TITLE: The Lead and How To Swing It
AUTHOR: Anne Hedonia
RATING: PG-13? Just one tiny naughty reference.
SUMMARY: Tara opens up a can of whoop-ass.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This happens sometime after my "Done To Death" and "Funnybutt" stories, a universe wherein Spike and Tara - two "fringe" Scoobies went through a long, strange trip together and became inseparable friends, and lovers. So that's the given, for this bit, too. If you want to read about it, go to my site: http://annehedonia/populli.net
Tara knew about the three young men following her along the moonlit trail through campus. She knew they were grinning and murmuring amongst themselves.
She didn't turn to look at them.
She knew they were human, about her age, and that they had plans for her - plans that had nothing to do with her welfare. She knew that they were full of arrogance - that particular brand of arrogance that affects smart, privileged white males in the first flush of adulthood: the idea that they were far more clever than anyone who'd ever come before, and that it was their birthright to be able to do anything and get away with it.
She kept walking.
She walked off the paved path and onto a beaten one that led into a remote, wooded area of the campus. It was a move anyone else would have thought absurd.
She knew they would follow.
She knew it would happen just like it did, the way their footsteps behind her eventually broke into a jog - at exactly the darkest and most remote part of the trail - and they caught up with her, surrounding her in a loose triangle to block all avenues of escape.
And all three grinning. Like bullying was a proud new thing, that they'd invented.
"Hey Witchipoo," cracked the tallest one, with the brown hair. "Stir any good cauldrons lately?"
The others chuckled. Tara did not.
The tall boy pretended to be solicitous: "Don't wanna keep you - I know you're probably on your way to, I don't know, turn somebody into a newt or something..." He smiled at himself. "But we just wanted to ask: have you thought any more about our proposal?" He rocked lazily on his feet, hands casually in pockets. "Because we're getting down to the wire here. We got things to do, grades to change, money to make." He gestured to a shorter boy next to him. "You don't want Chuck here to fail, do ya?"
"Oh, fuck you, man." Chuck shoved the tallest boy, who took the jostling and just laughed, till his attention settled back on Tara.
Tara answered, mostly as a formality: "I-I-I've told you no."
Tallest Boy's grin intensified, though his eyes became angrier. "C-c-c'mon," he jeered. "Just twitch your nose a few times. Do a few cute little spells. Like I said, it could be beautiful. Just a little help from Witchipoo and we could all be on easy street. We could even cut you in on some of it." His face was becoming less jovial than his voice. "Otherwise...hate to say what might happen. I mean, I know you don't want anyone else to find out about your being a freak and all."
Unwelcome images of her brother flashed in Tara's mind's eye.
"And if you take too long..." The tall boy winced, his face a parody of regret. "...it might end up hurting a bit. Although Steve here would probably protest. I think he kinda likes you."
Tara glanced furtively at Steve, who was indeed exhibiting quite an interest in her. His gaze skimmed her form with unconcealed fascination, and when it returned to her face, his leer made Tara turn away.
Tallest Boy began closing in; the others followed suit. "I got an idea...why don't we give Steve a chance to change your mind?" He reached for her arms.
Tara fought them only minimally as they grabbed her, because milliseconds later, that's when it happened.
There was a roar behind her and a sudden blast of cold air at her back as Steve's body was pulled away. The other boys' eyes widened, and they dropped her limbs in a panic, stepping back.
At the same time that Tara turned toward whatever it was, her fingers waved in a small motion toward the two remaining young men, and her lips murmured Latin. Despite their fear the two stood rooted to the spot, unable to turn away from the spectacle before them.
A male vampire had wrenched a terrified Steve into an immobilizing hold and was aiming already-bloody fangs toward his neck. Tara quickly lifted her hand in his direction:
Silver-blue electrical bolts shot from her fingers, drawn to and swarming over the vampire's skull. The vampire gave a monstrous roar and let go of Steve, who tried to flee. The vampire, unfortunately, refocused quickly and had Steve by the arm again in seconds.
Tara raised both arms: "Riximo!"
The vamp snapped backward as though he'd been pounded in the chest by a huge unseen hammer. He flew a good six feet off the ground and across the clearing to land with a crash in some bushes.
Tara took off running down the trail, away from where the vamp had landed; the three stunned boys followed her lead. The bushes behind them rustled, then those to the side of them, then to the front. The boys shrieked as the vampire suddenly leapt out of the foliage, right in front of Tara.
But Tara was now clearly the vamp's chosen target; his yellow eyes narrowed angrily at the sight of her, and he sneered around his fangs. A feline growl boiled up from his chest and he charged for her.
The two met, and though the vamp threw punch after vicious punch, every one of them was met with a bright, painful, sparking crash against some invisible barrier Tara was conjuring, everywhere her hands went. Her arms flew as she repelled blow after blow, while the vamp's ire grew by leaps and bounds.
And in the instant he finally fell back, snarling, regathering his fading energy, Tara pronounced a death sentence in two words:
Suddenly, the vamp stumbled further backward, eyes wide, reacting to some inner, oncoming emergency, and a moment later his head spun in a brutal, wrenching jerk, ripping clean from his body, thumping to the ground and rolling over to stare upward in lifeless surprise. A second later the body slumped down next to it, motionless.
Behind Tara, the boys looked ready to retch, or piss themselves, or both.They were gaping at the vamp and at her. She turned to them, her face holding no small measure of contempt.
"I won't be helping you with anything," she informed them icily. "Get out of my sight."
The boys complied instantly.
It was only once they were gone that Tara let her breathing become ragged, releasing it in increasing gasps.
The decapitated head on the ground suddenly lost its vacant stare in favor of a grin. "Say, didja like that face? I had a few others. How's this?" He did a silly, shocked, dead-guy stare.
"Or this one? This one's aces." He posed again, complete with lolling tongue.
Tara tried to muster speech, only to have it fail her. She waved a hand in his direction.
The air in front of Spike's "fallen" form wavered, as the glamour that had been cast over him was removed. "C'mon, love, I need feedback." After a few last flickers, he was getting to his feet with his head perfectly intact, pushing his bleached hair back into place with his fingers. "Practiced for hours in front of a mirror, but still couldn't tell if I was doin' it right..." His grin faded as he watched her move to a wooden bench and all but collapse onto it, coming to sit still and almost huddled. In response he grew gentle, and serious.
"They're all gone now, pet."
"I know." Anyone other than a vampire wouldn't have heard her.
He brushed off his clothes and hands, looked off into the distance. "No bloody way they'll be bothering you any more. That was a 'no' that'll stick."
Tara nodded, looking at the ground.
Spike bent forward a bit, his eyes seeking the face past her fallen hair. "They didn't get hurt."
Tara looked up at him instantly, her eyes filled with worry. Spike's hands flew up. "Nor did I," he assured. His grin reappeared. "More fun for me than anything else."
Her head fell forward again. "I didn't like watching that happen to you."
Spike figured that, while she was upset, he should probably not be feeling the warm, satisfied tenderness that those words were causing him, but he couldn't help it and didn't really want to. "It was practically all glamours," he soothed, starting to walk toward her. "You know that better than anyone."
She shook her head, glancing up just for a second. "It was too much like...like being Willow," she said finally.
He stopped walking, for a moment. His response would have to be carefully considered.
He resumed walking.
"You showed 'em what you could do, without actually doin' it. Big difference, there," he said, reaching her side. "Havin' power but holdin' it in check, till the right time...that's real strength." He took both her hands and pulled her to her feet, gently, even though she resisted somewhat. For him it was easy as lifting feathers. He thought nothing of it.
He pulled her closer, slowly. "You did it all yourself, no..." His lips hesitated at the word. "...boyfriend comin' to your rescue." She could hear the grin in his voice.
The chill over Tara's spirit felt its first thaw. She finally looked him in the face and saw him smiling.
"Well...the boyfriend helped," she said, with the ghost of a grin.
"Nah," he responded, with the whole live grin. "I was just your very willing tackling dummy."
Tara started to argue, but was stopped when he reached to stroke her hair. He was gazing at her now, rapt. "God, it was a thing of beauty to watch you," he breathed. The sparkle in his eye told her he meant every word. "In more ways than one."
"Really," Spike responded. "Got evidence." He took her hand and guided it over his erection, made her press it gently.
Tara's eyebrow arched. "I just pretended to kick your ass and it turned you on?" Spike nodded. Her smirk grew lazy, and crooked. "You're twisted."
Spike grinned happily, then leaned in and brushed her lips with his, till he was rewarded with a sigh.
"And you're magnificent."
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Anne Hedonia
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