Chapter 16

Tara's house, fortunately enough for Buffy, was a quick walk from the Bronze. It left her with little time to think about anything else but getting to Tara's, fortunately enough. In fact, when Tara's house came into view, Buffy took fast strides towards the front door, almost running in her eagerness to arrive there.

She rang the doorbell and waited. Soon after, a balding man with a beer belly opened the door and glared at Buffy.

"Whaddya want?" he asked callously.

Was this was Tara's father? God, she hoped not. If it was, then it explained why Tara never invited anyone over to her house. Buffy only knew the way because Xander had dropped Tara off to the house one night while Buffy was in the car. In fact, Tara didn't talk about her home life at all. From the looks of this man, Buffy didn't blame her.

"Hello. Is Tara in?" Buffy questioned, overly cheerful.

The man put on an almost-sneer and said, "Well, isn't she the popular little missy tonight. You're lucky- she's finished her chores."

He put an emphasis on chores that made it seem as if these chores were more of servant-work. Still, he stepped aside and let Buffy in. He made no motion to direct her to where Tara was, though, and so Buffy decided to check upstairs.

She traveled down the dank hallway and saw a door with light flooding from under it. Assuming this was Tara's room, Buffy knocked on the door. A quiet voice answered-

"Come in."

Buffy pushed open the door and saw Tara sitting on a bed in quite possibly one of the smallest bedrooms she'd ever seen. Buffy strongly doubted that its intended use was for human occupation, but rather a place for clothing to be stored. Buffy forced herself to stop gaping and turn her attention back to Tara.

"Um, hi," Buffy said tentatively.

"Hi," said Tara.

"Was that man downstairs your father?" Buffy couldn't help but ask.

"Worst excuse for one."

Buffy winced and Tara looked disdainful for a moment, but it was gone as quickly and it came.

"So um, why are you here?" Tara inquired, curious.

"I wanted to talk to you, but my problems can be put on hold for a sec. God Tara, does he hit you?"

Tara looked horrified and quickly said, "Of course not. He threatens to, though. If I don't pick something up off the floor or the living room's not clean enough, that is. Not for any old reason."

"Sounds like any old reason to me."

Tara looked down at the dirty carpet and quietly said, "I really don't want to talk about it right now, Buffy."

Buffy's expression softened.

"Okay, for now you're off the hook, but there's no guarantee about later."

Tara raised her head up and smiled at Buffy gratefully.

"So why are you here?" Tara asked. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, I w-was just wondering because-"

"It's alright," Buffy quickly said, not wanting to perplex her friend any more. "Um, the reason I'm here? It's a long story…"

"Spill."

Buffy looked surprised for a moment at Tara's command but quickly recovered and started her tale.

"Well, it started like this…"

---------------------------------------

"He actually did that!?" Tara exclaimed after hearing about Spike's poetry reading.

"Yeah…" replied Buffy.

"I think it's sweet and all but, uh- isn't that just a tad bit corny?"

Buffy thought this over for a bit.

"Well it wasn't at the time, but now that I think of it…"

Tara laughed a bit before answering, "Imagine that... Spike the all-leather punk recited poetry to you in the middle of the Bronze!"

Buffy shrugged, turning her head so Tara wouldn't see the beginnings of barely-contained laughter.

After their giggle fit died down, Buffy turned serious again.

"So what should I do?"

"Well I can't really tell you what to do," Tara said. "But I can tell you what I would do in the same situation."

"Alright," Buffy agreed.

"I think I'd get to know him. You know, talk to him alone, figure out what he's really like out of school and all. Then decide."

Buffy looked reassured and thanked Tara profusely. Even though it wasn't the most creative solution, it definitely made sense, and that was all that mattered to Buffy.

The pair started to talk about other matters, such as classes and such until Tara looked at the time and got a bit wide-eyed.

"Hey, Buffy? I'd love to talk more but my dad won't like it if you stay too long."

Buffy understood and immediately got up to go. One thing was for sure, Tara was definitely in need of help.

The two said their goodbyes and Buffy walked out of the room and down the stairs, careful not to disturb the sleeping figure in the easy chair in the living room.

Buffy arrived back at her house at 12. Fortunately, her mother was on a business trip- something about fertility dolls. She was about to go upstairs to change when she heard a knock on the door.

Midnight visitors weren't all that common for her, so Buffy looked through the window in the door, almost falling backwards when she realized who it was. She opened the door.

Buffy crossed her arms and stared at the person for a minute.

"C-can I come in?" they said tentatively.

Buffy nodded once and stepped aside, allowing her friend to enter the house. She closed the door and faced Willow, ready for what was about to come her way.