She was lost. She knew who she was, but she wasn't clear on what she had to do. Her eyes were closed, and she was sitting down on the grass, but that was just her physical body. Her real self was walking, disoriented, in the dark; her arms were outstretched, trying to feel her way, but she didn't know where she was, or if she was going somewhere. Suddenly, she saw something. Someone: a figure, walking or gliding (was there even a floor?) towards her. The figure was carrying something that glowed a yellow light. It looked like a golden orb, but the figure got closer and she saw that it was a candle, cuddled between her two hands, for she was a girl.
"Willow!" she cried, identifying the red hair "What are you doing here, in this plane?"
"I'm here to guide you" Willow shrugged "Hence the candle. Here, take it, I brought it for you."
"But... why are you smiling?"
"Because I'm with you, and I'm not afraid. You know what I'm afraid of" she looked at the darkness around "But there are no horses here."
"But the candle... its light is too weak."
"You'll encourage the flame" Willow said "Remember I told you?"
Tara nodded, remembering the tunnel that lead to Willow's castle. She cupped her hands and received the candle. As soon as she circled her fingers around it, the flame seemed to grow. It's weak glow transformed into a light-yellow radiance that flooded the place. Wherever they were.
Wherever they were, it looked like a gigantic room, made of dark stone and wood, with floors of black marble. And lots of shadows. To Tara, who had never been in such a room, it looked like nightmare territory.
"Willow, am I dreaming of you?"
"No, this isn't a dream. I'm here, at your side. To guide you. Feel me."
The blonde held the candle with one hand and brought the other to Willow, to touch her. Her fingers caressed her cheek, descended down her neck, and stopped before reaching Willow's left breast. She stopped her hand there, pressing against the fabric of the dress, feeling the girl's heartbeat. Willow grasped that hand and interlocked their fingers.
"Let's walk" the redhead tugged at Tara's hand gently.
"Where are we going? I don't know this place."
"We're supposed to look around, I guess..."
Enough. A loud voice resonated in their minds, as audible as any normal sound. Come back now, both of you.
Tara shook her head and opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was Giles, sitting before her. They were still by the lake, and the chirping of birds, and the bright green of the grass seemed unnatural to her. She paid closer attention to the ground and saw that she was inscribed inside a circle that had been drawn with red sand, or powder of some kind. And beside her, but her body not inside the circle, was Willow, grabbing her hands. The redhead looked as if she was sleeping.
"Giles, what happened?" she asked, pulling the dormant Willow close.
But, as soon as she asked it, she remembered. Giles had said that it was similar to astral projection, and that they were going to see how good she was at it. Obviously, she was not very good, since she had gotten lost and temporally lost her memory. But then something had happened; Willow had appeared there and everything was suddenly clear.
"Willow was worried" Giles explained, at his usual slow pace "She could sense that you were lost, so she defied my specific orders and broke the barrier of the circle, and..."
"...She was transported too, where I was. But... how? I mean, I have never done this astral projection thing, but I learned the theory from my mother, my mother used to do it quite often. How could Willow do it and still remember everything? I mean, when she appeared, I was so confused, but she knew what to do right away."
"I believe that she remembered everything because, although she was linked to you, she kept outside the circle: more in this world than you, but still on both planes."
"That makes sense. What doesn't make that much sense is... how did she do it? I mean, when I ignited a branch with magic she was dumbstruck, she had never seen a spell done. But she was immediately astral-projected to where I was."
"Yes, yes, you're right" Giles kept silent for a minute, organizing his thoughts. "So there's just one explanation. Willow then... must be a natural witch."
"A natural witch?" Tara exclaimed "Like me?"
"Yes, your mother was a witch, and so was your grandmother, and it goes back several generations. We know that. But Willow here must have some witch lineage in her ancestors. The fact that she has never practiced witchcraft is irrelevant. Her powers were just dormant, waiting for someone to wake them up."
"And you think I woke them up? But how?"
"Yes, I'm sure you were the one to wake up her powers. Can't you guess how?"
Tara was about to mutter something, but that was the moment that Willow chose to wake up. Her return to consciousness was abrupt; she flinched and almost jumped in her lying-down position. Her eyes shot wide open. She wriggled hurriedly to a sitting position and scanned her surroundings. Tara tried to get hold of her, to try to calm her, but the redhead inched backwards.
"What the hell happened?"
"You grabbed Tara's hands while she was inside the circle, in the spell" Giles explained.
"Yes, yes... now I remember" Willow muttered "But... I wasn't here a minute ago! We... we were..."
"It's called astral projection. While your body stays here, your soul, your essence, your mind, can go to other places. I went where Giles told me and, when you touched me, you came with me too."
"But I... how? I didn't mean to! I don't know a word about magic!"
"Giles says that it's inside you" Tara grasped Willow's hands to keep her focused and listening "that you have a power like mine, inside, hidden up until now."
A witch? Willow dropped her mouth open and scrambled to her feet, stepping way away from the circle. Powers? She shook her head. No. they had taught her to fear magic, that witches were burned at the stake. It had been fun to imagine being able to ignite things just by saying the magic words, but she wasn't a witch; she couldn't be.
"Willow" Tara was standing beside her, wanting to hold her but not quite daring to "It's not a bad thing, or a good thing either. It's who you are, as simple as that. Someone in your family, maybe a distant ancestor, was a witch. It's inside you, and it's not something you can help."
"But I can't be a witch! I've never..."
The redhead fell abruptly silent. Was that true? Had she never felt anything weird? She closed her eyes and remembered.
Little Willow aged seven. The children of some nobleman that had been invited to the castle were pestering about, making fun at her horse-fear. Back then, she was no one, just a tiny girl scared of her own shadow, but those kids were making her angry. Specially one of them; he looked like the eldest of the three, and he intermittently punched her arm and mocked her tears. It was really annoying and humiliating. For the first time ever, she felt a blind rage churning in her stomach and taking over the fear. But the rage in her stomach didn't just stay there. It crept upwards, invading her breast and exploding in her brain and eyes like a yellow radiance that blinded her from inside out. The boy seemed to receive a blow in his chest, and went flying several meters, crashing against a wall. It was as if a sudden current of wind had hit him. His younger sisters picked him up and they all ran out of the room, of course. They had cried all evening, the cowards, and she had renounced her frightened attitude. She hadn't considered the "invisible push" as magic, so she embraced the only power she knew (the one of the sword) to keep herself from being bullied ever again.
Tara was hugging her now, after Willow had told them the story. Such power at such a young age... And it had been asleep for eleven years, as if it didn't exist. Willow, a witch. Willow overwhelmed by it. She hugged her closer, and the redhead seemed to welcome it, pressing against her like wanting to disappear.
"And you still don't know what you did to awaken her powers" Giles sighed.
"Well no, I don't" Tara cocked an eyebrow.
"You're a witch. She's a witch. You've shared... things, intimate, emotional things" the man cleared his throat and looked away "And if you think that isn't linked to magic..."
"Giles!" Willow cried, resurrecting from her shock "You're... you're trespassing the line of privacy here."
"God knows I would never trespass it if I was free to choose. I'd live happier without being this embarrassed, but I bloody need to explain this" he was staring hard at the grass as if it was the most interesting thing "Two normal girls, or a normal girl and a witch, would be linked by love. But your... love has linked you in magic too. Willow, your powers have woken up because Tara's powers have recognized something akin in you. Your, uh... togetherness has united your magicks. We might as well take advantage of this for our present purposes of stopping this war."
"Better two witches than one" Tara grinned, softly shaking Willow by the shoulders to make her smile.
"Yeah" Willow finally giggled, embracing Tara's waist and then letting go "But remember, I'm a rookie. I may have the weapons, but I don't know how to use them."
"Yes, yes" Giles murmured "I suggest that we all sit down and begin practicing, I got two witches to train."
Willow slumped on the ground immediately, but Tara kept standing for a moment.
"I know that this time it was necessary 'cause you had to explain things to us but... let it be the last time that anyone sticks their nose in what Willow and I have, okay?"
The man nodded gravely, as if an agreement had taken place, and Tara sat down beside Willow, ready for the training.
They didn't pause until four hours later. Giles had worked the girls to exhaustion until they had more or less concentrated at the same time and synchronized their breathing rates. It wasn't easy, since Willow had never done anything remotely similar; plus, she wasn't used to sitting around talking, consulting books and concentrating. She had to fight the desire of running around the forest and whacking her sword against some trees to blow off steam. Instead, she had to bite her lower lip and close her eyes, while Tara and Giles instructed her.
"Clear your mind, think of a blank sheet of paper" Giles had said.
"No, I think it's better if she imagines it. Willow, imagine yourself going out of your body, like a ghost."
"Like a ghost!" Giles scoffed "No, that's not the way to do it. Look, I... I have much more experience-"
"Giles, you may have more experience, but she'll do it better if-"
"Like a ghost!" Giles repeated, still mockingly "What she need is concentration."
"Guys..." Willow had opened one eye and was looking from Giles to Tara.
"Giles, please, don't mock me. Look, my mother taught me like this, using very visual images to illustrate..."
"Guys..." Willow insisted.
"Willow, do close your eyes" Giles ordered "You're never going to learn if you don't concentrate."
"How can she concentrate if she doesn't understand what you're telling her?" Tara sighed.
"She must concentrate, here and anywhere. The day of the battle won't be a picnic in the park like today. There'll be trumpets, and commotion, and..."
She had finally been forced to yell, but it worked; it silenced Tara and certainly hushed Giles' protests. Willow acknowledged that there was nothing worse than having two different instructors teaching you the same thing, but everything went more or less smoothly. The four hours crawled by, and Willow didn't really see that she had achieved anything, but her two teachers assured her that she was doing real well and that, with concentration, the rest would come rolling.
If they hadn't had the physical need to eat Giles wouldn't have stopped at all, but he himself was hungry, so they all settled down for a meal. Willow brushed a line of sweat from her brow and laid down on the grass, her head on Tara's lap. The blonde seemed to like this, and began feeding the redhead some of her food. Giles could feel his cheeks blushing, so he rolled over on his side and covered his face with his jacket, pretending to sleep at first, and then really falling asleep.
"What's up with him?" Willow asked.
"I think we embarrassed him" Tara giggled.
"You know, this magic thing is tiresome."
"No it isn't, it's fun when you know how. And, um, honey, it's my way of life."
"You know something else? When I got up this morning, I didn't imagine that I was going to be a witch. This could be my weirdest day ever. Or the best one" she grinned "if you keep calling me 'honey'."
"I've no intention of stopping" she ran her fingers down the red hair.
"This morning we were very rudely interrupted" Willow commented.
"I know, I was there. I remember you opening your eyes and lifting your head" Tara wagged a finger.
"It was Buffy's fault!" the redhead whined.
The blonde rolled her eyes, pretending that she didn't believe it, which immediately infuriated Willow's insides. The redhead perched up and almost threw herself over Tara pinning her to the ground and smiling dangerously.
"Want me to go on where we left off?"
Tara laughed and, as an answer, captured Willow's lips with her own. Willow accepted the answer, and rested her weight on Tara completely, marveling at the way their bodies seemed to match, to fuse into each other, like in a puzzle.
"But Giles..." Tara whispered.
"He's asleep. You're not getting away..."
"...I don't want to."
They resumed their kisses, slowly and slurry at first, but then they became hungrier, more urgent. Willow had never felt such a visceral need, and the "funny" sensation she felt demanded to press herself more against Tara. But the sensation didn't lessen; on the contrary, it increased quite pleasurably, and not only for her. Tara too seemed to feel it. Her senses seemed to heighten, and a moan escaped from her lips, a sound that seemed both instinctive and heartfelt. Tara's hands slipped under the collar of her dress to reach her back, and her fingers were working marvels on her skin; she couldn't describe it in any other way.
Willow detached her lips from Tara's, a sacrifice she needed to endure to get to kiss her neck. The blonde moaned softly and approvingly, and it almost drove Willow crazy. Tara's voice, transformed into a pleading sigh... It was too much, too good; her heart felt like exploding. She needed to tell her now.
"Tara" she whispered, her lips close to Tara's ear.
"I need to tell you that..." Willow opened her eyelids slightly, but then rose her eyebrows in shock for what she saw "I need to tell you that we're... floating!"
Tara snapped out of it and moved her hand from Willow's back to where the ground supposedly was, but she found nothing. She was touching the air! What the...? She looked down and saw that they were hovering a little less than half a meter over the tips of the grass. Willow's eyes were gaping, just as hers. What was this? What was going on?
"Will...!" she hissed
Then, without warning, they descended abruptly, as if the string that held them had been cut. Luckily, they weren't very high, and the grass acted as a soft cushion. But what the hell, who cared? Willow sat up and looked from Tara to the ground, not able to utter a sound. Tara sat up too, and discovered with horror that Giles was awake and looking at them with a pale face, his eyes bulging.
"G-giles" Tara muttered, cursing her stutter, something that hadn't happened since she was very little.
"Giles" Willow said "We don't know what happened, what-"
"Both of you!" the man cried, hurriedly standing up "I want you sitting a meter apart! You're like fire and timber, don't touch until... until I figure this out!"
The girls looked at each other and then at Giles, unable to articulate coherent words.
"You'll stay like that until I say so, until I've researched this, until Buffy gets here with Angel. Are we clear?"
They just nodded, but Willow wasn't sure that anything bad had happened. It hadn't felt bad. In fact, it had felt so good... What does he mean with 'like fire and timber'?