Return to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter One

The Art of Burning Bridges

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: PG-13
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Disclaimer: I own nothing but the clothes on my back...

"Can you walk?"

Willow felt the palm of a warm hand placed lightly against her shoulder, she flinched at the soft touch. And an instant later she found herself blinking her eyes against the pain that shot through her head. Willow closed her eyes and heard the groan escape from between her lips. She had to get up.

"Don't m-move....."

Willow made a sound like she was going to protest, but she quickly replaced that impulse with a small nod of agreement. Willow was relieved when the woman removed her hand from her shoulder. It itched now, where her hand had rested and Willow wanted to scratch the irritation, but when she tried to lift her hand to the burning place, another sharp pain accosted her. It ripped through her her body before settling direcly in her left shoulder. Willow blinked back tears.

"I-it's broken I think..."

Willow saw that the woman had a look on her face, the type of which Willow had never seen before. She didn't know what to make of the warm blue eyes as they scanned her body for further injuries.

"You need help."

"I don't need your help or anyone elses, for that matter." Willow spoke too quickly, dismissing the woman's attempt to lift Willow's shirt at the shoulder and examine her injury. She couldn't miss the glimmer of hurt in the other woman's eyes.

Tara frowned as she turned away from the woman's curt words. She didn't know what to make of this stranger that had tumbled into her world. Litterally. And she didn't care either, Tara decided. She had enough of her own problems to deal with afterall, the last thing she needed was to be sattled with anyone else's.

Tara decided to ignore the woman's harsh words, instead she busied herself with searching for anything that would be potentially helpful in aiding the woman's injured arm. "Stay put." She had instructed the woman, simply. She walked a ways further down the in the valley, only glancing back one time, and only to make sure the woman had heeded her words.

Tara fitted the woman's arm into the impromptu sling she'd fashioned out of the drogs she'd picked from the giant Nut Trees that grew by the hundreds along the edges of the incline. The large leaves were as long as Tara's body and had to be torn to fit around the smaller woman's slim figure.

Tara secured the woman's arm to her body, with the drogs wrapped around the appendage then around her slim waist to hold it in place. Tara tried not to let her gaze linger for too long on any aspect of this woman's body lest she feel scrutinized at every moment.

Tara instinctivly felt the one-sided tension as she slipped the last peice of drog around the redhaired woman's shoulder. She knotted the drog atop the woman's shoulder then stood back to examine the contraption.

They walked back to the encampment in silence. Neither saying a word. Tara glanced over occasionally, but from the stranger's disposition she could tell that any attempt on her part to make idle conversation wouldn't have been welcomed.

Willow didn't look up, until she smelled the first flavors of roasting meat coming through the thicket around them. Her stomach made demanding sounds as it thought of the food. How long had it been since her last meal? She didn't know. Willow couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten anything. She had the worrisome habit of forgetting to eat for long amounts of time, and this had always been a cause of a great deal of argument between her and her superiors back at base. One in paticular. Buffy.

Buffy was the new head honcho, and Willow, directly under her, was obliged to take orders, even though she and Buffy were on very friendly terms. Willow suspected that she got away with more gruff than any of the other officials because of this fact though.

Buffy was strong, and a good strategist, which had made her a perfect candidate for the position when the former man had died in battle. No one had dared challenge the promotion, not even the men. Willow suspected they'd known that they would have gotten their asses kicked if they had said anything.

Willow was brought up from her musings by the smell of meat as it grew stronger in her nose. She lifted her gaze and was able to see that there was a clearing up ahead, though the scattered branches blocked most of her view. They kept walking until the sound of pounding could be heard and a chanting that was strange to Willow's ears weaved in and out of the rhythmic beating.

Willow chanced a glace at her companion, noting for the first time the other woman's silky blonde hair. It was secured into a thick braid that hung heavily down the woman's back. Willow felt her throat go dry. She quickly removed her gaze, fixing it on the approaching scene before them, instead.

As they drew still closer other sounds could be heard in intervals. Between the notes of the chanting voices there was the sound of children playing, Willow could see them laughing as they chased eachother around burning fires and in and out of thickets of bushes before dissapearing into the earthen-wear huts that dotted the small village.

Willow held her breath, not even realizing that she did so. Never did she consider that she would be on the actual sight of a Shinty camp, unless she was leading the soldiers that were tearing it down....or unless she had been captured during one of her scouting missions. Willow's heart stiffened again, as she reminded herself that the only reason she was alive now, was because this Shinty woman didn't know who she was. There were no tell-tale markings on Willow's body and she certainly wasn't wearing the standard issue clothing of the Plains People Miliatary. If she had been, she was certain to have been dead by now.

Willow was even less open-minded once they came fully into the village, if one could even call it a village. It looked more like a refugee camp. Willow could see women, sitting around in goups on the dirty ground weaving bags from the same leaves that now protected her arm. And though she could see no stick-bangers, their noise was now more appearent than ever. Almost deafening.

Tara lifted the flap covering the entrance of the infirmary, her eyes seeking out her friend.

Anya stood in front of the dirt walls of the medic's chamber, her back was too them as they stood at the entrance-way, but she quickly turned to face them as they came inside. Tara recognized suprise in Anya's eyes as the woman's eyebrows raised an inch above where they normally rested above her eyes.

"Well...look what the Praggot dragged in."

Tara smiled at Anya's sense of humor, as Praggots were funny four-legged creatures, usually found sleeping at the end of the Shinty Folks pallets. They were also known to drag unsuspecting creatures in from the night, neatly killed and tucked away between their pin-sharp teeth. The Praggot usually deposited these "gifts" somewhere inside the dwelling, to be found the next day, by one or more unsuspecting persons. Tara lifted her own eyebrows in response to Anya's obvious attempt to tease her.

Anya walked toward them, and without ceremony cut the drogs that held the woman's arm in place and then began to strip the strangers clothes off. Tara blushed profusely, and the woman who's clothes it was being removed became indignant. Tara was sure that the shouting of "Hey!" could be heard by everyone in the encampment.

Anya tried again to lift the woman's shirt up around the arm that was still clutched tighly to the chest of the stranger, but she was greeted with a slap to the hands and a defient glare for the jesture.

Tara made a move to touch the woman's arm, to comfort her and reassure her that this was in no way abnormal behaviour for Anya. Tara's hand got close enough to feel the heat radiating off of the woman's body, before the redhead stepped back to dodge Tara's touch.

"Calm yourself sparky or I'm gonna leave you like this" Anya said, pointing the the woman's arm.

"Leave me like this then."

Tara lowered her rejected hand as the stranger spoke defiantly, her chin set against Anyas bewildered expression. Tara had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. This woman definitly had spunk. She was like a wild Mussox.

The children would sometimes corner the Mussox in a innocent game, while taking great joy in the wild look in it's eyes before they tired and ran off to find other ways to amuse themselves. This stranger had that same wild look in her eyes at that very moment.

After many more minutes of not-so-softly spoken words, Anya and Tara were able to convince this redheaded woman to at least sit on the examination table and let Anya take a look at her shoulder.

The only article of anything they were able to wrestle from her was the belt from around her waist, and only that, because Anya had explained that it could be hiding a nasty forest parasite, that could at any moment wiggle under her skin and lay eggs.

After the examination, Tara felt Anya grip her arm. Tara allowed Anya to pull her by the arm into the next chamber. She went willingly, even though she knew what her friend was going to say.

"You brought an outsider here!"

"She was hurt, what would you prefer me to have done. Leave her there?"

"That would have been a good start! You are too soft Tara, you have no mind when it comes to these things!"

"How can you of all people judge me that way?" Tara felt her heartbeat pick up speed.

"Can you blame me Tara? You go off on your own and when you come back you're bringing a stranger into the encampment? Really what am I supposed to think? For all I know, or you for that matter, she could be an enemy sent here to spy on us." Anya spoke these words in chastising tones, her finger fixed stiffly in Tara's face.

Tara didn't feel like defending herself against Anya's blatant dislike of her decision making abilities. Tara rubbed the bridge of her nose between her thumb and first finger. She felt the pressure that had started a moment ago ease up slightly. "I really didn't ask you to think anything about it at all did I?" She was being unreasonable. She knew this. Anya was right, she had made a risky move by bringing the stranger back with her...but there was something....No...she wouldn't allow herself to take that thought any further. it was done, and there was no taking it back. "Is she okay...?" Tara was suprised by the concern she heard in her own voice.

Anya's eyes seemed to soften, the way they occasionally did. "Well...I don't know who she is or where she came from so I'm afraid I'm not capable to speak on her spiritial health, but her shoulder seems fine...just dislocated. She's very lucky."

"Thank you." Tara said touching her friend on the arm. They exchanged a glance before Tara made eyes to say that she was going to go back into the other room and check on the woman.

"This is going to hurt...a lot, so don't be afraid to scream. It might help you. There's nothing I can give you for the pain....Unless you'd prefer I have Tara knock you over the head again with that big rock over there?"

"No!" Willow said quickly when she saw the strange doctor make like she was about to fetch the boulder that sat against the far wall. But her mind left the thought of the rock momentarily to focus on some other aspect of what the doctor had said. So, Tara was her name? Willow repeated the name in her mind, thinking the word over and over again....rolling it around in her brain until the name itself lost all meaning and she was able to dismiss it altogether.

As soon as the doctor gripped her arm Willow felt a nervous panic rise up in her lungs and automatically reached for the hand the blonde was offering her, but Willow pulled back at the last moment, not really wanting to touch the other woman. She found it almost humorous how quickly she was able to forget that these were the people that killed her family.

Willow focused on a point along the crumbling dirt walls of the room they were in. Soft roots tickled the edges of the wall where they wiggled through the thick earth. She was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Willow could feel her chest heaving with the effort it took not to scream.

Continue to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Three

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