Everyone has Secrets by Lilachigh
Chapter Two: The Decision
It was the following night when Spike finally swung the car he’d “borrowed” down a narrow side road and parked outside a small house, set back at the end of a muddy path. The porch steps looked well-worn and rickety and there was an air of neglect everywhere.
“Well, blackmail obviously doesn’t pay that well. I was expecting something a little more upmarket,” Spike commented.
“There’s a light on. Let’s go.”
“Wait up a second, pet. I’m all for the steaming right ahead and rushing in all fists blazing, as you very well know, but these aren’t vamps. I can’t sense any sort of demon presence, either.”
“Oh, just your normal, average crooks. How the heck did Tara get involved with them?”
“So, go knock on the door and I’ll sort of lurk in the background.”
Buffy found herself smiling for the first time in hours. Spike was so not capable of lurking in the background in any situation where a fight might occur. Her thoughts flashed back to the night before, when she’d gone back with him to his crypt and tried to forget about the letter, Tara and Willow trying to destroy the world in a frantic session of sex that had left them both exhausted but oddly calm. Her body still tingled, remembering what he’d made her feel and do. Well, perhaps ‘made’ wasn’t strictly true, if she was honest. She’d done a lot of the ‘making’ herself to him. And tonight she’d booked them into a motel because....well, because, of course, she didn’t want him driving all that way twice in a short time....and not because there would be a bed and anonymity and the time to indulge in whatever they wanted.
Pushing aside the memory that she was wearing no underwear - she really couldn’t afford to because Spike could get quite violent with the scraps that got in his way - she trod carefully up the porch steps and knocked on the door.
“Yes, can I help you?”
To Buffy’s surprise, a small, plump, very elderly lady was asking the question.
“Oh no, my dear, Patsy’s at work. I’m looking after Becca.”
“Becca’s a child?” Buffy felt Spike close behind her. So much for lurking!
The old lady looked surprised. “Yes, of course. Becca is nearly five.”
“And Patsy is her mom?” Buffy knew she was floundering, but this situation just got weirder by the second. What had Tara to do with a five year old....surely she couldn’t be....”
“No. Patsy is... Look, Miss..”
“Summers - Buffy Summers.”
“What do you want with Pat and Becca?”
“Can we come in? It’s a long story.”
“We’re quite harmless. Even my friend Spike here. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Watch it, Goldilocks,” came a murmur behind her. “Still Big Bad, you know, even if I am bloody well chipped.”
“OK, come in, the both of you. I’ll make coffee.”
The family room was far from clean. There was obviously a cat somewhere because the chairs were covered in hair. A doll with a broken arm lay on the floor and a discarded colouring book. Mrs Goddard arrived back with coffee on a tray and gazed severely at Buffy over her spectacles.
“Now - what’s your interest in - oh! Are you from Miss Tara? Have you brought Patsy the money? She’ll be so pleased.”
“You know Tara Maclay?”
“Why sure, honey. Of course I do. My house is just down the street. I met her the day she brought Becca here to live with Patsy.”
Buffy felt a cold shiver run across her body. “So Tara is, was, Becca’s mom?”
“No, of course not. And why do you say ‘was’? You surely don’t mean...oh no, not that sweet girl! Was it an accident? Oh my, whatever will Patsy do now.”
“It was a sort of accident. We were close friends of Tara, but we knew nothing about Becca until we found Patsy’s last letter. That’s why we’re here.”
Mrs Goddard dabbed her her eyes. “She didn’t understand why the money had stopped coming. Every month, regular as clockwork, for all these years. And then nothing.”
“But you say Tara wasn’t Becca’s mom?”
“No dear, she was her aunt.”
Just then the front door banged opened and a tall girl with a mass of platinum curls, wearing high-heeled scarlet shoes, shorts and a tank top that left very little to the imagination came in. Buffy felt Spike stir beside her and glared at him, ignoring the innocent gaze he returned.
“I heard outside. I’m Patsy. I’m sorry about Tara, but what the heck do I do now about the kid?”
Mrs Goddard had gone by the time Patsy had poured herself a large glass of red wine and sat in the chair opposite Spike, her feet on the coffee table, giving him a full view of practically everything she had on offer. She lit a cigarette and fluttered her eyelashes at Spike.
“Becca’s mom is my step-sister, Jan. She was Tara’s best friend at school, right from when they were little kids. They got into all that Wiccan rubbish together. Thick as thieves. Then, when they were seventeen, Jan got pregnant by Donny, Tara’s brother.”
“A guy we’ve met,” Spike put in, rubbing his knuckles.
“Oh yeah, so you know he’s a real prince! Him and their father treated Tara like a servant after their mom died. And I’m certain Donny thought Jan was going to be another slave in the household. Anyways, Jan had the baby and thought Donny was going to marry her. But hey, she was never good enough for the Maclays! Then...I don’t know exactly what happened, but one night Tara and Jan arrived here with Becca - she must have been about one then. Jan said she had to leave California, that Donny would kill her if she stayed, but she couldn’t take Becca with her and she certainly couldn’t leave the baby with him and would I look after her.”
“And Tara paid you to do just that,” Buffy said flatly.
Patsy looked affronted. “Hey, I had a good career I gave up for little miss princess. I’m a dancer. I was going places. My big break was just around the corner. So hey, what if I was paid. I’ve done it all these years, but there’s no way I can do it if the money has stopped. Becca will just have to go back to her father. Donny might have grown up a bit since then.”
“Did he never come looking for them?”
Patsy shook her head. “Even if he remembered me, I’d moved around a lot before I came to L.A. Only Jan knew where I lived. He probably thinks Becca is still with her mom.”
“Won’t you miss her?” Spike’s voice was close to a growl and Buffy automatically reached for his hand and held it to stop him standing up. “She’s been with you for four years.”
Patsy shrugged and stubbed out her cigarette. “I’m not into kids. I only did it because Jan and Tara asked me to. I even put up with the kitten Tara brought for her last year. I’ll be glad to get that thing out of the house. It’s demented.”
She’s spent most of the cash on herself, Buffy thought, gazing round at the shabby room, thin rugs hardly covering the bare boards. The only expensive item was a huge TV in the corner and although she didn’t like them, Buffy knew the rings, ear-rings and red stiletto shoes had cost Paula a fortune. A fortune that Tara had provided, probably. No wonder she had had no money to contribute when she and Willow had been living in Ravello, looking after Dawn. Buffy could only imagine how hard that had been for Tara and wondered why on earth Willow hadn’t asked a few more questions of her lover. But perhaps she had and Tara had lied. Secrets, well kept, as Buffy knew only too well, could cause a lot of trouble if they came to light.
“So Tara’s dead and there’s no money. Did she leave a Will? Perhaps she left Becca something in that.”
Buffy shook her head. “We never found a Will. She was my age. She didn’t expect to die.”
‘Not like me,’ she added silently, remembering that her Will had been written the week after her own mom had passed away. ‘I’m always surprised to be alive.’
“That’s that then. I’ll pack Becca’s things and contact the Maclays in the morning. Unless...” she looked at them, a question on her hard face.
“I’ve no money,” Buffy said, standing up and heading for the door. “I have a little sister to support.”
Spike didn’t speak on the drive back to the motel. Buffy could sense the anger building inside him and wasn’t surprised when he tore off his duster and flung it across the room the second he stepped over the threshold.
“Of all the wastes of space - I’ve met demons with more humanity than that woman. Darla had more humanity than....” He stopped, glanced at Buffy’s raised eyebrows and shrugged. “OK, perhaps not. But it would have been worth the chip firing in my bonce just to bite her!” He threw himself onto the bed and began dragging off his boots.
Buffy sat down next to him, for once not thinking Spike - bed - oh good. “Why didn’t Tara tell us? Tell Willow at least. She had a niece all these years and kept her hidden away. Why?”
Spike’s T-shirt followed his duster in a vicious throw across the room. “You know what the old saying is, pet. Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. I imagine she was terrified that Donny or her father would discover where she’d hidden Becca. They didn’t strike me as the type of people who would take kindly to one of their possessions being stolen away, and I reckon that’s exactly how they would have thought about the kid.”
“I wonder what they did to make her run in the first place? And where’s this girl Jan? Isn’t she interested in her own child? Jeez, Spike, Dawn’s only my sister but I still worry about her and she’s almost grown up now.”
Spike reached up and pulled her down to lie on top of him, his hands working up under her top to run across her bare flesh. “Nothing we can do about it tonight, Slayer. You, me, bed - no one to interrupt us. God, I’m going to make you scream.” He tugged her T-shirt over her head and growled, his fingers running over her skin, making her gasp.
“I need to talk to Willow,” she began and then her reason went awry as his hands tugged her jeans down and began to send her on that journey to insanity that he did so well.
It was late the next afternoon when they drove back to the little house, a gloomy day with rain in the air. Buffy felt wonderful, tired and aching in all sorts of weird places, but still wonderful. She’d had no sleep. Every time she thought they were finished and she was sinking into oblivion, Spike would touch her, insisting on her giving everything to him one more time. And then he’d fallen asleep and she’d delighted in kissing him somewhere he’d least expected, laughing at the look on his face as he awoke.
“So, Slayer, we’re going to offer to pay for the kid’s keep, like Tara did. Not sure how we’re going to manage that, but reckon you’re right.”
“Everyone will help. Xander, Anya, Giles and of course Willow when she comes home. They all loved Tara. I mean how much can Paula possibly want to keep one little girl fed and clothed. Whatever it takes, Tara wanted her away from the Maclays and that’s what we’re going to do. Becca’s all we have left of her now. I just hope Patsy will let us meet and talk to the kid.”
Spike braked hard. “Well, I don’t think you’re going to have any problem with that.”
Buffy followed his gaze. On the top step of the porch sat a little girl with long, tangled amber hair wearing a shabby red raincoat. There was a small suitcase by her feet and clasped in her arms a large, irritated cat.