A/N- So, this one-shot came to me while I was brainstorming for a writing challenge response. This is set, Buffy-wise, in the sixth season while Tara and Willow are broken up. For Forever Knight, it's set after the final episode of the series.
Disclaimer- I don't own Buffy; that belongs to Whedon. I don't own Forever Knight; that belongs to Columbia Tristar and its creators. The quote is given proper credit beneath it.
Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
Tara listened to the dull thump and rhythm of The Bronze's latest band as they played on the stage below. She snuggled closer to the curve in her booth on the balcony. She sighed, twirling the straw around and around in her half-drunk Strawberry Daiquiri. She had not eaten the cherry—she had never really cared for them—and watched in a sad, bored fashion as it was being bumped back and forth by her straw. Her eyes got misty all of a sudden as she realized that she had begun to compare her failing relationship with Willow to the straw and the cherry. She scoffed, disgusted with herself…and that was when she noticed the man that had come to stand over her.
He was dressed in black slacks with a black polo-style shirt…meaning that it was missing the logo on the left side. His hair was stark, white-blond and thin…almost balding, but really more of a thin-ish covering of his oval shaped head. He held a wine glass in his right hand that was empty, only with a slight red tinge to hint at the drink it had once held. He was very pale and very white, and he was smiling at her in a way that made her nervous. He gestured to the empty seat to her right.
Tara blinked. She almost wanted to tell him that it was pointless, that she didn't "drive a stick," as Faith-in-Buffy's-Body had once put it. But, true to her overly-kind nature—the very thing she was drowning her sorrows in a daiquiri for—she nodded, smiling shyly. He slid into the seat, still smiling.
"I couldn't help but notice you, my dear. You looked rather…forlorn this evening," he commented like he was mentioning the weather.
His voice was slow, but rich. It had dark undertones to it that made Tara shiver. She scooted a bit away from him, and his grin became positively wicked as he noticed the movement.
"What is your name, if I may ask?"
"T-T-Tara," she spluttered.
She thought she had long surpassed her stuttering. She hadn't done so in so long. She had never stuttered around Willow when…her heart had a sharp pang shoot through it. She continued to smile at the man.
"Tara, a lovely name," he said. "Mine is Lucien Lacroix."
"That's an odd name."
A random thought escaping by force through the mouth at a rapid speed. A very Willow-like move. Her eyes closed and she scolded herself.
"It's a very old name. Now, why exactly are you as sad as you are?"
He smiled even as he spoke. It was small and like he knew something that she didn't. Tara didn't like it at all. It made her nervous and a little bit scared. She shook her head.
"Um…why do you care?" she asked, looking at her daiquiri only now. "I d-don't mean that sarcastically or an-anything. I just w-w-wondered…why do you care?"
She balled her hands into fists and shoved them into her lap. She hated not being able to control her own voice. It got her aggravated. And the more aggravated she got, the more she lost control of it.
"Well…I guess I cared because you looked like you were in mourning. In truth, I, too, am in mourning. I sensed a kindred spirit in you. Have you lost someone?" he asked.
Tara's heart slammed against her chest, making it hurt even more than it already did at the thought of Willow. Her lips pursed together, and she blinked several times to keep the tears from forming. Lacroix's smile faded as he rested his arms on the table, patiently awaiting Tara's explanation.
"I'm…broken up with someone I love…very much. I feel like I'm dead…but I c-c-can't trust her. Not right now; she's…got a problem," Tara said, censoring herself at the last minute.
Lacroix was strange, but she wasn't sure if he would know anything about magic. And she had no reason to believe that he should. But there was something…just fundamentally bizarre about him.
"I've lost…well, it feels like a son…and I lost a daughter before that. I cared for these two very much, and they've passed on from this world to whatever it is that lies beyond," he said.
He was moving his glass like he was swirling the nonexistent contents within. Tara relaxed a bit, feeling the utmost sympathy for him. A breakup was nothing compared to the death of someone's children. She moved closer to him, bringing a hand up on the table like she was going to rest it on one of his, but she stopped short.
"I'm sorry. How did they die?" she asked.
Lacroix smiled and shook his head and did not answer her question. Instead, his gaze met hers, and he asked, a strange tone in his voice, "Aren't you lonely?"
Tara felt compelled to answer and to do so honestly.
She felt strange. Any tenseness she had towards him faded away. She felt utterly relaxed and a little limp. She tried to look away from his odd stare, finding herself unable to accomplish the simple task. Somewhere, deep inside, she panicked, finally realizing what was so off about him. She opened her mouth to proclaim it aloud, but he kept her from speaking, still only by staring.
"Would you like to relieve your loneliness?" he asked, still in a weird, mesmerizing way.
In her mind, Tara struggled to shout, "No!" or even, "Vampire!" But it was no use. And he was still making her answer honestly.
"Yes," she heard herself say in a hollow way.
"I could take that away from you. Give you someone to care about again. You would only have to come with me. Will you come with me, Tara?"
Her mouth was opening to answer. But, right before another "yes" escaped her lips, Willow's face—bright, smiling, and full of joy; like she had been when Tara had met her—filled her mind. Something in the hold Lacroix on her broke, and she all but flew out of her seat. Standing over him, she shook her head violently.
"I know what your price is, vampire. And I'm n-n-not going to p-p-pay it!"
A little melodramatic, but she was aiming for shock and awe. And it seemed to work a bit. He blinked up at her, almost like he was amused.
"You know what I am?" he asked.
She nodded. He laughed.
"I knew you were intelligent. My offer still stands. I'm in a…uh, generous mood this evening. Of course, you've probably realized by now that you have no real choice," he said, standing and moving towards her.
Tara was seconds away from screaming. Instead, she ended up jumping, startled by the voice behind her.
"Tara, what's up?" Buffy's bouncy, happy voice said as she approached her.
Tara whirled around to where Lacroix had been…only to find him missing. She turned back to Buffy.
"Did you see him?" she asked, pointing to the spot.
Buffy blinked. "Who?"
Tara stared. Finally, she shook her head, coming closer to Buffy and glancing around nervously.
"Nothing. Is Willow here?" Tara asked.
"Nope. In fact, I've been here for a little while. I just spotted you. Thought I'd come by and say 'hi' before I left. So…hi."
Buffy nodded. "Why?"
"Could you…walk with me home? I've…got a bad feeling."
Tara hugged her stomach. Buffy leaned around her, eyeing the daiquiri.
"Uh-huh," Buffy said as she turned her attention back to Tara. "Sure. No problem. You ready?"
"Couldn't be more," Tara said, following Buffy off the balcony.
Just before she exited The Bronze with the Slayer, she gave the place on last nervous glance. Lacroix was at the bar, smiling at her. He lifted his glass, refilled with some red substance that Tara didn't really want to think about, and moved it like he was toasting her. And he was alone. And probably looking for another person that was just as alone. Like she had been.
Tara shook her head. No more lonely nights for her. She would surround herself with friends until she made herself be happy again. And maybe…if Willow got better…just maybe.
"Wait up, Buffy!" Tara said, scurrying after her out the door.
Buffy paused just outside, smiling at her. Tara smiled back. Nope, not alone. Not anymore.
End Notes: So, what did you think? I hope everyone likes it. By the way, the song that I took the quote from is what I listened to, over and over, while writing this. Thought that the beat fit it really well. Well, please review!