Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy, Angel, or Leverage.
Set in Season 5 of Buffy; Season 1 of Leverage.
Tara left Willow the moment the Tabula Rasa spell broke. It took her a bit of time to pack her things and sort herself out, but three days later she left Sunnydale. She headed out to LA, where all the Hellmouth rejects run to. She had no interest in looking up any of those other people. They were Willow's friends, if that, and she couldn't be sucked back into her orbit. She would not stay in an abusive relationship, even for love.
She'd been in LA for a month before she saw anyone she recognized. She'd taken a temp job at a rehab facility called Second Act. It was strictly human, so she didn't think her past life would cross over. There had just been some turnover at the facility and there was something vaguely familiar about one of the men that came to visit the next day.
She asked the other secretary, a pretty Australian girl that had been working there for six months, about the man.
"That's Mark Baker, the brother of one of the new patients. He's fit, isn't he?" Emily told her. "He flirted with me when they first signed in, but he's got a pretty black boyfriend that wasn't too happy about it." She sighed. "I swear, all the good men in LA are unavailable. I need to get laid."
Tara wasn't convinced that Mark Baker was the man's real name. There had been plenty of times in Sunnydale where they'd had to lie about their relation to each other to be allowed as visitors. When Tom, Mark's supposed brother, the new doctor, and two other patients from the same therapy group were all gone the next week, Tara was sure it was a false name.
Tara wasn't taking classes in LA, but she did attend lectures when she could. A week after Mark Baker and his friends had left Second Act, she attended a lecture by an Art Verification Expert named Maggie Collins. Tara had ended up speaking to the woman at length after the lecture. Ms. Collins was a smart, friendly woman. Surprisingly, at the end of the conversation Ms. Collins referenced a piece Mrs. Summers had sold the year before. Tara recognized the description and informed the woman of Mrs. Summers' passing.
Ms. Collins had extended an invitation to continue their conversation over lunch the week after.
After lunch had passed in a similar fashion, Ms. Collins had explained that the company she worked for was hosting a banquet the next weekend.
"I have a plus one ticket, but I'm not currently seeing anyone. You seem to have an eye for art, and even if you're not interested in networking, there will be some lovely pieces on display. If you'd like to come, the spot is yours." The woman had offered.
Tara had accepted gratefully.
The party was as opulent as Ms. Collins had suggested. It was catered, with the guests in floor-length gowns and tuxes. The art in the gallery was fascinating, although the guests mostly seemed uninterested. Ms. Collins had mostly left her to her own devices, stopping by only occasionally to introduce her to members of the art community.
Tara appreciated both the gesture and that she wasn't expected to stay close. She had been lucky enough to be able to borrow a dress from Emily, but she didn't really fit into this crowd of rich and important corporate people. Tara was really there for the art itself. She accepted a glass of champagne from a waiter before Ms. Collins ran into her again.
"Ah, Tara, this is Professor Adam Sinclair. He's an art verification expert as well. Adam, this is Tara Maclay. Tara has a fine eye for art and used to work at a friend's gallery."
Professor Sinclair, Tara noted immediately, was Mark Baker. And, more to the point, she was pretty sure he was her second cousin. Still, she smiled at the man and shook his hand.
"Professor Sinclair, it's lovely to meet you. I'd love to hear about your work sometime. Ms. Collins has managed to make it look very glamorous." She waved her hand at the party continuing around them, but kept her eyes on Eliot.
He looked a bit shocked, but soldiered on, since she wasn't blowing his cover. "Yes, of course Ms. Maclay. If you're interested in the life, it's my job as a professor to pass knowledge on. Call me if you have any questions." He handed her a hastily scribbled phone number as Nate's voice came through his ear again.
"Get here now!"
"Ah, if you'd like, I can introduce you to one of my employers." He offered Tara, gesturing to Maggie to come as well.
The resulting chaos of having Ms. Collin's ex-husband there halted any introductions that might have been made. Tara found she didn't need them, really. The ex was the alcoholic patient from Second Act - Tom Baker, she thought - now apparently Nathan Ford. The lovely dark haired doctor that had transferred in, and then out, around the same time was now speaking in an Italian accent and looking mildly horrified. The only man she hadn't seen before was apparently the one hosting the party. As the (fake?) doctor pulled the men's hands apart, Tara took the opportunity to leave.
As she walked towards the entrance, she saw the kleptomaniac come into the party wearing a stunning dress and order a glass of ice.
Tara calls him at six am. She doesn't bother to use a name for him. She knows he's probably not asleep - Eli always hated sleep, and tried to avoid it as much as possible - but she leaves a message when he doesn't answer. It's simple.
"This is Tara. I have questions about your life. My number is..."
It's less than two days later when she gets a call.
"Tara." He greets her gruffly.
"Hello," she returns.
"Do you have ties to this place?" He asks her, with no segue.
She doesn't, and tells him so.
"I need to leave. Come with me." It isn't a demand, but it isn't a question either. It's an offer, and she takes it because Eliot is better than Willow and she's lonely.
She packs her bags and sends her notice. Eliot comes by her place to collect her. He's a mess. At least one rib is broken, he's covered in bruises, and he has a noticeable limp. Tara wants to cry when she sees him, but she's no stranger to pain and, in truth, neither is he. Instead, she ushers him in and goes to find her first aid kit. She'd spent enough time with the Slayer's group that she could patch up anything short of a major concussion or bone through the skin. She doesn't have to do much since Eliot is used to doctoring himself up alone, but she does use her magic to leech some of the pain out and add some extra healing in.
Eliot's her cousin on her mother's side, and back when she thought she had demon blood, she assumed his quick healing was connected to that. After she didn't transform and Spike's chip reacted, she isn't sure what's true and what isn't, but Eliot still heals at a speed that is significantly faster than a normal human's.
He was in a rush to get out of town, so as soon as he was bandaged up she grabbed her bags and they walked out. It was different, leaving with someone, and she felt good about her decision.
They left the state by car. Tara put a subtle 'don't notice me' spell on the car to help avoid detection since, apparently, Cousin Eli was wanted by the California State police. As soon as they crossed the state border, Eliot relaxed some.
"I don't suppose you have a passport?" he asked her as they holed up for the night. "I'd rather get out of the country for a while."
"No. I've never needed one," Tara told him.
Eliot paused. "We'll get you a fake one. We'll stay here for two days, then head to Vegas. That's a good enough place to get lost while I heal up, and I can find someone there who can fake documents for us."
In all honesty, Tara probably could have gotten through customs with magic, but she really wasn't comfortable doing that. His plan was much better.