Tara parked behind some commercial building where a sign on the wall denoted this spot reserved for staff. Both women exited the vehicle and Tara led them to a door which she unlocked before they both stepped inside to a storeroom. Tara led the way through another door where Buffy stopped after just passing through,
“Yep.” Tara answered before she turned right and walked along the wall to a freight elevator. Buffy glanced around the gym, noticing the mats and free weight stations before trailing behind the taller blonde. Pulling the door of the elevator closed, Tara put a key in the control panel and hit a button.
As they moved upward, Buffy asked once more. “A gym?”
Tara looked down at the petite blonde slayer with a smile. “All part of my story.”
Buffy grumbled, but kept silent. Whatever had happened to Tara had changed her. More than just a ‘been shot, killed and still being alive’ kind of thing. Buffy sometimes wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she could see many changes in her friend. The shyness was gone as was her stutter. Her choice of clothing attire was entirely different, and then there was the whole decapitating people with a sword thing she had going on.
The elevator halted and Tara pulled the door open to a very comfortable loft. She motioned for the slayer to enter. “Make your self comfortable and I’ll get us something to help us relax a bit.” Tara then pulled her sheathed sword from her coat, placing it on a display stand obviously designed for the purpose. She hung her overcoat on the wall hooks nearby before walking to the kitchen.
Buffy looked at the sword as weapons had always interested her. It was a katana and was not one of the cheap knockoffs you normally see these days. This weapon was a fantastic example of what a master sword maker could do. Her own katana was a good one made just over 200 years ago, but this one made hers seem like a cheap knockoff.
Turning to look at Tara, who was pouring out two glasses of wine, she asked. “May I?
Tara looked up, smiling at the slayer. “Sure”
Buffy picked up the katana, pulling the sword a few inches out of the scabbard. Looking at the base of the blade, just above the hand guard, she noticed two symbols etched in to the metal. Blinking away disbelief, she studied them more closely, just to be sure.
“Tajaro Nakamora?” She asked in wonder.
“Yes.” Tara replied, now standing next to the slayer holding two glasses. “It was a gift from a friend.”
Buffy clicked the katana back in to the scabbard, replacing it on the stand. Looking back to Tara she asked. “You do realize that sword is worth more than this whole building and everything in it, don’t you?”
“I do, Buffy.” Tara said softly as she handed a glass of wine to the slayer. “Come on, let’s sit and I’ll tell you my story.”
Both women sat in the sitting area, Buffy on the couch and Tara in a leather recliner. Tara swirled the wine around her glass a bit before taking a sip. Placing the glass down on a table, she leaned back and started to speak.
++++++++++ BtVS ++++++++++
SUNNYDALE, CALIFORNIA 2002
Tara entered the Bronze and moved past the pool table towards the bar. Finding an empty stool at one end, she sat facing the stage. The band playing that evening was a new local act that still needed work, but had a fabulous singer. They were the new rage among the college kids and Tara certainly enjoyed them. The bartender came down to her end and she ordered a plain old Coke as she had never liked the taste of alcohol.
She had come out that night because she was feeling so alone. She had left Willow weeks before, but knew that Willow was finally doing better. She still loved the red head and needed to decide if it was time to go back her. There were so many factors to consider, but she missed her Willow, and in fact all of the Scoobies. Ever since Buffy had stood up to her father, these people had become her family. Xander truly was the brother she wished Donnie had been. Dawn was the little sister she never had. She counted Anya as a good and loyal friend. Tara knew that her bluntness was more of an act these days, but she enjoyed watching the reactions of the others to her. Without even trying, Giles had become her father figure and she loved him dearly. These people had accepted her for who and what she was.
Her movie and shake time with Dawn, not to mention helping Buffy with the whole Spike thing had shown her that she was still needed. Willow had made mistakes certainly, but she was dealing with them. Tara knew that Willow had more work to do before she became the person she could be. She was far to powerful to never use magic again, but now that she had finally shown control for the first time in her life, perhaps it was time to take her on the next step. She needed training at a Coven or she could lose herself in the dark magic.
Tara realized she had already made up her mind. She would return to her friends and to Willow. She leaned back against the bar, sipping her Coke and watching the band. They had improved musically since the last time she saw them which brought a smile to her face. Soon they would be talented enough to leave Sunnydale. Once a Scooby, always a Scooby however, so she did a light scan of the auras in the room when she came across one man who had no aura. A Vampire.
Tara watched as the vampire moved in and out of the crowd, looking for a victim but it was far to crowded on the dance floor and sitting areas. The vampire slowly began to climb the stairs to the upper and darker level. Tara placed her glass back on the bar and quickly headed to the stairs. Halfway up she pulled out her stake before whispering a word that created an invisible protective shield around her self.
As she reached the top, she saw only two people. A woman with short dark hair, sitting at a tall table near the railing that overlooked the stage, who began to look around the room as if she could feel that something odd was about to happen. The woman’s eyes finally settled upon Tara’s while Tara noticed the vampire slowly approaching the woman from behind.
Tara raised her stake, whispered another word, before the stake flew out of her hand. The woman looked shocked as the wooden missile streaked by her face before burying itself in the chest of the vampire. The woman watched in stunned silence as the ugly man with evil looking yellow eyes suddenly burst apart and settled to the ground in a small pile of dust. A wooden stake, suddenly unsupported, fell to the floor.
The woman turned back to Tara, eyebrows raised in surprise. “What the hell is a vampire doing in this little town?”
Tara, now closer to the woman, saw how beautiful she was. “Y-Y-You know a-a-bout them?” She asked while falling in to the old habit of hiding behind her hair.
The woman smiled, her eyes somehow showing experience far beyond her age. She bent down and picked up the stake, holding it out to Tara. “Yes, I’ve run in to them before. So tell me why he was here and how I was lucky enough to have a witch looking out for me tonight.”
“Um. I – I – I…”
“Please, its okay. My name is Amanda. What’s yours?”
“T-Tara”. She replied, wishing her damn stammer would disappear like the vampire had.
“Tara.” The woman repeated. “A beautiful name. Now, sit here and tell me your story.”
Tara sat down and took a deep breath. Looking at Amanda’s aura, she knew she could trust the woman even though there were strange things in the aura she had never seen before. Deciding she would tell most of the truth, but hiding anything about Watchers and Slayers, Tara slowly explained about the Hellmouth to Amanda, her own witchcraft as taught to her by her mother, and without giving details she explained how she and a group of friends fought against the demons and vampires.
The more she spoke, the more relaxed Tara became and her stutter became less pronounced. As she finished her tale, Amanda leaned back in contemplation. After a full minute of silence, she spoke. “Thank you Tara. I know you have held back things from me and I don’t blame you. Sunnydale is above a hellmouth. Hmmm. That does explain things.” Amanda leaned forward, pinning Tara’s eyes with her own. “The Slayer is here, isn’t she?”
Tara’s eyes widened in surprise before Amanda started giggling. “Oh Tara, I’m sorry. Don’t feel bad. I’ve had lots and lots of experience with reading between the lines of what people say to me. Now don’t be embarrassed but is the Slayer your girlfriend?”
To Amanda’s surprise, Tara not only didn’t blush, she burst out in to a rich and deep laughter. “Okay what’s so funny?” Amanda asked.
Tara slowly regained control of her laughter. “Before I answer, I need to ask you a favor. I have a talent to see and read auras. It’s how I was able to follow the vampire up here as they have no aura. Now, although could tell at a quick glance at yours that I could trust you with some information about me, I need to actually read your aura before I talk about my friends. I would never read an aura without permission, so I am asking for yours.”
Amanda leaned back once more. She knew the blonde witch has a point. Tara had trusted her enough for what she had already related but now it was time for Amanda to trust her new friend. Amanda gave a quick nod to Tara. “Go ahead.”
Tara took a deep breath and opened her minds eye to what was in front of her. At first she was staggered by the depth of Amanda’s aura. Not only was she just an old soul, but she had experiences far beyond her apparent age. In a way, her aura had as much, if not more depth than Anya’s without the dark overtones that Anya’s demonic past had left behind. There was a definite wide streak of mischievousness, but it was tempered by her good heart. There was a huge amount of pain in her past, both physical and emotional. She had lost so many people in her life that Tara wondered how the woman could be as happy and loving as she was. She was definitely human, but one unlike any she had ever read before. All of that aside though, Tara knew she could trust Amanda.
Tara sighed as she broke of contact with such an amazing aura. “Thank you, that was…” Tara paused. “I have no words to describe it. I’ve never read an aura like yours. How old…” Tara’s voice trailed off as she realized this might not be the best topic to bring up.
Amanda smiled. “Let’s just say I am much older than I look.”
Tara nodded. “Well, to answer your question, I laughed because Buffy, the slayer, is just so straight! The thought of her even contemplating a woman in a sexual way is just funny, especially her contemplating me in such a way. No, she’s not my girlfriend, but her best friend is. Well, kinda, I guess.”
Amanda nodded. “Alright then, tell me about…?”
“Willow then. Tell me about her.”
Tara launched in to the story of her and Willow starting from the time they first met at the Wicca meeting almost two years previously. She added background material that Willow had told her of her past and her own perceptions of Willow’s power and her path towards dark magic. The small uses of black magic that led to larger and larger spells. Fighting a Hell Goddess, bringing Buffy back from the dead, and finally playing with her mind that reminded Tara all too much of her time after Glory had stolen her mind. She finished with Willow finally realizing her problems and working to fix them.
As Tara’s story came to a close, Amanda sat back amazed. These young people, barely more than children, had seen and done so much. Had fought and saved the world countless times. That they had not shredded apart at the seems years ago was a testament to their strength of character. Willow’s problems were very familiar to Amanda, she had suffered similar things which led her down a path of dishonesty and thievery. It was Duncan McCloud who had taught her she could live her life in a better way. Sure she still had her fun, but she wasn’t striking back at the world anymore.
“You know, you need to go back to her.” Amanda said.
“I had decided that just before I saw a vampire climb the stairs and sneak up behind you.” Tara said with a smile.
“You are a bright woman Tara. Willow is lucky to have you.” Amanda saw Tara duck her head and blush. She knew in her bones that Tara had a rough life in her past and she would have a tough future. Quickly making a decision she reached in her pocket and handed a business card to Tara. “Sometime, you’ll know when, you may need my help. You can reach me at that number. I’ll do everything in my power to help you.”
“Thank you Amanda.”
“No problem. Now, you should go to Willow. She’ll be ready to listen to you. You can help her through the tough times ahead.”
Tara nodded before standing. “I’ll go now. Thanks again.”
Amanda smiled. “Bye Tara.”
Tara waved before shyly turning and heading down the stairs. Placing the stake back in her leather overcoat, she headed down the stairs and out of The Bonze. She headed straight to Buffy’s house and to Willow.
To be continued...