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Title: Afterwards
Author: Alsike
Fandom: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Pairing: F/T, D/K, B/W, D/T, B/T...
Warnings or Spoilers: Takes place after the last episode, AU from the comics
Archiving: Sure
Summary: Everyone was in love with Tara once...

I've been thinking about this story since Season 4. It was supposed to be a dramatic saga, but I think it works better as a one shot, because it wouldn't be Buffy if it were possible to write a story where everyone was happy in the end (unless they were all dead).



"Afterwards"


“Sooo, dark haired slayers, Red, I always knew you had a thing for me.”

Faith hung down over the banister and grinned at Willow who was trying to make her way from the kitchen to the living room, unmolested.

“I don’t have a thing for you, Faith. I never did.”

Faith sighed and flipped off the staircase landing on the floor. “Too bad, really. Though honestly, I liked you better before you got all hard. Darkness, it doesn’t look good on you.”

“Shut up-“ Willow hissed it. She had no right; she had no right to say any of this.

“And what happened to the stuttery-blonde anyways, she was mucho cuteo. I totally would have done her if I had had more time. You ever get anything going there?”

Willow’s hands were around her neck, throttling Faith for all she was worth. Faith caught her wrists and pressed two pressure points on each one, relaxing her grip.

“Still a bit tender there-“

“She’s dead!” Willow spat in her face trying to massage some life back into her hands.
Faith stepped back at the ferocity of the voice and glanced awkwardly down. “So it goes,” she said quickly, and left the room, wiping her face.

* * *

The house was too small for them all, just a narrow townhouse somewhere in London. The council was trying to get itself straightened out, but there was just so much paperwork to catch up on that everything had stagnated. The rooms were impossible. Giles had his own place and was letting Robin stay there, but Xander and Andrew had to have one room to themselves, being the guys, and then there was the question of what to do with the lesbian couple, the sex-freak, the minor, and the other one, i.e. Buffy. The rest of the survivors were finding lodging with the few watchers who hadn’t died.
Right now Dawn and Buffy had one room, Willow and Kennedy the other, and Faith was relegated to the couch when she spent the night there at all, which wasn’t all that often. London may be full of uptight British people, but it was also full of clubs and people looking for a shag.

There was one club that was Faith’s favorite. It had a disco thing going and occasionally displayed its date of origin by having 80’s nights. Though it may have been surprising to some, the whole hip-hop phenomenon left her cold. Sure she could shake her butt as well as anyone, but there was no edge to it. Good 80’s rock was unbelievably sexy.

She was out one night, leaning on the bar, sipping a Jack and Coke and glancing around for any prospects. It was a Tuesday, and kind of slow. She caught a flash of blonde hair and her slayer sense began tingling.

“Shit,” she set the glass back on the bar and glanced at the bartender, “watch that.”

Then she went up the stairs, following the blonde to the dance floor. She reached out and touched the shoulder. The hair was medium length and so sleek. The girl turned and Faith stared into her face.

“Oh- oh no, why didn’t she tell me how-“

The girl tilted her head questioningly. Her eyes were deep and a dark brown, and her face had the calm lines that Faith remembered, that she had been thinking about since the conversation that morning. She tilted her head forward and a veil of blonde silk slipped in front of her face.

Faith reached out and caught her wrist and started pulling her towards the door, making no pretence of romancing the demon; this was too much.

The girl made no sound until they were outside in the short alleyway that all clubs seemed to provide for the benefit of the more criminally inclined of their patrons.

“Faith-“ her voice was almost a whisper, yet with overtones of something more: something more than human.

“H-how do you know my name? Did you see a picture? Did she show you-“

“I remember your energy. It’s, it's calmer than it was. Less desperate.”

“You’re dead.” Faith looked at her sort of desperately, wanting to understand why she didn’t feel threatened.

“Yes.”

“Did a vampire-“

“No. I was shot. I died like a human, but I was never human, not really.”

“I don’t understand.”

“My family- they thought I was a demon. They were right.”

“What?”

“When I died the demon in me was set free. My body’s gone, but I like to take on this form sometimes still. It feels like home.”

“What kind of demon?”

“You want to know if you need to kill me, don’t you?” Tara smiled. “You’re so much calmer than you used to be. You used to kick butt and ask questions after, didn’t you?”

“That got me into a bit of trouble.”

Tara’s grin was so real, even guarded under her hair, and it yanked at Faith, it hurt her chest. “I know.”

“I mean, you have to be a demon. Because you aren't her- I mean, you don’t stutter, you’re in a club, talking to me-“

“It’s different, being a demon. I’m not afraid anymore. And I can fly. I’ve always wanted to fly.”

Faith grinned and scuffed the dirt with her boot. “You know, I told Red today that if I had had more time before being packed off to jail I totally would have done you. I would have loved to see you freak out, ‘oh my god, Willow’s best friend is making a move on me, what should I do? I really want Buffy to like me, maybe I should just – submit.’”

“You didn’t think much of me, did you?”

“I thought you were a nice piece of ass.”

“Exactly.”

“But, you know, B’s had all the vampire banging, doin’ the dirty with a demon might be just enough to one up her?”

“Is that a pick up line? Come on, Faith, you can do better than that.”

“I usually don’t have to. It’s not my fault that you’re not completely pissed.”

“Maybe you ought to find out what you’re getting into first?”

“Hm?”

Suddenly deep red wings stretched out from Tara’s back. They were bat-like, lightly furred, and the wingspan was huge. But somehow they were beautiful, and Faith just took one step back, her heart pounding in a way she didn’t understand.

* * *

Kennedy found Faith in the narrow room that served as the library for the townhouse, curled up on one of the sofas with a demon encyclopedia on her lap, she was fast asleep and somewhere in the C’s. Research obviously did not agree with her.

Dawn stuck her head in and glanced at the two Slayers.

“Someone had a long night.”

“Glad she did, or I wouldn’t have been able to steal her couch.”

Dawn cocked her head. “You- crashed on the couch again.”

“Yeah.“ Kennedy didn’t meet her eyes.

“You can talk to me.”

“Yeah, I’ll talk to the little brat.”

“Jerk!”

Kennedy grinned. “You know enough about what’s going on. Messy messiness.”

“Yeah.” Dawn looked kind of sad.

“Why is this hitting you? I thought you were one of the Willow and Tara’s love can never die groupies.”

Dawn shook her head slowly. “Did I ever tell you she kissed me once?”

“What? Who? Will or Tara?”

“Tara. It was while they were broken up. We had gone to a movie and were having a milkshake and Tara was quiet for a bit and asked me if I thought of her like a surrogate mom. I kind of freaked, because there was definitely a part of me that pretended that these were dates we were going on. I was like, no way! And she gave me that little self-deprecating smile that always hurt me so much. She always looked so tired then, jaded-like, and I wanted to be the older more mature one. I wanted to be the one she trusted and thought of as an equal, not as a child. So that’s what I told her. I only think of you as a surrogate mother when you treat me like a child. She smiled at that, just half way, but it was my favorite smile that she had. It made me feel mature, like I had said something right, something flirty maybe, which she had taken the right way. But it was still an accident that she kissed me. She was dropping me home and was going to kiss my cheek, but I turned and caught her lips. It was really awkward and entirely wrong, but I was very serious about kissing her back. She laughed afterwards and stroked my nose, then her fingers curved around my face and she kissed me properly, still laughing afterwards. ‘Don’t let Buffy catch me doing that, or she’ll be after me with a stake,’ she said.”

Dawn paused for a few moments. “I miss her like that. In the sunshine. I always used to go to her grave when it was sunny. Any other weather and I couldn’t stop the hurt, but in the sun I could remember the times when it was just us, and we were happy. I still cry, but it doesn’t hurt like it does on rainy days.”

Kennedy stared at her, completely floored by the confession. “Did everyone have it bad for her?” She asked, mostly to herself.

Dawn smiled a little. “I think so. I know Buffy did. She was so silly whenever she came with us for milkshakes. I think Tara saved her in some way. And she seemed so empty when fighting Willow, it was almost as if she was angry that she had to bother trying to save Willow when she had lost the one who she really wanted to save.

“Wow.”

“She even got on with Anya. I was kind of suspicious of the way Anya looked at her sometimes actually.”

“You think I would have liked her?” asked Kennedy.

Dawn laughed. “Oh she was so totally your type.”

“I don’t know about that,” Faith grinned up from her place on the couch. “But she’s totally mine.”

Dawn glanced down at her. “You met her?”

“Those wings man, so hot.”

Dawn shook her head. “Who are you talking about?”

“Tara.” Faith looked at her as she stood and stretched out the crick in her neck. “I ran into her last night.”

The room was entirely silent. Suddenly tears were pouring down Dawn’s cheeks and she fled the room. Kennedy glared at Faith. “You- idiot!” And she ran after Dawn.

Faith looked a bit confused, and then started flipping through the demon book again.

It wasn’t an exceptionally long time before Buffy charged into the library.

“What the hell were you thinking? She’s been doing fine! And then you and your stupid jokes.”

“It’s not a joke,” Faith said quietly, staring at the page she had just turned to. “Look at this.”

“You-“

“Look at this!” Faith almost shouted it, and Buffy involuntarily glanced down at the page.

“A Vanyard? I’ve never met one of those.”

“Yeah, because they’re not demons like we kill. Can you call Giles?” Buffy finished reading the entry and nodded.

“Yeah. I’ll call him now.”

* * *

The picture on the page almost looked like an angel, and would have if the wings hadn’t been the bat-like deep red one’s that Tara had worn the night before.

“What do we do?” Buffy asked Giles. “They’re agents of chaos, but I- I don’t know if I can kill another friend.”

“They don’t die easily either. And really, they’re not, evil, say, in the way even vengeance demons are. But they do make trouble. It’s better to stay away from them.”

“But it’s her.” Dawn’s voice was small, and Kennedy hadn’t let her go, her arms were still wrapped around her thin shoulders.

Giles shook his head. “It’s not her, not really. No more than a vampire would be-“

“We can rehabilitate vampires! We have!”

“But Vanyards are different. They haven’t lost their souls as much as having lost their- their vision.”

“I don’t understand!”

“Their sense of morality is expanded. They know- oh, so much. But they don’t choose sides. They can’t.” Giles sighed and cleaned his glasses. “I think Faith, because she has run into her, should be the one to try and make contact again. See if she means us any harm.”

Faith nodded, and Dawn started to cry again. Buffy just looked shell-shocked. Willow wasn’t there. They weren’t quite sure where she had gone, but she had left some time that morning for an unknown purpose.

* * *

“Hey again.”

The blonde hair splashed back over her shoulder as Tara looked up from her drink.

“You like this place too?”

Faith grinned. “Yeah. Nothing better then a place that plays the Divinyls on a regular basis.”

Tara grinned back. “Tell me about it.”

Faith slid into the stool next to her and leaned almost close enough to touch. Tara scooted slightly away, but gave her a half smile.

“So, have you decided what to do with me yet?”

“Well,” Faith drawled. “I’m supposed to inquire as to whether you mean us any harm or misfortune, according to the G-man, but I’m more inclined to wonder if you’d go to bed with me.”

“Again with the completely unsmooth pick up lines. I’m disappointed, I’ve heard great things of you.”

Faith stared at her for a moment, thinking about the wings that had risen from her back. “I- I’m sorry to disappoint, it’s just- I think I understand.”

“Understand what?”

“Why everyone’s still in love with you.”

Tara’s hand stilled on her glass.

“Dawn- dawn will never forget the time you kissed her. Buffy looks so haunted whenever we mention your name. Even Giles- his voice, when he heard that I had seen you-“

Tara glanced at the bar. “Willow.”

“Oh, well she’s over you.” But Faith’s voice was sarcastic. Then she laughed. “I mean, even Kennedy. She’s never met you. You were her ghostly rival, and yet, she’s as absorbed by mention of you as anyone else.”

Tara twisted the straw in her glass and stared into the ice as if she could read the future there, and maybe she could.

“I can’t go back.” Her voice was soft and empty. “I’m not the same. But, but it will still hurt too much, their pain.” Half of her mouth lifted to almost smile, but it was also empty, not the one that was so full of life. “I can deal with you though, because you don’t feel any pain.”

Faith arched an eyebrow. Tara let out a breath of air that was not quite a laugh.

“At my death. The feelings of anger, of guilt, or loss- they’re so strong, they hurt so much. But you-“

“I can’t say I ever really knew you, ever wanted to. I have enough people to mourn. No reason to mourn a girl who isn’t even properly dead.”

Tara smiled a little, and Faith leaned closer to her. Her breath splashed warm against Tara’s lips, as she paused, watching for anything- acceptance, rejection-

Tara’s eyes flickered closed and their lips met.

“You know I mean you trouble,” Tara breathed into Faith’s ear.

“I can handle trouble.”

* * *

It was quiet, out here, on the roof of the townhouse. Willow sat staring off into the distance. Buffy stood behind her, also looking away.

“So you heard.”

Willow didn’t look away from the emptiness that had hooked her gaze.

“I- I don’t know if I can believe it.”

She looked up and in the darkness her face looked narrow and her eyes bright, like she had so many years before.

“I don’t know what I feel.”

Buffy settled down on the roof as well, tucking her knees up to her chin. “I don’t know either. I can’t, I can’t think of her as an enemy. Not when she saved my life, made me believe that I was a human, and now she’s not, and I can’t think of that as a reason to fight her. It’s not good enough.”

Willow laughed, almost cruelly. “You’re so noble, aren’t you? I’m sorry if my feelings don’t live up to your standards.”

Buffy looked at her with a furrowed brow. “Your feelings are your own. No standards.”

“Then, I guess, I’m angry. I’m so angry with her.”

“For leaving?”

“For turning me into this!”

Buffy stared in shock.

“For turning me into this empty hole.” Willow’s eyes were sharp and angry. “I thought it was going to be perfect. I thought it was going to be easy- after Oz, after that betrayal, that work- but, I was so wrong.”

“Is she really to blame-“

“I’m not a strong person.” Willow stared at Buffy with eyes belying her words. “She forced me to be strong. Damn it, she should have fallen in love with you. It would have been easier on both of us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Everything I did was to protect her. Every line I crossed, every mistake I made. I had invested so much and then she was gone and I had nothing- nothing left.”

“You blame her for that?”

Willow hung her head. “Yes. It’s easier than blaming myself, though I know whose fault it really is.”

“It is your fault.”

Willow stared at Buffy, shocked at this betrayal.

“It’s your fault, because you never saw how strong she was. You never noticed.”

“Strong? She couldn’t even feed herself for part of the time I was with her.”

“And that’s how she stayed in your mind, isn’t it. She was a baby that you had to look out for, that you had to control. She couldn’t take care of herself.”

“Well, she couldn’t. Look how it ended.”

“I was shot too. You never thought I couldn’t take care of myself.”

“You’re Buffy.” Willow’s voice was soft and almost childish.

“And she was my rock. When no one knew I was in pain, she was there for me. And you- you were on one of your binges. Your stupid, childish, immature binges. You nearly killed Dawn. You nearly killed yourself. You killed her. You tried to kill everyone I loved.”

“I miss you.” The words were sharp and clean and cut through the night. “I missed you since the day we met.”

“What?”

“It was always, it was always Angel, Faith, Dawn, Spike- god, and you weren’t even enough to save me. I had always had so much trust in you, and it was Xander, it was Xander who had to save me from myself.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It was my turn. It was my turn to have your full attention, but you were too tied up in your own pain to notice that I needed you. I probably should have known, with your track record. I mean, Angel- you killed him, he left. Faith, you killed her, she left. But I hoped that you would- I hoped that you would save me. I didn’t want to drag myself out of that hole.”

“There was no demon for me to kill. Only your own weakness. There was nothing that I could do! Why did you have to pick that demon? I would have gone into hell to find your soul again. God, it was like Faith all over again, someone I loved who betrayed me utterly, who left me with my heart blasted out of my chest and smeared across the floor. I had to try and kill her. I had to slide a knife into her gut and I called that trying to save her. I would have rather killed myself than do that to you. I couldn’t do that to you. You cut my heart out, but I would have handed you the scalpel if you had asked.”

Willow looked stunned. Then she bent her head. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”

Willow flailed out with her hand and caught Buffy’s in the dark. “I wish, god, I wish I could have stayed that girl who loved you utterly and never even thought of leaving your side.”

“I do too, but it’s too late now.”

Willow stared out over the city, pain shining in her eyes. “Yes. It’s too late for us.”

FIN
Tags: btvs, faith/tara, fic
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