Doors of Perception, Windows of the Soul
You people rock. Four, count 'em, four Crossing Over nominations! I'm touched. And humbled. And I deeply, deeply apologize for how long this is taking. Real Life, however, has moved beyond being a bear, and has taken up being ebola virus.
But…four nominations. Only one for this story, so I really should be posting another chapter of The Claws That Catch,
but this is what I managed to hammer out in between multiple go-rounds with my medical insurance provider, struggling to find a job in spite of a growing sense of futility-induced apathy, and the complete disintegration of most of my social circle.
Writing is easy, they say. All you have to do is stare at a blank page until drops of blood pop out on your forehead. But y'alls are my peeps! Dammit, I have to try!Standard Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is the creation of Joss Whedon and is owned by Fox Television (I think. If I'm wrong, smack me). Doctor Who
belongs to the BBC.
Doors of Perception, Windows of the Soul
"You guys up?" Buffy called from the open doorway.
"Oh! Buffy!" Willow called out from the kitchen. "In here!"
With a shove of her heel, Buffy closed the front door and made her way through the dining room.
Willow and Tara had set a number of pots and pans out next to the stove, and they were going over an array of packaged ingredients that were spread out on the counter island in the middle of the room.
"You're cooking?" Buffy asked.
"More of a feasibility study than anything else," Willow confessed.
"It, um, it's n-not going well," Tara added with a shy smile. "I r-really need t-two hands for this."
"Well, put all that stuff away for now," Buffy told them. She raised her hands to show them the bulging plastic shopping bags she carried. "For behold," she said, "I come before you bearing Thai takeout."
"I think I love you," Willow replied.
"Ahem," Tara said archly.
"Not," Willow gasped, her eyes going wide, "that I wanna jump her bones or anything!"
Buffy and Tara both gazed at Willow.
"Not that I wouldn't," Willow hastened to assure Buffy. "But I would never," she told Tara. "Not," she hastily added to Buffy, "that I…um…" She glanced back and forth between the other two women, then heaved an exaggerated sigh. "You know," she said, "some people's lovers and best friends don't laugh at them."
With a playful chuckle, Tara stepped forward and gathered Willow in her arms.
"You know we love you," she said, brushing her lips across the redhead's. The two stood with their foreheads touching for a long moment.
"Why don't you…s-set the table," Tara suggested, releasing her lover and stepping back.
"'Kay," Willow replied, gathering the short stack of plates and silverware from the counter and heading for the dining room. "Wouldn't wanna stop you two from talking about me behind my back," she added with a smile.
"O-oh, I'd n-never do that," Tara assured her.
Buffy got out some serving dishes and a big spoon while Tara opened the cardboard boxes. "So," she said casually as she handed Tara the spoon, "what do
you wanna talk about…behind her back?"
Tara concentrated on spooning curry-fried rice into a big bowl while she gathered her thoughts.
"Are you, um," she started. "Okay? R-really okay?"
Buffy blinked in surprise at the question, her expression carefully neutral.
After a beat, she flashed a calm, happy smile. "I'm fine, Tara," she said. "How are you?"
"Oh, good, g-good, I'm good," the witch assured her. "I-it's just, I was, was noticing…"
Buffy started arranging the dishes on a tray, her attention mainly on Tara. "Hmm?" she prompted.
Tara hesitated some more, then shook her head. "It's probably just my imagination," she said as she finished emptying out the last box. "Only, you d-don't exactly seem like…" she set the box aside and stared at the countertop. "You," she finished.
Buffy left off arranging the tray and put a hand gently on Tara's arm. The latter looked up to meet Buffy's eyes.
"Tara," Buffy said, "I'm okay. Completely okay. Van Buren okay."
Tara had learned a lot about interpreting Buffyisms over the years, but this one was beyond her.
"V-Van Buren?" she smiled hesitantly.
"Van Buren," Buffy said. She seemed surprised at having to explain it. "You know, Martin Van Buren?"
Tara shook her head to indicate her bafflement.
"'Old Kinderhook' Van Buren?" Buffy said. "Eighth President of the United States? 'We're okay with O.K.?'" She shook her head. "Man, that's gotta be humbling. Do you Yanks have no sense of history at all?"
"You…" Buffy said. "I'm…I'm yank
ing your chain. Bad joke," she added with a dismissive wave, "forget about it."
Tara just stared at Buffy, clearly worried. Buffy's half-smile softened and she took a step closer to the witch.
"Tara," she said, "after what I went through…I guess I am a little different. But I'm still me. Can't you tell? Look at me." She leaned forward ever so slightly. "Look in my eyes."
Tara bit her lip and furrowed her brow, but she looked. Buffy's eyes were the same vibrant green they'd always been, and her smile was as relaxed and happy as the witch had ever seen her. Slowly, the tension began to leave Tara's face and shoulders…
And then, with a loud gasp, she flinched convulsively away from the Slayer. Without a moment's hesitation, Buffy's hand flashed across the counter to the knife rack.
Willow had arranged the three plates, the glass tumblers, the silverware, and had even worked a minor cantrip to freshen up the flowers in the vase. But then…
The redhead's mystic senses weren't nearly as acute as Tara's, but at such a short range, it wasn't hard to pick up the sudden surge of fear from her lover. She dropped the napkins on the floor and raced to the kitchen. Bursting through the door, she stopped dead at the sight that greeted her.
Buffy stood battle-ready in the middle of the kitchen, right next to the island. She was brandishing a huge, wickedly gleaming butcher knife and looking around wildly. Behind her, Tara huddled against the counter, trembling in fear and watching Buffy.
"Tara?" At the sound of Willow's voice, the blonde witch ran over and threw her arms around the redhead, burying her face in Willow's shoulder.
"What was it?" Buffy demanded, still looking around. "Tara, what did you sense?"
Tara shook her head, face still pressed against Willow's blue cable-knit sweater, before taking a deep breath and raising her head.
"I-I don't --" she began, but had to break off to get her stutter under control. "I d-didn't…I mean…"
She took a deep breath and stood straighter, blinking away tears that were starting to form. "I just s-suddenly felt…as if something were s-scratching at my mind," she said. Her composure started to fail again as she added, "as if it w-were…t-t-trying to get in."
Willow kept an arm around Tara's shoulders, her expression aghast. Buffy turned to look at her too, her grip shifting on the knife handle.
"B-but," Tara added, gathering her courage once more, "I d-didn't actually…sense
"Will," Buffy said, and Willow nodded. Stepping away from Tara, the redhead closed her eyes and focused her concentration. For a long moment, there was a feeling in the air, of something powerful on the move; like a distant thunderstorm or the thrumming of water pipes in the walls.
Slowly, the feeling receded, and Willow opened her eyes. "Nothing," she said. "Whatever it was, it's gone. Not even a trace."
Buffy slowly relaxed. "So how do we keep it from coming back?" she asked, still wary.
Willow bit her lip and thought about it. "We could ward the house…you have salt and cinnamon sticks, right?"
"U-unless," Tara said, "m-maybe…"
Willow put a hand on Tara's shoulder, but she and Buffy said nothing, waiting for her to continue.
"What, what if…I r-really just imagined it? What if…" She squeezed her eyes shut to hold back terrified tears. "W-what if I'm s-s-still…c…c-c-cr…"
"No!" Willow said, pulling the blonde into a hug. "You got it all back, Tara, I made sure of that! You're fine now, you are!"
Tara hugged back and sobbed quietly. Buffy watched them, hefting the knife thoughtfully, then turned to put it back on the rack.
"It might be some kind of post-traumatic thing," Buffy said. "Jumping at shadows. But…it might not." She turned back to the two witches.
"Guys," she said, "let's eat. Then I need to get out on patrol, but you should stay and put up those wards, okay?"
"I'll t-try," Tara began, but Willow interrupted by stroking her hair.
"No, you won't, baby," she said. "I'm doing the heavy lifting tonight, you hear me?" She started to lead Tara into the dining room.
"I g-guess you're right," Tara sighed, letting the redhead support her. "I'm still so weak…"
Buffy watched until they'd left the room, then sagged against the counter.
"Says the girl whose psychic shields just kicked my ass," she muttered. She put one hand to her forehead and used the thumb and middle finger to massage her temples for a few seconds. Dropping her hand, she pulled the tray closer and started to pick it up. But she paused first, and stared after the two witches with bleak eyes.
"But…Rassilon's left nut,"
she whispered to herself. "What am I gonna do now?"
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