Prelude to a Friendship
Death Becomes HerAuthor:
Tara, the Highlander crew (mainly Richie)Rating:
15 for nowDisclaimer:
I do not own BtVS or Highlander or any of the characters from these fine television seriesNotes:
This started as a FFA fic but I revamped it for the prelude to a longer
story which I already have roughly 30 pages for. So expect more to come soon.Chapter:
Prelude to a Friendship
~ Christmas Eve 2001 ~
Richie gave his bike one last kick as he walked away from the automotive shop. The problem was an easy fix, but, for some reason, the shop owner closed an hour before sunset. So there would be no work completed on the bike until the following afternoon. In then it would be done at an outrageously high rate as it would require the mechanic to come in the shop on Christmas Day.
Now Richie was stuck in some dead end town in Southern California for Christmas. He had nothing to do and it seemed that everything closed before sunset. He had planned on making it back up the coast to spend Christmas day with Joe, Duncan and whoever else showed up. Anne would probably stop by the baby and he could pretend, for that brief time span, that all of them were a normal family gathering for the holidays. Something that Richie Ryan had never experienced before. If Amanda showed up, the setting would be complete with that crazy aunt that every family was suppose to have.
But normal was not for Richie, or for any of his make-shift family, save Anne. He would never know normal for as long as he lived, which had the mind-numbing possibility of being a very long time.
Checking that his sword was secured and that he had everything off his bike, he left the shop and began to walk the streets. People were hurrying about their business, almost too fast. This town seemed to have an undercurrent of fear about the night. Businesses and people were in some sort of rush to shut out the approaching night that other towns welcomed with open arms. Perhaps there were some punk kids that formed gangs or any of a number of possibilities that small towns tend to breed.
Pressing on, he found a small coffee shop that was still open. He paused briefly to stare and the ornate cross that served as the doorknob for the coffee shop door. Richie gave a passing thought to how strange the town truly was as he headed inside, looking for an empty seat in the surprisingly filled shop.
Just when he thought he was out of luck, Richie spotted a girl close to his age sitting alone at a corner table. He shook his head slightly as his spine gave a slight tingle. It wasn't the feeling of another immortal but there was something about this girl that made his senses alert. Taking note of the empty seat at her table, Richie headed her way, all the while thinking that he may not have to drink his coffee alone.
Tara Maclay sat at the table in a daze. She had actually left Willow. Her heart had not stopped racing since she walked out of the door. What was she going to do? She couldn't go back to her family, they were as evil as some of the things she had seen and fought with Willow and her friends. That door was closed to her. She didn't have the funding to live on her own and she only had enough savings for at least one more night in the motel she was currently living in.
Tara had thought about talking to Xander and Anya or even Giles, but they were Willow's friends, not hers. She had just been the girlfriend, the one included on things because she was with Willow. She would not make them choose between the her or the person they had known and cared about for years. The only true friend she had left was Dawn. By leaving, Tara knew that Dawn would be left alone, without a sounding board to bounce her frustrations off. But she could not fix that. Willow lived with Buffy and Dawn, she could not visit Dawn while keeping her distance from Willow. She had to stay away, it was the only way.
Her fingers trembled as they rubbed over the smooth pebble in her hand. She carried an Apache Tear with her. The small, dark, smoky-translucent obsidian stone was representative of the the tears shed by Native American women after their loved ones' deaths due to invading troops. They were to help ease and release pain, loss, sadness and anger so one could heal and move on with life. It could also aid in protection and being able to look within to find peace. And peace was what Tara needed. Peace of mind, body and spirit as she shed silent tears for her lost love.
Then she heard a voice speaking to her. She shyly peaked through her hair to look at the stranger standing nearby.
"Excuse me," Richie said in way that he hoped to be inviting yet not creepy. "I was wondering if I could share your table?" He gestured around the shop as she looked up at him, "All of the other spots seem full."
Tara glanced quickly around the shop and then rested her eyes back on the young man. He appeared to be her age or slightly younger, but his eyes and his essence seemed older. He was surrounded by something, almost as if his aura was calling out to her, as if they were kindred spirits. "Su--Sure," she took a breath in hopes of calming her stutter, "I--I don't mind."
Richie looked the shy girl over. He remembered seeing people like her back in his days of orphanage and foster home bouncing. They were were the ones that didn't last unless someone intervened, and intervention rarely happened. He decided he wanted to see this girl smile, because she looked like a young woman whose smile was sure to be beautiful.
"I'm Richie Ryan," he held his hand out to her, which gingerly took.
"T--Tara," she wanted to crawl under the table. She had used every ounce of will that she had gained over the last two years to leave Willow and now she had no reserves left.
"So Tara, what's a gorgeous girl like you doing all alone on Christmas Eve?" Richie faltered when he saw the look on her face, why did he always let his mouth speak before he checked with his brain.
Tara's heart lurched at the seemingly harmless words until she felt a slight burning sensation in her hand, the hand that was still clutching the Apache Tear. Perhaps her healer was here and it was in the form of the young man sitting with her. The stone was giving her the same vibe that wrapped around her from his powerful aura. It was enough to refill some of what she had lost over the last few days and she looked over at her table-mate.
"I--I just left someone the other day," she cast her eyes downward in reflection before looking back into his eyes. "Sh--She was hurting herself and all of us and I--I needed her to understand." She paused, trying to gage what the stranger was thinking. Here she was spilling her heart out to a guy she had just met. But for some reason, his spirit comforted her own and a brief moment she thought he reminded her have the connection she new existed between Willow and Xander.
Richie felt the urge to scoop the girl up in his arms and hold her until all the hurt went away. He had just met her, but something about her made his spine tingle since the moment he had laid eyes on her. "I'm sorry that I upset you, I sometimes speak without my mind knowing it. It's a bad habit that I'm trying to kick," he paused to consider what he said next. This girl was an emotional wreck and she didn't need him screwing her up more. Duncan was so much better at this kind of thing.
"You know, it sounds like you did the right thing. I mean, maybe she will realize what she was losing since you are gone. Sometimes people just need a break from one another to work everything out. I did it once, a couple of years ago." He sat in reflection about the time he had left after his first quickening. Being on his own, protecting himself from other immortals; he had grown from the experience and perhaps this girl before him would do the same.
"Will--Willow has friends around her to help. She became addicted to ma-," she paused, realizing this man probably knew nothing about the darker side of life, "to a wilder life-style."
Richie had caught her pause on the addiction issue and assumed it was some kind of drug, probably marijuana. The poor girl. Then he though of something else she had said. "So, Willow has friends to help her out, what about you? Do you have someone you could go to?"
Tara gripped the smooth stone in her hand, it was still warming her hand. Perhaps he was the answer she needed to get away for awhile, not forever, just for awhile.
"No, Willow's friends became my friends, but they kn-knew her longer and I was just included because of Willow." She stopped as she looked at the waitress that had stopped at their table.
"Excuse me, Tara, I just wanted to let you both know that we were closing in about five minutes. Oh," she added as an afterthought and with a knowing look, "be careful heading home."
Richie looked around as people hurried out of the shop and on to whatever else they had to do in their lives. He looked back at Tara who had started to stand.
"I--I didn't realize it had gotten so late," Tara looked at the waning sun through the window. "I really need to head back to the motel." Tara kept the stone in her hand as a life-line, it now filled her with a burning sensation.
Richie though quickly, it may scare the girl away, but he didn't have his bike and he didn't know his way around this strange town, so he took the chance. "Hey, could you actually point me in the direction of a motel. I had to leave my bike at the autoshop around the corner until morning and need to find a room."
Tara looked around nervously, if she gave him a lift to the motel, it would be okay, right? She really hated making these decisions, especially when the other person involved could be some sort of demon or vampire. Although she didn't think he was a vampire, the last bit of evening sun had been shining through the window on him the entire time.
"I could give you lift down the road to a the motel I'm at. It's not the best in the world, but it's alright for one night."
Richie noticed that her constant stutter was slowly disappearing, perhaps she was warming up to him. "That would be great, I can't thank you enough."
As they walked toward her car, Richie noticed that the last bit of sun had faded and the streets were barren, save for a few people walking quickly toward their destinations. "So, how come everyone in Sunnydale seems to disappear as soon the suns sets?"
Tara looked at him with eyes that had seen too much. Her eyes almost reminded him of the looks Duncan got when thinking about a time long forgotten, or, better yet, the looks in Joe's eyes when his thoughts drifted to his time in Vietnam. It was a look that scared him, because he knew that his eyes held that look as well.
"There are some gangs that cause lots of problems around here. Kids on PCP." She stopped, making it seem like that was all he needed to know. Richie decided not to press the issue, but, maybe, he would look into this strange town later, preferably after he was long gone.
Richie climbed into the passenger seat of her old, beat up car. The car door looked as though someone, or something, had clawed the paint right off of the side. It gave him another strong urge to hold this girl close and protect her at any cost.
Both were lost in their own thoughts as they passed through town. Thinking about their respective lives and the fact that they were with a complete stranger on one of the few nights in the year that they should be with friends and family. Sometimes, the fates did some desperate work to get people together, and they were working overtime with Richie and Tara.
Richie stared at the clerk in disbelief and asked one more time, "You're sure you don't have any rooms left?" The clerk just shook his head and returned to his prime-time movie on the little black and white television set.
Richie walked back towards the other end of the lobby where Tara was waiting. "They don't have anything, are there anymore motels around?" He looked at her with hopeful eyes.
No. Not nearby anyway. The next one is about 20 minutes or so from here." She looked downcast at her newfound friend's misfortune.
"Man, I was just trying to make it up to Mac's for Christmas. See some friends, hang out, have a few drinks and enjoy myself, but my bike had to go and leave me stranded." Richie let his rant die and sat on the chair to run his hands through his unruly hair.
Tara ran her hand over the Apache Tear again. It was still singing to her and she knew without any hesitation what she needed to do. "You could stay in my room for the night. I have a double." She didn't stutter, she didn't look away, she just finally felt like everything would be okay and that she would be back with Willow sometime in the future. It would all work out.
Richie looked into her eyes and knew there would be no turning down her offer. He knew it had taken a lot for her to be able to make the offer and he wouldn't hurt her new found confidence.
"If you really don't mind, that would be great. Lead on fair lady, lead on." Richie was rewarded with that beautiful smile that he knew she would have and Tara grabbed his hand and led him up to the room. The two stayed up well into the morning eating pizza, drinking soda and joking how Santa wouldn't visit the night owls. They swapped stories from their childhood and about their lives in general, the edited versions that is. They each had experienced the best Christmas Eve ever, and it had been in the company of a complete stranger.
As Tara waved goodbye to Richie the next afternoon, she vowed to help Willow become the woman she fell in love with, just as Richie vowed to keep tabs on Miss Tara Maclay, the woman that had somehow worked her way into his heart as the sister he never had.
~ some months later... ~
Tara looked at Willow with love in her eyes. They were together. Everything was, as it was meant to be. Even Buffy was making amends with Xander outside. The world was perfect.
Then she felt the punch to her chest and looked up at Willow's ruined shirt. With confusion on her face she spoke one last time, "Your shirt." Then she collapsed as her world went black, she didn't hear Willow calling her name, or see her eyes glow with the deep red reflecting the pits of hell.