talking and sharing and taking care of themselves- these are good things


A good relationship never loses it.

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 29th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Location: Ireland
CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

NOTE: Advance warning for some unwanted sexual contact and conversation in this chapter

Chapter 35



India

(Part 2)



Ease My Troubles, That’s What You Do



Willow woke into darkness, her eyes slowly flickering open.


It was dead of night and though the blanket was barely draped across her body, she was warm.


This was unusual as the room had been pretty chilly previous evenings.


She didn’t remember falling asleep but when she felt an earbud still pressed into her ear and an arm thrown across her waist, she realized they must have fallen asleep when they were still listening to music.


The music had stopped, though.


Tara’s phone had died, probably. Though that explained why she was so warm with all of the body heat.


But what had woken her?


Her ears caught something that sounded like heavy breathing but that had become a sound she was accustomed to from sharing so many rooms with so many different people. But this felt close.


Too close.


And it wasn’t Tara’s saintly respiration.


Tara was nearest the wall and curled into her, so Willow shifted her body on its side facing out so she could see into the room. After a moment of adjustment into the pitch black, she noted movement near the foot of their bed. Slowly, through several heavy blinks, she realized it was a figure with their arm moving up and down near their waist.


She closed her eyes and moved again and this time when she opened her eyes, everything seemed still again.


Frowning and shaking her head, she shifted onto her other side, flung her arm around Tara and tried to go back asleep.



Tara fluffed her pillow in place on her bunk, returning it after taking it the night before to cuddle with Willow.


Her bed hadn’t been slept in so there was no need to make it and she jumped down from the first step on the ladder to the floor.


Willow was sitting on her bed, frowning at her phone. Tara sat in beside her.


“Why so scrunchy?”


Willow slapped her phone against her palm.


“My dad keeps emailing me.”


“That’s good, right?” Tara asked softly, placing her hand on Willow’s knee, “They’re staying in touch?”


“Well, yes. They are. Which is good and probably as close to normal communication that I could hope for. But…” Willow answered cagily, drawing out the last word, “He keeps insisting I visit Israel ever since I told him we were thinking of going to Egypt instead of Turkey. Wants to give me extra money to go.”


Tara’s hand fell away softly.


“Oh.”


Willow reached behind her neck and rubbed it.


“I guess it’s not a major detour…could just go for like a weekend. Get my dad to pay for a fancy hotel?”


Tara’s eyes stayed down and her voice, quiet.


“I hadn’t really considered it.”


Willow sighed.


“Yeah, I know,” she replied, leaving her phone back down on the bed, “I’ll respond later. Did you sleep better?”


“Like a log now that I had my snuggle buddy,” Tara replied with a gently sloping smile, “You?”


Willow’s eyes narrowed slightly.


“Odd dreams.”


“That’s nothing new,” Tara replied affectionately.


“At least I wasn’t speaking in my sleep this time,” Willow replied, squirming uncomfortably, “I’m, um, just gonna go to the bathroom before breakfast.”


“Okay, I’ll wait,” Tara called after her, placing her palms on her thighs for a moment and rubbing them against the fabric, before getting up and turning her back to make Willow’s bed for her.


It was the least she could do considering she’d shared the tiny space with her. Looking at it now she wondered how they even fit without falling out, but they always had just fit together.


She smiled to herself as she smoothed everything out and bent her arms at her hips to nod in satisfaction with the lack of creases.


Just as she was about to turn back, she suddenly found a pair of hands reaching around her from behind and covering her breasts.


She inhaled sharply in surprise.


What was Willow doing?


Anyone could walk in.


It surprised her that it turned her on a little bit.


Except…something was wrong. She looked down.


Those weren’t Willow’s hands.


They were big and rough and the nails were dirty.


And that smell was not Willow’s delicate aroma of afternoon tea. It was that of someone who subscribed to the ‘shower in a can’ philosophy and the distinct minty, rotted waft of someone who uses mouthwash as a replacement for teeth brushing.


She spun around and was met with Warren’s smarmy grin. His body was pressed so close he was almost touching but not quite.


His pants were unzipped but the button was tied so it wasn’t obvious, though it was obvious to Tara as she realized that something had been poking her in the back before she turned.


She stared at him in stunned silence, fearfully immobile until thankfully Willow returned and immediately came over to her side upon seeing the standoff.


“What’s going on?”


Tara slumped toward Willow for protection.


“H-He grabbed me.”


“What!?” Willow spat, her pupils enlarging so much her eyes looked pure black.


“No I didn’t,” Warren said with the air of someone who’d gotten away with this before, “There was a spider on her. Big one. Two big ones, actually.”


He stepped back with a smirk and Willow suddenly gasped quietly.


“I saw you. Last night. You were…” she glanced down, then over at Tara, “He was standing over the bed touching himself. I thought I was dreaming it but you were really doing it weren’t you? You creepy pervert.”


Warren’s face flashed with anger and he got up close in Willow’s face.


“You didn’t wake up the night before when I came in your face and wiped it off.”


Willow didn’t have a moment to process that as suddenly she saw a fist swinging for his face and it wasn’t hers.


She heard Warren’s nose crack and then a loud, effeminate squeal as his hands rose to cup it.


“You bitch!”


Willow looked over at Tara, shocked, who was looking at her own ruffled hand with the same look on her face.


“What is going on here?” a male voice with an Indian accent boomed through the room before he appeared, skinny but tall and surprisingly well-built, and wearing a nametag with the hostel logo on it.


Warren pointed at Tara petulantly.


“She punched me!”


“He grabbed her chest,” Willow interjected quickly, standing in front of Tara, “And he’s been touching himself in front of us.”


The Indian man looked between them all unsurely for a moment before his eyes dropped to Warren’s opened fly and his face hardened.


“You out of here right now!”


Warren tried to fight him off as he was dragged out but his strength wasn’t comparable.


“She’s lying! They’re lying bitches!” he shrieked as his heels imprinted the carpet, “Dumb whores!”


Willow’s heart pounded in her chest until he was completely out of the room, then she turned to Tara, wide-eyed.


“You punched him for me.”


Tara cradled her lightly bruised hand.


“He hurt my hand,” she answered, flattening out her knuckles again.


Willow stepped toward her and took it tenderly.


“Aw,” she said softly, “Baby. That was…”


Tara expected Willow to say ‘terrifying’ or ‘disgusting’ but her pupils were blown in a whole new way.


“Really hot.”


Tara blushed but a pleased smile tugged on her lips.


“Nobody messes with my girl.”


Willow gently touched the broken skin on Tara’s knuckles and watched her wince.


“I’ll go see if they have some ointment. Sit down, okay?”


She guided Tara to sit on the bottom bunk and headed to the front desk, where their sweet Indian savior was printing a page with a hastily-taken photo of Warren and his broken nose with NO ENTRY in English and Hindi above and below it.


He looked up as she approached and stopped what he was doing.


“Are you both most okay? I must apologize unreservedly.”


“Yeah, I think so,” Willow nodded, reaching across her body to hold one arm with the other hand, “It’s not your fault. There’s creeps everywhere.”


“Man is banned from premises,” he assured.


“That’s probably a good idea,” Willow nodded, “Do you have a first aid kit? For, y’know…”


She twisted her hand indicatively and a hint of a smile appeared on the man’s face.


“Madam has impressive swing.”


“Yes, she does,” Willow replied in a tone unquestionably proud, “Thank you…”


She peered in to read his nametag.


“Manpreet. For getting him out of there.”


Manpreet nodded once.


“You are welcome, Miss…”


“Willow,” Willow supplied.


“Miss Willow,” Manpreet replied, clasping his hands in front of him, “Please do tell me if I may do anything for you.”


“Just the, ah, first aid kit,” Willow said, laying her hands on the counter, “If you have one.”


Manpreet disappeared into the back room and returned with a white plastic container with a little green cross taped on. Willow took it and thanked him again and brought it back to Tara.


She cleaned up Tara’s hand and wrapped a bandage around it gently.


“Is that okay?” she asked tenderly.


“Yes, thank you,” Tara replied, softly tensing and releasing her knuckles to test their sensitivity, “I’m sorry…I think I’ve probably made us miss all the good stuff at breakfast.”


“I think our options are going to be soggy toast or going out,” Willow replied and put an arm around Tara’s shoulders, tugging them close together, “I think a meal is the least I can get you for defending my honor.”


Tara slowly met Willow’s eye, concern shining through.


“Are you okay?”


“You’re the one with the busted up knuckles,” Willow replied with an affectionate smile.


Tara looked away uncomfortably.


“About…what he said?”


Willow took in a soft breath and looked at Tara reassuringly.


“He didn’t really do it.”


“How do you know?” Tara asked with a creased brow of confusion.


“Because it was cold without my snuggle buddy the night before last and I wore a hoody to sleep, tugged up,” Willow said confidently, “Not much more than my eyes were on view. He’s all talk. So don’t worry, okay?”


Tara nodded, relieved; she remembered bringing the blanket up over her head herself that night to keep in the warmth.


But then Willow’s face took on the concern that had left Tara’s.


“What about you? Did he hurt you?”


“It was all so quick,” Tara answered, dazed for a moment before she took stock and realized she was fine and Willow was fine and she was just glad for it to be over, “But, yeah, I’m okay. Glad he’s gone.”


She flexed her hand again, looking down at it in disbelief.


“I can’t believe I punched someone.”


“I can’t believe the first person you ever punched wasn’t Donny,” Willow retorted, laughing at her own joke, “Remind me to stay on your good side when you have PMS.”


Tara snorted and covered her mouth to cover it but her eyes remained alight with the humor of it.


Willow wrapped her arms around Tara and just held her for a few minutes.


“Let’s go get something to eat,” she suggested softly, “Before the others start trickling back.”


Tara nodded and smiled when Willow gingerly held her injured hand in her own.


They walked out and toward the markets, careful to watch every step. There was no room for obliviousness to the streets in this city; a lesson quickly learned.


They made their way to the food stalls and weighed up their options before deciding to get some eggs and spinach wrapped up in chapati. They could eat it easily while they walked around.


The man in the stall whipped it all together in no time, then pointed to three tubs in the front of his cart, next to the barrel of melting ice holding bottles of water and soft drinks.


“You pick chutney.”


“Oh,” Willow replied, peering in, “Um…which one goes best with eggs?”


The vendor grabbed a plastic spoon from a pot.


“You want taste?”


“Thanks!” Willow replied, scooping a full spoon of the first, red chutney and closing her mouth around it.


She made a yummy noise at first as the spoon dragged back over her lips, she licked it again as she swallowed. It was about one-eighth of a second later that her eyes began to bulge.


It was hot.


The hottest thing she’d ever tasted, including the time she’d practically burned her lips off in her haste to try the Chinese hotpot (and the time she really had almost burned her lips off when she’d been too curious with a glue gun as a child.)


Her arms started to flap but before Tara could react or ask what was wrong, Willow was looking around desperately for relief. She spotted the barrel of drinks and plunged her hand into the icy vat, scooping up a few small cubes and firing one into her mouth while she rubbed the other on her lips.


Tara just silently rubbed Willow’s back and looked at the vendor sheepishly, who was looking back with an amused look on his face.


“We’ll take it plain,” Tara said diplomatically and quickly paid.


“Mmspospay,” Willow tried to speak without relinquishing the ice.


Somehow, or perhaps of course, Tara understand.


“You can pay next time. When you’re not doing your best impression of Elsa.”


Willow stuck out her tongue but immediately had to use her lips-ice on it as the other melted to oblivion.


Tara took the two Indian-style breakfast burritos and took Willow away from the laughing bystanders.


She opened the bottle of water she had in her bag and handed it over for Willow to glug down. Willow did exactly that and held the bottle in relief against her lips when the burning finally eased.


“How come I’m the one who always gets landed with the steaming ears and lava tongue?”


“Because you jump into things mouth first,” Tara replied, then glanced over at Willow through her eyelashes, “A trait I’ve enjoyed in the past.”


Willow’s eyes widened as Tara handed off her breakfast.


“Especially with your lava tongue.”


Willow had to shove the chapati into her gob to stop herself from squeaking.


“Eating now.”


“Mmm,” Tara replied, bringing the corner of her breakfast up to nibble on.


She blushed as she realized what she’d actually said and how intently she was watching Willow eat.


The adrenaline was starting to wear off.


She looked back down at her food and let its warmth settle her stomach.


“It’s pretty good actually.”


“Yeah, it’s delicious,” Willow agreed and Tara was relieved to hear the normalcy in her tone, “The vending machine at the Grab’n’Go won’t be able to live up.”


Tara smiled softly.


“What do you want to do today? We never made plans.”


Willow shrugged one shoulder and they walked around another couple of blocks to finish their food. Along the way, she found a flyer roughly stuck onto a pole.


“What about that?”


“A street art tour?” Tara read cursive English above a printed address street corner.


Willow shrugged again.


“Why not?”


“No, it looks fun,” Tara agreed, “I just didn’t think it was your thing.”


“I did a graffiti hunt in Melbourne,” Willow replied with a faux-haughtiness, “I’m cultured.”


“Okay then,” Tara grinned, “I’m in.”


Willow smiled and tapped her pockets.


“I didn’t bring my phone for pictures, do you have yours?”


Tara shook her head.


“No, I locked it up to charge. It died during the night.”


“Right,” Willow replied and glanced at the flyer again, “We have enough time, do you mind if I go back to grab it? It would seem a shame to miss out.”


“Of course,” Tara nodded, “I’ll come with you and refill our water bottles again. You drained them.”


Willow leaned up and kissed Tara’s cheek.


“I don’t know how I’d stay hydrated without you.”


As they headed back toward the hostel, Willow paused and placed her palm gently against her stomach.


“Are you okay?” Tara asked with concern.


Willow shook herself out of it and continued onward.


“Yeah, just those eggs turning over.”


When they were on the steps, Willow suddenly rushed ahead.


“Meet you back here in a few!”


Those eggs went from turning to somersaulting and were determined to leave Willow’s body however they could. The bathroom stalls were the other side of the building, which may as well be Narnia for how unreachable it seemed to Willow.


Sweat broke out on her brow and her stomach lurched in a last and final warning. Willow looked desperately from side to side and spotted an open single room ahead with the cleaning lady and her cart parked outside it. Willow skid toward it and saw the en suite bathroom inside light up as if a golden halo was shining down on it (it was just a dodgy lighting fixture.)


She practically threw herself in and twisted the lock, just about making it to the toilet on time as the cleaning lady began banging on the door and yelling in Hindi.


“I’m sorry!” Willow called out helplessly, her head hanging in her hands as her guts wound themselves up inside her, “I’m sorry!”


She hadn’t even learned how to say it in Hindi yet so she couldn’t apologize properly.


Her hands crossed over her stomach and she leaned forward hoping the pressure might alleviate the pain but it didn’t stop churning.


After a minute, the cleaner stopped yelling, though Willow could still hear the ringing in her ears. Instead, moments later, there was a loud bang of a hand against the door and a male voice boomed through authoritatively.


“Excuse me, this is not a reserved room. You must exit at once and pay a soiling fee.”


Willow knew that voice.


“…Manpreet?”


There was a pause before the voice returned, softer.


“Miss Willow?”


Willow sighed.


“Manpreet, I’m having a… gastroenteric situation.”


“I do not understand this word, Miss Willow,” Manpreet replied, the urgency gone in his voice.


“I just need the bathroom, okay?” Willow shot back quickly, “It was an emergency situation.”


Another pause.


“I see, Miss Willow.”


Willow’s cheeks flamed as much as her intestines.


“I’ll pay for the room. Can you book it out for the night?”


“I will do this for you, Miss Willow,” Manpreet said reassuringly.


Willow winced as a fresh cramp squeezed through her painfully.


“Can you give the key to my—can you give the key to Tara? You remember her?”


“Miss Rambo!” Manpreet replied in recognition, “Yes, I will do this. I will leave you alone now, Miss Willow.”


Willow exhaled softly. She was in far too much pain to focus on the embarrassment but it didn’t stop her face contorting with humiliation.


“…thanks Manpreet.”


She heard the sound of the outer door closing on the room and her head returned to above her knees as she groaned painfully.


Tara checked her watch again as she loitered outside the entrance and tapped her foot gently.


As more minutes ticked by she grew concerned and decided to check if Willow had gotten distracted by her phone. As she stepped back into the lobby of the hostel, Manpreet appeared from nowhere and ran up to her.


“Ah, Miss Rambo, I find you!”


“Have you seen—” Tara started, then stopped and frowned, “I’m sorry, what did you call me?”


“I have key for you,” Manpreet replied, holding it out for her, “Miss Willow reserve new room for you.”


Tara’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Maybe in case Warren came back? But they usually talked about these things first.


“Oh.”


“I believe she is suffering from sudden anal leakage and required suitable facilities,” Manpreet attempted to supply helpfully.


Tara just stared at him for several long seconds before finally blinking slowly and taking the key.


“102?” she read off of it, “I’ll, um…yeah. Thank you.”


She blinked again, shook her head quickly and walked past him. The room was only a few feet away so it didn’t take long for her to get there and let herself in. The room had a big queen bed, the biggest they’d had outside of the nice hotels, and though it was basic decor, there was a TV, a mini-fridge and even a little tea set on a tray.


Tara glanced away from the room and at the second door right inside it. She went to knock with her wrapped knuckles, then thought better of it and used her other hand.


“Willow?”


“Tara?”


Willow’s voice was weak and pained. Tara didn’t have to guess why.


“Oh honey, are you not feeling well?”


There was a pause.


“You could say that.”


“Can I get you anything?” Tara asked softly through the door.


“I just wanted you to know where I was,” Willow replied, a bit hastier, “You should go again. Do the tour.”


“I can sit here and talk to you,” Tara offered but Willow was quick to shoot it down.


“I really don’t want you to.”


“You know I'm accustomed to your bathroom emergencies,” Tara replied with a fond smile in her voice, “I really don't mind.”


“Tara, just—” Willow yelled, then an audible groan could be heard, “Just go. Please. Now.”


Willow tensed every muscle in her body until she finally heard the door close again.


This was hell.


Her head slumped into her hands again. She was starting to feel unable to even hold it up by herself.


She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing, trying to use her mind to uncoil the continued cramping.


She had no idea how long she stayed like that, or whether she was even conscious or unconscious at times as everything just became a painful haze, but became startled when something touched her shoulder.


Both hands grabbed the seat to keep herself on it, then she looked to the side to see what had touched her.


It was at this point she was sure she was hallucinating because she saw a plastic carrier bag floating on a long stick that had been stuck through the tiny rectangular open window in the top corner.


Willow cautiously slid the handles of the bag off the stick, at which point it retreated as if by magic. She looked inside where there was water, wipes, a cold compress, a tiny warm hot water bottle, and her phone. Fully charged.


She felt a lump form in her throat and clutched the bag close to her chest for a moment.


She took the compress and pressed it to her cheeks, then just over her whole face for a moment and sighed contentedly. When it got a bit too cold, she took it off again, feeling a little bit better.


She put it on the sink so it was accessible again to her and took the hot water bottle to her stomach. They was definite relief from it and she felt well enough to look at the screen of her phone, where she saw messages already waiting for her.


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A laugh escaped and Willow brought her forearm up to wipe tears from her eyes.


She angled her body so the hot water bottle pressed into her stomach by way of her thighs and kept up the pressure. She started to type a response.


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Willow sighed and focused on the warmth on her belly.


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Willow frowned.


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Her eyes widened in realization.


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Fresh sweat grew on Willow’s brow as she awaited a calm, reassuring response from her ever-wise girlfriend.


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Willow nearly fell off the bowl.


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Willow looked around for the sink lest she start spewing from that end too.


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Willow heard a cackle of laughter come in from the room and felt her cheeks flame.


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A fresh cramp set upon her and Willow didn’t have time to be indignant any longer.


Hours passed with intermittent check-ins but Willow mostly just endured with her eyes closed; so much so that she fell asleep slumped against the sink, completely exhausted.


She came to by banging her head against the faucet and rubbed the spot, confused as she tried to place herself. She didn’t recognize the bathroom at first but then she remembered barging in earlier.


Ugh. That was embarrassing.


She put a hand on her stomach and pressed gently. She was tender but it wasn’t the Coney Island Cyclone in there any longer.


She was glad that the window was still open.


She lifted herself off of the seat, her legs wobbling a little as she did so. She immediately decided she needed to shower and waddled over to it with her pants around her ankles. She stripped off and welcomed standing under the warm spray and twisting the crick out of her neck.


She wasn’t about to change back into the same clothes, so she put a towel around her and tucked it in so it would stay in place. She opened the bathroom door, letting the steam escape and sighing happily when she found the room a lot warmer than the shared dorm had been.


She always tried to make sure they avoided the absolute bottom barrel accommodation but it had been a lesson along the way that a lot of people didn’t consider heat a basic need.


Almost as soon as she’d stepped out, Tara was walking over to her with a little teacup in hand.


“Hey,” Willow greeted, all the better for seeing Tara’s face.


“Hey,” Tara smiled back softly, gently offering her the cup, “It’s peppermint. It should help. Come sit down.”


Willow sat on the bed and warmed her hands on the little cup.


“How’d you know I was coming out?”


“Well, I didn’t have an Instagram post this time to guide me this time,” Tara replied fondly, reaching over to tuck a piece of damp hair behind Willow’s ear, “I heard the shower. How are you feeling?”


“Raw,” Willow replied, frowning and looking toward the window to see if she could ascertain the time of day, “I don’t even know what time it is.”


“Dinner-ish,” Tara answered, placing her hand down on the bedspread, “I was going to make you some toast but wanted to check with you first in case you thought it would be too much.”


“That’d be really nice,” Willow replied, feeling the relief of having someone take care of her, “What about you?”


“I had a big lunch earlier,” Tara replied with a shrug, then stood to hike a grocery bag from the floor and fish out the pack of bread she’d bought, “I put your PJs on the heater to warm.”


Willow glanced over to the heater and saw her red flannel jammies spread out over them.


“Thank you, Tara.”


Tara just smiled bashfully and glanced down.


“I’ll go make you some toast.”


Willow watched her leave, feeling some love bloom in her heart and crept over to the heater to retrieve her pajamas. She held the soft flannel against her for a moment before dropping the towel and draping her limbs in the warmth.


Its hug was only second to a Tara-hug.


Which Willow hoped would be forthcoming soon too.


She noticed all of their stuff was in the corner, which Tara must have lugged down by herself while Willow was semi-comatose.


She went back to the bed and slipped under the sheets, which felt so much better than the ones in the dorms where she’d actually contemplated laying her towel down to sleep on by how dirty they looked.


She settled her back against the pillows with the sheet draped over her waist and reached for the remote on the nightstand.


Holding it in her hand, she looked around and smiled. This could be their bedroom in the future. Better decorated, hopefully, and she’d like a bit more pop in her bed linen, but this could be them, snuggling up on a Friday night as they always had to watch a movie, but more.


Honest. Sincere. Real.


She flicked through the channels until she found something in English that wasn’t a news channel and checked her phone while she waited for Tara to return. She did after a few minutes with a plate piled high full of toast.


“Do you have a second, secret, sick girlfriend?” Willow asked with a quiet smile, “Or are you trying to kill me via gluten overdose?”


“Option 3,” Tara answered as she climbed on the bed and sat cross-legged beside Willow, “Sharing is caring.”


Willow picked up a triangle, because of course Tara had cut them into triangles for her, and held it up to Tara’s mouth. Tara bit the corner and smiled bashfully, which Willow returned and took the bread back to her own mouth to eat.


“Good toast,” she complimented and Tara waved a piece around with some mock-snootiness.


“It’s all in the burn.”


Willow giggled and took a long sip from her cup of hot tea. She patted the spot next to her for Tara to get under the sheet beside her. Tara kicked off her shoes off and sat alongside Willow, sharing the sheet.


Their hands came together through linked fingers between them and neither minded having to reach over each time to take toast from the plate.


“Xena,” Tara commented as her focus finally landed on the television, “A classic.”


“I never watched it when we were kids,” Willow replied, cocking her head as she watched the two women around a campfire, “My dad didn’t like the promotion of mythological gods. You know, compared to his own totally-not-mythological one.”


“I was always more into the goddesses,” Tara replied wryly and Willow saw a crooked smile hiding behind some chewing.


Willow almost forgot she’d spent the day doubled over in agony such was the sweetness of just sitting with Tara like this.


As the show played out, Willow’s brow gently creased. She leaned over to whisper to Tara.


“Is it just me or is this show kinda gay?”


The biggest laugh rose from Tara’s stomach but somehow she managed to contain it through pursed lips threatening so hard to grin that her jaw shook.


“You know, you might be right,” she managed to get out in a neutral tone with only her eyes betraying her.


Willow looked at her kind of funny but shrugged it off and leaned in against Tara’s slide, resting her head on Tara’s shoulder.


A dance show came on when the episode ended with Bollywood stars that was energetic to watch and then a buddy comedy with subtitles.


Willow watched the reluctant protagonist being dragged around a strip joint with appropriate macho comments being espoused. She poked Tara in the side with her elbow.


“Hey, Tara?”


“Mmm?” Tara replied, brushing her fingers against Willow’s shoulder.


Willow couldn’t help a giggle escaping.


“Tits or ass?” she asked in a gruff voice meant to mimic one of the men on screen.


Tara rolled her eyes playfully, thinking they were exchanging the same mocking spirit, but Willow kept looking at her expectantly.


“Are you serious?” Tara asked after a few moments of uncertainty.


Willow’s nose scrunched.


“I wasn’t but now I kinda am?”


Tara’s mouth opened and closed. She knew better than to ask if Willow meant the women on screen.


“Just Willow,” she settled on after a moment, dropping a kiss onto Willow’s forehead and turning her attention back to the screen.


Willow pulled back a bit and looked at Tara curiously.


“Come on, you have to choose.”


“Why?” Tara asked, holding up a hand airily, “Are you being threatened with having a body part lasered off? Can we negotiate your freedom with all body parts attached?”


Willow gently tugged on Tara’s sleeve.


“It doesn’t have to be about me. Just a…general concept,” she said, her voice rising uncomfortably for a moment, “Just tell me.”


Tara inhaled slowly and exhaled even slower. She let her fingers dance up Willow’s thigh.


“If I have to choose…”


Her fingers pressed insistently enough between Willow’s legs to make her involuntarily gasp.


“Your…”


She then surprised Willow by dropping a kiss on her nearest shoulder.


“Shoulder blade.”


Willow didn’t have enough time to say ‘huh?’ before Tara brushed her lips against Willow’s neck and pressed a kiss into the hollow in her throat.


“And your throat.”


Her mouth dipped as low as the open V of the flannel allowed on Willow’s chest.


“Your breasts,” she whispered and let the tail of the pajama shirt rise enough for her to kiss there, “And your bellybutton.”


Her hand moved then, curving around Willow’s behind and giving it a squeeze.


“Your butt,” she said, smirking a little as she rose her head back to Willow who was looking back at her with an unbroken stare, “And your thighs.”


She grasped Willow’s thigh suddenly, making her jump. Willow’s breath hitched as Tara’s fingers danced down her leg.


“And that spot where your calf muscles tense when you’re excited and send quivers right back up to your…”


Her arm brushed up to press between Willow’s legs again.


“And most of all I love your… lips,” she spoke, her face inches away from Willow’s face now, “Your soft, sweet lips.”


She kissed Willow three times, slowly.


“That I love to kiss.”


Willow’s body was completely still and tingling.


Tara sure knew how to blow her insecurity fishing right out of the water; slapping her down and building her up all at once.


Tara’s hand fell away and she bumped her nose against Willow’s, their breaths mingling hotly for a moment.


“That’s what I choose.”


Willow’s eyes closed and she swallowed deeply as she felt Tara settled back into a sitting position.


Her breath was shaken as it left her mouth and when she opened her eyes again just the sight of Tara made her flush to her bones.


“I’m a breast gal myself,” she blurted, immediately cringing at her own lack of grace.


Tara could only smile and chuckle to herself.


“I know.”


“You already knew that?” Willow asked, frowning with surprise, “Am I too hands-y?”


Tara chuckled again.


“Oh no. I’ve known for a long time. It's one of the reasons I held out hope that you might like me back. I saw you looking.”


Willow suddenly sat up straight.


“Did you wear low cut tops on purpose to our sleepovers?” she accused, her mouth dropping open when Tara just returned a guilty look, “I knew it! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it! It was one of those back of the brain thoughts I wouldn’t let myself process fully but…grr, you tease!”


“Hey, I didn’t know for sure,” Tara defended, blushing, “You’d always been self-conscious about your size, without merit might I add. I didn’t know if you were looking or looking.”


“So you knew I was kinda gay,” Willow reasoned in a soft voice like it was a revelation.


“I ‘knew’ you were in love with Xander because that’s what you always told me,” Tara replied, her tongue poking into her cheek for a moment, “But I thought…hoped… maybe you might perhaps have a little…curiosity too.”


She smiled fondly.


“I remember once you said we should play spin the bottle…just the two of us.”


She glanced down at Willow’s body.


“Plus your PJs were always a little bit gay.”


Willow looked down and frowned.


“What’s gay about flannel?”


“Um, apart from everything?” Tara questioned with a sincerely arched eyebrow.


Willow lifted her sleeve up and examined it as if rainbows might come shooting out. She decided she was glad she didn’t know about that connection because she probably would have stopped wearing them and they were super comfortable.


She stayed on her side facing Tara and started to draw circles on Tara’s thigh.


“Can I ask you something?”


“Of course,” Tara replied slowly, hesitantly, “But if it’s about your body, I—”


“No, no,” Willow interjected, waving a hand about, “It’s about other people’s bodies.”


Tara’s eyes grew wide like saucers and Willow was actually able to laugh to, and at, herself.


“I can see on your face you think I’m about to jump into a jealousy spiral, but actually it’s the opposite. Because…I know we both have insecurities, but you don’t get jealous. Can you teach me how?”


“Oh, Willow,” Tara replied softly, shaking her head, “I get jealous. I have a long history of being jealous, especially over you.”


Willow’s brow creased.


“Umm no, you don’t. I’ve never seen you jealous, ever.”


Tara shook her head again.


“I was jealous of Buffy when you started hanging out with her, I was jealous of the guys you said you crushed on. Who was that actor guy from the 80s? John Cusack?”


“On reflection, I think it was Joan’s…unique…form that I enjoyed,” Willow replied, blushing to her ears, “My parents would probably call that a unique kind of transference.”


She tried to smile.


“Better not tell them or they’ll want to write a paper on me,” she said, then her eyes and voice grew downcast, “Another paper.”


Tara looked down, her thumbs turning over themselves in her lap.


“I was even jealous of Dickie last year.”


“Dickie? Dickie BABCOCK? Seriously??” Willow exclaimed in disbelief, but reined it in when she noticed Tara wasn’t kidding around, “Wow, Tara…I never knew.”


Tara smiled softly, sadly and Willow realized she recognized it and not in a good way.


“I guess it’s hard to notice. I hid all those years of it behind the smile.”


Willow’s heart tightened painfully.


“Years?”


Tara drew her knees up to her chest, boxing herself in.


“That’s about how long you were set on Xander.”


Willow shook her head dismissively.


“But he—”


“Was the love of your life,” Tara interjected quickly, “So you’ve said.”


Willow felt a harsh slap of reality of all of the times she’d whined to Tara about liking Xander…how often she’d kissed her while saying she was practicing for him.


Fuck.


She wisely shut her mouth for a moment to choose her words.


“I'm sorry, Tara,” she said eventually, slightly helplessly but with nothing but sincerity, “I’m so sorry. It was never real. But I get that it hurt you. I don’t think I understood quite as much until right now. Which is on me, because you’ve said it. I guess I just…I guess I thought your feelings were as real as mine were…which is to say, not.”


She placed a hand on Tara’s knee and gently tried to push it down.


“You have to know that every kiss was because I wanted to kiss you. I was just too scared to say it. And I’m so sorry I ever made you feel differently.”


Tears pricked her eyes and Tara let her legs be lowered again, physically opening up.


“Hey…You don't have anything to be sorry about,” she comforted.


Willow swiped at her eyes.


“You’re doing that thing where you push your feelings down to make me feel better.”


“No, Willow,” Tara shook her head, “Okay, listen…One…my jealousy isn't your problem…unless you're intentionally invoking it, which I don’t think you were. And two… I only ever wanted you to be happy. If that was him, then…that was him. I would have supported it.”


Willow reached out and placed her palm on Tara’s cheek.


“You’re a better person than me.”


Tara leaned her cheek in to nuzzle Willow’s hand.


“You don’t give yourself credit. I never doubted you cared about my feelings. You used to tell me to date Nate.”


Willow’s face scrunched up.


“Nuh-uh.”


Tara nodded.


“You would drop hints about how you thought he liked me.”


“I was fishing! I wanted to know if you liked him too!” Willow could only laugh at herself again, which exploded into uncontrollable giggles, “Sorry, it just seems so stupid now! I mean, Xander’s a great friend but I thought I wanted him and not you and you thought that too?! How stupid were we?!”


Tara couldn’t help but smile as she thought back to what were the more ridiculous times of envy against Xander as a dorky, spotty, awkward kid going through puberty.


“I was so jealous when you chose him to be your Coke and Pepsi partner at your bat mitzvah.”


“Seriously?” Willow asked, eyes wide.


“Seething,” Tara replied, grinning at the silliness of it all.


“I only chose him because he was gonna choose you! I heard him talking about it to Jesse!” Willow laughed, “Stupid idiot ran out on Sprite.”


“Don’t call him that,” Tara chastised softly.


“Yeah, you’re right,” Willow sighed contritely, “Even if I would say it to his face. In fact, I did.”


“I remember,” Tara agreed, nodding, “Your mom wasn’t impressed.”


“When is she ever?” Willow replied wryly and they both slid slowly into silence.


Willow’s hand had remained on Tara’s thigh and she gave it a little squeeze


“Is there anything I can do to repair all those years?”


Tara lifted Willow’s hand to her mouth and kissed her palm.


“You do it every day you wake up and choose to be with me.”


Willow reached to clasp Tara’s delicately bandaged hand between both of hers.


“Let me tell you the whole story. To make you understand that it was never him. I told you a little bit of it before. Do you remember me telling you about Cordelia making fun of me on the first day of Kindergarten…because I said I wanted to marry you?”


Tara nodded slowly and Willow recounted all of her fuzzy childhood memories. The yellow crayon and the bullying and how using Xander as a cover was a lie so old she’d forgotten it was a lie.


“He was the perfect beard. He never liked me back so I never had to actually act on it. And I treated him badly as much as I did you. I don’t deserve all the forgiveness I’ve been given.”


“You were way too young to try and have to work out all of that turmoil,” Tara replied tenderly, “Maybe it’s time to forgive yourself.”


Willow dipped her head for a moment, then smiled up at Tara.


“I’m glad we can talk like this.”


“I am too,” Tara replied softly.


Willow bounced on the spot, showing some excitement.


“I want this. I don’t ever want there to be something so misunderstood between us again. I want to be open about everything. It might take some time and work to get there, but I want it. Even if it hurts or…I want to know everything,” she smiled bashfully, “You might even be able to point out other women you find attractive to me one day.”


Tara opened her arms, which Willow gladly fell into, though looked up quickly for a moment.


“Just to be really clear, today is not that day.”


Tara chuckled softly.


“I know honey,” she said, kissing Willow’s brow, “I only have eyes for you.”


Willow’s face pressed closely into Tara’s chest and her fingers rolled over the curves. She looked up at Tara through her eyelashes and let her hand dip lower, pressing against the front of Tara’s pants as Tara had done to her earlier.


“You know I’m not exclusively inclined toward the northern slopes…” she said with a salacious grin, “I’m definitely a pussy Willow too.”


Tara took in a sharp breath and exhaled it shakily.


“Oh. I, um, I got my…”


Willow nodded understandingly, pressing her lips to Tara again.


“I can wait,” she whispered softly, looking down bashfully, “I don’t think my stomach is up much for bouncing around tonight anyway.”


“Think we can cuddle?” Tara asked and Willow nodded keenly.


“If you’re the big spoon.”


They shuffled down so they were lying and Tara curved her body around Willow’s back. She let her hand slide under Willow’s top and gently rubbed her palm around Willow’s belly in circles.


“Is this okay?” she asked softly in Willow’s ear.


Willow’s eyes closed peacefully.


“Mmm, I like that.”


She rested her fingers gently over Tara’s hand.


“And I love you,” she said softly, recounting the words she’d memorized while Tara had gone to get toast, “Main tumse pyar karthee hoon.”


“That’s the most complicated one yet,” Tara murmured as her fingertips brushed Willow’s tender skin.


Willow exhaled in a soft sigh.


“The words, maybe. Not the feeling. Not anymore.”


She smiled as she drifted off into tranquil sleep.


“Not ever again.”

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:46 pm 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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JMT-

Sorry I've been absent from leaving feedback. I've been reading and then just plain lazy!

Where to start....oh yes, the fucking perv from HELL! He, who shall not be named, is a vile pig and I sincerely hope that is the last we see of him. Big YAY for Tara punching him in the face! I love how you incorporated a little canon into this scene.

Quote:
“Aw,” she said softly, “Baby. That was…”

Tara expected Willow to say ‘terrifying’ or ‘disgusting’ but her pupils were blown in a whole new way.

“Really hot.”
Willow... :laugh

I can SO relate to Willow's "bathroom issues." As soon as she grabbed the ice & popped it into her mouth...I think I said "NO" out loud, lol and also, GROSS! They don't call it Montezuma's Revenge for nothing.

This made me LOL and also think..."Tara's a genius!"
Quote:
It was at this point she was sure she was hallucinating because she saw a plastic carrier bag floating on a long stick that had been stuck through the tiny rectangular open window in the top corner.

I can see Willow's reluctance in not wanting Tara to see her sick on the toilet, but the longer they're together....that soon will fade and she'll be like, "Get in here and HELP ME!!!" lol Just ask my wife about the California Pizza Kitchen / San Diego beach Incident of 1994™. It happened about two and a half years into our relationship and that day...I became a hero. Wait, never mind. How about you NEVER mention that to my wife! Kay? Thanks.

Quote:
Holding it in her hand, she looked around and smiled. This could be their bedroom in the future. Better decorated, hopefully, and she’d like a bit more pop in her bed linen, but this could be them, snuggling up on a Friday night as they always had to watch a movie, but more.
Awwwwwwww! :heart

One last thing I feel bears mentioning, which definitely concerned me: The possible side trip to Israel.

Quote:
“He keeps insisting I visit Israel ever since I told him we were thinking of going to Egypt instead of Turkey. Wants to give me extra money to go.”

Tara’s hand fell away softly.

“Oh.”


I'm not really sure why this is bugging Tara. The money part? Maybe, but my guess is that it has more to do with Willow allowing her parents control over trip plans. Maybe Tara wishes Willow didn't share so much with them? I also think Willow may feel obligated because they helped out with the Figi hotel. I just hope it doesn't become a major point of contention.

I loved the last few chapters and as always, looking forward to more!

-JMT

_________________
Shelby - Racing The Rain (IN PROGRESS) / Baby Makes Three (IN PROGRESS) / The Santa Line / Everything She Does...Is Beautiful / Calfornia Grass

"Transform your pain. Release your past. And ... uh ... get over it."
~Willow, Where The Wild Things Are


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:31 am 
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5. Willowhand

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Quote:
There was a larger scene that was cut back in Adelaide that featured a fellow traveler telling Willow about the occupants of the room and that woman described Warren and 'his boyfriends' (hence Willow's recollection 'your boyfriends or something?' That person meant it insultingly but Willow didn't pick up on that at the time.

Ah! Thanks for rehabilitating Willow in my mind. :wink

Warren's behaviour was pathetic and disgusting! Yay to Tara for punching him after his (thankfully false) false statement of what he did to Willow the night before.

Quote:
“He hurt my hand,”

Another sneaky canon-easteregg (with "hand" instead of "nose"). Quite a funny complaint if you're the one who punched someone… I wouldn't try this as a defense-argument in court. :grin

Quote:
“Nobody messes with my girl.”

The other easteregg!

I actually imagined that if you had Warren attack the girls then Tara would defend Willow so this great quote could make an appearance.

Quote:
“How come I’m the one who always gets landed with the steaming ears and lava tongue?”


“Because you jump into things mouth first,” Tara replied, then glanced over at Willow through her eyelashes, “A trait I’ve enjoyed in the past.”


Willow’s eyes widened as Tara handed off her breakfast.


“Especially with your lava tongue.”

:laugh Yay for vixen-Tara's apperance!

Quote:
can you give the key to Tara? You remember her?”


“Miss Rambo!” Manpreet replied in recognition

:laugh

Quote:
“I believe she is suffering from sudden anal leakage and required suitable facilities,” Manpreet attempted to supply helpfully.


Tara just stared at him for several long seconds before finally blinking slowly and taking the key.

:rofl I love Manpreet!

Poor Willow! I guess you can't have a yearlong trip around the world without at least one case of "Montezuma's Revenge". I love how Tara took care of her (although she had a little lapse of compassion during their message-conversation with the emoticons and the laughing at Willow's expense... :fallen).

I loved Tara "whorshipping" Willow's body as a cure to her insecurity and that they had another enlightening talk about their childhood and youth (especially Tara admitting her jealousy and Willow explaining that she was lying to herself about the nature of her feelings towards Xander).

Quote:
And I treated him badly as much as I did you. I don’t deserve all the forgiveness I’ve been given.”


“You were way too young to try and have to work out all of that turmoil,” Tara replied tenderly, “Maybe it’s time to forgive yourself.”


Willow dipped her head for a moment, then smiled up at Tara.



Yeah Willow, think of your New Year's Resolution - you wouldn't think Tara didn't deserve forgiveness if your places had been reversed, would you?

Quote:
“I’m glad we can talk like this.”


“I am too,” Tara replied softly.


Willow bounced on the spot, showing some excitement.


“I want this. I don’t ever want there to be something so misunderstood between us again. I want to be open about everything. It might take some time and work to get there, but I want it. Even if it hurts or…I want to know everything,”

Good plan! With that in mind they should really talk about Tara's apparent reluctance against a visit to Israel which I don't really get. If I were her I would like to visit Israel with my jewish girlfriend just to learn more about her religious / cultural background.

Quote:
“And I love you,” she said softly, recounting the words she’d memorized while Tara had gone to get toast, “Main tumse pyar karthee hoon.”


“That’s the most complicated one yet,” Tara murmured as her fingertips brushed Willow’s tender skin.


Willow exhaled in a soft sigh.


“The words, maybe. Not the feeling. Not anymore.”

Awww! :flower

One last thing: I didn't understand this part:
Quote:
“I was so jealous when you chose him to be your Coke and Pepsi partner at your bat mitzvah.”


“Seriously?” Willow asked, eyes wide.


“Seething,” Tara replied, grinning at the silliness of it all.


“I only chose him because he was gonna choose you! I heard him talking about it to Jesse!” Willow laughed, “Stupid idiot ran out on Sprite.”


Is that some sort of non-alcoholic-drinking-game for kids or what?


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 12:52 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Ew Warren EW EW EW!!!! (also, a request, will you put content warnings if stuff like that happens again?) glad Tara punched him, almost wish Willow would go dark and take him down

glad Manpreet was so accommodating. poor poor Willow. I am glad they are both taking a day to rest

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Finey_McFine

Quote:
JMT-

Sorry I've been absent from leaving feedback. I've been reading and then just plain lazy!


No apology needed! Happy just to know you're still reading :)

Quote:
Where to start....oh yes, the fucking perv from HELL! He, who shall not be named, is a vile pig and I sincerely hope that is the last we see of him. Big YAY for Tara punching him in the face! I love how you incorporated a little canon into this scene.


It is the last he is featured, I can confirm. Last mentioned, not so much, but I think you'll be okay with said mentionings.

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Willow... :laugh


There's a fine line with the ole violence :laugh

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I can SO relate to Willow's "bathroom issues." As soon as she grabbed the ice & popped it into her mouth...I think I said "NO" out loud, lol and also, GROSS! They don't call it Montezuma's Revenge for nothing.


Just very...unpleasant.

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This made me LOL and also think..."Tara's a genius!"


She's creative, you gotta give her that!

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I can see Willow's reluctance in not wanting Tara to see her sick on the toilet, but the longer they're together....that soon will fade and she'll be like, "Get in here and HELP ME!!!" lol Just ask my wife about the California Pizza Kitchen / San Diego beach Incident of 1994™. It happened about two and a half years into our relationship and that day...I became a hero. Wait, never mind. How about you NEVER mention that to my wife! Kay? Thanks.


Lips are sealed :wink

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Awwwwwwww! :heart


She's so excited about their future! It's just a huge shift in perspective for her so I'm :heart -ing right along with you!

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One last thing I feel bears mentioning, which definitely concerned me: The possible side trip to Israel.

I'm not really sure why this is bugging Tara. The money part? Maybe, but my guess is that it has more to do with Willow allowing her parents control over trip plans. Maybe Tara wishes Willow didn't share so much with them? I also think Willow may feel obligated because they helped out with the Figi hotel. I just hope it doesn't become a major point of contention.


Less personal objection, more political. But it won't be a major point of contention.

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I loved the last few chapters and as always, looking forward to more!


Thanks so much JMT, hope you continue to enjoy them!

Thanks for your feedback!

Will's redemption

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Ah! Thanks for rehabilitating Willow in my mind. :wink


Thank you for pointing it out! I couldn't go back and change it because it was posted and formed part of the exchange that needed to happen but I'm glad there wasn't a misunderstanding.

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Warren's behaviour was pathetic and disgusting! Yay to Tara for punching him after his (thankfully false) false statement of what he did to Willow the night before.


He is a total creep and will totally get his comeuppance.

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Another sneaky canon-easteregg (with "hand" instead of "nose"). Quite a funny complaint if you're the one who punched someone… I wouldn't try this as a defense-argument in court. :grin


You never know, I think a judge would see it Tara's way :D

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The other easteregg!

I actually imagined that if you had Warren attack the girls then Tara would defend Willow so this great quote could make an appearance.


Isn't it just the best quote, coming from Tara of all people? Top 5 for sure.

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:laugh Yay for vixen-Tara's apperance!


Also a fave, as you know!

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:rofl I love Manpreet!


After this, so does Willow!

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Poor Willow! I guess you can't have a yearlong trip around the world without at least one case of "Montezuma's Revenge". I love how Tara took care of her (although she had a little lapse of compassion during their message-conversation with the emoticons and the laughing at Willow's expense... :fallen).


Hey, you gotta laugh... :laugh

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I loved Tara "whorshipping" Willow's body as a cure to her insecurity and that they had another enlightening talk about their childhood and youth (especially Tara admitting her jealousy and Willow explaining that she was lying to herself about the nature of her feelings towards Xander).


I think it was an important conversation a long time coming but also came at the right time. This kinda stuff, I find, is worked out as you go along.

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Yeah Willow, think of your New Year's Resolution - you wouldn't think Tara didn't deserve forgiveness if your places had been reversed, would you?


You make a very good point :)

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Good plan! With that in mind they should really talk about Tara's apparent reluctance against a visit to Israel which I don't really get. If I were her I would like to visit Israel with my jewish girlfriend just to learn more about her religious / cultural background.


She'd love to do the last part of that final sentence, it's just the location itself giving her pause. They'll talk it through.

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One last thing: I didn't understand this part:

Is that some sort of non-alcoholic-drinking-game for kids or what?


https://djconnectiondjs.com/bar-bat-mitzvah-games-and-descriptions/

Thanks for your feedback :)

shirrey

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Ew Warren EW EW EW!!!!


Mega.

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(also, a request, will you put content warnings if stuff like that happens again?)


Sure! (it doesn't though) I've retrospectively added one to that chapter too :)

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glad Tara punched him, almost wish Willow would go dark and take him down


He'll get his just desserts, promise!

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glad Manpreet was so accommodating. poor poor Willow. I am glad they are both taking a day to rest


Yes I think it was definitely a necessity!

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: NC-17

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Chapter 36



India

(Part 3)



It’s Oh So Quiet…



“That life-size portrait of Gandhi was just…stunning. I didn’t know monochrome could be so elegant.”


Willow frowned at Tara as she pushed open the door to the hostel kitchen.


“He was kind of a dick, you know.”


“But the art was beautiful,” Tara argued, adjusting the strap on her messenger bag so it didn’t fall off her shoulder.


“I’m just saying—”


“They waur in th' room tay!” someone suddenly shrieked across the room and they both looked over to see a gaggle of people surrounding a girl whom they’d shared the dorm with previously, a Scottish woman with short, blonde hair and a bit of a smoker’s rasp whose name was Hannah, “Oi, Poppy isnae it??”


“Me?” Willow asked, stepping forward in confusion, “Willow.”


“Aye, ah knew it was a tree,” Hannah replied a little dismissively, “Ye can teel them he was a reit creep.”


Willow walked over and leaned over the table with her elbows sticking out.


“What’s the hubbub?”


Hannah looked at Willow expectantly.


“Dae ye min' those three bamsticks 'at shared uir room? Wee things wi' th' big egos?”


Willow glanced at Tara, who was frowning.


“Uh, yeah, we remember them,” Willow nodded, hoping she was following along.


Hannah smirked.


“Got huckled tryin' tae buy a gin.”


Willow’s brow creased.


“They got what trying to buy some gin?”


“A gin!” Hannah repeated insistently, “A gin!”


“I think she means gun,” Tara whispered quietly, “They got arrested.”


“That's whit ah said,” Hannah said with exasperation, though clearly loving the attention of sharing the story, “Big bossy ‘un tried tae punch a polis an' got held in th’ cells.”


“Not-so-garden-variety creep, then,” Willow muttered, while Tara paled.


“They were really trying to buy a gun?”


“He's th' body gettin' creeped oan noo,” Hannah cackled, “The’s place is mingin an' we're payin' fur it… imagine th’ jail!”


“How’d you find out?” Willow asked, backing up to Tara to silently put an arm around her waist.


“His friends cam back tae gie their bags, freaked it, screamin' at each other,” Hannah replied with a grin, “They waur arguin' abit bailin’ heem ait ur jist bailin’. They’re probably oan a plane it awreddy, ah woods be.”


Tara tugged on Willow’s sleeve and Willow nodded to her discreetly.


“Well, he got what he deserved.”


“I’ll say,” Hannah replied, flicking her hand back through her hair, “Heard he was wankin' tae us, the lavvy-heided arsepiece.”


“If you’ll excuse us,” Willow said, extracting them from the conversation so Hannah could go back to bragging to her crowd and Willow could bring Tara off to a quieter corner.


They sat at a small round table near the door and Willow tucked her hand into Tara’s across the middle of it.


“Tell me what you’re thinking, baby.”


Tara gulped.


“Do you think he was buying that…for us?”


“I’m guessing you don’t mean as a belated Hanukkah gift,” Willow replied with her unique brand of peppy sarcasm.


Tara’s jaw tensed.


“He was angry when…” she stopped and lifted her gaze to Willow’s, her eyes betraying her fear, “Let’s get out of here.”


“You wanna get some dinner or go to a bar or something?” Willow asked unsurely.


“No, I mean let’s get out of here,” Tara replied, antsy, then clarified, “Move on.”


She looked down and her voice dropped.


“I don’t feel safe.”


Willow only had to think about it for a second.


“Yeah, of course,” she replied, squeezing Tara’s hand reassuringly, “You’re totally right. Let’s go. I can book us a train out of here tonight. Where do you want to go?”


“Anywhere,” Tara replied quickly.


Willow nodded.


“Let’s go pack up.”


She stood up and pulled Tara into a hug.


“Hey,” she said, smiling softly as she echoed the words Tara had said to her just a few days before, “I’ll keep you safe, baby.”


Tara held onto Willow tight for a few moments, enough to get the strength to follow Willow to their room. She started to quick-pack both hers and Willow’s things as Willow used her iPad to figure out their next move.


“Trains are surprisingly booked up but we can get a couple of spaces heading south if we hurry…we can figure out where to hop off when we’re on it.”


Tara zipped up her bag and placed her hands over the handle.


“Do you think I’m being paranoid?”


Willow shook her head.


“No. And I think we were getting close to our time to move on anyway,” she replied, looking up at Tara with tears suddenly brimming in her eyes, “And god, Tara, if anything ever happened to you…”


She reached out to cup Tara’s cheek. Tara nuzzled into her and they both closed their eyes for a moment to enjoy the contact before separating again.


“Let’s get out of here,” Willow said, helping Tara to lug the bags off the bed.


They dropped their key back to the front desk and Willow thanked Manpreet for all of his care during their stay.


“You are most welcome Miss Willow and Miss Rambo. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in my country with minimal buttock disruption.”


“Why does he keep calling me 'Miss Rambo'?” Tara whispered as they left the building.


“That's what you're objecting to?!” Willow asked incredulously.


They debated whether to order a taxi to get to the train station with their bags, but decided they were trying to not take their lives in their hands by leaving so getting into a car was tempting fate on these roads. Plus it was close by anyway, so they just walked.


They had to get to the furthest platform in the station with night descending and throngs of people boarding for commutes or travel. It was more akin to what one might expect when imagining an Indian railway station: utter chaos. They lost each once before holding their hands very firmly together and using brute force to weave through the people.


Somehow, the train was even more crowded than the station. As they pushed into the last cabin they were both overwhelmed by the tight space. Flimsy, wooden benches were nailed into the train walls and every inch of space was taken up by people pushing together to try and get on.


There was a space of maybe six feet of floor space available in the most tucked-away corner; just about enough room for them both to sit huddled up to each other with an old newspaper beneath for protection.


The train was already moving before they could process whether to stay on or not and more people had pushed in so they took that floor space before it was gone. It took several minutes for the shock to wear off before Willow could whisper to Tara.


“I didn’t know it would be this bad,” she said, tears pricking her eyes, “I thought…I thought all the cabins would be sleeper cabins, I…”


Tara just patted Willow’s leg silently. She had to keep her head down to avoid the armpit of the man sitting to her right.


Willow had to keep her bag between her legs and fight to squeeze her iPad out so she could actually figure out where the hell they were going. She grew ever more frustrated trying to figure out their destination with the almost absent internet signal and constant jostling. Not to mention the floor was about as comfortable as sitting on a bed of nails.


She was ready to toss the iPad against whichever fellow passenger had brought his BO on board with him but finally, after much intermittent searching, she had a clear idea of where they were going.


It wasn’t good.


“I figured out where we can get out the soonest but we’re going to be on here until past sun up…and trust me you don’t want to know how long it would take to get to Mumbai. At the very least we’re switching trains and getting off this floor.”


“Okay,” Tara agreed absentmindedly, then spun her head around to Willow, “Wait…all night?”


Willow looked apologetic and Tara’s head just rolled forward.


It was a long night.


They took it in turns to be each other’s head support so the other might get a few precious minutes sleep, never verbalizing this agreement; just adjusting as necessary.


Willow’s eyes were sore from checking her screen for the time and where possible to refresh her map and watch the train tick a little more forward.


Tara was asleep on her shoulder when she watched the sun start to rise with bleary eyes. Her connection started to strengthen indicating they were heading in a more urban direction and when Willow saw the spot on the map that indicated the station pop up on the screen with the moving dot hurtling toward it, she gently shook Tara’s shoulder.


“Babe,” she whispered quietly enough for only Tara to hear, which was extremely quiet considering the scores of people, “Tara, we’re almost there.”


Tara looked up with equally bleary eyes. She looked around at other passengers, slumped in all kinds of positions, and the world hurtling by outside as it very gradually slowed down.


Finally, the station was in sight and they grabbed onto each other to keep steady as they climbed over people to be as close to the doors as possible while watching it near through the windows.


There were men squatting on the sides of the road openly relieving themselves and somehow it still seemed preferable than another minute in that cabin.


Neither of them realized they were gasping for air until the doors finally opened and they stepped outside and took a breath. It had been so stuffy and it was a cool night. Neither could even imagine what it must be like in the middle of summer.


“People must die,” Willow muttered but Tara didn’t respond because she thought Willow was just making a general remark to the universe and she kind of agreed.


They slogged through the station with the hundreds of other passengers until they realized they had nowhere to go. With some consistent WiFi, they parked themselves at another wooden bench and Willow wearily began looking up some accommodation.


“I never thought I’d see the day I couldn’t bear looking at a screen.”


“I’ll do it,” Tara offered. At least she’d had a little bit of sleep before their exit.


Willow gratefully handed over the iPad and leaned her head back against the wall, using her sweater as a pillow.


Tara scrolled past a lot of no vacancy posts as she searched for somewhere for them to stay. They were usually fine to wait until they got to their destination to book but sometimes the smaller areas were tougher.


“There’s something here…” she said to Willow after a few minutes, “It’s a bit more than we usually spend but all meals are included. It’s just for the weekend. Give us a chance to get our bearings. It’s not a hostel, though.”


She showed the screen to Willow, who cracked an eye.


“Relaxation retreat?” she read off the very basic ad.


“Is that too out there?” Tara asked unsurely.


“I really liked the Tai Chi in China, so not stratospheric,” Willow answered, her arms crossed loosely over her chest, “Honestly as long as I can lie horizontally it sounds like Disneyland right now.”


Tara chewed on the corner of her lip.


“I’m not being pushy, am I? I was kind of hoping to do a meditation class here so this sounds great to me but I don’t want to force you into it.”


“Any bed that isn’t made of a mattress of newspaper,” Willow reasoned jadedly, “Any at all.”


Tara nodded.


“Okay, I have the address. We should be able to get a cab outside. Are you okay to move?”


Willow mumbled an affirmative response and let Tara hoist her up so they could get to the taxi stand outside. Tara haggled the fare, a skill she’d really honed as her confidence grew in their travels.


Willow was impressed watching her; remembering a time the Japan only mere months ago when Tara had paid almost triple for something at a newsstand just to avoid any awkwardness or confrontation.


She was kinda turned on too. Why did weird things like that turn her on?


Oh, right.


It was Tara doing them.


She wrapped her hand around Tara’s upper arm and held on as the cab drove them out of the town and out into the countryside.


She smiled to herself and then over at Tara.


“I’m about to go full cheeseball but I can’t stop thinking about it ever since we not-visited the Taj.”


“I’m ready,” Tara replied in a soft, teasing tone.


Willow felt at peace to be her cheesiest self.


“You make heaven a place on earth. There it is. I had to stay it. You can laugh at me now. I can take it.”


Tara just snuggled into Willow’s side and their hands slid down together to hold.


Willow was enjoying watching the cows graze and the mustard fields go by but as the minutes ticked by she grew concerned about where they were going, or rather where they were being taken.


Just as she was about to turn to Tara to voice her concerns, they turned into a long driveway. The gardens were so green they looked artificial, but that may have just been in contrast to the surrounding land.


The cab dropped them in front of the doors.


The building was made of beige stone, with wooden features like window shutters and an overhanging roof. It looked like Fred Flinstones’s house had been re-engineered for the 20th century…or they’d gotten lost on the way home from meeting The Jetsons.


“Yabba Dabba Doo,” Willow mumbled under her breath.


“I thought it was Tare-Bear now,” Tara replied, misunderstanding the reference.


“It is,” Willow replied affectionately, “But sometimes it’s nice to call back.”


Tara pressed her hand above her stomach for a moment with a conflicted look on her face, then reached out to take the handle of her luggage. They walked past a little rock pool with a water feature trickling down and doing its job of setting a relaxing tone.


When they walked through the doors, the inside matched the outside with bare stone walls and dark wood interiors. The lobby was small, barely more than a hallway and there was only the sound of the wind at their back and the soft clicking sound of the door closing behind them.


There was an Indian woman standing behind a counter with a computer, which Willow thought might be from before she was even born; many large leather-bound notebooks and stacks of pens that looked like they were drying up. That made Willow anxious.


“Namaste,” Tara greeted, placing her palms down on the wooden counter, “Um, do you speak English?”


“Yes, ma’am,” the clerk smiled with a nod, “How may I help you?”


Tara smiled in relief.


“We’re here for the weekend retreat.”


“You are most welcome,” the clerk replied, her voice low and passive, “Please may I take your information?”


While Tara conversed, Willow had a look around at the decoration and symbols adorning the walls. She recognized some as Buddhist symbols from Thailand, some seemed Islamic and there were several Hindi Gods. She swore one even looked like Xena’s weapon but she blamed that on the tiredness.


As her gaze traveled around the room, it fell back on Tara, whom she realized was staring at her.


“Huh, sorry?” Willow asked, reaching for her wallet thinking maybe Tara needed cash.


Then she noticed Tara was pale and her voice was quivering.


“Y-you need to give her your phone.”


Willow laughed, looking side to side between the other two women.


“It’s funny because you made a joke but nobody is laughing,” she chuckled, bile rising in her throat as it dawned this wasn’t a joke. She tugged Tara’s sleeve and brought her over to whisper, “Why do I need to give her my phone?!”


“It’s the rules,” Tara replied quietly, “I guess to stop distractions.”


“You didn’t tell me that!” Willow protested.


“I didn’t know,” Tara said, holding her arm across her body nervously, “Willow, we’re in the middle of nowhere, our lodging choices aren’t overwhelming right now. Can you please just give it up for the weekend? It might be good for y—us.”


Willow looked stricken and the lady behind the desk popped her head out helpfully.


“We keep them in locked boxes here with no one else having access if you are worried for security.”


Willow looked behind the clerk to see rows of little metal boxes hung on the wall which looked like an old set of apartment mailboxes.


She knew that because Xander and Jesse had dragged one from a dumpster outside the hotel once and used it to practice picking locks. Xander had involved her by asking to borrow a hair clip but neither that nor Jesse’s father’s stolen credit card had worked until Willow, eyeing the tiny keyhole and doing the math in her head, suggested a paper clip.


She learned to pick a lock that day but had never put it to use (unlike Xander and Jesse who had been grounded and suspended respectively for trying to get into a cash box and the school office to wipe out a detention.)


Her eyes followed a sign she’d missed before, clearly outlining the forbidden objects.


No alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sure she agreed with those but electronics? Her precious, precious electronics?


But Tara said she really wanted to do this and Willow didn’t want to disappoint. Also, a bed seemed so close…


Reluctantly, she reached into her bag and slid her phone across the desk. As the clerk opened the box to lock it away, Willow noted Tara had already given over everything else and her face dropped grumpily.


She stared at Tara with her most serious frowny face and Tara looked back helplessly.


It didn’t stop Willow’s arms from folding over her chest.


“And what level are you at?” the clerk inquired in that pleasant up-lift at the end of her sentence that was beginning to drive Willow nuts.


“Level?” Tara asked blankly.


“Proficiency level?” the clerk clarified, looking at them expectantly.


Tara glanced at Willow, who although was still feeling grouchy about her phone, couldn’t resist those pleading eyes.


“Oh! Uh, high, a high level. Very high. One of those… top levels.”


She looked at Tara, whose eyes were wide anxiously.


“Five!” she declared abruptly and Willow blinked several times.


The clerk just nodded and wrote it down.


Willow mouthed ‘five??’ at Tara, who just shrugged.


“Very good, most wise. You will receive the yellow wristband,” the clerk advised and they both deflated with relief, “Here are your room keys and schedule. If you need to speak to staff you may return to this desk, otherwise, our total silence tenant is observed throughout the rest of the establishment.”


Willow’s hand closed around her keys, then she did a double-take.


“I’m sorry, did you say…total silence?”


The clerk’s eyes widened and she scrambled for a pen.


Image



Willow’s eyes widened too as she read and she opened her mouth to speak, refute the offense that had not been taken. Upon realizing she couldn’t she did the next best thing, at least to her scrambled brain at the time, and stuck both thumbs up.


The clerk looked relieved and clasped her hands together in front of her, bowing her head just slightly.


Willow copied the motion and shot her eyes toward Tara unhappily.


Sure enough, above the door into the back of the building was a big sign with ‘Silence’ written in many languages. Their schedule had a map on the back of it, showing them the rest of the building with the residential quarters and then they would have to walk outside across a garden to get to the activity building.


They walked through the heavy door and both stopped.


If they thought it was silent before, this was like a vacuum — the quiet almost hurt their ears. Tara stepped forward first, checking the number on her room key.


Willow watched her and realized they had different keys and therefore different rooms.


They walked down the hallway to their doors, directly opposite each other. Tara felt Willow’s gaze on her and turned to look. Willow looked like she’d swallowed a bee and started gesturing wildly and mouthing words at Tara.


“I can’t have my phone, we can’t even speak! Thanks a lot, I’m glad we’re in different rooms!”


Willow wasn’t sure how easy that must have been to decipher, but the look on Tara’s face told her it had been understood.


Tara just raised her two thumbs sarcastically.


Willow’s mouth opened in shocked indignation and spun on her heels to open her door.


Tara did the same but dropped her keys.


Willow was not above sneaking a peek at Tara’s ass as she bent down to pick them up.


An indignant peek, of course. Sometimes there was a thin line between huffy and horny.


She watched Tara push herself into her room and she did the same. She would have liked to slam the door for the satisfaction of it, but it was on one of those systems that slowed it down to a click.


Instead, she dropped her bag and kicked off her shoes and dropped down onto the little camp bed in the room. She looked around.


It looked and felt like a converted janitor’s closet in its size but there was a huge skylight that made the sun shine directly on the bed and lightened the room much more than it deserved.


There was a rail with a few hangers on it, a plank of wood attached to the wall to mimic a desk with a chair stuck underneath it and the bed she was lying on which felt like it was leftover from some war.


So relaxing she thought to herself as folded her arms under her head and looked up at the bit of cloudy sky peeking down at her. It was too bright so she turned on her side and curled up.


At least it was an actual bed.



She was confused when she woke up and was momentarily blinded by the afternoon sun. She sat up and stretched her back. The camp bed hadn’t been so awful after all. It didn’t even creak when she moved.


They really had nailed that ‘silence’ thing down.


She looked at the door and though it was only a few feet away, it looked like miles. Or rather, what was on the other side of it felt like miles.


Between this and their visit to the Taj, she made a note to avoid words with Tara if either of them hadn’t slept. There was a reason sleep deprivation was a form of torture. And now she had Tara-deprivation too because of it. One of those Hindi Gods was laughing at her.


She checked her watch and then her schedule to see what she might do. She missed lunch but she could grab dinner in a bit. There were a couple of classes starting soon she could try out to pass the time.


When in the back and beyond of the Indian countryside…


She quickly grabbed her toothbrush and freshened up a bit. The bathrooms were deserted so she figured she was a little late for the start of class and this did not sit easy with her. At All. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t necessarily her thing, she was late for class!


She hurried across the garden without stopping to admire any of the pretty flowers or rock formations.


She found the right room and entered. No one but the instructor glanced in her direction but when he saw her wristband he just clasped his hands and bowed.


Oh boy.


Willow once again copied the motion before scanning the room.


She thought Tara might be here but she must have gone to the meditation class.


She found a seat on the floor and just stayed there for a moment, unsure of what to do.


She peered over at someone else and saw they had a little booklet they were filling in. She saw a stack and grabbed it and a pen.


Gratitude she read.


There wasn’t much in the way of direction, Willow guessed because of her purported Level 5 status. Still, she wasn’t a stranger to journaling and this seemed pretty straightforward. Write the things down she was grateful for.


Coffee…food…


Her chin dropped onto her upturned hand.


Kisses and gay love.


She sighed.


Having a girlfriend who doesn’t take my shit anymore.


She sighed again, missing the disapproving looks being sent in her direction.


Stupid journaling making her a rational being.


She knew said girlfriend was probably feeling as ridiculous about their little fight as she was. She knew now what was a real issue and what was a silly, nothing blow-up. This was very much the latter but now they were in this awkward lodging situation and everything sucked and she didn’t want to be grateful, she wanted to be grumpy.


A bell was rung to indicate the end of class and Willow watched everyone else to gather her papers so she did so too.


She tried to keep a pen so she could write an apology note to Tara later, but was apprehended in the doorway and had to try and silently laugh off her ‘mistake’.


It was odd walking around this place; everyone had their heads down, avoiding eye contact lest it be construed as communication. At least this building had the sounds of shuffling people and the scratch of silverware.


Wait.


That was the scratch of silverware!


Dinner!


Willow was suddenly starving. It must be close to 24 hours since she’d eaten. They hadn’t even had a chance to eat dinner yesterday; they’d been so spooked by the story of Warren, they’d just bolted. The train certainly didn’t get a dining cart coming through it.


She let her nose be her guide to the dining hall. The theme continued with dark wood tables and stone benches either side, in rows. It only sat maybe thirty, so Willow could tell immediately that Tara wasn’t there.


She frowned.


Where was she?


She looked over her shoulder longingly for a moment but her stomach ruled her mind and she stepped forward to take a tray and get some food plated up.


Willow had zero clue what she’d been given but it was packed with crunchy veggies and spice and sauce and came with the freshest roti she’d ever tasted. She wolfed down it, and had seconds, though she had to ladle it herself when she server just stepped back as she approached.


When she was full she made her way back to her room and stopped in the hallway outside her door. She gave a quiet rap on the door but could hear it reverberate off the walls uncomfortably. It felt so loud it made Willow clap her hands over her ears.


She waited but when nothing happened she just let herself into her room and laid back down on her bed.


The sky was dark overhead down; stars twinkling back down through the skylight.


It took Willow a few minutes but then suddenly her eyes adjusted and she could see it, clear as day.


The Big Pineapple, staring her in the face.


Mocking her with its bright sparkle and unusual, alluring shape; mirroring she who named it.


Willow tried to close the pillow around her head but it did nothing to stop her thoughts.


She knew it wasn’t Tara’s fault she was hopelessly addicted to her phone but now she didn’t have her phone or Tara and if that wasn’t her idea of personal hell then Satan wasn’t smart enough.


She looked over to her journaling papers, considering whether to read through it all again just to do something when she suddenly caught the top corner of the pile of papers glinting under The Big Pineapple’s shadow.



Tara ran a brush through her wet hair and nibbled on the crackers she’d foraged from the end of her bag.


She had been on her way to dinner and hopefully to find Willow after the meditation class where she meditated on how stupid they were both being, but the instructor had acted like her personal bodyguard and, without words or even body contact, ushered her to a new room labeled ‘private meditation’.


She’d found an exit and slipped out wordlessly but she’d ended up back in the residential quarters and opted to just shower and scavenge some snacks instead of traipsing back to the dining hall and potentially getting caught again.


Crumbs fell onto the towel wrapped around her and she untucked it and let it fall to her feet. She rifled through the open bag sitting on her bed and found a pair of red shorts, which might better be described as hotpants, that she usually only wore underneath something but she was alone so she didn’t really care.


She pulled a tank top over her head that was getting a little stretched out over the bust, pushed her bag off the bed and was about to lie down when she heard the door across the hall close. It wasn’t hard to make out when it was the only sound apart from her own breathing anywhere nearby.


Hoping she might catch Willow on her way somewhere, she took a few quick strides over to open her door. Willow wasn’t there, but when Tara turned her head to look up and down the hallway, she spotted the back of a familiar head of red hair sneaking back through the door out to the lobby.


Slightly alarmed, Tara followed fast on her tiptoes; her childhood ballet lessons coming back to her momentarily. She pushed the door open slightly but it was pitch black in there; any staff had left for the night with a phone number taped to the desk to call in case of emergency.


Tara heard rattling and had to use her ears to isolate where the sound was coming from as her eyes tried to adjust. Something was scratching and jostling toward the back of the room.


She stepped forward and some moonlight passed through the shutter blinds. Tara could make out Willow’s form, standing in front of the lockboxes, desperately trying to wiggle something into it.


Was that a paperclip?


Realizing what Willow was doing, Tara hurried toward her. She wasn’t sure if it was still larceny if it was your own property but she was sure that it was a whole load of drama they didn’t need. She clasped her hand around Willow’s wrist, who gasped and spun around to see who her apprehender was.


Her head reeled for a moment as she made out Tara’s face. Her eyes washed with fear then relief when she realized who it was. She glanced at her fingers still clasped around the wiggling paperclip and made one last desperate attempt for her treasure.


Tara yanked Willow’s hand away completely and pressed her up against the wall to stop her.


There was complete silence again apart from both of their raging breaths.


Willow could feel Tara’s chest heaving against hers and felt Tara’s eyes penetrating hers. She knew it was defeat but somehow it felt like a victory.


There was a soft ping when Willow released the paper clip to allow it to fall to the floor. Tara’s eyes dropped down for a moment and she released her grip on Willow but didn’t let go. She looked up again to catch Willow’s gaze again and in a split second found her mouth was latched onto Willow’s.


She didn’t even know which one of them made the move.


Willow’s arms wrapped around Tara’s back and slid down to Tara’s butt, pulling her in tight and widening her legs in the process so Tara pressed right up against her.


Tara paused for a single moment with her groin pushed between Willow’s hips and her mouth open on Willow’s lips, breathing through her for a second.


She wasn’t sure that getting caught like this was any better than getting caught trying to break into the safes so with one quick jolt of her body that made Willow moan as they brushed against each other, she linked Willow’s hand with her own and pulled her back through the main door and down the hallway to their rooms.


Willow backed up against the door of her room and looked at Tara in the harsh hallway lighting that just seemed to highlight how bare she was.


Tara with nothing on was a sight to behold but Tara with something-that-was-almost-nothing was a whole other layer of sexy.


She opened her mouth but it was dry. Tara saw it and quickly lifted her finger, pressing it against Willow’s lips.


Willow nodded hurriedly and shoved her hand into her pocket to retrieve the key. She spun around and slotted it into the lock, turning it open so they could tumble inside.


The door closed with a soft click, much softer than the shared panting and ripping of clothing going on behind it.


Willow’s pants fell down around her ankles right as the back of her knees hit the bed and she spiritedly kicked them off to join her shirt and bra on the floor. She fell back onto the bed and Tara climbed on top of her between her legs, whipping her tank top over her head before sliding their torsos together and latching herself onto Willow’s mouth.


Willow moaned again as her hands clawed at Tara’s back, sinking into her soft skin and feeling the muscles ripple. She bit her lip to contain the sounds as Tara kissed off into her neck and down to her collarbone.


Teeth scraped on her throat and only for her dampened voice box she would have cried out loud enough for the whole block to hear.


Tara must have guessed this because Willow felt a hand cover her mouth as the kisses began to circle her breasts.


Her back arched into the touch and her lips enveloped Tara’s middle finger. Her tongue rolled around the tip and suddenly Tara was pressed entirely against her and seeking her mouth desperately.


Willow’s hands flew to the back of Tara’s neck, winding into the back of her hair.


Tara reached between them to grasp Willow’s panties and slide them off of her legs. Her fingers brushed Willow’s hip and over the hair on her mound to finally stroke wetness.


Willow felt Tara moan against her lips. It vibrated through her right down to where Tara’s fingers were caressing her burning flesh. Her tongue pushed into Tara’s mouth and her hips began to rut against Tara’s hand.


Two of Tara’s fingers slid easily along Willow’s lips and slipped inside her. She felt Willow clench and then she clenched too, making her hotpants wet in the front.


They both broke the kiss to groan loudly, too loudly, and Tara buried her head in Willow’s neck to quieten herself. She just wanted Willow to absorb her, to let her be everywhere at once.


Her hips positioned themselves behind her hand with a straight angle and used her weight to reach up and press herself in as deeply as she could. Willow’s knees turned in against Tara’s butt, telling her not to stop.


They didn’t need words for this.


Tara’s shorts began to ride down and Willow reached down to help them along. They fell from Tara’s ankles and she started thrusting harder as their thighs slid against each other.


She reached between them and found Tara soaked.


There was a quick adjustment so Tara could spread her legs a bit more and Willow entered her quickly; unable to resist the hot embrace calling to her.


She wanted to speak, to ask is this good?, is that good?, hey, is everyone looking at you weirdly too? but learned pretty quickly that Tara’s body was telling her all she needed to know.


She could feel the eager rolling and insistent pushing against every part of her and just knew Tara was as lost as she was, now that she shut up long enough to listen.


They’d had sex a few dozen times now and it had always been good, great in fact; but this was transcendent.


Tara’s kiss was slow but her hand was fast and her hips were faster and Willow got to a point where she couldn’t even tell whose body part was moving where; it was just endless swells of pleasure everywhere.


All she could hear was Tara’s breath in her ear, growing more ragged with each passing second. The stars above her started to blur and she clenched inside, causing Tara to groan with pleasure which in turn vibrated through Willow and made her come, clutching Tara’s back tight to her body.


Tara’s hips sped up to help herself get over the edge. She felt it rippling right as Willow’s nails dug into the muscles on her back and her whole body shook. She left indented teeth marks on Willow’s shoulder and gradually fell more against her until Willow was holding her body weight.


Willow sighed happily as Tara pressed against her everywhere and they continued to hold each other inside.


Her hand lazily slid up to cup Tara’s head and hold her right where she was, listening to the way Tara’s breath hummed with satisfaction.


Tonight, Willow was grateful for someone who made her hear music even in complete silence.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 5:01 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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DIBS :applause I think it is probably good for Willow to go without technology for a few days. As usual, your love scenes are always really hot. Not quite sure why they defaulted to I'm the best/top level, rather than admitting they were novices, but it seems interesting to see the other's responses. Are we going to learn about the significance of the colors? Looking forward to Tuesday.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 5:55 pm 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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SO, first of all...I felt like I needed Google translator for the Scottish woman. I'm still not even sure I understood it all!! :lol

I'm with Tara though, time to move on. The dude is psycho and there was no doubt as to his intentions. I just wish they'd maybe taken a few minutes to plot their course better. Haven't they seen the movie LION? Just sayin'. Also, that train sounded perfectly miserable.

The retreat sounds lovely, except for the no electronics and complete silence part. I. AM. TOTALLY. WILLOW. When she was trying to pick that lock, I was like, "YOU GO GIRL! GET THAT PHONE!!" :lol This chapter, by the way, was a nice little shout out (no pun intended) to 'Hush.' My #1 all-time favorite episode.

Laragh, the way you structured this chapter was really something. Seriously, masterful. There was all this loud chaos, from the Scottish woman to the rail station to the train. Just noise, noise, noise everywhere and then complete silence.

Quote:
If they thought it was silent before, this was like a vacuum — the quiet almost hurt their ears.
It reminded me specifically of the scene in Hush when Tara is walking through the dorm and the guy drops the glass, because with that kind of total silence, a pin dropping is loud.

Quote:
“I can’t have my phone, we can’t even speak! Thanks a lot, I’m glad we’re in different rooms!”

Willow wasn’t sure how easy that must have been to decipher, but the look on Tara’s face told her it had been understood.

Tara just raised her two thumbs sarcastically.

Willow’s mouth opened in shocked indignation and spun on her heels to open her door.

Tara did the same but dropped her keys.

Willow was not above sneaking a peek at Tara’s ass as she bent down to pick them up.

An indignant peek, of course. Sometimes there was a thin line between huffy and horny.

She watched Tara push herself into her room and she did the same. She would have liked to slam the door for the satisfaction of it, but it was on one of those systems that slowed it down to a click.
This whole silent exchange had me rolling. Mostly because I cannot tell you how many completely dumb were-both-too-tired-to-live arguments I've had with my wife over the years. Just the absolute stupidest shit imaginable.

The sex part...totally hot, and definitely a turning point...especially for Willow.
Quote:
They didn’t need words for this. She wanted to speak, to ask is this good?, is that good?, hey, is everyone looking at you weirdly too? but learned pretty quickly that Tara’s body was telling her all she needed to know. They’d had sex a few dozen times now and it had always been good, great in fact; but this was transcendent.
This was a huge relationship confidence booster for Willow and a lesson in why sometimes it's important to just keep your mouth shut and go with the flow...again, no pun intended. :wink :lol

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 4:57 am 
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5. Willowhand

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Quote:
“I think she means gun,” Tara whispered quietly, “They got arrested.”


“That's whit ah said,” Hannah said with exasperation, though clearly loving the attention of sharing the story, “Big bossy ‘un tried tae punch a polis an' got held in th’ cells.”


“Not-so-garden-variety creep, then,” Willow muttered, while Tara paled.


“They were really trying to buy a gun?”


Thank goodness that they are in India and not back home in the USA where Waren would have had no difficulties to buy a gun. I'm glad that Warren got arrested, serves him right!

Quote:
They dropped their key back to the front desk and Willow thanked Manpreet for all of his care during their stay.


“You are most welcome Miss Willow and Miss Rambo. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in my country with minimal buttock disruption.”


“Why does he keep calling me 'Miss Rambo'?” Tara whispered as they left the building.


“That's what you're objecting to?!” Willow asked incredulously.

:laugh I'll miss Manpreet!

Quote:
“And what level are you at?” the clerk inquired in that pleasant up-lift at the end of her sentence that was beginning to drive Willow nuts.


“Level?” Tara asked blankly.


“Proficiency level?” the clerk clarified, looking at them expectantly.


Tara glanced at Willow, who although was still feeling grouchy about her phone, couldn’t resist those pleading eyes.


“Oh! Uh, high, a high level. Very high. One of those… top levels.”


She looked at Tara, whose eyes were wide anxiously.


“Five!” she declared abruptly and Willow blinked several times.

Canon-easteregg! In this situation it would have been wiser to just ask the clerk politely what on earth she meant instead of blurting a random number.
I feel with Willow here, having to go without her electronics is hard enough for her, but not being alowed to speak, not having anything "productive" to do and beeing seperated from Tara on top really must feel like hell to her.

Good thing that Willow was kept from the desperate attempt of "stealing back" her own phone and they chose a much more pleasant way of breaking the rules of this esotheric "Relaxation retreat". Even if the "forced" silence along with it being "Makeup-sex" after a fight and seperation enhanced their sexual experience I would recommend to move on to another place as soon as possible (I most certainly would bolt out of a place like this after 24 hours tops!).

Quote:
Willow sighed happily as Tara pressed against her everywhere and they continued to hold each other inside.


Her hand lazily slid up to cup Tara’s head and hold her right where she was, listening to the way Tara’s breath hummed with satisfaction.


Tonight, Willow was grateful for someone who made her hear music even in complete silence.

Awww! :flower


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 7:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
DIBS :applause


YAY :banana

Quote:
I think it is probably good for Willow to go without technology for a few days.


We could all do with it, probably, but it would suck :laugh

Quote:
Not quite sure why they defaulted to I'm the best/top level, rather than admitting they were novices, but it seems interesting to see the other's responses.


Because they were tired and hungry and didn't want to be sent away.

Quote:
Are we going to learn about the significance of the colors? Looking forward to Tuesday.


Do you mean of the wristbands? It's mentioned in this one alright :)

Thanks for commenting!

Finey_McFine

Quote:
SO, first of all...I felt like I needed Google translator for the Scottish woman. I'm still not even sure I understood it all!!


Allow me to translate:

“They waur in th' room tay!” = “They were in the room too.”

“Oi, Poppy isnae it??” = “Hey, Poppy, isn’t it?”

“Aye, ah knew it was a tree.” = “Yeah, I knew it was a tree.”

“Ye can teel them he was a reit creep.” = “You can tell them he was a right creep.”

“Dae ye min' those three bamsticks 'at shared uir room? Wee things wi' th' big egos?” = “Do you remember those three idiots that shared our room?”

“Got huckled tryin' tae buy a gin.” = “Got arrested trying to buy a gun.”

“That's whit ah said.” = “That’s what I said.”

“Big bossy ‘un tried tae punch a polis an' got held in th’ cells.” = “Big bossy one tried to punch a cop and got held in the cells.”

“He's th' body gettin' creeped oan noo.”
= “He’s the body getting creeped on now.”

“The’s place is mingin an' we're payin' fur it… imagine th’ jail!” = “This place is disgusting and we’re paying for it…imagine the jail.”

“His friends cam back tae gie their bags, freaked it, screamin' at each other.” = “His friends came back to get their bags, freaked out, screaming at each other.”

“They waur arguin' abit bailin’ heem ait ur jist bailin’.” = “They were arguing about bailing him out or just bailing.”

“They’re probably oan a plane it awreddy, ah woods be.” = “They’re probably on a plane already, I would be.”

“Heard he was wankin' tae us, the lavvy-headed arsepiece.” = “Heard he was masturbating to us, the toilet-headed piece of bottom.”

Quote:
I'm with Tara though, time to move on. The dude is psycho and there was no doubt as to his intentions. I just wish they'd maybe taken a few minutes to plot their course better. Haven't they seen the movie LION? Just sayin'. Also, that train sounded perfectly miserable.


:lol You have to remember, their only other experience on the train in India was going to the Taj, which was First Class (thanks to Willow) and quite a lovely ride. The media portrayals weren't front and center of their minds.

Quote:
The retreat sounds lovely, except for the no electronics and complete silence part. I. AM. TOTALLY. WILLOW. When she was trying to pick that lock, I was like, "YOU GO GIRL! GET THAT PHONE!!" :lol


I wouldn't commit vandalism but I would be so tempted :laugh

Quote:
This chapter, by the way, was a nice little shout out (no pun intended) to 'Hush.' My #1 all-time favorite episode.


Mine too! (for the obvious reasons)

Quote:
Laragh, the way you structured this chapter was really something. Seriously, masterful. There was all this loud chaos, from the Scottish woman to the rail station to the train. Just noise, noise, noise everywhere and then complete silence.


:blush thank you so much! That means a lot, it truly does, I respect your opinion and writing so much!

Quote:
It reminded me specifically of the scene in Hush when Tara is walking through the dorm and the guy drops the glass, because with that kind of total silence, a pin dropping is loud.


Yes! You can actually feel how sound is a vibration because it shakes your ears.

Quote:
This whole silent exchange had me rolling. Mostly because I cannot tell you how many completely dumb were-both-too-tired-to-live arguments I've had with my wife over the years. Just the absolute stupidest shit imaginable.


How can you not be together that long and not have had the most idiotic exchanges, both playfully and during a fight? I think it's a sign that you're comfortable with each other more than whatever the intent behind the words are.

Quote:
This was a huge relationship confidence booster for Willow and a lesson in why sometimes it's important to just keep your mouth shut and go with the flow...again, no pun intended. :wink :lol


You are 100% right, sometimes you just have to clasp hands and make that soda machine shake. (true story, I contemplated making them have sex against a soda machine to make it move but I just couldn't make it convincing that they'd have sex in public again :lol )

Thanks so much for your feedback!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Thank goodness that they are in India and not back home in the USA where Waren would have had no difficulties to buy a gun. I'm glad that Warren got arrested, serves him right!


Ugh, tell me about it! It's absolutely nuts.

Quote:
:laugh I'll miss Manpreet!


He will be a story told with fond memories.

Quote:
In this situation it would have been wiser to just ask the clerk politely what on earth she meant instead of blurting a random number.


It would have been, but who's wise when they're exhausted and starving?

Quote:
I feel with Willow here, having to go without her electronics is hard enough for her, but not being alowed to speak, not having anything "productive" to do and beeing seperated from Tara on top really must feel like hell to her.


It's definitely not the kind of situation you want to get into without knowing the full facts ahead of time...at least then you can plan!

Quote:
Good thing that Willow was kept from the desperate attempt of "stealing back" her own phone and they chose a much more pleasant way of breaking the rules of this esotheric "Relaxation retreat".


More fun for everybody :wink

Quote:
Even if the "forced" silence along with it being "Makeup-sex" after a fight and seperation enhanced their sexual experience I would recommend to move on to another place as soon as possible (I most certainly would bolt out of a place like this after 24 hours tops!).


Don't worry, they'll be moving right on down and out! :)

Thanks for your feedback :)



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 7:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 37



United Arab Emirates



Lights Will Guide You Home And Ignite Your Bones
And I Will Try To Fix You



“Are we sitting together?”


Willow took a half-step forward in the airplane-line shuffle and compared their tickets.


“Uhhh…you’re A and I’m C,” she said, then smiled over her shoulder at Tara, “That’s okay, I’ll just ask the person between us to switch. They’ll be happy to give up a middle seat.”


Tara pressed the front of her body into the back of Willow’s — a move completely hidden amongst the line of people scrambling to get on the plane as if it might depart without them, but entirely felt by Willow.


“You’re so chivalrous,” she said sweetly, or at least it would be sweet to anyone but Willow who could hear the sultryness dripping within it.


Willow cleared her throat softly.


“For my lady,” she said, shooting Tara a small smirk.


“You’ve come a long way from ‘I’ve never sat in economy before’,” Tara teased lightly and didn't mention how far she'd come to be able to say 'my lady'.


“Ugh, did I really sound like that?” Willow whined, “That Willow sucked.”


Tara hiked her bag higher on her back and discreetly kissed Willow’s cheek from behind.


“I fell in love with that Willow. Don’t bag on her too much.”


They boarded the plane and squeezed their way down to their row of seats. After putting their bags in the overhead compartment, Willow smiled at the man sitting in the middle seat. He was a big guy, an islander, and his shoulders spilled out to the seats either side of him. He had a smile fixed on his face that was unusual to see from anyone on a cramped flight.


“Hey,” Willow greeted, lifting a hand and waving, “Um, I’ll take the middle seat if you want. You can have my window.”


He looked over at her and continued to smile.


“Oh, that’s okay.”


“Or the aisle if you prefer,” Willow said, looking awkwardly over her shoulder as someone tried to move past her, “Both are on offer.”


He cocked his head and straightened it up again.


“I’m good.”


“I don’t mind…” Willow pressed, “Really.”


His smile was starting to become disconcerting.


“I like the middle.”


Willow and Tara shared a look and reluctantly sat into their own seats.



“He likes the middle?!” Willow exclaimed as they walked across the jet bridge from the flight when they finally deplaned on the other side, “And that grin! I swear we’re going to see him on the news for being a serial killer.”


Tara frowned.


“He smelled okay,” she tried to supply helpfully.


Willow glanced at her, side-long.


“Baby if you have the ability to sniff out serial killers you need to become a special hominid member of the K9 unit.”


Tara playfully rolled her eyes and Willow bumped her shoulder with a grin.


They crossed into the airport and through the usual rigmarole of customs and immigration without talking much. Tara still got nervous and Willow had the sense to not put her foot in her mouth when a(nother) foreign jail cell was at stake.


“I need to use the bathroom. Can you wait for me here?”


Willow nodded and backed up against a wall. Tara turned into the bathroom and into a cubicle quickly before a line grew from others who had just gotten off the flight.


When she was finished, she ran her hands over each other under the cold water of the airport bathroom faucet, waiting unsuccessfully for an hot water to appear.


She patted her face to revive her a little bit and blew out some air. The woman beside her looked at her sympathetically and Tara smiled back before heading back out to Willow.


Who was not standing where she’d left her.


Tara looked around and spotted her sitting in a small row of chairs with her head resting on their stacked bags.


Tara approached and sat next to her.


“Are you worn out, sweetie?” she asked, her hand lifting for a moment to stroke Willow’s hair but stalling and dropping again, “You’ll be more comfortable if we head into the city and rest our heads on a real bed.”


Willow huffed out a breath.


“No, I’m just rolling my neck after Samoan Ted Bundy seemed to think his shoulder was entitled to the space between it and my head.”


Tara frowned.


“Ted Bundy was a really small guy.”


Willow smiled over at Tara and reached out to squash Tara’s lips together between her thumb and forefinger.


“You’re like my very own serial killer special on the History channel.”


Tara turned her head away to break the contact and Willow returned to her phone.


“Trying to find us a room. Seeing if I can get us a good deal. Prices are kinda a shock after being in India.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, reaching up to scratch a little behind her ear, “I booked us a room already.”


Willow looked up, surprised.


“You did?”


Tara nodded, her eyes glancing away momentarily.


“Uh-huh.”


“You never told me,” Willow replied softly.


“Sorry,” Tara replied apologetically, “I just, um, I just did it.”


Willow just smiled.


“Are we allowed to speak in it?”


“Haha,” Tara replied with a good-natured roll of her eyes, “Well we’ve been officially demoted to Level 0, so yes. Only paper wristbands for us.”


She stood and took her bag to begin to walk. Willow did the same and followed.


“Who knew Level 5’s weren’t supposed to eat or write or do anything but be in a permanent state of meditative hush and placidity?”


“Clearly, not us,” Tara replied wryly.


Willow’s hand curved over Tara’s shoulder and she pressed her body closer.


“Nope, we broke all the rules…”


“Stop,” Tara said quickly, playful but with a bit of an edge, so Willow stopped.


There was a small lull until Willow spoke up again.


“Do we need to figure out where we’re going?”


“We can grab a train downtown,” Tara explained, “The hostel is just a block away from the nearest station.”


Willow just nodded and smiled; Tara was clearly taking the discussion they had about working out the logistics to heart and Willow was happy to see her feel confident enough to take the lead. Even if she felt a little uncomfortable being out of control.


As they walked through the airport, Willow spotted their seatmate wandering a bit aimlessly before being approached by security guards with dogs. They sat at his feet and all became clear to Willow.


“Ohhh,” she said, nudging Tara as he was suddenly hoisted off his feet and all but dragged away, “He was high. Eek. I don’t envy being in that interrogation room.”


“C’mon, Will,” Tara replied insistently, putting a hand on Willow’s bag and pushing her toward the exit.


Willow followed, almost tripping over herself, but still grinning a bit.


“Kinda like it when you take charge like that.”


Tara shot her a firm look that was undermined by her red cheeks and curling lips.


They made their way to the metro and got two of the last seats before a bunch of people from a recently landed flight from London piled on, most of them sweaty and exhausted.


They had people standing over them and alongside them and any notion of personal space had yet again gone out the window. Tara saw Willow put her hand on her neck and roll it from side to side.


“So how's your, you know,” she nodded at Willow’s neck indicatively.


Willow smiled weakly.


“It's between a hitch and a kink, with a side of a twinge. It's okay.”


“I’ll massage it for you when we get to the room,” Tara replied quietly.


Willow dropped her hand and brushed their fingers together.


“Well, I’m not going to turn that down.”


Tara lifted her hand away and pretended to scratch her ear again. Willow frowned but then they jolted and she nearly had a forty-year-old man in a football jersey and sunglasses fall into her lap.


She turned her nose away at the pervasive stank of travel and cheap deodorant and man stink and looked out the window longing for the city to come into view.


Thankfully it didn’t take long for the huge skyscrapers to start to dominate the skyline; the steel buildings striking against the lush trees and uninterrupted blue sky. The water shimmered, reflecting the sun in the sky and bounced it back up upon the shining buildings.


“Wow,” Willow said aloud and heard Tara echoing the sentiment behind her.


It was a pretty spectacular way to get their first view of the famously wealthy city. Even from afar, the opulent wealth was apparent.


They disembarked in the city with the hundreds that had been packed in with them. The temperature was pleasant, high 70s, and a big improvement on the stuffy train that had felt like a hundred degrees.


Departing the station, they paused and looked up. It was disorientating to be so low when everything else was so high.


“Tara, where are we going?”


“Um…” Tara replied unsurely.


Willow took out her phone and pulled up her maps.


“What’s it called?”


“I can do it,” Tara replied defensively, taking Willow’s phone and sheepishly turning her back to look it up.


She brought up the directions and nodded to the left.


“It’s just on the other side of that corner.”


They walked down the street toward a particular building but Willow looked in the window in confusion as they passed by to go in.


“…this is a restaurant.”


“The hostel starts on the 20th floor,” Tara explained as they went through revolving doors and exited to the right toward the elevators, avoiding the restaurant completely, “All the space is vertical in this city.”


The doors opened and they stepped inside. It had gold plated mirrors on two sides and a cushioned bench nailed in. When they looked up, the ceiling was a Renaissance painting that did not look like a generic reprint.


Willow had been in a swanky elevator or two in her time but this was the swankiest. It was a far cry from the last place they stayed in while in Mumbai, where Willow had had genuine concerns at times that the ceiling could crumble right on top of their heads.


Willow wasn’t opposed but was surprised. It wasn’t like Tara to pick out somewhere like this. Maybe everywhere just looked like this in this city.


They got to the right floor and the reception area was a little bit more low-key but they still showed off with marble desks and gold leaf wallpaper. Willow took a few leaflets to look at while Tara checked them in.


“Dubai on a budget,” she waved at Tara as they walked down a hallway to the number printed on keycard in Tara’s hand.


Gold, of course.


“We’ll need that,” Tara replied, taking it and turning it around to read the back, “I knew it was wealthy here but it’s all a bit much, isn’t it? ‘Taxis are public transport here’…wow. The carbon footprint must be huge.”


She opened it to read while Willow started to look around at where they were heading.


Normally dormitory hallways were all open with people coming and going. This could’ve been a hotel floor considering how quiet it was.


“Hey, are we going to a private room?”


“Uh-huh,” Tara replied absentmindedly.


A line appeared on Willow’s brow.


“Here?” she asked, that line furrowing in complete confusion, “In one of the most expensive cities in the world?”


They’d only stayed in the crumbling Mumbai place on Tara’s request because they’d left it late and any other available rooms were too expensive; the extra expense amounting to about $10 a night.


Willow didn’t mind paying more for a private room, but Tara normally was more conscious of it, which made this extra weird.


Though Tara had agreed to move in Mumbai when Willow had voiced her concern and had been apologetic about it too, so maybe she was trying to make up for it now? It still seemed like an odd choice.


“Well we don’t have a water view or anything,” Tara replied turning the key over in her hand so it faced the right way to put in the door they were approaching.


She unlocked the door and held it for Willow to walk in.


Willow dropped her bag and immediately went over to the huge window. They were really right in the epicenter of all of the hustle and bustle.


“It’s not water but it’s still pretty amazing,” she replied, peering downward for a moment before spinning back around when she didn’t like the associated vertigo, “Though I guess any room with a window in this city is going to have a pretty amazing view. How much is it?”


“80 bucks,” Tara answered, stretching her arms above her head and distracting Willow for a moment with the strip of skin revealed between her shirt and pants.


“…would have been $30 each in a dorm in the places I was looking up, so not bad I guess.”


But still more than they'd paid per night in any place, ever, except for Fiji.


“Mmhm,” Tara said and sat down gratefully on the nearest single bed to her, one of two.


Willow sat down on the other, then suddenly realized what she was doing.


“Wait, hey,” she said, looking down then over at Tara, waving a finger between them, “They got the room type wrong. Two beds.”


Tara shook her head.


“No. I booked a twin.”


“Oh,” Willow replied, trying to work out if Tara had booked the wrong room and was embarrassed about it, “Well maybe if we go down and ask they’ll change us? I’ll just tell them I made a mistake, no big deal.”


Tara inhaled softly.


“Honey—”


Willow stood and strode over to Tara, sitting beside her and taking her hand.


“I mean if we’re gonna fork out the extra for a private room it’s to snuggle, right?”


Tara linked her fingers in with Willow.


“We can snuggle. We’ll just push the beds together.”


Willow’s face fell.


“Have I started kicking or something in my sleep? Is the talking finally getting to you?”


Tara leaned in and pressed a kiss to Willow’s forehead.


“No, baby,” she reassured, “I love sharing a bed with you. Kicking and talking included. We can, next time.”


Willow continued to frown.


“Why next time? Why not now?”


Tara was silent for a moment, then looked at Willow tenderly.


“I booked this room…just to be extra safe.”


“Extra…safe?” Willow parsed out as if saying it slowly might help her make sense of it.


“Well…you know,” Tara paused and sighed, “Homosexuality is illegal here.”


Willow’s head reeled and her hand fell out of Tara’s. Tara put her hand on Willow’s shoulder instead.


“I thought you knew that,” she said softly.


“I-I knew it,” Willow replied, wiping her suddenly-sweaty palms on the bedspread, “But I didn’t…think about it.”


Tara squeezed Willow’s shoulder.


“It’s okay, honey. We just don’t hold hands in public. And we can push the beds together.”


Willow nodded dumbly but her eyes were focused on the floor.


Tara frowned.


“Hey…” she said softly, letting her hand fall away.


Willow sighed.


“I’m exhausted.”


“I know, baby,” Tara comforted, “Let’s go get some dinner. I’m starving, you?”


Willow nodded again.


“Yeah, I could eat.”


Tara offered her hand, then thought better of it and put the key away in her wallet instead.


“Do you mind where we eat?” she asked and Willow just shook her head silently.


Tara would have enjoyed scoping out the city and spending the evening walking around, but Willow seemed tired and out of sorts about the separate beds. Tara knew she must be disappointed but it really wouldn’t be that different to just push the beds together.


She tried to start a few conversations as they ate at a nearby Pakistani B-B-Q place but Willow was monosyllabic and not engaging much.


“I feel like I’m living in the Jetsons or something,” Tara said as they rode down a glass elevator from the 100th floor after a brief detour to a roof garden bar but hadn’t even stayed for a soda in the end, “I know that’s lame.”


“You’re not lame,” Willow answered quickly.


Tara brushed their pinkies together but Willow snapped her hand up and pressed her palm flat on the glass surrounding them.


Back in the room, Tara decided to try and cheer Willow up.


She closed the blinds and dimmed the lights and sat next to Willow on the bed Willow was sitting on, using her phone.


Tara placed her hand over Willow’s phone and gently pushed it away while kissing Willow’s neck. Willow immediately let her phone fall to the bed and her neck tilted for more, though her voice was strained when she spoke.


“I…”


Tara swooped in to take Willow’s lips and Willow melted into them for a few moments before pulling away. She rested her forehead against Tara’s, who started to push Willow back onto the bed, but Willow resisted.


“We shouldn’t.”


Tara panted gently, her cheeks flushing red.


“Are you worried about fitting in the bed together? Because if you want, you can just lie down,” she offered with a shy smile as she drew a circle on Willow’s thigh, “A-and I can get on my knees and—”


“I think I’m just so tired, y’know,” Willow interrupted, head down.


Her knuckles were white and her jaw was tensed.


Tara fell away, deflated.


“Oh. Yes,” she agreed quietly, “Me too. Always tired after a flight.”


After an awkward moment, she stood and hovered.


“Do you want to push the beds together to sleep?”


“We should probably leave them,” Willow replied cagily, “Don’t want to scratch up the floor and they try to charge us or something. Probably a $1000 floor in a place like this.”


The beds were on wheels but Tara didn’t feel like pushing and getting rejected for the third time.


“Yeah, no, of course,” she replied, turning her back to go over to what felt like ‘her side’ of the room, “That’s fine.”


She changed into pajamas and looked over her shoulder, where Willow was already curled up facing away from her.


“Goodnight, Willow.”


Willow’s voice was hollow as she spoke back.


“Goodnight.”



Tara ran her fingers through the soft silk of one of the fabric stalls in the local souk.


Somehow it felt softer each stall she came across.


There were endless alleys of art and sculptures and souvenirs and that was without even mentioning the food outlets and café spots. Almost everything was far too rich for Tara’s taste, but she enjoyed the window shopping nonetheless and the beautiful views over the harbor.


The scents were amazing, from saffron to sugar to the sandalwood in perfume. Tara could almost navigate her way around by nose.


She reached forward to Willow who was just a couple of feet ahead and tugged her arm from behind.


“Willow, come feel this—”


Willow spun around so quickly she almost fell on her ass.


“Don’t!”


People looked over and Willow’s eyes widened and her hand rose to her throat as she took in a sharp breath. She turned away but Tara caught up and stood in front of her.


“Willow, we have to talk about this,” she said softly so as not to garner any more attention, “Clearly I’ve hurt you or upset—”


“I can’t do this,” Willow interrupted, her face a bright purple as she pushed past Tara and ran.


“Willow,” Tara called after her but they were in a maze thronged with people and she was out of her eye line in seconds, “Willow!”


A haughty man at a fruit stall shot her a scornful look and said something in Arabic that either meant ‘shut up’ or ‘Americans’ or something equally derisive.


Tara suddenly didn’t feel much like shopping anymore and started to make her way out. Willow had barely spoken a word all day as they toured the city. They’d come to this city at Willow’s request, it hadn’t even been on their original itinerary.


They’d seen a show about the tallest hotel in the world back when they were watching TV in their private room in Delhi and Willow had successfully convinced her that it would be a once in a lifetime experience to get to swim up on its roof.


When Tara had suggested it that morning, Willow had flat out refused to go. Tara had almost spent a whole night’s accommodation budget just to get them up there as a surprise. She was glad she’d waited to buy a ticket now; it would have been wasted money.


And now Willow had run away. It felt like a long, long time since Willow had run away from her. It hearkened back to some painful memories.


She started to sweat as she tried to weave her way out of the people who were happy to stroll. She’d been happy to stroll too but now she just needed out.


She finally exited the souk having bought exactly nothing but a bottle of water on the way out which she guzzled on her way back to the hostel.


She rode the elevator in silence, though with a thumping headache starting to make itself known.


She hadn’t felt so out-of-the-loop with Willow since they first started dating.


That seemed like a lifetime ago. Like two different people ago. A different relationship ago.


She got to the room and let herself in, seeing Willow sitting on her bed with her body hung over her legs.


“Thank god you’re here,” Tara said, closing the door behind her, “What the hell—”


She stopped when she heard a sob echo throughout the room.


“Willow?” she asked, dropping to her knees in front of Willow, who was physically shaking and crying through heaved breaths.


Willow’s eye met Tara’s and she seemed to instantly crumble.


“I can’t do this Tara, I can’t do it, not again.”


“Again?” Tara asked in a soft, soothing voice.


Willow swallowed several times.


“This is…this is what it was like, what it was like in my head except here it’s real, it’s really real and I can’t go back, I just can’t, I—”


“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Tara soothed some more, taking both of Willow’s hands in hers, “Take a breath. Take a long, slow breath.”


Willow tried to comply and finally got there on the fifth or so attempt.


Tara breathed with her for guidance and spoke to her softly.


“Now name five things you can see.”


Willow blinked several times until they weren’t glassy anymore.


“Window. Bed. Door. Bag,” she said slowly, holding Tara’s gaze. “Tara-Eyes.”


“Four things you can touch,” Tara encouraged.


Willow took one hand back and patted around her.


“Blanket. Pants. Phone,” she rattled off, then squeezed Tara’s fingers between her own, “Tara-Hand.”


Tara smiled softly.


“Three things you can hear.”


Willow closed her eyes.


“Birds. Honking,” she said quietly as her ears picked up the sounds outside the window and the one nearest to her, “Tara-breath.”


“Two things you can smell,” Tara's voice continued to gently call out.


Willow inhaled deeply.


“Toothpaste,” she answered, the open tube still sitting on the nightstand between their beds, and then got the waft of a sweet, familiar scent that was too many things at once and too unique to identify as one thing, “Tara-smell.”


“One thing you can taste,” Tara exhaled.


Willow felt Tara’s body move and then a tender kiss placed on her lips.


She sighed softly.


“Tara.”


She felt Tara’s hands slide down her thighs and opened her eyes again, feeling calmer and able to regulate her breathing better.


“Tell me what’s happening,” Tara requested softly, “In your own time.”


Willow exhaled.


“It’s in my head. Every second, it’s in my head.”


“What is?” Tara asked, her brow etched with lines of concern.


Willow’s eyes were shrouded with hurt.


“It’s illegal. We’re…illegal.”


Tara sat back on her heels a little, pensive.


“This is what it felt like…before I accepted who I am,” Willow continued to explain, “Like my every movement is a giveaway. What happens if they maids see our beds together? Could they tell if we did stuff? W-what if they can tell by the sheets? What if someone sees us together and guesses, what if they see your thumb ring? I can’t see you in a bikini or a swimsuit; everyone and their uncle would know! I can’t look at you at all. What do I call you? What if I stumble and don’t know what to call you and it’s written all over my face? What if I smell like you? Do I walk a weird way? Do my clothes give me away?”


She threw her arms up as fresh tears sprung into her eyes.


“What if my footsteps sound gay?!”


It was funny, except it wasn’t.


“I keep seeing that guy they dragged off in the airport and imagining it’s me, or worse — you. I just think, how could they see how I look at you and not know. It’s a prison. It was a prison then and now real prison is a possibility—”


“We’re not going to a real prison,” Tara interrupted but Willow just shook her head sadly.


“We’re already in one when we’re living in fear.”


Tara reflected for a moment on the truth of that sentence and also how far Willow had come to actually have her say it.


“You’re right,” she replied eventually, “So let’s go.”


Willow frowned.


“What do you mean?”


“Let’s leave,” Tara replied plainly, “I won’t let you feel like you did all those months ago. You’re not that person anymore, Willow. You’re strong enough to lean on me now. So lean on me and let me get you out of here. You had to pull yourself out of your own prison but I can get you out of this one. This one is easy. Just a plane ride away.”


Willow frowned unsurely.


“We’ve only been here a day.”


Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“You’ve seen one flashy skyscraper, you’ve seen them all.”


“What about our trip to the desert?” Willow questioned, lifting her thumb to her mouth to nibble on the skin around it.


“Really, what’s a little bit of sand?” Tara dismissed, “And it’s hard to know if they treat those camels right. I wouldn’t want to support any cruelty.”


Willow’s heart started to beat a little faster.


“Where would we go?”


Tara considered it a moment.


“We took Nepal off the list to come here. We could hop back over. Do they do visas on arrival?”


“Yeah, I think so. I can check,” Willow replied, suddenly excited, “Is it legal there? T-this?”


Tara nodded.


“I think it's a bit of a gay hotspot actually.”


Willow’s eyes grew wide.


“Really? Who knew?” she said, then added on sheepishly, “You, clearly. You always know about this stuff.”


She turned her head and swiped at her eyes to fully compose herself. Tara gave Willow’s legs one last squeeze before standing and stretching her knees. She gave Willow a minute to herself while taking out her iPad to look for flights.


“There’s a redeye out tonight,” she said after a few minutes of searching.


Willow exhaled and stood up to walk over to Tara.


“Wait, don’t book it. I’ll can see if I can reroute our original flights. I-I’ll pay for the difference but it might be less expensive that way.”


Tara covered Willow’s hand between them as she sat beside her.


“Nothing is worth you feeling like this for a second, especially not money.”


Willow looked like she might cry again.


“I’ve been so scared,” she admitted.


“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Tara sighed softly.


Willow’s eyes closed.


“I was ashamed. It didn’t seem to bother you. You’re so much stronger than me.”


Tara was silent for a moment, then bumped Willow’s shoulder.


“Well guess what?”


Willow looked up.


“What?”


Tara smiled.


“We’re a unit. A twosome. A dueting dyad duo.”


She leaned in and pressed several small kisses to Willow’s cheek.


“So,” she continued confidently, “The weight of their eyes can’t bring us down.”


Tara hugged Willow sidelong. She brought Willow’s head into the crook of her neck and held her there.


“My strength is yours once you’re willing to take it. And you’ve been my strength more times than you know.”


Willow sighed softly.


“I accept.”


Tara kissed the top of Willow’s head.


“Let’s get out of here.”


Willow threw her arms around Tara and held on for dear life.


When they were both ready, they packed up their things, returned the gold key to the gold lobby and rode the gold elevator to the silver BMW that brought them to the airport.


They ate dinner there and had to hang out at the gate for a while but Willow was on edge right up until they were sitting comfortably in the air.


“Are you feeling any better?” Tara asked quietly after they were served some pretzels.


The flight wasn’t even half full and she could have spoken louder but the lights were dimmed and the cabin was quiet.


“In part,” Willow answered honestly, “The me— us part, yes.”


Tara slid her hand out from under her blanket and brushed some hair from Willow’s brow.


“What’s going on up there?”


Willow silently gathered her thoughts for several seconds.


“We get by, so much,” she answered eventually, then rolled her eyes at herself, “What I mean is, no one guesses that we’re a couple. Even when we’re touching and stuff. It was kinda a huge surprise to me when I stopped caring because it was something I always obsessed about before. I mean I call you my girlfriend and the world is like ‘hey gal pals’.”


Her head turned toward Tara.


“And I guess that’s because we don’t fit some bogus stereotype or whatever but what…what about people that do? That can’t hide it? In places like that? Who are forced to stay there?”


Tara nodded.


“You’re right. It’s not fair, or right.”


“What can we do?” Willow asked helplessly.


“Change the world,” Tara replied softly, then added, “Help the people.”


Her fingers fell down the curve of Willow’s face and she took Willow’s hand in her lap.


“But for now, just rest a little and know that you’re safe.”


Willow started to settle her head on Tara’s shoulder but paused and looked up.


“Tara?” she asked, gazing into Tara’s eyes for a calming moment, “Ouḥibouki.”


Tara’s face slowly blossomed into a soft, serene smile. She knew this routine now, she knew what the unfamiliar words meant.


“When did you get a chance to learn that?”


Willow just shook her head. Telling Tara she’d seen it on a tourist t-shirt didn’t have the impact she wanted for this moment.


“It doesn’t matter.”


Willow squeezed their palms together.


“What matters is that there’s nothing more important than telling you I love you. And I will never forget that ever again,” she stopped and swallowed a lump, then finally smiled, “Hey, you wanna watch some SpongeBob on my phone?”


Tara nodded and Willow handed one of her AirPods over to Tara and found the downloaded files they often watched together on lazy mornings when they were alone.


The episode started playing and they watched as SpongeBob grew multiple hands to get all of his jobs done at once.


“Do you think he acquired special powers or is his ability to grow hands native to his species?” Tara whispered to Willow in the small space between their heads.


“I don’t know, but whatever it is I hope they can utilize it for humans someday,” Willow replied with a salacious grin breaking through the few tears that were finally clearing from her eyes, “It would come in very…handy…”


Tara’s head turned toward Willow and her lips slowly quirked upward on her face.


“Vixen.”


Willow’s cheeks blushed and her head ducked lightly as she continued to smile.


She sensed Tara’s head snuggle against her shoulder and at 30,000 feet in the air, never had she felt more safe.

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 7:06 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
Posts: 688
Topics: 2
Location: North Carolina, USA
DIBS :bounce

Wow, that was intense. How Willow was able to see the parallel between the internal and external homophobia. You captured the fear and other feelings amazingly. It was palpable. I can remember the times that I knew that there was the slight possibility that I could be arrested just for being gay. I knew that the sodomy laws were more focused on the guys, but there was always that little piece of me that knew that I was not really safe anywhere. It felt like my 'being' was illegal, not my actions. It is hard not to internalize it and feel self-hatred. Tara reacted great and I imagine Nepal will be a better place. Weird to think about taxis being public transportation. It is clear that you did a lot of research. It shows. I continue to look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.
Thanks for writing.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2019 12:13 am 
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5. Willowhand

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 335
Uff, what an emotional chapter!
The beginning with the smiling giant in the middle seat who turned out to be just stoned was funny. I wondered how Willow even managed to get into her windowseat because it didn't sound as if the guy was in the mood (or condition) to stand up and step out of the aisle to let her pass.
Quote:
“He likes the middle?!” Willow exclaimed as they walked across the jet bridge from the flight when they finally deplaned on the other side, “And that grin! I swear we’re going to see him on the news for being a serial killer.”


Tara frowned.


“He smelled okay,” she tried to supply helpfully.

:laugh What a typical, quirky-humoured Tara-statement!

Quote:
“So how's your, you know,” she nodded at Willow’s neck indicatively.


Willow smiled weakly.


“It's between a hitch and a kink, with a side of a twinge. It's okay.”

Canon-Easteregg!

And then all the hard stuff… my heart bled for Tara feeling rejected and abandoned by Willow and even more for Willow, going from utter bewilderment about Tara's "strange" behaviour to constant terror that she would be found out as gay.

Quote:
“Homosexuality is illegal here.”

I have to admit I didn't know that... :shock So sad!

I loved how Tara pulled Willow out of her panic-attack by letting her name things she could sense right at this moment and that Willow named something Tara-related to every sense.

Quote:
Willow’s eye met Tara’s and she seemed to instantly crumble.


“I can’t do this Tara, I can’t do it, not again.”


“Again?” Tara asked in a soft, soothing voice.


Willow swallowed several times.


“This is…this is what it was like, what it was like in my head except here it’s real, it’s really real and I can’t go back, I just can’t, I—”

Quote:
“It’s in my head. Every second, it’s in my head.”


“What is?” Tara asked, her brow etched with lines of concern.


Willow’s eyes were shrouded with hurt.


“It’s illegal. We’re…illegal.”


Tara sat back on her heels a little, pensive.


“This is what it felt like…before I accepted who I am,” Willow continued to explain, “Like my every movement is a giveaway. What happens if they maids see our beds together? Could they tell if we did stuff? W-what if they can tell by the sheets? What if someone sees us together and guesses, what if they see your thumb ring? I can’t see you in a bikini or a swimsuit; everyone and their uncle would know! I can’t look at you at all. What do I call you? What if I stumble and don’t know what to call you and it’s written all over my face? What if I smell like you? Do I walk a weird way? Do my clothes give me away?”


She threw her arms up as fresh tears sprung into her eyes.


“What if my footsteps sound gay?!”


It was funny, except it wasn’t.


“I keep seeing that guy they dragged off in the airport and imagining it’s me, or worse — you. I just think, how could they see how I look at you and not know. It’s a prison. It was a prison then and now real prison is a possibility—”

:cry It hurt me to witness Willow in this intense distress (another proof what a great writer you are). It must have hurt Tara even more, so it's admirable how she handled the situation with the clear head Willow needed right there.

Quote:
“We’re not going to a real prison,” Tara interrupted but Willow just shook her head sadly.


“We’re already in one when we’re living in fear.”


Tara reflected for a moment on the truth of that sentence and also how far Willow had come to actually have her say it.


“You’re right,” she replied eventually, “So let’s go.”


Willow frowned.


“What do you mean?”


“Let’s leave,” Tara replied plainly, “I won’t let you feel like you did all those months ago. You’re not that person anymore, Willow. You’re strong enough to lean on me now. So lean on me and let me get you out of here. You had to pull yourself out of your own prison but I can get you out of this one. This one is easy. Just a plane ride away.”

Quote:
“Nothing is worth you feeling like this for a second, especially not money.”


Yes! Don't force yourself to stay anywhere you feel unsafe, trapped, miserable etc.!

Quote:
“My strength is yours once you’re willing to take it. And you’ve been my strength more times than you know.”


Willow sighed softly.


“I accept.”


Tara kissed the top of Willow’s head.


“Let’s get out of here.”


Willow threw her arms around Tara and held on for dear life.

Awww! :flower

Quote:
what about people that do? That can’t hide it? In places like that? Who are forced to stay there?”


Tara nodded.


“You’re right. It’s not fair, or right.”


“What can we do?” Willow asked helplessly.


“Change the world,” Tara replied softly, then added, “Help the people.”


Her fingers fell down the curve of Willow’s face and she took Willow’s hand in her lap.


“But for now, just rest a little and know that you’re safe.”

I love that Tara still has the optimism (idealism?) that they have the power to change the political/moral climate of the whole world but also knows that right at this moment their personal feelings of safety and peace of mind are more important.
Yay for the little comic-/flirty-relief with the canon-easteregg at the end:
Quote:
“Do you think he acquired special powers or is his ability to grow hands native to his species?” Tara whispered to Willow in the small space between their heads.


“I don’t know, but whatever it is I hope they can utilize it for humans someday,” Willow replied with a salacious grin breaking through the few tears that were finally clearing from her eyes, “It would come in very…handy…”


Tara’s head turned toward Willow and her lips slowly quirked upward on her face.


“Vixen.”

:flirt
Quote:
She sensed Tara’s head snuggle against her shoulder and at 30,000 feet in the air, never had she felt more safe.

Perfect hopeful chapter-ending. :flower


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2019 8:00 am 
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
DIBS :bounce


Yay!

Quote:
Wow, that was intense. How Willow was able to see the parallel between the internal and external homophobia. You captured the fear and other feelings amazingly. It was palpable. I can remember the times that I knew that there was the slight possibility that I could be arrested just for being gay. I knew that the sodomy laws were more focused on the guys, but there was always that little piece of me that knew that I was not really safe anywhere. It felt like my 'being' was illegal, not my actions. It is hard not to internalize it and feel self-hatred.


It's so hard unless you're really sure of yourself and even then you start to doubt and that rattles you. Even being somewhere where it's not illegal but supremely not liked (like deep Alabama) you feel nervous and afraid and wish you weren't how you are. It's soul-destroying even short term and unfortunately we know how damaging it is long-term.

Quote:
Tara reacted great and I imagine Nepal will be a better place.


It will be eventful, that is for sure.

Quote:
Weird to think about taxis being public transportation. It is clear that you did a lot of research. It shows. I continue to look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.


Thank you so much. I do try to make sure everything is as accurate as it would be were someone to really travel to the places (occasionaly tweaking things for storytelling purposes). The Dubai research was...insane!

Quote:
Thanks for writing.


Thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Uff, what an emotional chapter!


That's what I was aiming for so I like that response :D

Quote:
The beginning with the smiling giant in the middle seat who turned out to be just stoned was funny. I wondered how Willow even managed to get into her windowseat because it didn't sound as if the guy was in the mood (or condition) to stand up and step out of the aisle to let her pass.


We call it the church door shuffle because you have to move your legs over someone and they end up looking like an arched church doorway

Quote:
:laugh What a typical, quirky-humoured Tara-statement!


Always sees the good in people :laugh

Quote:
And then all the hard stuff… my heart bled for Tara feeling rejected and abandoned by Willow and even more for Willow, going from utter bewilderment about Tara's "strange" behaviour to constant terror that she would be found out as gay.


It was real, true panic like she'd been told a loved one died.

Quote:
I have to admit I didn't know that... :shock So sad!


I wanted them to visit a place where it was illegal so Willow could go through this. Even though it was tough, I wanted it to be made resolute in her mind that there is absolutely no going back to how she was before. And I read a lot of forums deciding where that would be of the various places. Dubai seemed the most jarring because it's seen as such a holiday and tourist destination and yet you could be put to death for being gay. Not only that but all sexual relations outside a heterosexual marriage are a crime. It's not a place I would go to lightly, by any means.

Quote:
I loved how Tara pulled Willow out of her panic-attack by letting her name things she could sense right at this moment and that Willow named something Tara-related to every sense.


It's such a good panic attack technique to do even by yourself, but I think Willow really needed Tara for this one.

Quote:
:cry It hurt me to witness Willow in this intense distress (another proof what a great writer you are). It must have hurt Tara even more, so it's admirable how she handled the situation with the clear head Willow needed right there.


Tara knew she needed to step up and I love that they both know they can fall back on each other.

Quote:
Yes! Don't force yourself to stay anywhere you feel unsafe, trapped, miserable etc.!


We put up with a lot of crap in our youth because of money or ideals or just because of the immaturity to understand that we shouldn't but I think your statement is a lesson well-learned and I think a bit of a knock on the head for Tara too that while saving is admirable, penny pinching too much can't be paramount.

Quote:
I love that Tara still has the optimism (idealism?) that they have the power to change the political/moral climate of the whole world but also knows that right at this moment their personal feelings of safety and peace of mind are more important.


I think she'll hang onto that. Even if it never produces the kind of change she wants, she can help some and that's not for nothing. But if she didn't have that idealism, she'd never do anything. So I'm a proponent of grand dreams of change as long as, like you said, you don't sacrifice yourself or others for it.

Quote:
Perfect hopeful chapter-ending. :flower


Always my aim. These two, they were my hope for a long, long time (still are!) but in the really bad times, they got me through it. So I will always, always try to portray them with the kind of hope they inspire.

Thanks for your feedback!



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The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2019 8:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: NC-17

NOTE: Warning for rating change ^

Chapter 38



Nepal

(Part 1)



’Cause You Make Me Feel Wild
You Touch My Inner Smile



“Tara.”


Willow poked Tara’s sleeping face again as she stood on the ladder between the bunks so she could reach Tara on top.


“Tara,” she whispered into the quiet room, tapping Tara’s nose repeatedly.


Tara batted Willow’s hand away.


“Stop it,” she whispered back grumpily, cracking an eye open to see the room was still in darkness, “What is it?”


Willow held up a red rose and twirled it.


“Happy Valentine’s Day.”


“Can you two lesbos quit your bloody ear-bashing at this hour?” an Australian roommate barked out from across the room.


Willow made a mocking face over her shoulder but was all earnest smiles again when she turned back to Tara.


Tara lifted her blanket, which Willow scrambled under quickly and pulled it over their heads. They’d gotten pretty good at learning to utilize mediocre-at-best bed linen to create a little vacuum they could whisper to each other in if they wanted a little privacy.


They had to huddle close together, of course, but it was a sacrifice they were both willing to make.


Willow twirled the rose under Tara’s nose, smiling when Tara visibly withheld a ticklish giggle.


“I had to go out early to pick it out for you.”


Tara closed her hand over Willow’s on the stem and smiled.


“You picked it?”


“Well…I picked it from the florist at the early morning market,” Willow admitted sheepishly “I don’t think there’s a plant left unpruned out there. I wasn’t sure if today would be as commercialized over here but…I guess cupid’s arrow shoots in all jurisdictions.”


Tara leaned in and kissed Willow softly.


“I love it,” she whispered against Willow’s lips, “I love you.”


Willow brushed the petals of the rose against Tara’s cheek.


“You told me you loved not long after Valentine’s Day last year.”


She blushed and sighed softly.


“I wish I’d said it back. I felt it.”


“It’s okay,” Tara replied with an easy, sleepy smile, “I felt it for a long time before I said it too.”


Willow touched her fingertips to Tara’s cheek where the petals had danced. Tara always made everything so easy, even when she didn’t think she deserved it. Her fingers fell to Tara’s lips and ran over them softly.


“…remember what else we did for the first time right after Valentine’s Day?”


Her hand fell away from Tara’s mouth and down to her waist where she pressed it against the seam between Tara’s legs.


Tara’s eyes fluttered closed and Willow brought her hand under Tara’s pajama bottoms. She wasn’t wearing underwear.


Willow dipped her fingers between Tara’s lips and found her clit. She wasn’t tentative like that first time; she knew the exact pressure and movement that made Tara—


A hand closed around her wrist and pulled her away.


“Not with other people in the room,” Tara whispered in a shaken breath, “That’s all I can take without making any noise.”


Willow curled her hand around Tara’s hip instead and gently brushed against the skin above her waistband.


Tara snaked her arm around Willow’s waist and cuddled closer.


“Let’s sleep some more.”


Willow agreed silently by tucking herself under Tara’s chin and closing her eyes.


The rose stayed floating above the interlocking curves of their bodies with the petals falling off in their never-ending quest to get closer.



“This is not the romantic Valentine’s meal I hoped for.”


Willow winced at the scratching sound of chair legs on the tile floor of the hostel kitchen. Her fellow travelers had little concern for any misophonia one might possess, it seemed, as another scraped a spoon against a pan and a third loudly smacked their lips together between each bite of the fish they’d courteously heated up in the microwave.


“It’s really good though,” Tara replied, briefly sticking her thumb between her lips to remove a little piece of cheese that had gotten stuck, “You do great nachos.”


“No one melts cheese on chips like me,” Willow quipped unenthusiastically, “I don’t know what I anticipated…it’s not like filet mignon or oysters are in my repertoire…or our budget.”


She noticed a little piece of guac dabbed on Tara’s nose and smiled. She leaned in and kissed Tara’s nose, then her lips for a chaste moment and finally, settled back.


“On second thought, this is perfect.”


Tara blushed and wiped at her nose.


“It’s not first date food.”


Willow scooped some sour cream up with a chip and stuffed into her gob unceremoniously.


“I don’t plan on going on any more of those.”


Tara ducked her head and smiled, dragging her upper teeth over her bottom lip shyly.


Willow’s eyes were drawn there but she made a point of lifting them to meet Tara’s gaze.


“Do you still want to head to this party on the beach tonight?”


Tara nodded.


“I think it looks fun,” she said, then added in an undeniably sultry tone, “Dancing under the moon.”


The crooked smile made Willow feel a way that was only safe to feel when they were very much alone and could act on it.


“You know I’m down for anything with glow sticks,” she replied as a distraction, then her nose scrunched up, “Well, maybe not anything.”


Tara laughed.


“Where’s your sense of adventure?”


“I can be adventurous,” Willow defended, placing a hand on Tara’s knee and pushing it up her thigh, “Well…if you want me to.”


Her body leaned forward, meaning to engage in some brief but intentful osculation but they were interrupted by a table of guys, a couple of them their roommates, a few feet away sniggering and shooting wolf whistles in their direction.


Willow blew out a frustrated breath and started to stand.


“Go get ready?”


Tara just nodded and they cleaned up the remains of their dinner silently, avoiding the teasing from the table of guys.


“Dudes like that really make me consider single-sex dorms,” Willow said as they walked back to their room, “Except knowing our luck we’d be in with a group of girls who think lesbians only want to ogle or turn them.”


“And then get offended when you say you’re not,” Tara replied, frowning.


Willow’s lips pulled into a small grin.


“Do you remember that German girl in Osaka?”


“The one who told you to keep your eyes to yourself and then went out of her way to try and get undressed in front of you?” Tara asked with an arched eyebrow.


Willow shook her head to herself.


“I still don’t know if she wanted the flattery or the drama of ‘catching’ me out.”


Tara’s hand brushed past Willow’s and she curled her pinky finger around Willow’s pinkie.


“Lucky you only have eyes for me.”


Willow looked sidelong at Tara and smiled softly.


“The luckiest.”


Tara blushed lightly and was silent for a moment before meeting Willow’s gaze.


“I’m glad you’re…” she stopped to consider her words, “I’m glad you’re okay. After Dubai. I could see you were…you were really scared. I’m proud of you for recognizing it and letting me help.”


“Like I said…I won’t go back there,” Willow replied solemnly, “I’ve been doing the gratitude journaling too. It helps. Even recognizing that I got to have a good breakfast. Like this afternoon I was trying to remember what I had. I thought it was a bagel, but maybe that was yesterday. You had two eggs sunny-side-up. I remember 'cause they were wiggling at me like little boobs.”


“Sassy eggs,” Tara grinned and Willow returned it.


“Anyway, I wanted to note it. A lot of people don’t even get that, a regular breakfast. I figured life goes by so fast if you don't write stuff down it just gets… lost. And I wanna remember.”


“Down to every last bagel,” Tara replied with a nod and sly wink.


Willow linked the rest of her fingers with Tara’s and squeezed.


“Down to every last everything I do with you.”


Tara looked at Willow for a long moment and wondered how she couldn’t love herself as much as Tara loved her.


They got to the room and went over to their corner bunk bed to pick out clothes.


“I saw you doodling in it yesterday,” Tara commented curiously as she decided between shorts or a dress, “Your journal.”


“I do doodle,” Willow admitted, “Sometimes. It helps too.”


Tara nodded.


“My mom always said art therapy was a favorite in the home to supervise. The clients would draw all kinds of things and sometimes even the ones with dementia would remember childhood memories.”


Willow stopped and considered that.


“Yeah, I guess it kinda is like art therapy when I doodle,” she reasoned eventually, “My parents were always too academic to ever talk about practical therapies. Is that what music is like for you?”


“I think that’s what music is like for everyone,” Tara replied, pulling a yellow dress on over her clothes and stealthily undressing beneath it, “In different ways.”


Willow nodded to herself, slowly.


“Huh.”


She absent-mindedly laid out a pair of cargo shorts and a t-shirt. It was just about warm enough to get away with those kinds of clothes, especially if they were going to be dancing.


She smiled.


Dancing with Tara had become her favorite thing for nightlife in each new city they visited. The rush; the freedom was like nothing else.


Especially as they liked to frequent at least one gay bar and absorb the culture from the local establishments. It was a crash course in living as part of the gay community Willow could have experienced no other way. It often made her euphoric as she spun in Tara’s shadow under flashing disco lights.


The full moon tonight would be a change but it didn’t matter what acted as their mirror ball, as long as it was Tara’s arms she was dancing into beneath it.


She lifted her head to ask Tara about the clothes she picked out and realized she was alone in the room again. Tara’s toiletry bag was gone but Willow hadn’t even heard her go. She blushed at getting so stuck in her own thoughts and began wondering some more about using artistic expression to clear your head and how music worked for her vs. how it worked for Tara. It was an interesting discussion to have with herself.


When Tara returned, make-up applied and hair brushed straight, Willow was going to ask Tara’s opinion on it all, but she was too busy being blown away by her girlfriend looking so effortlessly sexy.


“Wow, baby.”


“Do I look okay?” Tara asked, so unsure every time and Willow wondered how Tara couldn’t see herself the way Willow saw her.


Neither realized the other felt the same way.


“You look stunning,” Willow answered, reaching out to run a hand down Tara’s bare arm where a light tan was holding out from the Indian sun.


Tara blushed and smiled.


“Thanks.”


Willow’s hand fell away from Tara’s arm and back to her side.


“I got lost in Willow-brain. I’ll be ready soon.”


“Take your time,” Tara replied easily, “It’s just getting dark anyway. Do you need some help?”


Willow nodded quickly.


“Yes. Always. Especially from you.”


She turned back toward the clothes she had laid out and made a face. She looked to Tara for help.


They looked through the options and eventually swapped the cargo shorts for jean shorts and the tee for a yellow smiley-face tank top that matched Tara’s dress in color.


Willow patted the front of her abdomen when she finished getting dressed, satisfied with the selection.


“Hey, clothes.”


Tara pursed her lips and looked Willow up and down as her mouth quirked up on one side. The only thing better than the denim hugging her thighs or the small bulge of her braless breasts in that tank would be nothing at all.


“Better not get used to ‘em.”


Willow was still getting used to hearing Tara talk about her like that but her standard reaction had shifted from embarrassment to thrill.


“Mmm, yes, ma’am,” she agreed and reached out to tug Tara toward her by the waist.


She loved that Tara towered over her just slightly so their noses angled opposite each other and nuzzled as they kissed. It was little moments like that she’d really grown to appreciate now that she took the time to enjoy a kiss and not just swallow it whole like she was starving and stealing from the back of the pantry; always on edge that she was about to get caught.


“Love you,” she said, pressing her lips briefly to Tara’s cheek before pulling away, “I’ll just be another few minutes.”


Tara nodded and caught herself looking over her shoulder as Willow left the room. Those shorts were really something.


She looked in the mirror to fix her hair again but when their roommates returned from dinner and instantly began hollering and leering, Tara quickly made herself scarce and found Willow in the bathroom over-applying some blush.


“Let me,” Tara said, taking the brush and dabbing some tissue in water, “You have beautiful, rosy cheeks. They don’t need help.”


She tamed the color and stood back, smiling adoringly.


“You don’t need help at all but you do look very pretty tonight.”


Willow kept Tara’s gaze, her pupils wide and eyes glassy.


“I don’t always feel pretty, but I do every time I look at you looking at me.”


Tara started to reach out but they were disturbed by a toilet in a nearby cubicle flushing and they were brought squarely back to their surroundings. Willow turned to the mirror to do one last once-over and then did a little twirl when she noticed Tara looking out of the corner of her eye.


Tara didn’t try to hide her smile and just put her arm around Willow’s shoulders. She kissed the top of her head.


They walked out like that with Tara’s arm dropping so they could hold hands with a light swing between them.


“I’m glad I picked shorts. It’s pretty warm,” Willow said, though she wouldn’t let a bit of sweat let her hand part from Tara’s.


“Look at that moon though,” Tara replied with a sloped smile, her head angled up to the bright sphere beaming down at them in the sky.


“Well, it is a full moon party,” Willow reasoned sagely, “Although I’m not entirely sure what makes it much different from, say, a quarter-moon party. Maybe it’s just marketing? Like howl at the moon stuff?”


“Maybe,” Tara nodded, “I heard people talking about it in Thailand but I never really thought to ask. We haven’t really gone to any parties.”


“We’ve gone to club nights,” Willow replied helpfully, “I like going to those. I feel safe. But it’ll be nice to just sit on the beach if we get tired and not have to fight for a trendy stool that has no business purporting itself to be an object for sitting comfortably.”


Tara just smiled and bumped Willow’s shoulder playfully.


They walked through the city streets and something was different than when they’d walked downtown before. They had to step over more broken bottles and look away from more flickering fluorescent lights as bar signage seemed turned up to eleven, having the opposite effect of its intention to draw people in.


People were falling about, already inebriated and while most were just merry and not aggressive, the whole area was thronged. It was like weaving through the crowd at a concert.


They soon found out why as they crossed from street to sand and looked on at the absolutely packed beach. Everyone was drowning in UV light and wearing enough neon to seem like one giant, moving glow stick. People were screaming and bellowing and it was utter chaos. Everyone was even more utterly intoxicated than they had been at the bars walking down and it was still early.


Willow actually had to stop and catch her breath.


“Holy…”


“Crap,” Tara finished with a squeak and they looked at each other as if to ask was the other okay with continuing on.


There was some trepidation but also curious anticipation and they walked into the crowd without their hands breaking contact.


They found multiple DJs playing different styles of the same thumping music and the party-goers melding between groups as they danced with little discrimination.


They saw people sipping from huge straws coming out of what looked like a kid’s bucket for building sandcastles while others were chugging straight from it to encouraging shrieks from the crowds surrounding them.


Willow approached the bar to investigate and brought back two bright blue buckets, grinning.


Tara took the one offered to her and looked inside at the bright orange liquid, filled almost to the brim, dubiously.


“This is like a…a bucket of booze,” she yelled over the music, “I don’t know if I want to get that drunk out here.”


She took a cautious sip and had to admit it tasted pretty inviting.


“Don’t worry, at this price it’s probably 1 part cheap spirits, 20 parts cheaper mixer,” Willow replied, her eyelids flickered as sweetness exploded across her tongue, “We’re more at risk of our teeth falling out of our heads than actually getting wasted.”


Willow was very, very, very wrong and they were three buckets in before they even realized it. Willow left Tara sitting on an upturned crate, mesmerized and fixated on people skipping over a flaming jump rope, to skip up to the bar and get another bucket of deliciousness.


Everything was floating so nicely, like her whole body was a squeeze of honey rolling off the back of a spoon.


As she bopped in place waiting for her order, a young guy with silver slicked-back hair and a fade on both sides approached. He mimicked her moves in the exact opposite of what a mating ritual might look like. He made a quick order, keeping his body turned toward Willow, then faced her with a similar set of glassy eyes.


“I love your shirt!” he exclaimed loudly in a London accent, throwing his hands up indicatively, “Such vintage Woodstock realness!”


“Thanks!” Willow yelled back, pulling the ends of her yellow shirt down to display it without wrinkles.


“Is it Stüssy?” her new friend asked and Willow shrugged both shoulders.


“I think it’s J. C. Penney.”


“Oh I haven’t heard of him!” the guy replied cluelessly, scrunching his lips up in a pout, “I’m Kale!”


“I’m Willow!” Willow introduced herself giddily, “Isn’t this cool? My friends at home would never think I’m doing something this cool!”


Kale threw his head back and laughed like this was the funniest thing he ever heard.


“Is this your first time?”


“Here? Yeah!” Willow nodded eagerly, gratefully accepting the refill of her buckets as they were returned to her, “Have you tried one of these buckets? They’re like lifesavers you can drown in! Get it? You can drown but they’re lifesavers? Like the candy? But they’re lifesavers? Like the jacket? Because you’re drowning?”


Kale laughed some more and poked Willow’s shoulder.


“You’re funny!” he said and stepped toward her conspiringly, “You met Molly yet tonight?”


Willow frowned.


“I don’t think so!”


Kale arched an eyebrow.


“You wanna?”


“Sure!” Willow replied enthusiastically, but then her eyes narrowed a bit, “But I have a girlfriend!”


Kale laughed over the music once again.


“Oh, I should have known you were family with those shoes.”


Willow looked down at her sandals in confusion. Kale reached into his pocket and looked down at a few little baggies in his palm.


“Better start you off a little light. I have some little twinnies of you. Family goes free first time!”


There was some hollering and Kale looked over his shoulder at a group of guys in various flamboyant colors and tight clothing.


“My friends are calling,” he said, pressing two round chalky pieces into Willow’s hand, “Don’t take both. Sharing is caring, darling! Find us in Fire if you want more!”


Willow looked down at the objects in her palm for a long moment.


“Oh. I. Uh. Um. Thanks? Uh…” she started but when she looked up again, Kale was already halfway up the beach, “Wait, where’s Molly?”


“Next time!” Kale called back with a retreating smile.


Willow shoved the little round things in her pocket, retrieved the buckets and carried them back to Tara without much care as to splashing.


The shift in weight as she sat on the crate drew Tara’s attention to her and Willow instantly started regaling her in the joke she’d made before.


“That’s so funny because they’re lifesavers, like the candy!” Tara giggled uncontrollably as her body fell into Willow’s lap and she looked up at the sky sadly, “Now I want some candy.”


Willow frowned too then her eyes lit up. She shoved her hand in her pocket and produced the contents.


“I got these!”


Tara ran a finger around the edge of one.


“Smiley little things,” she commented, cocking her head to one side, “What are they?”


Willow bit the corner of her lip unsurely.


“Candies! He must have run out of love heart one.”


“Who?” Tara asked, frowning.


“Molly’s friend,” Willow answered as if it was obvious, “Everyone probably wanted one since it’s Valentine’s Day.”


Tara picked one up and held it to Willow’s mouth. Willow stuck her tongue out and Tara pressed it on. She then caught the second between her thumb and forefinger and let it fall down her throat.


“They aren’t very tasty,” Willow complained.


Tara sat up and kept her face close to Willow’s seductively.


“I can show you tasty.”


Willow’s pupils started to blow as Tara’s mouth drenched her lips with kisses. Tara pulled away with a pop and electricity buzzing between them.


With a loose dress strap falling off her shoulder and a kick to free herself of her flip flops, she backed out onto the stand and held her arms out for Willow to follow.



Tara’s eyelids felt like they were weighted down with stones as she fought an internal conflict about whether to open them at all.


Her body ached like the morning after she’d done a double shift at Honkerburger and cycled home and her teeth felt sticky and gritty.


As her awareness moved from her head down she realized there was an actual body weight strewn over her. It very quickly made the decision easy for her about whether to open her eyes or not.


She was grateful to see a mop of red hair over her chest. She knew that head, at least.


She exhaled and grimaced at her sticky mouth as her hand pressed against Willow’s back and her fingers naturally found the protuberance of her muscles.


It took more than a second for her to process that she was caressing naked skin. That meant Willow was naked. And that she could feel that naked skin against her own naked skin.


Eyes now wide, she craned her neck to look down and confirm they were as nude as she thought.


In fact, they were even nuder than she thought. Willow’s butt lay pert and perky over Tara’s legs on full view for anyone who wished to look over. The only piece of her covered was a towel hanging off her ankle like she was complying with some kind of reverse-Victorian dress code.


Tara started to poke Willow repeatedly in the arm, who eventually stirred with a groan.


“Ow, what?!”


“Shush!” Tara replied in a hushed but frantic tone, “Willow, we’re naked!”


Willow raised her head slowly, smacking her lips together and barely opening her eyes.


“Huh?”


“We’re naked!” Tara repeated erratically, blindly gesturing with her hands.


Willow looked over her shoulder, spotted her own butt and looked back at Tara wide-eyed. She started looking around for something to cover them with and in the process realized she hadn’t the faintest clue where they were.


“Tara…” she said quietly, slowly, “This isn’t our room.”


Tara’s head shot to the side, for the first time realizing they were not where they had left the night before.


She didn’t recognize the room. Or the beds. Or the people sleeping.


Her eyes landed back on Willow, voice shaken and stunned.


“Where are we?”


“I have no idea,” Willow replied, gulping audibly, “But we should get out of here.”


“Where are our clothes?” Tara asked, covering her chest with her arm as Willow extracted herself from her.


“Where’s my phone?!” Willow asked with even more horror in her voice.


Willow quietly creaked off the end of the bed, crouching to hide her body in case anyone woke up. The towel that had been on her foot was on the floor with another towel and was absolutely drenched when she picked it up. She promptly dropped again. Her eyes darted around until she saw an old basketball jersey and board shorts abandoned on the floor. She snatched them up.


She offered them, quite chivalrously she thought, to Tara who looked at Willow as if she had three heads.


“These aren’t our clothes.”


“They’re clothes which is a distinct step up from the nothingness we have on now!” Willow replied in a strong whisper.


“I’m not wearing those!” Tara replied with a resolute shake of her head.


A minute or two of quiet creeping later, they tiptoed out of the room with Willow looking like Brian Scalabrine’s baby sister and Tara doing her best impression of an ancient Roman with the bedsheet wrapped around her body.


“Wouldn’t wear someone else’s clothes but you’ll wear someone else’s sheet,” Willow muttered, though Tara clearly heard.


“We already slept in them, what’s the worst that can happen?”


“Crabs?” Willow suggested facetiously and Tara just shot her an unamused look.


They paused in the silent hallway for a moment until Tara put a hand up against her forehead where a headache was starting to form.


“W-we need to find the front desk. We just crashed in this room, we have to go pay for it.”


“We can’t!” Willow hissed, “These hostels have internal blacklists. If you get put on it you’ll have trouble ever finding a room again.”


“That sounds like a conspiracy theory,” Tara replied unsurely.


“It’s true!” Willow protested, “Manpreet in India told me when we talked about him kicking out that creep! Manpreet wouldn’t lie.”


Tara began to gnaw on the skin around her thumb.


“So then what do we do?”


“We gotta sneak out,” Willow said with a definitive nod.


“We’re on the second floor,” Tara replied tersely, indicating the stairs just off to their right.


“Then we gotta sneak down and then out!” Willow retorted, throwing her arms up.


Tara’s face dropped into her hands and she did the only thing she could; follow Willow down the stairs. On the second landing, Willow suddenly dived toward a pot plant.


“I think that’s my phone!” she squealed, picking it up and wiping off some dirt, then holding her hands in a prayer pose when she pressed a button and it lit up, “Todah rabah rabah rabah!”


She held it to her chest as she straightened up again.


“Do you have yours?”


“I didn’t bring it with me,” Tara replied, then frowned, “I don’t think. What the hell happened last night?”


“Fleeing first, figuring out later,” Willow said snippily and grabbed Tara’s hand to continue to pull her down the stairs.


At the base of the stairs, they suddenly froze when a group of partiers passed them.


But the group paid them no mind and just continued on their way to collapse into their beds looking drunk and strung out — likely both.


They glanced at each other and breathed again, but both looked from side to side unsurely.


“How do we bypass the front desk?” Tara whispered.


“Go out the back?” Willow whispered back.


Tara threw her hands up helplessly.


“How do we know where the back is??”


Willow looked pained for a moment as she looked down two hallways filled with doors and no indication as to where either led. She chewed on her lip as she tried to think, then suddenly jumped on the spot.


“Wait!” she exclaimed, wiping her phone screen rid of some dirt and pulling her translation app. She held it up to the sign on the door to see if it registered, “Yes! Cleaning!”


She scurried down the hallway and held it up to the next one.


“Office!”


Tara quickly hurried after Willow as they darted down the hallway, catching up with her just in time to see the translation pop up at the very last door.


“Exit, it says exit!” Willow broke her hushed tone to yell, grabbing Tara’s hand again and pulling her through to the other side.


With adrenaline and fear they continued to run until they were at a safe distance and back on the beach. It was barely dawn and other partiers like the ones they’d met at the stairs were dragging themselves home or had just flat out passed out in the sand.


Abandoned glow sticks littered the beach and the empty DJ booths and bars looked so out of place in the sun’s harsh light. They couldn’t seem to go more than five seconds without hearing someone retching or seagulls squawking as they foraged for abandoned food from the night before.


“Look at all of this. It’s disgusting,” Tara said, shaking her head, “It’s like a trash barge exploded at the bay. Some of this stuff will get into the ocean. We have to help clean up.”


Willow looked pained but it only grew as she looked along the beachfront.


“Yeah, okay. We’ll come back.”


After walking for a moment, Willow started to snicker.


“You’re rocking that sheet. You could start a toga line and sell it on eBay.”


Tara was not in the mood and glanced at Willow in annoyance.


“At least I’m not going commando in something some guy’s junk has been in.”


“Ew!” Willow exclaimed with maximum grossness and suddenly dropped the shorts and kicked them away with the rest of the lost clothing on the beach.


Theirs must have been lost in there somewhere too, never to be seen again.


Willow pulled the end of the jersey down toward her knees to hide herself and continued to speak defiantly.


“It’s long enough to be a dress anyway.”


Except now the neckline was the barest gust away from her flashing the whole beach. She had to hold the chest and the hem in place as she kept walking.


Tara remained glum-faced as her eyes stayed on the ground to spot any glass or needles or anything else ready to rip their bare feet to pieces. Her head felt like there was a chainsaw going off inside it.


Flashes went from behind her eyes as they passed by the remnants of the last before, but nothing stuck.


“I can’t remember anything after…” she started, sighing painfully, “I can’t remember anything. What was in those buckets? Illegal Russian vodka?”


Willow rubbed her temple vigorously.


“I remember that guy giving me candy and then…poof.”


Tara stopped in her tracks.


“Wait. Who? What?”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“I don’t know, his name was Lettuce or something,” she replied fuzzily, “He gave us the little smiley face candy, remember? Because he ran out of love hearts?”


Realization slowly dawned across Tara’s face as her memories came through for whole seconds at a time. She suddenly clutched Willow’s jersey straps with her fist.


“Willow, those were drugs! We took ecstasy!”


Willow’s mouth dropped open in shock.


“I didn’t know!”


She suddenly reeled back, looking at Tara.


“Wait… did you know?”


Tara pressed her palm against the side of her head.


“No! I don’t think?” she replied unsurely, “I thought…I don’t know, I can’t remember!”


They started to walk again, but not consciously, just to move as they processed the information.


“I can’t believe I did drugs,” Willow said, her voice echoing around her in shock.


“I can’t believe I—” Tara stopped short and paled as she had visions of herself spinning around the way her head was right then, “…did I dance naked on the beach?”


Light bulbs went off in Willow’s eyes and she pulled her phone up again, navigating to the gallery where a video started playing as soon as she’d opened the app.


Techno music played in the background and in the foreground people whooped and hollered as the screen wobbled but clearly showed Tara throwing her hands up in the air as she shed the last bit of her clothing and yelled out names of goddesses she didn’t even know she knew.


Tara was near shaking with horror and Willow could only stare, dumbfounded.


“Your mom will be proud,” she said lamely, and Tara didn’t even have the wherewithal to give her a dirty look.


Willow suddenly gasped.


“Oh no!”


“What?” Tara asked in a frightened whisper.


Willow started stabbing at her phone.


“Did I send it to her? Would I do that?” she asked in a rush before the phone beeped and went black.


Willow looked up at Tara, pained.


“Battery’s dead.”


“Willow!” Tara exclaimed, her hands smacking her own cheeks.


“I’m sorry!” Willow replied, stroking a hand back through her messy hair, “I’m so sorry.”


Tara shrunk into herself and leaned back against a tree.


“There was a time where I could say with certainty you were the only person who had seen me naked. I miss that time. Oh my god, what did we do?”


Willow felt the jersey material rub against her butt and felt a warm burning sensation.


“I think I got sunburned,” she said, rubbing the spot but pulling away quickly when it made her wince.


“At night?” Tara asked dubiously and sighed, “Willow, do we even know where we are?”


“If you brought your phone, we’d have your maps,” Willow replied a little tetchily, but immediately regretted it.


“If I brought my phone it would probably be somewhere on the bottom of the ocean or offered as a sacrifice to Mother Gaia,” Tara replied sarcastically.


“I’m sorry, baby,” Willow replied softly, reaching out to rub Tara’s arm, “Look, we’re on the beach…just the far end. We just have to get to the other side and then we’ll know how to get back to our actual hostel.”


Tara just nodded and they set off again for the long walk home. After a few minutes, Willow piped up again.


“Do you think we had sex—”


“I think we need to adopt a Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell policy about last night,” Tara interrupted, frowning, “We’re never doing drugs again.”


Willow linked arms with Tara and rested her head on Tara’s shoulder for a moment.


“Your love is my drug.”


Tara glanced at Willow sidelong but held Willow’s arm where they were linked.


“You better not have sent that video to my mom.”


Finally, they arrived back at their hostel with bruised egos and likely bruised feet. Mother Gaia must have appreciated the show because their room was empty of the lugheads that also inhabited it and was blissfully silent.


Willow got a pair of PJ bottoms and tugged them on under the jersey, which she then stripped off with zero modesty— it wasn’t like it was the first time in the last 24 hours. She pulled on a happy zebra tee and patted where it bared its teeth in a huge grin.


She’d miss her smiley tank top. It had always served her well in her ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ approach.


She glanced over at Tara who was trying to shimmy into her own clothes without dropping the toga-sheet.


She smiled.


She didn’t have to fake it anymore.


She rolled onto her bed which felt like a luxurious cloud even with its starchy bedding and worn out pillow.


Tara finally got that old sheet off of her body and kicked it under the bed, where it would reside with the dirty jersey unless and until someone else found it there.


She wanted to bathe, she wanted a decontamination shower in fact, but the thought of dragging her body into what, at best, was adequate facilities felt like asking her to walk through the gates of hell.


The only possible thing that could be worse was the ladder. She stared at that ladder that separated Willow’s bunk from hers and felt physically sick at the thoughts of putting her poor feet on any of those rungs or trying to swing herself over onto the mattress.


She perched on the side of Willow’s bed and pushed her gently.


“Move over.”


“Huh?” Willow asked without opening her eyes.


“I’m not getting up on that ladder,” Tara clarified gruffly, “Move over.”


Willow obliged wordlessly and scooted back until her butt touched the wall. She winced again but didn’t verbalize it.


Tara lay down facing Willow, their heads and bodies naturally curling together.


Their eyes were closed for an entire forty seconds before their roommates opted to return from breakfast, or the night before, or from their class on how to make their voices sound like foghorns because that was exactly how they sounded as they scurried in.


Willow and Tara’s eyes opened at the same time and they only had to look at each other for a second before a silent agreement was made.


“I’ll get the room,” Willow said sluggishly, sitting up to move off the end of the bed.


“I’ll get the bags,” Tara answered with a jaded sigh, turning her back completely to the new arrivals so she could throw their few things into their bags.


For once, the guys' general loutishness paid off as none of them offered to help and she escaped quickly. Willow was approaching her with a new key and led them upstairs where the private room was. She let them in and gravitated right to the gorgeous, big, soft double bed; falling onto it on her stomach. Tara put the bags in a corner and joined Willow with a soft sigh.


“C’mere,” she said and reached out to pull Willow closer by the ass, feeling like engaging in some cuddle therapy now they had the freedom to.


“Ow!” Willow yelped, squirming out of Tara’s touch.


“What is up with your butt?” Tara exclaimed as her hand rose a foot off the bed in response to Willow’s shriek.


“Hey, you like my butt,” Willow frowned sadly.


“I do, that’s why I want to know what’s wrong,” Tara replied, “Show me.”


Willow yanked down her PJ bottoms and Tara brushed the green material of her panties up to get a full cheek view.


Her eyes immediately widened.


“…I don’t think you got sunburned.”


Willow groaned and jumped back out of bed.


“Don’t tell me that stupid flaming jump rope actually burned me,” she said as she stepped out of her PJs and backed up to the mirror to get a better look. Her breath caught on the next inhale as her eyes settled over the mark causing her so much discomfort, “Tara.”


Her head spun around, eyes wild.


“Tara, is that a TATTOO?!”


She tried to rub it off but only received more pain to indicate it was indeed imprinted into her skin.


“OW!”


She stared back in the mirror, twisting her butt around to try and make out the mark.


“Why didn’t you say something earlier??”


“I didn’t notice until now,” Tara replied with a gulp, “It’s close to your skin tone and I was kind of focused on finding clothes.”


Willow let out a pained whine.


“What does it say?”


Tara slunk off the end of the bed and hunkered down to get a close look.


“It’s not English,” she said, careful not to touch the light markings against Willow’s normally creamy white but now pinkish surrounding skin, “It could be Nepalese.”


Willow clutched her hair with both hands in a panic.


“The app, the app. Use the translator app.”


“Did you plug your phone in?” Tara asked, looking around for a socket.


“USE YOURS!” Willow yelled and Tara frowned. Silently, given the circumstances.


She fetched her own phone from a pocket in her bag and pulled up the app.


“I don’t know if it will work on skin.”


“Well, try it!” Willow insisted, thrusting her butt in Tara’s direction.


Tara held the phone landscape and zoomed in on the words printed on Willow’s skin. It couldn’t isolate the image so Tara took a picture to make it steadier.


“Your butt looks really good in this,” she said a little under her breath but Willow heard and glared over her shoulder.


Tara quickly loaded the image to be read and it came up on the screen and started to analyze.


“Oh, the language is actually called Nepali,” she read as the app recognized the language and began to populate the translation, “I didn’t know that.”


“TARA!” Willow screeched, just short of stamping her foot.


Tara’s lips pursed together as finally, a translation popped up on the screen. She hid the phone in her palm and tried to smile calmly.


“Wouldn’t it be cool if you never knew what it said? Like a little mystery?”


“Show me that,” Willow replied curtly, snatching the phone from Tara’s hands.


She flicked the screen into view and slowly felt her stomach drop right out of her. Her eyes lifted to Tara, wide as saucers.


Image



“TUNA AND APPLE SAUCE!?”


“That’s my favorite lunch,” Tara offered meekly.


“This is YOUR fault!” Willow exclaimed accusingly before almost stumbling over herself when she was hit with a strong memory, “Wait.”


She was lying on a tattooist’s chair in a bright shop, the same towel she’d dumped earlier covering one side of her ass as she cackled to a bearded guy holding a tattoo gun.


“Now she can snack on me!”


Willow’s jaw tensed.


“Okay, this is primarily my fault,” she admitted with a gulp, “Oh my god, oh my god. Why the heck would I do this?”


“Because we were rolling,” Tara replied plainly, “I don’t even get changed in rooms with others but I stripped off in front of hundreds of people. We weren’t in our right minds.”


Willow paced back and forth, trying to jolt her memory.


“Wait, I remember. We were dancing and you said you could feel the spirits and charms in the air. You were singing me a song. And I wanted to sing you a song but I couldn’t so I—”


“Got a tattoo instead,” Tara replied, her eyes blinking closed for a moment.


She got a flash of feeling; like she couldn’t get close enough to Willow; like she just wanted them to be fused together.


Willow was apparently remembering similarly.


“…and then we asked for Aphrodite’s blessing and buried my phone with all the evidence to seal our love to the earth. I remember it all.”


She shook her head.


“There’s an excuse. Aphrodite made me do it,” she said, dropping onto the bed and wincing at the painful reminder, “At least I didn’t bury my phone in the sand. And also that means I didn’t send the video to your mom. I didn’t have a chance.”


She sighed.


“But we can delete your mistakes. Mine is stuck on my ass forever.”


Tara felt guilty and sat with Willow, taking her hand in her lap.


“You can say it means something else,” she comforted softly, “Anyway, It’s small. No one will ever see it there.”


“You’ll see it,” Willow replied with a downward look.


“I think it’s cool,” Tara replied sincerely.


Willow looked up suspiciously.


“Cool?”


“It’s like a joke between us,” Tara replied kindly and inhaled softly on her next breath, “Actually—”


Willow suddenly stood up.


“I can’t sit on it; it hurts too much.”


“You need to cover it,” Tara advising, deflating for a moment before standing, “Lie on your stomach.”


Willow complied and returned to the bed in the appropriate position. Tara sorted through her toiletry things and came back with a tub of something.


“It might hurt for a second, but I’ll be gentle.”


Willow couldn’t help grin over her shoulder and Tara smiled back softly.


“Is that the stuff you use for boob sweat?” Willow asked as she watched Tara unscrew the jar and reach in.


“Coconut oil has many uses,” Tara answered as she gently rubbed the oil between her fingers to liquefy it before rubbing it into the spot, “You’ll have to sleep like this for a few days.”


“Figured,” Willow replied sleepily, feeling the comedown begin to hit her quite harshly.


Tara wiped her hands free of anything that lingered and used the single sink in the room clean them and then brush her teeth.


She joined Willow back on the bed and snuggled up.


“Hey,” she whispered as she leaned in close and bumped their noses together, “You’re not stupid. I love you.”


Willow pecked Tara’s lips.


“Night…morning…whatever.”


Tara’s lips pursed closed but a crooked grin escaped after a moment.


“Night tuna butt.”


Willow’s brow furrowed deeply.


“Tara.”


“Too soon?” Tara asked and Willow smiled despite herself.


She reached out and touched Tara’s hair.


“Do you think she blessed us at least?”


Tara returned the affectionate gesture.


“I’ve been blessed since I was four years old.”



Tara woke for the second time that day in an almost identical position but a lot more comfortable in it.


At least, she was comfortable in the knowledge that they were safe in their own room and that Willow’s green panties riding up her butt was only there for her to see.


Willow was strewn into her side and still sleeping peacefully.


She turned her head to have a better look at the slightly swollen but clean looking ink on Willow’s skin. At least Willow seemed to have gone somewhere safe, if with questionable policies on the inebriation levels of their clientele.


Though she could only say the same of her own tattoo experience; she wasn’t exactly stone-cold sober sitting in the chair.


She hovered her hand above Willow’s tattoo, resisting touching it.


The script was pretty and ambiguous as to its language. Willow could definitely pass it off as whatever she wanted if anybody ever asked about it. Tara moved her hand away and let it rest over her own ribs. She pushed her top up and allowed her finger to follow the notes on the staff printed onto her skin.


Willow started to stir with the movement and Tara quickly pressed her palm flat again.


Willow looked up blearily then dropped her head promptly back down on Tara’s breast. Tara got a jolt but could only smile and started to play with Willow’s hair.


“Hey, you.”


Willow groaned and Tara could feel her nipple harden through her shirt as the low vibration hummed near her skin. It was the first pleasant sensation she’d felt all day.


“I had weird dreams,” Willow mumbled, still fighting to keep her eyes closed.


Tara curled the ends of Willow’s hair around her finger, enjoying how the silky strands slipped through.


“What happened?”


Willow brow furrowed deeply. She turned her head to look up at Tara.


“We were,” she paused for a moment, looking uncomfortable, “Doing stuff. But when I opened your legs it was a waterfall of SpaghettiOs.”


Tara’s eyes widened in slight alarm.


“I think you’re still high.”


Willow groaned quietly again and buried her head in Tara’s neck.


“I don’t think I’m high but I’m…something. Weird.”


Tara wrapped her arm under Willow’s shoulders and rubbed her upper arm.


“It’s called hungover, honey.”


Willow shook her head; her hair tickling Tara’s skin.


“But like a hangover on…” she stopped for a moment, “Oh. Right. Drugs.”


She frowned.


“Buckets are only for building sandcastles from now on.”


“I think if I saw one I’d throw up,” Tara replied with a quiet shudder.


“Well that would be convenient,” Willow said with a small chuckling smirk, “Hey, do we have snacks? I’m starving but nothing could make me leave this bed.”


“Yeah, I think so,” Tara replied and took her arm back to push herself up.


Willow whined and slapped her hands aimlessly.


“I didn’t want you to leave the bed either.”


Tara looked over her shoulder.


“Have you mastered telekinesis?”


“No,” Willow replied grumpily.


“Then one of us has to get up,” Tara returned with an obliging smile.


Willow rolled onto her back and Tara reached over to drag her luggage over between her legs. Sometimes a cramped room had its benefits as Willow discovered when Tara stayed close enough for her to draw circles on her spine.


Tara smiled at the gentle tickle and opened the top compartment to look through her bag. Her tolerance for any kind of effort was still zero and she ended up just upturning it so everything fell onto the floor. That would be a later problem.


“Granola bars, ramen, crackers…” she said as her hand swiped through the contents on the lookout for food, “Jackpot.”


“What?” Willow asked, her chin lifted and interest piqued.


Tara held up an old packet of Pop-Tarts that must have been stuck at the end of her bag for a few months. Willow’s breath caught in her throat.


“I’ve never been more in love with you.”


Tara scooted back and handed the foil packet over to Willow, who ripped into it. It was crumbling and all fell into her lap a bit but she didn’t care and just picked up chunks of the brown-frosted pastry.


She giggled happily as it melted on her tongue and threw a sloppy kiss toward Tara’s cheek.


“I love you s’more and s’more and s’more.”


“Stop…” Tara resisted unconvincingly, “You’re getting the crumbs everywhere.”


Willow held a piece up to Tara’s mouth, who nibbled it and Willow’s fingers a bit at the end.


Willow felt her stomach do a few turns and took her hand back with a light blush.


“We’re lucky all we have is a hangover. I saw cops there last night. Getting arrested once was waaaaay more than enough, thank you very much.”


Tara’s brow creased and she suddenly scooted lower and lower on the bed until the blanket was hiding her head in shame.


“Willow, I think we ran away from them,” she said, poking her head back out with a pained look of recollection on her face, “We stole towels from the beach and ran away into the crowd.”


Willow snapped her fingers.


“That’s when I got the tattoo! We ran in different directions. I went back to the strip and was seduced by the artist’s collection of different colored inks.”


She covered her eyes with her hand and after a moment, peeked through.


“Oh god. I asked for an actual tuna eating an actual tub of applesauce. I tried to explain it to him on the app! Thank GOD that got lost in translation.”


She paused with a small pout and glanced over her shoulder at her behind.


“I think.”


“I don’t remember being on the strip at all,” Tara replied, running her hand back through her hair, “For some reason I have Singing In The Rain stuck in my head.”


“Yes!” Willow replied enthusiastically, “I went to look for you on the beach when I was finished. You were splashing in the water and singing that song and luring me in like a siren.”


Tara closed her eyes and shook her head.


“I could have drowned.”


Willow suddenly got a somber look on her face.


“This is why I don’t go wild. Never again.”


Tara rubbed Willow’s back comfortingly and leaned over to kiss her shoulder.


“Don’t speak so soon,” she teased gently, coaxing a smile from Willow, “I like when you go wild in private.”


Willow sighed softly as she experienced her first pleasant sensation of the day. It tugged below her stomach and was just so welcomingly warm.


She looked over at Tara and arched an eyebrow.


“Oh yeah?”


Tara recognized the silent question and let her hand fall away from Willow with a coy smile.


“Aren’t you afraid of the SpaghettiOs?”


Willow watched that inviting quirk of Tara’s lips curl up on one side and began to slink her body over Tara’s under the sheet.


“I’m working on a little O of my own.”


She kissed Tara’s chest where it was bare from the round neck of her tank, then looked up to correct herself.


“Big O.”


Tara smirked and rested her head back against the pillows.


Willow kissed the spot just above Tara’s cleavage again and over to the swell of her breast. She pulled the material of Tara’s tank top down over it and felt her stomach start to squirm when an already engorged nipple popped out.


Willow ran her fingertips over the pebbling skin and slid the nipple between two fingers before leaning down to take it in her mouth. It felt hot, almost as hot as Tara’s moan floating down to her ears. Her tongue ran in quick circles, matching Tara’s ragged breath.


Willow reached up to tug the strap of Tara’s top off her shoulders and then tugged the fabric down over her chest to sit around her shorts. Willow angled herself better over Tara’s chest and moved her mouth across to the other side with wet kisses to her skin along the way.


Her hand molded Tara’s other breast; thumb pressing against her nipple and rolling it for constant pressure. She felt Tara’s little jolts beneath her and began pressing their clothed hips together. Tara only had to pull on her once for Willow to drop her hand and pull the shorts and wound-around shirt away from Tara’s waist.


Willow sat back, kneeling between Tara’s legs for a moment to look at her.


Tara took the opportunity to strip Willow of what she had on. The happy zebra’s face crumpled unrecognizably on the floor with a flick of Tara’s hand. Then with another easy hand movement, Willow’s panties dropped and bunched between them, waiting to join its comrades below when their moving bodies would jostle it off the bed.


“Oh god,” Willow breathed as her eyes traveled up Tara’s body.


It felt an age since she’d seen her like this, though admittedly it had only technically been this morning. Somehow, having to retrace your steps after ecstasy-induced amnesia didn’t bring the same thrill of nudity that looking at someone baring themselves open for you in the knowledge you’ll keep them safe did.


“You’re so beautiful.”


Tara reached up and splayed her fingers out behind Willow’s neck, pulling her back down so their bodies and then their mouths connected. She swore she heard an actual sizzle as Willow’s hips slid between her open legs and their lips glided for one sweet moment, but it was probably just the sound of their combined moans.


Tara’s hands slid down Willow’s sides and cupped the ink-free cheek to pull her in closer. The press of Willow’s skin electrified her and she had a flash of being high and feeling her blood rushing through her but it was nothing like this rush where it felt like Willow was everywhere at once.


A low groan passed her lips and she tugged on Willow’s butt again.


Almost everywhere.


“Get in me,” she almost-whined in an unusually needy tone.


Willow didn’t seem to mind; in fact, she was quite eager to please and was quick to pull Tara’s knee over her hip and drop her hand to where Tara was begging for it to be. She spent a moment pulling some jerky movements from Tara by playing with her clit but it was clear from the overwhelming gush coming from below that Tara wasn’t in need of teasing.


Two fingers slipped down and curled inside, making Tara’s body rigid for a moment before it arched in a wave down to her hips. Her insides squeezed desperately to keep Willow in.


Willow let out a shaken breath as her own inner muscles squeezed in response. She had to tense and release for a moment to keep her mind focused. The sweet heat engulfing her was a quick reminder of where her attention lay and she did a few quick thrusts to get back in the moment.


She watched Tara’s face for the little details she loved; her neck rolling, her nostrils flaring, how her upper teeth dug into her lower lip and then popped off to release a cry when Willow hit that sweet spot inside.


“Oh Willow,” Tara released on a low moan, the nails on one hand ripping up the sheet beneath it.


Her body started to flush and encouraged Willow who was hyper-focused on every little movement Tara’s body made as she hurtled toward orgasm. She felt Tara get impossibly hotter inside and then heard a hitched breath as she curled her fingers at the perfect angle.


Tara came with a prolonged groan; her hips lifting off the bed and her hands trying to claw as deep as possible into it.


Willow’s heart pounded as Tara’s heartbeat pulsed so intensely around her. She gently eased off her motions until Tara was still and let her fingers fall out of her. She turned her glistening hand around slowly and brought it closer to her face.


“I can’t believe I used to wipe you off me.”


Tara’s leg fell back down to the bed and she brought her knees together to give a satisfying squeeze between her thighs. She spent a minute catching her breath and watching Willow pop the top of her finger into her mouth before reaching up lazily to brush fingertips against Willow’s hip.


“Let me see you.”


Willow slid her knees up either side of Tara’s hips and sat back on her heels. Her palms lay flat on Tara’s stomach and gently slid up to cup her breasts.


Tara rested her hands over Willow’s hips and let her two index fingers come in from each side to meet at her bellybutton.


“You,” she breathed, her fingers sliding down and off right where the patch of red hair began.


She looked up and met Willow’s lusty gaze.


“Just you.”


Willow let her legs slide open a little more, unabashed and brought her hands back up to fold behind her head. Tara’s eyes glazed over and her hands rose to Willow’s breasts and cupped them fully.


Willow’s head fell back and she moaned. Her skin was flush and buzzing from touching Tara and the brush of fingers against her nipples made her shiver.


“Touch me,” she panted softly, “Touch me. I want to feel your body.”


Tara squeezed Willow’s breasts again before letting her fingertips fall over Willow’s abs and down to tickle her thighs. Willow almost giggled but Tara’s palms replaced her fingers and she felt a sudden gush as they crept between her legs.


“Like this…?” Tara asked innocently as if she didn’t know each light touch was torturous.


“More,” Willow moaned, thrusting her hips forward.


Tara watched Willow’s lips glisten; the dim light of the cheap fixture overhead not impeding the visual in the slightest. She loved seeing Willow all open like this; loved when Willow allowed herself to be vulnerable and so, so sexy in the process.


She dipped her middle finger there and let it glide up to Willow’s clit, rolling the pad over it. She felt, and then saw, Willow twitch in response and increased her speed to really see those thighs move.


Willow almost immediately began seeking more and Tara gradually increased her pace until it was almost impossible to keep her fingers from sliding right down through Willow’s arousal to tease her opening.


Willow eagerly thrust down and Tara thrust up at the perfect moment to fill her and to make Willow throw her head back and cry out a note of pleasure.


Tara liked that very much and rounded her thumb upward so she could pleasure Willow inside and out simultaneously.


Willow began grinding mercilessly onto Tara’s hand, her head rocking from side to side as her eyes shut tight. Everything was hot and clenching and tight and she could feel it building and building as it burst through every nerve in her body. She swung forward and curved her hands over Tara’s shoulders, needing something to steady her lest she take off like a rocket.


“Tara…” she moaned almost painfully as her hips burrowed into Tara so hard she might screw them both into the bed.


Sweat started to form on Willow’s brow as every muscle tensed in anticipation of her climax. Her nails started to dig lightly into Tara’s shoulders and her teeth bit her lip so hard it went white.


“Tara…!” she said again, the note higher and keener and so desperately on edge.


Tara reached up and tilted Willow’s chin down.


Willow opened her eyes at the contact and as soon as she saw Tara looking back up at her it all broke in one shattering convulsion that left her still and gasping for breath.


Tara cupped Willow’s cheek which seemed to be the impetus for her to take in a full lungful and finally she started to relax.


Tara remained where she was and let Willow remove herself after a few moments. Willow slowly fell against Tara’s side and nuzzled into the crook of her neck.


“I feel sooooo much better,” she espoused lazily with a satisfied grin on her face, “Thanks for not grabbing my butt.”


“It was a challenge,” Tara replied, throwing her arm above their heads to stretch it out after Willow gave it a workout, “You’re very irresistible.”


“Stop,” Willow replied shyly, burying her head into Tara’s shoulder for a moment.


Tara just smiled and sighed contentedly.


“I really want to keep this room for a couple of days. I need your closeness.”


“Done,” Willow replied without question, letting her cheek rest on Tara’s collarbone, “We should have just celebrated Valentine’s Day like this.”


“Let’s make a deal to do it like this from now on,” Tara suggested, wiggling her fingers and smiling to herself as she felt the evidence still sticking to her,


“I’m in,” Willow agreed with an easy smile, “You, me and a bed. Everything I need.”


They stayed like that for a few minutes of enjoyable silence until something started beeping from the pile of Tara’s belongings on the floor. Tara began to move toward it and Willow let out a grumpy whimper.


“I thought we talked about this ‘you leaving the bed’ thing.”


“It’s the Skype notification,” Tara replied, tiredly sorting through her things, “It’s probably my mom.”


Willow glanced around. She had no idea what time it was but she could see it was dark outside the small window up high on the wall.


“It’s too early to be your mom,” she said after some guestimation and mental math.


“Not if she’s calling before work,” Tara reasoned and lay back with her iPad in hand when she finally found it. She opened the app and checked the message, “She wants to video chat.”


Willow tossed her head back against the pillows, then over at Tara obligingly.


“Clothes?”


“Clothes,” Tara confirmed and linked her fingers with Willow’s between them for a moment, “We can probably get away with shirts.”


Willow smiled and Tara lifted her hand to smooth some of Willow’s wild mane.


“…and a hairbrush.”


Her hands came round to cup Willow’s face and kiss her softly. Willow smiled into the kiss and continued to smile when Tara parted to get a brush and clothing for them.


Willow gingerly placed a pillow beneath her as she sat up against the wall, feeling the burden of her bad decisions as her weight settled on her rear. Tara threw her the happy zebra top back and Willow smoothed out the wrinkled tail while she waited.


“I can’t remember the last time I ironed…anything.”


“You ironed my black jeans for me in Goa,” Tara replied, checking her hair in the mirror on the back of the door, “When we went to that nice restaurant.”


Willow nodded at the memory.


“Right. We borrowed a travel-sized one from that girl from Finland. I speed-ironed my whole suitcase.”


Tara returned to the bed with a fond smile.


“You were so cute zipping away at it. Like…”


She imitated Willow ironing jollily and Willow gently pushed her, grinning.


“Stop. You weren’t complaining when you looked so sharp with those creases,” she teased, then scrunched up her nose, “Actually I was the one not complaining.”


Tara wrapped her hand under Willow’s chin and leaned in to kiss her.


“No complaints here either,” she murmured as their noses brushed off each other.


The iPad pinged with a new notification and Tara sighed softly as she pulled away.


She turned the screen over and held it between them so the camera angled at their faces. She pressed the call button near her mother’s name and they both grimaced when the camera activated and their faces filled the screen. They still looked a little rough.


Thankfully it was only for a moment before Kimberly’s face took up the space, looking a lot chirpier than they were.


“Good morning you two,” Kimberly greeted warmly, “I guess it’s afternoon for you.”


“Evening,” Willow clarified, dropping her head onto Tara’s shoulder sleepy, “We just had dessert.”


Her eyes suddenly widened and her head shot up, very much alert.


“Dinner! We just had dinner!” she said in a rush, clenching her teeth tight as if it might control her blush, “Um, so what’s up in good ole Sunnydale?”


Tara shot her a side-eyed glare but tried to keep her face neutral. Kimberly, to her credit, continued on without reacting.


“Well nothing as exotic as you, I’m sure,” she replied with that almost-unnoticeable hint of tease in her tone that Willow only recognized because Tara did the exact same thing, “They opened a new restaurant near the university campus. The Razorbacks are playing some big game this weekend, or so Donny tells me. And Joyce’s gallery has been loaned a Georgia O'Keeffe, which is very exciting. I’m going to the unveiling tonight.”


“That explains Buffy telling me her mom was all excited about some weird coochie flower painting,” Willow said to Tara.


“Canvass of a lady garden,” Tara grinned.


Willow giggled and Kimberly rolled her eyes.


“Tara. I taught you to have a better appreciation of art than that.”


Willow’s lips pursed closed to stop from laughing and she looked at Tara, her eyes teasing her with a silent ‘you just got scolded’ with overt overtones of ‘na na na na na’.


Tara lifted her hand to poke Willow’s nose but Willow anticipated it and slapped her away before it happened.


“Girls, really,” Kimberly interrupted like they were six years old again and caught filling Donny’s sneakers with mud.


“Sorry mom,” Tara replied contritely.


“Sorry Ms. Maclay,” Willow echoed, though not without sharing a sneaky, defiant smile with Tara.


The corners of Tara’s lips began to tug upward and she quickly diverted the conversation.


“So, mom, how have you been? Um, how’s…how’s Donny?”


Willow linked her arm through Tara’s and silently linked their fingers together. Tara smiled softly at the sign of support and squeezed Willow’s palm as her mother started filling her in on the goings-on in her life.


Kimberly seemed in good spirits; enjoying a renewed social life with Joyce and getting on well at work. Donny was keeping his head down, working and playing on his new bike and not at any bars. He was moving into his new studio downtown in a couple of weeks.


She hadn’t really seen the Rosenbergs but they were just home after an extended trip and had waved to them in the street.


“Yeah, my mom is home for Spring break season. My dad said he’s been taking a step back from all the travel lately too. Enjoying the peace and quiet at home I think.”


Tara smiled softly and Willow returned it.


“What did you two get up to for Valentine’s Day?” Kimberly asked, not interrupting but filling a natural silence.


The smiles turned to silent, communicative looks and Tara jumped in quickly.


“…we hung out on the beach.”


“Yeah, we did,” Willow nodded honestly, “We…hung out on the beach. It was pretty chill.”


Kimberly nodded, unsuspicious.


“Did you have a nice time?”


“A swell time by all accounts,” Willow answered and held in a squeak when Tara nudged her, “What about you, Ms. Maclay, did you get hit with cupid’s arrow last night?”


Tara was about to roll her eyes at Willow but Kimberly surprised her with an answer.


“Well…I did go out actually, yes.”


Tara’s head reeled a little in surprise.


“Wait. Really?”


Kimberly nodded bashfully.


“I did.”


“With who?” Tara asked, running her fingers through the hair falling by her ear.


Kimberly smiled coyly but her eyes were bright.


“A man that I’ve been seeing.”


“A ‘man that you’ve been seeing’?” Tara repeated with a small furrow of her brow, “I didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”


Kimberly rested her chin on her fist.


“It’s thanks to you actually,” she said to Tara with her smile widening on her face, “I met him when I paid a visit to that store you recommended. The Wiccan one. He owns it.”


Tara’s eyes widened.


“You’re going out with Mr. Bogarty?”


Kimberly laughed.


“Yes, but not the one you’re thinking of. His son. Jeff.”


Tara exhaled a slow breath.


“Oh.”


“He’s taking it over,” Kimberly continued, “Modernizing it a bit. He practices and wants to shed the stereotypical image.”


She paused unsurely for a moment.


“I hope you don’t mind Tara, but I even suggested your name and he seems like he really likes it. I think he might officially rename it The Magic Box.”


Willow smiled at Tara, eyes wide with wonder.


“Baby, that’s amazing. You named a whole store.”


“So is he your boyfriend now?” Tara cut in.


Kimberly sat back and tucked some hair behind her ear.


“We’re just enjoying each other’s company.”


“Okay,” Tara replied, swallowing before quickly nodding, “That’s good. That’s great. I’m glad.”


Kimberly smiled softly, relieved and looked off to the side for a moment before back at the screen.


“Girls, I better go. I’m getting to work early so I can leave early for Joyce’s show. She’s been getting such bad headaches with all the stress, so I want to be there for her tonight.”


“She’s lucky to have you as a friend Ms. M,” Willow interjected, her hand now on Tara’s back where she was rubbing slightly.


“Bye mom,” Tara added, “Thanks for calling. We’ll, um, check-in when we move on again.”


Kimberly waved at the screen.


“Bye girls. Nice to talk to you.”


They both waved until the image popped off-screen again.


“…you okay?” Willow asked when Tara didn’t say anything for a moment.


“Yeah,” Tara replied, slightly dazed, “Yeah. I just need to use the bathroom.”


“Okay,” Willow replied and slid the iPad over to pick it up while Tara got some pants on to go out to the bathroom.


When she returned, Willow looked up from the screen.


“I think I found him.”


Tara raised her eyebrows.


“Are you snooping?”


Willow hesitated, then nodded unsurely.


“Yeah?”


A grin tugged at Tara’s lips.


“Let me see.”


She sat onto the bed with a bounce and peered over at the page Willow had brought up.


“Jeffrey Bogarty,” she read and checked out the picture of a good looking man in his late thirties or early forties with brown hair and some silver stubble, “How do you know it's the right one?”


“It’s the right name, right town,” Willow replied, using the cursor to highlight the biography section, “Plus he posted on her page last night.”


Willow pulled up the post and showed it to Tara.


Image



“I’m glad he had fun with ‘Kimmy’,” Tara said with a tense tone after reading it for the fifth time.


Willow turned her head at Tara, eyes narrowed and lips smiling teasingly.


“Tara, are you jealous?”


“Of Jeff?!” Tara asked incredulously.


“Not like that,” Willow replied, placing a hand on Tara’s shoulder warmly, “But you never really had to share your mom like this before…”


“Share her?” Tara questioned defensively, “I’m the one who wanted her to get out there, start dating.”


Willow nodded slowly.


“Yeah, but…now it’s really happening.”


Tara swallowed again and looked down, dropping her wall.


“It’s a little weird, I guess,” she admitted, looking up at Willow sheepishly, “Probably less weird than when she found out about you and me.”


Willow rubbed her thumb over Tara’s collarbone and slowly slid it up to cup her cheek.


“Well, I want her to be as happy as you make me. She deserves it.”


Tara smiled softly and leaned in for a peck.


“I want her to be as happy as you make me too.”


Willow rested her forehead on Tara’s and bumped her nose playfully. She tried to shuffle closer but whimpered when her sensitive skin reminded her it was there.


“Let me clean your tattoo again,” Tara said as they parted, “You have to take care of it.”


Willow lay down properly on her stomach and looked over her shoulder at her once unblemished skin.


You taking care of it is the only good thing to come out of this.”


Her mouth scrunched up distastefully.


“I wonder how bad laser treatment really is?”


“Bad, I’ve heard,” Tara replied as she sat back beside Willow with the cleaning supplies.


Willow sighed.


“Maybe that’s just scaremongering to stop people getting one in the first—ah!”


“Sorry,” Tara apologized, easing off on rubbing in the coconut oil, “But that was just my hand. Imagine a big laser beam.”


“I know, you’re right,” Willow replied, pouting, “At least I have a permanent reminder not to do drugs again. I’m a walking afterschool special.”


Tara carefully spread some Vaseline over the tattoo and sighed to herself.


“We should actually eat some dinner instead of just saying we did,” she said as she finished up and stood to wipe her hands clean, “I’ll go get us something and bring it back. I could get some dal and roti or pick up some momo maybe?”


Willow looked over at Tara with a less-than-innocent look on her face.


“The KFC on the corner delivers…”


Tara smirked.


“You want to get KFC in a city with some of the most authentic local cuisines on offer AND have them deliver it from a hundred feet away?”


Willow nodded.


“Kinda, yeah.”


Tara’s eyes creased with an affectionate smile.


“I’m in. Sometimes it’s good to be bad.”


She winked and Willow buried her face in the pillow to hide her blush. She pulled the iPad up to her to sign out of her Facebook account and get the info to order their food.


“Share a bucket?” she asked as Tara lay back down beside her.


“Ask for extra wet naps,” Tara replied by way of an affirmative response.


Their food was delivered promptly which Tara collected in the lobby so Willow didn’t have to go through the horrific ordeal of putting on pants to answer the door.


They ate on the bed watching funny videos on the iPad and laughing with each other.


They ended up lying side by side again after changing into fresh pajamas and brushing their teeth, both feeling a lot more human as they readied themselves for sleep for the third time that day.


Willow played with Tara’s hair, curling a front strand around her index finger and releasing it to let it bounce.


“How is it than I can be in the most far-flung places in the world with the most incredible sites and beauty and endless things to see and do but just lying around with you is better than all of it?”


Tara smiled softly.


“You’re definitely still high.”


Willow poked Tara in the shoulder.


“Am not. Shut up.”


“Make me,” Tara challenged and Willow rose to it.


After kissing until they’d put each other into a sleepy stupor, Willow idly toyed with the strap on Tara’s top.


“I do want to capitalize on our time here…the people are so nice. I feel so comfortable. You were so right to bring us here.”


“Tomorrow,” Tara agreed, kissing the corner of Willow’s mouth again, “Tonight…want to capitalize on some snuggles?”


“I’ll underwrite that proposal,” Willow agreed with a lazy grin and looked down between them for a moment, “Guess I’m the big spoon for a while.”


“I’m okay with that,” Tara replied softly and turned herself over for her body to be curled into.


Willow did just that and inhaled from Tara’s neck, drinking her in like lavender soothing her to sleep.


“I love you, Tara.”


Tara felt Willow’s hand slide over her waist to rest on her stomach and she placed her hand there, holding her, and them, in the harmonious lock.


“I love you too, Willow.”

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2019 4:01 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Posts: 171
Topics: 7
Location: Pacific Northwest
I've missed commenting on the last few chapters (stupid holiday season) they've had a rough go- India sounds like it was overwhelming and terrifying- nice bringing in the level 5 thing at the meditation center (that is one of my favorite Tara moments in the show) I was expecting some meditational zen insight to happen but I will definitely settle for the hot sex against the lockers!

Willow's reaction in UAE was so sad - I could feel her terror and fear. It's funny (like ironic not haha) how she knew about the anti-gay laws but didn't think about herself in those terms- she's just in love with Tara, and that's how it should be but its not- how frightening to face those inner demons as a harsh reality, I am glad they got out ofthere and went somewhere where they can be open (even if there are stupid wolf whistling guys)

Nepal

these girls just keep getting themselves into trouble! DON"T TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS WILLOW!! it's like rule #1- I am glad that a (hilarious tattoo) was the worst of it.

Nice Easter eggs throughout!! I'm glad they are settling down for some needed together time.

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You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:12 am 
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5. Willowhand

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 335
I actually was quite angry with our girls at first for being so stupid...
Quote:
“Don’t worry, at this price it’s probably 1 part cheap spirits, 20 parts cheaper mixer,”

Yeah, that totally explains why everyone else there is already drunk as hell...
Quote:
“Better start you off a little light. I have some little twinnies of you. Family goes free first time!”


There was some hollering and Kale looked over his shoulder at a group of guys in various flamboyant colors and tight clothing.


“My friends are calling,” he said, pressing two round chalky pieces into Willow’s hand, “Don’t take both. Sharing is caring, darling! Find us in Fire if you want more!”


Willow looked down at the objects in her palm for a long moment.


“Oh. I. Uh. Um. Thanks? Uh…”

I wanted to yell at the screen "Willow, even drunk you can't be that dumb and not understand that he just gave you a "free sample" of drugs in the hope to "fix you on"! :gnome

Quote:
“Mandeep in India told me when we talked about him kicking out that creep! Mandeep wouldn’t lie.”

Sad that Willow is so wasted that she can't even remember sweet Manpreet's name right... :wink

Quote:
“Todah rabah rabah rabah!”

Huh??? Is this hebrew?
They are very lucky that obviously they didn't carry their wallets with papers / creditcards etc. but only brought some cash with them.

Quote:
“Do you think we had sex—”


“I think we need to adopt a Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell policy about last night,” Tara interrupted, frowning

I just hope that even in a totally drugged state they wouldn't engage in a threesome or group sex...

Quote:
“TUNA AND APPLE SAUCE!?”

:rofl
At least she got it on a spot which is always clothed in public (unless they choose to visit a nudist-camp in the future... :wink ). That noone can guess the true meaning unless he speaks Nepali is another plus.

Quote:
“It’s like a joke between us,” Tara replied kindly and inhaled softly on her next breath, “Actually—”

Does Tara think about getting the same tattoo here? That would be super sweet!

Quote:
“I feel sooooo much better,” she espoused lazily with a satisfied grin on her face

Me too, reading Laragh-smut always makes me feel better! :drool

Quote:
I’m getting to work early so I can leave early for Joyce’s show. She’s been getting such bad headaches with all the stress, so I want to be there for her tonight.

I fervently hope Joyce's headaches are really only caused by stress and not a symptom for something more sinister like brain-cancer as in the show...please don't do that!

You really went all out with the canon-eastereggs this chapter, from the nod to the floating-rose spell over the journal-talk to the happy moments of the infamous "Seeing Red" (Tara wearing a sheet, the "Don't get used to them."-exchange).

Quote:
“How is it than I can be in the most far-flung places in the world with the most incredible sites and beauty and endless things to see and do but just lying around with you is better than all of it?”

Awww! :flower


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 12:30 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer

Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2005 1:08 pm
Posts: 1159
Topics: 1
Location: Easton PA
Random comments:
looked up bushturkey: being cornered by a flock of any of the three birds mentioned would be intimidating to say the least. The separation was good for them showed each that doing it all her own way won't work nearly a s well as cooperation and compromise.

I completely missed the scene of them at a gay bar. As for the Aboriginal barista, I assume form your description she is racially mixed? I wonder r if her interest in Willow went beyond being tipped so generously.

Fiji: Lots of folks have this Margaret Mead attitude towards the South Pacific, and it can trip visitors up, especially oens crazy in love.

The Thanksgiving dinner: I know we've all made mistakes of this kind in cooking, myself as much a s anyone, but why didn't Willow just leave the colander full of rice and veggies where it was and bring a bowl *to* it? Less chance of tripping but less comic fodder!

Warren: I guess I'm not mentally flexible enough to see why he'd "do that" standing. I guess it's small consolation that W&T aren't the only women in the hostel he did it to. As for getting what he deserves after assaulting the policeman, that's a classic example of what my dad (following Jonathan Winters) would have called "believing his own stuff." Glad Jonathan and Andrew just flew away; I've noticed an occasional vindictiveness towards them here which is off-putting; of course one reason being Jonathan is the character with whom I most identify, except for crime, religious background, a nd height.

The retreat; it is very easy to misjudge something like that working form just a brochure. I won't debate the callback to "5".

I really sympathized with Willow in the UAE. It's hard to know you're not welcome somewhere. When you described their fellow passenger as"an islander" I assume you meant Polynesian, from how you described him as so very big.
The retreat; it is very easy to misjudge something like that working form just a brochure. I won't debate the callback to "5".

I really sympathized with Willow in the UAE. It's hard to know you're not welcome somewhere. When you described their fellow passenger as"an islander" I assume you meant Polynesian, from how you described him as so very big.

Nepal; I can't comment too much, having been 1- drunk enough to really feel it rarely enough to count on one hand 2- never taken even a single puff of pot (which didn't stop me form posting a chapter of Snapshots dealing with just that.) I do agree even drunk they should have known that anything being handed out under the circumstances wouldn't be candy, but something to shall we say amplify the mood changes. So lucky they took care of their main valuables before hand, although burying a cell phone strikes me as, well, unusual:-). Was the "rolling" just accurate background or was it a nod to The Black Swan?

And as always, a crisis is followed by a heart-to-heart moment.

Personal notes:

Willow's reaction to Nate's song reminded me of when I had Willow visiting the grave and, while bouquets form other friends of Tara were not unusual, one including an amaryllis and a red rose raised some questions.

Will's Redemption 's comment reminded me of an issue I'm having with t he Ice Age Buffy post-apocalyptic 'verse I'm putting together; while Tara is (most of the time) respectably celibate while Willow is off being evil then in rehab, Buffy and Faith are married & 4 of the 6 Neo-Slayers also have wives. I have to resist the temptation to write a series of group-sex stories, especially since the I-word would inevitably come up if I did that.

bobk

_________________
Snapshots:http://thekittenboard.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=10210 a Love Story
____________________________________________________________
Kim: (breaks off the kissing) I l... (Sue stops her with a hand)
Sue: We don't talk about things like that right after, you know that, no saying those things in The Moment.
Kim: (moves the hand aside) Screw The Moment. I *love* you.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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shirrey

Quote:
I've missed commenting on the last few chapters (stupid holiday season)


I hope it's been fun!

Quote:
they've had a rough go- India sounds like it was overwhelming and terrifying-


That's what traveling around the world is. Different cultures, conversations, even climates. It's rarely easy but it's ultimately worth it.

Quote:
nice bringing in the level 5 thing at the meditation center (that is one of my favorite Tara moments in the show)


Mine too!

Quote:
I was expecting some meditational zen insight to happen but I will definitely settle for the hot sex against the lockers!


Well, Willow had the zen insight during the sex so... :P

Quote:
Willow's reaction in UAE was so sad - I could feel her terror and fear. It's funny (like ironic not haha) how she knew about the anti-gay laws but didn't think about herself in those terms- she's just in love with Tara, and that's how it should be but its not- how frightening to face those inner demons as a harsh reality, I am glad they got out ofthere and went somewhere where they can be open (even if there are stupid wolf whistling guys)


It's easy for a lot of us, I think, to not think of those kinda laws around the world as applying to us, but it does and it's horrific. As horrible as she found it, I think it was a bit of a reality check she'll carry with her (they'll carry with her)

Quote:
Nepal

these girls just keep getting themselves into trouble! DON"T TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS WILLOW!! it's like rule #1- I am glad that a (hilarious tattoo) was the worst of it.


They're kids making mistakes and learning from them...there will certainly be no candy taken in the future!

Quote:
Nice Easter eggs throughout!! I'm glad they are settling down for some needed together time.


Best laid plans and all that...

Thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

Quote:
I actually was quite angry with our girls at first for being so stupid...


Give them some slack, don't forget they're still teenagers underneath it all!

Quote:
Yeah, that totally explains why everyone else there is already drunk as hell...


She just thought they'd had other things to drink. She made a mistake.

Quote:
I wanted to yell at the screen "Willow, even drunk you can't be that dumb and not understand that he just gave you a "free sample" of drugs in the hope to "fix you on"! :gnome


Because she's naive and never been this drunk before. You can't analyze their actions against an adult who has a fully developed brain and has been through these experiences.

Quote:
Sad that Willow is so wasted that she can't even remember sweet Manpreet's name right... :wink


:blush Thank you so much for that, I fixed it!

Quote:
Huh??? Is this hebrew?


Yes it is, it's a commonly used expression in Jewish cultures to express a lot of gratitude

Quote:
They are very lucky that obviously they didn't carry their wallets with papers / creditcards etc. but only brought some cash with them.


They're still learning, but they have learned a little :)

Quote:
I just hope that even in a totally drugged state they wouldn't engage in a threesome or group sex...


Never, no way, not a chance.

Quote:
:rofl
At least she got it on a spot which is always clothed in public (unless they choose to visit a nudist-camp in the future... :wink ). That noone can guess the true meaning unless he speaks Nepali is another plus.


Hmm, y'know, I just don't see a nudist camp being in their sights after everything they've experienced in the way of public nudity so far :rofl

Quote:
Does Tara think about getting the same tattoo here? That would be super sweet!


Something like that.

Quote:
Me too, reading Laragh-smut always makes me feel better! :drool


:blush

Quote:
I fervently hope Joyce's headaches are really only caused by stress and not a symptom for something more sinister like brain-cancer as in the show...please don't do that!


I can tell you one thing, Joyce does not die in this verse.

Quote:
You really went all out with the canon-eastereggs this chapter, from the nod to the floating-rose spell over the journal-talk to the happy moments of the infamous "Seeing Red" (Tara wearing a sheet, the "Don't get used to them."-exchange).


Tara wearing a sheet is a reference I'd get into every chapter if I could :D

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Awww! :flower


Willow sure does try.

Thanks for your feedback!

DaddyCatALSO

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Random comments:
looked up bushturkey: being cornered by a flock of any of the three birds mentioned would be intimidating to say the least.


IDK what options you got when you searched as only one comes up for me, but it was the Australian brushturkey for reference.

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The separation was good for them showed each that doing it all her own way won't work nearly a s well as cooperation and compromise.


Exactly!

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As for the Aboriginal barista, I assume form your description she is racially mixed? I wonder r if her interest in Willow went beyond being tipped so generously.


It was irrelevant really as it just served to make Tara react, but if you want my headcanon, she just liked the bag Willow was using.

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Fiji: Lots of folks have this Margaret Mead attitude towards the South Pacific, and it can trip visitors up, especially oens crazy in love.


It's certainly a culture change. You can't just go and expect it to be like home but exotic.

Quote:
The Thanksgiving dinner: I know we've all made mistakes of this kind in cooking, myself as much a s anyone, but why didn't Willow just leave the colander full of rice and veggies where it was and bring a bowl *to* it? Less chance of tripping but less comic fodder!


Because she panicked and just grabbed it.

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Warren: I guess I'm not mentally flexible enough to see why he'd "do that" standing.


Because he got off on having that kind of power over them - literally.

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I guess it's small consolation that W&T aren't the only women in the hostel he did it to.


I...not...really?

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As for getting what he deserves after assaulting the policeman, that's a classic example of what my dad (following Jonathan Winters) would have called "believing his own stuff."


Yup.

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Glad Jonathan and Andrew just flew away; I've noticed an occasional vindictiveness towards them here which is off-putting; of course one reason being Jonathan is the character with whom I most identify, except for crime, religious background, a nd height.


Just because I didn't have them stay in jail in Warren doesn't mean I don't think they're complete douchebags. They're just not at the same level.

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The retreat; it is very easy to misjudge something like that working form just a brochure. I won't debate the callback to "5".


I stand by it and I really don't have much more to say on the matter.

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I really sympathized with Willow in the UAE. It's hard to know you're not welcome somewhere. When you described their fellow passenger as"an islander" I assume you meant Polynesian, from how you described him as so very big.


An issue with an old draft and a new draft being combined there! Fixed now :)

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Nepal; I can't comment too much, having been 1- drunk enough to really feel it rarely enough to count on one hand 2- never taken even a single puff of pot (which didn't stop me form posting a chapter of Snapshots dealing with just that.) I do agree even drunk they should have known that anything being handed out under the circumstances wouldn't be candy, but something to shall we say amplify the mood changes.


Maybe they should have, but they didn't. I've been around 18 year olds completely plastered and they're the dumbest people on earth.

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So lucky they took care of their main valuables before hand, although burying a cell phone strikes me as, well, unusual:-).


She didn't bury it to protect it, she buried it as an offering to the goddess to seal their love to the earth. It's unusual because they were off their heads.

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Was the "rolling" just accurate background or was it a nod to The Black Swan?


Do you mean the use of the phrase? It wasn't a nod to anything, it was just the phrase I used.

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And as always, a crisis is followed by a heart-to-heart moment.


Kinda the point :wink

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Willow's reaction to Nate's song reminded me of when I had Willow visiting the grave and, while bouquets form other friends of Tara were not unusual, one including an amaryllis and a red rose raised some questions.

Will's Redemption 's comment reminded me of an issue I'm having with t he Ice Age Buffy post-apocalyptic 'verse I'm putting together; while Tara is (most of the time) respectably celibate while Willow is off being evil then in rehab, Buffy and Faith are married & 4 of the 6 Neo-Slayers also have wives. I have to resist the temptation to write a series of group-sex stories, especially since the I-word would inevitably come up if I did that.


These both sound like off-board fics, so while I wish you the best in all of your writing endeavours, I will respectfully bow out of any conversation.

Thanks for commenting :)



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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 39



Nepal

(Part 2)



And If You're Still Bleeding, You're The Lucky Ones



“You sure I can’t convince you to come to my yoga class?”


Willow grimaced as she sipped on a cup of coffee.


“Flexibility is not my forte.”


Tara jutted her foot out under the small table at the café where they’d grabbed breakfast and ran it gently up Willow’s shin.


“I beg to differ,” she said, smiling innocently with her face resting on her upturned palm and her fingers dancing animatedly against her chin.


Willow shook her head, her cheeks only flushing lightly.


“But will you check if they do a Tai Chi class at all? I’d love to do one again. Doing it alone in the bathroom doesn’t quite have the same effect.”


“Of course,” Tara replied, holding her cup of chai between both hands, “What are you going to do this morning?”


“I’m going to head to the market and get my mom something nice made out of cashmere for her birthday,” Willow said with a definitive nod.


Tara smiled affectionately.


“That’s so sweet of you.”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“She’s trying…in her own way…plus I can get my dad some socks and get a jump on his birthday too.”


“My sweetie,” Tara commented fondly.


Willow smiled back before checking her phone for a moment.


“I’m gonna head that way now. I read it gets really busy mid-morning. Do you want me to bring you back anything?”


“Why don’t I meet you for lunch afterward?” Tara suggested cheerily, “I’ve been craving some chatamari.”


“Ooh, pancakes could go in bellies,” Willow replied excitedly.


Tara smiled and reached out to caress Willow’s arm.


“I’ll see you then.”


“You know where you’re going?” Willow checked as she stood up from the table.


“I have my maps,” Tara replied, lifting her hand to her head to offer a diligent salute.


Willow chuckled as she pushed her chain back into the table.


“See you later, baby.”


Tara waved as Willow skipped out of sight and Tara sat back to finish her chai.


It had been such a nice, relaxed morning but she needed to move soon. She was meeting up with the nice Swedish girl in her mid-twenties, who worked at the hostel, to go to yoga and she didn’t want to leave her waiting.


That was one of the great things about hostel-hopping around the world; a lot of the workers were fellow travelers who were sticking around for a bit and so they always knew the ins and outs of the traveling experience and the local area.


She was being brought to a yoga class that looked out over the snow-capped Himalayas and was excited to learn from a retired Sherpa who was leading the class and to enjoy a butter tea after.


She stood up and reached into her pocket, taking out whatever coins were in there and leaving them on the table. She smiled as she passed the waitress who came out to collect the mugs and headed back around the corner to the hostel, dodging cars along the way.


This city was every bit as hectic as the cities in India when it came to car chaos. The buildings were beautiful though, once you moved away from the main tourist strip; all aged architecture and temple buildings that reminded her that she was so lucky to be immersed in such a different culture.


She walked through the hostel doors and through the busy congregation of people meeting in the lobby after breakfast or getting ready to go on tours. Tara waved at a few she knew from eating meals together or exchanging stories with.


It felt like flipping Donny the bird every time someone returned a smile and a wave, for every time he made fun of her for not being social. Or it had, anyway. Now she just liked the friendliness and didn’t really think of her brother or any of his torment much at all.


She approached the front desk where two people were standing; a tall blonde white woman with blue eyes as shiny as her hair and a smaller man with light brown skin and deep brown eyes. His dark hair was slicked upward and he had some stubble growing into a goatee on his chin.


Tara greeted them both with a smile.


“Ebba, hi,” she said to the woman, placing her hands on the desk, “Are you ready?”


“Hello Tara,” Ebba returned with a nod, “I will get the yoga mats.”


Ebba turned to go into the break room behind them.


Tara noticed the man’s eyes follow.


She hid a smirk and looked down until Ebba returned with a yoga mat curled up under each arm. She handed one to Tara as she walked back into the lobby.


“Thank you for letting me borrow this,” Tara said as she took it and swung the handle over her shoulder. She paused as they headed toward the door and the smirk started to reveal itself, “I saw Amir looking at you.”


Ebba just laughed.


“Amir should have the luck,” she said but ducked her head coyly in a way that said more than her words ever could.


“I think you mean ‘should be so lucky’,” Tara replied wryly.


Ebba suddenly clicked her fingers as they passed through the threshold to the building.


“I forgot to hit out the clock. Wait for me one moment?”


“Of course,” Tara replied, leaning back against the door to wait.


Her foot kicked up behind her to rest on the frame and she folded her arms gently across her chest.


Gently reclining her head back, she suddenly felt a deep, resonating boom that seemed like it started in her head and began to radiate out through her ears.


She didn’t even have a split second to process it when things began to shake violently. She was tossed to the floor where her head landed with a bounce against the yoga mat tied around her arm, cushioning it.


There was crashing and screaming but Tara couldn’t quite comprehend it; it was all just hollow, muffled sounds of terror that her brain couldn’t quite catch up with.


The air was suddenly filled with dust.


It caught in her throat and that was the first feeling she actually recognized. Her arm slammed near her mouth to cover it and stem the subsequent coughing.


Her eyes strained to see what was going on around her but she could barely make sense of it all.


People thrown together, furniture collapsed, the lights blinking and fizzling into nothingness.


She saw blood, torn clothing, trapped limbs.


Her brain still hadn’t caught up.


Everything sounded like the frequency disruption when changing radio stations; ringing fuzzily and burrowing into her ears so it blocked everything else happening.


She felt a moving pressure on her back and turned her head to get a better look. She had to lift her hand above her eyes to shield the flickering light and realized someone was kneeling above her with a trail of blood on her forehead.


“Ebba?” Tara croaked, like someone who had been in the desert for days.


She could see Ebba’s mouth moving but still could only hear the rattling between her ears. Then a pressure lifted off her lower leg and she looked behind to see Ebba lifting a fallen sign away from her legs.


Suddenly the painful ringing zipped from her ears down through her body and her foot throbbed for a moment.


Ebba was screaming at her, but in a foreign language, which she seemed to realize the same time Tara did and stopped. Ebba grabbed Tara’s shoulders and shook her gently.


“Are you hurt?!”


“No?” Tara replied in a daze, the blip in her foot forgotten as she started to take in the carnage around her.


Ebba helped her up to sit against the wall.


“Stay inside!” she yelled as she hurried off to help Amir lift a flying lighting fixture off somebody else.


Tara’s eyes darted around the room at the wreckage it had become.


The walls were standing but everything else was in some form of disrepair; lining the floors with its debris. There were groans of pain and some panicked yelling but nobody around her seemed to be unconscious.


She heard sirens in the distance and crawled the few inches to look out the door swinging off its hinges.


Outside was even hazier than inside. Dust everywhere.


Fallen electricity lines, glass from street lamps, crashed cars.


Was a building across the street missing a wall or was that just a wall of dust?


She could barely place herself, let alone her surroundings.


Her heart began to pound as her fuzzy thoughts suddenly honed in on one thing.


“Willow,” she gasped softly, her hands frantically searching behind her for the wall to help her stand, “Willow!”


The yoga mat handle, still strewn around her arm, rolled onto the ground and away from her as she patted her pockets desperately to find her phone. She pulled it out and remarkably, it didn’t have a single scratch on it. Her hand shook as she found Willow’s number but as soon as she tried to dial, the line gave out with a screech.


She looked around and saw a few people in the same position.


No service.


Her hand closed around it tightly as she floundered for a moment wondering what to do.


It didn’t take long to decide.


Her phone was unceremoniously shoved back into her pocket and she tried to make a stride toward the door.


She let out a small whimper.


No.


She had to find Willow.


She heard yelling after her as she escaped but it didn’t stop her; she pushed ahead out onto the street.


It was even worse standing in it.


Some people were buried under things, some of them were unconscious in their cars.


She could smell smoke from flames and could see an electricity wire snapping against the ground, dangerously exposed.


First responders were already there, pulling people to safety and loading who they could into ambulances.


On autopilot, Tara helped.


She pulled a man from a car, she cradled a child into the back of an ambulance and led her wailing mother to her in time for her to go with them.


She walked as she helped, making ground between where she had been and where she knew Willow to be. Numerous people approached to help her too but she just non-verbally indicated she was okay and continued onward.


Heart pulsing, head pounding; she got to the markets.


It kept getting worse.


Buildings were crumbling and she heard glass crunching underfoot with every step she took.


A nightclub named Fire was actually on fire and only for it being the daytime no one was trapped.


She saw someone impaled on a pole that had once housed a trader’s stall.


Her eyes were permanently creased, on the verge of tears, but her vision was already blurry and she couldn’t afford to make it worse.


Not when she didn’t know where Willow was.


How Willow was.


She’d walked this area for what felt like hours now and nothing. Her voice was hoarse from yelling Willow’s name and breathing in the dust. Her eyes stung and each step felt like she was wearing cement blocks around her feet.


A man on the side of the road was yelling and gesturing toward a bus he was standing beside.


“Aspatāla,” he called out repeatedly, then paused for a moment when he saw Tara stopping, “Hospitala!”


Yes, Tara thought.


She should check the hospital.


She pushed herself onto the bus and stood so she didn’t take a seat from someone who needed it more. She leaned against the pole then looked at it grimly as she remembered the image of the man laying with something similar through his chest.


He was dead, Tara thought.


She’d seen a dead person.


And she didn’t know where Willow was.


She allowed herself a little cry in the corner as she waited for the bus to fill and for them to set off to the hospital.


As soon as the doors of the hospital opened, Tara was almost bowled over by the sounds and smells and general chaos.


She approached the triage desk, one of many people flailing for attention, but stood her ground to try and ask about Willow.


She was met with many blank, rushed stares; each one making her stomach drop even more until suddenly a tall man in a white coat looking frazzled approached her.


“English?” he asked in an American accent and Tara could only nod swiftly.


She let out a quick, loud exhale and described Willow hurriedly on the next inhale.


The American doctor looked around and seemed like he was wracking his brain.


“Does she have any identifying marks?”


Tara started to shake her head and then suddenly gasped again.


“Tattoo. She has a tattoo. Here.”


With shaking fingers, she found the picture she’d taken for Willow the other day.


Image



The doctor, to his credit, didn’t even flinch at having a picture of a panty-clad butt shoved his face with questionable writing. He just looked remorseful.


“I’m sorry. Check the other hospital!” he shouted back at her as sudden loud beeping drew his attention away.


Tara deflated and shut her eyes tight for a moment.


Other hospital. Okay. Other hospital.


She found her way back out to the curb and had to walk a few streets away to get out of the way of the influx of ambulances and other vehicles delivering patients.


When she stopped she realized she hadn’t a clue where she was nor where or how she was supposed to get to the other hospital.


Somewhere in the trauma of worry and drowning out the cries of pain that didn’t seem to dissipate no matter which direction she moved, she had a brainwave.


Maps!


Those stupid maps Willow never stopped bugging her about. She took out of her phone and pulled up the downloaded ones for the city. She found where she was and a little part of her exhaled at regaining a bit of control.


She searched for the hospitals and figured which one she had been at and where she needed to go. There weren’t many options and really only one other hospital that wasn’t for specific care or children.


Five miles away.


She looked up at the desolate streets and took a step forward.


Her finger followed the route on her phone, holding onto it for dear life in case she dropped it or broke it and found herself stranded.


It was frightening how easy it became to sidestep rubble, how the smell of burning became normal. She still helped where she could but by now most of the help needed was specialized; retrieving people trapped in, or under, buildings or administering first aid.


About halfway through her journey, Tara suddenly felt her ears start to buzz again.


She brought her hands up to cover them and braced herself but then suddenly every cell phone in the vicinity began to ring out at once, so loud it broke whatever glass wasn’t already smashed.


Tara looked down at her phone vibrating in her palm.


It said ‘Mom’.


They must have restored the service.


Her finger swiped the screen to answer. It took a few tries as her hands still shook.


“Hello?”


Immediately there was a scream from the other end, loud enough for Tara to have to hold the phone away from her ear.


“TARA!” Kimberly’s voice trilled out through the speaker, “I HAVE HER! SHE ANSWERED!”


Tara could hear the panic in her mother’s voice as she continued in a rush.


“Tara, sweetheart, what happened? Are you okay? We heard there was an earthquake. Are you there? Are you okay? What’s happening?”


Tara rubbed her jaw as she processed the questions.


Earthquake.


For some reason, that was the first time the word occurred to her.


“I’m okay,” she said, the words feeling odd her mouth as she breathed in the dirty air, “I have to find Willow.”


“Willow,” Kimberly spoke and Tara heard a ruckus in the background, “Ira and Sheila are here. Where’s Willow?”


“I have to find her,” Tara repeated with a steely determination.


“Find her where sweetheart? Where is she? Where are you? You can’t find her on your own—”


“—now listen here, give me that phone. Tara? This is Ira Rosenberg. Where is my daughter? She’s not answering her phone.”


“I will find her,” Tara interrupted, “Willow and I always know how to find each other!”


She hung up unceremoniously and immediately tried to ring Willow, but it wasn’t even calling, just going straight to voicemail. She sighed once, brought her map back on screen and continued on her journey.


She ignored the calls that kept popping up. They were just in the way.


The area around the second hospital wasn’t as badly affected.


All the buildings in the surrounding blocks had stayed standing and the streets had already been cleared of any injured persons. The hospital was bigger, more modern and Tara was on the point of physical and mental exhaustion by the time she stepped foot in it.


The first nurse she spoke to thankfully had some limited English but couldn’t place Willow. She told her to check upstairs where they were sending overflow patients and Tara started to panic that she’d never even checked beyond triage in the first hospital.


It had been packed; how could the doctor have known for sure Willow wasn’t there?


She entered the elevators and realized she had no idea where ‘upstairs’ was supposed to refer to. Determined not to make the same mistake again, she vowed to check every single floor.


And so, she pressed ‘2’.


It turned out ‘upstairs’ literally meant any and every available space upstairs. Each unit was packed with people being seen by any medical personnel that made it to them. Cots were pushed together side-by-side for people to lie on and some people were being physically carried between treatment rooms.


On the fifth floor, as soon as the elevator doors opened, Tara’s heart sped up when she caught a glimpse of red hair.


“Willow? Willow! Willow!”


She put a heavy foot forward and hurried down a narrow hallway lined with more camp beds. She rounded a corner and put a hand on the shoulder of the woman she’d spotted, turning her gently.


“Willow, I—!” she paused and felt like someone punched her in the gut when she realized the woman bore a resemblance to, but was definitely not Willow, “I-I’m sorry. I t-thought you were someone else.”


The woman nodded understandingly and continued on her way to wherever she was going.


Tara’s eyes scrunched up tight and she dropped her forehead against the nearest wall.


Everything was creeping up on her. She thought she might pass out on the spot and be grateful for it.


Until a tiny voice popped up behind her.


“Tara?”


Tara’s heart leaped into her throat and she turned around slowly to face the other corridor off to her side.


For a moment the horrible hospital smell lifted and Tara could smell strawberries and cream decorating a mocha cake, freshly baked with a cup of steaming chai tea on the side.


She could smell Willow.


Her clothes were dirty and her hair was wild and her face was half-covered in dust and dirt but it was Willow.


“Willow?” she said again, blinking several times to make sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her, “Willow!”


She almost fell into the space in front of Willow, her hands falling on Willow’s shoulders and up her face to confirm she was there.


“Tara?” Willow asked again in confusion, her eyes narrow and jaded.


“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Tara asked in a rush, eyeing Willow up and down to spot any injuries.


“I…I don’t know,” Willow replied sleepily, looking behind her and back at Tara, “…I was asleep…I think? I heard your voice and I just…”


She blinked heavily.


“Where are we? What happened?”


Tara gently cupped Willow’s cheek.


“It’s okay. Everything’s okay,” she soothed, tears escaping her eyes, “Show me where you came from.”


Willow looked up at Tara and still confused but trusting, led Tara halfway down the corridor and into a treatment room that once held a single bed but now was packed with more than a dozen. Willow pointed into a bed in the corner which had become occupied already in the brief time Willow had vacated it.


Willow wobbled and Tara immediately grabbed her around the waist.


“It’s okay, baby. Lean against me,” she encouraged, pressing her back up against the wall and slowly sliding down into a sitting position, cradling Willow in her lap as she got there, “Use me as a bed.”


Willow leaned her head into the crook of Tara’s neck and closed her eyes again, unable to keep them open.


Tara looked around at the people writhing in pain and just held Willow closer, whispering in her ear.


“I’ve got you.”


Willow fell back asleep straight away and it was all Tara could do not to cry again. She didn’t know what to do or where to go so she stayed put and hoped a doctor would be around soon to check Willow and get her home to a real bed.


Do we even have a bed—home!


Tara realized Willow’s parents must be as worried as she was and she had been pretty rude on the phone earlier, even justifiably so. She gently felt around Willow’s zipped pockets in her cargo pants and found her phone.


The screen was completely smashed and utterly unresponsive and it made Tara’s stomach sink when she thought of how hard Willow must have fallen.


She took her own phone back out again and paid attention to the notifications this time.


Lots of missed calls and texts.


She didn’t have the numbers for either of the Rosenbergs, so she rang her mother back. It was answered in a single ring and she was greeted to yet more screeching.


She wasn’t even processing it, she just wanted to say what she had to say.


“I found Willow.”


There was a silence for a brief moment as, presumably, the phone was handed over to Ira.


His tone was much softer this time as he asked a hundred questions, most of which Tara didn’t have the answer to.


He asked how she was, Tara told him what she knew.


He asked where they were, Tara told him what she knew.


He asked if Willow had seen a doctor and Tara was able to give a pretty emphatic no considering the state of the rest of the people in the room.


When Kimberly came back on the phone, Tara started to blubber quietly.


This was really damn scary.


Kimberly was clearly upset too but offered her words of comfort and told her to save her battery and keep in touch and that everything would be okay soon.


Tara didn’t know how, but she accepted the comfort and allowed herself to believe it, even if just to get her through the day, or the night, or whenever it was.


After hanging up, Tara really started to feel the heat of having so many bodies packed into one room. She lifted her shirt over her nose and mouth for protection and held Willow’s like that too.


She was afraid to sleep and too worn out to think of anything else. Every few seconds there would be loud, erratic beeping reminding her that someone was in a lot worse shape than she was. Even just in the small room they were packed into, someone’s skull was on view and someone else’s shoulder was definitely not in its socket.


Willow would stir every so often and Tara would comfort her back to sleep. She didn’t want her to have to deal with all of this.


But what if she’s more hurt than I can see? What if she’s hurt her head? What if there’s internal—


“Wih-low?”


Tara looked up, startled and saw a nurse, a local woman in a different uniform that Tara had seen others rushing about in. She was pushing a wheelchair in one hand and holding a tablet strapped around her other hand; the most high-tech thing Tara had seen all day. Even the computer at the triage desk looked like it had stepped out of the 80s.


The nurse turned the tablet toward Tara and Tara was even more startled to see a photo of her and Willow that they’d taken with the mountains in the background and sent to their parents just a couple of days ago.


“You, yes?” the nurse prompted again when Tara just continued to stare wordlessly, “Come with, please. We have doctor for you.”


Other patients screamed for help but Tara had to block it out.


“You have a doctor for her?” she asked in relief, unsure why they’d been picked out but grateful all the same, “Hey baby, you just need to stand for one second, okay?”


She winced as she stood but was mostly focus on giving Willow the support she needed to get into the wheelchair.


The nurse whipped her away and Tara really had to drag her foot behind her to keep up. The got back into an elevator and the nurse waved a keycard in front of a sensor that lit up the button for the very top floor.


Tara frowned in confusion and it only increased when the doors opened and they exited.


The interior had completely changed.


They could have been in a state of the art facility anywhere in the world and Tara had to look back to confirm that they had just stepped off the same elevator.


“Tara?” Willow’s voice piped up meekly as she woke from all the motion.


“I’m here honey,” Tara comforted, standing alongside Willow and taking her hand.


Willow looked up with sunken eyes.


“Where are we?”


“Hospital,” Tara answered honestly, “They’re going to check you over. Make sure you’re okay.”


She paused and rubbed her hand over Willow’s knuckles.


“There was an earthquake.”


Tara heard Willow intake a sharp breath. She just kept holding her hand as they were escorted down corridors with new logos and rooms that were completely sectioned for total privacy. It gave the appearance that the floor was entirely empty but for them and some medical staff walking around with speed but a lot less anguish than their counterparts downstairs.


They were brought into one of the rooms which could have doubled as a hotel suite. There was a plush hospital bed (a thing Tara didn’t even know existed; the mattress in it was nicer than her mattress at home), a private bathroom, a television, soft towels already laid out shaped like a swan.


“What is this?” Tara asked in disbelief as to how they went from down there to up here and wondering how there could even be a place like this when so many people were packed in like sardines not getting the treatment they needed.


“Private hospital wing,” the nurse answered as she fluffed Willow’s pillow, “We get call from Mr. Hosenberg to find you and treat.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, swallowing.


That actually made total sense.


Tara wordlessly helped Willow to bed, who rubbed the spot on her head where a lump was forming.


“There was an… earthquake?”


Tara nodded as she leaned against Willow’s bed.


“Is it…bad?” Willow asked, her brow creasing.


Tara just nodded again, her eyes closing to stall a tear.


Willow rubbed her eyes, really awake now.


“Are you hurt?!”


Tara was pale and sweating now from trying to block out the pain.


“Let’s just get you checked out.”


“And you!” Willow protested, her breath getting labored from the shock of everything, “Tara, you’re hurt!”


“Shush, shush, shush,” Tara comforted again, taking in some calming breaths for herself, “I know you just woke up and you’re scared. I’m scared too. But you Dad has arranged to get you seen up here. I don’t even know where we are but it’s going to be a lot quicker than anywhere else.”


“And you!” Willow insisted again.


Tara tried to wave a hand in front of her.


“I’m fine…I can go through the public hospital downstairs if I need to. My insurance will cover that and…things will calm down. You’ve hit your head. You need to get looked at now.”


“Why would you wait?” Willow asked in confusion.


“Because I know it’s not serious,” Tara replied curtly, dropping her head, “A-and I know I can’t afford whatever the bill would be here. It could be crippling just—”


“You could be really crippled, Tara!” Willow cut in loudly.


Tara leaned more against the bed, panting out a breath.


“Willow—”


“Tara,” Willow replied gently but not letting her continue, “You’re getting checked out. I will pay for it. Don’t be such a dummy. You were in a frickin’ earthquake.”


Tara didn’t have the energy to argue but her eyes welled up.


The nurse returned with a blanket for Willow, who immediately started pointing at Tara.


“Tara needs attention too. She needs to get seen to.”


“Yes,” the nurse replied cordially.


Willow’s brow creased in confusion. She’d expected more than that.


“If you need me to put down a credit card or something—”


“Mr. Hosenberg already pay,” the nurse cut in, “He say treat both.”


“He did?” Tara asked, surprised.


“He did?!” Willow asked, stunned.


The nurse nodded once and said she would be back with wheelchairs to take them to x-ray. Tara was literally bowled over with relief and began to tilt so much she almost fell.


“Hey,” Willow said, catching a sleeve to grab her before she went over, “Hey, sit down. Sit down now, Tara.”


Together they pushed and pulled Tara onto the bed alongside Willow. The relief of being off her feet and Willow right there beside her was too much and Tara started to cry into Willow’s neck.


Willow let her cry for a few minutes; she needed the time to get her head around what the frilly heck had happened.


“Tara, what happened? The last thing I remember is walking to the market and…then…then something blew up and…that’s it. That’s all I have before waking up…hearing your voice…” she paused and looked out the large window for a moment, frowning, “Why is it dark?”


Tara sniffled.


“It’s been a few hours.”


“Hours?” Willow asked in disbelief.


“I didn’t know where you were,” Tara said, her voice straining, “I had to find you.”


Willow’s head reeled back.


“Have you been looking all this time? Walking around like this?”


Fresh tears sprung from Tara’s eyes.


“You weren’t on the street and you weren’t in the other hospital and your phone wouldn’t ring and—”


“Tara,” Willow said in a low, echoing tone, “Oh Tara.”


Willow held Tara weakly but without letting go and they both just breathed together for a couple of minutes. The nurse returned with another nurse, each pushing a wheelchair for them. They hobbled together into their chairs, hands staying locked until they were physically parted.


Everything was still so surreal for each of them in different ways.


They were brought through numerous testing facilities; x-rays, blood work, scans, examinations. Willow’s body was more physically beat up with cuts and bruises but Tara’s was strained down to every last muscle fiber.


Willow was wheeled back to her room first, feeling a little stronger after sucking down a juice box along the way. She’d changed into a gown for x-ray and caught first sight of her many bruises, though thankfully they didn’t really hurt yet.


“Hey, when you bring Tara back, can you bring her in here?” she requested as the nurse settled her.


“You want both bed?” the nurse checked, “Pay for two room.”


Willow nodded.


“Both beds. Please.”


The nurse left again and minutes later two men pushed a second bed in the door and put it a few feet from Willow. When they left again, Willow snuck out of bed and pushed it forward so there was only a foot or so between them, just enough room for their wingspans to reach out and join hands.


She stopped by the window on the way back to her bed but she may as well just be staring into space. Everything was pitch black. Willow figured they must be the building on the block with running electricity, probably because of a generator.


It still didn’t feel real.


An earthquake.


She’d lived in Southern California her whole life and had felt a tremor or two but nothing that had felt dangerous. Nothing that scared her for more than a brief moment as she realized what was happening. Her worst experience was the Lucky Charms she’d planned to have for dinner spilling themselves all over the floor.


She felt a bit dizzy from staying on her feet so climbed back into bed and stared up at the ceiling, counting tiles as she waited impatiently for Tara to come back.


Eventually, Tara was wheeled back in and Willow sat up straighter in bed.


“I asked them to let us bunk,” she said, frowning as Tara was assisted, hobbling into bed, “Hope that’s okay.”


“Anything else wouldn’t have been,” Tara replied, giving Willow an exhausted but soft smile.


The orderly gently hoisted Tara’s right leg up at an elevation and Tara winced but didn’t complain.


Willow was about to question why it was needed but then saw how swollen and discolored Tara's ankle and top of her foot was. She gulped and Tara sighed.


“I feel so guilty being up here. You didn’t really see it, Willow, but it’s…bad. How can these doctors and nurses justify staying up here when they’re needed so badly down there?”


Willow had flashes of the corridors downstairs. It seemed like something from a movie or the news. It was hard to believe it was just happening right below them.


“It’s awful,” she replied, swallowing deeply, “I don’t have an excuse. It’s just awful. But I’m grateful to know you’re being attended to. If that makes me an awful person…”


She glanced at Tara who reached out and offered her hand, which Willow gratefully took.


“Then I am too because I didn’t even hesitate when she said she was there to get you help.”


Willow’s fingers squeezed Tara’s hand so their palms held each other.


“They said I have a concussion but everything else is superficial.”


“Poor baby,” Tara comforted, “You should get some sleep.”


“I’ve done nothing but sleep,” Willow replied with a frown, “What’s up with your—”


Just then a man in a white coat pushed past the doors into the room and without even looking at them slapped an x-ray into the viewer and examined it. A skeleton foot flashed into view.


“This one, this one. Fracture,” he announced to the room as he certainly was still not talking to them, “Need alignment.”


“A-Alignment?” Tara asked nervously.


“It’s broken?” Willow asked in disbelief, “But she’s been—”


“When did you last eat or drink?” the doctor asked Tara.


“Before the earthquake,” Tara answered in confusion.


“Did they give you juice?” Willow asked.


“No,” Tara shook her head, frowning, “Why—”


“We arrange operating room,” the doctor said finally.


“Operating—” Tara started to ask but he was gone again, marching down the hallway to another room.


“It’s okay, baby,” Willow soothed while shooting evils to the departing doctor’s back, “Jerk.”


“It’s stressful for everyone,” Tara replied quietly.


Willow looked at Tara’s cowering eyes and swallowed her own concern for the moment.


“Hey, what’s with you and your achy breaky bones?” she teased softly, “Once not enough for ya?”


Tara’s eyes filled with fresh, vulnerable tears.


“I’d take it any day over an achy breaky heart.”


Willow squeezed Tara’s hands.


“It’s gonna be okay.”


“I’ve never had surgery before,” Tara replied meekly.


“I know,” Willow said soothingly, “But you won’t even know it. You’ll go asleep and when you wake up you’ll be back in here with me. We have our own TV and I bet the food is even better than breakfast at the hostel.”


Tara looked down and Willow did too.


“I know. That’s not a comfort when everyone else…” she paused and took in a deep breath, “But you can’t do anything right now. We can’t do anything at all unless we get better. So that’s what we have to focus on right now. Yeah?”


Tara nodded and offered a watery smile.


“Yeah. Yeah, okay.”


“You got this,” Willow encouraged gently, “I’m firmly on Team Maclay on this one.”


She held Tara’s hand firmly and kept her gaze.


“On all ones.”


The same two nurses came in to prepare Tara and Willow noticed one had to come in and out a few times. She figured out they were probably the only two nurses on the floor and the curt doctor had also been the one to perform her examinations.


She felt mildly better that they were obviously operating on reduced capacity so that more people could be helped downstairs but selfishly hoped it wouldn’t impact Tara’s care.


“I’ll be right here baby,” Willow called as Tara was wheeled out of the room, “See you real soon.”


Tara just looked ahead with her head slightly bowed and Willow tried not to feel sick in her stomach.


Her head dropped back against the pillows when Tara was gone, her eyes heavy with exhaustion and feeling antsy. She looked over at the empty space where Tara’s bed had been and at the shared locker sitting between them.


There was a plastic bag with Tara’s clothes sitting on it and Willow could see her phone lighting up every so often through its transparency.


She quietly got up and found her own bag of stuff hanging off the end of her bed. She rooted through it, noting how dirty her clothes had been. She hadn’t even noticed when she’d been in them.


Her wallet was ripped up but intact with everything inside—


God, do I even have a passport anymore?


—but she found her phone smashed to smithereens.


She went over to get Tara’s, she knew she wouldn’t mind her using it, but as soon as she put it into her palm it flashed the battery low icon and turned black.


“Damn it,” Willow whispered, but loud enough to be heard by a nurse returning carrying an IV line with her.


“Miss you must stay in bed. We must give you hydration.”


“Okay,” Willow agreed, weakly pulling herself back up onto the bed, “Do you have a charger by any chance?”


The nurse nodded.


“Yes, I get for you. After I put in.”


She poked the needle into Willow’s arm and hung the bag. Willow settled her arm comfortably and gratefully took a charger when it was brought out to her. Before the nurse left again, Willow reached out to touch her arm.


“Would you keep me updated on my—” she paused and swallowed a lump forming in her throat, “Would you let me know when she’s out of surgery?”


The nurse smiled kindly and nodded again.


“I bring you dinner. Try rest.”


Willow sighed and closed her eyes to compose herself for a few moments. She attached the charger to the wall and plugged Tara’s phone in, allowing it to get some juice while she asked her weary body to stop the aches she was suddenly starting to feel as each bruise made itself known.


She was brought a tray of food and laughed to herself, sadly. Apparently, chicken noodle soup was universal.


When she tried to eat she found her hand shaking too much to hold the spoon, so foregoing any graces she lifted the bowl to her mouth and drank it straight from the source.


There were a lot of messages from Tara’s mom, Nate, even Donny. Willow didn’t read them, they were for Tara to see when she was recovered. And she was sure Ms. Maclay was on top of keeping people informed.


Instead, she checked the news and was immediately bombarded with endless coverage and a whole lot of numbers.


Richter scale, 7.9


Depth, 4.2miles


Persons injured, 2409


Death toll, 459


Rising.


Willow felt an overwhelming sense of guilt suddenly wash over her. She closed the browser and brought up the ringer, dialing a familiar number before lifting it to her ear.


“Dad?”



Tara felt really, really stoned.


While she’d gotten buzzed passing a joint around with Nate after shows before once or twice, she’d only ever been really, really stoned once before and this was almost exactly what it felt like; a gradual awareness of consciousness in a heavy body that didn’t feel like it belonged to her.


It was the reason she had only gotten so baked the one time. She hated it. Her instinct was to panic especially when it just felt like seconds since she had been surrounded by strangers in gowns with bright white lights and the smell of sterility masking death. She’d wanted to get up and run but now she couldn’t.


“Nice boot, cutie.”


Tara’s eyes were lethargic but she could feel they were trying to open, to find that familiar sound.


She knew that voice.


Safety.


Home.


Her eyes fought harder to open and her hand tried to bat at the oxygen mat she was suddenly aware was sitting over her mouth.


“Sssh, you’re okay,” she heard the voice comfort, then a caress on her arm.


Grounding.


Pulling her back into herself.


“Relax, honey. Everything went great. I’m here. Willow’s here.”


Willow Tara thought calmly and let her arm fall back down to her side.


“That’s my girl.”


A hand on her face, stroking her cheek.


Feeling right where she was supposed to be.


It took a few minutes but she came around and remembered everything that had happened if still a bit vaguely. She opened her eyes on Willow and saw relief mirroring in her eyes.


“They said it went great,” Willow said softly, “They’ll fill you in when you’re not so sleepy. You have a sexy boot and some sexier crutches for a while. You’ll have to rest that foot so I guess we’ll just have to stay in bed and cuddle for a bit.”


Tara reached out and weakly grasped Willow’s wrist. She mumbled something and Willow pulled the oxygen mask back a bit to hear her.


“My mom,” Tara repeated, raspy, “…water?”


Willow got a bottle of water from the half dozen that had been delivered to her earlier. She tried to get them to take the excess to where she was sure they were needed, but they wouldn’t.


She unscrewed the cap and helped Tara drink some down with a straw.


“I spoke to our parents,” Willow said as Tara drank, “They’re…freaking out. Understandably I guess. My Dad wants to fly over which is just…nuts, really. But don’t worry, all this…you just focus on getting better, yeah? That’s what everyone is in agreement about.”


She fluffed Tara’s pillows gently, mostly for something to do.


“You should go back to sleep. Heal that body up.”


Tara’s eyes started to close again and Willow quickly lifted her hand to kiss her palm.


“Tara?” she said quietly, her voice quivering, “Thanks for finding me. For…for walking miles…miles… on a broken foot just to…”


She paused to hide her wet eyes but a tear escaped Tara’s eye too and she lifted her hand Willow had taken. With shaking fingers she held up five fingers, dropped it to two and them made an ‘0’ shape.


Willow’s breath caught, remembering their little sign they learned in China.


“I love you too. And you are the best thing that’s ever been mine. You’re my girl,” she said, kissing Tara’s forehead, “You hear that baby? You’re my always.”


She tucked Tara in until she was asleep, then returned to her own bed to watch over her love for the rest of the evening and keep her mind off of the destruction outside.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 8:01 am 
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5. Willowhand

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Oh my god! This update was like a punch to the stomach! I don't even feel like dibsing after reading about this catastrophe (although I of course know it's just fictional).
What hell Tara has been through in the hours since the earthquake! It reminded me of the movie "The Impossible" with Ewan McGregor.
I'm glad that they both aren't injured too gravely. It's understandable that they are glad Mr. Rosenberg's money buys them the best medical treatment possible but also guilty because thousands of people are treated so much worse.
I guess this is the sudden end of their world-trip? I can't imagine them just traveling on merrily after Tara's fracture is healed…

Quote:
“I love you too. And you are the best thing that’s ever been mine. You’re my girl,” she said, kissing Tara’s forehead, “You hear that baby? You’re my always.”

:wtkiss One of my most favourite canon-moments.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:30 am 
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Well, a disaster certainly makes things more exciting! More to the point, and more seriously, I was impressed with how, after chapters mixing light romance with heavy domestic drama, you could transition to an action-oriented chapter so cleanly.
I've never been through a true disaster or big emergency situation a nd hope I never will be, but I could almost feel the physical grit and the mental confusion Tara and the people around her were experiencing. And the near-anesthesia that an emergency plus a fixed goal (In Tara's case, Willow) can produce allowing her to walk so far on a broken foot. And how drained the person can be once the goal is reached. No wonder it needed to be aligned!
I've had a concussion; I have to assume Willow's is much less severe than mine, which eventually required surgery to remove the blood clots. And she also got better initial care, I think.
I have to remark about Ira. His decision to cover both sets of bills is part of what family is all about, and bravo to him for recognizing this. Between the Ourverse and your version of the Buffyverse, I'm glad he's at least to this extent the kind of father I wish I had the resources to be. (Reminds me of a fic of mine buried somewhere in Pens or the Archives, about a 4th of July fireworks show set around 2015 or so. Jonathan's, Willow's and Harmony's parents were sitting well up the hill in their lawn chairs, while the former Scoobies were running around with *their* kids further down towards the lip of the crater. A revised version will be in Snapshots eventually.)

Also wondering what this means for their trip



As to those fics, yes the Ice Age stuff mostly isn't written yet; one thing I have figure just how long it should be before Willow brings the Devon Coven, Giles, and a bunch of others to join the folks in Sunnydale. But the one with the flowers is part of Snapshots, along with a couple poems sort of a transition chapter between S-6 stuff and Willow's decision to go on a quest to gain a wish to restore who needs to be restored.

And before I forget, thumb rings, another thing I ahd to look up. The only place I'd really heard abotut hem was in SM Stirling's novel Conquistador, where members of the 30 Families get woven gold and platinum ones on their left thumbs at age 13 to distinguish them from the common Settlers of their little Land-where-it's-forever-1949. Very different implications.
And I finally recalled where else I saw that kissing-by-catching-the-lower-lip-between-both-of-yours, a 1979 pictorial "Pas de Deux" in please pardon the reference P*enth**se magazine. I no longer own a copy, thank you

_________________
Snapshots:http://thekittenboard.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=10210 a Love Story
____________________________________________________________
Kim: (breaks off the kissing) I l... (Sue stops her with a hand)
Sue: We don't talk about things like that right after, you know that, no saying those things in The Moment.
Kim: (moves the hand aside) Screw The Moment. I *love* you.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:26 am 
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5. Willowhand

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I reread the chapter - and my first comment to it. Let me clarify that I didn't mean they "are" guilty but "feel" guilty because the other injured people are treated worse.

Quote:
“I will find her,” Tara interrupted, “Willow and I always know how to find each other!”

I missed this easteregg on the first read.
I loved how Tara walked for hours on her broken foot hardly feeling / ingnoring the pain because finding Willow was a need stronger than any of her physical needs. In such emergencies love really moves you beyond what you are normally capable of! Also I'm sure Willow would have acted the same way if their positions had been reversed.

Quote:
“Mr. Hosenberg already pay,” the nurse cut in, “He say treat both.”


“He did?” Tara asked, surprised.


“He did?!” Willow asked, stunned.

I would have expected nothing else from Ira (and even Sheila) considering that they just spend hours together with Kimberly united in the fear that their daughters were injured - or worse - in this earthquake.

Quote:
And she was sure Ms. Maclay was on top of keeping people informed.

Good thing that Kimberly and Joyce are close friends so we can trust that also Joyce (and through her Buffy, Xander and Willow's other friends) can be relieved of their fears about our girls.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2019 9:39 pm 
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What a terrifying experience! I was living near LA when the Northridge quake hit and it was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced and I was 30 miles from the epicenter- what they have been in is traumatic. I'm glad they will be ok thanks to Ira and I really appreciate you showing their privilege and that they don't take it for granted and also that it isn't black and white- of course they will get treated and they also will be horrified at so many others that won't This trip will definitely change them as human beings , all for the better and in so many ways.

I wasn't surprised that Ira helped. The Rosenbergs have their issues but they aren't cruel. Looking forward to seeing how this affects their trip going forward.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:00 am 
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Will’s redemption

Quote:
Oh my god! This update was like a punch to the stomach! I don't even feel like dibsing after reading about this catastrophe (although I of course know it's just fictional).


The solemn lack of dibs is noted and appreciated.

Quote:
What hell Tara has been through in the hours since the earthquake! It reminded me of the movie "The Impossible" with Ewan McGregor.


While not directly inspired, I have seen that movie at least twice, so no doubt it was in the back of my mind.

Quote:
I'm glad that they both aren't injured too gravely. It's understandable that they are glad Mr. Rosenberg's money buys them the best medical treatment possible but also guilty because thousands of people are treated so much worse.


Hospital wings like that shouldn't exist...the wealth and healthcare inequality is horrendous and they just flat out shouldn't be allowed...but your daughter is overseas and needs care...what the hell do you do? Even the most principled of people would take the care. Tara wants a better world and Willow wants a better world but neither of them are willing to sacrifice the other for the principle it. I think they made the best choice and they will do their best to pay it back.

Quote:
I guess this is the sudden end of their world-trip? I can't imagine them just traveling on merrily after Tara's fracture is healed…


I guess it depends what you mean by 'merrily'. Unaffected? No way, this was a huge event that they'll carry with them. But it's a big decision with lifelong consequences. They'll have to take their time and really talk it out.

Quote:
:wtkiss One of my most favourite canon-moments.


Such sweetness and care displayed by Willow in a horrific situation...you can see why I wanted to mirror it here :wtkiss

Quote:
I reread the chapter - and my first comment to it. Let me clarify that I didn't mean they "are" guilty but "feel" guilty because the other injured people are treated worse.


Oh yes, don't worry, I understand. And to an extent, they are guilty. But in the way we all would be. This kind of inequality can only be fought so much on an individual level.

Quote:
I missed this easteregg on the first read.


You don’t always need a spell to see the light

Quote:
I loved how Tara walked for hours on her broken foot hardly feeling / ingnoring the pain because finding Willow was a need stronger than any of her physical needs. In such emergencies love really moves you beyond what you are normally capable of! Also I'm sure Willow would have acted the same way if their positions had been reversed.


Oh, for sure Willow would have done it. It's crazy the kind of adrenaline people release when a loved one is in danger. Moms lifting cars and all sorts of things. The human body can really push itself in dire need.

Quote:
I would have expected nothing else from Ira (and even Sheila) considering that they just spend hours together with Kimberly united in the fear that their daughters were injured - or worse - in this earthquake.


Willow, of course, didn't know that yet and Tara hadn't really processed it because she'd been so single-minded. I also would expect nothing less in such a situation but neither Tara or Willow have the highest opinion of her parents.

Quote:
Good thing that Kimberly and Joyce are close friends so we can trust that also Joyce (and through her Buffy, Xander and Willow's other friends) can be relieved of their fears about our girls.


No doubt!

Thanks for your feedback!

DaddyCatAlso

Quote:
Well, a disaster certainly makes things more exciting! More to the point, and more seriously, I was impressed with how, after chapters mixing light romance with heavy domestic drama, you could transition to an action-oriented chapter so cleanly.


Well thank you!

Quote:
I've never been through a true disaster or big emergency situation a nd hope I never will be, but I could almost feel the physical grit and the mental confusion Tara and the people around her were experiencing. And the near-anesthesia that an emergency plus a fixed goal (In Tara's case, Willow) can produce allowing her to walk so far on a broken foot. And how drained the person can be once the goal is reached. No wonder it needed to be aligned!


The idea was it was a hairline fracture that worsened the more pressure and weight Tara put on it. But she was determined and nothing would keep her away from her girl!

Quote:
I've had a concussion; I have to assume Willow's is much less severe than mine, which eventually required surgery to remove the blood clots. And she also got better initial care, I think.


Willow definitely didn't develop blood clots

Quote:
I have to remark about Ira. His decision to cover both sets of bills is part of what family is all about, and bravo to him for recognizing this.


As WR said it really was the only decent decision

Quote:
Also wondering what this means for their trip


It means a lot more discussion and altering plans but well, put it this way...there's still 13 more chapters :wink

Quote:
And before I forget, thumb rings, another thing I ahd to look up. The only place I'd really heard abotut hem was in SM Stirling's novel Conquistador, where members of the 30 Families get woven gold and platinum ones on their left thumbs at age 13 to distinguish them from the common Settlers of their little Land-where-it's-forever-1949. Very different implications.


Thumb rings were pretty fashionable in the late 90s/early 2000s except of course for lesbians when they have been fashionable always.

Quote:
And I finally recalled where else I saw that kissing-by-catching-the-lower-lip-between-both-of-yours, a 1979 pictorial "Pas de Deux" in please pardon the reference P*enth**se magazine. I no longer own a copy, thank you


Well it's a pretty common way of kissing so it's probably been in a bunch of places.

Thanks for your comment!

shirrey

Quote:
What a terrifying experience! I was living near LA when the Northridge quake hit and it was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced and I was 30 miles from the epicenter- what they have been in is traumatic.


That must have been terrifying! I've never been in an earthquake, I mostly just lived on the east coast but you're in such an unpredictable period of time not knowing if you should move or stay. I'm glad you got through it safely!

Quote:
I'm glad they will be ok thanks to Ira and I really appreciate you showing their privilege and that they don't take it for granted and also that it isn't black and white- of course they will get treated and they also will be horrified at so many others that won't


As I said to someone else, this kind of health inequality just flat out shouldn't exist...but it does. And it would be stupid to deny treatment, especially the kind Tara needed. It would be a lot harder to fight for justice if she had to get her foot amputated! (not to suggest persons with disability do not do that)

Quote:
This trip will definitely change them as human beings , all for the better and in so many ways.


They'd built up so many unhealthy habits between them during their years of are-we-aren't we, there needed to be a lot of impact so they could go forward healthily.

Quote:
I wasn't surprised that Ira helped. The Rosenbergs have their issues but they aren't cruel.


I agree and I'm glad both Willow and Tara got to see it too.

Quote:
Looking forward to seeing how this affects their trip going forward.


I would say it affects their persons more than it affects their trip.

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... Family Confidential Episode II: Attack Of The Hormones


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Dec 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: NC-17

NOTE: An itty bitty rating change is a-happenin’ here

Chapter 40



Nepal

(Part 3)



Life, As It Happens
Nobody Warns You
Willow, Hold On Tight



Willow jumped out of the taxi that had driven them from the hospital, a tiny white Suzuki that barely felt big enough to fit them both in.


The journey had been uneventful, thankfully so as Willow had been nervous about being on the road. The displacement from the earthquake had somehow made it safer to drive with fewer cars on the road causing chaos as they zipped around each other without care or discernible direction. Still, she was grateful to be out of it.


She rushed around to the other side of the car a little too fast, causing a wave of dizziness that she fought by leaning against the car as she opened the door on Tara’s side to help her out.


“Still standing,” Willow commented, unintentionally glib as Tara secured her crutches on the ground and pulled herself out of the car in front of the hostel building she’d ran out of just days ago.


It seemed like an age.


“I have no idea what’s it’s like inside,” she replied quietly, looking up for any signs of outer damage, though it seemed not even a window was broken, “The lobby got pretty trashed but I left almost right away. There were so many people. Maybe we shouldn’t just walk in.”


“Their phone line was still down. I tried calling when I got my new phone,” Willow replied, her brow furrowing in irritation, “Only Ira Rosenberg could get a cell phone couriered to a hospital in the aftermath of an earthquake.”


“He’s just trying to do everything he can,” Tara replied softly.


“No, he’s trying to get us to do everything he wants,” Willow replied with a roll of her eyes.


Tara exhaled a slow breath.


“He paid for… everything.”


“I’ve spent my life feeling obligated to him for money, I’m sick of it, okay?” Willow snapped, but looked immediately remorseful and put a hand on Tara’s back, “Let’s just figure out if we have stuff or not and what our next step is, yeah? And then lie down?”


“Yeah,” Tara agreed with a demure not of her head, “Lying down would be good.”


“Come on, baby,” Willow encouraged, gently coaxing Tara along.


The street outside was clear enough to walk, with debris pushed up against walls, out of the way.


They both stopped to take a look around.


A roof was caved in across the street, a lot of windows and doors were missing. A small temple was toppled on one side. Yet everything was so still.


Such quiet destruction, but people were there too.


Cleaning. Helping. Rebuilding.


They looked ahead at the same time and carefully walked forward toward the place they’d laid their heads before a seismic wave had uprooted them.


Willow pushed the door open slowly but when they peered inside everything seemed okay. Dull lighting and not as polished as it had been, but the floor was clear and the walls were too, devoid of any art that had been there before.


The place was empty, eerily so, but as they walked further into the lobby they saw a familiar face sitting behind the desk, which was now just a barren ledge jutting out from the wall with no fanfare about it.


Ebba looked up at the sound of movement and leaped from her seat.


“Tara,” she said, relief flooding her face as she came around to hug Tara and then Willow.


“Ebba,” Tara greeted back, also glad to see her pal in fit form.


“You are okay!” Ebba laughed, a nervous little trill that betrayed her emotions, “I turned and could not see you.”


“I had to find Willow,” Tara replied apologetically and yet, not so.


Ebba nodded understandingly and offered a small smile to Willow.


“Are you are okay too?”


“Yeah. Just cuts and bruises,” Willow dismissed easily, “Knocked my noggin but acting no weirder than usual.”


Ebba nodded, then suddenly clapped her hands together as if remembering something.


“I keep your room.”


“You kept our room?” Willow asked, perking up, “So it’s…okay? Our stuff is still there?”


Ebba nodded.


“No damage in the upstairs. One old door get loose and lights all crash but everything else just fall over. Picked up, all new again,” she announced cheerily as if selling the place to a buyer.


“Almost new,” a male voice came out from the back, weary but friendly, “Bargain kind.”


They laughed and Tara took a wobbly step forward to embrace him with one arm.


“Amir. Hi.”


Amir nodded cordially, shyly but his eyes were bright and showed affection.


“You are free to stay as long as you need. We offering bed to whoever we can. As long as you don’t mind gas lamp.”


“Torch,” Ebba translated.


“Flashlight,” Willow further translated and they all laughed again.


Tara gripped her crutch tighter as she felt the strength in her leg begin to fade.


“Thank you so much for keeping our room for us. That’s so above and beyond anything we could have ever asked for.”


“Is leg okay?” Amir enquired, seeing Tara’s weight shift.


“Just a few bones that need healing,” Tara replied, ducking her head to hide her pain.


Willow noticed, however, and gently held Tara’s arm.


“I should bring her to bed,” she said, then cleared her throat, “Um, I mean let her rest. She’s supposed to keep it elevated.”


Amir nodded and made a move toward the back room.


“We use real key for now. Electricity still come and go. This safer. One moment please.”


“I will get,” Ebba interjected, smiling kindly at Tara, “I hoped that you would come back safe. You both.”


She turned to go get the key, her arm sliding along Amir’s back as she crossed the space and lingering before falling off. A move that definitely did not go unnoticed. Tara gave a little crooked smirk and even in dim lighting, it was clear that Amir blushed.


While Ebba was gone, Willow suddenly got a concerned look on the face.


“Oh, wait. You can’t use stairs. Our room was upstairs.”


Amir stood up straighter and took out a notebook from under the desk.


“If you can wait twenty –four hours, we can organize downstair room. I just need fix wires.”


“That is so generous of you, thank you,” Tara replied gratefully, then looked reassuringly at Willow, “I can do a butt shuffle up there. I don’t think I’ll be doing much more than sleeping today anyway. I won’t need to come up and down.”


“You sure?” Willow pressed, “Because you know we can—”


Tara nudged Willow gently with her shoulder, the best she could do with her arms in crutches.


“These are our friends. I want to stay here.”


Willow returned a soft smile.


“I want to stay here too.”


“We happy have you stay,” Amir added, apparently wanting in on the love fest.


Willow and Tara shared a secret smile until Ebba returned with a key for them.


When they got to the stairs, the butt shuffle suddenly seemed a lot more daunting. Tara tried to play it off but her face had drained of color by the time Willow physically pulled her over the top one.


“Let me—” Willow tried to help but Tara was embarrassed and forced herself onto her feet to get down the corridor.


Willow kept close to avoid any stumbles but they got to the room without incident and she let them inside. It was dark, with no lights and the blinds down, but they got some daylight into the room when Willow pulled them up again.


The light blinded Tara for a moment and she dropped to the bed, gratefully turning her back to the sun.


The room looked just as they left it, pretty much. The nightstand had changed position and the things that had been in it had been picked up and gathered on top. Their bags stood in the corner where they always had been. The only thing out of place was the electrical tape covering where the light fixture had been and they only saw that if they looked up.


It was unnerving that everything seemed so unrattled when they both felt so rattled.


But it was also grounding and they both found themselves exhaling a long breath after just being in the room for a minute.


Tara lay back and put a pillow under her injured foot while Willow went into recon mode and started checking everything, ticking off an internal list in her mind as she recounted everything.


“I don’t think anything is missing,” she said as she opened the little safe stuck to the wall and checked the contents before moving onto check the stuff piled on the nightstand, “Passports, money. Our bags and clothes and stuff. Looks like the blow dryer got a little knocked up but—”


She plugged it in and it immediately blew out hot air.


“Wow, still working. Hardy little thing.”


She turned it off again and folded it back on the nightstand with the plug out just in case, after what Amir said of the electricity. They didn’t need anything going kablamo in the middle of the night.


She sat next to Tara on the bed and took her hand.


“What do you need? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Want a shower? I won’t have to fight the nurse off to help you with a sponge bath this time.”


She smiled and Tara offered a weak but sincere one back.


“You were very sweet to wash my hair over the sink. I hate when it feels so greasy.”


“I will wash your hair every day. Twice a day!” Willow promised eagerly before dropping her head betraying a moment of nerves, “I just want you to feel comfortable.”


Her pocket started to buzz and she looked down at it disdainfully.


“God,” she grumbled, standing swiftly and turning her back to Tara to answer it.


Tara watched her pace and back and forth with a vein popping more and more prominently in her forehead as the conversation went on.


“Dad, we don’t want a hotel. Our place is standing; we’re lucky. We’re staying. Pay for some rooms for displaced people if you want to book hotel rooms so badly. Look, Tara needs to rest okay? Goodbye.”


She hung up and all but flung her new phone on the bed, instead clenching it tightly in her palm.


Tara let a few moments pass.


“Willow.”


“Ugh!” Willow said, her whole body rigid with tension.


“Willow,” Tara called again softly.


She reached a hand out and Willow hesitated for a moment but then took it and let herself be pulled to sit next to Tara. The rage dissipated with Tara’s hand in hers and she looked at her vulnerably.


“I’m just so frustrated.”


“I know,” Tara soothed gently, “You have valid frustrations. But you’re felling it a little more because your brain was injured.”


“It’s not—” Willow started but Tara lifted a hand to put a finger against her lips.


“It’s still a brain injury, even when it’s mild,” she said, nodding to emphasize the point, “We have to take care of it so it doesn’t get worse. Just like my foot.”


She coaxed Willow up to lie beside her, sharing the pillow as she’d stolen the second one for her foot. She slowly twisted her body onto its side so her foot stayed where it needed to be but she could face Willow properly and stroke her face.


Willow felt her emotions start to crumble at the tender touch.


“Tara,” she said in a strained voice, her eyelids started to quiver.


“I know, honey,” Tara replied in a similar tone.


She leaned in and pressed her lips lightly against Willow, gently offering a kiss. Willow accepted and leaned into it, feeling a release at the affection.


“See how well you fit here?” Tara whispered quietly.


“It’s true,” Willow replied with a little sniffle, “I was made for you.”


Her voice broke as those words came out and she pressed her lips to Tara’s again.


Tears fell quickly but silently between them, two sets of cheeks wet with each other’s emotion while they stayed connected by their lips.


They would stay close enough for noses to touch until they fell asleep, for the first time feeling whole again in days.


A few hours later, Willow quietly let herself into the room, juggling a few packages of aluminum foil in her other arm.


She frowned when she saw Tara sitting up in bed already.


“Drat. I was hoping you’d still be asleep. Are you okay, did you need to get anywhere, get anything?”


She went over to the nightstand and turned the flashlight on, sitting it upright so it acted like a lamp.


“I just woke up,” Tara replied sleepily, rubbing her eyes with her fists indicatively.


“Do you need to pee?” Willow asked helpfully.


Tara pursed her lips slightly.


“I’m fine to get to the bathroom by myself.”


Willow frowned self-deprecatingly as she came over to the bed.


“I'm over-helping, aren't I?”


“You’re just being sweet,” Tara offered kindly.


Willow smiled gratefully.


“I got us dinner,” she said, laying down the parcels of foil, “Amir got us dinner actually. I think his family is making meals for everyone. It smells pretty amazing. You hungry?”


Tara nodded quickly. Willow opened everything up and grabbed the two sets of travel utensils they carried around since watching a guy in Sydney lick a spoon and put it back in the drawer in the communal kitchen.


They had dal and dumplings and roti with chutneys that tasted better than anything else they’d had since being in the country. They murmured their enjoyment to each other and ate quietly for a few minutes. It was their first meal since breakfast before leaving the hospital and even just getting here had been taxing.


“So, we should talk,” Willow said with a mouthful and smiled apologetically before covering her mouth and finishing, “About what we’re going to do? Unless you’re too tired?”


“We can talk,” Tara agreed, lifting her hand to her mouth to pop a stray piece of food in.


Willow grew quiet again, seeing if Tara would speak first but she didn’t.


“Flights are still booked out to Egypt in a couple of days,” Willow said, watching Tara’s face for signs of a reaction, “We have our passports now and they reopened the airport. We could leave if we wanted. We’d just have to find a hospital to check in with for your aftercare.”


Tara nodded, noncommittal.


“Is that what you want to do?”


“I…” Willow replied helplessly, “It’s an option.”


She paused again.


“My dad says he’ll pay for us to just go back to the states if we want. Cut things short. Recover there.”


“Is that what you want?” Tara asked again, also going to pains to appear neutral, “To go home?”


Willow looked across and gently nudged her foot against Tara’s good one affectionately.


“Home never left my side.”


Willow’s hand lay flat on the bed and Tara covered it with hers, giving it a squeeze. They rolled their thumbs around each other for a contemplative moment before taking their hands back to continue eating.


“I know what we went through was a lot,” Tara said quietly after a moment.


“And you much more so,” Willow nodded.


“It was terrifying,” Tara swallowed, “I-I can still see it all so vividly. Which is funny, because everything was so dusty.”


She let out a quiet, sad laugh. Willow swallowed.


“How did you…How? Just how?”


“I had to find you,” Tara replied, still quiet but resolute, “Everything was so dark but knowing that I would find you…that was my light at the end of the tunnel. And sometimes it felt like a teeny Tinkerbell light. But that was enough, as long as I kept going toward it.”


“A teeny Tinkerbell light of hope?” Willow suggested as she caressed Tara's hand with her thumb.


“Exactly,” Tara nodded, “And like Tinkerbell, if you don't believe in it, it dies.”


She lifted Willow's hand so it touched her cheek and closed her eyes to savor it.


Willow kept caressing her there and stayed quiet, comforting her girlfriend.


Finally, after several contemplative minutes, Tara lifted her gaze to Willow.


“I still see the light and it isn't shining on Sunnydale. Not yet.”


She kissed Willow's palm, making her smile, making her oh-so-aware all over again of how lucky she was to share this journey with Tara.


“Does it feel safe for you to keep going?” she asked, moving closer to Tara on the bed just to bask in more of her presence, “And I don't just mean physically. It wouldn’t be out of the realms of believableness for someone to need a little therapy after all that trauma. I just fell asleep and woke up. You spent hours out in all of that…”


It was hard for Tara to access those feelings again, very hard. But she also felt so grateful that it had turned out as it had.


“If I can have my music,” she reasoned after some thought, “I think I’ll be okay. And if I’m not okay…then I’ll figure out how I can be.”


We’ll figure it out,” Willow promised and pressed a kissed to Tara’s cheek, “So does that mean…onward to Egypt?”


They both paused. That didn’t feel quite right either.


“We’re on a schedule,” Tara reasoned when the silence hung for too long, “We planned things. A route to see the world.”


Willow nodded.


“Yeah, you’re 100% right.”


Tara tore up a piece of bread in her lap in a bit of a fidgeting move before raising her chin fully.


“But it’s also nothing we can’t change. We opted for flexibility so we could change our minds if we want. We can use that.”


Willow looked up and Tara met her gaze.


“And also…I feel a pull. A pull to stay here. To help. Not forever, but for a few weeks. Until I’m back on my feet, or off the crutches at least. It would be a bit of a nightmare to travel on them.”


Willow’s whole face brightened.


“That’s exactly how I feel!” she replied with a mixture of joy and relief, “That day we spent at the orphanage in Vietnam…it was the first time I didn’t care about my own problems. We helped that day, a bit. In India…we saw so much suffering, all we could do was give people some money to eat each day. It was something…but it never felt like enough. And in Dubai, there wasn’t a thing we could do to help all the people forced to be there who are persecuted… except get out of dodge ourselves. I felt so helpless. And maybe it’ll never feel like enough. But staying here, doing something… it’ll feel like more.”


Tara smiled down at her legs.


“I don’t know how much use I’ll be.”


“There’s all kinds of ways to help,” Willow reassured quickly, “I –I don’t even know how I can even help, yet. But we can. I know that much.”


Tara nodded softly, then took a moment to think about where they had planned to go and how they would have to divert.


“We’d have to give up Egypt and Greece. Probably do a shorter tour of Europe, skip right ahead to South America,” she said, pausing again and looking at Willow unsurely, “…you wouldn’t be able to go to Israel.”


“I wasn’t going anyway,” Willow dismissed with a wave of her hand.


She wiped her mouth with a napkin and then her fingers as she balled up the empty foil.


“Oh,” Tara replied, surprise evident in her tone, “You were unsure last time we talked about it.”


Willow tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace.


“I was unsure about pissing off my dad, really. But things have been ka-blooey lately with him anyway so…”


“You can blame me,” Tara offered, hating the edge in Willow’s tone, “Tell him I need the help or, or that I’m not comfortable going.”


“Which is true,” Willow replied, a bit clumsily blunt.


Tara’s eyes fell and she played with her food in her lap for a few moments.


“Y-you know,” she tried and had to stop to clear her throat, “You know that I love you and support everything about you, right?”


Willow reached out and brushed her fingers against Tara’s cheek again.


“Tara, how can I know anything else after all of this?”


Tara held onto Willow’s arm.


“What I’m saying is—”


“Tara,” Willow interrupted, though not unkindly, “You don’t owe me an explanation. Besides, I know exactly what you’re going to say and I agree with it. I’m not against going to Israel ever but…I can’t go to the wall and ignore what’s happening over it. It’s not the right time.”


Tara’s thumb caressed Willow’s arm for a moment before falling away. Willow was quiet, then gave a resolute nod.


“He wouldn't like the idea of me traveling alone after everything that’s happened. I can use that selling point. Or maybe put it on the long finger until oops, we ran out of time.”


“Are you disappointed?” Tara asked gently.


Willow shook her head.


“His faith isn't my faith. I have faith in what I see. And I see you,” she said with a tender smile, “And I know where my morals lie. That trip is not a trip I can support in good conscience right now.”


She adjusted her shoulders to shake out any tension.


“Besides I can give tzedakah here that are a lot more meritorious than a quick visit somewhere. If he doesn't think that's more righteous, that's his problem.”


She paused and sat back against the wall, clearly closing off the subject.


“What about you? Are you okay with missing out on a few stops? You have to be really honest because this is potentially resent-y stuff if you regret it later.”


“We can always change our minds,” Tara replied reasonably, “Leave when it feels right to leave.”


Willow nodded, happy to be at a consensus.


“You’re right.”


Tara smiled bashfully and looked down at her leg again.


“And honestly, I’m not going anywhere for a while. I feel pretty beat-up.”


Willow jumped up into helper mode.


“My poor baby. Have you taken all your pills?”


“I have to take them with food,” Tara answered, “Do you know where we put them down?”


Willow got the three pill bottles and passed them to Tara.


“Let me get you some fresh water,” she said, getting a big bottle from the corner where Amir had put them when he brought it up for them, “My guns will be incredible hiking these gallon bottles around.”


“As if I don’t have enough trouble resisting you,” Tara teased and Willow’s cheeks lightly flushed.


Tara swallowed her pills; antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and some pretty strong painkillers that had her feeling comfortable when she wasn’t overdoing it.


“Speaking of our parents,” she said as the water washed everything down, “I need to check in with my Momma because I think I need to sleep again soon and she wants me to be in more contact than usual.”


Willow nodded.


“Tell her thanks for talking my dad down. He didn’t say but I know it was her that convinced him in the end that we would be okay without him coming down.”


“She’s incredibly grateful to him,” Tara replied quietly.


“I…” Willow replied, feeling a little stung, “I am too. I just…”


She blinked and Tara reached out for her hand.


“I know,” she said softly, “It’s a lot.”


She squeezed Willow’s hand.


“But they’re just scared too. And he's gone above and beyond in trying to help, even if you think it's not for the right reasons.”


Willow looked down.


“I guess I’m mad for a lot more than badgering me to come home.”


“You left a lot of problems on your doorstep when we left. They didn’t just go away,” Tara replied sagely.


Willow nodded to herself.


“I’ll try to be more patient with him. I guess I am letting my temper get to me a bit at the moment.”


Tara lifted Willow’s hand and kissed her knuckles.


“I’m on your side always.”


Willow raised a smile in Tara’s direction.


“I know.”


She scooted forward and embraced Tara’s upper half gently. After a moment, she pulled back a tad.


“Need to call your mom?”


“In a minute,” Tara replied, resting her chin over Willow’s shoulder again, “This is nice.”


Willow sighed happily.


“This is nice.”



“Thanks, Ebba, see you later,” Willow waved as she parted from the other woman in the lobby and headed down the corridor to her and Tara’s new downstairs room.


It was a ‘suite’ and about the size of a regular hotel room with a private bathroom which made it much easier for Tara to get around, though she was still sleeping most of the time.


A fact Willow was happy about. Though time seemed almost suspended in the bizarre reality they’d found themselves in, it had still only been a few days since she’d had surgery. That took a lot out of you.


She saw it when Tara waited five minutes too long to take her pain meds and her eyes would look like they were falling out of her head or when her whole body would go boneless just under the strain of an (assisted) shower.


Even going to the bathroom needed Willow’s help with the crutches so difficult to balance on. And though she would just help Tara to the seat and leave until she was tidied up again, Tara still clearly found it embarrassing.


Willow was also grateful that Tara was sleeping so much because she felt better about leaving her alone.


She fished the key out of her pocket as she approached the door but tried to be quiet in opening up. Expecting to see Tara still in that worn-out (but adorable, she had to admit) pose with her arm thrown above her head and her uninjured leg tossed across the whole bottom half of the bed, she got a fright when she saw her girlfriend very much awake, face red with tears as she sat hunched over the bed, holding her boot and hiccupping as she cried.


“Tara!” Willow exclaimed, dropping the key as the door slammed behind her, “What’s wrong?”


She sped over to Tara’s side and didn’t need to wait for an answer as when she got there she saw a crutch had fallen and taken her pill bottles with them as casualties. Willow realized they all must have fallen out of reach and that Tara must be way overdue her medication.


“Shit!” she swore under her breath and got to her knees to try and gather all of the pills up, her hands shaking as she matched up the fallen ones with what was still in the bottles.


She finally got them back in and in a panic tried to count out Tara’s dose.


“Two of these and one…no two…no…”


The labels were in Nepali so she desperately fumbled with the translator app while her heart broke to the soundtrack of Tara’s cries. Finally, she got the correct pills into the little cup Tara took them with.


“Take these, take these, baby.”


She grabbed the cup of water on the nightstand and physically held it to Tara’s mouth to make her drink.


Tara downed the pills and repeatedly tried to catch her breath. Willow ran around to the other side of the bed and carefully crawled on top. She folded her arms around Tara and held Tara’s head to her chest. She stroked her hair and whispered soothingly until Tara either cried herself to sleep or the pain pills kicked in.


Both, Willow figured, probably.


She gently laid Tara down again when her breath had been even for long enough to know she was deep in sleep.


With a very soft kiss to the head, Willow set an alarm on her phone to make sure she would be back long before Tara would need another pill and set Tara’s phone very close to where she slept just in case she was needed any earlier.


After that, she tiptoed back out and left the hostel without stopping to talk to anyone. She made her way around the corner and back into one of the big disaster relief charity tents set up in the area. It was busy, mostly filled with displaced people looking to be brought to shelters or looking for help in other ways.


There was one table dedicated to volunteers and Willow lined up for the second time that day. She patiently let everyone go ahead of her so she wouldn’t take up any unnecessary time until she was the only person left.


“Hi, I’m Willow,” she introduced herself to the same woman as before, “I was here earlier with my friend Ebba to talk about volunteering?”


The woman nodded that she remembered.


“As we said, we have to run a quick background check—”


“Oh, I know,” Willow replied quickly, “I’m here for something else actually.”


The woman smiled kindly if not a little tiredly.


“How can I help you?”


Willow bit the corner of her lip and smiled awkwardly.


“Any way you could help me find a wheelchair?”



Tara used one hand to turn her wheelchair around a circle of young Nepali children while the other handed out plain navy t-shirts sprouting new red embossment on the breast.


Lakshmi smiled as each child excitedly received and thrust their shirts in each other’s faces to show them off.


Lakshmi was a half-Indian/half-Nepali charity worker who grew up in Canada and returned to India after college to work in the education sector. She’d volunteered after the earthquake because she spoke the language and had ended up spearheading a childcare ring for the local displaced populace who still had parents trying to get to work.


This had all come about through Tara who had started to mend clothing for the locals since she could do it while sitting and at her own pace. But she was also getting bored by herself all day while Willow and Ebba were out on the streets to lend their hands.


Lakshmi had happened to see her one day rolling down the streets with the box of clothes on her lap and after sharing lunch with Amir, who had unused recreation rooms with TVs and tabletop games and even some cheap instruments sitting dormant, their three interests collided.


Now Tara got to spend her mornings doing yoga with Ebba to help strengthen her foot up again and the rest of the day playing music and making up songs with a group of beautiful little children who weren’t burdened by the effects of the quake and just wanted to have fun.


“They love getting their names personalized on their clothes,” Lakshmi said as Tara completed her circle, “That must be a lot of extra work for you.”


“Not really,” Tara shook her head with a fond smile, “Gives me something to do when they’re not here. Willow’s putting in long days.”


Lakshmi looked down at Tara sympathetically. She knew that tone. Her own boyfriend was still back in India.


“You miss her.”


Tara wheeled back and set the brake on her chair. Her head ducked.


“She just wants to do as much as possible before we leave again.”


Just then, one of the little girls with a cute, black bob and eyes as brown as the earth scurried up to Tara. She excitedly slapped her hands in Tara’s lap, babbling away.


Change her coloring and she reminded Tara of Willow when they were little, all swingy hair and endless words.


“She says—” Lakshmi began to translate.


“She wants to use the keyboard with me,” Tara cut in with a grin, “I’m picking up a word or two.”


She lifted the girl into her lap.


“Come here Sohana,” she said and wheeled them off together with many giggles to play with the keyboard and make music; the universal language.


As evening turned the blue sky dark, Tara wheeled back to the room and let herself in.


The lights were fixed; everything was fixed, in fact. Even beyond the hostel, the whole street almost looked like nothing had ever happened to begin with except for the buildings that needed to be rebuilt. The further you went out of the main city, the more obvious the lasting damage was but day to day sometimes even Tara forgot that it had ever happened.


Until she tried to stand, anyway.


Or she had a nightmare where Willow was buried in the rubble. She wrote songs in her head when that happened, often matching the tone to the rhythm of Willow’s sleeping breath to remind herself that everything was okay.


She wheeled over to the bed and took all of her pills before gathering her things to have a shower. She wrapped her boot up in plastic to keep it dry, left her chair at the bathroom door and hobbled into the little plastic chair she’d borrowed from the ‘day-care’ to aid in some independence for her bathroom activities. Helping each other with 'bathroom emergencies' had become a bit of a joke between her and Willow but she still appreciated that she could do this for herself again.


After her shower, she wrapped herself in a towel, wheeled back to the bed and sat with her back against the wall to take a breath after the busy day.


A few minutes later, the doorknob jostled and Tara smiled before Willow even walked in the door.


Willow was also brandishing a huge smile as she walked through.


“I built a house today, Tara!” she announced without preamble, then smiled sheepishly, “Well, not on my own. I mean technically I built about half a wall, but it was half a wall of a whole house!”


“That’s amazing sweetie,” Tara replied, feeling her body react to Willow’s energy; a gentle tickling on her skin that became a tingle.


Willow threw her messenger bag off her body, then reached in and pulled something out.


“And look what I got you!”


She thrust something cylindrical and bright red in Tara’s face. Tara had to take it in her hands to see what it was and noticed immediately it was cold. She turned it around and though it was embossed with an unfamiliar language, she recognized the logo of her favorite cherry soda.


“Wow, I haven’t had this in months,” she said, turning the can over in her hand, “Thank you. Where did you get it?”


“I found it in this Indonesian store near where we were working,” Willow answered brightly.


Tara reached out with one hand, asking for Willow’s in return.


“You’re so sweet.”


She felt a tug between her legs as Willow’s hands brushed against hers but when she tried to lean over to invite a kiss, Willow jumped up and clutched her t-shirt, waving it out.


“I need to shower. You don’t want to smell me any closer.”


Tara pressed the cool can of soda against her suddenly warmed skin on her forehead.


“Don’t know about that,” she muttered as Willow hummed her way into the bathroom.


She heard the shower run and let her head rest gently back against the wall. Her eyes closed but opened again after a few moments because the images running through her mind were not conducive to rational thought. Willow had been so delicate with her lately but she craved the connection to feel it in her bones that Willow was right here, right now. It had been an emotional tug she'd been satisfying with affection but apparently, her body was demanding more.


She took her bottle of lotion from the nightstand and busied herself with rubbing it into her chest and arms.


Willow emerged from the shower, looking cleaner than she had before, not that Tara had minded the little bit of gruff.


Willow came and sat next to Tara in the bed with her legs up in much the same position. She too rested her head on the wall and smiled across the small space between them.


“I’m beat. Did you eat?”


Tara nodded.


“Did you?”


Willow nodded back.


“Yeah, they fed us. It’s nuts, but we’re actually saving money by sticking around. We don’t have to pay for room or board.”


“We should have a meal together one of these days,” Tara suggested, running her hand down Willow’s arm to link their fingers together.


“Yes,” Willow replied with a keen nod of her head.


Tara lifted her hand back to Willow’s cheek, touching it affectionately.


“I know you’re doing so much.”


“You've been sew gal night and day lately. I know you’d be out there putting me to shame if you could,” Willow returned, then her eyes widened suddenly, “That sounded like what you’re doing isn’t important. That’s not what I meant, at all! Everyone you've brought together and everything you've set up in just weeks! All I do is show up and slap things together where I'm told.”


Tara’s hand fell away from Willow.


“Well, I just wanna keep up with you, and I'm… well, I just like to be useful. You know, to the gang? I just… never… feel useful.”


Willow took her hand between them again.


“You are. You're essential.”


Tara looked down at their hands and they played a mini thumb war for a few seconds before smiling again at each other.


“Would you lotion my leg for me?” Tara asked, pre-empting the answer by holding the bottle out.


“Of course I will,” Willow replied, flipping open the cap and squeezing some lotion into her palm.


She rubbed both palms together and then started to rub the lotion into Tara’s lower leg. She massaged Tara’s calf and down to her toes, making sure to get between each one diligently. She rose again toward Tara's knee and fell off there when the towel prevented her from going any further. She found herself blushing as she looked up.


“Um…did you want your whole leg done?”


“Oh,” Tara replied, unable to deny the pleasant feelings Willow’s hands were imparting, “Yeah?”


Tara untucked her towel and let it fall open with a small flick.


Willow’s head averted up at a sharp angle and an even sharper speed.


“Yeah…” she gulped, doing her best not to look down, “You’re gonna have to cover up if you don’t want this to take forever.”


Tara’s heart was beginning to race.


“I don’t mind slow.”


Willow locked eyes with Tara and her hand wobbled toward Tara’s thigh. It made contact and her eyes dropped, taking in the eyeful she’d denied herself earlier. She felt a clench between her legs and slowly started rubbing Tara’s thigh, though it was a complete pretense as any and all lotion had well and truly been imparted.


She rubbed the same circle of thigh until her hands almost began to squeak against Tara’s skin.


Her gaze rose slowly as her hand remained steady. Only her eyes moved from where her own hands rested to take a tantalizing peek between Tara’s legs, up Tara’s torso and the swell of her breasts to finally make contact with Tara’s eyes.


It took their matching, glassy gazes less than half a second of connection before their bodies were flinging toward each other, though admittedly Willow did more of the flinging.


Tara sank down into a lying position, bringing Willow with her lying between her legs. She bunched Willow’s towel in her hand from behind and yanked it right off, leaving them both naked and wanting.


From the hips up their bodies were pressed entirely together as their mouths hungrily stole kisses from each other.


Willow’s arms were flung around Tara’s head and neck, tugging her closer and closer. Tara’s hands flew down Willow’s back to cup her cheeks and pull their bodies together. Their lips slid together below and when Willow broke the kiss to gasp, Tara took the opportunity to savor the sweet and salty skin on Willow’s neck.


“Mmm,” she moaned near Willow’s ear, tugging the lobe gently between her teeth which drew a short, shaken groan from Willow’s lips.


Willow sought Tara’s lips again, taking them in a kiss and suckling Tara’s bottom lip.


Tara could feel her nipples brushing against Willow’s skin as their bodies moved together and when they rubbed right against Willow’s nipples she felt the sparks shoot straight between her legs. She felt a deep throb and then her thighs get wet as she yearned to be touched.


“Willow,” she said needily as she took in a breath.


She covered Willow’s hand sitting on her breast and linked their pinkies, dragging their hands down between their bodies.


Willow felt her fingertips tingle as she brushed against Tara’s arousal and suddenly felt heat pulsate between her legs. It raced through her, overtaking any other sensation and making her grind down to seek Tara’s hand as it first touched her lips.


She felt a brief, fleeting courtship with it on her clit but hadn’t even vocalized the groan when Tara’s fingers reached inside her to give her what she wanted. Her inner muscles squeezed and she heard Tara moan. She returned an answering buck of her hips.


Willow had just about enough coherence to get her hand where Tara needed her to be until they started moving together and all reason was lost. She buried her head in Tara’s neck and used their writhing bodies to follow pace.


For the first time in weeks, the body part Tara was acutely aware of wasn’t her leg or the unsightly knee-high boot weighing it down. It stayed still; perched on its pillow for elevation like it knew it wasn’t the center of attention anymore, while her other leg twisted and coiled around Willow’s legs and against the sheet.


“Yes, Willow,” she moaned into Willow’s ear, tugging Willow in by her butt every so often to reinforce the movements, “Don’t stop.”


Willow wasn’t just right there, she was everywhere.


As her orgasm bubbled beneath the surface she draped a hand over Willow’s cheek to watch her face. She found an extra thrill from working out how close Willow was and started to hang on. Just when she didn’t think she could last a single torturous second longer, she watched Willow’s facial muscles jump and came with an intensity bigger than anything before.


By the time her eyes were clear of stars and seeing clearly again, Willow had moved off to lie beside her and catch her breath.


A sloppy grin was burned into Tara’s face as she felt a delightful flame still fanning between her legs.


Those endorphins were doing everything she needed them to.


She reached down and clasped her hand with Willow’s between them. Willow didn’t pull away but didn’t tug her affectionately like she usually did either. Tara glanced over and noticed Willow gnawing on her lip, looking up at the ceiling at an angle.


Tara looked away and then back as if that might change the troublesome look on Willow’s face.


She waited for a moment, swallowing to get moisture in her mouth without drawing attention to herself. When her body had settled itself down again, she lifted her hand to Willow’s shoulder and caressed her with her thumb.


“You okay?”


Willow blinked a couple of times.


“Yeah,” she said, turning her head slowly toward Tara with a small crease in her brow, “A-are you okay?”


“I’m great,” Tara grinned, but it didn’t produce the usual blush in Willow’s cheeks.


Tara felt an uncomfortable lull between them that didn’t jive with her own reaction.


“…was that okay?” she asked unsurely.


“Of course,” Willow replied but her tone wasn’t quite the enthusiastic rebuff Tara was hoping for.


She shifted her upper body weight onto her side and drew little circles on the protruding bones on Willow’s collarbone.


“Did you…? Did you finish?” she asked, her gaze firmly downward, “I-It felt like you finished.”


“Tara, yes,” Willow replied quickly and with more of the urgency Tara had been seeking before, “Yes, yes. God, yes. Of course.”


Tara’s shoulders relaxed and she lifted her eyes to Willow’s.


“You seem a little…” she paused for a moment to think of an appropriate word, “Off.”


Willow slowly turned herself on her side too so they were facing each other.


“I guess I feel a bit guilty.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, surprised for a moment, “Is it like a religious thing? Because of your dad?”


Willow’s head reeled back at that notion.


“No, no. Not like that,” she said assuredly, then grew quiet for a minute.


Tara let her gather her thoughts and didn’t press the issue.


“I kinda lost control,” she said eventually, swallowing as she looked up deeply into Tara’s eyes, “I could have hurt you.”


Tara lifted her hand to Willow’s face and brushed some hair from her forehead.


“Honey, I would have stopped us if I thought it was hurting me,” she reassured, leaning in to peck Willow’s lips softly, “I have a big boot on. It protects it. Now if you’d rolled me off the bed…”


Willow ducked her head with a smile and Tara used her finger to lift Willow’s chin again and offer her a crooked smirk.


“Besides, you weren’t the only one who lost control…”


She tickled Willow’s neck, who blushed and giggled.


Tara let her hand settle on Willow’s hips and gave it a gentle tug.


“C’mere.”


Willow shuffled further into Tara’s arms and they naturally shifted together until Tara was on her back again so it was less awkward to keep her leg straight. Willow curled around Tara’s side and rested her head above Tara’s breast with her arm thrown loosely across Tara’s chest to make it easy to cuddle in. She twined her legs around Tara’s good leg and settled with a soft sigh.


She felt Tara’s hand brush over a spot on her behind.


“Your tuna butt is looking good.”


Willow rolled her eyes and grinned all at once.


“Shut up, Tara.”


“Make me,” Tara challenged playfully.


Willow lifted her head and tilted Tara’s chin down.


“Gladly.”



“Yes…yes…right there.”


“That feels so good.”


“Don’t stop.”


“Like that?”


“Yes, like that. Just like that.”


“Is this safe?”


“As long as it doesn’t break.”


“I’ll be careful.”


“Yes…yes…oh, that’s it. That’s it…ah, ah, ah…”


Willow slowed down the pace of the ruler stuck inside Tara’s boot in response to the quieting of her satisfied moans.


“You good?” she checked.


“So good,” Tara sighed happily before turning her leg over and back in annoyance, “I can’t wait to get this thing off. It’s like wearing a giant, heavy, sweaty sock for weeks on end without washing it.”


Willow grimaced at that visual.


“Soon.”


“I know,” Tara replied, leaning over to kiss Willow on the cheek gratefully before lying back onto the bed.


Willow came around the other side and sat next to her.


“That, uh, kinda brings us ‘round to The Talk.”


Tara dragged herself up so her back was against the wall.


“The ‘when do we leave?’ talk?”


Willow nodded and pursed her lips thoughtfully. Tara waited but when Willow didn’t speak, she started the conversation.


“You’re doing such amazing work. Helping rebuild the community. I’m so proud of you and everything you’ve done.”


“And the locals are wearing the most stylish clothes I’ve ever seen,” Willow returned, grinning, “Only my girl can make emergency clothing look better than New York fashion week.”


Her tongue stuck out between her teeth as she fought to release a giggle.


“Also I heard a three-year-old who I know doesn’t speak English singing Hayley Kiyoko the other day and don’t you dare deny it!”


Tara tried to hide a grin but failed and they both started laughing.


“But honestly?” Willow said after a moment, scooting closer to Tara, “I’m getting a little tired.”


“And I’m getting itchy feet,” Tara replied softly, “The kind a good ruler scratching can’t solve.”


Willow slipped her hand into Tara’s.


“I think that means it’s time.”


They were both silent for a moment, processing what that meant.


“We haven’t even talked about where to go next,” Tara offered as there was just no way to verbalize everything they’d be leaving behind.


Willow nodded that she understood what was unspoken as well as spoken.


“We can figure it out. We’re not leaving tomorrow. You have to get your X-ray on Friday and it’ll take a few days to organize anyway.”


Tara looked down to hide a tear and Willow squeezed her hand gently.


“I know, baby. Me too.”


Tara inhaled deeply, with a little bit of a sniffle, and exhaled it all with a soft nod of her head.


She lifted her gaze to give Willow a watery smile. Willow kissed Tara’s forehead.


“Hey, I owe you something.”


Tara seemed confused and looked to Willow for an explanation.


“Ma timilai man parauchhu,” Willow intoned perfectly and grinned, “That is the only time I’ve been 100% confident on my pronunciation because Amir drilled in into me for twenty minutes.”


Tara laughed deep from her belly and let the tension leave up through her shoulders. She exhaled a slow breath.


“So, what do you think? Where do we go?”


Willow started to draw little circles on Tara’s palm.


“Well actually…I was talking to my dad…”


“Yeah?” Tara asked encouragingly.


She’d physically been able to track Willow’s brain recovery just by overhearing the conversations she had with her father growing more and more reasoned.


Willow nodded.


“He still doesn’t get our decision about Israel because I didn’t feel like getting into a big political debate so I didn’t tell him everything. But he did have a suggestion instead.”


Tara looked at her to continue and Willow bunched up both shoulders with a smiling shrug.


“Did you know my ancestors came from Budapest?”




Image


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