The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 1:40 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
Posts: 975
Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
So, this chapter was fairly long, and i found a natural break about halfway in.
So: cliffhanger!

Sorry.

P.S: not really :P



The Dawn of a new day



Tara woke with a soft smile.
She was in the best place in the world. In a warm bed, snuggled up with Willow.

Willow was tucked into her chest, snuggled up with one hand holding Tara’s breast possessively.

She smiled. If anything, Willow was more possessive after their reunion than before, and that was saying something.

They still had things to work through, things to settle, things to adjust.
But she was confidant, happy. They would get through it together.
Of that she had no doubt whatsoever.

“But bunnies are nice,” Willow protested feebly, faint images of fluffiness impressing themselves onto Tara’s awareness.

Tara’s soft smile softened further into pure adoration.
If anything, she loved her new Willow more than her old Willow.

As much as it saddened her to think about it, two years of pain had led to a good deal of emotional growth for both of them.
They were both more confident in themselves, more secure in their relationships.
And less likely to make foolish choices out of fear, or jealously.
There was an element of desperation to their new relationship, to be sure. Both of them had been hurt so very badly, that their impossible reunion seemed like a dream at times. It had been more than a year of struggle for her to get home, more than a year where her every thought, every decision was measured against a harsh measure: ‘will this bring me closer to Willow?’

And in that struggle she had discovered her strength, a core of quiet determination. Strong and flexible, like a tree in the wind.


She was happy to leave the steel to the warriors and Slayers in her life. She would never be happy with the din of battle and the taking of lives.
No. For Tara the quiet strength of wood would do.
Wood had strength and flexibility both.
It grew, it adapted. And the roots of trees were known to split concrete and stone with their quiet patience.

Willow had done dark and terrible things in her life. And while Tara would never agree with all the choices she had made, she understood them better now. And she was proud of how Willow had grown, the strength she had found within herself in the intervening years.


‘Goddess, how did she go on for two years without US?’
She already knew the answer.
Family.

Dawn, Giles, Buffy, and Xander. Always Xander.

She made a mental note to herself to do something special for Xander when she got home. Maybe something for the upcoming birthday party.


“Mrmmble” Willow muttered as she snuggled into Tara a little more.
Little of Willow was visible to the outside world beyond a mop of messy red hair, snuggled into a cocoon of blankets and pressed against Tara’s warmth.

Buffy’s soft snores broke up a little, signalling her slow return to the waking world.

Tara looked over at Dawn, asleep, flat on her back with her arms and legs scattered untidily around the small bed. She marvelled that she could be so relaxed, so carefree, given the trauma of the last few days. Silently Tara wondered if it was the resiliency of youth, or had Dawn inherited some of Buffy’s strength?

Summers steel, Faith had called it.
Dawn was no Slayer, but there was a strong case to suggest that she possessed some of the same inner strength.
Though if anyone had a right to feel safe, it was the youngest Summers sister. She slept surrounded by some of the most powerful women in the world, women who would go to almost any lengths to protect her.
Her quiet musings were interrupted by the realization that she was being watched.


She looked up and saw Faith observing her with a measuring gaze. Faith had her arms around Buffy protectively, much as Tara did around Willow. They shared a moment of understanding, though if asked, Tara would not easily be able to put into words what it was that they shared.

Faith glanced down to the cocoon that was Willow, visible only by her red hair and the tip of her nose.
And her serene expression broke into her more typical grin. She looked significantly at the Willow cocoon and mouthed ‘Very cute.’


Tara rolled her eyes, but could not keep the smile from her face.
She returned the favour by looking at Buffy, just as pointedly, and mouthing, ‘awwww!’


Buffy had Faith’s hand tucked up under her chin, clearly holding on for security.
Faith’s expression melted and she snuggled in close to Buffy, generating an appreciative sigh from her slowly awakening form.


Willow was rapidly approaching consciousness and she murmured something unintelligible and quietly happy.
She moved her head and her mouth sought out Tara’s nipple through the fluffy material of her top.

Tara sucked in a breath sharply, a gasp, as her nipple hardened almost instantly.
Happy images of breasts flickered through from Willow.


‘Willow!’ she yelped, along their private channel.


“mmm,” came the appreciative, audible response.


‘We’re not alone. Sweetie!’ she said mentally.


“Mmm, jiggly,” Buffy murmured from the other side of the room.


Between fending off Willow's increasingly coordinated attempts to make contact again, she managed to spare a glance over at the slayers. Buffy was barely awake, but certainly appreciative of Faith’s stifled laughter, or at least the effect it had on her body.


“Ahem! Impressionable young person in the room, guys!” Dawn said loudly.


Buffy and Willow both squealed in mortal embarrassment, as the overly loud words penetrated the still air of the bedroom.


Willow buried the tiny fraction of herself that was visible to the outside world deeper in the blankets. ‘I am never coming out!’
A river of mortification flowed with the words.


‘I think it might be a little bit late for that, sweetie,’ Tara said with some amusement.


‘You know what I meant! I can’t believe that I… that they know… Argh!’


Tara burrowed down to Willow and pressed a reassuring kiss against her head.
‘I’m hopeful they’ll forgive us,’ she sent, ‘now come on baby, time to get up.’


‘Nooo, it’s cold and embarrassing out there!’


‘I know sweetie, but we are going to be searching through abandoned buildings. So we’re going to need every bit of daylight we can get.’



Willow made an unhappy sound, but slowly began crawling out of her cocoon.
She sat avoiding everyone’s eyes and blushing furiously, wrapped in one of the comforters.


Buffy sat up, similarly wrapped and blushing. “Let us never speak of this.”


Willow nodded numbly. “I’m oddly ok with that.”


Tara and Faith clambered out of bed, while Dawn luxuriated in a joint popping stretch.


“Way to go Red. Impressive work,” Faith said, nodding towards Tara.


Tara looked down at the wet patch covering one erect nipple, and hurriedly grabbed a blanket to wrap herself in.

Willow’s pink cheeks reddened further and she hid her head in the blanket.

A blushing Tara sputtered. “Sorry!” and glanced at Faith. “You-you’re, um, showing too,” she said hesitantly gesturing at Faith’s chest.


Faith shrugged, completely unconcerned. “Eh. Woke up in bed with the most beautiful girl in the world. With wandering hands. It happens.”

Buffy hid her face as Faith hopped out of bed.

“You know, I feel pretty damn good. That spell of yours is a kicker,” Faith said with a broad smile.


“Not still feeling sick are you?” Tara asked.


Faith poked herself in the stomach with the back of her fist and burped. “Little bit. B’s never gonna let me hear the end of this, but she was right I think. Probably shouldn’t have scarfed down all that food yesterday.”

She looked over at Buffy, who was still blushing, but mostly recovered from being outed as having wandering hands. Buffy won herself ten girlfriend points, by not saying ‘I told you so.’ Though she did give Faith a pointed look.
“Hey come on, I puked up stuff I ate when I was a kid! I was frikkin’ starved!” Faith protested. “But yeah, feel pretty awesome otherwise.”


“Except for Faith’s attempt to make me die of embarrassment, I feel amazing this morning,” Buffy said, finally throwing off the covers.


“Oh hey, when did morning happen?” Dawn asked.


“When the sun came up,” Buffy responded.


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Do they have showers and things here?”


Tara shook her head. “No. traditionally the local folk get clean by throwing buckets of stream water at each other. It’s very bracing,” she said, her expression completely serious.


“Har. Har,” Buffy said flatly. “Really, they have showers though? Right? Please?”


Tara chuckled. “Yes Buffy, they have showers. But you haven’t lived until you’ve scrubbed yourself clean in a crystal-clear mountain stream.”


“Sounds like fun. In a no-fun-at-all kind of way. Are you speaking from experience?”


Tara nodded. “One of the first overseas trips we went on. I, um, went off to get clean by myself. By the time I was finished I had developed a new definition of cold, I couldn’t feel bits of myself, and my, um, butt hurt.”


Dawn picked up instantly. “What happened to your butt? Did you fall over?”


Tara flushed pinkly. “Um, no. No falling over. There was a water sprite that, um flicked stones at my butt, and pinched it. Um, she called me mean names too.”


Willow all but burst from her cocoon in her urge to reassure Tara. She hugged her, blanket and all, fierce in her protectiveness.
“Well the sprite is a big poopy-head. And she needs to keep her hands to herself!” she said crossly.


“Mean names?” Faith asked.


Tara blushed. “Um, she-she said I, um, had a huge butt… like the moon.”


“God-damn. I ever meet this sprite chick, I’m gonna smack her in the frikkin mouth!”


“Oh, hey baby, that’s not true,” Willow said reassuringly. “You have a great butt. Just right. Perfect in fact.”


“Well, she was very tiny,” Tara said, miming with her hands a figure about 3 feet tall.


“Well, when you’re that size, everyone’s ass looks huge. Even B’s.”


“Hey! My ass is very not-huge!”


Faith smirked. “Unless you’re sprite sized.”


“Seriously Tara, you’ve got a great ass. If things were different, I’d totally hit that,” Faith said with a serious expression.


“Hey!” Buffy said.


“And hey-also!” Willow added.


“Geez listen why don’t you. If things were different. Duh,” Faith said in an exaggerated ‘Dawn’ voice.


“Hey!” Dawn said, annoyed about the impersonation, and getting in on the general theme of saying ‘Hey!’ at Faith.


Tara blushed a little, ignoring the mild bickering. “Um, thanks, I think. What was particularly annoying about the whole stream thing, was that I came back to find the rest of them in a hot tub.”


“A hot tub? In the wilderness?” Dawn said, eyebrows raised.


Tara nodded. “Yes. Magic can be very convenient that way. Catherine and Takarn were soaking in a magically heated swimming hole, while Melchior made dinner. For someone who didn’t eat, he was a surprisingly good cook. But yes, I felt better after a hot soak.”


“You know, that instant hot tub thing sounds good,” Buffy said. “Any chance you could do that with the witchy magic?”


“Ah, no. Sorry Buffy, I don’t know what spell they used. All I know is that they used a magical device that one of them bought somewhere.”


Willow looked thoughtful. “I might be able to figure it out, but not in time to do us any good here.”


Buffy pouted. “Darn, I was looking forward to an instant hot-tub spell.”


Willow grinned. “I could probably give it a shot, as a version of a ‘heat water’ spell, if we really need it.”


“I need a hot tub,” Buffy said seriously.


Tara nudged Willow with her shoulder. “Hot tubs can wait, there are hot showers to be had.”
Willow smiled, pleased to be able to have at least one shower while on their great adventure. And better yet, a shower with Tara


Faith made a show of listening to sounds outside. “And maybe shopping for B. I can hear a big truck ticking over outside, and delivery dudes moving stuff. Who knows, even up a mountain, Buffy Summers might be able to go on a shopping trip.”


“Uh, before anyone goes anywhere, it might be good to cast the translate-y spell baby. So we can talk to the locals?” Willow said to Tara.


“Uh-huh. Also so we can all understand my sister,” Buffy said with a smug smile.


“Yup, give us a few, and we’ll be a room full of cunning linguists,” Willow said cheerfully.


Faith fell off the bed laughing.


Tara quietly murmured the words to the translation spell, filling the room with the now familiar sparkles.

Willow looked puzzled, along with everyone else. “What’s up with her?”

Tara was struggling to keep a straight face. So to speak. The look on Willow’s face as she twigged, was priceless.

Willow hid her face in Tara’s shoulder. “Oh Goddess,” she mumbled. “Why do people let me say these things?”


“I always thought it was one of your many, many charms,” Tara said.


“Wow. Willow, I can’t believe you said that,” Dawn said, trying hard not to grin.
She squinted at the blank expression on Buffy’s face. “Will? You gave the ‘Lesbianism for dummies’ pamphlets to Buffy, right?”

Willow nodded into Tara’s sheltering shoulder, too mortified to speak.


“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Buffy protested.


“For somebody who makes as many puns as you do, I’m surprised you’re not better at spotting them,” Dawn said, smirking fit to bust.


“In B’s defence, she’s great at puns and clever quips. It’s the sex references that throw her off,” Faith said, winning herself ten girlfriend points by heroically suppressing her smirk. Most of it anyway.


“Hey, I’m up before Dawn! Geddit?”


“Har de har har,” Dawn said flatly.


“Wait, there was a sex reference?” Buffy said, puzzled and ignoring Faith’s terrible pun.


“Unfortunately yes,” Willow said, still not quite able to look anyone in the eye.


“And my sister got it?” she said incredulously.


“I’m surrounded by lesbians, how could I not get a reference to cunnilingus?”


“Uh,” Buffy said, struggling not to look clueless.


“Eating pussy,” Dawn said, looking steadily at her sister.


“Dawn!”


“Well done Buffy, you’ve correctly identified my name. Don’t wear it out.”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “God, did you even take sex-ed in school?”


“Of course! Everyone did. But they didn’t go into details. It was all ‘this goes here, and pregnancy will end your life.’”


“Well, ya should be pretty safe there B. One of the upsides to bein’ a lesbian.”


“You mean besides multiple orgasms?” Willow asked innocently.


“Willow!” Buffy said, almost stunned. “I can’t believe you said that!”


Willow smiled, somewhere between cheeky and sheepish. “Neither can I. though I have to say, it was really quite fun.”


Dawn grinned. “I just wish sex-ed in Sunnydale was like Tara’s sex-ed from the other day. That was awesome.”


“That’s ‘awesome’ to rhyme with ‘embarrassing,’” Willow said, still obviously not yet done with her morning dose of mortification.


“That’s ok Willow. We got Anya to take over for you.”


The room went silent as everyone absorbed the implications. Outside the faint sounds of men unloading the delivery truck could be heard.

“Oh crap,” Buffy said. “I can’t even imagine the trauma. There may be brain damage.”


“She’s not that bad Buffy,” Tara said. “I think you may be surprised at how maturely she handles it.”


Buffy raised an eyebrow at Tara’s comment. “Fine. But you get to deal with all the traumatized girls that scream when they see a sausage. Or a doughnut.”


Tara chuckled. “That seems fair.”


“C’mon ladies, let’s make a move,” Faith said. “I’m starved, and a hungry Slayer is all kindsa cranky. That and I wanna give the buckets of water thing a go.”


“You’re insane.”


Faith smiled seductively. “Yeah, but ya still love me.”


Buffy smiled back softly. “True.”


“Blech,” Dawn said, pantomiming throwing up.

She turned to comment to the others about the obvious grossness, only to find Willow and Tara sharing a tender kiss.

She rolled her eyes. “I can’t take you guys anywhere.”

The witches did not respond, lost in their own little world.
Faith had closed on Buffy, and now they were sharing a gentle cuddle, Faith standing behind Buffy and resting her chin on Buffy’s shoulder.

Dawn huffed, and then brightened. She rummaged around in her modest pack for a small bag of toiletries and a small towel.

“I call dibs on the shower!” and she bolted from the room.


“Dawn!”


+++


“I still can’t believe you guys made me carry a pack, entirely filled with underwear,” Buffy grumbled, now fully dressed. “Up a mountain even.”


“Sorry Buffy. We didn’t do it on purpose,” Willow said, with an appropriately apologetic expression.


“And it says a lot about how much you all respect me, that everyone thought I’d forget to pack clean under things.”

She moved to stand next to Tara. “Except Tara. She respects my thinking ability.”


Tara looked away. “Um. Sorry Buffy. I brought spares for you too, I just put them in my pack.”


Buffy glowered. “Eat too, Tara?”


Tara smiled at the Buffy-Latin. “Don’t be angry Buffy. I’d sort of gotten used to looking out for you in Sunnydale. It was just sort of a reflex I guess.”


Buffy’s smile was quite tender. “Thanks Tara. I guess I never appreciated how much you did for us.”

Buffy impulsively flung her arms around Tara and hugged her hard enough to lift her off the ground.

Tara coughed and returned the hug. “Any time Buffy.”


“Wow, I’m impressed. Primo Buffy-handling skills there Blondie.”


“I do love you Buffy,” Tara said softly, getting a rib-creaking squeeze in return. “But you know you’re going to have to let go at some point, right?”


“Nope, staying right here.”


“It’s going to be difficult to have an adventure if you don’t let go at some point.”


Buffy huffed. “Well if you’re going to be all sensible about it,” and let go.


Tara took a deep breath. “Wow, Slayer hugs: accept no substitute.”


“Sorry.”


“I’m not. If it hurt, I’d have asked you to ease off.”


“Yay! Also ha!” Buffy said. “I did pack clean underthings. So now we have enough to clothe the entire village. Um, mostly in cotton panties, which sounded less weird before I said it, but hey.”

She unpacked the aforementioned huge pack onto the bed, the mound of white and pink growing to ridiculous size.

“You guys, this is crazy-making! Are there any panties left in Diamond Falls?”


“Well, I know there aren’t any left in your drawer, that’s for sure.”


“This is more panties than I have! And who’s is the thong?”


Dawn snagged the bright yellow thong. “Mine.”


At Buffy’s outraged look she responded. “What? They make my butt look awesome, and going commando is way uncomfortable when you’re patrolling.”


“And who is going to be checking out your butt, on patrol?” Buffy said, her arms folded.


“Everyone.”


Buffy glared at her sister until Faith ever-so-casually got in the way. “So, what’s the plan for today Glinda?”


“Well, we have a leisurely breakfast, pick up our guide Alphonse, and head out. I think we can get to the monastery today and do a bit of exploring. Then we can set camp and spend the entire day tomorrow searching through the place.”


“Neat! We have an actual European to talk to,” Willow said, bouncing excitedly up and down.


“As opposed to those fake euros downstairs? Or unloading the truck outside?” Faith asked, eyebrow raised.


“But this one we get all to ourselves! For days! We could find out all sorts of things!”


“Well, that was sort of the plan sweetie,” Tara replied. She looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think when he’s away from the rest of the village, he might open up a little. He seems to know a lot about the place, and he told me that he used to work for the monks fairly regularly, up until a couple of years ago.”


“I think I know why that stopped,” Willow said.


Tara nodded and turned to smile softly at Dawn. “We’re going to get you some answers sweetie. Soon, maybe even today.”


“Wicked,” Dawn breathed.


“Come on ladies,” Faith said. I wanna get some grub-” she held up her hand to forestall the inevitable comments. “-slowly this time.”


“And I want to see what they’re delivering outside,” Buffy said. “It might be something nice. Possibly even stylish, impossible-to-obtain-in-America shoes.” the last was delivered with a note of hopefulness.


“Doubtful,” Faith muttered. “Prob’ly just this week’s shipment of beer, we are in a tavern after all.”


“Ok, and the armour and weapons?” Buffy said, looking to Tara.


“Well, we brought all that stuff for a reason,” Tara said. “I think when we’re away from the village, we should get changed.”


Dawn sighed. “Nuts. I was hoping to avoid all that junk. Lara Croft never has to deal with Kevlar,” she muttered.


Faith smirked. “Or gravity, if those tits are anything to go by.”

Dawn just rolled her eyes.


“Trust me, it’s a lot easier to carry this stuff by wearing it, than it is to haul it around on your back,” Tara said.


“At some stage I’m going to have to look into the enchantments on your armour,” Willow said. “Y’know, to see if we can do something like that for the rest of us.”


“I’m definitely voting in favour of anything that keeps us less stabby and bitey,” Buffy said.


“I’ll vote on less stinky and sweaty. But less stabby is cool too,” Dawn added.


“How good is your armour Tara?” Willow asked, poking at the sack holding the various bit of metal.


“Pretty much indestructible. I’ve been hit with everything from fireballs to axes, without it even getting a scratch or a dent.”


“Damn, that’s tough stuff. Is alla that magical shit so badass?”


“Um, no. This armour is extra tough, I don’t know why. Takarn had a sword made from the same metal, and it was really light. But it still got little nicks and scratches.”


“If there’s anybody still living up at the monastery when we show up, they’re going to freak,” Buffy said.


Faith shrugged. “So they freak. And?”

Buffy shrugged helplessly.


“C’mon guys, we’ve got a long, cold day ahead of us filled with walking and climbing and stuff,” Willow said. “So let’s go get a good solid breakfast inside us and make a start.”


“Oh yeah, I heard that,” Faith said, unconsciously rubbing her belly.


Buffy rolled her eyes. “You are always hungry.”


“You grow up wondering where your next meal is coming from, you get that way,” Faith said.


“Well you don’t have that now, I promise you,” Willow said. “We are going to have two happy and chubby little slayers.”


Faith snorted. “The lifestyle we lead, I’m not sure that’s possible.”


Buffy just looked outraged. “I’ve already gained a bunch of weight thanks to miss ‘stuff your face’ here.”


“I have to say Buffy, I think you look good,” Tara said.


Willow nodded. “You lost a lot of weight over the last couple of years Buff. Made you look a lot older and skinnier.”


“Asses should be round. Not bony,” was Faith’s pronouncement on the subject.


“You look younger too. The wavy hair helps. I always liked your hair when it was wavy,” Willow said, a little dreamily.


Buffy sighed. “It took a lot of effort to get it straight you know. These days I just can’t be bothered.”


“C’mon you guys! I can’t believe we teleported across the world to talk about weight and hair! There’s a world of cool stuff out there!” Dawn complained.

She leaned in across the dressing table. “We’re. In. Europe!”

She did a little hop and bounced out the door.

Her voice floated in from the corridor. “If you don’t get down here, I’m gonna eat all the breakfast!”


“Hold up D!” Faith called. She quickly grabbed a knife and tucked it into her jacket, bolting out the door moments later.

The sound of boots thundering down the stairs echoed off the sturdy wooden walls.



The three were left in temporary silence.

Buffy just looked at her two friends, some unidentifiable emotion on her face.
“Thanks, you guys. You know, for the stopping me going crazy thing. And for the whole helping Dawn thing.”


Willow and Tara shared a look before Tara spoke. “Family never has to say thank you, Buffy.”


Buffy sniffled, a watery smile on her face.

Tara moved over and embraced her again, holding tight. “You just have to go through me,” she whispered.

Buffy sniffled a little more.

“Buffy, I’ll never be able to tell you how much that meant to me. It probably doesn’t seem like that big of a thing to you, but that was the first time someone ever stood up for me. And you were willing to take on all my relations, even after I got everyone hurt.”

She pulled back from the embrace to look Buffy in the eyes. “I found my family that day. You, Dawn, Xander, everyone.”

Buffy smiled, still watery, but much happier. She snuggled into Tara’s embrace with a happy sigh.

“I love Dawnie every bit as much as you do Buffy. It’s no chore for me to help out, ok? You never have to ask.”


Buffy sniffled again and let go, after giving her an affectionate squeeze. “Thanks Tara, you’re the best.”


“C’mere you,” Willow said and pulled Buffy into a hug. Buffy snuggled into Willow and enjoyed the embrace of her best friend.

Willow pressed a kiss into Buffy’s hair. “I like hugging you, Buff. You’re the only person I can hug and feel big.”


Buffy made a face, though she was still smiling. “Thanks Will, for adding to my crippling insecurities about my size. Now I can be the short and fat Slayer.”


“Any time Buffy,” Willow said, smiling happily. “I’m thinking we should go find Dawn and Faith. You do realize we left both of them unsupervised in a foreign bar, right?”


“Urgh, it’s too early for my brain to imagine that kind of disaster,” Buffy said. “Let’s just get dressed for the day and go.”


“And dress warm, because brrrr, It’s cold out there!” Willow said.

At this point her face lit up as Tara pulled pink woollen mittens over her hands. “Mmm snuggly.”


“God, I just don’t know what to do about the panties though. I don’t wanna haul them up a mountain, but that’s like, a year’s supply of underwear! I don’t want to lose that many undies. It’s bound to be bad luck or something.”


“I don’t think the apocalypse is going to be triggered by rogue panties, Buffy.”


Buffy laughed. “I can see the prophecies now: ‘And the Chosen one (the cute lovable blonde one) did run out of clean underwear. And lo, the forces of darkness had their signal to attack, and completely ruin their day,’” she said in her best Giles voice.


Willow giggled happily as she was dressed by a very attentive Tara, distracting her completely.

“I know how you feel the cold sweetie.”


“Growing up on the Hellmouth will do that.”


“Growing up in southern California will do that.”


Buffy pouted at the pile. “I can’t believe I am forced to deal with this ridiculous mound of underwear. This is just silly.”
She repacked her pack, leaving out most of the pink and white pile.


“Just leave most of them here Buffy,” Tara said as she dressed a deliriously happy Willow. “I paid for a week, so the room is ours for that long. And if something happens, we can always go shopping.”


Buffy brightened. “Yay for shopping!”

She tightened the straps on her pack with visible satisfaction. It was noticeably smaller than before, now having been emptied of most of the offending unmentionables.

“Right, I think that’s everything packed, minus crazy piles of underwear. I’ll drag this lot downstairs while you guys finish up. There’s no telling what unspeakable horrors my sister and Faith have unleashed on the natives.”


“Ok,” Willow said, making no moves to leave.


Buffy smirked as she closed the door.

“Don’t be all day. Otherwise you’ll have to deal with cranky slayers! And Dawn!” she yelled through the door.


Willow smiled and pointed at her face. “I’m suffering a terrible smoochy shortage here. Urgent relief is needed.”


“I think I might be able to help with that,” Tara said with a soft smile.

She moved over into Willow’s embrace for a soft, gentle kiss.


When they broke for air, Willow whimpered. “God, I’m enjoying our adventure so far, but I wish we weren’t on the clock right now.”


Tara nibbled her ear. “What were you thinking sweetie?” she whispered.


Willow’s breath hitched, coming out somewhere between a squeak and a sigh. “If we’re being completely honest-”


“We are,” Tara purred into her ear. Her hands slid down Willow’s sweater-covered back to cup her butt.


“Oh Goddess, I really want you to sit on my face… right now.”

Tara massaged Willow’s pert buns with her hands, drawing more whimpers from Willow.

“I want to just lie back on the bed there. You don’t even have to get undressed much.” Willow slid her hands into Tara’s jeans, returning the bottom groping.


“You could just slide these down a ways and sit down. Then I could have a proper breakfast.”


“Breakfast of champions,” Tara murmured. She slowly kissed her way from behind Willow’s ear, down the side of her neck.


“Oh Goddess!” Willow moaned, clenching her hands on Tara’s tight rear.

With great reluctance, Tara pulled slowly away.

Willow sighed, and pouted more than a little. “Curses. Foiled again. Now I’ll have to eat other, less satisfying food.”


“I could use a little, um, nectar of the goddess myself.”

Willow took in Tara’s flushed face and lust darkened gaze, and her oh-so-kissable lips.

“I’m gonna go downstairs, right now.”

Her eyes widened, and she waved her hands worriedly. “Um, no really, actually down the staircase to the other place, with the peoples and the stuff. Because otherwise I am so going downstairs, and we won’t get breakfast, and we’ll have cranky slayers.”


Tara nodded. “Very responsible Willow, very wise.”


Willow sagged. “Yep, that’s me, old reliable.”


“There’s only one problem sweetie. I haven’t given you your morning kiss.”

Firmly, but gently she pushed Willow up against the door and kissed her passionately and thoroughly. Willow wrapped her legs around Tara’s waist, and gave back every bit as good as she got.
Which was very good indeed.


+++


Somewhat later, the pair came down the stairs hand in hand, looking just a little flushed and dishevelled.

Dawn waved excitedly at them from a nearby table. As the pair moved over to the table, Buffy smirked at the pair and Faith had what could only be described as a shit-eating grin plastered across her face.

“Takes time to pack shit just right, huh?”


Willow and Tara both sat down, looking everywhere except at Faith.

Places had been set for them, though the others presided over the half-demolished remains of breakfast.


“Dive in guys. We have chicken soup, vegetable soup, suspicious stew, a sort of local porridge stuff, and meat sandwiches,” Buffy said between mouthfuls of buttered bread-rolls and chicken soup.


“The stew is fucking awesome,” Faith said. “Lamb, rabbit an’ goat, if I heard right. They just keep it going and put new bits in every so often.”


“Also sammiches for breakfast is really nice,” Dawn said. “The meat is still warm and it’s some kind of spicy lamb stuff.”


“Though feel free to have yours without pickled cabbage. Unlike the freak here,” Buffy said with a mock glare at her sister.


“Wow,” was all that Willow managed.


“Food good. Eat.” Faith said, putting actions to words.


Tara nodded her agreement. “I think a bowl of chicken soup for me,” She said. “Willow?”


Willow looked up and nodded excitedly. “Yes please!”


Tara grabbed the soup bowls from the table and went to the covered pot on the serving bench. As she ladled the bowls full of rich chicken-y goodness she glanced over at the serving staff. Only the innkeeper Peter and his nephew were visible, and they both looked somewhat ill at ease.
She glanced back to the table where an excited red-head was describing something incredibly exciting to Dawn, if the amount of arm waving was anything to go by.

Faith looked up and gave her a tiny nod. She’d sensed something ‘off’ this morning too.


“Right, that’s enough stuffing my face,” Dawn said, as she rose from the table. “I’m going to have a little look around the village while you guys eat.”


“What, you can’t wait thirty seconds for me to finish breakfast?” Buffy complained.


“You snooze, you lose,” Dawn said as she flounced out the door.


“D! hold up,” Faith said.

She abandoned her stew and hurried out the door after the youngest Summers.


Willow chuckled. “What was-”

Buffy’s face blanked in shock for a split second.


From outside the door, Faith could be heard to say. “Oh fuck me…”


Buffy exploded out of her seat, scattering bowls and cutlery like confetti. She vaulted the table and headed for the door faster than anyone could even think.


Tara reacted instinctively, grabbing Willow’s hand as tight as she could. She whispered two words, a most fervent prayer. “Goddess, protect!”
The room exploded with light, raising startled cries from the men behind the serving counter.
The light settled over the two women as a barely visible glow, just as Buffy smashed through the door, tearing it from its hinges in her haste.


“B!”


The metallic clicking sound of guns being cocked was heard. “Motherfucker, you better point that thing at me. Because if you point it at her, I swear to god man, I will tear out your fucking spine.”

Terrified, the two made their way over to the door.


“You two, out here now!” a man’s voice called harshly.


‘Crap!’ Willow sent on their private line, [i]‘now what?’


‘We step out bravely and help our friends, that’s what.’


Willow took a deep breath and stepped out into the cold pre-dawn light hand in hand with her love.


+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 12:59 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Kaskinen, Finland. Citizen of Kitopia
Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I hope they manage to clear up the mess without too much collateral damage...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:13 pm 
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Hi Azirahael.

This was a nice bridging chapter full of little warm fuzzy moments. I liked how you deliberately mentioned the sounds of "heavy gear" being unloaded outside long before the girls even got down to breakfast.

Can't wait to see if the gun toting force waiting outside is a local militia that thinks they own the monastery, or a remnant of the Knights of Byzantium, or just a homophobic lynch mob. Wondering if that sleepy little town is going to be reduced to a war zone in the next scene. In any case it looks like the stage is set for wackiness to ensue.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 1:49 am 
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Glad you liked [WHITE SMILING FACE]

The update is going to be late, as I am again in the hills with no Internet.

I'm doing this on my phone, from the one spot on the farm that has cell reception.

It's 1m wide.
Really.

Also having trouble connecting to the board.

I keep getting a parking site. [CRYING FACE]

Sent from my GT-N5120 using Tapatalk

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“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2016 6:53 pm 
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Fighting, Witches strutting their stuff, Slayers strutting their stuff, Dawn... not so much.

But hey, Much goings on!
Enjoy!

P.S: i'm back from the land of no internet, so here is an extra-long chapter (i think).



What does a mountain go for these days?



It wasn’t quite a scene from a nightmare.
Willow’s nightmares generally included more demons and fire.

But it was close.

Two trucks painted a military looking green were parked at the far side of the square.
In front of them was a multi-wheeled armoured vehicle, that Xander would describe as an APC, complete with an intimidatingly huge machinegun. Many men in military garb were standing around the square.

But the worst was directly in front of them: a man in military garb, complete with beret and pistol by his side. He was flanked by two soldiers, one a grizzled-looking veteran, the other a rather nervous looking young soldier.
The veteran was pointing his assault rifle at them, at Willow and Tara.


A couple of meters to their left, Buffy was frozen, her whole body as tense as a coiled spring. It was obvious that she had stopped on her way to Dawn and Faith. The nervous young soldier was pointing his rifle at her, his finger tense on the trigger.

Faith and Dawn stood side by side, a little further away from the door.
Faith was shielding her as best she could, a task made all the more impossible given the other soldiers scattered around the cobbled square.

“Well, that’s interesting,” the beret-wearing man said.
He was clearly the leader, his very stance and attitude said ‘in charge.’
“More foreign tourists. Americans too, I assume?”


Willow and Tara both nodded silently.


“Interesting timing for a trip.”

Tara’s eye took in the scene surrounding them.
Though the leader was relaxed, his men were not.
Her practiced eye swept the area, taking in the mix of veterans and young men, the variety of their gear and weapons.
They looked untidy, and not in the battle-ready way of true veterans.
It was a look she’d seen before.


‘Mercenaries. They’re mercenaries,’ she sent on their private line.


‘But-but mercenaries? This is western Europe, not Chechnya!’ Willow protested.


‘Well, they’re here. We can work out how later.’


‘I have a really bad feeling about this.’


‘Me too, something’s not right here.’



“I find myself wondering, what five American women are doing up here, unescorted by the looks.”
Dawn snorted.

The leader raised an eyebrow. “There are very bad men in the world, yes?”


Dawn did the same. “Looks like.”


Taking a deep breath, Tara spoke up. “What are mercenaries doing in the Czech Republic?”


He smiled. “There’s quite a story there. And we’re not mercenaries.”


While most of the soldiers were sort of hanging around, waiting to see if they were needed, or just plain curious, one soldier was moving differently.
He moved with a sense of purpose and authority towards the group.


Buffy’s eyes widened when she saw him, or more accurately, when she saw the tattoo on his forehead.
“Oh no,” she muttered.


“Colonel I have…” he broke off as he looked at Buffy. His eyes widened in shock. “Slayer!”


“Crap.” Buffy said. “I don’t suppose you guys have forgotten-”


“The Key!” he shouted, pointing right at Dawn.


“Double crap.”


Time seemed to slow for Tara, though not nearly enough for her to act in time.
The nervous soldier’s weapon instinctively tracked across to Dawn.

Faith jumped in front of her, shielding her from the rifle.


Buffy yelled. “No!” and leapt for the gun with impossible speed.
But even with all her speed, she was unable to cover the several meters necessary before the finger, already too tight on the trigger, could twitch and tighten that all-important fraction further.


Without conscious decision, Tara raised her hand and poured her strength down it. She drew ruthlessly on her link to Willow and her connection to Dawn and rammed every fragment of power she could, down that link.

The soldier’s Russian-made Kalashnikov stuttered and jerked in his too-tight grip.


And bullets slammed into Faith’s chest.


Red sprayed from her back, onto Dawn.


And Faith went down.


Buffy wrenched the weapon up, crushing the plastic and steel in her vice-like grip.

The green soldier looked in shock at his weapon, seemingly more surprized by the fact that it had fired, than the fact that it had been crushed in the grip of a tiny blonde woman.

She glanced over her shoulder, and saw Faith down, a row of red holes across her chest, Dawn white-faced and splattered with red.

And everything went white for her.


Willow saw the red, saw the guns, so many guns.
Pointed at Dawn, at her, at Tara.

Guns. Pointed at Tara.

Something broke inside her.

“No, not again,” she whispered. “Never again.”

It wasn’t a plea, it wasn’t a prayer. It was a command.


Buffy looked away from her fallen love, into the terrified eyes of the boy that shot her. Whatever he saw in her gaze, it was enough for him to just faint dead away, leaving Buffy standing over his fallen form.

Instinctively, the surrounding soldiers raised their weapons.
“Wait!” the colonel commanded.


Buffy charged. Faster than anything human had a right to move.

Her first punch hit the colonel in the right side of his ribcage with the force of a wrecking ball.
Bone shattered and flesh tore as he was hit with enough force to send him flying several meters through the air.
Before he hit the ground, she was moving again, almost faster than the eye could see.
The men panicked and fired, muzzle flashes and gun-smoke filling the air.
Bullets thudding into and sometimes through bodies and blood sprayed, as they desperately tried to kill the terrifying thing in their midst.

Her every punch and kick broke bones, tore flesh, and sent men screaming to the ground, clutching parts of themselves in mortal agony.


Tara’s gaze was fixed on Dawn, now sheathed in the same barely visible shimmer that they both were. A random bullet bounced off the protective barrier surrounding Dawn, another off Tara.

She let go of Willow’s hand and rushed to Faith and Dawn.
Dawn was frozen in shock, as white faced and immobile as a marble statue, the only colour being the spray of carmine across her chest and face.
She stared blankly at Faith.


Tara dragged Dawn behind some stacked barrels. “Sweetie, stay down.”
Ducked back out to drag Faith to cover.
Faith groaned in protest as she was hauled bodily across the cobbles, a huge red swathe spread across the cobbles, as if by some obscene painter’s brush.



“No more.”
Willow did not raise her voice, but Tara’s head snapped up as she heard the tone.
Willow’s face was flat. Mask-like.
And it showed absolutely no hesitation or uncertainty.
It was her resolve face in its fullest expression.

Tara felt a vast inrush of power as Willow pulled strength from the air, the earth, and everything nearby.
The sound of screaming and gunfire faded from her awareness.
All she could see was the slender figure, her red hair floating, almost as if she were underwater.
The ground shook, small pebbles and bits of detritus lifted off the ground around her as the power built.

Faith groaned and coughed. “Lemme up,” she gurgled.
She coughed blood from her mouth.
Absently Tara shoved Faith back down, or tried.
Faith did not submit to being shoved.

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Willow screamed.

The sky tore open and the ground shook as though an angry god had slammed his fist, or perhaps her fist, into the earth.

Masonry cracked and windows shattered from the impact.
The blast-wave hurled to the ground anyone not already there.
Save Buffy, who stayed on her feet by sheer force of will.
Or possibly rage.

The earth continued to rumble and shake, cries of terror coming from the fallen men, and pain from the wounded.

“NO. MORE!”

A shockwave exploded outwards from Willow’s floating form.
Everyone in the square bounced around, like small children on a trampoline with their much larger brother.

The shockwave tore across the landscape, a ripple from a boulder thrown in a pond. By chance or design, most of the force was projected forward, away from the village, towards a distant mountain.

Buffy kept her feet, as if by some kind of Slayer-only magic.

And then the frenzied shaking died down in the square, the shockwave racing away visibly through the earth and stone.

The blast slammed into the distant mountain.
And shattered it.

The mountain shed incalculable tons of earth and stone, as a pine tree shed a heavy load of winter snow.

Faith clawed her way to her feet, slipping and skidding in the huge pool of red that had spread beneath her brief stay on the ground.

“Faith no!” Tara shouted over the groaning of the earth. She had no idea how Faith was even standing, but she was more than standing.
She was moving. Stumbling.
Towards the APC.

And Tara saw what Faith had seen: that despite the chaos, the APC was still functional, and the turret was turning to face them.

Her jacket a swath of red, punctured with ragged holes, Faith stumbled towards the tank-like vehicle.
She picked up speed, moving faster now, smoother, with purpose. And before the turret could turn to face Buffy, she slammed into the side of the APC.

The multi-ton machine rocked on its oversize wheels, but the turret still turned smoothly, tracking the blonde Slayer.


Desperate to protect her friend, Tara flung out a desperate hand and cried. “Murum lucis!”
A glass-like wall shimmered into existence between the vehicle and Buffy. Tara had never had occasion to test whether her barrier would stand up to heavy machineguns, and she prayed it would be enough.

The turret roared.
The gun thudded out round after round, in a panicked attempt to kill the terrible thing that had laid low almost all the men in a matter of moments.
The bullets vaporized as they hit the barrier, bursts of light starkly illuminating the battleground. The wall of light all-but vanished after the first burst.

Seeing the turret line up with Buffy and open fire made Faith scream with rage. Grabbing the handle-like rungs of the ladder on the side, she lifted. With a howl of fury, she flipped the war-machine on its side with a ground-shaking crash.


Tara gaped, mouth open in shock. Willow’s earth-shaking shock had broken the distant mountain and Buffy was moving faster than anyone could follow.
But Faith had just tossed a tank, after being shot repeatedly.


“B!” Faith coughed. “Stop, please!”

Buffy rolled and twisted, breaking a man’s arm with a wet snap and a scream. But she did stop.
There was no-one left for her to beat, or crush. Everyone was groaning or laying perilously silent on the disturbed cobbles.
Buildings creaked, and fallen glass tinkled as the earth settled.

In the distance, a dull roar was heard as the huge chunk of the mountainside fell away, falling with terrifying slowness, enough rock falling to bury several towns.


Buffy’s eyes were dark, her pupils expanded to a degree that left little room for colour.
She was panting, shaking from her exertions and splattered with blood.
“Fffaith?” she slurred.


Faith nodded and doubled over, coughing up blood and other less identifiable substances.
With horrible hacking and retching sounds she coughed up something that clicked and glinted as it fell against the cobbles.
“Oh fuck me,” she groaned. “I just coughed up a bullet.”


Tara snapped out of her shock and hurried over to Faith. “Let me look at you Faith, you’ve been shot.”


“Ow,” she said deadpan. “Getting shot fucking hurts. A lot.”


“You took three through the chest, Faith. I don’t know how you’re standing, let alone talking.”


Silently Dawn dropped two copper-coloured bits of metal into Faith’s hand.
Bullets.

“They went right through you,” she said quietly. “And bounced off me.”


Buffy shook off enough of the mental trauma to stumble forward and hug her sister and Faith in one go.
“I thought- I thought…” she said haltingly, unable to finish the thought.


“I know B. I know,” Faith rasped.

Feeling selfish, Tara made her way over to Willow. Faith was terribly hurt, but her first concern was for Willow.
She was shaking when she reached out to touch Willow’s shoulder.

Willow turned. Her eyes dark with emotion, but not the void dark of her uttermost rage.
Though her face was a mask, the boil of emotion inside Willow was like a living thing, and the mix of fear and anger roared down the link they shared.


Before they could speak, the rear door of the APC popped open and two men staggered out, clutching their weapons in white knuckled grips.
Willow glared at them. “Don’t. Really.”


In the background, the roar of the mountainside collapsing framed her words with terrifying effect.
The two men looked in awe at the avalanche of stone.
Millions of tons of rock, still falling with deceptive slowness.
They glanced at each other and wordlessly put their weapons on the ground.


“Sweetie, are you alright?” Tara said to Dawn.


Dawn shook her head. “Not even close. But I’m not hurt. Look after Faith and Buffy, I can deal for a while.”


Tara reached out to pull Dawn into a comforting hug, but Dawn raised her hand. “Don’t. I’ll break if you hold me, and I don’t have time.”

She turned and started policing up the fallen weapons and stripping dangerous items from the fallen men.
Her expression was cold and hard, and Tara’s heart went out to the young woman who had grown up so fast.


She shook her head, there would be time for that later, and Faith may not have that much time.
‘Go, baby. Me and Dawnie will deal with the bad guys, go help Faith.’


Tara flashed Willow a smile that was equal part sadness and gratitude, and moved over to her friend.
“Faith, I need you to let me look at you, ok?”


“Sure,” Faith coughed. “I ain’t gonna complain. Your buzzy healing mojo is way cooler than bleedin’ to death and shit.”


“First I have to figure out what’s wrong, before I can heal it. Buffy, can you help Faith get her shirt and jacket off?”
Buffy nodded seriously and started peeling Faith’s blood-soaked jacket off. She held it up, soaked in red with two neat holes torn through the back.


“Aw man, I really liked that jacket. G-man got it for me, like, two weeks ago.”
Tara lifted up the back of Faith’s top and gasped.


Buffy looked worried, something that Faith quickly picked up on. “That bad?”


“We need to get you inside,” Tara said seriously, lowering the red-stained top.


“Seriously Snow-White, is it that bad?”


Tara shook her head. “Not exactly, but I need to check you over more thoroughly. And get the bloodstained top off.”


Faith chuckled and winced. “All these blondes, just can’t wait to get my top off.”


Tara rolled her eyes. “Unless you want to get undressed out here, in the cold, with everyone watching, I suggest we get inside.”


“Uh, yeah.”


“Go. We’ll all still be here when you get done,” Dawn said.


Together Buffy and Tara helped a protesting Faith inside, and up the stairs.


+++


Dawn turned to Willow, carefully covering the injured men with her drawn pistols. “You recognize the tattooed guys?”


Willow nodded. “Yep.”


She turned to the fallen leader, and the tattooed men. “If you’re very lucky, after Tara has finished patching Faith up, I might ask her to patch you guys up. Because as much as you are hurting, Buffy didn’t kill any of you. You may have nearly killed her fiancé, but she’s still a hero, and she didn’t kill any of you. That may change if you stay out here in the cold for too long.”


Dawn sat down on a convenient crate. “So. Who’s going to be the first person to tell us what the Knights of Byzantium are doing with a bunch of mercenaries? Up a mountain, in Europe?”


+++


Tara peeled Faith’s top off carefully and removed her bra.
She sponged down her back, washing away the sticky, drying blood.

The sponge revealed flawless skin.
Rinsing out the sponge in the basin, she passed it to Buffy to cleanse Faith’s front.

Buffy carefully sponged down Faith’s front, for once not the slightest bit distracted by the breasts on display.
Not a mark was to be seen under the gore.


“Uh, not that I’m complaining, but didn’t you get slightly shot?”


Faith nodded silently and poked her finger in a hole in Buffy’s top.
A round hole crusted with dark red.
“You too B.”


Buffy examined herself and was dismayed to discover numerous holes in her clothes, mostly around the torso region.
“Wow, this outfit didn’t last long.”


“Take your top off.”


“Uh, I should probably make some clever quip there, but my brain is all mush right now. Um, give me a hand?”

Faith and Tara carefully peeled Buffy’s blood soaked and bullet riddled clothing off.
“Jesus B, there’s like a dozen holes in this jacket!”


Tara carefully examined the patches of tacky blood on Buffy’s skin. “I’d say you were hit at least ten times Buffy. Except, aside from the blood, there’s not a mark on you. On either of you.”


Buffy looked in amazement at the shredded jacket. “I didn’t even feel it. I was way far gone, but you’d think I’d notice that many bullets. I’ve been shot before, it really hurts.”


“These went right through,” Tara said, comparing red spots on Buffy’s torso.

“Faith? You might want to help Buffy wash off the blood. I want to check to see if there are any internal injuries.”


Wordlessly, Faith took the sponge and started cleaning off the sticky redness from Buffy’s back.

Tara concentrated and cast a spell, one so familiar to her that not even chanting was needed.
And with eyes carrying a faint sparkle, she carefully examined the energy flows inside the two women.


“Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone stare at my rack like that.”


Tara couldn’t keep a smile from quirking her lips. “I’m not checking you out Faith, I’m checking you out. Um, on the inside.”


“Huh. How do I look?”


“Fine. No sign of injury. It’s like you were never shot. You too Buffy.”


“Wow. Is it magic?”


Tara frowned in confusion.
“I don’t know. I’ll have to do more checking for that. More complex spells than a simple diagnosis-type spell.”


“Screw that. We can do it later. When we get back or something. I want some answers.”


“Um…?”


“Different answers. Like, who are the tattooed dorks? And why are they hanging around with Mercs?”


“They’re the Knights of Byzantium,” Buffy said. “We ran into them a few years back, with that whole Glory mess.”


Tara made a face.

Faith saw it. “Assholes huh?”


“Um, I’m not really sure. My memories of that whole thing are… bad.”


“Oh yeah. Sorry.”


Tara smiled a little and shook her head. “Nothing to be sorry about.”


“Well at least we have spares,” Buffy said, holding up Faith’s shredded bra and a replacement in pink.


“Damn, I liked that one. Was real comfy to fight in. What’s with the pink?”


“It’s from the stupid pile of underthings. And it’s about the right size.”


“Yeah, but pink?”


“You have pink clothes. And it’s a bra, no one’s really going to see it.”


“It’s one of my spares,” Tara said.


Faith just looked at her.


“I’m really blonde now. I can do pink,” she said a little awkwardly.


Faith held up the bra. “Actually Snow, I think you might have a couple of inches on me.”


“It’s the armour. It might be magically light and non-stinky, but you wear it long enough and you build up muscle.”


“That too,” Faith said with a smirk.


Tara flushed slightly. “Only a little bigger. You might want to get dressed, Faith. I know turn-about is fair, but it’s starting to feel a little weird.”


“Turn ab- when did Faith see you naked?” Buffy protested.


“Winona’s christening day,” Faith said. “You know, when we went for a ride in a cool car? The car that definitely didn’t smell like hot girl-sex?”

Tara blushed furiously.
Faith shrugged on her pink bra and fiddled around with it. Buffy helpfully adjusted the straps, possibly as a way to avoid speech.


“Relax Tara,” Faith said. “Ya can’t hide that stuff from Slayers, so don’t even try.”


“Oh my.”


“It’s true,” Buffy put in. “Even after a shower, it takes a good half day to um, fade.”


Tara did some mental calculations. “But-but-”


“You and Red, pretty much always smell like sex? Yeah. Don’t sweat it. Heh. We’re used to it.”


“Oh my.”


“Now you know why the mini-me’s are such randy little bitches. Pretty much smells like horny girl all the time in the dorms. Fucking distracting I gotta say.”


Faith looked down at her pink covered breasts. “Huh. Good fit. Think you mighta lost a little weight there Blondie.”


“Pink suits you,” Buffy said. “You should wear it more often.”


“Nah, Red and black’s more me. But if you wanna see me in pink B, I can do pink.”

She rubbed one breast absently.


“Is it still hurting?” Tara asked.


Faith shrugged. “Little bit. Though I did kinda get shot in the tit like, five minutes ago. Go figure.”
With that she started peeling out of her jeans.

Tara looked a little surprised and turned away.


“Relax Snow-White. You’ve seen more of me than B here. No sense gettin’ all weird now.”
With that she slid into her back body suit and started strapping armour plates on.


“Get dressed ladies. We brought this junk for a reason.”


“Great, we go from being stared at for being weird foreigners, to being stared at because we look like an invading army of ninjas,” Buffy grumbled.


“Don’t make us wait all day for you to get your ass dressed.”

Reluctantly, Tara started getting changed as well.


Many minutes later, the three had finished strapping each other into their armour.

Faith unwrapped her massive axe. “Grab the Scythe B. Time to show these fuckers we ain’t messing around.”


Buffy pulled her smaller, heavier axe from her pack and unclipped the leather sheath that kept the blade from slicing its way out the bottom of the pack.
With a disconcertingly cheerful ‘pop’ sound, she pulled the tennis ball from the spike that formed the haft.
Faith just stared for a heartbeat.
Then she laughed.


“What?” Buffy asked, looking all threatening in her black outfit, Scythe and all.


“Sorry B. last time I saw anyone do that, it was my Grams and her walker.”


Buffy smiled sheepishly. “Well, how else are you going to stop the pointy bit from staking you randomly?”


“True dat.”


Faith ran her hands through her hair and let out a big breath. “Look, I got no idea what’s goin’ on here. But I’m glad we ain’t dead.”
“More though, I’m glad you’re here Tara, Red. Couldn’t ask for anyone better to stand next to, while we figure this shit out.”


Tara flushed a little, embarrassed. “That’s ok Faith.”


“Plus that armour is bad-ass, girl.” Faith punched her in a shoulder plate, making a dull ‘bonk’ noise.


“Thanks.”


“You’re cute when you blush. I see why Red likes ya so much.”


“Thanks. I think.”


“If we’re done making Tara feel awkward, I think it’s high time we got some answers,” Buffy said.

She hefted the Scythe over her shoulder.

Faith nodded and took a deep breath.


All the humour fell from Buffy’s face. “Game faces girls, its show-time.”


On the way out the door, Faith’s voice could be heard. “Wadda ya think the chances are that this place has a big bag of skittles in the corner store? I got a mad jones for some candy.”


+++


As the three women strode out of the inn to the main square where the captives were waiting, they put on their game faces.
Tara simply looked calm, almost serene.
But Buffy and Faith both looked as though they should have thunderheads and lightning above them.

And Tara thought that to see these profoundly angry women striding purposely towards you armed with axes, had to be a terrifying sight.

And as much as she felt sympathy for the plight of the men, she knew Buffy wouldn’t kill any of them.


The fists and feet that had fought down gods, and battered the tough, unfeeling flesh of demons and vampires, had done terrible damage to frail mortal flesh.
But even in the depths of her grief-fuelled rage, though she had done appalling damage, she had not killed anyone.

But some of the injuries could be fatal, in time.


Buffy strode up to the colonel, and without stopping, scooped him up by his collar and lifted him bodily off the ground.
One handed, she carried his weakly struggling form, and slammed him against the metal wall, that was the bottom of the upturned APC.

He cried out in pain, weakly, as one does with a partially crushed ribcage.

“Your men pointed guns at my sister! You shot me, and shot my fiancé!” she shouted into his face.
She lifted him off the ground with one hand, though she had to step onto a nearby box to do so. “Guess which one I’m angriest about?!”


While Buffy was shouting at the colonel, Tara was examining the men. “Dawnie, Willow? Can you help me move the injured closer together?”

Dawn and Willow silently nodded and began carefully moving the injured men closer together at Tara’s direction.
The only uninjured of all the men, ironically, was the terrified young man that had started it all and fainted dead away at Buffy’s feet.
He was helping to move the injured as carefully as possible.

It was apparent from the puzzled looks between bouts of shame and terror, that he had no idea what they were doing, only that it was important in some way.


“Normally I’d ask Brighid for help, but I’m thinking that wouldn’t be wise given that Dawn was threatened again.”


“Panacea maybe?” Willow offered helpfully.


“I think… Hestia.” Tara looked up at Willow and smiled. “My mom always liked her, out of the Greek goddesses.”

She looked across at Buffy. “Buffy, could you bring him over please?”


Buffy glared at the colonel, who had spent the entire time dangling by his collar. “You don’t deserve to be treated this nicely. So you better be appropriately grateful.”

She dragged the protesting man over to the others, and despite her visible hostility, laid him down with reasonable care.

Tara looked to the other, less seriously injured men who were still on their feet. “I am going to cast a healing spell on these men. Anyone who else who wishes to be healed, needs to gather round so that they can be part of this.”

A few men limped over, or walked with their arms in crude slings. When they had gathered, nearly two thirds of the men had gathered around.


“We’ll need a fire. Willow?”

Willow gathered up some bits of packing crate. The crates had been smashed by the simple expedient of having Buffy throw someone through them.


Piling up the wood in the small space beside Tara she whispered. “Ignio.”
With a faint ‘whooph’ the wood burst into flame.

And Tara called on Hestia.

Hail Hestia!
Goddess of Eternal Light.
By your presence I am restored.

Blessed is I,
who knows myself
and Blessed is the Love
You bestow upon me.

Holy Hestia!
Goddess of the Hearth,
Warm my heart,
allowing me to simply be.


Sparks of blue and white flowed from her hands and swirled around the injured men. Under the light of the fire and the sparkle of Tara’s spell, flesh knitted back together and bones were made whole again.

Sounds of amazement and relief abounded, broken by Tara’s voice. “You need to rest. Healing like that takes a lot out of you. And those of you with broken bones need to keep weight off them, or they’ll heal crooked.”


Willow gave Tara a hug. “You really are sweet, you know that?”


“Well, there was a good chance some of these men could have died before they got to medical attention. I’m not happy about what they did, but I didn’t want them to die because of it.”

She lowered her voice. “And I didn’t want Buffy to have to deal with the guilt if they did.”


Dawn just stared at the men, her expression as hard and cold as a marble statue. There was nothing in her gaze that was overtly hostile, but something in her cold grey eyes told the men that it would be profoundly unwise to test her.


Buffy strode over. “Well, hopefully mister poofy beret is feeling a little more chatty now. He wasn’t being exactly talkative guy before.”


“That’s because he doesn’t know anything,” volunteered one of the tattooed men. His forehead was tattooed with a complex half-circle glyph that resembled a sunrise. “Also having a severely broken ribcage probably didn’t help.”


“Yeah? Well the fucker got off light,” Faith growled. “Because if that kid hada shot Buffy, like he shot me? Not one single one of you fuckers would be alive right now, I swear to god.”


He nodded. “I understand.”


“Do ya? Well you’re just full of good news. Mind telling me what the fuck is going on? ‘cos I gotta tell ya, I ain’t known for my patience at the best o’ times. An’ today has been a hell of a fuckin’ day.”


“Of course. I am brother-captain Marcellus, and this is my adjutant, sergeant-primus Leon. We are of the Order of the Scroll, Knights of Byzantium, or Ordo libri de Socijs Byzantium to use our more correct title.”


“Or as I call them, ‘freaky tattooed guys with swords,’” Buffy said.


“More or less,” he said diffidently.


“I wasn’t too pleased to see you guys last time. I seem to recall telling your General Gregor that I would kill anyone who came after my sister again. Of course he did get slightly killed after that, so maybe you didn’t get the memo.”

She planted the Scythe in the stones front of Marcellus. “So, mind telling me what you’re doing up a mountain with a bunch soldiers?”


The man sighed. “The Ordo Libri are tasked with passing on the knowledge of the Knights. We train local people and chronicle the events that take place.”


“Watchers?”


The man nodded. “I was going to use the Green Berets as an analogy. But yes, like the Watchers. They too are an ancient order with a terrible responsibility.”


“I hate to just wreck your day, but the Watcher’s council was destroyed,” Buffy said sweetly.


“And is being rebuilt, is it not? Much as we are.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh please.”


“The Knights of Byzantium were founded from the remains of many religious orders. Orders that the Beast destroyed in her search for the Key. We are survivors, and we are rebuilding.”


“And these dudes?” Faith said gesturing to the battered, but much improved men.


“We have always had connection with other groups. Soldiers, mercenaries… the Watcher’s Council.”


“I always thought it was oddly convenient that you guys found us so easily,” Willow said.


He nodded. “Many are the favours our two orders have traded over the centuries.”


“Fucking figures,” Faith muttered.


“Why do you think of us as bad guys? Our entire order exists for only one reason: to guard the Key. We protect the world by guarding the Key. Hundreds of thousands of men have given their lives, over countless centuries, for that one end: Guard. The. Key.”


“You weren’t very protect-y when you tried to kill Dawn,” Buffy all-but growled at him.


He shook his head sadly. “Can you imagine how it felt for those men? Part of a legacy reaching back to the dawn of time, their only purpose being to protect and guard the most precious thing in the world. And realizing, that in order to save the world from the Beast, they must destroy the thing that gave their lives meaning? That which countless men had laid down their lives for?”


“Well boo fucking hoo,” Faith said. “All that’s over now. So thanks for comin’ out, but we don’t need any.”


“Ah. Then I am truly sorry, but this is not a negotiation. It was an explanation. My brothers are coming. They come to guard the key once again. Now that the threat of the First Evil is ended, at least for now, we can come forth without threatening the entire world.”


Buffy stepped into his space. “This is the part where I remind you again that if anyone tries to hurt or take my sister, I will kill them. Let me be absolutely crystal clear: no-one messes with my family. I won’t break your arm, I will kill you.”


“Then you will have much blood on your hands, for my brothers are legion. Are you prepared to wade a river of blood?”


“If I have to.”


“And your friends?”


“We aren’t friends,” Tara said. “We’re family.”

She looked across at Willow for confirmation, and received an emphatic nod.

“Where one goes, we all go.”

Tara moved over to Marcellus. “Please don’t do this. Dawn is as safe as can be. With us. If you try to take her, we will fight you. So please don’t push this.”


Marcellus looked genuinely sad. “Dear lady, I am sorry. I thank you for healing my brothers, but that decision is not mine to make. And it has already been made.”


“Why?” Willow asked, intellectually curious despite herself. “Glory is dead, her portal is long gone. Why would anyone come after Dawn now?”


Marcellus sighed again. “All true. But our order exists to guard the Key. Not from the Beast, but from anyone who would use it. The Key is older than the Beast. It is older than this world. And the Key was never anything to do with the Beast, it was simply a means to an end, for her.”

He looked up. “There are other portals. And others who would open them. That cannot be allowed to happen.”


Faith was deep in thought and came to a decision. She looked across at Buffy, much as Tara had done with Willow, and received a similar wordless nod.
“Ok fella, I got a couple of questions for ya, then I think we’re gonna let you go.”
She raised her hand to stifle the protests. “Marky-mark, do you believe in your cause?”


“I do.”


“And do you care about the lives of the men under you, and your brothers?”


“I do.”


“And if we kill a few of ‘em, will they keep coming?”


He nodded grimly. “They will.”


Faith groaned. “Figured you’d say something like that. Here’s the thing tattoo-boy. If we fight off a bunch of your guys, there’s no telling when you’ll be back for more. Which means we’ll never be able to let our guard down. Lil’ D will never be safe.”


“True,” he said sadly.


She strode over to him and lifted him to his feet, almost friendly. “So I need you to pass on a message to the grand high poobah for me-”


“The Grand Marshall.”


“Whatever.” She turned him to face her.


“I need you to believe somethin’ with all your heart. Because you are going to have to persuade all of them.”
She looked him in the eyes, brown eyes meeting blue as she gripped his lapels. “If any of you try to take or hurt Dawn? If I even think you might be getting ready to try? If I even hear rumours that you might? I will kill you all.”


He nodded. Faith shook her head, indicating that he did not understand.


“I will lead a fucking army to burn you out of whatever hole you hide in. If you run, we will cut you down. I will lead a goddamn Slayer crusade to exterminate every single one of you, from the high poobah, down to the kid what scrubs the pots. Anyone who helps you or hides you, will die with you. If I have to burn entire cities to the fucking ground to get you, I will. They will be telling the stories of what happened to you for the next thousand years.”


“Now, look me in the eyes and tell me, do you think I am full of it?”


He looked into her fathomless brown eyes, and saw the uttermost commitment and sincerity there.


“No,” he croaked. “I believe you.”


She nodded, and turned him around, gently, almost as one would touch a friend. “Look at them. Do you think they are serious?”


He nodded silently, unable to speak in the face of the resolve he saw.


She turned him again to look at the side of the mountain, now missing a large part of one side.
“That was Red getting a bit stressed. On a bad day she could end the world. And Tara has enough power to make the sun rise.”

She said quietly, almost confidentially. “Buffy killed a god. And me and her? We brought down the source of all evil, and turned the world’s biggest Hellmouth into a crater.”

She turned him again facing her once more as she smoothed out his coat. “That’s what’s waiting for your brothers if they get stupid. We aren’t going to threaten you. We aren’t going to warn you we are serious. You get one chance, ever. And this is it.”

“So Marky-mark. You go back to your guys, you tell the big cheese to leave us be. And if he don’t wanna listen? Then you stick a sword in him and take over. Because if he don’t listen, it’s the fucking end for all of you.”


His face was as white as bone as he nodded urgently.

She let him go.

“Get gone.”


He left, walking slowly, as if unsure of the very ground he walked on. A slate fell from a roof with a forlorn clatter, punctuating the mind boggling power that had been unleashed.

In the distance, the roar of falling stone had faded to a hiss of smaller rocks, falling into the gap where once the flank of the mountain existed.
None of the men tried to retrieve their weapons, neatly piled in the shadow of the upturned APC.
Slowly, with almost no words uttered, the men loaded themselves into their trucks and drove away.


“Oh my god,” Willow whispered.


“Too much?” Faith asked quietly.


“I… I think I n-need to change my pants,” Willow stammered.


“Yeah.” Faith stared off into the distance for a little while. “I’m gonna need a minute here.”
She picked her way across some of the rubble to the edge of town, and sat down on a particularly large block of stone to think.


“Buff, um…” Willow said quietly.


“She meant it Will. She knows what it’ll cost her, but if it comes to that, she’ll do it.”

Buffy tapped her head. “I could feel it.”


Willow unconsciously took Tara’s hand as they stood side by side, they shared a moment of silent understanding.


“Buffy?” Tara said, attracting her attention. “We meant it too.”


Buffy nodded slowly. “I know. And I love you guys for it. And when I’ve processed just how much that means, I’ll let you know. But right now I am happily vacationing in the land of Not Dealing, with a little cottage by the lake of Really Not Thinking About It.”


“Buff, um do you think you should…” Willow gestured helplessly to Faith.


Buffy nodded. “I’ll give her a couple more minutes to deal, then I’ll go give her a hug.”

While Buffy was talking, Dawn made her way over to Faith, carefully picking through the mess of upturned produce carts and occasional bits of house.

“Dawn!” Buffy hissed. “leave her alone!”

Dawn ignored her, continuing her quiet and careful way over.


“Hey squirt,” Faith said quietly.


“Hey.”


Faith scooted over a little, giving her room to sit.

Gratefully, Dawn sat down.

They sat silently for a minute looking out over the cold rocky valley, eyes resting on the incongruous patches of lush vegetation.


“Do you think it’ll work?” Dawn asked, in the same quiet tone.


Faith sighed a little. “I hope to god that it does.”

Faith picked at the chunk of masonry that was their seat. “I mean really. Because I swear D, I’ll be cold and dead on the ground before I let you or Buffy down again.”


“Faith, you’ve never let me down,” Dawn said softly. “You taught me to fight when my sister was being all ‘no, Dawnie has to stay innocent and helpless.’ You gave me a knife and showed me how to use it. You’ve done more to protect me than anyone except Buffy.”

She nudged Faith with her shoulder. “And I’m not expecting that level of commitment,” she said with the ghost of humour in her voice.


“I-I can’t Dawnie,” Faith said, using the ‘kid’ name the other Scoobies used, perhaps for the first time.


“Can’t?”


“I can’t fail. Either of you. I couldn’t live with myself if I did, D.”


Dawn nodded. “You and Buffy. You’re so alike in some ways.”


“Yeah. Feeling very… Buffy, right about now.”

Dawn raised an eyebrow, Tara style.

“Y’know, that crazy overprotective streak, that B insists is a Slayer thing.”


Faith picked a bit of lichen off the big stone. “I think it’s just B bein’ nuts.”


Dawn nudged her again. “I’m glad she has you, y’know? You’ve lifted all that weight off her shoulders. You set her free to just be Buffy again.”


“Yeah.”


Dawn sighed. “Look, I’m not going to ask you let me die or anything. I couldn’t if it was one of my friends. But I want you to know, that as much as I don’t want you to take a bullet for me? I am so totally appreciative that you did.”


“Sure.”


“I mean it Faith. Some people show they love you by telling you, or buying presents. You showed me by doing.”

She wrapped her arm around Faith. “I love ya, ya big doofus.”


Faith smirked a little. “I buy people shit too.”


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Is there anyone you haven’t bought a leather jacket for?”


“Hey, everyone needs a good leather jacket. And the place in town has the best gear I’ve ever seen.”


They fell silent for a long while, though some of the intensity had lifted from the moment.

“Um, what are we going to do about this town? We kinda broke it?”


Faith turned and looked at the shell-shocked villagers milling about. The other Scoobies were moving among them, shifting rubble and checking for injuries.

“Fuck ‘em.”


Dawn looked at her in surprise.

“Hey, they knew about the knights and their merc buddies, and they never told us. They let us walk right into that shit, all smilin’ and happy. We coulda died. So they get no fucking sympathy from me.”


“Ok,” Dawn said. “Are you alright?”


Faith nodded tiredly. “Yeah. Just needed a little space to get the darkness back under control. Let it out there for a little bit, might have noticed.”


“If that’s darkness, Buffy has it too. I think that’s your ‘Buffy’ overprotective streak coming through.”


Faith quirked a smile. “Maybe. C’mon, let’s go sort this shit out.”


Faith extended a hand and hauled Dawn to her feet, and together they moved back to the others.



“How’s it looking Glinda?”

Tara was crouched down by a sobbing little girl.
She looked up from a little girl’s tear streaked face. “Not too bad. Mostly bumps and bruises from falling pots and pans. One broken arm, one graze from a random bullet.”

She smiled reassuringly at the little girl. “It’s ok sweetie, I’ll make the hurting stop.”

She wiggled her fingers and sang a soft little song to distract the girl. And while the girl was looking at the glowy sparks around Tara’s moving hand, sparkles of light flowed over her broken arm.

The little girl looked down in amazement at her now straight and undamaged arm.

Tara rigged the girl’s woolly sweater into an impromptu sling.


“There. All better,” she said with a reassuring smile.

She looked up at the girl’s mother, who was clearly struggling with the display of magic she had just witnessed, however grateful she may have been to Tara for the healing.

“She’ll need to keep her arm in a sling until this time tomorrow, to let it heal properly. After that it will be as good as new.”


“Thank you,” she said, before towing her amazed daughter away.


The little girl broke away from her mother and ran back to Tara. She embraced her in a one-armed hug and pressed a kiss to her cheek before returning to her mother.


“Aww,” Willow said. “so cute.”


Tara looked away, suddenly shy, though she failed to guard her thoughts.

‘Sometimes I wonder what a little Willow would be like.’

Willow froze.


Emotions roared through her, too fast to really grasp.

Shock (wow!)
Terror (what if I get it wrong?!)
and at last, joy (she loves me so much!)


Willow bent over and wrapped her arms around Tara’s metal-clad form, snuggling as close as possible in the circumstances.

“I think you’ll be the best mom ever. It’s me I’m not so sure about.”


Tara stood and returned the hug.

“Why do I always seem to end up hugging you when you’re wearing armour?”


Tara quirked a smile. “An undiscovered attraction to butch women?”


Willow giggled. “Watch out Mary and Faith. All that leather wearing goodness… mmm,” Willow teased.


“Hey, none of that,” Tara said with a smile. “I guess I’ll have to butch up. No more dresses for me.”


“Aww, but you look so nice in a dress. Though your butt and those jeans, rowr.”

Willow made enthusiastic clawing motions, and Tara smiled


“I feel like a kid in a candy store sometimes. I have to say, I love all the flavours of Tara. Brave Tara, kind Tara, dress-wearing Tara and jeans-wearing Tara too. Yup, that’s me: totally addicted to Tara.”

She leaned forward and whispered. “I want to meet mommy Tara too.”


Tara smiled fondly at Willow. “I want to meet mommy Willow too.”


Willow blinked in surprise. “Oh wow. It just dawned on me. That’s me. Gosh.”


The fond smile on Tara’s face spread. “Yes it is. I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else.”

She stood and returned Willow’s hug. “I think you’ll make a great mommy, Willow.”


Buffy coughed politely. “Will? We’re about ready to go. I dragged your pack down, but you better go put on your gear.”


Willow nodded. “Sure Buff. I’d normally complain about wearing all that junk. But after what just happened, plates of Kevlar and stuff between squishy Willow and nasty bullets? That sounds really good.”

Dawn was there with her gear too, ready to go change.

Willow pressed a sweet kiss to Tara’s lips, and went inside with Dawn to change.



They emerged sometime later, looking rather more business-like in armoured black. Willow wearing the black body suit and plates that the Slayers had on, Dawn wearing her custom built flak-jacket and a variety of weapons.

“No weapons Red?”

Willow pointed blankly at the mangled mountain.

Faith looked, taking in the massive destruction, still visibly happening. “Ok. Valid point.”

She looked around. “We good to go?”


Tara waved at the group as she approached, fully dressed in her gleaming armour, a slightly worried and awestruck young man in tow.
“I found our guide.”


The young man bowed deeply. “Good morning.”


“I’m surprised you’re still coming, given y’know,” Willow gestured at the damage surrounding them.


He ducked his head. “We all share a measure of responsibility for what happened.”


He glanced up nervously at Willow. “And, uh...”


“Ya want us a long way from here if it happens again?” Faith asked.


The young man shrugged helplessly. “We may have done a bad thing out of fear, but these are my family and relatives. However complicit we may be for creating this situation, I don’t want to see them hurt either.”


Buffy stared at him. “How old are you? Because you sound like a mini-Giles.”
“Uh, 18?” he said helplessly.


“Alphonse was a trainee monk when Glory attacked,” Tara added.


“Damn. There’s a weird thought. Young monk. Huh.”


“We don’t all start off old men you know.”


“Fair enough. Got all your gear Monk-Boy?”

Alphonse turned slightly to show the large pack he had on his back.


“We should go,” Tara said. “I think we’ve done as much as we can to help with the damage we’ve caused.”


“And the longer we say,” Willow added. “The more likely we’ll get pulled in to something official and not be able to get away.”


“What about this?” Faith said, kicking the overturned APC with a dull thud.
“We can’t just leave this shit lying around. There’s a frikkin’ cannon on that thing.”


“Willow, can you?” Buffy asked, making finger waggling motions at the armoured vehicle.


“Um, I would have said no,” she said a little sheepishly. She spread her hands. “but y’know, large scale property damage seems to be my thing just now, so who knows?”


“Can you do it without blowing up the whole town?”


“I… don’t know?” Willow said helplessly.


“What about you Glinda?” Faith asked, slinging her arm around her shoulder. “Feel up to some property damage, for a good cause?”


Tara nodded. “I can destroy it, but we’re going to want to move it to the edge of town first.”


“How? It’s gotta weigh like, ten tons.”


“Not ten minutes ago you threw it, Faith. After being shot,” Tara said. “I’m confident that you’ll think of something.”


Faith scratched her head nervously. “Uh, yeah. But I was really pissed.”


“I’ll help,” Buffy said.


“I’m hoping you mean by helping me move this thing. Instead of, y’know, pissing me off.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and made her way over to the armoured vehicle, though she was smiling.


She looked up at the enormous wall of metal. “Wow. I can’t believe you moved this thing, let alone threw it.”

“Couldn’t let it shoot ya B. That’s all there was to it. I needed to be strong, I needed this thing over right fucking now, and I wasn’t going to fail.”


The simple words stirred Buffy, but not nearly as much as unswerving commitment she saw in Faith’s eyes, and sensed from her.
She felt a confused mix of pride and sadness.
The pride was easy to understand, she was proud of how far Faith had come as person. But she was saddened by the pain and loss that lay behind the commitment.

Faith looked up into Buffy’s wistful smile, seeing the emotions mirrored there.
She reached out with her heart as she reached out with her hand.
‘I promised you B. I’ll never fail you again.’


‘I appreciate that Faith, but please don’t get killed, I… I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”


‘Yeah. Me either.’



Buffy cleared her throat.
Out loud she said. “I figure if we get this thing the right way up, we can roll it out of here.”


They wandered around the vehicle until they found convenient handholds.

Together they lifted.
The vehicle creaked and groaned metallically, but with a grunt they hauled it upright and left it bouncing on its oversized wheels.


Willow goggled at the display of strength. “How strong are you guys?!”


Buffy and Faith shared a glace and shrugged.

“Lots,” Buffy said.



Together they woman-handled the mighty vehicle to the edge of the village.

Faith stood with her hands on her hips and stared at the machine. “This thing is a beast. Any chance we could teleport it home Red?”


“What?!” Willow blinked in surprise. “Um, no? I could barely handle moving us, not… this!” she said waving vaguely at the APC.


“Nuts. Coulda just seen us riding’ to the rescue in a tank, kinda.”

She backed away. “Ok Glinda, do ya thing.”


Willow rummaged in her pack and pulled out a pair of very dark glasses.


“C’mon Tara, I know you got some anger in ya. Let it out on this thing.”


Tara nodded grimly. “Cover your eyes.”
She knew of only one spell that had the power to destroy something as sturdy as an armoured vehicle. A spell that given enough time, could destroy almost anything.

Though the spell itself was not rooted in Wicca, she tended to think of it as the Wrath of the Goddess. And given her recent experiences with Brighid, envisioning it as Her fiery arrow made a lot of sense.

She centred herself, stilling her momentary fears and drawing deeply from the well of magic that flowed inside herself.
She drew power down from the sky, letting it build, letting it join with her own strength.

And then she reached out to Willow, connecting with her, drawing her sparkling energy to her.

‘Join with me sweetie. See what I see, see what I do.’


‘Always,’
came Willow’s reply.


Filled to the very brim with the power of the sun, she burned. Instinctively her wings unfurled as she chanted her words.

“In the name of the Goddess, in the name of Brighid, the burning arrow. Burn this blood-stained thing from the earth, let all be cleansed with fire.”

And with that, she called down power that had not been seen since days long past.
And the sun spoke to that power.

The sun doubled in brightness, and doubled again, and again, drawing a column of light to the earth, so intense it seemed almost solid.
And Tara channelled that power, focussed it. And with her will, drew down more, and more, and yet more power.


None could see what was happening save Tara, though Willow could see as Tara saw, so deep was their link.

Metal creaked and groaned under the avalanche of light, melting, the tyres and non-metal fittings almost immediately burning away.

And Tara poured all her anger, all her fears into this inferno, willing this machine gone, annihilated. Burned from the world.

Into the spell she drove her fear and grief at the near loss of a friend, the near loss of the daughter of her heart, and the near murder of one newly considered friend. The spell took that fear, took the rage she felt at the men who, unthinkingly, had nearly broken her family.
Again.

She screamed out her pain, fear and anger, over a roaring column of plasma that reached up to the sun.
And Willow joined her, pouring her own power, her own nightmares, her own fury into the spell.


For more than a minute they drove the spell with every summoned shred of anger and fear, finally having a constructive outlet for all the built-up stresses of the recent past.
And the unimaginable fury of the magic bored into the earth, obliterating the armoured vehicle from existence, melting it, burning it and finally tearing it atom from atom, until only clouds of glowing gas remained.


They fell back gasping, drained both emotionally and mystically from the outpouring.
The beam of light and plasma bored on for several minutes, sustained by the power and fury poured into it, before it eventually petered out.


The cloud cleared quickly. So furious was the spell, that nothing as trivial as smoke was left behind.
All that remained of the military vehicle was a mirror-smooth hole bored into the ground where it had formerly rested.

The hole glowed white and burned with heat. It drove the witches back, once their fury had passed and they finally became aware of the after effects.
Stunned silence greeted them.


Faith, ever one to break awkward silences, coughed. “Glad you’re on our side Glinda.”


“Oh my god. I had no idea you could do that,” Buffy said.


Tara was suddenly embarrassed. “Um, I was upset.”


Buffy laughed helplessly. “I pity anyone that really gets you mad.”
She sobered suddenly. “Uh, forget I said that. Please?”


Willow fanned herself. “Whew! It’s a little warmer now,” Willow said, clearly trying to avoid dealing.


“Yeah,” Faith said. “Check out the shiny new hole drilled to the centre of the earth. Think maybe that’s why?”


“Well, I feel better,” Tara said. “It feels good to get out all that negativity in a useful way.”


“Yep, and the locals have a great new pit that they can use as the world’s deepest hot tub. Once the rain fills it. And it stops being all melty rock. Yeah,” Buffy said awkwardly.


Willow reached out and stroked Tara’s nearest wing. “Um, baby? Your wings are out. I think the locals might notice.”


Tara shrugged expressively. “I’m pretty sure the kitty is out of the bag, as far as being a little different is concerned.”


“Yeah,” Faith said. “Given that people on the damn moon will have seen that last crazy spell. What is that spell even for, anyways?”


Tara gestured at the glowing hole. “Prettymuch what you saw. It’s designed for sieges I think. It’s the most intense destructive magic I know.”


Buffy gestured at the ravaged mountain side. “I would say that it’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. But yeah, there’s the whole Willow explode-y mountain thing,” Buffy said.


Wordlessly Dawn handed Buffy and Faith back their jackets, noticeably missing the gore and bullet holes.
At Buffy’s questioning look, she pointed to the wands, tucked neatly into her braided hair.


“Thanks Dawn,” Buffy said softly.

Dawn just nodded.


Faith and Buffy shared a worried glance.

‘Faith, I’m worried,’ Buffy whispered on their silent link.


‘I know babe. When we’re safely in the middle of nowhere, it might be good if we stopped and talked about alla this shit, y’know?’

Wordlessly they shouldered their packs and began walking steadily towards the distant hills that hid the monastery, the rest of their small family (plus one) trailing behind.
Dawn took a moment to toss the stack of rifles into the still-glowing hole, before running away from the intense heat.



Alphonse had been noticeably non-talkative since Tara had called down the sun, though the girls hadn’t bothered him about it, wisely concluding that the recent events had left him more than a little boggled.
Behind them, Willow and Tara were sharing a familiar conversation.


‘Baby, I’m really worried,’ Willow said, mind to mind.


Tara squeezed her hand. ‘I am as well. I think we’ll have to ask the others to stop in a little while, so we can talk about all this.’


‘Faith looks peed-off,’
Willow said, ‘Buffy’s gone all silent, and Dawn’s doing that shut-down thing that Buffy does when she’s really freaked.’

Tara squeezed Willow’s hand in silent support, as she rattled off her litany of freak-age.

‘And let’s not forget, I freaked out and broke someone’s mountain. Oh my god, what if it’s a national treasure or something? How much do they fine you for something like that? What does a mountain go for these days? Can you imagine the size of the cake I’d have to make to say sorry for that? Can baked goods really say ‘sorry I blew up your mountain?’ Can you imagine the oven you’d need? You’d probably have to bake it in hell, and would that make it an evil cake?’


Despite the seriousness of the situation, Tara couldn’t help but smile a little at Willow’s mental babble.


The stopped and turned Willow to face her, ‘Sweetie, you did the best that you could. Imagine how much damage would have been done if you hadn’t thrown your power at a large, distant, and uninhabited mountain.’


Willow still looked despondent, ‘Yay me, I only half blew up a town, instead of completely levelling it.’


‘Willow, stop. Please sweetie?’


Willow stopped her recriminations and met Tara’s eyes with a mixture of trepidation and hope.

‘Because of you, the fight ended quickly, before anyone died. If leaky roofs and broken windows are the price for that, then I am ok with it.’

She cupped Willow’s worried face with both hands, ‘And even though your best friend was shot, and your family was in danger, and you freaked out, you did it all without going all dark eyed. Baby, I’m so proud of you.’

And with that she pulled Willow in for a tender kiss.


Willow was a little starry-eyed, ‘Wha? What was I talking about?’


‘You were telling me how much you love me,’ Tara said with a cheeky smile.


‘Y’know, I do. Lots. Many lots, tons even!’


“Nearly as much as I love you,” Tara said out loud, placing a kiss on Willow’s nose. She smiled as Willow went all goofy and cross-eyed.

“I think it’s time we stopped for a break, and talk about some things,” she said.


Willow closed her eyes and rested her forehead against Tara’s. ‘This is going to be rough baby,’ Willow sent.

Their breath mingled in the cold air, a subtle intimacy.


‘I know. I’ve been trying not to think about it.’
With a final reassuring squeeze she looked up to the rest of the party. Buffy and Faith were walking side by side down the gravel track, hand in hand, both evidently feeling the need for tactile reassurance.

Alphonse walked behind them, occasionally shooting glances back at the be-winged and silvery Tara. Dawn followed along a distance behind him.


“Uh, guys? Could we take a break for a minute?” Willow asked.

The Slayers stopped and looked back. Buffy nodded silently, clearly worried.


“Yo, Alf. Can you go wait for us over there, man?” Faith said, pointing to a big rock a few hundred meters away. “We got some personal stuff to deal with.”


He nodded his understanding. “Of course. Take all the time you need.”


After he had gone a ways, Tara walked over to a blank faced Dawn and simply hugged her.

For a long span of seconds, Dawn simply stood there, blank faced and unmoving.

And then she broke.
She sobbed and held on to Tara for dear life, her white face suddenly red, as she simply let go and poured out her fears and stress. Tara wrapped them both in a protective cocoon of her snow white wings, shielding them from the cold wind.
For several minutes they simply stood there, holding each other as they weathered the storm.

The other members of their little family gathered close, tears in their eyes too.
When Dawn had calmed somewhat, she turned to her sister and pulled her into a fierce hug, Tara stepping back into Willow’s embrace, giving the sisters some time to themselves. Willow snuggled happily into the warmth of Tara’s wings.


“I thought I’d lost you as well,” Dawn whispered.


Buffy smiled a watery smile and sniffled. “Nope, takes a lot more than that to put a Slayer down.”


Dawn sniffled mightily. “I am really starting to hate bad guys with guns.”


Buffy nodded, Dawn’s arms wrapped around her shoulders. “Not too big a fan myself.”


Dawn turned to Faith. “C’mere you.”


“I don’t do… ah fuck it.”
She embraced both Summers women.


“No more dying ok?” Dawn said. “I don’t think I could take it.”


“Okay squirt. I promise.”

They stayed together for a few precious moments longer, gathering themselves.


“Looks like no one’s comin’ to punch our ticket just yet,” Faith said. “What’s with that anyway?”


Buffy turned to Willow. “Not that I’m complaining mind, but what’s going on Will? Was it a spell?”


Willow shook her head. “Not mine. Or Tara’s, I’d have felt it.”


All eyes turned to the only remaining witch.
“Don’t look at me!” Dawn protested. “If I could have cast a ‘don’t die’ spell, I totally would have.”

She sighed. “Willow says I’m doing really well, but I know like, two spells. And I can float a whole apple, two if I want a headache. And half the time they explode. Seriously guys, I wish it was, but it’s not me.”


“Is it this place?” Faith asked. “Ever since we got here I’ve felt kinda funky.”


“There’s definitely something different about this place,” Tara said. “It feels almost…”


“Familiar,” Buffy finished off.


Dawn looked around. “Yeah,” she breathed, comprehending suddenly.


“This valley makes people bulletproof?” Willow said. “I would have thought we’d have heard about that before.”


Tara unstrapped one of her gauntlets. “There’s an easy way to tell. Faith, can I have a knife?”


“Eep! What are you doing?” Willow said, with more than a touch of panic.


“Nothing terrible,” Tara said, taking the knife from Faith. “I promise.”


She jabbed herself quickly on the back of the hand, raising a small red spot of blood. Everyone gathered around to stare with morbid curiosity at Tara’s hand.

After a few seconds Tara dabbed the spot of blood away, revealing the tiny wound.


“It ain’t fading away,” Faith said. She poked herself in the same spot with the knife and held it out for inspection.
The wound faded away almost instantly.


“Okaaay, can we stop with the stabby now please? All the Willow’s in the area are getting nervous. There could be a stampede,” Willow said.


Dawn held out her hand, one knuckle slightly skinned from their dramatic morning. “It’s not me either. Just you two.”


“This has happened before,” Tara said, reminded by Dawn’s skinned knuckle. “The other day, at the hospital. Faith punched a wall.”


“Concrete,” Willow said with dawning comprehension. “I was a bit far gone at the time, but you punched a chunk out of a concrete support pillar, and all you got were skinned knuckles.”


Tara nodded. “Which healed almost immediately.”


“How long has this been going on?” Dawn asked, wiping her eyes.


Both Slayers thought for a long moment.

“Dunno,” Faith said. “Been a while since we were seriously tagged, so…”

She looked at Buffy. “B, lift up your shirt.”


“Uh, what?” Buffy said uncertainly.


“I need to check you out. So quit being a girl about it and lift up your shirt.”


Buffy looked confused, but dropped her pack. “Little help here?” she said, gesturing to the buckles on her armour.

With help, they divested Buffy of her armour and watched, morbidly fascinated with Faith’s explanation.

Buffy stood there with her body suit down, and her shirt pulled up while Faith stared at her toned midriff. She turned a puzzled Buffy around and tickled her sensitive sides, producing a squeal.

“Was there a point to that, besides exhibitionism?” Buffy said.


“There’s no scar,” Willow said comprehending.


Faith nodded. “Took nearly a year for mine to fade away,” she said. “And you were run through, back to front, with a fucking broadsword.”


Buffy slowly dressed herself, silently getting help with the plating.

“You were down less than a minute, then you got up and fought a bunch of uber-vamps. With a wound that should have killed you.”


Dawn chipped in. “Then you ran a mile and did a wonder-woman leap onto a bus.”


“I always figured that was the scythe giving me a boost,” Buffy said.


Faith shrugged. “Easy to test. Catch.”

With that she snagged the Scythe and tossed it to Tara.


Tara caught it and held it gingerly, as though it might bite her, or explode.


“How’s ya hand?”


Tara looked at her un-gloved hand. “It’s the same. No magic healing”

She looked thoughtfully at the axe. “This feels so familiar to me.”


Buffy chipped in. “Which is weird, because that’s how it feels to me and Faith, like it’s-”


“Mine?” Tara said.


Buffy nodded.


“Ya showed up in my dreams Blondie. And B tells me you showed up in hers. Slayer dreams.”


Tara nodded slowly. “That feels right. Though I can’t remember anything about it.”

She looked closely at the scythe, examining it on a mystical level.

“Merciful Goddess!”

She shielded her eyes, as if from a blinding light. Though everyone else could only see the same steel, red lacquer and wood that they were used to.

Tara looked away from the axe and caught sight of the larger axe that Faith carried. “Oh my!”

She staggered back into Willow’s arms.


“Baby, what is it?”


“I-I-I,” Tara stammered.


“Take your time T, we ain’t goin’ anywhere.”


“S-so much power,” Tara said, shocked.


Willow held her tightly, reassuring her with the touch. “What is it baby?”


“Th-the Goddess,” Tara stammered.


“Uh, what?”


Tara gathered her wits and pointed helplessly to Faith’s axe. “The axe carries the power of the Goddess.”


“Yeah, we know. Ya told us already.”


Tara shook her head. “No. Not a goddess, or even the Forge Goddess, Brighid.”


“That weapon,” she said seriously, “that weapon contains the power of THE Goddess.”


“And so does this one,” she said, pointing to the Scythe in Buffy’s hands.


THE Goddess being…” Buffy prompted.


“There’s only one Goddess so huge that she needs no other name,” Willow said reverentially. “Not that I’m calling her fat or anything,” she added.


Tara nodded. “The Great Mother. Gaia. The Creator. She who-does-not-get-involved.”


Buffy smiled ruefully. “Sorry. So many gods and goddesses, I have trouble keeping track sometimes.”


Willow chuckled a little nervously.


“Many revere her,” Tara said. “But because she does not answer prayers, or take an active role, not much is known about her,”


“There’s more though. Not just her power.” Tara pointed to the Scythe. “In that axe, there are echoes. Voices, so many voices.”

Tara took a deep breath. “And they called me… sister.”


“Cool,” Dawn breathed.


“I think they were impressions, echoes left behind.” She looked up at Buffy. “You were in there.”


“Me?” Buffy said, her eyebrows vanishing into her hairline.

She squirmed a little. “This is going to sound kind of strange, but how was I?”


Faith snorted, getting an elbow in the ribs for her trouble.


Tara quirked a smile. “You were quite pleased to see me. You seemed quite happy.”


“Was I there?” Faith asked curiously.


Tara shook her head. “Not that I noticed, though I only got a glimpse.”


“There ya go then, B died a couple of times. I came real close, but as someone said, I never quite made it.”


Buffy examined the axe with wonder. “This axe holds something. Something from all the Slayers who ever lived.”


“No wonder it feels like it’s ours. Doesn’t explain you though,” Faith said, looking at Tara.


Tara held up her hands helplessly. “I have no explanation, sorry.”


“Maybe they just liked my ‘cuz thing?” Faith said hopefully.


“You’re not that cool,” Dawn protested.


“I so am.”

They were silent for a time, pondering all that had happened.


“What I wanna know, is how come I wasn’t all bulletproof and shit the other week? I mean it woulda been really damn handy, when I was fighting those huge green fucks.”


“It’s stuff like this makes me wish Xander was here,” Willow said.

At Buffy’s disbelieving look, Willow protested. “Hey Xander’s pretty smart, once you get him away from books and stuff.”


Buffy was forced to acknowledge the truth of that statement. He was the only one of them to have a career option, in the world outside the realm of killing evil things.


“But mainly I was thinking that he’s read every comic-book known to man. He’d so know what was going on right now.”


“Uh right. B? You been wearing any glowy rings, stickin’ your hand in any glowy lanterns, or eating spinach?”


Buffy shook her head, her ponytail bouncing. “Nope.”


Faith shrugged. “’bout the only different thing I’ve been sticking my hand in, is B.”


“Faith!” Buffy protested, blushing slightly. Faith just grinned.


“Pretty sure bein’ a lesbo doesn’t give you super-powers, otherwise…”

She trailed off.


She looked from Buffy, to Willow and Tara, still holding hands. She gazed at them thoughtfully for a moment.
As one, all eyes tracked to Dawn.


“What!?” she protested, suddenly worried.


“Nah, stupid idea,” Faith said. “Don’t worry about it.”


“Any other, y’know, sane suggestions?” Willow asked.


“What about the blessings we got lately?” Buffy asked. “Could it be a goddess-y thing?”


“The Goddess does not answer prayers, she does not take sides,” Tara said automatically.


“Yeah? What about this?” Faith said pointing to her blonde forelock. “Looks like she answered that prayer. An’ what about when I got all fucked up before? Felt like someone took a hand.”


Willow put a hand on Tara’s arm, attracting her attention. “Baby, the shower. She blessed us.”


Tara looked thoughtful. And worried.

“That night at the warehouse,” Buffy said carefully. “When Faith nearly died. Something weird happened.”

Willow and Tara shared a look.


“What do you mean?” Willow asked.


Buffy squirmed. “I, um, kinda prayed. Really hard. For Faith to live.”

Buffy looked around at the encouraging expressions on the faces of her family.


‘Go on B. tell ‘em.’


“Uh, right. So after I prayed, everything stopped. Like, I could see the raindrops hanging in the air. It was really special.”

Faith moved in close and stood behind, wrapping her arms around Buffy as she told the story of that terrible day.
Buffy leaned back into Faith’s embrace and rubbed her cheek against Faith’s, reaching up to stroke her hair.


“I swore I’d give my life for you baby,” Buffy said teary-eyed. “And-and I meant it.”


Faith squeezed her tight. “Ditto.”


After a moment of deep gazing into Faith’s beautiful brown eyes, she sniffled and continued her explanation.

“I prayed to Tara’s Goddess, and told her to take from me, whatever she needed to save Faith.”
“And that’s when everything stopped.”


“It happened to us too,” Willow added. “We were in the shower, when everything stopped. It was like, this perfect moment, frozen in time.”


“What were ya doing?” asked Faith. Surprisingly, she wasn’t grinning.


Willow glanced at Tara, receiving an encouraging nod. “I gave myself to Tara, fully and completely.”
Buffy coughed.
“Not like that, Buff,” Willow protested.
“It was a commitment. Where she goes, I go. Her fate is my fate.”


Buffy smiled slightly, and looked a little far away. “I said the same sort of thing to Faith. Different words, but the same sentiment.”


“And you did it in the rain,” Tara said comprehending.


“That sounds important,” Buffy said.


“Water is sacred to Brighid, and to the Mother as well,” Willow said, Tara nodding her agreement.


“Witnessed and blessed by the Goddess,” Tara added.


“So… does this mean that we’re married now?”


“You basically said ‘I do’ and then some, guys. With water,” Willow said. “Imagine you were saying that in the Vatican. With Jesus taking your vows.”


“I’m going to go with ‘yes,’” Buffy said. “That was is suspiciously catholic sounding, given that you’re Jewish.”


Willow nodded, still solemn, but smiling slightly. “Sorry Buff, I couldn’t think of a Jewish equivalent.”


“Holy shit. I’m married,” Faith said, stunned.


“And then some,” Buffy said wonderingly.


“We all are. Just not to each other, because that would be weird,” Willow said.


“And we’re not even in Utah,” Buffy said.


“Hey! Tara’s from Utah, Buff,” Willow protested.


“Ooops! Sorry Tara,” Buffy said.

Tara just laughed.


“You ok B? About being already married and all? I know it’s not what you wanted but-”

Buffy cut her off with a gentle finger pressed against her lips.
She was smiling shyly.
“I know it’s sudden. Like so much of our lives. I know it’s unexpected too.”
Her expression turned serious for a moment. “But I meant what I said. Sudden or not, unexpected or not, you’re mine Faith. And I’m yours.”

She smiled her flirty smile, looking up at Faith through her eyelashes. “I’m still going to want the ceremony though, to feel properly married. Plus there’s the amazing clothes and all the wedding presents to look forward to.”


Faith’s smile slowly spread as Buffy talked, though she looked away at the last.

“What’s wrong baby?” Buffy said concerned.


“I just… sometimes I can’t believe this is real, y’know?”

She brushed a loose hair back from Buffy’s face. “I never get the good things Buffy. I never got the good toy, never got the nice clothes. Hell, I never even got the good brand of cereal.”

“Then one day I look up, and there you are. The best and brightest thing in all the world, and you tell me you’re mine?”

Buffy’s eyes were suspiciously watery, but she said nothing, giving Faith the space to talk out her fears without interruption.

“I love ya B, with all I got. I swear, no holding back. But ya gotta understand, I’m always worried someone’s gonna take ya away, or you’re gonna wake up and change your mind. Or worse, I’ll wake up, and I’ll still be in that fucking coma.”


Buffy searched for the right words, mentally shrugging and deciding to just speak from the heart.

“I know. And it’ll take time baby, but yeah, you deserve the good toy, the good cereal.”

She held up a warning finger and looked around. “And if anyone takes any of those metaphors to a bad place, they will have a very grumpy Buffy to deal with.”

Dawn made a show of zipping her lips.

Solemnly she took Faith’s hand in hers. “I’m not the grand prize Faith. I’m all sorts of messed up and broken. But I’m yours.”


Faith spoke, her voice rough. “Ya are to me, B. You’re the gold medal, the big stuffed pig, my little gold star.”

She enfolded Buffy in a hug, made somewhat awkward by the armour they were both wearing.

“S’gonna be a long time before I feel like I deserve you B.”


“I know. But you do, ok?” she pulled back. “And I’m a pig now?” she asked with mock offence.


Faith looked a bit lost. “Uh, y’know, the big stuffed toy you win at the fair? I figured you like pigs because you still have mister Gordo.”


Buffy looked mildly embarrassed. “Well, not much made it out of Sunnydale. Luckily he squishes up quite well, though I’m not sure he enjoyed being squished at the bottom of my pack for several days.”


Willow giggled. “Only you would have taken time to pack mister Gordo. In the middle of an apocalypse.”


Buffy turned in Faith’s embrace and said, clearly and distinctly. “Big. Pink. Rock.”


Willow squirmed. “Hey, it was a valuable magical artefact! A-and it’s been in Tara’s family for generations!”


“You have a pink rock, I have a pink pig.”


Tara noticed the slightly wistful expression on Dawn’s face as she watched the friends relaxing into the embrace of their respective loves. She filed it away for later consideration.


She cleared her throat politely. “I am grateful that the Goddess blessed our union, and yours as well guys.”

All eyes turned to her.
“But I don’t think that’s what’s happening with you two, not if this sort of thing started in Sunnydale.”


“Maybe it’s a Slayer thing?” Dawn said, becoming the centre of attention.


“How so, sweetie?” Tara asked.


“Well, like Buffy’s the oldest Slayer ever, with Faith right behind.”


“Actually, Faith’s older than me,” Buffy said.


“But not as a Slayer,” Dawn corrected. “Maybe it happens to all Slayers if they live long enough?”


“Could be,” Faith said, resting her head on Buffy’s shoulder. “Though B’s got a whole couple of years on me, front-line wise.”


Dawn held up her hands. “Who knows. Maybe it got a bit of a hurry-up from your near death thing, or-or maybe the blessing thing?”


“It could be. We already know Slayers get stronger and faster as they get older. Maybe this is like that?” Buffy said unconsciously wrapping Faith’s arms around her.


“Like, hello, now you’re a grown-up Slayer. Here’s a bunch of nifty new powers?” Willow said.


“Uh hey, there’s more,” Faith said.


Dawn stamped her foot. “If you guys can fly, I’m really going to complain to whoever hands out the superpowers.”


“I wish I could fly,” Buffy said wistfully.


“Relax lil’D. No flying, ok?”


“Though it’s sorta a bit like that,” Buffy said.


Tara cocked her head curiously. “What do you mean?”


Faith looked a little awkward. “Right, well after I saw Pinky and Purple-pants throwing themselves off a building for a laugh, I figured what the hell, and had a go myself.”

Dawn rolled her eyes at Faith’s nicknames for her friends, but managed not to interrupt.


“So I figured, ‘hey, I’m stronger than the twinkies, I should be able to do more.’ So I did.”


“The admin building is only three stories tall,” Dawn said. “How much more could you do?”


“Head into town and jump off bigger buildings,” Faith said simply.


“How big?” Dawn said suspiciously, clearly on the hunt.


“That blue insurance building. Y’know, the big blocky one?”


Dawn goggled. “That thing is like, ten stories high!”


“Yep. I pretty much discovered that I can drop from any height, and walk away. Maybe not if I land on my head, but otherwise…” she shrugged.


“Um, how?” Willow asked.


“Not sure. Dunno if it’s cos I’m strong, so I can take hitting the floor at high speed. Or if I have like, cool floaty powers,” she said, wiggling her fingers.


Buffy put her hand on Faith’s arm in a reassuring way. “After we had our big fight, Faith jumped off the admin building. With me in her arms.”


Faith smiled at the memory, while Buffy explained. “I don’t know what it looked like, but I sure felt floaty.”
She smiled a flirty shy smile. “It was pretty neat. All trust-y and scared-y and amazing.”


Dawn pulled out a notebook and scribbled in it. “So we have Slayers with super healing and super… falling I guess.”


“Don’t forget super strength,” Buffy added.


“And super speed, Buffy,” Tara chipped in. “I’ve never seen anyone move that fast.”


Faith nudged Buffy with her shoulder. “You always were the fast one, pumpkin.”


Buffy rolled her eyes, though she was still smiling. “So I’m orange and warty now?”


“I can take you to the ball?” Faith said quickly. “And you’re the prettiest princess there?”


Buffy chuckled. “Nice recovery.”


“What can I say? Ya keep me on my toes Tinkerbelle.”


“That’s Peter Pan. And if I’m Cinderella, does that make you Prince charming?”


Faith shrugged. “Princess Charming maybe.”


“Princess and Princess? Does that even work?”


“It’s a funny thing, but there’s not a lot of lesbians in fairy tales,” Willow said.


“Maybe we should do something about that?” Buffy said.


“Actually, I’ve had thoughts about that,” Willow said with a smile. “Funnily enough, it was Xander that gave me the idea.”


“Uh, what? Should I be worried?”


“Well, he called it the ‘Lesbotron-2000.’ After which I revoked his ‘naming things’ privileges.”


“Again I say: what?” Buffy said.


“Basically we used a glamour on the TV. To, um, tweak what the viewer sees and interprets.”


“Essentially it creates lesbian-friendly TV,” Dawn said.


“No more dead or evil lesbians,” Tara said softly, her eyes sad.


Willow gave her hand a comforting squeeze. “We kinda did both of those huh?”


Tara nodded glumly. “Who knew life would fit terrible clichés so well.”


“Somebody is owed a lot of pain for that one,” Willow said, glowering.

The group fell silent.


Faith cleared her throat. “Actually we kinda fell into that one too. B died, and I sure as hell went evil.”


“That’s a little worrying,” Willow said.


Dawn scribbled more notes in her notebook.

“Well, we’ll give all this to Giles when we get back,” Dawn said. “And the stuff about Tara and the Scythe. But we should really make a move. Alphonse has probably frozen solid by this stage.”


Tara gestured towards Alphonse. “After you sweetie. After all, this is your big adventure.”

Dawn smiled happily and bounced her way towards their patiently waiting guide.


“I give it another week before she starts calling everyone sweetie,” Buffy said with a slight smirk.


“That girl is like a sponge,” Faith said. “Ya know she’s got just about every one of your mannerisms, right?”

She eyed the two smiling witches.


“Well… at least she’s over her ‘five by five’ phase. That was deeply annoying,” Buffy grumbled.


“Then there was the ‘wicked’ phase,” Willow helpfully added. “And the ‘red lipstick and tight tops’ phase.”


Faith grinned. “What can I say, I am wicked bad.”



The sounds of playful bickering followed them up the hillside.


+++

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“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2016 5:35 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Dibs-y Goodness! :bounce :banana

Yay for great update-y goodness... I'm glad the landscape didn't suffer anymore than that... I'm also very glad that the Knights now understand very clearly that messing with Dawn is very bad for their health and continuing existence...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:58 pm 
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Great chapter. I liked how unspeakably devastating Willow can be in this story. She keeps herself in check just good enough that almost everyone else forgets that she is still as powerful as she was that one time she tried to destroy the whole world. If not more so. One way or another she's still more than capable of making the Earth scream.

I'm wondering just how the new Knights of Byzantium decide to handle Faith's promise to straight up kill all of them. In the short time since Glory wiped out their best and brightest their organization can't have pulled itself together all that much batter than the remnants of the watchers council have in the shorter time since the First did the same. Even if they are recruiting from dozens of other fundamentalist religious orders/white supremacy militias.

If anything the New Watchers Council has to be doing better with the Scoobies having basically replaced the old Council hierarchy. The only real question is if Faith can win her war with only a dozen or so Slayers or if she will need closer to a hundred.

It will be interesting to see if Faith and her Valkyries will have to go room to room in the Slayer Central Dorms asking for volunteers to help burn down a few dozen heavily armed churches/monasteries. It goes without saying that Buffy, Willow and Tara will help make sure none of the junior Slayers get killed. But when it comes to going around killing humans Anya, Giles and maybe Xander are the only ones with the stomach for what Faith promised she would do.

It's also nice to see that their tour guide is behaving himself now that every soul in his hometown knows who is carrying the biggest can of Whoop Ass. If the earthquake that split their nearest mountain in half wasn't a sure enough sign then the very literal pillar of sunfire should have been.

I have a hunch about where you might be going with some of the other antagonists' motivations and if I'm right I like it.

Spoiler:
I'm very curious when the gang will piece it together that Buffy and Faith's new power boosts are what the PTB told the watchers to prevent. If I'm right then it looks like it's already too late and the window where they could kill Faith before making unstoppable/invulnerable Slayers has already passed them by. And there goes the timetable they gave Anya.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:12 pm 
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Hi Citanul!

I have to admit, i have been forever affected by Harry Potter, and the Methods of Rationality.
Look it up, it's good. Far better than the source material :P

That and my world-building experiences with roleplaying games.

TLDR: finding non-retarded reasons for people to do things.

I mean, i can see the Knights favouring swords and chainmail, given that many evil things in the Buffy-verse are kind bullet-proof. And stuff that stops swords i good against claws and stuff.
But to say that it is all that they do is a little crazy.

So yes, though they favour the old ways (for good reason) they do move with the times to a degree.

No to the white-supremecy bit.
They are a little too focused for their own good, but they aren't complete monsters.


As to the Slayers, i haven't really focussed on them much, but there's a couple thousand of them.
They do occupy a whole campus after all.

And Willow does Science to them!
But no, they aren't invulnerable, just harder to kill than they thought, and capable of more.
More world-building with Slayers to come. :bounce

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2016 3:16 am 
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Sorry about the lateness. There was much on, and some illness. Oh, and a new cat.
I am now the proud owner of Mister Pudding.
...
A supermarket was involved :P

Anyway, here is a long chapter to make up for it.
Plus pictures!



A garden of stone


As the party of five (plus one) crested a rise, they stopped to admire the view.
Spoiler:
Image


Faith whistled long and low.
“Wow,” Buffy said, impressed despite herself.


Willow’s eye were wide. “Jeepers! Those monks didn’t mess around, did they?”


The vegetation, so sparse further down the valley, was downright lush surrounding the monastery.


“Damn. Ya sure that’s a monastery? ‘cos it looks like a castle.”


Tara shook her head. “Not really. The windows are too wide. There’s too many ways in, and it’s not built to withstand a siege.”


That got her a surprised set of looks from everyone.
Embarrassed, she explained. “Well, I’ve had to break into a lot of places like this. You start to recognize things after a while.”


“Check you out Glinda!” Faith said with a grin. “Next you’ll be all staying out late and get tattoos and piercings in fun places.”


“I hope not,” Willow muttered.


“Well, maybe a small tattoo would be ok,” Tara said thoughtfully.


Willow looked shocked.
Tara patted her on the hand. “Just kidding sweetie.”


“Excuse me?” Alphonse said politely.


“Shit dude, I forgot you were there,” Faith said roughly.


“Yes Alphonse?” Tara asked.


“The main entrance to the monastery is up this road, and around the side there.” He pointed up the weed strewn, rock lined roadway.


“That doorway there leads to the storerooms.” He pointed to a small door at the bottom of the enormous structure.


“Where was the Key kept?” Buffy asked.


Alphonse shook his head. “I don’t know. I wasn’t even supposed to know there was such a thing.”
He scratched his head nervously.
“I only know that there was a ‘Key,’ because I heard the Librarian and the Father Abbot talking. That was just before the beast attacked.”


“What happened?” Dawn said softly.


Alphonse shook his head again. “I don’t know. The Father called all the seniors together for some kind of important meeting. One of them sent me to the town for supplies. When I returned a day later everyone was… dead.”

“I think he was trying to protect me,” he said sadly. He stared at the sky, lost in thought. No one had the heart to interrupt him.

Eventually he looked back, his thoughts tucked away. “If the Key that you’re looking for was as important as you say, it was likely around the abbot’s neck. Or possibly in the restricted sections of the monastery.”


“Ooo, it’s not that kind of Key,” Willow said. “But the restricted sections sound promising. Where are they?”


Alphonse shook his head. “I’m not completely sure. The restricted sections were off limits to everyone but the most senior brothers. And I was barely an initiate, so most places were off limits to me.”


“In the mountain,” Tara said, with a degree of confidence. “Look at the way it’s built. Anywhere secure is going to be underground. Otherwise a curious monk or wandering goat-herder is likely to trip over it.”


Faith poked him in the shoulder. “You’re being all weirdly cooperative Alf. What gives?”


Alphonse looked at Faith with a slightly dreamy expression. “Lady Tara was most persuasive.”


Lady Tara?!” Willow squeaked.


Alphonse nodded seriously. “An angel came down from heaven and asked for my help. She told me that she was one of the guardians that my brethren had sent the Key to. I show respect to Lady Tara.”

He gestured to Tara’s wings, neatly folded across her back. “Her credentials were impeccable.”

The slight smile faded from his face. “And you were the guardians that fought a Hell-god to a standstill, and then destroyed her. The hell god that killed my brothers. Across all the centuries, no one has ever done that before. You are the right people to help, I think.”


Buffy blinked. “Well, when you say it like that, it makes it seem really… big.”


“I was there too Buffy, it was pretty huge,” Willow said.


“You died sweetie,” Tara said. “Take it from me, that’s pretty big.”


“Also the Hell-bitch. That was pretty huge,” Dawn said.


“Her feet were huge,” Willow complained. “I can’t believe that when I raided her wardrobe, none of those nice shoes fit.”


“You stole her shoes?” Buffy said incredulous.


“Um, yup. It seemed right, y’know, given that you beat her and all.”

She hung her head. “I wasn’t thinking straight Buff, my best friend had just died. So, um, me and Xander raided her place, beat up a few leftover minions and stole her stuff.”


“Go Red. You bad-ass you!”


“You kept Glory’s stuff?” Buffy said, still boggling.


“Uh, no. Too many bad memories. We gave most of it to Anya, who really enjoyed wearing the ‘spoils of war’ as she put it. Um, Glory’s feet were kinda big, so no-one could wear those awesome shoes she had.”


“Evil bitch, great shoes,” Buffy summed up.


Alphonse looked stunned, as the friends casually discussed beating a Hell god. And stealing her shoes.


“Alright twinkie,” Faith said, poking him in the shoulder and pointing him at the monastery.


“Show us the front door. I figure this Glory chick left a trail of wreckage we can follow. And from I’ve heard, I bet she just waltzed in the front door.”


He nodded sadly. “My brothers were no warriors. That was the Knights’ job. But they bought precious minutes for the abbot and a few seniors to escape with the key.”

He lead the way up the path, the quiet sound of the wind broken only by the crunch of boots on gravel.


“Why not just hide it on the moon or something?” Dawn asked quietly.


“I don’t know,” Alphonse said, his eyes scanning the path ahead. “I was not privy to that sort of thing. But I imagine it would take the beast only a few months to get to the moon and find it.”


“Are there any traps guarding the key?” Tara asked.


“Yes,” he said thoughtfully. “I think so. I’m not sure any will have survived her attack, but I think there were some.”


“An’ you don’t know where, right?” Faith asked.


He shook his head.

“Ok Big T. You’ve done this stuff before, wadda we do?”


Tara grimaced at the nickname, getting a grin in response.

“I think you had the right idea Faith. Start at the front door and follow the wreckage.”

She tapped her breastplate. “I have the heaviest armour and most experience, so I’ll go first. I’ll take one of you with me, Faith or Buffy. The rest of us can follow a short distance behind.”


“How far behind baby?” Willow asked nervously.


“Stay in sight sweetie. If we get in trouble, I want you to rescue us,” she said with a wry smile. “But not so close that you get in the same trouble.”


“I’ll go up front,” Buffy said. She held up the Scythe. “This takes a bit less room to swing than Faith’s monster.”


Faith stroked her axe lovingly, and spoke as if to a pet. “Don’t you listen to her baby, you’re not a monster, no you’re not.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Would you two like to be alone?”


“Jealous B? Mine’s bigger than yours.”


Willow laughed. “Oh my god. This must be the Slayer equivalent of boys in the bathroom.”


“Have you named it yet?” Dawn asked, a slight smile tugging the corners of her mouth.


“Well, I was thinking Winona, but somebody already got that one.”

She made a show glaring at Tara, who responded by making a show of innocence. “Lucille maybe? Kinda traditional.”


“Better than what it goes by know, otherwise known as ‘Faith’s big honking axe,’” Buffy said, complete with air quotes.


Faith shrugged. “I’ll think about it. Hey Snow White, you’re all witchy and stuff. Is it bad to name your weapon after one of the goddesses?”


Tara shook her head. “If you name your axe in honour of a goddess, you’re showing respect. Um, if you are showing respect?”


“Cool.” Faith held up her axe dramatically and said. “I name this axe, Bridget!”


She paused for a moment, and looked around, disappointed.


“You know, I was hoping for like, thunder or something.”


Buffy swatted her playfully. “Now you’ve done it!”


On cue, the thunder cracked and rumbled in the distance.


“Um, if we don’t want to get wet, we should hurry,” Tara said, sparing a glance at the sky.


“If we get soaked, I am so blaming you.” Buffy said, poking Faith in a shoulder.


“Yeah, that seems fair. C’mon, let’s book.”


“I have an idea about that,” Tara said.
She removed her pack, Willow helping and carefully avoiding any entanglements with her wings. Poking around inside, she pulled out the purple harnesses that she had semi-permanently borrowed off of Xander.


Buffy goggled at Tara’s significant look. “Uh, some kind of harness… thing. In purple? Should I be worried?”

Faith snorted and Dawn giggled at Tara’s embarrassed expression. Willow hid her face in her hands.

“It’s climbing harness Buffy. I thought that a bit of a look around from above might be wise. I was wondering if you wanted to help me with that?”


“Really!?”

Buffy did a little dance with her excitement.

“That would be awesome! And plus, we’ll get there ahead of everyone.”


Willow grinned. “So, you like the idea of flying huh, Buff?”


“Well yeah. I mean witches get all the good stuff. You guys can fly, or see things, or teleport across the planet and stuff.”


“Well yeah,” Willow said. “Way better than Slayers, who only get super strength. And super speed. And super healing, senses, combat skills, and don’t have to study for any of it,” she said with an eye roll. “Who’d want that?”


“Right, sorry.” Buffy ducked her head. “Super-power envy, party of one.”


Tara passed Buffy the harness with a slight smirk. Willow helped Buffy into it while Tara summoned additional strength into herself, to help with the load.
The now familiar blue and white sparkles flowed across Tara’s form and faded into nothingness.


“That’s really pretty,” Buffy said as Willow strapped her in.


“I think so too,” Willow added.


“Uh, how do we do this?” Buffy said, facing Tara.


Tara turned her around. “You won’t see much, if you’re facing me Buffy.”


“Oh, I dunno,” Willow said dreamily.


Buffy rapped her knuckles against her own breastplate. “Because metal boobs are so sexy,” she said.


Tara simply raised an eyebrow and connected their harnesses.
“Well, it would help if there was a high spot to jump off from. But I can get us in the air from flat ground if need be.”


Buffy pointed. “Big rock? That might do.”


“Perfect. So we take off from there.”


The two waddled over awkwardly, attracting some small chuckles. Buffy eventually unhooked the harness and helped Tara climb the rock with as much dignity as possible.
They reconnected at the top of the big rock.


“Any advice Will?” Buffy asked, her voice slightly squeaky with a mix of nerves and anticipation.


Willow beamed up at her. “Just relax and enjoy yourself Buff. Oh, and don’t panic.”


“The panicking thing’s really not helping.”


Willow was serious for a moment. “There is no one in this world I trust more with the life of my best friend.”

Then her face lit up with a cheery smile. “At least if you wet yourself, you’ve got plenty of spare undies.”


“Thanks Will. Way to look on the bright side.”
Willow giggled as Tara blew her a kiss.
She made a show of catching it and gave it a cuddle, before tucking it down the front of her breastplate.
She blew Tara a kiss, only to have Tara duplicate her actions, as best she could with Buffy strapped to her front.
Tara stretched out her wings, eclipsing a good chunk of the sky.
Willow just gazed, rapt and awestruck at her girl.

“Ready Buffy?”

Buffy nodded.

“Take a deep breath, and cross your arms in front of your chest. If you get scared, squeeze tight, ok?”

Buffy nodded again, her mouth clamped shut.

“Here we go.”

And with that, Tara leaned forward and jumped off the rock with her arms wrapped tight around Buffy’s smaller form.
At the same time she brought her wings down with a powerful snap, launching the pair into the air.
Powerful wing-beats carved out huge scoops of sky, and the two were off.

To her credit, Buffy didn’t scream, though after a few seconds she let out a joyous cry.
Down on the ground, Willow grinned, remembering her own, wild ‘Woohoo!’ the first time they had gone flying together.



With her magic strengthening her muscles, it did not take Tara long to climb to a good height. They reached around a mile over the valley floor in a few minutes of hard work. Her wingbeats faded somewhat as they reached altitude and she didn’t have to flap so hard.

“Buffy? Are you ok?”

The small blonde woman in her arms nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks.
She had a look of such beatific joy, that it nearly took Tara’s breath away.
They flew along in companionable silence, heading vaguely in the direction of the monastery.
Buffy concentrated on sending the full power of everything she was feeling down the link she shared with Faith.


On the ground, Faith’s knees buckled and she slid to the ground at the feet of a very surprised Willow.
She lay on her back, gazing up at the sky with an expression of bliss.
After a minute or two, the intensity of the moment had passed into something bearable, and Buffy stopped focussing so intently on their connection.
Faith was eventually able to haul herself to her feet, with help from Dawn and Willow.

“Um, Faith? Are you ok?” Willow said worriedly.


“Yeah Red. All good.”


“And the falling-down and general spaceyness?”


Faith smiled radiantly.

“B really likes flying.”


“I think ‘likes’ is a bit of an understatement.”


“Yeah. Little bit,” Faith said, still somewhat spacey.


Willow chuckled at her expression. She took Faith by the hand, and gestured for Dawn to take the other.
“Come on Slayer. We wanna get there before it rains, and I don’t want you falling down a hole.”

They set off after Alphonse, the two women towing a dreamily smiling Faith between them.


Buffy sniffled and spoke to Tara. “Thanks Tara. This is… amazing.”


“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself Buffy. And it’s my pleasure.”


“I always enjoyed flying before. When I went on trips to visit my dad and stuff. But this,” she threw out her arms to indicate the afternoon sky, complete with approaching rain. “This feels like… coming home.”


Tara nodded, eventually realizing that Buffy could not see. “I know exactly what you mean.”


Buffy squirmed around a bit, managing to turn enough to see Tara’s face out of the corner of her eye. “When you jumped off the tower for the first time?”


“Yes. It was terrifying. But, yes, like coming home.”


“Thanks Tara. For… everything, you know?”


“Anytime Buffy.”



They were silent for a minute, before they both chuckled.
“Willow’s waving, and making funny faces,” Buffy said.


Tara was surprised. “I know that, but how do you?”


Buffy pointed. “I can see her.”


Tara looked. From this height, she couldn’t even see their little group, let alone their faces.


“Wow. Good eyes Buffy. I thought I had good eyesight, but I can’t even see them from this height.”


Buffy waved back and spoke to Faith on their private line.

‘Hi sweetie! Can you tell Wills that I can see her, and I’m waving back?’


‘Sure peaches. And sweetie? You’ve been spending too much time around Tara, you’re starting to sound like her,’
Faith teased.


‘Well I think it’s adorable, so… Nyer!’ and Buffy concentrated, sending a cartoony picture of herself with her tongue poking out.


Faith’s laughter echoed down the link.



Tara laughed, and banked gently, bringing them around in a wide circle to look upon the monastery.
“Buffy, what do your Slayer eyes see?”


Buffy giggled. “I might be girly, but I’m not Legolas!”


“Uh, Buffy? What are you talking about?”


“Ooops! Sorry Tara. You’re in for a treat later. Lord of the Rings is awesome!”


Tara shrugged. “Well, Willow liked it. I thought it was a bit dry and stuffy myself.”


Buffy shook her head, inadvertently swatting Tara in the face with her ponytail.

“No, the movie! They made a really good movie out of it. It’s really good. And, the best bit? There’s like, another two coming out, this year and next I think!”


“Sure. It sounds like fun. Though if I remember rightly, it was kind of a boy’s club. Not a lot of girls in it.”


“Oh. Uh, maybe they’ve changed it?”

Buffy was silent for a moment, studying the valley intently.

“On Slayer-o-vision, I’m not seeing anything moving down there bigger than a rabbit. Anya would hate it, there’s a lot of rabbits.”


“Oh good. Let’s go down a bit lower and circle around a little.”

Tara went into a long, slow dive, something that reminded Buffy of rollercoaster rides she’d taken when she was a kid.
Only way more exciting.

She let out a passable imitation of Faith’s Xena-esque war-cry.

After several minutes of back and forth swoops, they were circling the enormous monastery compound.


“I’m seeing plenty of life,” Buffy said. “But no people.”


“Mmm-hmm,” Tara said. “Let me try a small spell.”

She murmured the words of the spell under her breath, adding in a small prayer to the Goddess. “Mother, let me see.”

“Wow,” she said, blinking in surprise.


“Good wow, or bad wow?”


“Um, I don’t know?”


“What do you see?”


“Green. Everything is green, for miles in every direction. I’ve never seen a magical signature like it Buffy, not this big.”


“Wasn’t Dawn all with the green-age? Like her spells and stuff?”


Tara nodded. “Sometimes magical objects or spells leave a trace behind, like residual heat. But this is massive!”


“How massive is massive?” Buffy asked, eyeing the landscape suspiciously.


“I can show you, if you’d like?”


“Sure!” Buffy chirped.


“See as I see,” Tara said, touching Buffy gently on the forehead.


“Wow!” Buffy said. “That’s… really green.”


The two women looked around the landscape together, a bright green glow visible as far as the eye could see. Even distant hills had splotches of green on them.


“Tara? Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”


Tara chuckled as she worked for a little more height. “If you are seeing green everywhere, then yes, I see what you see.”


Buffy swatted her with her ponytail, shaking her head. “Not just green, but Green! Like, the green glow lines up with all the extra grassy-flowery stuff too.”


“That would explain why the place looks so overgrown, even though it’s only been abandoned a few years.”


“Green magic makes stuff grow I guess.”


“Um, there’s more to it than that. But yes, green is the colour of creation, of natural magic. At least, that’s the way I’ve always seen it.”


“Does this mean that flowers are going to grow wherever Dawn goes? Ooo! Is that why the field out the back of Slayer Central is completely filled with flowers? It’s very pretty.”


Tara smiled, Buffy’s excitement was infectious, like Willow in so many ways.

“Ah, no. That wasn’t Dawn, that was Willow and me.”


Buffy grinned. “Willow looks very cute with fairy wings.”


“I thought so. The field is the result of a fertility spell. We charged up the field with energy, so that our little friends wouldn’t fade away. The safest method was a fertility spell, to enrich the ground, and any crops. The only thing in the field were flowers and grass, so…”


Buffy was silent for a long moment.

“Can you put us down please?” she eventually said. “I need to give you a hug.”


Tara squeezed Buffy a little. “Sure Buffy. Just over there, by the main gate I think.”

She swooped down, spreading her wings wide and bleeding off speed with practiced ease. With a couple of heavy wingbeats the pair dropped lightly to the stones.
With lightning speed Buffy disconnected the harness and wrapped her arms around Tara’s metal clad form.

The pair stood in companionable silence for a time.


Buffy sniffled. “I just… the Willow fairy reminded me of the Tara fairy, which reminded me of… wow, you’re all flamey!” Buffy said, caught between sniffling and surprised.


“Willow would say ‘extra flamey,’” Tara said with a little smile. “It’s the spell I used. This time I forgot to damp down my aura. What were you going to say Buffy?”


Buffy leaned back and looked up into Tara’s glowing eyes, her own eyes glittering.
She smiled sadly, cupping Tara’s cheek tenderly.

“Willow doesn’t know. But one day, after you were… gone. I came home late and I heard talking. I thought maybe Dawn had stayed up late to talk to Wills, which I thought was a good thing. So I peeked.”

“She never saw me. But I saw her talking to a tiny blue fairy. She looked just like you. It was so sad, and so beautiful. I had to go and cry for ages after I saw that.”


“Willow calls her Tarabelle,” Tara said softly. “She kept Willow company.”


“I just didn’t know what to do Tara. I’m really bad at this stuff. My marketable skills are limited to beating stuff up and poking them with sharp things. I so wanted to help, but I was terrified of making it worse. And-and I missed you.” She sniffled again.


Tara rested her cheek against Buffy’s soft hair. “I missed you too Buffy.”


Buffy tightened the embrace, for once glad of the armour Tara wore, giving her the safety to hug Tara tight.

“I’ll make you a deal Buffy. Any time you need a hug, I’ll have one ready for you. Day or night, ok?”


Buffy smiled a watery smile. “Special Slayer deal?”


“No Buffy. Special family deal.”


Buffy sniffled again. “I feel like I’ve cried more in the last month than I have in the last few years. I’m all leaky.”


Tara smiled softly. “It’s ok. Leak away. I don’t think anyone’s going to tease you. And, um, if we could forget I ever said ‘leak away’, I would be grateful.”


“Deal. And thanks. For… everything.”


Tara pressed an affectionate kiss into Buffy’s hair. “You’re welcome. One ‘everything’ any time.”


Buffy smiled and rummaged around in her pocket for a tissue to blow her nose.


“We should look around a bit before the others get here. Just so they don’t complain that we were totally having fun.”


They did poke around a little, but after a few minutes they decided for safety’s sake to wait for the rest of the gang.


+++


Willow, Dawn, Faith, and a red faced Alphonse made it to the monastery entrance, around the same time as wind-blown flecks of moisture.
The now reunited party took shelter from the damp gusts of wind in the lee of the wrecked main gate.

Buffy treated Dawn and Willow to a huge and appreciative hug. Alphonse was treated to a vigorous handshake.


Faith received a very passionate smooch, which turned Alphonse an even brighter shade of red.
Dawn just rolled her eyes.

Willow treated Tara to a particularly sweet kiss. “You are wonderful, you know that?”
Dawn said to Alphonse. “You’ll have to forgive my family, they’re very smoochy. Also gay.”

Alphonse coughed and muttered something awkwardly, in much the same way as Giles did when put on the spot.


“Heya Bumblebee what’s-” Faith said as they broke their kiss at long last. She was interrupted by a particularly wet gust of cold wind. “Man, this is really closin’ in. B? You and Blondie wanna do your thing?”


Buffy nodded and turned to Tara. “Shall we?”


Tara nodded her agreement.

Buffy lead the way into the main hall striding confidently forward, until Tara grabbed the back of her armour.
Buffy ground to a surprized halt. Slayers may be stronger than regular women by an order of magnitude, but Buffy was still a small woman in terms of size and weight.

“Not so quickly Buffy, we’re looking for traps.”

Buffy nodded. “Sorry. Went all eager explorer gal there.”
She waved her hand in front of her face. “Um, this glowy thing is really cool. But it could lead to fun new ways to fall down holes. And get poked by sharp things. Can you turn it off?”


“Sure. Hold still.” Tara poked Buffy gently in the forehead with a finger, and concentrated until Buffy blinked.


“All gone.”


“Thanks. It was fun, but I didn’t want to be going ‘ooo pretty’ when I fell down a hole.”


Tara quirked a smile. “It does take some getting used to.”


“Guys? It’s getting really, uh, brisk out here?” Willow said, rubbing her hands together, encased in matching pink mittens.


“Sorry. Going now,” Buffy replied.


“Keep her safe Buff,” Willow said seriously.


“I will… Will. I promise.”


Willow poked out her tongue at Buffy’s pun.


“Look after B, Big T.”


“I will. And we’re only going to be a short way in front of you. And um, ‘Big T?’ No. Just… no.”


Faith smiled a little and nodded her acquiescence.

Buffy started poking carefully around the entrance, Tara joining her a short while later.


“This looks good. If you guys wait here out of the rain, we can go on ahead. Follow us if we start to get too far away. And don’t forget to rescue us if things go wrong.”


“I’ve got my rescuing hat on,” Willow said, pointing to her pink fluffy bonnet. It matched her mittens, and looked very odd in contrast to her martial looking armour.


Dawn checked her pistols. “We’ll be right behind you.”


“Don’t get hit B. I’m all tense and shit. So if someone tags you, I’m gonna pound them to mush.”


“Check. No tag-y, pound-y mush-stuff.”


Carefully Tara and Buffy examined the entry area, pronouncing it safe.

“You should be ok to wait here. At least you’ll be out of the weather until we get a bit further in,” Buffy said helpfully.


Tara poked about in the background with a handy pole she had pulled from the wreckage.

Slowly and carefully the pair advanced up the corridor, discovering nothing more threatening than some displaced rubble.

The rest of the gang moved quietly up the corridor behind them, Alphonse quietly pointing out areas of non-fatal interest or import as they advanced.


It was a nerve wracking few minutes. Though to the small group it felt like hours had gone by. They followed the trail of destruction from the front door, through the courtyard and into the rear building.

They encountered murder holes, given away by the greasy soot stains. Some kind of spear trap, revealed by broken spears. And what looked to be a falling block trap, given away by a large square hole in the ceiling and piles of shattered stone rubble.


“Holy shit,” Faith said impressed. “A cheerleader in a red dress did this?!”
She gestured to all the wreckage around her.


“Oh yeah,” Dawn said. “She was a real bimbo. But also nuts and super powerful.”


“The only big bad so far to combine annoying and terrifying,” Willow said.


“Spike was pretty… actually no, he was just annoying,” Buffy said, correcting herself.


“No wonder you had freaking trouble with her, if she just shrugged off this stuff,” Faith said. “Some of this shit is pretty final.”

She poked at one of the huge chunks of shattered masonry with her boot.


“We dropped a building on her, shot her, punched her and stabbed her. Will zapped her and threw her a couple miles in the air. About the only thing that even phased her was Xander’s giant wrecking ball to the face.”


Faith grinned evilly. “Always knew the guy had stones, but slapping a god-chick in the face with your giant ball? That is taking it to a whole new level.”


“Urgh,” Willow complained. “That left a horrible image in my brain.”


“It was pretty terrible,” Buffy said. “Glory was bad too.”

Faith just chuckled.


Tara spoke up. “I didn’t expect to find anything too nasty here, still...”

The group looked around curiously.


“I think the serious nastiness is going to be in there,” Tara eventually said, pointing to a relatively small building at the rear of the courtyard, half built into the hillside.


“Can I ask a gross question?” Dawn said. “Where are the bodies?”


Alphonse cleared his throat. “Ah, that was me.”

“It was the first thing I did when I finished crying. I gathered up all the bodies I could find and put them in the catacombs.”

He looked down at his feet and mumbled. “It seemed right.”


Faith nudged him in the shoulder, not unkindly. “You feelin’ bad that you weren’t here?”

Alphonse nodded sadly.

“And even though you know you’d have died with the rest of them, you feel bad because you’re alive?”

Alphonse nodded again.


“And you’re glad that you’re alive,” Willow added softly. “But you feel guilty for being glad?”


“Yes.”


“I think we all have some of that,” Dawn said.


Buffy stuck her hand up. “I don’t,” she said cheerfully.


“Yeah, well, ya died a couple of times. So I ain’t all that surprised.”


Alphonse spoke up, quietly, but a little clearer. “I didn’t go in there.”
He pointed to the small building that was once the hidden entrance to the secret areas.

“I had no idea what dangers lay within, so I have not taken any of the bodies from there.”


“And the knights of Busy-body? They didn’t help clear out the deadness?” Buffy asked.


Alphonse again shook his head. “No. They had their own problems. They fought bravely to stop the beast, but she destroyed them as she did my brothers. Well, the knights guarding this valley any way.”

“Afterwards, this place had no major value to them once the key was gone. I think the men you saw in town were their first foray into recovering this place. Perhaps now that they have recovered their strength, they seek to extend their control once more?”


“I hope not,” Faith growled.


“Let’s get inside,” Buffy said. “It’s moving from ‘Brisk’ to ‘let’s make everyone cold and squelchy.’”


Tara nodded, and turned to the small building. Visible through the shattered doorway was a roman-style bath house. The back wall had been smashed out, revealing a rough-hewn passageway beyond.
Clearly whatever artifice had been used to hide the entrance had failed.


“Wow,” said Buffy, standing at her shoulder. “The hiding thing really didn’t work, did it?”


Tara shook her head. “I think they used magic to hide it.”


“Uh, why’s that bad?”


“Magic’s great for hiding things from non-magical folks. But to magically sensitive people, it’s like shining a light on it. The magic tells you there’s something there.”


“Are you getting anything like that now?”


Tara nodded thoughtfully. “Yes. And I shouldn’t. Not after a couple of years have gone by.”


“Is it the green stuff?”


Tara shook her head. “No. This feels different. I think there’s a trap still active. A magical one.”


Buffy just shrugged. “Ok. Well, that’s why we’re here isn’t it?”

She looked into the dark hole.

“Ugh, caves,” she muttered to herself.


“Technically, it’s a tunnel.” Willow replied.


“Ugh, tunnels.”

She looked down the inky black corridor. “I think I see your trap, look.”

Buffy pointed into the blackness.


Tara shook her head, unable to see anything in the utter darkness.
She gestured and the area was lit by a soft white light, revealing extensive scorch marks on the walls and the decayed remains of 3 small bodies.


“I’m really hoping those are some of Glory’s horrible little trolls, and not midget monks,” Buffy offered.

She turned to Tara. “Is that armour of yours fireproof?”


“A little bit. Not specifically, but there’s a lot of metal to heat. And thick padding.”


“Right. Let me handle this then. You stay here, and if it goes horribly wrong, I’ll need you to heal me.”


“What are you going to do?”


“I figure when the flame goes whoosh, I’ll dive out of the way.”


Tara placed a hand on her arm, murmuring a spell of protection under her breath.
Sparkles of blue and white flowed all over Buffy, leaving behind a faint glow.

“Be safe Buffy.”


“Thanks. I’ll try.”

Buffy advanced down the corridor smoothly and carefully. She moved in a cautious half crouch, ready to duck low or leap out of the way of anything nasty flung her way.
When she approached the scorch marks, she stuck her foot out and touched the stone, bringing it out of danger with startling speed.

Not fast enough.


Instantly, streamers of lightning filled that section of the corridor, snapping down from the ceiling to Buffy.
She dove and rolled forwards, the blinding streamers of light following her, burning their way through the protection spell.


“Buffy!” Tara shouted.


“B!” Faith yelled from back down the corridor.

“Relax! I’m ok!” Buffy shouted back, her voice echoing oddly in the stone tunnel.

She stood up amid the streamers of lightning, an amazed expression on her face. The light flowed over her like water, almost soothingly. Though it cracked and spat against the floor, leaving scorched and glowing stone, it did her no harm.

“Ooo, tingly,” she said wonderingly, rubbing her hands together, her voice barely audible over the arcing sounds.


Faith pounded up the corridor and skidded to a halt behind Tara.
She stared in amazement at the lightning clad Buffy.


“I’m ok. It’s fine. Actually, this feels pretty good.”


She held her hand out to Faith. “You should try this honey.”


Without a moment’s hesitation, Faith stepped into the shower of lightning, and was embraced by it as well. The two shared a kiss for a few more seconds before the lightning faded. It slowed to a trickle, and with a few last angry sparks, cut out altogether.


Despite Tara’s light spell, the corridor seemed suddenly dark after the raging flow of light had vanished.


Dawn had apparently joined them, as she chipped in unexpectedly. “Very neat. Explanations please?”


All eyes turned to Tara, as the rest of their small group wandered up the tunnel to see what was going on.

She sighed. It was really tough to be the one everyone looked to for explanations. Mister Giles rose a notch or two in her estimation.
“Well, either that trap was keyed to something specific, like evil minions, or we can add ‘immune to magic’ to your list of Slayer abilities.”


“Your protection spell?” Buffy asked.


Tara shook her head slowly. “No. Faith didn’t have it.”


“Felt pretty cool I gotta say,” Faith added.


Dawn face palmed with a groan. “God, we came out here for answers, and all we’re getting is more bloody weirdness.”


“Alright, that’s it! You’ve officially been spending too much time with Giles,” Buffy said sharply, her amusement betrayed by the smile quirking the corners of her mouth.


“Actually, you can blame Mary, real name Magda, for that one,” Willow said. “Her dad’s English, and she spent time in Canada. Which will, y’know, do that.


Dawn nodded. “It’s true. She’s all ‘bugger’ this and ‘bloody’ that. She’s like Spike, but cuter.”


Buffy blinked in surprise, her train of thought casually shoved off the track with a horrible crash. “Cuter than Spike?”


“Sure. Hey Spike had a kind of bad-boy charm going for him, but would you have described him as ‘cute?’”


“Well… no, not cute.”


“There you go then. Shall we?” she said gesturing down the darkened tunnel.


“But, the lightning and stuff!” Willow protested.


“We can figure it out later. I want answers, and I’m getting impatient!” Dawn said, her tone of voice matching her words.


“Let’s not stand here talking about it. This spell clearly re-arms at some point. Let’s not be here when it does,” Tara said.


“Eeep!” Willow said and scurried down the tunnel.


“Will! Come back here!” Buffy shouted.


“I’m good,” Willow called from the dark. Her voice sounded distinctly wobbly. “I, um, found another trap though.”

They hurried forward, finding Willow standing very still, just beyond the light.

“Watch your step,” she said breathlessly.


There was a deep shaft right in front of her, open wooden doors showing where the trap door would normally be. The tip of one boot was just poking out over the sheer drop.

“Um, how are we going to get across?”


Faith looked down the dark hole and whistled, impressed. “Right where you’d land if you dived past that last one. Nice.”


Buffy elbowed her. “Hey, it’s a deadly deadly trap that Willow nearly fell down. You’re not supposed to be all admiring.”


“You ok Red?”


“Oddly yes. I seem to have lost my fear of heights.”

“Go figure.” Faith jumped easily across the gap, and poked around a bit.

“If there’s a switch or a lever, I can’t find it.”

She stood up and moved to the edge. “B? Just toss ‘em over, I’ll catch.”


“Um, baby, can you get us across?” Willow said nervously.


“Yes. The air is my element,” Tara replied.

She quirked a smile. “We have an understanding, the air and I.”

Willow snuggled up close.

“Hold on tight sweetie.”

Willow did as instructed, wrapping her legs around Tara’s waist, and her arms around her neck.

Tara concentrated, and silently drifted across the gap, Willow in her arms.


“Wicked. That just leaves you two. D? Wanna go first?”
Dawn simply tossed her pack over to Faith and shrugged.
The three on the other side spread out to catch her.
Buffy grabbed Dawn’s equipment belt and the thick collar of her armour, swung around once and tossed her over the pit. She was easily caught by Faith.

“That was fun. Let’s do it again,” Dawn said dazedly. “Um, no-one tell Andrew about this please? He’ll go on about dwarf tossing again.”


“You’re like, the tallest person here. You are so not a dwarf,” Buffy grumbled.


“One more!” Buffy shouted. She lobbed a startled Alphonse over, pack and all.
The group caught him without too much trouble, and she jumped the gap to join them.

“When we write this up, Faith found a lever to close the trapdoors, ok?” Dawn said.
Many nods greeted the pronouncement.



It took quite a lot of patient and cautious searching before they found what they were looking for.
Numerous dry and dusty rooms stacked with scrolls and tomes, a thousand lifetimes of lost and ancient knowledge.

Enough that Dawn had groaned the second she laid eyes on it.

“If we give this to Giles, we’ll never see him again,” she complained.


Hours of searching through a maze of tunnels later, a tense and weary group came to a massive door of stone. It was less damaged that the others, but someone had smashed a meter wide hole in it and forced the two sliding slabs apart.
Alphonse stared at the enormous stone doors. Four meters high, four meters wide, and easily a meter thick. They must have weighed a hundred tons.
He looked at Buffy with new eyes, amazed that this petite blonde woman had defeated an enemy that had done this damage with her bare hands.


Faith saw him looking. “Hard to believe isn’t it?” she said softly.


Alphonse nodded. “She’s so small, to have done the things she’s done. Every time I think of the warrior who defeated a god, uh, I tend to think of someone larger.”


“She looks bigger when she’s kicking your ass. But yeah, I know what you mean.”


Dawn stepped forward and looked through the broken doors in silent awe. From somewhere up above, sunlight streamed down through the hazy air, a shaft of bright light illuminating a breath-taking scene.
Spoiler:
Image


The room was circular, the walls lined with stone statues, carved in many styles. Some were rough-hewn, ancient beyond reckoning. Others were more modern by comparison, carved mere centuries ago, Greek and Roman by their design.
Some were of warriors, clad in armour. Some were garbed as priests. Others were simpler, being simple human-ish shapes.
And all of them shared one aspect. All of the statues had their heads bowed in respect or prayer towards the tree at the centre of the room.

In the centre of the room was a small tree, growing on a raised stone platform, amid a shaft of golden light.
Next to it was a stone lecturn, holding a huge, old book.
A walkway lead to the tree from the doorway, leaving absolutely no doubt as to what was important in this place.


Dawn’s eyes were fixed on the tree, a look of inexpressible longing on her face. Unconsciously, she raised her hand, reaching out for the smooth bark as she walked forward, trance-like.
The small family stood silently as Dawn walked forward slowly, her eyes fixed on her goal.


Unconsciously she stepped around a stone pedestal and reached out to touch the tree.
She made a sound as she touched the bark, a hitch in her breath, almost a sob.
She stroked the bark softly, brushing her fingertips across it wonderingly. With a happy sound, she hugged the tree tight.


‘Now that’s tree hugging,’ Faith said silently, and with some amusement.
Without looking Buffy elbowed her in the ribs, only to be surprised when her padded elbow hit armour.

Faith smirked, but made a show of zipping her lips.


They left Dawn alone for a little while, letting her bask in the moment as they quietly poked around the room.

Dawn looked back at, her eyes shining. “Come here Buffy. I want to show you something.”


Buffy’s face was filled with an almost indescribable expression, but quiet pride was evident.
She joined her sister by the little tree, and Dawn took her hand, pressing in to the relatively smooth bark.


“This was my home Buffy. Before I was Dawn, this is where I lived.”


Buffy touched the tree reverently, and pulled her much taller sister into a one-armed hug.
Together the sisters shared a moment of togetherness.


Softly Buffy said. “I can’t believe that you were still taller than me.”


Dawn rolled her eyes, and smiled a little.
She looked around. “Come here you guys, I want you to see my old home.”


The little family gathered around, Alphonse keeping himself amused by examining the statues.


“Wow. You lived in a tree?” Willow said, owl eyed.


Dawn nodded. “Yup. I lived in a tree.”


“Do you remember any of it?” Tara asked gently.


“Sort of… no?” Dawn said uncertainly. “I don’t remember anything, there’s just some stuff that I know, y’know?”


“Deeper than memory…” Tara said.


“Yeah, like, you don’t know that you know it, until you know it, you know?”

“I know,” Tara said with a small smirk.


Willow giggled.


“So, no, I don’t remember anything much, I just recognized this place. And this tree. I know this tree like I know mom. Don’t ask how that even makes sense, it just does.”


“S’ok squirt, we get it.”


“And hey, look,” Willow said. “There’s this handy book sitting right here.”
She hefted the mighty and somewhat dusty tome. “Bet this has some answers for us.”


“Unless it’s a cook book or something,” Buffy said.


“Well, that would be less useful, but still kinda nifty. Recipes from the Dawn of time.”


Dawn groaned, and Buffy complained. “Willow Rosenberg, I can’t believe you said that.”


Willow giggled, clearly unrepentant.


“Well if it has ingredients like mammoth and aurochs, I think we’ll know.”



Tara was looking around with a distinct look of unease.


“Baby? Are you ok?” Willow asked.


Tara shook her head. “Not really. I have this bad feeling that we’re not alone.”


Willow turned to Buffy. “Anything on Slaydar?”


Buffy frowned. “Do we have to call it that? And I’m not sure. I’ve been feeling a bit wiggy since I got here.”

Buffy looked up at Willow. “What about you Will? Don’t you have witchy radar?”


Willow shrugged. “Only a little. I’m sorta terrible at it. All I can sense is power. Oodles and oodles of it. Tara’s the one who’s good at that stuff.”


“What about you Faith?”


Faith shook her head. “Nah. I’m better at figuring out where they are. B’s the one who can tell you what they-”

Her voice cut off with a grunt. Her body was suddenly jerked sideways, sent flying into a stone pillar with a meaty thud.


“Faith!” Buffy cried out, frantically scanning around for an assailant.


“Ow,” Faith complained. “What is this? Beat on Faith day?”
She rubbed the back of her head. “That frikkin’ hurt! A’right, who’s getting the ass-kicking? C’mon people, form an orderly line, I ain’t got all day.”

She took an aggressive stance, low to the ground, her feet spread wide, ready to duck or dive at a moment’s notice.


“I don’t see anything!” Willow said. “Maybe it’s a-”

Her comment was cut off, as she too was catapulted through the air, headed for the same stone pillar with bone-crushing speed.


“Willow!” Tara screamed.


Luckily Faith tackled her before she hit. The pair rolled and bounced in a tangle of limbs to the base of the pillar, bleeding off enough force that Willow was battered and dizzy, rather than broken and bleeding.


“Owie,” she groaned.


“You ok?” Faith asked.


Willow patted her body just to make sure she still had all her parts, before answering "Yes... I'm okay..."


Tara’s relief was palpable, once she could see that Willow was largely unharmed.

“That was a mistake,” Tara said coldly, her expression hardening.

She called her magic to herself. “Mother, our enemies surround us. They attack my family. They attack my love. If any try to take my love from me, be they man or demon, I shall stand against them. In the name of Brighid, in the name of the mother, show them to me!”

Tara threw out her hand in a sweeping gesture, trails of white light and tiny blue sparkles spraying from her hand. They swirled and twisted throughout the room, revealing spectral figures as they went.


There were hundreds, all clad in ghostly robes.
And they glared at the two battered women at the base of the pillar.
Occasionally one would flick an amazed glance at Tara or Dawn, but their ire was most definitely focussed on Faith and Willow.


Faith rolled to her feet and poked one of the figures with her long handled axe. He shied away from it, but suffered no harm from having the enchanted blade pass through him. Buffy tried as well, poking a spectral figure with her heavier weapon. He too shied away, but did not seem overly concerned by it.


“Any idea why a bunch of dead monk dudes are so pissed at us?” Faith asked warily.


“And how come your axe is not doing the glowy thing?” Buffy said, pointing at the decidedly non-glowy axe.


“They’re not evil,” Tara said. “Angry. Confused. But not evil.”


“Murderer!” they whispered out in unison.


“Getting a vague idea here,” Faith said.


“Betrayer!” they added.


Faith slumped. “Yeah. Figured.”


Willow wrung her hands nervously. “Actually, that one might be aimed at me.”
She rubbed her shoulder. “Ouch.”


Tara stepped forward. “I understand your anger,” she called out to the massed spirits. “You died at the hands of the Beast.”
Her voice rang from the stone of the chamber.

“But you did not die for nothing!” she called out. “The Key is safe, the Beast is dead!”

“You have fulfilled your duty, you have won,” she said soothingly.


The Scoobies were all very impressed with Tara’s impassioned speech. Sadly the ghostly monks paid her no mind. They drifted closer to Willow and Faith.

Tara slumped. “Crap.”


She gathered herself and strode boldly forward, her wings fluttering slightly as she moved.
She stood in front of Faith and Willow. She squeezed Willow’s hand reassuringly and turned to face the spectral monks.


“These women are family. They are under my protection, and I will defend them. With my life if need be.”
Although the closest spirits glanced at her, their eyes were inexorably drawn back to Willow and Faith.


“Crap,” Tara said again. “Um, hold onto yourselves. This is going to hurt quite a bit.”


Willow spastically grabbed hold of Faith. Faith gave her a look, but didn’t complain.


Tara clenched her armoured fist in front of her body, hard enough that it shook. There was a sense of gathering power, and a strange feeling as though sandpaper were being dragged over sensitive skin.

Buffy picked frantically at her skin, as though she were crawling with ants.

Tara held a growing ball of watery energy in her fist. And she began to scream.

Willow looked on white-faced, not comprehending what her girl was doing, but sending her silent support and love, nonetheless.
With a final cry, Tara released the spell and a watery looking shockwave blasted out. It slammed the ghostly monks against the outer walls, and held them there while they cried out in pain.


Buffy screamed in agony and fell to the floor, writhing. Tara similarly collapsed.


“B!” Faith cried. She bolted forward, catching the falling form in her arms.


The solidity of the spirits faded somewhat, and faint soft streamers of light flowed from them to a shuddering Tara.


Heedless of any possible danger, Willow rushed to her side. “Baby, are you ok?”


Tara looked up, tears streaming down her face. “N-not really W-Willow.”


The now somewhat reduced monks were now looking very closely at Tara.


And Tara started to glow faintly, the glow brightening as the streamers of faint and ghostly light flowed into her.


“Baby, what’s wrong? And why are you glowing?”

Buffy groaned and sat up, her eyes opening to see Faith’s relieved smile.


“Ow. That spell officially sucked.”


Willow helped a shaking Tara to her feet. “Sweetie, what was that?”


Tara groaned and stretched. “It drains energy from spirits. The dead and such.” She waved her hand vaguely through the faint streamers of light. “The trouble is, now I have way too much energy, and it’s going to take a while before it bleeds away.”

She straightened herself and faced the ghostly spirit she had picked out as the leader, still holding Willow’s hand. “I’m sorry about that, but I had to break through to you, and I couldn’t have you hurting my family.”


“What… who are you?”


“I’m Tara. And this is my family. This is Willow, my beloved. This is Faith, the Slayer and my cousin. This is Buffy, the God-Slayer, and my very dear friend. And this is Dawn, the Key, and daughter of my heart.”


“The Key!” the whisper echoed around the massed spirits.

“We watch over the key. Guard it,” the leader said. Tara guessed he was the Abbot.


“And now we watch over her, guard her and love her,” Tara said. “Your charge has been passed to others. Very capable others. Rest easy now, she is safe.”


“Love? She is loved?” the ghostly monk asked.


Tara nodded and smiled. “She is very much loved.”


“There are no secrets when you have died. We were supposed to guard the Key from the world. Study it. And to guard the world from the Key.”
He smiled a sad smile. “We were not supposed to love her.”

His smile grew, almost as if a great weight had been lifted. “But how could we not? She was the centre of our lives, and she was so beautiful.”

“We go now. We go now to face the Powers That Be.”

He smiled radiantly again. “But I go proudly. Let all hear my words. The Key was loved.”

The ghostly monks began to fade.


“Wait!” Dawn burst out. “What is the Key?”

She stepped forward to the spirit that had been doing all the talking.


He smiled sadly again as he faded. “We never knew. Powerful. Older than time. Precious. And terrifying to the Powers That Be.”


“Terrifying?! Why terrifying?”


The Abbot smiled sadly. “I don’t know.”

And with that final missive, he vanished completely.


“Argh!” Dawn shouted. She hopped up and down in deeply frustrated anger.
“He knew things! The one guy who knows anything and he just fucking vanishes! Argh!” she screamed.

She finished hopping up and down and let out a huge huff.


“Feeling better?” Buffy asked.


Dawn huffed again. “A little bit.”


“Good. We’ll talk about your potty mouth later.”

She glared at Faith.
Faith just grinned back, absolutely unabashed.


Dawn just rolled her eyes, before turning to Tara. “What was all that about? And why did they attack? And why did he sound so weird?”


“Spirits don’t communicate the way we do, so language tends to become an issue,” Tara said.

“Also, when you’ve died a traumatic death? And you have unfinished business which causes you to hang around… well it tends to make you a little cranky and sort of fixated.”


“And the spell of fun agony?” Buffy said.


“Sort of one of those flash-bang things, but for spirits.”


“How come it hurt so much?” Buffy asked. “And only me?”


“Um, when you die… you sort of grow into something new. If someone brings you back, not all of you can fit back in the old container. Um, there are bits hanging out, sort of exposed. And the spell hits those. In a way.”


“I’m too big to fit in my own body?”


Faith snorted and muttered something about ego, getting poked with an elbow for her troubles.


“It hurt Tara, Buff. She died too,” Willow said sadly.
Buffy gave her a sympathetic look


“I needed something to get their attention. I needed to do something to break through their fixation, and there aren’t a whole lot of spells that work on a group of spirits at once. Not without destroying them.”

She put a trembling hand on Buffy’s arm. “I’m sorry Buffy. I didn’t have a lot of time.”


Buffy patted her hand. “It’s ok Tara. All better now. Are you ok though? You look a little shaky.”


Tara smiled wanly and nodded. “There are spells to protect against that sort of thing. But I didn’t have time to cast any.”


“Is the glowy thing a good thing?” Buffy asked. “Because you’re getting more glowy by the second.”


Tara currently was radiating enough light that it illuminated the chamber as brightly as the morning sunlight.

Tara nodded. “I’ve never even heard of so many disembodied spirits in one place before. It’s replenishing my energies, but I need to get rid of some of it, otherwise, um. Bad things might happen.”


“How bad Glinda?” Faith asked.


“Um, it’s happened to me once before. I went blind for 3 days. But this is way worse.”


“What do you need to do Baby?” Willow asked, concern visible in her expressive green eyes.


“Give the power away,” she said. “Normally when dealing with spirits I would give it to them, but they left.”

Tara winced. “Ouch.”


Her glow was getting painful to look at.


Willow took her hands in her own. “Give it to me Tara. Let me look after you.”


Tara nodded.
Instinctively, Willow opened to Tara. Opened herself to the person she loved and trusted beyond all measure and took the energy which flowed from her. It seemed only natural to complete the link with a kiss.

And as their lips touched and their breath mingled, the power flowed.
Willow whimpered in ecstasy as the torrent of power poured into her.
Once she had been addicted to power, the feel of it flowing through her, charging her with power and possibilities far beyond the norm.

Once.

Not anymore. Now she had tasted the full depth and breadth of Tara. Mind, body and soul. And it was a taste that made all others pale by comparison.


‘Goddess… My Goddess!’ Willow sang down their link.


‘MY Goddess,’ Tara responded.


Eventually, after an immeasurable span of time, the torrent slowed to a trickle, and stopped.
The two broke for air to find themselves being grinned at by Faith, and to see Buffy fanning herself. Dawn was looking rather pink and embarrassed. Alphonse was studying the engravings on the wall with furious determination.

They also found themselves floating a good foot off the ground.


“Um, hey guys. How about that local sports team?” Willow said awkwardly.


“Jesus Red, that was some goddamned kiss. I feel like I need a smoke after just seeing that.”


“Don’t you dare,” said Buffy, making her opinion of smoking perfectly clear.


“Well, you two got the lightning smooch, so it seems only fair that we get the glowy floaty smooch.”


Willow looked down. “Baby? When is this likely to wear off?”


“Ah, when our power goes back to normal levels. Either through casting spells, or as it leaks out over time.”


“If we don’t cast any spells, how long is that likely to take?”


“Um. With the amount of power we just absorbed… about a week.”


“A week?!” Willow squeaked.


“That’s gonna lead to some fun explanations,” Buffy said.


Willow looked down at her gloved hand. Lightning-like streamers of energy crawled across her body, and she had the sneaky suspicion that her hair was doing the underwater floaty thing, that Tara had described from her overly-exciting first flight spell..
“Well, yeah it could be awkward. But any spells we cast make it go away a bit quicker. And while we have it, it’s kinda nifty.”

Willow floated around the room a bit as a demonstration.

Buffy thought that Willow floating perfectly upright like that was a little creepy, as it reminded her of The Gentlemen. But she wasn’t going to rain on Willow’s parade, so she kept quiet.


At that point Willow visibly rediscovered the book she had dropped when she went flying. “Oh hey. Book!”

Willow floated over to the book and looked stumped, as she was floating just too far up to reach it. “Oh poop. Um, little help please?”


Dawn chuckled and strolled over to pick up the book. She glanced at the contents. “Huh. This last bit’s in German, and there’s a chunk of Latin here too. But I don’t recognize the first bit.”

She passed the book up to Willow. “I thought your translator spell was supposed to fix that,” she said, with a look towards the brightly glowing (and floating) Tara.

As Tara floated over, Dawn pulled a set of shades out of her pack and put them on. “That’s better.”


“That must be handy for doing things in the dark,” Buffy said.


Willow giggled. “You have no idea.”


Tara blushed a little but made no comment.

She turned to Dawn. “The spell I cast this morning only works with spoken words. I have a more difficult one that will do written words.”


“Can I help?” Willow said. “If I help you cast it, then this,” she gestured at her floaty glowy body. “Will wear off of both of us at about the same time.”


Tara bobbed her head and smiled. “Sure. I’d like that.”
She looked around. “Gather round everyone. You too Alphonse.”


“Me?” he said, clearly surprized.


Tara nodded. “It’s harder to cast a spell for a group than for a single person. But as long as there’s enough room for everyone to get close, it’s not any harder to add an extra person to the spell.”

He seemed surprized, but moved closer over none the less.

The Scoobies (+1) joined hands as Tara took Willow’s delicate hand in her own. Both had stripped off their gloves and gauntlets for the occasion, relishing the simple skin contact.


Willow simply closed her eyes and listened, both with her ears and with her soul to Tara as she cast the spell.

On the outside Tara simply said. “See as I see,” and the spell was cast.

But on the inside, Willow saw so much more.

She saw the vast, near endless reserves of Tara’s strength, with the recently added energies floating around on top, slowly leaking out.
She saw Tara’s mind and spirit grasp the complex shape of the spell with the ease of long familiarity. Far more familiarity than Willow herself had ever shown with any spell.

Energy flowed into the complex shape, from Tara, from Willow.

And just like that, it was released.
And everyone gathered around could now see. They could see through the shapes that made up the words, to the intent behind them.


“Woo,” Willow sighed. “Just feeling you cast spells is amazing.”


“I feel all buzzy,” Buffy said.


“Kinda cool,” Faith added.


“Very cool,” Dawn chipped in.


“Um…” Alphonse said hesitantly.


“Go ahead, try it out,” Tara said.


“Ooo let me try,” Buffy said excitedly. “I’m terrible with words, so it would be nice to be un-terrible for a change.”


“Keep in mind, it’s not perfect Buffy. It shows you the intent behind the words, so it promotes understanding. But it won’t explain everything. So if you read a book on computer chips… well you might need to study it a while before you get it all.”


“Cool! Let me have a look at the book,” Buffy said.

Smiling, Willow passed down the book, and patted Buffy on the head.

Buffy smiled until she twigged. “Hey! Enough with the short jokes already!”


Grinning impishly, Willow replied. “Short jokes? I never said a word. Not a pip, not a squeak passed my lips.”

She casually rested her arm on Dawn’s shoulder, for once taller than the lanky teen.
Buffy glared at Willow, and Dawn’s smirk. She returned to the book she had been given and read for a moment, surprised.


“Wow. Even when you were a green blob, they knew you were a girl blob. They keep calling you ‘she’ and stuff. Apparently you liked poetry.”


“Really?” Dawn squeaked.

Buffy nodded and tilted the book for Dawn to read.

“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower… cool.”


“Ooo, William Blake? I liked that one,” Willow said cheerfully.


Buffy giggled. Willow doing her bouncy thing while floating was very bouncy. She looked like she was bouncing on an exercise trampoline, her feet kicking excitedly.


“Huh. Who knew. I kinda do like poetry. Never heard that one. Though it’s kinda neat.”


“Ceremony of innocence,” Willow said. She smiled as she remembered a fond memory. “Tara used to read it to me and we’d argue about what the passages meant.”


Tara smiled as she remembered. “One of the up sides to taking an English-lit elective in college.”


Buffy quickly flicked through the pages, skimming them. “Wow, this thing’s like a diary of stuff they did with you, though it sometimes reads like it was written by Yoda. They played you music, brought you things. It’s kinda nice, though just glancing at this, it looks like they weren’t supposed to.”


“Any cooking tips in there?” Faith asked with a smirk.


Buffy’s smirk matched Faith’s own. “Oddly no.”

Dawn simply poked out her tongue.


Tara frowned, noticing that Faith was fidgeting with her breastplate. “Faith? Are you alright? Does it still hurt?”


Faith frowned, as if becoming aware of her fidgeting for the first time. “Little bit. Sort of aches a bit. And it feels kinda uncomfy.”


Buffy handed the book to Dawn, who read with interest.
“Baby, are you ok?” Buffy said with a note of concern.


Faith shrugged, then made a face that suggested she regretted the move. “To be honest, I hadn’t even really noticed until Glinda brought it up.”


Tara made up her mind. “Faith, I want to do that diagnosis spell on you. Now, before anything else happens.”


Faith started to shrug, stopped, and simply nodded. “Sure. Do ya thing. Do I gotta get naked or anything?”


Tara shook her head. “No. Though it might pay to get comfy.”


“Ooo! Let me! I can do the girlfriend thing!” Buffy said, excited to be able to help in some way. She knelt down and patted her lap.

Faith rolled her eyes, but was unable to hide the small smile. She sat down on the stone floor and lay back, putting her head in Buffy’s lap. Buffy smiled down at her and stroked her soft hair.

“Hey Faith,” she said softly.


Faith smiled a sappy smile. “Hey B.”


“You know I can see right up your nose, right? Is that your brain, or a giant booger?”


Dawn stifled her giggles at her sister’s attempt to check without being gross.

“There’s no boogers!”


“Booger brain,” Faith said, smirking.


Buffy poked her with a finger. “Stop being gross! And you should be quiet, Tara’s supposed to be figuring out why you’re feeling oogy.”


“Sorry,” Faith said, looking anything but.


Tara sat down next to her, though she still didn’t quite contact the ground, and placed her hand on Faith’s forehead. “Just relax Faith. This is almost exactly like the spell I used before to look you over, only I’ll be going slowly and carefully. Hopefully we can get some answers.”


“Cool. I like your spells, they feel kinda buzzy.”

Dawn quietly sat down next to the trio, lending her support. Willow amused herself by floating about nearby.
Alphonse for his part, politely left them be. He browsed through a selection of books and scrolls he had taken form the next room, absolutely rapt.


Tara murmured under her breath. “Brighid. Healer, warrior, wise woman. Let me see what ails thy daughter. Guide my hand and eye to the truth.”

And with that simple prayer she released the spell. Faint streamers of white and blue swirled gently from her hand to her eyes, leaving her with tiny glitter-like sparkles of white and blue in her irises.

“Ok, that’s the easy part. Now I just have to use the tools the spell gave me, to look you over, and find out what’s up with you.”


Faith smirked. “I’d say it’s something I ate, but I pretty much threw up everything I EVER ate, so it ain’t that.”


Tara quirked a smile back. “I meant why you’re suddenly bulletproof. But yes, I’ll try and find out why you’re feeling oogy as well.”


“Yeah, well. That’d be good, cause I been sick plenty, but I don’t think I have ever puked that hard in my life. Gotta say, I’m really tempted to walk back to America, if that’s what’s waiting for me when we do the witchy thing again.”


“You were kinda green, I have to say,” Willow said.


“Felt it.”


“Shhh,” Tara said, her eyes closed as she started probing Faith’s aura.


Faith quirked a grin. “Tickles.”


Tara’s eyes popped open. “Where?”


Faith poked herself in the chest with the back of her fist.


Tara frowned. “You’re not supposed to be able to feel it, Faith.”


Faith tried to shrug. “I didn’t say if felt bad.”


“Not the point. This is one of the most sensitive and delicate spells I know. You shouldn’t be able to feel it.”


“Uh, sorry?”


Tara ruffled her hair. “Not your fault. With that in mind, try and relax, because I’m going to be looking very closely at you to find out what’s going on.”

She closed her eyes and made a point of mystically examining Faith’s feet in as much detail as she could.


Faith’s feet twitched and she laughed. “Heh, tickles.”


Smiling with her eyes closed, Tara spoke. “Hmm, you really can feel it.”


“Yeah.”


“This is going to feel pretty strange then, because I have to look you over very thoroughly.”


“Eh, I’ll live.”


“You say that now, but have you ever had anyone tickle your spleen before?”


“Damn, this trip’s turning out to be filled with weird shit. Just do ya thing Blondie, I’ll live.”


The next ten minutes were filled with silent examination, broken only by muttered comments of “stop squirming” and “Dammit, it’s not my fault I have a ticklish liver!”


And it wasn’t easy, Tara had never seen the like. The threads of energy that flowed through a typical human body, were as a torrent in Faith. And so bright. ‘Oh my. So much power.’

Tara traced the raging flood of power, from Faith’s head to her thundering heart. Even now, as relaxed as she was, Faith’s heart beat with enough force to drive a locomotive.


‘Merciful goddess, what is a Slayer?’


‘Unstoppable,’[i/] came Willow’s simple reply.


Tara returned to her study, tracing the blazing flows of energy in Faith’s flesh. Although it was hard, she was starting to get a feel for the flows of power. She just had to adjust her sense of scale by two orders of magnitude. The life force burning within Faith’s frame was enough for a hundred lifetimes, or more.

She saw some kind of congestion of the power flows in Faith’s chest, something twisted. No, [i]unfinished.
like a rosebud almost. ‘Heart Chaka?’ she wondered. ‘No. Too deep.’
But that gave her an idea and she started tracing the energy flows from point to point, following the chakra pattern from top to bottom. And it worked, she was able to sense a flow of energy from all the higher points to the sacral chakra in Faith’s lower abdomen. Huge amounts of energy.

Tara’s eyes popped open. “Oh my,” she said, absolutely flabbergasted.


Willow had been keeping only a very light touch on Tara’s thoughts, so she had no idea what Tara had discovered. But it was momentous, she knew that.


“Faith?” Tara asked carefully. “Could we talk in private?”


Now Faith looked worried. “That bad huh?”


“Not as such, but you might want to hear this privately first.”


Faith thought for a moment.
“Nah. If I’ve got cancer or some shit, just tell me. Everyone’s going to find out sooner or later.”


Tara shook her head. “No cancer I promise. But I really think I should tell you in private first.”


Buffy stroked Faith’s hair reassuringly. Faith squeezed her other hand. “Now I’m really getting worried. Look Glinda, we’ve got no secrets here, not anymore. Just spit it out, I’m a big girl, I can take it.”


“Faith, you’re pregnant,” Tara said simply.


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:13 pm 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Wow...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:21 am 
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Well you can't say Tara didn't try to break the news privately. Well it looks like we now know where the PTB's "This is when Faith needs to die!" time table was coming from. Faith seems like the type who'd be in denial about the news for the next 2-5 chapters. Here's hoping Buffy just goes with the fact that their lives are different and she skips asking who the father is and jumps right into "How did I get Faith Preggers? I don't have boy parts!"

Also is it too much to hope for a giant rolling boulder trap to get sprung on their way out?

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:09 pm 
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Hi Kitties!

Sorry Citanul, no boulder :P

Yeah, some drama i'm afraid.
Buffy's getting better, but there are limits as to what you can drop on her out of a clear blue sky, and not have her freak.


Today’s episode is a bit of a tear jerker.
It also deals with some nasty, nasty things.

Trigger warnings:
Spoiler:
Rape, pregnancy, violence, loss of a child, Christianity is made up


Don’t click on the button, if you want to find out as the story unfolds.
Do click on the button if you might be triggered.
Because while I don’t want to spoil the story, I don’t want you to have a shitty day. And I want you to be prepared to skip this bit if it might wreck your day.


Surprize!



“Like fuck I am!”


“Aha!” Willow said. “I knew I wasn’t that bad with the teleport!”

Faith glared at her, Willow subsiding almost instantly. “Sorry.”


Faith felt Buffy’s emotions hit her like a sledgehammer, fear and betrayal being foremost among them. “You’re pregnant?”


“About two months,” Tara said softly.


Buffy stood up, dropping Faith to the floor. “I… I can’t…”
Her breathing was fast, almost panicked.


“B, don’t, please!”


“I-I need some air!” Buffy gasped, looking as though she may pass out or throw up at any moment.


“Don’t push me away B, please god don’t do that. I’ve put my trust in you. I’ve pushed as far as I can go!”


“I-I…“ Buffy stammered.


“B please! I don’t have it me… I couldn’t take it if ya closed me out, I can’t be hurt like that again. Please B, I’m beggin’ you don’t leave me.” Faith begged, sitting up.


“I’m not! I-I’m going to handle this in a calm and mature fashion. Yes, that’s it. Now I’m going away to have a think, so I don’t say or do something stupid.”


“B? Bumblebee?”


“I just need some air!” Buffy cried.
She looked like she was going to hyperventilate. Instead she bolted from the room.

Faith looked as though she was going to cry.


Tara and Willow shared a look. “I’ll go make sure she’s alright,” Willow said. She looked at Faith sadly, with a hint of disappointment. She got to her feet and left, looking for Buffy.


Dawn looked angry. “Did you cheat on her? Or is this from before? Is it Robin’s?”


Faith just shook her head. “Tara’s wrong. I ain’t knocked up.”


Tara laid a gentling hand on Faith’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Faith, but you are very definitely pregnant.”


“No, you don’t get it. I ain’t sayin ‘I’m no cheater.’ I’m fucking not, but what I’m sayin’ is that I can’t be pregnant.”


“Why?” Dawn asked, still angry, but at least willing to listen to an explanation. “We covered this in school. Boy meets girl, Bang! Pregnant!”


Faith wasn’t listening, she was muttering to herself. “Gotta find B. Gotta make this right.”


“Faith, Don’t. Give her some space to think,” Dawn said.

Faith ignored her and strode from the room, clearly on a mission to find Buffy.


Dawn huffed. “No one ever listens to me.”


Tara squeezed her shoulder. “Stay here Dawnie. Help Alphonse find your answers. I have to go help Faith.”


“Behold the drama that is our lives. Sure, go take care of miss skanky-pants, I’ll be fine with this book.”


“Dawn, that’s not very nice.”


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Well duh! She’s obviously been sleeping around. Unless I really wasn’t paying attention in health class, Buffy didn’t get her pregnant. And I don’t see her suddenly learning how to cast the spell you guys have.”


“It’s still not very nice.” Tara sighed. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Dawn nodded, clearly not very happy. She soon turned to reading her book, letting Tara go to chase Faith.


+++


“Hey Buff,” Willow said quietly.


Buffy sniffled. “Hey Will. Nice weather huh?”


Buffy was leaning against a covered balcony, looking out over the rain-drenched valley. Willow joined her, leaning against the rail in companionable silence.

“How about that local sports team? I hear they’re really good. At the sport.”


“Yep.”


They looked out over the valley for a time before Buffy sighed. “Have I made it all worse?” she said sadly.


Willow put her arm around her and pulled her in close. “Nope. You dope.”

Buffy smiled sadly at Willow’s terrible rhyme.

“I don’t think Faith’s super happy right now, but you didn’t yell at her or-or accuse her of anything, and you left before you could say anything that would make things worse. I’d say for you two, you’re doing great.”


Buffy rested her head on Willow’s shoulder, taking comfort and strength in the arms of her oldest and closest friend.

“I love her Will, I really do. But I worry sometimes.”


“What about?” Willow murmured into her friend’s soft blonde hair.


“That maybe we’re not doing it right? I mean we fight all the time, and I see you and Tara… and you guys never fight.”


“See, that’s where you’re a dummy. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.”


“Thanks. I guess.”


“You’re Buffy and Faith. Slayers and fighters. You’re not Willow and Tara, witches.”


“That bit I had worked out. What do you mean though?”


“Not all relationships are the same Buffy. The relationship you have with Faith is going to be different to the one that I have with Tara. Even if you love her just as much as I love Tara, it’s still going to be different.”


“You guys tease each other, poke each other and chase each other around. Because you love each other, have fun with each other and are comfortable with each other. Well I love Tara, so how come I don’t do any of that stuff?”


“You used to. Well, a little bit.”


Willow nodded. “Yep. And when we’ve been together a little longer, and I stop wondering if this is all a dream, then I will again. For now I’m still so grateful to have her back, it’s all I can do not to burst into tears just thinking about it.”

Buffy looked up and saw Willow’s expressive green eyes filled with tears.

“Oh hey Will. Don’t cry. Tara’s real, she’s here, and you’ll see her in a minute.”


“She’s my everything Buffy. I missed her so much. Even now I have her back, I still miss her a little.”


Buffy nodded. “It’s a hard thing to let go of. The fear.”


They stood in sympathetic silence for a little while longer.

“I’m such a bad friend. I came to be all supporto-gal, and here you are, looking after me,” Willow said, followed by a sniffle.


“Nah,” Buffy said. “You’re the best, Willow.”


“So, ah, Buffy? While we’re all filled with the love for lovable Willow’s, and not about the killage… what about Faith…”


“Yeah,” Buffy said sadly.


“Buff? We’ve gotten pretty close, Faith and me. Incredible I know. Turns out we have a lot in common. Love of blondes, the gay, the crazy streak… what I’m saying is, I am pretty certain she’s not been cheating on you.”


Buffy nodded sadly. “I know. And I believe you. Especially since Tara said she’s nearly two months pregnant.”

Willow squeezed her a little tighter.

“Because we haven’t been together nearly that long.”


“I only know one thing here that’s right Buffy, I don’t know what else to do. But I can tell you that being kind to her, and loving her is always right.”

Buffy nodded.

“Because as freaked out as you are now? She’s the one with the baby, Buff. She’s the one who just had her world turned upside down. Again. And she’s going to need you Buffy, now more than ever.”


Buffy nodded. “I know, I just… I just needed some space to think.” She leaned gratefully into her friend’s hug, “And some quality Willow time.”


“Always Buff, you know that.”


“I think we all know by now, that a pressured Buffy is one that says the wrong things.”


“Go you, all with the self-awareness and everything.”

Softly, Willow asked. “What are you going to do?”


Buffy took a deep breath and let it out.

“What can I do? I mean I don’t wanna be a mom! I mean, sure, one day it would be something to look forward to. But not now!” Buffy protested.


“Are you going to talk to Faith about, y’know?” Willow asked hesitantly.


“Abortion?” Buffy said bluntly.

Willow nodded, wide eyed and silent.

Buffy thought hard for a moment.

“No,” she said, clearly having come to a decision.

“However awkward and inconvenient this baby is… it’s Faith’s baby. That means I love it.”


Before she could speak another word, she felt the sledgehammer of Faith’s emotional turmoil crash through her shields. Shields she had not even realized that in her desperation she had raised.

Terror, loss, agony, all these things made her knees give way, until Willow was awkwardly holding her upright.

But hope was the major current in the torrent that crashed through her.
Faith had clearly heard the last thing she said, and the hope and love that poured over her were unimaginable.
Faith generally lived at a high emotional pitch. As did Buffy, if she was being completely honest with herself.
But this was phenomenal.


She looked across at Faith. She stood in the doorway, Tara’s reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“We’re, um. We’re gonna go back to Dawn. You two be ok? Please?” Willow said.

Buffy smiled gratefully. Faith reached out and squeezed Willow’s shoulder in silent acknowledgement.

Tara took Willow’s hand and silently lead her from the room, leaving the two lovers alone.


“I’m sorry!” Buffy blurted, unable to take the silence. “I just… I always make this stuff worse, and this one time, this one time I wanted to do things different, I really did.”

She looked down at her feet. “I didn’t run. I just didn’t want to say the wrong thing.”


“B. I promise,” Faith took a deep breath. “I swear on my life, I ain’t been steppin’ out on ya,” she said, her accent thickening with the intensity of her feelings.


Buffy nodded sadly. “I know. We’ve been joined at the hip since that day.”

She didn’t need to tell Faith which day.

“I would have felt it.”

She looked out over the balcony into the oddly verdant valley, Faith joining her silently.

“Is it Robin’s?” she asked.


“No,” Faith said simply.

The jagged spike of emotion that lanced down the link she shared with Buffy, belied the blank expression on her face.


“Faith? What is it?”

Faith looked away.

Buffy could feel part of Faith breaking inside, crumbling almost.
Instinctively she moved over and put her arms around Faith.

A tear ran down Faith’s cheek.


“I know it ain’t Robin’s, ok?”

Buffy felt her heart fall just a little. At least Robin was a nice and respectable man, for all that they saw very little of him.

“B. Ya gotta understand, this shit goes way back. Before I was called. Before vampires, before demons, back went things was real bad.”


“Baby please,” Buffy said, her heart near breaking. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to understand.”


Silently Faith nodded her assent.
She stood in silence for a while longer before eventually building up the courage to speak.

“When I was a kid,” she started. Her throat closed up, and Buffy could feel her struggling to speak.


She could feel the battle going on inside Faith as she fought all her instincts in an attempt to open up. She rubbed Faith’s neck reassuringly, tracing small circles on one of the few parts of her body not covered in armour.

“I was maybe thirteen,” Faith eventually said. “It was after my Da left. Or the guy I thought was my Da. Ma had been hittin’ the booze harder, hittin’ me harder, and had alla these guys around all the time. All these ‘uncles.’”
The last word she almost spat out in disgust.

“The worst was this dude Lenny,” Faith said.

The emotions that came with the name, made Buffy want to vomit. She prayed she never met the man that inspired such emotions in a young girl, because she didn’t think there was a power on this earth that could keep him alive for even ten seconds after she met him. Maybe Willow. And she had a suspicion that Willow would hold her coat, if not do a more thorough job.


“B? He hurt me. He hurt me so bad.”

Tears flowed freely down Buffy’s face.

Faith struggled to speak. “I… I had this little… kitten. This beautiful, little tiny thing. It was… perfect. I was gonna be the best mommy to this little kitten that you ever saw.”

The sense of pain and loss that flowed through the link was unimaginable, intolerable. But Buffy held on silently, her small frame shaking as she felt the pain, pain that Faith had barely allowed herself to feel all these years.

“It didn’t matter what other shit was goin’ on in my life. This one perfect, beautiful thing was for me. Just for me.”

The emotions in Faith were glorious amid the pain. A sense of poignant love amidst the broken glass agony of that time.

The almost wistful tone Faith had, vanished, became something hollow, even more broken.


“Lenny found out. He didn’t want no… kitten… living under ‘his’ roof. He… he tried to get rid of it. But I wouldn’t let him. If it meant my life I wasn’t gonna let him hurt her. I fought him B. I fought with everything I had, and then some. But I couldn’t stop him.”

The sense of powerlessness tore at Buffy’s soul. In Faith’s memories, Lenny was a big guy, a giant. And he threw Faith around like she was a doll, her whole body wrapped around her stomach in a desperate attempt to save a tiny life.

“I tried B, I really tried to protect her, to shield her. I wrapped my body around her, tried to take the beating for her.”

Faith’s voice was desolate. “But he was a big guy. Even for the muscle-head gangbangers he used to hang with, he was a big guy. He got me on the ground, and just started kicking me and kicking me in the guts. No matter how I tried to protect her, he just kept kickin me. My Ma did the only good thing she ever did by getting’ him offa me. Threatened him with the cops, or a gun or somethin’, I don’t know.”

Buffy was silently crying, her heart bleeding from the pain flaying her.

“I was in ICU for a week, and hospital for like, a month.”

Buffy was stroking the back of Faith’s head, showing as much comfort as she knew how while Faith unburdened her soul.


“I lost her B. I lost my beautiful little girl.”

“He broke somethin’ inside of me when he did it. I can’t have kids, ever.”

“Oh baby, I-” Buffy froze. As she processed Faith’s words. ‘beautiful little girl.’
She was shaken to her very core as she realized how it was that a girl, only just barely a teen, had become pregnant.


She had thought that she couldn’t feel hate any deeper than for the monster that attacked Dawn.
She was wrong.


She thought she might die, from the frustrated feelings of hate and rage that choked her, that screamed inside her.
Her every heartbeat screamed for her to rend and kill the brutal thug that had defiled a little girl.

As a Slayer, almost every problem she encountered could be solved with enough cunning, determination and violence.
Only here, there was no-one to fight. Yet.

Buffy the girl, and Buffy the Slayer were in total agreement: this should not go un-avenged.
She did not know how the universe could exist with such horror contained within it.
Had she Willow’s magic, she would have burned Boston down to the bedrock.


Her heart hammered in her chest, pushing her to do something, destroy some evil thing. But there was nothing here to fight. Only loved ones and innocents.


Slowly she mastered the hate and the rage pounding through her. She hammered down every raw voice in her head that screamed for vengeance, until she had them all locked away, though just barely.

Roughly she spoke, barely able to string two words together.

“What was… her name… honey?”


Faith closed her eyes, squeezing out fresh tears in her agony, as she finally allowed herself to feel the pain that she had kept locked away inside for so very long.

‘Hope. My beautiful girl was called Hope.’
And Buffy was filled to the very brim with love and loss, so deep that she didn’t think she would ever be able to smile or laugh ever again.


“Then maybe this is a miracle,” Buffy said.

Faith laughed harshly until Buffy cut her off with a kiss.
‘No more pain honey. I swear to you, we’ll get to the bottom of this.’


Faith sucked in a deep shuddering breath, ‘As long as you’re with me, I can deal.’


‘I’m with you Faith. All the way.’


‘I wish you could have met her B, she was beautiful, I know it.’

Buffy squeezed her tight. ‘She was your baby girl, Faith. Of course she was beautiful.’


Fresh agony lanced down the link. ‘I wish I could have met her too.’


Faith’s sense of loss swelled. ‘I miss her so much B. So much I can’t even think about her, or I’ll lose my fucking mind.’


Buffy nearly lost it right there. ‘There is no hell deep enough for that bastard.’


‘No B. Don’t go there. I don’t want you goin’ down that path. Been there, nothing good at the bottom of it.’

She brushed Buffy’s soft blonde hair back and gently raised her head. ‘Somethin’ I learned from the other blonde in my life. It ain’t worth it B. Not even for this.”[/i]

She rested her forehead against Buffy’s. ‘I want the bastard to suffer, but not enough to stain you B. Nothing is worth that.’
‘Some things are too terrible to be justified Faith. But by god… by Goddess, they can be avenged.’


Faith looked into her eyes and saw the commitment there.

‘B, I love that you’d go there for me. And yeah there’s a part of me that wants to have a little chat with Lenny, involving some red-hot barbed wire, and a big sack of salt.’

Faith took a deep calming breath. It seemed to help just a tiny bit.

‘But I learned from you, from Angel, and yeah from Tara, about vengeance and letting go.’


Buffy nodded, and smiled a sad but proud smile. ‘You’re so strong honey. I don’t think I have that kind of strength, to just let something like that go.’


‘Hey look, I ain’t all preaching forgiveness here. You run into him, you show him how angry you are. Beat eighty five kinds of shit out of him. Fuck, I’ll cheer you on.’

‘But don’t kill him B. You’re worth so much more than he is. And I don’t want you stained with that shit B. You’re golden, babe. And I want you to stay that way.’


‘Aww, you say the sweetest things.’


‘I meant it. Plus I might wanna video the event. It should be the beat-down of the century.’


‘Count on it.’


Buffy thought for a moment, ‘I wonder if it’s a Slayer thing, to wanna do violence on people who hurt the ones we love?’


‘Nah. Just a good-person thing B. Some things are too bad to ignore, and we shouldn’t. Pretty sure if we dropped this in front of G-man or Xan-dude, they’d have the same idea.’


They stood in silence for a long while, wrapped in each other’s embrace, slowly doing their best to cover battered, bleeding hearts as the minutes passed by.


Faith broke the silence at last. “So. Any ideas how come I’m knocked up? I mean, the last guy I boinked was Robin, and that was way back. Plus there’s the ‘can’t have babies’ thing.”

Buffy’s breath hitched at Faith’s cavalier tone.

Faith softened. “Sorry B. I didn’t mean to upset you, but we gotta know what the hell’s goin on.”


Buffy nodded and said in a sad voice. “I know.” She sighed. “These are the times I wish I was a witch and not a Slayer. Because then I’d be able to do something about all this.”


Faith kissed Buffy on the forehead. “That’s why we’ve got the Red Witch and the White, B. They both love ya ta death, and Red and me are fairly tight. I’d bet the farm on those two. So I ain’t worried if this turns out ta be some demon baby or some shit.”

Buffy looked horrified at Faith’s ‘demon baby’ comment.

“Hey it happened to Cordy once, so it could happen.”


“Hey, Cordelia had to have regular sex with a guy for that. The demon baby happened afterwards. The only way you could get something that crazy would be…”

The light went on in Buffy’s eyes. “Willow!”


Faith looked more than a little puzzled. “Red knocked me up? This is better how? Other than making her squirm of course.”


“Well, Willow had some amazing spell backfires back in the day. I wouldn’t put this past her.”


“Uh, Yeah?”


Buffy counted them off. “Summoned a demon, married me to Spike, made Xander a literal demon magnet. Yeah it could be.”


“And let’s not forget when she made Dawn’s hair stand on end for a whole day, or when she blew her own pants off trying to fly,” Faith added.


Buffy couldn’t help but smile a little at that. Willow’s spell backfires these days were less dramatic than they had been in the past, and thus were a little more humorous.

She looked at Faith. “I can’t believe you’re so calm about all this. You’re pregnant Faith!”


“I’m no way fucking calm. I’m just freaking out differently. Expect me to be all kinds of grouchy and shit.”


“I think a little grouchiness is more than fair.”


Faith smiled. “Yeah? You wait till those crazy pregnancy hormones kick in. Then see what you say.”


Buffy waved her hand dismissively. “Hey, I had to learn the plural of apocalypse. It’s apocalypses, which was disappointing, as I thought it would be weirder. I can deal with some hormones.”


Faith smiled. “Sucker. I expect back rubs, foot massages and all kinds of pampering and shit.”


Buffy’s tentative smile faded. “What are we going to do if it is a… um, er-”


“Demon baby?” Faith said, releasing Buffy from her awkwardness.


“That.”


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. But I bet Red, Glinda and mister G can figure it out.”


“Mister G?” Buffy said, surprised.


Faith grinned a little. “It’s what Danni calls Giles. Kinda cute.”


Still serious, Buffy pressed a little. “Seriously, what are we going to do?”


Faith looked up, a serious expression on her face. “If it’s a demon or some shit, I’ll get Red to kill it. If it’s Woody’s baby somehow…”

Faith looked away.

“I’m sorry B, but I can’t kill a baby. Not even one that came as a surprise.”

Her huge eyes were deep pools swimming with emotion. “I know it’s not even a real baby yet, just a little tadpole. But I can’t kill what she might become B.”


“She?” Buffy asked softly.


Faith looked puzzled. “What?”


“You said ‘she,’ Faith.”


Faith looked surprised.

She touched her lower belly and concentrated.

When she opened her eyes she breathed out with a smile. “Gimme your hand B.”

She pressed Buffy’s hand to her lower belly. “Feel, B. Use your spidey senses and tell me what kind of demon this is.”


Buffy closed her eyes and concentrated. Faith’s mystical senses were accurate enough that she could almost see vampires and demons through walls. Buffy couldn’t do that, but she could usually tell what kind of demon they were dealing with, just by the feel of it.

She concentrated, reaching past the warm buzz that was her constant awareness of Faith, reaching for the cold tickle in her skull. The cold tickle of evil.

Her eyes popped open.
“I can’t feel it.”


Faith’s smile broadened. “I think she’s just a regular kid B.”


Buffy smiled sadly. “With you as a mom? Definitely not just a regular little girl.”


Her face fell. “Granddaughter of a Slayer maybe, daughter of another. She’s very special.”

Faith saw Buffy’s fallen expression and felt the sadness from her.

“This kid’s gonna have 2 mommies and an uncle, B,” Faith said resolutely.

“I don’t know how, but Wood is the only dude I’ve gotten horizontal with recently, even if it was months ago. Woody’s a stand-up guy, and I ain’t gonna cut him out of his kids life. But I’m her momma now, no matter how the fuck it happened. And momma says you’re her other momma, if you’re up for it.”


Buffy smiled wanly. “I always wanted children one day. One day meaning: not this year.”

She sighed. “I always figured I’d be the one having them, because, y’know: girl.”


“You are the girly one, it must be said,” Faith said.


Buffy put her hand on Faith’s arm, her expression serious. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be a mommy Faith. But I won’t run, and I’ll try my very best, I promise.”


Faith smiled. “That’s all I ask, Bumblebee.”


“Have you finally settled on that as a pet name then?” Buffy asked.


Faith shrugged. “I’m startin’ to like it.”


“It could be worse. Though I still see myself with a huge butt when you call me that.”


Faith smirked a little. “Big? No. Amazing? Hell yes!”


“You are ass obsessed,” Buffy said, more than a little pleased.


“Can you blame me?”


Buffy smiled a little more. “Nope. As long as you don’t blame me either, because… wow. Those jeans… Those leather pants. Rowr.”


Faith grinned a little. “Yeah…”


Her expression turned solemn. “B? What’s happening to us?”


Buffy rested her forehead against Faith’s cheek. “I don’t know baby, I just don’t know.”

She rested there for a moment before looking up. “But there’s one thing I’m glad of. That you’re here with me.”


“Always B. Always.”


“Come on. We should get back, before the others send out a search party.”


“Man, I could really do with some vamps to beat on right now. It would really help,” Faith grumbled.


“I know,” Buffy said. “Not much chance of anything evil getting near this place baby. We might have to wait till we get home.”


“Well, we could spar a little?” Faith said hopefully.


Buffy smiled. “I’d like that. A lot. Too much I think.”


Faith muttered. “Stupid fucking adventure. Stupid ‘no sex’ rule.”


Buffy stopped and smiled her flirty smile at Faith. “We could break some rules… if you like.”


Faith grinned wider than she had all afternoon. “I do like! And, I totally wanna mess with Red’s head when we get back, but in a different way.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow in question.


+++


“Where are they?” Dawn complained. “They’ve been gone like, forever.”


“Sweetie, they had a lot to talk about. Important things take time.”


The sound of footsteps echoed up the corridor, heralding the arrival of the two women.
Buffy had on her best frowny-face.


“Willow Rosenberg, did you knock up my fiancé?” She asked in a loud and demanding tone.


Willow and Tara were both sitting cross-legged with books in their laps, floating bizarrely about a foot off the stone platform. Willow still had streamers of ethereal lightning flowing slowly across her body, and Tara shone brightly enough to illuminate the room.

That made Willow’s shocked look all the more noticeable.

“What?!” She squeaked. “But-but… I… no!”


Buffy grinned as Faith let her off the hook. “Relax Red. Just messing with you.”


“I can assure you, my fiancé does not go round impregnating random women,” Tara said, with a faint smile.


“Hey, no fair,” Willow said, pouting slightly.

She cheered up when Tara floaty-cuddled her. “Mmm… Tara-cuddles make everything better.”

After she had absorbed the requisite dose of cuddles for normal function, she opened her eyes and looked at the two Slayers. They didn’t look radiantly happy, but they did look… content. They stood side by side smirking at her.

“So, you guys are ok?” she asked.


Faith ran her freshly-washed hand through her hair. “I guess. I mean we’re ok,” she said pointing to Buffy and herself. “But it ain’t every day you discover yourself randomly pregnant. That one’s a kicker right there.”


“And just so we’re clear, no cheating has been going on,” Buffy said, giving her sister a significant look. She taped her head. “I’d know, for starters.”


Dawn flushed and looked away. She took a deep breath and met Faith’s eyes. “Sorry Faith. I was pissy at you for hurting Buffy. I’m glad you didn’t cheat.”


“S’alright Squirt. Glad to see you so protective of big sis.”


Dawn looked across at Alphonse, who at this moment was a study in blissful ignorance, nose buried in a book.

“So, um, how are you pregnant? I mean if it’s not in the usual way.”


Faith sighed and sat down on the stone ledge next to Dawn. “I got no idea. Last dude I got horizontal with was Woody, and that was when Sunnydale was above ground. More or less.”

Buffy silently sat down next to Faith and took her hand.

“There’s more,” Faith said quietly. “When I was a kid, I… I got hurt real bad. I was told I’d never have kids, D.”


“What? How?”


Faith shrunk inside herself, visibly ashamed.


“Oh,” Dawn said, as she put two and two together. “I feel like I’m going to be sick,” she said.

Tentatively she took Faith’s hand. “It sucks that we live in a world where this stuff can happen, huh?”


The three women shared a moment of silence, silence broken eventually by Faith.

“Yeah. Vamps you can stake. But demons like these… they don’t die easy.”

Willow and Tara held hands tightly, their hearts aching for their friends, and silently thankful that this particular horror had not done more than brush their lives.


After a time, the tension was broken by Faith, traditionally uncomfortable with silence.

“So, uh, got any ideas how I got knocked up,” Faith asked, looking at Tara, still glowing like a Christmas-tree angel.


Tara shook her head. “I had a lot of trouble looking into you Faith.”


“Uh, what?”


“Normally, looking for illness or spells influencing energy flows in someone’s aura…” she stopped and searched for a metaphor.

“It’s like looking for pebbles at the bottom of a very clear spring. With you, it’s like looking for pebbles at the bottom of the Niagara Falls.”


“Really?” Buffy asked. “Why?”


“Well, I think I see why so many evil things are drawn to Slayers. I don’t know what a Slayer is, but merciful Goddess Faith! The power inside you is like nothing I have ever seen. It burns like a flame. I’ve only seen one other aura like it, and she’s holding your hand,” Tara said, gesturing to Buffy.


“I have power inside me?” Faith said wonderingly.


Tara nodded. “Slayers are more than just faster or stronger than regular people. So are vampires, and they are a dime a dozen. Mister Giles said it best: there is something magnificent inside a Slayer. And it responds to other Slayers.”


“Cool.”


“I have no idea what it’s for, but the depth of that power is almost unfathomable. There’s vastly more mystical force than is required to give a Slayer their strength and healing. I’ve seen that kind of spell bound into someone. I know what it looks like, and the power required to do it. And you make that look insignificant.”


“Wow. Keep talking like that Blondie, and I’m likely to blush.”


“Well, between that and the general background greenness, it makes spotting subtle things like spells or demonic influence very hard.”


“Green?” Dawn said, picking up on her new favourite word.


Tara smiled. “This was your home for a long time Dawnie. You really put your stamp on it.”


“I did?”


Tara nodded cheerfully. “Astrally speaking, everything is green for miles in every direction. Which is astonishing.”

She smiled cheekily at Dawn. “A less amazing person would maybe leave a faint trace on their favourite necklace or um, stake. But this is everywhere. It’s like the aura of the earth, only so much brighter.”


“The earth has an aura?” Buffy asked, fiddling with her favourite stake, and curious about all the witchy stuff.


Tara nodded. “Sure, like a background glow. It’s sort of greenish. Well, a little bit anyway.”


“Ya wanna have another poke around?” Faith said, gesturing to her belly.


Tara nodded. “I, um, freaked a bit when I saw that you were pregnant. I just sort of stopped there.”


Faith smiled wanly as Buffy squeezed her hand in silent support. “Yeah. It is kind of a show stopper.”

Faith sat down on the stone. “C’mon B. Do your girlfriend bit again.”


Buffy knelt down without complaint, giving Faith a soft place to lay her head.


Dawn’s heart ached just to look at them. They were both so obviously frightened, and both so obviously in love, clinging to each other as the world threw them yet another curve ball. Another pang passed through her as she realized she didn’t have her girlfriends to talk to about all this stuff. She lit up as she imagined the overjoyed smile on Heather’s face when she got home. She felt her insides shiver in a pleasant way as she pictured Heather’s radiant smile.

Something clicked inside her. ‘Oh. Hello lusty wrong thoughts. There you are.’

The realization of so many things washed over her, leaving her giddy at the enormity of it all.


Eventually she registered passing silence and looked up.
Four sets of eyes were looking at her.


“You are the weirdest little sister ever, you know that?” Buffy said with a fond smile.


“What?!” Dawn squeaked.


“There was a small amount, just a quite reasonable amount mind you, of silly giggling,” Willow said with a grin.


“And a goofy grin. Which kinda came out of nowhere,” Buffy added.


“Wassup lil’D? Is my butt showing or something?” Faith asked, patting herself down.


“Er, no. Your butt is fine. Everything is fine, I just thought of something,” she said, the smile still on her face.


“That goofy look is still there. Want to share the joke?” Buffy asked.


Tara cleared her throat. “It might be best if we ask Dawn about it later. There’s a lot to do at the moment.”


“Oops. Sorry Tara,” Buffy said.


Dawn shot Tara a grateful look for the rescue, and received a tiny smile and nod in return.

Tara concentrated on Faith’s aura, closing her eyes and tracing the energy flows. After a few minutes, she shook her head and opened her eyes.

“I’m sorry Faith. Your aura is just too different for me to be able to see anything useful. Anything that isn’t awash with light, is green.”

She gestured around to things only she could see. “Because everything here is green.”


“It’s a’right Glinda. You tried,” Faith said.


“Maybe when we get home I might be able to find something out. When we are somewhere not-green, and I have time to practice on Buffy?”


“Me?” Buffy squeaked. “Why me?”


“Because your aura is very much like Faith’s. But you’re not pregnant or influenced by possible spells. I don’t think so anyway. I can use you as a comparison, and um, learn the anatomy of Slayer auras.”


“Wow. We’re that different?”


Tara nodded and smiled just a little. “As different as grass and oak trees.”


Faith looked up at Buffy and smiled. “Behold the mighty oak.”


Buffy smiled down at Faith softly. “No one’s ever called me a tree before. That’s so sweet.”


Faith chuckled a little. “Or said ‘behold’ I’ll bet.”


“Willow might have, ages ago.”


Faith got to her feet and pulled Buffy up. “Right, so. I’m pregnant. Probably magically, possibly miraculously, and definitely against common sense. So I’m gonna say, let’s get what we came for and go home, ‘cos I for one wanna know what the hell is going on.”


“Um, I wonder if it’s to do with the big brewing evil?” Willow asked.


“How?” Buffy asked.


“Seems a bit fucking random,” Faith objected. “I mean if they can pull strings and knock me up, why not pull a different string and make me dead or some shit?”


“Good point,” Willow said with a frown. “Ok, never mind that idea, I’ll come up with a new idea.”


“Well there’s all these dusty books and mouldy scrolls and things,” Buffy said. “Maybe there’s some answers in there?”


Willow’s eyes vanished into her hair. “Buffy Summers! Did you just actually suggest research?”


Buffy cringed. “Don’t tell Giles! He’ll start to expect it or something.”


Faith chuckled. “Knowing the G-man, I figure he just now felt a disturbance in the force.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Great. Just when I was being all fun-Buffy. I was enjoying being all avoid-y of responsibility.”


“You can be fun-responsible-Buffy, um, Buffy,” Willow said.


“But fun and responsibility are like, opposite-y things,” Buffy complained. “Like salt and sugar.”


“So fun is a white crystal-y stuff you use to enhance the flavour of food, but responsibility is a… white crystal-y stuff you use to enhance the flavour of food?” Willow said uncertainly.


Buffy poked Willow with a finger. “Hello? I was trying to make an amusing point here. I would like to be all ironic or metaphor-y without someone taking a bazooka to my balloon of happiness.”


Willow giggled as Buffy poked her. “Sorry Buff, eek!”


“If you could stop poking my fiancé for a moment,” Tara said, getting to her feet.

She flushed and looked awkward as she realized what she had said.


Buffy grinned. “I always knew Willow would rub off on you some day.”


“Not surprized,” Faith said. “Given how much rubbing-off we hear through the walls.”


“Faith!” Buffy protested.


Willow froze, blushed, and finally burst out laughing.

Faith joined in with her own throaty laughter, and soon all four women were giggling and laughing uproariously, breaking the stress and tension of the last few days.


Dawn sighed. “Dorks.”

But despite her complaints, she could not keep the smile off her face.


After the laughter had died down to pink faces and slight giggling, Tara managed to speak. “Hey sweetie. Did you find anything useful?”


“You have no idea. I haven’t found much about the key, other than it was revered and powerful. Somehow. No explanation of what that power is, but I’ve only been looking for a little while.”


Tara placed a gentle hand on Dawn’s arm. “What else did you find sweetie?” she said at the worried expression on Dawn’s face.


Dawn sighed. “World war three. Really.”

She pointed of her shoulder with her thumb. “Alphonse is over there having a crisis of faith right now.”


“Um, what?” Willow asked, slightly breathless as she wiped the tears from her cheeks.


Dawn sighed. “This place has been around for many thousands of years. Old enough that the scrolls written in ancient greek are some of newer ones.”


“How do we get from dusty scrolls to word war three?” Buffy asked, clearly worried about another looming apocalypse.


“Because it looks as though, back in the day, someone decided to found themselves a nice monotheistic religion. About, oh two thousand years back. Sound familiar?”


Faith looked stunned. “Jesus, why?” she said, unintentionally punning.


Dawn quirked a tiny smile. “Yep, that’s the one. Control I think. It was just something I tripped over when I was skimming. Alphonse is reading some now.”

Dawn sat down tiredly. “If I had to guess, I’d say they didn’t want to co-opt a faith that had an actual god, because that god might get grouchy about being manipulated. So they made one up.”


“Jesus, fuck,” Faith said.


“Are you ok?” Buffy asked softly, clearly looking a bit worried. “I didn’t think you were big into religion.”


Faith shook her head. When she spoke, her voice was roughened, her accent more noticeable.

“I ain’t. Life I’ve had, kinda hard ta, ya’know?”

Buffy nodded.

“B, I’m Irish. Grew up in south Boston. Whether ya believe in it or not, that shit is fuckin’ pervasive. Priest, cops, teachers. Hell, even the mob are all fuckin’ catholic. That shit’s like, high-test grade-A religion.”

Buffy nodded again, keeping quiet, but encouraging Faith to speak.

“Discoverin’ that it ain’t just fake, but like deliberately made up? Kinda feels like parta me ain’t real. Even if it is a shitty part.”


Dawn put her hands atop Faith’s. “I can relate.”


Faith smiled wanly. “I believe ya.”


Dawn smiled radiantly. “And hey, it’s not every day that I get to be the ‘been there, done that’ girl. So, yay me.”


“And the hits just keep on comin’,” Faith said with a smirk.


“It kinda has been a month of crazy,” Willow said. “Probably more than a month, but you know what I mean.”


Dawn smiled a little. “At least there’s no apocalypse for a change. I mean, plenty sucky, but the world isn’t ending, which is nice.”


“I think I prefer a nice tidy apocalypse,” Willow said. “I think I prefer it when the bad guys are, y’know, the bad guys. And they’re out to end the World-world, not just our personal world.”

She clutched Tara’s hand almost frantically, and entirely subconsciously. Tara didn’t seem to mind at all.


“Well, they’re comin’ after me. Here’s hoping the damage is done and they leave you two alone.”


Willow and Tara shared a look.

“That’s not how family works, Faith,” Tara said.


“Yeah,” Willow added. “You’re a Scooby now. That means they gotta deal with all of us. And Andrew.”


“He’s like, the weird cousin that no-one’s sure about,” Buffy added.


“So the bad guys aren’t coming after Faith, they’re coming after US,” Willow said.


“Which means they’re in deep poop,” Tara said.

That got a funny look.

“Too spicy?”


“Too Red,” Faith said, grinning.


“So it is true, you do start to get like your other half,” Buffy said.


“Cool. Wonder what I’m gonna get offa you,” Faith said.


Buffy reached up and fiddled with Faith’s single blonde lock. “Well, you’ve already made a start on the blonde. Maybe you’ll get super clever quipping abilities.”


“Thought you gave up on that?”


“Nope. Stuff just got too serious for it. Now things are a bit more fun. So expect many clever quips and puns.”


“Neat!” Willow added. “And now that we’ve cleverly avoided thinking about world war three, let’s do some of that reading we all like so much, and figure out what we’re actually dealing with.”


“Uh, not that I want to be all negative gal,” Buffy said. “But I can barely handle English. I’m not sure how much help I’m going to be if it’s all in Greek or Latin.”


“Tara to the rescue, remember?” Willow said cheerily.


“Oh yeah,” Buffy said. “I kinda lost track amongst all the craziness.”


“Remember everyone, don’t think too hard about how you can read the words you don’t know,” Tara said. “Just relax and read them. Otherwise you’ll get a headache.”


“Like the other translate-y spell?” Buffy asked.


Tara nodded. “Yep, just like that. This one’s a little deeper, so it can read the intent behind the words written down. But basically the same.”


“Ok, let’s get with the research,” Willow said.


+++


Hours later Tara, Willow and Alphonse were still reading.


The slayers had gotten restless, and in a fit of activity had carried comfy chairs and couches into the tree room.


Tara had taken a small break to organize a big pot of stew, which Buffy was currently stirring.


Faith was ensuring that dinner was not burned. She achieved this by the simple expedient of flicking wood chips or tiny bits of gravel at Buffy whenever she stopped stirring.

Currently she was becoming slightly exasperated, as Buffy tended to get distracted by everything.

Buffy was alternately frowning or poking her tongue at Faith, who in turn was grinning or frowning.


Dawn was dozing, a huge tome open in her lap, as she snoozed against the tree.


Tara took a break from her reading to look up at Dawn. She smiled fondly as she saw the faint smile on the sleeping girl’s face.
She was finally getting her answers. And a good deal of drama to go with it, but the answers were coming.

Although it was only the middle of the day, the emotional strain of the day had been immense, and it had taken its toll on the girls.
Tara was feeling kind of sleepy herself and could use a bit of a nap, though the lure of the knowledge hidden in the books was strong.


She glanced over with a fond smile at Willow, currently devouring the information with astonishing speed.
Willow had found a little wrinkle in the comprehension spell Tara had cast.

The spell revealed the meaning behind the words to a degree, which meant she didn’t have to think so hard to understand. All of which meant that her already prodigious reading rate was currently even higher.
Tara smiled. Nothing made Willow happier than learning new things.


‘Except snuggles,’ Willow thought, projecting a smile.


Tara blinked in surprise. ‘Sorry sweetie, I didn’t realise you could hear me over the reading.’


Willow projected the image of a cartoon version of herself doing the snoopy dance. ‘Yay me! I can multitask.’


Tara concentrated and heard the buzz of words being absorbed in the background of Willow’s mind.

‘Wow, sweetie, you’re getting really good at this.’


‘Head-stuff is my middle name, Tara. Only not really, because that would be a weird middle name, but hey you got it.’


‘Have you found anything, baby?’


‘Yup. Jeepers there’s a lot of stuff here. Secrets piled on secrets. When we get this back to Giles, he’s going to be one happy librarian.’


‘Anything about Dawnie?’


‘Ugh. That’s the trouble, all of this is about Dawnie on some level. I’ve sort of been working my way back from the most recent stuff. Oh! I found the spell they used to turn Dawn into a girl. It’s that big book with a star on the front, if you want to take a look.’



Tara grabbed the book and flipped it open to the bookmark.
She studied the spell symbols carefully. There was a lot to take in, but most of it she recognized, this being her speciality.


‘Willow, have you had a look at this?’


Willow shook her head. ‘Not really. Just glanced at it long enough to make out that it was the one they were referring to, and moved on. Why?’


‘Baby, it’s not a transformation spell, it’s a communication spell.’


‘Uh, are you sure? Because they were making very definite reference to that spell in that book if ‘The Beast’ ever tried to take the key.’


Tara nodded. ‘I’ve seen spell glyphs like this before. It’s similar to a spiritual communication spell. The kind of thing you use to talk to spirits. But Willow, look at this.’

Tara traced her finger along the inner and outer part of the complex spell pattern.

Willow stopped her reading and paid the spell full attention.


‘That looks a little like the pattern you find on the outside of a sacred circle. Y’know, when you want to channel the divine?’


Tara nodded thoughtfully. ‘It is. They’re like, um, fuses or spillways. They stop the power of the divine flowing back and zapping the caster.’


‘But they’re everywhere!’ Willow sent, shocked.


‘Willow. If I were to try and contact The Goddess directly, the spell would look a lot like this.’


Willow blinked, wide eyed as she processed this new information. ‘Tara, this is starting to make a terrifying amount of sense.’


Tara took Willow’s hand. ‘Tell me baby. Share your thoughts.’


‘Um, I was talking with Giles about this a little while ago. He’d looked into the spell that made Dawn, and he said it couldn’t be done. He also said that if it somehow could be done, everyone in the world would know.’


Tara frowned. [i]‘Then how?’



‘He said that someone had simply re-written the world. And that now the world had always had Dawn in it. They didn’t change Dawn. They changed reality.’


Tara was stunned.

‘B-but baby, even the gods don’t have that kind of power.’


Willow nodded.
‘Giles thought that somewhere out there was someone that could do this, and he was kinda worried. But I’m thinking, if this spell,’ she said, tapping the mighty tome, ‘If this spell is a communication spell, a spiritual one? I’m thinking the monks used it to talk to the key, and tell it what they needed to be done.’


Tara’s brow furrowed with effort as she tried to wrap her mind around the enormous ideas Willow was describing.
‘But why sweetie? Why turn a Key into a girl? Why not use the Key to get rid of Glory, if it’s that powerful?’


Willow pondered the idea for a moment. She could feel the shape of something in her mind.
Something Buffy had said, long ago.
Something about the council…

And then she had it.
It was awe inspiring.

‘Because tools have no say in how they are used. But people do.’


Tara felt the idea unlock, felt it fit into her mind, almost with a rush.
‘And the Key would never again allow itself, allow herself, to be used by someone like Glory ever again.’


‘Wow,’ Willow sent. ‘Now that’s a game changer.’


The pair sat in silence, sharing the moment and pondering the enormity of what they speculated.


‘Jeepers. How do we tell Dawnie?’


Tara spoke softly. “With love.”


“Huh? What?” Buffy said, looking up from her stirring.


“All I caught was love,” Faith said. “Wassup girls? Feelin’ the need?”


Tara grinned. “Always.”


Faith looked a little surprised at Tara’s boldness. “Okay. Wasn’t expecting that,” she said.


Willow jumped in nervously. “We’ve found something, something important, something about Dawn.”


Dawn awoke at the sound of her name. “Huh? What?”

Faith chuckled and nudged Buffy with her elbow.


Willow tipped the huge book forward so that the others could see the complex spell diagram.
“We found the spell.”


“What spell?” Dawn asked, her eye boring holes into the complex pattern.


“The one that turned the Key into a person,” Willow said.


“Seems like a big ask for a giant spirograph pattern in a book,” Faith said.


Tara nodded. “Oh, yes. It is.”


“Um, what?” Dawn said hesitantly.


“Ok, confession time,” Willow said. “Giles has been doing some research on the Key.”


“Since when?” Buffy asked, a little annoyed.


“Since Glory, Buff. He wanted to make sure no-one else was coming for her.”


“Yay Giles,” Dawn said. “And?”


“He didn’t find much. The Key has nothing to do with Glory directly, she just wanted to make use of it. And almost no-one in the world knew anything about the key. The Knights of Byzantium guarded it, but they didn’t know anything much about it. And they like to guard all sorts of things they consider powerful or dangerous.”


“Well, that sounds like good news,” Dawn said warily.


“Um, yeah,” Willow said nervously. “When he couldn’t find anything much on the key, he looked into the spells used to transform things.”


“Okaaay,”Dawn said slowly.


“No spell can create a soul,” Tara said softly, in realization.


Dawn looked puzzled. “What about that spell you have?”


Tara shook her head. “That just facilitates the natural process. It just gets you past the bump of not having a man, um, contributing. The rest is natural.”


“Again I say: Rosenberg, did you knock up my Fiancé?” Buffy said.


“No Buffy,” Tara said. “That spell is quite involved and requires intense commitment. You could not do it by accident.”


“Ok, if we could move on from me not knocking up Faith, to Dawn,” Willow said.


“You’re not knocking me up either,” Dawn replied levelly, though with humour glittering in her eyes.


Willow huffed in frustration, and Tara giggled.


Dawn looked only slightly apologetic. “Sorry, but it was sort of funny.”


“Anyway,” Willow said loudly. “Giles said there were no spells, or even a bunch of spells, that could make a thing into a real person. As far as he could discover, someone simply rewrote the world. And the new version of the world had a Dawn in it.”


“Wow. I know I’m new to the whole magic thing, but that sounds… impressive,” Dawn said.


Willow nodded. “Oh yeah. I doubt even the gods could do something like that. Maybe if a few of them were working together, but to rewrite the world like that? Major mojo.”


“But I thought you said that was the spell?” Dawn said, pointing to the book.


“Uh, yeah. I thought that too,” Buffy said. “I’m feeling just a little bit blonde here.”


Willow shuffled the book nervously and replied to Dawn. “It is.”


“I thought you said it would take a bunch of gods, Red?” Faith put in. “If it was that big of a deal, what’s with this spell and a buncha scruffy monks?”


“We don’t know for certain,” Tara said. “But this spell is a communication spell. It’s a lot like the spells used to summon or petition deities.”


“And for the non-witches in the room?” Buffy asked.


“We think… maybe, that the monks used this spell to communicate with the Key. And then they asked it to change into Dawn,” Tara said slowly.



They pondered this development in silence.

“So the Key… is more powerful than the gods?” Faith asked.


“In some ways… yes,” Tara said.


“So I have the power to rewrite the world?” Dawn asked.


“I don’t know?” Willow said hesitantly.

Dawn closed her eyes, her face taking on a look of fierce concentration. She held out her hand and willed an apple to appear.
Nothing happened.

She sighed.
“Not looking very super powered,” she said.


“Well, even if you lack super powers, it does mean that you are real,” Tara said.


“Yeah. No spell to make your life exist,” Willow said. “The world was changed to make you real. Probably by you.”


“Great. Give her a big ego, why don’t you?” Buffy said, a trace of a smile tugging her lips.


“I think she’ll do fine Buffy. She’s an amazing young woman. And she’s going to be an amazing witch one day,” Tara said.


Willow quirked a wry smile. “And I’ll remind you, she has yet to blow her own pants off casting a spell. That’s a sign of greatness right there.”


Dawn giggled. “I dunno, all the really great witches blow their pants off at some stage.”

She turned to Tara. “Did you ever?”


Tara chuckled. “Not quite. I managed to dissolve my favourite shoes once. And I may have vanished a very annoying cat.”

She smiled at the thought. “But I have never exploded my pants. At least not yet.”


Dawn laughed softly. “There’s plenty of time to explode your pants.”


Faith gave them a weird look. “Seriously, you guys have to be related. That much weirdness has to be genetic,” she said.

The four women glanced and one another and in sync, made goofy, crosseyed faces at Faith.

“See? There’s my point right there.”


The faces got worse, Dawn pushing her nose up like a pig snout and making oinking noises until Faith snorted with laughter.
Faith then scrunched up her face and pulled out her ears. “Looks like the crazy is catching!”


"It's fine, cupcake. Snookums. You’re one of the family now." Buffy looked over at Faith with an evil grin on her face. "Pookie."


“Oh you take that back!”

Buffy grinned and shook her head, blonde ponytail waggling. “Nope!”

Faith just stared at her for a moment, and then made dive for her across the couch. Buffy squealed and bolted up, only to have Faith hook her fingers into her belt and yank her back onto the couch.

Anyone would not have thought there were many spots vulnerable to tickling through Kevlar plate, but everyone was surprised when Buffy began to squeal and protest as Faith’s nimble fingers found every weak spot, and tickled her.


Alphonse looked across, goggle-eyed at the display. “Are they always like this?” he called over the giggling and kicking.


Dawn just shrugged. “Who knows.”


When the noise had died down to chuckling and occasional squirming, Dawn continued. Though in a lighter tone than before.

“So I have unheralded-”


Faith cut her off. “Are we cool discussing all this in front of him?” she said quietly, pointing to Alphonse.


They looked. The young would-be monk had his nose buried in a book.


“He’s like a mini-Giles,” Dawn said thoughtfully.


“You thinking of recruiting him?” Faith asked.


Dawn nodded minimally. “Maybe. Lemme ask him.”



She got up and wandered over, sitting down quietly on a chair near him.
“Hey Alphonse.”


He looked up. “Hello, um, Lady Summers.”


Dawn blinked in surprise. “Um, what?”


Alphonse smiled nervously. “Well, ah, I never expected to find myself in the presence of the Key. Much less having a conversation with her. It seemed only polite.”


Dawn clearly didn’t know what to say. She looked across at the rest of her family, who were alternately trying to be encouraging and trying to not look like they were paying attention. It was hopeless.

“Uh, that sounds a little, I dunno, duchess-y. How about Dawn?”


Alphonse made a little bow in his seat. “As you wish my lady.”

Dawn snorted a most unladylike snort and giggled.


+++


“I think Dawnie has found a new friend,” Buffy said.


“He is quite the cute kid,” Faith added.


“Oh?” Buffy looked at the two talking. “Do you think-”


“No,” Tara said softly. “Dawn already has her eye on someone. I think.”


“Really? Who?” Buffy said, clearly intrigued.


Tara shook her head. “That’s not my story to tell. I’m sure she’ll tell you when she’s ready.”

Buffy frowned.

“Don’t pry Buffy. Imagine how embarrassed she would be if you start asking her about it.”


“This is going to bug me now. I can’t think when she has time to meet cute boys. Oh! Is it that Michael kid? Y’know Willow’s new goth-wicca boy?”


“I thought he was gay?” Willow said.


Faith shook her head. “Nah. Caught him checking out my ass before. Just because he likes purple eyeshadow, don’t mean he’s gay.”


“Aha!” Buffy said triumphantly.


“Buffy, please,” Tara said. “Just leave it. She’ll tell you when she’s ready.”


“But it’s like, in the big sister’s handbook. I have to embarrass her in front of cute boys. It’s a thing, really.”


“Do that after she tells you then. I just think it would be really mean to hassle her about her first real relationship.”


Buffy was silent for a moment.
“Wow. When you put it like that, it does sound kinda mean.”


“I think some gentle teasing would be ok. Once Dawn’s introduced them, that is.”


Buffy smirked a little. “Something to look forward to.”


At that moment, Dawn wandered back to the group.
“Hey. So I floated the idea to Alphonse, and he’s all for coming home with us. He said it would be the responsible thing to do.”


“Does he know how dangerous this life can be?” Tara asked softly.


Dawn sank down on the couch next to Buffy. “Yeah. I told him all about vampires and apocalypses. He pointed out that he lived up a mountain in central Europe, and still managed nearly to get shot by mercenaries and knights. He’s not super worried.”


Faith mimed polishing invisible glasses. “Cool. One more spot on the Watcher squad.”


“Has he found anything yet?” Buffy asked.


“Uh, not really. He’s sorta focussed on the whole ‘church is fake’ thing,” Dawn replied.


“Oh yeah,” Faith said. “Boy monk learns that his monk-ing is all bogus? That’ll take a while to process.”


“How’re you doing with it Faith?” Dawn asked.


Faith shrugged. “My world has been turned upside down so much over the last few months, I don’t know which way is up. I’ve just decided ‘fuck it’ and I’m gonna go with the flow.”


She stretched, her spine popping in a satisfying way. “Besides, not all the crazy is bad.”

She put her arm around Buffy and kissed her temple. Buffy smiled goofily.

“Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m kinda pooped.”


“Don’t be too surprised Faith,” Tara said. “Today has been very stressful. Both emotionally and physically. And we’re jet-lagged. My sleepy spell will have helped, but it’s not perfect. No spell is.”


“I definitely wanna crash for a bit,” Faith said. “We gonna stand watches and shit?”


Tara nodded. “I think that would be a good idea. Vampires and the like are not likely to be able to get in here, but I could be wrong.”


“Yeah,” Faith said. “And those Knight boneheads might come back for round two.”


“I really don’t think they’ll be back,” Buffy said. “Not after what you said to them.”


Faith shrugged. “Probably not. But I ain’t betting anyone’s life on ‘probably.’”


“So who’s on which watch?” Buffy asked.


Tara smiled at Willow. “I’m pretty tired, but I think I can stay awake for the first watch.”


“Oh no you don’t,” Dawn said. “If you stay on watch with Willow, you’ll be busy smooching, and not being on watch.”


“Er, um, ah, and other vowel sounds,” Willow said.


“Uh-huh,” Dawn said.


Tara chuckled. “I can’t fault your logic,” she said with a faux frown. “Even though it means no sneaky smooching.”

Dawn glared, but there was no heat in it.

“No fair. If Buffy and Faith can’t sneak off to have sneaky cuddles, and I really can’t, then you can’t either.”


Faith coughed a little, attracting an elbow from Buffy.

Dawn turned to the slightly sheepish Slayer pair. “Seriously? Are you guys like, sex crazed or something?”


“Well, that explains the smell of hand cleaner,” Willow muttered.


“Oh man, that’s so mean!” Dawn protested, still fixing her sister with a gimlet stare.


“I don’t begrudge them a little intimacy,” Tara said. “Though with that in mind, when we get home Willow and I will be busy for the rest of the day.”


“There will definitely be a sock on the door,” Willow added.



The chamber was almost silent, though the high winds could faintly be heard, even here below ground.



“I hear that, and I’m glad I’m indoors,” Faith said, pointing up towards where the dim light filtered into the chamber.

When they had entered the chamber, it had been relatively well lit. Now, thanks to the storm, it was quite dim and murky. It definitely gave a night-time feel to the room.


“How about I stay up with ya?” Faith said to Tara.


Tara nodded. “That would be nice.”


“Sweet. Lemme go and get some beds and junk, then we can crash in here.”


Faith waved at Buffy, who got up to help.
“Are you sure you should be lifting beds in your condition?” Buffy said. She was trying to tease lightly, but there was a distinctly serious undertone to what she was saying.


Faith paused with a sad half-smile. “Thanks for tryin’ B.”


Buffy slumped a little. “It’s so hard when it’s so… big. I know you’ll be ok with a couch or whatever, I was just trying to be…”
She sniffled. “Fun Buffy.”


Faith put her arm around Buffy’s slim shoulders. “S’ok babe. We’ll get through this, ok?”


Buffy nodded and sniffled a little more. “Yeah, I know. I just wanted to build up some girlfriend points before you get all cranky and stuff.”


Faith chuckled and tugged Buffy’s pony tail affectionately. “That’s a lot better, B. we’ll soon have you snarking at the apocalypse.”


Buffy smiled a little more brightly and touched Faith softly on the arm. “There’s so much I love about you Faith. But one of the best things is…” She smiled, a soft smile that only Faith ever got to see. “That I don’t have to be strong all the time. Not when I’m with you.”


Faith smiled a similarly soft smile. “I know B. Right now I’m like lil’ D. If I fall apart, I’m not gonna get back together for a while. So I’m holdin’ on till we get home. Then I’m gonna fly apart so fast, people are gonna get hit by the shrapnel.”


Buffy still had her soft smile. “I’ll be there for you baby.”


“I know. Never doubted it. First place I wanna go to, rain or shine, is our tree.”


Buffy hugged her close. “Deal.”


Faith squeezed her just as tight, and then let he go. “C’mon, them couches and shit ain’t gonna lift themselves.”


And with that, they left to hunt up couches and beds.


+++


A short while later, a half dozen couches had been dragged in from various parts of the monastery, and Alphonse had procured a huge mound of clean and only slightly fusty wool blankets.

Two of the pairs of couches had been pushed together to form an odd sort of walled bed, the other two laid out facing them.


“All we need is a campfire,” Buffy said.


“Considering where we are, that might not be the best idea,” Tara said. “But it should be warm under the blankets, and I can organize some other light, if you like?”


Buffy smiled. “Is it going to be a little Willow with wings?”


Tara looked surprized. “Um, no. We left those two at home. Just regular magic light I’m afraid.”

Tara plonked a brick in the middle of the floor, and concentrated. After a few moments it began to glow brightly orange-yellow.

“There. One perfectly safe, indoor campfire.”


Willow concentrated, and the light started to shimmer and wobble. She smiled brightly, “And now it’s extra flamey.”

Willow found herself surrounded by knowing smiles, and one clueless look.

“Why do I get the feeling I’m not in on the joke?” Willow said.


“Because you wrote the joke,” Faith said. “And we both thank you. Along with about 2 million other vag-badgers.”


“Um, what?” Willow said worriedly.


Buffy elbowed Faith. “What Faith is trying to say, so very badly, is that we read your pamphlets, and they were amazingly… informative.” Buffy said, blushing furiously.


“Fuckin’ A,” Faith added.


“Oh! Oh my! All that embarrassment, heaped upon my tiny shoulders,” Willow said worriedly, and rapidly turning red.


“Sweetie, you made them to be read by people,” Tara said.


Willow squirmed. “Well, yes. But not by, y’know by my friends and family! Now everyone knows my naughty stuff!”


“So Red, that spanking thing…” Faith said with a knowing smile.


Willow squeaked, squirming until Tara stepped in. “Faith, don’t be mean.”


Faith sighed. “Sorry Red. Just wanted ya to know, that was some good work, y’know?”


Still blushing furiously, Willow nodded jerkily.

Dawn just looked thoughtful.


“And don’t feel bad about the spanking thing,” Faith said. “I totally get it, ok?”


“Discipline is good,” Buffy said, swatting Faith on the butt.


“Butch,” Faith retorted, drawing a small smile from Willow.


Buffy ignored her. “Seriously Will, you’re like, a lesbian sex-goddess. Faith owes you so much.”


“Aww, dunno about that, B. You’re a quick study.”


“And so do I,” Buffy continued. “The pamphlets that you wrote were incredible. So informative.” She smiled shyly “So sexy. I would have been really freaked out otherwise.”


“But Jesus Red, Discovering Our Secret Garden? Wow. That is just the most romantic thing I have ever read. And damn sexy too. You should totally get like, the Golden Tongue award for that book. Or some solid gold ‘fuck that’s hot’ award or something.”


Tara noticed the small sigh that Dawn let out. ‘That’ talk couldn’t be too far away.

Seeing Willow’s fading blush come back at full-force, Buffy took pity on her. Closing with her friend, she took her by the hands. “Will, don’t feel embarrassed. You are an amazing writer, and an amazing woman. I have so much to learn.”


“Um, thanks?” Willow finally said.


She finally looked at Faith. “I honestly wouldn’t have thought you were one for romances,” she said.


Now it was Faith’s turn to look uncomfortable. “Well, you know how it is. Trapped in a box with a bunch of gross bitches, you look for any escape you can. You’d think there’d be more dyke stuff in a women’s prison, but I guess they didn’t wanna encourage us, y’know?”


“Also no books on escaping prison?” Willow asked with a little smile.


“Yeah. ‘Great prison escapes’ was defo not on the approved reading list. But y’know, picnics, moonlit walks, flowers, presents, foot rubs. Alla that shit I had to learn. But do you know the best one?”

Willow shook her head cautiously, almost worried what Faith was going to say next.

“Showing the woman you love, how much you love her. In little ways, every day.”


Buffy looked all shy and melty at this. Willow thought it was possibly the cutest thing she had ever seen.



Alphonse had politely separated himself from the group, but he did clear his throat. “Perhaps it would be wise to turn in?” he said.


Willow yawned and nodded. She started to fumble at the straps and buckles of her armour, until Tara drifted over to help.

“Hey baby. Getting to sleep like this is going to be interesting.”


Tara chuckled. “Oh yes. But if you do manage to sleep, you’ll feel amazing when you wake up.”


“Really? Did this happen to you?”


Tara nodded. “Once, when I was training. Catherine tied a ribbon to my foot to stop me drifting around.”


Willow smiled sleepily. “What else?”


Tara though for a moment. “Um, spell back-fire wise?”

Willow nodded.

“Well, I got nosebleeds. I once went blind for three days, and once lost my connection to magic for a week. That wasn’t much fun.”


Willow made a sad face, though it turned to one of relief when the last of the armour plates fell away.

“There were some fun ones though. I didn’t just turn my hair white, I once turned it bright yellow. Not blonde, but bright goldenrod yellow.”


Willow chuckled sleepily. “What else,” she said, as Tara took off her boots and steered her towards the walled couch-beds.


“Um, I got stuck with my wings out for three days. That wasn’t too bad, but it made sleeping hard. I got an afro once. That was very odd. I really, really don’t suit afros. Something about magic seems to affect hair a lot. Oh, and I ended up smelling of maple syrup for a week. Takarn and Catherine both complained that being near me made them hungry.”


“I’m really having trouble picturing you with a ‘fro,” Faith said.


Tara chuckled ruefully. “My hair was still white. Picture a French poodle.”

Buffy giggled.

“Man, that’s just weird.”


“I just couldn’t do anything with it,” Tara said. “In the end, Catherine put some clips in it to hold it down, until it went back to normal.”


“Mmm… waffles,” Willow said dreamily. “I’d like that, except then I’d be wanting to eat you all the time.”


Silence followed. Metaphorical crickets chirped.


“And now we will pretend that I never said that,” she added, looking rather embarrassed.


“Smooth, Rosenberg,” Buffy said.


Willow groaned. “Someone put me to bed, please?”


Buffy patted the couch-bed next to her. “C’mon Will, we haven’t had a sleepover in like, forever. It’ll be just like old times.”


Willow nodded sleepily and floated over. “Except for the part where I’m all floaty and sparky.”


“Behold the fun that is our lives. Anyone else would be freaked out, but for us, it’s just another day in paradise,” Buffy said.

Willow lay down in the bed. Though she was still floating, she was only floating a few inches above the surface.
Buffy did her Willow-sleepover ritual of wrapping Willow in her own blanket before putting her arm around her and cuddling up.


Faith raised an eyebrow and glanced at Tara. “Willow really feels the cold. And hogs the blankets,” Tara explained.

She leaned in and softly kissed Willow goodnight. “Mmm… Tara kisses,” Willow said sleepily.


Faith kissed Buffy on the cheek. “See ya in a bit, B.”

Buffy smiled sleepily and mirrored Willow’s response. “Mmm… Faith kisses.”


Faith smiled fondly and looked up to see Tara smiling softly in approval.


“You’re very sweet.”


“Oh you can shut up now,” Faith said, glaring.

Tara’s smile widened.



Tara moved one of the chairs over to one side, giving them a little distance from the group. She sat down carefully to avoid clanking. Faith carried a chair and a footrest over and joined her.
They sat in comfortable silence for a minute or two.


“Hell of a day,” Faith said.


“Oh yeah,” Tara said. She looked up at Faith. “How are you doing with all of this?”


Faith just shrugged. “Pretty freaked, but I’ll live. So much going on, it’s all kinda blurred together into one lump of crazy. And I’m just hangin’ on, waitin’ for it all to slow down a bit, y’know?”


“I know,” Tara replied. She looked across at Dawn, still sitting cross-legged beneath the tree, intently reading.
She thought that Dawn looked just the tiniest bit furtive.


Her attention paid off, when she saw Dawn turn the page on a brightly coloured pamphlet, hidden in the book.

She read it with rapt fascination.

“There’s definitely a lot happening…” Tara trailed off.


Faith glanced at her. “You look like ya wanna ask a question. Go ahead, I won’t bite. Much.”


“The baby. Um. Are you…”


“Keeping it?”

Tara nodded.

“Yeah. Got no idea how come I’m up the duff, but yeah. I don’t think she’s a demon baby, so yeah.”


Tara reached out and squeezed her hand. “I don’t know much, but I really don’t think it’s a demon.”

She frowned. “You said ‘she.’”


Faith smiled shyly. “Yeah. She’s a girl.”


Tara’s eyebrows raised. “You know that?”


The shy smile was back. “Yeah. Dunno how, but yeah. Buffy used her Slayer mojo and said she couldn’t sense any demon vibes. About the time I joined in, and just knew she was a girl.”


“You can do that?”


Faith grunted. “Yeah. You get better at it over time, but it’s not the same way for everyone. Like, I can really tell where they are. On a good day I can shoot them with my eyes closed. B’s slaydar is crap for that. She knows they’re around, but has no idea where. That’s why she normally just bops around and waits for them to try and eat her.”

Faith rummaged in her pack and pulled out a big bag of mixed nuts and chocolate.

“On the other hand, she can tell you what sort of demons are around, and on a good day, she can tell if she’s run into them before. Like, individual dudes.”

She held out the bag to Tara. Tara’s face lit up and she took a handful to munch on.

“So after I couldn’t detect any demon vibes from the little tadpole, B had a go. She flat out said it ain’t a demon.”


“Well that’s good news.”


“Sure. Woulda been a hell of a lot more convenient if it was some kinda demon though.”

Tara raised an eyebrow in question.

“Just get you and Red to fix it, and then find out who did it to me, and kill them. A lot. Simple, see?”

Tara nodded silently, or as silently as she could manage, given that she was munching on nuts and chocolate.

“But now I’m gonna be a mom. Buffy too. Somehow.”


“We’ll figure it out, I promise.”


“Thanks Tara. I mean it.”


“That’s ok Faith.”


“Nah Blondie, you don’t get it. Seriously, I know you’ve been told, but you’ve got no idea. Everything’s changed so much since you got here. In a good way.”

Tara opened her mouth to protest but Faith held up a hand to cut her off.


“Red was running around frantically trying not to notice she was slowly fading away. Xander was slowly dying inside because he could see it and didn’t know what to do to fix it, no matter how he tried. An’ he wasn’t in the best place after Anya died. Buffy was getting harder and colder every day. And Giles was trying real hard to pretend that he wasn’t seeing it happen, and that it wasn’t killing him.”

“And me,” Faith said hollowly. “I always had a thing for B. Always had kind of a connection. And fuck if I couldn’t see it. General Buffy. Fuck I hated that bitch.”

“I kind of hated her for taking over the real Buffy, and leaving behind this morose fucking bitch. Just ‘The Slayer’ and nothing more. And fucked if I knew how to fix it. I tried. Goddamn I tried. But every time, Buffy just got colder, and punched me some more.”

She looked up and met her soft blue eyes. “Just by being here, you gave us hope. Just by showing up, you let us all know it wasn’t all darkness and pain. That sometimes, just sometimes, really good shit happened.”


Tara smiled sadly. “That’s a lot to live up to.”


Faith picked at a bit of lint on the couch next to her leg.
“Nah. Just be yourself. That’s pretty good start.”


The pair sat in silence for a while, staring at the flickering patterns the ‘fire’ brick lit on the wall. It didn’t quite look like fire, though it was close.


“Oh fuck. I’m gonna be a mom. Fuck me.”

Tara squeezed her hand, comfortingly.

“Jesus. What if I fuck this kid up? What am I gonna do Tara?”


Tara sat in silence for a moment before speaking.

“My mother loved me. She loved me so much. She’d have given her life for mine, without a second thought. When daddy was mean, or Donny hit me… even if I couldn’t tell my mom, I knew I was loved. Absolutely.”

She squeezed Faith’s hand tight. “That made everything else bearable.”

“Faith? Are you going to love your little girl?”


Faith nodded slowly. “Yeah. With everything I am.”


Tara smiled softly. “Then I’d say you’re halfway there already.”


“Yeah, but how many beat up kids had moms who started out good? Just the same as that? But it just got too much for them?”


Tara shook her head. “I’m not worried. Not at all. Not with you. Not someone who’s been through what you have. You’d sooner die than inflict that on any child.”


Faith looked a little heartened, though she frowned. “How can you be so sure?”


Tara held up their clasped hands. “Because you are not alone Faith. You have Buffy. And me. And Willow. And Xander. And Giles.”
“We’ll all help, as much as we can.”


“You know, that actually helps.”


“Well, just so you know we will be expecting some help in return,” Tara said with a cheeky smile. “One day Willow and I are going to have children. And you just went right to the top of the babysitter’s list.”


“Heh. Yeah, guess I had that coming.”




Dawn sauntered over with carefully calculated casualness. The result looked very odd, and not the least bit casual.

Faith and Tara shared a knowing glance and looked up.


“Um, Hey?” Dawn said, looking oddly out of place.


“Hey squirt, wassup?” Faith asked.


Dawn glanced at both of them, shooting a poorly concealed significant look at Tara.
“Um, nothing?” she said.


“Uh, you want I should go for a walk or something?” Faith asked.


Dawn slumped. “Is it that obvious?”


Tara held up her fingers, very close together. “Just a teensy bit.”


“It’s cool D. I’ll go check the perimeter or something.”


Dawn sighed. “No, stay. I might as well talk to both of you at the same time.”

She looked embarrassed at what she’d said. “I meant, I was going to talk to you later, um, Faith.”


“It’s ok, you know,” Faith said. “I’m not gonna be pissy, just ‘cos you feel weird talking about some stuff in front of me.”


Dawn shook her head, her long braid swinging. Just for a moment, both Faith and Tara saw a glimpse of the little girl inside the growing young woman.
“No, it’s ok,” Dawn said. She put a cushion on a nearby stone slab and sat down. “Stay. Please?”


Faith sat back. “Sure.”


Dawn sat in silence, her fingernail picking at a seam in the black body suit that she wore.
Faith was struck by the image. The action was an almost mirror image of Buffy, when she had something that she was worried about.
Both women gave Dawn space to collect her thoughts, but the fidgeting continued, and the silence dragged on.

Faith broke it.


“Girl trouble?”


Dawn’s head snapped up, her eyes huge, the seam on her suit forgotten.

“What… how?”


Faith shrugged. “Not that hard to figure out. Even B commented on it.”


Dawn goggled. “Buffy knows? And didn’t freak?”


“No,” Tara said. “Buffy was wondering if you were interested in Michael, one of Willow’s trainees.”


Dawn snorted. “Purple eyeshadow guy? Really?”


Tara covered her chuckle with her hand.
“Um, no. Not into Goth boys, sorry.”


The pseudo fire cast its oddly orange light on the wall, and all was silent for a time.


“Um, guys? How did you know you liked girls?”


Tara shot a glance at Faith.


“Honestly?” Faith asked.

Dawn nodded.

“I got my butt spanked by a hot Irish nun. Most fun I’d ever had. Sorta clued me in.”


Dawn raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Is this like the naked alligator wrestling?”


Faith grinned. “It was naked vampire slaying, and yes. That actually happened, and so did this.”


Dawn thought this over for a moment, nibbling her lower lip.

“So, after that you knew you were gay?”


“Oh hell no. Girls, you gotta understand. I know you think B is bad at figuring stuff like this out. And she is. But I am way worse.”

She ran her hand through her hair. “I was like, thirteen when I was with sister Rose. Wasn’t even playing with myself or any of that. All I knew was it felt good. Real good. And I wanted more of it.”

“I mean, I’d had sex-ed or whatever, so I wasn’t totally stupid. But sister Rose wasn’t sexing me up, coppin’ a feel or any of that shit. All I knew was, she was nice. She made me feel nice, and I thought she was the prettiest woman in the world.”

She had a starry-eyed expression that made the others smile.

“Uh, yeah,” Faith said, clearing her throat. “So, uh, figuring all that shit out came later, y’know figuring out that it’s possible to ‘Like’-like girls. And that you do.”

She grinned. “Lead to a few interesting discoveries, I can tell you.”


Dawn flushed pinkly. “Um, what about you Tara?” she asked, clearly hoping that her stories would be less embarrassing.


Tara coughed slightly. “Ah, um. It was all back to front for me. I’d loved a girl from the time we could walk. If I was Xander, she was Willow.”

Dawn smiled.

“We ran around in short pants together and had all sorts of adventures. I had so many thin scars on my arms and legs from pushing through bushes and falling down banks, that one of the girls at UC Sunnydale asked me if I was a cutter.”

She blushed. “I had to have that explained to me.”

Dawn tried to supress a wince when Tara mentioned ‘cutting.’

“All I knew was that I loved a girl with all my heart. We did everything together, and everyone approved. We sent cards to each other, and cuddled and said ‘I love you.’ and everyone thought it was delightful. All I knew was I wanted to be with her forever. Even daddy approved, as I never had anything to do with the menfolk, or the boys in town.”

“And then I middle-school it all started to change. People said mean things about us when we held hands. But I didn’t care. I had her, and that was all I needed.”


“Did she…” Dawn said, miming pulling her hands away.


Tara shook her head. “If her daddy hadn’t moved away, I think April and I would be the famous first married lesbian couple. Or camped out on the Whitehouse lawn protesting to be the first.”


“Glinda the activist. I can see it now, you have dreads, and wear only homespun, natural fibres,” Faith said, smirking.


Tara rolled her eyes with a smile.

“I didn’t realize I liked girls specifically. People would just talk about love and what it was like. And then I would get confused, because I’d had that as long as I could remember. I was in love with a girl before I even knew, um, the mechanics,” Tara said awkwardly.


“What was she like?” Dawn asked softly.


Tara smiled fondly. “Imagine someone who looked a lot like Buffy, with wavy orange hair, and Faith’s fearlessness.”


“Is it wrong that I just pictured B in a ‘Tom Sawyer’ outfit yelling at someone?” Faith asked.


Tara giggled, while Dawn just looked incredulous.

“You’d have liked her I think. She was absolutely fearless, would take on anyone. A lot like Buffy.”

She smiled fondly, remembering her long lost friend.
Slowly her face fell.

“I think it was when they moved that my father started to notice things. The O’Connor’s left off moving as long as they could, but they had to go. We tried everything that little kids could think off. We tried to get her daddy a job in town, tried to get my parents to let her live with us.”

Tara slumped. “We even ran away together. Um, about as far as our tree fort.”

She stared sadly at the wall. “I still miss her sometimes.”


In the silence, the wind could be heard. The mournful sounds of wind blowing through the monastery’s eaves, audible even here. It matched the mood.


“You should go see her,” Dawn said, out of nowhere.


“Sorry?” Tara said, blinking in surprise.


“Yeah,” Faith added. “When things calm down a bit, go pay her a visit. Maybe not as a girlfriend, but you know, as an old friend.”


“I’d like that, but how? I have no idea where she is.”


Dawn waved her hand airily. “Pshaw. Pfooey even. We can find anyone. Magic, computers, even microfiches, we can find anyone.”


“Microfiches?” Tara asked.


Dawn shrugged loosely. “Another of Xander’s undiscovered talents. Willow can’t handle them, and neither can Giles. But Xander is weirdly whizzy at them.”


Tara nodded absently, absorbing the information. “I’d like that. The, um, finding April part, not the microfiche part.”

She smiled radiantly. “And if we can find Miss Kitty Fantastico, we can find an old friend.”


“You found miss Kitty?” Dawn asked.


“Yep. She’s a mom now. When things quieten down a bit, Willow and I were going to visit, and maybe bring home a kitten.”

She came back to the present and softly touched Dawn’s hand. “Does any of this help?”


Dawn smiled a little. “A little bit, yeah.”


“Heather?” Tara asked softly.


Dawn lit up with a mixture of happiness and embarrassment, nodding silently.


“How do you feel about her?” Tara said, keeping her voice gentle.


“She’s like the other half of me,” Dawn said with a faraway tone. “And she’s so pretty I just want to swoon away and wake up in her arms.”


Faith let out a low whistle. “Damn. You got it bad. Uh, ya sure you guys ain’t having a thing like Red and Xan that time?”


“No. Uh, I don’t know. How do you tell?”


“Huh. Good question,” Faith said. “Uh, try this. Close your eyes and imagine you’re having a romantic picnic. You’re on a beach at sunset. You’ve got a basket full of munchies, and some real nice wine.”

Dawn closed her eyes and sat back, relaxing.

“Who’re you with?”


“Heather,” Dawn said dreamily.


“It’s real warm. So you’re wearing a bikini, and so is she.”


Dawn whimpered, almost a moan.


Tara cleared her throat. “I think that will do, for this experiment.”


“Oh my god. I like girls,” Dawn said softly.


“Looks like,” Faith said.


“It, um, seems likely,” Tara added.


“Do you know how she feels about you?” She asked.


Dawn groaned. “No. I’ve never really talked with her about this. At least with Jules, I know she’s gay. Heather’s always been interested in Xander… until recently. Hmm…”


Her face fell and she looked forlornly at Tara. “What if she doesn’t feel the same way? What if I tell her and it wrecks everything?”


Faith put her hand on Tara’s arm. “Lemme field this one Tara.”


She looked seriously at Dawn. “I went through alla that stuff and then some, with Buffy. What if it wrecks everything, yeah?”

Dawn nodded.

“If it turns out she’s arrow straight, an’ she loves you, but not in the same way, are you going to let it end this bestest-best-friends thing ya got?”


Dawn shook her head. “No way.”


“Right. So what makes you think she’d be any different?”


“Oh.”


“She’s your best bud in all the world. She loves you and she’ll always be there for you, either as your girl, or your girlfriend.”

“And if she bails on you, did you really wanna still hang with her?”


“That might be a little harsh,” Tara said.


Faith shrugged. “True though.”


“So I should just tell her?” Dawn asked uncertainly. “That sounds kinda… terrifying.”


“Anything important, is,” Tara added softly.


“Just tell her,” Faith said gently. “B gets me. I show her all my dark twisted self, and she’s right there with me, loving me anyway.” She locked eyes with Dawn. “Don’t miss out on that. Not for fear, not for anything.”


Dawn glanced over at Buffy sleeping peacefully next to a still slightly floaty Willow. She made a face. “Buffy’s gonna go nuts. She’ll think she infected me with ‘the gay’ or something.”


Faith snorted and laughed. “You leave the little blonde martyr to me. Just do what you gotta do, I’ll make sure B detonates safely.”


Dawn giggled softly. “Please do. You might have better luck than Willow.”


“That’s because Red never tried to shut B up by giving her a big smoochy kiss.”


Tara blinked. “I’m sure she would have mentioned something like that.”
She smiled shyly. “It works on Willow as well.”


“I bet,” said Faith, smirking.


Dawn sighed. “I guess it was pretty much a given that I was going to fall in love with a girl, given the rampant gayness around here.”


Tara took her hand. “Sweetie, I don’t love Willow because I’m gay. I fell in love with a person. She just happens to be female.”
She gave Dawn a comforting squeeze. “You love a person Dawnie. She just happens to be a girl.”


“And a hottie,” Faith added.


Dawn glared at her. “Hey! Quit eying up my girl!”


She blinked in surprise. “Holy crap,” she whispered. “I really love her.”


Faith grinned. “Gets you that way sometimes, huh?”

Dawn nodded, starry eyed and smiling dazedly.

Faith smiled shyly. “I still get that way with B sometimes.”


Dawn smiled knowingly. “Because you two have been dating SOOO long.”


Faith waggled her ring with her thumb. “Engaged, squirt.”


“Well, dating or engaged, you haven’t been doing it very long.”


Faith looked thoughtful. “Years from now, when we’re all old and grey, I think I’m still gonna look at her and think ‘wow, I love her.’”


Dawn smiled. “Who’d have thought that under all the boots and leather, there’d be this big romantic mushball.”


“What can I say, B digs the romance. Can’t say as I mind too much. She’s kinda high maintenance, but she’s as cute as a bug when she smiles all shy like.”


The conversation dropped away, the three women lost in thoughts of their loved ones, listening to the quiet sounds of bad weather, far away.
A small amount of rain dripped quietly from the light shaft to the tree, feeding its roots.


“I’m feeling kind of conflicted now,” Dawn said, breaking the silence.

Tara raised an eyebrow in polite question.

“Well, on the one hand, I want to spend the next week finding out as much as I possibly can about my origins and stuff, but on the other hand I want to go home right now and tell Heather how I feel. The suspense is kinda killing me.”


Tara stroked Dawn’s hair comfortingly, and Dawn leaned into the touch gratefully.
“It’s ok sweetie. She’ll be there when you get back. Then you can take the time to talk properly.”


“Or, y’know, just rock on up and plant one on her.”


“Faith,” Tara admonished.


“What? Just sayin’, no misunderstandings if you just kiss her.”


“I’m not sure I’m feeling that brave just yet,” Dawn muttered.


Taking pity on the blushing girl, Tara steered the conversation towards safer ground.
“Faith, have you thought much about our project?”


“Aww, there was some quality squirming still to go,” Faith protested.

Tara gave her the raised eyebrow of mild disapproval.


Faith rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, I’ve given it some thought. Before we left I got Xan-man’s crazy girl to hunt up some housing for us to work with.”
She smiled. “She had little dollar signs in her eyes after Giles gave her the company gold card. Figured if she was down with spending money, she could buy us a big house or something.”

The smile broadened. “Funny thing, she doesn’t actually mind being asked to spend money.”


“Once we have a place to put people, we’ll be able to help them, if we need to,” Tara said.


Faith nodded. “Yeah. Man, this is gonna feel so fucking good. Next time I see some dude beating on some girl, we have somewhere to take her to, after I finish explaining to him why that shit ain’t cool.”


“Not just girls, Faith. Anyone who needs help.”


“Sure. But look at the world. Nine times out of ten, it’s moms an’ kids that need the help.”

She smirked a little and rummaged in her nearby pack. She handed over a slightly grubby business card. “Check it!”


Tara read the card. “Angel investigations, we help the helpless?”


Faith’s grin was infectious.


Dawn leaned over and had a look at the card. “Is that a butterfly?”


“No dumbass, it’s an angel. How can you hang out with a woman who has wings and not recognize that shape?”


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Because I do hang out with a woman who has wings. That looks nothing like her.”


“I thought it was pretty,” Tara said. “But why Angel investigations?”


“You mean beyond the obvious?”

Now it was Tara’s turn to roll her eyes.


“Ok ok. I figured we could be part of Angel’s crew. Y’know private dicks? Give us some weight with the cops, maybe use some of the big guy’s rep if anyone asks any questions. That sort of thing.”


“The Colorado branch?” Dawn asked.


“Yeah, like that.”


“That’s actually a pretty good idea,” Tara said. “What does Angel think?”


Faith looked awkward. “Uh, I haven’t actually asked him yet. I figured when B was having the world’s most awkward conversation with him, I could just slip it in. They’d probably be relieved to have something else to talk about.”


“Wow, you have put some thought into this,” Tara said.


“That might actually work too,” Dawn added. “The conversation bit. The rest too I guess.”


“I figure it shouldn’t be too hard to get our licenses. Get Red to hack us some credentials from somewhere, do a bit of reading on the law and procedure so we can sound like we really are PI’s, an’ we’re home and hosed.”


“Do we need to do all that?” Dawn asked. “It seems a bit much.”


“Yeah, I figure we do. Y’see Sunny-D had the Mayor, Richard Wilkins the third himself, keeping everyone nice and stupid for three hundred years. We don’t have that here. Natural human stupidity will only take us so far, before people start asking questions. I figure if we’re gonna be all like rescuers an shit, then we need to get the cops on-side somehow.”


Dawn grinned. “I like the idea of being a private investigator. Dawn Summers: Private Eye.”


Faith grinned back. “Goes nicely with Dawn Summers: Monster Hunter.”


Dawn wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, but this one I can tell normal people. Hey, do we get cool badges?”


“Wes got himself a fancy FBI-style ID thing in his wallet, that looks the biz. We can get those for everybody.”


“This is gonna be so cool.”


Faith’s grin faded away. “You know we’re gonna see some nasty stuff, right?” she said softly.


Dawn waved her hand dismissively. “I see nasty stuff all the time.”


“D? Not like that. Human evil. Like what happened to you, and me, and Blondie here. Moms and kids beat for no reason, just because some prick could. That kind of nasty.”


Dawn nodded seriously. “I know. We fight evil Faith. Fangs, claws and psychopaths. We can’t just walk away from people in need, just because it wasn’t a vampire that attacked them.”

She looked up and saw that the other two women were nodding along with her.

She looked over at Tara. “You’re kind of quiet. Are you ok with all this?”


Tara’s brow furrowed. “Looking forward to it, and kind of scared. This is kind of a big deal for us, also there’s the latest evil to deal with. It’s a lot to think about.”


Faith punched her affectionately in the shoulder plate. “Yeah. Good though?”


Tara smiled at the metallic bonk sound. “Yes. I’m good. And thanks for being with me on this guys. I couldn’t do this without you.”


Faith smiled softly. “No prob Cuz.”


Far above, the storm raged, unheeded by the small family below.


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2016 12:48 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Big yay for Dawn's origins are a bit more revealed... I'm wondering if Faith's baby is actually Hope... I'm also wondering if the mysterious happenings are because the Goddess is pissed of Powers That Be mishandling things and is cleaning house...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:28 pm 
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Hi Zampsa!

Glad you're enjoying things :)

Sorry i posted a bit late, there was a lot of train work (yep, an actual locomotive) gardening, shopping and weights.
Busy couple of days :P

The answers to all your questions are coming!

Dawn's origins will take a while, because it's sort of central to the plot.
Ditto the Goddess.
Faith/Hope should get cleared up shortly :P

I'd just up and tell you, but i don't want to ruin the surprise :)

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2016 2:06 pm 
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bummer :-p I guess I have to wait just a bit longer...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:40 pm 
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LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Please tell me Heather isn't going to break little Dawnie's heart?

More please!

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2016 8:35 am 
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It's great to see Xander reprise his role as a stepping stone "Crush" object for young lesbians who are still figuring out their sexuality. First Willow, then Dawn, and now, if things play out the way they've been heading, Heather.

And getting more of Faith's back story is almost always a punch in the gut, no matter how well it's handled. But at least they all have the shelter project to take up their spare time instead of dwelling on the past.

Alphonse being drafted by Team Slayer seems like it has possibilities. After they finally get back to the states I'm curious if their new pet monk will end up being snatched up by one of the spare Slayers or possibly a certain side character that also has a crush on Xander.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:55 am 
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Hi gang!

Welcome back, vampyregurl73 :)

You know, i'd almost forgotten about Andrew!

I like the actor, but i never liked the character. I always thought they should have picked up Jonathan.
He was sort of an associate scooby, and at least had a bit of a conscience.

I really hadn't put any thought into who Alphonse might date.
I'll give it some thought :)

But yeah, Xander/Nick is certainly attractive, in a male sort of way :)
Don't worry, Xander gets some love. Lots of it. He smiles his way though most days :P


But Alphonse, like Andrew, Vi, Rona and you-know-who, are off camera for almost the whole story.
There are enough characters with the scoobs, and the odd visiting character.

Drama, yes. Heartbreak? no. :)

Oddly, i'm running behind again, though, not because of trains.
Though i was laying train track.

Really, i got this all done last week :(
Oh well, here you go:



Meanwhile, back at the Ranch…



“Mister Giles?” came the worried voice.


Giles looked up from the book he was reading. “Yes Danni, is something the matter?”


“Um, I think so. Willow’s program monitors the internet for things that might be important? You know, weird weather, sudden outbreaks of neck rupture, that sort of thing.”


“Yes?” he said uncertainly.


She handed over a printed sheet of paper.

Giles studied it carefully. Then he took off his glasses for a polish. “Ah, I may have to have you translate this for me my dear, I’m not sure what I’m meant to see.”


Looking rather worried, she explained. “There’s a magnitude 6.8 earthquake. In an area of Europe not known for earthquakes. In the exact same part of the Czech Republic that our people are. 12 hours after they get there.”


“Oh dear.”


“It released enough energy to equal a good-sized nuclear explosion.”


“Oh my.”


Still looking worried, Danni explained. “Luckily it’s middle of nowhere, or as close as Europe comes to it. So no major cities were affected, and government curiosity will be limited. But sooner or later someone is going to go look up there.”


“In the next few days, do you think?”


Danni shrugged helplessly. “I have no idea. Hopefully not?”


“Indeed. Well, as unpleasant a truth as it is, there is little we can do to help them. Please keep me aware of any further developments.”


Danni nodded worriedly, reminding Giles somewhat of a younger Willow.


He rested a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Try not to worry too much my dear.”

She looked up with a sad smile.

“They really are extraordinarily capable people.”


She smiled a little more brightly. “Thanks mister Giles.”


Giles nodded, satisfied that this subject was dealt with.

“Now, how are the new girls settling in?”


Danni shook her head. “They’re not here yet. According to Oz, they hit a snag.”


“Ah? Nothing too terrible I hope?”


Danni shrugged. “The usual. Parents who don’t believe us, and think we’re nuts. They had to take extra time to do the convincing part. Plus they had a run in with some bikers on the way back.”


“Not demon bikers I hope?”


“Nope, the regular greasy, gross kind. Apparently they stopped off to get something to eat. Someone said something suggestive to one of the girls, and while Oz was doing his jedi master thing, Devon hauled off and decked the guy.”


Giles sighed. “I do hope they’re not on the run from the law.”


Danni grinned impishly. “Nope. I asked, Oz said that everything was cool, and that they’d sorted it out.”


“Ah. Good. Do we know when they are likely to arrive?”


“Today or tomorrow, depending on traffic.”


“Excellent. Please let me know when they get here. I think I should let everyone know that we are about to have new guests. Could you have rooms made up for them please?”


“Sure mister G, I’ll get right on it.”


+++


“Willow sweetie, it’s time to get up,” Tara said, gently shaking Willow’s cocooned form.


Buffy’s arm tightened protectively around her best friend, as the world tried to intrude.


“Are they always like this?” Tara asked softly.


“Yep,” Dawn said sleepily. “They sleep over all the time. Or they used to before, you know,” she gestured at Faith and Tara.


“They crashed with Xander more than a few times,” Faith added. “I figure it was a big reconnect thing for all of ‘em.”


“They lost so much,” Dawn said sadly. “All they had was each other.”


“Not anymore,” Tara said softly. Her words were spoken softly, but with conviction.


Faith glanced across at her friend and honorary cousin. There was more than a little of Mama-Bear-Tara in her eyes right now. She felt more than a little bit worried, at what would happen to anyone who threatened Tara’s family.


Faith cleared her throat. “Uh, look, I’d like to let ‘em sleep, be we need to sleep too.”


Tara nodded and concentrated on her link with Willow. Down the link she pushed feelings of happiness and excitement, sealed with a kiss.
Willow giggled sleepily, mumbling something unintelligible and happy sounding. Tara saw brief flashes of bouncy kittens playing in a field.
She smiled. Wherever Willow was, she was happy.
However, the emotional nudge had achieved its intended effect, and it wasn’t long before Willow sleepily dug her way out of her cocoon.


She looked up, blinking the sleep from her eyes and smiled when she saw Tara smiling down. “Oh hey, you’re upside down.”

Faith chuckled.


“Good morning sweetie,” Tara said, leaning in carefully for a floaty kiss.


Buffy yawned. “This is not what I had in mind when I imagined waking up to smoochies.”


Faith leaned over and casually scooped Buffy out of her warm nest. Buffy’s squeak of surprise was cut off by some very passionate kissing. After a very long and passionate smooching, Faith put her down on the edge of the couch, and knelt to pull her socks on.


“Better?” she said with a slight smile.


Buffy nodded, equal parts stunned and pleased.

“Buh!” she said intelligently, wiggling her toes as Faith pulled her socks on.


Willow giggled. “Let the record show that Faith smoochies render Buffy speechless.”


“You’re still floating,” Dawn said sleepily.


Willow smiled sheepishly. “Yup. Means my little pink tootsies don’t have to touch the icky cold castle floor.”


“An unexpected up-side to having too much magic in your system,” Tara said.


Willow shivered a little. “Lemme put on some clothes before I lose all my snuggly bed warmth.”


She checked out Alphonse, passed out with a book, very Giles-like.
She floated into the corridor and quickly dressed.
Faith helpfully pulled the covers back on the bed, keeping it warm.


When she returned, Willow eyed Dawn, yawning sleepily. “Bed time for you missy.”


Dawn nodded, yawning. “Yup.”

She looked at the assembled bed-couch, “Uh, how are we doing… bed?”


Faith hopped into bed and started tossing out her gear. “Get in here D. It’ll be like a big sleep-over thing.”


“Really?”


Tara chuckled. “It’ll be fun.”


“Cool.” She started dumping her gear and peeling out of her armour.


“Uh, help?” Tara said, shrugging and gesturing to her armour.


“Can’t you get out of that by yourself?” Faith asked.


“Yes, but it’s really awkward. Help please?”


“Sure T, c’mere and I’ll peel you,” Faith gestured from the couch.


Gratefully Tara went over and patiently waited while Faith unbuckled her.

“Jesus Glinda, got enough straps?”


Tara chuckled. “This is the good stuff. You should see the cheap armour. Four times as heavy and twice as many buckles.”

Faith divested a grateful Tara of her plating.

She sighed happily. “It’s not super heavy, but it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world to wear.”
Tara peeled off her thick underlayer and pulled on some fluffy pyjamas.


Faith pulled back the covers. “Come on Blondie, into bed.”


“Where am I sleeping?” Dawn asked.


Faith patted the bed. “In the middle.”


Dawn shrugged. “Ok.”


“No complaining this time?” Faith asked softly.


Dawn shrugged, kicking off her boots. “Maybe before we were attacked by soldiers. Now, I’m just glad you guys are still around.”


She hopped into bed and squirmed around, getting comfortable. Tara climbed into bed beside her.
It did not take long before the day’s emotional toll had them asleep, each woman with a protective arm thrown across Dawn’s sleeping form.



Over by the ‘camp fire’ Buffy pondered the absence of coffee miserably.
“Ugh. Need coffee.”


“Shh, I’m concentrating,” Willow said. In her hands she held a large thermos flask. She muttered words under her breath, her brow furrowed in concentration.

She unscrewed the cap, releasing the rich smell of hot coffee. “Ta-da!”


“Willow I love you!” Buffy said happily. “I had no idea you could make coffee out of thin air.”


Willow smiled. “Sorry Buff, I don’t think anyone has that power. All I did was heat it up. All that concentration was so I didn’t overdo it and blow it up.”
She poured the coffee into some little metal cups and added some sugar, passing one to Buffy.


Buffy’s tongue poke out a little. “Way to start your day with a bang.”


Willow groaned. “It’s too early for that joke. If it can be called a joke, because: horrible.”


Buffy grinned as she sipped her steaming coffee. “Mmm. Coffee.”


By about halfway through their companionable coffee-sharing experience, Willow was squirming a little and shooting Buffy little sidelong glances.


Buffy recognized the signs of nervous-Willow making an appearance.
“Are you ok Willow?”


“Um, yup. Good. The best, even.”

Buffy smiled into her coffee. Willow’s ritual for asking awkward questions was long established.

“So, um, ah, how are you and Faith doing?” Willow eventually asked, a little apprehensively.


Buffy chuckled. “In the last couple of hours you mean?”


“Um…”


“It’s ok Will, really.”

Buffy smiled softly as she accepted a little more, the huge changes in her life.

“We’re going to be ok. Yeah, ok, the marriage and mom thing was a bit of a surprise, but I’m really looking forward to it. You know, between all the bouts of ‘oh my god, what am I doing?’”

Buffy smiled shyly and blushed a little. “And we’ve definitely established that girl-sex is of the good.”


Willow chuckled. “I’ve definitely had a few ‘wow’ moments of my own there.”


She eyed her best friend, still slightly pink. “So have you, from what I hear,” she teased.


Buffy squeaked in embarrassment. Eventually she cleared her throat. “I was so worried about stuff that just wasn’t important. I really thought I’d look in the mirror and see a big old lesbian staring back at me.”

She picked at the hem of her sweater before looking up to meet Willow’s smiling eyes. “I didn’t though. I just looked and saw me... Buffy.”


Willow squeezed her hand in silent support. “Me too. My mom told me it was good to, y’know, verbalize what you’re feeling. But I was way muchly embarrassed and couldn’t talk to anyone about it, not even you. So I looked myself in the mirror and said ‘Self, you eat pussy. And you like it.’”


“Will!” Buffy squeaked. “Oh my god!”


“Shh!” Willow hissed, waving her hands frantically. “People! With the sleeping! And the not hearing me being naughty!”


“Will!”


“Well I did it when you were out, Buffy! And I turned as red as my hair when I said it. If you’d have been there I would have died of some blush-related calamity for sure.”


Buffy eyed Willow with a sneaky expression. “Buffy Summers eats pussy,” she said quietly.


Willow’s eyes widened comically.


Buffy quirked a smile. “Never thought I’d end up with a girl, huh?”


Willow grinned, letting go of a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.


“Um, Buff? For you, dating Faith is tame. Two different vampires, each centuries old, a super-soldier and uh, the less said about Parker the better. Ok, marrying Faith was a bit of a surprise, but I can’t blame you.”

She took Buffy’s hand. “She’s good for you Buffy. I haven’t seen you this happy in years.”


“She makes me feel like a girl again,” Buffy said dreamily.

Faith murmured appreciatively in her sleep at the happy emotions Buffy was leaking her way.

“Uh, maybe I should qualify that statement slightly.”


“Sure. Kind of an odd thing to say, now that you’re on the rainbow side of the fence.”


Buffy laughed quietly. “I’m probably going annoy like, a bazillion feminists here, but with Faith I feel…”

Buffy struggled for the right words.


“Like I don’t always have to be strong,” Willow finished dreamily, thinking about Tara.


Buffy smiled. “Yes! Only, me. I don’t have to hold back, or be careful, or worry I might break her. She can keep up with me. We can just play. We can just be two girls in love.”


Willow smiled back. “I know how you feel. Which is kinda neat.”


Time passed as the two friends sipped their hot coffees. The sounds of bad weather had passed, leaving only a gentle stillness.
It was a subtle thing, but the dark air of early morning held a crispness, and a hint of possibility.
The room was still, the silence broken only by quiet snoring sounds. The flickering light cast by the brick leant a warmth to the whole scene

“On a related-to-Faith kind of note, do you have any ideas about the lightning thing?” Willow asked.


“Me?” Buffy said, surprised. “You’re the big brain here Will. I was going to ask you about that, once the coffee had rebooted my floppy drive,” Buffy said, gesturing with her cup.


Willow raised an eyebrow. “Maybe you should back away from the computer metaphors, before something terrible happens.”


Buffy grimaced. “Sorry. Just trying something new.”


Willow chuckled. “I know you can use a computer, Buffy. I’ve seen you. You’ve sent me emails and everything.”


“Uh, yeah. It’s the names I’m not so good at.”

Buffy huffed and tapped the rim of her metal cup thoughtfully with a finger before frowning. “Ugh, my brain hates me. I’ve got nothing on the lightning thing.”


“How did it feel?”


“Nice. Kinda tingly. And sort of familiar. It would have been good to know I had some kind of zap-proofing when it came to the glove of my… my… little… pony?” Buffy said uncertainly.


“Myhnegon,” Willow corrected.


“Really? I thought that was Giles’ dirty past.”


“No, that’s Eygon.”


“I thought that was one of the ghostbusters?”


“Now I know you’re messing with me.”


Buffy grinned. “Yep.”


Willow thought for a moment, nibbling the edge of the cup absently. “You probably weren’t zap proof back then, Buff. The more a witch practices her craft, the stronger she gets, and the more ways she learns to use her power. And we know Slayers are the same, kinda. I think if you’d have gotten zapped back then, it would have been crispy-fried Buffy.”


“I prefer my Buffy original recipe,” Buffy said.


“Me too.”


Willow looked over at the trio of sleeping women. “Well, Faith’s really asleep. There’s no way she’d have missed that one if she was even slightly awake.”


A small smile flashed across Buffy’s face. “It’s times like this I miss Giles. He somehow manages to turn vagueness and uncertainty into reassurance,” Buffy said.


Willow nodded, agreeing. “He’s good that way. Like a tea-cosy with legs, or something equally British. Scones maybe.”


Buffy laughed softly and poked her friend in the shoulder. “Dawn’s right though. There’s a whole library here. It’s the kind of thing that a museum would spend years on, with teams of researchers. If we give this to Giles, we’ll never see him again.”

“Kind of annoying really. We finally get the answers Dawn’s been looking for, and there’s so much of it, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Made of needles.”

Buffy sighed mightily, looking around at the neatly stacked piles of books. “When we were looking for furniture, we saw rooms and rooms of books and scrolls and junk.”


“There’s untold thousands of years of history here Buffy. Some of this stuff is so old, it’s on clay tablets. Look.” Willow pointed at a stack of tablets, placed neatly nearby.


“Then we can’t give them to Giles. It’s for his own good,” Buffy said in a just-so tone. “I mean now he’s just a bit stuffy. If we gave him this stuff, he’d actually fossilize.”


“Come on Buff. Let’s do some more reading before Tara’s spell wears off.”


“Yay. Research,” Buffy said flatly. “Can’t we just leave it till later? Maybe you could cast the spell later on?” Buffy said hopefully.


Willow shook her head. “Sorry Buff. I haven’t the slightest idea how the spell works, and I’ve seen Tara casting it from the inside. That sort of stuff is just a mystery to me.”


“Darn.”

She carefully picked up one of the clay tablets.

“I don’t think it’s fair that I just woke up, and you’re trying to put me back to sleep,” she grumbled.

She squinted comically at the markings on the clay. “That it be guarded by watchful men always, for they that live in purity could not handle it.” Buffy blinked. “Huh? I thought this spell was supposed to figure this stuff out for me.”


“It does. This must be really old.”


Willow scooted around to sit next to her friend. “And the key was cast down from the heavens, to abide in the earth,” she read. “The key was cast down, that it be guarded by watchful men always, for they that are purity could abide it not. For the Key was profane, and of the earth, and impure.”

Willow blinked in surprise. “Huh. Well, they didn’t like the key much.”


Buffy frowned “Grrr. I have a powerful urge to punch some holier-than-thou Powers-That-Be for insulting my sister.”


“Maybe don’t beat up the ancient tablet though Buff. Giles would get all frowny.”

Buffy carefully put the ancient tablet in her friend’s lap, with a soft pat of apology.

“I’ve been thinking about some of the things Faith said, Buffy. She’s right. A lot of the stuff that’s going on doesn’t make any sense.”


Buffy huffed. “It’s a feeling we’ve all had before Will. It’ll all come clear when we figure out the bad guy’s plan. Then comes the stabby-pokey part, where we make them sorry about it all.”


Willow eyed her best friend. Irritation and frustration visible in her frame. Even sat cross-legged in penguin pyjamas, glimpses of her Slayer nature were visible.


“I guess you’re really looking forward to that part huh?”


Buffy shrugged. “You know me Will. I’m happiest when I’m being proactive, usually by punching something that really, really needs it.”

She waved a stake randomly. “See bad thing. Run bad thing, run. Stake bad thing. Yoghurt!”


Willow smiled and helpfully handed Buffy a less-fragile book. “Well, the more you read, the sooner you get your yoghurt.”


Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled on her jacket. “Somehow Will, that doesn’t help.” Though despite her grumbling, she did open the book.



Hours later, Buffy groaned. “Oh god. Even skimming this book is making my brain die. I can hear tiny cries in my head, as my brain cells jump off a cliff. Like lemmings.”


Willow stretched, arms above her head. “What have you found, between lemming rushes?”


Buffy joined Willow in a stretch. “Not much. A whole bunch of nothing about the Monks splitting off a separate order of fighty-types. I think in the sequel, they are going to turn out to be our stupid trigger-happy friends from earlier. More nothing about them sending messages back and forth with their ‘brother watchers.’ I bet we can guess who they are going to turn out to be.”


Willow nodded. “I’ll take Council of Watchers for five please.”


Buffy yawned. “Yep. And something about a guardian.”


Willow perked up. “Hey, I read something about that!”

She moved quickly from tablet to tablet, grumbling something about needing pages to flick through.

“Here it is. ‘The Key shall be separated from its guardians, for they are the first children of the Goddess, and could awaken her. In all matters, keep the key from the guardians, for fear of the prophesy’s fulfilment, and the destruction of the world.’”


“Didn’t we do this already?” Buffy groused.


“The Glory thing?” Willow asked, receiving a small nod. “Uh, maybe. As far as I know there weren’t any prophesies about the Beast, aka, her blonde ditziness. Um, because she defied them. A-also, I always thought that the monks were supposed to be the guardians, but here they are talking about other guardians, so maybe not them.”

Willow took a deep breath. “That’s a whole lot of stuff for nothing Buff. I’d hate to see what ‘something’ looked like.”


Buffy yawned and blinked sleepily. “True. Uh, I was looking for stuff about the Key. I kinda didn’t realize that was important.”


“Well, we’re her guardians now Buff. You, me and everyone else. Heck, I needed new pants after Faith got through with that guy, so you know she’s, um, committed.”


Buffy frowned at the page they were reading. “So this prophesy or whatever, is about us? The Key must be kept away from her guardians, the blonde Slayer, in stylish yet comfortable boots, and her best friend Willow, Nerdy but lovable witch?”


Willow grinned. “I like it when you say it like that. Not sure I like a prophesy talking about me like that though. I have other qualities too! Y’know, besides lovableness and nerdyness.”


Buffy smiled, her voice taking on a faux Giles-tone. “And lo, the chosen one shall like sparkly things and fluffy sweaters. And lo, she shall have a fondness for rainbows and sugary foods.”


“And bacon. Don’t forget how much I annoyed my parents with the bacon thing.”


“It’s a terrible thing when a girl has to hide her bacon obsession from her parents,” Buffy said.

She put on her hammed-up prophesy voice. “Lo, and bacon too.”


Willow giggled at her friend’s fake expression of seriousness. “I’d really love to see a prophesy about that. Y’know, a nice harmless prophecy, not doom and gloom and the end of the world.”


Buffy chuckled and made a rude noise. “I’m not worried. Destroy the world? Been there, done that. Apocalypse number what now? Six? Seven? It’s not even the first one involving Dawn.”


Willow frowned. “Though this time it’s us doing the destroying. That’s new and alarming.”


Buffy shrugged. “Eh. I’m still not worried. These prophesy things always have a hidden clause or a ‘gotcha’ moment. For all we know, Dawn’s version of destroying the world, might be to topple the golden arches. With a new chain of takeout places.” Buffy thought for a moment. “Serving pickled fish.”


“Eeew!”


“Yep.”


The pair contemplated the image of Dawn conquering the world of fastfoods with pickled fish.

“Brr,” said Buffy, shuddering. “If that’s the apocalypse, we should definitely stop it. The uniforms alone would constitute a war crime.”



They sat for a little while, lost in companionable silence. Slowly, the darkness visible through the light-well began to pale to a deep blue.

“Will? Who are these guardians supposed to be? I get the impression it’s not us.”


“Um, yeah. Not feeling very ‘first children of the goddess-y.’ I mean I venerate and respect her, what witch doesn’t? But I wouldn’t go around calling myself ‘child of the goddess.’”


Buffy finished off her remaining coffee thoughtfully, mourning its passing only slightly. “Well, I like your Goddess more than the other ones I’ve heard about,” Buffy said. “But I’m not much of a worshipper of anything, besides TV and cheese. If I’m the first child of the Goddess, we’re in big trouble.”


Willow nibbled the edge of her cup thoughtfully, hunched over a little in thought. “Witches are sometimes called that. Though only by other people. Usually we’re called ‘Children of Lilith.’”


Buffy raised a questioning eyebrow.

Willow smiled, always happy to be a font of knowledge of things witchy for her friend. “Legend has it Adam? Well Eve wasn’t his first wife. Legends say that his first wife was Lilith, created from the same earth as him. Only she wouldn’t be all ‘proper’ wife-y and submissive. So according to legend, he complained to god, and god made a new wife for him. All proper and submissive.”


“Okaaay,” Buffy said dubiously. “Creepy. What happened to Lilith?”


Willow shrugged. “Dunno. But there are other legends that she strode proudly out of paradise, and made her own way. Some say that she was the first witch, others say that she was the mother of monsters.”


“No one knows?” Buffy asked.


Willow shook her head. “Nope. You have to remember, this is all ‘Dawn of Time’ stuff. No one really knows anything about what really happened back then. I mean before that, the world was ruled by demons, the Great Old Ones and others. At some point they left, and it became our world. And there aren’t any records of that. Just myths about a flood and stuff.”


“Why’d they go,” Buffy asked. “I mean, demons and other nasty types are forever trying to get here, or open the Hellmouth. Why’d they leave in the first place?”


Willow shrugged. “Sorry Buff. I have no idea. Giles is probably the one to ask about all that stuff. I only know a little bit because of my witchy studies.”


Buffy pondered that for a moment. “Will? How are we going to do this?” she said, gesturing to all the books around them.

“I mean, are we taking this home, staying here for the next year, or what?”


“Um, ah, and other sounds of hesitation.”


Buffy raised a questioning eyebrow, the seriousness of her arched brow ruined by her goofy expression. “Is this where you tell me we’re all pressed into service as pack mules?”


“Ah, nope. I really hadn’t thought that far ahead. To be honest I didn’t expect to see this many books. I don’t think anyone did.”


“I didn’t think there were this many dusty old books in the world. Can you teleport them all home with us?”


Willow blinked in surprise. “Goddess no! This is like, ten tons of books Buffy! I’m amazed that we managed to teleport five people. Five light people!”


“So what are we going to do with this embarrassingly huge pile of books? We can’t just leave them here for the knights of dorkiness to find.”


Willow brightened and rummaged through her spell book, triumphantly producing a page covered in symbols and diagrams. “That, I can do something about. I have a spell here that lets me manipulate earth and rock. I can use this to seal the entrance so that no-one can get in.”


“Will, not that I’m complaining, but why do you even have a spell for that?”


Willow smiled. “Scooby palace,” she said cryptically.


“I’ll take ‘huh, what?’ for five please Will.”


“It’s the new place we’re building, Buff. Bridey already made the plans, and Xander’s already marked it out. It’s going on the hill behind the training field, overlooking the current place.”


“And it’s going to be built by magic?”


Willow nodded cheerfully. “Yup. I dig out the basement, and use the rock I remove to build the walls and supports. We’ll have a new home in record time.”


“How record?” Buffy asked.


“With Tara’s help, I can get it done in a day. Then we can build in some mystical defences and start making the place habitable.”


“Made of stone? Isn’t that going to be cold? Like, all castle-y?”


Willow shook her head, smiling. “Nope. Central heating, no drafts and thick gooshy carpet everywhere. It’s going to be warm and snuggly. And everyone gets their own little house to do up how they like.”

Willow smiled shyly. “I’m moving in with Tara. We’re going to have our own little place together. I’m really looking forward to it
Buff.”


Buffy smiled, happy for her friend. “Go Will.” Her face fell almost immediately. “I’m not sure about me and Faith though.”


“What?” Willow hissed, shocked. “Where’d this come from? I thought you guys were good?”


Buffy herself looked surprized, as if she had just realized what she’d said.

“Oh! Um, yeah. We’re ok, despite everything. I just meant that well, Faith likes her space, and I’m more than happy to move in with her, but what if it’s all too much?”


Willow reached out and squeezed Buffy’s hand reassuringly. “Just tell her Buffy. Just tell her that you know that she likes her space, and that you respect that, but you’d really like to move in with her when we get the new place sorted.”


“Will, last night she told me some stuff. Stuff about her past.”


“Oh?”


“It’s… it’s not for me to tell,” she said hesitantly. “But, I’ve never wanted to kill someone so bad in all my life.”


Willow looked shocked. “Jeepers.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding with a frown. “That makes a little sense. It explains some of the defensiveness she had when we first met her.”


Buffy looked worried. “But what if-”


“She’ll be fine Buffy,” Willow said, stemming Buffy’s stream of what-ifs. “You’ve gone through so much together, so don’t worry so much.”


Buffy made a sad face. “Am I being dumb?”


“Oh hey, don’t be sad-Buffy. You’re just worried because she means so much to you.”


“She does. She really really does. I just worry she’s going to freak and run. I mean we’ve only been dating a few weeks, and suddenly we’re engaged and having a baby. I just worry that it’s all going to be too much too fast.”


“I had the exact same thing with Tara, if you remember. And it just made everything worse.”


“I remember. So I should just ask her, huh?”


“Yep.”


Willow patted her hand reassuringly. “Don’t forget Buff, she loves you just as much as you love her. So I don’t think she’s going to freak, just because you asked her to move in with you. Besides, even with the help of witchy magic, it’s still going to take a while to get our place finished. So it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”


“Ok. New plan then. I’ll ask her tomorrow some time.”


Willow bounced a little in her seat. “Neat!”


“Thanks Will. I guess I just needed to talk it through. Yay for quality Willow time.”


“Yay us!” Willow said, beaming happily and waving her arms in the air.


Buffy pulled on her boots. “I think I’ll take a break from the thoughts of fusty old monks, and warm up the stew for breakfast.”

She held up her hand to stifle Willow’s protests. “Don’t worry, I won’t wander off, or let it burn.”


“I’ll help,” Willow said quickly.


Buffy glared. “I did help cook this you know. I can handle warming some stew.”


“I know you can Buffy. I just want to help. And to make sure the breakfast doesn’t get angry.”


Buffy squinted comically at her friend, but didn’t protest further.
Between them, they got the small camp-cooker running, and slowly got the stew warming.


Something niggled at Willow’s brain as she took her turn stirring the stew.

“Hey Buffy, can you pass me that book? The punchy-making one?”


Buffy rummaged through the books, eventually finding the right one.


“Can you read out this passage for me?” Willow asked.


Buffy took the book and looked where Willow was pointing. “Sure, but didn’t you already read that?”


“Yep. But the spell uses your subconscious, so everyone gets a slightly different spin on what’s there.”


“Ok.” She looked down at the book in her lap. “Uh, here we go. ‘Because they are the chosen of the Goddess, and could wake her up.’”


“See what I mean? Slightly different. But one thing stays the same. Even when she was a ball of light, they knew she was a ‘she’.”


“She was always a girl, even if she didn’t have arms and legs?”


Willow chuckled gently. “Yep. Got it in one.”


“And lived in a tree?” Buffy said with a smirk, one that promised many hours of quality sister-teasing.


“Also that,” Willow said. She recognized the glint in Buffy’s eye.


“Now you have to help me come up with tree jokes to torture Dawn with.”


“Ask Faith. Me and jokes, we don’t get along so well.”


“Spoilsport,” Buffy said, pouting a little.


“We’ll be home soon, and then you can get Xander to come up with some.”


“Xander’s jokes will be terrible,” Buffy said, making a face.


“I thought that was the point?”


Buffy leaned over and checked the stew. She was hungry and didn’t want to take the blame for destroying breakfast. She stirred it slowly, making sure nothing stuck to the bottom.

She looked up to see a look of concern directed at breakfast. “Hey, I see that look. I’m not that bad. I can stir food without disaster.”


“It took two weeks to get the smell of burnt stuff out of the kitchen. That was the night we still call, ‘the time the kitchen got angry’. I will always be suspicious of Mexican food, thanks to that.”


Buffy pouted. “It wasn’t that bad. And in my defence, I had a lot on my mind.”


“Two weeks, Buff. And we had to clean the ceiling.”


“Well look, no burning, see?”


“Ok. Good.”

Buffy stirred the pot. A delicious smell came from the slowly heating mix of vegetables and meat. Tara had very carefully not told anyone what was in there, though she had been seen putting in potatoes, onions and a local turnip-looking thing. Through the link they shared, Willow was aware of the fact that the meat was fresh goat, picked up from the village.

Two years of foraging from the land, had removed pretty much all of Tara’s squeamishness about the food she ate. No, she was worried about Buffy and Dawn having a spaz when they found out. Buffy was a notoriously picky eater, and Dawn’s relationship with food was best described as highly unpredictable. Faith at least, would eat anything, a testimony to the harshness of her early years.

Willow for her part, thought that goat tasted fine. Especially when cooked by Tara.

The smell of rich stew wafted from the pot as Buffy stirred diligently.

She smiled to herself as she watched her friend stirring the pot slowly. Buffy was almost drooling.
Buffy was fine in the kitchen, if you could keep her away from distractions. Luckily there was absolutely nothing to distract her except books. And Buffy had never been a big fan of books.


Willow placed two foil wrapped loaves of local bread behind the stove to warm. The locals called it garlic bread, though it had some other herbs in it. And nuts. Whatever it was actually called, it went great with stew, and Faith had stuffed several loaves of the slightly flat, chewy bread into her pack before they left the village.

Her face fell. She’d sort of broken the village. She’d lost control and done Goddess alone knew how much damage. Faith’s harsh judgement of the locals, and Tara’s soft words couldn’t erase that.


“Will? You ok?” Buffy said, concerned at the sudden change of vibes.


Willow shook her head. “Not really Buff. I kinda blew up a village. And a mountain. And I know I kinda saved the day a little. But I just came so close to killing a whole bunch of people.”


“Except you didn’t Will. You stopped that fight cold. You protected Dawn and Faith, and stopped the fight before I killed anyone, Willow. You did great.”


Willow nodded glumly. “That’s kinda what Tara said, only with more hugs.”


Buffy opened her arms and gestured imperiously. “Then come here and get a best friend hug too.”


Willow complied, leaning forward into her friend’s strong embrace. “Thanks Buff. I still feel like a loser though. I mean, I’ve been working on my control for months and months. And suddenly, Bam! I lose it completely, and blow stuff up.”


Buffy shook her head. “Nope. That’s where you’re being dummy. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. I know you Rosenberg. I’ve seen you lose it completely. Today wasn’t even close. You got it just right Willow. So stop beating yourself up about it.”

Her face took on a look of mock seriousness. “I don’t like it when people beat up my friends.”


Willow smiled a little. “Ok Buff. I know better than to argue with you.”


Buffy quirked a little grin of her own, “Durn skippy.”


“Hey, that’s mine,” Willow protested.


Buffy looked around. “I don’t see your name on it anywhere. Mine now.”


Willow pouted, her eyes looking like every sad puppy in every movie ever made.

“No not Willow sad-face! Ack!”


Buffy raised her hands in surrender. “Okay I give. Uncle. Or auntie or whatever. I hereby declare that Durn skippy is the sole property of Willow Rosenberg.”


Willow immediately brightened. “Yay me!”


“So unfair. Using your sad-puppy face on me,” Buffy muttered.


Willow just smiled triumphantly.

Faith mumbled something in her sleep, and Buffy felt her get a little closer to consciousness. She suspected the smell of the slowly warming stew had much to do with that. Guiltily, she realized she’d allowed herself to get distracted and forgotten to stir the stew. She quickly gave it a stir, and was relieved that nothing had burnt.

She sighed. All the stories about her being terrible in the kitchen were true. She just couldn’t keep her mind on the job.


“How’s the stew?” Willow asked, as if reading her mind.


Buffy jerked a little as she realized that she’d zoned out. Again. “Fine, fine. The food is fine.”

Willow chuckled. “Relax buff. It’s on low. Even you can’t burn the food that quickly.”

Willow poked her with a handy wooden spoon. “Just (poke) keep (poke) stirring!”


“Ah! Quit it!” Buffy said, stirring agitatedly.


Dawn muttered in her sleep, clearly nearly awake.


“Shh!” Willow said. “It’s only early yet, you’ll wake them up.”


Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Will, I’m stirring a big pot of stew. It smells yummy. So does that garlic bread stuff. They’ll be awake in a few minutes. Or at least the ‘eating machine known as Faith’ will be. And Dawn is just as bad.”


Willow grinned. “Tara eats a lot these days too. Flying takes a lot of calories, even when most of it is magical.”


She frowned. “Actually, I’m pretty hungry myself. I may not be a Slayer, or be able to fly, but I did just hike up a mountain.”

She turned the little dial on the camp stove a bit. “Don’t stop stirring Buffy.”


“I won’t. I promise.”



Sometime later, the sky through the hole in the ceiling was a light blue-grey and there were yawns and quiet noises coming from the bed.

Willow floated over and carefully up-ended in the air over the bed. All to press a gentle kiss to Tara’s cheek.


Tara smiled and purred appreciatively, her eyes still shut. “Good morning sweetie.”


“Hey Glinda.”


Tara’s eyes popped open in surprise. The first thing she saw was Willow, bizarrely floating upside-down above them. The second thing she saw was Faith grinning at her.
The third thing she saw was Dawn’s elbow as she yawned and stretched.


“Oops! Sorry Tara. Ah! Willow!” Dawn said as her waking brain registered Willow’s inverted presence.


Willow glared at Dawn, her upside-down state making it look especially fierce. “Stop beating up my fiancé, ok?”


“God, no one should have to wake up like that. Sorry Tara.”


Tara rubbed her eyebrow and chuckled. “I’ll live. And it wasn’t that bad.”


“I meant, no one should have to wake up with Willow hanging upside-down over their head.”


Tara smirked crookedly. “I’m not so sure. I think it has possibilities.”


Dawn swatted her. “It’s too early for stuff like that. And I’m too young and innocent to know about that sort of thing.”


“Hey B, where’s my morning kiss?”


Buffy took a leaf from Faith’s book and scooped her out her cocoon. Faith made a surprised and very un-Faith squeak, before Buffy gave her a very thorough kiss.
“Happy?” she asked after they broke for air.


“Oh yeah,” Faith breathed.


“Ugh,” Dawn said as she scrambled out of bed, revolted by all the kissing on display.


Tara climbed out of bed and luxuriated in a long stretch.

“Hey baby. How did you sleep?” Willow asked.


“Not as well as I normally do. I missed my Willow pillow.”


Willow smiled at the pet name. “Don’t worry baby. Soon we’ll be home and you can have all the Willow pillow you want.”


Tara smiled sleepily as Willow hugged her close. “Mmm, Willow snuggles.”


Willow’s eyes caught sight of the bright stripy rainbows on Faith’s feet, waving in the breeze as Buffy held her up and cuddled her. She smiled ecstatically that her gift was being put to use.

“Is there any chance of a hot shower in this place?” Buffy asked.


“Nah,” Faith said. “Remember? Buckets of mountain stream water.”


Buffy looked at Tara with a pleading expression.


“If I recall from the way in, those baths look to be intact,” Tara said by way of reassurance.


“And cold,” Dawn said. “I checked.”


“The baths are heated from a central boiler,” Alphonse said mildly. “I have no idea if it still works. Our how to use it.”


“Willow to the rescue!” Buffy said cheerfully. “If you can heat coffee, you can heat bathwater!”


“You can?” Dawn said. “Please Willow, please please please?”


Willow rolled her eyes. “Jeepers Dawn, you’re not exactly roughing it here. It’s not even been an entire day since you had a hot shower.”

Willow looked at Dawn’s pleading expression, noticing almost without looking, that Buffy had an almost identical expression. She sighed. “Shameless hedonists. Next it’ll be ‘Willow, the floor is cold, can you magic some carpet for it?’”


Buffy just smiled radiantly. She recognized ‘Willow-giving-in grumbles’ from long practice.


Tara had pulled on her boots, and Willow thought she was possibly the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. Even with her hair all mussed, and wearing rumpled blue flannel pyjamas, Willow found her breath-taking. Boots and pyjamas made quite an incongruous sight, especially floating some distance above the ground, but Willow thought she couldn’t have looked more wonderful.


Tara smiled sleepily at the almost subconscious joy that almost vibrated down their link.

It was a chant, almost a child’s song on the edge of hearing, ‘She lives, she lives! My love is in the world, and she lives!’


She turned to Willow and smiled a soft, warm smile that nearly melted her away. ‘Yes I do sweetie.’
She floated over unhurriedly and pulled Willow in close. ‘Best practice that phrase my love. We won’t be engaged forever.’


Willow gasped and buried her face in the soft warm skin of Tara’s neck. ‘I just can’t wait. And yet I’m just the teensiest bit terrified.’


Tara cleared her throat. “We’ll just go see about that hot bath then.”


“Could blow the case wide open huh?” Buffy teased, grinning as Tara flushed pinkly. “Just like the volumey text?”


Tara drew herself up to her full height, which wasn’t much, but she was still considerably taller than Buffy, especially floating. “I don’t know what you mean Buffy.”

Smiling like the cat that got the proverbial canary, Willow lead Tara from the room with a bundle of towels and small pouch of toiletries under one arm.


“I hope they don’t have sex in the bath,” Dawn muttered. “That would be too weird.”


+++


“We so need a hot-tub in the Scooby palace,” Dawn said.

A chorus of dreamy assent passed.

All five women were soaking in the communal baths. Like ancient roman baths, they were all interconnected, and water slowly flowed from one square pool to the next. Willow had simply boiled the endmost pool, and the girls had gathered 2 pools down, enjoying the heat.


“Though, we’re going to need bathing suits at home,” Willow pointed out. “I mean, what if Xander wants to use the hot tub? Or Giles?”

More assent.


“When we get home and tell this story,” Dawn said, “we took turns, ok?”


“Good call,” Faith said. “Girls, we need a hot-tub. So when you get home, put on your best pout and get to work on Xander.”


“How are we getting home?” Buffy asked lazily.


The question went unanswered for a time, as they all let the heat soak into their bones. It may not have been a soak at the end of a long and tiring day, but the heat of the water was welcome nonetheless.

“We’ll need to get completely out of the valley to teleport,” Willow eventually responded. “And it would probably make for a safer trip if we left from where we arrived.”


“Great!” Buffy said, “I can pick up my underwear.”


“Sorry Buff, you might have to buy new stuff when we get home. I think the plan is to stuff our backpacks with books, and take home as much as we can.”


“Might get that shopping trip after all B,” Faith added.


Buffy brightened. “Ok. Ooo! You can help me plan out the furnishings for the new place.”


Buffy froze as she realized what she’d said. “Um, that is if you want to?”


Faith groaned. “You’ll be taking me curtain shopping next.”


Buffy looked more worried, something Faith felt down her link. Faith opened her eyes and turned to look at the worried blonde sitting neck-deep in the steaming water. “B? Wassup? I mean domestic shopping really ain’t my thing, but it ain’t so bad if I can stand back and watch you buzzin’ about like a crazed thing.”

She quirked a grin. “Kinda cute really.”


Buffy looked down, gazing into the steaming water. “No. I… I meant if you wanted to live with me,” she said in a small voice.


Faith frowned. “I thought that was the plan? I mean shit, we’re getting married and having a kid. I figured that’s what we were gonna do?”


“Well yeah, that’s what I was hoping. But I didn’t want to pressure you, what with all the other crazy stuff going on.”


“Really?”

Buffy nodded.

“That’s kinda sweet. And kinda dumb, B.”

She put her arm around Buffy. “Being with you is awesome, not a chore. I wanna live with you, ok?”

Buffy smiled, relieved.
Faith grinned. “’Sides, you’re not gettin’ out of diaper duty that easily.”


Buffy made a face. “Eew, don’t remind me.”


Willow bounced excitedly, splashing a little. “You guys! This is so sweet! You are so getting a hug when we’re dressed. Not now, because naked, but later!”


Faith grinned at the excitable red head, her hair damp with the hot water. “Hey Red? I can see your boobs.”


“Eep!” Willow ducked down in the water, almost sinking herself in the process. “Next time we go on any kind of adventure, I am packing a bathing suit. I don’t care if we’re going to the arctic circle, I’m taking a bathing suit.”


“Hey Glinda? How did you guys handle this on your travels?” Faith asked.


Tara smiled softly to herself as she remembered her friends.
“It was never really too much trouble. Takarn was essentially a dragon, Melchior was a robot, and Catherine was a girl at least.”


“Yeah, but didn’t she end up with Lenore the elf-chick? She’s at least gotta be checkin’ out the goods.”

If Tara was blushing, it was hard to see over the general pink flush caused by the hot tub.

“Um. Yes. She was appreciative. But I’d gotten used to her by then.”

She smirked at Faith. “She was a lot like you in many ways, so I consider her to be good training.”


“Aww, come on cuz, you know you love me.”


Tara just smiled beatifically as she closed her eyes and relaxed against Willow, her feet floating up until her toes peeked up over the faintly steamy water.



+++



Sometime later, freshly washed and warmly dressed against the cold, the girls were back in the main room, enjoying bowls of delicious stew and chewy nut-bread.

“I figure we can do the rest of the reading back home,” Faith said, gesturing at the stacks with a hunk of bread.


Dawn held up a digital camera. “I took good photos of all the tablets I could find. I guess if we take that, the big recipe book over there, the spell book and as many of the others as we can manage…” she shrugged helplessly. “I’m hoping we have enough for Giles to puzzle out what’s going on.”.


Buffy frowned. “I’d have thought we’d need to drag you out of here, after you went all hermit-like and gross.”


Dawn shook her head, her still-drying braid swinging. “Nope. I have important… things at home I want to deal with.”


Buffy looked worried. “Is this about…” she said helplessly, unable to say the words, to make the recent trauma more real.


Dawn shook her head again. “No. I’ve dealt with that for now. Later I’m gonna wanna have a big sit and think, and maybe a cry and some big sister time. But for now I’m dealing. I just want to get as much of this home to Giles as I can so he can start chewing his way through it.”
She looked around wistfully at the neat stacks of books. “I wish we could take all of them, but we can’t.”


“Hey,” Buffy said. “You know the ‘W’ word is banned.”


Dawn covered her mouth. “Sorry,” she mumbled through her hand. “I figured we were safe here.”


“So what’s the plan Blondie?” Faith asked, strapping on her weapons.


Tara rolled her eyes with a smile. “I thought we could take a stroll back to the standing stones. And get ready to go home. If it’s ok with you, I’d like to pay the village a visit and make sure everyone is alright.”


Faith frowned. “Really? After they fed us to the wolves? Wolves with guns?”


“They were frightened Faith. I’m not condoning what they did. But I understand them not wanting to cross men with guns.”


“I’ll wait for you at the stones,” Dawn said. “I really don’t want to go back there.”


“You should take someone with you, Snow,” Faith said. “I don’t want the local yokels getting ideas if they see you alone.”


She eyed Buffy with a smile. “Take the pocket-sized Slayer with you.”


“Hey! I’m not pocket sized!” Buffy protested. “And don’t you think they’ll be impressed enough with the new well Tara dug them? The one that goes to the centre of the earth?”


“Maybe. But don’t bet on ‘maybe.’ Be sure.”


“Plus hey. Flying,” Willow said.


Buffy smiled. "Ok, I like that idea."

She narrowed her gaze at Faith. "Don't think I'm letting you off the hook about the pocket-sized thing.”


Faith just grinned. “Whatcha gonna do B? Punish me?”


Buffy bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yep.”

She reached out and started to tickle Faith under her arms. Faith heroically resisted. At least for a little while.

Eventually, even her stoicism was no match for Buffy’s nimble fingers and she started to squirm. “Ok, I give! Quit it!”


“Nope!”

Buffy alternated her pokes and prods, with feather-light touches across the parts of Faith she could reach, until with a sound that seemed awfully like a squeal, she fled from the room with Buffy in hot pursuit.


Dawn just rolled her eyes. “Dorks.”


Willow laughed at her friend’s antics, listening to the squeals and demands for surrender, until her eyes met Tara’s. They were alive with mischief.


Her own eyes widened. Her own ticklishness was well known. “Oh no. Nonono!”


Tara wiggled her fingers.
The idea was enough to make Willow shiver.


She bolted, shrieking with tickle-terror, Tara hot on her heels.


+++


“Holy crap!” Buffy said.

Tara was forced to agree.
The damage to the mountain was catastrophic


The pair were flying, several hundred meters above the mountain. Buffy was firmly strapped into her purple flying harness and attached to Tara’s front.


“Holy crap!” Buffy said again, “This is like mount Saint-Helens, y’know after!”


Tara was simply shocked into silence. The mountain had a huge chunk bitten out of the side of it, very much like the famous mountain. Unimaginable volumes of rock had been blasted and torn from the mountain, and lay strewn about, as though an angry god had smashed their fist down on a mountain-shaped sand castle.

The devastation was mind boggling.


“Remind me never to piss Willow off,” Buffy said in a disbelieving tone.


“Well, now I really want to check out the village,” Tara said, a tone of concern colouring her voice.


Buffy nodded. “Uh-huh.”


‘Baby, what is it?’ Willow asked, her mental voice mirroring Tara’s concern. ‘You feel all worried.’


‘Um, don’t be upset sweetie, but we just got a look at the mountain.’


‘Oh. Um, how bad is it?’ she asked hesitantly.


‘Buffy described it as mount Saint-Helens. After.’


‘Oh. Poop,’ Willow sent, regret flooding into Tara’s mind.


‘By the looks of it, the mountain sort of broke off, so it’s not like it buried the entire countryside.’

Tara concentrated and sent a picture of what she saw.


‘Jeepers. I did a lot of damage. I really really hope no one was up there.’


Willow had raised a valid concern. To reassure her love, Tara cast a familiar spell, touching Buffy as she did so. “Goddess let me see,” she murmured.

‘I will find out for you baby. I promise.’


‘I… I really hope I didn’t, I mean I did what I had to do, but I really hope I didn’t drop a mountain on some harmless shepherd guy.’


“Whoa! Pretty colours!” Buffy said. “Warn a girl when you’re gonna do that next time.”


“Sorry Buffy,” Tara said with an undertone of worry.


“What are we looking for?” Buffy shouted, against the wind.


Tara cast about with her enhanced vision. The slowly expanding shockwave of Willow’s blast was visible, as was the slowly fading column of golden light over the town. Magic of such force would take weeks to fully dissipate.
Spotting what she was looking for, she pointed. “Look down Buffy. Do you see that ripple?”


Buffy followed her arm. “Like black and white rings? Yeah I see it.”


“That’s where a creature died recently. Probably a rabbit. We need to find a really big one like that on the mountain.”


“What? Why?” Buffy said, twisting around as much as possible.


“Because Willow smashed a mountain. And she has the very valid fear that she might have killed someone doing it.”


Buffy cringed. “Yikes. Oh wow. Poor Willow.”

She concentrated on her link, as Tara lead them in a wide loop around the devastated area.

‘Baby? I need you to give Willow a hug, ok?’


Faith responded. ‘Uh, ok. Why?’


‘Because she’s all worried that she might have killed someone up the mountain that she broke. We’re off to find out.’


‘Shit. Shoulda thought of that. Lucky it’s not tall enough for climbing, or snowy enough for skiing I guess. Uh, me and the beanpole will look after Red, you go make sure, ok?’


‘We will. And look after Willow, she’s kinda fragile right now.’


‘I heard ya. Go do your thing, we’ll be at the stones when you’re done.’


Buffy felt surprisingly warm and tingly as Faith concentrated and sent her the feeling of a hug and a kiss.
The smile fell from her face as she realized what other sensations she was likely to experience, in about 7 months time.


Faith’s only response was laughter.


+++


After nearly an hour’s flight, Tara was ready for a break. Even with the extra magic powering her muscles, it was still quite hard work towing another person through the air, even one as light as Buffy.

They had been across the rubble several times, from different directions. Though they had seen a large number of ripple patterns, none were the size and brightness that indicated the death of a human being.

And so, they were headed to the village for a much needed rest-stop.


Happily for Tara, she was able to glide down most of the way there, and Buffy had cheered considerably after they had assured themselves that Willow was not an accidental killer.

Willow had been even more cheered. She was still somewhat subdued about the whole encounter, they all were. But her spirits had risen considerably once they had reassured her that nothing beyond a few goats and rabbits had been injured.

From above, the village seemed intact. Most of the minor mess caused by the shock had been cleared away, though a circular pattern was visible in the cobblestones where Willow had stood, and the hole on the edge of the village was still visibly radiating heat.


“Wow,” Buffy said. “Remind me to never upset you guys.”


“Magic is like your Slayer strength Buffy. It responds to emotion. Do you remember how you felt when Faith was shot?”


“Angry like nothing I’ve ever felt. And terrified.”


“That’s how Willow felt.”


“That was a very crappy day. Was it really only yesterday?”


“So much has happened. Look, we’re nearly there,” Tara said, pointing down at the rapidly approaching village. Only a couple of people were about, making an early start to the day.



Buffy looked around, eagle eyed. “Well, I’m not seeing any official-looking helicopters or vans, which is a plus.”


Tara sighed with relief. “Oh good. I’d hate to have to explain myself on national TV at this time of the morning.”

She quirked a smile. “My hair is all messy from flying.”


Buffy unstrapped the scythe from her chest. “I want you to drop me first, do a pass, and then come back.”


“Do you think they’ll be wanting to shoot us?”


Buffy shrugged, the movement barely noticeable over the movement of Tara’s flight. “I don’t know. I hope not. Let’s not find out the hard way though.”


“If they’re in a shooty mood, perhaps I can persuade them to find something else to do. Possibly with my fists.”

Tara pulled Buffy in close, giving her slack to unhook the harness.

“Ok… now!”
Tara let go and Buffy dropped to the cobbles, many meters below.



She slammed into the ground and rolled behind a cart for cover, peeking out when not a great deal happened.


Tara banked and came in for a landing nearby, attracting complaints from Buffy.

“Wow. *cough* windy. Like a helicopter.”


Tara ducked her head. “Sorry. Sometimes I forget how much wind they cause.”


Buffy shook the leaves from her hair. “Don’t worry about it. And hey look, no one’s come to shoot at us yet. Which is always a plus.”


“True. I’m definitely in favour of not getting shot at,” Tara said. “We should head to the Inn. If anyone is awake and sensible at this hour, chances are that’s where they’ll be.”


“Let me go first this time,” Buffy said. “I might need you to patch me up, if I turn out to be less bulletproof than yesterday. Um, plus I’m not sure if Will would forgive me if I let you get shot. Besides, it’s my job to get shot up.”


Tara put a restraining hand on Buffy’s arm. “Buffy, it’s not your job to get hurt. But if you do, I’ll do my best to look after you.”


Buffy patted Tara’s hand. “Yeah it kinda is. But I’m ok with that. Besides, if I can come home to snuggles, and you and Will patching me up, I’m happy.”


Tara smiled shyly. “Ok. Deal.”


“Violence and snuggles, what more could a girl want?”


Tara looked hopefully at the door. “I’m hoping there’s no-one in there who wants to give us either. But we should find out.”

Buffy opened the door and went inside, Scythe in hand, but not obviously threatening.


Tara followed, closing the door behind her.
The inside of the inn was a little darker than last time, due to the fact that a few of the windows were boarded up.
But other than that, and slightly less crockery and bottles on the walls, the place looked very much intact.
The large innkeeper, the man Faith had christened ‘Big Pete’ looked up from his station behind the bar and froze when he saw his two newest arrivals.
Buffy just glared at him.


Carefully, hands raised as if to calm a frightened animal, he stepped out from behind the bar.
“Miss Buffy, miss Tara, I’m so sorry for what happened-”


“So you should be,” Buffy cut him off. “Several groups of people almost died. Your village included.”


He raised his hand in surrender. “I know. We did not wish you ill, but we were frightened.”


Tara’s expression softened. “Men with guns tend to have that effect.”

Big Pete nodded his acquiescence.
“Tell us, please. How can we make it up to you.”


A slow smile spread across Buffy’s face.


++++


“God, where are they?” Dawn complained. “My butt’s asleep. I feel like I’ve been sitting here half the day.”


Willow chuckled. “It’s only been a couple of hours, and we spent most of that walking.”
She rubbed her leg alongside the protective plate of black Kevlar. She was grateful that Tara had cajoled, wheedled and eventually bribed her into going running every morning. Several hours of brisk walking wearing a heavy pack and armour was not a whole lot of fun, but without the improved level of fitness she had earned, it would have been hellish.



A sense of amusement flowed down the link that Willow shared with Tara. It wasn’t strong enough to come with images, but whatever it was, it had Tara highly amused.

‘Baby, what is it?’


Tara’s laughter tinkled down the link. ‘The villagers apologized for not telling us about the knights. They, um, bribed Buffy into forgiving them.’


Willow frowned. ‘What do they have that they could possibly bribe Buffy with?’


‘You’ll see fairly soon. We’re almost back.’


‘Aww, spoilsport.’



All she got was the impression of an enigmatic smile.


Willow pouted and looked across at Faith. “Um, Faith? Are you getting anything on the Buffy-cam?”


Faith grinned. “Ya mean why B’s all giggly and silly? Nope. She wants it to be a surprise.”
She tapped her head. “No pictures.”

She pointed. “There they are.”


Willow sat up and looked. Two figures walked side by side. One gleamed like the promise of a new day, one as black as the night that was her demesne. And a bit shorter.

Buffy was carrying something red in her arms, and chattering excitedly. Occasionally she would pause to admire her feet.
Tara was wandering alongside her, grinning hugely amidst the chatter.


“…and do you see? There’s engravings or whatever on them. And they’re so comfortable!”


“I think you mentioned that, yes,” Tara said indulgently.


She held up her parcel and inhaled deeply. “Wow, I can’t wait to eat this.”


“I think you may have mentioned that too. A little.”



“What did you do?” Dawn said.


Buffy grinned hugely. “Check it out! Stylish yet comfortable boots, and this!” she held up the brightly coloured parcel she was carrying. It was bright red, and waxy. It was also larger than her own head.


“Is that-” Dawn started.


“Cheese!”


“Holy crap, that’s a big cheese!” Dawn blurted.


“Jesus B, it’s bigger than your head.”


“This is what a whole cheese looks like!” she said brightly. “Plus I got stylish, yet comfortable boots.”
She put a foot forward to demonstrate her natty and comfortable boots.
“European leather, hand-made for my feet! They are sooo comfortable!”


Dawn looked at Buffy’s boots. The rich brown leather was tooled with a pretty vine pattern and had a built up sole and heel, to give Buffy a little extra height. And a little extra kicking power.
She glared at her sister. “We all got shot at by the dorks with guns. How come you got the new boots?”


“Because they were trying to say sorry, and we were the only ones there. And we didn’t have all day to wait, but…” she leaned forward, spilling her other boots that were slung over her shoulder and catching a second, matching pair. “I did get him to hand over a pair in your size.”


Dawn squealed and clapped her hands, bounding over to hug her sister. “Awesome! Best sister ever!”


“Sorry guys, I didn’t have time to get anything else,” Buffy said, her voice muffled by Dawn’s shoulder.


“Sweetie, I have a little something for you too,” Tara said to Willow with a soft smile.


“Really?” Willow squeaked.


Tara drew a thick woolly scarf from behind her back and lovingly wrapped it around Willow’s neck. It was a natural brown and cream colour and was buttery soft.


Willow almost purred as Tara wrapped her up. “Oh wow. That’s so soft.”


“I thought you might like it,” Tara said with a smile. “I know how you feel the cold.”


Willow snuggled into the soft warmth. “I do. I love it!”


“It suits you Wills,” Buffy said.


“Thanks Buff,” Willow said with a grin. “Just share some of your cheese, ok?”


Buffy sputtered. “But-but the cheese… is mine.”


“Not big on sharing huh?” Faith asked.


“Does not work, or play well with others,” Dawn said sardonically. “It said that on her report card for years.”


“Hey, to be fair I was an only child for like, most of my life.”


“No. Only for the first four years of your life. Somebody, probably me, rewrote the world. So that never happened.”


Buffy poked out her tongue.
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Real mature Buffy.”


Buffy huffed. “Alright. You can have some cheese.”


“What sort of cheese is it?” Willow asked, poking the red waxy coating with a curious finger.



Buffy shrugged happily. “I have no idea. Big Pete tried to explain, but all I got was ‘cheesy cheese cheese.’”


Willow smiled warmly. “We will have to do science to it!”


Buffy grinned back. “The best kind, cheesy science!” she said nodding cheerfully. “We can try it by itself, and on sammiches, and pizza and stuff, until we figure out what it’s good for.”


“Or die of cheese poisoning,” Willow replied happily.



Faith leaned over and murmured to Tara. “So, Red likes cheese too, huh?”


Tara nodded with a small secret smile, and murmured back. “Oh yes. When Mrs Summers was around, she said it was a constant battle to keep cheese in the house. She once threatened to buy horrible cheap American cheese if it didn’t stop disappearing.”

She whispered conspiratorially, “Dawn likes cheese too. So I don’t think it’s going to last very long.”


“Heh. Well it’ll be fun while it lasts.”


Faith stood up and stretched, giving Buffy an opportunity to put the cheese carefully down on the piles of packs, and wrap her arms around her.

“Hey Bumblebee. Did ya miss me?”


Buffy nodded. “Yep.”


She frowned. “Willow’s right. Cuddles with armour are no fun.”


“Yeah. If I wanted hard bits I’d be dating a dude. I happen to kinda like soft,” Faith replied.


“We’ll be home soon. Then you can put the armour away,” Tara said soothingly.


Dawn looked around at the oddly shaped, heavy packs, crammed full of weighty tomes. She sighed. “I wish we could take all of them home, not just this handful.”


“Dawn Marie Summers!” Buffy said, annoyed. “You should know better!”


Willow winced. “Buffy kinda has a point there Dawn, that’s twice in one day you used the ‘W’ word.”


Dawn slumped. “I know. And I’m sorry. I just w-want all of them home with us,” she said, stumbling with another ‘w’ word.
“I mean we’ve got lots of books, but what if the bit we need is in one of the hundreds we left behind?” she said, strain and worry evident in her voice.


Willow put her hand reassuringly on her shoulder. “Then we come back and get them. Trust me Dawn. They’re all sealed up, they aren’t going anywhere.”


“And Giles is super weird-book guy,” Buffy added comfortingly. “He’ll be through these books faster than you’ll believe, and you’ll get your answers.”


“And we have some answers already, D. Even after only a day or so.”


“If you’re not sure sweetie, we can just go back,” Tara said. “We can just walk back over there, open the place up and get back to reading, if you want.”


Dawn looked at her family (plus one). None of them looked the slightest bit put out about spending another afternoon walking back to the monastery and going back to reading. Despite the effort, despite the lack of privacy, no-one batted an eyelid about turning round and spending hours walking back.
It made her eyes all watery.


“Thanks you guys. That means a lot to me.”

She straightened up, squaring her slim shoulders. “But you’re right. We have photos and a ton of the most important-looking books.”

She smiled a little. “That should be enough to keep Giles going for a while.”

Turning to her family she spoke warmly. “Let’s go home guys.”


Buffy nudged Willow. “Poor Giles. He must be so bored without us.”


+++


“Hi Giles!” Anya said brightly.


Giles jerked to a halt, startled.
“Ah, Anya. What can I do for you?” he asked with a faintly worried undertone.


“I need a job,” she said simply. “As a post-mortal being, I no longer need material possessions. But I find that control over money and the accompanying material possessions is something I miss from my mortal life.”

She looked at Giles quite seriously. “And as someone who is under orders to hang around with you lot, and also has twenty four hours to fill each day with, I have too much time on my hands.”


“Ah.”


Anya tapped her foot impatiently. “Giles. I’m powerful and easily bored.”


“Ah. Right,” Giles said worriedly.

He thought with lightning speed, before settling on an idea.

“I do need someone to take over a project. I’m not sure it would be suitable though,” he said.


“I’ll never know if you don’t tell me,” Anya said, with a hint of annoyance.


Giles’ lips quirked microscopically. “Indeed. Well as it happens, we need a better pipeline for the magical goods needed by Willow and her trainees. We were contemplating opening a shop. Both as a way of disguising the things that we need, and as a way of keeping tabs on any new practitioners.”

Anya looked thoughtful, nodding as he spoke.

“Do you know of anyone with years of retail experience, and skill with magic?” Giles asked innocently.


Anya smiled radiantly, as though she had just gotten a joke. “Yes Giles. Yes I do.”


Giles smiled a little. “I rather thought you might.”


He took off his glasses and nibbled on the stem thoughtfully. “Unfortunately, we are not yet organized enough to make it happen.”

Anya’s brilliant smile fell.

“So if we were to go ahead with the project now, whoever took it over would have to oversee every aspect of the operation. From the building, through the staff, to setting up the supply lines. It would be a very demanding task.”


Anya’s smile redoubled in power. “I don’t sleep. I don’t get tired. I can do this.”


Giles smiled more fully. “Excellent. I have absolute confidence in you, Anya.”


She looked thoughtful for a moment. “We’ll need a website, a small warehouse, and a shop.”


Giles nodded his understanding. “Of course. Do some investigation into what you need, and let me know. I’m sure you’ll find Xander to be a mine of useful information about the buildings, if not the, er, other thing.”


Anya’s gaze softened. “It’s ok. I know why you don’t like technology. She told me Giles.”


Giles looked befuddled, until the light dawned.

“You spoke to Jenny?” he said softly.


Anya nodded, smiling brightly. “I spoke to everybody, but yes. She’s very fond of you Giles. And describes you in only positive terms.”

Anya eyed his crotch alarmingly, until an uncomfortable Giles moved to put a table between Anya and the object of her fascination.


Desperate to change the subject, Giles explained. “While it’s true that I have never been particularly fascinated with the latest gadgets. I was as you say, very fond of someone who was.”

His face took on a faraway look. “She was absolutely fascinated with all things electronic and computer, and would often astound and amaze me with some new electronic device.”


His face fell. “And when she died at the hands of Angelus… well, you can imagine that almost any electronic gewgaw reminded me of her.”
Anya nodded, uncharacteristically silent.

“It was… cruel the way he killed her. To torture me,” he said slowly.

His expression was desolate. “Sadly the women in my life do not fare well.”


“Don’t be stupid,” Anya said, irritated.


“I beg your pardon?”


“You’re being stupid. And it’s annoying, so stop it.”

Giles raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

“Don’t go all British on me Giles. This has nothing to do with you. Sunnydale was cruel to women.”

She pondered for a moment. “True most of our merry little band were female, so that would lead to an increased casualty rate among women.”

She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “And that would also explain the lesbians: A Shortage of men, I’ve seen it before.”

Giles showed the influence of California on his sensibilities, by rolling his eyes.

“But they lived in Sunnydale, Giles. That made them targets, same as you. So stop looking for guilt, it’s illogical.”


“Quite. I suppose we all have a bit of a martyr complex don’t we?”


Anya bobbed her head definitively. “Yes. And Jenny wishes she hadn’t died, and that her death hadn’t hurt you so. But if she were here, she would kick your butt for being so mopey.”


Unseen by the pair, Xander was leaning against the wall listening to the conversation.
He smiled. His girl really believed in ripping the band-aid off quickly, no doubt about it.
But however rough twenty lifetimes as a demon might have made her, she really cared about her friends.
Even the stuffy English ones.


+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2016 4:55 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that the casualty rate from the "Mountain-Go-Boom" episode was minimal... I'm starting to wonder if the Chosen of the Goddess are Slayers or Witches... Big yay for house building plans... I wonder how long Giles is going to be "missing" when he gets the load of books they bring back... Yay for Anya getting a new job... I wonder if The Goddess + Key = PTB-Go-Boom...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 1:24 am 
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Nice wrap up to the somewhat messy Scooby rendition of the movie "Eruo Trip". And of course they couldn't leave the mountains of eastern Europe without Buffy pilfering a giant uncut wheel of fancy/rustic old world mountain cheese.

Although I'm left wondering if Alphonse got the chance to pack a bag of what few clothes he owns before leaving the village or leaving the abandoned monastery. Unless of course he's taken a vow of "All I own since The Beast slaughtered my order is this one set of musky brown robes that I should really get washed."

I'm also curious about Heather's reaction to Dawn coming home from the trip with a relatively young, heavily accented, man servant. "Dawnie! How could you go on an all girlie girl journey of self discovery and independence on the other side of the world and come home with a man?" Still wondering if he's gonna get snatched up by one of the newbie Slayers or if him and Andrew will hit it off.

I'm wondering how fast it'll be before their new pet monk starts addressing Dawn with lines like "As you wish your Keyship" or "At once my keyliness" in front of the girls that haven't been clued in on the fact that Dawn isn't the "normal one" out of all their leaders' inner circle. After all his secret religion was built around her and has been worshiping Dawn since at least the "Dawn" of the written word.

That has got to add a new wrinkle to Dawn's coming out to Heather speech. How confusing will it be when her BFF tells her to ignore the subservient boy toy shining her shoes and doing her laundry 24/7 because "she's like totes gay now!"

I can just imagine Heather coming up to Alphonse to confront him about his relationship with her friend and he completely sidetracking her with "Oh yeah you should totally start dating your friend Dawn." "Why?" "Because she's the sacred Key and no mortal has ever been so honored, may her will be done Amen."

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:54 pm 
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Hi Zampsa! Hi Citanul!

Running a bit behind this week.
Luckily the GF has a big week of work, so i can do quieter things :P

So yeah, building the Scooby palace goes a bit... awry.
You'll see :)

And yes, there is a little house cleaning on the horizon :D

Good points about the KEyness and Alphonse :P

Sadly, there's not much about Alphonse, he just fades into the background a bit, but i might add some of this stuff on later.
A bit of embarrassing hero worship could be funny :)

As to the coming out, well, i wanted to make sure i didn't hit the same notes each time, so i went for something a little different :P

And Alphonse is not gay. So he's going to be the bee's knees with some of the Slayers.

Anyway, here's a short, Giles-centric chapter.

Enjoy!


Giles goes for a walk
Or
Ripper and Rupert



He stalked through the night, knives and a pistol concealed beneath his dark jacket.
Rupert Giles was on a mission.


He had promised that there would be no Ill-thought-out retribution.
And there wouldn’t be.


Someone once said ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.
And he was very cold.

At Dawn’s request, he had put his fury aside, and it had burned inside him with a cold strength.
For so much of his life he had denied his dark side, hidden from it, tried to stamp it out even.
But tonight he nurtured it, almost revelled in it.
Tonight the Ripper would be unleashed.


In truth, it hadn’t been all that hard to find his prey. The nurses at the hospital had diligently collected as much information about their patient as possible. And it had taken all of ten minutes to get it from them, in the guise of an Interpol agent.

Really, people should be a little more attentive.


And so he found himself standing outside an unassuming suburban dwelling in the middle of the night, pulling on a set of leather gloves.
The lights were off. Not even the bluish glow of the television to give a sense of life to the place.
Quietly Giles moved around the outside of the house, looking carefully for guard dogs or motion-sensitive lights.

None were found.


Nothing in his research said that his prey lived with anyone, but even still, he was cautious as he approached the back door.

It wasn’t locked.


Moving with an ease and confidence that would have surprised the members of his surrogate family, Giles stepped inside. His shoes made no sound as he entered the house, and he closed the door silently behind himself, careful to leave no trace with his gloved hands.

The kitchen was dark, but long years fighting evil in the night, left him able to function with only minimal visual cues. The kitchen itself was only moderately untidy, typical of a bachelor’s place, though the sink overflowed with dirty dishes, perhaps betraying a sudden change in the mental state of the person who lived here.


The lounge was similar, decorated in the style of the single man, a large TV and stereo occupying the majority of one wall.
It too was superficially messy, with papers torn and scattered about, but generally clean and presentable.
He looked about, trying to take in the measure of the man. The display case was filled with sporting trophies and pictures of sporting events.
He noticed one simple feature, every picture showed the man himself. There were no pictures of anyone besides himself, save in the most secondary of roles.


Giles was starting to get an impression of the kind of man he was dealing with.



He made short work of searching the rest of the house, finding no weapons more significant than a carving knife and a baseball bat, these he hid in a cupboard, for safety’s sake.

Something, some predatory instinct, suggested that the man he sought would return. And so, with the patience of an experienced hunter, he settled down to wait in the darkened lounge.



How long he waited, he couldn’t have said, but his prey stumbled into the house in the small hours of the night.
This hour of the night suited Giles’ dark mood perfectly. The large figure staggered into the lounge and collapsed, shivering onto the couch.
Small animal noises of suffering emerged from his prone form, as did a powerful smell of alcohol.


As silent as the grave, Giles stood.
He loomed silently over the shivering man, looking down on him with icy contempt.
Truthfully he hadn’t come with the goal of killing the man.
Though he wasn’t ruling it out.
With a tug on the suffering man’s shoulder, he rolled him over.



The look in the man’s eyes was harrowing.

Giles had seen war. He had seen horror. He had been on the front lines of the battle for mankind’s survival for more years than he cared to think about.
But the look in the man’s eyes was enough to freeze his blood.

This was not the gaze of a man who had seen hell.
This was the gaze of a man in hell.

He almost ignored Giles’ presence, so focussed he was on his own suffering.



Giles was an average spell caster at best, completely lacking Willow’s creativity, or Tara’s sensitivity.
But even he could sense the sheer fury of the Goddess that marked this man.
Anyone with even an ounce of the gift, would know not to interfere with the curse on this man.
He was marked for all time, with Brighid’s fury.


Giles nodded slowly to himself. The ruthless part of himself was impressed, even as his more compassionate side felt for the man’s pain.
But any sense of compassion was fleeting, vanishing under the blowtorch of Giles’ anger.
There was a reason for this man’s suffering.
And a Goddess had given form to that anger, and cursed this man.


And Giles agreed with her judgement.
For what this man had tried to do, to defile; Giles agreed with the Goddess’s vengeance.

And so he simply walked away.




[/b]While the girls are away, the boys will play:[/b]


“Hello old friend.”
At the sound of the softly spoken words, Giles looked up.


His features were a mask of disapproval. He stared at the man in front of him, with the cold detachment of a scientist peering through a microscope. Peering through the microscope, at a particularly dangerous form of life.

The man he was staring at (and definitely not glaring) was dressed as ever, in casually tasteful clothing.

If there was one thing Giles had always envied Ethan, it was his dress sense. His current outfit of a dark red shirt and dark slacks would have looked gauche on anyone else. And he had just the right amount of gold jewellery to look a touch exotic, without looking tasteless.
And despite Giles’ best cold glare, Ethan was the picture of relaxation and style.
“No ‘hello Ripper?’” he finally asked.


Ethan broke into a slightly nervous smile. “Well, you know how it is. Last time we spoke you told me never to call you that. And then you kicked me several times in the stomach.” He touched his stomach as if remembering old pains. “Really drove it home you know.”


Giles raised his eyebrows and looked over his glasses dubiously.


Ethan sighed. “That, and I don’t want to fight.”


“Really?” Giles said, surprised, “can the leopard change his spots so easily?”


Ethan grinned. “No. But I really don’t want to be enemies anymore, old boy.”

He moved to the table and sat down, across from Giles. “The sad fact of the matter is, there aren’t many of us left from the old days. And the few who do remain are… old.”

He looked across the table at his old friend, his old enemy.

“I never had half so much fun as when I was with you.”

He smiled. It was a genuine, warm smile, and something that alarmed Giles no end.

“You look good Ripper. The lifestyle really seems to suit you. Well, that and the grey-away. And here I was, worried that you’d be in the middle of a full blown mid-life crisis, complete with little red sports car.”


Giles sighed, clearly irritated. “That part of my life is over Ethan. I’ll not thank you to start a clumsy seduction in the middle of our latest crisis. And I drive a silver jag, if you must know.”


Ethan chuckled. “You can relax old boy. As it happens I have a new partner, and we are very happy together. In fact she and I are coming up on our second year together.”


“She?”


“After a fashion,” he said with a smirk.


Giles raised his eyebrows in question.


“I brought her with me. I rather thought she would enjoy the experience, and so far she seems to be enjoying herself immensely.”


Giles looked surprised, and despite himself just a little impressed. “Two years is rather a long time for you, old man.”


Ethan’s grin was devilish, positively demonic. “What can I say, she’s unique. After a fashion. And she keeps me young.”


+++


Taking full advantage of their status as associated Scoobies, Heather and Jules were in the library, making use of the big displays and maps.

Contrary to popular expectation, they did not have the xbox plugged into the big wall screen. Currently the wall-screen was lit with pictures of rather dazed-looking old men.


“Nah, if this was like Buffy’s thing back in the day, no way would she have let Willow assign it to us, just as they left.”

She was standing by a big whiteboard covered in pictures and scribbled notes.
She wore her uniform of a black body suit, minus all the weapons and such.

Heather bounced a wadded up lump of paper off Jules’ head. She was reclining in one of the comfy chairs scattered around the room. For her part she was wearing a relatively restrained outfit of stylishly ripped jeans and a sleeveless pink top.

“There isn’t anyone else,” she said. “Xander is off building the Scooby palace up the hill. Giles is managing to research this scary top-secret thing that got everyone so freaked, and trying to set up the overseas part of the new C.O.W. And Vi, Rona and Princess Snotty-Pants are actually doing it, with Andrew’s help.”

She waved the hand she had been ticking things off-of and said triumphantly. “So it’s up to us to save the day!”

She struck a pose. “The terrible two. The best! Of what’s left.”


“Dork,” came the reply.

Heather looked thoughtful at Jules’ comment.

“So…” Jules said. “We gonna talk about the other night?”


Heather glared at her best friend. “A world of no. I don’t wanna talk about that bastard.”


Jules shook her head. “That wasn’t what I meant. I was talking about the other Dawn thing. You know, the one where you were slow dancing? And missing her? Even though she’s been gone less than a day? That Dawn thing.”


Heather shook her head, her braid waggled. “No. We’re not talking about that thing. There is no thing. We need to talk about the sudden appearance of comatose old people, and the possible disappearance of young ones.”


Jules raised an eyebrow. “Highlander, there is most definitely a thing.”


She was about to say more when Buffy bounced cheerfully into the room.


Heather immediately sat up, guiltily removing her feet from the table. “Buffy!”


“That’s a different outfit,” Jules said.



Buffy was wearing a short pleated skirt of black and purple plaid, and a short-sleeved deep-purple top. Completing the look were stripy purple over-the-knee socks and arm warmers. It was definitely a younger look than they were used to.

“Thanks!” Buffy said brightly. “I picked it out myself. Plus it is both stylish and comfortable!”


Heather spoke up anxiously. “So how come you’re back so soon? Did something go wrong? Is Dawn ok?”


Buffy’s brow furrowed in thought. “I am here at precisely the right time. Nothing is wrong. Dawn is my sister, and she is fine!”


Heather looked puzzled. “Oh… cool. I was worried there for a sec. Um, where is she, do you know?”


“I am not exactly sure,” Buffy said. “But I’m confident that she’s around here somewhere.”

She looked around at the pictures. “What are you working on?” she asked cheerfully.


Heather was deep in thought, so Jules filled in the gaps. “Well, seeing as the senior Slayers, the Sunnydale veterans, are going to establish our new base in ye merry olde England somewhere, Willow has been slowly getting us to do some of the less apocalypse-like stuff, to give them more free time.”


Jules stood up proudly. “And seeing as we did such a great job on our last case, the thing with the vegetable guy, Willow set us up with this.”

Gesturing at the big screen she continued her explanation. “Which might be something you’ve dealt with before. Old people mysteriously appearing on the streets, all beat-up and comatose. And maybe, some young people disappearing at the same time.”


“Yeah,” Jules added. “Only one guy was awake, and he was only awake for a little bit before he passed out. Billy Sinclaire he said his name was, which is the name of a young guy wanted by the local cops for stealing a motorbike.”


“Which is how come we know. Thanks to Willow and her hacker protégé Danni, we are hooked into everything.”


Buffy glanced over the pictures. “Nope,” she chirped.

She shook her head before continuing in the same bright chirpy tone. “I don’t think this is the same!”

She pointed at the police mug-shot and the admission photo taken by the hospital. “Look! They are wearing almost the same clothes, and those don’t look any older. Plus the time stamps on the photos are only a week apart.”


Jules was close to the board and had a good look, totally impressed. “Point. You owe me 5 bucks Highlander.”


“Fine,” Heather said absentmindedly. “I’ll get it to you later.”


“Thanks Buffy. Um, were you going to go see Faith?” she said, hoping that Buffy would take the hint.


“Sure!” Buffy said brightly. “Do you know where she is? I’ve got some new moves I want to try out!”


Heather waved both hands in alarm. “Nonono, no details please. Just go do… whatever, and try not to tell us ok?”


“Ok! I can do that. I’ll go now!”


“Uh, ok. Have fun with Faith!”


Buffy bounced chirpily from the room.



The pair sat in contemplative silence for a time.



Heather eventually broke the silence. “So, I’m thinking that either Buffy is on something, or there’s more to Vi’s ‘Pod People’ thing than we thought.”


“Uh-huh,” came the response. “Either that, or Buffy’s got a whole Jekyll and Hyde thing going on.”


Heather shuddered. “Scary thought. Which one’s the evil one?”


“Wow. That is a scary thought. Uh, we should probably go tell mister Giles. I mean this sounds like the sort of thing we’d get yelled at if we didn’t tell him.”


Jules sighed. “There are days I just don’t envy Faith. Living with Buffy has be like dating two or even three different women.”


“I thought you had a thing for Faith?”


“I do. I always envy Buffy. C’mon. Let’s go see mister Giles about the pod people.”


Heather said. “And then we have to be plucky girl reporters, and solve the Case Of The Stolen Youth!


“Weirdo.”


“Dork.”


Jules looked at her best friend thoughtfully. “So we’re really not going to talk about the Dawn thing?”


“Are we going to talk about the Faith thing?” Heather retorted.


“Hey come on! I’m over it. I don’t stick pins in little Buffy dolls. Not anymore.”


“No, but you still cast longing looks at her.”


Jules slumped, and sighed. “Yeah, I know. It gets worse though. When Dawn got attacked… we really bonded.”


“I thought you spent the entire night beating vampires to a pulp, with your bare hands?”


“Yeah. That’s how Faith bonds. Works for me. Buffy too it seems.”


“Uh, I might not be winning any best-friend medals here, but how is that a bad thing?”


Jules squirmed a little. “Because we got closer. And she told me how much she like having me around. And how proud of me she was. And she asked me to look out for Dawn and Buffy if anything ever happened to her.”
She looked really dejected. “It was torture.”


“Because you were so much closer, but not the way you wanted?” Heather said softly.


“Yeah,” Jules said sadly.


“I get it. I really do. I felt kinda the same way when I stood up to Buffy with Xander.”


Jules grinned a little. “Oh yeah. You were bouncin’ off the walls after that.”


Heather nodded sadly. “But after I calmed down, I realized that we’d bonded a little, that he respected me more as a person, and that he genuinely liked me. But not like I liked him.”


“This sucks. Plus we are kinda stupid.”


“Hey! What do you me WE, white girl?”


“Of all the people we could have fallen for-”


“To be fair, they were both single when we fell for them. I mean, hey our chances may not have been awesome, but at least there was a chance. Now though…”


“Yeah.”


“And you know? I don’t feel so bad about it anymore.”


Jules gave her a measuring glance. “Yeah. I imagine you don’t. I just wish I felt the same way.”

Heather glared a little.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Jules said. She ran both hands through her dark curls nervously. “I forget this stuff is a big deal to some folks. Just forget I said anything, and we can go investigate old dudes and pod people.”


Heather’s upset look softened. “’Kay. Pod people. Then old people.”


“M’kay. So Buffy then. She sure seemed chipper.”


“If she were any more chipper, she’s be a beaver. Or some kind of wood chipping device.”


“There’s a joke in there somewhere, I just know it. Something about beavers and devices.”

Her grin wasn’t particularly convincing, but Heather went along with a grateful smile.


+++


Meanwhile, elsewhere at Slayer Central, Giles was more than a touch concerned. He wished he could say that Ethan was being uncharacteristically cryptic, but the sad fact of the matter was, he was being exactly as cryptic as he usually was. And while Giles had enough experience and native cunning to see through most of it, Ethan loved to see people squirm.

It was with these thoughts going through his mind, that he walked, going outside to clear his mind with a little fresh air.
And then his ears pricked up as he heard his name mentioned.
Years of habit made him step back behind a tall shrub and listen.

“… really good series?”


Jules shrugged. “Meh. Mister Giles is English, he has to like it. It’s like a rule or something.”


“You know…” Heather said thoughtfully. “Mister Giles is about the only person we haven’t pulled a prank on.”


Jules grimaced. “He’s so serious all the time. Can you imagine what would have happened if we’d done that thing with the noodles to him?”


A small part of Giles bristled at the ‘serious’ comment, even as the more dignified part of him nodded an equally dignified approval.



“What if we got a police box, and parked it somewhere he was going to run across it? Imagine the look on his face! Plus: no noodles!”

“And told him there was this English guy looking for him? Doctor somebody-or-other?”

“Wicked.”


“How are we going to get a blue police box in Colorado?”


The pair thought carefully and looked up together. “Xander!”


They hopped up and down in the giggly way that only teenage girls can manage.

“Ok, Xander can help us out, but first we have to tell him that Buffy’s being all weird and stuff.”


“Yeah, being all extra perky… and dressing in bright colours… and being all smart and stuff.”


“When you say it like that, it makes us sound really dumb,” Heather said. “Especially after Vi and Rona went all ‘pod people’ because they saw Faith and Buffy getting all cuddly.”


“Uh, yeah. Well if they’re back early, that means that Dawn’s back.”


Heather brightened up immediately. “Yay! Maybe they went shopping in Europe? Maybe purple and stripy knee socks are all the rage there?”


“You thinking about getting some in pink?”


“Sure. So, let’s get Xander working on the police box, then we can tell mister Giles about Buffy being weird.”


“It’s a plan, let’s go find Dawn and get her to help.”

And with that, two of the terrible three went looking for their third.


+++


Giles found himself in a surprising amount of turmoil. And he thought he knew why.
Ethan always poked fun at him for being stuffy. And to a degree, he was right.

Just having Ethan around made him feel… old. And that, of course, made him try to instinctively prove that he wasn’t.
Which naturally enough brought out his rebellious streak.


He sighed. Ethan’s crack about the little red sports car was spot on. The man might be completely insufferable, but he could definitely read people.
Giles felt that he was in superb shape, arguably the fittest he had been since his misspent youth. But time did indeed march on.


He thought for a moment about Dawn’s friends and their prank.
And something clicked inside him.
Still life in the old dog yet.


He smiled, filled with mischief.
Now if only he could find a partner in crime.
Someone with a knack for illusion spells, and a taste for pranks.
He left with a spring in his step.


+++


Ethan smiled easily. “Of course I’ll help you. It sounds like a bit of harmless fun.”


He raised an eyebrow at his long-time sparring partner. “I have to say, this doesn’t sound like the stuffy Rupert Giles I had become accustomed to.”


“Yes, well. Something you said rather stuck with me. And of course the girls decided to play a prank on me.”

He took his glasses off and polished them with his tie, examining them with exaggerated care.

“So I rather thought I’d show everyone that I still have layers to me. That, and I haven’t had any simple fun in quite a long time.”


“Relax old boy, I’m sold. What did you have in mind?”


Giles grinned. “I think you’ll like this.”


+++

_________________
“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:15 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Nice homefront action... I wonder who let the Buffy-bot loose...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 8:53 pm 
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Gotta say that it was probably a good idea to have a short breather before the girls show up back home and everyone starts asking Faith a bunch of really personal Baby Daddy questions that Buffy doesn't want answered. (Fingers crossed for the pregnancy being mystical and Buffy ending up being the Baby Daddy.)

It's also fun to see that Ethan is out and about, although I can't tell which is creepier. My hunch that his new girlfriend is the demon stealing the youth from random guys all over town. Or my hunch that his new girlfriend is the Buffybot with the purple punk/school girl's uniform and striped knee socks.

Either way I really don't see his rekindled bromance with Giles lasting that much longer. But I might be biased.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 10:53 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Hi Gang!

Ooo, good questions :)

Looks like i got something right, everyone twigged to PurpleBuffy™ :)

But yes, we'll be finding out more about PurpleBuffy™ and Ethan coming soon.
And more about Giles' murky past :P
And the band :)
Oh, yeah, and Faith's babydaddy.
Yeah, They're gonna wanna know about that, i can tell you.

Enjoy!



The Pranking


That evening, after a confusing and frustrating day spent searching for both Dawn and Giles, and getting nowhere at all, the terrible trio (minus one) were in Xander’s workshop admiring his handiwork.

“Wow, it’s really blue. It’s like, the bluest blue ever.”


“Yep. I always wondered what I was gonna use that paint for. Now I know,” Xander said with a grin.


“Uh huh,” Jules added.


In the middle of the room was a rapidly drying, bright blue police box. A couple of large fans blasted away, drying the paint in record time.


“I’m impressed you got it built so fast,” Jules said.


Xander shrugged. “Eh. It’s basically 4 big wooden doors, and a lid. I can put that together in my sleep. Aaaaand I’ve had the plans for this lying around for ages.”
He looked around sheepishly at his admission.


“So what’s the plan girls?” Xander asked.


“Well, we know where mister Giles is going to be tonight, so we plant this in the back courtyard, and tell mister Giles that there’s a Doctor somebody-or-other looking for him.”


“We should mention seeing some weird pepper-pots running about,” Jules said.


“Or big metal guys, something like that.”


“Right, so we do that to get him in the right frame of mind. Then when he runs into this, we take photos. That way the others can join the fun when they get back.”


“Plus quality blackmail, don’t forget that part.”


“Man, I am going to tease him about this forever,” Xander said. “I wanna get my camera, just in case. I built this thing, I wanna reap the rewards of some quality pranking.”


“This is gonna be wicked awesome!” Jules said.


Heather thought for a moment. “Uh, yeah, Xander? Um, there’s this other thing we wanted to talk to you about.”


Xander waited with as much patience as he could manage. He had a sinking feeling he knew what was coming next.


“It’s about Buffy.”


His relief was palpable. With a surprisingly happy smile he asked “Sure, what’s the Buffster up to now?”


“Uh, this sounded less dumb before, but she’s being all weird.”


“Like, extra perky.”


“Sugar-rush perky.”


“And she’s wearing this purple outfit.”


“All short, with pleats and stripy socks.”


“And she wandered in and totally figured out the case we were working on.”


“With like, one look.”


“Uh,” Xander managed, battered around with the back and forth. “Not seeing the problem here guys. Didn’t we just do this with Vi and Rona’s ‘possession’ thing?”

Heather glared at him.

“Hey sorry,” he said hurriedly. “So Buffy’s being weird. Uh, isn’t she in Europe?”


Jules shook her head. “Nope. She’s back. We ran into her earlier.”


“I thought they were supposed to be gone for days and days?” he said, scratching the side of his head and leaving a smudge of blue paint in his hair.


“Maybe they found what they were looking for, and came back early, I don’t know,” Jules said.


Heather looked up from her phone. “I’m still getting Dawn’s voicemail,” she said. “Where is she?”


“Uh-oh. I’m getting that doom-y feeling,” Xander said. “We should probably go find Buffy or Giles.”


Heather snapped her phone shut. “Let’s go.”


+++


Bomber shows up


“Giles, we have a problem!” Jules said as she barged into his office.


Giles sighed and put down his cup of tea.
“I see you have learned a great deal from Faith, including how to open doors. What is the latest disaster?” he asked mildly.


“Buffy’s back,” Heather added. “But there’s no sign of Dawn or the others.”


“And Buffy’s acting all kinds of weird.”


“Yeah, all perky and smart.”


“And purple.”


“Ah… what?” Giles said, obviously confused. He looked to Xander for clarification.

Xander shrugged and held up his hands helplessly.


“Look, we were working on that case that Willow gave us,” Jules said. “You know, the one where weird old people were showing up in town and sort of dying?”


Giles nodded, clearly hoping for enlightenment.


“Right, well we were gathering information and trying to put a picture together of what was going on,” Heather added.


“When in bops Buffy,” Jules picked up. “All chipper like she’d just mainlined like, eight espressos. And dressed like she’d just come from cheerleader practice at a particularly funky Scottish school.”
Giles looked at Xander for an explanation.


“Purple top and plaid skirt apparently.”


“Right,” said Jules. “And Buffy hates wearing purple. Says it makes her look like a cartoon character or something.”


Giles looked puzzled, but before he could answer, Xander help up a finger and explained. “Lavender doesn’t count as purple, I’m told.”


“Right,” Heather cut in, forcing Giles’ head to swing back and forth as though he were watching a tennis match. “Also, if Buffy is back so soon, where’s Dawn? Also Faith, Tara and Willow?”


Giles stopped turning his head and stopped to think for a moment. “This can’t be a coincidence,” he muttered darkly.


“Giles? What can’t?” Xander asked.


Giles sighed.


“Well, this didn’t look like our usual sticky-wicket. So I called in some help. Friends from my younger days.”

“Uh-oh,” Xander said, looking at the girls. “He’s being extra-British. Usually a sign of trouble.”


“Do be quiet Xander.”


“See?”



“What sort of help mister Giles?” Heather asked quietly.


“Well, nothing end-of-the-world. At least not for the world at large anyway. But the end of Buffy and Faith’s world certainly,” Giles said.


“Giles?” Jules asked, an edge to her voice.


“It seems that the Powers That Be have Faith squarely in their sights. Something about Tara’s resurrection of her has them attempting to kill her.”


“What?! Why?!” Jules shrieked.
Giles looked pained. “I do not know. However, she is currently alive, and I’d like her to stay that way.”

“And now you know what’s going on,” Xander added.


“And given that the Powers That Be have been our grudging allies so far, and have always at least appeared to be on the side of the angels, I thought it prudent to enlist some help.”


“What sort of help?” Xander said suspiciously.


“Help that knew the Powers That Be. And help that knows how to fight them.”


A distant rumble was heard, becoming slowly louder.
“Oh good lord, it can’t be,” Giles said.


“Actually it is. It really is,” Ethan said, sliding smoothly into the room.


“Oh crap! What are you doing here?!” Xander said, all but climbing on the furniture to get further away.


“Calm yourself dear boy, you’ll do yourself an injury.”


“And that?” Giles said, pointing out of the window towards the rapidly growing rumble.


“Is exactly who you think it is,” Ethan said with a sly smile.


“Oh my,” Giles said.


His expression was hard to read. He seemed caught between joy and dread.
“He’s not…” Giles said helplessly.


“I’ll bet you anything you like, he is,” Ethan said, grinning like the Cheshire cat.


“Giles, you’re acting like we’re getting a visit from Darth Vader,” Xander said, clearly starting to get worried.


“More like Han Solo,” Giles said.


At Xander’s shocked expression he snapped. “Oh don’t look so surprised, I do go to the movies you know.”


“We saw it the first time round,” Ethan said it with a smug grin.


“Not everything from the seventies was bad,” Giles said with a faint smile.


“Mister Giles? What’s that sound?” Heather asked.



“Reggie “Bomber” Churchill,” Ethan said. “Grandson of Mad-Jack Churchill, the only man mad enough to wade into world war two wielding a Scottish claymore and a longbow. A man so utterly barmey, that he resented the ending of world war two before he’d had a chance to go sword to sword with the Japanese. Because in his words “They took fighting seriously.” He really hated the yanks for dropping the bomb on Japan.”


“And this is his grandson,” Giles said. “Has he calmed down at all?”


Ethan shook his head. “Two years ago he was doing something official for the British government. He punched the French prime-minister’s chief of staff in the face, and called him a rotten bastard.”
He smirked. “You can draw your own conclusions from that one.”


“If he used those words, I’m surprised he didn’t shoot him,” Giles said.


Ethan shrugged. “Cabinet meeting. No weapons. Though he did challenge him to a duel.”


“And this guy’s not in jail because… What?” Xander said.


Giles sighed. “Because Reggie is every bit the hero his grandfather was. And every back room boy and general in the world knows it,” Giles said.


“That, and the chief of staff was a rotten bastard,” Ethan explained, leaning over the table as the roar grew louder. “He was thrown in jail later that year. For life, as far as I can tell.”
“You seem suspiciously well informed,” Giles said, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.


“Yes, well I have spent the last few years working for the American government. Involuntarily. You hear things.”


The rumble resolved itself into a jet, of all things. Currently it was coming in for a landing at the back of the training field at a gentle and impressive hover.


“Whoa,” Xander breathed over the scream of the engines.


“Bloody hell. Still knows how to make an entrance,” Giles said, his voice a mix of disbelief and admiration.


“What’s particularly terrifying, if you think about it,” Ethan said. “Is that our saxophone player has enough clout to fly a British warplane around American airspace. In this political climate.”


The aircraft touched down as soft as a lover’s kiss, and the scream of the engines began to die.
A rough semi-circle of amazed Slayers began to form around the grounded Harrier.


“We should get out there,” Ethan said. “Before there’s a terribly amusing misunderstanding.”


“Indeed.”


+++


“Ripper!”


“Hello Bomber, how have you been?” Giles said.


His old friend was outfitted in a modern flight suit, with a classic ‘Bomber’ jacket thrown on over the top. His neatly-trimmed greying blond hair was offset by his rather ferocious moustache.

The enthusiastic blond man bounded across the grass and crushed his old friend in a hug. He swung Giles around and laughed as the Slayers watched in stunned amazement.
“Rupert old boy, it’s been too long.”


“It has, it really has,” Giles said with a boyish smile.


He caught sight of Ethan. “Great Scott! You’re still hanging around with this shameless old reprobate? Have you made an honest man out of him at long last?”


“Ah, no. None of that, old chap,” Giles said with a cough.


“Ah, no honesty here,” Ethan said, grinning fox-like.


“As if that were possible. Right, so I had a little chat with Emmy, she should be along presently.”
He grinned infectiously. “Where do we play?”


“As much as I’ve missed our jam sessions, I have something rather more deadly to deal with.”


“Oh righty then, to business. Lay on Macduff!”
He stopped.

“Hold up. Forgot something.”

He bounded back to his harrier and clambered back inside. A moment’s rummaging produced a cut crystal bottle.

He re-joined the group and handed the bottle to Giles. “Get that down your neck my lad, it’s the good stuff.”


“Glenfiddich?”


“Of course.”

He pushed a button on his key fob, and the harrier squawked twice, closing the cockpit and flashing the lights as it did so.

Giles blinked in surprise.

Reggie grinned. “You have no idea how much mileage I get out of that.”


“More than the jet, certainly,” Ethan murmured.


Reggie grinned infectiously. “Now don’t tell me you aren’t jealous, because I’ll know you were lying. One of the perks of being ambassador at large for the Great British Empire. That and having the president owe you a favour or two.”

Giles smiled a little at that, but the smile soon fell from his face.

Reggie took him by the arm. “Rupert, what’s wrong? I may not have seen you in a year, but I know you. You normally rib me fiercely about the empire thing. And you wouldn’t have called us all together unless it were important.”


Giles squeezed his friend’s hand. “War Reggie. We’re going to war.”


“Bloody hell.”


“Not… quite.”


+++


“This job sucks,” Jules complained.


“Sucks who?” Buffybot asked.


“Shh!” Heather responded.


The trio were sneaking through an abandoned building in the middle of the night, as was their wont.

Creepy abandoned buildings were prime real estate for icky evil things, and the prey of said icky evil things.

And while Diamond Falls was not an industrial wasteland by any stretch of the imagination, like any town it had enough ups and downs in its business life to provide the occasional empty place for monsters to hide in.


The rest of Heather’s team were outside, checking for more typical baddies, like vampires and drug dealers.
But Heather and her best friend Jules were seeking more rarefied prey.

And the Buffybot had insisted on coming along to help.
Currently she was wearing the now standard black armour, but had her blonde hair up in a ponytail with a purple scrunchie, and oddly, purple lipstick.


Lacking Sunnydale’s conveniently accessible sewer system, they had restricted their search to caves (there were quite a few) and abandoned buildings in and around Diamond Falls.
So far five confused old people had been found, with no idea who or where they were. Two had already died, and 3 were in a coma.


They were operating on the theory that there was some nasty demon or witch out there sucking the life out of folks, rather than an extra-dimensional slave-labour camp.

All the victims had been found in this area of town, and this was the largest abandoned building in the area.
A former nursing home, it had been pronounced ‘extra creepy’ and thus the most likely hangout of a creepy demon or evil spirit.


While the trio really weren’t sure what they were up against, they were really hoping for something tangible and therefore slayable.


“I’m not detecting any heat, movement or electrical signatures,” Buffybot said.


Jules shook her head slowly. “There’s something here, I can feel it.”


“I can’t feel anything,” Heather said. “Except creepiness. God, nursing homes are the worst!”


“We should have brought one of the witch-squad,” Jules grumbled as they quietly searched the empty rooms.


“What if they get squished? C’mon, were all Slayers here, we can handle this,” Heather retorted.


Buffybot looked around the darkened hallways and abandoned rooms. She was never programmed with an appreciation for ‘creepy’ but she was rapidly acquiring an understanding of the term.
And the place didn’t smell good either.


Jules pointed silently down the hallway. Night adapted Slayer eyes had no trouble picking out the faint and unnatural looking bluish glow.
“That’s not a TV is it?” Heather asked.


“Nope,” Buffybot said cheerfully. “Still no electrical signatures inside the building.”


“I have this idea that it’s seen us,” Jules said.


“You’re just saying that because it’s coming this way,” Heather replied.


Although the creature was down the end of a long hallway, it was definitely coming closer at speed.

Jules slipped a dagger from a sheath on her hip, and snapped it out in a throw that would have made her instructors proud.

The dagger whirred like a bird and vanished down the corridor on an absolutely flat trajectory.

It vanished into the neck area of the faintly glowing shape and kept on going, eventually punching through an exterior wall and raising a surprised squawk for one of the patrolling Slayers outside.


The glowing shape did not seem put out in the least.


Experimentally Heather tossed a handy stake through it, producing similar if equally unimpressive results.
“Ok, so that’s a ‘no’ to steel, and another for wood,” Jules said.
“What’s a bet it’s bulletproof too?” Heather grumbled.

“I wonder if it’s Buffy proof?” Buffybot said thoughtfully.
Without further ado she hurled herself at the approaching shape.

Now that it was closer, the girls could make out more of the creature’s shape. It was translucent and a faintly luminous blue colour. It seemed to just float, without the benefit of legs. Each finger ended in a long hooked claw, and its mouth was like some kind of undersea nightmare, all tentacles and suckers.


Buffybot cartwheeled down the corridor and slammed into the creature with both feet. Her feet hit with enough force to stop a charging rhino.
Or at least she would have, had she not passed harmlessly through the creature with nary a ripple.

She bounced off the wall and skidded down the corridor on her back, but was otherwise unharmed, save for her dignity.


“Crap! We definitely should have brought someone from the witch-squad!” Heather said as the creature closed.


“Run!” Jules said, swinging her friend behind her.


“Me run? What are you gonna do, smack talk it to death?” Heather said.


“No, I’m gonna run too. Buffy, run!”


Buffybot nodded and bolted down the corridor away from the creature. She smashed through the door at the end of the corridor, and just kept on running.
More shouts of surprise came from outside.


Heather and Jules sprinted up the corridor together.

“Bloody ghosts! Why couldn’t have been vampires? I can kill vampires!” Jules bitched.


“Shut up and run, I think it’s getting- AWK!”


Heather stumbled and fell as the creature latched onto her, suddenly less insubstantial.


Jules stopped, pivoted and smoothly drew a short sword. “Right. Off her you bastard!”
She swung the blade with lightning speed, taking care not to chop through the beast and into her best friend.


Had the beast been solid, it would now be opened from neck to waist. Sadly the sword passed through it with no effect.


Heather rolled onto her back to deal with this thing face to face. She struggled with it hand to claw, the only substantial parts of its anatomy.
She growled in frustration as the creature simply turned its clawed hands insubstantial, passed through her, and got a better grip.


Jules dropped her sword and dove on the beast kicking and screaming, frantically trying to get a grip on the insubstantial monster and pull it off her best friend.


“Oof! Not helping!” Heather complained, desperately trying to hold off the beast.


Despite their best efforts, the creature got both claws wrapped around Heather’s head and opened its horrible tentacled maw.


“No way! No way is this thing getting to first base with me!” Heather shouted.


“Considering where it’s had its hands, it’s probably stolen second.”


“Not bloody helping!” Heather said through gritted teeth.


With a sound like a sigh, golden light began to flow from Heather’s face into the creature’s maw and its body began to glow more brightly.


“Ah! Get it off! Get it off!” Heather screamed.


“I’m trying! Buffy!” Jules screamed. “Buffy! Get help!”


Buffybot sprinted back up the corridor.


She skidded to a halt next to the struggling forms and squatted down, trying to grab whatever bits of the glowing apparition were available. Her lightning fast grabs were no more helpful than her original strike, as her hands passed through the creature.

“This is very frustrating. I cannot interact with it.”


“No kidding!” Jules said, frantically trying to punch the creature, without hitting her friend.


The golden glow coming from Heather’s face brightened. If the situation were less dire she would have looked beautiful.
The creature looked to be in ecstasy as the glow increased. As the creature got brighter and brighter it also seemed to become more solid, less see-through, though no easier to grab.


“Get it the fuck off of me!” Heather screamed.

Jules growled in frustration.


Buffybot thought for a moment, picked Heather up, and tossed her down the corridor.
Unfortunately the sudden movement did not break the creature’s hold, and it went down the corridor still firmly attached to Heather.


Jules screamed in frustration as her best friend thrashed helplessly to get free of the creature, the glow getting more and more intense, until it lit up the corridor like autumn sunlight.

The creature seemed to be almost lost to its surroundings until it began to glow brighter and brighter. It was hard to tell with a face full of tentacles, but Jules thought that the creature was looking worried. And as it did so, Heather started to get angry.


It tried to back away from the kicking and punching Slayer, but Heather reached out and grabbed the thing by its throat and growled.

“You’re not going anywhere!”


Second by second the light intensified as she glared at the beast, pinning it in place as much with her rage as with her physical grip.
She climbed to her feet, still holding the creature by one hand and screamed her rage and defiance at it.
It writhed, pinned in place by the furious golden glow, screaming silently.


And equally silently, it exploded.



The tree women stood in the hallway, breathing hard. The golden light faded, and the exploded blue parts of the creature simply faded from sight.


“I have nothing in my records to match this event,” Buffybot said with a frown. “What was it?”


“I dunno. Some life-sucking monster thing,” Jules said.

She eyed her friend. “Looked like it bit off more than it could chew.”


Heather grinned tiredly. “Genuine Slayer. Accept no substitute.”


“I’m just glad it was self cleaning. I hate getting demon gunk out of my hair,” Jules said, having a bit of a stretch.


“We should get you to the infirmary,” Buffybot said. “And make sure you have no suffered damage.”


“I feel fine,” Heather said.


“Sorry honey, she’s right. That thing sucked out some of your mojo,” Jules replied. “We dunno what kind of effect it had on you.”


Heather looked down at her hand, clenching and flexing her fingers. “I still feel like a Slayer.”
Slowly she leaned down and levered herself up into a one handed handstand. “See?”


Jules quirked an eyebrow. “You know, normal people can do that too.”


Heather poked her tongue out, which looked pretty strange upside down. “Not without years of training, which I don’t have.”


“True. Well, let’s get you checked out anyway,” Jules said.
She huffed mightily. “And get started on the paperwork for all this.”


“I have been compiling a report as we went,” Buffybot said cheerily. “All I have to do is print it. Or email it.”


Jules grinned. “I like you more and more.”


“We should have my girls do a sweep, make sure there’s no more of those things out there,” Heather said.


Jules groaned. “God, I hope not.”


“We still do not know how this one was neutralized,” the Buffybot said sensibly. “If they find any more, they should keep their distance.”


Heather looked resolute. “Let’s get it done girls.


+++


“Bloody hell!” Bomber said. He leaned forward on his fists as he listened to Giles’ explanation.


“You’ve been saying that a lot,” Ethan remarked mildly.


“Quite,” Giles added.


“Well I’m sorry Rupert, Ethan, but it’s not every day you get the call to go to war on heaven.”


“They went to war on my family, Bomber. I’m just declaring it,” Giles said with just a touch of iron in his tone.


Reggie looked up at his old friend, and saw the steel in his gaze, more than a hint of ‘Ripper’ showing. He nodded silently.

“Alright. First we’ll need information. Their strengths and weaknesses. Ours. That sort of thing.”

He looked at his old friends. “Do we know why they’re doing this? And can we negotiate?”


Giles shook his head. “No, and no. The Powers That Be have always been extremely closed mouthed about their reasons for anything. But they would not be doing this to us unless they had the kind of reasoning that brooks no negotiation.”


“Bugger.”


“Quite. Perhaps I should give you a bit of background?”


Giles took a moment to pour everyone a drink.
Ethan raised an eyebrow at the filled tumbler Giles handed him. He sipped it with appreciation.


“You remember that I left England rather precipitously a little over a year ago?”


Bomber nodded and took a sip of his excellent drink.


“That was Willow. She’d been struggling with magic for some time, far more dangerously than I had ever imagined. She was making a splendid recovery by all accounts, when her lover Tara was killed by a rather insecure little man…” Giles trailed off.


“Go on Rupert,” Bomber encouraged gently.

“She lost her mind Reggie, and just about destroyed the world.”

“Jesus, Rupert.”


“She did eventually recover and helped us save the world from an invasion, but that’s not the meat of the matter. The fact is her lover, Tara, eventually fought her way back to Willow’s side-“


“Good lord!”


“-and in the process managed to save the life of Faith.”


“That’s the Slayer that went a bit potty, yes?”


Giles nodded. “That was when we found out that the Powers That Be needed Faith to die, which is something I will not allow.”


Bomber nodded thoughtfully. “Are they worried she’s going to go potty again?”


Giles sat down with a sigh. “No. There’s no chance of that, at all.”
He ran his hands through his hair tiredly, “Typically, one of the agents of the Powers sends us a vision or prophesy of impending disaster. That they did not, is to my mind, a signal they did not believe we would ever be convinced.”


“And they haven’t tried to negotiate? Or persuade you that she should die?”


Giles looked up sharply. “No,” he said flatly.


“Relax Ripper. I’m asking, not suggesting.”


“Any clues at all?” Ethan said over his drink.


Giles nodded. “Some. The servant of the Powers, James, the one tasked with killing Faith, he apologised and explained a little. He said that the Powers That Be needed the Slayer line out of our hands, and that Faith carried it. Also they rather tipped their hand by using fifty demons, Anara to be precise, to do it.”


Bomber made a ‘go on’ gesture.


“Anara are rare creatures, and generally solitary. It’s rare to find two or three together, fifty is unheard of.”


Bomber scratched his head. “I was always under the impression that the Powers That Be were on the side of the angels. Them using demons seems a bit odd.”


Giles shook his head. “It’s not quite that clear cut. But by using the demons like that, it would send us off on a wild goose-chase when we came to investigate.”


Bomber digested that piece of information silently. “Anything prophetic?” he said with a hint of unease.


“No. And that is something I take as another bad sign.”


Reggie twirled his moustache thoughtfully. “And is prophecy their usual method of communication?”


Giles sighed and dropped his glasses on the table. “When they deign to communicate at all, yes.”


Bomber twiddled his moustache a little more. “Interesting.”


“Penny for your thoughts?” Ethan asked.


“Well, I’ll be honest, I know bugger all about Powers and prophesy. But politics I know, like I know good scotch.”

He looked up with a grin. “We’ll give them a good kicking yet. Anything else Rupert?”


“They recruited a former member of our group to act as an assassin. She took a dislike to the idea and has been a rather invaluable source of information ever since.”


“What else?” Reggie said, staring off into the distance thoughtfully.


Giles sighed again. “There was some kind of prophesy. But it has since been erased.”


“Erased? From where?”


“Everywhere.”


A slow smile spread across Reggie’s boyish features. “Gotcha,” he breathed.


“You have something, don’t you? I know that expression,” Ethan said, hopeful despite himself.


Reggie laughed cheerfully. “This is why you need me. You two are rubbish at politics.”


“If we could all stop patting ourselves on the back,” Ethan grumbled.


Reggie gave Ethan a long-practiced dirty look. “They destroyed this prophesy thing, right?”


Giles and Ethan nodded in synchrony.


“Why? Because it’s dangerous to them, Right?”


More nods greeted his pronouncement.


“And there are no copies left that you know of, right?”


More nodding, and some puzzled looks.


Reggie examined his fingernails diffidently. “What about the people who did the destroying? Where’s their copy?”


“I beg your pardon?” Giles said.


“No political animal would ever destroy something that important. And these Powers of yours are the ultimate political animals. If this thing is so bloody important, they’ll have their own copy to refer to. If only so they don’t come a cropper. Knowledge is power after all.”


“That’s not exactly helpful,” Ethan complained. “We had always assumed that the Powers That Be know the prophecy.”


“That’s not what he’s saying,” Giles said, a sense of hope and enormity slowly stirring inside him.


“They will have a copy of this damned prophesy somewhere,” Reggie continued.


“So we steal it,” Ethan finished.


“Bloody hell!”


+++


“It’s called the White Codex,” Anya said.

She sat almost casually on the arm of the couch, one hand resting on Xander’s broad back. She was clad in a figure hugging white gown, and looked entirely pleased with herself.


Reggie quirked an eyebrow. “Oh. How dull.”


“Eish Da'at. The Fiery Law. Written in black fire on white. Does that sound more exciting?” Anya asked. “Whatever it’s called, it’s THE book. It contains all prophesy, all divine law too, if you believe the stories. Think of it as God’s personal bible.”


“Right,” Reggie said. “Now all we have to do, is figure out how to steal it.”


“I’ve actually heard of this thing,” Ethan said. “I’d always thought it was a myth.”


Anya shook her head. “No. It’s real, though it might as well be a myth. No one I have ever heard of has even seen it, let alone read it.”


Ethan smiled. “This is like going after the president, the crown jewels and fort Knox all in one go.”


Even Anya looked impressed. “Way to think big Giles. The only way you could aim higher, would be to go after the throne of heaven.”

She tapped her foot in thought. “Actually, that would be less well defended. The White Codex is not only in heaven, it’s in a locked vault in the restricted section of the library. The vault doesn’t even have a key, only the Powers That Be can open it.”


Giles grinned. “We have a Key.”


Ethan grinned back. “And the Powers That Be know for a fact that there isn’t one. So they won’t be expecting anyone to make a try for it. Not in the middle of heaven. Old boy, this might actually work.”


“Arrogance. Their arrogance and complacency will allow us to succeed,” Giles said.


“This is what I was talking about Ripper. You’ve only been back in my life a few days, and already we are planning on breaking into heaven, and stealing one of their most precious objects. I feel wonderful!”


Giles rolled his eyes, but even then, a hint of a smile lifted the corners of his mouth. Ethan was nothing if not infectious.


“Right,” said Reggie. “So, we’re sneaking into heaven to nick god’s own bible. How is it that we do that then?”


“Emmy,” Giles said simply.


+++

“He’s coming!” Jules said as she slid silently behind the bushes.
Xander and Heather were already crouched down, waiting with cameras at the ready.


There, in the light from the security lights was a big blue police box, placed in just such a position that anyone coming down the back way would run across it.
Xander had fitted some simple lights on the inside, lighting up the signs that proudly stated ‘Police Box’.
And the three waited with barely suppressed glee.


The first person to step smartly around the bend was Giles’ friend Bomber.
He stopped and looked at the box curiously.

“Rupert? Why did you park here?”
Giles came around the corner with Ethan in tow.


The girls and Xander snapped many shots with barely suppressed giggles.


Giles poked the box with a curious finger. Being made of wood it wobbled a bit.

“I didn’t. This is a fake.”


“I think someone is having a bit of fun with us,” Bomber said with a grin.


“Where did you park the old girl then,” Ethan asked mildly.


Giles smirked a little. “Just a little more out of the way.”

He rummaged in his pocket for a fob.
He pressed a button, and hidden in the shadows between two buildings, lights flared as a car alarm squawked twice.
The lights revealed another policebox, this one darker and more solid-looking than the one in the path.

“Copycat,” Bomber remarked.


Xander gaped.


Giles smiled fondly, and touched the edge of the big blue box. “Hello old girl.”


Ethan grinned fox-like. “It’s been a while.”
“Well this solves the problem of how we’re going to get upstairs,” Bomber said. “Do you still have all my stuff?”


Giles unlocked the door, spilling golden light onto the path. A deep hum could be heard, as of mighty engines quietly ticking over.
“Yes, I still have all your gear.” He stepped inside, his voice echoing as if from a large room. “In fact your rooms are largely the way you left them.”


“Excellent,” Ethan said. “Nothing quite like a bed made on another planet for getting to sleep. I think I’ve missed that bed.”


“Can we stop somewhere nice for supper?” Bomber asked as he strolled in. “Italy? Greece? Gallifrey?”


Ethan groaned, his voice echoing around the large room. “Not Gallifrey. The place is dull, and so’s the food. I’m for greek.”


Someone pushed the door shut, and with a rising groan, the policebox slowly faded from sight.


Xander staggered out of the bushes, the stunned girls following him. “What? What!”


+++












“Really Rupert, I haven’t laughed so much in years,” Ethan said, grinning evilly.


“I must say, the look on their faces was priceless,” Reggie said. “Never prank the pranksters.”


Giles laughed softly as he poured celebratory drinks for everyone. “We are going to get some very strange looks tomorrow.”


“You know, if we actually had a Tardis, this would all be so much easier,” Bomber said wistfully.


“Or a sonic screwdriver,” Ethan added.


“What would we use it for?” Giles asked.


Ethan smirked. “Opening locks? I don’t know. Bound to be handy for something.”


“Well we have neither. So let’s focus on solutions to our problems that don’t involve time travelling police boxes.”


“Shame really. Imagine the stuff we could fix if we had one.”


“Imagine the fun we could have,” Ethan said. “We could visit the romans.”


Bomber gave him a dirty look. “Typical. Give a man a time travelling police box, and the first place he goes is to an orgy.”


“Purely for research purposes,” Ethan said archly.


The drinks flowed, and the three old friends argued long into the night.


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:32 pm 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Yay for planning the raid on Heaven... Big lol for the Tardis prank...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2016 2:43 pm 
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Sweet merciful Zeus! It's The British invasion all over again. But this time it'll end up in Heaven's broom closet of all places.

Great chapter, I'm a little surprised that the terrible two have already gotten over the new Buffybot's oddness. Also that they fought a Dementor from Harry Potter. Was not expecting that. Good show.

And we can't ignore all the Doctor Who references. Next thing you know Dawn or Dani or whoever will try to make a Sonic Screwdriver with magic and end up with a regular looking flat-head screw driver that is cursed so it screams unbearably loudly each and every time someone picks it up. Or worse yet they make a couple different "sonic tools" that work together to reenact the worst episodes of The Annoying Orange. And you just know someone would go and hide the damn things in one of Xander's tool boxes.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 2:39 am 
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Citanul wrote:
Sweet merciful Zeus! It's The British invasion all over again. But this time it'll end up in Heaven's broom closet of all places.

Great chapter, I'm a little surprised that the terrible two have already gotten over the new Buffybot's oddness. Also that they fought a Dementor from Harry Potter. Was not expecting that. Good show.

And we can't ignore all the Doctor Who references. Next thing you know Dawn or Dani or whoever will try to make a Sonic Screwdriver with magic and end up with a regular looking flat-head screw driver that is cursed so it screams unbearably loudly each and every time someone picks it up. Or worse yet they make a couple different "sonic tools" that work together to reenact the worst episodes of The Annoying Orange. And you just know someone would go and hide the damn things in one of Xander's tool boxes.


Huh. I was going for more of a 'Slimer' from ghostbusters, glowy. Might have to re-do the description a bit.
Anyhoo, you'll get an explanation, somewhere along the line :)

New chapter up soon-ish.
Going to try and post on-time for once :bounce

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 4:09 pm 
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So... Relationship stuff.
Enjoy!



Changes



Heather was sitting on the wall, overlooking the rear courtyard, kicking her feet despondently.
Jules sat down next to her and silently put her arm around her shoulders.
Gratefully, she leaned into her friend’s comforting embrace.


“You know they’re not due back for a couple of days, yeah?”


Heather nodded glumly. “Yeah. I know.”

The pair sat in companionable silence for a while.

“We gonna talk about this?” Jules eventually said.


Heather sighed. “What’s to talk about?”


“You miss Dawn, you dope.”


“So do you,” Heather retorted.


“Yeah, but not like this. Face it honey, you’re in love with her.”


“No I-” she retorted instinctively, cutting herself off.

She thought about it.
Did she love Dawn?
Yes. Of course she did.
But was she IN love with her?
That one was harder.
That would mean she was gay, because Dawn was very definitely a girl.


Well that wasn’t so bad. A bunch of her friends were. Along with Buffy, Willow and a whole bunch of other folks she knew.
But this wasn’t about whether it was ok, this was about how she felt about Dawn.

Did she want to kiss her?
That she wasn’t sure about.
She definitely felt the need to hold her hand and look into her beautiful grey eyes.
And see her smile.
She smiled to herself, getting a chuckle from Jules.

Ok, maybe there was-


All thought was blotted from existence, as the sky tore open.
Green light blazed bright enough to darken the sun.
The pair stared, gobsmacked as the light faded to reveal Dawn, the others and some young guy she’d never seen before.
And they were surrounded by books, tablets and scrolls.

The books and scrolls covered the bricks of the rear courtyard from one end to the other.


“What the fu-” Jules managed.


“Daaawn!” Buffy shouted in big sisterly aggravation.


Sitting in the flower garden at the edge of the courtyard was a small tree, centrepiece of the vast array of tomes and scrolls.

“What? Oh crap!” Dawn said. “This is not my fault!”


“Dammit Dawn, you made a wish!”


“This is not my fault!” she protested, a hint of whine creeping into her voice.


“How is this not your fault? You wished you could bring all this stuff with you, and here it is!”


“There’s no vengeance demons, and no Hellmouth around. Uh, when we left anyway. So just chill, ok?”


“Alright chicks. Everyone calm the fuck down, before I puke on someone,” Faith said, looking distinctly pale and clammy.


Willow put her fingers to her lips and whistled loudly.
The shouting and the finger-pointing stopped.

“Ok, if we could all calm down a teeny bit,” Willow said a bit testily.


“Sweetie, we’re not floating anymore,” Tara said softly. “That last spell must have done it.”


Willow looked a little put out. “Poop. I was enjoying that.”
She looked around, spotting the stunned looking duo on the wall.
“Heather? Could you take a few girls and clear out one of the storage rooms? Jules, could you grab another few girls and take all this stuff inside?”


“Uh, sure, but where do you want it?” Jules asked.


“In the main foyer for now,” Willow said. “Giles can figure out where to put them, once they’re inside.”


“Um, and the tree?” Heather asked, gesturing uncertainly at the tree, which hadn’t been there mere seconds ago.


“Is happy where it is,” Dawn replied.
She walked over to Heather and took both her hands in her own. “When all the books are inside, I want to talk to you, ok?”


Heather bobbed her head in agreement. “Yeah. We should… we should talk.”


Willow and Tara shot each other a glance and a small smile.


Buffy, was looking around in amazement at all the books laid out in neat rows around them. “Will? Did you do this?”


Willow shook her head. “Nuh-uh! No way did I do this.” She turned to Tara. “Baby?”


Tara shook her head slowly. “I felt something happen. Something big. Um, but it wasn’t me, if that’s what you’re thinking.”


All eyes turned to Dawn. She was gazing at a retreating Heather, busily attending to her task.
She became aware of the eyes on her.


She frowned. “Quit looking at me like that. If I could have brought all these books, I would have. But it wasn’t me.”
She waggled her fingers. “Trainee witch remember? I still have the training wheels on my broom. And I know like, three spells.”


“Brooms turn out to be quite useful for guiding flight spells,” Willow said absently. “Though they tickle in a nice way, if you get them in the right spot.”


Everyone stopped and looked at her.

Faith grinned sickly. “I bet.”


Willow blushed. “Oops, did I say that out loud?”


Buffy patted her on the shoulder. “Yep, ‘fraid so.”


“C’mon gang, let’s get these books inside,” Willow said chirpily, trying her best to distract everyone.


“I’m gonna sit here for a bit and not puke. That can be my contribution.”


Buffy rubbed the back of Faith’s neck soothingly. “Are you okay baby?”


Faith nodded carefully. “Hell no. But it’s not as bad as last time. Gimme a few and I’ll be ok.”


She pressed a fist to her stomach and burped carefully. “Yeah, I might go walk this off for a bit. I’ll go track down Xan or something, get him to organize some storage rooms. You might wanna go get G-man and show him his dusty new toys.”


Buffy looked at Willow and Tara, already headed inside with the first armfuls of books.
“Are you sure?”


Faith nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be ok.”
She gave Buffy a gentle shove. “Go find the G-man. I’ll be along in a minute.”


Buffy nodded and took off at a brisk trot.
Faith burped again and hauled herself to her feet.


+++


“Hey.”


Heather turned and smiled radiantly at Dawn. “Hey you. What’s up?”
Her smile faltered as she took in the serious expression on Dawn’s face.
“Is everything ok?”


“I’m not sure,” Dawn said seriously. “Have you ever had an idea that was potentially amazing and terrible at the same time?”


“Uh. Not sure. Why?”


Dawn stepped close and took Heather in her arms. “This is my idea.”

And with that she kissed Heather softly.
Heather whimpered when Dawn broke the kiss.


“Was that ok?” Dawn said hesitantly.


“What?” Heather said, starry eyed.
She focussed. “Oh yeah. That was fine. More than fine, that was awesome.”


Dawn smiled shyly. “I was thinking about you while I was away. About how much I missed you and why.”


“Me too.”


“I found out so much crazy stuff. I can’t wait to show it all to you.”


“Neat. Um, can I kiss you this time?”


Dawn just smiled.


+++


“Hi me!”

Buffy looked up and came face-to-face with… herself, dressed in a dark top, a purple cheerleader skirt and stripy knee-socks.


“Uh?” she said blankly, her brain no longer able to cope with anything bizarre. Probably a function of the accumulated revelations over the last few days.


“‘Uh?’ Is not a standard greeting. But it is still good to see you,” Buffy-in-purple said.


“Oh god, the Buffybot,” she groaned. “Weren’t you destroyed?”


Buffybot nodded cheerfully. “Yes. I got better though.”


Buffy glared. “Well good, because I have had the craziest few days. Stuff I have no idea how to deal with.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You, I know how to deal with.”

She swung with a right hook that moved so fast it was barely visible. When it impacted on the Buffybot, she went flying.
And bounced and rolled, springing up like some kind of sproingy toy.


“I’ve had upgrades!” she said cheerfully.


“Perfect. This will be way more satisfying.”


+++


“Anyone seen B?” Faith asked.


Xander looked up from the plans he was studying. “Don’t you guys have, like slaydar or something?”


Faith rubbed her forehead, clearly irritated. “Yeah, but it’s gone screwy. She’s somewhere around here, but I can’t tell where. And the feelings and images I’m getting don’t make a bit of sense.”


Xander’s eye widened as a pair of petite, struggling blondes tumbled past the window behind Faith.


“What?!” Faith demanded.

Silently he pointed.


The pair rounded the corner, and came into view of the big bay window that Xander used as his reading corner.


Faith turned to see Buffy slugging it out with… Buffy.
Both of them were in wide stances, slugging it out with blindingly fast fists, elbows and knees.
Neither of the Buffy’s were using their trademark high kicks, something that Faith recognized as a sign that things were serious.


“What… the fuck?”


Xander just shrugged helplessly. “I’m out. I’ve got nothing.”


“Jesus, it’s like watching the matrix, but without the slow-mo.”


Both Buffy’s showed no signs of slowing down. Moreover, it was obvious that they were evenly matched.
So both women were reaching into their repertoire for more obscure moves.

“When did Buffy learn kung-fu?”


“Never. Which is why I’m pretty sure the one in the short purple skirt is not my Buffy. That and the short purple skirt. B hates purple.”

She held up a hand to stifle Xander’s protest. “According to B, lavender doesn’t count as purple.”


They watched for a moment as the two Buffy’s pounded on each other furiously. One bore a look of determination, the other a cheerful smile.


“Is it wrong, that watching this turns me on?” Xander said.


“Yeah, right there with ya buddy. B’s pissed as all get-out, but she’s enjoying herself almost as much as when we fight.”


“Unloading?”


“Yeah, I guess. We better get out there and put a stop to this, before one of them gets seriously hurt.”


“Can’t we wait just a little longer?”


Faith smirked. “Perv.”


“Guilty as charged. But it’s not every day you see this.”


“True.”


They waited just a little longer.



The fight was even. The Buffybot had been programed by Giles, Spike and Willow to have all of Buffy’s fighting moves, so they were evenly matched in that regard. Plus she apparently felt no pain, never got tired or angry, and was made from something far stronger than flesh and blood.
But Buffy was a Slayer in her prime, a prime that most Slayers never reached. Her strength, speed and stamina were far beyond that of the younger generation, and off the charts when compared to regular humans.

And what she was finding, was that the Buffybot was cheating.


She backed up, maintaining her defensive posture. “You’re cheating,” she complained. “Shoulder and hip joints are not supposed to bend like that.”


The Buffybot smiled. “I have been upgraded! I am far more resilient now! I am just like you! I too have been destroyed, and returned to function, stronger and better than before!”


“God you’re annoying,” Buffy groused. “Who brought you back?”


“The first time I was re-engineered by Willow Rosenberg, the second time by Ethan Rayne.”


“Ethan Rayne?!” Buffy complained. “Argh! Why can’t that guy just leave well enough alone?”



“Well, it looks like the show’s over,” Xander said. “It should be safe to go find out what the heck is going on.”


“Gotta admit man, I’m kinda curious as to why there’s a B, and another B.”


“Well the fighting seems to have died down to heaving bosoms and angry glares.”


Faith snorted and chuckled. “Man, I can’t believe you just said ‘bosoms’. What, are you studying to be Giles or somethin?”

She opened the door and stepped out. “Hey B, B also. What’s happening chicks?”


“Hi Faith!” said Buffybot chirpily. She bounced excitedly over, and kicked Faith in the face.

She hit with enough force to send Faith flying back through the door, and several meters into the workshop. She slid across the smooth floor, and came to a halt against some cupboards with an audible thud and a rattle of tools.


Faith blinked in surprise. “Ow.”


“Faith!” Buffy shouted.
She charged the Buffybot and slammed her against the wall with a bone jarring thud. She hammered the Buffybot with renewed fury, battering her so fast and so hard that the interior of the workshop sounded like a jackhammer was being used on the walls.

“You. Don’t. Ever. Hit. My. Girl!” she raged, punctuating each word with a flurry of brutal punches.


Faith scrambled up and hurried outside. “B! Chill, alright? I’m ok.”


Buffy stopped hitting the Buffybot, letting her drop, stunned and battered to the ground.
“Are you sure? I mean in your condition?”


“She hit me in the head, not the cooze. Don’t forget, I got shot a while back and that didn’t bother me much.”


“Ouch. I am damaged,” the Buffybot announced from the floor.

“Repairs initiated. I have an owie,” she added, and promptly burst into tears.


“Uh, I realize I’m often the last to know what’s going on, but what?,” Xander asked, clearly worried. “You got shot?! Is that what Buffy meant by ‘in your condition?’”


Faith looked down at the crying Buffybot, ignoring Xander for the moment. The sight tugged on her heartstrings. In one moment, she had gone from confidant superwoman to a crying girl. Not unlike the real Buffy.


She crouched down next to her crumpled form, taking in the bruises and the trickle of blood leaking from the corner of her mouth.
“Hey sweetie, don’t cry,” said softly.


“B-but Buffy hates me!” she sobbed. “I was made to be just like her, and she hates me-e-e-e,” she wailed.


“B? Ya wanna grab the G-man? He’s normally got the answers, an’ I could really do with some right about now.”


“What? I’m not leaving you here with her, what if she goes all punchy-kicky again?”


“I think I’ll be ok. I have mad Buffy-handling skills. And Xander will protect me.”


Xander made a choking sound in the background.


Buffy could sense the concern in Faith, and an odd note of protectiveness.
She huffed. “Ok. I can see that me being here is not helping, what with the recent punchiness and all. So I’ll go and get Giles, rather than say, calling him on the phone. Like a sensible person.”


“Appreciate it B.”

`
Buffy glanced guiltily at the sobbing Buffybot. “Uh, sorry I beat you up I guess. Um, I’ll get Giles.”
And saying that, she ran off at full speed.


“C’mon, let’s get you up,” Faith said gently, getting a funny look from Xander.
She hauled the still crying blonde to her feet, and was immediately clamped in a somewhat panicked hug.
“Shh-shh-shh sweetie, you’re ok now. No-one’s going to beat up on you.”


Xander’s eyes just about bugged out of his head at the gentle tone Faith was using, almost as if she were talking to a frightened child.


“Uh, I don’t suppose you used to live with us, once upon a time?” he asked, as Faith carried her inside.


She nodded, much like a small child. “Yes,” she said in a small voice. “I used to live with Tara and Willow, who are gay. And Dawn, my sister, who gets kidnapped a lot.”


“You know her Xan?”


“Uh maybe? I would have expected her to have said something about Spike-”


“Spike is very handsome,” Buffybot interrupted.


“There we go. Um, yup, this is the Buffybot alright.”


“Uh, I might sound kinda dumb here Xan, but what the hell is the Buffybot?”


“Um, ah, er.”


“Just spit it out man.”


“She was a sexbot built by Warren. For Spike.”


Faith just stared at him.


“How the fuck was this guy not blowin’ in the wind years back?”


“Because he was very slightly more useful alive-ish?”


“For reals?” she said, disbelieving.


Xander shrugged. “Not my call. I wanted him dead in the worst way, but Buffy wouldn’t let me. She was in a bad place.”


Buffybot sniffled. “I’m not a sexbot anymore.”


“Okaay. I’ll bite,” Xander said. “What are you? And how are you not at the bottom of a crater?”


“I’m a me,” she said sadly. “And I’m not at the bottom of a crater because I was repaired.”


“And you’re not a sexbot? ‘cos that sounds kinda cool.”


Faith punched him in the arm. “Dude. Not cool.”


Xander looked a little shamefaced, and rubbed his arm. “Sorry.”


“I’m not a sexbot, because Willow removed all the sex programming. Except the lesbian protocols. Those she copied.”


Xander made a choking sound. Faith smirked slightly.


“And Willow upgraded me to be a slayerbot. And I was destroyed, so she repaired and upgraded me again. Then it happened again.”


“Who repaired you the second time?”


Buffybot smiled brightly. “Ethan! He had me salvaged and put back together! With more upgrades!”


“And you’re not a sexbot?”


“No! I am not programmed to want sex with anyone. But I do, because it’s fun!”


Xander made more choking noises.


“Ethan is a very skilled and considerate lover,” she said in a matter of fact tone.


Xander switched to gagging noises.


“Oh fuck me,” Faith said, laughing.


The Buffybot smiled up at her. “If you like! Would you like to sample my library of sexual techniques?”


Faith stopped laughing, wide eyed.


Xander chuckled.
Without looking, she punched him in the arm again.

“Ow.”


“Uh, thanks BB, but I’m gonna have to say no. Don’t think my girl would appreciate it, y’know.”


“You are paired with Buffy?”


“Yeah. She’s my girl.”


“Oh. Is that why she hit me?”


“Er, no.” Faith sighed. “Look, she’s a little wigged right now, ya dig? We just got back from a trip, an’ we learned some kinda terrifying stuff.”


Buffybot looked down at her hands, nervously twisting in her lap. “She hates me,” she said in a small voice.


The sad little voice cut right through Faith. She could relate on so many levels. She knew what it was like to be despised by the one you came from. And by Buffy too.
She lifted the sad robot’s chin and looked into her eyes. Eyes so much like Buffy’s.

There was an innocence there that she hadn’t seen in a long time.
And a tingle, very much like the tingle she got when she touched Buffy, though much weaker.

“Look, this wasn’t the way I wanted to tell everyone ok? But B was just bein’ crazy overprotective. I’m knocked up. Got a bun in the oven, whatever.”


She glared at Xander, daring him to say something dumb.


“What? I didn’t do it! What are you glaring at me for?” he protested.


“You are manufacturing another human inside you?” Buffybot asked curiously.


“Uh, Yeah. Kinda. Maybe. Assuming it’s not a demon or something. That happened to Cordy once, so I guess it could happen again.”


Buffybot reached hesitantly for Faith’s stomach. “In here?”


Faith looked down to see Buffybot tentatively touching her lower belly. “I hope so.”


Xander gave her a funny look. “You’re being weirdly ok with her,” he said nodding towards the slightly cross eyed bot.


Faith shrugged. “I can’t help it. She’s like a cute, kid version of B. Also: pregnant. I blame the hormones for going all wacky and maternal an’ shit.”


“You are less than 9 weeks pregnant. I cannot hear a heartbeat, other than your own.”


“You can hear that?”


Buffybot smiled radiantly up at Faith. “I have sensors in my fingers!”


“And you know this stuff how?”


“The internet! You have wifi here, so I looked it up!”


“You have wifi?” Xander asked.


“We have wifi?” Faith asked.


“Yep!” the Buffybot nodded cheerfully. “Willow uses the same passwords as she did when she was programing me, so I have access!”

She frowned. “I am also Mac compatible, but I prefer to avoid that if possible.”


“Uh, why?”


“They are creepy and strange. Like old men wearing the faces of children. And they’re sort of plastic-y.”


Xander grimaced. “Yeesh, creepy computers. Wishing you hadn’t told me now.”


“Man, where’s Giles when ya need him?”


“Giles is with Ethan,” Buffybot said. “Buffy should arrive shortly.”


“Ethan is here?” Faith said. “I gotta meet this guy.”


Xander groaned. “He showed up right after you guys left. And Oz dropped in with a new batch of mini-Slayers.”


“Wicked. I wanna hear his new tracks.”


“Oh crap,” Xander said.


“Jesus pirate-pete, you look like ya seen a ghost.”


“Oz… Tara. Crap.”


“Oh right, the ex. Awkward.”


“Noooo. More sort of Oz tried to eat Tara one time.”


“Bet she didn’t go for that, what with… oh right. Werewolf. That kind of eating.”


“The bad kind. Crap. We better find Tara before either he freaks and eats her, or she freaks and blows him up.”


“Well, neither of them is anywhere near B, not that she’s listening, she’s busy yelling at Ethan and Giles.”


“That is correct. Buffy is shouting at Ethan. I am taking notes for my files.”


That got her a funny look from Xander. “We better go rescue Tara from Oz.”


“You mean, rescue him from her,” Faith retorted.


Xander looked surprized. “You don’t think…”


“Nah. She ain't like that. But man, she’s got power inside her.”


“I’ve seen. Remember?” he said, tapping the side of his head near his good eye.


Faith shook her head, dragging Xander and Buffybot out the door. “You ain’t seen squat. Red shattered a fucking mountain. Blondie drilled a hole to the centre of the earth. I think if Snow White got really angry, she could do worse.”


“Luckily, that’ll never happen with Tara.”


“Ya think? What if someone points a gun at Willow? Or Dawn?”


“Crap,” he said, thinking back to the demonstration he had seen, only a short while ago.


Tara’s attitude had changed completely, the very instant Dawn had mentioned the idea of Willow being in trouble.


“Double crap. We’d better go find at least one of them, and fast.”


“C’mon man. Let’s book.”


They left at speed.


+++


“You had no right to dig that thing up!”


Ethan raised an eyebrow. “No right? My dear girl, are you telling me you’re laying claim to her? That she’s yours?”


Buffy grimaced. “Eeew no! It’s the most awful thing ever. I’m not kidding Ethan, I want it destroyed!”


Faith, Xander and the Buffybot skidded into the room at that moment.


The frightened blond bot’s face crumpled and she burst into tears.


“Jesus B, what the hell?”


Buffy, in full flood, had clearly not felt Faith approach.
She looked momentarily guilty before narrowing her eyes at the crying bot sheltering in Faith’s arms.

She glared at Ethan with renewed venom. “You really are an asshole, you know that? What kind of psycho programs a robot to cry? Or even builds it with the ability to do that?”


“B,” Faith said, clearly trying to get her to calm down. It had been a stressful couple of days and all nerves were frayed, Buffy’s especially so.


“It’s a horrible mockery of life, and it looks like me! It’s the creepiest, most-“


“B! Shut the hell up for a second!”


“Really my dear, if I could just-”


“Close your word-hole English. I’ll get to you,” Faith growled.


She stroked the hair of the shivering and woebegone bot, comforting her and getting more angry looks from Buffy.
“B,” Faith said softly. “You can’t destroy her. She’s not an appliance, she’s alive.”


“That’s what I’ve been-” Ethan was cut off by Faith’s punch to the shoulder.
She hit significantly harder than the admonishments she dealt Xander.

He subsided, rubbing his shoulder ruefully.


“B? She’s… she’s you. She’s like a baby you, and we can’t kill her. That’s just wrong.”


Buffy looked at the watery hazel eyes, eyes that she saw every day in the mirror.
She looked into those eyes and saw the depth of emotion there. Simple like a child’s. Powerful and un-tempered by experience.

But real.

“Oh my god,” she breathed. “How?”


“I’d explain, if only people would stop hitting me,” Ethan said.


Buffy waved a small and deceptively delicate fist in front of his face. “Make with the explaining. I make no promises about the hitting thing though.”


“Buffy,” he said, gesturing to the watery eyed blonde. “Was constructed by Warren. And though he was a touch sociopathic, he was a genius.”


Buffy tensed and raised her fists a fraction. Ethan spoke a shade more quickly.


“However, even he couldn’t make a convincing impersonation of life without resorting to magic. One of his young friends was quite adept at the arts, and so he used the stolen hair and blood samples to make her as lifelike and Buffy-like as possible.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “We know all this. Make with the actual explaining.”


“My dear, you simply haven’t thought it through. The second Buffy was made to be as exactly like you as possible, by two geniuses and two spell casters. Both on a purely physical level, and on a mystical one.”


Buffy clearly stopped to think on his words.


Ethan continued. “Why do you think the vampires were fooled? Why didn’t they guess she wasn’t the Slayer, the second they clapped eyes on her? Or smelled her?”
“And then you died, and your soul was called back to your body.”

He made careful eye contact. “Which… body?”


“This one,” Buffy said, gesturing at herself and glaring at him.


He raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. But over here we have a body so very much like yours on a mystical level. So a small part of your soul went to her. And then Miss Rosenberg cast the famous ‘Slayer’ spell. With time and experience, the fragment of soul you gave her grew and matured. And now she’s a real girl, albeit one with slightly unusual origins.”


“She’s alive B. And a Slayer too, I can feel her.”
She looked down at the Buffybot with a soft expression. The Buffybot looked back with adoration.


“Great, now I really am being single-white-female’d,” Buffy grumbled.


The Buffybot stroked the side of Faith’s face. “Thank you Faith. I can see why Buffy 1.0 has paired with you. You are beautiful and kind.”


Faith blushed unexpectedly, and looked around awkwardly. “Uh, thanks I guess.”


Buffy bot smiled. “Deleting Enemy file. Creating Love file.”


“Ok, that’s enough. I think I have run out of whatever head-stuff lets you deal with creepy and weird situations,” Buffy said, looking distinctly put out.


“Do you still hate me?” the Buffybot asked in a small voice.


Buffy huffed mightily. “I hate this situation. I hate the craziness of the last few days, and I might hate him,” Buffy said, pointing to Ethan. “But I don’t hate you.”


Buffybot brightened immediately. “You don’t?”


Buffy sighed. “No. I am severely wigged out by you, but I don’t hate you.”


“You, on the other hand, I think are evil,” Buffy said pointing to Ethan. “I may slay you.”


“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not be slain.”


“Then I would suggest behaving yourself,” Giles said.


“Well in that case, I’d like to take my partner home. She looks as though she’s had a trying time of it.”
He held out his hand in a reassuring way. “Come my dear. Let’s get you away from these people, so you can process all this.”

Buffybot shrank back into Faith’s hold, leaving Ethan looking genuinely shocked.
“My dear, have I done something to cause offense?”

Buffybot shook her head.


“Then what is the matter?”


“I can’t be paired with you any more Ethan. I’m gay.”


Giles coughed, in a vain attempt to cover his laughter.


Ethan, for all his sins, simply raised an eyebrow. “Blast.”


He turned to the original Buffy. “I don’t suppose you’d tell her you’re bisexual, as a favour to me?”


Buffy folded her arms and grinned hugely. “Sorry Ethan, but I don’t see myself being with a man. Like, ever again. So I guess that makes me completely gay. Happily homo and stuff. My rainbow scarf is in the mail.”


Faith was grinning fit to bust. Buffybot looked like she was taking it all in.


“Now that was just uncalled for. Really Rupert, what are you teaching them?”


“Common sense, perhaps?” Giles said mildly. “I’m sorry Ethan, but their decisions are their own, especially in matters of the heart.”


“Bugger.”


“None of that old boy. I’m sure you’ll land on your feet.”


“We can still be friends Ethan,” Buffybot said. “I just can’t be paired with you anymore.”


Faith laughed. “Dude! You’ve just been given the ‘friends’ speech by a robot, how much does it suck to be you?”


Ethan glared at Faith, to little avail. She just grinned back at him, clearly finding the whole thing hilarious.


Eventually he sighed. “As you wish,” he said to the blonde bot. “If you ever need to talk, you know where to find me.”
He glared at Giles, who for his part maintained a look of innocence.
And with that he left, leaving the five of them in silence.


Buffybot put her hand up hesitantly, looking for all the world like a child asking a question in class.


“Err, yes?” said Giles, looking nonplussed.


“Can I enrol please?”


“What?” Giles said, exchanging nonplussed for surprised.


“I no longer paired with Ethan. He was providing for me, and now I need an alternative means of support. And a clothing allowance.”


Faith laughed as Buffy stared.

“Jesus. She is so obviously a miniature you, B.”


“I am an exact duplicate of Buffy Summers. I am the same height. If she were to gain or lose height, so would I.”


“Hold the horse-like things, what?” Buffy said. “I am barely dealing with the existence of a second Buffy, and now you want to live with us?”


“I don’t see a problem with it, besides Buffy’s obvious discomfort of course,” Giles said.
He fiddled with his glasses. “But I doubt Ethan would simply leave you to fend for yourself.”
He looked thoughtful for a moment after he registered the amazed expressions on everyone’s faces. “Well, not if he wants to avoid a good thrashing.”


“And what was that about gaining height?” Xander asked.


Buffybot smiled, please to have the chance to explain. “I have my own soul, and my own thoughts. But I am still mystically linked to Buffy 1.0. I was always intended to be the most exact match possible, so if Buffy 1.0 changes significantly, I will too.”
She turned to Buffy. “I am pleased that you have started eating properly again. I did not like being so thin and bony.”


Buffy just groaned and hid her face in a pillow.


“Much of my appearance of age was based on your weight loss. Now that this has reversed, I find myself closer to my ideal age group.”


Attempting to rescue Buffy, Faith spoke up. “Are you sure you want to join the school? You wanna be a Slayer?”


Brightening considerably Buffybot nodded. “Yes! I was made to be a Slayer, and I can be quite useful. I do not need to sleep and can go for several days of intense activity without food or a recharge.”


“You can eat?” Faith asked, curious despite herself.


Buffybot nodded. “Yes. Primarily for pleasure, but my biological systems require some sustenance.”


“Ugh,” Buffy said. “We need to get her a different hairdo or something.”


Buffybot shook her head. “We are mystically linked. Any change you make to your hair will be duplicated. I can put my hair in a ponytail, or something similar. But any changes to colour or length, or even major changes in style will carry across to me.”


“Well, there goes that idea,” Buffy muttered.


“BB, do ya like the colour purple?” Faith asked.


She bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yes.”


“Well there ya go,” Faith said. “B hates wearing purple. If you always wear something purple, we’ll always know that you’re, uh, you.”


Buffybot nodded cheerfully. “That can be my signature dress. I can do that.”


“So what do we call you?” Buffy asked cautiously.


“Buffy!” Buffybot said cheerfully.


Buffy frowned. “No way. We look exactly alike, you can’t have the same name as me. That’s just confusing on too many levels.”


“Buffy 2.0!” the bot responded, equally cheerfully.


“Nope,” Buffy said firmly. “No to Buffy-anything. There can be only one Buffy.”


Faith chuckled at that.


“Our middle name is Anne. I could be Anne. Would that be acceptable, Buffy 1.0?”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “This is the second time I’ve given away my middle name, but sure, you can be Anne. As long as you stop calling me Buffy 1.0.”


The Buffybot nodded solemnly. “Updating files.”


“Anne huh?” Faith said. “I think I’ll stick to calling you BB.”


“And just like that, you have your own official Faith-name,” Buffy said wryly.


“Yay me!” Buffybot (now Anne) said. “What is a Faith-name?”


“Faith almost never calls people by their actual name,” Buffy said.


Faith shrugged. “It’s a thing.”


“So she gives everyone her own special nickname.”


Buffybot blinked in surprize. “What are these alternate identifiers?”


Faith pointed to each person in turn. “B, BB, G-man, Xan-man. Willow’s Red, and I’m still working on Tara.”


“Blondie, Snow-White, Glinda the good witch to name a few.” Buffy added.


“Why?” Buffybot asked.


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. Just one of those things I guess.”


“One of what things?” the curious bot asked again.


Faith rolled her eyes. “One of those things I do, but don’t know why. Ok?”


“Ok,” came the chirpy response.


Buffy smirked. “Just so you know, when she drives you completely bonkers, I am so going to tell you I told you so.”


Giles cleared his throat. “Perhaps we could move on to other matters?”


Buffy just grinned. “Sure Giles. What’s the what?”


He grimaced. “Actually, I was going to ask you that question. Albeit in English.”


“Ok, the short version? We ran into the Knights of Byzantium, Willow blew up a mountain, and we found all these books. Which we brought home for you to play with.”
She waggled her finger at him. “Don’t say I never bring you nice things.”


Mentally Giles picked through the information Buffy just dropped on him.
“That would be the earthquake that was detected, I assume?”


Buffy cringed. “Uh, if it helps, Willow’s really sorry? And we made sure that no-one got squished by a falling mountain.”


“That’s a relief,” Giles said dryly.


“Also we brought home a monk. I think Willow’s showing him around. Uh, he wants to be a watcher?”


Giles raised one eyebrow in question.


“Oh! And we totally need a hot-tub!”


Faith snorted.


“Anything else?” he asked mildly.


“I have these fab new boots?”


“G-man, you got no idea. We brought shit home that could start world war three.”


Giles sighed. “Perhaps you should start at the beginning?”


Faith poured herself a stiff scotch from Giles’ supply, only to have it smoothly taken from her hand by Buffy.


She handed it to Giles. “You’re going to want this by the time we’ve finished, believe me.”


Faith just looked annoyed.



+++


“That was a dirty trick,” Xander said, glowering at Giles.


Giles just smiled. “Really? I can’t imagine why you’d think that, my boy.”
He sipped his tea. “The expression on your face was priceless.”


Xander threw up his hands. “Ok, fine. You’re the master pranker.”


Giles grinned. “Indeed. I have to thank you for that. It was nice to have a bit of harmless fun for a change. And it’s ‘Prankster’, thank you.”


Xander ran his hand through his curly hair. “How did you do it?”


“Ethan mainly. He’s good at transformations and illusions. I gave him a bit of a hand with it.”


“And your blond friend?”


“Reggie? He’s been a Doctor Who fan for decades. He thought it was spectacular. He’s currently pestering Ethan for ways to construct a working Tardis.”


“Still a dirty trick,” Xander said.
“I just wish we had a working time machine though. It would make things so much better.”


“I can assure you, that you’re not the only person to think that. Sadly we don’t.”


The two sat and pondered all the things they could fix with a time machine.


It took some time.


+++


Giles looked up from his books at the gentle tap on the door.

Tara was leaning against the door frame, looking more hesitant than he had seen her in a while.


“Tara. Is everything alright?”


She smiled a little and bobbed her head. “Do you have a few minutes?”


Giles dropped a bookmark in the book he was reading and closed it.

“Of course. Please come in.”

He stood and reached for his tea set. “Tea?”


“Yes please.” Tara closed the door and took a seat on the comfy couch, while Giles puttered about organizing the tea.


When they were both well supplied with tea and biscuits, Giles broke the comfortable silence. “How are you settling in?”
Tara smiled a little, grateful for the gentle opening. “Well. Good even. Everyone’s been great, and I’ve even taught a few classes with Willow.”


“Excellent.”


“It’s kind a nice environment here. Sort of like college, but a little more grown up. Even with all the girls around.”


Giles smiled. “I doubt the FBI would like the comparison. I rather think that they prefer to think of themselves as very grown up.”

That got a chuckle.


“Um, Mister Giles, that’s sort of why I’m here.”

Giles sipped his tea. “Please Tara, tell me what is on your mind.”


Tara sipped her tea, gathering herself.

“Willow is doing the, um, hacking to give me a new life. At least as far as the government is concerned.”


Giles nodded. While he had no idea of the details, he did know that Willow had an ongoing process. She made new identities for some of the slayers from less than ideal backgrounds, Faith amongst them.
“I understand she alters records and such,” he essayed.
Records he understood, the intricacies of computers, less so.


Tara’s lips twitched in the tiniest of smiles. Conversations between technophobe Giles, and technophile Willow could lead to some epic contests of incomprehension.

“Yes. Well, she was making up a new one for me and she asked me what name I wanted.”


“Oh?” Giles said politely. “Are we to be greeted by the artist formerly known as Tara?” A tiny smile betrayed his gentle teasing.


Tara chuckled. “No. I’m still going to be Tara, it’s just that I don’t want to be a Maclay anymore.”

She met his curious gaze with her own slightly hesitant one.
“One day in the not too distant future, I’m going to be Tara Rosenberg. But I was wondering i-if it would be ok until then… if I were Tara Giles?”


Giles’ jaw dropped.


“You mean so much to us Mister Giles. And I wanted to show you that, the best way I knew how.”


Giles had to look away and wipe his eyes.
“Of course dear girl… I’d, I’d be honoured,” he eventually said, his voice rough.


“A-are you sure mister Giles? I don’t want to do it if it’s upsetting you.”


Giles took a calming sip of his tea and cleared his throat. The teacup wobbled very slightly in his unsteady hand. “It’s not a bad thing Tara. It’s just that when you reach a certain age, you begin to give up on the idea of children.”
He sipped his tea again, his hand still shaking very slightly. “One eventually finds substitutes, and to a degree, I’ve always thought of you all, the ah Scooby gang, as my surrogate children.”
He placed his cup down on the saucer with exaggerated care, giving himself time to think.

“It’s just a bit of a shock to have it all cast into sharp relief as it were.”

He smiled at Tara warmly. “I would count it my privilege to add another Giles to the family.”


Tara smiled back, her tension evaporating. “Thank you mister Giles. It means a lot to me.”


Giles looked away, blinking awkwardly.


“Myself as well. Welcome to the family my dear.”


+++

_________________
“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 5:39 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that they got all the books transported to the Slayer Central plus Dawn's tree... Big yay for Heather & Dawn kissage... Lol for Buffybot turning gay and starting live and train with Buffy & Faith... Big yay for Tar asking Giles of becomming Tara Giles...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:18 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Really wasn't expecting Dawn's tree/old apartment to hitch a ride back to the University of Slayerville. Fun to see that her and her "BFF" ended up going down the path of least "Drama!" when they finally decided to be more than BFFs.

I can't say I care for Ethan's love life reveal in this chapter. Soon as the Buffybot confirmed that they had indeed had "relations" I had to fight the urge to run from my computer screaming "Ewww!" But the "We can still be friends." breakup from the robot was a nice knife twist at the end there.

Also the Buffybot being weirded out by Mac's was priceless. Though I would assume Willow and Warren would have both programmed her using Linux. Just a hunch. And Giles' involuntary laughter at the robot coming out sealed the the deal.

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