Summary: Buffy visits Tara after the events of "Tabula Rasa."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Not long after "Tabula Rasa." (spoiler warning!)

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


Tara stirred uneasily, then woke up fully as she heard the repeated, insistent knock on the door. She sighed, then stood up and walked to the front door of the small motel room. She opened it, and was simultaneously relieved and concerned to see that it was Buffy, not Willow. She smiled wanly, then asked in greeting, "Hi, Buffy. . .is something wrong?"

Buffy blinked, then glared at Tara for a moment before Tara inclined her head to indicate she could enter. The Slayer walked into the room and looked around for several seconds before turning back to Tara and replying, "Well, actually, yes there is, Tara. In the course of two days, I've suffered amnesia, Giles has abandoned me for 'my own good,' and one of my best friends has moved into this rat trap of a motel. . .I never should have let Faith stay here, and I'll be damned if you're going to."

Tara felt a sudden warmth at Buffy's obvious concern for her, and she was silent for a moment before responding, "It's only for a few days, Buffy, until I can find a decent apartment. I'll be fine."

Buffy sighed in exasperation, then snapped, "I know you can handle yourself, Tara, but I'm wondering why you felt you had to move out in the first place. . .Willow won't tell me what's wrong, and Xander and Dawn aren't telling me anything either: I had to bug Xander a lot just to get him to tell me where you were." Buffy looked down, then back up at Tara as she concluded, "Tara. . .I hate to sound needy and whiny, but with Giles gone, I need all of you guys. . .why did you leave?"

Tara hesitated, and Buffy pressed, "Tara. . .whatever went on between Willow and you is your business. If you felt that you had to break up with her, for whatever reason, I'm not going to stop caring about either of you because of it. . .and I need both of you now, more than ever. Can't we work out an arrangement where you can stand to be in the same room with each other?"

Tara looked down, then quietly told Buffy about how Willow had removed her memory of a fight that the two of them had, then about Willow's agreement not to use any magic for a week. . .which she had almost immediately broken to try to remove Buffy's memories of the afterlife. . .and Tara's memory of the whole matter. Tara paused for a moment, then whispered, "I saw it in her eyes, Buffy. . .and when I accused her of it, she admitted everything." She looked up at Buffy, who was looking away, and concluded, "I'm sorry, Buffy. . .I just can't stand to look at her right now."

Buffy looked back, and there were tears in her eyes as she responded, "God, Tara. . .I'm so sorry. I never would have thought that Willow could do something like that." She shook her head in disbelief as she asked, "Why didn't she just come to me? She could have asked me, and I would have been able to decide for myself. . .I'm getting tired of people doing things for my sake without-" Tara flinched, and Buffy stopped and shook her head in negation as she added: "Tara, don't. . .this isn't about you helping to bring me back: you didn't know what the deal was, and Willow's pretty hard to say 'no' to when she's determined about something. You didn't do anything wrong."

"Didn't I?" Tara's voice was angry, and she paced for a moment, causing Buffy to frown in concern. After a moment, Tara paused and locked eyes with Buffy, speaking deliberately, "Xander was hesitant from the beginning, and Anya would have gone along with whatever Xander wanted. Dawn, Giles, and Spike had no idea what was going on. If I had been firm with her, insisted that it was wrong just like we did when Dawn wanted to bring Joyce back-" Buffy flinched, and Tara smiled apologetically before continuing, "-she would have been alone, and maybe she would have backed down. . .or I could have told Giles: he would have intervened."

Buffy looked down again, then replied, "Don't be sure that would have stopped her, Tara." She quietly told Tara about the confrontation between Giles and Willow that she and Spike had overheard. Tara paled, and Buffy nodded and added, "Willow threatening Giles. . .hard to get more creepy than that." She looked with concern at Tara and concluded, "Or so I thought until five minutes ago."

Tara nodded numbly, then asked quietly, "Do you think that's why he left?"

Buffy visibly pondered the question, then shook her head slowly and replied, "Giles wouldn't back down from any threat: he really thinks he's doing the right thing for me." She sighed in exasperation and mumbled, "Why did he have to pick NOW to get stupid?"

"He left the last time because he felt he didn't have anything left to offer us, Buffy. . .he came back because he thought you needed him." Buffy flinched, and Tara smiled sadly at her before continuing, "Buffy, I think he's just without a clue as far as how to make you feel any better right now, and he's hoping to shock you into coping. Not exactly one of his greater moments, but losing you in May took a lot out of him. . .he might not have that much more to give." She shook her head sadly, then concluded, "I hope the rest of us haven't reached that point, because I know we all want to help you, Buffy. . .we're just not sure how."

Buffy sighed, then sat down on the bed. Tara sat next to her, and the two friends were quiet for a moment before Buffy turned to Tara and replied, "I'll cope with the day to day crap, Tara: I always have. It's just. . .I have a feeling that something horrible is about to happen, and I just won't be able to deal with it. Look at what happened just before I died: I went into catatonia, and Willow had to drag me out of my subconscious practically kicking and screaming, because I thought I had failed." Buffy looked down, then whispered, "Tara: what if it's Willow I have to fight this time?"

Tara shuddered, then leaned down and spoke in the most comforting tone she could muster: "I'm sure it won't come to that, Buffy. As angry as I am at her right now, she's not evil: I'm sure of it."

Buffy looked back up, and Tara could see a spark of fear behind the drained look in her eyes as the Slayer replied, "I'd like to think that too, Tara, but things are starting to look bad. She's closer to Giles in some ways than I ever was, Tara, and she still managed to threaten him; provoked or not, that just isn't like her. . .and God, Tara, what she's done to you. You still don't know what she did to make her mess with your mind the first time, and thinking about whatever it was that could have made her do that scares me more than anything." She shook her head in disgust, then added, "With Giles gone, who in the hell am I going to turn to for help if Willow does go bad? Anya's forgotten most of the magic she ever knew, and Xander probably couldn't raise a hand against Willow even if he had the firepower to do it with. And you. . .God, Tara, I couldn't ask you to help: no matter how pissed off you are at her, you still love her. I can see it on your face."

Tara sighed, but did not dispute Buffy's contention. After a moment, she smiled, and replied in a sardonic tone, "Well, there's always Spike."

Buffy laughed bitterly, then retorted, "Now there's an idea. . .I can sic Spike on her, and he can distract her with his wily chip convulsions while she fries him with lightning." Tara laughed involuntarily, then frowned in concern as Buffy muttered, "At least then I wouldn't have to worry about-" She stopped in mid-sentence and shook her head in exasperation.

Tara leaned over and whispered, "Buffy, whatever it is, it can't be worse than everything else that's going on."

Buffy laughed again, then looked up at Tara with a mocking look on her face as she replied, "Really? I kissed Spike, Tara: twice. I liked it."

Tara was silent for a long moment, thinking that her reaction to similar news regarding Spike and the BuffyBot would definitely NOT be helpful in this situation. She made a conscious effort to smile reassuringly, then responded, "Well, that's not the best thing in the world, Buffy, but it's hardly worth beating yourself up about."

Buffy sighed, then whispered, "He was the only one I could talk to about it all. . .the only one I thought I couldn't hurt by telling him what had really happened. He blamed himself for letting me die: at least he knew that it hadn't been so bad for me afterwards, no matter how bad it was for me now." The Slayer shook her head, then continued, "He had been so good to Dawn while I was gone. . .finally, something good came out of someone loving me. Then I came back and screwed it all up: I spent too much time with him, and he starting thinking there was a chance again. How in the hell did I expect him to react? No matter what he's done in the past, he's still got feelings, and the damned singing spell blew everything to hell, and I needed to feel something again."

Buffy took a deep, shaky breath, and Tara leaned over and squeezed her arm reassuringly. After a moment, Buffy turned, smiled gratefully at Tara, then continued, "I can't do it again, Tara. . .I can't fall in love with someone who might turn on the people I care about: I can't live with any more guilt." She shook her head in disgust, and added, "I can't just use him to scratch my itch, either. . .I'd be no better than Parker, or a cheap knock-off of Faith. I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but Spike deserves better than that." She looked down and muttered, "What a goddamned mess."

Tara leaned over and hugged Buffy, and the Slayer returned the embrace as tears quietly trickled down her cheeks. After a few moments, they broke apart, and Tara frowned slightly and nodded before commenting, "Yeah, it's a mess. . .but we've dealt with them before, and we will again. Buffy, you can't keep this to yourself just because you think it's going to freak us out. It's holding it in that's making it so awful for you, just like it was when you lied about what happened to you after-after the night on the tower." Buffy looked up, and Tara met her gaze without hesitation as she concluded, "Buffy. . .we helped cause the problem here: let us try to help with the solution. I mean, I know we were kind of lame last time with the Bot, but-"

Buffy snorted at the memory, then began giggling, her eyes aglow with genuine amusement. Tara started laughing in response, and the two women took a few moments to regain control. Buffy shook her head and exclaimed, "God, I needed that right then!" She blinked, and there was genuine gratitude in her eyes as she added, "Thanks, Tara. . .it's nice to know I can count on you."

Tara grinned at Buffy, then replied, "You can count on all of us, Buffy. . .no matter how messed up Willow is right now, if you let her know what's wrong, she'll come through for you: I know it, and Xander would walk through a hurricane to help you. . .even if Anya was demanding sex from him the whole time."

Buffy started laughing again, then gasped, "Stop that, Tara. . .my sides are starting to hurt." She took a moment to recover, then frowned as she commented, "Which reminds me. . ." She picked up the receiver of the phone and punched in a number. She waited for a moment, then called out, "Yeah, it's me. She's here, all right. . .it's ready? Good. See you in twenty minutes." She replaced the receiver, then turned to Tara and ordered crisply, "Pack up your stuff: there's a sofa bed waiting for you at Xander's apartment until you get your new place."

Tara flushed, then stammered, "But, Bu-Buffy. . .I can't ask you to take sides in this thing with me and Willow. I'll be fine."

"Crap." Buffy's voice was calm, but firm, and Tara involuntarily straightened to attention at the sound of authority in the Slayer's voice as Buffy continued, "Willow and I are going to have a little discussion about what happened, and I'm not going to let her weasel out of it, best friend or not. I'm not going to throw her out of my house, and you're not going to sleep in this rat trap just to spare her feelings. If Xander didn't have the space, you'd be coming back to the house, Willow be damned. Now, get packing while I call a cab."

Tara looked quietly at Buffy, then commented, "You're not taking no for an answer, are you?"

Buffy shook her head, then added, "Not a chance." She smiled at Tara, then whispered, "In case you haven't figured it out, I love you, and I'm not letting you suffer for Willow's mistakes. . .or mine, if I can help it." She glanced at the walls of the room with distaste, then prodded, "Get going. . .I don't want to spend any more time in this place than I have to."

Tara nodded, and moved to pack while Buffy called for the cab. She glanced over occasionally, and noticed that Buffy was visibly more relaxed than she had been when she arrived. Nothing had really been resolved, but things felt better. Tara prayed that the feeling was not blind optimism as she moved her bags next to the front door, then waited with her friend for the cab to arrive.

As before, comments are welcome and desired.