Author's Note: I want to take this moment to say thank you to everyone that has given me feedback on this story. I really means a lot to me, and to all authors for that matter, when someone takes the time to comment on my (or their) work. It really boosts our belief in ourselves as authors and makes us want to work that much harder bringing you better stories.
Author's note #2: I also want to send a BIG thank you and a great big hug out to my Beta, without whom I would be completely and totally lost...and so might many of the readers;) She makes me take my time and really see what I am writing, and always has something positive to say about everything I write. Thank you Soph!!!!:)
Onto the story:
Willow sighed deeply and pulled the sheet from over her head, smiling at the short-breathed brunette staring back at her. “Now that is dirtying the sheets.” The redhead grinned.
Kennedy laughed lightly, reaching for the hacker. “I will so clean the sheets every time if you dirty them like that again.” She smiled, pulling Willow into her arms.
Willow grinned. “It’s a deal.” She said, kissing the potential and cuddling against her. “So how was your day?”
Kennedy shrugged, running her fingernails over Willow’s bare skin. “It was lonely until you got here…then it got better.” She said.
“What’d you do?” Willow asked, nipping lightly at Kennedy’s neck.
“The usual. Training, cleaning…foraging for food.” She smiled.
Willow grinned. “Alright, alright. We’ll go to the store.”
Kennedy smiled, sliding her hand lower, running her fingertips over Willow’s breasts and slipping under the sheets. “I hope you don’t mean right now.” She whispered, kissing Willow’s ear with teasing nips and bites.
Willow moaned deeply, leaning into the insistent mouth nibbling on her skin. “No…oh goddess that feels good…not right now. Defiantly not right now.”
Tara opened the door to the small shop in downtown Seacouver. She smiled at the woman behind the counter and sensed right away that the woman was a practicing witch.
“Blessed be. Can I help you find something today?” the woman asked, raising her hand and slipping a small lock of dark brown hair behind her ear, which was pierced with three small studs.
Tara walked to the counter and nodded. “I could use some help finding some Dragon’s Blood.” She said, studying the woman in front of her. Her small frame was sheathed in a loose, flowing top with bold flowers printed and faded hip-hugger jeans. Her brown hair hung slightly below her shoulders and her deep, brown eyes twinkled as she looked Tara over.
“Dragon’s blood is hard to come by.” The shop keeper smiled, reaching behind her and grabbing a jar. “Those pesky dragons hardly ever hold still for a draw.” She said.
Tara grinned. “Plus, it’s hard to find a phlebotomist to do the d-drawing.”
“How much did you need?” the shop keeper said, smiling at Tara’s quirky sense of humor. “I’m Megan. You practice? I mean, really practice?”
Tara nodded. “I’m Tara.” The blonde said, smiling shyly. “I don’t do much anymore, but I do practice. I needed the dragon’s blood for a spell I was doing tonight, actually.”
Megan perked up. “Need a hand?” she asked, taking Tara’s money. “I mean…unless it’s personal. I wouldn’t want to interfere.” She said smiling back at Tara.
“Um…well…” Tara hesitated. She hadn’t cast with anyone since Willow, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready for something like that so soon. ‘Soon, right…it’s been over a year now.’ She said to herself.
“If you don’t want to, that’s cool.” Megan said quickly, sensing Tara’s hesitation.
“It’s not that I don’t want to…it’s just that tonight is something…kind of personal.” Tara said sadly.
Megan grinned. “It’s not a naughty spell is it?” she asked, pulling the small bag back as Tara reached for it.
“It’s just a minor alteration to a protection spell. Nothing big.” Tara said.
“Hiding from someone?” Megan asked, a slight edge of concern lilting in her voice.
Tara shook her head, hoping her smile looked sincere. “No. Just…protection from muggers.”
Megan nodded. “Well maybe some other time then?”
Tara took the bag and smiled. “Definitely. I’m just happy to be in a shop that has someone in it that knows what they’re talking about. The other place is neat, but mostly rabbit’s feet and crystal balls.” She smiled.
“Oh. Then you’ll be back?” Megan asked, raising an eyebrow.
Tara looked Megan over and grinned. “Oh yes. I’ll be back.”
Tara looked over the ingredients she had assembled and sighed deeply. She hated doing this; especially since she wanted so much to go back to the very thing she was running from. She reached into the small, crystal chalice in front of her and pulled a photograph from the glass and looked at it. A smiling redhead stared into the camera, waving excitedly. “I can feel you again, baby. I am happy beyond words that your magic didn’t consume you, but I can’t let you find me. You wouldn’t understand.” She said, kissing the picture. “I will always love you.”
Tara sprinkled the herbs over the photograph and chanted a prayer softly as she focused her magic. A small flash of light let her know that the spell was cast. The sudden empty space she felt in her heart let her know it too.
Willow was sleeping soundly, curled around Kennedy and dreaming. Suddenly, she felt sick. She opened her eyes and looked around the room. She felt like she was being casted on, but she didn’t see anyone, other then the five other potentials spread out across the floor. She shrugged and lowered her head and then felt the world slip away from her. Willow sat up in the quiet of the dark house and screamed.
She was still crying two hours later.
Duncan frowned when he knocked softly on Tara’s door. She was staying with him as he fixed the house up. She had been in his care for a year now, and he had never felt anything from her like the fear he was feeling when he was awakened tonight. “Tara? Are you ok?” he asked, knocking again.
The lock clicked open and Tara opened the bedroom door, her eyes red and puffy from crying. “I...Duncan…” she sobbed, turning back and kneeling again, picking up more herbs and tossing them into a small chalice, fueling the fire already burning there. “Let the spell be broken.” She said. She sobbed when the flame still burned.
Duncan knelt next to Tara and looked at the herbs. He was no warlock, but he recognized the ingredients. “Protection spell?” he asked softly.
Tara nodded, wiping her tears. “I…I wanted to mask myself from…from Willow.” She whispered the name softly.
“Your ex?” Duncan asked.
Tara looked at Duncan. “Sort of. We didn’t break up…I mean, we did, but we made up. Then…” she said, placing her hand over her heart.
Willow smiled as she looked down at what she was wearing. “Hey. Clothes.” She smiled, wiggling her eyebrows.
Tara grinned and lowered her gaze. “Better not get used to ‘em.”
Willow smiled. “Yes ma’am.”
Willow reached over and grabbed Tara’s belt loop and pulled her over, wrapping the blonde in an embrace.
Tara smiled. Things were right again. She was back home with Willow. “Mmmm…Xander!” she said, seeing the young man outside the bedroom window.
“Ok. Not quite the response I was fishing for.” Willow grinned, walking around Tara and grabbing a brush.
Tara smiled. “No. He’s here.”
Willow turned. “Think they’re making up?” She knew Xander and Buffy had been having trouble since Xander learned of Buffy’s affair with Spike.
Tara turned and smiled, slipping her hands into her back pockets. “I hope so, that’s the best part.”
Willow’s white shirt was suddenly sprayed with something red…paint maybe? “Your shirt.” Tara said, before her vision went black.
Duncan put a hand on Tara’s shoulder. “I know this is hard. But it’s for the best. They would never understand, never accept what you are.” He said softly.
“No, you’re wrong. They would understand and they would be h-happy to see me.” Tara protested. She had been at Duncan’s for a week, heard the tales of what she was. Listened as Duncan explained rules to a game, a game in which she was now a participant.
Duncan sighed. “Tara. Listen. I have met a lot of Immortals who have said the same thing. It always ends the same. Rejection, fear, even hostility.” He said sadly. “I’m sorry.”
Tara closed her eyes and reached for Willow with her mind, but felt her probes brushed away by powerful magic. “Something’s blocking me. Is it you? Am I a prisoner?!” she asked, jumping up.
Duncan shook his head. He had seen his share of things in 400 years, even magic. He wasn’t surprised to learn Tara was a witch. “I wouldn’t even know how…and you are not a prisoner. I am just asking, no begging…please, reconsider. I can teach you how to survive. Just give me a year. I promise, after a year I won’t argue with you if you still want to go.”
Tara reached out again, and was rebuked again. She looked at Duncan and nodded. “One year. Then I am going back and seeing for myself.”
Duncan nodded. “One year.” He agreed.
Tara wiped her eyes and looked at Duncan. “I’m going back.” She said softly.
Duncan closed his eyes. He had hoped she wouldn’t say that, but deep down he knew better. “Alright.” He said.
Tara had sensed Willows presence for almost seven months now, and the spell that was just supposed to mask her from the redheads probes had totally wiped Willow’s presence from her soul. “Thank you.” She feared the worst.
“Want some company?” Duncan asked, looking at Tara.
Tara smiled. “I could use a friend, but I don’t want to show up and have them freak, then freak over you.” She said. “Give me a week?”
Duncan smiled. “Alright. Take this then.” He said, reaching for his wallet and pulling out his Platinum card, handing it to the blonde.
“Duncan, no. I couldn’t.” Tara protested.
“You’ll need air fare, cab fare, and maybe even a hotel room. Last I checked, you had about fifteen dollars.” Duncan said.
Tara took the card. “Actually, I have about four left. I had to buy some new dragon’s blood.”
Duncan wrapped an arm around Tara’s shoulder. “See. Now, go make the reservations.”
Tara stood up, smiling softly at Duncan. “Thank you.” She said, trying to offer more, but no words came.
Duncan just smiled, shooing her away. “Kids.” He sighed.
Buffy frowned as she watched Kennedy hold Willow. The hackers screaming had awakened the entire house, and it took the slayer a long time to calm everyone down. After establishing that there wasn’t an attack, or an appearance by the First, Buffy had sent everyone but Kennedy from the room. “Will? You ok now?” she asked.
The redhead was still sobbing heavily in Kennedy’s arms. She hadn’t said anything in almost an hour. After the screaming stopped, she had calmed to a heavy sob, shaking and clutching her body as if she was in pain.
“Willow?” Buffy said softly, sitting down on the bed.
Willow looked at Buffy, and then back to Kennedy. “I…Buf-fy…” she sobbed, clinging to Kennedy.
Kennedy looked at the slayer, tears forming in her eyes. “Buffy, what the hell is going on?!”
Willow sat up, trying to regain her composure. “I can’t…feel…I can’t remember her.” She said, pounding on her chest.
Buffy frowned. “Willow. What are you talking about? Who can’t you feel?”
“She’s gone. I…I can’t feel her.” The hacker sobbed. “I know she’s…she’s gone.” She said. “But I could always feel her, her essence, how she made me feel, how she loved me.” She said.
Kennedy frowned. “Baby, I’m right here. I love you, you know that.” She said.
Buffy leaned back, rubbing her face. “Oh…I know.” She said softly. “Um…Kennedy, could you give us a few minutes?” she said softly.
Kennedy furrowed her brow, standing. “Yeah. Sure. You gonna be ok, baby?” she asked, slipping a disheveled lock of red hair behind Willow’s ear.
Willow nodded, trying to smile. “I’ll be ok.” She said. “Thank you Kennedy.” She said.
Kennedy nodded and left the room, closing the door softly as she left.
“Willow?” Buffy said softly, setting her hand on Willow’s shoulder.
“I can’t feel her anymore.” She placed her hand on her heart. “Here. I can’t feel her anymore. I know she’s…dead.” She choked the word out. “But I could always feel her.”
Buffy closed her eyes and her head was instantly filled with visions of the shy, beautiful blonde. “Tara.” she said softly.
Willow nodded. “I mean, I know she’s…but somehow I could always feel her in my heart, still feel the love she had for me. But now, I can’t feel anything. I was sleeping and it’s like it was ripped away.” She sobbed.
Buffy held her close and rubbed her back. “I’m not trying to be judgmental gal here, but with you and Kennedy…” she trailed off.
Willow smiled. “I care very much about Kennedy, I mean I really, really care about her.” She grinned slightly. “But I will always have a place in my heart for Tara, I will always hold her here…or I thought I would, but now, there’s a hole. I feel it.” She said.
Buffy nodded. “You think it might be an attack?” she asked.
Willow sniffled, shrugging her shoulders. “I don’t know. It was all of the sudden, like everything I felt from her was ripped away. It might be.” She said softly. “I woke everybody up, didn’t I?” she asked softly.
Buffy grinned. “I think Andrew may still be asleep…and Dawn.”
“Dawnie can sleep through a tornado, earthquake and an apocalypse.” The hacker smiled.
“We’ll figure this out Will. Right now, I am pretty sure there is a dark haired potential scared to death waiting in the hall for you to call her back in here.” Buffy said softly.
Willow smiled. “I know. I’m just scared, that’s all. It hurts, I mean physically hurts, not being able to feel her. And if it is the First, well then I may just have to give him what for.” She smiled bravely, even though Buffy saw that the smile barely masked the fear. The First knew exactly how to hurt her friends the in worst ways. It was damned annoying considering they couldn’t hit back.
Buffy stood and walked towards the door. “I’ll talk to Giles, see what he says. You can take the day off tomorrow, spend the day with your honey. I’ll take the training sessions.” She said, opening the door and catching a stumbling Kennedy. “Get all that?” she asked the potential.
“Day off and you’re doin’ my chores.” Kennedy nodded, grinning.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “We’ll figure this out Will.” Buffy said softly. “Get some rest.”
Willow slid back under the heavy comforter and nodded. “You’re the slayer.” She said.
Buffy nodded. “Darn tootin.” She said softly, closing the door. She stood in the hallway, anger growing inside of her. “What the hell is the First up to now.” She growled. She headed downstairs to see if Giles had any answers. If this was an attack by the First, Willow might find that she would have to stand in line for a crack at it.
Tara balked at the price she was quoted over the phone. If she had her way, she would take a bus to Sunnydale, but that would take a lot longer than the flight and the need to hurry was growing the longer she waited. Besides, she was an immortal and she had plenty of time to pay Duncan back. She hung the phone up and looked out at the early morning sky. It was still dark out, but she could almost sense the sun wanting to crest the horizon. She decided that she had better try to get showered and packed. The flight left at 9am, which was only about five hours away. She had a lot to do before then.