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

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 Post subject: FIC: The Dark Rose
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 2:38 pm 
There are a few things I'd like you to know about this story before you

start reading. The first is that this story happens 19 years after the

end of season 6. Season 6 happened basically as you saw it except that

magic is not a drug. This huge amount of time passing creates a lot of

angst, but it is necessary.



Some characters have changed over this time, but others have not been

able to let go of the past. Willow has gone through a dark time, but I

promise to avoid the absurdities of addiction, attempting to kill her

best friends, and trying to destroy the world. I will treat all the

characters with the respect they deserve. As for Tara, you'll see in

time, but I promise you that the effort of going through the darkness

will be worth it. There will be a happy ending with a reunited Willow

and Tara in the end.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 2:52 pm 
Title: The Dark Rose - Chapter 1 (The End of a Quest)

Author: Dark Magic Willow

Email: darkmagickwillow@yahoo.com

Rating: R, mostly for violence, no explicit sex

Pairing: W/T

Spoilers: All episodes through the end of season 6 though this story takes

place 18-19 years after the end of season 6.

Feedback: Yes! Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Summary: The end of a long quest is in sight.

Magic Note: Magic, even dark magic, is not addictive in my universe, so

there are no withdrawal symptoms and no dark magic dealers. Here Rack

was a dark magic teacher who used his students, not a dealer. However,

you can use too much magic and you can be corrupted by the power it

gives you.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the copyrights or anything else

associated with BtVS. All rights lie with the production company,

writers etc.

Acknowledgements: I got a little carried away here. It'll be shorter

next chapter, I promise. I've always read that you can't write a book

alone and in writing this one, I've found that very true.



First and foremost, I would like to thank my two beta readers, Amanda

and Juli. Amanda, I can't thank you enough for spending five months

helping me write this. Without your encouragement and feedback, I never

would been able to complete this story. Juli, I've learned so much about

writing from you. This story wouldn't have been half as good without

your help. And many thanks for the cheerleading.



Thank you, Xita, for creating Pens as a forum that gave me the courage

to write. I'd also like to thank all the Pens authors whose stories I've

read for lifting my spirits when I felt like I'd never finish this thing

or was just too depressed to write.





The Dark Rose

Chapter 1: The End of a Quest






The black-clad figure paused in her ascent up the snowy slope. The

wind howled as she reached up with gloved hands to shake some of the

snow off her cloak. Paying no more attention to the wind and snow,

she looked up the slope at the ancient stone castle, its large

sandstone blocks blackened with age and the pollution that reached

even this Alpine fastness. The precisely placed stones without mortar

told of Roman craftwork as did the impressive arched entrance

protected by an iron portcullis. It had stood for millennia and it

would have been a challenge even for her to storm had the curtain

walls and gateway been manned.



But they weren't and snow had drifted up to the nearest corner of the

wall and spilled over into the courtyard below. No sentinels were

visible inside the walls either. Her magical senses felt the presence of

magic in the keep. That meant she could finally use her powers once she

was over the wall. The keep's inhabitants apparently relied entirely on

the null magic area and the demons in the woods to secure their

fortress, but as the dried blood on her cloak attested, demons were no

match for her even without magic. She smiled grimly and set off towards

the snow drift, her snowshoes allowing her to maintain a normal pace

through the thick snow.



The dark witch climbed over the snow drift, crossing the thick curtain

wall without incident. She quickly walked across the snow-dusted

cobblestones of the courtyard and reached the iron-bound double doors of

the keep. She removed her snowshoes and paused a moment to listen. She

quietly moved her hands along the outline of the ancient oak doors,

feeling for magical protections on the entrance. There were none.



It was time.



She raised one hand and exerted her will on the iron-bound doors. The

foot-thick oak exploded into the keep as a hail of splinters. She heard

screams from the inside of the keep as she strode through the ruins of

the doors. Two black-cloaked figures were bleeding on the floor nearby

as she entered the huge chamber. Rows of thick black stone columns lined

the walls to her right and left, separating the chamber into a main area

and two side walkways. A red-stained black stone altar stood near the

end of the room. Behind it was a pool of water. A dark robed man stood

at the altar, looking shocked as he surveyed the ruined entrance of the

keep. In the center of the chamber, exclaiming at her entrance, were a

dozen more dark monks surrounding a mystic circle engraved into the

stone floor.



With a smooth gesture and a single word of Latin from the dark witch,

the center of the room exploded in a sphere of white-hot fire,

reducing the dark monks there to charred bone and ash. She walked

without hurrying towards the far end of the room and the one

remaining dark monk. He recovered from his astonishment and raised

his hands. With an ancient arcane chant, he sent lightning cascading

across the room towards her. Her magical shields absorbed the

lightning with a small sparkling of brightness while she strode

towards him, implacable as death.



"What are you?" he asked in quavering voice.



"I am death...unless you give me the Soul Gem." she answered coldly,

crushing the charred bones of the monks under her black boots as she

walked steadily towards him. The stone beneath her feet glowed red hot

but it made no impression on her.



Looking at the black-masked apparition approaching him, he believed her,

but his order had protected the gem for seventeen long centuries since

Constantine had banished them from Rome. His vows would not allow him to

simply give up their greatest treasure. Fates worse than death awaited

him if he violated those vows. He grasped at the crystal that hung

around his neck. "The order has many treasures that I would gladly give

you, but that is not one of them."



Her black-in-black eyes flashed as she said, "Then die." Within seconds

the dark monk withered to bones and then the bones crumbled into dust.

She reached down to the remains of the monk and picked up a crystal on a

leather thong, shaking a few particles of dust from it. She carried it

in one hand as she walked to the pool at the end of the room.



Raising the Soul Gem high, she cried out to the pool, "Find me the soul

of Tara Maclay!"



* * * * * *




Half a world away, a young woman suddenly woke up to the sounds of a

violent thunder storm outside her window. She was breathing hard and

covered with sweat, but as she looked around the familiar setting of her

dorm room she realized that it had just been a nightmare. She lay back

in her bed, looking up at the twinkly Christmas lights that ran around

the borders of the ceiling and consciously slowed her breathing. It must

have been caused by the vampires we fought tonight, she thought, but all

she could remember of the nightmare was a dark figure standing in a

Greco-Roman temple.



She shook her head and smiled ruefully, thinking about how much her life

had changed in a semester at UC Sunnydale. She certainly hadn't planned

to spend her nights at university fighting vampires, but patrolling with

the Vampire Slayer had become a routine for her most nights of the week,

she fighting with her spells and the slayer fighting with her

supernatural speed and strength. It wasn't the safest way to spend her

time, but she knew that she was doing good, and she'd found a family in

the slayer and her watcher to replace the one she'd lost when her mother

had died at the end of summer.



Rolling over onto her side, she checked the time on her clock on the

bedside table and realized that she had only been asleep for a couple of

hours. Her last finals were tomorrow so she rolled back onto her back,

worrying about how long it would take her to fall asleep again, and fell

deeply asleep almost before she completed her thought.



* * * * * *




The black-clad witch gazed intently into the Pool of Seeing as the calm

surface of the water was replaced with an image of the familiar arid

terrain of southern California. As the pool focused closer and closer on

her heart's desire, she saw UC Sunnydale, then Stevens Hall, and finally

a window in that same building, each image well known to her from the

past. Without showing her the room hidden behind the window, the image

faded from pool.



She removed her black cloak and mask, spilling long red tresses down her

back, and leaned into the stone rim of the pool with both black-gloved

hands as she gazed into her own reflection. Her face hadn't changed a

bit in almost nineteen years, she thought, looking into the reflection

with her black-in-black eyes. Magic had shielded her body from the years

if not her soul. She still looked like the same old Willow.



It had been nineteen long years since she had returned to Sunnydale. The

happy memories of love and friends were overshadowed by the tragedy of a

death she still could not accept. It was a place she had intended never

to see again. She sighed, resigned to the necessity of returning, and

thought back to her last day in Sunnydale.





It was a beautiful day, the sun brilliant in a cloudless blue sky, and

they had just put Tara into the ground of the too familiar cemetery.

Willow thought how wrong it was that the sun still rose, that there were

still beautiful days, as she shed her last tears.



Turning away from the grave, she looked at her friends who were waiting

for her to finish saying goodbye. Their grief showed clearly in their

faces and Willow knew that some of that was for her even after all she

had done in the past few days. She remembered the time when they had all

been so happy together, but it seemed like a dream now.



She shook her head. They didn't matter. Only Tara mattered. She told

herself that nothing, not friends, not family, not anything, meant

anything to her without Tara. Her emotions weren't entirely believing

her about this, but she pushed them ruthlessly away, burying the

feelings deep where they couldn't trouble her. She was resolved to

follow her plan to bring Tara back. She didn't know exactly how she was

going to do it, but she was determined to do it no matter what.



She walked over to her friends, Buffy and Xander and Giles with Dawn

standing further away behind them, and looked at them for a long moment

before speaking. "I have to go," she said. "I can't stay here where

everything reminds me of her."



A wave of protests erupted from her friends, Buffy saying "You can't,"

Xander saying "No!", and Giles warning her "You shouldn't go anywhere so

soon after..."



She let the protests wash over her senses meaninglessly, like the

crashing sound of an ocean wave. There was nothing they could do to

dissuade her.



She touched Buffy gently on the shoulder and looked into her eyes,

letting her see all the pain she was feeling. "Remember when Angel died

and you had to go away?" she asked.



Buffy looked searchingly into her eyes for a long moment and Willow

worried that she might somehow divine her true plans, but eventually

Buffy looked down and nodded. "Come back as soon as you can."



Willow answered, "I will."



Xander interrupted, "You shouldn't go by yourself, Willow."



Giles added, "I think Xander has a point." He looked concerned for

her despite the remaining evidence of his injuries. Injuries that she

had caused.



Willow shook her head vehemently. "I need to be alone," she said.

"That's the whole point. Well, that and getting away from all the

memories here. I can't do that with someone following me everywhere and

I don't know how long I'll need. " Her eyes pleaded with them to

understand her.



Buffy nodded. "She's right. I knew how she feels. I don't want her to

leave any more than you do, but she need some time."



"I still don't like it," Xander said. "The last few days where you were

by yourself didn't go so well to say the least."



Willow replied, "I couldn't do anything like that now, Xander, even if I

wanted to which I don't."



Giles nodded his agreement though his misgivings about her leaving were

still evident in his eyes. She was glad he didn't have Tara's ability to

see auras. The magic still ran strongly through her veins.



She could tell the Xander still wasn't convinced. "Look, Xander," she

said. "I'd like you to be okay with this, but I'm going whether you

are or not."



Xander looked down, gathering his thoughts. He looked up and walked over

to hug her. "Okay," he said. "If you have to go, go, but come back

soon." She hugged him back, thankful that they wouldn't try to stop her

or follow her.



She looked over at Dawn, who had remained silent through the whole

conversation. "Dawn," she began only to see the teenager turn away from

her. She paused, trying to think of something that would make everything

all right for her, but could only come up with "I'm sorry." It didn't

matter for Dawn still ignored her.



Willow rode home with Xander while Dawn went back with Giles. By the

time Willow got there, Dawn had already left to stay at a friend's

house. Late that night once Buffy was on patrol and she was alone,

Willow packed a small bag, taking a few clothes and some mementos of

Tara--the doll's eye crystal, some photographs. She left behind most of

the pieces of her everyday life. They wouldn't be needed where she was

going. She walked to the bus station through the darkness and boarded

the last bus out of Sunnydale.



As the bus passed the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign on its way out of

town, she vowed "I will find you, Tara, no matter what the cost." As she

said those words, her eyes became the black-in-black they would be from

that day forward. She leaned back in her seat, waiting for the next stop

where she would find less mundane transportation and begin her quest.





Willow shook her head, breaking away from her reverie. Tara came first.

That was all she had to know. If she had to return to that cursed city

she'd avoided so long to find Tara then she would. She didn't know how

Tara's soul had come to be in Sunnydale, especially at the dormitory she

remembered from her youth there, but she would find Tara and rescue her

soul from whatever dark power held her.



She felt troubled by a sense of uncertainty that she hadn't felt for

years. Sunnydale. Her friends and old life. Tara's grave. All those

people and places that she had avoided for so long.



She reminded herself that she had defeated powerful dark mages from

every part of the world and had made their knowledge and power her own.

She had found the deepest repositories of dark secrets and learned their

hidden lore. She had even walked into the Hellmouth itself searching for

her love and had returned. What in Sunnydale could oppose her?



Willow turned away from the pool and walked out of the ruined dark

temple to return to her beginning.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 10/31/02 5:51:08 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 3:09 pm 
So WIllow's been searching for Tara, for 19 years. Dude, that's so long, adn so appropriate:) I really like the beginning of this story. CAn't wait for everyone's reaction to when she returns!



-Will



edited because i am a moron



"Hear that baby? You're my always."



"well, you know, when you play a lesbian witch you've gotta get killed in this fun kind of exciting way, so the heart was the way to go..."



"we have the most amazing fans though they LOVE us."





Edited by: willntlover at: 10/31/02 2:44:53 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 3:19 pm 
wow this is so cool!! I like it so far and can't wait for more. I really do wanna know how everyone will react to the current Willow.



-Trinity-





--------------------------

Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstacy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bare. If we can live without passion maybe we'd know some peace. But we'd be hollow, empty rooms, shuttered, and dank, With out passion we'd truly be dead. ANGEL in "Passion"



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 4:08 pm 
Nineteen years that is a long time and who is in the dorm room now?

Tara: Assume Crash

Positions



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:04 pm 
Heh,



Those disclaimers are becoming populair I see :D . Won't hold me back again, nope.. I'll survive :) Pesky disclaimers can be spoilery.



I am a bit worried about Willow though; more specificly I don't know if those monks were 'bad guys' or just monks guarding a crystal for the good of the world (i.e. are they Doughnuts or Frogs? :D ). Will has her first priority, note singular, in place but I'm worried what absorbing all that power has done to her judgement/consience. I suppose getting rid of those other dark-warlocks won't harm the world too much though. Now lets find Tara, get rid of the dark magic and live happily ever after... probably to simple right ?



I felt quite proud Willow managed to conquer whatever was on the mountain itself without using magic. Must be a nice boost for her confidence. Best not discuss why there was no force field on the edge of that null-field shall we ? Idiotic overconfident monks.



The Sunnydale scene had me confused (seems to be set around NMR), the girl doesn't mention Willow once. Only thinks about Buffy and Giles and patrolling, Tara didn't go on patrol that much did she? Willow was the first scooby she knew, so this is rather odd. Tara routinely using magic to fight of vamps doesn't sound quite right either. Strange, strange... which makes it interesting :)



This fic appears to be the Willow arc I would have liked to see at least to some extend during season6, not the addicition crap. Hmm... I had some questions/ theories regarding that disclaimer here but I've decided I'll cheerfully ignore the dislaimer when reading this story. Seems to spoil things a bit. <>. I'll patiently wait for updates, honest.



See, now you got my all worried about Willow... after ONE chapter already! Shame on you :) How many of the scoobies will still be in Sunnydale after so many years ? How will they look ? Buffy as old slayer should be fun to see :) Will Xander have kids ? *shudder*



:bounce I like Willow (a LOT) and was cheated out of her story by ME, so I'm thankfull for this fic already :bounce



Interesting setup, so many nice new possibilities.



shutting up now...



P.S. You worked five MONTHS on this story ? Some dedication you have! I'm all for it, heh :clap



Grimmy

"You hurt Tara," Willow said too calmly. "The last one who tried that was a god. I made her regret it." -- Unexpected Consequences by Lisa of Nine



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2002 9:31 pm 
Wow. I like this concept. The thought that, for 19 years, Willow has been weilding powerful majicks in search of Tara's soul. And I like the disclaimer that you won't be treating majick as an addiction or drug. I always felt that ME did a strange 180 turn on that.



The thought of Willow unaging in a sense, as if her life stopped that day in a powerful idea.



And the concept of the girl in the dorm ... assuming I'm guessing right on the person ... is also intriguing. I can't wait to see where you go with this.



--celia

---------------------------------



"That was just rude. Now I forget what I was saying."



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2002 6:20 am 
Wow, Great beginning.

Wondering just who hold Tara's soul and what else Willow will find when she returns.

BV

"In front of total strangers won't you kiss me, Flowers for no reason but you miss me - OOH, I wanna be in love"

Melissa Etheridge-Skin



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2002 6:52 am 
I am so excited to see this posted here, and not just because you have some serious command of html codes that allows you to do that rare and wondrous thing....indent!



I feel the same way about this chapter now as I did the first time I read it, and that is that it is Atmosphere City. It is so visual, the wind and the black cloak and mask and the pool so palpable....



This story makes me think I probably don't read enough fantasy and science fiction, or any kind of book that makes the clothing that a character wears and the landscape she walks on seem alive with memory and portent.



I can't wait to read it all again.

"And I'm eating this banana. Lunchtime be damned!" -- Willow in "Doppelgangland"



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2002 9:40 am 
Willow thought how wrong it was that the sun still rose, that there were still beautiful days Such a poignant line.



I'm really intrigued by the premise that magic-wielding Willow has existed so long, and has obviously gained immense control.



Really interested to see what happens on the return to Sunnydale.

Adding up the total of a love that's true, multiply life by the power of two
Indigo Girls



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2002 8:14 pm 
Thank you all for reading this, and I hope you will keep reading as I post new chapters. it's great reading your comments and finding that other people can see what I saw when I first envisioned this story.



willntlover and XWickedXWiccan: I'm glad you like how it starts, but you'll have to wait a little while to see how everyone reacts to Willow's return.



BigMac: Yes, who is that girl anyway? (-;



Grimlock72: Definitely too simple. 19 years of darkness with her magic have unavoidably changed Willow. I'm glad you're worried about her though. Someone needs to when she's so alone.



The Sunnydale scene happens at the same time as the rest of the chapter. I'll let you know clearly if a scene is set outside the present. As to who the girl is, you'll just have to keep reading and find out, but I did notice some things reminiscent of season 4 as I reread the story as a whole.



I'm glad that there are others out there who wanted to see a dark Willow story done better than season 6. There was so much potential there and they threw it away. I hope you find that I take full advantage of that potential.



The next chapter is set in Sunnydale so you'll get to see the current Scooby gang, but it'll be a while before you know what happened to everyone over the years.



Yes, five months. It's gone through a lot of revisions. I have tough beta readers. (-;



tiredsoul: Good point. Her life really did stop that day. You might be right about the girl in the dorm, but don't look for quick, easy answers.



barnabasvamp: Thanks. Willow will find things much different than she expects.



Tulipp: Thank you. I'm really glad it stands up to rereading. I gave you tons of recommendations for good F&SF though I can think of more focusing on atmosphere.



mollyig: I'm glad that poignancy of that scene came through. I've kept that line through 9 or 10 drafts of that scene so it means a lot that it worked. I'm glad you like spellcasting Willow. You'll see more of my ideas on magic and what it means as we get further into the story. The symbolism won't be quite as obvious as on the show, but hopefully it will mean much more to you.



Chapter 2 should be posted on Monday and you'll get to see Sunnydale.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2002 8:19 am 
I really love the way you've set everything up here. A Willow still practicing dark magic, but so different to the cartoon villain we got to see. The mysterious girl in the dorm. The Scoobies still not reconciled. And the search. Blimey. That's one hell of a search.



Can't wait to see where you're going to take us. I think that's gonna be quite a journey too :)



Bite me, Harris



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 1 - The End of a Quest
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2002 5:55 pm 
Ahhh... finally, I see this in print on the Pens. :) What a lovely journey it's been these past... gods... 5 months!



I am really looking forward to reading this again, and seeing everyone's comments on it as it progresses.



I love this story and the feelings it brings to life in the description and visuals you write.



Beautiful start, DMW.





"We've got the only librarian who can rip off your arm with his leg. People respect that." - Terry Pratchett



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 2 - A New Life
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2002 12:30 pm 
BoredNow99: It has been quite a search ... you'll get to see flashbacks of parts of it later.



LeatherQueen: It has been a long time. Thanks again.



Without further adieu, here's chapter two:





Title: The Dark Rose - Chapter 2 (A New Life)

Author: Dark Magic Willow

Email: darkmagickwillow@yahoo.com

Rating: R, mostly for violence, no explicit sex

Pairing: W/T

Spoilers: All episodes through the end of season 6 though this story takes

place 18-19 years after the end of season 6.

Feedback: Yes! Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Summary:

Magic Note: Magic, even dark magic, is not addictive in my universe, so

there are no withdrawal symptoms and no dark magic dealers. Here Rack

was a dark magic teacher who used his students, not a dealer. However,

you can use too much magic and you can be corrupted by the power it

gives you.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the copyrights or anything else

associated with BtVS. All rights lie with the production company,

writers etc.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to my lovely and quick beta readers, Amanda and Juli.





The Dark Rose

Chapter 2: A New Life








Tara hurried across campus through the darkness. She was going to see

the red-haired girl from the Wiccan group about a spell. It was

important. She looked back over her shoulder, expecting to see something

she couldn't quite remember, and tripped. As she reached down to pick up

her books, she heard chains rattling behind her.



Tara looked up and saw two hunched figures in straightjackets

accompanied by two horribly grinning creatures in long formal wear.

She froze in fear at the sight, noting with a dreamlike terror that

the gentlemen weren't touching the ground as they smoothly moved

towards her.



She snapped out of her momentary paralysis and ran blindly towards the

dormitory, her heart beating wildly with fear. The creatures chased her

slowly as if they were certain to catch her no matter how fast she ran.



She ran into the dormitory and pounded frantically on door after door,

hoping for someone, anyone, to help her. The sound of her hammering

echoed through the strangely silent corridor but no one answered. It was

as if she were the only person left in the world. The two grinning

figures, eerily floating above the ground, entered the building. Tara

tried to scream, but no sound came out of her mouth. She ran to the

nearby stairs and raced up them.



Once upstairs, Tara pounded on doors again, pleading voicelessly for

someone to help her. Finally a door opened. One of the floating monsters

grinned out at her, holding a human heart in its hand.



Fleeing the terrible sight, she smashed wildly into another woman,

knocking them both to the ground. The other woman yelped silently as she

grabbed at her leg. As Tara helped her up, she realized that she was the

red-haired wiccan. They ran down the nearby stairs and into the laundry

room, Tara locking the door behind them.



Immediately, something outside began banging loudly on the door. The

redhead limped to the soda machine. Tara followed her and they tried to

push it against the door but it barely budged. Fear tightened its grip

on her heart--the gentlemen were going to break down the door and there

was nothing she could do to stop them. The redhead limped to the washing

machines and slumped down against one, cradling her injured ankle. Had

she given up hope?



Tara followed her friend and crouched down next to her. She saw the

redhead concentrating with all her inner strength on the soda machine.

It shuddered but didn't move an inch towards the door. Pushing down her

fear and shyness, Tara reached for the red-haired girl's hand.



They clasped hands, their fingers interlocking. Tara felt a flood of

energy rushing into her from their joined hands. A powerful feeling of

warmth rose up through her arm into her body, filling her heart with

light and love. They clasped hands more tightly and looked into each

other's faces, her blue eyes meeting the redhead's green eyes for the

first time.



They turned as one to look at the soda machine and threw it across the

room to barricade the door with the force of their joined minds. Tara

turned back to see her hand still clasped in the redhead's hand and

realized how strong they were together. She could still feel the magic

flowing through her veins, warming her blood and making her skin tingle.

It had never felt this way for her alone, but together it was wonderful

beyond description and she felt they could do anything.




Tara's alarm woke her from the dream. She blindly reached over the

bedside table and turned off the alarm clock. Turning over, she sleepily

thought back to her dream. It had been so vivid, so real, like it had

really happened to her, but she'd never met anyone like the red-haired

wiccan in her life.



She wished she had.



Tara wanted to return to sleep and discover what happened next, but she

had promised to meet with the slayer and her watcher this morning at

the library. Otherwise she could have slept in as she had finished her

finals yesterday. Sometimes it was a lot of trouble being a cool

monster fighter.



As she got up and found her robe and shower tote, she was still thinking

about the dream. Tara wondered if it really felt so wonderful, so

connected, to do a spell with another person or if there was something

special about the red-haired girl. She could feel herself falling into

those brilliant green eyes as she remembered looking into them, then

shook her head.



It was only a dream.



She had to get moving if she was going to be there on time. She

wondered for a moment if the watcher could identify the demons she'd

seen in her dream, but then her mind returned to thoughts of red hair

and green eyes, causing her to forget about the gentlemen before she

even left her room.



* * * * * *




Tara entered the school library and saw Spirit and Mr. Giles sparring in

the center of the room as they always did in the early morning. Spirit

was a marvel of fluid motion as she kicked at Mr. Giles's heavily padded

hands then spun and launched a flurry of rapid punches at him. Tara was

impressed as usual at how grey-haired Mr. Giles kept up with the young

Asian woman even though Tara could tell that Spirit was always careful

not to strike with her full strength. She'd seen what Spirit could do

against vampires and knew that despite the watcher's deep knowledge of

combat techniques, he wasn't a young man any longer.



Tara settled down in her usual chair to watch her friends. She always

enjoyed watching them spar and wished she had someone with whom she

could practice her craft like in her dream earlier this morning. There

had been no one like her in high school. She had hoped university would

be different, but so far it hadn't been.



At least Mr. Giles and Spirit knew about magic even if they didn't

practice the art. She could talk with them about her spells and Mr.

Giles was very knowledgeable, often recommending books to her though he

never let her peruse his collection on her own. Her friends accepted

her, magic and all, unlike the people she'd met at the campus Wicca

group who thought she was strange even though she knew more about Wicca

than any of them.



Still, it wasn't the same as having someone to share her art with. She

had progressed so quickly after first meeting Spirit, expanding her

command of her powers to fight the creatures of the night, but recently

she felt like she was stagnating. She used the same spells over and over

every night. She needed someone to learn from like Spirit had Mr. Giles,

though she'd like someone more her own age like the redheaded girl from

her dreams.



Tara wasn't sure how Mr. Giles had found Spirit, but she knew that he

was now the slayer's legal guardian. She thought that was probably how

all slayer/watcher relationships worked. It made a lot of sense. How

could any parents let their daughter go out every night to fight

vampires and demons? Still, Mr. Giles wasn't just Spirit's watcher--he

truly acted as a parent towards her and to some extent even to Tara

herself since her mother had died.



She wouldn't have made it through her semester without Mr. Giles and

Spirit, emotionally or physically. She had started taking long walks at

night after her mother had died to get away from everything. She could

focus on school during the day but needed to get away from everyone at

night when she would start remembering. At the time, she didn't know

what Sunnydale was like.



Tara had been walking through the woods on campus that

night as she had every night since her mother had died. It was a way to

get away from everyone, to remember while surrounded by the quiet

calming presence of the trees. She continued aimlessly through the

woods, easily following the path with the aid of the light of the full

moon above, as she heard rapid footsteps behind her.i



She found it strange as there was never anyone else here in the woods

this late at night. Tara looked over her shoulder down the path and

gasped. The creature following her looked human until she looked up at

its face. Its face was oddly ridged and worse, it was grinning at her,

showing its fangs. Tara started running.



Her heart pounded out a panicked beat as she ran. Her mother had told

her that the legendary creatures of the night were real, but that was

quite different from actually being chased by one. Distracted by her

thoughts, Tara tripped, skinning her knee. She quickly scrambled back up

and started running again, but knew that the vampire, for that is what

the creature had to be, was gaining on her. She also knew she couldn't

outrun the monster for long.



She had to try a spell but what could she do that would stop a vampire?

Suddenly Tara had an idea--if she could just change the fiat lux

spell a bit, it would act just like sunlight. It was only a tiny

tinkerbell light but it should at least slow down the vampire long

enough for her to get away, at least if the legends she remembered about

vampires and sunlight were right. Then she heard other footsteps coming

from deep in the woods towards the path.



The situation was worsening. One vampire was dangerous, but two vampires

would be too many to handle even if her spell worked. All she wanted to

do was to run as fast as she could away from here, but she knew she

would die if she did. She had to regain her equanimity and stop the

closer one now.



Tara turned, startling but not stopping her pursuer, and gasped out

"Fiat Lux!", casting the ball of light from her hand at the

vampire who covered its face in an attempt to protect itself from the

light. The small orb of sunlight struck the vampire's arms, causing them

to burst into flame. The monster began running in circles, flailing its

arms in a futile attempt to put out the fire. She had stopped one

vampire, at least for the moment, but Tara knew she didn't have long

before the other pursuer reached the path.



Tara glanced in the direction of the oncoming footsteps and saw a young

Asian woman running towards the vampire, her black braid bouncing with

her long stride. The tall slender woman performed an amazing flip,

landing directly in front of the flailing vampire, and thrust a wooden

stake through its chest. The vampire collapsed into dust, taking Tara

aback. She hadn't read about that in her magic books.



The young woman looked up at Tara and smiled. "Hi, I'm Spirit," she

said. "Neat trick with the ball of light there."



Tara was shocked by Spirit's nonchalant reaction to spells and vampires.

She certainly didn't feel that calm. She was still panting from exertion

and fear, but the other girl was already breathing normally. After a

moment to regain her breath, Tara said "Thanks. I heard your footsteps

and thought you were another vampire at first." Her mouth curled into a

half smile as she added, "So you do this often?"



Spirit was clearly taken aback by the question she'd idly thrown out,

meaning it more as a joke to lighten the mood than anything serious.

"How did you know?"



Taking her own question seriously because of the other girl's reaction,

Tara replied, "You didn't act surprised by my spell and you killed that

vampire without a second thought." Looking closer at Spirit, Tara

realized that the girl couldn't be old enough to be out of high school,

yet she was clearly a vampire hunter of some expertise.



"You didn't look so surprised yourself," Spirit retorted.



"I certainly felt surprised!" Tara said wryly, then said "Ow!" as the

pain from her knee finally registered as the adrenaline rush of the

chase ebbed.



Spirit looked concerned, bending down to check out Tara's bleeding

knee. "That doesn't look so good and I'd like to have you talk with Mr.

Giles anyway."



"Who's Mr. Giles?" Tara asked.



"He's my watcher," Spirit answered. "A vampire slayer has to have a

watcher." With that less than revealing comment, Spirit helped Tara walk

through the woods to the watcher's house.







Tara's thoughts returned to the present as she saw Mr. Giles and Spirit

finishing their sparring session. Mr. Giles hadn't been happy with

Spirit for bringing Tara home initially and he'd had the oddest look on

his face, like he'd seen a ghost, when she told him her name, but soon

she was helping them researching prophecies and monsters.



Those sessions became the best part of her day. She had been so

distracted with her mother's death that she hadn't made any friends at

university, and to be honest with herself, she wasn't that good at

making new friends anyway. It was good having not only friends, but also

a job that provided meaning for her life again. That vampire attack had

turned out to be the best thing that had happened to her that term.



While her friends were great, they didn't completely fill the emptiness

in her heart. Spirit was too young and Mr. Giles was too old for her to

talk about everything with them, and they were often so busy with the

slaying to do anything but focus on the work.



The attack had also caused her to focus more strongly on her magic so

she could help her friends more. Tara worked every night on her

telekinetic control until she was sure she could stake a vampire. Then

she talked Spirit into letting her go on patrol one night to observe and

destroyed a vampire that same night.



After that night, she was a regular, going out with Spirit several times

a week. Mr. Giles didn't think it was a good idea at first, but after

Tara demonstrated what she could do with a stake in a practice session

he quickly agreed that she could go patrolling with Spirit. Her train of

thought broke off as she saw Giles walking towards the table.



Giles sat down at the table across from her, paused a moment to wipe his

glasses, then asked "How did finals go, Tara?"



"I think they went really well," Tara answered. "I didn't think I was

going to get any sleep after the thunderstorm woke me up Thursday night,

but everything turned out fine."



He started to say something in response, but Spirit bounced down into

the seat beside Tara and interrupted, "So are you still planning to stay

with us over winter break, Tara? I've missed you since you've been all

busy studying for exams."



"Sure, if it's still okay with Mr. Giles?" Tara said, looking

uncertainly over at Giles. No one had ever invited her to stay with them

for so long before and she wasn't sure that Mr. Giles really meant the

invitation he'd given her when she let it slip that she had nowhere to

go for Christmas.



"Of course it's still okay," Giles said. He looked warmly at Tara.

"We'll be glad to have you for Christmas and not just for the help with

research and slaying."



"Cool!" Spirit said excitedly. "It'll be great having a friend around

all the time for a couple of weeks."



"Thank you, Mr. Giles," Tara replied, smiling. Tara knew that Spirit

didn't have many friends at school either. It had to be hard being the

slayer and having all that responsibility as a teenager.



Giles cleared his throat. "Now that that's all cleared up," he said.

"Spirit discovered some worrying news on patrol last night. It appears

that there's a master vampire in town. In fact, he calls himself 'The

Master' though I don't think that can actually be the case as Buf...my

previous slayer killed him and, well, smashed his bones to dust with a

sledgehammer afterwards. Still, I think this vampire could be very

dangerous and he appears to be gathering a following."



Tara saw that Mr. Giles was having trouble saying Buffy's name as he

always did. He never mentioned anything about his former slayer. He'd

only been able to say her full name once in Tara's presence. It had to

be difficult being a watcher, knowing that your relationship with the

slayer was only going to end one way. Shaking her head free of morbid

thoughts, she asked, "So if he's not who he claims to be, who is he?"



"We don't know," Giles answered. "So we're going to be hitting the books

this weekend."



"But I was hitting the books hard last week for finals...."

Spirit grumbled.



"Don't worry," Giles responded. "We'll have time for some fun too this

week, I know Christmas is important." He paused and looked at Tara

before continuing. "And solstice too, but for now, the sooner we start

the sooner we finish."



The three of them were soon buried in their research, oblivious to the

outside world.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 11/4/02 11:33:03 am


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 Post subject: ...
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2002 1:25 pm 
sweetheart! yoo're making me think here. lol... hmmm.... ok, so is this tara reincarnated in the same timeline or something? I wonder what willow will do once she finds tara's soul is connected to a live tara. i wonder what happened to Buffy and Xander and the rest of the scoobs. What happened to Willow too... very cool intro and cant wait for more! hugs



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 Post subject: RE: Part 2
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2002 4:52 pm 
Wow, you've put a lot out there already.



So that was the girl in the dorm ... guess what they say is true here ... sometimes you're destined to live your life over and over again :) Although, I almost get the feeling that new-Tara's life is following the path of old-Willow. Of course, that's based on very little.



I like the concept of this. Seems logical that Willow's search for Tara's soul brought her to Sunnydale now, at the same age they originally met, rather than before.



And Buffy's gone? I like that Giles is training the new slayer but isn't he like pretty old now?



--celia





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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2002 5:18 pm 
Damn, "when will Tara mention her dreams to Giles" ? That was basicly my concern during the 2nd half of this chapter, couldn't help it sorry :D Just his reaction to that mention would be neat.



Or maybe Giles will tell some stories from the good old days (_Hush_ will do nicely for a random story:) ) when they're sitting around the fireplace ? Just Tara mentioning dreaming about a redhaired girl should do nicely, heh. Her dream is verrry specific, no way on earth Giles can mis-interpret it.



Lots and LOTS of questions remain:)



What happened to Anya, Buffy, Dawn and Xander (and yes that is in order of importance to me:) ) ? Won't Willow feel guilty if they died when she wasn't around to help them ? Did Giles ever talk about them (+ Willow) to newTara ? Does Giles help Tara with learning magic/spells ?



Poor Giles must have a lot of self-control not to freak when meeting newTara. Strange coincidence that her mother died last summer as well, nicely fits the timeframe of her dream though she doesn't know that. Giles still being a watcher almost twenty years later... that man IS persistent :D .



Giles being legal guardian of Spirit, which Tara assumes is standard practice. Heh, little does she know... it's kinda frowned upon by the CoW (if they still exist), but it makes lotsa sense for Giles.



Big master vampire coming to town, just when Willow is moving back in... how convenient...:D . Though any vampire could be defeated by that corona/fiat-lux++ spell, which is probably why it failed on TV would make killing vamps rather easy (_Triangle_). Willow rescue-ing Tara would be neat, that would be a knight on a black horse but still a knight, heh :D ... though likely not one on a horse, Willow on a horse....nah.



Hmm... even if/when newTara and Willow meet, there's still 15/16 years between them. How to fix that...



Oh the possibilities...lotsa things to think about, which I like in a fic. This is a loooong fic right ? your not gonna wrap things up in chapter 5?? :) . Just checking.



Grimmy

"You hurt Tara," Willow said too calmly. "The last one who tried that was a god. I made her regret it." -- Unexpected Consequences by Lisa of Nine

Edited by: Grimlock72 at: 11/4/02 4:22:21 pm


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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 2:24 am 
Really intrigued by the setup here. Tara's acceptance by Spirit and Giles is interesting, with that support she seems a bit more confident in herself.

Adding up the total of a love that's true, multiply life by the power of two
Indigo Girls



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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 5:56 am 
I'm seriously confused as to what's going on (not that that's a bad thing or hard to do for me). I thought for a moment that maybe Willow had slipped into an AU of some sort where Tara was sort've following in Willow's footsteps, but with the mention of Buffy, I'm doubting that. Very curious to see how this all ties together, and to see what is to become of this "New" Willow, who seems to have taken a turn forthe worse in her 15 years.



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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 7:14 am 
*Whew* Alot to absorbe, but well done!

I hope that the next update will give us a bit more insight into just what happened to Buffy, and where Willow is..?

BV

"In front of total strangers won't you kiss me, Flowers for no reason but you miss me - OOH, I wanna be in love"

Melissa Etheridge-Skin



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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 7:34 am 
Okay I'm a bit confused I thought you were in an AU but then Tara's flash back of Giles look of when they were introduced and Buffy kinda changed that. I really do like this fic and can't wait for your next update. Is Willow and the new Tara gonna meet anytime soon?? Okay I should stop before I'm asking lots of random questions. :grin



-Trinity-





--------------------------

Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstacy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bare. If we can live without passion maybe we'd know some peace. But we'd be hollow, empty rooms, shuttered, and dank, With out passion we'd truly be dead. ANGEL in "Passion"



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 Post subject: Chapter 2 quick reply
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 12:26 pm 
Thanks for the feedback, and while I don't have time to answer everyone indvidually today, I will say a few quick words.



There will be no quick resolutions as this is a 24 chapter story, currently around 80,000 words though likely longer in the final draft. As for the other Scoobies, I promise to bring full resolutions for each and every one of them, no matter how impossible it may seem, but it will take a while as the early part of this story is very W/T cenric. I hope you don't mind. (-;



And one question for the readers. How did the scene from Hush work? I didn't see any comments, but I hope I was able to convey some of the feeling from the episode.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 11/5/02 11:58:02 am


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 2 quick reply
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 1:13 pm 
dmw;

IMHO, I thought the scene from Hush worked very well, and then to have it turn out to be a dream was actually very good!

BV

"In front of total strangers won't you kiss me, Flowers for no reason but you miss me - OOH, I wanna be in love"

Melissa Etheridge-Skin



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 2 quick reply
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 3:27 pm 
I find this to be a very intriguing chapter for exactly the disconnects that a couple of people have pointed to.



It starts out like canon, with the scene from "Hush," but when that turns out to be something else...a dream or a memory or whatever it is...it starts to feel like an AU. And of course the mention of Spirit also contributes to the sense of AU. But when Giles and Buffy come in, it starts to become something else.



For me, that raises a question about the nature of AU....when is an AU an AU? I mean, is this story AU because it is set 19 years in the future? Or is it AU because it diverges from season 7 canon? And if it's a point of divergence, then isn't most fanfic--with the exception of off-screen fill-in scenes--AU? Anything written post season 6 and pre season 7 would NOT have been AU necessarily, right? But as soon as season 7 started, all that stuff instantly became AU. It seems like we need another category....not quite AU--because I think of AU as taking the characters and following them down an entirely different path--but maybe POD. Point of Divergence. Or maybe this is an academic question. :)



I'm having an overpowering feeling of deja vu now, so I'll stop. But what I like about this chapter is seeing Tara, after the previous chapter's focus on Willow.



At this point, these two women--although one is still a girl--seem impossibly far apart. A dark and tormented witch who's been searching, and what seems to be an innocent college student....they are worlds aparts right now. I love the way you end the chapter with Tara and Giles and Spirit in the library; I have this image of those green bankers' lamps and the three of them close together, protected and safe and warm.



"And I'm eating this banana. Lunchtime be damned!" -- Willow in "Doppelgangland"



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 2 quick reply
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2002 8:21 pm 
Just popped up to say Jeez Tulipp you just used 11 AU's the whole time. I think it's only 11. Can't wait for you to update cause I'm bored. I'm gonna read what Tulipp said again to see if it makes sense now. :grin



-Trinity-

--------------------------

Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstacy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bare. If we can live without passion maybe we'd know some peace. But we'd be hollow, empty rooms, shuttered, and dank, With out passion we'd truly be dead. ANGEL in "Passion"



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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 1:23 am 
Hey,



I really like your story but i am also very confused!!!



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 Post subject: Re: chapter 2
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 3:16 am 
Well so far I like this fanfic! I'm a *little* bit confused on some things too, but it's a *good* confused :)


Just one question: Does the Tara-incarnate, who's friends with Giles and Spirit, look exactly like Amber/Tara or is she 'same name/personality in a different body'?





So how many words was the fic at last count? Phew, it's gonna be a looonngg read!


*~Kristy~*

"You talk about trying to find your way.But to me you are my way ."



"Have you ever felt really close to someone? So close that you can¹t understand why you and the other person have two seperate bodies, two seperate skins? I think it was Sunday when that feeling began."



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 Post subject: Chapter 2 replies
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 5:34 pm 
Thanks again for the feedback. It's good to see that people are keeping up with the story and that some new people are finding it, and I hope that your confusion will lessen with the next chapter though there is so much to find out still.



Chapter 3, "Homecoming," will be up tomorrow.



Rane018: Hey, it's good to see you here! Thanks again for answering all my questions, but it will be a while before you see why. Tara is back, and Willow will have quite a surprise when she returns to Sunnydale.



tiredsoul: Celia, I have enough of the story written and through first beta to get out two updates a week so I won't keep you waiting too long to see what happens. As you noticed, Tara has had a very different life and is to some extent following young Willow's path. I'm glad that you liked the concept; I was a little worried about the kittens accepting the new Tara.



You're right. Giles is in his late 60s or so, but there are reasons for him being Spirit's watcher which you will discover later.



Grimlock72: I love all your speculations even if I can't always give you answers without spoiling the story. Giles's reaction will be interesting. It will take awhile to find out what happened to all of the Scoobies, especially as Giles has understandable issues about talking about some of them. He is persistent, but there is a reason for him being Spirit's watcher.



Danger does seem to come at a particularly convenient or maybe that's inconvenient times for the Scoobies. I can't change that. *G* But there is a reason for everything.



I like the image of Willow as a black knight. I envisioned her as a dark angel myself. There's a lot of time between them, but more than that there's what happened during those years, especially for Willow.



molliyg: I'm so happy you like the setup; it takes time, but I promise all the waiting will be so worth it. I wanted to give Tara a better life than she had before with supportive friends; she certainly deserves it.



Big Dummy: I hope you'll get unconfused with the next chapter. You're right; there's no AU.



XWickedXWiccan: No AU here, but Willow and Tara will meet soon, I promise. It's good to hear that you're eager for an update, but you'll have to wait til tomorrow.



barnabasvamp: We'll meet Willow again next chapter and you'll learn about Buffy soon too. Thanks for your feedback about the Hush scene.



Tulipp: It's an interesting question if a new Buffy season makes all prior fics AU stories unless the author was careful not to change anything. Of course, as you suggested if diverging from season 7 makes a story an AU, then everything on Pens is an AU now. I didn't use to like reading stories set prior to the current season for this very reason, but since finding Pens I've found a great number of pre-season 6 stories that I've loved. However, even though I liked Oz and enjoyed some of the noncanonical Willow relationship stories, I found them hard to read after Willow met Tara.



One of my favorite genres of fiction is alternate history which is actually defined by having a single point of departure (POD) from our history that actually happened. History is a bit more static than Buffy though certain novels have become alternate history stories when they were just ordinary fiction due to a fall of the Soviet Union and other unexpected events of recent history. I think you have to take them on a story by story basis as some of them hold up well even though they no longer fit what actually happened, while others do not.



I almost didn't go with the concept for this story because of the passage of time, but then I realized that it would let me have a great deal of freedom to be creative, creating a history for Willow and the others that would build their characters while still keeping their essential elements the same.



I like the contrasts you pointed out too. Willow's alone in a dangerous place, Tara's safe with her friends. They're very different people so bringing them together isn't simple.



deixs: I think things will become more clear next chapter.



KISMIC: You'll see the new Tara from Willow's point of view soon which should answer your question. I'm glad it's a good confused and that should clear up shortly I hope.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 11/6/02 4:38:39 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 2 replies
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 12:49 am 
Can't wait for the next chapter especially if things become clearer! :confused



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 Post subject: Chapter 3: Homecoming
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 11:50 am 
Hey, we've broken a thousand hits for the story! Thanks again to everyone for reading.



Title: The Dark Rose - Part 3 (Homecoming)

Author: Dark Magic Willow

Email: darkmagickwillow@yahoo.com

Rating: R, mostly for violence, no explicit sex

Pairing: W/T

Spoilers: All episodes through the end of season 6 though this story takes

place 18-19 years after the end of season 6.

Feedback: Yes! Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Summary: Willow returns to Sunnydale.

Magic Note: Magic, even dark magic, is not addictive in my universe,

so there are no withdrawal symptoms and no dark magic dealers.

Here Rack was a dark magic teacher who used his students, not a dealer.

However, you can use too much magic and you can be corrupted

by the power it gives you.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the copyrights or anything else

associated with BtVS. All rights lie with the production company,

writers etc.

Acknowledgements: Thanks as always to my beta readers, Amanda and Juli,

for always asking for just a little bit more.





The Dark Rose



Chapter 3: Homecoming






After 19 years, Willow was going home.



She didn't want to return to Sunnydale, but she had to. When you lost

something, it was always in the last place that you looked. She had looked

for Tara every place in this world and beyond except for Sunnydale, and

that was exactly what the vision had shown her.



Perhaps it was her imagination, but she felt that the warmth coming from

the soul gem against her chest was gradually increasing as the plane

crossed the Atlantic. She felt restless with hours of flight time ahead of

her, but the thought that she was getting closer to Tara calmed her. Tara

was her home. She'd been homeless for so long, but she was going home at

last.



She had spent thousands of lonely nights doing nothing but remembering what

she had lost that terrible afternoon. The time for that was over. Now she

had to plan for the future, figuring out who or what held Tara's soul and

how to kill it and rescue her love. Afterwards, they wouldn't need

memories. They would have each other.



Willow started to smile at the thought, then felt her stomach left behind

as the plane dropped through a pocket of air. She hated flying this way,

under someone else's control, but it was still the fastest way to

Sunnydale, especially when you were a witch and didn't need to worry about

ordinary things like reservations or tickets.



At least she had her own row of seats in first class. There'd been someone

else in her row, but he got up quickly after she'd pulled her hood back and

stared into him with her dark eyes. He had departed for coach and she

hadn't seen him since.



She looked out the window at the clouds they were flying above. Once they

had been a mystery to her and she had dreamed of walking on them,

hand-in-hand with Tara, drenched in sunlight. The clouds looked soft and

comforting, a special place where she could be safe and happy. Now she

knew better. She had flown through them alone and discovered their true

nature. They were cold, wet, and empty.



She turned away from the window, closing it to shut out the sight of the

world outside, and pulled her journal out of a pocket in her cloak.

Looking around, she saw that everyone else in the dark cabin was asleep.

In solitude as always, she began to write in her journal, describing the

events that had brought her here.



* * * * * *




Willow strode off the plane purposefully without acknowledging the

farewells of the flight crew. She hadn't bothered with baggage, not

wanting to waste time with anything unnecessary, so she was out of the

airport in a few minutes. The heat of the soul gem warmed her as she

entered Sunnydale.



Nineteen years of searching were almost over. She was going to find Tara

tonight, but there was one place she had to go first.



Tara's grave.



She didn't expect to find Tara's soul there, but she hadn't visited the

grave since the day of Tara's funeral. She felt guilty about that, but

reminded herself that she had devoted her life to her quest to bring Tara

back. Surely that made memorials unnecessary, she thought to herself, but

the weight of her guilt could not be lifted so easily.



The cemetery felt familiar as she entered it despite all the years that had

passed since her last visit. Even if she hadn't spent too many nights in

Sunnydale's cemeteries, this one would be forever burned into her memory.



Her black leathers and cloak let her blend into the shadows as she walked

through the cemetery. Her face was hidden in the hood of her dark cloak

while her hands and feet were securely encased in black gloves and boots.

The soul gem was tucked inside her shirt and she felt its reassuring warmth

against her chest as she walked towards Tara's grave. It wasn't far now.



Willow reached the familiar grave site and gazed at the tombstone that she

hadn't seen since the day it was erected. The site was undisturbed and the

gem did not urge her downwards. Tara's soul might be somewhere in the

cemetery, but it was not in her grave.



She sighed. It would have been easy to find but she was not sure if she

could have dealt with the knowledge that Tara's soul had been trapped in

the grave for all these years. She looked down at the grave, noticing long

dead cut roses at her feet. Someone had been here within the past year,

remembering Tara, and Willow felt her guilt increase as it hadn't been her.



With her guilt came an upwelling of grief, more than she thought she could

bear. Her eyelids closed over eyes sparkling with unshed tears and her

throat constricted, making it difficult to breathe, as she remembered how

much she had lost. Willow reached out tentatively towards the grave, as if

she could pull Tara back with force of will alone.



Then she curled her hand into a fist and jerked it back towards her. For

all her knowledge and power, she hadn't been able to regain the one person

in this world that mattered to her above all else. Forcing back her tears,

she reminded herself that everything would change tonight.



The soul gem suddenly blazed with heat against her chest, causing Willow to

look up. Willow spotted a figure moving stealthily towards her through the

nearby trees. It was a young woman wearing a black leather jacket and dark

blue jeans with black boots. Her blonde hair was tied back in a pony tail

and she was holding a wooden stake in her hand. Several more stakes were

attached to her belt.



Willow could see from her aura that despite all the accoutrements of a

vampire hunter, the blonde was a witch focused on the magicks of light.

Then Willow looked into her eyes. They were a brilliant blue that looked

too familiar to be real.



Tara?



Could it really be her after all these years?



Her heart swelled with hope in defiance of the doubts that assailed her

mind. The woman was too young, no more than 20 years old, but she looked

enough like Tara to be her sister. While similarity didn't mean that she

was Tara, what about the gem's hot insistence that the woman had Tara's

soul?



Tara realized that she had been spotted by the black clad figure she had

been stalking and froze. As the figure looked up from the grave, the

blonde realized that the black-clad figure was a slender woman. As she

looked at the curves revealed by the tight black leather, she thought how

beautiful the woman was even though she hadn't seen her face.



Her rational mind woke up, reminding her that the woman was dressed all in

black in a cemetery after midnight. In Sunnydale. Tara shifted her stance

uneasily, unsure whether to approach or retreat. She didn't usually take

on vampires by herself, but the woman didn't appear to be a vampire. And

she wasn't doing anything except gazing at her, but she was in a Sunnydale

cemetery after midnight.



Willow's mind was racing as she stood motionless, staring at the blonde

woman. She didn't look precisely like Tara and she was too young, but the

gem said that she was Tara. Even her aura felt similar to Tara's, but it

was not the quite the same either. How could she be so much like Tara yet

not quite Tara? Could the gem be wrong? What kind of warranty came with

millennia-old magical artifacts anyway?



Yet the woman looked and felt so much like Tara. Her heart wanted to

believe, but she was scared of risking her heart again. In her dreams Tara

was alive, but she never was when Willow awakened. What they once had was

a miracle, hot and passionate yet gentle and comforting at the same time.

Tara had seen so much in her that she had never been able to see herself.

She wanted to see herself like that again, but she was afraid it was too

late. They had flown so high, but then she had fallen so fast and hard.



Could she expect another miracle without the dark price that such miracles

had always cost her? It had cost her Buffy's life to get Tara's mind back

from Glory. Then she had gotten Buffy back at the price of Tara's life.

There was always a price.



What should she do? Willow hadn't felt this uncertain in years.



Tara was also thinking rapidly as she watched the other woman. She could

feel the dark stranger's aura of tightly bound power, but she couldn't tell

whether her source was light or dark without fully opening her senses and

exposing herself. Still, she felt more puzzled than threatened.



Tara had so many questions. Who could this person be? Was she just

visiting a grave or was she here to raise something evil from the beyond?

Whose grave was she visiting anyway and why after midnight? Why was she

attracted to her? Something about that last question didn't fit with the

others--attracted to her? Tara hadn't even seen her face. They hadn't

spoken yet. Then she saw movement behind the mysterious woman. It was a

vampire and that she knew how to deal with.



Willow watched the young woman raise her right hand to throw the wooden

stake she held. She was puzzled at first, then she heard the stealthy

movement of a vampire behind her. The blonde witch threw the stake and as

Willow watched, it carefully zigged around her in an impossible trajectory

before embedding itself in the heart of the vampire behind her.



Willow was quite impressed as she turned to see the vampire dissolve into a

cloud of dust. Unfortunately, there was another vampire behind the one who

had just been slain. She sighed silently. Sunnydale hadn't changed.



Tara ran up beside the stranger and spotted the approaching vampire. Her

blue eyes widened as she readied another stake, saying to the other witch,

"Get behind me."



If this was Tara, she seemed unusually assertive. Willow brought the stake

from the clump of vampire dust to her hand with a thought and said, "If

you'll accept some help, I'll deal with the other two behind you." She

turned around so that they faced their oncoming opponents back-to-back, not

quite certain why she felt secure enough to expose her back to the unknown

young witch.



Tara spared the two vampires behind her a fleeting glance before returning

her focus to the vampire in front of her. She threw another stake, guiding

it with her mind towards the heart of the approaching vampire, but this

time the stake missed the heart, infuriating the monster rather than

killing him. She briefly wondered if she should trust the stranger so

soon, but she had no other choice with so many attacking vampires.



Unwilling to scare the blonde, Willow decided to destroy the vampires with

the stake rather than spells. As the two vampires closed with her, she

quickly staked the one on the left, her hand a blur of movement, while

kicking the second vampire away to gain time.



Tara pulled a third stake from her belt as the second vampire closed with

her. She heard the sound of one of the vampires behind her being destroyed

by her companion then her vampire was upon her. As they traded a few quick

blows, she realized that this vampire was a young one, newly risen from the

grave with superhuman strength but still not in full control of his

supernatural speed and agility. He left his chest exposed for just a

moment. She quickly drove the stake into his unbeating heart, reducing him

to a small pile of dust.



Willow found her second vampire more of a challenge than the first. He

carefully watched her stake and allowed her to score useless wounds on his

undead flesh instead of exposing his heart. She heard the destruction of

the vampire behind her and realized that the young woman was safe.

Subconsciously, she had been listening to the other woman fight in case she

needed help. Now with the blonde safe, Willow could bring her full

concentration to bear on the foe in front of her.



After the destruction of her opponent, Tara turned to watch the fight

between the mysterious stranger and the last remaining vampire. She

admired the graceful movement of the dark witch as she dodged and flowed

around her opponent, closing until she could quickly thrust her stake into

its heart, destroying it.



Willow turned from the remains of the last vampire to find the blonde

watching her with admiration in her eyes. She flipped the stake around in

her hand and extended it to the other woman, saying "Your stake, I

believe."



Tara took the stake from the mysterious woman's hand, her fingers brushing

the black-gloved fingers of the other woman as she accepted the stake back.

Her fingers tingled with a warm energy at the contact. She brought her

hand back to her side and closed her other one around it. "So you've ...

uh ... fought vampires before?" she asked, her voice not quite as steady as

she wished.



"Yes," Willow answered, forcing her voice to remain calm after the amazing

touch. She wanted to reach out and touch her hand again, but at the same

time she was afraid to try to. Whether she was more afraid that would feel

the same or that it wouldn't she wasn't certain. "It looks like you came

here looking for them." She stared at the young witch, wondering if she

really could be Tara after all these years. What had happened? Where had

she been all these years? Why hadn't Willow known about her? Her stomach

churned, upset by the tumultuous thoughts and feelings swirling through

her.



Tara looked down at the stake she still held in her hands. "Yes," she said

awkwardly. "Someone has to stop them." She was thinking about how to ask

the stranger about who she was and what she was doing in Sunnydale when she

heard a voice through the trees calling her name: "Tara! Where are you?"



Willow froze as she heard the name called. It had been so long since she

had heard that name said by a voice other than her own in tones of deep

grief. Years of disappointment had made her cautious so she asked the

young woman to be certain, "Your name's Tara?"



"Yes." Tara nodded then asked, "What's your name?"



Willow's mind spun. Tara? It couldn't be a coincidence. Tara's soul.

Tara's name. Tara's heart? All in this young woman. This Tara had to be

her love but in a new body, a new lifetime.



She had spent all those years searching and failing time after time to

bring Tara back. Now she saw the reason for her failures standing in front

of her. How could you bring someone back who had already returned to the

cycle of life? She would have screamed at her blindness if her frustration

wouldn't have terrified the young woman in front of her waiting for the

answer to a simple question.



She had so many questions. Had Tara returned for her, to love her? Even

if she did, did she remember Willow and their love? Should she tell Tara

about them if Tara didn't remember? Should she tell Tara anything about

her past life, about herself? Suddenly, her quest was no longer a simple

one.



Despite how well her theory seemed to fit the situation, a kernel

of doubt remained. She had been disappointed before. This wasn't the

first time she had thought that she had found Tara again. She shuddered as

she recalled the horror in the mirror. It had looked just like Tara at

first. She couldn't trust appearances.



She couldn't stop herself from hoping though. For now there was one

decision to make--to say or not say her true name, the name she hadn't used

since the day she left Sunnydale.



She decided to trust in life, in love, and simply said, "Willow."



Willow looked intently into Tara's blue eyes and her heart fell as she saw

no sign of recognition. Her name didn't mean anything to Tara. How could

it have? But she had so hoped that they could just be together now.



Tara noticed Willow's pause before answering and her intent gaze

afterwards, but wasn't sure what either meant. Instead of commenting on

Willow's reactions, she said, "I'd better answer her. Spirit gets cranky

when she can't find me."



Tara turned to the trees to call back to Spirit. "I'm over here," she

said. "I'm okay." As she turned back to face Willow, she did a

double-take. No one was in sight. Tara wondered for a brief moment

whether the mysterious witch had been real. Had she been a ghost?



With that thought in mind, Tara walked over to the grave where she had

originally seen the stranger, half-expecting the tombstone to read

"Willow." Her heart thumped heavily in her chest as she read the first

name on the tombstone, but she relaxed as she finished reading the name.

It wasn't her last name.





Tara Maclay



1980 - 2002



Beloved, I Will Return For You





--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 11/7/02 11:25:14 am


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