Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (tv)
Pairing: Ethan and Tara
Summary/Teaser: "surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places"
(Which is really more about the plotbunnies I was getting while I was writing this than about this particular fic, but isn't it a great tagline?)
Warnings: --
Spoilers: pre-series
Notes: Written for nothingbutfic for phaelstya’s Ethan ficathon. The request: It deals with Tara/her mother and her family's attitude to magic, no Tara/Ethan sex.
Word Count: 846

Standard Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and co. own the characters, I'm just playing with them. I do, however, own this story, so don't steal it. Archive it anywhere; just ask first.

Feedback is always appreciated. Make me blush with praise or rip apart the story with criticism, or both.

Title stolen from Ani DiFranco's song "anticipate"

Hold My Cards Up Close to My Chest
by Elizabeth Scripturient

Tara had just turned 16. Her mother had promised to teach her how to do a very special spell that night, after the rest of the family had gone to bed. Sixteen was an important age, an age of initiation, and tonight was a full moon. The full moon was always a time of power and harmony.

She had never been in this shop by herself before. She rarely did any shopping on her own, enjoying her mother's company and not trusted by the rest of her family. But her mother didn't think it appropriate for the tools of her initiation into adulthood and independence to be procured by a parent. It was only appropriate that she should get them herself.

She had found almost everything on her list, when a hand on her shoulder startled her and caused her to nearly drop her packages.

"Oh, my apologies. I didn't mean to startle you. That's quite a bundle of goods you've got there."

Tara nodded, nervously.

"Planning on doing a spell tonight?"

"Um, yeah." Tara was beginning to feel very uncomfortable.

"Dangerous time to be doing a spell. Full moon tonight."

"M-my mother always told me the full moon was a time of p-power and harmony."

"Harmony?" Ethan laughed. "Haven't you ever heard of words like lunatic? The moon is not a harmonizing influence.

And power? The moon is merely reflecting the light of the sun -- something the ancients never knew. It does control the motion of the tides, but the ancients didn't know that either. The moon has power because we think it does. Spells done in the light of a full moon have more potency because the spellcasters believe the moon gives the spell more power. Really it's their belief that gives it power."

"But the spells must have some power of their own. Nothing happens just because we wish it."

Ethan laughed again, and Tara felt nervous again. "You've obviously never wished for anything hard enough before."

Tara thought about how much -- how frequently and how strongly -- she had wished that she and her mother didn't have to hide their magic from the rest of the family.

"But you can't just wish for things. There's power you have to tap into."

"And what do you think wishing is but tapping into the power of the universe?"

Tara sighed. There was no way she could win an argument with this man.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I've kept you standing here talking, holding all those packages. Why don’t you pay for them and then we can go somewhere, get some coffee."

Tara didn't particularly want to go anywhere with this man, but she didn't know how to say so.

"I, um, still have to find some stuff."

"Oh, what do you need?"

Tara groaned silently. There was no way she could get rid of this man, huh? She reviewed the protection spells her mother had taught her and steeled herself.

"Dried lily root, ground hazel, and oak juice."

"Oh, I know right where those are."

Resignedly, Tara followed him through the store.

He pointed to items on shelves and she added them to her pile. He stood beside her as she paid for them, and followed her out the door. Once out on the street, he began directing her to a diner. She knew she should politely but firmly inform that she needed to be going and then just turn around and walk away. Something drew her to him, though, and she followed him.

The building they arrived was rather too dark for comfort, but she wasn't about to turn back now, so she followed him inside.

Ethan slid into a booth, and Tara slumped in across from him, her canvas bag full of supplies tight on her lap.

Ethan flagged down a waitress and insisted, complete with grand gestures, upon paying for whatever Tara ordered.

After the first shot of espresso, Ethan had moved on to martinis, which he stirred lazily.

Tara was turning her mug around and around in her palms, trying to inhale the soothing scent of the green tea to center herself.

"So what's a nice girl like you doing in a dirty old magic shop?" Ethan reached over to stroke her cheek, and she shrank back, drawing the mug in close to her chest.

She sipped the tea slowly. "Why did you bring me here?" Her mother had been teaching her how to read people, but she didn't want to look at this man's face, to look into his eyes. She appeared deeply interested in the marbling of the table.

"Why did you come?"

"Do you think I owe you something because you paid for my drink?"

"Non sequitor. Point is mine."

Tara looked up. "You did not bring me to some seedy diner just to play Questions."

"Well you don't look very interested in other games."

Tara started to get up.

"Tell me about what you were getting all these supplies for."

Tara stood, body and voice firm. "I'm leaving now."

Ethan smiled up at her. "I'll be seeing you."

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