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

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 8:07 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Tara is in the worse place anyone can be. Willow is on her way to recovery I know there journey will be long and full of bumps . You can feel the chemistry flow between them. Loving the story As always.
:pinky

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:07 pm 
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Enjoying the updated goodness.


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:21 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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woohooo... :pinky even without memories..the feeling's still mutual..hope :wtkiss soon...
more pleeaseee :pray


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 9:31 pm 
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Zampsa1975: :) I'm glad you liked the update! You'll just have to wait and see what happens...

abarda: I'm glad you like it! Hope you like this one!

AmberGoddess: I'm sorry you missed one - glad you're back :) Hope you like the update! Sorry I'm making you cry, but I'm glad you're sticking with me!

irishgrl3: Yeah, well Cordelia has nothing to do with her magical life (mostly) Aww, I'm glad you liked it - because they do all have funny names (except Tara)... I must have a thing for jealous Willow :) Glad this one wasn't as sad... Hope you like the new one!

Willowtree252: I know...I feel like I'm being really mean to them in this one... I'm glad you're enjoying it though :)

love_2003: Glad you liked it :) Thanks for commenting!

arsyadriani: :) not even magic whammy can keep them apart - hope you enjoy the update!

Chapter 5 of 11

Tara wasn't expecting to see Willow already awake when she came into the other girl's room the next morning. In fact, it looked like the redhead had just gotten out of the shower. She had a towel wrapped around herself, but Tara still blushed brightly as she spun around quickly to turn her back on the other witch.

"I'm…I'm s-sorry. I d-didn't…" she stuttered uncontrollably, her eyes squeezed closed. It didn't help erase the image of the redhead that was burning into her brain, and she had to take several deep breaths to steady herself.

"Oh, no it's not your fault," Willow said kindly. "I took a shower, but I don't know where any more of my clothes are."

Tara kept her eyes closed and her back turned. "Oh, y-your s-stuff is in with m-mine and Buffy's. I can get you some clothes. I'll be r-right back."

She retrieved Willow's clothes from the bags in hers and Buffy's room and stuck them into Willow's room blindly, only sticking her arm into the room. She could hear Willow laugh on the other side of the door and her heart clenched suddenly.

"We live together, right? I'm sure you've seen me change before," Willow said as she took the clothes. "I can go in the bathroom at least," she offered. "There's no reason for you to stand out in the hall. Come in."

Tara hesitantly entered the room, forcing herself not to look at the redhead. Willow looked at her curiously, immediately noticing the blonde's discomfort. "Oh God, I did it again! I'm making you uncomfortable. I'm so sorry Tara. Just give me a second to change. I'll be right back."

Tara didn't have time to protest before Willow was in the bathroom, the door shut firmly behind her. Tara let out a breath in a huff, brushing both hands against her skirt. After a few minutes Willow was back, spinning to show her outfit.

"All covered up, see? Is that better?"

Tara couldn't help smiling at her. "Y-you're fine. I'm sorry I keep doing that to you."

Willow sighed. "I guess I'll figure out what I'm doing wrong. I just don't want to make you uncomfortable." She felt her heart flutter at the sight of the other girl's smile directed at her and found herself wondering what Tara's lips tasted like.

"It's really not your fault Will," Tara said earnestly, pausing as a silly grin crossed the other girl's face. "What's that look for?" she asked, smiling crookedly.

Willow blushed at getting caught. She couldn't help herself. Something about Tara just made her happy. "I get the feeling maybe I shouldn't tell you. I think it goes in the 'things I say that will make Tara be uncomfortable and stop talking to me' category of conversation topics. You guys all think I haven't noticed, but I see the looks you're all giving each other. I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing that's wrong, but I'll figure it out, you can be sure of that. You all told me that you're my friends, and I can feel all this stuff about all of you, and I'm going to make sure that I don't mess up with the only people here that I know," she finished decisively, nodding her head.

Tara grinned at her. "You certainly didn't lose your babble reflex," she commented.

Willow grinned back at her, visibly relieved. "Oh good, so this isn't a recent development? I've always talked like this, right? I've been wondering."

The blonde shook her head with a laugh. "Nope, it's all natural."

Willow felt her heart beat faster as Tara laughed, but kept her mouth shut about how beautiful she thought it sounded. Her friends had told her that she was smart and she thought she was starting to figure out what would set off Tara's pensive expression. There was obviously something in the blonde's past that was upsetting her, something to do with Willow, but there was no way for the redheaded witch to find out more about it without upsetting the other girl.

"So, what are we doing today?" she asked, changing the subject to something safe. She wanted to ask more about why she was there, why she couldn't remember her life, but if this had been done deliberately it was certain that the others wouldn't give her any clues about what had led them to the decision to take her memories. With as good as she felt about each of them, she was sure they hadn't done it to hurt her.

Tara opened the door, gesturing for Willow to lead the way. "Well, first is the tour, and then this afternoon, we're going to meet the coven you'll be studying with."

Willow grinned. "That sounds great. Are Buffy and Xander coming with us? Or is it just going to be us?"

Tara's smile slipped momentarily, but she caught herself quickly. "They're coming with us."

"Great," Willow said, genuinely happy that her unknown friends would be joining them, forcing the protesting part of her mind, the part that wanted it to be just Tara and herself, to the background. She couldn't know that Tara was forcing the same protest down herself.

Buffy and Xander met them outside of Willow's room and Buffy quickly curled an arm through Willow's as she saw Tara pull a hand back from an automatic attempt to take Willow's hand as they started walking. She shot the blonde witch a sympathetic smile and Tara nodded with a sigh, falling into step with Xander. He looped a friendly arm around her shoulders and she smiled thankfully up at him.

Buffy had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as she saw the appraising glance Willow gave the pair in front of them. She couldn't hide her grin from her best friend as the witch looked over at her.

Willow slowed her walk, letting Tara and Xander get several paces ahead of them before she spoke. "Is something funny?"

Buffy shook her head, still struggling not to laugh. "No Will. I'm just happy you're back."

Willow could tell her friend wasn't being completely truthful, but let it slide. "We're best friends, right?"

Buffy sensed the serious turn and let her grin fade, nodding as they stopped moving. "Of course we are."

Willow looked at her, glancing up the hall to where Tara and Xander had stopped walking and were waiting on them. "Well, can I ask you something? I don't think it has anything to do with magic." She frowned thoughtfully. "At least I don't see how it could possibly have anything to do with magic."

Buffy nodded, smiling encouragingly. "Shoot Will. What is it?"

Willow took a deep breath, talking in a rush, her voice low. "Am I kind of gay?" Her gaze dropped to her feet, shuffling them anxiously.

Buffy sighed, lifting Willow's face with a hand to meet her eyes. "Do you really need me to answer that one?"

Willow shook her head slowly, her eyes looking up the hall to where Tara stood waiting. "No, not really." She looked back at Buffy quickly. "I liked girls before though, right? This isn't new, is it?"

Buffy laughed, pulling her friend into a tight hug. "No Will. It's not new."

Willow squeezed the Slayer in response. "But I don't really like girls either, do I?" she asked carefully, her voice quiet.

Buffy pulled back to look her in the face. "What do you mean?"

"It's not plural girls, is it?"

Buffy frowned thoughtfully. "That's not really something I can answer." She sighed at the frustrated look that appeared on her friend's face. "I will say that you are a one woman girl. Does that help at all?"

Willow's green gaze met Tara's blue one for a long moment before she looked back at Buffy. "Only if you tell me one more thing," she requested.

Buffy nodded slowly. "I will if I can."

"Are they together?" Willow asked, her voice small.

Buffy blinked as she realized what Willow was asking her. "Tara and Xander? Together? Not even over Anya's dead body." Willow looked surprised and smiled tentatively. Buffy squeezed her friend gently. "Xander has a fiancée at home waiting. He and Tara are just friends. Your friends…our friends. And they're waiting on us."

Willow nodded, smiling widely. "Thanks Buffy," she said as they started walking to catch up to the others.

The tour was relatively quick and Willow insisted on starting her training in earnest the next day. The others objected, saying that she was still weak and should take a few days to adjust to everything. She waved off their objections, frustrated by her lack of memories and eager to regain her normal life, whatever that was.

*****

Tara was still asleep when Willow came in the next morning, apparently dreaming. The redhead was excited to get started with the training, but hadn't anticipated that the others would still be asleep, not everyone as excitable as she was. She was reaching to shake Tara awake when she paused, realizing the opportunity she was about to waste. Tara and Buffy were each sleeping on twin beds and Willow gently took a seat on the edge of Tara's bed, staring down at the blonde girl.

She wasn't sure where her fascination with the other woman was coming from, the absent memories frustrating her. There was obviously something inside her that felt for this woman, but she had a feeling that it might drive her nuts before she got her memories back. It seemed almost insane to be so attracted, so attached to someone she'd only known for a day, but her mind argued that they'd obviously known each other for longer than that, she just couldn't remember it.

The witch seemed to feel her presence and moved closer unconsciously, still asleep. Willow frowned in thought, watching. Apparently they were pretty close typically if Tara's reactions were any indication. One of the blonde's arms curled around Willow's hip almost automatically, starting to pull her closer unconsciously.

Willow couldn't keep herself from squeaking in reaction, her lingering question about possibly feeling something for women vanishing in an instant, with one single touch. Also gone was any doubt about which woman. The hand was off of her a second later, the surprised sound waking up the blonde witch. Tara shot away from her as if she had been shocked, pressing herself against the wall as far as she could get from Willow.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, holding the sheets to her chest. She glanced around, realizing that she wasn't where she was expecting. Willow could see the realization of their surroundings dawn on Tara's face and the blonde's eyes dropped closed, her hand relaxing on her chest and her head dropped back against the wall. "I'm sorry Willow. I forgot where we were. I didn't mean to snap at you."

Willow stood up from the bed, shaking her head and unaccountably nervous. "I'm sorry Tara, I didn't…I wasn't thinking…"

The blonde quickly slid back to the side of the bed, holding a hand out to her lover, unable to stop herself. "No Willow, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. Forgive me?" she asked, feeling a shiver slide down her spine as Willow took her hand.

Tara sat on the edge of the bed, pulling Willow to sit beside her, although not as close as either of them would have liked. "I-I-I'm sor-r-ry," Willow stuttered and Tara felt her heart break a little more, a feat she would have sworn was impossible.

Of its own volition, her free hand touched Willow's cheek gently. Willow's eyes found hers and she smiled reassuringly. "I'm the one who stutters, remember?" A look of frustration crossed her lover's face and she grimaced. "Sorry, I guess you don't."

"You stutter?" Willow asked, genuinely surprised. Everything she'd seen of Tara had been confident, if not always sure of herself. It seemed like she was extremely driven, motivated by something she wouldn't, couldn't talk about.

Tara smiled gently. "I used to." Willow smiled back at her and Tara felt her heart skip a beat. "Not so much anymore," she breathed, her eyes locked on her lover's face.

"Why not?" Willow asked, her fingers itching where they were touching Tara's hand.

They both jumped in surprise as they realized they were no longer alone, Buffy sitting up in her bed. "She got closer to her friends. She feels comfortable around us," Buffy said, seeing the blush rising in Tara's face as she realized she'd been caught, had let herself get too close.

Willow looked between the two women, sure there was more to it, but knowing that they'd clam up if she pushed them. "Me?" she asked, not able to stop herself from checking.

Tara and Buffy exchanged glances and Tara sighed, nodding. "Yes Willow, you too."

"How come everyone seems uncomfortable around me then?" Willow asked, her face dropping to stare at where her hand still held Tara's. Tara seemed to reach the same realization, their hands separating immediately. Willow wiped her hand on her pants leg, feeling her suddenly sweaty palms.

Tara's mouth opened to speak, but Buffy interrupted before she could. "It's just been a little…strained recently…for all of us," the Slayer stated. "It'll get better Will."

Buffy could feel her heart break at the tension in the room, knowing how much Tara was struggling with this, how much worse it would get for all of them before it actually got better. Her eyes found her best friend, the struggle they were now facing pushing back her own feelings about being torn from heaven, giving her a strange sort of respite from dealing with reintegrating into the world.

Willow stood up, pacing anxiously between the beds. "I'll, um, I'll go, let you get dressed."

Buffy stood up also, hugging Willow reassuringly. "We'll be right out. We can go get something to eat, and then you and Tara can get started with the witchy stuff."

"If you're sure," Tara reiterated, not wanting Willow to feel pressured to start the training before she was ready.

The redhead nodded, brushing her hands over the back of her pants and taking several steps back towards the door. "I'm ready."

The blondes met each others' eyes, both knowing from experience how stubborn Willow was. "Fine," Tara sighed. "One word and we can stop though," she said, standing up.

Willow nodded, backing out the door, her hand scrabbling to find the knob without looking. Tara dropped back onto her bed as the door closed behind Willow and Buffy moved quickly to her side, pulling her friend into a hug. Tara's arms curled up the Slayer's back, clinging to her as she battled despair.

Buffy quickly made soothing noises, her hands tracing gently over Tara's hair. "It's okay, it's all going to be okay Tara."

"I snapped at her Buffy," Tara said, her face pressed tightly against her friend's shirt. "She was sitting on my bed, and it was just so familiar, so right, and then it all came back in rush and I snapped at her." She pulled back to look the Slayer in the eyes and there were tears swimming in her own. "She was scared of me, jumped away from me. I can't believe I hurt her," Tara groaned. "I would never hurt her Buffy. You know I wouldn't."

The Slayer nodded, pressing Tara's face back into her shoulder. "I know Tara. I'm sure she wasn't scared. She's confused, that's all. She knows how much you love her, she just can't remember it right now. It'll all be okay though."

She pulled back, looking her friend in the face. "I promise Tara. I know what it's like to see the person you love transformed into someone you can't reach, and it's awful, but Willow will come back to us. It's not forever. We're going to help her and we can all go home, be a family again."

Tara nodded, taking several deep breaths and wiping the tears from her eyes. "I know. Thank you Buffy." The Slayer gave her a smile, and Tara squeezed her friend's hand in gratitude. "I'm glad you're here. I couldn't do this on my own."

"You won't be on your own, not for any of this," Buffy assured her, and Tara pushed herself to her feet, determined to put on a convincing face and do what she had to do to get Willow restored.

They both got dressed in a rush, neither one speaking. Willow was in the hallway outside their room, pacing uncomfortably. As soon as she saw Tara, she spun to face her, already talking rapidly. "I'm so sorry I freaked out like that, I'm just really confused, and I'm feeling all these things, and I don't know what…" Her voice trailed off and she took a deep breath. "I'm just sorry. I didn't mean to scare you earlier."

Buffy was biting her lip to keep from laughing and she nudged Tara with an elbow. The witch smiled tightly and shook her head. "It's okay Willow. I was afraid I had scared you."

Willow looked relieved and her shoulders bobbed, smiling cautiously. "So, we're okay?" she asked, glancing up through her eyelashes at the witch and Tara thought she might collapse, her knees weakening suddenly.

Buffy seemed to realize her struggle, the Slayer's arm slipping around Tara's waist, supporting her. "We're fine Willow."

The redhead grinned and Tara felt her heart flutter at the sight, so rare recently. Buffy's arm didn't waver around her, keeping the witch steady. "I'm glad," Willow said cheerfully, obviously relieved.

Buffy slung her other arm around the redhead's shoulder, one arm around each witch. "Enough of the touchy-feely stuff, I'm starving."

After breakfast Xander and Buffy left with Giles to check in with Dawn and Spike, trying to figure out the best time to return to California. Tara and Willow joined the coven witches for meditation. The other witches left Tara to teach Willow basic techniques, seeing the anxiety that entered Willow's face if she was separated from her friends for too long.

Having the training come from someone familiar, someone Willow trusted, would help her, the coven had decided and Tara had volunteered instantly. It didn't take the redhead long to figure out the basics, mastering everything Tara could think to teach her while the coven watched. It was dinnertime before they called the witches to a halt.

They were obviously surprised at Willow's quick progress, the witch proving proficient at even the more advanced techniques they'd suggested. It was nothing too strenuous, but the coven hadn't expected her to be quite so talented.

Willow jumped to her feet as her eyes popped open, meeting the eyes of the witch who'd brought her out of the meditation. She was feeling surprisingly energetic and Tara opened her eyes to see Willow's hand extended to help her up. The blonde witch hesitated infinitesimally before she took her hand, letting the redhead pull her to her feet.

"Thank you Willow," Tara said, releasing the witch's hand immediately, and brushing grass off of her skirt.

The redhead nodded, fidgeting with the seams of her own pants. "Dinner?" she asked, surprised and relieved when Tara's hand came up to clasp her shoulder.

Tara spied Buffy and Xander at the doorway to the coven's home and they hurried to join their friends, both realizing simultaneously how hungry they were. Buffy gave them both a concerned look, not sure how either one was handling spending the whole day together. They appeared to be in good spirits, and Willow was practically bouncing on her toes, excited with her progress.

"Good day?" Buffy asked, happy to see her friend so excited, and having sudden flashbacks of young high-school aged Willow's joy of learning.

Willow nodded excitedly, giving a glance at Tara as she grinned at the Slayer. "Yeah, it was great! I can't believe how easy it was. I'm really excited to see what else I can do," she said, laughing.

Xander curled an arm over his hopping friend's shoulder, keeping her grounded. "You already taught her some spells?" he asked Tara, surprised.

The blonde shook her head quickly. "No, no spells yet," she said, smiling herself at Willow's immediate eager look.

It had been a long time since Tara had seen Willow so genuinely excited about learning something magical for the sake of learning and not to gain power or make something easier, and it warmed her heart. Willow's eyes were wide and she was so happy that Tara couldn't help remembering their first days together, the magic that had brought them together in the first place the thing that had eventually torn them apart. She felt her eyes slide closed, memories threatening to overwhelm her.

When her eyes opened again she found Xander trying to distract Willow, the expression on her face clearly showing that she didn't buy it, and Buffy's arm slipped around the witch's waist. Tara looked down at the Slayer, grateful for her friend's support. Buffy gave her a reassuring smile and they finally reached the dining room, several long tables lined up along the length of the room. There was a moment of hesitation as the witches struggled to figure out an appropriate seating arrangement, Tara not used to having to force herself to put distance between herself and her lover.

The meal was filled with scattered idle chatter, everyone avoiding any type of serious or personal topics that could lead to questions they couldn't answer. The witch knew what they were doing, but was eager not to upset Tara anymore, so she kept her mouth shut.

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Ripples - Pretty Much Perfect and The Sequel to the Sequel, Who's That Girl?
Every Step That I Retrace/Always Leads Me Back to You/But I've Loved You All Along
Road to Recovery, The Call/The Lightning Strike, The Sun Will Rise


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 10:54 pm 
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Quote:
"Tara and Xander? Together? Not even over Anya's dead body."

:rofl I can imagine reaction from Anya :laugh
and as eager to read Kitten..I would say more pleaseee :pray
RC :kgeek


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 12:20 am 
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Quick question... where is Anya in all this?? I would like to see her make an appearance. You know, throw around some tactlessly blunt opinions or sneaky wise ones that give Willow a slight push without really meaning too. I mean you included Spike as a background character so far. *pouts*

Other then that, I have to say I'm loving this story so far. :sigh

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:kgeek

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 1:01 am 
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Wow, there were some great W/T moments in there, and, as we all expected, Willow is quickly realising how she feels about Tara...

And I really like the friendship between Buffy and Tara in all this. As you pointed out, Buffy is really the only one who understands what it is to love someone you can't reach.

Hoping for some :wtkiss soon...

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 2:56 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Willow's Am I kinda gay question to Buffy really made me laugh... Good that Willow is progressing under Tara's tutelage... I hope they don't advance too far too fast... I truly hope that they very very soon "graduate" to hand holding and kisses on the cheek...

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:04 am 
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Loved the update!
I loved Willow asking Buffy "Am I kind of gay?". And Buffy's answer, of course.
Hopefully, Willow will be able to have her memories back and then there will be a lot of :wtkiss
:peace

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:49 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Well you pulled us along pretty far in this update I love tha pace you are setting for the girls and us. Wonderful update I love the flow between everyone. :pinky :pinky :pinky :pinky

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Last edited by Willowtree252 on Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:51 pm 
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I am with "Ms. Moderator Fantastico", the pace is perfect. Anything faster as far as recognition and recovery would seemed rushed, so it is just right! :)

Willow's realization that she is gay was pretty funny and Buffy handled it so well. Especially the part about "one woman girl" and Xander "not being" with Tara.

Great post!
Looking forward to the next chapter.
-anna


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:29 am 
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I really can't wait for Willow to remember about Tara. I get the feeling Tara's going to have a serious nervous breakdown soon. I doubt Willow will be surprised, though. She seems to be almost figuring it out already. More soon please!

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:52 pm 
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arsyadriani:haha yeah, Anya would flip out :) I'm glad you're eager to read - hope you like the new one

Vamp_Willz: Anya is still in Sunnydale running the Magic Box, but she will make an appearance soon :) I'm glad you're enjoying it! Thanks so much for commenting!

Mrs. Pineapple: Well, I'm glad you're liking it - I had a blast writing this one :) I always loved the (tiny) bit of Buffy/Tara friendship we got to see during the crappy times of season six - so I love expanding it - they have a lot in common - their loves get turned into someone who is essentially unreachable - and they both lost their mothers...

Zampsa1975: :) I'm glad you liked that - that scene wasn't in the first draft but I thought it was funny (and important) so I added it... Hope you like the new one :)

abarda: :) I'm glad you liked it - that was a fun scene to write... Hope you enjoy the update!

Willowtree252: I'm glad you like the pace - we jump a little further ahead in this update, so I hope you don't think I'm rushing them... from here to the end is my favorite part :)

irishgrl3: I'm glad you like the pace - hope I don't screw it up :)
I'm glad everyone seems to like that part - I like it a lot too! Hope you enjoy the new one - thanks so much for reading and commenting!

AmberGoddess: Yeah, Tara's in a horrible place - I promise that it gets better! Thanks for reading and I hope you like the new one!


Early update because I'm going to be out of town this weekend and I'm not taking my computer :)

Chapter 6 of 11

It was month before the coven decided that Willow was ready to start learning spells and gave Tara instructions where to begin. Tara thoughtfully led them outside to practice, knowing that Willow had been shaky her first time learning magic, spells sometimes going awry.

Buffy, Xander, and Giles were going to watch, along with the coven, but they didn't want to put any pressure on the witches so they were all staying at a distance.

Willow was practically skipping as they went down the hill, Tara following at a slower pace, though no less happy than her former girlfriend. "I'm so excited," Willow exclaimed, spinning in a circle happily.

Tara smiled, overjoyed to see her so enthusiastic. "I can tell," she stated, surprised when Willow spun her around excitedly, whirling them both in a circle. Willow seemed to realize what she was doing at the same time Tara did. However, Willow's arms moved to drop from around her at the same time that Tara's arms came around her.

Willow was surprised to realize that Tara was hugging her, and she relaxed into the hug without a conscious decision to do so. It took a moment before Tara recognized what was happening and she kept herself from jerking away, not wanting to scare Willow again. She gave the redhead one final squeeze, pulling back slowly and trying to forget how good it felt to hold Willow in her arms.

"Ready?" she asked softly, her fingers itching to trace over Willow's cheek.

The redhead was blushing but nodded, reluctantly stepping back out of Tara's arms. "I think so," she said, just as quiet and suddenly nervous. She was surprised to discover that she wasn't scared that she couldn't do the spell, but was nervous about disappointing Tara. The witch had been nothing but patient with her, fielding questions and providing suggestions and advice, and she didn't want to let Tara down if she couldn't get it right.

The others had told her that she would enjoy the studying, but she had still been surprised to discover they were right. Now that she had to put it to the test though, she was nervous that she would do something wrong, mess it up and disappoint Tara.

She wiped her hands anxiously on her skirt, swallowing nervously. Tara was giving her a reassuring smile. "You're going to be great, Willow. You can do this in your sleep," she assured the witch.

Willow nodded, still nervous. She murmured an explanation, and Tara cocked her head, not able to hear her. Willow swallowed again. "I don't want to do it wrong and disappoint you," she muttered, only barely audible.

Tara pulled her into another hug, one hand on the back of Willow's hair. "Honey, you could never disappoint me like that," she said earnestly. "We can wait, do this another time, if you're not sure."

Willow felt a thrill rush through her at the pet name, her doubts suddenly vanishing. "I can do it," she said, lingering in Tara's hug. "I can do it," she repeated, smiling.

Tara nodded, pulling back and taking a step back. "I know you can," the blonde stated, smiling confidently. "Ready?"

Willow nodded, taking a deep breath. "What do I need to do?"

Tara spent a few minutes explaining how to cast the spell, what she needed to say, how it would feel. Willow nodded in understanding, bouncing nervously on her toes. A second later she was jumping up and down in excitement as she murmured the spell, the effect immediate and powerful.

The spell Tara had chosen to have Willow practice was a derivative of the same spell she'd once practiced with the redhead, floating the rose in the darkness of her dorm room. Thankfully, the sunny daylight was helping to keep her memories at bay, keeping her from comparing the two.

In this environment, the effect was wildly different. There was no rose, but every stray leaf shot into the air, hovering at chest height and Tara looked down to discover that every blade of grass was standing straight up, almost as if they were struggling to fly, anxious to please Willow.

The blonde laughed, and Willow followed the path of her eyes, noticing the grass and faltering, the leaves dipping in the air. "Am I doing it wrong?" Willow asked nervously.

Tara shook her head, spying the coven on the hill and their friends watching. "No, you did a great job. It's just a bit…expansive," she explained, looking around at the ground.

"How do I fix it?" Willow asked, scowling in displeasure.

Tara saw the look and quickly put her hand on Willow's shoulder. "You did great Willow, really."

"Not good enough," Willow murmured, pouting.

Tara slung her arm around her shoulder, squeezing comfortingly. "You're too hard on yourself," she said. "I couldn't have done that my first try," Tara confided, smiling. "And you wouldn't have been able to do it when you first started." Willow arched an eyebrow, grinning suddenly. "The first time you started," Tara corrected herself, feeling her blood race at the sight of Willow's smile, the feel of Willow's magic buzzing in the air around her. "You're doing fine Willow," she said, taking a sudden step back and poking playfully at a leaf that was hovering near her nose.

She turned to face Willow again, smiling. "It's about control. You've definitely got power, you just need a focus," she explained, gesturing to the hundreds of leaves that floated around them. "Right now, the power is all you have. We can work on control, specific accuracy instead of it being so generalized like it is right now." Willow nodded, her face serious and studious, willing to obey Tara's instructions explicitly. "Let the leaves down, and we'll try again, focusing on only moving one leaf this time, okay?"

Willow did as she was asked, the leaves floating softly to the ground and they could both feel the grass relax beneath their feet. Tara just watched, letting Willow take her time, wanting her to feel comfortable. This time the result was slower, a single leaf floating up, spinning tranquilly. It came to a halt at eye level, wobbling only slightly before moving straight to Tara, bumping gently into her nose.

Tara laughed, pushing the leaf away with her finger, feeling the leaf push back. Willow's eyes opened as she heard Tara's laugh, a smiled blossoming on her own face. "How's that?" Willow asked, still concentrating on the spell.

"I knew you'd be fine," Tara said. "You may not remember, but you were born for this."

Willow grinned, a long blade of grass floating up and joining the leaf, almost seeming to dance together. "So I'm good at this?" she requested, watching her abilities on display.

Tara smiled wryly. "You're very good at this Willow." Green eyes found hers and she struggled to remember her own name, overwhelmed with feeling for the woman she'd fallen so deeply in love with years ago. The girl standing before her was an almost painful reminder of the way they'd been, before everything had fallen apart. "The best I've ever seen," she breathed, realizing what she'd said and the tone of her voice a second too late, a blush rising up her neck.

Willow bit her lip, thinking to herself that Tara blushing was the cutest thing she'd ever seen, momentarily forgetting that more than half of her memories were simply gone at the present. The blonde seemed flustered and Willow sent another leaf up to dance with the others. "I think I've got this," she commented.

Tara mentally thanked her for the moment to collect herself and she laughed quietly. "And you were nervous," she observed, a crooked half smile on her face.

Now it was Willow's turn to be knocked off her feet, feeling suddenly lightheaded and hearing the blood rushing through her own head. She'd thought that the magic was a good feeling, tingling through her veins, but this - this was so much better than the magic. One smile from Tara and it felt like she was flying, could fly, even without the magic. "Not anymore," she breathed.

Tara blinked, suddenly realizing what the slack jawed look on Willow's face meant, and the discovery shocked her. Willow was attracted to her. Buffy was right, even without her memories, Willow liked her.

Part of her was absolutely thrilled, while another part wept for the Willow she'd lost, the Willow she was trying to bring back. The realization reinforced in an instant her determination to keep her distance from this Willow, no matter how difficult it would prove to be. Willow needed to come back to herself before anything could happen between them again, if anything was ever going to happen between them again. Tara steeled herself as much as she could, determined to keep herself under control, not let herself slip.

Willow could see the change in her face, not sure what had caused it, but knowing instinctively what it meant. She sighed heavily, putting a pine cone into orbit around the other items.

It was nightfall before the witches stopped their practice, both silent throughout dinner, Buffy and Xander sensing the tension between them. Willow didn't linger after dinner, claiming tiredness and going to bed. Buffy and Xander followed Tara to the room she was staying in with Buffy, the pair trapping the witch, both looking for an explanation.

"What happened down there today?" Xander asked, resting a supportive hand on her shoulder.

Tara sighed, her shoulders slumping beneath his hand. "She likes me," she commented, not meeting her friends' eyes.

"That's great!" Xander enthused, grinning. Tara didn't respond as anticipated and he glanced at Buffy, obviously confused. "Isn't it?"

Tara gave him a small smile, shaking her head. "No, it is. I mean, I'm glad she still likes me, it's just that that's not Willow." His mouth opened to object and she put a restraining hand on his chest. "She's not my Willow. I can't let myself forget that again. That's not the woman I love, she just looks like her."

"And acts like her," Xander reminded her, sobering as he realized what the problem was exactly.

Tara nodded, sitting on the edge of her bed. "Yeah, that doesn't help either," she sighed. Buffy and Xander took a seat on either side of her, knowing that their words wouldn't help. Tara dropped back on the bed, her arms crossing over her eyes.

Buffy and Xander glanced at each other before they leaned back, laying down on either side of Tara, their feet all still on the floor. Tara took a shuddering breath and Buffy sighed. "Willow will come back to you Tara."

One of the witch's arms moved slightly, her head turning enough to meet the Slayer's eyes. "I hope you're right," she breathed, her fear breaking though her determination momentarily.

*****

The coven slowly expanded their lessons with Willow, teaching her the basic tenets of their beliefs about magic and its uses, while the redhead soaked up every bit of knowledge she could. Tara and the others watched as her power and skill grew daily, the blonde witch following the coven's lead on what to teach Willow and how quickly they should proceed.

Tara was always careful about keeping space between them, and Buffy and Xander did their best to steer their conversations around any prickly subjects.

The two girls were always together, whether they were outside meditating, or in the library studying, or practicing spells with the coven. Buffy and Xander had to go back to Sunnydale for short trips a few times, checking on everything on the Hellmouth, and both Willow and Tara were relieved when they returned. They were unable to help with the magical training, but Willow appreciated having them around, enjoying hearing stories about their lives and loving getting to know her friends again. They seemed to be feeling more relaxed and happy, but she noticed the holes in their stories and wondered about it silently.

The mystery silences and significant glances between her friends was quickly growing to be too much for the redhead, but she knew that trying to force any of them to share would only result in the three closing ranks, becoming more impenetrable than ever.

Time passed quickly, and it was February before they knew it. The witches had just finished a session of mediation, the last exercise they did nightly before heading back inside to rejoin Buffy and Xander for dinner. It was the last time Willow would be alone with Tara that day and she deliberately lingered under the tree they preferred to meditate beside. She stretched widely as she watched Tara out of the corner of her eye.

Tara looked over at her quickly as Willow flopped back onto her back, the dead leaves covering the dry winter grass crunching under her. A laugh assured her that there was nothing wrong and she giggled herself as Willow's arms waved through the leaves.

"I'm an angel," Willow said enthusiastically, her head popping up to grin at Tara. The blonde bit back her automatic agreement, one hand covering her mouth at the sight of the leaves sticking wildly out of her lover's red hair. "What?" she asked, pouting as Tara giggled behind her hand.

The blonde didn't speak, just leaning forward to pluck one of the leaves out of her hair. She twirled it by the stem in front of Willow's eyes. The redhead took it from her, tucking it behind her ear and grinning.

"I'm a leaf angel then," she amended her statement, and Tara bit her lip to keep herself from saying anything. Willow shook the leaves out of her hair after a moment, still grinning impishly. "So what are we working on tomorrow?" she asked, sensing one of Tara's quiet moments looming if she didn't change the subject.

Tara blinked, her eyes moving off of Willow with supreme effort. "Oh, well the coven was going to…"

She was interrupted by Willow, the redhead lying back in the leaves again. "What's your favorite color?" The question came suddenly and Tara blinked again, stuttering as she tried to think of the answer.

"B-b-blue," she said, hearing Willow's sigh as she stammered.

"Sorry," the other witch apologized, hating when she made Tara stutter.

The blonde shook her head. "It's not your fault. W-w-why did you ask about my favorite color?"

She could hear Willow's shoulders move through the leaves. "I just wanted to know. You know all this stuff about me, and I don't remember yours. It doesn't seem fair. When's your birthday?" she asked suddenly.

"October sixteenth," Tara said, not stuttering this time. "Xander's is coming up soon," she said, reminding herself as much as Willow.

"So close to Valentine's Day? That sucks!" Willow sat up in a rush, leaves again stuck in her hair. "We should have a party!"

Tara smiled crookedly, nodding. "Yeah, pretty much all of his birthday presents from Anya are really for her…" Tara sympathized. Honestly, she couldn't have felt less like celebrating, but she had seen that look in Willow's eyes before and she knew what was coming. It wasn't that she didn't want to celebrate Xander's birthday with him, they were just so busy that she doubted he even remembered it was coming up

Willow saw the doubtful look on Tara's face and pouted. "What? Don't you want to have a birthday party for Xander? What did we do last year?" she asked. She hadn't been able to figure out how they'd met, but she'd managed to put together that she'd known Tara for at least two years.

"For Xander's birthday? Well, you tried to bake him a cake, but it sort of slanted and fell apart," Tara said, smiling at the memory. Willow was pouting at the ground and Tara leaned forward, ducking her head to look her in the eyes. "You're good at many things, but baking is not one of them," she stated.

"So I gave him a wrecked cake?" Willow asked, frowning.

Tara laughed, shaking her head. "No sweetie. You didn't give your best friend a bad cake. I made another one and we gave him that one."

Willow seemed so excited by her birthday party idea that she seemed to miss the familiar pet name, or she had gotten much better at controlling her reaction, Tara mused to herself as she watched for the aftermath of her slip up. She'd gotten better at moderating her words, but Willow made it difficult when she was disappointed, the blonde's instinctual reaction being to comfort her.

"Well, you can help me and I'll do better this year!" Willow decided. Tara bit her lip, but nodded. "Hey, what did we do for your birthday?" she asked.

There was a split second of panic in Tara's eyes before she blinked, her face passive again. "Um, this year, not much. A few people came over for dinner," she hedged, knowing that Willow knew she was hiding something, but not knowing what else to do. The truth was that she and Willow had spent the day alone together, having their own party and only joining their friends for a small dinner of take out at the house. It had been before their disastrous Halloween, but even then, on her birthday, things hadn't been right between them.

"What about last year?" Willow asked, frowning. Surely they had had a party for Tara at some point. She was too amazing not to be celebrated, much less only once a year. The redhead stopped that train of thought quickly, not letting herself indulge in thoughts of how she would treat the beautiful blonde if she were free to show her how much she thought of her.

Tara smiled, the expression softening on her face. "We went dancing at the Bronze," she said simply, unwilling to think about the rest of her birthday, only wanting to focus on the good parts of that day.

Willow nodded before frowning. "What's the Bronze again? I know you've told me before, but I've gotten a lot of new information in the last few months and I can't keep it all straight."

Tara laughed. "It's the club in Sunnydale. You used to go there after school with Buffy and Xander. They have a dance floor, and pool tables, and stuff like that. It's fun."

"And we went there for your birthday?" Willow questioned, seeing the happy smile on Tara's face and hoping that she'd had something to do with putting that look on her face, either in the past or the present.

Tara nodded. Willow's brain was working rapidly and Tara could see the plans forming in her mind. She didn't have the heart to tell her that the only reason she'd had the party the year before was at Willow's insistence. After her mother had died, her father and brother had never given her a birthday party and she had been so shy in school, it wasn't until she had been accepted into Willow's family that she'd felt comfortable enough around people to even consider having a birthday party. The party had all the result of Willow's planning though.

Tara couldn't imagine who Willow would convince to come this time, but she knew her lover wouldn't fail to find people to attend Xander's party. The blonde witch realized that they had all been so entirely focused on Willow and her training that she hadn't really gotten to know any of the coven witches, despite having lived with them for almost three months. She also knew that that wouldn't stop them from coming to anything Willow planned, they were all too kind to refuse.

Willow was grinning at her, obviously already planning in her busy brain. Tara shook her head with a wry smile, pushing herself up onto her feet. The redhead grinned, knowing instinctually that she had won. Willow jumped to her feet excitedly, throwing her arms around Tara's neck happily.

"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" she chattered and Tara nodded.

"Shouldn't Xander be thanking you? You're throwing him a party," she reminded her.

Willow jumped back, taking Tara's hand to pull her back up the hill towards the giant stone house. "Come on, we need to talk to Buffy and Xander. We've got a lot of work to do," she said, excited to have something to do that would hopefully bring her back close to her friends and wasn't related to magic in the slightest.

Tara let herself be dragged along, noticing as they moved quickly up the hill that there were still several stubborn leaves in Willow's hair. They stopped suddenly next to the table they ate dinner at routinely, Buffy and Xander looking up at them in surprise. They gave Tara a questioning glance, but the blonde witch shrugged, gesturing to Willow.

"What did I get you for your birthday last year?" Willow questioned Xander, the young man pausing with a bite halfway to his mouth.

"My birthday?" he asked, confused. Tara was smiling behind Willow's back and she nodded encouragingly to him. "Um, well you all chipped in and got me a new recliner."

Willow wrinkled her nose, glancing at the two blondes. "We did? That sounds boring."

Xander shook his head quickly. "No way Will! It was exactly what I wanted!" he insisted sincerely. "What's this about?" he asked, directing the question to Tara.

"Your birthday is next week," she said as she sat down. Xander's eyes widened and he laughed.

"It is, isn't it? I had completely forgotten," he said.

Willow was grinning like a maniac and she nodded. "Well, we're going to throw you a party!"

Buffy looked between the two witches, unsure how this topic could have possibly come up. Tara didn't look upset so the Slayer decide to wait on questioning her about it. "We are?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

Willow nodded excited, sliding onto the bench next to Tara. "Yeah, Tara is going to help me make a cake, and Buffy, you can help make decorations, and Giles and the coven can come!" she planned, sounding so excited that none of them had any desire to rain on her parade.

Xander grinned at her, reaching across the table to put a hand over hers on the table. "Thanks Will. It sounds great," he said sincerely, giving her a smile and finding himself choking up. Seeing her like this, happy and hyper and so Willow was almost physically painful for him, an undeniable reminder of what they were all doing here.

He coughed roughly, dropping her hand after a moment and blinking down at his food. Buffy's hand found his knee under the table, his leg bouncing unconsciously as he struggled with his emotions and her hand rubbed over his knee soothingly, giving him a tight smile as he looked sideways at her.

His feelings were mirrored in the Slayer's eyes and she leaned her head against his shoulder, listening to Willow's comfortingly familiar babble as she started working out plans.

*****

Tara closed the door behind her after dinner, unsurprised to find Xander sitting on her bed, waiting for her. Buffy was on her own bed, leaning on one side, her head resting on her hand.

"She sprung it on me," she apologized, sitting on the bed next to the carpenter. "I'm sorry Xander."

He sighed, nodding. "It's okay Tara. I don't mind, really."

She smiled encouragingly. "She's really excited about it. I'm going to help her make a cake and I'm sure she'll find lots of people to come."

Xander put his hand on her knee to stop her words, shaking his head. "It's really fine Tara. I'm not just going along with it. It's my birthday and my best friend is throwing me a party. This has happened before in my life, and it will happen again," he said sincerely, smiling.

Buffy sat up from her relaxed position on the bed. "We'll have a great time Tara. I'm sure of it." She met her friend's eyes seriously. "How are you doing though?"

Tara shrugged. "I already spend all day with her. A few extra nights doing party things won't kill me." She let out a deep breath. "And I think I'm getting better at not swooning when she smiles at me, and I only think about kissing her about twenty times a day, so I think I'm doing alright," she commented, smiling bitterly.

"How's the magic stuff going?" Xander asked curiously. They had been around the pair of witches when they'd been practicing, but the other Scoobies' grasp of magic was as tenuous as it had ever been.

Tara leaned back against the wall, curling one leg under her as she relaxed on the end of her bed. "She's amazing," the blonde said, an unconscious smile appearing on her face. Buffy and Xander exchanged grins and Tara blushed, ducking her chin to her chest. "But you already know that," she added. "It's going great. She's doing so well. The coven thinks she'll be finished in a few more months."

"That's great," Xander said. "Then everything will go back to the way it was."

Tara's smile slipped, her eyes dropping to her hands in her lap. "Yeah…" Her voice trailed off and Xander grimaced.

"I didn't mean it…Tara, that's not what I meant," he said firmly, moving to face her, his larger hands dropping over her knees. "She loves you Tara."

Tara's head shook back and forth slowly, tears welling up in her eyes. "She doesn't know me. She doesn't remember what she did to me."

Xander's shoulders slumped and he leaned forward to look her in the eyes. "I'm not talking about how she is now. I mean before. Before everything got so screwed up." Tara glanced up at him, her broken heart clear on her face. "I know that she did it to herself, but Tara, you know that she loves you."

"I love her too Xander, more than anything in the world, but it's not that simple. Even once she gets the magic under control, gets her memories back, we'll be back where we were…broken up and I don't know if I can trust her again."

Xander snorted in disbelief. "You know she'll have her memories back for maybe ten seconds before she'll be begging you to take her back."

Tara's lips curled minutely at the corners and she let out a deep breath. "It's not that simple," she repeated.

Xander frowned. "You don't want her back?" he asked doubtfully, glancing over his shoulder to where Buffy was watching in silence.

"Of course I do!" Tara said sharply. "It's going to take time though."

Xander sighed. "I get that," he said. "Just do me one favor, okay?" Tara nodded, looking up at him. "Please don't forget how much she loves you. She messed up big time. But I've known Willow since kindergarten, and I've never seen her so happy in our whole lives as when you smile at her."

Tara's tears escaped as she took a shuddering breath and Xander opened his arms to her, letting her lean against his chest.

"Nothing could make me forget that Xander," she breathed into his shirt, hiccupping back tears and she felt Buffy join them on the bed, the Slayer's forehead leaning against the witch's shaking back.

As her crying eased, her friends stayed close. Buffy pushed hair back from Tara's face with a sigh, seeing that her eyes were red. "Everything will be okay Tara. Willow loves you, but she made a mistake. She let the magic get out of control." Buffy sighed heavily. "She absolutely did it the wrong way, but she only did what she did because she didn't want to lose you."

Tara wiped her tears away with one hand. "Ironic, isn't it…?" she mumbled, her bitterness obvious. "She lost me anyway." The old friends exchanged glances and Tara groaned, her head dropping. "I know she was addicted to the magic and she's getting better, but I'm still scared about how far she let it go. She couldn't go a week without magic, one week!"

"She's doing better though Tara," Xander said.

"She didn't choose this though Xander! She wanted to die!" Tara's tears were back with a vengeance and she collapsed forward against his chest. "She was ready to leave us, leave me…"

Xander soothed her without thinking about it, rocking them back and forth as Buffy's hands rubbed Tara's back gently.

"Willow would never want to leave you Tara," she murmured quietly, leaning over to speak into the witch's ear. "She didn't want to die, she was just struggling." The Slayer swallowed thickly. "Willow would do anything to be right with you again."

Tara didn't respond, just leaned on Xander and tried to choke back her despair, the suddenly fresh pain of her love's betrayal, wondering what it would take to move past it, to really let everything go back to the way it was before. They had been happy once, even in the midst of everything that they had been going through. She would do whatever it took to get back to that place with Willow.

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Every Step That I Retrace/Always Leads Me Back to You/But I've Loved You All Along
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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 1:03 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I truly feel sorry for Tara... I kinda hope that Willow gets her memory back soon and remembers her love for Tara and that Tara soon learns to trust her and and allows Willow back into her life...

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:02 am 
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This story is so good that I'm almost late to go to college and I don't care about it. I just needed to read the chapter!
Babbling-Willow is back! It's great.
I hope Willow will be able to get her memories back soon, and then she and Tara will be together again, with a lot of :wtkiss
Please, more!
:peace

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 9:00 am 
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ohmygod! I almost crying, i hope willow gets better soon and remembers everything and they can be with the gay love again :pride . i love this story :) cant wait for more ^-^ i will :pray

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There's just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again, on both sides ... You have to learn if ... if we're even the same people we were, if you can fit in each other's lives. It's a long... important process, and ... can we just skip it? Can-can you just be kissing me now?


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 11:13 am 
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This is soo good. It makes my heart ache, but still good. Poor Tara is having such a hard time not giving in to Willow's natural effect on her, and I feel her pain. I really hope all this magic re-teaching works for Willow and she can get back to the way she was before the magic took control. If this all works, please let it work, I can't wait for them to get back to the way they once were.

Great job!


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:33 am 
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It is nice to see the sweet side of Willow. Plus, I think it is good showing how the Scoobies are helping to support Tara. Usually, in stories we see them helping WIllow - so this is a nice change to see them supporting everybody as needed.


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:38 am 
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I understand where Tara is coming from about the not trusting Willow but I would have thought after months they would be growing closer. I am feeling sorry for Willow and the way she gets blocked on everything. I feel grrrr toward the gang. When I read an update I feel that I am Willow and all her feelings run through me. You dont have to worry about me I trust you remember ;-) Cant wait for more :pinky :pinky :pinky

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 3:13 am 
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I'm really liking this take on things!! Keep up the great writing! :D

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:52 am 
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2. Floating Rose
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I have been reading this story on fanfic so if i forget to reply i apologize now. Once again thanks for the early update. this is my favorite story that is being written right now. I can't wait to see where it goes next.

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BUFFY: Maybe it's time to start a new tradition. Birthdays without boyfriends. It could be just as much fun.

WILLOW: Preaching to the choir here, baby. (smiles at Tara)

I'm just a Tara searching for my Willow ~me


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:10 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Zampsa1975: I know I'm being awful to both of them... It gets better from here... Hope you enjoy the update...

abarda: Aww, I hope you weren't late! I'm glad you like it! Thanks for commenting!

Ilovewillow: Aww, don't cry! I'm glad you're loving the story and I hope you like the new one!

wimpy0729: I'm glad you like it! Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment!

MochaVamp: Thanks! I always wished they would have shown more of Tara interacting with the group on the show...

Willowtree252: Tara's just confused and anxious and she doesn't have the one person she would normally talk all of this stuff out with - I promise that her feelings will get addressed and soon... Thanks for trusting me :)

LittleBit: Aww, well thanks! I'm grateful for the encouragement! I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

willowlily: Cool, well I'm glad you're reading it - no matter where :) Favorite story is a big complement - I hope the rest of the chapters can live up!

Early-ish update because I hate making you guys wait longer than a week...

Chapter 7 of 11

They had gotten everything ready for Xander's party, even arranging to bring Anya over to England as a surprise for his birthday. The decorations were ready and everything was set up, all that remained was to make the cake. Buffy and Xander were already in bed, the witches' practicing keeping them busier so Willow and Tara were still awake the night before the party, the coven's large kitchen solely theirs.

Willow had the cake recipe she'd copied out meticulously color coded, notes written neatly in the margins and Tara watched in amusement as her red haired lover carefully sorted out her ingredients, the utensils she would need set to the side in the order she would need them.

Willow looked up from her preparations as Tara giggled and arched her eyebrow at the other woman. "What?" she questioned, turning the oven on to preheat.

Tara was leaned back against the counter, her arms crossed over her chest. "I didn't say anything," she said innocently, smirking.

"You're laughing at me," Willow accused her.

Tara shrugged. "Your methods have always been quirky," she said. "In college, after class was over you'd come home and copy out all of your notes in different colored pens."

"You think I'm insane, don't you!?" Willow asked with a groan, slapping one hand to her forehead.

Tara laughed even as her heart clenched. "I said quirky," she repeated herself. She took a step off the counter and gently pulled Willow's hand down off of her face. Their eyes met and there was a moment where they were both still, the kitchen suddenly silent and very, very private.

Tara let out a deep breath, tearing her eyes away from Willow's to read the recipe. "You ready to do this?" she asked, forcing herself to smile normally and not kiss Willow, no matter how much she was dying to, her doubts about their future completely forgotten in the light of Willow's innocence shining in her face.

Willow nodded quickly, feeling her skin tingling where Tara was still holding her hand. "Sure," she said, her voice squeaky. She cleared her throat quickly, blushing in embarrassment. "Let's get started."

Tara kindly took a step back, letting Willow get started on her own. She took a deep breath, leaning back against the opposite countertop, trying to center herself. It was getting more difficult to remember why she was supposed to be keeping her distance. Willow was doing so well, was so happy now, and was so obviously hung up on Tara herself, it was becoming impossible to resist her.

Tara smiled unconsciously, eyes finding the distracted Willow, watching her work in silence. She'd always had a problem trying to resist Willow. She straightened her spine, her arms wrapped around herself. She would just have to do better, she decided. No matter how cute and innocent this Willow seemed, as soon as her memories were restored things would go back to the way it had been between them. She couldn't forget that Willow had hurt her deeply.

Her lover's betrayal was wiped from her mind as Willow turned to look at her, an excited smile on her face, the look taking her breath away and it took her a second to realize that Willow was talking, her hands gesturing rapidly.

Tara processed the words in a rush and realized that Willow was asking her to check on her progress with the cake. The redhead had insisting on making everything from scratch and Tara took two steps in, checking the cake batter over Willow's shoulder.

"Looks good Willow," she said, smiling. "You've just got some lumps, here," she said, feeling Willow's pout without seeing it and she picked up the bowl and selected a flat but flexible scraper from a drawer, demonstrating whipping the batter together herself. "Like that," she said, guiding the bowl and the scraper into Willow's hands

The redhead attempted to emulate the easy, graceful motions of the other woman, but grew frustrated rapidly. Tara was still standing behind her and her hands found Willow's wrists, guiding her gently to tilt the bowl and coaxing her other hand through the movement. The blonde only left her hands in place for a few moments, letting Willow finish the mixing and taking a long step back, putting much needed space between their bodies.

After a few minutes Willow held the bowl out for inspection again. Tara nodded, smiling. "It looks great. Good job Willow." Tara's smile was crooked and she took an unconscious step back, looking around for something to do. She settled on buttering the cake pan, giving Willow a smile over her shoulder as she turned to the opposite counter.

Willow kept working on the batter, grateful for the praise from Tara, but determined that this was going to be the best cake Xander had ever eaten, even if making it killed her. Finally, she decided that the batter was as perfect as she could make it and stepped over to where Tara was working in silence.

"Hey," Willow said quietly, finally noticing the close, private atmosphere of the deserted kitchen, and she kept her voice low. "You ready for this?" she asked, putting the heavy glass bowl next to the cake pan Tara had covered with butter. Tara nodded, stepping back from the counter. Willow stood silent for a moment, waiting on the other girl to make a move, but Tara remained still, arching an eyebrow with another crooked smile.

"This is your baby," she reminded the redhead, crossing her arms over her chest.

Willow grinned, lifting the bowl and spooning the batter into the pan. She started patting it down with the spoon, trying to flatten it out. She stopped as Tara gently picked up the pan.

"Let me show you a trick to that," she said, handing it over to Willow. The redhead glanced down at the pan and then back up to Tara, giving her a doubtful look. "Shake it," Tara said, smirking.

Willow moved it slowly, looking at Tara as if she'd gone crazy. "Shake it?"

Tara nodded, miming shaking the pan back and forth in front of her with quick side to side motions. Willow mimicked her, seeing that the shaking spread the batter evenly, quickly smoothing the top. "That's awesome!" she enthused. Tara laughed quietly, opening the oven for her.

Willow put the pan inside the oven, turning back to Tara with a grin and wiping her hands on her pants. "What now?"

Tara smiled, setting the timer on the oven so that the cake wouldn't burn. "Are you sure you want to make the icing from scratch?"

Willow nodded firmly. "I can do it," she said with more confidence than she felt. "Right?" she added, shifting her weight between her feet.

Tara nodded, frowning at her normally confident lover's doubt. "Of course you can," she said. "I can't think of a thing you wouldn't be able to do." She missed Willow's look of surprise as she moved to the fridge to get the butter and the milk.

Willow was grinning proudly and she consulted her recipe, finding the measuring spoons she had already pulled out. She found the mixer in the bottom of a cabinet, turning to put it on the counter where she was working, and stopping abruptly as she found herself pressed against Tara, the blonde standing unexpectedly close as she moved to put the milk and butter within easy reach.

Willow froze, feeling her hands trapped between them, shaking fingers still grasping the mixer. Their faces were close together, and Tara's eyelids fluttered, her bottom lip dropping open as she sucked in a surprised breath. After a heartbeat of staring at each other Tara stepped back, blushing brightly as her eyes dropped to her feet.

"S-s-sorry," she stuttered. She heard Willow put the mixer down, jumping slightly when she felt the redhead's finger under her chin, lifting her head to meet her eyes.

"I thought we were past me making you all uncomfortable like this Tara," she said slowly, frowning in consternation.

Tara sighed, nodding uncomfortably. "We were…I mean, we are," Tara said, catching Willow's hand with her own. Spontaneously she squeezed it gently, mustering as normal a smile as she could. "It just surprised me, that's all."

Willow nodded, her thumb stroking over Tara's skin absently. "I didn't mean to scare you," she breathed quietly, her eyes finding Tara's. "How about this icing?" she prompted a subject change.

Tara let out a breath of relief, her smile becoming more natural. "You have the vanilla?" she asked, putting a box of powdered sugar on the countertop. Willow found it quickly, holding up the small brown glass bottle and shaking it in evidence, a small smile on her lips.

"Good, now the icing isn't too hard. Just put all of this stuff in the mixer in the right amounts and turn it on," Tara said.

Willow nodded in understanding, picking up the card with the ingredients listed on it. "It's a shame it's just going to be white," she commented, pouting. She glanced up as Tara laughed, one hand searching in the pockets of her jacket that was hanging over the back of a nearby chair. The blonde produced a small bottle, putting it on the countertop next to the mixer as Willow dumped the powdered sugar into the bowl. "What's that?" she asked, pouring out the correct amount of vanilla carefully.

"Food color," Tara said, with a smile as she pulled herself up to sit on the countertop, her heels kicking lightly against the cabinet doors. "Red. It's Xander's favorite color," she told her. "I asked Giles to pick it up when he went into town yesterday."

Willow poured the vanilla into the basin quickly, dropping the measuring spoons as she spun to where Tara was sitting, throwing herself at the other witch and hugging her tightly.

It took them both a second to realize that Tara's seat on the counter lifted her up enough so that Willow's head was pressed into Tara's chest. She jumped back immediately, blushing brightly and spinning so that her back was to Tara, plugging in the mixer with suddenly shaky hands.

"Sorry," she said quietly, more aware than ever of the quiet that ruled the entire place, no one else awake but them. "I don't always think before I do stuff, but I'm sure you know that." She pushed the button on the mixer, the noise covering the shaky breath she took, her eyes closed.

Tara hopped off the counter quickly, turning Willow back to face her and pulling her into a gentle hug. "It's okay Willow. We would have something to talk about if you had tried to kiss me, or stuck your face in there deliberately, or something like that, but it was just a hug." She pulled back to look Willow in the eyes. "You don't have to apologize for hugging me Willow." She bit her lip. "Unless you completely regret it and have no desire to ever hug me again," she added teasingly, smiling crookedly.

Willow was shaking her head rapidly before the sentence was out of Tara's mouth. "No, no way. I like hugging you," she said, blushing. "I just know that sometimes the physical stuff makes you jumpy."

As she spoke, she jumped away from Tara, looking quickly at the icing and switching the mixer off. Tara laughed, coming up next to her and peering into the mixer bowl.

"It looks good," Tara said, smiling at her. "Good timing."

Willow grinned happily, proud of herself. She poked one finger into the creamy white icing and licked it off her fingertip quickly. "Yum. It's good." She twisted the bowl to release it from the base of the mixer. "Try some?" she offered, holding the bowl for Tara to get some.

The blonde raised an eyebrow, but dipped the tip of one finger delicately in the frosting. She tried her sample, smiling as her finger slipped from her mouth. "That is good. Good job Will." She was trying to ignore the image of Willow sucking the icing from her finger, knowing that thoughts of that nature would only lead to madness and frustration.

The redhead was still grinning. "Now how do we make it red?" she asked excitedly.

Tara lifted the bottle of food coloring, shaking it lightly. "Just a few drops of this, and stir it up, and it will turn red," she said, laughing. Willow took the bottle quickly, shaking the food coloring into the icing and stirring it vigorously.

She kept stirring until the red was completely incorporated while Tara checked on the cake baking in the oven. Willow watched in amusement as Tara poked a toothpick into the center of their creation, sliding it back out carefully and inspecting the sliver of wood for crumbs.

"Oven mitt?" Tara asked, looking around the organized counters for one.

Willow opened a drawer as she stole another finger scoop of the now red icing. Tara rolled her eyes as she found the coven's oven mitt. Tara slipped it on, pulling the cake from the oven, hissing loudly in pain after a second. She managed to not drop the cake, sliding it quickly onto the countertop and whipping the oven mitt off, sucking on the burned skin in between her thumb and forefinger.

Willow was there immediately, pulling Tara's hand down gently. "You okay?" she asked, looking closely at the injury. "Is there a hole in the oven mitt?" she asked sympathetically.

Tara nodded, groaning. Willow turned on the cold tap, pulling Tara's hand under the water stream. Tara hissed again and Willow grimaced. "It's fine," Tara said before Willow could apologize. Her lips curled into a forced smile. "It just stings."

Willow didn't surrender her grip on Tara's hand, holding it under the cold water, her fingers stroking the skin gently. Tara felt a shiver run down her spine at Willow's touch, but blamed the cool water rather than the feel of Willow's touch, trying to force herself to believe that it was the truth.

"How's it feeling now?" Willow asked quietly, not looking at Tara, but keeping her eyes locked on their hands.

"C-c-cold," Tara said, voice soft and shaky. Willow guided their hands out from under the water, still holding Tara's hand between her hands. She glanced up, meeting Tara's eyes before she gently lifted the injured hand to her lips, kissing the burn softly.

"Your mom's not here to kiss it better," Willow said, the excuse sounding weak to her own ears, but she found herself unable to stop the words.

Tara blinked, her mouth dropping open. "My mom is dead. She died when I was seventeen." The statement was more blunt than she intended, her rampant emotions forcing her to speak on the first topic that didn't involve Willow and kissing.

She regretted her haste a second later as Willow frowned. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I don't remember…" she apologized, Tara's free hand covering her lips and stopping her words.

"I know you don't remember. It's fine. It's been a long time," Tara assured her as her hand slipped off of Willow's mouth.

Willow glanced up through her eyelashes. "You can talk to me, you know, about your mom. If you ever want to…"

Tara blinked, smiling slowly and nodding. "Thank you Willow," she said softly, blue eyes shining with emotion. "You're very sweet. That's nothing new though," she commented, pulling the redhead into a hug, their hands still joined.

"You don't have to tell me since I'm sure you've told me about it at some point, but if you ever feel like it, I'll listen," Willow offered into Tara's neck.

The blonde nodded against her, basking in the easy support her lover was providing. "Not tonight. We're making a birthday cake. That's happy. Another time, okay?"

Willow pulled back, smiling reassuringly. "Okay," she agreed, lifting Tara's burned hand to look at it. "Your hand okay?" she asked quietly. She pecked another kiss to the burn and Tara's eyes slid closed.

"Painless," she said, taking a shuddering breath while her eyes fluttered behind the lids.

Willow was smiling a tiny teasing smile as blue eyes opened to find hers. "I'm glad to hear that," she said breathily, letting Tara's hand slide out of hers. They stared at each other for a long moment before Willow's eyes shifted to the cake. "Is that done?" she asked in as normal a voice as she could manage.

Tara nodded, smirking as she poked the pan with one finger. "I hope it was worth it Xander," she groused at the cake as Willow giggled.

"We'll have to make sure to tell him that you almost lost a finger for him," Willow agreed sarcastically.

Tara nudged her with an elbow, grinning sideways at her. "Cake making is very dangerous," she said plaintively, her smile crooked.

Willow grinned, laughing. "So what do we do with our dangerous cake?" she asked.

"We take it out of the pan to cool," Tara answered. "Then once it's cool, we cover it in your fresh red icing and we can go get some sleep for the party tomorrow," she finished.

Willow checked the clock, surprised to realize that it was after midnight. "Sorry Tara. I can finish up if you're sleepy."

Tara shook her head, hair falling over her eyes. "It's fine Willow. We're normally up later than this studying or watching TV anyway. It's no big deal." She pushed her hair back with one finger. "Besides, cake making is fun, right?"

Willow smiled gratefully. "Yeah, it is." She didn't want to make Tara uncomfortable, and was having a lot of fun making the cake, but she was nervous about the multiple moments of tension between them. She was afraid that they would drive Tara to run screaming from her, ending their training and more importantly, potentially causing more damage to the relationship between them. She'd had hope that it had been getting better, but feared that after tonight, the awkward, halting conversations and unintentional touching would mess up her chances to fix anything.

But Tara was staying, she reminded herself. She was staying and they were going to finish Xander's cake and have a birthday party for him. Willow smiled to herself. For all that she couldn't remember much about her life before three months ago, it wasn't all that bad, she mused, giving Tara a sidelong glance as the blonde carefully turned the cake pan over, smiling in satisfaction as it didn't stick, plopping out gently onto the cooling rack she'd found somewhere.

They cleaned the kitchen in silence, washing everything they had already used while they waited for the cake to cool enough to not melt the icing. Tara put the milk and butter back in the fridge while Willow was wiping the counter tops down, both lost in their own thoughts. They moved around each other easily, comfortable in the quiet and Willow looked over as Tara held a testing hand over the cake, trying to feel any heat still radiating from the slab.

Willow moved to join her, smiling. "How's it feel?" she asked.

Tara smiled back at her, reaching across Willow to pick up the bowl of icing. "Grab me a spreader and I'll help with this icing," she prompted.

Willow found the requested utensil and passed it over, biting her lip as she smiled. Life was definitely looking up.

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Ripples - Pretty Much Perfect and The Sequel to the Sequel, Who's That Girl?
Every Step That I Retrace/Always Leads Me Back to You/But I've Loved You All Along
Road to Recovery, The Call/The Lightning Strike, The Sun Will Rise


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:44 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Oh, this was so cute, but I'm going crazy if they don't kiss anytime soon. The :wtkiss has to happen, please, make it happen soon!!!!
:peace

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Think she's going to fly away..."


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:55 pm 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I kinda hope that during Xander's birthday party Willow spontaneously kisses Tara.... And hope that the kiss leads to more :wtkiss after the party...

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:42 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Trust you I do but frustated I am. I love your story very much I always do. :pinky :pinky :pinky :pinky :pinky

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:34 pm 
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Pffft... You evil tease! You're really gonna make us wait with the :wtkiss aren't you? I really do love this story, and I know Tara has to resist and all, but like you said:

Quote:
It was getting more difficult to remember why she was supposed to be keeping her distance. Willow was doing so well, was so happy now, and was so obviously hung up on Tara herself, it was becoming impossible to resist her.


So why resist? There were so many possible moments in there... (yeah I know I'm whining, but it's frustrating!)

Grumble... :impatient

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 1:21 am 
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Cake making never does turn out quite as well for me! :p

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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 7:27 am 
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This story is so much fun to read :) Great job, can't wait for more :)


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:07 pm 
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abarda: I'm sorry that I'm making you crazy... Hope you enjoy the update :)

Zampsa1975: :) Birthday party is now... hope you like it :)

Willowtree252: I'm glad you're trusting me, and I love you for commenting in Yoda diction... :) I hope you like the new one!

Mrs. Pineapple: I know I'm a tease! I'm so sorry - would you believe that I didn't notice how teasing this story is when I was writing it? Sorry it's frustrating - hopefully I'll make up for all the teasing soon enough :)

LittleBit: :) I'd make way more cakes if it turned out like that for me... I only end up with a cake...

Sanpfa: Well, I'm glad you like it!

Early update because I'm going to be very busy for the rest of the week...And I'm trying to get back to posting on Sundays so I'll post chapter 9 on Sunday...Double update week :)

Chapter 8 of 11

The coven witches were mingling with each other, their large dining hall decorated for Xander's birthday. Tara and Buffy were talking quietly with Xander, distracting him while Willow and Giles were bringing Anya out from her hiding spot in the kitchen.

Xander grinned as Willow touched his elbow, and he looked sideways at her. "This is great Will. Thanks so much," he said, hugging her.

The redhead shrugged, smiling up at him. "You haven't even gotten your present yet," she said.

Xander blinked, looking between the three grinning women. "Present? You guys threw me a party, you didn't need to get me a present."

Buffy nodded. "We think you'll appreciate this," she commented, turning him by his shoulders so that he could see Anya, the ex-demon bouncing excitedly on her toes.

Xander's jaw dropped and his eyes widened, his feet carrying him forward without his brain issuing any such orders. Anya managed to stay in her spot, her arms spread wide as he reached her, spinning her around excitedly. She kissed him eagerly as he stopped their spin and her arms curled around his neck. Xander kept his arms tight around her as he kissed her back, the others glancing at each other uncomfortably at the extended kiss.

The coven witches were staring at the enthusiastic couple and Buffy and Tara exchanged smiles and shrugs. They knew better than to expect anything different from Anya, especially an Anya who'd been deprived of her Xander for more than a month.

Giles made his way over to the coven witches, trying to distract them from the kissing pair and make apologies for their public display.

Xander was breathing hard as they separated and he turned to look at his friends. "You guys did this?" he asked, his arms tight around Anya.

"Happy birthday!" Willow said, grinning widely.

Xander moved to hug her, laughing as Anya didn't relinquish her grip on him. He pulled Willow into a one armed hug, pressing a kiss to her hair. "Thank you Willow. It means a lot that Anya is here for my birthday."

"I'm prepared to give you many orgasms for your birthday Xander," the former vengeance demon said cheerfully.

The flustered young man coughed suddenly and Willow's eyes widened as she stared at the other woman.

"Willow made you a cake," Buffy spoke up quickly, pulling Xander's arm from around Willow and dragging him, still with Anya clinging to his side, to the table where his birthday cake was on display.

Willow was staring after the couple, her face seemingly frozen in a look of horrified disgust. Tara put a supportive hand on her shoulder, drawing Willow's attention.

"That's the look you always have when Anya speaks. She's very…vocal about sex," Tara apologized.

Willow blinked, her jaw hanging open and Tara giggled. "He's marrying her?"

Tara nodded. "They're in love." Her eyes followed the pair and a fond smile came to her lips. "They're sort of cute once you get used to Anya's bluntness." Her eyes found Willow's again. "And she's important to him. It really does mean a lot to him that she's here."

"It was you and Buffy's idea," Willow said.

Tara nodded again. "I know, but it really is very important that you and Anya get along. He loves you both a lot."

Willow nodded, letting out a deep breath. "Okay, I get the message," she said, giving Tara a smile. "Let's go watch him blow out his candles," Willow prompted, cocking her head towards the cake table.

They all mingled with the witches while they ate cake, trying to get to know these people who'd been helping them so much. Tara was talking with Giles and another witch when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She knew who it was as soon as the hand touched her, and she turned to see Willow standing behind her and an unconscious smile crossed her lips.

"Hey," Willow said, suddenly shy and shuffling her feet.

Tara pushed her hair behind one ear with a finger. "Hey," she replied. "What's up?" she asked when she sensed that Willow wasn't going to say anything else.

The redhead shrugged uncomfortably. "I…um…nothing," she finished quickly, spinning on her heel and rushing into the crowd. Tara frowned, handing her drink off to Giles and following after Willow.

She was still several feet away when she saw Willow drag Xander onto the dance floor by one hand. Tara stopped herself beside Anya and Buffy, frowning. "What's going on?" she asked them, looking between the pairs.

Anya shrugged, taking a sip of her drink. "Your orgasm friend borrowed my Xander." Tara shot her a look, her arms stiff at her sides. "Oh, but not for orgasms, just for dancing," she added reassuringly as she picked up on the witch's frustration. A look of consternation crossed the ex-demon's face as something occurred to her. "Although, if she's not getting her orgasms from you, she could be wanting to get them from Xander," she reasoned, standing up in sudden anxiety. Tara was glaring at her and Buffy quickly put herself between them.

"Willow doesn't want Xander for orgasms Anya. She's trying to hide from Tara on the dance floor," the Slayer told her.

Tara frowned, her fingers playing unconsciously with the sides of her skirt. "Why would she be hiding from me? I was on the other side of the room and she came over to me…"

Buffy put a comforting hand on her friend's arm. "She wanted to ask you to dance I think," she said, watching her best friends move across the floor.

Tara blinked, her eyes finding Willow across the room. "Oh," she said quietly, a look of sadness crossing her face. Buffy looked between them, making a decision and taking Tara's hand, pulling the surprised witch onto the dance floor with her.

"Buffy, what?" Tara asked, confused as the Slayer's arms curled around her neck.

The Slayer shrugged, grinning innocently. "It's a party. You can't just stand on the side and mope all night." Tara opened her mouth to speak and Buffy shook her head. "I know you weren't moping, but you would have been after that."

Tara sighed, giving her friend a grateful smile. "Thanks Buffy."

"Just don't let Willow kill me over this once she's back to normal," Buffy said, grinning. "Make sure she knows it was completely platonic. No wandering hands, I promise." She winked and Tara laughed, shaking her head.

"You're crazy," she said, laughing as Buffy attempted to twirl her.

Xander glanced down at Willow as she sighed, her eyes lingering on something behind him. "You okay? Did I step on your foot?" he asked, trying a grin.

She didn't return it, shaking her head. "No, you're fine."

Xander looked over his shoulder to where Tara was dancing with Buffy, the pair obviously having fun. "Willow," he started, pausing when she looked up at him, her confusion obvious in her eyes. "It will be okay," he finished. "I promise."

She let her forehead drop against his chest. "She hates me, doesn't she?"

Xander frowned, shaking his head. "Of course she doesn't. Tara could never hate you Willow."

"She's so jumpy around me, even after all these months," Willow said and Xander let out a deep breath.

"It's complicated with you and Tara. I promise you that she does not hate you though. You know I can't talk about this Willow," he said regretfully.

"I know," she said quietly, her head still pressed against his shirt. Xander sighed heavily, hating how miserable Willow obviously was and frustrated with not being able to do anything to help her. His eyes found Buffy and Tara again and he steered himself and Willow towards the other Scoobies as he made a quick decision.

Willow looked up in surprise as she felt Xander detach himself from her, catching Buffy's hand and spinning them away as he declared loudly that he was cutting in. Willow and Tara were left staring at each other on the floor as the song changed to something slower and the redhead let out a breath, moving towards the wall after a moment.

Tara only let her take a step, catching the redhead's hand and stopping her retreat. "Dance with me?" she asked quietly.

Willow's eyes widened and she nodded, biting her lip as her arms came up into a formal dancing posture. Tara blinked in surprise, a smile growing on her face. Willow looked at her arms and down at her feet, but could see nothing wrong. "What? Did I get it wrong?" she asked in confusion.

"You remember," Tara said simply, letting her posture mirror Willow's as she led their dance. Willow still looked confused and the blonde blushed as she continued. "I taught you this."

Willow smiled in sudden grateful surprise, looking at their clasped hands, their other hands on each others hips. "You did?" she asked. "I was kind of curious. I don't remember dance lessons, but all these steps are just in my head."

Tara's smile was crooked and she nodded. "I taught you. After school and on weekends."

Willow grinned back. "So, why did I want to learn to dance?"

Tara shrugged, laughing quietly. "I don't actually know. You just came in one day and asked if I could teach you."

Willow thought for a moment. "Was it for Xander's wedding? Maybe I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be embarrassed at the wedding."

Tara shook her head. "No, I doubt it. It was before they got engaged. We were both still living in the dorms when you asked about it." She bit her lip, glancing at Willow. "It will come in handy for the wedding though. You are the best man," she said, smirking.

Willow blinked in surprise. "I'm Xander's best man and I don't even remember?" she asked, horrified. "I'm an awful friend!"

Tara shook her head quickly. "No you're not. I'm sure you'll be back to normal before the wedding. Xander wouldn't get married without his best friend up there beside him," she said.

Willow nodded, relieved. "So I'm the best man…who's the maid of honor?" she asked. "Hopefully I won't step on their feet too bad if they make us dance."

Tara blushed, remembering suddenly that she had been asked to stand up as maid of honor. In all the rush of trouble over Willow and the magic, she'd completely forgotten. "Actually, it's me," she answered quietly.

Willow blinked in surprise. "That's lucky," she commented, grinning.

Tara was thinking rapidly, suddenly trying to remember when exactly Anya had asked her to stand up with her. Had it been before or after her and Willow's last awful fight? Had their friends been setting them up to get back together this whole time? She knew that Anya would insist on all the traditional dances, including the best man dancing with the maid of honor.

"Um, Tara?" Willow questioned. "Are you okay?" Her head was cocked to look Tara in her unseeing eyes, concern clear in her own green eyes.

Tara blinked as she came back to the present, nodding finally. "Yes, I'm okay. I just got distracted, sorry," she apologized. A smile came unbidden to her lips. She had to admire their efforts. And she'd get to dance with Willow.

She guided them into a turn, feeling Willow's automatic counter steps, the redhead grinning in delight. "I'm glad you taught me to dance Tara. This is fun," she said.

Tara nodded, laughing. "Sure Willow."

"And hopefully I won't step on your feet at the wedding," she commented, missing Tara's expression as she focused on her steps.

The song changed again and Willow unconsciously took the lead, having fun practicing her dancing. If it caused her to linger in Tara's arms, then so be it, she decided, biting her lip as she studied the blonde, masking it with a glance at her feet.

Tara could see that Buffy and Xander had finished dancing, both now sitting with Anya, watching the couple on the dance floor with smiles on their faces. Xander toasted to Tara with his drink and Tara couldn't find it in her to be angry. She knew their friends were rooting for her and Willow to get back together. They were just trying to help, any way that they could. And if the result was that she got to spend a night dancing with Willow, what could be wrong with that?

She sighed to herself as Willow guided them through a turn. She knew exactly what was wrong with that. The girl in her arms cared for her, possibly loved her, and she knew that as soon as Willow regained her memories that could all be gone. She shouldn't be letting any of them, Willow, Xander, or Buffy, get their hopes up that anything could happen after the memory spell was broken. Even as she thought it however, her eyes lingered on Willow and she could almost believe that there was a chance herself.

*****

The nights were still uncomfortably cold this early in the year, but Tara barely noticed, just pulling her scarf more tightly around her neck as she leaned back against the tree. Xander's party had finished about an hour ago, Anya dragging the birthday boy away with an inappropriate suggestion that had left the peaceful and private coven witches gasping and blushing in embarrassment. Buffy had gone to bed and Tara had tossed and turned, attempting to find slumber, but sleep had been elusive and she'd given up, wandering outside so her own restlessness wouldn't wake Buffy.

Willow had been flush with the success of her party and Tara couldn't have been happier for her, loving seeing her girl restored to her former easy joy. But now that the festivities were over and the others were sleeping, Tara had slipped out into the cool night air, left alone with her thoughts.

Memories danced in front of her eyes, her first birthday party with Willow and the Scoobies overlaid with sporadic memories of birthday parties from before that, with her other family, her mother's pale face hiding every trace of illness from the young girl.

She didn't know why these recollections were tied together in her mind, they had little in common with each other, much less with the party she'd attended that very day for Xander. Letting out a deep breath, Tara leaned her head back against the rough bark of the tree, seeing the stars through the thin winter branches of the tree.

Perhaps she was thinking of the parties as a way of introducing the central women in the memories. She'd always wished there was a way to talk to her mother. So much had changed since her death, so many things Tara wanted to share with her, and chief among them was Willow. Tara could imagine her mother meeting the charming redhead, knowing that her mother would have loved the sweet girl from the first meeting, just as she had herself.

It was all conjecture though, and pointless really, Tara mused. There was no way to talk to her mother and there was nothing to be gained by wishing for it to be different. It had never worked before, and nothing would change for spending time thinking about it.

She jumped in surprise as a twig crackled behind her, and her head spun to look over her shoulder. Willow was bundled up in the long brown coat she'd had since college, the white fur on the collar always tickling her ears when she wore it. There was a blanket folded under one arm, and she took a tentative step forward when she saw Tara's eyes on her.

"I didn't mean to interrupt anything." Willow said, holding the blanket out. "I can go."

Tara shook her head and Willow walked the rest of the way without waiting for a further invitation, drawn by the sadness she could see in the deep blue eyes. She dropped to her knees next to Tara, turning to lean against the tree next to the blonde, and spreading the blanket over the two of them.

Willow stayed quiet, just resting next to Tara and letting their combined warmth fill the blanket around them.

"I'm impressed," Tara murmured without looking over a few minutes later, her eyes returned to the stars overhead. "You're not normally quiet for so long."

Willow took that as permission to ask and spoke quietly. "What are you thinking about?"

"Birthdays," Tara said. Willow kept quiet and Tara's hand found hers under their blanket, thumb brushing over her knuckles. "My mom always wanted to throw big birthday parties. Dad never let us go too crazy though." Her eyes finally found Willow's. "She'd have loved your party for Xander," she said, smiling gently, sadness lingering in her eyes.

"Is it hard to talk about her?" Willow asked. She remembered her parents perfectly, which told her that they had nothing to do with her magical life and she remembered clearly them using her birthday as an excuse for a formal dinner party with their work companions.

Tara shrugged minutely, still playing absently with Willow's fingers, rolling the digits individually between her own fingers without seeming to realize what she was doing. Willow had no intention of bringing it to her attention for fear the unconscious touching would stop. And if it comforted Tara to hold her hand, why would she want to take that away from her, Willow justified her actions to herself.

"It was at first. I couldn't even think about her for the first few months without crying. It gets easier though. You don't even feel it happening. It's like you wake up one day and you realize that the thought that she's gone doesn't rip a hole in your guts, and you almost feel guilty about it, but life goes on and it gets even easier. It happens so slowly that you don't even notice. Eventually it's like I told Dawn after Joyce died, you make a place for them in your heart."

Tara swallowed thickly as she stopped speaking, feeling drained suddenly. It had been a long time since anyone had asked her about her mother. She and Willow had talked about her some, but the redhead had always let Tara initiate the anecdotes, never pushing the blonde to share.

"She'd have loved you," Tara whispered and her voice cracked. Willow hesitated for a heartbeat before she slowly pulled her hand out of Tara's, lifting her arm to wrap it around the blonde's shoulders, offering her other hand under the blanket. Tara took it without speaking, her head leaning sideways onto Willow's shoulder, knowing she was playing with fire, and the heart of the innocent Willow beside her, but found herself unwilling to fight against her desires at that moment. She was being offered comfort and she was going to take it.

"I'm sorry I didn't get to meet her," Willow said quietly. "I'm sure she was an amazing woman."

"She was," Tara said. There was a pause and Willow wondered if Tara would close up, retreat from her. "I used to talk to her sometimes, or write her a letter or something, when things were bad after she died." Willow didn't speak and Tara continued slowly. "Sometimes that's what I miss the most about her, being able to talk to her, ask her for advice. Other days it's the way the house smelled when she was cooking, or the way her skin was always so warm and she'd hug me and it would feel safe, and constant, and nothing could get me if her arms were around me." Tara's voice continued, still quiet and low, and Willow wondered if the blonde was even aware of her presence. Tara's head moved slightly against Willow's shoulder and she let out a deep breath. "I always think about her on my own birthday and holidays, but normally I don't get all weepy like this because of other people's birthdays. Sorry."

Willow shook her head. "No, it's good. I mean, it's good to talk about her. And I'm glad you're sharing it with me. I'm sorry I don't remember. I'd probably know something better to do for you."

"You're doing it," Tara said, her thumb sliding over the back of Willow's hand, and her head moved slightly closer to the redhead's neck. She knew that she should put some distance between them, that she was giving them both false hopes, but she was unable to pry herself from the comfort of Willow's arm around her, the familiar feel of her lover's hand in hers.

Willow felt a shiver slide down her spine that had nothing to do with the cold night air and everything to do with Tara's soft touch. Tara knew what Willow was reacting to, but deliberately misinterpreted it, pulling the blanket closer around the two of them. Willow stayed quiet, letting her head lean to the side, her cheek resting against the top of Tara's head.

"What were you doing coming out here anyway?" Tara asked, not moving her head from its spot.

Willow hesitated before she spoke, finally deciding to tell the truth. "I was looking for you. You weren't in your bed, so I was walking around."

Tara sat up quickly, turning to look at Willow fully for the first time since her arrival. "Are you okay? Did something happen?"

Willow blinked in surprise, shaking her head. "No, I'm fine."

"Nothing happened? You weren't practicing a spell?" Tara questioned.

The redhead shook her head, confused. "No. I don't really do spells unless you're there. I know the coven said I should practice, but I'm already really strong and I don't mess up that much any more." She looked at Tara, taking a deep breath. "I know I'm supposed to be this awesome mega witch, but honestly, a lot of magic just seems to be taking the easy way out. There are better ways to do things," she said, fidgeting with her fingers, suddenly worried that she'd offended the other witch. "Not that I mean it's bad if that's how you like to do things," she apologized quickly.

Tara shook her head rapidly, feeling sudden hope blossom in her chest. "No, you're right Willow. I'm glad you're taking the lessons to heart. It's really good," she said quietly, cursing to herself as she realized that her voice was choked up with sudden tears.

Willow's eyebrows furrowed in concern as she lifted a hand to Tara's cheek. "I'm so sorry," she murmured, not sure exactly what she was apologizing for, but Tara's tears blossomed over her eyelashes, spilling down her cheeks and Tara's shaking hand covered her mouth as the blonde choked back a sob.

Buffy's voice startled them both as she appeared suddenly, rushing down the hill from the coven. "What happened?" she asked, looking around cautiously for any attacker. Willow shook her head, upset, and Buffy dropped her knees in front of Tara as Willow pulled her hand back in confusion. "Tara, what happened?" Buffy breathed, her arms sliding around the crying witch's back as Tara clung to her, her tears soaking into the Slayer's shirt.

Buffy glanced over her shoulder to where Willow was lingering in obvious confusion and Buffy slipped one arm under Tara's knees, lifting her into her arms, sensing that she wouldn't get any answers from Tara while Willow was there.

Willow followed them despondently, trying to figure out what she had done to upset Tara so thoroughly, the blanket she'd brought folded over her arm. The door to Buffy and Tara's room closed behind them and Willow didn't open it, leaning herself against the hallway wall.

Buffy put the witch down gently in her bed, Tara's arms still curled tightly around her neck. "Tara, what happened? Did Willow do something?"

Tara shook her head, hiccupping as she tried to control her emotions. "S-s-she apologized…"

Buffy frowned in thought. "But she doesn't remember what she did…" she said, trying not to sound harsh, but not wanting Tara's hopes to rise too high.

"I know, but she's got it, she's figured it out," Tara breathed, her hands trembling against Buffy's shirt.

Buffy pulled back in surprise, looking at the witch in concern. "The memory spell broke?" she asked.

Tara shook her head and Buffy realized that the blonde witch was smiling through her tears. "No, the magic, she figured out what she didn't understand last time."

Buffy sighed in relief. "Tara, you scared me half to death! I wake up and you're gone. I find you outside in the middle of the night, with Willow, crying your eyes out. I had no idea what had happened." She brushed Tara's hair out of her face gently. "She didn't hurt you?" Buffy checked, leaning her head down to catch the witch's eye.

"No, she was sweet. We were talking about my mom," Tara said.

Buffy winced. "Sorry Tara," she apologized, feeling her sorrow over her own mother's death rising up her spine.

Tara blinked, pulling the Slayer's head against her shoulder. "I'm sorry Buffy. I know it's still really soon, but whenever you want to talk about her, I'll listen." She smiled sadly. "We all loved your mom."

Buffy nodded against her, choking back her own feelings. "I know. She loved all of you too." She pulled back slowly. "She never got a chance to tell you, but she thought you and Willow are cute together."

Tara smiled crookedly, nodding her head slowly. "We were," she mused quietly.

Buffy shook her head at the witch and Tara gave her a questioning look. "I don't want to hear any of this past tense crap," she said firmly. "You will look cute together again in the future. And you two were looking pretty cute tonight on the dance floor," she said, smirking as she pushed her grief over her mother firmly to the back of her mind.

Tara arched an eyebrow at her friend, pushing the Slayer's shoulder. "I owe you some payback for that one," she said.

Buffy lifted both hands defensively. "Hey! That was all Xander. I had nothing to do with it!" she stated even as she laughed.

"You didn't stop him. You're strong enough that he couldn't drag you away if you didn't want to go," Tara argued. "And that reminds me, how exactly did I end up as Anya's maid of honor?" she asked, wiping her sticky face.

Buffy shrugged, frowning at her. "I'm going to have to plead confusion on this one. What does that have to do with Willow?"

"You guys weren't arranging it so we'd have to dance at the reception?" Tara asked accusingly, eyes locked on the Slayer's face. Buffy's expression gave Tara all the clues she needed and she slapped one hand down on her own leg. "Buffy!"

"It was actually Anya's idea!" the Slayer defended herself. "You know she likes you. You're the only one who she doesn't drive crazy. And having you with Willow makes her feel better about the possibility that Willow might someday want Xander back."

Tara sighed, rolling her eyes and smiling despite herself. "Anya needs to remember that Willow likes girls. Xander is missing some prerequisites for that."

Buffy nudged the witch gently, relieved to see her smiling without tears in her eyes. "You know she doesn't just like girls though Tara," Buffy said quietly. "You're the only woman in the world to her," she added as Tara met her eyes. The Slayer bit her lip. "She actually asked me about her liking girls when she woke up. She wanted to know if it was new."

Tara laughed, her head leaning back against the wall as she let herself begin to feel real hope. "What did you tell her?"

"She wanted to know if you and Xander were a couple. I told her she's a one woman girl. She's been crazy about you since the second she woke up. The coven said they couldn't take her feelings away, remember? She loves you and you know it," Buffy said, leaning against the wall next to her friend, reaching over slowly to take one of Tara's hands, offering her comfort and support. "What happened tonight Tara?"

The witch let out a deep breath. "She said that magic seems like the easy way out, that the normal way is better."

"Which is what she wasn't getting last time?" Buffy asked.

Tara shook her head, a tired smile on her face. "It's working," she sighed, her head dropping against the Slayer's shoulder, suddenly unable to hold her eyes open in the aftermath of the night's revelations.

Buffy squeezed her hand gently. "It's all going to be okay Tara," she said quietly. She was surprised a second later as Tara jerked away from her. "What? What's wrong?" Buffy asked, looking around their dark room for anything that could have disturbed the witch.

"Willow," Tara said, already moving toward the edge of the bed. "She's just out in the hall. I'm sure I scared her, crying like that."

Buffy caught her quickly, gently guiding the overwrought witch back to her own bed. "Tara, you're worn out. It's been a long day for you. You get in bed and I'll talk to Willow, okay?" She smiled gently. "You might be the love of her life, but I'm still her best friend. Let me take care of this one, okay?"

Tara nodded wearily, unable to argue around her yawning. Buffy tucked her in gently and smiled as the blonde witch was almost instantly asleep.

_________________
Ripples - Pretty Much Perfect and The Sequel to the Sequel, Who's That Girl?
Every Step That I Retrace/Always Leads Me Back to You/But I've Loved You All Along
Road to Recovery, The Call/The Lightning Strike, The Sun Will Rise


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 Post subject: Re: [New Fic] Every Step That I Retrace
PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:36 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Sun Nov 08, 2009 12:37 pm
Posts: 387
Location: Brazil
Cute update!
I loved Xander's party... For a moment I thought Anya would forget that Willow isn't supposed to remember things about her life with magic, and then the ex-demon would say something about Willow and Tara relationship. It would be funny, but probably would screw up everything.
And, yay!, Willow finally understood that magic isn't to be used all the time. I believe this means she will have her memories back soon, and then I'll be reading some :wtkiss scenes...Hehehe
:peace

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Think she's going to fly away..."


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