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

The Secret Game
By Dale Edmonds
For Thomas

Tara doesn't even like Buffy that much. Oh, she likes her, as much as you can like your girlfriend's best friends who are always saving the world and being dramatic and important and all that, but she doesn't like like her.

Willow told her about a girl named Faith, and Tara's seen a photograph in Giles' office of a dark haired girl with a sharp smile standing behind the Scoobies. Dawn didn't like her much, and the way Willow tells it - or doesn't, because Willow doesn't like to think about Buffy and sex in a way Tara is very happy to encourage, Faith and Buffy had a spark.

Tara can see it. Buffy was a little perky for her at first, and she was too wrapped up in the magic of Willowillowillowowness, but when it happened - when Joyce died. When Joyce died, Buffy was alone, and Tara remembers that. Being alone because grief was wrapped around you so thick every breath felt like it was being sucked in through a shroud. There was something elemental about her then, the sense of a weapon honed and drawn. She wasn't Buffy so much as Slayer and Sister and Saviour. Everything burnt away to raw elemental beauty.

She saw that a lot when she was mad. How beautiful Buffy was, how beautiful everyone was. She saw herself ragged and bleeding, her face misshapen, palsied and drooling. The dirt that wouldn't wash off, her matted hair, the filth, the filth. She had been so filthy and Willow had been home, safely home, and Dawn had been the colour of spring leaves and Buffy had been - Tara can't quite remember now. Silver, but molten silver, maybe. Stainless steel.

Fire, water and metal. Tara as earth then. She bends her head and gets back to work, turning thoughts over again. The clothes under her hands still smell of fresh laundry. It's only been ten days. She wonders when they'll have to pack them up, to go through Buffy's rooms and portion things out. If Dawn would let them. She folds a t-shirt, pairs it with a bra and knickers, finds a pair of socks and a skirt.

When Willow's working on the Buffybot, Tara sometimes thinks it's Buffy. More than when the bot is up and walking, smiling cheerfully. It's been a long time since Tara can remember that Buffy. When it's slumped, bared with flashes of metal circuitry and Willow's delicate hands playing over it, Tara sometimes thinks "Oh Buffy, Buffy, you're back." This is the Buffy she remembers from when she was mad.

She puts the last change of clothes into the duffel bag and zips it up. Her hands rest on it for a moment. Willow is out, not talking to her and planning soemthing. Tara knows this, knows it in the way Willow talks too brightly, too cheerfully. Truth is always bitter and Willow hasn't learnt that yet. Tara just doesn't want to be the one to teach her.

Dawn is watching television downstairs. Or crying. The bot is in the bathroom, washing its hair. Singing. Tara can hear it as she walks down the hallway with the duffel bag. She's been teaching it skills, little things. The others won't do it. To wash and comb its hair. To talk quietly when Dawn is crying. To make tea for Giles. Not to sing. If it's something Warren taught it, it'll be a dirty song, Tara bets. She's learnt a lot about Warren's sex life, watching the bot. Spike hates the thing now, hates it too much to be near it, and the bot gets sad when Spike shouts at it, so Tara has told it that Spike is testing her resolve, testing the strength of their love and the bot's patience.

"Back to you, if you'll be waiting too."

Tara stops with her hand on the door. The bot's voice is thin and clear, but traced with such loneliness that for a moment Tara's heart lurches with hope.

But she opens the door and the bot is standing in the bathtub naked and covered in suds and smiling broadly as it sings "I'll find my way back to you" and Tara remembers that Buffy is dead.

"I've brought you some new clothes," she says.

"Thank you, Tara!" it says.

And then Tara locks the bathroom door. Not that anyone will come up. Dawn is alone, Willow is alone with her secrets and Tara's eyes are prickling with tears. She doesn't know what she's going to do, except that she's lonely, alone and the bot is standing under the shower spray, suds sliding down that perfectly curved undamaged fake skin, but her hair (plastic like barbie dolls, play toys, make believe) is wet and plastered raggedly to her back and Buffy was so bruised, so broken.

"I'm going to teach you a game," she says.

Echo. Echo and her nails bite into her palsm and she says the words again, repeats the magic formula. "A special game. A secret one."

The bot tilts its head and she can see its ribs, the bridge of them under its breasts, and she's seen that skin lift and slide, the metal struts that make those ribs, the gel that makes those breasts, but she puts her hand against them, fingers against the curve where its breasts lift from its chest, and the bot is warm, a heartbeat drumming underneath.

"Don't talk," she tells the bot. "Don't tell anyone." Then she lowers her mouth and sucks. The bot tastes of plastic, wet warm plastic and Tara wants. She wants, and she takes one fo its hands and puts it on her own breast, damp under the sodden cloth, the shower raining down on them both. Slips the bot's fingers in and shows it how to cup, how to touch. To raise its palm and circle one nipple, to stroke.

They make love silently in the shower. Tara has sex with the bot, and Tara makes love to Buffy. Her back to the tile wall, legs lifted up without effort, with impossible strength and the water keeps raining down, washing everything away. Tara doesn't cry when she comes, doesn't say anything except -

"Don't tell anyone."

The bot nods. She thinks about the way it trembled when she stroked its slick labia, slid her fingers in. Everything hotter and tighter, and the bot trembling and breathing faster and faster. Programming, subroutines, imitation.

Tara kisses the bot, closed mouth to closed mouth.

She climbs out of the bathrub, rummages through the folded clothes in the duffel bag to find an elastic-waist skirt, and oversized top of Buffy that fits. Her skin's damp and she's shivering. She touches the sink, and the porcelin is cold, everything is so very very cold and she shakes a little.

The bot stands in the shower, warm and inhumanly hot and not dead at all. Not Buffy at all.

Tara folds the towel and puts it down. "Get dressed," she says. "We'll make Dawn hot chocolate." The bot likes that.

"Thank you, Tara!" it says.

Willow will come home and Tara will explain about the bot, about trying to wash its hair and getting splashed and borrowing Buffy's clothes, and WIllow will try not to cry because Willow has secrets now and tears can break them wide open.

Tara knows about secrets. The bot is toweling itself with efficient movements, pulling on a scrap of cotton, a lacy bra. Tara looks away.