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

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((11/?-February 19, 2019))
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:55 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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OH, YES! Thank the Heavens, the Maker or whoever your preferred deity is! Keep on posting and updating,...I LOVE it!!
Oh, and Thank You!

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[font=][font=]Strength in our arms, truth on our tongue, clarity in our heart[/font][/font]


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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((14/?-February 19, 2019))
PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2019 11:00 am 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
@MotherD: Thank you so much!! I'm so glad you're reading and enjoying! Stay tuned, we've got a lot more to go :grin

Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


With a whoosh, automatic doors opened and blasted an air-conditioned gust onto sweaty skin, creating the pleasant cooling sticky sensation that only summer can bring.

Rubbing her arms in a vain attempt to chase the growing goose bumps from her flesh, Dawn grabbed a shopping cart and started meandering towards the school supplies.

Anya accompanied her, looking skeptically at the products in front of her, as if suspecting they were all sub-par. "So," she said, "Have you given any more thought to my spectacularly-prepared suggestions?"

Dawn rolled her eyes, "Anya, you've cut out every single coupon from the newspapers and magazines for the last month and flagged the best deals with hi-lighters and post-its." Scrunching up her face, she added as an afterthought, "And it's still August."

Seeming quite pleased with herself, Anya started parading down the aisles, admiring the colorfully-labeled rollback prices along the way.

"Well, you can never be too prepared. Careful and well-researched purchasing is the cornerstone of American capitalism. You don't want to jump in all willy-nilly into the market, do you?"

Despite knowing it was best to ignore any discussion about free enterprise with Anya, Dawn stubbornly refused to give in to her quips. "I'm not jumping into anything. It's just back-to-school sales. They're the same every year. Chill."

"Everyone keeps telling me that, but I don't understand,” said Anya in a suddenly less-than-cheerful mood.

Slightly confused, Dawn asked, "What, back-to-school sales?"

Anya waved Dawn's question away with a flick of her wrist and continued, "Chill. You use the word so casually but do you have any idea what it's like trying to pretend everything is perfectly normal all the time? I can't chill."

Awareness crept upon Dawn as she recognized the simmering anger behind Anya's voice. It was a bitter frustration that pressed upon the chest like a slowly turning vise. The hurt it left behind in its destructive grip left nothing sacred. She knew because it had ensnared them all.

"Things just keep getting worse for you humans, how can you stand it? I'm…riddled with these unpleasant feelings and memories and I can't do anything about it! I visit Tara twice a week, and I don't understand why it still doesn't feel any better."

It kept spilling out, unbidden and unending, and it was all Dawn could do to stand and watch helplessly with somber understanding.

"This ache isn't going away and none of you will talk about it! I mean, my god, don't you ever tire of bottling everything up?"

The tension was palpable. It wore thin on restraint and stoicism by testing even the furthest limits of Scooby suppression. It cracked them slowly. Differently. They were each caught in the deepest muck and drowning slowly. This time, no one was coming to rescue them.

How did we get so lost?

Willow was gone, nursing and rehabilitating in England with Giles, and Dawn didn't know if she was ever coming back. Even if she made it back to Sunnydale, Willow would never really come back. Not without Tara.

Buffy, on the other hand, was so laden with guilt, it was a miracle she was still standing. Dawn could see it press on Buffy's shoulders in the morning when she didn't think Dawn was watching. How could she have missed it before? Blinded by admiration and sisterly jealousy, Dawn had mistaken the sad and lonely burden of the Slayer for glory and celebrity. She was glad, now, to have escaped that fate. She could grow and be loved and have a life all her own, safe from destiny and circumstance.

Anya and Xander… Well, they danced so finely around each other, Dawn wasn't sure where they stood. Hell, Anya and Xander weren't even sure. Tangled in the past, they simply couldn't figure out how to unravel and just forgive themselves. And each other.

And Tara…Tara was dead. There would be no more milkshakes and movies, no more morning couch-cuddles or pancakes. A great warmth was gone and Dawn had never felt so utterly alone, motherless once more.

"Anya. I get it," Dawn spoke, sounding very small.

Anya made a face and shrugged, as if embarrassed, and gently put an arm around Dawn's shoulders. Abandoning the shopping cart, they exited the store, fading into the summer wash of customers and cars.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

The quiet suited her.

It soothed and whirled in the wind as it caressed her, gently blowing wild her hair and rubbing raw her skin.

The wind didn't speak. It didn't quietly cower like the Coven or blatantly forgive like Giles. It simply blew the broken pieces of Willow into blessed nothingness as she sat. And as far as she was concerned, it was the most welcoming thing on earth.

The tree was her furthest hiding spot from the cottage. Sometimes, when the prospect of living seemed too daunting and paralyzing, she needed the quiet growth and easy seclusion of the woods for company.

The magic lessons, of course, didn't help. The magic was where it all began. And ended. There was nothing Willow wanted to be farther away from than it.

A part of her was innocently fascinated with what the Coven taught her. How it was all connected—Gaia and the root systems, like millions of tiny computer wires in a vast network. But every tendril she followed in the system drew to a forsaken, shuddering end. It might have all been connected, but none of it led back to Tara.

So what was the point?

The interest ended there.

She engaged them, of course. The good student was too deeply ingrained to ignore, and it proved useful. But this time, no dormant, hopeful purity hid underneath. The driving force wasn't thirst for knowledge or geekish habit, but an empty inevitability.

All she wanted was a silent solitude; to be left alone and meditate until nothing remained. But they pressed, with their magic and teachings, so she had no choice but to learn.

"Willow, you must try to focus."

And because she had nothing left, she did. She took deep breaths and tried to imagine the edges of her sight hazing into white. But white just made her think of red. Faltering, she looked desperately into Ms. Hartness' eyes, her own pleading and begging and raw with fear.

"Willow, listen to my voice. Hum with me."

Weakly, she had forced her vocal cords to vibrate. Small and fragile at first, but with Ms. Hartness' hum resonating in the background, Willow inhaled and started again low. She didn't have the strength to tighten the pitch, but the deep strum grew strong and steady on its own.

The hum encompassed her, filled her bones with a resonating rhythm, and drugged her mind. Willow sank into the vibrations in her chest, down into the dark, and a warm tendril pulled forth and surrounded her in a giant yawn.

Nothing existed in the black except the safe and the pulsating warm. Willow was no more or no less than a hum.

Slowly, percolating drops of consciousness seeped into her mind, collecting and forming shape. It was an hour later that Willow fully came into herself again.

Her eyes fluttered open into the dusky light and she saw the patient, tender face of Ms. Hartness wearily smiling back at her proudly.

Willow hadn't understood until later, as she lay in bed in the dark, that she had relearned how to fall asleep. Away from the nightmares, Willow circumvented her way to slumber. Safe from the white, red, and inevitably, the blue.

Willow sat up straight as she inhaled fully, stretching her and back and lungs. She stood and balanced herself on the tree, momentarily dizzy and lightheaded.

When the fuzz around her vision cleared, the long green stared in front of her; speckled with grass, shrubs, and wildflowers.

With a lasting breath, Willow began the long trek back.

It's time to learn.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Will, it's time you learned how to do this," Tara began patiently.

Approaching the counter with more than a hint of trepidation, Willow asked timidly, "Are you sure? My cooking skills are kinda not so great. Remember the George Forman grill? It's not so George Forman-y anymore."

Tara smiled at the memory of the deceased kitchen appliance’s demise. "That reminds me, sweetie, lesson number one: Grilling, baking, and cooking are three very different things."

"Uh, right. Okay. And sautéing is….?"

"A type of frying," Tara answered with a half-grin. "But don't forget the roasting, boiling, searing, poaching, braising, and deep-frying."

A look of blank awe smacked Willow across the face. "Wow. That's uh… a lot of terms."

Her smile never faltering, Tara nodded as she twisted around and reached for the cabinets. "Mhmm, so we'd better get started."

"Tara?" Willow squeaked.

Tara retracted her arm and turned around to face her girlfriend, who had backed herself into the island counter in the middle of the kitchen. "Yes?"

Gnawing her bottom lip, Willow glanced down at her feet before nervously asking, "What if I can't cook it right?"

At that moment, Tara fell in love with Willow all over again. Right down to her jittery, bouncing toes encased in fuzzy pink socks.

Seeing Tara's lazy smile grow even wider, Willow grew puzzled. "Why are you smiling? This isn't smiley-face material. This is…I-could-start-a-fire-and-burn-the-house-down material. Not at all with the good."

Crossing her arms, Tara asked, "Willow, can I ask you a question?"

"Of course."

"What's sodium chloride?"

"Um, the ionization of sodium and chlorine atoms?"

Nodding, Tara questioned further. "Good. And what is the square root of pi squared."

After a moment of contemplation, a baffled Willow squeaked, "Uhhhh, pi?"

Opening a cabinet door, Tara pulled out a bowl and a large wooden spoon from the drawer near her thigh. Slapping them on the countertop next to Willow, she slid close to her lover, feeling their legs and hips melt together like warm chocolate. "And how did you know both of those answers?"

Growing incredibly distracted by the lips dancing in front of her eyes, Willow offered, "Three quarters of a bachelor’s degree and a handful of mediocre classes in high school?"

Putting her arms on the counter on either side of Willow, Tara leaned in and whispered, "Follow the formula."

Gulping, Willow's brain wasn't making the neural connections necessary to catch Tara's point. "Following the…what?"

Pulling back with an extremely satisfied look on her face, Tara grabbed the bag of flour and placed it into Willow's capable hands. "The recipe for salt requires synthesis of the ingredients sodium and chloride. For the other, you had to first multiply 3.14 by itself, then divide that by itself to reach a conclusion, yes?"

Willow nodded.

"All you have to do in order to cook is break down the recipe into an equation. It's no different than a science experiment or a math problem. Follow. The. Steps," Tara finished, punctuating the last words with a kiss on Willow’s nose.

The pieces finally clicking into place, a warm confidence poured into Willow, and her face blossomed into a brilliant smile. "How do you do that?"

Tara gathered Willow in a loose embrace, "Well, it was easy 'cause I love you so much. But I'll admit, I had an ulterior motive."

Looking up into Tara's eyes, the redhead implored, "And what might that be exactly?"

"Well, where would you be when you want to pamper your poor, sick girlfriend who's stuck in bed with the flu and you don't know how to make pancakes?"

With a burst of laughter, Willow pecked Tara lovingly on the cheek and began gathering supplies and ingredients with a vivacious flourish.

Soon, buttermilk pancakes were sizzling in the pan and Willow was stirring another batch of batter in a bowl. The kitchen was pregnant with love, and the air was laden with the warm scent of baking. Blissfully content, Tara soaked up the smell of a perfect Sunday mo-

Tara's eyes fluttered open to the sunshine dancing through the window blinds. She lay under the blankets, still a bit groggy from her dream. It had been so easy for the memory-smell of pancakes to sensually waft her into consciousness. She let the familiar heaviness settle into her heart like it did every morning, but suddenly her eyes snapped open.

Wait. Where's that smell coming from?

Tara yanked her bathrobe from where it hung on the wardrobe and pulled it on when every single nerve in her body jumped in alarm.

Tara froze.

A clang. It may have been muffled through the floorboards, but a definite and resounding clang reverberated throughout the house and shattered her world.

Tara's pulse pounded in her ears as she stood motionless, but was soon jolted into action as she heard indistinct mutterings join the clattering downstairs.

No. It's impossible.

Scrambling to the door, Tara flattened one palm against the hard surface and cracked open the door. The cool air from the hallway blew onto Tara's face and she closed her eyes with joyous rapture.

It had been so long, oh so long since she had heard those sounds— any sounds. Tears leaked from her eyes. It was almost unrecognizable, this feeling. So foreign, Tara had long given up any expectation of having it again. Something as simple as hope had abandoned her. Yet here it was, sizzling and glowing and welling within her, as she let herself believe her waiting might be over.

She was about to swoop down the stairs in excitement, but a sudden fear caused Tara to pull back. Was it all another trick? A dream? For all Tara knew, she could still be asleep now, floating on the tendrils of fantasy, only to again wake with a horrible and consuming emptiness.

But the smell. It pulled her from her misgivings and she took a first step into the hallway. Hardly breathing, as if it would shatter the possibility of the moment, Tara slowly crept down the stairs, each step bringing her closer to the euphoric noises in the kitchen. Slinking across the floor, Tara's heart resumed its rapid fluttering as the sounds in the kitchen grew clearer. It nearly thumped out of her chest when she saw a body at the counter.

Whatever hope had blossomed inside Tara earlier, in an instant burned to ashes. The metallic taste of copper invaded her mouth and her heart dropped into her stomach. The smile that had graced her face withered into a grotesque twist when the figure turned to face her.

As Tara wavered in the doorway to the kitchen, Spike turned around, spatula in hand, and watched her fall to her knees.

"Oh, you. Need more eggs," was all Tara heard before she blissfully let blackness claim her.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((14/?-February 23, 2019))
PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 8:23 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Buffy shuffled into the kitchen just in time to see Xander grab a carton of juice from the fridge. He pulled a glass from the cabinet over the sink and turned, offering her a cheery salutation.

"Ahh, mornin', Buff. I see you're all rise with the shine."

The morning Slayer greeted him with less enthusiasm, grabbed a cup for herself, and motioned for him to pour her some juice as well, before slumping into a chair. She drained the cup in a few gulps, put the glass down onto the counter, and grunted a reply. "Ugh. Mornings? So not my thing."

"Funny, considering how many times you get to see it after a whole night of not sleeping."

Since the juice had little effect on her ravenous appetite, Buffy shot Xander a look of pure unamusement before getting up to grab a box of Pop-Tarts from the shelf.

Xander returned the look with one of his own, as he asked, "Which leads me to my next question: How is it you've clearly never been introduced to the world of breakfast foods before?"

With a look of mock offense on her face, Buffy held up a foil-encrusted package, "I'm all about the breakfast foods! This? Total nutrition. It's a meal in pancake form."

Xander raised his eyebrows and countered, "Yeah, if normal pancakes had partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, and chemicals starting with the letter 'x' in them that no-one-can-pronounce, then sure… color them nutritious."

The sound of footsteps thundering down the stairs interrupted the wildly entertaining conversation. Dawn strutted into the kitchen, and squealed at Buffy, "Oooh, Pop-Tarts? Sa-weet!" She yanked the other sugar bomb out of the package and promptly began devouring it with gusto.

Buffy threw her hands up in frustration. "Have you no respect for your elders?"

"Actually, I'm a few thousand years old. So, technically? I'm older than you."

Before the sisterly affections got out of hand, Xander interrupted, "Ooookay, I think that's enough breakfast talk for now.”

“What, no more discussions of Pop Tarts or Fruit Loops?”

Xander claps his hands together, “Hows about I take Dawnie here out for a tour of her happy, new Hellmouthy home?"

Despite the fact that her mouth was still full, Buffy tried to speak, "Mmm! Xander, don't forget to bring the plans back before school starts." She turned to Dawn, wagged her finger, and continued, "And you, missy, best behavior. Don't even think about trying to steal Tito's hammer again. I won't get in the way of the angry carpenter next time."

Dawn rolled her eyes and huffed, "Omigod. For the tenth time, Xander dared me to."

Xander shook his head and smiled nervously as he quickly shuffled Dawn out, waving to Buffy as they left.

The kitchen felt hollow now, empty of all noise and sound. Silence slowly settled like a cloak and hummed against her skin. Buffy turned back around to face the window above the sink and stared into the sunlight.

She watched the particles float in and out of the flickering shadows of the blinds, swirling and dancing in the luminous rays. They warmed Buffy's face as she closed her eyes, letting her skin soak up the soft moment for a long while.

Then, she grabbed the phone from the cradle, dialed, and waited for the call to go through. After a moment, she heard a small click as someone picked up.

"Giles?"

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The first thing she noticed was the sound. It pounded and pulsed everywhere.

With a groan, Tara tried to sit up but a sharp twinge forced her to fall back down. As the pain subsided, she realized the loud sound was, in fact, her head throbbing. As she reached up to rub her temple, Tara opened her eyes tenderly and blinked several times to get used to the light.

She found herself lying on the couch in the living room and again attempted to sit up. This time, however, she was met with success.

From the left, she heard, "Careful, luv. You hit the floor hard, bound to leave a mark."

In a flourish of panic and alarm, Tara fell off the couch and scrambled back as fast as she could, hitting the far wall with a thump. She clutched her chest and felt her heart pound. "W-w-wh…" Too shocked and rattled to speak clearly, Tara cursed herself, and tried again. "What are you?" she hissed.

"What, you don't know me? Spike. Vampire. Big Bad. Helped you Samaritans out of the goodness of my own heart."

Tara shook her head, still crouched on the floor. She was about to speak when Spike interrupted her.

"And I should be askin' you the questions here, luv. You're the one that died," he finished, slumping back into the couch.

The blood in her veins turned to ice.

What?

Somewhere, Tara vaguely remembered feeling numb in the tips of her fingers.

Spike examined his fingernails and reclined in his seat, hoisting his feet up onto the tabletop. "Great. So I'm stuck in some crazy dimension with Red's dead bird. Brilliant."

Dead. Is that what all this is? Tara heard his words through a fog. Time had slowed in a tiny space of her mind. Endless days passed through her mind, reflecting the lonely hours that had loomed ahead, scratched bare of hope or belief.

She remembered the first few terrifying and horrific days. But nothing, nothing had been worse than the first moments.

Willow was radiant. The room had glowed. No, she had glowed with an intense love that warmed Tara right to the gut like a shot of whiskey. It started in the throat, trickled down into her bowels, and spread through her system, leaving Tara merrily drunk in its stead.

Everything was perfect.

She should have known, right then, when people are happiest on the Hellmouth, that something wrong would happen. Blinded by Willow-light, Tara hadn't heard the window shatter. She hadn't registered anything other than her love's beauty marred.

"Your shirt…" she had said, before she tripped, numbed and shocked, to the ground.

She had to get up. Willow was covered in blood. She must have been hurt. Willow was hurt, and Tara had to get to her. She pushed the cold away and scrambled to her feet, desperate to help.

"WILLOW!"

The room was gone. Willow was gone.

Tara snapped around, her hair whipping the side of her face, causing several strands to catch at the side of her mouth.

She faced the White.

Piercing ivory surrounded her on all sides and she tried to find her way back. The air was thick — cottony and unyielding. Tara yelled and sprinted forward with her arms outstretched. As if a giant wall had suddenly relented, Tara's momentum propelled her through the White and downward as it gave way, causing her head to smack into a maroon carpeted floor.

She forced her head up, and used her hands to push herself unsteadily to her knees. Darkness pressed on the backs of her eyelids, but she stubbornly wobbled up. She jolted forward, "NO!"

The room was back. But Willow was gone.

Tara had spent countless nights screaming into nothing, and days frantically searching Sunnydale for any signs of life. She hadn't showered. She hadn't rested. She hadn't eaten. She hadn't done anything except look for a way back. And when that hadn't worked, she found herself melting in sobs of hysteria.

She had finally succumbed to exhaustion and slept for what felt like days. It had been the only time she had slept through the night since.


Spike's words were far away, but eventually they seeped into Tara's ear and registered at once. Her head snapped up and she looked wildly into Spike's eyes. "What?"

Realization slowly dawned on Spike and he looked at her with a hint of curiosity.

"You really don't know, do you?" He asked curiously.

Tara shook her head.

Spike let a long sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "Word on the streets says you died a few months back. Shot."

Ice filled her chest.

No, it can't be.

"No," she said firmly, speaking more to herself than to him. "Willow was shot."

Her stomach churned and her throat pounded. Tara shook her head forcefully. "No, she can't be. I promised I'd never leave again. I p-promised I'd never l-leave."

Air couldn't come fast enough. It seemed to evaporate the moment it entered her lungs. She tried to gulp it down, but her breathing hitched and gave way to a sob. And that sob to another.

Suddenly, there seemed to be no end to the river that flowed out of her. She cried for all the nights she had spent grasping a pillow to her breast hoping to shake the darkness from her heart. She cried for the mornings she woke with screams and the sound of a window shattering echoing in her ears. She cried for herself. But mostly she cried for Willow. And how it was that she existed without her.

Spike must have gotten off the couch at some point, because eventually an arm started to stiffly rub her back, awkward but genuine. Through her tears, Tara clutched onto him and gave herself over to the only arms that had held her in months.

And there she sat, hunched on the floor, crippled by grief and bruised by circumstance as she let her aching heart cry.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((16/?-February 24, 2019))
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:32 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Willow felt her then.

Right…there.

A deep pang of Tara that sliced her open and made her gasp with hurt. The pain was suddenly everywhere. She felt it echo and pound around her, dragging her down into the deep. Willow cried out, felt her knees buckle, and the world spin.

In a flash, Giles dipped to catch Willow where she fell, and kneeled in the grass, holding her strongly. The ground was damp from the rain the day before, and tiny water bubbles surfaced as his boots squished into the grass. He had missed the subtle nuances of the earth while in Sunnydale. The pristine California sunshine had spoiled him, but here he remembered how to relish the wet mornings and early fog. They rooted him, deep and ancient, into the countryside. He felt more connected than he had in a long time. In the end, maybe that was one of the reasons he had brought Willow here. Perhaps here she could feel the rustic strength and wisdom that infused the weary and the lost. Including him.

Laden with Willow's dead weight, Giles counted the moments until she regained consciousness. He never got used to them, but eventually grew accustomed to the bouts of heartache and agony that overwhelmed Willow and forced her to the ground. He knew the blackouts were connected with her lessons. The new magick introduced into her black-scarred system were bound to have their bumps and bruises along the way. She needed to re-learn how to use the light she was given.

He sighed.

I was so blind. So foolishly blind.


He knew the dirty residuals that rehabilitation created, clinging like sand to clammy flesh. It had haunted him in dark corners when Slaying business had retired for the evening and he was left alone in his house with naught but a smooth glass of scotch for company. How little he had touched magic since the days of Ripper. He let the power shrivel inside, too afraid to wrestle with his own potential. For good or bad, he didn't care to find out.

The dank guilt of his deeds tumbled inside of him for decades, sequestered, but never forgotten. It nagged on his conscious and pulled often, like a gentle tug. Don't forget me, it said.

He never forgot.

He did, however, hoard his flaws, like nuts for the winter, keeping them safe and secret. And because he was narrow in his ways and determined not to let the past repeat itself, he inadvertently let it happen anyway. He ignored the warning signs and led his daughter astray. His fears and shortcomings had led to her downfall, and he would not be so quick as to let it happen ever again.

And so he held her protectively, and waited for her to return.

As the third minute slowly ticked by, Giles felt Willow stir.

Gently, he thought.

He watched her eyelids tremble and flutter. Her green eyes, dull like frosted sea glass, quivered open and she looked up at the pale sky. A moment passed as she stared blankly, her gaze passing over the faraway clouds. Willow's face strained as she pursed her lips, closed her eyes, and exhaled through her nose.

Giles felt like he was intruding on a desperately private moment. He quietly cleared his throat, and soft as a lamb's breath asked, "Are you all right?"

Eyes still closed, Willow nodded and pressed her head into Giles' sleeve. "Can you just…hold me for a moment? Please?"

"I'd love nothing more." With that, he kissed the top of her head, and gazed at the spongy green hills across the valley, crowned with clusters of trees, as the sun made its way, tumbling through the sky.

His eyes were filled with green and his hand with red as Giles absentmindedly stroked Willow's hair. Thoughts of his recent phone call circled lazily in his mind, lingering like day-old baked goods at the grocery store.

Buffy's voice had warmed him instantly. The brittle ice surrounding his spirit melted with the spring of her bright greeting. His eyes had crinkled at the corners like tissue paper when he smiled. He had forgotten, just for a moment, that there was more to the world than pain and grief.

Trust Buffy to remind me.

It was more than just a phone call, really. Buffy had sounded much more collected than she had in quite some time. There wasn't a secret weariness or reluctant acceptingness that tinged her every move. Buffy seemed…ready. And Giles was proud of her. She had done it all on her own, and he knew at what cost.

The call started innocently enough, with light banter sprinkled in like cinnamon, but soon he could hear the nervous curiosity that tinged her voice. It was a full twelve minutes before he even broached the topic of Willow.

"Giles, are you sure? I thought this was supposed to be a six-month shindig. Now you're telling me she's ready all of a sudden?"

"Buffy, this not about it being sudden. She doesn't have a choice in the matter, it's time."

"Time for what, the Copacabana? This isn't some sort of Coven initiation test, is it? See if she goes all Dark-Eyed-Magic-Mamma again at the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign? 'Cause I don't much like the sound of that."

Giles' loud sigh could be heard muffled into the receiver. "Some matters have merely been taken into account, and we've come to the realization that it's time for Willow to go back. No tests, no dark magic, no experiments."

There was a pause.

"'We've come'? Giles, does Will even know she's coming back yet?"


A lack of motion made Giles realize his hand had stilled, and was now resting heavily atop Willow's head. He looked down to see that she had cradled her fist beneath her chin and was clutching her other arm close to her chest. Her eyes still stared blankly into the hills beyond.

Ever so gently, Giles took his hand and nudged Willow's chin, tilting her head so she looked up at him. He stared deep into her eyes, leaden and weary, and felt the weight of a world on his shoulders.

He took a deep breath to steel himself, felt the saturated air permeate every pore in his lungs with a primordial strength, then met her gaze. "Willow," he began. "We must talk."
____________________________________________________________________________________________________
The afternoon light was heavy with gold as the hours slowly matured into early evening, saturating the air. Shadows stretched across the floor, reaching and crawling under furniture and up walls. Twilight was coming, and Spike was tired. The sun was sucking all the energy from his bones, he didn’t remember the last time he’d been awake with the sun and it was exhausting.

He sank deeper into the couch, absentmindedly flipping through a magazine that had been lying out on the table while Tara fussed about in the kitchen making lunch. It had been hours since either of them had eaten. Eventually Tara wiped her eyes dry at the stubborn insistence of their stomachs. Besides, the crying had to stop sooner or later.

For one thing, Spike had had enough emotion to last him for another two hundred years as far as he was concerned. But strangely it hadn't bothered him as much as he thought it would. He felt a strange calm settle upon him like fine silk at the mere recollection. He might not have known where he was—or, for that matter, why he was, but for now, he had a purpose: Hold Tara.

So hold her he did.

And he felt strong and good. But their growling hunger had interrupted the lonely spasms of heartbreak, so then came resolve and sandwiches.

"Spike, do you want regular turkey, or smoked?"

Not bothering to glance up from the magazine, he didn't miss a beat. "Smoked."

Spike continued to mindlessly flip pages, but the words twisted and blended into a tangle of text. Overcome by a sudden dizzy spell, he pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes, hoping to relieve the pressure. He vaguely heard other voices, muffled, from the kitchen, "Pop Tarts or Fruit Loops?"

As soon as it began, his nausea ceased, and Spike found himself balanced precariously at the edge of the couch. Trying to shake off the strange feeling, he shouted back, "What are you playing at, Blondie? I said I wanted smoked."

A moment later, Tara entered the living room carrying two pale blue ceramic plates, topped high with potato chips and sandwiches, with a frown plastered on her face. "Spike, who are you talking to?"

He opened his mouth to speak, but shut it abruptly and glanced over his shoulder. Seeing nothing, he turned back around to look at Tara who had sat down across the table and was staring at him worriedly. "Spike?"

Tiny alarm bells rang in the back of his brain. Something was wrong. He’d been both undead and around the Slayer gang long enough to know something wasn’t right. Maybe the voices were coming back, but he found himself strangely comforted by that idea—it was nothing more than he deserved.

“Nothing,” he said, changing the topic quickly and gesturing to the sandwich. “S’not blood, but it’ll do.”

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((18/?-February 26, 2019))
PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:21 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


There is a magic, delicate moment, sometime during the inescapable night, when time and space blend together like watercolor.

It had been hours since darkness descended and cast the world into weary shadow, pronouncing the deep tired that seeped into Tara and Spike's bones. It was an exceedingly draining day, and sleep was long overdue.

As the haze of unconsciousness fuzzed Spike's mind, he could no longer recall how long it had been since he'd shut the lights, peeled down the sheets, and crawled into bed. Sleep hummed in the back of his brain, pressing behind the eyes like a faint headache. He recalled, somewhat curiously, how foreign the sheets felt, weighing down his feet at the cliff of the bed. The fabric, although soft, seemed laden with starch when texture rubbed against his skin as he turned onto his stomach and flipped the pillow over to the cool side.

How long had it been since he had lain in a bed? It felt alien, having no chilled stone slab beneath him. Despite the warmth of the layers, the mattress remained distinctly cooler, reminding him, even in sleep, where he had come from- a tattoo of cotton.

But this moment, this delicate wire of transubstantiation, soon began to work its magic.

In that tissue paper veil that shrouds sleepy time thoughts in embryonic cocoons, Spike disintegrated like paper pulp into a vat larger than himself. Soon, feeling passed beyond sensation, and the bed and everything on it ebbed into the ocean of numb. It could have been Dreaming, but there was no sense of self in this place.

No, this was something far greater in which the being known as Spike traveled. It was beyond Space and Time itself.

On and on he tumbled, passing milky nebulas and streaking stars, floating gently through space. It was then that Infinity stretched out with its smoky tentacles, encased him in a haze of possibility and spat him out into the sun.

It was bright, it was sudden, and it sizzled. As the offending pain bored into his flesh, identity smacked back into him like a wet sock and Spike the Vampire was returned to the world.

And there he sat, crumpled up behind a restaurant alley, dumped rather unceremoniously by unknown forces. He stared dumbly at the crust of black nail-polish clinging stubbornly to his cuticles as the voices trickled back into his head. The loudness again overtaking his mind distracted him from the sun while steam slowly started billowing out of the sleeves of his jacket.

His eyebrows furrowed in a weary confusion as a crowd only he could hear pounded in his eardrums. It was familiar, this feeling, and that made him more nervous than anything. Panic grasped him as he raised his head and queried to the empty alleyway, "Mommy?" before his legs crumpled and darkness overtook him.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The heat was disgusting. This particular summer had ushered in that special heat that even a good cold shower can't fix; the second you're dried off, the sticky heat comes back with a vengeance.

Clem wiped his brow and felt beads of perspiration ooze from the 387 separate gland zones on his body, and wished he'd settled somewhere farther east. Where there were four seasons. And where it was cold six months out of the year. Five of which involved snow.

Mmmm, snow.

Clem frowned and tried to push images of white-capped trees and mittens out of his head. Instead, he pinched his soaking, oversized t-shirt in a vain attempt to let it air out. He felt more than conscious sitting in a pool of sweat, but was somewhat comforted knowing his companions were equally plagued. Three straight hours of poker in the back of Willy's Pub could do that to a demon. Hell, it would do that to anyone, demon or otherwise.

Employing a self-control he didn't realize he possessed, Clem managed to keep his fidgeting to a minimum while the table finished its hand. The last card had barely touched the table when he pushed his chair back and slapped his hands on the table. "Well, fellas, this's been fun and all, but I'm thinking a break is in order. Think we can call ten?"

Various hisses, snorts, and whistles replied. "Great, thanks. Oh, and Mike? I have those roaches I owe you, just left them in my car. Thanks for the loan, buddy," he called back as he hovered in the rear doorway.

Business taken care of, Clem turned to face the night. His shoulders sagged in relief as the cooler air in the alleyway nipped at his flesh. His perspiration was bordering on unsanitary, so he took out the small towel he'd decided to carry with him and sopped up the unsightly mess of his glistening skin.

"I bet its fifty degrees and raining in Massachusetts. Why didn't I listen to Mom? She warned me but, nooo. I just had to 'Go west, young demon'," he grumbled as he folded the cloth and put it back into his pocket. He sighed and looked up at the sky. The industrial orange glow of Sunnydale cast itself into the heavens, but a few stars managed to twinkle at him in the distance. Clem waved back, and was mid-swing, heading back inside, when something glittered and caught his eye.

"Oh, no."

Moonlight danced off silver buckles on a pair of black boots sticking out from behind a dumpster. Attached to the boots lay a very unconscious Spike.

As he crept closer, Clem immediately became concerned with the cuts and wounds that littered Spike's body. Parts of his leather jacket had melted onto his skin, which made visible the red and blistering burns that seemed to still sizzle. A deep gash on the cheekbone under his eye looked like something had nibbled on it for dinner. "This is not a good place for you, buddy," Clem grimaced, and knelt down to pick up his friend. He grunted as he hoisted Spike onto his shoulders and staggered under the weight.

Clem had since redecorated the place he was supposed to crypt-sit. As the months had gone by, it hadn't seemed like Spike was returning, so he'd made himself comfortable. Twisting around, he racked his brains for another location. Somewhere safe. Away from prying eyes. And daylight. Especially daylight.

Bingo.

The card game and cockroaches forgotten, Clem set forth with heavy cargo, resolve, and an idea. "All right, let's pray that new high school's up to code. I hope it doesn't collapse again. That would just be… unpleasant." He clambered on, footsteps fading into the distance—and silhouette into the mist—as night swallowed them up in one big gulp.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((18/?-February 26, 2019))
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2019 10:21 pm 
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It's really interesting how the rhythm of your voice changed between then and now. I was reading the first few OG & V2 chaps side-by-side, and the new ones seem more concise while still setting the mood of limbitude...limbo-ness...limbicity...idk...emptiness & waiting.

Can't wait to see the new stuff!

Also, yay! It's out in the wild.


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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((18/?-February 26, 2019))
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:44 am 
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Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
@thespian_phryne: Thank you, that's terribly kind, but do know those changes are mostly due to your editing, right? Sure, there were some embarrassing lines here and there, but you helped sharpen everything. So really you should be thanking yourself.

Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


It was strange, really, the things coming to England had brought—endless dark dreams and night sweats, driving on the wrong side of the road, deep meditations, British slang. But none struck Willow as more odd than adding milk to tea as she sat cushioned in an armchair, cradling a forgotten mug in her lap.

Despite Giles' insistence that tea was the all-time-cure for any ailment, Willow never indulged in the drink. Instead, she preferred a hot, hearty mocha to stir up the blood in her veins. During the later-than-late nights of demon research at the Magic Box, a balmy liquid didn't appeal to her as much as the sugar-rich coffee. Truth be told, she never wanted to be soothed by a quiet cup of tea because there was always the worry of unwinding too much in the face of danger. No, the self-appointed demon researcher couldn't afford respite in tea. Mocha was thick, heavy with caffeine, and necessary to avoid relaxation. In the Scooby world, nothing was more dangerous than getting too comfortable.

Besides, Tara was always the one to drink tea and she drank enough for the both of them. She and Giles often shared an affinity for a midnight cup of chamomile and hushed conversation. In the midst of various research, Willow would secretly watch while the two sat on the second floor overhang, reveling in the magic moment of people she loved, together in harmony. Willow had no need for tea, she had Tara—more perfectly tranquil and steeped than any beverage.

Willow cupped her mug tightly, creating a loose warmth, as though the smooth-as-teeth porcelain might transport her back to such nights. Her legs remained numbed and forgotten, folded beneath her, when the door to the cottage cracked open and ushered in a very wet Ms. Hartness.

Her hair hung in ringlets, matted to her neck and face, while water continued to drip from the tips. Peeling off her jacket, Ms. Hartness hung it on the hook next to the door and valiantly attempted to make some semblance of order out of her tangled hair.

Willow jumped and threw an arm over the chair so she could view her mentor. Noticing the woman's disheveled state, Willow flung into action, clunking the forgotten mug on the table in her haste. Concern immediately flooded her features. "Ms. Hartness, why are you—is everything all right? Was there a storm? Are you hurt? Are you okay?"

"Willow, dear, I'm quite alright, thank you. Although I do believe my umbrella has died a most violent death, I seem to have escaped with a mere soaking. How lucky of me."

Willow's fussing dimmed and her shoulders sagged with a noticeable relief. A soft "Oh," escaped her lips.

"I do believe I've braved far worse weather in this countryside than a mere rainstorm. Though there was that one time years ago during a veritable monsoon and a bottle of, what was it now, Sambuca?"

Ms. Hartness trailed off, squinting at the far wall with fond memories. Willow, in the meantime, stared back with an equally squinty, yet curious expression. "Ms. Hartness?"

"Hmm?"

"Ms. Hartness," she said more firmly, trying to bring her attention back to the present.

"What? Oh yes. Never mind that. Another story for another time, hmm?" Ms. Hartness motioned for them to sit.

"Willow," she said and waited for her to meet her gaze. "I assume that since this is the first time you've missed dinner in quite some time, Rupert has finally told you."

Willow didn't trust her voice. Instead, she nodded and looked at the floor.

"One of us was going to tell you last week, but he came to me and requested to do it himself."

It was all right, after all. Willow had supposed this moment was coming ever since she arrived at the Coven. As much as she longed to stay forever and never go back, a part of her always knew it had to end.

Then again, she'd also never expected to stay for so long. A part of her believed she'd be thrown out after only a few days. Hopeless. Useless. A lost cause. Too evil to be bothered with. She had even packed her bags one morning, but instead of a taxi, she was greeted with hot breakfast.

"But how?"

Ms. Hartness crinkled her forehead in confusion, "Sorry, dear, what?"

Willow didn't even realize she'd spoken, but it was impossible to backtrack now.

She'd never told anyone before, not the group, not the Coven, not even Ms. Hartness or Giles, but there was something that lurked deep within the shadows. Willow could feel it crawling under her skin, up her neck, and in her fingers. It was everywhere. And it oozed. All the time. Always. Everywhere.

It wouldn't have been so terrifying if it came unawares, but The Black struck when she was most focused; it was in the hum when she meditated and the roots when she was at the tree. It grabbed her down like a tide too strong and drowned her in the darkness until she was no more. Giles had been there a few times, but she had a sprinkling of bruises up and down her body for all the times he hadn't. It scared the hell out of her.

"How," her voice cracked, "am I supposed to go back with all this blackness inside of me?"

"Willow."

So wrapped up in her fear, she didn't register that Ms. Hartness had sat next to her and taken her hands in her own. "Willow, look at me."

Numbly she made eye contact, even as hot tears welled, making everything blur.

"You, my dear, are a very special witch. That darkness? It is a remnant. Of the things you've done, of the lessons you've learnt. Had you given into it, you wouldn't feel it at all. It is remorse, it is guilt, it is regret. For everything that has happened and everything that now will be. Embrace it, Willow. It makes you human."

Willow knew she was human, this was no surprise. But after everything she'd learnt on the Hellmouth, being human made you no better than a demon. It just made you worse. Because humans have a choice. And she had made that choice anyway. She had given into it, that darkness, that evil. Sometimes it just seemed easier to end it. A few times she nearly had.

But something smooth, hard, and warm stood in her way. Willow looked down and found the cup of tea in her hands. When had she grabbed it? The tea of midnight, of chamomile, and whispers. The tea of Tara. Willow gripped the mug tighter and resolve bubbled to the surface.

A great glow of Tara infused her. Willow was the water and Tara was the tea. She soaked up the moment, letting Taratea seep into her bones. Willow knew it wouldn't last long, but for now? For this minute? It was enough. Willow breathed through her nose and looked back at Ms. Hartness.

"When do I pack?"
____________________________________________________________________________________________________
It was like finding a needle in a haystack.

Dawn surveyed the ocean of newspapers, magazines, and various ads that surrounded her. She watched Buffy snap the cap onto the now-empty red marker, which had died a noble death after hours making pretty red circles. Dawn sighed.

A huge freaking haystack.

Despite the many benefits and advantages of the fast-food market, making a profit proved impossible, prompting Buffy to quit the Doublemeat Palace. Dawn hadn't minded, actually. They'd eaten so many Doublemeaty Doublechicken Buckets that she swore her hands permanently smelled like grease. Then again, it was probably only half as bad as Buffy felt. A few months earlier, Dawn had glimpsed a bank statement sticking out of an envelope on the desk and it shocked her. She had no idea it was that bad.

It was odd, thinking that after all the world-saving work the Scoobies had done, trivial, bureaucratic things like bills would be the thing to cripple them. It was just so…stupid.

At least last year they'd been somewhat sheltered when Willow, Tara, and Xander had quietly poured in a bit of each paycheck and profit, no matter how tiny, hoping to keep things afloat. Xander still tried sometimes, but Buffy would tuck the envelope back into his jacket pocket when he came over, telling him to put it towards 'living bachelorly'. Whatever that meant.

Dawn, whenever she could, would sneak the envelope back in after a Xanderdate. She knew how much he wanted to help. That's what Xander did. He was a helper. Just like her.

"So. Prospects. What are they?" Dawn asked optimistically, clasping her hands together.

Buffy picked up the pad of paper with the collected list of options. She glanced down and reported, "Thirty-three jobs in twelve different fields, none of which I'm qualified for," before slapping the pad back on the table. "Eight hours of job research, and Giles tells me I don't apply myself. So not fair."

"Well, y'know, he's British, so his ideas of 'applying oneself' include polishing new shoes and are therefore way messed up. I wouldn't trust him."

Buffy gave Dawn an appreciative smile before picking up the pad to stare at it properly.

"I just don't get it, am I that un-hireable?" she muttered miserably. "I mean, sure, I get covered in seven kinds of vampire dust each night, but I clean up real good. I even have," she paused, counting fingers under her breath, "…three shirts without blood on them! Three! That's two more than I had in college!"

"Which you...kinda didn't graduate from." Seeing Buffy's face crumble before her, Dawn quickly stammered on. "Not that you weren't busy saving the world and stuff, and taking care of Mom and me, which is way more important, but the real world is sorta finicky on the degree thing. Which you kinda don't have," she finished meekly with a hopeful cringe.

Exhaling loudly, Buffy sighed, "You're right. And I know you're right. It just sucks. Big-time. Big-time suckage of the Greek Tragedy variety."

Dawn saw it: the instance right before it could all sink. The moment they could both fall into the rut of despondency and miserable silence, a dank, familiar ship that had been capsizing all summer now.

But even if she used all her fingers to plug holes in the hull to keep them from sinking, Dawn was resolute. It was enough, and if Buffy couldn't do it herself, then Dawn would do it for her.

Determined to ride the tide, Dawn grabbed a fresh newspaper and peeled the sections apart, handing one to her sister "Yep. It sucks. But'cha know what else has great variety? All these jobs we haven't looked at yet! There've got to be lots of vacancies on account of all the randomly deceased, dying, and stuff in Sunnydale, it’s just all a matter of timing. The more we put in, the luckier we'll get. See? Glass half-full, to death and destruction."

With a curt nod, Buffy saluted, "You're right. For the second time in two minutes, which has to be a new record. I think you might be taking vitamins." She grabbed the paper and began searching anew.

Pleased with the turn of events, Dawn sat back in her seat and smiled. Oh yeah, Baywatch Dawn. I should totally have my own action figure

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((22/?-March 3, 2019))
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:39 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Tara had been starting to resent the kitchen.

Here she was, again.

Like all other days Since, Tara kept herself busy, but this time it wasn't to trick herself into being calm. Now, she cooked for pleasure, so her hands would have something to do. This time she let her brain think, because she could afford to.

She knew herself well. She could idly sit and think, but that would soon give way to panic, which would serve her no good. No, Tara needed to keep herself together; not for herself anymore, but for him. Never in her life (at least, not after the sixth grade when she realized those strange feelings she felt for the girl who sat behind her in science class were definitely not friendship) did she expect a 'him' to sweep her off her feet. Yet here he was, turning Tara's world topsy-turvy with something as seemingly insignificant as morning pancakes.

It was pleasant, baking for someone other than herself. Normally, she'd pack up a plate of scones, cookies, muffins, or pies and, like a good neighbor would, wrap it in a basket and deposit it on the kitchen tables of other disturbingly empty homes on the street—unholy carcasses of love and family.

At least then the treats weren't sitting on her table, quietly mocking her with their uneaten chocolates and jams.

Before, she was politely throwing her food away in other people's empty houses. Now, she baked for a purpose.

Purpose.

Spike had mumbled something about purpose last night before going to bed, but she had been too tired to think about it at the time. It was only when she'd turned off the lights and was in bed staring at the ceiling that she realized her body was humming. Despite the aching yawn of her bones and the weary strain of her muscles, Tara found she could not fall asleep. Her brain was far too busy.

Purpose. What was hers?

That was simple. To love Willow. It had always been so simple.

But never easy.

Not that Tara didn't feel love for Willow—she felt that with all of her being. But to give that love? To send it? To show it? To live it? There was always something standing in the way.

The demon. Her family. The Scoobies, at first. Glory. Death. Magick…Death.

Closing yet another book that yielded nothing, Tara slumped in her chair and rubbed her face. They'd been researching for weeks, but hadn't been able to find anything — no hidden loophole, no secret prophecy — that would bring Buffy back again.

Evenings at the Magic Box had been a given, Dawn even had her own homework niche permanently stationed at the corner table. This particular night she was home having a movie night with Spike. The two of them seemed to cling to each other more often now. A proper pair of bandits, equally lost in a den of despondency.

And so there they were, two witches, an ex-demon, and a carpenter prowling Giles' library at midnight. Willow hadn't touched her in days.

Tara glanced over at the cloth bandage that covered raw wires sticking out of the Buffybot's neck and sighed. She swallowed, faintly tasting bile in the back of her throat.

The nausea in her mouth propelled Tara to rest her head on Willow's shoulder. She could feel tense muscles underneath the thin t-shirt. "Willow?" she whispered, reaching for her arm. Tara took the teal pen Willow held, laid it down on the table, and placed her own hand atop Willow's.

She raised her head and looked at Willow, who stared heavily at the expanse of tomes in front of her. "Sweetie?" Tara frowned. Ever so slowly, the hand beneath her own, one that Tara knew dearly — had lovingly traced and kissed hundreds of times in privacy and shadow — shrank away, leaving the cool wood of the table to kiss her palm.

Willow swallowed. Her lips were taut and her brow was furrowed in resolve, but her eyes betrayed the slew of emotions within. "Not now, Tara. I've got — " she stopped, picked up her pen and sighed. "I'm sorry. Just…Not now."

Tara's heartbeat faltered and everything slid away until only the sleek table, which grew warmer from the heat of her fingers, existed and grounded her to the earth. That moment was the slow beginning of the end. When danger, magick, and duty came first. When Willow thought the answers were a burden to find and bear alone instead of together.


There was always an obstacle preventing Tara from loving Willow. Why did something that came so easy and natural have to be so difficult?

Instead of being purposeless, Tara had lain in bed with one hand flat against the wall, reveling in the knowledge that some other being was on the other side. He may not have been what she was expecting, but the fact that he was , exceeded any of her expectations.

His presence proved there was meaning to her existence, that she wasn't some cosmic joke or mistake. She'd forgotten—in routine, pattern, and recipe—how to live. It hurt too much even thinking of a life without Willow—one where her smile didn't grace the heavens, where her heart didn't get to beat with the earth. But if he existed, that meant she did too. And if there was anything Tara believed, it was that no one is without purpose. Despite obstruction or vicissitude, whether it be death or a soul, there was meaning. No force on earth was strong enough to deter her from this truth. And Tara would not let her get that lost again.

So here she was. Again, baking. For a purpose. And though it was nearing early afternoon, said Purpose was still upstairs asleep.

But by God, Tara was tired of waiting.

And this time, because she could, Tara would do something about it.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Xander hated Tech Services. In the eighth grade he'd gotten caught for calling a late-night naughty 1-800 number and had since nursed an avoidance of all things toll-free.

"If you have problems with a Microsoft program, please press 1. If you have problems with a Macintosh program, press 2. If you have problems with a …"

The spreadsheet for labour costs, equipment fees, and orchestrating charges from his latest construction gig had frozen. Right there on the screen, all the data from work zone B was glitched and now displayed columns from the company demo-sheet.

"If you have problems with a program from Microsoft Office, please press 1."

Excel wasn't his strongpoint, and Anya had always made sure to demonstrate that when it came time to organizing finances. Quicken would suffice for most people, but Anya wanted a full layout of all monetary accounts before inputting information. "I don't trust it, Xander. Software that calculates that quickly and efficiently has to have a secret agenda. I don't like the automated thing. "He would chuckle and agree, then go back to whatever he was doing. Somehow he knew she was worried about becoming obsolete. What would happen if computers could learn to love money as much as she did?

Listlessly, he randomly tapped a few keys on the keyboard. Nothing.

Normally, Xander would leaf through the manual or 'Help' page for about forty seconds to perpetuate his manliness before calling his personal, go-to digital guru.

But she wasn't here anymore, and he was stuck calling some schmuck in an office god-knows-where instead of his best friend. Suddenly—or not-so suddenly, as it was always there—Xander missed Willow with a ferocious ache.

He'd never been without her for so long. Instead of poker nights when Anya would win, Willow would protest and Buffy would still not understand how to play, he had a cheap, empty apartment and lived off of noodles and QVC. The life he loved so desperately had crumbled. No letters, phone calls, emails, random visits or refrigerator raiding. What was the point of being a Scooby if there was no gang? They fell apart—Xander fell apart—and he didn't know how to pick up the pieces.

"Hello, this is Mike speaking, how can I help you?"

Xander sighed. "Hi, Mike, I'm Xander. Sorry to bother you, but um…never mind." He hung up the phone.

Doing nearly anything these days made Xander cringe with familiarity. His life was sculpted, perfected, and structured on a ragtag team of desperados. With them gone, he was just…floating.

Xander wasn't a floater. Give a guy oversized weapons he has no idea how to use and he'll be your champion. But this? This…crap? He hated it.

Not one minute since he'd hung up, the phone rang. "Mike, buddy, I told ya I was sorry, just sorta…changed my mind."

"Xander?" replied a confused, distinctly female voice.

"Buffy?"

"No, apparently I'm some guy named Mike. Anything you wanna talk about, mister?"

He grinned. "Aah, no, that would just be my new friend from tech support. What's up, Buff?"

Static buzzed for a moment as Buffy hesitated. At her next words, his heart skipped a few beats.

"She's coming back."

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((24/?-March 4, 2019))
PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:58 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Note:This chapter takes place in Lessons, Episode 1 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!


Dawn was nervous.

It's not every day one starts High School. Especially one that seemed to have a penchant for straight-up-end-of-the-world evil.

Slow down, Tiger, you can do this.

Mental checklist: Stylish yet respectable outfit? Teeth brushed? Breakfast? Check, check, and check.

Be an adult. At least as adult one can be in ninth grade. She could do that, right; be a grown-up? Heck, Buffy took her patrolling nowadays and she even totally made a good impression on the principal. Before homeroom even started!

Dawn had a good feeling. And those didn't happen so often. She happily fondled the cell phone in her pocket.

Really? I mean, really? Honestly, how cool. Bette's parents wouldn't get her a cell phone until she had her license, and it was literally all the girl would talk about. Dawn made a mental flag to keep all mention of Buffy's gift as far away from Bette as possible.

She'd been wondering when her family would pick up on modern technology. For a group of people (one of whom was a computer-science major) in dire need of constant communication, they sure seemed to be slow on the uptake.

Dawn twisted through the hallway, narrowly skirting major collisions with large backpacks, stocky athletes, gaggles of girls, and general traffic.

Everything was so...big. The lockers, the football players, even the classrooms seemed supersized. No one looked at her, everyone was far too busy with the hullabaloo of the first day back.

Dawn felt like a dandelion—whisked into the wind, about to be lost.

As if choreographed, lockers slammed simultaneously, high fives were given, lipstick was hurriedly put on, and everyone scattered like ants and disappeared into different rooms.

Suddenly alone in the hallway, Dawn swallowed the butterflies down. She could do this. She'd done way worse things than the first day of school. She’d fought demons, had been kidnapped more times than she could count, was almost sacrificed, stayed up late doing research about things that would give other kids nightmares, and by golly, she had a cell phone.

Dawn smiled and looked at her schedule. Crap.

"O-kay, where is D-Wing again?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Day Twenty.

That's what it was, twenty days since she had chosen to go back. That meant nineteen nights she had lain awake, barely sleeping, afraid that in a moment of exhaustion, the blackness would come claim her and change her mind.

Because now, returning wasn't an option. The calls had been made, flights schedules, taxis reserved, and within a span of 28 hours Willow found herself without even a choice to back down.

Articles of clothing in various piles of organization were scattered around the room, a sprinkle of clutter amongst as well. Empty suitcases lay open, beckoning Willow to pile them with things.

Willow was not looking forward to going back, to say the least.

Half of her still desperately wanted to crawl away, worried that even England was not far enough away from Sunnydale. Yet at the same time, she could not help a tiny part of her from believing that staying so far away was wrong. She was a widow. And of all the guilt she carried, not staying with Tara had been her greatest burden and mistake.

How could she? How could she dare to leave when she'd just gotten her back? Willow abandoned her love, left her alone with the carpet for a shroud and Dawn to find, unadorned and bereft, cooling in the shadows.

Willow knew that that was her greatest crime of all.

It haunted her at night during the nightmares. Tara would lie on the floor in the darkness, her flesh tinged blue, limbs sprawled out with that damned red splotch in the middle of her shirt. Then her eyes would open, like a porcelain doll, and stare straight at Willow. Mute and motionless, Tara would look at her, blank and empty until Willow would wake up gasping with the cool, unblinking eye burned into her retina.

Someone knocked at the door and startled Willow out of her daymares. Slightly dazed, she cleared her throat. "Come in," she called. Giles peeked from behind the door and pulled his glasses off. "Aah, Willow, you're here, excellent. Would you mind terribly if I pulled you away from packing for a few minutes?"

"'Course, Giles," she replied, and let a shirt she'd been folding flop to the floor as she stood.

Anything to get away from this.

Willow followed him outside and closed the door to the cottage behind her.

Giles walked leisurely with his hands in his pockets, the collared ends unfolding loosely near his elbows. Side by side they strode for a few minutes, enjoying the timid weather afforded to them after some rain the night prior. It was cooler now, and the air felt fresh.

Willow looked up at Giles. His eyebrows were furrowed and his lips tight. Just as she was about to say something, he spoke.

"Willow, I do hope you can forgive me."

No.

"What? Giles, y-"

"No, Willow. This is my place, my apology. So, please, let me make it."

He paused for a moment.

"I am a Watcher. It is my responsibility to guide and teach the Slayer in her duty to protect the world against the forces of darkness. There were rules and protocol written by the Council many years ago for every possible circumstance. But all of that changed in Sunnydale. Buffy changed it all. You and Xander…" he trailed off.

Her cheeks flushed, unaccustomed and uncomfortable at the apology directed at her. He was Giles, steadfast and wise, right to call her the rank amateur she had been. He shouldn't be asking for the apologies, not after her hands had thrust him into the ceiling and smashing down to the floor. That right was reserved for her.

But her throat was shut, thick like honey with emotion.

"I know now that I Watch more than one. And because I…hesitated, I looked away, I was not Watching. I'm so sorry, Willow.

Huh.

It had never occurred to her that someone other than her could be blind.

And no, it didn't ease the shame she felt or changed the responsibility she carried, but she could take some comfort in knowing it wasn't just her that sometimes screws up. It wasn't just little Willow Rosenberg who was laden with penitence. And you know? Maybe, just maybe she could give someone the comfort she knew she'd never feel again. She could give the gift of Tara, a small pocket of peace to the closest thing she'd ever come to a father. He deserved it more than he knew.

"It's okay. I forgive you. I'd always forgiven you." It barely came out as a whisper, but she knew he heard. Giles always heard.

That ease with which the slight feel of relief came ruined it all. That taste of forgiveness soured her system and the Blackness lay claim to her once more. Willow didn't even have time to shout before she collapsed, her forehead splitting on a rock as her head hit the ground. She didn't hear Giles cry out. She only felt Black.

In the darkness came teeth.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anya didn't think it was very fair, the way she was being treated.

She was Anyanka, champion of mistreated women, a thousand years of enough torture, punishment, and evisceration experience behind her to frighten any being. And yet, here was Halfrek telling her she was a joke at the office.

A joke? She'd seen hundreds of fledgling demons try and fail to make something of themselves. D'Hoffryn had given her 'employee of the century' eight times in a row. How dare they mock her name. She'd been on top for decades before her little Sunnydale High romp, Cordelia Chase had just gotten lucky. If not for Giles' meddling, Cordelia would have stayed vampire food and Anya would never have lost her powers and gotten into this sopping mess.

A busy waiter weaved between the tables, delivering hot mugs and collecting empty ones. Anya thought about what she could do to that man. Torture him in ways he couldn't imagine. Delivering pieces of himself in tarts and cupcakes to the women he'd wronged.

But Anya merely sighed. She just didn't feel like it, today. That seemed to happen a lot these days.

The measure and test of true friendship rarely appears, but when Anya found herself human and alone in the world, she discovered just how real her friendships were. No well-wishes or condolences on her recent mortality. No fruit baskets, no singing telegrams. Anya was left to scrape together a life out of what little she knew. Did any of her friends or proteges care that Anyanka, champion of mistreated women, lived for weeks in an abandoned gym office in a high school before finding a cheap, dank apartment?

Without her powers to protect her, the trials of living in Sunnydale proved too much for a weak teenager to handle by herself. Anya needed friends. She needed allies. How little she knew at first how different those two were. She'd quickly picked up on the fact that the only thing Sunnydale had going for it resided in the high school library in off-periods and after school. The Scoobies were meek and small and had more odds stacked against them than anything Anya had ever seen. And she had seen a lot. How could she know that only a few stupid, mortal years later she'd feel more at home with them than anywhere else she'd been? How could she know of the steely inner strength Buffy held behind her facade of nail polish and cute shoes? What hope did Anya have of seeing anything more than ancient detachment bred of Watchers toward their Slayers from Giles? The power that dwelt deep within poor, compliant Willow? Or how quickly foolish, useless Xander Harris would rile her bones and quake through her being?

How could she hope?

But now she was here, sitting on a stupid stool in The Espresso Pump, holding a long-ago-cooled cup of a generic coffee drink, stuck. Summer lingered, warm and salty, and made her wish for things to be different. Ha! The vengeance demon, wishing! Irony slapped her in the face once again.

She couldn’t help it. She wished she didn't have to go home to her apartment and cook for one. She wished Buffy would look her in the eye and that Dawn didn't always seem so sad. She wished Giles hadn't left and that the Magic Box were still there. She wished Willow would come back, and that she could be enjoy coffee with Tara instead of Hallie's empty companionship. She wished she still had a place in the system that continued to turn, blind to the disasters of its quiet heroes.

Instead, she was listening to bad folk music, which assuredly did nothing to improve her mood. Anya frowned, took a sip of her drink, and straightened her back. She knew the uselessness of hope and the foolishness of wishing. Ask any of the women she helped if when they saw their wish granted, they felt better. If it were what they truly wanted. If they could only have him back. If, if, if.

Enough wishing. It's time to do what we do.

Anya cocked her brow and looked Halfrek in the eye. "Fine. If the Lower Beings want something to talk about, I'll give them something to talk about."
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This time, the terrible darkness spoke. It yelled, howled and dragged Willow from the grass and dew, far past the roots and into the deep.

It seemed like forever. But then came wind. And noise. And teeth. From the inky darkness, sharp and wet, the teeth glistened for her. "We're coming for you," they hissed. Willow cowered and covered her ears as a midnight storm blew around her. She fell to her knees while her hair whipped around her hands and face. But still the tempest raged, snarled, snapped, and roared. "We know her eyes are watching you, little Willow."

Willow choked. The deep-seated fear that always lingered grasped her mercilessly. The tears could come now, hot and firey in this cold, cold place. They knew. They always knew. Her sins. Her darkness. It would never be over. Not while Tara's dead face watched her from beyond. Willow knew no spell or weapon could defeat these demons. No matter how much magic therapy the Coven could teach her, there was nothing that could be done to save Willow from this fate. Of teeth and thrashing. It was what she deserved. Even Tara knew; even Tara saw.

"Did you think it would be that easy, a hug and some tears?" The sound was booming and everywhere. "Think again, young one, because we're here. We're always here and soon, we'll be all that's left."

The din and wind coalesced in a massive cyclone that swept Willow off her feet and into its bowels. Powerless in its wake, Willow drowned. And drowned and drowned and drowned. She drowned in hopelessness. In fear. In worry. In nausea, and a sick knowing that was meant to be. She had relinquished herself to darkness once before — why should it not come claim her now?

In the storm, Willow succumbed, sunk into herself and thought of blue. While the teeth were grinding, Willow recalled the way Tara used to sigh into her pillow in the mornings.

The grinding stopped.

And how she used to close her eyes when she heard a birdsong.

The itching ceased.

The warm way she'd hug the laundry when it came out of the dryer.

The wind caressed.

Her face after a shower.

The dark turned grey.

The color of her lips.

The sound stopped.

Willow let herself think of red.

And then,

she woke.


"Oh, god."

But this time it was no slow, soft awakening. Willow jolted violently, electrocuted by the earth, and gasped desperately as if having nearly drowned.

Strong arms were cradling her. "Just breathe,” Giles soothed.

"What happened," she managed to gasp.

"What do you remember?"

She thought back to the sweet but unexpected forgiveness. "We were talking, and I felt—" she recoiled from the ground and met his gaze with frightened eyes. "—I felt the earth, Giles. It's all connected." But none of it back to Tara. Just the evil to me. "It is, but it's not all good and pure and rootsy. There's deep, deep black. There's...I saw, I saw the Earth, Giles. I saw its teeth."

Willow felt rather than heard the certainty in his voice. "The Hell Mouth."

It's coming. "It's gonna open. It's going to swallow us all."

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((28/?-March 9, 2019))
PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:31 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Note: This chapter takes place in Lessons, Episode 1 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!

Note: Welp, this is it, folks - last of the old stuff! New content will be coming Tuesday and there's a lot of it. I'm amazed people are reading this story, I'm in awe watching the view count go up and up each and every day. If you're enjoying, if you could take a moment to drop a line, it would mean the absolute world. Yes, I'm finishing this story for me (and most importantly for Tara), but nothing exists in a vacuum and I wouldn't have been so motivated to keep writing ten years later had it not been for the Kittens who inspired me and left such robust, vibrant comments in the beginning. Many thanks to you all.

Buffy ran.

Not that it was unusual. Nine times out of ten Buffy tended to be engaged in some form of sprinting. It was her Olympic speciality. Well, along with all the monster fighting.

But Buffy was proud that she'd made it nearly an art form—running in every outfit imaginable. Heels? Khakis? Flying necklaces? Fashion didn't deter her from duty. Matter of fact, it spurned her on. It gave her courage and satisfaction knowing at any given moment she could kick demon ass. Superman had it all wrong.

She cringed to think of alternatives. Of carrying a gym bag with her. Or wearing only sweats and loose tops. God forbid. She was the Slayer and could do anything, did do anything, rules be damned. Friends? The Council? Falling in love with vampires? Parents? High School? College, even? Death? What's the big deal if 'fashion' was slapped on too?

She skidded as she rounded a corner, almost tripping on a lost binder on the ground.

Dogs? My dogs are dead? What the hell was I thinking? Buffy grimaced, knowing thinking on her feet was not one of her strengths. Oh well, it was too late to worry about that now. Odds were, she'd never see Principal Wood again anyway. Principals never did last long at Sunnydale High.

Speaking of lasting long, Buffy had hoped it'd be at least a day until Dawn used the phone. But no. Leave it to her to get into trouble the first day. In the daytime, no less. And during first period.

And so Buffy ran.

Because she was the Slayer—the Sunnydale Batman—and protected the innocent, even if it happened to be her not-so-innocent little sister.

Buffy at least had a safe, normal childhood; she hadn't hit Slayerdom until 15. By that age, Dawn had been half-sacrificed; seen her mother die; seen her surrogate mother die; seen her sister die, only to come back and nearly fall apart; had her family threatened repeatedly; and had been kidnapped more times than Buffy could count.

But wait. No, that wasn't it at all, was it? There was more. Lots more. Dawn was there for Faith—with blind admiration in the beginning and stubborn strength at the end when she and Mom were cornered in the bedroom after the coma. She was there for the divorce, cried for days and refused to eat grilled cheese sandwiches again because they were Dad's specialty. Dawn was there for Angel, and later, for Angelus. She was there when she broke her leg in the fourth grade after a bad skating accident. It was easy to forget, sometimes, that Buffy had lived her life twice—once with, and without a sister.

And to think she'd come so close to losing it. Twice! Buffy frowned and promised herself she wouldn't let it happen again.

And ran faster.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tara pulled the towel that rested over her shoulder and ignored the flapping noise it made when it hit the kitchen counter. She wiped her flour-dusted hands carelessly on the sides of her thighs and walked over to the stairs. "Spike?"

After a quiet moment she shouted again, "Spike, are you up?" When silence again greeted her, she started to climb the stairs while a faint worry seeped into her heart. She called ahead, "Spike? I made breakfast," but was cut off by the slamming of the screen door downstairs. Full-out alarm exploded in her ears as she scrambled down the stairs, barely managing to see the last reverberating shutters of the door in the kitchen. She righted herself against the banister, sprinted through the door and turned sharply to see Spike's boots disappear around the corner.

"Oh no, you don't," Tara gritted her teeth and gave chase to her increasingly spastic houseguest.

Months of spending time without a nightly demon hunt had left her ill-motivated to exercise. With no Slayer to back up, no beloved to guard, no innocents to protect, there hadn't really been a point. Not to mention the fact that there weren't any demons to hunt anyway. She felt the effects now only a few blocks from Revello Drive, as a cramp pinched painfully at her side. Tara made a small note in the back of her mind to resume exercising as soon as she could catch her breath.

Tara was so bent on forcing her mind to outwit her body that she hadn't realized where he was headed. As his strides became more focused and Spike entered a dilapidated building, Tara wondered just how much longer she could hope to chase a being that didn’t need oxygen.

She didn't think she could run much longer when she saw Spike trot to a dazed halt in the middle of a burnt out hallway. Finally. She balanced her arms on her knees, too exhausted to stand straight. Her chest heaved as she took stock of her surroundings.

High school. He'd led her to the high school. Its dark, broken corridors and corroded walls echoed the giant gap of time it'd been since she was last here. A small twitch of her eye and she could almost see the not-so-tiny Tinkerbell light in the distance. Before she could sink into a delicious, painfully memory, Spike's possessed footsteps pulled her in the opposite direction, down a janitorial stairway and into the dark.

"Spike!" she shouted while she scrambled over fallen beams. Tara slipped suddenly, grunted as she hit the floor and watched a burnt yearbook page fly out from under her. A long-dead, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed girl floated past her face.

What the hell is the matter with him?

Tara knew Spike, deeper than she expected to. It started in the milky beginnings of her and Willow's relationship, though she didn't know it then, while sitting on the cool porcelain of Giles' toilet seat making awkward small talk with Anya. She understood when she saw the bruises dance on his face after Glory, in the ways he averted his eyes for days. She saw, out of the corner of her eye, the hours he spent leaning on the tree in the front yard, cradling a forgotten cigarette between his fingers.

It came to her slowly, in moments and crises, just how similar she and Spike were.

Both, runaways trying to escape what they were, inadvertently falling into this ragtag team of Scoobydom and becoming something entirely unexpected and different. Something more. She understood, later on, how deep that path took them—when sacrifice, love, and loyalty become truths instead of sidenotes. Sure, they may have taken different routes, but ultimately they'd become the same. Tara knew. And she held onto it just in case Spike ever tried to forget or pretend otherwise. He was more than that; she was more than that.

All of a sudden, he stopped. Frozen dead in his tracks, Spike suddenly seemed to realize where he was. He turned and squinted at Tara through the dusty light that filtered through foggy basement windows.

"Spike?"

They stared at each other for a moment, searching, but then Spike turned and faced a gaping hole in the wall where a door once stood. He laughed crazily for a moment, but his features soon softened and his eyes smiled tenderly at something Tara could not see. He raised his arm and gently spoke, stealing the breath from Tara's lungs.

"Buffy…duck."

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((30/?-March 10, 2019))
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:12 am 
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10. Troll Hammer
User avatar

Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Note: This chapter takes place in Lessons, Episode 1 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!

It was astounding what time could do to scoured hearts. Contrary to popular thought, it didn’t heal all wounds. It didn't create a salve after months of searing pain, and it certainly did not prepare Buffy for what was on the other side of that door.

"Spike? Are you real?"

His wild laughter echoed in the dark basement, and her face twisted. It was all too surreal. There had been other basements, once. In falling houses. In secret and in shame. In desperation and in need. That urgency to feel something, anything. Even if it was as dead as she still felt—as dead as she used to be.

Buffy wondered where he'd been. How he’d got here, why his hair looked so different...And what were those cuts on his chest? His eyes were tender. Concerned for him, she lifted her hand to touch his cheek. But then the memories came.

She remembered how she’d stood outside the bathroom looking in, wondering how long it would take her to get used to sitting on the slick, cool porcelain without feeling ill. It took her a few weeks, after everything, to not panic if her back was turned to an open room.

Buffy blinked.

Berries.

She was washing berries and slicing fruit in front of the sink when a clammy wave passed over her. Everything turned to slow-motion. She watched water droplets spill down the edge of a strawberry that wobbled on the countertop. Slayer instincts forced her blood to pump faster and made her heartbeat pound in her ears. Threat, there was a threat. The pregnant belly of a blueberry rounded slowly in Buffy's vision when the fine hairs on the back of her neck sprang up in attention. Buffy swiveled and snapped to her right.
Threat—there was a threat.

She heard a muted clatter as time resumed its normal speed. A bowl crashed on the tile.

"Buffy?"

Dawn stood in the doorway, her arm frozen and her face a mask of alarm. "Buffy?" she repeated.

Buffy saw herself as if from behind a veil, horrified at the sight of her sister so frightened. She looked down, surprised to see a knife locked tight in her grip. Its smooth and heavy handle was the only thing she could feel and it grounded her to the kitchen. She looked back at Dawn, who was fixated on the fruit-laden countertop, and followed her sister’s line of sight.
Blood. There was blood. Buffy looked at her other hand. It was then that she noticed the red on the blade. She didn't even feel the cut.

She didn't feel anything except Dawn's arms that surrounded her. Buffy closed her eyes and sank into the hug. That had been the beginning of okay.

She'd had enough to worry about that summer without thinking of him. Plumbing in the basement, arrangements with the funeral parlor, Dawn catching up at school (apocalypses always happened during finals for some endlessly odd reason), phone calls to Giles, double shifts at the Doublemeat, and meetings with the social worker, among other things. Turned out real life took up lots of real time and left none for Spike.

. . . Who was suddenly standing before her. Disheveled. In the basement of the new high school.

Breath. Deep breath. Reel it in, Summers. Dawn is on the line. Stranger things had happened in Sunnydale, she supposed.

"Buffy, duck." Except maybe hearing him say that.

"Duck? There's a duck?"

And then, as happened every so often in her line of work, there was black.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
A large pile of bricks takes up residence in Tara’s chest. The pressure of Spike’s words is sudden and immense. They steal her breath and stab her heart.

Buffy?

His hand drops, and eyes that were so tender and full a moment ago look away, caving with fear and confusion. He turns away, raising his arms to his head, and starts to pace backwards.

Tara pushes past the shock that threatens to topple her. There’s no time for that right now. This is time for blind Scoobying. As she rushes forward to stand before him, a calm settles on her like a balm. You can do this. You’re an Amazon, remember? “Spike. What did you mean, just now, when you said, ‘Buffy’?”

Spike continues pacing. Nothing in his demeanor suggests he has even heard Tara. Instead, he mutters to himself as his steps become more forceful. Her heartbeat thunders furiously in her ears, but Tara manages to focus on Spike’s words. After all, they’ve brought her here; who knows where else they can take her. You have to do this.

He’s like a frightened animal pawing away from her questions. "No visitors today, terribly busy." All Tara knows is that she has to keep him talking. Keep him going. But trying to guide him through whatever is happening seems impossible as half of what he says is nonsense.

“Nobody comes in here, it's just the three of us.”

Three of us? Tara’s heart thuds dully with the dangerous thing called hope. Buffy, she focuses. Buffy will fix it.“Is Buffy here, Spike? Can you see her? Is she hurt? Can you tell her I’m here? Can you tell her—”

He finally snaps, “Don’t you think I’m trying! Slayer’s going on and on about some bloody zombies who keep yelling at her and attacking and—”

She whirls around to focus on a detail she can fix. “Zombies?” she interrupts. “No, Spike, zombies don’t speak. They must be manifest spirits raised to seek vengeance. Tell her there m-might be a talisman or something.”

"Not ghosts," he says. The events of the past several hours coalesce as Tara watches his crazy antics. That's it. Tara grits her teeth. I need him, even if he can't do it himself. "Spike! Tell her—" she grabs his coat and forces him to look at her. "This is important, damn it. I don't know what's going on, but I need you to tell her what I said. Ok?"

The steel-blue of Spike's eyes bore into Tara's and in an instant she sees the Poet and knows the man behind yellow eyes.
And somehow, just for a second, despite everything, she thinks everything can be okay.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((32/?-March 11, 2019))
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:20 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:36 am
Posts: 1150
Topics: 4
Location: somewhere inbetween here and there
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


“So. . . ” Tara says later, calmly, hands folded together, “Do you wanna talk about what happened?”

“Not particularly, no.” Spike snaps.

They’ve been sitting in the basement of the old high school for hours. Spike’s behavior has continued to be erratic, talking to people who aren’t there, yelling in what seems like pain, though Tara can’t find anything physical to explain it. She decides to start small. “Why come here?”

He sighs, realizing the futility of fighting the situation, and decides to respond somewhat helpfully. “Dunno, really. Didn’t feel like I was in control of myself. Suddenly there was just someplace I needed to be.”

The phrase rattles throughout Tara’s entire being.

“I remember,” she murmurs, suddenly feeling very cold. And it’s true—Tara won’t forget it. Ever. Even if she wanted to.

Though she was never fully present, parts of her remember Glory. In bits and pieces, like looking through a peephole and only seeing a small part of what’s on the other side. When reality blurred into a nightmare and Tara was never certain of what was real. It felt like she’d been constantly dragged under by a tide—waves crashing around her—struggling to reach the surface.

Last time there’d been darkness and horrible things swarming, whispering, taunting her. Tara remembers crawling—slick blackness oozing through her fingers—and she kept sliding into thicker darkness until she was choking on it; until it crawled into her mouth, through her ears, and dripped from her eyes. And all the while it whispered and hissed. Tara remembers feeling dirty. The way her father had told her she was, the way she had tried to never believe in her heart, the way she finally was in the dark, cold place.


Closing inward still comes naturally, the way it did before she met Willow and the others—before she’d been transformed as a Scooby. She fights against it now. “And then you saw. . . Buffy.”

“I didn’t just see her, love. I saw them all. Near as I can figure it, I'm crazy and you're just another figment of my imagination.”

Tara can’t help laughing. Spike squints at her suspiciously. "What the bloody hell is wrong with you."

It’s just so ridiculous.

"Listen, I don't appreciate being made fun of, even in my own head."

Her laughter finally dies down a bit. "Spike," she manages to say, wiping away a tear, "I'm not in your head, you're in mine."

He observes her a moment, squinting skeptically, then nods sharply, "Right. So we both think the other's imaginary, yeah?"

"No, you're definitely part of mine."

"Bollocks, no way I'm part of some dead girl’s dreams," he says. Tara shrugs. "Fine, prove it. Do a spell."

At that, Tara’s prior confidence falters. "I can't,” she admits, feeling very small again. “Magic doesn't work here. Trust me, I've tried," she adds darkly.

Spike smirks. "Told you. Not real," he says, gesturing to her.

Tara glares at him. "Fine," she grits her teeth, "I'll show you.” She closes her eyes and concentrates, focusing on her connection to the earth, just as her mother had taught her. She remembers how to, even if the earth has never answered her here. She remembers how it felt—almost warm . . . Her eyes fly open.

Not remembering. Happening!

Tara looks at Spike in shock and awe. "What?" he says, oblivious. Tara has no words, her jaw is slack in astonishment.
She feels the earth through Spike.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“So you've never been able to do magic here? Since when?"

"Since always? I’ve tried, but nothing happens. I-Its like striking a match that won’t light. Its been like that since I got here. Spike, can I. . . try something?" Tara asks as calmly as she can.

He leans away from her, slightly suspicious. "You're not gonna curse me are you? I've got that covered, love, trust me."

"No," she shakes her head, "I'm just going to . . . sense." At his nod of acquiescence, she closes her eyes once more and sends her perception outward until it meets the source of energy. There it is—edges rusted, but still burning underneath, a glowing light like a lonely, frail filament.

"Oh, Spike," she breathes in understanding. "It must hurt so much," she says tenderly.

He squirms, made uncomfortable by her empathy. "Well yeah. A hundred some odd years of murder and terrorizing doesn't exactly make for a warm welcome when a soul comes marching back."

The earth, Spike’s soul . . . they’re connected. Spike is a door and his soul is the key. That’s it. "A soul by its nature is a force of energy. I-I don't think you belong here. I don't think either of us are supposed to be here,” Tara explains. “But you . . . see me?" she waits as he nods in affirmation. "And you also see— saw . . . Buffy." He confirms again. "But she couldn't see me." He shakes his head “So. What do we know?” Spike shoots her a look. “B-besides me being . . . dead,” she adds.

He leans back and begins listing on each finger, “New high school, all shiny n’ fresh, Anya’s a vengeance demon again, Slayer and Little Bit are alive and well. No sign of your girl, though. Much as I could figure it, she’s out of town. Probably visiting the old homestead. ‘Willow Unplugged’ as it were, for a spell.”

Tara frowned, “What do you mean?”

"I might've been in Africa fighting demons for a near-useless soul, l but even there I could hear the earth screaming with your girl's rage. Grief is mighty powerful, and after what she did last time with you, can't say I'm surprised. Glad I was outta town though, no way in hell I woulda wanted to face her down, all gothed up."

Neither one of them had wanted to talk about it, After. Their fight before the fair. Before Glory. Granted, there had been more pressing matters, like covering up the death of a Slayer, secretly burying Buffy, and moving in to take care of Dawn, for starters. But Willow was clogged with grief and guilt over her best friend’s death while Tara was keen to stay as far away from the nightmares of her prison as possible. Ignoring the trauma had been easy. But now, Tara realized deep in her gut, it had only delayed the inevitable. What had happened after she died?

He sighs and looks away before continuing reluctantly, “Been seeing things; hearing people long gone. The ones I killed. Hearing them, in my head. Taunting me. Punishing me . . . things that I did."

This, Tara thinks, is a problem she can hold onto. “Spike, you have to follow her,” Tara presses, ignoring the Willow warning bells for another time.

“I can’t,” he says dejectedly, “You don't know what I did. I can't go see her. Don't deserve to. She doesn't deserve to."

She can sense him slipping away into insanity again, sense this chance slipping away. She remembers being crazy; hearing voices and not being certain of reality. He looks so lost. Delicately, she touches his arm, feeling the thrum of the earth through him. She lets that infuse her with strength and hope, then opens her eyes and speaks as much to herself as to him.

“You can do this.”

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((34/?-March 15, 2019))
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:14 am 
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YES an update!! Zooey's Bridge, I haven't left much feedback except for yay! (cuz yay!) and I am sorry for that. I reread this about a week ago and then caught up with the new chapter, and it's just stunning and so intricate.
I love how you show us Tara's day- controlled and deliberate, keeping in the despair , keeping her tenuous sanity, I am on the edge experiencing the simmer under the routine- I thought for sure Tara was going to crack when she discovered Spike was gone, if she hadn't found him so quickly she just might have. But now she sees a chance and is grasping it with the surety of nothing to lose. I love it!

Willow is similarly in this controlled/ chaotic space. I love how the darkness seeps in when she starts to let go, it keeps her struggling and afraid, but then, but then she lets go and through the darkness finds solace in blue. in love. the metaphors!!! Speaking of- Spike as the conduit, caught in the liminal, not alive, not dead- gray with purpose. brilliant.

You do such great work bringing these powerful and insightful moments into the mundane- Dawn and Anya at the store was heartbreaking and so relatable. Anya again questioning why do humans dance around everything, ignoring their pain, as she turns around and tries to ignore her pain. Buffy trudging through her day. Tara and Ella Fitzgerald and mostly I think, Willow gaining from the wind what the people around her cannot give her- just an awareness of life, just being. it is unconditional. I am hooked and look forward to wherever you take this!!

- beth

p.s. I love and so appreciate that you are writing this for Tara, she deserves everything

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((36/?-March 19, 2019))
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:12 pm 
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Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


@Shirrey, thank you so much for the incredible feedback. It’s the lifeblood I’ve been so missing and craving! I really appreciate the time you took to give it. One of my favorite things about FB is how often a reader will see insights I myself miss or don’t realize - like the parallels between Willow and Tara’s controlled/chaotic spaces. In particular, this was just so beautiful
Quote:
Willow gaining from the wind what the people around her cannot give her- just an awareness of life, just being. it is unconditional.
is an achingly beautiful observation, one that is put so succinctly I wish I’d thought of it myself! :P Thank you for reading, I hope you continue to enjoy

Note: This chapter takes place in Beneath You, Episode 2 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!


Anya hated that her job now felt like, well, a job. "You were saying?" she asked the space cadet in front of her.
"I want more quesadillas?"

"Before that," Anya directed. She’d only just finished with that woman and the boyfriend-turned-giant-worm, but with the news from Halfrek, Anya wasn’t taking any chances and was back on Vengeance duty sooner that she cared to.

"A margarita?"

Had they always been this insipidly annoying? She had taken such delight in this part, the creative brainstorming of torture, but now it felt tedious. Like filing pointless paperwork. Or a tax extension.

"After that," Anya gritted her teeth.

The woman's eyes brightened as she finally remembered, "Oh. Yeah! My boyfriend's spineless. He should just, y'know, not be spineless. For real."

"No spine. Got it. I can do that."

Confused, the woman twisted her face, "What do you mean."

"And?" Anya pushed in an irritated voice that clearly stated, ‘I want to get this over with already.’ "Well honey, what I'm driving us towards here is, sometimes, don't you just wish that—" she was cut off as the Scoobies entered the Bronze.
Relief and irritation warred within, at the sight of Buffy, Spike, Xander, Dawn, and that other woman from earlier. She settled for irritation. "Oh, penis," she mumbled, as they surrounded her.

That was how it always was it them. Accusations, accusations, accusations. Why were they even surprised by this, she wondered as they presented her with Ronnie, daring to ask her to change it. As if things were so easy to just undo.

This is what I do.

"Bite me, Harris. I have rules to work with. Vengeance Demon codes of conduct you'll never understand because you're still all so . . . human," Anya all but spat as she finished.

"I'm not," Spike chirped up. "Demon like yourself, Anya. Now you turn this spell around like a good little Vengeance Demon, or I . . . what?"

She was about to tell Spike off for daring to patronize her when a glimmer caught her attention. Like the reflection of a coin twinkling at the bottom of a water fountain as it caught the light.

It couldn't be.

She turned to look more closely. Yes, there it was. Faint and flickering but there. "Oh my god."

Spike pulled back, sneering, "What are you staring at?"

"Oh my god," she repeated, as understanding dawned on her.

Realizing she knew, Spike quickly tried to hide. "Right, let's go," he said to the others.

Anya grabbed his arm before he could escape. "How did you do it?" She pressed. Vampires didn’t exactly go chasing their souls; it was fire to them, an inescapable burning.

"Spike. What is she talking about," Buffy asked with equal measures of confusion and exacerbation.

Still enraptured, Anya ignored her. "I can see you," she breathed with wonder.

Anya remembered why she slept with him all those months ago. It wasn't just to hurt Xander. It was because Spike had been just as empty, hollow, and in pain as she had felt. Anya had known looking into his eyes that his void was so deep it could swallow her for a few minutes.

Yet there it was, filled with light.

"Nothing," Spike said to Buffy. "Let's go, got some worm hunting to do."

"How did you do it?" she insisted, more forcefully. If he could do it, then maybe, just maybe, there was hope for her somewhere down the line. She hated to admit it, but she wanted out of the vengeance game. Her heart wasn’t in it anymore; she had given it away to a stupid boy a long time ago. She just wanted to be whole again.

"Shut up," Spike growled.

"It shouldn't be possible," Anya mused, speaking more to herself than him.

"Shut your mouth, you," Spike spat, desperately attempting her from continuing.

"How did you get—" she tried again before Spike exploded with a punch to the face.

"I said, you shut up."

Anya went down hard, smashing the table and ending up on the floor. Her wonder went straight from awe to pissed. Right, that's how it always was with them: punch first, people later.

Anya wiped her lip. It'll feel good to punch something tonight. "I am so gonna kick your ass."
_______________________________________________________________________________________
They came up with a plan, loose as it is. It’s pretty strange, following someone all day without interacting with them. It’s even stranger watching him talk to himself.

No, Tara reminds herself repeatedly. Not himself. Buffy’s here. She has to be.

She learns to stay quiet, letting him focus on being present in the ‘real world’, having full conversations without having to split his attention. The hardest has been hearing him talk to Dawn.

“What’s your point, niblet?”

Tears come to her eyes instantly and she squeezes against them, nails pressing into her palms. They’re out there.

Things take a sharp turn at the Bronze. Tara tries not to think too hard about the last time she’d been there, but Willow’s cruel words still echo in her ears, and she flinches at the balcony. Luckily, it doesn’t take long for something to happen. Spike soon starts talking to Anya, which must have escalated quickly into a fight, because suddenly he’s kicked across the room by an unseen force.

“Demon, just like yourself, Anya,” Spike says. Suddenly, the strange conversation about Xander from months ago at the Espresso Pump makes sense. Tara’s heart seizes; everything had fallen apart. Unable to keep her distance any longer, Tara starts to rush over to Spike but he jerks still like he’s been grabbed, his head snapping to the side. He punches back at the unknown assailant.

“Working out some personal issues, are we?” he says while being beaten. “Hey, I guess this would be first contact since, uh, you know when. Ooh, up for another round up on the balcony, then?” Tara cringes. Buffy, then. Before she can dwell on the cruelty of Spike’s false bravado, he’s off running again. He’s fast, but at least he appears to be running in a single direction up the street, away from the main drag. Downtown soon gives way to sprawling neighborhoods and Tara arrives to see Spike mimic stabbing downward at something like with a spear.

Whatever has happened is clearly traumatic, enough to rip the veneer of sanity and Spike’s concentration along with it. He stands transfixed, staring at the ground in horror, clutching his head, screaming. “I’m sorry,” he croaks.

“Spike, what are you sorry for, what happened?” Tara probes as gently as she can, unable to keep herself back any longer.

“Right. Wrong. All wrong. Wrong maneuver. Not hardly helpful,” Spike mutters, to himself this time, she’s sure. “God, please help me. Help me!” He screams at her.

Tara looks helplessly at him, flailing and screaming in the alleyway. She grows more panicked at his growing hysteria. “Spike, what happened? How can I help? Help you do what? What can I do?”

“No. No. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Inside me all the way,” he taps his chest. “Deep, deep, deep inside me.”

“Spike,” she whispers. Tara approaches him, tries to grab his hand, but at the lightest touch of her hand on his shoulder, he pulls back.

“Get away.” He shrinks, “Get. Uuh.” At his increasingly wild movements, and talking to the air, she calls his name louder and louder with each lack of response.

“What the hell are you screaming about? I can hear you. No need to SHOUT!” he screams at the top of his lungs.
She flinches at his outburst. He’s never been this unhinged before. She trembles as she reaches out. He continues screaming, louder as if he’s being tortured and it conjures up a million memories of her own. “Spike?”

He's crying but then starts to gag. Spinning, he runs away down the alley, away from downtown, out into one of Sunnydale’s cemeteries. Tara follows him into the chapel. It’s set up with a dozen wooden pews arranged on either side of a central aisle. A large, simple, gothic crucifix at the front of the chapel can be seen from down the aisle. Tara looks around. “Spike?” she calls out. There are three stained glass arched windows on each sidewall of the chapel. She walks forward and jumps when he speaks from the shadows behind her. “Hello.”

Tara brings a hand to her chest to stem her racing heartbeat. “Spike, you scared me.”

He steps into the moonlight, bare-chested, offering his shirt out to her. “It didn’t work. Costume. Didn’t help. Couldn’t hide.”

“What happened in the alleyway, Spike?”

“No more mind games. No more mind.”

“Spike, I know it’s scary a-and that it’s really confusing right now but try to focus. Focus o-on me, focus on Buffy.” She keeps to the back, a few pews away so as to give him space but Spike flinches, recoiling violently.

“I think I hurt someone. Didn’t mean to. He’s a demon, then he wasn’t, and I—” he winces, then robotically starts unzipping his pants.

Tara recoils in disgust and confusion. “Spike, you’re scaring me.”

She knows what in boys’ pants. All high schools are hell, even ones not on top of a conflux of evil. It was hard enough being shy and quirky, but throw being a closeted lesbian witch in the mix, and even without actual demons, Tara’s high school experience was nearly on par with that in Sunnydale.

She didn’t know how they knew; she never spoke of her attractions to anyone, never let her gaze stray to boys or girls, fearful of giving any excuse for ammunition.

But boys still grabbed their crotches and made lewd faces at her in the halls. She tried to make her body as small as possible in the hopes they’d forget about her but it only served to encourage them. Hunching was default; she ducked her head and kept her eyes on the floor, tired of their faces and the way they brought their fingers to their mouths, flicking their tongues with cruelty twinkling in their eyes, leaving laughter ringing down the halls and tears brimming in Tara’s eyes.

A crash pulls her from the past and she shakes her head against it, just in time to see Spike land in a heap against a smashed set of pews.

“I take it things aren’t going well,” she says wryly.

“Well, yes,” he replies lucidly, “Where’ve you been all night? I tried to find it, of course,” he continues, no longer talking to her. “The spark. The missing . . . the piece that fit. That would make me fit. Because you didn’t want,” he’s crying now, and Tara’s entire being crumples with sympathy. “God, I can’t,” he says to Tara now, “Not with you looking.”

Spike stands and walks away to a nearby window. He stands there, mostly in shadow, and looks over his shoulder at a spot a few feet from Tara.

“I dreamed of killing you.”

Buffy, she thinks. She must have followed him here from whatever happened in the alleyway. Buffy is here with Spike. She flushes, feeling uncomfortable for intruding on this private confessional. She doesn’t belong here, knowing what she does; what Buffy tried so desperately to make Tara hate.

Spike continues his confession, but Tara takes her leave, ducking outside to get some air. She sits down in the grass, leaning against the chapel’s stone wall, and gathers her head in her hands. Her emotions are all over the place, so she forces herself to take slow, deep, and even breaths in an attempt to calm herself.

Tara remembers that night on the couch; Buffy lost, sobbing into her lap, begging for forgiveness Tara didn’t have to give. Instead, she gently cooed and smoothed Buffy’s hair. It was so short, then. Tara wonders how long it must be now.

A few minutes later, Spike comes out, looking a bit dazed and beyond exhausted, but in control of himself. Scorch marks from the crucifix visible through the hole in his shirt. Tara looks up and nods in agreement. She’s bone weary, too.

“Let’s go home.”

_________________
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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((36/?-March 19, 2019))
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:05 pm 
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this is fascinating! although I generally headcanon that there is no S7 and things ended right in the middle of Seeing Red- fantasies are useful. so it has been a while since I had seen this ep. did you get the idea for this fic from Spike talking to someone unseen in S7? very cool use of that either way.
I was a little unsure what Tara could see and what she could not, like she could see the surrounding but not what was attacking Spike- does this have to do with where Spike's pov is?

I was not expecting him to return back to the Tara world- I mean I know he is in both but I thought he would stay in the middle, in the high school. I like it- I like him being there for Tara. And I love very much how you are weaving Tara's backstory in- if I were to ever write a fic it would deal with how Tara grew up, but luckily there are better writers like you to look into it there is so much to be explored :). and hell is right, poor Tara is just trying to make it through life - and sadly its all so relatable. Thanks Zooeysbridge!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((36/?-March 19, 2019))
PostPosted: Fri Mar 22, 2019 7:12 pm 
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@Shirrey, thanks for such wonderful FB again!
Quote:
did you get the idea for this fic from Spike talking to someone unseen in S7?
I did! At least, I think I did. It’s been so long, literally ten years, but I’m pretty sure that’s where the idea came from.

Quote:
it has been a while since I had seen this ep

One of the biggest challenges about writing chapters like these is refreshing the reader on what the canon scene was and walking them through it without rewriting the actual scene in its entirety. It’s confusing to retread such ancient territory and also inject the whole Tara angle, so I’m hopeful at least some of it made sense :P

I like him being there for Tara, too. She certainly appreciates it, and while he probably will never admit, Spike is too :)

Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Note: This chapter takes place in Same Time Same Place, Episode 3 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!

When she was little, Willow loved to fly. Ever on the academic circuit, the Rosenbergs would take several short trips out to the east coast for conferences, events, and lectures. Willow'd earnestly beg, for weeks, to join them. As much as she enjoyed spending lazy afternoons with Xander and Jesse, she always felt different. Curious. And if she were being honest with herself, smarter. So sometimes, deep inside, she longed for something more. In her parents world, there were people like her; people who loved learning, spent their lives learning, never stopping, but thirsting for more.

While her parents' hands-off method of raising her had provided little except economic stability, the promises of their knowledge gave Willow wings. Their trips to New England, New York, Washington DC, and Chicago opened her eyes to a life outside of her empty home.

Never in a thousand years would Willow have predicted she'd stay—truly stay (and by choice, even)—in Sunnydale; not when she had Oxford and Harvard at her fingertips and dreams of catching snowflakes on her tongue. But intellect did not beget precognition, and Willow could never have known Buffy would come and change her life so drastically. It hadn’t been easy, letting go of her childhood dreams of crunchy autumn leaves and apple cider, but a new purpose had taken over Willow—one that didn't involve grant proposals or academics.

Buffy had probably never understood the depth of Willow's sacrifice that day under the tree. That bone-crunching hug afterward had made her forget, of course. And so she pushed those dreams aside in lieu of a new one. Instead, she settled. Willow put her wishes on the shelf and lost herself in Purpose.

In Sunnydale, she was needed. And it felt good to be needed. To help.

Flying since had been more bittersweet than anything. She still tasted her old dreams, but they seemed so far away now, like childhood clothes she’d long outgrown. Flying reminded her of what she'd given up. And oh, how it had come full circle.

Eleven hours. It takes eleven hours to fly to London. Willow doesn't carry much.

The ride goes by in a monotonous hum, and when the pilot announces their descent into Heathrow, Willow closes her eyes in preparation.

There's a car waiting for her outside baggage claim that takes her to the countryside. The driver tosses her light suitcase into the back as if it weighs nothing. It almost does; Willow packed for Buffy and Xander’s benefit—she knew she wouldn't be needing anything.

Giles will be waiting for her, she knows.

A few minutes away from their destination she takes out the photograph and lays it on her lap, smoothing the frame as if it were a rumpled skirt. She traces Tara's face as the car slows to a halt. Willow closes her eyes and takes a slow, deep breath.

The car door feels more massive than she's used to, and she wonders if English cars are all like that or if its a sign of her own weakness. She hasn't had much energy, every little small thing is heavy. Just breathing hurts.

Giles is there, looking more British than ever in tweed and a black umbrella. Everything feels damp as she follows him up the path to the cottage. Willow shrugs off the wet coat and makes no move to turn on the lights, preparing herself in the quiet dark.

She takes another deep breath before turning to face Giles, arms relaxed at her sides, chin flat, and eyes closed.

The seconds pass, beating heavily and long. After a few moments of nothing happening Willow cracks open an eye, confused to see Giles making tea in the kitchen.

He turns around to ask Willow if she wants some, but sees her posture instead and stiffens.

"Please," she pleads.

With a start, Giles understands Willow had expected him to kill her just as Willow realizes that was never his intent.


The crackle of the overhead speaker announces their descent into California.

Willow emerged from the meditation, her breathing slow and even. She was in her regular position, palms face up on her knees. Willow thought of the last time her hands had touched her friends. When her arms had bled power and crushed bone. Stripped flesh. Her hands were tainted; she didn't want to touch Xander or Buffy with them anymore.

I’m not ready, she thought, for the third time that day. Giles had said it was important she go back. Had said that she was needed. Well, she didn’t know about that, but she was ready to start delivering penance. She had a key to her parents’ house, just in case, even though Giles said Buffy assured him she’d be welcome back at Revello Drive.

The problem was, she wasn’t so sure if she deserved to be. But she had made a choice all those years ago as a girl under a tree, and Willow was finished breaking promises and letting down the people she loved. Even if they might not love her back anymore.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Buffy shuffled nervously in place. She hated airports. Everybody who didn’t die in Sunnydale left from airports, but no one ever came back. Giles, her father, Willow.

Willow.

Which Willow was coming back? Would it still be her friend? And what did that even mean, these days. They hadn’t connected since . . . well, they hadn’t connected. Buffy knew some reformed evil in her days. Heck, she'd slept with two of them. But none of the evil she’d faced prepared her for this. Nothing prepared her for something so terribly common as grief. For what Willow could do. For what the girl who she’d once tackled to the ground with gratitude and overwhelming love.

Xander shifted his sign from one shoulder to the other looking around nervously. He was probably the only person more nervous than her.

"We've never been apart this long before, Buff. I don't know what to do without her," he'd told her at the beginning of the summer just after Willow left. "What'll it be like when she gets back, y'know? She's not—" he broke off, trying to find better words. "She's not gonna be the same."

None of us are, she'd thought.

Buffy tried to hide her fidgeting from Dawn, who was anxious enough. Buffy played with her necklace to try and calm the restlessness but she was still on high alert. Not for the first time, Buffy hated being the Slayer. She hated the positions she’d been put into time and time again; when it came down to killing the people she loved.

What would happen when Willow came off the plane? Would it be awkward? Of course it’ll be awkward, she thought wryly. What’s three months away from ending the world between friends.

Buffy looked down at her hands and thought of the last time her hands had touched Willow. How helpless and useless they’d been. Buffy hated her hands. They were just tools—they punched, cracked, hammered, gripped, and pushed. They had been powerless against Willow, all those weeks ago. God, if Buffy’d only touched her.

Climbing out of that catacomb had been the easy part. Once she and Dawn had clawed their way to the top, there’d been no time to rest. The world hadn’t ended, and it was a bittersweet victory that had come at such a cost. The walk back to the house had been long and weary, Buffy and Dawn holding each other up as they stumbled back to the house. Papers from the coroner greeted them on the tabletop; reminders of what still faced them.

While Dawn took a long hot shower, Buffy had gone to the bedroom and started cleaning up the glass and blood. She'd furiously scrubbed the carpet, hands cut from the broken window pane, foam from the chemicals stinging her hands, scrubbing scrubbing scrubbing, crying as hard as she’d ever cried. As hard as for Angel. As hard as for Mom. She couldn't see through her tears and scrubbed furiously, hands raw, trying to scrub it all away—her mistakes, her grief, her failures. Scrubbing Tara. It had never fallen apart so hard.

She hadn’t even noticed Dawn coming in until arms came around her shoulders, fruity shampoo contrasting with the chemical smell of the cleaner. Buffy didn't know how to be strong for this; with a broken family and a ghost in the walls. She didn’t know how to accept that Tara’s death was her fault or that Willow had willingly walked into darkness because of it. So she simply clasped a hand over her mouth and wept, with endless ‘I’m sorry’s’ breaking from her lips.


The smell of carpet cleaner echoed in her nose now and it made Buffy nauseated as she craned her neck anxiously at the people leaving the plane.

“Do you think she’ll get the sign?” Xander asked, nodding towards his yellow crayon poster, pulling Buffy out of the past.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((38/?-March 22, 2019))
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:57 pm 
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Zooeys_Bridge, that was just gorgeous. I think this was my favorite chapter so far.
This
Quote:
: The car door feels more massive than she's used to, and she wonders if English cars are all like that or if its a sign of her own weakness. She hasn't had much energy, every little small thing is heavy. Just breathing hurts.
Quote:


was so lovely and painful, you have painted Willow's emotional state so well, giving us a visual of her so small and engulfed by her grief.
And the parallels with Willow and Buffy's hands, Buffy feels useless, like a machine and Willow like a weapon of destruction. When Willow was thinking about staying in Sunnydale, I was struck at first that she didn't think of how that choice led her to Tara- but then I realized that in her pain right now and because Tara died as a side effect of being a Scooby, it makes sense that Willow would lament her choice even more. At least right now. And Buffy scrubbing Tara :cry God that was heartbreaking. Thank you for letting us see Buffy grieve her, since the show never bothered. I want to quote it all!!! Its so good! And I really hope you get more feedback, because this work deserves it but I am happy to be your one woman band for now :) Art like this is a gift.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((38/?-March 22, 2019))
PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 2:32 pm 
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@Shirrey It’s always so interesting to hear what connects to readers the most. I’m glad you liked it :) (It seems a little sick to be like “oh THIS chapter of misery is my favorite, but here I am, a decade into this angst-fest, so the parts that kick you in the gut are clearly my favorites too)

When writing, I was struck by this moment of dread both Buffy and Willow share at the thought of facing each other again. What must have been running through their heads? The anxiety and guilt would be palpable for both of them, coming at it from different sides, but ultimately the same is just…it’s so them, right?

(I’m kicking myself for Willow bringing Tara into the ‘consequences of staying put for college’ thought process, but since you’re absolutely right, part of her would have been devastated by the possibility of never having met Tara at all, but another, louder part would be screaming “then she probably would still be alive’ and then the guilt would just continue to compound. I guess I was stuck with the Buffy blinders for the chapter pairing, which is good, cause man does that hurt my heart :P)

I hope more feedback comes along too, but my friend, the fact that you’re here writing such wonderful comments is enough to keep this little train going. You may be a one woman band, but you sound as loud and wonderful as ten to me! Thank you so much.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


:Note:This chapter takes place in Same Time Same Place, Episode 3 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!

Walking into their old room last night was nothing compared to the horror that drowned Willow at the sight of that body, lying skinless at the base of the site. Images of ropes in a darkened wood flashed, and panic overtook Willow instantly. She stumbled backwards—as if scorched—trying to breathe, but oxygen was suddenly missing. She sucked in deep breaths trying to fill her lungs but but the air didn’t come fast enough. Dizziness assaulted her and she barely made it back up the ladder.

What have I done . . . Did I do this? she thought for a moment before mentally going over the checklist the coven had taught her. As the panic threatened to overwhelm her, Willow clung to her meditation techniques, concentrated on her breathing, and sank into the earth.

The panic settled, changing into the steady, regular flow of Scooby action. It was familiar, even after months of being away. So, there was something skinning people. Ok, no big. She could do this. If this was a test, they sure picked one hell of a pop quiz. No shortcuts this time, no going big, either. She'd do things the right way this time, the natural way. She might be powerful enough to figure this out by herself, but she didn't have the control yet. So it wasn't worth the risk. Willow might not know where Buffy, or Xander, was, but she did know someone who could help her. She would not allow herself to do it alone, she needed a checks and balance system. She would build in a fail-safe and forcefully slow down the magics. She'd lost the thirst to push herself. She didn't want to be powerful anymore. She just wanted to be Willow.

So she would figure it out. The regular way, with some good, old fashioned Scooby detective work.

Her mental list was short, really only one name was on it, but it was worth a shot. Insane in the basement, Anya had said. Time to find out just how crazy Spike really was.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ever since that night in the chapel with Buffy, Spike has stuck to the high school basement. Their plan has overwhelmingly been a disaster, with Spike scaring Buffy and Tara more than makes it worth trying to go out again. He isn’t okay. This is abundantly clear now. But after that, things have been mostly fine. While Spike sits—off to the side leading against the wall, popping sunflower seeds—Tara has set up a makeshift research table poring over the miraculous books lying open before her.

Tara stopped visiting the Magic Box months ago, not long after she arrived in this farce of a Sunnydale. Once the initial hysterics of her situation wore off, naturally she went to the shop in the hopes of finding a spell or ingredient to help her escape. But when she went, all she found were empty spaces. Most of the books were blank—huge swathes of white between clumps of text she was already familiar with. There were even vacant places on the shelves where objects and ingredients once were. That didn’t stop her, of course. She delved deep into whatever material she did find: gods and goddesses, resurrection, deities of the afterlife, the Osiris spell they spent weeks working on before they brought Buffy back. It was all there—everything she had ever looked up during Scooby research.

She left no spell unspoken and no page unread. But no matter what Tara did, nothing worked. Where once there was connection in life, Tara found a gaping void. It was as if she were missing a limb: the magic that was part of her being, woven into the fibers of her cells; the magic that she was born into, and connected her to every good thing in her life. The magic that was such a big part of her relationship with her mother...that kept her warm and soft when life was cold and hard. That brought her to Willow—to Buffy, to Dawn, Xander, Giles, and Anya.

Magic was how she saw the world, it colored every living thing and connected it all. Here, she felt that great connection
severed. Living in greyscale, a consuming and aching emptiness surrounded Tara. No matter what material she found at her fingertips, there was nothing she could do with the information. It was inert and useless, just like her.

Resigned to her empty existence, she stopped going to the Magic Box to spare herself the pain. She built herself into routine at the house, to abide without hope; and told herself to endure. She had no choice.

But Spike brought that spark back to her—not just hope, but magic. The earth. The connection. So Tara braced herself and returned to the Magic Box one more time; steeling her heart for the disappointment and pain that had shaded her world for so long. But her miracle continued. The moment she stepped through the door, she released the breath she’d been holding and stared around in awe.

The shelves were full. No books were missing. And when she picked one at random to fan through, every single page was filled. She felt the earth again and let it infuse her with strength, energy, and most importantly, hope. She brought books by the armful back to the basement and got to work.


Spike perks up as if hearing something in the distance. “Someone’s here,” he says, breaking the silence.

Tara looks up from her research and freezes. “Here?”

“Sorry,” he corrects. “Not here-here. There,” he clarifies, referring to the ‘real world’. Tara’s shoulders relax. “It’s your girl,” he says a moment later.

She should have been preparing herself. It was inevitable, Willow coming back from...wherever she was. She just didn’t expect it to be here, in the school basement of all places. Or now.

“You went away,” Spike speaks to a Willow she cannot see, “You’ve been gone since…” he trails off, the open ended ellipses haunting Tara with the death she hadn’t known she’d suffered. “Tragedy,” he says, a moment later. “Is there blood? You did it once. I heard about it.” Tara freezes. It takes everything to not to dwell on the possibilities of that sentence. Spike walks forward several steps. “Slayer’s here too. And Xander.” Tara inches closer, not able to help herself even though it brings her no closer to her loved ones.

“There’s a body,” he explains to Tara. “Everyone’s talking to me. No one’s talking to each other.” Spike turns to face over his right shoulder suspiciously. “Someone isn’t here. Button, button, who’s got the button?” She wonders if he’s gone off again, but he seems clear-headed, controlled. “My money’s on the witch,” Spike accuses triumphantly.

Tara’s eyes linger in the direction Spike looks, knowing that on the other side, somewhere, Willow’s alive. Willow—who she last saw splattered with blood and shock—alive. Even as he says, “Red’s a bad girl,” she can’t stop that awe from making her heart sing. “They think you did it. The Slayer and her boy. They think you took the skin.” That, finally, is enough to pull Tara’s attention back to the matter at hand. They think you took the skin.

“The what?” Tara whispers. Surely he’s mistaken. That couldn’t have been. But the smell of Lethe’s bramble wafts unbeckoned and turns her stomach. Her knees feel weak and she reaches out to steady herself but misses the wall and buckles to the floor.

“Finally,” Spike says, relieved and also irritated, “They’re gone.” He turns, noticing Tara on the floor and quickly kneels, concerned. “Hey. You alright?”

Tara feels lightheaded. “What happened?” she asks hoarsely.

“Buffy and Xander were here—”

She shakes her head, “No. Before. What happened?”

“S’not my place, love," he says a bit regretfully.

“I c-c-can’t-”

Spike seems genuinely remorseful he can’t help further. “Really, I don’t know what happened. Wasn’t here. Was off getting this useless soul.”

Her eyes are pleading. She can’t bear to know; can’t bear not to either.

He sighs. "As I said, only heard about it. It's nothing good. Nothing you probably haven’t guessed already, now, deep down." The gaps in the answers speak volumes. "It's always the quiet ones, innit?" he finishes softly, eyes far away. She has a feeling he’s not just talking about Willow, anymore.

‘Made the earth scream’, he said. ‘They think you took the skin.’


Tara knows enough. And with the sick feeling in her stomach, she leans forward to heave.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((40/?-March 30, 2019))
PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 10:59 pm 
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3. Flaming O

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DIBS! :whip
At first let me apologize for not giving feedback until now. I'm overjoyed that you continue with this wonderful story.
I was kind of hoping that the connection between Willow and Tara would break through this wall between the "real world" and "Tara's world/hell" that Spike is somehow able to breach and that the girls would somehow feel each other when they are close - that last update dashed my hope. And now poor Tara must face the realtity that Willow skinned a human after he murdered Tara. Give the girl a break, please!
I'm anxiously waiting for what happens next and if and how Tara will be able to make contact with Willow or the other scoobies.


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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((40/?-March 30, 2019))
PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:21 pm 
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Poor precious Tara. I think Spike is right when he says she probably knows deep down- she has to have some knowledge that she died. Her connection to life, her magic is (was) gone, her life force is (was) gone. I love that this seems somehow tied to Willow coming back to Sunnydale and that somehow Willow's actions reveal themselves in the Magic Box, the missing magic the life force that Willow stole because Tara's was gone.The fact that the books are full again seem to reflect Willow's healing and realization that she really wants to be 'Just Willow' I am so curious to see how else the worlds blend. I haven't given a lot of thought to where Tara is, assuming she was in a sort of purgatory, but I am really curious as to exactly how she ended up there. And I know this is probably kitten sacrilege but I don't want them together quite yet, because I am a slave to the angst and moreso because I love seeing Tara and Willows' discoveries during this time apart.

Also this: ' But the smell of Lethe’s bramble wafts unbeckoned and turns her stomach.' was so lovely. Nothing else needs to be said- we understand exactly the magnitude of what that means. So simple and so beautiful.

And again, I love Spike as the liminal- not quite alive and not quite dead, a conduit between the worlds. Another great chapter! And yay, more feedback!!

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((40/?-March 30, 2019))
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 6:24 pm 
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@Will’s redemption:
No apologies necessary, I’m grateful and thrilled you’re here!

Sorry to have dashed your hopes. It’s still going to be a little while until they meet again, but it’s certainly a lot closer than the ten years I’ve already been keeping readers waiting. Tara could certainly use a break (or twenty).

@shirrey:
Your comments continue to give me such life.
It’s so much fun reading your thoughts on the hows and whys - I can’t wait until all is revealed because it’s killing me to not be able to talk about it with you because or spoilers. Just…flag this whole thing for the future and we’ll come back to it :)

If not wanting Willow and Tara back together yet is kitten sacrilege, then I’m the mayor of hell, because I need our girls apart to work through the mountains of emotional issues they’re buried under. I’m an angst whore myself, but there’s also a point to it all, right? I don’t want to magic away the problems, because without working through them and struggling through, their reunion would be entirely un-earned and ultimately a disservice to both girls. I love them too much to do that to ‘em.

Thanks for being on the long ride with me in the meantime :)
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Note: This chapter takes place in Same Time Same Place, Episode 3 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes inbetween what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!


Spike was well aware he was being used like a dog. Not so much in the degrading sense—he was doing that plenty well on his own, thanks—but rather like a well-trained mutt, following the scent of blood.

He didn't like leaving Tara behind, shaky as she'd been earlier. He knew what it was like to finally see the monster for what it was. Wouldn't have wished it on someone as sweet as that little dove, but if anyone had asked him (not that anyone ever did), he could've seen it coming a mile away. Red had reeked of power, even in the early days, but he'd cared far more about the Slayer than her pets. Never did like her much. Suspected it had to do with how much she reminded Spike of himself, all the things he'd hated about William.

Tara hadn't said much all afternoon. What with finding out Willow was a murdering torturer and all, she was understandably a little preoccupied and out of sorts. She declined to come along for the hunt, mumbling some excuse about research. It wasn't going to be that exciting and he couldn't blame her for wanting to keep her distance from Willow, even if separated by a strange dimension. Finding out what she did? Does something to a person. Sometimes you can't be the same after that. He should know.

He tried to ignore Buffy's presence—it was like a blinding light, it was—but Xander being there dampened the situation plenty. Dawn too, but Little Bit bothered him to a lesser degree. He was proud of her, threats n' all, for sticking up for Buffy. He remembered when she carried a childlike anger and resentment towards her sister. Shame she had to grow up so fast, the way she did. He wouldn't have wished it on anyone, even without his soul.

Blood drew him further into the woods, the scent both mesmerizingly magnetic and nauseating. His stomach churned and hungered at the same time. No changing what he was, soul or not.

Without preamble, he left Buffy and the others at the mouth of the cave. Heading back to the basement, though safe, wasn't an appealing option at the moment. He hadn't been topside for the better part of a week, having holed himself away since the incident with Ronnie and Buffy.

Perhaps fresh air would do him some good.

After Buffy killed the demon, they split up, Buffy going to check on Dawn back at the house, leaving Xander to take Willow to the hospital. Though deep, Willow's wounds were relatively minor, considering. They managed to concoct a cover story about a whittling accident gone awry but the nurse still looked suspicious while bandaging her stomach.

Taking her chart, the nurse left and Xander found himself alone with Willow for the first time in a long while. They sat close to each other but the awkwardness that bridged between them felt like miles.

"I guess no trip to Sunnydale is complete without a visit to the hospital," Willow said lightly, trying to break the tension.

"Definitely one of our finer tourist destinations. The Jell-O is top notch."

"Absolutely," Willow nodded a little too quickly. "And having experienced all eight flavors, we're definitely qualified to pass judgement."

"Yeah, we should get frequent flier miles at this place or something."

Their banter was familiar, but the veneer of cheerfulness barely masked the growing tension.

"O-or a 'come ten times and the eleventh visit is free' card."

"I'll keep it in my wallet right next to the burrito club card and Swords-R-Us membership."

Willow chuckled and he smiled, but no one spoke. The silenced soon stretched uncomfortably, neither making the move to break it.

"This is stupid," Xander finally declared, "We've known each other since we were four, Will. You're my best friend."

Willow squirmed, blushing. "Xander . . ." she chided.

"No! This is stupid. I don't like this feeling all . . ." he said, gesturing vaguely between them, ". . . weird."

"It hasn't been this awkward since the illicit kissage of senior year," Willow admitted.

"And frankly that was way more fun, so having that put into context really makes this feel just super fun." Xander fidgeted with his hands, laying them on his knees before changing his mind and clasping them together again. "It shouldn't be this hard."

"Yeah, but it's kinda my fault, so . . ." Willow replied in a small voice, trailing off.

"I think you're kinda dealing with enough of that for one lifetime, Will, don'tcha think?" He remembered when it used to be easy, when the world was simple and the hardest choices they'd had to make was choosing whose house to go to after school. Now Willow's grief scarred his face and lingered in her eyes. But sometimes he'd blink and they were still ten and happy, before the world became dangerous, and consequences shadowed their every step.

He hoped she still saw that too.

The silence stretched between them again, like silly-putty, waiting for the tension to fall and separate.

"I signed for her, y'know," Xander said finally. The flinch was barely there—but Xanders know their Willows—and even without looking, he could see her entire being lurch. She didn't say anything, but he knew she was trying to keep it together. "Her body, someone had to. . . ." he trailed off, looking around the room. "I hate hospitals." Willow's lip wavered and she pursed them in the vain hopes of staying the tears that welled. "That was the worst day of my life."

Willow snorted through her tears. "Tell me about it."

"I keep thinkin', running it over and over in my head till it's all I think about and I just . . . if I could've just moved, I could've knocked him down, I could've. . . ." Willow watched silently, saying nothing, as it all poured out of Xander. "I could've. . . ." he trails off. "I could've saved her."

Her eyes were the saddest he'd ever seen them, heavy and lidded under the weight of death; full with regret, pity, understanding—a thousand things he'd never wanted her to feel—the sorrow was palpable.

"Xander, you know there's nothing you could've done."

"But I always do something. That's what I do."

"He had a gun, he could've killed you."

"That's never stopped me from doing something stupid before."

"Definitely not, or else you wouldn't be saying all this stuff now. Xander, you're my best friend. We've known each other since we were four, remember? So I know what I'm talking about when I'm saying you're a dummy."

He looked at Willow weakly as she slid her hand into his. They were dry and cool. "Don't you think I've thought about ways I could've saved her? If I'd've just listened to her. If I'd've never done the dark magics, or hadn't been doing so well or trying to win her back, and we never would've been in that room. O-or even if we never met. That one almost hurts more, but . . . she'd've been safe, she'd still be alive somewhere, breathing, and-and . . . it just goes on. I think of, like, three new ways it could've gone differently every day."

Willow wiped her nose with her sleeve. "But it doesn't change the fact that she's still gone, and I'm still here. Which turns out is a good thing, 'cause someone has to stop you from being such a big doofus." Her smile was weak but genuine. He saw it stretch over her face and reach her eyes.

"Hey, I was the one trying to be all comforty, here," he said. But Willow'd gotten good at that over the years, stealing away his problems and tucking them somewhere into herself.

"Yeah, well I figure I owe you one for getting me to not end the world, so. . . Consider us square."

Hoisting her to her feet and throwing one arm around her shoulders, he marched them out of the room. "Let's get burgers."

"Oh god, yes," Willow moaned, "I haven't eaten since England."

Two steps out of the Emergency Room, he felt better already. The entrance doors slid open to let them exit.

"Hey, do you know what you'd like?" she said on their way out, "Bangers n' mash. Mostly just because you'd get to say 'bangers n' mash'."

God, he'd missed her.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((42/?-April 6, 2019))
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:34 pm 
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Well that just opens more questions for me :) I had thought maybe Spike was referring to Tara knowing about Willow, but that led to Tara asking why Willow would go there, what had happened, then realizing that she died. But oh this is sadder, maybe, maybe sadder because if Tara doesn't know why Willow went murderous dark then she wasn't really surprised that she did, which says something about how she sees Willow and her newfound control of magic, or lack of- in Tara's final days (oh god that still hurts to write!). Of course, maybe Tara does know that she is dead but still, understandably reels from finding out Willow's reaction. But if she doesn't and still has to find out- more sadness and hurt for Tara. All this speculating is breaking my brain so I am just gonna be patient for where you take us.
Xander and Willow were sweet- of course Willow would find saying 'bangers and mash' so very fun (she's not wrong) I have always wondered if Xander would really feel that the day of signing Tara's papers was his worst day (he says it in the show too right?) He just never seemed that close to Tara. Maybe because he lost his best friend too with that signature. And how does Willow feel about not being there to do that herself? a mixture of guilt and relief, most probably. Look at me, having a conversation with myself :rofl
And I agree about the angst that is necessary- and love that you love the girls enough to give them the time to wrestle with their fears and doubts and longing, time they will need to wade through it to each other. I can't wait revisit these comments with you in the future!

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((42/?-April 6, 2019))
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 8:07 pm 
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something else just hit me: the parallels that are side by side but almost in opposition between Willow and Tara's days- both shaped by Willow's actions but Tara is reeling and withdrawing whereas Willow and Xander are healing and connecting- they have had the time to live with this a lot longer though, and they have had community. Tara has been alone, she has needed all her strength just to stay sane and alive. And now this, at least Spike is there even if she is keeping distance for now.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((42/?-April 6, 2019))
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 1:43 pm 
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@shirrey:

Sorry, I think some of your confusion may have been my fault for not making things clearer. At the start of the story, Tara didn’t know she’d died at all. The last thing she remembers before waking up empty-Sunnydale was Willow balking, blood splattered all over her shirt. If anything, Tara thought Willow was the one who’d gotten shot. Spike is the one who tells her that no, it was Tara who’d died. And since then, with some of the comments Spike’s made, she’s had an inkling that things didn’t exactly go well, after her death - ’Willow Unplugged’, ‘earth screaming with your girl’s rage’, ‘not wanting to face her down, all gothic up’ - Tara knows what Willow’s capable of, having suffered the brunt of her cruelty and selfishness herself. Spike doesn’t know the details, necessarily, but he’s heard things. Felt them. And Tara’s no dummy.

But finally, she’s learning more the shape of what Willow’s cruelty looked like. Something about blood. Something about a body. Something involving taking the skin. It’s enough. And it sickens her. She can put the pieces together of ‘Willow did these things after I got shot’.
Spike’s probably the most intuitive Scooby of all (though he’d hate to be called a Scooby) and is telling Tara that if she’s honest with herself, she’d admit to the darkness Willow was always capable of.

Does that clear things up a little? (Or am I repeating things you'd already understood?) While things might make perfect sense up in my head, it might be different on paper to people who aren't privy to the entire plot and thought process. Oops.

Quote:
he says it in the show too right?)

I think he does too? But I’m blanking where. He definitely isn’t as close with Tara, but failing to act, he (feels like he) let Buffy get shot on top of Tara, and because of that, he almost lost his best friend. Look what Willow did - how could that not be his fault, too? (THEY ALL HAVE SO MUCH GUILT, COULD EVERYONE JUST GIVE THEMSELVES A BREAK, PLEASE?!)

You’re definitely right. The shame that burns the most in Willow - more than hurting her friends, more than almost ending the world - is that she wasn’t there for Tara. That she left her body almost discarded and unimportant. She should have been the one to be there. She should have been the one to watch over Tara’s body until it was taken away. She should have been the one to take care of every small detail having to do with her.

I find that one of the most beautiful things about Judaism is the way we do death. Part of the ritual involves what’s called shomrim (literally ‘guards’ or ‘watchers’), usually volunteers that are part of the Jewish burial society, staying with the deceased from death until burial. After the body is washed and cleaned, the night before burial (Jews bury their dead as soon as possible, usually within two or three days) these shomrim stay with the body all night, reciting pslams and other readings, to make sure the person is never left alone. Now, I doubt Willow knew that much about the ins and outs of Jewish funerary processes (I’ve lots of thoughts about Willow and her Judaism), but afterwards, in England? I imagine she spent quite a lot of time looking into her own traditions and learning about what Judaism taught (it’s not really a spoiler to say this is something that will come up in future Lotus chapters, is it?). And when she learns about the shomrim, I would imagine she thinks back to the moment she left that room to hunt Warren, and regrets every last second she didn’t spend with Tara. To have missed performing the last, ultimate mitzvahs (good deeds) that can never be repaid, of guarding her body. I’m rambling now myself, but dang, this is good, painful stuff :P

All I said about it was back in chapter 26 with “Willow abandoned her love, left her alone with the carpet for a shroud and Dawn to find, unadorned and bereft, cooling in the shadows. Willow knew that that was her greatest crime of all.” Which against all of the above in our discussion, kind of pales in comparison :laugh

Quote:
the parallels that are side by side but almost in opposition between Willow and Tara's days- both shaped by Willow's actions but Tara is reeling and withdrawing whereas Willow and Xander are healing and connecting
That juxtaposition never occurred to me and gosh, that’s a sharp observation

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((42/?-April 6, 2019))
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:23 pm 
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I think my confusion comes with reading too many fics at once - I don't like to skip around because this happens, but I also don't want to wait until things are finished here because that's not gonna happen. You did make it clear that Tara knew, I now remember Spike telling her about her death. And Tara is definitely no dummy, but I do wonder if she would ever believe that Willow would turn that dark- although deep down maybe, just like Spike says. Makes me wonder if she will start to regret reconciling with her in the first place. Makes me wonder if she has had direct experience of this darkness before. And yes, I do remember the part about Willow leaving her body (now) , I think I even commented on it haha. seriously, too many fics at once.

Thank you for sharing about the shomrim, I knew about burying within three days and washing before death, but having someone to just be there, keeping the soul company before the cross over is beautiful (did I get that right?) .

So, I think the solution to my questions is rereading Lotus from the beginning :)

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((42/?-April 6, 2019))
PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 4:20 pm 
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Yay discovery of a good fic. Enjoying it and looking forward to reading more.

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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((42/?-April 6, 2019))
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:18 pm 
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@shirrey- I have a hard time following long chaptered fics from update to update, so my method of reading is usually hoarding multiple updates at once to binge read. It’s been years, I hardly think anyone would blame you for needing to restart Lotus from the beginning :P

@taranwillow4ever - welcome! That’s the magic of the KB - there’s somehow always something new to read

Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Willow/Tara, Genfic
Summary: Three months after ‘Grave’. We encounter our heroes who stumble brokenly, desperate to find a new path and heal.
Posted on Ao3 and The Kittenboard.


Note: This chapter takes place in Same Time Same Place, Episode 3 and Help Episode 4 of Season 7. They're sort of like scenes in-between what we, the viewers, saw. Think about them logistically and place them chronologically. Any questions, please feel free to ask!


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Bracing her arm against the doorway, Willow cringed as the pain seared across her belly. She slowly approached the bed, cradling her stomach. Gingerly, she settled into a cross-legged position, placing her palms on the familiar place atop her knees, taking a moment to survey the room.

Nothing here reminded her of the room down the hall. And for that, Willow was supremely grateful. She thought back to the high school sleepovers she and Buffy had; the gossip and whispers they'd shared, bowls of junk food, afternoons doing homework. This was an innocent space; a room devoid of shame, death, and triggering memories. A room without Tara.
Determined to start healing, Willow took the familiar deep breaths, and sank into her meditation.

She was surprised to find how quickly the earth opened itself to her here. Granted, it was a Hellmouth, but still. The regular connection was there, but it was a much vaster system than in England.

Here, Tara was in the roots.

They ran onto the porch a giggling soaking mess, having tried in vain to shield themselves with schoolbooks and purses, which flopped uselessly against their heads. It had been an unexpected rainfall, unusual for this time of year, even more so in Southern California. “Willow!” Tara shrieked while fumbling for the keys as hands slid up her back.

“What?” Willow looked back with false innocence.

Tara laughed, eyes twinkling, “We’re soaked!” She looked so beautiful with tendrils of hair twisting down her neck and around her ears, skirt sticking to her legs. Her shawl had fallen off one shoulder leaving it bare, and she bent down to tie her boots, laces having gotten loose in the mad dash. She was an absolute mess. She was perfect.
“I know,” Willow said with a mischievous grin, “I kinda wanted to keep it that way.”

Tara rolled her eyes good naturedly. “Can we please get inside first, you horndog?”

“And waste this perfectly romantic moment?” Willow waved, gesturing widely. “Getting caught in a rainstorm together?”

Moving her hips awkwardly, Tara winced as she pulled at her skirt. “It’s not as romantic when there’s a wedgie the size of Montana riding up your butt.”

Willow laughed as the door finally opened and they marched in together.

It didn’t take much longer for the clothes to come off after that.


A different energy hummed alongside the memory, powerful and strong, and Willow's eyelids fluttered.

Slowly, Willow pulled back from the remembrance space, finding her way back by climbing up the roots. She felt the familiar pull of Tara leaving her and kissed it goodbye as she always did. Earth magic, natural as it was, was all the more draining and she leaned back into the pillows. "Buffy," Willow said weakly.

Standing hesitantly in the doorway, Buffy looked unsure about whether to leave or stay. "I didn't mean—,” she started, looking almost embarrassed. “Sorry to interrupt.”

"That's all I had left in me anyway," Willow confessed.

"Didn't realizing meditating was such hard work," Buffy took a tentative seat at the foot of the bed.

"I'm healing, growing new skin," Willow shared.

"That's... wow. This is magic, right? When most people meditate they don't get extra skin, do they? Cause Clem should like, cut back." The banter was awkward. Nervous. Willow tried not to think about how that was her fault, too.

"It's magic," she confirmed. "I'm drawing power from the earth to heal myself."

"We're on the second floor," Buffy deadpanned, confused.

"Y'know, Giles says everything is part of the earth. The bed, the air . . ." As she rubbed the bedspread in front of her, Willow felt it swell—the ghost of a proud smile graced her lips—a memory, “. . . Us.” For a moment, Tara thrummed. I'm finally doing it right.

"Explains why my fingernails get dirty even when I don't do anything."

"Plus you stuck your thumbs in a demon."

"True."

Exhausted, Willow leaned into the pillows behind her. Buffy watched, and then, “You’re wiped out, I should go.”

Willow’s stomach sank. She felt the moment, that precious moment, between them slipping away. She thought about a life without Buffy, about disappointing her again and again and again, and desperately reached out. “No. Please stay? I missed you so much when I couldn’t find you,” Willow begged, talking about so much more than the Gnarl demon and her accidental spell.

Buffy must have known, read it in her eyes, because her reply was as earnest as Willow’s. “We missed you, too. I missed you, too,” she corrected. "Dawn’s working on what caused the mutual no-see-ums, but I don’t—"

"I did it," Willow interrupted guiltily.

"You did a spell?"

For one terrifying moment, Willow thought her worst fear had come true. That right then, Buffy saw her as an enemy. Again.

"I didn’t mean to, I-I just remember thinking that I wasn’t ready to see you guys yet. I was afraid we wouldn’t, you know, connect?" Willow admitted. Like we haven’t in years. In a lifetime. Like we almost aren’t now.

"So, you made it happen just by thinking it?" Buffy confirmed.

Willow braced herself. It was harder than waiting for Giles’ retribution. This was Buffy. “Guess I have a ways to go before I master my powers, huh.”

But Buffy’s only response was, “S’ok. Long as you’re all right,” and Willow exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. There was forgiveness in Buffy’s eyes, and it was more than Willow had dared hope to see again.

"It’s nice to be forgiven." The weight of the past year nudged its way forward, and she flushed with shame. "Too bad I need so much of it."

Buffy looked down and Willow was afraid she was going to change her mind and take it all back. “I have a confession to make. I thought it might be you. With the flaying.”

Relief flooded Willow again. Guilt she was good at. “I know.”

"I wanna be the kind of person that wouldn’t think that. Xander never thought it."

"He did, a little. Heck, I did a little. Xander has the luxury of not saying it, but you’re the Slayer. You have to say stuff like that. It’s ok. It’s ok too if you still don’t think I can recover from this magic stuff. ‘Cause, honestly? I’m not that sure about it either,” Willow admitted, feeling very much like the shy lonely girl Buffy had faced at the water fountain all those years ago.

But that just reminded Willow of the past six years all over again, so she leaned forward, sighed, and began meditating again.

"I thought you were too tired," Buffy pointed out.

"It hurts too much not to try."

"I’m sorry," Buffy apologized, despite her having nothing to apologize for.

"It just takes so much strength. I don’t have that much."

Buffy scooted herself onto the bed and situated herself across from Willow. “Well, I got so much strength, I’m giving it away.”

She remembered when it used to be like this between them. When it was trust and support that shone brighter than the darkness that surrounded them, giving them the strength to defeat it. When their friendship brought them together instead of drove them apart. "Are you sure?" Willow asked, giving Buffy the space to decide.

"Will it help?"

Willow nodded gratefully, “Much.”

"Good."

And there it was, shining bright and strong. It felt so good to finally— finally—feel it again.

Reaching out tentatively with her magic, carefully pulling some of the Slayer energy into her own. It felt….familiar. Buffy grabbed her hands and held tight. Just like she used to; like it could be again. She felt stronger already.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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"Hey," Willow slumped, sitting on her knees like a child.

She remembered going for walks around the Coven’s property and picking up small rocks to put in her pocket. They weighed her down like an anchor and it was an apt metaphor for someone who felt like they were drowning a good part of the time.

During the meditations, she'd take out one of the rocks from her pocket, cradle it, and think of Tara: her other anchor. As the Coven surrounded her, she drew from their strength and steadiness. They were warm and gentle and she took great comfort in their number. Usually hovering around thirteen people, it was the ideal minyan.

Willow would meditate with the women around her, borrow their numbers, and say kaddish.

It had felt strange at first.

Willow's participation in Judaism had taken a markedly drastic downturn since her Bat Mitzvah. After that, it seemed her parents felt their job was over, and didn’t care much anymore. They went to synagogue the obligatory two or three times a year, and even that had petered out by high school. What she knew was fragmented, archaeological almost; just scraps of Hebrew terms and abstracted beliefs. And Willow had never done well with abstraction. She preferred details, facts, formulas, and codes (losing sight of the bigger picture had always been her undoing).

She became frustrated at her lack of knowledge of her own history. Had she always been so ignorant of herself, of who she was and where she came from?

The one thing Willow did remember were the rituals of Jewish bereavement. After all, the Scoobies, were always within Death’s reach. Death lingered in the doorway, never leaving, waiting for the next person. But death could be structured. So she clasped to the ritual, the way the shiva process was designed to be held. It gave her something to hang on to, a way to grasp small things.

Things like rocks.

Willow would sit with the Coven, close her eyes, sink past the meditations and into a special separate place. There in the earth, in the deepest reaches of her chest, Willow found Tara.

The first time she had said the prayer, the words felt foreign in her mouth. The Hebrew and Aramaic seemed deeper, more ancient even than the Latin Willow had grown accustomed to. The words felt rusty on her tongue after so many years. But Willow clung to the ritual, letting tradition burnish her against the wake of her mistakes. She stumbled over the mourner's kaddish, forgetting whole lines, but with every passing day, each time she spoke, it became smoother. By the end of the second week it felt natural. Comforted by the women surrounding her, Willow's meditations turned into prayer. Into benediction. And the stones grounded her. To Tara.

Prayer carries, Willow remembered.

"What's that," Tara asks, shrugging off her jacket, back in the dorm room after Joyce's funeral.

"Hmm?" Willow murmurs.

Tara nods to the book in Willow's hands.

"Oh, it's nothing," she replies distractedly.

"Looks an awful lot like 'something'," Tara says as she makes her way over, wrapping her arms around Willow and pressing a soft kiss to her shoulder.

Leaning into Tara, Willow tilts the book to share the page. "It's my old prayer book from Hebrew school. I haven't used it since, well, I got it, really. But after today? I dunno. It got me thinking about where I come from. And even though I’m not really so much with the practicing, I remember going to my grandmother's funeral."

Tara's thumb rubs circles on the backs of Willow's knuckles as she continues, "I only met her a few times. The Rosenbergs? Not too big on the family front, but we went to the funeral. And there's this whole thing afterwards, at the house, shiva? I dunno, it was really nice,” Willow trails off, tracing Tara's fingers with her own. "Tons of visitors, seeing each other again after so many years, reminiscing and telling stories about her." She looks up at Tara, "I could see how good it felt for them. Remembering her and connecting with each other, y'know?"

Tara leans forward, connecting their foreheads with a kiss. "It's a beautiful tradition, Will. There's life in death."


Of course, after Joyce, had come Glory, so the prayer book was soon abandoned again.

Ever so tenderly, Willow traced Tara's name, as deeply engraved in Willow as it was in the headstone. She touched reverently, fingers trembling for a moment before they fell. This was harder, so much harder than she had ever thought possible.

Rocks were permanent.

"It's me," she breathed. “Happy Birthday.”

_________________
Lotus


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 Post subject: Re: Lotus ((44/?-April 15, 2019))
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
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Topics: 4
Location: Portland, Or
Zooey, first off I am sorry to have ever made you doubt the clarity or cohesiveness of your work. You spelled out Tara finding out about her death and her reactions and memories clearly and beautifully. I must have had jello brain when I wrote those previous comments.
On this last read I really was struck by Tara's first reaction to that news being that she promised Willow she would never leave her, that was her first thought, first pain- and of course it was because she's Tara, but we know that is because Tara never ever wants to let Willow down or hurt her. Then Tara finding herself in the white, did she push out into another reality meaning to push back into her own? An attempt to make good on her promise of never leaving ? I also loved Ms Harkness reminding Willow that if she were dark, she wouldn't regret the darkness, the fact that Willow still cares, still grieves her actions speaks of her continued humanity. I don't think I have ever seen a writer bring up that point but it is so true. Last of the reread was Tara remembering that there were always obstacles to loving Willow completely. Which leads right to this last chapter. Roots. I have this feeling that this is what everything is about. Tara finding herself, her roots- rooting through the mildew and decay and dead bugs to who and what she truly is. The fact that she had been alone since her death, and is now mostly alone is a part of her roots. She grew up lonely, and when her mom died, it was utter desolation until Willow- and even then there was the fear, the fear and comfort of the loneliness. And Willow of course finding her roots in her friendship with Buffy, in Judaism, and in everything Tara. Tara in her chest, Tara in the earth, Tara as part of the roots- so beautiful and enduring and so damn heartbreaking. Stone is permanent- the gravestone and Willow's rocks- but life isn't, the spirit changes and forms. Beautiful chapter as always.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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