Return to Into the Stars Part Nine

Into the Stars

Author: bluemote
Rating: PG to R
Disclaimer: I acknowledge that ME and JW own the characters of Willow and Tara. However, this is very AU, so, yeah, well, any silliness is mine...

Tara hesitated as she neared the door to Willow's quarters, listening carefully to see if the young pilot was alone. Creeping closer, the blonde peered subtly around the open door to confirm her hope that Willow didn't have any company. The chaotic quarters were distracting, but Tara's concentration was solely fixed on the slight, hunched figure of Willow at her rough desk.

Tara's days at the Base so far had been full - a whirl of meetings, council, debate and introductions. Tara had to remember everything she could about her time with the Conglomerate, her work and her escape. The only thing she wanted to do was forget, but it was too late for that now. Every piece of information she could provide would help in the fight, and although Alide and Tobias were attempting to make it easy for her, she knew time was important. Tara's fear during her escape had crashed into exhaustion and confusion, a swirl of information that Tobias and Alide needed to interpret.

The only respite had been the brief trip in the Q-ship with the young redhead currently reading a few feet away. Tara knew there was something special about Willow the second she met her, a knowledge confirmed swiftly by Tobias and Alide. Willow was as mixed up in the fate of the war as Tara was, except she didn't know it yet.

Tara leaned into the doorframe, immediately feeling the magick around Willow crackle in her blood. There was a connection here, that was obvious, but she was unsure what Willow knew about it. Tobias and Alide had sheltered Willow, Tara could understand why considering Willow's past, but that left them with little knowledge of what Willow could do, or even what she knew about her abilities.

'Well, we'll all find out soon enough,' Tara thought heavily as she watched Willow work. The redhead was oblivious to her presence and Tara was glad to be able to watch her for a little while, just to be near her before she had to tell her story and throw them both into a dangerous tumbled future.

Suddenly, Willow pushed back from her desk, stretching away from her reading. Tara felt herself smile despite her surprise as Willow noticed her in the doorway. She felt a warm fizz in her chest from the delight on Willow's inverted face. 'Her eyes, they're so...'

Then the tip and crash of Willow's fall was happening fast and the green eyes were gone and the redhead was tangled on the floor as papers landed fluttering around her.

Tara's stomach lurched at the fall, a deep worry stabbing inside her. Quickly, she reached to help, but was pushed back by Willow's cry.

"I'm... I'm fine, I'm fine! No need to help, um, I'm fine, I mean..." Willow struggled to right herself in the cramped room. "Are you fine? I hope so, you know, I should have listened when people say don't lean in chairs, but you know I never and well..." Willow's voice trailed into an embarrassed whistle as she frantically picked up her papers.

"It's just, I um, didn't see you there, and you know you kinda took me by surprise. I mean, not a bad surprise, you know, a good one, but one that made me surprised and fall over, but I'm quite clumsy - but hey now you know that and..." Willow paused suddenly trying not to cry as she processed the shame of her fall in front of Tara.

Back in the doorway, Tara felt her breath catch as she stood silent and Willow finally finished her panicked speech. Willow's eyes were damp with tears, but Tara felt the great spark behind them and it made her pulse quicken. Those eyes were a forest, a deep, cool wood full of shade and sun and life. Those eyes were trying to tell her a story, trying to pull her in, trying to sing to her.

Without thinking, she moved forward to be nearer Willow.

"It's ok," Tara said gently, "Well, it's ok if you're ok. Are you alright? Your head, when you fell?" Before she could register the movement, her hand was reaching to smooth Willow's hair away from her face.

Willow nodded, stunned as Tara's hand gently took a lock of red hair and pushed it behind her ear, fingers burning softly on her skin for a tiny second. The small touch told Tara all it needed too - that Willow was fine, unhurt by her fall.

Tara smiled back, the worry leaving her eyes as her healer's hands finished their job. "Good," she spoke softly - the single word breathing her relief. "Sorry for startling you Willow, I should have knocked."

Willow regained her breath and smiled back, the sight of Tara smiling and the brief touch of Tara's long fingers focused her thoughts enough to restrain a flurry of needless words.

"That's ok, you know, you can come here anytime. You're always welcome."

The clarity in the reply was clear to Tara, the truth and sincerity of Willow's welcome a first step into a cool forest.

She spoke lightly, "Sorry I didn't get to thank you for the trip back to base the other day. I was so tired, and then things were so hectic when Tobias arrived to collect me..."

Willow nodded in return, happy to have the blonde near her, never mind their abrupt separation a few days before. A bright grin splayed across her features, uncontrollable and shining for Tara.

"Oh, that's fine, I didn't..." Willow halted her denial before she could protest her indifference to the blonde's swift exit. There was no point in lying to herself, and certainly no point in lying to Tara. She continued along more truthful lines, "I understand, I know what Tobias can be like when he has a mission. You should see him when he's hungry and waiting in a lunch line..."

Tara nodded in answer, glad that Willow was making her feel comfortable. Distracted for these few moments the heaviness of her message had lightened, but as she watched the other woman its full weight returned. She should tell Willow now before things became light, before Willow asked her to sit, brought her tea, joked and showed her books and wires and complicated drawings as Tara knew she would.

Tara threw the easy images from her mind and concentrated on her speech. The words were strong, but Tobias had instructed her to emphasise the serious nature of the situation. Tara knew only too well what dark paths they were all preparing to take.

"Willow," she said formally, "Alide and Tobias require your company in the magick rooms. I am to accompany you for they wish to talk with both of us about grave matters. We shall be busy with them for some days, Mala has been notified that you will not be reporting for duty and has deactivated your ship access codes."

Willow stared open-mouthed at the sudden change in atmosphere. Tara's eyes had gone from soft to hard, their blue lightening to near grey as she spoke. As the message digested, the redhead reminded herself that Tara was a hero, a rebel against the Conglomerate, and that she had fought dark things, been in dark places. Willow could only follow.

Continue to Into the Stars Part Eleven

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