Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Thank You
By Dolores
For Seana Renay


Tara stood in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, clutching a carpetbag and looking nervous. The hotel seemed to be empty, or, at least, no-one was answering her call. She felt a trace of deja vu; it seemed that every time she visited the Hyperion she would find it deserted. It wasn't quite the same as that last time though -- foil decorations now hung from the ceiling, twisting in the draught from the doorway, and face down on the reception desk lay, for some reason, an abandoned teddy bear, looking forlorn in the dim light.

Once again Tara sat down and waited for Angel or his staff to return, although it was easier to wait this time, without the burden of being a bearer of bad news. Not that she had had to bear it in the end -- after waiting hours for any sign of the hotel's occupants, she had gone to fetch some food for her and Willow. By the time she had got back with a brown paper bag full of fast food, Angel and his staff had returned and Willow had already broken the news to them.

She barely saw Willow for the rest of the night; her girlfriend spent most of the time with an Englishman she learned was Wesley (a Watcher Xander would sometimes mention when he mocked Giles) as they both tried to comfort a grieving Angel, though everyone agreed Angel had taken the news much better than they might have hoped. Gunn made his excuses and left, and for her part, Tara quietly answered the questions that Cordelia asked her, surreal as it was with Cordelia in jewels and an ornate bikini, wrapped in a blanket and sipping from a mug of hot, sweet tea.

All the while, a babbling girl sat in a corner, dressed in rags, and though pretty beneath the grime and tangled hair, she wore such a look of fear and bewilderment Tara wondered if that was how she had looked when she had been the victim of Glory's attack. Fred, Cordelia told her later, was the girl's name, and she was freshly rescued from a demon dimension, which explained the disorientation and delerium.

Once Cordelia had asked her last question about Buffy's death she looked over at Fred. In a quiet voice she said, "I guess I should get her washed and find her a bed. She needs some sleep."

Given that Cordelia plainly needed some sleep too, Tara immediately offered to help, and they took Fred to one of the spare rooms in the hotel. Tara ran a bath for Fred, then left her to bathe whilst she, Tara, helped Cordelia make the bed. When, after a while, Fred hadn't come out of the bathroom, they both ventured in to find Fred sitting naked in the tepid water, still filthy and shivering slightly, but making no effort to do anything else. So, Tara and Cordelia both washed her, doing what they could with her hair, and removing the dirt from her skin, a task that revealed cuts and bruises of many colours all across her body.

Cordelia had wept then, everything finally proving too much to take. She excused herself and left the room, leaving Tara to dry Fred and take the girl, who was still muttering incoherently under her breath, back into the bedroom. Cordelia had earlier found a shirt of Angel's for Fred to wear, and Tara quickly slipped it on to Fred's thin frame and put her into the bed. She was just about to leave when Fred made eye contact with her for the first time.

"Thank you," Fred had said, before looking away again and resuming her babbling.

She hadn't seen Fred again before she and Willow left for Sunnydale late the next afternoon. Dawn had told her that Fred apparently still lived in the hotel, so perhaps she might see her again soon.

She was only here because of Dawn. She couldn't spend Christmas at Buffy's house because she still couldn't face Willow, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact she missed her so much. She couldn't go home because her father had disowned her, so she had resigned herself to stay home alone for the holidays. However, when Dawn had learned of these plans, the younger Summers had given Angel a call and demanded he let Tara come to stay so she wouldn't have to be on her own.

Angel, Dawn had told Tara, could never say no to Buffy's sister, and neither it seemed could she, because it was Christmas Eve and here she sat in the Hyperion. The irony was that she didn't even observe Christmas really; she was Wiccan after all.

However, Dawn had decided a change of scene would do Tara good, allow her to get away from things that reminded her of being with Willow if that was what was making her miserable. Tara wasn't sure that the Hyperion Hotel was the best idea in that case, but it didn't matter now.

Suddenly, a clamour of voices reached her ears and the collective employees of Angel Investigations, except for Angel himself, came into the lobby, bristling with weaponry, but seemingly unharmed.

Fred noticed her first. In a Southern drawl Tara hadn't noticed before she said, "Hi!" and gave her a little wave.

The others realised she was there and greeted her in quick succession, and Tara responded in kind. As Wesley and Gunn moved off into the office to pack away the axes and crossbows, Cordelia moved over to where Tara sat. "Damn, I forgot you were coming today. Sorry about not being here, but Wolfram and Hart keep trying to kidnap Angel's baby, and we get kinda preoccupied."

"But we forgot about this prophecy last week too, and then a demon exploded and it was messy," Fred added by way of comfort.

Tara smiled weakly. "It's ok, really. Uh, Angel has a baby? I thought he was, y'know. . ."

Cordelia sighed. "Yeah, we're still trying to work out how that happened ourselves. You probably shouldn't mention it to Buffy just yet."

"Sure. Uh, where is he? Angel, I mean."

"He and Connor -- that's the baby -- they've gone on vacation this Christmas, somewhere a bit safer, a bit less Wolfram and Hart infested if you know what I mean. We were making sure they got there ok, hence the medieval get-up. But, you know, you're still welcome to stay."

"We'd like it," said Fred, who gave her a goofy smile.

Tara returned it. "Thanks. So would I."


Christmas dinner was held at Cordelia's apartment, the food expertly prepared by Cordelia and Dennis the ghost. It was a more adult affair than the Christmas Tara had spent at Buffy's house the previous year, without Dawn and especially Xander there to act like kids. Stranger too without Willow next to her, but Tara realised midway through the coffee and mints that she'd hardly thought about Willow all through the meal -- something she hadn't been able to do for nearly two years.

Much of that had to do with the girl sitting opposite Tara at the table. Fred looked beautiful in a dark blue dress, her hair tied loosely back with a bow, cheeks flushed slightly from the wine she was drinking. She was still quite eccentric, but Tara found that all the more attractive. Tara had thought she was pretty even as a thin and battered refugee from a demon dimension, but she had no idea how gorgeous Fred would be once she recovered. She exchanged a few nervous glances with Fred throughout the meal, but as usual she could never tell if there was interest there or if it was just her imagination. Either way, it made the event even more pleasant.

Later they sat in the lounge, drinking wine poured from a bottle that floated around the room as Dennis played host, polite conversation mixing with festive music. Tara and Fred talked alone for most of the night, oblivious to the curious looks from Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia.

Later still they took a taxi back to the hotel, the only two occupants staying the night there.

"Thanks for a lovely evening," Tara said once they reached the lobby.

Fred shook her head. "It wasn't my evening, no. Cordelia and Dennis did the work, I was just there. Just there."

Tara smiled and reached out to touch Fred's arm. "I know, but I really enjoyed talking to you."

"You know that's strange, because a lot of people think I just babble, and I tend to go on and people don't seem to like that so much. And see? I'm doing it again."

Tara giggled. "No, I really did enjoy talking to you."

"Oh, well, good. Do you miss Willow?" Fred asked suddenly. Tara blinked, surprised because of the abrupt change in subject and because although they had talked about Willow in passing this was the first time they had really broached the subject.

After a momentary pause she answered, "Yes, I do."

Tara watched as Fred cast her eyes downwards, saying to her chest, "You must love her very much."

"I did -- I do. But. . ."

Fred looked up. "But what?"

"I realised that she's not the only girl out there."

"There are lots of girls out there," Fred agreed, "lots."

They stood in silence for a few moments, awkward.

"Well," Tara began, "I -- I suppose I should go to bed."

Fred looked at her. "Oh, ok."

They looked at each other for another moment, then suddenly Fred leaned forward and kissed Tara on the cheek. Tara raised her hand to her face, a smile edging on to her face. Fred gave her a small smile in return.

Then they kissed again, five minutes of silk and honey in a darkened lobby with swaying decorations.

"I don't think I miss Willow quite so as I thought I did," said Tara, when finally they parted.

"Oh, sorry, I. . ." Fred looked panicked, as if she'd spoiled something.

"No, no. That's a good thing," said Tara, and pushed some hair from Fred's face. "A very good thing. I like that the hotel isn't about Willow any more. Not any more."

She giggled again at Fred's slightly confused expression, then reached for another kiss. "Thank you, Fred."