Wearing Masks (Part 1)
Legal:All characters are (c) Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy and probably a whole mess of other people. No infringement of copyright intended.
Archive:Go right ahead. Just let me know, please
Spoilers:All the way up to "Who Are You?"
Summary:Buffy is Faith, and Tara is . . .
Rating:R (MPAA) - violence, language, f/f concepts
Notes:Tara seems to be a sweet, nice person. But what if she wasn't?
I'm gonna enjoy this. I mean, Jesus, I've got Buffy Summers' life. I've got her friends, her mom, her Watcher, her wardrobe. Hell, I've even got her charge cards. What's not to love?
So I'm kickin' back in the Bronze, wearin' the only pair of leather pants B's got and fixing to steer this new body round the curves before the night is out. Only now Red's showed up, and it turns out she ain't drivin' stick no more. The new squeeze is blonde and cute as all hell, but frightened out of her wits. Seems Red's picked a chick even more shy than her. How'd the two of 'em ever hook up?
"W-w-w-w-w . . ." the squeeze stutters at me, turning three different shades of red. Willow's up at the bar, so I let the Buffy act slip for just a moment.
"Come on, spit it out, I ain't got all night." Maybe those aren't my exact words, but close enough. I don't remember for sure 'cos what happened next freaked me out so much.
Blondie's expression changes in an instant. She's cool, collected, and giving me a goofball smile that I remember all to well.
"Tut tut, Faith." She says with a chuckle, "You'll never fool them for long if you don't watch your tongue a little better than that."
"Boss?" I manage a choked whisper. It feels like my eyes are poppin' out of my head.
"Miss me?" I can see him now, in her eyes. Makes me wonder if Red could pick that it was me, if she knew to look. "What? Did you think I wouldn't have a back-up plan? What sort of Mayor would I have been if I'd never thought about contingencies?"
It makes sense, I gotta admit. But -
"I didn't expect the tits, Boss."
He (she? Christ, what do I call it?) chuckles indulgently,
"It always pays to have a surprise up your sleeve, young lady. Now," the Boss leans forward, speaking quickly and urgently, "your little red-headed friend is quite taken with me. I've never really held with such things, but young people these days just feel a need to rebel, I guess."
I nod, not saying anything. The Boss is screwin' Red? That's just weird.
"Alas, an unfortunate accident will befall me tonight." The Boss smirks at this, so I guess this 'accident' is something he arranged, "And your friend is going to need comforting. For that, she's going to turn to Miss Buffy Summers."
"Yeah?" I say, with a nervous glance at Red. She's still waiting for her drink, so I guess we got a few seconds more to talk. "I'm pretty crappy at the heart to heart stuff, Boss . . ."
"Oh, I don't want you to help her." The Boss giggles at the idea, "I want her to feel rejected and alone. She's powerful, that girl. I can use her, with a little preparation. And once that's done, you and I can really raise a little hell in this town."
I want to say something, but I catch sight of Red headin' toward us. Time to go back to being B.
Red spots a vamp just after she gets back. I go slay it, to stay in character, and the silly bitch whose life I save goes all grateful on me. It's a weird feeling. Not one I'm used to.
The Boss fakes a headache or some shit, and the two of them leave soon after. As she goes, Red says something about B's boyfriend. I was looking for a test drive, so I make use of the stud muffin. He's no great shakes in the sack, but it's a way to kill some time.
Afterward, he says he loves me, and I freak a little. I hate it when people say that, after the event. It's like it ain't enough for them to get some and get gone, they gotta turn it into this deep thing. And it ain't. It's just sex.
So I bail, headin' back for the Summers' house cos I still ain't got a clue where B lives at the college. Guess I shoulda done a bit more recon. But I never was much one for plannin'.
B's mom is a bit surprised to see me, but I've come up with a cover story on the way:
"I just wanted to stay here tonight to make sure you were okay. Just in case Faith got away from the cops . . ."
The poor bitch seems really pleased that I 'thought of her'. It figures. B's been neglecting her mother-daughter duties, again.
It took about an hour to pack Joyce off to bed, but once that was done, I made myself a stiff Jack and Coke, then took a seat by the phone. While I sit there and wait for Red to call, I sip the drink and do something that doesn't happen very often.
Fact of it is, I'm more than a little pissed off about the way the Boss has been playing me. What was with that 'you'll never survive without me' crap in the tape he left me? I got by just fine before I hooked up with the forces of darkness. It was only after I joined his team that I took an eight month nap. And what do I find when I wake up? He got whipped by B, same as every other wannabe demon-king.
Sure, he gave me the toy that let me steal B's life, but I'm bettin' he only did it to get me in place to help him with his plan for Red. And once he gets her, will he still need me? I gotta figure, if he wants Red, he has something specific in mind for her powers. Like maybe taking another shot at the Ascension.
We'll see. Maybe I'll help him, maybe I won't. The one thing I definitely will do is screw with Red's mind. She's got it coming.
It's well after midnight when the call comes from Red. She's all but impossible to understand, she's so upset.
"Slow down, Will." I keep my tone cool, "What's the commotion about?"
"Tara's gone!" Red wails, her voice choked up from sobbing. "Some demons grabbed her! I tried to stop them, but I couldn't!"
I pull a face. Even though I don't need to be helpful, this sorta emotional shit always gets me jumpy.
"I woulda thought you'd take better care of your girlfriend." I muttered, just loud enough that Red would catch it.
"What?" she sounded shocked. Not surprisin', I guess. "Tara isn't -"
Yeah, right. There was no way I was going to bother arguing about whether or not the little blonde was bangin' Red or not. Though I guess they probably weren't, if the Boss had any control over things.
"Don't sweat it." I interrupted, "I'm just a bit tired. But what do you want me to do about it?"
"Well . . ." Red sounded confused, "You're the Slayer . . ."
"Yeah, Will." I tried not to let my smirk come through in my voice, "As in, I slay. I don't do the missing persons thing. If you can find me the demons, I'll slay 'em. But unless you can do that pronto, I'd say your little squeeze is demon-food."
"Tara isn't -" Red starts again, all sobbing and hurt and shit. I twist the knife.
"Don't give me that, Will." It's hard not to slip and call her 'Red', but I manage. "Tara had that whole 'Ellen' thing goin' on in a big way." I can't believe Red didn't see it. But then, B never saw that I wanted it from her, either.
"Is that why you're being so cruel?" By the sound of it, Willow is half way between bawling and goin' postal on me. "Are you really some kind of gay-basher?"
Don't ask me where the answer comes from, but it's outta my mouth before I can think.
"Hell, no." I snap, and if Red wasn't so screwed up she'd never think I was really B. "I'm just pissed that you ignored me for all this time, then took a walk down Gay Street with that little mouse."
I slam the phone down, then take it off the hook, figuring that ought to leave her so screwed up she can't even think.
I shoulda remembered that night in City Hall, when she stood up to every threat I could sling at her. It never pays to underestimate Willow Rosenberg.
An hour later she's at the door, banging and shouting till Joyce gets up and lets her in. It takes balls to wander around Sunnydale in the middle of the night. I gotta give her that.
I stand at the top of the stairs, starin' down at her while Joyce gets her a towel. Sunnydale barely ever gets a drop of rain, but tonight it's pouring hard enough to make up for the last ten years. I wonder if the Boss; no, make that 'the Mayor'; is responsible for the drenching Red just got. I figure he probably is.
Red stalks up the stairs toward me, her jaw fixed and firm. Seems she's here to have it out with 'B'.
"You need to get out of those wet things, Willow." Joyce calls from the front door, "I'm sure Buffy can lend you some of her clothes."
"Thanks, Mrs Summers." Even pissed off as she is, Red remembers her manners. I turn and head back to B's room, knowing she will follow right behind.
I figure Red will slam the door when she comes in the room, but at the last moment she closes it gently, then turns to glare at me.
"What's going on, Buffy?" she demands, water still dripping slowly from her hair and clothes.
"What do you mean?" I ask, like I don't know what she's talking about, "You should do like . . . Mom said, and put on some dry things, y'know."
For a moment Red looks like she's gonna refuse out of sheer blind anger, but then she nods stiffly and starts pullin' off her wet clothes. I watch casually, though I'm more than halfway enjoying the show. Red's filled out up top in the last eight months. Some things haven't changed, though. The bra and panties underneath her trendy, alternate gear are still Sears' specials, light pink and very modest. On Red, the look actually works.
"You should take those off, too." I suggest, grabbing a towel from the bathroom. "Wrap yourself in this or something."
"Thanks." She murmurs, her teeth chattering from cold. I guess she isn't used to weather like this. The Mayor liked to keep things pleasant around town, right down to making sure Sunnydale had sunny days.
Willow strips off and I put the towel around her shoulders, brushing her hair back as I do. I can't help but notice that 'Red' ain't, if ya get my drift. Of course, it's not like I can take a shot at her for that; not in the body I'm usin'.
I put my arms around her as she sits on the bed, feeling how tense she is under the towel. I always thought Willow felt more for B than she was letting on. The way she lets me hold her now tells me I was right.
"I'm sorry about earlier." It's way easier to apologise when you don't mean it, "I was just so upset. I always . . . wanted you, but I thought you were straight. Then I saw you with that girl, and I realised I'd wasted all this time without you."
"Tara and I -" she starts, but I've had enough of that tune, and I kiss her on the mouth, firm but gentle, letting her towel drop down as I do.
Red and Tara might not, but Red and I certainly do.
I wake up the next morning to find Willow curled in my arms. She looks young and happy, asleep like that. Younger and happier than I ever remember feeling.
I stare at the window for a few moments. I don't remember it being open last night. Sitting up gently, I feel Red shift, murmuring softly as she does. A quick glances around confirms it. Red's clothes; and the towel I had her in; are gone. Joyce must have come in while we were asleep. No surprise, really; a check of the clock by B's bed shows it is well after nine.
Well, this mixes things up a bit. No way Joyce coulda thought Red and I were just good friends. The covers were down around our waists, and neither of us had a stitch on. I'm surprised she didn't scream and wake us both up, come to think of it.
I slide out of bed, slip on a robe, and head downstairs, leaving Willow to keep sleeping. I figure this scene will be easier if it's just Joyce and me.