Rating: PG? If you can watch the show, you can read this (Hell, after this past season, this is probably better suited to a young audience than the show. Soft porn anyone?)
Spoilers: None, really. This is an AU: Giles never left. Jonathan—after all the help he’s had from Buffy and others over the years—had too much sense to get involved with Warren, who, without his help, is now in prison for murder. A:TS didn’t happen after Billy. Xander and Anya haven’t attempted their wedding yet. Magic didn’t suddenly become an addictive drug. Dawn who? Of whom do you speak?
Disclaimer: I don’t own them. If I did, I’d be a bit more careful with my belongings.
Notes: Like many of you out there, I was upset by the death of Tara. More than any other character death in the history of the Whedonverse, it was random and meaningless. Jenny Calendar, who was a member of the cast for far less time than Tara, died doing her part to defeat Angelus and rescue Angel (and to make Angelus a truly terrifying villain. If he’s really the most vicious and dangerous vampire who ever lived, then the good guys are going to get hurt). Doyle, who was on A:TS for ten episodes, died saving a shipload of half-demons from the Scourge. Joyce died a foreshadowed death that resulted in a beautiful episode, and a continuing examination of grief and death on a show that often glosses over both topics. Tara, who was with us just as long as Oz and longer than Riley (but who, unlike them, only got into the credits on the episode in which she died, fulfilling one of Joss’s crueler fantasies), was thrown away to create a three-episode arc where Willow went crazy. For a more in-depth analysis of just how poorly her death was handled, see The Kitten Board's Dead/Evil Lesbian Cliche FAQ
Tara deserved better. So I’m going to give her something better: I’m going to give her the happy ending that she’ll never have on the show.
Note 2: To those of you who’ve said that Tara was fat or ugly: get your eyes checked and get over your fetish for women who look like prepubescent boys.
To those of you who didn’t like Tara not because you found her uninteresting as a character, or because you wanted Willow back with Oz, but because she was gay and "ruined" the character of Willow by being in a lesbian relationship with her: I’m sure you’re very happy now. You’ve wanted something like this to happen to Tara from the get-go.
You still lose. The fact that their relationship ran for two years and was not just accepted but admired, proves that your world is dead.
Joss should be ashamed of himself for ever doing anything that would make people like you happy.
Electra Shokk (Real name: Karlene Sauer) glanced at the address, then at the sign above the door. The Bronze. This was the place, alright.
So they’d rented out a nightclub instead of a bar, huh? That was a good sign. That usually meant bigger tips and less drunk.
That was biggest pain in the ass about being an exotic dancer. Drunks were usually easy to milk for tips, but they were also grabbier and had this tendency to puke in the direction of whatever they were paying attention to. All of the girls she worked with had their "I got splattered" war stories. Birthday parties were generally the best for that sort of thing, and frat parties the worst. Bachelor parties were somewhere in the middle. You had your 50/50 chance.
Well. Best to get started. She had homework due for Organic Chemistry tomorrow. She knocked on the door, then glanced over her shoulder nervously as she waited for the people inside to open it. She didn’t like this neighborhood.
The door opened, and she jumped a little. She hadn’t even heard any footsteps coming.
She looked the man in the door up and down, and a slow, sultry smile spread across her face, the first that was completely sincere in her six-month dancing career. Tall. Muscular. Broad shoulders. Dark, spiky hair. Big, pretty, soulful, dark eyes. Oh, yeah. She could look forward to giving this one a lap dance. "That’s me, honey," she said.
"Oh, good. You’re here. This way."
She heard voices rising to her as he led her down the stairs:
"Now, we have a little surprise for you—"
Then a much higher-pitched voice. "Oh, you didn’t. You didn’t."
"Hey, did I say what the surprise is?"
Uh-oh. A mixed audience. Those always made her nervous. Most men didn’t pass judgment on a nice set of tits, but a lot of times, the way women looked at her when she was performing, they might as well have yelled "slut" out loud.
Oh, well. She knew that she wasn’t. What she was, was a professional. And the show must go on.
"But, as it happens, you’re right."
She emerged into the low light of the nightclub and glanced around.
Well, now. It looked like this was her lucky day. Every guy present was one form or another of attractive. Even the older guy looked like someone she wouldn’t mind doing an April-November with. Actually, it was more like May-October. They all looked friendly and, more importantly, sober. Heck, even the women were smiling.
"So," she purred. "Who’s our lucky winner? Let’s get this party started."
The crowd parted, as she’d expected it to. But instead of revealing a nervous, somewhat embarrassed groom-to-be, there were two nervous, somewhat embarrassed girls of roughly her own age. One was a tiny redhead, the other was a taller, more curvaceous blonde.
She was confused for a moment, until she noticed that they were holding hands.
Ah. That explained it.
She hesitated for just a moment, then set down her portable stereo and hit PLAY.
What the hell. It was still one of the better bachelor parties she’d ever done.
Anya approached Giles at the bar, her brows knitted in thought.
"Yes, my dear?" Giles had a pint of stout in his hand, the latest in a moderate series. He wasn’t exactly drunk—not yet—but he was quite warm and cheery.
"Xander has tried to explain bachelor parties to me, but there’s still something I don’t understand."
"And what’s that?" He asked, leaning against the bar and turning so he could see the show more clearly.
"Doesn’t it defeat the spirit of the whole thing to have the bachelor and bachelorette parties together like this?"
"Thrift, Anya. Thrift. It’s not often that the bride and groom like the same kind of strippers."
"Besides," Xander said, sitting down on a barstool beside Anya. "Part of the fun of either kind of party is embarrassing your friends, and this way, we get to share. This is our way." He waved toward the couch where Ms. Shokk was straddling a fiercely blushing, but happy-looking Willow. "After this, we get to see yours."
"Oh, you mean the giving of impractical underwear and other sexually-oriented gifts?"
Neither man did a humorous take involving choking on his beer and falling to coughing. Xander was far too accustomed to Anya’s bluntness. Giles was less accustomed to it, but he was far too serene right now for it to bother him.
"Exactly so," Giles agreed placidly.
"I decided not to go with impractical underwear," Anya said. "I thought I’d give them something more useful. I had to go all the way to LA to get it, though. Apparently, it’s only carried in specialty stores, and there aren’t any in Sunnydale."
"Anya," Xander said nervously. "What did you get them?"
Giles was raising his pint to his lips again when she told them, so he ended up doing an amusing spit-take and coughing fit after all.
The party broke up around midnight. A little early, as such things go, perhaps, but they still had one day of frenzied panic and preparation to go before the wedding.
Anya’s gift far outdid the others in embarrassing the two witches. But, as she’d intended, it turned out to be very, very useful indeed.
The Big Day
"You know something I’ve never understood?" Willow asked, looking at herself in the mirror. She’d chosen to follow ‘Marlene Dietrich-y’ tradition, and was wearing a tux. "What is the point of a tux? I mean, it essentially means that you’re wearing black to a joyous occasion."
"There’s two answers to that, Will," Xander said as he struggled with Willow’s bow tie. "One is that there are tuxes that aren’t black. But they are horrors that even life on the Hellmouth hasn’t prepared you for." She giggled, and her neck relaxed a little. That should make things a little easier… "Second, nobody, not even a nervous, hung-over guy, tended solely by other hung-over guys, can mess up black. No matching, no clashing—black goes with black. Just keep it clean until the day."
"And a tie!" She exclaimed, startling him into dropping the ends of her own. "Who came up with the idea that a strangle-cloth around your neck is good formal wear?"
"Some mysteries will never be known, Will," he said as he started again.
"Ow! Ow! Pin!" Tara cried, plucking at the back of her blouse.
"Sorry!" Buffy apologized, her fingers swiftly seeking out and plucking away the offending fastener. "Sorry. You okay? I think it’s some kind of Slayer aura—sharp pointy things want to stick into soft things around me."
Tara flexed her shoulders, then smiled wanly. "I’ll live—or at least, that won’t kill me."
"Just remember: in twenty-four hours, you’ll be in Hawaii, relaxing and soaking up the sun…which means that you’ll come home with a tan, and I’ll still be pasty because all of my outside time happens at night, and I’ll hate you. Anyway, just keep focused on that."
"Oh, thank you." It was perhaps the first time Buffy had ever heard Tara sound sarcastic. Then her smile turned sly. "If it’s any comfort, we’re probably not going to see that much sun."
Buffy thought about that for a moment. "Somehow, I am comforted and made jealous at the same time," she decided.
They had finally conquered Willow’s tie, though she refused to stop tugging at it. "How do you stand this…collar!" She gritted out.
"You get used to it—if you do it often enough," Xander said, adjusting his own collar. "I don’t suppose high heels are too much fun, either."
"Which is why Tara is wearing flats."
"So," Xander said, settling down into a chair. "Are your toes starting to feel the chill yet?"
"No, not at all," Willow answered a little too quickly. "I keep waiting for cold feet to set in, but they never do." She paused, looking into the mirror, puffed up bravely. Then she deflated. "What I am getting is stage fright."
"People are starting to arrive," Anya announced as she entered Tara’s dressing tent. Without announcing herself or even peeking in to make sure Tara wasn’t naked before pushing the flap aside.
Tara wrung her hands nervously and took a deep, shuddering breath. "Oh, boy," she said weakly.
"Hawaii. Entire lack of sunbathing. Keep focused." Buffy said.
Tara smiled at her weakly, then sighed. "I wish Willow was here. I keep turning for a hug, or reaching for a hand to hold, and she’s not there. Why do they have that stupid rule about the bride and the groom not seeing each other until the ceremony?"
"You’re tense," Anya said. "It’s to prevent you from having a fight or having sex or both."
Buffy and Tara both blinked.
"When you put it that way, it does make sense."
"Do you think he’s coming?" Willow asked, a little plaintively.
"I don’t know," Xander answered. "Are you sure the invitation got to him?"
"With that seeker enchantment we put on it, it would have gotten to him if he was in another dimension."
"I think he’ll be here if he can."
Outside, a rainbow-striped van pulled into the parking lot outside the gates of the Sunnydale State Park and parked beside a black convertible.
Oz climbed out of the van, checked his hair and tie in the rear-view mirror, hung his suit jacket over his arm, and closed the door, making sure to lock it. Sunnydale, land of security precautions.
Then he glanced up at the sky, blocking out the last rays of sunset with his hand. "New moon," he remarked to no one. "Thoughtful." With that, he started toward the pavilions he saw on the field just inside the park, pausing only to shake his head at the "Richard Wilkins Memorial Archway. Paid for by Richard Wilkins, Jr.—1919."
"Do you think they’re coming?" Tara asked anxiously.
Buffy sighed. Against everyone’s better judgment, Tara had sent an invitation to her father and several other relatives. None had sent so much as an RSVP.
"No, Tara, I really don’t think they are."
Then it was Tara who sighed. She wasn’t really surprised, and she didn’t regret it as much as others might have. Still, despite everything they had done, despite the feelings of resentment and rage that she was just beginning to dare to acknowledge, they were still her kin, and she still loved them. At least a little. Only Xander had understood the confusion of feelings that she had for the man who had once upon a time given her piggyback rides and punches in the stomach. His quiet support had given her an idea of what Willow loved so much about him.
"I guess it’s for the best," she said a little sadly. Then she smiled bravely. "It’s a good thing I have my real family here."
"Bride or groom?" Giles asked automatically, hardly looking at the new arrival.
"Which is Willow?"
Recognizing the voice, Giles turned to the speaker and a broad grin split his face. "Oz!" He held out his hand, but when Oz took it, Giles pulled him into a fatherly hug. "Glad you could make it."
Oz was stunned into more-than-usual speechlessness by how demonstrative Giles had become, but as he returned the hug, he guessed that a few years with someone as enthusiastically affectionate as Buffy would change anyone. "Glad to see you, too," He managed at last.
"Willow will be so happy to see you."
Oz’s face, which had been on the verge of a happy expression, fell. Not that an untrained observer would have been able to tell, but Giles saw the light go out of the younger man’s eyes. "Sure about that?" He asked.
"Of course," Giles said. He glanced around, then leaned in confidentially. "She confided in me that it wouldn’t seem quite complete if she didn’t share at least one dance with you."
"I suspect that you’re the person she really needs to be given away by. Not her father. If you catch my meaning."
"She was also hoping that you might discover some seed of friendship with Tara, but I think she fears that’s asking too much. She’d be satisfied with civility."
"I think I can manage that."
"Good. Now: bride or groom?"
"Groom it is, then."
Oz voiced another "Huh" as he was led to his seat.
"Is that you, Giles?" Buffy called back.
"Yes. Is everyone ready?"
Buffy looked to Tara, who took a deep breath, then gave her the thumbs up.
"As we’ll ever be," Buffy answered.
Giles opened the door-flap and stepped halfway into the tent. "Good. It’s time to begin."
He was starting to turn and step back out, and Buffy was starting to follow him, when Tara said "Wait."
They both turned back, and were startled to find Tara with tears standing in her eyes.
"Is something wrong?" Giles asked.
"No. It’s just that I wanted—before everything got rolling—to thank you both, so much, for doing this for me."
Giles started to say "Nonsense" and Buffy started to wave it away, but Tara interrupted and continued.
"You don’t understand. I always knew I’d have the traditional wedding, with the bridesmaids and my father giving me away. Even after I found out I was gay, I still thought…some things just seem like…givens. Inevitable. I just thought I’d be unhappy." She shrugged. "I wouldn’t be the first. But instead…" Her smile broke through like a sunbeam through thunderclouds. "Here I am, with my real family around me, with the father I always wanted about to give me away, and a real friend for my maid of honor instead of Cousin Beth."
Giles swallowed hard and smiled broadly, then reached out and hugged her tight. "I am…deeply honored," he said in a voice that, thanks to his mightiest efforts, was only slightly choked.
"Hey," Buffy said, waving it away. "You’ve already thanked me enough." She indicated the tasteful, sapphire-blue dress she was wearing. "You made the bridesmaid dresses wearable."
With a laugh, the three of them headed out onto the lawn, where the chairs and the wedding arch had been set up.
Willow’s stage fright wasn’t getting any better. She was really starting to regret "Marlene-Dietrich-y Tradition". Whose dumb idea had it been that the groom has to stand up in front of everyone and wait for the bride to come? Okay, granted, there wasn’t much of an "everyone" at this wedding. Her parents were there, of course, supporting her decisions like all the books said they should. She would just pretend—for now—that she didn’t see something brittle in their eyes every time they looked at Tara. It made for a much more joyous occasion. She had a few other family members there as well, most of them younger and more sincerely happy than her parents. Tara had no family present, but some friends from high school and college helped to fill her side in a bit. Then, of course, there was their adoptive family: Xander stood beside her, nervously glancing into the audience where Anya was talking with Cordelia. Probably afraid they’re comparing notes, she thought. And he’s probably right. Wesley sat beside Cordelia, obviously trying not to listen in on them, but she could hear bits of it herself. His expression spoke volumes about their topics. Angel sat beside Wesley, an empty seat between him and the aisle. Funny, she’d never seen Angel wear a tie before. Spike lounged at the back, and in between sat Oz. She was a rollercoastering combination of surprised, thrilled, happy, and worried about that. But she couldn’t pay attention to that now, because the wedding march was starting and everyone was standing up and
Tara slowly processed down the aisle with Giles at her side, and Willow’s stage fright evaporated. As far as she was concerned, there were no other people present.
Tara had decided to wear lavender instead of white, and had eschewed a veil in favor of a wreath of flowers. And while those things brought their share of oohs and ahhs, Willow barely noticed them. She couldn’t take her eyes off Tara’s face.
This is the woman I’m going to spend my life with. The thought was an awesome one. Monumental. Sixty years or more stretched out in front of her: waking up beside this same person every morning, buying groceries together, washing the dishes ‘cause Tara cooked the meal, watching each others’ faces grow old in the mirror—
She didn’t think any thought had ever made her happier.
When Tara arrived at the flowering trellis-arch, the floodlights were turned way down, and all of the guests got out and lit the candles they’d been given. Neither Willow nor Tara had explained why they wanted their wedding to be primarily by candlelight, except for Willow’s cryptic comment that they wanted it to be "Extra Flamey".
As that was going on, the woman who was presiding over the ceremony stepped forward into the arch.
The closest thing that Sunnydale had to a coven was the Wicca group at UC Sunnydale, which was essentially a group of shallow dilettantes. The rest of Sunnydale’s witches and pagans were all solitaries. Something about Sunnydale just seemed to keep fellowships of benevolent magic like covens from taking root.
That option closed to them, they had approached Dr. Sarah Winston, a professor in the Religious Studies department at UC Sunnydale. She was the eldest solitary they knew and trusted, and she had gladly agreed to perform their wedding. She didn’t have the legal authority to do so, but then, there wasn’t anybody who could make their marriage legal, so that didn’t make any difference.
After Dr. Winston greeted the congregation, her first question was: "Who brings this woman and gives her in marriage?"
Tara could actually feel the few members of the Wicca group that had been invited bristling. She didn’t care. This had been a part of every wedding she’d seen back home, and she’d wanted it for herself.
"I have been accorded that honor," Giles said, taking Tara’s hand and putting it in Willow’s. He started to turn toward his seat, but before he could, they caught him with their free hands, kissed him on each cheek, then let him go.
They turned back to Dr. Winston while Giles was stumbling to his seat with an absurdly pleased expression on his face and the audience was saying "Awww".
The wedding began in earnest.
There are many different wedding traditions in the world, and Willow and Tara’s wedding was a hodgepodge of a number of them. But at the center of almost every one of these traditions, the core, the moment when the true wedding takes place, are the Vows.
Willow: "I’ve loved other people in my life. But I never really knew what it meant to be in love until I met you. Now I do know what it means: it means that I want your face to be the first thing I see every morning, and the last thing I see every night. I want to take care of you if you’re sick and hold you when you cry. I want to go places with you and stay home with you. I want to work together and play together. I don’t care if we live in a Beverly Hills mansion or a cockroach-infested one-room apartment, as long as I’m with you, ‘cause you’re my real home. And I want to grow old with you, because being in love means that spending the whole rest of our lives together sounds better than anything I ever imagined."
Tara’s was much shorter: "Once, when we were first together, you said that you wanted something that was just yours, and I told you I was. Yours. I still am, and for the rest of our lives, no matter what happens, I always will be. Yours."
Spike, who’d been smirking, with his boots up on the chair in front of him when the wedding started, had put his feet on the floor, and was now smiling more naturally. Can’t very well look like you’re enjoying something this sappy when anybody’s looking, can you? Still, they were all right, for a pair of fluffy-bunny little…
That was when he heard something rather familiar approaching. Familiar and unwelcome.
As discretely as he could, he got up, moved forward a few rows, sat down behind Angel, and whispered something in his Sire’s ear. The older vampire, who had been smiling wistfully, suddenly went grim. He excused himself and quietly left.
Perhaps a dozen men were coming up the path, armed with baseball bats and axe handles. Angel recognized the leaders, Ronald MaClay Senior and Junior, from the stories he’d been told. He suspected, judging by similarities of appearance, movement, and smell, that the rest of the men were Tara’s uncles and cousins.
He stepped into the middle of the path, crossed his arms, and set his feet. "You gentlemen are a bit late," he said. "You’ve already missed the part where you could object."
"Get out of our way, boy," Donnie growled, pointing menacingly with his axe-handle.
Boy? Even if I were only as old as I look, I’d still have him by about ten years.
"We’re not going to allow this…abomination…to go forward," Ronald Maclay, Sr. declared.
"No," Angel said, uncrossing his arms and letting them hang loose and ready at his sides. "What you’re not going to do is disrupt your daughter’s wedding."
A spasm of rage and disbelief twisted the elder human’s face. "Just who the hell do you people think you are?" He demanded. He indicated his son and the other men following him with a wave of his arm. "We’re her blood kin. You people have no right to stick your noses into family business."
"You know what?" Angel said. "The ceremony is going to be over soon, and I don’t want you here when they come down that path, so let’s get this done, shall we?"
"Fine by us, city boy," Donnie smirked, leading the other armed men forward.
"Funny you should mention ‘blood kin’," Angel said as he stepped forward to meet them, his demon face manifesting.
Fifteen minutes later, the men of Clan Maclay were fleeing the Sunnydale city limits as fast as they could get their cars to go, and Angel was returning to his seat, brushing the dust off his suit.
The rest of the ceremony was a haze to the happy couple. Dr. Winston asked questions and both women made sure to answer "I do", Willow stomped on a glass at some point and they were handfasted but they didn’t fully return to reality until Dr. Winston said: "I now pronounce you—er—married. You may kiss the bride."
Although it may not be entirely traditional or even couth to give a standing ovation, complete with hoots and hollers, in the middle of a wedding, the kiss left the audience little option.
There were some memories from that day that Willow and Tara would treasure in their hearts for the rest of their lives. Buffy and Angel dancing together, looking almost perfectly happy. Giles getting out his guitar after the DJ and everyone who wasn’t part of their family had gone home and singing for them, and leading them in some songs as well (John Denver wasn’t really his style, but he was willing to indulge Tara…today, at least).
But the one they would treasure the most actually happened rather early in the evening. The dancing had just begun, and after a few more frenetic tunes, the DJ had decided to slow it down a bit. Oz, dancing with Buffy, had come up beside the new couple. "Mind switching up?" He asked.
Willow beamed. "Of course," she said.
"Actually, I wanted to dance with the bride."
Willow and Tara looked at each other. "Uh…sure," Tara said, taking Oz’s outstretched hand and leaving Willow to dance with Buffy.
Oz and Tara danced in silence for a few moments before Oz finally spoke up. "I wish I hadn’t had to leave Willow," He said. "But I really think that had to be. So I’m glad she’s with you."
Tara, who’d been rather stiff and nervous until that point, relaxed a bit. "Thank you."
"Take care of our girl."
And that’s exactly what Tara did.
As Long as You Both Shall Live
In the year 2017, Willow and Tara had another wedding. This one was short, sparsely attended…and legal.
Their lives were hard, but happy. And it seemed that as the years went by, the fates dispensed joy and horror into their lives with a more even hand. Xander and Anya’s Chaos Wedding, Angel’s shanshu and wedding to Buffy, their own three adopted children.
Willow died in 2083, matriarch of the huge clan that the Scooby Gang had created. It was quick. A stroke at the dedication of the ruins of Sunnydale High School as a historical site.
None of the Scooby Clan were surprised when Granny Tara passed away in her sleep the night before the funeral. They just looked grave and signed what the coroner asked them to sign. Heart failure? Of course. How could her heart go on beating without Granny Willow?
Young and strong again, as she’d been on the day of her wedding so many years before, Tara entered the Summerland, to find Willow waiting for her.
Take my hand,
And lead me to Salvation.
Take my love,
For love is everlasting.
The truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of God.