by Queen Zulu
In the dream there are bars across the window. They cut the sun into stripes, and the bed is painted in bands of gold-dark-gold.
In the dream, bodies move there, sliding in and out of the shadows, and the light glows in their skin where it catches the shine of sweat. They are making love in whispers and soft-mouthed kisses, their bodies tensing in long, slow gasps, like kittens pressing into a stroking hand. Tara thinks of hunting cats, of mountain lions and panthers: tawny and dark, amber and ebony, midday and midnight.
In the dream, they aren't aware of her, but Tara feels their desire as if it is her own.
"Why you?" Buffy asks, out of nowhere, as they sit in the library studying for finals. Willow left them twenty minutes ago, muttering about the Dewey Decimal system and card catalogues, and if she doesn't come back soon Tara thinks she might send out a search party. But now Buffy looks up from her pen tapping on her notebooks, and it's hard to turn away a question like that.
Buffy stares at her with all the coldness she can muster, because she is scared of asking this question. There is always brightness around her, and it has grown deeper, darker, since Tara watched her and saw her secrets.
In my dream, she would say if she could, I wanted to kiss you.
Tara stands with her hands clasped loosely in front of her. Beyond the window, dunes roll away in ripples of blazing sand. Miss Kitty chases sunbeams at the foot of the bed, batting at the feet of the two girls who lie entwined, asleep now, and naked.
"Did it happen like this?" Tara asks.
"What, all romantic and shit?" Faith rolls her eyes, but she's watching those girls on the bed, sleeping, and she's trying so hard not to bleed on the sheets.
"You're hurt," Tara says.
Faith gives her a brittle smile. "There's a damn powerful Slayer out there who doesn't seem very particular about who's going to be able to wake up, once this is done."
Tara nods. The girls on the bed are wrapped in flaming sunset light, like an aura, and she knows they won't wake up. She brushes the hair from Faith's face, presses a kiss to Buffy's forehead. The power they share sputters and flares like a candle, and desire only makes it burn hotter.
"Did it happen like this?" she asks, and Faith says, "It was like a dream, every time."
Tara studies her hands, clasped upon the table. She watches her rings glint in the light, and studies the inkstain on the ball of the right thumb. It doesn't stop her from knowing what Buffy looks like, naked and writhing; what she feels, when Faith lies with her, and touches her heart.
"You said you were borrowed," Buffy says, and she is trying to figure out this mystery, because she is a hero and it's what she does.
Used, Tara thinks; if anything, it was understanding that the First Slayer took from her, but it was love that she gave back.
I love you. They're words she doesn't know how to say. And to kiss Buffy, between the stacks at the U of C Sunnydale library, would be so ordinary that it would break her to try; and Willow will be coming back, at any moment.
"Dreams don't m-make sense," she says. "I m-mean, I don't even like cheese."
I am the First Slayer, she says, I am the blood-cry, I am the penetrating wound, and her eyes burn as hot as the sun outside.
On the bed, Faith and Buffy sleep on, and Tara remembers the touch of their auras, surging through her, when they switched back to their own bodies. She created the spell. There was love in that moment, and hate, and Tara was part of it. She has her own measure of the First Slayer's power now: the power of understanding, of letting hidden words flow through her.
"You borrowed me," Tara says. "You want me to speak for you."
In the dream, she doesn't stutter at all.