Run This TownAuthor:
Tara Maclay/Willow RosenbergDisclaimer:
Joss Whedon owns Tara Maclay and the Buffy gang. George Lucas owns Aayla Secura, Twi'leks, lightsabers, and all the other Star Wars stuff. And even though I don't own Tara Maclay or Twi'leks, I do have dibs on Taram'aclay.Summary:
Tara embraces "come as you aren't" and lets loose for Halloween. She never could have imagined the consequences.Joe's Note:
Yes, I'm well aware that Tara wasn't in Sunnydale for Season 2, and wasn't really part demon. Work with me here, people. The demon aspect is important later in the story. And it's been temporally adjusted to work with the dates the prequels came out and a few other factors. Again, work with me folks.
'Feel it coming in the air,
And the screams from everywhere.
I'm addicted to the thrill,
It's a dangerous love affair.
Can't be scared when it goes down,
Got a problem, tell me now.
Only thing that's on my mind,
Is who's gonna run this town tonight…
Is who's gonna run this town tonight…
We gonna run this town.'
September 30, 2003:
Tara Maclay sighed as she slowly ran her brush through her darkening hair. Ever since her mother had left her father, brothers, and the family farm behind and taken her to live in Sunnydale, her dirty blonde locks had been slowly darkening to a medium, chocolate brown hue. Perhaps it was because she wasn't outside every day doing chores on the farm anymore, she mused.
Or maybe because the energy she pulled into herself to work magic was tainted by the Hellmouth. Was this just the beginning? Would her hair someday be as dark as the magic she drew upon to cast her spells? Tara certainly hoped not. Her skin, like her hair, was starting to change due to her shift in lifestyle and was getting paler by the day from the lack of time spent outdoors doing chores on the farm. Adding black hair to that would make her look like one of those scary goth girls.
And she most certainly would not look good wearing all black with black makeup and nails. She'd learned that at the one sleepover she'd gone to back home, when she'd let the girls from church make her over.
She'd also learned the difference between when people were laughing with her and when they were laughing at her that night.
Tara and her mother had arrived in Sunnydale back in June and the first thing she'd had noticed was the aura of evil that hung over the town like a suffocating cloud. It was everywhere, ranging from barely noticeable on the outskirts to downright suffocating in certain spots, like in her new high school. But with her mother working two jobs now to make ends meet, there was nobody to teach Tara if she stayed at home the way there had been for the first fifteen years of her life and so enrolling at Sunnydale High School had been a necessary evil.
Public schooling. That was a whole new experience for her. Growing up, Tara had been told that she was a danger to the other children in town and had to stay home. When she'd gotten older and found out about her… unique… heritage, she'd wholeheartedly agreed. Here, though, they had to risk it because Tara couldn't stay home any longer. Her first school, and she had to go to classes with the Slayer. Joy.
She wasn't quite sure which of the many girls in her classes was the Slayer, but Tara was sure one of them was. There were times when she was walking down the hall and just felt an irrational urge to flee that had nothing to do with her dislike of crowds. Somewhere in the crowded school hallway was the Slayer and Tara just hoped she never ran into the girl alone.
Examining the inside of one forearm, she sighed again. It wasn't particularly hard to figure out that she was a quarter demon. Her father had been completely human, but her mother was half Polgara demon. Evidently, her grandfather had pissed off someone and been cursed into that form, becoming the first and only intelligent Polgara demon on record. He had managed to convince her grandmother to stay, regardless of the curse, and they'd even gone on to have a child together. From him, her mother had inherited a slight greenish cast to her skin and the trademark bone skewers of the Polgara demon, the bloodline further diluting itself in Tara.
Thankfully, she was almost entirely human looking, possessing only the vents on the underside of each forearm where the skewers emerged with the slight boney tips protruding to remind Tara of the dangerous weapons she carried with her whether she liked it or not. So as long as she wore long-sleeved shirts, she could pass for human. Well, wore long-sleeved shirts and didn't get too angry at anyone…
She sat fingering the groove in her left arm gently, jumping when someone cleared their throat. Looking back over her shoulder, Tara saw her mother standing in the doorway. "Hello, Mama. Have a good day at work?"
"Eh, work was worky. I worked. Then I left as fast as possible." Her mother smiled and moved to sit next to her on the bed. "And you? How was school today?"
Tara ducked her head, letting her hair slide down to hide her face. "I still don't like this. I don't want to talk in class because people don't like the smart girl, except nobody likes the shy girl either and even when I do manage to say something to someone, nobody wants talk to me because that Cordelia girl doesn't like me because I bumped into her on my first day… it's just so lonely. I kinda miss the farm, honestly."
Leaning over, her mother hugged her. "I'm sorry, Tara. But you know why I had to go. And I couldn't just leave you there…"
"Mama, he was hitting you." Tara hugged her mother back. "I'm not blaming you for leaving. And I know he didn't like me because I have the demon traits but his precious sons don't. If you had left me, I probably would have been his next punching bag. I'm glad we left. I just miss having people to talk to." Even if they were her jerk of a father and equally unpleasant brothers.
Her mother sighed. "I should have seen it when I married him. He was a sorry little man who hated anything supernatural unless it was useful to him. He was hoping that I would give him boys that he could raise and then use against those who he thought were out to get him. Instead, I gave him three average sons and an extraordinary daughter who was the only one to inherit either my magic or my demonic traits." Tara smiled at the praise, and her mother gave her another hug. "Maybe we can do something about the lonely part though. What seems to be the big problem with meeting people?"
Holding up her hand, Tara ticked the points off on her fingers. "I dress differently because I have to hide my arms and so I don't fit in. I'm worried about people judging me. I have to worry about girls finding out my secret." Rolling her eyes, she leaned her head back and stared at the stars she had painted on the ceiling. "I wish I could just meet people without them knowing it was me so if I mess up or something, I'll never have to deal with them again."
"Well, we can't do anything about your arms." Her mother held her arm out and ejected her own bone skewer for emphasis. "Even if we snapped them, the grooves in your arms would still be there. Eventually, people will have to find out, but if they're your friends they should stick by you. Girls… we're not living in East Bumfuck anymore, Tare-bear. People are more relaxed in California. If you make friends and they know, you might even get some help meeting that special someone. And I agree, I wouldn't want to be judged either."
Looking at her mother in disbelief, Tara blushed. "You know that I'm..?"
"A lesbian?" Sliding the bone skewer back into her arm, her mother patted her on the shoulder. "Of course, dear. Just because the bumpkins from our old town were dense doesn't mean I was. All I had to do was watch you at the church picnics your father dragged us to. Especially when you sat on the shore and watched the other kids swim in that little lake. The first time Sarah's parents let her wear a bikini, I think we could have amputated your arm without you noticing." Tara blushed at the reminder of her buxom former neighbor. "And you'd do chores with her at her family's farm without protesting when you fought tooth and nail to avoid them at home? No, you weren't obvious at all."
Tara kept blushing as she heard her mother rustling through her pockets and then something nudged her ribs. She looked down, and saw a wad of cash in her mother's hand. "What's that for?"
Her mother gave her a wide grin. "For you to meet people without them knowing it's you."
Taking the money, Tara began to count the twenty dollar bills slowly. "I don't get it."
Grin widening, her mother pointed to the word-a-day calendar on Tara's desk. "It's the last day of September. Halloween is a whole month away, which gives us plenty of time to prepare. Now that I work weekends, I'll be getting Wednesdays and Thursdays off. I figured we could go down to Los Angeles tomorrow or the next day to start and if we can't find you a costume in LA, we'll start trying the stores in town and the Internet. I hear you can find anything on there, so there's no way we'll be unable to find you a costume if it comes down to that."
Tara finally reached the bottom of the wad of bills. "Mama! There's over six hundred dollars here! I know how much you're making. You can't afford to give me this much for anything, much less an outfit I'll only wear once."
Waving a hand, her mother dismissed her concerns. "Sure I can. And your father probably won't even notice it missing from under the floorboard until next summer. Think of it as a great big 'screw you' for all the times he bought your brothers things but ignored you. I've been saving it for something like this. I didn't grow up in a town with more cows than people, you know. I used to go to wild parties on Halloween. It's the one day you can come as you aren't."
Tara bit her lip, and looked up at her mother. "Come as I'm not?"
"Personality, wardrobe, whatever. It's one of the few times you can wear whatever you want, do whatever you want, and be whoever the heck you want… and if it doesn't work out for you? You walk away. You can just let your hair down for the night and be wild." She looked her daughter over. "Although in your case, we'd probably have to put your hair up so you didn't hide behind it like always."
Blushing, Tara ducked her head and let her hair slide down to hide her face again, just like her mother had mentioned. "Mama…"
Her mother just grinned and nudged her. "So, let's start figuring out how we can pretty you up to attract the eye of Miss Right. What are you thinking? Elfish maiden? Pirate wench? Naughty nurse? Maybe we could do schoolgirl and give you some pigtails so you can't hide behind that hair of yours…"
October 2, 2003:
Sifting through another rack of costumes, Tara sighed. While she still had plenty of time before Halloween, not knowing what she wanted to dress up as was making their trip to Los Angeles largely an exercise in futility. How did one go about looking for something when they didn't even know what they were looking for? Her mother had offered several suggestions but none of them seemed quite right for her. None of these costumes seemed right either. Maybe she'd just stay in and hand out the candy when kids came by the house?
This was the last store on the block and her mom had directions to two more stores a few minutes away before they called it a day and headed home. If anywhere was going to have something that caught her interest, Tara thought, this would be it. They had the regular assortment of buyable Halloween costumes, as well as much higher quality costumes that could be rented for the evening. All kinds of fantasy and science fiction stuff and judging by how detailed they were, she was pretty sure most of them were legally licensed replicas. Not the typical knock-offs that you found in most stores or sewing patterns.
Dismissing the last Lord of the Rings
costume in the fantasy section, she moved towards the science fiction area. Hearing a familiar voice, she poked her head around the end of an aisle and saw Cordelia Chase of all people standing near the register, chatting with the cashier and holding up one of the cat costumes Tara had seen earlier. Curiosity regarding Cordelia's presence quickly gave way to a torrent of mental images of Cordelia in her costume and Tara licked her lips. The cheerleader was going to look so sexy in that. She was really hot… which made it even worse that she was so mean. If she'd just abandon the whole bitchy attitude, she'd reach a whole new level of attractiveness.
Reaching her destination, she stopped and admired all the costumes. It was her secret shame… she was a sci-fi nerd. She recognized some costumes and props from assorted television shows, like a bayonet-equipped laser rifle from Battlestar Galactica
, but the majority of the costumes were from Star Trek
and Star Wars
. Starfleet uniforms ranging from the minidresses of The Original Series
to the grey-shouldered jumpsuits of the newest movie sat next to makeup kits for aliens of all kinds, and what appeared to be a pair of Borg costumes. Nothing really adventurous there, though. Unless she wanted to be Tara of Nine, or an Orion slave girl. And she wasn't skinny enough to pull off either look. Plus, dark green skin? No thank you.
Tara moved on to the Star Wars
section, and gaped. Latex prosthetics for all manner of alien species, along with rows of Jedi robes and lightsabers. "Wow. I wonder how they got all of this stuff. It looks so real."
"That's because it is real." The sudden voice behind her made Tara jump and spin around, only to discover a girl with blue-streaked black hair and a plethora of piercings standing behind her. "Sorry about that. I was just coming over here to replace a few items that had been brought up to the counter and then abandoned and heard your question. I'm Caroline."
"S-sweet Caroline? Oh? Oh? Oh?" As soon as she realized what she'd said, Tara blushed brightly. "I'm sorry. It sounded f-f-funny in my head, but you probably get it enough that it's not anymore."
Caroline let out a little snort of laughter and shook her head. "Actually, not really. I mean, that song's what, thirty-odd years old? Not many people our age even know it."
Pushing up on her toes, Tara looked around before pointing over at her mother, Caroline looking in the indicated direction. "Mama's from Boston and so she used to put the Red Sox games on whenever Fox aired them back when we were out east. And they play it at their games." Tara hit the mental rewind button and skipped back a minute or so to the beginning of their conversation. "What do you mean it's r-real?"
"Huh. Learn something every day. And just that." Caroline slipped past her and walked toward a rack full of Jedi robes, putting one back onto the rack before continuing on. "When you have a budget like Star Wars
does, it's easier to make too much and ditch the leftovers than it is to make too little and have to stall while you do a second run of costume parts. All of this stuff is from Attack of the Clones
. With all the Jedi and the aliens in the bar and stuff, they made an enormous amount of costume parts. Some were used, some weren't. The guy who owns the store knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy and so we got a slice of what wasn't. So, was there anything in particular you wanted to be?"
Tara shook her head. "Not really. I just…" Approaching Caroline, she leaned in to whisper in the girl's ear. "I want to be sexy for once. I mean, I've never even been out on a date. I moved here this summer, and I don't know anyone, and nobody really pays attention to me because of how I dress. But I'm too scared to just make huge changes in my life. So Mama suggested I try it on Halloween and if I like it, then to keep doing it."
Pulling back, Caroline smiled. "Nothing wrong with that. Come as you aren't. That's what Halloween's all about." There was that phrase again. Was she the only one who didn't know that was what Halloween was supposed to be for? Caroline looked Tara up and down slowly. "Hmm. The easiest way to do this would be have you buy part of your costume here and match it up with some regular clothes. That is, regular street clothes that are sexy. I mean, the Jedi robes are authentic and great if that's what you're going for but we don't have anything like what, say, Aayla Secura wore."
Mmm. Pretty blue scantily clad alien girl. Tara did her best to keep from drooling at the thought, distracting herself by looking over at… "So just one of the latex alien prosthetics and maybe one of the lightsabers and I'm set, y-you think? At least for shopping here?"
"Yeah." Caroline did her own prairie dog-esque peek around the store before leaning closer to Tara. "Seeing as how I work for an hourly wage and not commission, I have no problem telling you that we don't really have anything suitable outfit-wise here. And that if you're going home to somewhere that's not LA, you can probably get body paint cheaper there than you can here."
Well that was certainly nice of her. Even if it was the truth, that didn't mean Caroline had to do her the favor of sharing it with her. "W-well, I can worry about body paint and clothes after we figure out what I'm going to be. I mean, some Star Wars
aliens are human-colored or close enough, right?"
Caroline shrugged at that before heading off towards the display of latex prosthetics, Tara trailing behind her. "True. None of the fun ones, though." Tapping her finger against her chin, she considered the various options for a moment before pulling one off the shelf and holding it up. "There haven't been any girl Nautolans yet. Well, there's only been one so far, so that doesn't say much, but it does mean you could really make the look your own if you want."
"Too green." Tara stared distastefully at the many tentacles. No, no, and a world of no. If she wanted to paint herself green for the night, she might as well grab a picture of her grandfather and just go as a Polgara demon. "And they have those big black eyes, which look like they'd be a pain to do."
Humming softly in agreement, Caroline replaced it on the shelf. "True, true. Moving on… Zabraks have the human skin tone - well, sometimes - but I don't think you'd look good with horns. What about going as a Twi'lek? Very sexy species, and you can paint your skin whatever your favorite color is."
Looking over the rows of plain latex lekku, each of which had a headdress made of a different color and/or material, Tara nibbled on her lower lip. A lot of options there and like Caroline had said, she could paint herself whatever color she wanted because Twi'leks came in pretty much every color. But despite recently redeeming members of the species like Aayla Secura and Xiaan Amersu, the species was largely a collection of intergalactic thugs, strippers, and arm candy. Then her eyes landed on a particular prosthetic that was vaguely similar, but at the same time quite different. "What about Togruta?"
"What about something with a full face mask?" Grimacing, Tara closed her eyes and counted to three before turning around to find Cordelia standing behind her. "Maclay. Can't say I was expecting to see you here. Didn't know you could afford to shop at a place like this."
"Cordelia. I'd say it's a pleasure to see you, but Mama taught me it's wrong to lie." Behind her, Caroline chuckled and Tara decided to snub Cordelia in favor of paying attention to the person who actually wanted to help her. "So, Togruta?"
Caroline nodded, pulling the prosthetic in question off the shelf and then hesitating before offering up her wrist. Tara stared at it curiously. "Take two of the hair ties. You're going to need to split your hair into either two side pigtails or two side tails and a tail in the back. The prosthetic is hollow." Oh. Made sense. Pulling three hair ties off Caroline's wrist, Tara quickly separated and bound her hair as directed. "Okay, now…" Moving closer, Caroline carefully settled the headpiece on Tara's head, helping her feed her hair into the three hollow lekku. "Tada. Huh. I like it. It's not something that everyone can pull off, because it alters the entire shape of your face, but on you… très jolie."
Turning and looking around in search of a mirror, Tara found herself again face to face with Cordelia's sneering face. "Of course you're going to tell her that. You're trying to get her to buy it."
"Girlfriend please, I saw what you were buying." Moving up to stand next to Tara, Caroline nodded at the bag in Cordelia's hand. "I think you're just jealous that you have to resort to stuff like that when… err, what's your name?"
"…when Tara here has her own natural beauty." Suddenly, a devilish grin appeared on Caroline's face and she crossed in front of Tara, pulling another Togruta headpiece off the shelf and holding it out to Cordelia. "I bet you couldn't look half as good as her if your life depended on it."
Cordelia scoffed at that. "Oh please. I could be a better freaky Star Trek
"…whatever. I could so be a better freaky Star Wars
alien than her. I just have too much class to lower myself to wearing something like that." Caroline just stared at Cordelia impassively, one brow slightly raised, until the brunette cracked. "Fine! I'll prove it. They'll give me a refund, right? I mean, I haven't even left the store yet." Caroline nodded and Cordelia let out huff. "Fine. You'll see. I'll go trade this in, buy one of these freaky alien costumes, and I'll make such a hot alien that the Star Wars
people themselves will be begging me to be in their next movie." And with that, she flounced off towards the front of the store, leaving a smug Caroline and shocked Tara behind.
After a moment, Caroline turned to Tara and nodded towards Cordelia's retreating back. "So, who was that, anyways?"
Tara let out a slightly hysterical laugh. "The richest and coolest girl at my high school. Cheerleading captain, queen of the popular girls, et cetera. And she's only a junior. She's hated me since the first day of school this year because I was walking around trying to figure out the map they gave me and I knocked her down."
"Ah. One of those types. I got suspended for a week in my senior year for knocking one the fuck out for making fun of me." Tara gave Caroline a shocked look and the girl shrugged sheepishly. "What? Okay, so I may have a slight anger management problem. Anyways, take it from someone who sees plenty of rich and already plastic Hollywood girls wandering in and out of the store, you definitely have the potential to be prettier than her. You just need an equalizer, since she's got more money to waste on clothes and makeup and primping than you do. This is your big chance."
While she made a convincing argument, Tara was pretty sure that Caroline was overlooking one key problem: even when they dressed up, she would be Tara Maclay, social pariah, while Cordelia would be the queen be of the school. Or maybe the older girl was cooking up something in her mind to manipulate Cordelia further, just like she had regarding her actual costume? Deciding to take the wait and see approach, Tara wandered over to inspect the rack of real metal lightsabers as she waited for Cordelia to finish her business at the register. Finally, the brunette returned and crossed her arms over her chest as she stared at Tara and Caroline. "Alright, Geek and Geeker. What do I need to buy for this stupid experiment of ours?"
Caroline twitched at Cordelia's rude method of address before smoothing her features into an emotionless mask; Tara figured she probably didn't want to lose her job because she'd punched a customer and doubted the store's owner would care that Cordelia was being obnoxious at the time. "It's up to you; at least two and as many as four things. You'll need the latex headpiece, obviously, and a lightsaber if you want to be a Jedi like Tara here. Her and I were talking about buying her clothes somewhere else because she didn't like any of the authentic outfits here, and you can get the paint for your body and prosthetic either here or back home."
"Headpiece is… this thing?" Cordelia pulled the Togruta prosthetic out of Caroline's hands and examined it for a moment before shrugging. "One down. Paint, I don't even know what I'm supposed to look like so how could I possibly buy that? Clothes… yeah, you're right, there's nothing over here I'd want to be seen wearing in public. That just leaves… a lightsaber." Using her hip to force Tara over so they could both browse the display, she quickly shuffled through the various options while repeatedly muttering 'no' under her breath. Finally, she huffed and backed away. "Ugh. There were girl Jedi, right? How come there aren't any actually girly sabers? Those are all so chunky and ugly."
As much as she hated to agree with anything Cordelia said, Tara had pretty much reached the same conclusion. She, though, knew that there were alternate sources of the crucial prop: she'd always wanted to custom order a lightsaber from one of the several websites that offered the service, or she could even try to make it herself. "I-I think I'll take care of that myself. And my clothes. And my paint. So I guess it's just the headpiece for me, Caroline."
Caroline nodded but as Tara attempted to slip past Cordelia and head for the front register, the brunette reached out and grabbed her by the wrist. "Woah now. You're not going to hang me out to dry here. I at least need to know what I'm supposed to look like so I know… well, you know, what to look like when I dress up. There's painting involved?"
"You know, it's funny you should say that, Cordelia." That devilish look was back and Tara suddenly found herself dreading what new mischief Caroline might be cooking up. "I have the perfect idea. What if Tara helps you get your costume right, since she knows all about Star Wars
and Togruta, and in return you take her around with you on Halloween and tell people she's your friend… Kara… from out of town. Just to see what people think of her when they're not hating her because you told them to."
There was almost a full minute of silence as Cordelia considered that. "I could do it myself or bully a geek into giving me the help I need, you know. I can get the help I need without helping out Maclay. But… fine. I do need the help and since I'm just going to the Bronze on Halloween to hang out with friends, what's one more warm body? But when my friends make you eat the salesgirl's words, Maclay? I'm not going to forget the reason why I'm sacrificing a perfectly good Halloween costume to wear this crap. You're going to be begging to go back to how I've treated you for the last month." And with that warning shot, Cordelia again stomped off towards the registers.
Caroline waited for a moment before coughing to get Tara's attention. "So, do you want to stand there all catatonic or do you want some help figuring out how to blow her mind?"
October 8, 2003:
Perched on a stool in her house's garage, Tara carefully used an X-acto knife to shave off another tiny bit of wax before blowing on her work in progress and inspecting it. Two more ridges along the curved hilt and she'd be done with this stage of the work. From there, she'd make a mold, cast the entire thing in resin, and then begin working on the metal accents that would make the lightsaber rather… uniquely her.
"So, Tare-bear, I thought you were making a lightsaber, not a pirate ship." The random comment made her look up from her work, finding her mother standing nearby and holding the sketches she'd made of the metal piece that would slide into place over the resin hilt. Tara just blinked owlishly and her mother looked from the sheet to Tara and back. "It looks like one of those naked lady masts. Arrrgh."
Tara let out a little giggle before blushing and snatching the papers away, putting them back on her workbench. "Well, I figure… nobody's going to know I'm Tara. Cordelia agreed to let me be Kara when I met her friends. So who cares if people know Kara's a lesbian? They're never going to see Kara again. And… well, a lightsaber is supposed to be an extension of a Jedi's self and represent them. If I'm going to put all this work into it, I want something that represents me. So… tada. Me."
Leaning over to take another look, her mother let out a quiet hum. "Actually, it kinda looks like that Cordelia girl. Who kinda looks like Sarah, now that I think about it. Am I going to have to worry about you two being left alone? This hatred and arguing thing you two have going sorta reminds me of how boys pull girls' pigtails when they're in elementary school…"