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

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 Post subject: Fic: Chosen Family
PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2002 5:03 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:46 am
Posts: 678
Title: Chosen Family
Author: Tiggrscorpio
E-mail: Tiggrscorpio1117@aol.com
Feedback: Yes, please!
Distribution: Sure, just let me know.
Spoilers: Up to and including parts of "Family."
Pairing: W/T
Rating: PG or PG13
Disclaimers: Joss and Co. own all. I'm just trying to keep occupied between new episodes.
Summary: After performing the blinding spell on the Scoobies, Tara decides to leave Sunnydale with her family. Spike does not get to disprove her families accusations, so she leaves town still believing she is a demon.
_____________________________________________
Chosen Family - Part 1

Willow awoke, happily entwined in the arms of her lover. The blonde witch was still fast asleep, exhausted from a blissful evening with the adorable redhead.

A smile graced the corner of Willow's mouth as she watched Tara sleeping. Her slow, deep breaths revealed her peaceful state. Willow loved waking before her girl. The uninterrupted time to observe her lover was intoxicating for Willow. She studied the blonde's flawless features. Her high cheekbones. Her smooth porcelain forehead. Her strong angular chin. Her full rose-colored lips. Willow couldn't resist the urge to reach out and touch her sleeping beauty.

With the softest touch, she traced her fingertips from Tara's brow, down across her chin. The blonde stirred and released a contented sigh from her swollen lips. Her eyelids fluttered open, to be greeted by sparkling emerald eyes.

"Morning beautiful," the redhead whispered.

"Good morning, love." Tara smiled. "Were you watching me sleep?"

"Mmm hmm." Willow leaned in to kiss the tip of the blonde's nose.

"Why?"

Willow pulled back to stare into crystal clear blue eyes.

"Because in all the world, there is nothing more beautiful than you."

"Oh sweetie, I love you." She rewarded her lover with a long, passionate kiss. That kiss led to several more.

Tara suddenly broke mid-kiss and asked. "What time is it?"

"Wha? Where? More lips. Now, please," the redhead muttered.

"Honey, we're supposed to help Buffy move out of the dorm today." The blonde sat up to look at the alarm clock.

"That's what you were thinking about while we were kissing?" Willow said, with a mock pout on her face.

"Oh honey, no." Tara leaned over and captured the pouty bottom lip, in her mouth, for a quick kiss. "I just want to help, that's all."

Willow smiled sincerely. She was happy her love wanted to get to know her friends better. And she wanted them to know all about this special woman, who so completely filled her heart. She knew they thought Tara was a bit odd. But being odd was what it took to be a Scooby, living on the Hellmouth. And Tara's quirkiness was what made her unique. Willow saw beyond the painfully shy exterior, to the beautiful soul that inhabited Tara's being. She wanted to introduce her family of friends to this wonderful creature, who so captivated her very essence.

"I think the super Slayer can move a few of her own boxes, while we cuddle a little longer." The redheaded witch pulled Tara back into her embrace.

"Who can resist Willow snuggles?" the blonde smiled and settled her head on Willow's chest.

She tried to stay focused on the fulfillment of the moment, but her mind would not allow it. Her thoughts drifted to what would happen the next day. It was her birthday, tomorrow, and she was turning twenty. The same age her mother was when it first happened. Tomorrow the demon would appear and everything would change. The wonderful woman holding her in her arms, would finally know the truth.

Tara had wanted to tell her on so many occassions. It never seemed to be the right time. 'Honey, could you pass me my Art History book and oh, by the way, I'm a demon.' Or how about, 'sure our sex is great baby, there's a wild creature inside of me.'

Tara's brow furrowed. Willow could feel her lover's body tense.

"Baby, you okay?" she asked, concerned.

Tara raised her head and looked up into loving green eyes. With a smile at the corner of her lips, she said, "I'm fine."

"Good." Willow kissed the blonde's full lips and reluctantly said, "I guess we have to get with the helping. I'm gonna hop in the shower. You wanna join me?" The redhead waggled her eyebrows.

"I'll be there in a minute," Tara said softly.

Willow got up and put on her robe. She grabbed her bathroom kit and towel and headed out the door, toward the shower down the hall.

Tara resumed her thoughts about tomorrow's possible outcome. Would Willow love her when she saw what she truly was? Or would it disgust her to know she had been intimate with a demon? Willow had been able to love Oz and he was a werewolf. Wouldn't she be able to love Tara the same way? Of course, Willow knew about Oz before their relationship became physical. 'God, why didn't I just tell her before we fell in love?' She answered herself. 'Because you fell in love with her the minute you saw her.'

'Maybe my demon isn't really bad,' she thought. 'Maybe I'm a demon with a soul, like Angel. Or maybe I just prey on really bad people. Like serial killers or right-wing fundamentalists, who try to disguise their prejudice, by proclaiming it in God's name. Or maybe, Maclay, you're just a cold-blooded killer, like the vampires in this town.'

'A killer. Oh God, what if I hurt Willow? Or any of the other Scoobies? I couldn't live with that. I may be putting them all in danger, because I'm being selfish. Is the time I spend with Willow, really worth risking all their lives?'

The answer had to be yes. How else could she explain her inability to walk away from the redhead. It wasn't like she didn't have choices. She could always go home.

The thought made her shudder. But home is where they know how to control the demon. Tara had never even seen the demon that possessed her mother. Or any of the demons that possessed the Maclay family women. Whatever methods her father enlisted, the creatures were kept in line. But home was also full of sadness and fear. It was not a good place.

Tara was going to have to make a decision and make it soon. For now, she chose to join Willow in the shower.

Part 2

Willow and Tara strolled hand in hand into Buffy's dorm. On the stairs, to the second floor, they ran into Xander. He was carrying Buffy's weapons chest.

"Aha," Willow's best friend stated. "What could possibly have detained the happy wiccans? Let me guess?" he said, playfully.

"Study group." Tara blurted.
"Overslept." Willow offered, simultaneously with her lover.

The flush crept up the faces of both women, until they matched the color of Willow's hair.

"Uh huh." He looked back and forth between the red witches. "Just as I suspected. Doing spells. Don't worry, we left you guys the best part," he said, gleefully.

Willow's eyes got wide. "You don't mean..."

"Oh yeah. The Buffster's closet. You get the arduous task of folding and packing her zillion different outfits. All that leather and...leather." He got a blissful look on his face. "I think I'm gonna help you with that."

"We'll see you upstairs." Willow rolled her eyes. She reclaimed her lover's hand and they headed up to Buffy's room.

*****

They helped pack up Buffy's closet, until both Willow and Tara needed to leave for class.

Tara sat in her American Literature class not really paying attention to the Professor. She was thinking about this mornings events in Buffy's room. Xander and Riley wrestling. Dawn being the typical little sister. Whining to Buffy about her taking some of Dawn's CD's. Anya just being Anya. And Giles, watching over all of them. They were a family. The Scooby family. And she desperately wanted to be a part of their close knit group.

That's why she had made the joke about Glory's insect reflection. Or had tried to make a joke, rather. God, they had all looked at her like she was a complete freak. And why not? No one would have understood that joke. Well, Willow probably would. Tara smiled as she thought of the redhead.

She was glad Willow hadn't been there to see her make a fool out of herself. She had just wanted them all to like her. To accept her. Like Willow had. Of course, after tomorrow it probably wouldn't matter. 'Tomorrow, I become just another one of the demons Buffy and the gang will have to slay.' she thought.

'I wonder what kind of a demon I am. After this morning, I must be a dork demon. At least it won't be much of a stretch for me. I've pretty much been a dork my whole life.'

Her thoughts returned to her redheaded girlfriend. 'Willow doesn't make me feel that way, though. She makes me feel beautiful. Special. Like I can do anything. Yeah right. Anything, but tell her the truth. I just can't hurt her. I love her so much. But she will be hurt. No matter what the outcome is, I've still betrayed her.'

Tara was jostled from her thoughts by the sounds of shuffling backpacks and screeching desk chairs. The lecture was over. She stared down at the blank page of her notebook and sighed. She packed up her supplies and headed across campus to meet Willow. They were going to stop by the Magic Box to do some research on the new Big Bad in town. She hoped the Scooby gang wouldn't one day be doing research on her.

*****

Tara sat quietly at the research table in the Magic Box, with her nose buried in a book. She was pretending to read, but could feel Willow's eyes on her every few seconds. She wanted desperately to reassure the fidgety redhead, but was still trying to cope with everything herself.

An hour ago, she had come into the Magic Box, with Willow, and was stunned to be greeted by her brother, Donny. After some brief introductions and conversation, she was equally surprised to see her father and Cousin Beth enter the shop. They didn't stay long, agreeing to meet for dinner later, but their appearance had completely flustered Tara.

'How did they find me?' she thought. 'I've been so careful in trying to cover my tracks. Maybe through the University. But, I never gave them my real address and I never provided an emergency name or number at all. Maybe the demon women, in my family, just knew where to look.' Tara knew why they were here. They were going to take her back.

When she thought Willow wasn't looking, Tara took a quick peek at her lover. She quickly looked down, as she saw Willow raise her head to meet her gaze.

Willow sighed softly.

How coud she leave Willow? She was the best thing that had ever happened to her. She knew Willow was upset that she hadn't personally introduced her to her father. She just didn't want him to touch her. It was bad enough that Donny had shook her hand. She didn't want them anywhere near her precious Willow. Tara knew the only thing her father hated more than magic, was the fact that she was gay.

Going back home would be a nightmare. The verbal abuse. The physical abuse. Why couldn't they just let her go?

"Tare, baby," Willow said softly.

"Huh?" The blonde's head snapped up from her book.

"Is everything okay? Do you wanna talk?" She reached across and took the gentle blonde's hand in her own.

"It's just w-weird. Them showing up s-so unexpectedly." Tara stammered.

"Well, maybe...if you want...I could go to dinner with you. Be supportive girlfried gal," the hacker offered with a slight smile.

"No!" Tara said a little too quickly and a little too loud. She adjusted her tone and added. "I m-mean, I n-need to talk to my father about a f-few things."

"Oh," the redhead retracted her hand, but Tara reached out and grabbed it again. She gave Willow's hand a gentle squeeze.

"We'll talk about it, s-soon." She gave her lover a genuine smile. "Right now, I have to go meet my f-father for dinner."

Tara got up and collected her book bag. As she walked past Willow, the redhead gently grabbed her arm.

"Is it okay if I stop by later?" Willow asked.

"Of course, darling." The blonde leaned down and softly kissed her girlfriend's lips. "I'll see you, then."

She left the Magic Box and headed back to her dorm.

*****

Willow walked from the Magic Box, back across campus, toward Tara's dorm room. She hoped that Tara was back from dinner with her family. She also hoped Tara was ready to talk to her.

Willow knew how weird family's could be. Heck, her own absentee parents were role models of weirdness. Her mother had even tried to burn her at the stake. And Xander's family. 'Well, don't get me started,' she thought. There is just nothing normal there. Joyce Summers was probably the closest thing Willow had seen of a normal family member. As regular as one can be, considering her daughter is the Slayer. And true, she was involved in the whole stake burning incident, but back to her point, family's are weird.

But there was something more to Tara's reaction at seeing her family. Willow sensed a feeling of terror, rather than embarassment or humiliation, from her lover. She was deeply concerned and hoped her girlfriend would give her the opportunity to calm her fears.

Inside her dorm room, Tara sat staring at one of her crystals. She hadn't moved since her father left, a few hours earlier. They had not gone out to dinner, as planned. Tara had returned, from the Magic Box, to find her father already inside her dorm room. He was angry about the open displays of magical items, throughout her room. He had confirmed what Tara had already suspected. He was there to take her home. She had meekly tried to protest, but his presence always over-powered her. He made her feel weak and small. Just like he had done her whole life long.

'I should just leave with them,' she thought. 'Willow deserves someone who can be honest with her. Someone she can trust. But, a life away from Willow can't be right. What we have is beautiful. How can I be evil and love this person, so much? It can't be true.'

Just then, her door opened and Willow entered.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"Was...dinner fun?"

Tara nodded unconvincingly.

"Well, there's scoobyage afoot. Giles called a meeting about our spanking new menance."

"Oh. You should go, they don't need me for that, you can fill me in..."

"No no, you gotta come. This demon chick is supposed to be really powerful and I was thinking maybe we could try that spell, you know, the one to find demons..."

"That didn't work."

"Yeah, but we only tried it one time. I think I got the ingredients wrong."

"Well, I'm tired. We can try it tomorrow."

"You sure you don't--"

"My family's here, I can't just...not everything is about your friends and stuff."

"Sorry," Willow said, hurt by Tara's last remark. She turned to leave.

"No, no, I'm...there's just so much going on. I'm just...I'm real tired."

Unconvinced, Willow replied, "Okay."

"I'll see you in the morning and you can fill me in."

"Great. We'll be demon hunters."


Willow left the dorm room completely dejected. 'Well that went about as bad as I could have ever imagined,' she thought. She was now even more worried about Tara. It wasn't like her to be snippy. But maybe she was really just tired, like she said. After all, Tara hadn't expected her family to just show up on her doorstep.

As Willow headed back to the Magic Box, for the Scooby meeting, she worried about her plans for tomorrow night. The gang was supposed to meet at the Bronze, at 8 o'clock, for a surprise birthday party for Tara.

'What if her family didn't want to come,' thought Willow. They didn't know Willow was Tara's lover. What if they made other plans?
Or what if Tara was still cranky tomorrow and didn't want to go with Willow? The whole surprise would be ruined. Willow entered the Magic Box in more of a panic than when she left.

*****

Tara felt awful about the way she had spoken to Willow. She had never snapped at her love before. The heartbreak had been written all over the beautiful redhead's face. She couldn't stand to see Willow so sad. She had to do something.

She searched her magic books until she found the perfect incantation. A blinding spell, so they wouldn't be able to see her demon side. She could stay with Willow and no one would ever know.

She mixed the potion and poured the powder into a vial. Then, she set off toward the Magic Box. When she arrived, she peered through the back door. She saw all of the Scoobies around the research table. Giles was talking about their safety. She took the vial out of her pocket and poured the red powder on to her hand. In a whisper, she said:

"Blind Cadria, desolate queen,
work my will upon them all,
your curse upon them,
my obeisance to you."


She blew the powder and watched the mist float towards her friends. The mist shot into everyone's eyes, causing them to jerk slightly. After a moment, Giles continued to speak. Tara slipped quietly out the back.

'Now, it will all be perfect,' she thought.

Part 3

Tara sat on a park bench on the UCS campus. She was feeling terribly guilty about the blinding spell she had done on her friends.

She had run into her Cousin Beth on the way back from the Magic Box, after doing the spell. Beth had offered to help her pack. Tara had told Beth, she wasn't returning home with them. Beth had gotten irritated and called her selfish. She had also guessed that Tara had done a spell on her friends, so they wouldn't see Tara's demon side. Beth had threatened to tell Tara's father about the spell.

Tara knew it wasn't an idle threat. Beth had always ratted her out, to her father, when they were little. Whenever Beth found Tara and her mother practicing magic, she would run and tell Tara's father. Tara's punishment would be a severe beating at the hands of her father. Beth had always been jealous of Tara. She had come to live with the Maclay's when she was eight years old. Both of her parents had been killed in a car accident. While Tara's mother loved her sister's only child, it was clear Beth did not have the talent or the discipline to be a good witch. She did not pay attention and would not study. Tara, who was two years younger than Beth, soon surpased the orphaned girl in magical ability. Beth found favor with her uncle by protesting her aunt and cousin's use of magic, as vehemently as he did.

Tara knew she had to tell her friends what she had done before her father did. Then, she had to tell them the truth about herself. Maybe if she was honest, she would still be able to salvage some of the relationship.

She worried mostly about Willow, of course. What would she think of the things she had done? Willow was a pretty understanding person, but she had been hurt before. 'What if she couldn't forgive me?' Tara thought. 'What if she never trusts me again? How did I let things get so messed up? I have to fix it. I have to tell them the truth.'

She hurried back toward the Magic Box, hoping she got there before her father or cousin.

*****

Tara entered the Magic Box and gasped. She saw a demon creeping up behind Buffy.

"Buffy behind you!"

Buffy spins as the thing pounces. She tries to hold it off. It throws her over the table, comes at her again.

The demon comes for an exhausted Buffy. It grabs her throat -- and Xander makes a game attempt at grabbing for it from behind. It shrugs him off, nails Buffy a couple of times.

"Where is it? Tara can you see it?"

Tara realizes they can't see it.

"Oh God..."

She rushes forward.

"Blind Cadria, lift your veil,
give evil form and break my spell--"

The demon turns as she speaks the last -- it pounces on her, slams her down into the counter.

Buffy jumps on its back.

Tara's family rushes in, Dad seeing the beast over his daughter --

"Tara!"

The beast throws Buffy off and goes for the dad -- he stumbles and falls -- Buffy sweeps its legs out from under it, landing it with its chin slamming down on the top step, just in front of dad. She gets to her feet in a blur, plants a foot at the back of its neck and CRUNCH! -- snaps it brutally.

There is a quiet moment as everyone recovers from the action. Xander goes to check on Anya. Giles helps Dawn out from under the desk. Buffy stands before Mr. Maclay, who is still on the ground, staring at the body of the last Lei-ach demon.

"What in the name of God is that...?"

Spike pipes up from the back, entering.

"Lei-ach Demon. Fun little buggers; big with the marrow-sucking."

"I don't understand..."

"I'm not sure I do either."

Buffy is looking over at Tara, who is still hunched by the counter. She is desperately unhappy.

"I'm sorry...I'm s-so sorry..."

Willow starts toward Tara slowly, confused.

"I w-was just trying to hide...the spell went wrong..."

"Tara, what..."

"I didn't want you to see...what I am."

"What are you?"

"I told you, you try to run from it you'll put these people in danger. (re: demon) And, my God..."

"I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt."

"I think you better explain. What do you mean, what you are?"

Buffy is staring at Tara, and she doesn't sound too pleased.

Tara can't get past her stutter before her father speaks.

"Demon."

Willow looks astonished at her love, no idea what to do.

"The women in our family have...demon in them. Her mother had it, it's where the magic comes from. This isn't something we generally like to share with strangers. We came to take her home before...well, before things like this started happening."

"Tara you're not...how could you not say something..."

Tara still can't answer - can hardly look at Willow.

"You put a spell on us to keep us from seeing your demon side. That's why we couldn't see our attackers."

Buffy looking at Dawn. "Nearly got us killed."

Tara rises, trying to steady her emotions.

"I'll go. (to everyone) I'm very sorry."

"The camper's outside."

"Wait! Go? She just did a spell that went wrong! Buffy, it was just a mistake!"

"It's not the point and it's not your concern. The girl belongs with us. We know how to control her problem."

"Tara, look at me. (she does) I trusted you more than anyone in my life. Was all of that a lie?"

"No! No..."

"Do you want to leave?"


The tears were streaming down her cheeks.

"I have to go. I'm sorry."

Tara's father took her by the arm and led her towards the shop exit. Willow rushed after her.

"Tara, no. Don't leave," she cried.

But Tara was gone. Willow turned back to her friends. They were all staring at her, still dumstruck from the recent events. Willow looked as if she might collapse. Buffy broke the silence.

"What the hell was that all about, Will?"

"I don't know. I need to go and talk to her." Willow started for the door, but Xander grabbed her shoulder.

"Willow wait. She looked pretty upset. Maybe you should give her a little time to pull herself together. Then, go and talk to her."

"Yeah," Willow agreed, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "I guess you're right. I'm fairly freaked myself, right now."

"I can't believe she did a spell on us," Anya said.

"Yeah, and not the good kind of spell," Xander said, trying to lighten the mood.

"Do shut up, Xander," Giles said flatly.

"What do you think her father meant about her being a demon?" Buffy asked.

"I don't know." Willow frowned. She thought for a moment and then a look of sheer panic crossed her face. "Oh God!"

"What is it Willow?" Giles asked alarmed.

"We tried to do a spell once. To locate demons in the area. We were trying to find Adam. The spell didn't work."

Xander interrupted. "Well, you know Will, your spells aren't always right on."

Giles, Dawn and Buffy simultaneously said, "Shut up, Xander."

Willow continued. "I asked her to do the spell again, tonight. To help find the new demon girl. She didn't want to. Oh God! She must really be a demon."

The expression on Willow's face was one of horror.

"I don't think you should jump to any conclusions." Giles said evenly.

"I have to go. I have to talk to her, NOW."

Willow ran out of the shop towards Tara's dorm room.

*****

The tears were a steady stream down Tara's face as her father drove her back to the campus. She kept seeing Willow's stricken look, over and over again.

This wasn't what was supposed to happen. It didn't even occur to her that the spell would keep them from seeing all demons. She only wanted to hide herself. Now, she had put them all in danger. Buffy was right. They had almost been killed. She was responsilbe. She had almost killed Willow.

A fresh wave of tears flooded her cheeks. Her father, Donny and Beth said nothing on the short ride back to the dorm. When they arrived, her father asked.

"Do you need any help with your packing?"

"N-no," she wiped her tear-stained face. "I just w-want to be alone."

"We'll pick you up in the morning," he said without emotion.

She climbed out of the camper and closed the door. She walked with her head down back to her room.

Inside her room, she began to pack her things. It was a slow, painful process. Each item she picked up reminded her of Willow, in one way or another. She would relive each moment in her mind.

Pressed between the pages of her favorite book was the stem from the rose they had floated, the first night Willow came to her dorm room. There was her box full of movie stubs, from all the films she had seen with Willow. In her top desk drawer was a stack of love letter, from Willow, neatly tied with a ribbon.

She sat on the edge of her bed with the extra flamey candle in her hand. She wondered if Willow would have chosen her, over Oz, if she had know the truth. They had spent that entire night, and a good part of the next morning, making love. It was perfect. It was always perfect with Willow. The blissful memory was replaced with Willow's question.

"What are you?"

"What are you?"

"What are you?"

It echoed over and over again until she could no longer stand it.

Suddenly, the door burst open and Willow ran into the room. She was out of breath, panting heavily, from having run all the way to the dorm.

"Tara...thank God...still here..."

"Willow, please." The blonde couldn't look at her. She kept her eyes down on the floor.

Willow regained her breath and spoke more normally.

"Tara, we have to talk about what happened."

"I can't do this right now, Willow." The blonde went back to packing her things.

"Well, that's too bad cause we're gonna do this, right now," she said with full resolve face.

Tara's red, swollen eyes locked on to Willow's green orbs. Willow's face was full of fear. 'Is she afraid of me? Of what I am?' Tara thought.

"So, you're just gonna leave town. That's it. No explanation." Willow's tone was harsh, but controlled.

"I have to go," Tara said softly.

"No, you have to tell me what this is all about."

"My father explained everything." She folded another sweater into the open suitcase on the bed.

"So, you've known about this since we met? How could you not tell me?"

Tara looked over at Willow.

"Because I never wanted to see you look at me the way you are right now."

The tears filled Willow's eyes.

"I don't understand this," Willow cried.

"I never meant to hurt you." Tara resisted the urge to go and comfort Willow. "I do love you, Willow. But I can't stay. Not right now." Tara's heart was breaking. She wanted to hold her girl in her arms.

"But I can help you. We all can. That's what we do," the redhead pleaded.

"I have to find out about this thing inside me. Whether I can control it or not. Otherwise, I'm not safe to be around."

Willow shook her head and sighed heavily.

"I've heard this speech before. It ends with me finding an empty dorm room and not hearing from you for months."

"I have to go."

"Are you saying you want to leave me?"

"No, but it's for the best."

"I thought we were in this relationship together. How come you get to decide what's best for us?"

Tara was taken aback by Willow's question. She thought for a moment and then answered.

"How long before you start wondering, Will? Wondering what kind of monster I am. A day? A week? Or have you already started?"

Willow was silent.

"Are you really ready to pick up this relationship where we left off? All of it?"

"You should at least stay, so we can do this together."

"I need to do this on my own. If you love me at all, you'll let me go. Please."

"Will you call me?" Willow asked just above a whisper.

"Yes. Let's just give it some time first."

Willow moved forward to hug Tara. She was stunned when Tara took a step back from her. The blonde lowered her eyes, to escape the pain on Willow's face. Willow turned and left without another word, closing the door behind her.

Inside her room, Tara broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. She wanted nothing more than to run after Willow and hold her forever. Her shame and fear kept her grounded. When she finally stopped crying, she returned to her packing. As she boxed up her possessions, she wondered if her love for the redhead would be another treasure she would have to lock away forever.

She pulled out the stack of love letters, placed carefully in her suitcase. She removed the top one from the pile and carefully pulled the leter out of the envelope. She had memorized every word, from the millions of time she had read the letter. The beautiful words were written the day after she and Willow had made love for the first time.

My Darling Tara,

There simply aren't words adequate enough to describe the love I have for you in my heart. What we shared last night was the most special and the most significant moment of my life. If it is at all possible to find heaven on earth, than I believe that place has to be in you embrace. Making love with you was all that I had dreamed of and more. I want nothing more than to hold you in my arms for the rest of our days. Your love fulfills me and I am overwhelmed, with joy and happiness and mostly love. I thank the Goddesses for the wonderful gift of having you in my life. I love you!

Yours Always,

Willow

Tara carefully re-folded the paper and returned it to it's envelope. She wiped the tears from her eyes, as she placed the letter with the others. She made a promise to herself, aloud.

"I will find my way back to you, Willow."

She looked at her clock.

12:01am

It was her birthday.

Part 4

Buffy took Dawn home from the Magic Box. She did a quick patrol, then stopped by Giles' apartment to discuss what had happened.

"What do you think about all this?" Buffy called in to the kitchen.

Giles came out of the kitchen with a cup of tea for himself and a bowl of ice cream for the famished Slayer. He sat on the end of the couch and took a sip of tea.

"It's extraordinary actually," he said, seemingly surprising himself. "I never would have expected this of Tara."

"I know," Buffy agreed. "She's just so...nice. So...sweet. Like she wouldn't hurt a fly. It just doesn't fit."

"Perhaps it was her intention to appear docile, so as not to draw attention to herself."

"Oh come on Giles, I hardly see Tara as an evil mastermind," Buffy said increduously.

"The truth is, we don't really know what we're dealing with here," Giles said honestly.

"You've been living on the Hellmouth too long." The Slayer rolled her eyes.

"Nevertheless, we mus'nt allow our friendly feelings for Tara to cloud our judgement. This could be quite serious."

"Oh it's serious alright. I don't know if Willow is gonna be able to handle this," Buffy pointed out.

"She was quite distraught," the Watcher admitted.

"Distraught! Her whole world has been ripped apart." The Slayer frowned. "I think I better go check on her. I can't take another spell that finds me engaged to Spike."

"Do you think Willow would do that again?"

She got up and put on her leather jacket. "I think Willow is going to take this ten times harder than she did with Oz."

"Good heavens," he exclaimed. "Perhaps you should take the ice cream with you," he offered.

"I think we're beyond ice cream. I'll call you with an update in the morning."

*****

Willow slammed the door of her dorm room shut and threw herself on the bed. She was weeping bitterly. She buried her face in her pillow, to stifle her wailing. The pillow smelled like Tara, which only caused her tears to fall harder.

'This can't be happening. Not again,' she thought. 'Why does everyone I love turn out to be a demon? Worse yet, why do they always leave me? I can't do this again.'

No, not again. This was infinitely more worse than when Oz had left. Willow loved Oz. But, she was in love with Tara. It was powerful. They were connected. Through magic. Through love. Or, at least Willow had thought so until today.

A knock on Willow's door startled the redhead. Thinking it might be Tara, she leapt up and sprinted for the door. She threw the door open with such force, she actually startled the Slayer.

"Will, what's wrong?" Buffy asked concerned.

The redhead threw herself into the arms of her best friend and cried. Buffy hugged her dear friend and tried to soothe her pain.

"Shh. It's okay. Shh." She rubbed her back and whispered softly. "Tell me what happened."

When the redhead had finally settled down, Buffy released her embrace and closed the door. She led Willow to the bed and sat her down. She sat down opposite her.

"Tell me everything," she said, holding Willow's hand.

Willow recounted the whole encounter in Tara's room.

"And now she's gonna leave and who knows when I'll see her again," the redhead said through her sobs.

"I'm sorry, Will." The blonde Slayer handed her another tissue. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Figure out a way to make Tara stay," the hacker said and then blew her nose.

"Maybe that's not such a good idea," Buffy said honestly, waiting for the backlash.

"Wha? Buffy, how can you say that?" Willow's eyes narrowed.

"Just hear me out Will, before you go all witchy-poo on me. Remember when you told me that when it came to Angel you didn't feel I could think too clearly..."

"Yeah, but my lover didn't try to murder us all." Willow's patience was wearing thin with her friend.

"Not yet."

That was enough to send Willow over the edge. Her temper flared. "I don't want to hear this shit, Buffy."

Buffy stood her ground, unsure if her friend's emotional state may merit a physical attack on the Slayer.

"I can see that. I felt the same way. Lucky for me, I had some terrific friends."

"You don't know her, Buffy. Not like I do. She wouldn't hurt anybody. She's too gentle."

"Will, she did a blinding spell on us."

"She was afraid," Willow defended her lover.

"Okay. But until we have more information, I want you to be careful. I need my Willow friend, safe and sound."

Buffy hugged the redhead, but Willow kept her arms down at her side. When Buffy pulled back, Willow said seriously.

"I'm gonna prove that none of this is true. I will get her back. She's my girl. My everything."

Buffy prayed her friend was right.

*****

A soft knock at the door woke Willow. She looked at the alarm clock.

6:10am

She climbed out of bed, ready to kill whoever was knocking on her door so early. Her irritation turned to elation, as she saw Tara standing on the other side of the door.

It amused Willow that no matter how many times she told Tara that she didn't have to knock, the blonde always knocked on the door before entering. Willow would just burst into Tara's room. But even with as intimate as they had been, the blonde always knocked.

"Hey," Tara said in a tiny voice.

"Hey," Willow squeaked.

"Can I come in?" Tara asked.

"Yeah, sure. Sorry." Willow stepped aside to give her girlfriend access to the room.

They stared nervously at each other for a few moments, before Tara looked down at the floor and crossed her arms over her chest. Willow tugged anxiously at her fingers, finally breaking the silence.

"Did you get everything packed?" she asked uneasily.

"Huh? Yeah. Yeah, I did." Tara bit her bottom lip.

"Good. I mean, not good. But good." Willow chewed on the inside of her cheek and tried to hold back her tears.

"Willow, I can't go, " the blonde blurted out quickly.

"What? Did you say you're not going?" Willow wanted to be sure she heard correctly.

"I can't leave you. I love you so much. I can't bear to be away from you."

"Oh Tara." The redhead practically leapt into her arms.

Tara tensed at the embrace.

"What's wrong, baby?" Willow asked concerned.

"What about the d-demon..." Tara lowered her eyes. "...inside me?"

Willow lifted her chin with her hand. "Baby, I don't care if you grow scales and a tail. You're my girl and I love you."

Tara kissed her passionately. Willow parted her lips and invited Tara to deepen the kiss. Their tongues danced, first slowly and then more urgently.

Willow backed Tara over to the bed and gently pushed her down. She crawled on to Tara's lap and laid her back against the pillows. She stretched out, fully on top of her, never breaking contact with her lover's lips.

Willow's hand made it's way under Tara's blouse, until she reached the blonde witches full breast. She ran her hand over the silky material. When her fingers found Tara's hardened nipple, she squeezed the sensitive flesh, eliciting a low moan from the blonde.

Tara's hands pushed under the elastic of Willow's pajama pants and cupped the redhead's slender ass. Willow opened her legs and felt Tara's jean-clad thigh, press against her inflamed center.

Tara rolled Willow over on her back. She rubbed her thigh between Willow's legs and sent another jolt of pleasure through the redhead's body. She moved her hands up from Willow's ass, around front, until she found the buttons on Willow's pajama top.

She moved her lips from Willow's mouth, across her cheek and down to the pulse point on Willow's throat. She licked and sucked the throbing area, while her fingers deftly unbuttoned Willow's top.

She parted from Willow briefly, when she felt the redhead tug on her blouse. She sat up, allowing Willow to remove the barrier. Tara took off her own bra, while Willow threw her pajama top to the floor.

Tara molded her body against Willow's. The feel of their breasts together, ignited both women's desire instantly. Tara returned to Willow's throat.

Willow moved her hand from Tara's back, to unbutton and unzip the blonde's jeans. Willow bucked her hips as she felt Tara nip at her neck. As she reached her hand under the band of Tara's panties, she froze.

Willow felt the fangs, just before they pierced her throat. She arched in climax, lost in the sensation of Tara's fierce suckling. Realization soon hit her and she pushed Tara away. She stared, horrified, into her lover's vampire face.

Willow bolted upright in bed, clawing at her neck. She was sweat soaked from the dream turned nightmare. She ran to the mirror to check her throat. No marks. No Tara.

Willow fell to the floor sobbing. She shook her head and yelled over and over again.

"It's not true! It's not true! It's not true!"

Part 5

Willow stood in the middle of Tara's dorm room. The room, once so replete with everything Tara-like, was now almost bare. The only thing that remained, were the tiny Xmas tree lights. Their glow, now extinguished against the black painted walls.

Willow's heart sank. 'She took everything. She's not coming back,' Willow thought. As she walked around the stripped bed, an object on the dresser caught her eye. It was a dove feather. Willow twirled the precious item in her fingers. She sat on the edge of the bed, as the memories came flooding back.

The young witches hiked a little way into the woods, until they found a fairly secluded areas to have their picnic. The grassy area was not too deep in the woods, and the clearing in the trees allowed the warmth of the early afternooon sun to shine down on the happy couple.

Tara spread out a blanket, while Willow completed a general protection spell, just in case. The lovers ate their simple meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They sat opposite one another, a few feet apart, trying to shoot grapes into each other's mouth. Willow was five for five. Of course, it helped that Tara would lean in or fall back, depending on her lover's misguided aim. Tara was not fairing as well. She had only landed one in four tries. It didn't help that Willow sat stationary, not even attempting to reach for the misfired treats. So far, the blonde had beaned Willow on the nose, the forehead and an entire miss altogether. Tara had been distracted, on that throw, by Willow's low plunging shirt. After the next miss landed in Willow's hair, the redhead laughed.

"Honey, I think you need glasses."

"Well, baby, you're really not helping. Just sitting there all stiff, like a real basketball hoop."

"So, I'm being too stiff," the redhead mock pouted.

"You don't see my grapes lying all over the ground," the blonde reasoned.

"You wanna show me your grapes?" the hacker arched one eyebrow.

The blonde flashed her lop-sided grin and motioned with her finger for her girl to come closer. Willow crawled on her hands and knees across the blanket. She gave the blonde a searing kiss.

The lovers rolled back and forth on the blanket, wrapped in each other's embrace. Tara pinned the smaller woman beneath her and covered the redhead's face and lips with kisses. Within minutes, both women had shed their clothes. They made love under the warm sun, until they were both happily tired. They snuggled close and basked in the afterglow of their love making.

Willow reached above Tara's head, for the dove feather lying on the edge of the blanket. She whispered in a low, sensual voice.

"Close your eyes."

The blonde immediately closed her eyes. Willow drew the feather down Tara's arm and across her porcelain tummy. Willow smiled as she watched the tiny bumps appear on her lover's flesh, in the wake of her trail.

The blonde giggled slightly, with her eyes still closed and said, "Oh honey, that tickles."

"Mmmm," Willow replied and continued her path down Tara's creamy thigh. "You are so beautiful."

Tara opened her eyes. The look on Willow's face was purely ravenous. She shuddered as a wave of pleasure flowed through her body. No one had ever looked at her the way Willow did.

"Why do you love me?" she asked the redheaded witch.

Willow abandoned the feather and roamed her lover's curves with her fingers, instead.

"I love you because you're kind and caring. Because you put everyone else before yourself. Because you make me feel like I'm the most important person in the world. Because you're beautiful on the outside and on the inside. And, because you're heart is full of goodness."

Tara was overwhelmed by the response. She started to respond, but her girlfriend interrupted.

"But mostly, because you're really hot looking."

Tara pulled her lover into a deep kiss. When they parted, Willow laid her head on the blonde's chest, listening to her heartbeat.

After a moments silence, Tara said, "Promise me you'll love me forever. No matter what might happen."

Questioning green eyes looked up into worried blue ones.

"What's gonna happen?"

"Nothing. I just want to know you'll always be there."

"I promise, baby. No matter what."

The redhead sealed her promise with a kiss.

Willow returned from her memory to the still empty dorm room, but she was replenished with hope. She didn't even know that Tara had kept the feather from that afternoon. It clearly wasn't an accident that she had left it behind. Tara wanted Willow to remember that conversation.

"A promise is a promise, baby. No matter what," Willow spoke softly.

She ran back to her dorm room to get her laptop.

*****

Tara sat in the rear of the camper. Her father was driving and Donny was riding shotgun. Beth was at the table, reading.

Tara stared out the window and thought of Willow. She wondered if the redhead would go to her dorm room, after she was gone. She wondered if Willow would find the feather and remember their talk in the woods on that wonderful afternoon.

Tara wanted Willow to know that it was okay for Willow to have her doubts about her. Hell, she was having doubts about herself. Mostly, she wanted Willow to know that her leaving wasn't about wanting to be away from Willow. It was about finding a way for them to ultimately be together. If she was a demon, Tara was going to find a way to control the creature, so she could return to her beloved.

As the camper passed the green 'Leaving Sunnydale' sign, Tara held her breath.

'I'm coming back, my love. I promise.'

*****

Willow burst through the door of the Magic Box and ran past Anya, nearly knocking her down in the process.

"Hey, watch it," the ex-demon shouted.

Willow ignored her and ran up to Xander.

"Xander, I need to borrow your car. Like now," she demanded.

"Hey. Whoa there, Will. What's up?" the carpenter asked.

"I just need your car. Where are the keys?" She put her hand in his pants pocket.

"Hands! Hands Will!" He jumped back a few inches, reluctantly pulling the hacker with him.

"Xander, she almost knocked me down," the ex-demon whined. She saw Willow's hand in Xander's pocket and her eyes bulged. "Hey, take your hands out of his pocket." She looked at Xander. "See, I told you. The girlfriend's out of the picture for like five minutes and she's right back after you."

Willow managed to free her hand from the awkward angle and shoot Anya a dirty look.

"Sorry. Sorry." She apologized to both Xander and Anya. "I need to go get Tara and bring her back." Willow explained.

"Back?" Xander questioned. "She left town?"

"Yeah, this morning. I hacked into the University files and got her home address. It's about a four hour drive from here."

"Do you think that's a good idea, Will?" Buffy asked from the entrance of the training room.

Willow's lips thinned and her fists clenched. She was still fairly pissed with some of the things Buffy had said last night.

"Look Buffy, I don't care what you think. I'm gonna bring her back. If you don't want to help, that's fine. Just don't stand in my way."

The two friends stared intently at each other. Buffy had to admire her friend's determination. She had watched Willow blossom from a wallflower, into a decisive woman, ready to stand toe-to-toe with the Slayer, for her love. Buffy wondered if anyone would ever love her that deeply.

"I guess we better make tracks if we're going."

The redhead gave her friend a slight smile and turned back toward Xander.

"Road trip," he said

*****

"God Xander, would you please change that awful music!" Buffy demanded from the back seat. "Who the hell ever heard of AC/DC anyway. And if I hear that song "Hell's Bells" one more time, I'm gonna scream," she continued.

"Cranky Slayer," he whispered to his girlfriend in the front seat, while turning off the CD player.

"Maybe we should feed her," Anya suggested.

In the back seat, Willow had been mostly silent for the long car ride. Occassionally she would request for Xander to speed up. He really did drive slower than an old lady. Buffy had volunteered to drive, but was simultaneously dismissed by her trio of friends.

The closer they got, the more Willow's heart leapt into her throat. She hoped she was doing the right thing, by going after Tara. Buffy sensed her worry and took her best friend's hand in her own.

"How ya doing there, Will?" she asked sincerely.

"I'm terrified," she admitted easily.

"We're all here for you. It's gonna be okay."

"I hope you're right."

Willow watched the mile markers pass. Each one bringing her closer to her beloved.

They pulled into the driveway of the small ranch house at around eight o'clock in the evening. Most of the lights were off in the simple house. The suburban neighborhood was fairly quiet.

It seemed out of place to Willow. Although Tara had not shared much about where she had grown up, this place felt all wrong. Tara had told Willow about living on a farm. This residential neighborhood was about as far away from being a farm as was possible.

'God, was this another lie,' thought Willow. She dismissed the thought and got out of the car.

"Are you sure this is the right address?" Anya asked. "It looks deserted."

"I got the address from the University records," Willow said.

"I don't see the camper," Buffy added.

"Maybe they're not back yet," Xander reasoned.

"Only one way to find out." Willow calmed her nerves and knocked on the door.

No one answered, so she knocked louder. Still no answer.

"We'll look around back." Buffy motioned for Xander to join her.

As they headed around the corner, Willow knocked again. She pointed toward the door knob and looked at Anya. The ex-demon just shrugged. Willow tried the door and found it was unlocked.

She and Anya entered the small home. Willow called out.

"Tara."

Still no answer. They made their way through the living room, to the back bedroom, where they could see a light on behind the partially closed door.

Willow again called out. "Tare-bear."

She opened the door and was startled to see an elderly woman, sitting in a rocking chair.

The woman smiled at Willow and said, "Well, I haven't heard that name since 1941. My late husband, God rest his soul, used to call me that. Now, who might you two be?"

Willow smiled at the kindly woman and answered. "I'm Willow and this is Anya. We're looking for Tara Maclay."

"That's me," the woman smiled again.

"You're Tara Maclay?" Anya said doubtfully.

"Have been for eighty some years now," the woman replied.

"This isn't some king of alternate universe thingy," Anya whispered to Willow.

"I think there must be some sort of a mix up. The Tara we're looking for is about five foot four, blonde hair, blue eyes. She's twenty years old."

Today, Willow realized. Twenty years old today. It was Tara's birthday. Today. With all that had happened, she had almost forgotten. Willow frowned.

"Well, I was never a blonde. And I haven't seen twenty in many, many years."

"Maybe you're a relative of hers. She has a brother Donny and a Cousin Beth," Willow hoped for a clue.

"I'm sorry dears. I'm the last of my family."

Willow was completely despondent. Anya was afraid she was going to pass out. She made her apologies to the old woman.

"Well, we're sorry to have interrupted your aging process. Continue. We'll be on our way, now."

"You dears stop by anytime," the woman said graciously.

Anya helped Willow out the front door. She found Buffy and Xander, waiting on the front steps.

"What happened?" Buffy asked curiously.

"It's the wrong address," Anya volunteered.

"I'm never gonna find her," Willow cried on the Slayer's shoulder. "She's gone, Buffy."

"Shh. We'll find her. I promise. We won't stop looking until we do."

Part 6

They arrived at the modest farm on the outskirts of Portland, around ten o'clock at night. They had driven the fourteen hours, straight through, stopping only to eat and for Donny and her father to share in the driving. No one had bothered to wish her a happy birthday. In fact, they really didn't talk to her much at all.

She wondered what her birthday would have been like, if none of yesterday's events had happened. Would Willow have planned a party for her? Would all of the Scoobies have been there? Maybe she and Willow would have spent the day in bed, making love. That would have been the greatest present ever.

Though it was dark when they arrived, Tara could tell the farm was in terrible shape. The fields were overgrown with weeds and the house was in desperate need of a good painting. One of the barn doors was hanging by a hinge and the grass was way overdue for mowing.

Inside the house, not much had changed since she had left. The living room, to the right of the entry door, sat undisturbed. The room had always been used by her mother. During the day, it was the sunniest place in the house. Her mother would sit by the window and knit. Tara sat on the floor, at her knee, listening to her mother tell tales of the Celtic Goddesses. No one entered the room, after her mother died.

The condition inside the house, wasn't much different from the outside. A heavy layer of dust covered most of the furnishings. Dishes were piled high in the sink. Apparently, Beth was as bad at domestic work as she was with magic.

Exhausted from the long drive, Tara took one of her suitcases upstairs. Her bedroom was at the end of the hall on the second floor. The room looked as if no one had entered it, in the years that she had been gone. The same flowered spread still covered her twin bed. The blue afghan, knitted by her mother, still covered the base of the bed. A darker blue throw rug, covered most of the wooden floor. The book shelf was empty, except for five or six stuffed animals she had left behind.

Tara stood in her room, in the house she hadn't been in for over two years. It felt strange to be back. She was a much different person now, from the girl who had left. Willow had made her different. Or maybe Willow had just brought out the woman that had always been inside of her. Willow made her feel confident and strong and beautiful. All the things her father did not.

She thought back to the day when she got word of her full scholarship to UCS. It was the beginning of her senior year in high school. She pleaded with her mother to speak to her father about letting her go. Her mother was in the end stages of her battle with Ovarian cancer, at the time. Tara's father could not refuse anything of his wife, during this dreaded time. After her mother died, in the early spring of the following year, Tara feared that her father would revoke his promise.

It was only after her mother died, that Tara's father revealed the dark family secret of her mother's relatives, to her. He explained that her magical ability did not come from being a witch, but was the power of an evil monster that had cursed her mother's family for centuries. He told her the evil would be revealed around her twentieth birthday. Just like it was with her mother.

When she asked why her mother had never spoken about her demon side, her father's reply was, shame. Not one to accept things at face value, the brilliant blonde asked why she had never seen her mother's demon side. Her father revealed that the beast could be controlled with medication. When she asked to see the medication, she was given a hard slap across the cheek, for being insolent. Fearing a worse beating if she pursued her questions, the blonde abandoned the issue.

That night, she laid in bed and thought about what her father had said. He had always said she was evil. As far back as she could remember, particularly when he found her practicing magic, with her mother. Her punishment could be anything from being sent to her room without dinner, to a severe lashing with his belt. Her mother would try to intervene, but then she too would suffer his wrath. Tara often wondered why her mother didn't leave him. She had tried to broach the subject with her mother, once before she got sick, but her mother would not discuss it.

So, though her intelligence reasoned that her father's story was bullshit, her non-existent self-esteem, left an open field for fear and doubt to grow rampant. Tell a child often enough that they are evil and they can't help but wonder if it is true.

When the time came for her to leave for Sunnydale, she was sure her father would renounce his promise to let her go. To her amazement, he did not stand in her way. He made her vow to return, before her twentieth birthday. She agreed, but had already decided that she would never return.

And yet, here she stood. Right back where she started. Had she really changed at all? Just a few minutes in the house and she could feel the insecurities and fear come crashing back. A knock on the door startled her.

"C-come in," she stammered.

Her father entered the room. he handed her a glass of water and a vitamin-shaped pill.

"What's t-this...s-sir?" she asked.

"Your medication," he said sternly. "It's time you began taking it. I won't have any incidents like the one yesterday."

She took the glass of water and the pill.

"Take it now," he ordered.

She obeyed her father and placed the pill in her mouth. She took a sip of water and swallowed. When satisfied, her father left. When Tara was certain he had gone downstairs, she removed the pill from under her tongue and shoved it into her pocket.

'I'm going to find out the truth,' she thought. 'For Willow.'

*****

Willow huffed at her computer and slammed the laptop shut, pushing it across the research table. She hadn't slept more than an hour in the last twenty-four hours. Her hopes had been dashed, when the home address she thought to be Tara's, turned out to be a dead end.

When the Scoobies got back to Sunnydale, after one o'clock in the morning, she had spent all night on the net. She hacked into various files, in the University, to see if she could locate any different information on Tara's home address. She had hoped to find a message from the blonde on her answering machine, when she got home, but there was nothing.

She had tried to go to class, but found it impossible to concentrate. She eventually abandoned her afternoon classes and headed for the Magic Box.

She stared at the closed laptop and growled.

"Grrrr. Do you know how many Maclay's there are in California?" she asked to no one in particular.

Giles and Anya stood behind the counter.

"Oooh," Anya raised her hand, like a game show contestant. "Seventy- three," she guessed.

"No," the hacker replied.

"One hundred and eighty-two," she said quickly.

"No."

"Thirty-nine."

"NO!" Willow shouted.

"Well, is it higher or lower?" the ex-demon asked.

"Anya!" The redhead's temper was as fiery as her hair.

"Sorry, I thought you wanted us to guess," she went back to reviewing today's receipts.

"How many are there, Willow?" Giles asked finally.

"Three hundred and two," she said exasperated.

"Oh dear," the Watcher was genuinely concerned.

"I've managed to eliminate about half, by cross referencing with the DMV," the hacker continued, "but it's gonna take weeks to find her."

"I'm sure once she's settled in, she'll call to let you know she's alright." He tried to be helpful.

"What if she doesn't?" Willow worried.

"Then, I suppose we'll have to call all of the Maclay's in California, until we find her." The Watcher offered her a sincere smile.

Willow smiled back at the man who had become her surrogate father. She was relieved that all of the members of her chosen family had been so willing to help in her search for Tara. She didn't know if they would be as forgiving as herself, of Tara, after the spell she had done on them. Given some time to process the episode, all of them had decided that Tara's actions were done out of fear, rather than malice.

"Why are you looking in California?" Anya asked out of the blue.

"Huh?" Willow said.

"Well, the camper had Oregon plates on it," she said matter-of-factly.

Willow looked like she was ready to spit nails. If she could have thrown daggers with her eyes, Anya would have been one very dead ex-vengeance demon.

Through gritted teeth Willow snarled, "You knew the whole time that the camper had Oregon plates and you didn't tell me?"

Anya, reading the hateful look on the witches face, took a few steps back and shielded herself behind Giles.

"I thought you knew," the blonde said innocently.

"If I knew, why the hell would I have spent the last twelve hours searching for the names in California?" Willow spat.

"It isn't my fault you don't know the hometown of the person you've been having sex with."

The low blow caught Willow right in her heart. Anya was right. Apparently, there was quite a bit the redhead didn't know about her lover. Why hadn't they talked about their pasts? Tara had always been reluctant to share much information about her life growing up. Tara had talked, at length, about her mother. She had mentioned living on a farm and about having horses. Riding horses was one of her favorite activities. She was constantly begging Willow to go riding with her, but so far Willow had managed to avoid the terrifying prospect. Tara rarely spoke about her father or brother. It seemed too painful for her and Willow did not want to pressure her sensitive girlfriend.

Willow hadn't been very forthright about her own past. The attention the blonde witch lavished on her, was more than Willow had ever gotten in her whole lifetime. Tara thought of her as a "cool monster fighter." Willow was none too eager to reveal her geeky beginnings, where her parents ignored her and Cordelia dissed her and Xander was oblivious to her gigantic crush.

No, Willow wasn't innocent in the secrets department. Maybe if the two lovers had been more trusting of their all powerful love, they would have confided in each other. They had shared so many other things. But, they were both afraid. They needed each other. Not just because it made them happy, but because they made each other complete. Any possibility of losing that, was terrifying. So, they didn't share their darkest secrets or their deepest fears. And yet, they were still lost.

"Alright girls," Giles voice snapped Willow out of her thoughts. "Let's try to focus on what we now know."

Willow pulled the laptop back over in front of her. She opened the cover. She started her search again, in what she now hoped was the correct state. And, when she found her love, she vowed they we're going to have a nice long talk. About everything!


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 Post subject: Fic: Chosen Family cont.
PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2004 5:02 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:46 am
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Part 7

Willow fumbled with the key to her dorm room lock. She could hear the phone ringing inside the room. She thought it might be Tara. The harder she tried to insert the key, into the lock, the more it wouldn't fit.

"Damn it," she cursed.

She took a breath and tried again. The phone rang for the fourth time. She finally got the door open and dashed for the phone. She picked it up, only to hear a dial tone.

"Damn it," she swore again and slammed the phone down.

Nine hundred miles away, the blonde witch hung up the kitchen phone. She was disappointed Willow was not home. Tara thought she was probably at the Magic Box, researching the new evil in town. Tara thought about calling there, but decided against it. She figured the rest of the Scoobies were probably still upset with her, for casting that spell. She couldn't blame them. Buffy's stern gaze, when she realized what Tara had done, was deeply imbedded in the blonde's memory.

Tara was in awe of the Slayer. The thankless job she did, every night, was inspiring. Tara's respect for the rest of the Scoobies was also unlimited. Buffy fought because she was the Chosen One. The rest of the gang fought because they loved Buffy. They wanted to help her. And, because they were her chosen family.

Tara also envied how long Buffy had known Willow. They had been friends since their sophmore year of high school. Tara would have given anything to have known Willow back then. The redhead didn't talk much about her life, before meeting Buffy. She had heard most of the Willow/Xander stories, like how they "literally" played doctor or how Xander would do the "Snoopy dance," while they watched "A Charlie Brown Xmas," at his house every year. These stories did not paint a very detailed portrait of her girl. She had seen pictures of Willow, with her long, auburn hair. Tara didn't believe it was possible for Willow to be cuter than she was now, but those pictures proved her wrong. That was beside the point, because Willow was no longer cute, she was beautiful.

But, Tara longed to know more. What was high school like for her, before the Slayer arrived? What was her family like? Did she have a happy childhood? Tara wanted to know everything about her lover. But, these were the things Willow did not share. Maybe she had a secret, as dark as Tara's, that she was afraid to share.

Tara knew all about not sharing. Look at how much she hadn't told her girlfriend. Now that the truth was out there, her worst fears were materializing. And, if Willow couldn't handle Tara's past, then a future together for them, appeared bleak.

But, Tara wasn't willing to give up yet. If she could prove the demon story was a lie, than she and Willlow may have a chance. Even with whatever may be buried in Willow's past.

Tara decided to head out to the barn to become reacquainted with an old friend. Just a few steps into the barn, she heard him whinny in recognition of the dear girl's scent. Inside the first stall, stood the honey-colored gelding. His mane and tail were the color of wheat. He stood at the stall door, waiting her approach. The blonde smiled and stroked his soft nose.

"Hello, Vanilla. How's my baby? I've missed you, so much."

The horse whinnied again, in response. Tara opened the stall door and grabbed a brush from the wall. She tended to his neglected mane, then brushed his coat and tail. He stood obediantly still, adoring the careful attention he had not received since the blonde left.

"I really have missed you. I wish I could have taken you with me. I don't think I could have snuck you into my dorm room, though."

She continued to talk to her horse in soft, soothing tones as she checked his shoes. When satisfied, she led him out of the barn and put her favorite saddle on him.

"Ready to go for a ride, boy?" she said excitedly. She skillfully mounted the horse and trotted him around for a bit. When she was sure he was completely used to her again, they sprinted off, through the open fields.

Tara loved the feeling of riding. The wind blowing against her face and her long, blonde hair flowing freely in the breeze, was exhilarating. She had tried to convince Willow to go riding with her, in Sunnydale, but the redhead wanted no parts of the activity. Tara knew if she could just coax her girl into trying it, that Willow would love the experience.

She eased their pace to a slow trot and thought of the redhead. It had been two days since she had seen Willow. She wondered what the hacker was doing at that moment.

*****

Willow was in her dorm room, compiling a list of phone numbers. Of the one hundred and seventeen Maclay's she had found, in Oregon, she had narrowed the list down to about thirty-five. She was hacking into the phone company, to get phone numbers, so she could begin calling everyone on the list until she found her Tara.

When she found her, she was going to beg her to come back to Sunnydale. Willow didn't care if she was a demon. She loved this woman and she knew, with unwavering certainty, that she wanted Tara in her life. Whatever difficulties they would have to face, because of Tara's condition, the thought of facing them together was Willow's only option. The last two days had been absolute hell for Willow. Which was saying alot, since the hacker had been used to facing the depths of hell, for the last four and a half years. But nothing affected her as deeply as being without Tara.

Tara had made it pretty clear that she needed to do this on her own, but the redhead had a feeling she was just trying to protect Willow. Willow had to make it clear to Tara, that she was willing to stand by her through this ordeal, even if it cost her the few friends she had. Willow didn't think that would happen. The Scoobies seemed to be supporting her, in her search for Tara. They seemed to genuinely want the gentle blonde to come back, as much as Willow did.

Willow wasn't sure what she would do if Tara wouldn't come back. She didn't want to think of her life without this woman. She needed her. She wanted her. They had to be together.

The noise of her printer starting, made Willow jump slightly. She waited until the list finished and reached over to tear it off the printer. She picked up the phone and dialed the first number on the list.

*****

Donny was in the barn when Tara returned from her ride. He was raking fresh hay into the stalls when she entered the barn, with Vanilla.

"Took old Van out for a ride, huh?" he asked.

"Y-yeah," she answered sheepishly.

Tara had always disliked her brother. He was a mini-version of her father, only meaner. Her father felt justified in punishing her, when she would do magic. Donny beat on her simply because he was bigger and stronger. Then, he would lie about it to their father. 'Clumsy Tara, tripped on the rake again. Gave herself a shiner,' he'd say.

"He hasn't been out much since you left. Doesn't really let me come near him," he said.

'That's cause you're an ass,' Tara thought.

"He doesn't r-really look too good. He had some trouble on a f-few hills," she said, honestly.

"Well, maybe if you had been here to take care of him, instead of running around doing what you please, that wouldn't have happened," Donny spat.

She hadn't meant to engage him in an argument. She really didn't want to pursue it any further. Knowing how violent he could become, she decided to just agree with him.

"You're r-right," she said as convincingly as she could.

"Damn straight, I'm right. That's some group of freaks you hang out with there, Tara." He was looking quite pleased with himself.

Tara could feel her anger start to rise.

"You don't k-know them," she said defensively.

"Yeah, well I know what's going on with you and that redhead," he taunted her.

"That's n-none of your business," she snapped.

"God, you go away for two years and now you're some kind of a queer," he continued to push her.

"Shut up, Donny," she yelled.

"Or what? You'll tell Dad. Big deal. He never helped you before. He ain't gonna start now." He started moving closer to her and Tara started backing up. "All you had to do was come home. But no, you tried to hide. You can't hide what you are, Tara."

"It's a lie," she said, shaking her head.

"Oh, you'd like to think so. You better just keep taking your medicine. If anything happens to me, Dad'll know it was your fault."

"You're just jealous of me, Donny," she said calmly. "You were never as close to Mom as I was. And now, you can't stand the fact that I've found someone who loves me. Just as I am. Who will ever love you like that, Donny? Dad? He just tolerates you. Deep down he wishes you had never been born."

Donny was shocked at his sisters defiance. He raised an open palm to strike her. Tara raised her own hand and began a chant. Donny was dumbfounded.

"You gonna do a spell on me?" he laughed, but there was a hint of fear in his voice.

She stopped chanting and looked at him sternly. "Stay away from me, Donny. Next time, I won't think twice about hurting you."

Before she could leave the barn, he was already devising his revenge.

*****

Willow was on the eleventh name, on her list, when she hit jackpot. She recognized Mr. Maclay's voice, instantly, when he picked up the phone and said, "Hello."

"May I speak with Tara, please?" she asked as politely as she could spit out to the man she barely knew, but already hated.

"Tara isn't here right now. May I ask who's calling?"

This is Willow. I'm her...a...friend of hers from..."

He interrupted her. "Yes, I know exactly who you are. She doesn't want to speak with you," she said sternly.

"I'd like to hear that from her, if you don't mind." Willow held firmly.

"Haven't you people done enough to the poor girl? She's with her family, now. Please, leave her be." He sounded almost sincere. Almost.

"Mr. Maclay, it's very important that I speak with her. Will you please put her on the phone?" the redhead pleaded.

"I have already said, she isn't here. She went riding a little while ago."

Willow believed that could be true. Tara had often spoken of her horse, named Vanilla.

"Will you please ask her to call me when she returns?"

"She truly doesn't want to speak with you," he reiterated.

Willow was fed up. If he could have seen her, he would have been introduced to her resolve face.

"Mr. Maclay, in two hours it's gonna be pretty dark out, so I know she won't still be riding. If she doesn't call me back, then I will come there to see her face to face."

"I'll give her your message," he said, hanging up the phone.

Tara entered the kitchen in time to see him return the phone to its cradle. She was still a little flustered from her encounter with Donny in the barn.

"Who w-was that?" she asked anxiously. In her heart she prayed it was Willow.

"That was Mrs. Kappler," he lied. "She saw you riding past her farm and she wanted to welcome you home."

"Oh, I should call h-her back," Tara reached for the phone. Her father stopped her.

"She was on her way out to walk the dogs. You can call her in the morning."

She nodded her agreement.

Her father opened the cabinet and pulled out a brown bottle of pills. There was no label on the bottle.

"It's time for your medication." He changed the subject.

He opened the bottle and handed her a pill. She took a glass from the cabinet and filled it half way, at the sink faucet. Once again, she placed the pill under her tongue and swallowed convincingly, for her father. Then, she went to her bedroom.

*****

Willow paced her room, waiting for the phone to ring. She had bitten off her remaining few fingernails, when after about forty minutes, the phone rang. She hurriedly picked it up, but was disappointed to hear the Slayer's voice.

"Buffy, what are you doing calling?" she chastised. "I'm waiting to hear from Tara." She hung up, without another word.

On the other end of the line, Buffy stared at her phone receiver. She decided a visit to Willow's dorm room was in order.

A half hour later, the Slayer arrived at her best friends room. She knocked and saw Willow's frazzled look, when Willow answered the door.

"Hey Will, nice phone etiquette," Buffy quipped, entering the room.

"I'm sorry, Buffy. I finally found Tara's number, but she wasn't there." Willow continued to watch the phone, willing it to ring.

"That's great, Will." Buffy was truly happy for her friend. Willow hadn't been the same since Tara left.

"I talked to her poophead father, but I'm not convinced he gave her my message."

"I'm sure she's gonna call any second. Do you want me to wait with you?"

Willow smiled at her friend. "That'd be nice."

*****

Donny had gone off to find Beth, after Tara left the barn. He was going to need an accomplice, for his evil plan to work.

Donny watched Tara leave the kitchen and head up to her room. A few minutes later, he followed her. He knocked on the door and when she answered, he punched her dead on, in the face. Tara reeled back, from the unexpected blow, and hit her head on the desk chair. She was knocked out cold.

Beth joined Donny in Tara's room and the two began searching. They both knew there was no way Tara would consent to taking her pills. They had to be somewhere in the room. They didn't think she would flush them down the toilet, because she would probably want to try and analyze what they were. And, what she would learn, was that they were simply vitamins.

Donny found the pill from last night, under her mattress. Beth found the one from a few minutes ago, in Tara's front pocket. With his evidence in hand, Donny turned to his cousin and said, "Okay, do it now."

Beth scratched her nails, deeply across his bearded face. He restrained his cry of pain, not wanting to rouse his unconscious sister. He ripped the top two buttons of his shirt open and pointed to his chest. Beth took another swipe, even deeper than the first. Blood trickled from the sadistic wound.

Both conspirators stood by and waited.

Almost two hours later, Tara began to wake. She reached her hand up to feel the knot on the back of her head. Then, she touched the fresh bruise on her right cheek. She couldn't remember what had happened. The last thing she saw was Donny standing at her bedroom door. Her room was empty, but looked like it had been ransacked.

She was nauseous as she got to her feet. When she steadied herself, she headed down the stairs to find out what happened.

She found Beth and Donny in the kitchen. Donny had his shirt off and Beth was cleaning some nail marks on his chest, with peroxide and cotton balls.

When Donny saw her, he reeled back, out of his chair, against the refrigerator.

"Stay away from me," he said, terrified.

"What?" she was confused.

"Look at what you did to him?" Beth said angerily.

"What are you talking about?" Tara yelled, then grabbed her head in pain.

Her father came into the kitchen to see what the commotion was about.

"What's going on?" he said, irritated.

He took in the scene. Tara stood by the table with a huge bruise on her face. Donny was plastered against the fridge with four gashes on his face and chest. Beth sat at the table, with a bloody wash cloth.

"What happened?" he demanded.

Donny pointed at his sister. "She did this to me. Her demon. I saw it."

"No, no," Tara protested. The truth was, she couldn't remember what happened.

Mr. Maclay didn't like that Donny and Beth were improvising. He thought when Tara had gotten used to being back home, she would forget about Sunnydale. But, since the phone call from Willow a few hours earlier, he wasn't sure Sunnydale would forget about her. Maybe whatever these two had up their sleeves, would do the trick. He decided to play along.

"Look," Beth pulled two pills out of her pocket and placed them on the table. "She hasn't been taking her pills."

Her father looked disapprovingly at his daughter. Tara's eyes darted from her father, to Donny and then, to Beth.

"But...I didn't..." she tried to answer.

"I went to her room to apologize for the little spat we had in the barn. Next thing I know, she changed right in front of me. Then, she attacked me. I had to fight her off. You should see her room."

"I d-don't...I don't r-remember."

She looked at the gashes on Donny's chest. 'Oh God, it's true,' she thought.

The phone rang and startled them all. Mr. Maclay picked it up.

"Hello," he said, sharply. He listened, then handed the phone to Tara. "It's for you."

Her hand was trembling as she took the phone. She couldn't even speak. Her eyes never left Donny. His frightened look never changed. She didn't say anything into the phone, but heard on the other end.

"Tara. Tara is that you?" Willow asked.

"Willow." Her heart broke.

"Tara, what's wrong?" The redhead knew something bad was happening.

"Willow," she said again through her tears.

"Tara, I'm coming to get you. Right now."

Tara snapped to attention and pulled herself together.

"No. Willow, no. Please don't come. I can't see you. Everything is true. You won't be safe. I can't be with you, anymore."

She hung up the phone on her future.

In Sunnydale, Willow was panic-striken.

"What happened?" Buffy asked.

"Get Xander. We're going to Oregon. Now!"

Part 8

Tara ran out of the kitchen. Mr. Maclay stood looking at his son and niece.

"What the hell are you two doing?" he growled.

Beth and Donny both spoke at the same time.

"She tried to do magic on me," he said.
"She hasn't helped with any chores since she got back," Beth finished.

"Shut up." He took a step toward Donny and pointed his finger in his face. "Don't ever hit her like that, again. Do I make myself clear?"

"You said you wanted her back for good," Donny mouthed off.

"That's right. But I decide on the punishment around here. Not you. Understand?"

"Yes sir," Beth and Donny said in unison.

Mr. Maclay looked toward where his daughter had run off.

"I don't need that gang from Sunnydale, coming here to make trouble," he said.

*****

Willow and Buffy waited in front of the UC Sunnydale sign on the college campus. Willow was biting on her thumbnail, shifting her weight from foot to foot. Buffy's senses were honed on some nearby bushes. Her Slayer hearing was picking up on some activity.

"I'll be right back," she told Willow, heading for the bushes.

Willow didn't answer. She continued to look down the street, awaiting Xander's arrival. As Buffy neared the bushes, two vampires jumped her. One vamp grabbed her and pinned her arms behind her back. The other struck a blow across her chin. She quickly recovered and delivered a kick to the second vamps stomach. She flipped the vamp who had her arms pinned, over her right shoulder. He landed on the ground with a thud.

In the meantime, Xander pulled up in a dilapidated white van. The paint was scratched on the sliding side door. On the rear bumper was a sticker that read, 'Plumbers have the best pipes.'

"Xander, what took you so long?" Willow said irritated, opening the sliding door.

"You know Will, it's not like I can just make a van magically appear." He thought for a minute. "But you probably could, with your witchy powers. Anyways, I had to find my buddy, Tito, and convince him to let me borrow his van. Even though I don't know where we're going or when we'll be back."

Willow climbed on to the seat and called out to Buffy. "Come on Buffy, let's go."

Buffy had dusted one of the vamps, but the second had her by the throat.

"Little busy here," she squeaked out.

"Should we help her?" Anya asked from the front passenger seat.

"Nah, she's just playing with him," Xander said.

In the next second, Buffy elbowed the vamp in the stomach. He released his grip on her neck and she pivoted, planting Mr. Pointy deep into his chest. She ran towards the van, brushing vampire dust from her clothes.

"Okay, all poofed. Let's go," she said, sliding the van door closed.

After taking turns driving all night, they crossed the Oregon border around sunrise. Willow filled Anya and Xander in on her disturbing phone call to Tara.

"So, what's our strategy?" Xander asked.

"We go in and get her out," Willow answered simply.

"How many Maclay women are there?" Anya asked. "We know of Tara and Beth, but there may be hordes of other demons to be dealt with. And, there's only four of us."

"Tara's not a demon!" Willow spat.

"Maybe not, but she seems to think she is." Anya continued. "If they all do, we may have a serious battle on our hands."

"Good thing we brought along a Slayer," Xander said, smiling at Buffy.

Buffy looked deep in thought. She finally asked. "Does anybody know if there's a Hellmouth in Oregon?"

"There's no Hellmouth and there are no demons. So, screw the battle plans and let's just get there," Willow yelled.

The whole van grew silent. Buffy rubbed her hand on her friends arm.

"It's okay, Will. We're gonna bring her back."

Four hours later, they should have been there, but the tiny farm was no where in sight. Xander had pulled over to the side of the road and was studying a map, spread across the steering wheel.

Willow had managed to fall asleep, or rather, pass out from sheer exhaustion, about an hour earlier. The stopping of the van caused her to bolt upright.

"Are we here?" she said, rubbing her eyes to get a clearer view of their surroundings.

"Not quite. I think we're lost," Xander admitted.

"You got us lost? How can you be lost? You've got a map!" the redhead said frantically.

"Yes Will, I have a map," he said patiently. "However, it doesn't have a big red X, with an arrow pointing the way to Tara's house. Now, if I were a lumberjack, I might be able to navigate these woods."

"The maps upside down," Willow said plainly.

"What? How can you tell?" the carpenter asked.

"Because Oregon isn't spelled N-O-G-E-R-O," she said, pointing to the pale blue letters, written across the state.

"Oh." He flipped the map right side up. "Okay, this makes sense now. Our turn should be just a few miles up the road." He re-folded the map and placed it on the dashboard.

"Just hold on baby, we're almost there," Willow whispered.

*****

Tara ran up into the attic. It was the place she would always go, to hide from her father and brother. Her mother would always find her, among the ancient spellbooks and charms, that belonged to her grandmother. Tara would lie, with her head on her mother's lap, while her mother stroked her fingers through Tara's golden locks. Her mother would sing her a lullabye, until the pain in both her body and her heart, would fade away. It was their space.

Tara spent a great deal of time in the attic, in the five months between her mother's death and her leaving for Sunnydale. It was where she went to feel close to her mother. She would open the trunks and surround herself with her mother's and her grandmother's magical items. Tara would hum the tune her mother always sang and she would feel her mother's loving presence, all around her.

It was here, that Tara found the precious Doll's Eye Crystal, belonging to her grandmother. The crystal which was offered to Willow in friendship at first, was accepted, later that same night, as a token of their blossoming love for each other.

Tara could never forget that night. She hadn't expected to see Willow, having been told by the girl earlier, that she had plans with other friends. Tara had felt deeply rejected that morning. She was finding it more and more difficult to contain her attraction to the lively witch. Tara had no idea the redhead was battling with herself, to try and understand her own need to be around the shy blonde. The momentary hurt of being Willow's second choice, was soon eclipsed by the redhead's presence.

They performed a few minor spells, with the crystal, before tangenting off into a game of "Anywhere But Here." The truth was, neither girl wanted to be anywhere but in this dorm room, with each other. The time slipped easily by, until Willow noticed the late hour on the clock.

"I really should get going," Willow said standing up.

"It's pretty late," the blonde said, getting up beside her.

"Yeah. That's okay. I'm used to Sunnydale after dark."

They stood directly opposite each other, a few feet from the door. Tara's arms were crossed over her chest, with her hair hanging in her face. Willow tugged anxiously on her fingers. They stared at each other, in silence, not sure what to do next.

"I'm really glad you were home tonight. I had a great time." Willow smiled warmly.

"Me too!" The blonde smiled and her blue eyes beamed. "Willow, I k-know you said you couldn't take it, but I really do w-want you to have the crystal. It would mean a lot to me."

She held out the Doll's Eye Crystal to Willow. Willow took a step closer to the blonde. They were only a few inches apart. As she took the crystal from Tara's hand, their fingertips touched. The electricity flowed through both women. Hesitantly, Willow leaned forward and brushed her lips against those of the blonde. Another step forward and they were in each other's embrace, for a longer, more fulfilling exploration.

When they parted, Tara half expected Willow to bolt out the door and never return. But Willow had no intention of going anywhere. She had been wondering about this moment for a while now. And, with the initial awkwardness over, her only thought was to kiss Tara again and often. They laid on Tara's bed, that night, fully clothed. Kissing and talking. Talking and kissing. And finally, just kissing, until they drifted to sleep in each other's arms.

Tara cried herself to sleep in the attic. Her only thoughts were of Willow.

*****

Tara woke in the attic with a splitting headache, from the lump on her head. Her face was bruised and tender. Her eyes were red and swollen, from crying. The attic appeared exceptionally bright, although through the window in the attic, it appeared to be only a few hours after sunrise. Tara blinked her eyes to adjust to the light. She heard a woman singing. Looking over her left shoulder, her mouth fell open.

Before her, in the attic, stood her mother. She looked like an angel, bathed in the brilliant light. Tara could find no words, so the vision spoke first.

"Hello, my darling girl." Her voice was like music.

"Mom?" the girl said softly.

"Yes, my love."

"Mommy." The tears spilled down Tara's cheeks.

"Don't cry, my sweet child."

"It's so awful, Mom. What I am. What I've done."

"Tara, a heart as pure as yours could never hold any evil."

"What?" she said in disbelief. "Then, it's a lie? I'm not a demon?"

"Of course not, my love."

"Why didn't you tell me before you died?"

"Your father created the lie, after I died."

"Why would he do that? Why does he hate me so much?"

"He doesn't. He did it so you wouldn't leave. He couldn't bear the thought of losing you. He does love you, Tara."

"He has a funny way of showing it. You must have know about the way he beat me," she said, more than a little hurt.

"His whole life has mostly been about failure, Tara. He's a weak man. He couldn't accept responsibility for his failures, so he blamed them on the magic. You were so gifted, magically. Soon, he couldn't separate the two. It doesn't excuse his behavior. And, I should have protected you more. I thought if I could just love him enough, he would change. After awhile, I just didn't want to be one more person who abandoned him. Neither one of us was as strong as you, Tara."

"Strong? I'm not strong," she shook her head.

"Yes, you are. You had the strength to leave. To follow your heart. You did it on your own. Your strength is amazing, Tara. Almost as amazing as your capacity to love."

"Love?"

"You sacrificed your heart for the one you love."

"Willow."

"Yes. You let her go, rather than let her be hurt. That's the ultimate gift of love."

"But I did hurt her. I broke her trust."

"She has a tremendous capacity to forgive. As do you. It will be important for you both, one day. But now, she's on her way here. To save you."

Tara's heart lifted. "She's coming here? Even though she thinks I'm still a demon?"

"Her love for you is pure. It is all that matters to her." She smiled at her daughter. "I have to leave now."

"Mom, may I ask you one more thing?"

"Of course, my love."

"Why didn't you tell me before I left Sunnydale that it was a lie?"

"Sometimes you need to come home to heal old wounds. Then, you can move forward with your life."

"I miss you, Mom."

"I miss you too and I love you. I'll always love you."

"I love you, too."

As the vision disappeared, Tara looked out the attic window and saw a white van pull up in front of the house.

Willow was out the side door and up the porch stairs, before the other Scoobies even got out of the van. She pounded on the front door, until Beth finally opened it. She pushed past the mousy blonde and met up with Mr. Maclay in the hall.

"Where is she?" Willow demanded.

"What are you doing here?" he asked agitated.

"Tell me where she is, NOW!" Willow ordered.

"Willow," the blonde witch called from upstairs.

Willow ran past Mr. Maclay and took the stairs two at a time. She found her girl on the second floor landing. She hugged her tightly.

"Oh Willow, I thought I lost you," the blonde cried tears of joy.

"I found you, baby. I'll always find you."

Willow kissed her beloved on the lips. She pulled back to look into her beautiful blue eyes and got her first look at the purple welt on Tara's face.

"What happened to your face? Did he hit you? I'm gonna kill him."

Willow pulled away to head down the stairs. Tara restrained her.

"Willow, wait please. Let me tell you the whole story." The blonde began to fill her lover in, on the past few days.

Downstairs, there was a stand-off going on. Xander stood opposite Donny. Anya was watching Beth. And Buffy had guard over Mr. Maclay. All six people stood with their arms folded across their chests. Mr. Maclay finally spoke.

"I want you people to leave my house," he barked.

"Soon as we have Tara, we'll be on our way," Buffy said calmly.

"Who do you people think you are?" he asked.

"We're her family!" Buffy said pointedly.

Willow came down the stairs with the blonde cradled protectively behind her.

"Let's just go," Tara said quietly.

The rage inside Willow exploded as she passed Beth, at the bottom of the stairs.

"You bitch!" Willow said, punching Beth across her left cheek, knocking her to the ground. "If you ever come near her again, I'll kill you." She looked at Donny and Mr. Maclay. "All of you." She looked back down at Beth. "Get up, so I can kick your ass."

"Enough," Tara yelled, pulling the irate redhead over behind Buffy.

Tara went up to her father. Her blue eyes glared like steel.

"Don't ever try to contact me again. I don't want to know anything about you. I'll be sending for my horse. Make sure he's ready when they come."

She went to walk past Donny, then stopped. She slapped him, hard across his face. Then, she took Willow by the hand and turned around toward her father, one last time. She raised her hand, enjoined with Willow's and indicated towards the other Scoobies.

"This is my family, now."

After a pointed silence, Buffy spoke. "Willow, take Tara out to the van. Xander and Anya, get her things from her room."

"Move them in, move them out. Is that the only reason they ever bring us?" Anya said to Xander on the stairs.

When she was alone with Donny, Mr. Maclay and Beth, Buffy said.

"That little talking to may have been enough for Tara, but I'm used to killing things. Since I don't kill humans, I'll settle for beating the snot out of you."

Beth fainted immediately. Donny stood wide-eyed. Mr. Maclay stood his ground. He figured he had it coming.

Willow and Tara could hear the crashes inside the house, as Buffy tossed the real Maclay monsters around.

"I really wish she wouldn't do that," Tara said, hugging Willow close.

"It's just her way of showing how much she cares." Willow rubbed her lovers back.

Tara pulled back to look at Willow's face.

"She couldn't just send a Hallmark?"

Willow smiled for the first time in days.

"Nothing says loving like a good thrashing from the Slayer." Willow added more seriously. "She's just making them understand that nobody messes with our family."

Donny's beaten body flew through the front door on to the porch. Both women ignored him and climbed into the back seat of the van. Tara laid her head against Willow's shoulders and draped her arms around her waist. Willow held her girl around the shoulders.

"Willow, I'm sorry," Tara said softly.

"Shhh. Don't be sorry. We'll talk when we get home. We have all the time in the world."

"I love you, Willow."

"I love you too, baby!"

Things quieted down inside the house. Buffy came out with an armful of Tara's things. They finished packing the van and drove away.

Tara's father watched from the porch. The purple bruise over his left eye and chin, began to deepen. He watched them drive away and he was actually happy for his daughter. It was a miracle that she had found so much love. It really shouldn't have surprised him at all. If he had stopped to think about it, even once, he would have understood that love was everything his beautiful daughter represented.

Tara did not see him watching her. She did not look back. Her eyes and her heart were focused forward, in the arms of her love.

Part 9

They reached Sunnydale a little after midnight that same evening. Willow and Tara held each other, the entire trip home. Buffy marveled at how perfectly the two women fit together. Even while sleeping, their love for one another was radiant.

The gang helped carry Tara's things to her room and then said their goodnights. Tara timidly approached the Slayer.

"Buffy," she said.

"Yeah, Tara?"

"Thank you." The gratitude on her face, conveyed the deeper meaning of the two small words.

Buffy smiled and hugged the shy blonde.

"I'm glad you're home," she said sincerely.

Inside Tara's dorm room, Willow was busy unpacking suitcases and boxes. From her desk chair, Tara watched her girl, amused.

"Willow," she said.

"Huh?" the redhead said, filling up a dresser drawer with Tara's socks and undies.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm putting your stuff back where it belongs." She continued opening boxes.

"Is that really what you want to do right now?" the blonde asked curiously.

Green eyes locked onto blue ones.

"I want things the way they were," Willow said seriously.

"That won't be easy. A lot has happened in the last few days," the blonde said quietly.

"What are you saying?" The redhead looked worried.

Tara smiled easily. "Oh Willow. Come here."

She reached out one arm toward the redhead. Willow walked over and stood in front of her chair. Tara took the hackers hand in her own.

"Sit," she ordered.

She pulled Willow down on her lap. Willow draped her arms around the blonde's neck. Tara cupped Willow's face in her hands. She brought her girl to her lips and gave her a scorching kiss. Willow moved her hands, through golden tresses, to the back of Tara's head. She parted her lips and deepened their kiss. Their tongues danced a familiar ritual. After parting, they rested their foreheads together. Tara's hands fell to the top of Willow's thighs.

"Wow," Tara exclaimed.

"I'm thinking your things are getting put away tomorrow, missy." Willow smirked.

"Willow, I want to talk with you," Tara said seriously.

"So, you get me all overheaty to do the talking thing," the redhead teased.

Tara gave a slight smile. "I need you to know what my life was like. Growing up."

"Okay." Willow tucked a golden strand behind Tara's ear.

"Some of it won't be too easy to listen to," she said uneasily.

"Hey." She held Tara's face in her hands. "I'm here, baby. I'm not gonna let you go again. Not ever."

"I love you, Willow."

"I love you, sweetie."

"We should get comfortable. This could be a long story."

They made the bed. Willow rested against the headboard, while Tara sat cross-legged next to her. Tara talked for a long time. She bared the deep rooted pain, that was her life before meeting Willow. Tara watched in awe as Willow absorbed her grief and made it her own. Willow held her as she cried through the more difficult parts. The redhead would gently dry her lovers tears, all the while shedding her own.

Tara felt a wave of relief when she finished her tale. Willow could hardly believe such a kind-hearted being had been subjected to such torment. Tara had to be amazingly strong, to have held herself together for so long. They sat cross-legged on the bed. Willow held Tara's hands in her own.

"I can't believe you never told me any of this," Willow said sympathetically.

"I didn't think you'd want to be with me, if you knew."

"I think that you're remarkable. I really didn't know it was at all possible to love you more...but I do."

Tara hugged her for a long time. When they parted, she told Willow she was going to take a shower. Willow went with her. They washed each others hair. And when the raw emotions of the fresh memories overtook her girl, Willow held her tightly and shared her grief. When the pain subsided, Willow took a face cloth and soap and washed her clean. She watched as the warm spray of the shower cleansed her lover, of all the sorrow, and left behind only love.

Tara yawned as they entered her room after their shower.

"Sleepy?" Willow asked.

"A little."

They crawled under the covers, still in their robes. Tara snuggled close, cradling her head on Willow's shoulder, with her arm across her chest. They listened to the silence for awhile.

"Willow."

"Yes, love?"

Tara raised her head to look at Willow's face.

"How did you find me?"

"You left me a clue, remember?"

Tara smiled. "The feather."

"Yep."

"So, you did come here after I left. You wanted to be with me, even if I was a demon?" The blonde was still overwhelmed by Willow's love for her.

"I figured you'd still look hot, even with little red horns or something," Willow giggled.

"Willow!" the blonde said in mock outrage.

"It's true. In fact, I'm gonna buy you a pair tomorrow, to prove my point."

Tara leaned up on one elbow and rested her head against her hand. She played with the collar of Willow's robe, pushing the sides apart to reveal milky white skin. She ran her fingers across Willow's collarbone. Willow closed her eyes and enjoyed her lovers touch.

"The feather was to let you know I wanted you to find me. How did you actually find me?" she asked curiously.

The redhead smiled, her eyes still closed. Tara's caresses were making it hard to concentrate.

"You don't want to see my phone bill. And I'm still creeped about that old lady."

"What old lady?" Tara asked perplexed.

"The one with your name," Willow explained cryptically.

"Still lost here, honey."

Willow opened her eyes and looked at her girl.

"I hacked into your school file to get your address, but it turned out to be some eighty year old lady, with your name. Do you know her?"

Tara smiled slightly and shook her head. "No. I didn't want my father to find me, so I got the address out of a phone book in the library. Did you really go there?"

"Yeah. We all did. She must have thought we were nuts. I was describing you and how you weren't eighty years old, but you were twenty and..."

Willow sat upright, startling Tara.

"Oh my God. Your birthday! I missed your birthday," she said alarmed.

"Honey, it's alright."

"No. I have your present. It's in my backpack. I was gonna give it to you in the van."

Willow leaned over the side of the bed. She had dropped the backpack there earlier, when they unloaded the van. She brought the blue case onto the bed and unzipped it. She pulled out an envelope and handed it to Tara.

"Happy Birthday, love." Willow kissed her quickly.

Inside the beautiful card was a certificate for ten riding sessions at the Sunnydale stables.

"Oh Willow, it's perfect."

"So, you like it?" the redhead asked hopefully.

"I love it and I love you," she kissed her girl and hugged her tightly.

She laid Willow back down on her pillow and climbed fully on top of her. In between kisses, she said.

"So...(kiss)...I bet I...(kiss)...can convince you...(kiss)...to come riding with me."

Willow broke away. "Oh no, that kind of riding is definately a solitary thing," she said nervously.

Tara yanked the tie of Willow's robe and pulled it open. She did the same with hers, but removed it altogether. The skin on skin contact, sent tingles through both women's bodies.

Tara's hands roamed knowingly, while she lavished kisses upon her lovers face. As their passions rose, she whispered in the redhead's ear.

"Ride with me."

"Okay," the redhead squeaked in almost disbelief at what she had agreed to do.

After they made love, Tara held Willow against her heart. Tara spoke softly.

"Willow, I want you to do something for me."

Willow looked up into loving blue eyes.

"The birthday girl is quite demanding today," she smirked.

Tara smiled, but was serious. She twirled a silky red lock between her fingers.

"I want you to tell me everything about you. All the scary things you'd never dream of revealing. I want to hear it all."

Willow tensed a bit. She sat up and leaned on one elbow.

"I'm not sure if I can do that," she answered honestly.

Tara stared intently into her lovers emerald eyes.

"Then, let me introduce you to the Tara resolve face," she said, pointing at her own visage. "And Willow, if you don't start talking...when he gets here, I'm keeping my horse in your dorm room."

Willow's eyes went wide. Tara held a straight face for just a beat, before breaking into a playful grin. Willow finally relaxed and smiled.

"So, not funny."

"Honey, there's nothing you can tell me that will make me love you any less. I just don't want what's in our pasts, to have any more negative impact on our future. I'm yours. Forever and always."

Willow leaned down and kissed the tip of Tara's nose. She sighed peacefully and said.

"One Willow story, coming up."

THE END


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 Post subject: wow
PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 2:51 pm 
aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh goog god teary here:sheep :gnome this one was the best i ever saw man

its just wow you know good one:pinky :thud :banana



good lord i lost my words can you find them with a other story?:pray :p ray



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 Post subject: Re: wow
PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2004 1:15 am 
Aww I loved this... <3 Thanks :wave



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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Chosen Family
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 6:33 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Returned to Pens at author request :)

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The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... FC2: AOTH ... FC3: TBU


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Chosen Family
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:48 am 
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So great to read a story that reminds me of all the reasons I love Buffy TVS, particularly the greatest pairing that is Tara and Willow. I will never get tired of reading different takes on this pairing, even after all these years. Thanks for sharing!


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Chosen Family
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:13 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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What a heartbreaking and wonderful story :bigkiss

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The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... FC2: AOTH ... FC3: TBU


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