Sorry for the delay guys ! I've been kinda busy lately, but at last, here is the epilogue of this story.
Hope you'll enjoy it!
Thanks to everyone who took time to leave feedback
Epilogue : Seeing Red
Returning to Sunnydale had brought its new share of tragic events. Xander's and Anya's wedding had turned into a disaster with Xander leaving Anya at the altar. And just after that, Buffy had suffered from being poisoned by a demon which had given her murderous intentions against all her friends and even her own sister.
Tara would have wished a quieter and less dramatic come back. But on that afternoon, while she walked in the streets of Sunnydale towards the Expresso Pump, thinking again about the last events since she had returned, Tara felt strangely light and optimistic. It was a sunny day and nothing seemed to have to affect the merry mood of the witch. Not even her nervousness at the idea of this first kind of "date" with Willow. Dawn hadn't lied. Willow was doing better. And Tara had taken a big pleasure in seeing her again at Xander's and Anya's non-wedding. The pleasure had been multiple for Tara: pleasure to notice that Willow really seemed on the way of healing, pleasure to feel again almost comfortable with her, pleasure to simply appreciate being with her. And then, after many times where the redhead had begun to formulate an invitation without ever reaching the end, Willow had eventually taken all courage needed and had come approach her after a class, the day before at the university.
Tara had almost felt as nervous as during their first meetings, some years before. And this rediscovery had something exciting and magic.
Faith's silence - who since Tara's departure always pretended a thing or another not to speak to her when she phoned - didn't sadden her. Tara knew that Faith just needed a little time. The time of some calls, some letters, the time to learn that even if Tara belonged to Sunnydale with her family, Faith remained the best friend about whom she had never dared to dream. The time to learn that neither the distance, nor the time, nor her silence would take Tara away from her or would change her feelings for her. The time to tame the dark-haired Slayer for good.
And Tara knew that it would happen. She knew that Faith would return towards her or at least, would let Tara return to her. She knew that the Slayer would come to Sunnydale to visit her, that Tara would help her to cure her wounds and to restick pieces, so numerous and so scattered, with Buffy and the rest of the gang.
And with some luck, Faith would stay in Sunnydale, would find a new family there and Tara would be fulfilled to be so surrounded with all those that she loved.
Future was hers, Tara knew it in this beautiful spring day.
Los Angeles' night had closed again on Faith. Like previous evenings since Tara's departure, the Slayer had hang about the streets of Los Angeles after the patrol despite Angel's will so that she came back to the hotel with him, Wesley and Gunn. But Faith needed to be alone and as every evening, Angel had eventually reluctantly let her do as she wanted.
Faith henceforth sat at the counter of a bar which she was used in frequenting some months previously. The glass she was making turn absent-mindly in her hand was still almost full. Faith didn't really want to drink. But she thought that having a beer in her hand would put her more still in the depressing atmosphere which was already enclosing her.
Tara had phoned several times since her departure and every time had asked to talk to her. And every time, Faith had pleaded anything that had crossed her mind to disappear without talking to her. And every time, Tara had made Angel promise to give Faith all her affection.
Faith didn't really know why she reacted that way. Maybe she was disappointed. Or angry. Or both.
What was the use to talk to Tara? To persuade herself that she meant something to her? Faith knew only too well how this story would end. Exactly as the others. Despite all her promises, Tara would eventually just forget everything about her. Because there were Dawn, Buffy, Xander. And Willow. Willow who obviously always seemed to have what Faith wanted. Tara would return towards her, and soon, Faith wouldn't be more than the vague recollection of a short-lived friendship. Before being nothing at all any more.
Tara would phone maybe some more times, then her phone calls would become less frequent before stopping definitively. Faith wouldn't go to Sunnydale during summer, because Tara would think about a lot of other things than about the girl that she had affectionately nicknamed "her" little Slayer.
Faith didn't really know why this time it so hurt. Why this time she refused that exit. Why this time she was burning to run to Sunnydale without waiting that Tara forgot about her.
But the Slayer remained desperately a prisoner of her insecurity. She could not totally get rid of the certainty that once Tara would have returned where she belonged, Faith would return to her hell. To her loneliness.
And this certainty had her coming back here every evening. She was sitting down at the bar, taking a drink she rarely finished and remained simply there doing nothing.
Maybe because she preferred to be alone here, in this anonymous bar, than at the Hyperion where she got too much used to being surrounded, being somebody, feeling home.
And she remained all alone until the bar closed and until she took back the road to the hotel.
But this evening wasn't exactly going to be as the others. Faith didn't still know it when she turned to the young man who had just sat down next to her. He was tall, athletic, brown-haired, had hazelnut eyes, a well drawn jaw. Completely her type. In other times. In former times. And he was vaguely familiar to her.
"Hey" He said while the Slayer put on him an examiner and annoyed glance at the same time.
Faith did not answer and continued to stare at him, wondering if she knew him.
« Long time, no see you here » he resumed.
Of course, thought Faith. She knew him from here. Necessarily. Except for Morris's office, cemeteries and the Hyperion, she had not that much occasions to frequent many places.
« Then, what did you do all this time? Do you want something else to drink? »
Both questions were linked without leaving time to Faith to answer and already the young man made a sign to the barman.
« Drop it » growled out Faith.
The young man retracted at once his hand and Faith wondered if he had really intended to offer her a drink. He looked at her one second with hesitance, slightly embarrassed by her tone.
« Rough day? » He asked sympathetically. « By the way, I'm Luke. You are...? »
He waited that she completed but the Slayer answered nothing. He looked for a moment then gave up.
« I have a thing with names » he said on an apologic tone.
He took a mouthful of his drink then stared at Faith again.
« So, still alone ? » He asked. « You know, I remember you and our little encounter very well. »
He finished his sentence in a breath which he wanted languishing and Faith also remembered. Well maybe. He or another one, how would she make the difference?
She sighed, but the tiredness of this sigh was totally missed by her interlocutor.
« I thought that we could do that again » resumed Luke. « You and I, we were firecrackers together. »
« Drop it » said Faith again.
« C'mon, don't make me beg » Luke exclaimed cheerfully, apparently sure to have what he wanted in the end. « Don't tell me I wasn't good? »
Faith didn't still send him a glance and took a mouthful of her beer before pushing a new sigh, irritated this time.
« Drop it » she repeated abruptly. « I'm not interested. »
« C'mon » Luke still insisted. « Don't tell me you became a romantic? Girls like you aren't romantic »
Words had an immediate effect on the Slayer. This time, she turned round to Luke with surliness. She sent him a dark look but he didn't seem or didn't want to notice it. He got up while sending her a smile.
« C'mon, let's go girlie » he said to her while approaching her and putting his hand on her thigh.
The gesture made Faith violently jump. This time, he had gone too far. Faith grasped his hand and pushed it away far from her. But in her anger, she had forgotten a detail. She was a Slayer. A Slayer with an outstanding strength. And she hadn't mastered her gesture. Under the violence of Faith's push, Luke fell over brutally behind and crashed without sweetness into a group of other patrons sat on stools not too far away. All the group met itself on the ground in its turn and a hubbub of dissatisfaction followed. Faith had jumped up at the foot of her stool and looked at the scene, shared between satisfaction and contrariety.
And when Luke got up, cast her a glance filled with anger and with fury before going in her direction, his fist raised, ready to strike her back, she knew that she had just made a grave mistake. Faith sighed and resigned herself. Whatever would happen, she wouldn't let this idiot strike her without reacting and defending herself. And no matter if she had to fight with him and hurt this too pushing boy for this. No matter.
Tara lied back in pillows behind her and smiled. Willow turned around from her computer put at the end of the bed and looked at the blonde witch with a light grin.
« What are you doing? » She asked with a pout.
« For the third time, I'm writing a letter » answered simply Tara while pointing to the sheet in front of her. « And you, do you find something about the trio's plans? »
« A letter to who? » Willow asked again while crawling towards Tara with a roguish smile.
« Somebody really important to me » the answer was.
Willow pouted again and Tara made pretence of noticing nothing while she went on writing some words, but curving regularly an eyebrow in the direction of the redhead.
« You will know soon enough to who it is » said Tara when she noticed that Willow didn't stop looking at her.
« A secret lover? » The redhead joked, still approaching and putting down a quick kiss on Tara's cheek. « How long is she still going to hold you away from me? » whispered Willow again while nibbling Tara's ear.
Tara wasn't able to refrain from laughing at the redhead's behavior, which encouraged this last one to go on to trace the face and the body of the blonde with her lips and her hands.
« I think I'll finish it later » Tara said finally.
She put down the letter at the feet of the bed and attracted Willow against her for a passion-filled kiss.
Faith's room's door opened with a crash and Angel appeared on the threshold. The look on his face indicated that he was far from happy and he walked straight ahead towards the Slayer who sat on her bed impeccably made. Angel had to notice the unusual arrangement of the room usually so messy because he stopped and considered his surroundings with a curious glance before his attention returned on Faith.
« What happened? » He asked in a hard voice. « What did you do? I just got Morris on the phone, he's furious. He talked about a fight you had in a bar yesterday evening and … »
« It wasn't my fault » protested Faith in a quiet voice in which an ounce of resignation was stuck.
« What happened? » Repeated Angel. « Faith, you have to tell me. »
« There was that guy in the bar, he began to hit on me. I said to him that I wasn't interested but he insisted. Then I pushed him away, and with Slayer's strength and all, he flew through the bar. He wasn't very happy about it and he attacked me. I defended myself. And everything got mad. »
« Did you hit him? »
Faith didn't answer at first and her eyes avoided Angel's when the vampire was staring at her.
« Faith? »
"Yes" she answered finally, still without looking at the vampire.
« There was a big fight after this? » Angel asked again, finishing his sentence in a rustle.
Faith nodded simply her head and her eyes seemed to find something very interesting to look on her right.
« Did you hit anybody else? » Angel asked again after a silence.
« Maybe » murmured Faith in a breath.
It was sure. Faith knew it. In the tumult which had provoked her altercation with Luke and during the big fight which had followed in the bar, Faith had let everything go. She had given up control on her own drives of violence. She had left the fury which slept in her take the power. Just for some moments. But she knew now that it was overmuch moments.
« Faith … »
In front of her, Angel twisted his hands with despair and seemed shared between pain and anger. Faith didn't know which of these two feelings she regretted the most to cause to the vampire.
"Faith" resumed Angel in a little surer voice. « With your past … »
« I know » cut him Faith with swaggering. « I know exactly what I risk »
She faced finally Angel and their glances crossed.
« The police are there » said simply Angel. « Morris was not able to do something about this. Your release on probation is interrupted »
Faith nodded and sketched a grin she wanted derisory. Then she pointed the ordered room with a circular gesture of her arm and the bag full and closed, put on the bed.
« I'm ready » she answered. And she didn't succeed in masking totally the shiver in her voice.
Both friends stared at each other a moment silently. Then Faith got up and grasped the bag behind her. Her glance passed behind Angel and she saw several policemen appearing in the doorstep. One of them moved in when he saw that she was looking at him and took out his handcuffs with hesitance. Faith looked again at Angel then tightened her wrists forward. The cold metal of the handcuffs slid on her skin the following moment. The policeman pushed her towards the exit and Angel followed the group outside. Faith crossed the corridor and went down the stair which led to the lobby under good escort. Below, all the group was gathered but a deathly silence was reigning over the hotel. Nobody pronounced a word when she crossed the hall then the door but Faith was able to feel sorry or disapproving glances from her companions settling on her and accompanying her until she was out of sight. Only Angel crossed the door with her. When she was asked to get into the police car, Faith wanted to say something. The first thing that came to her was « don't tell Tara » but she gave up and preferred to keep silent.
And finally no other word was exchanged between them before a policeman pushed her in the car which would get her back to the penitentiary, and before closed on her, the door of freedom. Weather was desperately beautiful.
Tara smiled while she caressed tenderly Willow's red hair. The blonde witch was amazed to see, as after dark months of despair, her life had abruptly just turned to total happiness. She turned her head to the side of the bed and to the letter for Faith she had put down there. Both previous ones which she had already written to her, had remained unanswered. Time. Faith needed some time. Tara knew it, accepted it. And time which was necessary, she was ready to take it.
Apparently, Dawn hadn't talked to Willow about the soft friendship who united her to the former rogue Slayer. Or Willow had never evoked it. Tara knew that both Faith and Willow would doubtless have some trouble to accept each other when they would meet again when Faith would come during the summer. But Tara had taken back some self-confidence. Enough confidence to believe that Faith still liked her despite her silence. Enough confidence to return towards Willow. Enough confidence to imagine that the two most important people to her would eventually get along with each other despite the past. Enough confidence to believe that they would do it for her.
« We're going to need to get up any moment sweetie » she said tenderly, bending towards the redhead's ear.
« Hem … » Protested Willow.
Then she stood up and captured Tara's lips with hers.
« C'mon, get up now sweetie » said Tara cheerfully while breaking the kiss and getting up.
"Hem" still pouted Willow.
"Up" repeated Tara in a wrongly austere tone.
« Come to get me up » asked the redhead languishingly while overturning on her back and sending a charming smile to the blonde.
"Will" Tara said, smiling, hands on her hips.
But she returned nevertheless towards the bed and held out her hand to the redhead. This one seized it, and as Tara had expected it, Willow pulled her again on the bed. Tara began laughing and gave way in her girlfriend's arms.
« You're impossible » she said to her, still laughing.
« You didn't think getting out of this so easily Tara Maclay? »
Willow kissed her again and let her hands run on the blonde's chest. Tara answered the embrace without being prayed. And this time, it was Willow who got free and jumped up at the bed's feet.
"Hem" growled out Tara in protest.
« We have to get up baby » answered cheerfully Willow while collecting her clothes.
"Tease" Tara threw her.
Willow answered nothing and went out of the room, leaving behind her a sulky Tara, who hurried to follow her in the bathroom.
« Hey, clothes » Willow said a little later, while pointing the aforementioned clothes.
« Better not get used to them » Tara answered her roguishly while sending her, her characteristic smile.
« Yes, m'dam »
Willow grasped Tara's belt and attracted her against her for a kiss. Then the redhead squeezed her girlfriend in her arms. An expression of profound happiness illuminated the features of the blonde witch while she savored Willow's regained closeness.
« Hey, Xander » said Tara, perceiving the young man entering the garden over Willow's shoulder.
« Hum, not quite the answer I was fishing for » protested Willow by moving back.
« No, he's here » explained Tara while approaching the window.
Willow smiled again and turned around towards a dresser which she opened a chest.
« You think they make up? » Asked Willow.
« I hope so » answered Tara, turning around with a big smile. « That's the best part »
Both lovers exchanged a new smile. Nothing seemed to be able to make this expression of happiness faint from the face of both witches.
And just at this moment, there was a dry banging. Then a second. And a third. As gunshots. And at the same time, that noise of glass breaking and this lightning pain in her chest. Tara didn't understand where it came from, didn't understand what was happening. In front of her, joy on Willow's face had faltered to give way to the same surprise as hers. There was something that she couldn't clearly identify on her white shirt. Her sight blurred.
Tara didn't understand what was happening but she understood that everything was over. That the road stopped there. She knew that she wouldn't see Buffy's return to life, that she would miss Dawn's entrance to high school. That Willow would never have time to tell her how sorry she was about the memory spell. That Faith would never come to her in Sunnydale. That her last letter to the dark-haired Slayer would remain unfinished. She didn't see her life scroll before her as it was rumored it should. She wasn't able to tell Willow how much she loved her and that she should be strong without her, as you always had time to do in movies. She even had no opportunity to think about all this. Everything was disappearing too fast. Everything was ending too fast.
"Your shirt " was all that went out of her mouth while her consciousness faltered.
Tara's last embryo of thought was not for Willow as it should probably have. It wasn't either for Buffy dying in the garden. It wasn't for Dawn she was abandoning in her turn. It wasn't for Faith to whom she wouldn't fulfill the promise made before her departure.
No, Tara Maclay's last thought was for her father. Her father who had always repeated her that she wouldn't be entitled to happiness. And that if something in her life came to look like it, it would be to be irreparably ripped off from her.
As darkness was closing on her, Tara knew that he was right. That he had won. Happiness was not for her.
Just to let you know, this story will have a sequel in some time...
Hope you enjoyed the ride!
Please, tell me what you think about the story now that it's finished.