A/N=Holy Hotdogs and Hamburgers! I finally figured out my mistake, and as such, I am able to post once more! Yay me! As such, this means that I have more to post, so I guess yay you as well, huh? ;)
On with the show....
Buffy and Tara sat in the dining room, each cupping a mug of hot
chocolate. The two were silent as they sat. Tension was palpable in
the room. Duncan and Richie were both sitting on the opposite side
of the table.
Buffy heard the front door open and looked at Tara. She stood and
bit her lip. "Are you ok?" she asked the blonde wicca.
Tara nodded. She was a mixture of scared and excited. Mostly, she
Buffy headed to the door and smiled back at Tara before heading into
the living room. She hadn't told Xander or Anya why she
wanted them to come over. She just told them to come over as soon as
Duncan looked over at Tara and smiled softly. "Are you alright?" he
Tara looked up and smiled softly. "Yeah. No. I don't know." She
said. "I'm nervous." She said softly. "I just…I hope they…" she
shook her head.
Duncan knelt next to Tara and took her hand. "You hope they
understand." He said, knowing exactly how she felt.
Tara nodded. "I was gone for an entire year. I was alive…risen…
awake…whatever, three days after I was shot. But I left for over a
year. That's what I am hoping they will understand." She said.
Duncan nodded his understanding. "It was necessary, Tara." He said
Duncan scowled as Tara folded her arms over her chest and tried to
"Well?" the witch asked, tapping her foot. She had been in Seacover
for almost a week now and she wanted to call Willow and tell the
redhead that she was ok. That she was alive and was coming home. She
had heard Duncan's explanation of what she was now and she didn't
care. Let the others play this stupid game. She was not going to be
a part of it. All she wanted was to go back and hold Willow.
"Tara. You know you're not a prisoner here." Duncan said, even his
patience was wearing thin. "But you cannot stay out of this. Believe
me. I've tried. If you don't learn how to survive, someone is going
to come along and take your head. And there will be no coming back
from that." He said sadly. "And even if your friends are as tolerant
as you say…this is a lot to process, Tara."
Tara stood her ground. "They will understand. They will accept me
back and I hurt not being able to talk to Willow." She said, tears
forming in her eyes.
Duncan stood and wrapped an arm around his pupils shoulder. "If you
went back right now, and she not only rejected you, but actively
sought to hurt you…how would you feel then?" he asked, remembering
his own experiences.
"Willow would never hurt me. No matter what." Tara said
defiantly. "She is my everything. My world and my soul."
Duncan closed his eyes. "I can't force you to do anything you don't
want to do. All I am asking for is time. Time to prepare you for
what is to come. If your friends are really as understanding as you
say, they will understand your decision to wait."
Duncan had won the argument that day. But Tara was adamant that she
would contact someone in one year. Duncan had agreed, even though he
still thought it was a bad idea.
Tara smiled warmly at Duncan. "I know that…now." She said
softly. "Still nervous though. I mean, what do I say? `Hey
everybody. I know I was shot, but I died and it turns out I am an
immortal.'?" She asked, rolling her eyes.
Duncan smiled. "Better than what my cousin Conner would do. He would
get a kick out of stabbing himself in the heart when he explained
it. He is a little weird, though."
Tara grinned. "Well, I'm not about to stab myself. I may recover,
but it still hurts."
Buffy closed the kitchen door behind her as she walked to the door
and saw Xander and Anya standing there.
"Buffy. Is everything alright? Anya and I were just talking…" Xander
began, but was interrupted by Anya.
"We were going to have comfort sex." Anya said, looking bored.
Xander shook his head and shrugged. "Ok. What did you need Buff?"
Buffy smiled weakly. "I have some good news. Some extraordinary
news, actually." She said.
Dawn chose that moment to come down the stairs along with Giles in
tow. She had red rimmed, puffy eyes and the look on her face was
that of a scared little girl. Giles didn't look much better. "Buffy?" she said softly.
Buffy went over to Dawn quickly and wrapped an arm around her
sister. "It's ok Dawnie. She's fine." She said softly.
Dawn nodded. "Is it her? I mean…really?"
Buffy looked at Giles and Xander, even to Anya. Xander and Anya had
confused looks on their faces. She sighed. "Let's go to the dining
room." She said softly. Taking Dawn with her, Buffy headed for the
French doors separating the dining room from the living room. Xander
and Anya followed, their curiosity piqued now.
Tara looked up when she heard the door open and debated whether or
not to stand. Frankly, she was so nervous she didn't think her legs
could support her. She smiled up at Duncan, trying to gain assurance
from the Scot.
Duncan smiled back and stood, moving back a respectful distance.
This could still go any way. He felt for his katana, knowing it
would still be tucked safely into the lining of his coat.
Buffy and Dawn walked in and the teen froze when she saw Tara
sitting at the head of the table. She let Buffy go and moved slowly
for the blonde, trepidation in her movement. She wanted so badly
for this to be real, but she had sat with the body for over three
hours over a year ago. Tara was dead.
Giles walked in behind the sisters and his eyes went wide when he
saw the wicca sitting there. He had been with Dawn, had sat there as she explained what she did. He had seen the body, seen as the potentials brought it inside. But now, seeing her sitting there, a thousand emotions raced through him as he moved for a seat. Falling on his bum would not be very British after all.
Xander followed, wondering what could be so important. He saw Tara
and felt his anger flood to the surface. "What the hell is this? The
First wants to make a little speech?" he flared, clenching his fists.
Anya stared as well. She laid a hand on Xanders shoulder as the
young man moved to intercept Dawn. When Xander spun to face her,
Anya only pointed.
Xander turned back and saw what Anya was pointing at. Tara held a
mug in her hand. Xander staggered back and felt himself slumping
against the wall, shaking his head. He wasn't aware of the tears
that were forming in his eyes until they began spilling over his
Tara looked up at Dawn, the teen having stopped in front of her.
Dawn hesitantly reached a hand out to touch the blonde. She didn't
want to move to quickly, afraid that if she were to actually touch
the wicca, she would vanish; just another cruel joke by the first.
Her hand came to rest on Tara's cheek and the teen felt her knees
buckle as she fell to the floor. She buried her head in Tara's lap,
throwing her arms around Tara's waist and sobbing heavily.
Tara's tears fell freely down her face as she laid her hands on the
back of Dawn's head, gentle brushing the teen's hair back. "It's
alright Dawn. I'm here. I'm real, I swear." She whispered.
A choked sob from Anya made Tara look in the demons direction. She
watched as Anya rushed forward, stopping a few feet from her. "Are
you real, I mean...really real?" Anya asked, looking on and wringing her hands nervously.
Tara nodded; smiling softly and holding an arm open for the
Anya fell into the embrace immediately, squeezing the wicca tightly.
Xander and finally Giles all managed to crowd around the blonde, all
reaching tentative hands out to make contact, and finally hugging
her close. Tara felt her senses overwhelmed with emotion as her
friends, her family, tried to express their joy at her return.
Tara stole a glance at Duncan and Richie, who had remained silent
and distant the whole time. They both had tears as they witnessed
the reunion, amazed at the love that was displayed in the room.
Dawn had made no move to let Tara go as the crowd gathered. She had
stayed firmly entwined with the blonde, not wanting to let her go.
Buffy knew from experience that Tara would be hard pressed to leave
Dawn's sight for at least a month. She smiled, wanting to join in
her friends revelry. But she couldn't help thinking of Willow, and
what Tara's return would mean.
Tara was about to speak when she felt the buzzing again. She shot a
look to Duncan and Richie, both of them looking around as if
expecting someone to come through the wall. They two immortals
headed for the front door.
"What? What's wrong?" Buffy asked as Duncan moved past her.
Duncan tried to be calm, but knew that any explanation would have to
come from Tara. "Just a feeling. We'll be back." He said, trying to
Buffy turned back to Tara, who was eying the back door and looked at
Buffy. The slayer moved quickly to lock the door. She gave Tara a
look that said `We talk later.'
Duncan opened the door and pulled his katana from his coat, glaring
at the man standing in the front yard. "Jensen. What kept you?" he
asked, slipping his coat off and walking to the edge of the porch.
"Macleod. What a pleasant surprise." Jensen said, making no movement
to free his own sword. "I've come to challenge your protégé." He
said. "Is she home?"
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I guess you'll have to face me."
Duncan said, swinging his sword, trying to warm up the muscles that
were tensed, and bringing his sword into a high guard position.
Jensen sneered. "I'll kill you soon enough, Macleod. The challenge
is for Tara. Send your little friend there to fetch her, will you?"
he said, pulling his gloves off.
Duncan stepped closer, reversing the stance. "What's the matter,
Jensen? Afraid of some real competition?"
"That's right, Macleod! You would be competition! As I would have if
you had faced me! She was less than a year as one of us, and you cut
her down! I want you to feel that pain, Macleod! I want you
suffering when I take your head!" Jensen roared, veins in his neck
rising in anger as he yelled.
The front door opened and Buffy stepped out, short sword in her
hand. "Um…Duncan?" she said. "Tara wants to see you." She said
Duncan kept his gaze focused on Jensen. "I'm a bit preoccupied. I'll
be in there in a minute." He said.
Jensen shook his head. "You can't protect her forever, Macleod.
Adieu!" he said, turning and walking away.
Duncan swung his sword angrily, gripping the ivory hilt in a tight
grip. His anger was coursing heavily in his veins. Jensen was right.
Someday, Tara would have to fight, he only hoped she was ready.
Buffy watched Jensen go and looked back to Duncan. "I think it's
time we had a talk." She said.
Duncan sighed. "I think so to."