Harris entered the all too familiar bar in a dark mood. Billy the bartender was leaning on the counter almost asleep; he looked up when he heard the bell over the door give a little ding.
"She's in the back. Sorry to call you so late but I couldn't get her up and I have to lock up." He said in an apologetic tone.
Harris nodded while thinking, 'Fuck Maclay this isn't you.'
Billy came out from behind the bar and put his hand on Xander's shoulder. He spoke in a low voice like he was afraid someone might overhear him even though they were alone in the bar. "I think you should know I had to take her keys. She wanted to take off. I kinda had to slip a little something in her drink to keep her from going, it knocked her out for longer than I thought. I didn't know what else to do Harris."
Harris rubbed his face with his hands. He could feel a headache coming on. "I'm not happy about you slipping her a 'mickey' Billy but it was probably better than letting her drive. What did you give her?"
"It was just one of my sleeping pills. I have trouble sleeping cause of the hours I have to keep. It's very mild, I always take two but she was out like light with barely one. I figure she had to be pretty exhausted already. It shouldn't have any side effects except maybe for a whopping headache from the combination with booze."
Xander shook his head in disbelief as he walked over to the last booth and saw Tara doubled over the table completely out of it. First, he tried waking her by shaking her by the shoulders. " Maclay, Maclay...hey!". The woman didn't even stir. Then he tried lightly slapping her face a couple of times. " Partner..you in there? Come on, time to wake up." She slightly moved and mumbled something incomprehensible but still didn't awaken.
Harris gave up trying to rouse her. "Come on Billy help me get her to my car."
Both men lifted her up from the booth and half dragged, half carried the woman to the parking lot.
Once in Tara's apartment Xander deposited her in the living room couch while he made a pot of fresh coffee and ran a bath. He looked in her closet for some pajamas and laid them out on the bed. Next, he helped the blonde to the bathroom she was beginning to recover from her stupor and though she wasn't fully conscious she was at least letting herself be moved around by her partner.
It really pained Xander to see her in such a state it was a sight that he would have never imagined he would have to see. He was used to seeing a very different side to the blonde. She was always the strong and dependable one, sensible and sharp. He was the emotional one who always wanted to rush-in head first, more muscle and bullshit than sense. She was the one who kept cool and rational, figuring out the angles and how to work them. This woman that he was undressing bared no resemblance to the partner he had entrusted his life to so many times in the past without giving it a second thought.
When he took off her shirt he had to gulp down a lump that formed in his throat Tara had definitely lost a lot of weight in the past month. It seemed that she wasn't taking care of herself at all. He stripped her down to her bra and underwear and gently deposited her in the tub hoping that the water would help to awaken her.
He splashed water on her face and that did the trick. The blonde gasped and sputtered finally coming back to life. "What the fuck?" She muttered flapping her arms around.
"Hey welcome back. I was starting to worry."
"Where am I?" She asked still feeling somewhat disoriented.
"Isn't it obvious? You're in the middle of the Gobi desert." He quipped a bit cynically.
A jungle drum was playing a loud tune in Tara's head. "What?" She asked putting her face in her hands not quite understanding why she was suddenly surrounded by water.
Xander sighed and guessed his barbs would be wasted tonight. "Sorry buddy, no time for humor. You're in your tub; you had too much to drink. I thought this would wake you up, plus you stink and really need a bath.
Reality finally registered in the blonde's mind. "Fuck!" She said while holding her head. She looked at Harris crouching besides the tub and felt completely embarrassed. 'How did it come to this?' She thought. "I'm sorry Harris..I..."
He stood up. "Just wash up and get in touch with reality a bit more. We'll talk later and I mean really talk." He looked at her straight in the eyes to let her know that he meant it.
She nodded crossing her arms over chest while struggling to remember exactly how she had wound up in that situation.
Outside, Harris looked through the kitchen trying to scrounge up something that could be considered a decent meal. The scarce contents of the refrigerator and the cupboards served to further confirm what he thought when he had taken off Tara's shirt. That was it; it was definitely time for some tough love. He had tried to respect the blonde's need for space since her bother's death. He had stepped back and waited for her to be ready but apparently letting her deal with things her way wasn't going so well. Then, he suddenly felt a little guilty. He had to admit to himself that maybe he hadn't been there for her as much as he could have. He had been pretty caught up with the physical therapy and his budding relationship with Anya in the last month. Perhaps if he had been paying more attention he would've seen just how bad off his partner had been left after that awful day.
Well today he was going to take charge and help his partner and friend whether she liked it or not. She was going to eat, she was going rest, she was going to listen and she was going to talk to him even if he had to pistol whip her to get her to do it.
Inside the bathroom Tara had finished undressing herself and was slowly washing while thinking about her behavior in the past month. No matter how she spinned it or tried to justify it there was only one truth to be told.
"You're fucking up Maclay, big time." She said out loud. 'If you can't get it together you have to turn in your badge today.' She concluded in her mind.