In a Yellow Wood
Title: In a Yellow Wood
Pairing: Tara/Richard, pre-BtVS season 4 and pre-Anita books.
Dedication: Merry Christmas, Jen (Saiyasith)! I hope you like your secret santa prezzie. This isn’t a pairing I’d normally think of since I haven’t seen most of the later Buffy eps, but I hope you like it.
Disclaimer: Tara belongs to Joss Whedon, et al., and Richard & friends belong to L.K. Hamilton, et al. I’m making no profit, so please don’t sue.
Richard set down his backpack in disgust. Damn, another barbed wire fence. A family of trolls had been spotted not too far from here last year, but what were the odds that they’d stick around if the fences started going up? He took out his notebook and recorded the fence’s position. If this was parkland he’d have to get the rangers to tear it down. There were 13 endangered species, besides the lesser mountain trolls, that lived in these woods and he’d be damned if he let some stupid hunter’s blind take down any of them. He decided to follow the fence its entire length. Who knows, maybe the trolls would stay around anyway.
After about an hour, he heard a shout followed by a thud. Richard broke off into a run following the noise. He came across what looked like an abandoned barn on the other side of the fence. He followed the fence to get a closer look at the building. As he came across the back side, he was surprised to see a screened door hanging oddly from its hinges. Its chipped white paint appeared to be as old as the peeling grey paint of the building’s wooden slats. A pair of tattered curtains hung from a window just to the right of the door, the chickens in the print had faded to dull brown blobs. What looked like a barn was really a house, and evidently still occupied, Richard realized.
There was another crash and the screen door swung open. Richard ducked into the woods to watch without being seen. A grisly man dressed in dirty overalls came storming out the door. “Tara Maclay, get your butt out here!” The man yelled at the door.
A blonde girl carefully opened the door. She was dressed like most of the locals in homemade shorts and sleeveless shirt. With the nearest mall almost a hundred miles away, the girls had no hope but look old-fashioned around here. The girl carefully latched the door behind her.
“What is this?!” The man demanded, pulling up a weed.
“Chamomile.” She mumbled looking away.
“And what is it doing in my field?” The man shook the plant at the girl. Richard scoffed at the idea this was a field. He took a closer look at what he had previously thought were wild plants. He took a deep breath. Tobacco. But what was it doing this high in the mountains? No wonder the pathetic plants looked so wilted.
“I need it for momma, but I swear I only planted in the garden.” The girl replied.
“I will not have you planting any of your demon plants on my land! That garden is for vegetables only!” The man grabbed the girl’s ear and dragged her around the side of the house. Richard watched in fascination as the man proceeded to uproot anything resembling an herb or seasoning, leaving only the potatoes, tomatoes, and squash. The girl knelt in the dirt bawling her eyes out.
“No!” she cried, scrambling to replant the torn stems as fast as the man was pulling them out. “Those are for momma! I need to make momma better!” she wept.
“Your mother doesn’t need those potion mumbo-jumbos. If human medicine can’t save her, she ain’t no human and deserves to die!” he yelled, his face beet red.
The girl stopped her motions and looked up. “Daddy?” she whispered, the tears running down her cheeks.
“That’s enough. Go inside, now.” His voice was cold with hatred.
“Daddy?” The girl pleaded again, backing up.
“Inside, now!” he barked. The girl got to her feet and quickly scampered back into the house, taking the time to carefully close the screen door, even though she was too distraught to even walk straight. The man muttered to himself as he gathered up the plant scraps and threw them onto what Richard assumed was a compost heap. He pulled a pipe from his overall’s pocket and lit it, throwing the match onto the heap of plants. Richard watched the smoke curl and rise, carrying the sweet scent of several herbs. He was hypnotized by the wisps for several minutes, watching the fire, until he heard the man get up from his crouch at the pile. Remembering where he was, Richard ducked back into the cover of the forest. He ran for his car, ready to get away from that place.
“Hey there, Granola, how’d the trip go?” An older man walked down the gravel path from the direction of the guest cabins.
“Hey Verne.” Richard greeted the man in what an observer might have mistaken for a manly hug. In reality, Richard was rubbing his cheek against the local Ulfric as a gesture of supplication and respect. “The day could have gone better.” Richard admitted grabbing his bag from the back of the truck.
“Well, come on in, and tell us about it. Roxanne’s got dinner just about on the table.” Verne smiled as his eyes strayed to the sky. “But first, anything you want to bring in from your truck? Looks like rain.”
“Yes sir.” Richard pulled out some of his electronics from the back.
“What did I say about calling me sir?” Verne growled playfully at the young man. “You aren’t that big a pup, are ya?”
“Right, Verne.” Richard rolled his eyes.
“We’ll make a proper alpha of you yet, boy.” Verne helped Richard lug his equipment back to the first guest cabin. As the two men walked back to the main house, the sky opened up and poured on them. They entered the house, joking, and both men shook themselves, spraying water all over the entryway.
“Good grief Verne, I just washed that floor.” A woman’s voice called from the kitchen. A young woman came into the hallway, wiping her hands on her apron. She immediately gave her husband an enthusiastic hug and kiss before turning to the visitor. “Why Richard Zeeman! City life got too much for you?” She greeted Richard with a hug. He took a polite nip at the lupa’s bottom lip. “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming today. Did you hit traffic? Deer in the road or something?” They laughed. Everyone knew there were no population centers between Thronnos Rokke Clan and the Big Oak Clan. Even on a bad traffic day, it never took more than three hours.
“Yeah, I got in around noon and figured I could get out into the field quick before dropping off my gear.” Richard admitted.
“Well you’re just in time for dinner. You boys wash up and I’ll add another plate.” Roxanne headed back to the kitchen.
“She’s a piece of work, ain’t she?” Verne whistled watching his wife’s rear retreating down the hall. “Calling us boys, when she’s younger than both of us...” He chuckled.
“You indeed made a wise choice in lupa.” Richard nodded, ducking into the powder room to wash his hands.
“Quit being so diplomatic boy. This isn’t the city; we treat each other like family here.” Verne joined him.
“And lupa knows best, eh?” Richard kidded as he made way for Verne to wash his hands. “Why, she’s got you practically civilized now.”
“Aw, shut it.” The older werewolf blushed. Richard laughed. The men joined Roxanne in the dining room where steaming bowls of venison stew were waiting for them.
“This is really excellent, Roxie,” Richard complimented the cook after a few minutes of silent eating.
“Well, aren’t you a sweetheart.” Roxie blushed. “So did you find any of your trolls yet?”
“Nah, today was a bust, which reminds me. Has the park service sold any land recently?” Richard decided if anyone would know the wilderness borders around here, it would be the pack.
“Nope. There haven’t been any interested buyers in these parts for several years. That park is about as secure as you get nowadays.” Verne answered, reaching across the table for another piece of cornbread.
“I was trying to follow Professor Gray’s maps from last year, and I came across a barbed wire fence. I was just wondering if I was the trespasser, or if the fence was illegal.”
“Where were you? South side of the mountain?” Richard nodded. “You probably ran into ol’ man Maclay’s place. He’s been squatting there for years. The rangers try to oust him every few years, but he drags out the shot gun. I can’t blame the boys from not wanting to take on that coot.”
“Yeah, well, his fence runs right through the last known territory of the lesser mountain trolls.” Richard whined. He knew he sounded whiney, but he couldn’t help it. Trying to find endangered species in time to finish a master’s was hard enough as it was without adding crazy mountain men.
“Probably put the fence up specifically for the trolls. I heard that his son is growing mari-ju-ana up there.” Roxie’s eyes sparkled as she passed on the local gossip. “Marybeth said trolls like that stuff. Is that true?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it published, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.” Richard had to smile at the country lupa.
“You should be safe as long as you don’t cross his fences. He can’t afford silver bullets, but he might try to cut your head off with an axe. Just stay on the right side of the fence. You ignore him, he’ll ignore you.” Verne advised.
Richard nodded. He trusted the Ulfric to know best. The rest of the dinner passed amicably with Richard updating the couple on St. Louis gossip. Nicolas was still in power, driving the rats crazy. He had recently moved into the post of fenrir after refusing his lupa’s bed. Verne declared that he would have Richard in shape, come hell or high water, by the time he went home. Marcus would never know what hit him.