Return to Stratagem Chapter One


Author: Willow Watcher
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of BtVS, they all belong to Joss Whedon and those others out there who have a claim in the series and all other things dealing with Buffy, but I wrote this story. The other characters are mine (copyright 2005 Robbie Kelly)

Tara rushed out of the house and saw the bus disappear around the corner.

"Damn it to hell!" She yelled. "First d-day and a-already I screw up."

Tara began walking down the street. Her father had shown her where the high school was located so she figured she would find it easily.

<Oh well. I'll be late but at least I'll be there, sometime today.> She thought to herself when a blue Chevrolet Chevette pulled up beside her.

The driver rolled down the window, "Hey! Looks like you missed the bus. You need a lift?" Willow said with a beaming smile on her face.

Tara looked at her and lowered her head down, running the toe of her shoe across the pavement kicking a rock.

"If y-you don't c-care, I would appreciate it." Tara said in her shy voice.

"Ah hell! I don't mind at all. Hop on in."

Tara looked up and gave a half smile, sprinted to the side of the car with a dreamy look on her face and she got in.

"You're kind of dressed up for school ain't ya? I mean, you look nice, don't get me wrong. I suppose you want to make a good impression being new and all, but hey it's alright to be a little dressy every once in awhile. I mean look at me. Wearing practically all black except for maybe my underwear. But that's a little bit personal considering that I barely know you and you must think I am a complete idiot sitting here babbling like this. I just get nervous sometimes and run my mouth a little too much. Blah, blah, blah." She made a hand gesture, "That's me, little miss blabber mouth. Ok and I think I am getting light headed from the lack of oxygen so I am going to shut up now." Willow took in a deep breath. She looked over at Tara, blushing.

Tara looked at Willow and giggled. <How cute.>

"It's a good ice br-breaker" Tara said.

"Yeah? My mouth runs faster than my mind sometimes. <Change the subject Rosenberg.> So, what classes do you have?" Willow asked trying to compose herself. <I must sound like a complete idiot.>

"I r-really don't know all of t-them. I g-guess I'll have to g-go to the office and s-s-see what they have listed for m-me. I d-didn't really g-get to choose. They j-just threw m-me into w-whatever t-they wanted." Tara cursed her stutter.

Willow pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and put one in her mouth. She flipped the pack up and handed one to Tara.

"Here. You'll need this before you go into that hell hole." Willow laughed and lit her cigarette, handing the lighter over to Tara.

Tara lit her cigarette and handed the lighter back to Willow, "Is it that b-bad?" She asked with an audible gulp.

"Well, kind of. I mean some of the people there are easy to get along with, like me and oh, you'll have to meet my friend Faith. She's real cool. Maybe we'll have some classes together." Willow smiled thinking of how close she would be able to get to Tara.

Pulling into a parking space near the school, Willow looked at Tara, "You ready for this. Last chance saloon."

"Yeah, I t-think I c-can get through it." Tara gave Willow a half smile.

<Damn, she has the cutest little grin. She is a baby doll. Alright Will. Time to get a grip on reality. Even though she is absolutely incredible. She is dressed so nice. Damn it! I had to wear all black today, didn't I? I look like a freak. Freaky girl, that's me. All with being freaky! Aaahhhh!!!>

Tara waved her hand in front of Willow's face. "Hey! You there? Got l-l-lost in thought d-didn't ya?"

Willow snapped out of her thoughts, "Oh!" She giggled. "Suppose I just froze up thinking about going in there." She nodded towards the school building. "Even though there's really no reason to be scared. I just hate thinking of seeing all the ass holes I had to deal with last year. I mean, there's no reason that you should have a hard time making friends. You seem to be really nice and sweet. I just don't want to frighten you off since you just moved here. I don't like some of the people that go here, and I'm babbling again aren't I?"

Tara laughed, "Yeah, b-but I like it. Kind of s-suits ya."

Willow grinned, "Thanks. I...I think." <Well, apparently she doesn't think I'm an idiot, maybe just a babbling buffoon. A horribly dressed buffoon.>

Tara furrowed her brow and bit her bottom lip.

Willow noticed the worried look on her face. She picked up Tara's hand and gave it a slight squeeze, "Hey. It will be alright. Just remember, I'll be somewhere in there. You won't be alone."

Willow's words of comfort were encouraging. Tara put her other hand on their connecting hands and rubbed her thumb on the back of Willow's.

"Thanks. You're sweet."

Willow felt the spark of electricity between them. Tara's hands were so soft. She wondered if the rest of her was just as soft.

"That's me. Miss sweet and wonderful." Willow said with a slight grin on her face. "You ready to go?"

"I s-suppose I am." Tara didn't want to let go of Willow's hand. She could sit there and hold it for hours, days even just so she wouldn't have to let go.

Willow reluctantly let go of Tara's hand and patted her on the knee, "Let's do it then."

Both girls sighed not wanting to leave each other's company. Turning to their doors they opened them and exited the car.

Entering the building, a voice came over the intercom, "Good morning students. I would like for your first day back to school to be a pleasant one. Let's make it a good day for our teachers and others as well. For the students who are freshmen or new to our school, you will find your classes printed on the bulletin board in front of the office. Thank you."

Willow placed her hand on Tara's arm, "Over this way."

Willow led Tara over to where the students were swarming around the board. Willow pushed her way through the crowd pulling Tara along.

"Maces, Mabel, Maclay, there you are, Tara Maclay." Willow said pointing out her name.

Tara looked at the classes printed to the side. She pulled out a pen and a piece of paper from her purse and starting writing her courses down.

"Uh oh, you got Mr. Stevens for Earth Science and, eww, he is nasty looking. Willow said with a disgusted look on her face." Willow made fake gagging noises while sticking her finger in her mouth. Tara laughed while continuing to write her schedule down.

"Hey Tara, look, we have lunch, and study period together. Cool, huh?" Willow smiled and was bouncing on the balls of her feet. <More time to spend with the beautiful bombshell.>

Tara blew out a sigh of relief. She was happy to be able to spend as much time with Willow as possible.

"Ms. Rosenberg." Willow cringed at the sound of the familiar voice behind her. She turned around with a fake smile on her face.

"Hello Principal Woods. It's so nice to see your beaming face so early in the morning. Makes one refreshed and ready for the day." Willow turned around rolled her eyes and sneered. Tara had to refrain from giggling. Willow was so cute even when she was being a smart ass.

"I'm so glad to hear that Willow."

He looked at Tara who quickly diverted her eyes at her paper she was writing on.

"Hello. My name is Robin Woods. I am principal of this wonderful school. And you would be?" He asked Tara.

Tara slowly looked up at him. "I'm T-Tara Maclay."

"Well it's a privilege to meet you Ms. Maclay. I hope you find that being here at Sunnydale High School a great experience. Are you a junior or a senior?"

"I'm a s-senior, sir." Tara stated as she looked up at the dark skinned man. He was handsome and built from what Tara could make out through his classy beige suit. He seemed to be sincere and caring enough, but she had a feeling she didn't want to get on his bad side.

"Wow! That's the first time anyone in this school has called me sir. I think we are going to get along just fine Tara. Isn't that right Ms. Rosenberg?"

Willow turned with a look of disgust. "Oh yes sir. I think that you could get along with Satan if necessary, sir." Willow hissed the last word.

"Well, I do like to think of myself as a pleasant person Willow. And to show you how pleasant I can be you are officially on tour duty."

"What! Now wait just a fuuu....freakin' minute!" Willow's heart jumped as she almost slipped up. She remembered three years ago when she cursed at Principal Woods. She was on clean up duty for a week. She grimaced at the memory. It took days after to get the smell of toilet bowl cleaner off her hands.

"Ah, I see we are still learning our lesson about foul language. But, I think you still need to learn a little bit of responsibility. This fine young woman here is Tara Maclay. I think it would be a good idea that you show Tara around the school and to every one of her classes and you can sit in the class with her just so you won't loose her among all the other students." Wood smiled with a great deal of satisfaction. Willow was one of his best students but her attitude was very much lacking.

"But...I don't know her and she isn't the kind of person I would hang around. C'mon!" Willow whined.

Those words hit Tara like a brick wall. <Why is she saying those things about me? I thought she was my friend. I knew you couldn't be with someone like her. Stupid, stupid, stupid Tara.> Tara thought to herself while tears welled up in her eyes.

"Ms. Rosenberg!" Wood stated harshly. Then he lowered his tone, "Can I speak to you over here for a minute? Tara you stay right there, we will return in a moment."

Tara sadly shook her head and leaned up against the wall.

She watched as Willow and Wood walked over to a private spot. He was saying something that was really upsetting Willow by the way she was flailing her arms around. Willow turned away from the man who apparently was frustrated to be talking to Willow's back. Willow looked right at Tara and winked and gave a little smile.

Tara was confused. Willow was nice, then mean, and now winking and smiling. <O.K. What the hell is going on?>

Willow and Wood walked back over to Tara.

"Tara, I'm sorry. I would be happy to show you around school, despite the way I feel about it," Wood slightly nudged Willow on the back with his elbow. She turned and looked at him, "O.K. O.K. Goooodd!" She turned back to a very upset looking Tara. It broke Willow's heart to see Tara like that, but she had a plan. "I will sit with you in every class and make sure you feel safe and comfortable here." She said in a monotone way.

"Now that was a nice way to put that. Alright you two get off to class. I will see you soon. Tara, if you need anything just let me know."

"T-t-thank you Mr. W-Wood." Tara said and reluctantly as she pushed herself off the wall and walked warily beside of Willow.

Willow walked into the restroom and Tara followed. As soon as they were inside, Willow turned and put her arm on Tara's shoulder.

"Tara, I'm sorry for what I said back there. I had to say those things so Wood would let me take you around here. If he thought that I wanted to do something, he wouldn't have let me do it. He's a bastard that way." Willow said with a reassuring smile.

Tara grabbed Willow in a forceful hug and started to cry a bit. "I t-t-thought y-y-you d-d-didn't... I-I-I was s-s-o..."

Willow heard the distress in Tara's voice. She noted that she was stuttering terribly. Willow lightly returned the hug and run her hands down her long silky hair. "'s alright. I'm sorry for getting you all upset. I wouldn't do anything to hurt you Tara."

Tara calmed down with Willow's words and more with her touch. She knew that she could stay like this forever. Willow tightened her hug on Tara to assure her of what she meant. Tara sharply pulled away and hissed in pain.

"I'm sorry Tara. I didn't mean to hug you so tight. I guess I don't know my own strength." Willow said with her eyes wide.

"N-no, isn't t-that. I s-slipped and f-fell in the shower at h-home." Tara hated to lie, but she didn't want anyone to know the truth, especially Willow. She didn't want to scare her off with her problems.

"Are you alright?" Willow was concerned for her new friend. She didn't want anything happening to Tara.

Tara nodded her head and smiled at Willow. "I th-think we sh-should get to c-class."

Willow smiled, took Tara's hand and led her out of the restroom.

Willow and Tara stood in front of the Earth Science lab.

"Well, first stop, room 214, Earth Science. Now, just be cool. No worries OK?" Willow looked over at Tara with a smile. Tara looked nervous, but smiled back at Willow and shook her head.

As they entered the room, students were gathered in certain groups. Jocks with cheer leaders, upper class girls sat around laughing and looking around pointing at other kids, girls sitting on guys laps. Willow looked around to find a seat. She motioned to Tara at a table in the back of the classroom.

"Hey, Redbush!" A guy walked over to Willow and Tara while they were taking their seats.

"What the hell do you want Warren?" Willow spat out.

"Just thought I would come over and see how you were doing? Oooh! Who's the little blonde here? She's cute. Way better looking than the last chick." He bent down and faced Willow, "Is she good in bed Red? With that body, I can see why you're with her. I know what I'd do with her." He looked up and down at Tara like a prize bull. "Hey baby, you wanna a real man? What does Redbush have to offer?" Tara sat there shocked and wide eyed. Other students in the class started to look and laugh. He looked at Willow, "You're picking them kind of young aren't ya?"

With that said. Willow jumped up from her seat and in a flash, grabbed the young man, pulled his arm behind him and slammed him against the wall.

"Shut the fuck up you piece of shit! You have no idea what the hell you're talking about. Say something like that again you little fuck and I break your goddamn arm." She said through clenched teeth.

"Whoa there Red, ease up." A female voice said. The brunette was sprinting towards Willow.

Willow released the boy with one final shove up against the wall. He turned around and wiped blood from his mouth smiling.

"Damn Redbush! Are you that rough with your new little piece of ass over there?"

Willow started to charge towards him again, but the girl that stood beside Willow held her back. "Just leave him be, Red. He's just trying to get a rise out of ya."

Willow looked at the girl, threw her hands up and walked back to her seat. She looked over at Tara who had the deer caught in the headlight look. Tara opened her mouth to say something then quickly closed it and dropped her head down. Willow frowned and took Tara's hand in hers. "I'm sorry Tara. He's a jerk." Tara raised her head and looked at Willow. Blue eyes met Green. They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity. Tara smiled and held tight to Willow's hand.

The brunette girl turned towards Warren, "You little prick. You really don't know what the hell you are doing Warren. How many times do I have to tell you not to piss off Red?"

"Shut up Faith. You aren't anything more than a dyke yourself. All your kind are alike. Large with the butch." He said wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Faith grabbed his bottom lip between her fingers. Warren went down to his knees looking up at Faith. "Leave Red Alone! Do you understand?" Faith said while shaking his lip.

"Yesh ma'am." Warren said with a squeak.

Faith let his lip go, put her foot on his shoulder and pushed him the rest of the way down. "Great! Now scamper you little ass over to your lackeys."

Warren got to his feet. He stood in front of Faith. When she put her hands on her hips, he turned and walked back towards his friends. A few guys were punching him in the arm and laughing. He pushed them out of his way as he sat down in a chair.

Faith sat down at the table where Willow and Tara were. She put her hand on Willow's back, "You alright Red? I always said you were a hot one." Faith laughed, reclined back in her chair and swung her feet and plopped them on top of the table. Willow turned from Tara to Faith, "Damn straight. You know me, all with the temper. Must be the red hair. So, how's it going Faith?"

"Five by five, Red." Faith leaned into Willow, "Who's the cutie?"

"Huh? Oh," Willow giggled and leaned back in her chair," Faith this is Tara Maclay. Tara, Faith Lehane. Tara just moved here."

Faith raised her brow as she noticed they were holding hands. "Uh huh. Apparently Blondie doesn't drive stick either, huh Red?

Willow rolled her eyes. She looked over at Tara, "You have to look over Faith. She's always bold and brazen."

"That's not true. I'm always hungry and horny. When things get boring put the H & H factor to good use. That's my philosophy anyway." Faith smiled and winked at Tara.

<Oooo Kay! What's with this cleavage-y slut bomb? And what's with that black leather outfit? Did she melt herself and get poured into it? How in the hell can she breathe? And why is she sitting so close to Willow? I so don't like this chick.> Tara thought as she looked Faith up and down.

"Yo, Red. I think your girlfriend's checking me out." Faith teased Willow.

"Faith, for god's sake, she isn't my girlfriend." Willow leered at Faith and then looked back at Tara smiling, holding tighter to her hand, "She's just a friend."

Tara smiled a crooked grin as she looked into Willow's eyes. Willow thought she would just melt.

"Just joking Red. Hey Tara, it's nice to meet ya." Faith extended her hand to Tara.

Tara removed her hand out of Willow's and placed it in Faith's. "N-n-nice to m-m-meet you, Faith."

Willow looked at Faith and shook her head, thinking that Faith might say something about Tara's stutter.

Faith cocked her head and furrowed her brow. "Well, hope you like it here Blondie."

"T-thanks." Tara said. <Well, she might not be so bad.>

A tall casually dressed man with hair slicked back on his head entered the room, placing stacks of papers on a desk in front of the classroom.

"Alright, sit down and shut up. Rebecca, find your own chair, not on your boyfriend." He said to a girl who pouted and found a seat.

"Faith, your lab table is not a foot rest." He said as he sat down.

Faith swung her feet and slapped her boots hard on the floor. "Whatever."

"Ms. Rosenberg? Didn't think I would ever see you here again? You must be a glutton for punishment. How many years are you going to stay in high school?"

Willow stood up from her chair, "Mr. Stevens, can I speak with you out in the hallway?"

"No you can't, now sit down." Mr. Stevens said in an annoyed voice.

Willow got up from her seat and headed to the front of the classroom.

"Ms. Rosenberg, I said sit down." Mr. Stevens got up from his chair.

"Outside now." Willow demanded.

Mr. Stevens looked shocked but followed Willow outside closing the door behind him.

Tara looked over at Faith astonished.

Faith just shrugged her shoulders, "Red's insatiable when it comes to getting her way."

<I wonder what else she's insatiable about. Oh bad, bad, bad thoughts Maclay.> Tara had an evil grin on her face but soon faded as Willow and Mr. Stevens returned. He had a defeated look about him.

Willow smirked as she returned to her seat.

"What was that about Red?" Faith whispered.

"Oh, ya know the usual." Willow said innocently. "Just covering some tracks."

"Be careful Will. You don't wanna piss the wrong people off." Faith warned.

Willow didn't reply.

"O.K. Well, since some of you are new to the class, some intros are in order. Let's start in the back." Stevens said pointing at Tara "Stand up and tell us your name."

Tara looked over at Willow with pleading eyes. Willow took Tara's hand and whispered, "It'll be O.K."

Tara stood up on shaky legs. She hated confrontations. She held tight to Willow's hand.

"M-m-my name is T-Tara M-Maclay."

Students in the room started snickering. Willow and Faith both looked around. Most of the class stopped, except for Warren and his group of friends.

"Well Tara, where are you from?"

"Oregon, s-sir." Tara was still shaking.

"What do your parents do?"

Tara took in a deep breath. "My f-f-father's a p-p-preacher and my m-m-mother's d-d-dead, sir."

Mr. Stevens swallowed a lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat. "Oh, I'm...I'm so sorry. You can sit down now." Tara retook her seat. She lowered her head and tears pooled in her eyes.

Willow rubbed her back to try and comfort Tara as much as possible. She would love to take Tara in her arms, hold her and take all her worries and fears away.

Mr. Stevens looked at one particular student, "Is there something funny Mr. Mears?"

"N-No s-s-sir. N-n-nothing's w-w-wrong." Warren mocked looking at Tara. The other students erupted in laughter.

Tara lowered her head even further. Willow and Faith looked at him in a death stare.

"Well Warren, I suppose summer school has somehow disrupted the way you talk. Maybe spending some time in detention will help you out." Mr. Stevens said, while writing on a slip of pink paper. "Do you have anything to say about that Warren?" Warren's jaw dropped the quickly shut with a snap. He just shook his head.

"Alright then, let's continue on. Young man. You, sitting beside of Warren. What's your name?"

A blonde headed, thin boy stood up, "Andrew Wells. Are you going to make us work with chemicals, because I'm allergic to a lot of them and they make my skin all dry? I have a list." Andrew whined.

Tara continued looking down. The whole world fell silent to her.

Willow looked at Tara. "Hey, are you O.K.?"

Her mind was not in the present but the past.

She remembered every detail her mother as if she just saw her this morning. Her mother's beautiful face, long blonde hair, blue eyes. Tara remembered her mother reading Tara's favorite book 'Cinderella' over and over again and never had a complaint. She remembered her mother talking to Tara about the future while brushing her hair. She remembered her mother carrying a black eye or a bloody lip, sometimes walking around with a limp, saying that one day everything would be alright. She remembered the last night she saw her mother. She had tucked Tara into bed, kissed her goodnight and told her that things would get better. She remembered the police being at the house when she woke up the next morning. She remembered the coroner wheeling out someone in a black body bag out to his car. She remembered her father telling her that her mother had killed herself. Tara remembered them putting her mother in the ground and the nightmare never ended.

A loud ring shook Tara out of her thoughts. She wiped away the dried stream of tears that had streamed down her face.

"Hey, you worried me there for awhile." Willow said.

Tara still felt Willow's hand on her back, rubbing around in circles. Tara looked up and smiled, "I'm f-fine, thanks."

"Good. Now what's next?" Willow asked standing up and gently guiding Tara up with her.

"Umm..." Tara looked at her schedule, "P. E. is n-n-next."

"Alright, let's go." Willow said, taking Tara's hand again.

Willow called at Faith who was harassing Warren. "Hey Faithy, catch ya later, okay?"

"Sure thing Red and don't sweat it, I'll take care of this little shit here." She said while twisting Warren's ear.

Willow heard Warren squeak out a plea as she walked out the door.

Continue to Stratagem Chapter Three

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