Mercenary Hearts 2-3

Part 2

University Library

Tara sat herself in a nice, quiet corner of the University library and did what she did best – quietly observing the group she’d become a part of since meeting Cordelia Chase.

Well, Tara didn’t really see herself as a part of the group. More of someone in the loop, who was willing to help.

There was history between Cordy and the group. The redhead, Willow Rosenberg, who, like her, was a pretty accomplished Witch. Her boyfriend, Oz; who, she was told, became a werewolf once a month. And the petite blonde girl, Buffy Summers, who, she’d earlier found out, was a supernaturally enhanced being going by the ‘Official’ title of Vampire Slayer.

The one girl chosen to rid the world of vampires….and any other monsters she came across. Only there wasn’t just one girl currently. Not that any of them talked about it. Except Cordy. Not much, though, besides her name being Faith. And the pleasure she’d taken at the way the other Slayer had put Buffy’s nose out of joint; hating the fact that “She wasn’t that ‘special’ anymore”, as her friend succinctly put it. Unfortunately, Faith had subsequently left under a very dark cloud.

Then there was Xander Harris- Cordy’s ex ‘Cheating Rat’ boyfriend, as Cordy called him once in conversation. Watching the interaction between the two other girls and Xander had filled in quite a few gaps. It said a lot more to Tara than anything her friend had.

She was pretty certain that his worshipful regard for the Slayer and over-protectiveness of Willow wasn’t something new. Understanding to a large degree why *that* particular relationship had been doomed from the start. In Tara’s opinion, Cordy deserved more than coming third place. Hell, anyone did!

The Head Librarian, Rupert Giles, apparently had two jobs: the one at the University -and the other as apparently being some kind of mentor. Formerly known as a ‘Watcher’, he’d been sent to the High school with the ‘cover’ of Librarian. Thus, was ready for Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale. A weird Title, ‘Watcher’, she’d thought at the time when it was divulged. Mr Giles- or ‘Giles’ as everyone in the group called him, definitely did a lot more than watch.

His credentials were admirable: A vast knowledge of the supernatural. A Training Instructor, Research Guy’. A fatherly figure who gave his support, and a shoulder to cry on.

Meeting Cordy by chance in the halls of University in her second week had been nothing short of a blessing. Being painfully shy, Tara had stuck to her usual avoidance tactics and had attempted to blend in. But being a pretty girl with soft blonde hair and lush curves obviously worked against the ability to do so. She’d filled out quite a lot in the time between High School and the first day of Uni.

A heavy come-on by one of the older students had quickly become unpleasant when she’d awkwardly turned him down. The aggressive vibes pouring off him had her cringing against the wall, inwardly panicking. Until divine intervention (well, right then, it had felt pretty divine) saved her.

A voice cool enough to freeze the air, had cut through the tense atmosphere in the deserted corridor and put the would-be groper in his place quick smart. Tara had watched with sheer relief and quiet admiration as the young woman reduced the 180 lb jock to a quivering wreck.  He’d rapidly disappeared with his tail between his legs. She’d glared after his retreating figure before turning with a warm smile, asking her if she was okay. Recognition of her face came quickly to Tara, realizing that she’d seen her before – in one of her Psyche Classes.

The others had seemed pole-axed when Cordy introduced her to the ‘Scoobies’ several weeks after becoming friends. The blonde – Buffy, had nodded a brief hello, and had quickly taken Cordy to one side. Even from across the room, she- and the others, could hear every word.

It was fortunate for the group that the library had been deserted. News had spread like wildfire through the University halls the last couple of days, that a popular Band had arrived in Sunnydale, and that they were doing a gig at The Bronze that night.

The Scoobies had found out pretty quickly that although relatively new, their friendship and loyalty was already unshakeable. Any friendship seemed unlikely -according to them. They’d wondered how she and Cordelia could possibly be friends. They were so unalike. It was said in a way that only just missed being snide by what looked to be real confusion in their wide eyes.

Tara turned it around by asking, “Why not? Aren’t you her friends?”

The disbelief on their faces had been disconcerting when she’d added that although only knowing Cordy a short time, she’d found her to be kind-hearted – and was also interesting to be around.

Xander Harris’ “Are we suddenly in an alternative Universe?” comment had her zipping her lip, deciding to keep her opinions to herself. Seeing her closed expression, they’d wisely backed off.

Cordy had admitted to being a ‘total bitch’ through High School. One of the reasons why she mostly put up with the Scoobies’ openly low opinion of her.  Although she still had her moments. “Tact is just not saying true stuff. I’ll pass,” she’d added with a grin.

On the first of many times Cordy had invited Tara to her home, they’d spent quite a while chatting about their University Course choices. While the brunette had declared her Major in Theatre (Acting), with a Minor in Psychology, Tara had opted for Psychobiology, which dealt with the biological basis of behavior and mental phenomena.

Cordy admitted that though having a knack for reading people, she’d chosen a Psych module in an attempt to change her ‘feel my pain’ mentality, in a bid to encompass other people’s issues. Her explanation led to Tara confiding about her own struggles – among other things, the crippling shyness that dogged her.

It was at that moment, her friend had suggested she join one of her classes. Cordy had done it herself with Psyche. Audit classes were offered at any level of study within the University. Students did this for a number of reasons, such as general interest, or to broaden their learning either within or in addition to their main discipline area. The only downside was that you didn’t receive an academic credit.

“Mr Barnes is mostly a pain in the ass,” she’d declared with a sniff. “But also brilliant at what he does.” At first, Tara had been uncertain. Standing in front of a Class group sounded pretty daunting. But after reminding her that “Hey, we’re all new to it, and there isn’t a judge-y atmosphere. Just try it the one time.” Cordy suggested, then shrugged, saying, “and if you hate it, you don’t have to go back.”

As it turned out, it hadn’t been too bad; each time after that initial attempt, Tara found that already her tendency to stammer had lessened in degrees.

After much contemplation, Tara also decided to take up Willow on her suggestion to join the Wicca group.  The girl had pestered her for several nights after first suggesting it, and seemed genuinely pleased when she’d agreed.

Cordy had asked if it was really what she wanted.  Knowing Tara wasn’t one to deal with a chatterbox like Willow Rosenberg -whose ability to talk anyone under a table was a given, she’d offered to step in. Tara declined, assuring that she definitely wanted to go, purely out of interest in the group. She also pointed out that the rehearsal class had helped her ‘deal’ a little better in group situations.

It also gave Tara a feeling of some independence. As well as not wanting Cordy ever to maybe think of her as a crusty old barnacle stuck on a ship’s hull. A small grin touched her pretty mouth as she imagined the response to that thought. What with Cordy having Self-defense classes, as well as the weapons training she’d managed to guilt Mister Giles into agreeing to, several months before, it made sense to have her own interests.

Comfortable enough with solitude, Tara had no issues with spending her spare time just sitting quietly on the edges of social gatherings. Plus, she saw Cordy more than she used to- since taking up the new class. Tara was actually grateful for the well-established cliquishness the others had:  being too involved with their dramas and interests to think of pulling her in. That left plenty of time to observe them at her leisure.


After a meeting with the Wicca group, and nothing much else to do, what with Cordelia being out with her parents and her assignments done and dusted, Tara had agreed to accompany Willow to the Library.  She’d related that Buffy and Xander had gone out for eats, but Oz was meeting her at the library. They exchanged a light kiss before settling at the main library table, not noticing as she took her usual spot at a smaller table on the sidelines.

Her thoughts of timetables and classes for the next day were wrenched to the present when the library doors crashed open. All eyes turned and widened as the rumpled state of the pair who stumbled in.

“Houston, we have a problem,” Buffy blew at a loose tendril of hair, her face a little bruised, and expression highly pissed.

“#oh no! Have they run out of Rocky Road at the Ice cream Parlor?” Willow’s weakly witty remark broke the stunned silence.

Part 3

University Library.

 “From your description, I have a vague idea of the kind of demons you faced,” Giles spoke as he rose from his seat at one of the large study tables scattered around the vaulted library. “But I’ll need to double-check. Hold on a moment,” he told them absently and headed off towards his office.

Buffy looked around with a slight frown on her face, until her eyes landed on Tara, who was still tucked away at a smaller, nearby table. “Where’s Cordelia tonight?” she asked after a perfunctory smile and nod.

“She-she’s out with her parents – for dinner,” Tara replied, responding with a small smile of her own, which dried up instantly on seeing the resulting scowl on the blonde’s face.

While Tara was wondering why Buffy would ask in the middle of a mini crisis, the scowl darkened. “Damn; we could really do with her here tonight,” understanding dawned and Tara had to stop herself from rolling her eyes, Cordelia fashion. Giles, appeared carrying an old, tattered tome, and a newspaper

“Unfortunately, I was incorrect. The one I considered has a small curved horn atop his head”.  Disappointment colored his tone. “I think it best that I remain here and research, while you and the others go out on patrol.” Resuming his seat, he placed the book in front and the newspaper to one side. “If I find anything relevant, I’ll call you – you have your cell, yes?” he asked, his already distracted gaze lifting briefly, in time to see Buffy pull it out of her back pocket and wave it at him. “Good; make sure it’s turned on this time.” Buffy rolled her eyes before nodding.

“-And not smashed to smithereens accidentally,” he added pointedly, again looking up from the pages of cramped text.

“It’s not like I did it on purpose,” Buffy pouted. “Don’t forget, I get thrown around a lot in this gig.”

Giles cocked his head to one side before replying; “If I recall, the last time you happened to sit on it, was after you were fighting over a slice of pizza with Xander.” A flush stained her cheeks, even as the pout melted into a grimace.

“Now back to business.” Giles added after a pause, grabbing the newspaper. “Before you go,” opening it and laying it open on the table, he continued. “I saw an article in here this morning which may have some relevance to the situation…”


“Sorry that we have to love and leave you, darling, but the flight from Sunnydale leaves for LAX in less than two hours. You know how airports are about passengers arriving at the last minute.” Mrs Chase checked her watch even as she threw an apologetic smile towards her daughter in the back.

“No probs, I’m heading straight for a long bath anyway,” Cordy replied as she opened the rear door to climb out of her parent’s Jaguar. Her father reached over to pat her knee.

“Are you sure you can’t come along?” He asked, ignoring his wife’s reminder of the time. “It isn’t too late, sweetheart, I can arrange for a ticket to be held for you at the airport – you could meet us at our hotel tomorrow, or in a day or two?” Cordy shook her head, a warm smile spread her lips, brightening the evening.

“Sorry, Daddy, but I have way too many assignments to do to even get away for a weekend,” she leaned into the car and dropped a grateful peck on his cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Have fun, and don’t forget to bring me back a bottle of vintage wine, okay?” she gave his arm a playful squeeze, then leaned in to kiss the air next to her mother’s rouged cheek.

“We will, but you won’t be able to open it for another few years,” her mother reminded her with a regal lift of an arched brow, missing the sly wink and stifled smile father and daughter exchanged.

A minute later the car pulled off and Cordy couldn’t help but sigh longingly as she watched the tail lights fade and vanish out of sight. With another heartfelt sigh and a pout that would have impressed Buffy Summers, she turned wearily towards the short flight of steps to her front door. She muttered an oath when the tinny strains of “Who let the dogs out” broke the silence.

Was a demon-free night off too much to ask? With an irritated scowl, Cordy reached into her purse. Extracting her cell, she flipped it open. “What’s up?” The scowl deepened. “I’ll just go cha- riiiight.” She closed the phone with a snap and glared at it with venom.

“No time! You’re needed pronto!” her voice rising in an exaggeration of Buffy’s. Shoving the cell in her purse, she dug out her keys, and about turned before stalking towards the garage.

“I knew I should’ve gone to Baruch!”


Cordy eyed the dense trees that lined the side of the highway with misgiving before frowning down at her attire of floaty chiffon skirt and strappy silk top, grateful at least for the incongruous looking tennis shoes she’d found tucked in the recesses of the trunk of her car- as well as her decision to wear silk panties instead of the sheer lace thong that had tempted her eye when she’d got ready for the restaurant earlier.

Damn. “You should have let me at least change into something a little less ‘pet me, I’m available’”, she griped at Buffy, flicking a killing glare towards Xander at his snide remark that available was something she was good at.

“They’re probably gonna try for another victim tonight,” Buffy replied; acidly adding, “If they haven’t already – which is why we didn’t have time for you to go through your store-sized closet,” ignoring the angry arch of the brunette’s brow.

Why did Cordy get the feeling that she’d get the blame if it turned out they had? What a bitch! Catching Tara’s eye, and the slight ‘let it go, it isn’t worth it’ shake of her head, she let out a calming breath; “Any idea where these big n scalies are gonna be?”

Buffy shook her head. “No. But Giles said he’d read in the Tribune that some teens were frightened off from this area yesterday.”

“But this is the hellmouth, Buff; things like that happen all the time,” Xander piped up. Buffy flipped the stake she always seemed to have on demand, making Tara wonder if she also took it in the bath with her.

“You heard what Giles said, Xan. The attackers were massive, ‘badly disfigured’- and it was still light when it happened. Which rules out the usual suspects.” Buffy reminded him. “So I reckon here is a good place to start.” She turned to Cordy; “These demons are after a girl, – and right now, you’re it” she added bluntly.

Cordy grit her teeth. Although things were less confrontational between them since the High school blew up, there still existed a not-so vague edge of bitch.  But she still jumped in to defend her ex.

She personally felt they deserved each other.  Not forgetting the fact that Xander had always put the bottled blonde ahead of her when he was her boyfriend. That was one of the reasons she broke it off with him. That and realizing she wasn’t in love with him. And probably never would be.

“There’s a small clearing just past those trees.” Buffy pointed it out. “You head towards it. We’ll follow behind and watch your back.” She assured the brunette when seeing hesitation.

“What about my front?” Cordy muttered under her breath, turning away from the group and headed for the trees. Wondering, not for the first time, why she agreed to be permanent Bait Girl? “Sounds so *not* like a well-thought-out plan” she whispered nervously to herself as the clearing came into sight. They were too far behind for her liking.

Buffy stride faltered briefly. Those were definitely tinglies. Weird. Normally, she only got them when vamps were in the vicinity. Oh well, two birds with one stake… she thought with a slight shrug…. and then a high-pitched yell broke the semi-silence.

She rushed on ahead; leaving Xander, Willow, Oz and Tara trailing behind. Her attention focused on Cordy as she left the trees behind her. The brunette was struggling with a demon that looked identical to the ones earlier. She absently noted that She was doing pretty well with the staving – skidding suddenly to an abrupt halt.

“Well, crap!”

The others caught up and stopped too. There was more than one. About half a dozen of ‘em, in fact. All seemingly content to watch the spectacle of a human girl attempt to kick a divot into the one who’d grabbed her.

“A little help here!” The yelp shook Buffy out of her shock, and she took a flying leap toward the struggling pair, landing on the demon’s back. The jolt caused the demon to lose his grip on Cordy, who instantly dropped to the grass and rolled to her feet.

The others spread out in a small semicircle.

Oz lifted the crossbow he’d brought along and waited for a clear shot, and as soon as the demon faced him; Buffy still on its back; took aim and fired. Willow winced and ewwed under her breath at the sloopy, cracking sound made as the bolt jammed through its eye socket. The demon dropped like a stone. Buffy landed gracefully next to it, only pausing to give it a hard nudge with her booted foot before throwing Oz a quick grin.

And then all hell broke loose.

The death of the first demon seemed to act as a catalyst. The remaining demons had been just as surprised to see the Slayer and the others as they were, and had frozen in their tracks – until their comrade hit the ground.

Cordy took a step forward, about to make her way over to Tara, who now stood alone.  She was holding on to a crossbow for her, and brandishing a short sword -but looking a little nervous about using it. Then Cordy’s arm was captured in a painful hold. The demon that’d grabbed her swung her round roughly, but she used the impetus to kick high and ram her heel into its gut. She grimaced when all that got her was a slight ooph. “I should’ve kept my kitten heels on.”

Hooking a foot around the back of one of its knees, she yanked hard, and then her mouth opened in a dismayed yelp when, instead of falling backwards, the demon, who still held her upper arm, lurched towards her, bringing them both down.

Pinned between it and the ground, she couldn’t avoid the large scaly palm that pressed down on her mouth and nose. No amount of heaving or kicking moved the great hulking beast. Game over. Just as stars started to appear in her vision, the weight of the hand -and demon abruptly vanished.

Only vaguely aware of a sharp snap sounding a few feet from her, Cordy sucked in much-needed air. The sudden sensation of someone- or thing hovering over her, caused her eyes to flicker open … and she found herself looking into a shadowed, human face… Dark, yet glittering eyes held a touch of leering appreciation as they flicked over her before lifting again to lock with her dilated gaze. The gleam of white teeth flashed for a moment, and she blinked, still a little dazed.

“Nice panties,” a dark as velvet voice commented….

Back / Part 4

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