This chapter is a bit different, and involves an unplanned appearance by a very important character -- and also first person narrative, a first for me in fanfiction. Thanks again to fanfiction.net friends Ainon for the beta, keeping me from embarrassing myself ... and Molossus, who inspired a single line in this story -- she’ll know which -- that I included in the hopes of steering people to a reading of her wonderful and offbeat story, “The Sorrowful Tale of Miss Kitty Fantastico”.
Be warned: This chapter veers heavily PG-13, thanks to the comments of ... well, you'll see.
Xander's Job, Chapter 5: Tara's Point of View
Star's Hollow, Connecticut, is a magical place. I mean that literally -- there's some kind of ward around the town that protects it from the worst of the outside world, making it a kind of Mayberry throwback where doors are left unlocked and everyone knows everyone else. It has a population of almost ten thousand, not too much smaller than the number inside old Sunnydale's city limits, but there's just one tiny business district, surrounding an idyllic town square. It's a bedroom community: no industry, no large employers, no sprawling shopping centers, and far enough from the interstate to avoid attracting attention. It's like the yin to Sunnydale's yang. Or is that the other way around?
Someone -- or something -- is protecting it. That, I think, is what attracted Willow and Kennedy: they were looking for an escape, some place where the monsters and spirits wouldn't be found. For the same reason, I had trouble passing into the town.
My name is Tara McClay, and I'm what most people would call a ghost.
I've never considered myself politically correct, what with having been a lesbian witch and all, but instead of “ghost”, I prefer the term spirit. Actually, I also prefer the term wicca, and I'm not too keen on lesbian, either. There are a lot of spirits out there. We stay close to the mortal plane for various reasons: unfinished business, strong emotions, denial ... in my case, it might have been a combination of all three.
You see, I'd just made up with my lover, and we were looking forward to a happy life together, when I was killed by a bullet meant for her best friend. And yes, I do recognize the irony of that. So it was the unfinished business that held me close to the earth at first, then the guilt I felt when grief caused Willow, my lover, to lose control of her magical powers and go on a killing spree.
Later, a strange little demon who most people called Cheeseman stole my physical body and used it to open a magical portal, leading to a battle between the living slayers and the dead ones who he let back into the world, under his control. I was pretty much over the guilt by then -- after all, it wasn't my fault that the collapse of the Sunnydale hellmouth removed the magical wards Willow used to protect my grave. But I was one of the spirits drawn to assist the slayers in their battle, and I was glad to help.
After that I should have gone over. Willow was happy with her new lover, there was no apocalypse on the horizon, and a very nice man came to tell me I had a place in a heavenly dimension. I think it was a man.
But I didn't want to go.
I was happy watching over Willow and Kennedy. I know that sounds strange. Maybe that's where guardian angels come from: when the dead are contented and know those they leave behind are okay, but still don't want to go. So I stayed, and I did manage to help them defeat a demon once. Dana's seen me, as has that new watcher, Richard, when he was feverish. Buffybot -- don't get me started on her -- can sense my presence, and I even got to talk to Willow once, briefly. She can't see me now, but I think she knows I'm around.
The funny thing is, I'm not around her all that often. I like Kennedy -- well, I suppose she can be a little pushy, but if Willow loves her she must be okay -- but I don't like to hang around when they -- um -- you know. There really aren't too many voyeur ghosts. People like that usually get sucked pretty quickly into ... somewhere else.
The point is, ever since they got to Star's Hollow, Willow and Kennedy have been -- you know -- all the time. All the time. That's why I started spending so much time in Chicago, at the new watcher's headquarters. I even sat in on a poker game with Dana, Buffybot and Kara, once I learned how to move the cards. I owe Bottie fifty dollars.
But trouble was coming Willow's way, and I decided to go ahead to warn her. Wasn’t that what I was here for?
Sure enough, when I entered their room at the bed and breakfast, Willow and Kennedy were laying on their backs, side by side, covered by a damp sheet. They were lightly touching each other, skin wet and hair disheveled, with contented smiles on their faces and -- um, I don't think I need to go into any more detail.
“That was ...'' Kennedy began, before trailing off.
“Yeah,” Willow said in a drowsy voice.
I remembered the feeling. But there wasn't much time, so I was looking around for something to push off a shelf when Kennedy threw off the sheet and climbed out of bed. I'd never seen Kennedy completely nude before. Wow. Slayers are really fit. Where was I?
"Where are you going?'' Willow whined. Sorry, but she can get a little whiney under ... certain circumstances. “I was up for seconds.”
“That would be fourths, kiddo,” Kennedy replied as she padded toward the bathroom. "But sooner or later we've got to eat, so we can be up for fifths.” She turned at the door and gave Willow a come hither look. "Join me in the shower?''
"Not if you plan to ever leave.” With a sigh, Willow splayed herself across the bed and stayed there. "You go ahead, I'll be along in a minute.”
Okay. Bathroom. Steam. Spirits write on glass and mirrors all the time, or so I’ve heard. I followed Kennedy, waiting while she turned the water on and stepped into the stall. In no time there would be steam. Yep.
That's when I realized I'd spent so much time avoiding them in the last year that I'd never known Kennedy takes cold showers. Or maybe it was just this once, so she'd have the will power to leave their room. In any case, no mist collected on the mirror. Hands on hips (we spirits tend to maintain our earthly mannerisms, although I've noticed I almost never stutter), I looked around the little bathroom, trying to figure out what to do.
There was one thing. It could be done with those who were sensitive, like slayers, and I'd done it by accident with Richard and Dana. I concentrated very, very hard, and when Kennedy stepped out of the shower I thought I'd accomplished the job.
I knew I had when Kennedy gave a little scream, jumped back, and grabbed for a towel.
"Can you hear me?'' I asked, enunciating very clearly.
"Willow! Get in here right now!' Kennedy wrapped the towel tightly around her and stayed glued against the stall door until Willow dashed into the room, almost colliding with me.
"Sweetie, what is it?'' She caught Kennedy's gaze and followed it, but I could tell she couldn't see me.
"Um, your former girlfriend is here for a visit.”
"Tara?'' Willow said, in a very small voice.
The expression on her face broke my heart, but I couldn't concentrate enough for both of them to see me, so I turned back to Kennedy and said in a loud voice, "Giles is coming!”
Kennedy gave me a blank stare. "She's trying to speak. Something about gypsies running.”
“I can't see her,” Willow complained. "Tara, what about gypsies? Are you with Miss Calendar?''
Gypsies! So much for the famous slayer power of observation. Frustrated, I reached out toward the sink and pantomimed turning the hot water tap.
"She's thirsty,” Kennedy guessed, with a puzzled tilt of her head.
Now a fourth voice broke in, making me jump: "Oh, for heaven's sake.” Another spirit had materialized beside me, and although I'd never seen her in life, it wasn't hard to figure out who she was. Taking a stride forward, she grasped the valve with a determined expression, and a moment later hot water began pouring out.
Then she turned to me with a bright smile. "Hi! I'm Cordelia Chase. You're Tara?'' She was dressed in a white robe, which was strange because I wore the same clothes as I had in life. Her hair had been cut shorter, and colored since the pictures I'd seen were taken.
“I -- yes.” I don’t recall ever meeting her, but sometimes spirits just know these things. Or maybe she’d seen pictures, too. “How did you do that?''
"Willpower, honey. I've done this looking down from on high thing before, and I decided this time I wasn't going to just stand around.” Concentrating, she reached forward and began to carve a letter into the steam on the mirror.
Willow spotted it immediately. 'G.' She turned to Kennedy. "Ghosts? Golems?”
Cordelia paused to look straight at Willow, and called loudly, "You need to get dressed, unless you're planning on wowing your visitors with the impressively natural redness of your pubic hair.”
A blank look crossed Willow’s face, and she whirled around toward the bedroom. “I need to get dressed.”
"Huh?" Kennedy said.
Cordelia went back to writing, but turned part of her attention on me. "So, you're a lesbian wicca ghost? Do you realize, with today's anti-discrimination laws, you'd be the first hired for any job in the country?''
“I!” Kennedy burst out. “G.I.! Oh my God, the army is coming!”
From the bedroom Willow's harried voice floated in: "Ask her if she's seen Miss Kitty Fantastico.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes, and kept writing. By the way, Miss Kitty is still alive and well, and living with a very nice family in Hoboken, New Jersey, but that’s another story.
'L'' Kennedy rubbed her chin. "Gil? Gills? Willow, is there a lake or lagoon around here?''
“I don't know, we've never actually explored the area.”
"Which is why you're in trouble,” Cordelia murmured, as her finger worked its way across the mirror.
I confess I was beginning to feel a bit out of the loop at this point, so I wandered into the bedroom, where Willow had pulled on a long skirt and a peasant blouse. For a moment I stared, desperately wishing I could touch her, but we were both distracted when Kennedy suddenly cursed and ran into the room, with Cordelia right on her heels. Kennedy was so panicked that she slammed into the door jamb, tearing the towel away from her.
"Wow,” Cordelia gasped, with an admiring once-over. "Imagine what Vera Wang could drape onto a body like that.”
As if announcing the end of the world, Kennedy intoned, "Giles is coming.”
Someone knocked on the door.
With a little squeal, Kennedy grabbed up the towel and wrapped it tightly around herself. Willow spun in a circle, as if searching for an exit, while Cordelia walked to the door and put her head through it. "Yep,” she announced, drawing back, "The gang's all here.”
"What do we do?'' Willow asked. "It's four in the afternoon and we just got out of bed!”
"And this is wrong why?'' Cordelia demanded. “I mean, other than the lack of maleness?''
"Giles thinks they came here to fight demons,” I explained.
Cordelia just smiled. "Demons aren't out at four in the afternoon. They have to rest sometime, right?''
"We're resting,” Kennedy burst out. "From fighting demons. That's it. Hit me.”
Willow blinked. “Hit you?''
"Right. I need a convincing bruise to prove we were fighting demons earlier. One on the cheek, and this new one from hitting the door frame, should do it.”
“I'm not going to hit you!”
The door knock came again, this time more urgently.
Turning on her heel, Kennedy addressed the empty bathroom. "Tara, hit me!”
What? I exchanged a look with the clearly amused Cordelia.
"Come on, Tara! I've been screwing your girlfriend.”
Willow shook her head. "She's not going to hit you.”
"Willow says I'm much better than you were, and that my breasts are perkier. She says I have a better imagination, and she could never get you to talk dirty the way I --”
A book flew across the room -- the Gideon Bible -- and slammed into the side of Kennedy's face. I know what you're thinking, but it was Cordelia, I swear. Although I admit, just for an instant, an unbidden feeling of satisfaction.
After a quick shake of her head to get her vision back, Kennedy marched toward the door, but Willow turned back with a stage whisper: "It never bothered me that you wouldn't talk dirty, I swear.”
After checking to make sure the important parts were covered, Kennedy opened the door. It was Xander, poised to knock again, with Giles behind him in a poise of readiness. Beside them stood the epitome of tall and dark, wearing all black -- including a rather ridiculous looking wide brimmed black hat. The sun was still up, you see.
Hat or no hat, Cordelia gave a low whistle. "Hello again, salty goodness.”