From a young age Tara Maclay was heralded as a prodigy. More gifted than any of the other witches in her generational line, she was quickly vaulted into a life well beyond ordinary. She was worshiped as a seer, predicting the one event that everyone wanted to know.
She could forsee their deaths.
She was the young tyke who could hug her uncle and then tell the farmer that he would die on some hot summer day by a kick to the head from his trusty mule. She was the girl who went to a wedding and, when kissing the bride for luck, could see the very same woman killing her husband with poison after learning of his infidelity.
It was a morbid power.
There were two very distinct reactions to her ability as word spread across the territory. People would either stay far away from her knowledge or seek it directly so they could change their path.
Her simple farm life disappeared as more people than she even thought existed flocked to her for aide.
And her gift brought her many things.
Fame. Purpose. Wealth.
She was nine when she was pulled from her schooling. Tutors began to teach her the ways of the world as it was too dangerous for her to live in it anymore. People, fueled with fear, wished to rid the world of her powers. They were the ones who wished to kill a child.
When she was ten, she survived a violent fall without a scratch. Whispers began that she was more than mortal.
When she survived a fire that devastated her home fifteen years later, no one doubted her immortality.
She appeared to never age - her skin remained soft and smooth. Her hair was the same golden hue after one hundred years had passed. Her legend grew with time and it was nurtured when a temple was built in her honor. It became her pedestal. Her temple was sought by hoards of people bringing gifts and payment in all varieties. Some made journeys, miles away from their hardships, just to place flowers at the base of a bronze statue that had been sculpted long ago as a tribute. Others stood in a processional line to seek her guidance. Tara attended to them daily.
She was guarded by an ancient group of women warriors called the Slayers and a small time seer who read the worshipers' intentions before they entered her chamber. She was boxed in on all four sides. The acceptance of her destiny and what it brought her was the lid that kept her shut in nice and tight.
She honored the gifts bestowed upon her by sharing them with the world. But somewhere deep inside, there were faint traces of disdain for this life. She knew she could be so much more. She wanted to find someone that could see her as she really was...not as a Prophet or as something to be protected. She wanted someone to make her feel less alone.
And Tara knew that She would come one day...waiting for Her was the true test.
Spike jumped up through the sewers into what appeared to be a pantry. Even with his vampiric vision it was hard to tell. He peeked out the door and saw that the kitchen area was clear. He could smell a variety of foods that had recently been cooked for the festival tonight. That meant he would have to hurry before someone came back. There was a growl deep within him. He hated being subversive. It seemed so weak.
It was, however, the only way to do this. Present company wasn't up for any sort of confrontation. He looked down through the access hole at his fellow vampire.
"Look Daddy...I caught a rat." She pinched each of its front legs between her thumb and index finger and began dancing a waltz across the underground passageway. She stopped suddenly and looked up at her peroxide blonde sire and frowned. "Grandfather ate rats under a human sky." She threw the rat against the wall and it cracked loudly. She got on her hands and knees and crawled over to the dead thing like a kitten. She pawed it once with the back of her hand and it didn't move. "It's broken...broken like me. Will you fix me, daddy?"
"Yes, pet," he sighed, leaning down to pull her up through the access door. Sometimes he couldn't look at what she had become. She had once been so strong. His strong childe.
"Willow, we have to be quiet now, okay?"
She saluted and marched in a circle. "Quiet like dead rats, sir," she barked. He put his hand over her mouth as he led her around the butcher blocks of the kitchen.
Spike quickly moved through back halls that he had memorized from interior maps. He hoped he could make it to the Prophet's chambers before the guard fully changed, before anyone unfortunate noticed. They arrived at the main hall from a side entrance. Willow had, at some point, began gnawing and licking his hand over her mouth. She made tiny slices across his palm and laved up the droplets of blood as they trickled out. He didn't mind; it was one of the few instances in the last three months where she was suckling blood on her own. He practically had to force feed her most times.
"Shhh," he coaxed as he slipped his hand into his jacket. Willow whimpered at the loss.
He wrapped a veil around her face to cover her lack of human features. Then they slipped to the front of the line and were met by a reception desk staffed with a green skinned demon.
"Well, aren't you a pair of yummy dumplings," Lorne greeted in a chipper fashion while noting their posture. "Ah, you're on the guest list," he finally discerned from looking at Spike. "But your friend..."
"Stays with me." The bleached vamp replied.
"That'll be for the Prophet to decide." He shrugged his shoulders and lifted the red velvet rope. "Right this way then."
"B, we've gotta get some longer grub breaks," Faith said as the reentered the main hall. "I barely had time for a quick fuck with one of the cooks." She thrust her pelvis as she took a large bite of a sandwich.
"You're so gross," Buffy replied with a grimace.
"I'm not the one that eats a yogurt cup for dinner instead of using that beefy security man as a wall toy. You just sit there with that coy ‘look but don't touch' expression while your dainty little legs are crossed up to the hilt...that's sick and..." The brunette slayer's head abruptly lifted as she took in the pair headed towards the doors of the Tara's chamber.
"Are they..." Buffy whispered meeting Faith's eyes as she noticed them too. They both took off running.
Spike didn't see the pair coming. One second he had his hand on the door knob and the next he turned to see that a Slayer, the blonde one, had Willow in a headlock with a stake hovering over her heart.
"Step away from the door, fangy," Faith ordered as she flashed a wicked looking knife at him. He puffed his chest and looked game for a fight.
The standoff was preempted as the chamber door opened with a misty waif of air. The Prophet stepped through it wearing a simple yet elegant white silk gown and a clear crystal around her neck.
"William," she spoke as she nodded in his direction. What she thought of the uprising outside her door could not be told from her face.
"William the Bloody," Faith repeated as she finally recognized his face. She swung her knife around in a flourish of unneeded air strikes.
Lorne tried to be diplomatic as he addressed the redhead. "Well, sweetcakes, I can't get a read on you. Why don't you sing me a song and then we can decide if you can see the Prophet."
"I don't sing," Willow responded hazily. "Songs are like poetry. The poetry books are daddy's. I spilled water on them and the pages gushed black blood. Daddy, don't be mad. I couldn't eat them. The blood was bitter. " The redhead sunk to her feet, grabbing at Spike's shoes.
Spike picked the lithe vampire up into a standing position.
"Shh, Red, I'm not mad." Willow spat at him and jerked away. He turned to the Prophet at a loss.
Tara stepped close to the unpredictable vampire, removing the veil from her face. What she saw was a strange cross between a human and a vampire. Her eyes were glazed golden with swirls of green and her forehead was partially shifted and bumpy. She had small fangs...much too tiny to break deeply into the skin for which they were intended.
"So, you don't sing...recite me a poem then. I can read you that way." She raised an eyebrow. "Unless you're afraid."
A shy smile glimmered on the redhead's face and her face shifted slightly human before returning to that strange mixed state.
"Fear the night,
Tara's eyes widened at the aura she read. "Lorne...everyone...leave us."
The slayers stood openmouthed but Tara's expression did not budge. "As you wish, our most precious cupcake," Lorne finally responded as he ushered the warriors away.
Willow swayed still closer, feeling Tara's eyes scrutinize her leather clad body. She twirled in a circle with her arms flying at her sides.
"She has a curse," Tara stated, directing her question at Spike but not drawing her eyes away from the enchantress before her.
"Damn right she does."
Willow curtsied before falling to the floor and shifting into full vampire face. She grabbed at her head and screamed. "You don't belong," she snarled. She changed to her mixed form, covering her face with her hands.
Tara thought she should probably step back but she moved closer instead, kneeling by the angry vampire on the floor. She ran her fingers through the soft red hair covering her hands and face.
"Little tree," she whispered, gleaming that tidbit through her touch. Tara looked to Spike.
"Her name's Willow."
"Lovely name," she answered as she looked into strange but mesmerizing eyes.
She moved her hand down the redhead's arm as she quieted. "She's a young childe, Spike. Why risk yourself to bring her to me?"
"Everyone needs to cause a stir every once in a while."
She lifted a questioning eyebrow in response.
"Do you know the trouble you've caused me? I generally don't meet and greet the vampire crowd, especially seeing as how they are frowned upon in ordinary society."
"What do I need with ordinary society? And what do you? Besides, you've allowed vampires here before. Say about a century ago."
"It has been a while, hasn't it?" She scooped the vampire into her lap. Willow giggled like a schoolgirl. Tara sighed. "Drusilla was a special...circumstance. You think every time someone goes insane in your circle that I'm supposed to heal them up?"
He crossed his arms and gave a stubborn look - one that was highly reproachful of both that comment and her actions.
Tara sighed once more, noticing the redhead had shifted into her human face and was snuggling her lightly. She is a pretty thing, Tara thought as she traced a finger along her features. "Tell me what happened."
"This old pal of hers, Xander, thought it would be a swell idea to give her back her soul on the three year anniversary of her turning. He got the idea from a wanker that knew the idea quite personally."
"Angelus brings me another customer, does he?"
Willow hissed at his name and jumped up scanning the room. She moved to the wall and stuck her ear against it. "Granddaddy's ghost s'not listening."
"Ghost?" Tara questioned with intrigue.
"Dru finally got her revenge but she took some damage. She had to stay back and heal up." He tried to keep his cool but his impatient eyes gave him away to the Prophet. She side glanced at Willow, who was tracing a finger along the wall aimlessly. Finally, he just blurted, "Can you remove the soul? I'm not even sure it's hers...that stupid nancy boy."
"It's definitely her soul. The problem is where it has been." The blonde covered the distance to the Willow and cupped her cheeks, looking deep inside her lost face. "Angel seems to have forgotten that Liam was returned to him from a hell dimension. Looks like this one's soul was floating somewhere a little higher."
"That idiot!" Spike spat out loudly as he began pacing.
"I believe I can fix this...but I have a condition this time around."
"You're to leave now and, when I'm done, she stays with me."
"Bloody hell, Tara!" Spike complained.
She shrugged her shoulders. "It's your call..." So lost. But She is the beautiful one.
He paced back and forth, realizing that he had no other choice. There was no one better suited to healing such a cosmic mess. Spike walked up to his only childe, who was still drawing imaginary pictures on the wall. He tilted her distracted face towards his own and said, "Tara's gonna watch over you, okay?"
He skulked towards the door, pulled the handle firmly, and walked clear out of Willow's undead life. She was scratching at the stones of the walls, humming an off key tune.