Willow was pacing back and forth in front of Anya, who had awoke fifteen minutes after they'd arrived at the campsite. Faith had followed Tara to a small lake across from them, and Giles was watching the road from Bevelle making sure that no one was following. Xander was leaning against a tree trunk in deep thought, and Buffy was watching Willow.
"Everything is clear." Giles said entering the campsite. "Avoiding Bevelle in the near future would be for the best."
"Willow! Would you please stop the pacing, it's getting on my nerves!" Buffy said and grabbed Willow's shoulder. "Why don't you just go talk to Tara?"
"Go on, Willow. Tara needs to talk." Anya said gently pushing Willow on the path to the lake.
With her head down Willow walked across the path and into the lake area, "Where's Tara?" she asked stopping beside Faith.
"She's over there." Faith pointed toward the lake where Tara was standing in water that came up to just under her breasts. Nodding Willow thanked Faith and walked over.
"Hey, Tara." Willow said quietly not wanting to scare her.
"I always thought that this would be easier somehow. "Tara said without facing Willow "I thought that with everyone beside me...they'd help me... I've been trying so hard."
"You know, you could be trying too hard. They told me...everything." Willow said walking into the water.
"Then you know...what will happen."
"Yeah. I'm sorry...about all those things I said. You know, like, 'Let's defeat Sin!'...and about Zanarkand. I didn't know what would happen to you, Tara. I just... I hope I didn't make you feel sad... Please, forgive me." Willow said and looked into the water as she walked further in.
"You could never make me sad. And I was...happy." Tara said and turned to see Willow disappear under the water.
Surfacing behind Tara she floated on her back and looked up at the stars "Tara" she said causing Tara to turn around "Just don't do it."
"What? The pilgrimage?"
"Yeah" Willow said and stood up in the waist high water. "Just forget all about Sin, and being a Summoner. You know, just live a normal life. So, what do you say?"
"Maybe I will... Wouldn't everyone be surprised?"
"Yeah! Well except for Buffy, she'd be with you. Anya and Xander wouldn't hold out long."
"I know Faith would say yes, too. But I don't know about Sir Giles."
"I'd make him understand, Tara. It's the least I can do for you."
"No, I should be the one to tell him." Tara said as pyreflies rose out of the water, and leaned back floating on her back. "But what would I do if I did give up the pilgrimage?"
"Hey! We could go to Zanarkand!" Tara stood up and gave Willow a strange look "No, no. Not the one here, the one I'm from."
"Really?" Tara asked smiling.
"Yeah, we could all fly there. Everyone could go! And we'll have a big party at my place!"
"And then we could go and see your Zanarkand Abes play! We could all watch you play, in the stadium all lit up at night. I'd cheer and cheer till I couldn't cheer anymore!" Tara said excitedly
"But, what about after the game?"
"We'd go out and have fun!"
"In the middle of the night?"
"That's no problem, Zanarkand never sleeps! We could go to the sea, before the sunrise. The city lights go out one by one. The stars fade... It's kinda rose-colored, right? First it starts in the sea, then it spreads to the sky, then to the whole city. It's gets brighter and brighter, till everything glows. It's really...beautiful. I just know you'd like it."
"I'd like to see it...someday." Tara said sadly.
"You can, we both can go! Just you and me!" Willow said as Tara started softly crying "Tara?"
"I can't...I just can't... I can't go!" Tara said crying.
Willow walked over to Tara and placed her hands on Tara's shoulders. "Tara." she said and smiled when Tara looked up. She slowly leaned down and gently kissed Tara, Tara's eyes went wide before closing. Willow leaned to the side and dived under the water with Tara in her arms, Tara wrapped her arms around Willow's waist as they floated down. She stretched her legs out and floated facing up with her hands holding Willow's. Tara smiled up at Willow when she opened her eyes, Willow smiled back and gently pulled Tara up and into her lap. She closed her eyes when Willow gently stroked her cheek; she wrapped her arms around Willow's shoulder and leaned in. Willow met her half way in a loving kiss, and stretched her legs out, and wrapped Tara's legs around her waist and swam to the surface.
Faith smiled over to Buffy when they saw Willow carrying Tara to the bank and gently laid her down, and lay down beside her. Buffy tugged on Faith's arm "Come on let's give them some privacy." She said and pulled the still smiling Faith away to the campsite.
"I must continue," Tara whispered looking into Willow's green eyes. "I could do anything I wanted, if I gave it up now but... Even if I was with you...I could never forget… what'd I done in turning away from defeating Sin."
Willow smiled sadly. "I understand... And I'll still go with you. Well, unless I'm...fired?"
"No, I want you to stay with me until the end. Please."
"Tara, I won't stay with you until the end." Willow said causing Tara to look to the ground. "I'll stay with you always."
"Always?" Tara asked hopefully
"Always, that I will promise you." Willow said and gently kissed Tara again. Tara laid her head on Willow's shoulder when she lay on her back and looked up at the stars, and giggled.
"What're you laughing at?" Willow said running her fingers over the hand that was lying on her stomach.
"I was just thinking what would Xander and Anya say if they saw us like this?"
"Well, Xander's jaw would probably hit the ground, and Anya...I think she'd set fire to my butt." Willow said laughing.
Tara laughed harder when she imagined an angry Anya casting a fire spell on Willow's shorts. "I wouldn't let her."
"You wouldn't? Even if it meant seeing me jumping into the lake as smoke rose up behind me?"
"No...I wouldn't let her, I...I don't want you hurt. Ever."
"Then, I guess I'm safe from having to find another set of clothing, huh?'
"Very true!" Tara said and intertwined their fingers. "We've been gone for a while, everyone might start worrying...do you think we should go back?"
"Yeah, I guess we'd better go." Willow said and she and Tara stood up still holding hands and walked back to the campsite.
Buffy looked hopefully to Willow when she and Tara walked into the campsite. Willow shook her head sadly, causing Buffy to lower her head.
"Everyone, we leave at dawn, and I'm...sorry for putting you through all this." Tara made eye contact with each guardian as she spoke.
"Tara, you need your rest." Giles said softly.
"Yes, well, good night everyone." Tara said letting go of Willow's hand and going to her sleeping bag.
Willow sighed and went to he own place and lay down, an hour later she was still awake from tossing and turning. <I wonder if Tara's still awake?> Willow turned her head to the right and saw a pair of blue eyes watching her. Tara blushed from being caught watching and grinned when Willow scooted over to her.
"You don't mind, do you?" Willow whispered when she got to Tara's side.
"No, not at all." Tara whispered back and gently kissed Willow before laying her head on Willow's shoulder. "Good night, Willow." Tara said before closing her eyes and falling asleep.
The next morning Willow was shaken awake by Giles and told to get ready, as he made his way over to Xander. Willow rubbed her eyes and grinned when she saw Tara still sleeping curled up next to her, she gently shook her awake. Tara opened her eyes and smiled when Willow kissed her forehead. "Good morning, Willow."
"Actually I think it's a great morning."
"Why is that?"
Willow looked around and saw the others waiting at the entrance of the campsite "Well, I woke up with a beautiful blond in my arms, that's why."
"Excuse me while I go and hit Anya on the head with my rod." Tara said standing up.
"I meant you!" Willow said also standing and took Tara's hand turning her around.
"I know. I just wanted to tease you."
"Ya know, that's not nice...and don't I get a good morning kiss?"
Tara looked thoughtful for a moment "You'll only get one if you can catch me." she said and ran off giggling and passing the others. They watched her thinking she'd gone nuts, until Willow ran by shouting about double kisses. Giles shook his head and walked a little slower than usual, Buffy started laughing, and the others had smiles plastered across their faces.
Willow stopped where the trees stopped by cliffs on either side of the path; she looked to the left and then the right, and still didn't see Tara. <I wonder if she ran on ahead, of if she's hiding?> Willow thought then heard a twig snap to her right, smiling evilly she jumped on to the lowest branch of the tree she was standing by. Quickly but quietly she jumped on to another branch, and made her way around to the other side of the tree and looked down. She spotted Tara standing just under the branch she was on watching the path; she jumped from the branch and landed quietly on her feet.
"I think I've caught you." Willow whispered stepping close to Tara.
Tara whirled around holding her hand to her chest "You scared me!"
"I'm sorry...but I really wanted that kiss." Willow said waggling her eyebrows.
"I don't think you need one, now that you've scared me." Tara turned trying to hide her grin.
"I’m sorry...I really am, please forgive me. I promise I won't scare you again-" Willow was stopped short when Tara turned around and pressed her lips to Willow's. Willow took a step forward, then another and trapped Tara against a tree. Running her hands down Tara's sides she slipped her hands around Tara's legs and lifted her up. Tara wrapped her legs around Willow's waist and broke the kiss as she leaned her head back, and released a low moan when Willow started kissing down her neck.
"Willow..." A pair of lips swallowed her words, as she ran her hands up Willow's back and tangled into Willow's hair. With their bodies pressed together Tara could feel Willow's breasts pressing into hers and arched her back. Willow let out a low moan and slowly slid her hand under Tara's shirt caressing her sides, and moving up to cup Tara's breast.
"Willow! Tara!" Buffy shouted causing Willow to jerk back breathing hard.
"Where are you guys?" Xander shouted.
Willow let Tara slid to the ground and groaned in frustration. Tara was breathing hard as she rested her head on Willow's shoulder.
"I'm gonna take one of those guns and shoot them!" Willow growled out.
"Come on! This isn't funny!" Buffy shouted again.
"Willow, I-I think we should...go." Tara said and looked into Willow's green eyes.
"Damn, I guess you're right."
Tara smiled and kissed her again before walking back to the path with Willow behind her. <Ohh nice!> Willow thought watching Tara's butt and only looked up when Giles coughed <Uh-oh he looks mad... Who cares!?>
"I suppose the two of you are quite ready?" Giles said then turned away to hide the small grin on his face.
"What were you doing out there? Huh?" Buffy asked watching Tara blush and getting a death glare from Willow.
"Let's go. The Calm Lands are up ahead." Anya said grinning at Tara and giving a wink to Willow.
The group followed Giles as he led them up a slight incline. The Calm Lands where a squared five miles, with a tall fifty-foot tall cliff to the right, and a very long drop to the left. Near the exit leading to Mt. Gagazet was a long deep ravine in the land thirty foot across. One of the only things that in the Calm Lands was a small shop in the middle, the other was a fiend arena. Tara lies down on the ground and looks up into the sky as Willow watches.
"The Calm Lands. A long time ago, the High Summoners fought Sin here. This is where the road ends. Beyond, there're no towns, and no villages. Only the endless plains." Anya said staring off into the distance.
"Many Summoners stray from their path, and lose their way here." Giles said watching Tara from the corner of his eye.
"I've always known where to go." Tara said as Willow leaned down and held her hand out.
"I... I won't let you die. I will find a way, somehow." Willow said helping Tara to stand.
Tara smiles at her "Come on, let's go." still holding Willow's hand she walks down and into the plains.
I told Tara that I would find a way. I guess that I wanted to believe the words could make it come true.
Heading down the downward path the group ran into Maechen, he turned and waved to them. Willow looked at Tara who nodded.
"Would you like to hear about this plain?" He asked when the girls stopped beside him.
"Yes, please." Tara said with Willow nodding her 'yes'.
"You see, this plain was once a battlefield. It was a battle known as the Machina War, fought between Bevelle and Zanarkand. As a result of the war, it became a wide-open field without anything, or anyone living in it. Soon, time passed, and the Summoners set their eyes on this uninhabited land. Here, no matter how fierce the battle, they could not cause damage to the surroundings. That is why this place was used for the final battle against Sin. The Summoners with the Final Aeon would wait here for Sin... We can only imagine how they must have felt. Anyway when Sin is defeated here, a Calm spreads over Spira and we have peace once again. That is why these plains are known as the Calm Lands. You see that ravine over there? That is called Sin's scratch. Legend has it that Sin, cornered by a High Summoner, ripped the earth open with the last of its strength. The High Summoner and Sin fell into the ravine, and pounced on one another at the bottom. With the Summoner deathly injured he called the Final Aeon defeating Sin, and bringing the Calm to Spira."
"Whoa! What a story!" Willow said surprised.
"I must be going now...but My Lady Summoner, I wish you luck." Maechen said and walked on.
Catching up with the group Willow pushed Tara aside as a canine fiend jumped at them, followed by a white tiger fiend with long blue and green feather like whiskers. A giant bee flew overhead the dived down at Faith, who jumped back avoiding the poison stinger.
Willow stood in front of Tara as the Skoll came running back for another attack; she raised her sword slashed down cutting the canines’ ear off. With a yelp it backed up, "Tara I want you to dodge to the left and stay behind me." Willow said watching the fiend for movement, when it jumped forward Willow dodged and Tara followed. The fiend jumped at them again and Willow pointed her sword up, the fiend fell on to it and burst into souls, and disappeared. As this happened Xander was throwing his ball at the Nebiros, as Anya cast Blizzaga spells on it and the Coeurl. Faith and Buffy were taking turns hitting the Coeurl, Faith would either stab or slash it and jump back, as Buffy would run forward and hit it with her spiked glove. Xander knocked the bee out of the air where Giles split it in half, Anya cast one last Blizzaga spell as Buffy and Faith hit the Coeurl at the same time. With the fiends killed and no one injured the group headed over to the small item/weapon shop to rest.