Characters: Tara, Willow
Warnings: mention of past death
Disclaimer: All characters, except the OC slayer Kara, belong to Joss and co.
Summary: Two former lovers are trapped in an elevator on Valentine’s Day. Not as cliche’d as you think ... well, not quite. 1250 words.
(Note: This takes place in my "Four Friends" universe, in which two questionable magical spells, one intended to repair Dana's shattered mind, led to the resurrection of the Buffybot and the secret return of Tara to a more or less living body. Mention is also made of events from “Mary Stu Got Harried”, but it’s not necessary to read that first.)
Special thanks to my marvelous beta Ainon of fanfiction.net, and to the LiveJournal site holiday_btvs, which was looking for Valentine’s Day stories, of which this is one -- sort of.
“Hold the elevator, please!”
Willow grabbed at the door as it started to close, and a whirlwind of flying hair and swirling peasant skirt hurled in. The door closed fully before either realized who they were sharing a ride with.
“Willow. Hi.” Willow’s dead lover clasped a stack of red and pink packages to her chest.
“Hi, Tara.” Her voice was an octave higher than normal, and Willow had the feeling her eyes were twice their normal size, too. Why should sharing an elevator with Tara’s ghost make her nervous? They’d talked before. She’d known for close to a year now that after dying Tara’s spirit had remained, following the Scoobies to Chicago and learning to interact again with the real world.
“Your shirt …” Tara fell over, a bloody hole in her chest.
With a shudder, Willow watched the numbers beside her rise as the elevator shot upward. “So … how are you?” A strange question to ask a dead person.
They fell silent, at opposite ends of the small compartment, shuffling back and forth as the express elevator –
Two sets of eyes turned toward the panel, which showed each floor even though this particular elevator stopped only at the ground, the roof, or floors fourteen and fifteen. Willow had pushed the button for fourteen, intending to go to her quarters and change before that evening’s Valentine’s Day party. That button was lit; but so was the indicator for the thirteenth floor. The door didn’t open. “That’s not good.”
“Push it again,” Tara suggested.
The redhead pushed fourteen, then fifteen for good measure. No change. “Heh. Modern technology.”
“At least the lights are still on.”
Willow nodded, knowing Tara had never been a fan of darkness. She remembered Xander and Buffy helping her through a panic attack the first time she realized Tara’s body would be underground, and how she’d impulsively placed a flashlight in the coffin.
Shaking herself, Willow opened a small door to pull out the emergency phone, and gave a “Yay!” when someone immediately picked up. “Dana? Hey, we’re stuck in the elevator.”
“I know,” Dana told her, “We’re working on it. Shouldn’t be too long.”
“Dana’s working on it,” She told Tara after hanging up.
“Dana? Maybe we should brace for impact.”
Willow gave a nervous laugh, and Tara smiled. They stared past each other for a moment, then Tara gestured toward the single package Willow held. “How’s Kennedy?”
The redhead looked down at the rectangular red box, and felt a blush rising to her face. “How did you know this is for Kennedy?”
“Come on, Willow. You know I prefer flowers.”
She’d clearly meant it as a joke, but for a second Willow panicked, wondering if she should have gotten Tara anything. She tried to deflect the implication by making a joke of her own, pointing to Tara’s stack of packages. “Well, at least I’m not dividing my affections.”
“True.” Crouching down, Tara put each box on the floor in turn. “This is for Dana, she likes plain milk chocolate – no surprises. This one’s a book for Buffybot – she’s been reading Harry Potter. Mixed chocolates for Kara – she does like the surprises. These are also mixed chocolates, for Richard –“
“Richard the watcher?” Just recently Richard had let Willow in on a big secret about Tara, and it wasn’t at all clear that Tara wanted people to know. “Are you sweet on him?”
Oh my gosh! She is sweet on him!
“Well … Richard’s wedding anniversary is Valentine’s Day.” She stacked up the rest of the presents and stood.
“Needless to say, he hasn’t celebrated it since his wife died, so I figured maybe it was time for him to … I don’t know … move on. Like you did, with Kennedy.”
Willow stared at her, eyes wide.
“Oh – no, Willow, I didn’t mean –“
“It’s okay, it’s –“
“It’s good that you moved on. How were you to know that I’d end up … coming back?” She put a hand on Willow’s arm, and the witch felt her former girlfriend’s body heat again, for the first time since that awful moment. She felt an overwhelming urge to let Tara know that she knew.
“You could go,” Willow heard herself say.
Tara tilted her head, looking confused.
“I mean, you’re a ghost, right? You could just go through the walls. I could watch your packages for you. I’d be all right, really – they’re working on it.”
The silence stretched on, as Tara opened and closed her mouth, then looked away. “I – I can’t leave.”
Not leave you. Just leave. Well, now was as good a time as ever. “Tara, I know about the Camelot Spell. I know you’re in a kind of living body again. And I know Kennedy did it.”
“Um, Richard figured it out, and told me.” Which was true as far as it went. She hadn’t thought this through, Willow realized. How to tell Tara that a night of black magic powered shenanigans had been turned into nothing more than a dream, and that Tara’s memories had been tampered with yet again?
They stared at each other for a long moment, former lovers together again. “I am kind of sweet on Richard,” Tara finally admitted.
It was a comment meant to convey much more than what it said, and it brought Willow a sense of relief that made her feel guilty. “But he’s almost twice your age … and, well, a guy.”
“I’m not going to tell him, Wil. After all, I’m not truly alive – this body’s like a package, just holding my spirit in a shape that happens to look like me. It wouldn’t be right for anything to … happen.”
Willow nodded, and tried not to show how terribly sad she felt for both of them.
“Meanwhile, you’ve got Kennedy, and she loves you so much that she tried to bring me back to life because she thought that would make you happy. That’s why I didn’t tell you about the Camelot spell – because doing that proves how much she deserves you, and I didn’t want to complicate that.”
“I guess that proves how wonderful you are.” Impulsively, Willow pulled Tara into a hug, and when she released the other woman they were both smiling. “I do love Kennedy.”
“Of course you do!”
“But I also love having you back in my life. So – no more uncomfortable passing in the hallways? Friends?”
“Only if you admit that’s really lingerie in that box.”
Willow giggled and blushed at the same time, and at that moment the elevator lurched to life.
In the brightly lit control room, Dana turned questioningly to her cohorts. “I don’t understand. What did stranding them in the elevator accomplish?”
“They won’t be so weird when they’re in the same room anymore,” explained Buffybot, who’d been studying psychology. “Plus, we learned all sorts of neat secrets.”
“That’s for sure.” Looking dazed, Kara fell into a chair. “My watcher has a crush on my dad. I’m going to go vomit now.”
“The important thing,” Buffybot told them, while Dana hastily stepped away from Kara, “is that they’ve gotten some closure, and they’ve defined their relationship. I’ll bet that would make Kennedy happy.”
Kara nodded. “If we’d dared to tell her we were trying this.”
The Buffybot was practically jumping up and down with excitement. “Do you think Kennedy will model the lingerie for us?”
Dana looked intrigued. Kara turned a little greener.