CHAPTER TWO: Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About
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By the time Tara had gotten Willow inside, the redhead was shivering so hard her teeth were chattering. Tara guided her into the living room, pulling the hand-crocheted afghan that Joyce Summers’ mother had made for Buffy’s thirteenth birthday off the back of the sofa and wrapping Willow snugly in it before pulling the wibbly redhead into her arms and beginning to rock her.
“T-t-t-t-tara, w-w-w-what h-h-h-h-happ-p-p-ened-d-d-d?” Willow could hardly speak, and Tara was afraid if she continued to try she’d bite her tongue. So she kissed her, softly but firmly, on the lips, and gradually felt Willow’s chilled lips warming, relaxing, and starting to kiss her back.
Finally, Tara leaned back, her cheeks flushed and a warm feeling in her chest. Looking down at Willow where she rested against her shoulder, she smiled lopsidedly, smoothing red hair out of Willow’s eyes.
Willow took a deep breath, letting it out again on a shaky exhale, and looked up into Tara’s face, giving a tiny smile of her own. “Thanks, baby,” she whispered.
Then she sat bolt upright. “Tara! Tara, you d-d-d-died up there, what’s going on? Is this something Hellmouthy? Is there research to be done? W-what the heck happened?” By the time the mini-Willowrant was finished, Willow was on her feet, pacing back and forth in front of the couch.
Tara noticed, with a degree of detachment that surprised her, that there were faint streaks of blood on Willow’s forearms from the shot that had pierced Tara’s chest earlier -- and why am I not freaking out about this? she wondered. Maybe...maybe it had something to do with what had happened a few weeks before she’d come back to Willow...
Stevenson Hall, UC Sunnydale
Tara angrily wiped a hand over her face, streaking the freshly-fallen tears over her cheeks but not noticing or caring. She slung another book into the cardboard box on her single bed, to join a stack of others with titles such as “Art Appreciation: The First Degree” and “The Biography of Henry Cornelius Agrippa: Man, Myth, and Mage”. As the newly-flung book landed, its spine opened with a dismal creaking sound.
“Oh, Hellmouth,” Tara moaned. “It just had to be the grimoire, didn’t it?” She quickly retrieved the large, worn leather-bound volume, looking it over anxiously to see what the damage was.
She sighed in relief; it didn’t seem to have taken too hard of a hit from her little temper tantrum...but what was that?
Tara opened the book to its very last page, something she’d never looked at before. On the page facing the back cover was a beautifully drawn, full-colored illustration of a man’s pocket watch. Or, maybe not a man’s; it seemed a little...dainty...for that. The silver case was engraved all over with forget-me-nots; enameled, she supposed, they were that beautiful, delicate shade between purple and blue; and tiny, exquisitely detailed trailing vines.
The picture was so realistic that Tara found herself reaching out to trace the engraving with her right hand, as her left held the grimoire. The moment her fingertips made contact...
...the world flashed white around her, and Tara collapsed bonelessly, landing on her back on the bed...the now-corporeal fob watch held tightly in her right hand.
A few (hours? Days? Minutes?) later, Tara...no, Taranualrelundar!...sat up groggily, her head swimming with all sorts of new information...the first of which was, Holy shit, I’m a Time Lord? With that revelation, another bright flash, this one golden-green like the afternoon sunlight through the leaves of the big maple tree in the Summers’ backyard, erupted behind Tara’s eyes.
Reeling, Tara clutched the bedframe with her left hand, squeezing her eyes tightly shut as the light show in her head began to die down.
Memories unfolded behind her unseeing eyes:
A column...Ionic, her art background instantly supplied...no, a spaceship...disguised as a column...A child’s piping voice... “It’s bigger inside than outside, Grandmother!”
Sitting on her Grandmother’s knee, learning about Magick...and Daemons...and...
A tall man, with a wide, flashing smile, a head full of curly brown hair, and a ridiculously long, rainbow-striped scarf, offering a small white sack of gummy candies to the little girl with the huge blue eyes...just like his own...
Ten-year-old Tara, crying at her Grandmother’s funeral, clinging to her mother, Lynnea Lund-Maclay. Whispering adults around her... “No body found...just that little urn to bury...poor Lynnea...”
“You’re gonna become just like your mother, girl...” Frank Maclay, her father, leaning menacingly over her thirteen-year-old self. “Gonna have to beat the demon outta ya...”
Tears as the fists descended. Too terrified to even try to defend herself, she could only curl into a tight ball and pray to the Goddess for the pain to stop.
Eighteen years old. Freedom. Full-ride scholarship, her grades exceptional despite what her father and brother had tried to tell her, their voices thickened with contempt... “Stupid...women don’t need higher learning...you’ll stay here and take care of us, Tara, that’s your place...”
Her mother’s beautiful face, careworn and lined with the pain of the cancer that would claim her before Tara left home for good. “Don’t let their lies color your world, my beautiful baby girl...go and live your life, Tara.”
In many ways, Lynnea’s death had freed Tara. But in others, she would never be free of the legacy her mother had bestowed on her.
A scene from outside Tara’s body. Lynnea, lying unconscious in her hospital bed. Tara, nodding in exhausted slumber in the uncomfortable chair beside her. Then, the unmistakable beep of a heart monitor, monitoring a heart that had beat its last.
A hospital morgue, a cooling body on the metal slab, hospital gown wrapped with surprising modesty, cardboard tag in place on her big toe. The body of Lynnea Lund-Maclay, in what should be her final rest.
Closer view of the body, which has begun to...glow? A golden light like the rising sun engulfs it; it rises slowly from the slab, the tag falling away.
White-gold light streams from the figure’s mouth and nose, and the light flares unbearably bright as the figure slowly descends back to the slab.
A gasping breath, then another.
The figure sits up, flexing her fingers and toes. She reaches back, feeling her hair, noticing it is longer than before...and a different color.
“Well, that sucked.” She stops, taken aback. “Why do I sound like a teenager?”
She tugs at the hospital gown that now seems too small, particularly in the chest area.
“What in Rassilon’s name...? Regeneration?” Joy spreads across the figure’s face, her smile stretching from ear to ear.
Lynnea Lund-Maclay, for it was she, just...changed, squeezed her newly-hazel eyes shut and gave heartfelt thanks, tears running down her face.
Flash, and Tara’s eyes snap open.
“Mrs. Summers?” she whispered. But no, it couldn’t be; this woman had dark hair, and was a little taller -- and about fifteen years younger -- than Joyce.
“Mama.” Tara began to cry quietly. “Oh, Mama, you’re not gone after all...”