AN: I have another Willow and Tara uber I am currently developing, which promises to be shorter and so is a little more tempting to work on than The Coven. As a result, chapters will be shorter and may be more widely spaced apart, though I will try my best not to neglect this story (at least any more than I have already).

Also, this is a very different story than the Prologue. I can't promise the same level of action as the introductory chapter as my focus will be on developing the characters a bit more for this act. I hope you'll enjoy this, regardless.

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The Coven
The rise of the greatest Seeyo in History prior to the natural re-situation of Humanity in the Cosmic

Summary: Willow and Tara (formerly Leda) join Jenny Calendar's household and struggle to put the events creating these unusual circumstances behind them.
Description: Uber. Science Fiction. Late 21st century.
Spoilers: None. This is 100 percent AU/uber
Pairings: Willow/Other, Willow/Tara.
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Violence, strong language, moderate to graphic sexual language/situations, character death
Feedback: is vital. Without it, I lose interest myself. This is not an idle threat. Feedback or be left with another unfinished story.

Tara and Willow and other characters from the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were created by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.

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ACT I: Mentor, part 1

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"M-My name is Leda, of the Coven. I w-w-was born fifteen years ago today, the daughter of Kera and Thomas M-Maclay."

Mama is dead. She died saving someone else's daughter… Why? Why would she do such a thing? Why would she leave me alone? For a stranger? For her? Gods, Mama!

I don't know Thomas Maclay. I don't remember him. Not enough to know him from any other stranger in a crowd.

"I claim my birthright today. Kera w-was known as Tara, and so w-will I be known, as Kera's daughter."

Her only child. Not the other one, the one she died for.

"M-My name is Tara, o-once known as Leda. Tara, of the Coven."

--

STOCK NEWS—ON DEMAND! OCT17-79 13:45GMT

You are subscribed to Stock News—On Demand, the most used stock alert service worldwide. Here is your news for Monday afternoon, October 17, 2079.

NYC - The world market shuddered today, tumbling 456 points off growing concerns regarding the MABELL (MB) kidnapping and extortion scandal connected to the proposed bid for Lumos Fiber Solutions. Anonymous sources within the UN body are that the World Trade Regulatory Commission is set to issue an official censure to the megacorp's governing board, though the investigation for how much was known regarding the alleged kidnapping of Anastasia McMullen, the 17-year old daughter of Lumos Chair Charles McMullen has not yet been officially concluded and filed with the ONY Crime and Justice office. No comment has been made from either corporation, aside from standard disclaimers that no comment can be made until the report is filed. Shares of MB fell 12 percent to 145.625 in heavy trading. Lumos rose 8 points, closing at 42.975.

In other news, the WTRC cleared stage one of the definitive merger agreement filed by Glory Enterprises (GLE) in its acquisition of data management firm Mirage Technologies (MCM:MIRTC). Mirage was most recently in the news for the disappearance of CEO and major stake owner Ethan Rayne, who has yet to be located since late July, well preceding the Form 10 filing for Glory's takeover bid last month. Rayne's disappearance is not considered suspicious, as the flamboyant executive has made a reputation for himself as highly unorthodox. Previous extended absences have been noted on his career record at Mirage and previously City Corp, though his current absence could not have come at a more inopportune time for the data services and security corporation. In his absence, CFO Roger D'Hoffryn has been the frontline corporate officer with talks with Glory. The deal is still subject to a Mirage shareowner vote to take place in December.

--

Two months earlier…

Riley Finn, promoted to the detective squad of the Sunnydale Police Department a scant two-and-a-half weeks ago looked forward to his day. He always began it the right way, with fifty push-ups and just as many sit-ups to keep up his American Gladiator: TNG™ physique and a bowl of whole grain cereal and 2 percent milk. With his metabolism and his steadfast commitment to his morning routine he could actually get away with whole milk, but why indulge when the 2 percent tasted just fine? No need to, just for the sake of it. By the time he got to the precinct house every morning, he almost always had a boyish grin on his face and a friendly nod for the desk sergeant. Today had started out like most mornings—great. Excellent, even. Riley had no complaints. The only downside was the run-in with Angel, one of the senior detectives who for some reason beyond Riley's comprehension seemed resentful of Riley's natural good humor. At least his partner Wes was civil, even if he did, like the other detectives, ignore the rookie more often than not. But Riley would show them he belonged. All it would take was hard, honest work, and maintaining a good attitude about everything. This morning, Riley had just tightened the boyish grin at Angel's scowl and rude comment and went on his way.

Once at his desk, he pulled the file folder from his open cases box, the very first he'd been assigned when he made detective, and looked once more at his carefully ordered notes.

The case involved a vehicle, previously registered to a Mr. Robin Wood, 32, school librarian at the Sunnydale Elementary and high school, who had not been seen for the past five weeks. The car had only been reported three days ago by a disgruntled tenant at the south side apartment complex; it had been parked too close to his own space in the resident's lot, hadn't been moved in weeks, and what's more, was an eyesore, even for the somewhat rundown working class neighborhood. If not for the complaint about the vehicle, Wood's disappearance could very well have remained unreported. He had joined the school staff just about six months earlier as a mid-year addition, and the school had just returned from a two-week summer break and had not thought to alert the authorities that Mr. Wood had not returned to his position at the onset of the new semester—educational careers didn't pay a lot, especially considering the collapse of the pension system in the late twentieth century, and the churn for non-tenured employees was high. In fact, the little principal, Snyder, had defensively claimed, he hadn't been the only replacement staff member who failed to return after the break.

Riley had gone down to the abandoned vehicle himself to break it down the day he caught the case. It was a late model NDC, and so it was highly unusual it had been in the condition he found it in. At his first visual inspection, he thought it had been vandalized by local homeless or youth gangs, of which Sunnydale unfortunately had its fair share. But upon closer inspection, he realized that most of the damage had been inflicted while the car had been in motion.

The doors had not been locked, but the driver side took a little forcing as a sidewall dent had caused the internal mechanics to shift slightly. It was a little awkward pulling the door open with the rubber gloves on, but being well-muscled helped. Once he had the door open, he immediately recoiled after sticking his head just inside, reacting to the strong odor. Covering his nose with a handkerchief (he always kept a clean one handy), he again checked the interior, and immediately noticed the blood…

--

Six months later…

Fifteen-year old Buffy Summers parted company from the gaggle of her new friends from the cheerleading squad who continued away from Sunnydale High School, where Buffy was re-starting her high school career anew after a transfer in from her previous public high school, Hemery High in LA Old Cali due to an unfortunate incident with a fire at the school gymnasium that had been totally not her fault.

She had gone two blocks when she felt the presence behind her of someone trailing her too closely. She was still three blocks from Revello Drive and the house she, her mother Joyce, and bratty baby sister Dawn had moved in to just three weeks earlier. Rounding the corner, she ducked into a narrow alley between two houses.

The schmuck who had been following her—rather ineptly, she thought—was 1.6 meters tall, fairly young, probably in his mid-twenties, with a shifty look to his face and blond hair that stuck up at the front as if he'd just woken up from siesta. He was dressed in blue jeans, a windbreaker, and dirty trainers.

Mr. Clueless walked right on past and continued for a good 10 meters or so, before realizing that his target had somehow disappeared and he had lost her. In a panic, Andrew spun around, to find said target standing, arms akimbo, on the sidewalk he'd just traversed, her cell phone in hand. "See this? I just keyed in 9-1-1-red, and I'm about to hit 'SEND' unless you give me a good reason not to." She blew a bubble, then sucked it back into her mouth.

Sure enough, the emergency-alert light was flashing, indicating the phone's readiness to send a homing signal along with the 9-1-1 call to the area law enforcement agencies, unleashing within two minutes the jackbooted local and state thugs to rain fire down on his poor head. He cringed. His super-stealthy sleuthing mission was already thoroughly foiled! On day 1 no less! Mr. Giles wouldn't be pleased. "Oh, don't call the cops! Please! It's alright, Buffy! I'm not here to harm you—on the contrary! I've been sent to help you!"

"How'd you know my name?" Buffy's eyes narrowed. "My Dad didn't send you, did he? Cause if he did, can you remind him he's a little behind on the child support?" She blew another bubble with her gum and let it pop on her strawberry-lipgloss-flavored lips. "Mom might be too proud to ask, but I'm overdue for a trip to the mall, as you can see…" She looked the young man up and down again. "Or maybe not. Any hoo, I can use Dawn's money, too. She'll end up trying to 'borrow' whatever I buy, anyway."

Andrew shook his head. "I haven't been sent by your Dad, Buffy. Oh no. Far from it. I represent an organization called the Watcher's Council." Andrew tried to smile encouragingly, but held the smile a second too long, until it became awkward. "We, uh, watch things. And we've been watching you!" he finished brightly, if lamely.

"Oooookay." Buffy shifted to her other foot. "You do know that that sounds way creepy, don't you? Don't take this the wrong way, 'cause I mean it as encouragement, really, but aren't you a little too young to do 'dirty old man?' You should give it another five years before you throw in the towel like this." Pop!

Twenty-five year old Andrew's mouth dropped open. He was sure he'd just been insulted, contrary to however the teenager had prefaced what she had just said. He shook it off, and decided to plow ahead now that he had made contact. Or at least stumbled into it. "The name is Wells. Andrew Wells." He barely contained himself from doing a poor imitation of Mr. Giles' accent, after the fashion of certain classic spy movies for which he had a fondness. Recovering, he made a motion to offer his hand but Buffy stepped back simultaneously, the warning clear in her eyes. Andrew cleared his throat and decided he had better get to his point. "Tell me, Buffy, have you noticed anything… unusual about yourself lately?"

Pop! Buffy made a great show of moving her thumb over the green "Send" button as she cleared the gum from her lips.

"Unusual strength! Heightened night vision! Enhanced hearing! Special Spidey sense!" Andrew hurried.

Miraculously, Buffy lowered her hand, though her eyes narrowed. "Special Spidey what now?"

"The extra sense that alerted you to my presence, for example," Andrew said, noting with some dismay that the girl was apparently not versed in classic culture. Andrew forged ahead. "These are not the normal vestiges of a young maiden feeling the blossoming of her womanhood, Buffy Summers! Surely not!"

Buffy frowned. This had struck a nerve. She had been feeling different, a little on edge, and not in the usual once-a-month cranky feminine way, creepily enough, just like the dweeb said. The feeling had become constant. And lately, her mother had been handing her all the new jars in the house to open…

Andrew cast about for a few painful moments, looking for the ultimate pitch, one that would strike a chord in the petite teenaged blonde in front of him and finally cause her to take her thumb completely off her phone's Panic Button—especially since he was the one who was about to panic. Finally, he reverted back to his comfort zone and just went with another classic: "Remember, Buffy, with great power comes great responsibility!"

--

She's there. Again. I sighed to myself, trying not to let it show.

I could feel her behind me as my companion, Althenea, and I made our way down the narrow path that leads through the field up to the edge of the western wood. Althy stumbled on some loose bit of gravel coming off the small hill and she reached out to grasp my wrist to steady herself, since she was carrying our picnic basket with our lunch in her other hand. We kind of surfed/slid the rest of the way down the hill. I gasped, not with the slide, but at the contact of Althenea's firm touch against my skin, and immediately bit my lip to stop myself. I have to stop thinking this way. Why can't I stop feeling these things for girls? It's not right. What is wrong with me?

I stopped short at the bottom, which jarred Althy's hand loose from my wrist. "Tara! Are you okay?"

Althy's a year older than me, the counselor Alise's daughter, and has shown real Talent. She might be able to read me. Not that she would, she's nice. But even talking out loud is bad. Talking means I'll stutter, and she might suspect I'm nervous about something, which might prompt her to read me. So I just nodded.

A guilty pang shot through me as she misinterpreted my reticence. She grimaced, gesturing to the space between us and said, "Sorry."

As I said, she's nice. And I shouldn't be thinking of her that way. The danger's too great—I have to focus on something else. Willow is the easiest target. I turned and saw a flash of red duck behind a small oak, though not entirely. A green eye from a pale face peered from behind the trunk. "W-Willow."

Althy frowned and turned, apparently catching some of the girl's vanishing act, too. She turned back to me sympathetically. "Do you want me to talk to her, Tara?"

I thought about it briefly, but realized asking Althy to intercede might mean I would have to talk, too. I shook my head instead and we continue to our regular picnic spot, though now that I knew Willow was following, the resentment stirred in me anew. Why can't she just leave me alone?

--

Willow ducked behind the trunk of the young oak, just in time she thought, as the older, honey-haired girl she had been trailing always seemed to instinctively know of her presence. Whether it was a mystical instinct or not, right now it was a little inconvenient for Willow to completing her mission and serving her duty as the young woman's personal body guard, since said subject of her efforts had made it perfectly clear to the recently-turned-ten-year old that her devotion to her self-appointed position was less than wanted. No matter. She could fill her obligation without the customary accompanying accolades.

She spared a peek from behind the tree and saw the other one, the taller girl with the dark, faintly Asian eyes and long, black hair look back in her direction. A flash of resentment coursed through her. She sighed. Why did it have to be Althenea? Couldn't it be Michael, or one of the other boys, who Willow somehow just knew didn't stand a chance with the blonde?

What did Tara see in Althenea, anyway? Besides the tall, graceful figure, the gentle swell of her bosom and the curves of her hips, the pretty, unpretentious beauty?

Willow frowned at the complete lack of reason Tara would not rather be secreting off with Althy rather than staying put in a place Willow could keep an eye on her. But Willow bucked up, matching her face to the resolve in her soul. What she lacked in physical development and natural beauty, she made up for with her smarts. Surely Tara would come to know that, and allow her to stay to better execute her responsibility? Even if it was as a satellite stuck helplessly in orbit around the older girl. She stuck her head out once more, and saw the two girls had continued on their way, probably intent on gaining the stream that edged the Western Wood.

She ducked back down and waited a bit before trying another glance from her hiding place. Seeing the way was clear and Tara and Althy seemed oblivious to her (or pointedly ignoring her), she gathered herself to sprint forward to the next available hiding spot so as not to lose them in case they weren't heading to the stream. A copse of bushes 30 meters to the left would do…

Propelling herself forward did not produce the intended result. She shrieked as an adult hand clamped itself over her shoulder and held her firmly in place.

Fortunately Jenny caught hold of her elbow before Willow could fall on her backside, forfeiting whatever dignity she had managed to keep in place when the high pitched squeal erupted from her lips. The smirk on the woman's face, however, wasn't exactly bracing. "And where do you think you're going, Miss Rosenberg?"

--

Althy frowned and stopped, interrupted from the latest bit of gossip about Michael she was sharing. She thinks Michael is interested in me. I think that's crazy talk. At least I hope it is. "Did you hear that?"

I had. It sounded very much like the cry of a ten-year-old child. My heart seized, but then I paused, sensed Jenny had her, and gave silent thanks to the woman as both started to recede. "I don't think it w-was anything. L-Let's just go."

"Are you sure? If it was Willow, and something happened—"

"Jenny has her," I reassured.

Althy spared one last glance backward before shrugging. We continued on our way.

I felt her eyes on me and I flushed, feeling very self-conscious again.

"It's a little weird how you do that. You didn't Feel out for her, did you?"

I stiffened slightly. Even at our age, with most of us still not in full command of our Talents, just the suggestion of using them so casually is frowned upon.

Althy must have realized how that sounded and was quick to add, "I didn't mean to say it would've been bad if you had, you know. It's just a little odd that you do it so easily—with her, I mean."

"W-What do you m-mean?" I had no special empathy for Jenny, despite the fact that she had taken custody of us after—and then it struck me what Althy did mean, just as she said it out loud.

"Willow. How you seem to know when she's there, when no one else seems to be able to…"

I shrugged, trying to act casual. "M-Maybe because of the constant s-stalking thing."

"So you don't think it has anything to do with what happened with your mother?"

As soon as she said it, I stopped walking. She did, too, and looked properly horrified that she had said that out loud.

"Gods, Tara! I am so sorry! I didn't think—"

I felt like crying. I swallowed it down and continued walking.

"Tara!" Althy called as she jogged up to me. "Tara, I really didn't mean—"

I shook my head, holding the tears back. Why am I such a baby? Crying for my mother? I'm not five years old. I'm fifteen. Mama's gone. It took me just a second more before I could turn to Althy. "It's alright. I know you didn't m-mean anything." We resumed walking toward the small clearing near the riverbank.

The silence between us became awkward, but for the life of me, I couldn't think of what to say to show that it was alright, that I wasn't hurt by what Althy had said. We reached the picnic area and began removing and arranging the items from the basket for our lunch.

I guess I waited too long, because then she tried instead. She smiled, almost shyly. I could feel my heart quicken in my chest and without wanting it to, my breath caught and held. "So… Do you think Michael will ask you to Anna's party next week?"

That breath I held escaped with a hiss as I sighed. I'd almost rather be talking about Willow.

--

tbc