Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairing: Willow / Tara
Rating: PG 13
Disclaimers: All canon characters and locations are shamelessly borrowed from the world of Buffy and the mind of Joss. I have tried not to depart too much from the Buffy Canon. Apologies to the following: The Indigo Girls, Marion Zimmer Bradley, A.A. Milne and Alanis Morrisette.
Spoiler: This story is set in Season 5, late Oct-early Nov, shortly after Tara’s 20th birthday.
“Have we got time to check the mail, do you think?” Willow asked, as the two young women made their way across the well-groomed campus of UC Sunnydale.
“I’m not the one who made us late,” Tara replied archly “You know that showering together only leads to trouble!”
“Yeah, well I can’t help it that my girlfriend is the sexiest woman on campus.” Willow smiled at her, pleased to see that her compliment had made Tara blush.
She’s so beautiful, Willow thought, I’m so lucky. Tara looked down at her watch, partly to hide her face so that Willow couldn’t see her still blushing at the memory of their shower together.
“OK, but only if we hurry.”
“Only if we hurry what?” Willow asked in confusion, the mail forgotten.
“Oh, right, the mail.” Willow mentally shook herself and thought I have to stop thinking about her or I’m not going to remember to do anything today.
The Mail Collection Centre, as it was officially known, was a series of low rooms in the Student Services building, equipped with wall to ceiling individual metal mail boxes. Each student who lived on campus was assigned one and any mail addressed to them was deposited daily in the appropriate box. Each student got a key and mail could be collected between the hours of 8:30am-5pm Monday through Friday, or 9am-lpm Saturdays. Tara knew that Willow was waiting for the new edition of “Wiccian World” a magazine she subscribed to - a new spell had been promised in the previous edition that Willow was eager for them to try.
“You may as well check yours too.” Willow commented as she made her way over to her box.
Tara wasn’t expecting anything. The only mail she received were the couple of magazines she subscribed to or the occasional brief letter from her father; but after her birthday recently she doubted that she would be hearing from her family anytime soon. Willow’s my family now, she thought, and Buffy and Dawn and all my new friends. Tara couldn’t help smiling as she remembered the way that everyone had stood up to her father even after the terrible mistake she had made. Realising that she had reached her box she crouched down to open it. To Tara’s surprise there was something in it. She reached in and pulled out a postcard. Tara suddenly felt very cold. There was only one person who sent her postcards and the absence of them had been such a relief. It had been so long since the last one. Tara looked at the picture and saw that it was of the famous Hollywood sign. Did that mean…but no you could buy those in any place on the West Coast…slowly Tara turned it over and read the postmark - LA two days ago. Tara read the message and there was no doubt left.
“Hey!” Willow was suddenly standing beside her “It was here so we can get all wiccy later if you want to…” on catching sight of the card she added “Is that from your family?”
“Um, no, no it isn’t.” feeling guilty all Tara wanted to do was hide the card “It’s an advertising thing,” she invented wildly “Nothing important.”
“Okey dokey.” Willow said stepping back to give her girlfriend room to stand up “But we do need to hurry or we really will be late.”
Tara nodded her agreement, trying to nonchalantly slide the postcard into her bag without Willow noticing as she rose. But Willow had noticed and wondered why Tara was suddenly acting all guilty. Maybe it was from her family and she just wasn’t ready to show it to me yet, Willow thought, or maybe it really was advertising and I’m just being paranoid. But it did seem as if a shadow had passed over their day.
The Bronze was humming with the usual crowd - all those there to see and be seen. Although tonight there was no live music a talented DJ was keeping the dance floor packed. Tara felt, for about the hundredth time, amazed that she could feel comfortable in a place this cool when she felt kinda like a geek inside. It must be the company, she decided, looking over at Willow who was listening to Anya explain again how great her job at the Magic Box was.
“ And the customers give us money and then Giles gives me money…”
Xander rolled his eyes at Willow who gave him a tiny grin in return before he tried distracting Anya with:
“ That’s great, sweetie, but we all understand the great American way…”
Tara let their conversation wash over her as she watched Willow sipping her drink, it still took her breathe away to realise how beautiful Willow’s skin was’ how shiny her hair was, how kissible her…
“What!” Tara suddenly felt someone kick her leg and before she could stop herself she exclaimed outloud.
“Sorry, Tara,” Willow reached over and squeezed her hand in apology “But you seemed a little distracted, and I just wanted to check that you were OK.”
“I’mmm fine.” Tara stammered going red as she realised that everyone at the table was looking at her “Really”.
“Well good, because I don’t think you heard about the way that I got that customer to buy…” and Anya was off again back to the wonders of capitalism.
Willow, however, was not convinced. Ever since they had collected their mail that morning Tara had seemed to be finding it difficult to concentrate. Why, she hadn’t remembered a single thing from their art history class and that was one of her favourite papers, Willow thought, watching Tara listening to Anya. What had been on that postcard? Willow wondered. It wasn’t as if Tara even got a lot of mail, not personal mail anyway. Willow felt a momentary surge of jealousy at the thought that someone else would send personal stuff to Tara and that she, Willow, didn’t know about it. Don’t be silly, she told herself, it was just a postcard, probably from some old friend…
“Hey, Will,” Xander interrupted her “You ladies care to join us gettin’ some moves on?”
Willow emmerged from her revelry to see Xander and Anya standing by their table obviously ready to head out on the dance floor. She glanced over at Tara who gave a tiny shake of her head.
“Nah, we’re cool.”
“I’m crushed.” Xander put on a mock-sorrowful voice as he allowed Anya to drag him off.
“Now who’s all off in dream land?” Tara gently teased.
Willow just grinned sheepishly and thought, not for the first time that night, that Tara was the most gorgeous woman at the Bronze tonight.
“Want another drink?” Tara asked seeing that Willow had finished her glass.
“OK, but let me…”
She was interrupted by the DJ uncharacteristically interrupting the flow of music.
“And now here’s a song going out to a special girl…” the DJ began his voice sounding a little strained “This is for …um.. Piglet from…er… Tigger.”
“That’s weird, I thought that guy didn’t do dedications.” Willow said, turning back to Tara as she had turned to look in the direction of the DJ’s booth.
Tara sat feeling completely frozen, no, no, no it had to be someone else, her mind raced - someone other person who used A.A. Milne nicknames for themselves and their girlfriend. All day she had been trying to block out the horrible feeling creeping over her, wishing that there had been no postcard. But her worst fear was confirmed when the song began:
“There’s a letter on the desktop
I dug out of a drawer
Last truce we ever came to
In our adolescent war…”
Yes, “Ghost” by the Indigo Girls, it had been romantic at the time, when Sarah had first played it to her, in her room…but it had taken on a whole new meaning after all that had happened. Tara felt as if she was going to faint or maybe vomit, suddenly it seemed hard to breathe. She must be here, right here, in the Bronze…
Willow watched as all the colour seemed to slide out of Tara’s face as the music began.
“Tara, baby…what is it? What’s wrong?”
Willow slid off her chair and stood by Tara’s side. Tara could feel Willow beside her and leaned against her girlfriend.
“I’m not feeling too well.” she managed, trying to look around the room without turning her head. Suddenly a loud scream ripped through the music as the DJ toppled slowly sidewise and another voice cried:
“Did you see that? Some chick just ripped his throat out!”
Momentarily distracted Willow looked back at the DJ’s booth and Tara glanced quickly round the room. Over by the fire escape door a head turned and looked right at her. Tara saw an all too familiar face, a face that she had hoped never to see again, a face that she had prayed was gone forever - Sarah. And then she was gone and Tara could feel Willow rubbing her shoulder and hear her asking if she was OK.
Willow listened until she heard the bathroom door shut, muffling the sound of the shower running. At least Tara seemed better this morning. Last night when the DJ had been attacked Tara had looked like she was going to faint or something. She had gone all pale and…hey, Willow interrupted her own train of thought, it was kinda odd that Tara had reacted like that, it wasn’t as if the DJ was the first person that they had seen being attacked by a vampire. Maybe it was to do with the song he had played, Tara loved the Indigo Girls, and well it actually was pretty odd that the DJ had even played that song the Indigo Girls wasn’t exactly his style - I bet that’s why that vamp killed him. Willow entertained herself briefly with the idea of an irate vamp who hated chick rock getting so mad that he would kill the DJ…but what had that voice yelled.. something about some chick ripping out his throat…well not every woman loves the Indigo Girls - but why not because they are just about the coolest…focus Rosenberg…it had been before that the Tara had gone all odd, it was when the DJ said the dedication - what had it been? Something cute about Winnie-the -Pooh. But it had really been before that, all day Tara had seemed like there was something that she was worried about - the postcard!
Of course, Willow thought, it all started with that postcard that Tara had tried to hide in her bag. Willow wrestled briefly with her conscience, deciding that it was in a good cause to try and find the postcard even if Tara had tried to hide it, I mean if its hurting her than I need to find it so I can understand and help her…
Quickly Willow got up to start searching, keeping half an ear on the shower to check that it was still running. Tara’s bag only had her usual stuff - purse, notebook, stake…she must have moved it, but where? There weren’t that many places to hide it… Willow had a brain wave and picked up the book on the night stand that Tara was reading: The Mists of Avalon. Sure enough stuck between two pages near the end, well away from her star-covered bookmark, was the postcard. Not caring about the picture Willow turned it and read:
‘Dear Tara P, Missed you - it’s much more fun with two! TTFN Sarah T XXX’
Even through Willow read it twice it still didn’t make much sense the second time round. Who was Tara P? Tara’s last name was McClay that didn’t start with P …and what was TTFN? Somewhere in the back of her mind a memory surfaced - she’d been given a book for her seventh birthday The House at Pooh Corner and she’d read it everyday for like a year and ….TTFN that was what Tigger said when he said goodbye, and last night the dedication ‘for Piglet from Tigger’. Willow checked the card again - Sarah T -what if it was T for Tigger and Tara’s P was for Piglet. Willow suddenly had to sit down she felt so shaken. Who was sending postcards to her Tara calling her Piglet - that sounded like the kind of nick-name you have for your girlfriend or…or your lover. What was going on, what was Tara hiding from her? Willow felt sick at the thought that there was someone else in Tara’s life. But that was dumb, Tara wouldn’t lie to her like that…but she had before, about her family and the demon thing. Just then Willow realised that the silence meant that the shower had been turned off. Quickly she shoved the postcard back in the book and put it back from where she had picked it up. Just in time, she thought, as the bathroom door opened and Tara came out drying her hair.
“I won’t be long, sweetie.” Tara said, just as if everything was normal.
“OK.’ Willow heard herself respond “I’m about ready to go.”
I’ll talk to her later, Willow decided, when I’ve had time to think.
Tara leaned back against her favourite tree as she waited for Willow. The two young women had agreed to meet between their afternoon classes when both had a gap. It’s hard to believe, thought Tara, that on such a beautiful day I can’t just enjoy being out in the sun with my lovely Willow but instead I have to worry about who might be lurking around. She knew that sooner or later - preferably sooner- she was going to have to do something about Sarah. The only thing that had saved her last time had been lying to everyone about where she was going to college and secretly enrolling here. So far it had worked and Sarah had vanished from her life. But not anymore, Tara thought sadly, it really was wishfully thinking to hope that she would just go away.
Tara thought back to the last time they had talked and immediately felt ashamed. Willow would be here any minute and she was thinking about her ex-girlfriend. Her vampire-stalker-ex-girlfriend Tara corrected herself. The whole thing had just been so messy and complicated and Sarah wouldn’t take no for an answer. Well, she always had been kinda demanding…
“Whatcha thinking about?”
Tara jumped guiltily and looked up expecting to see Willow but standing there instead was Buffy.
“Will, I bet.” continued Buffy, siting down beside her friend and shaking her head “You two kids…”
Tara, feeling she had to say something, opened her mouth to speak when Buffy interrupted her:
“Hey, there’s Willow! Hey, Will, over here.”
Willow, who had already spotted her friends, came across the lawn, weaving around the other students taking advantage of the sun. Well I guess I’m not going to get a chance to talk with Tara seeing as Buffy and I have psych together in a little while, she thought. Maybe a good thing as I’m not exactly sure what I want to ask her. Willow sat down beside her girlfriend and immediately felt Tara’s arm slide around her as she leaned over for a hello-kiss which Tara returned with some fervour.
“Now I know what Tara was thinking so hard about before.” Buffy quipped.
Tara half smiled and Willow felt somehow relieved.
“So, scooby meeting tonight,” Buffy began “Giles wants to update us on his evil demon chick info, ‘tho I don’t think he’s found anything. You know I’m beginning to think that she must be, like, new or something, because there’s nada in Giles’ books.”
“Maybe we’re not looking in the right place.” Tara felt pleased to have something other that her own problems to think about “I think we should try to find out more about those monk guys, that could tell us why she’s here, then we might know something about what motivates her and that can only be good, right?”
What a great idea, Willow thought, smiling fondly at Tara, she’s so smart.
“You know, Buffy…” she began.
“We’re all going to be late for class,” Buffy interrupted, jumping to her feet “We’d better book.”
As they all headed off to class both Willow and Tara felt secretly relieved that they hadn’t had to talk about what was really bothering them.
“So are we Bronzeing?” Xander asked the group as they waited for Giles to lock the door of the Magic Box “What do you say G-man? Coming to shake your groove thing?”
Ignoring the muffled sniggers form Buffy and Anya, the result of the vision Xander’s words had conjured up, Giles glared acerbically over the top of his glasses at Xander:
“While I enjoy socialising as much as the next person I think that tonight I will decline your invitation. And I’ve asked you not to call me that.”
“Ah,” Xander nodded wisely “The lure of a cup of tea and a good book wins again.”
“The Bronze sounds like a plan…” Dawn began.
“And not one that you will be participating in, young lady.” Buffy cut in, in her best older sister voice “I promised Mom that you would be home by 10.”
“But Buffy…” Dawn whined.
“Home . Now.” Buffy began to march her little sister along the street “I might swing by after patrol.” she added over her shoulder.
“Cool, later then.” Willow spoke for the group and they headed along the darkened street.
Tara felt like the last thing she wanted to do was go to the Bronze. Her dorm room, or even better Willow’s dorm room, where there were doors through which vampires could not come uninvited would be much safer. She felt Willow take her hand as they walked along, and as always, felt thrilled by Willow’s touch. How does she do this to me? she thought. Willow felt Tara gently squeeze her hand and wondered if going with Xander and Anya was the right thing to do. She still hadn’t had a chance to talk to Tara privately and Willow was beginning to feel like she just wanted to get it over with. It was quiet and still tonight, but then it usually was in Sunnydale, Willow reflected, right up to the moment when whatever was on tonight’s monster menu leapt out of the shadows and tried to disembowel you.
Anya felt disconcerted by the quietness of her friends, which was unusual in itself because less of them talking meant more time for her to. Anya hadn’t realised how lonely she had been back when she was a demon and had discovered how nice it was that humans liked to hang around in little groups all talking at one another. Not that they listened to one another much. Take tonight, for example, Tara had been all distracted, sure she didn’t always say much but usually she paid attention and Buffy had kept looking over at Dawn as if to check that she was still there, but maybe she was still worried about Joyce who hadn’t been well and …Out of nowhere a body tackled her knocking Anya to the sidewalk.
“Hey!” Xander yelled, grabbing at the figure that was trying to pin the wriggling ex-demon to the ground. Emitting an all to familiar snarl the figure backhand Xander sending him sprawling. He tried to tuck and roll to minimise bruising but only succeeded in crashing in an ungainly heap. Frozen for a split second Willow felt herself react without thought and flung herself on top of the vampire, trying to pull his head away from Anya neck. It was no good trying to choke him but maybe if she poked him in the eye…Tara frantically rummaged in her bag feeling for the smooth wood of a stake. The vamp suddenly rolled onto his back pinning Willow, who was clinging to him like a limpet, underneath him but allowing Anya to roll sidewise. Anya felt someone pull at her and screamed, only to find it was her boyfriend helping her to her feet. Tara stepped forward with the stake and found herself jerked off her feet from behind.
She dropped the stake as she felt herself pulled backwards and screamed.
“Hey, baby,” a voice sounded in her ear “Your girlfriend’s back.”
“Help.” Willow tried to yell, but it came out more as a croak as the wind had been knocked out of her. Xander snatched up the stake and as the vampire sprang upwards towards him extended it. The vampire impaled himself and shrieked in rage as he turned into dust. Anya had grabbed Tara’s arms and was trying to pull her away from her attacker, which meant that she was being pulled along. As Willow heard Tara scream again she jumped up and ran towards the sound.
“Let her go!” Anya yelled at the vampire who was pulling them both along.
The vampire laughed and stopped, then casually pushed Anya hard propelling her into Willow and the two young women sprawled in a heap.
Willow looked up in time to hear the vampire say to the crying and struggling Tara:
“Please, I know you want me to. Just tell me that you want to come with me, and we can be together.”
“Nnno.” Tara sobbed.
“Isn’t she cute when she stammers?” the vampire smiled horribly at Willow.
Suddenly she pulled Tara round sideways and karate kicked Xander in the stomach doubling him over as he tried to sneak up from behind.
“Nice try,” she commented “Pity that you breathe so loud.”
Willow struggled to her feet.
“Please, leave her alone.” she begged, playing for time as she tried to think of spell that could help Tara.
“To bad, I was going to take you some place romantic and try to reason with you.” the vampire continued to Tara “But seeing as all your little friends made it we’ll just have to do it here.”
Without even pausing the vampire plunged her fangs into Tara’s neck.
Willow heard screaming and realised that it wasn’t Anya but herself. As if in fast forward she levitated the stake Xander had discarded and without aiming plunged it into the vampires back. She missed the heart but in pain the vampire stopped feeding. Willow rushed forward to grab Tara just as Xander pulled the stake out for another try. The vampire pushed Xander away and ran off leaving the sobbing Willow cradling the unconscious Tara.
Willow paced nervously in the corridor of Sunnydale Hospital.
“What’s taking them so long?” she asked in frustration.
“It’ll be OK.” Xander tried to keep the worry from his voice “They said it was probably just a little blood loss.”
“A little blood loss!” Willow exploded” Didn’t you see how pale she was?”
“Yes Xander, how can you be so insensitive?” Anya asked him waspishly, being in the hospital was making her nervous “If it were me and you were sitting out here saying ‘just a little blood loss’ while I was bleeding to death I wouldn’t be to happy!”
“Anya,” Xander began “I’m not sure your helping.”
“Well neither are you…”
“Shut up, both of you!”
“Sorry Will,” Xander went over to his friend and putting his arm around her and guided her into a red plastic seat “Buffy will be here soon.”
“And Buffy will help how?” Anya asked
“Well, An, she’ll go hunt down the vamp that attacked us and stake her good and we’ll all be able to sleep safely in our beds.” Xander paused and then said slowly “So, was it just me, or did that vamp chick seem to know Tara?”
“It was just you.” Willow said firmly, when what she was actually thinking was you and me both.
At that moment Buffy arrived. Willow jumped up and the two hugged.
“Sorry it took me so long,” she apologised ”But I was on patrol and had my pager off. So, what happened?”
As Xander and Anya filled her in Willow continued to worry. What if she had lost too much blood? What had that vamp meant ‘take her someplace romantic’? How did Tara know her? Willow felt like she was going to explode with worry, but most of all she just wanted to hold Tara for a long time and let her know how important she was to her. She’s my everything, Willow thought, what will I do if…but she was interrupted by the doctor coming out of Tara’s room.
“Ms Rosenberg?” he asked as Willow stepped forward “According to our records you hold power of attorney for Ms McClay. Is that correct?”
“Uh huh.” Willow nodded suddenly struggling to find words, why did that matter now unless something terrible had happened, well more terrible than what had happened already…
Seeing her confusion the doctor tried for a smile that was both understanding and encouraging.
“I’m only asking because in lieu of her next of kin, who don’t appear to be present, you are the person I need to update on Ms McClay’s condition.”
“They won’t be coming.” Buffy stepped forward “Please tell us what ‘s going on.”
Looking as if he wanted to ask who Buffy was but deciding not to the doctor asked instead, “Is it OK for these people to hear this?”
“Yes.” Willow nodded.
“Well, Ms McClay is going to be fine. We had to give her a pint of blood and in light of that I would recommend that she stay in overnight. She needs a good rest and tomorrow will be able to go home. What did you say attacked her?” he asked leafing through his clip board.
“ A dog.” Anya, Xander and Buffy all answered together.
“It must have been quite large to have…”
“Oh yes, it was a big one.” Xander babbled.
“A bitch, a big nasty bitch.” Anya added.
The doctor looked at them and made a note on his pad.
“Ms Rosenberg, you can stay with her if you wish. But your friends should just say ‘hi’ and go home”.
Willow and Tara lay close together on the narrow hospital bed. Tara’s arm was round her lover and gently stroking her head which was cushioned on her left shoulder. On the right side of her neck a bandage covered the puncture marks. The doctor had decided that an iv was necessary to keep her fluids up and this was in her right arm. I need to tell her, Tara thought, I’ve put my Willow in danger and she deserves an explanation. She was about to speak when Willow said:
“I have to tell you something.” She took a deep breathe and quickly went on ”I’m really sorry about this, but I read that post card. I was so worried especially after the Bronze when you got so freaked - I know you weren’t sick - and I just wanted to help you. And then tonight, that wasn’t just a random attack, was it?”
Tara could hear the worry in Willow’s voice and felt guilty that she had caused it.
“I didn’t mean to hide it from you,” she began “But its complicated and I felt guilty for not telling you about it before and I was so scared when I got the card that I just panicked and didn’t know what to do.” Tara felt tears rolling down her cheek “Willow, I’m so sorry. Especially after that stuff with my family and you were so good about that, it isn’t that I don’t trust you, I do with my life.”
She gave up trying to talk through her tears.
“Shh, its OK baby.” Willow held her tight and whispered comforting words until Tara calmed down.
“Some of it you already know,” Tara began “So here’s the whole story. You know I’ve told you about my girlfriend from high-school, Sarah?”
“Yeah, you dated for a year and then she went missing at the beginning of your senior year.” Willow didn’t really like to think of anyone else dating Tara.
“ Yes, and because of her disappearance and the fact that we were still dating, I had some unresolved feelings for her that I had to work through…”
Oh no, thought Willow, she’s going to tell me that she’s still in love with her. Seeing her face Tara quickly reassured her:
“No, it isn’t that, you’re the only one that I love.” Tara stroked Willow’s face and traced around her cheekbone “You do believe me, don’t you?”
Willow kissed the tips of Tara’s fingers and replied “Only me.”
“Well,” Tara continued “It wasn’t that she had run away, like everyone hoped she had. About a week after Sarah disappeared she came round to see me one night. But I was at the hospital with Mum, she had jjjust gotten sick…” Tara paused and Willow took a tight hold on her hand, letting Tara know that she was holding her pain.
“Donny was at home, but he didn’t like Sarah, he never had - thought she was a bad influence on me - so he wouldn’t let her in. Turns out that that wasn’t such a bad thing, in the end.”
At those words a terrible suspicion began to form in Willow’s mind.
“Sarah rang me and wanted to meet. She didn’t want to come to the house, she hadn’t really thought that anyone would be here except me and Donny had worried her. She knew her family would be frantic and she made me swear not to tell anyone we were meeting. Sarah suggested that we meet at night, at the bleachers on the football field. I went early and she didn’t come until after dark.”
“How did you get away?” Willow couldn’t help herself “Did you know about vampires then?”
Tara smiled at her girlfriend:
“No, I didn’t know about vampires then, I mean not right away. We talked, she told me about how a guy had attacked her and when she ‘woke up’ she had changed. She told me how great it was, how strong she felt. Then how she loved me and we could be together forever. Then she offered to change me and then her face went all grrrr”.
Tara pulled a snarly face and continued:
“I was horrified and I screamed and suddenly Donny was there. Donny had followed me, he didn’t want me to meet Sarah and he suspected that’s who I was meeting. I ran to him and Sarah seemed confused and ran off too. I think that was the only time in my life I was actually pleased to see him”.
Tara paused. This part of the story didn’t seem too bad, Willow thought.
“So you girlfriend turned into a vampire. You could have told me that.” she said gently.
Wait ‘til you hear the rest, Tara thought.
“ It turned out to be useful that Dad didn’t really like Sarah either because when Donny told him that I had met her he forbade me to see her if she wouldn’t get in contact with her family. Dad told them I had met her and they told the police and it was awful.” Tara paused remembering how lonely she had felt “I couldn’t even talk to Mom about it. But I had her spell books and stuff and from them I learned about vampires and how to protect myself. Sarah tried again. She sent me postcards, begging for a meeting. She would call me when she thought noone else was home. She even came and sat outside my window at night and tried to convince me to let her turn me.”
Willow remembered how scared they had all been of Angel when
he had turned into Angelus, even Buffy, no, especially Buffy.
“Oh, Tara!” Willow tried to find words of comfort but realised that just holding Tara close was comfort enough.
“It went on for a couple of months.” Tara continued “Willow, it was the worst time of my life. And then…then mmom died…”
Tara stopped talking and buried her face in Willow’s neck. Willow could feel her lover’s tears trickling down her neck and gently stroked Tara’s hair letting her love cover them like a blanket.
Eventually Tara began again:
“This is the part I’m ashamed of,” her words were a whisper “Willow, part of me wanted to go to Sarah. She was so nice after Mmm…afterwards. It was like she was how we were when we were first together.”
“You mean you talked to her?” Willow interrupted “But she wanted to kill you!”
“Willow, I’m not proud of it but there was nnoone else. I was so lonely.”
Willow felt stunned - imagine being so lonely that a killer vampire, even one that was your ex, was your only choice of friend. But she -Willow didn’t want to even think her name- wasn’t her ex, they had been together when it had happened. What if it was Buffy or Xander? she asked herself, could I just let go of my feelings for them, just like that? Or what if it were Tara…
“But part of me always knew that it wasn’t really Sarah.” Tara had begun to talk quietly again “I made a plan of how to get away from her, to get away from all of them. I pretended to enrol in school over on the east coast. I told everyone that I had summer classes. I told Sarah that Dad and Donny wanted to drive me to school and I sent her on ahead. Then I came here. I didn’t tell anyone where I was really going. I just wanted to start over.”
“Why’d you choose Sunnydale?” Willow asked curiously.
Tara actually laughed “You’ll enjoy the irony of this - I liked the name ‘Sunnydale’ - it sounded like a happy place.”
Willow managed to smile “I’m pleased you came.” she whispered.
The door swung open and a uniformed head popped in
“You two still awake?” a voice asked sternly “Ms McClay needs her rest. I don’t want to have to ask you to leave.”
“Sorry, we’ll be quiet now.” Tara replied.
They settled down to sleep on the cramped bed but Willow couldn’t relax. Tara’s story was extraordinary and despite trying not to Willow felt hurt that Tara hadn’t told her before. And sad that there had been noone to comfort Tara when she had needed it the most, but mostly scared that someone was trying to kill Tara and tonight she had very nearly succeeded.
“Well, here we are home sweet dorm.” Xander announced as they approached Tara’s room. Much to her embarrassment all her friends had turned up to escort Willow and her from the hospital.
“You guys didn’t need to come all this way.” Willow commented.
Anya opened her mouth, probably to agree, but Buffy cut her off:
“Sure we did. It’s all part of the service.”
As Tara bent forward with her key she spotted an all too familiar shape half pushed under the door. She wasn’t the only one.
“Look, a get well soon card!” Anya announced swooping up the post card and looking at the picture “Hey look, its a picture of a cemetery.”
“Only in Sunnydale is death our main attraction.” said Xander looking over Anya’s shoulder for a closer look “Buffy isn’t that where you slayed…”
“Guys, Tara’s mail, a private thing.” Willow had to restrain herself from ripping the card out of Anya’s grasp.
“Well, not that private, leaving it out here where just about anyone could read it. “ Anya grumbled as she handed over the post card.
Tara opened the door and they all crowded into the dorm. Willow kept a tight grip on the card and tried to think of how to politely get her friends to leave. Fortunately Tara sank down with a sigh on the bed looking pale and drained. “We should get out of here,” Buffy said noticing Tara’s face “Tara needs to rest.”
A little later Willow sat on the edge of Tara’s bed. She had insisted that Tara change into her pjs and take the day to rest and recover. Tara had found it difficult to resist Willow’s ministrations. She was tired and worried about what could happen later and felt she should be as rested as possible in order to be ready to face it.
“So, what does it say?” Tara asked when Willow had finally decided that she had fussed over her enough.
Willow frowned and looked like she didn’t want to tell Tara.
“It’s from her.” Willow passed the card to Tara.
In contrast to the cutsy message of last time the words were blunt and to the point:
‘Tara, I’m not going to stop until we’re together. I’ll kill anyone who tries to prevent this - but I’ll save the red head for you to do yourself. You belong to me. Sarah’
Tara bite her lip and flushed with anger.
“Willow, sweetie, its never going to happen. We’ll stop her.” I’ll stop her, she amended silently.
Willow allowed Tara to pull her close and they snuggled close together.
“I’m scared.” Willow admitted “ I need you and if something happened…”
“It’s not going to. I love you and nothings going to happen. I won’t let it.” Tara kissed Willow’s upturned face “You’re the only one I want to be with.”
Willow let herself relax against the familiar shape of Tara and together they drifted off to sleep entwined together.
Tara checked again that she had everything that she needed for the locator spell. She sent a silent prayer to Minerva that she had made the right choice and began the spell. First Tara cast a magic circle using sea salt around herself and her supplies and then called the corners. Then she grounded her power with a brief meditation and held her scrying crystal between the picture she had of Sarah and a map of Sunnydale and began to chant:
“Angerona, I give honour to you. Reveal she who is hidden.”
As she repeated the words Tara felt the crystal slowly begin to swing over the picture of Sarah. Then it moved in a wide arc over the map and began to circle. Tara could feel it pulling downwards and let it descend. As the crystal touched the map it fell sideways, leaving its tip on one of the many cemeteries that Sunnydale possessed. Tara let go of the crystal’s chain and stopped chanting. After thanking Angerona for her aid she called the corners in reverse to end the ritual. Only then did she let her self relax. Tara felt pleased at the success of the spell, they didn’t always go as smoothly as this. After she had cleared away what she no longer needed Tara sat on the floor again and looked properly at the map. The crystal pointed to Shady Rest Cemetery, an older cemetery on the outskirts of town. Now I’ve got you, Tara thought, and it’s going to end tonight.
Checking the time Tara realised that she had to hurry because Willow would be finishing her afternoon classes soon. In her bag she gathered supplies: several vials of holy water, stakes and a large wooden cross. Hopefully she wouldn’t have to get too close; Willow isn’t the only one who can levitate objects, Tara thought grimly. Finally she wrote a note for Willow explaining where she was going and put that in her bag too, she would leave it out before she left. Picking up The Mists of Avalon Tara reclined on her bed. Under it was the postcard that had been waiting for them that morning - showing a picture of Shady Rest Cemetery.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” Willow asked as she snuggled against Tara’s naked body “Everyone will want to see that you’re OK.”
And I don’t want to leave you alone, she added silently.
“I’ll be fine.” Tara tried to sound tired “I just want an early night. I’m still a little tired.”
“Ooo I hope we weren’t too…” Willow began.
“No.” Tara cuddled closer “I’m never too tired for you. Or of you.”
“Well I should hope not.” Willow whispered into Tara’s ear.
Tara felt terrible for deceiving Willow - it’s for her own good, she kept telling herself. Willow sighed and leaned out of the bed reaching for her bra.
“Tar, I still think we should tell Buffy the whole story.” she said, getting out of bed and beginning to search for her scattered clothes. All afternoon Willow had been thinking about what to say to Tara to convince her to ask Buffy for help.
“I mean, this is a vamp thing and she is the slayer.”
Tara regretfully watched Willow cover her beautiful body and to change the topic said with feeling:
“You’re so beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Willow smiled at her lover “And don’t change the subject. I really think…”
“Willow, this is embarrassing for me.”
“You don’t have to tell her everything.” Willow paused and thought “Just the part about knowing her and her stalking you.’
Willow waited a second and then added:
“Even Xander noticed.”
“Even Xander noticed what?” Tara asked.
“That in the middle of her attacking us she knew who you were.” Willow replied “He said so at the hospital.”
Tara didn’t say anything as Willow sat on the bed and began to put on her shoes and socks. I really just need to buy time, Tara thought, if it all goes well tonight tomorrow there will be nothing to tell Buffy. And if it doesn’t go well…Tara stopped thinking and said:
“Let me sleep on it, Willow. She can’t hurt me here.”
“Well, I guess…” Willow trailed off “I’m just so worried about you.” she burst out, reaching over and taking Tara’s hands “I love you and it frightens me that out there is some psycho wanting to hurt you.”
Tara pulled Willow to her and held her tight:
“I know. It scares me too. I just need some time to think about it.”
Willow let Tara hold her for a minute and reluctantly disentangled herself:
“I guess it’s your decision.”
“Yes it is.” Tara giggled as Willow pulled a pleading face “And don’t pull that puppy dog eyes thing. I promise we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
“OK.” Willow leaned down and kissed Tara passionately “That’s to remember me while I’m gone.”
“As if I could forget.”
Willow pulled on her jacket and grabbing her bag paused at the door:
“Love you. Don’t wait up.”
Tara blew her a kiss and snuggled back into the bed as Willow shut the door.
Willow refused to let herself feel nervous as she walked towards the Magic Box. After years of being aware of all that came out after dark Willow had developed a kind of fatalism about their night time activities, overlaid of course with a certain amount of pre-emptive caution. Tonight there was good cause for alarm, what with her out there, but she had admitted that Tara was her real target. And, Willow thought, what’s with all the sweet talk about trying to convince Tara to turn into a vampire willingly. My Tara would never do that! But Tara had thought about it, Willow tried to not keep thinking - but as they so often did her thoughts just kept coming - had albeit briefly wondered if it was what she should do. Imagine being that sad and lonely that a vampire was the only one that you could talk to. Willow let herself feel angry at the McClays - they had so much to answer for. When someone’s mom dies they need love and support not being immediately thrust into the role of caregiver, having to look after everyone around them. But Tara hadn’t done it, Willow reminded herself, she had resisted temptation and managed to escape from everyone. Suddenly Willow heard footsteps behind her and quickly turned.
“Oi, Red, got a light?” the vampire asked.
“Spike!” Willow groaned “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that!”
“Why not? It’s about the only pleasure I got left.” Spike grinned evilly “Well, apart from… you know…a bit of how’s your father.”
“No I don’t know!” Willow could feel herself blushing.
“I bet you do.” Spike leered “That bird of yours, I bet she’s a bit of a goer.”
Willow shoved Spike, causing him to stumble.
“That’s no way to treat a fellow.” he grumbled “’Specially when I’m only trying to help.”
“Help how?” Willow asked, trying to ignore the unlit cigarette that Spike was brandishing unsubtly in her face “And no, I don’t have a light.”
“Pity.” Spike reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and withdrew a lighter and slowly preceded to light his cigarette
“You had that, ” Willow waved at the lighter “All the time.”
“Yeah, well, can’t just walk up to you, like we’re mates or something. Need an excuse, like.” Spike took a drag and slowly exhaled.
“Well?” Willow demanded
“Yeah? Oh, right.” Spike leaned in closer “Word is that there’s a new player in town. And she’s after your bird. Asking all kinds of questions, I heard.”
Spike stepped back with a satisfied smirk on his face.
“What kinds of questions?” Willow asked nervously
“All kinds - like who you lot are, where you all live, that sort of thing.” Spike’s face took on a cunning look “That’s gotta be worth a bob or two.”
Willow ignored him, her mind racing. If she was going to all this trouble to find out information, then she was pretty serious. And she had recruited someone to help attack them last night. It didn’t matter what Tara said this had gone too far and Buffy needed to know. Willow pulled out her phone, still ignoring Spike who was sulking.
“Who’re you calling?” he asked.
Willow hushed him, and listened. The phone rang for a long time, then cut to Buffy’s voice mail.
“Buffy, listen it’s me, Willow. Tara’s in danger, there’s a vampire after her. I’m going back to the dorms now, can you please come to Tara’s room. Please.”
Spike listened with interest.
“You know, I could help.” he began.
“What? How?” Willow asked , not really listening.
“I’ll find Buffy, right, and give her the message.”
“OK.” Willow replied “Try at the Magic Box first. The others might know where she is.”
As Spike turned to go, Willow asked suspiciously
“Why do you want to help?”
Spike glared at her, annoyed that she had asked.
“Well, sounds important, doesn’t it.” he hurried on “And, well, might be a bit of action in it, and I like a bit of the rough stuff,” he leered “And might be a reward, I’m running short of the readies…”
Spike stopped abruptly, eyeing Willow, and decided to get as close to the truth as he ever got.
“Well, to tell you the truth I’m feeling restless and…”
“You’re bored?” Willow asked incredulously.
“Yeah, well, enjoy it while it lasts” Spike turned to go “Can’t a fellow just want to help a lady…” he muttered to himself as he slouched away towards down town.
Willow watched Spike for a second and then began to hurry back towards the campus.
Tara walked nervously among the graves at Shady Rest Cemetery. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all, she thought, Sarah might not be the only thing lurking around. Because of its age the cemetery had towering gothic carvings atop many of the stones that cast long shadows. Crypts dotted the landscape. Tara had been in here at night before but usually with at least Willow, if not all her friends. You can always go home, she reminded herself, and get into bed and Willow need never know that you did this, putting yourself in danger…at the thought of her girlfriend Tara’s resolve hardened. No she would confront Sarah and end it here tonight. Why do I feel like I need to do this? Tara asked herself. Because I should have done something before, I should have staked her as soon as I knew what she was, I shouldn’t have listened to her…and now I’ve put everyone in danger, I’ve put Willow in danger. Tara took a deep breathe to calm herself and mutter a prayer to Nemesis for the strength to do what she had come here for, to revenge all the people that Sarah had killed because she, Tara, had let her live.
“Tara!” Willow cried as she flung open the door into the dorm, looking round the room for her girlfriend.
But the room was empty. Willow rushed across the room to the en suite and pushed it open. The small bathroom looked exactly as normal, with their belongings scattered along the shelves and dirty clothes in the hamper. Tara wasn’t there.
No, no, Willow thought, where is she? Why isn’t she here? Maybe she decided to come to the Magic Box after all and we missed one another in the dark and she’s there, right now, worrying about where I am. Willow pulled out her phone and dialled.
“Good evening, Magic Box, how…” the measured British tones began.
“Uh, hi Giles, it’s me Willow” Willow tried to keep the panic out of her voice “I was wondering if, um, Tara was there?”
“No, I haven’t seen her. Is everything all right? Let me ask Xander.”
There was a small pause and then Giles voice came back on the line.
“No, they haven’t seen her since this morning. Is something wrong?” Giles asked again.
“Um, is Buffy there?” Willow asked instead of answering his question.
“No, she went off somewhere with Spike. He was here just a little while ago. He said something about a private message.” Giles sounded puzzled “Although why she would go off with him I don’t know.”
“If Tara arrives,” Willow said, choosing her words carefully “Can you ask her to wait for me there.”
“Of course. Are you sure…’
“It’s nothing,” Willow tried to deflect him “We just missed each other, that ‘s all.”
At that moment there was a knock on the dorm door and Buffy poked her head in, and seeing Willow came into the room. Willow was pleased to see that she was alone.
“I have to go, bye.” Willow said quickly before hanging up.
“Tara isn’t here and she’s not at the Magic Box.” Willow said to Buffy “I’m scared that something’s happened to her.”
“Slow down.” Buffy spoke calmly “Spike had some story about a vampire stalking Tara or something. Is it true?”
Quickly Willow told Buffy what she needed to know.
“And you think that this vamp has kidnapped Tara” Buffy asked.
“Well, I don’t know” Willow began to panic again “Maybe, but I don’t think she would go off with her if she didn’t have to. And Tara wouldn’t let her in.”
Buffy, seeing a note lying on the bed, reached over to pick it up and handed it to Willow.
Willow grabbed it out of Buffy’s hand and read:
‘Willow, please don’t be angry with me but I have to do this. I have been the cause of so much pain because I didn’t do anything last time. I’m going to find her and end it tonight. I’ve gone to Shady Rest Cemetery. I love you, Tara’.
“Why, why would she do that?” Willow asked, feeling as if she was going to cry “Why would she put herself in danger like that? She can’t slay vampires. Not alone.“
“She feels responsible for letting that vamp live.” Buffy said grimly “I bet she’s worried about you and thinks she can protect you by killing this Sarah chick.” “I’m going after her.” Willow turned towards the door.
“No, Will, let me…” Buffy began.
“You’re not going alone” Willow said firmly “What if it were Dawn and the only way to save her was a spell I could do? Would that stop you wanting to help?”
“I guess not.” Buffy conceded as they headed for the hallway.
Tara was beginning to wonder if she had made a mistake with the locator spell. She had walked round a large part of the cemetery and had encountered nothing more frightening than some scared squirrels. Must be a slow night , Tara thought, or probably she’s gone to the dorm to serenade me. I’m pretty sure I did the spell OK but that doesn’t mean she’s here right now. Tara paused at the corner of a crypt and peeked around it. Only deserted cemetery. Tara started to walk along the next row of graves and smiled grimly as a thought hit her: the one time she actually wanted to see Sarah she was nowhere to be found. ‘Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think…’ she hummed softly.
“Still listening to Alanis?” a voice came out of the darkness to her left “I didn’t think her next release lived up to the promise of ‘Jagged Little Pill’.”
Tara turned to face the direction of the voice and mentally told herself to focus and realised that despite coming here to find Sarah she hadn’t really prepared herself for a face to face encounter.
“Sssarah,” she began.
“There’s no need to be nervous.” Sarah replied stepping out of the shadows “It’s only little old me.”
Tara reached into her pocket where she had put the holy water vials and gripped one. Sarah didn’t seemed to have noticed and kept her dark eyes fixed on Tara’s face.
“I’ve missed you so much, Tara. I don’t care about anything that’s happened, I just want us to be together.” she said taking a step closer.
Tara couldn’t help herself, as Sarah moved closer she retreated. Keep her talking, she told herself, play for time and the opportunity will present itself.
“Wwhy did you attack us?” she asked.
“I just wanted to get your attention. I knew that if you could see me properly again, then you would begin to think about the old days and…”
“But you tried to kill us, to kill me. If Willow hadn’t…”
“If Willow hadn’t …what? Put a hole in my back?” Sarah laughed, but not in a pleasant way “But I have to say I was impressed by all your new friends. A witch, a ex-vengeance demon, and a slayer! Tara, you’re moving up in the world. I heard they even used to hang out with a vampire. Maybe we can all still be friends. But I’m more in favour of a new start, you know things could get a little hot here, what with who’s arrived in town.”
Sarah moved a step closer again and said softly
“Enough chit chat. Soon we’ll have forever to catch up. Tara, I know why you’ve come.”
“Nno you don’t. “ Tara tried to make her voice defiant “I’m here to kill you.”
“I know you hang out with the slayer now, but somehow I don’t think it will have rubbed off. Or maybe you’ll do a spell on me.” Sarah rolled her eyes
“Come on Tara, I’m a big bad vampire now. You can’t hurt me.”
Maybe not how you think but I can, Tara thought and replied
“You know, I’m happy here in Sunnydale. I have great friends and I’m going to college, just like I always wanted to. And I’ve met someone special and amazing. She means more to me that you ever did.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes and Tara could see that her last remark had hit home.
“I love Willow, she’s my world…”
Sarah’s face morphed into the evil visage of a vampire and she gave a low snarl.
“No…” the monster began as Tara’s hand flew out of her pocket and the holy water vial broke on Sarah’s face. The vampire stepped back, clawing at the burning water on it’s face.
“Ouch.” Buffy commented as she stepped around the crypt to stand beside Tara “That’s gotta burn.”
Ignoring Sarah Buffy addressed herself to Tara:
“You know, Tara, doing the whole secret vengeance gig, not a good look…”
“Yeah.” Willow chimed in as she rushed to Tara’s side from her hiding place behind the crypt “You could have been hurt or…”
“Willow, I’m ssoo sorry, I was just…” Tara began.
“Well, as I was saying, “ Buffy continued loudly “ Tara you have to ask us for help, we’re your friends and…”
“If you’re all not too busy,” Sarah commented sarcastically, ignoring the pain on her burned face ”I think I’ll just kill you all, ‘cause now I’m kinda pissed.”
Without pausing she launched a high kick at Buffy’s chest. Buffy caught the kick and twisted Sarah’s leg causing her to spin her body in the direction of Tara whom she tried to punch as she spun passed. Willow, seeing her intention, pulled Tara to safety.
“You could have waited ‘til we were finished,” Buffy advanced a step and kicked Sarah before she had the chance to regain her balance “It’s not like I’m going to let you get away with terrorising one of my friends.”
Sarah hit the ground hard and rolled quickly back onto her feet and charged at Buffy who let her come and stepped aside at the last minute and tried to help her passed with an elbow aimed at the back of the neck. But Sarah ducked the blow, checked her charge and kicked Buffy hard in the ribs. Buffy, startled by the blow, doubled over in pain and staggered a few steps, gasping for air. Sarah headed towards Willow and Tara who had started to edge away along the row of graves. Tara reached into her pocket for another vial of holy water to throw but Willow stepped forward.
“She belongs with me!” Sarah snarled as she advanced.
“That’s really up to Tara to decide, but I heard what she said before and I don’t think she wants to be you.” Willow taunted her.
“Willow!” Tara said as she stepped beside her, holding the holy water in view “Be careful.”
“Yeah, Willow, be careful I don’t…” Sarah began but was cut off when she felt something slam into her body.
“There’s just no commitment to a good fight nowadays,” Buffy commented as she stepped back and they all watched Sarah explode into dust. “Her attention was all over the place. You guys OK?”
“We’re good.” Willow replied, smiling her thanks at Buffy.
“Better than good.” Tara added, taking Willow’s hand.
“I’m still kinda mad at you.” Willow said as she watched Tara finish getting ready for bed.
“Not too mad, I hope.” Tara paused in brushing her hair and looked at Willow “I just wanted it to be over. I didn’t really think about the danger. I was hoping to sneak up on her…” she trailed off and bit her lip worriedly.
“More like hoping that something like this won’t happen again rather than mad.” Willow let her self smile a little, realising that her overwhelming emotion was relief that it was all over and Tara was safe. Tara had explained everything to her and although Willow wasn’t too happy that she had gone off alone, she could sort of see why Tara had done it. Tara’s words in the cemetery had reassured her that Tara had no lingering feelings for her . I don’t need to feel insecure about us, Willow thought happily, Tara’s my forever.
Seeing her smile Tara said:
“I promise that when my next stalker vampire ex-girlfriend comes to visit I’ll have Buffy slay her for me.”
“You mean there’s more of them?” Willow pretended she wasn’t quite sure if Tara meant it.
“Just the one.” Tara reassured her, catching her mood as she put down her hair brush and came over to the bed and leaned down to kiss Willow.
“I love you!” Willow pulled Tara down beside her and kissed her deeply.
“I love you forever.” Tara responded as she began to surrender to her lover’s passion.