Tough Love
Rated TEEN

Blair tried not to growl. Victims needed support and sympathy. Oh man, that was why this disgusting little backwoods of a police department had requested training, or why the state had requested it for them, anyway. Blair glanced out of the side of his eye, and Jim looked pretty close to cracking a molar.

"I... I don't know why she would do this," the woman said. Blair wasn't sure why either.

"You know she didn't mean it. We should go talk to her," the woman's friend offered. Blair understood that her friend wanted to help, but this was not so helpful.

"I know that you want to make everyone happy," Blair tried to placate both their victim and her friend. From the little huff behind him, Blair was guessing that Jim just wanted to arrest someone.

"Hey, that's me. I'm all about the happy," the victim's friend piped up. "And I totally understand that the whole mag... ma... medicinal forgetfulness and messing with the memory... yeah not good." He stopped, and Blair could suddenly see the young man's confusion and hurt. Clearly he cared about the victim and their potential rapist. Damn. These cases were just never easy.

"She's coming back this way," Jim said. Someone else might have called his tone closer to a snarl, but Blair could tell that Jim was going out of his way to play nice and give the Sunnydale police an example of good policing. God knows, they needed it. "I need to go talk to her."

Blair watched as both their victim and her friend stiffened in panic.

"Talk? Talk bad. Let's not be talking to the Willow right now," the friend hurried to say. Blair cringed at the evidence that Willow Rosenberg had really torn more than one relationship apart.

"I thought you said you wanted to go talk to her," Jim pointed out. He crossed his arms and gave the young man that look that meant Jim had just moved him from the "witness/potential victim" category to the "potential co-conspirator" category. Glancing down, Blair checked this kid's name on his notepad. Xander Harris. Okay, if Xander Harris knew what was good for him, he'd back down.

"Hey, I’m totally good with us talking to her. And by us, I mean me and Tara because I just really don't think you should be talking to her. Ever. Like not even when pigs go flying because flying pigs is always possible, but you talking to Willow would be badness." Xander actually got up and moved like he was going to try and block Jim. Oddly, the Sunnydale officer looked ready to run for the hills, but Blair couldn't see anything particularly dangerous about any of these people.

Taking a deep breath, Blair left Xander and their potential lesbian rapist to Jim while he focused on the victim.

"Tara, this is not your fault. You said that this fight started because you recovered a memory?" Blair scooted a little closer to her on the bench. Personally, he'd rather counsel her somewhere more private, but she had outright refused to go anywhere. But after overhearing just part of the conversation between Xander and Tara, Blair understood that Tara needed to control her own environment for a while. Of course, that didn't mean that he was going to just abandon a rape victim, and the Sunnydale officer who had made that suggestion was so going to die the second Jim got him into a back room at the station.

"I...." Tara stopped.

"How do you feel?" Blair asked. Jim strong-armed Xander to the side and they had their own more-aggressive version of a supportive talk. Xander was looking suitably intimidated, so Blair wasn't too worried.

"Confused," Tara admitted softly. "And being here, in Sunnydale... it's just making things more confusing."

Blair nodded. This town sort of inspired that. Jim's senses had been all over the map, and Blair was so not even going to think about his morning meditation. "I'm there with you," he sympathized. "Do you have any family we could call?"

Tara looked downright panicked as she vehemently shook her head no.

"Okay. Hey, I’m not really much for family, either. Jim is my friend, and he is about the closest thing I have to family. Is there a friend we can call?" Blair would prefer a friend who wasn't torn between Tara and Willow the way Xander seemed to be.

Tara chewed her lip. Slowly, she shook her head.

Blair wanted to find Willow and hit her really, really hard, and he wasn't normally the hitting kind. However, to hurt someone this vulnerable really did take a special kind of shittiness.

"It wasn't her fault. I knew she was getting in too deep. I should have stopped her." Tara sounded so genuinely distressed, and Blair just hated this Willow even more.

"Hey, that is not your fault. Man, we all have to make our own choices. She chose to make you forget something really, really bad, didn't she?"

For a second, Tara just sat there in the morning sun, her face streaked with dried tears and her fingers twisting into painful shapes. Eventually, she nodded. Yeah, that's pretty much what Blair had gotten out of the bit he'd heard before he and Jim had identified themselves as police officers responding to a report of a fight. Weird. The local cops hadn't even planned to roll on the call.

"It sounds like she has some problems," Blair offered. Tara looked almost relieved when she nodded.

"But hey, if you make excuses for her, she's never going to get help for her problems, is she?" Clearly, Blair's words startled her into reacting.

"She didn't mean it. I love her," Tara hurried to say, and more tears slipped free.

"Hey, I hear you. I totally hear you." Blair reached out and put his hand right next to Tara, offering a touch, but leaving it up to her if she wanted to accept that offer. "I would never tell you to stop loving her." Nope, Blair would never say it; he'd just think it. "I'm just saying that if you love her, maybe you should let her face the consequences of her own choices."

Tara sniffed back more tears. "She wasn't always like this."

"I hear you."

"She can do wonderful things. I... We were so happy."

"Hey," Blair gave Tara a half-smile, "maybe you can be again. I mean, if she has to face this and if she gets control of her issues, maybe you two can get back on track. But do you want to keep having your relationship the way it is right now? Are you happy living this life?" Blair held his breath. Sometimes abuse victims listened, and sometimes they didn't. When they didn't, prosecutions and interventions were real bitches.

"I want to get back on track," Tara said softly.

"Man, then show her the way. If you don't change, she won't change. Talk to me, and we can find you somewhere nice to stay. Trust me." Blair realized that he hadn't checked on the local domestic abuse shelters, but if all else failed, she could stay in their second hotel room. Jim had been so paranoid lately that Blair couldn't even shower without Jim standing next to the toilet with his 'don't ask me because I won't tell you, but I'm going to act like an overprotective dick' look.

"She'll find me. You shouldn't get in the middle." Tara had clearly made up her mind, and she stood up, but Blair was not ready to admit defeat yet.

"Hey, Jim is really scary when people go making threats around him, so trust me, if she comes around, she is not getting through Jim." Despite Blair's words, Tara didn't look convinced. It made Blair wonder if this Willow was some Russian wrestler or something. Usually, the promise of Jim's protection made people feel safe, so this must be one seriously bad-ass lesbian.

"He couldn't stop her." Tara whispered the words, but it was pretty clear that she believed them.

"Maybe not," Blair said. He was going to bet on Jim every time, but arguing with a potential rape victim didn't score high on the sensitivity scale. "But if you tell her that you won't let her hurt you, and Jim tells her, and I tell her... if we all tell her she has to stop, she can't get through all of us."

Blair waited as Tara really studied him. It was weird, but even though they'd been out here for almost an hour, struggling to put together some sort of picture about whatever had happened between Willow and Tara, this was the first time Blair felt like Tara had really looked at him. She chewed her lip and glanced over at the uniformed officer who seemed to be trying to be one with a potted palm tree. Blair had seen bad cops in his day, but the Sunnydale police were just useless. Even he was admitting defeat on this training mission from hell. The officer wouldn't even look at Tara, and she looked back at Blair.

"I won't press charges."

Jim was so going to kill him for this. "You don't have to," Blair promised. Yeah, he'd heard enough to be suspicious about date rape drugs being used to alter memories... which implied rape. And he knew that there was some sort of abuse between these women. However, he didn't have enough to arrest Willow without evidence. Hell, a judge would laugh at him because he barely had enough to even be suspicious. Blair didn't even have to ask their Sunnydale cop for his opinion because he was going to pass it off as a loud conversation on the street. If the cops were this bad, the local judges had to be just as bad. Nope, if she didn't want to press charges, Blair would sacrifice a conviction to get Tara out of the abusive relationship.

"I love her," Tara said softly.

"I don't doubt that at all," Blair agreed. "I just think that loving someone means that you don't let them act like assholes. It's like letting someone go around with toilet paper hanging off their soul. I mean, the kind thing is to tell them they're dragging toilet paper around, right?"

Tara reached out, and Blair held absolutely still as she raised her fingers and let them gently touch his cheek. Something warm slithered down Blair's backbone, like silk sliding over skin.

"Whoa." Blair blinked, and then Jim was right there, his arm resting on Blair's back.

"Hey, Chief." Jim stopped there, but now he was giving Tara his co-conspirator glare. Blair planted his elbow in Jim's stomach.

"Hey, how about we all go back to Tara's place and get a few things?" Blair suggested brightly. He turned to look at the uniformed cop. The man had turned a pale shade of green at the suggestion. This was such a weird town.

"Works for me, Chief. Tara, do you want to wait at our hotel?" Jim asked. Blair shouldn't be surprised Jim had already decided to not trust Sunnydale social services. Maybe they could drive her to LA before they flew out of town.

Tara shook her head. "I think that the three of us will be okay." She smiled shyly at them.

"Yes, we will," Jim said firmly. "And if Willow says anything to make you uncomfortable, you can wait in the car, and I'll handle her," he offered. Blair figured Jim just wanted Tara in the car so that she didn't have a chance to change her mind and switch sides again. But oddly, Tara suddenly looked much more confident.

"No. No, the three of us can face her," she said. Blair nodded. He could live with that. Jim might be all about the convictions, but Blair did this job to save people, and as long as he got Tara out of this crazy town, he was calling this a win. Jim started nudging him toward the car the Sunnydale PD had loaned them, and before Blair could react, he found a small, warm hand slipped into his. Blair curled his fingers around Tara's hand and the three of them moved down the street together.

It was only once Jim pulled into the traffic with all three of them sitting in the front that Blair realized they'd abandoned the Sunnydale officer on the street. Oh well. Served the jerk right.


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