TITLE: Mending Fences
RATING: PG-13 (Some chapters will be NC-17, this is your warning!)
DISCLAIMER: Willow, Tara and any other characters from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise belong to Joss Whedon, FOX, and a whole host of other entities, none of which are me.
SUMMARY: Mostly AU - takes place after Tabula Rasa
FEEDBACK: Yes please
Authors note: This chapter has given me tummy rumblings for 10 years, but I can't bring myself to change it and my beta reader didn't help resolve those feelings one way or another so she has been fired. :)~
Buffy, Dawn, and Giles arrived at the house without incident. Giles was a bit stressed by Buffy's driving, but that was normal. Upon entering the house Giles was greeted with hugs from the redhead and blonde who had been cuddling on the couch when he came in.
"Willow, Tara, I've missed you both so much," Giles said.
"We've missed you too," answered Willow as she took his bags from him. Tara just offered him a soft smile, that he gladly returned.
"H-how was y-your flight," said Tara as everyone moved into the living room. Giles sat in the chair while Willow and Tara cuddled on the couch, Dawn grabbed a seat in the rocking chair as Buffy took the last of the space on the couch.
"The flight was long, but good. I think I may have to start traveling by private charter more often," laughed Giles.
"So, you have an idea as to what Ethan is up to," Willow blurted out.
"Nice tact Willow, I think you've been spending too much time with Anya," laughed Buffy grateful the question was out there finally.
"Sorry, I'm just nervous and not really happy with knowing that Ethan wants me to do magic again and that I according to the dream don't care." Willow said as Tara tightened her grip on the redhead for reassurance.
"We all are Will, but Giles is here and he's going to help," Buffy said reaching over and giving Willows hand a small squeeze.
"Well as soon as Anya and Xander get here we'll go over what I've found and what I'm expecting to happen," said Giles glancing at his watch.
Xander burst through the front door out of breath and stared at the group while he tried to catch his breath to speak.
"Bloody hell Xander," Giles screamed startled by the entrance.
"So-rry," Xander panted.
"Xander, what is wrong and where is Anya," Buffy asked.
"What do you mean something took her?" asked Dawn.
"Xander sit down and tell us what is going on," Giles ordered. Everyone felt at ease with Giles there, he would take charge and all would be ok. Giles had become the father none of them had ever had, and he knew it as well as them. It was a bond they all cherished greatly.
"I went to the Magic Box after I got done at the site, figured Anya and I could walk back here together. When I got close, there was pretty much nobody near the store, which was bizzaro since the rest of the street was packed. I started to run and saw the front window was broken and the door was open, when I got inside the place was trashed. I called for Anya, but she wasn't there…" Xander stopped and surveyed the group, they were all intently listening to him. "So as I was looking around there was this hooded thing sitting on the counter and he said 'soon it will all be over' I tried to get him to explain, but all he did was say it again and pounce on me. I think he broke some stuff in me too." Upon hearing that Willow jumped up and hurried over to check her lifelong friend out.
"Ok, we'll figure this out, but first we need to make sure you're ok," said Buffy as Willow continued her investigation of Xander's wounds. After and extensive work over from the redhead she concluded that Xander had a couple broken ribs and several deep bruises, but he was going to be ok. Xander refused to go to the hospital to verify that there wasn't anything more serious.
Once Xander was taken care of everyone turned their attention over to Giles. He retrieved a few books from his luggage and a small box. Sitting back down, he started to clean his glasses as all eyes were fixated on his every move.
"Alright. I was doing some research and I am 98% certain I know what Ethan is up to and I think I may have a way for us to thwart is plans," started Giles. "Willow, you are a key part to this. I know you've been filled in on that already – but I needed to stress that. I think that Ethan is going to try to bring forth an Jackal Demon. Don't ask let me finish," said Giles halting questions before they began. "The Jackal Demon is a rather evil demon. I have only heard of one coming to pass in this world and it managed to destroy roughly two thirds of the country before it was stopped. I'm hoping that we can get through this and stop him before he releases this demon."
"Giles, he has Anya, why does he want her – she isn't going to be any help to him…" said Xander.
"I know Xander, and we'll get her back safe. You have to believe that. I think he's just trying to get a bargaining tool or something to distract us."
"Well its working pretty damn well," Xander snapped as Willow put her hand on his shoulder and tried to instill some comfort into him.
"Well I have to say that I've known Ethan for a long time and he's stooped pretty low, but I've always been able to stop him and I don't bloody well intend on this being the first time that I don't," stated Giles.
"Giles," Buffy said raising her hand. "Do I get to beat him bloody this time? Cuz the last couple times he's been around I haven't gotten the chance and I really think I deserve the opportunity to do that."
"Yes, Buffy this time you will get that opportunity," replied Giles with a proud fatherly tone.
"Thank you," said the Slayer with a smug contented grin on her face.
"Ok, here is my plan. Willow, you are needed to make this whole plan of Ethan's work…well we're going to do a little switch courtesy of Faith." At the mention of the dark haired Slayers name everyone tensed up.
"Excuse me? The words switch and courtesy of Faith do NOT belong in the same sentence nor do they belong anywhere involving me. Explain," questioned Willow with a defensive tone.
"Well, it was her that actually gave me the idea." Giles said hoping to reassure everyone's fears. "We are going to switch your body with Tara's. That way it will look like you but there won't be the power and connection that Ethan needs." As Giles said that Willow and Tara locked eyes, both fearing for the others safety and both being relieved that the other was going to be directly involved.
"So, when he tries to do whatever it is he's planning it won't work because it'll be Tara and not me," smiled the redhead.
"Exactly," Giles said in a very confident tone. "While he is distracted with getting the spell for the Jackal Demon to work, we'll have Xander going in to get Anya, I'll need Buffy to help me capture Ethan, and Dawn, you are going to be needed to keep Willow in Tara's body safe." Giles knew that Willow would be safe in the teens protection. "Buffy, do you think that we can get Spike to help us with keep the other Sunnydale inhabitants out of our hair?"
"I got your back," Spike said as he came up from the basement.
"How do you keep getting into my house and into my basement?" Buffy said annoyed.
"Now if I told you, you'd find a way to stop me and that wouldn't be any fun. Welcome back Giles."
"Spike, thank you. How long have you been here and how much have you heard?" asked Giles.
"Oh, I've been here the whole time just listening at the door waiting for the best time to come up and make my entrance."
"Argh, if we didn't need your help you'd be filling my dust buster right now," said the disgusted Slayer.
"Hey, not to seem petty, but can we get past the sexual tension between you two and get back to getting my fiancé back?" Xander snapped
"Ewww, you mentioned Spike and I in the same sentence with sexual tension – I think I'm going to be sick," Buffy said scrunching her face up and holding her stomach.
"Don't flatter yourself Slayer, I think you may need a sandwich or two, you're starting to look a tad thin," Spike said back.
"Ok, if you two are quite finished can we get back to things here," Giles interrupted.
"Sorry," Spike and Buffy said glaring at one another and then looking up to the Watcher.
"Ok, now Willow you and Dawn will stay here and as we leave I'll have Tara do a protection spell on the house so that nobody will know that you are hear as your essence will be here. I am hoping that Ethan doesn't check for that because there is no way for us to fake that and have Tara appear to have your essence. Tara you are going to have to do some general magic. I know you are not as strong as Willow, but I don't doubt that with your heritage that you are plenty strong to pull off the shows that we need you to."
"I'll do whatever is needed, just as long as it keeps Willow and everyone safe," Tara said as she pulled Willow close to her and looked at each person in the room and back to the man standing in front of the group.
"Very well. I think we should all just relax for tonight and we'll start tomorrow getting ready. If my calculations are correct, tomorrow Ethan will make his move to capture Willow and start her journey toward bringing forth the Jackal Demon."
"Yeah and how are we supposed to relax Giles. Ethan has Anya and god only knows what he is doing to her," exclaimed Xander.
"Xander, you and Anya have a strong connection, if anything were wrong with her you'd know it – just as if anything were to happen to Willow I'd know it," said Tara hoping to give Xander a bit of comfort, but figuring it wasn't going to be much.
"You're right Tara," replied Xander with a soft smile glad that she was back, she offered the group a stability that they never had nor knew they needed.
The rest of the night the group spent together talking and watching TV. Spike went out on patrol and to see if he could pick up any further information that may lead them to Ethan. As the night went on and people got tired they all headed to their rooms. Buffy gave Giles her room, she crashed on an air mattress in the living room by Xander, Dawn made her way to her room and Tara and Willow went to their room.
Willow lay awake for a long time running through her head everything that was going on and what could go wrong. She felt Tara snuggle up behind her and drape her arm over her. Entwining her fingers with Tara's, Willow vowed that nothing was going to happen to her family – not if she had anything to do with it.
Anya found herself chained in a small cell in the corner of a large room. She looked around – the ceilings were high, the room felt cold. She was at the far end and she could see a wall plastered with what looked like pictures, but from the distance it was hard for her to tell, it was also very dark. She continued to survey the room when she saw a figure walk through the door.
"Ah, Anya – so glad to see you have decided to join us back in the world of the living. For a minute there I thought I might have to find a new bargaining chip," said the figure as it walked towards her.
"I'm guessing you're this Ethan guy I've been hearing about," snapped Anya.
"Ah, so they did remember me. I'm sure you've heard all sorts of nasty stuff about me – and you know, its all probably true and then some," laughed Ethan.
"After eleven hundred years as a vengeance demon – anything they would have and could have told me about you really wouldn't have phased me so get over yourself."
"Oh I see why Ripper likes you – you have spunk."
"Let me out of these chains and I'll be happy to show you how much spunk I have," Anya said with a great deal of venom in her voice.
"Now, that wouldn't get either of us what we want now would it," chuckled Ethan as he took a step or two back away from her.
"Oh but it'd be fun," mumbled Anya under her breath.
"Well I just wanted to be a gracious host and say hello. I will have my servants bring you some food and something to drink. I would hate to appear rude as you are technically my guest."
With that Ethan left the room and Anya was again left to herself. She scanned the room – the door appeared to be the only way in or out, there were no windows or vents anywhere that she could see.
The next day everyone was mostly in a daze going through their own preparation and just absorbing everything. Willow and Tara spent a lot of time just the two of them – both reassuring the other that it was all going to be ok enhancing their connection to one another. Finally Giles told them it was time to do the spell, he gathered everyone into the living room. After the spell was completed, Willow and Tara looked around both attuning their bodies to the new scenery.
As they went over the plan again for the last time everyone made sure there were no loopholes that Ethan could exploit. After the last review, Willow and Dawn got comfy in the house, Spike left to go do patrol, Xander, Buffy, Giles, and Tara cast the protection spell on the house and left to complete their part. They split up, Giles and Tara walking to the Magic Box to "get supplies" hoping that Ethan would capture Tara and take her to begin his plan. While they were doing that Xander and Buffy used some information Spike had gotten the prior night to try to locate where Ethan was hold up and where he had Anya. They knew that they were going to have to be very careful as underestimating Ethan usually had dire consequences.
Dawn and Willow had made themselves comfy in the living room. Dawn was watching TV while Willow was working hard at something on her laptop. Dawn wanted to ask what it was, but she knew that at these times it was best to leave Willow alone.
Staring at the screen – a blank Word document was open, Willow's mind was racing at everything she wanted to key, say, and do. Willow figured the best thing to do was to just let it out – let her fingers type what it is they want. After she got it out she could always edit it, so she let her fingers go.
We've know each other for most of our lives, you and I have been through a lot together. If you are reading this then I had to do something drastic to ensure that you all were safe.
I love you so much, you are so important in my life I need to entrust you with a task that involves the best part of me and my life. I need you to look after Tara, she's not going to understand why I am doing what I'm doing, she is going to be pissed as hell to be honest, but with you there I know she'll be looked after and taken care of, and maybe in time you can help her forgive me a little bit. I know that the Scooby's aren't just a group but a family so you need to take care of the family. You always said you didn't bring much to this fight, but you bring what is most important – you bring heart and that is what keeps us all going. Keep that in mind so that if the fight seems a loss don't ever lose your heart – its what makes you the man we all love and need. It will make the difference in every fight!
I will always love you and cherish our time spent together.
How do I start this…you are the sister I never had, the best friend I'm grateful to have had. You didn't care that I was the unpopular loser in High School, you didn't care when they teased you because you hung out with the geek. In college when Oz left you were there for me – I know I wasn't the greatest to be around, but you stuck by me, made sure that I knew I wasn't alone…and when I told you about Tara, you could have freaked, you could have ditched our friendship – but instead you supported me and her. You have always looked out for me and there is no way to thank you for that.
I have a favor to ask, Buffy I need you to protect Tara and look after her. She is my everything and I don't ever want anything to happen to her. I have asked Xander to look after her too – but when it comes to protecting people you are the only one I would ever trust with the most important person in my world. Please, keep her safe. She is going to be mad and feel lost, please remind her that all Scoobies including her are a family...don't let her go back to "them" ever.
I love you,
You are like my little sister. I couldn't love you more if you were actually my true blood. You always made me feel like I was truly part of a family and I don't know what to say to that other than Thank you! You have such a kind and caring personality!
You make Tara feel comfortable and that has meant so much to me. I'm hoping that you will continue to do that without my being here. She loves you as I do – please keep her safe and show her the love that a true family has to offer. You guys are a family – don't ever let that go. She is going to be hurt and lost, keep her close, keep her here.
I love you,
You are the father that I didn't really have growing up. Thank you for always offering me your unconditional love and support. You never asked for more than I could give and you never let me get down on myself when I couldn't do something. I'm eternally grateful for that.
As my surrogate father I need to ask something of you that I can't ask of my other family. I need you to take Tara under your wing and love her the way you loved me and help her learn and become stronger witch…I know that I wouldn't be able to survive without her, but I need to be unfair to you and everyone else and ask you all to help her survive without me. You know what she means to me, you know how hard this is for me – I know you won't let me down, you never have.
I love you,
You may act like you don't care, and that I know is false. Look after everyone but most importantly, look after Tara. She is going to need someone strong to pull her through, you care about her I know that – so I am expecting this of you because I know you would die before you let anything happen to her. She has the sweetest, kindest soul, don't let her lose that.
Thanks for everything,
I know we were never close, I never truly understood you – and I'm not sure you truly understood me. We do share 2 things in common though. You love Xander as do I just in a different way, you love Tara and so do I just in different ways. You have always made her feel like she is part of the group even before the others truly accepted her, for that I am truly grateful. Please look after her and keep her safe, she is going to need your strength and support. Xander will need you too, but I know I don't have to ask you to be there for him.
Willow stopped and glanced over what she had written…she knew that there was just one more letter to write. Looking over at Dawn she felt her heart start to ache…how was she going to write this last one. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and let her fingers go.
My dearest love Tara,
How do I write this? How do I put my feelings for you into words? I don't think that there are even words to truly express how I feel when it comes to loving you or what you mean to my life. You are my everything, my air, my water, my heart, my soul, my reason for living, my reason for existing. I am nothing without you – I was nothing but an empty shell before you came into my life and once you graced my life I felt my soul complete. I never knew what I was missing in my life before I met you – and after I met you I look back at my life and wonder how I existed. You made my heart come to life, you completed me.
I know that reading this you are wondering how I could do what I did, and state that I have such strong feelings for you, well baby that is what gave me the strength. I needed to protect you and what makes me who I am. My family (Buffy, Dawn, Xander, Giles, even Spike and Anya) they helped support me and keep me existing, but you are what made me truly alive.
I couldn't love you the way I do and let anything happen to you, I have done what needed to be done to protect you, to protect our family, and to ensure that everything that was important to me is safe. I know that you told me that we needed to build trust again and trust in one another, but baby, I need you safe, I would die if anything happened to you. You always say that I'm the strong one in our relationship, but what you don't see is that it is you supporting me that makes me strong. I can't let the possibility of you not existing in this world be an option. You make this world a better place for so many people, I wish I could show you what the world is like from the perspective of anyone other than yourself. You would see the light and greatness you bring to the world. Goddess I love you so much.
I have asked everyone to look after you and I want you to look after everyone. I know that family was something you weren't used to, but you are a part of the Scooby family and that is lifelong. I know for a long time you didn't feel a part of the family, but I hope you know that you are not just because of me, but because of amazing woman you are.
My love you are the most amazing woman. I would have given anything to have been there to see the woman that you are to become. You have the strength and compassion that this world needs. Your beauty is something that is beyond my words to describe. You taught me the deepness that love could reach, you taught me how to face my fears and come out a better person. You never let an obstacle stop you and now I'm not going to let one stop me. My love for you is so great that I would rather die than know that you were harmed in any way because of me.
I love you so much my sweet, I will be waiting for you – my love only grows for you with every passing day. Its never ending and ever-changing in its depth and amazement.
With all I am, I love you.
Willow reread her letters as a single tear rolled down her face though so many others were lined up to fall as well she wouldn't let it happen. She rose from the couch and went and printed out the letters and put them each in an envelop and labeled each one with their names. Just in case she wanted everything covered.
Willow joined Dawn back in the living room, this time without her laptop, they sat and watch TV in silence.