Return to Stratagem Chapter Three


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 reached over to turn her alarm clock off. She cleared her eyes and peered at the numbers. The time read 6:45. Tara got out of bed and turned the ceiling light on. She looked at herself in the full length mirror on the backside of her door.

<Goddamn bastard! Look at my face. Why in the hell did I let him do this to me again?>

Tara's cheek was bruised. It wasn't the worse she had suffered, but it was bad enough.

Tara closed her eyes and turned away from the mirror.


Her father was awake. <He's usually isn't up this early unless he wants a second round.>

"Honey, I have to go back to Oregon for a couple of days and clear up some business. I don't want you to worry. I'll leave you some money for groceries and school. I'm going to tell you right now, there better not be any boys here while I'm gone or you'll have to answer to me."

<Stupid fucker. He still doesn't get it. HELLO GAY!> "Y-yes s-s-sir." Tara answered in a humble tone.

"Oh and Tara, I asked Ms. Day to check on you, that way I know that there will be nothing going on."

Tara opened the bedroom door and looked at him.

"Who is M-Ms. D-d-day?"

"She's our next door neighbor. Very nice elderly Christian lady. She's quite the nosy type. Just the type I like looking in on you. Bye sweetie."

Tara closed her door, throwing her middle finger up. She sat down on her bed and listened to her father's car pull out of the driveway. She looked at her clock. 6:52.

<Well, plenty of time before Willow gets here.>

Tara went downstairs. She turned the light on in the living room and looked around. She saw an envelope on the coffee table marked 'Grocery Money'. Tara picked it up and looked inside to find a 20, 10, and two 5 dollar bills. She flung the envelope back onto the table.

Tara went into the bathroom and turned on the water to take a shower. She stood in front of the mirror to take another look at her face. Once again, she just turned away.

Tara removed her night shirt and her panties, which she had to replace. She stepped into the hot steaming shower. Her body absorbed every drop of water. She picked up the soap and rubbed it over her body. She washed her crotch very hard to clean away the filth of her father.

Tara thought of the times she had read of girls who were going through similar incidences, how they would break down and some were institutionalized. Tara was too strong for that. She was basically numb to over react to anything her father had done.

Tara slowly wiped the water off her legs. She gently patted her crotch. It was sore but soreness goes away. The scars inside don't.

Tara wrapped the towel around her body and opened up the bathroom door. She stepped into the living room and heard someone knocking on the front door.

Tara peered around the corner, "Wh-who's th-there?"

"Hey Tara, its Willow!" Willow shouted from outside

Tara looked down the hallway, "C-come in, W-Willow. It's o-open."

Willow opened the door and walked in, "Hey! I was hoping that you were ready n'all. I mean it's O.K. if you aren't because I'm early. I just wanted to stop at the store and grab a pack of cigarettes. Ya know, all with the bad habit here."

Tara had her face turned to the side hoping that Willow wouldn't see.

"Umm, I'm n-not quite r-ready yet. G-give me a few m-minutes." Tara wrapped her arm around her. With her other, she propped up and placed her hand on her cheek.

Willow looked at Tara, walking closer. She moved her head to take a better look, "Tara?" She put her hand on Tara's arm. Tara held her arm stiff. "Tara, let me see."

"There's n-n-nothing to s-see, Willow." Tara turned and started to walk away.

Willow walked in front of her, "Tara, please?"

Tara lowered her hand and then her face. She turned her head so Willow could get a better look.

"Oh god!" Willow whispered. She took her hand and raised it to Tara's cheek, barely touching it. "Tara, what happened?"

Tara looked up at Willow, "N-nothing. I s-slipped and f-f-fell in the sh-shower, a-again." Tara chucked dryly, "I-I'm s-s-so clumsy s-sometimes."

"And I suppose that bruise on your wrist is from the shower too? Tara, as much as I would like to believe you, I don't." Willow crossed her arms over her chest.

"I don't want to talk about it!" Tara yelled out.

"O.K. I just want you to know that I am here when you do." Willow placed her hand on Tara's in a reassuring gesture.

Tara started shaking and broke down in tears. She put her head on Willow's shoulder. Willow gently wrapped her arms around her as she cried. Willow stood and swayed back and forth whispering comforting words.

After a few minutes, Tara pulled back and wiped her tears away, "I-I'm s-s-sorry."

"It's alright." Willow smiled and kissed her gently on her bruised cheek. "You can lean on me for anything."

Tara shivered and took in a deep breath. "W-willow, I w-w-want to t-tell you about w-what's going on."

"Tara, if you don't want to... I mean, I told you that if you wanted to tell me, yeah, I'm right here, but you if you don't feel comfortable telling me you don't have to..."

Tara put her finger on Willow's lips. "I w-want t-to."

Willow just shook her head gesturing Tara to go on.

Tara took in another deep breath, "Ever s-since my m-mother died, t-things h-have g-g-gotten worse f-for me. M-my d-dad did this and other stuff t-too." Tara hung her head in shame.

Willow took her hand under Tara's chin and lifted her head up, "Tara, it's not your fault. Never think that it is. I want to help. Let me call someone and we can get you out of here."

"No W-Willow. I c-can't go." Tara said.

"Yes you can! We can go right now!" Willow said, determined to help.

"I can't!" Tara shouted. She took in a relaxing breath. "I c-can't b-because I am u-under age. He told me that he w-w-would put me in an orphanage, or s-something w-w-worse. I hate h-him and I m-might w-want to kill him, b-but you can't guarantee that s-someone else w-won't d-do this to me." Willow looked down then looked back up into Tara's eyes, "I can't make you do something you don't want to do Tara. Is there anything that I can do?"

Tara gave Willow a smile, "Well..."

Willow bounced on the balls of her feet, "Whatever it is, I'll do it. You name it, I am here to help. All with the help here. I will be your humble servant madam." Willow put her hand over her heart and bowed.

Tara giggled. <She is so damn cute.> "T-take me anywhere b-but school. I d-don't f-fell like going. Dad is g-gone for a c-couple of days. He w-won't know anything about it."

Willow smiled, "You got it! Oh, I have the perfect place. It's cool. I think you will like it. At least I think you will, but if you don't like it we can leave and go somewhere else."

"If y-you l-like it, I'm sure it w-will be fine." Tara said smiling.

Willow looked Tara up and down. The towel was full length only showing Tara's shoulders and her knees down. "Well, you better get some clothes on. I mean you really don't want to go in a towel? Even though I wouldn't mind you going like that." Willow's eyes widened. "Uh, I just really said that didn't I?"

Tara tried to hide back a smile, "Yes y-you did." <Score one for me!> "I'll b-be right b-b-back."

Tara dashed off upstairs to her room.

Willow stood there dumbstruck. <I can't believe I just said that. Shit! Why can't I just shut up? I get all with the blah, blah, blah and can't stop. God, I am such an idiot!>

Willow sighed. She got the thoughts out of her head. She reached in her jacket and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed in a number, looked around and walked outside. She lit a cigarette waiting for the other line to pick up.

"Giles, its Willow. Listen, this has got to be a brief conversation. I'm not going to take Tara to school today."

Willow took a drag off her cigarette and blew out the smoke.

"Yes Giles, trust me I know what I am doing."

Willow looked behind her to make sure Tara wasn't around.

"I'll take care of her Giles. You take care of the school thing."

Willow looked around again, "Well, you know where I'll be, right?"

Willow heard Tara call her name, "Uh oh. Gotta go, bye."

She flipped her phone shut and stuck it in her pocket.

"I'm out here Tara." Willow said poking her head in the door.

Tara followed the sound of Willow's voice, "There y-you are. I th-thought you r-ran off." Tara laughed hoping that would never happen.

"Who me? Nah. Takes a lot more than that to get rid of me. In fact, you might get tired of seeing me around." Willow said and smiled.

"N-never! I l-like having y-you around." Tara's face turned red.

"That's cool." Willow said. She walked off the porch and threw her cigarette across the fence.

"Are you ready to go?" Willow walked back in the house followed by Tara.

"Yep. Let m-me just get m-my money." Tara walked over to the coffee table and picked up the envelope with the money in it.

Willow walked over and placed her hand on Tara's, "You don't need any money. Every thing is on me today."

Tara took the money out of the envelope and put it in her pocket, "Thanks, b-but I like h-having my own."

Willow frowned, "O.K. if you say so. But I am buying everything today." Willow jutted out her chin, "This is my resolve face. No one messes with my resolve face."

Tara chuckled, "I s-see. I'll h-have to keep that in m-mind." <Can she get anymore sexier? I'm gonna say YES!!>

Willow smiled, "Good. Let's get outta here."

Willow went to the store and then to her apartment.

"Well, here is the first stop." Willow pointed at the building.

Tara looked out her window at the tall building, "Where are w-we?"

"Oh, yeah I should have mentioned it. This is where I live. Come on inside. I have a surprise for you." Willow excited the car and practically ran up to the door of the building.

Tara shrugged her shoulders and quickly followed.

Willow walked in, threw her keys and mail on the coffee table. Tara stood outside the door with her hands behind her back.

"Well, here it is home sweet home." Willow held out her arms and spun around half way looking at Tara. "What's wrong?"

"I'm j-just waiting for y-you to invite m-me in." Tara said.

"Oh, well come in? And for further reference, you can come here anytime you want." Willow walked over to Tara and held out her hand.

Tara took Willow's hand and walked in the door.

"Now first things first. You gotta have some different clothes on." Willow pulled Tara in her bedroom.

"What's wrong w-with m-my clothes?" Tara asked confused.

Willow walked over to her dresser, "Nothing is wrong with your clothes, that is if you want to, O.K., go to church or something like that. I just think that you need to punk up a bit."

Tara crossed her arms over her, "I-I don't know W-Willow."

Willow looked in the mirror at Tara, "No it's cool. We can put different clothes on ya and do your hair..."

Tara looked insulted, "And j-just what's wrong with m-my hair."

Willow turned around, "Oh, nothing Tara. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. I just wanted to take you somewhere that...well...what you have on just wouldn't go with the atmosphere. Not that you wouldn't fit in. You'll be great!"

Tara stood there. "I...I suppose it w-will be alright. B-but not too m-much."

"You got it! Now let's see what we have. Oh, here we have this and this oh and you have to try this on. Oh yeah! This will look real good." Willow threw clothes over her shoulder on her bed.

"Y-you have a th-thing for b-black clothes?" Tara picked up some of the clothes on the bed.

"Umm...I just like it is all. Oh, here's a cool shirt." Willow held up a sleeveless shirt with a snarling wolf on it. The sides were laced together.

Tara pointed at the shirt with wide eyes, "Y-you w-want me t-to w-w-wear that!"

"Well, yeah. If you don't like it you don't have to wear it. I just think it would look real good on you." Willow waved the shirt in front of her and had a smug look on her face, "C'mon, I know you wanna wear it."

Tara smiled and rolled her eyes, "O.K. O.K. I'll w-wear it."

<Ooooo...I love this shirt and it's tight and it will look fantastic over those luscious...>

"Willow? C-can I have it?" Tara stood there with her hand held out.

"Huh? Oh yeah." Willow handed the shirt over to Tara.

Willow picked up a pair of black hip hugger jeans and a studded belt. "Here. These will go great with that shirt." Willow walked to her closet and brought out a pair of biker boots. "And for the piece de résistance, leather jacket. TA! DA!"

Tara just looked at the clothes that were piled in her arms, "Ooooo kaaay. N-now I s-suppose, I should p-put these on."

"That would be the general idea." Willow stood proud of herself.

"Y-yeah, I sh-should put them on." Tara stood there looking at Willow.

"Uh huh." Willow said.

"Umm, W-Willow?" Tara looked over her shoulder.

"Oh! Yeah." Willow giggled. "I should...umm...go out. Because you don't want to get undressed and redressed in front of me. Nope, because you don't know me and well I'm sure if you did know me you wouldn't want to..."

<Wanna bet.> Tara thought.

"But anyway, I'll just be going." Willow smiled a goofy grin and walked out of the room shutting the door behind her.

Tara dumped the pile on the bed. She took off her other clothes and laid them down. She picked up the clothes that Willow haphazardly handed her. She looked at the shirt puzzled. <If this is what she wants.> She put the shirt on. She looked at the jeans, <I hope they fit. I hope they fit.> She pulled them on and was amazed. It was like they were made for her. She laced the belt through the jeans. She reached down and put the boots on her feet. After straightening up her clothes she walked over to a full length mirror hung on the wall. <Not bad if I do say so myself.> Tara reached up and removed the barrette that held her hair back. Her blonde hair flowed down over her shoulders. She flipped it back, shook her head in confidence, picked up the leather jacket. <I just hope she likes it.> She flung the jacket over her shoulder and opened the door.

Willow was sitting on the couch reading a magazine she had picked up from the store. She heard the creek of her bedroom door. Willow peered over the top. The magazine fell on her lap. Willow sat there with her mouth hung opened. Everything was in slow motion as Tara sauntered into the room. Willow looked Tara up and down then back up again. <OH MY GOD!!! Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! OH MY GOOOODD!> Tara walked over to Willow, placed her finger under her chin and gently closed her mouth.

"S-see something you l-like." Tara said in a seductive voice. <Score again.>

Willow just sat there. Her eyes were wide and the passion there was evident.

Tara flung the jacket on the couch and put her hands on her hips. "Well?"

"Wow...I mean...Oh wow. You look great, Tara. You look so ho..." Willow stopped. <I think I am going to have to get used to the taste of my FOOT!> " about we fix that hair? I love what you did with it by the way. You have beautiful hair, Tara."

Willow stood up and touched the ends of Tara's hair.

"Th-thanks." Tara looked into Willow's eyes. Blue eyes stared into green. Green eyes stared into blue. The two moved closer. Eyes locking, lips aimed for the other.

<Don't do it Willow!> Willow's voice inside screamed. Willow stood upright. She cleared her throat. "Yeah, let's do your hair, now. Now would be a good time." Willow walked around Tara and went into the bathroom.

Tara sighed, <Damn it!> She followed Willow.

When Tara got to the door, Willow was bent down pulling out hair accessories from under the sink. Tara couldn't help but stare at her ass. <DAAAAAMN!>

Willow, still bent over, looked behind her. <Tee Hee. Gotcha back.> Willow stood up slowly, stretched a bit so her back end extended out a little longer.

Tara just closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip.

She was brought out of her thoughts by Willow's voice.

"Ready?" Willow stood there with a hairbrush in one hand and a can of hairspray in the other.

Tara shook her head and sat down on a stool that was in the bathroom.

"Let me see. We'll brush this back and spray. Flip this back and spray. Curl this under and this under and this under and spray, spray, spray, spray."

Tara coughed. <Oh god, she's gonna kill me with fumes!> Tara held her hand over her eyes and the other over her mouth.

Willow gently patted Tara on the back, "All done. Are you alright?"

Tara waved the air in front of her. She shook her head and coughed a few more times.

Willow helped Tara off the stool and stood her in front of the mirror, "What do you think?"

Tara's first reaction was to grab the brush and comb out all the curls and feathering, but she knew that would hurt Willow's feelings. She turned her head from left to right back to left. She looked at Willow and smiled, "I l-like it. C-can we d-do something about this?" Tara asked pointing at her bruised cheek.

"We can try some make-up. Nothing like a good foundation and powder to make all the bad marks go away or at least cover them up so they won't stand out." Willow pulled her make-up bag from under the sink and handed it to Tara.

Tara fumbled through it. She had never put make-up on before. She looked at Willow for help.

Willow took the hint. She pulled a washcloth off the rack, wet it and washed her face.

"I'll walk ya through it." Willow pulled out the foundation and began.

After a few minutes Willow and Tara walked out of the bathroom. The make-up that Tara put on didn't completely cover the discoloration on her face, but it was good enough.

"Willow, I d-don't s-suppose you have s-something to c-cover this?" Tara asked holding up her arm.

Willow smiled, "I have the perfect thing."

She went to her bedroom and walked back where Tara was.

"Hold out your arm." Willow took a leather wrist strap and tied it on Tara's wrist.

"There you go. New clothes and accessories to match. What do ya think?" Willow asked as Tara looked at it.

"W-Willow, you c-can't give me these things." Tara said surprised that anyone would do what Willow has done for her.

"Why not? You look great and you seem to like them. They are yours Tara and I won't take no for an answer." Willow jutted out her chin, "Resolve face showing here. Remember what I said?"

"Why are y-y-you doing this f-for m-me?" <Why is she doing this?>

"Because I like you, Tara." <And you look hot as hell in these too.>

Tara sighed in relief, "I l-l-like you too W-Willow." <More like love.> "Thank y-you." <Did I just think what I thought I thought. Am I in love with her? Well, duh Tara! O.K. I'm in love with Willow Rosenberg, the hottest little redhead I have ever seen in my life and oh god is she sweet and what I wouldn't give to rip those pants off her and...>

"...and you're not paying a bit of attention to me are you? I can understand. I babble on like an idiot a lot and sometimes I can't stop myself. See here I go again with the running of the mouth. Just really don't know how to shut up do you Willow? Noooo! Have to keep on..." Willow was silenced by Tara's lips on her cheek.

"I knew th-there was a w-way to get that b-b-babble to quit." Tara smiled sweetly.

<I know other ways too.> Willow thought.

<I'm sure I know other ways too.> Tara thought.

Willow and Tara smiled at each other.

"Oh, I want to give you this, also." Willow reached in her pocket and revealed a beautiful silver necklace with a green stone setting.

"Willow, it's b-beautiful." Tara touched the stone. <The stone matches her eyes.>

"I just want to give you this as a token of friendship." Willow laced her arms around Tara's neck and fastened the clasp. "There ya go. Looks good on ya."

"B-but, I c-couldn't." Tara ran her finger down the chain. She reached behind her neck to remove the necklace.

Willow put her hands on Tara's. "No keep it, please? I want you to have it."

Tara put her arms down and looked at the piece of jewelry. She looked back up at Willow, "Thank you."

"Alright then, shall we?" Willow held out her hand.

"We shall." Tara took Willow's hand, picked up her jacket and they walked out the door.

Willow pulled the car up to a building.

"Here we are." Willow turned off the car and looked at Tara.

"Here, where?" Tara asked.

"C'mon. Trust me." Willow got out of the car.

Tara sat there and watched Willow jog around to her side and open the door.

"Your day of fun is about to begin." Willow said.

Tara got out of the car and put her jacket on. She followed Willow to the entrance. On the door was painted 'Buff's Bar'.

Willow opened the door and both were greeted by a blonde haired man.

"Well, looks like the bird flew back to the nest. How have you been Red?"

"Fine Spike and you?" Willow walked by him.

Spike escorted both girls over to the bar, "Would be doin' better if I didn't work in this bleedin' hell hole."

"I heard that Spike!" A short blonde haired woman came out from a room behind the bar.

"Hey Buffy." Willow said waving her hand.

"Oh My God, Willow!" Buffy ran to the redhead and swooped her up in a huge hug. "How have you been? I have missed you so much. You don't ever come in here anymore."

"Buffy! Oxygen becoming an issue." Willow squeaked out.

"Oh, sorry." Buffy put Willow back on her feet.

"I've missed you too Buff." Willow looked around, "You've done a lot with the place since the last time I was here."

"It was my idea, Red. Buffy, there, has no sense of style." Spike spoke up while wiping glasses. Willow and Buffy ignored him.

"So, how's Angel? Is he around here somewhere? Willow asked looking around.

"No. He's still in LA doing his thing. He said he would drop in soon."

"Bloody hell, do we have to talk about Nancy Boy?" Spike spat out.

"Shut up Spike! If I want your opinion...well, I never want your opinion." Buffy turned back around to Willow and rolled her eyes.

Spike huffed and continued cleaning the glasses.

"Oh Buffy, this is Tara. I met her at school." Willow said taking Tara's hand.

"I see. It's nice to meet you Tara. How about you two sit down here and have a drink, on the house?" Buffy walked behind the bar.

Willow and Tara took a seat.

"I'll have a beer. How about you Tara?" Willow asked.

Tara whispered over to Willow, "C-can I order a-anything?"

"Anything you want. There aren't too many people in here, but just don't let anyone find out." Buffy spoke up.

Tara looked over at Willow.

"Buffy has sharp hearing. Order whatever you want."

"I'll have a b-blue m-motorcycle." Tara said. She has never drank anything with alcohol in it before, but she read about it in a magazine.

"Hitting it kinda hard? Well, I did say anything. One beer and bluey coming up" Buffy said getting a bottle of beer out of the cooler and a glass to mix Tara's drink.

Buffy handed them their drinks. "Here ya go! Enjoy. I have some things in the back to take care of. You two have fun." Buffy walked back into the room behind the bar.

"So Red, a new bird for the flock? Nice one I might add." Spike said leaning against the bar in front of the two.

Tara looked down into her drink. Willow squinted her eyes, "Spike, do you want me to take a pool stick, shove it up your ass and make a skewer out of ya?"

Spike stood up, "Temper, temper Red. Just pokin' fun. No harm, no foul." Spike tended to another customer who had walked up.

"You want to go get a table?" Willow asked Tara pointing at a table near the dance floor. Tara shook her head, taking a sip of her drink. Her eyes went wide, but the initial shock wore off quickly.

Willow took a seat on the stool followed by Tara.

"So what do you think about Buffy? She's pretty cool, huh?" Willow took a long swig from her beer.

"Yeah. S-she's real c-cool." Tara took a long drink from her glass. Her eyes widened again and she coughed.

Willow patted her on the back, "Be careful about how you take in one of those. They'll fuck you up fast."

Tara felt a little fuzzy in the head, but she was able to handle it. She took another long drink.

"I'm fine, Willow. Feeling pretty good." <Where's my stutter?>

"Well as long as you're having a good time?" Willow said a little concerned. She didn't want Tara to over do it and get sick.

A song came over the giant speakers hanging in front of the stage.

(Author's note: If you would like to get really into this part, then go to Click music videos and click on Bring Me To Life. If you click on the link marked music, it will only play part of the song. You can play it in Real Player or Windows Media Player.)

How can you see into my eyes like open doors.
Leading you down into my core
Where I become so numb without a soul.

<Buffy you little sneak.> Willow peered over her shoulder at Buffy who stood there with a huge smile on her face.

My spirit sleeping somewhere cold

"Oh I love this song. C-can we dance to it?" Tara asked standing up with a stagger.

"Funny thing, this is my favorite song, too." Willow stood up, "Lead the way." <Don't say a goddamn word.> Willow told her inner voice.

Until you find it there and lead it back home.
(wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(save me)

Willow walked on the dance floor with Tara. She put her hands around Tara's hips which in turn Tara wrapped her arms around Willow's shoulders.

Call my name and save me from the dark
(wake me up)
Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
before I come undone
(save me)

Tara sang and looked into Willow's eyes, "Save me from the nothing I become."

Now that I know what I'm without
You can't just leave me

"Never." Willow shook her head and moved even closer to Tara. Their bodies swaying to their own rhythm. Willow moaned. Tara's breathing became faster.

Breathe into me and make me real
Bring me to life

(wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(save me)
Call my name and save me from the dark
(wake me up)
Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
before I come undone
(save me)
Save me from the nothing I become
Bring me to life
(I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside)

Willow moved her face closer to Tara's. Tara could feel Willow's breath on her lips.

Bring me to life
Frozen inside without your touch without your love
Darling only you are the life among the dead.

Willow wrapped her arms tighter around Tara's waist. Both of their foreheads came together.

All this time I can't believe I couldn't see
Kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
Got to open my eyes to every thing
Without a thought without a voice without a soul
Don't let me die here
There must me something more
Bring me to life

Tara whispered just loud enough for Willow to hear "Bring me to life Willow."

"Oh god Tara!" Willow said in a breathless voice. "Kiss me." Tara's lips brushed against Willow's. She put out her bottom lip for Willow to take. Willow took Tara's lip hungrily. She sucked on it and licked it asking for invitation to enter Tara's mouth. Tara complied putting her hand on the back of Willow's head running her fingers through the beautiful red hair. Their tongues fought fiercely for domination. Tara and Willow moaned. The fire in their cores was burning wildly. Tara put her leg in between Willow's trying to relieve some of the pressure. The bar, the people, the world melted before them. Nothing was around. They were completely alone, with each other.

(wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(save me)
Call my name and save me from the dark
(wake me up)
Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
before I come undone
(save me)

Tara pulled back, taking in a deep breath of air. She pecked at Willow's lips then gently pushed her tongue inside Willow's mouth. Willow held her tighter, enjoying nothing but Tara.

Save me from the nothing I become
Bring me to life
(I've been living a lie there's nothing inside)
Bring me to life

The song ended but Willow and Tara were still dancing. They didn't pay attention to the crowd that had gathered around the dance floor whistling and clapping. Buffy pushed her way through and walked over to Willow and Tara.

"Will. Will. Willow. You need to breathe. Will. Willow? Willow!" Buffy shouted patting Willow's shoulder.

Tara and Willow pulled away from their kiss. Tara's eyes widened when she came back to reality. She suddenly realized she and Willow were in the spotlight. She quickly lowered her head and put it on Willow's shoulder.

Willow looked over at Buffy, who was standing with her hands on her hips, "It's your fault. You put the song on." Willow smiled and winked at her best friend.

"Well, if you two wanna get paid for the biggest entertainment here, then I'll book ya in. I believe this is the busiest I've been during the day, especially for a Tuesday. Otherwise, I'll give you money for a room." Buffy smiled and winked back at Willow.

Willow whispered in Tara's ear, "Let's go sit back down."

Tara raised her head. Her face was blood red. She just nodded and Willow led her back to their table.

Tara sat down and then Willow, neither one looking at the other for more than a few seconds.

Buffy and Spike walked over to the table, "Interesting show, Red. Wouldn't mind seeing that again." Spike said with a smirk.

"Spike, one word...skewer." Willow jutted out her chin.

"Right then, I'll just take the blonde bird and show her the billiards." Spike walked over to Tara. Tara looked at Willow.

"Yeah, for once Spike, you have a good idea." Buffy said putting her hand on Willow's shoulders. Willow looked at Buffy puzzled. Buffy widened her eyes and motioned for Willow that it'll be alright.

"It's alright Tara. Spike will show ya how to play." Willow winked at Tara.

Tara looked surprised, "I-if you say s-so." She took another long drink out of her glass.

"Hey Blondie, I don't bite." Spike walked away towards the pool tables.

Tara got up and walked behind him.

Buffy sat down and looked at Willow, "She seems nice, Will."

"She is, Buffy?" Willow looked at the blonde seriously, "I think I am falling for her."

"What are you doing? Will?" Buffy put her hand on Willow's arm.

"It's alright Buffy. I know she feels the same about me." Willow said.

"What?!" Buffy said shocked.

"Buffy trust me." Willow said tying to reassure her friend.

"Willow. No you can't?" Buffy was trying her best to reason.

"Why? A minute ago you were all with the music and then money for the room thing. Seems to me like it doesn't bother you." Willow looked at Buffy confused.

"For one thing, I know you like that song and the other thing, you know as well as I do that we all have to play along in this. Willow, what if something went wrong?"

"Buffy, it won't?" Willow still didn't understand.

"What would Giles say?" Buffy said hoping it would work by mentioning the man who took Willow under his wing.

"Are you taking his side now?" Willow was getting pissed, thinking her oldest friend was stabbing her in the back.

Buffy sighed, "This isn't about sides."

"You two have been talking about me behind my back!" Willow accused.

"No, God!" Buffy tried to plea with the short tempered red head.

"You know how that makes me feel?" Willow said angrily.

"Willow, you are getting in too deep. What do you want me to do, just sit back and keep my mouth shut?" Buffy was tired of pleading. Now it was time for the defensive move.

"Well that would be a good start!" Willow said clenching her teeth. She was beyond reasoning with.

Buffy looked hurt. She stood up and looked down at Willow, "If I didn't love you so damn much, I would?"

Buffy turned on her heels and stormed off.

"Buffy?" Willow didn't want things between her and Buffy to be bad.

Buffy just kept on walking. She entered the back room and slammed the door shut.

Willow looked at her beer bottle and started peeling the label off. She took the last swig and slammed the bottle down on the table, shattering it. People turned around and looked for a minute then went back to their own business. Willow picked up Tara's drink, removed the straw and guzzled the last half of it. She walked over to where Spike and Tara were.

She pushed the glass in Spike's chest, "Here. Tara and I are leaving."

"You and her get in a spat?" Spike questioned putting his pool stick on the table.

Willow just glared at him.

"I'll just go see if I can give her a little comfort." Spike said weakly and quickly walked away.

"A-are you alright?" Tara asked putting down her pool stick.

Willow closed her eyes and took in a calming breath. "Yeah, let's just go."

Willow walked over to the door and held it open waiting for Tara. Tara walked through the door.

"W-Willow, what h-happened in there?" Tara asked concerned.

"Buffy being super bitch. She's just running her mouth. I swear sometimes she needs every square inch of her ass kicked." Willow said rubbing her hand. She cringed and looked down. Her hand was bleeding and had a piece of glass imbedded in it. She had been too mad to even notice.

"Damn it!" Willow screamed pulling out the glass.

"Oh g-god Willow!" Tara exclaimed running to the car. She opened the door and remembered there was a towel in the back seat. She ran back over to Willow.

"H-here, p-put this on it." Tara said holding out the towel.

Willow looked at the towel with suspicion, "You didn't happen to get that out of the back seat did ya?"

Tara looked at the towel and then at Willow, "Umm, y-yes."

"No thanks. And if I were you, I would wash my hands as soon as possible."

Tara thought <O.K. Towel... backseat? Faith...Slink!> "Eww! Gross!" Tara briskly rubbed her hands on her jeans.

"Umm, if you could reach inside my back pocket I have a bandana in there." Willow said turning around.

Tara reached deep into Willow's pocket to retrieve the rag.

Willow smiled and moaned silently. <Now that was a smart suggestion.>

Tara smiled. <This is fun. But I can't think of that right now. Willow's hurt.>

Tara handed Willow the bandana. Willow wrapped it around her hand but couldn't seem to get it tied.

Tara took Willow's hand and tied it.

"All b-better?" Tara asked.

"Yep. Thanks." Willow smiled at Tara. She moved in closer and kissed her on the lips. It wasn't passion, just out of appreciation.

"Damn ladies, at it again?" A big man started heading towards them.

Willow stood in front of Tara, "If I were you, I'd go back in the bar."

"Yeah well you aren't me. Now how about the two of you come back to my place?" He stood in front of Willow.

She turned her head from the stench of alcohol reeking off of him. "I'm thinking you need a bath. A really long bath."

"Well sweetie, I'm sure we all can get in the shower together and have a little fun. Especially Blondie back there. She looks like she might enjoy it." He said peering over Willow's shoulder.

"You know, I don't want to hurt you." Willow said clenching her fist at her side.

The man let out a throaty laugh. He took his hand and smacked Willow so hard she fell on the ground.

"Not a problem." He said heading towards Tara.

Willow sprung back up on her feet and stood in front of him, "I said I didn't want to." Willow drew back her fist. It connected to his chin, knocking him off his feet, "Didn't say I wouldn't."

Willow turned and looked at Tara, "Get inside."

Tara was not going to leave Willow, "No!"

"Tara go inside, Now!" Willow demanded. "I can handle this piece of shit."

Tara took off in a dead run.

The man stood up. "You bitch! How dare you hit me!"

"Are we really going to do this?" Willow was trying to give him a chance.

"C'mon! You really think that I am going to let some woman beat me down?" The man was determined to defend himself.

"Show me what you got and I'll show you what a real woman is." Willow said with both fists up in front of her.

The man charged at Willow. She stepped aside, tripping him. He fell face first into the asphalt parking lot. He stood up and ran at Willow with his fist drawn back. She grabbed his fist and head butted him three times and kicked him in the side. He charged at Willow again. She side stepped him and elbowed him in the back, sending him to his knees. He stood up on his feet and turned around to face Willow.

"You got some skill there little red."

"Good enough to kick your ass." Willow said taking in a breath of air.

He charged towards her again, but Willow didn't anticipate the move. He picked her up by the throat and tossed her to the ground. Willow arched her back and flipped on her feet. They moved towards each other. Willow kicked him in the leg, side and head, all in one swift move. He lunged at her again and swung his fist but Willow did a back flip. He ran at her one last time. She laid him out with a roundhouse kick to the head, leaving him on the ground passed out and bleeding.

Spike ran out of the bar with a shotgun. Buffy and Tara right behind him. They looked at the scene in front of them and their eyes widened. Willow was standing over a man twice her size.

"I told him I didn't want to fight." Willow said trying to explain.

"You had us scared to death!" Buffy walked up to Willow. Both of them embraced in a hug. "I'm sorry things got a little tense between us."

"It's alright. Am I forgived?" Willow said still holding on to Buffy.

"All is forgived." Buffy pulled back and looked at Tara, "Umm Will, I think you need to take your girl and get out of here. She looks a little shaken up."

Willow walked over to Tara. She rubbed up and down Tara's arm. "Tara. It's alright. You wanna leave?"

Tara slowly looked up at Willow. She didn't say a word, just shook her head.

"We better get going then. Buffy I'll see ya later." Willow said walking the shaken Tara to the car.

"Yeah, later Wills." Buffy grabbed Spike and pulled him into the bar, leaving the man lying on the ground.

Willow and Tara got settled in the car. "So where do you want to go now?"

"J-just take m-me home." Tara said as she put her head on the window.

Tara entered her house with Willow entering behind her. The ride in the car had been too quiet.

Willow stopped Tara as she was walking through the foyer, "Tara, I'm sorry that I yelled at you to get inside the bar, but I didn't want you to get hurt." Willow lowered her head.

"Will, its n-n-not that. I j-just...that guy w-was a c-complete jerk and I w-was afraid for you." Tara sighed, "I d-don't want you to b-be hurt either."

Willow smiled. "Well, I tried to warn him. But he wouldn't listen. He just had to be mister tough ass. Guess I showed him." Willow's smile faded when she realized Tara wasn't joking along.

"Will, I'm j-just concerned. You w-were brave though."

"Nobody messes with my girl." <Did I just say that?>

<Did she just say that? Well let's see how this goes. Keep your fingers crossed.> Tara thought. A smile came on her face. "I am you know."

"What?" Willow asked.

"Y-yours?" Tara's face went red.

"Oh Tara." Willow moved closer to the blonde. She placed her hand on her head, stroking her long hair.

The kiss started slow. Each enjoying the touch, feel and taste of each other's lips. Tara put her arms around Willow's lower back. She moved her hand under Willow's jacket to the soft skin that was exposed there. Willow moaned with the hot touch of her beautiful goddess. The kiss became more intense with each feel. Willow moved her other hand up and down Tara's back, moving down feeling the skin below her shirt. All conscious thought was gone. The passion grew. The touching became more intense, moving their hands, pulling each other closer.

The doorbell rang.

Willow pulled back and growled, "Oh Jesus H. Christ! Who the hell is that?"

Tara giggled, "I'll g-get rid of th-them."

Tara walked over to the door and looked out the peep hole. A woman was standing on the other side with a bible in her hand.

"Shit! I...I think it's o-one of those J-Jehovah Witness p-people. Tara said still looking.

"Let me see." Willow said walking up to the door.

Tara stepped aside. Willow looked out the hole in the door.

"Ah fuck! It's Ms. Day. What the hell is she doing here?" Willow said as she spat out the woman's name.

"My d-d-dad asked her t-to come by and check on m-me." Tara said wondering what the problem was. "Why?"

"Oh, oh, oh. I have an idea. Tara, you keep her busy." Willow ran into the living room.

Tara watched Willow, confused. She shrugged her shoulders and opened the door.

"Hello. M-may I help you?" Tara looked up and down at the grey haired woman in a casual pink polyester dress.

"Tara?" Ms. Day asked.

Tara shook her head.

"My name is Ms. Edna Day. Your father has asked me to come by and see how you are doing."

<More or less spy on my ass.> "I'm f-fine, thank you f-for stopping b-by." Tara started to close the door.

Ms. Day stepped closer, "Can I come in so we can talk? Even though I don't approve of those clothes you have on, I understand you are a teenager. But, I would like to talk about the bible with you. I'm sure we have a lot in common."

"I kinda doubt it, Edna." Willow suddenly appeared dressed only in her green silky bra and panties. She put her arm around Tara's shoulder.

"Oh Lord above! Willow Rosenberg what are you doing here, with this innocent child?" Edna stood there with her mouth hung wide open.

Willow looked over at Tara who wore the same expression.

"You're a smart woman, figure it out." Willow kissed Tara's cheek and slightly licked her ear.

Tara just stood there. Her breath coming in quick gasps.

"Willow Rosenberg, you will burn in hell for this!" The woman held up her bible she had in her hand.

"Well then if that's the case, I'll see ya there bitch. Bye now." Willow waved her hand and slammed the door shut.

"Oh god! That felt good. I've been wanting to give that bible thumpin' bitch a heart attack for the longest time." Willow said looking at Tara.

"W-Willow, what h-have you d-d-done." Tara's voice was shaken.

"Oh c'mon Tara, that was fun. She deserved it. Nosy ol' hag." Willow laughed and walked back in the living room.

Tara looked out the window and saw Ms. Day on her knees praying in the front yard. She shook her head and walked in the living room. Willow was putting her clothes back on.

"What are y-you trying t-to prove, Willow?"

"Nothing. I can't stand that woman. If you knew what kind of person she was you would feel the same way."

"You are g-going to get me killed! When m-my dad finds out the sh-shit's gonna hit the fan!" Tara threw up her hands.

"Look Tara," Willow stood up and put her hand on Tara's shoulder. "I promise you that I will not let anything happen to you."

"You c-can't be here all the t-time, Willow." Tara said discouraged.

"Trust me, O.K." Willow said trying to put the girl at ease.

"What are y-you going to do, k-kill him?"

"If it calls for it, I will." Willow said with defiance.

Tara crossed her arms. "Whatever. I n-need a cigarette."

Willow put her boots on, "I'm ready." She said heading for the front door.

Tara grabbed her by the arm, "We'll g-go out the back way."

Willow smiled and followed Tara.

Tara sat down on the steps and lit her cigarette. This entire day had overwhelmed her. Willow stood up against the door, with a cigarette in her hand too.

Tara leaned back on her hands, "What a fucked up d-day."

"Stick with me and it'll never be boring." Willow stood up and made her way to where Tara was.

"Yeah, I f-found that out." Tara said with a sigh.

"Tara, if you don't feel comfortable with me around..."

Tara held up her hand, "Don't even f-finish that sentence. Willow, y-you are the best thing that has come into my miserable life." Tara lowered her head, "B-but if you d-d-don't want t-to stay...,"

Willow held her hand up, "I'll tell you like you told me, don't even finish that sentence. Tara, there's something between us. It wasn't something I was looking for, it's just powerful. And this is totally different than anything I've ever experienced."

Tara's eyes widened. "W-well there ya go, Will. I m-mean that's great, W-Will. You have to f-follow your h-heart, Will." <The babbling red headed goddess has competition now.>

"Tara, why do you keep saying my name like that?" Willow was getting nervous by Tara's actions.

"L-like what, Will?" Tara's emotions were running wild. She wanted to say the same things and more but hearing it coming from someone else, especially Willow frightened her.

"Are you freaked? Willow said. <Uh oh. Big boo boo.>

"Wh-what? No, Will." Tara took in a deep breath, "No. No. Absolutely n-no to that question. To t-tell the truth, I feel the same. I j-just didn't know h-how you felt, until n-n-now." Tara's face turned crimson and she dropped her head finding one small pebble interesting.

"Really? Because, hello, big relief here. I thought that maybe, well, that you weren't ready. I mean, that's...that's totally cool if you're not. It's just that we kissed and I know I felt something and I thought ya know the way you were kissing me back that you felt something for me..."

Willow was cut off with Tara's lips on hers. Willow moaned at the contact.

Tara pulled back. "I knew there w-was another way to stop that cute little b-b-babble of yours" Tara gave Willow a half smile.

"You have the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. God Tara, do you know what you do to me?" Willow gently placed her hand on Tara's cheek. Tara placed her hand over Willow's enjoying the feeling and warmth.

Willow took Tara by the hand and led her inside. "C'mon. Let's go."

"Where are we g-going?" Tara asked.

"Upstairs. Is that O.K.?" Willow said still leading Tara.

Tara suddenly stopped, "Uh W-Willow?"

Willow turned and noticed the uneasy look on Tara's face.

"What's wrong?" She asked.

"I'm n-not r-r-ready for...I m-mean we b-barely know one another." <What if that's what she wants? I don't think I am ready for this. Not now. Oh God I hope she doesn't leave.>

Realizing what Tara was trying to say, Willow smiled, "No Tara, sweetie. I didn't mean THAT. I just meant to go and lay down. I'm kinda beat and I think we both could use a rest. You look tired. Oh I don't mean that you look bad tired cause you never look bad, I'm just saying that..."

Tara kissed Willow again.

"O.K. Willow. I g-get it." Tara smiled and they both went to her bedroom.

Willow kicked off her shoes and laid down on the bed. Tara stood there looking at her.

"What?" Willow asked.

"You're j-just so beautiful." Tara walked around the bed, kicked off her shoes and laid close to Willow as the thought was appropriate without pushing.

Willow held out her arm, "C'mere. I wanna hold you."

Tara smiled and moved closer laying her head on Willow's shoulder. Willow wrapped her arm around and held Tara tight.

"You comfortable?" Willow asked.

"Uh huh." Tara replied closing her eyes. She hadn't felt this safe. Warm and safe.

Willow kissed the top of Tara's head and soon both were asleep.

Tara was disrupted out of a deep relaxing sleep by the ringing of the phone. She looked at her clock. Two hours had passed. She hesitantly got up and walked downstairs.

"Hello." Tara answered sleepily.

"Tara, I just got off the phone with Ms. Day. I want to know what the hell is going on over there! You answer me now girl!" Her father's angry voice said over the phone.

The sound of his voice sent chills up and down Tara's body.

"N-nothing d-d-dad."

"You lying little bitch! I'm coming home. You better be alone girl. I swear you're just like your mother. Nothing but a slut!" James slammed the phone down.

Tara hung up the phone as Willow walked in the room.

"Tara, who was that?"

Tara lowered her head and began to cry. "I t-t-told you W-Willow. I told you! He's c-c-coming h-home. Th-that b-b-bitch next d-door called him. Oh G-god Willow, wh-what am I g-g-going t-to do?"

Willow walked over to her and cradled Tara in her arms, I won't let him touch you."

Tara placed her head on Willow's chest. "D-don't let him h-h-hurt me, pl-please."

"I won't baby, I promise." Willow said comforting Tara.

Continue to Stratagem Chapter Five

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