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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Thirteen: Disturbances
"Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim."
Tara heard raised voices as she entered the house. She sighed, shutting the door quietly behind her, and wondered what else the day had in store for them. Was it too much to ask for a quiet evening?
"You're just going to get yourselves killed!" Willow was saying. She sounded indignant, and worried.
Tara walked into the living room as the argument continued, and saw Willow squaring off with Giles and Xander. The boys were each armed, Giles with a sword and Xander with an axe, and the feel of heavy magic emanated from their corner of the room. Xander's face was bruised, as though he'd been in a fist-fight at some point during the evening, but he radiated energy like a coiled spring. Together they looked dangerous, and determined.
Willow, facing them, had only her hands on her hips and the dismayed expression on her face. Of course, after all the years of serving as a sister and daughter to these men, she really didn't need much else to make her point. Behind her, Amy stood uncertainly near the couch, darting looks from face to face.
"Wills, we'll be fine," Xander said reassuringly, gesturing carefully with the axe. "It's just some standard vamps and demons. Not like it's anything new."
"Lots of vamps and demons," Willow replied, frowning. "And no Buffy. Giles..."
The Watcher sighed. "Willow, I assure you that Xander and I are more than capable of handling the problem." He gave Xander a sideways glance, and nodded slightly.
Xander set down his axe, propping it against a wall, and reached into his jacket pockets. When he pulled his hands back out each was curled around a small glass orb, a deep translucent red in color with white and gold symbols inscribed on the surface. A thin lavender mist drifted from each orb, skimming over Xander's hands and into the sleeves of his jacket.
"Not the safest way to carry them," he said, wearing a lopsided grin, "but I'm kind of in a hurry."
Willow gasped. "Are those..." she said, stretching her hand out as if to touch one.
"Yep." Xander put the orbs back into his pockets. "The Orbs of Nezzla'Khan. I ran into Warren in the Bronze. He was throwing his weight around-- my weight, too, actually-- but he was keeping these on his belt, and it didn't take long to get my hands on them. Seriously, he's an embarrassment to Evil Overlords everywhere."
Tara moved farther into the living room. She glanced at Amy, then back at Xander, and wondered. It couldn't have been as easy as he made it sound. "Did anything s-strange happen to W-warren while you were there?" she stuttered, butting into the conversation.
Xander blinked at her, registering her presence, then wrinkled his brow a little. "Strange? You mean, like someone dropping a magic anvil on him? Yeah, for a minute there he looked like Wile E. Coyote, caught in one of his own traps. Did you guys have something to do with that?"
Tara smiled a little at the comparison. "Um, actually..." She glanced over at Amy.
"Uh..." Amy shuffled her feet a little. She looked a little embarrassed, and a little defiant. "I was kind of dying, and I guess I made this wish..."
Xander's eyebrows went up, and he looked back at Tara. "Anya was there?"
There was a tangled mess of dark emotions in the depths of his eyes. Tara nodded slowly. She wasn't sure if what she was about to say was going to make it better, or worse. "She suggested the wish, actually. As, as a justice thing."
"Justice?" Xander echoed, staring at her.
Giles frowned at that, and took a closer look at Amy. He took one of her wrists in his free hand, and his aura flared suddenly with an excess of magical energy. "Whatever injuries you had were not healed," he said, in a wondering tone. "They were removed entirely."
Amy nodded, watching him with slightly widened, suspicious eyes. "Yeah. How did you know that?" Tara was wondering the same thing; the magic she'd felt Giles use wasn't anything she'd seen from him before.
"Magic," he answered simply, in a slightly sarcastic tone. Then he let go of Amy's wrist and turned his focus on Tara. "She transferred the injuries to the one who caused them," he stated.
Tara nodded again.
Xander looked slightly thoughtful at that. "Like, I'm rubber and you're glue?" he asked, his tension disappearing into the familiar joking-Xander expression. "Hey! That could come in handy. I wonder how many bad guys would keep committing crimes if they always rebounded?"
Amy snorted. "Not the murderers, anyway."
Tara winced at that, and Xander stifled a groan.
"Justice versus vengeance," Giles mused aloud, ignoring the byplay. "It will be very interesting to see how Anyanka's choices play out in the future."
Not that any of her choices would help Xander in less material ways, Tara thought. He'd acted, Anya had reacted, and in the process they'd left no common ground between them to rebuild their relationship on. A sad state to be in, really, for a man who built and repaired things for a living.
It was true, what they said; sometimes love wasn't enough. But then again... sometimes, it was. With that thought, Tara stepped forward to take Willow's hand; Willow gave her a fond look, and she smiled softly back. At least it seemed to be enough in their case.
"Speaking of choices." Xander picked up his axe again, resting it against his shoulder. "Willy's are getting fewer by the minute. We better get going, G-Man."
"Quite." The Watcher clapped him on the shoulder and took a step forward, giving Willow an apologetic look.
Willow sighed and edged back out of his way, letting him pass. There were still a few worry lines around her mouth as she watched him head for the door, but fewer than there had been before Xander had showed her the Orbs. "Be careful," she said.
"Oh, we will," Xander said, smiling at her as he followed Giles. "And hey, you be careful, too. Some frustrated demon might get the bright idea to come looking for the Slayer. We're trusting you guys to watch the house."
Willow perked up a little. "We can do that. Just don't expect there to be any pizza left when you get back."
Xander just smirked as the door clicked shut behind him.
"Damn, when did he get hot?" Amy muttered, as they heard Giles' car start up out front.
Willow shook her head, and smiled a little in reminiscence. "A long time ago," she said, then glanced up at Tara. "Not that I look, anymore. But you should have seen him at the Prom."
"Well, considering that I was a rat at the time..." Amy shrugged. Then she glanced at the coffee table and changed the subject. "So. Pizza. Can we eat now, or what? I'm starving."
Hours later, after Amy had been settled in Dawn's empty bed and Willow had drifted into an uneasy sleep, Tara crept back downstairs. She'd borrowed a bit more of Willow's energy to cast protective wards around the house, enough to trigger all three girls awake if anyone approached-- but she still could not rest. No matter how she tossed and turned, she managed to offend at least one bruise or stiffening muscle.
She fixed herself a mug of chamomile tea, then settled on the couch, thinking about their evening. The hours had gone by fairly quietly. The girls had eaten about half of the pizza, then put the rest away in the 'fridge and settled in to wait. A couple of Hellmouthy beings had come near the house once or twice, but they were fortunately of the smarter sort, and backed off when they felt the gentle nudging of the wards.
Giles had called briefly from the bar when he and Xander were finished there, saying only that they were fine, and that they had decided to patrol the rest of Sunnydale. Tara and Willow had lived with the Slayer long enough to know that patrol could take several hours; on a really busy night, Buffy might even stay out until dawn. They'd given up the vigil at that point, deciding to catch a few hours' sleep while they could.
Of course, that only worked if sleep wanted to be caught, Tara thought, and sighed.
She scooted around on the couch, curling up with her back to an armrest, and looked out into the darkness of Revello Drive. The city had gone quiet at last; sirens had sounded on and off for hours, as police and emergency crews dealt with the aftermath of the earthquake. It hadn't been a particularly bad one, but even the smaller quakes tended to cause mass damage and injuries.
In Buffy's house, fortunately, only a few glass knickknacks and vases had met with their doom. There were a few more cracks in the cement walls of the basement, but that wasn't anything new. There'd been more damage from the flooding the year before.
According to Willow, who'd gotten a very abbreviated explanation out of Giles before Tara came in, somehow the Hellmouth was responsible for both the earthquake and the upsurge of demonic activity. It had apparently gone elsewhere, for reasons Giles hadn't explained yet. Tara spared a thought for the cop they'd met today, a man who hadn't yet been fully converted by the habitual apathy of the Sunnydale police force, and hoped he wasn't out there tonight. Maybe if the loss of the Hellmouth had an impact on the darker nightlife, he and the other, newer cops might start to turn the town's attitude around.
Of course, there would be other consequences, too. Was Buffy going to be sent away to wherever the Hellmouth had gone? Was the Scooby Gang going to go with her? Giles lived in England, Xander had his job, and Willow was still in college. It was near the end of the school year, but Tara and Willow had a year to go before they got their degrees. Tara's roots were in the people, not the town, and she knew she'd follow Willow anywhere, but...
A slight tingle at the edge of the wards caught Tara's attention, and she instinctively reached out to still the alarm before it could awaken the other girls. The disturbance was coming from somewhere to the front of the house. She stilled, wary of catching the intruder's attention if it was in a position to see through the window, and carefully scanned the shadows for its presence.
A man's profile came into view, lit from the side by the dull yellow glow of a streetlamp. He didn't look familiar to Tara, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. He had enough otherness about him to trigger the wards, but when she cautiously studied his aura, she found him more conflicted than evil, and definitely human. Strange.
He stood in the shadows a moment more, as if making a decision, then proceeded slowly up the walk. Tara could see him better now. He was older-- at least as old as Giles-- and lean in a way that spoke of deprivation, not diet and exercise. He had receding brown hair, a long, narrow face, and stress lines around his dark eyes. Unaware of her eyes on him, he looked world-weary, and resigned.
Tara set down her mug and quietly got up from the couch. When the careful knock came on the door, she was ready and opened it slowly, without a greeting. Up close, she could see that his skin was very pale; either he was a vampire, or her guess about deprivation was right. Prisoners sometimes had that look.
His eyebrows shot up when he saw her; he scanned her quickly with his eyes, first in surprise, then in appreciation. "Hmmm, I haven't met you before," he said, with a British accent. "I think I'd remember if I had. So where do you fit in with Ripper's children? Were those wards yours?"
Ripper? Tara blinked, and suddenly placed the man. She had never met Ethan Rayne in person, but she'd heard about him from the Scoobies. He was an old, estranged friend of Giles', and a worshipper of Chaos. What was he doing here?
"Giles isn't here, Mr. Rayne," Tara said carefully, ignoring his questions.
"I can see that, dear girl," he said, waving a hand towards the empty curb. "However, I thought it would be rude not to say hello, since I'd already alerted you to my presence. Might I ask how you know my name?"
"You turned Giles into a d-demon just after I met Willow," Tara said, quietly, with a stern expression. A short explanation, but effective, revealing minimal information about herself, while letting him know she was aware of his reputation.
Ethan's face lit up suddenly with understanding. "Ah. You must be Tara, Willow's girlfriend; Ripper spoke fondly of you. Perfect; then you can deliver my message."
"M-message?" Giles had mentioned her to this guy? When?
He grinned at her, and his eyes twinkled with amusement and arrogance. He suddenly seemed a completely different person from the one she'd seen coming up the walk; his spirit burned brightly, filling him with energy and animation. "Just tell him that I'll be seeing him. Oh: and to watch out for his second Slayer. She'll be a handful."
"Wh-what do you mean?" Tara asked. Second Slayer? Was he talking about Faith?
"Oh, he'll find out." With a parting chuckle, Ethan turned and headed away from the door. "By the way, it was nice to meet you, Tara," he said, as he headed down the walk.
"I'm not sure I can say the same," Tara said quietly to herself, watching him until he disappeared from view.
She shut the door and locked it again, then curled back up on the couch. There was a throw blanket draped over the back, and she tucked it around her body; she was wearing full-length pajamas, but the air outside had cooled, and she was chilled.
"It can't be much longer," she said, then yawned. Giles and Xander would be back soon, and she could tell them about this disturbing visit.
She yawned again, and her eyelids fluttered shut. Soon enough. She'd just rest her eyes for a minute.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.