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 Post subject: Joy To Several Worlds, or, That's Gift Enough; Willow/Tara/K
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:59 pm 
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Something a bit more racy, by my standards of the word. Standard disclaimers; everything still owned by the creators or their estates.

I had been coming to the Old Phoenix Tavern occasionally for several years by that time and this was in some ways one of my best visits to that little place at the junction of so many universes. For one thing, it was decorated with a holiday theme; unusual since people come there from so many times, places, and cultures. But I saw decorations for Christmas, Hanukah, several Western pagan festivals, Chinese New Year, African harvest festivals, and some truly alien decorations as well.
When I arrived, I noticed Kensie Graeme and Cyrano de Bergerac (not the historical one, rather Rostand's dramatic hero) seated at a table and had asked to join them and been invited quite jovially. They were both winding down into the last three hours of their 24-hour stays. Shortly after, Silver John the minstrel had pulled up the fourth chair. Then another of my favorite heroes, Adzel, a dracocentaur from the planet we humans (in his universe) call Woden, had come over, his four-liter pewter mug brimming with Irish coffee. Too large for any conceivable chair, he simply settled comfortably into the quadrupedal version of the lotus position. (That is indescribable; unless you've seen it, you can't picture it.)
Inspired by Kensie's presence, I had decided to order Dorsai whiskey myself, albeit with an ice water on the side, much to his amusement. I was careful, but I was starting on my third and growing quite maudlin by the time he and Cyrano were ready to leave. Their death scenes move me greatly no matter how often I read them or see a performance and I was truly sobbing some minutes before they left. So, I did not see the slender red-haired girl slip in the door and head for the bar as they were getting up.
Adzel, not naturally sentimental and having a good Buddhist's awareness that even I have to make my own path, was calmly waiting out my crying session. John, more down-to-earth and also not knowing me as well, was about to tell me to straighten out, when said young lady came over to the table, set down her Frozen Norwegian Sunrise, and stared hard at me with her hands on her hips.
I looked up at her (I seldom forget a drink) and tried to smile. I'd always regarded her as one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen, not so much in a textbook fashion as in what I call a real-live-girl-sort-of way.
"Stede, you amaze me," she said, "every time I've seen you, you've been crying your eyes out. When will you realize, in your universe, Willow Rosenberg is a fictional character, and this is just plain ridiculous?"
I managed to chuckle a bit at that and replied, "Willow, you wrong me greatly. The fact is, I've just spent three hours getting to know two of my greatest heroes personally, and my tears were provoked by what I could not tell them about their own respective sad ends. But again, you know your story moves me as well, it . . . ."
She sat down and, in a comic-aggravated tone of voice, said, "Yes, you were feeling low after your marriage broke up and your relationship with your sister was going bad and Tara and I reminded you that love wasn't an illusion and caring wasn't a lie, blah-blah. I appreciate that and so, I'm sure, does that TV hack who thinks he wrote my life. That was years ago, get a life, person!" and followed that speech with that smile that makes me melt. While I was busy melting, Adzel, whom Willow had met before, introduced her to John.
After that had been done, I replied, "Hey, I've made progress since then, we all have. I'm just very emotional; crying is how I react to things, Ms. Letterman or Shatner or whatever name you prefer these days. Hey, look catch me up here; the show's been cancelled a year and a half, you and Short-Dark-and-Hot still in Rio?"
"Yes, still working the tropics, but I start graduate school in the Midwest in January going for a Master's in Business Information Systems. And you with the nicknames, and also the old-fashioned language, are you sure you don't have any relatives named Milek, because you sound a lot like a friend of mine?"
My mind reeled just a little at that question; as far as I knew the only place where Willow knows anybody named "Milek" was in my own fan fiction. The bit about her continuing studies also matched. I grabbed the table edge, tried to appear merely intoxicated and said, "No, Willow, no Slovak ancestry at all, WASP and Pennsylvania 'Deutsch' with a little French-Canadian and Hungarian for the variety."
About this time, Trilby and Erik Claudine had also joined us and we got into one of those odd discussions which can probably only occur at the Old Phoenix Tavern, a major motivation for me not to jeopardize my right to go there. Unfortunately, some of the talk was in French, which I cannot follow. I did gather that all of us had come here from times in our home dimensions where the date was somewhere between December 12th and December 23rd.
Looking around a bit, I glanced over to the bar, and saw something which paralyzed me for an instant. It was another beautiful-woman-in-a-real-live-girl-kind-of-way, this one an ash-blonde. I was vaguely aware of my alien friend also looking in that direction, but I did not reflect on the significance of that. Rather, when my amazement faded, I simply made the politest excuses I could and began walking towards the bar in, I admit, a bit of a lingering daze.
I had taken only a few steps when I felt Adzel's hand on my shoulder; being from a high-gravity world, he can move oh so quickly and silently when he wishes.
"Stede," he said, "I know what you're thinking, and I also recognize her. Meddling isn't good for your own karma, and not for theirs, either."
"How could you know what I'm thinking? Your continuum and mine diverged in the 1960s, I doubt that show even exists in your history."
"It doesn't, but if that's who I believe it is, I've met her here before. You really don't want to do this, even though you think you do," he hesitated about a heartbeat and looked at me. He was a different species, the product of billions of years of separate evolution, more different from me than a tomato is. Warm-blooded, yes, and his mother had nursed him and his siblings, but huge and scaled, with enormous scutes on his back, one of which had been removed to provide a riding spot for his smaller co-workers. An enormous snaggle-toothed snout, and low-browed, his good brain bulging out at the rear of his skull, there was no way I could truly read his emotions. But I really thought he was trying to be sympathetic when he said, "But you're not going to change your mind, are you?"
"No," I answered, softly. I thought about calling him a gruntosaur or grumpysaurus or something similar, but such nicknames were for closer friends of his than I could ever be, separated by 500 years and a dimensional barrier. I continued, "Another patron told me once of an incident where an Heloise from a history similar to ours and an Abelard from a world where she had died in childbirth and he was still whole met here, and shared a special night."
He said, "Yes, my old pirate of a former boss Nick van Rijn was here that night and he's mentioned it to me. But getting back to the subject, it's not your place in the Wheel to try to arrange another evening to satisfy your romantic compulsions about others. Willow and Tara have their own lives in their own continua; thinking of your own pain, you just assume you're going to "help" when you might hurt. And remember, Abelard and Heloise were as much in love with the pain of their relationship as they were with each other. But, if you won't listen to reason, listen to the experience you insist on gaining."
I gave him one of my trademark cocky smiles and said, "Yes, that's the only school for a fool such as I," and I continued on my way.
The blonde girl was not talking to anyone at the moment I walked up and she had a convenient bit of bar space when I arrived, so as casually as possible I said, "Well, I think you're someone I'd like to meet, whether your name is Amber or Tara or Chance or . . . . "
She looked at me with surprised expression but a friendly smile and said, "It's Tara, Tara Maclay, and I guess it's safe to assume you're from a dimension where there was a television show about Buffy and the rest of us for seven years, right?"
I answered affirmatively and introduced myself, then asked her first what the date was where she called home. She told me it was December 20th of 2004 and she was living in Rio de Janeiro with Kennedy Gassett. Which should have given me pause but, in my arrogance of the moment, it was actually what I had expected her to say. So I asked her for some rundown on the events of 2002 and 2003, first apologizing for having her relive anything painful.
Her voice trembled a little bit when she recounted how Willow had died and Buffy had been in the hospital and in a touch-and-go condition. She continued, "I couldn't just sit around doing nothing, so I decided to try tracking Warren magically. First I traced him to a bus but it was only one of his life-like robots with his essence magically painted onto it. I then traced him to the forest, and he tried several weapons to stop me but they didn't work.
I told him, 'Warren, you can't get away. Maybe you could hide from the police, but I'll always be able to track you. I'll tell them, I'll tell Buffy once she's out of the hospital, and you'd be best off giving up now." At first I thought I'd convinced him, but he suddenly pulled out another device he had stashed away, but he was so nervous he had it pointed toward himself when he triggered it."
Then she went on to tell me how Buffy had convinced her she still had a place in the gang even with Willow gone, and all the later developments which bore a strangely skewed relationship to the version of events I'd seen on my own television.
"And finally Giles helped me to join my own power with that of a coven in England and we released the power of the Scythe to empower all the world's Potentials, and Spike triggered the amulet which closed the Hellmouth. Buffy and Kennedy and I investigated a haunting on a movie set, then Buffy and Dawn moved to Rome and Kennedy and I moved to Rio and we've been helping Giles and the new Council find and recruit new Slayers from the region. I met a woman last time I was here who told me she'd seen all that on the two shows she followed."
I took a sip of my drinks and said, "That's very interesting, and really not surprising. In a place like this, one is reminded not just of parallels and alternates but also alternate parallels and parallel alternates. Let me tell you what story the TV shows told in my dimension." I proceeded to do so, and she didn't find it especially pleasant. Among other things, her versions of Jonathan and Anya were still alive, which was not the least of it.
"I believe it," she said, "I believe that Willow could have done what your version of the shows told. But it's almost, well, frighteningly grim, and given what we both know, just because we're here talking like this, there's probably a dimension where that really happened."
We chatted a few more minutes until I finally worked up my nerve to do what I had come over here to do. I asked her, "Would you mind coming over to the table where I was sitting earlier? There's someone there I'd like to introduce you to." I think she knew what I meant, she got a certain look in her eyes, but she agreed, and we started walking over.
When we got there, Willow looked up a t me and said, "Stede, glad you're back. John's trying to organize a sing-along and . . . ipp!" Well, it sounded something like that. Willow essentially sat paralyzed for a second or two; Tara apparently had figured out what I was going to do, because she made no sound except a catch of breath, but she was also very still.
I felt I ought to say something, so I made an abbreviated explanation, saying, "You're both from the same month, same year, same place, just different days. My speaking seemed to break something; Tara sat her glass on the table, and Willow stood up and began walking over to her. Adzel meanwhile shot me a look. Alien he was, but he had spent enough time around humans to know how most of us could interpret his facial expressions, and I picked up on what he was trying to say. The only way I can describe it would be to call it a sympathetic glare.
Willow had gotten over to Tara quite quickly, and they hugged each other tightly, which I expected. I think I smiled at them; I was still patting myself on the back about this.
The two women pulled back from each other and stood, holding two hands like Anna and the King, speaking to each other only with their eyes. Then, still holding hands, they turned towards me simultaneously and Willow said, "This was a cruel thing to do, Stede."
I like to think of myself as always having a ready response to anything, but that's a self-delusion; the fact is, I seldom do, and as usual I began speaking in fragments of sentences signifying nothing.
Willow continued, "What were you thinking? Did you have some big fantasy about becoming 'The Man Who Reunited Your Ideal Couple in Spite of Death and Dimensions? Or some idea of patting yourself on the back because of giving what you thought would be a Great Holiday Gift? Were you thinking about anything but yourself?" And yes, I could hear the capital letters quite plainly in her voice.
Tara put in with, "Hey, Willow, yes, he was wrong, but we don't need to be that hard on him," then she turned back to me and said, "Stede, you know very well we both have girlfriends at home. I'm not a cheater, and neither is Willow."
Willow interrupted, "And I don't do fluking anymore either."
"Is there any point in saying that I'm sorry? And I'm sure you can do some catching up right here, I mean, you have things to say that you didn't get a chance to before, right?"
"Stede, it's never wrong to say you're sorry when you are. And if Willow wants to, yes, I want to speak with her. But all the time I'll be wanting to take her upstairs, and I think she'll be feeling the same, and it's going to be killing us."
"Doing an unexpected good deed is almost impossible; you'd think I'd be old enough to know that by now. Again, I'm sorry, ladies," and the looks on their faces, well, they were obviously still angry but I could tell they understood.
Adzel laid that massive hand on my shoulder (I was still standing and he was in his lotus again, but he's over eighteen feet from nose-tip to tail-tip and his arms are sized appropriately, so it was no stretch for him, so to speak) and said, "Friend, my species have longer life-spans than yours and we seldom achieve wisdom either."
I turned to speak with him while Willow and Tara spoke very softly about what corner of the room they wanted to go to for their conversation. I looked around the tavern a bit and noticed two women off near one of the doors. They'd obviously been there for a few minutes but fro some reason hadn't come in further. I couldn't see their faces but they were the same height. Their hair was colored and styled the same and they were wearing corduroy jumpsuits of identical cut, one bright red, one deep green, with similar gold-mesh belts.
I had only been watching them for a second or two when they started towards our table, holding hands. I saw their faces and they looked identical; more specifically, they looked like Iyari Limon, a bit taller, I admit. Beyond the colors of their outfits, the only obvious difference was that the red-clad Kennedy was wearing five cartilage pierced earrings and two lobe earrings in her left ear and one cartilage and two lobes on her right, while the green-clad one had four cartilages on the right and two on the left with the two lobes.
Willow and Tara had not seen them come up and didn't notice them until the red-clad one called out, "Hey, you two, before you go anywhere we'd like to get into the conversation. We've both been wondering what this place was like, anyway."
I essentially just let myself fall into my seat while the four young women made hello-type and what's-happening-type noises with each other. I have always been the type to analyze too much, and so I attempted trying to make sense of things. Coincidences as such do not really happen at the Old Phoenix Tavern. I ran over various changes that had occurred in their worlds, as seen on TV. The Jasmine incident, the partial neutralization of The First Evil, Illyria's return and her reduction in power, and the destruction of the Council of the Black Thorn had perhaps left spaces in their home dimensions for ancient or alien Powers which may not have had a free hand on earth before to stir and intervene.
Then I caught myself; as I said, this is not a place of coincidence. And as for Powers, the Host and Hostess of this tavern certainly qualify. It didn't make what I'd done any less wrong in itself, but it seemed I had been playing the role I had been meant to play.
Anyway, while I was wandering in my own head the Witches and Slayers had apparently mostly sorted things out and the green-clad Kennedy said, "There's no reason for you two to feel shy about going upstairs. The two of us took about 5 seconds to decide that was what we were going to do, this being a chance we just can't pass up; all you have to decide is whether you're going to join us or get a different room." Upon having said that, the two Kennedys turned and headed towards the staircase. Trilby was still at our table and, even though she came from a rather sophisticated milieu herself, seemed shocked at what was happening. Probably she thought they were identical twins. I considered trying to explain it, feeling sure anyone who comes to this place would understand about other-dimensional equivalents, but then I decided that might just shock her even more. Just as well, since she got up shortly after that and moved over to where the sing-along was gathering, Adzel having already done the same; they started with "Carol of the Bells."
Willow and Tara both looked as if they were still a bit shell-shocked by what had just happened and were gazing at the retreating backs of their respective girlfriends with mouths hanging just a little bit open, not too much. Willow spoke first.
"I think we should take a separate room, at least at first; we can visit them later if we want. I mean, we do have a good bit of, well we can't exactly call it catching up since we've never really seen each other before, but still, things to talk about that might bore them. Plus with that Slayer strength of theirs we might have trouble keeping up, and since they obviously know each other so well, they might come up with some ideas we might not be comfortable with doing, and . . . ."
"And," Tara interrupted, smiling sweetly now, "this is essentially something they've dreamed about their entire lives and we'd be best off just leaving them to it. Besides, like you said, in 23 hours we have plenty of chances to try some other combinations."
Hands intertwined, they excused themselves very politely. I said, "Willow, Tara, like I said earlier, I was wrong and I still apologize but it seems to have worked out. Maybe I didn't really give you two any gift, but you've gotten one from somewhere, and so have I."
Tara said to me in a happy tone of voice, "That was beautiful, Stede, and I guess we should thank you anyway, so thanks."
"You're welcome," I answered, "and, I'm curious, can I ask you ladies," I glanced quickly at the now vacant staircase, "which Kennedy belongs to which one of you?"
Willow answered, "Freedom of speech, Stede, you can ask anything you want," then, with paired impish grins, the two gorgeous young witches turned and walked off.
Chuckling at how well I'd set myself up for that one, I turned towards the group sing-together, quite an impressive gathering of, from my perspective, fictional talents. Erik was sharing the bench in front of the piano with Buck Hammer, Luke the Drifter was doing rhythm guitar and tenor vocals with John on lead guitar and singing harmony. Mr. Pickwick's baritone did its necessary part, Adzel filled in the bass, and Trilby made her best efforts at a decent soprano-presumably Svengali was still alive in her timeline. Erich Zann's violin and Gurney Halleck's baliset added an intriguing tone to the whole proceedings.
John called out to me, "Hey, Stede, didn't you say you were a counter-tenor on most Christmas songs? Well, we need somebody in that range."
So I walked on over in time to join them in "Jingle Bells."
I am sure you can all agree, anyone who has ever been invited to this place in between all places would never want to jeopardize his or her welcome. Happy holidays to all!


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 Post subject: Re: Joy To Several Worlds, or, That's Gift Enough; Willow/Tara/K
PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:30 pm 
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I guess nobody "yike dis" :( .


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