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A Kiss Before Dying

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This story is No. 1 in the series "A Kiss to Build a World On". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Small changes can have big consequences. Case in point: At the end of Seeing Red, Tara and Willow have one last passionate kiss . . . and everything changes.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralMediancatFR151316,39863318,52613 Jul 0713 Jul 07Yes

Excerpts from Season Seven

Buffy woke up two days later; they slowly broke what had happened to her. She was another month in the hospital, and wasn’t fully up for Slaying for a month after that.

Giles stayed, to help nurse his former Slayer back to health.

Angel and Cordelia remained in Sunnydale until Giles determined that Buffy was ready, going to Los Angeles only when Cordelia’s visions specifically prompted them to. About a week or so in, while Buffy was still in the hospital, Cordelia was visited by a demon named Skip, who told her it was her turn to ascend to a higher plane.

Cordelia turned him down.

When Skip told her she couldn’t turn him down, Cordelia ended up fighting him . . . and winning. Her visions remained pain-free, and slowly she began to figure out how to use her demonic abilities.

The first time she mastered full control of what Xander came to call her lightshow, she killed every single evil-intentioned demon in Red’s. (This left behind, essentially, her, Angel, and a demon named Clem with skin like a shar-pei.) Between the two of them, and with Tara’s and Giles’ help, they slowly worked their way through every major demonic and vampiric power left in Sunnydale. The smart ones headed to higher ground. By the time Buffy was ready to do Slaying again, the demonic population of Sunnydale had been reduced to Clem, a handful of other non-evil demons, and a few who had hidden themselves really, really well.

From his vantage point in Cleveland, Rack, who had been paying careful attention to the events in Sunnydale, said sadly, “I told the young man something like this would happen . . .” and counted his blessings.

Cordelia headed back to LA with Angel, who had resigned himself to the fact that his son was never coming back. The Groosalugg, though, had decided to stay around and battle beside Angel investigations in whatever battles were to come.

Tara and her friends, of course, faced different battles entirely.

Lessons

The First Evil spoke in the guise of the Master to a quivering and nearly insane Spike.

“ . . . you’ll learn you’re a pathetic schmuck,” it said, “If it hasn’t sunk in already.” Then it changed.

“Spike, Spike,” Willow said. “That’s your problem. You’re trying to do the right thing. I tried to do the right thing and --” she looked down at the bloody spot on her chest -- “Hey, would you look at that. Bullet wound through the heart! It’s not about right, anyway. Or wrong, either.”

The voice changed again and Spike looked up and saw Buffy say, “It’s about power.”

Conversations with Dead People

As Tara sat in the Magic Box, looking through a spell book and trying to determine what “From beneath you, it devours,” meant, she heard a voice from across the table.

“Hey, baby,” it said.

Tara looked up and saw Willow. “Hi.” I must have fallen asleep again. “It’s good to see you, baby, really, it is, but I’d, I’d really prefer to save my dreaming about you for when I’m in bed.”

“This isn’t a dream. And you’re not dead. I miss you.”

“I miss you, too,“ Tara said. “So you’re really here?” She reached forward to touch Willow -- and her hand passed right through. “No. Of course not.”

“I’m still under your spell, Tara. And that’s why I’ve come back. You’re not strong enough.”

“Not strong enough for what?”

“Not strong enough to handle what’s going to come.”

*This isn’t Willow. She’d never tell me that. Let me read her aura . . . Holy goddess.*

“You’re not Willow.”

“I’m not?” She looked around. “I look like her.”

“You look like her, but you’re not her. Your aura -- it’s pure evil. The purest I’ve ever seen. Who are you?”

“Willow” said, “Darn. And I was hoping this would last longer.”

“From beneath you, it devours.”

“From beneath you, I devour.” “Willow” changed into a floating ball of flesh, which disappeared.

Never Leave Me

As Tara shut Dawnie’s door, Buffy came storming upstairs. “Shhh,” Tara said. “She just fell asleep.”

“What the hell happened?”

“I, I think the thing that’s supposed to devour us from beneath showed up tonight. It came to Dawn and me. To Dawn, it looked like Joyce. To me, it looked like Willow. And, and it acted like her too. And the same with Joyce.” Tara shook her head. “I only figured out what it was because I read its aura. Buffy, this thing is evil. Pure evil.”

Buffy said. “Oh my God. It’s back.”

“Who’s back?”

“The First.”

Interlude 1: Kennedy

“Thanks for letting me bunk here,” the potential said.

“No problem,” Tara said. “We’re, we’re going to have to find room for a lot more of you.”

“I’ll try not to bite.” Kennedy grinned wickedly.

“Don’t.”

“I just said I wouldn’t.”

Tara shook her head. “No. I, I mean, don’t flirt. I’m not -- I’m not ready. I may never be. And, and I don’t think you’re my type. No offense.”

“Just because I’m not your type doesn’t mean --”

“Yes,” Tara said. “it does. Please. I’m willing to be friends, but --”

Kennedy said, “No benefits?”

“No.”

She lay down on the bed. “Ah well. Honestly, you’re not my type either. But you’re the only one around here who goes my way and isn’t still in high school. But if I have to be chaste for a while to save the world, that’s the way it’s gotta be.” As Tara lay down, Kennedy shook her hand. “Kennedy. Nice to meet you.”

“Tara.”

“Is Kennedy a first name or a last?”

“Last.”

“What’s your first name?”

“No way am I telling you.”

“What? Is it something embarrassing?” No answer. “It is! It’s something embarrassing.”

No answer.

Well, this could be fun.

Interlude 2: At the offices of Wolfram & Hart, LA Branch

Angel and Cordelia stood in the lobby; the vampire and his ally/lover staunchly refused to go any further into the building.

“So what did you want, Lilah?” Angel asked.

“So suspicious, Angel,” the attorney said. “And here we are doing you a favor. Actually, we’re doing your ex-girlfriend a favor.”

“The day you do me a favor is the day I set myself on fire.”

Lilah laughed. “Can we get that in writing?” Then, “Never mind.” She handed over an envelope. “There’s something in there she’s going to need. Go ahead, open it.”

Cordelia ripped it from Angel’s hands and, thrusting it back in Lilah‘s general direction, said, “You open it.”

Lilah shrugged. “Whatever,” and ripped the envelope open, dumping out an amulet. “If your ex is going to defeat the enemy she’s facing, she’s going to need this. It is meant to be worn by a champion.”

Cordelia took the amulet. When she didn’t burst into flames or try to stab Angel, Angel said, “So. Why? First you spring Faith and send her down there, now this? What’s in it for you?”

“Can’t we just want to do the right thing?” Lilah said. At Angel’s steady gaze, she said, “Alright. I wouldn’t have bought that either. Look. There’s an evil entity down there who wants to take over the world.” After a second, “So do we.”

“Ah. The enemy of my enemy --”

“Is still my enemy,” Lilah said. “Just call it a cease-fire until everything goes down in Sunnydale.”

“We’re going to research this first,” Angel said.

“Go right ahead. I’d say you have, oh, 44, 45 hours or so.”

Angel and Cordelia ran out of the building.

Chosen

After they heard Buffy’s plan, Giles said, “I think it’s bloody brilliant.”

“You mean that?” Buffy said.

“If you want my opinion.”

“I really do.”

Tara said, “There may be one problem. I love the idea, Buffy, I do. But it’s going to take a lot of magic. Maybe more than I have. E-even with the Scythe.” She said. “I’m, I’m not Willow or Amy Madison.”

*I never had their power sources. Not just Rack -- but that ability to tap into something deeper. Even my righteous anger runs out too soon.*

“Can you do it?” Buffy asked.

“The most I can do is say that I’ll try,” Tara said. “I, I just can’t make any guarantees.”

Buffy looked at Giles. “I’m feeling a lot less sanguine about this.”

“It’s all we have, Buffy,” Giles said. “I’ll talk to Tara for a moment.” Everyone else left the room. “You’re lying,” he told Tara.

“I am,” Tara said. “I can do it. But I’ll probably have to use all of my life energy to do it.”

“The spell will kill you.”

“Probably. And, and if Buffy knew that, she wouldn’t let me do it.” She looked Giles squarely in the eye. “Don’t tell her.”

“I shan’t.”

X X X X X

The one thing Giles did was quietly pull Anya aside. “You have the most experience working with magic of anyone here,” he said. “Once Tara is done with the spell, Kennedy will get the Scythe downstairs to Buffy. You get Tara outside and into the bus. No matter what her condition is.”

“What about guarding the upstairs?”

“Rona and Chao-Ahn are injured. They will handle one of the areas.” He smiled. “And it isn’t as though the Turok-Han can get anywhere immediately, with the sewer line access collapsed. It will, after all, be daylight.”

X X X X X

The spell was laid out. Anya was sitting across from Tara, and Kennedy was standing at the door. “You can do it, you know,” she said.

Tara smiled back. She and “the brat” had become friends of a sort over the intervening months. Kennedy had never actually stopped flirting with her, but it had all been friendly once Tara had laid down the law.

*I wasn’t ready. And if I had been, it wouldn’t have been Kennedy, anyway. She was okay with something casual. That’s not who I am.*

*Anyway, right now it’s all moot.*

She began to chant the spell.

*Goddess. Willow. Give me the strength I need to do this one final thing. Help me save the world.*

*Willow, give me the strength. Willow, give me the strength. Willow, my love, give me the strength . . .*

She began to feel power flow through her, and then she and the scythe began radiating a bright light.

*Thank you. Thank you. Willow, baby, I’ll be with you soon . . .*

She held on as long as she could. The last thing she remembered was someone taking the Scythe from her hands.

X X X X X

Tara blinked and opened her eyes to a bright light. “Willow?”

“Look at her,” a familiar voice said, “She thinks she’s dead.”

“I’m not dead.”

“No, you’re not,” Anya said. “And you should be thanking me.” Then she yelled. “Everyone. She’s awake!”

“Did it work?” Tara said.

“Oh yeah. First Evil? Toast. So’s Spike, Amanda, Chao-Ahn and Sunnydale. But we won. And you did it.”

“How long have I been out?”

“About three days.”

Buffy came up to the bed. “Why didn’t you say that the spell could have killed you?”

“You wouldn’t have let me do it.”

“Damn right I wouldn’t have,” Buffy said. Then she leaned down and kissed Tara’s cheek. “Don’t ever do that again.”

“The goddess let me do it,” Tara said.

“Someone did,” Buffy said. “You haven’t seen yourself recently, have you?”

From somewhere, Buffy got a mirror. Tara looked at herself in it and gasped.

Her face looked haggard and worn out, but that was to be expected after all she’d gone through.

What she hadn’t expected was the color of her hair.

It was red.

The End

You have reached the end of "A Kiss Before Dying". This story is complete.

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