The Maclay family, especially the men, was wealthy, prosperous, and very arrogant. The patriarch Allen Bradly Maclay Senior was head of the corporation, but when he took ill, the men became like vultures. Although he might have wished that Sandra could inherit the entire company for she was his favorite child, he knew that she was too loving to run a company. Therefore, he split the company equally between his three children, Hank, Charles and Sandra Maclay.
As the funeral progressed, there was not a dry eye in the room. "Allen Bradly Maclay was a good man, his business was prosperous, and his children, grandchildren, and even his great grandchildren will miss him so..." The Priest went on, the four-year-old girl sat next to her dad wiping the tears from her eyes, she didn't want Grandpa to be dead...
"You know what this is?" Allen Maclay smiled at his three-year-old "grand baby."
"Yes, and I want you to have it." He motioned for the little girl to come forward. "Your grandma wanted me to give this to your mother when you were born, but I want you to have it instead."
"Thanks Grandpy." She kissed him, and lay next to him in his chair. He smiled and then rested for his afternoon nap.
Less then a year later, on Tara's fifth birthday, her father became one-third owner of the Maclay family fortune. As the eldest son he had just a little more say then the other, and he was going to use that fact to his advantage...
Tara was helping her older brother Donny collect firewood, per their father's instructions. Though Tara was only five and Donny twelve, they were actually getting along. For the moment.
"Come on I dare you." Donny nudged his sister forward, as she shrugged.
"Do it you little baby"
"Donny, dad will get mad."
"See that's why no one likes you. You're chicken." And with that Tara made a choice, she was going to do it, she was going to swing from the vine and jump into the cold water. But when she did, Donny just laughed and headed back to the camp without her. "Bye Tare."
"Donny, help me!" But he was gone. When she had finally gotten back to camp, Donny told there father she had wandered off, and he had not been able to find her.
"Tara Maclay, where have you been?"
"Donny dared me too jump, then..." Her father interrupted her, before she could tell him the rest.
"If he told you to jump off a building would you?" Now Tara was only five and still learning, so she smiled and very sweetly told her father the answer. After all she thought he was asking her a real question.
"Not sure, would I have a parachute?" Her father was not impressed, and with that she received a several slaps for disobeying and lying.
"Please don't..." Tara's mother emerged from the trailer running to the aid of her little girl, but "Sir" would not have it. He preferred when his family called him sir, made him feel superior.
She got scared when she saw her mother lying on the floor beaten up. She didn't want that to happen to her, so she did the only thing she knew how: she ran and hid. Her father beat her before but not like he had beaten her mother. So she fled to the forest.
"Tara you can't hide from me, I'll find you!" her father's shot gun sounded into the afternoon air. "You'll never make it little girl, the animals will get you first!"
Contrary to his belief, Tara was very smart for her age. She loved to read books on the wilderness and so she knew what she had to do. Survive. Her heart pounded, the darkness was consuming not just the sky but her mind with the thought that her father was going to find her. "Goddess protect me, I implore you. Save me, deliver my mother from the pain, deliver me from this dark night." She saw a cave and smiled, she just hoped no one was in there already. "Hello anyone here. Bears, Lions, anything?" she smiled, and laughed at herself a bit. "Like the animals will answer you." She laughed.
The cave was empty, there was no sign of life. This would be her home, she would set up here, she would eat off the land. Just like trackers, like the old days. she would learn to hunt, to fish, and if possible which berries were bad and which ones were good. Her wounds hurt her, she saw a tiny little stream and gathered sticks and rocks and leaves. Fresh water in a bowl she made from an old turtle shell, she headed back to the cave.
Setting her things down tore some of her cloth and made a dressing, cleaning her cuts and soothing her wounds which seemed to scream 'Thank you'. That night Tara sat alone cry. She wished her Mom were there, she wished everything would be OK. She wanted to be sung to sleep and rocked. She wanted to tell her mommy that she loved her, but could not.
"Years of neglect, fires, trees being destroyed, animal's becoming fewer and fewer!" The red headed twenty-year-old woman, who was president of the research committee of Maclay Inc. was speaking her mind, informing the board members about the conditions of the jungle. "I hate to bring up the past, but as you sir sent in men to find your daughter, which was before my time..." she continued, her heart racing. "The forest thrived, but now we need to rescue it, make it like new."
"How do we do this?" Hank, Charles, and Sandra all sat at the head of the table, looking at her.
"Send me and my team in sir so we can scope the area and find out what we need." Willow smiled sweetly at the Maclays. Hank and Charles did not see amused but Sandra smiled.
"I think we should go for this little project," Sandra volunteered
"With your money?" Charles smiled.
"No with our money. This is a great investment Charlie. Think about it, our best team goes in, rescues animals, finds something worthwhile - evidence of our Tara's disappearance..." Sandra worked her way to Willow. "… I think Ms. Rosenberg and her team are capable, and would make us great sums of money." Sandra knew that would clinch the deal.
"Very well, we agree to allow this to go on. In two days you and your crew will ship out to Peru. You'll be granted eighty-five thousand dollars for research and three thousand for food. You'll have enough to stay days or months..." Hank closed his book. "… Oh and Ms. Rosenberg, let's make money, not waste it."
Willow smiled to herself. She felt a sense of connection with Sandra. She wasn't sure why Sandra would help her; the Maclay family wasn't known for kindness. Yet Sandra seemed to be different. She started filling her paperwork when the secretary's voice came through the speaker on her phone. "Ms. Rosenberg, your fiance is on line two and Xander Harris is on line one."
"Thanks Samantha. Hello sexy." Willow purred as she pressed a button.
"Willow, still me..." Willow turned a bright red and pressed the button Quicker and harder.
"Daniel?" She heard a response and smiled. "Hey Sexy."
"Hey are you going to come home tonight?"
"Yes. I have something special planned."
"Damn..." Willow hated it when he said damn, that meant something was wrong. "...Me and the boys are flying out tonight, gig in Boston."
"It's all right. In a couple of days me and a team of my choosing are heading to Peru anyway." Willow told Daniel all about the Forest. "Honey I have to go, being called. Love you."
"Love you too, see you in a couple of weeks." They hung up the phone, and as soon as I was said she was off to confront the team down on the Level E deck.
"All right people I have decided to take along experts in the field of navigations, Xander Harris, and his sister zoologist Faith Harris. I will also need an experienced team, since I got a very good budget I will be taking NCOFR group five." As she went through a few Papers she pulled out a small slip of paper. "Also I'll be calling some outside connections for protection..." she placed a small series of photos on a projector.
"This is Buffy, Anya, and William, three children of the British Ex-con Rupert "Ripper" Giles. Reformed he was, and now he and his children work for hire as bodyguards. We leave in two days people. Meeting adjourned.”
"Xander where in the frilly heck are you?" Willow was on the phone with Xander who seemed to be stuck in traffic. Faith was also with him since they lived in the same house.
"I told him to take the back way, but of course not, he had to take the highway!" Willow couldn't help but chuckle.
"Shut it!" Xander gave her a nudge. "Little sisters, jeepers...so what's shakin'?"
"A job, are you up for it? You and Faith?"
"Am I a lesbian? Yes, so count me in, yo!" Xander sighed and whacked his sister with his notebook.
"I take that as a yes?"
“Yea, we'll be there soon, you can fills us in. The traffic's starting to move, see you in ten." Willow and Xander grew up as best buds, always playing these games. She got to be the damsel in distress, and Xander would come save her. Taking her away from it all. 'Good days' she smiled and remembered.
That night at the Rosenberg/Osbourne House, they discussed plans of the future. "Daniel I don't want to be like my parents: home half the time, not seeing daughter. I want to be us, like in high school."
"And I want that to."
"Well, Daniel, I guess we have to make a choice." Daniel just smiled and took willow in for a kiss. "Daniel!"
"I want you right now."
And the next two hours they were. There were highs and low, lots of highs, until... "Hello. Yea, I know. I'm coming."
"We can all hope." Willow nibbled on his ear.
"Be there in thirty." Daniel smiled and headed for the shower. "I'm sorry I was supposed to be at the airport an hour ago but I got side tracked." Willow smiled as Oz slipped out of his towel and slipped into his jeans and T-shirt. "I'll miss you." He kissed her lips and held her for just a minute. "And I wasn't trying to avoid the conversation, we can do it when we get back, no matter what." Then just like that he was gone, and Willow was alone in the house, once again.
Two days later, right outside of Sunnydale, California.
The airplane was waiting for its occupants to arrive. Two black limousines pulled up with a zoologist, navigations expert, and of course Willow. That's right I never told you what Ms. Rosenberg was good at. Willow Rosenberg was a well-rounded individual, doing almost anything she sets her mind to. She was head of the research department, she specialized in information retrieval on anything that moved or breathed. She was the most "important" asset to Maclay Inc. As had been her parents, who were now in Africa studying tribes. "Let's load this bad boy up and spank it until it cries." Faith smiled tossing in some unbreakable boxes.
"And now we know what she does in her spare time. Spanking planes, you should be ashamed." Xander wagged a finger at his sister who gave him a light punch on his arm. "So Wilster looks like you're flying on air, all excited are we?"
"More the you know. So anyone special in your life Mr.Harris?"
"Sadly no, the only love in my life is that of the hunt," and with that Xander placed his bowie knife into its holder.
"All right ladies, let's go!" Willow heard several exciting shouts behind her, mostly coming from the Research team. "You bunch of animals!" She heard laughter and then she herself climbed up the steps.
As they flew into the morning air she looked at the sunny sky and smiled. Clicking a few keys on her laptop, she saved her first journal entry....
On the airplane behind her, the bodyguards got their gear together. William scoffed as he pulled out the mission statement. "Great, tranquilizers?" He tossed the envelope down. "Bloody hell, why not give us pop guns!"
"The animal specialist said no killing the animals." Anya finished placing her tranquilizer darts in their cases, as she mocked Faith.
"Behave you guys, we know the rules." Buffy Summers kissed her brother's cheek.
"All right jumping point three minutes, are you ready?"
Yes, sir!" Rupert Giles, father, Husband, and ex-British Con, placed the autopilot on and headed to the back with his children. Helping to get the Parachutes on his children, Rupert smiled. A little background shall we... Rupert Giles' first wife was a woman of British intelligence, and when he married her they conceived a little boy, a William Giles, on August 12, 1970. Then two years later Rupert was caught cheating on his wife with an American woman, with whom he had a little girl Anya Christina Summers on February 3, 1973. His divorce was a year later, another child was conceived, Buffy Summers on June 12,1975. His second wife Joyce died three years ago, Car accident. The girls were never the same.
"All right kids, go down there and check around. Remember Red said no death." The kids smiled and jumped, Giles watched them and smiled. "Bless their bleeding hearts."
"Look at those show off." Faith pointed, she shook her head. "I could do that!"
"Sure and when you reach the bottom you could break a leg." Xander smiled as he recalled two summers ago. "Remember?" Faith gave a weak smile and sat back down, watching the three figures disappear.
"They're our bodyguards?"
"Yes." Willow looked up from the book she was reading, and placed it in her bag. "Best in there field, now buckle up."
"Plane's going to land, plus the fasten your seat belt sign just went on." Xander and Faith did a quick jump to their seats and buckled themselves in just as the plane started to descend. It was going to be a long three weeks, and that was if everything went well, if not they could be there a month, maybe two.
"This is the shit!" Buffy smiled flipping in the air, William and Anya quickly followed. "What kind of animals do we got down there?"
"Not sure, but get ready to land Luv."
"Great, my favorite part."
The landing was rather wet, miscalculations on Anya's part took them into the river next to the landing zone. They were drenched. No one was happy, especially William. "Stupid twit."
"Shut up, at least I can find my way in and out of a forest."
"I was twelve, Give me a break!" William yelled back.
"Children, children if we are going to fight I will have to give you a time out." Buffy smiled kissing William and Anya's cheek, "Now come on before they land."
The forest was thick, dirt and grass mixed with rocks and overgrown weeds. Little animals scampered down the path. Anya was ruthless, down right primal, but only one thing scared her more then death... "Bunny!" She hid behind William.
"Are you kidding me?" Buffy turned around and Anya shook her head. "Lets go." Buffy picked up the bunny and placed it on the other side of the road. Anya sighed as the little thing hopped away; William couldn't stop laughing. "Floods, armed men, natural disasters, out of all those things and more...bunnies!" Buffy was beside herself wondering who on earth could be afraid of bunnies.
"It's a childhood trauma I rather not talk abou...What was that?" Anya stopped in mid-sentence as she saw some figure dash through the tree's.
"Not sure, probably a bunny." Buffy shook her head and pulled Anya along, William still laughing uncontrollably.
The plane landed with no problem, only a little bump here and there. Willow was perfectly fine with the landing, so was Faith, Xander...not so much. After everything was secure William greeted willow with a handshake and a smile. "Ms. Rosenberg, my name here is William Giles and these are my sisters Buffy and Anya, at your service."
"Welcome to the team William. I'm Xander and this is my Sister Faith." William smiled a shook both there hands.
William placed his layout in font of Willow. "All right, here we are. The best region of land to dispatch would be right over there. About due south is where we will find most of the wild primates, and they are territorial little creatures they are, so Ms. Rosenberg I myself will be your personal bodyguard. Anya will be yours sir, and Faith..." He paused and smiled. "...Buffy will be yours, all clear then?"
"Are you sure she can protect me, look at her." Buffy remained calm and just smiled, she walked up to the tall brunette and flipped her gun at her, Faith blocked it quickly. Buffy countered and Faith fell on her ass.
"As you were saying?" Buffy extended a hand and gave a slight wink. Faith ignored and stood on her own. "Temper." Buffy smiled giving her the look over. "If I am going to be your body guard you'll have to listen to me."
"Whatever, Willow I'll be over in my tent."
"Buffy..." William directed her over to him. "...remember to remain professional." Buffy smiled and quickly followed, standing outside of the tent in case further assistance would be needed.
"She can be temperamental at times." Xander smiled at Anya, He extended his hand and she took it. "It would be a pleasure to have your services ... service," he corrected, he blushed something not easily done.
"Xander?" Willow smiled, grabbing him by the ear. "Don't sleep with the bodyguard." Willow released his ear and her walked off with Anya. "So William what else do you expect, dangers and what not?"
"Nothing to serious love, just your standard wild beast here and there, and tranquilizers are a go. No bullets are loaded into the guns. We brought some along encase of other danger."
"Excellent, thank you."
"As long as you pay, we stay and serve." William smiled sitting down next to Willow.
Dark blue eyes peered out into the clearing. A certain redhead captured the beauty, The essence of the Jungle, the dark blue eyes seem to smile. They seem to wander around. They seem to love her.
The next day, William and his sisters had voyaged ahead before the expedition started. They walked further into the wooded area and saw nests, ape nests. William was right, and proud of it. William marked down the spot on the map. Due south. They heard cracking of branches. "OK you heard that right?"
"That I heard." William pointed his Gun into the clearing, aiming and waiting. "Show yourself." Just as Willow spoke, Xander, and Faith walked into the clearing. "Bloody hell, we told you to wait in the jeep, so we could make sure it was clear."
"What's going to get us a bunch of bunnies and raccoons?" Faith smiled, she poked around a bit and frowned. "These are weeks old, they moved on. Probably headed east, the map says its great for mating season, and mating season is just..." Faith looks at her book. "It begins tomorrow, so all the males are supposed to be in heat." Faith couldn't help but smile. "Men are always in heat." Faith laughed closing her book.
"So what now?" Xander Placed an arm around willow.
"We should keep going, a little while more. I have to meet with the lumberjack feller..." she couldn't help but laugh. "So let's continue a little more, find some animals and study them. I was thinking maybe a bunny or two..."Anya shuddered, ".. Faith would you get on that?" Faith nodded and Singled Buffy to Follow. "Xander, you and Anya check up ahead, see if Faith was right about them heading east. Me and William will stay here and check up on the Nests."
Far within the forest in a small cave was a woman who lived alone. Had been for years. The cave was lined with the skin of animals caught and eaten, hand made weapons and of course lying on the ground was a small pile of books. On the fire was a rabbit, it was small just enough meat to feed the young girl. 'I wonder what the people are doing?' She said to herself, and sighed cutting the meat from the skewer.
Following the call of the animal kingdom, the girl was up before dawn, hunting for her next meal. It was a beautiful morning - the sunrise was of beautiful oranges, blues, yellows, and reds. She watched the sunrise for a while before she continued on her way. The stream was beautiful, and crisp. She made a fire and then moved into the stream. catching a fish or two, which she gutted and then fried in a turtle shell she found.
As the sun continued to rise, the girl cleaned up her mess. Just as she was about to leave she hears footsteps coming into the clearing, she jumped into the bushes to wait. "Just taking a quick dip." Willow said she could do without William's assistance. "I'll be fine William."
The blonde's eyes watched Willow as she sat on a nearby rock. Willow removed her clothing. She wanted to be clean and so this was the only thing she hated about going into a forest: she had to bathe in a lake or some other water source, but soon Faith joined her. Not feeling so alone anymore she smiled, but those eyes watching the redhead never left her. She felt someone else was there but couldn't be to sure. "Hey Wil, how's the water?"
"Cold but refreshing, so anything on the apes?" faith frowned and wrapped her own naked body in a towel.
"Nope, they're becoming so few. There were only six nests, so six families, normally there'd be like fifteen. We need to find these animal and like quick yo." The girls agreed. The blonde watched them more closely, wondering what or who they were? Who sent them, and why?
"Freeze!" William held the gun at the small blonde's head. "What do we have here?" He smiled holding the gun close to her head. "Anya, Buffy come look at this!"
"What's the matter William?" Willow covered up and walked close to him.
"Stand back Ms. Rosenberg, Don't know if this little bit is dangerous."
"All right, bring it back to camp. I'll be in my tent." Willow and Faith headed back to the camp-site and William rounded up the blonde woman. The blonde looked up and shook with fear as she saw the gun pointing at her.
"Let's go." He wasn't sure if she spoke English, so he waved the gun. But she didn't move; she was too scared. "Move it!"
"William, don't yell at her, she doesn't respond well to it. She's scared." Buffy knelt down beside her extending a hand. "Hiya I'm Buffy. What's your name?" she smiled placing her gun down. "OK you don't have to tell me your name, but come on I'll walk you back." Buffy smiled sweetly. "Promise me you won't hit me." The blonde smiled and shook her head, taking Buffy's hand.
"Anya get the cuffs." William waved her on.
"No." Buffy warned, Anya stopped in her tracks. "Not until we get back to camp, you understand once we get back to camp, we have to tie you up." The blonde understood every word spoken. But that's what she was afraid of.
Willow finished dressing, and soon after was heading to the tent where The Blonde was tied up, but when she got there the chair was empty and Tara was gone. "Shit, Th -" Just as she was about to scream her mouth was covered.
"Please don't scream, I won't hurt you." Tara moved her to the seat. "You know me, I'm Tara." Willow's eyes grew large, her green eyes wide as gems. "Yes, that Tara." She released Willow and sat on the chair.
"Why what?" Tara smiled.
"Why run away, you had everything. Money, a home."
"A father who was abusive, who threatened to kill me all the time." She gave a weak smile. "S-sure money's g-good, f-fame's g-good, but home was very bad. I'm all I-I got, and when I-I saw your p-planes land..." she paused wiping tears away. "...I thought h-he was c-coming b-back, for r-revenge." Tara looked up from her own pain and asked the question that she has been avoiding. "My mother...i-is s-she?"
"Missing, about two years ago she disappeared."
"Hey Ms. Rosenberg we found out who this girl is." Anya walked into the tent with her brother and sister to discover the blonde free.
"Way ahead of you. Tara Maclay."
"Mr.Maclay will be so..."
"No, he doesn't find out." Tara smiled at Willow. "We never found her, do you understand?"
"But Ms. Rosenberg, all these years of searching. They think she's dead, we just can't..."
"Yes, we can Buffy, there are several reasons why no one will know." Willow sat down next to Tara. "One, she ran away for a reason. Two, she doesn't want to be found. Three, because she wants to stay free of her..." She looked to Tara first who shook her head. "...abusive father." Finally the three bodyguards understood, they knew all to well of abuse. Before their father was a gentle man, he was very abusive.
"All right Ms. Rosenberg, but if this leaks out..."Anya shrugged, and everyone already knew the answer. "...We'll have to report it to Mr. Maclay." Willow stood and was rummaging through her drawers, pulling out clothes for the girl to wear.
"All right Anya, let's make sure it doesn't leak out." Willow smiled and handed Tara some clean clothes, Anya nodded and exited the tent. "Understand William?" He nodded and exited the tent standing by it, for it was his duty.
"Why are you doing this?" Tara smiled slipping on the clothes given to her. "Isn't that the reason my father sent you out here?"
"Yep, but hey if I can't find you I can't find you." Willow smiled helping Tara slide on her shirt which seemed to be stuck. "Little snug but it should stretch."
"Willow, what was your home life like?
"Lonely, I was always by myself. Your father always had my parents working, I never saw them." Tara frowned as Willow shook her head. "No, it's all right. They were hardly home so a lot of questions never happened. I'm not good under pressure, I always told the truth." She blushed which made Tara smile. "What?"
"You have a nice smile."
"Thanks." Willow set up a cot for Tara to sleep on. "So what have you been sleeping on?" Willow placed a few blankets down and a pillow.
"Leaves, twigs, everything non-soft." Willow gave Tara a smile and handed her something to eat. "Its OK I had something to eat already." Willow was afraid to ask what, so she didn't.
"Come on, I'll show you around."
That afternoon, Tara found her way to Faith's tent, she saw the animals in a little fenced in area. She smiled when she saw the bunnies. "Hello." Tara bent down and picked up the little rabbit. "You're not going to be harmed, I hope." Tara kissed its fur, and patted its head.
"These animals are perfectly safe." Faith smiled as she popped her head out from behind a door. "Everything I do here is humane, that's why the guns William and his sisters have are filled with tranqs." Faith smiled and placed a hand on Tara's shoulder. Buffy walked into the Tent and smiled when she saw Tara.
"Hey, sorry about my brother earlier." Tara just smiled, and placed the bunny back into the caged area.
"It's OK, he seems nice."
"On occasions, anyway would you like something to eat?"
"Yes, please." The food was delicious. It had been forever since Tara had anything more then rabbit or deer meat. She was amazed at the site of hamburgers cooked over an open flame. "The last time I had a hamburger, I was four years old." She smiled finishing up her burger.
"Ms. Rosenberg we have a problem, Mr. Maclay is on the phone." Tara's face was stricken with fear while Willow ran to the phone.
Tara froze with fear, mid-bite. "Please don't let him get me." She curled almost into a ball, she looked so helpless, it almost broke Willow's heart.
"Who informed Mr. Maclay about our guest?" Willow was off the phone with Mr. Maclay now, looking unhappy.
"I did." William walked over holding out a slip of paper to willow. "We were hired by Hank himself. He told us if we find anything of interest we should report to him." He looked to Tara who was still huddled in a ball. "I know your situation, but a paycheck is a paycheck."
Buffy frowned walking over to the poor girl. "I'm sorry Tara, but we have no choice."
"I trusted you most of all." Buffy nodded.
"I know you did, that's why I'm going to do this." All of a sudden Tara felt a sharp object pierce her skin, a needle. "Rest now." Buffy picked up the poor girl and held her.
"I have a job to do Ms. Rosenberg, are you going to help?" Willow looked to William and the others, she knew she had to. Or it could mean trouble.
"Well, we must not interfere with your job, place her in the tent." Willow took a deep breath, a thought crossed her mind. "When will Mr. Maclay be arriving?"
"Tomorrow morning." Willow nodded and watched as Buffy and Anya carried Tara to the tent. Willow waited until it was dark to sneak into the tent. Tara was already awake and sitting up. She was crying, had been for a while. She couldn't believe this was happening.
"Tara?" She looked up and noticed tear on Willow's face. "I'm so sorry."
"I can't go back to my father, He'll kill me Willow." Willow wiped Tara's tears away, and sat next to her. "Set me free."
"I can't do that, I'll be in worse trouble."
"Please Willow, without my mother there, it will be even worse." Willow thought and whispered something into Tara's ear. Unknowing to them Buffy was watching the whole time. Buffy out of the three Giles guards was the most friendly and understanding, but she couldn't allow this to happen. Just as willow let Tara go Buffy walked in.
"Buffy please, let her go." Willow begged.
"I can't do that Willow, my brother wouldn't approve."
"But what do you approve of? Sending Tara home, back to her abusive father is not something good."
"I'm sorry Willow... William!" The tranquilizer gun was aimed at Tara.
"Tara go now!" Tara ran, Buffy shot the gun and Willow jumped in font of it. Tara escaped while Willow could not.
"Tara's gone, Willow helped her escape." Buffy walked over to the unconscious Willow and removed the dart. "She knows where the girl went, but I know she won't say."
"We'll place her in her tent, when she wakes up, we'll question her." William picked Willow up and hauled her over his shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Xander yelled removing his Bowie knife. "Put her down!"
"Mr. Harris, if I were you I'd place the knife away, unless you would like to join you friend in her unconscious state." Anya motioned to him with her gun. "She helped the prisoner escape, for that she will be arrested and questioned. I'm sure Mr. Maclay will agree."
Willow opened her eyes slowly, her blurred vision showed nothing but two blurry bodies. As her eyesight returned, she noticed it was some other man she didn't know and a very angry Mr. Maclay. "Ms. Rosenberg I will ask you this once, and once only. Where is my daughter?" Willow sat up and shook her head.
"She's safe from you, you monster." Just then Mr. Maclay fist flew and hit Willow. Blood filled her mouth - she could taste the salty liquid. "Hit me all you want, you'll never find your daughter." She spit the blood at him and tried to stand but was quickly knocked down by the bodyguard.
"Willow, I am a very patient man. But Mr. Giles is not." Willow sat quietly "Very well, I don't care what happens to you Ms. Rosenberg, so you will tell me or Mr. Giles here will beat you like a Persian rug!"
"Sir, we checked out her cave. It seems Xander and Anya found it the other day. She's not there, all her stuff is though. Books, pictures, knickknacks, odds and ends that sorta thing." William handed him the bag of junk. "She's out there sir, we'll find her."
"With or without you, we'll find her. As of now you're fired, last pay terminated." Willow looked up, anger in her eyes.
"You can't do that!"
"Yes, I can, and you bet more will happen if you don't keep your mouth shut." Her brain told her to shut her mouth, but something made her speak out.
"Or what, you're going to make me disappear like your wife?"
"I have had just about enough of you. Mr. Giles show her what pain is really like!" Mr. Giles smiled and walked closer to Willow, her eyes widened as his fist connected with her face.
Xander and Faith sat quarantined to their tents until further notice, bodyguards included. Anya stood outside of Xander's tent and Buffy outside of Faith's. Faith was a little more irked then Xander, after all Buffy seemed cool. She totally blew it in Faiths book now.
"You're an ass, you know that." Buffy turned to face Faith. The angry look on Buffy's face made Faith sit back down. "Poor Willow, and what do you do? Guard me when I'm not even dangerous. Willow is probably in more trouble, especially if your father is in there. Beating her, I hate to..." All of a sudden Buffy was gone from Faith's tent and running to Willow's. "Hope that worked."
She peered in and saw Willow lying on the floor, with neither her father nor Mr. Maclay anywhere in sight. "Willow, what did they do to you?" Buffy knelt down helping Willow on her bed. Willow was out cold, blood trickling down her face. Buffy walked over and got a Basin of water. "Let me clean you up." Just as she was about to touch the first cut Willow's hand popped up.
"Don't touch me."
"Let me help you." Willow was in no condition to fight back. "I'm sorry I should have known better. Mother didn't raise a warrior, daddy did." She gave a tentative smile and finished cleaning Willow up. "Just tell them where she went, he'll do it again. My father is well, very persistent."
"Your father is an as..." She stopped as she saw Mr. Giles return.
"No please continue, I'm a what?"
"Father please don-" she ran to him, his hand flew.
"Aren't you supposed to be watching Faith?" She nodded. "I think you know what to do now." She nodded again and exited the tent. Giles walked over to Willow and sat next to her. "I'm not a bad man Ms. Rosenberg, but this is my job. If you understand, I was once a con-man, very well known. One night because I was careless I was captured. Given a chance to start over, I did. He smiled, then he frowned. "Tell me where Tara Maclay is and we won't have to hurt you anymore."
Willow released a tear from her eye. She didn't want to hurt Tara, but she was in so much pain. "I sent her to the west cave, it's covered by trees, you'll have to look closely." Mr. Giles smiled and called in for a nurse.
"Thank you, and Ms. Rosenberg have a nice day." Once he left the tent she cried, she gave away Tara's position. She just hoped Tara was smart enough to escape, or run away before they got there.
Xander sat playing with his Bowie knife, he had nothing to do but wait. Anya was a little nervous seeing the excellent huntsman, playing with a knife with her back was turned. She entered the tent. "May I help you?" Xander asked throwing his knife to a target.
"Think I'm keeping my back towards you? Playing with that knife like that, I don't think so."
"I don't hurt humans unless I have to. I don't think you can bother me that much."
"O you don't think so? I can be a very annoying person at times, people often try to kill me." Xander just smiled and nodded. "What are you smiling at?"
"Nothing, just thinking about something."
"About what?" Then she spotted it, a bunny. She broke into a sweat, she didn't want to scream in front of a hostage. It would be embarrassing so she just backed away, but it hopped closer. "Shoo bunny shoo." Xander saw this, and picked up the bunny.
"You're not afraid of bunnies are you Ms. Giles?" He gave half a smile.
"No of course not, why would you..." Then Xander placed it close to her face. "... Get that hoppy thing away from me!"
"You are, you're afraid of bunnies," Xander laughed.
"It's a childhood trauma - something bad happened. I don't like...stop laughing at me, it's not..." Anya knelt down as Xander taunted her with the bunny, then he noticed she wasn't joking.
"O wow, you're not kidding. Hey, hey don't cry I'm sorry. Look bunny going away now." He knelt down beside her. "Look I'm sorry, I thought you were kidding me. I guess I have to learn to take hint." Anya nodded and for once Anya allowed someone other than her parents hug her. It felt nice.
Later that evening Xander, Willow, and Faith were placed in the same tent with all of their equipment. "Easier to guard all three when they're all together." Giles smiled and patted Mr. Maclay on the back.
"Willow, what have they done to you?" Xander ran to her side, Willow was perched up on her bed reading a book.
"They beat the living shit out of me. By the way, I will be pressing charges." She whispered. "Faith do you have your camera?" she nodded, and took pictures of the bruises.
Tara lay in her cave on the west side. Willow told her to hide here, it would be safe. but something told Tara that Willow was in trouble. "I shouldn't have left, I should have just stayed." Tara shook her head, tears fell, and then she heard footsteps. Something happened, bad enough that Willow revealed her location. Well she would escape. "Now to find an exit." She looked around the cave, there was only one exit she could see. She thought this was it, but then she saw something, an opening at the top of the cave. Light poured in. That would be her way out.
She climbed up the wall and watched as the hole got bigger and bigger. When she reached it she squeezed through. It was just the right size, she was safe once again, or was she?
"The cave is empty sir, and there's sign of Tara here. She left a dead animal carcass, fresh." The agent for hire was agent Riley Finn. He worked for Mr. Maclay as one of the agents in his building. "Don't worry sir, we're close." Tara watched the men search the cave. Suddenly, Finn looked up and saw her. She started to run. "She's on top of the cave!" The men moved quickly. "Scour the area!"
Tara's heart pounded as she soared through the trees. She felt like Tarzan, heck she looked like Tarzan. Over the years she mastered climbing trees and escaping leopards like Tarzan did.
Back at the tent Willow, Xander, and Faith sat drinking a bottle of Scotch "I bet this soothes the soul." Xander smiled, clinking glasses with Faith and Willow.
"As of right now, this is as good as it gets." Just then Mr.Giles walked back into the tent. "What do you want now?"
"You were right Ms. Rosenberg, Tara was at the Cave." Willow looked disappointed "But she managed to escape. Not for long thou." Willow smiled at the back of the man who exited sharply.
"Think Tara will escape?" Willow nodded and threw back another shot of scotch.
In Mr. Giles' tent everything seemed to be going well, his children sat waiting for orders. "Buffy you have disappointed me, how could you?"
"I was only being kind, Willow was hurt I was just."
"Shut your bleeding hole. God you whimper just like your mother." Buffy shook her head, how could he bring her mother into this, how dare he. "You had a job to do, which you have only screwed. Now, we have to work twice as hard!" Mr. Giles lit a cigarette. "William you know what to do."
"Please father, don't!" Buffy begged, but William picked up Buffy. "I'll do whatever you ask of me, but please." Tears streamed down her face as William tossed her head first into a freshly drawn bath holding her head down. Anya's face was turned. She did not dare look.
"Take a peek." She turned her head slowly and watched what was going on. A single tear fell. She hated when her sister was placed under the water.
"Sir?" William looked at his father, Buffy stopped moving. Mr.Giles nodded, and William lifted Buffy out of the water, knocking her back. William and Giles left the room laughing. Anya knelt down by Buffy who was shaking.
"I'm fine." She let some tears fall, and looked into Anya's eyes. "If Mom was alive she wouldn't..." she trailed off, Anya wiped her tears away.
"Come on let's get you cleaned up."
The next morning as Buffy and Anya sat alone at their own table, smiling and laughing. William walked over and scratched his head, nervously he asked; "Is this seat taken?" 'OK William how lame was that?' he chastised himself. The girls looked up at him with a smile.
"Sure." Buffy patted the seat next to her, and William took it, laying her head on his shoulder.
"It smelled a little foul over there anyway, dad's cooking something up." Buffy looked at William, her eyes sad. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to hurt you."
"I know." Anya smiled taking a bite from her food, Then Mr. Giles and Mr. Maclay walked over.
"All right enough with the bloody group hugs, let's get that girl." The three loaded there guns with the tranquilizer, and got ready.
"You're not going anywhere, you and Anya will watch the hostages."
"But sir." Anya protested.
"Do as you are told."
"Yes, sir." Anya and Buffy walked away. They were being discarded, once again.
"Better get it right this time. I want my little girl back." Mr. Maclay walked around as Mr. Giles and William were getting ready for the mission.
"No worries Mr. Maclay, you'll have your little girl back."
"I'll return in three days. When I come back I hope to see my Tara. If you find her before then, contact me and I will send a chopper for her."
"Of course. Come William." Mr. Giles signaled for William to follow. They ran through the forest looking for any signs of Tara. They would leave no stone unturned, nothing would be overlooked.
Anya and Buffy walked over to the tent and walked in. Willow, Xander, and Faith were sitting with shot glasses in hand. Buffy smiled and shook her head at the same time. "No funny business." Anya warned. Xander crossed his heart and smiled raising a glass and shooting it back. Buffy and Anya noticed a lot of the whiskey was gone. They were either drunk or buzzed, so all would be easy.
"How did the meeting with your father go?" Faith noticing the bruise on Buffy's face, walking to her she frowned, tracing her finger lightly on the Bruise.
"Hey, no touching." Buffy moved her hand away.
"All right, don't need to get all touch-y about it." Faith backed off and sat back down next to Xander and Willow.
"Tara doesn't stand a chance, especially since my father went personally." Willow shot a look at Buffy, and to her surprise was frowning a bit. "My father is an expert."
"She'll do it, I know she will."
"What do you care? You only met her for two days." Anya sighed placing her gun down on a nearby table. Xander nodded, and Faith pulled out her cute little bunny friend. "That's not even cool, Harris." Anya said backing away, now picking up her gun she held it.
"God Anya get over it, why are you so afraid of bunnies anyway?" Willow shot Faith a look in a fit of laughter.
"You're afraid of bunnies?"
"Please, don't tease me. I've had enough, it's a long story OK."
"Bunnies, little hoppy floppy bunnies, they-wiggle-there-noses-and-eat-carrot-bunnies?" Faith and Willow broke into fits of laughter. Anya felt two inches tall, Xander of course felt bad.
"Hey lay off." Xander broke the laugher by throwing a plastic cup at Willow and Faith. "Leave her alone."
"Come on Xander it is funny. Big scary Bodyguard afraid of this cute fluffy thing." Faith kissed its fur and smiled.
"Would you like me to spill some of your fears, I'm sure these girls would get a kick out of them." Faith turned a shade of White.
"Well, look at the time, time for another drink." Faith smiled walking to the empty bottle of Whiskey. "Hey!" She looked at Willow, her smile was golden.
"Sorry, you were taking too long."
Xander walked over to Anya and Knelt down. "Are you OK?"
Anya ignored him, she was mad, and well, embarrassed. "Hey I saved you from the evil bunnies, That was me, this guy right here," she gave a smile, and placed her gun down.
"Yay, I'm fine."
"You'll have to excuse them, when they get drunk, the flow of blood to their brains stops." Anya laughed and Xander sat down next to her. They began to talk for what would become a very long while.
Buffy winced in pain as she traced the fresh bruise; her father had always been a rough man. Always took things the wrong way. She learned at a young age to do as her father asked and to ask no questions. "You should put something on that." Willow nudged Buffy's arm holding an ice pack.
"Thanks." Willow nodded her head and headed for her bed. "Willow, I do hope Tara will be OK." Willow nodded and sat down next to Faith.
"Look at Xander and Anya." Faith pointed out. At the other side of the room Anya and Xander were laughing and having a good time.
"Who's this?" Xander held Anya's wallet looking at a picture of a little boy no more then five.
"My son, He's five. Totally opposite from me, though. He loves bunnies." Anya smiled grabbing her Wallet. "I haven't seen him in three years. The court decided that his father was a better role model for him." Anya choked back a tear, but Xander saw it, even when she didn't think he had. "Plus what kind of life is it? Always on missions, never home, father's a complete a..." she trailed off and figured out what was going on real quick. "What are you up to?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Get me off my guard, so you and your friends can escape. I don't think so, get back over there." She picked up her gun and motioned for him to move.
"Anya, it's not like that."
"Anya, go outside, get some fresh air." Buffy motioned for the door. She walked over to Xander and smiled. "Anya has issues, she got hurt a few times. She just doesn't want it to happen again. So every time a man gets close..."
"...She tends to back away." Xander finished. "I understand, I've gotten hurt a few times. I'm not like that."
"Yea my brother's a good man, just sometimes he can get too carried away." Faith smiled at Buffy, the whiskey was taking its toll. "Some of us can be real sweet at times." Faith winked and Buffy backed off, she didn't want to get involved. Buffy turned to check on Anya.
"Faith, sit down." Xander helped her to a bath tub. "Here cool off." Faith smiled dipping her head into the cool water. Buffy turned and memories flooded her mind. She collapsed and hit her head on the Table. "Buffy?" He ran to her side. "Anya!" Anya ran into the room and knelt down by her side.
"I don't know. We were just sitting over there and all of a sudden she collapsed." Xander helped Buffy to a bed.
Anya grabbed the smelling salt from her bag and waved it under Buffy's nose. She jumped up and looked at Faith with a toweled head. "I... she... I don't know." It clicked in her head, figuring out what had happened.
"Did you dip your head into the water?" Faith nodded. Anya sighed and lifted Buffy's chin. "She was getting cool, no one was dipping her head in water." Now Willow, Faith, and Xander were confused. Who would do that to her?
"I just need some rest, I'll be back." Buffy exited the tent and headed for the cooler. Faith walked to the flap of the tent looking out, she was worried.
That afternoon was hot and the sun was beating down. Anya and Buffy sat the hostages down outside for lunch. After all it was a beautiful day. Willow sat quietly eating, but she couldn't keep her mind off Tara, how worried she was. ' Why do I feel this way? ' Willow was so confused. She needed to find Tara.
"Are you OK?" Faith moved closer to Buffy who was sitting at the edge of the table.
"Yea, never better." She lied.
"I didn't mean to scare you." Buffy shot up, glaring at the other woman.
"I'm not scared. Get over there." Buffy dragged Faith back to the other side of the table. "Stay put and if you talk to me again, you lose out on lunch." And with that she returned back to her spot.
"Shit." Faith sighed looking at Buffy, she didn't want to make Buffy mad.
"Hey what's up?" Xander nudged her. "You look upset."
"I think I made Buffy mad at me."
"What did you do?"
"I told her that I didn't mean to scare her, and she kind of freaked. She told me she wasn't scared, but I know that's a load of bull." Faith finished her food and started to walk back to the tent.
"Hold it." Buffy walked over to her. "You have to wait until someone is with you." She turned back to Anya. "Can you handle these two?" Anya nodded. "Let's go." Buffy guided her into the tent, but didn't dare enter.
"Not coming in?"
"No." Faith smiled to herself. She felt like trying something. Hopefully she wouldn't get shot. She dragged her hands on her side of the tent flap, and at the same time dragging them up Buffy's back. "Stop it." But she didn't, she kept going, circling her fingers up her back.
"Come here and I will."
"Fine." Buffy walked into the tent and there Faith stood, looking into Buffy's eyes. "What?"
"Don't lie to me, I saw the fear in your eyes. That fear like someone hurt you." Buffy turned to leave and Faith blocked her path quickly. "I know what it's like to have a father like that, it's OK to talk about it."
"You know nothing." Buffy said sternly, turning away.
"When I was five my father beat the living shit out of me because I was too loud." Buffy still didn't budge. "When I was seven my Father broke my arm in three places, and told them I fell from the tree in the backyard. That same year he hit me for ever pound I gained, should I go on?" Buffy didn't answer so Faith nodded and continued. "My father was obsessed with me, he wanted me to be the perfect girl. So I was placed in pageant after pageant, I was Junior Miss three years in a row. Third runner up in Miss America... And when I didn't win that, he called me useless and beat me again. I was made to think I had to be perfect, but one day I told him I was tired of the pageants and of him, well that didn't go so well..." Faith walked around to show Buffy her scar, on the right side of her stomach was a stab wound, Buffy turned around. "He stabbed me." Faith said quickly.
"I'm sorry for you." Buffy said turning back around.
"I'm not speaking out of my ass here. I'm not dazzling it up. This is how it was, I was in a coma for two and a half years. When I woke up I went after him. It took my brother, mother, and two uncles to pull me off of him."
"What do you want me to say?"
"Nothing, just wanted to let you know. Let you know you're not alone." Faith walked to her bed and took out a book. Buffy walked over and sat next to her.
"I don't think I could stand up, even if I wanted to." Buffy gave a half smile.
"Well, it was pure rage when I woke up, I reserved it all. Waiting until I was released. Then I went to my home and there he was, sitting and watching TV. When I closed the door I said ‘Your little girl is home.' He turned and the fear of death was written all over his face as I charged at him."
"What happened after that?"
"I left home, lived with my aunt in West Hollywood. She was a bisexual screen actress, brought home a new girl every week." Faith smiled and lit a cigarette. "She was my idol."
"Is that so?" Buffy smiled when Faith handed her a cigarette.
"Yep, not just because she could bring home anyone she wanted. But just because she was there for me." She smiled at Buffy and thought it was time to go off topic. "So when did you know?" Buffy looked at her confused.
"When you liked girls." Buffy shook her head and headed for the exit. "Come on level with me."
"When did you?"
"I was ten."
"Fifteen." Then Buffy was gone.
Mr.Giles and William sat in front of the fire, going over maps of the area. Earlier that day they saw signs of Tara, but they were still unsure. But unknown to them Tara was watching them the whole time. Smiling and doubling back, she needed to see Willow. She went back through the forest and finally she could see the lights in the camp and hurried. "I'll save you and your friends Willow." Tara mumbled.
"Hey could I have a drink of water?" Xander motioned for Anya. She nodded and took a cup of water over to him. "Thanks." He smiled, she smiled back and started to leave, he grabbed her hand. "Anya, can we talk?"
"No, now release me."
"Please." She looked into his eyes, unsure.
"You have five minutes." She sat across from him, and he started his rant.
"I think you'll hit me, but I don't care. Since I got here, and since I started hanging with you..." he took another sip of his water. "...I've fallen deeply, I'm hypnotized by your smile, your eyes, and even your son. I like the way you slap me around, and I like the way you care. Plan and simple, I think I'm falling in love with you." She looked into his eyes, she could see how serious he was. But she knew she couldn't risk another heartbreak.
"I have to go, good-bye." She felt empty, knowing she broke his heart, she could see it on his face. "Xander, you know...my father would, well he doesn't think I should get involved with others. Since work." He nodded and understood, but in a way he didn't. After she left the tent he hit his head.
"Stupid idiot." He told himself.
"You told her how you felt, there's nothing wrong with that." Willow kissed Xander's forehead. "Hey Buffy, could I use the phone?" She nodded and handed her the portable, she dialed Daniel.
"Hello." She heard wrong, must be wrong number. Unless Daniel had a sex change, she apologized and tried again. "Hello," The voice said again, this time Willow was determined to get Daniel on the phone.
"Yes, I'm sorry I guess this is the right number, is Daniel there?"
"Yes of course, hold on," Then she heard the thing that gutted her. "Sweetie you have a phone call!" There was a slight pause, then she heard a rustle.
"Hi sweetie, it's me, can I ask a silly question?" Willow asked in a baby voice, she swore she heard a gulp. "Who is that little girlie voice I heard over there?"
"Now before you get all upset, let me explain."
"O it better be a good explanation, but please continue with your lie." She said this calmly, but as soon as she hung up the phone she would let it all loose.
"It's a party, there is no harm with a few girls who call me sweetie, is there? They're groupies babe, you're the only woman for me." she heard the lies, she knew what it was. He was cheating on her, with a groupie, she couldn't believe this.
"We'll, talk about this more, when I can reach you. With my own hands!" And she hung up the phone, letting a scream of frustration out. "Asshole!"
"I take it something bad?" Xander tried to comfort.
"That bastard's cheating on me with a groupie, then he says ‘Its a party...no harm when a few girls call me sweetie is it? O you're the only woman for me.' GGRRR!" Buffy back away, she was kind of freaking out. "That bastard. Not once was I unfaithful, I always...That son of a bitch, I'll..." Then all the emotion broke down, she could help but cry. Xander scooped her up, holding her tight.
"It's OK, that it you let it all out." Faith was on the opposite side doing the same.
"Let it all out girl." Faith smiled kissing Willow's cheek, Anya came into the room when she heard the swearing and saw them, Willow in tears with Xander and Faith consoling her. Buffy explained what happened.
Tara already entered the camp. Sneaking in, she made it to Willow's tent and heard the whole thing. She didn't care she entered the tent. "Tara?" Buffy pointed the tranquilizer gun and Tara knocked it out of her hand and it was in her own. She held it to Anya and Buffy motioned for them to move away.
"Well, are you coming?" She asked all three of them.
"You go Willow, we'll be fine."
"Cause I wan..." Then she noticed who asked the question, Buffy looked at him strangely.
"Go." Anya agreed.
"Why?" Xander asked.
"Cause it will be hard to explain if two of you are still here."
"Not if she tranquilizes all of us." Faith smiled, she had a thought, which of course scared Xander. "See if we're all shot, it will look like you didn't just let them go."
"O my God your brilliant." Willow smiled, grabbing the gun from Tara.
"Hold it, No one said we were going to let you." Anya said holding out her hands.
"Come on Anya, let's do it." Buffy smiled. "Just think, you'll be doing something good." She whispered.
"Fine, just do it!" Willow aimed the gun at Buffy, then Anya, Xander, and Faith and shot. She and Tara fled, and didn't look back.
Tara Helping Willow into the trees to hide, William and Mr.Giles were on the hunt now. They heard what happened with the others, and now the search picked up another few notches. Tara was scared she didn't know what to do. "Hey it's going to be OK, I promise." Willow touched her cheek, smiling a sweet smile. "Your father isn't going to lay one hand on you."
"What if they catch us, you'll be thrown in jail."
"No, come on let's keep moving." Willow nudged Tara along and finally they moved on. "You've lived here a long time, do you know anywhere where they won't look?"
"There's this cavern behind a water fall, I used to go there when the leopards came." Willow smiled and motioned for Tara to lead the way.
Back at the tent William was watching over his sisters who were still trying to get over the effect of the dart. Mr. Giles was back out with a troop looking for the runaways. "Where are they Buffy?" William asked her once again, he knew deep down they wouldn't just allow Tara to escape. "Come on, level with me here, are you telling me she grabbed the gun from you? Learned how to use the trigger release, and aimed perfectly without hurting herself. Up until we got here she never even saw a gun like that." Buffy sat drinking her water, saying nothing.
"Listen William, it was embarrassing enough. This girl shot me, I don't know how. So back off all right!"
"Your bullshitting me, and I will be having a chat with dad when he gets back." He pushed up and left the tent, Buffy was shaking.
"Don't let him get to you, I won't let the bastard touch you." Faith smiled in her direction. "Told her about Dad." Xander looked at her with a smile, nodding in approval. "Remember don't let him walk over you he will, stand up to him."
"You don't know our father." Anya said kissing Buffy face, she was still shaking. "He gets into your soul, makes you feel small and weak. He's always been like that."
"Our dad was no picnic either." Xander was serious, Anya saw his eyes walk back into the past.
Later that night Buffy and Anya were back watching the "captives", but all the fun ended when Mr.Giles and William walked back into the tent. Buffy turned to see her father's angry face. "She knows something sir, she's hiding it."
"Your brother says, you have a lil' secret you've been keepn' is that true dear?"
"You're lying to me, I hate when you lie to me." He moved forward grabbing her neck. "Tell me what you know!" Buffy just stood, shaking.
"I don't know anything, I told you the truth. Please just let me go!" he threw Buffy back and headed for Anya. She didn't back away, she was always a good liar.
"Anya, tell dad the truth now. Did you let Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Maclay get away?"
"No sir, they came in here. Tara knocked the gun out of Buffy's hands. Ms. Rosenberg told her what to do, and she shot us and her friends." Mr. Giles smiled, knowing how good she was at this, he trained her himself after all.
"Anya my dear, I have a thought. I think it's about time, we conquer your fear." Mr. Giles smiled, and William exited.
"Sir?" Anya looked in disbelief, he wouldn't, William came in with a tank. Mr.Giles took away Anya's gun and placed her inside the container.
"Are you comfy?" He smiled.
"Dad what are you up to?" Buffy stood walking closer to Anya now, Mr .Giles snapped his fingers and a box was brought in.
"Anya, you will tell me what happened. Or..." he took out a small bunny, Anya shook her head. "...this will be joining you." Anya banged the cage trying to escape. "What will it be Anya, tell Daddy what happened."
"Dad please don't do this, please." Anya was about to break into tears.
"Anya... One... Two... Three...no?"
"I told you what I..." Mr. Giles dropped the first rabbit in, Anya stopped the urge to scream, but the tears were visible "...Please, stop." There were five rabbits now in the cage, and Anya was huddled into a ball.
"What kind of father are you, you asshole. Let her go!" Faith moved forward trying to unlock the cage, William moved her back. "i thought you loved your sister, what kind of brother are you?" Faith punched William in the face, but unlike any other man he hit back. Faith collapsed to the ground.
"Faith!" Xander swung his fist connecting with William's face. "Don't touch my sister again, you British bastard, or I'll cut off your dick and stuff your balls into your fucking mouth!"
"I'll tell you." Anya said with a small voice. "We let them escape, it wasn't Tara who shot the gun it was Willow. It was all my idea." She lied about the last part, she knew Buffy was in enough trouble, but that would be her mistake.
"See, with a little persuasion... But, since it was your idea..." Mr. Giles smiled dumping the rabbit into the cage. "...You get one hour with these furry little friends." William took out a lock on his fathers command and locked her into the cage. The men exited, Buffy ran to the cage.
"Anya, why did you do that? You're so stupid."
"You're in enough... O god one of them touched my leg...trouble."
"They're just rabbits, everything is going to be OK."
"What happened, what made her so afraid?" Xander finally asked.
"It was our first mission. This scientist guy was a mutator, took animal and transformed them into savage creatures. His favorite was the bunnies, at first they looked harmless, but if you get close they change into this giant monster... Anya got too close, and it changed and tried to eat her." Buffy shrugged placing a hand on the cage next to Anya.
"My bunnies are friendly, I used no chemicals on them."
"I know, I try to tell myself that everyday...but nothing works." Anya said tears in her eyes, there was no where to hide from them.
"Anya listen to me..." Xander walked closer to her. "...I have a fear to, I have clown fear. I'm talking creepy, get away from me, kick you in the face, cry like a scared little baby clown fear. But when I get scared I think of something happy, like my sister or my friends. Something I love very much." Anya looked into his eyes.
"Clowns?" She smiled.
"Yes, clowns, with their big feet and painted on faces. They laugh of death...anyway, think of something that you love, or makes you happy."
"Like what?" she couldn't think, she was so scared.
"Ahh, Your son, think about his little face. Think about things that make you feel good, hitting on weaker people such as me." She smiled. "You never told us his name."
"Now think about Scot, forget about the rabbits and think about Scot." Buffy smiled when she saw this, he really did love her. She could see it. it seemed like he felt her pain, she would help get them together, no matter what.
When the hour passed William came back in and unlocked the cage. Anya fell onto the ground near William, he felt bad. But he would never go against his father, the girls knew that. This time Anya wouldn't forgive him, not ever. She stood shaking, looking him into the eye, and spit. "If you even think about touching me or trying to apologize I'll beat the living shit out of you. I did it before I can do it again."
"I was ten, weak and couldn't fight, I can now." He turned on his heels and walked out of the tent. She turned to see Xander and smiled.
"Thank you." He moved closer and kissed her on the lips, she didn't try to stop it either. She kissed him right back.
Tara and Willow sat in the cavern behind the waterfall, sharing stories and laughing about Willow's dreams when she was younger. It was getting darker, and they knew it would get cold really quickly. "We should make a fire."
"We'll be seen." Willow said shaking her head.
"Not if we go deeper into the cavern, if we don't make a fire we'll freeze to death." Tara smiled, collecting some of the dried wood that fell into the cave. "Willow, can I ask you a question?"
"Did you worry about me?" Tara blushed as Willow walked to her. "Cause I worried about you."
"Every second." Tara lowered her head in embarrassment, Willow lifted her chin. "Don't do that. That face deserves to be shown." She kissed Tara's cheek.
"What is this feeling, that I'm feeling right now?" Willow shrugged.
"Explain what it feels like."
"It feels like my head is soaring, that everything makes perfect sense but it doesn't. My knees are weak, and my arms feel heavy. My whole world has meaning, and I think..." Tara sighed looking into willow's eye. "...I think I like you Willow Rosenberg." Willow moved to her now kissing her lips, passion struck and it was no longer just Willow kissing, but Tara as well. "Wow."
"I don't think I've ever felt this way before." Willow smiled caressing Tara's face. "Well, that's a given, since I never loved at all before." They laughed once again, kissing one more time.
"I just don't think I could... Tara its just makes me so upset to think about being with someone else. Daniel was my world, but he broke my heart. But I can't help think that all these feeling are because I want revenge, or if they are true feelings." Tara looked into Willow's eyes that started to tear up. "I don't want you to be a rebound. I want to make sure this is for real before I jump into anything. Do you understand?"
"I do." But Tara didn't care she kissed Willow again and this time Willow couldn't stop.
The sounds of owls filled the night outside the cavern, crickets and frogs making the night their own musical performance. The water became the background as each drop hit the lake below. Inside the cave more rivers flowed as Willow and Tara lay on a blanket made of fur, holding each other's naked bodies, kissing as if it were the end of the world. Hands gliding urgently up and down each other's torsos.
The worlds seem to connect as hands slipped to forbidden parts, hips bumping and grinding holding each other close. Their lips connected and Willow knew, she knew this was love. She had never, not even with Daniel felt such a connection. Never.
They lay in the sweet afterglow, kissing and holding onto each other. The blanket wrapping them into a lovers' embrace into the perfect night.
It burns in the soul, the passion burns like a fever. The passion she felt was something she had no concept of before. She could only imagine, not even with Daniel was there this much chemistry. They were married young, she was eighteen and Daniel was twenty. It was just after Willow and Daniel's high school graduation. But Willow avoided the conversation of children at all cost, not wanting to be like her parents. Work came first, she tried to get Daniel to understand. She wasn't ready to be a Mom, she was only twenty-one. Best in her field she wasn't ready to settle down, and be a Mom who would hardly be around for a new baby. But now Willow knew, what that other aching feeling was. That sense of unfulfillment she always had when with Daniel. Now the sense was gone.
"Tara?" Willow kissed Tara's cheek to wake her, who then turned and smiled up at the red head.
"I'm just confused." Tara sat up with the blanket wrapped around her. Willow brushed the fallen strains of hair from her love's face.
"Me too, but I think this will work out." Willow stood finding her clothes around the cave.
"I just mean, what if I can't rescue you from your father? What if I fail you, I'll blame myself." Tara started moving towards Willow. As she reached Willow Tara dropped the Blanket. "Tara?"
"Willow I need you to understand." Tara bent down and retrieved her own underwear that was tossed aside. "I feel something, something amazing and I know you feel it too." Willow slipped on her pants and Tara placed a hand on her shoulder, turning her around. "Willow?"
"Tara..." Tara's eyes were pleading, she could see it. She needed it, Tara's mouth got closer to Willow's, waiting for her answer. Closer their breaths connecting, intertwining. "...I felt it too." Willow's lips connected with Tara and they shared another kiss.
"Freeze!" Willow and Tara froze just as they finished placing their clothes on. It was William and Mr. Giles. "Ahh, looks like we finally found you."
"You can't have her, Back off!" Willow stood in front of her, protecting her.
"On the contrary Ms. Rosenberg."
"That's Mrs. Rosenberg, get it right!" Mr. Giles was confused, his records never said anything about being married. "You've all been doing that. It's Willow Danielle Rosenberg-Osbourne!"
"Very well, Mrs. Rosenberg. She is what we came for, and of course you. It still is William's job to protect you, now come along." Willow and Tara backed further into the cave, William and Mr.Giles followed slowly. "Freeze!" But they didn't, Willow and Tara were off like a shot. William was right on their trail. There was no escape.
Back at the camp, Faith and Xander sat drinking a few beers with Buffy and Anya. Their guns were taken away from them, and ordered to be watched. They had no authority. Anya in a way didn't care, since Xander kept winking in her direction long with Anya smiling sheepishly in his direction. Buffy caught on, a while ago, trying to talk sense into her older sister. "Anya go to him."
"What are you talking about?" Anya flipped through the pages of this medical magazine.
"An, you love him. I can see it in your eyes, talk to the man." She pulled Buffy down next to her, making sure her focus was on the magazine. "An, what are you doing?"
"I like him OK, but he doesn't need to know that. I just don't want to be hurt again. I can't take another break up." Buffy smiled playing along pointing as she talked.
"An, he's crazy about you. I could tell the moment he ran by your side when you were in the cage o' bunnies. No other man would do that." She smiled pointing one more time. "He knows things that you have never told anyone else before. You've got the bug bad, and I suggest you do something about it." Buffy winked walking away.
"Hey Buffy, one more question." She walked back over and leaned in close. "What about you and Dr. Bunny over there?" Anya smiled nudging her, Buffy shook her head and walked away. Anya quick on her tail. "Don't be judging me when you're in the same boat!" All heads turned to the two ex-bodyguards.
"Anya back off all right, I just don't think..."
"I'm telling her."
"You do I'm telling him." Buffy countered. Both sisters were at a standoff.
Willow was running short of breath, she was slowing Tara down. She didn't want to be responsible for Tara's capture. "I should give myself up, tell Tara to keep going without me, but no then I'll feel bad and I know she will feel lonely. Then I will try to escape and find her and get eaten by a wild animal. I miss her snuggles already. Tara noticed much brain activity from her love and stopped.
"We should keep going." Willow interjected, Tara shook her head.
"What's running through your mind?"
"What are you talking about?" Willow knew what she was talking about, but playing dumb wasn't going to work. "Nothing was running though my mind."
"Willow, don't lie to me, what's going on?"
"I think I'm slowing you down. You should go and I will stay here and lead him off your trail." Tara shook her head, but Willow tried to pled. "Nothing will happen to me, now go. Before they find us." Tara still shook her head. "No, Tara go. I won't let that man get a hold of you. I want you to run, hide deep in the jungle and don't look back. I won't take no for an answer!" Tara was shook her head, Willow had to clasp her hand to stop it. "I love you, but I won't let any bad happen. I love you Tara." Willow used those words, but in a way she never meant it. She never understood until now.
"Willow?" Willow wiped Tara's tears, then Tara heard some rustling in the near by. "I love you too." Then she ran finding the nearest tree, Willow watched until she couldn't see her love anymore, she turned. The last thing she saw was the end of a rifle hitting her. Then everything went black.
In the water of her mind she feels lost, her love so far...
"Wake up bitch!" Willow felt something hard come across her bruised face. She winced and opened her eyes. Mr. Giles was standing over her, billy club in hand. But the voice was William's. "Where is the girl?"
"What girl?" Willow just smiled, he would get nothing out of her. But Mr.Giles wasn't impressed. He sat next to Willow pressing his elbow into her chest. "You'll...get...nothing...out...of...me." she said breathlessly.
"My father isn't a very patient man Mrs. Rosenberg-Osbourne." The pressure increased, she felt the pain rise. "Tell us what you know."
"The...truth...is..." He released the pressure on Willow's chest. "I know nothing, I told her to run. That I was slowing her down, the last time I saw her was right before someone hit me." Mr. Giles could tell she was telling the truth. He pulled William to the side.
"She's telling the truth, throw her into the tent with the others. We have one more night to find Tara or Mr. Maclay will have our heads." Mr. Giles pointed to Willow and William dragged her to the tent where the others were. Tossing her inside Xander ran to her side and knelt down helping willow to sit.
"I'm all right, and Tara's safe." Buffy smiled helping, Xander to get Willow onto a cot. "So what are you to doing in here?" Buffy and Anya explained everything from the bunnies to the drowning. Willow apologized over and over. She felt terrible.
"It's OK Willow, we brought it on ourselves. As long as none of this went in vain." Buffy walked over to the tent flaps opening them. She saw William and her father riding back into the forest, with almost every man they had. They needed to find Tara that badly, Buffy knew this meant her father was desperate. "OK we need a plan to-" Willow shook her head.
"We just wait, there is nothing more we can do." Willow laid to rest, her head throbbed with pain.
Tara rested in a tree, crying over the loss of her love. She loved Willow. She could say it all day/ Love love love love willow! But she would never again know that love. She was on the run now. These men looking for her, making her a target, their prey.
She was could hear the trucks rumble in the distance. She had to move. She went to run but something stopped her. Her heart, she needed Willow. She debated, something telling her to run, something else telling her to stay. She could hear the trucks get closer and her mind raced. What would she tell willow? Her only chance was to run, if she wanted a chance. Just as the truck pulled up she was already high in the trees leaving the scene. "Catch me if you ca..." All of a sudden something landed on Tara, she lost her footing and started to fall the ground. "What the?"
"It's a net, something to hold you." Mr .Giles smiled and spoke into the radio, "Call Mr. Maclay. Tell him we have his daughter." Mr. Giles knelt down and just smiled. "Time to go home." Mr.Giles placed a hand on Tara's head and scuffed her hair about. That was it, she would return home.
She was taken through the jungle back towards the camp where she was held in captive. Scared and unsure, she shook as tears streamed down her face. Where was Willow? She looked around and saw the smiling faces of the armed Guards and the frowns that line the faces of Willow's workers. She felt helpless and weak, she needed to escape. Her Will was gone, everything she ran away from was here and she wasn't going back no matter what. Finally she had a burst of hope and shouted, "Let me out!" She banged the cage back a forth, almost knocking it over, William knelt down and faced her.
"Keep it up and your little bird will meet a timely end." Tara felt her heart sink, she knew he was talking about Willow, how much did he see? She settled down, but her heart rose as soon as she saw Willow rushing out of the tent, the Guards stopped her of course. "Keep the bird back!"
"Tara!" Willow punched the guard but before she could run the other grabbed her. "Let go of me, let her go!"
"Mr. Bills take Mrs. Rosenberg-Obsbourne back into the tent!" Mr. Giles waved the man on and the guard pushed her back inside. Willow fell with a thud against Xander knocking him down. She grew angry, she needed to save Tara. She headed for the exit but before she could leave Xander grabbed her hand.
"Willow don't, we've lost. Tara has to go back with her family, get fixed up and maybe even leave her father when she is-"
"No, Xander, Her father is a mean son of a bitch! He's going to hurt her, I feel it. I need to help her, Xander let me go!' She kicked him but he just pulled her closer and held her. Willow collapsed in his arms crying she didn't want anything bad to happen to Tara.
"Willow I've never seen you this worked up, everything will be all right."
"Yea Wills, everything will be great you'll see." Faith kissed the redhead's cheek. Anya and Buffy knew how Tara felt. Their father had threatened them more then once and tried to kill William once or twice.
"We'll help if we can." Anya smiled nudging Buffy, just as that was said, Mr. Giles and William walked into the tent. Mr. Giles stared at Buffy and Anya with disappointment, but then something crossed his heart, he loved his girls and sometimes he didn't mean to be evil. It just came naturally. "Father?"
"I've decided to give you one more chance, help load Tara into the helicopter." As the girls were about to leave Mr. Giles stopped them. "O and if you fail again, I will be very disappointed." The girls shook, they knew what he meant by that.
Tara sat crying in the corner of the helicopter. She was handcuffed for the personal safety of others. She was shaking the thought of her near her father scared her, she needed to be safe. Just then Buffy and Anya sat next to her placing a hand. "I know you're scared, and I am so sorry we can't get you out of here." Buffy kissed Tara's forehead, Tara just nodded. She understood, more then anyone, she understood.
The trip was going to be a long one, and Willow watched as Tara was taken away. The plane took off and she along with her friends were escorted back to the States, jobless and sad to see the one they cared for gone. But Willow wasn't out of the water yet, she knew home would be different, obstacles to overcome, a divorce to settle. She was never really happy, never truly happy. But she would be now, well sort of.
Their helicopter left shortly after with everything backed and ready to go. Willow, Xander, and Faith headed back to home.
Willow packed her things. She had been home for three weeks and already it seemed like forever. She applied for a new job and of course was completely honest why she had lost her last job. Her boss was an idiot, and she helped his daughter escape once again because she didn't want to go home. Some liked her, others found her to be a complete psycho. But she did get on real well with this other businesswoman, the Maclays' biggest rival.
Ms. Chase was a woman of wealth and power. She represented everything a woman should be in the year 2005 and she wasn't about to stop. She was Businesswoman of the Year in 2002 and runner-up in 2004. Her pride was of course her old modeling career which she mentioned from time to time.
In high school Cordelia was known to be ditsy and well an all-around bitch to those who crossed her path. Popular but quirky, she loved all who of course loved her in return. She even dated Xander. Willow always hated Cordelia but she figured that the past was the past, she couldn't possibly hate Cordelia anymore. "Willow!" Cordelia smiled hugging her, Willow was now scared.
"It's been years. I heard about you being fired and I knew I had to hire you." She walked Willow into her office. "So what have you been up to?"
"Besides getting fired, my husband's cheating on me, so I'm getting a divorce..." Willow smiled sitting down on the red seat offered to her. "...everything's just peachy." Cordy shook her head and offered Willow a glass of scotch. "Thanks."
"Willow I know in high school we didn't get along. Hell I was a jerk, an ass. But you're brilliant and funny, and witty. I could use you on the team, what do you say?" Willow finished her scotch and smiled. She was ready. How hard could working for Cordy be?
"One condition my team is also hired."
"Who's that?" Willow smiled pointed to a picture on her desk. Cordy smiled. "Xander?"
"Yep he's my right arm, do you remember his sister?"
"Yea short geeky girl with glasses, always annoyed people?" Willow nodded, Cordy raised her eyebrows, and just a smile came on her face. "All right, deal."
The next few weeks were tough on willow and her gang, but they helped Cordy and her team. During this time, Willow devoted herself to researching the background of the Maclays. Just in case.
"Hank I still can't believe you fired our best workers!"
"We don't need them, we've got our whole team. And don't raise your voice at me, I don't care if you are my sister!"
"Hank without them we will fall. Plus Cordelia Chase has them how. She's going to pull ahead, and we're going to lose our shirts."
Willow, Xander, and Faith's new apartment looked really good. After getting an advance on payment they bought furniture and of course food. Everything was going very well. But Willow still felt empty. Nothing was the same when she missed Tara. "Hey Wills, we have to go by the Maclays to get stuff, with escorts of course. Let's go." Willow reluctantly got up and headed for the door with Xander and Faith. It was time for the inevitable.
The car ride was silent and Xander could feel what Willow was thinking.. But he wouldn't say anything not yet. As they pulled up to their old building. There was Mrs. Sandra Dugan (Maclay), who hugged all three of them and escorted the gang to their old workroom. As they walked through they were greeted with hugs and of course "I miss you"s. As they started to pack up Sandra spoke up:
“I'm terribly sorry about Hank. He can be moody as times.”
"No worries Sandy. It's all good, If you personally ever want to talk and do stuff don't hesitate to call." Xander knew he was out of line by kissing Sandra on the lips, but hey she couldn't fire him anymore. "Hehe, I waited three years to do that." Sandra blushed and exited quickly.
"Alexander Harris, she is a married women!" Faith hit his arm, Sandra got married a few days after The group left for Peru. So they found out, thanks to a call from a source.
"It was just as kiss, what could be the worst thing to happen?"
A few days later Xander lay in an alley behind a bar called Smokey Johnson's holding his stomach. Blood gushed from his mouth. Everything was spinning and it wasn't the whiskeys he had had either. Three men came out of no where and beat the living shit out of him. "Ever touch my wife again dirt bag, I'll kill you. I make over two-fifty K a year, alone. I have two homes and a wife, three kids. And if you ever step in the way of that again I'll make sure you disappear!" One more kick to the face knocked Xander out, he lay on the cold street bleeding and unconscious.
An hour later Xander woke still in the same puddle as before, his head throbbed and he could hardly see. He needed to get home. "Memo to me, don't kiss the ex-boss." Xander struggled to his feet and pulled out his cell phone. "Wills, pick me up at Smokey's please...I'll explain when you get here." Xander sat on a bench in front of the club, holding his side.
"Xander O my God what happened?"
"Three guys, attacked me. Faith was right I shouldn't kiss married women."
"What did you do?"
"Weren't you listening I kissed a married women." Willow shook her head, helping Xander into the car.
"You're a class act, Xander Harris." Xander laughter stopped, since his ribs told him to, they drove back in silence. Neither wanted to say anything in what had been a long night.
Tara Maclay sat in her old room, looking at the toys that collected dust over the years. Her Barbie and Ken dolls, her books, her stuffed animal Madison the Hippo. She missed them all. Even her little Mermaid Bed. But she wanted out, without her mother there, nothing would be the same. She curled up into a little ball to rest. Her father was away on business and she was grateful for that. So when he did get home she didn't want to be asleep because the bed wouldn't be safe.
Later that night an angry Hank Maclay staggered into the moonlit room of his daughter. He saw a figure laying on his daughter bed and moved forward, ripping the sheets off, revealing nothing but stuffed animals. He searched the room frantically, and finally he saw a little light coming from the closet so he walked over quietly and pulled back the door. Tara lay on the floor sleeping under blankets holding Madison the Hippo. "Tara Maclay?" Her father's voice was Gentle at first then... "TARA!" She jumped to her feet fear stuck her.
"Sir." She said shaky.
"I've missed you." She was shocked but gave a smiled. "What are you doing in here?" she looked down in sadness.
"H-hiding s-sir." He took her by the hand and led her to her bed.
"Sleep here for the night. I have things to talk to you about." He kissed her cheek and exited the room, leaving Tara stunned.
Tara awoke refreshed with a woman staring at her, tears in her eyes. "Auntie?" She smiled as the woman wrapped her arms around her. She hugged back and accepted the kisses she received. "I missed you."
"Tara. You look so much like your mother."
"What happened to Mom?" Tara looked up hopeful, Sandra shrugged. No one knew, but she had a suspicion that her brother had something to do with it. Yet she wouldn't dare mention it fearing Hank might deal out death.
"No one knows baby girl, she just disappeared one day. Now come on, let's get you dressed for breakfast."
The smell was wonderful. Eggs and toast, with pancakes made with maple syrup mixed into the batter, just like Mom used to make them. 'Why is dad doing this?' Tara thought. She couldn't believe it. 'Maybe it's my last meal, he's going to finish what he started years ago.' Tara gulped and went to leave for her room, but her aunt was there.
"Tara, come on your father is waiting."
"Aunt Sandy, dad is..."
"I know come on." She pushed Tara along, down the familiar halls and corridors she used to run through as a child. But walking these halls always made her nervous, especially when her father was nice to her. It sent chills down her spine just imagining what he was up to. But she would be strong. She entered into the breakfast hall to see her father reading the morning paper, occasionally sipping his coffee, and Donny. What she feared the most.
"Tara is it really you?" She was shocked when she saw tears in his eyes, so she ducked her head and nodded slowly. His smile illuminated and he walked to her slowly tracing his hand on her cheek making sure she was real. "I missed you." And he hugged her. This was a surprise. Donny had always hated her. Or so she thought.
"Come on Donny, let Tara eat her breakfast." Hank Maclay motioned to the table and she took a seat. "Sandra would you like to stay for breakfast?"
"No, you need catching up time, call if you need me." She smiled and exited the building. Donny watched as Sandra left the house, and turned nodding when she cleared Hank's Gate. Tara felt unsafe now. She had hoped her aunt would stay for at least a while, but her hopes were smashed. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Donny. His smile was no longer a smile but a frown.
"You ran away, why?"
"Cause she is just like her mother, arrogant, stubborn women." Tara looked into her father's eyes, they were cold. "You know I waited years to get you back. To tell you and to teach you why we don't do things-"
"I won't let you hurt me!" Tara stood knocking Donny down, she ran to the door and paused. "I fought, soldiers, jaguars, and other wild animals all my life." She smiled a smug smile. "I am stronger then you'll ever be so..."She thought of a word, that her father used to use a lot "...so fuck off!" The she headed for the gate, the alarm sounded as she exited the house. She would be hunted and she knew she would be.
She jumped onto the gate climbing with all her might. She was running on pure fear. She could hear the jeep starting, that familiar engine. Someone was coming after her, but she couldn't think of that right now. So she ran faster into the family's private forest, as fast as her legs could carry her.
All of a sudden she felt a sharp pain in her back she stopped and felt her back where the pain surged. She pulled out a small dart, she knew what dart it was. "Mr. Giles?" She turned and saw William and Mr. Giles with smiles on their faces. She walked towards them as her vision was beginning to blur. "Why?"
"It's our new job luv, now rest." William seemed gentle now, something Tara wasn't use to seeing. She tried to swing but landed into William's arms, she blacked out.
In a large research facility Willow, Xander, and Faith were going through their next proposal. But Willow's mind wandered, as thoughts of Tara kept barraging her. She couldn't help it. Noticing her behavior, Xander and Faith began talking privately.
"She's out of it. She won't hear a word." Xander smiled, holding out a piece of paper. "Now go deliver this, I will tell her I dismissed it cause she wasn't paying attention."
"Come on Bro, she isn't going to like this idea. You know she hates..."
"Faith, just do it please." Faith nodded and Exited without further disagreement.
It was Willow's twenty-first birthday tomorrow and Xander wanted everything perfect, nothing would go wrong. Party down at the Moonlight Cafe, which was Willow's favorite place to get mochas. Plus all her friends would be there: Faith, Cordy, Andrew, Angel, Samantha, and even Amy. Plus more. In their hometown of Los Angeles, California. They invited all of Willow's old friends, Xander even rented out The cafe so they could have it all to themselves.
"Earth to Xander, what happened to the meeting?" Xander rubbed his arm where Willow had hit him
"You were spaced out just like I was, so I sent Faith out to do some stuff." Xander smiled nudging Willow. "Thinking about Tara again?" Willow just nodded and Xander kissed Willow's forehead. "Also don't forget, little group get together tomorrow. Turning twenty-one is a big deal."
"Not that big of deal, just be able to drink whenever I want, legally. Party hard...OK it's a big deal." Willow smiled grabbing her sweater. "Well, I'm heading home, if I get any calls..."Xander just shook his head pointing to the door. "All right see you tomorrow."
At the Moonlight Cafe next night, the group was still there waiting for Willow to show up. Xander was on his way, so he said.
"Come on Willow, or we won't get our table!" Xander knocked once again on Willow's bedroom door. She was still trying to get her shoes to match her dress. "Willow, are you decent?"
"Yes, I'm ready." Willow opened the door. She was in an emerald green dress with open back with her hair was in a French braid and her lips covered in a light red Lipstick. Her golden earrings had red diamonds which were given to her by her grandmother. Xander was in heaven. "What?"
"God Wills you look drop dead gorgeous." Xander kissed his friend's cheek, and then the clock struck seven. "Let's go!" As soon as she grabbed her purse, Xander was tugging her out the door.
They drove down the streets blasting Kiss 108, playing Kelly Clarkson's ‘Since U Been Gone,' to which Willow unfortunately sang along.
Here's the thing, we started out friends
Your dedicated, you took the time
An all you ever hear me say
But since you been gone
How can I put it, you put me on
How come I'd never hear you say
But since you been gone
You had your chance, you blew it
Since you been gone
I can breathe for the first time
Since you been gone
Just as the song ended they pulled up to The Moonlight cafe. Xander extended his arm to the birthday girl who laughed but took it. "Surprise!" The room rang out. Willow stood in amazement as she realized what was going on, she turned to her best friend and hugged him tightly.
"Happy birthday Willow!"
"You guys are the best, Samantha?" Her long time friend from junior high tapped her shoulder. Willow's eyes glowed. Then came Meme also known as Martha. "Meme!" She turned back to Xander. "Harris you planned this didn't you?" She gave him a stern look, then she laughed wrapping her arms around him again.
"Come on Will, let's give you your first legal drink!" Jack wrapped his arms around her from behind. Then came Alex, Willow was in heaven. Jack was Willow's gay friend in junior high, the only boy who knew he was gay in the fifth grade.
"So do you have a special friend yet?" Willow asked as she sat next to Jack on a stool.
"As if girl, I'm a free spirit. Fuck'em and well fuck'em again." Willow couldn't help but laugh.
"So girl what is the first thing you're going to try tonight?" Samantha wrapped her arms around her friend.
So the night went on and Willow drank, it reminded her about everything, memories of Tara. Her desire to be near her all the time. As a solution, every time she thought of Tara she threw back another shot of scotch like that night in the jungle. Of course the first one drunk was Willow, but not only her but Meme, and Samantha. The three laughed at nothing and then Samantha came up with something that would rock the night. "Willow, Karaoke!" Meme yelled dragging Willow and Samantha along. They decided to sing Spice Girls:
Candle light and soul forever,
I need some love like I never needed love before,
The three girls sang with all their might, drunk or not they were always out of tune. But tonight they didn't care. It was a party night and Willow wasn't going to let anything spoil it.
Silly games that you two were playing,
Are you as good as I remember baby,
I need some love like I never needed love before,
Be a little bit wiser baby, put it on, put it on,
I need some love like I never needed love before,
It's the only way to be.
After the song the girls laughed, and sat down to chat with the others. It was going to be a long night, and of course karaoke took off and everyone was doing it. Even Xander. "So what do you think?"
"Xander you are unbelievable!" Willow wrapped her arms around him, kissing his cheek.
"That's what I used to say." He turned to see Cordy with a small smile around her face. "In the three weeks you've been working for me I have failed to see you. Have you been avoiding your boss?" She was half in half out of it. She wasn't drunk but she wasn't thinking clearly either.
"No ma'am I was just preparing myself." Xander let out a laugh as Cordy planted a kiss on his cheek.
"Well, I'm off to enjoy the party, talk to you later." She winked and was off, when he turned Willow stared at him in amazement.
"Why weren't you that popular in high school?" Willow laughed. She could remember when no girl asked him out at all. Xander gave a grumble and walked away, making Willow laugh even more.
Time passes so quickly people forget, then they seem to grow older. Things change, and so do people. But everything has a purpose and if Tara opened her eyes more clearly she would see hers.
Tara sat alone in her room listening to CDs she had missed out on, watching movies and educational tapes of forests and their animals. Her father was kind now, she couldn't understand why. How does a man change in a short period of life? He hugged her and kissed her, and she wasn't sure why? But why argue with logic?
Buffy and Anya took her into the backyard of the Maclay estate. Let her run for a while, she couldn't get out if she wanted to anyway. Tara was becoming more like a Maclay lady everyday. Her aunt taught her everything she needed to know, and she learned so quickly that everyone was impressed. "Tara you're even beating out your brother's old scores." Sandra Maclay kissed her niece's forehead.
"When will father allow me to venture out? I won't run away anymore, I like it here now. He's been really kind, why?" Her aunt smiled.
"Your father growing up was diagnosed with Spilt personality. There was Hank your father and then there was Steven. Steven was what caused the abuse, Steven took your mother away from us Tara. He did something to her. Your father wants to find her, but without Steven's help we will never find her, dead or alive." Sandra let a few tears fall, the wiped them away. "Well, we'll let your father tell you the rest, I'll talk to him about it." Then Sandra was gone, and Tara was left alone, did Donny know about this?"
She walked down the hall, and up the stairs. Her brother Donny was getting ready to move out on his own. He couldn't wait to get out of there. Tara knocked on his door and a quick “Come on” was all she heard. "Donny it's me." She smiled at him when she opened the door and he smiled back. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, sit down would you like something to drink?" He pointed to the snack bar. "Let me see your birthday was last Month so if you like I can mix you up something good." She shook her head and sat down. "So what's up?"
"Donny, Aunt Sandra told me about Steven. Why?" Donny's eyes widened and he stood closing the door.
"Tara, dad was going to tell you when you got better adjusted. He didn't want to upset you, he was going to tell you in a few weeks." Donny took Tara by the hand and lead Tara down the hall to Hank's study. "Dad?" He looked up confused and Donny went over and whispered into his ear, Hank's eyes widened.
"Tara come here, I guess I have some explaining to do."
Tara sat next to her father on a chair as he explained his childhood problem. He explained about Steven and what Steven made him do. Once he said Steven wrote him a letter telling him to do something, and if he didn't Steven would harm her Aunt Sandra. The whole family knew about his sickness, knew about everything, but couldn't afford for it to leak out. So they dealt with it. Over the years it was always Steven and never Hank and everyone could tell. Tara had tears in her eyes, she couldn't believe it. "So you see I loved your mother, I never wanted to hurt her and she knew that. She knew it was Steven." Hank placed a hand on his daughter's cheek wiping away her tears.
"But why didn't anyone tell us, so we knew about it?"
"Cause they were afraid, we were going to wait for your eighteenth birthday. But even I couldn't take it anymore, A few years ago I went to see a doctor. A private doctor who described a drug for me. It's all hush, hush." He smiled and handed Tara a chocolate. "Here eat this." She smiled and wrapped her arms around him.
"I'm sorry Dad, I should have never run away." Tara was crying now. She couldn't stop and Hank patted his little girl's back. "We need to find Mom." He stood placing Tara down in a chair. "Dad we need to ask Steven."
"How are we going to do that?"
"I have these friends, who helped me I think..."
"Are you talking about Rosenberg and her friends?" She nodded, walking to her father.
"Please dad, even if Mom is dead. I want to know where she is." Hank wiped away a tear. "Please."
"I will call Mrs. Rosenberg-Osbourne, in the morning." Tara's eyes lit up and she kissed her fathers cheek. "You really care for her, don't you?" Tara nodded.
"I think I liked her father, she was so protective of me." He nodded, and Donny took Tara to her room. That night would be a peaceful one for Tara. At least, she would feel safer.
Hank sat in his chair skimming through old letters. He didn't want Tara to worry anymore. He didn't want her to be scared. But what could he tell her, what could he say to make her understand? "Tara." Hank held a picture of his wife, the one he loved so much in his arms. "What did you do to her?" He looked into the mirror, it was him. But he made it like it was Steven. "What did you do to her, where is my wife?" There was no answer, no solution, no anything. Steven was enslaved by the drug, hidden. So maybe Tara was right that this Willow could help out, or knew someone who could. He needed to hope, and pray that everything would turn out better than what Steven had made of it.
Hank took out a letter and read it;
Hankie, you have become a bothersome threat in my life, I have told you to do one thing...
Then he read another...
That's a good boy Hank, you've done well. Now take your family out and celebrate, on your new occasion. Make sure your wife is wearing something nice, something sexy. I want to relish in it when we get home. O and make sure your children stay at their Aunt Sandra's house, I want nothing to go wrong.
Hank remembered all the letters but there was one he didn't want to read, he would read it with his family. With the others when the time was right. He would have done it and that's why.
Buzz!!!!!! Buzz !!!!! Buzz!!!!!
Willow jumped her head was split in two. "Who the fuck set the alarm?" Willow screeched outside the door, she could hear laughter and someone falling. She fumbled to the door and there was Faith and Xander rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter. "You two are so dead!" Willow attacked them both.
"Aww come on Wills, we had to get you. It happened to me on my twenty-first, and I had to work. You're just lucky we have a cool boss like Cordy." Xander held her against the wall so she couldn't kick him. "Calm down."
"Yea Wills. It was my fault. I reminded him."
"Really?" Just as Willow was about to pounce on Faith the phone rang, Xander quickly ran to answer it.
"Hello." Xander eyes went wide as he heard the other voice over the phone, he smiled but then he looked at Willow and Faith who were equal shocked, they had the other phone to their ears. "Anya, say hello to Willow and Faith."
"It's important. Mr. Maclay would like you to come over today if possible." Xander looked to Willow who nodded, Xander have his answer and hung up the phone.
"Wonder what the old boss wants?" Faith said, shocked.
Later that day Willow, Xander, and Faith were greeted by the Giles family at the front gate. Willow wasn't too happy to see Mr. Giles there, but paid him no attention. She didn't like him and he knew that. He would be as nice as possible, that's what Hank had requested and he wasn't about to make his employer angry. "Welcome, Mr. Maclay is expecting to talk with you." He motioned for them to follow quickly, Xander walked next to Anya. He smiled and Anya tried to hard not to smile back, but couldn't help it.
"Hello Anya, how are you?"
"Good, how...um, have you been?" Anya was obviously nervous but wouldn't stutter. She refused. No man had made her feel this way, well since her husband. This is what she was afraid of.
"Better." She smiled when Xander ran his hand across her cheek for a second before William was there protectively making space between them.
"This way Harris." William pointed. Xander just smiled walking to catch up with willow and faith. William caught up with him. "Touch my sister you wanker, and I'll cut your balls off." William knocked his shoulder into his.
"Don't listen to him, he's a blow hard." Buffy winked in his direction, and moved to open the door.
"This way. Mr. Maclay is waiting." Hank, Donny, and Tara sat in the family room waiting. It would be the first time Tara would see Willow since the jungle. She was nervous.
In a dark cave located in the Eastern Philippines, torches lit the walls. The smell of animal spices and heat of hundreds of glowing candles filled the room where one man was tied to a chair. He sat in the center of a small pentagram and chanted, casting a spell to change one man into what he once was, a monster. A group of young adults in robes chanted along with this lonely man. To make the change complete.
/ We of the selected few, grant the powers to change this man into what he was. To fight the good and to reveal the location of the captured.\
/Unite the moon and the power of the stars, bring forth the gift of transformation. Make this man as once as he was, so we can ask him...\
"You think I will give you the locations? You festering sore!" The words were dry and cold. The hooded figures looked up still chanting never stopping. "Try as you might I will never tell you where she is. Your mother is dead, the whore deserved it. That cunt!" It was painful one of the hooded figures could see it, she could feel the pain. "Ahhh, let me be!"
The incantation was done, and the man collapsed to the floor, as did the hooded figures. One crawled to the caged man and poked its head up. "Father?"
"Daddy...isn't home!" The man lurched foreword grabbing onto warriors hand. As he shook her, the hood fell reveling Tara crying. "You ran away from me, you fucking bitch now you-" all of a sudden something hit Steven upside the head, sending him flying back and releasing Tara. Tara looked up and saw Willow. She stood grabbing onto the girl's neck, holding her tight.
"It's all right, we got Steven back. Now to get him to speak." Willow moved Tara back with Buffy and Anya. "Steven?" The man stood, head bleeding, but still he smiled. "Where is Elizabeth Maclay?" He just laughed, and sat in his circle. "Steven where is she?"
"She's -" Willow started at him. "No, why should I tell you. You're not her daughter. I want to tell Tara and Donny." The two walked forward sat in chairs next to the cage. They knew it wasn't going to be easy, but they would listen no matter what. Donny grabbed Tara hand and they listened as Steven told them. Would it be the truth or just lies? By the time he had finished his story Tara was in tears and Donny was furious. He would find his mothers body, even if it killed him.
"Are you sure he's telling the truth?" Willow asked wiping the tears from Tara's face.
"We're not sure of anything, so that's why we'll keep him here." Donny looked at Willow. "Take Faith, Xander, Buffy, Anya, and Mr. Giles and search here." Donny gave willow a piece of paper which Steven wrote on.
"So these are the clues?" the redhead asked.
"Yes, that's all he would say." Donny kissed his sister cheek. "And don't worry Mr. Giles you will be paid well." Mr. Giles didn't care about the money. These people were like family now. He would of course never admit that, he just smiled and headed for the truck.
"I'm going with you." Tara started for the door.
"No, Tara, what if she's dead? I don't want you to see her like that, stay with your brother." Willow leaned in and kissed Tara's lips, softly, holding her tear stained cheeks in her hands.
"I'm going Willow I have every right, please." She moved Willow's hands away and looked directly into Willow's eyes. "Plus I know my way around the forest. I know where that place is." Mr. Giles came back into the cave.
"If the she knows where it is, it will be easier. Let the girl come."
"Fine, come on."
"I'm coming too then. I don't want to be left alone with him." Donny said following. Faith sighed and walked to the Head elder.
/ Will you be OK with him? We will be back in two weeks. \
/Of course, you go find this woman. But I will ask a favor of you...\
/ What? \
/When you go to the cave in the mountain, beware of a powerful shamaness. She will try to challenge you. Take something away, to make the trip harder. \ Faith nodded and thanked the old man, and went to tell the other of her discoveries.
"A shamaness.?" Anya shook her head, and sighed. "Great."
"I've heard of her when I was living in the forest. But I never ventured near her at all. I was too scared to even challenge her. She has hot springs in the mountains, and grows her own food. She isn't evil just selfish, well not so much as selfish as lonely. I can kind of relate . . . " Willow laughed I guess she had rubbed off on Tara more then she thought, she silenced her love with another kiss.
"You babble bunn - honey." Willow corrected when she saw Anya's stare.
"Yea Willow I guess she learned from the babble master huh?" Xander teased, and of course Willow let him have it right on the arm. "Ow, and I'll say it again Ow."
"Will you two be fighting all the way up?" William said scratching his head. "cause if you are I'll wait here."
"It's called horsing around, dumbness. Leave them alone." Buffy said with a smile, she sat down in the truck and Faith walked up next to her sitting down. "Hello."
"Hey, so are you ready to face the big bad shamaness.?" Buffy gave a little laugh, and a nod.
"So how are you. It's been a while and now that we're on the same side, we can actually be friends."
"Five by five." Buffy laughed. "What?"
"Five by five?"
"Yea it means not good not bad, what's so funny?"
"O nothing, just...never mind."
"Had this friend in junior high, her name was Samantha DuCraft. She was just like you, every aspect." Faith just laughed.
"Do you think I was always like this? All laid back and shit, think again." Faith lit a cigarette. "I was a nerd back in high school, glasses and I was short, never took care of myself. Then senior year came around and my Mom took notice of me. She was like "My little girl, have faith in yourself. Make yourself look beautiful ,wow them." Faith smiled remembering her mother's words. "She was something else, she was a regular beauty. So I decked out, dolled up and on the first day of high school nobody knew who I was."
"She shocked me, I slept over my friend's house that night so I never got a chance to see operation Make-up." Xander smiled over to his sister then pulled out his wallet. "Still have an old picture." Faiths eyes widened.
"I'll kill you."
"O let me see!" Buffy yelled running for Xander.
"No!" But it was too late, and Faith hid her face under the robe she was still wearing.
"O my God, you poor thing." Anya laughed, she couldn't help it. "You know you weren't the only ugly child, Buffy here was a real porker until Father made her go on a diet." Buffy shot up.
"I'll crucify you!" Buffy said trying to grab Anya's wallet.
"She's always so touchy." Anya winked, she thought it was fair. One picture for another. Buffy also curled up into a ball. "See." Faith peered out of her robe and smiled. Now she couldn't help but laugh.
"Anya you're such a bitch!" Buffy moved to the back of the van with Donny.
"O come on, you laughed at her picture. And it wasn't fair that you got to see a picture of her and not the other way around. If it makes you feel any better I'll show my old photo."
"Anya you were one of the popular kids even in Elementary...you have no embarrassing photos!" Mr. Giles laughed, for the first time in a long time. His children were confused. "Dad?"
"You think I don't carry embarrassing photos of all my children around with me?" All three children's eyes widened. "I have a bunch of William, Buffy and even you little Anya."
"Dad you wouldn't, please tell me you didn't." Anya shook her head, this was embarrassing.
"This is Anya at thirteen when she had her first pimple."
"God, dad, this is so embarrassing." Anya ducked her head. For Most of the trip Faith, Xander, Willow, Tara, and Donny had exciting storied to listen to on the way to the Maclays' private plane. Buffy, Anya, and William, all frightfully embarrassed, hid in the back of the bus
The plane ride was great. Everyone was so quiet, and sleeping. Tara couldn't sleep, she couldn't think about anything but finding her mother's remains. She could feel it. She knew her mother was gone. It was an awful feeling since she had always loved her mother, even when she had run away. ‘O Mom I'm sorry I left you alone with him. I'm sorry I should have stayed by your side. If I wasn't so afraid, I would have been there to make it all OK.' Tara started to cry, she couldn't help it, the Maclay plane was sectioned off into three classes, the last of which Tara ran to. Not being able to take it anymore she wanted to die, she needed to be with her mother. Tara's mind was racing, but then she came to a conclusion. "What if she isn't dead?" She smiled and sat in one of the chairs.
"Hey blue eyes." Tara jumped, her first reaction was fighting stance until her eyes met with green emeralds that sparkled and shined. "You went away and I didn't know what happened." Willow noticed the tearstains on the face of her love. "What's wrong?"
"O Willow..." Tara flung her arms around her holding her close. "...What if she's dead, I don't think I could take it. She was my everything, she was my mother. When I was little she used to sing me to sleep, and we said our secret prayers. Cause if dad... I mean Steven found out he would be very angry. She held me sometimes when I had had a bad dream, and kissed my cheek and told me the goddess would always protect me from harm." Tara moved away looking out into the sky, the moon made her glow and Willow knew she couldn't be more stricken with love. "When I ran away I was more scared, because there was no one to hold me tight or sing to me. I hummed our song and said my own prayers, but nothing soothed me. Until one night..." She smiled, she remembered a native woman, coming up into the cave for shelter. "Mandisa, the meaning for sweet. She was my care taker for five years, taught me everything that I needed to know to survive the forest. I lived in her tribe for five years until I was old enough to go on my own. She was my very first friend in the jungle." Willow now stood by the smiling Tara.
"She sounds like a very nice lady."
"Ahh she was."
"Mandisa died a few years later, she was an old woman. One of the warriors from the tribe found me and took me to see her before she died. I got there and she was on her last breath, but I kissed her cheek and told her thank you. Even after she was gone, I talked to her. I knew she could hear me." Tara smiled. "I think the tribe knew that custom as well, they talked to her as well. We all said our goodbyes to Mandisa. She was like a second mom to me." Tara moved to a seat and willow followed, Tara rested her head on Willow's shoulder.
"Tell me more about your life. I'd love to hear more." Willow kissed the top of Tara's head, she sat up and smiled to Willow.
"You want to know more about me?"
"Yea hello, didn't I just ask that?" This made Tara smile when Willow did the crazy eyes, popping her eyes out.
"My mom used to do that." Willow looked into Tara's eyes and finally Tara couldn't take it anymore. She leaned in and kissed Willow. They didn't know how long they sat kissing - minutes, seconds, hours - everything was a blur when their lips parted. "Willow?"
"Shh." Willow's hand slid down Tara's back pulling her closer, kissing her neck, finding her pulse point and running her tongue up and down the soft flesh. Tara let out a small moan and knew she needed Willow to touch her more, make her feel more. she needed to loved and made love to.
"Willow I need more."
"Are you sure?"
"Are you?" Tara smiled and let out a purr, she stood taking a blanket from the supply and laying it on the floor. Willow watched as Tara grabbed a few more and placed them around. She motioned for willow to meet her, but Willow quickly became nervous, shuffling tentatively forward. Willow knelt down and Tara leaned in bring there lips together, and it was like magic. Their hands did the rest, sliding clothes and cupping flesh.
Willow quickly took over laying Tara down, kissing her neck, and running her hands over her milky white skin. Willow trembled when Tara's hand slide to Willow's sex. A small moan left her lips and that made Tara smile, until Willow's hand also descended. "Ahhh, Willow!"
"Willow, don't stop please!" Willow and Tara's hips moved against each other as waves of pleasure over and over their heads spin. "Ahhh, more please."
"Greedy little girls don't get what they want." Willow gave an evil smile, but Tara turned it right around when her hand stopped motion. "Hey Indian giver, it's not nice to take presents away."
"It's not nice to call people names either." Tara smiled and her hand slipped back into place. The moonlight filtered through the airplane window making the two naked bodies glow, the goddess was blessing them. She was telling them she loved them both and she would bless them and protect them.
Then as a flash of light Willow and Tara both shuddered as one orgasm rocked through their bodies. And as they came back down, Willow grabbed the blanket covered her and Tara, refusing to let go.
The next morning they plane had already landed on the air strip. The first to wake was Mr. Giles, Buffy, Anya, and William. Everyone else was still fast asleep. Buffy noticed Willow and Tara were missing, she would find them. "Be back, we're missing two." She smiled and checked each flight class, until she got to coach and there when she opened the curtain was Willow and Tara wrapped in a blanket, holding onto each other. Buffy didn't want to wake them but knew she better before they had more the one pair of eyes. "Willow, Tara time to get up." There was a grumble, from Willow and a giggle from Tara. "Hello."
"Been awake long?" Buffy asked Tara, she stretched and nodded her head yes.
"Since sunrise, I love to watch her sleep. It's cute how she curls her nose, and scrunches her face when she has a dream."
"Oh no the bunnies. Anya rubbed off on her." Buffy let a giggle out before she started for the exit. "Better get dressed before everyone comes back here." Buffy winked and exited.
"Willow come on, we have to get up." Tara kissed Willow's face until two green eyes were staring into blue oceans. "Hi."
"Come on let's get dressed." Willow grumbled and stood trying to find her underwear.
"I guess it's true."
"It's always hard to find underwear in the back-seat of anywhere." Willow smiled as Tara threw Willow's underwear at her. "Holding my underwear hostage?"
"Yea but it wouldn't talk so I threw it back." Tara kissed Willow cheek and slipped her own underwear on.
In about five minutes Tara and Willow met everyone outside to discuss the plans. "OK so where do we start?" Buffy asked Tara.
"The cave is south, so we head south. We have a map of the land right?"
"Yea, little girl. You." William pointed out.
"Yes, and this." Buffy pulled out a map. "Did you think I was going to trust coming here without a map?" Buffy scoffed, spreading the map out over the ground. "OK you said south right?" Tara nodded. "OK then, we head south and it looks clear. No water falls, no traps. We're good to go."
"All right group, let's move out." Xander smiled. "Always wanted to say that." The group just groaned and they started to exploration into the jungle.
The travel was harsh and the day grew into afternoon. Everyone was getting hungry, so they set up camp for lunch after which they would move on. It was becoming rather unbearable so before they moved out, the boys thought it would be a great idea to continue shirtless. "Alright before we leave I need to take this shirt of or I'll bake." Xander slid his sweaty shirt off and started rubbing sun screen all over his chest. "Faith give me a hand." She smiled and helped rub lotion on his back. Over on the other side Buffy was helping William do the same, as Anya was helping her father. Tara was helping Donny as well, until she laughed when she slapped him across the back.
"What was that for?"
"Pay back." She kissed his cheek and ran to catch up with Willow.
"Alright are we ready now?" The girls said annoyed.
"Yes." They said in unison. Continuing on for another couple of hours they rested again at a nearby stream. But they didn't dally long and continued only after a little bit, hoping to reach the cave soon. Darkness was coming more quickly now so they were forced to pitch their tents for the night.
"All right I will set my watch to wake us up around 8:00am so we can continue." Mr. Giles set his watch and then gathered food for supper. It was going to be a long night, they could tell. Tara could sense something strange, she didn't know what but something wasn't right.
"There's a strange essence around this place, I don't like it." Everyone looked up from their food, her animal instincts were kicking in. She'd been in the jungle for so long she started to sense when things went wrong. "It's not powerful but it's there."
"It's your imagination Tara, sit and eat." Her brother tried to nudge her but once she growled, he let go.
"Sorry, old habits die hard." she apologized.
"He's right it's probably your imagination, come and eat." She didn't care what anyone said, something was out there watching.
In the brush about thirteen feet away peered three sets of eyes, watching the strangers on the land that wasn't theirs "Who are these people? We must find out. Come let's search." One figure pointed to another who e ran off into the night as the other two watched and smiled. The figure continued to a mountain edge and climbed with all its might.
"So what have you found out?"
"They are strangers, we do not know them. There are nine of them."
"Nine of them. Well my, my, that is a big number. Tell your friends to come back, we will have fun with these trespassers." The woman's voice was cold and harsh, but the creature understood, even if she wasn't speaking his language.
"Yes my queen." Then he was gone quick as he had come, standing on top of the mountain. "We cannot do anymore. Come back and the queen will pursue a new tactic."
That night as the others slept, Tara was wide awake, watching into the night for what she feared was something evil lurking. She wouldn't dare go to sleep, but her eyes felt so heavy, she couldn't help but close them for a second. Soon she was curled up next to Willow.
The morning for our travelers was the time to pack up and move out. The mountain was about ten minutes from where they needed to be, and a goods night sleep would help them defeat or calmly talk to the shamaness.. "Wake up everyone, time to go." Mr. Giles wiggled tents and blew a whistle until every soul was wake and getting ready to move on. "Lazy bunch, the lot of ya, now come on."
"Feels like boot camp all over again." William scratched his head and smiled as he slipped on his pants.
"Yea." Anya laughed.
"You two were in boot camp?" Xander asked nervously.
"Yea I had behavior issues and Anya here had trouble with her temper, tried to kill me she did." Anya smiled kissing William on the cheek.
"But those evil thoughts are out of my mind now."
"Move you asses!" They heard Mr. Giles knew they had better hurry.
"Alright we're coming, Jesus Christ!" Faith was irate now, she couldn't believe how pushy he was being, so early in the morning too.
"Come along, the mountain is only fifteen minutes from here." Everyone looked amazed.
"Then why the hell did you rush us!" Faith was very annoyed. Mr. Giles ignored her as they pressed forward. The fifteen minute trip wasn't actually that long. Five minutes later they stood at the base looking up, Tara got that feeling again.
"I have a feeling we're being watched." Tara moved quietly and grabbed something in the brush flipping it into everyone's view, it was masked. "And see I was right."
"Let me go, let me go, you bastards!"
"Now that's not very nice." Tara said out loud and then whacked him in the head. / Who do you work for?\ she asked.
/ I'm not going to tell you, you'll hit me again! \
/ I won't if you tell me.\
/ How can I trust you?\
/I used to live here in this forest. They called Me Water Lily.\ The man's eyes lit up, and he smiled.
/Yes, Mandisa told everyone about you. I was just a baby when she died. I am Warka, but my English name is Warren.\ He bowed and looked to the others and smiled.
"Tara, can you explain what just happened?" Willow looked terribly confused.
"Willow everyone this is Warka or in other words Warren. He was one of the villagers I told willow about." She turned back to Warren but he was gone. /Warka where did you go?\
/Come, my mistress wishes to speak with all nine of you.\
/The shamaness.\ Warka just kept climbing and this meant the other should start.
"OK who has never rock climbed before?" William asked. The only one who hadn't was Willow. "Someone will show you what to do."
"Well, now I feel like an idiot."
"Don't, I can climb mountain because I lived out here for years." Tara kissed Willow's cheek, and Willow blushed.
"Yea come on Wills, we'll show you how." Xander helped strap Willow up and then told her what to do. Willow quickly got the hang of it and Tara was below her just in case she fell. She waited at the bottom. "Tara aren't you coming?" Xander looked down, Tara shook her head yes but still waited. When Willow got to the top Tara started her climb. She was up in a minute flat. "Merciful Zeus, we could have used you for Project Adventure in high school."
/ Here, this way.\
"He said this way, come on."
The cave smelled like lilacs and honey, and of course everyone thought it to be strange. Tara was unsure about this, something wasn't right about little Warka. He was leading them into a trap, she knew it. But she needed to meet this shamaness woman and set things straight. What she was here for and what she needed more then anything else in the world.
/Hurry, this way.\ Warka yelled.
The group followed and finally they turned and saw a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Warka disappeared into the light and slowly the others followed, uncertain as to what was ahead. "Are you coming?" The woman's voice was gentle, which wrongly reassured Mr. Giles.
/Who are you?\ Tara spoke and held out a hand, she didn't want to enter unless she knew what she was dealing with.
"Ah you speak our language, very good." The woman laughed a bit and then it stopped. "I am what you seek, the shamaness." The others seemed pleased enough and entered.
The room was filled with candles, animal skins, and of course the shamaness. on a throne made of Animal bones and the trunk of a tree. In her hand she held a goblet made from a carved bone. In it was something the others could not figure out. She was wearing clothes of a cheetah's pelt and her necklace was fashioned out of crocodile teeth. Then what the others noticed more than anything were the people bowing around her, like she was a goddess. "I am Dawn, Shamaness of this land." The woman's voice was that of a young woman, but she had power that could have only come with old age. Though the group was unsure of what to make of her, the men were in awe of this shamaness.
"O my." Donny gazed upon this beauty for he could not look away. Neither could William, Xander, or Mr. Giles. Tara smelled the work of a spell, a spell that made all men would fall in love with the shamaness.
"Shamaness., we come to ask permission to search these hills. Years ago a man by Steven Maclay came here with a-"
"I know of the man you speak, but I cannot tell you the location of what you seek." Tara's heart sank.
"Please I will do anything."
"Anything you say?" This intrigued Dawn very much - what she could posses. She remembered this child, when she first entered the Jungle. She sent someone to protect this child from danger. Yes, she knew her now. "You are Water Lilly, aren't you?" Tara blushed and nodded, she couldn't believe it, everyone knew her. "I sent the women to look after you, when you came onto my land."
"I was afraid to enter your land, even to this day."
"Yes, I could sense your hesitation. I'll tell you what Water Lilly, I will tell you the location of what you seek if you can do one thing for me."
"What is that?"
"I am reaching my three-hundredth birthday in two days, at three hundred years I will step down and give the person or creature worthy enough my title. I want you to prove yourself worthy against our best tribe members and inherit the crown from them." Tara's eyes widened. "I want you to take my place as shamaness."
"But I am not worthy, I could never-"
"Yes, you can Water Lilly. I've been watching you." She smiled, standing as the bowing tribe member moved aside and She walked towards the travelers. "Since you have arrived here, even when you jumped into the lake those so many years ago." Tara nodded. "I have seen how brave you were standing up to your father, and I see how much strength it took to bring yourself here today. I know you can beat these tribe members. And it is the only way I will help you find what you are looking for."
"I'll do it!"
"Tara?" Donny walked up to her. She looked at him and shrugged. "That means you won't be coming home."
"What can I do Donny? I need to find Mom. If this is the only way..." She took a deep breath. "Then so be it."
The others were given a place to stay in the cave as Tara was told what to do for the up coming battle. She was more nervous then she knew how to deal with. She sat looking at herself in the mirror, wondering what she could do, how she could win. What her challenges could be. She was going into battle, but the battle moves were new to her. Was she to use magic or physical strength? Was she to use mind to beat these tribe members down? She was so deep in thought she never saw someone enter.
/Hello?\ Still nothing, the girl moved forward placing a hand on her shoulder, Tara jumped. /My name is Darisa, but you can call me Darla. I brought some clothes to wear.\ Tara smiled accepting the gift. /Need any advice?\
/Yes, what is this contest about?\
/First you need to be taught the ways of a shamaness: what makes a great leader. I know the perfect person to help you.\ Darla placed a hand up and headed for the door, minutes later she returned with two others, Warka and Angkl. /Warka and Angkl meet Water Lilly.\
/Me and Warka already met, but it's nice to meet you Angkl.\
/You need to know things, me and my Brother will teach you. Ready to learn the ways?\ Tara nodded nervously, she was scared but she would do her best to win the title.
Faith, Xander, and Willow were bunked together in one room. They were so worried about Tara, especially Willow. She couldn't stop thinking about her, worried that this shamaness was lying about the whole thing. Would she really tell Tara where her Mom was? Or 'would she lie, and just let Tara take her place, or not even that. would she try to kill us all? Or...' But before Willow's babble could continue in her head, Xander was snapping her out of it.
"Come on Wills, Stop mind babbling. Let's get some sleep. Tara will be fine."
"How did you know I was mind babbling?" Xander laughed and tucked himself in. "How did you know?"
"Willow, we grew up together. I know you, you know me. I know your thinking face, babbling face. I know a lot of things. It's just because I know you, plus when you babble your face looks like you're thinking." He laughed as Faith shot him a pillow. "What?"
"Trying to sleep over here."
"Yes, That was embarrassing. My geek picture, Why do you still have that thing?" Faith said in disbelief.
"Cause that's the sister I remember and some of those old geeky genes still pop out once and a while."
In a room down the way Mr. Giles, Buffy, William, Anya, and Donny shared a room. "So what should we do?" Anya asked with concern.
"There is nothing we can do. Tara has to fight this in her own. Let's just hope she wins." Buffy told her sister who was snuggling into bed as she spoke. "It's a test, and Dawn knows what she is doing. So now we have to hope it's not a trap for the shamaness' freedom."
"Bloody brilliant, we could be letting a powerful old creature free into the world? Bobs your uncle were one bean short of a full can." Anya just blinked at her father overly stated phrase.
"You know all my life I never understood one flippin' word you said." Anya just shrugged, and then she turned over and tried to fall asleep.
"Come on tomorrow is going to be a long day. We should just try to get some sleep." Donny came out from the spare room in his pajamas. They all agreed and settled in, trying to get comfy.
Tara spent all night preparing for this mental challenge. She had to be ready for anything. But what Warka and Angkl told her last night shook her, scared her about Dawn. Would she get the same urges as she grew older? She knew this was for her mother, she had to win. So she could find her. Where ever Steven placed her she would find her. In just a few short minutes the games would begin and she would be challenge but one of the tribe members. But who?
"OK I am now officially scared." Tara talked to her friends. They gave her smiles, some hugs and Willow didn't even care anymore who knew, she pulled Tara to her. "Willow what if I-"
"It doesn't matter, I will stay with you." Tara eyes lit up and they both leaned in for a kiss, letting there lips lightly touch. Donny was shocked. As Willow took control nibbling and biting of course Buffy and Faith thought it was cute, everyone else was just either disgusted or shocked. "You will win Tara, ‘cause you are amazing baby." She smiled wiping tears away from Tara's blue eyes.
"I can do this." Tara smiled.
/I have decided to add another players into the game!\ They looked to Dawn, who was smiling. /I've decided to place a few more players in the game, I can feel strength and power.\ Dawn closed her eyes, and smiled. /I have a new game plan.\
"What she saying?" Buffy asked Tara.
"Something about more players, and something about strength and power, she has a new game plan." Tara shrugged.
/ I will be adding the ladies who just arrived. I think it will be interesting to see what they have.\ Tara eyes widened, the others looked confused.
"What?" Willow asked.
"She just said." She gave a laugh. "She's requesting, well not requesting but going to add you women to the battle, she thinks it's interesting." The other girls just laughed and Anya marched forward.
"Whoa there, I didn't say I wanted to be any part of this contest."
"Yea me neither." Faith also looked a little irritated.
"Come on, it will help Tara out. Plus it will be teams, better team wins and the chosen gets to be the new shamaness." Dawn smiled. They knew she was planning something but what could they do but agree?
"We'll do it." Willow walked forward, and others grabbed a hold of her.
"Are you nuts?!" Anya and Faith screamed.
"Come on." Willow looked at them with puppy eyes.
"Aww not fair Wills." Faith nodded after that, as did Anya.
"William does that when he wants to get his way."
/They agree.\ The girls were fitted for the outfits, but Anya wasn't happy. The outfits screamed slut.
"Let the game begin!" Dawn the Shamaness smiled and the contestants came forward. There were five including Tara's team. Three of them were Warka, Angkl, and Darisa. "The first task you need to perform is to retrieve the dragon moss from the dragon's lair in mountain Apera. I will send one team at a time and the one who brings back the most wins, First Angkls team." They bowed and headed for the mountain, scared and shaking.
Tara's team watched them leave as Dawn placed a magical portal. A screen so they could watch what they would be going up against. Tara and her friends sat watching until something caught there attention. It couldn't be, there are no such things as dragons. But what they were seeing was definitely a dragon. Pr was it a magic trick being played by Dawn?
Warka and Angkl pointed to the sky as they were halfway to the mountain, something wasn't right. The dragon was on its way. /DRAGON!\ Warka yelled, his head raced he couldn't believe what he saw. This couldn't be happening. /Shamaness., protect us please?\ But there wasn't a sign that the shamaness had heard his plea so Warka kept climbing hoping to get away safety /Angkl what do we do?\
/Keep climbing, I'll hold it off. Anbuo help me.\ The little tall skinny man with the cowlick hair ran beside Angkl to hold their ground. They would fight the dragon, hopefully without dying.
/No, we can make it, come on! \ Darisa screamed as the dragon swooped. She screamed as it grabbed Angkl. /My Angkl! \ He kept calm closed his eyes and it looked as if he was praying, but then a blast of light shone, blinding the dragon who dropped Angkl to the ground.
/ Lets go, hurry.\
/Angkl you're hurt, we should just go back.\ Darisa said helping him up.
/ Didn't do that for nothing, now let's go.\ They climbed into the cave and when they entered the moss was all around. /OK Grab as much as you can and make sure it's dragon moss. \
/How can you tell? \
/Dragon moss has a red tint to it, regular moss doesn't. Make sure you wear the gloves, if you touch it without them you get sick.\ They collected a bunch of the moss and exited the cave carefully making there way down the mountain as quickly as they could. Just when they thought they were safe the Dragon growled and came out of no where, Darisa jumped dropping her bad for an instant. She could touch it with her hand but she grabbed the bag a managed to save some. /Hurry!\
/Can you use that light thing again? \
/No, it's only good once every charm. So let's go before it grabs me again!\ They ran, jumping over logs and trees and finally they realized what they had to do, fight the dragon. /We have to fight it!\
/No if we get to the boundary it will turn around, we should keep going!\ Warka pointed out that they were almost there another yard or two.
/Fine.\ But just as they were about the run the dragon landed behind them, blocking the six tribe member in the spot. /Shit.\
/What the papaya?\ Anbuo looked into the dragons eyes and almost pissed his pants.
/On the count of three take my bag and run.\
/No, I won't leave you.\ Darisa protested but once Angkl said three, Warka picked her up and was off. The dragon was fixed on Angkl.
/Just as I thought, want a little revenge huh? Well, come on big boy come and get me.\ He ran and the dragon was on him like that, toying with him. Any minute it could have snapped him in two. Angkl could feel the breath on his neck wondering why he wasn't getting his head bitten off. He turned his head quickly and dragon opened his mouth ready but then unexpectedly Angkl turned ducking making the dragon bump his head into a tree. Angkl hid until the coast was clear..
The group returned with a crying Darisa in hand. She yelled cursing Warka's name. But the count was made and it was known that team one brought back four and a quarter bags back. Now it was Tara's team, no one was ready to go. "Are you nuts?!" Anya and Faith yelled.
"What is with the dragon?" Tara asked Dawn, she just smiled and shrugged. "Dragons aren't supposed to be real. He looks a lot real to me!" Tara was angry now, more then she ever was in her life. "Get rid of it, I know you're responsible. Send it back!" Tara's order sent a shocking gasp through the tribe. Dawn's smile went to a fierce glare. "Now!"
"You dare yell me, I am Dawn the Shamaness of this forest. I willed that you as a child be kept safe. That you were taken care of! And you dare bark orders at me? Tara looked frightened now as Dawn's eyes flashed dark colors. Tara felt herself being pulled towards Dawn until a hand wrapped around her neck. "Do as I say or you will never find what you seek!" Tara nodded as did the others. Willow was ready to pounce when Dawn's hand wrapped around Tara's neck., but she remained calm and knew Dawn would do nothing to harm Tara.
/As you wish.\ Tara said coldly and lead the girl out into the forest, They could hear the dragons roar of anger as they trudged through the forest to the mountain. "Fucking bitch."
"Tara!" Buffy exclaimed.
"Sorry, it's just..."
"No, I meant that." She pointed to the dragon who watching them.
"O wonderful." Willow smiled at the dragon who seemed to lick his lips. "Good dragon, you don't want to hurt us."
"Willow." Faith remained perfectly still.
"Yea?" As did Willow.
"Don't talk to the nice dragon."
"I don't think it's going to hurt us." Tara smiled and the dragon laid down rolling over on its tummy. "I think it wants to play, I think that's all it wanted to do." Tara walked closer to the dragon remaining calm and she reached a hand out.
"Tara?" Willow was more then nervous she was frightened.
"It's OK." She placed a hand on the dragon's side rubbing its belly, he liked it. "See." Buffy smiled walking forward. "I think it's just..." Tara had another grinding fear. "...Um you guys notice anything different about this dragon?"
"Just that it looks sma-" Then Willow had a thought. "...By the gods we should be running." Then all of a sudden they heard a loud roar from the front of them, they could see the mother coming toward them. "It wasn't a he, but a she."
"Run!" Anya yelled.
"No, Anya towards the mountain!" Tara pointed to the East. "Come on everyone!" The five ran quickly towards the mountain. Once they were almost there and the mother was no where in sight, Tara opened and underground cavern. "Come on down quickly."
"What in the hell?"
"This will keep us safe and into the base of the mountain once we get a rest." Buffy was beginning to freak out.
"That thing was a dragon, a fucking dragon. I thought it was an illusion to freak out the tribe but nope it's real." Buffy said staring into Tara's eyes. "I am not moving from this spot." Anya quickly nodded, and sat next to Buffy.
"We'll calm down and then we will go. Everything will be OK. I won't let anything happen. I know every underground cavern and part of this wooded area." Tara knelt down to Buffy, and placed a hand on her cheek. "Trust me, you protected me. I will protect you, now let's rest a few minutes and then we'll move on."
Dawn watched from her monitor. Her eyes were dark for a moment then a smile came onto her face. She had not expected Tara to think so quickly, but she knew she had picked the right girl now. She would be a great successor.
They moved through the cavern with Tara leading the way when suddenly they heard a grumble, like right before something collapses. They stopped, listened again and when they realized it was nothing, they moved on. Tara was holding onto Willow's hand, she might be the leader but she was still scared out of her mind.
Reaching the entrance to the mountain, they now entered and they realized it was really cold, now wearing those half-uniforms it seemed ten times. Anya was freezing not used to wearing so little and she cursed her perked up nipples and her goose bumps. "I don't like the look of this cave." Faith said with a shiver, Buffy agreed rather quickly still shaken by the dragon encounter.
"I know but we have to keep going." All of a sudden the floor underneath Buffy and Faith collapsed and they were gone. Tara, Willow, and Anya turned around once they heard a slight scream.
"Faith!" Willow and Anya screaming in unison. They couldn't see anything. everything was black.
"Buffy, Faith Can you hear me!?" Tara yelled down, there was no answer. "Buffy, Faith!"
"We have to go down there, they could be hurt!" Then, like magic the gap closed. The hole was sealed, there was no way down. "NO!" Anya dug with her nails, trying to get to her sister. "Buffy, hold on!"
"Anya don't you get it, it's a test. Dawn is splitting us apart. She wants to see if one of us is worthy enough."
"Yes." Anya shook her head, she couldn't believe this. She had to find away to help Buffy and Faith.
"Worthy, fine I'll show you worthy! You son of a bitch, bring them back you ass fucker!" Tara's eyes widened. Dawn was watching she knew it and at this point she was probably not so happy.
"Anya don't make her angry, come on before she...o shit." All of a sudden a boulder came rolling along from behind of them.
"Jesus Christ what is this, Indian Jones?" Tara pulled her along and just as they reached the next cave the boulder blocked their only way back. "No, we have to go back for them!"
"Anya the only way to help them is to move on. Let's go." Willow nudged her forward wrapping an arm around her. "Nothing bad will happen, I'm sure they're all right."
First one eye opened and then the other. Buffy looked around dazed. Her head was pounding, she couldn't believe this was happening to her. But then her mind flashed her friends? Where are they, are they hurt? She shot up a little too fast which made her head spin even more. "Jesus."
"I don't think he can help us. Finally decided to wake up?" Faith sat with her back against the wall. She was stiff. "I've been sitting here in pain for the last twenty minutes." Buffy stood and walked over to faith. She noticed that Faith was bleeding.
"Where did the blood come from?" Buffy tried to see but couldn't.
"My head, I think."
"Hold still, let me check." Buffy reached around the back of Faith's head and touched something wet. Pulling her hand back she saw the dried and newly drawn blood. "O boy, it's not that bad. But let's wrap it up." Buffy took the backpack given to her and saw that there were three blankets and a she dug deeper, a first aid kit. "Hope they have one of those." She smiled and Faith smiled back. "Come on lie here." Buffy spread one of the blankets on the ground laying Faith on her belly.
"You have any other injuries?"
"My ribs, I think there broken, but I don...Ah!" Buffy pressed on one and confirmed her ribs were broken. "Fuck!"
"Well, there was only one way to really check, now stop being such a big baby. On my fifth mission I was seventeen and I broke my leg, didn't cry once." She lied. "Now let's take care of your wounds."
It was warm and somehow it was bright. Faith and Buffy both found this really weird. Since it was warm and bright it was easier for Buffy to take care of Faith's injuries. Buffy began to wrap Faith's ribs quite tightly until Faith winced in pain and bit on her finger to hold back a scream. What Buffy couldn't understand was how she had fallen without a scratch and Faith had gotten all these injuries? "Buffy?"
"Yea?" Buffy finished wrapping up Faith's head with bandages. Since the cut wasn't that deep, no stitches were needed.
"Thanks." Faith smiled she rested her back against the cavern wall. "Now how do we get out of here?"
"I think for now we should just wait, if no one comes we'll find our own way. Cause as of now I think we should both rest."
"Head still hurts huh?"
"Yea." Buffy smiled taking some Tylenol and sat down next to Faith against the cavern wall. "How're your ribs?"
"Throbbing." Buffy handed some pills to her, which Faith took them without hesitation. "What if we never get out of here?" Buffy turned to her, Faith's eyes were dropping.
"Are you tired?" Faith nodded, but then she shook her head no. "What's wrong, tell me."
"Buffy I don't feel so good." Faith slumping against the wall, passed out. Buffy wasn't sure what was wrong, she checked searched for anything that could cause this. Then she noticed a spider crawling up the wall. It was big, silk black. But what stuck out was the red hour glass on its abdomen.
"Black widow." Buffy moved Faith from the wall and checked her back and saw two bites. "OK hold on Faith." Buffy looked through the first aid kit. Nothing for spider bites, Buffy checked the backpack and still nothing but a few charms. "faith can you hear me?" faith smiled. "You were bitten by a spider, I have to get the poison out of you." Buffy looked around, trying to find something that could be helpful. Anything hollow would do, a reed or a..."Root." Buffy smiled cutting a root with her knife. carrving and cutting the root she made a small hollow tube, leaning down she started to suck the poison out of Faith. Once all the poison that Buffy could get out was gone, she cleaned the wound with alcohol which made Faith wince in pain. "I know it hurts, but shh, it's going to be OK." Faith still looked bad so Buffy wrapped her up in a blanket. "Hold on faith." Buffy rested Faith's head on her lap.
Up above Tara, Willow, and Anya moved on. As of now, no one was looking for the moss, just trying to find a way down to Buffy and Faith. They heard a scream and moved to follow it. Tara was just as worried now, moss be damned. "Come on, where did it come from?" Tara mumbled to herself.
"I bet you don't even know what you're doing." Anya piped up. "I bet they're dying or hurt, and there is nothing we can do about it. I bet..." All of a sudden something hard slapped across Anya's face. It was Willow's hand.
"Calm the fuck down! We'll get no where if you start to freak out. My friend is down as is your sister, so calm the fuck down and let's all work together. So help me God Anya, if you don't, I will leave you here!" Anya lowered her head, one tear escaped. She wiped it away quickly, not wanting to seem weak. She moved on not saying any more.
"Come on this way." Tara pointed to a turn up ahead and just as they thought it couldn't get any worse three women warriors appeared. "You have got to be kidding me."
"We are the three warriors of the cavern, what do you seek?"
Back in the cave of the Shamaness. Dawn, Xander, Mr. Giles, William, and Donny had to be restrained. Trying to run and help the others was against the rules. Ever since Faith and Buffy had fallen into the deep cavern and disappeared from the camera's view, everyone sprang into action. The only women shown were Anya, Willow, and Tara, which made everyone else uneasy and second guess Dawn's motives. "Let us out now!" Donny shook the cage.
"Donny it's useless, all we can do is watch. Watch and wait." Xander sat watching the screen where his best friend and he hoped future girlfriend fought the women warriors. It was no secret the first time he had laid eyes on Anya he was in love. He could sense she felt the same way, but he knew taking things slowly was the best thing for them. Rushing into things would only lead into separation.
"It's your family and friend out there. We should do something."
"What would that be? Break out of these magical bars? Never going to happen, now sit your bleeding arse down." Mr. Giles walked over sitting him down hard.
"Hey you can't do that."
"Boy he could do worse, if you know what's best, you better keep your butt down." Xander knew all about Mr. Giles' past, but he still refused to have a messy death on his hands. Donny gave up as he was told and sat just in time to see Tara wipe some woman warrior ass, the men cheered like it was a football game.
"That's a girl!" William yelled as Anya beat the living shit out of one of the girls and wouldn't stop. "Anya, don't kill her."
Anya with tears in her eyes was beating on an unconscious warrior. Tara and Willow had already tied up their victims so they could move on. Tara moved closer to Anya, pulling her off limp body. "Tara let me go!"
"Anya, she's already out, let it go!" Anya collapsed, She promised she would always protect Buffy. She promised her mother that nothing bad would happen, Tara would see to it. "Come on now, shh." Tara held her for just minutes before she realized what was going on and broke lose to pick up the now moving warrior.
"All right tell me how to get underneath the ground, tell me what's underneath this ground!" Anya raised her fist and the warrior winced back.
"Please no more...it's...not our doing." The woman took a gasp of breath. "It was the..." Then her breathing seized, and she was dead.
"You killed her!" Willow yelled to Anya, moving towards her.
"I didn't kill her." Anya dropped the body.
"She didn't do it, the shamaness did." Tara looked up at the now visible eyes of the shamaness queen. Something was wrong. She could hear laughter. "Where are my friends?"
"Perfectly safe, you have a job to complete and then I will tell you how to rescue your friends when you come back." Then the eyes disappeared, the warrior women were set free.
"I'm sorry about your friend."
"It's OK, she was about to say something she didn't want you to hear. It's our destiny, good luck." One bowed and then they vanished.
"Let's go." Tara waved willow and Anya forward.
Buffy held Faith close, but Faith was getting weaker by the minute. Some of the poison must have seeped deeper then expected, and without the proper medicine she would surely die. Buffy didn't know what to do, she was afraid for her new friend.
Faith lay, sweat dripping from her face, and her eyes though closed, moved rapidly as if in a dream state. She was muttering something Buffy couldn't make out. Until Faith opened her eyes and screamed.
"Shh, I got you. It was a dream." Buffy took a cloth and dabbed Faith's head, holding her just a little closer.
"Don't let me die." Her voice rasped, and for the first time Faith cried. She didn't want to die, she refused to die here.
"I won't. We'll keep you alive, I promise." Buffy laid Faith down on the blankets and wrapped her tight. "I'll be back." Just as Buffy was about to leave Faith grabbed her arm, pulling her down.
"I need to get help, you'll be OK." Faith shook her head and Buffy sat next to her, defeated. "Stubborn, just like my sister."
"Buffy, you're beautiful." This shocked Buffy and made her blush a crimson red. Faith ran her hand over buffy's face. "I've been crushing on you..." Buffy looked at the smiling face of Faith. "...since the jungle. Since you knocked me down." She laughed a bit but stopped as the pain surged through her causing her to wince.
"Shh, you don't have to say anymore. Rest now."
"No, Buffy when this is over. If I make it..." She let a few tears fall, she felt like she was going to die. ".. Would you... go out... with me, on... a date?" She made a break in between shakes and painful spasms. Buffy's eyes filled with tears as Faith closed her eyes, her breath was shallow, but she was alive. Buffy tucked her in and leaned in close.
"Yes Faith, I will." Buffy needed to find some water, so she left Faith alone just for a minute. After walking for a few minutes she found an underground grotto. "Perfect." Buffy ran back toward Faith, who was still in the same condition. "Faith I found a grotto up ahead, it has a little stream of clean water." Buffy picked Faith up walking her to the Grotto. "I know it's painful, but a little more."
"Is...this...hell?" Her voice was low, and shaky.
"Nope." Buffy laid her down now next to the water. "Time to drink something, need to keep your strength." Buffy smiled as she looked around and saw an apple tree. "I think this is our lucky day." Buffy walked over to the tree and picked two apples and walked back to Faith. "Here lets get you something to drink." Buffy smiled cutting the apple in two halves.
Tara led Willow and Anya to the top of mountain into the cave to collect the moss. When they got there the baby dragon was there. They weren't afraid of the baby, it was just the mommy. Tara rubbed the dragon baby's stomach and it cooed. Anya and Willow grabbed as much moss as they could carry, as they were leaving the baby started to cry. All of a sudden the mother dragon could be heard coming down the large cave. Looking around the cave and seeing nothing wrong the mother dragon walked over to her precious baby and gave him a kiss, but still he was crying.
The group backed out carefully trying not to attract the baby's attention, because mama would be on them in seconds. Just as they reached the exit the baby laughed and trotted over to them, the mother knew now. "Shit, looks like you new friend gave us away again." Anya smiled as the dragon licked Tara's cheek, the mother moved forward. Anya and Willow smiled nervously as she sniffed and realized they were not evil. She eased back and allowed the interaction to take place. "Hey little one, we'd love to stay but we can't. I have something to do, and then we have to help our friends. They fell into the ground." The dragon smiled at Tara. Did it know what she was saying?
"Tara that's a dragon." Willow pointed
"Yea I know." Tara kissed Willow's cheek and patted the dragon once more, she turned to the mother and she seemed to smile at them, her head pointing to the far cave. Anya wasted no time, she wanted out the moment she saw the baby.
They left and found themselves in the presence of Dawn once more, this time Dawn wasn't smiling. "Good, give me what I sent you first."
"No, where are they?"
"First the moss, then your friends." What no other choice, they handed over the moss. "Ahh, six bags. well done, your team wins this round," Dawn seemed to laugh at the word team, it was all a game.
"Where is my sister? Where is Faith?" Dawn smiled and opened the familiar opening so they could see.
Faith was getting weaker, Buffy needed to find a way out of here. She knew she had to do it alone. She started to pack her things up and then she knelt by Faith. "Hey." She ran a hand across Faith's cheek. "We can't wait, so this is my plan. I'm going to carry you."
Faith let out a laugh. "You make jokes now?"
"Hey Xander, remember that time when we climbed the tree house. I feel and almost broke my arm?" Buffy played along and nodded. "Those were some good times." Buffy let a tear fall before she kissed Faith's forehead. "Hey Xander, remember when we went to the jungle and you told me to behave myself?" Buffy had no idea what she was talking about, but nodded anyway. "I didn't, my bodyguard was cute. Think she likes me?" Buffy smiled, and kissed Faiths lips. Faith blinked and looked up into Buffy's eyes.
"I think she feels the exact same way." Faith smiled, then when her eyes focused saw that it wasn't Xander but Buffy.
"Hello delusion gal, ready to go?"
"More the ever now."
"Hold on Faith, just a little longer." Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes and stood ready to help Faith no matter what. She placed Faith on her back and started to walk. But she wondered how long she could go with Faith on her back. She searched all around the cavern and found out there was no exits from this place. They were stuck until help came, if it ever would come.
"Release them now!" Mr. Giles shook the cage with all his might, trying to break free. He dove at the cage bars and when he did an electroshock ran through is his body. William knelt down by his father's side.
"Please help my sister. I'll do anything you wish!" Xander knelt down by the cage, she was everything to him. She was his only family, since there Mom died.
"Anything, Mr.Harris?" Dawn smiled walking closer to the cage.
"As long as you help her." Anya looked at Xander and knew what he was going through. She couldn't believe this man had the same fears she did.
"Very well Mr.Harris." She opened the passage way into a cavern. "Go down there and save them, it's that simple. When you return, Mr.Harris well talk about payment." Dawn said smugly. She released him from the cage and as soon as he entered the cavern closed behind him. Anya and Willow ran to the now closed entrance. "When he returns, it shall open." Dawn smiled pointing to the viewing screen.
Xander hoped she was telling the truth, he hoped that Faith and Buffy were both down here in the cavern. He ran around the different turns and corners and finally the last wall opened and there he saw two figures lying down in a grotto. He walked quietly and he could now see clearly it was indeed Buffy and Faith. "Buffy?" She turned. He could see tears in her eyes. "Come on let's get out of here." She stood, unsure. Then she placed a hand on the real Xander her heart jumped and she flung her arms around him.
"She's really bad." Xander scooped up Faith and they headed back towards the cavern exit.
Finally they reached the entrance of the shamaness,' it opened, and Anya ran to her sister. The friends were reunited, but Tara still wasn't satisfied. "OK, help her. Give her what she needs to get better."
"Now why would I do that?"
"Dawn what more do you want from us?" Willow knelt down besides Faith, her and Xander held hands. "We have done what you told us. We got your moss and we are willing to do more for the location of Tara's mother and for Faith's antidote. We know an all powerful Shamaness knows how to cure a Spider bite." OK, so Willow was trying to butter her up a bit, but who wouldn't in a time like this?
"Sucking up? Nice touch Willow, but we need one more task before the choice I will make." Dawn stood up and smiled stretching her muscles. "A fight to the death..." She smiled and pointed to the cage. "...With them." The group was in disbelief, how in the world would they fight each other? How could they even raise a hand to the people they loved?
"Why would you make us fight, what satisfaction would you get?" Tara walked closer to Dawn. "Why even involve them? I'm the one you want right?" Dawn nodded. "Well, why are you doing this to them, you got me. I'm not going anywhere. I am your servant, if you help Faith and give me the location of my mother! I swear on my life." She knelt down and bowed as anyone else would. Dawn stood again and walked to Tara who knelt before her. She rose Tara to her feet and lifted her chin.
"You have shown so much bravery, I am so proud." Dawn walked to Faith's side and knelt down. "You can have your cure." Dawn smiled and mumbled something under her breath. /Warka the Potion.\ The little man ran toward her handing a vial. She poured the liquid into Faith's mouth and then walked away. "She should wake in a few hours fully healed, keep your freedom Water Lilly. This was just my way of showing you I meant business."
"What kind of way is that? Almost killing my Friend is business, why are the rest of us involved? It's Tara you want anyway, why the hell are the rest of us even in your little game!" Anya was always the one with the big mouth and this time it got the best of her.
"You little insect, I could have let both of your friends die. I could have sent a thousand spiders to kill them. But I didn't. And you snivel like a baby all the while. You dare challenge me little girl? Well, answer me!"
"I challenge you, and anyone else. I won't let you bully me or anyone else!" Anya through down her bag and was ready for a fight.
"Well, I see, let's see I can read your memories. Your thoughts, everything in your mind is now mine. Memories and painful wounds that have yet to heal." Dawn smiled as Anya fell to her knees. "Yes, let's keep going, let's make you remember why you're here. Let's make everything so clear." Anya's eyes widened, she remembered the first time her father beat her, and then Buffy. She remembered how William used to pick on her all the time, used to embarrass her and Buffy. How he was always dad's pride and joy.
But nothing could compare to her mother's death, nothing. How she had held Buffy, how she had had to remain strong. It felt like her whole world had come crashing down on her. She screamed and collapsed as she remembered the day when she almost drowned, when she was shot with an arrow. It was so real, she felt everything and then she stopped moving. She couldn't take the pain, she passed out. Xander ran to her side, gliding a hand across her cheek. "You monster!" Xander yelled, holding onto her. "Have you no heart?"
"I have a heart Mr. Harris, but it does not take kind to people who order me around. I care for my people, and when I am gone the ruler will be kind and fair to them. Treat them with respect." Dawn said this calmly and her voice was flat.
"Could have fooled me."
"What else would you like me to do?" Tara walked forward, staring straight into her eyes.
"Hmm, you still wish for what you seek?"
"Yes, I wish it."
"Very well, for the location of what you seek you must now slay that which you love most." Dawn smiled knowing all too well what she must do, she knew Tara couldn't do it.
"You want me to kill the one who I love the most? You know I can't kill..."
"If you want to know the location of what you seek, you will." Tara's heart fluttered with pain, she couldn't do this. She closed her eyes and everything seemed to go slow. Once she blinked everyone she loved as bound and gagged against the cavern wall, except Willow who now held a sword. "We all know who you love. Fight Willow to the death or kill everyone else. It's your choice."
"Why, is it that hard to figure out? I hate people who think they can get things easily. Sometime people have to work for what they want. Make sacrifices, today is that day. You want your mother? Then you will have to fight Willow to the death for it!" Tara had tears in her eyes when Willow dropped her sword. "Pick that up and fight her."
"Never. She might as well kill me. I won't try to even hurt her!" Willow yelled. Dawn just smiled, she knew what to do.
"Well, if you don't want to fight her I guess." Dawn clapped her hands and something appeared in front of Willow. "We'll have to make you." Something flew into willow's eyes and she fell back. "Now I think she'll be a little more for the idea." Willow stood, her eyes a darker green than before as she picked up her sword.
"What did you do to her?"
"I did nothing. I just realized that we need a good fight around here." Willow ran forward and swung her sword at Tara who blocked it.
"Undo this spell Dawn!" She blocked another swing. "Undo this spell!" But Dawn just sat not paying attention to anything Tara said.
The group gathered sitting around the cage watching the spectacle, holding those who needed to be held. The battle took an hour before it came to a standstill. Tara and Willow knelt down on one knee trying to get a breath in. Before Willow could stand and raise her sword, Tara raised her sword stabbing Willow in the gut. "NO!" Xander shook the cage as Tara removed the sword from her love's stomach, tears falling from her eyes. Willow fell to the ground.
Tara walked towards Dawn and knelt down with bloody sword in hand. "You have done what you were told, I am..."
"You have made me do the one thing I never would have dreamed of doing." Tara's heart was full of anger but her voice was calm. "But now your promise."
"Yes, my promise, your mother will be found behind the waterfall thirteen miles from this cave. Once my powers are transferred to you, in less the five minutes you may receive your mother's body and I will move onto a higher plane." Dawn smiled as the tribe members rejoiced, but Tara brushed off her new fans and moved to her love's body, kneeling over it.
"I wish it could have been different." She kissed Willow's lips and stood in the circle next to the shamaness. It was now time. The chant started, Tara could feel the power being transferred. As soon as it was complete, Tara said one word and Dawn was stuck between worlds. /I will you to spend the rest of your life in this powerful ring, to know the pain you caused and to feel what I feel.\
/You tricked me, you bitch!\
"O and Dawn, Willow isn't dead. Just hurt, she can be fixed." Tara smiled as Dawn flew into the ring, her soul was trapped forever. Tara rushed to Willow's side and healed her quickly. Willow smiled where she lay. She knew the plan would work.
"Everything is in order my shamaness." Tara nodded and unlocked the cage where her friends lay.
"How in the world?" Donny looked to his sister with an unsure smile.
"Easy, me and Willow talked with telepathy. Right before she altered Willow."
"Let's go find Mom." Tara smiled and shook her head. "What do you mean no?"
"First I need to do one thing, and then we can go get Mom." Tara smiled walking to her new tribe members. / You have all been so kind, and I know you have been under the power of Dawn the Shamaness. But that spell will be no more.\ Tara removed the charm spell and all the members were released. / She is gone, but my new friend. I cannot stay here. I cannot be your Shamaness., I have a life back at my home, with my friends and Family. So I ask of you, one thing may I continue to be your shamaness. From afar? Maybe I leave someone in charge while I am away?\ Warka, Darisa, and Anbuo walked forward.
/My shamaness. Can we go and find Angkl? We know he is still alive and...\
/Yes, I can feel him, I will let you go. Once Ii send the dragons back where they belong.\
/And yes, you may rule us from afar, but whom will you choose.\ Warka asked with concern.
/I will ask Angkl, he has shown much strength and bravery when you all faced the dragon.\ And Tara did as she said and sent the dragon and her baby back to where they belonged. They found Angkl underground waiting for his rescue. Darisa was so happy to be in Angkl's arms once again, and of course she told him the wonderful news.
"So our shamaness, where to next?" Donny laughed and of course Tara let him have it. "Ouch"
"Now to find Mom." They followed the instructions to the waterfall, and behind the water fall was a cave protected by a barrier, which Tara removed. They all entered to find a small coffin. Tara's dreams were now true, in a way she new what she would find. Even though she had fought so hard, she knew her mother was dead. Donny and Tara moved forward and read what it said. /To sleep eternal wasn't enough, so now she sings until God opened up\ written in the ancient lyrics Tara spoke it out loud, and she knew what needed to be done.
"What are you doing?" Donny stopped her from opening the coffin. "It's not going to be pretty, mom's been dead for a long time."
"I know what I'm doing, Move your hand." He did and stepped away. She slid the casket's stone top off to the side and there she was fully restored like new, like she had never been dead. "What magic is this?" Tara saw a note in her mother's hand. She removed it and read it aloud.
My dearest children;
Tara smiled kissing her mother's cheek and as she did so did Donny. Soon as everyone saw her beauty, her body withered and died just as she should have been. They covered the casket and removed it, taking her back to the States.
On the plane back, Tara held Willow tightly to her body, never ever wanting to let go of her love. Meanwhile, Faith leaned towards her friend, her protector.
"Hey Buffy, remember what I said in the cave? You know that was just because I was delusional right?" Buffy knew more then that, she leaned in and whispered something into Faith's ear which made her smile, Buffy blushed a bit. "Buffy thanks for keeping me alive."
"Hey that's what good friends are for."
"Hey Buffy, would you like to go on a date...you know with me? Cause I would..." Just then Buffy's lips locked onto hers. "Gee."
"Gee, what is this, the sixties?" Xander, for the first time in a long time, hugged his sister. "I'm glad you didn't die sis. You too Wills."
"Aw, we love you too Xander." Willow hugged her best friend to tightly, and then Faith. "So are you going to talk to her?" Willow poked Xander in the ribs.
"The bug under my shoe..." Willow whacked Xander on the side of his head. "...You know who, now go." She pointed and Xander went to talk to Anya.
"Hey, how you feeling?"
Anya looked up from her ice pack, and gave a half smile. "Like crap, you?"
"Would be a whole lot better if a certain blonde would let me sit down." He gave his goofy smile, and she scooted over so he could sit. "Anya can I be honest with you?"
"I liked you, the moment I saw you. I don't know if it's love, and I don't think you do either. But I would like for us to go on a date, fancy restaurant, funny men in black and white suits. If you want to." Anya at first couldn't register what happen at first, but then a look of happiness came across her face.
"Did you just ask me out?"
"Yeah, very badly and very nervously, yes." Xander gave a smile as Anya kissed his cheek.
"Ask me again in a few days, when everything is settled. Then we'll see. And this isn't a no - I just like seeing men squirm."
Well, the flight home was wonderful, and everything was perfect. Well sort of. William, Mr. Giles, and Donny had to hear Willow and Tara making love all last night, and Buffy and faith kissing. But the plane flew peacefully back into the night sky with a shamaness and her love, an animal expert and her bodyguard, and the blooming romance between a hunter and a huntress. Everything would be perfect and everyone in the plane could see that they all had Jungle Fever.