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

General Chat  || Kitten  || WaV  || Pens  || Mi2  || GMP  || TiE  || FAQ  || Feed - The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe

All times are UTC - 8 hours



Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 367 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:06 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 7:21 am
Posts: 76
Location: Lost in the recesses of my mind.
*Whew* okay. I have finally finished it all and I have to say I LOVE it. :) It's very well written and the plot is developed nicely. But as a beta, well, grammer and missing words stood out. But that is IT!!! I <3 it mucho. It's muy bien. Gracias!

D. :peace

_________________
We Live and Laugh and hope beyond hope to find Love.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:29 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 50
Location: So Cal
Thanks for getting back to me, D. I'm glad you're enjoying DR. Once it's complete I'll be going back to do another edit (for grammar, missing words, and to take out the descriptors, plus some continuity glitches).


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:24 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:55 am
Posts: 117
Hi Tec,
I'm so happy that you'll continue this Story. It's one of my favorites. :sigh
So please update soon :pray :pray :pray :D


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:01 am 
Offline
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 11:14 am
Posts: 525
Location: wales
I think TP is starting to toy with us

It's been a month without an update :paranoid . I know I waited for a number of YEARS for her to come back, but the wait is getting unbearable now.

You cruel cruel person ;-)

_________________
collecting dead rainbows from puddles and mires
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://lostcoast.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:14 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 50
Location: So Cal
I know, I know. I need to get on with it. Unfortunately, my job is kicking my ass at the moment. I have three chapters left to write, and some editing work on the chapters written but not yet posted. The good news is that spring break is but a few weeks away . . .

In the meantime, I will try very hard to get something new posted.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:00 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:55 am
Posts: 117
:pinky :pinky :pinky :pinky :pinky :pinky

Look, that's me - dancing like crazy! ;-)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:13 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 23, 2005 1:44 am
Posts: 103
Location: Inverness, Scotland
Ooooh... Just found and read to here... Lovin' it sooo much.

A bestest story.

_________________
fiat justitia, ruat caelum


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:06 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 50
Location: So Cal
I know I've been remiss, and so I wanted to reassure my eleven readers (because surely there could not be as many as a dozen) that I've not abandoned DR, so here is chapter 27. More will follow, in time.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Stale air, the hum of bass beats, the crush of too many people packed into a single space: it was Thursday night at the Bronze and there was a table full of wrapped gifts, drinks in states of full to near empty, and an abandoned plate of onion blossoms where Giles sat alone watching the others move on the dance floor: Xander and Anya engaged in an energetic bossa nova, Tara attempting to help Willow follow along, and Buffy and Dawn mostly trying to create chaos between the two couples. Giles took a long draft from his Guinness; it seemed almost impossible to him that he’d missed The Bronze, or maybe what he was missing was right before his eyes, the Scoobies in their element. He took another long, steadying draft. And who would have ever expected Xander would learn to dance? Utterly remarkable.

Some things were far less satisfactory, however. His back, for example, was protesting loudly the strain of the past few days, and he wondered if this also was a sign of his getting old: nostalgia for the Bronze, aches and pains like his father once raged about? No, he decided, if anything his return to Sunnydale had caused him to feel younger. Much as he loved his England of misting mornings and crisp nights, Sunnydale was for him some strange tonic. Clearly, he was quite insane.

Someone else came onto the dance floor, a young woman Giles slowly placed as Janice, Dawn’s longtime friend, and apparently giving reason to Buffy to leave the dance floor and return to the table. Giles straightened up on his club chair.

“When did steps come back, anyway?” Buffy said. There was a lock of hair sweat pasted to her temple.

“You’re not about to launch into an ‘in my day’ speech, because you are far too young.”

Buffy blinked once, next her eyes narrowed as if to argue, and then a wide smile opened on her face. “Giles, you’ve missed the Bronze.”

“Buffy, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Don’t worry I’m not going to force you to admit it, although I could if I tried.” Buffy sat down in front of her drink, a pinkish concoction that Anya had called a cosmopolitan. “Why did I let Anya peer pressure me into ordering this thing?”

Giles had no was no answer to Buffy’s question, so he turned the conversation to another direction. “I spoke with Albert earlier this afternoon. His castings have identified something coming.” He watched as Buffy’s concentration shifted, from young woman out with her friends to Slayer, and he hated causing the shift, but things were developing far more quickly than he’d anticipated.

“Coming from one of the demon dimensions or from this reality?”

“He couldn’t be certain. However, his level of alarm causes me to think he identified a possible advance team, as Tara’s been calling them.”

“Was he able to give you an ETA?”

“Unfortunately, no. Tomorrow, the next day, perhaps next week. But given Tara’s rather alarming predictions for the havoc these advance teams might raise, I think we need to redouble our stockpiling efforts.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow. Giles had returned that morning with a carload of stakes and silver-tipped arrows all neatly organized into packing boxes. Where exactly he’d found such items sold retail he wouldn’t say. He also wasn’t saying anything specific about the five by eight cargo trailer hitched to the back of the car and now sitting in her driveway.

“Tomorrow’s Friday. I know Xander’s free, or at least he’s not working on site.”

Giles only barely managed to hid a smile. “I’m sure Anya will be willing to lend him to us for the day.”

Buffy didn’t bother. “And Dawn can probably help after school, and please don’t look surprised at me. I’ve been coming around more on letting Dawn help. Patrolling, no way; research, within limits; but since this summer she’s gotten almost as fast at stake carving as Xander.”

The family business, Giles thought to himself. On the dance floor the couples were shifting about as the music changed to a somewhat uninspiring slow dance, sending Dawn and Janice off the floor and to a table of boys with floppy brown hair hanging in their eyes, and Xander and Anya into each other’s arms. His gaze broadened. Where had Tara and Willow gone off to?

As if sensing his question, two other couples, a mixed gender pair of Goths and what Giles believed were a same sex pair of farmers, but actually a pair of country and western music enthusiasts moved to the side and Giles spotted the witches near the far wall, Tara’s head on Willow’s shoulder, and the image spun round in his thoughts to what was only a two-year old memory but seemed decades, even centuries old.

“I’ll take what ever big bad is coming our way just to be able to see that again,” Buffy said, pulling Giles away from Tara and Willow.

Reddening because he realized he had tears in his eyes, Giles took a breath and shook his head. “I am becoming quite the sloppy sentimentalist in my—“

Buffy cut him off. “Old age? Don’t even go there.”

“I was going to say late middle age, thank you very much.”

“You think you’re feeling old but you’re really only feeling out of the loop. You’ve just got that out of the loop-y feeling, so a big no with the ‘in my day’ thing for you, too.” Buffy glanced towards Willow and Tara, still slowly spinning on the dance floor. “But I get it. Seeing them together, it’s like this gift, the present you wanted most.”

“Our new Tara, she’s not . . .” Giles stopped, not sure what he wanted, even could say.

“She’s not, and yet she is.” Buffy took a sip of her drink, while trying to put together what she wanted to say, what she’d been wanting to tell Giles about what had happened that night, but she barely understood it herself. She’d been watching the girl spin the glowing shapes out of the air, first purple, then green, then golden colored when her Slayer senses kicked in and she felt a presence come into the room. She didn’t have to look to see it was Tara, Willow’s Tara, their Tara, beautiful, serene, the Tara who had worked so hard to keep their family together even when it was she who was being pushed out, the Tara she had relied on to help with all the problems that couldn’t be resolved with a stake through the heart, the Tara who had died violently, tragically, and so very, very pointlessly. And it was all Buffy could do not to try to stop what was happening, not to try to keep what had been stolen from them until she saw Willow lift her hand, and two sets of fingers come together, and then she did the same. “It was so strange, Tara’s hand felt warm, like flesh, but somehow insubstantial, and then it was like she let go, her body fading, moving, slipping into Willow’s. For a few seconds, it was like Willow was glowing from the inside, and then something, Tara, I guess, passed through her into the girl.”

“You think Tara became a part of both of them.” Giles said, too softly for the Bronze, but counting on Slayer hearing.

“I’m not sure. All I know is Willow’s different.” Buffy shook her head. “Except she’s been sort of different ever since she came back. Plus, a couple days ago Tara said this thing about Willow, and it was kind of weird. Actually, it was majorly weird because it was close to what Tara said to me during that crazy dream we all had about the first Slayer. Plus, Willow smells different.”

Giles imagined Xander saying, “going in,” before he asked, “Smells different how?”

“More cinnamon-y, less cloves.”

Oddly satisfied, Giles pressed Buffy on the more important observation, and realized he also remembered the words, almost like an echo he’d heard.

“Hasn’t begun what?”

“Well for me it was all about learning what it meant to be the Slayer, and so I’m guessing for Willow it’s about becoming like Great-Grandmother Irene. And why am I so wigged on that, I mean I get part of it, the part that can’t forget about black eyes and veins, but there’s this other wig, and it’s bigger and kind of selfish-y, too. Giles, help.”

“It’s because before Willow was Tara’s, she was yours, yours and Xander’s, in a different way of course, but yours all the same. And none of us have been willing to see very clearly that for wanting Willow to be the girl that she was, and not the young woman she’s become, we’ve all of us been standing in the way.” Giles didn’t usually make obvious demonstrations, but now he placed his hand over Buffy’s. “We are going to have to accept Willow’s relationship to magicks is far more complex than we understood, which isn’t to say we should in any way facilitate her reclaiming the sorts of powers she vented in the past.”

“It means accepting Willow’s like Tara, a natural,” Anya said.

Neither Buffy nor Giles had noticed Xander and Anya come off the dance floor, but now they were reclaiming the chairs in front of their drinks, Xander’s a quite sensible golden ale and Anya’s a basic gin and tonic.

Anya continued, “Xander talked with Tara. She seems to know what she’s doing, so I think we should back off.” Her peace said, Anya picked up her drink.

“It also means trusting Willow, and I think she’s earned that trust.”

Buffy looked past Xander to Willow and Tara, still on the dance floor, the music changed again, now something she thought Dawn called pretty pop, but the two of them still swaying to some music only they could hear. Buffy turned back to check Giles expression. And then she nodded, too.

***

The last thing Willow had expected was for Tara to know the cha-cha, or maybe it was the samba. When they’d gone out on the dance floor Flock of Demons was in the middle of their Latin set, and Willow had fully expected the two of them would just flail around like Buffy and Dawn, but then suddenly she was pulled into this very determined dance form, Tara apparently more than capable of channeling her inner Johnny Castle, and almost as capable of coaxing out Willow’s inner Baby Houseman. To say Willow liked this unexpected twist in Tara’s character would have been the grossest of understatements. Tara kept the lead until the Flock switched things up and started exploring their older catalog of dreamy house music riffs that floated one into the next, at which point she simply melted into Willow’s arms. To say Willow didn’t equally love this aspect of Tara’s character would have been the most boneheaded of errors. But now the music had switched again, the Flock channeling their early 2000s debt to Frou Frou, and Tara seemed entirely unaware, happily continuing to slow dance, which to Willow was so sweet she thought she might actually die of it.

Not wanting to die, Willow instead pressed a kiss on Tara’s hair and breathed in her clean scent, the perfect perfume to cover the odd cross of dust, mold, and cat pee that was singularly the Bronze. “Good birthday?” Willow murmured.

Tara lifted her head and looked into Willow’s eyes. “Best birthday.”

Willow saw the expression she now knew was Tara remembering from before and quickly kissed Tara’s lips. “I’m going to expect to hear that next year, and the year after that, because each one is going to be better than the last.”

Tara claimed a kiss also. “You’re setting a pretty high goal because this one really is about the best I’ve had since I was a little girl. So how did you know sausage and m-mushrooms was my favorite, because I’m pretty sure Tara’s was the veggie?”

“And you forget once again about the whole not having anything close to a poker face.” Willow giggled. “Even Anya’s worried. This afternoon she warned me to never take you to Vegas.”

“Las Vegas? Isn’t that where all the Mormon’s live?”

“No, that’s Salt Lake City.”

“No, Salt Lake is where they used to have the Burning Man thing.”

Both looked carefully at one another. “It would be interesting to do a big comparison, but kind of pointless, too,” Tara said.

“It’s not as if reality shifting is going to become the next tourist thing.”

On stage the Flock switched back to their bossa nova set. “Is it okay if I’m samba’d out?”

Tara answered with her half smile and the two headed off back for their table.

“So, dance lessons,” Willow said to Anya, grinning.

“Just another part of Tara’s socialization process.”

“Because if anyone has insight into what it’s like suddenly to crash land into a new space-time continuum it’s Anh.”

“Thank you, Xander,” Anya said, beaming. “I just want Tara to be able find her footing more easily than I did. Of course, Tara won’t have to endure the ignominy that was high school. Although Xander made up for much of it by agreeing to be my date at the prom and looking very manly in his rented tuxedo.”

“Face it, all of us have unexpected talents for rockin’ the formalwear, except Giles, because being British his is a natural talent for white tie and tails.”

The potential for the previous March’s epic misstep into a formalwear disaster was surprisingly avoided, mostly because Anya chose that moment to concentrate instead on the still un-wrapped presents, a condition that was quickly alleviated by Tara tearing through them at not quite the speedy rate Anya requested, but acceptably manic by Scooby standards, an action that provided the additional benefit of drawing Dawn back to the table, also.

“Not a bad haul, I’d say,” Xander opined as he eyed Buffy’s gift, a very fashion forward leather jacket tailored to shark-like perfection. “Although maybe we over did it on the outfitting for demon hunting.

More genuinely confused than anyone guessed, Anya asked, “What girl doesn’t want a battle axe of her own? And besides, the one I picked is weighted perfectly to Tara’s musculature.”

Tara was holding the hand carved and painted box Xander had given her for her tarot cards. “This is beautiful. Thank you so much,” she said, running her fingertip over the figure of a woman holding open the jaws of a lion.

“Willow mentioned to me you used the Waite deck, so I went with Strength for your birth card.”

“Thank you everyone. Anya for the battle axe, Dawn, the necklace, Buffy, the jacket, Mr. Giles, the cross-bow, and Willow . . .” Tara broke off, her throat choked with tears.

“Hey, no tears for the birthday girl only happy smiles.” Willow leaned close to kiss Tara’s temple and whisper in her ear, “there’s a couple of presents left for you in our room, too. But those ones are more private.” Tara offered her half-smile in return and Willow closed in for a second kiss.

“No tears and no more snuggles either. I was expecting cake. Is cake coming?” Anya said.

“Cake will be served at Casa Summers,” Buffy said. “With ice cream, that is if a certain younger sister named Dawn managed to keep her chocolate cravings to herself.” She glanced at Giles. “So ready to blow the Bronze.”

“I’m pretty sure the G-man has had just about enough of the Bronze experience,” Xander said confidently. “Which in his case has always been limited to chair sitting.”

Tara came around to Giles chair and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for coming tonight.”

Giles turned to her. “I wouldn’t have missed this birthday celebration for the world.”

***

Tara’s eyes widened as Dawn came into the dining room carrying a cake ablaze with candles and then jumped as the others all began clapping and singing, Giles and Anya carrying the tune, Xander seemingly attempting to run it into the ground, Buffy seeming to try to counter Xander, and Willow and Dawn gamely squeaking along. The cake landed more or less in front of her followed by loud pleas to make a wish. Tara took a deep breath and managed to blow out all twenty-three candles in one try, a feat which generated a second burst of applause.

“So, what’d you wish for. Tell me it had nothing to do with Sunnydale’s less savory aspect and everything to do with your heart’s desire,” Buffy said. She was standing beside Tara’s chair and plucking out the spent candles.

“I always wish for the same thing, but oddly enough NASA never calls to invite me for a ride on the space shuttle.”

“That is a puzzle, isn’t it,” Giles said, holding up his teacup towards Xander.

“I imagine riding on the space shuttle isn’t so very different from teleporting except of course one method of transportation is facilitated by advanced human technology and the other by demonic energies. Regardless, both induce the discomforts of G-forces, and so I don’t recommend either for pleasure travelling.”

“It’s the spirit of adventure, Anh. So what about it, Tara. Any wishes you care to share, keeping in mind we are in the presence of a vengeance demon who has wielded control of the power of the wish for a thousand years, albeit briefly interrupted by a period of hiatus?”

“I thought telling your wish would m-make it not come true,” Tara said, as she accepted a slice of cake from Buffy.

“Vengeance wishes necessarily must be spoken aloud; birthday wishes should be kept private, but the likelihood of either being heard is relatively slim given the current state of population growth. Wishes are better timed during periods of war or pestilence, like when Black Death swept Europe in the fourteenth century,” Anya said, as she also accepted a slice of cake from Buffy. “Will there also be ice cream, because I thought I heard a promise of ice cream while we were at the Bronze.”

Buffy nodded at Dawn to go fetch. “It’s on the kitchen counter. I took it out to soften-up.”

Tara held a bite of cake in her mouth, savoring the taste and texture of coconut. The cake was delicious, not overly sweet, perfectly light, and the frosting, rich and delicious. She felt Willow’s eyes watching her, and she turned and saw one of Willow’s private smiles.

“Good cake, honey?”

Tara swallowed. “Best cake.”

“So, Anh, based on what you just said, is there some sort of demon who listens for birthday wishes?”

“Not a demon, really. They’re what you’d probably call fairies, and by the way there is no tooth fairy, that is simply a human invention to compensate for the dismay over losing a body part.”

“Thank you, Anya, for that clarification,” Giles said, holding out his plate to Dawn who was scooping out chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream.

The presentation of ice cream quickly sent the party conversation into other directions, favorite flavors, fruit flavors versus seed and nut flavors (Buffy especially favored hazelnut), which led to other topics and still more topics, and Tara mostly holding back, watching the give and take, being reminded of the nights around the camp fires with the cadre.

A whisper sounded near her ear, and she turned to look into warm, green eyes. “I was thinking about Larry, and some of the others from the cadre. All of you would have liked them. They were good people, you know.”

There was nothing Willow could say to make up for Tara’s loss, so instead she very sensibly pressed a kiss on Tara’s cheek.

The second part of the party continued through another round of cake and ice cream, but finally broke apart a little after ten, sending everyone to their homes and beds.

“I keep wondering if vengeance demons actually sleep,” Willow said, standing at the dresser and combing out her hair. “I know vampires sleep, mostly because Spike is a championship napper. Is napper a word?”

“I don’t know, about whether vengeance demons sleep, or if napper is an actual word. I could look it up in the dictionary.” Tara was sitting atop the bed covers, cross legged and holding the box Xander had carved for her.

“Nah, don’t bother.” Willow put down her comb and went to the bed, slipping between the covers and lying down on her side. “You really like that box, don’t you?”

Tara blushed and smiled. “I do. I liked everything.” She fingered the pendant necklace hanging around her neck. “But mostly w-what’s nice is that everyone thought of me, I mean they chose gifts that s-showed they’d been . . .”

“Paying attention,” Willow supplied. “Although I have to admit Anya’s other gift was kind of a surprise.”

Tara laughed. Anya’s second “gift” had been a paycheck for an admittedly miniscule amount, but it was written out to Tara Maclay for services rendered and it had made Tara feel connected in a new way to this life she was now, unexpectedly living.

“The book you gave me . . . I can’t believe you found a hardback copy.”

“It’s been out of print for a while,” Willow said, nodding towards the copy of Unquenchable Fire sitting on the nightstand, next to Tara’s new cell phone. “So, there were a couple of pressies I wanted to give you in a more private setting, don’t be nervous.”

“I’m not,” Tara said, fully aware of how nervous she looked.

“They’re under the bed.”

Tara leaned down and reached under the bed. There were three shallow boxes, tied together with a wide blue ribbon. Sitting up again, she held the boxes in her lap and chewed on her lip.

“Are you going to open them?” Willow teased.

Tara took a deep breath, and having no idea what to expect, she untied the ribbon and opened the first box and found a green silk sweater.

“I saw it and I thought it would look nice with your black skirt.”

Tara picked up the sweater, which felt in her hands light as air. “It’s beautiful.”

“I also thought maybe you could wear it tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow night?”

“Friday night, our date night.”

“We have a date night?”

Willow grinned and sat up. “We did last week. I thought we might turn it into a tradition.”

Tara held a breath for a moment and then asked, “Will there be kisses?”

“Definitely kisses, plus some hand holding, maybe even a little star gazing. Sound good?”

“Sounds perfect.”

Willow snagged the open box off Tara’s lap, leaving the next one ready to be opened. Tara took another breath, pulled off the top, and burst out laughing.

“How did you know?” Tara said, pulling the tee shirt up to hold in front of her.

“Let’s just say the sound acoustics in the training room are a lot better than you might think.”

“You overheard Xander and me arguing about Xena versus Seven of Nine.”

“Baby, you’re absolutely right regardless of having only seen a few eps of each, Xena’s having a side kick definitely puts her in a class above Seven, even if Seven rocks the leotard like nobody’s business. And I know that last part was my riff, not yours.”

Also in the box was a carry case for her new cell phone, not Xena-fied but a similar black leather to match the jacket Buffy had given her, Tara put the tee shirt and cell phone case back in the box and let Willow take it away.

It was time to open box number three, and Tara suspected box number three wouldn’t contain hold anything bearing a logo or a belt clip. Nervous, she lifted up cardboard top and handed it to Willow. Like the sweater, the three pieces were silk, but they would not provide near the same warmth. Tara picked up the negligee first, noticing how the light shimmered on the fine fabric, and then the bra and panty set. All three blue.”

“I know you’re not really ready to put them on. I just wanted you to know . . . you know?”

Tara waited for her heartbeat to slow down, and then before her courage left her, asked, “They’re beautiful. Do you have anything like this to wear?”

Willow smiled. “Okay, a little unexpected, but yes.”

Tara nodded, gathered everything off the bed, and took it over to the writing desk. “Willow, there’s some stuff, s-some stuff I’ve wanted to explain to you.” Her voice sounded odd in her ears, but she wasn’t certain what was different. Willow said something about being able to talk about anything, and Tara returned to the bed, moving to sit cross-legged once again.

“Did you know I s-stopped drinking the tea?”

“I kind of guessed. It’s been two days, right.”

“I haven’t had a fever or a memory storm since last week, so I thought I’d see what would happen. So far, so good. But also . . .” She waited for Willow to prompt her with her own “also,” and continued, “I was talking with Xander about it yesterday, and today I’ve been thinking whatever was happening to me is finished.”

“And that’s a good thing, right?”

“There’s all this s-stuff I remember, but it’s not like actual experience. Do you get that?”

“I think so. Are we talking about the kissing again?”

Tara nodded, her voice seeming to have left her entirely. She nodded again, which seemed to prompt Willow to say something about a silk teddy she owned, and then Tara’s voice was suddenly, unexpectedly set free, and she made her request. It sounded exactly as awkward said aloud as it did in her head. Tara watched Willow startle, while her stomach flip-flopped. For a moment, one very long, very excruciating moment there was silence. And then a smile, the smile Tara would always call Willow’s vixen smile.

“You know it’s not customary to ask.”

She was being teased. She wished she could tease Willow back, but all she could do was offer the truth. “If I tried to do it m-myself, I think m-my head would explode.”

“Which wouldn’t be all that great cause it would put a serious damper on the subsequent snugglies.”

Willow curled her fingers around the hem of her tee shirt, pulled it over her head, and tossed it onto the floor. Goosebumps broke out across her skin, maybe because of the bedroom air was too cool, more likely because of other reasons.

Tara felt the skin along her back, her sides, everywhere shiver. “You’re beautiful.” She whispered, as her eyes traced along soft curves and a sprinkling of very faint freckles. A hand clasped over her own, and she only barely realized it was Willow’s, Willow’s hand drawing hers to Willow’s breast. Her fingers closed around flesh, soft and warm, delicate beyond compare. “Will,” she said, and then she was falling, moving, being pulled, lying next to Willow, their foreheads pressed together.

“You should breathe, baby. Otherwise I think you might pass out.”

“Will,” she said. A breath came into her lungs with it the scent of cinnamon. “Will,” she said, and then she was moving, turning, being pushed onto her back and Willow was coming on top of her. Her hands moved along the ridges of a spine, Willow’s spine. Her eyes closed, and then lips came onto hers. A kiss. “Will,” she said, “You’re beautiful.”


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 2:47 am 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for good update-y goodness... I really liked the gifts Tara got... Anya's gift made me laugh...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 7:09 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:55 am
Posts: 117
Finally!!!
I really like this update, though ;-) :D
Especialy the last part was nice :blush
I hope the next chapter will be updated soon!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:30 am 
Offline
4. Extra Flamey
User avatar

Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:23 am
Posts: 208
Location: France
Fabulous update! can't wait for the next one :)

_________________
Strange Awakenings - Heaven


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:46 am 
Offline
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 11:14 am
Posts: 525
Location: wales
weyhey!

_________________
collecting dead rainbows from puddles and mires
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://lostcoast.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 9:37 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 50
Location: So Cal
Another quick drive-by post. I'm on an unwanted writing hiatus, but I had a few spare minutes to polish this chapter a tad and post.

CHAPTER 28

Willow woke up slowly, strangely, finally realizing for the first time in a very long while she’d fallen asleep without wearing a tee shirt. Tara was tucked around her, her soft breath moving along the back of her neck, one arm slung around her stomach. As she’d done the past few mornings, Willow turned over slowly to look at Tara’s sleeping face. So many times before she’d overlaid it with memories of her other Tara’s face, now she overlaid it with memories of Tara still sleeping off the results of the rejoining conjure. Then as now, Tara had seemed to her younger, less wise to the ways of the world, and she loved that somewhere deep inside of her, somewhere when she was lost in dreams, that innocence still lived.

The innocence had also been present the previous night. They’d kissed again and again, Tara slowly, ever so slowly taking Willow into her hands, touching Willow’s breasts, finally kissing them. Before, it had been different. She’d been the one hesitant and unsure, more afraid then she’d cared to admit. All those years ago, Willow had acted cool, acted like she wasn’t terrified of making a mistake, of saying or doing something wrong, of embarrassing herself, as if there was some manual or check list she was supposed to follow. Her first Tara had been gentle with her, she who’d been the hesitant and unsure one until that moment when their so-called “friendship” kisses turned to something more, she who’d suddenly found some until then hidden reserve of confidence and sexiness. They’d both been with others, admittedly Willow only with the one (because the “fluke” didn’t really count) and Tara only with two (a late middle school romance and a “mistake” that happened during her “rebellious” period), but this Tara had not, and Willow was almost jealous. Not because she regretted Oz, or begrudged her Tara her past (although to say there hadn’t been a certain amount of jealousy would have been a not exactly gross exaggeration, but an exaggeration all the same), but because there was a small part of her that wished she wasn’t so knowing of things, wished her body was as mysterious to her as it had been when she was first coming into her own, when she could still sleep the night through and wake knowing she’d dreamed about sex, wake with the languor in her limbs, if not an actual memory of the dream.

Tara made a soft sound, and Willow leaned close, wanting to draw Tara awake with a kiss, first only the simplest of brushing of lips together, then an actual kiss as Willow felt Tara’s consciousness return, and then moving into each other’s arms, Willow coming to lie on top, a nest of arms and legs.

“It’s Friday,” Tara said, her voice sounding thick.

“No school. I don’t have to leave the house until late.”

“You’re going to work on your paper, right? The one for Professor Greenberg.”

Willow resisted making an unpleasant noise. “I’ve completed my outline, and so all I have left is to write the thing.”

“Your outline is almost the entire paper. It’s written in complete sentences.”

“It’s the only way to make sure I don’t skip a point or fall into some logic trap. Even if the class is just a basic science requirement, I still want to do well. And besides, researching the fault record was fun. I took Dawnie with me into the foothills and we took rock samples and photographs of the terrain.” This was not the conversation Willow wanted to have while she was half-naked and in Tara’s arms and so she stopped and offered Tara a wide-awake kiss. The kiss was returned, several more exchanged. Willow put her head down on Tara’s shoulder. “This is the best way to wake up, don’t you think?”

“Diego and Carl would sometimes wake me up by dumping water on my head. This is light-years away from that, and something more if there’s anything bigger than a light-year.”

Willow restrained herself from answering the implied question. “Are you going in to help Anya this morning?”

“From nine to noon. After that Giles has me on stake carving duty, and then I have practice with Buffy scheduled at three-thirty. Want to come and watch, the practice I mean?”

Willow had missed only two practice sessions since Buffy and Tara had begun training together, a habit Tara seemed to regard as entirely innocent while Xander and Buffy recognized was entirely indulgent.

“Dawnie and I have a dress fitting date at House of Style, so I might be a little late.”

“So has anyone . . .”

“Asked her to Homecoming? No. But after Janice pulled Dawnie off the dance floor last night, I saw the two of them talking. I suppose it’s a little intimidating. Asking Dawn out would be like running the gauntlet between Buffy and Xander. Plus there’s Anya and . . . well you can imagine. Marilyn from The Munsters had a better chance.”

“The Munsters was an old TV show, right?”

“From the 1960s.”

Noises were happening outside the door, soft conversations. Willow thought she heard Giles say something and then Buffy say something back. Any minute now there would be a knock on the door. Not happy about it, Willow sat up, accepting it was time to start the day and wondering who was next in the shower line. A soft gasp from Tara, however, yanked Willow back into the more immediate present.

The blush began somewhere high above her cheekbones and sped quickly downward, soon covering her upper chest, hiding all of her freckles, but not the state of her far more sensitive flesh. She wanted to say something spicy, even something saucy, but she knew whatever she said would sound more like a squeak, and so instead she simply watched as Tara’s gaze moved along her upper body. Blue eyes that felt like a touch were coupled with the most unaware smile Willow thought she’d ever seen. Finally, she just said, “Baby?” and watched Tara seemingly come back into herself.

“You, you’re even prettier by daylight.”

“Hey, I thought I was the breast girl,” Willow said, needing to make a joke before her hair actually started on fire, and then seeing something, an expression pass over Tara’s face. “Baby, what did you just think about?” Tara stumbled over the word “nothing,” which told Willow the thought had been definitely something. “Sit up with me a second?”

Tara sat up, crossing her legs under the sheet, her eyes cast down. Willow asked her question again, and this time Tara answered, and Willow felt her heart break in a way it had never broken before. “That’s just . . .” What? What could she say? “You’re right. My Tara didn’t have scars like yours. But that doesn’t mean—“

“The way you l-looked at her. I remember it. I remember your expression the first time you undressed her. You were n-nervous, but there was this expression in your eyes, like you couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful.”

“You think I got you the negligee to cover up the scars,” Willow said, the realization coming to her so fast, so strongly, it flew out of her mouth. The expression on Tara’s face confirmed it, and Willow felt her heart break further. But then another thought erupted in her too busy brain. “Baby, I got you the negligee because I thought it would look amazing on you. You see that’s the funny thing about lingerie. Even if you don’t intend to wear it, you always kind of buy it for yourself. Or, put another way, I bought the negligee thinking about how much fun it would be to take it off of you, kind of like the bra and panty set.”

“You’d want to . . .”

“Undress you,” Willow supplied. She waited for a small nod before continuing. “I’d kind of like to try it while you were actually conscious and when I might be able to sneak in a few kisses. And by the way, I’m still a breast girl, your breast girl, but I think I’m becoming a forearm girl and a few other body parts, all of which kind of get shown off while you practice drill.”

“Practice drill?”

“Tare, the reason I like watching you practice drill is because I’m usually spending most of the time imagining you . . .” Willow leaned closer and whispered the last word of her sentence into Tara’s ear.

Now they were both scarlet. “So, okay?” Tara managed a nod and started to move off the bed, but Willow caught her and pulled her close. “This is the kiss I’ve been holding back.”

All of the kisses before had been soft, dreamy, romantic. This wasn’t that kiss. It was hard and passionate and filled with longing and Willow was half worried Tara would panic and half worried she would lose all control, and when it was over, she heard Tara whisper, “okay.”

***

By 2:30 Willow was seriously wondering what she’d been thinking. All day, well ever since Tara had left that morning for the Magic Box Willow had been stewing over the kiss they’d exchanged just before getting out of bed. Except it hadn’t really been an exchange, and Willow was worried it had been too much.

The good thing about freaking out, however, was that her paper was complete, signed, sealed, and emailed to her professor with a full five weeks to spare. There was nothing like a good writing project for sublimating energy. But now the project was finished, as was all of her homework for the rest of the term except for reading the remaining novels for Professor Noxon’s class, Little Women and The Awakening, but she’d read the second in high school and the first in middle school and was pretty confident she could read them again in a snap. This meant the only distraction left was housework, and she’d already cleaned out the refrigerator, washed the upstairs bathroom floor, vacuumed the entire downstairs, and even managed to rinse out the fyarl demon blood from Buffy’s favorite hoodie. She checked the time again, it was now thirty-two minutes past the hour. If she walked to House of Style instead of taking her car it would kill at least twenty minutes, and she’d only be thirty minutes early, thirty minutes that could be wasted at The Coffee Grind, uptown Sunnydale’s answer to the Espresso Pump.

***

“I don’t know, Dawn. It seems a little—”

“Willow, I’ve seen pictures of the dress you wore to your prom, this isn’t all that different,” Dawn interjected quickly and softly, as if Mrs. Nguyen, who was at that moment pinning the hem, could not hear her.

“True, but I was older, and a senior. And you’re only a sophomore. Plus, don’t forget what happened. That was the dress that set in motion the fluke.”

Thinking Willow was about to nix the dress, Dawn argued, “Xander always says it was his tuxedo that did it.”

“It was both, and I’m not sure Xander’s tuxedo is relevant, here. We’re talking about a dress.”

“That’s supposed to make Kevin Berman want to ask me to dance.”

Mrs. Nguyen’s head bobbed at the mention of Kevin Berman’s name, and why wouldn’t it; who didn’t know Kevin Berman was the cutest boy at Sunnydale High given the number of Facebook testimonials, or more likely, the number of girls who’d passed through House of Style over the past weeks.

“So you know for sure he’s going stag.” Willow held back a smile over the word stag, which sounded like something her father would say.

“Kevin’s going with the rest of the wrestling team. So I’m going with Kit and Lisa.”

“Not Janice?”

“Janice has a real date with that boy Steven. I pointed him out to you when we were in Trader Joe’s.”

Willow remembered. He was cute, but blond, and Dawn was only enamored of boys with floppy brown hair, the Platonic ideal of which was Kevin Berman. She looked more carefully at the dress, or rather Dawn in the dress. The neckline was a little low, but acceptable. The fit though the bust and hips created a sense of feminine curves Dawn didn’t really have, but wasn’t that the function of this sort of dress. In a short flight of fancy Willow tried to imagine Tara in such a dress; she failed, not the Tara of before, not the Tara of now. A very subtle sniff from Mrs. Nguyen pulled Willow’s attention back into the here and now. A decision had to be made, or not.

“Tell me about the shoes. Two and a half inch heels are acceptable, anything higher and you’ll be seeing my resolve face.”

“Don’t worry about the shoes. I’m borrowing Buffy’s sling backs. They’re the same height as the ones I have on.”

Willow thought she recalled those had three inch heels, but for now she nodded her approval, a gesture also directed to Mrs. Nguyen, which caused Dawn to erupt in a sound pitched so high it was well above the hearing of all four legged creatures with the possible exception of hellhounds.

A few minutes later, back in her street clothes, Dawn was dragging Willow into Forbidden Sweets for a post-fitting celebratory cup cake, her treat. As usual, the place was a madhouse of soccer moms, middle schoolers, and sorority sisters, or in other words the double X crowd, and the two fell in line behind two women wearing Go Patriots sweatshirts (Benjamin Franklin Middle School pride) and a trio from Theta Delta Phi, one of whom Willow recognized from her intermediate geology class. Willow resisted asking her how her research paper was coming along since the response more than likely would involve “downloading nicely.”

“Have you tried the Nutella Dream cake, yet? It’s my new favorite after the Vanilla Coconut Effect.”

Willow had in fact tried both, Forbidden Sweets having been her Wednesday afternoon guilty pleasure since returning to Sunnydale. “I don’t know that Nutella anything would go wrong.”

“What about Nutella lasagna?”

“Okay, you got me there.” Willow craned her neck to see around an unusually large Theta Delta Phi to see a cupcake display that seemed near overwhelmingly extensive. “I’m not feeling the love for hazelnut, today. I’m thinking more along the carrot family of cakes.”

By the time they reached the counter, both had changed their minds, Dawn finding the Red Velvet Masterpiece irresistible and Willow seduced by the siren call of the English Toffee Fuddy-duddy. They took their cakes and Willow’s cup of lukewarm coffee (Forbidden Sweets yet to find counter help that could manage the cake racks and the coffee urns simultaneously) to one of the small tables that lined the side wall of the store.

“So what about flowers? Do girls still wear flowers pinned to their dresses?”

Dawn made a not very quiet snort. “Willow, come on. You act like your last formal was centuries ago.”

“It was. My prom was in 1999.”

“Ha, ha. Generation X humor still all the rage, not. But about the flowers, we talked about doing a flower exchange, me buy flowers for Kit, Kit for Lisa, Lisa for me, but then it started to get too complicated, cause Kit only wears native plants and Lisa has allergies, and so we decided to buy our own.”

“Would it be too grandma-y if I bought you a corsage?”

A sentimental smile on her face, Dawn shook her head. “No, because it would be Willow-y perfect.”

The warm and fuzzy moment was not to last, however because coming through the door just then was a gaggle of the Daughters of Gaia. Willow noticed them immediately and sighed as she took another bite into her Fuddy-Duddy.

“Why with the look?” Dawn asked, and then followed Willow’s eyes towards a group of young women all dressed in multiple layers of shirts, vests, skirts, cloaks, woolen socks, and sandals. “I thought Ren Fair wasn’t until spring?”

“Remember a while back when I told you about the college Wicca group.”

“The ones who didn’t know anything about witchcraft and kind of thought you were a freak?” Off Willow’s nod, she added, “Oh,” and then, “Let’s just ignore them. They probably won’t even notice you.”

Dawn’s advice seemed excellent, and so Willow returned her attention to her cupcake, her now not even close to lukewarm coffee, and further discussion of all things Kevin Berman, but the strategy failed when minutes later, cake box in hand, Cheryl stopped by the table to spread her good cheer.

“Willow, didn’t I see you last week at the mall?”

Willow put down her coffee cup and took a deep cleansing breath. “Yes, you did. I guess we must be on a similar schedule or something.”

“Or something.” Cheryl turned to Dawn. “I’m the president of the local chapter of Daughters of Gaia. You look a little young, but are you attending UC Sunnydale. Our meetings are open to all students.”

“I’m in high school.”

“A townie, of course, like Willow, here.” Making it clear townies weren’t worth her time, Cheryl turned back to Willow, “So, how’s Tara. Now that you’re back together again, I’d expect to see her glued to your side as usual.”

Keep it simple, Rosenberg, Willow thought. “At work.”

“She’s not taking classes anymore? That’s too bad. We were in Greek History together and she was amazing. Her Greek was better than Professor Petrie’s.” Cheryl leaned closer and lowered her voice. “So what really happened to her face. I mean those scars are kind of intense. The one on her forehead isn’t so bad, but the one the side is—“

“So what made you into a total bee-otch.”

Cheryl looked aghast, Willow furious, and Dawn merely wore the self-satisfied expression of teen agers everywhere who shot and scored. Too hurt, too angry to do anything else, Willow made the noise adults were supposed to make when a young person said something out of turn, but let it be clear she agreed with Dawn’s assessment and not necessarily expressed in middle school speak.

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize. Are you a family member?”

“Willow and Tara are my family.”

“Like Heather Has Two Moms,” Cheryl said, eyes wide. “Wow, that is so cool. A little strange because Willow and Tara can’t be more than what eight or nine years older than you, but--“

“They’re not my moms. My sister’s is my . . .”

“Dawn, please stop explaining things,” Willow said, starting to worry she was about to cry, and because the last thing on Earth she wanted to do was cry, she let her temper go instead. “Cheryl, you know how you like to tell everyone I’m bad news. Well I haven’t been for a while, but for you, I might need to make an exception.”

Cheryl took a step back, then another, her lizard brain over riding all else, instinct overcoming the need to disparage. The rest of the Daughters of Gaia were watching from one of the far tables. Willow couldn’t decide if they were watching with fear or admiration.

“No need to get huffy, Willow. I’ll see you around on campus,” Cheryl said, before she rejoined her group, and they left en masse, a swirl of paisley skirts and a stomp of leather Birkenstocks.

Willow took another sip of less than ideal coffee, and Dawn continued to eat her cupcake. A minute passed, then another.

“I didn’t mean it.”

“I know.” Dawn gathered up their cupcake wrappers and Willow’s now empty coffee cup and took everything to the trash basket. When she came back she pressed a quick kiss on the side of Willow’s forehead. “But I meant it. That Cheryl makes Kristie Simpson look like an amateur.” Dawn cocked her head towards the door and put on her best Bogie accent. “Come on, Louis, let’s blow this cupcake stand.”

Two blocks later, the spin cycle of Willow’s stomach finally completed, she glanced at Dawn. “You know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re a pretty good kid.”

Dawn smirked. “I’m not a kid.”

Starting to laugh, Willow said, “So ‘two moms,’ Buffy’s going to love that.”

“Only if it means I join your cell phone plan, and by the way, congratulations on winning Tara over to yours.”

“Anya saw it coming.”

“She did.”

They walked another half-block. Again Willow broke the silence; this time because she knew Dawn wouldn’t.

“So, if you want to ask me stuff, you can? After all, I may be adopting you soon.”

Dawn waited until they reached the next corner, and then asked, “You and Tara, you’re kind of with the two again, but not. I mean. You haven’t . . .”

Willow knew she’d asked for it, asked for the implied question, still she blushed. “It’s not like before. I mean, when Tara came back to me last spring.”

Simply saying the words “last spring” put black spots in front of her eyes, and then Dawn caught hold of her hand, and the spots faded.

Dawn said, “Hey,” and Willow, after a while said it back, letting Dawn know she was okay. Still Dawn waited until they reached another intersection before starting, “I kind of get it. I mean she’s new. I see it, too. She’s not my Tara from before, but she’s . . . She’s still my Tara, just different. It’s like having her back but with this extra added Tara goodness. Like she still makes my pancakes, but now she’s also this serious kick-ass.” Dawn glanced at Willow, eyebrows raised with an apology for the term “kick-ass.”

It was time for some serious honesty, the kind Willow had missed sharing with Dawn. “I’ll always miss our Tara. We both will, because how couldn’t we? But I’m so happy she’s here.”

“Me, too.”

They reached the corner of Elm Street and turned onto University Blvd. Willow could feel Dawn cogitating on another question. She wasn’t surprised when Dawn finally asked it, using words so circumspect Willow thought only she could have figured out the meaning.

Willow took a series of deep breaths and wondered if there was a sequel to Heather has Two Moms, if maybe this was it, and then she smiled.

“Is it okay if I start by saying much as I hope someday soon you and Tara no longer hold this particular status in common, I am also super devoted to the idea that you keep this particular status a while longer, much-ly longer, in fact. Maybe until you’ve completed graduate school.”

“You’re not saying I should get married first?”

When did Dawn develop a dry sense of humor? “Just super independent, womanly wise, and, in the most ideal of all worlds, financially stable.”

“That’s not really a problem right now. Because I know I’m not ready, not now, probably not for a while.”

Dawn broke off and Willow waited several long moments hoping Dawn would continue without prompting. Her hope was not in vain.

“For me, it’s because I haven’t found the right person, plus the whole yours, Xander’s, and Buffy’s heads would explode and that is just way too much brain matter all over the living room carpet, cause that’s where I’d tell you guys, definitely.” Dawn stopped for a moment, an offer of mercy. “For Tara, I’m guessing part of it is the ‘how to.’ I mean I don’t think Tara’s figured out like eighty percent of the Internet is about sex. So no help there. And Anya doesn’t ‘grok’ the lesbian.”

Oh dear god. “Grok the lesbian?”

“Some word Xander uses. Anya thinks it means understand.”

“Anya, as in Anya and you have talked about . . .”

“Sex,” Dawn supplied, “not so much about you and Tara, because, again, not really grokking the lesbian sex. But, yeah, except Anya is mostly about the cautionary tales, and only a little about the mechanics. Okay, maybe fifteen percent about the mechanics and eighty-five about the vengeance.”

Willow took several deep breaths and realized she was less freaked out then she would have expected. Anya was blunt, but she was also precise, usually to a fault, and she did not know the meaning of embarrassment, which made her a near ideal instructor in at least the mechanics and consequences of sex. Any would leave no stone unturned. Willow knew there had to be an more appropriate metaphor, but at that moment her mind was drawing a complete blank.

“So besides the ‘how to’ and the body issues, there’s the other thing, I guess. I mean you and Tara, the two of you. I mean even Buffy was kind of in awe. It would be kind of hard to live up to, you know.”

“Body issues,” Willow repeated, then catching up, “What do you mean awe?”

“Body issues because of the scars, which anyone would have. And about the other, maybe you should ask Buffy about the awesomeness of Slayer sensitivities in a wood frame house. I mean I never heard a thing, but for Buffy, the whole world’s a sort of constant all quadraphonic, THK, the audience is listening, I feel the earth move under my feet experience. I’m just sayin’.” Dawn nudged Willow with her shoulder. “Okay, going to stop with the teasing. Except I’m also kind of serious.”

Again there were spots, white ones this time instead of black. Again, Dawn took her by the hand. Again Willow recovered after another block. They were halfway to the Magic Box, and at the rate they were going they’d be there just at dusk and well after every shred of Willow’s dignity was set to flames. Oh well.

“You think Tara’s worried about . . .”

“Willow, wouldn’t you be. Remember what she said, about the ‘intimate’ memory flashes.” Dawn gave Willow’s fingers a squeeze. “There’s nothing you can do about that, but there is something you could do about the ‘how to’ thing. And I know it’s kind of not you to explain that sort of stuff, but . . . Do you get it?”

She did. Willow pulled Dawn closer, letting go of her hand in favor of slinging her arm over her shoulder. “You know, Louis, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

“Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars,“ Dawn said, affecting a much better Bette Davis than Willow’s Humphrey Bogart.

They managed to exchange movie quotes for the next half block and the turn onto Magnolia when Willow felt it. A shift in the wind, a scent on the air, a sound tickling all of Willow’s senses, jumping them to high alert, Willow stopped in her tracks. Dawn started to say something and Willow used her hand to cover her mouth to silence her. So far as she could see there was no one the street behind or in front of them. But shrubs and tress lined this block of Magnolia, providing perfect places for persons human and not to hide, so did the five or six cars parallel parked on the street. “Dawnie, something’s wrong. Stay with me, but if I say run, we book. Got it?” Dawn made a squeak that Willow took as a yes, and they started walking.

She heard something, something thump-like, not the sound of a trunk closing, more like a . . . Willow whirled around just as the vampire landed on his feet less than a meter behind her. He was dressed in a suit, a tie, and his game face, and he was standing in the shadow of a magnolia tree. Willow didn’t need to glance at the sliver of sunlight left on the horizon to know he’d soon be able to step out of the shadow. She grabbed Dawn by the hand and took off at a dead run, Dawn trailing behind.

“You didn’t say run,” Dawn said, barely winded as they ran down the street.

“Dawnie . . .” Willow began, trailing off as three more vamps darted from behind a parked van to form a line on the sidewalk. “What the . . .” Footsteps sounded from the right. Willow didn’t need to look to know they were vamps. This was seriously not good.

***

Sweat beading on her forehead, Tara pivoted to her left. Buffy followed, moving around her to swing a punch from behind. Tara dropped, rolled along her shoulder, and came back on her feet, just in time to catch a roundhouse kick to the chest.

“Oh my god, Tara. Are you okay?” Buffy shouted as Giles came running from the rear of the practice room.

Tara was already moving onto her feet, winded and terrified. But not for having been kicked. “Something’s wrong,” she gasped, grabbing hold of Buffy’s forearm.

“Tara, are you saying you need to go to the hospital?” Giles said.

“Not with me, with Willow. Something’s wrong with Willow . . . and Dawn, I think. Willow’s panicking. We need to find them.”

“Tara, how can you know Willow’s in trouble?”

Tara looked at Giles, she saw the doubt in his eyes, the same in Buffy’s. She didn’t have time to convince them she was right. She needed to find Willow. And to find Willow she needed to focus, to bring herself to center, to quell the panic inside, to listen to her heart, her breath, to find the magicks and ask: " Aradia, Goddess of the lost, the path is murky, darkness pervades, I beseech thee, bring the light needed to find my Willow.”

Then the quiet that always comes first, a hush of forces natural and not, Tara listened to the hush and the underneath, listened for the faint buzz of coming energy. Listened, waited, until a small light came into being, hovering in front of her. “Let’s go,” Tara said, not waiting to see what the others would do.

***

Willow handed Dawn her cell phone. Dawn was the best high speed text messenger she knew, of course Dawn was the only high speed text messenger she knew, but that was beside the point. The vampires were keeping their distance for the moment, none of them speaking, all of them simply watching, like animals on point. All male, most died young, one she thought had been a boy who’d sat near the back of her psychology class, the one taught by the late and unlamented Maggie Walsh. Dawn handed back her cell, and Willow dropped it in her jacket pocket.

One of the vampires moved a step closer, than another, then they stopped. Willow heard Dawn say her name, softly, desperately, terrified. They didn’t have anything on them that would do as a weapon, no holy water, no crucifix. Willow had left all those things at home, stupid, stupid, stupid. She grew up in Sunnydale; it was autumn, when the night came quicker. What had she been thinking? Another of the vampires moved closer, two steps. The rest followed suit. It was like they were toying with their prey, seeing what their prey would do. She had to do something.

Something snapped, a fallen twig, the crack of dried wood. Willow looked into the darkness and saw three more figures closing in. Three more vampires. There was nothing left to do, and so first she apologized for breaking her word, and then she held out her hand and spoke a single word: incendrie.

The fireball danced atop of her fingers, casting off enough light for Willow to see they were surrounded by twenty or so vampires, more than she’d realized. She cast another spell, and the wall between hers and Dawn’s minds let down. Dawn’s thoughts were a spiral of panic. Willow cut through, pushing her words like slivers of ice into Dawn’s mind. Turning them into a singular focus. I’m going to open up a space between them, and we’re going to run. You need to keep going all the way to the Magic Box. Don’t stop, don’t look back, just run. Please Dawnie, I really need you to run ahead. You’re faster than me. Get Buffy. Get Tara. No looking back.

And Willow threw the first fire ball. It hit. One down, nineteen or more to go. She tossed out a second, a third, a forth that went wild, but a fifth that hit true, and then she screamed out loud and in Dawn’s thoughts: Go! They charged forward, slipping through a far too narrow hole in the gauntlet.

Willow hadn’t run full out for months, really not since those awful summer nights when she’d tried to lead the Scoobies while Buffy lay six feet under. They came to the end of the block, Willow keeping up, but Dawn starting to pull ahead. Her heart was beating too loudly to hear what the vampires were doing.

She’d tried to mix them up, taking out two ahead, then one to the side, the one to the other, but she missed the one on her right and hit a foxglove planting. Who’d have thought it would burn so prettily. She’d tossed one more ahead, and then she’d screamed go. Screamed like a little girl, her Willow voice sounding. Screamed because she was afraid, screamed because she’d done what she’d thought was unthinkable. Screamed because the magicks were all around her, just like the vampires. Screamed for Tara.

They rounded another corner, two more blocks to go. Something moved in her peripheral vision, tall, narrow, fast. No, not one thing, two things, two figures. Two more vampires dead ahead. “Dawnie, look out!”

Dawn went down, a tumble of arms, legs, knees, elbows, shoulders hitting the ground. Willow tripped over her, knees scraping on the rough concrete of Sunnydale’s forever broken sidewalks, broken because who bothered with well paved sidewalks when they lived on a hellmouth. And then something else, something likewise narrow, fast. A flash of blond hair. A billowing black coat.

Willow watched Spike swinging high and true, sheer momentum spinning the battle axe in his hands, a head severed, vampire dust blowing in the wind. She was still on the ground, tangled up with Dawn, Spike was standing above them. He said something, he said, “Red,” more vampires swarmed around them.

Willow rolled off of Dawn and back onto her feet. Her thoughts were spinning in her head like the flashing light off Spike’s battle axe. She reached down and helped Dawn off the pavement.

“Stay close, Red, you too, Little Bit.”

Spike spoke softly, and Willow could see what she thought was fear in his eyes. She’d never seen it before. Was this what it meant to have a soul? Not a good time for existential questions, or was the question metaphysical? Not a good time for metaphysical questions, either. An excellent time to concentrate, however. To calm, to focus, to speak.

Spike startled, but he didn’t move when the fire ball ignited. “Now that’s what I like to see.”

They both moved to flank Dawn, fire on the left, a sharp blade on the right. Still, it was pretty pointless. The vampires were gathered again, formed into a circle. Willow quickly counted them: thirteen, no one’s lucky number. And these were the smart ones, not the knuckle-heads she’d flattened before, the pack thinned, Darwin for the undead. Pretty pointless.

***

The tiny white light bobbed ahead as the three ran behind it. Buffy at point, Tara a length behind, Giles maintaining but breathing hard. Tara felt fear skittering along her skin, not her fear, Willow’s. Fear and something else. Fear of something more than whatever had Willow and Dawnie cornered. They rounded the corner onto Magnolia and saw a cadre of vampires surrounding something, someone, someones. Tara pulled ahead, her battle axe rising up in the air, and then a burst of energy, Buffy as if on wings. Buffy reaching them first. Then Tara.

Ignited. She swung high and severed the head of a vampire dressed in what had once been a Sunday suit. The years of training on her own, with her cadre, with Sam, all of it coalescing inside of her, her body mastered, her thinking silenced, Tara becoming her weapon. Another swing, another cloud of dust.

Buffy leaping into the air and scissor kicking two vamps to the ground. A stake in one hand, another cloud of dust. Tara aware and not, seeing from the corners of her eyes the vampires regrouping, moving into another formation, searching for red hair, a narrow silhouette. Seeing something else, someone else with a weapon. Vampires didn’t use weapons. A flash of light on steel, a blade singing through the air. Someone else. A ball of fire sailing through the night air.

And then it was over. A cloud of dust rising on the wind, blowing towards the downtown. Tara dropped her weapon. Willow was glassy-eyed, standing on the green strip between the street and the sidewalk, her hair hanging about her face, her shirt pulled from her skirt, her knees bloodied.

“Willow,” she said, her voice still rough with fear, and Willow made some sound, some odd sound, not a cry, not a shout, the noise of the most aching pain, and Tara moved, unaware, on instinct, on a need too deep to register.

Arms holding, lungs breathing, pulling in, inhaling, needing to surround, encompass, protect, because she could have lost her, lost everything.

“Willow, it’s okay. I’m here. I’m not going to let go.”

“Tara?” And then racking sobs, a pain so deep it could have cracked the earth, Willow letting go to it, trying to breathe it out.

“Baby, I’m here. I’m here.”

Tara registered the others in some far corner of her brain. The vampire she knew was named Spike was standing next to Buffy, the two of them scanning the area, on guard and looking for trouble. Dawn was cuddled inside Giles arms, sobbing. Something else, something on the air, a scent so familiar, a scent of magicks, of Willow’s magicks.

“Baby, we need to go. We need to get out of here.”

***

They were back in the practice room, the two of them alone, one of them crying, the other offering comfort, but this time it was Willow in tears.

“I kind of like this,” Tara said, very softly.

Willow reached for another tissue to wipe her eyes, and then one more to blow her nose. “Well, that’s just wrong.” A faint grin offered counterpoint to her words.

“It’s nice. You and me, cuddling together on the not so very pleasant smelling practice m-mats. And by the way, when I thought that in my head, I didn’t slip on the ‘m’ sound.”

“I hate it when I act like a baby.”

“No one thinks you’re acting like a baby. You’re just crying for the both of us.”

“Doing double-duty? More than my share?”

Tara answered by pressing yet another kiss to Willow’s hair. She was sitting with her back braced against a stack of floor mats; Willow was lying against her chest, straddled between her arms and legs, her head tucked under Tara’s chin.

“How did you know we were in trouble?”

“I felt something. I can’t describe it. A feeling just hit me all of a sudden. So suddenly that I managed to forget to dodge and took one of Buffy’s round-house kicks to the chest.” Tara felt Willow begin to stir, and she tightened her arms to hold Willow still. “I’m okay. Really. What I really need is for you not to move.”

“You used a spell?”

“I called on Aradia to find you, and then I started running. I don’t even remember picking up my weapon. Buffy and Mr. Giles followed me, followed Aradia’s token.” Tara kissed Willow’s temple. “I’ve been scared before, but this time . . . I’ve never been scared like that. I thought my heart was going to break out of my chest.”

“I didn’t realize it was so late.”

“Baby, it wasn’t late. It was barely sunset. Those vamps were early and organized.”

Something scary to think about, Sunnydale’s vampires didn’t organize, that wasn’t there way. And something scarier.

“Tara, I had to use magicks.”

“I know.” Tara spoke at just above a whisper. “Baby, I know.”

“I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Willow, it’s okay. What you did was right.”

“I broke my promise to you.”

“Not to m-me. You never made that promise to me. This is the promise you keep to me. You don’t die.” Tara clutched Willow tighter. “My Willow doesn’t die, because that’s the one thing I really couldn’t take.”

***

Almost an hour passed before they came out of the practice room. Buffy, Giles, and Spike were where they’d left them, at the research table. Dawn was there, too. Anya and Xander were at the counter.

“Xander ordered Chinese delivery,” Dawn said, coming off her chair and going to Willow. “Hug, please.” And to Tara, “You, too.”

Tara drew Dawn close and noticed she could smell vampire dust in the girl’s hair. It was probably all over all of them. Her eyes caught with Willow’s; we’re safe she tried to say.

“I ordered your favorite, the five-spice tofu,” Xander said, also going to Willow and Tara. “Group hug.” He wrapped his arms around all three. “You know next time Dawn sends out an all points Scooby 911, don’t forget to also send out the all clear.”

“Xander exceeded the posted speed limit driving to the location of the attack. He could have gotten a speeding ticket,” Anya said, still standing at the counter.

“Well, then it’s a lucky thing the Sunnydale police were elsewhere as always.”

The group hug broke apart with Dawn pulling Willow and Tara to the table, where now everyone sat down, Tara between Willow and Spike. She made a sideways glance at the vampire, and noticed he was doing the same to her.

“So what exactly happened, I mean we’ve heard Dawn’s version and where Spike came in, but . . .”

Willow put her hands on the edge of the table, as if bracing against it. “Dawn and I were walking back to the Magic Box when I guess I heard something, maybe felt something. The next thing I remember a vamp was standing about three feet behind us. We started to run, but then there were more of them in front of us.” She stopped for several moments, seeming to debate what to say next. “I didn’t know what else to do, we didn’t have any weapons, and so I started casting fireballs.”

Giles spoke first, then Xander, then Buffy, all three saying roughly the same thing, saying roughly the same thing as Tara had been saying the past hour, but Willow still couldn’t seem to hear it.

Buffy reached across the table and curled her fingers over Willow’s. “Will, look at me. Just look at me. I get it. I get the whole recriminations thing.”

“Do you? Buffy, I promised myself, I promised you—“

“What? To let yourself die, to let Dawn be killed?”

“Willow,” Giles interjected, his tone soft, gentle, “you’ve been through a horrendous ordeal and you came through it. You saved Dawn and you saved yourself.”

“Spike saved . . .”

“We don’t need to start arguing over who saved who, Red. You know perfectly well I couldn’t have held all of them off on my own. It was your little fire balls kept us in the fight. What we should be hashing out is when was the last time any of us saw a cadre of vamps organized and ready at bleedin’ dusk, let alone ready to start a feedin’ frenzy in downtown SunnyD.”

“Not that I’m ready to start agreeing with Spike, but he’s right. What the hell was that?” Xander reached over and dropped his arm around the back of Anya’s chair. “Besides organized.”

Tara wanted the subject to change, but she didn’t like the way Willow was retreating into herself. Conscious of Buffy’s more than interested gaze, she leaned over and brushed a kiss along Willow’s temple, and then whispered near her ear, “You need to stop f-freaking out, because for the first time in my life I’m sitting at a table next to vampire.” More than the kiss, this caught Willow’s attention.

“Organized and stealthy,” Willow interjected, her voice sill sounding rough, but her tone steady.

“Vamps don’t do stealthy. Vamps barely do socialization, especially the newly risen, so are we thinking this is another one of those portents?”

“I’ve little doubt of that, Buffy. Albert and Tara have both seen portents revealing this new evil’s influence. As the apprentice draws closer, more and more of the dark world will be drawn here to meet him.” Giles took of his glasses, inspected the lenses, and then returned them to his face. “Horrific as tonight’s attack was, I confess I am less worried about the denizens of this reality on their way to Sunnydale than what might be coming from the other. Tara’s provided me with profiles of some of the more treacherous demons who may soon breach this world, and Buffy has adjusted her training accordingly; nevertheless, these demons will remain far less predictable in their habits and strategies. As we’ve learned from Tara, among other things, in their native reality they are not adverse to attacking during daylight, more they do not shy from populated areas.”

“Is there any way we could set up some . . . I don’t know, early warning system?” Xander said while looking at Tara.

“Anya and I were doing some research the other day, and we think we can create a s-spectral rod tuned for dimensional incursions. It’s called a vresh.”

“It wouldn’t keep anything out,” Anya said, “but it would give the witchy among us a kind of sixth sense for things going wrong.”

“Witchy among us, so spell-casters like you, Giles, Tara . . .” Buffy hesitated, but then added, “and Willow, but not me.”

“You and Xander haven’t accumulated enough t-time with the magicks to be able to tune it, so it could only be the four of us,” Tara said.

“Could I be excluded?” The tension in Willow’s voice was palpable. Anya chewed on her upper lip, and said nothing, leaving it to Tara to explain.

“Will, it’s a four-hand spell. And there’s s-something else, once the vresh is created and operational, there’s no way to dampen its effects for one without dampening its effects for everyone.”

Tara understood. She understood Willow’s reluctance to help, but she could protect her, and given what was coming to Sunnydale, she could think of no alternatives. Her thoughts spinning, she was grateful when Giles finally spoke up and said, “Perhaps we might think more about this tomorrow, or at least once we’ve all had dinner.”

***

Tara closed the bedroom door behind her and glanced at the clock. It was only midnight, but it felt later. Following dinner, they’d all headed for Buffy’s house, even Spike, and afterwards, Tara joined Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Xander on patrol. She’d been unhappy to leave Willow alone, but she needed to see for herself if there were any further evidence of vampires forming cadres, because when she stopped thinking of what could have happened to Willow and Dawn, what scared her most was seeing this reality’s vampires taking on the characteristics of her reality’s vamps.

While they were patrolling, Spike had confirmed more or less what Tara had been thinking, Spike noting the only time he’d ever seen vampires act in concert was when one of them was making a play to be the next big bad, and so far as he knew no local vampire was planning to become the next master. She’d paired off with him to take on the east cemeteries, leaving Buffy, Giles, and Xander to patrol the south cemeteries, before all of them met to make a sweep of the downtown.

They rousted out a few vampires at Evergreen cemetery, but none at Parkview. Downtown, they found a trio smoking cigarettes in the alley behind Forbidden Sweets. But they didn’t seem to be part of any larger organization, and now were only dust in the wind. And then everyone split up, Buffy and she heading back to the house, Xander home to his apartment, Giles to his hotel room (he’d moved a third time and was now staying at the downtown Sunnydale Arms, and was still neglecting to explain what he was keeping in the trailer parked in Buffy’s driveway), and Spike to his crypt.

Tara had already come into the room once before to collect her sleep clothes before washing up in the bathroom, and she noticed Willow had moved in her sleep, she’d been lying on her stomach and now she was curled up on her side, hair spilled across the pillow, one hand drawn close to her face. Tara moved on near silent feet to the bed and slipped under the covers, ready to sleep as well.

“Tare,” Willow said, softly, sleepily.

“It’s okay, just sleep.”

Eyelids fluttered open and green found blue. “Hey.”

Willow touched Tara’s face, just a fingertip running along the cheek. “How was the slaying?”

“The vamps were disorganized, a good thing. I paired off with Spike, which was weird.” Willow’s expression showed she understood the weird part. “Are you okay?”

“My brain shut off for a little while, but my stomach’s still acidy over the fireballs.”

“And Anya’s and my idea,” Tara said, because she knew Willow couldn’t.

“I know you think I’m being too big with the worry.”

“No, no I don’t think that. I get it, Will. I realize what I’m asking you to do. You’ve worked hard—“

“At something you don’t think is necessary, baby. The problem is I don’t know what’s right anymore. I love knowing I’m part of this line, me, Willow, part of the Revane family line. I love that, I love saying it. But I also can’t forget what I did.”

“Willow, last spring—“

“As awful as it was, last spring I can sort of get my mind around. I hate what I did, what I became, how I hurt people, that I killed. But what scares me most is what I did to Tara before all of that, the spells I put on her. I wasn’t crazy with grief and anger and everything. I was just me, being selfish, misusing magicks.” Tara started to speak, but Willow spoke over her, “I used magicks to mess with the person I loved most, and I used magicks to mess with people who were at worst annoying, but mostly just bystanders. I’m talking about things Amy and I did at the Bronze.”

“Will, you didn’t have someone to teach you—“

“Not to be a jerk? No one needs to learn that, they should just know it.”

“Okay, you were a jerk. And you did stuff you’re not h-happy about. Sometimes you resented Tara, Willow those things happen. People resent one another and they do things they end up not liking.”

“You don’t. I mean you don’t resent people.”

“I’ve done that. Some of the foster families I lived with, I hated their kids. I hated that they had parents and I didn’t. I resented my brother, both versions of him.”

“Versions?”

“One of my not so nice words. Before I was born my parents had a baby boy my father named Donny, but he died. Then after I was born they had another baby boy, and my father named him Donny, too. Donald was my grandfather’s first name. Anyway, I resented the way it seemed like I was just this misstep in between. Willow, I’ve m-made mistakes, everyone has. I get that you’re scared. I wish I wasn’t asking, but I need you. I need you . . .” Tara touched Willow’s face. “I need you by me. Not just to help with the magicks, I need you.”

Tara at first didn’t even realize she was starting to cry, and then the tears started to come forward in an unexpected rush. Eyes blinded, she folded herself into Willow’s arms.

“I got so scared, Will. I could feel you in trouble, and I got so scared like my insides were going to twist right out of me.”

Willow’s arms closed tight and Tara felt ashamed for wanting comfort when it was Willow who’d been in danger, Willow and Dawn. She calmed down slowly, soothed by Willow’s stroking along her back, her hair and turned so she could see Willow’s face again.

“Better?”

“Better,” Tara confirmed, feeling more and more embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I made things about me when we were talking about you.”

“Hey, first of all I think we can talk about both of us at the same time, and second, I think I get it. It’s scarier now because for one you feel responsible, like it’s your fault the vamps are organizing, which is silly, and two, because I’m not the only one who is different, so are you.” Willow brought Tara’s fingers to her lips and kissed them. “Before you were fighting side by side with your friends, and dear as they were to you they weren’t—“

“My family,” Tara said softly.

“Protecting Dawnie isn’t the same thing.”

“Neither is protecting you.”

“And that makes things scarier, riskier, and you’re not used to it. Not that you really get used to it, but it gets better.” Willow put another kiss on Tara’s fingertips. “It won’t get easier, but it won’t always hit you so hard. When Tara first started going out on patrol, I was a mess. Up until then I’d never really understood how Buffy felt when Xander or I would get into trouble.”

“You and Xander got into trouble?” Tara asked, feigning surprise.

“Some other time ask me about Malcolm, my one and only online boyfriend who turned out to be a demon named Moloch. Or about how Xander almost got it on with a giant praying mantis.” Tara smiled the smile Willow had been seeking, but to be sure, Willow asked, “Are you better?”

“Better. What about you? Is your stomach still acidy?”

Willow considered and rejected lying. “A little. Less now that you’re here. Can I put my head on your shoulder?” Tara answered by rolling onto her back and drawing Willow closer and Willow started moving her hand over Tara’s stomach, liking the clean cottony feeling of Tara’s tee shirt, one of hers that featured a scene of kittens playing with a ball of string. “Have I mentioned that I like it that you wear my tee shirts to bed.”

“A couple of times.”

“It always feels so nice and homey.” A memory of their morning floated up into Willow’s thoughts. “Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t mind seeing you in one of the pressies I bought for you.”

Willow thought she could hear Tara bite her lip, but Tara said nothing, and Willow continued moving her hand over Tara’s stomach, now liking the warmth of Tara’s body heat. She didn’t want sex, not yet, she wanted something else, something there didn’t seem to be a word to describe, or at least she could think of and she wasn’t really thinking when her hand slipped under the fabric and started to move over skin soft and scared and so very warm. “Is this okay?”

Tara waited a while to answer, but finally there came a soft, “yes.”

Willow raised her head to see Tara’s eyes just as Tara was moving to kiss her. Their lips met softly, and their bodies shifted again, now lying face to face. They continued to kiss, slowly, softly, sometimes their lips barely brushing. Willow was surprised when one of Tara’s hands moved onto her breast. Less surprising was Tara’s uncertainty, the tentativeness of her touch.

Willow sat up, letting the covers pool at her waist, and she looked at Tara lying their in her uncertainty, her tentativeness. “Both of us had scares tonight,” she said as she swept her tee shirt over her head. “I need to feel you next to me.” And she reached for the hem of Tara’s tee shirt.

Tara sat up, and her eyes showed many things, need, desire, shyness, fear. She let Willow take off her shirt, and then they lay back onto the bed, Willow’s head on Tara’s shoulder, Willow’s hand moving on Tara’s stomach. Before they fell asleep, they kissed several more times.

***

Tara crept through the underbrush until she could see them. They lay curled into each other, the one she now knew was called Willow held the other, the girl who looked like her reflection in her arms. She’d heard them first, soft voices speaking murmured words, soft cries of what Tara thought was pleasure, and she’d hesitated getting too close to them. She didn’t want to spook them, not when they’d given her so much. So she crept towards them quietly until she found this small pocket next to a fallen tree where she could see unobserved. Tara felt protective of them, even though she understood they’d been protecting her, also. It felt nice to be a protector, she thought, cuddling White Leg in her lap.

Above her she could see a star filled night sky through a circle of trees. She wondered if the moon had already set or if it was the new moon. Not knowing the moon’s phase bothered her, it was something she usually knew with certainty, at least since she’d quickened all those years ago. Still there was comfort in seeing the familiar star patterns, as they reminded her of the stories her mother had told her. Stories of gods and goddesses and heroes. She hoped someday she might be a hero.

A bird’s call to another pulled her eyes east and it was then she saw it, coursing through the wind swept sky, a trace of light. She wondered if White Leg saw it, too. An exclamation from Willow told her the girls definitely saw it, and in the back of Tara’s mind a thought tickled, one she couldn’t bring forward, but which sent her spiraling into another dream, the dream within the dream where sometimes bodies hung from lampposts, and other times walls of flame swept the land, and more times there were lessons to be learned and cookies to eat.


Last edited by Tecnopagan on Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 10:57 am 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for great update-y goodness... Organized vampires = definately not a good thing... Good that Willow and Tara are becoming familiar with each other bodies...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 3:54 am 
Offline
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 11:14 am
Posts: 525
Location: wales
wey hey x 2 :party

_________________
collecting dead rainbows from puddles and mires
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://lostcoast.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 3:51 am 
Offline
4. Extra Flamey
User avatar

Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:04 pm
Posts: 168
Location: New Zealand
Hello. I've avoided leaving feedback for this story since you started updating again 'cause I pretty much want to write an essay but haven't yet conjured the brain power to do so. However, I couldn't go on in good conscience without letting you know the role these past two updates have had in assuring I retain even a tiny bit of my sanity during these weeks of mid-semester hell. Your story has the power to heal and preserve an otherwise thoroughly knackered soul and I'm so happy you've returned to it. I just wanted you to know that. Thanks.

_________________
Blogness


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 6:20 pm 
Offline
1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:06 pm
Posts: 1
I was pretty late to the Willow/Tara fic scene so I read this fic during the hiatus without much hope of it ever being continued. And then lo and behold! a couple weeks ago I decided that I wanted to reread this only to discover that there were updates! A very pleasant surprise, indeed. So thank you.

Also, that was easily the best fight scene I think I've ever read (and since it's BTVS, I've read a few). I can't really put my finger on what it was but for some reason the whole thing just kind of got to me and I could really feel the urgency and the desperation. And Willow realizing that their only hope is if she uses magic... yeah I may or may not have teared up a bit (which was pretty surprising).

Anyways, thank you so much for the great updates!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 10:30 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 50
Location: So Cal
I'm having the evening from hell--I suspect I only need write the words sewer back-up in the backyard and guest house and you will get my drift--the initial emergency is now over (never underestimate the passion of a tecnopagan when requesting assistance) and the city cleaning crew has arrived. In any event, thank you Owl and Allicando for today's incredibly kind comments about DR; you've made a rough night easier. Thanks you also Zampsa, Still Waters (you will always rule), Fuschin, and TaraWillow for your kind comments/encouragements.

Allicando, I must admit that the fight scene you noted is the most satisfying fight scene I've ever written. I think the scene works because of the dual danger: the physical danger to Willow and Dawn and the psychic danger to Tara, two flavors of terror, if you will. There is always a small cheat in physical danger scenes----as a story, DR would have no where to go if Willow was killed. Marrying a physical danger to a psychological danger (or perhaps a danger to the soul) allows the former to "work."
Also, it was terrific fun to write the Tara, Buffy, to the rescue parallel scenes (as well as toss in a Spike appearance).

Owl, I am so happy DR has provided you with a welcome distraction. On more than one occasion writing it has provided me with the same!

Thanks to everyone who has read DR thus far, and special thanks to everyone who has posted in response to these updates. More DR will come in if not due, at least time.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 4:19 am 
Offline
11. Fish in the Bowl
User avatar

Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:51 am
Posts: 1451
Location: United States of Tara o/
when I start to read DR I was impressed about this story... She made me cry a few times (when I was at work, it was really funny actually XD)

I´m really glad you decided to keep her going, and I´m looking forward the next update! you´re an amazing writer!

btw, I just LOVE your Tara...

_________________
- Proud Warrant Officer of the Kitten Army - Semper WillTarus!! -

My Heart Draws a Dream
True Colors of Love
A Crazy Little Thing Called Mutation


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 8:49 am 
Offline
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:04 am
Posts: 688
Topics: 1
Just wanted to say what a wonderful job you're doing. (I haven't been the most regular feedback giver, but not for lack of love for the story.) This continues to be one of my favorites; I just love how layered it is, and the characterizations continue to thrill. I admit to having been nervous about Willow's lingerie gift - it felt too forward, but after the initial shock it worked. Challenging their boundaries in a way that is familiar and confident but not pushy or overly presumptuous. I am looking forward to the emotional aspect of the payoff - Tara wearing said lingerie - way more than I am the physical. (Though, looking forward to that too, of course!)

I like how you continue to explore how new Tara is to the group through mentions of her physical differences, namely her fighting skills and her numerous scars. It's a great reminder that this is a different person, and does a lot to give the reader a chance to visualize this new person. The fight scene in the latest update was fantastic, sparse but thrilling. It was just the right amount of tension and action, really great job. I continue to be intrigued by Willow's reticence with magic, and the upcoming Big Bad. But mostly, I continue to love your writing and how this Willow and this Tara are coming together. Fantastic job, thank you so much for continuing to write and share.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 7:32 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 7:21 am
Posts: 76
Location: Lost in the recesses of my mind.
Wow!! I JUST got caught back up! How horrible is that? Absolutely loved it!!! Can't wait for more. :party


D :peace

_________________
We Live and Laugh and hope beyond hope to find Love.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:08 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sat Jan 05, 2008 9:38 pm
Posts: 123
Location: Right Here
This story is absolutely gorgeous.

I love how new Tara has part of old Tara in her, but how she's also very much her own person. I also enjoy watching Willow and Tara's relationship progress, quite a bit more openly than in the show. The way you write all of the characters is amazing, especially Dawn, She's so much less bratty in your story, and in my opinion much more realistic.
I really hope you are able to continue writing this, I'd like to see how it ends.

Thanks for sharing, :love
EvilKitty. :peace


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:44 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:46 am
Posts: 107
Location: here (giggles)
This has been an amazing story... the detail that you put into the characters and realities is awesome... trying to integrate the two Taras was an inspired idea... i can't wait to see where this adventure will take me next :kitty

_________________
Life is created from the imagination. Never let your imagination die.
Darkest Desires
The True Nature of Soulmates
Scarlet Black


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:38 am 
Offline
5. Willowhand
User avatar

Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:59 pm
Posts: 267
Location: ok city oklahoma
any chance of update?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:49 am 
Offline
1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:56 am
Posts: 9
I've emerged out of lurkdom and registered on this forum just so I can post here and state my HUUUUUGE appreciation of this fic. Thank you so much for the hard work writing this over such a long time! I only very recently found and read this (heh I am really really late to the Willow/Tara scene). Really enjoyed reading it, I have not much to offer in terms of constructive criticism. It's a pity to see it (or her if you prefer) left hanging...alrighty back to lurkdom now, just wanted to let you know that there is at least one enthusiastic reader out there who would love an update if you are interested.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:43 pm 
Offline
9. Gay Now
User avatar

Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
Posts: 919
Topics: 14
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Yup, nicely done.
Add me to the hordes bouncing up and down for an update. :bounce
I must admit you've handled the the whole Tara 1.0 Tara 2.0 thing really well.
The ethics of soul merging is interesting.

A lot of stories with "Alternate timeline Tara" do a soul/memory swap to sidestep it.
I like how the characters are working through the situation.

It's good.

Now update dammit!

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


My Story: Coming Home


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:43 pm 
Offline
2. Floating Rose

Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:11 am
Posts: 21
I finally finished reading this. It is amazing and that does not do it justice. I love the way you have developed all of your characters. This stories details really hook in the reader. Hopefully more will come soon.

Alicia


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:24 pm 
Offline
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 11:14 am
Posts: 525
Location: wales
well, it's over 2 years since TP updated this story and I'm sure Real Life has intruded and taken her off in directions new. A shame really since I would have loved seeing how the story unfolded. We all know how it ends W&T live happily ever after [as every W&T story should] but it's the getting there that intruiges me.

I even thought of trying to write an ending myself, but abandoned that idea as being trying to graft a shoddy bodywork kit onto a classic e-type Jag.

I got as far as copying and downloading the story as a Word doc and editing the grammar and punctuation here and there, and then uploading it onto my Kindle so I could read it again and again, but really it needs TP to come and finish it off. :bigwave

_________________
collecting dead rainbows from puddles and mires
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://lostcoast.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2015 1:26 pm 
Offline
9. Gay Now
User avatar

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:57 am
Posts: 956
Location: London
I apologise in advance for raising people's hopes that this might be a new update ...
I just wanted to double check if there was any way of contacting Tecnopagan as it has been mentioned before that she had a few of the later chapters written up? I've been reading the fic for more than 10 years and was hoping for some sort of closure :)

Cheers everyone!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:31 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 50
Location: So Cal
CHAPTER 29

Tara glided her hands atop the surface of the bath water, distracting herself with the play of light and shadow cast by the candles above her. The hot water felt wonderful, the heat sinking into her over taxed muscles. She’d been pushed hard by the day’s practice session: a new fighting strategy Giles had discovered in a Watcher’s journal from the nineteenth century. For Buffy, the moves had come as second nature, but for her only with considerable and repetitive practice, plus she was nursing the bruise from yesterday’s practice. Sam’s voice echoed in her head, “stop whining.”

Sam was right, she was whining, but mostly because she was at an impasse. They needed the spectral rod, but Willow was still turning the idea over in her head. Tara understood, or at least she thought she understood Willow’s reasons. Casting fireballs to protect Dawn and herself had pushed a limit, conjuring a vresh would crash right through that limit, and so Tara had tried not to push. She didn’t want to push; she wanted Willow to decide to participate on her own. Not pushing was hard, much harder than learning yesterday’s fighting strategy.

A knocked sounded on the door and Tara looked up, causing the water in her bath to surge about. She called out, and Willow answered before coming through the door.

“I brought you a glass of ice tea,” Willow said, her eyes carefully not looking towards Tara, her posture oddly stiff.

Tara guessed the reason. “Thanks, and it’s okay for you to come in, Will. Remember, me not so modest.”

Tara’s joke earned her a grin. Willow came up to the tub, handing off the ice tea before pulling out parking herself on the stool they kept underneath a small console table. “Besides, it’s not like I . . .”

Willow trailed off and again Tara guessed the reason, this time based on the color of Willow’s cheeks, which was a delightful pink. “Haven’t given me a bath?”

“Pretty much.”

Tara took a sip of her ice tea and enjoyed the rush of cold, minty sweetness as it went down her throat. “When I was a kid I hated baths, but after a month running with the cadres baths w-were a nightly fantasy. Hot water, soap, thick towels.”

Me as your very own cabana girl Will said in her thoughts. Out loud she said, “One summer my mom and dad made me go to summer camp. Besides being a nightmare of forced team sports, the showers were always out of hot water. The next year I threw one of my few and far between childhood fits when they tried to send me again.”

“I never liked team sports, either,” Tara volunteered as she leaned forward to add more hot water from the tap. The movement pulled the wrong way and she let out a tiny hiss.

“Did Buffy cause that?”

“No, the scars on my back pull if I lean a certain way.” Tara reached behind to rub along her lower back and hip.

“Hey, I’ve got it.”

Willow came off the stool and ran her fingers over the ridged flesh. “Better?”

“Better. I think when Marty put in the stitches, some of them were too tight, or something.”

Willow continued to rub along the scar and Tara let her head drop forward as the pain continued to diminish.

“I’m not even sure how much I could see in a mirror, but I’ve never looked at it. Is it bad? I mean how bad is it?”

“It’s long, but you know that, right?” Willow traced with her fingers. “It stretches from your right shoulder blade to your left hip, the ridges are thickest around here, at your mid-back. Tara, you’ve never really told me what happened.”

“We were attacked by a pack of Tsuris demons. I don’t think you have them in your world.”

“Our world,” Willow corrected softly, “it’s your world, too.”

The correction noted with a nod, Tara added, “I think they might have existed in this world a long time ago. There’s this statue in Egypt called the Sphinx. Think giant cat with massive claws that can move on four feet or two and has a …”

“Human head?” Willow interjected, sounding sick.

“Not exactly, more human-like. When they gather, they make this howl that sounds like rushing water. Besides military guns, the only thing that seems to bring them down is fire. Sam shot down the one that jumped me.”

Willow was still rubbing along the scar, and Tara leaned back into her touch. “One of the few things I remember clearly from when I was ill was you rubbing my back.”

“Feels nice?”

“Best,” Tara sighed, aware the pleasure she was feeling was somewhat more than friendly. She impulsively made a request, and Willow asked if she was sure.

Tara kept her eyes on the faucet as she listened to Willow take off her clothes, and then she pulled forward as Willow stepped into the bath. “Here,” Willow murmured, and Tara slid backwards into Willow’s arms, lying back with her head resting against Willow’s shoulder.

They fit comfortably in the tub, and Tara realized it was something Willow and her counterpart had done often.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you. It’s about me and remembering things.”

“What’s that?”

Tara felt a kiss against her hair. “When we kiss, in that m-moment, it’s like I don’t have the memories. Afterwards things come back. I don’t know why I want you to know that, but I do.”

Willow didn’t say anything in return, and the two fell into a comfortable silence. Tara shifted and Willow’s hand began to move along her belly, her fingers brushing over the other set of scars and Tara remembered lying on the couch downstairs and Willow doing the same.

“Do you make comparisons?”

Tara had to think a moment to figure out what Willow meant. When she realized, she wasn’t surprised by the question.

“It’s not like that. What I remember was how Tara felt.” And then Tara understood the point she’d been trying to make minutes earlier. She wondered for a moment how it was Willow could figure out so quickly what she wanted to say, when she herself was unsure. “In a way, some details would help. I overheard Anya and Dawn talking about my lack of . . . knowledge, I suppose. Dawn was saying someone should tell me about things I could read on the web.”

“Dawn and Anya probably need to stop running their mouths about this stuff, but they mean well.”

“I know they do.” Tara tilted her head so that she could see Willow’s face. “I think I’d rather learn about things with you.”

They leaned forward at the same moment, mouths meeting in a kiss. One of Willow’s hands continued moving along Tara’s stomach, the other moved to stroke the side of Tara’s face. Hesitantly, thinking she needed to give permission, Tara brought the hand moving along her belly up to her breast. “Willow,” she whispered into her lover’s mouth, as her body seemed to catch fire. “I want . . .”

“Baby, I want to touch you everywhere.” Willow whispered back. “But not here, in the bath I mean.”

They got out of the tub, and toweled each other off, Willow letting herself look at Tara without the filter of playing nursemaid and Tara simply looking at Willow, and then catching a sly grin.

“Baby, you’re looking kind of dopey. Are you okay?”

Tara found it in herself to nod, but did not trust herself to speak.

They wrapped themselves in their bathrobes, put out the candles, and headed for the bedroom. Once inside, the door locked behind them, a new wave of shyness came over Tara, one countered quickly by Willow taking her into her arms.

“This isn’t just your first time, baby. It’s mine, too.”

Tara couldn’t stop herself. “Really?”

Willow answered with a kiss, and spun the two of them around until they fell onto the bed laughing, held inside the circle of each other’s arms. And then quiet, a shift in the air and Willow claimed another kiss, her thoughts silencing as her body began to speak for her, hands moving slowly over Tara, taking away their robes, skin moving against skin, more kisses. So many and still not enough, never enough. Willow moved softly, slowly, her body pressing into Tara’s, legs intertwining, hands moving over skin that she knew and didn’t know, remembering and discovering, hands moving over breasts and belly, over hips and thighs, soon her mouth and nose doing the same, tasting and smelling, remembering and discovering, drawing Tara into her, drawing awake nerve endings and appetites, remembering and discovering Tara’s body until Tara shuddering against her and more kisses, still not enough, never enough.

They lay together intertwined, their bodies shifting round until it was Willow cuddled into a Tara’s warm frame, not fully understanding how great her need was for this shelter, the only shelter.

“Wow,” Tara whispered. Willow could hear the smile on Tara’s lips. “I didn’t think--”

“Thinking’s overrated when it comes to this.” Willow winked. “It’s one of the only times thinking’s overrated.”

“Which makes this pretty special, huh.”

Tara was blushing, she could feel the heat on her face, light and delicate, entirely unlike the blushing she knew from embarrassment or even happiness. “I love you,” she breathed near Willow’s ear.

Willow brought Tara’s hand to her mouth and kissed each of the fingers. “I love you, too.”

Minutes passed, energy building between them, an electricity Willow thought that tasted like them, but of magicks too. I understand this. They shifted more times, Willow needing to shelter Tara, Tara needing to be held, and then they made love again, this time Tara hesitantly, tentatively, heartbreakingly, lovingly bringing Willow to release.

“Okay,” Willow whispered.

“Yes,” Tara whispered back.

***

Tara held the door as they left Los Jibertos and walked onto the pedestrian mall. It was evening and she and Willow were enjoying the “date” they’d postponed from the night before, as well as an afterglow that was keeping them reaching for the other. Outside, the mall was crowded as always, although to Willow’s eyes the mall appeared suspiciously overrun with theater majors from UC Sunnydale.

She and Tara were walking towards Luigi’s for post-dinner Americanos when something flashed across the sky. “Hey, did you see that?” Willow said, turning towards Tara, who was stopped in her tracks.

“A falling star,” Tara murmured distractedly. “I’m supposed to remember something.”

“To go see Albert Little,” Willow said, the idea seemingly flying into her thoughts, “But I have no idea why.”

“It’s a harbinger.” Tara now spoke firmly, her feet starting to move.

“No, I mean I have no idea why I know this.” Willow kept still, forcing Tara to still also. She looked into blue eyes. “Do you?”

“No,” Tara admitted sheepishly. “But I think you’re right. As soon as you said it, I knew that was what we were supposed to do.” She smiled before adding weakly, Great minds?”

Willow raised her eyebrows and grinned. “Maybe we’re just on a similar wavelength.”

***

They found Albert in his usual spot behind the counter entertaining a pair of Goths. For a brief moment Willow thought one of them was Michael Czajak, her one time high school witchy acquaintance, only to remember Michael had gone away to college someplace back east and hadn’t been heard of since. Albert merely nodded as she and Tara headed towards the side door that lead to the library. Willow wasn’t sure they’d be able to cross into the annex on their own, but Tara seemed confident and merely pushed open the door.

Willow followed Tara through and immediately breathed in the scents of magicks, old leather, and drying paper. The annex seemed very much as they’d left it, books scattershot across the tabletops, the cunningly little lights twinkling above.

“Have you remembered what you’re supposed to remember?” Willow asked. Her voice sounded muffled in the room, and she wondered if the sound effect was the result of the many books.

“Nothing beyond ‘go see Albert,’ and, I guess, await further instructions.” Tara reached out for Willow’s hand. “You’re not bothered by any of this, are you?”

“Miss Hartness tried very hard to teach me patience. Plus, it helps that we just had a really nice dinner and a super really nice before going out to dinner.”

“Super really nice, huh.”

Both were bushing but it was Tara who moved a step closer and then leaned in to claim a kiss. They exchanged several more before Albert came bustling through the door, loud enough for them to move apart before a different kind of blushing might ensue.

“I take it tonight’s the night and me not entirely prepared for winter conditions,” Albert said, carrying a coat and boots. He also had a backpack slung over his shoulder and a thermos dangling from a strap wrapped around his right hand.

“Winter conditions?” Willow said.

Albert handed off the coat and boots to Tara, while offering Willow a smile. “A fresh snowfall, and maybe another on the way. Unusual but not unheard of for middle October. He looked at Tara. “If you can’t find your way, call on Aradia. I know you needed to ask her blessing not long ago, trust me she will understand your calling on her again so quickly.”

“Wait a second. You’re acting like we understand what’s going on. We don’t,” Willow said.

Tara looked into concerned green eyes. “Yes, we do, Will. Stop resisting.” She cupped her hands around Willow’s face. “You know this.”

And Willow knew, the knowledge coming to her like a flash, like a dream. “Moonstone,” Willow whispered, understanding what it was, what it meant, as soon as the words left her tongue. “You’ll be careful.”

“Always. You’ll wait for me?”

“Always.”

They kissed tenderly and then Albert helped Tara into her coat, but it was Willow who hooked together the toggles and loops. Albert also had a long scarf, which Willow wrapped around Tara’s neck, and a knit cap with earflaps and strings that hung below the chin. Tara put her cap on herself, and then she kissed Willow one last time for luck.

“I’m ready,” Tara said to Albert.

The threshold was a small side door between two tall bookcases. Anyone would have assumed it was nothing more than a door to a broom closet so pedestrian was the doorframe, so dull was the doorknob. Albert used a skeleton key to open the lock, and when he pulled back the door a gust of cold air flooded in. There was nothing to see on the other side, literally. Just blackness, an absence of all light. Tara felt the frisson of adventure rock through her body, and then she stepped through.

***

Willow sat at one of the library tables, a plate of ginger cookies, a cup of tea, and Tara’s tarot deck in front of her. Fifty-seven minutes had passed. Thinking it was high time she did something productive she picked up Tara’s tarot deck and began to shuffle the cards. The past few mornings she’d sat with Tara while she did her morning pattern, a ritual Willow had done when she was in high school but had let slide while in college. Tara had been trying to persuade her to begin the habit again, but she’d resisted out of her usual fears of all things magickal.

The cards felt cool in her hands, and she noticed the coating was already worn. She shuffled them three times, cut them twice, and shuffled them five times more, paused to focus her thoughts, and then put down a tetractys pattern, four rows descending from one to two to three to four and smiled. Was it the deck or she that had chosen for her “self-card”, The Lovers?

***

Tara reached the edge of the city by mid-day. She had no idea of the exact time, or how far she’d walked, although it seemed to her about twelve miles, the buildings gradually transitioning from multi-storied buildings of brick and mortar to neatly built wood framed single family homes. As always, the city was deserted, but unlike the dream world version, the buildings appeared to have been occupied at some earlier time. Some of the windows were covered with paper, and she saw a tipped over trashcan in an alley. The streets were paved, and where the snowfall had blown clear she could see no oil spots, which made her wonder if the people here used cars. And if they didn’t use cars, why were the streets paved with concrete. And of course, the even bigger question, why did the people leave? Question to ask, but not to answer, as she had a lengthy journey in front of her and little time to complete it.

Besides the coat, boots, and back pack Albert had supplied her before she crossed the threshold, on the other side she’d found a carton containing three days’ worth of “meals ready to eat,” a battle axe almost as nice as the one Anya had given her for her birthday, a long knife, and a short knife. Inside the pack she found a pair of ski pants, a pair of long underwear, two long sleeved tee shirts, and a pair of heavy woolen socks. Also, tucked inside the various pockets she found a plastic bag filled with homemade cookies (ginger snaps), six chocolate bars, two aluminum water bottles, a flint striker, and a deck of tarot cards. It didn’t surprise her not to find a map, not when she’d learned already to read the sun and the stars; it did surprise her Albert hadn’t provided her with a book to read, which seemed unlike him.

The carton was found sitting on the floor of a room much like the annex, however here the books were more numerous and the tables appeared far older. The annex was attached to a store not unlike, but not exactly like Uncle Albert’s Books Used and Almost New, and the store was located on a street entirely unlike Marshall Place, as here the store tucked between two tall buildings and bore a sign battered sign reading, Books of Shadows, est. 1348.

The store was unheated and Tara could see her breath as she slipped out of her jeans and cotton socks and into the long underwear, ski pants, and wool socks. She left her shoes and street clothes behind but repacked the rest of the supplies into the backpack, the short knife tucked into an easily accessed side pocket and the long knife lashed to the back with some usefully spaced rubber laces. Then with battle-axe in hand and far more confidently then she had the first time, she set off for adventure, happy for many reasons not the least of which were this time she was well supplied for her journey, had a clear sense of purpose, and had Willow waiting for her to return. Still, one thing was missing, one tiny disappointment was present. But then these many hours later, here along on the city’s edge, a tiny sound rose up and she whirled around to look behind her.

White Leg lay on her back, one tiny paw moving back and forth. Tara didn’t make a fuss, because she knew White Leg’s dignity deserved better. She did crouch down and pick her up.

“We’ve a good distance to cover before night fall, so I think it’s best you ride,” she said as she slipped the tiny kitten into a roomy outer pocket of her coat. She looked over her shoulder one last time, a wistful smile on her face. Willow was far, far away, but she would wait for her, of that Tara was certain. Then she turned around and began walking, one foot in front of the other. It was the best way to travel.

More hours passed, the sun slowly descending, the already cold temperatures falling. By moonlight she established a rough camp, using scattered brush from along the roadside and the flint striker to create a small fire. She shared one of her MRE rations with White Leg, who repaid her with much purring, and slept until sunrise.

By late morning she reached the valley floor, this time taking a trail through the foothills instead of going overland. There she found them, a field of moonstone, glittering under the sunlight. She loaded as many as was reasonable to carry into the bottom of her pack, and then began her return, While Leg now walking by her side.

They stopped for lunch along the foothill trail, tucking into another of the MREs while listening to birds flying about overhead. One of the birds had a cry Tara thought she remembered from her childhood and she followed it a bit off trail, only to realize she’d been lead to a patch of kaysom. She harvested a dozen or so stalks and a handful of seeds for replanting (Dawn and she were planning to begin an herb garden behind the back porch) before setting again on her way.

By mid-afternoon she and White Leg were out of the foothills and back on the main road. Unfortunately, the clouds that she’d noticed earlier were now clearly gathering and coming their way. Looking around she spotted an outcropping that would make for an excellent night’s shelter. Firewood was harder to come by, but by the first fall of snowflakes, she’d gathered enough, and so they were warm, dry, and prepared for a cold winter’s night by sunset.

A good four inches fell over the course of the next few hours, but the winds were light, and their shelter easily withstood the storm. They enjoyed their dinner accented with wild rosemary Tara had found earlier growing along the trail. By morning’s light, both Tara and White Leg were rested and soon enough well fed. Indeed, their journey could not have been going better until a kilometer outside the city’s border Tara slipped on a patch of ice, skidded down a slope, and by the most unfortunate of path of luck, wedged her right leg under a fallen tree. Try as she might, she couldn’t pull free.

Feeling cold, frustrated, and embarrassed, Tara lay for several minutes on her side, While Leg tucked against her chest (fortunately the cat had been walking along side of her when she stepped on the ice). Crying out for help seemed a fruitless plan, and so when she regained her composure, Tara struggled out of the straps of her backpack, grabbed her battle axe, and began to chip.

***

Willow looked up from the book she’d pulled off one of the library shelves, an illuminated first edition of Gwinnup’s Histories of Magicks, her senses suddenly alert. At first it felt like a tickle at the back of her mind, then it felt like more. She noted the time, and then, feeling terribly nervous, she headed out of the annex and into the main store where she found Albert discussing the merits of local wildlife field guides with a gentleman Willow recognized as the manager of the Sunnydale Trader Joe’s.

“If you could excuse me a moment,” Albert said to the gentleman before heading towards Willow and checking his pocket watch. “We shouldn’t expect her for at least another forty-five minutes, I’d say . . .”

“Something’s wrong,” Willow interrupted, something she was generally loath to do to adults past a certain age.

Albert didn’t question, instead he took Willow at her word and the two quickly returned to the annex.

“Do you sense Tara’s hurt?”

“Mostly frustrated, but also a little panicky.”

Albert was crouched beside an open drawer, taking things out and putting them into another backpack, this one identical to the one he’d supplied Tara.

“All right then, I’m afraid I will have to send you in after her. I’m not sure if you’ve received enough training as yet, but it will have to do.”

“Training?” Willow repeated, having no idea what Albert was talking about, and wondering what else he had stored away in the annex, because now he was pulling out a second heavy jacket, boots, and what looked like ski pants, all of which he was neatly piling next to the backpack.

“The dreams, my dear Willow. I realize I’m moving out of turn, ahead of the game so to speak, but I’ve every reason in the world to trust your instincts.”

Albert stood up and put his hands on Willow’s shoulders. “As soon as you cross the threshold, solicit Aradia’s help. Like me, she’s grown rather fond of you.” He pressed a kiss on her forehead and then added, “Now, why don’t you get dressed and I’ll run over to the Sub Station and get sandwiches for you to take with. Unfortunately, I’m fresh out of MREs.”

Albert didn’t leave Willow time to ask questions, and so she did as he asked, shedding her street clothes (she’d worn a dress to Los Jibertos) for the winter clothing he provided, including a set of long underwear. She wondered at how it was he happened to have a pair of boots in her size, but she spent more energy wondering what had happened to Tara, who now seemed less frustrated, but also kind of achy.

By Albert’s return, she was fully dressed. “Should I be carrying any weapons?” Willow asked as Albert slipped the Sub Station bag into her backpack.

“It’s doubtful you’ll run into anything. Defensive magicks should be sufficient. Fireballs away, so to speak.”

Again, he placed his hands on Willow’s shoulders. “Take care my darling girl. Seeing you is like seeing Irene all over again. Like you she was vivacious and absolutely brilliant and I swear if she hadn’t loved Jacob done to the bone I’d have tried to steal her away.” Albert laughed. “Not that she was ever attracted to older men. Now, go find your Tara as you always do. And give her my love.”

***

Having devoted untold hours to Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Stargate in all their incarnations, Willow had expected something more than a simple passing from one room into the next. Her scientist’s mind told her the air pressure was greater and the humidity much higher, and when she came outside onto the city streets, she immediately realized two things: she’d dreamed this world many times and her reality was much younger. Now how she knew this reality was older, she could not say with certainty, but Willow knew her sense for observation was highly reliable.

The emptiness of the streets bothered her, making it a relief to call on Aradia’s help, the tiny light a reassuring companion as she headed out along a wide and seemingly never used boulevard.

Two hours had passed and Willow’s feet were past tired and the tip of her nose near ice when she spotted a small cat standing in the center of the road. It wasn’t the first animal life she’d seen. She’d spotted birds and squirrels aplenty and what she thought might have been a fox. It was the first animal life she’d known by name. White Leg, she said inside her thoughts, knowing immediately this was Tara’s cat.

Only instinct kept her from running, an instinct for ice she’d never known before. She saw the skid before she heard a cutting sound.

“Tara,” Willow yelled.

“Will, I’m down here. Watch out. I slipped on some ice.”

Willow crept carefully to the edge of what turned out to be a steep slope. “I’m coming,” she called out, moving onto her bottom and then creeping downward until she reached Tara.

Over the course of the last few hours, Tara had managed to chip away a good deal of the tree trunk, but the angle she’d been working at was poor and so much of her effort had been to no avail. With Tara’s advice, Willow made much quicker work of it, and soon enough Tara was freed, although quite frozen.

“Are you sure you don’t want to build a fire or something.”

Tara was balancing on Willow’s shoulder as they crept back up the slope. “All I really need to do is keep moving. It’s not that cold out, probably around thirty, thirty-one.”

As someone whose life experience had rarely dipped below forty and then only in the dead of winter and the middle of the night, thirty, thirty-one sounded exactly like the kind of temperature that demanded a roaring blaze and hot toddies, whatever they might be.

“I was stuck, but it wasn’t like I was immobilized. Trust me, baby, I’ll be fine.”

Willow continued to reserve comment, but once they were on the road, she wrapped her mitten-covered hand firmly around Tara’s glove covered fingers.

“So how did you know I was in trouble?”

“Probably the same way you knew Dawnie and I were being waylaid by a cadre of vamps.”

The explanation seemed reasonable, if not entirely understandable to Tara and earned Willow a quick smile.

“It’s weird being here when I’m not asleep. Plus, it seems a lot colder. The last time I dreamed of this place, it was summer.”

“Time operates pretty much as usual,” Willow said, with a glance at her wristwatch. “I mean an hour seems to take a normal length of time. Also, I think we’re in a similar time zone, the sun was highest when my watch read noon.”

“Maybe not, Will, I’ve been here three days now.”

Willow sucked in a long breath. “Okay, that’s weird. For me, it’s been more like three hours. My watch is analog, and the movement must be matching itself somehow to this reality. Go figure.”

“Do you think that means the city is in the same location as Sunnydale?"

“Probably, but I don’t think we’re in your old reality. This isn’t Bizarro-world. That was loaded with people, and so far all I’ve seen of people is you. So did you find the moonstone?”

Tara was surprised she had yet to tell Willow about the field or the other herbs and seeds she’d gathered, which now included a small harvest of razra, chibber, and nava stems, besides the kaysom she’d found the day before. She offered a quick recap of her success, and seeing the gleam in Willow’s eyes at the mention of the field of moonstone, she wished Albert had sent the two of to forage together.

A flock of skariza flew overhead and chasing after a lone brumble, which was making tracks towards a wooded area, and Tara asked Willow if she also knew that skariza hunted brumbles, and Willow said she did, her tone revealing her puzzlement.

“How do we know these things? Is all of it from dreaming, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never read about kaysom or razra, let along skariza and brumbles? And does knowing this stuff feel new to you, because it does to me?”

Tara was confident what she knew had come to her in dreams but to her the knowledge felt older.

“What made you ask about whether or not knowing this stuff is new?”

They were now coming onto the edge of the city, and Tara turned them left onto the road she now knew was the fastest route back to Books of Shadows.

“Because I don’t think I dreamed before you came.” Willow realized immediately she’d overstated. “I mean dream-dreamed.” She still wasn’t making much sense and so she squeezed Tara’s hand.

“I get it, Will.” Tara offered up a smile. “I think I’ve been dreaming longer, and I’m wondering if the dreams are tied to the quickening.”

They walked another dozen meters, Willow turning Tara’s idea over in her head, before Willow responded, “I think you might be right. I think I’ve been dreaming this kind of dreaming since England.”

Willow stepped closer, and Tara put her arm around her shoulder. They walked further, turning left onto a narrow street and then right onto a much wider boulevard. Above them a brilliant sun blazed in the cold blue winter sky, making the snow below sparkle. The temperature was still too cold for Willow’s comfort, but the sound of the snow crunching under their boots was oddly satisfying, and even though the empty city was disconcerting, there was also something oddly welcoming about it. They crossed yet another empty street and Willow understood yet another thing all of a sudden. “The moonstone is for stopping the apprentice,” she said aloud.

“More or less. The conjures in my book of shadows are based mostly in fire, and so I’m switching things up by basing a new one in ice.”

An image of Albert wearing a robe with moons and stars and a pointed hat also emerged in Willow’s thoughts. “Is Albert your teacher?” She asked it as a question, but really she was making a statement.

“For a long while, now. Barton’s Treatise on Water and Ice. He’s been teaching me conjures from it. I didn’t really understand any of this until I got myself trapped under the tree.”

“Do you ever wonder why people just can’t come out with things?”

“I just spent about two hours or so sitting on my butt in the snow. I am now a huge fan of the direct approach.” Tara brushed a kiss on Willow’s cheek. “But I kind of also get the idea that understanding is supposed to come to us when we’re ready.”

Willow offered a kiss also. “Like we weren’t ready a week ago.” She offered a wicked grin. “Do you think we might be ready again tonight?”

Tara stopped and pulled Willow into her arms. She brushed her lips twice over Willow’s and then offered a more serious kiss just as a wind came whistling down the street, sending powdering bits of snow to fly around them. Through all the layers of her clothing and Willow’s she thought she could feel Willow’s heartbeat, pounding fast and sure. The kiss deepened, Willow now tasting the inside Tara’s mouth, and Tara felt a shiver along her spine, one not caused by the cold.

When the kiss ended, Tara pressed her forehead to Willow’s. “Thank you for rescuing me.”

“Anytime,” Willow said.

Another blast of wind rocketed down the street, and they pulled apart. “We should get moving,” Tara said.

And so they did, one foot in front of the other, both of them more than happy to be heading home.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 367 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13  Next

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  

W/T Love 24/7 since July 2000
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group