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

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Author Message
 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2002 12:02 am 

I am sorry if your are searching for an update. I'm writing away, but I am as much a compulsive re-writer as writer. It's the only way I know to get the words to do what I want them to do. (Of course, I'm also having a bit of a time staying on task and staying off other threads--Rane and AntigoneUnbound are being terrible distractions, the naughty kittens!)

On other matters, Cindipitude--quit "scuffing those feet" of yours and own your sly charm.

mollyig, the apprentice promises to be quite the big bad. I'm scared for everyone.

Zahir al Daoud, remember anticipation is half the fun and half the terror.

darkmagicwillow, I've not heard of the Pauli Exclusion Principle, but you are right in thinking that the universe I'm imagining is really a multi-verse of people and souls (and spirits)---hmmm, that might be a bit of a spoiler--take note Zahir al Daoud. And I do have an overly complex set of rules for who and what can be where and when--I'm a girl with far too much time on her hands. By the way, one source for my "theory" is found in a very old science fiction novel, The Female Man by Joanna Russ--a seventies (late sixties?) feminist science fiction novel filled with rage and humor and really, really smart thinking.

tkheaven, I know. It's so awful that Willow should lose Tara twice and in the same place. But, at the same time, Tara was never really lost. She's Willow's always. And that's one law of physics not even ME can overturn.

AutumnT, I hope D.R. didn't keep you from any important tasks--I mean in the way those terrible sirens AntigoneUnbound and Rane keep distracting me with their stories and their spicy talk. Ooops, never mind. What I meant to say was thank you for sharing your thoughts. I want D.R. to move people. And, like you, I think, I also want the real "Buffy" back. (And the real "Willow," too.)


 Post subject: ...
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2002 1:17 am 
Me? naughty? aw, snookie, you are too kind. lil ole me distracted you?! no way. if anyone distracted anyone it's you me. i've told you before and i'll say it again: this was a fascinating read and i cant wait for more. well, i must, huh? tell you what, i'll pause writing so you get to writing yours quicker, after all i know how my story ends. *weevil grin* just kidding. take your time, i know it's a long, important process and can you just be kissing me now? lol. i'm so silly. just got back from watching *real women have curves* and i'm giddy from the greatness of it. finally a movie worth seeing this season. hugs!

 Post subject: Re: ...
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 1:42 pm 
Those were painful chapters to see Willow letting go of the old Tara and knowing that the new joined Tara would not have the same memories. But they were very rich chapters, too, full of words that just ripple with emotion. I love the image of Tara's soul moving through Willow at the end of part 1, and as hard as it was to see her say goodbye to that Tara, you ended on a hopeful moment.

Chapter 15...well, it was amazing. I read it as a collection of moving images, and as such, it was powerful. Poetic. You said something about including bits of the show, bits of your story, and also bits of other fanfic, and I found myself reading it again as a puzzle, trying to figure out who exactly, what stories, were being tributed. I have some ideas, but of course the wonderful thing about a chapter like that is the language evokes so much that I was seeing all kinds of other stories in there and the marks of a whole bunch of fic authors.

I have no idea if who I'm thinking of would match up with who you were thinking of, but I'm in love with the idea of a collective memory of Tara, and you did a wonderful job with it. Thanks.

"And I'm eating this banana. Lunchtime be damned!" -- Willow in "Doppelgangland

 Post subject: Re: D.R.
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 9:51 pm 
Thank you Tullip for the thoughtful commentary. I also saw Chapter 15 as a series of moving images. Cindiplitude described the events in

Chapter 15 as moving inside a whirlwind, and raised the terrific metapor of the double helix.

As for the interwoven stories, most reference D.R. but paragraph six references a story I read long ago, and have since lost track. Still, the author's image of Tara riding a horse stayed with me. Paragraph seven remembers a story by Dennis called, "Where the Heart Is." The story elaborates on New Moon Rising and is lovely in every way. Paragraph eleven was inspired by a scene in Kiros' erotic tale, "A Simple View."

Paragaphs two, four and fourteen remember my own (hysterical?) wonderings of the consequences of Glory's attack on Tara.

Paragraph eight remembers that awful day best not spoke of. It's paragraph eight, because according to the classic traditions of numerology (and my grandmother) eight, as the cube of 2, was the number of justice. And, accordingly, the cry, the need and the demand for justice. It's my own little meta-commentary on Seeing Red and the powers that be.

Six, by the way is the number of perfection (the sum of its divisors, 1+2+3) and thus containing harmony and balance and joy. Tara at one with the horse as they gallop across the hillsides in paragraph six.

2+4+14 =20, which reduces to 2, which is the number of duality (Tara split in two).

Chapter 15, 1+5=6, again with the harmony.

Fourteen paragraphs, 1+4=5, five is the union of opposites. Hmmm, wonder what that might mean ; ).

I could go on, but I probably shouldn't. Still, I thought you would be amused to know the entire story is littered with strange numerological elements. Everything in D.R. is not number, but a great deal is.

Magick is everywhere--infused in everything.

Technopagan21 (2+1=3--the number of nature and growth) also known as Technopagan78 (7+8=15, 1+5=6--the number of harmony--something to aim for).

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 10:12 pm 


The double helix made that much of an impression on you did it?


Well, it just seemed apt....with the joining of the two parts of Tara hastening her rebirth.

But yes, an incredible chapter that I couldn't help but feel move around me.

So looking forward to what you have in store for us next:)

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2002 10:28 am 
I'm so not good with the feedback, but I read this last night and had to add my voice to the chorus of praise. Really beautifully crafted. You make the world of Tara's doppelganger past live and breathe. Can't wait for more :)

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2002 12:09 am 
well I am so glad I was lucky enough to read this story tonight (even if I do have to be at work making yummy vegan pastries in six hours...) this story is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I don't know how much I can say that won't be really make me ache (in a good way, but not that kind of good... :wink ) for everyone here. essence-tara captivated me, and I know I wouldn't have told anyone about her, either, if I were in willow's place, so totally paralyzed by the terror of losing the one thing she's holding onto by a thread. and your sculpting of bizarro-dimension tara's world is masterful. when I got to the end of chapter 15, and it was only page 2 of a 4 page thread, I thought I was only halfway through-- when I realized there was no more (yet) I nearly cried!

I also very much appreciate your attentiveness and reverence to the witchy parts, and numerology. as for worrying about reactions to the cliffhanger...we trust you. we know you won't hurt our girls. we trust you. :love

more soon please!


WILLOW: I believe these chicken feet are mine!

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2002 4:06 am 
I am well impressed by this Fic.

It's well thought out, moves along at a pace which keeps the reader wanting more and is developing really quite nicely.

Why don't the mainstream BtVS novel writers come up with some thinmg as well wrttten and effective as this?

Definitely one to cut out and keep


love and kisses

Still Waters

..... she wears secrets in her hair........

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2002 7:06 am 
please update soon!!

i love the way you've written this fic. I can't wait to read more! Will our Willow and the new Tara find their love? *PLEASE* :)


~NICKOLE~ :wave

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 9:43 pm 
I love the way you have written this story. It is so beautifully done. The way that you wrote Tara and Willow's relationship is awesome. I can't wait to see what happens with 'the girl'.

"I wish that I could hold you. I wish that I could hate you. I wish that I could hold you one more time." - I wish... - Drain Sth

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 10:05 am 

I just stubbled onto this one today! I read all of part one in one sitting. I have been trying to read all of the Tara-resurection stories here and this one is really good. Very different.

I can see The Girl, a thin almost feral version of Tara. And the parts with Tara's soul are so profoundly sad and happy.

Couple of things I liked.

I am glad that you have also rebuilt the Magic Box, something that many bring-back-Tara stories have in common. I wonder if there is a reason for that?

I am glad also that your Xander is not the putz of Season Sux. Yes him and Anya have some issues they need to work out, but yours is already a more likable guy.

I loved that you had Buffy and Xander both grieving for Tara. That is what people really do in the real world, they grieve for the loss of a friend and lover.

Gotta bad feeling on who Ethan's apprentice might be.

So looking forward to more.



Web Warlock

The Other Side,
home of Liber Mysterium: The Netbook of Witches and Warlocks

"If you knew how she was pulled in two. There you'll find her tuggin' at the moon." - Tuggin' at The Moon, David Gene Smith

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 4:43 pm 

I can see The Girl, a thin almost feral version of Tara

You know, although I automatically assumed *the Girl* would be Tara, the way it was written indicated someone like Willow or even Buffy. I too got the image of a "thin and almost feral" girl, and let's face it, that's not *our* Tara.

But that little initial prickle of doubt is what gives an added picquancy to this story

I can't wait for the next bit

Edited by: Warduke at: 11/24/02 10:24:35 pm

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 11:47 pm 
Hi all, thank you for the thoughtful and kind responses to Part One. I'm still working on Part 2, and at this point I am suspecting there will also be a Part 3. In any event, I plan on posting Part 2 sometime around December 20.

Cindipitude, smart, and modest about being smart, is anything more sexy.....

Lipkandy, more than anything, I wanted the doppelganger Tara and her reality to come alive for the reader. Your words make me feel like I met that goal.

JewWitch, I hope I didn't keep you up too late and here's hoping next time I make you ache in all the important ways. *grin* Thanks again for the praise of the "witchy/number" parts. Imagining a world of magick is half the fun of writing W/T fan fic.

Still Waters Run Deep, as far as I'm concerned, the fan fic at the Kitten Board rocks beyond much of the mainstream BTVS novels for two reasons: cool mods and amazing kitten feedback. Here at the Kitten Board writers are given the freedom to explore the W/T relationship without the constraints imposed on the mainstream writers. Sure, constraint often helps produce amazing art, but there's a world of difference between structural constraint--the 5/7/5 syllables of the haiku, the three actor limit of Sophocles Oedipus Rex--and constraint on the imagination--read censorship. Christopher Golden writes amazing mainstream novels, but imagine what he could do with the characters if he could work outside the constraints of his publishers. And imagine if he also was also able to write his novels in concert with the posters at the Kitten Board. Reader feedback, I think, is the lifeblood of writing. *g* Okay, climbing off my soapbox...

SilverWingedNemesis, I promise I'm pounding away nightly, but I am also an amazingly slow writer. Here's what my writing process looks like. I write five or six paragraphs. I rewrite those same five or six paragraphs. I write five or six more paragraphs. I go back and rewrite the rewrite of the original five or six paragraphs. I don't know how other people do it, but I need to layer in the details, and layer and layer and layer. Scary, huh.

Ten10239, okay. Is that 1+1+2+3+9=16, 1+6=7 or is that 10+1+2+3+9=25. 2+5=7 Hmmmmmm, either way it comes out to 7, the fourth prime number--2, 3, 5, 7-- Seven, of course, the most common representation of completion--seven days of the week, seven notes in an octave, the seven heavenly bodies (known to the ancients), seven colors in the rainbow, but seven also regarded as the sign of perfection in (wo)man--the combination of 3-the sign of the divine and 4-the sign of materiality. See what you started.... *g* Thanks for the kind words regarding Doppelganger Redux and your mindbender of a "name." My head is positively spinning.

WebWarlock, Your use of the word feral is interesting. When imagining her, I didn't see the girl so much as wild or untamed, but as solitary with a tendency to go "lone wolf" on things, which is a kind of feral, I suppose. You've given me something to think about. While I've been trying to stay away from other AU fan fics, I'm glad to hear other AU writers are also imagining a rebuilt Magic Box. For me the Magic Box served as a kind of bridge between the mundane world and the world of magick. Here we got to see how the everyday world and the world of magick shared space. Its loss in season six was so much greater than the loss of a place for the Scoobies to hang out. Finally, thanks for the kind words regarding my treatment of Xander, and of Buffy and Xander's grieving for Tara. My goodness, they lost a dear friend, who wouldn't think they would be stricken with grief. Please don't answer, lol.

StillWatersRunDeep, I've delivered "prickles of doubt" and "piquancy"! You've so made my day. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Edited by: technopagan78 at: 11/19/02 11:27:38 pm

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2002 5:45 am 
Just finished reading this story. Very ineteresting approach you've taken. The SG's grief is so believable, and the choices Willow and OurTara are making are so heartbreaking.

Thanks. I look forwards to your update next month.

 Post subject: Oh my. .
PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2002 11:21 pm 
Oh god, this fic had me in tears! I couldn't bear the thought of Tara leaving Willow after the whole thing with the girl who looked like Willow's Tara and. . oh boy, I'm crying again. - sniffle. - There'll be a happy reunion, right?

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2002 1:23 am 
Oh dear, dry those tears Oddkitten. No need to worry. As I said in my disclaimer, you can look forward to a satisfying ending, although Willow and Tara will need to tread a complex path to find their happiness. Coming this December, look forward to more angst, many confusions, and maybe just a little bit of romance.

Also thank you for the kind comments, Dave V. I hope you enjoy the upcoming Part 2 as much as you enjoyed Part 1.


 Post subject: ; ]
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2002 11:49 am 
Oh Technopagan, you are the best man. : D

My day suddenly got a lot much brighter, can't wait for part 2.

 Post subject: Re: ; ]
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2002 1:01 pm 

More W/T goodness right around Christmas time...season of miracles and good will towards man.

At least its supposed to be anyways.

What a wonderful time to enjoy the new beginning that awaits us, and to see what Willow and the reborn Tara make of this world now.

Can't wait:)

Smart and apparently sexy,


 Post subject: Re: ; ]
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2002 6:23 am 
Wow! This story really grabbed a hold of me. It is one of those fan fics that come along every now and again where being sensible (ie because you have to get up to go to work the next day) is impossible - I stayed up late in to the night unable to pull away.

I am completely intrigued and conflicted as to how the 'reunited' Tara will function as a personality and in relation to Willow. I want the reassurance of seeing 'our Tara' in every word and gesture (and remembering her past) but yet feel the need to see elements of 'the girl' and her memories respected (because I've become quite protective over her too and don't want her mind wiped out!). Whatever happens, I'm sure I'll be impressed by it.

Oh and the torture of having just found this and then having to wait so long for an update....(gosh, I keep telling myself I should stick to the completed fics archive to avoid this, but I can't seem to resist...)

Really looking forward to the next part.
Regards Lisa

"Gosh,look at THOSE!" (Dopplegangland)

 Post subject: Re: ; ]
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2002 4:07 pm 
oh wow, i read this in one go and I just must congratulate you. I can't give this enough praise or find the right words to express the emtions this brought forth. Highlights for me included, Willow finding she could touch Tara, and of course the joining.. that bonus chapter at the end. I have hope that all of Willow's Tara is not lost yet I can't help but love that other Tara, the one who saw so much and lived so hard yet seemed younger to me. Perhaps it is her lack of the profound human emotions of love that she seems inexperienced. I look forward to see what you come up with. It is getting closer now :)



Let's change it, the Discovery channel has koala bears.

 Post subject: Re: ; ]
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2002 5:56 pm 
It's December and I seem to remember somebody promising to update one of my favorite fics come this time of you. Hmmm...I wonder who that was.


"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

 Post subject: Thanks...this rocks.
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2002 11:33 pm 
Just wanted to say fantastic.

I'm new to the Buffy scene ...just the past year..I used to make fun of it until a friend made me watch some episodes and I became hopelessly hooked. As every convert I immediately by hook or by crook managed to obtain all of the seasons (within 3 months!) and watched them all (several times over the year). I know the last season kind of sucked (but still better than anything out there). Now I've even got my sisters and my mom hooked. Funny as I've never gone nuts over a TV show ever, my passion saved for books I read. As reading is still my number one passion I went on a search for Buffy lit (this good a story there's got to be great books on it right?).

First step was a disaster. I went looking for "authorized fiction" and I came away VERY disappointed. (Some embarassed stumbling around the "young teen" section occurred...blech.) Next step I heard some recommendations from BuffyGuide on good "fanfic". I thought "what? fans doing fic? ick." Then I started searching. Wow. Discovering darkmagicwillow's "The Dark Rose" and your story has been amazing. So much better than any "authorized" crap out there by far. Your stories rock and are so much better written than the majority of the dreck out there.

I can't wait until you, darkmagicwillow, and others on this board print your own original material. Just let us know when you do cuz I'm there.

Phew..more than I meant to write when I started but the overall message was "thanks".

PS. Used to reading paper, my eyes hurt from reading a computer screen but damn its worth it. Cheers.

 Post subject: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2002 9:54 pm 
Greetings! I know, long time no hear from. My excuses are many and not terribly convincing. So instead, let me thank Oddkitten, Cindipitude, doofus, Xita, darkmagicwillow and frumpycat for cheering me on. DR part two is not finished--but I do have chapters to post.

But, they will have to come slowly. I am on vacation in the land of dial-up connections and low RAM for the duration of the holiday season and therefore will need to post chapters in a different fashion than before (at least until early January).

For those who you who have waited well and long for chapter seventeen, thank you for your patience. And a special thanks to Rane, for her friendship and supportive comments. Next time, at the very least, you have to let my buy you a cup of tea.

Chapter Sixteen

Dawn carried the dinner tray into the bedroom and set it down on the nightstand before switching on the small desk lamp. The lamp cast warm shadows across the bed where Tara lay sleeping. Willow was at her night class, and Buffy was on early patrol, leaving her to Tara duty. The teen sat down on the side of the bed, and gently brushed her fingers over the sleeping woman's forehead. The cut above her eye had nearly finished healing; the stitches were already removed. Anya was right, there would be a scar, but Dawn could not think Tara was anything other than beautiful.

She knew Buffy and Xander were more worried than they let on, and she knew Willow was bubbling at a near panic most of the time. But she also knew, in her heart, in her guts, Tara would heal. The hard part was accepting that the person she was caring for was not the person who'd cared for her so many times.

Her fingers fell upon the Tara's brow and she pushed away strands of soft blonde hair. "Hey, sleepy head. Want some soup. I heated up some tomato bisque and I dropped in some little bits of cheddar. Willow told me that was your favorite." Dawn said in a singsong voice that sometimes made Tara smile.

The teen watched as slate blue eyes flickered. When they opened part way, she helped Tara to sit up in bed. Her charge seemed to be having a good night, so far no frantic babble speech about walls of fire or cages under star lit nights. Dawn brushed her fingers over Tara's cheek and smiled. "I know you wish I was Willow. She's still at school. But she'll be home soon."

Dawn presented the capsules in her hand, one red, two blue, and one green. They held herbs that Anya had brought over and Willow had carefully prepared. The pills helped keep Tara calm, and helped keep the fevers at bay. But they did little else. When she was convinced Tara had swallowed all of them, she pulled the tray on to her lap.

"Besides the soup, I made you a sandwich: peanut butter and jelly with banana slices. All sweet and sticky and filled with peanuty and sugary goodness." Dawn waited a moment to see if the blonde would respond to her silliness. Tara's eyes flickered a second time.

Dawn smiled wishing Tara would smile back. "And I cut the sandwich into teddy bear squares, just the way you like it." Again, the teen waited, and this time was rewarded with one of Tara's half smiles. At first, it had bothered the teen to see her Tara's famous smile on another's face, but now she looked forward to it.

"I had some of the soup earlier. It's really yummy. Willow made it from a can, but then added a bunch of spices and herbs. Fresh basil, I think or maybe cilantro. Green leafy stuff chopped up into little bits. I'm not sure why, but she's been really pushing the green lately." Making sure Tara's eyes could track between the bowl and the spoon, Dawn carefully brought a tablespoon of the soup to Tara's lips. "Come on, Tara." She encouraged. "You know you like tomato soup. Much better than that nasty kidney bean soup from last night."

Dawn tried to keep her hand steady as Tara hesitantly moved forward and took the spoon in her mouth. "That's my girl." The teen quickly brought a second spoonful to Tara's lips, and this time the blonde did not hesitate. A slight sigh of relief escaped the Dawn's lips, last night's mealtime has not gone nearly as smoothly. "I told Buffy you wouldn't like kidney bean soup. I mean my first Tara never liked it, so why would you? And who wants to eat beans that look like little kidneys, anyway. It's disgusting" Dawn reasoned as she brought up a third spoonful. Once the mealtime rhythm was established, Dawn turned her thoughts to other things.

She wasn't sure Tara always understood, but she knew if she were sick she'd hate to be kept out of the loop. Buffy had made her swear that she wouldn't frighten Tara with slaying stories, but that didn't mean she couldn't recount the other daily horrors of life in Sunnydale.

"Remember when I was telling you the other day about my biology teacher, Mr. Fury." Dawn watched Tara's eyes flicker. Convinced the blonde was holding on to her every word, the teen continued. "Well, today, he totally lost it when some kids started dissecting their frogs before he finished with his instructions. I mean seriously lost it, there was yelling, and I think there might have been some unintentional spitting. At least the kids in the front row were kind of dodging something. And it had to be gross. I mean like he's a teacher. How couldn't it be gross? But I guess I kind of understand why he was so upset. If I was standing in front of a classroom of teenagers all holding sharp little scalpel knives I know I'd be kind of twitchy."

Tara rewarded Dawn with another half-smile. Accepting it as proof of Tara's interest in her story, Dawn launched into a full accounting the day's scandals at Sunnydale High School.

When the soup was no more, Dawn took one of Tara's hands into hers and moved it to the small blue plate holding the sandwich. She held Tara's fingers to the bread. "It's peanut butter and jelly and banana, a Dawn Summers signature sandwich." Dawn reminded. She waited, quietly hoping Tara would eat it without further prompting. After a moment, the blonde carefully picked up one of the small corners and brought it to her lips.

Dawn's face lit up in a wide grin as Tara slowly ate the sandwich. It was yet another sign of improvement. Part of her wanted to call Willow at school and share the good news that Tara's evening meal had been a success, but she resisted. The good news could wait. After missing so much school, Willow didn't need the interruption.

It took nearly fifteen minutes, but Tara finished every bite. "Way to go Tara, if you keep this up, you'll be good as new in another week." Dawn declared as moved the dinner tray back to the nightstand. "Do you want some water to help wash down the sandwich?" She asked as she poured a glass from the water pitcher they kept on the nightstand.

Tara reached out with both hands to take the glass. She drank most of the water and then handed the glass back to Dawn.

"Peanut butter's kind of sticky, huh." Dawn observed taking the glass and returning it to the dinner tray. "So, what do you want to do tonight? You could watch me do my homework, or we could go downstairs and watch some television, or I could do my homework while we watch some television. What do you think?"

She waited for a moment, wondering what she would do if Tara simply answered her question. More than anyone else, even Willow, Dawn was convinced Tara was getting better. The first few days after the rejoining, the ravings never stopped, and, to Willow's horror, they'd needed to keep Tara restrained. But, gradually, the outbursts lessened, and in the past five days there hadn't been any. She still had episodes, but they of a different kind, and in some ways they were even worse than before.

Dawn could not help but notice the irony that after praying the endless babbling would stop; she now found herself hating the silence even more. To Dawn it felt like Tara was stuck, caught in some place that she could not escape, locked inside dreams and nightmares of her own imagination. It seemed to the teen that what Tara needed most was stimulation, something to draw Tara back to them. Dawn had found a lot of evidence on the Web to support her theory, but Buffy, Willow and Xander had pretty much voted her down. And so instead of taking her out of the house, they kept her inside, letting her nap the day away, letting her sleep through the night. Dawn agreed that all the sleep had helped Tara heal, the bruises had faded, the cuts had healed, but sleep wasn't going to help Tara leave her dream world.

Knowing Buffy wouldn't like it, but thinking Tara deserved a reward after eating her dinner, the teen carefully coaxed the blonde out of the bed, helped her down the stairs and settled her on the couch, gently tucking Tara's comfort blanket, a soft navy blue and green plaid throw edged in blue satin that had been given to Willow when she was a teenager, over Tara's lap before grabbing the remote and switching on the television.

Out of the corner of her eye, Dawn watched, as Tara seemed to follow the action of the cartoons. Satisfied she'd made the right choice, and knowing Buffy would be far less annoyed with her if she at least finished her homework, the teen pulled her math book from under the couch and began working on the day's problems.

When the phone rang, nearly an hour later, both girls jumped. Dawn gave Tara an apologetic look. "Sorry, that's probably Leo calling with a question about our homework. He's my new study buddy." The teen slipped off the couch. "Tell you what, after I finish talking to him, I'll make some chamomile tea." She said, before remembering that they were out. "Cancel that, we're out of chamomile, I'll make hot chocolate instead. Sound good?"

Dawn's question was rewarded with another half smile. "Whoops, that was the third ring. I need to get that before the answering machine picks up." Dawn added, as she hurried towards the kitchen.

Amidst the spinning thoughts inside her head, Tara watched the slim, dark haired girl hurry out of the room. She had to remind herself that the girl was Buffy's younger sister, Dawn. The slamming of a car down outside the window pulled her attention away from television set, and she was surprised to realize it was night. She'd thought it was still day. But then she remembered that Dawn had said Willow was at her night class, so of course it must be evening. But what day was it? If Willow was at school, it must be a weekday. But now it was night, not day.

She wanted to get better. If she did, Willow wouldn't cry so much. Tara rubbed her fingers over the blanket Dawn had tucked over her legs. The material reminded her of one of Willow's jackets. The jacket smelled of apples and spice. Willow always smelled of rich spices, but Buffy smelled of flowers and Dawn of fresh soap. Most times, she knew their scents better than their faces. She wondered if the funny man who smelled of wood shavings and his friend, the woman who brought her chocolates, would come to visit tonight. She missed them even more than she missed her voice. If they came, they could all have tea and she could watch Willow smile. Willow's smile made her feel happy inside, like Dawn's giggle and Buffy's hazel eyes. She noticed that she couldn't see Dawn anymore.

Carefully, she looked about the room, moving her eyes as slowly as she could. If she moved to fast, everything would to slide into everything else and the light would grow too bright and the sounds too loud and the smells too sharp and she would have turn away and find the gentle darkness. The window behind her moved into focus. A half moon hung in the night sky above the treetops. She watched the wind gently push the leaves off of the tree's branches. The leaves floated slowly to the earth, wafting about like bats and birds, glittering faintly under the moonlight.

She crouched behind the clump of Angel's Trumpet listening to her little brother count down from fifteen and then yell, "Ready of not, here I come." A giggle nearly escaped her throat as she listened to him head the opposite way towards the Jacaranda tree. She'd found the perfect hiding place. Settling back on the balls of her feet, she breathed in the delicious scent. Next to honey suckle and orange blossom, nothing smelled as sweet, but because their mother had warned her children that Angel's Trumpet was poisonous, she knew Donny would not guess she would hide behind them. Donny thought she was a "fraidy cat." But he was wrong. She was a big girl, and very brave. Her mother said so, and her mother never lied to her. She heard Donny stumbling around the back porch and snickered. They'd be called inside before he found her.

Tara pinched the material of the throw between her fingers, trying to focus her mind on the here and now. It was when she thought of the past that things became confusing. Time no longer made sense, nothing connected. Inside her head, memories spun circles, tricking her and confusing her. There was too much time and thinking about it made her feel lost, but the throw blanket made her feel calm. It was soft and warm and it smelled of rich spices, like Willow. She wondered where Willow had gone and then remembered Willow was at school. Her smile left her face. School was far away. She hoped Willow would come home soon. The Willow-feeling was missing, and the empty feeling ached deep inside her flesh and bones.

A sharp wind rustled through the tree branches, and, from the kitchen, she heard the closing of a cabinet door. For some reason the noise frightened her, but she could not think why. Her heart pounding, she stood up from the couch, letting the small blanket fall to the floor. She had to steady herself for a moment. After so many hours spent lying in bed, standing made her dizzy. Her eyes found a focal point near the staircase. There was a picture of a door. The shape of the door and the way the sunlight hit the wall surrounding it reminded her of a churchyard she'd once been too. But that church didn't exist anymore; the vampires had burned it to the ground. A cold sweat ran down her back. She needed to find Dawn. It wasn't safe; the vampires would be coming soon. It was time to hide.

"Sorry that took so long, Tara. Leo had a ton of questions, or maybe he kind of likes me." Dawn said, as she returned to the front room.

Confused, the teen looked around for a several seconds. Tara wasn't in the room. Her comfort blanket lay on the floor in a crumpled heap. She circled through the front room into the dining room and then into the kitchen. Tara was nowhere to be found. Frightened, she ran up the stairs and quickly checked each of the bedrooms and the bathroom. Tara was still missing.

She ran back down the stairs and only then noticed that the front door to the house was ajar. Her stomach began to twist as panic slowly took over. Tara was outside. She ran out the front door and into the yard.

The older couple that lived three houses down carefully moved bags of groceries into their house. Another neighbor raked leaves into a large pile. One of the neighborhood cats sat on the hood of Buffy's car. She did not see Tara.

She raced around the house to the backyard, and nearly slipped and fell in a pile of fallen leaves. The backyard was empty. From the front of the house and across the street, she heard dogs barking. Quickly, she turned on her heel and headed for the front yard, and then up the street towards the Sandoval's house. Buffy always complained that the couple's two Great Danes barked at anyone who walked past.

When she got to the Sandoval's house, there was no sign of Tara. Panting, the teen's thoughts coalesced into a jumble of worry and fear, while guilt burned in the back of her throat. And amid the worry and the fear and the guilt, she did not think to call her sister or Willow or Xander. None of the carefully thought emergency plans that had been drilled into her head since her mother died could be recalled. Instead, she spun about in a slow circle, her eyes casting out for a small, thin, young woman as defenseless as a child. In the distance, she spotted two boys racing away on skateboards, and she ran after them, praying they had seen the blonde witch. She could not lose Tara a second time. She needed her Tara, more than anyone knew.

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2002 9:57 pm 
In another part of Sunnydale, Willow watched Buffy gracefully execute a back flip, roundabout and snap kick. The vampire launched into the air and slammed into the mausoleum wall. He made a satisfying thud.

"Will, I really think you're getting ahead of yourself. Tara is getting better. It's just going to take time." Buffy declared as she neatly slid her stake between the vampires ribs and then jumped backward to avoid getting vampire dust on her new black pants.

Willow shook her head. "She's getting better, but only in little bits. Sure the seizures have stopped and she's been able to sleep most nights, but--"

"But she's not herself, I know that, Will." Buffy walked back to her friend, grabbed her bag of weapons off the ground and looped her arm into Willow's. "Come on. I want to check the north corridor, I think someone's going to be rising tonight, or tomorrow."

Willow fell into pace beside Buffy. "But it's more than that, Buffy. It's also that Tara and my Tara didn't say anything about side effects following the rejoining. I don't think they knew there would be any. If anything, they were mostly worried about me."

"Which makes you think they didn't know everything when they committed to the spell or conjure of whatever it was." Buffy concluded, not happy about Willow's concerns, but very happy that the red head was finally willing to discuss them. All of her previous attempts to get Willow to talk about her fears had been stonewalled.

"Which makes me think we need to find out exactly what Tara did. Except we can't because she used the magicks from her reality, not ours." Willow added, flatly.

Buffy's sensitive ears picked up a rustling in the bushes. "Anya's been researching the elementally things Tara talked about."

"And she still hasn't found anything. She's as stymied as me." Willow said, dejectedly. She'd called the vengeance demon before her evening class, and as much as she appreciated Anya's support, hearing more "non-news" only increased her frustration.

"Not in the books, at least." Buffy agreed as she focused her eyes on ground about fifteen feet to her left. A grin formed on her face as she spied a fat opossum darting for the nearest tree, definitely not hostile. The Slayer returned her concentration to Willow. "Which is why Anya put in a call to Giles." Buffy reported the news quickly, hoping Willow would be so distracted by the message that she'd forget the identity of the messenger.

"Anya called Giles?" Willow asked, her tone and manner quickly changing from disbelief to anger. "I thought we all agreed to hold off on calling Giles for the time being?"

Buffy turned to catch Willow's eyes. "Will, I still don't get why you don't want us to call Giles. Why wouldn't we want to call Giles?"

"He's still a part of the Watchers' Council. And you know how they like to interfere with things. They might want to..." Willow trailed off.

Buffy pulled Willow to a stop. "Want to what?" For a moment she though Willow wasn't going to answer her.

"They might want to take her away." Willow explained quietly. She breathed in deeply and caught the faint scent of sea salt on the air. "To study." She said, quietly.

Buffy looked carefully at her best friend. "What do you mean by study?"

"It's what they wanted to do with me." Willow looked down at the ground, her embarrassment palpable. "After I left the coven, they wanted me brought back to the Council. Giles had to call in just about every favor he had to get them to back off and let me come home."

Bad memories of being tested by the Watchers Council filled Buffy's head. She reached for Willow's fingers. They were like ice. "You never told me."

Willow watched as Buffy tenderly closed her fingers over her own. "Tell you what? That the Council wanted to study me like I was some freak of nature."

"We're not the Council and you're not a freak." Buffy snapped.

Willow took another deep breath. "Buffy, it was how everyone looked at me, Xander, Anya, even you." The admission hurt, and she knew it hurt Buffy too, but hiding the truth hurt even more. "Those first couple of weeks after I came back from England--" Willow swallowed a lump in her throat. "All of you kept a pretty wide berth of me."

Buffy opened her mouth to object, but Willow wouldn't let her. "After what I did, I would have kept a wide berth of me." Willow looked up into the sky to watch the wind carry clouds across the half moon. She thought of Oz. Of all her friends, he never ducked the truth, even when it came to leaving her. "Dawn was terrified of me one second and angry the next. Anya was waiting for me to crash and burn. Xander," Willow's voice broke and tears filled her eyes, "Xander just wanted everything to be the same. But it couldn't be. I killed people."

No longer able to look at her best friend, Willow focused her gaze on a group of tipped over headstones. "Sometimes I still can't believe it. I'm a killer: me, Willow Rosenberg, class geek, fearer of frogs and murderer. I look in the mirror and half the time I don't even recognize the person looking back at me."

Buffy's voice was a low growl. "Yes, you killed. Yes, you crossed the line. But as far as I'm concerned, Rack was self-defense. "

"And Warren." Willow asked quietly, voicing the name none of them were willing to speak.

The words fell from Buffy's lips like splinters of ice. "There wasn't one of us who didn't want him hurting. There wasn't one of us who didn't want him dead. I was playing all rational girl, and inside all I wanted to do was hunt him down and make him pay for what he took from you, from all of us." Buffy swallowed. She heard Willow wince and realized she was squeezing the red head's fingers and let go of them. "I acted all disappointed with you, but inside I knew."

Willow watched an expression pass over her best friends face that she'd never seen before. "Knew what?" She prompted.

Buffy's voice turned cold. "Knew that if I'd been under the powers you were under I would have gone after him myself."

Willow refused Buffy's claim. Her guilt could not be shared. "No, Buffy, you'd never have gone that far. You're the hero, remember?"

"Will, he shot me." Buffy eyes narrowed as the anger she'd kept hidden surfaced. "He shot into my house and he killed my friend, and he took from my best friend her reason to live. The whole time we were hunting you down, trying to stop you, inside I was thinking of what he'd done and what he'd almost done." The Slayer's body shook as she fought to maintain her self-control. "Will, what would have happened to Dawn if you hadn't saved me. She'd already lost mom and she'd lost me once before. She'd lost Tara and she would have lost me a second time. God, Will, you took a life, but you gave me mine back." Buffy flashed on an ill-formed memory of the emergency medical technicians lifting her body on to the stretcher. "Will, I wasn't going to make it. You saved me."

Willow couldn't listen to Buffy's confession. She needed to keep the guilt for what had happened for herself. Her Tara had been right; it was the only way she could someday put it behind her. Sharing her guilt with Buffy would only make it harder. "That doesn't make it even. There is no "even" here, there's no scoreboard, there's no accounting of checks and balances. I killed Warren and Rack. I saved you, but I also nearly killed Dawn." Willow's stomach twisted over the memory of taunting Dawn for being weak and useless. No matter what Buffy thought, all that really mattered was what she had done, what she could have done. She alone had taken lives. "I hurt Anya and Xander. I tortured Giles. Buffy, I did those things. I can't take them back. I nearly killed all of you. I nearly killed the world." And as always, saying the words, bringing the things she'd done into herself, helped her to let go of some small part of the pain. Owning the truth of what she'd done was the only way she could move forward. The familiar warmth she felt whenever she remembered Tara's wisdom settled her stomach.

"But you didn't." Buffy interrupted, and this time she didn't wait for Willow's objection. "You didn't kill any of us, you didn't kill the world. You stopped."

Calmer, Willow shook her head. The credit was not hers to take. "Xander stopped me."

"Xander made you remember who you really are, and you stopped yourself." Buffy argued, her tone growing angrier.

A sly grin appeared on Willow's face. "You know that he's always going to be my hero for that?" She waited a moment before adding. "Yep, Mr. Broken-Yellow-Crayon-Guy will always be my hero."

The Slayer blinked. It took her a moment to realize Willow was tweaking her, a sign she wanted their argument to stop. "Just so you remember that I'm your hero, too." Buffy joked.

"I'm not forgetting." Willow's grin faded slightly. "I'm pretty lucky. I've lots of heroes, Xander, you, Giles, Dawn, Anya."

Buffy didn't want to lose the moment. "Anya's your hero, too?" She teased. "In that case, I want off your hero list."

Willow couldn't let Buffy get away with it. "Oh, liar, liar, pants on fire. You adore Anya."

"Adore, come on, Will. That is so not the right word." Buffy bumped Willow's shoulder with her own, and started walking again.

"We all adore Anya." Willow said, falling into pace with her friend. "What sucks is that it took Xander dumping her at the altar for us to figure it out."

"Tara always knew." Buffy said quietly.

Sorrow passed over Willow's face. "Tara could see the best in everyone."

"Is it harder now?" Buffy asked. She knew her question was dumb, how could things be anything but harder?

Willow looked away and nodded. "Yeah, it's harder. Harder in all sorts of ways." She jammed her hands in her coat pockets. "It's harder because I don't have my Tara to talk to about all the ugly stuff inside my head, which sounds all selfishy and whiney but it's what I feel. And one of the big mistakes I promised my Tara I'd stopped making was trying to hide my icky feelings."

A smile flickered over Buffy's face. Each day it seemed like she was getting a little bit more of her Willow back. "I know I'm not your Tara, but, if it would help, maybe you could let me see some of those icky Willow feelings. After all, you just got a big taste of icky Buffy feelings."

"Not icky, Buffy, understandable." Willow defended. "He did so many things to all of us." Still unable to meet Buffy's eyes, she kept her gaze on the ground. "And it's harder because I know I'm not being fair."

"What do you mean? Who aren't you being fair too?" Buffy asked, prompting Willow to say what Buffy already knew.

"I look at her, and she's not the person I want her to be. And it's not fair, to her, I mean." Willow tiredly rubbed her forehead. "I'm not making any sense. The pronoun problems alone are making me nuts."

"Well, since her name's Tara, I guess we call her Tara, and maybe we call the Tara we lost, our Tara." Buffy's forehead furrowed. "But she's our Tara, too."

"It's confusing." Willow hooked her am around Buffy's. "If only she would just wake up. I miss talking to her." Willow confessed. "And I know that sounds ridiculous. It's not like we really had a chance to get to know each other."

Buffy again hesitated before asking a hard question. "Are you really missing talking to her, or are you missing talking to our Tara."

"Again, I'm not sure. Maybe both of them, maybe not." Willow said, appreciating Buffy's willingness to ask. Not that long ago, none of her friends trusted her enough to ask the hard questions. "Not very fair, huh."

"Not very." Buffy agreed, her tone gentle.

Willow exhaled, sharply. Her breath streamed upwards and ruffled her bangs. "And then there's the other thing. The thing none of us is talking about."

"The new big bad that's coming our way." Buffy whispered.

"That would be the thing we're all not talking about." Willow kicked a small stone off the narrow path.

Buffy sighed, mentally ticking off the current list of problems before putting them into words. "Not to be confused with the not talking about what happened between me and Spike, or Spike and Anya for that matter. Or where William the Bloody ran off too, or how we're going to explain new Tara to anyone outside the Scoobies. " Buffy glanced at Willow. "Have you given that much thought?"

Willow shook her head. "Not really. So far I've just avoided the subject when it came to my parents. But I'm going to have to explain it to them one of these days."

"Want some advice from the Chosen One? Don't explain anymore than you have to." Buffy ran her eyes along the cemetery fence line. Some vamps thought they could blend in with the fence shadows. They were wrong. "Sunnydale is like the championship North American city for looking the other way when the impossible happens. You'll probably need to explain to your parents, although given how long I was able to keep my mom out of the loop on the whole slayerdom thing, maybe not. Most people aren't going to ask, or even want to know, so take don't tell."

"Don't ask, don't tell?" Willow said, her expression skeptical.

Buffy smirked. "Hey, this is one of the few situations where that policy might actually work."

Willow's shoes slipped as they stepped around a large puddle. She caught Buffy's outstretched arm, managing for once not to get the hems of her jeans wet. "Thanks. Did it rain last night?"

"Will, this is the first night it hasn't rained in the past week. See what you miss when you don't go on patrol with me."

"I think it's supposed to rain again day after tomorrow." Willow glanced up at the sky and was surprised to notice Orion's belt. When did the winter stars come back, she wondered? "Getting back to the 'how to explain the new person who looks just like our Tara issue' you're probably right about the whole not dealing plan, and right now I'm thinking that any plan that involves dealing by not dealing is good. But I guess the not dealing plan is probably not the best plan for dealing with whatever the hell is coming out way. Or all things Spike. Or, what the heck, lets not forget all things Xander and Anya." Oxygen becoming something that required dealing, Willow took a deep breath.

"I want them to get back together again." Buffy laughed at herself. "God, I'm beginning to sound like Dawn."

"She just wants everyone to be happy." A memory of Dawn nearly jumping up and down in the hallway when the teen discovered she and Tara had reconciled stabbed at Willow's heart. The joy had been so short lived.

Buffy watched Willow's expression grow sad and guessed what Willow was thinking. "Kind of amazing Dawn still believes that happiness can be a possibility, huh?"

Willow gave Buffy a measuring look. "I'm going to try to believe that too."

"You going all optimisticy on me, Will."

"Totally optimisticy." Willow asserted. "I'm changing the ringer on my cell phone to play some oppressively cheerful tune and I'm going to increase the number of primary colors in my wardrobe."

"I don't know, Will." Buffy shook her head in mock disapproval. "Behavior like that may make people think you've joined a cult. Just think what Giles would say."

"Giles remembers all of my tee shirts and sweaters featuring kittens, puppies, and happy flowers. Giles would say nothing." Willow brushed her fingers along Buffy's jacket sleeve. "What if I just whistle a happy tune and keep my frown turned upside down."

"Subtly is always a good thing." Buffy said, and then jumped as her cell phone unexpectedly rang. Grimacing over her un-Slayer-like behavior, she pulled her phone from her jacket pocket. Xander's name flashed on the small color screen. "Hey, what's up? You change your mind and decide to come out on patrol. I kidnapped Willow after her computer lab and we're at the north end of Evergreen Cemetery, near the Tovington Mausoleum."

"Tell Xander he should come out with us. It would be like old times." Willow started to cajole, but then stopped when Buffy held up her hand and shook her head. She felt her stomach begin to twist as she watched Buffy's expression grow concerned.

"How long has she been missing?" Buffy asked, her tone tense.

Suspecting that she already knew the answer, Willow asked. "Who's missing?"

Buffy looked helplessly at her best friend while asking over the phone. "Is Dawn still with you?" She listened to Xander's answer and then responded. "Okay, you head over towards the old high school and the hospital. We'll head over to the park and then the University. Those are the two places she hung out before. If she's on foot, she couldn't have gone far."

Buffy snapped her phone shut and slipped it back into her pocket. "Somehow, and I don't have all the details, Tara got out of the house when Dawn wasn't looking."

"Got out? How?" An image of the blonde wandering the streets flashed through Willow's mind and sent her into high panic.

Buffy glanced about as if she expected Tara to pop up in the cemetery. "How doesn't really matter. We can find out the details later. But right now we need to look for her."

"Well, do we know if she walked out on her own? What if someone took her?" More images rushed through Willow's head, but this time of demons breaking into the Summers house.

Buffy grabbed Willow's arm and began pulling her forward. "Dawn didn't think anyone got in the house. She was in the kitchen talking on the phone; when she came back into the front room, Tara was gone. She started searching the neighborhood and ended up at the Magic Box. Now, she, Xander and Anya are searching by car."

A third possibility crossed Willow's mind. "Buffy, what if she didn't just wander off, what if she ran off?"

Buffy shook her head refusing the possibility. "Will, we can't think about why right now. We need to look. She couldn't get far. She doesn't have any money and we're the only people she knows. I'm more afraid she'll get picked up by the police or something."

"The police?" Willow hadn't thought of that possibility. "If the police find her, they'll want to take her to the hospital."

"Which is why Xander's going there to look for her."

"But she's afraid of hospitals. I promised her she wouldn't have to go." Willow pleaded, not caring that things were beyond Buffy's control.

Buffy pulled Willow to a stop. She looked carefully into her best friend's eyes. "Will, we're going to find her."

Willow tried to believe her, but inside her mind's eye all she could see was a vision of Tara alone and afraid and stumbling in the dark. Fear and worry and guilt burned inside her stomach. She'd made a promise to her lover to take care of the blonde witch, and now that promise was broken. Her hand held tightly in Buffy's, she let herself be guided towards the entrance of the cemetery, quickening her pace to match the Slayer's. The park was only a few blocks away, and but the University was nearly an hour by foot. They needed to move fast. Tara needed her, and she needed Tara more than she could admit.

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2002 10:00 pm 
He spotted her stumbling, bare foot along one of the side streets that ran parallel with Main. She was muttering to herself, and whenever a car would pass she would crouch down, as if she were trying to hide. He'd promised himself he wouldn't get involved with any of them, at least not until he had some answers. But, it was obvious she was in trouble, and of all of them, she'd never wanted to do him any harm.

As he got closer, he realized something was seriously wrong. For one thing, she was painfully thin. For another, she had a narrow white scar that stretched down the side of her face, which didn't make any sense. Even from a distance he could tell that the scar was years old, and he hadn't been gone for years.

She moved like some sort of wounded animal, and that concerned him the most. Afraid she might suddenly bolt, he followed her for several blocks from across the street, letting her get used to his presence. He would have been content to let her lead for several more, but they were soon coming up on Magnolia Boulevard, and he didn't think she could negotiate the busy intersection.

He made his move suddenly. He watched her catch sight of him in the corner of her eye as he came at her on a diagonal approach. He wasn't surprised when she tried to run. What surprised him was her strength. When he caught her in his arms, she fought like a wild cat, using moves he would have never expected, at least not from her. Worried they would attract attention; he dragged her into a nearby alley.

It took all of his strength to quiet her, and when she finally fell back, limp in his arms, he had to lean against one of the retaining walls and rest a moment. But it wasn't until he looked into her eyes that he realized what was wrong, and then he nearly wept.

He fell back to the ground, cradling her next to his body. She was cold and so he took of his coat and wrapped her in it. He noticed her feet were bare and bleeding, but that her hair had been recently brushed. He also noticed her pale blue drawstring pants with little moons and stars. When he picked her up to carry her home, he made sure that her feet were tucked into his coat.

It was past nine when Xander made the right turn on to Revello Drive. "Look, all we're going to do is recheck the house and yard. Maybe she circled back?"

"Beady-eyes is right Dawn." Anya declared, glancing into the backseat at the teen, who stared dejectedly out the passenger window. "We should check the house and yard."

"And then what?" Dawn asked, still looking out the window. "We've already checked the hospital and the high school. We've driven the entire neighborhood."

"Will and Buff are still checking the University campus and the downtown park. As soon as we recheck the house and yard, we'll call them so we can make a new plan." Xander tried to sound confident, but they'd been searching for hours without a sign of the blonde witch and the longer they searched the less hopeful he felt.

"Maybe we won't have too." Anya murmured as her eyes caught an unlikely figure walking towards the house and carrying what appeared to be a person. "Look who's coming up the street and I think he's carrying Tara."

Xander turned to look, and for a moment he could not process what he was seeing. The night was only getting worse. "If he hurt her, I'll kill him." Xander snapped as he sped up and quickly pulled the car into the driveway. He had the engine off and was out the door in an instant.

Anya moved equally quickly, not bothering to close the car door as ran to Xander's side. The last thing they needed was for the two of them to get into another fight. "Xander, shut up. Why would he be carrying her here if her hurt her?"

Knowing Anya was right, but too angry to keep his tongue, Xander hissed, "That's right, I forgot you and Mr. Overbite had that special bond."

Rising to the challenge in Xander's voice, Anya snapped back. "That was a mistake. And not nearly as big a mistake as you made when you destroyed my life."

"Both of you shut up. This isn't about you, or how both of you screwed up your relationship." Dawn whispered as she came around from the side of the car. "I don't want to deal with Spike either, but if he's got Tara then I'm glad to see him."

The vampire quickened his pace as he spotted first Xander and Anya, and then Dawn standing in the front yard. If he were lucky, the Slayer and Red would still be out looking for the blonde. And if he hurried, he could tell them what they needed to know and make his escape before Buffy returned.

Xander padded down the access walk to meet the vampire. "Where did you find her?"

"Downtown. Just off of Main." Spike gave Xander an appraising look. "She's cold and her feet are bloody from walking barefoot. Must have stepped in some broken glass. She needs to be brought inside and warmed up."

Dawn took a deep breath before asking, "Can you take Tara upstairs to Willow's room?" The teen ignored the exchange of looks between Xander and Anya. Nothing mattered right now except getting Tara in the house. She'd explain to Buffy later. "I'll get some towels to clean off her feet." She added before turning on her heel and heading for the house.

Startled by Dawn's invitation to come inside, Spike muttered, "Right," and followed the teen through the door and up the stairs.

Anya put her hand on Xander's arm. "We need to look after Tara." She caught her ex-fiancé's eye. "Let's not make this harder than it already is."

Xander gave Anya a measuring stare. He didn't want to think about Buffy's reaction when she discovered that Spike had been in the house. But he also knew that right now Tara had to come first. "Okay, but as soon as she's settled I'm going to kick his boney white ass on to the street. And then I want you to do a protection spell."

Anya nodded her agreement. "As soon as he's out the door."

The two ex-lovers looked at each other for a moment, both wondering how they'd ended up strangers. Xander broke the silence. "We should get inside." Anya nodded a second time, and followed Xander into the house.

Dawn watched the vampire carefully lay Tara on the bed and then untangle her from his coat. Her breath caught when she saw the cuts on Tara's feet. "How are we going to clean those cuts? Shouldn't we take her to a hospital?"

Spike pulled the quilt from the wingback chair that stood in the corner of the room and then draped it over the sleeping woman. "Probably not necessary. Get a tweezers, water, towels and antiseptic." He waited for a moment wondering what the teen would do, and then sighed with relief when she went to the bathroom to get the things he'd asked for. When she came back to the room, she was followed by Xander and Anya, who took up a vigil on the other side of the bed.

"This won't take very long." He said, crouching at the foot of the bed. "And it's better we clean these cuts before she wakes up."

"She's not our Tara." Dawn blurted from the head of the bed, where she was now perched. Her hands shaking slightly, she gently stroked Tara's hair.

Spike nodded his understanding. Unsure of what to say at the news, he asked instead, "Does she always sleep like this?"

Anya's tone was soft. "Sometimes, especially if she's had an episode."

Spike took in the word episode. He wondered how long it had taken them to come up with the term. "She's from the other place, right." Spike questioned, looking towards Anya. When Anya nodded, he added. "Word is out on the street that something bad is coming. I'm guessing it's not her." The vampire pulled a triangular shard of glass from one of the cuts on Tara's feet and dropped it in on top of one of the towels. "So, if she's here, that means Red's Tara..." His voice failed for a moment. "When did she die?"

"Just before you ran off with your tail between your legs." Xander said, his voice cold with anger.

Spike carefully ignored Xander's challenge. He owed Buffy that much, and more. Instead, he glanced at Dawn. "I heard that a lot of dark magicks were flying around here around then. That was Red?"

"Willow's off the magicks. No more veiny face or black eyes." Anya volunteered before Dawn could respond.

"Good to know." Spike muttered as he blotted away some of the blood and then carefully set the towel on the floor next to him. The smell was making him feel slightly ill.

"Why? Are you afraid of what she might do to you after what you tried to do to Buffy?" The question was out of Xander's mouth before he realized. The words finally out in the open, he couldn't stop himself from adding, "Or did you think that bringing Tara home tonight would even things out?"

Spike pulled a second piece of glass from Tara's foot. He could still see a third shard in her right foot and two more in her left. He set the second piece next to the first. "I know there's no forgiving me. This isn't about that."

"Then what's it about?" Xander snapped almost dizzy with rage over Buffy, over Anya, and over everything else he could pin on the vampire.

"It's about bringing Tara home. Nothing more." Spike responded evenly. Again, he glanced at Dawn. "How long was she missing."

Dawn moved from the head of the bed to see what Spike was doing and then wished she hadn't. Narrow rivulets of blood continued to ooze from the cuts on Tara's feet. Her voice shook. "About two and a half hours or so. She got away from me when I was on the phone. I was supposed to be watching her, and now she's hurt."

His back rigid, his eyes never leaving Spike, Xander said to Dawn. "You don't need to explain to him."

Afraid Xander was about to lose control, Anya pulled on ex-fiancé's arm. "Buffy and Willow are still out looking. We should call them and let them know she's home safe. We should have called them already. Let's go."

Dawn watched Anya lead Xander out of the bedroom and into the hall. She listened for their footsteps on the stairs before continuing. "Tara's been sick. We've been taking care of her. And she's been sort of getting better, but..." The teen trailed off for a moment, wondering how much she should share. "Willow and Anya have been giving her herbs and she's been eating more. Tonight, before she ran off, we watched cartoons. But now, she's hurt. Are you sure we shouldn't take her to the hospital?"

"These cuts will heal over in a few days. None of them are very deep. She must have stumbled into the glass when I caught her." Spike glanced at Dawn for a second, before turning his eyes back to Tara's wounds. "Stop blaming yourself. If this Tara's anything like Red's Tara, she wouldn't want you to beat yourself up over this." Not sure if he wanted to get involved, he paused before asking, "What's an episode?"

Dawn brushed her fingers against Tara's cheekbone, reassuring herself that the blonde was home again and safe. "Most of the time, she's pretty calm, but sometimes she gets majorly scared and disoriented. More confused than usual, I mean. If it gets super-bad, we have to restrain her. Afterwards, she kind of passes out."

"Must be pretty scary for you." Spike observed softly.

The teen wanted to ignore the vampire's sympathy, but couldn't. "I didn't get to talk to her before she got sick, but Willow told me that she was sure new Tara would like me." Dawn's voice broke softly. "I just wish I knew for sure."

Spike worked another piece of glass free, two left to go. "Do you know what kind of herbs Willow's been giving her?"

"Not really. Mostly stuff to help her sleep more easily, put down the fevers, and help her body heal." Dawn's fingers fidgeted with the hem of her sweater. "She got hurt fighting off a vampire to save Willow."

A faint smile crossed over the vampire's face. "She's a regular hero, huh."

"She's a demon fighter in her own world. But I think she's really gentle, too. And she only does white magicks, just like my other Tara." Dawn added, her tone unguarded as she began to relax into her old feelings about the vampire.

"You don't say." Spike debated how much to tell the youngest Summers, not sure if he should interfere. Drusilla had often teased him for his meddling in the lives of humans. After a year or two of ignoring his past, lately he found himself preoccupied with thoughts of Dru and Darla and Angelus, especially. He wondered if he'd always been a masochist. Plagued by memories of this place, he had nevertheless returned to Sunnydale. Would he ever be able to put this place behind him, liked he'd left behind England and China? The questions in his mind were unanswerable, so he pushed his internal debate to the side. He was already here; he might as well help. "Have you tried Lethe's bramble?"

Dawn had to think for a moment before remembering where she'd heard of it before. "Why would we give her that?" She asked in anger. "No one wants to make Tara forget her memories. Willow would never want to try to control anyone's mind. Not again. Not after what happened."

Spike worked to keep his voice even. "I'm not talking about a spell." He pulled the last piece of glass free and began to apply the antiseptic. As soon as he covered each of the cuts, he wrapped both of Tara's feet in clean towels and then tucked them under the quilt. "I'd better clear out. Buffy doesn't need to see me here." He picked up the towel holding the glass bits and carried it to the wastebasket where he shook it out. "Tomorrow morning, put some more of that antiseptic on her cuts."

Her anger contained, Dawn nodded, but then gave the vampire a measuring stare. "Just because I invited you in doesn't mean I like you. This was for Tara."

Spike looked at Dawn and realized how much she had grown in the past few months. "I know that." He collected the remaining towels and the water basin and handed them to the teen. A look passed over Dawn's face that he'd never seen before.

Dawn's voice was deathly calm. "If you ever try to hurt my sister, or anyone else I love, I'll kill you."

Sorrow washed over the vampire. Dawn was too young to make such declarations. "I will never give you reason to kill." He responded softly as he picked up his coat from the bed and slipped it on over his shoulders. "Ask Anya to get you some Lethe's bramble. Make it into a tea, and make it good and rich. If it's too weak, it won't work." He jammed his hands in his coat pockets and headed towards the door. "She won't like it; it tastes horrible, so try to sweeten it up with a little milk and honey. It will help."

The vampire left without saying goodbye. Dawn waited by the bed until she heard the front door open and close and then let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She took the towels and water basin into the bathroom and then returned to Tara's side. The blonde was sleeping peacefully.

Dawn leaned down to kiss Tara's forehead, as she said a silent prayer of thanks. Tara's forehead felt cool to the touch, but her eyes were moving beneath their lids. Already, she was dreaming.

The tears that had been threatening for hours finally came. "Please Tara, don't ever wander off like that again. I can't lose you." She sat down on the bed and placed a second kiss on Tara's forehead, listening through the open bedroom door as Anya begin the familiar chant. Words of protection resealed the house, but didn't make it safe.

When the teen came downstairs, she found Xander and Anya in the kitchen. The teakettle was on the stove and it looked like vengeance demon was making hot chocolate. She could feel their discomfort with one another. But Xander had taken off his jacket and hung it on the hook, just like old times, and Anya was rooting familiarly through the cupboards. Dawn couldn't help but see their interactions as a good sign. Wanting to make up for inviting Spike into the house, she acknowledged. "I know that was really hard."

Xander pulled his eyes up from the floor and gave Dawn a wink. "When did you grow up so much, Dawnster?"

"Just had to, I guess." Dawn said, as she quickly moved across the room. She wrapped her arms around Xander's waist. "But not so grown up that I don't need lots of hugs."

Xander gently circled the teen in his arms. "Hugs you can have. Cause I never run out." Xander looked over Dawn's head towards Anya, who was studiously ignoring the two of them. "I'm sorry I was acting like such a jerk upstairs."

Anya kept her eyes averted, and her voice was barely above a whisper. "You had a right." The teakettle began to whistle and she took it from the stove. Her back straightened as she turned to look at her ex-fiancé only to look away again as his eyes met hers. "Why don't you two go sit in the front room. I'll bring out the hot chocolate when it's ready."

Dawn nodded and took Xander by the hand to lead him to the front room. She understood the need for space. Lately it was all anyone seemed to need. Still, she hated it. She hated the space between Xander and Anya, she hated the way Willow kept her distance out of fear of being rejected by the people she loved, and she hated the way Buffy still tried to cushion her from the pain that filled her sister's heart. She hated that Giles was living so far away that he might as well be living on the moon, and she hated that Tara couldn't seem to find her way out of her shadow filled mind.

Hours later, she began thinking about Spike's advice. She didn't know exactly why she hadn't mentioned it to her sister and Willow once they came home. It just didn't seem like a good idea. Telling Buffy that Spike was back and had been in the house was bad enough, she thought. And as for Willow, the hacker was far too upset to hear that Tara had stepped in glass, mentioning Lethe's bramble would have only made her feel worse, and so Dawn kept her silence.

At three in the morning, still unable to sleep, she slipped out of bed and crept downstairs, carefully slipping past Willow, who was sleeping fitfully on the couch. She found the book in the dining room, stacked in a pile near the china cabinet. The spell was pretty straightforward, but Spike said she didn't need to do the spell, just make the tea. The teen closed the book and crouched on the floor, her back to the dining room wall, her knees legs against her chest, her chin perched on her knees. She needed to think.

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2002 10:56 pm 
Don't post much and should really change that. I was excited to see you had posted. I have really enjoyed reading it. It's a wonderfully intelligent story. Thank you for sharing your talent.


 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2002 2:41 am 
wow, so good to see an update from technopagan! this story is truly an A+, with so much amazing characterization and detail work, I feel like I've crawled inside each scooby's head in turn. so good!

and I was also happy to see you acknowledging something that the show never did...that willow saved buffy's goddam life when she went all black-eyed apocalyptic (not that she hasn't saved her life lots of times...) and that buffy should actually be grateful for that. it's nice to see buffy and willow rebuilding the friendship they deserve.

of course, I'm also dying to know what's up with spidey-senses tell me that there's more "joining" going on with our taras, and spike could somehow see it...and when new tara wakes up, what, exactly, will she remember?

...will the real tara maclay please stand up?

can't wait for more of this story!


Cordy: I personally don't think it's possible to come up with

a crazier plan.

Oz: We attack the mayor with hummus.

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2002 4:56 am 
Great update!!! :bounce :bounce :bounce

I hope Dawn is not considering another mind spell!!!:rage

Stef :p

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2002 5:47 am 

a wonderful pre-Christmas present.

Thank you


love and kisses

Still Waters

..... she wears secrets in her hair......

 Post subject: Re: Doppelganger Redux
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2002 7:23 am 
It's awesome to see not just one, not just two, no...three whole updates! And each of them is simply brilliant. :clap

I'm so glad that "new"-Tara is ok and it's nice to see, how Spike looked after her. I liked the things Dawn said to her at the beginning to cheer her up and stuff.

And finally some important things have been discussed between Willow and Buffy. Glad to see that.

Now, what is Dawn going to do??

I can't wait to read more. I really adore your story! :D

snuggle79 :wave


"I got so lost"

"I found you, i will always find you"

Edited by: snuggle79 at: 12/23/02 6:32:35 am

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