Willow was stood in her and Tara's room, looking between a pair of tops. She had a look of concentration on her face as she tried to decide which to wear. She was distracted from this choice by a bird outside, the same bird which had plagued her during the early hours of the morning. Looking outside she saw that the sky was clear and that a night of snowfall had left the area covered in a blanket of white. This gave everything a bright, optimistic appearance. Today, Willow decided, is going to be a good day.
"Weren't you choosing between those tops when I left," Tara asked. She was standing in the doorway, with one hand on the door frame and the other on her hip, an amused expression on her face.
"Yeah, well I want to make sure I've got the right top. You know, adorn we now our gay apparel."
"I think that means decorations. Besides, any apparel that's adorning you counts as being gay apparel."
Willow looked at the tops a moment then with a groan of frustration she said, "Okay then, you decide, which should I wear?"
Willow couldn't believe how happy she was feeling at the moment. She was walking to the shops, hand in hand with Tara. They were both wrapped up warm in thick coats and boots. The snow crunched under foot as they walked over it. The street was alive with activity, people getting their Christmas shopping done. Everyone was talking and laughing and seemed to be as happy as Willow was feeling. That is everyone except for one girl. Willow almost hadn't spotted her. She was sitting quietly on a wall, a look of loneliness and sadness on her face. She seemed to notice Willow watching her and she looked round in surprise.
"Let go of it, it's mine."
"No, it's mine."
"Mine, mine, mine!"
Willow was broken from her thoughts by the sound of an argument further down the street. Three young men were fighting over what looked to be a laser. They each had one hand on the laser and were trying to pull it to them, while they slapped at the others with their free hand. None of them seemed to be having any luck, and they just spun round, with no end to argument seeming likely. Willow turned away from them with a shake of her head and looked back where the girl had been, but she'd gone.
"Is something wrong?" Tara asked she had always been good at reading Willow's mood, their years of marriage had further improved that.
"There was a girl who looked so sad, but she's gone now."
"Maybe her mother came for her."
Willow nodded. "You're probably right."
"We should look in here," Tara said indicating a small decoration shop. Inside the shop was much larger than the exterior had made it appear. Scattered round the interior were various trees and boxes of decorations. Groups of people were wondering around inspecting them, while making various noises of appreciation. The further they walked into the shop the larger it seemed to get. One thing that struck Willow as being particularly odd was there didn't seem to be anywhere to pay, but she soon shrugged that off as being unimportant.
"Are you sure about getting a fake tree?" Willow asked.
"It just doesn't seem right to cut a tree down when we're only going to have it up for a month."
"I suppose you're right." Willow noticed one tree with a string of pretty silver balls going round it. For some reason she felt drawn to them. As she got closer she saw that a couple of the balls had been smashed. She was going to turn away when something reflected in one of the balls caught her eye. Looking closer she saw it was one of the men who'd been arguing over the laser, Warren she thought his name was. While before he had been wearing jeans and a t shirt, he was now wearing a Santa outfit. Looking into Willow's eyes he reached into the suit and pulled out a long barrelled revolver. Willow grabbed Tara's arm and started to pull her out of the way, then there was a bang and everything went black.
Willow was driving along a free way, with Tara sleeping in the seat next to her. The snow was falling heavily and even with the wipers going she was having trouble seeing. She leaned forward and put the radio on, just in time to catch the end of the song
Heedless of the wind and weather
As the song died away the announcer came on saying, "Remember folks there's just seven more shopping days till Christmas and there is a monster in the cellar."
"What?" Willow said. "What did you just say."
"I think he said something about a monster discount at some shop."
"Oh, I think I must be getting tired." Willow emphasised this by yawning.
Leaning over Tara trailed one hand along Willow's arm. "I can think of something that will help keep you awake."
"What..." Willow noticed the expression on Tara's face and realised what she meant. All she could think to say was, "While I'm driving?"
"Well this is all just a dream, so we might as well enjoy ourselves."
Willow opened her eyes to find herself lying on a couch. It was a comfortable couch with a soft filling. her head was resting on a large cushion and there was a blanket pulled up round her. Willow pulled the blanket up closer, enjoying the feeling of warmth.
Seeing she was awake Tara gave her world famous lop-sided smile and asked, "How are you feeling?"
Willow sat up, still keeping the blanket around her. "Better. A lot better. So what are you doing?"
Tara gestured to the decorations she had sorted out. "I'm decking the halls with boughs of holly."
"Well I suppose it is the season to be jolly." Looking round Willow said, "I hope Buffy and Dawn appreciate all our work."
Tara looked confused. "Who?"
"Uh. I mean Angela and Meghan. I don't know why I said Dawn and Buffy, as I don't know anyone with those names. I guess it was the cold talking."
"It must have been." Tara turned back to the decoration she had been holding. "do you recognise these?"
"No. I guess they must be new. I see two of the balls have broken already."
"It's just they look familiar." Tara shook her head. "Oh well."
Glancing out the window Willow noticed a young girl sitting on the swing. "Meghan's looking really sad."
"I guess she's missing her parents."
"Oh yeah." Willow mentally kicked herself. Meghan's parents had been killed by a burglar this time last year, which was why she was now living with her aunt Angela.
Getting up Willow started walking toward the door. As she did so Meghan started to grow paler, and paler. she also seemed to be choking on something. Willow suddenly felt cold and she was almost overcome by a feeling of dread. Reaching the door Willow raised her hand to the glass. She wanted to go out to Meghan, but something stopped her. Meghan turned to one side and coughed up a stream of blood.
Behind her, Willow heard sleigh bells and someone saying, "Ho ho ho!" Spinning round she saw Tara lying on the floor, a red stain spreading above her chest.
Willow felt herself falling backwards into an abyss.
"Wow, that was fun," Willow said.
Tara put on the indicator and pulled out to pass another car before saying, "You can say that again." She turned and grinned at Willow.
"Wow, that..." Willow stopped and looked around as if only just noticing something. "Hey, how long have you been driving?"
"A couple of hours now. We're almost there."
Willow turned to see what Tara had been looking at and saw it was a sign saying, "Sunnydale, fifty miles"
Turning away Willow went back to trying to work out how she'd suddenly switched places with Tara, and how so much time had gone. "Did I fall asleep?" Willow asked.
"I think we're both asleep."
They both fell silent and for a while the only sound was the wipers squeaking against the window.
Willow woke up with a rush of excitement. They were going to decorate the house today. Though that wasn't the best bit. A couple of weeks ago she had seen a decorations she thought that Tara would like and bought it for her. She just hoped Tara didn't think it was silly. Getting out of bed she caught sight of herself in the mirror and was surprised at how young and small she looked. Then she wondered why she was surprised, after all she was only ten.
Willow got dressed quickly then rushed out, almost running into Tara.
"Hey Willow, looking forward to getting the decorations up."
Willow nodded, she was always a little tongue tied when around Tara.
"We better get Meghan. You know how hard she can be to wake up."
They went into Meghan's room and as Tara had predicted she was still asleep. She was a pretty young girl but far too pale. She whimpered slightly in her sleep, as if she was having a bad dream.
Willow and Tara went to opposite sides of her bed and bending over slightly they shouted, "Meghan Kristin Fletcher wake up, Right now!"
Meghan woke up with a start. "Oh, morning Willow, Tara."
"Girls, your breakfast is almost ready," A voice called from downstairs.
"Coming mom," Tara called back.
"Ooh, pancakes should go in bellies," Willow said. Willow and Tara rushed downstairs while Meghan got dressed.
"Well I see you two are up bright and early," Mrs Maclay said, with a laugh in her voice.
"Well we're eager to get started," Tara said.
"Willow, will your parents be back before Christmas?"
"No the conference doesn't finish till next year. It's okay, though, because I like it here."
"And we like having you. What about Meghan's aunt?"
"She should be back by the end of the week."
"Well that's a shame as..." The conversation seemed to fade away as Willow became aware of something in the cellar. Something malevolent. She took a step away from the door, moving closer to Tara.
She was snapped out of it as Mrs Maclay said, "Well you two have breakfast while I check on Meghan."
While they were eating Tara said, "Have you ever had a dream where it was so real that you still thought it was real after you woke up?"
"Yeah, a few times. Why?"
"I had one last night."
"Well we were adults in it. We were renting a cabin with a couple of other women. I think they might have been sisters. Then we were suddenly somewhere else, but it all got confusing. The thing is I can't shake the feeling that that was real and this is the dream."
Willow reached over and pinched Tara.
"See, this isn't a dream."
Tara made a hmmph sound, but she brightened and said, "Well I suppose that was better than punching me in the nose."
Willow felt confused by that comment. "Why would I do that?"
"I don't know."
All through the conversation Willow had been trying to get up the courage to tell Tara about the decoration. Realising she wasn't going to get much more time she said, "Tara, a couple of weeks..."
At that moment Mrs Maclay came down with Meghan. "Willow there's a couple of bags down in the cellar that we need, could you be a sweetie and fetch them."
Willow went to the door and hesitated. She didn't want to go down there, but the only alternative was to say she didn't want to do it because she thought there was a monster down there. Telling herself to stop being silly she grabbed the handle.
"Willow stop, it's..." Meghan started.
It was too late, Willow had already opened the door.
There was a deep roaring sound, then a monster wearing a red coat came rushing up the stairs.
Willow kept an eye out for any signs. She didn't want to miss the turning because of the bad weather. So she easily spotted the sign saying, 'Sunnydale, one hundred miles'
"Hey, are we going the wrong way?"
"It's just before we were fifty miles from Sunnydale but now it says one hundred."
"Maybe we misread the last sign, it could have said one hundred and fifty."
"I suppose so, I mean I can barely see in this snow." Then another idea occurred to Willow. "Or maybe we're not going to Sunnydale."
"Then where are we going?"
Willow lay in bed watching Tara. She watched the way the growing light shone off her hair, watched the way her chest moved as she breathed. She had done this thousands of times and would never grow tired of it. As Tara began to stir, Willow kissed her gently on the cheek. "Morning."
"Morning to you too."
"Tara can I ask you something."
Tara rolled over so she was looking into Willow's eyes. "Anything."
"Why did you come back?"
"Oh Willow, how could I stay away?"
Tara started to kiss Willow. A light kiss at first, but it grew in intensity. They began to move their hands across each others bodies till...
Their was a loud knock at the door. They quickly pulled apart before the door opened and a young girl came in.
"Mommy, Mama. Why are you in bed? Come on we should get started." With that she danced out of the room.
"I guess someone's excited," Tara said with a grin.
"I was the same way, so I guess that she got it from me."
"I mean you must have told me." Tara frowned a moment, but it cleared and she said, "Come on, we don't want to keep the princess waiting." Tara pulled her dressing gown on as she said, "I'm amazed that Meghan's up. I mean normally she's really hard to wake up."
"Yeah she can be a bear in the..." Willow stopped, frowning.
"I don't know, something just doesn't seem right. I keep getting the feeling that till a short while ago we were..."
"Somewhere else," Tara finished, "Maybe more than one place,"
"But if that's true how did we get here?"
"I don't know. There seems to be a common thread. I mean the decorating and Santa and..."
They both turned to the door as Meghan came in again, "Come on you two. Follow me in merry measure."
"Meghan, what is going..." That was as far as Willow got.
"Two hundred miles to Sunnydale," Tara said, reading a sign at the roadside. "I guess we're definitely not going there."
"Maybe this is just me but isn't it normal to know where you're driving before you set off."
"That does seem logical. I don't think we came out here just to make love."
"Yeah. I mean it was great but driving a few hundred miles to do it does seem excessive."
"Especially when we can do it at home." Tara frowned, "Where is home?"
"I don't know. Is it in Sunnydale?" Willow suddenly looked around, a panicked expression on her face. "Where's Meghan? We didn't leave her behind did we?"
"I think she's lost." Tara's brow furrowed as she considered this. "I think maybe we're supposed to find her."
Willow was filled with a feeling of wrongness and she didn't know why. She was here at the school with Tara to pick up their daughter, just like they did every day. Yet she couldn't shake the feeling that she didn't belong here. That this was all a sham.
"Willow," Tara said in a worried voice. Willow turned, it was obvious from Tara's voice, that she felt the same way she did.
"Tara, what's going on?"
"I don't know." Tara shook her head, "I just know we don't belong here."
"I remember a cabin and sisters and decorating."
Tara nodded. Before she could say anything a young girl approached them saying, "Mom, Momma, fast away the old year passes."
"There's that song again," Willow whispered.
"Meghan, what's going on?"
"What do you mean? There's nothing going..." She stopped and looked at them both. "I didn't do it."
Meghan sighed. "Okay, I'll show you."
Buffy listened a moment from the bottom of the loft, making sure she wouldn't be walking in on anything private. Not hearing anything she went up saying, "Guys? is everything okay up here?" She didn't get any response. She couldn't see any sign of Willow and Tara. There were several boxes piled around, a couple of which had been opened. On the floor there was a string of silver balls.
Buffy was about to go downstairs when she saw movement in one of the balls. She went to pick them up but couldn't see anything. "You're seeing things, Summers."
After going back downstairs again Buffy asked Dawn, "Where are Willow and Tara?"
"I told you, up in the loft."
"I just went and they're not there."
"Well maybe they went out and we didn't notice them leaving."
"They would have told us, wouldn't they?"
"Well they didn't disappear into thin air."
"No I suppose not."
Willow and Tara were standing in the loft of a cabin. They immediately recognised it as the one they'd rented with Buffy and Dawn, though it was more cluttered than they remembered. Meghan was knelt on the floor a short distance away, going through a box. They could hear music coming from downstairs, it was Deck the Halls. Meghan looked up at them and said, "It was a year ago that it happened. I was staying at this cabin with my parents, I was just getting the decoration's out. My aunt bought these balls for me."
There was a loud bang from downstairs. A few moments later there was a scream then a couple more bangs. Meghan started going down the stairs, still holding the string of silver balls she'd been looking at.
There was a man wearing a Santa costume downstairs. He was holding a bottle in one hand and a gun in the other. His face was shadowed and had a demonic quality to it. He was staring down at the body of Meghan's mother.
Meghan took a step back, treading on a couple of the balls.
The man looked up and a slow smile formed on his face. "Ho ho ho." He raised his gun and fired.
Then they were back in the attic. "That's how it happened," Meghan said. "I don't know how you were pulled in here with me but I've been alone so long."
"We're so sorry this happened," Tara said.
"It doesn't matter. Now you're here we can be a family." She walked forwards and took their hands, looking up at them hopefully.
Tara knelt down in front of her and said, "Meghan we can't stay here. We don't belong here."
"When we get out we'll do everything we can to help you," Willow said.
"We'll reunite you with your real family," Tara added.
"We swear by the Goddess," Tara said.
"I'm starting to think that this road doesn't go anywhere," Willow said.
"We have to get off it somehow, but there haven't been any turnings."
"That's it," Willow brightened. "Tara I have an idea. It'll either get us out, or kill us."
Tara placed her hand on Willow's, their entwined. "I trust you."
Willow spun the wheel round. The car jumped as it went off the road, then it plunged into the darkness beyond.
"They have disappeared into thin air," Buffy said as she stomped into the kitchen. "They're nowhere to be found."
Dawn rolled her eyes at Buffy's behaviour then asked, "Are you sure they didn't go out?"
"Willow's keys are still here and Tara didn't have one for the cabin."
"Maybe they thought they wouldn't need..." Dawn's words were cut off by a sound from upstairs. They both raced up to the loft, to find Willow and Tara there.
"Where have you been?" Buffy demanded.
Willow looked at Tara and said, "Do you want to get that or shall I?"
"Whoever's going to explain, can they do it downstairs?" Buffy asked.
Willow started to follow them down but stopped at the top of the stairs. She turned to Tara who was looking round the room with a quizzical expression on her face.
"I promise we'll do everything we can to help your daughter," She said. "Where ever she is."
A short while later Willow was using her computer to look at the papers for last year while Tara explained what was going on to Buffy and Dawn. After a while Willow said, "I've got it. A year ago Anthony Carver broke into this cabin and killed Mr and Mrs Fletcher."
"Then he killed their daughter," Tara filled in.
"No," Willow said, still reading the paper. She looked up at Tara and smiled. "She's still alive."
Willow and Tara raced through the halls of the hospital. They earned more than a few annoyed looks from the staff and patients, but were oblivious to this. "How do you know where she is?" Willow asked. Tara had seemed to know exactly where to go, but Willow didn't know how.
"I just know," Tara answered.
"What are we going to do?"
"We'll think of something." She stopped at one of the wards. "This is it."
"Tara, The paper said that Meghan's lung had been punctured, I'm not sure what condition she'll be in."
Tara nodded then knocked on the door.
"Come in," A voice said. They went in to find a quite small room which held a single bed, some chairs and some equipment. Meghan was lying on the bed and there was a woman, about their age, sitting next to the bed, her hand on Meghan's forehead. The woman looked up, and gave them a confused look. Starting to rise she said, "Hello, are you lost?"
"You must be Angela," Tara said, moving further into the room.
This just seemed to make the woman even more confused. "Have we met?"
"We know Meghan," Tara said. Looking at Meghan she had an idea. Turning to Willow she said, "Are you thinking what I am?"
Willow nodded and walked to the other side of the bed. Leaning over they both shouted, "Meghan Kristin Fletcher, wake up right now!"
"Listen, I don't know what you think you're..." Angela started to protest.
"The monitors," Willow said, pointing at the brain monitor. It was showing a sharp increase in her brain activity.
"You mean that worked?" Angela said, disbelief evident in her voice.
"She's still not awake," Tara said, sounding disappointed, she wasn't sure what else to try.
Willow turned to Angela and suggested, "Maybe we all have to do it."
Angela looked dubious, but she nodded her consent. After a moment they all shouted, "Meghan Kristin Fletcher, wake up right now!"
Meghan's brain activity continued to rise. then her eyes began to move as her sleep became lighter. Finally they opened and she looked round the room.
"You're awake," Angela said.
"Aunt Angela," Meghan said. Then noticing the two other women she went on, "Tara, Willow, you came."
"We promised we would," Tara said.
"Would someone like to explain what's going on?" Angela seemed to be caught between feeling delighted that Meghan had woken up and annoyance at not knowing what was happening.
Tara turned to Willow and said, "I answered last time."
As they were leaving Tara said, "I can't believe she believed us."
"I don't think she did," Willow said. "I think since we'd helped wake her niece up she thought it'd be rude to call us insane."
Tara laughed. "I suppose that could be it."
"What did you sense?"
"When we were back in the cabin, you seemed to sense something, then you said we would help your daughter."
"I think it was some sort of spirit."
"Meghan's parents," Willow guessed.
"They pulled us into her coma. So we'd help her?"
"I think so."
When they got back to the cabin they were met by a worried looking Buffy and Dawn.
"Are you both okay?" Buffy asked.
"Did you help that girl?" Dawn asked before they could answer.
"Yes and yes," Tara answered smiling.
"We found her and woke her up from her coma," Willow added.
Buffy stepped forward and took their hands. "I'm sorry about this."
"Didn't you book a different cabin?" Willow asked.
"Yeah, you know there'd been a double booking," Buffy answered, "Which is why we had to come to this one."
"At the time it didn't seem strange," Willow said. "Now though it seems like..."
"Destiny," Tara finished.
One Year Later
"It's been an adjustment," Angela said, sipping at a glass of mulled wine. Willow and Tara had been banned from having anything to do with decorating in order to avoid a repeat of "last years incident" So Tara has decided to spend the afternoon making pies. Willow and Angela had stayed in the kitchen to keep her company. "I mean I went from having no responsibilities to having a young girl to look after. It's... well at times it's been hard for both of us."
"We understand," Willow said. "A few years ago when Buffy was... sick we had to look after Dawn. There were times that wasn't easy."
"I don't know why, but I get the feeling you'd make good parents."
Tara turned away from the oven saying, "Well those should take..." She was interrupted by a crash from the living room. They all hurried through to find Buffy standing in front of a toppled Christmas tree with an ornament in her hand and a dumbstruck expression on her face. Dawn and Angela had collapsed to the floor with laughter.
Seeing the others Buffy instantly pointed at Dawn saying, "She did it."
While Buffy and Dawn argued about who's fault it was Willow beckoned Tara back into the kitchen. "For the last couple of weeks I've been thinking about what Angela said. About us making good parents."
"How can you have been thinking about what she said when she only just said it?"
"I mean I've been thinking about the thing she said, not the fact she said it. Anyway I think you'd make a good mother and I'm sure I'd be able to muddle along."
Tara smiled, "You know false modesty really doesn't suit you."
Willow grinned, a little sheepish but also a little smug, "Okay, I'd be brilliant. What do you think?"
"Well, You know what they say."
"A merry companion is music on a journey?"
"I was thinking, 'Great minds think alike'. I mean I've been thinking the same thing. I'd like to start a family with you."
Stepping forward Willow hugged Tara saying, "I love you so much." Glancing upwards she went on, "Well would you look at that."
Following Willow's gaze Tara saw some Mistletoe above them. "How did that get there?"
"Well it could have been a Christmas spirit, or merry poltergeists or maybe it was the Grinch who decided to put an end to his Christmas stealing..." Willow's explanation was cut off as Tara's mouth found hers and she was soon occupied by more important things.