Everyone Has Secrets by Lilachigh
In this story, Spike and Buffy never came to grief in Seeing Red and so Spike never went to Africa. Tara, however, still died and Willow still turned to the dark side.
Chapter One: The Letter
The key turned stiffly in the lock and Buffy cautiously pushed at the door. For a second or two it refused to give way, until an impatient hand thrust itself over her shoulder and thudded the door open.
Buffy winced then stepped inside, refusing to admit that her heart was beating faster and there were tears in her eyes. The little room was immaculate - bed made up neatly, no dirty clothes on the floor, books piled on the desk. The drapes were pulled shut and she opened them to let the moonlight flood in. A layer of fine dust had settled over everything and the smell of cedarwood and carnation candles still hung in the air - the scent that spoke of Tara Maclay. She turned on a couple of lights and said, “Come in.”
“Where do we start?” Hands on hips, Spike stared round.
Buffy fingered a thin, cream lace shawl lain over the back of a chair. “Willow said pack it all up in boxes and she’ll sort it when she gets back from England. She said she couldn’t cope just now, not with the going mad and trying to destroy the world....”
“So it falls to you?”
“Most things do. You don’t have to help.”
“Yeah, like I’d let you do this on your own, Slayer!”
A smile flashed across Spike’s face. “I’m sure she did, but....”
“Too soon. The scars are still there from packing up Mom’s clothes and things.”
“What about your scars?”
A hand reached out and a finger rang down her cheek and across her lips. Buffy rubbed her head against his skin. “Oh, I’ve so many they sort of pile up on top of each other so you can’t feel the ones underneath any more.”
“Looks fairly straightforward. She didn’t have much, did she?”
Buffy tightened her hair back into a business-like knot. “She left some stuff at home. Look put clothes in one box, shoes in another. Books and papers. Oh and I’d better sort her mail. There may be bills. Rent and things.”
They worked in silence - Buffy had to admit she was impressed that Spike was folding and packing the few dresses and skirts with care. She’d imagined him throwing them into a bag, all jumbled up. But then he’d lived with Dru for years: perhaps he’d learnt how a woman’s clothes should be treated.
Spike glanced across at his lover, blonde head bent over a letter. Hidden scars - well he had a few himself but he also knew that nothing healed when it was concealed. Suddenly he frowned: Buffy had sank onto the bed and was staring down at the letter. “What’s up, pet?”
“This...this is really weird. I think....I think Tara was being blackmailed!”
“What!” He was at her side in an instant, sliding his arm round her shoulders. “Let me see.”
“I don’t see what else it could mean. No, I’m, just being stupid. There must be another sensible reason. Tara was the very last person - the very last - who would ever do anything....look, read it.”
“Dear Tara, What the heck is wrong with you? You didn’t answer my last letter. I know you said not to write but we need more money. Things are so expensive. You surely don’t want us coming to Sunnydale to ask for it in front of all your new friends, but if I don’t get some more dollars soon, Becca’s getting on the bus and you can tell her why the money’s stopped. And it’s signed, Patsy. Who the hell are Becca and Patsy? ”
Buffy looked at the envelope. “This came today. I suppose Tara never got a chance to answer the first letter before she....before Warren....”
Spike tightened his arm round her slim shoulders. “Obviously. It sounds like blackmail but god only knows for what. Do you think Red knows?”
“Let’s face it, if she’d even had the slightest hint, she’d have gone to L.A. and turned this Patsy and Becca into toads or spiders or ....”
“OK, I get the idea. Hey, at least they’re not that god-awful father and brother who we ran out of Sunnydale when they came to get her. Maybe they’re Wiccan friends from when she was young? Perhaps she did a spell she wasn’t allowed to do. But now Tara’s gone....there’s nothing these wankers can do about their money or their precious secret, whatever it is.”
“But Spike, what if they contact Willow when she gets back from England? She’s so fragile, so volatile. You know what Giles said - she has to live very quietly when she does come home. The last thing we need is for her to be confronted with something out of Tara’s past.”
Spike stared round the quiet, homely little room. He’d liked the girl so much. Looking at her had always calmed him down - she’d reminded him somehow of a home he could hardly remember, of honey spreading on buttered bread. He would have avenged her death himself if Willow hadn’t done it first. And it would have been so much better if he had. No one would have turned a hair about Warren being killed by a vamp. OK, it would have driven him crazy with the pain and all, but he would have suffered that for Tara.
“This is Tara we’re talking about. Can you imagine her doing anything that someone could blackmail her about?”
Buffy shrugged, moving away from the pressure of his arm. “We’ve all got secrets.”
“One she didn’t share with Willow?”
Memories flooded Buffy’s mind. “Sometimes you keep secrets from those you love the most so not to hurt them.”
“You and me being together is a pretty big one. Are you keeping it from everyone to save their feelings?”
Buffy stared at him, then shook her head. There was no way she wanted to get involved in that conversation at the moment. Then she felt a new flood of grief for the girl who’d died so abruptly, so horribly. Tara had known about her and Spike. And she hadn’t condemned or judged, just listened. OK, perhaps there was nothing she herself could do to ease Willow’s pain, but at least these evil people could be sorted.
She slapped the letter against her leg, her face grim. “Hey, let’s just concentrate on this problem. We’ve got the address. Can we drive to L.A. tonight? Find Patsy and Becca - and, I don’t know - tell them Tara’s dead and whatever hole they’ve crawled out of, they can just crawl back.”
Spike vamped out and back again. “They’ll be lucky to even be able to crawl, pet!”
And as angry as Buffy felt, she had a small twinge of sympathy for the unknown Patsy and Becca.