Return to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Two

The Art of Burning Bridges

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: PG-13
Feedback: Would be most appreciated. It's no secret that I'm a feedback whore. Please leave feedback on the Art of Burning Bridges thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the clothes on my back...

Tara examined her hands as they walked past the curious eyes of the women lining the ground outside their homes. A group of children called out to her happily when they saw her passing. Tara turned and blew them a kiss. She watched as the children held up their dirty hands and pretended to catch the airborn sentiment. Tara smiled. The children always managed to improve her mood, no matter how gruff it might be.

Tara's smile dimmed slightly as she remembered the woman walking next to her. They walked toward the edge of the encampment and with each step they took nearer the perimeter, Tara began to feel more desperate. She didn't know why though, shouldn't she be glad to be getting rid of the minor inconveniece of this woman's presence?

"They like you. "

Tara looked up at the sound of the stranger's voice but she was too lost in the confusion of her own feelings to answer properly.Tara nodded in response, but offered no further explaination. "How d-does your s-shoulder feel? Better I hope."

"It's a little sore...but I'm tough."

They fell into silence, again walking without words. They reached the edge of the encampment and stood there looking at eachother akwardly.

When the stranger didn't speak, Tara felt the well of the qestions she'd been holding in since their first walk together earlier that day tumble out of her. "Who are you? Where are you from?" Tara didn't mean to sound so accusative, but she was sure that was the way it sounded to the woman looking at her. Tara had to know though, it was a morbid curiosity, but she couldn't let this woman walk away from her without knowing at least the basics of who she was.

"Willow...and I'm....just passing through. " What should she have said to that? Let the enemy know that she was a member of a group trying to destroy their way of life? No..she coudn't do that...yet. She wasn't out of the woods, so to speak and still believed her life depended on keeping that information a secret.

"You were just passing through?" Tara asked with raised eyebrows, her curiosity apparently anything but sated. She'd never met anyone who would dare to simply be passing through within the dense forest of trees...there were too many things out there that wouldn't mind to make a midnight snack out of the redhead. Tara felt her cheeks warm and she spoke quickly, to cover her feelings lest they show. "Do you have a camp around here?" she found herself wanting to keep the dialogue between them flowing.


"Then you should stay and eat with us this night." The words were out before she could stop them; like tiny daggers of treason they hung in the air between them. Tara couldn't take back the offer so she had no choice but to stand there, intermingled within the words that stalled in the air. She was almost grateful when it looked as if Willow might refuse her request.

Willow started to refuse, wanting nothing else but to extract herself from this situation, but something stopped her. If she stayed it would be the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the camp and learn as much as she could about the inner workings of these people. She wouldn't be much of a soldier if she let her heart dictate the actions she took. She had to be real about this, and stop letting this woman get her all worked up. Decided, she nodded in agreement. but said nothing more.

Tara felt the muscles inside her stomach flip when the woman didn't refuse.

Willow wished away the fire in her belly she felt when the blonde smiled at her. Willow had the urge to lift the woman's chin in her hand and peer more steadily into her blue eyes. But she refused to acknowledge this even as she felt the tremor of her hand as it started to do just that. Willow was scared. She took a step back. "Is there a place where I can...I'm a little....dirty."

"Okay, why did I just do that?" Tara cursed under her breath as she walked toward her maternal dwelling. Tara called herself offering hospitality and nothing more, but why did she feel the slightest twinge of excitement at the thought of the redheaded stranger remaining in their camp for another few hours? Maybe Anya was right, maybe she had no more sense about these matters than a wee babe.

Tara gently pushed aside the covering that led into the dark chamber. Out of respect, the walls were lined in wood and the pungent aroma of burning spices engulfed Tara in it's rising scent. Tara's eyes came to rest on her mother, asleep on the elevated pallet their people had built for her.

Her mother had been this way every day for the last moon cycle...weak and sleeping, waking only to eat the broth Illiana, her life compainion and Tara's other mother brought to her each day.

Tara took in the sight of Lana. The older woman's warm, grey eyes had the lines of age around the corners, her long brown hair, braided into a thin braid that trailed down her back and frayed outward as it was too thin to be confined properly. The braid ended just at the base of her spine. Her hair whisped around her face creating a thin halo of light brown hair that wouldn't be pressed down. Lana looked thin, and Tara noticed the way the traditional Shinty dress she wore seemed to hang from her thin body.

Tara smiled as the woman rose from her place next to Tara's mother's bed. Lana was walking toward Tara in warm strides. The older woman embraced Tara in her arms, hugging her tightly. Tara breathed in the familar scent of spice and homemade soap that had always been a part of her other mother's presence. "Lana" Tara hugged the woman tightly, suddenly missing the days of her youth, when she'd been small enough to climb up on Lana's lap to hear the stories the woman would tell her about the creatures that walked the forest at night, and about the clan's past and their anscesters before them.

"How is she today Lana?" Tara asked bringing her gaze to look once again at her biological mother's sleeping form.

Tara could tell that Lana was holding back tears. Tara let out a long ragged breath. She knew Lana woudn't tell her if it had gotten really bad.

"She's better knowing that you are here my Tara. " Lana brushed a stray strand of hair back behind Tara's face. Her fingers felt rough on Tara's skin, but Tara welcomed their presence as the rough touch of her other mother's fingers reminded her of the way things used to be. Tara choked on a sob that errupted unexpectedly from her lungs. She clung to Lana for a moment all at once feeling like a child again. But Lana did as she always had, she held her, stroking comforting circles on Tara's back until the blonde calmed enough to be held away from her other mother's warm comfort.

Even though the sounds of anguish betrayed the pledge Tara had made to herself in the forest earlier that day as she'd cried in her hands, she wouldn't allow actual tears to fall. She wouldn't cry ever again. Tara pulled back from Lana's embrace, a tremulous smile just barely touching her lips. "Will you be joining us this evening?" Tara asked warmly. It wasn't good for Lana to be forever surrounded by the immanent death of the woman she and Tara both loved.

"Not tonight Tara."

" can't..." But Tara couldn't finish as Lana was already holding up a weathered hand to stop her speech.

"I can not leave your mother...not now sweetness."

Tara nodded her head in acceptance, as she'd already known that this would be Lana's response. "I love you Lana." Tara said these words from her heart.

"I know you do my Tara. Now go."

Tara turned around as Lana playfully scolded her with a swat to the rear. As Tara left her parents dwelling she heard Lana call teasingly from behind the closed cloth that hung over the entrance-way.

"Have a good time and don't drink too much of that funny know it doesn't sit well in your stomach!"

Tara turned, poking her head back in through the curtain. "You always worry too much Lana."

"That's my purpose in this life Tara, haven't you figured that out yet?"

Tara kissed the woman on the cheek, then went off to locate Willow.

Continue to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Four

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