Return to Common Areas Chapter One

Common Areas

Author: watson
Rating: PG-13 to R
Disclaimer: This story is inspired by and adapted from a Korean film called Il Mare. The story premise, of 2 people who connect across time, belongs to Lee Hyun-Seung, although I have deviated from the story somewhat. BtVS characters belong to Mutant Enemy, Fox, The WB, UPN and others. I own nothing. I am nothing.

Dear Willow,

I'm afraid that your letter has reached the wrong address. This is Apt A, 225 Sherwood Place.

This is a brand new building and I am the first occupier, the garden is bare and the windowsills are in pristine condition, so you couldn't have been the tenant before me. If you can give me your former address I will drop your letter there.

Nonetheless I will look out for any mail addressed to you, just in case. A letter that is important enough for anyone to leave a specific note is worth the attention.

Kind regards,
Tara Maclay (signed)

p.s. I hope that the date on your letter is a typo, and you're not really in 2004. I can see why, because "4" is just above "1" on the keyboard and it's easy to type it wrong, I do it all the time.

Dear Tara,

I really did live at Apt A, 225 Sherwood Place. And I can assure you I am firmly in 2004, are you saying you think you are in 2001? I hope this is not some sort of a prank, not by you, because you sound super nice.

Whatever seems to be happening, could you please look out for my letter? Many thanks.

With best wishes,

Dear Willow,

Really. I'm in 2001. 9/11 just happened and I'm still reeling from the shock. Not sure if I have the energy to play a prank. I'm sorry but it's been a difficult few weeks for me. I'll still look out for your letter, but somehow I doubt I will see it.


Dear Tara,

I'm so sorry. It seemed that when it happened, everyone knew someone who lost a friend or loved one in the attacks. It's as clear to me now as it was then.

If I'm reading your letter correctly, you live at the same address as I did but timeline-wise you're in 2001. To say it's interesting is the understatement of the year (whichever it may be). I can actually prove to you I'm in 2004 with newspaper cuttings, but that would not be a good idea if you are in 2001 - for you to know what will happen in the future brings the risk of history changing.

If we are somehow connected across time, I'd like to find out a little more, since dimensional holes like this usually come with complications.

I hope I'm not scaring you, or sounding like big knowledge woman on inter-dimensional travels or such like. My friends and I have a little experience on usual phenomenon, so if you can trust me to do some research and get to the bottom of this. Naturally I'll keep you in the loop.

With best wishes,

Dear Willow,

This is my 5th attempt at putting pen to paper, I hope this one's more coherent and legible. I did get your letter and to be honest, I haven't been able to sleep or think about anything else since. I have so many questions but now I can't quite articulate them. May be you can do the research and I'll help if I can.

I do trust you, even if it's only after a few letters. Call it a woman's intuition. Are you and your friends into X-files type investigations? For some reason I picture you with a dog called Scooby-Doo going around busting up bad guys who dress up as ghosts or monsters, how crazy is that?


Willow was in deep contemplation and distractedly twirling a rainbow pencil around her fingers. Her laptop was open and running through a series of searches she had just initiated. In her other hand she held Tara's letters carefully, having taken them out of the protective folder she kept them in.

"Hey Will, isn't that taking different colored pens to a whole new level?" Buffy joked as she joined the redhead at the research table, towel round her neck from an hour's training at the back of the Magic Shop.

"Huh? Oh, this pencil? You'll never believe it, it's from Tara," Willow replied, holding up the multi-colored pencil for Buffy to see.

"Your penpal from the past sent you a 3 year old pencil? How? What? How?" Xander asked.

"Three excellent questions," Buffy interjected.

"We were doing some experiments, trying out the portal," Willow explained.

Is that what we are calling it now, a portal? Tara had written.

Magic letterbox sounds like a children's program, and we don't know how much of it is magic. What I'd like to do is to see what else is possible, Willow wrote back.

Willow, in true junior scientist mode, came up with a list of possible means of communication and scheduled daily experiments. She sent faxes, SMS, emails, IMs, even left text files on shared web folders, but none of those worked. The only method that worked was a buried box with a message from Tara, which of course would have worked under normal circumstances anyway, but Willow could not send anything back. They concluded that it was the letterbox that was the key.

They tried opening it together at a pre-arranged time. One time Tara even sat up all night watching it for clues. Another night Willow snucked back to her former home and removed the box, whispering a quiet apology to its current owner. But after a whole day of prodding and half a dozen reveal spells, she was none the wiser, the box just would not give up its secrets, silently sitting there impassively on her desk mocking her.

She returned it to its original position the next night.

Correspondence with Tara continued throughout. Sometimes long, heartfelt letters, sometimes just short notes. Both finding it easy, ridiculously easy, to open up to each other and talk freely.

Tara told Willow about her childhood, of farms and horses (yikes, no thanks, the further I stay from those arm-biting beasts the better, wrote Willow), of the joys of a good harvest and the hardship that followed a bad one, of a child's unconditional love for her mother, and of a teenager's despair at watching her mother slowly fade away with illness.

She was ill for a long while, it was hard to watch her just get weaker and weaker. I wasn't myself for a long time. There were things, thoughts and reactions I couldn't understand or even try to explain to anyone else. Thoughts that made me feel like I was losing it or I was some kind of horrible person.

Was it sudden?

No. And yes. It's always sudden.

Do you miss her a lot? Of course you do, I'm a dummy.

I miss her everyday. There is so much I want to do with her, to tell her. I want to tell her about coming to Sunnydale, about my paintings. And most of all I want to tell her about you.

I hope she's nothing like my Mom. She's never home, she travels around the world giving seminars on parenting but she never parents me. In the last 7 years we had may be 2 conversations that lasted more than 10 sentences. First time she ended up trying to burn me at the stake and the second time she threatened to disown me because I wanted to stay at Sunnydale for college.

Isn't that a good thing?

It should be. But I turned down so many other places, I think they were disappointed that I'd set my sights so low.

Where else could you have gone?

Oh well, anywhere. You know, Harvard, Oxford.

Wow. I can see your Mom's point, not that I agree on her approach, but why UC Sunnydale? You didn't want to leave home?

And so Willow told Tara about the hellmouth and fighting demons and vampires. She told of coming first in class every year, of being ostracized and bullied every day until Buffy came along. Then of the feeling of belonging, of no longer hanging on the margin, eventually discovery of her own power.

She expected shock and denial, instead she got a reply she was not looking for.

I felt it, the evil, as soon as I entered the city limits. I didn't realize it's as bad as a hellmouth.

You felt it? How? Aren't you afraid?

I, well, my Mom, she taught me about magick since I was small. Dad never liked us practicing, that's one of the reasons I left. But I'm here now and I don't intend to go back. I avoid dark alleys and I did a protection spell around my home.

Oh my god. You're a witch. I can't believe it, I've been looking and looking for another witch and when I meet one it's through a temporal fold.

Did you say another witch?

Yes. Yes. If you can see me I'm doing the dance of the happy little toaster, even though I'm normally a spaz on the dance floor. Promise me one thing, never invite anyone into your home unless you've felt their pulse or seen them in sunlight, ok?

I promise. Vampires not welcome at Casa Maclay.

I'm serious. Vampires are evil and nasty. And have the worst bad breath, it must be all the blood.

Are you saying you've been close enough to vampires to smell their breath? Willow.

I was bitten by a vampire once. Obviously I'm okay now, but I have a mark.

Did it hurt? God it must have hurt. How did it feel? How did you get away?

It was Harmony, whom I've known since grade school, she was Turned on graduation day. I knew her, that's why my guard was down, the band was loading their equipment but luckily Oz came back to look for me and he scared her off.

You've mentioned Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Anya, Giles. But not Oz, is he one of your Scooby gang?

Oz. Well, kinda. He's my boyfriend. Or ex-boyfriend. Or something. He's the letter I'm waiting for. I don't want to talk about him, do you mind?

Tara's heart fell at Willow's mention of a boyfriend. It was not a huge surprise, she had a good idea what was happening to her, every time a letter or gift arrived from her friend she was in 7th heaven. Willow was funny, generous, warm and elicited all sorts of happy fuzzy feelings inside Tara. Feelings that might easily lead to something more intense, if not for the impossibility of their situation.

Tara sighed and put the letter away carefully in her drawer. She had never felt so elated but yet so utterly powerless.

Willow took a deep breath and picked up the phone. She dialed the number slowly, hesitating at the last digit before punching it in just as she was in danger of getting cut off.

She counted the rings, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. She wondered if there was an answer machine.

At the thirteenth ring, unlucky thirteen, it was picked up.


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