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 Post subject: March Challenge: Winner Announced
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:54 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Welcome to another monthly challenge. Like I said in the announcement of this whole monthly challenges deal, I plan to pull in and use seed ideas from old challenges, but remixed into new combinations. This is one of those challenges. Note that because no one told me their favorite challenges, I just kinda picked these . . . because. So if you have a favorite challenge from the past, speak up!

Basic rules: Write a story containing the seed elements and obeying the board rules. Post it in this thread by the end of March 31st. The story may be any length that fits in a single post. You may submit as many entries as you like, but you must pick one to be voted on for our exciting prize (see below).

Seed elements:

  • Setting cannot be 'contemporary'...meaning it cannot take place between 1996 and 2016. Place your story distinctly in either the past or future. How far in the past or future is completely up to you. (From "Anytime but Here")
  • Willow or Tara must use the title of at least one Beatles song as part of normal dialogue. (From the 10th Anniversary Kitten Fic Challenge)
  • A tumbleweed (I can’t find where I got this; it was one with Willow wanting to wear high heels and power tools, I think? But you only need to include the tumbleweed.)
  • Saint Patrick’s Day (Because it's March and I'm half Irish)

Sweet Prize: Laragh has very generously offered a prize for this month's competition: a signed 8x10 of Tara during the dream sequence in Restless, when the poem is being inked on her back.


So, there you have it. Another month, another challenge. And it turns out, another chance to win a sweet prize.


Last edited by BeMyDeputy on Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:50 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:43 am
Posts: 434
Quote:
A tumbleweed (I can’t find where I got this; it was one with Willow wanting to wear high heels and power tools, I think? But you only need to include the tumbleweed.)

It is actually called the 'Tumbleweed' Challenge, so you picked the right part to include. :laugh
The complete list was:
The fic must be completed in one posting -- it can be as long as you wwish/need it to be, but you must have it done with one posting.
The fic must make use of the following elements:

Tumbleweed (sagebrush)
Cordless power tools (real tools, any tools you wish)
Asparagus (I don't know why)
A blowup baby pool full of jello (flavor of your choice)

The fic must contain SMUT. I will leave the definition of smut up to you. I'm thinking PG and PG-13 ratings won't count though.
The required elements mentioned in #2 need NOT be included in the smut -- because in some cases, that just may be too weird. However, if you really feel the need to include those elements in your smutty play, by all means, have fun.
The power tools must be used by either Willow or Tara. There will be no using Xander to fix a broken window JUST to include the power tool requirement.


I look forward to reading the results. :)


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:32 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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I'm not supposed to read fanfic anymore (my psychiatrist banned me, it's a long story) but like hell am I going to be able to resist stories with Paddy's day in it :D Great challenge!


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:24 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:43 am
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Laragh: Does your psychiatrist know that you're still writing on the side? :p


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:42 pm 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Hmmm...

Quote:
Setting cannot be 'contemporary'...meaning it cannot take place between 1996 and 2016. Place your story distinctly in either the past or future. How far in the past or future is completely up to you. (From "Anytime but Here")
I think I wrote the Tara Maclay Affair for that one...

Quote:
Willow or Tara must use the title of at least one Beatles song as part of normal dialogue. (From the 10th Anniversary Kitten Fic Challenge)
I don't think I wrote that one...

Quote:
A tumbleweed (I can’t find where I got this; it was one with Willow wanting to wear high heels and power tools, I think? But you only need to include the tumbleweed.)
I wrote Shadow and Sunlight for that one.

... my thought process...


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:06 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:31 am
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Quote:
Quote:
A tumbleweed (I can’t find where I got this; it was one with Willow wanting to wear high heels and power tools, I think? But you only need to include the tumbleweed.)

I wrote Shadow and Sunlight for that one.


In fact, the way I found that element was by looking up Shadow and Sunlight. Then I forgot where I had gotten it until BuffyFan4ever mentioned the pool of Jello. That part, that I remembered.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:50 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Yay JustSkipIt, this means you are gonna write one for this? You were one of the people I thought of when I suggested to do a new challenge. Please say you will participate?!?!


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:57 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Okay, I have a question. How many words/characters can there be in a single post? Maybe one of the Mods can answer?


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:25 pm 
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1. Blessed Wannabe
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OOO i hope JustSkipIt enters... I can their stories all day long...wait a second.. I HAVE read them all day long at one point. LOL


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:27 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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True_Love wrote:
Okay, I have a question. How many words/characters can there be in a single post? Maybe one of the Mods can answer?



no more than 120000 characters


Last edited by Kajun on Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:42 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Awesome. Thank you so much, Kajun.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:52 pm 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Katie - Cool.
dtburanek - Probably not but if inspiration and time strike together, then I will do so. I have a few unfinished pieces in my drafts so I'll look and see if any of them can be adapted easily.
willowhaven116 - Thanks so much. I'll see.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:35 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:08 am
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This is my first monthly challenge, I don't know if I'm doing it right. So I'm just going to wing it, let me know if I'm doing something wrong so I can fix it. :)

The rating on this one is a solid PG-13 for a bit of messy violence or two.

I don't own Willow, Tara, any other character in this story, any lines based off Beatles songs didn't come out of my brainpan either. I don't own St. Patricks Day, nor do I have a monopoly on tumbleweeds, gas stations, or the barren Nevada desert. I did, however, write this story. :)

Not only is this set in the future, it's also set in another universe. Something goes terribly wrong after a night of festive drinking and Willow wakes up in another reality! Oh noes! It's not funny, at all, sorry. It's also not super wrap-up-y, but I didn't want to force an epic fic down your throats, so I just sort of picked a place and ended it. There's so much more, it's just all in my head. Sorry. :grin

I suppose the only warnings to offer are that there's a touch of violence, and it is set in a dystopian future. It’d be rude of me not to tell you that an alternate version of Willow is believed to be dead by the rest of the characters (I figure it’s better to spoil you and tell you she’s fine then to make you sit all upset until the end when you SEE that she’s fine). There's also the budding romance between an AU Tara and our Willow. This is a Willow/Tara board so I'm sure you're all expecting that.

Anyway, hope you all enjoy, I had fun writing it.



Across The Universe

Willow awoke with a jerk.  Blinking frantically, she took in her surroundings.  Something had gone horribly wrong.  Sure, in hindsight maybe she had a few too many adult beverages, but she’d been responsible!  It was St. Patricks Day after all.  Buffy had driven, and Anya was the only one who had gotten really out of control.  She and Tara certainly hadn’t done anything crazy.  Tara!  Tara?  Willow rubbed her eyes clear of sleep and quickly tried to rationalize her predicament.  Where was she?  Where was Tara?

She was on a...a cot?  It wasn’t very comfortable.  She pulled off the thin blanket, turning to put her feet on the floor.  She was...OH!  She was naked.  She hadn’t fallen asleep naked, had she?  Tara was nowhere to be seen, and she definitely wasn’t still in Buffy’s house.

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore...”  Willow wrapped the blanket around her, it wasn’t very big, but it served its purpose.  She stood on shaky legs.  Her mouth was uncomfortably tacky and her head was foggy.  “Some kind of jello shot and jungle juice tornado?”

The room was bare, concrete, window-less, and the cot was its only furnishing.  Where were Tara, Xander, Anya, and Buffy?  She took a few tentative steps toward the rickety door.  It was thin, and patched with pieces of particle board.  There was a hole where the knob should have been.  Using her better judgment she kneeled and peeked out through the hole.

She jumped back right before the door swung open toward her.  The older man on the other side seemed as surprised as she was.  He hurriedly averted his eyes, shoving the stack of clothes that he was holding out in front of him.

“Ah, dress, please.”  His accent was familiar.

“Giles?”  Willow momentarily forgot her awkward state of undress.  The man bore a slight resemblance to the Giles she knew.  He seemed more...worn.  His face was dirty, his clothes were torn, his ever present glasses were absent, and he was visibly scarred.  It was Giles though, Willow was certain.

“Uh, y-yes.”  He glanced quickly at her from the corner of his eye before thrusting the clothes out further.  “Please, put these on.”

A blush spread across Willow’s cheeks.  “Of course.  Sorry.”  She took the clothes and stood uncomfortably, waiting for him to leave.

He suddenly got the clue and turned on his heel, pulling the door closed.  Willow could hear him on the other side of the door, he was waiting, she realized.  She set the clothes on the bed and threw a look back at the door before slipping the blanket off her shoulders.

The clothes Giles had brought her were raggedy and smelled bad, more like potato sacks than clothes.  “I guess I’d rather wear smelly rags then have Giles seein’ all my mischief bits.”  Willow muttered.  She dressed quickly and turned, clearing her throat.

“G-Giles?”

“Are you...decent?”

“Uh, yeah.  What’s going on?”

The older man pushed the door open slowly, poking his head in as if to verify her dressed state.  “Oh, something terrible, I’d presume.”

Her green eyes widened.  “Where are we?”

“Somewhere you shouldn’t be.”  This voice was familiar as well.

Willow’s heart stopped when a figure appeared in the door behind Giles.  AH!  Vamp Willow!  She began to visibly panic and looked for something to shield herself with but came up empty.  She cursed the Spartan decor of the room.  Was it a room?  Maybe it was a cell!  Maybe she was a hostage!

“Calm down.”  Other Willow sighed and stepped further into the room, putting herself between Giles and... herself.  “We’re not going to hurt you.  We’re trying to figure out what you’re doing here.”

“What am I doing here?”  Willow was panicking.

“We’re trying to figure that out.”  Other Willow cocked an eyebrow at herself and looked at Giles.  “She’s a kind of a spaz.”  She sighed again and cocked her head to the door.  “Do you want to come eat and we’ll talk?”

Willow ran her sweaty palms across her sack-clothes.  “Are you going to eat me?”

“No.”

“Then yes.”

***

This was ridiculous.  Ludicrous.  It was 2050 CE, and as far as Willow could tell, a completely alternate universe.  A universe with a heavy military presence.  She was an important person here, or at least Other Willow was.

It was bright and quiet now; sun was shining in through gaping holes in the reinforced structure. Willow was trying to steady her breathing.  The gunshots hurt her ears as they echoed throughout the mostly concrete and metal structure.  She just wanted to find Tara.

“All clear!”  Xander yelled.

“Willow’s down!”  Buffy shouted.

Willow stood quickly.  “No, I-I’m okay!”  She paled when she saw Xander rush to Buffy’s side.  He had an eye patch and Buffy had several large scars across her face and arms.

Giles had a shotgun slung over his shoulder and was looking through a peephole in a boarded up door that led to the outside.

Other Willow was on the floor, and she wasn’t the only one.  There were armored bodies scattered randomly around the kitchen, bullets had ripped through their vests and pads.  The group’s breakfast had been interrupted by smoke bombs.  Other Willow had shoved her down behind an overturned table that was being used for cover.

Buffy was sobbing.  Giles finally abandoned his post and walked to Other Willow.  Setting his shotgun down on the counter, “Willow,” he whispered.  “Willow?  Can you hear me?”

Other Willow sputtered, blood covering her chin.  “Giles, p-protect her.”  She pushed out, hissing through gritted teeth.

“O-of course.”  Giles ran his hand over his face and looked over his shoulder at wide-eyed Willow.

Willow had surely never expected to watch herself die.

A CB radio by the non-functioning refrigerator crackled to life.  “We just got hit, are you guys okay?”

It was Tara’s voice.  Tara!  Willow ran to the CB, picking up the microphone.  “Tara?  Baby?!  Where are you?!”

“Will?” Tara’s voice was barely audible through the static on the line.

“We were hit also, Oz didn’t make it.  Is Xander okay?”  Anya’s voice was a bit clearer.

Xander took the microphone from Willow’s hand.  “I’m fine.  Tara?  Willow...”  He took his finger off the transmitting switch.  He took a breath to steady his shaking voice before pushing it in again, “Just get over here. All teams back to base.”

***

“You look just like her.”  Anya was circling Willow at an uncomfortably close distance.

Willow cleared her throat and tried to make eye contact with Tara.  The blonde wouldn’t look at her.  “As far as I can tell, I am her.  O-Or she’s me, anyway. I think it’s an alternate realities thing.”

Everyone was here, as far as Willow could tell.  Tara’s group consisted of Faith and Spike, Angel and Dawn were with Anya.  It seemed the attack this morning had been a big one; there were casualties in all groups.  Cordelia and Oz hadn’t made it; and neither did the mysterious and apparently badass Other Willow.

“They’re getting more dangerous.  We’ve got to do something.”  Xander was restless.  He seemed like he was about to jump out of his skin.

Buffy’s eyes were on the floor.

Willow couldn’t contain herself any longer, “What’s going on here!?”

Tara flinched at the sound of the redhead’s voice.  Everyone else refused eye contact.

Giles stood slowly from his position on a stool.  “There’s a war, a war against magic.”  He rubbed his forehead.  “Willow, Anya, Tara, and myself, are part of a small few with any mastery over magic anymore...”

Willow furrowed her brow.  What?  How insane was this?  She must be dreaming.

“The government can track magic, so we avoid using it.  They’ve been after us for years.  Hunting us like beasts.  There are other groups scattered across the globe, but it’s the same everywhere.  The world’s militaries are playing exterminators.”

Tara spoke for the first time.  “They must have gotten a reading off your...arrival.”  Her voice was gravely and cold.  Tara finally locked eyes with Willow.  Did she blame her for Other Willow’s death?  The redhead felt icy fingers clenching her stomach.  This was such a mess.

Giles sighed.  “Well, let’s pack up and get ready to move again.  They know we’re here.”

***

Willow opened her eyes to the darkness. The group had settled down after a busy day for a few short hours of tossing and turning and her cot had been moved to the communal sleeping area so she could join them.  They’d spent the day packing their meager belongings, and at daybreak they would maneuver everything and everyone into the small caravan of cars they used for their daily operations.  The plan was to be out of Nevada by noon. Willow stood slowly, eager to find Tara who had taken the first guard shift.  They hadn’t had time to talk, actually the blonde seemed to be avoiding her which gave Willow an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Willow hadn’t searched the whole interior of the compound, but she’d poked around without sighting the woman.  It seemed to be a large warehouse, about 50,000 square feet.  The redhead decided to look outside.  She peeked out the rudimentary peephole in the thin metal door, which she strongly believed was actually a bullet hole.  All clear; she pulled it back slowly, it moved to the side on rollers.  It made a screeching noise, but she was far enough from the group that no one heard it.  She tiptoed out into the chill night air.

A breeze swept her baggy clothes around her body, a tumbleweed skittered across the enclosed yard.  A pair of glowing animal eyes peeked out from a desert bush near the tall, sheet metal-covered fence.  She wondered if the whole world was as damaged as it seemed in the compound.  What did the cities look like?  Were tall buildings still standing?  How many people were alive?  “Is this the apocalypse?”  She thought out loud.

“I guess it kind of is.”

Willow quickly spun on her heel, Tara was nearly touching her.  “I-I didn’t hear you.”

“We’re pretty good at sneaking around in this reality.”

“I guess you’ve had a lot of practice.”

They were silent for a moment before Tara’s gravelly voice was carried on the breeze.  “You should be asleep, it’s a hard day’s night.  We’ve got to leave at dawn.”  Tara’s face seemed permanently dirty; there were smeared tear streaks across the bridge of her nose.  She’d been crying.

Willow felt like she was intruding.  “I’m sorry.  I just...wanted to see you.”

The blonde turned away from her.  “You should get back inside, it’s not safe out here.”

“Tara.”  Willow reached out for her lover.  Tara was already walking away, and Willow’s hand met nothing but air.

***

Faith was adjusting the leather jacket Willow was shifting uncomfortably in.  “Look Red, we’re likely to pass other rebel camps.  No one can know you’re dead.  You’re an icon here.  The most powerful witch left.  If you’re dead, everyone loses hope.”

“I understand.  I just wish I didn’t have to wear Dead-Me’s...dead clothes.”  They’d gotten as much of the blood off of the jacket as they could, but it was still stained.  “And I’m really not comfortable with this gun.”

“You need to get comfortable with it, and fast.”  Spike tossed her another ammo clip.

Angel pointed to the safety again.  “Don’t forget what we went over.  Keep it loaded at all times, take off the safety to shoot.  If anything happens stay somewhere safe, but use the gun if you need to.”

Even Dawn carried a gun, she was leveling it at the horizon and checking its small parts.  Willow couldn’t comprehend how crazy this universe was.  She wanted to get home.  She prayed to every god she could think of, she would NEVER drink again if they would just send her home!

Xander lifted the last of the spare fuel into the bed of Angel’s black pick-up truck.

“So, you’re not vampires in this universe?”  Willow turned to Angel and Spike, squinting at them in the morning light.

“We were.”  Angel said cryptically.

Spike looked at her briefly before moving to help Anya load a cooler into the truck, “things change.”

“There are no vampires anymore.”  Buffy said.  She was standing in the back of Giles’ Jeep, taking supplies from Tara on the ground.

“Wow, guess you got pretty good at the slaying, huh?”

No one laughed.  Faith patted Willow on the shoulder.  “Come on Red, it’s about time to roll out.”

***

Tara and Willow shared the back seat of Giles’ Jeep, they’d been driving for hours. It was getting hotter, the chill desert wind was warmed by the sun and whipped Willow’s hair around her body. Strands hit Tara’s face and shoulder like flames licking her skin. Tara had expertly tied her hair back in a low pony tail, the tip didn’t come all the way out of the band, leaving a thick loop of honey colored hair at the base of her neck. Willow had to stop herself from tucking the few wind-blown strays behind Tara’s ear. They’d been talking for the past hour and had moved closer together so they didn’t have to shout over the wind. The proximity of their bodies felt electric. 

Tara’s blue eyes were glittering in the sunlight just inches from her face and Willow wasn’t sure if her heart was jumping in her chest or if Giles needed to slow down on the poorly paved road. “I’m sorry about...Other Willow.  I’m sure she was um, great.”

Tara’s eyes darkened and she balked slightly.  Maybe talking about Other Willow wasn’t a great idea.

“There’s a rebel-friendly gas station up ahead.”  Buffy’s voice crackled over the CB.  “Let’s all top off.  Faith’ll make sure all the gas cans are full.”

“Let’s make this quick people.”  Angel’s voice came across the wire.

Willow could make out the gas station on the horizon.  It was the first thing she’d seen other than sand and brush in ages.  They pulled up to it slowly in single-file.  Tara hopped out of the Jeep before it came to a complete stop.  She extended her hand to Willow who smiled hopefully at her.

Tara was obviously trying not to return the smile as she helped the redhead to the ground.  Willow found herself sliding down to the packed earth, she unconsciously pressed against Tara’s hard body, muscled from years of fighting.  Blue eyes found green for a quick second before Tara cleared her throat and stepped back, putting a comfortable distance between them.

“Let’s go-.”  Tara’s voice was nearly a whisper, airy.  She cleared her throat and her voice came out stronger.  “Uh, let’s go get some food.”

Willow smiled and took the blonde’s hand, walking towards the small building, and had to hold tightly to keep Tara from letting go.  “I want to hold your hand. Besides, they know us here right?  They’re rebel-friendly?  They need to think I’m Other Willow, so act normal.”

After a moment Tara conceded and returned the grip.  She held the door open for Willow to enter the building.  “Willy.  We got tagged and we’re heading across state lines.  You might want to watch out for increased commando activity.”

“A’ight, just don’t tell me where ya goin’.”

“We never do.  Just stocking up.”  Tara pointed to the large quantities of food lining the shelves.  Willow could feel the blonde’s hand burning a hole through her thin shirt.  It was an intimate touch, under the jacket, but over the shirt.  She couldn’t help but wonder if this was just an act for Willy’s benefit or if Tara actually wanted to be touching her.

When they were out of earshot she quickly turned to face Tara.  “Tare?”

Blue eyes widened in surprise and Tara pulled her hand off Willow’s back.  “Yeah?”  She quickly looked away, picking a few cans of food off the shelf.

“Are you- AH!”  Willow found herself on the ground.  She’d stepped back onto a broken pallet and fallen.  There was a big gash in the palm of her hand from landing on some debris.

Tara quickly helped her up.  “Be careful. No one’s going to believe you’re Willow, she’s much more composed.”

“She had years to suave up, I’ve only been here a day.  A-and in my defense it’s really messy here, I’m surprised I didn’t trip over something sooner.”  She looked down at her bloodied hand.  “Ow.”

Tara smiled softly and grabbed some alcohol and gauze from the shelf behind Willow’s head.  “Come on, we’ll send someone else in for food.”  She tossed a few bills from her pocket onto the counter and led Willow out the door.

“Everything okay?”  Dawn asked, seeing Willow’s hand.

“She’s fine, go grab the food when you’re done?”  Tara asked, pointing to the water jugs Dawn was filling with at the outdoor spigot.

The brunette nodded and Tara thanked her.  She walked to the Jeep with Willow in tow and helped the redhead up into their seats.

“Give me your hand.”  Tara tore open the gauze pack and uncapped the bottle of alcohol.

Willow’s eyes widened.  “I can tell this is going to hurt a lot and I’d like to say that I really feel that it isn’t that bad, it’s a scratch really, and-”

Tara cut off Willow’s babble with a hand on her cheek.  “Will, just give me your hand.  We don’t have any way to help you if it gets infected. First aid isn’t very top of the line on the road.”

Willow’s jaw dropped open at the touch and she offered her hand up without further fight.

Tara chuckled.  “You’re just like her.”

“I am her.”  Willow winced at the sting of the alcohol.

“Yeah...I guess you are.”  Tara smiled at her gently before dropping her head to kiss the wound, the Willow she knew always liked it when she kissed the pain away. “Better?”



***



Willow awoke with a jerk. Blinking frantically she took in her surroundings. Something had gone horribly wrong. Her chest screamed with pain. She remembered being shot. Hearing Buffy’s agonized scream and feeling the former Slayer’s arms wrapped around her while the world faded around her.

The world wasn’t faded at all anymore, it was harsh and bright. She could hear the beeping and whirring of machines. Where was she? She hadn’t said goodbye to Tara. Where was Tara?

Suddenly Tara was beside her, stroking her face and kissing her gently but with urgency. Willow could hear Buffy’s voice calling for a doctor. Giles was above her a wide worried smile on his face, his eyes were tired behind a pair of glasses.

“W-what?” She tried to croak out. Her throat wasn’t working.

Tara was shushing her. “Baby, no, don’t talk. Just lay still. You’ve been shot.”

“Where am I?!” Willow needed answers. Were they in a hospital? The commandos would find them for sure! What were they thinking? They should have just let her die! The whole group’s security would be at risk if they’d taken her to a hospital, she couldn’t let that happen.

“We were having hangover coffee post-St Patty’s Day, we couldn’t find you anywhere. We thought maybe you’d gone off to pick up breakfast or something.” Xander’s voice came from somewhere in the room that she couldn’t see. Tara’s face filled her vision. “All of a sudden you just...BAM...right in the middle of the kitchen. You were naked and covered in blood...there was panicking.”

Tara had tears in her big blue eyes. “You’ve been in a coma for five days, Will. We-we were so scared.” She kissed Willow one last time before the doctors rushed in and pulled them apart.

This wasn’t her world.




-Saint


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:34 am 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Location: Seattle, WA
Dibs! Shall return when on a computer and not my phone :)


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:20 pm 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Location: Texas, Y'all
StIcarus - Thanks so much for posting. I really enjoyed your story. It has that dry deserted and post-apoclypse feel to it which I think is intentional. I'd certainly be interested in reading more of it if you decided to expand it.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:43 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey

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StIcarus, I like this. You have a nice crisp style that creates a distinctive atmosphere.

I would like to read more. I hope you'll continue this in a new thread.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:02 pm 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

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Thanks so much for reading folks. :)

JustSkipIt Nice words from an author as talented as yourself. :bow I do have some more written, I may get around to posting it next month.

wayland Crisp. I like that, I call it "overly brief". I'm used to writing little snippet vignettes so this was a challenge but I enjoyed it. Like I said, I may continue this, I have about 15 more pages written.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:51 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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Title – Hippy Hippy Shake
Author name – beautiful_love a.k.a. Jess
Rating - PG-13 for language
Disclaimer - I don't own these characters.
Feedback- absolutely
Summary – Let’s take it back a few decades, throw in a tumbleweed, a Beatles song, and a random St. Patrick’s reference and you come up with this…
Notes – Thanks to Ariel for taking a peek at this. Since Everyday Life has stalled I thought I’d take a shot at this. As per my usual style, it's chocked full of dialog and thoughts are in italics. Hope everyone enjoys.

*****

She paced back in forth in front of the Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue, idly picking at the fringe of her brown suede jacket and staring down the block into the darkness as she waited for the white Ford Falcon to round the corner and take her on to her next stop.

It was something like the seven year itch that kept her moving from place to place; except it was more like a few months than those long seven years. She’d started off in her home town of Spokane, WA at the age of seventeen and had moved down the west coast, city by city over the last five years. Berkeley was her most recent stop and actually, one of her favorites. She’d been living there since October and she was almost sorry to see it go. But it was definitely time to move on.

She looked up again, staring down the block for any sign of her ride, her long blonde hair blowing gently in the cool California breeze. She supposed she could’ve just hitchhiked like she had on every other occasion, but something about that flyer she had seen in the courtyard the day before had captured her attention and now, she was here with no other prospects around. What choice did she have?

She’d seen other flyers around the Berkeley campus on her occasional visits there, advertising rides to this place or that in exchange for a few dollars towards gas or food but had never considered taking advantage of any of these square offers. That’s way too conventional, was always the thought that sprung to her mind when she passed them. But when she saw the blue poster tacked to a board near her apartment, its information neatly typed with bullet points about the trip to San Francisco something about it beckoned her. She’d quickly snatched it off the bulletin board and dropped a dime into the payphone down the block a few minutes later. Her initial reaction was surprise when a gruff, manly voice answered, immediately demanding what she wanted.

“Um, I-I saw a flyer about a r-ride to San Francisco… is th-this the right number?”

He sighed deeply and barely managed to pull the phone away from his mouth as he yelled at someone else in room.

“God dammit! I told you twenty fuckin’ copies! You got gum in your fuckin’ ears or something! Jesus!” She pulled the phone away from her ear, startled by the brusque order and just managed to bring the receiver back up to her ear in time to hear his instructions to her. “Car leaves at twelve tomorrow night. Yeah, it’s late but that’s when it’s leavin’ if you want the ride. Be at Cody’s Books. It’s a white Ford Falcon. Bring some cash! And don’t fuckin’ be late.” And with that she heard the distinct sound of the receiver being slammed down. What? She carefully put the phone back on its cradle, staring at it for a long moment, wondering what she’d just gotten herself into.

Now here she was, two nights later, all her worldly belongings packed into the large duffle bag at her feet, her battered guitar case a foot away from it, waiting for a car driven by what would undoubtedly be a raving skuzz. Sighing deeply, she kicked at an oversized pebble near the toe of her worn moccasin. Maybe you should just stay a little longer. I mean Berkeley isn’t so bad. You’ve had some fun here. She smiled at the memory of her initial arrival in town. As usual, she knew no one and had nowhere to stay but as luck would have it, she’d literally bumped into a bubbly blonde girl at a far out scene that she’d stumbled across and they immediately became friends. Buffy had offered up a place for her to crash that very night. That one night had turned into five months. And yes, it was a studio apartment with four other people but she’d had a lot of fun with them going to different sit-ins and demonstrations during the day and playing music and partying at night. Unfortunately she’d had to do without her loving, free spirited friend for the last two months. Buffy had gone to San Francisco at the beginning of January when Big Brother and the Holding Company appeared at the Matrix and unsurprisingly had not returned or been heard from since. That was their lifestyle though. You stand still for a few minutes and you get restless. Gotta move on to the next groovy scene, she thought knowing that it wasn’t just Buffy disappearing that was pushing her on. She just had to roam until the day she found somewhere or someone to make her stay. So far the score stood at Tara Maclay – 23, west coast cities/people – 0.

Yep, it’s time to beat feet, she thought, bobbing her head as she looked down at the wriggling toes in her moccasins. There’s really nothing left here for me. I’ve gotta take on a new place. See if I can find somewhere really far out.

The breezed picked up a bit, blowing her hair into her eyes as she stared down at the sidewalk below her feet. She looked up at the clock on the corner behind her and saw it was 11:55. She’d gotten to Cody’s early, just in case the guy gave her wrong information or tried to leave her stranded there. But so far no one had driven by in the last ten minutes. The street was actually eerily quiet for a Wednesday night as she stood in front of the bookstore, beneath one of the few available streetlamps.

This ride is going to be a drag. If this dude is anything like I think he is, I may want to sit in the back just to get through it. She grinned crookedly, picturing herself trying to keep as far away from the driver as possible as he ranted and raved about the war or LBJ or race riots. Come on Tara, it’s won’t be that bad. It’s not that far to San Francisco. You can stand thirty minutes in the car with this guy and then you can decide what to do from there. She once again bobbed her head as her resolve kicked in before kicking another nearby pebble into the street, its smooth surface skidding along the pavement for a moment and then stopping near the center of the road. Come on already!

The rev of an engine answered her thoughts as it broke through the quiet of the night, its headlights bouncing along the street. She looked up to see an approaching white Ford Falcon. Oh God, she thought as she felt her stomach drop again. Taking one last deep breath she braced herself for what was sure to be an extremely uncomfortable ride with the curt man on the phone. Standing there in front of the bookstore she waved once at the speeding car approaching, becoming a little more leery when it didn’t appear to be slowing down. At the last second she jumped out of the way as the car bounced up on the curb and stopped just short of her, tires grunting in protest at the quick halt. A slender, panicked redhead quickly got out of the car and held her hands up in the air, frantically waving them back and forth.

“Sorry! I’m so sorry. I wasn’t trying to run you down or anything. I’m just not used to this car yet. I’ve only had it a few days and it’s my first car. It’s actually not mine. I mean, it’s mine but it was my cousin’s. He let me have it for an incredible deal when he got a new one. I like it though. I mean it’s not that old and it gets me where I need to be. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that I almost just ran you over flat. I mean that’s no way to treat a nice girl just standing on the street by herself late at night, you know? I promise, I’m usually a very responsible driver. I just… well… I’m sorry.” The girl looked as if she might launch into another verbal tailspin at any second as she stepped around the car and up onto the curb. Tara stared wide eyed at the redhead, surprised and totally unprepared for the slew of words that had just come from her mouth.

“Um…”

“Are you ok?” she asked, taking another step forward.

“Um…” This wasn’t the gruff man from the phone. Tara continued to stammer as her mind caught up with her and she realized that her driver was actually this nervously sweet girl. Standing across from her in her flowing cotton skirt and simple peasant blouse, Tara actually realized that not only was the redhead able to expel more words in a single breath than anyone else she’d ever spoken to, but she was also incredibly beautiful. Whoa, she is fine as wine, Tara thought as she tried to get her mouth to respond. She continued to stare into the stunning green eyes in front of her, briefly looking away to take in the pale, freckled skin on the girls cheeks, the thin, kissable lips that the redhead was currently nervously chewing on and the long, graceful neck that led into the girls shirt.

Tara had known since she was thirteen that she much preferred the company of girls over boys. And not just as friends. She longed to be near girls, to touch them and kiss them; to hold them close to her and feel their soft warmth against her own skin.

“You’re on your way to San Francisco right? You called Monday about the ride?” Tara quickly shook her head clear of the thoughts of late night snuggles with this beautiful woman and looked back up into the worried green eyes staring back at her.

“Y-Yeah. I mean… yeah. I’m on m-my way to San Francisco. B-But when I called… this guy… I mean I th-thought-”

“Oh no, that was my boss. He was supposed to go on the trip but he got called off it because of some other stuff he needs to take care of so he’s been a little hacked off lately. You probably caught him in the middle of a bad day, which has been pretty much every day for the last two weeks. I’m Willow by the way,” she said, flashing friendly smile. She reached out and offered her hand, her smile growing more as the blonde shook it lightly.

“Tara.”

“Nice to meet you Tara. Are you sure you’re ok? I didn’t scratch you or anything right?”

“No, I’m f-fine,” Tara answered, her lips tipping into a small smile as she continued to let the redhead hold her hand. Willow continued to stare for a moment before realizing what she was doing and quickly dropped the blonde’s hand, ducking when she felt her cheeks start to blush.

“So um, Is this all your stuff?” Willow asked, pointing to the green duffle bag and guitar case that lay on the sidewalk near Tara’s feet.

“Yeah. This is everything. D-Do you have enough room?”

“Oh yeah, don’t sweat it. Come on, let’s throw everything in the trunk,” Willow said as she hefted the duffle bag over her shoulder and proceeded to the rear of the car. Tara followed along, watching the curve of Willow’s backside as the redhead walked in front of her. “Here, I’ll take that,” Willow said, taking the handle of the guitar case firmly in her grasp, her fingers gently brushing against Tara’s again in the process, causing both girls to shyly look away. She smiled at the blonde and then neatly situated the case and bag alongside her own shabby suitcase and a typewriter. Tara just nodded her thanks and made her way to the passenger door as Willow tried to shut the trunk, throwing her slight weight against the latch to get it to close.

Willow looked up to see Tara climb into the passenger seat and let out a huge sigh as she stared through the back window at the back of the blonde’s head. She is by far the sharpest chick I’ve seen in… ever, Willow thought with another sigh as she resigned herself to the fact that she was going to have to spend the next half hour in very close proximity to this beautiful girl. A beautiful girl you almost ran over!

She wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time. In fact, she was so focused on her work that she’d unconsciously driven any thoughts she used to have about any woman she found attractive to the far corner of her mind where they rarely were allowed to surface. But something about Tara made all those old feelings come straight to the surface. Relax Willow. She’s just a pretty girl. A pretty, beautiful girl. The most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen but it doesn’t matter. You’re not doing this to meet chicks. You’re here for work and damn it, that’s what you’re going to do, she thought with a determined nod as she made her way to her door.

“Alright. All set?” Willow asked as she climbed in the driver’s seat a minute later and smiled at Tara, feeling her determination fly out the window when Tara just nodded shyly in return. Willow started the engine up and gently eased the car back onto the street and up the block to the next stop sign. “Not much traffic out here at this time of night huh?” Willow asked as she tilted her head to the right, facing the street in front of them as something in the intersection caught her eye.

“You could say th-that,” Tara said as her own head tilted to the left, watching in utter confusion as a lone tumbleweed rolled along the street in front of them in the gentle California breeze.

“Huh.” Willow chuckled quietly at the odd occurrence and then stepped on the accelerator, pushing the car down the street. She glanced over at Tara a few times, taking in the curves of the blonde’s body and the sweetness of her face. She’s so pretty, Willow thought as she tried to balance her attention between Tara and the road in front of her. Tara noticed Willow staring out of the corner of her eye and wondered if the redhead had been expecting something or someone else to be accompanying her on the short drive over the Bay Bridge. Suddenly feeling incredibly self-conscious she let her hair fall forward, obscuring Willow’s view of her face. Realizing that she’d been caught staring Willow quickly turned back to the road and cleared her throat. Great, you’ve made her uncomfortable.

“So what are you going to San Francisco for?” Willow asked as she adjusted the volume on the radio, trying to break the tension that had developed in the car around them. Tara allowed a small smile to meet her lips when she recognized the sound of The Byrds singing Turn, Turn, Turn on KMPX. Wow, she’s even got good taste in music.

“I’m just h-heading over there. Time to cut out.”

“I can dig that,” Willow said. “Are you going to try getting into the whole music scene over there?” Tara looked back at the redhead, confusion in her eyes. “The guitar,” Willow said, motioning towards the trunk.

“Oh! Oh, no I j-just play for fun.”

“Are you any good?”

Tara just shrugged and tapped her fingers against the lotus flower patch on the knee of her bellbottoms to the beat on the radio as the sound of The Byrds faded to the voice of DJ Larry Miller and then to the smooth sounds of the latest single from Buffalo Springfield.

“What about you? Wh-What are you going for?”

“Oh, for some research. I’m writing a piece on a new album that’s being released on St. Patrick’s Day.”

“The Grateful Dead album?!” Tara turned to Willow, her excitement not only evident in her voice. Willow couldn’t help but smile at Tara’s endearing outburst and nodded.

“Yeah. They’re releasing it there on Friday. I mean I’m not meeting the band or anything. Just writing about the reception of the album and the possible impact it could have on the culture.”

“Wow. What are you writing th-this for?” Tara was now turned completely in her seat, facing Willow, totally enraptured by the redhead.

“I’m actually a journalist for the Berkeley Barb. It’s an underground newspaper,” Willow explained, unable to keep the smile off her face at capturing the blonde’s interest. This has to be the cutest thing ever. She’s so excited! Calm down Willow, she’s excited about the band, not about you.

“Yeah I know. I-I read it every chance I get,” Tara said with a giggle as she tucked a piece of her long blonde hair behind her ear. Wow, so she’s more than just a pretty face. She actually cares about what’s going on around us and she’s doing something about it.

“Really?” Willow asked, her tongue poking out between her teeth. Tara just nodded. “Well yeah, I don’t normally write music pieces. I’m usually the main writer on the political pieces but I thought this would be a nice change. I mean we’re in the middle of this incredible time right now. The times are changing and we need to take full advantage of it, you know?”

“Right on, yeah,” Tara said, her lips still pulled into another smile, turning her body diagonally in the seat. “So you’re going to check out the r-record stores?”

“Well that, yeah. Probably talk to the owners and maybe see if I can interview anyone that might be buying it. Just kind of see what their take on it is and what influence it might have on our generation.” Willow chanced a glance over at the blonde, her smile growing even wider when she saw Tara staring back at her.

“Well th-that’s pretty far out,” Tara said, finally tearing her eyes away from Willow and staring down at her lap. “So have you b-been writing long?”

“A few years. I’ve only been writing for the Barb for about a year but I love it there.”

“Did you um, have anything to d-do with that story about the bananas?” Tara asked, the left corner of her mouth twitched upwards. Willow looked over to see Tara’s blue eyes staring back at her, teasing her.

“Oh, um, various sounds of hesitation…” Willow trailed off.

“Wow, you did? I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that. Pretty b-bold, trying to trick the FDA into banning bananas. What did you write about them again?” Tara asked, turning back to Willow, unable to keep her eyes off the fascinating redhead.

“Well it was mostly my boss’s idea. I just helped bring it to life. We said that you could smoke a dried banana peel to get the same effect as smoking opium or taking mushrooms. We called it bananadine,” Willow said with a giggle that Tara couldn’t help but echo.

“I can’t believe they actually investigated it.”

“I know. It’s one of my prouder moments since I’ve started writing for the Barb,” Willow said, puffing her chest out.

“You should be very proud,” Tara said with mock seriousness. Once again, Willow looked over to the blonde, her tongue poking through her teeth as her smile threatened to overtake her face. Tara dipped her head down, her hair covering her face from Willow’s gaze. She’s so cool. “Seriously though, I think it’s really far out, what you write about. Y-You’re making a difference.” Willow just shrugged, her cheeks turning a light shade of pink at the compliment as she turned back to the road.

“It’s not a big deal,” Willow said, keeping her eyes on the road.

“Well I th-think it’s pretty groovy.” Tara kept her eyes on Willow’s face for any reaction and took a small amount of pleasure in seeing the redhead’s blush turn deeper.

“So what about you? Tell me about yourself? Are you from around here?” Willow asked, trying to change the subject.

“Here, there, and everywhere,” Tara answered, her eyes looking out at the open road but her body still turned towards the redhead. “I’ve moved around a lot.”

“Just can’t settle down?” Willow teased, unable to keep the teasing lilt out of her voice.

“Maybe,” Tara answered, slyly. Is she flirting with me? “What about you?”

“A little bit of here, a little bit of there, but not everywhere.” Stop flirting Willow! Tara smiled playfully at the redhead’s answer.

“So are you actually into The Dead?” Tara asked, wanting to hear the redhead talk more.

“I’ve only heard a few of their songs but they’re pretty boss,” Willow said. “What about you?”

“Oh I dig anything with a groovy beat,” Tara said, boldly doing a little dance in her seat. Willow couldn’t help but giggle at the blonde. Cutest thing ever!

“So how long are you staying in San Francisco?” Tara asked, once Willow had gotten control of herself. And please don’t say just for the weekend.

“Oh, I don’t know. Probably not more than a few days,” Willow said, glancing back over quickly and noticing the slight look of disappointment on Tara’s face.

Of course it’s only for a few days, Tara thought as she stared down at her fingers twisting in her lap. It would be way too easy for Willow to be the girl to make you stand in one place.

“Well th-that’s too bad. I thought maybe I’d know someone in the city.”

“So you’d know someone? Wait, you don’t have a place to stay or anything?” Willow asked, her face now etched with concern.

“Not exactly. I mean, I’ll be fine. I just don’t have like a d-definite plan of any sort.”

“But you really don’t know anyone there?” Willow’s concern was more than evident now as her brow furrowed deeply and her lips formed a definite pout.

“Well I can’t say I d-don’t know anyone there. I don’t know who all is th-there,” Tara attempted the joke but it fell flat when Willow continued to stare back in disbelief. “I’m sure I’ll find somewhere to stay though. It’s nothing to go ape over. I mean I’ve been on the m-move for years now and so far, everything’s been pretty groovy.”

“Ok, if you say so.” Willow turned back to the road, not sure what else to say. God, what if something happens to her? She could get hurt or starve or be mauled by wolves. Well not wolves per se. I mean, it’s San Francisco. But still, I can’t believe she’s just going without a safety net of any sort. I mean obviously that’s kind of her style. I just can’t imagine… I just hope she knows what she’s doing. I hope she’ll be ok. Maybe I can try to find a way to help her or something. Maybe I could find a place to stay and she could stay with me and then we could – No Willow, don’t go down that road.

Tara watched as Willow’s face continued to grow more and more uncomfortable and sighed in defeat, thinking she’d said something wrong. She turned in her seat to face forward once again. Way to go Tara. She looked out the window, seeing the lights of the city looming up ahead and knew her time with Willow was almost up. Well at least I can look back on this and remember the night I had a whole thirty minutes with the foxiest and coolest chick I’ve ever met.

“So where am I taking you then?” Willow asked anxiously.

“Oh, um, I-I guess just up here is fine,” Tara said as they approached the corner of Haight and Ashbury Street.

“Are you sure? I mean, I can take you anywhere,” Willow said, her voice rising a bit at the thought of leaving the blonde in the middle of the city well after midnight. No! “I mean, maybe you could come with-”

“I’ll be fine Willow,” Tara said, flashing her lopsided grin at the redhead once more. “Really. It’s not my first time in a new city.”

“Right. Here, there, and everywhere,” Willow said as she reluctantly pulled the car to the side of the road and put it in park. “I’ll help you get your stuff.” Tara smiled gratefully and opened her door, stepping out of the car. She met Willow at the rear of the Falcon, taking in the redhead’s slouched posture and furrowed brow.

“Hey, are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just… well…” Willow trailed off as she set Tara’s belongings on the curb next to the blonde. Tara watched as she fumbled for the words, wondering what it was that had Willow so turned inside out before the light bulb went off in her head.

“Oh! The gas m-money right? I’m sorry, I should’ve offered it right off when you p-picked me up,” Tara said, her face turning red as she dug into the front pocket of her denim jeans.

“No, Tara, I don’t want your money. That’s not… that’s not what I’m worried about.” Tara looked up at the redhead, waiting patiently for her to continue as Willow gathered her thoughts. Willow looked up into the deep blue eyes in front of her and felt her stomach start to tingle. Offer to take her with you. Tell her you can help her find somewhere to stay tomorrow but for tonight, she can stay in your arms.

The pause drew out longer and longer, and the quiet of the late night became louder and louder in Tara’s ears, thumping along with her heart. “Willow?” She reached out and placed her hand on the redhead’s forearm, squeezing gently.

Unable to take the intense blue stare anymore Willow dipped her head, staring down at where Tara held onto her. Forget it, Willow. She’d never go for you. “I just want to make sure you’re going to be ok.”

“Willow, r-relax, don’t sweat it. I’ll b-be fine, I promise,” Tara said, pushing a smile to her face, working overtime to mask her disappointment. She quickly dropped her hand and stepped away. Willow stared back at the blonde, forcing a small smile when she saw the blonde smiling easily at her. “Now go on, get out of here. You’ve got a big day ahead of you. And I expect to see an amazing article in the Barb about this weekend.” Tara stepped back, still smiling but feeling her heart grown heavy with the thought of never seeing Willow again. She didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay with Willow for as long as possible. It’s not in the cards Tara. Keep moving. She threw the duffle bag over her shoulder and grabbed her guitar case before turning around and walking down the street, glancing back only once to see the redhead still watching her.

Willow stood there, watching until Tara rounded the corner and was out of sight. She let out a giant sigh as her shoulders slumped forward in defeat. Damn it, she thought as she climbed in behind the wheel of the Ford and proceeded down the street and around the opposite corner.

*****

“Rave on Tare, rave on.” Tara smiled up at the blonde dancing barefoot in the street in front of her as she strummed the first few chords of Light my Fire. She let her fingers effortlessly dance over the strings and closed her eyes as the lyrics tumbled out through her lips.

“You know that it would be untrue… You know that I would be a liar… If I was to say to you… Girl, we couldn't get much higher…”

“I could so be higher right now,” Buffy said with a smile. Tara opened her eyes and giggled as she watched Buffy close her eyes and roll her head back, still dancing despite the looks from passersby on their way home for the evening.

“I’m sure you could Buffy,” Tara said, continuing to strum through the song. Buffy just laughed and looked down at her friend.

“I’m so glad you’re here. These last few months have been a drag without you.”

“I’m glad I’m here too, Buf.” She strummed through a few more chords before picking up the lyrics again. “The time to hesitate is through… No time to wallow in the mire… Try now we can only lose… And our love become a funeral pyre…”

“You didn’t tell me you could sing,” a voice timidly called off to her left. Tara turned and immediately lit up when she saw who was standing there.

“Willow!”

“Hey! I was just passing by and thought I’d stop and say hi,” she said with her own smile and a meek wave. She’s happy to see me! She’s happy to see me! Or at least happy and I just happen to be who she's looking at... no, focus Willow. She's happy to see you. Tara set her guitar to the side and stood up, stepping towards the redhead.

“I thought you would’ve left town by now. I m-mean, the album release was four days ago,” Tara said as she brushed the dust of the sidewalk from her jeans. She’s still here! Maybe I didn’t miss my chance to stand still!

“Yeah, about that…” Willow trailed off as she stared down at her hands. Don’t tell her you stayed to find her. Don’t tell her you stayed to find her. Don’t tell her you stayed to find her. “I just… I wanted-”

“Hey, who’s the stone fox?” Buffy called from her place on the sidewalk where she still danced despite the lack of music. Tara turned to her friend for a moment, smiling at her carefree attitude.

“Buffy this is Willow. She’s the chick that gave me a ride here,” Tara said, turning back to the redhead, unable to wipe the excited smile off her face.

“Groovy,” Buffy said as she stared back at the pair. “You should bring her to the party.”

“What party?” Willow asked.

“A friend of ours is having a get together. It’s just a few blocks up from here. Should be a pretty cool scene. Want to c-come?” Tara asked, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice.

“Are you sure that would be ok?” Willow asked, both nervous and excited at the prospect of spending the evening with Tara.

“It’ll be outta sight,” Buffy called from her place behind the pair. Tara just smiled and nodded.

“Well ok, sure. I’ll come,” Willow said, twisting her fingers nervously in front of her.

“Cool. C-Come on,” Tara said as she packed up her guitar and turned to the two girls. “I j-just have to take this back to Buffy’s and then we can go.”

“I’ll take it, you two go on ahead. I’ll meet you there,” Buffy said, quickly grabbing up the case from Tara’s grasp and strolling off down the street, still swaying to an unheard beat with each step.

“Um, you ready?” Tara shyly asked, turning back to Willow. Willow just nodded eagerly and fell in step beside the blonde, their arms gently brushing with each stride. “So how much l-longer are you staying here then?”

“Well, that hasn’t exactly been determined yet. I talked to my boss and asked if I could stay on a little longer. You know, write from here for a while. There’s stuff going on here too and I thought maybe I could just write the stories and send them over to the Barb when I’m done. You know, get more information, talk to more people, see more things. I just have this feeling about this year. I mean 1967 just started. There's so much going on in the world! And I just think that San Francisco has a lot to offer me right now and for the moment, he’s agreed to let me stay. And I found a place to stay while I’m here so I’m not going to be sleeping in my car or anything and I thought that maybe, since you’re here that we could maybe see each other. You know, maybe you can show me around and introduce me to the city and we can hang out and stuff.” Willow anxiously looked to the blonde beside her, her face full of hope. Tara couldn’t help but smile at the lengthy, nervous request and the utterly adorable look on Willow’s face.

“I’d l-like that,” she replied simply, reaching out and squeezing the redhead’s elbow. Willow beamed back at her, unable to control the little skip in her step at that moment.

“Great!” Willow said, feeling the goose bumps rise up on her arm from where the blonde’s hand touched.

“But I’ve only been here a few days. I don’t exactly know the whole city,” Tara pointed out.

“But you’ve been here, there, everywhere,” Willow teased. Tara just grinned lopsidedly at the redhead. That has to be the most adorable smile I’ve ever seen. “I guess we can figure it out together?” Willow asked hopefully, boldly brushing her own hand along Tara’s wrist.

“Definitely together,” Tara said as she grabbed the redhead’s hand and pulled her down the block.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:44 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:44 am
Posts: 160
Location: Seattle, WA
Dibs round 2! Again I will return when on a proper computer :)


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:00 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:27 am
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Topics: 3
Location: The Wild West
Title – One Night Out West . . .
Author - True_Love
Rating - NC17 to be safe, but I say hard R for sex and violence
Disclaimer - Standard. I own nothing that has to do with BtVS or ME. There is one line of dialogue stealage from Firefly just 'cuz that show was frickin' awesome and this is a western, so hey, how could I not. Song lyrics from Tim Finnegan's Wake.
Feedback- Always appreciated.
Beta - Ariel. She was invaluable for this story and it wouldn't be nearly as good as it is without her help.
Summary – Tara is the daughter of a wealthy businessman in the old west. A stranger and her partner come to town and her world is turned upside down.
Notes – Okay, first off I want to apologize for the length of this piece. It was originally going to be posted under my W/T Potpourri thread, but when I saw the challenge req's, I thought it could be easily adapted to fit. Plus, I just wanted to join the fun. Hopefully, after reading this you will never think of westerns the same way. I know I won't. Enjoy!

Thoughts in italics


The thunderous shot echoed throughout the small town of Dry Creek, Arizona and Tara Maclay knew her life would never be the same again.

Her daddy’s brow creased and his gun hand dropped. He grabbed at a hole in his chest over his heart, his eyes wide with confusion as he stared at his blood soaked hand. He gasped and his knees buckled as he fell backwards to the ground, a dust cloud erupting around his lifeless body.

Freedom was supposed to taste sweet, but the bile filling Tara’s mouth left nothing but bitterness as she winced and swallowed. She squinted at the piercing light as the sun began its morning rise. An early spring wind swept down the dirt street of the small town, covering the pooling blood surrounding her daddy’s body in a mixture of sand and dried grass while an aimless tumbleweed rolled by without a notion of the murderous act that had just taken place.

Tara’s gaze froze on her daddy’s blank stare as she lowered Donny’s rifle to her side and knelt down to close his cold steel blue eyes. Tara could hear nothing beyond the heavy pounding of her heart in her chest and the town that was normally bustling with activity had gone silent as a preacher’s call for prayer on Sunday. Tara’s attention was shaken away from her daddy when the town church bell rang out and signaled it was time to rise and prepare for the day ahead. Then her eyes turned to the sign from the saloon as its rusted chains flailed and squeaked in the early morning gusts that always seemed to signal warmer weather. But, there would be no warmth for Tara. Her veins felt cold as ice as she now saw the result of her years of wishing for her daddy’s death.

“Tara!” Willow jolted forward out of Emmitt’s grasp as he stood stunned at the sudden death of his former employer. She then leaned down and stretched out her hand. “Come with us! Come with me!”

Willow’s eyes were desperate as she shook her hand in front of Tara’s face, urging her to grasp it. Tara turned her head as she heard a scuffle off to the side. Xander pulled quickly out of Chester’s grasp and punched him across the face, then followed with a second powerful punch to the big man’s gut. Xander grabbed Chester’s gun and ran to Willow’s side. “Will, we need to adios! There’ll be a posse after us any second.”

“I know that!”

“You’re in trouble girl. I’m gettin’ the sheriff. You’ll be swingin’ by noon fur sure.” Emmitt said from behind Willow. Then he turned and raced towards the jail as his boots kicked up a trail of dust behind him.

“Now, Tara.” Willow said urgently. “We gotta go now!”

Tara nervously pulled her left hand to her stomach, clenching her fingers into a fist and then looked up to Willow. I wanted to leave, but not like this. Not with blood on my hands. She thought back to yesterday afternoon, stunned by how much her life had changed in one night.

*********


Nineteen hours earlier

Tara stepped out onto the wooden plank porch of her house at the end of the tiny pass through town and stared out to the row of buildings that lay before her. It wasn’t much of a place to live, but settlers found it several years back and were able to keep it away from the local Indian population due to its distance from the nearest water source. Only because of the deep wells created at the two ends of town did it continue to exist at all. Most ranchers or men of any means lived far outside of town, needing lakes and ponds for their livestock and horses. This meant the town itself was run by one man, Donald Maclay, Tara’s daddy

Other small communities within a few days ride where starting to benefit from the boom of the mining of copper, silver and on some accounts gold. Dry Creek had none of that; however, it did provide a much needed stop-over on way to anywhere else. This meant the saloon; boarding house and brothel were prime sources of income, and Donald Maclay owned all three establishments. This kept his wealth growing despite the failing economy of the town and with that wealth came power.

Tara’s daddy had given her three tasks: one to manage the daily upkeep of his house, two to maintain the ongoing business of the boarding house and brothel, and three, to obey her father as she would the Lord or be prepared to face hellfire and damnation. Her older brother Donny had been given oversight of the saloon, although her daddy quickly hired an experienced barkeep to be the real operator -- even he didn’t much trust his son around the whiskey and the money. Donny was never fazed by this and became a general fixture at the poker tables nightly where he worked hand in hand with the town pick-pockets: Mitzi, Bosely and Rufus to clean out a visitor’s cash money if he couldn’t cheat his way to it at the tables. However, if there was ever any trouble Donny’s gunmen Chester Douglas and Emmitt Carter would be at his side with guns drawn, hired by his daddy for protection of his son.

This Tuesday began just like every other day for Tara. She walked down the line of buildings through the center of town as the mid March sun beat down on her and a gust of wind blew her long chestnut locks across her face hiding her fair complexion. She quickly tucked the errant hairs behind her ears and continued on to prepare supper for the brothel girls and tally up their earning from the night before. It was the same thing every afternoon, and every afternoon she thought she couldn’t do it one more day. She of course tried rebelling in her youth, once. She never made it further than fifteen miles outside the town’s boarder before Donny and his gang rounded her up and brought her back home. She wished she could say the same for the man that had tried to help her.

He was left stranded in the desert with nothing but a single bullet in his gun. His possessions and horse rounded up and brought back to town. And as for Tara, her father beat her within an inch of her life and threatened to kill her if she ever attempted such a foolish act again. So, this was her life, walking back and forth from home to her daddy’s businesses, feeding the girls, collecting money, cleaning rooms in the boarding house and returning home to do the same. Now at age twenty, she knew this would be all life would ever have to offer her unless her daddy tried to trade her off for money or land. It had become her duty to be caretaker to her daddy and brother ever since her mama passed away from fever five years ago. Lucky woman.

As Tara walked down the street she said her ‘good afternoons’ to fellow merchants and townsfolk. The people of Dry Creek always treated Tara with respect and kindness, not with fear as they did with her daddy and brother. Then again, she wasn’t using cash money and gunmen to hold the town hostage. Unlike her daddy’s wardrobe that reeked of wealth, Tara was always dressed simply, usually in plain cotton prairie dresses that she had made from left over stock fabric at the mercantile and her boots were scuffed leather, marked by years of wear and tear with their worn down heels.

She made her way up the steps of her daddy’s businesses; her heels clomping hollowly against the sun-dried planks. Donald Maclay’s building was the largest structure in town, holding all three of his enterprises under one roof. Inside on the main floor was the saloon and up the stairs on the second level was the brothel. A short walk around the wraparound porch and the back of the building was the boarding house with ten rooms. Tara’s took in a deep breath and then pushed open the squeaking saloon doors to begin the next part of her day. Her eyes immediately caught a friendly face and she smiled.

“Good afternoon, Curtis,” Tara said to the middle-aged barkeep.

Curtis Wilks was a short barrel-chested man, barely taller than Tara. He wore the same outfit every day, a black string tie and a simple white shirt under a neatly buttoned black vest with black trousers. He had a round pale face, not tanned like most the fellas that came in the saloon. His occupation kept him free from the sun with the many hours he spent inside pouring libations to the local residents and frequent visitors. The only color at all on is glowing white face was the dark brown mustache that tickled his upper lip and his rosy red cheeks that lifted in a smile when he saw Tara. To her, he was one the friendliest and kindest fellas in town.

“Good afternoon, Miz Tara.”

“Any problems last night?” Tara asked as she looked around the open room bathed in dusty sunlight.

“Nuthin’ to speak of.”

Tara leaned onto the bar. “Seen my daddy?”

Curtis nodded upstairs to one of the rooms.

“How long?”

“Not sure. At least since I took over for Marty this mornin’.”

“She’ll either wear him out or kill him one of these days.” Tara grinned and shook her head.

Curtis shook his head and frowned as he used a white cotton rag to dry off the stack of clean glasses in front of him.

“Curtis, you got no cause to be scared. I ain’t gonna say nuthin’ stupid.” Tara pulled back from the bar and started to make her way to the kitchen.

Curtis raised his eyebrows and grunted. “Hmm, last time you didn’t say nuthin’ stupid, I didn’t see you for nearly a week.”

Tara was about to respond when she heard a raucous coming from the entrance from the saloon. A large dark-headed man strode in next to a much smaller fair skinned redheaded man. The dark-headed man wore his black hat tipped back; an easy smile playing across his sun browned face. Tara could tell right off he was a friendly sort of fella. The small man in the dark brown over-sized hat and duster kept his face obscured, but Tara could just make out his hairless jaw, sun drawn freckles on his fair skin, and his delicate bone structure that suggested he was just a boy, not man yet.

“Welcome to the Lonesome Coyote gentlemen,” Tara said. “What can we do you for?”

That was the moment that Tara’s life changed. The redheaded stranger looked up briefly and their eyes met. Tara felt a flash of green lightning jolt through her body and her heart started to race. She had only seen the boy’s face for a moment, a mere second, and she knew something just happened to her that had never happened before.

“Just drink and a bed,” The redheaded boy said.

“Uh, um, Curtis, drinks for our visitors.” Tara stammered out, not sure what to make of the new feelings she had inside her. “You fellas wanna share a room? We do have extras now, but it will be twice the price if you each want your own.”

“We’ll each take our own room.” The redheaded boy said.

The dark-headed man looked to his partner and replied, “Uh, yeah.”

Just then a door swung open from upstairs, one of Tara’s most popular yet, most unpredictable working girl’s voice screamed a stream of profanities. A man came scrambling out of her room still struggling to pull up his pants as the thin blonde headed harlot whipped him on the back with his own belt. “Jack Branson, I swear that I will take my vengeance on you so help me God!” Anya Jenkins slashed through the air with the leather belt again as Jack, a young rancher’s son, yelped in pain. You think I’m some gol durn bank, I don’t take no credit. It’s cash money or nuthin’!”

Jack stood in front of Tara and looked to her for help while his arms were raised across his head blocking the blows from Anya’s swings. “Tara, you do something about this here girl or I’ll see to it that your daddy does.”

“Anya, that’s enough,” Tara called out to the painted lady. Anya’s ruby red lips already open and ready to argue.

“But, he—” Anya raised her hand and pointed at Jack.

“I said, that’s enough.” Tara stared hard at Anya as she clenched her jaw.

Anya threw the belt at Jack and stomped back up the stairs in nothing but the flimsy rose colored satin robe she had come down in. When she had reached the top step she turned and faced the flustered young man. “I’m done with you Jack Branson, you hear me. I’m done.” Anya strode across the upper floor until she reached her room and slammed the door behind her.

“Who was that?” The dark-headed stranger asked, his mouth gaped open in wonder.

“You don’t want no part of her. Trust me.” Jack turned and said to the stranger then turned back to Tara. “Tara, I’m not a satisfied customer. I want a free visit or I’m telling my pa.”

“You go ahead and do that Jack and I’ll be sure to tell him that each week when you come into to town to deposit his wages, you spend at least fifty dollars in my establishment before you return home.” Tara crossed her arms, raised her eyebrows and pressed her lips together, daring Jack to continue.

“Well, now, now, no need to get yourself all concerned about a little misunderstanding, Tara. I was just kiddin’ about talkin’ to your daddy.”

“Uh huh.” Tara relaxed her shoulders and brow.

“I think we can leave this little incident between the two of us, like civil folk.” Jack laughed nervously.

Tara closed her eyes briefly and nodded her head with a sigh. “Right, Jack. I’ll see you Thursday.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Jack tipped his hat and was out the door before another word could be said.

Tara laughed to herself and shook her head as she walked behind the bar. “I’m sorry, gentleman. Usually our girls are much calmer than that. We just have one girl with a little more spunk than the others. I can fix you up with one of them, if it suits you.”

The dark-headed man tipped his hat back even further on his head and smiled broadly.

My name is Tara by the way, I help run this establishment. Our beds and girls are clean and our whiskey is the best you can find within a day’s travel of here.”

“Xander.” The dark-headed man nodded.

“Will.” The redhead kept his hat low and never moved to look anywhere but at the bar counter.

“Where y’all headed?” Tara propped her elbows on the bar.

“California.” Xander offered and knocked back a shot of whiskey.

Will nudged Xander with his arm and shook his head in disapproval.

“What, I can’t say where were goin’? That’s not saying anything,” Xander questioned Will.

Will threw back a shot of whiskey and spoke, “I’d like to see that room now if I could ma’am. You coming, Xan?”

“No, I was thinking about maybe checking out some of these girls here.” A goofy grin played across his face.

“Whatever. Just don’t spend all our money.” Will threw his saddlebag over his shoulder and waited for Tara to lead him to the room.

“Curtis, I’ll be right back.”

**********


Tara led Will outside the saloon doors and around back to the boarding house in the back of the building. The room was up a narrow set a stairs at the far corner of the building. The steps creaked as they walked up the weather-beaten staircase, paint chipping off the railing as Tara ran her hand along it for support. Her father wouldn’t spend a cent on the business if he didn’t need to and fresh paint seemed like a ridiculous prospect in this hell-hole of a town.

“Well, this is it.” Tara unlocked the door and pushed it open so Will could step inside.

“I know it don’t look like much, but the room is clean, no fleas, and the bed is soft. This room is a little bigger than most and has a tub.” Will paced around the room, running her hand along the sturdy wooden desk against the wall and rocking the chair from side to side to see if it was solid enough to support her less than substantial weight. “A-And breakfast is served at eight in the mornin’ downstairs. That’s included.”

Will nodded, keeping his head low. “It seems fine. Thank you.” Will tipped his hat and dropped his saddle back on the small wooden desk against the wall.

“You sure don’t talk much, not like your friend downstairs.” Tara tried to strike up a conversation with the strange boy.

“He does enough talking for both of us I think.”

Tara could just make out a hint of smirk from the thin pink lips under the broad brim of hat and it made her smile.

“You can hang your hat and coat up here.” Tara pointed to hook on the side of the wall. I just have to see his face again. Look in those eyes.

“I’m fine, thank you.” Will turned his back, effectively ending the discussion.

“Oh, okay. Well, holler if you need anything.” Tara stepped toward the door and closed it behind herself.

She had met a lot of odd people since managing the boarding house for her daddy, but Will had to be the most peculiar, not just because he was quiet, but because of the way he looked. From what she could make out he was more like a pretty boy, than a man. Bath! Tara remembered she had forgotten to ask if she should get water for a bath. She turned and started back up the stairs, making her way back to Will’s room. She opened the door without a thought and that’s when she got the first shock of the day to come. Will was lying on the bed; his hat and duster hung on the chair and his boots tossed to the floor. As soon as she pushed open the door Will shot up into a sitting position.

Tara could she Will’s whole face and his eyes widened as he gazed at her. Tara was about to apologize when the reality of who Will was exploded in her like a stick of dynamite. Will’s face not that of a boy at all — she was a girl, a beautiful green-eyed girl. Tara’s mouth gaped open as she stood frozen on the threshold. The strange girl’s hair blazed like a bonfire in December and it was cut short just past the collar on her neck. Without her duster on Tara could make just make out the curves of her body under the loose fitting trousers, half-unbuttoned shirt and suspenders draping around her waist. Will may have been dressed in man’s clothes, but she was most unmistakably a woman.

“Close the door will ya?” Will called over to Tara.

“S-Sorry, mist . . .”

“It’s all right. I know you know. I can tell from the look on your face.” Will ran her thin fingers through her short hair shaking out the dust as she did it.

“W-Why are you dressed like a . . . man.”

“Well, that’s a long story. Let’s just say, people don’t care too much for a woman toting guns and riding across country, unless you’re in wagon or a buggy that is. They kinda find it a bit unnatural.”

“Oh.” Tara knew all about that. She had been praying daily for certain unnatural thoughts about some the girls in the brothel to go away. So far, it hadn’t worked, but it didn’t stop any effort on her part.

“You’re not gonna say anything are ya? We’re just about a week out from where we’re going and I’d hate to get stalled now.” Will’s brow creased with worry.

Tara walked over to the chair and sat down. “No, I won’t say nuthin’. What are ya goin’ to California for? You got family there?”

“I don’t, but Xander does. They got some jobs there waiting for us.”

“Not many wives work, ‘specially with youngin’s.”

“Well, I ain’t married yet. Don’t ever expect I will be neither.”

“How come? I mean aside from the clothes I’m sure you and Xander would make a fine pair.”

Will broke out in laughter, slapping her knee. “Me and Xander, are you kidding me. We aren’t no couple. He’s my best friend, more like my brother. Our parents were homesteaders back in Oklahoma, didn’t quite make the locals happy. Most of our group were killed when we were real young, and the ones that weren’t moved us kids to New Mexico and raised us there at a mission. Xander found out his dad had a brother in California and wrote him. He’s the one getting us jobs.”

“That’s so excitin’.” Tara looked at Will with awe. She was everything that she wanted to be. Brave, courageous, beautiful, and chasing her dreams. It made her feel ashamed that she was still following the same routine day after day, scared to make a change. “I-I’ve just been here. I tried to leave, i-it just didn’t work out.” Tara focused her gaze on her hands in her lap. A lock of hair fell loose in front of her face and she quickly tucked back behind her ear.

“How come? The whole country’s moving west?”

“My daddy, he thinks I belong here and until he thinks different, this is where I’ll be.”

“Having a tight family like that must be nice, never known it myself . . . unless you count Xander.” Will shrugged.

“Yeah, it’s all right.” Tara looked up and watched as Willow reclined back into a laying down position with her hands laced behind her head. Something about the girl caused Tara’s emotions to stir and she felt like both running away and thanking God for Will at the same time.

“Oh. Why’d you come back by the way?”

“Uh, um, I wanted to know if you wanted to take a bath, I can fetch you some water.” Tara used her thumb to point over her shoulder to the door.

“A bath.” The ends of Willow’s lips curled up into a dreamy smile. “I haven’t had a good bath in a week. Maybe after dinner, right now I’m just plumb tuckered out and need to get some shut eye.”

Tara found herself staring and Will; she was entranced by this strange and beautiful woman. “Well, dinner’s served at five if you want to come down.” Tara’s smiled shyly. “I think I’m making steak and vegetables tonight, but I can make something different if you want?”

“Steak sounds delicious. Easy on the greens through, I’m more of a potato gal.” Will smiled.

“Okay.” Tara nodded. She would make whatever Will wanted, she just had to spend some more time with the girl before she and Xander were on their way.

**********


At the end of the dinner Will asked Tara if she could come to her room and fill up the bathtub. Tara cleared it with Curtis first, making sure that he could provide coverage of the brothel while she was gone, which she promised wouldn’t be long.

Several trips later and few stops in the kitchen to heat the water and the tub was almost full. Tara had brought the final two pails of hot water in and she was surprised to find the room empty when she entered. Figuring Will must have stepped out to use the outhouse, Tara poured the first pale in the water and steam rose up from the tub, flowing over the sides as it dissipated into the cooling air of the room.

“It’s so nice to have some moisture in the air, don’t you think?” Tara dropped the bucket and jumped back when she heard the voice from behind the dressing curtain in the corner of the room. Will poked her head around the side. “Did I scare ya?”

“J-just a little. I didn’t think you were in the room.” Tara wiped the sweat from her brow and picked up the last bucket and poured it into the tub. “So, you’re all set. I left a towel on your bed.” Tara walked towards the door.

“Wait!”

Tara turned her head. “Something else?”

“What if, if I wanted company?”

Tara shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

Will stepped out from behind the dressing curtain naked as the day she was born. Her pale skin shined like gold in the amber glow of the Kerosene lamp on the bedside table. Tara turned her head immediately, she wasn’t sure why. She had seen plenty of naked girls since she had taken over the brothel. In fact, sometimes she wondered why they bothered with clothes at all. But, seeing Will like this, she felt shy and embarrassed. Afraid her true emotions would spill out all over her face and Will would know that she wasn’t just another girl looking at just another woman.

Will walked straight up to Tara and stood so close that there wasn’t room for anything but breath between them. “I said what if I wanted company.”

Tara stared off to the corner of the room, but she could feel Will’s warm breath against her cheek. “I-I’m sure I could get one of the—”

“Uh uh.” Will leaned forward slowly inhaling up the side of Tara’s neck. “You smell like you’ve been working hard.” Her voice was thick and sweet like molasses. “Don’t you think a nice hot bath would make you feel so much better?”

Tara’s body trembled under Will’s gaze and her breathing became quick and shallow. “I-I think you—”

“Come on.” Willow ran her fingers down Tara’s arm and clasped her hand.

Tara had seen her girls bathe together on numerous occasions. Actually, her daddy encouraged it as it saved on water. If Will was willing to share a little space in her bath for her, who was she to argue? It was just a bath after all. A hot, steamy bath with a gorgeous naked girl that makes my stomach fill with butterflies just to think about. What’s wrong with that?

Will sat Tara in the chair next to the tub and knelt down slowly unlacing each boot before cupping her hand on Tara’s calf to lift each of her legs in turn and slide the shoes off her feet. She then reached her fingers up along the curve of Tara’s leg, unclasped the stocking hinge and rolled down each stocking, tossing them to the side. Tara squeezed her thighs together tightly as she felt the familiar sensation of the warm wetness that always seemed to accompany the naughty thoughts she had about particular girls when she was alone in her room at night and the images assaulted her aching body. Will was doing something to her, something that she didn’t want to stop.

Will stood and encouraged Tara to stand along with her as she slowly unbuttoned one pewter button after another down the front of her simple drop waist dress. When enough buttons had been undone, Tara slipped the shoulders of her dress off and held Willow’s hand to step out of it and then hung it over the back of the chair. All that was left were Tara’s simple cotton undergarments. She had seen what her brothel girls wore, fancy satin and lace corsets and silk stockings, but she had no need or money for such eccentricities. Although, right now she would have spent whatever money she had to make those silly purchases just so Will didn’t have to look upon her rather pathetic excuse for clothing. Tara hung her head forward in embarrassment; an errant lock of hair fell in front of her face. Tara started to bring her hand up, but Will’s hand was already there, sliding along Tara’s hairline as it tucked the hair behind her ear. Will then lifted Tara’s chin to look at her.

“They look just like my drawers.” Will’s thin lips pulled into a smile and Tara couldn’t help but smile back.

Will quickly removed the undergarments and tossed them onto the chair with the rest of Tara’s clothes. She then led Tara to the steaming tub. “Bathe with me.”

Will stepped back into the tub without letting go of Tara’s hands and Tara followed. The hot water stung Tara’s skin, sending chills over her body as it adjusted to the temperature. Both women sank down together facing each other as the water rose and spilled over the side. After their bodies had rested on the bottom of the basin, Will spun Tara around so that her back was to her and asked for the lye and scrubber sitting in the bath tray. Tara handed it to Will and before she knew it she felt Will’s slick hands running up and down her back, kneading her tender muscles. Nobody had touched her like this since her mother rubbed calming salve on wounds made by her daddy when she was a child. Tara instinctively pushed back into Will’s hands, increasing the pressure as Will dug into the flesh around her shoulder blades and along the sides of her spine. Tara’s eyes were closed as her body swayed to Will’s ministration and moans of pleasure escaped her lips.

“I guess somebody likes that?” Will asked with a hint of mirth in her voice.

“I-It feels really good,” Tara nearly growled back.

“Well, I expect that it might seeing that you have a whole tribe of knots up and down your back.” Will laughed. “Can you hand me the shampoo?” Tara heart sank a little when Will let go of her back then Tara handed her the shampoo. “Okay, relax back into me so we can get your hair.” Tara tentatively did as she was told and she felt one of Will hands on her back while the other cupped her head. “Hold your breath.” Will filled her cheeks with air to demonstrate the action as she dipped Tara’s head below the surface of the water, her knees jutting up to the cool air.

When she was raised above the water, Willow sat her up as Tara wiped the water out of her eyes. The next thing Tara sensed was the smell of pine wafting forward to her and then she felt Will’s hands working their way through her hair. Will dipped her hands repeatedly in the water, doing her best to create a lather in Tara’s long chocolate brown locks. The gentle pull and release of Will’s movements took her to a place of relaxation that she had never felt. Willow ran her fingers along Tara’s scalp and the sensation was overwhelming. Tara thanked the Lord she wasn’t facing Will because she would have probably crossed that line she’d swore she’d never cross. Will dipped her hair again, rinsing out all the shampoo and returned Tara to her sitting position.

“My turn.” Will handed the washing implement and shampoo back to Tara and turned to face the back of the basin. Tara turned around and she could hardly believe what she was about to do. If Daddy could see me now, she thought. She wasn’t sure what would happen, but it would be bad, very bad. Tara lathered up the soap and followed the same pattern that Will had, starting with her back. The moment Tara felt Will’s smooth skin beneath her fingers; she knew that she wanted this woman. She wasn’t even sure what that meant, to want someone. Anya said it all the time, usually about men with money. But, Will didn’t have any money to speak of and there wasn’t anything in her possession that Tara could see as of value, but she needed her just her same. Images began filling Tara’s mind. Pictures of her kissing Will, lying with her, holding her close and feeling her bare skin against hers. Tara shook her head. It’s just a bath, Tara.

Tara lowered Willow back into her lap to dip her hair and raise her up. As she did Will’s bright green eyes broke open and Tara’s breath caught as Will coughed and sputtered soapy water.

“I said to hold your breath, right?” Will continued to cough, wiping soapy water out of her eyes and off her face.

“Yeah.” Tara giggled.

Tara lathered Willow’s hair and rinsed it out.

“I think we each can take care of the rest ourselves. Willow ran the slippery bar of lye over her chest, arms and alternately raised each leg out of the water before handing it to Tara who did the same and place the soap back in the bath tray.

“Now . . . we soak.” Willow sighed and leaned her back against the tub. Tara followed along, their legs crossing over one another’s in the small space. “Oh, this feels so good.”

“Yeah, I haven’t had a bath in years,” Tara said as she closed her eyes, feeling the warm water on her skin.

“Years?” Will sat up.

Tara’s eyes shot open as she realized what she said must have sounded like. “Well, I clean m-myself every day, sure enough, but Daddy doesn’t much abide the wastefulness of baths. He removed ours from the h-house and brought it to the boarding house to make a little extra profit. This was ours actually.”

“You mean this one, the one we’re in right now.” Will’s hands splashed down into the water as she tried to point to the basin.

“Uh huh.”

Will leaned back; her eyes wide and lips pressed tightly shut and took a long pause before speaking again. “Wow. Tara, tell me something else about you?”

“Like what?”

Will shrugged. “Anything. I mean I know that you run this business for your daddy, you want to get out of Dry Creek, and you haven’t had a bath in years. What else?”

“Um, I’ve never spent time with anyone like this before. H-Have you done this before?”

“Done what, taken a bath?”

“Bathed with a strange girl.” Tara felt the heat rise on her cheeks and she looked away from Will to the shadows dancing along the wall at the bidding of the flickering Kerosene lamp.

“Maybe. Would it bother you if I had?” Will looked at Tara with one eye peeking open.

“No.” Tara tried to act like it didn’t, but her rising voice gave away a hint of jealousy.

Will smirked and closed her eyes as she rested her head against the back of the tub. “Well, if you haven’t been bathing with strange girls, what have you been doing?”

“I told you, I take care of my daddy’s business and him and my brother, Donny. I-It’s really all I have time for.”

“But, what about for fun?”

“Hmm, well, sometimes I sit in on the poker games downstairs, when we’re slow.”

“But, what do you do for you? Away from this place.” Will looked to Tara, her eyes half open.

“I-I never get away.” Tara pulled her knees to her chest with left hand and looked down to watched as her right hand swept across the surface of the water, leaving small ripples in its path.

“Oh.” Will opened her eyes fully; an awkward silence fell between the two women. “You about ready to get out of this bath, I’m getting all prune-y.”

“Sure.” Tara felt her heart tighten in her chest. This was the closest she had ever felt to another human being since her mother passed away and her time with Will was just about up.

Tara stood first and pulled Will to her feet. The women carefully stepped from the tub and Tara handed Will the towel from the bed, puddles of water forming around their feet as they stood on the bare wood floor. When Will had finished drying off she handed the towel back to Tara and she ran it quickly over her body before picking her undergarments off the chair.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

“Gettin’ dressed.”

Will laughed. “You are a strange girl. Come over here.” Tara put her clothes back on the chair and walked over to Will. Will held Tara’s hand and turned to face her. “Tell me something, Tara. You got a fella, someone you’re sweet on?”

“No.”

“You ever been with a man before?”

“What’s this g-got to do—”

“What about a woman? You ever lie with a woman before?”

Tara felt the heat rise on her cheeks and around her ears. Nobody had dared ever ask her questions like these before. “No. N-No to both.” Tara felt utterly exposed, not only was she naked, but this complete stranger knew not a soul in this world had the least bit interest in her.

Will nodded. “Tara, I didn’t just invite you take a bath with me. I was kind of hoping . . . for more.”

Suddenly, this innocent bath sharing time didn’t feel so innocent after all. The feelings and emotions that Will stirred inside her were not without reason. Will had her own plans for Tara. But, this was unnatural. Every day she spent time in scripture looking over the passages, damning the thoughts of other women that filled her mind. But now, looking at Will it all seemed so pointless. Here in this little room in the back of boarding house, nobody would know and Will would be gone tomorrow. At least Tara would have the memory, the dream that was the woman that fell in love with her, even if it was just for a night. That dream could last her a lifetime.

Tara stepped closer to Will, the tips of their toes just touching. “It’s your turn to tell me something, Will.”

“Anything.”

“What’s your name, y-your real name?”

Will smiled. “It’s Willow, like the tree. Pretty silly, huh?”

“No, it’s pretty. . . pretty.” Tara felt her heart start to pound in her chest like a wild stampede. Was she really going to do this? Open her heart to Willow, even for just one night. She had spent some time at the tables downstairs and knew how to handle herself in a good game of poker. But, gambling with her heart, that was a different story.

Willow licked her lips and leaned forward as she placed a small kiss on Tara’s lips and pulled away. “Is this . . . okay?” Willow raised an eyebrow.

Tara nodded and leaned forward into Willow, covering Willow’s thin lips easily with the fullness of her own. If she was going to hell, she wanted to make sure the trip would be worth it. She let go of Willow’s hands and wrapped her arms around her back, falling forward onto the bed. The small mattress creaked and popped as worn out springs gave way to their weight. Willow rolled Tara onto her back and pushed her thigh between Tara’s legs. Willow’s wet strands of hair hung around her face, dripping like raindrops on Tara’s cheeks. Tara let out a moan as Willow kept the pressure tight against her center and rocked her body back and forth, kissing Tara deeply. Every last good thing that Tara had ever felt flashed before her eyes and nothing compared to this. For the first time she understood why men would lose their wives, their money, sometimes even their lives to be with the girls she had in the rooms just on the other side of these walls.

Tara felt Willow’s lips burn a trail of kisses along her jaw, down her neck, making their way to her breasts. Willow brought her hands up to cup each of her breasts in her hands and in turn squeezed and suckled them like a newborn babe.
“Oh God!” Tara cried out and ran her hands down Willow’s smooth back then back up again, pulling and pinching the flesh with each flick of Willow’s tongue against her hardened nipples. Tara’s blood was hot, boiling beneath the surface like a volcano ready to erupt.

Willow returned to face her, kissing her forcefully and then asked, “Are you ready?”

“Ready . . .for what?” Tara panted.

Willow used her knees to spread Tara’s legs then moved her hand down to Tara’s softened curls. “Just relax.”

“Okay.” Willow kissed her and as she did Tara felt Willow moving her hand between her legs, then her fingers slowly fill her and Tara gasped at the unexpected pressure. “You okay?”

“Uh huh.” Tara’s head rolled back into the pillow as every nerve in her body focused on Willow’s fingers.

Willow slowly withdrew and entered Tara again. “You tell me to stop if this hurts.”

“Mmm Hmm.” Tara breath shuddered as she grasped on to Willow’s back pulling her closer into her.

Willow began to pick up the pace, thrusting over and over again. Tara’s hips started moving of their own accord, matching Willow’s rhythm as she tried to maintain the friction. Her legs quivered and she whimpered out into the night, then . . . heaven. Tara’s back arched forcing her head off the pillow, her body erupting as her orgasm released while she cried out a string of incoherent words. Tremor after tremor racked her body until she was completely spent. Still clutching Willow’s sweat covered body, Tara sunk back into the pillow taking her new lover with her.

“Wow, are you sure you’ve never done this before?” Willow relaxed her arms and collapsed on Tara, breathing heavily.

Tara nodded, still unable to speak from the after effects of the experience.

“Well, you were amazing.” Willow kissed her and rested her head on Tara’s chest.

“I, I wasn’t the one . . . doing the . . . work.” Tara said in a gravelly voice. With her statement she realized that Willow must be expecting something from her in return. Certainly this is how this type of thing is done, a fair trade. Maybe money doesn’t exchange hands, but services are still rendered for both parties. “I-Is there something I can do for you?”

Willow looked up at Tara, her eyes clouded over and a peaceful look on her face. “Have breakfast with me tomorrow.”

“What?”

“You know, the thing that comes before supper.” Willow laughed. “If you could bring something up to my room and share it with me, I would be mighty appreciative. Then we can spend some more time together.”

“You mean, you don’t want me to . . .” Tara moved her hand back and forth between the two women.

“Oh, no I’m good for now, but maybe later.” Willow rested her head back on Tara’s chest.

“I guess, I’m not w-what you were expectin’.” Tara looked away and watched the flame flicker in the lamp.

Willow raised her head to look at Tara. “No, you aren’t. You’re more.”

Tara looked back into Willow’s eyes and felt confounded by what she heard.

“I’ve never met anyone in my life quite like you, Tara. You’re a special kind of woman, you know that?”

Tara’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Then why don’t you want to trade?”

“Trade?” Willow tilted her head and furrowed her brow.

“Sex.”

“Girl, you don’t trade sex.” Willow laughed.

“Of course you do. My girls trade sex every day.” Nobody was going to tell Tara about her business, not even Willow.

“Well, I didn’t figure you for some kind of whore, is that what you’re telling me you are? A virgin whore?”

Tara hated that term. “My girls provide a valuable service to this community.” Lying in Willow’s bed she now knew exactly how valuable it was. “I don’t appreciate you callin’ them by that name.” She sat up in bed indignantly.

Willow began to giggle and that giggle turned into a laugh. “Like I said, a special kind of woman.” Willow shook her head and tried to get serious as she sat up next to Tara. “Listen Tara, I just thought you were a beautiful girl and I wanted to spend some time with you. Giving you pleasure, gives me pleasure. If more happens later then so be it. This thing between you and I isn’t about business, it’s about what’s in here.” Willow placed her hand over Tara’s heart. “Okay?”

Tara nodded and a half-smile crept upon her lips as she placed her hand over Willow’s.

“Now please lay back down. Stay with me tonight.”

“I-I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m supposed to be downstairs helping Curtis. I don’t get off until midnight.” Tara looked to Willow. “Actually, what time is it?”

Willow picked up her pocket watch on the bedside table. “It’s eight thirty-five.”

“Shoot!” Tara jumped out of bed and raced to put her clothes on. She felt the blood rush from her face and she broke out in an instant sweat. “I-I can’t have breakfast with you.” Tara spoke as she threw on each article of clothing and combed through her still damp hair with her fingers, “I might not see you before you leave. Take care of yourself, Willow.”

Willow jumped out of bed and grabbed Tara’s arm just before she was able to leave the room. “Wait! Where you goin’? What do you mean you may not see me?”

“I’m late Willow, very, very late. That ain’t a good thing around here.” Tara took a moment to look in Willow’s eyes and pressed her lips fervently against Willow’s one last time. “Thank you. I-I’ll never forget you.”

And with that, Tara was out the door.

**********


Tara’s heart was sickened the moment she closed the door on Willow, but the fear racing through her body took precedence. She nearly slid down the back steps then ran around the building, re-entering the saloon in time to see Curtis shaking his head slightly and giving her the warning look that was never a good sign. Stepping toward the bar she began to form her excuse.

“Curtis you—”

Before she could continue Tara was struck with a blow so powerful that it knocked her down to one knee. She was just a few steps away from the nearest gambling table and she turned her head to look up, tears of pain and humiliation stinging her eyes. She didn’t even need to question what just happened. Anya was sitting on Xander’s lap as he tried to turn his chair and stand to help Tara. Tara swallowed hard and the familiar mix of saliva and blood ran down her throat.

Anya patted Xander on the chest and whispered just loud enough for Tara to hear. “Just stay outta this or you and your friend will be tossed out of town tonight.”

Anya looked at Tara and her pained expression showed regret that she couldn’t help her. Tara understood and nodded as she wiped the blood from her mouth before she stood.

“Where the hell you been girl? I got girls that need to work and nobody here running things. Your brother came and got me over an hour ago,” said Donald Maclay, rubbing the palm of his right hand with his left thumb.

Tara felt a small sense of satisfaction seeing her daddy rub his hand. Hurts, don’t it? She stood motionless, not sure what his next move would be. Words caught in her throat as she struggled with what she could say without giving away Willow’s name. Suddenly, Willow pushed open the doors of the saloon and her eyes caught Tara’s. The side of Tara’s face already began to swell and blood continued to trickle from her split lip.

Willow walked straight up to her. “Tara.”

“Will, just walk away,” Tara said in a hushed tone.

“What do you mean walk away.” Willow grabbed Tara’s hands

Tears ran down the sides of her cheeks. “Please,” she begged.

“Well, well, who’s this?” Donald Maclay said, his bushy eyebrows rose into his worn and wrinkled forehead. “Is this your knight in shining armor?”

“N-No.” Tara said.

“For a knight, he looks like a bit like a sissy to me.” Donald Maclay laughed and looked around the room. The rest of the men nervously laughed as well.

“You start whoring yourself girl? Trying to make a little money on the side?”

“N-No, sir. I don’t know who this is. J-Just one of our new guests.”

Xander lifted Anya off his lap by waist of her satin corset and stood now seeing his friend in danger. “That’s right. We rode into town together. We’ll be leaving in the mornin’. We don’t mean you no trouble. Isn’t that right, Will?”

Willow looked to Tara and Tara nodded her head. “That’s right.”

“Daddy, let me go h-help the girls.”

“Nobody’s stopping you, girl.” Tara gave Willow one last look and turned to face the stairs. “Well, get moving.” Donald Maclay used his boot to push Tara in the back and caused her to stumble forward, falling to the ground again. “This is what I’m talking about folks,” Donald Maclay shouted out to the room full of patrons, “I run this town and everybody in it. That means everybody works for me!” Donald pointed to himself. “So, from now on we’re going to work when we’re supposed to work.” Donald now used to his finger to point out to the residents sitting around the room. “If I so much as catch one of you not doing your job to keep this town in business, then me and my boys here,” Donald nodded to Donny, Emmitt and Chester, “will have to pay each of you a visit. Is that what you want? If not, then you best be changing your ways and changin’ ‘em fast!” Donald Maclay pulled his cuffs protruding out his jacket sleeve straight and aligned his collar before exiting the building, leaving the crowded room silent.

“What a jackass.” Xander muttered under his breath.

Willow sat down next to Xander as Tara walked up the stairs.

“What the hell is going on?” Willow asked Xander.

“You tell me, Will.” Xander leaned forward and looked Willow in the eyes.

“I just couldn’t help myself Xan, she’s perfect.” Willow raised her shoulders as she tried to explain.

“Oh, are you two talking about sex?” Anya chimed in.

Willow lowered her head. “Just mind your own business.”

“Sex is my business.” Anya crossed her arms. “Isn’t that right Xander?” Anya rubbed her nose against Xander’s and kissed him.

Xander’s eyes glazed over and a boyish smile pulled at his lips. “Uh huh. It is her business.”

“Oh God.” Willow slumped back into her chair and turned towards Anya. “So, what’s the story with Tara’s daddy?”

“Oh, he runs this place and the whole damn town.”

Willow raised her hand slightly and turned her palm upward as she questioned Anya. “Why didn’t anyone stand up for Tara?”

“Because, he’ll kill ‘em, even she knows that.” Anya looked to another town resident sitting at a table next to them, and he nodded in agreement.

“How can you stand to live in this place?” Willow asked as she shook her head in disgust.

“Well, it’s not my long-term goal to be here. I plan to marry a rich gold miner passing through town. I’m just biding my time and saving my money.”

Xander wiggled in his chair so he could sit up taller and puffed his chest out. “You know, I’m gonna be a miner.”

“You are?” Anya raised her eyebrows.

“Uh huh, that’s why we’re headed to California. My uncle’s gonna get us jobs.”

“Really.” Anya snuggled closer to Xander.

“Oh yeah.”

“Why don’t you tell me more about you becoming a rich miner?” Anya draped her arms around Xander’s shoulders.

Willow saw Tara exit one of the bedrooms and make her way down the stairs. Almost everyone in the saloon quieted down as she made her way passed the bar and back to the kitchen. As soon as she disappeared into the kitchen the noise level rose again. Willow knew this was her opportunity to make her move.

“Xan, I’ll catch up with you later.” Willow patted him on the shoulder and while keeping her eyes trained on the kitchen door.

Willow walked over towards the kitchen, pushed open and the door and slipped in the room behind Tara.

“Tara.”

“Willow?” Tara turned around, tears coursing down her cheeks.

“Tara, I-I . . .”

Tara moved quickly forward and wrapped her arms around Willow, sobbing into the crook of her neck.

“I didn’t understand before, but now . . . I’m just so sorry.”

Tara pulled away wiping the tears off her face. “You couldn’t have known. You’re just in town for the night. There was no point in sayin’ nuthin’.”

“But, what if it wasn’t just one night?”

“What do you mean?”

“Come with me, Tara. Let me take you with me.”

“I can’t.” Tara shook her head. “You’d get hurt and I don’t want that.”

“Why would I get hurt?” Willow held Tara’s hands in her own.

“I’ve tried leaving before. My brother caught up to me and stole everything from the man helping me and he left him for dead. I can’t risk that. I won’t have anyone else put themselves in danger for me. Just let me have our one night together. That’s enough.”

“Tara don’t think that way. That’s no way to live.”

“I never knew what living was . . . until I met you.” Her voice caught, then she looked away, “I’m used to it.”

“Tara, no. Don’t give up. We can make a plan. I’m great at making plans. Come to my room tonight when you get off work. We’ll think of something. I promise.”

Tara took a deep breath and sighed. “I’ll try.”

Curtis walked in and Willow immediately dropped Tara’s hands. She didn’t know who was a good guy or a bad guy in this town. Even this simple act of being in the kitchen holding Tara’s hand may have just landed her in even more trouble. Willow looked at Tara and Tara returned a simple nod letting Willow know it was safe to leave. Willow tugged at the front of her hat pulling down to hide her face as she walked passed the robust barkeep. Pushing open the kitchen door she could see that Xander still nuzzling with Anya on his lap as he shot back one drink after another. She made her way back over to him and sat down.

“Xander I—”

“Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street,
A gentle Irishman mighty odd
He had a brogue both rich and sweet,
An' to rise in the world he carried a hod . . . ”

Two stocky fellas sat at the bar with a drink in one hand and an arm around others back with the other were swinging their bodies side to side as they sang out in boisterous voices.

“Hey, hey, what’s goin’ on here?” A young man said as he eyed the two men at the bar. He looked like Tara, except for his greasy hair and scraggly whiskers along his jaw. Not to mention a bold expression of arrogance as he hooked his thumbs in his gun belt while he strutted up to the bar.

“That must be Donny, Tara’s brother,” Willow said to Xander and Anya nodded.

“It’s St. Patrick’s day!” The men said at the same time and then clinked their glasses together and tossed back another mouthful of warm beer.

“What, what in the hell is that?” Donny asked as he shook his head.

“Ain’t you ever been to a real city before?” The redheaded man replied.

“This is a real city.”

“No it ain’t. It’s just a place to take a piss on the way to hell. I’m talking about Chicago or New York.” The redhead’s companion answered and laughed.

“Well, aren’t you all citified.” Donny crossed his arms. “Since yer apparently too good for us poor old country folk, why don’t you two get movin’ outta town.”

“Oh don’t worry, we’re leaving in the morning.” The redhead said.

“No, you’re leavin’ now, mister.” Donny said as he pushed back his jacket front and tucked it behind his holster.

“Who’s gonna make us.” The redhead’s companion said as he spun around to face Donny.

Donny slipped pulled out his Colt 45. “I’m Donald Maclay junior and I run this here saloon and I’m askin’ you two to ride on outta here.”

“But, it ain’t right sendin’ folks off into the night.” The redhead said.

“Now!” Donny shouted and the two men and tilted his head back toward the poker tables. “Ain’t that right Emmitt?” An absurdly tall man with shoulders as broad as a bull stood up from the table next to Willow and made his way next to Tara’s brother.

“That’s right, boss.” Emmitt slid his jacket back, revealing his pistol and stared down the two men.

The two men quickly slipped off their bar stools and made their way out the doors, grumbling words of discontent to one another.

“I hate this town.” Xander said to Willow and Anya.

“Yeah, that’s what I wanna talk to you about. Meet me in my room in an hour.” Willow said.

“What’s going on, Will?”

“Just be at my room in an hour and you’ll find out.”

**********


Tara knocked on Willow’s door softly, half hoping that she wouldn’t answer and she wouldn’t have to look in her sparkling green eyes again and tell her why this wasn’t a good idea.

A few quick steps on the other side of the room and the door swung open.

“Tara, come in, come in.” Willow ushered Tara in quickly and closed and locked the door. “I’m so happy you came. I was worried you might of changed your mind.”

“I can’t stay long. Daddy will be expectin’ me shortly.”

Willow stepped towards Tara, lightly touching the raised area on her cheek. “I’m so sorry about this. I should have never taken you away from your job.”

“Don’t say you’re sorry. I’m not. I would take a beatin’ every day if I could spend the rest of it with you.”

“Oh God, Tara. That’s awful.” Willow shied away at the statement.

“I’m s-sorry. I should go.” You made her feel bad.

“Wait! My plan. I have one to get you out of here. I spoke with Xander and he’s going to round up another horse with a hitch and we can leave before your daddy get’s up.”

“But, Willow, what about Donny?”

“We’re gonna hide you in the hitch under some blankets just until we get about a half a day’s ride. He’ll never know. What time does your daddy rise?”

“Usually he’s with Nadine, one of our girls until around ten or so.”

“Okay, so we’ll leave at dawn. You get whatever you can carry and meet us right back here at six o’clock. We can’t have the hitch leavin’ marks to your house.”

Tara nodded. It sounded like a good enough plan that it might just work. In the past she had always tried to leave between her shifts at home and the brothel, hoping her daddy would realize what happened until much later. She had been dead wrong on both accounts, but this new plan and the idea of using a hitch to cover her whereabouts might just be the trick.

“Are you sure you want to risk this, you know how dangerous it is?” Tara’s brow furrowed in worry.

“I do. So does Xander, but nobody should live like this Tara, nobody.”

Tara nodded. She was about to leave the room when Willow reached for her hand. “Wait!”

“Is there something else?”

“Yes.” Willow pulled Tara to her, crushing their breasts together and cupping the back of Tara’s head with her hand to kiss her deeply. Tara’s arms fell lifelessly to the side until a wave of arousal swept through her body and then she reached around the small of Willow’s back to pull her hips into her. Willow moaned into Tara’s mouth with the force of their bodies clashing together. “Oh Tara,” Willow pleaded.

Tara reversed positions with Willow and pushed her back against the simple plank door, which rattled as the uneven boards pounded into the jamb. Tara knew what Willow needed because she had felt the same wanton desire earlier this evening. Tara laced one of her hands together with Willow’s and slid it up against the door over their heads giving her leverage, while with the other hand she nimbly unbuttoned the front of Willow’s trousers before snaking her hand underneath her undergarments and down to the pool of wetness between her legs. Tara moved her leg between Willow’s, using her knee to spread her legs even further apart.

“Tara,” Willow’s voice hitched, “what are you doin’?”

Tara gave a wicked grin and kissed Willow again. “Tradin’.”

Willow started to giggle then gasped as Tara entered her. Tara pushed in hard, driving her fingers deep into the moist abyss of the beautiful stranger who was going to rescue her from this miserable life. There wasn’t anything Willow could want that Tara wouldn’t give. Tara pressed her thigh firmly against Willow, thrusting her hand up and up again. She was deep into Willow’s center, nearly lifting her off the floor. Willow right hand clutched tightly to Tara’s against the door and her left hand reached around Tara’s back seizing a fistful of her dress. The sounds of Willow’s groans, Tara’s grunts, the floor squeaking beneath their feet, and the door shaking on the hinges filled the room with a cacophony of noise. Willow hooked her leg around Tara’s, opening her more fully and Tara sought to fill the space with another finger. Willow’s head shot up towards the ceiling as she cried out and tried to speak.

“You . . . I . . . my . . . oh . . .uh huh.”

Suddenly, Tara felt Willow’s inner walls constrict around her fingers and she doubled her efforts, lowering her forehead to Willow’s shoulder, pressing her hand up harder and faster. Willow’s legs began to shake and Tara felt nervous that the small girl might fall to the floor, so she crushed their bodies even closer together, using her thigh for both leverage and support. Willow’s hand jutted up to Tara’s head, grabbing a handful of hair and tugging it back so she could kiss her again as she whimpered. Willow tasted salty sweet with sweat as she ravenously kissed and tugged at Tara’s swollen lips with her own. Then Tara felt as Willow’s entire body went taut, humming with pent up energy that it was trying to release..

“I . . .now. . . Tara . . .now,” Willow panted through ragged breath.

Now what? Tara thought. Was she supposed to do something else? She only had known what Willow had shown her. The question was answered almost immediately as Willow arched her back off the door and with a long drawn out shudder as she exploded in orgasm, her juices soaking Tara’s hand as ripples of pleasure caused her body to convulse several times before slowly ceasing. Willow collapsed forward onto Tara as Tara awkwardly tried to withdraw from Willow and wrap her arms around the limp girl to bring her to the bed. Tara laid Willow down onto the mattress, her sweat soaked body clinging to her clothes as she breathed slow heavy breaths, trying to regain her composure. Tara leaned forward to kiss her one last time before saying good night. Willow reached up and held her hand.

“Just lay with me for one minute. One minute, that’s all I’m askin’ for.” Willow’s lip jutted out slightly and her eyes were pleading. It was about the cutest pout Tara thought she had ever seen.

Tara looked at Willow’s pocket watch on the side table; it had only been twenty minutes. She could probably spare ten more before her daddy would start worrying. “Okay.”

Tara laid down next to Willow and cradled the girls head into her chest as she wrapped her arms around her and kissed on the top of her head, brushing the damp hair off her face. Willow was asleep with a matter of seconds and Tara closed her eyes to focus on the soft sounds of her breathing.

**********


Tara and Willow shot out up in bed as Donny kicked open the door of Willow’s room, pointing his Winchester rifle at them as he burst through the threshold. Oh God, I fell asleep. Tara looked at the sky behind Donny, it was still dark, the moonlight casting shadows of the desert was all she could see. How long have I been gone?

“Well, well Tara. Looks like you finally found yerself a man.” Donny squinted and his eyes and peered closer at Willow. “Wait a minute. You ain’t no man! What the hell is goin’ on here?” Willow quickly leaned back and buttoned her trousers.

“Nuthin’, n-nuthin’s going on. She’s j-just a friend. We fell asleep. Donny lifted his chin and sniffed the air like a wild coyote smelling the air still laden with musk from their earlier activities, and then stomped toward Tara, his boots his spurs clinking with each heavy step on the plank wood floor. Donny stood over Tara and Willow, his nose twitching and his lips turned down in disgust. Tara yelped in pain as Donny reached down and jerked her up by the wrist.

“You don’t think I know what you been up to. It’s an abomination, Tara! You’ll burn in hell for this.” Donny turned his head back toward the door and yelled at Emmitt and Chester. “Grab the girl and her friend, the one with Anya.”

“Yes, boss.” Emmitt came into the room and lifted Willow off the bed and threw her over his shoulder, not a difficult task for a man of his size and stature. Willow was kicking and screaming, but the sheer strength of the man assured she wouldn’t escape.

Donny pulled Tara out of bed by her wrist and pushed her out the door. “Come on Tara, let’s go see Pa.”

Tara’s legs barely moved as she took each tentative step, but Donny just pushed her forward causing her to stumble with each heavy handed shove. Willow was behind her yelling at Tara to run, but Tara knew there was nowhere to run to that her brother couldn’t catch her. Tara spun around to face Donny.

“Let her go Donny, she h-has nothing to do with this.”

“She has everything to do with this. Look at ya now, covered in sin.” Donny sneered. “Pa’s gonna take it out on your hide and if he don’t, I will.”

As Tara turned the corner she could see Xander in the street struggling with Chester. The dim lights from the saloon lit Xander’s face just enough that Tara could see the terror in his eyes as he was being held in a choke hold with one arm while a gun appeared to be pushed up into his back. Anya stood bare footed in her satin robe, screaming at Chester to let Xander go. At one point Tara saw Anya come up behind him and hit in the back repeatedly with her hands, but Chester was too strong and too determined to hold on to Xander to take a swipe at his fair haired assailant.

“Back off whore or you’re gonna get caught up in this, too. I’m ‘bout done puttin’ up with you anyway, so don’t give me a reason to change my mind. Now, go get my pa.” Donny yelled at Anya.

“I won’t do it! I won’t be a part of this!” Anya shouted back.

“Now! Or by God I swear I will shoot you down right here.” Donny shouted.

Anya looked at Xander then over to Tara and Willow. Tara could see the wide-eyed fear on her face as she turned and walked off into the saloon.

Tara stood in the street shaking from the cool night air and fear of what was to come. She looked back at Willow who had given up fighting for freedom when it became a pointless activity. Willow and Tara looked into each other’s eyes and all Tara could feel was regret. This was all my fault. Why did I close my eyes? If I could have just stayed awake for one minute and left and we could have been together. Tears spilled down Tara’s cheeks as she mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’ to Willow. Willow shook her head and mouthed back ‘Don’t be.’

Donald Maclay stepped out onto the porch of the saloon, his face red with anger. “What’s all this about?”

“Pa, your daughter here has somethin’ to say, don’t ya, Tara?”

Tara shook her head. There was no way she was going to assist in her own execution or that of Willow’s or Xander’s.

Donny shoved her hard in the back. “Say somethin’!”

Tara clenched her jaw and raised it slightly then shook her head again.

“Somebody better tell me what the hell is goin’ on here or every one of you will pay!” Donald Maclay shouted out to the group.

“Fine.” Donny looked to Tara. “Your daughter here is buryin’ herself in sin with this one here.” Donny pointed to Willow who had been set on the ground and was being held in place by Emmitt’s enormous hand on her shoulder.

“Who is he? Donald Maclay squinted into the night.

“He’s not a he, he’s a she.” Donny grinned at Tara, knowing what his pa’s response would be.

“What!” Donald Maclay took several steps forward and then came down the stairs to stand in front of Tara and Willow. He looked back and forth between the two. “The sissy. You’re the sissy!”

Tara’s daddy’s entire body shook with anger as he reached into his holster, pulled his gun, and pointed it at Willow. Without thinking Tara clenched her right hand over her left fist and elbowed Donny in the groin as hard as she could. Donny fell forward in pain, his fingers loosening their grip on his rifle. Tara quickly grabbed the rifle from his hands, then used the butt of the gun to hit Donny on top of his now bowing head. Donny fell to the dirt floor of the street, knocked unconscious. Tara turned back to her father and raised the rifle and pointed it at him.

“Drop it Daddy or I swear I will shoot you.” Tara said with unexpected calmness.

Donald Maclay shook his head and smiled. “Girl, you don’t have what it takes to shoot someone. Otherwise you would have done it a long time ago.”

“It’s different this time, Daddy. I mean it. Drop it!” Tara took a step towards her daddy.

Donald called over his side to Chester without taking his eyes off Tara or his gun off Willow. “You still got that fella over there?”

Xander gave a quick jerk trying to get loose, but his body was exhausted from struggling and he hung his head in defeat. “Still got ‘em, boss.”

“Kill ‘em.” Donald Maclay grinned with an evil glint in his eye.

Just then a shot rang out into the rising morning light. Donald Maclay grabbed his chest and fell backwards as a single breath was forced out his mouth before he hit the ground, dead. Tara lowered Donny’s rifle to her side and stood still for a moment before she knelt down to close her daddy’s eyes.

“Tara!” Willow jolted forward out of Emmitt’s grasp as he stood stunned, at the sudden death of his former employer. She leaned down, stretching out her hand, “Come with us! Come with me!”

Willow shook her hand again in front of Tara’s face, urging her to take hold. Tara turned her head to the side and saw Xander fight himself free from Chester then run to Willow’s side. “Will, we need to adios, now. There’ll be a posse after us any second.”

“I know that!”

“You’re in trouble girl. I’m callin’ the sheriff. You’ll be swingin’ by noon fur sure.” Emmitt said to Anya who was standing on the porch of the saloon.

“Now, Tara.” Willow said urgently. “We gotta go now!”

“Let ‘em go if you don’t wanna be takin’ a dirt nap like your boss!” Anya swiveled her Henry rifle to take aim at Chester, who turned and high tailed it away from the scene while Emmitt ran towards the jail to get the sheriff.

Tara looked over to Willow and then slowly reached out to take her hand.

“Anya, come on!” Xander waved Anya towards him. “We don’t got but a hair’s breadth.”

“Don’t threaten me with rabbits, Xander!” Anya lowered her rifle then darted down the steps. “Devilish little critters,” she muttered under breath.

“I’m talkin’ about hair’s not hare’s.” Xander shook his head and grabbed Anya hand.

The four took off running towards the livery stable at the end of the street to get their horses. Xander and Willow worked together to prep the horses to ride, securing their bridals and mounting their saddles.

Tara turned to Anya. “W-Why did you do that . . . back there?”

Anya reached over to Tara’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “For all the times I couldn’t help before.”

Tara nodded and Anya pulled her into a quick embrace.

Xander swung himself up onto his roan gelding, pulling up Anya behind him. Then Willow helped Tara slide behind her onto the black mare with a white blaze down its forehead she called Lightning. Then the four were headed off into the desert, away from the rising sun and whatever posse was coming their way. Tara’s body rocked with Willow’s to the rhythm of the horse’s heavy percussive strides thudding across the desert. Tara didn’t know if this freedom would last, but she clung to Willow like the scent of wild sage after a rainstorm. She was leaving behind everything that she had ever known for what she was sure to be the adventure of a lifetime.


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:36 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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StIcarus - Great post! My stomach was churning the whole time. I agree with Justskipit about the whole post apocalyptic feel. The whole other dimension idea is really great, especially for a short, though like everyone else, I'm interested to read more.

True_love - Aw Lex, the first western I've ever read (and enjoyed) and you did a great job. The descriptions are rich and you feel like you're standing right there in the dusty desert with them. It was a great way to get them together and it was so authentic. Willow gave Tara the reason and the courage to stand up to her dad. Finally. And I like how you ended it. You're not really sure what's going to happen or where they're going to end up. It was a great piece to submit for this challenge. And I love your pickpockets. :)


Last edited by beautiful_love on Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:33 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Stlcarus:
Yay! You submitted something. I'm not going to assume my challenge to you worked, but hey, here you are anyway. Awesome submission. Jumping to another dimension, not something I would have thought of at all. I felt so bad for Other Tara, her heart must have been breaking in two, but she had to put up a strong front for the group. The part about her walking up to Willow with tears stains on her dirty face was truly touching. I was a little bit annoyed with Willow for not realizing just how badly Other Tara must be feeling on the inside, how completely torn apart. I know she misses her Tara, but she's gotta have a little more compassion. In your conclusion, it turns out that Other Willow is not dead, she's in our world. Now, you just have to continue this story. We''ve got to get these pairs back together, I hate knowing that they are apart. Great job! I look forward to more of your writing in the future.

beautiful_love:
Yay! You're back on the board. I've really missed your writing. What a sweet and awww, piece to come back with. I really loved your characterizations of Willow and Tara. I can totally see Willow as some harried underground news reporter, killing herself for stories that she thinks will change the world and probably end up lining more trash cans than not. And Tara as the free roaming hippie traveling the west coast with her guitar. It's amazing the connection the two girls have in just a 30 minute car ride, but totally believable. I love that you threw Buffy in there as a little chemically enhanced flower child. Beautiful and fun touch. Of course, I love that Willow re-located herself just to find Tara so the two could still see each other. I was actually kind of holding my breath for a moment, but the last minute save had me breathing normally again. Great submission!


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:35 pm 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

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beautiful_love That was so great! Aww, aren't they just the cutest? I don't think I've ever seen a W/T fic set in the 60s, very original and really well done. It was very touching watching our girls connect during the drive. I really enjoyed reading it!

True_Love Outstanding! Excellent descriptions, beautiful_love was spot on in saying it really feels like you're there watching the scenes. You created a really believable conflict with a conclusion very fitting for the old west setting. All good westerns should end with the bad guy dying and the heroes riding off into the horizon, shouldn't they? Phenomenal. And yes, it was your challenge that brought me over here. Plus, the thread even has the word 'Challenge' in the title. :wink



-Saint


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:54 am 
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8. Vixen
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Title: Promise - it has a title! I felt bad leaving it without a title...

Author: vampyregurl73

RATING: PG

DISCLAIMER: The standard disclaimer applies. I don’t own it, please don’t sue, I just want to treat them better than Joss Whedon, ME, UPN and the WB did.

FEEDBACK: Yes, please

Author’s Notes: Wow, ok, this turned out to A LOT longer than I thought it would be when I started it. Not quite sure how that happened, so I’m just as surprised as you are. I’m not leaving a summary this time, just read it, you know it has to meet certain criteria and I ran with it. Plus being a March baby I had to give it the old college try. There's no beta so if there's anything glaringly wrong PM me so I can fix it. I hope you enjoy!

** The dates of the battles/locations, surrender, and regiments are real. I grew up in Maryland & Assateague Island is real, and is famous for its "wild" horses and as I kid on school camping trips I got to see the horses run. I've never ridden a horse or been close to one, but the sight of them running is breathtaking. Just thought I'd throw that out there too.

******


Sitting down under the shade of the large oak tree, Willow closed her eyes and rested her head back against the bark. She was weary, bone weary, soul weary. As her mind started to drift, she could smell the gun powder, hear the cannons roar and the scream of men dying in pain. Her feet hurt, she was dirty, hungry and thirsty, and it felt like she had been walking for years.


In all actuality, she had. When the war started everyone said it would be over in a week. Four years later it was finally over, but hundreds of thousands of young men had died on both sides – North and South – even the nation's President had been killed – and it still really solved nothing.


In the spring of 1862, seventeen-year-old Willow Rosenberg never imagined that when she had volunteered to work in the make shift infirmary tending to the wounded she would end up here, wherever here was. She thought she was just doing her part to help the soldiers.


But she got swept away into the middle of it all, the fervor and excitement; the war had been going for almost two years then, and she knew she could do more than just nursing. She had watched young men come and go for months and finally made up her mind to do something more.


Willow pieced together a uniform from the cleanest ones that had been removed from the soldiers in the infirmary. She took her time, taking the pieces home to clean, mend and tailor to fit properly. Once her uniform was ready, Willow stood in front of her bathroom mirror and cut her hair.


As her long auburn locks fell away, so did “Willow”. From what she learned talking with the wounded, it would be easier to join the infantry; she could just “appear”. With her shorn locks and slight build, Willow looked like nothing more than a sweet faced boy. So Private “Will” Rosenberg was born and was enlisted as part of the 6th Regiment Union Infantry of Maryland.


In November of 1863, Willow’s regiment was at the Battle of Chattanooga. There she met a boy on the verge of manhood, Donny Maclay, only a little older than herself, from Alabama. He was a messenger from the 1st Union Regiment Calvary of Alabama, and somehow he never went back to his own regiment.


They met when he was almost run down by a horse that had thrown its rider and took off through the camp. She tackled him, pushing them both safely out of the horses’ path of flight.


By sight, they were an odd pair, but they managed to look out for one another. He told her of how he had left his mother and sister on a small farm outside of Birmingham when he had joined in 1861. He said he had left on Saint Patrick’s Day, swearing to them both he would be home again in a fortnight.


They kept each other safe and together until the regiment ended up at the Battle of Selma on April 2nd of 1865; Donny talked of home with a deep longing in his voice. How he missed it, how he knew he was close to home, and how he was so very tired of fighting. During the last skirmishes volley of cannon fire from the Confederate side, Willow and Donny were running with more powder for the cannons when he was hit by shrapnel.


Donny died in Willow’s arms.


Richmond, the last stronghold of the Confederacy fell the next day. Seven days later on April 9th, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered on the steps of Appomattox Court House in Maryland to General Ulysses S. Grant effectively ending the South's attempt at succession.


The war that pit brother against brother, friend against friend, had finally come to its bloody and devastating end.


Willow had made a promise. A promise to take a letter, and a locket back to his mother and sister. A promise to a dying boy to help them if she could, a promise she meant to keep. She had traveled further towards Birmingham with her regiment, and when news came of the surrender the regiment was in Fairfield, Alabama, and she simply walked away.


Willow began to make her way to Ensley, Alabama, Donny’s hometown. Her uniform didn’t make her very welcome with most that she came across, but some would lend her a ride and sometimes some food if they had any to spare. Often it was just her and a lonesome tumbleweed for company along the way.


The war had not been kind to most of the South, and many were living hand to mouth. At the last little way stop she had been in, she had managed to find out that the Maclay’s had a small farm about a day and a half’s walk from where she was. So Willow set out in the hopes of making the journey and arriving just around sunset the next day.


With a weary sigh, Willow pushed up from the tree and out from under its shade. Picking up her pace and whistling off key Willow continued onward. Just as she planned, shortly after the sun had set and in the early grey of twilight, she approached a small farm set on a hill. Shifting the small pack of her belongings as she made her way up the hill hoping this indeed was her destination.


As she approached the porch, she could see a figure waiting on the steps. As she approached, she saw a girl with dirty blonde hair and a shotgun waiting for her looking none too happy to see a stranger in a uniform.


“Stop where you are stranger,” the girl said raising the gun a little in warning.


Willow looked up at her with raised hands to try and show she meant no harm. “Is this the Maclay Farm?” she asked hopefully.


The girl narrowed her eyes as she looked at Willow. “Yes,” she replied tersely.


Willow sighed heavily assuming the girl was Tara, and said, “You must be Tara. Donny sent me.”


The girl gasped, and her lower lip trembled for a moment; it was obvious that if someone came instead of Donny, he wouldn’t be coming home. Looking Willow over and lifting her chin stubbornly, she lowered the shotgun. With a curt nod of her head, she turned on her heel and walked back into the house. Willow took this as a sign to follow her inside.


Willow stood in the doorway and looked around. The house was not huge, although it was by no means a shack, and Willow stood in a foyer; to her left looked to be a sitting room and to her right a hallway leading further back into the house. The smell of food led her down the hallway. She passed by a door that was closed before she entered the kitchen.


Willow found Tara with her back to her stirring something in a pot on the stove. A scarred table sat further in, surrounded by four chairs off to the right of another doorway. Willow stood in the entrance unsure of what to do next. Shifting her pack, she cleared her throat to make her presence known.


Tara looked over her shoulder and spoke softly with a sweet southern lilt. “Come in, have a seat.”


“Thank you,” Willow said walking through to the table sitting down heavily and dropping her pack to the floor.


“Are you hungry?” Tara asked without looking at her, staring intently into the pot she stirred.


“Yes, ma’am,” Willow replied. “Whatever that is, smells delicious.”


A ghost of a smile played briefly over Tara’s lips. “Rabbit stew,” said barely above a whisper.


Tara turned away, rubbing at her eyes. She pulled two bowls, one a bit larger than the other down from a cupboard next to a sink, and ladled the stew into them. She set the larger one down in front of Willow, and the other at the far end of the table. She then produced a small loaf of bread, cutting pieces for them both.


Willow ate rapidly, using the bread to sop up the broth leaving nothing behind. She finally looked up and smiled ruefully as she patted her stomach, leaning back in the chair. She watched Tara eat slowly, never looking up at her.


Deciding to break the silence, Willow finally spoke. “That’s the best meal I’ve had in years, quite literally. Thank you so much.”


Tara’s eye’s flickered up to look at Willow, and she could see that tears had gathered in her vivid blue eyes. Tara put her spoon down, brushing her hand hastily against her eyes again trying to keep her tears in check.


“Tell me what happened, please,” she asked sadly.


Willow cleared her throat again and picked up her pack. She took out the letter from Donny and the locket, handling them like the precious things they were. She stood and approached Tara, laying them in front of her before she sat back down again.


Tara picked up the locket, slowly closing her hand around it; her chin trembled furiously, her tears finally spilling over to run quickly down her cheeks. It was the locket her mother gave Donny when he left. Willow licked her lips and began to talk in a low steady voice.


Willow told of how she met Donny, and what the following years had been like for them. Finally, she told Tara how her brave brother had died, choking up more than once. Especially when she spoke of the promise she had made to the dying boy, her head bowed, staring at her hands as she spoke of it.


Willow had spoken for quite some time, and when she was done, she sniffled and rubbed her eyes against the dirty cuff of her coat. Looking up she saw that Tara was just looking at her, her cheeks no longer wet with tears. There was a gleam of pride in her eyes, as she had heard how courageously Donny had lived his last few years of life.


“I don’t even know your name,” Tara said.


“Sergeant Will Rosenberg at your service, ma’am,” Willow said sitting up straighter, her chest puffing with pride.


Tara cocked her head to the side, looking carefully at Willow again. “What’s your real name, Will?”


Willow blinked rapidly in surprise, trying to decide if she should tell her the truth. She had lived for years now as “Will”, and “Willow” felt like a distant memory. No one had ever asked her this before, and she smiled sadly with a nod.


“Willow…Willow Rosenberg,” she said as she held Tara’s gaze.


"Did Donny know? Were you and he...were you sweethearts?" Tara asked softly.


"Sweethearts? No! No, I never told him, and if he knew, well Donny never said anything," Willow answered honestly.


Tara just nodded. “I imagine you would like a bath and a bed, yes?”


“That would be mighty kind of you, I'd be much obliged,” Willow said with a big smile. “I feel like I know you and your mother already from listening to all of Donny’s stories. If you’ll pardon my asking, where’s your mother?”


Tara’s face darkened. “It’s just me here now, Willow. Ma passed two years ago.” Tara said offering no further explanation.


“Oh, Tara. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. Donny didn’t know.” Willow said softly as she blushed with embarrassment at her unwitting callousness.


Tara just shook her head, brushing Willow’s words off. “Let’s get you that bath.”


Willow helped Tara carry water to the stove to heat from the pump outside the back door. Tara led Willow to a bedroom off from the kitchen and down another hall that she could see wrapped around and led back to the sitting room. They had dragged a copper tub out and for Willow to use; once it was filled Tara left Willow alone to bathe.


Sometime later there came a knock at the door startling Willow, who had almost fallen asleep in the hot water that had now grown almost cold. She sat up a little in the tub a little disoriented.


“Yes?” she said loudly.


“I have some clothes and a towel for you, Willow,” Tara called through the door. “I’ll just leave them outside the door for you. It’s late, so I’ll leave you to your rest, good night.”


Willow heard Tara’s footsteps move away from the door, and rising slowly from the tub she carefully got out. Padding over to the door, dripping water along the way, she carefully opened it just enough to grab the towel and clothes.


Willow quickly dried off; pulling the night shirt from the bundle of clothing Tara had left her. Willow had been fortunate, managing to avoid both dysentery and lice that were a common plague among soldiers due to less than ideal hygiene and food supplies.


Willow didn’t waste time before pulling back the sheets on the bed and climbing in. For the first time in three years, Willow had a real pillow and a real bed to lie down in. It was only a matter of minutes before she was sound asleep.


******


Willow was pulled from her slumber by knocking at her door. She blinked rapidly and stretched before answering. The knocking came again and she sat up in bed, stretching and yawning.


“Come in,” she said sleepily.


Tara opened the door and smiled at the sight of Willow rubbing her eyes, hair sticking up every which way. She leaned against the door frame and waited for Willow to focus on her.


"How did they ever not know you were a girl?" Tara asked more to herself than Willow.


"They knew what they wanted to know, and ultimately they needed me," Willow responded seriously.


“Yes, I guess so. Breakfast is ready if you’re hungry,” she said.


Willow nodded and stretched again. “What time is it?”


“Half past eight,” Tara said. “The clothes I left you may not be an exact fit, but they should do for now.”


“I’m sure they’ll be fine, Tara, thank you,” Willow said softly.


With a nod Tara left, closing the door behind her. Willow swung her legs to the floor, feeling more human than she had in a long time. Wiggling her toes against the sun warmed floorboards, she smiled as her stomach began to gurgle, reminding her she needed to get a move on. Dressing quickly she made her way back into the kitchen. The scent of freshly baked biscuits met her as she entered, making her stomach once again rumbled loudly in anticipation.


Tara turned with a smile. “Sounds like I woke you just in time.”


Willow blushed as she smiled back. “Can I help with anything?”


“No, just tell me how you like your eggs,” Tara said.


“Sunny side up, I like to watch them wiggle,” Willow replied with a big grin.


Tara giggled. “Sassy eggs. Sassy side up it is.”


The girls ate in a comfortable silence, and when they both were done Willow took Tara’s plate to the sink and washed them both. Drying her hands on a dish towel she sat back down at the table.


“Tara, under the circumstances I’d like to ask you if you would like me to stay and help you out around here. I know I made a promise, but knowing you are here alone, well, it just doesn’t seem right to leave you this way and it just doesn't sit well with me. I don’t know a lot about farming, but I can learn,” Willow said truthfully.


Tara studied Willow like she had last night before asking her real name then replied, “I think I’d like that, Will.”


*****


The time seemed to slip by in the blink of an eye. As the months eased by them, Willow and Tara had fallen into a routine. They worked the farm side by side, and when the crops were ready they took the wagon into Birmingham to sell what they had grown and couldn’t eat themselves.


Tara had pulled out more of Donny’s old clothes and altered them to fit Willow. She even cut Willow’s hair to keep it short and neat. When they went into town, Willow was introduced as Tara’s “Cousin Will” from up North. If anyone questioned it, they never said anything directly, and as they girls kept to themselves the issue was never pushed by the townsfolk.


One night in midsummer, Tara tapped on Willow’s door. This started a new ritual between them; either Tara would go to Willow’s room or Willow would come to hers at night. They would lie on the bed and talk, or read to each other from the little library that Tara had until they fell asleep.


Willow would tell Tara stories of her childhood; of crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay, or going down the Maryland shore to watch the horses run in the spring on Assateague Island with her father before he died. How the wild horses scared her – they shared everything. Willow even held Tara while she finally cried over the loss of mother and brother, told her the door that always stayed closed was the door to her mother's room and what was now Willow's room had been Donny's.


As fall drew near Willow found out that Tara’s birthday was coming in just a few weeks in October. She managed to slip away during one of their trips to town. She went to the general store and purchased two books, one was the latest adventure tale of life out west in California, and the other a book by Charles Dickens called David Copperfield. She was sure Tara would love them both, and she asked that they be wrapped as gifts.


Over the last six months, the two had grown so close, and Willow had come to realize that she loved Tara. As she stood bouncing on the balls of her feet waiting impatiently for the books to be wrapped, it hit her just how much she loved Tara and that she had to tell the girl.


She knew this would change everything, and could possibly destroy their friendship; but she had never had anyone that shared her bed nightly, to wake up in their arms happy and content. Someone that she shared affectionate touches, and sweet terms of endearment with. That her world seemed to revolve around, that she would protect with her life in she had to. Willow didn’t think she was alone in her feelings and was ready to trust her heart.


Willow even managed to get Mrs. Summers, the wife of Jim Summers who ran the General Store to bake a cake for her and even sneak it out to the farm on the morning of Tara’s birthday. Willow woke early, having decided to make breakfast for Tara letting her sleep in for a change.


At half past nine Willow gently opened the door to Tara’s room. They had spent last night in her room, and Tara was sprawled out sideways across the bed taking up as much space as she could. Willow’s breath caught at the sight of Tara sleeping. Her full lips parted slightly, her porcelain skin in contrast to her dirty blonde hair. She carefully set the tray down on the night stand next to the bed, sitting down next to Tara.


The neck of Tara’s night gown was open at the throat and Willow could see her pulse beat steadily in the divot at the base of her slender neck. Taking her hand and gently caressing Tara’s cheek, Willow began to wake her lover.


“Tara, wake up, darling,” Willow said.


Tara mumbled sleepily as Willow continued to stroke her cheek. Tara caught her hand, bringing it to her lips and kissed the back of it. Then she opened her deep blue eyes to smile at the sight of Willow gazing adoringly down at her. Tara slipped her arm around Willow’s waist and pulled her down onto the bed with her.


Willow giggled. “Good morning, and happy birthday to you.”


“Mmm, thank you, love. You’re up early.” Tara said snuggling up to Willow.


“No, I let you sleep in. It’s half past nine birthday girl,” Willow answered as she nuzzled Tara’s neck. “I’ve made you breakfast.”


“Oh, my,” Tara murmured and with a peck on Willow’s cheek she sat up to move back against the headboard.


Willow sat up too, reaching for the tray of food and carefully placing it over Tara’s lap. Looking pleased with herself, she began to name off the items waiting for Tara.


“We have eggs, toast with honey, sliced apples, and tomatoes along with the last of the figs,” Willow said proudly.


“I didn’t know you could cook,” Tara said.


“Well, I’m not great, and there are only a few things I can cook, but it was either learn or starve during the war, and I wasn’t about to starve,” Willow answered.


Tara began to eat and offered some of her food to Willow. They sat eating peacefully, gazing at one affectionately. When they had finished Willow rose to clear away the dishes.


Willow insisted that Tara enjoy the day and relax, while she took care of the major chores around the farm. As it got close to dinner Willow came in with a skinned rabbit. Once she deboned the rabbit, and chopped vegetables she called Tara into the kitchen.


“Tara, I was hoping you would show me how to make your wonderful stew and we could have that for supper tonight,” Willow said looking at Tara hopefully. “I think I have everything ready, I just need to know what to do with it.”


Tara smiled at Willow and went into her arms to hug her. Willow held onto her tightly, enjoying the feeling of her pressed against her. Finally letting go of Willow, Tara began to move around the kitchen pulling things out and telling Willow what she was doing as she went along. In no time the stew was bubbling away merrily on the stove.


As Willow began to ladle the stew into bowls she warned Tara not to fill up on stew as she had a surprise for her after dinner. Tara looked at her suspiciously, with a raised eyebrow. Over supper, Tara tried to cajole Willow into telling her what the surprise was but Willow stubbornly refused to tell. Once they had finished their stew, Willow led Tara into the sitting room and sat her down.


“Now close your eyes and I’ll be right back,” Willow promised.


Tara smiled and obediently closed her eyes. She listened to Willow moving around in the kitchen and tried to figure out just what the girl was up to. She could hear the sounds of cutlery and something else she couldn’t quite place.


Willow came in holding the books under her chin and the cake on a platter. Setting the cake down on an end table that had seen better days, she also set the books down next to her surprise birthday cake. Looking at Tara to make sure she wasn’t peeking, she reminded her to keep her eyes closed and it would only be a few minutes more.


Willow came back with plates, forks and a knife. Then very carefully she picked up the cake and turned to face Tara.


“You can open your eyes now,” Willow said softly.


Tara’s eyes lit up as she saw the cake before her. “Oh, Willow! How?” She knew Willow couldn’t have made it her as she had never smelled a cake baking.


Willow grinned goofily in pleasure at Tara’s pleasure. “I actually can’t bake, but I now Mrs. Summers can, so I asked her to bake you a cake. I even got her to bring it out here this morning. Happy birthday, darling,” she said.


Tara’s eyes began to brim with tears. “Oh, Willow, that is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.”


“There’s more,” she said setting the cake back down. She picked up the wrapped books and handed them to Tara. “Presents.”


Willow sat on the floor in front of Tara to watch her unwrap her gift. Once again Tara’s face seemed to light up with joy. She kneeled down on the floor throwing her arms around Willow’s neck, kissing her cheeks.


“Oh, Willow, thank you so much!” Tara said between kisses. “This is the best birthday I’ve had in such a long time.”


Willow’s smile was from ear to ear. “Then let’s have cake!”


She jumped up, and with a grin, she handed Tara the knife and the plates that had spoons resting on them. Then carefully once again picking up the cake and setting in front of Tara on the floor.


“Go ahead, cut it for us,” Willow urged.


Tara cut two large pieces and maneuvered them swiftly onto the plates. Willow’s knee began to bounce as they sat eating their cake. Tara reached over and placed her hand on Willow’s knee to stop the movement, and looked at Willow closely.


“What’s wrong, Will?” she asked cautiously.


Willow set her plate down and turned to Tara looking deep into her eyes. She took Tara’s hand in hers gently and raised it to her mouth kissing it gently.


Taking several deep breaths, Willow began to speak. “Tara, I have something to say to you, and it will change everything between us. There’s no way it cannot.”


Tara took her hand away and looked at Willow. “You want to leave, don't you?”


Willow looked at her in surprise. “What? Leave? No! I…I…Tara, I love you. I’m in love with you. I don’t ever want to leave you. It seems I took the long and winding road to get here, but here is where I belong. I belong with you, by your side...you’re my everything.”


The love and hope were apparent on Willow’s face as she waited for Tara to say something. Tara closed her eyes and bowed her head. Her shoulders started to shake, and Willow began to fear the worst.


Then Tara threw her head back and laughed. It was a full throaty sound full of love and joy. Tara looked at Willow and the confusion written so plainly on her face. Impulsively she grabbed Willow’s face in her hands and kissed her soundly.


“Oh, Will, I love you too! So much, but I never knew how to say anything. It never seemed to be the right time. This is wonderful!” Tara exclaimed.


Willow grinned broadly and moving their plates and the cake out of the way lunged at Tara, knocking her to the floor. They lay on the floor kissing passionately, all the love they had held in check was finally able to be expressed.


Willow pulled back breathless but continued to drop short, sweet kisses on Tara’s lips while they both panted for air. Tara rolled them over and renewed their passionate play between lips and tongues. Forced apart by the need for air, they rested their foreheads against one another as they trembled with delight.


“Good birthday?” Willow asked.


“Best birthday,” Tara replied holding Willow tightly basking in the glow of their love.


The End.


Last edited by vampyregurl73 on Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:47 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:59 pm 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Location: Texas, Y'all
I’ve read all the entries for the challenge and really enjoyed them. I will get some more detailed feedback written and posted soon. No. Really. I will.

Story Title – Live for Today. F*** for Tonight
Author – JustSkipIt
Pairing – T/W
Setting – Dollhouse Episode 1.13 (Epilogue One) Verse.
Feedback – Yes, please.
Spoilers – None.
Rating – NC-17. It’s a little PWP but I bet you don’t mind.
Disclaimer – You’ve heard it all before. I own nothing associated with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow, Tara, nor Dollhouse. I will make no money from this and profit in no way but the kind words of relative strangers and strange friends.
Distribution – Chris, Susan, Megan are welcome and I’ll send you a copy. Everyone else, please ask.
Note – I had this sitting around half-done and decided I could fit it into this challenge. If you see any glaring typos or spelling or grammar issues, send me a note.
Note – Please note the setting. If you haven’t watched Dollhouse or watch Dollhouse but have not seen Episode 1.13, here’s a bit of a summary:

The Dollhouse is a facility (one of about 10 in the world) where for a fee, rich people and corporations can hire “Dolls” to play a role for some period of time. Dolls or actives are young (and beautiful) people who sign away their lives for 5 years. Their memories are wiped and while in the dollhouse, they are “dolls” – beings with basically the mental capabilities of a 3 year old. They sort of wander in a daze, do yoga, trim bonsai trees, swim, and spout inspirational sayings to each other like “I try to be my best.” When they have an assignment, they are placed in a chair which loads a different persona into their mind and can also do muscle modifications. They become the other persona and go attempt to complete the assignment. Rich people hire them for covert assignments, to rob banks, to fulfill lame sexual fantasies, to give the illusion of having a date for a wedding, etc. Among these dolls/actives are Carolyn (the Eliza Dushku) character who is apparently having breaks in which she remembers aspects of her real personality and those of her various personas.

Episode 1.13 was made in a very short time frame to boost DVD sales and was not shown on television with the original 12 episodes. It glimpses an apocalyptic future of 2019. In that future, the technology for creating dolls has gotten out of hand (perhaps my biggest understatement of the year). Technology has been used to place robocalls and take over the bodies of the people of entire cities. People who are still their original personalities refer to themselves as “actuals” and they can be “printed” by answering the phone, hearing something on the radio and other techniques that the episode only hints at. Actuals are generally on the run from “butchers” and others who have been “printed”. Because being printed means that a person’s actual personality is replaced, it is basically like instant death although the body may go on living. Many Actuals want to find the mythological “Safe Haven” in which actuals are safe from printing and in which the technology for avoiding or reversing printing may be available. Many actuals have a tattoo or “birthmark” on their lower back which identifies them as “John Smith” or whatever. I guess the theory is that if they aren’t an actual, it won’t occur to them to read their lower back and then memorize the name of the person whose body they’ve stolen. Theoretically if you meet someone and don’t know if she’s an actual you can ask her name and match it to the tattoo and know she’s real.



Willow kneeled on the porch in front of the cob-web covered radio. She remembered a time, thousands of years ago it seemed, that she might have cared if the peeling paint flaked onto the knees of her cargo pants or if a spider crawled over her hand. Those times were gone and some days she doubted they would ever return. She wouldn’t have cared if an army of frogs had hopped across the porch. She quickly shrugged one shoulder from the strap of her pack and slid the other down over her left arm to lie next to her on the deserted wood. With practiced ease she took her leatherman tool from the side pocket and snapped open the screwdriver, using her other hand to yank the radio’s plug from the wall outlet. She imagined it had been a few years since the dilapidated shop had seen a volt of electricity but she knew better than to take chances.

Although there was never a doubt in Willow Rosenberg’s mind that it would have been easier and faster to just destroy the radio, something drove her to alter it. She wondered if she were the only person on the face of the earth to understand the importance of her actions. How would she ever know? It wasn’t like she could use a phone and call or post instructions on the Internet. Does the Internet even exist anymore?She’d had plenty of practice altering electronics and it took her less than two minutes to remove the back of the radio, strip a few wires to bypass another, and replace the back again. She slid the tool back into the pocket and was sliding her arm through the strap when she felt the boards shift and barely heard a voice from behind her. “Push the pack away from you, then lay down on your stomach with your hands over your head and flat on the ground.”

Shit. It had been easier when she was traveling with Buffy. How long had it been now? Days? Months? The weather had been cooler and there was no snow on the ground even at this altitude. Now it was cooler so perhaps months had passed. Months since Willow hadn’t reached that radio quickly enough. It was her fault. Her fault that Buffy got there first. Her fault that Buffy had heard the transmission. Her fault that she drew her gun faster than her best friend the only time it really counted.

She knew what was coming. Well, she knew one of the things that could be coming so she answered the question before it could be asked. “My name is Willow Rosenberg. I was born in Sunnydale, California July 18, 1995 and I don't hear very well.” The last she tacked on in hopes of keeping some trigger happy yehaw from becoming frustrated if she didn't react quickly enough.

She felt the snout of a gun slide under her shirt and pull it upwards then heard muttering behind her “Willow Rosenberg… California…”

Then the feeling of the gun was gone and she felt the steps again as her captor stepped back down the steps and onto the ground. “Ok, Willow, you can sit up slowly and turn around to face me with your palms facing me. Don’t reach for your pack or anything else.”

Willow nodded her head as she rolled slowly away from her pack to sit up on the wood. Wow. It’s really a good thing I don’t care about these pants, she thought as she noticed the paint flakes sticking all over her clothes. Unless she was currently facing the most patient and least sadistic butcher on the West Coast, she had gotten lucky. Staring at her, his face set in a mask that clearly said, “I may not be a butcher but I can blow you away without losing sleep tonight,” was a young man with dark hair and a patch over one eye. The patch did little to make her feel at ease. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a slim blond woman, also pointing a gun at her.

“What were you doing with the radio?”

Willow kept her hands in sight as ordered. “Fixing it.”

“Fixing it? Who fixes it? You know how we fix radios? We shoot them.” He pointed his gun directly over her shoulder toward the radio. “Why didn’t you smash it with a rock?”

Willow shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess because I live in a dream that someday we’ll want to dance again and if all the radios are gone we won’t be able to.”

“Why do you want to dance?” The woman directed toward her.

Willow turned her head to look at her. “Don’t you? I mean if all this ever ends, when this ends, what kind of world will we all have? Prairies filled with cars riddled with bullet holes and tumbleweeds moving through the fields? If there’s nothing else, I’d like some damn dancing.”

The blonde looked toward her companion. “She’s baked.”

He smiled and when he did, it was possible the scar running from his jawline up under the eye patch and extending to his hairline actually looked more terrifyingly macabre. “I don’t think she is.” He looked back toward the redhead still sitting on the porch and motioned toward her pack. “So what are you doing here, Willow Rosenberg of Sunnydale, California?”

Willow shrugged again. “Can I put my hands down? My arms are getting really tired.” When the young man nodded she did so and then answered his question with her own. “What is anyone else doing? Avoiding the cities, the butchers, anyone who’s printed. Keeping moving. Fixing radios and televisions and phones when I come across one. Finding food. Crapping in a hole in the woods and covering it up so 10,000 years from now when humans make a comeback they don’t find that I left their world in terrible shape.”

“You didn’t say searching for Safe Haven.”

Willow laughed at him and looked at the woman. “Safe Haven is a myth. A fairy tale. There’s no such thing.”

He smiled again and lowered his gun to his side. “You have two choices.” She nodded to indicate that she was waiting and he continued. “We’ll walk you down that road until it starts to get dark. At dark you keep walking and we come back and we never see you again or if we do, we shoot to kill.”

She shrugged.

He laughed again. “Or you come with us to meet the rest of the group and see how you fit in.”

“I think I like option #2.” She looked back and forth between her two captors/companions. “Can I stand up?”

He nodded. “Slowly.” He glanced over at the blonde who trained her gun again on the redhead and extended his hand. “I’m Xan.”

Willow took the extended hand and simultaneously shook it as she pulled herself to her feet. “Nice to meet you.”

As he stepped back, the blonde waved her gun. “Anya.”

Willow nodded at her. “Can I pick up my pack?”

Xan nodded his head. “Do you have a gun?”

Willow nodded and indicated the right-hand pocked of her cargos. “I’d like to keep it. You know, I’d just feel safer.”

He considered for a minute before nodding. “Yeah but I’m still going to keep an eye on you until we reach The Prophet.”

“Fair enough.” She kept her eyes on the two new companions as she picked up and shouldered her pack. “What about my bike? It’s behind the building and I don’t want to leave it.”

He considered for a few seconds. “Let’s leave it her for now. If you want to come back and get it you can later and it’s not like anyone will happen by and take it.”

She laughed. “Ok but if it gets stolen, you owe me one Carbondale F5 mountain bike.”

“Deal.”

Anya began walking and Xan waved his gun hand to indicate that he wanted the newcomer to follow her. In spite of Xan following her with his gun drawn, Willow could only assume the other two trusted her somewhat as they began walking. Almost as soon as they were off the porch, Anya stepped off the path and into the woods. They hiked for a few hours, often passing stacked rocks or marks on trees that Willow felt sure were directional markers but she couldn’t pick up a code to them. Once she was pretty sure they passed the same area twice and she could only assume the others were attempting to throw off her ability to find them again should they part ways.

During the hike, the three shared basic details of their lives both before and after Print Day. Willow found out that Xan was in the military at the time of the printing, training at high altitude. Most of his unit had been printed and the others stood against them in a brutal battle. Only he and two other men had walked away from the battle and they had agreed to go their separate ways. Anya confessed that she and three friends were tripping acid in the woods during the first massive printings. When it was time to go home, she stayed in the car as the others got out at a McDonalds to grab burgers and use the bathroom. She caught enough glimpses from through the windows to slide into the driver’s seat, throw the car into reverse and escape the parking lot as quickly as she could. Xan and Anya had met 18 months ago.

“And who is this?” Willow shook her head as it seemed that a woman had just materialized on the path in front of them. Anya quickly embraced the newcomer and Xan stepped around Willow to do the same. Next she turned her attention on the redhead, smiled, and extended her hand. “I’m Tara Maclay and I’ve got the birthmark to prove it.” She pointed at Xan and Anya and asked Willow. “I don’t suppose you checked their birthmarks? How did you know they weren’t just bringing you out here to kill you?”

Willow shrugged. “First, they had me at gun point so I could hardly demand to see them. And I’ve seen the work of enough butchers to know they usually like quick sport or pain sport but they’re not really into hiking through the woods.”

The newcomer smiled again as she turned to lift her shirt. “Good point.” She turned back and Willow felt almost dazzled by her crooked smile and flashing blue eyes. “You are?” It was hard to tell whether her hair had more blonde than brunette in it but Willow guessed it was mostly brown even when clean. When she was a child, it had probably been quite blonde.

Willow licked her lips as she began letting her eyes roam over the other woman. She extended her hand. “Willow Rosenberg.” Mirroring Tara’s actions, she also lifted her shirt to show her tattoo.

Tara turned and began walking, motioning with her hand that Willow should fall in step with her which the redhead did. “You’re alone?” It was a question rather than a statement obviously.

Willow nodded. “I had a friend. It was a year or more but she’s been … I’ve been on my own a few months I think. If I knew the date, I might know but I guess I didn’t know the date then so…”

Tara thumbed over her shoulder to indicate Xan who was a good ways down the path from the two women. “Xan was military. He always knows the date and time. Ask him later.”

“Hey, Willow. We’re turning off here. We’ll see you tonight,” Anya spoke quickly and then the two stepped off the path and between two bushes, becoming obscured from sight in seconds.

Willow watched them go. “What’s tonight?”

“Dinner if you want it and you’re still with us.” The brunette continued walking in silence, giving Willow a good chance to observe her. She moved with sureness through the wood, stepping easily over obstacles in the path and seeming observant of everything. The redhead took a moment to stop and tie her shoe, noting the way the other woman’s ass looked even in her cargo pants. She felt pretty sure that Tara had a handgun tucked into the waistband at the small of her back and wondered how it had gotten there since she’d shown her the tattoo. Willow’s observation of the other woman’s assets was interrupted by her voice.

“I was just about to bathe if you’d like to join me. The stream is quite icy but the water runs clear and I have soap.”

Willow shook her head theatrically for a moment. “Tara Maclay. Over the years, I have heard beautiful poetry, symphonies, Operas, the cooing of my nieces and nephews and many other beautiful sounds. But I think that is the most amazing thing anyone has ever said to me.” She laughed. “Will you marry me?”

Tara laughed and licked her lips before waving her hand at the redhead and stepping to the right off the path to a much smaller one. She set down her pack, a much smaller pack than Willow’s and opened the zipper. Sitting on a rock, she began to strip off her clothes, replacing her hiking boots and socks with a pair of water hikers. When she was totally naked, she tucked her gun into a Ziploc bag and carried it along with a bar of soap to the water’s edge. She dove in completely unselfconsciously. When she surfaced she looked back at the gaping redhead. “You’re not going to get any cleaner standing there, Willow.”

“Not cleaner but wetter,” Willow muttered to herself as she shrugged off her pack and began to mirror Tara’s actions to undress. She walked to the water and set her gun on the nearest rock, knowing that she could reach it if she needed. Both women would hear anyone approaching the creek which meant that her only danger would be from Tara. But she reasoned that if Tara were a danger, there would be little she could do.

The brunette had not been kidding when she’d said the stream was cold. Willow felt every inch of her skin tighten and had to take a deep breath to get used to the feeling. “I never thought of a Ziploc,” she indicated Tara’s gun hand with hers as she began to splash water on her face and neck. “The things you learn camping in Helter Skelter.”

The brunette began soaping herself with one hand as she held the gun with the other, making Willow feel a little like she was on candid camera or starring in a porn movie or something. As she did she held up the baggie to show that it also had three key-chain floats in it like people use for their boat keys. She allowed the bag to float near her as she soaped up her hair. Then held up the soap and at Willow’s nod, tossed it to the redhead.

Willow fully expected Tara to begin questioning her and was surprised when the blonde instead began speaking. “I’ve been here for a long time now.” The redhead nodded.

“I have a cabin in these woods. It was my family’s and we came here often when I was young. I always have loved the outdoors. I used to work at an outdoor adventure company.” She submerged for a few seconds, washing the suds from her hair. “It always seemed like people thought I wasn’t doing the right things with my life. I mean I have a degree in forestry services but I would go to parties with my lover and her friends would just sort of, I don’t know, sneer almost. One asked me how I maintained my manicure if I was out digging in the dirt.”

Ok, my gaydar is functional today. Willow laughed and wondered where Tara’s lover might be. And if she carried a gun as well.

“But I never cared about all that. Nice cars. Nice bank accounts. And Kat. She was Park Avenue but she loved being outdoors as well. I led adventures for rich business men and inner city kids and everyone in between and she and I took trips and backpacked in and filtered our own water.”

Willow nodded. “She sounds very special.”

Tara submerged again and stayed down so long the redhead began to wonder if she would come up and continue her story or pretend it had never happened. While she waited, Willow set the soap on the rock by her gun and then submerged to rinse herself. When she came up, Tara was floating on her back.

“We were planning a special trip and I’d been out all day stocking the jeep and prepping our packs while she was on her final day of work before a three-week vacation.” Tara took a breath. “I came up from putting the last of our supplies in the car and she was on the phone. She looked almost dazed as she hung up. Then she started looking around our home, focusing on the photos and things like she had no idea where she was. I figured she just got some bad news or that her boss wanted her to go in and finish up a project.”

Willow bit at her lip, having a pretty good idea what was coming. “That wasn’t it.”

Tara shook her head. “She looked at me and it was like she didn’t even know me. Which I guess, is actually pretty accurate.” The brunette began to swim toward the side of the creek as she explained. “She said a lot of things. Not nice things. And said that she didn’t want to see me again. That I should leave and not come back.” She pulled herself from the creek and set the gun on a rock as she began toweling off, then sat on a rock to dress. “It was not… pleasant.”

“How long had you been together?” Willow, likewise pulled herself from the water and crossed to her pack to pull out clean dry clothes before bringing them back to dress while sitting by her gun.

“Six years.” The brunette pulled a comb from her pack and began pulling it through her hair. “I ran down the stairs and jumped in the car. There were sirens starting to go off and car alarms but I wasn’t really thinking about that. I drove away thinking she would call. I came up here and my phone battery died after a few days so I left it.”

Willow nodded. “I know it didn’t feel like it but you got so lucky.”

Tara nodded. “I know. It must have been one of the first calls because the chaos was just starting. I … I stayed up here a long time before I hiked down to the store and I could tell right away that something was wrong.”

“Kat?”

Tara shook her head and tucked her gun into the waistband of her new pants, then tucked the baggie into her pack. “You know what it means. She was gone the moment she answered the phone.” She picked up her pack and slung it over one shoulder, carrying it easily as she walked up the incline. Willow took a few extra seconds to slip her pack over both shoulders and return her gun to the pocket of her pants.

“You’ve been out here a long time,” Willow concluded.

Tara shrugged and led the pair through the woods. After fifteen minutes or more of hiking, they stepped into a clearing with a fire pit in the center. No fire burned in the pit and Willow took a few minutes to look around. A few tents were set up in a loose circle around the pit and she saw that a few more people were in the area. All of them seemed to glance at her as if taking stock but it was clear that word of her presence had already been sent. Without any word to the redhead, Tara wandered off to visit with some of the other people in the area.

Willow watched the brunette for a few minutes before feeling like a voyeur. Tara hadn’t given her any direction but she had mentioned dinner so the redhead assumed that she was free until then. Deciding she was as safe and protected as she was likely to be in a while, she found a clear spot near the other tents and sat down on the ground. Once on the ground she pulled out her tent and lay it flat but didn’t set it up, then began pulling all her equipment from the pack to lay it out, check it over, clean or maintain as necessary, and generally take advantage of a day to prepare for whatever might be coming.

A few times she made trips down to the creek to retrieve water for her efforts. Each time she looked around as if wanting to ask someone permission or tell someone where she was going but no one seemed concerned. She shrugged as she went for her third bucket of water thinking that perhaps everyone felt confident that anyone who would lay out all her worldly possessions was unlikely to either “escape” or attack. When she had finished washing her camping equipment and hand washed all the clothes she wasn’t currently wearing and hung them on nearby bushes and trees, she began considering her stores. She had packets of batteries, a flashlight, granola snacks, some powdered food, a water purifier, some dried meat and some other items. She didn’t know if she should offer some of her supplies for the dinner that had been mentioned. As she was wondering, Xan approached and waved his hand at the spot next to her. She nodded and as he sat he handed her a kit which she recognized as a gun cleaning kit.

“Thanks.” She began disassembling her gun and carefully cleaning and oiling it. “I have some jerky and stuff.”

“We have a garden.” She looked up to see that Tara had also approached and was now indicating that she would sit as well.

She shrugged. “Ok.”

“Can you tell me the date?”

Xan man looked at his wrist. “March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day.”

“It’s my brother’s birthday.” She wiped at her eyes. “Or it would be.”

“What was he like?”

Willow glanced at Tara for a moment, surprised at the intimacy of such a question. And considered her answer. “He … he was a kid really. I mean. He didn’t die in this craptastic SNAFU or whatever we’re calling our world.”

She heard Tara ask something and turned her head to look at her directly. “I can’t hear in that ear. Can you repeat what you said?”

“I think ‘this craptastic SNAFU’ is as good a word for this fresh Hell as any I’ve heard.”

Willow shrugged. “Or ‘fresh Hell.’ He was a really fun kid. I mean I was six when he was born so I was already in elementary school but by the time he was one, he’d be waiting for me by the door when I got home. He used to call me ‘Yillo’ and he’d hand me these little cars or trains that he’d been carrying around all day. And we’d sit on the floor and drive them through these elaborate scenarios or it would be all ‘a mommy and a daddy took their little girl and little boy to dinner.’ Did I mention my parents were usually very elsewhere?”

She looked up at a cloud for a long moment. “And it wasn’t anything unusual. I mean every day someone goes to the store. Every day people get in cars – or used to. And every day people even run red lights.” Willow started when she felt Tara’s hand on hers but the touch was comforting and she felt encouraged to keep talking. “And it’s not like the other driver was drunk or stupid or texting or something. He was just in a hurry and so was our nanny. And then it was like the entire world exploded.”

She squeezed Tara’s hand. “I woke up in the hospital with bandages around my head. The world sort of really had exploded and one of my ear drums,” she pointed at her left ear, “was totally gone. And this one” she pointed at the other ear, “was all perforated by shards of glass.” She shrugged again. “I got part of the hearing in this ear back through some surgeries but I could never get anything from the other ear and … I never got Toby back.”

For a few minutes she sat and cried as Tara held her hand and a part of her was amazed at the strangeness of this setting. She hadn’t spoken of Toby in years, yet in the woods while trying not to be killed any moment, she had told two complete strangers about him.

She had almost forgotten that Xan was sitting next to her when he gestured to her ears. “So that’s why you’re still you.”

She shrugged. After a few minutes, Willow went back to using Xan’s kit to clean her gun. The others stayed and she found that after months of traveling alone she didn’t mind. In fact, it crossed her mind that she could get used to people again. When had finished with her gun and replaced it in the pocket of her pants, she handed the kit to Xan. “Thanks.”

“You said you were traveling with someone?”

Willow nodded again. She realized that most of the others had gathered around her spot and were passing out plates of food and a sort of stew. Someone set a bowl in front of her and she nodded her thanks as they all took their seats. “Buffy Summers. We went to high school together but we weren’t friends. She was all high school cheerleader. Not exactly the type that gets on with geeky half-deaf lesbians. You know?” Out of the corner of her eyes she noticed Tara’s smile. “I was never very outdoorsy. I didn’t camp or hike or anything and I knew nothing about guns. For the first few weeks of this hell, I just hid out in different basements listening on short wave radios and eating canned food and produce from abandoned gardens and stuff like that.”

“Well one day I figured I should probably get the hell out of Sunnydale. I figured my chances would be better elsewhere and maybe I could find some other people who didn’t seem to have lost their minds.” A few of the others nodded their heads. “I went first to the library which was basically just left deserted. I had to go down in the basement and look in the old card catalog since there was no electricity or anything and I found some books on camping and survival. I stole a few. Then I went over to REI which was open like a candy store. I had gotten some socks, boots, lightweight jacket, gun, and backpack and was trying out different bikes when I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.” She chuckled. “When Buffy and I finished pointing our guns at each other – both of us barely knowing which end to point - and questioning each other about the teachers at Sunnydale High we finally compared notes. She had been at a meditation retreat or something. Maybe it was a fat farm. So she had no contact with anyone. She’d arrived home to find her family gone and she didn’t know if they were dead or changed or what. Like me, she’d been hiding by day and sneaking around to get food by night.”

Willow took a deep breath and looked at her empty bowl expecting someone to ask where Buffy was. After a few minutes she realized that no one was asking because everyone already knew. Or they knew enough.

Finally the redhead looked up and around at the group. “Do… is there a guard? Can I take a shift or something?”

Tara tapped her on the knee so that Willow turned her head to look at her and it seemed such a natural but considerate motion that the redhead wondered if she had had prior experience with people with hearing impediments. “You look tired. Why don’t you sleep tonight and if you choose to stay with us, you can get into the rotation tomorrow?”

Willow nodded her thanks and began to reach for her empty bowl to go wash it but before she could Xander took it. “Sleep, and welcome to camp.”

“Thanks.”

Everyone faded away with some muttered goodnights and welcomes. Willow went to the woods to take care of her night time duties and then crawled into her tent. She smiled as she looked at the stars one more time wondering the time. It might have been 8:00 at night but months of solitary traveling, sleeping hidden in basements and tucked in the crook of a tree branch had taken her toll. She was asleep in minutes.

”Are you sure it’s safe to visit here?” Buffy looked at her friend with obvious worry on her expression.

Willow smiled as she easily flicked open the screen she had just cut with her hunting knife and flipped the lock on the window from the inside, sliding it open silently. Without words she checked that Buffy had them covered before climbing into the room, smiling when she noticed the old linoleum. As soon as she was in she turned and looked out the window, extending her gun hand to point past the blonde. “Come on.”

Buffy tucked her pistol in the back of her waistband and hoisted herself through the window. She looked around the room as Willow moved to close the window. It stuck but then it always had in the Summer. Once Willow got the window closed she looked up to see Buffy still examining the room. It was the same kitchen she had visited so many times. The old Formica table where her grandmother had canned thousands of jars of jelly and her grandfather had taught her to play go fish and poker, the stained counters, avocado colored refrigerator, and old dial phone still on the wall by the door. Memories brought a smile to the redhead’s face. A smile which faded as soon as she recognized the sound she was hearing. That old phone was ringing which shouldn’t be possible. Before she could speak Buffy had crossed the room. God. It was like she had superhuman speed or something. “No!”

And the blonde had the phone against her ear and then had dropped the receiver. She was reaching for the gun tucked in her waistband. But Willow already had her gun in her hand and she didn’t have the luxury of considering what to do next. The first shot hit Buffy in the center of her forehead and dropped the girl instantly. They had always laughed when comparing gun skill to realize that geeky, non-athletic Willow had the eye and hand of a born marksman. The blood started to seep out around the body and Willow had to look away.

A moment or perhaps an hour later she looked back to see Toby lying in a pool of blood and clutching the handle of that toy phone he always loved so much. Willow skidded across the floor on her knees to grab him and cradle him in her arms, screaming his name over and over.


Willow felt someone shaking her and screaming her name but she was trying to help Toby. To stop the flow of blood so she could get him to a hospital and help him. “Willow! Willow!” The shaking increased and Willow realized all at once that someone was in her tent with her. Her hand flew out to the right to grab for her gun but another covered hers and pressed it down. “Willow! It’s Tara. Stop!”

"Tara?"

The other woman was on top of her, one hand bunched in Willow's shirt, the other holding down the girl's gun hand. Perhaps it had only been 5 seconds but it felt like much longer as the redhead stared into blue eyes filled with terror and understanding and compassion and sadness and no small amount of unmasked lust. It took no thought, no planning, no asking and Willow pressed her lips against those mere millimeters away. Judging by the speed and energy contained in the returned contact Tara needed this as badly as the redhead.

Tara removed her hands from their previous locations and shoved one up under Willow's shirt to roughly palm one breast teasing the nipple to nearly excruciating sensitivity with her fingertips. For her part, the redhead squeezed and groped at Tara's ass, pulling her into her tense leg and enjoying the sound of the other woman's response. Oh God! She realized this was going to go fast. Very fast. Unbelievably fast. And then she stopped thinking at all as she slid her hand under the waistband of the other woman's cargo pants. At this angle she couldn't get inside the brunette who was encountering no such difficulty but she found Tara's soaked clit and felt the other woman shudder when she first touched it and again as the redhead began running her thumb over it in earnest. Within a minute or two both women felt their climaxes building and seemed to realize at the same time that they could come together. Would come together. Were coming together. Had come together.

It took Willow a few seconds to catch her breath and feel like she could see clearly again and the sight in front of her was quite adorable. Tara caught her eye but then looked away with a blush. Really it could not have been more adorable. The woman carried a gun in her metaphorical pajamas but she was blushing over a quickie. "I ... had a nightmare?"

Tara bit at her lip as she looked back at the redhead. "You... w-were screaming."

Unable to resist the opportunity to tease the other woman, Willow leaned up and whispered in her ear, "I thought I was impressively quiet considering how hard I just came."

Tara smiled again. “Vixen.”


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:42 pm 
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I humbly bow before you Deb. :bow

Now I need to get my but in gear and submit one before the month is over!


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:16 am 
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I'll be back for more feedback but here's one.

beautiful_love – So Groovy man. I love the setting. The characters are so very… not cannony. Especially Buffy. I love the tension between the girls from the start. You do that very well. And then for Willow to go find Tara is just adorable. They both know it’s a thing but they’re so shy. I love that Willow is sort of responsible in that she has a job even if that job is sort of 60s anti-establishment.

Now some trivia: My brother is/was a deadhead. Starting from his Junior year (when he went to see the Dead with a friend and our mother) he has seen them about 200 times. He traveled when he was in college and finally dropped out of school to travel with them for about 1.5 years total. When he got home he bought a magazine (Uncommon Chain) and published a mail-order glossy magazine about the Dead for a few years. Thanks to this Fic, I listed to some Dead on Pandora all day Monday!


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:43 pm 
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vampyregurl73:
Great story, Heather. For some reason I kept picturing the movie 'Cold Mountain'. I guess it's just my frame of reference for what it would have looked like for young women struggling to get by during the time of the Civil War. I couldn't help but notice our similarities in our cross-dressing Willow's, but really that just speaks to the time period we were both writing about. Women just didn't have the freedom they do now and it's interesting all the ways they hid themselves to get by in those times. What an interesting choice to have Willow and Donny paired up as friends and soldiers fighting in the war together; I really liked how unexpected that was. I loved how easily the girls just sort of fell into life and love with one another. It was just effortless, almost as if Tara had been waiting for Willow all that time. Great job!

JustSkipIt:
I'm so happy you entered. I think this is the first thing you have written since I've joined the board. I hope you will continue to write new pieces or continue to update WIO. I was a big Dollhouse fan so, I loved this piece and could picture exactly what was going on. In a way I kinda hoped they would have run into someone who had been printed just to see what would have happened, but pinning Willow down by gun point was pretty action packed, too. It was sad hearing Tara recount the loss of her ex. The fact that she didn't even need to explain what had happened after she had been printed just left me feeling hollow inside for the whole group. And Buffy, Ugh. What an awful time to be living in. I think it makes moments like the one you ended on all that much more special. The intensity of their love scene took me by surprise, hot and fast, but I think that's how it would be. If all you ever experienced was suffering, I think it would be normal to race towards the thought of pleasure. Great job!


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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:26 pm 
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Ok, time to leave feed for everyone. :grin

******

StIcarus,

Very dark - I like it. :wink

I can also see that this could have a sequel - possibilities always abound...

******

Jess aka beautiful_love,

I loved Buffy as a flower child! That amused me to no end. Willow stickin' it to the man - could totally see it just as I could see Tara drifting.

Much like Deb, it made me pull out Terrapin Station - favorite Grateful Dead album - and reminisce. I was lucky enough to see them in 1992 in Maryland and then again in 1994 in Denver. By then they were old and grey, but still gave a great concert, the parking lots were full of followers and all sorts of "things" could be had... I say no more.

Great story!

******

Lexi aka True_love,

I had no idea when I wrote mine that we both had a cross dressing Willow! I had only at the point read StIcarus' (sp?) story. I blame mine on PBS, I watched a documentary on women in the Civil War and cross dressing - really quite fascinating. Some rose to be officers and no one ever knew... I never saw Cold Mountain although I know the premise, and now that you mention it, I can see it. when I worked in the county library I ended up reading this book on a jazz musician that cross dressed, had three wives, two adopted sons and it was only when she had the heart attack that killed her did her sons find out "dad" was a woman. Another fascinating story... That and the Beatles song I chose, "The Long and Winding Road" between that and the cross dressers you get my story, lol.

But Willow with her slight build is completely the easier choice, less to hide, less chance of discovery, lol.

Never expected Tara to finally shoot her bastard of a father down. Though after what had been done in the past, I could call him a few more colorful words and just say couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Loved the story.

******

Deb aka JustSkipIt,

I've never watched Dollhouse, didn't even hear about it until it was mentioned here on the board - guess I'm just behind.

But what a picture of world you painted. Desolate, and scary, I can see why bonds are built quickly among the few that remain - because they have to be - you need each other.

I enjoy you're stories anyway, so I'll just leave it at that.


Last edited by vampyregurl73 on Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: March Challenge: Open to All
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:57 pm 
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TITLE: Race You To The Room
AUTHOR: Delayne T. Buranek
RATING: PG-13
DISCLAIMER: Enter standard Disclaimer here. In Other Words, I own none of it, I use it not for profit anyway. I used to do this in hopes it would impress girls but I’m committed now so that is out of the question. But we have nothing to our name except our two dogs and you’ll have to kill me before taking them.
SUMMARY: It’s a fic challenge piece. Future, Planet Mars... Just read it.
FEEDBACK: Yes please.
NOTE: I used as many Beatles songs as I could 5 or 6. I will try and underline all of them. Whoops if I miss any. I just want to post this before it is too late!

Good morning. Good morning!” The tinny voice came over the loudspeaker.

It happened every 0700 hours, everyday, since they arrived on Mars, 3 standard years ago in 2097.

It was approximately (you know Earth date) March 17, 2100, and after surviving another panic at the change to another century, things had calmed down on the station. You know other than the influx of panicked peoples who had arrived back in December thinking the world was ending. You know... back on Earth.

“Why anyone would think they wouldn’t be affected by a disaster like that here is just... stupid.” Willow muttered her half awake brain already thinking about the day.

“Ugh... Wa??” Came from the figure beside her.

Tara had been on and off sick since the influx had arrived, bringing with them the common cold that some how had not arrived on Mars until then. Last night was the start of the latest round when Tara complained of being all achy.

“Hey Tare-bear, How ya feeling?”

I feel fine.” She said but it was hoarse, raspy and kind of gurgle-y.

“You are not fine Tara. This has been going on for three months!"

Willow started to get out of bed and Tara tried to follow suit.

"Oh no you don't missy."

Tara gave a pouty frown.

"You need to rest and I need to find a cure. In fact I have been researching some old texts and testing samples and I have an idea." Willow imperceptibly winced.

"What is it."

"What is what." Willow replied meekly.

"You have an idea that I *cough* am not going to like, don't you."

"I... uh... I... have to go outside."

"You can't do that."

"But I need to."

"Why?"

"Because."

Tara had to only give her a look to ask the question again with the unmentioned qualifier of 'you better give me more detail than that.'

"I need an ingredient."

Tara merely quirked her eyebrow to say 'Continue...'

"I can make you cold medicine." Willow paused only briefly knowing she would be encouraged to babble in this instance. "The tumbleweeds... I can make you cold medicine from the tumbleweeds. And before you ask, I can't use the samples we have in storage. I tried that already. It was how I figured out it will work. But the drying process loses much of the compound I need so I have to get it fresh which means I have to go outside."

As Willow explained the necessity Tara's face softened from her earlier expressions. She said simply, "Okay."

x-x-x-x

"Hey Jude." Willow said, pressing an intercom button near the stations outside entry way. There were two main ways in or out. This was to the surface. The other was a bay to the shuttles and ships, including the short range vessels that could be taken to the station on the other side of Mars.

"Yes, sir... uh I mean Ma'am."

Willow snickered. He was new to the security detail and his previous experience was very military. His previous commander had clearly been male. His response was very habitual.

"I am going to need you to prep me a suit. I am going outside for a collecting mission shortly."

"Yes sir. uh Ma'am."

x-x-x-x

The suit was necessary but Willow hated it anyway. It was bulky and heavy but the design was crucial for the cooling system needed to withstand Mars temperatures. The design was also not very flattering.

Willow did not have to stray far from the entrance as the tumbleweeds were everywhere. It was the only thing that had started to grow on the surface. Despite the heat and lack of water, the tumbleweed, specifically the Russian Thistle tumbleweed, was the only thing that had taken root. They experimented with all sorts of plants of course. You know useful ones, but that was back before Willow and Tara were brought on the team. Back even before they had built either station and were running their experiments out of the shuttle they had landed.

The tumbleweed was unintentional of course, as it always is in those cases. But it was the only one that stuck. Maybe it would be the start for a successional change. It would take root in the soil, develop the soil to make it more habitable for other early plants which would develop it more for other plants, so on and so forth. In fact it was Tara’s team that collected the soil samples and Willow’s lab that ran them.

Of course, they were the boss and rarely had to venture outside anymore. Which was partly why Tara was having a fit. Also because it was dangerous. Not in a crazy martian monsters coming out to kill you sort of way... No it was more of a ‘lots of little safety precautions are taken and if any one of them go awry it can very easily become lethal’ kind of way.

Willow fumbled with her sample pouch. She brought out three, wanting to get the tumbleweed in three different stages to see if one would be stronger. Based on the dry samples she suspected she would be going for one flowering but wanted to get a younger one and an dying one too, just in case. Another stroke of luck was the tumbleweed, having no seasons or even real moisture to go off of, there were tumbleweeds of all various stages.

There was also a large quantity of weeds which had tumbled their way to every nook and cranny that the building design provided. Every once in a while the piles would spontaneously combust. The building never caught fire though, even if it were not fire-proofed, the flash was so quick through the tumbleweeds it didn't have time to catch anything else on fire. Willow knew from second hand knowledge, her predecessor had been caught up in a pile once, before when the suits were even more bulky and less fire proof.

x-x-x-x

Hey Jude.” The young guard had entered Willow and Tara’s suite as he had a message from Willow.

“Dr. Rosenberg wanted me to inform you she is safely back in her lab.”

“Thank you Jude.”

“She also had me bring in the mail, Ma’am.”

Tara flipped through the mail as she sat at the breakfast nook in her pajamas and robe. The largest piece was a postcard from Earth. Sunnydale, California to be specific.

Tara tapped the center and it played.

Every postcard from their family back on Earth had started the same. There were noise makers and party hats. And Happy whatever was yelled.

“Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!” The gang yelled, wearing green party hats.

Buffy, Xander, Anya, and Dawn all left a brief message with their usual hello’s. Filling them in on what had gone on between then at the last one they had sent. Tara was always amazed how they timed it just perfect, the arrival of their cards. They never told her Willow printed them a calendar schedule.

As happy as she was to get notification from her friends, she was feeling better enough that she wanted to see someone else. And she didn’t care if the redhead yelled at her for being out of bed. Tara disrobed, putting on some trousers and a t-shirt, and exited her suite.

x-x-x-x

Willow was happy one of her samples survived. She had extracted the compound in greater concentration than she had with dry samples. She had already prepped the concoction. She was certain it was going to work.

And Tara just didn’t have to ever know about almost being burned up. Willow glanced at her charred suit hanging at the entry way to her lab. Nope, she just doesn’t need to know.

But then the door opened.

“Oh my goodness, Willow!” Tara gasped, as the first thing she encountered was a charred suit when she opened up the lab door.

"Hey," Willow tried to play it cool but her breaking voice betrayed her. "What are you doing out of bed?"

Tara didn't bother to answer, she had a question of her own.

"Did you *cough* get caught up in a flash fire?"

"I... uh... what I mean to say is.... a little bit." Willow squeaked.

Tara was about to go off on the dangers and how Willow should have known better (a talk that she had to give Willow once before) but instead had a coughing fit. Willow rushed to her side.

"I know... I should have known better. But I got what I needed and now you can feel all better." Willow said once she got Tara to sit down and the coughing subsided.

"Here drink this." Willow offered Tara. It was still in lab-ware and looked like it was just scooped out of of a algae infested pond. Tara eyed it suspiciously.

"It looks gross but I added flavor enhancers. It should taste like green tea."

Tara closed her eyes so she would have to look at it and shot it down. Indeed, green tea.

"That's my girl." Willow said.

Tara sat for a few moments, waiting to cough. Instead her achy muscles felt less achy, the gooey-ness in her sinuses disappeared, and she felt better.

"Hey... I feel better."

"See. Totally worth me almost getting..." Willow started to say until Tara got that concerned and irritated combination look that only Tara could pull off. The one that made Willow think Tara would make a perfect mother someday.

"I mean... hey you feel better. Great!"

Tara was feeling better. In fact she was feeling more than better... She was feeling... frisky.

Tara smirked her sexy half-smile. "Willow... I think there maybe a side effect..."

Willow, whose body automatically reacted to that smoldering look Tara gave her, was fighting with her brain at the choice of words. She was excited and concerned and it was confusing.

Tara stood up and wrapped her arms around the redhead, kissed up her neck, sucked on her earlobe and whispered "A very good side effect." The confusion was gone.

Another sexy smirk. "Race you to the room."

The End


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