Return to Captain Red and the Denizens of Mars Chapter Thirteen

Captain Red and the Denizens of Mars

Author: Alcy
Rating: R for war-related violence, occasional bad language and naughty stuff.
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to BtVS... nuff said. No spoilers for any season.

Tara had spent most of the day skulking about the lower levels of Angel Island in her best effort to avoid Willow. This was despite secretly holding on to the hope that Willow would tear the entire base apart looking for her.

I don't want Willow to find me! she thought, angry at herself for being recklessly selfish, If Willow knows what's best for her she'll stay as far away from me as possible.

While she had been doing her best to hide from Willow, the round-faced young man with the clipboard had very little trouble tracking her down. He wordlessly handed her a thin slip of paper almost identical to the one Willow had shown her the previous day. She unfolded it to read that her presence was immediately requested in General Quincy's office.

She knew better than most not to keep the brass waiting and wasted no time in making her way there. Before she knocked she wished she had the guts just to ignore them all and walk away. It was a stupid notion, where could she go that they couldn't find her?

Tara entered the office to find Quincy seated at his desk, Commander Boone standing leaning against the wall and a few other high ranking officers she had not had the displeasure of meeting. Also, unsurprisingly, Giles was also standing in front of the General's desk as though he too had been summoned. Tara jumped to the obvious conclusion. Without waiting for permission to speak she marched over to the bespectacled Englishman and stabbed her finger at his chest.

"You told them didn't you?" she accused, referring to her admission that Willow had been sharing her dreams.

"I did nothing of the sort," he said in an offended tone.

Tara bit her lip, immediately regretting jumping to such a stupid conclusion. Giles would never betray a secret she had told him in confidence. Now she had just blabbed the fact that she had a secret to tell. She was beginning to think that her entire world was crashing down around her all because she could not be with a certain, hot-headed red-head. Tara sighed, everything was going to hell and all she could care about was Willow.

With sheer willpower, Tara forced herself to take her place quietly in front of the desk as she should have done before her outburst. She looked apologetically at Giles, the scientist managed to give her a reassuring smile before she faced the front of the room. All eyes in the room were focused on her, save Giles who was staring pointedly at his feet.

"Giles did not tell us anything," Quincy began, he tapped his pen against his palm annoyingly and glared at Giles, "Even though it is his duty to report everything he hears to us," he then turned his distinctly unpleasant gaze back to Tara who held it steadily, "Flight Officer Maclay, you and Captain Rosenberg have not exactly been discrete in your relationship with one another. Did you really think that we would not be interested in how your mind affects her? You know full well that if it is dangerous to either one of you... it is our duty to put a stop to it."

"It's none of your fucking business! You..." Tara burst out furiously before clamping her jaw shut, regretting she did not have the guts to say everything that was on her mind, arrogant, coldhearted prick!

"Maclay," Boone growled warningly.

Quincy just smiled slightly as though somehow her display of temper amused him. Tara bristled, fighting the urge to throw him a scathing look. Instead she fixed her stare on her boots as though they were the most fascinating pair of boots in the world.

"Giles, we've all read Flight Officer Maclay's history in her file. This renewed influence over others around her... does it mean her sphere is increasing? Just how dangerous is she?" Quincy continued as though Tara were not even there.

Giles at to grit his teeth at their callous disregard for the girl's feelings, "Tara is extremely sensitive to the Martian presence, it could be that the increased Martian presence around us is in some way affecting her psychic ability..."

"We don't want speculation!" Boone snapped, "All I know is that a boy in Russia was 'sensitive' enough to wipe out his entire village and that Maclay already has a history of affecting people in the same way. Unless you can guarantee me that the same thing will not happen on my carrier, to my crew..." Boone's mouth tightened, "No, on second thoughts I don't want to take the risk at all, I don't want that... her, back on my ship!"

Tara's fists clenched, she could leap at Boone... be on him in seconds, smashing that heartless mouth over and over again. She drew in a quiet breath, calming herself. Tara concentrated on Willow, the way the small body felt in her arms, her nonsensical babble when she was nervous or excited... the cries she made during their lovemaking.

"I assure you, there is absolutely no danger to the crew!" Giles was annoyed at Boone's callousness, Tara was standing right there! "Tara's sphere only extends to those she shares an intimacy with, we think just those she shares blood ties with... although..."

"You are beginning to think that it may extend to sexual intimacy as well?" Quincy asked.

"Yes, Tara has never been involved in... sexual relations with anyone up until this point..."

"Enter Captain Rosenberg... damn that pilot, is there anything she's involved with that she doesn't completely disrupt? And you're sure they're actually having sex?"

Giles clenched his fists, "I think that is hardly a question for me to answer... and one that Tara should not have to..."

"Maclay, are you and Rosenberg having..."

"Yes!" Tara growled, "I heard the goddamn question the first time!"

Quincy seemed quite unconcerned, he turned to Giles, "Consequences if Tara's sphere does extend to sexual intimacy?"

"Captain Rosenberg may very well die,"

"Unacceptable risk!" Quincy said emphatically, "We cannot afford to lose one of our best pilots. Maclay, you will not sleep anywhere near the vicinity of Captain Rosenberg, you will not have sexual relations with her... in fact, Giles, wouldn't it be best to keep the two of them apart altogether?"

"Nothing can happen to the waking mind!" Giles snapped, "It would be just cruel to separate them altogether!"

"Still, I don't see how you can let people like her walk around free?" Boone spoke up, still unwilling to let Tara back onto his ship.

"For godssake, she's a just a girl, you can't keep her locked away!" Giles too was having to fight the urge to throw himself at Boone. He wanted to look across to Tara, reassure the girl with a glance.

"But she's dangerous!"

"Only to the people I love Commander Boone... and you can be rest assured you will never be included in that group!" Tara finally spoke up, her voice filled with loathing.

"Flight Officer Maclay you forget your place!" Boone snapped stabbing his finger angrily at Tara who had gone stark white with fury.

"Oh I could never forget my place with you all talking about me as though I am not here! Have you any idea what it is like to listen to people talk about you as though you are a piece of lifeless military hardware instead of a human being!"

"Maclay that is quite enough!" Quincy spoke up from where he sat at his desk.

"Well I am not finished yet you pompous ass! None of you has any idea as to what you have just done do you? You're ordering me to put an end to the best thing that has ever happened to me!"

Quincy stood suddenly, leaping to his full height which was a good head and shoulders above Tara. She should have trembled but she did not even blink.

"Will it still be the best thing that has ever happened to you when you kill Captain Rosenberg?" he asked in a quiet, calm voice when Tara had expecting him to yell.

Tara gulped, her anger quickly replaced by fear, she knew she had gone too far, "I-I'm not disputing the fact that I have to end it... w-what I am disputing is the fact that I cannot tell her why I am ending it."

"Of course you cannot... that is classified!" he insisted, then added, "Anymore uncontrolled outbursts from you and I will see to it that you spend the rest of the war in the brig... no matter how badly we need pilots," his voice softened, "I've known you for many years and this is behaviour I expect I would have to deal from people like Captain Rosenberg... not you Tara. You know full well what's expected of you."

Tara wanted to defend Willow with all her heart but the words would not come, not the way she wanted them to, "Captain Rosenberg is..." brave... heroic, passionate... and I love her more than anything in this world, including my duty as an officer... Tara sighed and pleaded instead, "You have to let me tell her! I can't just break things off with her and not let her know what the hell is going on!"

"That's completely out of the question!" Quincy snapped, his patience wearing very thin indeed.

"With all due respect, I think we can make an exception," Giles added quietly, Tara had almost forgotten there were actually other people in the room during her confrontation with the General, "Tara loves Willow," Giles said quietly, Tara felt her cheeks blaze with embarrassment but silently thanked the scientist for saying what she could not.

"We're in the middle of a war, everyone has to make sacrifices," Quincy stabbed the desk with his fingertip, "Everyone has...and there's going to be many more made before this is all over."

"Love be damned!" Boone growled in the background.

Tara gritted her teeth.

"Maclay, your relationship with Rosenberg is over... that's an order," Quincy said with an air of finality, he had spent too long arguing over this matter already, "I don't want to hear anything more about it. I've already instructed Captain Summers to keep an even closer watch on you."

Tara ducked her head, cheeks colouring and she sighed in defeat, "What I am going to tell Captain Rosenberg?" she asked in a small voice, almost a whisper as the implications of what she had to do were sinking in fully.

"Whatever you want," Quincy said, "As long as it's not the truth."

"The decks of carriers on which you will be landing the Guardians are all in the process of being modified to be able to withstand the additional landing forces of a jet propelled aircraft..."

Willow had not heard a words that Giles had said all morning. The pages of her notebook in front of her were completely empty. Ink from the pen clenched in her fist had been steadily staining the palm of her hand for the past hour. A huge yawn erupted and she quickly clamped a hand over her mouth. Last night without Tara she had slept hardly a wink and she was now too exhausted and grumpy to think about studying anything. She just stared at the blackboard, not seeing the words or the diagrams chalked there but instead seeing a beautiful, haunting blonde face.

Have you any idea what I will do to you if I don't stay the hell away from you? No? Then I'll tell you... you'll die Willow, very painfully and messily and there won't be anything you can do to stop it! Tara's painful words were stuck on repeat in her head, Willow frowned and rubbed her temples, How on earth can I die from being around Tara?

Willow scribbled a word down on her pad in thick letters... DREAMS. It had something to do with the dreams they had been sharing and yet there was something not quite right. In all the dreams she had up to this point, Tara was always there, granted she died... but she was there. Willow remembered being cut, bleeding from her own wounds during those dreams and yet never once had she woken with any evidence still on her body. Willow pressed the dressing on her palm to check the gash was still there, a sharp twinge of pain assured her of that. Something had been different about the other night... the LGF being there for one thing. She scrawled LGF on the pad as well and, reluctantly, TARA. They were all interconnected and yet Willow found herself refusing to make any connections, the implications of what she might discover were already giving her a gut ache.

"Right, I'll see you all in the hanger in twenty minutes time," Giles finally dismissed them, his words were followed by a slight grumble when everyone realised they had just twenty minutes to bolt down something to eat.

By the time she had gathered together her things, Willow was among the last to leave. As she walked past Giles he reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder, holding her back.

"Giles..." Willow said in a hollow voice, "I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention..."

She was cut short as he grabbed by her by both shoulders and propelled her into a supply closet.

"Giles, unhand me I say!" Willow protested, the door was slammed in her face, "Giles... mmph!" a hand clamped over her mouth.

Willow struggled violently for a few seconds before a familiar smell met her nostrils, calming her instantly. She stopped struggling, the hold on her relaxed and she spun around to find a familiar face in the semi-darkness. Willow was struck speechless at the sight of pale skin, the beautiful blue eyes she knew were there were shrouded in darkness. She felt tears well at the corner of her burning eyes and she had to choke back a sob. On the one hand, she was overjoyed to see her and yet she could not forget the way Tara had left her standing in the corridor the previous morning.

"Damn you Tara Maclay!" Willow hissed in an angry whisper, the tears falling now as she beat her small fists against Tara's chest, "Damn you, damn you, damn you!"

Tara just let the red head's anger run its course. Tears stung at her own eyes, not from the pain of Willow's blows but from seeing the captain at her most vulnerable. Eventually she wrapped her arms around Willow, she continued to pound her fists even as she was pulled close. Tara held tight, gentle but firm hands stroking her shaking back. Willow's struggles eventually subsided, but not the sobs as she continued to cry on Tara's shoulder.

"I'm so sorry Willow," Tara whispered.

"Why?" was all Willow could force out in reply.

Tara drew in a breath, "Willow, I can't tell you now..."

Willow looked up, Tara recognised a stubborn glint in her eyes, "Yes you bloody well will! You can't do this to me... I love you and you... you just walked away from me! Leaving me standing in the bloody corridor without a stitch of clothing on, you're just lucky it was Tad who came along and found me!"

"I can't tell you now," Tara said patiently, "There's no time."

Willow tried to calm down, "Please Tara..."

"There's a DC3 in the hanger..." Tara began.

"I saw it," Willow spoke up quickly.

"Meet me there at two am... and for the love of god don't let anyone see you."

"I won't!" Willow whispered fervently.

"No one at all," Tara pleaded, "They'll be watching you closely."

Willow frowned but said, "I promise, I'll be like a little mouse."

"I love you Will," Tara whispered grabbing Willow by the scruff of her neck.

Tara then pulled Willow into a fierce and passionate kiss, their mouths crushing together hungrily before Tara wrenched away and opened the door. When Willow emerged from the closet she was already gone. Giles looked up from his post at the door where he had been keeping watch. Willow sighed wistfully.

"If you hurry there will still be time for you to grab some lunch," he said in a kind voice.

Willow just shook her head, "How can I eat when there's a woman like that who loves me?"

Emerging from the stair well, Willow peered into the darkness of the hanger to see that all the guards were stationed near the planes that really mattered, the Guardians. The huge DC3 sitting at the far end was left sitting alone. It was difficult for Willow to move through the shadows when there were several very well trained guards scanning the hanger. With her heart in her throat, terrified that they would spot her and she'd never make it to Tara, Willow cautiously made her way across the hanger.

Finally, with a last glance over her shoulder, she ducked into the open door of the plane. It was dark inside, only small slits of dim light shining through the tiny windows. A shadow moved up by the cockpit and Willow's heart caught in her throat. She ducked her head as she made her way up the interior her foot caught on a carelessly stowed parachute. Willow went flying face first into the floor of the plane. She looked up in fright, half-expecting armed guards to come tearing into the plane, guns pointed at the pair of them. Willow and Tara both froze for several minutes until it was apparent that Willow's fall had gone unnoticed. On all fours, Willow scrambled the last few metres until she found Tara perched in the navigators seat.

Tara watched as Willow made her way up the interior of the plane towards her... she was absolutely terrified as to what she was going to say in explanation. All day she had been trying to formulate a plan and all day she had been thinking that Willow would come to the conclusion she was a freak... just like everyone else.

Willow practically crawled into her lap as she sat on the seat, hugging her knees and resting her chin on Tara's thigh as she looked up at her. Tara smiled down at Willow, reaching up a shaking hand to run through her hair. The soft, silky strands flowed through her fingers.

They sat there like that for several minutes, Tara stroking Willow's hair as Willow nuzzled her thigh like an affection starved cat. Finally, Willow looked up at her, green eyes shining with tears.

"Can you tell me what the hell is going on?" she asked quietly.

"No," Tara said softly, "But I will anyway. Willow... no matter how crazy any of this sounds I promise you I am not lying to you..."

"I know," Willow said with a small nod.

"There's something... different about me... I'm what they call a psychic."

"Psychic? You mean you can read peoples minds... things like that?"

Tara shook her head quickly, "No, none of that fairground chicanery... it's more that... I'm more... aware of what's going on in the world around me."

"Are you saying that psychic powers actually exist?" Willow couldn't resist asking questions, she wanted to understand everything, "Have always existed? Aware like how?"

"They may very well always have but only over the past decade have we learnt that psychics are attuned to a plane that exists beyond this one, very much like a dream world although much more real. Very few humans are aware of it, let alone can access it to any degree... I can."

"Why only in the past decade?"

"Because that is the time frame in which the ability has manifested itself among humankind. In 1922 an alien ship was discovered in Egypt. It was shortly after the alien ship was discovered that people began to sense it... only a very few worldwide... it was very quickly established that there was a connection between the ship and the surfacing of latent abilities in some individuals."

"What is this dream... plane... reality thing?" Willow felt like a moron.

"It's actually much like the real world, sort of like a reflection I guess. Whatever happens here, happens there as well although not necessary in the same time frame or in the same manner. When we access that plane we have the same control over it as we would ordinary reality therefore we can shape it but only within our own physical limitations. The Martians however, also walk this plane although in far greater numbers..."

Willow sat up with a look of horror on her face, "You mean what happened to me there... that thing that attacked me... they are there all the time... Tara what if you're killed... I mean, look what it did to my hand!"

"Our studies show that for some reason psychics themselves are in no danger when they walk the plane... However, some psychics exert such power that they draw those around them into the plane along with themselves. It is people like you, drawn into the psychics sphere of influence that are in real danger... you don't have the tools or the protections to survive because you are out of sync with the dream reality and whatever happens to you there... manifests itself in the real world... like your hand Therefore... someone could be killed in the dream plane... and die in reality too. How powerful a psychic is... determines their sphere of influence... the extent to which they will draw those around them into this other plane."

"You're one of those people that can draw others in... you drew me in?"

"Yes," Tara admitted quietly, "Most psychics are not powerful enough to have this effect... they just walk the dreams themselves... it is quite frightening and most of them develop insomnia problems but its also harmless... they have proved very useful in developing our knowledge of the Martian invaders."

"You sound as though you have had to give this same speech many times... how did they find you?" Willow asked quietly.

"I was the first they found actually... because my mother was one. She was the archaeologist who was among the first to lay eyes on the alien space craft which had been lying buried in the sand for centuries. When she touched it she experienced some sort of connection, ... even though I was thousands of miles away, I felt it... I felt whatever it was that killed her..." Tara's voice had faded to a whisper.

Willow tightened her hold on Tara's legs, clinging to the blonde.

"I was only nine... after my mother's death I began having terrifyingly real nightmares. I would refuse to sleep and often went for days without any at all. My father took me to see so many doctors and yet they could find nothing wrong with me to explain my insomnia. The military must have been watching my family because shortly after that they came and took me away, telling my father they would be able to help me and I could held them find out what had happened to my mother. They ran a lot of tests, asked me so many questions... I was terrified. Eventually, after I suddenly stopped having the dreams, they sent me home again, especially when they began to find others who experienced the same dreams, the same connection to what had by then been labelled as a hostile threat to the entire planet. I kept having the dreams but gradually my father and brother started experiencing them too. I would see them in my dreams. And one night, in the dream... they were killed. I woke up absolutely terrified and ran to my Daddy's room... there was so much blood everywhere and he wouldn't wake up... I found Donny the same way... they had both been killed in my dream."

"Oh my god... Tara..." Willow felt her own tears flowing and yet when she reached up to touch Tara's face her cheeks were dry.

"I've had a lot of time to grieve Will" she said quietly.

Willow had to choke back a sob as she clutched at the fabric of Tara's pants, clenching it in her white-knuckled fists. She looked back up at Tara to see the blonde looking up at nothing in particular, her features expressionless. Her eyes were hollow in the darkness, the only indication that she was in fact somewhere else... Her own helplessness angered and upset Willow and she hated to admit that she wanted Tara to cry so that she could at least comfort her.

She doesn't need to be crying before you can comfort her Willow you ninny! Willow choked again and sniffed, wiping her nose unglamorously on her sleeve, I'm the one bawling my eyes out here! If she doesn't want comfort... I bloody well do! Willow hiccoughed and sniffed again.

Willow crawled up into Tara's lap, found a perch and threw her arms around her neck. She clung to the blonde as though she were a life ring in the ocean.

"Will..." Tara whispered, not making any move to embrace her, Oh god... I can't be doing this... this was supposed to be it... the end of us together!

Willow erupted into a fit of sobbing, hiccoughing and sniffing. Tara relented and put her arms around the back of the girl sitting on her lap, stroking her tenderly.

Several minutes later Willow was resting her head on Tara's shoulder, her cheek tucked into the crook of Tara's neck. Dried tears crusted on her face but the worst had since subsided. Their fingers were entwined on Willow's lap, Tara's thumb stroking the back of Willow's hand.

"What happened?" Willow asked in a hoarse whisper, "After... after they died, what happened to you?"

Tara sighed and held Willow a little tighter, "I became a ward of the state... which is really just a nice way of saying the military owned me. So from the age of eleven I was raised by them, fed and educated of course... but there were the tests, medical and psychological... for years and years. Mostly they found nothing to test, I no longer walked in the other reality in my dreams... even though my dreams were very vivid, often frightening. Willow, you have to understand what this way of life did to me... my memories of who I was before my mother died are kept alive in my dreams, I remember being happy, vibrant... extroverted, popular at school even... seems a little odd to think of myself that way now," Tara laughed sadly.

"I don't think it's strange at all," Willow whispered, squeezing Tara's hand.

Tara kissed Willow's forehead gently, "I withdrew into myself completely, I wasn't allowed friends... knew no one except the people who studied me. Giles among them... he was the only one who was kind, who seemed to care about me as an individual rather than just something to be studied. Even so... I barely spoke, just did everything they asked of my without a fuss... ate what they gave me, slept when they told me to, did my lessons, I wasn't really alive and yet I didn't care anymore," it was painful to even remember what life had been like but the Tara's voice brightened a little, "Something changed when I was seventeen... I had a dream about a girl... a gorgeous red head who's name I didn't know, who I suspected was probably not even real and yet something about her made me feel absolutely wonderful... alive again... silly really but it changed everything for me. Even after everything they had done to me, I declared my intentions to join the military. I knew that war would eventually come and after much debating from the powers that be... and a lot of intervention on Giles' part I suspected, they allowed me to join Air Command. Donny had always wanted to be pilot... he had so many model planes hanging on his ceiling," Tara smiled slightly...

Tara was lying on her back on her brother's bed, watching the model planes dangle from the ceiling, sending shadows dancing around the room. He lay next to her, pointing out each plane, in a serious voice he would tell her its name and make her repeat it.

"Okay, now that one's a French Nieuport... it's a replica of the one flown by a famous French pilot from the Great War..."

"The war Daddy went away to?" Tara asked quietly.

"Yeah... anyway, the French pilot went missing one day, he never came home."

"Someone shot him down?"

"They never found his plane," Donny said knowledgeably, "They say that he flew so high he couldn't come down again."

"He's still up there? Flying around?"

"Maybe," Donny said, then he grinned as he announced, "I'm going to be a pilot when I grow up... I hope there's a war so I can be a hero!"

"Turns out I wasn't a bad pilot..."

"You have got to be kidding!" Willow burst out, "How can you be so modest? You handle a plane better than anyone I have ever seen!"

Tara managed a smile, "Not as good as you... but I did throw all my effort into it... and it took me a long time just to learn the basics, not flying but being a normal young woman how to talk to people in normal conversation again... I finally began to sleep regularly at night. Even though I dreamt, I knew I would be alright in the morning... and I got to see you. I managed to get used to being with people my own age again, people who were friends... thanks largely to Buffy, and even Faith."

"Buffy knows all about you doesn't she?" Willow admitted reluctantly.

"Buffy was ordered to keep a close eye on me... I'm not sure exactly what her orders entail but I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't include letting me get involved with red headed flying aces. I'm really sorry Willow, I know it makes matters between the two of you even worse but of course she was given me as an assignment a long time before I actually met you."

"It doesn't matter baby," Willow said quietly, "Things between us were already irreparable and it had nothing to do with you," she drew in a breath, trying to take in all of what Tara had said. She exhaled slowly, "Y-you were dreaming about me over six years ago? But those ones... the dreams we were having... that you were having before I met you... they weren't the same as the one I had the other night were they? I was drawn into... your sphere thing and I could've been killed? Like your Dad... and Donny?"

"The earlier ones, that wasn't the plane, they were just my dreams," Tara finally realised that she had to get down to the point of the whole conversation, exactly why she had disobeyed orders to talk to Willow, "... and yes Willow... you could have been killed and I would have woken up to find you dead in the bed next to me. Now please tell me you understand, after hearing about what I did to my family, why we can't be together anymore?"

"You did not kill your father and brother Tara!" Willow whispered vehemently, "They did and don't you ever forget it!

"Willow, they use people like me to kill people in their sleep!" Tara pleaded, "I was responsible... just by being what I am..."

"It's a second front," Willow interrupted in a whisper.

Tara frowned, "Huh?"

"Like in the Great War, the reason the Allies invaded Gallipoli... they wanted to open up a second front so that there would be a war on two fronts, thus weakening the enemy's strength along the Western Front," Willow sat up slightly, "I think that there are two wars going on here... I mean... how can you have two fronts when you've invaded an entire world? There's physical world, the one in the real world and..." Willow pressed their foreheads together, "The one in here... in our minds."

"A they're killing us on both of them... that's precisely why I can't be allowed to be the cause of your death... precisely why freaks like me need to be restrained..."

"Tara, you are not a freak!" Willow brought both hands up to cup Tara's cheek, firmly wiping the tears away that had began to fall.

"I can kill those I love... you..." Tara sobbed quietly, her shoulders shook as the tears fell faster than Willow could wipe them away.

Willow stopped trying to deal with the moisture on Tara's cheeks and instead settled for kissing her eyelids tenderly as though her kisses were a balm for such pain.

"No... the LGFs can kill me and LGFs I have absolutely no qualms about pounding into a bloody pulp in my sleep," Willow whispered.

"Um, Will," Tara tenderly stroked the bandage around Willow's palm, "I think you were the one who was pounded last time... I'd never sleep knowing that you might not wake... and I have my orders to put an end to us... together."

Willow blinked, this was the first time Tara had mentioned that she had such orders. The red head was furious that their private lives could be controlled by men with too many pips on their shoulders. She had never been a stickler for orders and if anything was worth disobeying them for, it was Tara.

"I know exactly what I'd say in response to Quincy, I'd tell him to take his damn pen and shove it so far up his..."

"Will..." Tara said softly.

Willow calmed, knowing she was dangerously close to yelling and bringing every single guard in the hanger over to the DC3, "Orders be damned, I want to be with you!"

"But I don't want to fall asleep every night and wonder if you are going to be dead when I wake up," Tara pleaded, a part of her wished Willow did think she was a freak and try and get as far away from her as possible. At least then she would be safe.

"There is no way in hell that you are getting of the hook that easily Tara Maclay! Every time I fly I run the risk of not coming back... it's the same thing. We're at war... people die every day often in the most pointless way, it's all terrifying and I would be lying to say that I'm not scared of dying... but do you know what scares me even more? It's a life without you... when you left me standing in the corridor I was more scared than I had ever been in my entire life, scared that you would never come back to me, that I would never feel you in my arms again," to reassure herself, Willow ran her arms over Tara's back in a firm caress, "Hearing your story, what you've lived through... it's all just convinced me that I am making the right decision. I was yours a long time before I met you and if that doesn't tell you that we're supposed to be together then I don't know what would."

"I don't want you to die," Tara whispered hoarsely, pressing her hands to the back of Willow's neck, feeling the strands of her hair cascading over her fingers. She's mine...

Willow kissed Tara on the tip of her nose, catching a single tear hanging there, "I would rather die a thousand times in your arms than live a whole life without you." I'm hers...

Tara choked, her grip on the back of Willow's neck tightening, "Oh god Will! How can you be so goddamn brave just to be with me!" Tara pressed her cheek against Willow's once more, nuzzling her cheek and stroking her hair.

Tara knew in her mind that she should ignore Willow's heroic words as the words of a love sick idiot who did not know any better. She should push her away, tell her just how stupid she was... and yet her heart was telling her to hold onto the woman in her arms, hold on to her as tightly as she possibly could and never let go.

Willow's heart was bursting as she smiled at her lover through her tears, "I can take on the world because of you Tara Maclay."

Willow pressed her lips against Tara's, stroking them softly. Tara was the first to seek out more, seizing Willow's lips between her own, sucking on them fiercely. When Willow probed delicately with her tongue Tara drew in deeply into her mouth, clamping down on it and wrestling it into submission with her own. They pulled back just a fraction, their lips still touching, breath mingling.

"There are steps we can take to keep you safe, you should..." Tara began but Willow cut her off with a firm kiss.

"Tara," Willow breathed as she pulled back, "We'll be as safe as we possibly can... later. Right now I just need to hold you... please?"

Tara just nodded, her arms moving down around to Willow's back. The two pilots drew each other as close as they possibly could, their heads resting on the other's shoulders, sharing the same heartbeat.

As Tara held Willow on her lap, a million thoughts were all running though her mind and foremost amongst those was the thought that meant she would never let Willow put herself in that kind of danger. It was pointless for her lover to risk her life just by falling asleep in her arms... They would be together though... she just knew that one of the best ways to keep Willow safe meant that she would never be able to fall asleep in her arms again. Am I so terrible in letting Willow do this... even though it's what she wants? I'm not just terrible... I'm selfish and reckless...

"Quiet baby," Willow whispered many minutes later.

"I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"Tad really found you naked in the middle of the corridor?"


"Lucky Tad."

Continue to Captain Red and the Denizens of Mars Chapter Fifteen

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