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

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 Post subject: Re: First Fic: Endless
PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2002 9:32 pm 
hmm, this seems pretty damn interesting. it's so sad for willow, going through all that, but such a good fic. i'm really liking this, please keep updating.



steph

"Dr. Becker, have you seen the skeleton?" "What do you think I am, a skeleton thief? You want to search me?!"
"Who sponsered career day this year, The Brittish Soccer Fan Association?!" - Xander - What's My Line?
"We'll all be a lot happier without the constant whining....Mom, Buffy, Tara, Waah" - DMW to Dawn



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 Post subject: Fic: Endless
PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2002 9:55 pm 
My first fic, so apologies in advance. This is a bit of a tricky one. If you hate it, if it’s totally unsuitable, please let me know, and there’ll be no more. Only four parts are intended, so it’s not a huge story.



A warning in advance: this story assumes all the events of season six happened exactly as shown on screen. I have perhaps taken Willow’s grief to an extreme. For the most part of the tale, she is comatose, and Tara is dead. It tells of a journey into Willow’s soul, what is found there, and the eventual return of Tara. I wrote it mostly as a catharsis for myself, after the horrible events of last season, and it’s told as a first-person narrative. But the narrator isn’t me – though I wish it could be.



Title: ENDLESS

Author:
Mike of the Nancy Tribe

Feedback: I’m open to anything.

Rating: PG-13, I think. No laughs, no smut. Very serious.

Disclaimer: Most of the characters herein belong to ME. They should have taken better care of them.

Pairings: Willow & Tara, in spirit for the most part. But they WILL be reunited.

Spoiler Warning: Only if you haven’t seen season six. And I’ve used the hints we’ve been given of what will be happening at the start of season seven.

Summary: My way of bringing Tara back. But it’s not easy.



ENDLESS





Part One: Little Girl Lost



Two days. That’s all it’s been since I met Willow Rosenberg. And I think I fell just a little bit in love with her right then. Through her, through the sadness and steadfastness of her soul, I came to love Tara too. I learned what they had shared, and endured, and lost. And it broke my heart.



That was why I resolved to….but no. I don’t think I have that much time left, and I must tell this story the way it happened.



I knew about Willow’s case, and I thought I had readied myself for the task ahead. But nothing could have prepared me for what would change my life in both the best, and the worst, possible ways.



I still shiver a little when remembering my first sight of her. The coven had placed her in a comfortable room at the manor house. Although it was mid-June, there was no real heat in the air. The house was perched right on the cliffs, and the never-ending breeze from the sea kept the whole area cool. Most of the curtains were closed, making the room shadowy and hushed. Willow was under no restraint of any kind. She’d needed none since Rupert Giles had brought her to England, just over three weeks earlier.



According to the reports, she was broken. For the first week she’d been so wracked with grief that any approach was almost hopeless. To her carers, it hadn’t seemed possible that one person could have so many tears inside them. And they had cried too. They couldn’t be human and do otherwise, seeing the level of pain that she was feeling. Between the heart-wrenching sobs, and the terrible gasping for breath, she had said only one word, over and over again, the name: Tara.



Her beloved, her friend, her soul mate, “her everything”, Giles told me. “They were meant to be together. I see that now.”



I suppose I felt a pang of envy. I had never known anything as powerful as that.



I’ll never forget the last line of the first report that came to me. It was written by Willow’s prime carer, my old friend Marion Joyner. She was priestess of the coven that had been her life for over thirty years, and even then, considering what came afterwards, I trusted her judgement more than almost anyone else. She had a stillness about her, a calm detachment that some mistook for arrogance. I knew better, but I had never seen her weep. The paper that came to me was signed by her, and I could swear the inky smudges on it were tearstains. The last line said: “How can someone hurt so much, and still be alive?”



From the first day that Giles had brought her there, heavily wrapped and in a wheelchair, the coven had blanketed Willow’s room with calming spells. They had been lifted before I arrived, but I could still feel the echoes as soon as I entered the house – soothing, flowing waves of safety, ease and comfort. They were as strong as the coven was able to conjure, but for several days, they seemed to have no effect on the young woman. Sedation wasn’t considered; medicine and magic don’t mix well.



Eventually though she began to quiet, the heaving sobs giving way to an almost breathless moaning. Then, Marion had told me, on the eighth night since Willow’s arrival in Devon, there was silence. She had withdrawn into herself totally, pulling away from the pain. The doctor despatched by the Council called it a ‘catatonic stupor’. She could do nothing for herself, and she responded to nothing.



For Willow, the world had gone away.



And why not? I thought. The whole reason for her being was gone. The one person that she truly lived for, would have died for, gave her soul to, was gone, ripped away from her in a single second. Would I have fared any better? Would I have cared about the world any more? And then there was the guilt. What she had done, what she almost did. It must have been eating at her soul.



But I’m getting ahead of myself again.



When the calming spells were lifted, the Council’s tame doctor did the only thing he knew. A regime of benzodiazipines, and when they failed, a whole range of barbiturates. The only effect was Willow enduring an entire day of involuntary muscle spasms and vomiting, before relapsing into her trance state. When the doctor suggested antipsychotics and electro-convulsive therapy, I believe Giles threw him bodily out of the house.



I’ve always liked Rupert. The only Watcher I’ve ever met who had any commonsense.



For the next week, healing spells were cast every day. If Willow’s condition had been purely physical, it would have been a risky move. But if the magic made any difference, no one could see it. Then I was called in. Marion called me directly. Normally, the Council is advised whenever my special services are required. This time, I was called as a friend.



And so, here I was.



And there she was, the young woman who had tried to end the world.



She looked no more than a little girl. She had been dressed in a simple white hospital gown, and her feet were bare on the thick pile carpet. She was seated in a wheelchair at the window, facing out towards the sea. But those eyes saw nothing. They were greyish green, but dull now, in a face made haggard by loss and grief. From each one a thin trickle of tears ran down her cheeks. They never stopped. To make her sleep, her eyelids had to be closed for her, and still the tears never stopped. Her red hair hung matted and lifeless, her mouth slightly open.



And yet, through it all, I could see she was beautiful.



Oh Willow. Look what love has done to you. A need so great, a loss so overwhelming. I’m told a friend saved you, but for what? Will you come back if I call you? How deep have you hidden yourself from the pain?



My heart went out to her, and I wanted to protect her, to comfort her, to guard her against more hurt. But I knew that right wasn’t mine.



I knelt down by her chair, to feel for her pulse. Her skin felt dry and cool, the pulse delicate. Her frame was thin and frail. She had a tube in her arm for a saline drip, and one in her chest for intravenous feeding. I passed my hand in front of her eyes, but the pupils weren’t reacting to light. I lifted her hand to shoulder height, and her arm remained in place. I looked up to catch Marion’s eye. She nodded. “Cerea flexibilitas. A common sign of catatonic stupor, the doctor said.” Her limbs could be placed in any position, sometimes painful, and she wouldn’t respond. I lowered her hand again. She was a broken doll.



Giles stood by Marion’s side. I said quietly: “I don’t know if I can bring her back from this, Rupert. I don’t know if she wants to come back.”



“That’s what she said to Buffy”, he whispered. I could see tears pricking at his eyes. “She wasn’t coming back. None of it….none of it meant anything any more.” I rose from my knees and went to him. He turned away, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Bloody stupid girl. She was….she….oh god. She was the best of us, John. Over there, on the Hellmouth. She was the best and brightest of us all. I should never have left…”



I watched his back as he replaced his glasses, lifted his shoulders, and turned back towards me. “We nearly ruined it all, you know. Marion and I, and the coven. If she is to be judged for her actions, so must we. We gave her the essence of true magic, we allowed her to feel the pain of the world…and she almost ended it. For us all. We were arrogant, stupid –“



“Rupert. Please.” Marion interrupted his rising anger. “You know we had to. It was the only way. We had to take the chance – “



He snorted. “Chance! Oh yes, we took a chance. But it was blind. What kind of chance was it that Xander Harris – of all people! – managed to stop her.” He calmed a little then. “Blind chance. And we nearly lost it all.”



I looked at him, put my hand on his shoulder. “Do you really think that’s all it was?” I said. He frowned, quizzically. “One boy? One powerless boy? In the right place at the right time to save the world? Blind chance?”



“What do you mean?”



“You and I both know that there are Powers in this world. Powers that watch, and wait, and sometimes act, because they know the way that things are supposed to be.” I let my arm fall from his shoulder, and walked back to Willow. I looked at her, and said “If they hadn’t wanted it, if Willow, somewhere deep inside, hadn’t wanted to stop as well…then we would all be dead. Saving the world doesn’t happen at random.”



Neither of them spoke. It was only then that I heard a soft murmur, and saw a woman sitting in shadow, in a dark corner of the large room. I raised an eyebrow to Marion. “The Wall of Jhathira”, she said. “One of us chants the spell every day, round the clock. It’s Megan’s turn until nightfall.” I knew of it. A powerful blocking spell. The dark forces that Willow had allowed to permeate her body had fled. The coven had purged them after many hours of labour. But they had tasted her once, and found her willing. They could not be allowed to return, but the spell would block me also. “We’re still rebuilding our power since we gave it to Rupert,” said Marion, “but we do what we can.”



“I think I’d better take it from here”, I said.



“Can you save her?” asked Giles huskily.



“I don’t know. First I need to find her. If she doesn’t want to be found, there may be no hope.”



“I think….I think there may have been only one person she would want to be found by”, said Giles with a terrible sadness. “And she’s gone. She loved Tara so much, John. So very much. She couldn’t forgive the world for still existing without Tara in it.”



And can you forgive yourself, Willow, for seeing her die, and not dying yourself in that instant?



I started going around the wide room, throwing open all the curtains. The summer afternoon burst in. I needed light. So did Willow. She had been in darkness for too long. “I’ll do what I can, old friend. Will you be staying on?”



“No. It’s time I went back to Sunnydale. It seems that every time I leave, the children run wild. I have a flight in the morning, from Exeter.” He looked at me steadily. “I….I know we’re leaving Willow in safe hands. She’s very precious to me, you see.”



I nodded. “I know. Okay Marion, now it’s time to let me do my job. No more spells unless I ask for them, but be vigilant. It’s always possible that something may try to follow my path into Willow. Not likely, but it’s possible.”



Marion signalled to Megan to cease her chanting and follow her out of the room. “There are spare IV bags in the cabinet, John”, she said. “You know how to change them, don’t you”. It wasn’t a question. She knew I had been in situations like this before. My medical training was minimal, but I knew what to do.



“Good luck John”, said Giles as they left, closing the door behind them. “All our hopes, you know?”



Then it was just me and the red-haired girl who had lost her way.



The late afternoon hung heavy in the room. The only sounds were the soft shushing of waves below the cliff, and the barely audible breathing of the girl in the chair. I took off my jacket, threw it onto the bed. Like the stuffy old Englishman I am, I loosened my tie, but didn’t take it off. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the bedside cabinet. I ran both hands through my greying hair, and pursed my lips. “Well you old fool”, I said to my reflection, “let’s get this show on the road. Time to dip your toes into darkness again.”



I turned Willow’s chair around, closer to the bed, so the sunlight brightened the right side of her pale face. I sat on the bed beside her, and looked again into those sad green eyes. So beautiful, and so lost.



Was she really seeing nothing? Or was she watching, over and over, that moment when her world fell apart?



I remembered something I’d read, not too long ago, about a woman who had recovered from catatonic stupor. For her, the drugs had worked. She had said something like “Nothing gets through, but every once in a while you can hear someone calling your name-but there’s no way to answer. Sometimes it’s like your eyes are a camera and you’re watching what’s being recorded. But it’s like you’re in a dark room somewhere really far away--you can’t tell anyone what’s going on”.



Somehow, I doubted that was the case with Willow. Despair, horror, the consequences of dark magic – these were what had pushed Willow deep inside herself, not a physical trauma. And from what I knew of her, she had problems long before this. It seemed to me that, on some level, Willow hated herself. Which was ironic, since everyone she knew seemed to love her.



Love can be a terrible thing. The need for love can beat you down. The lack of love can twist you. The loss of love can break you. Now I had to try and mend this young woman. But I couldn’t do it alone. If I couldn’t reach her, if she couldn’t help me……I contemplated failure. I had failed before – not at something like this. I had never done anything quite like this. But there had been failure in my life. And loss.



I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. Not this time. Somehow, Willow had already taken a piece of my heart, but I could afford to lose it. I wouldn’t lose her to the darkness, not her. She had already lost everything.



I slid my left hand, palm upwards, under hers, and gently held it. It was small, and cold. I didn’t realise until much later that, all the time I was holding her hand, I was gently rubbing her knuckles with my thumb. I had no idea why.



I placed my right hand lightly on her breastbone. I had to feel her essence. The dark magic was gone, peeled away by the coven; but deep down, she might still have power of her own. I had to know its nature, and its depth. Closing my eyes, I allowed everything to flow through my fingertips. It was faint, very faint. But after a minute I could feel the distant hum of native power deep inside her. I could tell it was still strong, and it was tinged with grey. It would be a temptation to her in the future, if she came through this. But it felt….unwanted. It was as if Willow had buried it, along with herself, because it would hurt her if she let it surface. It was hard to catch, but I thought it tasted a little like…strawberries. I smiled faintly at that, and broke the contact.



Still holding her hand, I spoke softly to her. “Willow. Willow Rosenberg. You cannot harm me. I am safe. You are safe, Willow. Nothing you do can hurt anyone. My name is John Hughson. I’m your friend, John. I’m going to try to help you. Giles sent me to find you, Willow. Your friends want me to find you. They love you and miss you. Their love can’t hurt you. Nothing can hurt you.” I hated lying to her.



I had found her magic, and knew that it could be tamed, with help. Now I had to find her mind, and her soul. I had to meld with her. If my name were Mr. Spock, I’d just touch my fingers to her face, and mutter “My mind to your mind”. But it wouldn’t be that easy. This first time, I only intended to meld for a few minutes. An hour at most. I didn’t know if I could take the pain for any longer. The real work would begin the next day.



I looked at my watch. Nearly five o’clock. The window faced south, so the light was still bright, and streaming in now at an angle. Willow’s face seemed quite calm, but empty. Was there conscious thought in there? Was there knowing? Or was there only the echo of defeat? A thread of tears still dampened her pale cheeks. I wiped them away with my thumbs, but they came again.



Your tears flow to the ocean, Willow. Your world is an ocean of pain. Help me turn the tide. I’ve got to swim in your pain, Willow, to bring you back to the surface, if I can. Don’t let me drown.



I lifted my old brown leather holdall up from beside the bed where I had left it. Inside was the junk I had gathered from a lifetime of treading at the edges of darkness. Sometimes I had fallen in.



A small clay bowl. The shrivelled stub of a dark red candle. A vial of grey powder. A single edged knife with a black hilt. Simple things, but effective. I placed the candle on the cabinet, touched the wick with a finger, and muttered “Ignis incende”. The small flame bloomed. I sprinkled a pinch of the powder into the flame, which instantly burned a virulent blue, and the air in the room began to thicken.



I brought another chair across, placed it directly in front of Willow. Now there were words to be said, to be heard by those who were always around me, in this land of my birth.



“Hear me. I give of myself, and another, to gain mastery. Guide me on the dark path, the way of knowing. Lords of the hollow hill, guide me well, and grant my desire.”



My left hand bore many scars, and the little finger was missing. My magic was sometimes darker than my intention. I hefted the knife and sliced across my palm. The sharp spring of pain made me hiss. Then, to my shame, I did the same to Willow’s left hand.



Forgive me Willow. I truly didn’t want to hurt you any more. But I don’t know what else to do. I don’t think you can feel this, but can you forgive me anyway?



Pressing our palms together hard, the mingled blood flowed into the clay bowl. I sat in the chair opposite Willow, still holding on to her, our knees touching. I anointed both our foreheads with the blended gore, then leant forward to touch my head to hers. Brow to brow, hand to hand, blood to blood. It was time. “Unlock!” I whispered hoarsely.



And then I fell.



Oh god, it was dark in there. So dark. I had never fallen so far, and so fast. I had fallen from a high building, the highest, but I couldn’t see the ground. When would it kill me? When would it rise up and crush the life from me? Air rushed past me in a silent, screaming wind that filled and froze my lungs. But there was no air, no lungs. Only thought, and will, forever falling. Days went by in falling. A lifetime.



Until, at last, it seemed that I slowed, and then was still. And around me there began to gather a mist of light. Pale at first, but growing. I had hit bottom, and I think I reached the place where Willow had hit bottom too.



It was a place of sorrow, of heart-rending loneliness. Willow’s soul.



From out of the stillness, and the burgeoning light, I began to hear voices – whispering, crying, calling, screaming, pleading, whimpering. But they were all one voice. The voice of a redheaded girl whose soul had retreated in the immensity of her loss. The pain hit me like a storm. I bowed under its weight. The voice assailed me, followed by a crashing wave of emotions, most of which I couldn’t identify in that one roiling surge. Some of them I expected: guilt, self-loathing, anguish, remorse.



But underneath it, at first like a muffled heartbeat, was something else. I felt it as a tangible thing, eager, fiery, tender beyond words.



It began to pulse around me, warmed me, lifted me, cutting through the pain. I had never felt anything like it. It came from a place beyond the darkness, full of soft light, enveloping me. If I gave it a name, gave it a form, it would have to be: love. Pure, unending, overwhelming love. A need and a gift at one time.



Not for me, but for the one whose name I heard in every fold of light in Willow’s yearning soul. Tara..



Her name, the thought of her, the smell and taste and shape of her, was there, everywhere. The memory of touch beyond passion, the knowledge of love so deep, so shared, the ache of one heart for another. I was blinded by it. No matter how lost her soul, Willow’s love for Tara kept it whole – and hoping – beneath the dark weight of pain.



I couldn’t believe it. Beyond all reason and logic, there was hope.



Somehow, through the burdens of grief and bone-gnawing guilt, Willow’s soul was reaching out, searching, groping to find the soul that was twin to her own. She thought to find her, somehow, somewhere out there, and never lose her again. I had known love, and passion – but this was forever. A love so deep, so binding, that death itself couldn’t break their souls apart. In my thoughts I was crying from pure joy, and I knew what love could truly be.



And through it all came Willow’s voice, one clear, sad strand of endless hope: “I will always find you.”



I knew then that I would give my life for her.





To be continued.

Edited by: Mike of the Nancy Tribe at: 1/22/03 3:12:26 pm


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 Post subject: Re: First Fic: Endless
PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2002 10:40 pm 
one word-Beautiful

These five words in my head scream "are we having fun yet?"

Chad Kroeger



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 Post subject: Re: First Fic: Endless
PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2002 11:00 pm 
Tears.



Amazing.



-Will

"Hear that baby? You're my always."

"well, you know, when you play a lesbian witch you've gotta get killed in this fun kind of exciting way, so the heart was the way to go..."

"we have the most amazing fans though they LOVE us."




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 Post subject: Re: First Fic: Endless
PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2002 11:42 pm 
Congratulations on a hugely impressive debut as a writer of quality fiction.



The piece was so well crafted you could almost touch Willow's pain as a tangible force.



Please keep the updates coming.



Jayne



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 Post subject: First Fic Response
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 12:08 am 
Mike, you have done an incredible job, although I'm not surprised given the beauty and clarity of your letter to ME. I'm so excited to read the rest of this, I really hope you keep updating, and soon!



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 Post subject: Re: First Fic Response
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 12:48 pm 
This is a very good start...amazing writing....*sniff* poor Willow.



--Michelle



Edited to add: yay I'm willowhand now...:grin

Edited by: pikescoob at: 7/5/02 5:49:14 am


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 Post subject: Re: First Fic Response
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 1:13 pm 
You've written the depth of her grief very powerfully. Really easy to imagine it. The line She was a broken doll, really tugged at my heart strings.



No matter how lost her soul, Willow’s love for Tara kept it whole This was a wonderful image, inspiring hope in John (and us).

Adding up the total of a love that's true, multiply life by the power of two
Indigo Girls



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 Post subject: Re: First Fic Response
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 1:42 pm 
Mike, this is so powerful. It really affected me. So much about it rings true, including the idea that there is the potential for dark magic and power still in Willow, buried by despair and colored gray. And this line was so moving:



"Their love can’t hurt you. Nothing can hurt you.” I hated lying to her."



Like you, I am writing my first piece of fan fiction as a post-season 6-take-on-the-grief-and-get-Tara-back story. But though I have been really immersed in the details of my own take on this for awhile, your story took me somewhere else and made me feel it all as fresh again.



Also--I know I'm going on a bit--it can be really risky to a) introduce a new character and b) write from the perspective of that character. But here, it works SO well; in fact, the way you're writing this, it's really the only perspective that would work. We couldn't be hearing from YOUR Willow right now; it's too dark in her mind. And to see her through the eyes of any other character...well, there's too much in the way. So your narrator can see so much.



And you use language so well. Well done, and thank you. I'll be looking forward to the next part.







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 Post subject: Re: First Fic Response
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 2:47 pm 
Absolutely, positively wonderful.



I never really read these type stories, much too sad. But I thought I might as well read yours, it would be an adventure into the unknown. I am so glad I did. Even if it is serious, it is also heart-warming. Heart-warming? Yeah. You see just a little bit of much Willow truely loved Tara. I thought I saw it all in the show, all the love, but not really. Sometimes it takes a writer to really tell a story.



I don't know if I can say anything else....anything else that is good or constructive. My heart hurts for poor old Willow like a fresh wound. You've just writen this story so well.... And you call it your first fic.



I await the next installment anxiously.

-------------------------

Xander: It could be witches, some evil witches.

Which is ridiculous,
‘Cause witches, they were persecuted

Wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here

Edited by: LadyLily at: 7/5/02 7:47:52 am


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 Post subject: Re: First Fic Response
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 6:17 pm 
Congratualtions Mike, that was an extremely powerful, well written part. I can't believe its your first fic!

I found it moving and painful to read, poor Willow.

Look forward to reading the next installment. :

"I am a whiz...If ever a whiz there was"



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 Post subject: Thanks for the response!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 6:58 pm 
Loco2, Magrat70, willntlover, Muttley, pikescoob -

Thanks a lot! I really didn't expect such a positive response.



Big Dummy - Much appreciated. In a way, I suppose

this is another version of my letter to ME!



Mollyig - Somehow, I don't think we're going to be allowed to experience the true depth of Willow's grief on screen. I doubt if I can express it properly in words either - but there's more hope on the way in Part Two!



Tulipp - Thanks, and good luck with your own fic. Yeah, and you're right - the only way I could tell this particular story is first-person from an 'outsider's' viewpoint. But apart from his approximate age, and the fact that he's British, there's nothing of me in John Hughson - except what he feels about Willow and Tara.



LadyLily - I hope your heart will be warmed even more in the next part. Much sadness remains, but a revelation is about to occur.



TheWhiz - Painful to write as well as to read! But thanks for the congrats!



Expect Part Two: 'Exceptions' sometime in the morning (UK time.)



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 Post subject: Re: Thanks for the response!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 10:11 pm 
Wow Mike that was really beautiful. Thank you.

Autumn

-----------

It grated, like something forced in where it doesn't belong.



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 Post subject: Re: Thanks for the response!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 11:11 pm 
I'm impressed at the few fics that have arisen dealing with Willow's grief in a sensitive and fitting fashion. This is alarmingly true to character and wonderfully fashioned. You give such a personal response to Willow's condition by using the first person narrative and I feel as though it's me, not the protagonist, telling the story. Because you know, I'm a lot in love with Willow too.



Thank you Mike, for such a wonderful and truly heart breaking beginning. It can only bode well. :)


----------
What kind of lesbians are you? You love men so much...go love men!



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 Post subject: Feedback
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2002 11:40 pm 
Wow - extraordinary. I was truly moved. And like Ruth, I'm in love with Willow too. You can't help but love her and this came through brilliantly in your story.



And strawberries - there's something very disturbing about the imagery this creates. I thought the line about strawberries in Wrecked was one of the most chilling of the season.



I'm hooked.

------------------------------


"When someone falls for Willow, they stay fallen" - Normal Again



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 3:27 am 
WOW! That's some 1st fic. It's riveting. Looking forward to seeing where you take it.

****************************************************************

~" And maybe, I'll find out, a way to make it back someday. To watch you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days."~ ~ The Calling ~~



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 6:28 am 
Wow is right. This fic is out of this world, great. :D I got chills. Well done, indeed.

-----------


If we don't understand

What this life is made of

We learn the truth

When we find that kind of love

-"That Kind of Love" by Alison Krauss









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 Post subject: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 9:06 am 
Thanks for even more feedback. Time for Part Two:



Title: ENDLESS

Author:
Mike of the Nancy Tribe

Feedback: I’m open to anything.

Rating: PG-13, I think. No laughs, no smut. Very serious.

Disclaimer: Most of the characters herein belong to ME. They should have taken better care of them.

Pairings: Willow & Tara, in spirit for the most part. But they WILL be reunited.

Spoiler Warning: Only if you haven’t seen season six. And I’ve used the hints we’ve been given of what will be happening at the start of season seven.

Summary: My way of bringing Tara back. But it’s not easy. In this part, at the end, a revelation



ENDLESS





Part Two: Exceptions



I came out of the meld with a gasp. As I shot to my feet, my chair crashed over backwards. The room was almost dark. The candle had gone out long before, but a pale sliver of moonlight fell across Willow, and the bed.



For a few moments I was lost. Where the hell had I been? I rubbed my eyes and breathed deeply, remembering pain and warmth. I looked at Willow. Our blood lay in a dried stain across her forehead.



“John? Are you all right?” Marion’s voice suddenly came from behind me, as light flooded the room. “I heard….is everything all right?”



I blinked at the sudden brightness. “Yes. Yes, everything’s okay. I just….what time is it?”



“Nearly twelve o’clock. I was just getting ready to go to bed when I heard the noise.” She came in, followed by another of the coven members, a man I didn’t know.



Almost midnight. Oh god. I had been in the meld for seven hours. I had bathed in her love for Tara, and hadn’t wanted to emerge. My own essence could have been lost. Wanted to be lost. I cursed myself for not setting up safeguards….and more than anything….I wanted to go back.



“Are either of you hurt? There’s….blood. Or is that part of the ritual?”



“Ritual”, I said. “Don’t worry Marion, we’re okay.” I checked Willow just to make sure. She looked exactly the same. Eyes unseeing, mouth slack, wet cheeks, shallow breathing. “Yes, she’s still….” I stopped my turn back to Marion as something hit me. Willow’s cheeks were still damp, but no more tears were falling.



“What is it?” asked Marion. “Did it go well? Is she….?”



“No, no….I mean, yes, it went….well.” I still felt a little dazed. “I saw Willow’s soul. I felt it. So deep down. So very deep. I still don’t know if….But she’s stopped crying, Marion. She’s stopped crying. It may have worked, a little.”



“What do you mean?” She came closer, saw the drying green eyes. Saw that the IV bags were almost empty. “John! What have you been doing? You should have changed these an hour ago.”



“What? Oh, I’m sorry. I truly am. Things didn’t go exactly to plan. I almost got lost. But I think the trace might have had an effect.”



Marion beckoned the other man. “Henry, help me get her onto the bed, then change the bags. It’s time Willow slept.” I hovered nearby, thinking hard, as they arranged Willow beneath the sheets, cleaned and bound her hand, and saw to her needs. “All right John,” Marion said at last. “You know I trust you. I’m not always happy about your methods….or the price you have to pay for them. But I trust you, or I wouldn’t have called you here. What have you done?”



I took a deep breath. “I left a little piece of myself behind. Just a trace. Enough to say ‘You’re not alone. I’m here to help.’ And it will help me when I go back. I won’t need to perform the ritual again.” Without thinking, I flexed my left hand, feeling the sting of the wound.



“You’re playing a dangerous game here,” said Marion. “With her soul, and with yours.”



“There’s no other kind,” I replied. “I have to help her. I have to. More than you know. I don’t know what she’ll come back to. I don’t know if she can survive without the one person that means everything to her. But she deserves the chance, Marion. And by god, I’m going to give her that chance.”



And I would. I swore it to myself. No one could have felt what I had felt and done any different. A grief and a love that big, that powerful, that endless….I would do whatever it took. Whatever it cost me.



Marion gave me a long, hard look, as if weighing up her trust in me. Finally, she said “Go to bed, John. Get some rest. Every night I ask the Goddess to give Willow the strength to come through this. Tonight I will add your name, and ask for wisdom. I’ve never seen you get so involved with a subject before, John, and I won’t lie to you, it worries me. But you have a good heart, and I still trust you. Goodnight.”



“She’s not a subject, Marion.” I looked over at Willow, her red hair framing green eyes that knew sorrow beyond belief. “She’s a girl who’s made some bad choices, and she’s paid for them in the cruellest way. She’s taken human life, and she’ll pay for that for the rest of hers, in ways we can’t imagine. But I won’t let her soul stay in darkness. I can’t.”



As I spoke, I went over to Willow, and gently closed her eyes. “I understand,” said Marion quietly, as she and Henry left the room. “Goodnight John. The guest room is ready for you.” I nodded to them.



I know you’re hiding, Willow, from the world and from yourself. But I won’t let you hide from me. I know you now. I know your heart, and your soul. There’s so much love in you. I know you yearn for her, and I can’t give her back to you. But so much love needs to be in the world, not trapped in shadow and pain. If I bring you back, without her, will you forgive me?



I didn’t know then just how wrong I was, and how glad I would be, to be so wrong.



I didn’t sleep well at all. And when I did, my dreams were of Willow and Tara. Willow’s memories of her were overpowering, and now they found a home in me as well. I could see the blonde hair, the blue, gentle eyes, the smile that was so beautiful, it made you want to cry. The bond between them was like an embrace. Its warmth enfolded them, joined them, took their love and made it a covenant of purest joy. I basked at its glowing edges. Even in sleep, I wept. I knew what had been lost, and I wept. All that Tara was, she had given to Willow. And all that Willow was, needed Tara before breath, before life. Their souls circled each other like a twin star. I felt a destiny here, for all of us. A fate beyond any reason or thought. In my dreams, I wanted their love to go on, as it surely should, forever. The bond, unbreakable, would….shatter with a single shot and turn my dreams to ash.



That night, I hated sleep.



-----------------------------------------

I saw Giles briefly in the morning before he left for Exeter. He could see that I had had a restless night, but he said nothing. He too looked more tired and careworn than he once did, but of course he was still recuperating from his recent battle with Willow. How it must have hurt him to do that. But he understood what the abuse of power could do.



I was a few years older than him, and had known him since the end of his ‘Ripper’ days. I was still with the Council then, as one of their ‘trouble-shooters.’ I had to deal with the aftermath of his encounter with Eyghon the Sleepwalker. I thought their ‘Watcher-in-waiting’ was a foolish young man, and for a while I believed he wasn’t worth saving. But his remorse was real, and during my week’s stay with him in London, I came to know the true strength of his heart….and I came to like him.



At the same time, I came to despise the Watchers’ Council. They had no feelings for Rupert at all, merely the role they had mapped out for him to play. It was all a game to them – deadly and serious – but still a game. Strategies and tactics, tradition and powerplays. They were stifled by bureaucracy, and the sense of their own self-importance. I think Americans would probably say, they had their heads so far up their arses, they couldn’t see daylight. Now, without a tame Slayer at their beck and call, they were a broken reed, and clueless. Through their sources, they had learned of recent events in Sunnydale – but now that Willow was, in their words, a ‘basket case,’ they seemed to have lost all interest. But I was sure they were keeping an eye on me. I was a wild card as far as they were concerned. I didn’t give a damn. I was pretty sure Giles felt the same way.



“She’s not evil, John,” he said as he shook my hand goodbye. “If she was just….evil, it would make things so much simpler.”



He paused at the door.



“Can you bring her back?”



I sighed. “It’s too soon to say, Rupert. What I can do, I will. But you know, she may never be the same again.”



“I know.” With that, he said goodbye to Marion, and left. I never saw him again.



Willow was waiting for me. I could almost hear her calling. I knew where I had to go, and I wanted to be there, so much. My impatience may have shown when Marion stopped me on the stairs. “Since we can’t use blocking spells,” she said, “we’ve set up an early warning barrier around the whole house. No dark powers will gain entrance here without us knowing.”



Well, none darker than me, I thought ruefully. “You know I need to work undisturbed all day?”



“Willow has 24-hour IV bags now, so they won’t need changing. But,” Marion continued, “you should move her from the chair to the bed at least once during the day, for about two hours, to avoid pressure sores.”



“Okay, fine.” I was moving away from her as I spoke.



“But what about you? Shall we bring food to the room?”



“I’m fasting. Have been for the past two days. Need it for the work. I’ll see you tonight Marion.”



“Be very careful John. We don’t want to lose you as well.” Her last words faded as I entered Willow’s room and closed the door.



Her mane of red hair had been brushed and combed, and now she wore a pale green gown. Her face was slightly less pale, and there were no new tears streaking her cheeks. But there was still no life in her eyes. I assumed the same position as before, sitting directly in front of her. The room was quite light, but as the windows faced directly south, over the sea, the early morning sun had not yet reached them. I knew that this time I could afford no errors, so in my mind, I set a recall command, that would pull me back after six hours. I looked sadly at the young girl, and wondered if anything I could do would ever be enough to pull her back. Her spirit still hoped, but would the grief finally snuff it out like a guttering candle?



Do you know me, Willow? Have you felt that tiny part of me I left with your soul? I’m here to help. Do you remember? I’m John. Please let me in again, so that I can find you.



This time when I fell, there was no fear. I knew how far there was to go, and I wanted to be there. As before, the pain was immense, the lonely darkness giving way to the light, the depth of her love for Tara pulsing in my thoughts.



This time I needed to hold on to myself, but it was so hard, so hard. I wanted to feel this love forever, to share some tiny reflection of Willow’s desire for her lost one, the beloved centre of her aching universe. I could feel her soul reaching outward, ever outward, to find her Tara. But Willow couldn’t find her. She wouldn’t. Tara was gone. Where, I didn’t know. None of us know for sure. Heaven? Does it really exist? There are many dimensions that can be called heavenly, and many that are hellish. I knew Tara was a good person. By all accounts she was loved, and loving, and that rarest of all creatures, a true soul. I hoped that she was wherever she deserved to be.



Tara



Tara



Tara




Willow’s voice, her thought, flowed through the brightness like a river. The name she cried out burned with yearning, desire, need, a hunger for what was lost. It was almost too much to bear.



My everything



I wept in my heart for her longing.



My always



My girl




I wanted to cradle her, to grant her every wish. But she had only one.



I will always find you



“Willow. Let me help you. Come back with me.”



Come back



Tara



I need you baby




“She will always be with you Willow. Don’t hide from me. Let me help you.”



Help me



Tara




I moved closer in, towards the heart of the brightness, the heat of her love burning me. I wanted to be burned by it. If this was love, truly and forever, then all I had ever known was a pale shadow. I felt my loss, but knew it was nothing to hers. Her voice became stronger, clearer, as I neared the starving centre of her soul.



Tara



I love you. I need you. I lost you.



I’m lost without you baby. I know you’re out there but I can’t see you Tara.



I lost you and I found you and the world betrayed me. Now it’s all gone.




It felt like I had betrayed her too. I had been part of the world that hadn’t known just how special she was, she and Tara. Through her own weakness Willow had lost her for a time. But it was the hope of Tara’s love that gave her strength to pull back from the edge. For a brief time the love blazed again, renewed, tender as ever. The light had come back to Willow’s world. But the world lied. The world was cruel. What she had again was ripped away. I could feel the shock in her eyes, the pain that tore through her as it tore through Tara. I wanted to take the bullet for her. I wanted to damn the evil one that had made this happen, but he was already damned. My vengeance would have been even greater than Willow’s.



Tara



Where are you?




She wouldn’t hear me. She was reaching out so far in her need, her hope, that she was deaf to anything within. Without her love she was only half of what she should be. Less than half. Tara was all she needed, from her bones to her soul.



Tara baby



I’m nothing without you. Come back to me.




There was the thread that had led to all this. The need to be more than she was, for Tara. As if she wasn’t special enough, without the magic. I could see in her soul it wasn’t for the thrill of power. There was no pull to the darkness for its own sake. It allowed her to make things easier for herself, to make her feel less….worthless. More worthy of Tara’s love. She was never sure….of herself, or of Tara’s undying love for her. What was she, that someone like Tara could give herself totally to her? What was she, without the magic that made her something more than the shy, uncertain geeky girl she knew herself to be? Tara was the beautiful one, Tara the one whose love and generous heart shone like an angel. To me, the truth was clear, laid out before me like two halves of a whole. The beauty was theirs, and I wanted to shout it to the world.



But what could I do now? Mine wasn’t the hand - or soul - to pull her back. At least, not without unforgivable cruelty. I could, I think, have latched on to her, dragged her screaming back to herself as I returned to my body. But that way led the death of hope, and the beginning of hate. The thought of Willow hating me filled me with self-loathing.



Down here, the pain was less somehow. Guilt and regret mingled in shadow, but as the light grew, the shadows faded.



I was drifting now, caught in the glowing wash of love and impossible hope that swirled in Willow’s being. I didn’t know how to make her hear me. I couldn’t bear to abandon her. I felt helpless, weightless, hopeless.



Yet all the time, the flow was taking me closer to the centre, and as I flowed, I began to feel an even stronger, fiercer fire flaming there. At first a tiny Tinkerbell light, it became a gleaming lamp, then a flaring beacon, and at last a brilliant star.



At the core of Willow’s soul a sun burned.



Beneath a tender skin of glimmering mist was held a sphere of something….other. Somehow I knew. It wasn’t possible. I didn’t believe. I didn’t want to believe. But with all my heart, I knew. I touched it, reeled, wept in awe, as a tiny voice, afraid and hopeful, leapt through me….



W-Willow?



--------------------------------------------



Sometimes in this world there are exceptions.



Things that shouldn’t happen, but do.



Because of a place, a time, an event….but usually because of people. Very special people for whom the universe makes up its own rules. My work, my life, has been built on finding exceptions. I had never found one that was born from absolute, unbroken love. Until now.



I had gone searching for Willow’s soul….and I had found Tara’s.



In the instant of her death, everything she was had fled to the one place she felt safe, and warm, and loved….to her Willow. She really was where she deserved to be.



Willow….I got so lost.



But Willow couldn’t hear her, any more than she could hear me. She wasn’t listening to anything from within. She was searching, reaching out, sending out her thought, her hope, through all the walls that kept her apart from her beloved. But Tara was in the one place she didn’t want to look. Inside herself.



I could have laughed at the irony if I wasn’t weeping so hard.



From Willow I had learned that Tara was, above all, a giver. She was giving incarnate, selfless and loving beyond all thought for herself. She had given everything to Willow, and when she died, what did she have left to give but herself? Somehow I would find a way to give them back to each other.



I wanted to clap my hands, because I believed.



Sometimes in this world there are exceptions.



Sometimes, love never dies.



I could hear them both now. Echoes of words whispered in love long ago. Between two souls for whom the universe had made an exception.



Where would you go? If you felt lost and alone? Where would you go?



To you.








To be continued.





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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 9:52 am 
wow. excellent update. this was so great it felt as though you were there. and it makes so much sense that tara would go to willow when she died, after all it is the place where she felt safest.



this fic is unbelievable. i would ask for an update, but i am too busy being in awe.



steph

"Dr. Becker, have you seen the skeleton?" "What do you think I am, a skeleton thief? You want to search me?!"
"Who sponsered career day this year, The Brittish Soccer Fan Association?!" - Xander - What's My Line?
"We'll all be a lot happier without the constant whining....Mom, Buffy, Tara, Waah" - DMW to Dawn



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 2:59 pm 
Wow. Amazing update. I don't really know what to say, maybe that shows something about the power of this story better than words.



It is sensible that Tara would find herself a home in Willow, it makes for a nice story like the one you are building, and yet it is almost surreal. To have such a good thing come from a bad thing is almost unbelievable. At least Willow never truly lost Tara, she just needs to discover that truth. And how you do that is the whole reason why I'm sitting on the edge of my seat, tapping my fingers against my computer desk waiting for the next update.

-------------------------

Xander: It could be witches, some evil witches.

Which is ridiculous,
‘Cause witches, they were persecuted

Wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 4:00 pm 
Wow... this is just amazing. I absolutely love this story that you're telling. It's so beautiful but sad. Please, please continue. :)






--------------------------------


"But when they're playing your song on the jukebox in Hell, you might as well dance." - K. Simpson


"Futile... like a FOX, baby!" - Tara in The Late Shift by wiccachica



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 5:52 pm 
I just read the first part, and had to comment... I'm crying right now, that story of yours is so beautiful. And I. Don't. Cry. You just took my heart and ripped it out, but then started to bandage it back in.

I will always find you. Oh thank the Goddess. Thank you, so much. For this gift of story.

Res, wiping his tears and going back to read the update...

edited to add a comment after reading the second part...

YEEEEEEHAAAAAWW!!!!

To you.

****

http://www.ressick.net


"I'm very seldom naughty." ~ Willow

Edited by: Ressick at: 7/6/02 11:02:45 am


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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 10:17 pm 
Oh Mike. This is so raw, I can feel it as I'm reading. You steer the narrative along so firmly, and yet, it drifts as though it has a life of its own. The images you portray are heartbreakingly wonderful and this elicited a real reaction in me. Odd, that. Heh.



Quote:
Without her love she was only half of what she should be. Less than half. Tara was all she needed, from her bones to her soul.




Oh god yes, absolutely. Seeing the truth written down that way just makes it hurt all the more. But you know, in a good way. Or not. I don't know. But please don't stop; this is riveting stuff. Thank you. :)


----------
What kind of lesbians are you? You love men so much...go love men!



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 10:27 pm 
Wow....;) ....that was amazing. This is very powerful writing. It was a great twist that he found Tara's soul...*sniff*...they said they'd always find each other. Excellent update Mike!!



--Michelle



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2002 9:24 am 
oh, wow. this fic is damn good. you had me running for the tissues. I'm fighting the need to just sit here and wait for the next update.



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2002 12:21 pm 
Wow, an amazing update :)

You use words and description so beautifully, I really get involved in the piece, like I was there. Even after death W/T will always find each other *sob*.

"I am a whiz...If ever a whiz there was"



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 Post subject: Re: Endless update
PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2002 12:45 pm 
This is really beautifully done, and I want to second what Tommo said about it: she seemed to capture it.



Raw but protective; you're taking care of these characters, and that's what they need and what we need.



Thanks.



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 Post subject: Feedback
PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2002 9:23 pm 
AutumnT, BethanyB3, JennY, LeatherQueen, pikescoob, dulcinea, TheWhizz - I'm touched. Your comments give me heart to carry on. Part 3 is finished apart from some tweaking, but I'm still struggling with the final part.



Ruth - Thanks. That means a lot coming from you. I love your writing a LOT.



MadeinNZ - I'm moved that you're moved by my simple words. Thanks. I hope the hook isn't too painful.



Loco2 - Hold the awe! Update coming soon.



LadyLily - Thanks again. In my mind, Willow will NEVER lose Tara. It's against all the laws of the universe.



Ressick - I cry at stories I read here all the time. Guess I'm just a wuss! And wow! That was some Yeehaww!



Tulipp - If the creators won't take care of their creations, guess we'll just have to. It's obvious we love them more than they do.



Once again, thanks for all the response. Part 3 will be up sometime Monday night.



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2002 6:06 am 
MOTNT, I just finished reading your first two chapters and can I just say, wow. I still have the shivers. I'm just floored, crying my eyes out. I've got buckets and buckets of tears. First they were sad and painful tears. Your depiction of Willow shutting down and completely withdrawing from the world just broke my heart. Suddenly, I found my tears became tears of joy. What a fricken amazing and original story you're giving us! Can hardly wait for your next update.



ME please take notes. You might learn something!

- Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres -



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 Post subject: Endless update - Part 3: Help Me
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2002 12:25 am 
Title: ENDLESS

Author:
Mike of the Nancy Tribe

Feedback: I’m open to anything.

Rating: PG-13, I think. No laughs, no smut. Very serious.

Disclaimer: Most of the characters herein belong to ME. They should have taken better care of them.

Pairings: Willow & Tara, in spirit for the most part. But they WILL be reunited.

Spoiler Warning: Only if you haven’t seen season six. And I’ve used the hints we’ve been given of what will be happening at the start of season seven.

Summary: My way of bringing Tara back. But it’s not easy. In this part, another revelation, and an obstacle at the end.



ENDLESS





Part Three: Help Me



W-Will, the petals are off.



Tara’s thoughts and memories were seeping through me, though I didn’t know what they meant. I was still touching the skin of her soul, not wanting for a moment to lose this sense of wonder and love that I felt.



I am, you know….yours.



The truth and depth of those words went through me like a warm knife. This was a girl who had given herself utterly, with love and with trust. Whatever came after, the love never wavered.



Do what makes you h-h-happy.



You have to be with the person you l-love.




I knew that Willow had, and she was. Their souls were joined like none before them. But they couldn’t see, or hear, or touch each other. For these two, above all others, that would be hell. I had sent beings to hell before now. But I had never found any there who didn’t deserve it, and left them. I couldn’t do it now. There had to be a way.



You always make me feel special.



I smiled at that, my mind racing.



You make me complete.



Temptation hit me like an axe at that moment. I was the link. I could allow them to speak through me. Through me, they would speak, and hear, and feel each other’s souls, and know that they weren’t alone. I would be theirs forever, the bridge between them, feeling their love flow through me always. And they would be mine, because I would never let them go. I had the power. I had the need.



And I knew in that same corrupt, seductive moment that my link would become an iron chain. Able to speak, to hear, to feel….but never to hold one another in love again. Two souls, two bodies that deserved to be one, separated by me. That would be the darkest hell….for all of us. I couldn’t do it.



I couldn’t let Willow be aware. Not yet. But Tara….



Tara was strong. She had to be. She was the only one who could bring Willow back. And the only one who Willow would come back for.



And then, like a revelation that had been there from the moment I was born, I knew how to bring Tara back.



It was that one moment. Temptation, rejection….and utter clarity. I had thought to play god, and now I would, but in a way that mended what had been callously broken. And such a small price to pay.



They had paid so much, simply for being who they were.



I reached out to embrace the mist that girdled Tara’s soul, knowing what I would hear the instant she became aware of me again.



W-Willow?



It pained me that mine couldn’t be the one voice she so desperately wanted to hear just then. But I was resolved that they would stand again, face to face, and let their lips say all the words of love, in all the ways they had ever wanted.



“Tara. Tara. I am a friend. Let me help you.” There was a moment of silence. I could sense puzzlement, and a little fear.



Wh-wh-who are you? Wh-where’s Willow?



“Tara. My name is John. I’m a friend. Willow is….near. Will you let me help you?”



I-I-I don’t….Where is she? I need her to know….



“Tara. Listen to me. Willow is safe. She is nearby. Do you know….do you know what has happened to you?”



W-Willow?



“Tara. Do you know what has happened to you?” I had to make my thought a little firmer. She had to know.



I-I think….I d-don’t know….Willow?



“Tara, I….”



I didn’t know how to say it. How could such a thing ever be spoken? But she had to know.



“There was….something happened, Tara. Something dreadful. You died. Your body is dead.” The words tasted like ash.



In my mind, I held my breath. Was she as strong as I had thought? Would she believe me? Would the simple truth be too much at the last for this girl, who had endured so much?



Oh.



I almost laughed. A simple truth and a simple understanding. I knew why Willow loved her so much, and why she deserved all the love that was possible in this world. Even if I had never known Willow, I would want to do this for her. So strong, so steadfast in her love. I could feel in her spirit the human kind of magic that had brought them together. Now, I needed another kind of magic to reunite them. It would be dark, and I knew I would have to fight Tara to make it happen. The others I would have to fight didn’t matter, not so much, not any more. My world was reduced….no, had grown to contain only two people. Two, who were worth a hundred times any price that I would ever pay.



I-Is Willow all right? N-now that I’m….



I knew that she would always think of her lover before herself, even now, even in death. So strong. Born to care, and born to love. I felt honoured to have met her, to be allowed to play even a small part in her and Willow’s story. A story that I knew I never wanted to end.



“Tara. Listen to me. Giles sent me. Willow needs you. She will always need you. You have to go back to her.”



I need Willow. But I’m d-dead. I can’t go back. H-how did I die? My heart….



“Tara. I can bring you back, back to Willow….”



Her shirt. I think I remember. She looked lovely in it. I bought it for her. Now it’s r-ruined.



Wh-where am I? What am I?




“Oh Tara….it’s your soul. I’m speaking to your soul. When….when you died, you didn’t leave. You wouldn’t. Where would you go, Tara? Where’s the one place you would want to be?”



With Willow! Only Willow!



“Yes, Tara, yes! With Willow! Your soul is with Willow!” I felt a tide of understanding, hope, and pure sweet love flood through Tara, beating against the misty walls around her spirit. But she couldn’t understand why Willow didn’t hear her, feel her presence, so close. No two lovers had ever been closer. There had to be something wrong. I had to say more, without telling her everything.



H-how is this possible?



“Tara, I don’t know. In all my life, I’ve never heard of anything like this. You died, but it wasn’t meant to happen. I think….I think you were meant to stay with Willow, and the universe knows it. God help me, I know it with all my body and soul.”



But why won’t she hear me? Willow! I love you baby! Why won’t she hear me?



“Tara, please listen to me. My name is John. I’m an old friend of Giles. I came to help Willow. She’s not well, Tara. When you died, she went a little….crazy. She did some bad things, but she’s not a bad person. The only way I can help her is if I bring you back to her. Will you let me do that?”



N-no! You can’t! If it wasn’t magic, you can’t! Not like Dawnie’s mom! Oh no, I c-can’t! Not like that! Please, please help Willow if you can, but let me go!



I could never let her go. No more than Willow could. I would never forgive myself if I let slip this one small chance to give them back to each other. If the power of their love was this strong, who was I to say the universe was wrong?



Tara fought me, as I knew she would. Magic can’t be used to alter the natural order of things. That was her cry, her belief. But who decides the natural order? All I knew was that if Tara’s brutal, pointless death were a part of it, then I would never be. If the Powers needed her dead for some tortured, unfathomable design, then to hell with them, for all time.



I knew about the Slayer, and her sister, and how she had tried to bring their mother back. Giles had told me, in his infrequent letters to me back here in England. No Ghora eggs this time. That was the stupid, careless way. You never knew what you would get back. I needed Tara exactly as she had been. Nothing less would do for Willow. And Willow herself? She had taken the darkest path imaginable. My way was dark enough, but there would be no calling upon Osiris. The raw nature of his force was primal and unpredictable. And he always had a darker purpose behind the magic that gave back life which magic had stolen. I had gods of my own, whom I had served most of my life. Now I had one more gift to ask of them.



All this, in different words and calming thoughts, I said to Tara. Her fears that she would come back undead, or barely living, like the Slayer had, were eased. Her love and need for Willow were proving stronger than her fear. I had counted on this. But she was still unsure….of me.



Th-this really isn’t heaven?



In happier times, the thought of being cradled in Willow’s soul might have been heaven for Tara. And for me. The love that these two owned was a nourishing flame, enough to warm the world forever. The selfish part of me wanted to stay, to share that love, and the pain, and the lightening of loss. But I had to go. I could feel a growing pull against my essence, the tug of the recall that I had set in place.



“No Tara, it’s not heaven. That’s not where you’re meant to be, not now. I think….I think you’re here for a purpose. And so am I. She needs you, Tara. Willow needs you. I can bring you back to her, alive and well, so you can help her. Will you help me?”



She would have to be willing. I could – and would – do it without her assent, for Willow’s sake. But the task would be that much harder with an unwilling soul, and the pain would be that much greater.



There was silence from Tara, though all around me I could still hear the whisperings of Willow’s essence, an eternal yearning for the one so lost to her, and yet so near. I was beginning to understand, I think. This was where the hope was coming from. On some level, Willow knew that Tara wasn’t gone – wouldn’t have left her. She felt her soul at the heart of her own, but didn’t know what it was she felt, and where, and so would go on searching outward, until the stars themselves would have to whisper “She’s not here.”



At last she answered, as the recall tried to drag me away from her.



A-all right. But promise me…if I come back….wrong….d-don’t let Willow see me.



I was pulled away before I could answer her. I don’t know what I would have said. But as I withdrew, I left another tiny piece of myself behind, for Tara. Or was it for me? That selfish part of me, that never wanted to lose what I had found here? Even now, at the end, I’m still unsure.



---------------------------------------------



This time, I came back to a room flooded with afternoon sunlight. I checked my watch. Just after three o’clock. Almost exactly six hours. Although a little disoriented, this time I remembered my duty. I lifted Willow’s frail body from her chair and laid her on the bed, her head and back propped up against the pillows.



I perched on the bed next to her, covering her hand with my own, watching the slow rise and fall of her chest. I marvelled at how the stillness of her form masked the terrors and the wonders within. In all my hopes, I never dreamed of such a thing as this. I knew that I had experienced the meaning of eternal love, and seen it in the core of the fragile girl before me.



Whose fingers began to move under my hand.



My heart leapt within me. The face was still impassive and unseeing, consciousness still absent. But there was life. Her tiny hand plucked at the bed covers, then took my finger and held it without strength, like a new-born baby clutching at its parent. I could feel tears brimming over, running slowly down my cheeks.



I spoke to her softly, with the fingers of my free hand against her temple. “Willow. Willow, can you hear me? It’s John. Your friend, John. I’m with you. You’re all right. Everything’s going to be all right.” It was a hope more than a promise, but one that I would make true with every breath in my body. Now I had to gamble.



“Willow. Hear me, if you can. Tara is with you. She’s with you, Willow, now and always. Reach down, reach deep inside you, and find her. She’s there, Willow, she never left you. She needs you. Look for her, Willow, find her, find her in your soul. Please….for me.”



When I took my hand away from her brow, I saw that Willow’s eyes had closed by themselves. Another hopeful sign. But still she was too weak for what had to be done. To restore Tara, we had to be where her body was. In Sunnydale.



I had to give Willow more strength for the journey, but I couldn’t afford it to be my own. I needed all I had for what was to come, though I would have given her everything if it would have helped. There was another way, but the one I had to call upon was….wild, and perhaps dangerous. I gently took my hand from Willow’s. Beneath the closed lids, her eyes were darting everywhere. In sleep, or whatever state she now was in, she was searching. I hoped that she had heard me, and was looking in the right place.



From my holdall I withdrew a small wooden box, blackened with age, and from it took a handful of soil. I carried it everywhere, earth from my native land, the Welsh Marches. It was at the top of Hergest Ridge, on the night of my sixteenth birthday, that I first met the old gods of Britain and Cymru, and I had walked with them ever since. The earth from that very spot went with me.



With it I sprinkled a fine circle about me on the carpet, and held a pinch in each hand. Taking a deep breath, I began:



“Child of Anu, child of Don, first born of the Goddess, hear me from your house beneath the hill. Cernnunos, hunted one, join me now. Evohe! Lend this fallen one your strength, that she may – “



“I think we’ve had enough of that uncouth chanting, Mr. Hughson.”



The door behind me had opened and closed silently. There stood the man called Henry, who had helped with Willow the day before. I looked at him closely for the first time. Not big, but broad, early forties. Short black hair, hands like spades. Dark eyes, dark suit, dark tie. I should have known. He had the feel of a Council special operative.



“You know they don’t like rogues.” He spoke quietly, but with obvious menace. “They were content to leave you alone while your business didn’t encroach upon theirs. Although you have, of course, been observed.”



As he spoke, he was circling steadily to my left, round to the other side of the bed. “So, the witch bitch is stirring, is she?” Willow’s eyelids were still showing movement, while the fingers of each hand were pawing gently at the sheets, like the claws of a kitten. “You know what she did….at the Hellmouth? And still you’re trying to bring her back? This is unacceptable. Quite unacceptable.”



I spoke at last. “She deserves a chance.”



“Really?” His reply was almost a sneer. “The Council considers her far too dangerous to be allowed to run free. And now, so are you.” He paused, considering. “I watched you, you know. While you were in your trances with her. Very touching. So easy to snap a couple of necks right then. So easy to do one right now.” I tensed and moved closer to the bed as he stretched out a hand towards Willow. But he was smiling and looking at me. “What is she to you?” he asked, with an apparent genuine curiosity.



“Everything,” I said, realising just how true that was. She and Tara. My everything. In just two days I had come to know them, and love them, and seen in their souls the truest form of love that a human could wish for. I wanted that love to go on. I wanted their story to go on. I needed it so badly.



“Leave. Now,” I said. “Henry or whatever your name is. The Council isn’t welcome here. I can save Willow.”



“But can you save yourself?” He grinned as I felt an intense pain in my chest, and looked down to see the shaft of an arrow sticking out below my left shoulder. As I fell back against the wall, he reloaded the miniature crossbow that he had taken from the folds of his jacket.



Willow…..my mind cried out.



But there was only darkness.





To be continued.





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