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

House Full Of Women
By wiseacress
For Karenbear

Coming here should make her feel sad. It meant seeing how much hadn't changed, how many trivial things had outlasted them: the same forgotten shopping list still on the fridge, the couch with its post-patrol slump marks. There was still a pile of mail on the table, and some of it was the same old mail. It smelled the same as always. Cool and a little dusty, because it was a big house and only the basic cleaning ever got done. She should feel sad, seeing all the things that weren't hers to come home to anymore.

But she didn't. Not tonight, anyway, and there was no good reason for it except the ebb and flow of all things, and anyway, why argue? She had a box full of bits and pieces, notes and pictures and cat toys that she'd fished out of the corners of their room. Willow's room, now. If she spent time thinking about that, about Willow lying alone in the big bed, maybe staring at the ceiling, maybe crying...that way lay sadness. Not tonight. She was allowed one night to feel okay.

Then she thought maybe she was overestimating, because coming down the stairs, she heard feet on the porch and a key in the lock. For one brief old-Tara second she stood frozen, hands locked on the box, wondering if she could get back up the stairs fast enough to avoid being seen. Where could she go? Big house, but nowhere to really hide in it. And she didn't want to hide. Not from Willow, not from anything. She wasn't doing anything wrong-Buffy knew she was here, getting stuff. She stayed where she was, her mouth cotton-dry.

The door opened, and it wasn't Willow, it was Buffy. Little blonde Buffy wearing a big green peacoat, her hair in a ponytail, an axe in each hand. Well, half of an axe. She was wrestling with the key, trying to hold the broken bottom and the broken top at the same time. Tara stepped down and the riser squeaked.

"Ah-!" Buffy whirled, the top part of the axe in her right hand, club-fashion, ready to deal sharp, stubby death. Tara stepped quickly back up.

"S-sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I was just getting-" She held the box out, and was ridiculously glad that Buffy couldn't see into it from below. Barrettes, a sentimental box of Cracker Jacks, the little gila monster. Relationship flotsam, for her own eyes only now.

"Tara-God." Buffy put her hand to her chest, stopped just short of axeing herself in the face, and put the axe head carefully down on the mail table. "I'm sorry, I forgot you were coming over." She pulled the key out of the lock, and Tara walked down to the bottom of the stairs. Buffy had circles under her eyes, she noticed. Her hair looked kind of scraggly.

"Just picking up," Tara said again, redundantly, and they stood for a second or two in the foyer, smiling apologetically at each other like strangers whose seat arrangements had been mixed up. "Your axe...?"

"Busted," Buffy said glumly, hefting the bottom part of the handle and frowning at it. "Four-dynasty warranty, my aunt."

"Do you have another one?"

"Thanks to Giles's alarming new ebay habit, I've got plenty." Buffy dropped the handle next to the head and started for the weapons chest. "You're here alone?"

"I'm not-" She was blushing, stupidly. There was nothing to blush about, but sometimes it was like the old her just took over, and this was one of those times. Buffy was looking back over her shoulder, a little perplexed. "I'm not seeing anyone, Buffy. It's only been three weeks-"

"I meant, you walked here alone?" Sometimes Buffy had a new gentleness to her voice. Tara blushed harder. She was so stupid sometimes.

"I'm staying with some friends on Lincoln. It's not far."

"I'll walk you back," Buffy said, swinging a new axe out of the chest. She brandished it with a small, game smile. "A pretty lady like you shouldn't be out alone on a night like this."

"It's okay, you're busy-"

"Or any night in this town, really," Buffy said thoughtfully, then shrugged and tucked the axe mostly under her coat.


They started down Revello toward town. It was a nice night, Tara observed. Yes it was, Buffy confirmed. They kept walking.

"I'm really fine," Tara said at the corner, and then promptly caught her toe on a rise in the sidewalk and almost dropped the box. Buffy moved to catch, but a couple of somethings bounced out and hit the ground. "Oh, no-"

They bent down together and started looking around. "It's too bad Spike's not here," Tara said, grazing her fingers over the pavement. They were in between streetlights, and there wasn't a moon. Still, she felt Buffy stiffen.


That was sharp, almost suspicious. Tara paused and looked up at Buffy, who was staring fixedly at the ground, patting around sort of uselessly with the palm of one hand. "Because it's dark, and he could see."

"Oh." Then, in a different, slightly recovered tone, "Here." She raised something between finger and thumb and they both squinted at it. "Um...lizard?"

"Ralph." Tara held out the box, and Buffy dropped Ralph in. "And I think I heard something else-" It had sounded like small and light, maybe a barrette. She couldn't find it, and after a few more seconds of feeling around, she shrugged and stood up. "It's okay. Let's just go."

"No, we can find it-" Buffy was still searching around. She didn't give up on anything, apparently.

"It's okay, Buffy. It's all just stuff."

"But it's your stuff." Buffy looked up, and her face was a pale coin. Small and determined and a little confused. "It's important stuff."

"No, it's not." Tara shifted the box on her hip and took a slow, deep breath. It was true, actually. It was nice to have Ralph back, but he wasn't really important. All the important stuff was still back in the house, invisible and intangible, things said and done. But she wasn't going to be sad tonight. "Come on, we should go."

She put a hand out, and Buffy's face lit up. For a second she thought-well, she wasn't sure what to think. Her heart mellowed slightly, and she felt herself smile back. Buffy raised a hand and put it into Tara's.

"There you go." It was a barrette, one of a pair she really liked, with a tortoiseshell clasp. "Mission accomplished." She was mocking herself, but she also sounded relieved, like she'd found something that mattered. Or like just finding something-anything-was enough of a good thing. "Slayer trumps vampire. Who would just have stolen it anyway."

"I don't think he'd steal a barrette," Tara said without thinking, dropping it into the box. "He doesn't really need one."

"It doesn't matter whether he needs something. He'd just do it to piss you off." Buffy turned and started walking, faster than before. Her back was rigid, and her heels clicked sharply. Tara got a better grip on the box and followed.

"Did Spike do something? I mean, more than usual?"

Buffy didn't answer, and then she sort of snorted, as if she'd been having a private conversation with herself and tailed out at a point of absurdity. "No."

"I just mean, you seem sort of upset-"

"I'm fine. Hey-it's a beautiful night." She turned back and smiled tightly, a painful-looking smile. "We should be counting stars or something." Small frown. "Do people count stars?"

"Um, maybe. Or there's wishing."

"No wishing." Buffy shook her head and started walking again, more slowly. "Wishing leads to hijinks. And my quota's full for the month."

"I think wishing can be good. Sometimes." Not the kind of wishing she'd been doing lately: that she'd done things differently, that she'd said the right thing, that Willow hadn't made those choices. That she hadn't moved to Sunnydale in the first place. "It's good if you wish for the future, I think. Instead of for the things you can't change."

"Uh-huh." Buffy was watching the sidewalk, not really listening. Maybe that was the problem lately; none of them were listening to each other. Tara hesitated, then put out a hand and caught Buffy's sleeve.

"Look up."

Buffy's head jerked up, as if she were expecting attack from above. She frowned, and Tara patted her sleeve. "It's okay. Just, find a star."

"Tara, I really should get back."

"It'll just take a second. And not-" She realized belatedly that this could come off all wrong. "I'm not talking about magic, or doing a spell, or anything. Just, you find a star and I will too."

Buffy was giving her a skeptical sideways look, and she had one hand inside her coat, on the axe. "Well...okay."

Tara closed her eyes and turned her face up. Then she opened them, and through the tree branches found a star. Little puncture of light in the darkness. Her fingers were still on Buffy's sleeve, around her wrist now. "Okay?"

"One star, located."

"Wish something for the future." She stared at the star and thought about Willow. What should she wish for in that department? It was hard to decide. Not for reunion, or anything as loaded as that. Just, maybe, expansion. For Willow to become what she could be, for both of them to become.

"What now?" Buffy was fidgeting, and Tara felt a quick spin of irritation and then tenderness. Buffy was good at a lot of things, but wishing wasn't her strong point.

"Now...we go home," she said, looking sideways and catching Buffy scoping out the far side of the street. "That's it." She let go of Buffy's wrist, and her hand felt empty.

"And it's going to come true?"

Tara shrugged. "I don't know. That's not really the point."

Buffy walked the rest of the way to Lincoln looking puzzled and annoyed. "I'm not so good with this wishing thing," she said, waiting on the bottom step while Tara searched for her keys.

Tara gazed down at her. She looked tiny and tired, and she was about to turn around and walk back out into the night, back into whatever fray had broken her axe in the first place. Warrior of the people, with her hair in a ratty ponytail and a zit starting on one cheek. Tara paused a moment, consulted with the growing glow in her chest, then set her box carefully on the doorsill and walked back down the steps to Buffy.

"Everything's going to be all right," she said, and kissed Buffy lightly on the lips. Warm for a second, a bright moment in a dark field, and then she pulled back. Buffy looked taken aback, a little trembly. Tara smiled. "That's a compact. It's a Wiccan thing."

"It's a-" Buffy's shoulders lowered, and she tried to smile back. "Okay. Wow. I get why Xander always wants to do the Wiccan research."

"It's going to be all right," Tara said again. The glow was fading, but she still had some, and she'd have good dreams tonight. "Thanks for walking me home."

"Okay." Buffy took a step back, still wide-eyed. "Sure. I'll see you, um-"

"Good night," Tara said, and watched the little warrior stumble back down the drive and into whatever came next for her, whatever was hers.