Author: Lauren J
Willow sat in the pilot's chair of the Fantastic Kat watching the stars blur past the blast shield. She was just relieved to be out of the Jedi tunic and back in a set of her own clothes. She thought the Jedi robes were kind of itchy. After deciding to move along with "The Plan," as she had taken to calling it, she couldn't help but be worried: Willow, you're probably not going to come out of this alive, and Buffy isn't even going to be there... she's dead. She has to be. If she's been there all this time... I couldn't ever forgive myself. But her worries did not go unheard.
"Hey." Tara's warm voice floated to her ears, accompanied by a soft squeeze on the shoulder. "H-how are you?"
"Tara!" Willow exclaimed, whipping her head around to gaze at the blonde. "Hi. I didn't know you were in here! Not that you shouldn't be in here. You can be anywhere you want; I was just surprised when I heard you. I was just here, piloting, because that's generally what I do." Willow looked at Tara helplessly. "You should stop me when I do that."
"I like when you do that." Tara smiled. "But... and be honest now. Are you ok?"
"Of course. I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be fine?" Willow retreated, staring back out the blast shields.
"Well... you just seem... worried."
"Worried? I'm not worried. It's not like I'm scared or anything." Willow defended herself. "Pfft, me scared." Willow snorted.
"I didn't say that." Tara had to suppress a giggle. It wasn't difficult to read Willow's emotions, she didn't even need the Force to know that Willow was embarrassed that she was afraid of near certain death. "But you know..." Tara paused. "It's ok if you are. Scared, that is." She amended.
"I'm not." Willow protested weakly. Tara only smiled. "What?" Willow demanded. "Don't smile at me! I'm a scoundrel here! I've got a bounty on my head and everything! They throw people in detention blocks for what I've done!" Willow whined.
"Well, you don't seem so bad." Tara grinned shyly.
"Oh." Willow trailed off. They stood in silence for what seemed like an eternity. "So... you wanna sit down?" Willow motioned towards the co-pilot's chair to her right. Willow swung her legs up onto the control panel, as she slouched in her chair making herself as comfortable and lazy looking as possible. Tara sat gracefully tucking her robes underneath her neatly. They sat silently for another eternity."
"So!" They both said at once.
"You first." Tara blushed.
"Well, I just wanted to thank you... y'know... for fixin' me up and stuff." Willow trailed off."
"I was happy to." Tara's hair slid down to cover her face before she looked into Willow's eyes. "You don't have to do that, you know."
"Do what?" Willow scoffed.
"Pretend." Tara said simply. "You don't have to do that with me. It's ok to be scared, and to be shy, and to want to say things but not be able to put them to words."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Willow protested.
Tara smiled. "You don't have to hide from me." Tara repeated. "I-" love you? Tara you dunce! "I'm around you know? If you ever want to talk about it?" Tara stood and moved closer to Willow, tucking a loose strand of her red hair behind her ear. "Your hair is very soft." Tara observed quietly before turning to leave the cock pit. Willow watched Tara retreat through the cock pit door, and remained silent until the door closed and she was sure that Tara was gone. She put her head in her hands and did some more thinking.
Faith watched in horror as Jaina's rancor shredded her storm trooper, it seemed that Jaina had played holo-chess before. MANY times before.
"Victory!" Jaina exclaimed, high-fiveing her twin.
"I've been hustled!" Faith roared in mock irritation. "Five wins in a row? That's unreal!" She leaned back crossing her arms, grinning.
"Well I've had- Tara!" Jaina said, standing quickly and looking at her fellow Jedi.
"You've had Tara? I thought that you just had this big crush on her?" Jacen slapped his forehead as Faith continued on oblivious to Tara's presence.
"Don't worry Faith, she's all yours." Tara chuckled.
"HOLY CRAP!" Faith shouted falling out of her chair in surprise. "TARE!! Don't DO that. Jeez, you could kill a person like that you know."
"What's wrong, Tara?" Jacen asked levelly.
"Nothing," Tara smiled weakly. Jacen and Jaina stared at her, waiting for her to snap under the pressure of what they liked to call the "puppy eyes." "OK! Jeez!" Tara snapped like a twig. "Willow is feeling apprehensive about 'The Plan.' I tried to help her, and it... she wasn't very cooperative." Tara sighed.
"And how is everything else going with Willow?" Jaina asked slyly.
"Oh, and did you know Jaina liked girls?" Jacen interrupted. "Because I sure didn't 'till this afternoon. And it was a shocker."
"I don't know what you mean by 'everything else,' and people hide things that they are afraid of deep, deep inside themselves." She directed the first statement at Jaina and the second at Jacen. "If it makes you feel better Jacen, I didn't know until this afternoon either." She smirked.
"You're kidding right?" Faith guffawed. "A, look at her fingernails. B, boots? That's definitely a sign. And C, have you seen the way that she walks? She has a very butch swagger- OUCH!" She winced as Jaina smacked her on the head.
Tara covered her mouth with her hand as she stifled a giggle. "Well, I was going to meditate and turn in for the night, which cabin should I stay in?" Asked Faith.
"First on the left," Faith pointed.
"Isn't that Willow's cabin?" Tara asked, sensing the redhead's presence all over the room.
"Yeah," Faith said. "You and Wills get that one, Jaina an' me in the other one, and Jacen will be out here on the couch." Faith smiled. "We only got two cabins Tara." She winked at her.
"Oh my," Tara mumbled.
Two young girls walked down the street, arm in arm giggling at a secret joke that they shared. It was obvious that they were barely getting by in life. The redhead was smudged with dark grease, labeling her as a grease monkey at a local chop shop. The blonde was wearing a long coat that covered her near nakedness, she was an exotic dancer.
"So how was work?" Blonde asked Red.
"Y'know. Same old, same old." Red shrugged. Pull the parts out, buff off the serial numbers, estimate the value, hand 'em to Zeebo and turn the other way." She grinned. "And you?" She asked this a little more quietly. She hated the work that her friend was doing, it was dangerous, and demeaning in her opinion. She wished that her salary was enough to keep them afloat, but it just wasn't.
"It was... work." Blonde trailed off quietly. "One of the... patrons... got too close to the stage today."
"What!?" Red asked alarmed, turning to stare Blonde in the eyes.
"It's ok." The blonde soothed her friend. "Actually I broke his arm. Then Joey took care of him."
"And Joey's the bouncer, right?"
The street was lined with garbage, and the muted grey of the city lent a depressing backdrop to the lives of its inhabitants. The allies that the girls reeked of oil, grease, blood, urine, and many other alien excretions that the two human girls wouldn't know much about. A crush of people walked on either side of them, everyone hurried to somewhere or another, usually a dead end job, or a crummy apartment to sleep until they could return back to work. Corellia was not the cluster that it once was. Neon signs advertised liquor, gambling, and dancing girls, but the two young women blocked that out of their minds.
"I was thinking we could get a plant." Blonde mused.
"A plant?" Red asked.
"Yeah, to liven up the room?"
"We don't have any windows."
"Yeah... that would be an issue..."
That was when they burst from the alley. The first man wrapped his arm around Blonde's waist and shoved a foul smelling rag over her mouth. The second grabbed Red by the hair and sent her flying face first into the wall. The rag was soaked in chloroform and Blonde lost consciousness after putting up a valiant fight with the chemical.
"Just the blonde." Man #1 barked. "That one won't get us anything."
"Right." Man #2 gave Red a kick in the ribs for good measure. Red reached in the side of her jumpsuit and grabbed a hydro spanner, but Man #2 knocked it out of her hand. "Let's go." He grabbed Blonde's legs and the two of them jumped into a nearby hover truck.
"STOP!" Red screamed through the blood pouring out of her face, but no one helped her. It was another mugging, it wasn't all that uncommon. Call the patrol guard, but don't get involved.
"BUFFY!" Willow screamed raggedly, lurching awake. Her breathe came in short gasps, she was drenched in sweat that beaded on her exposed skin. She laid her head down on the controls of her precious ship. She hadn't had that dream in over two years, and she wasn't glad to be having it again. "Buffy," she repeated slowly. "Buffy I'm sorry." She sobbed. "I couldn't save you..." And what if I can't save Tara? Willow slowed her breathing, and wiped the sweat and tears from her face.
Tara looked around the small cabin, there were no bunks, but there were two sleeping mats on the floor, two lockers and a chest. The only thing that adorned the grey walls was a single picture. It was a young Willow and another girl; they were maybe sixteen at the oldest. Willow was smiling and looking at the blonde girl with complete and total devotion as she laughed so hard tears were forming in her eyes.
"Buffy." Tara said to herself instinctively, reaching up to touch the picture, thinking the better of it she withdrew her hand. She couldn't bring herself to touch... Willow's dead friend? Dead lover? Is she even dead? She could be alive somewhere... Tara shook her head. "Calm down." She told herself. She walked to the mat that wasn't being used and sat cross legged upon it. She closed her eyes and began her meditations. But the only thing that came to her mind was Willow's red hair and green eyes.
After losing another two games of holo-chess to Jaina, Faith decided to call it quits. "Hey." She said. "I know when I'm beat. I'm going to go and check on Will, ok? You two holler if you need anything." She got up, stretched her arms wide and strode to the door. Jaina's eyes glued to her backside. As soon as she cleared the door, Jacen bent over as if to pick something up.
"Drop something?" Jaina inquired.
"No, but you did." Jacen grinned, extending his empty hand. "Here's your jaw back." He waggled his eyebrows.
"Jacen." Jaina warned.
"Alright, alright, I can't help it you know." He pouted. "I am our father's son, after all." He said, as if that explained everything, which it sort of did.
Willow had calmed down by the time Faith entered. "Hey Red." Faith greeted jovially. "Are you alright?" She asked, quickly picking up on the redheads mood.
"Yeah." Willow sighed sadly. "I'm going to be all right."
"Thinking about Buffy?" Faith asked sympathetically.
"I haven't... I haven't had this KIND of thoughts about Buffy in two years." Willow explained to Faith. "I think about her all the time, but not like this. I... it was my fault." Willow choked. "I could have done something. I should have done something. We should have walked on the other side of the street, we should have taken a hover cab that day, like we did everyday. She wanted to take a walk, I knew that was a bad idea. Why didn't I put my foot down Faith? Why? Why couldn't I save her? Even after I found her, no matter what I tried it didn't work."
"It's not your fault, Red." Faith ground out. "It's NOT. It's Nuurba's fault, it's those thugs fault, but it's NOT YOURS. You did what you could."
"It wasn't enough!" Willow countered.
"Buffy was important to me too!" Faith finally snapped out. "I wasn't there when they snatched her. No, I was out with some girl. It wasn't your fault, and it wasn't my fault. We did what we could. We tracked her down to Nar Shaddaa. We tried to make the money, but it wasn't enough, and we messed up pretty bad Red. But it wasn't our fault."
"If I had held onto the money, if I hadn't taken what we had and gambled it away maybe we could have gotten her back." Willow looked at her sadly.
"You did it twice," Faith chuckled. "Right around the same time as the dancing girl I recall..."
"Yeah, when we were just about to make enough to get a nice ship." Willow smiled. "We got one anyway." She motioned to the Kat as Faith rolled her eyes.
"Go rest." Faith told Willow.
"Yeah ok," Willow got up to leave. "Faith?"
"Do you think... do you think she's still alive?"
Willow walked out the door and hung an immediate left, heading straight to her cabin. "If she is, we'll find her." Faith said to no one in particular.
Willow walked into her room and saw Tara meditating on the mat next to her own. Willow tried to walk in quietly, so as not to disturb her Jedi healer/room mate.
"Willow." Tara said, sitting perfectly still and not opening her eyes.
"Hey." Willow said weakly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you. I just, I was just going to turn in for the night... but you can stay up, I can sleep with the light on."
"I was going to go to sleep too." Tara said smiling, and opening her eyes. "How are your ribs?" She asked, trying to keep the conversation off of the flaring emotional pain Willow was trying so desperately to hide. If she wants me to know, she'll tell me. Tara rationalized with herself.
Willow stared into Tara's eyes. "I feel fine. Better, than before even."
"I'm glad." Tara blushed, looking down at the clasped hands in her lap. Willow looked up at the picture of her and Buffy on the wall. "You miss her." Tara stated.
"Yeah." Willow sighed. "Buffy was... she was everything to me."
Tara's eyes dropped to the floor. "S-she must h-have been v-very special." She mumbled.
"She was." Willow grinned, oblivious to her companions torment. "She was my family. My best friend, and sister all at the same time. Not biologically of course." She babbled looking at the picture. "I mean, look at her with the blonde, me with the red, unless we were half sisters, then I suppose that would be genetically possible but-"
"Sisters?" Tara interrupted. "I thought-"
"Yeah." Willow blurted. "I mean, you didn't think that- OH. No." Willow ducked her head shyly. "We were never lovers, if that's what you meant."
"I'm sorry, it's none of my business." Tara backpedaled.
"We met when I was thirteen." Willow continued. "We were both lost, parentless, I was pretty good at fixing things, and Buffy was beautiful. I saw her in a cantina, fighting with a drunken patron and I jumped in to rescue her." Willow grinned at the memory. "But she took care of him all by herself. After that we were inseparable. We even got a place." Willow beamed proudly. "Then... They took her." She sat down slowly on her own mat still looking at the picture.
"Thank you." Tara said, gazing at Willow's profile.
"For sharing that with me... Really. Thank you." Tara grasped Willow's hands. "I know that was hard for you."
"You have no idea." Willow feigned a chuckle. She paused and looked at Tara, tears welling in her eyes. "After she was... after they took her, Faith showed up. We looked everywhere for her. Faith was so... wild, she knew Buffy from way back apparently. We tracked Buffy as far as Nar Shaddaa, but I couldn't get enough money to buy her back from that fat sack of slime Nuurba. Faith and I ran... and we just ended up together... out of convenience more than anything." Willow shrugged. "I tried again, one more time. I took the little money that Faith and I had, and tried to turn it into the fifty thousand credits I needed to pay off Nuurba, then I thought I could get a loan or something and free Buffy... I didn't know where she was. If she was hurt, or if she was even still alive..." Willow choked off.
"It's ok sweetie." Tara pulled Willow into her arms, and the redhead shook violently as she cried. "It's ok." Tara repeated stroking Willow's hair.
"I lost her, Tara!" Willow sobbed. "I lost her."
Tara just held Willow and rocked her back and forth.
Faith rubbed her bleary eyes as she staggered into the room that she was sharing with Jaina. Jacen had fallen asleep on the couch in the main room, and she had been careful not to wake him. Jaina was sleeping gently on one of the two sleeping mats in the cabin, and Faith lowered herself beside her gently.
"Hey." Faith whispered, tucking a strand of Jaina's hair behind her ear.
"Hmmm... Faith?" Jaina murmured rolling over to face her.
"Yeah it's me." Faith confirmed, pulling the girl to her body, and settling into the mat beside her. "Sorry I was in the cockpit so long, I had some thinking to do." She whispered kissing Jaina's hair.
"And what did you think about?" Jaina asked, nuzzling into Faith's shoulder.
"A lot of things." Faith whispered back cryptically. "But I'll tell you tomorrow. Go to sleep." Faith closed her eyes, and let sleep take her.
Willow had finally exhausted herself and fallen asleep in Tara's arms. "Oh, Willow." Tara whispered, laying her down gently. She rose silently to turn out the light, and returned to Willow's side. She laid down beside her, and held the other woman close to her body. "Oh, Willow." She repeatedly softly.