Return to Sodas and Snack Machines Chapter Fifteen

Sodas and Snack Machines

Author: Onyxsundrops
Rating: PG-13 and up.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters, other characters are my own.

The brightness of the morning brought smiles to the faces of everyone within the small group located on the hotel lawn. Twenty people had been split into groups of doubles, two people per group. Scattered around the back section of the lawn, away from the many picnics and other seminars, the miniature assembly was silent, apart from the instructor.

" laughing," the man chided a chuckling seminar attendee. "Now, everyone should have their eyes closed." He looked around, making sure that he saw closed lids.

"Your flower or plant, whichever you have, is your base. Allow your mind to focus on it as you breathe in and out," he breathed deeply then slowed his breath, signaling for the others to follow. "Connect your mind with your surroundings, starting with your base."

A small, late bloom stem lay within the circle. The edges where tiny corners of maturing leaves grew, and the bud where petals would soon grow was smooth against the blades of grass on which it lay. Willow had frowned upon seeing her and Tara's "flower," and her brows had furrowed more when she observed the other flowers and plants that lay within their human circles. Tara, on the other hand, had smiled. A secret, almost pleasing smile that Willow couldn't read, and so the redhead had merely shook it off.

Legs folded with their arms outstretched, palms touching, the red and gold couple breathed evenly. Tara's mind visually pictured the stem while Willow's fingertips whispered ever so lightly against her own. She hadn't been upset or confused when the green stem was placed between her and Willow; rather, she had been thrilled and slightly relieved. Not yet blossoming, the stem meant that she and Willow would have the chance to grow together. They would sprout leaves and curl into velvet petals, and the thought made the blonde smile once more.

Tara focused back onto the stem and began to envision the process by which she and the young woman across from her would blossom.

Willow chanced a glance toward her girlfriend, allowing a single eye to peek at Tara's smiling face. Curling her own lips into a smile, the reason being unknown, the redhead shut her eyelid. Meditation had never really been her idea of fun, but she, strangely, found the experience enjoyable. Of course, there was a reason for Willow's happiness. A smooth palm fluttered against her skin, damp against the cool outside air.

"Once you've focused onto your base, go a step further," the speaker circled the different groups, observing their progress. "Picture a door, a window, anything you would think of as a gateway. Are you there?" He asked.

Some attendees nodded and others remained silent out of fear of losing their train of thought. "Open the gateway and step through it."

Inner Willow found herself staring up at the closed door with an "uh" expression. She tried several times to make herself open the door, but each time the handle seemed to disappear.

"If you've found that you're unable to open the door, it means that there is something you're not ready to confront... but you must."

Willow's face visibly creased with confusion and the expression didn't go unnoticed by Tara who had opened an eye after hearing her friend audibly sigh. The blonde had found her door, but waited on the threshold, unsure if she should go on yet.

But you must, the man's words echoed in Willow's psyche. Something else filtered into the redhead's mind.

"Willow?" Tara whispered. The word was too low for any other ear to pick up. She knew that there was the possibility of breaking her girlfriend's thought, but the deep frown on Willow's features worried her.

"Break through it," said the instructor. His unyielding words seemed to be directed toward Willow and they forced the redhead to try the doorknob again.

What, if anything, could she be holding back? Willow was happy. She had finally found someone she could relate to, someone who trusted her, and who she trusted with her life. There was nothing to confront.

"It's there, Willow," Tara said, pressing her hands firmer into Willow's. She felt the redhead press back as if Willow was pushing against something invisible to the blonde.

The transparent doorknob thickened slightly, but was still ungraspable. Inner Willow grew frustrated and tried countless times to grab the handle. She wasn't holding anything back, so why wouldn't the door open? Evening her breathing, the redhead's psyche stepped backward and mentally focused onto her base. The thorn-less stem beckoned Willow.

As the outside voice disappeared into the sound of chirping birds and distant branches creaking within the faint wind, Willow's inner body held the stem within her hands. The lightness against the heaviness of her soul seemed to balance. She felt Tara's palms against hers. The blonde was with her, she would always be with her.

But that wasn't true, was it? Soon the seminar would be over and they would go their separate ways. And she would be alone once again. The moments they had shared floated before Willow's psyche while the young redhead swallowed hard. Inner Willow ran a hand through the drifting screen of memories as if capturing every particle of her and Tara's time together.

Yes, it would be over soon and Tara would leave, and she would leave, but their memories would remain. She didn't want to face what would happen, what was unstoppable. And yet, knowing that she couldn't prevent the future, Willow accepted it. She would always have the deep plains of her mind where dreams and reality met, and she and Tara were together.

The doorknob became solid while the heart in Willow's physical body pounded within her chest as her inner self pushed through the door.

Tara smiled when the lines of worry dissolved from her girlfriend's face and she closed her eye, joining her inner body at the threshold. Their joined hands slowly parted at the fingers, allowing the digits to slide between openings and clasp tightly. Tara's fingertips rested against Willow's knuckles and the other girl's fingers mimicked the placement.

Both doors were open, seemingly converging until a single gateway existed. Harmonized, the inner couple floated into the stream of past moments.

Soon the stem would flourish.

Continue to Sodas and Snack Machines Chapter Seventeen

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