Thank you to Oxnate
for Betaing this chapter for me, he works fast, unfortunately I do not... (This is a rewritten version of the original 3rd chapter)
Slowly, making their way along the pillars, Tara was almost sure that the walls around her were alive, they moved towards the end of the room and stopped in front of a small throne. On the throne a man was reading something written in a notebook. When she saw the notebook Tara glanced angrily at Clea, who shook her head. "I didn't give it to him," Clea said. The man raised his head and sighed, then he held the notebook close to the flame of the candle to get a stronger light upon it. "They have invented an electric light bulb, you know?" Clea continued.
"That is my notebook, isn't it?" Tara asked.
Dr. Strange groaned and put the notebook down. "Now," He said ignoring her question. "Clea seems to have a need to protect you, but I still hope you'll tell me how Willow Rosenberg ended up being the dark witch she is."
“Was,” Tara said. “she's trying to cleanse herself.”
“Yes she is, tell me her story.”
She wondered where to start. She didn't want to go through her painful memories, but maybe Dr. Strange could help Willow. She opened her mouth to speak. “No.”
“What?” Dr. Strange seemed as surprised as she was.
“I- I said, no.”
“Do you know who I am, little witch?” Dr. Strange straightened on his thrown, looking down at her.
“I don't know. Are you the man who stole my notebook and then demanded personal information on the woman I love? And speaking of which, give me my notebook back.”
“If she turns evil again-” he began.
“Then you'll have yourself to blame for focusing on becoming powerful instead of learning people skills. Give me my notebook back.” she repeated her demand.
“You force my hand.” Dr. Strange said.
“To do what?” Tara stared at Dr. Strange as he silently sat there, thinking. Then her eyes widened. “No!” She said, Dr. Strange questioningly raised his brow. “don't try to use magic on her, she'll see through that,” Tara explained. “she's too powerful now, she'll figure out how to break any spell you'd cast on her, however good they'd be.”
Dr. Strange raised his brow and looked at Clea. “Is she a telepath?”
“No, I am not,” Tara said before Clea had time to answer. “I just know what kind of man you are. You're just like her, and using magic against her...” she gave an exasperated sigh. “Look, breaking possessions, curses and spells is what brought her to magic. She's done that for years and she's good at it. Do not make the mistake of using magic against her.”
“I'm like her? I've read the watcher reports on her that described her as too arrogant to think of the consequences of her actions or to see her failures...”
Tara nodded. “Yeah, like I said, you're just like her.” she smirked. Then she looked away, “And... she's a good woman, Giles and the coven can help her.”
For long time Dr. Strange stared her, then he sighed. “I'll keep watching her but I will not use magic or interfere in her recovery.”
“Oh, you will try,” Clea said and shrugged. “and if it blows up in your face... you'll have only yourself to blame.”
Tara realized that Dr. Strange would be arrogant enough to try to use magic to manipulate Willow. She feared what would happen if, no, when
Willow would notice that she'd been manipulated by the magic. But if that would help Willow... She raised her eyes to meet his. “She trusts Giles.” She stated.
“And?” Dr. Strange asked.
“Call him. On the telephone. I suggest asking nicely.”
Dr. Strange stared the girl, he wondered if she knew what they had done when they had resurrected the Slayer. The power they had unleashed. He exhaled deeply and nodded. “You're probably right,” He looked at Clea. “I have some thinking to do.”
Clea nodded and took Tara by the hand, but Tara pulled away. Tara marched up to the throne. “My notebook.” she held out her hand.
He stared at her for a moment before handing over the bound papers. He'd already read everything in it anyway. It had told him most of what he need to know about Willow Rosenberg, though he'd hoped to hear it from Tara as well.
Tara took the notebook, then whacked him over the head with it, turned and walked out.
Dr. Strange just stared after her. The last time anyone had dared to strike him... Clea was muttering apologies for her friend but he waved her off. “Just see her home.” he said and she turn to leave. “And Clea,” Dr. Strange said and Clea turned back to him. “she needs to be guided, she has some power and surprisingly good control of it, but she needs to understand how the magic works.”
She rolled over onto her side, kicked the blanket to the foot of the bed and got up. Over a month had passed since she had left Sunnydale, and still she hadn't had more than few good nights' sleep, almost every night nightmares woke her up. Knowing that she couldn't get any sleep, she sat down at her desk and opened one of the books Clea had given her.
Clea had an incredible collection of books about magic and, unlike Giles' collection, they weren't old. There was, of course, something to learn from the writings of ancient Egyptians, or Sumerians, or Greeks, or Romans, or whoever in the past had written about magic. But there was even more to learn from the books that had been written after humanity had started to understand physics. The Age of Reason
had been age of enlightenment for witches too; to understand magic you had to understand physics. You had to know the rules to know how to bend them.
Sometimes she thought that part of the reason why Willow had grown so powerful so quickly was because she understood the interactions; magic, physics, and quantum physics. Tara had never gotten past the Laws of Thermodynamics, everything after that had just confused her. But she had to learn it to become a better witch.
She glanced at the book under the pile Clea had given her, she was tempted to skip others and go straight to it. But Clea was right, she'd have to understand the others first before she could even begin to understand the book written by Dr. Strange.
She walked along the narrow streets, dodging the people, trying to keep up with her friends. She had started to feel at home in New York, and she had Clea and her friends to thank for that. They had quickly taken her under their wings. She liked her new life, no demons or vampires and, even though some of her new friends were superheros with strange problems, her life now was much simpler than it had ever been.
Clea had somehow managed to get her a new ID that came with a history. She was just about to move in to her own studio apartment. And she was studying magic.
Magic... Willow... she was well informed of how Willow was doing. Tara was happy that Willow was recovering well, and she still felt guilty about leaving Dawn. She sighed, now wasn't the time to think about things like that. She glanced at the people around her and smiled. She was going to spend her first girls' night out with three new friends.
She wondered how on Earth she ended up going clubbing with a powerful witch, a famous model/actress, and one fourth of the Fantastic Four? Her life was... strange, to put it mildly. Witches, demons, vampires, hellgods, slayers, superheros and mutants. She wondered, what next?
As they neared the nightclub she groaned, there was a long line in front of it.
“Don't worry,” Clea said when she heard her groan. “Sue and MJ are famous, we can just walk in.”
Tara smiled shyly. “Yeah, I know, but that's the problem... They have to wait and we just... waltz in and get VIP treatment. It doesn't feel like the right thing to do.”
VIPs,” Clea said and rolled her eyes. “and you wonder why all of the people I know like you. How could anyone not like you?”
“I agree,” Sue said. “besides, it would be hard to find a better babysitter. Franklin adores you,” She sighed. “so much that sometimes I'm jealous.”
“That feeling...” Tara frowned. “...both those feelings are mutual, I adore him and I'm jealous of you. It's fun to babysit him.”
As Clea had promised they walked straight in, and they were shown to their table, far enough from the sound system so that they could have a discussion without yelling. When people stared at them Tara sighed. She liked Sue and Mary Jane, but she didn't like the attention they got. She feared that some of the photos people took would end up in one of those magazines Dawn read.
“So.. what kind of women do you like?” Mary Jane asked after they'd gotten their drinks.
Tara smiled. “Well... I'm kinda into slender, green eyed redheads...”
Mary Jane smirked. “Sorry, I'm not available,” She raised her brow. “but really, I know it might be too soon for you now, but... just asking. I might eventually introduce someone to you.”
Tara sighed. “I wasn't lying. That is the physical type I like. Though shared interests and gentleness are higher on the list.”
Clea giggled. “So... MJ, if you were a witch, she'd be all over you.”
“As cute they'd be together, MJ's still straight.” Sue said.
“So was my last girlfriend...” Tara absentmindedly stated and blushed when she realized what she had said.
Clea laughed. “And you just turned her... maybe Peter should worry about you being friends with MJ.”
Tara blushed even more deeply, but she liked it when they teased her, it was refreshing and new feeling to be the target of friendly teasing. Tara glanced around them, the crowd was milling aimlessly around the club. It certainly was a fancy place, and almost all of its customers were young and beautiful. All of the people she had met in New York had been nice, and not at all what she had expected from New Yorkers.
But the other side of the New York mentality was shown at these fancy nightclubs. Bouncers picked out beautiful people outside and let them cut through the crowd and get in. She liked her company, she liked them a lot, but the places they chose... she didn't belong at clubs like this.
Then she turned her gaze to the dance floor down below. After a while she snarled and stood up. “Sorry, I'll be back soon.” She said and went down to the dance floor. She got closer to a man with black satin shirt, and as she smelled him she growled, and went back to their table, never taking her eyes off the man.
“Clea,” She said. “see the tall blond man in a black satin shirt with chinese writing?”
Clea looked down. “Yeah, what about him?”
“He's a vampire.”
“Vampires are real?” Mary Jane asked.
Tara nodded, not taking her eyes off from vampire. “Yeah, and you wouldn't want to meet them, 99% of them...” She groaned. “with two exceptions, they all are evil, cold blooded killers. Sue, Clea, we have to get him out.” She didn't knew where her sudden slightly bossy attitude came from, but this was something she knew how to handle. She sighed, what did it tell about her when she now, for the first time in the club, felt comfortable? Apparently you could take the girl out of the Hellmouth, but you couldn't take the Hellmouth out of the girl. Sue and Clea got up.
“MJ, you wait here.” Sue said and MJ nodded.
Tara smirked. “And Mary Jane, she means it. He's dangerous, almost as strong as Peter is and he loves to kill.” Because she hadn't taken her eyes off from the vampire, she didn't see how Mary Jane's eyes widened. Clea went and lured the vampire toward the exit, followed by Tara and Sue. Outside they went to a small alley, and as the vampire put his game face on Sue trapped him behind invisible walls.
“Now what?” She asked.
“Now I'll find piece of a wood and pierce his heart with it.” Tara said and looked around her.
“Isn't there any other way?” Sue asked.
Tara glanced at her, she knew that, using her force field, Sue could easily cut the vampire's head off, and Clea probably could easily burn him. But they had never seen what kind of monsters vampires really were. And even though he wasn't one, he still looked human. Tara wasn't sure if they could kill something that appeared to be human. And she didn't want to put them through that. So she made her biggest mistake of the night. “No.” She answered. And at the same moment another vampire landed behind Sue and sunk its fangs into her neck.
The shock of seeing that took Tara by surprise, but only for a few seconds. She went beyond anger, with lightning speed she grabbed the shadowy figure, threw him up against the wall and pierced his throat with her claws. When she heard a scream behind her she glanced and saw how the first vampire was attacking Clea, who stumbled backward and fell.
Through a haze of rage Tara could see the vampire laughing now, circling Clea slowly, his game face on. As Tara watched, she felt a body behind her then fangs in her neck. She twisted, ignoring the tearing she felt on her neck, and punched the vampire in the stomach repeatedly. She felt her claws go through his back again and again.
The vampire threw her hard against the wall. As she fell down on the ground the vampire was over her, his strong arms pushing her hands down, and its fangs again sunk into her neck. She growled and bit his ear off. When the vampire grabbed his ear her right hand was free, she again punched her claws through his throat. She ripped his neck in half again. Head!
Her own voice yelled inside of her head. Cut his head off!
When the vampire tried to get away, she, with all her strength, swung her arm in a large arc and her claws cut through the vampire's neck, for a second his head rolled in the air before he exploded to dust.
Terrified, Clea looked at the vampire getting closer to her, suddenly the vampire stopped and stared at his chest. Clea followed his gaze and saw bloody spikes coming through his chest. When the vampire turned around Clea saw Tara. Who now was growling and punching the vampire with claws that came out from her fists.
Clea instinctively crawled backward, away from both of them. Although she was scared and a bit dizzy she still was mesmerized by the sight of Tara beating the vampire. There was a dull puncture sound every time her fists hit the vampire. And she heard a loud snap when he hit Tara, she was sure that he'd broken one of Tara's bones. Then the vampire fell and as he hit the ground, his body crumbled to dust.
She stared at Tara, standing there, breathing heavily, covered with blood, with bloody claws sticking out from her fists.
“Tara?” Clea asked and when Tara glanced at her she shivered, her face was bloody, and her gaze was full of anger. Tara looked at the dust pile and sighed. Her claws disappeared and when she turned her gaze back to Clea her eyes were full of concern.
“Clea, are y—you a—alright?” Tara asked.
“Yeah, how's Sue?” Clea asked as she got up.
Tara's eyes widened from horror, she hurried to the unconscious Sue. “Sue?” She said, but got no answer. She felt her pulse, it was there, but it was faint. She raised her gaze. “call an ambulance, she's lost blood. A lot of it.” She said to Clea.
Clea put her hand over Tara's shoulder. “You go and get MJ, I'll teleport her to the Hospital.”
Tara reluctantly let Clea take Sue, and as they disappeared she walked toward the entrance of the club.
Tara walked past the line, barely hearing the murmurs as she passed.
“You have to wa-” the bouncer cut off when he took in her blood soaked visage. “Do you need help, ma'am? Do you want me to call 911?”
Tara shook her head. “I'm going in to get my friend. We're leaving.” She firmly stated.
The bouncer shook his head. “I'm afraid I can't let you in like that.”
Tara glared him and again anger spiked her veins, she breathed deeply, trying to calm herself.
“But I'd be happy to send someone to retrieve your friend for you. What's her name?” he asked. He snapped his fingers and another similarly dressed man appeared by his side.
“Mary Jane Watson.” she said and the new guy disappeared. She ignored the looks from the crowd behind her and stared at the bouncer instead. He indicated she had something on her mouth and she wiped the blood from her mouth with her sleeve. Finally Mary Jane came out, her eyes as big as saucers when she saw Tara's blood stained shirt and the lack of the other two friends. “Sue's hurt. Clea took her to the hospital.” They were off like a shot.
Mary Jane and Tara walked into the hospital entrance. As they approached the info desk one of the nurses noticed Tara. "What happened? Are you hurt?" The nurse asked quickly, stepping over to Tara. "shall I get a doctor?"
Baffled Tara rubbed her head and stared at her, then she glanced at Mary Jane. "Huh?"
"No, she's not hurt," Mary Jane explained. "it's not her blood. Our friend... got attacked."
"There was—er—a slight," replied Tara, a grimace spreading over her face. "they—um—tried to..."
"It was an attack!" Mary Jane said. "how is Susan Storm?"
Nurse's eyes widened. "Invisible girl?"
"Woman," Tara corrected her. "she's really not a girl anymore. She's a mother, you know?" She furrowed her brow, why had she thought that it was important to correct the nurse right now?
Nurse smiled faintly. "Yes, of course. The Doctor is with her. Sit down and wait," She glanced at Tara. "are you sure you're not hurt?"
Tara looked at herself. From neck to waist her blue blouse was soaked with blood, black blood, stiff and wet. She forced a smile to her face. "I'm fine... it's not my blood."
Nurses looked at each other and shook their heads. The one talking to them shrugged a shoulder. “Just sit down and wait.” She went to a closet and returned with a plastic bag and a hospital gown. “Here. There's a bathroom over there you can change in so you're not covered in blood any more.”
Tara did as the nurse suggested. She went to the bathroom and removed her bloody shirt, dropping it in the plastic bag she'd been provided. She took off her lacy bra she'd been wearing to go clubbing and dropped it in the sink. She then used some wet paper towels to wash most of the blood off her torso. She then dried her chest off with more paper towels. And she was thankful that she had worn a lacy bra that night, in that it hadn't soaked up nearly as much blood as her shirt. Rinsing it in the sink and drying with paper towels and it looked as good as new. She could still smell the blood on it, but everything about her smelled of blood. She put the slightly damp bra back on before tying the hospital gown behind her. It wasn't great, but it'd be better than wearing a bloody shirt for who knew how long. And it would get her fewer stares. Especially in a hospital.
She rejoined MJ in the waiting room. As they sat in the waiting room Mary Jane sighed when she saw how guilt-ridden Tara was. "Tara, it wasn't your fault." She said.
Tara raised her reddened eyes. "It was—"
"No it wasn't, you told us that they're dangerous."
"Yeah.. but I could have burned him... them... I was thinking like the Slayer, not like a witch, and I didn't tell Sue that cutting their head off or burning kills them, if she'd known that..." Tara sobbed and lowered her gaze back to the floor.
“..then what could have she done?” Mary Jane said.
“But she almost died! She might die! Only because I didn't tell or protect her!”
“No,” Clea said from behind her. “she's okay, they've giving blood to her and soon she'll be alright, I talked with her and told her what happened. She could not have done anything. It's not your fault.”
“It wasn't your fault, and it was you who saved our lives,” Clea smiled. “you're the hero in this,” She sat beside Tara. “besides, you have some explaining to do.”
“Huh?” Tara asked.
“Yeah, how did you,” Mary Jane said and looked at Clea. “you know... what you said about Peter?”
Tara sighed and smiled. “I met him...” She glanced at Clea, she wasn't sure if she knew who Peter was. “at one of my babysitting gigs, and.. he can't hide his aura... and he smells the same.”
Mary Jane nodded. “That explains it.”
Clea frowned, she had no idea what they were talking about. “Smells the same... and those bone claws of yours... you didn't tell us that you're a mutant?”
Tara's eyes widened. “No! I can't be! It's.. something else. Mutants... they get their powers when they're in their teens, I... I'm an adult. Far away from the teenage.”
“I'm not an expert in this... but it looks a lot like you are a mutant, and your mother probably...” Clea sighed deeply. “...met... Wolverine. Claws, good senses... and you heal fast, there's not scratch on you.”
“No...” Tara whispered, she didn't like what Clea was saying. Her mother had been good woman, even if she had been married to an abusive and manipulative man like her father was, she wouldn't have cheated on him. And she wasn't ready to change her humanity to mutanity. She had been so happy when she had discovered that she was completely human. She'll be eternally grateful for that to Spike. She couldn't be a mutant.
“And that would explain your miraculous rising from the dead,” Clea said. “Wolverine's as close to an immortal than any human can be.”
“I'm human...” Tara sobbed. “...I'm human... I'm completely human... human.”
Mary Jane scowled when she heard her sobbing. She remembered their talk the night when Tara had stayed at their home. They had talked about their bad childhood experiences, and, although hers had been bad, Tara's had been worse; she'd been abused and all through her life she'd been told that she was a demon, born evil, so she had thought that she deserved all that abuse. In some ways she still did.
She knew why Tara was so reluctant to accept that she might be something other than human. She hugged her. "Tara," She said. "mutants are
humans. All humans have mutations, for some of us those mutations just give some... abilities.” She paused for moment. “besides... you don't think that Sue's less human don't you?"
Tara smiled relievedly, she wasn't ready to give her humanity away, but what Mary Jane had said made sense. “No, I don't,” She sighed and wiped her tears. “can I see Sue?”
“Wait, I'll go and ask,” Clea said. “and it wasn't your fault. Get that into your thick skull.”
Tara frowned and turned her head away. Then she looked at her small fists which had claws inside of them. A few weeks ago she had noticed how her hands moved as she spoke. And never before had they done that. That wasn't only one change in her behavior she had noticed, she'd started to express her views more fiercely and she rarely was nervous anymore. And tonight she had enjoyed every second of the fight. It had felt good to be the strong one. She smiled. A hero.
Then she sighed, if only she could deal with her guilt as easily.
Sue laid on a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling and she was pale. There was an IV tube in her hand, they were giving blood to her. She smiled when Tara walked in. "I heard you saved my life."
Tara sniffed and lowered her gaze. "I'm sorry..."
Sue furrowed. "About saving my life?"
"No... about not telling you that beheading kills them."
Sue sighed and then she glanced at the window. "Not that it would have helped, he came behind me... but why didn't you?"
Tara took chair and sat beside her. “Because...” She sighed. “they have human bodies and ...I thought you wouldn't have understood that there's no humanity inside of the body, you hadn't seen what kind of monsters they really are. And I thought it would be better if I killed him, I wouldn't feel guilt about that.”
“So you protected me from myself?”
“And... you feel guilty about that?” Sue asked. “Clea told me that you saved our lives and... you were right, when you told me that you were going to stab his heart I thought there had to be another way... a way to cure him.”
Tara nodded and sighed. “I know... but I still feel guilty... I should have saved you earlier...” She tilted her head and smiled. “Reed and little Bill's coming.”
Sue smiled. “Franklin's begging me to tell what's the joke behind you calling him Bill. Maybe you should tell him.”
Tara nodded, returning the smile. “It's your fault, you did name him after a bill.” She turned to the door as it opened. “Hi, Bill. Reed.”
“Mom!” Franklin yelled and came to her, Sue lifted him to the bed beside her. “Are you hurt?”
“A little. I'd be in much worse condition if auntie Tara hadn't saved me,” Sue said. “she's the hero of the day.”
“And she has cool claws.” Clea said.
Franklin's eyes lighted up. “Can I see them? Can I? Can I?”
Tara sighed, and glared at Clea. She understood what she was after. She smiled to Franklin. “On one condition: you won't tell anybody. It'll be our secret, okay?”
“Yeah, okay. Can I see?”
Tara concentrated for moment and with a slight pain her claws popped out.
“Cool!” Franklin said. “can I touch?”
Tara smirked and nodded. She had to admit, now that she knew how to handle them, they did look pretty cool, slightly gruesome, but cool.
“Honey, be careful.” Sue said.
Franklin touched her claws gingerly then he smirked. “They're cool, can you grow fur too?”
Tara furrowed. “Fur?”
“Like animals have.” Franklin explained.
Sue giggled. “No, that's Logan, he has fur,” Her eyes widened and she looked at Reed. “Reed?”
Reed nodded. “I could ask for a sample of his DNA,” He turned to Tara. “if you want to, I can check for paternity?”
Tara sighed, it wouldn't be easy to suddenly find out that she wasn't who she thought she was. But, she had just died and created a whole new identity, even her personality was changing. So... compared to that, how big of a change would this be? She could take it as part of her life change. She had always feared and hated her father, so if she wasn't his biological daughter... that would be a plus. But she had no idea who this Logan/Wolverine was, maybe he was an even worse man than her father. She got up and went to the bathroom. She took a small cup, popped her claws out and made small cut into her hand. Then she went back to the hospital room and gave the cup to Reed.
“Do it.” She said and turned to Sue. “What kind of man is he?”
Sue sighed. “I have met him only a few times.. he's a bit scary... very much into the bachelor lifestyle, socially awkward and bluntly honest, but he tries to do... good,” She smiled to Tara. “He's a hero, and from what I've heard he's been kind of stepfather for several girls, so I think you'd like him... after you get over his grunts and groans and growls and occasional roars. And that god awful cigar smoke.”
Franklin smirked. “Auntie groans and growls all the time.”
Tara chuckled. “Maybe I wouldn't if you'd do what I say.”
“Auntie's right, we would groan and growl much less if you'd just believe us,” Reed said. “may I see the cut you made to—”
“It's healed already.” Tara said.
Sue looked at her, she looked sad. Sue sighed, no wonder, she probably was miserable. A little more than a month earlier, her happiness had been taken from her, then her name, and now the base of her existence have been irretrievably shattered. She glanced at boy on her lap. Then she looked at Tara. "Could you take him home?" She asked. Tara nodded. "Franklin, mom and dad will come home late tonight, we have to take care of some dull things in here... you go home with auntie Tara, okay?"
“Mom, I wanna wait for you to come home with us.”
“There's all sorts of papers to read and sign. I'm fine. I'll come home tonight and you'll see me in the morning, okay?”
Franklin growled. “Okay.” He said and jumped down and took Tara's hand.
“You just growled too, did you notice?” Tara asked as they walked toward the door.
“Uh-huh, and I can roar like lion.”
“I bet you roar loudly,” Tara said. “show me?”
There was loud roar as the door closed.