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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 170 - 01/16/14
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 2:07 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer

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Wow. Seriously, while the backstory and the fine details are absolutely different, the outline of events is scarily close to what I have planned for Faith in my own "Children Of the Dale" 'verse! (Not sure how much of the details will make it into "Snapshots," though.)

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 170 - 01/16/14
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:53 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Kathryn, that was fucking brilliant! Bringing the original sequence back around with Faith's typically Faith style witty entrance followed by the revelation of her deal with Hades was a nice surprise for me. From a story telling device perspective this is a unique method of getting someone enough power to best a hell God. Racking my brain for what Hades could want in exchange for that power, I never considered he would want a Slayer as a wife. Nice turn of plot there.

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 170 - 01/16/14
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:02 pm 
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23. Volumey Text

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Daddycatalso - Again with the wow, thanks :) And as for comparison to what you had planned... perhaps it's a case of 'great minds'. *Looks in mirror* no, that can't be it ;)

Loislane - I'll accept 'fucking brilliant', thanks ;)

It was weird, because I spent a little while wondering HOW to bring her back before i realised... 'but wait, I kind of already wrote it' LOL.

It's very important, coming into the following parts, to remember that it was a 'deal', one that Faith made of her own free will. You may be able to tell from that what the others will be worried about and what will keep coming back up in the last few parts.

As for unique method... well, yes perhaps. But Hades had his own reasons for wanting to get rid of Glory as I'd hinted and he has form for the whole marriage thing... as we will see. So the 'marriage' part, that kind of comes from mythology and not me... Can't claim the credit.

And THAT is what Tara, especially, will be worrying about...

Thanks!

Katharyn

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 170 - 01/16/14
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:37 pm 
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5. Willowhand
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Persephone is gonna smack a bitch xD But I bet Faith could take her.

All joking aside, I was not expecting that. Cue me going, "What? WHAT?" at my cat.

How the hell do you always pick the perfect spot to leave us dangling?

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 170 - 01/16/14
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:24 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Katharyn, WOW, that was a twist I didn’t expect. I do recall, long ago, commenting about Hades wanting Faith then forgot all about that until like.. just a few minutes ago, which was also after several re-reads of the chapter. Wait a second.. I was right about something!! WhooHoo!

Anyhoo.. If Faith is Queen of the Underworld doesn’t that mean she is immortal and will maintain a tremendous amount of power? It’s not too difficult to see why she would be okay with that arrangement. Obviously she’s not being tortured or anything. If she wasn’t happy with the actual consequences of her “deal” with Hades, Tara would have picked up on that, I think. But what does all this mean for Faith? Is she free to come and go between worlds at will, or is this her one and only chance to say goodbye to her sister and friends? Did the girls unwittingly summon her by the naked dancing as Willow suggests? If not, and Faith’s arrival is of her own making, it’s odd that she was able to locate Willow and Tara but not Hope. Is Tara her “key” to the living world? I’m gonna choose theory #2 as say Ethan knew, via Diana, that Tara had the magical ability to connect with Faith in the Underworld so he gave her the card. He might not have known Faith’s fate beforehand, but Diana probably did. If W/T did this, without even trying, they really need to be careful who/what they think about in the future! Diana was proof witches don’t need a circle or fire or naked dancing to create powerful spells. I may have more questions than Willow, LOL.

This is going to be quite a shock for Hope. She’s gonna give her big sis an ear full, and probably a slug in the arm! Will that before the giant hug, or after? Both. Haha!

I love that you made Faith’s appearance ethereal with the use of shadow --Cool idea! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 170 - 01/16/14
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:28 am 
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23. Volumey Text

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Faolan - Sorry... your kitty doesn't know.

Did I say Persephone was still around? ;)

In terms of spots to leave you dangling, I write to where it happens. By now I have an idea how long scenes need to be and how many to a part so I kind of know where I need a question or a statement that lets things hang a little. And if I miscalculate I cheat and just leave things early or late :)

Thanks

Kajun - I vaguely recall your comment, though I can't remember if - by then - I knew this would happen this way. Possibly you were right. Possibly you were just prescient :)

Faith's status will all come out so I shan't say too much about it.

I find myself in a quandary now... I brought Faith back and I explained how she got there and... well, I assumed people would be more worried about it. LOL. So I ended up writing T/W worrying about things for several parts that you guys accepted just like that. Hmm. Not much I can do about it now!

So I will say this... What Tara 'knows' and what she can 'pick up on' aren't necessarily equal to what she worries about... I think we can all do that and certainly she won't want to take a chance on being wrong about those cues.

The summoning method will all come out too so... not so much about that either :)

As for you, you tend to come up with better ideas than I did LOL. Is all I shall say!

And yes, everyone will be worried about the effect on Hope...

Faith's appearance... we'll get more on that too. Hopefully you will enjoy... But lets say that I say a very bad film that included Hades after I had started writing this and he was... somewhat shadowy in appearance. That did drive this reference.

Thanks!
Katharyn

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 Post subject: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 171 - 01/18/14
PostPosted: Sat Jan 18, 2014 1:33 am 
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Title: Tara and Willow – Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-One
Author: Katharyn Rosser
Feedback: Absolutely, yes please. That’s why I write for this place, to engage in the discussion about the story.
Spoiler warning: Not sure why I am bothering, really, but Season 4 and Season 5 of BTVS.
Distribution: This story was written for Pens. Pens is its home. No archiving off Different Coloured Pens and the Kitten Board please. No conversion to eBook or other formats please. Enjoy it here.
Summary: Following on from the revelation of Faith’s deal with Hades.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BTVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc. I am making no money from this series of stories however all original characters and situations remain my property. As this is a missing scenes and alternate reality fiction lots of scenes are new versions of those seen in the show, as such dialogue and situations are taken from the show. I’m sure you can tell which. All credit for those aspects goes to the original writers.
Rating: Occasional, tasteful, adult situations and contextual bad language. However by and large equivalent to the show.
Couples: Tara and Willow forever, that’s all I’m bothered about.
Text convention: Use of italics denotes either special emphasis if used for a single or a few words in a sentence OR first person thoughts if used for a whole sentence.
Notes: So I was curious to see how a) Faith’s return would go over (especially so ‘soon’ after she died in story terms) and b) what the deal really was. Yes, I am very aware of how that element could be taken. Very aware. But the idea comes from reading Wikipedia about Hades (I needed a God who would still be around but out of sight) and then about a certain part of that myth that we’ll get into… Some of you may know it already, you can certainly go and read about it and get ahead of the game (kind of.) Just bear in mind. This is Faith. She’s a victim for no one.
Thanks to: Those who run the DeadPool. See, I didn’t really kill her… See? I didn’t lie… I just evaded and even that was a long time ago (I mean, we’ve been here a while.)




“No… I’m still not – Wait - you married him? You married Hades?

“The God Hades?” Willow asked.

“No, the role-playing geek from High School – of course the god. And there wasn’t really a ceremony,” Faith said. “But… yeah.” She held out her hand just like any number of engaged and recently married girls had over the ages but in Faith’s case seemed to be showing off… nothing.

“Umm… What?” Willow asked.

“Oh. Wait a second I forget not everything works here like it does there…”

Tara watched as Faith concentrated for the briefest second and… around her finger appeared a writhing, twisting shadow. Like a band of thorns, but without the ouchies and not really there…

Insubstantial in the traditional sense but at the same time the most real thing that she’d ever seen. Willow took Faith’s hand, to get a better look.

“Not much by way of a rock.”

Tara could tell that Willow was just struggling for anything serious to say, but… that, baby?

“Watch it, Red, it burns cold. It can – I mean - ”

“It’s hurting you?” Tara asked, even more disturbed though she wouldn’t have thought there was further to go on that scale. Faith was married to Hades?

Married, married?

“No, not me. Other people.”

Other people? Firmly – not allowing any argument – she took Faith’s hand from Willow, brushing her thumb over the band of shadow. Ready for the pain and –

Didn’t feel a thing. Nothing. It didn’t even feel to be there, even though it was now undeniably visible and very, very real. You could see that it had the sort of weight that, if you dropped it on the ground it would just keep going and going through rock, earth and the core of the planet if it had to. Impossible and insubstantial at the same time.

But no pain, no cold burn no… nothing. She looked at her friend, asking the question silently because she didn’t know what the words should be.

“No, I guess – I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure, T. You’d only have to worry about it… if you were dead. I wasn’t sure but – yeah. Dead things.”

She pursed her lips, but Willow was making a noise like she was confused. Probably by more than one thing that was going on right now. “Wait, not only did you marry Hades, but he gave you an invisible shadow ring – with no stone – that hurts dead people to touch? Why?”

Faith sighed, looked at her. Like she should’ve already known.

And maybe… maybe she did.

“There are some trust issues. It’s – It’s to stop me screwing around,” Faith said, just as Willow was taking a drink.

Whether the timing was deliberate or not, the effect was the same. Willow splurted her drink over the table and a little got on her too. “Smooth,” Faith commented. “Very sexy. Having your brains sucked out and then shoved back in really hasn’t helped you at all, has it?”

Wiping her mouth, Willow was still caught up in the shock but Tara reached out to dab at the side of her girlfriend’s mouth when she’d missed a bit.

“You’re sleeping with Hades?”

“I’ve done worse,” Faith replied. “Much worse.”

Tara winced, realising the implications of that statement. What it meant for her friend.

“Is it me?” Willow asked. “Or is that not a ringing endorsement of a happy marriage? I’ve done worse? I mean, obviously – or at least in all probability since, you know, you’ve done basically everyone with a penis - ”

The waitress was walking past again and obviously Willow’s protest caught her attention which was then drawn to other… To perkiness basically.

Girls like Willow, this isn’t news. I’m not jealous, I just get to be a tiny bit smug. But smug time is later.

“A – a – penistulation effect,” Willow tried, looking to turn it into something that was what? Scientific? Didn’t seem to work. She was still really just saying the word she hadn’t meant to be caught saying.

“A what?” Faith asked.

Willow crossed her arms. “I – I really should’ve put my bra back on – but don’t change the subject.”

“I’m pretty sure you just called me a slut,” Faith said. “Before you started talking gibberish.”

“Well, if the cap fits – no, I already used that joke didn’t I? Faith, we’re glad your back – we are – but you are a slut. You’re proud of it and you own it. And okay, you reclaimed the word ‘slut’ for womankind. It’s not a bad thing, even though I’m a one woman girl. I get that. So, it’s just shorthand.

“But back to the point. You’re sleeping with Hades?”

“He’s my husband,” Faith said. Almost defensively. There was a beat of expectation. Then another when it went unfulfilled. “So not very often, no.”

Another beat.

“Look, he’s an older guy – even if he looks… younger. He’s the best looking old guy I ever saw, best looking guy. Period. And I mean – I can get him – if I want to, I can. Don’t think that I can’t. Okay?”

“But?” Tara hardly dared whisper.

UC Sunnydale, where your back from the dead best friend will end up talking to you about an ancients god’s erectile difficulties. Apply today!

“But - But he’s… jealous.”

The amazing thing was she’d heard Faith go into filthily clinical detail (without the clinical words) on more occasions than she wanted to remember, but now… She was embarrassed? Maybe even sounding like... Did she feel like a failure?

“And you’ve never been a stay at home kitty,” Willow added.

“Willow!”

“Well, let’s be honest here - ”

“No, T, she’s right. I’m not. Until I – crossed over I’d had one relationship in my life that lasted more than a night and I cheated on her a dozen times, or would’ve if we hadn’t said it was okay, which makes it not cheating, I guess. But with him… that’s the deal.”

“You keep talking about this deal. You married him, you had sex with him?”

“Like I said, it’s not the worst thing I’ve done,” Faith added. “Not by a long shot. I mean, it’s been a while for him and – turns out, after a few thousand years; it’s kinda like going back to basics. I’ve had to show him how things are done these days. I think he was surprised, actually.

“I’ve been training him up. It’s like a project.”

Oh. That was… too much information. And Faith’s actual – genuine – pride in that was kind of disturbing too. But strangely reassuring at the same time. Maybe she didn’t want to be there, or with him. But in her own – Faith Lehane – way, she was making the best of it?

And treating her husband like a fixer-upper…

Faith had never been one for putting on an act either. Was she trying to deceive them now? Make them feel okay about it? Because ‘okay’ was definitely the best she could shoot for here and Faith knew her well enough to understand that.

“What else? What did you get from it?”

“Well, now that I showed him how it’s done, turns out he’s a giver – Weird, you wouldn’t have thought it - ”

Tara suddenly felt like this was a conversation that Anya should be involved in, but she wasn’t letting Faith near the others. Not until they knew she really was… okay. Okay with what had happened.

It was like the Key in reverse… They couldn’t tell anyone about Faith because Hope might find out and they had to be sure about Faith first.

And that wasn’t even what she was really worried about.

It was Faith she was really worried about…

I didn’t know. She didn’t say anything. I thought – What did I think? What… I saw some of the evidence, but I didn’t want to believe it?

But it was true.

Faith had - very literally - sold herself in order to save her sister (and the world.)

But – somehow – she was back here?

“Does he hurt you?” she asked, putting aside the how in favour of something worse and more important.

And Faith actually laughed. It was the sort of big, belly laugh that you never, [i]ever
associated with the Slayer. You wouldn’t have thought she had it in her, after... “No, Jesus, T. What do you take me for? I’m no one’s victim. Fuck that. You know me, you know where me and Hopeless came from.

“Get this. I’m the only person over there who’s not in his power – and that’s the way he likes it - ”

“But the ring?”

“Well, see, that isn’t so much to stop me, it’s more to mark them so he can see who – I don’t play around on him. Much. I mean, I don’t have to use both hands when I do and - What?”

“No one said anything,” Willow said.

“You had a look. You both had a look. You know me – so I’m married and not getting enough – that’s like basically every other married couple. Leaves me kind of… antsy.”

“Well, excuse us! You were dead and that was bad enough, but now you’re not dead. No, you’re married and sleeping with Hades and he’s not been on the horse for a while and you’ve been training him up – I can’t believe I just said that and you’ve been cheating, on Hades, Faith. The Lord of the Underworld. The man – the god who gives you your reward when you die. Heaven or Hell - ”

“We don’t call them that,” Faith said. “Elysium and Tartarus - ”

“You’re cheating on him!” Willow cried, attracting too much attention from the sleepy trucker crowd in the diner with them. “You’re cheating on him.”

“I said ‘not much.’ And he expects it,” Faith said. “He’s not an asshole about it, not like they still say his brother was. I can do my thing, even if he doesn’t like it. Fuck, I get to come here now - ”

“Yeah - and how did that work anyway?” Willow asked. Tara was still watching, still looking for some sign – one that only she or Hope might recognise – that Faith was putting on a brave face. Not telling them the worst of it… But – so far – it wasn’t there.

Say what you like about Faith, but she was genuine. Not always genuinely good. But definitely genuine.

Willow wasn’t done though. “How did you come back? There? We were miles from where the rift was. Miles from anywhere. Did we do it?”

It was a good question, but she had a sneaking suspicion that she knew the answer already. Just not the why.

“You don’t know?” Faith countered, sounding like she didn’t believe it.

Yeah, there was a lot of that scepticism going around.

“Know what?”

“You really didn’t know what you were doing?”

“What?” Willow was exasperated.

“Well, this is probably kinda awkward,” Faith said. “If you didn’t know. I mean, you and me, Red, we never really bonded so - ”

“What’s awkward?”

“Well, you two. You’ve just been worshipping me.”

“Worshipping you? No way! I’d have noticed!”

“It’s true. That’s how I got here. But you’ve got the check? I’m a little cash light. I mentioned that right?”

--------------------------

“We were really worshipping you?” Willow asked as they walked down the street and she considered what she had left in her purse. ‘Cash light’ but hungry, that was Faith.

Faith shrugged. “I thought you knew. I thought it was a plan or something. You’d figured it out or Ethan told you.”

“Ethan knew?!” she demanded, but Tara’s expression said that she’d put two and two together now and confirmed it really did equal four. Not always the case in Sunnydale. Sometimes two plus two equalled some very strange numbers.

Or a puppy.

“He said he’d tell you, if you didn’t get it. I guess… this is really a surprise, huh?”

“Yes, it’s really a surprise.”

“He,” Tara paused. “He might have suggested we did the whole dancing thing, honey. Put the idea in our heads, gave us the book reference?”

Oh. That.

Typical Ethan Rayne. Why be obvious when you can create chaos?

No wonder he left town.

“We worshipped you. Does it count if we didn’t know – I guess it must do. So how does that work? And – are you a God? Gods get worshipped, right?”

“I don’t know,” Faith said. “I don’t think so – I mean, you’ve got down on your knees and done some worshipping yourself there, Red. Right?”

It was very obvious what Faith meant and both she and Tara blushed accordingly. Damn this girl… umm, maybe-goddess. “Enough about – us – that – us – Look, how were we worshipping you?”

“Well, I didn’t really read the rules – They tried to tell me but I really – Look, there were these guys and a contest. Ultimate warrior type thing so – long story short – I kicked their asses and didn’t read the handbook.

“But you were dancing around like that – there was some magic, some belief and maybe you had a fond thought about me? Seems like that might be enough.”

“I know I didn’t,” she said, looking at Tara. “I mean – it’s been a while since you – we’re getting on with living our lives. Tara?”

“Maybe,” Tara hedged. “I mean, we were looking back on what had happened – how we got there, I might’ve had a fond thought. I do, sometimes.”

“Score,” Faith said. “That’d do it. You were doing your naked witchy thing, Red couldn’t get her mind off her butt-nakid girlfriend, but T was thinking about me. That’s a compliment I guess. Cool.”

“You were really thinking about Faith?” She knew exactly where her own thoughts had been. Faith wasn’t so far from the truth. There was something… intense about what they’d been doing. Uncomfortable, obviously. And chilly too. But… looking at Tara, jiggling her way around the fire, all naked and witchy…

Damn, Faith was dead right. There had been more than just fondness.

But her girlfriend had been thinking about Faith instead? She’d let it go. This time…

“That’s all it takes? A fond thought?” It better not be anything sexy… Definitely not fondling thoughts. But… they had been talking about the past and Tara had lost her best friend. There was no getting away from that.

“Fucked if I know, I’ve just – I’ve heard a few things. There’s some – plenty of people over the river who did a lot of worshipping of various Gods and – well, seems like if you believed and you had a little power… But here I am.”

Over the river.

“So we could’ve got you back at any time?” Tara asked.

Willow checked her girlfriend, she knew – despite the easy banter Faith was indulging in – that Tara was taking this hard. She was doing her best, holding it together, but…

There were all sorts of things wrong with this picture.

Faith wasn’t ‘dead’ or at least not ‘dead dead.’ That might well have been a good thing, but they’d all dealt with the disappearance in what had seemed like realistic terms. She’d helped both Tara and Hope through that because they’d really been cut up. Of course they had.

Hope…

It was hard enough seeing Tara now, but how was Faith’s sister going to react?

Now it seemed Faith had made a deal, married a god. A real god. The Lord of the Underworld no less and had his ring on her finger – at least when she willed it to show up. Oh, and the guy hadn’t been getting much before Faith came along. In other words, she’d sold herself. Be as literal as you liked with that.

Sold herself for power enough to do what she had to. Which wasn’t much different to money, if a bit nobler when you thought about the ends instead of the means.

She was acutely aware, too, that victory over Glory, getting her mind back – being with Tara – was probably down to Faith’s bargain. So there was that. They were all alive because of what Faith had done. Some of us also have all our marbles intact.

And now, after all those things, they could’ve brought Faith back here with a kind thought and a naked dance?

On reflection, one of those things might not even have been necessary.

“You mean did Ethan screw me over and leave me there by not saying anything to you?” Faith asked. “Course not.”

“Oh.” Tara sounded relieved.

Willow got it, if they could’ve just gone and done the naked witch dance the day Faith was taken… they would. They definitely would. That day and every day since (in a secluded place) but… it wouldn’t have helped. That was what she was saying, right?

“It’s a deal, remember?” Faith asked. “Ethan was… smart.”

“Ethan really knew about this?” Tara asked.

“Well, yeah. He was the one – No wonder he didn’t say anything,” Faith was watching Tara too. Seeing a bubbling undercurrent of anger, fear and – yes – relief too.

“He left town,” Willow reminded her.

“Well, I know he’s not checked in downstairs. I’d have been told – I mean, there’s a list. Anyone I want to know about, I get told - so he’s okay.”

That was… weird. So Faith knew who had ‘checked in’? Kind of… creepy. “So… What was the deal?”

Tara was just leaving her to ask her questions, not even trying to reign her in.

“Pomegranate,” Faith said.

“Gezuntide.”

“No, the fruit. Hades has this thing going for it,” Faith said. “His first wife - ”

“Oh,” she said. “I mean ‘oh’ I know what this is, not ‘oh’ he was married before because… long time ago.”

“What?” Tara asked, obviously not happy at all.

“Well,” Willow started, unsure of herself since the current Mrs. Hades was stood right here. How much of this did she know? “It’s said if you eat a meal in the Underworld then you’re trapped there forever. So… the first, his first wife, she ate just a third of a pomegranate. It had twelve segments and she left the other eight. So… Zeus decided that she hadn’t had a full meal, just a part of it so she had to stay with his brother for four months a year. They’re the months that we call winter now, actually.“

Now probably wasn’t the time to get into the fact that story was commonly called ‘The Rape of Persephone’. Tara really didn’t need to hear that right now.

Persephone who was abducted by Hades.

At least in the story…

“He says I look a lot like her,” Faith said. “I’m not the uptight, entitled princess she was though. And I know what I’m doing in the sack.”

“Oh…” How did you respond to something like that? What bride wanted to be told she looked a lot like her predecessor? Faith seemed pretty unconcerned by it though. And seemed to be hinting there had been more going on there than the mythos said there was.

“But – how – how did it happen? I mean, Hades doesn’t just call you up - ”

“He saw me, in that dream thing we had… After that, I won’t say I wrapped him around my little finger. He’s bigger than that.” Faith’s eyebrows actually waggled. It was… very her. It was tough to believe that any Faith traumatised enough to be a victim would’ve managed that.

But it was tougher to believe in Faith being a victim at all. Just like she’d said…

She’d gone into it with her eyes open. And – less charitably – other things too…

“So… you’re free to live up here what, eight months of the year?” Tara asked carefully avoiding that last piece of innuendo.

“Just six, actually. What can I say? I was hungry.”

“But you need us to summon you?” Willow checked. Naked dancing in the woods needed to be a regular thing for them now? They’d said never again but Tara certainly wasn’t about to let Faith linger down there one moment longer than she had to.

In fact, she was going to be looking for a way out of this for Mrs Hades. No question about it.

After all, how long – unknowingly – had they left her already… Left her to him?

On the other hand, six months hadn’t, actually, passed but… Here Faith was anyway. When could they have got her by getting jiggy? When did she have to go back?

What was Tara going to want to do to try and stop it?

Faith really didn’t seem traumatised or even especially bothered by her predicament, but Tara would be looking at things a different way. Choice had been taken away from her, trapped in the Underworld for half the year? With a husband she hadn’t wanted?

And yes, a husband in every sense of the word. Maybe one of the few individuals in the world – or wider world – that Faith couldn’t have beaten down for putting an unwanted hand on her. Not that it was just going to be a hand…

That was how Tara was thinking about it. Faith could deny it, believe it and it might actually be far from the truth. But Tara really was seeing her as a victim right now and Willow could tell it was already eating at her when she’d only just found out.

Let alone when she’d had time to think and worry.

“I told you. I don’t know the rules,” Faith said. “Maybe now you did it I can just come back the regular way.”

“Regular way?” Willow asked.

Faith winked. Actually winked. “That would be one of the things I can’t talk about. He wouldn’t want it getting out. Hey, what’s wrong, T? I’m back. I thought you’d be happy?”

Willow looked at her girlfriend, Tara wasn’t doing a great job of holding back her feelings from Faith. A deal had been made, with a god. A real god, this time but… that wasn’t going to stop her girl.

From Tara’s perspective Faith needed to be rescued.

And there’d be no Diana this time.

No bargains made to…

Restore me. Bring me back to this girl I love. My friends.

And saving the world.


That was what Faith had done. For her.

So if Tara asked her then… yeah, she’d do what she had to. She owed Faith much more than that.

If she wanted it.

Tara didn’t say anything.

“So… you got married before we did,” she said, well aware of Tara’s disapproval. “I never saw that coming, I thought hell would freeze over first or at least me and Tara would be legal.”

“Worked out different than I had planned too,” Faith replied.

“But are you happy?” Tara blurted after not really saying anything for a while.

Faith took a breath and she was aware of Tara’s tightening up. This was hurting her. She gave Tara’s hand a squeeze.

“I won’t lie to you, T,” Faith said. “It’s not how I saw my definitely going to be short life going. But you both know, I was dead anyway. It wouldn’t have been too long. Eventually something would’ve… even if the world hadn’t ended right then. So, it’s an improvement on that and he’s… he’s really okay. But just allow me to answer the rest of the question through the medium of – I don’t what this is… umm, interpretative violence?”

Violence? But there was nothing –

Faith turning on the spot, then walking into an alleyway and… faced the wall of the building. The ‘solid wall’ was how she’d describe it later. Then she went right through it. Shadows had stretched and flowed and Faith was there one minute and gone the next.

“Umm, that’s new - ”

Before she could say anything more than that, Faith had reappeared, holding a demon by the throat. Holding it up off the ground by the throat. With one hand. And this wasn’t a little gremlin sized thing. This was a squat, heavyset creature she’d never seen before.

And it was helplessly struggling. Solid and very real. Not even a Slayer should’ve been able to do that without additional violence. But it was helpless in her hands.

Hand.

Curious, she prodded Faith. Found her finger resisted just as it should be.

“Hey, watch it, Red! Remember I know where that finger’s been. I’m here. I’m real. I just crossed into the shadows for a moment there.”

And you ate enough. Where did the food go?

“See - this, this fucker’s one of the things that digs up the dead and eats them. Leaves the bones on the family doorstep. Remember that time? They don’t feed on the meat, they feed on the pain they cause, did you know that, because I know that now. So… no more. Not for him.”

Now Faith was choking the life from the demon and – when she was done – she threw it back into the building she’d found it in. But this time the wall collapsed at the impact point. That was how he went through the wall.

Improbable as that seemed outside the movie theatre.

“See, T? You’re worried about me but I’m the Lady of the Underworld. Me, a Lady?! So I’m doing a guy I probably wouldn’t have, but isn’t all this so fucking cool?”

*******************

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 171 - 01/18/14
PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:21 pm 
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I love Faith's view of her situation - with a guy she doesn't really care about but getting, to quote Disney's Aladdin, "Phenomenal Cosmic Powers!" in the deal that she gets to use to kick ass on Earth for 6 months out of the year. I suppose in the grand scheme of balancing the destruction of our world/universe with 6 months out of the year spent with Hades for one person the deal seems pretty decent. Of course my first thought was strangely actually for Paige - what will she think of the situation to have her former, sort of steady, girlfriend married to Hades?
Anywho, nice update. Looking forward to the reactions of the others as they find out Faith isn't really dead just more the queen of the dead now.
-H.

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 171 - 01/18/14
PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:24 pm 
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Katharyn, Hmmm.. I don’t see this situation anywhere near as negatively as Tara does. Faith refused to talk to her about the deal she made which led me to believe she thought it was going to be an eternity of hell. Turns out.. not so much. Even if Glory hadn’t been in the picture, her days were numbered. She knew, at least in part, what she was getting into by entering a marriage. That was her choice. Tara, Willow, Buffy.. any one of the Scoobies would have done the same if it had come to that. Faith’s just the only one that has, from life experience, the resilience and adaptability, to handle it. She’s still kicking ass and taking names –literally. Her new status will, perhaps not guarantee, but certainly help ensure that all the people she cares about will be treated properly in the afterlife. I don’t see her wanting to give up that kind of ultimate guardianship of her sister.

If there’s a way to sever the deal, they’ll find it. The question is: Would Faith want to give up the power, status and opportunities she has now for her old life? There’re many reasons to suggest she wouldn’t. Also, there could be some extremely unpleasant consequences for the Slayer if she breaks the deal. One way or another, she will have to face Hades. For all the good she’s done, pissing off the guy in charge of where you spend eternity after death isn’t a good idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if, once she figured out how everything works in the Underworld, she became the one giving orders. LOL :grin


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 171 - 01/18/14
PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:48 am 
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And again you are much more sanguine about all this than Tara and the others will be LOL. In truth the characters weren't because I was worried that the readers might not be! I think we'd have finished already LOL

Oh, well...

Loislane - I basically agree with you (because I accept that Faith is telling the truth as she understands and see it)... And actually she gets to kick ass all year long. Just half the time here :)

Paige... of course I will deal with that :)

Thanks!

Kajun - See above but... it was YOU I was worried about LOL. Anywho... Yes, compared to Tartarus forever she's much, much better off! Also better off than she would've been as the Slayer. Surviving as long as she did was done to her character, I think. Buffy survived a different way, Faith was - ironically - more of the typical slayer than Buffy was... IMHO. So she had a short life ahead of her. Also better than that...

And yes, she's got the character to deal with it. She's expedient and she's got a relationship (not moral) flexibility for it.

As for pissing Hades... that would be bad. They just got one pissed god!

So, apologies for the characters obsessing with poor Faith... I thought you guys would need persuading :)

Thanks!
Katharyn

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 Post subject: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 172 - 01/20/14
PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:52 am 
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Title: Tara and Willow – Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Two
Author: Katharyn Rosser
Feedback: Absolutely, yes please. That’s why I write for this place, to engage in the discussion about the story.
Spoiler warning: Not sure why I am bothering, really, but Season 4 and Season 5 of BTVS.
Distribution: This story was written for Pens. Pens is its home. No archiving off Different Coloured Pens and the Kitten Board please. No conversion to eBook or other formats please. Enjoy it here.
Summary: More on Faith’s return… Tara and Willow start to process.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BTVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc. I am making no money from this series of stories however all original characters and situations remain my property. As this is a missing scenes and alternate reality fiction lots of scenes are new versions of those seen in the show, as such dialogue and situations are taken from the show. I’m sure you can tell which. All credit for those aspects goes to the original writers.
Rating: Occasional, tasteful, adult situations and contextual bad language. However by and large equivalent to the show.
Couples: Tara and Willow forever, that’s all I’m bothered about.
Text convention: Use of italics denotes either special emphasis if used for a single or a few words in a sentence OR first person thoughts if used for a whole sentence.
Notes: So the last part included a lot of Tara’s worries about the worst case scenarios. I am sure I don’t have to elaborate on them to make you understand what she was – rightly – terrified of. Suffice it to say that this Faith wouldn’t let me do that to her even if I wanted to. Is it conventional? No. But Faith’s not in as bad a place as Tara is afraid of. Compared to some of the stuff these old-timey gods got up to she’s actually winning…
Thanks to:



“You’re not keeping me from my sister, T.”

This wasn’t going well. Tara had just about got herself to the point she could accept Faith wasn’t doing anything she didn’t want to – or wasn’t willing to – in order to live up to her end of the deal.

Accepting – if that was the word – that Faith had gone into this with her eyes open and everything she’d gained, from Hope and the world on up (including a chance for her to get Willow back), was worth it to her.

At least until she got chance to confer with Willow privately. To get another perspective because… I want it to be her. I want her to be okay.

I want to believe.


But now the ground had shifted to Hope.

“That’s not what I said,” she tried to explain.

“Really?”

“No, and remember, I wasn’t the one who wanted to stop for food.”

Faith was about to argue, but she couldn’t deny that she had been the one that insisted that they get something to eat. Of course, she was also the one who’d only eaten pomegranate seeds in the last few months.

Well, she assumed that anyway. Whether there was anything to that ambrosia thing or not… one more thing to learn. Sustenance – at least for those who weren’t dead – obviously worked differently in the Underworld because (shadows excepted) Faith looked… she actually looked better than she had in the midst of worrying about her sister.

Near the ‘end’, lacking proper food and sleep – wracked with worry… Faith hadn’t looked like herself when she crossed over that rift and –

Somehow had actually been crossing the river.

The Styx.

They didn’t know how it had worked. Just that it had. Faith had saved the world and she wasn’t above reminding them about that – or what Willow owed her - to get what she wanted.

And that was Hope.

Not to take her away or anything, just to go see her. It didn’t sound unreasonable which must’ve been exactly how they sounded when they argued against it.

“I need to see her, Tara,” Faith said.

“All Tara really meant,” Willow interjected, “was that it’s late now. She’ll be in bed – and rightly. And… well, tomorrow’s a special day.”

“I know it’s a special day. Don’t tell me it’s a special day.”

“Did you pick it because of that?” Willow wondered.

“No. You two picked the day,” Faith reminded them. “I told you that.”

“Oh. Right.” The night they’d chosen to go dancing naked around a fire. Playing into the whole lesbian witch cliché. “Don’t you think…?” She didn’t know how to say it.

Hope thought her sister was dead. The lack of a body and calling her ‘disappeared’ didn’t change that.

What was ‘disappeared’ other than ‘you won’t see her again’?

They had a memorial. Everyone had come out to see it… There were no dates, no fond words but… it was still the closest thing they’d got to a headstone.

Disappeared was just like being dead in almost every way. After four months, Hope had regularly being putting her sister into the past tense. She’d accepted it. Ira had been relieved to hear it.

So Faith’s reappearance - it’d be a shock. It had been a shock for them – maybe more because they’d been naked and dancing at the time – but for Hope? She was just coming to terms with a life that didn’t include Faith who’d taken care of her for the whole rest of it.

No matter how convoluted her backstory was – a fiction created to parallel Faith’s and ensure her big sister protected her – it had hit Hope hard, losing her. Willow’s parents, even the dogs, all of them were doing everything they could but… It was still hard.

In one – very real – sense Hope and Faith had been through a lot even to get to Sunnydale. And, looking at her friend now, she could see it meant just as much to her.

But how did you walk back into your sister’s life and say ‘guess what, sweetie? I’m not dead’?

Not to mention the fact Faith was… different now.

Shadowy, for a start.

Able to walk - and grab - demons through walls.

Able to hold troll like things off the ground and crush the life from them with one hand without being any taller.

Married.

Would it make Hope suspicious? Should it make them more suspicious? Was Willow – never a Faith fan until very recently – more suspicious than she was showing?

And what were they going to tell Buffy? She was the local Slayer on her own again now; she would see it as her responsibility to be on her guard about this. And she’d be right.

What could Buffy even do about it if Faith… wasn’t who she claimed to be?

Their friend?

The one girl who’d saved all the world? At least the last time it needed saving.

One on one, Faith had repeatedly come out on top in fights against Buffy and she was much more than a Slayer now. Could Buffy even hope to stop her if there was a reason to?

“Don’t you think you should wait?” Willow asked, finishing her thought for her. And when Faith looked like she’d react badly to that idea, Willow pushed on regardless. Not oblivious, just regardless. “It’s her birthday tomorrow.”

“I told you, I know what day it is.”

“So maybe, you coming back, that could be like a gift?” Willow suggested.

“Wait until tomorrow; is that what you’re saying?”

Tara nodded at Faith’s question. Give us time to figure things out, time to prime her. Time to decide who we’re going to tell and what we can do about it if…

If we
can do anything about it

Whether we need to…


She didn’t want to suspect Faith and no one believed that there was anything special about Hope anymore apart from her origins – only a Hellgod could need her and there were none of those left here after Faith had torn Glory’s head off – but…

The last few years had taught her caution if nothing else. This was Sunnydale, after all.

The girl who’d rushed headlong into the night, running to a girl she didn’t even know for reasons that were… hopelessly romantic? Well, that girl was still there. But she’d have thought about it a little more before doing exactly the same thing.

For Willow, at least.

And now, she’d have been able to run a little faster. Training helped.

Wearing jeans, instead of that skirt she’d kept falling over and getting caught up in bushes and things.

This was Sunnydale. It taught you practical skills. It was Darwinism at its best – which was ironic because demons didn’t evolve in the same way.

But Sunnydale hadn’t taught her – quite – how to deal with this.

Just to be suspicious and then to doubt herself if she got past those suspicions. Really, she needed to talk to Willow. Without Faith being there to listen in… I need another opinion.

“Plus,” Willow said. “Everyone will be there so… you’ll only have to come out once. Unless you’re hiding?”

Faith gave Willow the look at the question deserved. It was as obviously pointed as Buffy’s favourite stake which was called ‘Mister Pointy’ because of just how pointed it was. It was that kind of look.

“So now I’m supposed to do what you say or I prove I have something to hide? Something to be guilty about? Is that it?”

“Actually,” Willow said, “I wasn’t being that devious. It’s not devious if it’s not deliberate, but okay, yes. If you want to take it that way. Yes. And don’t look at it as doing what I say, look at it as doing what Tara says. You always did better with that – do better – we both do.”

“I mean, you don’t have to rush back to…?” Tara let the question tail off. Unsure how to put it, the words feeling strange in her mouth.

“The underworld?” Faith checked.

“Your husband.”

Faith snorted. “No, I’m free for… well, less than I’ll get in the future. Then it’ll be all of the summer at least. Says he likes company in winter. Once that’s done, it’ll be six months on, six off.”

“Then can you wait, right? One night?” Tara asked.

“For you or for her?”

“For Hope,” she corrected.

Faith pursed her lips, considered. “You know, none of you could stop me if I just wanted to – Not Giles, not B. Not that cute troll. Not even you. There’s not a door or wall that can hold me back and – I’m not bragging when I say, what I was before - that was the weak-ass nerdy kid who gets picked last compared to what he gave me.”

“I know,” she admitted. They’d seen it.

Faith nodded and then turned away from them.

“Where are you staying?” she called after the retreating Slayer. Without any cash it was for sure she didn’t have her keys but – of course – she didn’t need them anyway… Faith could have a house without doors now.

“I figured I’d pay a visit to the tattoo parlour,” Faith said, giving her a little shimmy.

“I think they’ll be closed,” Willow pointed out a moment before she got it.

“I didn’t say I was going to see her for ink,” Faith said, grinning. “Remember, she lives upstairs.”

“It’s late,” Willow said, as if trying to do Paige a favour.

Tara had to wonder though if it would be doing Paige a favour to let Faith go to her. Not that they could stop her – as she’d just pointed out…

“Oh, she’ll let me in.”

Of course, it had been months Faith had seen Paige. Things had changed. Things always did. Things about Faith more than Paige because she’d been keeping in contact with Faith’s… whatever they were calling it. Girlfriend? Ex? Widow?

Whatever they called her, they’d all been out a few times. There was nothing serious on Paige’s horizon, or there hadn’t been last week when they double dated.

Nope, nothing serious there. They’d set her up with a girl from Wicca Group and it’d had petered out before the night was even over. After months of Faith turning up when she felt like it, for just what she felt like, Paige wasn’t ready for a different kind of relationship. Even though – to hear her tell it – Faith had meant no more to her than the Slayer had admitted Paige meant to her.

Both of them had been deluding themselves if that was the case. You only had to see the look in her eyes when they mentioned the thing they really had in common.

“Aren’t you going to ask if she’s seeing anyone?” Willow asked.

“Doesn’t matter none, unless the other girl’s there.”

“You’re married,” she reminded Faith in a lower voice.

“And what about the ring?” Willow pointed out.

“Girls, girls, girls. To the first, eatin ain’t cheatin. Unless that’s like – all you do. And believe me it’s not. To the second – do you really want to know?”

“No!” But before they’d said it the shadows had already swallowed Faith.

They looked at each other.

“Still up for that sleepless night?”

“Not for the reason I thought,” she replied. Then she thought about what her friend had said. “And, hey! That’s not all we do either!”

Not by a long shot.

Faith couldn’t hear them though. She was already gone.

------------------------------

“Do you - ”

“What?” Tara asked.

“Nah.” The events of the night so far were so momentous that neither of them really knew where to start and this didn’t feel like the right place.

“What?”

“I – well, I was going to ask what you thought it was between Paige and Faith?” Willow asked.

“Right now? Probably sweat,” Tara replied, absolutely deadpan. Deadpan enough that you might’ve believed she was being serious.

They knew Paige a little now. Well enough to understand she’d had real feelings for Faith.

How would she react to that girl walking back into her life when she was supposed to have been dead?

And married to boot? Would Faith even admit to that part? Before they fell into bed or… wherever they ended up.

“Tara Maclay! I’m shocked at you and your filthy, filthy mind!” She grinned, in spite of the situation. Every so often Tara really did surprise her. And that was good. Even now, when she thought she knew her girlfriend she just came out with something that…

Something like that.

“Probably not though,” Tara suggested. “At least – I mean – No.”

“Dead girl turning up on your doorstep?” she guessed. Now how would she deal with that one? No, that brought unpleasant thoughts. But, for Paige… Faith had pretty much treated her like a bootycall at the best of times but… had kept going back and Paige had kept on welcoming her.

And on the evidence of the time since Faith had… ‘crossed the river’, Paige’s feelings had grown too.

For Faith Lehane recurrent booty calls were like a long-term commitment or something. Alley cats had more fidelity than Faith had ever shown to anyone else.

Enough… Paige had started to find feelings. Enough that Paige had been the last person Faith visited before…

And then Faith disappeared and Tara turned up to tell you that she wouldn’t be. Not ever again. You go to a memorial with a big rock and a plaque and more people than you ever thought knew Faith, let alone loved her in some way and…

Time passed.

“If you were Paige?” she wondered. “What would you do now? When she turns up?”

Tara shrugged. “It’s Faith.”

Yeah, there was that. It really was Faith. Buffy had always been looking for perfect love and never, ever found it until she stopped looking in the less obvious places. Funny that. She and Tara had gotten theirs, but not the easiest way either.

Faith… she might just be looking for two things, at least now that she’d eaten. Her sister and feeling good. Paige’s part was the feeling good. Right? Or… was it more than that? Something else?

And would Paige go for being cheated with by a girl who was married to the Lord of the Underworld? That was a pretty big step, considering Hades would be perfectly entitled to hold a grudge.

“For a – what are we calling it, hetero-flexible?”

“Uhuh.”

“For a hetero-flexible girl, she seemed pretty set on what she wanted,” she observed. “After four months with Hades, I mean…”

“I guess.” Tara’s mind, obviously, was on the bigger picture. And she was having all those thoughts too – but it helped to talk. After all, wasn’t going after Paige for a night of hot sex (or maybe just a couple of hours) exactly like Faith? A girl who was all about feeling good and not much else?

The thing was, knowing Paige – even not as well as they’d like – had probably revealed more about Faith than anything else she’d ever done.

Paige was – minus the super-strength and the bad attitude – more like your image of Faith than Faith liked to pretend she was. It wasn’t that they were alike, it was more that… with Paige, Faith probably didn’t have to be Faith.

And that was different.

“Maybe four months of marriage have just proven she’s firmly on the girls team?” Willow wondered. Though, not exactly news. Faith was a fan of whatever made her feel good. But… when it came to girls, there was really only one that they knew about.

And a whole load of guys. That had to make Paige the special one. Mathematics said so.

“We know how Paige feels - ” Tara started.

“But I don’t think Paige knew, maybe not until… you know. After.”

Tara nodded; it had been her conclusion after all. She did get to nod. “But for Faith – I think maybe it’s really love.”

“You really think so?” Willow asked. “You really think she’s up to that?”

“I think - ” Tara paused. “I think maybe, she’s in an arranged marriage to a god. I guess, maybe, that was never what she really wanted - ”

“She loves the fringe benefits, the shadow stuff and all,” Willow pointed out. She was convinced of that. Faith’s delight in smashing that demon to a pulp had been pretty obvious and very Lehanian.

“But what about the rest? Let’s say that Hades is a good guy, that everything she said is true, she still didn’t love him. She doesn’t get to play around as much as she wants to – as much as she would on this side of the river. And - I think maybe, when you think about it long enough, someone who showed you affection… that could start to look a lot like love.”

Willow considered that, almost saying something three times before eventually… “We don’t know s.h.i.t, do we?”

“Not a thing, honey.”

That was just it. Faith (had) rarely put a brave face on anything, but the idea that she would let it appear like she was under the thumb of some guy – even a god – wouldn’t sit well with her. So… was Faith really okay with it all? Or was she in such a bad way that pride wouldn’t let her admit to?

See, if you really didn’t – or hadn’t – liked Faith all that much it was easy to think the worst of her. It was habit, not fair at all after what Faith had gone on to do for them. But it was easy to think she might be letting pride get in the way.

And suspecting pride meant she had to admit that Faith might be in trouble and needed their help.

No matter what she’d used to think about Faith – she didn’t want that at all.

Either way… “I hope Paige is in.”

“She’d probably have wished Faith called ahead,” Tara said.

Sure, your girlfriend was coming back from the dead. You’d want to straighten, take a shower. Shave your legs. That was what you were going to worry about. Not the whole ‘dead’ thing…

“Call ahead from the Underworld?” The logical side of her pretty much demanded she make the point.

“Uhuh,” Tara said, pressing against her arm.

“Also, even when it comes to Paige, Faith’s really not that considerate…” After a few weeks of saying nothing but good things about Faith, it was surprising how easy it was to slip into old habits.

Even when Faith might be in trouble… And she was just as worried about that as her girlfriend was.

“Tara, what are we gonna do?” The question was a pertinent one. In about a block, they were going to have a choice. They could go to Buffy and Eddies, Giles’ place or… home. That wasn’t what the question was really about, the choice would be telling.

If they thought they needed the help of the others, if they thought that there was something they should know – right now - then they had to go to one of the other places, not home. Phones… for whatever reason they rarely just called. No matter what was happening.

You went over; you talked to people face to face. They always had. Maybe they always would.

And this was pretty big…

The girl they’d all grieved for wasn’t dead. Hope’s sister… Married to a god.

Back in Sunnydale.

Did they need to go tell someone? Or did they need to take the time…?

“I don’t know,” Tara admitted. “I really don’t. I…” A shrug was all she could manage. “I was kind of hoping you might have an idea?”

Lots of ideas. But no decisions. No recommendations… “Okay, let’s break this down,” she suggested and – without a word – they slowed to give themselves a little extra time to think. Tara was holding her hand, pressed up against her. Always nice.

“Go ahead.”
“For the record, do you think she’s Faith?” Willow asked. She had her own opinions, but Tara knew her better.

Tara nodded immediately. There was obviously no doubt in her mind. And if Tara hadn’t believed it, they’d never have taken her to dinner.

“And – again for the record - you’re sure it’s not wishful thinking on our part?” She meant the ‘our’ too. Knowing Faith was alive, after she’d saved them all, and what it would mean to Hope? Yes, she wanted this to be real as much as Tara obviously would.

“I don’t think so,” Tara said. “I hugged her, you know.”

“Yeah… I noticed.” Somehow Tara missed the emphasis she was putting on that, her mind was elsewhere. Some people might’ve thought that a naked hug with someone who wasn’t your girlfriend would’ve been a little more memorable. But since Faith had been wearing clothes, she could hold off on the jealousy. The only green she had in her was her eyes.

“Everything – you know how everything alive has a… signature.”

She nodded; of course she was aware of it. But they were talking ‘for the record’. Whatever they decided, this was what they’d be telling the others when they asked the same questions. Working it out up front, not contradicting each other, was going to be reassuring to themselves and the others.

Tara still wasn’t exactly happy with people looking to her to know what to do. Even though she nearly always did.

Saving the world had gotten her a reputation…

But for them – and those who were sensitive to it - the ‘signature’ Tara was talking about was a living, vibrant connection. The most obvious example was when they touched and connected. A thread of awareness of the other. Like right now.

Even at a distance, they still had a sense of that. They’d taken to calling it a ‘signature’, but it was there – and much weaker – for other people as well. It was a part of how Tara had first spotted Faith, when she was in Buffy’s body. Something about it hadn’t been quite right and then making contact with her had proven the point beyond any doubt for Tara.

That had been back when Tara hadn’t really known either Faith or Buffy. She’d spotted the imposter because the spirit of Faith hadn’t matched the body of Buffy. And look at everything that had come from that good judgement?

The world was still here.

So it stood to reason Tara would be a good judge of Faith’s signature now. Of course, there were other reasons.

“It felt like her. It really did.”

“So no possession or Hell God or anything?”

“Not that I could tell,” Tara said. “It didn’t even feel ‘off’, like you did when - ”

“Good,” Willow said, glossing over what had happened to her. It wasn’t something either of them liked to dwell on, how close they’d come to losing each other forever. And… Faith was the one who had made it possible to put things right.

One of the things they owed her. They could start to pay off a tiny part of that debt by being right about this situation.

“And no sense of… anything else? Maybe something shadowy? Or maybe… dead? I don’t mean she’s dead because, eww for Paige if she was, but, anything?”

“Nothing – like I said we hugged. And I was - ”

“Yes! I get it,” she was only half teasing now. “You hugged Faith when you were bare assed naked. My girlfriend hugged sexually flexible Faith Lehane – of all people - with no clothes on - ”

She had clothes on,” Tara reminded her.

“Well, that makes it better. I guess I’m lucky she didn’t come back like the Terminator. But there was still lots of skin to skin contact there then,” she said, getting back to Tara’s original point. “What with the slutty top and all.”

Funny, how a top could be slutty but naked Tara was… classy, beautiful and totally respectable.

“Enough!” Tara said, slapping her upper arm. “Seriously, you know that skin to skin is the best – ”

“And so you offered plenty of skin. Obviously that was your tactic. That was why you didn’t wait until you at least put some clothes on. Maybe even just your panties. But no, my girlfriend is so committed to finding the truth that she just had to be one hundred percent naked - ”

Tara gave her a look and – despite the (potential) seriousness – they couldn’t help but smile. “I didn’t get a sense of anything different except… power.”

“You mean Faith and power?” she checked. “Because I asked about Hellgodiness, and you said ‘no’. If Glory was somehow in her… we could be leading her to Hope.” There, that was the main thing they had to worry about. Right? That the end of the world could yet be nigh.

But if it was like that, then they were screwed anyway because Faith already knew they knew where Hope was. And they knew she knew they knew. There was a lot of knowing going on but a whole lot of indecision and doubt to go with it.

None of it on Faith’s side. Miss Lehane had always been a stranger to doubt and indecision, suffering instead from plain bad judgement until… Well, until Tara actually.

Plus, would Glory as Faith even have known about Paige? Let alone gone over there instead of after Hope?

Everything they’d seen said it was Faith.

Just a slightly different Faith. A more dangerous one – if such a thing was possible.

So what did that mean?

“I mean, she’s strong, Willow. What we saw – what I saw her do to Glory? She still has that power. She still has that strength. She joked about us worshipping her and I don’t know what makes you a goddess, you know, technically. But I think she could easily be a goddess in her own right – I mean, if we have to put a label on things,” Tara said. “Stronger than Glory.”

Glory who’d been a goddess but pretty much couldn’t do anything except beat on things and suck brains. Her – now healed – hand gave a twinge as if remembering both those qualities.

Faith had already demonstrated a few different powers Glory had never shown them. So Tara could be right about that. And… married to Hades. That had to be a qualification right there. Goddesshood had to be in any well-written pre-nup. Faith was a big enough girl to get what she wanted out of the deal.

Or… no. To make it at all, she’d been desperate. Desperate to save Hope. With the world on the side.

There was – some people would say – a word beginning with P for what she’d done. She’d never – ever – say it to Tara but someone who didn’t appreciate what Faith had given them might… And maybe that meant she didn’t get to be a Goddess.

At least not in name. But in practical terms?

She pursed her lips. “Yeah, I figured. What with what she did to that demon. I mean, do you have any idea of the physics behind throwing a demon through a wall?

“This isn’t a movie, you can’t just throw something squishy through a wall. Not without a lot of force or a really badly built wall.

“They just don’t have the mass or the resilience to do that normally so you’d have to be looking a major force… I bet Buffy never threw anything a tenth as hard as that. Not even a baseball which – by the way – would be a lot easier to knock a wall down with. I think – maybe – Faith did something - ”

Tara stopped her with a finger to her lips. “I believe it’s her. But she’s different now. More than she was. Kind of like the ring. It’s the most real thing I’ve ever seen, even though it’s sort of not there at all. She’s… she’s a bit like that.”

“She’s paid a price though.”

“She’s still paying it,” Tara reminded her. “She’s going to keep on paying it.”

Yeah. No matter where she was now, what she was doing, at some point Faith was going back to her husband. Which was something else they needed to worry about.

They needed to worry for Faith for sure… Maybe they’d just decided they didn’t have to worry about about her.

“What do we do?” Willow asked, looking at the three roads, each of which presented a different option. Funny how none of them led to Hope.

Things would’ve been a lot less dramatic in her head if Faith’s sister had been called Lauren or something…

“We talk,” Tara said.

“Oh, processing. We’re getting good at that.”

**********************

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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 172 - 01/20/14
PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:58 am 
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Katharyn, How on earth is Faith going to explain being “alive” to Paige? Unless.. Faith told her about being a Slayer and all the supernatural stuff during their last get together. I don’t know.. Paige, like Annie, is probably more aware of what’s happening in Sunnydale than most citizens so she might even be half expecting Faith to appear on her doorstep. It’s gonna be a shocker but I’m more concerned about the Scoobies’ reactions to Faith’s new status as non-dead Uber-Slayer.

Buffy, first and foremost, needs to be told asap. That won’t go well if she isn’t expecting Faith to show up at Hope’s birthday party. Especially given how her own birthday’s usually go! It’d suck if Buffy got her ass kicked, again. The blonde Slayer is still essential to the well-being of well, everyone, for at least half the year and it wouldn’t be good to make her feel inferior. Having a high level of confidence is a large part of why she’s managed to live longer than any other Slayer. Let’s keep it that way! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 172 - 01/20/14
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:32 pm 
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Kajun - Thankfully (due to point of view of the story) I don't have to SHOW you the Paige conversation. You just have to know it happened and the apparent outcome...

Yes, I entirely agree with you about how hard that would be. And she's a woman of few words (but rather more in these ending chapters!). I think Paige - like others who have been around the main characters - knows more than she should, but Faith never probably sat her down to tell her... Cos, you know, sex things to do.

But I doubt she is expecting Faith at all...

Buffy IS the next to find out so we will see that. And everyone will start to worry about what to say to Hope (but only because they are worried about the thing you, the readers, are not! 'Is Faith in a bad place, do we need to save her and how do we do that if we do?')

But Buffy is (at least for Sunnydale) THE Slayer again. Whether another has been called... well, its not really relevant. So there's that to think about too.

Another chapter coming right up :)

Not many left and - again - sorry for obsessing about things you all just accepted... I really thought I had to persuade you Faith was 'okay' LOL

Katharyn

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 Post subject: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 173 - 01/23/14
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:45 pm 
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Title: Tara and Willow – Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Three
Author: Katharyn Rosser
Feedback: Absolutely, yes please. That’s why I write for this place, to engage in the discussion about the story.
Spoiler warning: Not sure why I am bothering, really, but Season 4 and Season 5 of BTVS.
Distribution: This story was written for Pens. Pens is its home. No archiving off Different Coloured Pens and the Kitten Board please. No conversion to eBook or other formats please. Enjoy it here.
Summary: Buffy and Giles find out Faith isn’t dead while Tara goes to see Hope.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BTVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc. I am making no money from this series of stories however all original characters and situations remain my property. As this is a missing scenes and alternate reality fiction lots of scenes are new versions of those seen in the show, as such dialogue and situations are taken from the show. I’m sure you can tell which. All credit for those aspects goes to the original writers.
Rating: Occasional, tasteful, adult situations and contextual bad language. However by and large equivalent to the show.
Couples: Tara and Willow forever, that’s all I’m bothered about.
Text convention: Use of italics denotes either special emphasis if used for a single or a few words in a sentence OR first person thoughts if used for a whole sentence.
Notes: In this part I’m trying to both reflect the obvious questions that have to be asked, but also avoid the kind of endless soul-searching repetition I’m perhaps famous for. Willow tells Buffy and Giles what they know – which isn’t much – and obviously they have questions. Somehow just being happy Faith isn’t (apparently) dead doesn’t seem to be on the agenda…
This is one of those parts where, because I am trying to put information across, I interrupt the flow of the dialogue. I don’t like to, but the information rather than the jokes and humour are kind of the point… A delicate balance I don’t often pull off. I did consider removing some of the info – particularly about Hope – but I couldn’t bear to. So… well, we’re close to the end. Live with it.
Thanks to: Anyone who is worried about Faith, cos… feedback suggests you guys really aren’t. LOL. I had you all pegged the wrong way. So if you’re worried about Faith like I thought you would be all these chapaters are for you to show you that you shouldn’t be. If you’re not worried (heartless!!) then actually you’re right not to be, but you’re too early… Please keep reading, it’s only a few more to go. Why give up now? LOL


“What?!”

It wasn’t really a question. Buffy had heard her perfectly well. And she was speaking English, since they knew that talking to Buffy in other languages… Well, it really didn’t get the message across.

And she’d really, really, wanted to be clear about this. Also, that it wasn’t her fault. Fortunately naked-lesbian-witch-dancing hadn’t yet become relevant.

Buffy’s outburst was… extra emphasis. As if it was necessary. As if her face hadn’t been enough of a clue as to her feelings.

“Did you know about this?” the Slayer asked her Watcher.

“No,” Giles said, though he was looking at her and not Buffy. Like it was her fault. “We’re both together, groping in the dark on this one.”

Buffy - obviously still shocked and about to turn that on her – instead raised a finger and went back to him instead. “Giles, I know you’re English and old but never, ever talk about us groping. Especially not groping together. Whether it’s dark or not, people – never mind what people will think. It’s bad enough what it makes me think.”

“Fair enough,” he said, suitably chastened.

But then Buffy turned back to her. “You’re sure? You’re sure it’s her?”

It was… She wouldn’t have been here if she wasn’t, not saying what she had anyway. Tara knew Faith better, of course. But – from the Slayer point of view – might be the less reliable witness. What with all the wishful thinking and all. Maybe that was why they’d split up and Tara was off… doing another hard job.

But actually, Tara was the one who’d proven it.

“Tara is,” Willow said. “And I trust her judgement.”

“But how can you be sure?” Buffy asked. “What did she do? What did she say?”

My naked girlfriend hugged her and there was skin to skin contact and that’s really not as lesbo as it sounds except lesbian witch and -

“Let’s say… Let’s say someone – Tara - had the opportunity to tell for sure. And she’s behaving like Faith too. Talking like her. Faith, I mean, not Tara – just in case you thought she was contagious except… Look, don’t worry about that. It’s Faith.”

“Apart from the walking through walls and throwing people - ”

“Demons,” she corrected.

“Throwing demons, through them,” Buffy agreed. “That’s not normal. Not even for a Slayer. Not even for Faith.”

“Don’t tell me about the physics,” Willow said. “I know about the physics, but all the same – I watched her do it.”

“And you say she’s, umm, picked up some shadows?” Giles asked.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s like – it’s like they move just a little differently to her. Like they don’t quite follow her. Does that mean something to you?”

“Not a blessed thing but that’s hardly surprising. The literature – whatever there was of it – was fairly sparse on Hades. He kept himself to himself and I’d wager no one wanted to tempt his wrath by writing about him - ”

“Apart from the whole abduction and rape of Persephone,” Willow said. The cat was out of the bag on that one. Tara had been to the library and found the references.

To say she hadn’t been happy would be an understatement. It’d taken her about twenty minutes to get her girl to agree that Faith might not be a victim like something that could be entirely fictional.

Or mythical at least.

No, Tara wasn’t happy about that at all.

But why should she be?

There was a flash of concern that crossed Giles’ expression just then, for the same reason. Buffy started out with confusion and then just paid attention to the words and… Yeah, it was there for her too.

“Um, yes. Quite. One can only hope – I’d stress, again, that generally Hades has maintained his air of mystery for whatever faith – ah, trust we could place in the legends anyway.”

So it was all likely to be a story? No abduction. Not the other thing either… That was… good, right?

“He helped us,” she pointed out. “Against Glory. We couldn’t have killed her without him. It took the power of a god to fight a god and come out on top. Not sure we could’ve done it and kept Hope alive.”

“He didn’t really fight,” Buffy pointed out.

“I said the power of a god,” Willow reminded her friend. “He gave Faith the power to defeat her. You know, once Glory was vulnerable and believed that she could die in this world. Isn’t that enough?”

She wanted it to be enough. She wanted Faith to be okay and telling the truth and… not the other thing because that was going to tear Tara apart. Let alone Hope and Faith. What in the world could they do about it?

They’d be fresh out of friendly gods if they needed to fight him.

“The point,” Giles said, obviously about to return them to it, “isn’t about Hades at all. I truly believe that – if he exists which he seems to – then he’s beyond the scope of our comprehension, let alone our ability to influence or affect him. He is – as Glory found out – at the end of all things in one persona or another. What we have to be concerned about is Faith.”

She nodded, agreeing with his position. “Maybe she’s the only one who can stand up to him now?”

“Maybe even she can’t do that,” Buffy said. “I hate to have to ask this, but do you think she needs our help? I mean, that’s what we’re talking about isn’t it? We don’t want the last four months to have been – well… bad. But looking forwards, we have to deal with what we’re facing.”

“Faith never met a man she couldn’t… um, handle,” she said.

“This isn’t a man.”

“The way she tells it, he kind of is.”

They all let that truth soak in, thought a moment too long about what it was.

“But is she hiding something? Is she in trouble?” Buffy was insistent on following up on this, which was a huge change for her.

Despite the fact that Buffy and Giles had both obviously felt excluded and left out for not being told right away, disappointment at that had mellowed into a genuine concern for the girl who’d previously been Buffy’s fellow Slayer. They both seemed to just have accepted the fact that Faith was herself and alive.

Mostly because she and Tara said so.

Better not be wrong about that then…

They’d even put personal concern about her wellbeing above the possibility Faith could misuse the power she plainly had.

That was good, but it would need to be thought about eventually. Assuming Faith was ‘okay.’

The way she looked at it, Tara had been a big influence on Faith during the whole ‘doing the right thing’ period and – best they could tell – there’d been no Hope back then. Even though they remembered her being around since the Monks had dropped her into reality.

If Tara’s role was truly as she thought – or had been true – then Tara had probably turned her around, just as they remembered now. So without that day-to-day good influence and with her having vastly more strength and power, what would happen to Faith? Would she backslide?

Some people had thought just being the Slayer was too much for her. In their minds, that was why she’d gone bad. A poor excuse for a Watcher hadn’t helped and a group of people who should’ve been her friends being more interested in their own problems but – mostly Faith herself.

If she slipped back to that now... Or even surged forwards into a dark future? Just how close to being a god(dess) was Faith now? What did that even mean?

The council could send whoever they liked after her, it wouldn’t be able to take her. Let alone hold her. Nor could Buffy…

Magic, maybe.

But Buffy was focusing on the fact that her rival might – actually – be in real trouble. Trouble she might not be able to handle.

Trouble she might not be admitting to.

And that was where they were. That was – once they knew it was Faith – what she and Tara had mostly been frightened of too.

Because it was tough to know what they could do about that either. They could be a good influence on the girl, as best they could. But rescuing her from Hades?

How?

“I don’t know,” Willow said. “It’s possible. We really can’t rule it out. Maybe Tara could figure it out, she knows her better than any of us. She could maybe get her to open up. I – I guess we just have to hope that if he was really abusing her then he wouldn’t let her come here – even if she wasn’t admitting it.”

The other two both nodded. She’d just thought it, but it was a good point. One she’d have to tell Tara about.

“What do we do about Hope though?”

“I’m forced to be pragmatic,” Giles said. “We probably couldn’t keep her away from Hope if we wanted to. Short of taking to the road again. Correct?”

“She’s stayed away for now… Well, Tara suggested it and she found someone – something else to do last night. But it was a close run thing. You’re right; I don’t think we could stop her.”

“So again, unless we think Hope – and lets not forget the world – would be in danger and we go on the road with her - ”

“Because that worked so well last time,” Giles interjected into his Slayer’s summation.

“Yeah, well, unless those things need to happen – and we need to decide that right now – then I think we have to let the party go ahead and Faith will be reunited with her sister,” Buffy finished. “I mean, we can’t stop the party on this notice without everyone wondering why. Hope, most obviously. I don’t want to do that to her and I know you and Tara don’t.”

Both of them turned to look at her. Umm…

“Sunnydale birthdays,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “Something always… This could be for all the marbles. You have to be sure, Will.”

No pressure at all then.

Where was Tara when a big decision was needed? And who decided on this division of labour?

Though, actually, she didn’t envy Tara her role.

Not one bit.

----------------------

“Tara!”

Hope’s hug was every bit as enthusiastic as her smile.

“Happy birthday, honey,” she said, kissing her on the cheek. After all, she couldn’t forget that part. In fact, she was so afraid she was going to spoil what should be a special day…

Or am I about to make it for her?

“Thanks! I – I know it’s not really my birthday, I mean - ”

She shook her head. Despite what was going on, she wasn’t letting that one slip by. “No, silly, it is your birthday. You’ve got more claim over today than Anya has on fourth of July. She just picked it out to sound more American. You, you remember it being your birthday, we all remember it too. This year though, we’re just doing it for real.”

That was the strange thing about Hope; they all felt like they’d known her since she and Faith came to town or – in her case since she’d met Willow. They’d experienced all those times and those moments but simultaneously some of them were aware that, actually, they hadn’t. Hope knew it too.

It messed with your head.

Like the most realistic dream you ever had and the edges were more than blurred. They were indistinct. Like – there were things she knew they’d definitely done. Things she knew they definitely hadn’t.

Everything in between was a grey area where the real mixed with what had been created. Seamless.

Apart from the fact that they knew it.

“Did you ever wonder whether, maybe, this was the dream?” Hope asked, taking her arm and hand.

“I’m struggling to think through everything that happened in the past,” she admitted. “Please don’t make it any more complicated.”

“Plus, you lurve this dream,” Hope said.

“It’s true. There’s lots to lurve right here.”

“And lots of ways to lurve! Rawr!”

Surprised, Tara took a step back. “Did you just ‘rawr’ at me?”

“Umm, well, I kind of rawred at you and Willow, I mean, you’re probably the most sexually active people I know. Especially since Anya – well, what she got Xander to do. Then they left town so… it’s you two.”

“What about your – Oh…”

They’d called it a ‘division of labour.’ With too little time before Faith expected to see her sister, Willow had gone to tell Buffy and Giles what was happening.

And she’d come here to prepare the ground, to start to get Hope ready for the fact that Faith was back. Back and a little different. To try to make sure she could deal with that, and then… she’d nearly just dropped it all in there because – as far as anyone knew – Faith had spent the night with the sexy (but so not my type) tattoo artist.

Paige, the one other person besides the two of them that Faith had ever really loved.

“I slip too, sometimes,” Hope said, squeezing her hand.

“Sorry, honey.”

“It’s okay,” the girls said. “I’d rather talk about her than never mention her. You know?”

“Yeah, honey, I know.”

And with that, Hope moved on and she knew she’d missed her most obvious way into the impossible conversation. It’d taken her by surprise, she hadn’t been ready for the younger Lehane sister, but maybe she’d get another chance.

To ease into it.

Somehow.

“Hey, Tara. Did you know Ira took me shopping yesterday?!”

“That’s – wait – Ira took you shopping?”

“I know!” Hope said. “I thought it was totally weird too.”

“Don’t start saying ‘totally,’ she said. “It’s like, totally bogus.” She winked.

Hope’s laugh was something, a few short months ago, she’d never thought she’d hear again. And yet…

She’s better, she’s recovered and – what am I about to do to her?

“And never tell Willow,” Tara told her next.

To her certain knowledge Willow had never been shopping with her father. At least not for anything she actually wanted. Sheila had often taken her to Sears and places liked that, used to pick things out for her too. Right up to the end of High School. The store card deals had been just that good and Willow hadn’t really had the need to be fashion conscious so she’d just let it happen and not said anything.

But… Ira? “Are you sure it was… Ira? I mean, you’re sure it was Willow’s Dad?”

“I think I know who took me shopping!” Hope protested. “He’s actually pretty cool. You know, for an old guy.”

“He is,” she admitted.

Ira was a very cool man. In his own, unique way. Not in the same way that Ethan thought he was cool. And not like – from a certain point of view – Mister Giles thought he used to be cool.

But – generally, he was a good guy who’d spent too many of his daughters early and teen years working and now had another shot at being a father to someone.

And that was how he was cool.

He and Sheila had taken on a teenage girl who had no one – legally speaking – and was very, very different to their own daughter. And by now were officially fostering her. All the paperwork and training taken care of.

But for Ira and Sheila’s involvement?

The future might’ve been a state group home or something and… this was so much better. It’d also tested the fact that – as far as the rest of the world was concerned – Hope really had existed since birth.

She had a copy of her birth certificate now and everything. And that proved when her birthday was too. Despite earlier denials.

It was today. There was a party planned and everything.

And I get to tell her that her sister’s back. Sort of. And the rest…

“So what did you get then?” Tara wondered, because you did. Didn’t you? It was the sort of question you just had to ask.

“A dress. A party dress. For the party!” Hope was as animated as Tara had seen her since Faith had… vanished.

It’d been rough, of course it had. But the girl was just about past the fact that Faith was gone. You could say something and it wouldn’t hurt quite as much. It didn’t hurt her every single day. Not anymore.

Or at least not so obviously.

Growing up through your teenage years with your sister as a Slayer, especially a Slayer like Faith, might’ve been thought to prepare you for the inevitable.

It hadn’t.

Not in any way.

That wasn’t the way things worked when you loved someone.

Not when that girl was Faith and beat every odd. Even defeating her own demons – albeit with help.

Hope had taken it hard. Harder than anyone else and they were probably all even closer now because of that. One good thing, at least, to come out of what had happened.

Or what they’d thought had happened.

But… she had to ask. “A party dress?” Visions of the Lehane version of a party dress were… Umm.

Was Hope going to be like her sister? No, because Faith -

“Don’t worry! It’s nothing like my sister would’ve worn - ”

“Your sister doesn’t – Faith didn’t wear dresses. Period.”

“And you do, which is weird, don’t you think?” Hope asked. Sometimes Hope almost seemed to be channelling Willow. Of course, sometimes Willow channelled Hope.

They were all changed and influenced by the people around them. Sometimes she even caught herself talking ‘British’ like a certain person… “Don’t you dare, missy. You know much better than that.”

“I know, but – don’t you think it’s weird? I mean, you wear dresses and skirts all the time, even if Willow likes you in jeans – especially those tight black ones - and you’re just into girls.

“A girl, I guess. But Faith was all into the guys – and the girls I guess – and she never wore anything without legs – except, you know, when she wasn’t wearing anything much.”

“And what does that teach us?” Tara asked, teasing her now, because Hope did know much better.

“Umm - it doesn’t matter where the hemline is? You can still get - ”

“No,” Tara said firmly before she could finish what sounded like it might distressing to her notion of what a sixteen year old Hope would be like. At fifteen you could think of her as basically a child, albeit one who had gotten very grown up, very quickly.

Now? Now she was a woman.

And she didn’t envy Ira one little bit. Because Willow had in no way prepared him and Sheila for a sixteen year old Lehane.

“It teaches us that it takes all sorts of people to make the world go around. Or something like that anyway. So anyway, since you’re obviously trying to prime me for it… This hemline? Just how high is it?”

“You caught that, huh?”

“You’re a little bit more subtle than your sister, but not by much.” She held up her finger and thumb, showing Hope just how little it was.

She wasn’t Hope’s Mom; she wasn’t even her foster-mom. But… she had - and did - feel responsible for her. Big sister-ish, just like before… when it hadn’t been real and Faith had been in the coma?

They’d all known Hope through that time and she’d had lots of big sisters and a couple of big brothers too. But the one that mattered… wouldn’t have cared where her hemline was.

Just so long as no one was trying to get under it. That was what Faith would’ve taken decisive action over.

Violently, decisive action. Probably involving broken bones.

No wonder poor Hope never had a real boyfriend.

“I can bend over without – well, you know.”

“That’s a good test,” Tara agreed, even though she’d never – personally – gotten anywhere near needing to try it herself. “I like that test. You didn’t ask Ira to – did you?”

“Ew! Tara!”

“Sorry…”

“No. I used the mirror.”

“Good. I… he’d have probably turned away, made a sort of man noise while he didn’t look and never even been able to tell you for sure,” she said. “Then you could’ve got yourself in trouble. Had to stand up the whole time.”

“I guess.”

Hope was – no one could forget – her sister’s sister. Obviously, when you thought about it, but she seemed pretty happy about the dress. Oddly happy. Kind of like she’d gotten something over on someone who might have disapproved and now it was far too late to do anything about it. So if it wasn’t the hemline then…

Something else.

She was more devious than Faith, this they knew. Mostly because Faith never bothered with devious… Hope couldn’t just charge in and know things would turn out for the best.

So she had plans.

She had devious plans.

Of course she did. She was sixteen.

“This dress?” she asked, watching Hope stiffen a moment, before hiding it again.

Ah, there was something…

“Yeah?”

“Has a… back does it?” she wondered. As if just curious.

“For sure. Back all present and correct.”

Ah… Well, that was one good thing. After all, the Hope they knew today definitely wasn’t built to go without some support, even though she and her friends didn’t seem to mind showing a bra off in ways Daddy would’ve grounded her for. Not just the straps either. But if the dress had a back then that was one good thing… Which just left… “And the neckline?”

Hope knew that she was supposed to be embarrassed. But she wasn’t. She was definitely revelling in being a woman and having all the parts to go with that. Some – or two – more generous than any of the rest of them. Not massively so but…

“It’s a cool dress!” Hope said instead of answering the question, but that was an answer in its own right.

And I thought dresses that came up around your neck were all the rage…

As far as she knew Hope wasn’t actually one of the ‘popular kids’ or the ‘beautiful people’ at school. Even though she was growing up to be beautiful and did have friends – thank goodness.

As Willow told it, Buffy had started out a cheerleader and ended up kind of forming her own group. Not a nerd. Not a sporty person – because who had time with the slaying – but confident, self-possessed and eventually not chasing the approval of others.

How many of the cool kids would’ve helped her save the world? Not many…

Now Hope was in a similar – but different – position. How similar and how different they didn’t really know. It wasn’t the sort of thing you could really assess when it felt like a long time since Highschool. But she could imagine that a girl like Hope, growing into the same – literally - effortless attractiveness her sister possessed, couldn’t be dismissed easily by anyone who wanted beauty to be the standard people were judged by.

At the same time she refused to play the cool game while definitely not being ‘uncool’ either.

All in all, if you were one of the High School elite then Hope Lehane gave you all sorts of problems just by existing. You couldn’t ignore her. But you couldn’t quite taunt her either, because she passed all the standards that made you cool and beautiful.

Oh, and she wasn’t afraid to punch someone in the nose.

Boy or girl.

Actually boy and girl.

On consecutive days.

Ira hadn’t been happy to go down there even once, let alone twice. Fortunately, Willow insisted, Sheila still didn’t know about that. Or else she’d have started to wonder if Hope was in a gang or something. That was a very Sheila Rosenberg concern, as she’d come to appreciate.

No, Hope just had role model that said that sort of thing was okay. Because on top of everything else, Hope was a Lehane and in that family, it’d never been about being the Slayer.

Nor the violence. Nor the primitive instinct to be some version of sexy. No matter who she turned out to be, in some way Hope was going to be a heartbreaker. She just had that vibe about her…

One day boys would be looking at her and thinking they were falling in love. Maybe they already were.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s cool,” Tara said about the dress. “When the wind blows, I guess it really will cool you off.”

“Ha and ha.”

“I didn’t - Have you got a minute, honey?” she asked, feeling like she ought to get to what she was here for.

“I don’t know, you’ve already had a minute. Remember? I told you about my dress.”

“Another minute then? Give me two? For old time’s sake?”

The last thing they wanted was for Hope to be… she needed to decide whether the girl could deal with a surprise like Faith at her party. It was her birthday and being the end of the school year too this was a bit of a joined up party.

All Hope’s friends were coming and – in the midst of that celebration…

We’re going to bring out her – dead – sister. Wreathed in shadow… Married to the Lord of the Underworld because that was the only way to save Hope and – by the way – the whole world.

Could she deal with that?

Was it fair to ask her to?

She was a good kid, resilient as anything. Just like her sister in many ways – the good ones, mostly. But she was certainly more overtly sensitive than Faith would ever be too.

Sure, Faith was a young woman and – much as she might push them down – had feelings, but Hope was willing to show them more. And because she did, everyone respected them and considered them.

More, perhaps, than we thought - think - about Faith’s.

Faith wants to see her sister. Who am I to say she shouldn’t?

Who am I to think I could stop her? She’d listen to me about most things but… I already pushed my luck with last night.


She’d asked Willow that sort of question and her girlfriends answer – unwelcome as it was wise – had been ‘maybe you’re the only one who can tell her she can’t. Especially now.’

They were unable to back that up with force – even with Buffy - maybe no one could now. But… she’d come to believe that maybe Hope had her part to play in keeping Faith on the straight and narrow (the –presumably – reinvigorated relationship with Paige not withstanding on the ‘straight’ part. Just how had that gone? ‘I’m back from the dead, want to go to bed?’ No… probably Faith hadn’t asked.)

From a practical point of view - unless she and Willow were going to spend their entire lives waiting for Faith to come back each year – it had to be Hope didn’t it?

That was putting a lot on a young woman who didn’t even know about her sister yet.

What to say though?

“Another one? Well, I don’t know – Oh, heck, I’ve more than a minute for you,” Hope said. “Maybe three, maybe just the two. We can see how it’s going.” The girl leaned into her and could – if she’d tried – have knocked her off her feet that way. Taller than her sister, probably stronger if Faith had never been the Slayer. Hope’s growth had really rounded off in the last year. She was pretty much the woman now that she was going to be.

But still a kid in so many ways.

“Well, thank you for being so generous with your time, birthday girl.”

She was covering now, because she didn’t know what to say. Didn’t know how to say this without… It was Hope’s Birthday, for goodness sake and everyone from Ira on down had been more comfortable with a bigger birthday party they’d all be at than having Hope and her friends sneak off to have their own kind of party.

All her friends will be here when it happens…

“So?”

“So… how are things?”

Hope’s eyes narrowed, now the suspicion was on the other foot. They knew each other well by now. They could read each other.

She knows I want something. She probably can tell I don’t know how to say it. But there’s no way she can know what it is.

Right?


“Fine – I told you about the dress, Oh, God, the world’s not going to end is it? Buffy told me every time she had a birthday someone called an apocalypse. And look what happened on yours!”

“No, no. Buffy’s birthday this year still had lethal qualities, with the knives and all. But no actual apocalypse this year,” Tara promised her. “Or last year, actually since - And – no. No world ending.

“Not today, anyway.”

“Unless you’re like, not involved?” Hope suggested.

There was something to think about. All the potential apocalypses that had rolled through Sunnydale over the years Willow had known Buffy, had anyone ever stopped to ask ‘what if the world ended somewhere else?’

Probably not.

This
is Sunnydale.

“If it was here, we’d be involved. But it’s not – there’s not - Look, relax. The world’s not ending on your birthday. You still get to wear the dress.”

“Cool,” Hope replied. “So you want to sit down?”

“Please.”

She didn’t miss the fact that Hope perched herself, just as if she’d been wearing an oh-so-short dress.

Practice?

Teasing?

Just how high was that hemline really?

Even so, the whole body language thing reeked of being aware of ‘something important to tell you’ and ‘I want to hear what you have to tell me’ but… how do I do that?

“What is it Tara?” Hope had taken her hand, was holding it. Trying to do the comforting thing before she even knew. “Is it something about Willow? Is she okay?”

“No. No… I mean, yes, she’s fine. I’d have told you - ”

“She’s not pregnant is she?” Hope asked.

Later on, telling Willow, she was pretty sure her jaw dropped open at that point.

“No!”

“Are you?”

“Preg – where did that come from?”

“Well, you’re witches and, you know, I figure – a lot of people figure – that maybe you could make a baby without, you know – the other bit. Magically and all. Just the two of you, without the messy part.

“So… if that’s true, then we started wondering if it was possible for you to have ‘an accident’ like – well, you know what I mean? The messy part…” Hope was blushing more and realising that the answer was still a firm ‘no.’

“Wait a minute, who’s ‘we’?” she asked. Who was talking about them accidentally making babies? Which – by the way – was impossible. Right? Perks of being a lesbian, surely. Witch or not.

“Never mind.”

Like I couldn’t guess? It probably started out as dinner conversation at Casa Rosenberg. AKA the house waiting for a grandchild… then the others would’ve picked up and run with it, which was where the accident came into it.

It was almost enough to break her stride, put her off what she had to do. Except Willow had told the others by now and one of them was surely going to blab to Hope or assume she knew or something. It was lucky, in a way, that Anya and Xander no longer lived in town. The ex-demon had better things planned for her fiancés future. They should be here for the party, but Anya wasn’t going to be the one to ruin the surprise.

Her blunt honesty wasn’t what was needed right now.

But it would’ve been easier than this.

“So what is it if you’re not preggers? You know you can trust me.”

“I do, we do. We all know that.”

“And I… I guess I never thanked you all for… you know, after…”

“Yes. Of course you did!”

“No, not that part – I mean, for everything else. Since then. Willow’s parents, Ira told me it was your idea.”

“I just asked a question,” Tara said. “That’s all. He and Sheila did the rest.”

“That’s not the way Ira tells it, and even then – you and the others, you’ve kept on keeping the place safe. You could’ve all retired. Just been… normal lesbian witches. Now the Watchers should have their new Slayer”

The unspoken part of that was ‘the one that replaced my sister.’ They didn’t know that though and… if Faith had never died then that would never be the case.

They hadn’t thought about that side of things. There’s no other Slayer out there.

Is there?

Buffy’s replacement has already been called and Faith’s not dead, nor likely to be… Was the world short a Slayer?


“What else were we going to do?”

“Less than you did,” Hope said. “Maybe. Most people – me and Faith… we came across lots of people who should’ve helped us. You know, before we came here. Maybe if someone had, things would’ve been different. You and Willow, the others, you did more than any of those people who should’ve been doing their jobs.”

She felt like the best way to deflect the thanks, the praise for doing the right thing should’ve been to talk about the workload and the pressures on those people who hadn’t helped them – how Faith couldn’t have been the easiest girl to try to get close to and how – at the end of the day – Hope’s past was all created anyway. Slotted into the world.

It hadn’t even happened from a certain point of view. Except, their theory was that it had. Because Hope had been dropped into the past rather than changing the memory of every, single person who’d have had their lives changed because of her.

The world had been subtly altered.

And now… Hope’s world was down to be not so subtly altered.

Maybe though…

I just have to trust her.

******************

_________________
-------------------------
If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
-------------------------


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 173 - 01/23/14
PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:19 pm 
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Katharyn, ARG!! Just tell her already! Hope has been put through more emotional pain than any of the Scoobies. She made it through all the trauma of learning she was created by monks and barely escaping being used as the instrument for mass murder that would have led to the destruction of the entire human race. I think she can handle finding out her sister isn’t dead after all. Sure it will be a shock, but it’s not as if Hope will be hurt, scared or mortified. Why does Tara think Hope would be anything but ecstatic? I expect a certain amount of trepidation with this news from the rest of the gang but not from Hope.

I can’t imagine Faith waiting for a birthday party to see her sister. Does the Slayer have the patience for that? Heck, I figured she’d have been at Hope’s door, or window, at the break of dawn. :grin

Aaawwww.. Buffy is worried that Faith needs saving. They sure have come a long way since the good ole days with the Mayor, eh?


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 173 - 01/23/14
PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 3:35 am 
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It's your own fault, Kajun! You're all so sensitive about some things and then when I put Faith in a marriage she never asked for everyone's like 'meh, she'll be fine.' LOL. Okay, so she will be fine BUT I thought I had to persuade you all...

SIGH.

I never get my readers right. Never.

So telling Hope. There's a story reason NOT to do so... First, as mentioned above, I thought I needed the time to reassure you all that Faith was okay but secondly I also wanted to reach a conclusion on that re-union and happy times. Combine the two and... well, I can't tell Hope. Tara will try, she will but...

It's also about the time to wrap these characters up. I've been writing/posting for nearly two years on this. Naturally I want to leave the characters in a good place. You know, the place that they coulda/woulda/shoulda been... And that includes Buffy coming around to Faith's side. She has no real WAY to save her if she needed it, but hey, she's thinking maybe she needs to.

I think Tara knows Hope will be happy about her sister, it's the rest of it she has doubts about. Messing with her settling down (Faith's only back part time) and the whole 'is she okay' thing I mentioned above. I think they want to understand what you've all picked up WAY quicker than I thought. Know how I keep beating you round the heads with some things to get you to accept it in the story? (Sidestep VW is evil, they are NOT good together and things like that?) Yeah, I thought this was one of those...

Oh well... Look to the nuggets of character rather than the 'Is Faith okay?' stuff. Maybe you can still enjoy it :)

Thanks
Katharyn

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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 174 - 01/25/14
PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 3:41 am 
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Title: Tara and Willow – Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Four
Author: Katharyn Rosser
Feedback: Absolutely, yes please. That’s why I write for this place, to engage in the discussion about the story.
Spoiler warning: Not sure why I am bothering, really, but Season 4 and Season 5 of BTVS.
Distribution: This story was written for Pens. Pens is its home. No archiving off Different Coloured Pens and the Kitten Board please. No conversion to eBook or other formats please. Enjoy it here.
Summary: Getting Faith to open up (I could make a joke about that…)
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BTVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc. I am making no money from this series of stories however all original characters and situations remain my property. As this is a missing scenes and alternate reality fiction lots of scenes are new versions of those seen in the show, as such dialogue and situations are taken from the show. I’m sure you can tell which. All credit for those aspects goes to the original writers.
Rating: Occasional, tasteful, adult situations and contextual bad language. However by and large equivalent to the show.
Couples: Tara and Willow forever, that’s all I’m bothered about.
Text convention: Use of italics denotes either special emphasis if used for a single or a few words in a sentence OR first person thoughts if used for a whole sentence.
Notes: In the first section, Willow goes off on a bit of a tangent in this part. I think it’s justifiable in character terms; the mental equivalent of babble and the cause was noble… This is probably one of the last chances that I will have to explore their lives together in this story and just as I’ve included snippets about Hope and her life etc, I wanted to give them – and you – this before we finish.
In the later section, there’s evidence of the difficult balance I’m trying to strike and really hoping you get what I’m doing and read it as I intended.
In part the epilogue is so long because I wanted to ensure that Tara and Willow were aware of what Faith had done, the deal that she’d made and that – actually – she was okay with it. I had to justify the power that Faith received – and let me resolve the Glory situation – without it appearing like I just pulled it out of my ass. But the price she pays…
You could read it and it could sound truly terrible for Faith and - by objective standards - maybe it is. But from Faith’s turned-around point of view, she’s got everything she wanted and has given up very little. She has (more) superpowers, six months of every year free for herself, status (jury is out on whether she is technically a goddess) and… someone who cares about her in his own way. That’s difficult to portray from a sceptical perspective such as Tara’s. Also, Faith’s inability to relate to people, tell the truth of her emotions or just talk gets in the way. But… this is your author telling you, she’s okay with where she is. Maybe the relationships she has on the go won’t work out. Maybe Paige can’t keep going with that arrangement. Maybe a hundred different things will go wrong.
But for Faith – of all people – she’s nowhere she wouldn’t choose to be to save her sister. She’s a real survivor and she did that. Now she’s finding out how to live with the cost, as we all do in our much smaller ways.
In truth I realised – after the final pass at this – that I had focused too much on the sex side of things in terms of ‘that was what could be wrong’ and so I added a very late snippet (the last original thing to be added to the whole story) to push past that and make Tara’s concerns more wide-ranging as well as Faith’s reassurances.
Oh, there’s a small tribute to Big Bang Theory in something Faith says here… Credit etc…
Thanks to: To the readers. You already GOT it. This whole part is laboring what you see is already obvious... I hope you can still enjoy it.



“You didn’t say anything?” Willow asked. They’d had a division of labour. She’d told Buffy and Giles and Tara was supposed to tell Hope. “Nothing at all?”

And Tara always did what she was supposed to. That was a big part of what made her Tara. In love. In life. In good times and bad.

Tara Maclay did what she was supposed to. That was pretty much a rule of the universe.

And now the universe was… askew because Tara Maclay… hadn’t.

“What was I supposed to say?” Tara countered, defensive because she knew that she’d set the universe off balance and didn’t know how to fix it.

“Baby, I offered to roleplay that out with you, but you pooh-poohed the roleplay,” she said. “And after we had such success with it, you know, personally.”

“It really wasn’t that much of a success,” Tara said.

“What do you mean? It was great!”

“It was… okay. You know, for us. Which is pretty great for everyone else, I’ll admit,” Tara told her, clearly trying to make her feel better about it. It wasn’t often you could get Tara Maclay to boast even that much about their intimate moments.

Not even just ‘moments’… Most of them were much more extended than moments.

And, maybe Tara was thinking of some other moment? They’d only tried roleplay the once and… it’d really been a success from her point of view.

Really.

“Okay? But – but - ”

“Really not the time, honey,” Tara said.

Not while Faith was looking on. No.

“Roleplay?” the woman wrapped in shadows asked. You wouldn’t have thought, but it was beginning to seem like a good look on her. In a weird, supernatural way it just… worked.

“Okay, if you’re going to keep pushing! Damn. See, I was a sexy cop,” Willow blurted out. This was Faith; she couldn’t just surrender the ground to her. She and Tara were – in their own way – just as sexy as Miss Lehane had ever been.

At least I like to think so.

Faith said nothing though.

While Tara just looked at her.

So, how did she justify giving their secrets away? Well… “I was a very sexy cop,” she said again. “I feel – Baby, you said I was a very sexy cop.”

Tara shrugged. “You put the work in. A lot of effort into the costume and looking up the laws I was supposed to have broken while I just had to be me… I never thought I’d need my ID during – well…”

Curses. Why doesn’t she just shut me up? All she had to do was tell me to shut up in that sexy, sexy voice and with those sexy, sexy lips and obviously I would. We shouldn’t be talking about this now. But…

“Did you want to be the sexy cop?”

“Baby, we do have a guest. Remember?”

Oh yes, she was acutely aware of that. And Faith – obviously – couldn’t resist the chance to prove that she was exactly who she looked like. Faith Lehane, verbal battering ram. “You should let Tara be the sexy cop, you couldn’t butch up enough for that.”

“I’ll have you know I was exactly butch enough – wasn’t I butch enough, baby?”

Tara shook her head. Not denying it, but rather – it seemed – because she wasn’t having this conversation. And that was okay, because that wasn’t a ‘no’. Just a ‘not now’.

Though, Faith had a good idea there… Maybe with her hair tied back, that leather jacket and the boots… Tara could be a sexy undercover cop.

I could even do the research for her, write a short briefing paper so she was all clued up and authentic.

And she could still bring the ‘night stick.’ Just because she was a detective, didn’t mean she had to be empty handed. Though… Tara was good at empty handed too.

But… Okay, she was very far off topic. If anyone asked, it was excitement about the party. There, excuse all prepared. Just in case.

“So, putting aside what you two lesbos like to do in the bedroom, you really didn’t say anything to Hope?” Faith asked. “You’re not screwing with me? Giving me another excuse?”

Tara shook her head.

“So I could have gone seen her yesterday?” Faith asked.

“You were just telling us - ”

“Way too much,” Willow interjected. “You were telling us way too much about the night you spent with Paige.”

“Bull, I barely told you anything.”

It was true enough that Faith hadn’t gone into Anya type detail, but then who would? But she had made it very clear that a good time had been had by all. A very good time.

As a fellow recipient of occasional ‘thank God we’re alive sex’ she could appreciate how intense that must’ve been for them and Paige – apparently - was talented in that department and everyone had gotten where they needed to go.

Though Faith had labelled those things a little differently even than Anya would’ve.

“She’s okay though?” Faith asked. It was such a surprise, to have her let go of what could’ve been another chance to embarrass them – just for kicks – that Willow had to look at her to see that she meant it sincerely. “It’s her birthday. I want to know she’s okay.”

“She’s good,” Tara said. “Really. And excited. She has friends, the right people watching out for her. And a party dress.”

“Plus,” Willow added. “My scholarship means that there’s college fund there and my Dad’s… well, he’s willing to spend it on her.”

Okay, so until that had all come out she’d been eying the same pot of money as a potential deposit for a house but… she and Tara didn’t need to take shortcuts, so long as they had each other. If that was what Mom and Dad wanted to do with their money then she couldn’t regret it in the slightest.

“What about the Mayor’s money?” Faith asked.

“Say what now?”

“The Mayor’s money. He didn’t just leave me the apartment and – even if he did – that place has to be worth a lot. Right?”

“I guess,” Tara said. “But won’t you need it?”
“Maybe,” Faith shrugged, nonchalant about money as only a (potential) Goddess probably could be. “But even if I do – there was money too. He was a good guy. Good to me and Hope – maybe just me, I still don’t know how that worked…”

“We may have to agree to disagree about him being a good guy,” Willow said. She still remembered the giant spiders in a box. There was no ‘good guy’ when it came to eating giant, flesh eating spiders in a box. There just wasn’t. No matter what else he might’ve done that right there disqualified him from ‘good guy’.

But he’d had an undeniable fondness for these girls – Faith especially. One you wouldn’t have guessed at and hadn’t just been a method of getting what he wanted. Like the town he’d built, in his own twisted way he’d cared for them.

Helped them.

Left them a lot.

“Fine, disagree,” Faith said. “Point is – there’s that money too. Your folks don’t have to – I appreciate it. But they don’t have to spend it on her. They’re doing plenty already. I – I won’t be around to be there for her. Not all the time, so… she needs them and they should keep it for something they really need.

“Money I can do, being there – not so easy.”

And wow. That wasn’t something she’d expected to hear Faith admit. That she couldn’t take care of her sister anymore.

But… Miss Lehane was wrong. And it was up to her to correct that.

“First, you wouldn’t know this but no one ever told Ira Rosenberg what to do with his money and second, like the apartment, won’t you need it? I mean, you can hardly get a job you can only turn up to six months a year,” Willow pointed. “I mean, I guess you could quit. But after a couple of times of that, who’s going to hire you?”

With their final year of college coming up, her mind was definitely turning to the next challenge. The one that was going to last most of their lives.

Gainful employment. The ‘gain’ part was important too. That was the way the world was whether you liked it or not.

Looking at Faith – and you could see the way the shadows moved around her if you really looked hard – somehow she didn’t (and hadn’t ever) seen gainful employment in this girl’s mix.

“I’m the Queen of the Underworld,” Faith pointed out.

“Fine, but does it pay? And wasn’t it ‘Lady’ before?”

Faith’s face wrinkled as she considered all the things – here at least – that needed money to pay for them. Being Hades’ wife didn’t carry the influence it once had. Anyone who’d heard of him thought he was a myth.

Or the devil. They weren’t exactly sold on the marriage themselves. Tara – especially – was worried.

What people believed in was death and something after it, that was the source of his undeniable power. But the name itself?

Meant very little.

“I guess… Could we – what’s that word? Invest?”

“That is the word,” Willow said, only to find Tara wanted to change the subject.

“We’ll speak to Ira, he knows about that sort of thing. But – what do you want to do about Hope?”

“I’m seeing her, T. You had your chance to help, you didn’t tell her. I get it, I do, that you think she can deal – that you didn’t want to spoil the rest of the day for her. But I’m seeing her. And it’s going to be today.”

“How could she say anything?” Willow objected – despite her own questioning of Tara’s failure. “How do you say that? ‘Hi, honey, remember your dead sister? She’s not dead and she’s the Queen of the Underworld. Oh, and by the way she’s going to be hanging with us six months of the year because she’s married to someone she never wanted to be. Is that okay with you?’”

“Yeah, how do you say that?” Faith asked, sounding like she thought that was perfectly reasonable.

“No,” Tara corrected. “More important, what are you going to say to her?”

“It’s her birthday, all her friends will be there,” Willow pointed out to back Tara up. Though she supposed that might not mean much to Faith who hadn’t had many of those. But the chances of ruining her day were just as high as making it. Tara was right, Faith needed to know what she was going to say to her sister.

For once in her life, she needed to think before she opened her mouth.

“I have no fucking idea,” Faith admitted. “You know I’m not good with words.”

“Well, don’t you think you better think about it?” Willow asked, just as there was a knock at the door.

Faith’s suspicions were instantly aroused and the shadows… flexed, but it was just the door. Right? No… not exactly. Because she and Tara knew who it was…

“Sorry we’re late,” Giles said, but Buffy didn’t say anything or wait to be invited in.

“Hey, B.”

“Faith? Is that really you?”

Faith shrugged, looked down at herself. “Far as I know, yeah.”

“That’s not exactly reassuring,” Buffy said. “Tara, tell her she needs to be reassuring.”

“Really? Or what?”

“No ‘or what’,” Willow said. “Buffy, tell her there’s no ‘or what.’”

She wouldn’t have wanted to place her bets in a regular old Slayer versus Slayer fight. When it came to surviving and just being flat out mean, Faith had Buffy beaten – even if her best friend had other winning qualities for a different kind of fight. But Faith wasn’t just a Slayer anymore, was she?

Of course that was exactly what Buffy was worried about.

What she could do about this if she had to?

The fight with Glory had probably overcome any remaining difficulties between the two of them – now both Slayers that had ‘died’ in some way. If two people could be ‘unique’ it was the two of them. It was just that Faith was even more unique and Buffy was trying to figure out of that was in a good or a bad way…

That was what she did and she’d expect help.

The thing was – Tara had made the point and she had to agree with it – that how Faith was treated now, how alone – or otherwise – she felt could easily sway that balance into the future. Just like before she’d come to town.

It’d determine what she’d become. A force for good or… well, maybe even evil.

Neutral, they could live with neutral too. As long as it was a ‘do no harm’ neutral and not a ‘one good averages out one bad’ kind of deal.

Of course, feeling that way had meant Tara was wary too.

Her girlfriend, the woman she was going to spend her life with, was definitely nervous. Tara didn’t have blind faith in… umm, Faith. She had faith in Faith that was based on actions rather than the things she’d said. But it certainly wasn’t blind… and she never, ever wanted to tie herself up in a conversation about faith in Faith. That was well on the way to babbledom before she even opened her mouth.

“Buffy…” she warned softly. They needed Faith onside. Especially now. Buffy hadn’t seen what she could do and just hearing about it probably didn’t have quite the same effect.

“Okay, there’s no ‘or what,’” Buffy conceded. “She’s your sister. I can only imagine if someone wanted to keep me away from my sister – if I had a sister – I wouldn’t let them either.”

“Glad we understand each other, B. I’d hate to have to lick your ass again.”

“When did you ever kick – wait, hold the phone. Did you just say ‘lick?’”

Faith grinned while Giles rubbed his glasses. Almost like he believed it.

“She never licked my – anything. She never licked anything! Why would you say that?” Buffy demanded.

“To fuck with you, why else, B? What can I say, right now, I’m down with the dykes. Kind of literally, actually…”

Will just cringed. Having Faith on ‘their team’ wasn’t something she’d ever wished for, despite the fact she’d really gotten to like Paige in tough circumstances. Though, if she was with Faith, it was unlikely that ‘nice’ entered into what they had together – and she didn’t want to think about what or who was entering into what with what either…

“But you’re married,” Willow said. Lets turn the conversation to where it needs to be.

“It’s one of those – what do you call it – open relationships? Is that it?” Faith asked.

“I have no idea,” she said. “I don’t need to know, either. I’ve not got one.”

“No – Christ, I mean, is that the word?”

“Oh, right. I guess it probably is. So… you can… be with who you want?”

Four people were suddenly – unexpectedly and unwillingly – paying a lot of attention to Faith and her sex life. It needn’t have been a question just about that, but knowing Faith as they did realistically that was exactly what it was.

They needed the truth. Not about that but about the whole situation.

They needed to know if they had to do anything about it.

Faith had saved the world. Tara had been very clear on the fact that she was no less worthy of their help – if they could do anything – than any of the people that she’d actually saved. Even more so.

But she’d have to tell them she needed that help, and that she’d accept it too. Then they’d figure out what to do about it. They’d give her every chance to do that. Otherwise…

“I see where this is going,” Faith said. “This is one of those… interventions right?”

“If you want to call it that,” Buffy said. “Sure. Why not? We could paint a banner if you like.”

“Have a seat,” Tara said.

“I’m fine.”

“Please?” Tara pressed.

Faith sighed. “Fine – whatever. But if you were doing this properly, you’d have my sister here. Right?” She slumped into the chair, legs cross like a guy.

“If it was an intervention, probably. I don’t know who you’re supposed to invite,” Tara said. “But we are worried about you. For you, really.”

“Yup, that’s how it always goes on TV.”

“We’re worried for you, Faith,” Giles reiterated, stressing the correction Tara had made. “We want to be sure that you’re… okay.”

“Just peachy.”

“You’re married to someone you don’t want to be,” Tara said, showing more courage than she knew she’d have managed. Faith’s motto had always pretty much been ‘want – take – have.’ It was implicit that anything she didn’t want… didn’t happen.

And now, it sounded like she’d lost control. Like she didn’t have choices anymore. Or did she?

“Did I show you the ring, B?” Faith offered, as if supposing that might actually help. Stretching out her hand and willing it to show in all its heavy reality.

“Oh… that’s, um, unique.”

“Isn’t it?” Faith actually admired it, she couldn’t keep from turning it to see how it sucked in the light.

“Not what I’d look for if Eddie - ” Buffy said. “But, definitely unique.”

“And it hurts… people,” Tara said.

“Dead people,” Faith corrected. “It hurts dead people. And on this side of the River, Paige certainly didn’t have any problem with it.” Faith’s grin was just too… knowing.

And also knowing that they knew what she knew they knew…

“Okaay,” Willow said, not quite sure she wanted to continue and possibly get Faith angry. “We get it. Over here you can do what – and who – you like. But – and I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth but we’re worried about over there. What’s the deal with that?”

If Faith had told Paige all about it, if the girl could deal with that and they could come to some arrangement? Fine. It wouldn’t have worked for her, but she was one woman woman. A one person woman, in the context.

A one Tara woman.

Faith had never been like that. She and Paige hadn’t been cheating when they slept with other people. It’d just been… them. They were similar in that regard, but pleasing opposites in most others. Paige had never put up with Faith’s shit, but also she’d drawn her own lines about just what qualified as ‘shit.’

And that hadn’t included sleeping around.

So over here, this side of the River, wasn’t what they were worried about.

Yet.

“I married him, that’s the deal. I stay there six months a year. That’s the deal.”

“Is he hurting you?” Tara asked gently.

“No.”

“Are you sure?” Buffy asked. “You can – tell us. Or maybe just Tara if you prefer?”

“Or you prefer.”

Frustrated, Buffy threw up her hands. “We’re trying to help you, Faith. We are. We want to be sure you’re okay because you did something really important, really special. You saved Hope and you saved… all of us.”

“Everyone, really,” she added.

“Buffy’s right,” Tara said, moving across the room to sit next to Faith.

“And we’re your friends,” Buffy added. “Properly, this time. Not like when you first got here. We care – right guys?”

No one disagreed.

“Really? You’re going to hold my hand now?” Faith asked.

“Do you want me to?”

“No.”

“Please, Faith, we can’t help you,” Buffy said. “Unless you tell us you need it. Not with this.”

“Then I’m doomed to this forever? Because if I tell you the truth you don’t believe me, think I’m repressing or broken or beaten down or some pathetic kind of shit that I’d never let happen and if I lie then you feel you have to leap into action?”

Of course an evasive Faith would say that…

Tara looked around at them, looked at Faith. Obviously weighing something up. Willow could tell, they’d gotten this wrong. Just like Tara going to Hope.

It shouldn’t have been all of them confronting Faith, that wasn’t how you asked someone if they had a problem. That was how you told them they had a problem and Faith didn’t look about to admit that. Not to all of them.

Too much TV. Not enough thought. Maybe Giles should’ve been wiser, but he was British and they didn’t talk about anything personal.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s leave them to it.”

Buffy and Giles both had a look that said ‘who us’?

And yes, them.

“Leaving me alone with your girlfriend, Red?”

“Yeah, because she’s my girlfriend. And it sounds like you’ve got your own.”

------------------

“Red’s wrong, you know? Paige isn’t my girlfriend,” Faith insisted as they had the room to themselves. “She’s a girl, we fuck. But she’s not my girlfriend.”

“So are you going to see her again?” Tara asked. Yes, she was trying to trap her friend into admitting something that made it so – no matter what she wanted to call it.

Girlfriend is as girlfriend does.

“Well, I couldn’t see much with her thighs wrapped around my face anyway,” the other girl joked.

She shook her head, even though she’d encouraged it. At least that far. “Just stop, Faith.”

“Stop what?”

“Stop all that. You can’t fool us now. We know Paige better now than we did before, we had to – we weren’t going to leave her to grieve alone. And she did grieve for you.”

That, at least, caused a reaction but then the Slayer was back. Call it denial if you like. “You don’t think we fucked?”

“No, I’m pretty sure you did, but don’t try and pretend you didn’t sit up talking most of the rest of the night. Don’t tell me you didn’t talk all this out. Before or after. Just don’t. You were gone all night. We know her now. And we know you. I know you. You haven’t changed, not really.”

“Maybe not, but I still don’t go in for processing, T. You know that.”

Tara shook her head. “You’re not fooling me. You can fool the others, maybe. Not me. She was the last person you saw before you sacrificed yourself. You left, when all you’d wanted was to get Hope back, you left to see her right before – when you knew what would happen. And she was the first one you went back to - ”

“Because you wouldn’t let me see Hope.”

“I couldn’t stop you seeing Hope, not if you wanted to,” she pointed out. “It was a bad idea, you saw that and you went to Paige. Just admit you talked too. Just admit it.”

After all, Paige had thought she was dead. You didn’t just fall into bed with someone you thought had been dead without a word.

Not even Faith.

“Okay, so… we talked. But we did fuck.”

“And I never doubted it.

“Look, we’re not going to stop caring. Or asking if everything is really okay. And even if that’s not for you, it’s for Hope. I don’t want her being afraid for you.

“I want to be able to reassure her when she asks me – and she will. I want to reassure her with the truth.”

“No one has to be afraid for me, T. I’ve got this covered.”

“So make me believe it,” she said. “That’s all I want. Make me believe you’re really okay.”

“You want to talk about my straight marriage?”

“If that’s what it takes. Yeah.”

Faith took a breath. Nearly started and then took another when she didn’t quite find the words the first time. “He’s… not a bad guy.

“Even just for a guy, let alone a Greek God – and by the way, there’s a reason they talk about bodies that way. But that’s what you’re worried about, right? That he’s hurting me?”

“That’s one of the things I’m worried about, yes.”

“He… doesn’t. I wasn’t lying to you – I don’t need to. Okay, there are people – people who’ve been over the river a long time - who tell stories, but they’re just that. Stories. Stories they heard. Nothing that they saw for themselves.

“Right now… it’s a long time since he’s had a woman and when there’s having going on… Trust me, I’m the one who’s doing it. Does that make you feel better?”

What, exactly, that meant she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. But Faith seemed willing to talk so she didn’t interrupt.

“You don’t get it, T.

“He could have anyone he wanted, he’s got the looks and the power. There are plenty who’d sleep with him just to – well, I can’t talk about why. But trust me. He doesn’t use it, he doesn’t do that.

“Believe me, I’ve been watching. Asking around. I thought about all this stuff, I was even afraid of it. When I was ripping that Hell God bitch’s head off, I was thinking about what I’d have to do to pay him back. What he might do to me.

“And yeah, I was even scared. Me. Because… if he’d been what you’re worried about there wasn’t a thing in the world – in any world - I could do about it.”

She nodded. It sounded like Faith. Naturally suspicious. Never jealous, but not about to be screwed over either. And the admission of fear? That wasn’t something she could remember ever hearing.

Except for the terror when she’d been worried they wouldn’t get her sister back.

And that was what had led them to this point.

“Does he force me? No.

“Is he romantic? Perhaps he thinks he is but that’s never been my thing anyway.

“Is he a good lover?” Faith asked rhetorically. “Not especially. But there’ve been plenty who are worse and he’s… I guess you’d call it considerate. It’s a lifetime deal, T and it’s not all about fucking.

“I guess, you know, I’m not his perfect dinner companion either. I don’t tell jokes, I don’t know much stuff except the things I’ve killed and he’s seen bigger and worse than all of it except Glory – we bond over Glory and killing her. Seriously.

“But he listens to me, he laughs sometimes. And he looks… good. I mean, kinda older but… good. And as for his butt?”

“That, I don’t want to know,” she said.

“But you said you did.”

“Not that.”

“How about the cock?” Faith asked.

She shook her head. Would someone who was being abused, forced into… all that really make jokes about it? Perhaps, to deflect. Would she have believed them?

It sounded like Faith was… maybe ‘happy’ wasn’t the word, but then ‘happy’ was something Faith had known only fleetingly since she’d been a kid. Happy was something she’d confused, mostly, with… well, what came after being with someone. ‘Satisfied.’

“Maybe I can believe all that,” she said. “I want to – I really want to. But… I also think you deserve to be happy.”

“Happy? That’s never been my thing. Better to drop it. Just… go with what I told you.”

“Happy should be your thing. I wish it was. But if you don’t want to talk about this. Is it because he’ll know?”

“I’ve no idea what he knows, T. I really don’t. I know he doesn’t care what I do out here though. It’s only over there that I threaten his power, you know if I… do what I do.”

“And you know that the ring is intended to keep you from doing anything down there – I mean, across the river.”

“And that,” Faith admitted. “Sure.”

“It doesn’t sound like much of a marriage.” There, she’d said it. She didn’t want to be down on it, but it really didn’t. Nothing like the life she wanted with Willow where, sure, there was a hot body and great sex but they did have the laughter, the good times, the trips and the friends.

Each other. Monogamously. Without having to use magic wedding rings to punish other lovers because they wouldn’t have or need them.

That was what she expected from marriage and it hurt her to think Faith wasn’t getting it.

But… she really did sound as if she was – at the very least – safe. A partner in this marriage and not a slave to a bargain she’d struck to save her sister.

“Just a human lifetime, T. That’s what he asked for and… I’ll give him that. One lifetime for another. As long as Hope… well, as long as she’s around, I can protect her this way and I can pay that price. I mean, when you first meet him, he’s a scary guy. But… that goes away. He’s really kind of like… I wanted to say a pussy cat, that’s not it though. More… a puppy. He’s like a puppy.”

Okay, this had taken a turn for the weird. Hades. Lord of the Underworld. Was like a puppy?

“Go on…?”

“Always giving and kind of clumsy. And yes, I’m talking about the sex. At least after I’d given him a few pointers.”

“It’s not all about sex,” Tara said, not sure that message would ever get through to Faith. She’d been equating happiness and intimacy with killing things and orgasms for far too long to change at the flick of a switch. Wouldn’t matter who she was with, she’d probably always have had that problem.

At least unless someone could really show her another way.

“He didn’t have to let me come back here now,” Faith said. “I hadn’t been there six months. That was the deal. But here I am. He didn’t trick me into anything. He didn’t lie to me about what would happen if I ate anything down there – I mean, I can now, but not then. He basically gave me these six months and he didn’t need to. Who knows, maybe I wore him out. Maybe he wants to see other people.”

“Please,” she said. “Stop kidding around; stop hiding everything under jokes and dirty talk.”

“What do you want to know?” Faith asked. “Oh, yes. I get it. You want to know if I love him? No, I don’t. But there’s precisely one person – maybe two – that I’ve loved in my entire life.”

“Hope and your Dad?”

“No, Hope and you, dumb ass.”

And there it was, a different kind of love. Getting Faith to say the word without sarcasm underlying it was something of a revelation and she tended to believe what she was saying because of that. Her friend wasn’t that good an actor.

“Thank you – but you should know there are plenty of people who love you,” she said.

“You’re only the second person I said that to and one of them, well, she didn’t used to be real.”

“What about Paige?”

“I… I haven’t said it to her.”

Yet.

She sounds like she hasn’t realised what that feeling, the one that keep taking her back, is…


“So you don’t love him – you shouldn’t - ”

“Don’t go there, T. You don’t even know how many people I’ve fucked and I didn’t love even one of them.

“I made a deal with him, Tara. I did. I did it for Hope. The rest of the world, that was just a bonus as far as I was concerned. Maybe it was a little bit for you and Red, because she makes you happy. Maybe Paige – If Joyce had still been around, then her too. But I did this. I’m a big girl and there are much worse things than being Queen of the Underworld.”

“B-But - ”

“T,” Faith interrupted. “So help me…”

“Don’t be mad at me for caring,” Tara said.

“I’m not, I’m mad at you because you’re doing what I’m always accused of.”

“What’s that?”

“You’re making it all about sex,” Faith explained.

“I don’t think - ”

“Yes, you are,” Faith said. “I get it, that’s where your minds went. You’ve got the big brains and you care for everyone – even me. Of course you went there. Can I just suggest something you might not have gotten, being a box snacker and all?”

“What?”

“Men don’t get married for sex. At least not anymore. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. He could’ve just taken me down there and chained me to a rock. Or a bed. And I’ve gone.”

Tara winced. She couldn’t help it. But was Faith right? Was that what she’d been afraid of? It was the place – the awful place – her mind had gone first. After that… There are other things to worry about, but she might be right.

“I don’t think that’s really a recommendation.”

“We’re married, T. Yeah, one day that will end but… I’m okay with it. It’s sweet that you worry though.”

Tara was taken aback by that part. “Sweet? Did you just say ‘sweet’?”

“Slip of the tongue. Look, Hope’s safe now. If he was hurting me – do you think for a second that I’d not fight him until he was forced to kill me?”

She winced again, but… “No.”

“It’s me. Like I said, maybe I don’t love him but… I’m fond of him. I guess that that’s the word you’d use. And the sex is getting better, like I said. Besides... I’ve changed.”

“You’re saying things like ‘sweet’ and ‘fond’ for a start.”

“Really?”

“I’m trying not to be too – over the top,” Tara said. Not that she really believed it was in any way ‘over the top’ to care.

“You’re shit at it.”

“I know.”

“That’s sweet too,” Faith said. “It’s – Hope, I guess.”

“Paige?”

“Yeah.”

“Her – her you do love,” she said.

“I never said that.”

“You don’t have to.”

Neither of them said anything for a momen so she broke the silence. A different approach. “You’re going to hurt her.”

“She knows what it is. She knows that we never made any promises – I can’t.”

“But?”

“None of the rest bothers me,” Faith said. “I could live this way, I could.”

“But…”

“Then, right at the wrong time, there’s her.”

“I guess you’ll have to work that out then, won’t you?” Tara asked.

“Is that acceptance I smell?” Faith asked in reply.

“It’s… fading concern.” She hugged the other girl. “I’m – I’m actually proud of you.”

“For nearly saying I was in love?” Faith asked.

“For nearly being monogamous,” she explained. “You know, in different halves of the year.”

“You’ll watch out for her? Paige, I mean?”

“Of course we will,” Tara promised. “But I won’t spy on her for you. You work all that out with her for yourself. We both like her, we’ll keep her company.”

“You’re still not happy, are you?” Faith asked.

She shook her head. Not entirely. No. But…

“Look at it this way. I’d have given my life for Hope – I thought I was. Then I nearly gave my life for everyone. I’d have died for that – I’m a Slayer. You were sad when I thought I did die. Can’t you be happy for me now you know that didn’t happen?”

“Of course I am.”

“So smile, bitch.”

“Faith!”

“Witch…. I meant witch.”

“Course you did. You’re really Queen of the Underworld?”

Faith nodded. “I have a statue and everything.”

“No way.”

“Way. You’d be amazed how much it looks like me – but they have some really famous guys – I mean, so I’m told. Over the river, I mean.”

“What are you doing?”

“In the statue?”

“Uhuh.”

“I don’t know,” Faith admitted. “They just told me – I’m okay, Tara. And I come back here, see you guys and my sister and then I’m more than okay. You and Red, you’re going to spend your whole life together but while you do you’re going to spend half of that at work, separated by needing money and a job and all that shit? Really? What have I given up that you won’t?

“The difference is, you’ll call it a life. Well, I have one too.

“Different, sure. But what’s new there. And I won’t be getting any older while I’m with him. I still get my life. I do… Just, later. I’m not good at maths, but I figure I get like two lifetimes, half of one with him, half of one with my sister and whatever… then one for me.”

She wasn’t exactly convinced by the explanation – or the maths - but she believed in the sincerity behind it.

Faith was…

She was okay.

*******************

_________________
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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 174 - 01/25/14
PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 2:14 pm 
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Katharyn, Tara convinced Faith to wait until daylight to see her sister. Willow tried to ask questions but Tara kept admonishing her for it. Then, she took it upon herself to break the news to the teenager. Willow told Buffy and Giles but apparently Tara still has doubts. All that should have been settled long before she went to tell Hope. If she’s so concerned about Hope’s reaction, why continue to delay the inevitable? It’s a bad idea to spring this on Hope during a party while she’s surrounded by people who have been told her sister is dead. She could react badly, fearful that her sister isn’t real or that she’s turned evil. I tend to think she will be ecstatic, regardless of Tara’s concerns but either way, it’s a foolish, unnecessary risk to take. Tara should’ve also considered that people might think Hope lied to them about Faith. That wouldn’t do the teen’s reputation much good. She has zero authority over any of this yet Faith agreed to let Tara handle it the way she felt was best. That’s pretty generous on Faith’s part. But.. Tara does nothing. Willow would have spilled the beans two seconds after saying hello. LOL

Hope should have been the very first person to be told the truth. Not after Paige or the Scoobies or random Sunnydale residents who cross Faith’s path as she makes her way all over town! Faith should march her ass right over to the Rosenberg’s and tell her little sister she’s alive. Tara blew her chance. To do anything less wouldn’t fit within Faith’s well established priorities. Tara would be seriously pissed if she thought Willow had died and other people knew the truth and were interfering with them being reunited.

Tic-Toc.. Tic-Toc


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 174 - 01/25/14
PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:42 am 
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Kajun - I don't disagree with you. Sadly I miscalculated reactions as I mentioned in previous responses and notes... Ah well, this next part will break through all that (it's the penultimate part.)

So... Let's talk about Faith instead of Tara... (though I will say is coming from the right place, just... worrying too much.) Yes, she's back for Hope - but she's also made clear by her actions she's back for Paige and her friends. What she says and what she does are slightly different and more nuanced. The Faith we knew at the start... she wouldn't have gone that way I don't think.

So... with that, sorry once again and... here's the part that ends the wait :)

Katharyn

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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 175 - 01/27/14
PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:45 am 
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Title: Tara and Willow – Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Five
Author: Katharyn Rosser
Feedback: Absolutely, yes please. That’s why I write for this place, to engage in the discussion about the story.
Spoiler warning: Not sure why I am bothering, really, but Season 4 and Season 5 of BTVS.
Distribution: This story was written for Pens. Pens is its home. No archiving off Different Coloured Pens and the Kitten Board please. No conversion to eBook or other formats please. Enjoy it here.
Summary: The conclusion of Hope’s party and Faith’s reappearance to her.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BTVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc. I am making no money from this series of stories however all original characters and situations remain my property. As this is a missing scenes and alternate reality fiction lots of scenes are new versions of those seen in the show, as such dialogue and situations are taken from the show. I’m sure you can tell which. All credit for those aspects goes to the original writers.
Rating: Occasional, tasteful, adult situations and contextual bad language. However by and large equivalent to the show.
Couples: Tara and Willow forever, that’s all I’m bothered about.
Text convention: Use of italics denotes either special emphasis if used for a single or a few words in a sentence OR first person thoughts if used for a whole sentence.
Notes: So here we are, the penultimate part. I have doubts – as I redraft this – about whether it all goes far enough. But this is an epilogue. The big, dramatic ending was lots of parts ago when Faith entered the rift and crossed the river. Everything after that has really about leaving the characters in a better/good place.
The final part – 176 – will consist of two scenes. One of which won’t surprise you in tone and content. It’s the girls, of course. The other… well, I’m trying to decide which way around to put them. One works better than the other, but on the other hand, this is the girls story…
As for this chapter, some of the ideas of this next part (around kids growing up too fast) were suggested by the contents of a biography I read some time ago. I forget exactly whose it was, a musician I think. He was shocked at his daughter’s birthday party (12 or 13) at some of the behaviour that his daughter’s friends were up to. This from a hardened rocker who’d seen and lived it all… We’re not copying any of that here and there’s no ‘bad’ behaviour, but here and there the themes will come into play and – of course – Hope is a little older than that so you’d kind of expect… Well, actually I don’t expect it. I don’t have kids, I don’t have close family members who do but I’m old enough to be surprised (I nearly put ‘shocked’ there) at how fast kids are asked to grow up these days. Now, some of you are only ‘kids’ from my point of view but you will be the same when you’re my age. Of course, things can’t KEEP getting younger… can they?
Also, I should note that right from the point that I introduced Hope, I wanted to do her birthday party. I had no specific ideas about that, but I knew I wanted to do it. I had abandoned the idea as it was just too light to bring into S5’s canon time period. I’m glad to bring it back now though.
Thanks to: All of you. Whoever and however many of you there are. Three more days or so after this and we’re done… Thanks.




“What are they doing?” Willow asked.

“They’re being kids,” Tara said, “and – ow.”

“Oh, was that me?” she asked.

“Just a bit.”

“Sorry baby. She relaxed her grasp on Tara’s arm. The one that she’d been clinging too, perhaps a little bit too hard. But… this was all a surprise to her.

Okay, so Buffy’s birthday. Nothing like this. So big plus there. Typically those involved the end of the world or – more recently - too much knife action for safety.

But even so, this wasn’t the way things had used to be. Certainly not when she’d been younger.

And living in this house… so there really was a direct comparison between the two.

The last birthday party she remembered being thrown by her Mom and Dad had involved a clown, balloon animals and squeaky noises that still terrified her to this day (for some reasons she now expected clowns – which were bad enough – to squeak like that too.)

No clowns this time. Bonus.

No balloon animals. Two for two.

And no squeaking, except for some of the strange noises being made by some of Hope’s friends. Noises that made you wonder just what was going on in some of the more secluded spots of the garden.

See, what her last party in this house most assuredly hadn’t involved was teenagers making out behind the bushes and around the sides of the house and… Were they inside? In the bedrooms? In her bedroom?

Even if that was now Hope’s and –

She trusted Hope herself not to do anything stupid – or desecrate the place – but her school friends? No, she didn’t trust them at all.

Darn kids.

I’m not even twenty-one and they’ve got me feeling old!

“We have to go inside,” Willow said. “We have to – I need to make sure - ”

“Sheila’s patrolling in there,” Tara promised her, trying to calm her down. “You can’t think she’d - ”

“I think teenagers are sneaky creatures and – no, they’re obviously sneaky, horny creatures. They could be doing anything. They could be doing it anywhere.”

“Sweetie, it’s really not that kind of party,” Tara tried to reassure her and usually that would be all she needed to hear, but… somehow she couldn’t help thinking her girlfriend was being naïve. The evidence was all around them, surely?

“It doesn’t matter what kind of party it is. Boys and girls. Coming together – No! No coming. There will be no coming together – or alone. No coming. That’s what we need to aim for. Everyone arrived, that’s all the coming that’s necessary right here.

“That’s a simple rule everyone can stick to. Right?”

“Willow, baby.”

“Some of my stuffed animals are still in there – what if - ? They don’t need to see that kind of thing - ”

“Willow…”

“Sweetie?” She asked, even though she already knew that Tara was about to do more than reassure her and maybe that was going to be a good thing.

“Stop.”

As usual when Tara told her that, she found the mental space to just… take a breath.

Another.

Then a third. Tara just knew her so well. It was never really a command to do that. No, it was always permission to turn it down a notch or two. “Thanks.”

A kiss marked it as Tara’s pleasure to help. And - for a moment - the kiss caused a minor flutter because - well – teenage boys were what they were, but they subsided fast enough when those boys found themselves looking deeply uncool in front of girls their own age they no doubt wanted to lock lips with.

Now why, when I was at school, couldn’t I look deeply uncool around kissing girls? Might’ve made things move along faster if I’d known what I was missing and I was deeply uncool anyway.

So deeply uncool she’d never have been invited to a party in High School. Which may have been the problem.

It had been early evening when this one had started and the kids had started to drift in some numbers around six. With Ira doing barbecue – and surreptitiously watching the garden – while Sheila watched over the inside of the house, she felt her best role here was to rove.

As an expert in the Rosenberg house – even if she’d not really used its potential make out spots – she did have a duty to perform. A roving duty.

Also, now they were the college kids at Hope’s party. So how cool was Hope for having them here? And by extension how cool were they? At least to these kids?

Most of the time they never got labelled ‘cool’. It just wasn’t a thing for them.

We might save the world, but we’re not exactly the cool kids. Never have been.

So was this better than the Bronze? No, but the party would move down there later when likely some of the even cooler kids would turn up. For now, free food, chocolate fountain which was – umm yum – and Hope… almost holding court.

As a seasoned watcher of school cliques – you had to know who to watch out for didn’t you – she could spot the types in attendance and the omissions too. Maybe some would turn up later, but Hope hadn’t invited like the whole football team or anything like that, which was good. She’d seen a couple of Razorback’s jackets, but one of those was being worn by a girl so she must’ve snared herself a boyfriend and…

No. Wait. There shouldn’t be boyfriends.

Hypocritical, maybe, but all these girls should just hold out for college and find themselves a ‘someone’ then. A nice girl, perhaps, or a nice guy if they really were laced that way.

Of course, telling that to kids was never going to fly so… Wear your jacket, if you think it gives you dignity.

The party was lacking in the geek and nerd department too. She felt like she was having to represent on their behalf with her E=MC squared tee-shirt, but that was fine. Even if Hope had asked some of those guys and girls, some of them would’ve cried off from the social challenges it presented.

Yeah, she recognised that too. More than once she’d gone to a party only to be laughed at for her clothes, her hair or just being a redhead (half the girls who had later dyed their hair the same colour in a blatant exhibition of double standards).

If I’d been a witch then I might’ve gone all Carrie on them.

Wishful thinking…

But, Tara liked the shirt. She said it made the most of her – limited – assets.

Overall though, instead of cliques and groups and what have you, the people who were here … well, they seemed like actual friends of Hope. Or at least friends of friends, which was close enough. And there were more of them than she and Tara could’ve mustered in school.

Even added together.

From her point of view a Slayer and a really good friend counted for like, at least ten people. But then… Hope was still doing better than her on that exchange rate. Not a person here knew anything about what she’d been last year. Maybe they knew about her sister, but to them… Hope was just another kid.

Kids.

Acting all too grown up.

And then she was right back where she’d started. Worried about Mister Iceberg and what the stuffed bear he was witnessing from atop her old cupboard…

“I can’t do it,” she said.

“I told you, just breathe.”

“No – I mean, I am, pretty much always actually. With the breathing. I only have to worry when I stop breathing but that’s not what I meant. I can’t… I can’t just look at her and see some kid.”

Like right now, centre of attention at her own party. Surrounded by friends, telling them… something. Hope was entirely at ease. They’d made the right choice in asking Faith to hold off… for now.

Asking? Practically begging. Because what other leverage did they have?

Letting Hope have this time with her friends, because once big sister stuck her…well, whatever she stuck in, it was going to all be about her and that wasn’t fair... This party needed to be a success for all her friends, not a curiosity to be laughed at. They knew too much about how these things worked to let it happen here.

And Hope deserved it too. Losing her sister, she was still getting the grades. Not going off the rails – which you totally expected from a Lehane.

“Oh?”

“That’s right,” she said, leaning her head on Tara’s shoulder. “Just not some kid.”

“So?”

“So? Oh, you thought there was more? No, it was a complete thought.”

“I mean,” Tara said. “How do you see her?”

“I feel… kind of like a big sister.”

“She already has one,” Tara reminded her. “She’s the surprise later. You remember?”

“Of course I remember, Faith’s been surprising me all the time I knew her. About time she was surprising someone in a good way. But – that doesn’t mean we can’t be her big sisters too does it?”

“Well, wouldn’t you then you’d be Faith’s sister too?” Tara point was a very good one.

“Oh.”

“And, can I then be a big sister in law?” Tara wondered. “It’s kind of the same thing, but it’s your Mom and Dad who are fostering her so I should get some sort of title.”

“You can be whatever you want to be,” she promised. “You know, as long as you’re mine.”

“Oh, that’s the deal is it?”

“You can take it or leave it,” she replied. “By which I mean you can take me but not leave me. Because of the whole ‘mine’ thing. I might’ve mentioned it. Once or twice.”

Tara made play of thinking about it which she kind of expected, but then going on for a little too long. “You know what you’re supposed to say!” she followed up.

“I’m thinking!”

“Well, stop thinking and say the words, you witch.”

“Which?”

“Yes, witch.”

“No, which words?”

“You know which words, witch – umm, Tara.”

Another kiss then. “Well, when it comes to being – you know, yours. I am, you know…”

Willow grinned, kissed her again and didn’t care when the passion involved raised a decidedly male whoop. What she did care about was what was happening over Tara’s shoulder – two kids sneaking off to –

“Leave it,” Tara said, noticing where she was looking.

“There can’t be - ”

“What? Kissing?” Tara asked, pointing out the absurdity of trying to enforce that when they’d done it twice in the last couple of minutes themselves.

Moral guardianship required absence of lip action?

Curses. I might’ve gotten laid if it wasn’t for those pesky kids.

“Okay,” she said. “But second base, that’s right out. And that means you too, missy. My roving patrolling means we have to set standards.”

Tara pouted. “Wait, umm – I feel I should check. Are we back on the same base scale as the straights now?”

Oh, yeah, they had that problem, hadn’t they? Never been quite sure of the equivalence “I think they’re the same up to second at least so… Just keep your hands off, witch. Don’t make me a hypocrite when I’m trying to be a moral guardian here.”

-------------

“She said she’s a moral gardener?” Buffy asked.

“No, she said guardian,” Tara corrected. “Moral guardian, she’s kind of freaking out about anyone doing, well, anything… actually. Somehow… I don’t know, but somehow stuffed toys are involved.”

“Figures,” Buffy said, nodding wisely. “Mister Iceberger – he never had to be like the three wise monkeys. He didn’t see, hear or say anything.”

“Uhuh.”

“You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?” Buffy asked.

“No… but I think, one day you’ll have to tell me.”

“Deal. You know, you should’ve seen her in High school.”

“I kinda wish I had.”

With Buffy’s arm around her shoulder – impossible to resist or escape even if she’d wanted to – they walked across the garden, casually tracking Willow as she checked one of the more private spots, just around the corner of the fence.

“I don’t think I ever gave you the whole story on Willow in school either, did I?”

“I heard it from Xander,” she replied.

“No,” Buffy was shaking her head. “No. See, he might’ve known her longer, but he has a guy point of view. Willow - if you hadn’t noticed, Tara - is a girl.”

“I knew it! I knew it! I knew there was something about her. There were some little things, you know. Little things that gave it away.”

“Oh, right. I’d forgotten. There was that whole lesbian thing. I guess you’ve gotten a pretty good look.”

Tara rolled her eyes. “I suppose you could say that, yes.”

“Up close examination and all,” Buffy pushed. “Once or twice.”

“No closer than you and Eddie,” she replied, finally making her friend blush. It was funny, Faith wouldn’t bat an eyelid telling you she’d done the football team – not that she’d ever actually said that – but Buffy blushed about the slightest innuendo involving her long term boyfriend.

Takes all sorts.

“Okay, okay, but remind me sometime? I’ll give you the whole story. I might even do one of those slide show things. I have photos, you know.”

“Oh, I’ll definitely remind you then. I’ll even bring popcorn.”

Buffy smile, but that soon faltered. “So… Faith.”

“She’s okay,” Tara replied.

“I didn’t actually ask.”

“You didn’t exactly not ask either.”

“But I hadn’t yet, let the record reflect that I hadn’t yet.”

“So noted for the record,” she agreed. “Faith – I really believe she’s okay. She… convinced me.”

“She saved me,” Buffy admitted once again.

“She saved all of us. Everything.”

“And you know her, better than me probably. But the Faith we knew, did she ever ask for help?”

“No. Except with Hope – and Glory, I guess,” Tara said. “And then she pretty much demanded it. It wasn’t really ‘asking’.” She knew where Buffy was going. She’d thought about it.

A lot.

But there came a point you just had to… believe.

“So… if she’s in trouble, if – I mean, god, Tara… look at what she’s doing?”

And she had. She’d talked to Faith, she thought she’d gotten the truth of it out of her. That she could handle this, that it wasn’t forever… just for a very long time by all of their standards – barely a blink to a god though.

And not as dear a price as he could’ve easily demanded.

As dear as they’d assumed the Lord of the Underworld would expect.

They’d thought Faith was dead. Whether it had just happened or Hades had demanded it. They’d been – sort of – okay with that because that was the risk Slayers took. A risk they all took.

Faith was right, it was the lack of death which had flummoxed them.

But she believed that Faith, she’d be okay. “I know. I don’t like it any better than you do. But… I kind of think she… I really don’t want to use the word ‘likes’ - ”

“Good! Because there’s no room for ‘likes’ in this conversation.”

“I kind of think she likes him. Maybe not all of the deal – but… she definitely doesn’t hate him. I don’t think she could hide that. From him or from us. She’d not that good an actor. She’s really not. And she used the word ‘fond’.”

Obviously Buffy was sceptical about that…

“Tara, lord knows I’m no expert but that’s a sound basis for a marriage?” Buffy asked. “That she definitely doesn’t hate him? And ‘fond’ really?”

“No… but marriages were something very different in the past to what they are now and… he’s not being…”

“She’s sleeping with him, as part of a deal.”

Yes, that was the part that she’d had too much trouble with too. But… “She’s sleeping with him because she married him and… she’s Faith. She doesn’t… You know she doesn’t attach a lot of significance to that. It’s not being with other people that’s more significant to her. Really.”

It wasn’t how she could ever have been, but Faith had a different way of looking at that kind of thing.

“You want to know what I think?” she asked. Buffy wasn’t reassured by all the surface things that were obvious – with a little thought – to everyone who cared about Faith.

She wanted the deeper wisdom. Okay, fine. It wasn’t exactly new. She remembered saying something very similar when she’d been explaining why Faith should be given a chance after trying to steal Buffy’s body.

“Please, god, yes.”

“I think she’s always liked people who won’t let her get away with the things she does, but that also… like her too?”

“You mean you?”

“Me, for one. You too – once. Maybe again. I mean, you guys were close there for a while before it all went wrong,” she said. That was what she’d heard anyway. Hope’s version of things may have been skewed and based on a monk’s eye view of events, but… Buffy didn’t deny it either.

Instead her friend pursed her lips, thinking about that. “I… I guess. And after, I mean, once she’d helped with Adam, once Hope was in the picture. I really did…”

“People like us, and maybe Hades – who knows – but I think we… I think we give her boundaries. Without being assholes about it – that’s her word, not mine.” She didn’t like to say things like that, but sometimes you just had to get the point across.

With Faith, that often meant cussing.

“I thought it would be,” Buffy said. “I’ve noticed that about you, you’re not the kind of girl who says ‘asshole’ a whole lot.”

“You noticed?” she asked, pleased.

“I’m pretty observant,” Buffy said. “It comes as part of the Slayer package. Judgement? That’s where I fall down. Especially when it comes to guys.”

“Before Eddie, you mean?”

“Before Eddie,” Buffy confirmed, her expression creeping into a smile. Yeah, it wasn’t quite smug, but it was getting there.

And with some good reasons. It was going well and Eddie hadn’t once killed anyone or threatened to try and end the world or even just gone evil. Also, far from sleeping with Buffy once and turning into a monster they’d slept together many, many times and only gotten closer.

A very real fear of Buffy’s – the price of intimacy – had just about gone away.

“I’m observant too,” Tara said. “I just never used to be able to talk about what I was observing. But you know what we think.”

“I know, but doesn’t mean I don’t like to hear you say it anyway.”

“Okay,” Tara said. “Eddie’s good for you, Buffy.”

“I know.” Now there was a little smugness. It was cute. “But not like Hades is for Faith, right?”

“Not like that – I mean, I don’t think I said Hades was ‘good’ for her. It was more that he wasn’t necessarily ‘bad’ when you think about what she might be doing anyway,” Tara said.

“Or, you know, she could’ve been dead.”

“We all could.”

“Yeah, lets not forget about that,” Buffy added. “The dead part. End of the world, she made a deal to prevent that and we thought she was gone anyway so… this would have to be pretty bad to be worse, right?”

“Right…”

“So why can’t we see things in the big picture way? That anything was better than that?”

“Because she’s our friend,” Tara said. “And we don’t want to think she might be being hurt. Especially if we could blame ourselves.”

There it was. That was why all the agonising. Because Faith had done what she had for them. So no one else had to. Because she was the only one who could.

And they all owed her.

“Do you know why I think I maybe didn’t give her as much of a chance as I could when she first came to town?”

“Not that it would’ve helped,” Tara added, not at all certain Buffy was wrong. Faith had been… She wasn’t the same person now as she had been then.

“Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have helped,” Buffy agreed. “Much. But… I was the one who saved the world. I was the Slayer, you know? We did all this, we – literally – saved the world and I died… People think you get resuscitated and it means nothing but, it did to me. I died to save the world and what did I get for that?”

“Replaced,” Tara nodded.

“Exactly. Much as I moaned about the job, being a Slayer and all… I got replaced. It was easier when it was Kendra because she wasn’t here, in my face. And… Faith was. She wasn’t just in my face, she was rubbing my face in it and that sounds a lot dirtier now than I thought it would now I think about it…”

“I know what you mean,” Tara confirmed.

“I was replaced by someone I couldn’t really stand because – in a lot of ways – she was everything I wasn’t. Confident with guys, she didn’t make mistakes with them because she didn’t stop to think – let alone over-think. Just took what she wanted.

“She was just as good at fighting, better at some things and… everyone wanted to know about Faith.

“I guess, I wasn’t fair to her.”

“It worked out though, in the end. What happened there, maybe that saved the world in its own way because if you and everyone else hadn’t been that way, things wouldn’t have happened as they did and Hope might’ve been, I don’t know… your sister or someone else’s? Maybe stuff would’ve gone down differently. We’re… All you can say about life sometimes is that we’re all where we’re supposed to be.”

They watched the party in silence for a few minutes.

“You want to know what’s awful?” Buffy asked.

“Game shows?”

“No – well, yes, but no. I…” Buffy took an extra minute to find the words. “I’m glad it’s her. I am – I’m sorry but… I’d have died to save the world; I’ve always known that could happen. I could die for nothing other than bad luck – let alone an apocalypse - but I couldn’t do what she’s doing now.

“I really couldn’t.

“So I’m glad it’s her and I’m grateful – to Faith – that it doesn’t have to be me.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Buffy,” Tara said, because – at least at one point since finding out Faith was alive – she’d felt exactly the same way.

There was nothing wrong with feelings. You couldn’t stop them. It was what you did about them that counted.

------------------

“It’s been the best day, thank you!” Hope squeezed and then kissed her on the cheek before switching over to Tara to do the same while they made their way to the Bronze with more people than had been at the party. Things weren’t winding down, they were building up.

Second phase…

Buffy was already twitchy. A few of her birthdays had gone bad here but… No. Not happening this time.

“Thank Ira and Sheila, honey,” Tara said.

“Oh, I did. They didn’t even ask me to come and clean up!”

Teenagers got to be smug about saying thank you before they were asked to. It was just a teenager thing.

“I just wanted to thank you two, too. Tutu?” Hope added, which was typical of her – if not teenagers in general.

“You had a good time then?” Willow asked. It was almost nine, not exactly late on your birthday, but as late as they’d got Faith to agree to make her appearance. She’d pretty much expected that agreement to be ignored but... Not the case.

Faith had stayed away. Just as she’d promised. The surprises just never stopped…

And Tara and Buffy both seemed to be at peace with what Faith had done. That was… new. And good.

“The best time!”

“And your friends?”

“They had good times too – and everyone loved those little pastry things your Dad made,” Hope said. “What were those?”

“Umm, little pastry things, that’s what I called them,” Willow said. “But they are delicious.” She’d had five herself.

“Wait,” Tara interrupted. “You’ve got Ira cooking? Not just barbecue?”

“It happens,” she said. “My Mom can’t cook worth a damn, but usually they eat out.”

Hope snorted.

“What?”

“Wait. That wasn’t a joke?” Hope asked.

“What?”

“Eat out – I thought – maybe it was a joke, you know the sort of joke you tell more than – a lesbian joke?” Hope was just getting redder and redder. “I don’t even know what I’m talking about – it was just something I heard…”

“First of all, that’s my parents you’re talking about so… eww, and second of all – what do you know about it?”

“Nothing. Obviously…”

That Hope was ‘romantically active’ was pretty much a given. She was a sweet girl, confident as her sister in her own way but with more ‘normal’ appetites. Much more sense too – fortunately.

Oh, and more than just pretty. She’d had a couple of boyfriends in the last year but… that was all. Friends who happened to be boys.

And things had never gone too far.

When moral gardening required them to think about it at all then on the straight bases scale, they were all assuming first and brief forays into second. Certainly nothing more than that.

Not that she wanted to know. But her Dad, as moral and actual guardian, was bound to have his concerns and ground rules.

In her days in the Rosenberg house the ‘Birds and the Bees’ was a talk that had largely consisted of making sure she’d done the reading for her biology classes. The more important talk – in Ira Rosenberg’s eyes – had been the one that started and ended with ‘not under my roof’.

Which was kind of flawed in the implementation, since there were many more roofs that could be involved.

Or no roof at all, if you liked that sort of thing.

As a daughter who’d recently danced naked around a fire and – but for the reappearance of Hope’s sister - would’ve gone further than that, the lack of roof was something she’d recently been thinking quite a lot about.

“Well, see that it stays that way, young lady. Emphasis on young. And lady. Emphasis on ‘young lady’. Until, you’re, you know… at least - ”

“A freshman in college with a hot, sexually adventurous girlfriend?” Hope wondered, batting her eyelids innocently.

“You think Tara’s hot?” Willow asked.

“You think I’m sexually adventurous?” Tara was focusing on a different part of the statement.

“It’s always the quiet ones,” Hope said. “I mean – I’m told it is. I mean – Buffy said – because Eddie, he’s kind of quiet and he’s - ”

“La-la-la,” Willow said. “Don’t want to know, thanks though! And sweetie, you are definitely adventurous but – I’m not saying more than that now. Because Hope doesn’t need to know.

Hope kissed them both in turn on the cheek again and left them there.

“Really?” Tara asked. “Adventurous?”

“She was right about hot too.”

“Adventurous? Am I?”

Why was this a big deal to Tara? After all, she should be aware of just how… adventurous they’d been. In certain ways and directions, keeping themselves to themselves though there had been that time on the picnic table in the middle of the woods but – yeah, that one was my idea.

“Of course.”

“You’re the one who reads all this stuff,” Tara said very reasonably.

“Stuff? That’s our sex life you’re talking about, missy. Another physical expression of our love.”

“It might be, but you’re still the one who reads it.”

“And you’re the one who lets me turn reading into action – or, you know, does it for me… That’s pretty adventurous. I mean, its not every lesbian couple that has - ”

She broke off as they both noticed, at the same time.

Faith.

Right away they were looking around for Hope who’d only just left them. This wasn’t really how it was supposed to go down. They were supposed to go out and get her – but Faith’s patience wasn’t exactly noted for either its length or its girth and… No. That was a very bad analogy. One not to return to.

Ever.

Tara mustn’t have been thinking the same way; instead she was already on the move. Pushing through people to try to get over to Hope again. Faith was on the steps and she was following close behind her. Because, what else could she do? Hope was going to need… something. And they were there to give her whatever that something was.

On her way, she gestured to Buffy who was dancing with Eddie. Eddie who – apparently – was adventurous too. Who’d have thunk it?

Yeah, Buffy was noted for her slayer-enhanced observational skills. Apparently not when she was looking into her boyfriend’s eyes while they danced, seemingly lost in them.

Waving didn’t catch her friend’s attention, she was going to be no help in holding Faith back or letting Tara get to Hope first.

Glancing back to the steps, Tara hadn’t reached them and Faith had already entered the Bronze proper. No sign of her. Maybe she was doing that freaky shadows thing because, god knows there were enough shadows here. It was Eddie that finally noticed her waving and attracted Buffy’s attention.

Gesturing towards the steps did nothing because Faith had moved and so she made an F with her fingers. Realised it was the wrong way around and tried again. Buffy’s eyes widened and she got the idea as she checked her watch.

How were they going to explain to Hope?

How were they going to explain that they’d known all day? Earlier than that for she and Tara?

Or would she even care? Bigger things were about to happen than a blame game about that.

The three of them, she, Tara and Buffy were now approaching Hope instead of the missing Faith. But there she was, not doing the thing with the shadows, just moving through the people like they weren’t even there, everyone seemed to just get out of her way – no matter who they were dancing or making out with – and always in the direction of Hope who was also dancing with her girlfriends.

Then Faith stopped. Uncertain.

All Hope had to do was turn around and she’d see but –

Somehow Tara reached Faith first, a hand on her shoulder to ask her to stop and then went past her to get to Hope first.

---------------

“Honey?” she said, touching Hope on the shoulder.

“Oh! Hey, Tara! You want to dance with us?”

“Umm – n-no, no thanks. I – me – Willow – Honey, look, umm - ”

She still had no idea what she was going to say. But she couldn’t just let Faith grab her sister or start dancing with her and her friends or –

In that final moment of indecision, Hope was looking past her and suddenly she didn’t need to say anything to prepare her.

Too late for that. Too many chances allowed to pass by.

I should’ve done something earlier.

“Is - ?”

Hope had seen her sister and the first, unthinking reaction was one of disbelief. Shaking her head. Faith… she didn’t seem to know what to do, which made two of them. Her sister was stood there like an apparition. As if she wasn’t really there at all, as if she could really be a figment of Hope’s imagination.

“Hope - ”

“Do you see?” Hope asked, staring past her at Faith. “Do you see her too? Sometimes I – am I - ?”

“She’s here,” Tara said, tears in her eyes. There was no way she could hold them back. “She’s here for your birthday.”

Clearly Hope was beyond disbelief now that someone had confirmed she wasn’t seeing things. “Get Buffy – get someone – do something - ”

“Honey - ”

“My sister’s dead – that’s not her. Tara! That’s not Faith.”

It wasn’t some Key-type instinct telling her that. Just plain belief in the reality she’d been living the last few months.

Yes, it is,” she said. “I know it is. I’ve spoken to her. It’s really her.”

If Faith would just get over here, show her sister that she was real. That she was who she seemed to be – She turned around, ready to glare, but suddenly Faith was at her shoulder. “Hey, Hopeless.”

Hey, Hopeless? That was it?

“What – How?”

Hope was asking both of them the same thing. Expecting an answer from someone.

“It’s – it’s one of those long stories. And I… I never managed to tell you a long story, did I? You always fell asleep after the first parts, I was so boring.”

“No, it was just the sound of your voice,” Hope replied, almost without thinking. Carried off in her memories. “It made me feel safe. I could sleep, when we were safe.”

Could be that was the right thing for Faith to have said, to have convinced her sister.

“It did? Well, that was good, because I didn’t know any of the endings,” Faith admitted.

“I knew that. It’s – it’s really you?” Hope prodded her finger at her sister’s arm.

“It’s really me.”

“But how – no? No. You’re – you’re dead. Everyone knows you were dead – you were - ”

“I told you before, Hopeless, don’t ever count me out till you see the body. Didn’t I tell you that?”

“You… It’s you?”

“It’s me.”

Hope turned on her then. “How long – how long have you known, Tara?”

“Last night, until last night – we thought she was gone too. We went through all this too, worrying and wondering and – it’s her. We’re sure it is.”

“They opened the door for me,” Faith said. “The fuzz-bumpers. You don’t want to know how – but they did.”

“You – she’s like a zombie?”

“No, I’m not a fucking zombie,” Faith said. “I – I’m me. I’m…”

“What’s that on your finger?” Hope asked, noticing it.

The ring that no one else could see until Faith chose to show it to them, the band of shadow. Hope could see it because – in a very real way – they were the same. And the ring was very, very real.

Real like very few things in the universe could be.

“Well, here’s the thing. I’m kinda – sorta married.”

“You?”

“Me.”

“Who to?”

“His name’s… Ah, shit. It’s Hades.”

“You’re married to the God of the Underworld?!” Hope demanded, wanting confirmation. “Tara!?”

“She really is. It - ” No, it wasn’t her place to try and explain that.

“It was what I had to do – to…” Faith shrugged.

“To save me, right? You did it to kill Glory?” Hope didn’t need it all explaining anyway. She’d jumped to exactly the right conclusion.

A nod from Faith and that was all the answer she seemed like she was going to get.

All the questions they’d already asked, they were probably taking form in Hope’s head. Bubbling away and building up. And the problem was obviously where to start?

Why would you do that?” Hope asked, angrily brushing off the questions of her friends who could see she was getting upset. Tara was grateful as Willow shepherded them away with some excuse or another.

This wasn’t something for civilians.

And this was why they’d kept Faith away as long as they could, because they should all have enjoyed the party first. But how could you make her do that? What right did they really have?

“You already answered that question,” Faith said. “You already know why I did it.”

“You can’t get married to save me - ”

“Already did. And… you know, he’s not such a bad guy. For - what’s that word that means thousands of years?”

“Millennia?” Hope suggested.

“For a multi-millennia old guy, he’s till pretty buff. Buff enough, anyway.”

“But - ”

“Hopeless, think about it. I’ve been through this with T. Would you rather I was dead?” Faith asked. “Because that’s what you thought had happened.”

“But - ”

“Remember how proud of her you were?” Tara asked, gently inserting herself into the conversation. “She… she saved everyone. That’s not changed. And this is how she did it. Now though, she’s here.”

“For good, right?”

Faith shook her head. “No. I have to go back.”

“What? When? Will I – Will I see you again?” Hope asked.

“More than you’ll probably want to,” Faith replied. “Six months a year, Hopeless. That’s the deal.”

“Six months?” Did that sound like a long time to her? Or too short a time? Maybe it’d be different the closer to the end of it came.

“Then…?”

“Back to him.”

“For how long – I mean, you can’t like… divorce him right?” Hope asked.

Faith shook her head. “And he’s not going to drop dead on top of me – or under me – either.”

Tara winced, had she had to go there? But Hope had heard much worse. She was a Lehane…

“It’s not fair - ” Hope started.

Yes. It’s fair, kiddo. It’s the best damn deal I made in my life,” Faith said. “And I don’t regret it – I won’t regret it. Not a minute.

“I – I got to be the hero. Just once. I saved the whole fucking world and you got to know I did it. I got to save you, just like I promised I always would. I said I’d always look out for you – and now I still can.”

“But – six months and - ”

“I get to see you grow up, have kids or whatever it is you want. Do normal people stuff. And hey, I’m always staying pretty too.”

“It’s… forever?” Hope asked, smiling at that last comment even though she was upset. She got it though; she’d gotten to the heart of the matter. How long this was for.

It mattered, once you accepted that it had happened at all.

“No. It’s not forever. I’m not that stupid. But… it’s for long enough.”

Hope’s life. She bought her sister’s life and she’ll pay throughout it. Happily, willingly pay… If I doubted it before – well, I can’t now. Seeing them together.

“And you know what else?” Faith asked.

“What?” Hope didn’t really sound – or look – like she was ready to deal with anything else.

“I can do cool stuff.”

“Really?”

Faith nodded, looked at her. “Plus… I think I kinda have a girlfriend as well as a husband.”

“Tara?”

“No, not Tara! Paige…”

“This is news?” Hope asked.

“It was to me,” Faith admitted. “If it wasn’t all so screwed up I might even use the L word.”

“Love?”

“Yeah… Yeah, let’s say its that.”

*********************

_________________
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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 175 - 01/27/14
PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:36 pm 
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Katharyn, Whew, that’s a relief! I like that you had two parties for Hope and, even though it delayed the reveal, Faith waited until they were at the Bronze. That was a good point about Faith becoming the main attraction. Hope should be allowed her time to shine. Hilarious that Willow was being all paranoid about teens sneaking off to doing naughty things in front of her toys. But.. she was absolutely right to worry. Not about the stuffed critters getting an eyeful, LOL, but definitely the creepiness of strangers possibly making out in her former private bedroom. It is still her room even though Hope uses it now. Anyhoo.. EWW. I would have put a lock on the door!

As for the reunion taking like.. five million :D years to happen: It doesn’t really matter if the audience accepts a situation (specifically Faith’s deal) right away. The characters need to come to terms with it, one way or the other, in their own time, based on their own thoughts, fears, experiences etc. This is your vision so you must write characters and their actions the way YOU see them. A great storyteller will keep the audience engaged regardless of whether one or more <probably just me, LOL> readers agree, disagree or.. get slightly impatient about content. How many people wanted Willow to declare her love for Tara in the very first chapter, and every update since, of “Neverland” all those years ago? Oh, was that just me again? LOL Anyhoo.. Your expectation of reader reaction may have been off the mark, but that resulted in extra content we might not have gotten otherwise. So glad it didn’t get scrubbed!

Kudos to Buffy for keeping it real. And to add to Tara's response (which was hilarious btw): Reality shows.

Well done! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 175 - 01/27/14
PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:56 pm 
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Hey, thanks, Kajun

It was, of course, all about the story structure. Faith and Hope had to be reunited as pretty much the climax of the story because - in a way - S5 became their story through T/W eyes. My problem, and I agree with what you said about vision, was that because I assumed you'd all be worried about Faith I had to put all this other stuff in to show you really didn't need to.

Otherwise we'd have finished a few parts ago. Apart from the fact... I love the xtra content :)

Willow was supposed to lock her former bedroom forever more? So no one can go in? I need to go buy a lock and see my Mum and Dad! LOL.

Okay... well, the final part will probably be posted tonight. That has a nice-ish ring to the timing being 1 year and 11 months since I started to write this (and I am already on with redrafting Raiders 2 so it's pretty uch been solid T/W all that time LOL)

Thanks!

Katharyn

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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPLETE
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:05 am 
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Title: Tara and Willow – Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Six
Author: Katharyn Rosser
Feedback: Absolutely, yes please. That’s why I write for this place, to engage in the discussion about the story.
Spoiler warning: Not sure why I am bothering, really, but Season 4 and Season 5 of BTVS.
Distribution: This story was written for Pens. Pens is its home. No archiving off Different Coloured Pens and the Kitten Board please. No conversion to eBook or other formats please. Enjoy it here.
Summary: The final chapter…
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BTVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc. I am making no money from this series of stories however all original characters and situations remain my property. As this is a missing scenes and alternate reality fiction lots of scenes are new versions of those seen in the show, as such dialogue and situations are taken from the show. I’m sure you can tell which. All credit for those aspects goes to the original writers.
Rating: Occasional, tasteful, adult situations and contextual bad language. However by and large equivalent to the show.
Couples: Tara and Willow forever, that’s all I’m bothered about.
Text convention: Use of italics denotes either special emphasis if used for a single or a few words in a sentence OR first person thoughts if used for a whole sentence.
Notes: So here we are, for the final time…
The very last part of Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda which is made up of two scenes. Originally, what is now presented as the first of the two was going to be the ending. You’ll see why and won’t be surprised at the content of the final Tara and Willow scene. I mean, hey, it’s Pens and it’s me.
But when I was assessing the balance of the ending, I found that – actually – it needed the Hope scene at the end of this story.
Hope’s scene is a bookend for Season five (after a similar scene towards the start of it.) A season really which became someone else’s story, just told through the eyes of Tara and Willow and bringing them much more to the fore. That wasn’t at all deliberate, because when I kicked off CWS I had no idea I’d even have Hope in here. I was still worried about what to do with Dawn (deadpooling had appeal, but wiping her from existence was actually much more satisfying because it was creative rather than purely destructive). So I hope you’ll forgive that the last few words of this aren’t from the girls at all… Just from someone they’ve done great things with.
If you prefer though, you can always read the scenes in reverse order. It really doesn’t matter that much.
I really have enjoyed writing this story. It’s much longer and took me much longer than I ever planned for. The redrafting and rewriting the ending 20 chapters almost took me longer than the original first draft, but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s not as original as Sidestep Part 1 (I wish I could write that now when I am more practised as a writer) and it’s not as tightly done as Sidestep part 3, but it’s been fun all along the way. Taking some favourite moments from the show, improving things that made no sense or led to bad places…
I know that I undoubtedly scared potential readers off with my (slightly bitter) opening disclaimer. I often thought of editing to tone it down, but no. I’ve stayed true to my thoughts there. Because I believe in them. And so if we get to the end with two or three regular readers (events overtook some others) then I am content. There’s probably more of you who are lurking and that’s fine too. Ultimately I write for myself, what I want to do, but then offer it up to anyone who will enjoy it. If I wasn’t posting it’s true I’d have finished about a year ago, but hey, it’s been a good year.
Some of you have been here for the duration. I’d really like anyone who gets this far to say ‘hi’, even if you don’t have a real comment to make. It just gives me a happy to know you were there.
And if you’re reading this later or in the archive, please do still check in. Ask questions along the way if you like, I check the board daily anyway. But if you get to the end, feel free to comment and I’ll feel free to respond. As I’ve said many times I only post to this board (even though people ask me to archive fic elsewhere) because I love the interaction it allows. In a very real way, I write for the conversations in feedback so… give me what I need  Like many others you can illuminate my appalling memory…
It’s been a blast… seriously. So much fun. Thanks to all of you who’ve read (and hopefully enjoyed) it.
Some Statistics
Chapters: 176 + 12 ‘bonus’ chapters.
Words: 893,510 (for context the three books of Lord of the Rings total 473,000 excluding Appendices, however my count does include the headers on each part and all these notes)
Characters: 4,948,968 (inc spaces)
Pages: 2420 (12 pt Arial)
File size: 6.77mb - without any graphics… Yeah, Word really hates it when I write big stories. Can’t cope.
Time: – Started 29th Feb 2012 and final posting draft redraft finished 5th January 2014 so 676 days of actual writing/redrafting (and I only missed about 20 days in that time I wasn’t doing SOMETHING to it).
Deadpool: – One victim. Which is significantly less than I anticipated at the start. I honestly thought I might have to kill a scoobie just to get through it. But then I found I liked writing them all (nearly all, I just sidelined Xander in favour of Anya.) But Spike… Spike had to die. Always.
Thanks to: Every single one of you who read this – as I said above – and even more to the ones who joined me along the way. This story has really worked as I like them to. Lots of interaction with the readers, insightful comments (i.e. chances for me to explain myself when the text doesn’t do that!), ideas that – often – changed the story because they were better than mine. Whole new parts just because you were invested in what I was doing. Some of those changes, like Paige, lasted all the way through. Some were just fun at the time (*cough* someone likes Scully)
Music: This final part was finalised to ‘Open Your Eyes’ by Snow Patrol on loop. I defy anyone not to be uplifted by that once it gets to – well, listen to it and see.



“Wow… oh… wow, baby… Just…Wow…”

Breathless, Willow looked down at the bump under the covers. Even in the dark Tara was well able take her places no one else ever could. Just her touch was a delicious tendril of electric desire and love threading through her. Add in where she was being touched, what with and just how it was done…

Oh… yeah…

Never failed to surprise her, even after a lot of practice.

Darkness made no difference, even when it was almost absolute. Tara had an instinctive sense of where she was going.

And how to take her there…

That’d be the practice kicking in. Hadn’t always been that way. For either of them.

It’s funny because it’s true.

Unwilling to wait for her lover to fully emerge, she pushed the covers back and encouraged Tara to come up and join her with a gentle swirling caress around her ears. After all, her girlfriend had been eager enough to go down but had since resisted all entreaties to come back up again.

Not even for a – more conventional – kiss. And Tara loved to kiss her.

So – with no lasting regret – she’d let Tara stay down there and do what she loved to do.

Again.

Oh. And again. Even when she was convinced that everything was… that it couldn’t have happened right then.

Tara had proven her wrong, knowing her better than she knew herself. All of her.

Practice. See. Makes perfect.

But now she was revealed once more, all tousled and beautiful, it was obvious that Tara’s smile was never going to be more nuanced than it was at moments like these.

And she had plenty of practice in reading that now. Reading Tara. A book she never – quite – reached the end of.

So, right now, in that smile? There was genuine – and general – happiness. There was satisfaction at having met her objective. More than once. There was some pride – and why not – those had been pretty… wow…

There was love, of course, and there was tenderness even if – right at the end there – tenderness had gone out of the proverbial window mostly at her (desperate) request. Sometimes, a girl just wants to be… wowed.

And there were a bunch of other emotions she’d not yet fully determined, but if they needed to know then it gave her yet another reason to get Tara to repeat the exercise on future occasions.

Not that she needed much urging.

Faith would’ve had all sorts of ways of putting it. Creative, funny and more than a little dirty. But, for now, it was enough to know that Tara Maclay was – perhaps – the most cunning linguist.

After all, she can wrap her tongue around all sorts of things.

“Wow…” she breathed again as Tara’s lips reached hers and they kissed. Now familiar scents, tastes and sensations overwhelmed her senses. Not the least of which was Tara’s hanging breasts slowly being pulled over her body to get to her lips. “Wow…”

“You said that,” Tara said, hovering over her and just inviting her to run her hands down her lover’s smooth flanks from pits to butt… that didn’t rhyme. It’d be better if it rhymed.

“Wow?” It was still all she could verbally manage though. Any other time, it would’ve worried her. To lose her words. But when she’d had her mind – and other things – blown? ‘Wow’ almost seemed like a success at the moment.

“What’s… wrong?” Tara asked.

She shook her head. There was nothing wrong. Things were very far from ‘wrong’. Things were… wow… After all this time, didn’t this girl know the effect she was having on her?

That Tara could inspire pleasure – physically, emotionally and just all around wellbeing – was certainly not news. She liked to think that she inspired more than a little pleasure of her own. But every so often something that still blew your mind… even something as ‘simple’ as this. Not adventurous, definitely not new. No hint of experimentation.

Just plain old cunning linguistics.

And yet… “Wow.”

“Oh… One of those?” Tara asked, nodding and grinning at the same time.

“Wow,” she said, nodding. Right now her vocabulary was kind of limited. There was a short circuit in her brain that went from ‘that was really, really good to ‘wow’ and back.’

But it hadn’t been one. It hadn’t even been two… Multiples were one thing, but when multiples happened more than once and really not very far apart. “Wow.”

Her head fell backwards and she tried to remember the things she’d been demanding of Tara as the pleasure went on and on and simply would not stop coming… Oh, I’m a dirty girl… “Wow.”

“Did I break you?” Tara asked, kissing her exposed throat as she snuggled against her. “Again?”

“Wow…”

She wasn’t even teasing or playing. This really was about all that she was able to say at the moment. All of the thoughts were there, but the words… just wouldn’t come.

Which was about the only part of her that wouldn’t come because… whole body, nerve-jangling, over and over bone-shakers. She felt like she’d done a rigorous work-out and she felt… wow.

“I love you, Tara,” Tara said, filling in the blanks for her.

She nodded, yes, she agreed with that.

“You’re everything I n-need and want,” her girlfriend continued.

Again, a nod. Wholehearted nodding because, duh.

“Just the sight of your lips makes me quiver?”

Really? Because… she saw Tara’s lips a lot and if she was quivering that whole time then… she’d be a little like a… a… quivery thing.

On the other hand, the quivering hadn’t stopped for a while there… Maybe Tara was right.

“No?”

She shook her head, still pretty sure that she was verbally stuck on ‘Wow.’ In fact, she gave it a try and… “Wow.” Yup, verbal short-circuit still in place. Maybe Tara’s efforts had stripped of her linguistic ability.

Just not the cunning part of it. Or at least she hoped not. If I can never speak again, I know what I’ll do instead.

“I did break you,” Tara said, laughing. “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to!”

This time she nodded understandingly. Because, no matter what Tara had intended – and she’d intended all of that if not the after-effect – then yes, she was temporarily broken. Not like during when she was pretty sure she’d been saying all those things that just demanded it kept going and going and going…

Or… had she really done that?

Maybe I was just going ‘wow’ the whole time and only thought I –

“I won’t do it again,” Tara promised. It would’ve seemed more solemn an oath if naked-Tara hadn’t been lying most over her, delicious warm, naked Tara kissing and touching her. Pressing up against her thigh where it parted Tara’s legs. That would’ve been more convincing but somehow the promise was enough of a threat to…

“Wo-No!” she managed to squeak.

“Oh, there you are!” Tara kissed her on the lips. Not bad as rewards went. And yes, she quivered again. Curses, Tara was right about that too.

“I – You – you can do that again, baby. You can. Just not right this second.

“It talks.” Another kiss. “It almost makes sense.”

“It makes plenty of sense,” Willow said. Sense all over, all sorts of senses, Tara had been messing with all sorts of senses – all of her senses, pretty much because… yeah.

“I was confused,” Tara said.

“Oh?”

“When you kept telling me to stop.”

Not just ‘wow’ then. Yay me. I managed to say the one thing I didn’t really want her to do.

“I… wasn’t sure I could – umm - take any more,” Willow said. “Right then.”

“I had faith in your baby. And you did.” Kisses.

“I did. Did you – did – you know, the second - ”

“You demanded it, first you were telling to stop and then you were holding onto my hair and begging me – no, you were demanding what you wanted. It kind of hurt, I mean you were pulling it really hard.”

“Sorry, baby. You… inspire me to things I’d never do otherwise.” She sighed happily, playing with Tara’s hair that was falling around her face. To make up for it. “I’m really you listened to my body and not my voice because…. Wow, you know?”

“I know.”

“It still amazes me, you know. That… that can be so good.”

“You gave me quite a work out,” Tara said, stretching her jaw experimentatlly. Tongue too, in there. Poor thing. “I mean… you don’t usually want it… well, you know…”

“Faster?”

“You’re usually happier slowly…”

“I know, but sometimes a girl… well, you know.”

“I do know,” Tara agreed.

Yes, Tara had her moments as well… More moments, Tara focused moments. Moments where Tara was the focus. Moments where she was… doing the doing and Tara was doing the being done. Those kind of moments.

And they took all sorts of forms. No doubt anyone who’d known Tara Maclay of old would’ve been shocked at some of the things they got up to. But that was one of the things about Tara being hers. Other people didn’t get to know. This was all just for them.

“I love you, sweetie,” Willow said, leaning to kiss her.

“Of course you do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you always say that when I’ve taken you where you wanted to go.”

Do I?

Maybe I do…


“Well, that doesn’t mean it’s not true!” she said.

“Of course it’s true,” Tara confirmed. “But saying it – its kind of traditional. I was missing it while you were stuck on ‘wow’.”

“I’m sorry. But you were the one who broke me.”

Tara’s kisses showed what she thought of that apology. Totally unnecessary.

“You know I love you anyway,” she said.

“I do.”

“Because you’d never do those things for someone you didn’t love and ergo you love me. Right?”

“You ergo beautifully and correctly,” Tara confirmed.

“It’s one of my traits.”

“Yes, but not,” Tara said, “one of your best ones.”

Feigning being hurt, she made as if to push Tara off her. Not that she would, of course. It was too nice having her there like that, available to wrap arms around and just hold and hold and - “You - you take that back.”

“No,” her lover said. “It’s true. There are many other traits you have that are more endearing than your ergo-ing, impressive as that might be by any other standards.”

“I should make you list them, but I’m not that insecure. I know exactly what you like about me.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, you keep showing me and I learn my lessons well. Which – by the way – I think you’ve found to be one of my best traits? Mmm?” she asked.

“I did think it was one of your strongest traits,” Tara said.

“Did?”

“Well, when it mattered. You did. You learned very quickly. I hardly had to fake anything for too long.”

“Excuse me? Fake? You didn’t fake anything. I’d know. Remember, our connection?” She stroked Tara’s collar bone to make the point. Tara loved that spot being caressed or kissed.

“All we have to do is touch and – you didn’t fake a thing.” She was certain she was being teased. Certain. One hundred percent. Or at least ninety-nine point nine-nine percent certain. Lots of nines.

“I may…” Tara hesitated. “No.”

“No, go on. If you faked anything then I can take it. I can hear that – I think I’ve earned enough credit since, right?”

“Right,” Tara nodded enthusiastically.

“So?”

“So?”

“So, what did you do?”

“Nothing… much.”

“So you didn’t ever fake an orgasm?” she asked.

“Of course not!” Tara said. “I didn’t mean that. But -”

“But what?”

“I may have – Look, I just… moaned.”

“Moaned?”

“To… maybe, guide you.”

“Guide me?” She had to ask.

“Not the first time, not even the second but – you know, when you started to get more confident and exploring a little more, you needed a little guidance to get to the right places at the right time,” Tara said. “Not before I was ready. And not too late. Just the right moment.”

“Oh really?”

“All the stuff you know now.You know, when I needed you to – not when you would’ve needed to. So I… moaned. A little more than, maybe I needed to.”

“When I was… bolder?”

“Remember that phase where you were doing a lot of reading?” Tara suggested.

Oh. That. Yeah… a lot of things had come out of that phase. A lot of things that they were still exploring, actually. Some things that had been… less successful and dropped almost immediately from their romantic repertoire.

Though, they’d not really given up on anything after just the first time because anyone can have a bad day and – frankly – they’d been having enough of the sex that they had plenty of time to experiment and give it a second or third chance. But Tara had been… guiding her?

Making her a better Tara-lover through positive reinforcement?

Good idea actually…

“I see no problem with that,” she said. “I decline to take offence at your fakery, honey.”

“Good.”

“But if you moan without good reason again,” she added, “then I really will have to take steps.”

“Understood,” Tara said, kissing her one more time before slipping off to one side, pressed up against her. Still, Willow noticed, trapping her thigh and thus pulling her around too so they were facing each other.

“This is something I don’t do often enough,” she said as she slipped her arm around her girlfriend.

“What?”

“Snuggle.”

“Oh, come on. We snuggle all the time!”

Oh. Right. Let facts get in the way of a good line.

“Yeah, but that’s still not often enough. I’d like… two sleep cycles a day. Just so I can snuggle with you more. But – this? Me holding you? I don’t do that as much as I should.”

“Well, we can change that, if you like.”

“You wouldn’t mind?”

“Why would I mind?” Tara asked.

“Because… I don’t know…”

“We are who we are, Willow,” Tara said. “Sometimes, I’m gonna be the one who holds you. Sometimes you’ll hold me. Mostly we’re holding each other anyway. Does there have to be a right or wrong about that?”

“There can’t be,” she said. “Because it’s all so right. It can’t be right and wrong, can it?”

“I don’t know,” Tara answered. “Some of the things we’ve done… they’ve felt very right, but they’ve seemed very, very wrong at the same time.”

“Uh-uh. That’s just you, wanting to be a dirty girl,” Willow said.

“Is not! I never wanted to be a dirty girl.”

“Oh, wait. Yeah. That’s me…” She moved one of her hands, firmly cupping Tara’s naked breast and running the pad of her thumb…

Only to be answered with a chorus of obviously faked moans.

Taking the hint, she used the same hand to take Tara’s lips to hers. One more time. The faking moan stopped and they kissed and Tara made another little sound that wasn’t faked at all.

But then there was a question she just had to ask. “Do you think Faith and Paige has got any legs?”

“Four of them,” Tara said. “They’re probably kind of intertwined right about now too. I hear some people like scissors, but I never got it myself.”

“Tara! You really are a dirty girl!”

----------------

Hope’s Journal

There’s plenty of stuff I don’t know how to say right. I mean, I’m not like Tara used to be – she says – but I do get stuck sometimes. Stuck finding the right words.

Unlike Willow, I don’t use too many words either.

Just… not the right ones.

My sister’s back!

That’s the only way I can think about saying it.

I thought she was gone. We all did. I just looked back and read through the things I wrote after it happened and… none of that matters, because we were all wrong.

She’s not gone. She never was, not really.

But now she’s back.

Right now she’s in the next room and she’s got a friend in there. A
girlfriend. Not that the girl part is really new, my sister has always been out there for whatever she wants but… she’s finally admitted what Paige is to her.

She actually said the word, I was so proud of her (even though it wasn’t the L word)! They came back and Faith took this really deep breath and Paige had no clue what was about to happen, none at all. But Faith took this breath and she said:

‘Hopeless, you remember Paige. My girlfriend.’

I nearly squeed right there.

And Paige, I think she was close to wetting herself. And then when Faith was kissing her, she was probably wetting herself another way. Gotta tease them about that in the morning. See if I can get them to blush. Faith doesn’t do blushing – I think I have a shot though. This time.

But that was the last thing they said to me. The kissing went on and then they vanished into Faith’s room and they’ve been DOING IT ever since. Willow would’ve called it ‘thank God we’re girlfriends sex’ which she has basically all the time with Tara, I guess.

This is Faith though and… She said Paige was her girlfriend.

Wow.

Which I’d be really happy about, usually, but…

She’s married. My sister – not Paige.

My sister’s married to the Lord of the Underworld.

So you see? What are the right words? How do you find the right words for all that? Welcome to my life! I didn’t exist and then I did and I had the best sister in the world – because she saved the world (and me!) so she must be the best. Right? And I have friends and people who look out for me and none of them even had to care except they do…

If I said prayers (I don’t!) I’d have so much to be thankful for. I almost feel like I should be saying them just because. You know?

My sister… I’m not real happy with what she did to help me, but she says that compared to the whole world – and she really means me because she always said she didn’t care about everything else but I don’t believe her about that anymore now she has a girlfriend – what choice did she have?

I get that, I do. My sister saved the world. Doesn’t even matter why she did it. Everyone thinks Buffy’s so good – and she is, I guess – because she did that stuff ages ago. Before she died. Well, so did my sister. And she can do the coolest new things that none of the others can. Not Tara. Not Willow. Not Buffy.

She’s not just a Slayer anymore.

She’s like an uber-Slayer.

With a girlfriend.

And a husband.

A husband who’s a god.

Faith never makes it easy on herself, she really doesn’t. She waits to admit what Paige means to her until shes married? But unless I miss my guess about what’s happening in her room next door and who’s doing what to who – well, I think she’s making one thing easy.

For Paige.

Her husband – Hades – he doesn’t sound like such a bad guy, not her type really but honestly, who can even figure out her type? I know better than anyone there’ve been so many different guys and all types and looks and –

I can hear them, you know? Through the wall. When I asked Ira to let me sleepover back here at the apartment, I didn’t think it’d be so I could listen to Faith and Paige. But, hey, there’s less grunting than when it was a guy. Plenty of other – well, noises. But not so many grunts. Maybe it’s as close as Faith gets to ladylike. So I guess it
sounds better, at least.

She says she’ll be okay, Faith not Paige, but I still worry. I guess I’ll have to for a while. She’s here a few months then she’ll be back with Hades for the rest of the year. No one knows yet whether someone has to do the naked dance thing. I don’t want to do that if I don’t have to but it might kind of become my job.

I need a car if I’m going to do that. Cos… not doing it here.

Anyway, Faith says it’s a kind of worship and she’s a kinda sorta god now. That the dance or maybe just the worship lets her come back. And it wasn’t really worship – not like a prayer. It was just good thoughts and a little witchy power at the right time.

Maybe it’ll be needed again, but whose gonna do it? Me? If I have to, but who else? Willow definitely doesn’t want to be worshipping Faith in any way. Tara, perhaps. Paige, if she can deal with the idea of sharing. She’s nice and all, but who’d want to do that all the time? And with a god, after all?

That’d be kinda weird.

Right now Paige and Faith are still on a high about finding each other when they BOTH have feelings.

My sister has feelings… I’m so proud of her!

But eventually – like when Faith goes away for months - Paige is going to have to really think about it. And so maybe they won’t last forever. It’ll last the night though – there’s no sign they’re planning to slow down – and it’ll last until Faith has to leave again. I guess.

If she doesn’t screw it up in some way. And she might – she doesn’t know how to do this stuff. She never had to… Until she got married.

I hope they can make each other happy. Somehow. Paige is fun; also I want a tattoo one day. One like the ones she does.

Can Faith not screw it up before I can get one? Everything I know says ‘no chance’ but how I feel, how I saw them tonight says… ‘maybe.’

So, the naked thing. Do we have to be naked to get Faith back? I hope not. That sounds kind of uncomfortable. I mean, its okay for Tara and Willow, they’re naked with each other all the time, but it’d be like showers after gym class at school. But dark and with spiky things sticking in your feet and a fire… I mean, what if I get burned?

Maybe it needs practice, I guess. Maybe I need to ask Tara and Willow about that? Why the naked…? Does the naked matter?

They’re cool though. The original Sunnydale lesbians.

Well, maybe not the very first. But the first ones I knew. And they brought my sister back this time. Kinda, anyway. So they didn’t mean to, but now that we know…? Will I be able to do it myself? I hope so, I mean, it’d be plenty weird to have to ask them over for the weekend to get naked with me. Lots of people would make jokes about that but… I bet they would anyway.

But they’d do it for me.

For Faith.

They just shouldn’t have to.

Faith saved me. Now I have to be the one to get her out of there… Is there maybe a class for Wiccan dancing? Willow… she doesn’t do anything without learning the right way first (except maybe doing Tara, Faith says). Or maybe you just have to move to the music – feel it. Maybe it’s like being at the Bronze?

No. It’d have to be the middle of nowhere. Somewhere there is no music?

Unless they have something coming from the car? Probably not on the radio… It’s not very worshippy.

These are things I need to ask, but without them feeling they have to do all this for me. For us. They’ve done enough and Anya had the right idea. You can leave Sunnydale and still be friends with the people here.

It’s not selfish. It’s not selfish at all. It’s just life, I guess. What people do.

I’m sixteen and I’m writing like I’m thirty or something! It’s making me old! So… I will not bang on the wall. Paige and Faith deserve their time. But if only they’d stop the bed banging soon…

I get to help my sister now. I do. After all the stuff she did for me… That sort of feels good.

I can do it too. Tara and Willow, they get to go live their lives without all this. I know they’ve been talking about it. Once they graduate, next year, they’re talking about leaving town.

I hope they do.

I mean I miss seeing them as often as I used to, but people do that. People move on and they’ll always be coming back to see Willow’s Mom and Dad so I’ll get to see them then and all. But… they’ll be better than they are now when all they have to worry about is each other.

And normal life stuff, I guess. But after monsters and the end of the world. How scary can that be?

I know Willow thinks it’s not fair on Tara, how ‘responsible’ she feels she has to be. But what Willow still doesn’t get is that’s just who Tara is. She’d be like that anyway and that’s why – if I can – I think I need to be the one who brings my sister back each time.

I mean if Faith can’t just do it for herself.

They even talked about it, Willow wants to go to Grad School, Tara has a job in mind. They deserve to get what they want. They helped. For years. They didn’t have to; they weren’t given superpowers to do that – even if they are witches. I kinda think they did their bit.

Without Willow, Tara wouldn’t have still been here.

Without Tara, Faith would… well; Faith wouldn’t have been the girl Paige could really, truly fall for. (And she has!)

Without Faith I’d be gone and the whole world with me.

So… when you look at it like that, THEY saved the world.

They definitely saved me. I have to do anything I can to repay that.

Buffy too. She has Eddie, they’re getting on great and… no one’s sure if there’s a new Slayer or not. They won’t tell me who it is if there is – maybe they don’t know – but with Faith ‘across the river’ wouldn’t that mean there should be?

We all
thought she was dead.

But she’s not.

What if she can’t die now? What if there’ll never be another Slayer?

See… that’s something a sixteen year old shouldn’t be thinking about. But it’s better than focusing on what my sister’s doing next door.

Or – I guess – what’s being done to her.

-------------

They’re still at it… But I will NOT bang on the wall.

I wonder whether they have Thanksgiving in the Underworld? Am I expected to go there? Sit down with my… brother in law? Can Hades have kids? Will I be an aunt one day?

No way Faith’s going to answer that for me! She won’t even have thought about it…

Maybe she should! For sure she better take a supply of birth-control with her… You read about all these demi-gods and what happens to them. Faith’s really not…

Much as I love her, much as she looked after me, she’s just not cut out to be a Mom.

No. That would be… bad.

--------------

Things seem to have quieted down in Faith’s room… At last.

Change of topic - I’m thinking of asking Paige to draw me up a really cool tattoo. Ready for when I can get one.

I probably wouldn’t get it, you know, definitely not the sorts of places my sister has hers. I mean, I don’t want a girlfriend who’s a tattoo artist so I don’t need to show up and ask her to get really close to my lady-parts. Girls aren’t my thing. I don’t think Tara and Willow will mind. They’ve always been cool with the fact some people are just straight.

No, but there is this guy. He came to my party and our eyes met and –

It was my birthday. My sixteenth birthday. I coulda kissed him, maybe. Maybe I shoulda kissed him. I woulda kissed him, you know, if my sister hadn’t gotten in the way.

Faith’s alive!





****************************

COULDA. WOULDA. SHOULDA.

The End


****************************

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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:26 am 
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9. Gay Now
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The end bit was nice.

Cheers

R

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:41 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Katharyn, Hope made an interesting observation regarding Faith’s ability to travel between worlds. It would be pretty inconvenient if Willow and Tara moved clear across the country from Hope and were the only ones capable of doing the spell for Faith’s return. Seems to me, with a bit of proper instruction, she should be able to handle it. Too bad you had to kill off Diana <grumble grumble :wink> coz she could have been very helpful with that. No doubt Tara would be a good teacher but if the nakedness is required that could be a little awkward. :)

Willow and Tara are right where they need to be.. together and happy. Well of course that wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was Tara’s mini confession of being a big ole faker. LOL She knew how to get what she needed/wanted without making Willow feel like a dummy. Or worse. Willow might have become obsessed with trying to be the “perfect” lover.. doing research on the internet, reading books, creating wild experiments that required creating charts drawn in Different Colored Pens etc. LOL That whole scene was sweet and funny. Snuggles! :wtkiss

I wish I had even half your dedication to writing. I’ve got one story under my belt and that, in its entirety, equals about 4-5 chapters of your shortest work! Granted, I’m much more involved in woodworking than anything else but I might go for weeks on end without making sawdust. I can’t imagine working on a single project every day, or every few days, for years. It’s amazing and admirable.

Obviously, from my previous comments, you already know a lot of the things I thought were cool, creative, hilarious etc. Thank you for statues coming to life and Scully and water pistols and replacing the loud-mouth teen and Faith’s redemption and killing Spike and giant dogs and Ira taking Tara fishing and every moment before, after and between. More than anything.. Thanks for taking us on this incredible journey through a revised and improved BTVS adventure featuring my (our) favorite couple!!! As always.. YOU RAWK!! :applause


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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:32 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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* quickly scrolls down to avoid reading other comments *

It's over?!?!?

Goodness, I need to get cracking on making some progress. I'm so tempted to jump ahead. But, I am a HUGE fan of your writing and want to get the full experience of the story.

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:03 am 
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23. Volumey Text

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Azirahael - Thank you very much. Been nice to have you along.

Kajun - No, Faith doesn't need to be 'called' by Tara and Willow. And if they did, they wouldn't need to be naked. It was just coincidence that at the time they were doing something ritualistic they happened to BE naked. It's a lesbian witch thing...

Faith has to stick to the terms of her deal - apart from this one time - and when she's 'free' she can pretty much go back and forth if she wanted to. I bet she can also 'persuade' Hades to cut her some slack, say in an emergency! It's an agreement, not a prison. At least now the initial 'recall' has been made.

Tara as a big ole faker... There is an element of experience to that. On which side I will not say. Nor who with. LOL. And yes, Willow was totally doing the overachiever research thing... Until she confused herself and figured out she didn't need to learn how to be with 'women', just with the one. And experience was the best teacher there :)

Writing... well, I am not doing as much as I was but in truth that's because I spent a year on redrafting this. In pure wordcount terms I am well down on where I would be with original writing. But hey, got to make it presentable and look how much got added :) If you want to write, you will write. Not everyone is grabbed by it even if they do a novel. I can't woodwork so... see. But yeah... basically everyday for years on something (mostly T/W) since the start of Sidestep except when I was recovering from my accident. And I was itching to go back to it then (which was useful!)

It's fair to say you probably shaped more in this story than anyone but me :) You are very forthright in your hopes and thoughts... Sometimes I ignore or mislead based on that, but other times it's better than I had so - if I could - I added it. Well done! And re your previous point, you plainly have the ideas... it's just the writing you're not doing (though maybe you need an overarching idea!)

Thanks

Grimm - Sorry we left you behind once I start posting I just can't stop! I look forward to your comments when you get there :)

So, anyway, I am redrafting the Raiders story at the moment and so I will be posting in the not too distant future. Thinking of new things... still have other T/W ideas too, Men in Black for one and an original story, but TBH after Raiders I think I need to get off the girls (fnar) for a while :)

Until it grabs me again! I did promise Xita that as long as the board was still here (and people) I'd be the one the door hit on the way out :)

Thanks

Katharyn

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Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:47 pm 
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Katharyn,
Sorry I did not comment on the grand finale and epilogue sooner. It has been a crazy few weeks leaving me a little time to read but none to really comment. The story wrapped up quite nicely with Hope having Willow's parents taking great care of her and Faith in about as good a position as she can be. The deal with Hades isn't an easy one but seems to me to be worth the cost as it saved Hope and the rest of the world. Nice to see Faith and Paige, for now, have their relationship when Faith is Earthside but I'm sure that relationship would be rife with challenges going forward with Faith not aging and the whole six month here/six months in another dimension thing. This one was a good read for me, a very enjoyable alternate storyline journey. I can understand your comment about possibly taking a break after your Raiders followup but can also say I genuinely enjoy your writing style so hope the break won't end up being too long.
-H

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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:42 am 
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Loislane - Sorry, missed this for a while :)

Thank you very much for stopping by, it's appreciated :) In hindsight (and 10 years after the bad stuff in canon) I should probably stop worrying about the readers here as being so sensitive as I assumed but hey... The ending still worked. It was just longer than it would've been otherwise and that length did contain some nice moments so I'm happy overall.

Faith and Paige is interesting and - perhaps - really reassures about Faith in a way I had not planned. Paige wasn't a character until a bonus chapter in redraft so I never planned for her being there. That it worked well to put Faith in a relationship (a sign of her change) was a happy coincidence driven by what readers apparently wanted to see (or how I interpreted that) so... then, at the end, I had the deal and I had Paige. 6 months on/6 months off isn't insurmountable in a relationship but will it last forever? It's Faith... but maybe...

As for my 'break'... Well, you may have noticed that I started Raiders 3 so... not much of one LOL. I will undoubtedly do another W/T story beyond that. But (and I've said this before) I probably don't have another big one in me. But I said that before CWS and look what happened? A story longer than LOTR and taking 2 years of my life!! At this point 'shorter than CWS and longer than Raiders' could just be something as long as 'The Stand' LOL

So anyway, I'm not going anywhere. As I think I commented before, I promised Xita I'd be here when the lights went out. Thing is I write the story in full before even thinking about posting so... beyond Raiders it may be a while. Doesn't mean I'm not doing anything :D

Thanks again and for all the support.

Katharyn

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If I wanted a little pussy, I've got my own to play with.

Chance in *Chance*
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 Post subject: Re: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda - Chapter 176 - 01/27/14 - COMPL
PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:21 am 
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Hmm, I dunno, I still think everybody fakes it sometimes . . . .

But more seriously, I'm glad where this ended up. Brava!

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