Aug 21, 2019 9:27 AM
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Julia comes to stay with Tamara. Tamara doesn't stop her. Julia makes sure she eats and sleeps and doesn't lose track of too much time; it's easier than doing it herself. It's so hard to make anything matter.

Her parents reach out occasionally; mostly Julia talks to them. Her former in-laws get through to her phone exactly once, and it's only not a disaster because Julia steals the phone before anyone can start screaming. She can make herself talk to Julia, a little, but it's a struggle. And there's no one else to talk to, it's just her and Julia-

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"I know it's a Hellmouth, Tammy, but isn't there anyone here who knows about vampires you could talk to?" Julia asks one night, more frustrated than upset but still making Tamara flinch. And before Tamara can say anything, "Not the Slayer, an actual adult."

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Tamara doesn't bother saying that killing people for a living probably qualifies Bella for adulthood as much as anything would. It's just nitpicking, she still wouldn't talk to Bella, and she doesn't want to think about people killing vampires right now.

"There's a nurse," she says without thinking.

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"...what, really?"

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"Her parents were Watchers. She's helped out a time or two."

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Julia lets it drop, but just for the evening. The next few days are peppered with carefully spaced questions. "So what's the nurse's name?" (Emma) "When did you meet her?" (Finding the Slayer a trainer) "What's she like?" (Tamara mostly knows Phil)

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"You sound like you're in grade school gossiping about a boy, Jules. Get to the point or leave it alone, I'm not in the mood."

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It's only been a few weeks. Julia is not going to complain about Tamara getting into a snit; it's honestly an improvement over dull blankness. "I'm the only person you've seen in more than a week, Tammy. They sound nice enough. Maybe say hi, at some point."

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Tamara considers the idea of interacting with more people as dispassionately as she can. (It isn't very.) It's not quite panic inducing, but the idea of looking at people's faces and seeing more pity, at hearing them say what a good mother she was- mentally flinching back from the image, she snaps, "I'd see people if I wanted, Jules, you don't have to be such a nag."

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"I'm not being a nag, I'm just trying to help, you'll have to see people sometime."

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"I can pick my own time! I'm allowed, you don't have to push, don't you have anything better to do than nag?"

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Julia reminds herself that Tamara is grieving. And then breathes, and reminds herself again. "Tammy. I am here to help. I have been here to help, the whole time, and that was uncalled for. I think this will help. It doesn't have to be now, and I didn't mean it did."

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"I just-" Tamara lets her head fall in her hands. "I'm sorry, Jules, I didn't mean it, I just- I can't-"

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Julia sighs and sits next to her, arm over her shoulder. "I know, Tammy. Just think about it, okay?"

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"I will," Tamara mumbles into her arm. It gets Julia to drop it, at least.

She does her best to keep herself together, if only for Julia's sake. She still can't quite make things matter, but she can do what Julia says. It's like a reverse of their childhood, Julia taking over as the responsible sister, Tamara just drifting through. But she's either numb or falling apart, and it hurts, it's unbearable what she did, so she has to go with numb, she can't not.

She isn't Watching, yet, but she's picking up the edges. Passing on reports to the Council, mostly unread, mostly Julia's doing. Showing Julia where things are kept, if she asks. Contact information or books or knowledge. She can do knowledge. She can't go out, not yet, but she can (help Julia to) provide information. That's doable.

(don't think about it)

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Reports are shared. Emma doesn't know what happened, but she gets the five minute version from her parents. (She feels guilty for hearing about it second hand - it feels like gossip, about something so horrible, how could you gossip about it- but Phil points out that the alternative is making Tamara explain, over and over, and Emma wishes she'd never had the thought at all.) She doesn't know what to do. (She wishes she knew what to do.) She asks her mother, who suggests expensive flowers, and doesn't bother asking again. But she asks for updates, when she can, and bothers Phil about the same.

Julia isn't actually calling Emma- she wants to chat with Phil about scheduling, or something, Emma's not clear what- but she happens to be the one to get the phone when Julia calls. She's never met Tamara's sister, but she sounds nice. Is nice, helping out her sister. Emma makes small talk, careful not to touch too closely on why Julia's here; she's not Kevin's mother, but she's still his aunt. How was her trip here? How does she like Sunnydale? Has she been before? What does she miss from home?

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"Real scones?" Julia says, mostly facetiously. "You Americans and your odd breakfast pastries. No one has real scones."

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"Oh! Uh, I have a decent scone recipe," Emma offers. "If you want- I could bring some, or you'd be welcome over for brunch? Um, whatever's easier."

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Julia hadn't actually been angling (...yet, she was going to wait a couple weeks), but she's too tempted by the lure of comfort food. She's getting by, certainly better than Tamara, and keeping herself busy is a large part of that- but the idea of resting, being fed and not doing dishes, and having something homemade that tastes of home... she's not turning that down. (Please let Tamara not turn that down.)

She arranges for brunch the following weekend.

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Tamara flinches when she hears, then almost visibly calms herself. "Brunch will be fine."

(It will not. But nothing will, not any more, and Tamara owes her sister. They can have brunch.)

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