rating: Y-14, as the series, just to be safe
main characters: Xander, Tara
disclaimer: Xander, Tara, and all other things Sunnydale do not belong to me. They are the creation of the writing staff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
distribution: Cat, INeedAParrot, XanderZone, Paula - anyone else ask.
notes: result of Cat's Inspiration Challenge #1 - use pumpkin, Ares, kitten, & shimmer. This fic is set in a fairly Au s4 - Anya didn't come back, and Willow and Tara are just friends, not friends with benefits.
Xander walked towards the door of Giles's house, his arms full of bags holding things for the Thanksgiving feast. He had rolls, and a container of home made cranberry relish - one of the few good recipes that his father knew, and an assortment of chips and pretzels, including a small box of Wheatabix for Spike, a couple bottles of salad dressing, some real butter, a container of carefully mixed nuts so that there was no chance of getting handful with just peanuts, and a German Chocolate cake, made fresh yesterday at the local bakery. It wasn't until he got up to the door that his problem became apparent. With his hands full of food, how was he supposed to get in? A few careful efforts proved that while he could either get two fingers or a finger and a thumb free of the bags, neither option would permit him to open the door.
That wasn't very helpful. What could he try now?
Trying not to grin too much, Xander kicked the door. He just wanted to make enough noise that someone inside would hear him and let him in. The scents of roasting turkey and ham had slipped out of the house somehow, teasing him, taunting him with the presence of food. He could also smell baking apple pie and pumpkin pie, although he couldn't be certain if all of those scents were coming from the same place or not. Just to be sure of getting someone's attention, he sort of bellowed. "Can someone open the door?"
"Just a moment!" The voice of Tara floated out, carried on the aromas of baking.
Tara was at their Scooby Thanksgiving? That was a bit unexpected. Or maybe not so unexpected, actually... All of her relatives were out of state, and she didn't really seem to have very many friends other than Willow and the rest of them. Where else would she be if not here? He couldn't see Willow letting any of her friends spend Thanksgiving alone and bored and hungry somewhere.
The door opened, revealing Tara, a smudge of flour on her cheek and some more in her hair. For once, she was dressed in jeans instead of one of her long swishy skirts, and there was a bit of flour on one knee of those as well. She smiled nervously, shifting her weight. "Xander... oh my, no wonder you couldn't open the door. What all do you have in there? Did you leave any food back at your house?"
"I come bearing rolls, chips, pretzels, the famous Harris Cranberry relish, and German Chocolate cake!" Xander proclaimed the listing, feeling almost silly and cheerful. Another fall reached, safely, with nobody dying. And he had great friends.
Tucking one strand of hair behind her ear, she sort of smiled. "Well, that's one less thing to worry about. And Buffy was asking about chocolate." Tara sort of backed away, holding the inner door open for him.
Xander shuffled through the door, feeling one of the bags starting to slip. "Can you save the cake before it escapes? And I was pretty sure I smelled pumpkin pie baking, was that here or one of the neighbors?"
"The neighbors." Tara started taking bags out of his arms. "Maybe... maybe Spike could convince Giles to let him out of the ropes if he helps set everything up?"
"Can someone remind me again why we have him here? I mean, Buffy's the Slayer, also known as the Vampire Slayer. Shouldn't she have... well, slayed?" Xander looked around, hoping that there would be no horrible interruptions to this year's events.
"Buffy said that she didn't want the dust all over the carpet. Giles said that there might be something to consider about that complex he talked about. I think Willow just feels a little better having someone around that's as miserable as she is. And, well... I guess I just don't know him well enough to want him staked." Tara looked as if she was repeating a now-memorized list.
"Fine... I guess. As long as he doesn't make any trouble. Because if he does... hey, there's this great thing called a dustbuster. I bet we could make the bad boy over there fit in one real easy." Xander shook his head. Life in Sunnydale was many things, but never boring. "Wait, you said the baking pie was at the neighbors... does that mean.... no pumpkin pie here? It's... it's traditional!"
"Willow said it was y-your favorite." Tara looked very amused now, turning to put the bag of chips down beside a solid looking book. "She brought one over from the bakery."
"So there is pumpkin pie? Wonderful!" Xander allowed himself to collapse onto the couch, perfectly content to be seated until the heavy book on the next cushion flipped up, smacking into his leg. "Owww. What's this? I thought... Thanksgiving, turkey... an evil free sort of day?"
Giggling, Tara picked the book up. "Silly... it's not one of the books of demons. It's for my Mythology class. There's a b-big test right after break's over, and I thought that I c-could maybe study a little."
"Mythology, huh? Anything interesting? Or is it being made all dull and stuffy?" Xander looked at her, wondering if she knew how pretty she looked when she smiled.
"Oh, it's pretty interesting. We're studying the Greek gods and goddesses, and how they're all connected. Last week we covered Haphaestus, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Athena and Ares. Our professor sort of went over them pretty fast, so I wanted to make sure I had them all straightened out." She flipped open the book, sitting beside him. "See? Statues of Ares and Athena."
Xander looked at the book, admiring the graceful fall of the gown over the tall woman with the helmet and spear. Then, he looked over a little, and blinked. The guy was tall, and he had every muscle that you could name, but... "umm... He's naked." Another cautious glance at the second statue confirmed his first impression. "Yep, that's definitely naked, and he's... well, wouldn't you sort of expect a god to have a bit... well, more?"
For a moment, there was utter silence surrounding the couch.
Xander grabbed a pillow, bringing it over his face with a soft 'thwapp'. His voice was only slightly muffled as the embarrassed words emerged. "Shot me now. I can't believe I said that..."
Tara was giggling again, and that soft, sweet sound eventually lulled Xander into moving the pillow just a little, just enough that he could see her. "Was it that funny?"
"Ohh..." Tara was smiling, trying to talk between the giggles. "Absolutely. And to think... I had a kitten once names Ares. That's just... not the way that I'd ever thought of the god of war. The guy with the little..." The giggles overpowered the words for a few moments. "Do you think he was trying to compensate?"
Xander grinned at her. "How about I take the relish to the kitchen? You can try to choke back the laughter... or get it all out, I don't know which would be better."
Standing up, he made his way towards the kitchen, passing the area where Giles had set up a table, pausing just a moment to watch the odd sight. Spike was setting the table, laying out the silverware on folded napkins, muttering to himself the whole time. The end results were placed with a precision and formality that he'd only seen on television or the movies. The sight just seemed so... Twilight Zonish. Shaking his head, he followed the aroma of turkey into the kitchen.
Buffy was there, peering at a pot that was huge and full of something that was boiling furiously and sending huge clouds of steam towards the ceiling. Willow was carefully sprinkling a little bit of something brown onto a mass of beans.
"Ladies... I have arrived. And I have the famous cranberry relish." He smiled at them both, lifting the relish triumphantly. "So... where does this go for now?"
"I'll take care of that." Buffy lifted it from his hands and sort of twirled a little, coming to a halt right in front of the refrigerator. "Can someone check the turkey? It might need basting, we don't want it to dry out..."
Eagerly, Xander took the two steps that placed him in front of the oven. He opened the front just a little, and heat came rolling out, making the air shimmer. He closed his eyes for a moment, just savoring the smell. "Turkey..."
The turkey looked wonderful, the skin just starting to turn that golden brown color, but not quite crisp yet. Juices had run out, pooling around the bird, and he could see stuffing filling the inside, rich with herbs. "It looks perfect."
"Good, good. Now, go tell Giles that we're almost ready. And make sure that Spike set the table. And Tara... I think I sort of accidentally chased her out." Buffy sighed, leaning against the refrigerator door. "oops?"
"Tara's just not used to General Buffy at work. She didn't look at all upset, but I can go make sure." Xander teased just a little. It wasn't very often that Buffy got flustered about something safe to laugh at.
Returning to the calm of the living room, Xander sat down again beside Tara. "So... do you need help studying?"
"Maybe... m-maybe you could ask me a few questions, make sure I can answer them?" Tara looked up, and turned slightly, which left her knee just barely touching his. Her eyes as she looked at him were so pretty, like shimmering jewels.
Xander felt something inside of him shift, and he wasn't certain if it was a good thing or a bad one. Tara seemed so pretty just then, and so very kissable... He found himself leaning just a bit closer.
"How are the preparations going?"
At the gentle question, Xander jumped, as if entirely startled. He'd forgotten that Giles had to be around somewhere, forgotten everything but Tara's pretty eyes and how soft her lips had looked. He'd been moments away from kissing her. He tried to think of an answer, any answer, but drew a complete blank.
"Things are... good. V-very good." Tara's stammering was almost eclipsed by the pink of her cheeks. She glanced at Xander, and at the same time offered a tiny smile and turned even more pink.
That unidentified something shifted a little more, creeping out where he could identify it. Hope. Tara had known just as much as he did how close they'd been to kissing, and she looked as if she'd like to kiss him. As if she'd found the interruption just as jarring and unwelcome as he had. But there might be more opportunities later today. There would be time to explore this something, to figure out what to do with this attraction that was now between them.
It was the first time that Xander had been thankful not to have a girlfriend. And he was wondering if that lack might soon be changing.
end Pumpkin Promises.