Title: Sentinels (Chapter 20)
Author: Starr, aka faolan228
Disclaimer: Starr does not own BtVS or any related works. Except for Artie. Only because no one else wanted her.
Feedback: Me gusta.
Summary: Season 1 happened as it did on the show, but everything after has been molded and reshaped to my lunacy. Moral ambiguity abounds. Lying is sometimes okay for the right reasons, and genocidal rage a perfectly normal thing for people to feel. AU W/T that may or may not be a comedy.
Notes: OH MY GOD. I am so sorry for practically falling off the edge of the earth, you guys. I've been really busy with college, and since I'm studying abroad, getting used to the culture too. Also been distracted roleplaying as vampire Willow on Tumblr _ I'd like to apologize to everyone ever, and grovel for your forgiveness. I'm gonna try for more frequent updates, like the good old days
'Solving mysteries' Dawn had decided, was not as fun as her sister and friends made it look. It was actually a lot of hard work. Their little group had even skipped out on lunch and recess, following only Artie's hearing and, strangely enough, her nose.
"It's like, this 'rawrrrrrscreeeeee' type sound. Like the raptors from Jurassic Park?" the Slayer had explained, making little claws with her fingers and stomping her feet like a dinosaur would. Dawn nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. The others, however, stared blankly.
"I…I can't hear anything," Ravi said slowly.
"Me neither," Janice and Barry said in unison, already weirded out by the girl who could hear things other people couldn't. Dawn held up her hand to placate them.
"It's okay. She's like my sister. Super hearing and senses and stuff," A chorus of understanding 'Ohhhs' were her answer. Artie rolled her eyes. She supposed Buffy-and Faith-she reminded herself, would have saved enough lives in this town to be a sort of 'open secret' amongst the people. The older folks, grown ups and teenagers would have come up with some sort of theory. But kids like them? Like her? They could accept the truth of people fighting away the monsters, and acknowledge their presence as a fact.
Children, Tara had told her, believed. They were sensitive to the supernatural in a way that was almost instinctual, before society dumbed down their senses and told them the truth was fiction.
It was also, Tara had told her again, one of the reasons why children were such prime targets for demonic predators. All that fear, all that potential….and despite her playful personality, Artie remembered the things Tara instructed her to read. The stories Tara would read toher, over tea but never right before bedtime, of Watchers and Slayers and witches who came before.
That something was underneath a school full of children, well…
Lucky she was here, right?
"Lucky you're here, isn't it?"
Tara looked up from where her nose was buried in a large leather tome, blue eyes lighting up at the most welcome sight in the library. "Willow!" Her eyes widened at her unintentional outburst. "I-I mean, Willow, hi." She smiles sheepishly. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," the redhead beamed. "Glad to see someone's excited to see me. And before I let in on your gift, so I know the excitement is all for me."
"Gift?" At that moment, Tara was suddenly aware of the heavenly scent wafting through the room. "Coffee?" She almost panted. "You brought me coffee?"
"And a muffin," the redhead said proudly. She plopped into the seat next to the young Watcher, scooting closer til they were thigh to thigh. "Mocha for me, and a half Brazilian, half hot chocolate with a shot of hazelnut for you."
"Well look at you all hunter-gatherer," Tara batted her lashes, nudging Willow playfully.
"What can I say?" Willow basked in the attention. "When my girl's been in the library for hours, it's good to make sure she has refreshments."
"I-I like that," Tara practically purred. "When you call me that." She pressed closer, nuzzling her nose. "Thank you," she breathed, sealing their lips together in a kiss.
Willow sighed into the kiss, suddenly feeling very refreshed herself. "Gets better every time," she whispered. She leaned closer, chasing after Tara's lips as the other girl pulled away with a coy grin. "C'mere you," the redhead growled playfully. "I want my Tara smoochies." Her hand rested, palm flat against Tara's thigh, and with the added leverage, caught those pouty lips once again. Tara gasped as Willow's fingers twitched and squeezed her thigh.
Both girls sprang apart, wide eyed and gasping, to the sight of Giles, already at work cleaning his glasses. "Miss Tiler, may I ask how your research is coming along?" Despite his stance and tone, Willow could see the small smile playing at his features. Tara, having not known him as long, did not.
"It…It's coming," she squeaked, while mentally kicking herself at her choice of words. While both were doing the same job, Rupert Giles was a senior Watcher, a superior of sorts. To have been walked in on like that was mortifying.
"I was helping Tara," Willow said smoothly. "Wasn't I Tara?" Her girl nodded her head eagerly, gesturing to the book in front of her. "What are we studying anyway?" Willow stage whispered.
Tara held up the copy of 'The Enchanted Bestiary' to a suddenly very excited Willow. "I'm on the winged beasts chapter. Did you know Gryffins are really proud creatures, and can harness the sun's energy for their magic?"
Willow let out an enthusiastic, "Cool!" and scooted even closer than before, practically on Tara's lap, eager to learn more.
"I'm reading up on dragons," Tara explained. "See, every few days, I pick a new creature or demon and make Artie research it. Facts, mythology, legends, stuff like that. I figured since she likes dinosaurs so much, she'd love to learn about dragons. After she turns in an essay, we go over physical methods on fighting them."
Willow smiled admirably. "You're a good Watcher, you know that?"
Tara chuckled. "Of course you'd consider the homework a bonus. Hey, look at this," she points to a passage. "Though aerial predators, dragons prefer living in subterranean dens. Though they're carnivorous, they also feed on the magical energy of an area. They can even use it to breathe extra years of life into someone."
Willow looked absolutely delighted at the thought of it. "Wow, just think! We're on a Hellmouth, and we've got lots of underground caves and tunnels. We might have a dragon in Sunnydale and we wouldn't even know."
Willow's enthusiasm was infectious and warmed Tara's heart, the flush on her face warming other places on the witch, too. "Willow," she said softly. "I was wondering…"
"D-do you wanna come over later? I know we have plans for this weekend already, but I really like spending time with you." She was blushing, she could feel her face burning.
"I love spending time with you too," Willow said. "Of course I want to. Have anything planned?"
Willow's acceptance greatly increased her confidence. "Oh, I don't know," she smiled. "Maybe work on some lesson plans," she gestured to the book between them. "Watch some TV. Maybe even make out."
"Oh, I'm there," the redhead said with a giggle.
Giles, still standing there the whole time, decided to walk away before the two young women attacked each other again, though the smile didn't leave his face. Young love amongst magic texts and research. It certainly reminded him of the less dark days of his youth.
Artie frowned and exchanged a look with Dawn as the lights flickered on and off again. "Woah, isn't that Ms. Poppendorfer?"
The two girls looked up at Ravi's observation, just in time to see their teacher disappear into a janitors closet. "That's odd," Artie muttered.
"Yeah," Dawn agreed. "What would she be doing in there? She isn't a janitor."
"Um, hello? Scooby and Scrappy Doo-fus?" They turned to stare, unamused, at Janice. "Somebody probably just puked? And she's getting cleaning supplies?"
10 minutes later, when their teacher failed to emerge, it was obvious she wasn't getting supplies. Still, the ragtag group of kids sat and waited. It was only after Dawn and Janice lamented the drainage of their shared juice box that their teacher emerged.
They all ducked behind the corner. "She looks…different," Barry whispered.
"Yeah," Dawn agreed. "What do you say Artie?"
"Artie?" The young Slayer had slunk away from the rest of the group, slipping into the closet as their teacher walked away, head held high, heels clipping. The other four raced to catch up. "What are you doing?" Dawn hissed.
"There's nothing here."
Dawn was having none of it. "You know all the weird stuff in this town, why would you run off like that?"
"Dawn, there's nothing here."
The skinny brunette stopped her Joyce-like tirade. "Oh." There really was nothing in there. Nothing unusual, at least. Just the typical janitor's closet type things.
"I told you," Janice sing-songed, even as Ravi and Barry looked disappointed the lack of a mystery. Then, Artie's head cocked.
"Excuse me? Rude much?"
"No," she held up her hand. I mean, shhh." The young Slayer threw herself against the back wall, ear pressed to it.
Fingers searching, she gasped, eyes wide. Impossible for the eye to see, but easily felt, there was a seam in the wall.
Grinning triumphantly at her classmates, Artie puffed her chest out. "I don't suppose you guys would be willing to meet here tonight?"
Plans were made, watches synchronized, and excuses made up as they returned to class. When the final bell of the day rang, they each made their ways home. To get ready.
"Don't tell anyone yeah?" She kicked at the dirt. "I wanna solve this ourselves. Maybe then they'll be more willing to include us in all the other adventures."
Dawn giggled excitedly as they walked home, both inflated with their preteen sense of importance and wisdom. "This is such a great idea! This will be awesome!"