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

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (12/10/2020)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2020 5:54 pm 
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8. Vixen

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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DIBS, Continuing to enjoy this story. You make Willow's grief so palpable; Tara's a well, but Willow's is a gut-punch. Looking forward to reading more, thanks for writing.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (12/10/2020)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2020 1:16 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
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Quote:
The bread didn’t fix things, it could never be that easy when there were so many hard truths to face. But it cracked the wall of old narratives Tara had found herself caught up in. Reaching forward, she gently turned one of the newer photos over revealing Willow, caught in mid laugh as Buffy hung around her neck playfully. Tara caressed Willow’s joyful face, her heart squeezing for so many conflicting reasons. This woman she loved, still loved, who she knew so well, felt like an enigma.

I'm glad for this step in the healing of Tara's emotional pain, giving her the strength to face the photograph and the memory of her happy past with Willow this invokes.

Quote:
She’d tried to secret the cards away, stowing them as far back in the kitchen cupboard as she could. Daddy and Donny never cooked for themselves, it was the safest place for it. Until Donny had gone looking for hooch. The cold superior sneer on Danny’s face told Tara that this transgression would not go unpunished. She’d gone to sleep that night with a split lip.

GRRR! :fit Have I mentioned how much I hate Tara's dad and Donny for abusing her all those years? :gnome

Quote:
Revealing the top card, the one that represented the overall situation, Tara blinked, surprised- Justice. Law? Balance? Truth. Fairness. Oh. One by one she overturned the bottom three cards, meant to indicate significant factors and influences to the overall goal. The Nine of Cups inverted- trust in oneself in times of oppression; the Eight of Swords- self-imposed bindings; and - then Eight of Wands which caused her another moment of confusion: movement, quick changes, travel. Well, things had changed and she had moved… and she’d just spoken of traveling to find her aunt. Then the card that had fallen out and been set to the side: The Empress. It was like a wave crashing, sudden, powerful and undeniable. Mom.

Interesting. I'm curious how Tara's future in the chapters to come will fit to that Tarot reading. I have zero knowledge of Tarot and was wondering at first why the Empress made Tara think of her mom, but a quick google research came up with the meaning "mother, creator, nurturer" for this card so now it's obvious.
I kind of hope Tara will find something of a "mother figure" in her aunt.


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (12/10/2020)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 12:21 am 
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taranwillow4ever:
Quote:
DIBS, Continuing to enjoy this story. You make Willow's grief so palpable; Tara's a well, but Willow's is a gut-punch. Looking forward to reading more, thanks for writing.

I am glad you are enjoying it!! and thank you so much for your kind words and for reading and commenting.


Wills-redemption:

Quote:
I'm glad for this step in the healing of Tara's emotional pain, giving her the strength to face the photograph and the memory of her happy past with Willow this invokes.
It is definitely a process, they aren't skipping it this time, but it is a solid step forward for Tara

Quote:
GRRR! :fit Have I mentioned how much I hate Tara's dad and Donny for abusing her all those years? :gnome

SAME- and that stuff lingers, but Tara is a brave, strong soul

Quote:
Interesting. I'm curious how Tara's future in the chapters to come will fit to that Tarot reading. I have zero knowledge of Tarot and was wondering at first why the Empress made Tara think of her mom, but a quick google research came up with the meaning "mother, creator, nurturer" for this card so now it's obvious.
I kind of hope Tara will find something of a "mother figure" in her aunt.


It's a guide for her, and something she loves (in my Tara world anyway :) ) Thanks so much for your comments!! I feel it only fair to give you a heads up about this next chapter - if you don't want any foreshadowing stop reading now :) It gets dark, but it's a place I need to get Willow to- it's always darkest before Dawn.


NOTES: This has been heavily edited since it was last beta'd- hopefully the mistakes are few. Thanks for reading!!



Ch 30: The Solace of Routine


It was a little after four in the afternoon when Willow finally returned to the Summers' home, from the sounds as she opened the door, everyone was there and dinner was being served. Lively voices carried from the dining room.

“Should I have cooked?” There was a lilt in Buffy’s voice Willow hadn’t heard in months, long before Buffy had died, the almost chipper sound bittersweet to Willow’s ears.

“Nah, leave the hard schlepping to the Colonel, Buff, it’s the American way,” Xander quipped.

“Well, color me patriotic then,” Buffy quipped back. Willow could hear the chairs being pushed around as she hung her coat.

“Where’s the Willster? Shouldn’t we wait for her?”

“Oh,” there was a pause as Buffy spoke, Willow couldn’t help but wonder what filled it, “I dunno…”

Willow stepped into sight of the dining area before Buffy could finish what she was saying. She popped on a smile, “Ask and, well, here I am.”

The door to the kitchen swung open and Dawn stepped through with a bounce. “Oh yeah,” she chirped, swaying the plates in her hands, dancing them into the dining area as she spoke to Anya, who followed her with empty hands, “Football uniforms are totally- Willow! Where’d you go?” Dawn passed the plates to Anya on a spin, still in the dance, before stopping to focus on Willow. Anya spent a moment looking at the plates like she didn’t know what to do with them before huffing lightly and placing them exactly where they needed to go.

Someone remembered, Willow thought, and Dawn even seemed pleased to see her. But what to say about where she had gone? The truth would bring awkwardness and other unpleasant emotions, possibly glares. Laying the bread offering at Tara’s door had been meaningful, it was too precious, too complicated an act to subject it to scrutiny. Besides, the moment was hers, hers and Tara’s, “Just, um, needed some air, took a walk.”

Dawn crinkled her brow, peering at Willow, lips set like she had something to say but was unsure if she should and Willow gave what she hoped was a convincing grin. Dawn had seen the stilted interaction between her and Buffy this morning, seen the hurt on Willow’s face. And she’d been gone for hours, driving around town, and later walking through the city park. She’d even swung for a little bit, it was the first time Willow had taken that time for herself, just to think and be. To allow herself to think about Tara, compelled to continue even as every thought stung. Finally, Dawn grinned back, “Giles called, he wishes us all a Happy Thanksgiving,” she said, crossing back to the table arrangement.

Willow sighed quietly at another sore point. Willow regretted that she and Giles hadn’t parted on the best terms, but admitted, to herself at least, that she was a little glad he wasn’t here right now. He’d give her looks, hairy eyeball looks, and possibly a complete and total tongue lashing for her actions. “That’s nice- that he called.” What else could she say?

A slight touch grazed her upper arm. Buffy was there next to her, tentative and soft-spoken, but there, “Thanks for picking up the pie, Will.” Willow almost melted, her soft grin watery.

“No problem.”

With a sheepish nod, Buffy moved back into the kitchen and Willow turned to help set the table before her eyes filled with tears, joy pushing at her chest from Buffy’s gesture that meant more than Willow could have anticipated.

The meal went off better than she had hoped, the mood was as light as could be and Dawn made an obvious effort to include Willow, even needling her playfully about leaving the pie with the coats where it could have been found and devoured by Xander before anyone else had a chance to get at it. Xander spent the meal dispensing an equal amount of jokes, gripes, and truly awful puns- self-aware of all them. Anything to brighten the room. It was like the last few weeks hadn’t happened. She was the Willster again, water under the bridge. Anya was … Anya- consistent and true to herself. And Buffy was engaged, not gregarious or even particularly forth-coming but… there. ‘There’ was a lot.

For the first time since Tara left, Willow felt closer to grounded. Her friends were here, things were ok. She’d reached out to Tara, and Willow knew that Tara would know the bread was from her. She would, right? There was still pain, still the static of discomfort charging the air, but it felt like a bridge being built, the first few planks laid – they were unsteady without the counterbalance of the others, but it was somewhere to put your feet.

“I spy with my little eye, something that rhymes with eye,” if Xander hadn’t been ogling the pie, everyone still would have known what he meant. Willow played anyway.

“Your G.I.?” and was met with three confused expressions on three different faces. Dawn got it.

“You mean, like Joe?”

“No Xander, like in your gastro-intestinal,” Willow corrected, “as in how can you possibly, shove anymore in there?”

“Ah, stretchy pants,” Xander snapped the elastic waist to prove his point. Anya watched the action with a grin before sharing her intimate knowledge with the group.

“Stretchy pants have both pros and cons where you’re-“

“Plus!” Xander loudly and swiftly interrupted, “Dawn ate more than me! And you want pie don’tya Dawnster?”

“Uh, yeah!” Dawn was already dishing out the slices to everyone but Buffy, who waved the offer away. “Willow went to the bakery for it and everything.”

The events of the day skipped through Willow’s mind, like pebbles skimming the surface of a lake . The magic. Breakfast. The bakery. The bread. The numbers on Tara’s door. Tara. Not here. Buffy.

“You got this at the bakery?” There was something in Anya’s tone when she asked, it was a query more than a question and it caught Willow in her thoughts, she was sure her face was flushed. Or deathly pale. It was giving her away somehow.

“Um, yeah?” Willow looked at Anya looking at her with a crooked eyebrow and Willow couldn’t quite read her mood- Curious? Accusatory? Protective? Tiny pricks danced through her veins. It reminded her that things weren’t the same, and the routine they’d been through at dinner began to feel like a sheen painted over damaged wood.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The night grew dark early, as it does in near winter, and Buffy set off for patrol around 7 pm leaving the others to clean and converse. An uneasy feeling had settled in, nudging at Willow, making her feel like she was forgetting something, or anticipating something she couldn’t quite identify. The group moved around each other, stacking plates and packaging leftovers and Willow ducked into the kitchen, dirty plates in hand. She scrubbed at the dishes, trying to busy the unease away, telling herself she was tired, overtaxed, and pushed down the faint sense of irritation rising within her, making her flesh itch. With nothing left to clean, she wiped her hands on a dish towel, grasping it in her hands while she forced a slow breath from her lungs and moved to join the others in front of the television. Xander scooted over from his place on the couch, making room for his oldest friend. After a few awkward glances at Willow, he shifted back toward her and wrapped a strong arm around her shoulder.

“How you doing, Wills?”

“I-“Willow started, wanting to answer him with the many truths she was feeling. Better, awful, lost, weird, trying. But she wasn’t sure if Xander really wanted the truth, besides, this wasn’t the time or place to get into it, “I’m good Xand.” Xander dipped his head to Willow’s ear, whispering a simple but weighted question.

“We ok?”

“Yeah, we’re ok,” Willow’s answered, working her grin until it softened. She pressed into the side of Xander’s body once before pulling back and nodding toward the television, “What are we watching?”

Anya plopped on the other side of Xander, a glass of wine in hand, “Football!”

“Twilight Zone!” Xander answered at the same time, then, “You want to watch football?”

“I don’t care about the ball throwing but the tackling is very homo-erotic. Besides they have great butts and big manly arms.”

“Gee, feeling the inadequacy right now An”

“Oh please, your butt is much tighter”

“And on that note,” Dawn rolled her eyes and shoved a handful of popcorn into her mouth, possibly trying to hide the forming of permanent emotional scarring.

“An, please, I was forced to watch back to back games this morning. I think I have permanent welts from all the back slapping my father’s buddies were unleashing. I’m trying to erase the both literal and figurative pain here.”

“Fine, Twilight Zone it is, but you’ll be sorry if the one with that horrifying doll comes on.”

Xander agreed with a shudder, “Then it’s right back to football, nothing says a childhood of perpetual nightmares and bedwetting like Talking Tina.” Dawn looked at Xander, stared at him with mock dead eyes, he felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand and turned to face the stare.

“My name is Talking Tina and I don’t like you.”

Visibly blanching, Xander shivered before waving his finger at Dawn, “Not cool Dawn the Diabolical, just for that, I get all your leftover pie.”

“As if,” Dawn retorted, picking up the remote and turning the channel to an image of Robert Redford lying in the snow, a scared old woman peering at him through her cracked door.
The banter had faded into the background of Willow’s senses, she heard the words, but they had become stuck like flies in honey, dense and futile. This was how they were, this back and forth, the teasing and light bickering. It was the familiarity of friendship. The uneasiness had shifted Willow’s grounding and now… it all felt like a mask, out of place but, Willow had made a promise to herself to be here, to make an effort to regain what they had. The chasms between them hurt. The itchiness grew, and Willow’s thoughts turned to Tara, who should be there right now.

The banter continued as she sat staring at the television. She couldn’t have said what was on it. It all seemed banal. It all seemed so much wasted time and words. These friends who just wanted things to just go on- be status quo, when nothing was. Her thoughts began to spiral. Willow needed her friends, she needed them to make time for her, to ask her what was wrong and mostly, to just listen- not judge, not blame, not question. When was Xander ever really a friend to her? When she really needed it? The itch compounded, the increased frequency beginning to buzz across her skin.

She didn’t want to banter. What she wanted was to scream, to wail, to be well. She wanted to wrap tape over all of their mouths.

The thought shocked her.

She quickly pushed out of her seat and went to the kitchen, getting a glass of water, needing to shift her body, move out of that mind space. I’m just tired, she told herself again, trying to believe it despite the urgent buzz in her veins. She paced the kitchen tiles, hoping the movement would let her think, try to understand what was happening. The visit to Tara’s dorm had been a salve- and a pound of salt- rubbed on the wound. There was so much going on and they just kept talking- they had spent all that time arguing over what to watch and they were blabbing right through the show- the buzzing increased and Willow’s thoughts turned darker, angrier. Her friends didn’t care that she was in pain, they never had. They just lectured at her and expected her to take it, got offended when she tried to defend herself.

Forcing herself to stop, she picked up her glass and took a long drink. After a few breaths, she carried the water with her and stepped back into the living room. Willow recognized that her emotions had been strung tight lately, why wouldn’t they be? But, god, their voices grated. It was like her blood was heating from friction, pulsing against her flesh and nerves, to shut them the hell up, to magic their mouths shut. Her fingertips vibrated with possibility and before she realized, Willow had started to raise her left hand, fingers bent gathering the power she needed. Dawn laughed, honestly and full of joy, the sound breaking through her errant thoughts. Willow stumbled backward, dropping the glass, numbly hearing it crack against the hard floor.

“Wills,” Xander moved toward her, Willow saw Anya make a feeble movement to stop him, “hey stumble-y girl, were you dippin’ into the rum when we weren’t looking?”

Willow just stared, horrified and still buzzing, until Dawn stepped next to him, “Willow? Are you ok?”

“What?” Willow took another step back, even as she tried to appear calm, forcing her features into neutrality and words out of her mouth, “Oh hey, yeah, just, long day, not a lot of sleep- for me- you know, last night, with the sleeping” she trailed while still backing away, toward the stairs and away from her friends, straining to move casually as the itching increased and irritation was threatening into anger, Willow pushed it down with a rapid set of blinks – walking backward toward the stairs, away from her friends, terrified.

“Willow?” There was an indication in Anya’s tone- she sounded cautious, on guard.

“I’m good, guys,” Willow deflected, hoping her smile was convincing as she piffled away, “I wish there was turkey I could blame, with the tryptophan, only can’t because, hey that’s been proven to be a myth,” she laughed. It was slightly manic and somehow worked for her, once a spaz…. they’d expect nothing less. “Goodnite.”

The door shut behind her and Willow sunk along the wood, draping over herself on the floor. She was trembling and anxious. What the hell is happening? She was all over the place- a jumble- tired from too little sleep, wearied by weight of an injured heart, unnerved by what had just happened downstairs. Her friends…. nowhere was steady. There had been the start of that bridge but without someone on the other side, to help connect the pieces, it dangled unfinished. It seemed like it would never be built. It would be abandoned and that feeling summoned an ancient fury raged within Willow. It was as old as she, a nameless angry god, and it fed the itch. She felt betrayed, she felt like the betrayer- she had betrayed. Guilt and want and rage at the unfairness of it all, it was causing the itch to swell again, soon she would need to scratch.

The magic beckoned her.

The magic, was this the come down? Purpose drove Willow, if she could research, she would know and if she knew, she could fix it. Books were pulled from her desk, down to the floor beside her, pages flipped furiously. There had always been headaches and nosebleeds, but not this itch, this want. Research got her nowhere, the books mentioned the after effects of heavy magic use, but in very little detail, almost as if the information was omitted on purpose, left for darker books.

A scream pulled her attention outward and Willow bolted to the stairs. At the bottom, she could see Xander, rigid and tensed, an axe gripped in white knuckles. Dawn appeared in the entrance to the foyer, a large sword dragging her arm down with the weight. And outside the open front door was Anya, her feet dangling as she hung from the grip around her throat. Three vampires stood in game face, Anya being held by the one in the center who demanded that they be invited inside. The threat to any refusal was clear. The sword dropped a little lower in Dawn’s hands, she was petrified with indecision.

The itch, the buzz, that had been tormenting Willow became a calling, a Valkyrie cry echoing in each measured step as she moved into the battle below. There were dead out there, and she was their fate. Willow moved into the foyer, “Move.” Three stakes, called forth by her thoughts, lifted from the weapons chest sitting in open disarray by the living room. The stakes met in a neat line on the threshold of the doorway just as Xander and Dawn retreated, unable or unwilling to argue with the steel in Willow’s voice. Her eyes shifted black as she drew in the magic, the power. She was vaguely aware that only the vampires saw; Anya’s face had been forced to the side, but the vampires witnessed the change, the sparks of power arcing between Willow’s fingers, the shift from green eyes to black and back again. The ends of the stakes rose slightly, angled, aimed. Before the vampires could fully react, or try to sidestep any attack, Willow let the magic work and the two outer stakes flew at the flanking vampires’ chests. Direct hits. Dust.

And then there was one, trickier to kill while still holding Anya. Willow’s fingers twitched. The vampire howled in pain but not from anything Willow was doing. Three sets of eyes widened as Willow, Xander, and Dawn witnessed Anya’s hand lock onto, and squeeze, the vampire’s genitals causing the creature to curl forward abruptly.

Xander rushed forward, “Anya!” but Anya was already ducking out and away from the vampire’s loosened grasp. Anya let go of the creature, nearly falling into the house and Xander’s waiting arm, before he shoved her gently to the side and moved his free hand to match the other, grasping the axe, and with a neat swing lopped the head off the vampire- bulgy eyes and all.

They sat together on the couch, Xander and Anya decided to stay afterwards, at least until Buffy got home. Anya was both shaken to the bone and smugly proud of herself as she rattled on about the events that just happened. She had been retrieving her planner when she’d been caught outside and she reminded Xander frequently that just because that expedition had been thwarted, didn’t mean he was off the hook. There were pre-wedding events to plan. Xander watched her, looking both proud and a little traumatized, and not so discreetly covering his groin.
Finally, they had all gone to try and sleep- Xander and Anya taking Buffy’s room until she returned. Willow though was pumped, she’d been unable to sit still since the vampire’s had been dusted. There was no more itch, just a radiant hum that made her want to run, even dance, and Willow rarely wanted to dance. At least not in public. After a few paced circles around her room, Willow picked up the phone.

Amy met her at the curb in front of the Summers’ house. Willow had asked that they not go to Rack’s that night. They ended up there anyway.

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You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (12/26/2020)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 8:22 am 
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8. Vixen

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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DIBS
:fit No, No, Willow don't go out with Amy, don't go to Rack's. See the feelings as a spider sense of a problem, see the feelings as the universe getting her ready to help not hurt. I guess Willow hasn't learned the lesson yet...Looking forward to reading more and seeing how this all comes out.

Thanks for writing.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (12/26/2020)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:22 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
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Quote:
The meal went off better than she had hoped, the mood was as light as could be and Dawn made an obvious effort to include Willow, even needling her playfully about leaving the pie with the coats where it could have been found and devoured by Xander before anyone else had a chance to get at it. Xander spent the meal dispensing an equal amount of jokes, gripes, and truly awful puns- self-aware of all them. Anything to brighten the room. It was like the last few weeks hadn’t happened. She was the Willster again, water under the bridge. Anya was … Anya- consistent and true to herself. And Buffy was engaged, not gregarious or even particularly forth-coming but… there. ‘There’ was a lot.

For the first time since Tara left, Willow felt closer to grounded. Her friends were here, things were ok. She’d reached out to Tara, and Willow knew that Tara would know the bread was from her. She would, right? There was still pain, still the static of discomfort charging the air, but it felt like a bridge being built, the first few planks laid – they were unsteady without the counterbalance of the others, but it was somewhere to put your feet.

Quote:
Tiny pricks danced through her veins. It reminded her that things weren’t the same, and the routine they’d been through at dinner began to feel like a sheen painted over damaged wood.

Quote:
The banter continued as she sat staring at the television. She couldn’t have said what was on it. It all seemed banal. It all seemed so much wasted time and words. These friends who just wanted things to just go on- be status quo, when nothing was. Her thoughts began to spiral. Willow needed her friends, she needed them to make time for her, to ask her what was wrong and mostly, to just listen- not judge, not blame, not question. When was Xander ever really a friend to her? When she really needed it? The itch compounded, the increased frequency beginning to buzz across her skin.

She didn’t want to banter. What she wanted was to scream, to wail, to be well. She wanted to wrap tape over all of their mouths.

Quote:
Her friends…. nowhere was steady. There had been the start of that bridge but without someone on the other side, to help connect the pieces, it dangled unfinished. It seemed like it would never be built.

Poor Willow! So sad that the small hope and positivity she found through the act of gifting Tara with the bread was lost so soon. I love your image of the bridge in construction, how it changes from positive to negative in Willow's mind a stark reminder how lost she still is.

Quote:
Willow recognized that her emotions had been strung tight lately, why wouldn’t they be? But, god, their voices grated. It was like her blood was heating from friction, pulsing against her flesh and nerves, to shut them the hell up, to magic their mouths shut. Her fingertips vibrated with possibility and before she realized, Willow had started to raise her left hand, fingers bent gathering the power she needed. Dawn laughed, honestly and full of joy, the sound breaking through her errant thoughts. Willow stumbled backward, dropping the glass, numbly hearing it crack against the hard floor.

That Willow almost used magic against her chosen family to "shut them up" - which would have been an attack without any good intention behind it (unlike her attempt to let them "forget about bad stuff") - is very alarming.

Quote:
The magic, was this the come down? Purpose drove Willow, if she could research, she would know and if she knew, she could fix it. Books were pulled from her desk, down to the floor beside her, pages flipped furiously. There had always been headaches and nosebleeds, but not this itch, this want. Research got her nowhere, the books mentioned the after effects of heavy magic use, but in very little detail, almost as if the information was omitted on purpose, left for darker books.

That gave me some hope that Willow might finally realize that the magic she is using is "making her sick", that she is "addicted" to it, that she has to stop going to Rack for more. What a shame that the vampires got hold of Anya, practically forcing Willow to use magic to destroy them and cementing the belief in her subconscious that she needs her strong magical powers (no matter if the source is "dark") to protect her family.
And let's face it, if Willow hadn't killed the two vampires with the help of magic and given Anya the diversion enabling her to break free from the third vampire, this situation could have had a catastrophic outcome.

In my opinion the way to help and save Willow is not to make her stop using magic alltogether but to "professionally" educate her how to use the "right" (light) magic even in emergencies (like she was obviously taught by the coven in England after season 6 in canon). Tara or Giles can't be her teacher (for different reasons and because they are both "too close" to Willow) but maybe Tara's aunt could take on that role?


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (12/26/2020)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2021 8:30 pm 
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taranwillow4ever:
Quote:
No, No, Willow don't go out with Amy, don't go to Rack's. See the feelings as a spider sense of a problem, see the feelings as the universe getting her ready to help not hurt. I guess Willow hasn't learned the lesson yet...Looking forward to reading more and seeing how this all comes out.

That's an interesting take on what was going on with Willow, I like it. Thanks for commenting!

Wills-redemption:
Quote:
I love your image of the bridge in construction, how it changes from positive to negative in Willow's mind a stark reminder how lost she still is.
Thank you, and poor Wills, we'll take of care of her!

Quote:
And let's face it, if Willow hadn't killed the two vampires with the help of magic and given Anya the diversion enabling her to break free from the third vampire, this situation could have had a catastrophic outcome.
This is the tricky part of the magic- it is useful, it's necessary sometimes, and it also comes with a price.

Thanks for feedbacking!!




Notes: all the previous disclaimers and such remain. I am a little nervous about this one, the latest version has not been beta'd- I hope I have found all the mistakes.




Ch 31: Upselling


The bell above the door rang in half-time as Tara eased into the Magic Box, her body moving slow as her heart pounded fluctuating between anxiety and anticipation. Being Saturday, there was every possibility that Willow would be here, or would walk in at any time, and that possibility sent hummingbirds fluttering in Tara’s chest.

It seemed so natural at the time, to agree with Dawn’s suggestion they meet there, besides, Tara needed to see Anya as well. But every step closer on her long walk from the campus was accompanied by another mental kick of ‘Why did I agree to that?’ And of course, since she had wanted to talk to Anya she was early, so no chance of a quick getaway. But maybe a chance that Willow would walk through the door.

Anya was aggressively pitching the benefits of newt eyes to a young woman dressed in her witchiest black, but she took the time to give a quick nod to Tara who slipped into a shadowed alcove, waiting unobtrusively. Tara watched with divided interest, part of her amused as Anya, in a single motion, deftly removed the jar of salamander eyes from the shopper’s hand and replaced it with the more expensive newt. The remaining, and more attuned, part of Tara’s interest scanned the rest of the store searching for signs of Willow, finding both relief and disappointment that she found none.

The woman exited the shop looking slightly bewildered, still mentally trying to catch up with the lightning fast sale that just taken her money. Tara waited for the bell, ringing at its usual speed, to stop before commenting, “You know the salamander works just as well.” She threw in a mock glare for good measure before glancing toward the door to the backroom. Sometimes, when Willow studied some of the more sensitive materials, she would read them in there, away from prying eyes. With a shiver, Tara quickly looked elsewhere, she didn’t want to go down that road.

“Of course I know,” there was a definite ‘pffft’ in Anya’s tone, “It’s called upselling, it's a very important proprietary skill.”

“I’m sure,” Tara said distractedly, her eyes never stilling as she continued to look around.

“Why are you here? You haven’t been in for almost a month.” Anya was watching her now, following the knots Tara was making with nervous fingers until Tara realized and squeezed her hands together. She held them down, elbows straight in front of her. In seconds her fingers were worrying again.

“I’m, uh, meeting Dawn,” Tara took one last peek toward the front door and then with a deep and purposeful breath, unlocked her hands, placing them instead to pick at the edge of the sales counter, “And I wanted to check in with you, about my aunt?”

“Oh! Yes!” Anya burst with sudden energy, her excited hand shutting the open till of the cash register with a ping!, “I have something for you!” Anya ducked out of sight and ruffled through her large bag tucked under the display case before pulling out a piece of paper and handing it to Tara, grinning widely. Tara knew what it was but surprise took her nonetheless. On it was written her aunt's name and an address.

“They found her? D-do I need to pay or anything?”


“Oh, no,” Anya leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially; despite there being no one else in the shop, “They owe me several favors. You’re my friend, so I will use one for you.”

“Thank you Anya,” Tara read the information scrawled on the paper absorbing the possibility in her hands, the chance that had just become real- if the information was correct.

“Just remember my graciousness when it's time for buying wedding gifts,” Anya said without humor as she repositioned a stack of bundled sage strategically placed next to the register.

Tara eyes widened, “Gifts… as in, plural?”

“They can be small.” Anya conceded, tipping her head at her own selflessness and eliciting the hint of an eye roll from Tara.

“Um, ok,”

“So you’re going to actually make contact?”

Tara’s fingers started twisting again, pulling back and forth against each other, “I-I’m going to try. It feels like something I need to do. I think it will be good to get away for a bit- have s-some time to think. Besides, the dorms will be closing and I really don’t have anywhere else to live until they reopen, so….”

“Is that why you’re all fidgety?” Anya asked, now carefully replacing small rune- painted rocks on a dish in the display case, “I figured you were nervous that Willow would be here.”

“That too,” Tara admitted, sighing.

“She doesn’t come in very often, you should be safe,” Anya patted Tara’s hands in two measured beats then returned to her task.

Safe. Tara knew what Anya meant but the word slammed into her chest with an unexpected force, an extra weight . Safe was a place she’d known very little of growing up outside of the times when she was with her mother, when it was just the two of them or when Jaime was around.

Strange how much safer she felt when she was with this group of monster fighters, ex-demons, and keys, when she was part of a world where supernatural horrors were an everyday occurrence, where they looked it in the eye and risked all they had. But the safest place, ever, was in Willow’s arms, where Tara had felt finally buoyed, supported and steadied after a lifetime of treading water. Would she feel safe in Willow’s arms now?

As the hold of betrayal and anger had started to loosen its bitter grip, Tara was able to remember the Willow she knew, the woman she loved. And that woman was so much more than those recent, terrible, actions. Willow was the soft pull of an ebbing sea and god how Tara wanted to wade into her arms.

Still, Tara knew that if Willow stole from her again, there would be nothing left, her sanity shred, debris in the water. The trust wasn’t there yet, remaining landlocked and afraid. So no, Tara didn’t feel safe around Willow, not yet. She wished she could, longed for it, waited for it.

Anya watched Tara lose herself in an unfocused stare, clearly somewhere else, pulling her lips into a frown. “Aren’t you going to ask about my Thanksgiving? It’s polite to ask after ritual holiday occurrences.”

Tara blinked twice as she raised her head. She pulled in a breath between parted lips and straightened her back, “Sorry, Anya. How was your Thanksgiving?”

“I grabbed a vampire by the balls,” Anya grinned, as proud as if she’d won shopkeeper of the year. Tara spluttered, her features morphing and shaping, unsure of where to land as she tried to decide how she was supposed to react to a statement like that.

“What?”

“Oh yes, it was quite frightening in the moment, but we prevailed and made many important wedding decisions after.”

“B-but everyone is ok?”

“Oh, yes, everyone is fine,” Anya reassured, not wanting Tara to become any more anxious than she seemed to be, “except the vamps, of course.”

The door bell jangled again and Tara whipped her head to see, her knuckles whitening as she pressed her fingers against the wood of the counter. Her thumb caught a flyer that was taped there, causing a slight rip. Anya squeezed her hand lightly before moving off to help the customer, Tara exhaled through her nose smiling wryly at her own actions.

When Dawn finally arrived, Tara had remained steady. The nerves weren’t gone, but as she turned to embrace Dawn, she felt strong enough to get past them.

“Hi! I’m starving,” looping her arm around Tara’s, Dawn directed them both back out of the shop.

“When are you not?” Tara jibed, waving to Anya as she was swept away.

“I’m a growing girl” the bell rang loudly over the door, Dawn swinging it with verve as they stepped out of the shop. The chilly late Fall breeze prompted a dramatic shiver from Dawn who snuggled into Tara’s arms, seeking warmth. Tara, much more used to temperatures below 60 shook her head bemusedly, wrapping Dawn even tighter.

“You’re such a cold wimp,” Tara teased, squeezing Dawn to her side and shaking her playfully in the embrace.

“Hey, I’m not as bad as –“ Dawn clamped her mouth shut, her face flushing with regret.

“No, you’re not as bad as Willow,” Tara filled in, voice steady yet conveying her loss, “you can say her name.”

Dawn pulled out of the embrace a little, trying to read Tara’s expression, “Yeah?” the question asking so much more than its simplicity. It asked if Tara meant it, if she was doing alright, if there was any hope.

And Tara heard the questions, unspoken or not. “Yeah, just maybe not….”

“A lot?”

“Yeah.”

The two walked in silence for a moment, heading toward the busier part of downtown. Busy being relative for Sunnydale, but there were several eateries to choose from. Dawn hadn’t resumed her close tuck into Tara, both having dropped their embrace along the way, but they stayed close in their silence, both wanting to talk about Willow, in their own ways, neither making that leap. They approached the turn unto Main Street where they would need to make a decision. Finally, Tara finally spoke.

“So, where do you want to go?” Both women slowed until they were standing together at the juncture of two roads.

“Pizza?”

“Uh,” Tara shifted a look of unease crossing her face before she could stop it,” … sure.”

“That’s not a very sure 'sure',” Dawn pointed out.

Absently placing her hand on her stomach, Tara wrinkled her nose, “Maybe something lighter?”

“Ok, Jack’s it is,” with a small hop Dawn continued on their path, leaving Tara a step behind her bemusedly shaking her head. Jack’s was a burger joint, and one of Dawn’s favorites, but they had a good salad menu so it was a good compromise. Dawn probably wanted a shake. The girl could exist on them.

“So,” Tara started, matching Dawn’s pace, “School’s almost out.” She was aching to ask after Willow, just a small exchange that would let her know Willow was alright, but Tara knew that any talk of Willow wouldn’t be small and it would alter the mood between them. The urge pressed in Tara’s chest though, weeks of being without Willow coalescing into a desperate need. She needed Willow, but more, right now, she needed to know ‘why’? It was a question that tore at Tara because to understand why, maybe trust could be rebuilt, maybe they could… The trouble was the answers wouldn’t form, each possibility buried in fog, her mind unable to see clearly enough. Dawn smiled significantly at Tara, understanding the banal conversation for what it was and agreeing to oblige.

“Yup, next week is state testing, you have finals right?”

Tara groaned, dropping her shoulders in a dramatic sign of exhaustion, “Oh yeah.”

“At least we get three weeks off instead of two for winter break- why do think that is? Kirstie says that we are like the only school in the state that gets three weeks off, of course she’s also a mega bit-, uh, bitca,” Dawn attempted to recover but cringed and ruined the effect. Tara’s only response was a quick side glance and a knowing twinkle in her eyes.

“I guess probably because of the winter hours? You know, the sun sets earlier, more vamp time.”

“Oh yeah, that actually makes a lot of sense.”

“Well, I am an educated college student,” Tara quipped, holding the door of Jack’s Café open for Dawn and following her inside. As they were sat, Dawn thought of the upcoming winter break, wondering how Tara would spend her time. Last year, Tara had stayed with Willow at Willow’s parents’ house. The Rosenberg’s were predictably out of town so they’d had the place to themselves. On the Solstice, Dawn had been asked over to help celebrate and she remembered the elation she had felt as she lit the gold candle, a sun etched on two sides, moving so carefully to guide the flame of her match to the wick. As the fire caught, Dawn had looked into Tara’s face, then Willow’s, both beaming proudly as Dawn honored the return of the light. It was one of the few times they had declined Dawn’s request to stay the night with them, Tara had said, “Not tonight, sweetie” and then had looked at Willow, only briefly, but Dawn realized then that Willow and Tara weren’t finished with their rituals for the night. She’d wondered why they hadn’t used the anointing oil that had been set out.

Watching them work magic was remarkable, Dawn remembered, so in tune, like synchronized swimmers, she mused before quickly shaking the thought, but way less Stepford. There was something radiant about Willow and Tara when they cast together like that, they were radiant, suns in their skies, in their element. But this year… it brought a quiet concern across Dawn’s features. She wanted to see them back together. And she didn’t want Tara alone for the holidays.

They were seated and served drinks and Dawn tucked behind the large menu, trying to hide her awkward distress not knowing how to broach the subject without upsetting Tara. What if she panicked again?

Dawn could feel Tara glancing up at her, when she checked with her own quick peek saw the crinkled pull of skin that sat heavily upon the bridge of Tara’s nose, clearly concerned as she asked, “Dawnie?”

“So, um, what are you going to get?” Dawn hedged.

“A chicken salad, I think,” Tara watched Dawn under her crinkled brown, head tilted, a different question in her eyes, and asked, “How about you?”

The waitress approached the table and Dawn's reply was interrupted then redirected, “Cheeseburger and fries, please.”

“What’s going on in that big brain of yours?” Tara asked after the waitress moved on to her next table.

Dawn thought about deflecting but knew Tara had already seen through her, besides, she needed to know. Speaking carefully, haltingly Dawn finally managed, “Are you-, I mean, where- Do you have plans for the holidays?”

Touched by Dawn’s worry, Tara smiled softly, “I’m going to Seattle, not specifically for the holidays, but over winter break. I have family there.”

“You do?”

“At least I’m hoping I do, I h-have an aunt, that stayed with us when I was little, I haven’t seen her in a long time.”

“Why not? Is she from your dad’s side?” The disdain was barely hidden though Dawn tried and Tara sipped at her water, distracting the painful memories that had become too fresh and familiar this past month.

“No, she’s my mom’s sister,” Another sip and a slight shrug of her left shoulder, “and you know, families drift apart sometimes.”

“They shouldn’t.” Dawn heedlessly protested, catching her words too late and feeling terrible for dismissing Tara’s rough family life, she tried to recover, “Unless they aren’t good people I guess.” Without hesitancy Tara covered Dawn’s uneasy hands with her steady touch.

“Family should always stay together, blood kin, not so much.” Tara smiled, slantwise and sincere.
………………………..

The food arrived and Dawn ate unashamedly, licking the side of her burger when ketchup oozed out one side, barely stopping her objections, “You can’t take the train!”

“I can’t afford a plane ticket this close to the holidays.” Tara brushed her fork through the salad, collecting ingredients together before spearing them and then shrugged, “The train is fine. It’s way better than the bus.”

An image dropped into internal view: a picturesque view of goldenrod flowers, their faces turned toward the sun as they swayed in the cool breeze, singing in celebration of their vitality. Tara knew the highway was behind her, it had to be, but as she stood at the overlook, she knew the journey opened in the valley below. The bus stop. Tara remembered, it was a remnant from a dream had not so long ago. Her hand stilled, holding the salad on her fork, speared and ready, her gaze elsewhere until Dawn’s voice pulled her back.

“…. Use mom’s car.”

“What?” Tara blinked, focusing on her plate until the snippets of conversation reformed in her awareness, “Oh Dawn, that is the sweetest offer but I can’t use your mom’s car. Doesn’t Buffy need it?”

“Nah, she never really drives it.” Dawn popped a fry into her mouth.

Tara placed her fork back onto the plate and moved her fingers nervously over the water glass, condensation wetting the tips, “W-what about W-willow, doesn’t she still use it to get to school?” Slowly Dawn nodded, swallowing her food away.

“She does, but there will be no school, so she should be fine,” Dawn’s voice softened and she couldn’t quite meet Tara’s gaze, “Plus you need it. The train will be all crowded and loud…”

“Dawn…” Tara led, understanding that this young, not yet a woman was worried for her. Her eyes squeezed shut, holding back the regret she felt for causing that, holding the rush of warmth for the care being shown, knowing both were apparent anyway.

“I’ll ask Buffy, that way you won’t have to,” Dawn offered as if the task was a breeze, easy and nonthreatening. A glob of ketchup was scooped up with fries.

Tara picked up her fork again, “We’ll see.” She chuckled under a tight smile, Tara would have had to fight her nerves to ask Buffy for that favor, especially knowing it would affect Willow, but Dawn had given her an out. Tara would ask herself if she wanted to borrow the car, it wouldn’t be right to go through Dawn, but Tara loved her for the offer.

“So, when are you leaving?”

“Um, Saturday morning,” Tara answered, holding her hand to cover her mouth as she chewed, “I have to be out of the dorms then so, it makes sense.” She looked at dawn, head tipped to one side, “So we’ll have to skip our Saturday hang-outs for a few weeks, is that ok?”

“Yeah, of course, if you need to see your family,” Dawn tried to mask her disappointment, but it was there, like flesh colored stitches, itching with healing when Tara took her hand.

“I think it’s important,” Tara nodded, smiling at the waitress as the check was dropped.

The sun was waning as they walked back toward the Magic Box, bright holiday displays of red and green, blue and yellow shining brighter as it dimmed.

“Will you call before you leave?”

“And many times while I’m gone,” Tara promised, bumping her shoulder into Dawn’s arm.

“You better” Dawn bumped back.

“So, um, how was your Thanksgiving?” Tara ventured, “Anya said there was some excitement. Of the vampire variety?”

“Total vamp action after dinner,” Dawn confirmed. Tara stopped walking, raising her eyebrows in questioning concern.

“Everyone is ok.” Dawn said and Tara nodded, glad to have the same report as had come from Anya.

“And this was at the house?” Tara asked.

“Uh huh.”

“Did they, um, know the Slayer lived there?”

“Oh yeah, and she wasn’t even there, see what I have to put up with?” Dawn playfully complained, “Buffy had left like an hour earlier on patrol, but,” suddenly Dawn felt like she’d taken off running and only now saw the cliff at the end of her path, Willow had used magic and she didn’t want to upset Tara, “we totally handled it,” she concluded hoping her tone was as convincingly confidant enough.

“Oh, good,” Tara sighed, remembering how often the Scoobys had fought without Buffy over the summer, when Buffy was gone and Willow... “How is Buffy?”

“Oh, um, she’s ok.” Dawn shrugged and gave a small smile to a man in a Santa suit ringing his bell for donations, “She’s still, you know, dealing, but I think she’s getting better.”

“Good that’s good.” The statement fell as if unfinished, Tara’s expression thoughtful but hindered. Dawn slipped her arm under Tara’s as she had done just an hour before.

“Willow is ok too,” Dawn softly gave voice to the unspoken and Tara’s eyes were hopeful and yearning.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I mean she’s in her room a lot and not, you know, all bubbly Willow and stuff but, she and Buffy are talking more,” Dawn paused, “in a really distracted kind of way.”

“Well, the several few months have been,” Tara trailed off pensively.

“Suck-ass?” Dawn filled in.

“As an understatement,” Tara agreed with a nod then smiled at Dawn, “That’s great that they’re talking, they need each other.”

“And, um, Willow. She really helped out, with the vamp sitch, she kinda saved us.”

The thought of Willow using magic made Tara’s stomach roil, it was too soon to think of her using magic and not be brought back to the pain of the Lethe’s bramble spell, but Tara couldn’t begrudge the use of magic if it kept everyone safe. Tara gave Dawn a tempered half-smile.

Dawn forged on. She wanted them back together, she wanted the broken bits of her family repaired, and if she could offer some good news about Willow maybe that would help.
“I think it made her feel good, to help, to use the magic for good.” Tara listened, taking in the words. Dawn was trying, it just wasn’t as simple as good versus bad. “She seemed kinda out of it before,” Dawn said and Tara looked up sharply, nearly running into a lamp post when her feet veered from their path, thrown off course by the sudden change in focus.

“Oh, she’s fine, Tara” Dawn assured, her voice squeaking a little and she squeezed Tara’s arm in comfort, “I think she was just really tired, she’d actually gone to bed, but then,” Dawn smiled, “after? She seemed really happy and, like, energized, although that last part was probably the adrenaline rush” Dawn’s near blind optimism shone on her face, it was so clear to Tara that Dawn thought she was helping, but what Dawn shared itched at her. Tara pushed away the frown that was forming. The adrenaline high. It made sense, they’d been in a fight and had gotten through, high adrenaline was a natural reaction. Mentally she shook her head, Don’t make assumptions when you weren’t there, Tara.

When they reached the shop, Tara stopped several feet away from the door, intending to make her departure. Dawn crossed into open arms and they embraced goodbye.

Dawn waved one last time before going inside to wait for her sister to pick her up, “Think about the car. I’ll ask Buffy, just in case.”

Filling her lungs with a deep intake of air, Tara let go and turned to walk back to campus, quickening her pace to beat the setting sun, she had a trip to plan.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


Last edited by shirrey on Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (1/2/2021)
PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:50 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 454
Dibs! :whip
Quote:
The bell above the door rang in half-time as Tara eased into the Magic Box, her body moving slow as her heart pounded fluctuating between anxiety and anticipation. Being Saturday, there was every possibility that Willow would be here, or would walk in at any time, and that possibility sent hummingbirds fluttering in Tara’s chest.

Quote:
The remaining, and more attuned, part of Tara’s interest scanned the rest of the store searching for signs of Willow, finding both relief and disappointment that she found none.

Poor Tara, torn between yearning and dreading to meet Willow.

Quote:
But the safest place, ever, was in Willow’s arms, where Tara had felt finally buoyed, supported and steadied after a lifetime of treading water. Would she feel safe in Willow’s arms now?

As the hold of betrayal and anger had started to loosen its bitter grip, Tara was able to remember the Willow she knew, the woman she loved. And that woman was so much more than those recent, terrible, actions. Willow was the soft pull of an ebbing sea and god how Tara wanted to wade into her arms.

Still, Tara knew that if Willow stole from her again, there would be nothing left, her sanity shred, debris in the water. The trust wasn’t there yet, remaining landlocked and afraid. So no, Tara didn’t feel safe around Willow, not yet. She wished she could, longed for it, waited for it.

So sad! :cry Beautiful imagery with the sea which is beautiful but can also be dangerous.

Quote:
Anya watched Tara lose herself in an unfocused stare, clearly somewhere else, pulling her lips into a frown. “Aren’t you going to ask about my Thanksgiving? It’s polite to ask after ritual holiday occurrences.”

Tara blinked twice as she raised her head. She pulled in a breath between parted lips and straightened her back, “Sorry, Anya. How was your Thanksgiving?”

“I grabbed a vampire by the balls,” Anya grinned, as proud as if she’d won shopkeeper of the year. Tara spluttered, her features morphing and shaping, unsure of where to land as she tried to decide how she was supposed to react to a statement like that.

“What?”

“Oh yes, it was quite frightening in the moment, but we prevailed and made many important wedding decisions after.”

:laugh That is so Anya!

I really hope that you will not only find a way to save Willow but Anya's and Xander's wedding as well.

Quote:
She was aching to ask after Willow, just a small exchange that would let her know Willow was alright, but Tara knew that any talk of Willow wouldn’t be small and it would alter the mood between them. The urge pressed in Tara’s chest though, weeks of being without Willow coalescing into a desperate need. She needed Willow, but more, right now, she needed to know ‘why’? It was a question that tore at Tara because to understand why, maybe trust could be rebuilt, maybe they could… The trouble was the answers wouldn’t form, each possibility buried in fog, her mind unable to see clearly enough.

My heart aches for Tara. But I have to admit that I'm not sure which "why-question" she needs to be answered. Why Willow is "overusing" magic, why she used magic against Tara and the others?

Quote:
Last year, she had stayed with Willow at Willow’s parents’ house.

You mean with Willow and Tara, don't you?

Quote:
On the Solstice, Dawn remembered the elation she had felt as she lit the gold candle, a sun etched on two sides, moving so carefully to guide the flame of her match to the wick. As the fire caught, Dawn looked into Tara’s face, then Willow’s, both beaming proudly as Dawn honored the return of the light. It was one of the few times they had declined Dawn’s request to stay the night with them, Tara had said, “Not tonight, sweetie” and then had looked at Willow, only briefly, but Dawn realized then that Willow and Tara weren’t finished with their rituals for the night. She’d wondered why they hadn’t used the anointing oil that had been set out.

So after Dawn left Willow and Tara probably did rituals of a kind Xander sometimes fantasizes about? :wink Much happier times, I understand that Dawn wants those back.

Quote:
“I’m going to Seattle, not specifically for the holidays, but over winter break. I have family there.”

“You do?”

“At least I’m hoping I do, I h-have an aunt, that stayed with us when I was little, I haven’t seen her in a long time.”

I'm wondering if Tara plans to visit her aunt totally unanounced? She certainly can't expect to stay at her aunts house during 3 weeks of winter break?

Quote:
An image dropped into internal view: a picturesque view of goldenrod flowers, their faces turned toward the sun as they swayed in the cool breeze, singing in celebration of their vitality. Tara knew the highway was behind her, it had to be, but as she stood at the overlook, she knew the journey opened in the valley below. The bus stop. Tara remembered, it was a remnant from a dream had not so long ago.

Now I'm curious if Tara will come across this field she dreamt about on her drive to her aunt.

Quote:
Dawn’s near blind optimism shone on her face, it was so clear to Tara that Dawn thought she was helping, but what Dawn shared itched at her. Tara pushed away the frown that was forming. The adrenaline high. It made sense, they’d been in a fight and had gotten through, high adrenaline was a natural reaction. Mentally she shook her head, Don’t make assumptions when you weren’t there, Tara.

I think it's part of the problem that since Tara left Willow only has contact with people who aren't able to "sense" what kind of hold what kind of magical forces have over Willow now.


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (1/2/2021)
PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:31 am 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
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Location: Pacific Northwest
Wills-redemption: Thanks for catching the Dawn at Willow's house bit, I meant that Tara and Willow were staying there, but it totally wasn't clear- I made some edits, hopefully it makes more sense now

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (1/2/2021)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2021 9:24 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
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Location: Pacific Northwest
Wills_redemption:
Quote:
Poor Tara, torn between yearning and dreading to meet Willow.
that's such a rough place to be stuck in for her

Quote:
Beautiful imagery with the sea which is beautiful but can also be dangerous.

Thank you


Quote:
I really hope that you will not only find a way to save Willow but Anya's and Xander's wedding as well.
despite what I wrote I hadn't even about the wedding in a showing it kinda way- lol but now, hmmm


Quote:
My heart aches for Tara. But I have to admit that I'm not sure which "why-question" she needs to be answered. Why Willow is "overusing" magic, why she used magic against Tara and the others?

yes to both of those, and why did it all turn out like it is

For Dawn, yes, I believe that she really wants them together again.

Quote:
I think it's part of the problem that since Tara left Willow only has contact with people who aren't able to "sense" what kind of hold what kind of magical forces have over Willow now.

It definitely doesn't help Willow right now, but also, would Willow listen? maybe.... Thank you!!



Notes: All disclaimers and such still apply. I hope to keep a tighter schedule with updates (as the world and life hopefully settle a bit), but I am running out of chapters that just need tweaking and into writing from scratch (also feedback keeps the wheels turning :g:) Thanks for reading!






Ch 32: Days Lead On

Each morning is a fresh start; a beginning, a chance to look at the world anew. It starts with a decision, thought consciously or not, about what we carry with us when we slip, or startle into wakefulness. It is not, however, a Tabula Rasa.

Willow pulled leaden arms across the red sheet, moved her neck side to side, as she waded into consciousness, blinking away the image of Lethe’s bramble.

Below, at the kitchen sink, Buffy scrubbed at a pot furiously, hands begging to take on - and release - the pain of remembrance. Her dreams had been of soft and white and serenity. Putting the cleaned pot on the drying rack, she wiped her hands on a dishtowel, ringing them absently as her thoughts floated away before she tossed the fabric on the counter, looking at it with accusation.

Willow was pulled fully out of bed when she heard the radio start in the kitchen, the bass trembling through the ceiling and into the floor. She welcomed the distraction. Her body felt depleted, thirsty. She craved juice. Buffy would distract her, keep her mind off the dreams and the emptiness she knew would follow her as the day led on until she could fill again with magick. It was the end goal of her days, the late hours when she could lose herself to another reality. And Buffy didn’t ask the hard questions, not anymore, and Willow didn’t want to answer them – words made things real.

The small hope that tethered Willow to the world was that she would have Tara in her life again. She'd hoped Tara would have called, or sent a thank you through Anya after she’d left the bread and that thought made Willow feel guilty. She knew Tara was still angry and hurt and she hadn’t left the bread with the intention of gaining Tara’s attention. It had been a gift, not a bribe, or even a prompt but still… she had hoped. But hope was dangerous when left unfulfilled and magick was the only thing that seemed to take away that yearning. And, Willow admitted, she loved it- she loved the feeling of power, of connecting with the ether, of letting go so completely. Of knowing the outcome.

The radio had been turned off and Buffy sat at the kitchen table with the newspaper going through the obits, a morose bit of business made unremarkable by years of Slayer duty. She sipped at her orange juice, the carton left on the table and glanced up quickly as Willow came through the door, “Morning.”

Willow half shuffled to the cupboard pulling out a glass, her voice low and sleepy-laden, “Mmmm.. hi. Can I?” she pointed at the carton by Buffy’s side and returned the small grin sent her way before Buffy resumed scanning the paper. Silence hung as they sipped their juice, Buffy read and Willow stared at her glass before standing up.

“I’m gonna make coffee, you want?”

“Mmm, no I’m good,” Buffy lifted her gaze as she saw Willow’s sluggishly move gathering the coffee grounds and a fresh filter, “But thanks.”

“How was patrol? Were you out late?”

“Yeah. Oh sorry,” Buffy shifted, the bruises on her upper thighs suddenly tender with the reminder of last night’s activities, “Did you have plans?”

“Oh no, it was my night for Dawn watch remember?” Willow shook her head, thinking back to the intense trance she had tried the previous night, sitting on the floor of her room, sweating hard, while Dawn talked on the phone downstairs. She’d had to pull at her focus, yank it from straying into chaos. Twice the magick had slipped, her broken Snoopy ornament and a slightly singed rug casualties as she’d lost momentary control. It had shaken her but she’d seen it as a challenge and eventually had harnessed it, slipping, somewhat messily, into another mental world. “Besides, it's finals week- lots of home time and study.”

“Oh wow, it's finals already?” Buffy folded her paper and rested her hands over the crease, disturbed by how unaware she was of the markers of time passing her by.

“Unfortunately,.” Willow leaned against the counter blowing on her fresh brewed coffee and Buffy found herself smiling softly. Willow always had the most adorable sleep hair, one side nearly flattened while the other looked like a cactus, strands poking out in indiscriminate directions. Buffy knew there was still so much separating them, but Willow with her morning hair kindled a warmth born of a bond shared.

Buffy smiled as she spoke. “You’ll do great Will, you’re the smarty pants in the house, and probably the state even.”

“Thanks Buffy, I- thank you,” Willow flushed and stared into her mug, her hands shook faintly, and she tracked tiny coffee waves created by the movement, “You know, maybe when finals are over I could go patrolling with you again?”

“No!” eyes wide, Buffy began to backtrack, “Um, no. I mean it’s j-just it’s not safe Will.” Willow shrugged loosely, her demeanor fading inwardly. “And I mean, I know there’s a lot going on… with you-” Buffy felt her stomach clench as she scrambled.

“With me?”

“I mean. With Tara, and you know, stuff.”

Buffy sighed, her need to keep her two worlds separate driving her to keep Willow away despite the hurt she knew Willow was feeling. For a long moment Willow was silent, eyes still focused on her coffee before she nodded once, resolute, “I get it.” She placed the mug in the sink, pushed off the counter, and made to leave, “I gotta get ready for class.”

Buffy caught her wrist as she passed and Willow looked into conflicted eyes. “I know you’re doing ok though, I don’t mean to say you’re not.”

Willow nodded, not moving to pull away but letting her wrist hang in Buffy’s grasp, waiting to be released.

“You are though, right?”

There was hesitation in the question but it was the first time Buffy had really asked. Usually it was declarative “I’m glad to see you’re better” without asking if that was the truth and Willow assessing that Buffy didn’t really want to know.

Willow opened her mouth before closing it again. She frowned slightly before blinking it away and pushing a small smile over her lips, “I’m ok.”

“Good.” Buffy nodded toward the door, “Class. Go. Learn,” before leaning back over her newspaper listening to Willow leave. Buffy knew she was still shutting Willow out, knew there was something in her that squeezed every time she tried to let go, even a little. The squeeze choked the words in her throat and caged her beating heart. She shoved the paper across the table, nearly knocking a glass of orange juice to the floor. Buffy didn’t react, instead leaning her head against the wall behind her, banging it enough to smart as the guilt and shame taunted her. Willow. Spike.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (1/21/2021)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:25 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
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Dibs! :whip
Quote:
Buffy would distract her, keep her mind off the dreams and the emptiness she knew would follow her as the day led on until she could fill again with magick. It was the end goal of her days, the late hours when she could lose herself to another reality.

Quote:
But hope was dangerous when left unfulfilled and magick was the only thing that seemed to take away that yearning.

Worrisome that Willow doesn't realize that it can't be healthy / normal for her to "need" magic so much...

Quote:
Willow leaned against the counter blowing on her fresh brewed coffee and Buffy found herself smiling softly. Willow always had the most adorable sleep hair, one side nearly flattened while the other looked like a cactus, strands poking out in indiscriminate directions. Buffy knew there was still so much separating them, but Willow with her morning hair kindled a warmth born of a bond shared.

Quote:
Buffy caught her wrist as she passed and Willow looked into conflicted eyes. “I know you’re doing ok though, I don’t mean to say you’re not.”

Willow nodded, not moving to pull away but letting her wrist hang in Buffy’s grasp, waiting to be released.

“You are though, right?”

There was hesitation in the question but it was the first time Buffy had really asked.

At least some baby steps for Buffy back to being Willow's friend who cares and worries for her.
So sad that Willow didn't take the chance to tell her that she ist "not ok", far from it.

Quote:
Buffy didn’t react, instead leaning her head against the wall behind her, banging it enough to smart

Considering Buffy's slayer strength she probably shouldn't do that because she might damage the wall... :wink


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (1/21/2021)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:59 pm 
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Ch 33: Never Simple



The cafeteria in Dormer Hall smelled like coffee and stress, the mixed fragrance of Finals week. It seeped into Tara’s skin and mingled with the affects of her already overtaxed nervous system. She hurriedly stopped at a side counter to drop a bag of Lady Grey tea, from her personal stash, into the cup of hot water she purchased. She popped on a lid and in her haste to get out of the crowded space, nearly forgot the small paper bag beside her. A plain blueberry bagel sat inside the bag, bought out of obligation. After a serious dizzy spell in her Lit class, Tara promised herself she’d always have food on hand. Right now, it was as appetizing as a lump of mud, but Tara picked it up and tucked it under her left arm, leaving her right hand free to maneuver the door as she dodged around other students, moving purposefully through and into the fresh air.

Opening her oversized bag with the side of her hand, she intended to drop the bagel in the side pocket when her stomach growled in protest. She sighed, annoyed at her body’s need for food and looked piteously at the lump. Pushing the end of the bagel out, she took a small bite, chewing monotonously as she walked to her first class of the day.

Nearly to the doorway of the humanities building, a flash of red swept past her side vision, stopping her instantly. A familiar ripple trailed her spine, spreading outwards when it reached her tailbone. Her fingers tightened momentarily, threatening to crush the cup filled with hot liquid and she swallowed hard, pushing the bread down her throat.

Just a short ways away there was the coffee cart she and Willow used to go to together before class every Wednesday. With such different course loads, they rarely walked the same path to their respective classes. But on Wednesdays, they both had 9 A.M. courses, Tara’s in the humanities building and Willow’s in the math hall two structures away. Those mornings had been special, they’d sit together for a while, sipping, talking, laughing and then they’d part ways knowing the other was only two buildings and one floor away, with mochas they had bought together. Both had been avoiding the coffee cart since their breakup, until this morning.

Turning toward the familiar path, she found Willow’s retreating form easily, a siren’s call of red in the sea of moving students. Willow’s usually peppy gait dragged, and her gray corduroy pants, one of Tara’s favorites because they fit Willow so snug in all the best places, now hung loosely around her hips. Tara sucked in her breath and wrapped an arm around herself, feeling the slight jut of her ribs through her shirt, her barely eaten bagel clutched to her side.

Students maneuvered around where Tara stood in the entrance way unaware, transfixed. As she watched Willow move further into the distance, a question from several months prior, something Willow had tentatively, softly asked her, broke forth from her memories like a snapshot.

“Why didn’t your mother take you away?”

The sudden memory rattled Tara and she blinked her gaze away with a slight gasp, frowning as she tried to make sense of it. It had been cold out and they’d been snuggled in bed. Willow’s question had seemed to come out of nowhere, but had clearly been itching at Willow’s mind for some time. Tara had stuttered her response, had said that she thought her mother was afraid of her own demon, that her father wasn’t always so cold. Willow, hearing the shaky agitation in Tara’s reply, had changed the subject, and Tara had let her, pushing away the hollowness her answer had left behind.

As she refocused on Willow, the feeling, that hollowness in which explanations echoed unintelligibly, struck her more than the remembered words. Tara would never really know why her mother never took her away, would never know her actions. And she knew, deep in her gut, that there was more that led to her mother’s choices than she’d shared with Willow, and she knew, that there were deeper reasons for Willow’s choices too. There were so many unformed questions, and the answers seemed elusive and anything but simple. Softly, within that hollowness, Tara pleaded silently to Willow’s back what she hadn’t dared ask her mother. Why?

And across the small quad, Willow stopped, her form motionless in the passing crowd. They’d always been able to sense each other. Tara’s heart beat like a bass drum, pounding slow and deep. For a moment, she was frozen, caught in the in-between of now and after until a woozy sweep in her mind brought her back to reality. The fear was pushing in, tensing her muscles, clouding her mind. She wasn’t ready. Not yet.

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

The shiver was unmistakable. It was a Tara shiver and it stopped Willow in her tracks despite the mumbled “Watch it” of the disgruntled student stepping around her.
She had been avoiding the area, entering the math building from the far side for nearly a month now, but after the double whammy of a magick hangover and the conversation with Buffy, she risked getting a mocha at their favorite coffee cart. It was a treat that now was cooling in her hands as she slowly turned around, her heart beating, a timpani of hope and fear. Catching a glimpse of blonde, arcing as Tara moved into the building, Willow dipped her head and resumed her path.

Functioning on automatic, Willow took her usual seat two rows back and just left of the center, pulling out her notebook and a bundle of pens and placing them on the desk she had pushed in place. The image of blonde hair, swinging in motion, played in her mind and sent a series of tremors through her arms and to her hands where the mocha was held trembling. The difficulty of bringing the drink to her lips without slipping focused Willow’s mind, for a moment. The lecture began and Willow set aside her drink and opened her notebook, choosing a black pen to start. She always started with a black pen.

A part of her was able to focus, she took notes without absorbing the knowledge, while her thoughts went to Tara.

There had always been magic between them. It needed no herbs or incantations, no drawing down the moon. It had no explicit intention, it was them, and their connection through the rubble of the rest of the world, there when they needed it the most. They had called it their own special magic, and Willow had felt it for the first time in too, too long.

Tara had been there, watching her, reaching out to her, intentionally or not, Willow didn’t know, either way, Willow tried to understand what that meant. All she knew was that she missed that connection, more now that she’d felt it again than she had realized. She wanted the bond they had, the late night discussions where everything was safe and accepted. She missed the way Tara would hold her when she was afraid or upset or just because. She missed the way Tara would look at her, no matter where or when they were, like Willow was the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world. She missed looking back. She missed Tara’s quirky jokes, her kind heart, and her deceptively sharp mind. She missed the Tara that was just for her, and the Tara caught under a shroud of social anxiety that the rest of the world saw, less and less though as Tara had grown in her confidence. She missed Tara’s lips and her smile and that laugh was far louder and more robust than anyone would guess, and goddess, she missed those eyes, dark cornflower blue. Tara was quiet but in her eyes was an intricate story.
Willow wanted her back. It was what she had wanted but pushed away, hidden from and tried to ignore, but it came to her now, the truth she already knew. I want her back.

The layer of her skin itched, magick alerted, ready to remind Willow what stood in the way, what she would need to give up. For Tara. After finals, Willow decided, after this week, when she had a break, she would ease back on the magick- only using it for emergencies. And she would stop going to Rack’s. For Tara.

The hour passed in a blur until the shuffling of feet and desktops being placed back into place, irregular in their time, alerted Willow to the present. She looked at her notebook and saw she’d absently marked the page with sigils, magickal symbols she’d been creating to help focus and magnify her power. She closed it and tucked it away.

Willow dumped her mocha on the way out, she’d allow herself this week, then things were going to change.

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

Two buildings and one floor away, Tara stared out the tall window, her professor’s voice nothing more than white noise in her ears. She replayed seeing Willow over and over, imagined herself moving forward, shyly thanking Willow for the bread, asking how she was, yet knowing it wasn’t time yet. They both needed time and space to understand the questions that needed to be asked, and to be ready to hear the answers.

After what seemed like both a minute and an age, Tara dragged out of class, shielding her eyes against the December sun. She knew she wouldn’t see Willow, the math class having ended a half hour ago, but she looked anyway. Tara stared into the swarm of unfamiliar passers-by , then turned and walked the other way.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


Last edited by shirrey on Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (2/21/2021)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:01 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
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Dibs! :whip
Quote:
As she refocused on Willow, the feeling, that hollowness in which explanations echoed unintelligibly, struck her more than the remembered words. Tara would never really know why her mother never took her away, would never know her actions. And she knew, deep in her gut, that there was more that led to her mother’s choices than she’d shared with Willow, and she knew, that there were deeper reasons for Willow’s choices too. There were so many unformed questions, and the answers seemed elusive and anything but simple. But Tara had one, simple, question. Softly, within that hollowness, Tara pleaded silently to Willow’s back what she hadn’t dared ask her mother. Why?

And across the small quad, Willow stopped, her form motionless in the passing crowd. They’d always been able to sense each other. Tara’s heart beat like a bass drum, pounding slow and deep. For a moment, she was frozen, caught in the in-between of now and after until a woozy sweep in her mind brought her back to reality. The fear was pushing in, tensing her muscles, clouding her mind. She wasn’t ready. Not yet.

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

The shiver was unmistakable. It was a Tara shiver and it stopped Willow in her tracks despite the mumbled “Watch it” of the disgruntled student stepping around her.
She had been avoiding the area, entering the math building from the far side for nearly a month now, but after the double whammy of a magick hangover and the conversation with Buffy, she risked getting a mocha at their favorite coffee cart. It was a treat that now was cooling in her hands as she slowly turned around, her heart beating, a timpani of hope and fear. Catching a glimpse of blonde, arcing as Tara moved into the building, Willow dipped her head and resumed her path.

A bittersweet moment, both sensing the other but no "real" contact happening. I think the "why" Tara wordlessly asked is not only one question but the start to a couple of tough questions (f.e. why did you do those spells against me?, why did you break your promise to use magic for a week?, why did you chose the magic over me?).

Quote:
There had always been magic between them. It needed no herbs or incantations, no drawing down the moon. It had no explicit intention, it was them, and their connection through the rubble of the rest of the world, there when they needed it the most. They had called it their own special magic, and Willow had felt it for the first time in too, too long.

Tara had been there, watching her, reaching out to her, intentionally or not, Willow didn’t know, either way, Willow tried to understand what that meant. All she knew was that she missed that connection, more now that she’d felt it again than she had realized. She wanted the bond they had, the late night discussions where everything was safe and accepted. She missed the way Tara would hold her when she was afraid or upset or just because. She missed the way Tara would look at her, no matter where or when they were, like Willow was the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world. She missed looking back. She missed Tara’s quirky jokes, her kind heart, and her deceptively sharp mind. She missed the Tara that was just for her, and the Tara caught under a shroud of social anxiety that the rest of the world saw, less and less though as Tara had grown in her confidence. She missed Tara’s lips and her smile and that laugh was far louder and more robust than anyone would guess, and goddess, she missed those eyes, dark cornflower blue. Tara was quiet but in her eyes was an intricate story.
Willow wanted her back. It was what she had wanted but pushed away, hidden from and tried to ignore, but it came to her now, the truth she already knew. I want her back.

The layer of her skin itched, magick alerted, ready to remind Willow what stood in the way, what she would need to give up. For Tara. After finals, Willow decided, after this week, when she had a break, she would ease back on the magick- only using it for emergencies. And she would stop going to Rack’s. For Tara.

That Willow allows herself to really feel what she lost when Tara broke up with her and that she resolves to give up using magic (except in cases of emergency) gives me some hope, but the procrastination (I'll start next week) worries me. I'm wondering if Willow is actually planning to "cheat" on the finals via magic because in my opinion that would be really rock bottom for her standards... (feel free to make that her lowest point instead of crashing cars and gettind Dawn hurt :wink ).


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (2/21/2021)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2021 12:00 pm 
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Wills_redemption:
Quote:
A bittersweet moment, both sensing the other but no "real" contact happening. I think the "why" Tara wordlessly asked is not only one question but the start to a couple of tough questions (f.e. why did you do those spells against me?, why did you break your promise to use magic for a week?, why did you chose the magic over me?).
Definitely yes- there are so many questions to be filed under: 'why?' I think Tara is coming to a point where she isn't just assuming it is because of her, that it was because she did/is something wrong.

Quote:
That Willow allows herself to really feel what she lost when Tara broke up with her and that she resolves to give up using magic (except in cases of emergency) gives me some hope, but the procrastination (I'll start next week) worries me.

I was going for both so yay!

Quote:
I'm wondering if Willow is actually planning to "cheat" on the finals via magic because in my opinion that would be really rock bottom for her standards... (feel free to make that her lowest point instead of crashing cars and gettind Dawn hurt :wink ).
and here is the next chapter lol (it won't be her lowest point, but there will be no magically driven cars either) Thanks!!


Notes: I am so glad to be able more time for this, because good god Tara just needs to get on the road already!! lol. I can't rush it though,so... here we go. Thanks for reading :)





Ch 34: Cramming




The words moved like silk from fingertips upwards, caressing just under her skin - a tattoo in motion- traveling over her shoulders, neck, face, and finally sinking into Willow’s mind. Each page turn a continuum of the last as Willow absorbed, trancelike.

“What are you doing?” Dawn asked from where she stood at Willow’s bedroom door, eyes widened with curiosity and fear. Willow turned, unaffected, and drew her hands from the open book, the words disappearing instantly.

“Cramming,” Willow marked her place with a finger, turning the cover, Current Theories in Astrophysics, toward Dawn. “Last final kinda snuck up on me.”

“But, are you? I mean, are you using magick to study?”

Willow shrugged, “Yeah.”

“That’s cheating,” Dawn said, far more incredulous than accusatory.

“That’s using my resources,” Willow countered, sighing at Dawn’s skeptical look, trying to keep the clip out of her tone. “If I was a speed reader, would me using that tool be cheating?” Willow pressed on, wanting to dispel the expression of discomfort in Dawn’s body language.

“And you Dawn, you have this amazing photographic memory, does it make it cheating if you use it? I’m still doing the work, just more quickly, because, oof,” she puffed out an exaggerated whoosh of air, making light of the situation ,“Procrastinators- R- Us is me right now.” It wasn’t a big deal, Willow had allowed herself this week, she was playing by the rules.

Dawn crossed her arms and stood there looking troubled, like she wanted to counter Willow’s reasoning but couldn’t find the words. She got to the point of her visit instead, less enthusiastically than she’d planned perhaps, “I was coming up here to ask if I could stay at Melinda’s tonight. We were going to help each other study. Her mom said I could come for supper. She’s making roti.”

“Do you think it would be ok with Buffy?”

“Depends on her mood,” Dawn shrugged. “Either she’ll go all control freak or won’t even notice I was gone.”

“Dawn,” Willow softly reprimanded.

“I know Buffy’s going through a hard time,” Dawn dropped her gaze to the carpet watching the toe of her shoe push fibers into new patterns. “But, everyone is. Except, Xander and Anya I guess.”

“Hey, they’ve got a wedding to plan, the rest of us got off easy.” That got a small smile from Dawn which Willow returned. She assumed that was what Xander had been doing lately, they hadn’t seen much of each other since Thanksgiving.

As for everyone else? That was also true. They were going through a hard time. Had been for a while. Willow had tried to make it better, but she’d screwed it up instead. Done it wrong. Now, she was paying the price. But she had a plan now. She’d use the upcoming time off to try and do better. She’d talk to Buffy more. She would ease back on the magic and then reach out to Tara. Somehow mend the wounds.

“So, is it ok?” Dawn checked, getting back to why she had come to Willow’s door.

“Uh, sure, but-“ Willow trailed off checking the sky, “its dark.” Willow made to stand, intending to walk Dawn to her friend’s house, but Dawn was already moving down the hall, calling as she went.

“Melinda has a car. I’ll have her pick me up.”

“Ok, have a good night, Dawn. Be careful!”



Fifteen minutes later, the front door shut as Dawn left for the night, the sound echoing in the empty chamber of the living room. Willow felt a momentary thrill at having the house to herself. It always was thrilling at first. No one there to be cautious around, no awkward conversations with the people she lived with, even though those were getting better. Freedom to practice magick in her room without wondering if she’d be met with questioning eyes when she went downstairs to get a drink.

There was that moment, and after, there was silence, resonating and offering no distractions. It made her more aware. It claimed the empty space where Tara used to be. She never felt alone when Tara had lived there. Even if Tara hadn’t been home yet, the knowledge that she would be soon was enough, the anticipation would fill the void.
In nights past, she would have been pulling on her shoes by now, gathering her things and heading out to see Rack. To escape the threatening sorrow. To answer the beckoning of magick. It always seemed stronger at night, the beckoning that grew as more doorways seemed to open for her, creating places she had only gone with Rack’s help. Still more that she hadn’t explored at all. Always more.

But she had to study, her last final was tomorrow. And she’d promised herself she wouldn't go. She’d promised Tara. Even if Tara didn’t know about it.
Not that she was going to stay in all night, when she didn’t have to. There was a decent band playing at the Bronze.

Dutifully, she sat at her desk, opening the textbook to the page she needed and again placed her hands over the text. There were at least three chapters worth of reading to do before she could go anywhere. She felt impatient before she even began.

Removing her palms Willow crossed the room, pulling a chest out from under her bed and opening the domed top. Inside were several packets and vials, each containing herbs, mixtures, tinctures, or salves. She’d been going without these aids, drawing on her innate power alone. It was a self-imposed challenge Willow, seeing how much she could do without the help of herbs, tinctures, or stones; but now, she pulled out a vial of dragon’s blood, dropping eight small pools of the mixture on her tongue. This would allow her to amplify the spell without the strain, it would do her no good if she hurried to get done and then was too tired to move. It was tiring, this magic. Not an issue if she was going to stay home. That was preferred, actually. The energetic drain from magic use was the only thing that allowed Willow to get any sleep, to subdue the gremlins in her mind enough to slip by them into slumber. At least she believed so, it had been awhile since she had tried to sleep without the crash.

Hands sunk into the pages again. Words became abstract as they flowed, crossing, merging, melting into one another before fading away, their residue becoming knowledge and integrating into Willow’s memory banks, ready to be retrieved.

The textbook closed with a satisfying thud and Willow was up. She grabbed the phone and punched in familiar numbers, shoving her feet into a pair of chunky heeled boots as the line rang and was answered.

“Amy, I’ve got the night free. Bronze?”

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (3/23/2021)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:54 pm 
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Dibs! :whip
Quote:
“What are you doing?” Dawn asked from where she stood at Willow’s bedroom door, eyes widened with curiosity and fear. Willow turned, unaffected, and drew her hands from the open book, the words disappearing instantly.

“Cramming,” Willow marked her place with a finger, turning the cover, Current Theories in Astrophysics, toward Dawn. “Last final kinda snuck up on me.”

“But, are you? I mean, are you using magick to study?”

Willow shrugged, “Yeah.”

“That’s cheating,” Dawn said, far more incredulous than accusatory.

“That’s using my resources,” Willow countered, sighing at Dawn’s skeptical look, trying to keep the clip out of her tone. “If I was a speed reader, would me using that tool be cheating?” Willow pressed on, wanting to dispel the expression of discomfort in Dawn’s body language.

“And you Dawn, you have this amazing photographic memory, does it make it cheating if you use it? I’m still doing the work, just more quickly, because, oof,” she puffed out an exaggerated whoosh of air, making light of the situation ,“Procrastinators- R- Us is me right now.” It wasn’t a big deal, Willow had allowed herself this week, she was playing by the rules.

Quote:
Dutifully, she sat at her desk, opening the textbook to the page she needed and again placed her hands over the text. There were at least three chapters worth of reading to do before she could go anywhere. She felt impatient before she even began.

Removing her palms Willow crossed the room, pulling a chest out from under her bed and opening the domed top. Inside were several packets and vials, each containing herbs, mixtures, tinctures, or salves. She’d been going without these aids, drawing on her innate power alone. It was a self-imposed challenge Willow, seeing how much she could do without the help of herbs, tinctures, or stones; but now, she pulled out a vial of dragon’s blood, dropping eight small pools of the mixture on her tongue. This would allow her to amplify the spell without the strain, it would do her no good if she hurried to get done and then was too tired to move. It was tiring, this magic. Not an issue if she was going to stay home. That was preferred, actually. The energetic drain from magic use was the only thing that allowed Willow to get any sleep, to subdue the gremlins in her mind enough to slip by them into slumber. At least she believed so, it had been awhile since she had tried to sleep without the crash.

Oh Willow! :cry So sad to see her so far gone and not realizing that anything is wrong with what she is doing anymore.

Quote:
“Amy, I’ve got the night free. Bronze?”

I'm pretty sure they won't stay at the Bronze but end up at Rack's instead. I'm wondering how Willow will try to justify the breaking of her promise to Tara afterwards to herself (probably that it "doesn't count" because the week she gave herself isn't over or some crap like that).


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (3/23/2021)
PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:42 pm 
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Wills_redemption: next chapter will look at Will's decisions :)




Notes: This place has been a little ghost town-y as of late. I hope everyone is doing well. :kitty






Ch 35: Preparations




Tara checked her notes one more time, matching dates to movements and the artists involved. It was all there, ready for a last read before her final tomorrow. Softly, she shut the textbook, laying her hand momentarily on the glossy cover, putting it to rest.

Her back ached from the slumped position of nose in book. Stretching back over her chair, Tara groaned involuntarily as the tension released. A few students glanced over at the noise, and Tara ducked her head, hiding her blush as she quietly packed her things away.

It had been a minor disruption that faded away into the persistent ambient sounds of pages turning, hushed conversations, the clearing of throats. Every open space was populated by students cramming for their last exams of the semester, the library overfull with collective stress.

Still, Tara had chosen to come there, not even bothering to try to study in her room. She’d learned that when her mind was distracted, it was pointless. The room was too quiet, too private. And with that image seared in her mind of Willow, motionless in the moving tide of people, cords hung low around her waist. Sensing her. It would be all she could think of in the loneliness of her dorm.

The stimulating atmosphere forced her to focus. The busy sounds serving as a sort of white noise and the presence of so many others drove her to find respite. It was a trick she had learned, place a shy introvert in a crowded, overstimulating space and suddenly all her attention would be on the safety of her book, shutting out the world around her. It was a bit masochistic, but it worked. Besides, she had one more thing she hoped to do while she was there.

With her things put away and her bag hurriedly slung across her body, she looked hopefully at the computer bay, sighing at the sight of every one of them occupied. Of course they are, it’s finals, Tara shook her head at herself for waiting so long. She would have to come back tomorrow.

Tara zipped her hoodie and stepped out into the night, trailing a few feet behind a group of students, keeping pace with them. Safety in numbers. And there was that stake in her bag, the one she’d learned to always carry. Not that she was good with a stake, if she had to defend herself or anyone else she would use magic. But a stake in hand made a vampire pause, gave her time. Buffy had taught her that. She kept her bag close to her body, one hand ready to reach into the front pocket where the sharp weapon rested, its shape hidden under the layers of canvas. The people ahead of her were chatting, light conversation where the only worry was finishing the semester, blissfully unaware of what lurked in the night.

Tara had learned at a young age how to compartmentalize. Keep aware of the danger, and go about your day. Her natural empathy and ability to read energies had helped her. That and survival instinct. Fight, flight, or freeze. They forgot to add: become invisible. There was no being invisible when it was night in Sunnydale though, so Tara attuned her senses to the world around her, and let the checklist of tasks for the next few days roll over the edges of her mind.

Tomorrow, she had her last final. It had been a struggle to get through the end of this semester, but after that, she would be done. Then, two days more and she would be on the road to Seattle.

Reservations at a few hostels were set and Tara had a budget rental reserved for Saturday morning. Despite Dawn’s assurances, she ultimately felt uncomfortable about asking Buffy, and Willow, to go without the house car.

There were a few errands, including picking up a pre-paid phone Anya insisted she take. The credit card bill after this trip would not be pretty. It was supposed to be for emergencies, and she’d already incurred some debt helping to pay for things at the Revello house. But it felt necessary all the same.

Tomorrow evening, she’d search the internet to see if she could at least confirm that a Jaime Byrne lived in Seattle. Make sure that Anya’s contacts had current information. Tara wasn’t even sure how easy it was to find a person’s location online. It was possible, Willow found that kind of information all the time, but Willow was a computer whiz. Tara veered off from the main pathway toward Dormer Hall, a wistful smile forming as she remembered all the times Willow had tried to teach her something computerese. How she would miss half the lesson because nothing was more enrapturing than watching Willow in her element.

Tara would do her best and would make do with what she found. She couldn’t call, afraid if she reached her aunt, then her trip would be over before it started. If Jaime told her not to come. And she needed to go. She needed a destination, a purpose to fill these weeks with no classes to give structure to her days. She had to feel like she was working toward something, doing something that would help make sense of the lingering trauma that was affecting the present. And she needed space. She needed to be able to breathe. Here in Sunnydale, everything was a remnant of Willow. And Willow always took her breath away.

The hall was quiet when Tara reached her dorm. She pushed inside, flipping the switch next to the door frame, yellow light casting an ombre wash over bare walls. She laid her bag on the desk chair then flopped onto her mattress, tugging apart the knots of her boot laces, stretching out each foot as they were freed. Socks were removed and tossed into the hamper and her boots were placed, side by side next to her bed. She had a routine. She hadn’t realized it.

Ready for bed, Tara curled up, wrapping her small body in the star patterned blanket. It felt weird to be moving again so soon, but at least it would be easy. She had a routine but had never decorated. There hadn’t seemed to be a point. This room was functional and temporary. Like a roadside motel. Like the end of a journey.

Through the window she could see clouds covering the night sky, drifting ever so slowly to reveal tiny points of light before they were concealed once more.

There would be a new journey, even if its direction was unclear.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (4/10/2021)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2021 11:09 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 454
I've decided to check on this ghosttown before starting work :tumble and was very thrilled to find an update to your story. Dibs! :whip

Quote:
Tara would do her best and would make do with what she found. She couldn’t call, afraid if she reached her aunt, then her trip would be over before it started. If Jaime told her not to come. And she needed to go. She needed a destination, a purpose to fill these weeks with no classes to give structure to her days. She had to feel like she was working toward something, doing something that would help make sense of the lingering trauma that was affecting the present. And she needed space. She needed to be able to breathe. Here in Sunnydale, everything was a remnant of Willow. And Willow always took her breath away.

So for the sake of the journey, Tara risks being turned away by her aunt (or not even meeting her because she is on vacation or something). Well, despite the saying "the route is the goal" I hope that Tara will encounter Jaime and that she will able to help her overcome the traumas of her childhood and youth. Maybe Jaime could also help Tara realize that Willow needs her help to overcome her addiction to magic (and give her advice on how exactly she could help her).

Quote:
It felt weird to be moving again so soon, but at least it would be easy. She had a routine but had never decorated. There hadn’t seemed to be a point. This room was functional and temporary. Like a roadside motel. Like the end of a journey.

I'm a little confused, does Tara have to move out of the dorm room after finals? Can't she just keep it during semester break?
The last sentence of this passage feels so sad, to think that this impersonal, motellike-room could be the end of Tara's journey to Sunnydale.

Quote:
There would be a new journey, even if its direction was unclear.

This sentence should probably induce hope, but right now I'm worried if Tara actually considers to leave Sunnydale for good... No Tara, you have to return and fight for Willow!


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (4/10/2021)
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2021 7:00 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:37 am
Posts: 238
Topics: 8
Location: Pacific Northwest
Wills-redemption: Thanks for continuing to read and comment!! I believe most American dorms make students leave during breaks unless they have special circumstances- I will touch a little more on this in an upcoming chapter.
I think Tara is too afraid of her journey ending before she has started- its all she has right now. But in the end: Willow and Tara, happy and together- always








Ch 36 Exchanges

The zigzag sounds of violin swept through the Bronze, it’s player bowing fiercely and dominating the soundscape. Any patrons wanting to have a conversation were forced to shout their words to be heard; leaving most exchanges short and nonverbal. Toward the back of the first floor, seated on a sagging red couch were Willow and Amy, chatting in easy tones within an invisible box made of magick. It fit neatly over the specs of the couch and the low table before them, leaving room for light movement to join the effortless back-and –forth, the overwhelming noise muffled into pleasant ambience.

Willow sipped the last of her drink, sucking in an ice cube and chewing on the remains, listening as Amy told tales.

“I think the last one tried to get Dad to join a pyramid scheme.”

“Ah, poor Leonard,” Willow commiserated, wearing an expression much like one would have watching a puppy trip over its own feet. Absently, she waved her hand at the empty glass, orangey-red liquid, slick with alcohol, refilling it quickly. “Dating is not a walk in the park,” she continued, brow furrowing as she took a sip, “unless, of course, a walk in the park is part of the date.” Her features slowly crumbled as she spoke, memories creeping in. Willow tried to push them aside, jerking her head into a more assured posture, the sudden movement shifting her world. Blinking, unprepared, Willow took in the head change. She was teetering on drunk and hadn’t remembered getting there. Looking first at the Madras in front of her, then at Amy, Willow spoke her realization out loud, “I think I’m drunk.”

“Well, yeah, you’ve had what three refills?” Amy gestured at the glass with wiggly spellcasters’ fingers, “And you’re a lightweight.”

“I didn’t….” Willow stammered, staring at the drink liked she’d been duped. She’d been completely unaware that she’d been using magick. She felt nauseous.

Pulling her coat from the arm of the couch, Willow stood a bit unsteadily. Fear mixing with the vodka in her bloodstream.

“I need some water, then I need to go home.”

The sudden burst of sound startled her as she crossed the spell’s threshold. Her hand flew to her chest and for a moment she began to panic. Amy had cast it when they’d first claimed the seating area. She remembered and slowed her breath.

At the bartop, she filled a cloudy glass with water from the public jug. The rim at her lips, she whispered words in a foreign tongue and green swirled in the clear liquid before fading away. Willow drank it quickly, breathing heavily and relieved when she felt the alcohol’s effects wear down. She refilled the glass, and downed the water in its natural state.

On the rare occasions she and Tara drank, Tara had always enforced the one-to-one rule, replacing whatever alcoholic beverage Willow had just finished with a tall cup of water. Willow teased her about it and Tara would simply tilt her head and smile that knowing smile. Willow with a hangover was an unpleasant thing. She sipped a third cup.
The band was now on break, replaced by duller, but less obtrusive, DJ tunes. Amy approached from the side, concerned, dodging patrons as they left the dance floor in search of refreshments. Willow saw the look and cringed in agreement.

“That was not the fun I was looking for.”

“You are coming to Rack’s, right?” Amy asked, her topic train clearly on another track, earning an incredulous blink .

Willow side stepped Amy and placed her glass in a dish bin before heading toward the exit, “No. I told you that when we got here.”

Amy walked fast to keep at Willow’s shoulder, “Yeah, but I figured you’d change your mind.” There was no hint that Amy thought she’d been wrong. Willow continued, adjusting her trajectory to field obstructive patrons.

Amy caught the backswing of the door with an ‘oof’ and followed Willow outside. The heavy door thunked, muffling the music to a dim vibration.

“I need to go home.”

“Why? It’s not like you’re babysitting tonight,” Amy coaxed.

“I know,” Willow started, remembering the sense of freedom she’d felt when Dawn took off for dinner at Melinda’s. And for the first time she wonders what would happen if she unintentionally cast in front of Dawn. It had almost happened at Thanksgiving. Almost. No, Willow, thought, she’d never let it get to that. And still, every bone in her wanted to turn down the street and search for Rack’s hidden sanctuary. She could feel which direction to go already.

“I didn’t even realize what I was doing. With the drinking,” she says to Amy, “I'm not all ‘prohibition’ or anything. I like my fruit flavored alcohol as much as the next girl, but I usually like to be aware when I’m ordering thirds.”

“You seem fine,” Amy shrugged.

“I, uh, fixed it,” Willow didn’t regret the water spell, just the need for it.

“So what’s the big? You got a little tipsy and now you aren’t, it’s like witchy A.A.”

“I guess” Willow conceded, the resolve face she wore cracking as indecision changed its form.

Amy picked up on Willow’s wavering, and stepped in stride with her. “Then c’mon,” Amy persuaded, “this is our routine!” At Willow’s raised eyebrow, Amy expounded, “We talk, we drink, we do a little light dancin’, a little magick play, and for the finale, Rack’s. You don’t want to miss the finale. It’s the best part.”

It made a terrible sense to Willow, and it felt like if she leaves the night, the routine, unfinished, she will never stop feeling anxious. Her conscience tried. Battling against her bones which ached to give in.

I didn’t know what I was doing…. but you got control, fixed it.

The promise…. start next week, one fell sweep.

Tara…. will never know.


And Willow hates and loves that she is caving. She hates and loves that she hasn’t completely caved.

They ducked past a small crowd loitering under the white glow of the club’s sign, brushing cigarette smoke from their path. Amy hovering like a tiny devil on her shoulder.

“What’s with the re-emergence of high school Willow?” Amy said lightly, “I thought you were fun now?” It was asked with a veneer of good natured teasing, but the jab at the core stopped Willow for the first time since they’d left the Bronze.

There was an edge to the calm with which Willow turned, meeting Amy’s eyes as she spoke, “If by ‘fun’ you mean a pushover, then yes I have changed.”

Amy backpedaled, changing tactics, “No, I know, sorry, still relearning the funny part of being funny. Not much use for stand up when you’re hanging by yourself in a cage” Brightening her tone again, “it’s just, it’s better when you're there. You’re like Rack’s favorite, he’s always asking after you.”

“Ok, ego a little primped,” Willow conceded, unable to stop the thrill that Rack sees something in her, “but, what does that have to do with you going? I mean, why can't you just go without me? He can’t be spending the whole night askin’ about me. That would flip the complimentary into creepy.”

Amy sighed, as if preparing to share the hard truth, “He holds back when you’re not there. And it’s all rushed and over too fast.”

Pieces fell into place. Why, after that night about a month ago in Rack’s waiting room, when Amy had seemed irritated by Willow’s presence, suddenly Amy was calling with an invitation nearly every night. Rack always took them as a pair.

Amy flashed a wide smile, all was right in her world, “I need my partner in crime.”

Old wounds rose up anonymously, with no words, no faces, just that deep down feeling of rejection. And it made it that much easier for Willow to walk away.

“Good night, Amy.” The tone was flat and final but the fury danced across her skin. Willow turned, and Amy glared, but didn’t try to follow.

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Wilderness (5/3/2021)
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 4:57 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 454
Dibs!
I'll remain a loyal fan of your story, it just might take a few days to notice the newest updates.

Quote:
“I didn’t….” Willow stammered, staring at the drink liked she’d been duped. She’d been completely unaware that she’d been using magick. She felt nauseous.

Pulling her coat from the arm of the couch, Willow stood a bit unsteadily. Fear mixing with the vodka in her bloodstream.

Another red alert, but also a good sign that Willow is at least shocked when she realizes what she was unconsciously doing.
Quote:
At the bartop, she filled a cloudy glass with water from the public jug. The rim at her lips, she whispered words in a foreign tongue and green swirled in the clear liquid before fading away.

I'm wondering what Willow actually did with magic here - just make the rest of the alcoholic drink "vanish" out of the water or insert something that "cleared" the alcohol from her blood?

Quote:
Amy hovering like a tiny devil on her shoulder.

Very fitting image...

Quote:
“What’s with the re-emergence of high school Willow?” Amy said lightly, “I thought you were fun now?” It was asked with a veneer of good natured teasing, but the jab at the core stopped Willow for the first time since they’d left the Bronze.

There was an edge to the calm with which Willow turned, meeting Amy’s eyes as she spoke, “If by ‘fun’ you mean a pushover, then yes I have changed.”

Quote:
Amy flashed a wide smile, all was right in her world, “I need my partner in crime.”

Old wounds rose up anonymously, with no words, no faces, just that deep down feeling of rejection. And it made it that much easier for Willow to walk away.

“Good night, Amy.” The tone was flat and final but the fury danced across her skin. Willow turned, and Amy glared, but didn’t try to follow.

Yay Willow, I'm proud of you for saying no! :applause :bounce
Good thing that Amy trying to pressure her into going with her and revealing that she doesn't really want her company as a friend but is just "using" her to get a better "fix" from Rack strengthened Willow's resolve to resist the lure of Rack's magic. I really pray that Willow will keep this resolve not only this night but the next days and nights as well.
Is it too much to hope for that Willow might meet Buffy when she gets home and that they could actually have an honest talk about their problems?


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