Ch. 64 Stronger than Blood
A/N: Involves the episode “Family”. Dean quotes a line from Dirty Dancing, I do not own.
One hour later, Joyce glanced at the time and curled an arm around Dawn.
“We’re off to bed; see you two in the morning.”
“I’ll walk you to your room,” Buffy offered.
“I think I can manage,” Joyce said.
“Well, I um, I have to get something from my room anyway.”
Buffy followed her mother and sister toward the stairs. A breath later, she popped her head in the living room.
“Could you call Giles for me?”
Dean shifted in his seat and fished out his cell phone as Buffy drifted up the stairs.
“Hey Giles, it’s Dean, come over to Buffy’s house now, oh, and there’s something very important you need to bring.”
After a short time, Buffy returned to the living room as the doorbell rang. She pulled the door open to find Giles waiting anxiously on the porch.
“Hi Giles, thanks for coming, I know it’s late.”
“I was led to believe it was urgent?”
Buffy nodded as Giles ambled inside. Buffy shut the door and nodded to the living room. Giles strolled inside as Dean swung his sights on him.
“Did you bring it?”
Giles removed a brown bag from his coat as he absorbed the large gashes on Dean’s face.
“Hand it over,” Dean groaned.
Buffy watched curiously as Giles handed the brown bag to Dean. Dean plucked out a bottle from the bag and quickly twisted off the lid. When he took a sip, Giles drew a scowl.
“You told me you needed that to treat your wounds,” Giles stated.
“I do and I am,” Dean replied as he took another long.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?” Buffy asked. “You got thrown around pretty bad.”
“No, my head’s spinning, my body aches everywhere but other than that, I’m good.”
“Well, you should get some sleep.”
Dean sucked down another long sip before he slowly folded to his feet. Buffy reached out to help him but he gently brushed her hands away.
“I’m alright,” he moaned.
Buffy gingerly kissed the corner of his mouth that wasn’t cut before he turned toward the stairs.
“I’ll be up in a little while,” she said.
After Dean disappeared up the stairs, Buffy sat down on the couch next to Giles. The house was dark and still as Buffy let out a deep breath before unloading all her discoveries to Giles. When she had finished, Giles displayed his astonishment as Buffy looked up at the ceiling, listening for any disturbances. Hearing only the whispers in the night, she settled her sights back on Giles. Giles removed his glasses and shined his astonishment.
“It seems I have no idea how to......respond.....”
“You’re not the only one,” Buffy said.
“That’s quite a revelation,” Giles remarked. “And Dawn is not aware in the slightest?”
Buffy checked the stairs for any unexpected interruptions.
“No, to her, she believes she’s burdened by being my little sister.”
“Do you plan on telling her?”
Buffy widened her eyes in apprehension.
“And say what? She wouldn’t understand, she’d totally wig over it and who knows if she’d take off or something. No, it’s best that I don’t say anything. It’s the only way she’ll be safe.”
“What about this woman you faced tonight, she is well aware of who you are. Wouldn’t it be wise to.....perhaps send Dawn somewhere?”
“Send her away? To where?”
“Maybe she could stay with your father for awhile?”
Buffy drew a dark look and shook her head.
“He’s not around enough, unless his secretary is, he’s trekking about in Europe or....somewhere. I left him a message about my mom but that was many weeks ago and I still haven’t......anyway, when he took off, Dawn cried her eyes out.......only.......that never happened, even though I can remember the feeling I got......”
Buffy shined her awe at the conflicting memories before she rose to her feet and spied the stairway. After a moment, she let out a breath and returned to Giles.
“She wasn’t sent to just anyone Giles, she was sent to me, they created memories of her and planted them so that no one would ever question she was real. They made a lot of effort to disguise her and I’m supposed to keep her safe. I will - keep her safe.”
“Is anyone else aware of this.....delicate news?”
Buffy spied another look through the doorway before addressing Giles.
“I told Dean, I mean, he’s been part of my family for a long time and I couldn’t keep something like this from him,” she said softly. “Even if I tried, he knows me and when I’m not being truthful.”
Giles gave an understanding nod.
“Yes, I would assume his memories of Dawn are just as vivid as yours?”
“Yeah, it was a little awkward for us earlier when Dawn was talking about her childhood, which is why I don’t want the others to know. They’d probably feel uncomfortable whenever she’s around. It’s better they don’t know, safer.”
Giles nodded in agreement.
“We’ll need to work quickly to determine what type of demon this woman is and why she wants Dawn. In case she seeks you out....”
“Oh she will,” Buffy said grimly. “She will.”
After checking on her mom, Buffy shuffled quietly back to her room, drawing cautious eyes into the pockets of darkness shading the hall. She crept inside her bedroom and began changing into her sleep clothes. She delicately climbed into bed, curling up next to Dean.
Buffy blinked in surprise when Dean eased onto his side and pulled her close against his body.
“Did I wake you?” she asked softly.
“Nope, the sound of clothes falling to the floor woke me.”
Buffy snickered quietly as the soft light bleeding through the curtains highlighted the playful glow in his eyes.
“So, how’d it go with Giles?”
“He was shocked,” Buffy said.
“Yeah, I’m sure he was, to be honest, I’m still trying to grasp the whole thing.”
After a brief discussion over Giles and Dawn, Buffy snuggled deeper against Dean, feeling her apprehension steeping into her veins. She tangled her arms tighter around Dean, heaving a deep, grateful sigh, despite the lines of anxiety tugging over her face.
Buffy let out another sigh as Dean rolled his eyes open, tucking her leg over his hip, aligning their bodies even closer. As she gazed deeply into the hazel fire burning within his eyes, he caught her mouth in a soft but lengthy kiss. She moaned softly as his hand draped over her hip before sliding it underneath her night shirt.
“Mmm, don’t start, my mom is down the hall, we can’t,” Buffy cooed faintly.
After a long moment of fervent kissing, Buffy heard Dean utter a low groan of protest when she gently pulled his hand out from beneath her shirt.
“You know the house rules,” Buffy stated.
“Yeah, I know,” Dean sighed.
As he bellowed a heavy sigh, Buffy burrowed beneath the sheets, lacing her arms around his neck.
“But the smoochies are allowed,” she said with a goofy grin.
“Oh, well, you can’t have one without it leading to another.”
As her mouth drew a brief pout, her eyes turned to the bruising on his face. She gingerly brushed a finger across his jaw line, drawing her mouth to his for a sweet goodnight kiss.
“How about we sleep? It’s been a long night,” she said.
As the night went still, Buffy noticed Dean had drifted off to sleep again. She smiled lovingly, planting a kiss on his chin before she nestled against him and went to sleep.
The following morning, while students milled the halls of the dormitory, the gang filed in and out of Buffy’s room, carrying boxes or moving pieces of furniture. Xander and Dean pushed a dresser into the hall, maneuvering around the foot traffic.
“Woah, toe! That’s my big toe you’re using as an anchor!” Xander wailed.
“Oh suck it up Xan,” Dean groaned. “I got slam dunked by a vampire AND some kooky demon bitch in the same week.”
Buffy strolled toward a cul de sac where several boxes were stacked along a wall. She set her box down and winced slightly as Xander and Dean continued pushing the dresser along the hall.
“You can just leave that there for the time being,” she instructed.
“Okay, and I saw that,” Dean replied.
“The wince of agony,” Dean imparted. “You owe me a dollar.”
Dean rapped on the top of the dresser and smirked.
“Don’t you remember this morning, you said, I bet you a dollar you wince more than me and I said - you’re on.”
“I was kidding,” Buffy moaned.
“Well, I wasn’t,” Dean scoffed lightly.
Buffy sighed and drifted toward her room, passing Dawn as she adjusted a large box in her arms. Buffy eyed Dawn apprehensively as the top of the box teetered precariously. Dawn frowned when she took in Buffy’s look of dread.
“I can handle it,” Dawn snapped.
“Try and be careful if you can,” Buffy stressed.
Dawn rolled her eyes as Buffy ambled into her room where the rest of the gang was diligently packing. Giles casually dropped a few items in a box, while Tara and Willow removed clothes from the closet. Anya frowned with dismay as she picked up a table lamp.
“We practically moved her in last week,” she groaned. “And that was just as fun and exciting.”
“This is what friends do for each other, assisting them in their time of need,” Giles stated. “I know it is difficult for you to understand this ‘strange’ act of kindness.”
Buffy plucked up sheets and the bedspread and began folding them neatly. She eyed Giles’ progress in packing his one box.
“I can’t help but notice that you’re moving things at a.....slower pace than the rest of us.”
Giles held his head high and gave a prim smile.
“I am taking a ‘supervisory’ role,” he explained. “In an effort to make sure everything is
running smoothly. It involves a lot of stern looks and finger pointing.”
As Buffy gave him an odd look, he drew his sights over her shoulder and flashed a stern frown while pointing his finger.
“You two - stop that at once,” he said.
Buffy shifted her eyes and saw Dean pinning Xander to the floor, holding him in a headlock.
“Not until he says it!” Dean taunted. “Come on dude, say it!”
“I’m not saying it!” Xander roared. “I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s bad! No fair using Latin on me!”
“Stop it,” Giles reiterated sharply. “Before you break something in here.”
“Or before I break something of yours,” Buffy added.
Xander and Dean absorbed Buffy’s intimidating glare and abruptly stopped rough housing. Xander picked himself up and smoothed out the wrinkles of his shirt.
“This is a pretty sweet corner suite you’re forfeiting Buffy,” Xander replied.
“Yes, especially since we just moved you in a few days ago,” Anya said dryly.
Buffy glanced at Giles and Dean, soaking in their conspiratorial looks.
“It’s not a big deal really,” she said casually. “With my mom still not feeling better, I’ve been over there a lot and I figured I could save the money, for the rest of the semester.”
“That’s good thinking,” Willow said.
Buffy looked around the room and tensed when she noticed a blaring absence.
“Where did Dawn go?”
As the panic rose in her veins, Buffy flew out of her room and called out several times to Dawn. When Dawn emerged from around a corner, Buffy veiled her relief. Dawn frowned with annoyance as she waved a bunch of CDs.
“These are mine you know,” she moaned.
Buffy blew out a breath and ushered Dawn back into the dorm room. She pointed to a stack of clothes by Willow before leaning down to retrieve a blanket from the floor. She winced sharply as she straightened.
“I saw that,” Dean snorted. “That’s two dollars.”
Buffy glared with annoyance as she shuffled over to Dean and poked him in the ribcage.
“OWWWW!” he wailed as he winced sharply and clutched his ribcage.
“Ah, the wince of agony,” Buffy taunted. “Give me my dollar back.”
Dean frowned with annoyance as Buffy tossed a blanket to Dawn.
“Just when I thought was invincible, my sore ass brings me back to reality,” Buffy added.
The girls began folding while the rest of the gang continued packing small items in boxes.
“You’ll beat her bad the next time around Buffy,” Dawn said.
Xander nodded fervently. “Yeah, you so will cause when you mess with one of us, you’re messing with every one of us.”
Giles drew a confident expression. “We will defeat her, with time and diligent research, we will assess her greatest weakness and....”
“That’s right,” Tara interjected. “We can perform an insect reflection spell on her.”
The gang paused in their activities to process the odd statement before pulling polite expressions over their faces. Tara cowered with embarrassment, dipping her eyes to the ground.
“I....I guess that would only be humorous to someone who was familiar with Taglarin mystic rites and um, if you were, um, a complete geek.”
Tara fumbled with a box of clothes and hurriedly fled the room as Willow followed her.
“So how come you weren’t laughing your ass off Xan?” Dean joked.
“Uh, because I’m not familiar with it,” Xander said.
Willow darted back into the room and bounced anxiously in her stance.
“Alright everyone, remember you need to arrive at the Bronze before eight,” she instructed.
Giles, Xander, Buffy and Dean eyed Willow with feigned looks of acknowledgment.
“Uh, the Bronze by eight,” Buffy said, scratching her head.
“Tomorrow is Tara’s birthday, remember?”
“Her birthday! Right, of course, yeah,” Buffy replied.
Giles, Xander and Dean murmured while exaggerating nods of recognition.
“Yes, yes,” Giles said.
“Birthdays mean presents,” Anya said flatly. “Of which we must purchase, right?”
“Yep, I already wrapped mine last week,” Xander lied.
Willow drifted over to Buffy as the gang gathered in a corner.
“Are you going to be able to make it?” Willow asked apprehensively. “I know you’re busy with a new big bad in town.....”
As Dean wandered over to Buffy, she hooked her arm around him and flashed a conspiratorial smile.
“Of course we’ll be there,” Buffy said. “I mean, it’s been a crazy week and we could really use a little breather, so we wouldn’t miss it.”
A few hours later, Buffy drifted through the front door of her house and looked around the empty living room.
“Hello?” she called.
When no one answered, Buffy strolled over to the foot of the stairs and looked up just as Dean emerged from the hallway.
“Hey,” Buffy said with a smile. “There’s a hot girl down here who wants a kiss.”
Dean looked around as he trekked down the stairs. He exaggerated a confused look as he stepped down in front of Buffy. He whipped his sights around and over her for a moment.
Dean held his bewildered look for a single breath before chuckling. Buffy impulsively smacked him in the shoulder.
“Ow,” he moaned.
Buffy shaded with a guilty mope as she pushed off her toes and gave him a loving kiss on the mouth.
“Mmm,” Buffy sighed. “I hope it didn’t take too long to unpack my stuff.”
“Oh, I finished hours ago,” Dean remarked. “I’ve just been raiding your panty drawer and
looking through your closet for skimpy outfits you can wear for me.”
Dean drew a mischievous smirk before shifting into a glare.
“Which reminds me, I found your cheerleading uniform, you are in so much trouble for telling me you gave it back. You are going to have to wear it now for WEEKS.”
As she took in the suggestive flare in his eyes, she threw back her own.
“Well, since you’ve been so helpful, I may wear more outfits for you or......less.”
Dean lit up with a silly grin before Buffy pulled him in for another long kiss, their arms locking tighter around each other. After parting, Buffy shined her own goofy grin, sighing with contentment.
“Okay, I’m hitting the shower, you can join me if you want,” Dean cracked as he drifted up the stairs.
A moment later, Dawn blew through the living room without even glancing at Buffy.
Buffy pulled away and frowned as Dawn reached the door.
“Hold on! Where are you off to?”
“Melinda’s,” Dawn said. “She invited me over for dinner.”
“When were you going to let me know?”
“I’m telling you now.”
As Dawn reached for the door, Buffy wedged herself in front of it.
“No, you can’t go out. It’s getting dark and you can’t just walk over there by yourself.”
Dawn shined her bewilderment as she crossed her arms.
“Uh, hello, Melinda is just two houses over.”
“Well, uh, did you ask mom if it was okay?”
“Mom is taking a nap,” Dawn said. “Why do I have to ask her anyway?”
“Because......tonight is um.....no good, I mean, we’re supposed to have dinner as a family......and I don’t much like Melinda, she’s.......she’s too short and may try to um......corrupt you with her......shortness,” Buffy stuttered.
Dawn glared resentfully at Buffy as she crossed her arms.
“It’s so WONDERFUL that you’re moving back home,” she said snidely. “That’s all I have dreamed about.”
Dawn huffed as she stalked up the stairs and disappeared down the hall.
Buffy trudged up the stairs and heard music echoing through the door of Dawn’s bedroom. Buffy shuffled into her bedroom and collapsed on her bed, groaning loudly.
“I can’t believe her!”
“Oh great, what now?”
Buffy rolled her eyes open as Dean strolled in, wearing just a pair of jeans and scrubbing his hair dry with a towel. After Buffy caught him up, he leaned against the dresser,
shifting a foot over another, tapping the door shut.
“So, you put Dawn on lockdown huh? And she’s not suspicious?”
“Oh, she just thinks I’m being her pain in the butt big sister. You think it’s a bad idea?”
“I didn’t say that but.....lockdown – I’ve got my own fond memories of being holed away in a motel room, bored out of my mind. Anyway, knowing Dawn, you won’t be able to keep her home forever. She’s going to go out whether you tell her stay home or not, I mean, she’s a kid – at least on the outside.”
“I have to keep her safe Dean,” Buffy said. “She may not be my real sister but I’m still going to protect her.”
Buffy sat up against her bed and glanced at the clock.
“We need to head over to the Magic Box soon, Giles called a meeting.”
Dean shaded with mild apprehension.
“Is this an ‘impending doom’ type of meeting?”
“No, it’s just an update,” Buffy assured.
“No, come on, we should get going.”
A little while later, the gang gathered around a table inside the Magic Box. Dawn darted through the shop, picking up various trinkets as Buffy followed her with cautious eyes.
“Do you have to touch everything?” Buffy asked in annoyance.
“Do you have to breathe down my neck?”
Willow trotted through the door, heaving deep breaths of exertion. Xander looked up and nodded.
“We’re all here now,” Xander stated.
Willow winced with guilt when she saw the gang circled around Giles.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was late,” Willow moaned. “What’d I miss?”
Giles drew a forgiving smile. “Nothing much Willow. I’m afraid I do not have any shocking revelations to impart. I just wanted to share a few thoughts to make sure we are all clear.”
“Thoughts about impending doom, right?” Dean posed.
“No, fortunately, these are just general thoughts.”
Dawn leaned toward Buffy and pointed to an item on a shelf nearby.
“I want to buy that, can I?”
“Not now,” Buffy moaned.
“I have my allowance, can I buy it?”
“Look, I said you could come with us, so just sit somewhere and act attentive.”
“Let me start off by addressing the importance of practicing safety at all times,” Giles started. “I would like to stress that this new demon may possibly be.....”
“Not maybe Giles, she IS,” Buffy clarified.
“Yes, she is with great certainty going to come after the Slayer and likely any of us. You
must not take this matter lightly.”
“It’s more than just about not going out alone at night,” Buffy added grimly. “If a strange girl starts talking to you, acting crazy, turn on your heel and run away, as fast as you can and don’t look back. I’m serious guys.”
As Giles made an announcement, the group paused very briefly, their heads jerking back in a subtle movement. Giles shaded with bewilderment for a moment, scratching his head.
“Goodness, I had a momentary lapse,” he lamented. “What was I just speaking of?”
Giles looked around the group, all blinking a bit more rapidly than normal.
“Monk guy,” Buffy recalled.
“Ah yes, yes,” Giles said. “We will need to begin researching into a few of these holy orders, see if we can identify the particular one this monk was from.....”
A short time later, as the gang tackled research at the front of the magic shop, Dean taunted Buffy as she lightly punched the padded gloves he was wearing. He circled her as she continued her punch combos, hitting the pads with very little force.
“Stop holding back,” he groaned.
“But you’re still nursing an injury,” Buffy said gently.
“So? I’m always nursing some kind of injury, that’s called a ‘normal day’ at work.”
Dean pried off the padded gloves and threw up his fists.
“So don’t hold back. Beat me baby, BEAT me,” he cracked with a mischievous smirk.
Buffy rolled her eyes as she attacked him with more power, sending Dean stumbling back. He sprung back throwing several punches, she caught his fist and whipped him around, he gripped her arm, twirled her around, for several minutes they sparred, trying to best each other in their skillful dance. Feeling invigorated, Dean let out a whistle as Buffy snapped her foot toward his face. He dodged out of the way and smiled smugly as she wound her arm back for a punch combo. When something tensed in her instinct, she froze as Dean dodged her attack. Her eyes turned over her shoulder, then slowly around the room.
“What’s going on?”
“Shhh,” she urged.
Buffy circled the room again, listening intently as Dean followed her sights. After a long moment, she whirled around and slammed her hand out in a defensive movement. Dean blinked rapidly in surprise as Buffy was yanked down to the ground by an invisible force. Buffy kicked her feet out and threw punches into the air, growling in her throat as Dean looked on in awe.
“What the hell......” Dean grunted.
“Dean!” she growled. “There’s more than one! You have to....get......Dawn!”
Dean whipped his eyes around the room as Buffy slammed her legs out throwing back the invisible attacker.
“Where? Where is it?” he asked frantically.
Hearing a crash behind him, Dean quickly retreated out of the back room to see Xander desperately tugging at his throat, gasping for air. Dean widened his eyes in dread as the invisible force continued choking Xander.
Dean plucked up a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall and rushed toward Xander. He swung it repeatedly across the space above Xander’s head until he hit something solid.
Dean wound the extinguisher back and swiftly batted the air again. He crooked his eyebrows when he didn’t make contact this time.
Xander gasped and fell to his knees, clutching his sore throat.
“You okay man?”
Xander tried to answer as he wheezed for breath. He simply nodded flashing a thumbs up. Dean helped him to his feet as another crash echoed in the shop. When he heard Buffy still sparring in the back room, apprehension clung to his nerves as chaos erupted throughout the magic shop. He shifted his feet toward the front and charged forward to see a flurry of activity. Willow was sprawled over an upended book case, unconscious; Anya was cowering behind the register counter as Giles pushed Dawn behind him. Xander sidled up next to Anya as she frantically searched the shop.
“Where did it go?” she asked.
Dean felt a tingling sensation creeping up along his spine as he slowly turned around the room. Giles quietly ushered Dawn into a tiny desk space, barricading himself in front of her. Dean back walked toward Giles, his senses on high alert just as Buffy flew in.
Dean felt like a rug was snatched from under his feet as he hit the ground suddenly. He felt a heavy weight bearing down on his body and then a grip enclosing around his throat, squeezing the air out of his lungs. He choked violently as he jammed his knees forward, hitting his invisible attacker. Buffy lunged after Dean as he was pulled toward the front door and slammed into a wall. He let out a groan as the demon released him. The gang started frantically chatting as Buffy tried to hone in on her senses.
“Everyone! Be quiet!” she demanded.
The front door swung open and Tara wandered inside to see all the apprehensive faces. Her eyes widened when she saw a demon lurking behind Buffy.
“Watch out Buffy!”
Tara pointed behind Buffy. Buffy spun around just as something barreled into her. She grappled with the demon until it hurled her across the room. Buffy showed signs of exhaustion as the demon grabbed her throat and began choking her. Dean stumbled onto his feet, shaking off the dizziness swimming in his head as he swept his arms over Buffy’s head, feeling the demon but not seeing it. He grunted as he vigorously punched it until he was blown back.
Buffy picked herself up as Dean heaved with breaths. They eyed Tara as their faces knitted with more apprehension.
“You can see this thing?” Dean posed.
“Where did it go?” Buffy asked.
Tara widened her eyes in sudden realization.
“No, oh no,” she gasped.
Tara ran further into the shop and began chatting something under her breath. As she finished the last phrase, the demon materialized into solid form and quickly sprung toward Tara, hurling her across the counter. Tara’s family strolled through the open door and gasped at the chaos.
Buffy lunged toward the demon, clinging onto its back. After she pummeled it in the head a few times, the demon roared and flung her off, charging toward Tara’s dad. Mr. Maclay stumbled back through the door as Dean shouldered the demon, knocking it down to the floor. Buffy plucked an axe off a display wall and jumped onto the demon as Dean pulled out his knife. Buffy swung the axe across the demon’s head hacking away as Dean pitched his knife into its jaw. As blood spattered over their stony faces, Mr. Maclay stared at the sight in horror.
When the demon stopped howling and writhing, Dean yanked out his knife and wiped the blood from his face. He looked down at the dead demon and drew a satisfied grin. Buffy’s axe had hacked at the demon’s skull, part of its hairy scalp hanging off the bone, while its jaw was coated with dark blood.
“Shave and a haircut, two bits,” he cracked.
The air went still as the gang shared looks of shock and awe from the attack. Xander squeezed Anya in comfort and assurance while Giles helped down from under the desk. Tara’s father stepped back into the shop, staring down at the bloody, mutilated body before eyeing Buffy.
“What just happened in here? What did you do to that? What IS that?” he demanded.
“You got yourself a Lei-ach Demon.”
All eyes shifted to Spike as he sauntered in from the back room.
“Fun marrow sucking little beasts,” he added.
Mr. Maclay eyed Spike before regarding the rest of the gang.
“What exactly happened here?”
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” Buffy admitted as she dusted herself off.
Buffy glanced expectantly at Tara as she hunched over the counter. Tara cowered meekly, backing up.
“I...I...I didn’t mean to....” she stammered softly.
Willow drew concern and walked over to Tara.
“Tara? What’s wrong?”
“It was supposed to mask....the spell.....but....it didn’t work......” Tara confessed.
Willow huddled next to Tara, deepening her concern as the gang stared at her.
“What do you mean?” Willow asked.
“I was trying to hide.....so you wouldn’t see what I was,” Tara said weakly.
As the gang exchanged looks of wonder, Mr. Maclay ambled over to Tara and glared at her with furious eyes.
“You should have listened to me all along,” he snapped. “Running from what you are just put all of these people in harm’s way. Was it worth it?”
Tara shook her head as lines of distress and guilt riddled her face.
“I..I..I.....I’m sorry, I didn’t want this.....” Tara stuttered.
Buffy let out a breath as she absorbed Willow’s sympathetic expression.
“Why don’t you take a moment to explain it all,” she advised. “Starting with this whole business of ‘running from what you are’.”
Tara darted her eyes around to see the gang deepening their curious looks.
“She’s a demon,” Mr. Maclay stated flatly.
Tara gulped as everyone stared at her in shock.
“All the women in the family are like her,” Mr. Maclay said. “The magic is spawned from their demon side. It’s not something we care to speak about with complete strangers. We just came out here to bring her home with us before anything like this happened, guess we were a bit too late but we’re taking her home anyway.”
Willow shook her head in shock as Mr. Maclay backed Tara into a corner.
“Why didn’t you....why didn’t you tell me?” Willow asked gently.
Tara stumbled back into the wall as she absorbed the collective group of stares.
“You cast a spell to hide your demon side from us,” Dean moaned. “I really hate magic.”
Dean shook his head as Tara drew her eyes to the floor.
“The demons were veiled by your magic,” Giles deducted. “Giving them a great advantage in their attack.”
Buffy glanced apprehensively at Dawn.
“We all could have been killed,” she said grimly.
Tara braved a look at the group as she edged away from the wall.
“I was wrong, I’m so sorry, I’ll leave now.”
Tara quickly shuffled toward the door as the gang looked on. Willow shook her head and darted after Tara.
“No, Tara, hold on!” she cried.
Willow glanced at the gang with a pleading expression.
“So she did a spell that didn’t work,” Willow said. “She didn’t intend to harm anyone, it was a mistake! We’ve all made mistakes!”
Mr. Maclay snorted snidely.
“It doesn’t matter what her intentions were and this doesn’t concern all of you. She’s our family, she’s our problem and she’s going with us.”
As Tara submissively bowed her head, pivoting to join her family, Willow held her back.
“No Tara, please, just.....just listen to me.”
Tara drew her eyes to Willow.
“I’ve never trusted anyone more than I’ve trusted you,” Willow said softly. “Are you telling me what we have....meant nothing to you?”
“Of....course....not,” Tara gasped. “I.....”
“You don’t have to go, if you don’t want to,” Willow said.
Mr. Maclay ripped Tara from Willow’s grip.
“You can’t speak for her miss.”
“I’m not,” Willow said. “Tara, do you want to go?”
Tara glanced at her dad, then Willow, then the gang before shaking her head very slightly. Mr. Maclay heaved an impatient sigh as he bounded toward Tara. Tara skittishly stepped back a few steps as her father reached a hand out to grab her.
“Stop this nonsense Tara,” Mr. Maclay chided. “You know what the right thing to do is. You’re leaving with us NOW before someone ends up dead because of you.”
Mr. Maclay turned to the gang and beamed a contemptuous frown.
“As for all of you, we’re her family and we will deal with her,” he snapped.
Buffy shuffled over to Mr. Maclay and nodded, glancing briefly at Dawn before drawing her sights onto Tara.
“I hear you Mr. Maclay,” she said. “So if you’ve come to take her.....then go ahead.”
Buffy hitched her head high, hardening her expression as she glared at Mr. Maclay.
“But you’ll have to go through me first,” she barked.
“Excuse me?” Mr. Maclay said.
“She doesn’t want to go,” Buffy said sharply. “So if you’re gonna try and drag her out the door, you’re gonna have to take me down first.”
Dawn crossed her arms and stood resolutely next to Buffy, flashing her own frown, ready for a fight.
“And then me,” Dawn chimed.
Mr. Maclay eyed the two small girls in disbelief.
“Are you serious? I’m not gonna stand here and be intimidated by a bunch of girls,” he snorted.
“I’m telling you, you don’t want to make us mad,” Dawn warned.
Buffy crooked her thumb at Dawn and nodded.
“She’s a biter and a hair puller,” Buffy acknowledged.
“It’s not just a bunch of girls you need to worry about,” Giles interjected.
“Yeah, you got us too, a whole lot of us you’re messin’ with,” Dean admonished.
Giles, Dean and Xander flanked the girls as they all crossed their arms in a defiant, unified gesture.
“Are you all crazy? This has nothing to do with any of you!” Mr. Maclay roared. “We are her family, her flesh and blood. Who in god’s name do you think you are?”
Buffy stood tall with confidence as everyone stared him down with various intimidating looks.
“She may not be our flesh and blood, but she’s still family,” she declared emphatically.
“Damn straight,” Dean affirmed.
Mr. Maclay shined his appall as Willow gently ushered Tara over to the group, settling her behind the wall of her friends.
“All of you would stop me?”
“Yeah, we will and you know why?” Dean posed.
Dean stepped out of the line and frowned at Mr. Maclay.
“Cuz no one puts Baby in a corner, nobody!”
Dean broke into a smug smirk while the rest of the gang lingered with glares.
Spike shot his hand up in protest.
“You can do what you like. I don’t much care.”
Tara’s brother Donny snorted pugnaciously when Mr. Maclay turned toward the front door.
“Are you serious dad? You can’t just.......”
Donny ambled toward Tara with a determined look. Xander, at the end of the line blocked his path. Donny ignored Xander as he craned his sights to Tara and glared at her.
“Don’t be stupid Tara,” he snarled. “Just get in the car and come home with us. I swear to God if you don’t, I won’t hesitate to beat your ass.”
Dean and Xander burst with outrage as they huddled around Donny.
“You just try it monkey butt,” Xander spat. “But you won’t get far.”
“You so much as touch a tendril on her head and I won’t hesitate to beat YOUR ass,” Dean snapped as he cracked his knuckles.
Donny eyed Dean and Xander as they stared him down. After a tense moment, he backed off.
Tara’s cousin Beth turned her nose on the gang.
“Good riddance then,” she said spitefully. “At least we won’t have to be around the gross, despicable demon that she is.”
Anya frowned as she shot her hand up.
“Uh, exactly what kind of demon are you speaking of?”
Beth scowled as she glanced at Anya.
“What type of demon is Tara? There’s a ton of different types you know,” Anya stated. “There are some very evil ones, some very stupid ones, some smelly ones, some all three, and some have actually proven to be useful......”
Beth drew a snotty look at Tara.
“As if it really matters.”
“Yes, an evil demon will always be evil,” Mr. Maclay proclaimed.
“Okay, then narrow the field for us,” Anya challenged.
Spike suddenly snorted loudly as he passed by the group and perched by Tara.
“Or, I can speed things up for you and do THIS.”
Spike whipped Tara hard across the nose with the back of his hand, sending her stumbling into Willow. Tara howled in agony as she clutched her nose while Spike gripped his head, echoing her cries. Spike wailed and stumbled back toward Dean. Dean stepped out of the way and chuckled when Spike toppled into a chair, breaking his fall.
“Spike, you stupid.....” Willow said.
“Spike pppunched me,” Tara stuttered.
“But the pain punched back,” Buffy deducted. “And that means.....”
“She’s not a bloody demon,” Spike moaned as he picked himself up. “So what you’ve been doing is spinning a bit of lore and legend eh pops? Trying to scare the ladies to keep ‘em in check.”
Spike chortled as he drifted toward Mr. Maclay.
“Nice move,” he praised.
Willow and Tara clutched each other, exchanging looks of relief. Dean pitched open the door and tossed a snarky smile at Tara’s dad.
“Let the door hit you on the way out.”
“Yes, I believe this discussion is over,” Giles said flatly.
Mr. Maclay turned pleading eyes to Tara.
“We are your family Tara,” he stressed. “Your whole life, we raised you, took care of you, and this is how you’re going to pay us back?”
Tara soaked in the victorious looks from all of her friends before moving to her father.
“I want you to go now dad,” she said firmly.
Mr. Maclay snorted in disgust as the gang smiled back at him. He shook his head and muttered under his breath as he filed out the door.
“I hope you’re happy,” Beth snapped as she looked back at Tara.
Tara simply smiled back in answer as the gang gathered around. Dean scratched his head and feigned a puzzled look as he approached Spike.
“Say, I think I might be a demon, so - punch me.”
Dean flashed a smirk as Spike hissed and frowned petulantly.
“Come on, this would be a great game, Pin the Pain on the Douche Bag. Let’s do a test run, hit me........”
Spike deepened his scowl as Dean followed him around the shop with taunting smiles and comments.
Later that evening, the gang gathered at the Bronze for Tara’s birthday party. Buffy shifted on her stool as she periodically checked on Dawn as she mingled with Tara and Willow. After a few minutes of watching Xander and Anya play pool, Buffy spotted Dean weaving through the crowd as he stuffed his cell phone in his pocket.
“You get a hold of your dad?”
“No, but he left me a voicemail with coordinates. I ship out tomorrow.”
Buffy moped as Dean took the pool cue from her and eyed the game table.
“Hey, you were supposed to take a shot for me.”
“I did but um, it didn’t work out.”
Dean raised an eyebrow as Xander sent a striped ball toward a corner pocket.
“What? But you were making all your shots before I left.”
“I know but, Dawn snuck off to the bathroom and I got distracted.”
Dean sighed as he sunk against the pool table.
“Alright, whatever, no loss.”
Dean suddenly folded over and ripped with laughter as Buffy stared up at him curiously.
“What’s so funny?”
Dean wiped the tears of amusement from his eyes as his laughter settled.
“I keep picturing the look on Spike’s face when he was howling like a wild bitch.....and then him falling into the chair.......”
Dean snickered a few seconds longer as Buffy noticed Willow and Tara on the dance floor.
“Dance?” she asked with a bat of her eyes.
Dean stopped laughing as he took notice of the song playing through the speakers. He winced deeply in protest, prompting Buffy to pout.
“Outfits?” he proposed with a bat of his eyes.
Buffy relented with a coy smile as she latched onto his hand and lured him to the dance floor. As they threaded arms and held each other close, Buffy dipped her head on his shoulder and swayed to the music. After enjoying the moment, Buffy crooked her head up and beamed a smile of appreciation before she pushed off her toes and gave him a sweet little kiss.
“It was pretty nice of you standing up for Tara the way you did,” she exalted. “I know you don’t know her that well, not that I do either but, Willow cares about her so.....”
“We should too, yeah,” Dean acknowledged. “I mean, at first, when all that shit happened, I was pissed, cuz I still hate magic but then......when her dad started laying into her about family and how she needed to listen and leave her friends, the place she wanted to be.......it just.......”
“Hit a nerve?” Buffy assessed.
“A little. I don’t know Tara, but I do know something about the demands of family and for that......well.....that makes her alright in my book.”
Buffy and Dean glanced at Willow and Tara slow dancing nearby before turning their sights to Dawn.
“She’s still family, even if our memories of her aren’t real. We protect our own.”
“And I will,” Buffy affirmed.
“WE will,” Dean clarified. “If you figure out how to take this bitch down, if she comes for Dawn or you or any of the gang, you call me and I will haul ass back here, I’m serious.”
Buffy and Dean exchanged looks before drawing their mouths close, sealing their unified conviction with a kiss.