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BtVS: No Messenger Come Back (Willow/Tara)

missing_inc organized the What If? Ficathon. I was assigned agent_alpo, who asked, "What if Willow never restored Tara's mind?" This assumes the rest of "The Gift" happened as it did on the show, and she requested a Willow/Tara focus, and minimal Spuffy, if at all. I think this fits the bill.

Title: No Messenger Come Back
Author: voleuse
Fandom: BtVS
Ship: Willow/Tara
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: And all night long a voice made wild lament.
Notes: AU, spoilers for the last half of S5

i. some fell away to the westward wind

The words of the spell flash through Willow's mind as she bridges the gap between Glory and Tara. She forms her mouth around the words, lets them arc inside of her, jagged and bright. Her fingers fade, become both less and more, and sink into both of them like quicksand. Reality shifts around in her skin, until she becomes a conduit for it.

She feels the magic course through her body, hears Glory scream.

Then it's done, Willow shifts, becomes like human again, and the god staggers away.

Willow crumbles to the floor, her nerves frizzing, snapping. Her eyes aren't working properly, yet, and everything smells of blood.

"Did it work?" she gasps. Crawls feebly on the floor, reaches an arm out to Tara. "Tara, did it work?"

But Tara curls up, whimpers, and when Willow tries to take her hand, Tara shies away.

ii. full darkly figured on the sun

Buffy falls, and Willow isn't there to catch her. No one is.

But the world doesn't end, and that's something, isn't it?

Everything after the battle is a blur. They move the body furtively, bundled in a blanket, hidden from the sun. Willow doesn't ask Giles where he took Buffy, knows only that he musters silence like a shield around himself.

He asks her to write the inscription for the headstone. Willow scribbles it on the back of an envelope while Tara's sleeping, feels trite, but can't think of anything else to say.

The burial is done by moonlight, quick and hushed. Giles and Dawn hold hands, bow their heads as if in prayer. There is no service, just their vigil.

Willow watches Xander and Anya at the graveside, Xander's arm around Anya's shoulders. Watches Spike dissolve into tears, clench his fists against his sides.

She envies them. Feels trapped in between, and it chokes her.

"It's all going backwards," Tara whimpers. "I don't like it here."

Willow pats her on the shoulder, and when Xander looks at her with sympathy, she turns her head away.

iii. the confines of the restless camp

She doesn't contact Tara's family, because she doesn't know how. The university, theoretically, should have some way to notify them, but classes are done, and Tara's moved out of the dorm, into Willow's care.

She doesn't know what she would tell them, anyway. Sorry, but Tara's a little crazy right now. She can imagine the smug looks on their faces. You were wrong, though. She wasn't possessed by a demon. Just met up with a god on a bad day. That would go over really well.

And it's my fault.

One day, she's spooning apricots from can to bowl, hoping that, today, Tara will remember to use utensils as she eats. Sometimes she forgets, and the resulting mess upsets her.

She's not paying attention, her eyes are focused on the stained tablecloth, so she's not prepared when Tara grabs her wrists, squeezes.

Willow looks at her and catches her breath, because Tara looks angry, almost lucid.

"You don't know what it's like in here," Tara snarls, but before Willow can respond, her eyes go blurry again, and she drops her head. Patters her fingers against the tabletop.

Willow rubs at the bruised flesh of her wrist and tries not to cry.

iv. thoughts of those at sea

There must be a way, Willow thinks. Glory is gone, dead as far as she knows, so there must be a way to find Tara. Must be a way to tap into the cage of her mind, find her and bring her out again.

And then she remembers the spell. Curses herself for not thinking of it earlier.

To prepare, she calls Anya, not because she likes her, or even trusts her, but because Anya won't question her motives, not really.

She requests the herbs, the candles, and Anya recognizes the ingredients, deduces the purpose.

"Don't tell them," Willow asks, and she's surprised when Anya agrees. Makes another call, has Xander pick up Dawn for a movie.

After they've left, she leads Tara into the bedroom, whispers a spell to make her sleep. When Anya arrives, bearing the supplies in a paper bag, they don't speak. Willow lays out the spell circle, and Anya lights the candles together.

When they've finished the preparations, Anya places a tentative hand on Willow's shoulder. "I'll unplug the phones," she says.

Willow smiles. "Thanks."

Anya nods, leaves the room, shuts the door behind her.

Willow kneels by the bed, takes Tara's hand in her own, and closes her eyes.

v. a tremor of low speech

When she opens her eyes again, there's only an echoing darkness.

Willow feels the air in her lungs compress, and she wonders if her body is gasping, outside. She looks around, tries to ascertain the landscape, and sees.

Tara's huddled on the ground, as if in a corner, and a spotlight is trained on her body. Jagged blurs of color flash beyond the edges of the light, flickers of teeth and wire. They skitter in Willow's ears, make her flinch and shudder. Panic claws against her throat, but then she remembers how long Tara's had to live like this.

She brushes away her fear, brushes away the nightmares. Steps forward, into the circle of light, and touches Tara's hands. They're bandaged, oozing blood, and Tara's naked aside from those strips of cloth. Her skin is scratched, her flesh mottled with bruises, and she's shivering.

Willow works her mouth a couple of times, takes a deep breath. "Tara?"

Tara looks up, and her face is blotchy with tears and terror. A flash of hope crosses her face, then shatters. "You're not real," she mutters, and hides her face again.

Willow feels her heart break, and wonders how many times it can do that before it kills her.

vi. overhead the petrel wafted wide

She crouches next to Tara, shrugs out of her sweater and drapes it around Tara's shoulders.

"Tara?" She tries again. "Baby?"

"Go away," Tara mutters against her knees. "Stop."

"Tara, honey, I'm real. I'm real." She kneels awkwardly, embraces Tara as best she can. "I'm real."

Repeats it like a mantra, over and over, until the words stop meaning anything, stop being anything but sound.

Finally, Tara's posture relaxes, and she raises her head. Looks at Willow, wary, and bites her lip. "You're here?"

"Yes," Willow says, hears her voice break. "It's me. I'm here."

"I'm lost," Tara says, her voice small, plaintive.

"Not anymore," Willow says, and takes her hands. "I found you."

Tara sobs, clutches Willow's fingers. "Is it over? Is it over yet?"

Willow stands, pulls Tara up, and steadies her when she wobbles.

"Are you ready?" she asks.

Tara clenches her jaw, gazes into Willow's eyes. Nods.

And they step out, outside, and into the world again.


A/N: Title, summary, and headings taken from Cæsar's Lost Transport Ships by Robert Frost. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.

Originally linked here.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
Very pretty, and heartbreaking at the same time. Nice ending, and the description of what it's like inside Tara's head is fabulous.
Apr. 29th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's been eons since I've written anything in this 'verse, so I was quite nervous about the story.
Apr. 29th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
This was beautiful. I love the format, it really works with the mood. And the Frost lines are quite interesting, yet appropriate. What a lovely story.

Tara looks up, and her face is blotchy with tears and terror. A flash of hope crosses her face, then shatters. "You're not real," she mutters, and hides her face again.
Oh. Breaks my heart.
May. 5th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.
May. 4th, 2005 04:54 am (UTC)
Nice twist on canon. I liked seeing Willow focus on Tara's problems instead of raising Buffy.
May. 5th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It seems like something she might have done.
Jul. 16th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
God knows if you'll even see this comment. I don't know how I missed this. Dunno. So here I am using ljseek.com a year later and finding the fic you wrote for my prompt.

I loved it. I loved the description inside Tara's mind. I've got a fic in the works where I'm trying to describe it and I wasn't sure how. I think you did a faboo job.

Thanks for the fic and sorry for the uber late comment. Better late than never, eh?
Jul. 18th, 2006 04:39 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm thrilled you liked it. *g*
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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