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

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring True Facts about the Wi
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:30 pm 
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18. Breast Gal
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Hey folks - here's a little something that, confession time, was meant to be for Valentine's Day, only work got super-busy in the lead-up. Luckily the story never had anything to do with Valentine's anyway, so I figured I'd put it aside until things calmed down, then take a little extra time to let it breathe rather than rushing to finish it. And here it is! Enjoy :wtkiss

Love At First Sound


Image


“Wish me luck!”

“Hm?”

Buffy looked up from the vitriolic scripted reality tv argument happening on her tablet screen, and after a moment’s confusion her expression cleared.

“Philosophy! Right,” she nodded. “Good luck. You good?”

“I mean, I guess?” Willow shrugged, gathering up the notes she had been reading during their break time in the Mayor Wilkins Memorial Common Room attached to the cafeteria. “Can’t go to college and just do math, math, math and more math, this is supposed to be when I broaden my mind, and... it’ll be good, learning new... philosophies and... so on, right?”

“Are you trying to convince me or you?” Buffy chuckled. “Get going. You had to do a boatload of classes you didn’t want to in school, you aced them all anyway.”

“I want to do this,” Willow protested, less than vehemently. “The lecture was good, interesting, kind of... confusing a bit, but a tutorial’s not going to be any huge deal really, might even straighten things out.”

“Awesome. Go on, you think therefore you am, right?”

“Are.”

“You are therefore you am, sure.”

“Okay, see you after!”

Image


One and three-quarters-of-an-hour - and one tedious literature tutorial - later, Buffy was again ensconced in her favourite armchair in the common room, ignoring her assigned reading in favour of an entirely different show about people arguing about nothing, when Willow sat on the edge of the couch adjacent to her and grabbed her hand.

“Uh, hi?” Buffy said, surprised at the gesture. “How was cogito et cetera? Why are you holding my hand?”

“Sorry,” Willow said quickly, starting to pull her hand back, only for Buffy to keep hold of her.

“Spit it out, will ya?”

“Okay.” The redhead took a deep breath. “Big info. I think... I’m actually pretty sure, I’m gay.”

“Wow,” Buffy said after a moment’s pause. “What’d they teach in that class?”

“What? No - I mean, yes, it was during the class, but - no,” Willow shook her head. “I met a girl, and... and this was a serious I met a girl type of meeting a girl, and... I’m feeling kind of a lot of feelings right now, and I wanted to tell you. Okay?”

“You’re serious?” Buffy asked.

“Uh-huh,” Willow nodded, looking at her hopefully.

“Okay,” Buffy said, slightly dazed, then repeated more firmly: “okay. Okay?”

“Okay,” Willow sighed. “I’m, I didn’t mean to make this big deal, I knew you’d be cool with this, but I- I mean two hours ago I had no idea, so this is, I didn’t even have a chance to google how to come out to your best friend. I just came out?!” she finished in a squeak.

“Yeah you did,” Buffy grinned. “It’s okay. I mean, it is a big deal. Just not a, you know, reason to freak big deal. A good big deal, looks like, since you’ve been grinning this whole time.”

“Good big deal,” Willow agreed. “But I have to do so much research, I-”

“What you have to do,” Buffy insisted, keeping a firm hold of Willow’s hand to stop her instinctive lunge towards her laptop bag, “is tell me about this girl you met.”

“The... right,” Willow sighed, relaxing. “Okay, calm down. I’m talking to me, it’s fine,” she assured Buffy. “Right, so I actually got to the room a little early and-”

Image


This is actually... huh, Willow frowned, glancing between her notes and the open book on her lap, and vaguely aware of other students slowly turning up and filling the other seats around the table. Never really thought about that. ‘Knowledge’ isn’t just stuff you know, it... how do you know things? I mean actually know you know? Nothing’s ever locked-down certain is it, it’s all... like a house of cards, everything’s leaning against everything else...

“Sorry I’m late,” someone said, and Willow looked up to see a twenty-something woman taking her seat at the now-full table. “Jenny Calendar, I’ll be your tutor. So we were all at the lecture yesterday, nobody’s accidentally come into the wrong room? Alright, let’s get started, who’s here? You start?”

“Cordelia. Chase.” Jenny nodded and made a note on her writing pad, glancing at the next would-be philosopher around the table.

“Larry Blaisdell.”

If you’d asked me yesterday I’d think maybe I was in the wrong room, Willow mused to herself, waiting her turn as various names drifted by. Still not a hundred percent sure I’m philosophy material, but-

Willow’s eyes widened as the student next to her spoke.

“...Tara Maclay.”

Image


“She said her name, and...?” Buffy prompted.

“No,” Willow shook her head, “I mean... her voice, her... I just... I can’t explain it, you know like sirens? The mythical ones, with the singing?”

“You hear them you fall in love, that one?” Buffy guessed. “Didn’t they wreck ships or something?”

“It was exactly like that!” Willow nodded, bouncing in her seat. “Except not the ships part. I heard her voice and I just knew! I mean, not like, knew-knew - that isn’t a philosophy joke - we were doing stuff about knowledge, it’s complicated,” she waved a hand. “I mean... I didn’t know what I knew, but I, just... like, remember when you saw Riley for the first time?”

“Oh yeah. You started drooling?”

“You didn’t actually drool.”

“My brain kinda did.”

Image


“Buf? Buffy?”

Willow frowned in concern as Buffy continued to mutely stare across the park. Following her gaze and finding nothing particularly startling - various people enjoying themselves, as outdoorsy people who didn’t burn red at the merest hint of sunlight did - she looked back at Buffy, waiting for some sign of a return to consciousness. Eventually she resorted to waving a hand in front of her face.

Image


“It was like that,” Willow insisted. “She spoke and... I felt like, like the entire rest of the room went away and the sound of her voice was all that mattered, the only real thing.”

“Love at first sound?” Buffy suggested, only half-joking.

“I, I mean the L-word’s a big word, but... yeah, I think,” Willow said. “Or, or call it whatever it’s called when you only just met someone, infatuation or crush or whatever but...”

“So did they have to wave a hand in front of you to wake you up?” Buffy asked.

“I did kind of... I stumbled over saying my own name, a bit,” Willow sighed. “I mean I was all mixed up, completely, I was thinking look at her, don’t look at her, don’t stare, but look, and she’s amazing Buf, she’s... I didn’t stare, but I seriously could have just stared at her. Just nothing else, staring at her, the whole time, and that’d be completely okay with me. If it wasn’t a rude thing to do.”

“I get it,” Buffy said, smiling. Willow smiled back, then her eyes went wide and she took a deep breath.

“What?” Buffy asked.

“Have to tell my parents,” Willow said nervously. Buffy nodded, and reached out to give her hand a squeeze.

“I’ve got your back,” she promised. “And not to downplay the ookiness you’re probably feeling thinking about it, but certain evidence leads me to suspect they’ll be cool.”

“What evidence?” Willow said, frowning in confusion.

“You remember when you invited me to that big watch-the-Oscars party they did, last year of high school?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Your mom took me aside to tell me it was okay with her and your dad if I wanted to bring Faith.”

“Why would you bring Faith?”

“They apparently thought we were an item,” Buffy chuckled.

“An- oh!” Willow paused, turning the thought over in her head. “...You guys were kind of inseparable, I guess I can actually see how... oh my god, that time you both were there for a sleepover, did my parents think we were-”

“Your folks aren’t that cool!” Buffy laughed. Willow stared at her for a moment, then burst out laughing as well.

“So,” Buffy said, once Willow had caught her breath, “when’s your next tute, you gonna talk to Miss Siren?”

“I did,” Willow admitted.

“Already? Damn, you’re better at this than I am.”

“Well it was in class, I mean discussing things,” Willow clarified. “That’s, that’s what you do there, everyone talks, and she... she seems kind of quiet, you know? But not completely, she said a few things, and this one time she was saying-”

Image


“...a, a kind of... shared acknowledgement, that a certain level o-of observations that seem to agree with one another is enough to... feel grounded in taking as valid, and working outward from.” Tara took a breath. “Something completely obvious - that seems completely obvious, in an everyday sense, like, like...”

“You’re... here,” Willow piped up. “Here in this room.”

Tara smiled at her and nodded.

Image


“You told her ‘you’re here’?” Buffy asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well we were talking about knowledge - about how there’s some potential for doubt in basically everything, like even the most obvious thing right in front of you could be an illusion,” Willow explained in a rush, “but for the whole justified-true-belief thing to hold together at all, and without that you really can’t make any headway in anything, you have to accept that there’s a level where ‘good enough’ certainty is, well, good enough.”

“Okay so, she’s here - there, rather,” Buffy corrected herself. “Gotcha.”

“I actually stopped myself saying ‘you’re pretty’,” Willow said, blushing. “Because that’d be a completely inappropriate thing to say to a stranger, even though... well she is, and my brain kind of zeroed in on that as the most blatantly true statement possible because, like I said, I was all... out of it, kind of, still following the discussion enough to not sound like a total idiot, but really just.”

“So you told her she was there instead?”

“Yeah, inappropriateness averted, thankfully,” Willow sighed.

“And you all decided reality was probably real?”

Probably, sure.”

“Damn, I still gotta study tonight then,” Buffy grumbled. “But hey, words were exchanged and you didn’t come off like a giant idiot. Check out the awesome on you.”

Image


Buffy glanced back, somewhere between elated and desperate, and gave a jerky, thankful nod as Willow - for the third time - made a shoo-ing gesture towards the young man by the bar she had been psyching herself up to talk to for the past half hour.

“...um, h-hi? Hi!”

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“I’m Liam,” he added after a moment, holding out a hand.

“Me too. I mean no, wait. Buffy.”

Image


“And she, uh, she talked too. To me,” Willow went on, picking up her bag to get it out of the way of people sitting around her as the common room filled up approaching lunchtime.

“In class?”

“After. Not like, huge talking, but-”

Image


“Th-thanks,” Tara said, as Willow was packing her notes up and wondering if inspiration would strike if only she could drag out filling up her satchel long enough.

“You’re welcome,” she piped. “I mean, for, what for?”

“The example,” Tara said. “‘I’m here’? My mind just went... you know, those moments when you know exactly what you’re wanting to say, and you blank out completely at step one?”

“I liked what you, the way you explained what you were thinking,” Willow offered.

“Once you’d gotten me over stalling at trying to think of any fact,” Tara grinned shyly.

“Socrates would know the feeling,” Willow grinned back. “Or according to Plato he would.”

“I did start to feel that way, during the lecture yesterday.”

“Me too. Oh hey, I’m Willow. By the way.”

“Tara.”

Image


“-wasn’t like, a holding hands kind of hand-hold, it was just you know, what you do when you introduce yourself, but... ohh,” she signed, closing her eyes. “I’m not trying to sound all dramatic - you know me, I only get dramatic about calculus - but, just holding her hand for a couple of seconds, it was like... god I hope she likes me Buf, because I swear I fell for her. Again, I mean. Moreso. Honestly it was like everything she did was just, hey, here’s something new about me, love me for this as well, and it wasn’t even a question for me, I was just ‘okay I do’-”

Image


“Tara,” Willow repeated, feeling herself smiling, but not realising how much she was beaming. “Oh right - you said, at the start of the class. So did I, too.”

Image


“-if we’re being honest I was a bit of a spaz, but it didn’t seem to... I mean she didn’t run for the hills, we talked for a good three, four minutes - just the basics, you know, what courses are you doing, and so on.”

“So you’ll see her next, when’s your next class?” Buffy asked.

“Lecture tomorrow, tutorial day after. We even said that,” Willow added. “She said ‘see you next time’, and I said ‘yup’... or I’m pretty sure I did, my brain was frazzling a bit and I think my mouth was winging it on its own at a few points. Like I remember exactly what she said, but I honestly have no idea what I said a couple of times, only that it obviously wasn’t awful, but-”

She paused and took a deep breath.

“So cards on the table, I know this is all the dictionary definition of ‘only just met’,” she resumed. “But I thought about this, about her - afterwards, I mean, I went down to that little garden, where the stairs come down to the road - do you know the building they do philosophy tutorials in? Never mind. But that’s where I was before I came here to talk to you, I sat down there and, and just thought. Seriously thought, about what happened, and how I felt and how I feel, and... I think this is the real deal.”

“Will?” Buffy asked, glancing over Willow’s shoulder.

“I know,” Willow nodded, “not like I would’ve come in here and said ‘hey I’m gay’ just for a joke, but I... I guess what I’m saying is, I know this is a new thing, what I’m feeling isn’t... I don’t have the, the mental language I guess, to really interrogate my brain and sort out what’s what just now - but I really, I am attracted to this woman. That’s definite. I feel... sitting next to her, looking at her, her looking at me, us talking, that was elation, Buf, and I feel like I need to accept that, not, not try to brush it away or tell myself it isn’t serious because ‘these things take time’. I think it is serious - it’s new, and serious, and I honestly genuinely hope it stays serious, that the way I feel...”

“Um...”

“...I know I’ve never been good at heart stuff, but if this isn’t straight from the heart then I don’t know what is. And - I know, one tutorial can’t be the reason for a whole relationship, but I feel this way now, and it’s like, I can see the, the shape of this path in front of me and a long way down it is her and me knowing each other, properly, and me being able to look her in the eye and say ‘I love you Tara’, and it comes from a place of, of experience and time spent together - real love, relationship-type love, not just how her voice is perfect and she’s beautiful-”

“Is... she a brunette with blue eyes?”

“- yeah amazing eyes - and I felt like I was flying when she talked to me for like five minutes - her hair’s so gorgeous, too - not just those, those things you can see right away. But those things, I think they’re real too, and... if I’m wrong, that’s a possibility, I mean I just had a whole class on how knowledge is inherently fallible, and I want to go into this eyes-open, not just chasing a dream I had because she said her name and I fell for the sound of her voice - let’s be real I don’t even know if she’s gay, I think I felt something that, I don’t know, it felt good to me, but I’ve got what, a bit under two hours of actual gayness under my belt so that’s not what you’d call an expert opinion - but I do want to find out where that path goes, if it really does go to ‘I love you Tara’, because if there’s a chance then I have to know. And I’m sorry I’m just babbling now, kind of dumping this all out in the open, but you’re my best friend and I want to be honest with you about this, this huge thing that happened to me right now.”

“I think she’s sitting next to you,” Buffy said.

“What?” Willow said, grinning in bafflement as she glanced to her side.

“...h-hi,” Tara whispered.

“Hi?” Willow said eventually, in a squeak, with her face frozen.

“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” Tara said, looking down at her hands, “I didn’t m-mean to... overhear. I saw you, when I came in, and I thought... I-I could say hello, again. That was, was actually as far ahead as I’d thought. But I didn’t w-want to interrupt, you were talking, so... and then, I realised wh-what you were... saying, and...”

“All that I said?” Willow whispered, her voice trembling on the verge of audible tears.

“I froze, I completely... froze. I should’ve said, spoke up, b-but... I couldn’t.”

Buffy looked between the two of them, desperate to hug Willow before the tears started in earnest, but feeling a bubble around them she had no place in.

“W-was I... bad?” Willow asked at last, fearful.

“No!” Tara said at once - both of them jumped, as if the exclamation caught Tara off-guard as much as Willow. Tara gulped and shook her head. “No I... I need, i-if you can, forgive me, for listening, b-but...” She paused and took a deep breath. “I am, you know.”

“What?”

“Gay.”

Willow looked imploringly into her eyes, and slowly began to smile.

“I am too,” she said at last. She giggled abruptly, and found herself grinning. “As you know. That was my coming-out speech you saw part of - it got kind of rambly. I do that, I babble. Um.” She glanced at Buffy, who was almost holding her breath. “This is, this is Buffy, she’s my best friend. Hence coming out to her, I don’t just do that to random people. I mean I imagine I wouldn’t, before today I didn’t think about it anyway... um, babble. Buffy, save me?”

“Hi,” Buffy said, leaning across to offer her hand to Tara.

“Hi.” Willow watched, mesmerised, as Buffy’s hand found Tara’s, they held for a moment in companionable greeting, then let go, as if Buffy could experience her hand being held by Tara and not yearn for the moment to last forever. The yearning must be a me thing.

“So that was kind of a moment,” Buffy admitted. “Sorry I didn’t step in sooner, you know. I saw your face go... you know, ‘wait whaaaat?’, when you heard her, but honestly who’d be ready for that?”

“It’s- it’s okay,” Tara assured her. “Definitely... not the kind of situation anyone’d, you know, guess was happening. But um...” She gave Buffy a quick smile, then looked back to Willow. “Now here we are.” She chuckled. “Like you said. In the tutorial? I’m here.”

“You are here,” Willow agreed.

“If you...” Tara began, paused, then took a breath and went on. “If you don’t mind that I heard, I... I’m glad I heard what I did. After we talked I was hoping... Actually I didn’t have my hopes up that high, but-”

“I haven’t stopped thinking about you since... you said your name,” Willow said, blushing part-way through as her ears caught up with her mouth. “And I saw you. And we talked. I’d like... I’d like to do that more. Talk. See you. Coffee? Can we have coffee?”

“Yes,” Tara smiled, her shoulders finally relaxing. “A-all that, the coffee, and talking, and...”

“All of it.”

“All.”

“Hey I gotta run,” Buffy said, after a moment in which Willow and Tara had simply gazed at each other. “Lecture or something. Tara, good to meet you. Wills, pride.”

“Yay,” Willow said, returning her offered fist-bump. Buffy grinned and got up to leave, then paused.

“Idea,” she said, “no pressure if you don’t want to - Tara, I mean, if you don’t want to - can I get a photo of you two? Just to record the what-are-the-odds-of-that-happening moment? Cross my heart it won’t end up online.”

“Um. O-okay,” Tara said, after a quick glance at Willow, who gave an encouraging nod.

“Cool thanks,” Buffy said, sitting back down and holding her tablet up. She peered at the image of the two women smiling nervously at her as the lens dialed in its focus, then assumed a frown.

“Sorry, I got it stuck in outdoors mode or something earlier, gimme a sec,” she said, tapping the ‘refocus’ button a few times. “Talk amongst yourselves?”

She waited until the pair looked away from her, back to each other, their smiles shifting from deliberate to something far more intimate, and took the photo.

“Brilliant, thanks. Gotta rush, see you guys, bye!” With a backward wave she left the common room, grinning as a backward glance revealed Willow and Tara’s hands creeping towards one another on their laps as they lowered them from waving back.

“If you two get married, this is totally the story I’m telling at the wedding,” she promised herself.

Image


“You didn’t actually say that?” Willow asked incredulously.

“I absolutely did,” Buffy insisted, waving her back into silence and turning her attention back to the other guests.

“So that,” she said, indicating the poster-sized print of the photo from that day, “is how I got into photography - ‘cause let’s be honest, me and literature was a lost cause - but more importantly...”

She beamed at Willow and Tara, resplendent in their white dresses, as family and friends watched the conclusion of the Best Gal’s speech.

“...more importantly, that is what actual love at first sight - or even slightly before - looks like. I think you’ll all agree, it’s a good look on these two. And it still is today.”

_________________
Chris Cook
Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring Love At First Sound
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:15 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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What a rambling ball of delight :) Enjoyed that so much, you're a wonder!

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


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring Love At First Sound
PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2019 2:01 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Awesome!

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring Love At First Sound
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 3:43 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 359
I'm a bit sad that we didn't get a story for Halloween this year. Maybe you can do something with a Christmas-/winter-theme later this year - please?

Of Course I realized just now that I didn't comment on your last story, so I'll do it now: I absolutely loved it!

Quote:
“So cards on the table, I know this is all the dictionary definition of ‘only just met’,” she resumed. “But I thought about this, about her - afterwards, I mean, I went down to that little garden, where the stairs come down to the road - do you know the building they do philosophy tutorials in? Never mind. But that’s where I was before I came here to talk to you, I sat down there and, and just thought. Seriously thought, about what happened, and how I felt and how I feel, and... I think this is the real deal.”

“Will?” Buffy asked, glancing over Willow’s shoulder.

“I know,” Willow nodded, “not like I would’ve come in here and said ‘hey I’m gay’ just for a joke, but I... I guess what I’m saying is, I know this is a new thing, what I’m feeling isn’t... I don’t have the, the mental language I guess, to really interrogate my brain and sort out what’s what just now - but I really, I am attracted to this woman. That’s definite. I feel... sitting next to her, looking at her, her looking at me, us talking, that was elation, Buf, and I feel like I need to accept that, not, not try to brush it away or tell myself it isn’t serious because ‘these things take time’. I think it is serious - it’s new, and serious, and I honestly genuinely hope it stays serious, that the way I feel...”

“Um...”

“...I know I’ve never been good at heart stuff, but if this isn’t straight from the heart then I don’t know what is. And - I know, one tutorial can’t be the reason for a whole relationship, but I feel this way now, and it’s like, I can see the, the shape of this path in front of me and a long way down it is her and me knowing each other, properly, and me being able to look her in the eye and say ‘I love you Tara’, and it comes from a place of, of experience and time spent together - real love, relationship-type love, not just how her voice is perfect and she’s beautiful-”

“Is... she a brunette with blue eyes?”

“- yeah amazing eyes - and I felt like I was flying when she talked to me for like five minutes - her hair’s so gorgeous, too - not just those, those things you can see right away. But those things, I think they’re real too, and... if I’m wrong, that’s a possibility, I mean I just had a whole class on how knowledge is inherently fallible, and I want to go into this eyes-open, not just chasing a dream I had because she said her name and I fell for the sound of her voice - let’s be real I don’t even know if she’s gay, I think I felt something that, I don’t know, it felt good to me, but I’ve got what, a bit under two hours of actual gayness under my belt so that’s not what you’d call an expert opinion - but I do want to find out where that path goes, if it really does go to ‘I love you Tara’, because if there’s a chance then I have to know. And I’m sorry I’m just babbling now, kind of dumping this all out in the open, but you’re my best friend and I want to be honest with you about this, this huge thing that happened to me right now.”

“I think she’s sitting next to you,” Buffy said.

“What?” Willow said, grinning in bafflement as she glanced to her side.

“...h-hi,” Tara whispered.

“Hi?” Willow said eventually, in a squeak, with her face frozen.


:laugh So cute!

And what a great ending:
Quote:
“If you two get married, this is totally the story I’m telling at the wedding,” she promised herself.




“You didn’t actually say that?” Willow asked incredulously.

“I absolutely did,” Buffy insisted, waving her back into silence and turning her attention back to the other guests.

“So that,” she said, indicating the poster-sized print of the photo from that day, “is how I got into photography - ‘cause let’s be honest, me and literature was a lost cause - but more importantly...”

She beamed at Willow and Tara, resplendent in their white dresses, as family and friends watched the conclusion of the Best Gal’s speech.

“...more importantly, that is what actual love at first sight - or even slightly before - looks like. I think you’ll all agree, it’s a good look on these two. And it still is today.”


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring Love At First Sound
PostPosted: Tue Dec 24, 2019 6:43 am 
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18. Breast Gal
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Hi folks. Sorry I've been MIA, the old tank's been feeling kind of empty for putting pen to (virtual) paper. But I had this idea for Christmas, and now it's Christmas (Australia time, just), so here it is, finished just in time. (It's a little bit daft, I admit.)

Willow and Tara's A Christmas Carol


Image


“Merry Christmas party,” Willow said, holding the front door open for Tara, whose hands were full of leftover pudding, to pass through.

“Merry Christmas party,” she replied. “Put this in the fridge? I’ve got business in the bedroom.” Willow’s eyes lit up.

“Business, pray tell?” she said, taking the container of pudding. Tara winked, closed the door, and produced a slightly crumpled but still serviceable sprig of plastic mistletoe from her pocket.

“Where’d that come from?”

“It was in the wreath Buffy had on her front door, I don’t think it was going to be getting any action out there.”

“You wreath-defacing vandal,” Willow said, shaking her head.

“The wreath looked fine,” Tara protested. “Anyway if you want to discourage my criminal tendencies you just have to not take advantage of how I’m going to hang this over the bed.”

“Ye-eah, don’t think I’ll be discouraging you,” Willow grinned. Tara hooked a finger in the waist of her jeans, gently tugging her into kissing range.

“You’re equally guilty then,” she murmured into Willow’s lips.

“Don’t know how this became about me,” Willow argued, very half-heartedly, “but...” Tara kissed her again, deeper. “...I forget.”

“Mwa-ha-ha,” Tara mock-cackled.

“Criminal mastermind,” Willow accused. “I fear for my innocence.”

“Cards on the table, I actually asked Buffy if I could take it,” Tara admitted.

“You’re such a sweetheart- oh no wonder she was smirking at me when we left!”

“Hurry put the pudding away,” Tara said, releasing her. “Then we’ll see about that innocence of yours.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

With a decided spring in her step Willow made her way to the kitchen and spent a moment rearranging the refrigerator’s top shelf to make space.

“Sweetie?” Tara’s voice sounded from beyond the door. “Could, could you come here, please?”

Willow’s frowned at the odd tone, quickly stuffed the pudding into the fridge, and hurried back to find Tara standing at the start of the short hallway that led to their bedroom, staring down it.

“Everything okay?” she asked gently.

“I... not sure,” Tara said, still looking ahead. “Can you see...?”

Willow followed her gaze, and let out a startled “eep!” at the sight of an apparition hovering at the end of the hall. Her hand shot out to grab Tara’s.

“You, you see it too?” Tara asked.

“Uh-huh,” Willow nodded. “A... floating... person... see-through... want to say ‘ghost’ but not sure I want to say ‘ghost’.”

“Not sure if I’m relieved or not,” Tara admitted. “Sweetie? There’s... a ghost? In our house?”

“Okay can I say hi without you two freaking out?” the ghost asked, still looking at one of the paintings on the wall. Both Willow and Tara jumped.

“Freaking out any more, of course,” the ghost went on. “Can we talk, is that okay?”

Willow looked at Tara, as if she had any insight to offer, and found Tara looking back at her equally baffled. Eventually she gave a little shrug.

“Uh, okay?” Tara called out, trying to look at the hovering form out of the side of her eye, as if she didn’t want to not be looking at Willow.

“Great,” the ghost said, rotating in mid-air to face them, but still keeping its distance. “Sorry about the whole staring-at-the-wall thing, I know it’s kind of creepy, but just appearing right in front of people right away isn’t any better, it usually ends up with half an hour of them running around for no reason. You two okay, you need a moment?”

Willow managed to drag her eyes off Tara and properly look at the spectre, taking in the image of a young woman, translucent and outlined in shadowy silver.

“You’re... a ghost,” she said eventually.

“Yes and no,” the ghost replied. “Anya, by the way, hi. And by that I mean I’m ghostly, but not a ghost in the sense of a dead person come back, if that’s what you’re thinking. Think of me as a messenger.”

“Wh-what message?” Tara ventured.

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Anya nodded approvingly. “I’m here to convince you to change your ways.”

“Our ways?” Willow echoed.

“Yup. Yours specifically,” Anya clarified, nodding to Tara. “Normally this isn’t a couples thing but I guess you can both come along, if you’d like.”

“Come along?” Tara asked.

“Uh-huh. I’ll show you your past, present, and future, so you can see how the path you’re on is-”

“Christmas Carol?” Willow blurted out. “Ghost of Christmas Past? And all that?”

“Yes, all that,” Anya sighed. “Honestly don’t know why management let him write that damned book, it just makes people incredulous that it’s real. More than before.”

“Wait,” Tara said. “Wait, you’re... You’re actually, you’re going to, I’m Scrooge, is that what’s happening? For real?”

“Yes, for real,” Anya replied patiently. “I mean you’re not literally Scrooge, there’s nothing in your file about being a miser, but yes, that’s the experience we’re going for tonight. You see yourself then, now, and ahead, realise what you’re doing wrong, change for the better, everyone’s happy. It’s fine, this is perfectly safe. Okay?”

“What who’s doing wrong?” Willow protested. “She’s doing wrong? What’s-” she rounded on Anya. “What do you mean what she’s doing wrong, she’s lovely!”

“Hey I don’t choose the case files!” Anya said, holding up her hands. “And I can’t just tell you, that’s, it’s like show-don’t-tell, this is how it works. Look, do you want a heads-up on a positive change you can make to your life, or do you just want to find out what you’re doing wrong the hard way?”

Tara continue to stare at Anya, then, when it became obvious she wasn’t going to offer any further elaboration, looked at Willow.

“Sweetie?” she said.

“Uh-huh?” Willow nodded, sounding equally out of her depth.

“I-I actually don’t know what I was going to say,” Tara said. “‘Sweetie’ just came out like, like if I said something, maybe it’d start to make sense.”

“I... get what you mean, yeah.”

“There’s a ghost,” Tara said.

“Yeah.”

“In our house.”

“Yeah.”

“...this is really doing a number on my world view,” Tara admitted.

“I don’t think my brain’s even got that far,” Willow offered.

“Yeah we get a lot of that in this line of work,” Anya said. “Look, honestly, spending an hour sat on your couch trying to figure it out won’t make it any less an out-of-context experience. If you want my advice, just go with it. So!” she added, clapping her hands together. “We ready to rock?”

Tara looked at Willow helplessly, then looked down at their hands clasped tightly together.

“I... suppose so?” she ventured. Willow gulped, then nodded.

“Okay,” Anya smiled, producing a smart phone and tapping its screen. “Now this is probably going to be a bit disconcerting the first time, so I want you both to concentrate on standing still, nothing’s actually moving so don’t go stumbling around-”

Image


Willow and Tara both gasped, and did indeed nearly stumble, as their surrounding abruptly changed, but clutching onto each other they managed to remain upright.

“-and... damn it, I keep telling head office to make the transits slower!” Anya snapped. “Sorry. You two okay?”

“What, I, where,” Tara babbled for a moment, before focusing on a framed photograph sitting on a side table in the expensive-looking dining room they were now standing in.

“You,” she said, pointing with her free hand.

“Me? Me,” Willow nodded, spotting the photo, which was indeed of herself, as a young girl.

“This is your house,” Tara said, wide-eyed. “From high school. Back then I mean, when we were at school.”

“Yeah,” Willow said, looking around. “It’s... this is it, it’s...” Her gaze fell on Anya, who was hovering nearby, humming under her breath. “Did we just-”

“You’re in the past, yes,” she said. “Specifically your past,” she added to Tara, “but this is where you were at the relevant formative moment, so here we are. Here you are, anyway, I’m only here in a kind of meta sense, you two are here for real.”

“Real?” Willow echoed. She reached out towards the dining table she was standing alongside, hesitated, then picked up a coaster, and abruptly dropped it.

“I touched that!” she yelped.

“Congratulations,” Anya said, rolling her eyes.

“But, wait, if we’re actually here,” Willow insisted, while Tara’s eyes went even wider as she had the same thought, “and we can interact, what if something we do - anything we do could change things, we could-”

“Nope,” Anya interrupted her. “Doesn’t work that way. Look, you’re in this time, but you’re not of this time. So whatever you do while we’re here, it won’t change anything. Okay? And anyway that’s a coaster, history doesn’t rest on exactly where the coaster was sitting.”

“But what if I, I don’t know, ran into the road and caused an accident, and-”

“Are you likely to do that?” Anya asked pointedly. Willow flinched, then paused thoughtfully.

“Well... no,” she admitted.

“Good, that’s a well-adjusted attitude. Look we don’t have all day - except in the sense that we do, but ignore that - hands up everyone who moves freely through time in any direction as part of their nine-to-five workday. Just me?” she asked, raising her hand. “Okay, how about we go with my version of how this works.”

“...okay,” Willow said quietly. Tara, despite her ongoing confusion at the whole situation, stepped closer to her and put an arm around her shoulders, which she seemed to take some comfort from.

“Alright, well you two - your past selves, I mean,” Anya corrected herself, “are upstairs, so let’s go. You remember the way right? I haven’t been here before, where’s the stairs?”

With another helpless glance at each other Willow and Tara shuffled towards the doorway, picking up the pace as the unreality of the whole situation took second place to fascination at being surrounded by their own memories. Willow paused at a distant rumble of thunder, and glanced at Tara as the soft sound of rain on the roof began.

“Remember me and rain?” she asked, with a slight grin.

“Mm,” Tara nodded, opening her mouth to add something else, then pausing.

“What?” Willow asked.

“You and rain,” Tara said. “Is this that day? Fifteen? I was visiting and it started raining...”

Willow stared at her for a moment, then shook her head and grabbed her hand.

“Bedroom,” she said, picking up the pace, Tara right alongside her.

Willow’s hand trembled as she turned the doorknob, but the door and the room beyond were so familiar it was almost easy to walk in, despite both their minds whirling at the sight before them: two girls sat cross-legged on the bed, facing each other, their younger selves.

“...mom and dad’s business thing or whatever’s indoors, I think,” Willow was saying. “Not one of those open-air... things, whatever they do. Talk to people in suits and stuff.”

“I-important adult things,” Tara joked, and Willow chuckled.

“Along those lines,” she agreed. “You didn’t want to go out, did you? I mean the park, or...?” Tara shook her head.

“Happy here,” she said softly.

“Can, can they see us?” Tara whispered to Anya, as she sidled into the room behind them. “The door opening, or...”

“Like I said, you’re here, but you’re not here here,” she shrugged, closing the door. “Trust me. Done this hundreds of times.”

“A-are you okay?” young Tara was asking, as her Willow sighed, and glanced at the pattern of raindrops on the windows.

“Fine, yeah,” the redhead shrugged. “Just, I just have this thing about rain. Not rain in general, just, specifically being in my room while it’s raining, and listening to it on the roof.”

“The noise?” Tara guessed; the rain wasn’t heavy, and they weren’t even having to raise their voices.

“Sort of, it’s a thing from...” Willow rolled her eyes. “Kind of embarrassing, it’s me being silly.”

“I-I don’t think you’re silly,” Tara offered, as Willow hesitated.

“Well wait ‘til the end of the story,” she chuckled - but she was smiling now, as she went on. “Last house before this one - before high school - there was a branch came down on the roof over my room. Not a big one, it wasn’t scary or anything - we were out when it happened anyway - but it cracked some tiles, and it supposedly got fixed, only it turned out I guess one of the tiles wasn’t quite lined up, or they missed a cracked one, and next time there was a really big storm my ceiling started leaking. Not flooding the place, just dripping in the corner, we got a bucket from the garage. I had this plastic thing, I think it was part of a toy pool set or something, I kind of wedged it against the corner of the wall, so the drops would fall onto it at an angle and then slide down into the bucket, instead of just fall right down and make a noise when they hit, so I could sleep.”

“Clever,” Tara grinned slightly.

“Problem solver,” Willow smiled back. “This was just one night, someone came to fix it the next day, it wasn’t like my room was leaking for weeks. Only turns out that time they fixed it I guess they also missed something, because it was fine for the next few months even though it rained a bunch, but then, I don’t know I guess maybe critical mass of rain, or the wind was going exactly the right direction... middle of the night, it started dripping again. Out came my rain catcher.” She shrugged. “Got fixed again and that one, I guess they fixed it properly - until we moved house anyway. But I still have this - it’s like in the back of my mind, every time I’m just in my bed resting or whatever, and it starts to rain, I’m immediately thinking ‘is it going to leak again?’ Even though, one, it got fixed properly, and two, whole different house now. I start focusing on every little drip I can hear from outside, and wondering if any of them are actually drips inside. It’s a bit...” She sighed. “Silly. Sorry.”

“No sorry,” Tara said. “I see how... I-I get it.”

“Thanks,” Willow replied. Tara bit her lip, then looked at the window, back at Willow, and took a deep breath.

“Can I distract you from the rain then?” she asked, in a rush.

“Yeah?” Willow said, looking up. “Please do. How?”

“Can’t believe this was my master plan,” adult Tara said, chuckling and burying her face in Willow’s shoulder.

“I can, maybe sing a song?” young Tara suggested.

“You sing?” Willow asked. “I never, do you?”

“To myself,” Tara said, blushing. “I don’t... in front of people, I don’t. But I like it. There’s this... this song, I used to have on tape when I was little - it was a tape of the Muppet Show, a bunch of songs, and one of them... it’s the best one, I l-love it.”

“Tearing up a little,” adult Willow whispered; Tara smiled and kissed her shoulder, turning her face to watch her younger self.

“O-okay um... imagine music,” young Tara said, glancing at her hands as if to order them to stop fidgeting. “And muppets. If you like.” She took a deep breath.

“I-if I... could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you.

“If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you.

“But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them...”

“Do do do do,” young Willow piped up, slightly off-key, and misty-eyed, “do-do-do, do-do-doo.” Tara glanced up at her, eyes wide in shock, but already beginning to smile.

“I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I... I want to go
Through time with.”

“Do-do do doo, do-do-do, do-do-doo,” Willow added, blushing as Tara laughed. “Sorry, I’m not good at this-” She stopped abruptly as Tara reached out and held her hand.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “You know the song?”

“I’ve heard it. That was beautiful, you, why don’t you sing? I mean, you don’t have to, just... if I could sound as wonderful as they just whenever I wanted to... never mind.”

“I-I feel like, people would be staring at me,” Tara shrugged. “Rather not. Except I always wanted to... um, sing that. I uh, I like that you joined in, I... that was good.” She hesitated, then looked down into her lap, frowning to herself as a silence grew between them, punctuated only by the sound of the rain outside.

“So hey?” Willow said eventually. “Um you... you know how... at school they’re all, study hard, this is all to get you ready for your final exams eventually, and you gotta do well on those so you get to college, and then that gets you a good job and a proper life and... probably not actually as straightforward as they say, but... it’s been making me think about... stuff. Everything.” Tara had slowly looked back up at her, puzzled, but she went on: “Because the thing is, sure doing well on tests, I like that, but when I got to thinking about the future it, I realised it was all, I don’t know, not real, kind of? Like, imagining myself graduating, and doing college... stuff, classes and whatever else, and having a job and a house I guess and... I didn’t get it, I didn’t see me in it. Which I was actually kind of worried about, for a bit. But what happened - I was just thinking, this was a few weeks ago actually, I randomly thought, would we go to the same college? Because obviously I’d want to. But... that was real, in my head, being at college with you. And that’s, that’s what made everything real, you, I can imagine for real all this, this stuff to do in my life with you, together with you and... I’m just babbling, sorry. Sorry.”

“Willow?” Tara whispered. “Um m-me, me too.” Her grip shifted on Willow’s hand, to cradle it, as her other hand moved forward to cover it. “Us together.”

“Us together is the best thing,” Willow managed to say, her voice halting, as if she was on the verge of tears. She blinked quickly as Tara shifted closer on the bed, then gulped. “I’m scared. There’s a thing I want to say and, and maybe you... it’d be okay, but if it’s not and I ruin everything... I’m scared of that. Girlfriend. Is the thing. I wanted to say. Ohgod.” She went rigid as Tara moved, then sank, trembling, into her embrace as Tara’s arms went around her.

“Wha...?” she murmured.

“G-girlfriend,” Tara whispered.

“Aw!” adult Willow said, hugging Tara, who sniffled and kissed her cheek.

“I-I’m really glad you’d fallen in love with me already,” she murmured. “My ‘singing declaration of love’ plan was so ridiculous...”

“Oh, no, disagree,” Willow countered. “If I hadn’t - although how could I not? - that would totally have done it. Your singing is just... there aren’t words for it.” She chuckled. “There aren’t words for mine either, but in the exact opposite sense.”

“You’re still my favourite karaoke partner,” Tara grinned.

“I don’t know why I let you talk me into things like that,” Willow shook her head. “Wait, yes I do, you’re you.” She turned a tear-filled gaze on their younger selves, still embracing, just breathing slowly together.

“You know I don’t know when,” she said, “but sometime in the years since I edited that all in my memory to where I was so eloquent.”

“That’s the way I heard it.”

“Okay, break it up you two,” Anya piped up, glancing up from her phone. “Clock’s ticking - metaphorically - and you’ve got more of your own lives to see from an outside perspective still.” She glanced at the girls on the bed. “I’ll give it to you though, that was adorable - I guess if you want to stay for the kiss I’m assuming is coming...?”

“Um, not for another two days,” Tara said, taking a breath to compose herself.

“Two days,” Anya repeated.

“It was all new, and...” Willow hesitated, then shrugged and smiled. “There was no rush. Actually is it possible for you to just jump us forward-”

“No,” Anya said flatly. “Sorry, no can do. There are rules, this isn’t a stop-anywhere tour.”

“I’ll kiss you in front of a mirror when we get home,” Tara offered; Willow blushed and grinned.

“Yeah that, that works,” she agreed.

“Great, you two,” Anya shook her head. “Okay hold on to... well, whatever, I guess-”

Image


“-and... that one wasn’t so bad,” she shrugged, watching Willow and Tara jump slightly but mostly keep their balance as their surroundings abruptly changed again.

“We’re... home?” Tara asked, looking around the familiar living room.

“Slightly,” Anya said. “Home minus one week - Ghost of Christmas Present, you know?”

“Wait, we didn’t become girlfriends on Christmas,” Willow frowned. “That was October.”

“It doesn’t have to be Christmas,” Anya said, with a long-suffering sigh. “That was Dickens’ idea. He said it’d read better.”

“Uh, question?” Tara said, raising her hand. “Why aren’t I, um... we just saw our own past, and I’m fine?”

“It’s the out-of-time thing again, don’t worry about it,” Anya said, businesslike. “We make it that way on purpose. Otherwise every time we helped someone turn their lives around they’d immediately wind up in an institution raving about time ghosts and wearing a tinfoil hat. Would kind of defeat the purpose. Think of it as if we put a big pillow down so your psyche has a soft landing from this. Ah!” she said as a shape appeared in the frosted windows in the front door and a key turned in the lock. “Show time.”

“Hi sweetie!” the new Tara - virtually identical but for her clothes - called as she closed the door behind herself and slid her shoulder bag off.

“Hey!” Willow’s voice replied from another room, and a moment later she appeared, and quickly enveloped Tara in the hug she held her arms out for.

“How’re you?” Tara asked, without letting go.

“Doing good - grocery shopping shopped, numbers crunched, achievement on all fronts. Are you... this seems like a comfort-me hug?” Willow wondered. “Which, happy to provide, but are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” Tara nodded, letting Willow go - a little - and nodding to the couch. “Bit of a stress day at work - not for me personally but-”

“What happened?” Tara let her bag drop and sank onto the couch, giving Willow a grateful smile as the redhead nestled up to her.

“Protester outside the clinic,” she explained. “Nothing dramatic - he kept his distance, Faith didn’t have to get involved - unfortunately,” she added with a wry chuckle. “He just, stood where he was allowed to stand, with his sign up. ‘Planned parenthood is so-and-so,’ you know how it is.”

“I know,” Willow said softly, stroking Tara’s hair. “It shouldn’t be.”

“Shouldn’t,” Tara agreed. “I’m okay though. It was actually this, this woman who came in - first time. Just to talk. It really rattled her on the way in, she was upset. Having to deal with some... some tough choices already, and that sign on top of all that...”

“Yeah,” Willow nodded. “How’d it go? Within the bounds of confidentiality et cetera.” Tara gave a little grin.

“I think she’ll be okay,” she replied. “She calmed down, after a while. As much as you can. Reassured that... you know, she had help, resources...”

“People who care,” Willow added. “You’re the best person.”

“See, I’m convinced you are,” Tara objected lightly, turning to return Willow’s embrace properly.

“A question that can only be solved by rigorous experimentation on an ongoing basis,” Willow joked, getting a laugh in return.

“Speaking of science, how crunchy were those numbers of yours?” Tara asked.

“Moving forward numbers-wise,” Willow said. “You feeling better?”

“I’m being cuddled by my wife,” Tara said fondly. “Details?”

“Well we had those images come out this morning,” Willow said, stroking Tara’s arm up and down from shoulder to elbow and back. “So obviously we all got on facetime to have our ritual griping session about how Imaging gets all the glory.”

“I saw them,” Tara nodded.

“Don’t tell anyone I said this but they are amazing,” Willow admitted. “Saturn from the top of the cloud layer, looking up at the rings.” She chuckled. “You know how it is though, the griping’s a Guidance tradition.”

“Guidance gets all the love in this house,” Tara said.

“Yay,” Willow grinned. “But we got to work, Jenny signed off on the new version of navigation for Prospero, so we’re one step closer to putting our baby up in the sky. Spent most of the afternoon after groceries smoothing out the new onboard redundancy model. I’m liking how it’s looking.”

“I sometimes wonder if I can really get my head around how this is your job,” Tara murmured. “Actual spacecraft.”

“I think you can,” Willow said softly, meeting her gaze. “Honestly for me sometimes it’s... math this, compute that, I’m just solving one problem after another and getting work done, I’m not really thinking any differently to how it’d be if I was, I don’t know, programming a smarter laundry dryer. Then you say something like that, and your voice is all... magic. Reminds me that my ones and zeros are going to go to an actual other planet. Touch wood that it works of course. And with a whole lot of help from everyone doing a gigantic amount of work besides just me coding away at home-”

“In full recognition that it’s a group effort,” Tara said firmly, “even so, they can all go find their own wives to be proud of them.”

“And flattery like that,” Willow said, beaming, “is why you get to lounge around being all casual and gorgeous tonight while I make us dinner.”

“I thought it was my turn?” Tara asked.

“You had stress, I didn’t,” Willow said, kissing the tip of her nose. “Lemme treat you.”

“Okay. But I’m treating you to dessert.”

“That could have many meanings, and I like all of them,” Willow giggled, holding up her hand, which Tara obligingly high-fived.

“I counted three separate activities which could’ve euphemistically been called ‘dessert’,” the Willow who was watching their other selves noted under her breath. Tara arched an eyebrow at her.

“Three?” she asked. “What about...” She whispered in Willow’s ear, earning a blush and a grin.

“That was totally a main course,” she said, keeping her voice down as Anya sauntered back over.

“Okay folks, that’s what you needed to see here,” she announced.

“Letting me do dinner when she needs to de-stress a bit?” Willow wondered. “How is that something that needs to be changed?”

“It’s contextual,” Anya said, sounding mildly exasperated. “Look, it’ll all make sense once you’ve seen where the path you’re on is leading. So hold still, the forward jumps are always the-”

Image


“-roughest,” she finished, as both Willow and Tara lost their balance and fell into a couch that was suddenly behind them. “Huh. Lucky that was there. Ladies, welcome to your future.”

“This is... this is actually the future?” Tara asked, looking around. They were still in a living room, but the house and furniture had changed. Soft light filled the room, apparently emanating from the ceiling without any other obvious source, and between shelves full of books and various curios a large pane of what looked like clear glass was fixed to one wall.

“Is that a television?” Willow asked, getting up.

“Wh-where are we?” Tara asked. “When, rather?”

“Thirty years on, give or take,” Anya shrugged. Willow, who had waved a hand near the ‘screen’ and was staring at the glowing buttons that had appeared on its edge, turned to her.

“Thirty years?” she repeated.

“Do not start looking recent history up on the internet,” Anya warned. “That’s not what this is about- hey seriously, come on,” she added to Tara, who had also gotten up, and pulled back the blind on one of the windows.

“Are there flying cars?” Willow asked, hurrying over.

“I don’t see any. Lots of solar panels on rooves.”

“And it’s not Fury Road out there, that’s actually on the promising side.”

“Can we focus please?” Anya asked. Willow and Tara glanced at each other, then left the window alone and walked over to her.

Thank you. Goddamn H.G. Wells, it’s been like this ever since him,” she muttered to herself. “Okay. You go alone for this one - or the two of you I guess,” she shrugged, “but not me, is what I mean. This might shake you. In fact, it’s supposed to - that’s the point. Remember, what you see here can be avoided. But for now,” she gestured to a hall leading to other doors, “your future awaits... there. Second on the right, specifically. I’ll come get you when it’s time.”

With a wave of her hand she faded from view, leaving Willow and Tara alone in their comfortable-looking but unfamiliar surroundings. Both looked down the hall, then at each other.

“So that’s... going to be us,” Willow said at last. “In there.”

“I guess,” Tara said. “That’d be... that seems to be what’s meant to happen here. Based on the story and all.”

“Yeah.”

“Um. I-I’m...” Tara added, trailing off.

“Apprehensive?” Willow supplied; she nodded.

“I feel like... like things are going, going pretty well, all things considered,” she said after a moment’s thought. “Us. Married. Work. Life, generally. The usual ups and downs but...”

“Agreed,” Willow said, squeezing Tara’s hand.

“So what’s in there that’s... that has to change?” she asked.

“I... don’t know,” Willow admitted. “But hey, we’ve had... you know, our moments. Bumps in the road.” She looked at Tara, who nodded.

“Some, yeah,” she said. “When I got convinced I was going to fail my degree.”

“And when I got accepted to the core team and I wasn’t making enough time for us outside of working,” Willow added. “We got through those. Realised hey, this isn’t how it’s supposed to feel, being with you, or you with me. That was what mattered more than whatever we’d got so convinced was more important. We talked. Looked at ourselves, back to basics. Did it together.”

“Yeah,” Tara agreed. She nodded again, and gave Willow a very soft, gentle kiss.

“So, same approach,” she whispered. “We... see, whatever we see.”

“And then do whatever we need to do to make us right,” Willow finished. “Or in this case, keep from going wrong, whatever it turns out to be.”

“Yeah,” Tara repeated. She took a breath, then looked down at her hand in Willow’s, and smiled. “I can do this. With you.”

“That’s how we do things,” Willow agreed. Together they walked slowly towards the hall, and the door Anya had told them to open.

Image


The bedroom was lit by soft sunlight from frosted bay windows. Willow’s eye was caught by a lily flourishing beside a bookcase, growing from a pearlescent white pot on the floor. Tara smiled at the sight of a string of lights, much like the ones she had had in her bedroom as a child. But these were distractions that vanished as their eyes moved inexorably to the bed, and the two figures there, wearing comfortable-looking robes, one propped up against the headboard, the other slouched lower down, leaning against her torso.

“Th-that’s...” Tara breathed.

“Us,” Willow said in a hushed voice.

The older women didn’t react to their presence, of course. Willow, grey hair turning to silvery white, was absorbed in the contents of what looked like a reading tablet but for its card-thin cross section, while Tara, the same dyed-blonde she had been during her undergraduate years, slowly turned the page of a paperback book. But for that the only motion was their slow breathing, and their eyes moving back and forth - and Tara’s glancing down at Willow, every now and then, with a contented smile.

“Wow,” the Willow watching them breathed.

“This is... it’s not even like before, seeing ourselves,” Tara said.

“I know right?” Willow agreed in a whisper. “That’s... that’s really... me and you. Old us. You’re beautiful. I, I mean not that, obviously you are, but-”


“No I get it,” Tara said. “I never... thought you wouldn’t be, or that you wouldn’t be... you know, happy with me. But... the idea of getting old, it’s... you can’t ignore how it feels like everyone’s convinced it’d be...”

“I don’t know how to process this,” Willow admitted. “Thirty years, thirty, and look at you, at us, we’re... in bed together all... loving... that could be right now, just the same.” She clutched Tara’s hand, tears in both their eyes. “We keep that.”

“I can see what you’re doing, you know,” the older Willow said suddenly, starting the two observers into stunned silence, until they realised she was talking to her Tara.

“What am I doing?” she replied playfully.

“Helping yourself to a bird’s eye view down my top.”

“I thought I was being very discreet,” Tara protested with a smile.

“Like I can’t tell when I’m being ogled?” Willow said. “Also, the mirror.”

“Oops,” Tara grinned. “Busted.”

“You wanna keep reading?”

“I feel like I don’t right now.”

“Well then, you got caught, so there are consequences, missy,” Willow chuckled, rolling over onto hands and knees.

“Wow,” the other Willow said again, although with a different emphasis; her older counterpart’s robe was not especially long.

“That’s what I always think,” Tara whispered mischievously.

“Do I take up jogging or something, how is my butt that...”

“That is how good your butt looks,” Tara insisted.

“Seriously? I guess I’m only ever seeing it over my shoulder in the bathroom mirror...”

“So these consequences,” the older Tara was saying. “What are we looking at here?”

“Funny you should say ‘looking at’,” Willow said. “I think since you’re so cavalier about ogling, we should see how you like it?”

“What if I like it a lot?” Tara teased.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we make out on it,” Willow murmured, slowly pulling loose the single cord holding the neck of Tara’s robe closed.

Wow,” younger Willow said a third time, even more vehemently.

“Good to know you’re still interested,” her Tara snickered, still finding herself somewhat distracted by the sight of her wife’s future rear end.

“Uh you’ve... um. Decorated,” Willow pointed out. Tara shifted her gaze, and her eyes went wide as she caught sight of a pair of golden rings adorning her other self’s nipples, before the view was obscured by the other Willow’s head.

“S-so I... have,” she said in a slightly shaky voice. Willow tore her gaze away from the scene in front of her, and somehow focused on her Tara in spite of the low moans.

“Are you okay?” she asked, seeing the blush creeping up Tara’s cheeks.

“Yes, I... yes,” Tara nodded. “Yes. Surprised. But... not completely.” She took a steadying breath. “I’ve been thinking... along those lines. I guess my doubts got put to rest somewhere along the way.”

“There are doubts?” Willow asked.

“None that seem important, right now.” Tara said. “It’s just... It’s not a minor thing. I wanted to give the idea some time.” She chuckled. “I-I guess I just got some decades all at once, so...”

“So?”

Tara smiled, and raised her eyebrows.

“Is it too late to ask for a Christmas present?”

“You want?” Willow asked, feeling her own lips curl into a matching smile.

“That’s... kind of how I’ve been thinking about it,” Tara explained. “If you wanted. You’d get them. I’d wear them. Have them, like... part of me. Yours.”

“You have thought about this,” Willow said.

“There’s a place near the mall,” Tara said. “I haven’t been in, but it looks... nice. Online reviews are good. I’ve read up on what to expect. Getting it done, aftercare.” She fixed Willow with a sultry grin. “How long until I’d be open for inspection.”

“I, yeah, I... Uh-huh,” Willow said breathily. “So, when we get back...” A frown crossed her face. “Wait.”

“What?”

“What about this is bad?”

“What about what?” Tara asked.

“This is supposed to be... ooh scary, change your ways,” Willow pointed out, waving an arm to encompass the couple on the bed. “How is this bad?”

“I... yeah,” Tara said, suddenly sounding indignant. “Anya!”

“Already?” the ghost said, coming through the door at a fast stride. “That was, oh wow, TMI,” she cut herself off, spinning around to keep the older couple out of her view.

“How is this something I’d want to avoid?” Tara demanded.

“It’s... I don’t...” Anya stammered, almost glancing at the bed in confusion and halting herself.

“It’s...” Tara said, looking back, then at Willow. “You don’t mind?”

“I mean under the circumstances,” Willow said.

“You can look,” Tara said to Anya. “On behalf of... us, future us, however that works.”

“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to see, just not what...” She trailed off as she properly took in the bed and its occupants, then took a breath and turned side-on to it, facing the other Willow and Tara again.

“That doesn’t look... bad,” she said.

“We know!” Willow exclaimed.

“I... it’s not necessarily the whole thing with the grave and me dragging chains around - I hate that, they chafe,” the ghost muttered, “but something is-”

“This is literally what I’d suggest for a best case scenario,” Tara said flatly. “Using the word literally properly, as well.”

“Look, Tanya-” Anya began.

“Tara.”

“I- what?”

“My name’s Tara,” Tara repeated. Anya peered at her intently.

“Not Tanya?” she asked eventually.

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!” Tara insisted. Anya continued to stare at her.

“I am sure,” Tara added after a moment.

“I uh, I can confirm that,” Willow offered. Anya looked at her, then back at Tara, then squared her shoulders.

“One moment please,” she said politely, then turned her back and whipped out her phone.

“Olaf? No, fine. Look I’m here with Tanya McCrae,” she said, as Willow and Tara exchanged incredulous glances, “could you... no. No, Tanya. No, I filled in the form myself. Yes. What? My handwriting is-” She paused and took a deep breath. “Can we discuss this when I get back? Thank you.”

She closed the phone and turned back to Willow and Tara, with a bright smile that didn’t quite manage to reach her eyes.

“So there’s been a tiny mix-up,” she admitted. “So what we do in this situation is... um. Obviously I’ll give you a lift back to your natural time and place, and... then we just... I’m sorry,” she finished, her shoulders slumping.

“So there’s... there’s nothing wrong? With me?” Tara asked.

“Not unless you’re a soccer coach from Vermont,” Anya said glumly. “Which I acknowledge I might’ve asked about before now.”

“So that’s...” Tara began, then her glare softened at the sight of Anya’s palpable embarrassment.

“So we’re going home now?” she asked, more gently.

“Um, yeah,” Anya nodded. “Yeah I suppose so. Unless you need to...” She almost glanced at the bed again, then stopped herself.

“I uh,” Willow piped up, taking a last - and far less awkward - look at the bed herself. “I think we’re, we’re good.”

“We’re good,” Tara agreed.

“Okay. Return trip should be-”

Image


“-smoother - good.”

“We’re home,” Tara whispered, and she and Willow looked around the familiar living room.

“Yep,” Anya said, mustering a half-hearted smile. “So um... Keep up the, you know, good work. Sorry about this.”

“I... guess. No harm done,” Willow said, glancing at Tara for confirmation, and getting a nod.

“I don’t suppose there’s any chance either of you had any epiphanies anyway?” Anya went on. “It’d look good if I could write something on my close-of-file report. Not that Olaf can apparently read it anyway,” she added in an undertone.

“If, if it helps, at all,’ Tara said, “we... I suppose, I made a decision about something I’ve been undecided on.”

“Really? Okay, I’ll take it,” Anya said, seemingly perked up a bit. “Thanks. Well. Merry... do you two celebrate Christmas?”

“Not religiously, but sure,” Tara said. “Hanukkah and solstice, mainly.”

“Okay, happy Hanukkah then. Merry solstice? Do you say merry for-”

She vanished mid-sentence, leaving Willow and Tara to stare at each other in baffled silence for several minutes.

“It must be that cushion for the psyche she mentioned,” Willow said at last, “but this whole thing is kind of... I’m feeling like, okay that’s done, on with life as usual.”

“Me too,” Tara said. She let out a deep sigh, then nudged Willow and grinned. “You like doing well on tests? You said, when we were in your bedroom?”

“Oh, yeah,” Willow chuckled.

“I think we got a passing mark from the... supernatural bureaucracy, or whatever’s out there.”

“Oh. Yeah!” Willow agreed, smiling. “At the least. Gold star if you ask me.”

“Gold star,” Tara nodded. “Help me find where I dropped that mistletoe?”

“Don’t have to ask me twice,” Willow grinned. “Then you can tell me all about your thought processes re: nipples. Skip nothing.”

“Definitely skip nothing,” Tara said. “I want us to keep that gold star. Willow?”

"Yes?"

"You're the one I want to go through time with."

Willow beamed, and gently kissed her.

"We just did," she said.

"True," Tara agreed.

"Let's do it again the slow way," Willow suggested.

"Let's."

Image

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Chris Cook
Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring A Christmas Carol
PostPosted: Thu Dec 26, 2019 3:14 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Chris :bigkiss :bigkiss :bigkiss :wtkiss :wtkiss :wtkiss

What a lovely little sweet, Christmassy excursion! I wanted to write a Christmas fic but I just couldn't come up with anything that justified them. You pulled this off SO EXCELLENTLY!

I was wondering (dreading?) what their future might be that would cause Ghost-Anya to show up and I just LOVE how you pulled off while keeping your own unique form of optimistic and loving flair that is always so central to your stories and makes them such a joy to read. This was a real bright spark of Christmas light just burrowing into my heart. Thanks so much for gifting us this wonderful nugget!

I definitely hope that ole' muse of yours is reignited with this and we might see some new fics to light up everyone's 2020!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring A Christmas Carol
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:08 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

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Posts: 359
I loved your Christmas-story, such a wonderful gift for us readers. :bow Willow and Tara were so cute together in every timeline! :bigkiss :flower
Did I understood correctly that Tara works as a doctor in a fertility-clinic and Willow as a programmer for the NASA?

Quote:
“Already?” the ghost said, coming through the door at a fast stride. “That was, oh wow, TMI,” she cut herself off, spinning around to keep the older couple out of her view.

Quote:
She trailed off as she properly took in the bed and its occupants, then took a breath and turned side-on to it, facing the other Willow and Tara again.

“That doesn’t look... bad,” she said.

:laugh Ghost-Anya has much more tact than canon-Anya who would probably watch them without any embarrassment (and might even rate their performance :wink ).

Quote:
“Wait, we didn’t become girlfriends on Christmas,” Willow frowned. “That was October.”

“It doesn’t have to be Christmas,” Anya said, with a long-suffering sigh. “That was Dickens’ idea. He said it’d read better.”

“Uh, question?” Tara said, raising her hand. “Why aren’t I, um... we just saw our own past, and I’m fine?”

“It’s the out-of-time thing again, don’t worry about it,” Anya said, businesslike. “We make it that way on purpose. Otherwise every time we helped someone turn their lives around they’d immediately wind up in an institution raving about time ghosts and wearing a tinfoil hat. Would kind of defeat the purpose. Think of it as if we put a big pillow down so your psyche has a soft landing from this.


Great inside-scoop into the "3-ghosts-business"! I always wondered how this whole "Change your ways!"-thing with the Christmas-ghosts would work if the pivotal moments that need to be seen didn't /won't happen during Christmas-time...

I'm looking forward to your next story, as usual...Maybe you could revisit the kissing-fairy and her genie on Valentine's Day, or your muse might kiss you again in the She'Ra verse - that would be awesome!


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring A Christmas Carol
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:11 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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That was great! :bounce

I was wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.
I assumed it was going to be a big non-issue, like, 'If you keep on this way, sure you'll have a family, and be happy, but not a millionaire!'
Or something.

A mix-up makes a lot of sense.
Bravo! :kiss1

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Anthology of Interest! featuring A Christmas Carol
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2020 8:32 pm 
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Hi everyone, and thanks :bounce (Sorry I didn't reply sooner, I used up all my leave to basically take January off. Back at work now... fixing all the messes that people made while I wasn't there to stop them... :buried )

Laragh wrote:
I definitely hope that ole' muse of yours is reignited with this and we might see some new fics to light up everyone's 2020!

I hope so too. Writing doesn't come as easily as it used to, unfortunately - not sure how I managed to do all those She-Ra episodes at my work desk. But fingers crossed.

Will's redemption wrote:
Did I understood correctly that Tara works as a doctor in a fertility-clinic and Willow as a programmer for the NASA?

Yep - I didn't want to have the story sprawl out too much from the central Christmas Carol encounter, but I thought it'd be a shame to not find out a bit about daily life for this version of our girls. Willow's work life is based on a bit I read in a book about JPL's various missions to the outer system moons, which mentioned the publicity gap between the people who get to produce the fancy photos, and those who just keep the spacecraft on course. Tara's a doctor (the GP type, although I'm fuzzy on exactly what qualifications are involved for what role) and works at a planned parenthood clinic. (I did also have the notion, in the future time period, that they'd find out they had a daughter, and subsequently a small grandchild by that point, but on further consideration I thought it seemed a little odd to introduce an element of 'let's do this thing we saw in the future' to the decision to have a child, so I had Anya cut short the exploration of their future home before they noticed any family photos.)

Will's redemption wrote:
]Ghost-Anya has much more tact than canon-Anya who would probably watch them without any embarrassment

True - she was actually going to be Buffy at one stage (and Anya would in turn be Tara's co-worker who glared at protesters to frighten them off), but I ended up going with Anya for the star role, in her early-appearance persona where she's still a professional demon, before being human gave her all her distracting thoughts.

Will's redemption wrote:
I'm looking forward to your next story, as usual...Maybe you could revisit the kissing-fairy and her genie on Valentine's Day, or your muse might kiss you again in the She'Ra verse - that would be awesome!

I've got plans for She-Ra, but at the moment I'm keeping that on hold while the Netflix series is doing its thing (which is substantially different - although nonetheless excellent). I do have one other idea I'm hoping to make some headway on this year, although it's an unusual format (first person - it's Tara narrating the story) so I'm not sure if that'll prove challenging.

Azirahael wrote:
I was wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.
I assumed it was going to be a big non-issue, like, 'If you keep on this way, sure you'll have a family, and be happy, but not a millionaire!'
Or something.

Funny thing, the ideas of Christmas Carol and it all being a mix-up due to Anya's poor handwriting both popped up at exactly the same time - there was never a moment when I was trying to figure out how to resolve the 'change your ways' plotline, it just turned up with the 'Tanya' bit fully formed. It all actually became a way to use a few ideas I'd been keeping around for a while - elderly hot W&T being one, another was Tara singing 'Time in a Bottle' (I had the Muppet cassette tape she's talking about - got all the dvds now, of course).

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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