Title: Miscast (1/?)
Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at
Rating: I'm gonna go say PG.
Spoilers: Up to All The Way.
Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: Tara makes a magical mistake.
Author's Note: Err, contains A/X, B/S, W/T, T/X, B/X, and possibly some W/X too. The A/X, the one-sided B/S, and W/T are required by the time setting, the T/X is intentional, the hints of B/X kinda snuck up on me, and I'm really, really hoping I can actually write this sans W/X, but I'm not sure if I'm psychologically capable of that. ^_^'
* * *
Buffy whirled and froze. "Xander!"
The carpenter was struggling in the arms of the demon that led this particular bunch of vampires for this week's apocalyptic ritual. It drew back its lips, revealing a pair of dripping fangs, and sank its teeth into Xander's neck.
"No!" Buffy charged the demon and tore it off her friend. She then proceeded to literally beat it to death.
Buffy turned and crouched over Xander's prone form. "Oh, God."
She gingerly picked up her best friend and started running. The Magic Box was nearest, and tonight was inventory night. She shot a look at her other companion this evening and snarled, "Spike! Get the demon, c'mon!"
* * *
"GILES!" Buffy burst into the Magic Box, Xander's limp form in her arms.
"What did you to do to my fiancee?!" Anya shrieked when she saw him in Buffy's arms, but the Slayer ignored her, looking around frantically for her Watcher. Spike enter behind her, carrying the mangled corpse of the demon.
"Buffy, what...? Oh, my word." Giles stepped out and froze, his gaze flicking from Xander to the demon and back to Xander. "Did it bite him?"
Buffy's worry increased, "Yeah, it did. H-he's not gonna die, is he?"
Looking up gravely, the Watcher stated, "Unless we act quickly, he will."
* * *
Willow slumped back, drained, and looked up at Giles. "It's done. D-did we do it right?" she asked anxiously.
The Watcher nodded, relief flooding through him. "Now all we can do is wait and pray."
"But he's gonna be all right, right?" Anya asked hopefully.
Giles looked at her and said patiently, "I've already explained it to you. Although this is the most powerful healing spell available to us, the venom of that particular variety of demon is highly virulent. All we've done... is give him a chance. It's up to him now."
Buffy bit her lip and glared down at Xander, "Don't you _dare_ die on me, Xander, or I _swear_, I'll find _some_ way to get back at you, even if I have to duck tape that stupid urn back together myself."
Anya glared at her and said with conviction, "Don't say that. He's going to be okay. No thanks to you."
Buffy stared slack-jawed at her, then turned and fled.
"Bloody hell," Spike turned to follow.
Giles stared hard at Anya, "As ever, Anya, your utter lack of tact continues to amaze me."
"How can you say that?" Willow asked incredulously. Jabbing an accusatory finger at Anya, she snarled, "If it weren't for Buffy, we'd _all_ be dead, _including_ Xander. I swear, I'll never understand what he sees in you."
"Enough!" Giles bellowed, silencing the room. "What Xander needs now is peace and quiet. If you cannot control yourselves, leave until you can, or it may very well kill him. He's very empathically sensitive at the moment, and it might push him over the edge."
With that, the Watcher turned and walked out. He, too, needed some time to cool off from the frustration of dealing with the remarkably immature Slayerettes.
Besides, Buffy would need someone to talk to, and Giles was far from about to trust Spike.
* * *
"She's over there, Watcher."
Giles started, then turned, "Spike."
The vampire shrugged, "I thought she'd appreciate some time alone, but I figured I'd better hang around in case something nasty decides to show up while her guard's down."
Giles nodded and said reluctantly, "I... appreciate that. Thank you, Spike." He turned and approached Buffy.
Spike shook his head and sighed, "Stupid bint's lucky I'm in love with her." He closed his eyes, "I am _such_ a soddin' fool."
* * *
"He's having nightmares again," Anya said, worry creasing her brow.
Willow bit her lip, equally concerned, "Yeah. He never had nightmares this bad before."
"There _has_ to be something more we can do," Anya declared. She looked up at the two witches, "Or maybe something _you_ can do."
"Nonono." Willow shook her head furiously, suddenly remembering the First Slayer and Cheese Guy, "I-I don't know any dream spells. That's some... pretty hefty magic, and... well... magic dreams? Not good."
"I know a spell."
Willow and Anya both looked at Tara in surprise.
She shrank back and said, "M-my mother cast it for me all the time. T-to keep the nightmares away."
Willow smiled, "You'll have to teach that one to me."
"A-all right," Tara smiled back shyly.
Tara leaned over Xander and closed her eyes, stretching out her senses and reaching toward the emotional knot that was Xander's mind. This was a more primal form of magic, more intuitive and less intellectual than most magic.
She reached into the knot of fear and anger and gently untangled them, filling the gaps with the friendship and affection she and Xander had built up between them over the past couple of years, unaware that the effects were being amplified by Xander's current empathic sensitivity.
Tara smiled when she sensed Willow's excited spike of understanding as she finished the spell. She opened her eyes and looked down at Xander's now peaceful face, smiling triumphantly.
* * *
The Slayer looked up at her Watcher and smiled weakly. "Hi, Giles."
"Anya's wrong, you know."
"I know," Buffy nodded. "It's just..." she gave a shuddering sigh and continued, "...I've never come so close to losing him before... I never realized how much he meant to me... a-and I can't but think that... if he'd never met me, he wouldn't be in this kind of danger."
"It's his choice, Buffy," Giles said gently. "He knows the risks, every night he goes out."
Buffy sniffled, "But... I..."
"He's a brave man, braver than most. Not many men would continue the fight night after night after what he's been through, Buffy, but it's his decision. No one else's."
Buffy nodded, then shook her head, "Giles, I... it's not just that. I..." She paused and took a deep breath, "Before they brought me back, I... I was somewhere... comfortable. Happy. It... I don't like it here, Giles. It's... cold." She couldn't think of a better word to describe the emptiness she felt inside.
The Watcher's eyes widened, and he wordlessly pulled her into comforting hug. After a moment, he asked, "Will you tell them?"
She shook her head, "No. I can't. They... they did so much for me. I can't do that to them." She looked up at him, "Please... don't tell them."
"All right, Buffy," he said. "I won't. But you shouldn't keep this in too long. It's unhealthy."
"I know, but..."
"I'm not saying you should tell them now. Just that you must realize you will have to eventually, or it's going to tear you apart inside."
* * *
The blonde witch started and stared at Xander. She looked up at Willow and Anya, who both shrugged and said in unison, "He talks in his sleep."
They glared at each other.
Tara opened her mouth, about to remind them about Xander's empathic sensitivity, when he spoke again, his voice worried and plaintive, "Tara? Where are you?"
"I'm right here, Xander," she replied quietly, her voice soothing as she placed a hand on his cheek.
He nuzzled her hand and smiled. "Mmm... love you, Tara..."
She recoiled in shock and looked up at Willow and Anya, who, in turn, were staring back at her.
"You..." Anya struggled to speak, "...you cast a love spell on my fiancee."
Tara shook her head furiously. That wasn't what that spell did! It was just a calming spell!
"Don't be silly, Anya," Willow said, rolling her eyes. "I was watching her. It's not a love spell. Just because he says he loves her doesn't mean he's _in_ love with her. This is _Xander_ we're talking about. He loves _all_ of us." Raising an eyebrow at Anya, she added, "If you haven't figured _that_ out by now..."
"Guys," Tara said, "remember what Giles said?"
* * *
Xander stirred and slowly blinked his eyes open.
He sat up and blinked at Buffy. "Hey, Buff. What'd I miss?"
"Oh, God. Xander, I-I'm so sorry," she moved to hug him, and he returned it briefly.
"It's okay, Buff. Where are the others?" he asked, looking around.
Startled, she pulled away and bit her lip, "Uh, um, I'll go get them."
* * *
Tara walked out of the classroom, preoccupied with the events surrounding Xander's near-fatal encounter the other night.
Startled, she blinked, then smiled warmly, "X-Xander. Wh-what are you doing here?"
"Not much," he said, glancing up and down the hall. "Just thought I'd stop by."
He seemed nervous, a little twitchy. She frowned, "What's wrong?"
He started at the question, "Ah, nothing, it's just... walk with me. Please?" His voice was hopeful, and his face had dissolved into his irresistably adorable Puppy Dog expression.
"A-all right," she said. She had been planning to meet with Willow in the quad... but Willow would understand.
He remained silent as they walked. She was about to break the silence between them when he finally stopped in a secluded area on the edge of UC Sunnydale's campus and said, "An... she told me about the spell you cast. To keep the nightmares away? I just... I wanted to thank you."
She smiled. Was that all? She had been worried it was something major. "Don't mention it. You're Willow's Xander, and I love you." Realizing how that sounded, she blushed and amended, "P-platonically, I mean."
Now she _knew_ something was wrong. His posture remained unchanged, and his smile never wavered, but she could see something in his eyes fade slightly.
"Tara..." he said hesitantly, "...there's... there's something I need to tell you."
"What?" she asked, her voice soft. It was clear that, whatever it was, it was very important to him.
"I..." he struggled, but it wouldn't come. Suddenly, he swooped down and kissed her. It wasn't the chaste kiss on the cheek between friends like she'd given him last night, either. She moaned into his lips as she felt his tongue slip into her mouth and... what the heck? What _was_ he doing with his tongue? Whatever it was, it certainly felt gooood...
After a moment, she came to her senses and pushed herself away. He let her go and said, his voice raw, "I love you, Tara. I-I'm not asking for you to break up with Willow or anything like that -- I love you both too much to want that -- but... I just... I had to let you know."
"Xander..." she said, her voice catching as she tried to figure out what to say.
"Look, I know you're a lesbian, and what I just did probably grossed you out, and I'm sorry... but I had to do it. I had to let you know, and I had to know what it was like to kiss you. And... um... well, that's pretty much it. I-I'll see ya later, Tare."
"Xander..." she breathed quietly as he walked away.
* * *
Well, here's hoping I can actually write a 'fic without W/X. It's sort of a personal challenge for me, seeing as I'm a fairly die-hard W/Xer.