Author: Ghost of Eternity
Tara didn't know where she was. She could feel warmth, and something touching her forehead. Her eyes fluttered open to see a young girl with long light brown hair feeling her forehead.
"Oh good, you're awake. We were getting worried there."
"Where am I?" Tara asked in sleepy voice. Suddenly she remembered: she had followed the unicorn into the woods and...the unicorn!
She tried to get up, but a wave of pain hit her and she fell back, groaning and throwing her hand to her eyes. "I wouldn't suggest getting up just yet, you're not totally healed," the girl said softly, "By the way, my name is Dawn."
"Tara," the blonde replied quietly. She closed her eyes as she felt the pain throb across her skull.
Dawn smiled and stood up, "I'll be back in a minute. Try and go back to sleep."
Tara opened her eyes and started to protest, but it died on her lips as her body obeyed the girl's command. Her eyes shut again and she fell into a dreamless sleep.
She awoke again to the sound of conversation and the smell of smoke. Her blurry vision focused and she saw people sitting around a fire. There were three women, one girl and one man. She recognized the girl as Dawn; she had seen her earlier. A young blonde woman sat next to her. The two of them sort of looked alike, and Tara realized they were sisters. Next to them sat a young man with black hair, and next to him was an older woman with brown hair. But, it was the woman who sat next to the two of them that caught her eye.
She had red hair that looked scarlet in the firelight and white creamy skin with a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. She was beautiful...
The man turned and saw that she was awake, "Hey guys, she's up." They all turned and Tara suddenly had the feeling that she was looking at something magical...
The redhead stood up, walked over to her and knelt beside her. She touched her forehead and smiled. She has a nice smile... Tara thought as she asked, "Where am I?"
The girl took her hand away and gestured to the people behind her, "You're with me and my friends in the forest. We brought you here after... Xander found you. You've been here for a few days."
The brown-haired woman said quite matter of factly, "All right Willow, you've introduced Xander, but did you forget about the rest of us; I mean, we live here too."
The girl turned and glared at the woman, then turned back to Tara, "That's Anya. Don't worry, she usually has good manners. You've already met Dawn," she said, " and the person next to her is Elizabeth, although we call her Buffy. She's Dawn's sister. That's Xander, and I'm Willow."
Tara smiled nervously. She was growing nervous as they all kept staring at her.
Suddenly, they all stiffened up and Xander looked outside. He said quietly as he gazed outside, "It's time."
Anya, Buffy and Dawn looked at Xander, then back at Willow.
She didn't break her gaze with Tara as she said, "Go on outside. I'll be there in a minute. Hurry."
As the others went outside, she asked, "Dawn told me what your name was, but I don't remember what it was."
"T-Tara," she stuttered nervously.
"Tara," Willow said. She seemed to let the word roll off her tongue.
She stood up and smiled, "Well Tara, we'll be back later."
With that, she was gone.
Tara sat there, sort of shell-shocked at the whole episode. Here she was, in cave, surrounded by very strange people. And what was with her reaction to the girl with red hair? What was her name? Oh, right, Willow.
Tara sighed and lay back down. She was still exhausted, so she decided to go back to sleep. When she closed her eyes, though, all she could see was Willow and her face stayed with her throughout her dreams.
Tara started awake as she heard sounds of talking. As her fuzzy mind finally registered where she was, she realized that the voices where coming from outside. She sat up and looked around for a weapon to defend herself if need be, when the man called Xanders' voice rang out angrily.
"I don't care, Will, I still think we should take her back to the village and tell her to forget all she saw. With everything we have on our plates right now, I think we won't be able to take care of her!"
Tara recognized Dawns' voice as she said vehemently, "Maybe she can help us."
"Maybe," Anya mused, "Or maybe she could-"
"No." Willow stated. "She's staying here."
"Willow," Buffy said gently, "If she's gonna stay here, shouldn't we tell her...?"
Tell me what? Tara thought as Willow answered, "No, not yet. She'll stay here until I say she can go."
"Boy, aren't we being a little possessive today." Anya said grumpily as they all came into the cave. Willow turned and was about to retort angrily when she saw that Tara was sitting up and watching them all confusedly.
A smile lit up her face as she came and kneeled by the girl. "Feeling better?" she asked and Tara nodded. Her stomach chose to growl at that moment and Tara blushed and looked down, her hair hiding her face.
"Why're you blushing? It's not like she's making you horny or something," Anya said bluntly. A chorus of "Anya!" resounded and she looked around, "What? She's blushing for no reason then?"
Xander grinned ruefully at Tara, "Sorry about that, she just says what's on her mind at the most inappropriate times. Here, let me get you something to eat. Why don't you girls go and change clothes?"
Willow smiled at Tara and stood, then she, Anya, Buffy and Dawn went into the darkness past the fire where Tara couldn't see them. Xander, in the meantime, set about preparing dinner, and Tara watched:
First, he took out a cauldron and put it over the fire, then filled it with water. Next, he opened a satchel that rested against the wall and took out some herbs, putting them in the water. The cave was soon filled with smell of the herbs steeping in hot water. Using a big spoon with holes in the bowl, Xander took out all the leaves and disposed of them. He then took a string of drying vegetables from the ceiling, and, using a flat rock as a cutting board, took a knife from its place on the wall and began chopping them up.
"Just to tell ya," he said, as he chopped, "we don't eat any kind of meat. We mostly just eat soup, bread and the occasional cheese when we can get it."
Tara just stared as the man who had argued so angrily about her being here moments ago chatting with her as if she was an honored guest.
Xander continued, "We always have enough, though, no need to worry about that. So, what village are you from?"
They had finished their meal and now Dawn and Buffy were going over Dawn's lessons. Dawn was reading hesitantly from a book that made no sense to Tara, and Buffy was correcting Dawns' mistakes and encouraging her. Dawn had complained about it, and Tara had thought Dawn was lucky to have someone to teach her how to read, for she didn't know how.
Anya and Xander had said they were going for a walk, but as soon as the two had left Dawn burst into giggles as Buffy commented that she wasn't going to wash the grass stains out of their clothing.
Willow, in the meantime, was sitting in front of the fire writing in what looked like a journal. As Tara watched her, she noticed the way the firelight danced over her features, leaving shadows in all the right places. She looks beautiful. Tara thought. She could feel a tugging at her heartstrings. There was something mysterious about her. About all of them. Tara didn't know what it was, but she was going to find out. She decided she'd start with Willow.
She scooted close to Willow and looked over her shoulder, "What're you writing?"
Willow jumped and pulled the book to her chest. "None of your business!" she snapped angrily, and Tara scooted away hastily, "I-I'm s-sorry."
Willow's face softened and she put a hand on Tara's knee. "I'm sorry. I just don't like it when people look over my shoulder like that." Tara nodded, but still was a little frightened. Willow could see that, and tried to calm the girl.
"Hey, look, it's ok, really, it's just that I'm not used to having people look over my shoulder like that, and I get kinda protective when people do. I'm a naturally protective person ya see, so my first instinct was, you know, 'whoa, protect!' or something like that. So ya see, it's not you, it's me, and I'm babbling now, you should stop me when I do that."
Tara couldn't help but look on adoringly as Willow babbled. She's so adorable when she does that. "I'm sorry I-I backed off, I-I'm used to anger like that, but I guess you sorta surprised me. I-I didn't think you were the kind of person who-"
"No, I'm not usually," Willow said quickly, "I was just startled." and to show her it was ok, she smiled.
Tara's heartbeat sped up at the sight of Willow smiling, and felt a flush coming to her cheeks. She looked down and her hair covered her face. A hand grabbed her chin and gently forced her to look back up. Willow's eyes sparkled as she said, "There's nothing to be ashamed of around me, or any of us. We all probably have worse things to be ashamed of more than you."
Tara smiled back, and Willows' grin widened. "Good, glad you're not upset." Willow let go of her chin and stood up, stretching, "Well, I'm gonna get some sleep. Good night Buffy, Dawn." she turned to Tara and crouched down, "Good night Tara" and gently brushed her lips on Tara's cheek, which reddened as the redhead stood up and went over to a corner where her sleeping mat was rolled out.
As she lay down, Willow wondered if she should've kissed Tara's cheek like that. She wasn't sure why she did it, only that it felt right. Her lips were still tingling as she remembered how soft Tara's skin was. She sighed and rolled over. She needed to get some sleep while she could before morning.
Over the next few nights the routine was the same: Tara would wake up to find all of them gone, breakfast and lunch laid out for her. She would spend the day in the cave gaining her strength back. Then they would all return and they would have supper, then Xander and Anya would go for a walk while Dawn and Buffy would practice reading, writing and math. Willow and Tara would sit together and talk.
Tara noticed that the bond between the two of them grew stronger. Everything about Willow enchanted her: the way she talked, her eyes, her hair, her skin, her intelligence, the way she walked, the way she teased Xander and Buffy, rolled her eyes at Anya's blunt remarks, helped Dawn with her math... Everything.
Tara knew she was falling madly in love with the girl more and more everyday. She began having dreams about her and Willow, kissing and holding each other, Willow whispering in her ear that she loved her.
Tara, being as shy as she was, would never be so bold as to tell willow she loved her, so all she did was content herself with her dreams and fantasies, being as close to willow as possible.