Prologue: Free Will
A/N- Finally, the chapter fic that follows “Alone” and “Last Chance.” I hope you all enjoy!
Disclaimer- I don’t own Buffy; that belongs to Whedon. I don’t own Forever Knight; that belongs to Columbia Tristar and its creators. This applies to all chapters.
“We are in the same boat.”
--Pope Clement I
There were two things that Tara Maclay was instantly aware of: first, she was on some cold, metal slab in the middle of a room she did not recognize, and second, she was completely nude. Her memories were vague and coming back in small snippets. She remembered the warm sunlight on her face…Willow’s bright smile and her hands sweetly pulling her into an embrace…and pain. She remembered pain.
She suddenly became of a third thing. There were voices in the room just beyond, two of them. One of them she didn’t recognize, but she still thought it sounded odd. It was a male’s voice, but it was strained…not natural and almost like he was under some sort of spell or hypnosis. But the second voice, she did recognize. And she was not happy. Because, in the back of her foggy mind, she knew she should not be awake in this place or even in this world. And she knew, now, that this other, velvet and regal voice was to blame.
He entered the room, ever dressed in black, smiling coldly back at the other person that was still out of side. Tara instantly sat up, pulling the white sheet, a fabric never meant to be comforting or warm. His smile, a little less cold but enough to matter, fell on her now. His hair seemed brighter to her for some reason, but as thin as ever.
“Ah, Tara, I knew you would be awake,” he said, slipping through other metal gurneys—with their own white sheets covering bodily forms—to her side.
And in one horrible moment, as she took in the drab, depressing nature of the room—the metal doors behind her, the gurneys, the bodies, the instruments, all of it—she remembered. She had died. Gunshot right to the heart. Where it had come from, she was not sure. But she had died, in Willow’s arms.
She began to panic, to heave but she wasn’t breathing. She could not feel the air rushing in and out like it should be. Or rather, she could not feel it past her mouth. Her lungs were not expanding, and, more importantly, her heart was not beating.
“Lacroix…” she said to the man standing beside her as he put a hand, meant to be reassuring, on her bare back. “What did you do?”
She did not need the answer. She already knew. But she was not forming any other thoughts at the moment, and she was badly fighting the urge to repeat the question over and over again.
“I was barely in time, if you must know,” he said, also very aware that she knew what she was now. “I couldn’t let such talent as yours go to waste in death. You had mere moments of life left when I gave you my blood. I saved you.”
Now she glared at him, feeling an anger that was not completely her own well up inside of her. She wrapped her arms around tighter the cloth concealing her, digging her nails into her arms.
me?” she hissed. “I told you no
. I said no! How…h-how could you?”
“Now, now, dear. I’ve already told you. You have a great power stifled deep within you, and it would have been wasted in death. And, as I’m sure you’ll understand as soon as you are back to your senses, I had to leave you for your friends to find you,” he said, taking his hand away, and she was glad for it.
She did not like the feeling of wanting to rip it from him. Tara pulled her legs off the gurney, still covered, and stood. She shook her head.
“My friends? They…who found me, Lacroix?”
He shrugged. “It’s of no consequence. And I don’t know, really. It was daytime. I had to move fast.”
Tara blinked. Again, her mind recalled the sunlight warming her bare skin and illuminating Willow’s glorious hair.
“That’s right…it was daytime when I died. How did you even get to me without bursting into flames?” she asked, throwing a cautious eye towards the door as she caught the silhouette of the other person Lacroix had been speaking with. He followed her eyes and waved his hand dismissively.
“He’s still under my influence. It’ll wear off soon, but we still have time. And desperate times call for desperate measures. Heavy, dark blankets can do wonders in emergencies.”
Tara sunk back onto the gurney. “I’m dead.”
“Yes. And a vampire.”
She glared again. Then, her face relaxed as the fact of her undead state played through her mind. Memories of watching Buffy stake countless, nameless vampires played like a slideshow of a family vacation through her head. She shook it away as she placed a hand on the metal to steady herself. If she thought too hard on it, her mind would start to add fun, bouncy music to the scenes. That’s when she knew she had thought too deeply. She began to shake her head, slowly, the move growing more and more vigorous.
“No, no, no, no,” she muttered.
Lacroix narrowed his eyes at her. “What is it, Tara?”
She began to rock, doing her own form of hyperventilating.
“I’m a vampire,” she said, finding herself horrified by saying the word aloud. “I’m a monster.”
Lacroix sighed, clicking his tongue in annoyance and rolling his eyes.
“Dear God, not another one,” he said, his eyes trained on the ceiling.
He brought them back down to Tara’s face. “Monster is a matter of opinion, Tara. Learn that, and learn it quickly.”
“B-but…my soul. Lacroix, my soul is gone. I’m a soulless, blood-sucking vampire!”
“Tara, dearest, if you are worried about having a soul…you probably have a soul,” Lacroix said, matter-of-factly and not without a hint of laughter.
Tara tried to process that. She was a vampire and still had a soul? How was that even possible? She recalled, the night before she had died, Lacroix’s words to her when she had mentioned Buffy.
“…I’m an altogether different type of vampire than she is used to…
If she wasn’t of the bumpy-faced variety, then what was she? She could feel a hunger, an almost uncontrollable, insatiable hunger inside of her. But it was sort of like she had not eaten for two or three days…nothing like she remembered Spike describing the way his blood-hunger was like, pre-ensoulment.
“What am I?” Tara asked. “What are we? We’re…different.”
Lacroix smiled and nodded. “I’ll teach you all about it. But not now. Now, I have instructions for you that you must follow.”
“You must sleep, Tara, for a little while longer. Another day or two…three at the most. Your friends are planning your funeral as we speak. They have to bury you…put you to rest. For their sakes, and more importantly, yours. I’ll dig you up that night and wake you,” he said, glancing back at the person in the opposite room.
“Sleep? How?” Tara asked, pulling her body back on the gurney.
She was between a rock and a hard place. She was a creature she had never wanted to be, but had no way to correct it. She had been studying magic for years now, and she had, for the last few years, been looking for spells that could restore a vampire’s humanity. She had failed. No such magic existed.
So, at the moment, seeing as she was the amateur, she figured doing as Lacroix told her would be best. Just for now. She laid back on the gurney, not yet putting the sheet back where it had been when she had awakened. She should not care about Lacroix seeing her body…but she did.
“His hypnosis is fading,” Lacroix said, more to himself. To Tara, he added, “Just close your eyes, Tara, and think of the deepest, most relaxing sleep you have ever had. It’ll happen before you know it.”
She nodded, closing her eyes as instructed. She felt him put the sheet back in place—at her waist—and was grateful that blushing was no longer an option for her. Then, she was in darkness, but it was not scary. In fact, it was peaceful. Just like being asleep. In fact, she expected a dream any moment now. Instead, she heard the snap of wood being splintered and a hand pull at her.
It was the commanding tone of his voice that made her open her eyes. She was outside now, laying on soft, slightly moist dirt, and staring up at a starry sky and Lacroix—who had a shovel. He tossed it aside and helped her to her feet.
Tara noted that she was in a black dress of a simple design as she dusted the dirt from her skirt. She looked back, reading her own tombstone and finding it very creepy. This must have been how Buffy had felt when she had dug her way out of her own grave. She shuddered.
“What now?” she asked Lacroix, who was almost done replacing the dirt on her grave.
When he finished, he replied, “Now…we leave.”
She had known it was coming. She knew that she could not be expected to hang around Sunnydale, where so many knew and loved her. With Willow…she looked wistfully to the edge of the cemetery.
“Can’t I see them all one last time? You know, a look from a distance or something?” she asked.
Lacroix’s lips pursed ever so slightly. Then, he shook his head. When he spoke, it was like there was more to his answer than he was saying.
“It…would be unwise. We must leave immediately. I’ve already made preparations. Come…I’ll teach you to fly,” he said, holding out a hand.
She eyed the hand, wanting desperately to question what it was he was keeping from her. But, as she took it reluctantly and felt herself lifted into the night sky high over Sunnydale, she knew it was best, whatever the reason. If she saw Willow, she would want to stay, unable to leave her. And staying was not possible…not as she was now.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
He did not answer…he only smiled.
End Notes: Okay, what did you think? Now, just a little note here. Tara, as far as preference goes, will remain canon. That is, she’s still a lesbian, folks. This means, because I really don’t feel comfortable trying to write a slash relationship being a straight woman—I just don’t know how it works on a day to day basis, and I’m afraid it wouldn’t be real if I, personally, wrote it—she won’t be paired off. That doesn’t mean that pairings won’t happen. I currently don’t have any planned for this, really, but nothing with Tara. Sorry.