"The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had." -- Mad World "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." -- G. K.Chesterton
That summer is a bright, vivid thing. Tara holds it close to herself, tries to remember every minute.
Days and days of nothing but Willow, her skin, her smile, her smell. Waking up tangled together, kissing her dizzy. Willow complains about the heat but Tara wants to spend all her time outdoors drinking the sunshine in, like she drinks Willow in, the brilliance of her hair and eyes and mind.
They buy fruit from the grocery store and eat it sprawled on the grass in the quad. Willow brings a book and frowns her way through it while the shadows of the leaves overhead dapple her face. Tara falls asleep there on the grass, watching her, to the faroff drone of a lawnmower. She does it a lot lately, falls asleep outside the dorm or on the beach or in her own bed at all hours of day or night. Post-semester recovery she and Willow have declared it and these constant cat naps give the warm months a dreamy feel, slipping in and out of wakefulness so much.
Tara's dreams are as vivid as anything else this summer, full of crystalline colors, tangible smells, intense conversations she can never quite remember when she wakes up to the cool outlines of sunrise outside the window. She dreams about dawn a lot, actually, that still sense of possibility.
Not all the dreams are so pleasant. She's in the kitchen of the house where she grew up, trying to cook dinner, but she can't figure out what she's making. The refrigerator is empty, no matter how many times she closes and opens it. She thinks her mother is sitting there watching her but when she turns her head -- no. Only a bald man sitting on the counter, holding out a plate.
"Cheese?" he says and she picks up a slice of Swiss.
"What am I supposed to do with this?" she asks, and behind his glasses his eyes are intent.
"What you can," he answers.
Willow has a book with a chapter on human-demon transmogrifications and heredity. Tara looks at it when she's out, feels a twist of dread in her stomach. It's never too long before Willow breezes back in, kisses the sweet spot on the nape of Tara's neck.
"You look worried," she says, and Tara makes every effort to smooth out her face, smile convincingly.
"Oh, no," she says, "I'm fine, everything's fine." Twines their fingers together. "Hey, I was thinking of making lemonade, you want?"
Xander's girlfriend, Anya, is sitting beside Tara on the swings, arms wrapped around herself.
"I don't know," she says. "It seems like there should be some kind of reparation. Borrowing is only another word for stealing."
A flash across the playground and Tara can see herself -- weird feeling -- sitting on the other end of a seesaw from Buffy.
"Huh," says Anya, tilting her head as she looks at the same thing. "See what I mean? Everything has to even out."
When Tara turns back to her, it's that one man again, carefully balancing a stack of cheeses on the palm of one hand.
"Purest of the pure," he says and looks at her from the corner of his eye, like he's hoping she gets it.
Sometimes Tara dreams she's walking across a long, long desert and she doesn't know where she's going, how she'll know when she's gotten there.
When she wakes up from these she feels weird, lonely, outside herself, alone. Presses her palm to the warm, bare skin of Willow's back to ground herself in the darkness.
She's only met Buffy's mom once or twice but Mrs. Summers is making her sandwich after sandwich, sliding each perfectly grilled square onto Tara's plate. It's hard, though, trying to eat them without getting the photo album greasy. Lots of pictures of people she doesn't know -- a dark and spiky haired boy surrounded by wires and circuit boards -- and some she does -- Spike in a mirror, chuckling and ... glowing? But when she looks back he's gone.
Mrs. Summers slides in to sit beside her.
"There's a pattern here," she says, looking at Tara with sad eyes. "If you know how to find it."
She touches her own head, then reaches out to brush her fingertips over the place where Tara's heart is.
"Do you want another grilled cheese?" she asks after a minute.
This is maybe the best pillowfort Tara's ever made, a tent of sheets to keep the world out as she sits crosslegged on the mattress. Across from her the man with the cheese is mirroring her position, his head just skimming the top sheet. He's peeling strips off a piece of string cheese and handing them to her to eat.
"What's happening?" she asks. Outside the tent someone is giggling.
"Curds and whey," he says almost thoughtfully. Why can't she tell if the sheets are white or red?
He hands her another thread of cheese and she realizes there's hardly any left in his hand.
"It's almost gone," she says. He looks at her very seriously, like he's trying to form words he doesn't know.
"I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill, far," he says, then frowns. "The cheese transcends," he whispers. Behind his glasses his eyes are earnest. "The comfort of cheese ..."
On the other side of reality Tara feels herself waking up.
(feedback is yummier than cheese - email@example.com)
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Title: Dreams In Which
Author: Kyra Cullinan [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | PG | 5k | 03/12/04
Pairings: Tara and the Cheeseman
Summary: There's a pattern here. Tara, cheese and dreams.
Notes: Set the summer after s4 with obscure allusions to events through the s7 finale. Quote in the final section from Shakespeare's Henry IV. Written for mx_scribbles for the Cheeseman ficathon.
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