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Tara and Bottie discover during a long drive that they have something in common.

Special thanks to cagd of fanfiction.net, who challenged me to write a story about lilacs, and to the Good__Evil LiveJournal site, which put out a challenge to pair two BtVS/AtS characters into one of several "stranded together" scenarios. Killing two birds with one stone, here. Thanks to ainon for the beta.







LILACS AND MEMORIES

Tara McClay wandered among stands of lilac bushes, breathing in the scent of purple and white blooms. Soft grass cushioned her bare feet, while a light breeze swirled her skirt, and scattered strands of hair across her face.

From behind the nearest bush, she heard a soft, feminine voice call her name. She moved closer, and saw Willow and Kennedy sitting on a blanket, a picnic basket between them. “We’ve been waiting for you,” Willow said, patting the blanket. “Come, sit down -- we’re getting hungry.”

Tara let herself be drawn forward, but hesitated even when Kennedy also smiled invitingly. Something was wrong. Didn’t she die before Willow met Kennedy?

“We have fresh apples,” Willow added, gesturing toward an apple tree that suddenly appeared, incongruously, in the midst of the lilacs. “I didn’t have time to make pie, but there are brownies, and fruit salad, and veggies with a nice dip. Aren't you hungry? It’s close to dawn.”

Glancing up, Tara saw the sun’s disk through high, thin clouds. Actually, two suns, side by side. “But --”

“It’s all right.” Willow gestured again, this time toward a small fawn that had wandered into sight. “Everything dead is alive again -- at least, a little.”

Feeling the familiar old shyness, Tara tried not to stutter as she turned to Kennedy. “Is it okay with you?”

“Hey, I brought you back to life, didn’t I?” Kennedy grinned. “Besides, I’m having nostalgia!” She looked like Kennedy, but spoke in Buffy Summers’ voice.

“Wh -- what?”

“I’m having nostalgia!” the girl repeated cheerfully, still sounding like Buffy. “Can you smell it?”



Tara opened her eyes, and felt the rustle of fast-food wrappers beneath her feet. A flash of passing headlights blinded her and she looked away, her gaze resting on Buffy Summers, who flashed a wide smile from behind the steering wheel. “Can’t you smell it? Seriously, I’m having nostalgia!”

A moment of panic gripped Tara, as she remembered the standard joke about Buffy’s driving: “She drives like I spit -- very badly.” “Buffy, watch the road!”

The other woman turned her attention back to the two lane highway, a stretch of now empty pavement illuminated by their Impala’s headlights, and Tara realized there was no immediate danger. She scooped up a bottle of tea from the cup holder, trying to wash the taste of sleep from her mouth, and as she sipped she realized one part of the dream was still there -- she did, indeed, smell lilacs. “What -- where are we?”

Buffy rattled off a longitude and latitude, then added helpfully, “Utah. Utah has many canyons, and a Great Salt Lake, which is really a sea because it’s salty. And it has many Mormons -- Utah, not the lake. But polygamy is illegal.”

For a moment Tara stared at her, until the fuzz began clearing from her head. “Buffybot?”

“Yes?”

Right. Bottie -- mission -- me still dead, in a magic shell -- like describing a morbid candy. Craning her neck, Tara glimpsed the shadows of two slayers sleeping in the back seat. Kara was stretched out, her head thrown back, snoring softly. Dana, having recovered from her panic attack at being trapped in the safety belt, was curled into a fetal position, her head on Kara’s shoulder.

“Are you all right?” Buffybot asked as Tara turned back around.

“Sure, just ... weird dream.” And how.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I heard you speak, so I thought you were awake -- that’s why I offered you the apple.”

Well, that explains part of it. “Actually, an apple sounds good.” She took the fruit from the plastic bag between them and bit into it -- mostly because she still hadn’t gotten the taste out of her mouth, and it looked like they had a few hours to go before a morning toothbrush stop. Being resurrected in a new body had its disadvantages; knowing it was a magical construct didn’t make her feel any better, considering how such powerful magic once almost destroyed Willow. “How long until we reach Las Vegas?”

Bottie shrugged cheerfully. “No idea.”

“But -- you knew exactly where we are.”

“Yes, I know where we are; and I know where Las Vegas is; but I have no idea how to get from here to there.”

“No Mapquest, huh?” Tara said sympathetically.

“We were doing okay until we tried to find a way around that pileup instead of waiting for it to be cleared. I figured if we kept going west we’d connect with the interstate again, but you’ve been asleep for three hours and all we’ve come across so far are very small towns and farms. And lilacs! I can tell you we’re on US 6, though.”

“Well, that narrows it down; there can’t be too many US 6’s.”

“Nope. Don’t worry, we’re still going in the right direction: If you go west, eventually you hit the west coast.”

“Thus the name.” Tara wasn’t sure that was the best possible plan, but she and Bottie were the only two in the car with driver’s licenses -- and, although both were fakes, the robot had the advantage of a good sense of direction. “Bottie, what did you mean by feeling nostalgic?”

“Well, remember that time in Fort Wayne, when we dusted the two vampires at the mall?”

Tara, who’d started munching on the apple, just nodded until she realized Bottie’s attention was on the road. “Um-hm,” she mumbled through a mouthful.

“There was a line of lilac bushes right beside the convenience store where we stopped afterward. I catalogued the scent, and when I smelled it again just now, it made me remember how much fun we had there, and that made me smile. Nostalgia!”

Tara had seen the bushes, but that was before Kennedy’s dubious experiment landed Tara back in a living shell -- and smell wasn’t a sense ghosts retained. Still, she remembered the stop there well: It was one of the few times she’d seen Dana smile. “But Bottie ... how can you be nostalgic? What kind of emotions did Warren program into you?” She shuddered a little, and hoped the robot didn’t notice. Thinking of Warren did that to her.

“Oh, only what Spike wanted: Happiness, desire, and unconditional love. But Spike also told Warren to make me as much like Buffy as possible -- I heard them argue about it after Spike found out how much I like to kill vampires.”

“I can see how that would bother him,” Tara murmured.

“Then I got broken, and Willow fixed me with magic!”

Tara winced. She should have known, considering how much Willow was toying with magic back then, that repairing a machine as complicated as the Buffybot would make her ex-lover turn to the magical arts. “So you got hit with magic twice, including what you drained out of Dana when her curing spell went wrong.”

“Three times. Warren used a little magic when he created new robots.”

That made sense -- it helped explain how Warren could turn out such complicated creations in his basement workshop, and might also explain how the Three Nerds ended up together. Tara suppressed a surge of panic at the thought of how many other robots might be out there -- surely Warren didn’t have time to make more than a few. Wow. What possibilities. “You and I ... Frankenstein’s,” she murmured.

“What?” Bottie glanced over, looking offended. “I don’t have a flat head and bolts in my neck!”

“You’ve been watching old horror movies with Xander again, haven’t you?”

“My favorite is Dracula, with Bela Lugosi.”

“Willow likes The Wolfman.” I wonder why that never bothered me? I guess I didn’t make the connection until now. “My point is, we’re creations both of the gods and humans. You’re a machine that’s been given life, and I’m a spirit that was given a human shell again.”

But Tara wasn’t alive, not really. She ate, and breathed, and slept ... but she could feel the shell wrapped around her, like wearing a tight bodysuit all the time. Sometimes, for an instant, it felt too tight or too loose, as if adjusting itself, and every now and then her sense of touch failed -- a constant reminder that she was as artificial as the robot beside her. If anything, Bottie was now more alive than she was. Although thankful for this second chance, it made Tara sad to think that she could never be a real woman.

“We’re both living beings inside constructs, I guess.” She dropped the apple core into a trash bag and stared at her hand, experimentally flexing her fingers.

When she looked back, Bottie wore the biggest grin Tara had ever seen -- even on the Buffybot. “We’re like -- twins!” Bottie reached out to grab Tara’s hand. “That’s so cool!”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.” She’d been thinking of it exactly that way, but obviously not from the same angle as Bottie. “Watch the road!”

One hand still on the wheel, Bottie turned her gaze back on the highway. “But it’s true. We both died and were brought back to life, and we’re both not really alive, and we both have magic in us.”

“Well ... yes --”

“You know what else is great?” Bottie jerked a thumb back to take in the sleeping slayers. “Why do our friends accept us? Because we’re different? No -- because we’re the same, where it counts.”

Tara thought about it for a moment, and then found herself also smiling. “You’re right, Bottie -- in all the ways that matter, we are alive. That’s real magic.”

“Ooh -- I like that. You should write it down.”

“I’ll remember.”

“Me too. And when I remember, I’ll think about lilacs and apples, and friends.” Then Bottie suddenly straightened, and hit the brakes. “That sign said Provo. We’re going the wrong way.”

“Maybe there’s another highway going through Provo that will take us in another direction -- that way we don’t have to double back.”

“But I like this direction.” the robot pulled into a driveway. “We get to go back over that great section of highway again!”

Only Bottie could see that as a good thing. But what the heck -- as Bottie turned the car back toward the east Tara saw the glow of predawn on the horizon, and decided taking the time to watch the sunrise wouldn’t interfere with their mission.

“Let’s wake up Dana and Tara,” Bottie suggested, as they set out again.

“Why?”

“We’re heading back toward the Lilacs! Friends should share the nostalgia.”

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
sockmonkeyhere
Jul. 2nd, 2006 06:37 am (UTC)
Aww, that was sweet! And funny, too:

Buffy rattled off a longitude and latitude, then added helpfully, “Utah. Utah has many canyons, and a Great Salt Lake, which is really a sea because it’s salty. And it has many Mormons -- Utah, not the lake. But polygamy is illegal.”

Bwaha!

I love that you've given the Buffybot a name. She had a very real and endearing personality on the show, and she deserved a human-sounding name of her own. "Bottie" is an excellent choice.

I haven't caught up with some of your earlier "Four Friends" stories yet, so at the beginning of this one I didn't know that Tara had gotten a body or why she was able to eat in this fic. But you worked the explanation into the text very neatly; it didn't feel as if you were suddenly halting the story with a bunch of exposition. Well done!

And congratulations on your fic Xander's Job for its runner-up prize at The Forbidden Awards!
http://community.livejournal.com/forbiddenawards/9741.html#cutid1
ozma914
Jul. 3rd, 2006 09:24 am (UTC)
It did?
"Xander's Job for its runner-up prize at The Forbidden Awards!"

What? It is? *falls over* I totally missed it, I'm such a spazz.:-> Doing a Snoopy Dance, now!

Much as I'd like to take the credit, I didn't make up the name Bottie -- although it seems obvious, in retrospect. I borrowed it from one of my favorite fanfiction.net stories, "Buffybot's Birthday Adventure" by keswindhover; it was Tara's pet name for the robot. Somewhere back in distant prehistory (in other words, one of my earlier stories posted on ff.net) I gave credit for it, but I probably should again.

Because this story was my first posting on the good__evil LJ site (in answer to a challenge), I tried to make it as self contained as possible, so I'm glad you liked my way of working the backstory in. Exposition is the enemy! Unless you're Giles.
curiouswombat
Jul. 2nd, 2006 08:33 am (UTC)
Lovely. I like the fact that Tara is not exactly ecstatic about her new 'shell'. I especially liked the description me still dead, in a magic shell -- like describing a morbid candy.
ozma914
Jul. 3rd, 2006 09:28 am (UTC)
morbid candy
I was a bit proud of that descriptive piece, myself. Or maybe the term should be "surprised", since it just kind of popped in out of the ether. I guess I owe another favor to my muse.

I don't want it to seem like Tara got a "Get out of dead free" card, so I've tried to occasionally drop in the idea that this shell she was shoved into isn't the perfect body. If the spell was perfect, we'd have dead people falling all over each other, and then where would be the life and death suspense?
redwolf
Jul. 2nd, 2006 11:55 am (UTC)
Nice work with the character paralels.
ozma914
Jul. 3rd, 2006 09:29 am (UTC)
Thanks -- it was the last part of the story that came to me, but it seemed to pull the rest together.
desdemonaspace
Jul. 2nd, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC)
More, please.
I really like this, but I'm a bit at sea. What's the link to the other stories in your AU? I need background.
ozma914
Jul. 3rd, 2006 09:56 am (UTC)
Re: More, please.
Well, let's see ... all my stories are on fanfiction.net at http://www.fanfiction.net/~ozma914, where they can be seen in order of when they were published, but I made improvements in some of them when I transferred them to LJ. The first Four Friends story was "Card Game" at http://ozma914.livejournal.com/tag/four+friends; Because of my unfailing ability to screw things up computerwise, I don't believe the "Four Friends" tales are listed in order here. Those stories trace most of the progression of Bottie and Tara, especially how Tara came to be "alive".

But that wouldn't complete the background, because the story of Tara's ghostly presence begins toward the end of "Where Do We Go From Here" http://ozma914.livejournal.com/tag/where+do+we+go+from+here%3F, and the story of how Bottie was brought back to life (and how Dana was kinda/sorta cured) is told in "Robin Lays an Egg" at http://ozma914.livejournal.com/tag/robin+lays+an+egg.

Hm. Because of my somewhat ridiculous compulsion to keep all my stories in the same AU, it's hard for me to suggest one story over another to clarify my background. Maybe I need to publish a history, or at least post an in-order story list. Or I could just send you a timeline. You know how much we writers like to talk about our stuff... :-)
desdemonaspace
Jul. 3rd, 2006 10:45 am (UTC)
Re: More, please.
I get that "wanting to keep things in the same AU," because I'm the same way. I see that you have a Four Friends category in your LJ memories. It's easy enough to make them chronological. You click the "edit" button next to the memory in the order in which you want them to go, chronologically, and it'll sort them. I do this with my Long and Winding fic chapters. Memories gives you two fields, and the top is the main category, the bottom, chapters (or in your case, individual Four Friends stories.) Or send me a timeline. That'd be fun.

I can't promise I'll read right away, but I love "Tara is alive" fics and I'm honing to read instead of angsting about not writing (which is my current speed.) Soon, I'll be done with my fic. Hallelujah.
ozma914
Jul. 4th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC)
Re: More, please.
I love "Tara is alive" fics too, just because of the obvious -- I like Tara.

Amazing how little I know after being on LJ for a year! It looks like they're pretty much already in the right order, since I posted them chronologically, except for one thing: I posted four of the stories twice, because a glich had led me to believe I never posted the first four on LJ. So the answer would seem to be to simply delete the later postings, except that I always do a little touching up before reposting a story; which means the more recent ones might be a bit better than the older ones.

And it doesn't help that my first Four Friends story is titled Strange Friends originally, but Card Game when it was reprinted. *sigh* I'm going to have to wait until I have a bit more time, then see what I can do with it.

Hm. I just changed the name of Card Game back to the original, Strange Friends, so at least all the duplicate stories have the same name. For me that's a major victory. :-/
desdemonaspace
Jul. 4th, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC)
Re: More, please.
I look forward with pleasure to reading them. But for now, I've just sent chapter 49 of my own "Tara is alive" fic to my betas. w00t!

::cannot resist self-pimpage, is ashamed of same, slinks away::
ozma914
Jul. 4th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
Re: More, please.
I was about to complain that I'd missed that story, but I just checked back and found it on my master To Read list. I'll get to it, but my youngest just made me start on "Joy Luck Club" -- she probably wants the computer more -- so it might be a bit, yet. (Chapter 49! Wow!)
desdemonaspace
Jul. 4th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC)
Re: More, please.
Oh, you're gonna love Joy Luck! I deeply dig stories set in San Francisco. I lived there in the 80s. Part of my fic is set there, esp. right now.

Will you really read me one day??? *swoons* I lurve picking up new readers. Plus, you're a "real" writer -- you can tell me what works and what doesn't. But it may very well not be your cup of tea, and I would totally understand. It has a woman-y, bodice ripper-y quality to it. Your girls would probably eat it with a spoon, but it's definitely NC-17.
ozma914
Jul. 5th, 2006 12:30 am (UTC)
Re: More, please.
I do love Joy Luck ... I'm going through it a lot faster than I thought I would. :-) I'm taking some vacation time in July, and I hope I get some more reading done during it.

Well, of course I'm going to read your stuff! Goes both ways, here in fanfiction land. Besides, although I have a lot of non-fiction printed in the newspapers, I still haven't actually published any of my fiction, so I'm not sure if I can be qualified as a "real" writer. In my opinion, anyone who puts care and sweat into their writing is a real writer, regardless of whether they're writing for publication.
desdemonaspace
Jul. 5th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
Re: More, please.
... anyone who puts care and sweat into their writing is a real writer...

I have to believe this, and also that I must write for my own enjoyment, regardless of the outcome. I read today that only 1% of writers make a living at it, and them's not good odds. But I already know that I enjoy it, and some day I will be retired and can write to my heart's content.

In the meantime, I'm not quitting my day job.
ozma914
Jul. 5th, 2006 06:29 am (UTC)
it's a plan
No writer is going to succeed -- however they define succeeding -- if they don't write for their own enjoyment. If you love doing it and you're turning out the best writing you can, then you're a writer.

Several years ago I read that the median income for writers is $1,300, which certainly does jibe with the concept that most writers don't make a living at it. The reason I'm trying to sell my writing isn't because I want to get rich -- it's because I love writing so much that I want to spend more time doing it. I figure if I'm getting paid for my writing I can justify, if not quitting my full time job, at least putting more time into the writing. And THEN, eventually, quitting my full time job.

The thing is, I've got 15 years in at the Sheriff's Department, so if I could make enough money in 5 years to turn to writing full time, I'd also be pulling in some money from the Public Employee Retirement Account. So, I continue to look at this as an attainable goal! Not good odds, for sure -- but possible.
desdemonaspace
Jul. 6th, 2006 11:01 am (UTC)
Re: it's a plan
Or you could hit the brass ring like Stephen King did with Carrie.

Here's hoping!
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
the brass ring
I'd compare myself more to Janet Evanovich. Of the writers who've hit that brass ring in the last few decades, she's the one whose writing style is most like mine. But I look more like King ...
desdemonaspace
Jul. 7th, 2006 10:44 am (UTC)
Re: the brass ring
I don't know her. You mentioned once that your daughter is reading her. Could you or she rec a good one of hers to me, please? Thanks.
ozma914
Jul. 8th, 2006 12:49 am (UTC)
Janet Evanovich
Start with "One for the Money", which is the first of her Stephanie Plum action/comedy novels. She's written other novels, mostly romantic comedies, but she really hit her stride with the Plum books. They're set in Trenton, New Jersey and feature a very "normal" heroine who takes a job as a bounty hunter to make ends meet, and keeps meeting trouble on the way.

Evanovich has a plain, straightforward writing style, her stories are sometimes crude because her characters are, and be warned -- they're laugh-out-loud funny, which has gotten me odd looks at inappropriate times.
desdemonaspace
Jul. 8th, 2006 11:44 am (UTC)
Re: Janet Evanovich
Thanks!
francis_eugene
Jul. 2nd, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC)
Beautiful story. You do Bottie particularly well ("But polygamy is illegal" :) ). [Now if they somehow eventually ended up on 66 they could get some real kicks!]
ozma914
Jul. 3rd, 2006 10:00 am (UTC)
twin highways
Heh -- I used US 6 because it actually passes within a few miles of Albion, in addition to going through Utah. I've always had a desire to drive it's entire length although, like route 66, a large portion of it is now interstate.
deborahw37
Jul. 2nd, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
I like this a lot but I'm going to need to catch up on the backstory when I get a minute.
ozma914
Jul. 3rd, 2006 10:01 am (UTC)
See above post about the unnecessarily complicated backstory by an obsessed author. (Um, that would be me.)
cbtreks
Jul. 5th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is nice! I love road trip stories and lilacs are one of my favorite flowers and Live Tara - yay! (And good job describing how her magic "shell" doesn't quite fit. Does it look like her original body did? (The same way that you want to drive the length of Route 6 sometime, I've always wanted to drive the entire Red Arrow highway. Which is, of course, much shorter!)
ozma914
Jul. 6th, 2006 12:05 am (UTC)
Oh, absolutely Tara's body looks like the original, for two reasons: First, because no one besides Kennedy and the FF know about the shell; and second, because I'm hot for Amber Benson. :-)

I have three lilac bushes in my back yard -- love that scent in the spring time. As for road trips -- who doesn't love a road trip! But these days, the Red Arrow highway would be a bit more affordable.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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