Everyone has Secrets
Chapter Five: Finding Jan
Buffy glared at her sister, half in anger, half concern, as Spike examined the scratches on Dawn’s arm. She couldn’t believe what she’d just been told. Jeez, she’d only left the house for a couple of hours - and pushed the guilt down deep that reminded her of the hour she’d spent with Spike on top of one of the tombstones in the graveyard. An hour during which trouble had landed itself at her door once again.
“Don’t panic, they’re not deep, Slayer. Cat’s claws just grazed the skin. Hardly any blood at all.” He shut his eyes for an instant because even the little smear left on Dawn’s skin was enough to send his hunger racing.
“At least you didn’t open the door!” Buffy had arrived home to find Dawn nursing her arm and the big black cat sitting innocently on top of the TV, washing a paw. Xander and Anya were eating pizza. Dawn had apparently phoned them which was probably the most sensible thing she’d done that evening. They’d treated her arm - Buffy knew that her mom’s medicine cabinet held everything they would ever need. She’d had to deal with Buffy’s cuts and bruises for years. For a long second she found herself desperately wishing once again that Joyce was still alive, that there was someone else to turn to, ask for help, rely on.
Dawn pulled a face. “I might have, because hey, Donny is Becca’s dad, but the cat from hell just sat there in front of it and wouldn’t let me near.”
Buffy sighed and glanced at Spike. “It looks like a real cat. Is it? Not a demon cat?”
Spike shook his head. “No, pet. I’d have sensed that ages ago.”
“Me too,” Anya said brightly. “Not a demon cat. Just - you know, black and dangerous.”
“And Donny Maclay just went?”
Dawn nodded and yawned. “I’ve told you and told you! He said his daughter was in great danger and that he’d come for her.”
“And like I said before, there was no one around when we got here,” Xander added. “No car or van. Nothing. He’s gone for now.”
Buffy sighed. “OK, we’ll deal with this. Dawn, go to bed. And don’t wake Becca.”
“Who apparently slept through the whole incident,” Spike said.
“I checked,” Xander said. “She’s a cute kid, even though I still think you should have left her where she was. We haven’t got any money to bail you out of gaol, Buffy, when you get arrested for kidnapping! Anyway, how did Donny know she was here?”
“I suppose he asked that old lady who lived next door to Becca and she mentioned me and Spike coming to call. Any description of us would have reminded him.”
“I wonder if the Maclays have kept an eye on Tara all these years,” Spike said. “We chased them off easy enough, but they seemed like the stubborn sort to me.”
Buffy shrugged. “They were invited to her funeral, of course. Giles went in person to tell them before the police could. He thought that was the right thing to do. They said they were very, very sorry but they didn’t come.”
“There was a wreath,” Anya added, remembering. “Small, sort of poor looking. I noticed. Ours was very big and very expensive. We liked Tara.”
“We all liked Tara,” Buffy sighed. “And Willow loved her. That’s what makes this little girl so important. We can’t just hand her back to her awful father when we don’t know why Tara was so determined to get her away from him in the first place.”
“Not just Tara,” Xander said swiftly. “You told us that her mom, Jan, was with Tara when they took the kid to Patsy’s. That’s who we should be looking for. She should be the one to decide where Becca lives. For all we know, she might be horrified to find out you’ve taken her.”
Buffy frowned. For once Xander was making a lot of sense. Why hadn’t she and Spike started to hunt for the elusive Jan? Why the heck had they even begun to imagine that they were the right people to take charge of such a little girl, even for a short time?
When Xander and Anya finally left, with promises to help if and when needed, Buffy went upstairs and tiptoed into Becca’s room. The child was sprawled across the bed, the patchwork quilt thrown aside. Buffy pulled it up over her shoulders and stood, gazing down at the innocent face.
A cold hand laid gently on her shoulder. “I think I can see something of Tara in her,” Spike whispered. “But perhaps I’m just imagining it.”
Buffy rubbed her cheek against his fingers. “No, you’re right. There’s a family resemblance, especially with her eyes shut like this. Willow will love her when she sees her.”
Buffy backed away from the bed, startled, and led him out, back into their own room. “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t she like Becca?”
Spike flung himself on the bed, linking his hands behind his head. “Oh Slayer, I can think of a lot of reasons - some good, some not so good. Tara lied to her - ”
“Not an actual lie. She just didn’t tell her.”
“That she had a niece whom she was hiding from her father and brother and paying for the privilege into the bargain. Hey, pet, if you hid anything like that for me, I wouldn’t be too happy!”
“But I’m sure there’s all sorts of things about your life that I don’t know about - and don’t want to know,” she added hurriedly as his eyes gleamed up at her.
“That’s totally different, Buffy. That’s all in the very long ago past and you’re welcome to ask if you really want to know. But from the moment we met at the Bronze - well, I don’t think there’s too much about each other we don’t know.”
“OK, that was bad of Tara and yes, OK, I can see that Willow might be upset about that. But what else?”
Spike sighed. He loved the Slayer to the end of infinity and back, but sometimes she was incredibly naive about passion. “Willow adored Tara. Willow tried to end the world because of how much she loved her! That’s a lot of passion swirling around inside one very powerful witch. But the passion burnt itself out. The world didn’t end. Willow recovered her senses and is going forward into a new life. Old passion is a difficult enough quality to live with, but old dead passion - nasty stuff. And to have a reminder in front of you every day - to see Becca, who looks a lot like Tara - I think Willow will find it bloody hard to cope.”
“So what do we do?”
Spike reached up and pulled her down next to him. “First of all we make love, because hey, several hours since we did and a bloke gets hungry for goodies. Then, and it pains me to say it, we take Xander’s advice and go hunting for Becca’s mother.”
Buffy began to ask another question, then his lips and hands turned her brain to mush and she forgot that she wanted to know what the cat had to do with the problem. And she and Spike were far too involved to notice a dark shape that padded along the tree branch outside their window, gazing in at their entwined bodies with gleaming green eyes, then leaping in silently at Becca’s window to take up silent guard at the end of her bed.
The next day brought dark clouds and wind. Spike reckoned it was dull enough to make a dash for the car and then to head into Tara’s apartment block with Buffy. Dawn had reluctantly agreed to stay at home to look after Becca, helped by the ten dollars Spike had slipped her when Buffy wasn’t looking. She’d promised faithfully not to open any door or window unless it was for Xander or Anya - and Buffy was even a little unhappy about Anya.
Tara’s room was just as they had left it. “We were so surprised by the letter that we stopped searching,” Buffy said, angry with herself. “Check everything for some mention of Jan Maclay - phone number, address, e mail, anything. I can’t believe that Tara didn’t contact her at some time during the past three years to tell her how Becca was.”
Spike was already turning out the desk drawers ontop of the bed and rifling through the contents. “Nothing here, pet. No address book, no diary. Nothing.”
Buffy, remembering some of Dawn’s little habits, pulled back the mattress and searched underneath, but came up empty handed. The tiny bathroom held no secrets and the two old purses on a shelf just smelt faintly of vanilla and carnation.
She slumped back on the bed and stared round the dusty little room, trying to put herself into Tara’s shoes.
“So - I want to hide something - something small, I reckon. A piece of paper, maybe a letter. But nothing big.”
“Perhaps there never was anything, pet. Perhaps Tara just remembered where Jan was living.”
Buffy shook her head. “People move around, change their phone numbers all the time. She would have made a note, I know she would.”
Spike frowned and ran his fingers through his hair, turning it into a mass of white gold curls. “You know, Slayer, when you think about it, there was no need for her to hide it, whatever it was! No one else came here. She lived with Willow and then at Ravello. And I reckon the Maclays have always known where Becca was. That explains Donny coming to Sunnydale to search for her. It didn’t take them long to find out she wasn’t in L.A. any more. They probably aren’t the slightest bit interested in Jan, just Becca.”
“But why would they leave her at Patsy’s if they knew where she was?”
“Well, for a start, they weren’t having to pay for her upkeep or for someone to look after her during the day while she was a baby. They were laughing all the way if Tara was footing the bill for them. But now, for some reason, they want the kid. And I’m bloody well sure it isn’t to play happy families!”
Buffy bit her lip. It made sense. “So, I’m Tara - “ She got up. “I come home one day and want to speak to Jan.” She glanced round and realised the house phone was on the kitchen wall. “I go into the kitchen...pick up the phone....” She gazed round. There was an out of date calendar on the wall next to the phone and on the hook next to it, a pad for shopping lists, with a sad little entry of “milk, bagels, thyme” still written on the first sheet. Buffy picked it up, flicked through the empty pages, then turned it over, looked across at Spike and grinned.
The car barrelled down the road, out past the Welcome to Sunnydale sign, deep into the empty countryside. “There should be a track somewhere on the right,” Buffy said, squinting in the darkened interior to see the map clearly. “Jan should be living somewhere at the end of the track.”
“How on earth could Tara have come all this way without a poxy car of her own,” Spike growled.
“I expect there’s a bus, say twice a day. And cabs. Have you ever even been on a bus?”
“Sweetheart, there is no form of transport in the world I haven’t experienced. Hey, I was even on submarine once upon a time. I was....” He stopped, realising that perhaps that part of his life wouldn’t show him at his most heroic to the woman he loved.
“I still think we should have gone home and collected Becca. Her mom must be desperate to know what’s happened to her. Hey, she might not even know that she’s in Sunnydale.”
“The kid’s safer at home. I can’t say I’d ever trust Harris to win in a fight, but him and demon girl make a good combination in the saving house and home category.”
Buffy peered out of the window as they jolted along a track, brushing aside weeds that caught and snagged at the underside of the car. “No one’s been along here for months.”
“Getting darker, too. Going to rain, pet. And rain hard.”
Just then they rounded a corner and Spike braked sharply to stop running into a pair of tall metal gates, set in a high stone wall. The big padlock across the gates made it very plain that visitors were not welcome.
Buffy got out and tugged at the chain. The gates were old but the chain and lock were very new. Just then lightning cracked across a purple sky and great fat drops of rain thudded down into the dust. Within seconds the track had turned to a sea of mud and every stitch of clothing she wore was soaked.
Swearing viciously, Spike grabbed her hand and pulled her into the shelter of the wall. “The track’s going to be a stream in minutes,” he shouted above the rolling claps of thunder. “The car could be washed away. We need to get under shelter.”
“Can’t go into the trees. Lightning all around.”
“OK, then up and over, pet. Pretend you’re Becca’s cat.”
“What? Oh, I see.”
Spike bent, grasped her foot and with a smooth burst of power, sent her flying up and up towards the top of the wall. She grasped the stones and pulled herself across, reached down and grabbed his hand as he leapt upwards. But she hadn’t allowed for the wind that now reached them once they were out of the shelter of the wall and with a yell they both fell crashing to the ground below.