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 Post subject: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 1:32 am 
Title:
Terra Firma
. Chapter 1: Horizon.

Author: Tulipp
Email address: tulipp30@yahoo.com
Feedback:Please.
Distribution: Please let me know.
Spoilers:Everything through season 6.
Rating: Generally PG-13, R in a few chapters.
Pairing: W/T in spirit and in flashbacks and soon in the flesh.
Disclaimer: These are not my characters; Willow and Tara, the other characters, and various plot events that set up this story belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc, and I am grateful to have them.

Summary of chapter 1: Willow and Dawn return from a summer in England, and the other Scoobies prepare for their reunion.

Note: This is a multi-parter (18 chapters).I have big plans for Tara and her HAPPY FUTURE WITH WILLOW, but it will take a few chapters for this to happen.If you like this first part, please stick around for more.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Ruby for reading and encouraging.Thanks to all who write the good stuff, especially Katharyn, Tommo, and Sassette.They don't know me, but I have enjoyed reading their fanfic very much. And thanks to J.


Terra Firma

Chapter 1: Horizon

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots
embrace:
a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.
--Rainer Maria Rilke


The blue suited her, Willow thought wryly, looking down at the long sleeves of her t-shirt. The shirt had been pink once, but an early experiment of Dawn’s had gone wrong and turned all of the clothes they’d taken with them to England the same shade of murky blue. Dawn had minded, at first, but Willow hadn’t cared.What difference did it make, after all, what she looked like? And she didn’t think Dawn had thought about it since.Willow thought perhaps that Dawn, like herself, found it appropriate somehow. Clothes of mourning.

It would be morning in Sunnydale now, Willow thought.Dawn was asleep beside her, and they had endless hours of flight time ahead of them. They were going … home.

It hurt even to think that. Home was Sunnydale, yes; home was the Scoobies; home was her friends, but home also was…home used to be…Tara. The name sliced her open, as it always did, and she felt the familiar steel grip her chest. She couldn’t not think about her, of course.Thoughts of Tara were, these days, the only wound.But thoughts of Tara were also the only cure.

At the prospect of returning to a home without Tara, though, she felt the panic rising, and, as always, she had to fight to resist it taking her over.

She resisted now, uncrossing her legs, resting her hands palm up on her lap, closing her eyes. She breathed in and out, in and out. She focused on seeing a pinprick of light in the dark of her eyelids, a single point on a black horizon, and as she slowed her breath—in, out, in, out—she approached that pinprick and let it grow until everything was light. Then, in that soft, solid white place, the memory could come.



The spell had worked. Willow had crossed into the nether realm and saw what she needed to see.She didn’t move there, didn’t think, simply was, and she could see the answers clearly. It was a warm place, earthy and damp and familiar, though she’d never been there before.She wanted to stay forever.

After, Tara had called to her through the pink haze of the nether realm and brought her back. For a moment, Willow had lain where she’d fallen back on the pillow, her chest heaving. All her nerve endings felt alive; her fingers tingled. Then Tara had leaned forward and placed her hand over Willow’s heart. Willow could feel the blood racing in Tara’s palm. Something had passed between them.When Tara took her hand away, she had held a tiny ball of light in her fingers.

They were both soaked with sweat.

Tara had taken Willow by the hand then, led her through the deserted dorm hallway to the bathroom. In the shower stall, they had undressed without speaking and stepped under the spray.They had washed each other. It was a chaste kind of touching, but Willow’s skin crackled wherever Tara’s hands passed over her. They had stayed there for a long time, the water washing over both of them, their fingers washing over one another.In that wet and quiet moment, everything was ahead of them.It would all happen. It was happening already.

Willow had never felt so clean.


Willow’s eyes were wet, but she stayed in the memory until the last trace of panic had tucked itself away again. It was not gone, it was never entirely gone, but she’d learned that she could sometimes make it subside a little. It left in its place one of the other constant companions of her last few months, a vast and consuming emptiness.

She opened her eyes and found Dawn watching her carefully.

“You were thinking about her, weren’t you,” Dawn said. It wasn’t really a question.

Willow smiled weakly. “I’m always thinking about her, Dawnie,” she said. She wiped at her eyes.She had once thought that surely she would cry herself out eventually, that there would be no tears left. But they needled at the backs of her eyelids, always fresh.Always new.A shot through the heart every time.

“But sometimes it hurts more than others,” Dawn said. She looked down, twisted her beaded bracelet. “Will it always hurt this much?”

Willow looked at the teenager with whom she’d spent so much of the last few months and wished again that she could lie to her, wished she could say that the movies were right and that time would make everything okay again. But these words of comfort caught in her throat.

Instead, she reached for the in-flight program. “Maybe we should see what the first movie is going to be, Dawnie,” she said.



* * * *




“We should go see a movie,” Xander said. “You know, something to do to take our minds off…you know.” He and Giles were sitting with Buffy in her living room. The plane wasn’t due to arrive for hours and hours, but they were sitting. Waiting.

“I hear they’re doing a Steve Martin revival downtown,” Xander continued brightly. “You know, “My Blue Heaven,” “L.A. Story.” We could catch a double-feature before we go to the airport, you know, kill some time.”

Giles looked up, his teacup halfway to his lips. “I’m not sure I understood Steve Martin the first time around, Xander,” he said carefully. “Perhaps a revival will only confuse matters more.”

“Besides,” Buffy said, leaning back and resting her feet on the new coffee table that Xander had finished only the week before. “I kill enough already.I don’t want to kill time, too.”

Giles and Xander both looked at her.

“Okay, okay, not one of my most original puns,” she said huffily.

Xander leaned forward. “Um, Buff,” he said, “Granted, your jokes usually slay me.” Giles rolled his eyes. “Okay, my point is, I may not be Mr. Knowledge, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t actually a pun.”

Buffy sighed. “Whatever.Look, I am definitely not up for the Steve-a-dore.Find me something better, and I’ll consider it.”

A movie actually didn’t sound like a bad idea. Although she was trying not to show it, Buffy was anxious about seeing Willow and Dawn again. It would be hard, she knew. Not that the summer hadn’t been hard. The past months had been difficult beyond the telling. They had all had to rebuild. They had all tried. But constructing anything out of the rubble they were left with after Tara died had been painful for everyone.And slow-going.

For Buffy, it had been an odd summer. She had felt the grief of Tara’s death, of course, and she had ached for Willow, but underneath that pain she had been aware of a renewed sense of life, a vigor that had been missing since she had come back. She had often felt a little guilty about that, as if it were wrong to feel any kind of peace when Tara was dead and Willow was lost and alone. But if Buffy was honest with herself, a kind of peace was there.

And it had been a necessary peace. Without it, she wouldn’t have been able to remain strong for the rest of her family, crushed by grief and destruction. She wouldn’t have been able to comfort and soothe her sister, who had seen too many people close to her die.And she wouldn’t have been able to take care of Willow those first days, when she had been so fragile. Shattered. Buffy hated to think of it even now.



Knocking on the bathroom door. Calling quietly, “Willow? Willow, you’ve been in there for a long time.” No answer. “Willow, I’m coming in.” Turning the knob and crossing the room to the slight figure huddled in the tub. The liquid grip of panic in the pit of her stomach at the flash of steel in Willow’s hand. Kneeling in front of the tub to turn Willow’s arms over. The flood of relief that the skin on Willow’s wrists was unbroken.

“Willow, this is not an answer,” she had said gently, taking the razor away from her friend and putting her hands on the knees jutting out of the water. “This isn’t you.”

“I couldn’t even do that right,” Willow had said desperately. She wasshivering; the water had grown cold.

Buffy reached into the water and pulled the plug. She slipped her hands under Willow’s arms and lifted her out of the water. She reached for a towel and wrapped Willow in it, rubbed her dry, led her into her own bedroom, sat her on the bed.

Willow was still shivering. “Buffy…” she had whispered, “I can’t do this, I can’t get through this.” Buffy had swallowed back the urge to cry; she had needed to be strong for Willow right then.She had to be an anchor.

“Willow, I know how hard it is now, but you have to hang on.You have to let us help you.”

“No!” Willow had sobbed then, tears spilling down her cheeks. “No, I can’t.”Her shoulders shook. “When I close my eyes…I see it over and over again…the blood, the falling.” She took a shuddering breath.“So I open my eyes, but then I see all of your faces, and I remember the rest of it, and…God, Buffy, it hurts, it hurts.”Willow clutched at her chest, gasping the words out.“God, it hurts too much.I can’t live through this.I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”It was the most she’d spoken since before the funeral.

Buffy had recognized the hysteria coming and slipped a gentle hand behind Willow’s neck. “Put your head down for a second, Will,” she’d said softly. She pressed, and Willow let her head drop to her knees. Willow was gasping for breath, keening. Buffy rubbed her neck softly, trying to calm her.

Eventually, with the pressure of Buffy’s hand on her neck, Willow’s labored breathing had slowed, and she’d lifted her head. “Buffy, I have to go away,” she had choked out.“ I have to be somewhere else, anywhere else.Please let me go.”

They had looked at each other for a long moment, Willow’s eyes pleading, Buffy’s eyes searching and understanding. A promise passed between them, a wordless agreement that Buffy would let Willow go, and that Willow would come back. “Let me talk to Giles,” Buffy had said, and Willow had started to weep again, but with relief as well as the despair that had colored her every moment since she had crumpled into Xander’s arms on the bluff.

Willow had allowed Buffy to button her into pajamas and comb her wet hair. She had accepted a sleeping pill without protest, obediently swallowing it with the water Buffy handed over. She had allowed herself to be tucked into Buffy’s bed.

Buffy had looked at Willow, at her pale face and trembling body, and then she had climbed into the bed herself and gathered Willow in her arms. She had hummed something tuneless and held her friend, stroking her red hair. And Willow had gradually faded into a drugged blackness, her cheeks still wet.



“Buffy?” Xander said, and Buffy jerked herself out of the memory.

“What?” she turned to see him peering at her suspiciously.

“I said, maybe before the movie you want to go see what we’ve done with the new and improved Magic Box?” Xander narrowed his eyes at her. “The grand re-opening is tomorrow night, you know, but maybe you deserve a sneak preview?” Giles was watching her, too. Buffy sat up, stretched her arms out in front of her.

“Sounds great,” she said, trying for cheer. “Let me just change, okay?”

“Oh sure, no problem,” Xander said, throwing his hands up and reaching for the remote control. “Now’s a great time to change…why not color and curl your hair while you’re at it?”

Twenty minutes later, in the car, Buffy tuned out Xander’s enthusiastic description of the most recent changes to the Magic Box. She would see them soon enough. She was still thinking about Willow. Two months was kind of a long time, and her phone calls with Dawn over the summer had assured her that Willow wasn’t about to do harm to herself or anyone else, but still.

She looked east, trying to identify the point on the horizon from which the plane bringing Dawn and Willow home would come. She felt sad and uneasy. She knew that Willow was still living a minute at a time, and she didn’t know what to do to make it better. After all her experience with death, she didn’t know how to kill this kind of demon.



* * * *




The hours on the airplane dragged, but they drugged themselves with movies, watching one after another as the time crawled and Sunnydale grew closer. Meals arrived, and Dawn watched Willow push her food around her tray as she always did, these days.

“Willow, please eat a little bit,” Dawn said, as she always did, and Willow obediently pushed a few forkfuls of pasta into her mouth. But Dawn knew that ten minutes later, Willow would be unable to say what had been on her plate. Dawn sighed and turned back to her own tray. It didn’t actually look that good; it was kind of orange. She unwrapped her small, square brownie instead and finished it in a couple of bites.

Willow took her headphones off suddenly and turned to Dawn. “Tell me a story about Tara, Dawn,” she said.

It was a habit they’d gotten into, in England, when the day’s training was over and the evening stretched in front of them, empty and aching. They would walk, anywhere—everywhere—and they would talk about Tara.

Now, Dawn settled back into her narrow seat now and thought. “Did you know that Tara came to see me the night my arm got broken?” Willow shook her head slowly. Every detail of that night was tattooed onto her memory; it was needle-fresh.

“She did,” Dawn said. “She said not to tell you,” she added hastily, apologetically, glancing at Willow. She thought suddenly that maybe there was a reason she’d never mentioned this particular visit before. But Willow smiled faintly, nodded, and settled her head against the back of her seat.

“She brought me a milkshake,” Dawn said now, smiling. “I think maybe she’d been crying, but she pretended she wasn’t, and she told me a story about a camel. Wait,” her brow furrowed. “Maybe it was…could it have been half a camel?Yeah. Anyway, she sat by my bed, and she held my hand, and she told me that I should forgive you.”

Willow lifted her head again.“What?” she asked, her voice hoarse.

Dawn glanced at her worriedly. The Guides at the coven had told her that remembering was good for Willow and for her, and that she should talk about Tara whenever she wanted. Still, it felt weird sometimes, and she knew it was hard for Willow. But Giles had told them both from the moment they’d left that the Guides knew what they were talking about. And Giles knew best of anyone.

“She did, she said I should forgive you, that you would never hurt me on purpose. She said what you needed most was for me to show you I loved you.” Dawn was quiet for a moment, remembering. “She said she had forgiven you,” she finished, her voice low.

The flight attendant arrived at their row then, and Dawn felt grateful that there was the business of packing up trays and handing them over to distract them both .But after the cart had rolled past and they were alone again, Dawn looked over at Willow.

Willow’s face was calm, her eyes dry. But she reached for Dawn’s hand and squeezed it in her own, and then she turned her face toward the window, toward the blue sky, and folded, as she always did eventually, into her own private grief.

All Dawn could do was hold her hand. So she always did. That’s why she’d come in the first place, wasn’t it?



Dawn had been standing in the doorway when Buffy came downstairs after checking on Willow. She’d been gone a long time, and they had all heard the sobbing from upstairs. Xander had cried again, although he’d pretended he hadn’t, and gone to find a measuring tape to start planning the new coffee table.

“She’s asleep,” Buffy had said quietly, sliding into a chair and dropping her head into her hands. Dawn drew back a little, into a shadow. Sometimes the others talked more freely when they thought she wasn’t listening.

“Cup of tea?” Giles had asked, not waiting for an answer before setting a steaming mug in front of Buffy.She had wrapped her hands around it.

“Giles, she’s not getting any better,” she had said.

Xander had come back then. “Buffy, it’s only been a week,” he’d said, too sharply. “Willow’s world just ended; she might not be able to get over it to fit into…” He had stopped then, backpedaled. “Hey, I’m sorry, I just mean it’s going to take time.”

Buffy had nodded. “I meant she’s not getting any better here,” she said. “It’s hard for her to be here. After…you know… after everything she did. This house, Sunnydale…it’s all hell for her right now.”

Giles had sat next to Buffy, put a hand on her arm. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

“I think we should send her somewhere,” she said slowly. “I don’t know where, but I think we have to listen to her. She says she needs to go." She looked around the room, met Xander’s and Giles’ eyes. Dawn had just listened.

“I don’t know, Buff,” Xander had said. “I mean, it’s great that Willow’s talking at all, let alone actually saying she wants something, but…I don’t know. Maybe she won’t get all world-endy on us again, but she shouldn’t be alone right now.”

Buffy had shaken her head. “I remember how I felt after Angel died,” she had said quietly. “I had to be alone; I had to get away.I kind of know how she feels.”

Giles had taken off his glasses, wiped them with the tail of his shirt. “Xander, I understand what you’re saying, but Willow couldn’t do anything truly terrible right now even if she wanted to.The pure magick infusion took a toll. She’s very weak.”

“All the more reason not to send her off alone, then,” Xander had said, his voice echoing in the quiet room. “She’s not strong enough to be on her own.”

Giles had shaken his head thoughtfully. “There is a place,” he said slowly. “I can’t promise anything, but there is a coven in England that might be interested in working with Willow… helping her and…perhaps training her.”

Xander leaned on the table.“What, a little witchy therapy?”

“Well, Xander,” Giles said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I wouldn’t go quite that far, but the coven might give Willow a safe place to go, and we would, well, we would know where she was.”

Buffy had nodded. “That could work,” she had said slowly. “I’m sure the coven knows what it’s doing.”

Xander wasn’t sure. “I don’t care if Dr. Ruth Wicca-heimer herself is there,” he said. “I’m not sending Willow off on her own.She feels abandoned enough already.”

Giles had tilted his head. “Unfortunately,” he had said, “the coven doesn’t take men, and I’m not sure Buffy should leave her duties here just now, so I don’t….”

Dawn had seen her chance. “Let me go,” she had said, uncrossing her arms and stepping into the room. “Buffy, let me go.”

She’d been right. They’d forgotten she was there. She took advantage of their surprise to push on. “Buffy, you said yourself that you wanted to show me the world, right? Well, this is the world.” They had all hesitated. Dawn had crossed her arms over her chest. “Buffy, Willow isn’t going to hurt me. Be real here. I’m the only one who can go.”

Buffy had looked at Giles. Xander had looked at Giles. Giles had looked at Dawn and nodded.

“Buffy, Dawn may have a point,” he said. “And she…well, she was closer to Tara than any of us.”

Buffy frowned. “What if Willow doesn’t want Dawn to go?” she asked.

Giles poured more tea. “I don’t think,” he said firmly, “that she has a choice in the matter.”

And so it had been decided. Buffy had packed and dug up passports; Xander had bought comic books for the flight. Giles had called the coven and arranged to bring Willow and Dawn for the summer. The coven agreed to let Giles stay long enough to settle them in. A few days later, Giles, Dawn, and Willow left for England.



And now, three months later, Dawn and Willow were going home.

Dawn smiled to herself, allowed herself a tiny hop in her seat. They were going home. She would see Giles and Anya and Xander and Janice…and Buffy. She could sleep in her own bed. She could wear something that wasn’t blue! It had been a long summer.

She reached for her discarded headphones and prepared to settle in for another movie. She slipped the headphones over her ears and reached for the volume, then stiffened. It was happening again.

Her hands clutched the headphones to her ears as her mind filled with a screaming white noise that pierced her eardrums from both sides. She clawed at her head, ripping the headphones off, but the screaming continued. “Oh, ow,” Dawn cried, pressing her hands against her ears to make it stop. It was heavy metal guitar pitched high, nails on chalkboards, wailing sirens. And underneath the fever pitch that turned her vision to solid white was the other part, the low pounding. It had a rhythm, a voice almost.

Dawn lost any sense of how long it had been going on; the pain was endless. Then, from somewhere outside the white place, she felt a familiar hand on her arm, and on the horizon, a dark spot emerged, and Dawn yearned toward it with every ounce of energy she had. The voice was mumbling at her, mumbling, mumbling, but she ignored it and reached for the horizon. It came closer, and the noise faded, and the white receded, and she was alone again in her mind.

But not really alone. “Dawnie?” Willow said beside her. Willow had leaned forward and was brushing Dawn’s hair back from her forehead. “Dawnie, did it happen again?” Dawn opened her eyes and looked into Willow’s worried face.

“She’s coming, Willow,” she whispered, letting her head fall back against the seat. She was exhausted. Drained.

“Who, Dawnie?” Willow asked. She handed Dawn a bottle of water. “They’re getting worse, aren’t they? The headaches?”

Dawn swallowed. “I don’t know who she is, Willow. I don’t understand it. But she’s coming.”



To be continued in chapter 2, “Rebuilding.”



Edited by: Tulipp at: 11/1/02 6:03:28 am


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 1:48 am 
Even though I previewed this, it's still a thrill to see it up on the board. Great writing, terrific sense of character, nice movement back & forth in time. Can't wait for the next installment. Keep 'em coming!



(Edited to add: finally Extra Flamey! Woo and hoo! I dedicate it to you, Tulipp.)

Smashed. Wrecked. Gone.

Edited by: ruby at: 6/25/02 6:49:54 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 3:00 am 
Great start - I can't wait to read the next update!! :)

A dream is a wish the heart makes.

Willow: "You had two eggs, sunny-side-up. I remember because they were wiggling at me like little boobs."

Tara: "Sassy Eggs."



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 Post subject: lovin' it
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 3:35 am 
Just wanted to say this is great. Beautifully written. Please keep it coming.



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 Post subject: Re: lovin' it
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 3:54 am 
What a wonderous begining! I can't wait to see where you take this. Dawn's finally all grown up. Willow's dealing, as best as she can. Xander wants to go see a movie. Giles stays in Sunnydale. Buffy actually feels something. But best of all SHE is coming.



Spot on, as far as I can tell. Keep up the good work. I'll be reading.

*********

TARA: Willow and I always know how to find each other!

ANYA: With yoga?



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 Post subject: Apologies
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 4:27 am 
Tulipp - this was brought to my attention my someone who told me my name was in the notes - some how connected with the term "good stuff." Not sure how that happened.



Anyway...I was to apologise for the fact that I will not be reading this. I am sure that it is great, the feedback to it so far certainly points to that and feedback is a wonderful thing as you know. It is simply the fact of what the fic deals with that I am still not comfortable enough to watch/read or even talk about much. Obviously you found a way to get out of the ME created problems and more power to you - that is something that is needed around here. It is just that I can't put myself through the ME created stuff to get to your good stuff. Sorry. One day I might be able to and then I will be back for this. Already got it on my ever expanding list of fics to read.



Just thought, after your support for my fic, I owed an explanation. And now, everyone else, back to the praise of this fic please!



Katharyn

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 Post subject: Re: Apologies
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 5:16 am 
Wow. I'm hooked. This fic is brilliantly written. Update please! :D

-----------


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: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 5:23 am 
Excellent beginning! I'm looking forward to the next part and finding out who it is that Dawn is hearing.



--
"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. "   "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 7:54 am 
After all her experience with death, she didn’t know how to kill this kind of demon. Very astute. Buffy is used to having a problem, and dealing with it. She knows from grieving her mother, how hard this is going to be. I'm really glad that she's facing that realisation, and is determined to be supportive to Willow.



Willow and Dawn were easily the closest to Tara, so I'm pleased they are helping each other. Dawn telling Willow stories about Tara was especially touching. It is hard to talk about the loss of a loved one, but it is cathartic.



Really intrigued now. Well done.

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: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 10:58 am 
Thanks to everyone who has read this so far…lipkandy, Wiccansillusion, SlayerTazz, blameburner, Bobos Mom, JennY, Mollyig, darkmagicwillow. I appreciate the kind words. I hope to post the next installment in a few days.



For me as well as for many others, I am sure (and Katharyn’s post reminded me of this), Tara’s death and Willow’s grief is still a very fresh and painful thing to confront. I am writing my way out of it to happier times for these women.



I should say that although I included the names of Katharyn, Tommo, and Sassette in my notes, I only know any of them through reading their fanfic, which is inspiring. If you haven’t read it yet, do.



Ruby, glad I got you there. Hee hee.



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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 12:07 pm 
Although this deals with some sad stuff you write it very well. It's a struggle to get through the angst but I know it'll be worth it soon....:) I'm looking forward to reading more of this.



--Michelle



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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 12:49 pm 
Thanks, Michelle. I just added a warning about the angst and sadness at the top of the thread. Even though a month ago I was avoiding this kind of fic myself, I had kind of forgotten. It won't be long, though!





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 Post subject: Re: Fic: Terra Firma
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 3:54 pm 
OK. Wow. Just wow. Great stuff here.



The flashbacks especially, so well written. I loved your take on what happened after the nether realms spell. And the visual of Buffy humming to Willow to calm her to sleep. And the idea of Tara on the very night Willow screwed up so bad and broke Dawn's arm telling Dawn to forgive. This is really a beautiful start. Painful yes, but well written and true. Thank you.

Autumn

-----------

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



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 Post subject: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 4:19 pm 
I am LOVING this. Angsty in all the right places and with promise of Tara-type goodness. I like! ;)



Kaite



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 4:26 pm 
Me like too. Happiness, Willow-help and promise of Tara-loving. Update soon, please!



Gem

Tara: There's just so much to work through... and can you just be kissing me now?



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 5:00 pm 
That was a really great set up, very well written. Really enjoyed the angst and the great maturity displayed by both Buffy and Dawn. Thanks, looking forward to reading more in the future.

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




Well officially, of course, I have to say that I have no idea what you're talking about.



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 5:45 pm 
Wow ... I love this. The little flashbacks help so much with conveying the your ideas. And I love the added level to who Dawn is ...



More soon?



JD

"I smell the smelly smell of something that smells smelly!" (SpongeBob Squarepants)



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 7:29 pm 
Put me in the "WOW" camp!!



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 7:30 pm 
This was lovely. I'm really looking forward to what's next. :)






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


"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: Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2002 9:30 pm 
Great stuff. The new depth and dimensions you bring to the characters is wonderful. Looking forward to more.



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 1:55 am 
Wow...powerful stuff....I especially loved the flashbacks.

Your writing flows beautifully, can't wait for more.

- Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres -



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 2:52 am 
Tulipp, this is so sad, but so beautifully written. The flashbacks were perfect. What's up with Dawn?

*****

She's my everything!



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 Post subject: Re: Feedback
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 3:09 am 
Very good. Looking foward to more.

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

Dawn: I gave birth to a pterodactyl.
Anya: Oh my god, did it sing?



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 Post subject: Re:Fic - Terra Firma.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 5:51 pm 
More praise to add to the glow...Your writing is just magic - posted to enchant us all - and we are eagerly awaiting more!



LoL...Emily and Lucy.

vive,valeque.



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 Post subject: Re: Re:Fic - Terra Firma.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 8:20 pm 
Have to add a wow... I just finished the first part and the details you have infused within this are spectacular... and the flashbacks are incredibly well timed and flow perfectly with the real time scenes...



As everyone I am curious as to why Dawn is having the headaches and who is coming... but with the build up you have going the angst has meaning and purpose...



so glad to see you tackle this topic

bravo

kathleen

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."



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 Post subject: Re: Re:Fic - Terra Firma.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 8:42 pm 
Adding my wow as well. Wonderful start and I am really enjoying the pace of the story, angst is fine as long as it doesn't go on forever :)

-----------------------
You know, it's a real deal relationship and that's why people can relate to it
Amber Benson



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 Post subject: Thanks....chapter 2 coming tonight
PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2002 11:33 am 
Well, the power here in PA was out for most of yesterday, so when I got home from work, no kitten board for me. I hope to update this evening (Friday) with chapter 2, once I've been able to get it to my beta and back.



In the meantime, thanks to you all for reading this. The really generous replies of readers is one of the things I've always loved and admired about the Kittens. So, Divine Princess Fuchsia, Miss1234Kitty, Pudds, LeatherQueen, Thanatopsis, EmilyFirst, and Puff, thanks. There will be lots more to come. Some more angst, yes, but lots of goodness.



Autumn T, JDCioffi, 4WiccanLuv, Tiggrscorpio: Flashbacks and forgiveness are the name of the game here. There will be a lot more of both. I think a lot of characters on BTVS are in need of big heaps of forgiveness lately.



Rally: Well, there's a ton to set up. I am planning a lot.



Kathleen: Thanks for encouraging. I have been reading Gift of Sorrow avidly, and it's really touched me. My own take on what happens after is different, but that's the pleasure of fan fiction, right? You and Beth really paved my mental way for this. Thanks.









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 Post subject: Re: Thanks....chapter 2 coming tonight
PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2002 3:01 pm 
My apologies for not reading this sooner. I've noticed it on the board for a while and always intended getting round to looking at it. I was exceptionally flattered when I noticed you'd given me a nod in your notes.



Anyway, onto the story. Wow. It's so fragile, I feel like all the way through, we as the readers are walking on eggshells. There's such a tentative tone to your style that's really very touching. Touched me, anyway. The flashbacks were amazing; I too was wholly impressed with the nether realms spell. There was something about that that was essentially tender; Tara taking Willow and their almost ritualistic washing of one another. Exceptional stuff.



So, it makes my heart heavy to read about the pain and grief. It upsets me to read about them like this. But you know, that's good. It's a good thing you're doing here. And your writing is really very fluent, readable and intriguing. Thanks so much. :)


----------
Squish. Squish. Squish.



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 Post subject: Re: Thanks....chapter 2 coming tonight
PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2002 4:17 am 
Tommo, thanks. This is hard to write as well as to read, but I appreciate that people are willing to read it. Months later, I think all of the characters would still be exceptionally tender and grieving, and while I am moving ahead quickly, I don't want to skip over what is a hard and hurtful thing: grief.



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 Post subject: Chapter 2: Rebuilding
PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2002 4:40 am 
Title:
Terra Firma
Chapter 2
Author: Tulipp
Email address: tulipp30@yahoo.com
Feedback:Please.
Distribution: Please let me know.
Spoilers:Everything.Specific episodes mentioned in this chapter: “Dead Things.”
Rating: PG in this part.
Pairing: W/T in spirit and in flashbacks.Soon to be in the flesh.
Summary: Set three months after “Grave.”Strange doings afoot in Sunnydale.Glimpses of Dawn and Willow at the coven.
Disclaimer: Willow and Tara, the other characters, and various plot events that set up this story belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc.I am borrowing them and making no money.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Ruby for beta-reading, and thanks to J.

Previously: Set three months after “Grave.”Buffy, Giles, and Xander waited for Willow and Dawn to come home.Buffy remembered Willow’s grief after Tara’s funeral and the decision to send Willow go away with Dawn to a coven in England.On the flight home, Dawn and Willow talked about and remembered Tara.Dawn had a violent headache and vision of an unnamed “she” coming.


Terra Firma


Chapter 2: Rebuilding


“The house of my body has spoken
often as you rebuild me like blocks,
and promise to come visit
when I’m finally adjusted on safe land,
and am livable, joist to joist
with storm windows and screens…”
        --Anne Sexton, “There You Were"


Out of the rubble, they would rebuild.In the aftermath of that night, they’d been left with destruction, with detritus and dust and disappointment. She had not succeeded. The world had not ended.They’d had to start again.
       
This was a minor setback.       

On a sunny June day, he had walked the perimeter of the old site, traced the ruins with his feet, leaving an imperfect circle of prints in the dust. He had run a thoughtful finger over a pile of bricks. He could see then that there had been much to do.

Now, mere months later, they were nearly ready. Ready to start again. Ready to return her to her rightful place in the world. Ready to begin the ritual. The ritual would be the key.

It would happen right here, on the dust heap of the last failed attempt. Her true essence had slipped away here, and here is where they would raise it up. Give it new form. A new house.

There were still preparations to be made, people to gather. But in just another day, she would be back.

Tomorrow night.

It would be glorious.



****



“Okay, Xander, you did good,” Buffy said, draping her shoulder bag over the banister at the bottom of the stairs. “Halfway decent movie, completely impressive Magic Box. It’s definitely ready for the big re-opening. Dawn will love it. And I think Willow will be really….”

“I hope she’s okay with it,” Xander interrupted her. “Anya is a little nervous about having her in the shop again.” He caught Buffy’s eye and held it for a long moment.

Giles elbowed the front door open, balancing two paper bags of groceries. “I don’t think that Willow is going to be thinking about the Magic Box,” he said. “She’s only been gone a couple of months. She will be thinking about…other things.”

Giles looked at Buffy, then at Xander. No one spoke.

Buffy turned away abruptly. “How is Anya,” she said, reaching to straighten a picture on the wall. “I haven’t seen much of her lately.”

“Oh, she’s pretty much down with the VD these days,” Xander said.

“Oh, what a shame,” Buffy jumped at the chance to talk about anything other than Willow. “I thought we were about to see another episode of the Xander and Anya Temporary Relapse series that Giles and I have been watching all summer.”
       
“Um, hello, Buffy? VD,” Xander raised his eyebrows. “Please get your mind out of the gutter and go back to Sesame Street 101. V is for vengeance, D is for demon.”

Giles looked up at the ceiling. “Good grief,” he said.

“Well,” Buffy said. “It’s kind of a repetitive show anyway.You know, every episode is the same. Xander and Anya get back together, but it only lasts for one night.”

Giles hefted the paper bags.“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he said, “but I think I actually miss Anya. At least we expected herto make inappropriate comments.”

Buffy peered at Giles, then at Xander. “You’re blushing,” she accused. “You’re
both blushing.”

“I am not,” Giles said. “Tea. Tea, perhaps. I think we could all use a cup of tea before we go to the airport, don’t you?” He headed for the kitchen.

“Great, tea,” Xander said, shoving his hands in his pockets and tilting his head at Buffy. “Cause we haven’t had any tea in a while.” But he followed Giles to the kitchen, Buffy noticed. The three of them—well, it was the four of them when Anya was around—tended toward one another these days. None of them really wanted to be alone. There was some small comfort to be found in numbers. And in tea.

It had been a lonely few months. No Dawn. No Willow. No Spike…but Buffy didn’t really want to think about him. Not much Anya either.
       
And no Tara.

Buffy felt the ache of Tara’s absence. She had felt it every day, all summer.She and Giles and Xander had spent the summer talking…and not talking…about Tara. Not really believing that she was gone. Not wanting to believe it. It was so sudden. So meaningless. So wrong.

She had come to think of Tara as a constant. And a friend.

An image flashed into her mind, a feeling.



Kneeling on the floor in the living room.Her hands on Tara’s knees. Weeping. Dropping her head into Tara’s lap. Sobbing out “please don’t forgive me; please don’t forgive me.” Strangely familiar hands touching her head, tentative first, then surer. Stroking her hair.
       
Tara had murmured soothing words, smoothed Buffy’s hair until she was quiet and just knelt there, breathing, her head resting in the comfort of Tara’s lap. It felt familiar, and soft, and warm. It felt like home. It reminded Buffy of her mother. Tara’s hands on her hair were solace. They were acceptance. And, in spite of Buffy’s pleas, they were forgiveness.

Eventually, Buffy had lifted her head and sat back on her heels. She had wiped her eyes with the back of her hands.T ara had just looked at her, concerned. “Buffy, are you going to be okay?” she had asked. Her voice was gentle.

Buffy had thought about that for a moment, and then she had nodded. “I think so,” she said. “Now.” She had stood and moved to the sofa, sat next to Tara. Their shoulders had touched easily.

They had sat in silence for a little while. Buffy had looked sideways at Tara, at her composure and concern. “I get it now,” she had said softly.“I really get it.”
       
Tara had turned her head, her forehead wrinkling. "What?” she had asked.

“Why Willow needs you so much,” Buffy had said. Tara had looked down, twisted her fingers in her lap.

“Why we all need you,” Buffy had said. It hit her hard then. “Tara, please come home.”



Home. Buffy looked around the empty hallway. She sighed. And then she headed to the kitchen for Giles and Xander. And more tea.



****



He had thought, soon after the failure of that blackest of nights, that the foundation could not be reconstructed. The rubble was too deep, the structure too rickety. And it had continued to fall apart over the summer. When he returned to the site a few months later, the structure had collapsed. Shards of metal—beams and bolts—had littered the ground.

The tower wasn’t, in the end, important. He knew that now. It was the place itself, the hallowed ground where her essence had been lost. If he could gather enough Followers to his circle, if he could help them to focus their energy on the chanting, if they could concentrate…. then they could bring her essence back.

And after the blood-letting ritual had failed, the Followers had dispersed, shuffled off into the night. He had never gotten a good look at any of them. He had been…otherwise occupied…that night. Perhaps a few of the Followers had people to take care of them, to take them in. Some had ended up in the mental ward at Sunnydale Hospital. Some had drifted into a kind of half-life on the streets. Most had probably become vampire food long ago.

He hadn’t seen them leave, hadn’t seen any of it. He had fallen…been pushed, actually…and when he had come to, it was quiet. Time had passed. Dust and debris filled the air. He hadn’t known quite what had happened, but he had known that the ritual had not worked. And he had slunk away to repair his skin. To lick his wounds. To mend.

All he needed now was the Followers. And the ritual.

It was nearly time.



****



They were nearly…home.Willow glanced out the small window, imagined the desert expanse she knew was there, a great distance below.She could almost summon enough emotion to be glad the plane would be landing soon.She was tired of being in the air.

Willow frowned as she turned from the window to look at Dawn, who had fallen asleep on her shoulder.The headache had faded away quickly; they always did.But this one had been more violent than usual.And they were going to have to tell Buffy.Willow wasn’t looking forward to that.

She had wanted to call Buffy after it had become clear—perhaps a month before—that the headaches were becoming a pattern.She had roused herself enough to speak to Dawn about it, to plead with her to call her sister.But Dawn had refused.


“What would be the point?” Dawn had asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

Willow sighed. “Buffy would want to know,” she said, trying for an urgent tone. Even to her ears, though, her voice had sounded flat, monotonous.

“Willow,” Dawn said. She stepped forward and put her hands on Willow’s shoulders, holding them there even when Willow flinched at the touch. “It’s not like Buffy could do anything about it, so far away.She would just worry.”

Willow said nothing, looked off into the distance.

“Besides,” Dawn continued. “If we told her, she might make me come home.I would have to leave.” She paused. “Willow, do you want me to leave?” Dawn’s voice caught a little on the last word. A squeak.

Willow looked back up at her then, saw the anxiety in Dawn’s eyes. She swallowed hard. Do this, Willow, she ordered herself silently. Do this.

“No Dawnie,” she said finally, softly. “I don’t want you to leave.”

Willow had closed her eyes as Dawn threw her arms around her, willing herself to hug back. It might be cold comfort, but Dawn needed it. And as she allowed herself to lean into the hug, she realized something. She needed it, too.


She had a lot to thank Dawn for, really, she thought now, patting the sleek brown head on her shoulder. Dawn had left her life in Sunnydale behind for the summer to go with Willow to England. To take care of her. Buffy and Giles had never said that, but Willow knew — she would have known then, if she had cared enough to think about it—that it was true.

And Dawn had taken care of her. Even at the beginning, when Willow refused to look at her or anyone, or get out of bed, or talk. Safe at last from the violent and invasive sympathy of her friends, she had withdrawn. But Dawn had checked on her.



“Willow, I’m leaving now,” Dawn had said loudly. “I’ll be back later.”Willow did not acknowledge her. She stared at the wall. She tuned out the voice.Dawn must have left then, but Willow did not hear her footsteps, did not see the door close. She stared.

She lay curled up in a narrow and unfamiliar bed, her arms tucked over her breasts, facing the wall. She was hollow, left with only the hangover of weeks of crying to fill her mind, to pulse red-hot and dry against her forehead and her chest.She wanted to be emptied out. She wanted to fade away.She wanted to disappear.

In that state of half-consciousness, she stared. At the wall, at a tiny chink in the plaster. The door opened and closed. People came and went.Willow stared, unsleeping. Time passed.

Until she became aware that a voice was whispering to her, seeping into the dry plaster world she was creating. “Willow,” the voice hummed. It was low tones of cello and clarinet. It was cool fingers around the drywall of her mind. “Come with me, Willow.”

Willow blinked, and she wasn’t facing the plaster anymore. She had rolled over. When had she rolled over?The room was blurry.

A woman stood in the doorway, soft and solid and white against the shadow of the darkened hallway behind her.Her face shimmered. “Come, Willow,” the voice hummed again. It came from the woman — Willow could feel that — but the lips hadn’t moved. As Willow blinked again, she saw that the woman wasn’t really standing. She was floating. Barely. Her feet hovered just over the floor.

“I don’t want to,” Willow started to say, but she found herself rising from the bed. Had anything in her life been more difficult than those first steps? Had she ever felt guilty of such betrayal as when she stepped from the doorway of her room into the sun…what had happened to the hallway?… and turned her face upward for warmth?

She took another step, like walking on knives, and found herself sitting, legs crossed, on a wide and grassy heath. Everywhere around her, the faint tinge of heather colored the air lilac. And the low hum, a gentle music.

“You have to rebuild yourself, Willow,” the voice came. Willow sat still. She focused her eyes on the woman sitting across from her, smiling. Willow could not quite make out the woman’s features.But she knew that the lips had not moved.

Why should I. The thought passed through Willow’s mind. She did not speak, but she knew with certainty that she had been heard, or understood.

“You’re too weak.” Humming again.“You will waste away.”

I want to, the thought came. What else do I have now? She was aware of a burning, pained place inside her, but it was distant somehow, removed. Was that her heart, that hot and desperate place? Strangely detached, she watched this thought, too, drift across her mind. The words formed and floated.

The glowing woman’s eyes locked onto hers. “You will be like them,” the hum pressed at the edges of Willow’s awareness. “You will be bones and dust, walking.”

Yes, Willow thought.She had nodded, but she was perfectly still. Her hands rested on her knees. Anchored them.

“You have your friends,” the hum grew a little, purred, deep and rhythmic. It surrounded Willow. It licked at her. “They need you, Willow. The girl needs you. You must rebuild.” Willow tried to shake her head. She still sat, calmly.

I won’t, she thought. I am done.

The voice grew louder. The wind blew Willow’s hair back, away from her face. It glinted red. The tops of the heather quivered. “You can’t help it,” the voice purred. “You can’t stop it.It’s in your nature.”

No, Willow thought. She’d meant it to be desperate, but it seeped out of her as calmly as before. No.

“Look at your hands.” The hum was back, lessening, low musical notes fading away at the end of a song. “You’re already doing it.”

Willow blinked. The white shimmered and turned faintly green at the edges of her vision. Slowly, she turned her eyes downward, to the dark ground.She was still sitting, legs crossed, on the heath, but it was night. She saw, as if from a great distance, that her hands were forming a pile of small gray stones into a shape. Where had they come from? She tilted her head and looked at what she had made. As she studied it, detached, it took shape: a little wall. A monument. A headstone.

Willow dropped the stones she still held and scrambled to her feet. She kicked out with her foot and knocked the little shape over. She backed away, horrified. No.
       
As she stood, stunned and staring, the air around her moved, the stones sank into the ground.The heather dissolved.The heath disappeared. The black night turned pink. The hum faded, faded, and was gone.

She blinked again. She looked at the plaster chink on the wall, felt her hands still clutched to her chest, felt the ache in her head and in her heart.The door to the hallway was shut.

She had lain there for a long moment. And then she had done the hardest thing she had ever had to do.Would ever have to do.

She sat up.



Dawn sat up, rubbed her eyes. Willow turned to her and half-smiled. “Are we there yet,” Dawn asked, leaning over Willow to peer out the window. And they were.
       
The cabin lights dimmed. “Please return your seats to their full and upright positions,” the flight attendant’s voice sounded throughout the cabin. “We are about to begin our descent into Sunnydale.”



To be continued in Chapter 3, “Little Headaches.”






Edited by: Tulipp at: 6/30/02 5:42:53 am


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