Return to Stratagem Chapter Six


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 walked down the stairs. The smell of bacon filled her nose.

"Good morning Tara." Ann stood over an iron skillet on the stove.

"Morning. That smells g-good." Tara sat at the table.

"Where's Willow?" Ann asked.

"She's s-still asleep. I decided to l-leave her alone."

"Tara, I heard you and her argue last night. I wasn't eavesdropping, your voice carried to my room. Thin walls and plus I haven't had any company in this house for years." Ann placed a plate of food in front of Tara.

"We s-sorted everything out." Tara put a piece of bacon in her mouth.

"Does Willow really make you feel out of place?" Ann opened up the refrigerator for some juice.

"No." Tara shook her head.

"I don't mean to pry, but it just seems like to me that she thinks of you as the junior partner." Ann placed a glass of juice in front of Tara.

"I d-don't think she d-does." <No. Not from my Willow. What's with 20 questions this morning?>

"Do you love her Tara?" Ann sat down at the table.

"Of course I d-do." Tara creased her brows together.

"So you have told her then, right?"

Tara nodded as she ate.

"How can you love someone and only known them for a few days?" Ann said with doubt in her voice.

"I just know. Willow is the one f-for me. I f-feel it in m-my heart." Tara said with confidence.

"Does she feel the same way?"

"I s-suppose so." Tara said.

"So she hasn't told you? You made love to her, you confessed your love for her but she hasn't told you the same?" Ann tilted her head to the side.

"We...we haven't m-made l-love yet." Tara said almost in a whisper.

"Oh O.K. I get it. It's just that yesterday you told me that she was your lover. I just got a little confused."

"Well, I am w-waiting for Willow. I w-will always wait f-for her." Tara held her head up high.

"That's sweet. I just hope she makes you happy." Ann smiled at Tara.

"She does. S-she is the happiest th-thing that h-has happened in m-my life." Tara smiled at her own words.

"Tara, I have read about people that lived in a very negative home environment and found love but it dwindles shortly after. I'm just wondering if you are just clinging to the first person that has ever shown you positive affection."

"That's n-not the reason." Tara's anger was rising. "That's not the reason at all!" Tara pushed her plate away and stomped upstairs.

Tara burst in the bedroom and slammed the door behind her.

Willow sat up with a jolt. She blinked her eyes rapidly trying to regain focus.

"Willow." Tara stood at the end of the bed.

"Yes baby." Willow cleared her dry throat.

"Tell me." Tara sat down on the edge.

"What honey?" Willow was still shaken by the abrupt awakening.

"I l-love you Willow, now tell m-me you l-love me." Tara said almost pleading.

"Tara, what?" Willow questioned.

"I want you t-to tell me you l-love me."

"Tara, yesterday you told me not to say it just because you did. What's this about?" Willow was becoming more confused.

"I also t-told you not to say it unless y-you meant it." Tara jutted out her chin, determined for Willow to say what she wanted so desperately to hear.

"Tara, I...I..." <I love you! I will always love you!> Her mind screamed but the words stuck in her throat.

Tears started forming in Tara's eyes. "You c-can't say it. Can you? Why can't you say it?"

"Tara tell me what the fucking hell is going on!" Willow yelled not understanding.

Tara took in a staggering breath, "I'm afraid that things are ch-changing between us fast."

"Baby things happened between us fast, but that doesn't matter. Tell me what's wrong please." Willow was practically begging for some kind of explanation.

"I j-just feel like the j-junior partner." Tara said using Ann's words.

"Did I do something to make you think that? If I did tell me because I'm likely to do it again and in public." Willow smiled at her own little joke trying to lighten the dreadful mood.

"I s-suppose I'm a little jealous. It j-just frightens m-me how independent you are."

"That's a strange word. It frightens you? I frighten you?" Willow was shocked.

"Th-that is so not what I meant. I meant it impresses...impressive." Tara jumped off the bed and stood to face Willow.

Willow sat up further on the bed. "I know what you meant. Tara I know I can be a little wild and outgoing sometimes but that's who I am. And if I've given you some reason of doubt...Don't you trust me?"

"With my life." Tara confessed.

"That's not what I mean." Willow said plainly.

"Hey Ann h-has breakfast r-ready." Tara tried her best to get out of this conversation. <You had to start something didn't you? Fucking stupid Tara!>

"I'm not really feeling up for the most important meal of the day." Willow stood and walked closer to the blonde. "What is it about me you don't trust?"

Tara's shoulders dropped, "Its n-not that. I w-worry s-sometimes. I f-feel like you are g-going to leave me behind. And I d-don't know where you are heading after all th-this is over."

"Where I'm heading?" Willow asked.

"I'm s-saying everything wrong." Tara looked around and then back at Willow.

"No I think you're being pretty clear. This isn't about the independent thing. It's about me not being able to say what you want me to say."

"I trust you. It's j-just...I don't know where I'm gonna fit in you l-life when..." The hurt was seen clearly on Tara's face.

"What? When I go back home and you're not going to be there. Yeah this is a fling for me. You think that?" The known temper of the redhead was rising.

"Should I?" Tara asked trying to make a stand.

"I'm sorry that I wasn't initiated into your kiddy club house. You're the only woman I've ever fallen in love with, but I suppose you're too immature to ever take me seriously." Tears streamed down Willow's face as she walked towards the door.

"Willow please." Tara begged while she watched Willow. Tara heard Willow's confession, but it was too late.

"Have fun with your new life!" Willow walked out slamming the door behind her.

Tara sat down on the bed. She dropped her face in her hands and cried. <What have I done?>

Willow walked down the steps with her gym bag hung on her shoulders.

Ann walked in the foyer, "Willow, where are you going?"

Willow opened the front door, "I'm fuckin' leaving." With that she slammed the door.

Ann walked up the stairs.

"Tara." Ann knocked on the door as she entered.

Tara sat there on the bed sobbing.

"Oh dear. What happened?" Ann sat down and held and rocked Tara.

"She...left..." Tara cried and sniffled.

"Why?" Ann asked.

Tara slowed down her crying. She took in a shuttering breath, "She l-left b-because I made her m-mad." Tara wiped the tears away. "I asked h-her to t-tell me she l-loved me but she c-couldn't." Tara's tears started falling again and she leaned against the woman.

"She couldn't or wouldn't Tara?"

Tara pulled back and looked at Ann. "Wh-what? No. She t-told me she h-has strong feelings for m-me and...and before she l-left she told me I w-was the only woman she has ever f-fallen in love with."

"It could have been a last minute desperation. Honestly I think there is something more to it." Ann looked into Tara's eyes.


"I think she was jealous because of you." Ann said.

"M-me?" Tara asked.

"It's because of your money. Money will make people do strange things. I think at first she befriended you initially, but when she found out about you coming into a lot of money she wanted you to think that she had fallen for you." Ann stroked Tara's hair.

"N-no. It wasn't l-like that. She...we were g-getting closer before we f-found the will." Tara said defending the events.

"Well, whatever the case may be between you two, she's gone and we have to be at the lawyers at 12:30. There are papers to sign and other legal matters." Ann stood up and walked to the door. "You have a good few hours to get ready. I'll be down stairs waiting."

"D-don't you even c-care that I j-just broke up with my g-g-girlfriend?" Tara's tears started again.

"Yes sweet heart, I know that money can't take away all the years of pain and the pain you're feeling right now, but it's a good way to start you on your feet and put things normal for once in your life. I just want you to get what you deserve." Ann sighed. "Tara, you've got your heart broken, but it will mend. I ought to know." Ann stared at the floor and sniffed. "I'm going down stairs now. Just come down when you get ready." Ann said with a shaky voice.

Tara felt the guilt building inside. She knew the loss of her mother was devastating to her but she realized that Ann hurt just as much or more. <That poor woman. I want to be strong like Ann but how am I going to do it without you Willow?> Tara sighed and laid down.

Willow walked in her motel room. She flung her gym bag on the bed. It bounced off the mattress and fell in the floor. She rolled her eyes, growled and picked it up. She placed her laptop case on the nightstand. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed a number.

"Giles it's me."

"Willow, you sound a little distressed. Has something happened?"

"Something like that!" Her voice full of hurt and anger.

"Would you care to explain?" Giles asked.

Willow hooked all the connections up. She turned her computer on and sat down on the bed.

"Well, first Tara got pissed, I got pissed and now I'm staying in some crappy motel room. How's that for explaining?"

"I am sorry Willow. Is there anything I can do?"

"Yeah! Find out all you can on Ann Fields. Something about that fucking bitch gives me belly rumblins."

"Has something transpired that needs to be brought to my attention Willow?"

"Not yet, but I have a feeling that something isn't right there. I've got to get Tara out of there, now."

Willow was trying to emphasize the urgency of the situation.

"I will do my best dear. It should not take long. Is there a facsimile machine at the motel you are saying?"

Willow pulled a piece of paper from her pocket, "Yeah. The number is 515-456-0987."

"Alright. Willow do take my advice and relax. You will not be able to complete the task at hand if you remain in this emotional state."

"I know that!" She took in a calming breath. "I'm sorry Giles. I'm still pissed off."

"Understandable. Take care and I will fax my results within the hour."

"Thanks Giles." Willow flipped her phone shut.

She laid on the bed pulling her laptop on her legs. She started clicking her mouse and typing. As if they had a mind of their own, her eyes were shedding tears. She wiped them away. Crying started wracking her body and then it became uncontrollable. <Tara, baby I swear with everything in me I will get you out of this.>

Tara sat in the car with her head laid against the window. All that was on her mind was Willow.

"Tara honey, try to cheer up a little. A broken heart mends with time. Here, we'll play some music." Ann reached forward and turned the radio on.

Here's a dedication for all those broken hearts out there.
Greeday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk alone
I walk alone. I walk alone. I walk alone. I walk alone

Tara sat there and rolled and closed her eyes. <Oh yeah, uh huh, brightens the mood right up..>

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
‘Til then I walk...

Tara turned the radio off and sighed.

"Oh Tara, I'm sorry."

"N-no that's alright." Tears fell from her face and stained her shirt.

Tara and Ann entered the lawyer's office. Ann walked up to the receptionist. "Yes Ann Fields and Tara Maclay here to see Ron DeVit.

The receptionist looked at her appointment book, "Alright. I'll let him know you're here. Please take a seat it will only be a few minutes.

Tara sat there wringing her hands together, looking around at the various art work hung on the wall.

Ann patted Tara on the leg, "Nervous dear?"

Tara replied by shaking her head.

"Miss Maclay, Ms. Fields, Mr. DeVit will see you now." The receptionist stood in the door way.

"Ready?" Ann asked Tara and stood up.

Tara's heart raced wildly. This was the moment of all moments for her, but she wanted Willow there with her. She stood up and followed Ann down the hall.

"Miss Maclay, Ms. Fields, I'm happy to see you both. Please take a seat." The chubby short fellow said as he took his seat. "Alright, let's see what we have here." He pulled out a file from his desk drawer. "It seems as if Miss Maclay has come into quite a fortune. Alright, before we can go through all the legalities, I will need verification of Tara's age."

Ann reached in her purse and handed him a folded piece of paper.

He opened it and seemed to examine every word. "Seems in order. I suppose you cannot go against a birth certificate, but Tara will not officially be eighteen until Sunday. Well we'll get all the paper work finalized today that way Monday morning you can go to the bank and do what ever you see fit with your money." He looked to Ann. "Ms. Fields, I will need proof of who you are."

Ann reached in her purse again and handed him her driver's license and social security card.

"O.K. All seems to be correct. Now Tara, I would like to tell you that your mother was a very smart woman. She knew what she was doing when it came to financial security. Unfortunately, she passed away too soon. I found your mother a very lovely lady."

"Thank y-you." Tara replied.

"Well, here you are with an exciting revelation of your life. With the deposit of two million dollars in Certificate of Deposits, at 5.11% monthly interest, the ending balance equals..." Mr. DeVit punched in the numbers on his calculator. "You have $3,330,299.55 deposited at the First Financial Bank in La Grande. Now it you need to present these papers to the bank president. It is a great financial institution, so you will be able to withdrawal the entire amount, if you wish to do so, without any complications or difficulty."

"My f-father can't t-touch any part of the m-money can he?" Tara asked. The news of the money was exciting but she couldn't wallow in her glory without Willow.

"Not one red cent. According to my records, your mother was never married to Mr. Maclay. In fact Tara, I don't know if you are aware of this, James Maclay isn't your real father. Your biological father passed away before you were born."

Tara sat there with her mouth hung wide open. She couldn't say a word.

Ann patted her on the knee. Tara looked and the woman nodded her head in conformation.

"Your mother Jackie," The lawyer continued, "signed the will with her birth name. Didn't you look at the will where her signature is?"

Tara shook her head. She was in total shock trying to process all the information she was being told.

The lawyer flipped the document to the last page and handed it to Tara. The name at the end was signed Jacquelyn Yeary. Tara handed the will back to the man.

He cleared his throat. "Getting back to the matter at hand, Tara I will need your signature on these forms." He pointed to the places Tara needed to sign. "And Ms. Fields, if you would?" He handed the pen over to Ann. She signed at the appropriate place.

"That's all we need. Here's your copy. Like I said, take these to the president of the bank and they shouldn't have any problems. In fact, I will call them after you leave to let them know you will arrive sometime Monday."

Ann stood up out of her chair. "I'll go with her and make sure that Tara gets everything in order."

"Actually Ms. Fields, it's not necessary for you to go with Tara unless she wants you there." Mr. DeVit looked at Tara who still sat there in shock. "Tara, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope you have fun with your new life."

Tara shot her head up and stared the man down. "What d-did you say?"

The man look puzzled, "I said that I hope nothing more but happiness for you."

The haunting words of Willow were still fresh in her mind. She dropped her head. "Thank you." Tara said and walked out of his office.

"Ms. Fields, you have a pleasant day." The man placed papers in the file.

Ann smiled at him and followed after Tara.

A call came through to Willow's motel room. She had fallen into a light sleep.

Willow picked up the phone, "Yes."

"Miss Rosenberg, you have some papers that had just come through the fax machine. Would you like for me to bring them to your room?"

"No. I'll be down in a minute. Thanks." Willow hung up the phone and sprung from the bed. She combed her fingers through her hair and walked out the door.

She walked into the office over to the receptionist. The woman handed Willow the papers. She scanned through them, "Oh my god!"

Without saying another word, Willow ran out of the office back to her room.

Ann unlocked the door to her house. Tara exhausted headed upstairs.

"Tara dear. Can you come with me?" Ann walked further in the house.

"I want to show you something." Ann sat down in her chair in the living room.

Tara plopped down on the couch.

Ann reached in a drawer from the end table. She brought out a book and handed it to Tara.

"What's this?" Tara asked looking at the cover.

"That happens to be you're mother's diary."

"Ann, why d-didn't you tell me about d-da...James?" Tara asked.

"Actually Tara, before today I thought you knew. Heck, I thought you were dead until you called me yesterday. I know your mind is on a roller coaster ride, but I have the right thing you need. Come outside." Ann got up from her chair and walked out the back door.

Tara followed.

"Here it is." Ann pointed out a jacuzzi.

"Wow!" Tara exclaimed.

"Now I'm sure this will help you relax. I think there is a bathing suit upstairs in the bottom drawer of the dresser in your room. Why don't you go put it on and you can read the diary? I'll make some tea and you can stay out here as long as you want."

Tara nodded her head and dashed up the stairs.

Willow dialed her cell phone.

"Giles! What the hell is this?" Willow sat on the bed drumming her fingers on the nightstand. She picked up her gun and inspected it.

"Willow. I merely obtained the information you requested. Is there a problem?"

"No. No problem. I just wasn't expecting..."

"Yes it is quite shocking." Giles interupted.

"Well duh! Alright, any news on James?"

"As my contacts have informed me, he has been seen about Baker City."

"Damn it! Giles I have to move now!" Willow screamed.

"Willow do calm yourself." The worried tone was evident from the man. "There happens to be the issue of time. You cannot make a move as of yet."

"You honestly think I can just sit here while the woman I love is in danger." Willow said but regretted pouring her heart out to Giles before Tara.

Giles cleared his throat, "Willow, as your authoritative figure I forbid you to, as you would say, act like a chicken with its head cut off. You will remain in your motel room until Sunday. And then you will follow procedure. Is that understood!" Giles said demanding.

Willow sighed. "Yes. I understand, but I want you to know that I'll be damned if I like it."

Giles let out a shout laugh, "Willow I promise you that Tara is not in any immediate danger."

"Alright. I'll take your word for it, but I'm holding you to it as well." Willow said.

"Very well then. I will let you retire for the evening. Take care my dear."

"I will. Bye Giles." Willow flipped her phone shut.

She laid on her bed shifting one leg over the other. <Goddamn it! I can't just stay here.> Willow got off the bed and headed out the door.

Tara sat in the jacuzzi letting the bubbles massage her entire body. She held the diary in her hands and began to read.

Today I found out I am pregnant. I never thought it would be possible. William and I have been trying for so long we practically had given up. If the baby is a girl, I will name her Tara and if a boy, Donald.

Tara smiled. She flipped to the middle of the diary.

We buried my beloved William today. How could this have happened? He was such a healthy man. His friend James Maclay was very comforting to me. He was with William when he died. I recently found out that I am going to have a baby girl. I regret so much that William will not be able to know his daughter.

Tara eyes widened. She thumbed through a couple of pages.

Tara was born today. I felt it only right to give her James' last name. He has been there through the biggest part of my pregnancy and during the delivery. Actually James insisted on it. He always wanted a daughter. I know William would have wanted it that way.

"What the...<Oh my god! No this can't be!> Tara flipped to the last entries.

"Tara sweetheart, here's some tea for you." Ann laid the glass on the edge. She looked over Tara's shoulder to see where she was at in her reading. Ann smiled and walked back in the house.

Tara picked up her glass and took a big drink. She continued to read.

How could I have done this? I want to get out of this. I have to leave. James has gotten so out of control. I found out last week that I was pregnant for the second time. I told James hoping that would make a difference. I did however wait to tell him. I brought a sonogram picture to him and he was worse than I have ever seen him. He beat me and kicked me. I lost my child, but I still have Tara. We are leaving soon. I just have to get my money together and get out of here.

Tara drunk down the rest of her tea. She hadn't noticed the tears streaming down her face. She turned to the last page in her mother's diary.

My friend and now lover, Ann has been great through out all of this. She has helped me pack my and Tara's things. Yesterday, she and I went to the lawyers. I took Ann's advice and had a will drawn up. I left everything to Tara. James will never see any of it.

Tara's mouth hung open. She stood up in the water, but her legs went weak. She held on to the sides and fell out onto the ground. The diary fell a few feet from her. Ann walked outside and saw the distressed girl.

"Sweetie, are you alright?" Ann helped Tara to her feet.

"I'm just so...t-tired." Tara hung on to the woman.

"I suppose that little soak wore you out. You come on inside and I'll put you to bed." Ann helped Tara upstairs.

Tara leaned up against the wall of the room while Ann retrieved a night gown out of a drawer. Tara took the bathing suit off and slipped into the gown. Normally she would have been to embarrassed to undress in front of anyone, but she felt too light headed to care.

Ann helped Tara to the bed and tucked her in. "Now, I'll be right back. I think you need some hot tea. Try to stay awake until I get back."

Tara nodded her head and watched Ann walk out the door.

Willow walked into a local pub. She looked around at the patrons that sat around. Some looked rough in appearance. She walked up to the bartender. She pulled out a paper with James' picture on it. One of the things that Giles included in his fax.

"Have you seen this guy around?" Willow pointed to the picture.

The bartender picked it up, looked at it and placed it down in front of Willow. "Maybe. I dunno, cutie. You might be able to refresh my memory."

Willow reached in her back pocket for her wallet. She opened it, laid it down on the counter and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. She slid it over to the man and pointed at the picture again.

"Now, have you seen this man around?"

The bartender's eyes widened, "Now look. I've seen him, but I don't want any trouble."

Ann walked in Tara's room. She sat down on the edge of the bed. She placed a cup of tea on the night stand. Tara laid there with her eyes barely opened.

Ann touched Tara's forehead. "Oh dear. I think you're running a fever. It's no wonder with all the worry you've been putting yourself through." Ann reached in her pocket and pulled out a bottle of pills. "Here's some Tylenol." She put the pills in Tara's mouth and picked up the cup. Tara took the cup and washed the pills down. She handed the cup back to Ann and laid her head back on the pillow.

"Now Tara, you need to drink all of this. You need to take in as many fluids as possible." Ann helped Tara sit back up. Tara sipped the warm liquid until the cup was empty.

"That's my girl. Now, you try to get some sleep and I'll be back later with some soup." Ann kissed Tara on the cheek.

"I...need...t-to talk about...what I r-read in mom's diary. I...d-don't understand. "

"You need to rest child. I'll check on you soon." Ann walked out of the room.

Tara laid her head down on the pillow. The room was spinning around. Tara gripped the sheets. She closed her eyes hoping her fever would subside soon. <Willow, where are you? I need you darling. I need you so...>

Tara felt her body relax into a state of unconsciousness.

Willow returned to her motel room. She stayed at the bar for hours and had a few drinks to pass the time waiting to see if James would walk in, but he never showed.

<I can't believe I've got to wait until Sunday. Two days. Well actually a day and a night. This fuckin' sux! What the hell am I gonna do until then?>

Willow gathered some night clothes and headed to the bathroom for a shower.

"Tara come on sweetie wake up for me."

"Willow?" Tara asked. It was so dark in the room she couldn't make out the figure in front of her.

Tara squinted her eyes as the lamp on the nightstand came on.

"No honey. It's just me. I brought you some soup and some more tea."

Ann helped Tara sit up in the bed.

"What t-time is it?" Tara asked in a rough voice.

"It's close to eleven. I tried to wake you earlier but you were sleeping so well, I just decided to leave you be."

Ann pulled a thermometer out of her robe pocket. "Here put this in your mouth."

Tara complied. Within seconds it beeped. Ann pulled it out of Tara's mouth.

"You still have a fever. I brought you some more Tylenol."

Tara reached her hand out. "Let me see."

Ann put the thermometer in her pocket and brought out a bottle. "Take these." She handed Tara two pills. She put them in her mouth and swallowed them down with her tea.

"Now you eat your soup and I'll be back in a few." Ann smiled at Tara and walked out of the room.

Tara picked up her soup and began to eat. She heard Ann's voice echoing through the walls. Her heart skipped a beat hoping that Willow had returned. Tara got out of the bed. She stumbled about but managed to get to the door.

She cracked it open so she could hear what was being said.

"Yes I know. Listen to me, I am doing the best I can. I will call you back soon. Bye."

Tara opened the door and walked out into the hallway. She yelped when she was face to face with the woman.

"What are you doing out of bed?" Ann asked almost demanding an answer.

Tara smiled surprised by the abrupt manner, "I was g-going to the r-restroom. Too m-much tea."

"Do you need me to go with you?" Ann's toned softened down to normal.

"No. I think I r-remember how to pee." Tara giggled and carefully shuffled across the hall.

Tara walked across the hallway back to her room. Ann was standing there fluffing the pillows and straightening out the blankets.

"Tara, come lay back down and finish your soup and tea."

Tara settled down in the bed, "Ann, I r-really feel better." Tara crawled deeper under the covers.

"Nonsense child." Ann scolded, "I told you that you are running a fever. Now I want you to finish your food!"

Tara looked puzzled. <Goddamn! I'll finish the fucking soup> She sighed and took the bowl. She found it more difficult to eat with it being cold, but finished it off. Tara handed the bowl to Ann.

"That's it. Now your tea." Ann stood there waiting.

Tara finished and handed the cup over. Her eyes became more unfocused. She started sweating. "I...I don't f-feel..." Tara was out again.

Ann smiled and walked out of the room.

Continue to Stratagem Chapter Eight

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