TITLE:A Butterfly Dream of Sand and Sky
EMAIL: seraphcelene@yahoo.com
SPOILERS: through Bargaining. Explicity: Restless
ARCHIVING: Essential-Imperfect, Buffy Fiction Archive. All others please ask.
SUMMARY: Sometimes Tara dreams of magic and prophecy.
NOTES: AU post-Bargaining. There's liberal use of Shelley, Yeats, Poe, Shakespeare, wallace Stevens and the Bible thrown in for flavor.
FEEDBACK: Is like air and highly addictive. In other words, yes please!
DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Warner Brothers Company, UPN, et al. I'm just taking them out for a little exercise.
THANKS: Moonwhip, my beta.

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a
seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death;"
- Song of Solomon 8:6

A Butterfly Dream of Sand and Sky

Willow sits at the edge of her thoughts like soft light falling, or that is what she used to be. Now, she lurks; a dark thing with unholy eyes, reaching and grabbing beneath the bed.

Tara dreams nightmare things about Willow's eyes, sometimes her tongue and clever fingers and the way life used to be. In the dark, legs spread wide on a velvet bed and the soft length of Willow's belly. Sometimes they fuse into loss where sex is stained and Willow is eating her heart.

Sometimes Tara dreams other things, things that reek of magic and prophecy; she's never quite sure if she should trust them. Night magic. There are no stars and no moon and the desert stretches ahead, out and away forever. Monochromatic. Tan on tan on white - lone and level. Barren.

A book is buried in the sand.

I met a traveler in an antique land

There is something in the desert. Colossal, it fills the sky with streaks of almost color and hunkers in the crevices of the earth. Sappharine in the corner of her eye. Too large to be seen, it hums menace into the breeze. The sound of silence shrieking in the wind.

The desert remains insistently empty.

Tara curls her bare toes against rock that becomes sand, and watches as crooked old men bend into crooked trees. Giants crouch into rocks anchoring the sand so that it does not shift, the axis of the world fixed within her dream. Tan on tan on white; green Joshua and some brown. Empty desert does not mean she's alone. There is the lonely cry of hunting birds and the skitter of claws to remind her of presence; the air is heavy with it.

Tara squints against the brilliant face of the blazing sun and thinks familiar things: "There's something out there."

Turning away from the desert (she should know better than to turn her back on a threat), Tara stares at the ocean. True ocean. Blue and green; infinite purple depth. It looks like the bottom of her empty heart.

The sun sets the sky pink and gold, red where night encroaches.

Darkness upon the face of the deep

"I don't know the Bible as well as I might." Her mother's shame tastes like the bitterness of burned herbs; the color of umber and the graininess of sand. Grandmother counted on seeing and knowing; Tara can smell the something in the desert. Dirt and dead things, rotting things and power. Behind the thunder of the waves, she can hear someone coming up the beach.

And she turns.

In the distance dark hair is caught by wind. The figure, walking against ocean and sand, is tiny but close before Tara knows it. Closer still and with every step the color of the woman's hair changes, unfurling across the living blue of water-met-sky.

Tara can feel Buffy's sun-warmed hand slide into her own, solid and so real that the world takes a breath.

"There's something in the desert," Tara says.

"There's always something in the desert," Buffy looks over her shoulder into the seething emptiness. "I know. I think I might have lived there once." She turns away. She is always turning away. This woman, to be turned away from, left behind because there is nothing the universe can do but leave her where she is. The quiet progression of lost things. Power gained in incremental loneliness.

Buffy faces the ocean. Tugging gently on Tara's fingers entwined with her own, she lifts her other hand and points down the beach. A dark haired man crouches at the edge of the water and tosses shells into the surf.

"You love him," Their fingers twine and Tara holds on for dear life. Once she might have wanted this.

"I like the beach," Buffy squeezes Tara's fingers reassuringly. "There's a storm coming."

Tara looks at Buffy closely. She is still beautiful in that hard, golden way that belonged to her. Tucked along Tara's softer curves, she is fragile and strong. "It's been brewing for a while, but you never lived on the ocean. How do you know?"

Buffy smiles brightly, light shimmering against her eyes and the gold of her face."I lived in the desert. It's the same thing." Leaning up, she kisses Tara gently. Tara can smell the sweetness of her breath and the curious mix of vanilla and earth that perpetually cling to Buffy's skin. Buffy lingers at her mouth, sipping.

The kiss is moist.

"I-I didn't think th-there was water in the desert," Tara says, surprised.

"I'm in the desert. Fed with true-love tears, instead of dew." Buffy smiles dreadfully. "I have to go. I'm waiting for him." The dark haired man stands against the waves, Tara can almost see the translucent curve of angel wings. He's moved further into the ocean. "It won't be long now."

Reluctantly, Tara feels Buffy's hand slip away.

"Oh, before I forget," Buffy fades into the dusk as she turns away. "I bring you courage."

A splash of dawn-eyed blue, lapis lazuli lying on the sand.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third

Fingertips touch her, but it isn't the grace of earth and sunrise - hard and golden.

"You'll need more than courage. It isn't enough." Anya, in pink, her legs dusty holds a silver jar. "It's never enough. Courage just gets you killed."

"You're not dead," Tara says, watching this dear one stand so straight and so tall in the sand. "I think this dream is for the dead."

"No, I am not dead," Anya states firmly. "And I have no wish to be. I have aid to offer and there's no reason why this little dream of yours should be limited to only the dead. I mean, really, that's very unfair."

Behind Anya, Xander sits in the sand.

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize."

"That's the problem. People don't realize. Centuries as a vengeance demon and I know - people don't realize." Anya tosses her hair and the fading light catches on the delicate gold hoops in her ears. "There's a storm coming and if we're going to survive we'll have to work together. I mean, it's not like I'm immortal anymore." She holds the jar, small enough to fit in the palm of one hand, the other hand rests on the lid. Her fingernails are the same sweet baby-girl shade as her dress. "I live here. On Earth. I like Earth. Despite all of the dying and the vampires and the Hellmouth, I like Sunnydale. I have no intention of moving."

"Anya, she isn't going to destroy the world." Xander carefully pushes wet sand into a crumbling pile. The handle of a plastic yellow shovel lies beside his knee.

"He's building sandcastles," Anya's face twists into a grimace.

"It's a moat," he interrupts. "It protects the people in the castle."

"But the tide is coming in," Tara watches the ocean and the approaching night.

Anya shakes her head. "This is the third one. He won't listen. He never listens. Not really."

"He can't keep building castles in the sand. Not here. Not by the ocean." Turning to face the desert behind her, Tara sees that the Joshua's have shifted with the waning sun. "Maybe over there," she says. "But it's so bright."

"There's something in the desert," Anya says softly, coming to stand beside Tara. The wind whispers: Joshua, and trees that weep.

Tara blinks against the sun and the light reflecting off the silver jar cradled in Anya's hands. "Buffy says there's always something in the desert."

A wail rises from the ocean. Neither of them look back.

Anya extends the jar to Tara, light glinting off the curves. "I have to take Xander home, this will be the fourth sandcastle today. But, before I go," she lifts the lid on the jar. "I bring you hope."

Until Death tramples it to fragments

The landscape refuses to stay put.

Tara walks, the dirty hem of her skirt trailing sand (a path better than breadcrumbs). She thought she knew Revello Drive like the back of her hand, but a cemetery sits on the corner.

The world holds its breath, waiting.

Spike sits cross-legged on the sidewalk putting together a puzzle. Small pieces. The box top face down on the asphalt. Kneeling, Tara reaches for the lid.

"It's no fun like that," Spike says, slapping her hands away. "Some things you just have to do the hard way."

Tara rubs the sting out of her hand. "This is going to bruise."

Spike never looks up, shifting and arranging pieces of his puzzle. "You shouldn't be so sensitive. You've only got one shot. Got to get it right the first time."

Tara watches him push the puzzle pieces around as if unsure of where everything should fit. The night gets darker with every minute. "I can't stay here. It's getting darker." She picks up a puzzle piece half-hidden by the fall of her skirt and presses it against a corner of the puzzle. It clicks neatly into place.

Spike finally looks up. "Thank you." He says the words slowly and distinctly as if she doesn't understand. "I've broken it and I'm not sure how to put it back together."

"What is it supposed to be?"

The pieces spread haphazardly across the sidewalk. Some escaped to lie scattered, nestled or lost, in the grass.

"I think it's someone I used to be."

He reaches for another piece and Tara watches as it changes shape beneath his fingers. Spike's brow is furrowed with concentration and he doesn't seem to notice she's there anymore. As she rises Spike grabs her by the wrist. He pulls her close and places a searing kiss on her forehead. "By the by," he whispers against her temple. "I bring you cunning."

The kiss burns into her brain and flashes memories of the way things used to be - Roses and candles in the dark. Balls of red yarn and a lover who wrote epics along the curve of her spine in black paint.

A man stands beneath the trees, his face in shadows. The cemetery traded for the forest.

A wind blew out of a cloud by night

"What do you see?" Tara asks.

"There's alot you don't know about me." She recognizes him by his voice and the flash of moonlight on his spectacles. "I'm not as old as you think."

The sky darkens above them; clouds cover the moon. Secrets whisper in the trees, rustling leaves like voices of the dead and the smell of the Earth is lodged beneath her fingernails. "Yes," she says. "But what do you see?"

"Don't let her fool you. Wolf in sheep's clothing and all that." His eyes are fire behind his glasses, even though she can't see his pupils. "I suspect you already know."

Tara smells the rain on the air and the hot, dry breeze of the desert. "It's almost time. There's something out there, but I'm not sure how to find it."

"She doesn't belong there." Giles slides his hands into the pockets of his trousers. "You have to be ready."

"The storm."

"Yes, it is coming. I have things I must do as well." He points to a path, unfurling. It wasn't there before, but now it glitters like sugar and smells like the ocean. Tara picks up a shell laying discarded nearby and carries it to her ear. She can hear the roar of waves and the whisper of trees and weeping, it tickles the inside of her ear.

Giles moves ponderously into the woods, secrets whispering above his head, exchanged between the trees. He pauses, his head tilted back, his eyes never finding hers in the dark. "Tara," he is the first to say her name. "I bring you fortitude."

There is a longer way to go and the beach is only the first stop. Tara steps out onto the sinking softness of the sand and inhales the warm, salty air. Behind her the desert sky flames red and gold, the ocean is too dark to see, but she can hear the angry crash of water against the shore.

sister and mother and diviner lone

Dawn wears a dress of white gossamer. Her arms and legs flash, satin nakedness on the sand. Tara stands close, her bare toes brushing the edge of the garment. "You'll get dirty," she says.

"I trouble deaf heaven." Her smile is serene. "Shakespeare. You taught me that." Dawn cradles a sphere full of light between both hands. Four cards are spread across the sand. "You are the spirit," she says and a card vanishes. The sphere hums; it sounds like a name and, maybe, tears.

"I'm not one of them." Tara knows.

"You are the mind." Another card disappears.

"I don't know how to be for them." Tara believes.

"You are the heart." A third card fades.

"I am not a Champion."

"You are the hand." The fourth card dissolves.

"Am I the only one?"

The sphere glows brighter and hums loud over the crash of the ocean. "In three months time, when the Hare moon is dark, you will find her."

"But what if I'm not ready?"

Dawn, standing, is as tall as Tara. Her full mouth curls into a red smile. "We bring you gifts," she says, stepping closer. The sphere glows brightly in one hand, the other she places over Tara's heart. Dawn steps closer still and they are breathing the same air, exchanging breath like power. Tara inhales her and is inhaled.

"My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms," Dawn's voice is nearly a whisper as she leans in to swallow the space between them. Their mouths meet and Tara retrieves, gives, and is taken.

Dawn suckles at Tara's mouth, her tongue sliding and tasting. Slick. Her hand presses harder and Tara can see the singing light behind her eyes. It hums a familiar tune that she cannot name. She's never heard it before now, but it reminds her of everything. The glowing expands and swallows, tangles into the sweet mouth feeding on her own.

The world shifts.

Power seeps, Tara can feel it crawling beneath her skin.

She is sprawled on her back, her legs raised, cradling naked Dawn between her thighs. Flesh to flesh and power burns through her breast where Dawn's long fingers rest over her heart. Between her legs, passion seeps into the sand. Dawn's long, clever fingers dance in the folds of her body.

Tara breathes shallow, losing the rhythm of her heart. She wants to open her eyes, but the taste of Dawn is new and rare and powerful. Along the furtherest edge of her thoughts, Dawn's voice reaches for her, an anchor to fix the world. "I love you." Her fingers move faster, breaching Tara's body as if searching for her soul. Her fingers plunge and circle, deep. Tara feels her hips rise as she locates the beat that she has been missing. Faster; the taste of Dawn on her tongue and the feel of her in her body. Light shimmering behind her eyes. Too bright. So bright. Tara's mouth opens to call Dawn's name (or to consume her), but cries spill out nameless with her orgasm. Tara spasms with release, seeping into the sand. Her thighs spread wide. Dawn, glowing green, fades into the cradle of her body.

Tara lies spent upon the sand, and Dawn's voice is all that echos. It drowns out the waves and the ocean and the shrieking of silent wind.

"I bring you power."

Tara stares up at stars winking into being. The night is not as dark as it was. The edge of morning glows on the horizon, yellow and blue like a robin's egg. It looks like her too-full heart.