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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 2:02 am 
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So much more to do after her last rainbow run. Another wrinkle to iron out, an unexpected one.

No, They had expected it. Had known. She was just finding out about it because she hadn't needed to know before now. There was another one who needed to be informed, a second destiny involved. There were still messages to deliver. Everything and everyone needed to be in place and ready.

Time was drawing near.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Second Contact


“Juno, Goddess of the Moon,
please protect me
in this darkest time
in my season of need.
Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow,
Messenger of women,
I beseech thee
allow my cry to be heard.”

Willow looked around and headed toward Tara's voice. A feeling of peace settled the bats pretending to be butterflies in her stomach. 'I can do this,' she thought, 'it's Tara.'

“Tara?” she said softly.

Tara opened her eyes and looked at Willow. “W-willow?” Tara had a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face.

“Tara, baby, I know this seems impossible but somehow your message is coming through to me.” Willow talked quickly, unsure how long their connection would last. “We, the gang and I, are working on the how of it. We're going to bring you home, baby.”

“No. You're not real. You died two years ago. The gang died a year ago.” Tears started spilling down the pretty blonde's face. She shook her head. “It's not real,” she whispered.

Willow felt the tears well up in her own eyes. This hurt so much, seeing the pain Tara was in, Willow just wanted to reach out and hold her. She wanted to make it all better. Even though she wasn't sure she could touch Tara, Willow took a step forward. She wanted nothing more than to be able to wrap her arms around the woman she still loved. “Please, baby, don't cry. I don't know how it's possible but it's real. I saw you with Angel,” she faltered at the fierce look that went across Tara's face at the mention of Angel. “I know you're not alone and I'm glad you're not. We'll figure this out, you and Angel will be safe again.” Fear started welling up as Willow realized she wasn't getting through to Tara.

“You – wh-whatever you are – s-stay away from us. I-I w-won't let you hurt him.” Tara voice was hard and low and Willow could see the anger in her face.

“No. I'm not going to hurt him . . .” Willow started to say. She could feel the blonde slipping further away and began to despair that she'd ever be able to reach Tara.

“Damn straight you're not. I'll kill you first. You're not Willow. I don't know who or what you are, but I will kill you. How dare you? How dare you use my love against me?” Willow could hear the change in Tara's voice and her body language reflected the shift from despair to anger.

Willow was taken aback by the ferocity, not to mention the conspicuous absence of her stutter, in Tara's voice. Willow was so frustrated that her tears finally spilled down her face. How was she going to make Tara believe her? “Baby, please, how can I make you believe me? You're sending the messages and somehow I'm getting them while I sleep. I don't know how or why. I don't want to hurt you, I just wanna find you and bring you home. Help me find you, Tara, please help me bring you home.” She was pleading with Tara but her heart sank into despondency as she watched Tara's face harden in determination.

“No. I'm not giving you anything. You're not Willow. This isn't real.” Tara closed her eyes. “I'm done meditating now.”

Willow found herself standing in Buffy's old back yard. 'Damn!' she thought. Looking around, she noticed a greenhouse. 'Okay, as long as I'm here,' she thought, heading into the greenhouse. Startled, she took a step back as she came face to face with a cow mooing at her. “Hi there. I guess you can see me, huh,” she said soothingly to the cow. “Don't worry, I won't hurt you.” Willow continued her tour of the greenhouse finding that most of what was growing was familiar to her. 'Medicinal and spell casting,' she realized. The only puzzler was the cow. 'Why haven't I woken up?' Willow was confused. 'Is there something else I'm supposed to see?' she wondered. Shrugging, Willow walked back out of the greenhouse. As she neared the driveway, she could see a pickup truck parked there with a trailer attached to it. Curiosity got the better of her and she went to investigate. A tarp covered the back of the truck but a corner of it had pulled free and the red haired witch could see boxes and bags of what looked like majick stuff; books, candles, sand, crystals peeking out. It was weird being outside Buffy's house again after all this time. Looking around, she shuddered at how quiet it was. It was just eerie.

Willow jerked awake. Feeling disoriented, she lay there for a moment listening to the sounds of Buffy's steady breathing and Xander's snoring. They had both rolled over so she was able to slide to the end of the bed and get up without waking her two best friends. Quietly, she headed to the bathroom and flipped on the lights. Running the water, she quickly washed her face then returned to the bedroom and curled up in the papa-san chair. Heart aching and feeling defeated, she stared morosely out the window. 'How do I convince her? Do I have to convince her?' Taking several deep breaths, Willow tried to sort through her emotions and found there was too much going on in her head to get any one thing straight. She was confused why this was happening and why now, worried they'd never figure it out, proud that Tara had survived despite the odds, hope that they could find her and bring her home. She had an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach that she had really spooked Tara. Or worse, hurt her. Willow sighed, she was also frustrated that Tara was so hard to reach even though she could understand Tara's reticence. The young witch shook her head thinking sleep and quiet would be helpful in sorting through the latest assault on her emotions but sat quietly watching as daylight started creeping over the horizon. 'A new day,' she thought. 'Hopefully, one that will give us some answers.'

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
“Juno, Goddess of the Moon,
please protect me
in this darkest time
in my season of need.
Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow,
Messenger of women,
I beseech thee
allow my cry to be heard.”

She was roused from her meditation by a soft “Tara?”

Opening her eyes and seeing Willow standing there scared her. “W-willow?”

“Tara, baby, I know this seems impossible but somehow your message is coming through to me.” Willow was talking quickly, but not in 'normal' Willowbabble mode. “We, the gang and I, are working on the how of it. We're going to bring you home, baby.”

“No. You're not real. You died two years ago. The gang died last year.” Tara felt the tears start falling down her face and shook her head. “It's not real,” she whispered. Tara was conflicted as she watched tears start to well up in the redhead's eyes. She hurt as she watched the woman she loved take a step forward. Tara wanted to hold her, be held by her, but this wasn't possible. Fear and confusion coursed through her. This couldn't be Willow. 'As much as I want it to be her, it just can't be,' she thought despairingly.

“Please, baby, don't cry. I don't know how it's possible, but it is real. I saw you with Angel.” Tara felt the anger rise within her and she narrowed her eyes at the mention of Angel. “I know you're not alone and I'm glad you're not. We're going to figure this out. You're going to be safe again.”

“You – wh-whatever you are – stay away from us. I-i w-won't let you hurt him.” Tara's voice was hard and low, her face set in a hard line. She strengthened her resolve to not let this – whatever this was – find them. 'I can't believe this. A year and nothing and now, instead of help, I get this,' she thought. Anger warred with despair warred with confusion. Disappointment at not ever really having made up with Willow for the mind-erase thing, fear of Willow’s power, distrust of Willow’s lack of majikal self-control and this new Willow-vision warred with love for the girl she’d lost. The thing wearing Willow's face upped the noise within Tara from a dull roar to a cacophony of chaos.

“No. I'm not going to hurt him . . .” Willow started to say but Tara shook her head. She did not want to hear it. Any of it.

“Damn straight you're not. I'll kill you first. You're not Willow. I don't know who or what you are but I will kill you. How dare you? How dare you use my love against me.” Tara had never been so angry. As despondent as she'd been by these Willowdreams, she was that much angrier that something was using Willow to not only get to her, but to get to Angel through her. He had helped her, been her friend, her companion, her confidante. This was his thanks? To have something in Willowface try to use her to hurt him. This wasn't right. It wasn't fair. And it wasn't going to happen if she could do anything about.

Willow, 'no, not Willow. It's NotWillow,' she reminded herself to shore up her crumbling resolve. Watching even a NotWillow cry hurt. The NotWillow began pleading. “Baby, please, how can I make you believe me? You're sending the messages and somehow I'm getting them while I sleep. I don't know how or why. I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to find you and bring you home. Help me find you, Tara, please help me bring you home.”

Tara looked at the beautiful redhead, her heart aching. As much as she wanted this to be real, she knew it couldn't be. Standing a little straighter and stiffening her resolve she said, “No. I'm not giving you anything. You're not Willow. This isn't real.” She closed her eyes. “I'm done meditating now.”

Tara roused herself from her meditation, still angry. “Dammit!” She said out loud, as hot tears started coursing down her face. Angry at the NotWillow but just as angry at herself for reacting to her. No, not her, it. From now on, if that thing showed up when she was meditating, she'd just rouse herself. 'Goddess, this is going to kill me,' she thought, unable to shake the image of the NotWillow and how much it hurt to see it cry. Even if it was a NotWillow. She repeated the phrase several times to remind herself that Willow was lost to her and no amount of praying or meditating or anything could bring her back. 'NotWillowNotWillowNotWillowNotWillow.' It became a mantra.

Angel looked up from his book then stood up and went to Tara. “Tara? What happened?” he asked, lightly placing a hand gently on her shoulder.

Tara looked at him and took several deep breaths to calm herself down. She shook her head, stepping away and looking back at Angel before launching into the latest visit she'd had with the NotWillow. “I don't get it Angel. Why now?”She was so angry, so confused. They'd been hiding for a year. Their routine had been the same. For a year. Nothing had changed. 'Why now?' she thought as anguish joined its cousins, confusion, anger and despair for an emotion family reunion.

Angel looked thoughtful. “I don't know. You've been meditating for, what, a year now?” Tara nodded as Angel echoed her thoughts. “It doesn't make sense that something is just finding us now. If something was going to get the signal, why hasn't it gotten it before now?” His face mirrored her confusion back at her.

Tara shook her head, confusion clouding whatever thoughts she may have had. “I don't know and I don't care. It just needs to stop,” she said angrily before taking another deep breath to compose herself. “I just don't know how to make it stop,” she said softly, her shoulders slumping in defeat. Everything in her ached for Willow but she refused to cry again. She had to take away the thing's power somehow and she would start with not crying.

Angel nodded. “We'll figure it out. We'll find a way to make it stop.” Angel's voice was reassuring but the look on his face was far from convincing. Tara knew he was trying to make her feel better and, in a way, it worked. She felt better because he cared enough to try.

They stood there looking at each other for a moment. A sudden thought occurred to her and Tara broke the silence. “You know, we do have some books downstairs,” she said. “Research mode?” she asked hopefully. At least then she'd be able to feel like she was doing something.

Angel looked thoughtful for a moment then smiled and nodded at the pretty blonde. “Yeah. Let's see if we can find something to help with this.” She smiled back, grateful he hadn't shot the idea down. Leading the way downstairs she pushed away the ache and desperation, allowing herself to hope that maybe there were some answers in one of her books.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: The Coven Calls

_________________
Willow? I got so lost...
I found you...I will always find you

Willow's Promise on Myspace
Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:34 pm 
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Wish websites were more thumbable; I don't recall whether they were warned specifically that something was looking for Angel and that's what set her off, or if her reaction was just for General Principles.

But it looks like (if Willow remembers exactly what Tara said, they'll have a bonus-sized clue in their search. But, on the other hand, for right now, Willow is dealing with a hostile Tara who'll be avoiding her contact. Depending on what Tara and Angel find out, of course, ie. how soon they find that this isn't soemthing misling them.


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 12:43 am 
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The Coven Calls


The next few days passed in pretty much the same fashion; research, light meals, lighter entertainment for the occasional distraction, and restless nights. Willow was still dreaming. She was no longer afraid but she was still connecting with Tara. Tara, on the other hand, seemed to be very afraid. More afraid with each contact and she continued to frustrate Willow by steadfastly refusing to give Willow any information. Xander and Buffy stayed with Willow every night and that helped a little. She was finally getting some sleep and her appetite, while not huge, had somewhat returned. Realizing she had just “not read” the same sentence several times, she sighed. Yes, she was getting some sleep but it wasn't enough and her ability to focus was, well, not so much. They were no closer to an answer than they had been two days ago. She was still dreaming, the rest of the gang was still hallucinating and tempers were beginning to run short. 'We all need a break,' she thought. ‘Finding anything on this is taking forever and we're all just making ourselves crazy with the researching.’ She fleetingly wondered if it was unsolvable before pushing that thought aside. ‘Of course, if it is unsolvable, that means I'm already crazy.' That last thought spurred her to action.

“I'm taking a break,” she said suddenly, standing up and beginning to pace. “I think this may take longer than normal. I mean, I suppose it had to happen sometime.” The past week had really taken a toll on her and she felt like she was about to completely break down. “We just don't know enough to know what to look for and until we do, we're just spinning our wheels,” she said, the frustration of the past couple of days finally bubbling their way up to the surface.

“Will, we're going to figure this out,” Buffy said gently, standing up and placing her hand sympathetically on Willow's arm. “It's just taking us a little longer than usual this time.”

Willow shrugged and smiled weakly at her friend. “I guess. I think maybe we should all take a break, regain some perspective.” She took a deep breath and swallowed the tears threatening to overwhelm her. She felt so alone despite all of the support her friends were giving her. She missed Tara. Her Tara – the one that was happy to see her instead of this dream Tara that was afraid of her. It was that simple. She felt despair start to engulf her. 'Goddess, this just never gets easier,' she thought as she ran a hand over her face and through her hair, closing her eyes against the grief and pain.

“Will,” Buffy said softly, “we are going to get through this. It'll be ok.” Willow looked at the determination in Buffy's eyes and nodded, smiling softly.

The others nodded their agreement and Giles checked his watch. “It's 10:30 right now, I suggest that we work for two more hours then break for lunch. After lunch, we can find things to occupy ourselves outside the confines of the library for the rest of the day.”

“We have a plan,” Buffy agreed, reclaiming her chair.

Willow nodded and started to sit back down when the phone rang. “I got it,” she said hurrying into the hall, idly wondering why they hadn't put an extension in the library. She made a mental note to talk to Giles about it.

“Hello?”

“Willow! Thank the Goddess! Can you and your friends come to the abbey, please, as soon as possible?” Terese sounded worried.

“Terese, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Willow asked, concerned for her friend.

“Yes. I'm fine but some things have happened and I would be grateful for your assistance. Your friends, too. I'm sorry to be abrupt but there are three women crying in my study and I don't have all of the information yet. Please, can you come?”

“Of course. We're on our way,” Willow said, hanging up. She stood there for a moment, blinking in confusion at the curious request of her friend and mentor before retracing her steps back to the library. When she entered, no one looked up. “Uh . . . guys? We’ve got a problem,” she said.

As one, the four people at the table looked up at Willow.

“More good news. What’s the sitch?” Buffy asked.

“I don’t exactly know.” Willow bit her lower lip thoughtfully then filled them in on what little information Terese had given her.

“Ok. Do we all go? Or do some go, some stay and keep researching?” Xander asked, looking pleadingly at Giles who pointedly ignored him.

“I kind of think we all go. I mean, Terese did ask for all of us to go, er, come.” She shook her head at the tongue fumble before continuing. “Maybe she thinks different perspectives will be helpful. And, I mean, it's not like the research is getting us anywhere,” she finished wryly.

“Cool! Research done for now,” Xander said, closing his book and dropping it with a thud on the table.

The others followed his lead, books forgotten as they headed toward the coven.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


“Thank you for coming,” Terese said, as they entered the coven's study. “I would have come to you but,” she indicated her foot which was wrapped in a cloth brace, “I injured my ankle yesterday and did not think I would be able to walk that far.”

“Are you okay?” Willow asked worriedly. Willow knew Terese walked everywhere, stubbornly refusing to use anything with wheels because, as she put it, 'wheels and tires separate me from Mother Earth. It subverts the soul, removing our spiritual connection to the land and each other.' This injury would greatly hamper both her travels into the village and around the coven's self-supporting farm. “Do you need anything?”

Terese waved the concern aside. “I'm fine. Simply misstepped and turned my ankle. My mind wandered and my body paid for the trip.” A wry smile accompanied the word play before her expression sobered and she continued. “However, I called you over for a more pressing matter.”

“What’s going on Terese? You sounded pretty freaked on the phone,” Willow said.

She motioned for them to seat themselves as she started to close the door. At an indignant meow, she looked down and politely held the door open for a cat to enter before shutting out the hallway. “I honestly did not know who to call,” she said, settling into an armchair.

Willow and Buffy got comfortable on one couch while Giles and Xander settled on another. Dawn seemed to consider sitting between Giles and Xander, thought better of it, and sat down on one of the ottomans.

Willow smiled at the little cat she’d started feeding weeks ago at Scooby Central as he wandered into the room as if he owned it. She idly wondered if the cat had any pet humans yet or if he was still finding his way around. She leaned over to stroke the cat as he walked by, gently flicking his tail. With a small purrurp the cat turned, eyed her and leaped into her lap as only a cat can do, claiming Willow as his property. With a slight chuckle and an under-lash glance at Giles to see his reaction (he was looking disdainfully at the cat but when he saw Willow looking at him, he sniffed and refocused on Terese) she scratched the perfect behind-the-ears spot.

“Several members of the coven have come to me because they've been seeing things,” she said, her expression troubled, “things that aren't possible.”

“For example?” Giles asked.

“Several members have told me over the past week or so that they have been having visions of people who have died. Three members came today seeking my counsel. Giselle's daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were killed in a boating accident a year ago. Giselle told me that she and her husband have both been seeing all three of them at various times in various places around the house.”

Giles hummed with interest and, at his silent request, Dawn opened her bag and retrieved a pen and a pad of paper. Smiling his thanks, Giles began jotting down notes.

Trying to be gentle, Willow asked quietly, “Has Giselle ever ‘seen things’ before?” Despite all they'd seen, it was better to rule out the more obvious solutions first.

Terese looked over the rim of her glasses and said firmly, “Never. Later on, Vicky came to me. She was badly burned in a fire that killed her family when she was twelve. She told me today that she'd been seeing her family members and this morning, when she looked in the mirror, her scars were gone. She could still feel them, but they weren't reflected in the glass.”

Giles nodded and made more notes. He asked, “Was she, perhaps, still half asleep, or not wearing her glasses?”

Shaking her head, Terese said, “It was mid-day when she home and she doesn’t wear glasses.”

Giles hummed his response before asking, “And the third?”

“This is the one that concerns me the most,” Terese said worriedly.

Willow listened intently, running her fingers lightly over the spine of the cat.

“Cara's husband, David, was killed in the line of duty six months ago. Cara said she'd been seeing visions of him for about a week. She dismissed them; she thought it was just her imagination playing tricks on her because their anniversary is coming up. Yesterday, though, she received a call from her son's school. He had had some sort of episode and the school wanted Cara to come get him. When she got there, she said he was white as a sheet and shaking. After she calmed him down, he said he'd been seeing his father every time he turned his head that day. Cara asked her other son if he'd seen daddy and the boy admitted that he had, several times but was afraid to say anything.” Terese added, almost as a postscript, “She also has a young daughter who isn't old enough for her to ask but Cara said that several times over the past week Lizzie had reached her arms up saying ‘dada’.”

Dawn looked sad, as though she was remembering her mother, “Are the kids in some kind of therapy?”

Under his breath, Xander muttered, “And have they been eating any lead paint?”

In response, Dawn kicked his shin and Buffy glared at him. He put his hands up and shrugged in surrender.

Terese seemed not to notice the exchange and answered Dawn’s question. “No, the children never went for analysis. They’ve all been doing so well, recently.”

Buffy said gently, “It seems like there’s a lot of wishful thinking going on. It is getting to be that time of year when people are looking for family-type things to do.”

Terese nodded. “I realize this is all very vague, but I was hoping you might be able to help. Willow has mentioned the strange occurrences that you have all been involved with, so you were my first thought as it all seems to be related. There is nothing in the spirit world to indicate that any of the people who died are trying to communicate with their loved ones. Do you think you can help?” Terese asked.

“I don't know, Terese. We've been researching for three days now with few results.” Willow sighed and shook her head; she hated feeling helpless. “I know it's getting more serious and it's not just affecting us, but . . . I don't know,” Willow answered as honestly as she could.

“Any idea would be a help,” Terese gently prompted.

Willow smiled worriedly and nodded.

Giles had been nodding thoughtfully while making jotting notes down in the notebook. Glancing up he asked Terese, “Have there been any new members recently?” When Terese shook her head, Giles asked, “Have you hired anyone new or possibly seen any strangers hanging about?” Again, Terese shook her head no and Giles jotted a few more notes.

Looking over at Xander he asked, “Have you brought anyone new to the area?”

Xander frowned and said, “Well, sure,” he looked at Giles like he had grown a second head, “it's a construction site, Giles, new guys come and go all the time but there's no reason for them to come over here.”

Buffy frowned and turned to Giles. “Are you saying you think one of the workmen might be a demon or something?”

“Well, yes, I had been considering it,” Giles said thoughtfully. “It's not totally far-fetched although I suspect someone would have noticed a workman coming over here and made mention of it.”

Terese shook her head and answered him, “The only workman from your Scooby Central that comes here is Anna's brother, Noel. We've all known him since they were children.”

Giles hummed thoughtfully and jotted a few more notes. His expression, however, gave Willow the impression that he doubted Noel was a demon.

Buffy stood up and started to roll her neck and shoulders. Willow could tell she was getting restless, which usually happened when Buffy was inactive for too long. Willow and Dawn could research and talk with Giles forever but Buffy tended to get restless and Xander tended to get bored. In both cases, neither of them were able to pay much attention once their thresholds had been reached.

Giles, seemingly oblivious to his Slayer's antsiness continued asking Terese question. “Has anyone brought in any old relics or objects d’art that might be cursed or contain something more than was bargained for?”

Terese shook her head thoughtfully before answering, “Not that I know of but I will ask the other members if they know of anything.”

Giles nodded while making yet another note before he continued his questioning. “What about food. Have you been sampling different things recently?”

Before Terese had a chance to answer Buffy snapped, “Geez, Giles, we eat pizza and Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs for breakfast. Somehow, I don't think we're having a cross-property shared food allergy.” She stopped pacing and looked sheepishly at Terese. “Sorry, I guess I'm just a little edgy.”

Terese chuckled softly. “I imagine you are. I would guess that with so many problems occurring all at once, sleep and relaxation are not top priorities. And we eat pizza as well, but we do grow most of the ingredients for it. We eat very little that isn’t grown here at the abbey.”

Buffy smiled her thanks and resumed her pacing.

Xander muttered, “How about pesticides?” under his breath but was rewarded with another glare from Buffy and a repeat kick to the shin from Dawn. “Ow,” he said looking at her. She just smiled and turned her focus back to Terese.

Terese, ignoring everything but the question, answered seriously, “We do not use chemicals on our plants. Instead, we prefer to use soap sprays or a tea made from cayenne peppers to keep insects and rabbits from our gardens.”

“I see. Yes. Well, we will, of course, do everything possible, Terese,” Giles assured her. “Now, though, I don’t think there's anything to be done here until we find out more from our research. We have more to go on, which is good. I think you were right; these things do seem to be related. I think we should be able to narrow the list considerably. I do have a few ideas.” He stood, hand out to shake Terese’s. “Knowing that it isn't just us is, in a small way, a comfort. We're not being targeted, which means we can rule out anyone seeking revenge.” He turned to the others and instructed, “Back to the library.”

They all heaved a collective sigh, except Buffy who looked relieved, and stood up. The cat grumbled at being unceremoniously deposed from Willow’s lap and wended his way around and through Giles' legs. Willow stifled a giggle as Giles' face reflected his displeasure at being even closer to the cat than he had been while it was in Willow's lap.

“Willow, a moment, please?” Terese requested. Her smile was gentle but made it clear that the moment was to be a private one. “I would like to speak with you privately, please,” Terese requested.

Willow nodded, looked at her friends and sat back down; the cat immediately reclaiming her lap. She giggled softly and said, “I'll meet you all back at the house. I'll check the library first.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Next Week: Of Demons, Dimensions and Alternate Realities

_________________
Willow? I got so lost...
I found you...I will always find you

Willow's Promise on Myspace
Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:07 pm 
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I wonder...separate menaces or all connected?


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:26 am 
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Of Demons, Dimensions and Alternate Realities


After the others left, something niggled at the back of Willow's brain. Something was bothering her, something other than the obvious, but she couldn't put her finger on what.

Terese came back from showing the others out. “Can I get you anything, Willow?”

“No, Terese, thank you. I'm fine. Is there something else wrong?” Willow asked, relegating the niggle to the 'not-right-now' part of her brain.

Terese shook her head. “I'm not sure. I wanted to know if your prayer to Mati-Syra-Zemlya yielded anything and to also let you know what I found in the spirit world.”

Willow was a little taken aback. “But . . . I thought . . . I mean . . .”

“No. There seems to be more happening than just the hallucinations. I take it, then, that Mati-Syra-Zemlya had information to impart to you?”

“Yeah,” Willow said softly, “I made the promise. I remember it now. I promised Tara I'd always find her. I just . . . I don't understand how this could be real. And if it is, is there anything I can do about it?”

Terese looked thoughtful and waited a moment before she answered. “I have been in touch with the spirit world and there is quite a bit of excited activity and it's focused around you and your friends. It's unclear what or who or why but something is most definitely facilitating Tara's meditations reaching you.”

“I don't understand,” Willow said, confusion overriding everything else in her brain.

“I'm not sure I do either. The unrest is over two spirits. I was told that Tara's spirit is being pulled toward another universe. It would seem her spirit is preparing to leave our spirit plane. Presumably, when you succeed in bringing her into this one from where she is her soul will, in effect, switch realities; the ensouled, alive Tara will cross into this plane and her spirit of this world will enter that spirit world.” Terese fell silent and seemed to be looking past Willow for a moment before continuing. “It's like the majick; nothing can be created or destroyed, just transferred. In the world where she is not dead, her soul is within her; here, because she is dead, her soul entered the spirit realm. Her ensouled body cannot enter this plane of existence while the soul that was Tara is in our spirit realm. That would create two Taras in one plane and the universe won't allow that. It demands balance. What will happen is, essentially, a trade; that Tara with her soul comes here, your Tara's soul goes there. There is a second spirit involved in the activity but I was unable to ascertain whose spirit it is.” Terese paused as if perplexed then abruptly asked, “What was the promise you made? What were the circumstances?”

Willow quickly filled Terese in about Glory and the promise. The older witch nodded thoughtfully before continuing, “What I think is happening is . . . there was a time ripple creating an alternate timeline. It is not unusual; different choices, different events causing different results.” Terese stopped for a moment as if considering how to proceed. “You have told me the story of how you and Tara met. At one point you were faced with proceeding with Tara or returning to your first love, correct?”

Willow nodded, remembering her indecision when Oz came back. It had been so hard letting go of him and what they had shared. Looking back now, she knew she had made the right choice; she wouldn’t trade the specialness of what she and Tara had shared for anything.

“Life is a journey,” Terese continued, “we each have our own path to follow. Paths cross and intersect, there are smaller paths off the main path. At the moment you chose between Tara and Oz you were, in essence, standing at a fork in your path. In this reality, you chose to walk with Tara. As the you and Tara of this reality started down the path together, several other realities were created from the other choices you could have made.” Terese stopped for a moment and looked directly into Willow's eyes. “All that had gone before, each choice in this reality led you to Tara. In one of the others, you may not have met Tara or you met her but your relationship did not develop as it did in this reality, leading you back to Oz. In yet others, there is a Willow who never learned majick; a Willow and Tara who were never separated; a Willow and Oz who are married with children. Each choice causes a ripple, smaller choices lead to path detours, not diverting you from your main path. Major life choices can divert you to another main path. Is this making any sense?” Terese asked.

Willow considered for a few moments. She had made a lot of big choices; staying in Sunnydale for college, pursuing majick, Tara, bringing Buffy back, Warren, Kennedy. If she had chosen to go to another school . . . what then? She suddenly remembered her vampiric doppleganger; that reality hadn't been created by any of her choices. It was because Buffy hadn't moved to Sunnydale. Which hadn't even been Buffy's choice; it would have been Joyce's. Willow's head began to hurt as she considered the implications; every choice resulting in a different reality, leading to a zillion realities. Were realities and dimensions interchangeable? Portals could be opened to other worlds; Angel came back, her doppleganger had crossed over, Giles and Anya visited the Beljoxa's Eye, Angel went to Pylea, Buffy went to see the Shadowmen. She considered what all of this might mean. All of the choices she had made – they all had made – had converged on this spot. Looking at Terese, she nodded. “It's like a big spider-web – my choices can affect others just as theirs can affect me. We can walk together, choices can separate us and other choices can bring us back to each other.”

Terese nodded. “Exactly. And while alternate realities are common, it is quite uncommon, very nearly unheard of, for one timeline to cross over to another or for anyone to even be aware another exists.”

Willow again thought about her vampiric doppelganger – that reality had certainly crossed over. Willow nodded slowly and felt a rush of hope and joy as she realized what this meant. It was possible.
“It would seem that someone or something wants you to receive Tara's message. Someone or something wants the timelines to somehow collide. The closer you get to that happening, the more activity there is in this realm's spirit world. It would seem, my friend, that fate has not written the ending of your love story.” Terese finished with a small smile.

Willow let that thought sit for a moment. She and Tara weren't done yet. There was more to be written. “But, how? How do I bring her back?” she asked, too stunned to feel or think beyond the moment.

“That, I do not know. What I do know is . . . when it is time, you will have what you need. For now, I think this demon is what you need to work on.” Terese leaned forward to look into her eyes. "Willow, I know there is an urgency in bringing an answer to your dreams of Tara. I also know that until the demon is sent away from this place, your friends will not understand that what you are seeing in your dreams is real, not an illusion borne of your desire to see her again." Terese took Willow's hands in her own. The thick calluses of work in the fields and gardens of the abbey's complex were hard but comforting against Willow's soft hands. "You must solve that problem before devoting your energies to keeping your promise to your beloved."

Willow nodded and stood up, again deposing the little striped cat, earning her an indignant meow from . . . “Terese, what did you name him?”

“Mr. Mouser,” Terese said with a wry grin, “not my choice but, as the mouse population seems to have dwindled, it apparently suits him.”

Willow giggled and hugged her friend goodbye. “I'll see you soon. Hopefully with answers to both problems.”

Terese walked her to the door. “The answers will come when they come – for all things, the trick is knowing where to look. Take care my friend.”

Once again, Willow let her thoughts wander as she walked home from the coven. The niggling something was still bothering her but she still couldn't put her finger on what. 'Tara is out there. Dawn was right,' Willow thought again how scary smart Dawn was. 'She never forgets anything she learns. I hope Xander smartens up before he loses her.'

She thought more about Tara. She was determined even though she didn't know what that meant or what it would mean if . . . no, when . . . they were reunited. 'She's coming back. Somehow, we're getting her back. So much has happened,' she thought. 'Warren, Kennedy, the majicks. Can I regain her trust . . . her love?' She refused to think about the possibility that fate would be that cruel; to give Tara back to them and not allow Willow to reconnect with her. She sighed. 'First things first; demon hunting and catching. Then we figure out how to bring her home. Then I can work on reconciliation.'

'Okay, then. Demon. I wonder if the gang's figured anything else out,' Willow thought, frustrated over the situation. She knew it was going to be difficult to concentrate on anything but bringing Tara home. Wait . . . would she even want to move to England? Could this be her home? It never was for Kennedy. She shook her head. 'Later for those thoughts,' she told herself even as she continued wondering how she could convince Tara that she had changed. She was elated; it seemed inevitable that she would see Tara again. She worried about how she would convince Tara she wasn't addicted to the majicks, that she no longer used them as a way to bend the world to her liking. She now only used them to help. She shuddered as she remembered how she had first lost Tara, sickened at how blind she had been to her abuse of her power. Once again she promised herself she'd never again be that blind. It was a promise she made often, almost daily, to remind her of what she had to lose if she should start down that path again. She sighed as she walked through the front door. Checking her watch, she saw that it was lunch time and headed for the kitchen.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


They arrived back from the coven and headed straight for the library.

Giles cleared his throat. “Well, I think given the information we’ve just received that we can narrow our list of suspects considerably. I think that we are dealing with either a misguided or unaware demon. Not a malicious or even mischievous one. Granted, it's causing some emotional distress, but the visions themselves aren't malicious. No one is seeing a loved one in pain or being harmed.” He quickly sorted through what they had compiled over the past three days. Discarding several books and a ream of notebooks and scrolls to an unused chair, he directed their attentions to the remaining three books on the table. He flipped through the books, adding place marks to what looked like random pages while he said, “Here. These five are our most likely culprits.” He slid a book to Xander. “Three are unlimited shape-shifters; that is, they can look like anything they want at any given time. That would mean that they are actually becoming the person that you’re seeing and taking part in the fantasy rather than projecting an image.”

Xander gave a disgusted grimace, a half-hearted salute and opened the book without comment.

Giles tapped the book in front of Dawn. “The demon described in this one is a telepath, meaning it would be projecting an image from somewhere nearby. It would have to be in close proximity to those it's affecting so our search parameters would be small.”

“But how would we find it?” asked Dawn.

“We'll have Willow perform a locater spell when she gets back to pinpoint demonic activity in the area.”

When Dawn nodded and started reading, Giles looked at Buffy and then to the book in front of her before saying, “The last one is also a combination of both but it's limited in its abilities. As a shape-shifter, whatever form it chose when the hallucinations began is the one it's stuck in until it's revealed. As a telepath, what it does, essentially, is pull people's regrets and sadness out of their psyche causing the victim to actually project his or her own hallucination. Once discovered, the demon simply dissipates into the ether. It will then reform sometime later, somewhere else. The, uh, recognition signs and proper spells to remove it are in here, somewhere.”

“Why can’t we just kill it so it can’t bother anyone else?” Buffy asked.

Giles looked down his nose, “It hasn’t really harmed anyone, has it?” When Buffy shook her head, Giles continued, “That's it. There are no others we looked at that are, for lack of a better word, innocent. It has to be one of these.”

“Okay, so we wait until Will gets back to do the locater spell. What do we do until then?” Buffy asked

“I propose lunch,” Giles answered, looking at his watch.

The other three immediately agreed and all four headed out to the kitchen.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Discoveries

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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:50 pm 
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Like a spider web; CNQ, have you been reading Stasheff's Rhyming Wizard novels :-).

Good, Willow is starting to separate things. Prioritzing. Only way to handle things.

Also, I'm wondering if Canon-Tara the spirit and Alterna-Willow also-a-spirit are partly triggering this,t hat they're activley seeking each other and so helping to establish contacts betwixt the living women. And if we'll maybe see thsoe spirits at some point; perhaps they'll have to "give their permission" in some way for the living ones to move towards each other.

CNQ; since you've finished this now and I no longer pose a danger of influencing you, would you like me to send you "Joy to Several Worlds"?


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:37 am 
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DaddyCatALSO wrote:
Like a spider web; CNQ, have you been reading Stasheff's Rhyming Wizard novels :-).


Nope..haven't even heard of them.

DaddyCatALSO wrote:
CNQ; since you've finished this now and I no longer pose a danger of influencing you, would you like me to send you "Joy to Several Worlds"?


I have received it but haven't had a chance to read it yet, I will soon, though. Thanks for sending it. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:41 am 
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Discoveries


    Willow walked into the kitchen and found the atmosphere much more light-hearted than it had been in days.  She was immediately inundated with a cacophony of greetings.

    “Hey Will!”

    “Willow!”

    “Hullo Willow.”

    “Glad you're back Will.  Everything ok?”

    Willow smiled her first genuine smile in days.  “Wow, you're all in a good mood.  What's going on?”

    “Well, given what Terese told us about the coven members, we've managed to narrow down the list of suspects,”  Giles answered as he continued making sandwiches.  “We can be fairly certain that it's not a malicious demon.  Most probably not even mischievous.  Simply either unaware or misguided,” he said, gesturing with the knife he was using causing a dollop of mayonnaise to fly off, hitting the front of Xander's shirt.

    “Yeah, the problem is that there are still five on the list and four are shapeshifters.” Dawn chimed in, giggling as she helped Xander clean his shirt.

    “Still, we are a bit closer than we were.  Did Terese have anything helpful to add after we left?”  Giles asked, looking at Xander apologetically.

    Willow hesitated, uncertain whether or not she was ready to share the information about Tara.  It was all so confusing.  She considered keeping it to herself until she could sort through her feelings of joy, confusion, anger and, most of all, hope.

    “Spill Will . . . whatever it is,”  Buffy said as if reading her thoughts.

    “Nothing about our friendly neighborhood demon of the week . . . ” she trailed off, knowing Buffy wouldn't let it go.  She, Xander and Buffy had been friends too long.  And, even if Buffy did let it go, Xander wouldn't.

    “About what then?  Come on, Willow, no avoidy stonewalling,”  Buffy said, not breaking eye contact.

    Willow met her gaze and took a deep breath before answering simply, “Tara.”

    The lunch preparations they had been engaged in stopped with that one word.  They all turned and looked at Willow expectantly.

    Taking another deep breath, Willow looked at Dawn.  “You were right, Dawnie.  Somehow . . . someway . . . we're getting her back, sort of. If only in dreams, but maybe more. I don’t know how much more but maybe.”  Willow stopped as she finally said the words out loud.  She swallowed hard as tears threatened to overtake her.  Dawn looked like she was about to cry too.

    The group was still gaping at her blankly.  Swallowing again, she continued on.  “Terese said there was probably a rip in time, which happens a lot.  You know . . . different choices and events causing alternate timelines.  Like when my doppleganger showed up in our world.”  She began pacing as the thoughts refused to gel.  “It's kind of hard to explain.  It's like a spider-web – every choice results in a time splinter.  Hundreds of choices, zillions of realities, all of them unaware of the others.  They're not supposed to overlap, uh, connect.  But, for some reason, now these two are.”  She stopped pacing and looked at the gang.  Shaking her head, she continued.  “All I can figure is that when Warren killed Tara in this world . . . maybe the bullet hit me in that one because, in my dream, Tara was saying that I was dead. I don’t know, though, maybe I was hit by a bus or killed by The First or something, but Tara definitely said that I was dead.”

    “But . . . that doesn't explain . . . how . . . what . . . why . . . I mean . . . ”  Dawn's babbling seemed to give voice to the group.

    “Also, none of you guys were there, but she’s living in Buffy’s house in Sunnydale with Angel. I think maybe we were all….” Willow trailed off, figuring that they could put the pieces together.

    No one said a word but glances were exchanged between all of them.

    Willow continued, “Terese said Tara's spirit is fading from this reality's spirit world.  She said that the closer we get to getting Tara back,” she took a deep breath and continued, “I mean, the more contact that I have with the other Tara, the more it fades.  It has something to do with Tara's spirit.  In this reality, Tara is dead and her spirit is in the spirit world.  In the other reality, Tara's spirit is still within her… um, of course.  When she crosses into this reality, it would cause two Tara souls in one plane of existence and the universe won't allow that.”  Willow thought for a moment.  “For some reason someone or something is helping Tara's SOS cross the planes to reach me.  Terese said I'll have what I need when the time is right.  Terese also said there was a second spirit – shadowy – attached to Tara's.  Terese couldn't find out whose spirit it was, though.”  Willow looked at Buffy, not wanting to get her friend's hopes up but unable to shake the feeling that she knew who the second spirit was.  “Buffy, I keep feeling like the second spirit is Angel.  With my dream of Angel being with Tara, I think they're together.”  Willow watched the emotions play across Buffy's face as her friend slowly nodded.  Willow could imagine that Buffy was feeling a lot of the same things she, herself, was.  She looked back at the group and brought the topic back around.  “But first we need to take care of the demon problem.

    “We really get her back?”  Dawn asked, her face full of hope.  “Really?”

    Willow nodded.  “If  Terese is right, and she usually is, then yeah, Dawnie,” she looked at the hope in Dawn's face and felt the tears welling up and spilling down her own face.  “We get her back.  For real. Maybe,”  she finished quietly

    Xander did his Captain Obvious routine with a confused expression on his face, “But it’s not our Tara. It’s that Tara. Does that make sense?”

    Buffy quashed the thought, “It’s Tara.”

    “But split personalities, different experiences. I mean two years in another dimension with a different reality and… you know … is a long time to ….” He sighed in frustration and held his hand up when the others started protesting. “Will, I’m not trying to rain on your parade here, but it’s not like it’s The Lost Weekend. It’s another dimension. It’s a different person… uh… mostly,” he finished lamely.

    “It’s Tara,” repeated Dawn firmly, “and Angel. It’s them and they need us. We love them and they deserve our help.”

    Willow spoke softly but with no less passion, “Xander, it is Tara. The Tara we know from two years ago, but it’s still Tara. It’s like… it’s like she was shot and instead of being dead, she went to France or something with Angel. We didn’t talk to her, but she had things happen just like we had things happen. Just because she had different things than our things doesn’t mean she’s not Tara.”

    Xander stared at her, the corners of his lips twitching before he guffawed, “Went to France or something?”
 
    Everyone joined his laughter at the outrageous comparison, though for Giles, laughter really just meant a teeth-showing quirk of his mouth.

    “Alrighty then, I think I get it now. Let's solve our shapeshifty demony thing so we can bring Tara home,”  Xander said.

    They  cheered and, grabbing their sandwiches, some fruit and sodas, headed back into the library, talking excitedly.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “So where do we start?”  Xander asked as they re-entered the library.

    “Willow, if you perform a demon locater spell it could help at least narrow our search parameters.  Then we'll have a better idea of where to look.” Giles said.

    Willow nodded.  “Okay.  I'll be right back, the supplies I need are upstairs in the work room,” She said as she left the library and headed upstairs.  After double-checking the ingredients in Kaetyl's Compendium, it took her only a few moments to gather what she needed.  'Good thing I replenished my aniseed supply,' she thought, inhaling the licorice-y aroma the herb released as she ground it to a fine powder.  The heavy marble mortar and pestle had been an indulgence on her part.  She could have made do with something smaller or cheaper but she had loved the blue vein running through the greyish marble; it reminded her of Tara's eyes.  She sighed deeply as she was once more reminded of just how unfair she'd been to Kennedy; even something as simple as a tool was chosen as a reminder of Tara.  Checking the ingredients again, she put the anise in with the other herbs then rinsed the mortar and pestle, leaving them to dry.  She automatically put the rest of the anise back in its cubby then opened the drawer housing her crystals.  As she looked through the crystals, she settled on a piece of fluorite to help bring order to chaos and dumortierite for organization.  Extracting the pieces she needed, she winced as her finger scraped against a corner of the divider,  causing a small scratch to appear.  Frowning, she brought the offended finger to her mouth and sucked on it to ease the owie.  'No blood,' she thought, 'good.'  After she ground the crystals, she gathered all the materials she needed and mixed them in one bowl.  She could smell the anise and the mint and giggled as she thought about Xander drooling over the mint and licorice smells.  Once the ingredients were mixed she divided the powder into two small dishes before quickly cleaning, drying and replacing all of her tools. She mused that her mother, would probably be amused at her finally ‘growing up and turning into someone who cleans up after herself instead of leaving her tennis shoes and computer manuals on the floor . . . again.’

    As she walked back into the library, she noticed that they had cleared the war table of all books and had placed a crude map of Scooby Central and the surrounding area on top of it.  Handing one of the dishes to Giles, she told him, “On three.”  Silently praying to Thespia, she counted out three and she and Giles scattered their powders across the map.  They all looked at the map where six twinkly lights appeared.

    “Six?  Giles,” Buffy whined.  “I thought . . .”

    “Does anyone else smell jellybeans?” Xander asked.

    “Yes.  Well,” Giles said, clearing his throat.  Ignoring Xander, he addressed Buffy's question.  “We have six demons but only one is causing our problem.  The other five are seemingly harmless and apparently minding their own businesses.”  After a beat, he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head.  “Of course, they could be doing quite a bit of pillaging and we simply haven't heard about it yet,” he added wryly.

    Buffy shot him an irritated glance and said, “Okay, so which one's ours?”

    “Uh . . . guys?”  Willow interrupted, pointing at the map.  “One of the lights is at the coven.”

    The other Scoobies gaped at the map.

    “Well.  I'd say that narrows our search considerably,” Giles said.

    “Does that mean it's a witch?” Xander asked, looking confused.

    “More likely one of the shapeshifters.”  Giles answered, giving Xander an exasperated look.

    “Is there anything new at the coven?  A piece of furniture? Or maybe there's a newer member?”  Buffy asked.

    Willow looked at Giles as the niggling something thing in the back of her mind suddenly jumped to the front.  “You're not sneezing,” she said.  

    Giles looked faintly amused.  “Well, no, I'm not.  Is there a reason I should be?”

    “You didn't sneeze at the coven either.”

    “Again, no, I didn't.”

    “Uh, Houston to Captain Obvious, what are you getting at?” Xander asked.

    Willow rolled her eyes and looked at him.  “The cat.  Mr. Mouser was in the room with us.  It rubbed up against you.  Giles should have gone into a sneezing fit or maybe some itchy, watery eyes . . . something . . . ” she trailed off, looking at Giles.

    “Oh, Good Lord.  The cat.  Of course.”

    Willow thought for a moment.  “I don't remember when I first saw him but - I had been feeding him for awhile during my sunrise meditations,” she said with a guilty glance at Giles.  “Then Xander told me one of his guys had taken him to the coven.  But I don't know where it came from or even how long it had been around.  The one shapeshifterr – the one that gets stuck in the form it chooses until it's revealed or released – what's the book say?”

    Giles picked up one of the books they had set aside to make room for Willow's spell.  Setting it on the table so they all could see, he pointed to the entry.

    “Here it is.  No mug shot, obviously.  The Qnis G'tol: origin unknown.  What is known is that regret acts as a siren's call, drawing it near. Once it is called, it will maintain its natural ethereal state until,” he paused, as if trying to translate the passage.  “Until a single thought is powerful enough to cause manifestation.   The facilitation of the manifestation is decided by the single powerful thought.  I supposed it's a good thing the single powerful thought wasn't of  a tiger or something equally dangerous . . .”

    “The Stay-Puft marshmallow man!” Xander said, interrupting Giles' explanation.

    Giles glared at him before continuing.  “The demon can only be expelled once its true nature is revealed.  If the regret is resolved, the demon will leave but that rarely happens because as people get the visions of what they've lost or what they miss, the regret deepens and intensifies.  It thus creates a circle that keeps the demon strong.”

    Willow sighed.  “Me and Kennedy ending, Angel going missing last month, Dawn and Xander being all moony . . ..” Tactfully ignoring them, she kept her eyes on Giles and invited comment when he seemed lost in thought. “Giles?”

    Giles jolted then nodded.  “Right.  I have my regrets as well.  The demon was drawn to our compound because all of us were regretting something at the same time.  Not just one or two of us.  Add to that the number of members of the coven and . . .” he shook his head.

    “So that means what?  No big bad to fight? Just a simple spell and 'poof'?”  Buffy sounded almost disappointed.  “Well, that's almost no fun,” she pouted.

    “Look at it this way, Buff -  demon go 'poof', we start on project bring Tara home,” Xander said.

    Buffy brightened considerably.  “Ooohhh . . . I like this plan.  What do you need Will?”

    “Nothing, actually,” Willow answered, looking more closely at the book's information.  “I think the same spell Giles used to reveal the Hansel and Gretel demon will work to reveal this one.”

    “Okay then.  Just you two?”  Buffy asked.

    “I kinda think all of us,”  she shrugged,  “just in case it does end up having a butt that needs to be kicked.  I mean it could be one of the other shapeshifters and it just hasn't changed at all.”

    “Okay.  I'll go get weapons for me, Xander and Dawn,”  Buffy said.  “You and Giles figure out the mojo thing and then,” she grinned,  “hi-ho, hi-ho it's off to the coven we go.”

    Willow grinned back.  'Demon of the week and it's business as usual,' she thought, before turning back to Giles and asking, “So, shall we go whip up a batch of demon revealing potion?”

    He nodded.  “Dawn, Xander, would you both start clearing up in here, please? We still have another problem to research and these books and notes and what-not aren't going to be of any use at all.  Better we start with a clear table so we don't waste time looking at non-relevant texts.”

    “Sure, Giles, no problem,”  Dawn answered him.

    “You got it, G-man,” Xander added.  “Uh, I mean, Giles,” he corrected as Giles shot him a withering glare.

    Willow giggled and she, Giles and Buffy left the library in search of potions and weapons while Dawn and Xander started cleaning up.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Operation Bring Tara Home

_________________
Willow? I got so lost...
I found you...I will always find you

Willow's Promise on Myspace
Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:25 am 
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Operation: Bring Tara Home


"Well that was almost disappointing,” Buffy said, flopping into a chair at the war table.

Willow smiled. "I know what you mean.” The demon had dissipated as soon as Giles had thrown the potion and spoke the incantation. No fuss, no muss. The loss of the little cat saddened her and she would miss him. It wasn't as if he'd been trying to hurt anyone, not really, and slaying a demon that was pretty much harmless never gave her the same rush of satisfaction as slaying one that was hell-bent on eating someone. Usually her. She sat down next to Buffy, relieved that it had been so easy and anxious to start on finding a way to bring Tara home.

"Hey, anytime we face a demon and no one gets hurt it's a victory,” Xander chimed in as he sat down and tipped back in his chair.

"Besides,” Dawn added, "now we can focus on bringing Tara home.” Her face reflected her excitement at the prospect of bringing the blonde witch back to them. The grin never left her face as she grabbed the chair next to Xander and settled her lithe form into it.

Giles cleared his throat and the group looked up at him. "I think we're getting a little ahead of ourselves,” he said, beginning to pace. "While we know Tara is out there, quite probably with that dimension's version of Angel, we have no idea how or even if we can get to her.” He paused to look at the group and sighed. "I don't want to be a wet blanket, but there is much we don't know.”

"But Terese said . . .” Dawn started, her face falling in disappointment.

Willow's heart ached as she watched Dawn fight back the tears but she nodded in agreement with Giles. "Giles is right,” she said, her expression settling into her familiar 'resolve face', "we're getting her back but we need to figure out where and when she is and how to get her – or even if she wants to come here with us. This isn’t her world, really.”

"But she’s calling for help,” Dawn protested. "We’re help!”

"Well, yes, indeed,” said Giles. "The ‘if it can be done’ and ‘how to do it’ of bringing her and Angel to this dimension seems to be the main issues. The rest, I suppose, will be resolved as Willow has more communications.”

"How? What do we research?” Xander asked as he tipped forward in his chair, settling all four legs on the floor. There was an unfamiliar eagerness in his tone and in his eyes.

Willow marveled at Xander's apparent excitement over research. She couldn't remember a time when her childhood friend was excited over cracking a book.. 'Guess he liked Tara more than I thought,' she smiled to herself. Her friends really never did stop amazing her with their unwavering affection and loyalty.

"Portals. Dimensions. We can research those but the biggest obstacle is finding the right portal to open into the right dimension. We have to be certain before we do anything. Opening the wrong portal could be catastrophic. And we're not just looking for a portal to a dimension.” Giles said heading into the stacks. "We're looking for a specific portal to a specific place in a dimension of a specific alternate reality. The task before us is rather daunting,” he said with a note of caution in his voice as he looked at Willow.

She nodded, understanding the challenges that stood between them and finding Tara as they heaved a collective sigh. Giles started pulling books from their shelves and dropping them on the war table. Willow thought about what Giles had said and wondered how they were going to narrow it down. 'Think, Willow, think.' She realized forcing herself to think wasn't going to help them. She needed a clear head and some idea of what they were looking for. She looked at her friends as they started to dive into the books and remembered the book Terese had given her. Mati-Syra-Zemlya was the goddess of oaths and promises. She heard them all. Willow frowned trying to remember something and stood up suddenly as she remembered it.

"Guys, I'm gonna go upstairs to meditate.” She frowned at their puzzled faces before explaining. "Mati-Syra-Zemlya is supposed to help people keep their promises, not just remember them. Maybe she can help point us in the right direction. And, don't forget, we're probably looking for Angel and Tara. That'll make a difference when we open the portal. No point to opening a door that only has Angel or Tara behind it.”

"Excellent point and a good idea, Willow,” Giles said, nodding his approval. "Whilst it's not easy to open a portal, we will research opening one as we know it can be done in a non-malevolent manner,” he said as he placed another stack of books on the table. "We can start by researching how to access alternate realities without the aid of a demon trying to take over the world. Then, hopefully, Willow will have the answers for opening the right door.”

Dawn frowned at the mountain of books on the table. "Do we know anyone who could point us in the right direction? I mean,” she said with a glance at Xander, "we ruled out D'Hoffryn but, someone else?” She looked at her sister and Willow. "We know Angel did some dimension traveling, right?”

Buffy nodded thoughtfully. "Angel's dead or, at least, that's what we've been told. Is there anyone else? Wes, Cordelia, any of Angel's other friends?” She looked at Willow.

Willow thought for a moment then sighed. "Cordy and Fred died before Angel disappeared. Wesley and Gunn were lost when Angel was so even if they're not dead we don't know where they are.” She frowned, trying to think of anyone else they might be able to call. "Lorne disappeared around the same time the rest of them did and I can't imagine anyone at Wolfram and Hart would be eager or even willing to help us.” She shook her head and looked at the others. "Honestly? I think we know as much as anyone else at this point since, you know, we've actually opened one.”

They all nodded in acceptance of their situation. Willow headed upstairs, leaving the others to the ever-growing mountain of books on the table before them.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Willow scooped fine white sand from the large earthenware urn she kept in a corner of her room into a blue and green marbled bowl designed to allow for precise pouring. The bowl was beautiful and Willow absolutely loved it – as much for its beauty as for the fact that Terese had given it to her as a gift, telling Willow that she had chosen it because the green had brought to her mind the color of Willow's eyes. Willow smiled at the memory. Another reason she cherished the bowl was because the she had thought the blue matched the color of Tara's eyes and the way they marbled together always made Willow think of how well she and Tara had meshed together.

Grateful to finally be able to kick off her shoes, she slowed her breathing to long, deliberate breaths. She concentrated on the Truth and the traditional meaning of the pentagram: protection, creation, health and the quest for wisdom. With small steps and sure motions borne of long practice, Willow poured the sand into lines. At each angle, Willow murmured a prayer to each of the four elements represented; earth, fire, air and water. Her final connection was that of the Quintessence – the spirit. Already halfway into a deep trance, Willow closed the curtains, blocking out the sunlight. Sitting in the center of the star, she finished the pentagram by pouring sand counter-clockwise to encircle it, murmuring a quiet prayer to Hecate, asking for her blessing and protection.

Setting the bowl aside, she took several deep breaths to clear her mind of everything but the promise to Tara before beginning to pray:

"Mati-Syra-Zemlya
I come to you again in supplication
a promise remembered
yet to be kept
please help me find the path
back to my beloved.”

The images came slower this time; the crater that was Sunnydale, a doll's eye crystal, and claddagh ring were interspersed with images of Buffy, Tara and Angel. More images joined those; red, clear and blue crystals set in a bracelet, the Slayer's Scythe, a truck and a trailer, Buffy's house in Sunnydale, a portal window. As the images swirled, a pattern emerged: Buffy's house, Tara, Angel, the Sunnydale crater, Tara, Angel, a doll's eye crystal, Tara, a claddagh ring, Angel, the crystals set in a bracelet, the red crystal, a portal, the blue crystal, a portal, the white crystal, a portal, the scythe, Buffy, a portal, the Sunnydale crater, Buffy, a truck and trailer, Buffy, Angel, Tara, a portal window.

Willow roused from her meditations, closed and dismissed the circle and pentagram and again sat in the papa-san chair staring out the window. Trying to sort through what the images meant, she realized that the images had stopped once she'd recognized the pattern. Bolting to the desk, she snatched up a notebook and a pen. Quickly, she jotted down the images then sat back down to ponder their meanings. 'Well, the doll's eye is probably linked to Tara,' she thought, wondering where she was going to find one. All of Tara's things were in Sunnydale when it cratered. At least, she thought they were. Guilt washed over her as she realized for the first time that Buffy and Xander, and maybe Dawn, had probably packed up all of Tara's things in the aftermath of Willow's majick binge. Something she, as Tara's partner, lover and friend, should have done. It was just one more time when the others had had to clean up after her – as her karmic debt to them increased, so did her love for her friends. She sighed. 'Nothing to be done about it now. I wonder if Buffy still has Angel's claddagh ring?' Her mind focused on the other aspects of the vision as she thought to herself, 'Easy enough to find three crystals in red, clear and blue but what do I do with them once I have them – how do I make them into a bracelet? And why? The truck and trailer are probably the ones I saw the last time I saw Tara's Sunnyhell. The crater that was Sunnydale and Buffy and the scythe, not sure what to do with those,' she thought. She had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that it meant taking a trip none of them ever wanted to make. Willow shook her head and stood up, heading out of her room and back downstairs to see if the others had found anything helpful.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"Well,” Giles was saying as Willow walked back into the library, "without question, we can open a portal. We just have to find the right key, as it were. Willow, any luck?” he asked as the redhead walked toward the war table.

Willow nodded. "I think,” she said haltingly, "I think we need to go home.” When she finished, she looked at her friends. She was nervous, she was sure that's what her vision was telling her but she wasn't sure how the other Scoobies would take the news.

"Will?” Buffy looked puzzled.

Willow told the others about her latest meditations. "I'm not sure what all the images mean but I'm pretty sure . . .”

"The Hellmouth,” Buffy finished for her, her face falling in resignation.

Willow nodded. "The Hellmouth,” she agreed, albeit half-heartedly. She knew she was right but she wasn't happy about it.

"Uh, maybe I'm dense here but why, exactly,” Xander asked, his brow knitted into a puzzled expression.

"Yeah. I mean, we've done the research and can open the portal anywhere there's a 'hot spot'. No reason we can't find a hot spot closer to home - this home,” Dawn chimed in, also looking a bit confused.

Willow took a deep breath and tried to explain. "See, yeah, we can open a portal anywhere there's a 'hot spot' but I have a feeling we need to open the portal near the Hellmouth in Sunnydale because of the mystical properties there. I mean the Hellmouth is closed but the majick is still there and stronger than any other hot spot and we're trying to pull Tara from an alternate Sunnydale so, I think that's why, maybe, I mean . . .and, oh, plus if Tara and Angel don't want to come to England and we just 'poof' them here so you know, they can decide while we're in California and . . . ” Willow stopped, realizing she was babbling. It wasn't something she could actually explain, she just knew they had to go there. She took a deep breath and started again. "Okay, I admit, I don't know why we have to go home. I just know we do.” She looked at the floor and shuffled her feet. "It just feels right, guys.” She shrugged, looking up.

"Well, then,” Giles said, removing his glasses and cleaning them with a handkerchief, "I suggest we try to find the meanings behind these images, then find the proper portal spell. Then we can start making arrangements to go back to the Hellmouth.” He frowned as he balanced his glasses back on his nose. "We'll need to make hotel reservations and rent a car. I'll see if Andrew's back with the plane so we can take that instead of flying commercial.” He looked up at his young friends. "First things first, though. Willow, what do you make of the other images?”

Willow hesitated a moment. "I think the pattern is as important as the objects are. See, Buffy's house then Tara and Angel. I'm pretty sure Tara and Angel are living in Buffy's house in their reality, so that makes sense. Then a portal window followed by Tara and Angel again. So, again it makes sense that that's how we're getting to them. I think the doll's eye is so we can somehow link to Tara, same with the claddagh and Angel,” she frowned, biting her bottom lip, "Then I'm not sure about the crystal bracelet, the scythe and Buffy but I'm pretty sure the truck and trailer are the ones I saw the last time I saw Tara's Sunnyhell.”

Giles nodded as the others continued to look at the list. Willow sighed, knowing she had to ask about Tara's things. She needed to apologize and thank whoever had taken care of them. Clearing her throat, she felt the flush rise in her cheeks as they all looked at her. "Uh, guys, it's just that, uh . . . when I finished meditating, I was thinking about the doll's eye and how I thought maybe it was telling me to use Tara's doll's eye like I would use Angel's claddagh as a link . . . I mean, if Buffy still has Angel's claddagh . . .” she paused, unconsciously waiting for Buffy's affirmation, then continued, "but then I remembered or realized or something that, uh, Tara's stuff was all in Sunnydale when it cratered but then I, uh, well, that is . . .” she stumbled over the words before taking a deep breath and finishing in a rush. "I realized that I don't know who took care of Tara's things because I wasn't there to do it and I wanted to say I'm sorry and thanks.”

She could feel the heat in her face and couldn't look at her friends. She couldn't believe it hadn't occurred to her before now that someone else had had to take care of all of Tara's final business. A tear slipped down her cheek without warning, quickly followed by several others. She wasn't aware that anyone had moved until she felt Buffy and Xander's arms around her. She hadn't realized how badly this could hurt, hadn't realized that she had never really mourned Tara; guilt once again fought its way to the surface as she remembered how she had lost herself in learning majick and Kennedy, poor Kennedy, and the last apocalypse and had never dealt with the loss, not really. Realizing she didn't even have a picture or any remembrance of Tara caused another wave of grief to wash over her. After several moments she pulled away from her two best friends. Giles and Dawn were looking at her sympathetically.

"Sorry, gang,” she said, blowing her nose into the handkerchief Giles thoughtfully offered. She smiled wanly at him. "I'll wash it before I try giving it back, Giles.” He flushed and cleared his throat, causing Dawn to giggle. "I just, I guess I just never dealt with Tara's death. I mean, really dealt. You all had to deal with the aftermath of her death. I kind of buried myself in the majicks and Kennedy and whatever else I could. I guess it finally backed up on me.”

"It's ok, Will. We get it,” Buffy said, with a soft smile, "and, now, we're working on getting her back. So it kind of makes sense that it would all back up on you now.”

Willow nodded. "Yeah. I guess thinking about the doll's eye and knowing I don't have anything of Tara's, not even a picture, kind of shook me up.” She swallowed hard to keep the lump in her throat from burbling up and becoming a sob because that would lead to more tears and more grief and then more lumps and . . . she shook her head to stop the babble in her brain before it went from brook to stream to river in three short steps.

Giles cleared his throat and Willow looked up, catching a guilty look pass between Xander and Buffy. "What?” she asked suspiciously.

"Well, when Tara died and we packed up her room we kind of put a box of stuff aside and sent it to Giles,” Xander said, turning red with embarrassment. "We thought you might want some of her stuff but we didn't want to leave it at the house where you could just sort of stumble on it so we sent it to Giles to hang onto just in case you ever wanted it.”

Willow couldn't believe that her friends had thought about that, swallowing once again as the tears threatened to overwhelm her. She smiled warmly at Xander and Buffy, the tears shining unshed in her eyes. "You guys are the best, you know that? Thank you for thinking of that.” Turning to Giles she asked, a little afraid of the answer, "Do you still have any of it, Giles?”

He nodded. "Yes. It's actually in one of the storage bins in the basement. I never opened it so I don't know what's in it, but I'll go fetch it and we can have a look.”

"I'll go, Giles,” Dawn offered, "just tell me where it is.” Giles nodded and told Dawn where she could find the box.

"I'll come with you,” offered Xander, "that box was pretty heavy.”

Dawn's only response was a quirk of her brow and a flip of her hair as she turned to leave. No one said a word as Xander lumbered after her but a sidelong glance at her best friend confirmed that the "peep” heard when the door closed was Buffy, trying to stifle a giggle.

The rest of them reclaimed their chairs at the war table and Giles turned to the two young women still in the library. Eyebrow raised as though to quell any sort of comment, he said, "Well, we know how to open the portal and we've got a good idea of where to open it. What else do we know? What more do we still need to figure out?” He directed his questions to both young women but looked at Willow.

Willow frowned in concentration. "The crystal bracelet, Buffy and the scythe are the only things we have no idea about. Buffy? Do you still have the claddagh ring Angel gave you?”

Buffy nodded and looked thoughtful. "I think I have to go through the portal.”

Willow and Giles stared at her. Without inflection, Giles asked, "As the devil's advocate, I’ll ask, why do you think you should go through instead of Willow?”

Buffy looked at him and shrugged. "Because of the way I show up in the pattern of Will's meditation. Twice before the portal and once after the crater. The scythe is my weapon. I think I'm the one that has to go through and bring them back.” She shrugged again as if to say, 'no big, it's what I do,' but Willow knew it would be huge deal for Buffy to go back to the place that tried to kill her for seven years. Never mind that it succeeded twice.

Willow nodded in resignation. "That makes sense, Buff,” she said, unable to keep the regret out of her voice and again, Buffy just shrugged. "So the only real mystery is the crystal bracelet. We use something of Tara's and Angel's claddagh ring to 'key' the right portal, plus the right incantation. Buffy goes through the portal with the scythe and gets Angel and Tara. The three of them come back through . . .” she trailed off as she thought of something. "Wait. The truck and trailer are probably how you're coming back through the portal. I remember . . .” she closed her eyes in an effort to remember something she thought she knew about portals. "Giles, I seem to remember something about people going through a portal together not being a good thing for some reason?” She looked at the watcher and saw him frown in concentration.

Giles started sifting through the books on the table until settling on one of the smaller volumes. Flipping through it, he stopped toward the end. "Ah, yes, here it is.” He read for a moment then looked up. "I think Willow is right, you'll need the truck, at least, to come back through with Angel and Tara. When people go through a portal together, they don't necessarily end up in the same place. A metal enclosure with four sides will ensure that people going through together, stay together.”

"But I'm okay going through on foot?” Buffy asked, wrinkling her brow. "All of my parts will still be all of my parts when I go through it?” she asked as a look of concern went across her face.

"Yeah, Buff, I remember now. Wesley and I were talking about the trip he, Angel, Lorne, and Gunn took to Pylea to rescue Cordy. He said something about how they'd been worried about being separated and that was how they did it. They took Angel's car.” She nodded as the knowledge came back to her. "So you're fine going through on foot because it's just you. When you come back, though, it'll be the three of you and we want all three of you coming through together.”

"Quite right,” Giles said. "Oh, good,” he said as Dawn and Xander came back into the library.

Xander was carrying a medium sized box and had a befuddled expression on his face. Willow thought Dawn looked like the cat who swallowed the canary, 'poor birdie'. She frowned and shook her head at the non-sequitur but said nothing as Dawn slipped back into her chair. An image of Xander in a chicken costume popped into her mind. She stifled the giggle and wondered at her exhaustion level.

Giles asked, "Did you find it easily?”

Dawn nodded. "Yeah, no problem,” she said, as Xander set the box down in an empty space on the war table.

Willow looked at it with a mix of excitement and dread. "Thank you,” she whispered to Dawn and Xander.

Buffy put a hand over Willow's, smiling when Will looked at her. "It'll be fine, Will.”

Willow nodded and took a deep breath before pulling the cover off the box. Inside she found pictures of Tara and her and she lingered over them for a moment before sifting through the other items in the box; some of Tara's jewelry and clothing and quite a bit of her majick stuff; some herbs, statues and potions, the crystal ball Giles had given Tara for her twentieth birthday and there, among an assortment of other crystals, was the doll's eye. Willow again felt the tears start to fall. Taking a deep breath, she extracted the doll's eye crystal from the box. As she held it memories flooded into her mind. 'Goddess, we were so young. Everything was so new and exciting and… Goddess I miss her,' she thought, remembering the first night they'd used the crystal. It had been the first time they'd spent the night together. Tara was so sweet and shy as she had kissed Willow that first time. Willow had thought the power that had passed between them when they'd joined hands against The Gentlemen had been strong but it paled in comparison to the electricity that raced through her during that first kiss. And every kiss and every touch after that. The force of that memory made Willow feel as though she'd been punched in the stomach. She felt the blood drain from her face as her legs began to buckle and she was only vaguely aware of someone putting a chair under her as she began to sink to the floor. The roaring in her ears drowned out anything her friends may have said. She had thought she was all cried out but discovered she was wrong as sobs wracked her body. Her only thought – how could I have forgotten what that was like? She didn't want to follow that train of thought but it refused to be derailed – how could she have settled for the black and white pencil sketches that were her and Kennedy after experiencing the 3D, sixty-four bit, Technicolor world that Tara had shared with her?

Grief and guilt warred for supremacy, neither giving any quarter. She felt Xander and Buffy wrapping their arms around her and drew strength from them. Slowly the grief ebbed and the guilt loosened its grip. She drew several deep, shuddering breaths, willing herself to calm down. Giving her friends a watery smile, she held up the doll's eye. "This was what was in my meditation,” she said. "I think we're on the right track.”

Buffy looked as though she wanted to say something but Willow looked at her pleadingly, silently begging her best friend to let it go. Buffy frowned at her but said nothing, for which Willow was grateful. She was so tired, the emotional roller-coaster she'd been on all day had worn her out but they still had work to do. "So now all we need to figure out is the crystal bracelet,” she said, giving herself a mental shake and pulling herself back together. Grieving and guilt could be dealt with later. Much later.

"Well, we also need to get the right incantation and ingredients. Then we can make travel arrangement,.” Giles said then added, "I'll call and find out where the plane is.” He started leaving the library, turning back with a puzzled look to ask, "Does anyone know why we don't have a phone in the library?”

Willow giggled, releasing some of the nervous tension. "I was wondering that when Terese called earlier.” Giles just shook his head and continued out of the library. Willow then looked seriously at Buffy and Xander. "Really, guys. Thanks. For everything.” They both smiled and shrugged.

"So, how do we find out what we're doing with the crystal bracelet?” Dawn asked, breaking up the awkwardness of the moment and bringing their focus back to the task at hand.

"I don't know, Dawn.” Willow furrowed her brow and looked at the list, trying to figure out from the placement of the bracelet what it was supposed to do. "I wonder if, maybe, the crystals need to somehow be enchanted for the portal.” Willow closed her eyes and concentrated, blocking out the conversation going on around her, letting her mind drift. Three crystals set in a bracelet. The portal. Buffy. She sat still for several moments, drawing in the energies around her. She could feel Buffy, Xander and Dawn; aware of their energies without being aware of them. Her breathing grew shallow as she found her center. She had the answer: a crystal bracelet. What she needed was the question. All she was seeing, however, was a traffic signal with red, white and blue lights. Oh. Duh. After several more moments she brought herself back out of her trance, slowly becoming aware of her surroundings. They were all still sitting around the war table. Giles had returned and they were discussing the travel plans.

"Why can't I go, too?” Dawn was asking. "I'm not a child, Giles.”

"No, you're not, which is precisely why I need you to stay here. If we all go, there will be no one here to field calls from Watchers or about potentials.” He looked at Dawn, his face full of sincerity. "I need someone here I can trust, someone who knows what is being done and how. You know where all the temporary training facilities are and how to arrange the flights and necessary accommodations.” He smiled at her warmly. "I can trust you to handle whatever problems arise and I can trust you to keep Andrew in line.”

"Besides, Dawn,” Xander added, "you've been in on all the planning. You can read a blueprint. I need someone here to answer any questions the crew might have. You know what deliveries we're expecting. I know I can trust you to take care of the construction while I'm gone.” He smiled at Dawn and she flushed. Willow wasn't sure if it was embarrassment or pride but it was cute because when Dawn flushed, so did Xander.

"And you can write checks for anything that does get delivered. Face it, Dawn, you're right. You're not a child. You are everyone's second in command here at Scooby and Slayer Central.” Buffy grinned at her sister and Willow had to stifle a giggle. Buffy did have a point. Without realizing it, they had all come to rely on Dawn as 'backup girl'. She did know everything about the workings of both Scooby and Slayer Central.

"This is just all you guys' way of leaving me behind,” Dawn pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

Willow finally spoke up. "Not really. Think about it, Dawn. You're as quick with research and computer stuff as I am. You know all the finance stuff, all the construction stuff. As a matter of fact, now that I'm saying it all out loud, you should be the head of the organization.” Willow was surprised as she realized how true that was. "I mean, you can't do spells but you made up the spell database. You know what ingredients are needed for which spell and if you don't, you have quick access. Buffy's right, we may have been thinking of you as a kid, but we sure haven't treated you like one. You know everything about everything the rest of us do.” Willow looked at Dawn with newfound respect and admiration. "Wow, Dawn, you really have grown up.” Willow also knew better than to add that she was also concerned about Dawn and would feel better if the young woman was far away from whatever dangers they might encounter. As grown up as Dawn was, she still didn't need to be placed in peril unnecessarily.

"Well of course she's all grown up. I could have told you she was a big girl,” Xander said, flushing at the looks he received from the three women. "No, not like that, I mean,” he stammered. "I mean yes, she is, but dammit! I just meant she's smart and she knows what's going on. Sheesh,” he finished.

Dawn flushed but ignored Xander's rambling, instead looking back at Willow and smiling. "Wow. I guess I never thought of it like that. I figured I was just helping out where I could, trying to make myself useful. I guess I didn't realize how much about our operations I was learning. Cool.”

"All right then? We're agreed? Dawn will stay here and hold down the fort while the rest of us head out to California?” Giles asked.

"Sounds like a plan, G-man!” Xander said enthusiastically, ignoring Giles' glare.

After a moment of glaring at Xander, Giles turned his attention to Willow. "Willow, when I walked back in you were, er, not quite here. Any luck figuring out the crystals?”

Willow nodded. "Yeah. I think they need to be enchanted to let Buffy know when the portal is opening. The red will glow so she knows it's closed, the blue can let her know the portal is going to open soon and the clear will let her know it's open.” She shrugged. "I have no reason for why I assigned the colors that way but I don't think it matters. And the color scheme seems to make sense so it won't be hard to remember,” she said.

"Sounds reasonable. The plane will be available the day after tomorrow. Will you be ready then?” Giles asked.

Willow nodded. "Yeah. I'll be ready.” She gave him a wry grin. "How hard can it be? Enchant a few crystals, imbue a couple of things with essences of Angel and Tara, figure out the proper incantation and who to incant to. Piece of not-so-easy pie.”

Giles chuckled. "Well, let me know if I can do anything to help. I'll make sure everything is ready for us to leave in two days.”

"Yeah, Will, whatever you need, let us know,” Buffy said, standing up. "Are we actually done? I mean, I know we've got a – do we have a plan?”

"Yeah, Buff, the plan is for Willow and Giles to do all the work and we go get ice cream.” Xander grinned his goofy grin and they all laughed. "Seriously, Will, whatever you need,” he said, the warmth in both his eye and his smile.

"Thanks guys. Just make sure you're packed and ready to go. I'm going to go gather the supplies we're going to need and try to figure out who to pray to and what incantation I'm going to need. Buff, don't forget the scythe.”

Buffy nodded and they all headed out of the library. Willow hung back a minute and called to Dawn, "Dawn, can I talk to you for a second?”

Dawn looked puzzled but hung back. "What's up?”

Willow smiled at her young friend. "Thank you. I know how much you want to see Tara and how hard it is for you to stay behind but I really appreciate you staying so we'll all have peace of mind while we're gone. Even if she doesn't want to make her home here, I know she'll want to come see you.”

Dawn nodded, tears forming in her eyes. "I miss her, you know? I mean, of course you know but . . . bring her back, okay?” she pleaded.

Willow nodded and hugged her tightly, saying a silent prayer to whoever was listening to help bring Tara home.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next: 'twas the Day (and Night) Before

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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:31 am 
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One more rainbow to ride then it was done. One last important message she needed to pass along.

Then all that had come before would meet with all that was meant to be and everything would be set right. Destinies would be met and lives would be changed and intertwined.

She shimmered with electric excitement.

It was her last solitary rainbow.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

'twas the Day (and Night) Before


Sitting at one of the library's computers, engrossed in scribbling equations on a notepad while the computer ran a series of numbers and theories, Willow didn't hear Dawn come in and walk over to the computer center.

“Uh… Willow?” Dawn said, causing Willow to jump and scatter papers everywhere.

“I'm sorry,” Dawn apologized, hurrying to help Willow pick up the papers. “I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to see if you needed help.”

“No, it's okay. I was just a little pre-occupied.” Willow absently sorted the papers as Dawn handed them to her. She looked up, confused for a moment, as if finally actually noticing Dawn. “Did you need something?”

Dawn smiled at the clearly frazzled redhead. “I just wanted to know if I could help you with anything. You're still leaving tomorrow, right?”

“I hope so,” Willow answered as she continued to sort the papers. 'If I substitute n to the nth power,' she thought. “I'm working on algebraic equations, trying to coordinate between the physics and math to work with the majicks so I can open the right portal.” She made a few notations and frowned. “I'm just not sure I've got the right parameters. Unfortunately, science and math don't play well with majick.” She frowned again, typing a new set of variables into the computer while scribbling on one of the papers in front of her.

“Why don't you just go to SETI or one of those other 'we are not alone' sites and use their technology to help you with the math and science? I mean, then you can just adapt what you need for the majicks to work.” Dawn's face was completely serious.

Willow fixed her with a stern look. “Dawn, if I were to do that, it would be illegal so I couldn't do it and if I did do it, I would either have to not tell you or kill you, so I'm not going to do that.”

Dawn giggled. “Oh, okay. 'Cause you've never . . .”

Willow interrupted her. “Don't even finish that sentence,” she said, trying again to look stern but failing miserably when she couldn't stifle the giggle that burbled up. She shook her head. “Anyway, can you run this equation,” she said, handing Dawn one of the notebooks, “on one of the other computers, please? I'm pretty sure I'm close, I just can't work two at a time and I think I need . . .”

It was Dawn's turn to interrupt. “I get it. You need to find a math equation that complements the physics. Once that's done you can adjust for the majicks and triangulate the results to find the right coordinates for Angel and Tara.” She grinned at Willow.

Willow shook her head. “You really are scary.”

Dawn didn't say anything, her grin widening as she moved to an empty computer.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Sitting in a comfortable leather chair, Giles hung up the phone and removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers and thumb. It had been a long week . . . two weeks? He sighed wondering if things were ever going to settle down to any semblance of whatever passed for normal or if this was what normal was always going to look like for them.

Placing his glasses back on his nose, he sat staring out the window and contemplating the phone call. A knock at the door roused him from his reverie. Frowning, he called out, “Come in.”

“Giles!” Buffy scolded, a grin ruining the effect she seemed to be going for. “I could have been a vampire!”

“Yes. And if you'd gotten past the front door and the security measures we've got in place, you'd be able to walk in without knocking,” he responded absently.

“Uh-oh. What's the sitch?” she asked.

“Hmm? Oh, nothing.” he said. 'Damn,' he thought, 'now is not the time.'

“No. You don't have nothing face. You have something face plus a touch of crankiness. Spill,” Buffy persisted, settling into the matching chair across from him.

“No, honestly, it can wait until we come back. We will have to address the matter but, truly, it can wait. Did you need something?” he asked, trying to change the subject. He hadn't lied, per se. Discussions regarding the future of the Watchers' Council and the Slayer line could wait until they got back. He had just hoped that once they'd returned from retrieving Tara there would be at least a brief period without a crisis but that, apparently, was not to be. He didn't know why he was surprised – they had undertaken a huge task. Slayers empowered by Willow's spell were being found all over the world and they were still trying to find any experienced watchers who had lived through The First's onslaught of Bringers. As soon as seasoned watchers were found, they were being dispatched to points around the globe to train the slayers that had been found. They were also trying to identify potential watchers and pairing them with experienced watchers to train, often alongside the slayers in training. It seemed more like boot camp for a trial by fire.

She leaned forward and looked at him uncertainly for a moment as if debating whether or not to believe him. Much to his relief she sat back, choosing not to pursue it. She took a deep breath as if to speak, but then hesitated, causing him to look at her closely. She flushed under the scrutiny. “It's just . . . is this going to work? I mean, I'd love to get Tara back and you know how much I want Angel back but . . . ” she stopped and looked at him.

He nodded. “I understand.” He paused, not sure how to proceed. “While it is possible, very possible, that this will work, I cannot guarantee it. You're concerned about Willow.” It wasn't a question.

The Slayer nodded. “If I don't find Angel, I'll deal. I've lost him so often . . . I'm not even sure I believe he's out there with Tara.” She paused, then stood up and began pacing. “I believe Willow. I believe Tara is out there. But what if she's not? Or what if we can't find her? Is Willow going to be okay?” Her brows knit together into a worried frown. “The last time . . .” she trailed off and Giles could see the pain in his young friend's eyes.

“Well, I think Willow has come a long way and has control over both her emotions and her power.” He stood up and placed his hands on her shoulders, stopping her pacing which was making him dizzy. He looked at her soberly. “We'll talk to Willow before we leave, make sure she understands there are no guarantees. That's all we can do.” He smiled briefly as she wrapped her arms around him in tight hug that was just shy of slayer strength.

“Thanks, Giles,” she said, breaking away. “Losing Angel, I can handle. I don't want to even think about losing Willow,” she said quietly, brushing away the threat of a stray tear.

He smiled. “We won't,” he reassured her, forcibly quieting his own fears that they would, indeed, lose Willow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Xander walked into the library just in time to hear Dawn's excited squeal.

“Willow! I think this'll work. Here, check it against yours.”

Xander watched as the brunette and the redhead put their heads together, completely oblivious to his presence. He had come looking for Dawn, hoping the two of them could talk before he left with Buffy, Willow and Giles tomorrow.

“Dawnie! You did it! This should totally work!” The excited young witch stood up and grabbed Dawn in an enthusiastic hug. “I'm going to go upstairs and triangulate these parameters with the majicks to find the third vector,” she said as she gathered up the notes she needed. She turned around and, with a startled “eep!” ran into Xander who was too distracted by Dawn to notice.

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly as he flushed. “Zoned for a sec. What's with the happy?” he asked.

“Dawn helped me solve part of the equation I need to find Tara and Angel. See, I was counting N as Q to the fourth power but Dawnie figured out that in order for it to work with the . . .”

Xander felt his eyes cross and the beginning of the familiar headache that had dogged him through high school. While he had a better understanding of math, unless it was construction related, he was still pretty clueless. “Will,” he interrupted, putting his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “I didn't get it in high school, still not getting it. I'm gonna go with . . . Dawn found the 'y' in your 'x,y,z' and that's why the happy. I honestly don't need to understand.” He smiled his lopsided grin at his oldest friend.

She laughed and kissed his cheek. “Fair enough. I'm headed upstairs to find 'z',” she said, leaving Xander alone with Dawn, who had turned back to the table and started clearing up what Willow had left sitting there in her hurry to find the solution.

Xander watched the pretty brunette for a moment, enjoying both the view and the warm, fuzzy, hot and sweaty feelings she evoked. When she finally turned around, she was smiling at him as though she knew exactly what he'd been thinking.

“What's up?” she asked with a faint challenge in the tilt of her head.

He grinned again. “I was hoping we'd have a chance to talk before I leave tomorrow.”

“Sure,” she said, her smile fading.

“Let's sit down.” Taking her hand, he led her to the couch.

As they sat down, she said, “Xander, if you're going to tell me you made a mistake . . .” she said softly, looking at him uncertainly.

He chuckled. “No, honey,” he said gently, taking her hands in his. Looking into her eyes, he smiled warmly. “I love you. I told you we'd talk after we took care of our demon but then, with Tara . . .” he trailed off.

Nodding, she asked hopefully, “Yeah. I know. When you get back?”

“Here's the thing, Dawn,” he said hoarsely and dropped his gaze.

“Xander,” she said gently. “Look at me.”

He looked up at her, his good eye misting over with unshed tears. “I've given this a lot of thought. Especially with what Willow’s going to try to do to get Tara back. I know you love me and I want to be with you,” he hesitated.

“You have 'but' face,” she said, narrowing her eyes, causing her brows to furrow.

“Yeah. BUT . . . I need to do this right. Slow. You are only eighteen, and just barely that,” he held up a hand to forestall her argument. “I'm not saying you don't love me or you don't know what you want. What I am saying is, I don't want you looking back in five or eight or ten years and regretting all the things you didn't do. I talked to Willow and Buffy . . .”

“Wait. You WHAT?” Dawn's face flushed with anger as she started yelling at him. “You talked to Willow and Buffy about US?”

“Dawn, honey, wait . . .” Xander realized his mistake and tried to correct it but Dawn was on a roll.

“Don't you 'Dawn, honey' me, Alexander Harris. What? Did they give you permission? Is that,” she faltered, “is that why you told me you loved me? Because they said it was okay?” She ducked her head but not before Xander saw the tears spilling from those beautiful blue eyes and trailing down her pretty face. He waited a moment then, gently and tentatively, cupped her face, brushing the tears away with his thumbs.

Tilting her face up so she was looking him in the eye, he softly said, “I had already told you I loved you before they asked me what my intentions toward you were.” He smiled at her, not releasing her face. “I had already told you we'd talk before I talked to them. They both pointed out how stupid I was for suggesting you date other guys. They made me face a lot of stuff.” He dropped his hands to his lap and lowered his gaze. Taking a deep breath to clear his head, he thought about what he wanted to say. “I need to do this right, Dawn. I really screwed up with Anya. I don't want to make the same mistakes with you.” He looked back up at her. “I want you to be sure of yourself, of your place in the world apart from me. You want to stay here and be 'Watcher Junior' or second-in-command or whatever – that's great. But if you wanna go to school or travel, that's great too. We have time, Dawnie. I want us to be together but, at eighteen, you're not the same person you will be at twenty-two or twenty-eight.” He smiled at her. “Make your choices knowing that I'll be here and I'll wait for you.” His smiled transformed into his lopsided grin. “Of course, I'd be happier if you didn't date anyone else.”

She grinned back and launched herself into his arms, kissing all over his face before looking into his eyes and quietly saying, “I love you, Xander Harris.” Leaning in, she brought her lips to his and kissed him softly.

Xander felt the kiss shoot through every cell in his body. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her further onto his lap and deepened the kiss. He couldn't believe this amazing woman loved him. He felt the clichéd moment of peace as he let himself get carried away by the moment.

“Uh, you two wanna maybe think about getting a room?” Buffy asked, coming around the corner of the computer island.

Xander broke off the kiss and blushed at the sparkle of mischief in his friend's eye. “Uh, hi Buff,” he said.

Buffy grinned. “I was looking for Willow,” she said, arms crossing her chest, eyebrow arched.

“She went upstairs to work out the rest of the equation,” Dawn said and Xander noticed that she was as flushed as he was. “We worked out the math and physics so she just needed to triangulate with the majicks so . . .”

Buffy held up a hand, interrupting Dawn. “I don't need to know the what and the why, just the where and the when. You two – as you were – preferably not where I can see it and I'd look into a room if you intend to carry on.” With, that she turned on her heel and headed out of the library.

Xander looked at Dawn. “Hey, the lady said. . .” Dawn's lips cut off the end of his sentence.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Buffy chuckled to herself as she left the library, heading upstairs to find Willow. She wanted to try and get a handle on where her best friend was emotionally and she suspected this was going to be a long night. It almost felt like Christmas Eve. She was nervous – would this work? If it did, would Angel be there? She tried to sort through what she was feeling but all she came up with was numb with a side of nervous. She'd been training but not nearly as hard as she used to and part of the nervous was because she wondered if she was in good enough form to take out an uber-vamp or three. Part of her wished Faith was here. Two slayers going through the portal would make this a lot less nervewracking. She shook her head at how absurd that thought would have been just over a year ago. Funny how things change.

Reaching Willow's door, she gently knocked, startled when Willow popped up behind her.

“Looking for me?” Willow grinned.

“Geez! Where'd you come from?”

Willow pointed behind her. “Workshop. I heard you knock.”

“Ah, gotcha. So how goes the window opening? Dawn said . . . uh, something. All I understood were the words ‘math’ and ‘physics’.”

Willow's grin widened and she chuckled at her friend while pulling Buffy into the workshop.

Buffy had never seen the majick area in such disarray. There were herbs, potions, bottles and bags everywhere.

“Okay, so, Dawn and I were in the library and she helped me see that I was. . .” Buffy gently put her hand over Willow's mouth to stop the babble she could tell Will was headed for.

“Dawn already tried to explain. I really don't need specifics.” The Slayer grinned. “Are we a go?” she asked.

Willow frowned for a moment. “Yes and no. See, I've figured out where and when they are but I don't have a conduit so I need to get one from The Supply Guys.” Buffy always giggled at the name of the majick store where Willow got all her supplies. Willow grinned at her and continued, “I called them and Serita said she had a kraken's tooth, which will work but I wanna check in L.A. when we get there because I'd rather use skin of draconis if I can find one because, hey, dragon versus big squid, but the kraken's tooth will work if I can’t get skin of draconis. I'd just really prefer the skin of draconis.”

Buffy looked at her best friend. Nothing in the world quite like Willow babble.

“So, anyway,” Willow continued without missing a beat. “That's the first problem and it's not really a problem and the second problem might not be a problem either. We're not really messing with a time thing but we need an exchange. Like when you went to the Shadowmen and the demon came through. But then you were going to a when you never were. This time when you go it'll be to a when you were but now you're not so I think the soul that was you will cross planes when you go through. A Buffy for a Buffy, see? Then when you come back with Tara and Angel, you of then will go back like Tara of now will switch over and does that make sense?”

Buffy blinked the blink of 'Do I lie and tell her yes so she doesn't try to explain it again?'. That was quite the babble, even for Willow. “Okay, wait. I kind of get it, I think. But, do I need to get it? I can go and come back, right?”

“Yeah. If I'm right, then no problem.”

“And if you're wrong?” Buffy asked, raising her eyebrows.

“Then me, Xander and Giles will have a demon to kill.” Willow shrugged and averted her gaze from Buffy's.

“Willow . . . ” Buffy warned.

“No, Buffy, really. I'm pretty sure I'm right about this.” Willow still wouldn't meet her gaze.

“How sure?” Buffy asked suspiciously.

“Ninety-eight percent, plus or minus two.” Willow looked at her friend and grinned.

“Okay. We're going to talk to Giles and see if you can't get if from ninety-eight plus or minus two up to ninety-nine plus or minus one.” Buffy shook her head. At least the odds weren't any worse than that. She grinned and turned to leave but Will's voice called her back.

“Buffy?” Willow had turned back to the cabinets, putting some things away, some in a small satchel.

“Yeah?”

“Um, you were looking for me?” she asked, too pre-occupied with her ingredient gathering to look up as Buffy came back into the room.

'Duh,' Buffy thought, “yeah. I just kinda wanted to talk to you,” she said, this time averting her gaze from Willow's as the redhead, apparently recognizing something in her friend's tone, turned around to face her.

“What?” Willow sounded worried.

The Slayer lifted her eyes and looked at her best friend for a long moment before saying anything. Buffy could tell by the way Willow was looking at her that Willow was reading her. Smiling slightly, Willow reached out and took Buffy's hand. “It's okay. Just talk to me.”

The blonde took a deep breath. “Willow, I want Tara back but . . . ”she shook her head, unable to say it.

“What if I'm wrong?” Willow softly finished the thought for her.

Buffy nodded. “You going to be okay?” Buffy's voice cracked with emotion. “I can't lose you.”

Willow smiled softly. “You won't. If I'm wrong, I won't really have lost anything real. I lost Tara a long time ago. Not getting her back doesn't change that. I'll be fine. I promise.”

Buffy smiled. She could feel her friend's strength where their hands touched. Willow would be okay. Dawn, on the other hand. . . “Oh my God!”

“What?” Willow jumped back, looking bewildered.

Buffy's face split into a wide grin. “I think Xander took our advice,” she laughed. “I walked into the library and there were some major smoochies. And, as much as I love Xander and I really am okay with him and Dawn, if I never see his tongue down her throat again, I will die happy.” She made a face at the memory.

Willow laughed and Buffy realized it had been a long time since she had seen Willow look so calm and carefree. She hoped it wouldn't be long before that was a more often kind of thing.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


After a light supper, they all gathered around the war table in the library to go over all the final arrangements.

“Right, then. Willow, do you have everything you need for the portal spell?” Giles asked the very twitchy redhead.

“What?” She jumped at the sound of his voice. “Oh, uh, yeah. I went to The Supply Guys and got a kraken's tooth to use as a conduit. I'd prefer skin of draconis but they were out so I thought I'd check in L.A. for the skin but I didn't want to get there and not have anything and then have to settle for something less than even kraken's tooth. Better safe than sorry, right?” she finished, her face flushed. She knew her babbling had become epic in the past twenty-four hours but she felt like she was going to jump out of her skin. 'I guess the energy needs to go somewhere,' she thought.

“Okay, you haven't been into the coffee again, have you?” Buffy asked, a smile quirked at the corner of her mouth.

Willow whimpered, on the verge of tears and not trusting her voice. Buffy jumped up and crossed over to the young witch, kneeling at the side of her chair and wrapping her arms around the redhead. Willow leaned into Buffy's hug, grateful for the support.

“I'm sorry. I know this has to be hard for you,” Buffy said gently in her ear.

Willow just nodded in response, taking several deep breaths to regain control of herself. After a moment, she pulled back and smiled apologetically.

“I'm okay. Just a little, uh . . .”

“Wound?” Buffy finished for her.

“Yeah.” Willow nodded in acknowledgment, a small grin on her face.

Buffy grinned and stood up, opting to sit next to Willow instead of returning to her original seat and held onto Willow's hand for continued support.

Willow smiled and felt some of her nerves quiet down. Buffy's gesture reminded her that she wasn't doing this alone.

“Right, then,” Giles interjected, breaking the awkwardness of the moment. “Willow, I trust you've done the math and correlated with the physics then triangulated with the majicks using the claddagh and doll's eye as focusing agents to home in on Angel and Tara?”

Willow nodded, equations, figures, incantations, gods, goddesses, and ingredients still rattling around in her brain. She wondered if she'd missed anything, what if she'd made a mistake in the calculations and Buffy went to the wrong world? What if Buffy got lost? What if Angel was Angelus and Tara was a vampire? What if . . .

“Uh, Will, you said something about an exchange?” Buffy reminded her gently, interrupting her flow of 'what ifs'.

“Oh, right. See, remember when we sent Buffy to the Shadowmen? Well,” Willow felt Buffy lightly, 'well, lightly for Buffy,' squeeze her hand, cutting her off before the redhead was able to enter full babble mode. She took a deep breath and refocused her thoughts before continuing. “Okay, majick works off physics and conservation of energies.” She paused, waiting to make sure that Giles, at least, was following. He nodded his understanding so she went on. “There's got to be an exchange, Buffy goes there, 'something' comes here.” Again, Giles nodded at her pause and she went on. “I'm pretty sure that when Buffy goes through the portal, her soul of there and then will come here and now in exchange. Then, when she, Angel and Tara come back across, their three souls I mean, the two of Tara and Angel’s that are dead here and Buffy who’s dead there and motelling here while she’s there, will all cross over to that plane – or back to that plane, as the case may be.” She finished up with a look at Giles.

Giles nodded thoughtfully. “Logical assumption. Xander and I will be armed, just in case, but I think it's safe to assume that's exactly what will occur.”

“But,” Dawn said, looking puzzled, “the last time, when Buffy went to the Shadowmen, we got a demon in exchange.” She looked worriedly at Xander.

“Yeah,” Willow said, “but that was different because she went to a time and place that a Buffy never lived in.” Willow stopped, trying to find the best way to explain this. “We can't create or destroy anything, all we can do is transfer stuff - either physical stuff or energy. But it all has to balance. there has to be the same amount of... stuff, in any given place at any given time. Buffy never existed in the time of the Shadowmen – she went there and that added something to that time and place, so that time and place needed to subtract something to balance it out. They sent the demon.”

“Oh, I get it,” Dawn interrupted. “If our theories are right, then Buffy is going somewhere she existed at some point. Like with what you said about Tara only in reverse.”

Willow grinned and nodded at the bright young woman. “Exactly, Dawn. Xander, Buff – you follow?”

Buffy and Xander just looked at each other. “Do we need to follow?” Buffy asked. “I mean, can't Pinky just accept that The Brain knows what he's doing?”

“Narf!” Xander chimed in, causing the four young people to burst out laughing while Giles looked completely baffled.

As their laughter subsided, Buffy looked sheepishly at Giles. “Sorry, Giles, pop culture reference. But look, we're all a little less uptight. Well, except you.” She grinned at the watcher.

“Yes, well.” He frowned a moment before letting whatever he was thinking go. “So, then, Willow is ready. Is the car all packed up?” They all nodded their affirmatives. The car had gotten packed up before dinner.

“Dawn, you'll be taking us first thing. Here,” Giles said, handing her a sheaf of papers. “This is a complete list of our people and where they're stationed. Everything is on the computer, of course, but I thought a hard copy would be a good idea. There's also a list of our facilities and where there are vacancies should any new slayers be discovered. Contacts at each location are also listed.”

Dawn looked at him like he was insane. She’d been the one to input all of the data in the first place. She could retrieve it at any time – and wouldn’t need to bother with paper. However, she said nothing and took the pile with a smile and almost silent chuckle.

“And here,” Xander picked up the thread when Giles finished. Sliding a folder to Dawn he told her, “This is a list of deliveries we're expecting. There's a list of the crews and what should be accomplished each day. Tony'll be here at seven every morning to check in with you. He'll go over what's done, what needs to be done, if they need you to order anything. He'll assign the guys and if you need anything, just ask him. I trust him and he knows you're the go-to person while I'm away. If there are any problems with the construction, he knows you know the blueprints and he respects you. You shouldn't have any problems with any of the guys. If you do, tell me when I get back – they’ll be toast.” He smiled at Dawn who nodded and leafed through what he had handed her.

“Any deliveries that come C.O.D., just double check against the list. You know the companies we deal with and how to write the checks out,” Willow said with a soft smile at Dawn. She again thought about how grown up the young woman had become. “Oh, and if anything comes not C.O.D. and not in an Amazon box, call Terese for a possible exorcism before you open it.” When Dawn stared at her, Willow shrugged and muttered something about ordering the Firefly DVDs but not knowing when they’d show on the slow boat.

“Is that everything, guys? Are we actually ready?” Buffy asked, sounding incredulous.

“I think we're as ready as we'll ever be,” Willow answered, realizing that, though that was true, it did nothing to untie the knots in her stomach.

“Then, as pointless as it is, we should try and get some sleep,” Buffy suggested.

“Agreed. If there's nothing else, I suggest we all try to get some rest tonight. We'll leave at five tomorrow morning,” Giles said.

They all grumbled but nodded, stood up, and headed out of the library and up to bed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


As they reached the landing, Buffy turned to Willow. “Will, you want us to stay with you tonight?” she asked, not sure if her friend needed company or solitude.

Willow shook her head. “Not tonight.”

Buffy nodded as they walked down the hallway toward the bedrooms. They reached their turn off and Buffy turned to hug her sister. “I'm so proud of you, Dawn. Thank you,” she whispered. Dawn hugged her a little tighter and smiled as they pulled away.

“See you in the morning,” Dawn said, as Willow and Giles each hugged her goodnight.

“I'm gonna walk Dawn down to her room,” Xander said, not looking Buffy in the eye.

Buffy raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. Dawn's room was down the main hall, not down the secondary hall where theirs were, but it was only two doors away from where they were standing. Dawn blushed and Buffy stifled a smile, and took Willow's hand as she, Willow and Giles continued to their own rooms. Buffy walked past her room and stopped at Willow's next door.

Giles smiled warmly at the both girls. “Do try and get some rest, Willow,” he said, hugging her briefly before turning to Buffy and hugging her goodnight as well. “I'll see you both in the morning.” He smiled again before heading down the hall to his own room.

“Coming in, Buffy?” Willow grinned at her best friend and Buffy knew she hadn't fooled Willow at all.

“Busted. Yeah, I just wanna make sure you're settled and all tucked in before I go to bed,” she said, smiling.

They went into Willow's room and Buffy sat cross-legged on the bed while Will went into the bathroom, emerging a few minutes later, her face scrubbed and looking adorable in her favorite footie pajamas. She smiled at the redhead who came and joined her on the bed. “How ya doin’?”

“You mean other than scared that this won't work, terrified it will work and absolutely petrified that if it works and we get Tara back she won't want anything to do with me?”

“Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that.” Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head. Only Will.

“Peachy with a side of keen.” Willow smiled wanly.

“It's going to be okay, Will. There's no way it can't be okay.” Buffy shook her head. “It's just too amazing – you two finding each other again. It's got to be okay.”

“A lot's changed, Buffy,” Willow said softly.

Buffy looked at her best friend of over eight years. Yes, she had changed a lot from the shy, awkward geek she'd been when Buffy met her. In some ways, though, she hadn't changed at all. “Yeah, stuff's changed but you're still you. I said it before, I'll say it again; once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen.” Buffy was rewarded with one of Willow's half smiles.

“Thanks, Buff,” she said.

“That's what I'm here for. Now, get under the covers and I'll tuck you in all snuggly. I'll leave our connecting doors open – you need me, you holler.”

Willow giggled and nodded, scrambling under the covers as Buffy got off the bed. The Slayer pulled the covers up to Willow's chin, kissed her lightly on the forehead and whispered, “Sweet dreams, Will. It's all gonna be okay.” She then headed into her own room.

After a quick shower she peeked into Willow's room. The redhead had her eyes closed but Buffy was pretty sure she was faking sleep. Climbing into bed and turning out the light Buffy lay awake, listening for Willow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Xander was surprised when Buffy didn't say anything about his walking Dawn to her room. Grateful, to be sure, just surprised. He shyly took Dawn's hand as they continued down the hall. When they reached her door, he looked at her and said softly, “I didn't think to say this before but, thank you. It means a lot to me that you're willing to stay behind so I can go with Willow and help with this.” He was rewarded with a heart-stopping smile.

“You're welcome. I'm not the same jealous little kid I was, you know,” she said playfully.

“I know.” He smiled down at her. “I'm going to miss you and I'm looking forward to us being able to really talk when I get back. I love you, Dawn.” He leaned in and kissed her softly. “Sleep well and I'll see you in the morning.”

She smiled shyly. “I love you. Get some rest.”

That smile made his insides go all quivery and he didn't bother resisting the urge to kiss her again. He held her tightly to him and kissed her deeply, his tongue probing her sweet mouth. She held him tightly and moaned against his mouth, her tongue caressing his. When they finally broke apart, they clung to each other, breathing heavily.

“I, uh, gotta go. Now. Now would be good,” he said, unable to form a coherent thought.

She took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah. Now would definitely be of the good.”

He let go and beamed at her, then nodded, turned and headed back down the hall in a Dawn induced haze. He heard the shower on in Buffy's room as he passed by and Willow's door was closed. 'Guess she did want to be alone tonight.' He thought as he entered his room and turned on the light. He considered for a moment then walked over to the connecting doors. Opening them up, he checked in on Willow who was sound asleep. Well, she looked sound asleep anyway. Nodding to himself he went and got ready for bed, leaving the doors open so he could hear Willow if she needed anything.

He climbed into bed and lay there for a long while thinking about stuff; Willow, Tara, the construction site, how far he'd come and how much he'd accomplished. Mostly, though, he thought about Dawn and how lucky he was that she was part of his life. And how lucky he was he had friends like Willow and Buffy to help him smarten up before he lost his chance with Dawn. A smile crept across his face as he started to drift off into a light sleep. He was a very lucky man, indeed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Willow heard the shower turn on in Buffy's room moments after she'd left. The young witch lay there quietly, knowing she probably wasn't going to sleep tonight. Too much excitement, too many nerves and far too much noise in her head. Oz used to be able to calm the noise. Tara could too. Kennedy made her forget it briefly, but never really quieted it. Tara. She was going to see Tara again. She knew it, could feel it. How could she sleep knowing that? She heard the connecting doors between her room and Xander's opening and closed her eyes, feigning sleep. She breathed steadily, deep and slow, until she felt Xander leave. Looking over toward his room, she noticed he'd left the doors open, just as Buffy had. She sighed. She appreciated her friends, she really did, but she needed to be alone tonight. She wanted to sleep, wanted to see if she could talk to Tara again, let her know they were on their way. The shower in Buffy's room turned off and Willow once again pretended to sleep. She heard as Buffy hesitated on her side of the open door and Willow was pretty sure she hadn't fooled her for a moment. Trying to relax, Willow stayed in bed long after she heard Buffy start snoring.

She was finally truly alone. Quietly, she got up from the bed and walked over to the closet. She silently cast a muted fairy light spell and opened Tara's box. Looking through it, she found what she was looking for . . . the sweater. The one she'd been wearing when Oz wolfed out. Willow held it to her face and could smell Tara's scent mingled with her own, even though she knew it was just her imagination. She put the box back and extinguished the fairy light spell. She silently padded across the room and curled up in her papa-san chair, cuddling the sweater against her cheek like a baby blanket. Staring out at the darkness, she began to drift off, thinking about Tara and the possibility of them finally realizing their dream of forever.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


“Juno, Goddess of the Moon,
please protect me
in this darkest time
in my season of need.
Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow
Messenger of women,
I beseech thee
allow my cry to be heard
Juno, Guardian of Women
I seek your protection
Iris please fly
on your wings of gold
please allow my plight
to be told”

'I fell asleep?' Willow was surprised. She didn't think she'd be able to but here she was, with Tara. She had a chance. “Tara?” she said softly, not wanting to spook the blonde witch.

Tara opened her eyes, looking resigned. “You. Why are you doing this?” Tara spoke without emotion.

“Tara, I'm trying to help. You're praying to Iris and somehow, she's getting me the message,” Willow spoke gently, hoping to convince Tara to trust her. “We're coming Tara, tomorrow or the next day. Buffy's going to come get you. And Angel if he's with you. I'm a little fuzzy on the details of you and Angel but if you're together, Buffy's coming to bring you home. If it's just you, Buffy's going to bring you home.”

A tear slipped down Tara's face, causing Willow's heart to constrict with the pain she was causing Tara. “I don't believe you. I'm gonna go. From now on when you show up, I'm just gonna go.” Tara closed her eyes.

“Wait. Tara, wait, let me ask one question, then if you don't believe me, I'll try not to come back,” Willow pleaded, struck by sudden inspiration.

Tara opened her eyes and looked at Willow warily. “One question,” she allowed suspiciously.

Taking a deep breath and mentally crossing her fingers, Willow looked directly at Tara and asked, in all seriousness, “Does the short, uncomfortable man watch the moose take his sponge bath while nibbling on the big pineapple?” Willow held her breath waiting for Tara's response.

Tara stared at her. “Wh-what?”

“Does the short, uncomfortable man watch the moose take his sponge bath while nibbling on the big pineapple?” Willow repeated, a soft smile playing at the corner of her lips. Tara was starting to believe. Willow could feel it.

“W-willow? Is-is it really you?” Tara whispered, never taking her eyes off the redhead.

“Yeah, baby. It's really me,” Willow said just as quietly. “Buffy is coming. She's coming to bring you back to us . . . to me. One day, maybe two. I'm not sure how the time is matching up. Hang in there, baby, it won't be much longer.” Relief flooded through Willow as she realized this was really happening and she had finally broken through to Tara. “Soon, Tara. I'll see you soon.”

Tara just nodded, then faded away, as Willow woke up. All of the stress finally overwhelmed her and she began sobbing. It was barely a moment when she felt Buffy and Xander come into the room. Buffy crawled into the papa-san with her, wrapping her arms around the sobbing redhead while Xander pulled the ottoman close, leaning in and lending his support. The three of them sat there in silence, not moving or speaking until the first hints of daylight crept over the horizon. It was time to go bring Tara home.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Begin Journey's End

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I found you...I will always find you

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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:36 am 
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Begin Journey's End


The trip to the airfield was made in silence. Each traveler still groggy and lost in his or her own thoughts. They said goodbye to Dawn and boarded the plane, settling in for the long flight to California. Once airborne, Willow broke the silence.

“Uh, guys? I just, I wanna say thanks but that doesn't even really begin to say how much I appreciate you doing this with me. I know it might be a wild goose chase but it means a lot that you're chasing with me.”

“Will, you'd do it for us,” Buffy said.

“Anything for our Willow,” Xander added.

Giles simply smiled warmly at the redhead, nodding slightly.

“There is something, totally unrelated, that I think we need to talk about,” she said. She'd been sort of thinking about this for awhile but realized, when they figured out Dawn was the 'second-in-command', they were going to need a more structured way of doing things.

“What's up, Will?” Buffy asked.

Willow frowned for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I was thinking about Dawn and our operations and everything.” She looked at Giles before continuing, “I think when we get back, we should have a sort of 'board of directors' meeting. The four of us and Dawn. We're doing okay but I think we're going to need more help soon. We're all relying on Dawnie for everything. And, I think, part of what made Buffy such a successful Slayer was, well, us. The 'Scooby Gang',” she looked at Buffy who nodded in agreement. “I think maybe we should try making this more, uh, businesslike? You know, two or three slayers get one watcher, and two or three civilian assistants for research, carpentry,” she grinned at Xander, “weapon maintenance and creation. Stuff like that. Maybe we can work with the coven and train witches to help in the areas with more demonic activity. I don't want to split us up, we're a good team. But we can all maybe train other us-es? Match slayers and watchers up then let them 'recruit' their own civilians who can come to England and train with us? I don't know, I was just thinking about Dawn and how much work she does and all these other thoughts came up. We really need someone in charge. Giles is busy with Watcher stuff, Xander's in the construction stuff, Buffy'll be working with the new slayers. We need a coordinator. I think that's Dawn. She may need to take some classes, business management or whatever. . .” Willow finally wound down and looked at the group.

Giles was nodding thoughtfully, Buffy and Xander were smiling and nodding in agreement.

“Sounds like a good idea, Will,” Buffy said, “I think you're right, a meeting of the minds when we get back is definitely a good idea. ”

“I'm with you guys. I think slayers would be better off in teams of two or three and definitely their own Scooby Gang would be helpful,” Xander said. “I think you're right about Dawn and not just because I wanna keep her around. I think she would make a good coordinator or whatever. You weren't wrong, Will. She does know all of our jobs and stuff.”

Giles hadn't said anything, just nodded and listened as the others talked. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, “I think you're right Willow. We need to become more businesslike. I was thinking we need to incorporate. Buffy, you remember that 'nothing' we were going to have to talk about when we got back?” Off Buffy's nod, he continued. “Well, one of the watchers in Cleveland was injured.” He held up his hand, forestalling their questions. “No, not badly. He did need medical care though. I told Robin to send all the pertinent information to my attention so we can take care of the bill. But we may want to look into making this a business. Salaries, health insurance, retirement funds – erm, well, for those who need them and the like. Again, this can all wait until we get back but since Willow brought the subject up, it dovetailed nicely into what I was going to have to talk to the group about. For now, though, I suggest we focus on the mission at hand and shelve this discussion until we return home.”

They all nodded in agreement and the conversation lapsed, each of them lost in their own thoughts for the rest of the journey.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The rest of their journey was uneventful. They landed in a small airfield outside of Los Angeles and, after stopping into a small majick shop in L.A. and procuring the skin of draconis, they took a car to a private hotel about two hours from what used to be Sunnydale.

Checking in, they rented four rooms; Giles would have his own room but it was uncertain what arrangements would be agreeable to the other five occupants. Willow assumed she and Buffy would share a room with Xander while Tara and Angel each had their own room. Of course, maybe Tara would be more comfortable sharing a room with Angel. Unless Angel and Buffy wanted to share a room. Then maybe Tara would have her own room while Xander shared his with Willow. Willow sighed as she realized even her thoughts were babbling.

It was just past four in the afternoon and they decided to get a bite to eat then go to bed. Jet lag was not their friend and it was now just past midnight in England. They would get an early start to Sunnydale in the morning 'One more night,' Willow thought. 'I just need to get through one more night.'

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Escape From Sunnyhell

_________________
Willow? I got so lost...
I found you...I will always find you

Willow's Promise on Myspace
Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 4:15 pm 
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Hey! Just wanted to let you know I've caught up to Coven Calls. What I've read so far is really good!!!! :) I'm anxious to read Coven Calls and the chapters that follow, but I'm hooked once more in your story! Great updates!!! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:36 am 
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*whew* I was afraid I'd lost you...glad you're back and enjoying!!

_________________
Willow? I got so lost...
I found you...I will always find you

Willow's Promise on Myspace
Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:47 am 
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Thanks! :) I am enjoying it very much!!! :) I will add some feedback asap to the rest of your updates, I've just been pretty busy. :) But I'm very happy to be able to read what is happening with Buffy, Willow, Angel, Tara, Xander and Dawn and the rest! :) I was especially excited to read that Xander is wanting to talk with Dawn after it's over and pursue their relationship! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:05 am 
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Escape from Sunnyhell


They were on the road at first light. Willow knew she hadn't slept much the night before and doubted the others had either. There had been conversation when they started out but as the bustling city gave way to barren landscape, they had fallen silent. As they got closer to where Sunnydale used to be, Willow could feel the others' anxiety melding with hers, creating a fifth entity in the car. It made the roomy sedan feel like a two door compact and the two hour ride from the hotel to crater seemed interminable. Willow was surprised that not much had changed since they'd left a year ago; there was a high wire fence that seemed to be surrounding the crater but no guards posted. The fence was topped with barbed wire but someone had cut away a large section of the fencing near the bottom and there looked to be beer and wine cooler bottles littering the area. The landscape was still barren as they approached the crater, but she could feel the energy of the Hellmouth pulsating. It was as if it were a living, breathing – thing. It hadn't occurred to her before now that no one seemed to question a whole town disappearing off the face of the earth. Well, no one had questioned them, anyway.

They stopped within several feet of the hole in the fence and exploded out of the car, stretching first then moving things from the trunk into a lopsided pile not far from the edge of the abyss. Once the trunk was unloaded, Giles reached into the backseat and gathered the dozen roses he had placed there. Willow had exchanged looks with Buffy and Xander but the younger people seemed to have no clue as to what Giles was up to. Willow had mentally shrugged figuring she'd find out soon enough and, as she thought about it, roses seemed appropriate for their upcoming endeavor.

“I purchased these at the hotel's gift shop. Take a few,” he said, holding them out. Each of them took some, matching puzzled expressions on their faces as he set the remaining flowers on the hood of the car. Clearing his throat, he explained, “I thought since we were coming to where we'd left so many behind, we could make an offering or have some sort of memorial before we get underway. To honor our fallen friends and . . . fellow shopkeepers.” Giles turned pink as he hemmed and hawed in a decidedly un-Giles-like fashion. “That is, if you'd like to, erm, do that sort of thing.”

Willow was slightly taken aback by the uncharacteristic show of emotion from Giles, and it seemed from their faces that Buffy and Xander were also vaguely unsettled but all three of them nodded and the four of them approached the crater, stopping before they'd reached the edge. There was a pause as none of them seemed to know what to do until Xander, shifting his weight from hip to hip, asked in a voice that seemed too loud in the surrounding silence, “So, are we supposed to say something or do we just, uh, toss them in?”

Giles frowned as he looked at Xander. “I hadn't really planned to but, of course, you may if you'd like.”

Xander muttered an unintelligible response but didn't move to do anything with his flowers except to knock the thorns off their stems with the pad of his thumb.

Buffy took the first step forward and dropped a rose into the abyss, her face tight with emotion. She watched as the rose fell and said quietly, “I miss you, mom.” Moments later, she sent a second rose in after the first, murmuring only, “Spike.”

Xander placed a hand on Buffy's shoulder but said nothing as he stood looking down into the crater that had consumed so much of his life. His jaw clenched and he took several deep breaths before a tear finally slipped free. Trying to be surreptitious, he wiped it away as he took another deep breath and cleared his throat. “Thanks for everything, Ahn,” he whispered.

Giles was the next to step up. Extracting his first rose, he gently tossed it over the edge. “For Jenny,” was all he said before looking down at the rest of the flowers in his hand. He frowned and shuffled his feet uncomfortably before sending them tumbling into the crater with a murmured, “and for everyone else in the blighted town.”

Willow stared down into the hole, unmoving for several moments before she sat down on the uneven ground, lost in her memories of the place. She sat there for several minutes, undisturbed by the others. Gazing at the flower in her hand, Willow prayed to Iris, Juno, Mati-Syr-Zemlya and anyone else who might be listening to bless their endeavor and make it successful. The rose was perfect. In full bloom, the fragrance intoxicating as she breathed deeply, drinking it in. She stood and said quietly, wishing, hoping and praying, “For Tara.”

Only once the flower had disappeared, did she seem to notice the other flower in her hand. She stared at it for a long moment, unsure what to do with it when she was struck with a lightning bolt of revelation. With a serene smile and a feeling of peace she nodded and took a deep breath, tossing the rose into the crater that had buried all of her mistakes but none of her guilt. She watched as the flower silently fell before turning away, looking at the ground. She walked to the jumble of equipment without a word and waited for the others to join her.

Xander jogged over, reaching her before Buffy and Giles. “So, uh, who was that last one for?”

She looked up at him and smiled sadly, fighting back the tears. “It was for Warren.”

“Uh,” he started, then seemed to think better of it and simply wrapped his arms around her, hugging her close to him. The group stayed still and silent for several minutes.

Squeezing Xander before shaking off the negative mood and replacing it with a more positive one, she then turned her attention to Buffy. “If you have any trouble convincing them you're you, tell Tara I said I'd meet her under the big pineapple.” Buffy's brow furrowed but Willow only smiled. “She'll understand.” She handed Buffy the crystal bracelet. “I’ve charmed the stones,” she said. “The red will glow when it's closed, the blue will glow within half an hour of the portal opening and the clear will glow while it's open.” Willow frowned for a moment before adding, “Just remember that the universe's half hour and the watch's half hour are two different things so it's more of an 'ish' than a definite.” She helped Buffy put the bracelet on as she continued, “We can’t leave it open long because we don’t want anything from Sunnyhell to cross over. I’ll open it every two hours and hold it open for five minutes. That should help you time it. The portal will open where you enter so make sure you pay attention to where you drop in.” Willow stopped and looked at her best friend. There were no words to convey how she was feeling. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she grabbed Buffy in a tight hug and said softly, “ Please be safe. It's not that I'm not grateful, I am. But it would definitely not be of the good if we lost you. We're sending you into,” she frowned, “well, we don't know what. So, come back, 'kay?” she said, furrowing her brow in uncertainty.

Buffy hugged her back, nodding into her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Will. I’m coming back and I’m bringing Tara with me. And Angel, if he’s with her – which should be a barrel of interesting.” They broke apart and Buffy cleared her throat as she squared her shoulders, back to business. “When will you start re-opening the portal?”

“Six hours from now. That should give you plenty of time to find her or them and convince them that you’re you and they’ll be safe. Do you have a watch?” Buffy shook her head sheepishly. Willow looked over at Xander, who took the watch off his wrist and handed it to Buffy. She strapped in on her wrist just above the bracelet. “I told Tara in our last connection what was happening but, if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t believe anything I said, 'cuz, with the all of us being dead thing. We don't know how they're going to react when they see you.”

Buffy nodded again and picked up the backpack they had packed with food and iced tea. They had decided that Tara and Angel probably had water and some foodstuffs. Willow had seen the cow, so they knew Angel was okay but they assumed fresh fruit had been hard to come by. Slinging it over her back, she looked at her friends. “Wish me luck.”

Willow, Xander and Giles hugged her in response.

“So . . . what do you wanna do tomorrow?” Xander smiled.

“Are you kidding? L.A. . . . we shop,” Buffy responded.

“Oh dear Lord,” Giles chimed in.

“Hey, Tara and Angel are probably going to need clothes and stuff,” Buffy replied. A little defensively, Willow thought, smiling as she began setting up the candles for the portal.

“Willow, don’t forget the truck,” Buffy reminded her.

Willow nodded and re-paced out the dimensions, placing the candles further apart and pouring the sand in a wide circle around them. “You ready?” she asked. She was afraid for her friend but, they’d come too far to turn back now.

“Yeah.” She looked at Giles and Xander. “Are you two ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be. Buff, you sure you wanna go it alone?” Xander asked for what seemed like the hundredth time.

“Yeah, Xander, I’ll move faster alone.”

“Okay.” He didn't look happy about it but he didn't force the point.

“Right then. Willow, we’re ready,” Giles said taking his place at the left side of the portal while Xander stood on the right. They both wielded swords, ready to take on anything that might come out of the portal as Buffy went through.

Buffy looked at Willow and nodded. “Wish me luck,” she said again, hefting the scythe as Willow started the incantation.

“Iris, Juno, Mati-Syra-Zemlya
I beseech thee three
to aid in our search
for lost beloveds
Validus copiae copie, ego dico
vobis per imperiosus postulo,
patefacio volatilis vicis via
ut orbis terrarum ego peto
duos errabundus viator domus accerso”

A brilliant light bathed them for an instant. Without a backward glance, Buffy stepped through the portal and was gone as it closed behind her. “Good luck,” Willow whispered. As much as she wanted Tara back, she didn’t want it to be at the expense of her best friend – the one that was alive and well. Excitement, anticipation and fear were waging war inside her head, chest and stomach, kind of like kamikaze moths battering a bug zapper. And she wasn't sure which one was winning.

“Well, now all we can do is wait,” Giles said, sitting next to Willow and slipping an arm around her shoulders. Xander joined them and took Willow's hand in his. The three of them sat in silence watching the blank space where, a moment ago, Buffy had slipped into the unknown.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Buffy tucked and rolled as she went through the portal. She came up on her feet, scythe at the ready. It was broad daylight and the street was deserted. She made note of where she was. ‘Next to what used to be the Espresso Pump, easy enough,’ she thought, wistfully remembering the hours she and the gang had spent there as she started through the streets of Sunnydale. She shook her head at the rickety sign and wondered who – or what – had tried to eat it.

She paused here and there, briefly, as some of the shops brought forth a wave of nostalgia – especially The Magic Box. It was strange being back here. It was exactly the same except for the rubble and the fact that it seemed completely deserted. Buffy knew better than to believe that. The Hellmouth was still here and open for business. ‘I’m guessing Sunnydale after dark is a little different. Hopefully, that means Tara and I – and Angel, if he's here – can escape as soon as I find her. Or them.' As she jogged through town, she noted the destruction; buildings were demolished, burned to the ground or just piles of brick and wood. She was surprised at how little she felt at seeing her former home in ruin. Yes, there was some nostalgia but her overriding emotion was that of relief. Relief that, in her world, she was free of both the place and the responsibility. As she turned onto her old street she thought, ‘almost too easy.’ She hadn’t seen, heard or sensed anything – evil or otherwise.

She reached the house and hesitated. Should she knock or just walk in? She decided on a combination, knocking as she opened the door calling “Hello?” She was suddenly flat on her back, Angel in full game face on top of her.

“Angel!” Buffy exclaimed, surprised because as much as she'd hoped she'd find him here she hadn't really believed or expected it.

“Buffy?” he hesitated and she took advantage, knocking him off her and coming up with the scythe at the ready.

Angel growled, “Who are you?”

“Angel, it’s me. It’s Buffy,” she said, taking half a step forward, hoping to convince him but not willing to take any chances.

“Buffy’s dead,” he snarled at her, causing her to falter. She could feel the hate coming off him in waves.

Buffy sighed, she'd known this wasn't going to be easy so she tried another tack. “No. You are. Where’s Tara?” she asked, trying to distract him.

Angel just glared at her distrustfully, his game face still on and snarling menacingly.

Buffy looked at him trying to decide what to do. Was Willow wrong? Was she looking at Angelus? “Okay. Willow said she told Tara I was coming. Angel, it’s me.” She was almost begging him to believe her.

“How do I know that?” he growled. “Willow is dead. Everyone is. It’s just me and Tara and I won’t let you hurt her.” He started to advance on her and she took a step back, bringing up the scythe. He stopped and glared at her. They had reached an impasse.

‘Okay, I get through the portal and the town without a problem only to run into a crazy overprotective Angel,’ she thought, her mind racing. 'How bizarro is this?' “Angel . . .” she started.

“What’s going on?” Tara interrupted as she came up behind Angel. Spotting Buffy, her jaw dropped and her eyes widened.

Buffy watched as Tara closed her mouth, jaw tightening and her eyes narrowing in distrust. “Tara?” she whispered. Willow and Dawn had been right. Buffy felt a tear slide down her cheek as relief flooded through her, washing away the stress of the past days and weeks.

Angel was looking menacingly at Buffy. “Stay away from her,” he snarled.

“Willow and Dawn said I’d find you here,” she said ignoring Angel. “I came, but I wasn't sure I believed them. God, Tara, it’s so good to see you.” Buffy was still holding the scythe at the ready, instinct and long habit overriding her relief but she was crying and smiling, unable to believe the blonde witch was standing in front of her.

“How do we know you're not The First?” Angel growled.

“Because you just knocked me on my ass,” she snapped at him. “If I'd been The First, I'd be feeding you to an uber-vamp right now so shut up and let me think.” He looked a little startled but she ignored him.

“Tara, do you remember when you brought me back from the dead? I asked you to find out if I came back wrong. Remember why I thought I did?”

Tara nodded warily, her body language and face impassive, not giving anything away.

“Because of Spike. Because I let him . . .” she blushed and trailed off, turning to Angel and shrugging uncomfortably. “When was the last time you saw me?” she asked.

He eyed her suspiciously. “The night before the big battle.”

“Okay, then you knew about me and Spike. Tara knows that's why I thought I came back wrong. Oh! And remember Spike's 'cramp' at my never-ending birthday party and you stood up to Anya because she was trying to get Willow to use majick again.” Buffy started pacing, wary of Angel but not really paying attention to either of them as she wracked her brain trying desperately to find something, anything, that would convince them.

“Angel, that night, did we talk about cookie dough?” She watched as he nodded, uncertainty playing across his face. “I'm almost done baking, Angel,” she said, hoping he'd remember. From the expression on his face and the way his shoulders tightened, she guessed he did.

She suddenly remembered what Willow had told her to say if Tara didn't believe she was real. She oh-so-casually said, “Willow said to tell you that she'd meet you under the big pineapple. She said you'd know what she meant.” Buffy watched as Tara's face relaxed and her pretty blue eyes filled with tears.

“Buffy,” was all she said before launching herself at the Slayer. Buffy dropped the scythe and pulled Tara into a bear hug. The two young women stood there hugging each other and crying. When they finally broke apart, Tara looked at Angel who still looked ready to kill.

“Angel,” Tara said gently, her arm still around Buffy's waist, “look at her. Clear out the fact that we’ve been barely surviving. Let go of your suspicion and really look at her.”

Angel looked at Tara then relaxed, his game face melting into the face Buffy remembered, if slightly more careworn.

“Buffy?” he asked hesitantly.

Buffy looked at him. Now that he was no longer threatening her, the emotion of actually seeing him again threatened to overwhelm her. Before she knew it, he had engulfed her in a bear hug and was kissing her passionately. She forgot everything else and gave into the kiss, thinking of nothing but Angel and the new opportunity that had just been handed to them.

“But . . . how . . . what . . . I don’t understand,” Angel stammered, something Buffy didn't think she'd ever heard from him. Her Angel, so sure of himself, stammering like a school boy on his first date.

“Well, let me go and I’ll fill you in.” Buffy smiled as Angel let her go. She retrieved the bag from where it had fallen when Angel jumped her and handed it to him as she took Tara by the hand and they walked into the living room. They all sat on the couch and Buffy took the bag back from Angel. Opening it, she took out a bunch of bananas, some apples and oranges, a box of chocolate chip cookies and handed them to Tara along with two still cold bottles of ice tea.

“We thought you might like the fresh fruit and the ice tea just looked good,” she grinned.

While Tara ate, Buffy filled them in. “Okay, so, you guys should know most of the story – Tara – you were praying to Iris for help, I guess.” She frowned, trying to remember how Willow had explained it. “At least what Dawn thought was that because of the amazing bond you and Willow share, somehow it crossed dimensions or alternate realities or something,” she said waving her hands vaguely. “You were looking for help and it got the message to the person most likely to be able to help.” She looked from Tara to Angel and shook her head, unable to believe they were really here – that she was really here. “So we thought it was an illusion demon because we were all having weird daydreamy hallucinations but Willow was having nightmares, not daydreams and then we vanquished the illusion demon but Willow's nightmares hadn't stopped.” She stopped rambling and frowned in thought before continuing. “Oh, yeah,” she said, “that’s how Willow was getting the S.O.S. – whenever she fell asleep, she got what she called a ‘taramare’. It took forever to figure out what was going on, then, with the research to figure the how, what, why.” She stopped talking and looked at them quizzically. “Why didn’t you know I was coming? Willow said she told you.”

Tara nodded as she swallowed. “Yeah, but we weren’t sure if it was real, you know? I mean, Willow died two years ago. You and the others . . . ” Tara trailed off, swallowing hard and looking like she was trying to hold back tears. “You all died last year. Angel and I have been just surviving. It was a little more believable that a demon or something had figured out we were here and was trying to find us rather than Willow and you and the others were alive and coming to rescue us, you know?” she finished in a hoarse whisper. Shaking her head she looked at Buffy. “I still don't understand. You're dead, you're all dead. We . . . we saw your,” she swallowed hard, still trying to hold back the tears, “your bodies in the wreckage at the high school,” she finished quietly.

Buffy nodded, “Yeah, I get that.” She hesitated a moment before asking, “What happened two years ago?” She wasn't sure she wanted to know but she knew she had to ask. “What happened to Willow?”

Tara bit her lip and swallowed before softly saying, “Stray bullet. One of the geek trio, Warren. He shot you and a stray bullet came through our window . . .” Tara trailed off and closed her eyes as tears started slipping down her face. Reaching out for Tara's hand, Buffy smiled softly at her newly rediscovered friend. Tara smiled her thanks and wiped her tears away. Taking a deep breath, she continued on. “I just shut down. Dawn, goddess, poor Dawnie, found me sitting in the dark holding Willow's body.” Her face contracted in pain and Buffy couldn't imagine how that had hurt Tara. “It took you all hours to get me to let her go,” she whispered hoarsely. “After the funeral, I tried to leave. I just didn't feel I belonged here anymore.” She smiled at Buffy. “You, Xander, and Dawn wouldn't let me. 'We're family, we'll get through this,' you told me.” She ducked her head and lowered her voice. “It was probably the nicest thing anyone's ever done for or said to me, except for Willow.”

Thinking she should be used to life's weird twists and turns and the universe's warped sense of humor, Buffy shook her head and smiled. “Good on me, then. I was right. I'm glad you stayed with us – er - them.” Buffy was glad, too. She knew it had taken Tara a long time to believe she was part of the “Scooby” family and was glad that her alternate reality self had been able to convince Tara to stay. 'Should make convincing her to move to England a little easier,' she thought.

“Well,” Buffy said, changing the subject, “it took me a lot less time to find you than we thought it would. Willow won't start opening the portal,” she checked Xander's watch and noted that the red crystal was glowing. “For about four hours so we need to be ready to move in three and a half,” Buffy said.

Tara shook her head. “How is this possible?” She kept looking at Buffy like she couldn't believe the Slayer was really there. Buffy could totally appreciate the feeling.

“Willow or Giles could probably explain it better but,” Buffy hesitated for a moment to try and say it right. “There was some sort of break, or rip, in time. The bullet that killed Willow in this reality, killed you in my reality.” She looked apologetically at the pretty blonde wicca when the girl flinched. “One of the witches at the coven said it happens all the time, you know, with different choices and stuff. Angel, remember when Willow's vampire showed up in Sunnydale? It's kind of like that.”

“Willow's vampire?” Tara asked, paling a bit. “I don't remember that story,” she said hesitantly, looking askance at Buffy.

“Long story short: Xander was dating Cordelia, Willow was with Oz. Oz and Cordy caught Will and Xander smooching. Cordy got a visit from Anyanka – you know, Anya with, like, pms and a gun– and wishes I had never come to Sunnydale. End result – vampire heaven. But then Anyanka's power center was destroyed and the wish was void. Anyanka becomes Anya who tries to get Willow to help her retrieve her power center from the alternate timeline. The spell went flooey and we ended up with a vamped out Will from that reality. Okay, so it was a long story medium,” she said, pausing for a breath. “Anyway that's what Terese, the witch at the coven, thinks happened.” Buffy shrugged. “I don't understand it but I guess that's what must have happened 'cause,” she grinned at the two people sitting with her on the couch, “here I am and here you are!”

“Okay. I understand alternate realities but that doesn't explain you being here. I would think, I mean, I don't know but, once a time line diverges it wouldn't converge,” Tara said, confusion written all over her face.

Buffy shrugged. “We're all pretty clueless on that, but it's not really a convergence, exactly. Just kind of,” she frowned trying to think of a way to put it. “Like those crane machines, where you can win a stuffed toy? I'm the crane and you two are the toy prizes, direct from France. We just needed to pluck you out and bring you home. Someone or something for some reason helped your SOS reach Willow,” she said.

“France?” asked Angel, puzzled.

Buffy opened her mouth to explain the analogy but was interrupted.

“I was really connecting with Willow?” Tara asked with a soft smile.

“Yeah. Well, with 'A' Willow – not really your Willow, but one that's the Willow that split off when you got shot . . .uh . . . when she got shot,” she frowned. “When whichever one of you got shot,” she sighed, frustrated with her inability to explain the science-y stuff as well as Will. She gave up and shook her head before continuing. “Gave her a pretty fair wiggins, too,” Buffy said with an equally soft smile. “Every time she fell asleep you were there telling her to keep her promise.”

Tara shook her head. “I don't even know what the promise is,” she said.

“She said it was when she reversed Glory's mind suck on you – you told her you got so lost and . . .” Buffy started to say but Tara interrupted.

“She said, 'I found you. I will always find you.' I remember.” Tara's voice was a whisper.

Buffy watched the emotions play across Tara's face. She wasn't sure what was going through Tara's mind but it suddenly struck her how deep the love between Willow and Tara had to be. She shook her head in amazement.

“Willow's doing majick again,” Tara said quietly, her voice flat and her face falling. It wasn't a question.

'Oh, boy,' Buffy thought. “Tara, so much has happened. Yes, Willow's doing majick again but she's okay. I – we knew you'd have a lot of questions but I need you to trust me.” Buffy took both of Tara's hands in hers and looked the tired girl in the eyes. “She's okay but I think you should talk to her, you know?” she said, hoping Tara would be okay with waiting to hear it from Willow. Buffy really didn't think she should be one to tell Tara everything Will had done and gone through.

Tara nodded. “I understand that.” She hesitated a moment before she seemed to come to a decision. “Is she . . . is there anyone . . . special? I-I'm s-sorry. I sh-shouldn't have asked.” Tara's face was flush with embarrassment and she ducked her head, letting her hair fall into her face.

Buffy smiled and mentally crossed her fingers then uncrossed them. Willow currently had no relationships with anyone except with her Dream Tara. Last week didn't matter anymore. “No. There isn't.” Tara looked up at Buffy. “There's a lot you two will have to talk about and work out, but that much I can tell you.”

Tara ducked her head again but not before Buffy saw the smile Tara was trying to hide. 'Stellar,' she thought, smiling to herself, 'she's still in love with Willow,' she thought, 'that should make some stuff easier.'

“What about the others? Xander, Anya, Dawn, Giles . . . everyone?” Angel asked, moving forward, forcing Buffy to let go of Tara's hands and back away out of politeness. Buffy got the feeling he was trying to deflect her attention from Tara and smiled inwardly at his protectiveness toward the blonde witch. There was the Angel that she missed. She decided to let it go for now and they spent the next two hours filling each other in on the rest of the two years they'd been separated and comparing notes on the differences of the last year. They discovered the two biggest differences were the scythe and the amulet Spike had worn. Neither had been found in Tara's reality.

“Oh, my God! The scythe and the amulet were the keys to saving us. We'd have been massacred.” Buffy was incredulous. She jumped up and went to retrieve the scythe from where she had dropped it. When she came back into the living room, Angel and Tara gaped at it.

“Nifty toy, Buff,” Angel said. “Where'd you get it?”

“The scythe is an ancient weapon,” she explained to her two friends. “Willow used it as a way to give every potential slayer the slayer skills. That gave those of us in the battle the edge we needed to hold the Turok-han off until the amulet did its thing.” She frowned. “The amulet channeled the sun's energy through Spike and dusted all the Turok-hans and pretty much destroyed the town. There's no way we'd have been able to win otherwise,” she said, shaking her head.

“Wow. Well, that explains a lot,” Tara said, exhaling with a whoosh of air.

“We still have two hours before Willow opens the portal,” Buffy said. “You two should try and get some rest.”

Angel nodded and gathered up their books before leading Buffy downstairs with Tara coming down behind them, whispering some kind of incantation. In a moment, the basement was bathed in a warm pinkish light. “What's that?” she asked.

“I ward the door every night to hide Angel and me from anyone who might wander near the house. It camouflages the door so it looks like a wall. The light is a fairy light spell, it's the only way we can see after dark,” Tara explained.

Buffy nodded at the explanation.

“You can have my cot, Buffy,” Angel said. “I'm not big on sleeping.”

“I'm not going to sleep,” she replied. “I'm not the one who's been in hiding.”

“Well, then I'll keep you company.” He smiled at her.

“Okay.” She smiled. Some private time with Angel, not a bad thing.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Tara lay awake on her cot listening to Buffy and Angel's murmured conversation. They were quiet enough that she could sleep . . . except she couldn't. The emotions and thoughts ricocheting through her wouldn't allow it. She would see Willow soon. Her emotions were conflicted. Excitement warred with anxiety. She wanted to see Willow but, what if there was nothing there between them anymore? What if they couldn't reconnect? Buffy said Willow wasn't with anyone. That had made her happier than she wanted to admit. She hadn't been with anyone since she'd lost Willow. Not that Kennedy hadn't tried. She'd been so tempted. Kennedy was a pretty girl and Tara had been lonely. Ultimately, though, that's why Tara hadn't pursued Kennedy's flirtations. There were a lot of reasons to get involved with someone but loneliness wasn't a very good one. She also hadn't wanted any distractions from her majick studies.

Tara sighed. Willow was doing majick again. She was unsure how she felt about that. Buffy had said it was okay but . . . 'No. I won't think that way,' she thought, quelling the idea that Willow was manipulating people with majick. But . . . she shook her head. Two years was a long time and so much would have changed. 'Except the way I feel about her,' was Tara's last conscious thought before the exhaustion claimed her.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


She was in Willow's arms and Willow was kissing her. It was sweet and tender and Tara never wanted it to end. When they finally parted, Tara pulled back and looked at Willow. Tara was mesmerized by Will's huge black eyes. 'Willow's eyes are green,' Tara thought, suddenly frightened. She ran away as fast as she could, Willow's voice ringing in her ears. “Tara, Tara,”

“Tara, come on, wake up. It's time to go.” Buffy's voice roused her from her nightmare.

“What?” she asked groggily.

“Time to get gone,” Buffy said.

Tara nodded, then hesitated. She didn't want to ask but the nightmare was still fresh. “Buffy . . .”

“Yeah?”

“You're, uh, s-sure? I-I m-mean . . .”

Buffy smiled. “It'll be good. It'll be hard but good. She still loves you.”

“B-but the m-majicks. Are y-you s-sure? I m-mean . . . c-could you be under a s-spell?”

Buffy shook her head. “No. Definitely not. Trust me.”

Tara looked at Buffy for a long moment. Her aura hadn't changed much. More sadness maybe, but she was still Buffy. If Willow was working a spell on her, it wasn't leaving a trace. She nodded. “Okay. Let me get Miss Kitty. Everything else is already in the truck.”

“Oh – in the bag I brought – there's a soft sided kitty carrier in there. Easier for Miss Kitty transport.”

Tara nodded and looked around the basement that had been her home for the last year. Since Angel's encounter with the Kalderash Clan, they had steadily packed everything they'd wanted into the truck and the basement looked barren. The cots and food were all that remained to indicate anyone had been here. She would not miss any of this.

Scooping up Miss Kitty she said, “Let's go,” and followed Buffy up the stairs.

When they reached the kitchen, Tara found the cat carrier and put Miss Kitty into it. Her dream was still disturbing her but she pushed it away. She was going to see Willow. Today. 'Wait, something's wrong,' she thought. “Where's Angel?” she asked.

“He's in the trailer. I went out and moved things around so he could get in there. Is there anything else you need? Anything else you want to take with you?”

Tara looked around thoughtfully. “No. Everything we needed and wanted was in the basement.”

“Okay. You ready?”

Tara nodded. “Let's go. Oh, wait, Ethel . . .” she didn't want to leave the cow tied up.

“Angel had me put her in the trailer,too,” she grinned, “he said you'd never forgive him if he left her here.”

Tara grinned back. “He's right,” she said. “Okay. I'm ready,” Tara said as she left the house for the last time.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The trip out of Sunnyhell was as uneventful as the trip in. The few demons they saw on the way out ignored them as they headed to the Espresso Pump.

“There was no problem getting to you guys either,” Buffy said.

“Daylight seems to keep the meaner demons away.” Tara shrugged. “Nighttime is a different story.” No, she definitely wasn't going to miss any of this.

They were nearing The Espresso Pump. Buffy stopped the truck and glanced at her wrist and Tara noticed a crystal bracelet with a glowing blue stone. “This is the right spot.” Buffy said. “Now, we wait. Will should open the portal soon.”

The words were no sooner said when there was a flash of light and the portal loomed before them. Buffy looked at Tara and smiled encouragingly. Then she hit the gas, leaving Sunnyhell far behind.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Reunion

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I found you...I will always find you

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Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:10 pm 
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Sorry to have been such a bad backfeeder this past month.

Having said that, tears now :) .


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:26 am 
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no worries :) just glad y'all are still enjoying it...at least, I hope those aren't tears of pain... ;)

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I found you...I will always find you

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Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:16 am 
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Reunion


Buffy hit the brakes on the other side of the portal. Tara saw Willow standing there looking beautiful and hopeful and alive. Jumping out of the truck, the warning bells in her head were drowned out by the beating of her heart. She threw herself into Willow's arms, sobbing, and was rewarded with Willow embracing her just as tightly. They stood there, holding each other, until Tara's sobs subsided. When they pulled away from each other, Tara really looked at Willow. It was Will; thinner and paler than Tara remembered and her energy was tinged with sadness and a deep regret that hadn't been there before. But it was her Willow. The power emanating from Willow made the deepest impact. It was strong but Buffy had been right; Willow had it under control.

“Welcome home, baby,” Willow said softly, tears flowing freely down her face. Goddess, she was beautiful. Tara was suddenly painfully aware of how she must look to Willow and ducked her head, her hair falling in her face. She was a mess; she hadn't actually been outside in the sun in over a year, sleep had been fitful and hard to come by, she had barely been able to keep herself clean by whatever drinking water she could spare and the very little they had gathered in a rain barrel in the back yard. Her hair was no longer soft and shiny the way Willow had liked it and her clothes, also as clean as she could keep them, were old and ratty. The food they'd been able to find hadn't always been nutritious and she knew that showed, too. 'What must she be thinking of me, right now?' Tara thought, despair starting to settle in her chest until she felt Willow's hand gently cup her chin and tilt her face up. 'Goddess, that smile.' It was her smile, the one Willow saved for Tara. Willow's beautiful green eyes looked deep into Tara's blue ones and Tara felt herself getting lost again. Lost in Willow. She smiled back and pulled Willow into another hug.

The sound of a throat clearing broke through to her. She separated from Willow and looked around, taking in her surroundings and wondering how this 'better' reality could look so much not-better than the Sunnyhell she just left. Panic welled within her as she saw the huge crater and the barren landscape until her gaze fell upon the source of the throat clearing - Xander and Giles. The sight of the two men helped quell some of her fears as she left Willow's side, hugging them both tightly, her tears flowing freely once again. Giles was a little grayer at the temples than he had been when she last saw him and Xander was sporting a patch over one eye but they were alive and a reading of their auras revealed they were them. They were all alive. She felt Willow and Buffy join the hug and, after a moment, they broke apart, all grinning through their tears.

“Erm . . . Angel?” Giles asked, removing his glasses and polishing them with his handkerchief.

“He's in the trailer,” Buffy responded, “he's not on speaking terms with the Mr. Sunshine, remember? It's a thing.”

“Of course. Welcome home, Tara,” Giles said, regaining his composure and balancing his glasses back on his nose. “We should move along then, nothing left to be done here and, while the hellmouth may be closed, I don't want to risk being here after dark. Tara, we've made arrangements at a hotel near Los Angeles. After you've had a hot meal, a hot shower and as much rest as you need or you'd like, we can talk about what you'd like to do now.”

Tara's head was spinning and she felt completely overwhelmed as she nodded. “Okay,” she said, still not believing this was all real. Willow was alive, standing next to her, holding her hand. She was home – sort of. 'No,' she thought, looking at her chosen family, 'I am home. They may not be the people I lost but . . . they are and they obviously still care about me or, at least, the me that was here. And she can't be too different from the me that is here now, me-me, can she?' She tried in vain to stop her train of thought, it was too much to take in. Big hole, dead friends being not-dead, barren landscape. She wanted to talk to Angel, she wanted to wake up now, she wanted it to be real.

She suddenly looked at Buffy. “Wait. Where's Dawn?” she asked worriedly.

Buffy smiled. “She's in England. She wanted to come but we needed her to be there.” Tara looked quizzically at her and Buffy laughed. “There's a lot to talk about.”

Xander spoke up. “Will, Tara – you can ride with me in the car. Buff, you wanna ride with Giles in the truck? Maybe let Angel know what's going on?”

Buffy nodded and turned toward the back of the trailer but Angel was standing there. “Angel! What are you . . . oh my God – you're not on fire!”

Tara stood there gaping at Angel, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. The whole group looked dumbfounded.

“I-I think I'm alive. Heartbeat, hunger, fatigue, no blood lust – I'm human.” Angel looked and sounded as surprised as the rest of them.

“But, how?” Buffy looked incredulous and Tara could understand why. The unreality of the situation was taking on a very surreal quality, to put it mildly.

“I don't know,” Angel said, a look of bewilderment on his face. He shook his head. “I don't know,” he repeated.

“Well, let's not stand around here. We can talk on the way to the hotel and more when we get there. Decisions need to be made and, apparently, at least one more mystery needs to be solved,” Giles said, stirring them to movement.

Willow started to lead Tara to the waiting car, turning back briefly, “Giles, will you please take care of . . .”

“Of course,” he said, interrupting her “consider it done”

When they got to the car the two witches settled into the backseat. Tara turned to Willow. “You found me. Again,” she said quietly.

“Always,” Willow whispered, kissing her gently on her forehead.

“Will . . .” Tara started, knowing there was so much they had to talk about.

“Shh, baby. We'll have plenty of time to talk later. Rest now.” Willow said, again smiling the smile Tara had dreamt about for two years. She felt warm for the first time in a year. Smiling wearily back, Tara curled up on the seat laying her head in Willow's lap. Willow's arm immediately encircled her while her free hand stroked Tara's hair. Tara knew there was a lot of work ahead of them; they weren't really the same people they were when they last saw each other, literally. 'Will we like each other? Goddess, how will I fit into this world where I don't exist?' Her mind worried over the myriad of questions plaguing her brain but she was mainly focused on how and where she would fit in here. The only thing she was sure of as sleep claimed her was that she was right where she wanted to be – safe in Willow's arms.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Willow and Tara went to the car and settled into the backseat. Tara turned to Willow. “You found me. Again,” she said quietly.

“Always,” Willow whispered, kissing her gently on her forehead.

“Will . . .”

Willow knew this wasn't the time or place to start this conversation. “Shh, baby. We'll have plenty of time to talk later. Rest now,” she said, smiling softly. Tara smiled back and Willow could tell Tara was relieved. She looked so weary. Willow felt like her heart would break free of her chest as Tara curled up on the seat, laying her head in Willow's lap. She instinctively put one arm protectively around Tara while using her free hand to stroke Tara's hair. She knew this was temporary, knew that there were going to be questions and when she answered them, would Tara want anything to do with her? 'Goddess, what has she been through?' she wondered as she held the blonde. She looked and smelled, well, clean-ish, her hair wasn't the soft and shiny hair Willow remembered. She wondered if Tara would be able to trust her again, get past the fact that she was doing majicks. Wondered if Tara could love her again. Willow sighed softly, the road ahead of them was long and filled with uncertainty but, for now, Tara was home.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Brave New World

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Willow's Promise: the happy ending Willow & Tara *should* have had


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 4:39 pm 
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I finally caught up and I'm so happy!!!! I'm so glad that Tara and Angel are with Buffy and Willow and the others!!! Yay!!! :) Maybe now Angel can remain human and have a chance to live with Buffy and have a happy ending with her as well!!! Awesome update!!! :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :heart


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 Post subject: Re: Willow's Promise (W/T, B/A, X/D)(Teen)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:13 am 
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Brave New World


Tara slept in Willow's arms the entire two hours it took them to get back to the hotel, except for the brief stop they made at a children's petting zoo about twenty minutes away from the crater that was Sunnydale. After much wheedling, cajoling and not a few tears, the three girls had convinced Giles to arrange for Ethel to board with the petting zoo until arrangements could be made to have her transported to England. Willow had argued that Ethel had been a source of comfort for Tara and it would be just plain mean to take Ethel away from Tara. Giles harrumphed and made that odd clucking sound that he often made when being parental, then polished his glasses repeatedly before finally giving in to the three pairs of sad eyes looking at him.

Willow smiled as Tara said goodbye to Ethel and was happy they'd found the petting zoo on the way back to the hotel. 'Because, hey, cow? hotel? Not so much a good idea,' she thought, faintly smiling at the mental image. When they got back into the car, Tara curled back up on the seat and put her head back in Willow's lap, Willow reassuming her same protective position. Willow couldn't remember how long it had been since she'd felt so at peace. Tara was home.

When they got to the hotel, Willow lightly tapped Tara's shoulder and was stunned when Tara sat straight up, screaming and looking around frantically, her eyes wide with fear. Her gaze unfocused, she didn't seem to see Willow.

Once the shock of seeing Tara in such desperate panic wore off, Willow began talking to her in a calm and gentle voice, sending calming energy to the blonde and hoping she'd accept it. “Tara, it's okay. You're safe. We're at the hotel.” Her heart ached at the sheer terror in Tara's eyes. Willow couldn't even being to imagine the hell Tara had gone through but she could see and feel the other woman's terror and continued to send calming energy to her.

After several moments, Tara's breathing slowed and her eyes began to focus on the redhead. She smiled shyly and ducked her head as the flush of embarrassment crept into her cheeks. “Th-thank y-you,” she said quietly.

Willow smiled to herself. Tara had accepted her energy. 'It's a start,' she thought.

Xander opened the door and helped Tara out as Willow got out on the other side. Xander was looking at Tara with a goofy grin. Willow had to stifle a giggle as Xander impulsively pulled Tara into a hug. Tara, caught off-guard, 'oofed', froze for a moment, then laughed, shyly hugging him back. Willow thought Tara seemed a little skittish, almost afraid of Xander, but couldn't fathom why.

Willow knew exactly how Xander felt. The smile refused to leave her face. Every time she looked at Tara she felt like she should pinch herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming. She was startled from her bliss by a soft touch on her shoulder.

“You coming in or you just gonna stand here all day with that grin on your face?”

She turned and found Buffy grinning at her. “And yeah, I know just how you feel,” Buffy said, “remind me to never doubt Dawn's scary brain again.”

Willow pulled Buffy into a fierce hug and whispered, “Thank you so much, Buffy. You came back safe and brought Tara with you. I can't . . .” her voice choked off as more tears started to flow.

She heard Buffy's breath catch and felt as Buffy started to sob. She held tight to her best friend, realizing Buffy probably hadn't had a chance to break down since she found Angel and Tara. She didn't know how much time had passed before a third set of arms joined them.

“You know – you two keep this up and Tara and Angel might just wonder why you brought them back.”

The two girls broke apart with a unified giggled “Xander!”

“I'm just saying. We're all waiting for you.”

Willow looked behind him and saw two weary but amused faces. She grinned and started into the hotel. Tara had waited long enough.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Once upstairs, they convened in Giles' room.

“First things first,” Giles said as he picked up the phone and dialed. “Hullo, Dawn, everything all right?” He nodded at her response, making understanding affirmative noises. “Good, good. Oh, hold on one moment, please, Dawn.” Giles smiled as he covered the mouthpiece and handed the phone to Tara. “She doesn't know we've got you back. I thought you might like to be the one to tell her.”

Willow's heart melted at the beatific smile that spread across Tara's face as she took the phone from Giles.

“D-dawnie . . . is that r-really you?” she asked, pulling the phone away from her ear at Dawn's squealed “Tara!” The conversation lasted a few moments before Tara was overcome with tears and Giles gently took the phone back from her.

“Dawn? Are you alright?” he asked. He nodded at her response and said, “Right then, see you in a week or so. You know how to reach us.” He rang off, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

“She sends her love to all,” he said, then looked at Tara. “She asked me to pass along a hug and a kiss but I assume you're a little overwhelmed right now, so,” he cleared his throat before continuing, “consider yourself kissed and hugged by Dawn.” The color rising in his cheeks and the polish he was putting on his already spotless glasses gave away his embarrassment.

Willow giggled and felt warmth spread throughout her body. She knew it was temporary but, for now, she'd take what she could get.

“Right then,” Giles said, regaining his composure.

“Stupid question but, now what?” Xander asked.

The group looked at him blankly and Willow realized they hadn't really discussed the “after”. Buffy had said shopping but -

“Shopping,” Buffy said with a grin.

The girls, even Tara, started to giggle and the men looked horrified, causing the girls' giggles to double. When their giggles finally subsided, Buffy said “Seriously, Tara and Angel, we've got four rooms. We didn't know if you'd each want your own or . . .” she trailed off and looked at Willow.

Willow wanted to stay with Tara but didn't think it would be a good idea. They weren't necessarily the same people they were two years ago when last they saw each other… well, literally, sort of. “We weren't sure if you'd be okay alone or if you'd want to share with Angel or, uh, someone.” She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks.

“Oh, uh, Will . . . I-I . . .” Tara stammered, her face flushing.

“Oh, no, Tara . . . I didn't mean . . . I mean . . .” she looked at Buffy pleadingly for help.

Buffy looked sympathetically at her best friend. “I don't think Willow meant to imply the two of you would, uh . . .”

Willow watched Buffy struggle and decided, embarrassed or not, she'd have to do this. “Tara, look at me.” Taking a deep breath to clear her mind, she looked at Tara. “Okay, there's no expectations here, we just weren't sure if you'd want to be alone or if you'd be afraid being alone. So if you want to stay with me, that's okay but if you'd rather stay with Angel or Buffy or Xander or Giles, that's okay too. And if you want to be alone, that's okay too. Okay?”

Tara nodded. “I-I think I'd like to s-stay w-with A-angel. If-if that's okay with you Angel?”

Willow looked at Angel who seemed to be testing his humanity by checking for his pulse and letting his hand play in the sunlight streaming through the window.

“Of course,” Angel said, glancing at Buffy but without hesitation.

“B-buffy, are-are you okay with it?” Tara stammered.

Willow stole a look at her best friend.

Buffy was grinning at Tara. “It's okay with me,” she said before stealing a look at Angel, her face blushing as he smiled at her.

Willow smiled in relief. First hurdle jumped, a million more to go.

“Okay, then. I bet showers, rest and food are at the top of the must do list? Maybe not in that order?” Buffy said. Relief, and something else, was evident in her eyes and voice. Willow made a mental note to check in with her best friend later.

“Food first,” Angel said with a slightly bemused grin. “Preferably,” he continued, still letting his hand play in the sunlight, “somewhere we can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.” He looked at Tara who nodded in agreement.

“Right then, lunch it is,” Giles said checking his watch. “I believe there's a rather nice outdoor restaurant attached to the hotel.” He picked up the phone and pushed a single digit and waited a moment. “Yes, does the hotel restaurant have outdoor seating? Excellent. Do we need a reservation? Giles, room 314, table for six outside. Half an hour? Thank you, that will be fine.” He rang off and turned to the group. “Alright, they can seat us in half an hour.”

Tara lit up. “Oh good, that gives me time to take a shower.”

Willow melted at the smile on Tara's face and the light in her eyes. 'Goddess,' she thought, having trouble catching her breath.

“Me too,” Angel said.

“Oh.” Tara's face fell.

“Tara, honey, what's wrong?” The term of endearment automatic in her concern. “We've got four bathrooms.”

Tara flushed. “Oh, no, it's n-not that. Clothes and toothbrushes and . . . stuff. We-we didn't have much but everything is packed somewhere. I-I guess we weren't really thinking.”

Willow smiled softly. “I think we can handle that. Xander, Giles – can you help Angel? Come on, Tara, I'm sure Buffy and I can help you out.”
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thirty minutes later, they were being seated at a table in the bright California sunshine, both Tara and Angel thoroughly enjoying it. They all took several moments to look at the menu and order before they started talking. Conversation was desultory, with no specific topic or purpose. Willow got the feeling they were all just trying to avoid any topics that might prick their bubble of triumph and force them to deal with the reality of having Angel and Tara suddenly back in their lives.

Willow glanced at Buffy occasionally and wondered if the Slayer was feeling the same way Willow was. Mostly, though, she watched Tara. She caught Tara watching her once or twice and felt the tingles as Tara smiled Willow's special smile. Willow knew, without question, that she still loved Tara. Two years, a lifetime ago, a different Tara, a different Willow and none of that meant anything when Tara smiled. It buoyed her hopes that Tara still felt the same about her. Frowning, she realized she'd have to tell Tara some unpleasant things soon. She hoped this wasn't the last time she'd see that special smile.

“Willow?” Tara's concerned voice cut through her thoughts.

“Hm? I'm sorry. What?” she responded distractedly, unaware of what they'd been talking about.

“Are you okay?” Tara looked so worried, Willow felt her heart constrict.

“Oh, yeah. I, uh, got lost in thought.” Willow couldn't stop the smile she gave Tara.

“Same old Will,” Tara said softly, a shy smile gracing her lips. The sun made her pale skin seem cool and luminous.

Willow felt the flush start at her toes and quickly spread through her until it reached her face.

Buffy and Xander giggled, causing Willow to start and before long they were all laughing. Willow knew it was a 'break the tension' laugh and, when it stopped, the tension was indeed broken.

Willow smiled. “Just thinking that you two have decisions to make. We really should maybe think about shopping and, well, I don't know how much you know about this reality, but things are a lot different.”

Angel nodded. “Yeah, Buffy gave us a run-down.”

“Cliff notes version,” Buffy added.

“Enough that I know I haven't any real reason to stay in L.A,” he smiled at Buffy, “and at least one good reason to go to England. I do have to check on a few things here before I leave, though.”

Giles cleared his throat. “Yes, well, of course that's what we'd all prefer obviously. You and Tara joining us in England. There's plenty of room and more than enough work to be done. If that's what you want, that is.”

They spent the next several hours over lunch and into dinner discussing the changes in the world, what they were doing to locate and train both slayers and watchers. Their waitress continued to check on them, asking if they needed anything and bringing her replacement over when the shift changed for the dinner crowd. Willow had heard a few passing comments about how long they'd been there, just snippets of conversations that all seemed to agree that the gang was there brainstorming an idea for a movie script. They didn't bother to correct the story because it afforded them a little extra privacy.

They discussed the changes they were going to have to make in the way things were done and the idea they'd had of each slayer having her own “Scooby Gang.” They filled Angel and Tara in on lost friends and the changes in both Dawn and Faith.

“Faith?” Angel asked, puzzled, “she's in jail, right?”

Willow shook her head. “Long story, but no, she's not. She's in Cleveland, her record wiped clean.” Angel arched an eyebrow but Willow, having seen Tara try to suppress a yawn, shook her head. “I know I'm tired so you two have to be. Buffy can fill you in on Faith later.”

Buffy nodded her agreement. “I'm kind of beat too. We've been sitting here for,” she looked at Xander's watch, still on her wrist. “Oh, wow, five hours. And we still have tons to do and figure out before we head for home.”

Tara stifled another yawn and it was quickly decided that more conversation could wait until tomorrow as the tired group headed back to their rooms.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Tara and Angel were in their room getting ready for bed. Having just drawn a fragrant bubble bath, Tara was just about to step in when there was a soft knock at the door.

“Tara? I'm going to go talk to Giles for a minute. You gonna be okay?” Angel asked through the closed door.

“I'll be fine, Angel,” Tara answered, smiling to herself. Her great protector.

“Okay. I'll be back in a bit.”

She heard the room door close as she slipped into the hot, lavender scented water. This was how life was supposed to be – no demons, no First to worry about, just long, hot bubble baths. It felt like heaven after a year of cold and lukewarm sponge baths. A proper bath with lots of bubbles, body wash and actual-honest-to-goodness shampoo. Not being afraid? Also a plus in the helping to relax department. She reflected over the last twenty-four hours and realized there was so much to get used to. She tried to consider her options but realized she didn't really know what they were. She was pretty sure she'd be able to join the others in England but did she have any other options? Did she really want any other options? Willow was in England. She needed to figure out what had changed Willow. She sighed and sank further into the water. Everything in her was in chaos and it all swirled around Willow. It had taken all of, what?, one minute to realize she was still crazy about Will and, unless she'd read Willow's reactions wrong, Willow was still crazy about her. Two different people, two lifetimes ago – and they were still them. “How unbelievable is that?” she mused out loud.

She soaked in the tub until the water cooled and considered getting out, then changed her mind. She opened the drain and turned on the hot water tap, adding more bubble bath until the water was once again foamy, fragrant and hot. Sinking back into the tub, she let her mind wander and came to the conclusion that Angel had the right idea; she would go talk to Giles.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Giles was surprised to see Angel when he opened the door.

“Uh, hi,” Angel said, obviously uncomfortable.

“Oh, hello,” Giles responded. He had hoped to talk to the young man but was surprised that Angel had sought him out.

“I was, uh, hoping we could talk?” Angel said hesitantly, looking at the floor and shifting his weight from foot to foot. “If this is a bad time . . .”

“Hm? Oh, no, not at all,” Giles said, shaking his head as he stepped aside to allow Angel entrance. Waving him to a chair, Giles offered him a drink.

“Water, please?” Angel said, still not looking at the watcher.

Giles retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator, puzzled as to why the young man was . . . embarrassed? Or uncomfortable, maybe that was more accurate. Giles knew Angel still felt some measure of guilt over the death of Jenny Calendar, but Giles bore no ill will toward the former vampire; they'd laid that to rest years ago. Handing Angel the bottle of water along with a glass of ice, Giles reclaimed the chair he'd been sitting in before Angel had knocked.

He studied the former vampire for a moment before clearing his throat and asking, “What can I do for you, Angel?”

Angel looked up and Giles could see the uncertainty in his face.

“Giles, I, uh,” Angel took a long drink of his water then took a deep breath and started again, this time looking Giles in the eye as he spoke. “I'm human. I'm not sure how or why but I am. I have to check some things in L.A. but once I've done that, I want to go to England with you.”

Giles nodded thoughtfully. He understood what Angel was saying, understood why he wanted to go to England. What he didn't understand was what Angel was asking of him.

Angel continued, “I need to know if this is permanent. If it is, I want to make my life in England with Buffy, if she'll have me.” He paused, as if struck by a sudden thought. “If there isn't someone else,” he said, looking hopefully at Giles.

Giles nodded again before responding. “Have you spoken to Buffy about this?” he asked, ignoring the implied question.

Angel shook his head. “Not yet. I wanted to talk to you first, make sure there's room for me on your team, that I'll be useful. I want to be wherever Buffy is.” He sighed and looked back at Giles. “I've lost her three times and I'm not doing it again. My place is wherever she is. If she's not ready, I'll wait. I waited over two hundred years, a few more won't kill me.” He grinned wryly at that statement before continuing, “I don't want to waste any more time, Giles. I'm tired of looking back at what might have been.”

Giles stood and poured himself another drink as he considered both what Angel was saying and what the young man was asking of him. Sitting back down he looked at Angel, choosing his words carefully.

“I know you love Buffy and I know we could use your help. Have you considered what you'll do if Buffy, erm, isn't interested?”

Angel nodded. “I still want to go to England. There's nothing for me here, Giles. From what Buffy told us and then the gaps you filled in, my friends and associates are all gone, At least in England, I can maybe do some good and I'd be among friends.”

Giles nodded again. “You're more than welcome to join us, Angel. I do, however, suggest you talk to Buffy.”

Angel stood up, smiling, and extended his hand to Giles who also stood. “Thank you, Giles. I think I'll go talk to Buffy now.”

Giles warmly shook the young man's hand and led him to the door, musing at the fact that the handshake had been warm. Angel's hand was warm. 'Apparently, he is human,' Giles frowned thoughtfully as he closed the door behind Angel. “But why, how and for how long?” he mused out loud.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Angel stepped into their room, wanting to check on Tara before he sought out Buffy. He grinned to himself as he saw the bathroom door was still closed. Gently knocking, he called to her, “Tara?”

“Angel?” came the reply, “hang on a minute, I'm almost done.”

Angel smiled again as he realized he'd never heard Tara sound so happy. She came out in one of the hotel's big fluffy white robes, her hair up in a towel. The scent of lavender drifted out, riding a visible cloud of steam.

“Hi!” she grinned at him. “So, I feel human again.”

“Yeah? Me too,” he grinned back at her and she giggled.

“You saw Giles?” she asked, curling into a chair by the window, smiling as Miss Kitty leaped into her lap and settled down for a nap.

He nodded as he sat in the chair across from her. “He told me I was welcome in England if that's where I want to go. He said there's plenty for me to do. And you know I want to be wherever Buffy is – even if there isn't a chance for us, I want to at least be her friend.” He thought for a moment before he said, “And, really, after I check on Connor, there's nothing left to keep me here.” He frowned as a thought suddenly occurred to him.

“What?” she asked, her blue eyes full of concern. He smiled at how well they'd actually gotten to know each other over the past year.

“Do you know what you're going to do?” he asked her, as he realized how much he'd enjoyed her company and how much he would miss her.

She shook her head. “No. I-I want to be with Willow but I don't know. It's been two years and so much has changed.” She frowned slightly, her brow furrowing. “I think maybe I should go talk to Giles, too. Maybe he'll have some answers. But, Angel,” she said, looking at him intently, “your decision shouldn't be influenced by mine. Honestly? I don't really have a life here. Anywhere in this reality, really. Here, I've been dead for two years.”

“Yeah, I know,” he smiled sympathetically at her, “and up until about a month ago, someone else was living mine. So I really have no life anywhere either.” He reflected on the truth of that. What would he do if he didn't go with Buffy? The agency was still a viable option but, without Cordy, Wes, Gunn and Fred, his now beating heart just wasn't in it.

“What about Connor?” she asked softly.

He shook his head. He had told her about Connor one night when they'd both been feeling sorry for themselves. It had felt good to share the story with someone, especially someone who hadn't been directly impacted by his decision. She'd been understanding and sympathetic and he'd been grateful that she hadn't passed any judgments.

“I made my choice. I want to check on him, make sure he's safe but I have no place in his life and that's how it should be.” He sighed deeply. “He's with a family that loves him and he has no memories of demons and hell dimensions. I don't want, and I don't have the right, to intrude on that.”

“It's funny,” she said, “we're finally safe but no less alone.”

He nodded his agreement. “I think I need to think before I talk to Buffy. A hot shower sounds good.” He grinned at her. “That is, if you left any hot water.”

She shook her head. “I'm not making any promises,” she grinned back at him. “And, since you're following my lead, I think I'll follow yours and go talk to Giles,” she said, releasing her blonde hair from its terrycloth prison and standing up, taking care to gently place Miss Kitty on the chair she'd just vacated. Walking over to the desk, she found a hairbrush among the necessities that had been hastily purchased from the gift shop. She carefully worked the tangles out of her hair, brushing until it was soft and shiny. She ran her hands through it several times, luxuriating in the feel of it before turning back to Angel. “Okay, I'll see you later,” she said, heading for the door.

He quirked an eyebrow. “You're going in your bathrobe?”

She grinned and nodded. “Yep. For the first time in over a year I am comfy and cozy and I am going to burn the few clothes I do have. Besides, I'm wearing pajamas, I'm decent.” She grinned again as she left the room.

He stood there for a moment chuckling and shaking his head before following Tara's lead and, grabbing another of the fluffy white robes, headed into the bathroom for a long, hot shower.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


A second knock at the door once again roused Giles from his reading. Setting the book down, he once again crossed to the door and opened it, not surprised to see Tara standing there. He was, however, a little taken aback at her attire. He grinned at the pretty blonde witch as he felt a rush of warmth in his chest. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed the bright, quirky, sensitive young woman. He stepped aside and ushered her in, indicating she should take the chair Angel had recently vacated.

“Tara, you look refreshed,” he said, noting that she still looked tired but not nearly as bedraggled.

She blushed and smiled. “Thank you Mr. Giles.”

“Please, Tara,” he said, “call me Rupert or, at the very least, Giles.” He smiled warmly as the blonde blushed. “Now, what can I do for you? Can I offer you a drink?”

Tara ducked her head and stammered, “No-no thank you. W-willow . . . there – there's so m-much power and grief and regret and sad-sadness in her aura. A-and I'm not sure – what do I do now? I have no life here, in this reality,” she looked at him with tears in her eyes and he felt his heart constrict painfully.

“Tara,” he started.

“I mean, I'm grateful. I was living in hell. I just don't know where I fit in – in the here and now.”

Giles looked at the young woman for a long moment, once again finding it necessary to measure his words carefully. He knew that much of what Tara wanted to know needed to come from Willow but he also felt a certain responsibility to at least put her mind at ease.

“Tara,” he finally said, “most of your questions will need to be answered by Willow. However, whatever you decide, whatever you need, we'll be able to help you start a new life wherever you'd like, doing whatever you'd like.” He stopped for a moment, once again considering how to proceed. “As for Willow – the majicks are a part of her. They're no longer a hobby or something she does. They're as much a part of her now as though they'd been passed down from her mother and grandmother, much as I suspect yours were.” He paused again making sure Tara had understood what he'd said. Taking her nod as understanding, he continued. “The manner in which she came to own those powers I'll leave to her to tell you. The regret is because, in her journey to those powers,” he paused to look at her and sighed, knowing there was no was to ease into this. “The regret is because, in her journey to those powers, she killed the man who killed you – rather viciously, I'm afraid.” He leaned forward and took her hands as she paled. “The grief that you're seeing has been there since you – the other you – died.”

Giles watched as several emotions played across the young woman's face. Disbelief, revulsion and fear were fleeting and when she finally re-focused on him, her eyes were narrowed in mistrust. Pulling her hands out of his, her tone was accusatory.

“Why isn't she in jail? Why weren't her powers bound? Why is she allowed to use majick at all? I don't understand – what kind of world is this that a murderer is allowed to roam free? And you condone this?”

Giles sighed and removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose. How could he explain this? Could he explain this?

“Tara,” he said slowly, his tone even and his eyes meeting hers, “I wish there were a simple answer to your questions, there simply isn't. Most of them will need to be answered by Willow. As to the majicks – Willow is quite powerful and her powers were needed to save our world from the same fate as yours.

“I can also tell you that she does understand the source and purpose of majick, has studied quite a lot with a powerful coven of witches and has made great strides in both understanding the nature of majick and in controlling it. Believe me when I tell you that the majicks do not control her, she controls them now. I think that's really all I can tell you – any other questions you may have are best answered by Willow.”

Tara nodded and Giles felt guilty for placing such a burden on the young woman so soon after so many had just been relieved. She did seem to accept what he had said as the truth and was looking more worried than distrustful.

He looked into her troubled blue eyes for a moment before speaking again. “I am sorry you have to deal with so much so soon. Your place in this world is wherever you would like it to be, I promise you.”

A smile flickered at her lips before she said, “Thank you so much, Giles. I-I'm glad you told me. I-I j-just hope W-willow tells me herself about this.” She frowned and looked at him. “P-please don't tell her we've spoken about this?” she said in earnest. “If we're ever going to – if I'm ever going to be able to completely trust her again,” she trailed off as the tears started to flow.

Rupert Giles, for all his knowledge and experience, was still just a typical male and thus had no idea what to do about a female's tears. He gently patted her knee and made vague soothing noises. Taking a handkerchief out of his pocket, he handed it to the young woman. He couldn't begin to imagine the hell she'd been through.

She accepted the handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes and nose. She gave him a watery smile. “I'm s-sorry. I shouldn't b-burden you . . .” she started.

“Not a bit of it,” he interrupted. “This has to be terribly traumatic or, at the very least, overwhelming for you. I understand your trepidation and I won't share our conversation with Willow.”

She smiled gratefully. “Thank you, Mr. Giles.”

He reminded her, “Rupert, please Tara, or Giles, as your compatriots do.” He smiled as she ducked her head shyly. “Just promise me you won't call me 'G' or 'G-man'.” He rolled his eyes at the memory of Xander's brand of humor.

Tara laughed. “It's a deal, Giles.”

He stood as she did and walked her to the door.

“Thank you, Giles,” she said with an extra emphasis on his name while extending her hand, “for everything.”

Grasping her hand warmly in his, he responded, “You're very welcome.” Smiling warmly at her, he couldn't stop the next words that came to his mind. “It is good to have you back.”

She smiled and leaned up to kiss his cheek, causing him to blush. “It's really good to be here,” she said softly as she exited his room.

He stood there for a moment after she'd gone, then poured himself a glass of scotch before reclaiming his chair and re-opening his book. He doubted he would have any other visitors this evening but the two he'd had left him with quite a bit to think about.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Tara walked back to her room thinking about what Giles had said and wondering if she and Willow could or would ever be able to find their ways back to each other. Her head spun and she felt sick to her stomach. Willow had killed a man and wasn’t punished. It was difficult to reconcile the sweet girl she'd met with the powerful witch she'd become and with the murderer. She'd always had power, though and she’d lost control twice now. She could again – she would again. Willow killed someone – no matter what the reason, Willow – lovely, sweet, funny Willow . . . had killed someone and, apparently, it had been brutal. That kind of power was awesome – and terrifying. That was one of the first things that had drawn her to Willow. The fact that she was smart, funny and sweet just added to the attraction. She smiled to herself, bit her lip in worry and hoped that, whatever the circumstances, Willow would be honest with her and maybe they could get to know each other again. Maybe Willow could help her understand why she’d done what she’d done and how it all tied in with saving the world. Starting over would be good. She was still powerful, smart, funny and sweet; after all was said and done, she was still her Willow.

Entering her room she heard the last few words of a song she didn't recognize as the water shut off in the bathroom. Either she hadn't been gone as long as she'd thought or Angel was trying to set the world record for the longest shower. The cloud of steam that escaped the bathroom as he exited made her think it was the latter. She grinned as he came further into the room, toweling his hair dry and uttering a startled 'yelp' as he realized he wasn't alone.

“Tara! Oh, uh, hi. When did, uh, you get back?” he asked, sliding his eyes away from her and restlessly moving his feet.

Before she could answer, the connecting door opened and Buffy came in, knocking as she did so. “Just came to ask you to stop strangling Miss Kitty,” she said, grinning at Angel.

Tara chuckled and scooped Miss Kitty up into her arms. Angel looked at the floor and Tara realized his nervousness upon her return had been embarrassment at thinking she'd heard him singing in the shower. She wondered what he'd been singing.

Buffy glanced at Tara then looked at Angel. “Uh, I just thought maybe we could talk?”

He nodded. “Give me a minute to get dressed and I'll be right over.”

She nodded and began to leave the room before turning back to look at Tara. “It's really good seeing you again,” she said, the warmth in her eyes and smile saying so much more than her words.

Tara smiled back, equally warmly, and nodded. “Yeah. It is good.”

Buffy slipped through the connecting door, leaving it slightly ajar.

“You'll be okay here for awhile while I go talk to her?” he asked, worry showing in his face.

She laughed as she stroked Miss Kitty's ears. “I'll be fine, Angel. You'll be right next door and we're not in Sunnyhell anymore.”

“I know,” he said. “I guess I'm just used to worrying about you.” He smiled at her.

“Yeah, I know and I appreciate it, but I'll be fine. I'm going to take Miss Kitty out to the balcony and we're going to watch the sunset then look at the stars. Go. Talk to Buffy,” she grinned at him.

As Angel nodded and left the room, Tara headed out to watch her first sunset in over a year.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Next Week: Conversations With (formerly) Dead People

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