DISCLAIMER: The characters are owned by Joss Whedon, et al. I care not. All other material is copyright to me. Please do not do the Infringe.
TIMEFRAME: This is set during season 4, prior to New Moon Rising, but doesn't strictly follow canon…
DISTRIBUTION: If you want it, go ahead, but please ask me first.
FEEDBACK: Pretty please? With sugar on top?
DEDICATION: For Cath…more than she knows.
PAIRING: Willow/Tara

Above, Between, Below
By Twisted Minstrel


Love consists in this,
That two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

        - Rainer Maria Rilke

Once upon a time, a somewhat unusual (albeit unremarkable) event took place within the (unknowingly) doomed chambers of the University of California campus at Sunnydale. Though there were witnesses (several of whom went on to high-paying careers in the media industry and at least four who died of 'jugular rupture,' a common cause of death among Sunnydale residents at the time), no one bothered to record the event. Not a single one wrote of it in their journal or in letters home; and though the details were whispered among the school's populace, in time, the specifics were lost.

Such is history; wars and famines, plagues and pettiness forever blot the ledgers of time. With industrious calculation and precision, the finer points are lost, only the most eye-catching, easily-understandable adventures remain for posterity. And while such blatant disregard for the little things, the small details, would have been something Willow Rosenberg would never have approved of, it is arguable, that, just this once, she didn't really mind.

She was one-half of that singular event after all; and, at the time, was not terribly interested in sharing the specifics with a crowd.

Besides, she and Tara were covered in drying paint that was threatening to turn permanent if they didn't remove it, and soon.

The women's shower in Stevenson Hall was empty. The students were already in class or missing class entirely; two in particular.

Poking silently through each maze-like corner of the room, Willow led Tara to the stall farthest from the entrance, with the most privacy. They had paused in their kisses only moments before, and, not wanting to be rude as class was starting, immediately dashed into the hall, up two flights of stairs and down one empty corridor before they realized there was no need to run.

For once, no one was following them; no one was paying the slightest bit of attention to them. They could have continued with their feverish caresses and lip sucking, right there, in the corridor, in broad daylight, and no one would possibly care. But they had somehow stopped near the entrance to the showers, and a silent agreement passed between them.

We look funny and we're both a little ripe.

Standing several inches from the other, they stood, unmoving. They held one another's gaze as their heads nodded in time with the other, arms folded over their chests, unable to calm the hammering inside. Modesty and shock-driven jitters kept them at bay. Such a new experience: who would go first?

Decisions needed to be made and rather quickly; who knew when a chattering, prattling post-adolescent estrogen brigade would come storming in and ruin the moment?

Simultaneously they reached for the other; their eyes had not descended, not one lash had moved. Tara's fingers, trembling, unbuttoned the front of Willow's shirt; Willow's hands, returning to the site of a familiar encounter, undid the single button on Tara's cargos, slowly lowering the zipper. Her shirt hanging open, exposing a narrow plane of pale flesh, Willow knelt, her chin still pointing upward, her eyes fastened to Tara's, and gently eased the other girl's trousers down, exposing just bare flesh. Willow's gaze fluttered momentarily over the soft, sun-painted down, and the moist, pinkish protrusion within; her tongue fluttered against her lips, her breath catching, returning, then finishing the job, over each ankle, removing Tara's bulky sandals in the process. She folded the trousers neatly and placed them on the bench beside her, along with the sandals. Rising, her hands slid cautiously under Tara's paint-splashed t-shirt, raising it over her head and off her shoulders, placing it on top of the growing stack.

Tara's shaking hands pushed Willow's shirt off her shoulders, pulling each arm through, discarding the stained material near her own pile of goods.

The Stare held them fast; even in their trembling, careful manner, they remained still, mesmerized and silent. Reaching behind, Tara unclasped her bra, drawing the lacy material forward, mimicked by Willow who did the same for her own. Together, they tossed the confining harnesses aside; Willow's gaze being the first to break, again, her eyes dropping like ballast over the side of a balloon, to land, slowly, delicately on Tara's full, exposed breasts.

Betrayed, Tara reached out and cupped the red-head's chin, drawing her face upward, and forward.

"We're not done yet."

Tara's empty hand reached for the waistband of Willow's trousers, deftly releasing the button clasp. She reached for the red-head's hips, lowering her garments, outer and under, to join her own in the delicate heap. With only a momentary sense of surprise, Tara smiled to herself as she took notice of Willow's coppery curls; she was a real red head.

The Stare returned, and with it a newfound sense of vulnerability; neither had felt so exposed, so open before. Fear was not far away, lurking in a nerve or two, but courage was never wanting. Willow found the water knobs and turned them, the dense electric spray drawing shivers at first as the shower sputtered to life.

Tara arched into the stream, her eyes closing as the heat bathed her, her hair turning dark and damp against her face, against her pale shoulders. Colorful rivers pooled at their feet; they stood in the last vestiges of a rainbow. In the wet, their eyes twinkled brightly, blue and green: emerging as sapphire and emerald. Their hands were studying cartography; fingers traced gently over the other's faces, memorizing maps for future exploration. Over lips and cheeks, in the furrow of a brow, the hollow of an ear. The water drew them in, together, their breasts making soft acquaintance, their legs winding in greeting like vines along a tree, maybe a Willow tree at that.

Newborn as the past washed away beneath them, they joined beneath the christening font, arms winding round the other; their heads nestled within the comforting cradle of the others' shoulder. There was no rush, no raging compulsion to disentangle and burn a few extra calories in the exquisite pursuit of release; they were abandoned to enchantment.

Their pulses had slowed, into a steady, synchronous rhythm; glistening, heated flesh grew soft, delicious sweet as an old secret, uncovered and savored again in a new light, with new eyes. Willow's fingers waded lazily through Tara's rising tide, dancing along the edges, the sting of the spray against her face, against Tara's warm cheek.

They were, as they had never been, and would always be. The moment held no glory, no momentous, world-spinning consequence; only a kiss, at once a memory and a wish, the only witness to a most tender (and unexpected) metamorphosis.

The Alchemist

"I would you were as I would have you be."

        - William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

The water had gone cold and the shivers had set in; trembling, glistening eyes jaspered at one another, longing and fear streaming off their ruddy cheeks.

Where would they go? To move would be a decision, to make a decision would be a step closer to knowing and to know was to be.

Did they know?

Tara's thoughts swam defiantly upstream, making esoteric leaps from river to rock; each dive was a question she could only guess at. Did Willow love her? Where they in love? Is this just a phase, a mistake?

Is anything a mistake? Or is everything perpetual discovery, perpetual touching and reaching for something, waiting to be touched by someone else.

Is she just using me to get over him? Does she see me? Do I want her to?

Her struggling anxieties lapsed to an eddy as Willow's arms slipped around her waist, palms spread flat against her hips, running lazy circles over the small of her back, and lower, to the soft cushion just below and back again.

This is so nice.

Willow's lips tasted of apples and cinnamon; she felt starved, and lapped greedily from Willow's tongue. Her thirst unquenched and growing more profound and fearful her newfound Will-well would run dry. Afraid Will might change her mind at any moment.

She had never held so tightly to anything; her fingers clutched through the damp, apple-colored locks, crimping and combing, unable to find the right angle, the right hold.

With a ferocity she had never felt before in her life, Tara pushed them out of the freezing stream, pushing Willow against the cold tile of the stall; every inch of herself pressed against the hacker, pushing further, grinding as their lips found no succor, no relief, tongues and fingers wet, entwined like ropes of fire. Her thighs cupped Willow's, aching and pushing, harder against the other girl, hungry, like their kisses, with lips less used to force, no less soft or wet. Her nipples, painfully erect, stabbed at Willow's chest, demanding entry, demanding an answer.

Their moans startled them; Willow's head drew back, a small snap against the wall as she forced herself from Tara's onslaught. Her eyes were wild with fear. Breathless, she turned her ear to the entrance.

"Listen. Listen."

They were not alone.

They could hear the slippery padding of bare feet on the cement floor, the rustle of removed clothing then water rushing through a pipe. The temperature was dropping. Their arms wound over their chests, like children caught in the act of stealing, ashamed and so afraid.

There was no where to go. Tara turned away first, her pulse hammering through her veins, through the very core of her, anxious to get anywhere, get away, just to be left alone, empty-handed. She wanted to squeeze her thighs together, just to relieve the ache a little, like she did as a girl, when no one was looking. But Willow was looking.

She gathered her clothes to her; she didn't want to be seen, yet she wanted everyone to know. She could sense the other girl; sense her listening, aware of something happening. What was wrong with them? Why should they be ashamed? Shouldn't they be laughing, running naked from there? For a moment she saw it, hand in hand, dripping, bare-skinned through the halls, laughing and kissing, uncaring who cared.

Confused, Willow reached for the blonde, her lips forming a name, two delicious syllables, only a whisper emerged; no response as Tara dressed, her clothes sticking to her body, her hair dripping over her shoulders, running away.

The loneliest feeling in the world whispered in Willow's ear; she struggled into her soaked clothes, hugging herself, she stayed low, her head bowed.

She had to think.

Tara freaked because she didn't want to be caught.

Do we have to be so careful?

What am I talking about?

I'm not even talking, I'm not saying anything, I'm just poking around, soaking wet, thinking about this girl. Yay me. I have mastered the dangerous art of self-examination. I am one with the universe. They should give me a prize.

A Tara-shaped prize.

She broke into a run; Tara had disappeared. Approximately 1 minute and 47 seconds later, she had reached her room, changed her clothes and was promptly struck dumb by n overwhelming epiphany.

Actually, she'd already had this epiphany, but there was more to it this time.

She couldn't put it into words or write it down, but it most certainly involved the revelation of Naked Tara. In her arms. Wet. Naked. Girl. Tara. Tara's nipples, lips and…ahem; the large and the small of her, endlessly circling her, waiting to pounce at any moment. Dangerous?

Only days before, no, maybe months, or possibly a year, had she been a completely different person. It may have been hours ago, one single hour. Lying over her desk her latest experiment and Giles' latest worry.

Willow had been attracted to magic not for the draw of power or the use of spell-casting in her life as a Scooby. Early on Willow noticed the curious confluence of coincidence in the language of symbols both inherent in magic and science. Perhaps they were more alike?

Giles though her preoccupation with combining the two was a recipe for disaster. She was too young. She didn't know what she was dealing with. Invoking spells with scientific precision, upon observation seemed too casual for the worried Watcher. He adored Willow like a daughter; saw himself in her, his own reckless youth. Why did Willow have to be the same?

Pulling a dark-colored sweater over her head, Willowed dropped to her chair and gazed at the luminescent screen of her laptop. The Rosenberg Grimoire (as she called it) was open before her, the striking glyphs and characters familiar to science and magic dancing elegantly about one another, seeking opposites that actually formed a very real thing. This was the beginning: combing the old with the new, something dangerous; something unknown and waiting. Her heart ignored the warnings. There was beauty here and truth.

It's all in the numbers, she thought. It's all patterns and relationships, form and symmetry. Balance. Pairing disparate objects and codes to find new sources, or make better ones. Alchemy.

Her fingers grazed the keyboard, remembering Tara's pliant flesh; someone was speaking. Someone was trying to say something to her, but her mind was too far ahead; she had found the Philosopher's Stone. The secret no one could have known and it filled her body with liquid warmth, with emotion, memories of fruit-sweet kisses still burning her lips. The only magic.




"Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?"

        - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Alone is nowhere and everyone knows it. We've all been there. This is where the music stops; no frequencies can reach it. It's all static and bee hums. The Last Chance for Gas was a few exits back. Dust bunnies don't like visitors. There's no scenery, no shade, nothing to hang our thoughts on and no one to care if we can't. The birds won't wing it out here and why should the sun shine just for you? The universal utility bill is already past due; time to build our little fires and keep warm as best we can. Unless someone has a better idea, that is.

Rushing back to her room, clutching her side from the stitch that left her breathless, Tara fell on her bed, and screamed, sort of, into her pillow.

The scream wasn't an actual scream since it was mostly muffled by the bedding, and audible only to her and the feckless dust bunnies that were pirouetting and frolicking aimlessly through the air around her.

Her clothes felt plastered to her skin and she raised herself from the bed, ripping her t-shirt over her head, tossing it to the floor. Her cargos went next, flying in the opposite direction, followed by her bra and panties; the dust bunnies were not amused by all the sudden aerial activity and decided to settle themselves elsewhere. Several departed for other dorms while a few of the more adventurous ones set off for Africa and Australia (it was even rumored that two or three set off for fame and fortune in Hollywood, but this isn't their story).

Being naked and alone is not always a useless thing. Down to the bare essentials or less is often a precursor to Serious Thoughts. Free of all physical constraints, one can really get down to business with oneself and not worry about having to iron things out later.

Inwardly, she marveled at her own boldness, something she didn't think she was capable of. All the fears she had grown up with, her father's harsh criticism of her every indulgence, driving her backwards, into her room, door closed, lights off, no friends allowed, no friends period, no one to play with, no one to talk to – save her mother. The only friend she'd ever had, the only person she felt safe with. She wanted her mother now; she wanted to cry for her, beg her to come and make it better. She didn't want to be alone anymore.

She had tried to be brave, to be blunt, even. She'd never wanted anything so much. Willow was…well, what was she, exactly? A genius, certainly; who else could verbalize random calculations off the top of her head in seconds flat, without even thinking? Fussy, neurotic, silly, babbling, sweet Willow. Willow, who couldn't make a decision to save her life; who made her spine tingle with perpetual anticipation. Willow. Willow tree-weep-for-me-Willow-my-Will-who-is-never-here. What am I doing wrong?

Willow thoughts were such helpless things for her. Sprawling on her back, Tara's eyes closed, remembering the sweetest moment of her life, that simple, unnecessary question.

Can I kiss you again?

She still felt Willow's kisses, and Willow's hands, her body remembered and shivered.

Why do I keep letting her go?

She knew she had made a mistake, that morning, after Willow hit her head. She should have pinned Willow then, just held her in place, when she woke, too scared to speak, for longing, for sweet, mindless shock that left her feeling so empty afterward. She wanted that moment again, that pleasant, wet ache, the throb of her most sensitive point, and Willow, languid, sleepy, circling - dancing outside of her, kissing her with her fingers.

A fine invention, that. Hands. Fingers. The opposable thumb. That which separates us from the beasts. Hands to make things with, to mold and manipulate, to torture and tease, to wave with or write love letters to strangers, or -

She'd found a rhythm in her thoughts; her back arched and her legs splayed in opposite directions, her own fingers wishing they were someone else's, she indulged in the loneliest of sports, the One-Handed Slalom. Sloping downwards, this way and that, from side to side, over and around, flying slowly, carefully, slippery, reaching tiny peaks and falling again, her legs bent, brow furrowed in concentration, in focus on the finish, the checkered flag in site, waving in the air, suddenly rushing, forward, too fast, her breath hitching, around her the sense of a crowd, cheering and Willow, yes, Willow, too, holding the flag, waving, smiling, Willow, falling too, catching her, the most exquisite moment, flashing, ebbing, she cried out; she was crying.


Overhead, unseen, waltzing and frolicking madly, the particles of universal matter, not ones to be left out of anything, snickered at the human race.

Alone, indeed.

You silly, silly people.

Good Will Rosenberg

Say it's a form of heat that doesn't rise
But passes from one body to the next.
Say it flows through you and then out
And back in again like some ghostly thread
Weaving a basic pattern inside of you
That will slowly begin to take the shape
Of what you'll think you can describe.

        - Aaron Fagan, Love

We are looking at a picture; the image is grainy and stained like old coffee in an empty mug. Like a veil, now parting, separating in the wings. A stage set in darkness and shadow, two players strutting and fretting in shared bewilderment, separated; we are everywhere, we are spies. We have many tongues and we tell many lies.

But not today.

See? What's this? A fair bundled Bag of Mostly Water will intervene. Oh, the suspense grips us. We are captive to it. We are slaves.

We will be good. We will behave. Stop pushing! We're crowding! Back off!

Now…let's have another peek, shall we…?

"Will? Will? Willow? Willow Will?"

"Will You Be My Neighbor?"

"Weeping Willow? Willow Weep for Me?"

"Free Willy. Good Will Rosenberg."

"Earth to Willow, come in Willow."

The spell must have been very powerful; the redhead had not moved since she entered the room. Staring, glassy-eyed at the phosphorescent colony of dots on her computer screen, Willow was nowhere to be found.

"Houston, we have a problem."

The One Girl in All the World ™ waved a small, pale hand in front of her best friend's expressionless face, and frowned at the lack of response. She peered closely at the young hacker's smooth, babyish face, watching for any sign of life.

"Well, you're not dead, so that means either: A. You're not dead or B. Willow has left the building, or hey, thought of another: C. You're messing with my head. Now - which of these do you think I'm likely to pinch you over?"

Ripped like paper from the sweetest of dreams, Willow's head snapped around, almost angrily, bringing her nose to nose with a very startled Slayer.

"Buffy! Oh! Hey! It's Buffy. The Buffster. Hey. Buffy!"

Frowning, Buffy felt the forehead of the other girl, still peering closely at she knew not what – they did it in movies, was all she knew and it seemed like a good idea.

"You okay Will? Kind of making with the wiggins there for a stretch. Stony Will: not Peppy Study Will."

Buffy straightened herself, allowing the redhead to rise, stiffly, from her seat. She was momentarily startled by the sudden realization the sun was down. Smothering darkness prevailed outside, and she almost thought she could hear the tinny chattering of voices overhead, like mice in her grandmother's attic. In the flickering light of her monitor, motes of intimate matter circled as graceful as falling snow. She might have been caught up in one of those glass globes you can buy at the tourist shops. Did someone turn her world upside down? Someone who was now peering closely inside, waiting to see how she would react?

"Buffy! Oh! Sorry! I think I dozed off there for a bit. Hee hee."

"Will – you were catatonic."

"Uh? With the what? Oh! No! No! I was just…relaxed, you know? Very…relaxing, sitting and not moving. And…hey! Look at us! Same room and everything."

Buffy's frown turned bittersweet at the generous, open smile of her friend. Willow's eyes were scared, as usual, but her smile was always brave and welcoming. No, they had not been in the same room for more than two seconds altogether much of late. But things were different now. There was Riley to be with and Adam to worry about and Will…Will had other things, too. Tara, for example. Tara, whom she knew nothing about. Tara, who was nice and all, but not really of a social, interactive bent. A witch of uncertain ability and skill and spending an awful lot of time with Willow…

"Yeah. We are. Hey! Got plans and I need my Will. Scooby study session in the library. Could use a good hacker. What do you say?"

"Scooby study?"

Willow's face fell; her internal gears shifted, grinding to a halt. Forward momentum meant Tara, seeking Tara, finding Tara, being with Tara and….other things with Tara. She listened to Buffy's voice, now slow and deep, like a gurgle rising from a well, underwater, drowned. Or record, played backwards, revealing a satanic message.

"Yeah, study…synonymous with Willow…or is it anonymous? No, that's like alcoholism or something. Synchronize? Like our watches? Or is that just swimming?"

Willow could not translate; her friend was talking, but she couldn't make out the words.

Study? Swimming? I don't have time for that!

"Uh, Buffy?"

The Blonde Moment interrupted, Buffy tilted her head to one side, a familiar gesture of attentiveness, and regarded the increasingly agitated redhead.

"What Will?"

"Uh, hey, I've got kind of another, uh, study-type thing I was doing and, uh, maybe, y'know, I could meet you later?"

The Slayer's Frown returned, complete with Furrowed Brow (patent pending).

"With Tara?"

"What? Oh, yeah, with Tara, sure. We have…some…really hard class-thing tomorrow….together! Too, and we're just going to….study? Yeah, I'm thinking, sure. Cause, y'know…Willow, synonymous with study, y'know? I've got to go."

Giving in to her rising panic, Willow sprinted from the room, leaving a speechless and somewhat bewildered Buffy Summers far behind...

Willow was long used to running for her life; her lithe frame made her swift and flexible, able to scramble under and over almost anything, avoiding the fang-ridden clutches of death time and time again.

She was running now, for her life, for everything; her mind, her body, every tightly-wound chromosome in her genetic makeup screaming forward, full speed ahead, not from anything, but to.


The only word in the universe. The only thing worth exclaiming, loudly, over the rooftops, the only equation with an answer, the only theory with a proof, proven time and again, the only lips, the only hands, the only eyes in the world.

The only breasts…

She lurched, stopping abruptly, just meters from the door to her…what? Destiny?

You don't believe things like that, Willow!

You just want to touch her again.

The nagging Gollum of her conscience kept pawing at her neck, hissing, mocking her and all she wanted to do.

Behind her was Buffy, the Scoobies and all their far-flung, nightmarish adventures. None of it seemed real anymore; the way ahead was simply forward, wasn't it? One foot in front of the other, long strides, increasing, gaining speed, stamina and purpose with every step. No more hesitations, no more –

She's so pretty. You just want to have the pretty part of her, don't you? You like the pretty part. All the pretty bits and pieces, so soft and sweet and you're nothing but a thief! A filthy, evil, monstrous thief!

If the voice had a neck, she would have wrung it; what harm could there be in this? Yes, Tara is most pretty, all her sweet, lovely bits, every inch of her, every hair, even her stutter; tongue-tied Tara to Will, pressed against a naked wall, straining, endless touching and reaching.

She swiped at the hissing thing, sending it sprawling, screaming over the quad, wailing and gnashing its dreadful teeth.

What business is it of yours? Rude much?

Her will carried her, up the stairs, through the double doors, through the winding halls, a flaming arrow to its target, slicing through the air, blinders on, one goal, one point to reach, one destination –


With the full force of desire fueling her flight, Willow had not reckoned on collisions.

This was an obstacle course, after all.

Propping herself up on both elbows, Willow's eyes followed a trail up a pair of long, bony legs, knobby knees, thighs strapped in tight biker shorts, a baggy sweatshirt and…crap.

"Oh look…its Bonanza Jellybean back from the Rubber Rose. Sorry kid. Sissy's not home right now. Wanna leave a message?"

The word were no sooner off her lips, than the gangly frizzy-haired girl wished, desperately wished, she had never uttered them. She took a tentative step back as a snarl rose from the corner of the redhead's mouth and she rose from the floor, growing taller it seemed, towering over her, descending upon her, green eyes ablaze with righteous fury and…

…she was so distracted she didn't notice Willow's fist make contact with her face.

If she had been coherent she might not have believed the smallish girl could have packed such a powerful punch, and might have even thought of a sarcastic response, but she found herself, prone, on her back, a warm trickle issuing from her nose, and what appeared to be a festival of dust mites over head, prancing, frolicking…and sticking their tongues out at her.

From the private corner of the library (art history section) she always haunted, curled up in the stuffed oversized chair that was more or less conformed to her dimensions, Tara watched, unseen (or was that invisible?) as the newcomers invaded and completely overtook the empty corner opposite (Humanities), setting up their piles of volumes like a blockade to an invading army.

She knew their names, knew their dark purpose; she wondered at them, how such ordinary and unlikely heroes could move, unnoticed amongst their peers…no, who could be their peers? These cool monster fighters?


She smiled as Xander spilled his coffee on his shirt, immediately attended to by a fretful Anya and wondered momentarily, if she should report that someone was drinking in the library.

No, she wouldn't do that. Not even to be funny.

He's Willow's friend. Her best friend.

As if thoughts could conjure from the thin air anything they liked, the redhead in question appeared: her eyes narrow and her jaw set in Serious Willow Mode. She was shaking her left hand back and forth, pausing momentarily to kiss her knuckles, as if they were hurt somehow…

Willow's eyes were darting back and forth, searching the room; Tara's heart raced as the hacker's gaze found the Scoobies first, in their closed gathering (sorry, no strange girls admitted), then turned again, locking onto her own like a laser beam, target in her sights.

Good Will Rosenberg seemed to be torn; her friends, smiling and beckoning her to join them; and Tara, small, afraid, just staring at her, making her nerves twitch and dance; her heart surging wide as the ocean, wide as the world and just as full and round and mad and wild with hope.

Buffy rose from her seat and waved at her, motioning her to join them.

Tara, on the other hand, did not move; made no signal. Only the sadness of her eyes held her spellbound and it was as if Buffy and Xander and Giles and Anya and all of them simply didn't exist anymore.

The hidden spotlight narrowed over them, the curtains closed, shutting them off from the rest of the world; unused to stagecraft, Willow entered the scene with a few tentatively place steps; there was only one direction here, downstage left, and, finally, with purpose she approached her co-star, the only thing that mattered, Scooby study time be damned.

Taking the blonde's hand in her own, she led them off stage, into the quiet of the wings, away from the audience; no more rehearsals, no more strained dialogue and angsty plot twists.

From their table, Buffy and Co. watched in confuzzlement as their friend disappeared behind a tall bookshelf with the blonde Wicca; all save Anya, who rolled her eyes and sniggered at the cluelessness of the present company.

Beneath a captive audience, the two actors found their lines within the others lips; spoke them with the other's tongue and lost themselves in the pages of their searching hands.

The audience (dressed in their finest grey filaments), gave a standing ovation and applauded wildly.

Beguiled – an Interlude

We are standing on a precipice; on the edge of our Age, a dark sea rising before us, and a silver coin just above, in mid-toss with no where to land.

Heads, it's you. Tails, it's me.

Till then, we are only we and the night stretches on, undiscovered, unbound, endlessly patient, waiting for us to decide: will we stay? Will we move on? Take that first step into what we cannot know, yet is always the same?

If we are young and wild with moonlight, if the bell of my lips does not ring, calling you to me, if you are not what you've always wanted and there is nothing but wanting, expectation between us, could we pretend for a while, the moon is not a currency to be spent in one night, on the price of a chance?

Let her be full and bright –eyed to the world, like a well for making wishes in.

She led them away; she knew everywhere and all the ways of getting there. Behind the library a wooden staircase wound upward and way, to the roof, to the outside and the robin's egg blue of the night sky, speckled like an Eastern tapestry. To Tara, the sky was an exotic, mystical landscape, round and sensual, only just out of reach. There were nights she wanted to wrap herself up in it; but not alone.

Willow knew the sky by its patterns; knew them by heart, could point out the buckle on Orion's belt, the distance to the closest nebula and all the points of its frequencies. She could name the mountains of the Moon and all the satellites of Jupiter. The sky was no mystery to her, never had been.

So much had changed.

The salty coastal breeze hushed from this height, weaving far off a woman's lilting soprano through the air; there was a music festival in town this night, they had seen the flyers pasted throughout the school. They didn't know the singer. Her song was meant for swaying and touching, outdoors, for moon dancing and for star gazing. Not the kind of star gazing Willow Rosenberg might have thought of, with various refracted lenses, but the kind that requires the eyes to be closed, and cheeks to be touching, resting against one another as the strange attractors coalesce, circling together, spellbound.

I'm wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again,

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.

Willow's arms wound loosely around Tara's waist, her fingers tracing drowsily, gently beneath the blonde's shirt, over the small of her back; her lips softly touching at Tara's neck, again and again, lightly pressing the smallest of kisses, warm and lazy, without want or haste.

I couldn't sleep and wouldn't sleep, when Love came and told me I shouldn't sleep,

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.

Her head resting against Willow's, Tara's arms fell around the redhead's shoulders, she felt light as air and held tightly, perhaps to anchor herself. Willow's fingers, drawing slow, entwining circles on her skin felt comforting and loving; she raised her chin to Willow's kisses, her head rolling back on her shoulders. Her eyes opened and the jaspering crushed velvet above seemed to be holding them, enfolding them within, like a newborn constellation.

Lost my heart, but what of it?

She is cold, I agree.

She can laugh and I love it

Although the laugh's on me.

The slow journey of Willow's lips found their way to Tara's, and paused there to rest; she hugged the blonde close, pulling her in, secure and knowing; the world had slipped away beneath them, slipped under their kiss, smiling as it turned away.

Turning and swaying, they lingered in their breath-sharing, the almost-kiss between sleep and waking, too drowsy, too longing, only wanting the pale softness of the other, like a pillow, a downy bed for their senses, for their whispering touches.

I'll sing to her, each spring to her

And long for the day when I'll cling to her,

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered and am I.

The music grew faint and faded; the moon was yawning. A tender exploration had begun: lips and tongues and eyes and cheeks, fingers wed and unwound. They were learning a new language, one without words, save one, repeated over and over, spilling from their lips, which held to the other, drawing out the warm meaning, the wetness of it, the taste of breath, life and the falling of it, the birth of stars and, finally, drowning.


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious."

        - Albert Einstein

Some things are not meant to be explained.

For example, does anyone really need to know why the duck-billed platypus is duck-billed? Why isn't it No-Bill-Till-Next-Month platypus? Why are kiwis so hairy? Do penguins really need to live in the Antarctic? Couldn't they live in Malibu and be just as happy? And what's up with slugs?

Another example:

See these two young women here, running through a damp evening mist, across a college quad; a blonde with cerulean sea eyes takes the lead, bounding up the stairs of the dorm building, two and three at a time, followed by a gangly redhead, just barely keeping up, her body nothing but a sub-bass pulse, thumping in her ears.

Why are they running? Is someone or something chasing them? Are they in danger?

Are they late for something?

They are a blur, then pause, outside a door that looks like all the other doors, they are hesitating, searching for a breath, their eyes searching too, for something less tangible than a breath, yet more solid, more certain.

They've gone in, they've closed the door. We are shut off.

Dudes! We can get in through the vent, come on!

"Are you afraid?"

They had left the lights out; only the moon had any say in the darkening matter, the stars non-withstanding; and they were unusually bright that night, as if the atmospheric layers had grown thin, losing all their vapor, like a frosted window, suddenly melting.

Willow shook her head, very slowly.

"Are you?"

Tara's shoulders rolled like a heaving sea as she removed her sweater and placed it on the edge of her bed. The undertow of her eyes drew Willow in, and downward, spiraling, every breath more precious than the last. Her fingers did the rest, smoothly joining with Willow's, and tugged her gently forward, until they could almost taste the salt of the other's skin.

Pressing Willow's hands within her own, Tara lowered her eyes, peering up at Willow under half-lids, a half-smile rippling across her lips, cresting at her right cheek, which flushed cinnamon crimson rose petals, an April bloom if ever there was one.

The tide had turned, moon-drawn from a secret shore, Willow felt as if she had suddenly washed in from a warm surf, from Tara, surrounding her, holding her up, letting her drift so carefully, yet never very far.

She could not speak for wanting; her mouth hung slack and her eyes were pools of high tide, rising; Tara's hands were mysterious; they spied through her fingers, took them prisoner and pressed them to the blonde's hips, and inward. She felt her fingers curled under, held below the surface, just learning to dive, to swim. Tara held her there, inside the most confounding triangle since Bermuda. She would lose herself in there, lose herself and never come back.

"Tara, I –"

She was silenced by a tongue, darting past her own, unannounced a most charming and spirited gate crasher.

Tara drew back suddenly, her sweet deposit withdrawn, and pressed Willow further into her concealed, moist crevasse, her eyes almost daring her to retreat.

"You need to finish what you start, Willow."

She released the redhead and stood away, pushing off her shoes and kicking them aside. She turned away, and sat on the end of her bed, the smooth tumble of her locks falling forward, like a wave, and falling back again.

"Do you w-want to be with me?"

Willow slid behind her on the bed, unblinking, resting her chin at the edge of Tara's shoulder; she didn't want to look down, afraid she might grow dizzy and fall.

Her eyes, wide, staring, she looked out, to the desk, to the brushes upon it, to the silver tubes of paint and ink, a tiny sketch, fruit and berries, red, purple, orange, fleshy sweets.

Tara's mouth: fleshy sweet. Willow felt like a child; she'd never felt like anything else.

"I want everything about you. I want every inch of you. All these bits and pieces....everything. I just want to kiss you again."

Everything was shapes suddenly; the roundness of their cheeks, the ovals of the eyes, moist with eye-mist, the slender slope of each nose, the curve of lips; everything was round and soft and warm, and their cheeks were the first to touch, to kiss and their noses, unobtrusive, not wanting to pry. Their lips brushed slowly together, not even a taste, but a scent, baby's breath or spiced apples, wanting to linger in the softness, the warm pool of calm and quiet, not wild abandon, not lust, no, not yet. Just waiting. Waiting.

"I thought you wanted to kiss me?"

Never losing contact, Willow slipped to the floor, edging herself forward, between Tara's knees, her arms folding around the slender waist, pulling her close, her tongue sliding purposefully, lazily, into Tara's warm mouth.

The tips of Tara's fingers just barely grazed Willow's cheeks, over and over; she drew herself up, her legs tied about the hacker's waist like a sailor's knot, holding the girl in, needful, owning.

Their lips parted, compulsively, with slow-building hunger, and Willow found (with no surprise at all) that the human tongue was truly the only candy. Better than chocolate, better than double mint mochas with whipped cream and far, far better than –

I am not thinking about Oz.

Circling, their tongues lathed the other, not quite teasing, not quite torture. They were smiling, too, trying hard not to, not to laugh, not to burst with their wild joy; they wanted inside now, raging for the other's warmth and thievery. They wanted to steal, corrupt and be sentenced; Willow's mind kept driving them off the edge. Tara was dreaming with her fingers; she was weaving nets around Willow, great webs of hunger, dragging her to shore, she'd bury her, smother her, and mark the spot. No maps to this treasure. Only the adventure of discovery: of secrets.

The Stare returned.

Raising her hands under Tara's shirt, Willow lifted the thin garment over her head, tossing it to the floor; she could not look away from the misty blue of Tara's eyes, the lids languid and falling, trapping her. She didn't look away even as she tilted her head slightly, lowering her mouth to a cotton-cupped breast, and gently kissed the hardening tip. She pressed harder and began to suckle, almost tenderly, almost surprised by her own desire, almost withdrawing…

…and might have, but for Tara's preternatural grip, the delicate study of her face and that oh so sexy smirk.

Her fingers found tiny metal clasps and tugged gently, releasing. She drew the shoulder straps forward, pausing to nuzzle at the hollow of her neck. The bra joined Tara's shirt on the floor, replaced by Willow's hands, and Willow's tongue, tracing wet-warm over each nipple, under the deep slope, over the narrow curve and back again, almost as if she couldn't decide which one she liked better.

Her lips ran lazy over Tara's skin, and downward, counting her tiny kisses along her abdomen, to her navel, her hands following at the sides, tugging slowly at Tara's hips, sneaking into the band of her pants, and tried something clever: with her teeth she clenched the tab of Tara's zipper and pulled it downward, then returned to the button, using her tongue to push it through, releasing the band.

She smiled at her handiwork, not noticing Tara was smiling too, falling backward on the bed, her arms splayed above her, a long-held breath escaping, and trembling as her Willow-wet nipples, hard and exposed, grew cold. She cast an eye downward as Willow worked the rest of her clothing off her body, discarding it over her shoulder.

She felt something like awe; the body before her was so warm and smooth, not frightening the way she thought it might be, not intimidating, just…edible. She had never understood or particularly liked the phrase 'I could just eat you alive,' as it usually had a negative connotation for her. But this was so completely different. She didn't just want to eat, she wanted to devour, suckle, lick, nibble, kiss and squeeze and fondle and stroke, caress, knead, graze, nuzzle, and swallow Tara up, whole, completely.

Her eyes fell on the golden meadow of curl and decided grazing and nuzzling would go first. She leaned forward, a slow nose dive into the softest patch of down, hot and spicy, and just lingered there, inhaling deeply, growing dizzy.

Tara wondered at her, unable to speak, her lips parched and dry, unbelieving at this moment, unwilling to move unless she should wake and spoil it, unwilling to stop Willow from doing anything she wanted, so long as Willow stayed, as long as Willow wanted her.

Willow had moved onto kneading, her hands exploring the texture of Tara's thighs and backside, her smooth cheeks, as she planted tiny kisses in Tara's field, wondering how she could water them, keep them growing.

Her kisses weren't concerned however, and kept right on going, coveting every centimeter of skin they passed over, until the world turned on them when Tara twisted herself around, and crawled further up the bed, away from Willow's supplicating lips.

Not that Willow wanted; she felt drowsy as Tara crept away, her back turned to her, a delicately curve and dip, exposing the succulent roundness of her backside; Tara's head turned over her shoulder and rested there, her eyes capturing Willow, cornering her like a cat. Distracted, the redhead wondered, briefly, if she shouldn't fetch a bowl of milk.

She wanted to say something, but she wasn't good with words; she tripped on them when she wasn't avoiding them altogether. She wanted to try something sexy, something arousing, but she didn't know what. She hoped her eyes would speak for her, would tell Willow what to do next. But Willow was turning, away from her, away.

She's going. She's going.

Turning her eyes to the pillow, Tara gripped the material tightly, clutching it to her face, wanting to drown in it.

And then she felt something wet pressed to her bottom.

Willow was leaning over her, covering her cheeks with kisses, before climbing onto the bed beside her. She laid something down next to her, which Tara could almost see.

"What are you doing?"

Taking up a long, slender painter's brush, Willow dipped the end in a bottle of ink by her knee.

"Trying not to spill."

Gently, she started at Tara's shoulder; her strokes were small and delicate, her calligraphy a deliberate precision. Tara relaxed, smiling from her heart up, at the new sensation, feather-like and wet: with each line and curve a raw tremor agitated, quivering through her most exposed, responsive juncture of nerves. Willow's brush danced like Salome over her spine, a twirling gypsy wrapped in purple silk and veils that were dropping, one by one through her skin; everywhere the gypsy went Willow's lips were sure to follow.

Surface tension is the property of a liquid in which the surface molecules show a strong inward attraction.

She arched slightly, straining to see over her shoulder; she could not make out the symbols, only the half-reflection in her mirror: mathematical, alchemical, symbols of making, salt, sulphur, mercury; a horizontal figure-eight, the symbol of infinity, summation, a delicate T-shape, tau – time constant, to E epsilon, obliquity of ecliptic. The words were Greek to her from there; she could not read them, but knew them, by the stroke, by the density of the lettering.

Willow lowered herself, cheek to cheek, eyes narrow, her brush rounding the hollow of Tara's lower back, a circle now, with eyes, a mouth drawn wide around its tail, consuming itself, the end of ending, the beginning of beginning. Birth and death, consuming, and she was, her mouth had found it's source, and she was so very hungry now, hungry and impatient.

The paint discarded, Willow squeezed and caressed Tara's outer thighs furiously, tenderly, her lips moving from side to side, seeking her out, wanting as she had never wanted anything before, without thinking, without ideas, without a plan. She was playing by ear now, improvising, and her rhythms were syncopated, eccentric, all over the place, all over her Tara-instrument, who hummed so beautifully, cryptically, from her source.

Turning on her back, uncaring that ink was spilling over her sheets, spilling onto the floor, Tara (still gravity's great accomplice) reached for Willow, pulling her up, drawing her down, and straddled the breathless hacker, smothering her mouth with her own, with purpose, with finality.

Not for the first time in her life, Willow felt utterly displaced, sinking or drowning, being held under, unable to draw a breath or a thought that wasn't Tara-centric; everything was Tara now, naked, burning tremulous, flushed and grasping for the ache they shared, bare thighs grinding hard against her hips, she raised one knee between them, pressed into a volcanic wetness, folding Tara against her, and, suddenly, beneath her.

She was iterating again, involucrum, she lathed starving kisses along Tara's jaw, her neck, humming, plaintively, legato dolce simplice…the tune, so familiar to Tara's ears, so recently, she arched into the red head's body, tugging gently at the hem of Willow's shirt, anywhere for warm flesh, wet kisses sparking the circuit between her thighs, that tune, that song…what?


She could hardly say the name.

Willow's onslaught continued, over the sharp angles of her shoulders, the hollow of her clavicle, down the slippery valley between her breasts.

"What are you humming, sweetie?"

Her question was devoured with a kiss.

Taking some initiative, she pulled Willow's face from hers, and held the red head's lust-filled gaze.

"You were humming that before, when you hit your head. Drove me crazy. What is it?"

She didn't wait for the answer to be spoken; she interrogated Willow's lips personally.

Withdrawing, the hacker smiled down at her, burnished strands of copper falling over her eyes – not that she could see anything but Tara, anyway.

"I did? '

Taking a deep breath, Willow leaned in a little further, her voice a low whisper of water, fountaining in her ears.

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do;

I'm half crazy all for the love of you."

Silence had its way with them; the plaintive melody died on Willow's lips; it was nothing more than the truth, she knew it. She'd do anything for Tara; she'd care for her if she were sick, she'd wash her hair, make her breakfast what does she like? She'd die for her. She'd kill for her.

Would I?

"It's from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The computer, HAL sings it at the end, to show Dave Bowman he knows a song. He asked and Dave said yes, and so he sang it, and then his voice started to slow and fade and then he was gone."

Tara was smiling at her, raking her fingers along the hacker's spine, her legs clenching and relaxing around the red head's hips, in time with her heart.

Time had become a variable again; it would not stay in the room with them, would not hover about like a murder of microscopic voyeurs (that were already playing havoc with the universe), anxious to see what would happen next. Time had deserted them unawares.

"I'm in love with you Will."

She could not have responded in any way other than she did; she swallowed the words whole, and the tongue that typed them and the lips that spoke them. She did not sense the change this provoked, the flare of pain-forming-joy in Tara's eyes, or the way the blonde's fingers dug sharply into her shoulders. She was out for stars.

She felt charged with daring and desire; she furrowed between Tara's breasts, gently kissing around each one, and down further, her lips lapping at the pools of Tara's skin, the babyish round of her belly, to the new found land, the unopened door, the undiscovered country – the bourne from which no traveler returns, unchanged.

If she had doubts about her ability, they were pushed aside with Tara's murmuring sighs; she was certain she had never heard anyone sigh before (at least not without a note of sarcasm), and Tara's breathlessness was a wonder of this new world that she never wanted to escape from.

Her eyes were melting into Tara's as she let loose her tongue, not unlike her brush, over the shy pinkish opening, drawing small, teasing circles over the exposed tip of nerves, like a fleshy satellite worshipping, offering and taking all at once. She closed her lips gently over the quivering sweetness, suckling there, and Tara's head fell back against the pillows with a noiseless groan.

With slow, sensuous strokes, her tongue lavished hot praise within the slit of damp curls, the salt-stung musk rushing through her senses, driving her forward, faster and smaller the circles grew, tighter around the edge of abandon Tara was teetering on, spellbound. The blonde was moaning now, but silent, her eyes screwed shut, her mouth forming words that had no substance, over and over, the translation on the tip of their tongues.

The moment was forcing a crisis; Tara's hips tensed, arched into Willow's mouth, as the ardent red head suckled, the honey bee sting of her tongue harder, faster, fluttering excitement reaching its peak, and, finally, the first tender spasms erupting, spilling over the dam and flooding Willow's hungry mouth with it's sticky sweetness.

She held on through the tremors until they subsided; she could only see the agitated rise and fall of Tara's chest, her head turning slowly from side to side as fatigue took up residence in their limbs and eyes; she nodded forward, resting her cheek against the pillow smooth undulations of Tara's abdomen, turning only to place small kisses against her love's skin, before succumbing to lusty exhaustion.

In the dimming moment of sleepiness, she felt song fingers laced between her own; the words were there, she wanted to say them, but her tongue felt like a balloon. She'd remember later. She wouldn't forget.

This will never end.

And it never did, really.


*Signing on to AOL*

*Starting Service*

*You are logged on*

Tarasbaby: Hey!
Willsbaby: Hi sweetie
Tarasbaby: Whatcha doing?
Willsbaby: Female mythology in ancient Rome: warriors, poets and shamans.
Tarasbaby: Ooh.
Willsbaby: What are you doing?
Tarasbaby: 4,000 iterations for a digital fractal project I'm wrking on.
Tarasbaby: er. Working.
Willsbaby: We have got to find you a new hobby.
Tarasbaby: I've got one.
Willsbaby: I miss you.
Tarasbaby: I misses you too.
Willsbaby: I really really misses you.
Tarasbaby: I really really misses you times infinity.
Willsbaby: One day I'll have a name for you, sweetie.
Tarasbaby: Vixen.
Willsbaby: Vixen?
Tarasbaby: I'm a vixen.
Willsbaby: Right. I'll be sure to call you that one day.
Tarasbaby: Oh! Scooby meeting tonight!
Willsbaby: Willow, there's a Scooby meeting every night.
Tarasbaby: Oh.
Tarasbaby: Yeah, but, like, this is superifically important Scooby-do.
Willsbaby: Scooby-do?
Tarasbaby: Yeah, when we do the Scooby thing?
Willsbaby: *rolls eyes*
Tarasbaby: I love it when you do that.
Willsbaby *rolls eyes again*
Tarasbaby: See? Here's me with the love *grabs Tara and lays on a big ol' smooch*
Willsbaby: I love it when you do that.
Tarasbaby: *Lays on another big ol' smooch*
Willsbaby: I love you Willow Rosenberg.
Tarasbaby: I love you Tara Maclay.
Willsbaby: *Lays on the biggest smooch that ever was*
Tarasbaby: *Lays on the biggest smooch that ever will be*
Willsbaby: You know, sweetie, I'm just down the hall.
Tarasbaby: *pouts*
Willsbaby: What is it?
Tarasbaby: That was the biggest smooch ever and you blew it.
Willsbaby: *Pouts.*
Tarasbaby: *Pouts more*
Willsbaby: *Pouts more times infinity*
Tarasbaby: Definitely have to find a word for you…
Willsbaby: Yours.
Tarasbaby: Hmm?
Willsbaby: I am. yours, Willow Rosenberg and I don't think you should call me anything else.
Tarasbaby: Okay, Yours. Thank you, Yours. I'll never call you anything else, Yours.
Willsbaby: *rolls eyes*
Tarasbaby: I wuv you.
Willsbaby: I wuv you too. Now finish your 4 million irritations and get over here.
Tarasbaby: Iterations, baby.
Willsbaby: To you.
Tarasbaby: Oh, I was going to tell you, before the whole "sidetracked by love" thing.
Willsbaby: Tell me what?
Tarasbaby: We have to remember to bring the t-shirts.
Willsbaby: What for?
Tarasbaby: Buffy said Jonathan may show. Maybe he'll autograph them for us.
Willsbaby: *claps hands excitedly*
Tarasbaby: It's a crazy world, isn't it baby?
Willsbaby: Absolutely. But at least its round.
Tarasbaby: ???
Willsbaby: Well, just think of how difficult it would be, if it was triangular or octagonal.
Willsbaby: We'd be living at right angles all the time.

Tarasbaby: ??
Willsbaby: Um…never mind.
Tarasbaby: I'll be there real soon.
Willsbaby: I'll be waiting.


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