The Taura-Tara Nexus PAIRING:
Tara from BtVS and Taura from the Barrayar books by Lois McMaster Bujold RATING:
Miss Murchison - with huge thanks for her patience and help over the long, long time this has taken to be finished
Rabid1st - who brought a fresh eye to the thing, when my brain was finally shot, and my judgement in serious doubt SETTING:
Post season 6 of BtVS - a very long time after Season 6 in fact. And post 'Winterfair Gifts' in the Barrayar series. DISCLAIMER:
I’m borrowing, but I hope I've treated Tara and Taura as kindly as their creators would have wanted. Prologue
It was a dark place. Cold. But, it was
a place, she could feel that. It wasn’t nothingness, or void. She couldn’t see anything, or touch anything, but she knew things were there. Something about the air, and the way it flowed past her... hey, there was air! And there was ground, under her feet. She bent down, excited, and put her palm flat in front of her - yes, ground. Flat and smooth. Not outdoors then - a room somewhere.
And maybe, just maybe.... she muttered under her breath, and clicked her fingers. A yellow glow sprang into being at her fingertips. She held her hand aloft, in unconscious imitation of the Statue of Liberty. Shadows fled in every direction. A floor under her feet, a little shiny but otherwise featureless, just the suggestion of a wall, frustratingly beyond the reach of her light. She stepped forward, and heard a faint click!
The light in her hand extinguished before she even consciously thought about it, and she stood silent and still, ears almost quivering - newly blind eyes straining toward the sound. A chink of light showed some way in front of her, then a long diagonal beam, as a door was set ajar. Muffled grunting, and swearing, a confused bobble of heads, and bodies. They were carrying something, something heavy. She stepped backwards stealthily on bare feet. There was a thud - they’d hit the wall. More curses, then a heavy dull thump as they dropped their burden on the floor.
“Sod this for a game of soldiers! This freak’s got to weigh 300 pounds.” A figure straightened, limned in the shaft of light from the door, pressing the small of his back. Freak?
She moved back another step, felt a wall behind her. Stopped.
“My back’s killing me,” said the voice sulkily. His foot swung, and he connected with the shadowy mass on the floor. There was dull thud of boot meeting body.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” He was hopping about the room, foot in his hand.
“The freak's built like a rock, you moron.” There was a little swell of unsympathetic laughter from the other men present. The speaker shook his head, looking at the shadowy parcel in front of them. "Free gift be damned. I knew that bastard back in the Jagellian wars, when he was Lieutenant Roscowinski, and he doesn't give free gifts. We're clearing up his mess for him, that's all."
He sniffed, "Well, let's hope it fetches something from someone. There's always a market for freaks." How many men were there?
She couldn’t see. More than two, anyway.
At that moment the question resolved itself - each of them slipped out again through the door, and she counted as their heads were outlined in the light. One, two - still limping - that was the whiner; three, four, five. Five guys to carry one ‘freak’? Sounds like they caught a big one
. The door pulled shut, and she was again in total darkness. Only this time she wasn’t alone. This time there was a monster. Chapter 1 - Beware Monsters
And she was willing to bet the door was locked.
She stood still, hand on the wall behind her, considering her options. Instinct had kept her silent while the men were there, and that still seemed like a smart move. Seems they have a secret. Doubt they wanted to share it with anyone. Including me.
Well, maybe it would be smart now to find out just what kind of monster she was locked in with. Door first - shouldn’t make assumptions.... She summoned a light again, and glided silently forward on bare feet, skirting the huddled shape carefully. Huh - the door had no knob. She could see its oblong shape, but it was set entirely flush with the wall, and totally featureless. No knob, no keypad, no nothing. Well, that was plain enough. Wonder if I could burn it down?
she thought brightly - before I burnt myself to death, or asphyxiated myself, that is. Probably not.
She turned to the shape behind her, reluctantly. I thought I’d left the monsters behind
. It was huge, swathed in some kind of tarpaulin, although she could see boots sticking out at one end. She hunkered down beside it, regarding what must be the head end. And if I pull this tarp back, what are the odds it’s going to grin at me, and say “Boo!”?
She reached her hand out - looked at it for a moment. It seemed strange, and familiar all at once. Pale skin, long fingers, nails a bit chewed. Huh. Looks like I have bad habits.
Her hand was trembling, so she must be scared; but she didn’t feel scared exactly - more sort of.... numb. Why is that?
She shook it off impatiently. Action first, introspection later. Sounds like a plan.
She peeled the tarp back gingerly - and stared, puzzled, at a neat braid of dark hair on the back of a head. A monster who goes to a hair salon?
Right at that moment the monster moved, a huge rippling of the tarp, as it groaned and twisted, and rolled onto its back. Whoah! Back to the monster alert! Its face was a mass of planes and angles - heavy jutting brows, swooping cheekbones - and then there was the.... muzzle, and the fangs. The creature was groaning, a deep unearthly thrumming noise, and there was a wet sucking sound under that - like a massive pug dog trying to breathe through its squashed up nose. Ah, there was blood shining black in the light all around the creature’s nostrils, and its nose had a skewed sideways look about it. Looks like someone hit you with something heavy, sweetheart
. The groaning noise was getting deeper, more laboured. What’s that about?
The creature’s mouth was open, inch long fangs glowing white above the black open maw. Suddenly understanding came. It’s choking on its tongue - it’s unconscious, and its tongue’s choking it. I should do something.
She looked at that huge open mouth again - at the teeth. Put my hand in there, it could bite if right off. And why am I trying to save it anyway? When it wakes up it’ll probably eat me for breakfast. Um, I could roll it over again, hope the tongue will move by itself.
She looked at the ball of yellow light sitting at the tips of her fingers, then tossed it into the air. It bobbed for a moment, then settled into a hover, casting a buttery glow over the scene. She took hold of the creature’s shoulder, and snatched it back - whoah! it was hot! Hand paused just a few inches above the body, Tara could still feel the heat radiating from it, as though the monster was lit by an internal fire. Maybe it has a fever?
She put her hand back, rather gingerly, and pushed. Then pushed a bit harder. Then knelt down, placed both her hands together and pushed again, with all her strength. The shape beneath her barely stirred. Well, that was a waste of time.... maybe I could pull on its arm, instead? That might work. Nah, It’s not going to work, and you know it.
She sighed and contemplated the cavernous, gaping mouth, listened to the choking groans. Why do I know I’m going to do this? Clearly I’m a sap.
She reached a reluctant hand into the creature’s mouth, trying to avoid the sharp, slicing teeth. The creature’s tongue was huge, and hot, and unpleasantly muscular and floppy all at once. It was doubled nearly back on itself, obstructing the creature's throat. She wrapped her fingers around the tongue and pulled, and it flopped back into place, trapping her fingers against the beast’s lower row of teeth for a heart stopping moment. She tremblingly withdrew her hand and turned it palm upward; it was covered in saliva and blood. Eeew, eeew, eeew! Please, tongue, don’t fall back - I really, really don’t want to do that twice.
There was an ominous wet gulping sound, followed by a rough rasping breath. The creature’s body jerked, sending her scrambling backwards from her kneeling position, then it lay still again, breathing deep ragged breaths, with a little whistling sound at the end of them.
She settled back on to her knees. Hmm, that sounds better, anyway. It should soon be in good enough shape to take a bite out of me
. In fact, finding a weapon right now would be good
. She got to her feet, and made a quick, unoptimistic search of the room - nothing. Walls, floor, her, the monster. That was it. So, logically, the place to look was the monster. Maybe it was armed? She returned cautiously, to where her patient continued to drag deep noisy breaths, and took hold of the tarpaulin. It pulled away easily from the creature’s shoulders - which were massive, bigger than those of the biggest linebacker in existence. But from there on down, the creature was lying on part of the tarp, and soon there was no more pulling away to be done. She peered doubtfully at the dark gap between tarpaulin and creature. Another dark, dangerous place to put my hand, huh? This is turning into some kind of scary Freudian nightmare
. She contemplated the dark gap again. Perhaps not - perhaps I’ll try the tarpaulin from the other end.
She scooted down to the creature’s feet - which were clad in the most enormous pair of combat boots she had ever seen. The tarpaulin proved a bit more amenable at this end, with less weight pinning it down. She pulled mightily, and unwrapped at least half of the creature’s impossibly long legs. Now if I can just get it uncovered up to the waist... dang.
The tarp was stuck again, and with a tchah
of annoyance, she tugged mightily - and felt an answering tug.
Her eyes flew up - and met two tawny golden eyes suspiciously regarding her.
One enormous hand - tipped with large claws, she noted nervously, was clutching the tarpaulin.
The creature’s mouth opened, and it spoke. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Tara,” she heard herself say, “Tara Maclay.”