Return to All Our Masks Chapter Thirteen

All Our Masks

Author: Jacks aka WiccanHandprintz
Rating: PG-13, might change later
Disclaimer: Neither Willow, nor Tara, nor anybody else recognizable from the Buffyverse belong to me. The story itself has a good helping of angst in the beginning and will have some action of both the dangerous weaponry and the gay lovin' kinds.
Feedback: YES, please!

When the movie was over, it was past ten. Outside, Tara imagined, the cops or feds or whoever was manning the surveillance car would be settling in with a cup of coffee, radio turned on low. Jazz. They always played jazz at night; she'd never really understood it. Jazz made her feel oddly uncomfortable, like being alone in a shady bar. But she wasn't alone now, and Willow's hand against hers felt far from strange. Their hands, flat beside each other on the couch seat between them, had moved from not touching, to brushing, to solidly against each other through the course of the movie. Tara had been both too nervous and too indecisive to take the final leap and grab the redhead's hand, intertwining their fingers as every nerve in her body was begging her to do. Still, the warmth of Willow's skin against her own was sweet and soft and comforting.

The voice in her head still warned Tara against involvement, against feeling anything for this tiny, fragile, hard-as-steel woman other than respect... but after Willow had jumped when the evil spirit possessed Nicole Kidman and Tara had touched her thumb in the only gesture of comfort she could manage, Tara had come to the conclusion that no matter how intelligent that voice might be, there was no way she could obey it. Now, as the credits rolled, neither woman seemed quite willing to move.

"I love that movie," Willow said after a moment. "My 9th grade math teacher knew Sandra Bullock when she was young; we watched Practical Magic on the last day of school. It was the first movie I ever saw that actually had good realistic witches." Tara laughed.

"Realistic?" Willow shifted on the couch, drawing her legs up beneath her. The action pulled her hand away. Tara almost reached for it, but then folded her arms instead. The redhead smiled a little.

"Well. As realistic as Hollywood gets, anyway."

"S-so when did you start practicing?" Tara was interested, but more importantly, asking questions would lead to conversation, and conversation would distract her from how good Willow looked with her hair in her face like that.

"High school. When I was sixteen, I dedicated myself."

"Me too," Tara said, brushing her own hair behind her ear. "It was hard, though. I d-didn't know any other Wiccans."

"I didn't either," Willow replied, shaking her head. "My parents were Jewish, and they didn't think too well of it." She let out a short, soft laugh. "They had no idea what to do with me when I told them I was Wiccan, and even less of an idea when I told them I was gay." Tara's heart pounded. There it was.

Of course, she'd hoped. She'd even suspected. She'd been almost sure, actually, especially after that little exchange about Jodie Foster. But to hear it out loud-

"M-my family," she began, and then stopped. Fucking dyke. Breathed in, breathed out. "They didn't want a lesbian in the fold," Tara said finally. An understatement. There was a long pause, a sort of commiserating silence. Then, Willow reached out, very carefully. Tara's eyes slid over the redhead's hand, the scars, and then locked on Willow's own face. She didn't dare move. Slowly, in a silence that was suddenly far more tense than seconds before, Willow touched Tara's cheek.

"I'm sorry."

Buffy had her cell phone out and against her ear as soon as she'd flung her duffel bag in the cab. She called out Willow's address to the driver, and then turned her attention to the ringing line.


"Xander, Buffy. I just got in. I need the number of the agent in charge, here."

"Uh, right. Henderson's the name. Katie, Karen, something like that."

"Just give me the number," Buffy said, impatient. Then, she felt guilty for it, but Xander was already reeling off digits. "Thanks, Xand. I'll get back to you."

"Sure-" She'd already hung up.

"Hello, Special Agent Henderson? Detective Buffy Summers, here. I was-"

"The one who found Dr. Rosenberg the first time, right." Buffy's eyes narrowed, full-on cop mode.

"That implies there will be a second," she muttered. "All right. Willow Rosenberg is my friend, and as you know, I have a bit of a personal connection to this case, even if she wasn't. I'd like to help."

"I appreciate that, and understand it," Henderson said, "but we've got the situation under control. Cole Raimey isn't getting anywhere near Dr. Rosenberg; you have my word." Buffy didn't bother to keep trying; it had been worth the question, but there were more options than doing what the FBI said. After getting off the phone with Agent Henderson, she made one last call.

"Andrew? It's me. I need a favor. Cole Raimey worked for the Maclays, right? I need everything you've got on that family today, and I need it fast." As the cab neared Willow's Victorian monstrosity, Buffy heard the clicking of a keyboard across the line. Five minutes. Ten.

"Alright, got it. Maclay family, now headed by Donald Maclay, no recorded contact with Raimey in... almost four years. But, hired a man named Al Small for a while, and he matches the description of a guy who visited Raimey in prison a few weeks before his escape."

"Odds of them being behind this?"

"I'd say pretty high. Although actually, the timing seems a little off; according to... you know this is off the record, right?"

"Of course," Buffy said, making one of the few exceptions to her moral code. "Go on."

"Right. According to my buddy Warren, here, the Maclays are kind of busy with, uh, family troubles right now."


"Apparently Donald's sister ran off a month ago. I hear he's pretty... put out, shall we say?"

"A sister? I didn't know there was a sister."

"Sure," Andrew said, voice low. "Adelle Tara Maclay. Pretty blond. They kept her kind of hush-hush; something about an embarrassing-"

"Wait," Buffy interrupted, a cold tingle waking at the base of her spine. "What was that name?"

"Adelle." Her throat was very dry, but she swallowed, and asked again.

"The whole name, Andrew."

"Adelle Tara. Weird middle name; sounds-"

"Thanks," she broke in, and hung up. Waves of shock, disbelief and finally horror shook her to the core. "Shit," Buffy said at last.

Willow meant to pull her hand back at once, just a brief touch. An offer of comfort, that was all.

But Tara caught her fingers at the last moment, the blue eyes far darker than they had been. Willow's heart raced, her breath caught in her throat. She was filled with a seething mixture of terror, exhilaration... and desire. I am in control, she thought desperately, and I am strong. Goddess, I am strong. But she couldn't move. Tara's hand was warm around hers, almost hot, and Willow realized that in that moment, the blond could grow fangs and attack her and she wouldn't even scream.

"I think-" Before she could get out any more, Tara leaned forward, tilted Willow's chin up with her free hand, and kissed her.

The world stopped spinning, but Willow kept going. Dizzy, she found her hands around the blond's neck, her universe shrinking to include nothing but the softness of Tara's hair and the warm, sweet pressure of her lips against Willow's. Willow heard a moan, realized it was Tara's, and let herself fall back against the arm of the couch, pulling Tara with her. The blond's weight against Willow's torso was sublime, and her hand was moving towards the neckline of Willow's shirt, and-

The front door slammed open, and a voice that was almost unrecognizable through the cold fury that twisted it shattered the moment.

"Get your goddamn hands off her," Buffy snarled. Tara jerked away, and Willow propped herself up to stare at her friend.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, still hazy from the kiss. Buffy had her gun out, and her eyes were like green fire. She didn't look away from Tara.

"Willow, get away from her," she said brusquely.

"What? Why?" The dizziness was swiftly being replaced by confusion, and more than a little anger. But Buffy's next words hit Willow like a sharpened stake in the gut.

"Because that's Donnie Maclay's baby sister, and her father sent Cole Raimey after you in the first place."

Continue to All Our Masks Chapter Fifteen

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