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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 2:34 am 
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
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Slayers in Beantown


“Giles, we just got back from one adventure, and now you want us to go on another?” Buffy complained. “And don’t think you’re getting out of the shovel speech.”


“Yes, and I am sorry. But this young woman needs our help, and I believe Faith may be the only one who can get through to her. I rather naturally assumed that you would want to go as well.”

Buffy just glowered at him.

“As to the shovel speech, you can save your efforts. Willow already gave it to me.”

Buffy’s glower continued.

"Please think it over, and let me know in the morning what you've decided,” he said.” If you choose not to go, I will be forced to-"


"You will be forced to make your sad, frowny face,” Buffy grumped. “And I'll end up going anyway."


"I've no idea what you're talking about,” Giles said with as much dignity as he could muster. “And it’s my ‘disappointed’ face."


Buffy rolled her eyes, but she was smiling just a little.


“Please think it over. And take the file to Faith. We have a limited timeframe Buffy. We do not have long before the limited protection afforded by our activities and Anya’s ruse expires. And this young woman does not have long, if my reading between the lines is correct.”


Buffy huffed mightily, but she did pick up the slim folder.

“When this latest crisis has passed, you owe us so much downtime it’s ridiculous.”


Giles responded with a single word. “Hawaii.”

Buffy blinked and squealed with delight. She darted across the room and engulfed the Englishman in a mighty hug.
Awkwardly he patted her back.

“Thank you Giles! Thankyou thankyou thankyou!”


“That’s quite alright dear girl.”


He struggled unsuccessfully to extricate himself from Buffy’s grip.
“Nope. You stay right there and be hugged. Even stuffy English people need hugs.”
She looked up at his fond gaze, her eyes shining. “Especially stuffy English people.”


“Ah, thank you Buffy,” he said.


“Do you know how long I have wanted to go to Hawaii?”


He smiled a little. “I believe you have mentioned it on and off since… about the second week I have known you.”

She did let him go then, and smiled.
“I do listen you know. I also believe as an extra reward for your good service, I will give you the expense account to be frivolous with.”


Buffy squealed. “Really?! This is going to be amazing!”


Gently he directed her gaze to the folder on the table. “However, before we can celebrate with sun, sand and alarmingly bright shirts, there is the rather more sombre matter of a young woman who needs our help.”


Buffy glanced at the folder and snagged it. “Sure sure,” she said dreamily, her eyes clearly seeing bright floral displays and palm trees.
“Ok Giles, helpful Buffy is on deck.”


“If you could get that to Faith, and come and see me before you go, I would be most grateful. I have included all the relevant information, but I would value the chance to give it a little more context.”


Buffy bobbed her head, grinning glassily, ear to ear.
He smirked. “All you can see right now is Faith, covered in those flower garlands, yes?”

Buffy just nodded, still grinning.
He sighed. “Off you go then. Just make sure to talk to me before you go.”


“Yep!” Buffy said, and almost skipped from the room.


Giles sighed, though he allowed himself a small smile.


+++


“Hawaii? Sweet!”


“I. know,” Buffy pronounced with due gravitas.


“So why’d the G-man hafta bribe us with Hawaii?”


“Well we just got back from one adventure. And I may have whined and pouted just a little.”


Faith just smiled. “Yeah, fallen to that one a few times myself.”

Faith picked up the folder and started leafing through it.


“Also it’s in Boston.”

Faith froze.
“I think that’s why he felt the need to bribe us,” Buffy said apologetically.


“So why was he so hot to get us out there?” Faith asked.


“Young girl, life in danger. That sort of thing. All in the ever-so-official folder-y thing.” Buffy pointed to the manila folder.


“Huh. G-man ain’t too dense, so it must be pretty rough for him to send you an’ me to bean-town.”

She grabbed the folder and started leafing through it.
She stopped and started reading more thoroughly. Buffy felt Faith’s concentration and focus sharpen as she read.
She found that if she focused, she could feel the words as Faith read them. More, she felt Faith’s understanding.

“Yeah. I see why Giles is sending us.”


“Oh?”


She nodded. “Yeah. Had to be me or you. Only someone who’s been through the fire, and come out the other side is gonna reach this chick I figure.”
She held out the folder. “This chick is still in the fire. I don’t think she’d be able to believe anyone who hadn’t lived through it. Or worse.”


Buffy tapped her head. “I read it when you did, which was kind of fun.”


Faith raised an eyebrow. “Huh. I’ll have to try that sometime. You know, if you ever read anything other than Cosmo.”


Buffy smiled, pleased to have discovered something about their link before Faith did. Faith’s constant poking and prodding usually discovered things first.
“But how are we getting to Boston?” she asked. “I mean, it’s a long way, so driving is out. And I don’t think we’ll be allowed to take weapons on a plane. And we are being hunted, so there’s no way in hell I’m going unarmed while various nasties try to eat my pregnant wife.”


“We just teleported back with the rest of the gang. I figure we just ask Glinda and Red to work the mojo and poof!” Faith said wiggling her fingers.


Buffy rubbed Faith’s lower back comfortingly. “Are you sure? Because the grossness really looks like no fun.”


Faith sighed. “Yeah. This whole pregnancy thing sucks. I mean, hey I’m glad I’m having our baby B. But I wish this was something I could have chosen. And I still have no fucking clue how come I’m pregnant. It’s not like you turned into a guy or something. I’da noticed that.”

She shrugged helplessly. “Eh, I just can’t get my head around it.”


Buffy smiled softly. “We are going to be moms. That’s what matters.”


Faith smiled shyly and Buffy was almost overcome with how adorable she looked.
“I’m glad B. I really am. Also I think Red and Snow-white are a teensy bit jealous of us.”


Buffy shook her head in disbelief. “Yeah. I really figured they would be doing the whole girl-girl baby thing waaaay before us.”


Faith frowned. “I really woulda thought that you’d be the one doing the girly-pregnant thing though. I’m totally the dude in this relationship, so how come I gotta be knocked up?”


“More for baby to eat?” Buffy said with a faint smirk.


“Pretty thin, B.”


Buffy shrugged. “I have no idea. Anyway, we have to have our trip while your pants are a bit snug, instead of when you look like you swallowed a beachball.”

Faith just looked annoyed.

“You know, some of those maternity dresses are pretty cute.”


Faith’s frown became a glare. “I am not wearing a frikkin maternity dress. I’ll wear track pants from the big and tall store if I have to, but I ain’t wearing one o’ those fucking mumu things.”


Buffy grinned. “I think you’d look very cute in something floral.”

More glaring.

Buffy giggled. “Ok, no mumu. Let’s pack for Boston and go rescue this girl. Then maybe you can show me around the nice parts of the city.”


Faith smiled. “I’d like that B. It ain’t all bad there. Had some shitty times for sure, but there’s a few good memories. Plus who knows, maybe I can dig up something about my real Da, find out who he is.”


“Maybe he’s a foreign king or something. Ooo! That would make you a princess!”


“Only one princess around here, B.”


“I can’t tell if you’re being sweet or being mean,” Buffy said, frowning.


Faith smirked, not letting on.
“How about this?” She pulled Buffy in for a soft kiss.


When they broke from the kiss, Buffy sighed happily. “Definitely sweet.”


“C’mon, let’s grab our gear and talk to the witch squad.”


“What do we need?”

Faith shrugged. “Dunno. We ain’t going into the wilds, despite part o’ Beantown being called the Boondocks. I’m just taking a few weapons, a few clothes… and a credit card.” She grinned evilly as she mentioned a credit card.


“Ooo, shopping,” Buffy said happily.


“Bean town is stickier than what you’re used to, even at this time of year. Winters are damn cold, but in summer? Kinda humid.”


Buffy brightened. “New wardrobe?”


Faith snorted and laughed a little. “B, we’re gonna be there a couple of days. How much clothing do you need?”


“Two days? Three new outfits. And shoes to go with them.”


“If it makes you happy Bumblebee, go nuts.”


Buffy frowned. “Speaking of people whose names start with B B, are you happy leaving the Buffybot here by herself? Is it safe to do?”


“We were? Uh, sure. Also, she ain’t alone. Xander likes playing with her, and lil’ D and Andy-Pandy are absolutely smitten with her.”


“Really? Why?”


“Really? A genuine artificial intelligence wanderin’ around campus in a short skirt, and you’re wonderin’ why the geeky types have gone all starry-eyed and giggly?”


“Hey, my sister’s not geeky!”


“Sure she is. Lara Croft geeky, but still geeky. She gets excited by books and spells, computer stuff and techno toys. S’not a bad thing B.”

She smirked a little. “You sure they made her outa you, an’ not Red?”


“I’m not stupid! I just have trouble with words… and paying attention.”

“True dat. And you’re a decent cook B. When I force you to stay near the stove, that is.”


“Ok, so I’m a real blonde. We were talking about the other blonde.”


“She’ll be fine. And as much as I like having her around, I figure i’ll have enough on my plate this weekend without babysitting another crazy blonde.”


“Hey!”


“Crazy like a fox, B.”


“Nice recovery.”


Faith turned serious for a moment. “And B? I don’t wanna share Boston with anyone else. This is just you an’ me shit, yeah?”


Buffy’s gaze softened. She put her hand on Faith’s arm. “I understand Faith. And thank you.”


“B, our world has changed so much, and it’s gonna change some more soon.”

She smiled, a little worriedly. “This might be our last chance to do stuff with just you an’ me. Pretty soon we’re both gonna be moms, and that’s terrifying, and kinda cool. But it won’t ever be just you an’ me anymore.”


“One last hurrah?”


Faith grinned. “Hell yeah girlfriend! Let blow through Beantown like a god-damned hurricane, and leave them wondering what the fuck happened.”

Buffy chuckled.

“No I’m serious B. We’re gonna hafta settle down and be good parents soon. So let’s make the Boston underworld think the apocalypse has come, just for them. Let’s live in a five-star hotel, eating lobster, drinking champagne and wearing fur coats.”


“Sipping champagne very sparingly,” Buffy said, poking Faith gently in the tummy.


“Fine. But to make up for it, you have to fuck me until I pass out. Ok?”


Buffy giggled, and flushed a little. “That seems fair. I think can handle that.”


“I wonder if they make leather preggo pants?”


“God, I hope not. That would look pretty bizarre, you have to admit.”


Faith grinned. “Yeah. Almost worth it.”


She bounced to her feet. “C’mon B! You go get the Witch-brigade to find us some nasties in Beantown, and I’ll get the gear and the money while go chase up Red and her little angel.”


Faith bounced around like a kid on too much sugar, making Buffy smile to see it.
“Ok sugar rush. You go do your bit, I’ll do mine and meet you in the back courtyard.”


“Wicked!” Faith said and made to bolt from the room.


“Ahem!” Buffy said. She pointed to her face. “Kisses please.”


Faith stopped. “Sorry Bumblebee. I just got too excited.”
She grabbed Buffy and swung her around, peppering her face with tiny kisses.
Buffy giggled happily, until Faith kissed her with such passion she just about wet herself.


“Whoa. Someone ate their Wheaties this morning.”


Faith brushed a hair from her face tenderly. “B, we’re off to help a girl that really needs it. And we’re also having kind of a honeymoon, sorta. So, we help the girl. Then it’s you, me and some kind of fur rug, and every naughty, dirty fantasy you’ve ever had.”

Buffy blushed brightly.

“Yeah B, even the one where I-”


Buffy covered her mouth.
She stood up on tippy-toes to whisper in Faith’s ear. “Show. Don’t tell.”


Faith smiled wonderingly. “You naughty little minx. We are going to have to go toy shopping I think.”


“I. Can’t. Wait,” Buffy whispered into Faith’s ear.


Faith moaned at the hot breath on her ear.
“We… uhh. We should go. Now.”


“Ok!” Buffy chirped, and bounced away.


Faith narrowed her eyes. “Tease.”


Buffy bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yup.”


“And now I have to punish you.”

Faith wiggled her fingers.


Buffy’s eyes widened. “Nononono!”


“Yep!”


And with that, Buffy bolted from the room, squealing in tickle-terror, Faith hot on her heels.


+++


Sometime later, after the tickling and squealing had died down, the chosen two were standing in the fields at the back of Slayer central.


“Y’know, if we are going to keep teleporting people around the place, we might need to set up like a transporter pad or something,” Willow said. Currently she was planting big chunks of crystal in a circle around the two.


“Nerd,” Faith said.


Willow poked out her tongue.
“Teleportation isn’t too risky,” she said. “As long as the arrival area is clear.”
She shuddered. “You don’t want to know what happens if there’s someone in the way when you land.”


“Which is why we scry the area before we send anyone,” Tara said.


“Are you guys going to be ok with the witchy-ness?” Buffy asked.


“We’ll be fine Buffy,” Tara said.


“It’s Faith you’ve got to worry about,” Willow added. She finished wedging the last pointy bit of quartz into the earth.
She looked a little awkward and embarrassed. “Sorry Faith, but we haven’t had time to practice the spell and make it any smoother.”


“And you’re sure it’s not going to hurt the baby?” Buffy asked.


Willow shook her head. “Uh-uh. No more threatening than walking into the next room. We put there next to here, then we just give you a shove to make you hop across.”


“I think it’s your awareness of world around you that makes you so sensitive to the change,” Tara said.


“I always knew remarkable self-involvement was one of my Slayer powers,” Buffy said. “Who knew it would turn out to actually be useful for something.”


Tara chuckled. “Well, perhaps just a little.”


Faith looked impatient. “C’mon, let’s get this show on the road wonder-witches. I wanna be there and back before we’ve even realized we’re gone.”


“Patience Faith. Just a few more minutes,” Willow said.


“Do you have everything?” Tara asked.


Buffy hefted a sensibly sized backpack and made a glare-y face at Willow. “I have Willow’s monster-map and a sensible amount underwear this time.”


Willow giggled at Buffy’s faux glare. “Sorry Buff. It was kinda funny though.”


Buffy waggled a handle sticking out of the pack. A handle with a now familiar tennis-ball stuck on the end.
“I have the scythe, but Faith’s leaving her monster-axe behind.”


“Yeah. Tried getting it to magically shrink down or somethin’. Not happening though.”

She hefted her own pack, which looked heavier than Buffy’s. “Couple of short swords and some knives should do me. Along with the usual.”


“And I have my super survival accessory,” Buffy said.
Her eyes glinted mischievously as she held up a shiny gold credit card. “It’s my new favourite word. Expense account.


“Do at least try to avoid buying a significant portion of the city,” Giles said dryly. “By all means, have fun. But try not to draw too much attention with your expenditures.”


“Sure Giles. We’ll make sure to stick to portable things. No buildings or islands.”
She turned to Faith. “Gold is portable, right?”


Faith grinned. “According to Mister T it is.”


Giles rolled his eyes. “Very funny. Do you have the post-card?”


Tara held up a post-card showing one of Boston’s more scenic bridges. “This should do to scry with, mister Giles.”


“And you have your insanely expensive, waterproof, smashproof satellite phone?” Dawn asked.


“Yep,” Buffy said, swatting the bottom of the pack.


“I know you’re going for very serious reasons,” Giles said. “And there are serious things happening.”
He smiled gently. “But do try to enjoy yourselves a little.”


Buffy goggled at him. “Who are you? Really Giles, you just gave me a gold-card and told me to have fun.”


Giles quirked a restrained smile, before his face took on a serious expression. “Buffy, you have more than earned any reward. Really, how much would you pay someone who saved the world as often as you had? Who was so committed, that they had given their life? Twice?

Buffy flushed, torn between embarrassment and pride.

“Enjoy yourselves girls. Between the serious things of course.”


“Will do Giles. And thanks.”


Almost shyly, Faith of all people, approached Giles and kissed him on the cheek. “Gonna be a grandpa soon G. Gonna hafta start calling you Gramps.”


His eyes glittered with emotion. “Perish the thought,” he said softly, clearly anything but offended.


“Don’t forget you two,” Faith said seriously. “You need us, you grab us and yank us to you.”


“Day or night,” Buffy added.


Tara smiled warmly at the pair and nodded, glad to have such staunch allies. She held up her own insanely expensive phone and waggled it. “If we do, we will.”


“Promise?” Buffy asked.


“Promise,” Tara replied.



Willow sat down with the big pink crystal and started wafting pungent smoke around, a look of concentration on her face.

Tara nodded to herself thoughtfully and sat down next to her, facing the chosen two.
They joined one pair of hands, and with their free hands they picked up the crystal together.
Tara chanted her spell, focussing on the bridge in the postcard. Sparkles of light rose from her body as she chanted and orbited her head at eye height. Her familiar blue and white theme, now augmented by Willow’s own colours, produced a subtle rainbow effect, neatly highlighting that the two were casting together.


“We have the bridge,” Tara said. her voice echoed with eerie harmonics as she pushed past the magic of the spell to communicate her findings.
“There,” she said to Willow. “That jetty looks good.”

Moments passed.

“Your landing area is clear. It’s also out of the way and dark, so hopefully there won’t be any witnesses,” Tara said.


“You sound kinda trippy when you talk like that,” Faith said.


“Magic-y,” Buffy added.


Tara smiled a little, but did not respond. She shifted her focus to Willow’s spell. No longer in the lead, spell wise, now all she had to do was push. Once more she stood in awe of Willow’s power. Although she carried depth of magical energy every bit as deep as her beloved, she was in awe of the way Willow’s brain worked.

Although she herself understood roughly how teleportation worked, she had no mind for the mechanics of the spell.
But Willow did.

Lovingly, Willow took the image of the landing site from her mind and wove it into the spell she was casting.
The pattern of the spell flared with light, and in the outer world, the spell circle flared with multi-coloured flames, and the Slayer pair were gone.


+++


Faith blinked in the sudden darkness.
Even the eyes of a Slayer took a while to adapt to the dimness, after the blaze of the spell.


“Goddamn, that’s a bright light. I can’t see shit.”


Buffy waved her hand in front of her face, only barely able to see her fingers. “Oh yeah. I think I can sorta see something though.”
Buffy slowly became aware that a man was staring at her, absolutely… flabbergasted. Yes, flabbergasted was a good word. She was sure she’d heard Giles use it at least once.

“Uh, hey,” Buffy said with a small wave.


“Er…” the man said.


The pair became aware of a distinctly funky smell. There were days when enhanced senses were not fun. This was one of those times.
The homeless man struggled to gather his thoughts. The fumes of some sort of cheap alcohol adding some vital clues as to his mind-state.
“Are you aliens?” he slurred.


Faith stepped forward. “No. We are angels sent by the lord your god,” she said dramatically.


“You are?” he said, awed.


“We are?” Buffy said.


“Yes. We are,” Faith stated confidently. “This is the day your life changes. God has sent us to grant you a gift. A choice.”
She put a wad of cash in his hand. “This simple gift is given to you. You may use it as the first step toward a new life, or the last step in your old.”
She looked at him seriously. “Go now to the church on fifth street and get a good meal in you. But be warned, if you choose to waste this chance, it is the end. There will be no third chances.”

Blearily the man nodded, staring at the two. He hauled himself to his feet and staggered off.


Buffy just stared, amazed.
“What,” she eventually said. “Was that?”


Faith grinned a little sheepishly. “What? You never watched ‘Touched by an Angel?”


“Uh, a little bit. Mom sort of liked it. But hey, explanation please?”


“I just gave the guy a grand and sent him to a church. So either he’s gonna use that to turn his life around, and the church will help him. If not, he’ll drink himself to death. Either way, he’s happy, and I helped him out.”


“But, drinking himself to death is not exactly awesome.”


Faith shrugged. “Look, he may be a drunken homeless guy, but he’s still an adult. If he wants to drink himself to death, it’s his life to do that with. And at least I tried. Plus he’s out of our hair.”


“Uh,” Buffy said uncertainly. “I can’t fault your logic. Still bothers me a little bit though.”


“His choice B. He’s a drunk, so it’s kinda likely he’ll drink himself into an early grave. But that’s still his choice, and dropping outa nowhere in a huge flash and telling him we’re angels? That might just shock him into doing the right thing.”


“I guess,” she said reluctantly.


“Also, about the best I could come up with in 5 seconds.”


“I know. Sorry if I came off bitchy or something. I guess I just don’t know how to handle that sort of thing. Sunnydale never had any homeless people. They tended to get eaten pretty quickly. And um, where I lived in LA was kind of up-market.”


Faith smiled a little and nudged Buffy’s shoulder with her own. “S’ok Bumblebee. At least we ain’t yelling at each other and swinging.”


Buffy smiled a little as they stepped out of the shadows under the bridge. She unhooked the chain on the supposedly locked gate and started climbing the big concrete staircase. Faith took her hand and they climbed the concrete stairs together, going slowly so they didn’t have to encounter the homeless man again, and ruin the impact they’d had on him.

When they made it to the top of the bridge, they stopped and looked around. The wind was blowing fairly strongly, and there was a hint of moisture in the air. Buffy shivered and buried her hands in her nice warm leather jacket, dragging Faith’s hand along with it.
Faith chuckled. They might have lost some of their gear in Bohemia, but the locals had been nice enough to replace the lost stuff.

Handmade shoes and custom fitted leather jackets from Europe. They may not have looked quite as fancy as the store-bought clothing they had replaced, but you couldn’t beat them for comfort. Or Buffy-squeal factor.
And it was quite nice and warm in Buffy’s pocket.


“So, I’m thinking we should get a hotel or something first, then get something to eat, then we see about this girl we are supposed to be rescuing,” Buffy said.


“Sure. Sounds like a plan. Where’re we headed?”

Buffy held up a list. “I got Willow to make me a list of the nice hotels.” Drops of rain spotted the page, and Buffy glared at the darkening sky.


One entry on the rain-spotted page was circled in red and had ‘5 Star!!’ written on it. Buffy currently had her thumb on it.


“This one,” Faith said, pointing to one further down the list.


“Fairmont Copley Plaza? But that’s only four star!” Buffy complained.


Faith grinned. “Yeah, but it’s got history.”


“Uh, did you slay something there?”


Faith chuckled. “Not me B. Someone else did though, an’ I’ve always wanted to see the place.”


“Oh. Well history is cool. Let’s book-in there and you can tell me all about it.”


“Sweet. Let me tell you a story about two nice irish boys…”


+++


“I can’t believe you made us stay here because of a stupid movie,” Buffy complained.


Faith laughed. “I know. I’m such a bitch, making my fiancé stay in this terrible, uh,” she glanced at the brochure. “Four and a half star penthouse.”

She looked puzzled. “Seriously? What’s the diff between four and a half and five anyways?”


“Um, a butler? Gold doorknobs?” Buffy said, not sure herself.


“Whatever. Either way, it’s gonna be pretty fucking sweet.” Faith spun around with her arms out, her bare feet digging into the thick soft carpet.
Nothing said luxury like thick carpet.


She fell on the bed with a happy sigh, and practically vanished into it.

“Seriously B, when we get our own place, I want a bed like this and carpet like that.” She waved her bare foot vaguely around, indicating the plush floor.


Buffy climbed on top of her and rested her head on her generous chest, snuggling close.
“We should really get to work.”


Despite her comment, she showed no real inclination to move from her comfortable snuggle spot.
Faith fiddled with her watch. “We will B. In about 10 minutes. So relax for a little bit. Dig yourself some luxury.”


Buffy hummed and snuggled closer. “I love it when you’re all responsible and stuff. It means I get to be the irresponsible one for a while.”


“Wow, responsibility is a turn on now? Who knew.”


Buffy smiled, something Faith could feel against her breast. She pushed up and gazed lovingly at Faith. “I don’t say it often enough Faith, but I really love you.”


Faith’s gaze softened. “I love you too B. Wouldn’t be here with you, all preggers and shit if I didn’t.”


A frown marred Buffy’s face. “It worries me that we still don’t know how it happened.”


Faith stroked Buffy’s soft hair gently. “I know B. But hey, Snow-white took a bunch of readings before we left. Me, you, some mini-me’s. Maybe when we get back she’ll have some answers for us.”


Buffy traced little circles on Faith’s tummy. “I hope so. At least she said the baby is ok. Like, guaranteed non-demony.”


Faith nodded, moving Buffy’s head just a little. “Yeah. I’d feel it if it was evil or something. It’s nice to have backup on it though.”


“There’s something about all this that is nagging at me. Like there’s something I’ve forgotten, and I’m going to kick myself when I remember.”


“Don’t stress babe. It’ll come to you.”


Buffy stopped tracing circles on Faith’s still-flat tummy. Faith could feel the sudden spike of anticipation/fear that usually heralded Buffy broaching an awkward topic.
“Baby? I have something to ask you, and, um, I don’t know if it’s a good idea or maybe the worst ever, and you know how bad I am with this stuff.”


Whatever it was Buffy was leading up to, it had to be big, given the emotions Buffy was trying hard not to pour down the link.
Faith kept stroking Buffy’s hair lovingly. “It’s ok Bumblebee. Just ask.”


Buffy nodded against Faith’s chest. “I know it’s been too crazy to think straight lately, what with… everything.”


“Yep. That’s why I’m enjoying this so much,” Faith said, cuddling Buffy just a little closer.


“I was wondering… have you thought about names for the baby?” Buffy asked hesitantly.


“Nope,” Faith said. “That’s just one of the many things I’ve been ignoring. I figured if it was some kinda demon, what’s the point? And if it ain’t… well I figure I’ll think of something later.”


“Baby… what about… Hope?” Buffy said hesitantly.


Once again she felt a sudden spike of emotion from Faith, perhaps a little less sharply, a little less painfully than it had once.
Faith was silent for a while.


Buffy was frozen into immobility, hiding her terror that her idea had poured fresh salt on healing wounds.
Faith was unreadable, her face and emotional connection betraying nothing. Long seconds dragged by.
Faith’s watch beeped.


“Time to get back on the clock,” Faith said, her voice rough and unsteady.
Buffy let her up, the pair of them sitting side by side on the edge of the bed in silence.
Buffy hid it as best she could, but she was starting to think that her idea, ‘Hope’ was a bad one. She had been trying to help in some small way, to honour Faith’s loss with new life, new love. And now she had driven Faith back into hiding.


“B?” Faith eventually said.


“Faith honey, are you ok?” Buffy said softly, worry evident on her face.


“It’s a good name,” Faith said, her voice still rough.


“Baby I’m sorry… I just wanted to honour your baby girl and… I so suck at this.”


Faith looked up, emotionally battered and somewhat haunted, but with the ghost of a smile. “It’s a good name, Buffy.”
She had a far-away look. “When I was up there, Cordy told me something. She said that once created, souls can never be destroyed.”
Buffy said nothing, but gently took Faith’s hand to let her talk.
“I asked about visiting her. Y’know, being heaven and all.”

Buffy nodded silently, encouraging Faith to speak.

Eventually she did. “Cordy took me to the well of souls.”
Buffy still said nothing, but Faith could sense her questioning thought.

“It’s where souls that are waiting to be born, uh, wait I guess.”

“It’s this big hole in the world, just goes down forever. They were just little lights, drifting around in space, y’know? Kinda peaceful like.”

“And there was this sound, real quiet. Like someone singing a lullaby. Cordy couldn’t hear it, but I could. Just singing to all those waiting souls.”


“What was she like?” Buffy said softly.


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. Couldn’t go in. Cordy hadda pull out the big guns to keep me out. Told me that they were pure souls. Too fragile to touch, that sorta thing.”

She met Buffy’s eyes at last. Her eyes glittered, but the emotion flooding their link was one of love, and possibly hope.

“There was one light, came a little closer than the rest. It kinda felt a little, dunno, familiar I guess.”

Faith smiled poignantly. “She was so bright B. So much brighter than all the others. I didn’t tell Cordy, but I think she knew.”

Faith pulled her into a tight hug. “Pure gold, B. just like you. The soul of a Slayer.”

Buffy hugged her back just as tightly, unable to speak.

“That was her,” Faith said, her voice thick with emotion. “My baby. My Hope.”

Tears fell silently for them both, as they shared a moment so deep that neither had words to describe it.
Soft rain pattered against the window.


+++


Faith spoke up, sniffling. “Goddamn, you’ve turned me into such a chick.”

Buffy chuckled, glad Faith had broken the solemnity of the moment somewhat. She responded by poking her in the ribs.

Faith yelped. “Hey, no fair tickling the preggo chick.”


“You know, I spoke to Tara about that. Do you know what she told me you couldn’t do if you’re pregnant?”


Faith looked worried. “Don’t tell me we gotta stop fooling around? I can’t take that B!”


Buffy shushed her with a finger. “Smoking, drinking and drugs. Anything else we can do.”


Faith raised one eyebrow and grinned. “Even when you put your whole-”


Buffy shushed her again with a finger and a furious blush. “Yes, even that. And if you want me to keep doing it, you’ll wisely not tease me about it.”


“Fair enough. Goddamn, I am looking forward to it now. Let’s rescue this bitch so I can get some quality Buffy lovin’.”


“And the ritual ‘embarrass Buffy at the sex shop’ time.”


“Only a little bit B, I promise.”


Buffy held up the manila folder.


Faith pushed it back to her and lay back on the very plush bed. “Oh no, your turn now.”
She tapped her temple, “I’m gonna work on reading it with you.”


Buffy grinned. “Neat. Let’s do it.”
She was greeted by laughter. “What?!” she protested.


“When I tell Grampa Giles about this, he’s gonna flat-out call me a liar.”


Buffy snorted and laughed, unable to help herself. She covered her mouth in a vain attempt to stifle the giggles. “Grampa… Giles?!”


Faith grinned. “It’s his new nick-name. You like it?”


Buffy giggled helplessly, emitting an occasional ‘Grampa!’ or ‘Giles!’
Faith just swatted her with the folder, then gave up and tickled her.
Buffy’s giggles turned to squeals, joined shortly thereafter by Faith’s own shrieks as Buffy had her revenge.


Some minutes later the pair were lying on the bed breathing hard.
“We broke the ten minute thing. And weirdly, not for hot lovin’.”


“Yeah. We’d better get up and save the world.”



Buffy responded by groaning, rolling over and grabbing the folder. After some page flipping, she started reading intently.

Faith lay back and closed her eyes, concentrating on the link they shared. She found, as Buffy had, with concentration she could absorb the words and Buffy’s understanding of them. She also discovered that Buffy skipped from point to point with dizzying speed and she really had to concentrate to follow along.
She groaned.


Buffy reached out without looking and rubbed Faith’s tummy reassuringly. “Honey, it works better if you just relax and let it flow into you.”

Faith nodded and tried, mentally taking a step back. It did indeed get easier, if she just let Buffy’s information and knowledge flow into her.

Buffy was discovering all sorts of things, and passing them on to Faith. After a good read, she sat up to talk. Faith still looked a little bit off.


“Are you ok?” she asked.


Faith groaned. “Yeah. Mostly. Just that being in your head is a dizzying experience, B. That and we did just teleport like, an hour ago. I’m just glad I didn’t puke my ring out this time.”
Faith burped slightly. “Still makes me feel a little weird though.”
She looked down at Buffy’s hand, still tracing comforting circles on her tummy. “Better get used to doing that. Baby is going to need burping and shit.”

Buffy chuckled.

“Hey, fair’s fair B. I gotta carry this little punk chick, and pop her out through a hole waaay too small, an’ then feed her. With my tits. Least you can do is deal with the poopy pants and other grossness.”


“Eeew!” Buffy said, wrinkling her nose. “As gross as that sounds, it does seem fair. Given that you’ll be getting all the stretch-marks and droopy bits.”


Faith just grinned. “Nope. Slayer healing and Glinda’s magic say: no stretchmarks, no droopy bits.”


“Thereby becoming hated by every woman in the world.” Buffy added.


Faith shrugged. “Not my problem. So, this girl we’re rescuing?”


“Not really a girl, given that she’s in her thirties, and in the air force.”


“Uh, missed that bit I guess. Maybe tell me the old fashioned way, while I have a read.”
She snagged the folder and started her own reading. Buffy draped herself across Faith and read over her shoulder.
“So she’s been seeing demons and vampires for years?”


Buffy nodded. “Yep, and it got worse-“


“Four months ago,” Faith finished.


“Also yep. I think we made things worse for her,” Buffy added.


“We saved the world, so I can live with that. So now our job is to make things right for her. Any ideas?”


“Well, I thought we’d probably go talk to her, let her know she’s not alone or crazy. Then maybe see if she wants to join us?”


“Evil is a growth industry,” Faith said.


“Well she’s all military and stuff. Maybe she can talk planes or something with Giles’ annoying friend?”


Faith grinned. She liked the charming old letch, but something about him rubbed Buffy the wrong way. Probably the fact that he was a charming old letch. Though it least he was sort of British about it.
“Sure. We could use another pilot I guess.”

She went back to reading.
“Man, I kinda like this chick. She likes to fight, but alla this seeing monsters and shit messed her up.”


“Not as much as being taken off active duty for ‘stress’ did.”
Faith tapped the page. “Or having everyone think she was crazy.”


“What’s ‘conduct unbecoming of an officer’ mean?” Buffy asked.


“Dunno. Maybe she punched someone or… heh.”


“What?”


“Uh, looks like she shares some of our tastes B. Looks like she got caught doing the nasty with some chick, and now she’s in trouble. Which I think, is what set all this off.”


“You can’t be gay in the military?”


“Nope.”


“Oh. Well what about Riley’s friend Graham?”


“The dude with the chin? He’s gay?”


Buffy nodded. “Riley told me a story about waking up to find Graham snuggling him, fast asleep.”


“The Boy Toy is gay too?”


Buffy smirked and gently punched Faith in the shoulder. “No. After the embarrassment wore off, he thought it was kinda funny. But no, he’s married. To a girl.


Faith smirked a little. “It is sorta funny.”


She thought for a moment. “I guess maybe he’s in a special unit with different rules, maybe? Or maybe the bosses don’t know?”
Faith brightened. “Hey, don’t ask, don’t tell. That’s what that is.”


“Well, maybe we can offer…” Buffy read the notes, “Tamara an exciting new career in evil-fighting.”


“You used to get visions of vamps an’ shit when you were a potential?” Faith asked.

Buffy nodded.

“Me too.”


“That’ll be useful. Check this out.” Faith said holding up a page. “She was busted for fighting in O
‘connor’s. Bet you anything you like, she’s there now.”


“Um, I guess taking Axcalibur is a little overkill,” Buffy said, fiddling with the tennis ball on the handle of the Scythe.


“I don’t think it will fit in the wall-safe, B. might wanna take it downstairs and get them to lock it in the vault.”


“Ok. Sounds like a plan. Let’s go.”


“I believe someone is owed a reward, for being so restrained with the smoking-drinking thing. And I want to get to it,” Buffy said, leaning over to whisper in Faith’s ear. “Fucked until you pass out. That was what you said wasn’t it?”


Faith swallowed. “Oh yeah. I said that.”


Buffy nibbled her ear, producing a soft moan.

“Then we should go. So we can pick up Tamara, and come back here and fuck your brains out.”

Buffy’s eyes widened as she realized what she’d said. “No! I mean, so she can be safe somewhere else, and then I can fuck your brains out!”


Faith fell back on the bed laughing, her belly rippling as she laughed. “Priceless. Don’t worry B. Got the real deal right here, not looking for any cheap imitations. Even if she does look like an angry version of that cute blonde from Stargate.”

Spoiler:
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Buffy buried her face in the comforter.


“Come B. Don’t make me be the responsible one. Be all leadership Buffy ‘n’ stuff.”


Buffy rolled over with a groan. “Fine.”
She huffed, and sat up.
Reaching out to rummage through her bag she asked, “Which do you think is my best ‘hey we’re not crazy’ top?”


She held up a soft pink top and a dark red one. “The pink one is cute, the red one is hot. What look were you going for?”


“Uh. Cute seems safer. Pink it is.”


She looked up at Faith. “And you?”


“That slinky dark blue number. Really shows off my rack.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “All your clothes show off the goods.”


Faith smirked. “Can’t help looking hot B. Just look on the bright side. Anyone not jealous of you, is gonna be jealous of me. Or is a gay guy.”


Buffy hauled a grumbling Faith to her feet. “Come on you shameless hussy. Let’s get freshened up and go check out this bar.”


“This would be the bar that I can’t drink at?”


“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “All bars are bars you can’t drink at.”


Faith shrugged. “Eh. Probably a dive any way.”


+++


Faith stared, clearly annoyed.
“Goddamn! First decent bar I’ve been in for months, and can I get a beer? Hell no.”


Buffy patted her on the butt before scooting in through the doorway.
Faith raised an eyebrow. For Buffy, that was pretty daring, though she was starting to discover, Buffy had an adventurous side.
“Suddenly I’m less worried about the Guinness.”


Buffy scanned the room with a practiced eye, locking on a short-haired blonde woman in a corner booth.
Faith scanned the room also, taking in the smell of wood, fresh beer and gathered folks.


The bar was clean and well kept, with just enough roughness around the edges to give it a level of street cred. A good working-man’s bar.
She sighed. Some days just sucked.
She spotted the blonde that Buffy had picked out, and silently went to the bar.

Spoiler:
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Buffy moved over and sat down at the table with the blonde woman. She smiled disarmingly.
“Hi, I’m Buffy.”


Tamara looked up. “For real?”


Buffy nodded cheerfully. The woman giving her a measuring look had startling brown eyes, rimmed with grey.


Tamara looked at her, measuring. “Hey Buffy. Not really in the mood for company right now.” Her eyes fell on the gold axe medallion gleaming at Buffy’s throat. “Uh, or a date for that matter.”


“She’s engaged,” Faith said, making an appearance with three tall glasses. The fruit cocktail she slid over to Buffy, who took it without a glance. The dark, creamy-topped beer she pushed over to Tamara, reserving a large coke for herself.


“To her,” Buffy said, taking a sip of her fruity, only slightly alcoholic drink.


Tamara noticed Faith’s matching medallion and ring and looked slightly worried. “Uh… look, you guys are pretty an’ all, but I ain’t into that.”


“Bitch, you couldn’t handle ‘that,’ so just calm the fuck down, ok?”


“Look, I’ve had a shit day. So I don’t wanna hear about Amway, or Jesus or whatever amazing thing saved you, or made you born again.”


Faith smirked. “Yeah, you’re pretty safe there.”


“Ok,” Buffy chirped. “If you don’t wanna listen to us, how about you tell us about why you’re having such a horrible day?”


“About how I’m up on charges, probably gonna get kicked out of the service for somthin’ stupid at a party? Or locked up as a crazy person because I made the mistake of trusting my shrink?”
She took a long swallow of the beer in front of her. “No thanks.”


“That sounds like a shit day alright.”
Faith took a similarly large gulp of her coke.
“So let me tell you about a shit day I had once.”


Tamara looked askance at Faith.


“See I was a kid, and I had issues with foster homes. I didn’t like them and they didn’t like me. The reason they kept after me was because every night I had nightmares. Real bad ones.”


“What the fuck does this have to do with me?” Tamara said angrily.


Buffy bristled, until Faith laid a restraining hand on her arm.
“You’ll see. Hell of a payoff, I promise.”

Faith drank some more of her moisture-beaded coke.
“So every night I’m having these nightmares. Every time I close my eyes I’m seein’ girls dyin’. Every night I’m seeing pale dudes with yellow eyes and bumpy foreheads. Every night I’m seein’ big red and green dudes with horns and shit killin’ all these brave girls. And they don’t go down easy. They go down kickin’ and screamin’, taking the yellow eyed and horned dudes with them.”


Tamara stared at her, white faced and silent.


“But they do go down. All those brave girls.”

Faith sipped her coke.
“So I make the mistake of tellin’ the one person who I kinda trusted, my shrink. And what does she do? She tells my case worker. And right away I get labelled as ‘delusional’ and ‘problematic’. Suddenly my shit life gets worse.”

“So I get bounced from one shitty home to another, until I end up in this one place. It don’t seem too bad, y’know? I mean the story is, more kids run away from there than anywhere else, but it still don’t seem to bad. The would-be Ma ain’t too bitchy, and the would-be Da ain't too grabby.”

“Turns out their kid is locked in the attic, all bumpy faced and pale. And they try to feed me ta him. The fuckers.”

“Turns out those nightmares, those brave girls, they taught me somethin’. ‘Cos them bumpy headed guys? They don’t like sunlight.”
Faith mimed pulling down a curtain. “Curtain. Window. Poof.”

Faith sipped her coke. In eerie synchronicity, Buffy and Tamara sipped their drinks. In the background, the hubbub of the bar continued, oblivious of the women in the corner.
“But it ain’t all shit. One day it got good.

“See, I’d been raised a good catholic girl. Sorta. And I prayed. Used to pray a fair bit. I prayed for my Ma to get off the bottle, but nothin’ happened. I prayed for someone to protect me from Lenny, my Ma’s boyfriend.”
“No-one came then either. Or when I prayed for someone to come rescue me from juvvie.”

Faith sipped her coke.

“I’d pretty much given up on all that crap. But one night I got cornered on the street. Four real pale dudes cornered me.”
“Didn’t matter how hard I hit them, or how fast I ran. They just laughed and kept coming.”

“I figured I was done for. And to be honest, it was kind of a relief. I was so tired. Tired of the cold, tired of the hunger. Tired of dudes tryin to fuck me over, just because they could.”

“But I still didn’t wanna die. And fuck me, if I didn’t pray for help.”
“They laughed, the bastards. They laughed at the crying shaking girl, praying for her life in some shitty alleyway.”

“They were shoving me around, playing with me like a cat with a mouse. They were letting me hit them, letting me take my best shot. Because I was just some skinny girl. No training, no muscles. I couldn’t hurt them and I knew it. But I was determined to go down fighting, just like those girls in my nightmares.”

Faith looked up, her eyes almost glowing with intensity. “This time, help came. This time my prayer was answered.”

“And I felt them. All those brave girls. The girls who stood alone and fought the night. Thousands of them. They held out their hands, lifted me up, and called me sister. Their strength flowed into me, the strength of a line of women warriors reaching back to the dawn of time. Limitless courage.”
“And the next time I punched one of those guys, he went through a wall.”


Tamara stared at her, and silently drained her drink.
“Cool story sister. Thanks for the drink.”
With that, she slid from her stool and walked off.


Buffy and Faith stared at her retreating back in surprise.
“Huh. Really thought I was getting somewhere there.”


Buffy squeezed her hand. “Well I loved it. That’s so much better than what happened to me. I just felt really oogy and spaced out. I think I stared at the sun for like, five minutes.”


Faith raised an eyebrow. “For real? The strength of the Slayer line flows into you, and you space?”


Buffy just shrugged. “I wasn’t fighting for my life. I was waiting to be picked up from school.”


Faith shook her head in disbelief. “Man, I really opened up to that chick. I never told anyone about that shit before, and she just walks off,” Faith said.


She took a big swallow of coke, clearly wishing it had more of a hit to it.
“Bitch,” She huffed. “Any ideas?”


Buffy nodded. “Yep. Same way we got everyone else on the Scooby train. We rescue her from vampires. I say we slay some vampires in front of her, and then see what she has to say.”


“Gotta work better than this. I really thought that if I told her what happened to me, she’d see she wasn’t alone.”


“I seem to remember this other tough Boston girl. She needed more than one or two attempts to get through to. Took years if I remember rightly.”


Faith grinned wryly. “True.”


“Uh, so. How do we want to do the vamp thing?” Buffy asked.


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. We can either grab a vamp and drag it to her, or y’know, the other way. And I’m pretty sure that’ll cause trouble.”


“Cool,” Buffy said. “You keep an eye on Tamara, and I’ll go bag us a vamp.”


“Oh man, why do I have to be on bitch detail?”


“Of the two of us, which is currently pregnant, and from Boston?”


Faith glared. “Hey, no fair pulling out the pregnancy card! I only just got frikkin’ pregnant, it’s way too soon to be doing alla that shit.”


“All what?” Buffy said, confused.


“Alla that ‘wrap me in cotton wool’ shit,” Faith grumbled.


“Ugh. Faith, I’m not trying to do that… much. I just don’t know my way around Boston, like, at all and-”


“And that’s why you’re going to keep tabs on Tammy, while I go rustle up some nice vamps,” Faith finished, smiling just a touch smugly.

It was Buffy’s turn to glare.

Faith sighed. “Look B, I’m not being an idiot here, I swear. I know that I’m gonna have to cut back on the slaying, at least until the little princess pops out. But for now, I ain’t pushin’ my belly around in a wheel-barrow, and it’s no major risk, ok?”


A thousand angry and worried protests rushed to Buffy’s tongue, stifled only by supreme effort of will. She could feel how important this was to Faith, and she knew Faith could tell how badly she wanted to say no.
It all came down to trust, Buffy realized.
She stopped, and let out a deep breath. “I trust you Faith.”


And she realized that she did. Faith still gave off a strong reckless vibe, and still talked a good game. But Buffy realized that in the time she’d been back in her life, she had always tried to do the responsible thing, at least as far as she saw it.
“I trust you with my life, the life of my friends and… the life of our baby.”


“Peanut,” Faith corrected.


Buffy glared, “I’m trying to have a moment here, be serious.”


“I am B. But this little princess inside me isn’t even really a baby yet, just sort of a little peanut thing. BB even gave me a picture.”


“Well, she’s our peanut. And please stop calling her that.”


“Rock, paper, scissors?” Faith suggested.

Buffy rolled her eyes with a sneaky smile.

“Ok?” Faith said, holding out her hand. Buffy followed suit.

“1…2…3!” Faith held out her hand fingers spread in a ‘V’.


Buffy held her hand flat.
“What?! You cheated!” she protested. “You were thinking rock, the whole time!”


Faith laughed. “Sucker! C’mon B, I know you. Ya sneaky little minx. I figure you just couldn’t help yourself, and you had to peak.”
Faith drained the last of her coke. “Now scoot. There’s this freaked out blonde you gotta catch up to. While I go vamp hunting.”


Buffy huffed. “Fine. I’ll go after the angry blonde Bostonian, who thinks I’m after her. Which is entirely true, just not for the reasons she thinks.”
She eyed Faith. “Do you have enough stuff?”


Faith grinned. “Two stakes, two knives, a short sword and a hip flask of holy water. I’m good.”


Buffy blinked. “God Faith, what do you bring on a date?”


“An axe. Now scoot.”


“Ok, I’m scooting, skedaddling even.” Buffy got up, finishing the last of her cocktail.
She looked at her love. All smiles, now that she’d won. “Be careful, muffin.”


“No worries Bumblebee.”


They left the bar together, Faith concentrating hard.
“Ok, I got a few bad guys scattered around, nearest group is over there somewhere.” She gestured vaguely at a rougher looking area. “Can you tell me if they’re vamps?”


Buffy concentrated. “Um, if they’re the nearest group, then yes, they’re vampires. Two new ones and an older vamp.”


“Sweet! See ya in a bit, honey!”


“Ahem?” Buffy said, pointing to her face. “Kisses please.”


Faith grinned. “And you thought I was gonna run of without kissing the little woman goodbye?”


“I am not-” Buffy said, her protests broken off by a passionate kiss. Involuntarily she moaned as Faith’s tongue wrestled with hers, her leg popping up behind her unconsciously.
When they broke for air Buffy looked a little spacey. “Wow. What was I complaining about?”


“Oh yeah, mad skills. See you soon!” and with that, Faith bolted.


Buffy watched her fiancé run off down the road, before mentally kicking herself. “Right… Tamara.”


She pulled out the map Willow had provided. Tamara’s place was directly down the main road from here, as was the gym. Buffy figured if she’d fled the bar, she was likely in one of the two places. She left at a brisk jog.


Some minutes later she felt a surge of triumph from Faith ‘Hey B! got rid of the big one and the other. Got the last one all tied up. Where you at?’


‘Just passing the gym. I think… she’s in there. I can feel… something. Like when you’re around, only really faint.’


‘Awesome. Well, I’ll drag piñata boy over there, and we can put on a show when she gets out.’


‘See you soon.’



Buffy bounced into the gym, looking for all the world as though she were looking for a jazzercize class. Ignoring the admiring glances from the gym patrons, she strode through the building until she found Tamara in an obvious dojo area. The area was decked out in the traditional fashion: mats, wooden weapons of various types, and the logos of the numerous martial arts clubs that used the space.

Buffy unobtrusively hid in the shadows and just watched Tamara move. Her blonde hair held back with a sweatband, body clad in a white martial arts outfit. She was moving through a kata, a set series of martial arts moves, with a speed and fluidity that spoke of long practice.
Buffy admired the way she moved, her mind in sync with Tamara’s movements. On occasion, when she just needed time to process, she had resorted to the elegant simplicity of kata. It was good to get the body moving and the brain stopped, from time to time.
In her head she could feel Faith getting closer, the odd swear word drifting across the link as she dealt with the troublesome vampire.


She became aware that she was being stared at.

Tamara had stopped her movements and was staring at Buffy as she stared goofily into the middle distance.


“Uh, hey,” Buffy said with a little wave.


“Are you stalking me?” Tamara asked, clearly annoyed.


“Uh, no? Yes? I don’t know?” Buffy said uncertainly.


“Well that narrows it down,” Tamara said, dripping with sarcasm.


“Look, I’m sorry. We’re just trying to help.”


“So said everyone else in my life who screwed me over. Everyone wants to help. Just seems interesting that this ‘help’ always seems to make my life worse. Now go away. I’m not interested, and I don’t want your ‘help’,” she said putting in little air quotes.


“Hey!” Buffy protested.


“Go away. You’re interrupting my workout.”


“I could work out with you if you like.”


Tamara looked disbelieving. “You?”


“Yes me. I’ll have you know I’m pretty good in a fight.”


Tamara snorted. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”



Five minutes later saw Buffy in clean but worn set of yoga pants, and a belted top scrounged from the lost property.
The two women squared off against each other. Tamara was clearly an advocate of karate from her solid, aggressive stance. Buffy on the other hand simply waited, her stance loose and easy, looking for all the world as though she was waiting for a taxi.

Spoiler:
Image


“Are you going to take this seriously?” Tamara complained.


“I am,” Buffy protested. “Do I not look serious?”


“No.”


Buffy sighed. “Story of my life. Look, I’ll make you a deal. Throw me out of the circle, pin me or put me on the ground, and I promise we’ll leave you alone.”


“Ok.”


“And if do any of that to you, you have to let me and Faith talk to you ok?”


“Deal,” Tamara said, moving aggressively towards Buffy. She lashed out with snap-kick. Nothing fancy, just a rock-hard heel to the solar plexus. By rights the tiny blonde she was fighting should have flown back a couple of meters and crumpled.

Instead Buffy just stepped easily to one side and lifted the foot as it went by. Tamara’s other foot left the ground and she slammed into the mat, flat on her back.

Buffy stepped back as Tamara rolled smoothly to her feet and lashed out to sweep her feet from under her.

Again she simply lifted a foot and let Tamara’s leg swing by. The speed of her reactions, and the precision she was able to apply to the movements made everything look effortless.

Something that annoyed Tamara no end. She smoothly flung a series of punches at Buffy’s head, becoming quite annoyed as Buffy simply leaned slightly to the side and watched the fists go by.

“Goddamn it woman! Stop dancing around and fight!”


“Sure!” Buffy replied chirpily.


Next time Tamara lashed out with a roundhouse punch to her head, Buffy blocked it. The thud was audible, as was Tamara’s gasp of pain. Hitting Buffy was like hitting an iron bar, and she didn’t budge a millimetre.
Tamara shook off her arm, now partly numb. She looked at Buffy with new respect.

Buffy’s fist blurred and slammed into Tamara's sternum with the force of a wrecking ball. A grunt was forced from her body as she went flying backwards onto the mats. She gasped for breath like a fish out of water.


“Jesus B, you don’t have to kill her,” Faith said.


“Hey, I only hit her once. And weren’t you supposed to be bringing someone?”


Faith shrugged. “He was slowing me down.”
She brushed a little dust off her jacket. “Don’t look now, but someone’s ready for more.


Tamara was getting painfully to her feet. “Not… out… yet!” she gasped.


“God, is everyone from Boston this stubborn?”


Faith grinned. “Is that a trick question?”


Tamara set herself and kicked at Buffy, a short snappy kick, leaving no chance for Buffy to catch her like last time.
Buffy didn’t move at all and Tamara’s tough foot slammed into her knee, effectively bouncing right off. Tamara gasped in pain again and put her foot down gingerly.


“What’s the deal B?”


“She beats me, we leave her alone. I beat her, she listens to us.”


“Wicked. So beat her already, and then we can talk.”


Tamara glared. “Bring it bitch.”


“God, this is almost exactly like dealing with you, at your most stubborn!”


Faith just laughed.

Buffy sighed as another kick went sailing past her head.
In a blur of motion, she punched Tamara in the thigh muscle, rammed an elbow into her solar plexus and shoved back on her head until she was lifted off her feet. Again Tamara slammed down onto the mat, flat on her back and gasping for breath.

This time Buffy planted a hand on her breastbone and pushed her down.
The angry blonde writhed and gasped. “Lemme… up!”


“Nope. You have to admit defeat, and then we can talk.”


“Never!” Tamara lifted her good leg and tried to ram her knee into the side of Buffy’s head. Buffy caught the knee with her spare hand and pushed it back down.
“Let me go!”


“Nope.”


The woman glared at her, fire in her eyes. She knew she was outmatched, and she didn’t care. Buffy saw a spark of something there, something familiar, and something-

Her head rocked back as Tamara backhanded her face and shoved with her legs. Buffy was certainly strong, but she didn’t mass much and she flew back a short distance. Tamara rolled to her feet and came after her, raining punch after punch against her, not giving her time to dodge. Buffy just blocked them, Tamara slamming against her rock-hard defences again and again.


Buffy went on the offensive, ramming a knee into Tamara’s stomach, and following up with a brutal left-right punch combo to her head. She was pulling her punches as much as she could, but they still hit hard.

Tamara didn’t go down. Buffy battered the woman with short, hard jabs and kicks, trying to get her woozy enough to give up, without actually hurting her.

Tamara grinned savagely, her teeth stained red with blood from her split lip. With a scream she hurled herself at Buffy, kicking low and to the mid-section, spinning to unleash a lethal kick to Buffy’s head. Buffy lifted the flying foot and kicked, sending Tamara flying. Somehow she twisted and slammed into the mat on one knee, instantly springing back for more.


‘B! Something’s not right here!’ Faith shouted in her mind. ‘She’s not goin’ down, she’s getting stronger!’

The next punch that came at Buffy’s head, she grabbed and pulled, using the momentum to spin and slam her elbow brutally into the back of Tamara’s skull.
It was a blow that should have dropped anyone.


Tamara staggered, shaking her head.
Buffy raised her eyebrows in surprise as Tamara turned to face her.

She looked at Buffy, her eyes like blue fire. She spoke, weird harmonics in her voice making her sound as though a great host was speaking through her. “We… we greet you… sister.

Buffy froze in shock as she felt something growing, unfurling in the older blonde woman. It prickled at her Slayer senses. But unlike the cold of a vampire, this was hot. It burned like fire, almost overwhelming her senses.

‘B!’ Faith shouted in her mind.

Buffy felt that there should be lights, and possibly exploding windows, to go with the hurricane of supernatural force howling through the room.

Power ancient and vast filled the dojo, unfathomable in its depth. It burned like the power of the summer sun, vast, eternal, furious. It was born of rage and pain and the absolute, undying resistance of a thousand generations of warriors. And it was utterly familiar to Buffy.
Tamara let out a scream of pain, and loss, and limitless fury.

The birth cry of a new Slayer.


When Tamara opened her blue eyes, Buffy saw something new in them. Recognition.
“They called me sister,” she said wonderingly.


“You’re one of us now Tam,” Faith said softly.


“There’s something magnificent inside a Slayer,” Buffy recited wonderingly. “And it responds to other Slayers.”


“Uh, what?” Faith said.


“Something Giles said a while ago. Something about us bringing out the best in each other.”


Tamara flexed her fingers. “I feel different. Stronger.”


“Tam! Are you ok?” a voice said. The women looked around to see an exceptionally burly man looking into the room.


Tamara smiled. “Yeah Barney, I’m good. Really really good.”


“Because there was this scream? Near made my hair fall out.”


Tamara smiled. “Just getting it out of my system. It’s all good Barn.”


“Ok. If you’re sure,” he said, looking significantly at Buffy and Faith.


“Don’t sweat it Barn. They’re… family.”

He shook his head wonderingly, but he left the room.

“What just happened?” Tamara asked.


“You just became a Slayer,” Faith said.


“How?”


“I got no idea. B?”


Buffy just shrugged. “I’m as lost as you are. I know what just happened, but the why part? That part’s a little bit fuzzy.”


Tamara looked at her hands. “So much strength. So many lonely girls. So much darkness.”
She looked up at Buffy and Faith. “I know what I am now.”


“Sounds like you got the deluxe package. I blame B for that.”


“Uh, sorry?” Tamara said, still a little spacey.


“The becoming a Slayer thing,” Faith explained. “It takes everyone differently. B here spaced for about five minutes, and I got a real short version of what you got. Sometimes it comes with info and visions, sometimes not.”


“You were a potential Slayer,” Buffy said. “Now you’re a Slayer for real. A potential becomes a Slayer when the previous Slayer dies…”

She stopped and rummaged in her pocket for her (allegedly) indestructible phone, ignoring the questioning looks as she held up her free hand to still conversation.
She hit the speed dial and waited for a few tense seconds for someone to pick up.

“Giles! What happened?”


“What happened?” he repeated, confused. “Whatever is the matter Buffy?” Giles responded.


“Are all the girls ok?” she asked worriedly.


“As far as I know, yes. There are no patrols out at the moment and things are quiet. What has happened?”


“The girl we came to see-”


“How old are you exactly?” Tamara interrupted.


Buffy glared. “The woman we came to see. She just did the Slayer thing.”


“The Slayer thing?” Giles asked, a note of concern in his voice.


“The whatchamacallit when you become a Slayer. The Slayer army is now plus one. And I’m hoping there isn’t a minus one to balance it out.”


“Called, Buffy. She was Called to life as a Slayer.”


“Right, that. She totally did it.”


“How on earth? What happened?”


“Er,” Buffy hesitated. “I might have been fighting her… a bit.”


“A bit?” Giles asked incredulously.


“A little bit?” Buffy said self-consciously.


“You were supposed to help her, not fight her,” Giles said with a disapproving tone.


“We totally did! We totally helped her, and-and in the process of helping her, a small amount of fighting took place.”


Giles sighed. “As long as everyone is alright.”


Buffy nodded enthusiastically. “Yep. Nothing worse than bruises. Now, about the girls?”


“I’ll get Xander and Dawn to organize a roll call at once. It will take some time to be absolutely certain, but at this stage I’m moderately confidant that no one has met an untimely end.”


“Ok. Well, as much as I’m glad no one died, how can this happen?”


“Buffy,” Giles replied, “I’m in the dark as much as you are. I have access to thousands of years of Watcher and Slayer lore. But all of that is useless, at least for this.”


“But Giles, you’re like, super librarian guy. With the books. And the other things.”


“Scrolls?” he enquired.


“Yep.”


“Which are also books, of a sort.”

“Okay.”


“One girl in all the world Buffy. One,” he stated. “What we are doing now has never happened before. So you might imagine that those books you mentioned are a little light on helpful facts.”


“Any ideas then?” Buffy asked.


Giles ruminated for a moment.
“If I were forced to posit an hypothesis-“


“Which you are,” Buffy interrupted.


“Then I would suggest that perhaps miss O’Neil was in line to be the next Slayer, after Faith. Perhaps Faith’s near death experience called her. Or perhaps simple proximity to active Slayers was enough.”


“The next Slayer? But Giles, she’s way too old for that,” Buffy protested.


“Hey! Who’re you calling old, midget?” Tamara said, irked.


Buffy glared silently at the ‘midget’ comment. Faith tried and failed to hide a chuckle at the exchange.


“While it is true that Slayers are typically called between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, there is historical precedent for Slayers receiving the call much later in life. It’s not common, but it does happen.”


“How come G?” Faith interrupted, pushing close to the phone.


Giles sighed, a frustrated noise. “I honestly don’t know,” he replied. “There were a number of theories among watchers during the days of the old council. The favourites were stress, puberty and sheer proximity to a needful place for a Slayer to be.”

“There is also some evidence to suggest that the former council had a limited degree of control over who was Called. That is something Andrew is investigating in his limited free time.”


“Council?” Tamara asked softly.


“Bunch of tweedy English dudes who ran around telling the ‘one girl in all the world’ what to do,” Faith said.


“And never paid us,” Buffy added acidly.


“Now Buffy, you know that’s not true. The council paid a handsome stipend to me, which I passed on to your mother each month.”


“I got paid?” Buffy said incredulously.


“Oh, yeah,” Faith murmured quietly to Tamara. “It’s a paying gig.”


“Cool.”


“Buffy, how else do you think a gallery manager managed a home like yours, on a single salary? All those clothes, all those house repairs?”


“Alimony? Child support?”


“Yes. And the stipend paid to your mother,” Giles finished.
“Now regarding miss O’Neil, she is by no means old. Nor is she too old to be called as a Slayer. Why she was suddenly called, I don’t know, though I imagine sheer proximity to the two oldest Slayers had something to do with it.”


“And the fighting,” Faith added. “Fighting always gets a Slayer all juiced up.”


“Just small amount of fighting,” Buffy corrected.


“Quite.”

There was an awkward silence.

“Well. If miss O’Neil is now a fully-fledged Slayer, perhaps you two could explain things to her. And see if she’s interested in joining our cause.”


“Ok Giles. Will do.”


“And please Buffy, no more fighting.”


“Uh Giles? I’m not sure that’s possible. She’s a Slayer. She has to fight.”


He sighed again. “I’ll settle for you at least not fighting each other.”


“I can do that.”


“Then do speak to miss O’Neil and ask her if she would like to join us.”


“I can do that too. Ok Giles. Bye!”


“Goodbye Buffy, and do try to be delicate.”


Buffy pushed a button on the phone, satisfied when it beeped and stopped doing phone-y things.


“So, I heard most of that,” Tamara said. “Who’s this Giles guy?”


“Watcher dude,” Faith said. “Kinda looks after us, makes sure we have what we need, figures out how to kill the bad guys, that sort of thing.”


Tamara frowned. “English guy? Kind of older? Green eyes?”


Buffy raised an eyebrow. “How do you know Giles?” she said incredulously.


Tamara frowned, concentrating. “There were two women. Powerful. One had blonde hair with dark roots, the other a red-head.”


“Willow and Tara,” Buffy whispered.


“An older guy. Green eyes. Glasses. He’s crying.”


“Giles,” Buffy said quietly.


“Good looking guy. Dark curly hair, dark eyes.”


“Xander.”


“And a girl. Long hair. Pretty grey eyes.”


“Dawn,” Buffy sighed.


Tamara looked up. “She’s precious. The most important thing in the world.”


Buffy nodded. “How?”


Faith touched Buffy on the arm, and spoke softly. “I’ve seen it too.”


Buffy turned to Faith, puzzled. “You died, B. I saw it happen.”


“You saw?”


Faith nodded, tapping the side of her head. “Went crazy, remember?”
She turned to Tamara. “Most Slayers get visions. Dreams of previous Slayers. Battles, that sort of thing.”


Tamara nodded. “I’ve seen you too,” she said. “You two were fighting. A lot.”


Faith let out a breath as she ran her hand though her tousled hair. “Yeah. Went nuts a while ago. B had to bring me down.”

Buffy touched Faith softly, her eyes glittering. “I’m so sorry.”

Faith shook her head slowly. “Don’t be. It had to be done, and I’m glad it was you. Someone else might have fucked it up.”

She cleared her throat. “So, yeah. I figure you got the deluxe package when it came to visions. All Slayers get some visions, all Slayers are strong and fast and tough. Some are stronger, some are tougher, some get more visions.”

She poked Tamara in the shoulder. “I figure you for vision girl.”


“What are you?” she asked.


“The strong one. B’s the fast one. We both get visions, but not that much.”


“Anything else I should know about?” she asked.


Faith scratched her head. “Uh, strength, speed, healing, slaydar.” She grinned. “And the big BIG ‘O’.”


“Faith!” Buffy protested.


Faith laughed. “It’s true! Girl needs to know what’s gonna happen next time she gets busy, is all I’m sayin’.”


Tamara raised an eyebrow in question at Faith’s evil grin. Buffy tried very hard to pretend she hadn’t spoken, and continued her explanation.


“Faith has slaydar so good, it’s like she can see through walls. Me, not so much.”


Faith interjected smoothly, “But Buffy here can ID them at range, which I can’t do. I just get ‘Evil! Stab here!”


“Slaydar?” Tamara said, looking at Faith like she’d lost her mind.


Faith slung her arm around Buffy and Tamara’s shoulder. “Girlfriend, get changed. We’ll explain over food, ‘cos I guaran-fucking-tee you are hungry right about now.”


“Starved.”
Faith just grinned.




+++


The three women sat back with a happy sigh, the remains of a demolished Italian meal in front of each of them.


“Jesus, how do Italian women stay thin,” Tamara complained happily.

“Don’t think they do,” Faith said, eying the cheerfully plump chef.
She burped quietly. “Man, I could really use a beer right now. That would make this meal fucking perfect.”


“Pretty sure they got beer here.”


“Nope,” Buffy said cheerfully. “Faith’s eating for two, so no drinking for her.”


“Oh, right. Uh, congrats?”


“Cheers.”


“So, uh, have you guys been trying for long?”


Buffy blushed pinkly.
“Uh, nope. Just happened. Still trying to figure that one out.”


Tamara raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Think they covered this one in boot camp. Boy plus girl, or turkey baster plus girl, equals baby.”


“And ten minutes ago you weren’t a goddamn super hero. So just accept that you live in a world where weird shit happens sometimes,” Faith said, looking annoyed.


“Jeez, so-ree,” Tamara said.


“Yeah, well. Touchy subject right now.”


“Uh, sorry. What happened?”


“Sore tits, throwing up. Turns out I’m preggo. No dudes. No one knows how.”


“Okaaay,” Tamara said.


“Now you know what we know,” Buffy said cheerily.


“Damn. Suddenly that just took all the fun out of being a lesbian.”

Buffy glared.

“Moving right along,” Tamara said awkwardly.
“So, a few days ago I thought I was losing my mind, and was this close to eating my own gun.”
She took a sip of her drink. “And today I find I’m one of the chosen few. Hell of a trip.”


Faith grinned with just a touch of sadness. “Yeah. Get used to that feeling. Welcome to your new life.”


“Awesome. So what was the British dude on the phone after?”


“You,” Buffy said.


“Me?”


“Yup. He thought you were a potential Slayer. He wanted us to bring you in and show you that you’re not crazy, or alone.”


“And now?”


“Now we’re going to bring you in and train you to fight.”


“Sister, I got a black belt and super powers. I don’t need training.”


Faith just laughed long and hard.
When she eventually recovered she said “Oh shit. You are really gonna regret saying that.”


Buffy just grinned evilly.


+++


“Bring it blondie.”


“You sure you don’t wanna let your dinner settle, before ya get your ass handed to ya?”


Tamara ignored Faith, to focus on the small blonde currently grinning at her.
“B? I don’t think she respects you yet.”


“That’ll change,” Buffy said.


“Ok chicas. No broken necks or gouged eyes. Other than that, anything goes. Bring your A game ladies.”

They were back in the dojo, geared up as before.
This time the atmosphere was a little more serious. Tamara was certainly locked on Buffy with laser-like intensity.
She rolled her shoulders.


And Buffy moved.
Faith’s breath cut off suddenly. She never seen anything move that fast.
Buffy stepped smartly to Tamara’s side, and before she could move, she punched her a half dozen times up and down her ribs and the side of her body.
Tamara yelped in pain, but before she was able to say anything, Buffy swept her front leg out and up with a well-placed kick. She used the momentum to drive Tamara into the floor, flat on her back.

Tamara crashed into the mats with shattering force, Buffy then used her momentum to drive an elbow into her midsection and roll off of her. Tamara rolled to her feet, gritting her teeth, only to have Buffy slam a sidekick between her shoulder blades. She bounced off the padded support pillar only to have Buffy hammer a series of three snappy kicks into her leg, midsection and head.

Tamara essayed an angry punch at Buffy’s head, only to have her flip backwards and kick her in the jaw.
She tried to follow up with a fast one two punch and kick combo, only to have Buffy block both punches hard, and block the kick with a kick of her own. All three hits landed with numbing force, and despite that, left Tamara with the feeling that Buffy was still holding back.

After that, she lost track. It just seemed like Buffy was hitting her everywhere, until at last a bullet-like uppercut lifted her off her feet.

She sailed almost peacefully through the air until she landed with a bone rattling thud on the mats.


Even her newly acquired powers had a hard time dealing with that, and she just lay there groaning.


“Y’know,” Faith said cheerfully, “that looks like respect right there.”


“I think it does,” Buffy said in a bright tone.


Tamara rolled over and staggered to her feet.


“Still thinking you don’t need training?” Faith asked innocently.


Tamara looked askance. Innocent didn’t really suit Faith.
“Jesus, what… just what?” she touched her brow gingerly.


“Don’t worry about a black eye, Buffy said. “Slayers don’t bruise. Like, at all.”


“Yeah, no shiner for you. Just some red marks for a while,” Faith said.


“I barely saw you move!” Tamara protested. She felt her jaw experimentally.


“Oh yeah. Shoulda said. Slayers get stronger and faster over time. B here is the oldest Slayer ever, with me right behind.”


“At least in terms of time served,” Buffy added. “I think the oldest actual Slayer would now be you,” she said, looking at Tamara


Tamara was still examining her injuries. “Christ, I’ve never been hit that hard in my life!”


Faith grinned again as she twirled a staff. “Yep. You got a killer right hook there B.”


“That looked a lot like Krav Maga, with some other stuff. What technique was that?” Tamara said. she moved over to the two women. Faith noticed that she was moving more smoothly already.


“All of them,” Faith said.


“Krav- what?” Buffy asked.


“Israeli military fighting style,” Tamara explained. “Not flashy, but it gets the job done.”


“Um, nope. Giles taught me karate and judo, and something-or-other-jitsu. He tried to teach me kung-fu, but I got the giggles every time he told me the names for stuff. We just sort of skipped that one.”


“Slayer-fu. Also known as ‘whatever works-jitsu’,” Faith said.


“Not flashy?” Buffy protested.


“Feeling a bit let down there B?”


“Hey, I can do impressive fighting.”


Faith slid out of her leather jacket and started undoing her boots. She parked them neatly next to Buffy’s squeal-inducing pair of hand-made boots.

Faith smirked lazily. “Wanna show the young-un’s how it’s done?”


“Are you sure?” Buffy said, looking significantly at Faith’s tummy.


Faith rolled her eyes, but didn’t protest too much. “B, it’s cool. Just don’t hit me in the baby maker, and we’ll be fine.”

Buffy still looked uncertain.

“C’mon B, it’ll be fun! When was the last time you and me really got the chance to cut loose?”


“Last week?”


Faith made a rude noise and padded out onto the mats. “That doesn’t count.”


Buffy reluctantly assumed a fighting stance, mirrored by Faith.
“Don’t hold back Bumblebee.”


Buffy twirled and spun, the blade of her foot lashing out in a head high spinning-kick. Faith blocked it with an audible thud that was felt through the floor.

She grinned. “It’s on girlfriend.”
She fired a series of three sharp kicks to Buffy’s legs and midsection, only to have them blocked by matching kicks.

Buffy slammed a palm into her breastbone, forcing a grunt from Faith, and a step back.

Faith retaliated by tugging on Buffy’s arm and punching her in the ribs as she went by.
She tried to throw Buffy by her arm, but Buffy went with it, flipping in midair, and lashing out with a heel to the side of Faith’s head. It was only a glancing blow, but it was enough to force her to let go.

“You’re still holdin’ back B!” Faith shouted, and leapt after her.

Tamara’s breath caught as she absorbed the panther-like fluidity of Faith’s attack. She leapt nearly ten feet in the air and came down with a knee strike that shook the room and splintered the hard wood of the floor. For anyone else it would have been a big mistake when Buffy ducked out of the way, and Faith’s knee hit the wood. Faith just grunted and bounced back to her feet to absorb Buffy’s next sally.


Both women traded punches and kicks that moved like lightning, blocking or ignoring the hits with heavy thuds and grunts.

Tamara looked on, her mouth open. Both women, dark and light, were moving so fast she had trouble tracking what was happening.

Eventually Faith managed to land a telling blow on Buffy. Tamara was sure she would go down, but she simply went with the hit, cartwheeling through the air to land smoothly and run up a pillar.

She flipped backwards off the padded concrete beam, over Faith’s head to land behind her. Her brutal kick to the back of Faith’s knee was blocked with a bone-shaking thud.

“I’ve seen the Matrix too, y’know,” Faith said as they paused to take stock.

Buffy just grinned back. “This could go on all night.”


+++


Sometime later, a freshly showered trio of girls staggered out into the night.

“My god! I’ve never seen anything like it!” Tamara said.

She looked at the pair of goofily grinning women arm in arm.

“Y’know, I’ve fought in tournaments. And a bout usually lasts a couple of minutes, tops.”

She ran a hand through her slightly damp hair. “What was that? An hour?”


Buffy stretched lazily. “A good warm up.”

She turned to face Tamara, some of the laziness fading. “Now you have a good idea what a Slayer is.”

She smiled a predatory smile. “Now it’s time to show you why a Slayer is.”


“You’re nuts. I’m exhausted just from looking at you two.” She shook her head in disbelief. “You guys hit hard enough to break concrete, and there’s not a mark on you.”


“And you just got the crap beaten out of you, and there’s barely a mark on you. Trust me, the more you get hit, the tougher you get.”

“And we’ve been hit a lot,” Buffy finished.

“Sometimes by each other,” Faith said ruefully.


Tamara stared in disbelief. Again.


Buffy just shrugged. “Ours is a complicated relationship.”


The trio walked in silence for a while, Faith sneakily slipping her hand into Buffy’s.
Buffy smiled and nudged Faith affectionately with her shoulder.

“So. We’re going to drop by our place, pick up some gear, and go hunting,” Buffy said.


“What are we hunting?” Tamara said worriedly.


Faith answered, her voice sounding like chocolate and sex. “Vampires.”


Despite herself, Tamara perked up. “Really? Because even after all this, I’m still having trouble taking that seriously.”

Buffy just gave her an incredulous look.

Tamara raised her hands in surrender. “I know, I know. I should really be on board with this stuff. But it’s hard.”


“If it helps, leprechauns aren’t real,” Buffy said smiling sympathetically.


Faith cleared her throat.

“Oh come on!” Buffy protested. “Giles told me that!”

Faith looked awkward. “Uh, yeah. Here not so much, but in the old country, yeah. Fairies, leprechauns, fetches, the whole nine yards.”


She explained to Tamara, “Over there they have other shit goin’ on. Lots of pacts and blood oaths and crap like that keeping things from boiling over. Here in the new world, not so much. So we get the rowdy ones. I figure that’s why there’s more Slayers in the good old US of A.”


“So what do we run into here?” Tamara said, unconsciously using ‘we’.


“Vampires,” Buffy said. “Lots and lots of vampires. And about twenty different kinds of demons. But mainly vamps.”

“You got any gear you need to get” Faith asked.


“Yeah. I need to swing by my place,” Tamara said, already planning out what she needed.


+++


Deep in the tunnels below Boston, a group of vampires awaited the return of their hunters. All was silent until the metal door slammed open and a small blonde woman strode in, flanked by a larger brunette and one in full military gear. Two were dressed for a casual night out: jeans and a nice top. The third was kitted out for war, wearing full military body armour, an assault rifle and a sword.

“Woohoo!” The little blonde said, bouncing on her toes when the vampires growled.


“I love it when we outnumber them!” she said.
She waved an axe casually, almost like a fashion accessory.


“Someone can’t count,” growled the largest vampire.


“And that’s the leader,” the brunette muttered to the military-looking woman. “Just can-not keep their mouths shut.”


“Hey!” said the small blonde, focusing her ire on the leader. “I’m actually quite good at math. Most people look at me and think ‘Oh hey, she’s good at Home EC’ or something.”


“She isn’t,” interjected the brunette, getting an elbow for her troubles.


“But I’m really quite good at the math. We have you outnumbered three to ten, because I’m the Slayer.”


She pointed to the brunette. “And she’s the Slayer.” The brunette took a bow.


“And this one with the gun? Also the Slayer.”


Incongruously, the armed and armoured one waved. She took aim at the leader and triggered a burst into his chest.
The rifle roared, deafening in the confined space. Stale blood sprayed from the vampire’s chest, dark and syrupy. He staggered back with a look of pain.


The little blonde uncovered her ears. “Sorry about that, she’s new. Was that your favourite shirt?”


“That’s why we don’t use guns,” the brunette murmured. “Try for the head.”


“There goes a perfectly good quip about dressing for a funeral,” the blonde complained.


“Get them!” the leader roared.


+++


“Oh my god, what a rush!” Tamara said, dancing around gleefully waving a short sword.
Buffy giggled as the heavily armed woman danced around Faith, like a big kid.
Faith just laughed and went with it, letting Tamara spin her around.
She froze when Tamara planted a big celebratory kiss, right on her mouth.


She backed out of the embrace with a grunt.
“Yeah, I should have mentioned that. Mowing down vamps an’ demons an’ other evil shit will really get your motor running.”


Tamara coughed. “Uh, sorry. I uh, don’t really know why I did that.”


Faith shrugged. “No worries. Think I’ll live. You might not though.”


Tamara felt a polite tap on her shoulder. She turned and got a glimpse of a small fist moving like lightning. It filled her world in the nano-second before her vision exploded into stars.


She came to, lying on the ground some distance away.


Buffy stood between her and Faith, her stance wide and battle ready, everything in her posture screaming possession.
She growled. “Mine.”


Faith smirked. “Shoulda mentioned that B’s the possessive type.”


She looked Buffy up and down. “Jesus B. Anyone ever tell you, you’re hot when you get all bossy?”


Buffy’s combative stance vanished like smoke. “Yup. There’s this nice brunette that I know. She says stuff like that all the time.”
She turned to Tamara. “You get one free pass. That was it. So remember that, and we’ll be fine.”


Tamara coughed and groaned. The world was tilted, and she couldn’t even feel the left side of her face. “That was a free pass?” she mumbled, trailing off with a groan.


“B? You wanna show her what a real punch looks like?”


Buffy nodded wordlessly and approached the concrete support pillar in the middle of the basement. Her fist snapped out like a striking snake and slammed into the pillar with a sharp crack. She grunted with the force of the blow, and concrete showered out from the impact, smashing a neat scallop of concrete from the pillar. A few last bits of concrete fell, revealing the bent steel reinforcing beneath.


Tamara groaned a little and woozily got to her feet. “Right. Point taken. Sorry.”


Buffy moved back to Faith, picking bits of concrete from her knuckles. “I have an owie. Kisses please.”


Faith smiled as she took the proffered hand. Gently, she kissed the reddened knuckles, smiling at the gooshy feelings flowing from Buffy.
She smiled a little more as the roughened skin smoothed in front of her eyes, and the redness faded away.

“All better,” Buffy said, smiling shyly.

Faith smiled softly back. Even now, that soft, flirty smile took her breath away.


Tamara looked away awkwardly. “Get a room,” she muttered under her breath.


“Good plan,” Buffy said. She rummaged in Faith’s pocket and pulled out a room key.
She tossed it to Tamara. “We got you a room at a fancy hotel. We’re just down the hall.”


She looked surprised, and a little woozy. She looked blankly at the keys in her hand. “Why?”


“We didn’t know your sitch. We thought you might need a place. Or a holiday,” Buffy said. She snuggled into Faith with an appreciative hum.


“Either way Tammy, room’s yours. Have fun. Have a party, and we’ll see you in the morning.”


She rubbed her face ruefully, wincing when her fingers brushed her jaw. “Then what?”


“That’s up to you,” Buffy said. “We have two training programs. One that teaches you how to stay alive, and then sends you back to your life. With a little help, and some new friends.”


“And the other?”


Faith cleared her throat. “The other turns you into a warrior the likes of which the world has never seen. Then you join our crazy little family, and you slay.


“So this is what I get to do? Go out in the night and hunt evil things, and kill them?”


“Yeah. How’s that sound?”


“Fuckin’ A,” Tamara breathed. Her eyes were almost glowing.


“Damn B. Think we got ourselves a full-blown warrior princess right here.”


“It made me crazy,” Tamara breathed. “I always wanted to fight, and I always felt bad about it. You’re not supposed to want to kill, right?”


Buffy and Faith both nodded silently in agreement.


“But I was made for it, I was made to kill. But I was made to kill evil.


She quirked a smile. “Destroy all that which is evil, so that which is good may flourish.”
Faith snorted and made a sound, that for anyone else would be a giggle.


Buffy looked at her in amazement.
“Hey, I thought that was pretty good! Why are you giggling?”


More giggling ensued, with Tamara joining in.
Buffy frowned, clearly not enjoying being out of the loop.
“Bumblebee, you remember that movie I told you about?”


+++


“OH FUUUUUUCK!”

Faith laughed helplessly as the cry was heard through the walls.


Buffy grumbled. “I would have thought this place would have better soundproofing.”


Between laughs Faith said. “I don’t think she believed me, B.”
She grinned. “Hey, that rhymes. I’m a poet, and I didn’t even know it.”


Buffy made a face.
“Let’s get out of here honey,” she said. “There’s some shopping to do, and a treat for a certain well-behaved Slayer.”


“Shopping? Treat? Fuck the shopping, let’s have that treat!”


“The shopping is for the treat,” Buffy said.
She leaned over and whispered in her ear. “There’s going to be sexy negligees, a schoolgirl’s uniform, a nun’s outfit and toys.”


Faith whimpered, and said in a small, submissive voice, “Ok.”


Buffy pulled out her purse. “Let’s go shopping.”


“Wicked,” Faith breathed, awestruck. It wasn’t often that Buffy got all bossy and take-charge in the bedroom side of things, or at least the equipment part. But when she did… Faith just about melted on the spot.


+++


One hour later, Faith was in shock.
Or whatever it was, that completely shuts down your brain in the presence of too much sexiness.


Currently she was dressed as a sexy schoolgirl, in an altogether too-short skirt.
Ok, if she was honest with herself, it was ‘slutty schoolgirl.’ But that was fine for tonight.


Buffy was still wearing her sexy nun’s outfit that she’d tried on, and had just finished buying the last of the toys and things.


Part of the wonder of their relationship was their complete equality. They were physically equal, and equal in most other things too.
But watching Buffy going all bossy and demanding in a sex shop had Faith looking thoughtfully at a collar.
Nah. Bossy Buffy was enough of a turn on.


“Hey B. Got any fun new toys?”


The sternness melted from her face. “Yep!” she said brightly.


Faith smiled softly. She knew what Buffy was doing.
She was using her ‘General Buffy’ hat to get her through the epic embarrassment of buying toys in a sex shop. Buffy wasn’t actually as uptight as Faith had accused her of from time to time, but she was easily embarrassed by emotional or sexual stuff.

“So, what did ya get?”


Buffy closed the small suitcase with a click. She smiled, an expression carrying a welter of emotions. Anticipation, nervousness, embarrassment and lust.


Faith smirked. “I see that look on your face, an’ I can't wait to get back to the hotel.”


“You’ll find out what’s in the case very shortly. But I want them to be a surprise.”


“Them? How many toys did you buy?”


Buffy blushed. “They’re not all toys. But yeah, I got a few… things.”


Faith just grinned, somewhere between evilly, and blissfully.


“I’m not saying our love life is stale or anything, but I have some… treats… for later,” Buffy said shyly.


“Wicked. Be prepared and shit. Y’know, like girl scouts.”


Buffy raised an eyebrow. “You were a girl scout?”


Faith snickered. “Ate one maybe. That’s about as close as I got.”


Buffy cleared her throat. “Do a good deed every day.”


“Uh, what?”


“That’s the girl scout motto,” Buffy said blushing slightly.


“You were a girl scout?” Faith said, a little disbelievingly.


“Uh, no. Mom wanted me to do that stuff, be all self-reliant and… stuff. She was a girl-scout back in the day. I guess she wanted me to follow in her footsteps. At least a little bit.”

Faith was grinning evilly. In her ‘schoolgirl’ outfit it looked decidedly odd.

Buffy sighed. “Yes, I was predictably bad at it. I quit the scouts to go shopping. No malls in the woods,” she explained


“Heh, I can believe that.”


She came closer. “You know B, you don’t have to do all of this. Sex with you is so mind blowing I can barely form thoughts.”


Buffy just gave her a look. “You act like I have to be persuaded. I like to get a little frisky too from time to time, you know?”


Faith grinned. “You know, there’s a horn-dog under that innocent blonde exterior.”


“Hey, I dated a vampire, a super soldier, a man-whore and arguably another vampire. I can hold my own in the kink department, ok?”

She leaned forward to whisper in Faith’s ear. “Besides, this is not all about sex. This is about anticipation.”


Faith shuddered. Buffy really knew how to work it, when she put her mind to it.

“And foreplay.”


Faith groaned. “Oh man. I’m so dead.”


“And all your naughty fantasies.”


“Oh wow.”


“Not because our love life needs spicing up. But because I love you, and want to give you an extra special treat. And make some of your naughty dreams come true.”

“Wicked.”


“And hey, I knocked you up. So it’s only fair I pamper you, and cater to your every fantasy,” Buffy said brightly.


That got her a funny look from the sales clerk. Working in a sex shop catering largely to lesbians, she clearly thought she’d heard everything.

“Can I help you?” Buffy said sharply to the clerk.

Embarrassed at being caught eavesdropping, the clerk looked away.


“Right. Let’s get out of here uh, my little parfait.”
She grimaced, as if she couldn’t believe the words coming out of her own mouth.
“Ok, don’t say anything. I was rushed. Let’s just go, because you and me have a date with a bear-skin rug, and a bag full of surprises.”


Faith didn’t say a word. She just walked out the door, towing Buffy by the hand.


Buffy just giggled. “Was it something I said?”


+++


“Miss Lehane. I’m sorry to have to do this, but there must be discipline in our classes.”


Faith shuffled forward, head down.
“I-I understand sister,” she said in a small voice.


Buffy sat primly in the old-style wooden chair, taken from the dining room.
She patted her lap. “Come here dear,” she said crisply, but with a hint of warmth.


Obediently, Faith shuffled over and lay herself in Buffy’s lap, her pleated school skirt barely covering her taut behind.
She felt indescribably vulnerable, and turned on, especially seeing as she wasn’t wearing any panties.
All Buffy had to do was lift her skirt.


“I do this because a love you,” Buffy said softly.

And with that, she brought her hand down for a stinging swat.


Faith gasped, more from the intensity of the situation, than from any actual pain.
She moaned. She didn’t think she could get any wetter, but she was wrong.


Buffy brought her hand down in another stinging swat.
Just the right amount of force to feel it, to make it intense without detracting from the experience.
After the third swat, Faith came.
She tried hard to keep quiet, but she knew Buffy could feel her shudder, and hear her stifled moans.


She whimpered as Buffy slowly slid her hand up her thigh.
The small, warm hand slipped under her skirt, and flipped it over, exposing her naked rear.
The next swat landed on her naked behind.
Faith whimpered, feeling incredibly exposed and vulnerable.
And so turned on it was stupid.


The next sharp swat landed, hitting her other cheek.
Faith was sure she could feel moisture trickling down her inner thigh.


Another sharp swat, and the fleshy, crack sound of Buffy’s dainty hand on her cheek.
God, if this kept up she was going to-

Without warning, Buffy slipped two fingers into her slick folds.


“FUUUUUCK!”


+++


Tamara rolled over and buried her head under the pillows with a frustrated groan.
She was definitely discovering some of the minor down-sides to the enhanced-senses part of being a Slayer.
If she heard one more ‘Buffeeee!’ or ‘Faaaaith!’ she was going to lose her mind.


Though Faith hadn’t lied about the orgasm thing, jesus.


Her companion for the evening, was sleeping the blissfully happy sleep of the thoroughly satiated.
Just thinking about what they’d gotten up to over the last few hours, gave her a tingle low in her belly.
She groaned into her pillow.


The girl she’d picked up at the bar had been fun. Happy, cheerful, and up for all sorts of play.
She lacked stamina. Though if she was honest with herself, three hours of sex was pretty good.
She prized her head out of the pillow and looked at her companion.


Pale skin, long raven-black hair, slim build. And when they were awake, the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
Even now, asleep, she had a hint of blissful smile on her face.


Jesus that had been good.
She’d been avoiding women for months while the JAG screwed around with her case.
They’d given her an open offer to leave, with an honourable discharge.
Which given the state of things was pretty good.

It was still a fucking cop out, and it pissed her off to this day.
But they’d definitely been dragging their feet with the case.
She’d put up with the foot-dragging, because she really wanted to get back in the saddle again.


Then along came Buffy, and Faith.
She grinned to herself. Now she got to fight evil.
To spend her life fighting side by side with her sister warriors.
And even fly again, if Buffy was to be believed.
She really wanted to meet the guy who had the balls to fly a British warplane around the states, as his own personal taxi.


And they didn’t give a fuck who she slept with.
So, she’d handed in her notice, accepted her offer, and gone out with a bang.
Literally.


She’d rolled in to a bar on Jamaica Plains with a weird mix of anticipation and fear. And she’d gone for the first gorgeous woman she could find.
Something about her eyes had attracted her instantly.
She’d ploughed through the crowd like an icebreaker in the arctic and taken her hand, distracting her from whatever conversation she’s been having.


“I want you. Right now,” she’d said, her voice thick with hunger.
The raw need in her eyes had triggered something in those indigo depths, and her lover had squeezed her hand tight, and nodded her consent.

And Tamara’d scooped her up and carried her out of there.


Corrine (that was her name, Tamara finally remembered) had been swept away at first, but had been a more than enthusiastic participant. And then she’d been an amazed participant, until finally three or more hours of ‘ohmigods’ later, she’d finally passed out.

And Tamara had collapsed next to her.


But her engine was still running, and sleep was eluding her.
She was tempted to get dressed and look for something evil to kill.
She flagged that. She’d seen too many overconfident rookies get themselves blown up, to consider that a good idea.


She poked her companion in the shoulder, and got no response. The gentle breathing didn’t change at all.


She sighed. She’d probably go next door and talk to Buffy and Faith about stuff, but they were still enthusiastically, annoyingly busy, and showed no signs of slowing down.

She was contemplating getting up and hitting the gym, when Corrine snuggled up to her and mumbled something in her sleep.
‘Ok, that wasn’t so bad,’ she thought to herself.


She thought back to the incident that had started all this.
Drinking too much at a friend’s party, unable to deal with the things she saw all too frequently in her dreams.
And then there was this girl. This pretty, pretty girl.
Kissing her was… amazing.


And for an evening, she’d forgotten everything.
Forgotten the dreams, forgotten what the airforce was like, forgotten all the guys calling her ‘dyke.’
Oh the irony.


Jesus. Even now, just thinking about the sex was exciting.
Maybe not as amazing as half an hour ago, but more amazing because of the newness. Her first time.

Having her friend walk in on them the next morning wasn’t too much of a big deal.
She thought it was hilarious.
But her guest, Clarice, had freaked out when she’d woken.
And had accused her of taking advantage.
Her boyfriend turned out to be less than pleased.
Finding the future ‘missus boyfriend’ in bed with another woman was less fun than he’d thought it would be.


The others had been awoken by the loud voices, and it had not been long before the news had made its way back to the base.

It was surprising how much drama had been generated in a short time.
Probably not helped by the fact that the offended boyfriend had a general for a daddy.

Or knocking him the fuck out, when he’d started throwing words like ’slut’ and ‘dyke’ around.


Tamara groaned, as old and much re-hashed thoughts travelled their well-worn pathways through her brain.
Then she stopped and grinned.


Today was a new day. A day filled with fighting, flying and as much ‘girl time’ as she could handle.
And money. Lots of money.
Buffy hadn’t gone into details, but she had looked at Tamara’s paycheck and said “More. Lots more.”

She grinned in the dark. Maybe this ‘dyke’ thing had something going for it.

Corrine mumbled something happy in her sleep, and snuggled a bit closer.

Yeah, maybe it did have something going for it. Now if only she could get some sleep.
Then maybe she could surprise Corrine when she woke up.


“Faaaaaaith!” came echoing through the wall.


Fuck.


+++

P.S: I was wrong. The Boston chapter is just too huge to do in one post, so you'll have another chapter of Buffy and Faith in Boston to suffer through before we get back to Willow and Tara's big day :)

I'm confident you'll survive.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 6:47 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I love Buffy's & Faith's recruitment trip to Boston... I'm glad Tamara got the crash course of being a Slayer...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:27 am 
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I laughed when I saw that you added Starbuck as a Slayer. That and Tammy's reliance on military body armor and guns followed by Buffy's very clear declaration of "Mine!" sold it.

Though I'm wondering how Tammy will react when she finds out that all the other available slayers waiting for her at Slayer U are about half her age. Could be good. Could be a train wreck. Only time will tell.

I think I lost track but I wanted to ask how many weeks/months has it been in the story since Tara came back and has she caught all the other Scoobies up on what she went through in the other dimension at this point in time? Just curious.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:31 am 
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Hey all!

Heya Zampsa, glad you liked :)

Hey Citanul!
Yeah i was in two minds as to Katie Sackhoff or Amanda Tapping. I figured just a little more butch was in order :P

Yeah, Tara caught everyone up on her adventures somewhere in the middle of it. I have it marked somewhere but i can't remember exactly where.
I was going to nail down an exact timeframe, but it occurred to me that i've read books that had timeframes accurate to the minute in the chapter heading, and it never helped matters. Also you have to be careful about the timeline.

So i left it vague on purpose.

Hope is growing at more than double the normal rate, which is only sustainable because Faith is a Slayer.
So it's 4 months or less from faith getting knocked up, to the birth.

Which will happen, if Buffy has to tear down the sky with her bare hands.

Anyhoo, here's the next chapter:
We get back to our favourite girls at the end, and the next chapter or tow is allll them :)


Trigger warning: talk of rape.


Slaying in Beantown

Faith awoke with the gentle morning sun shining through the window.
The beam of pale light turned Buffy’s hair into spun gold, and Faith lost the ability to breathe.
Or think straight.


‘God, is she really mine?’ she thought to herself.
Buffy may have been asleep, but she mumbled and snuggled close. Her arm wrapped protectively around Faith’s middle.

Faith looked down. She was barely showing yet, even if you knew what to look for. But she could feel it, feel the swelling, low on her body.
‘Damn, is this really happening?’


‘Yes it is. And I love you,’
Buffy sent back sleepily.
She snuggled a little closer, resting her soft cheek against Faith’s ample breast.


‘How long do you think it’s gonna take the little bean to pop out?’ Faith sent.


Buffy thought sleepily for a moment. ‘I don’t know. Maybe four and a half months? Maybe three?’
Her free hand roamed gently around Faith’s belly, gently kneading and stroking. Eventually her hand was able to zero in on the bump.
‘There you are,’ Buffy thought brightly.


A sense of warmth and bright joy flooded through Faith, as Buffy spoke to their baby.
Their baby. The thought made her shiver happily.
‘Fuck me, I’m gonna be a mom.’


‘Yes you are. And you’re going to be a great one,’
Buffy sent.
Her eyes opened, and she smiled sleepily at Faith.


‘Think so, huh?’


‘I know it. I see how you are with Anne. How gentle, how loving. You are going to be an amazing mommy.’


‘Anne? Oh, BB.’


‘Yes, Anne,’
Buffy replied acerbically.


‘C’mon B, you’re the only one who calls her that.’


‘I don’t care. That’s her official name.’

Buffy crawled up Faith slowly and planted a soft kiss on her lips, a quickly turned into a passionate smooching session.
‘Blech, morning breath,’ she complained while smooching.


Faith broke the kiss, unable to keep the grin off her face.
‘I think you’ll find its pussy-breath.’


Buffy flushed pinkly. ‘Only you could make me blush without actually speaking,’ she complained.


‘We should have a shower. We stink.’


Buffy agreed. ‘I am literally covered in you. This whole apartment smells like sex. I’m glad we have the thing on the door that says ‘no’ to room service.’

Buffy looked at her. ‘You did put the thing on the door, didn’t you?’


‘Hell yes. The last thing I wanna do is share your goodies with the world.’



With perfect timing, the suite door opened.
‘I thought you said-’ Buffy complained as she dove under the covers.


‘I did! I really fucking did!’ Faith protested.
Her hand reached out for the dagger she had tucked into the night stand.


“Jesus, what the fuck did you two get up to?” came a familiar voice from the front room.


Faith groaned. “Fuck off Tammy, unless you want your ass kicked some more!”


“Well get up dammit. I need to talk about some stuff.”


“Fuck me,” Faith muttered.


‘Make her go away!’ Buffy sent, from under the covers.


“What are you even doing here?” Faith shouted.


“You left the wrong thing on the door. So I followed the maid in,” Tamara said.
She appeared in the doorway, smirking.


Faith was covered up, but there was an obvious lump right in the middle of the bed, that signified Buffy hiding.


“So yeah, ya scared off the maid. There’s dildos, chocolate, schoolgirl stuff, and unless I miss my guess, part of a nun’s outfit out here.”


Faith could feel the heat of Buffy’s blush against her stomach.


“Oh yeah, and a really nice lacy bra hanging off the chandelier.”


“Fuck. The maid is here?”


Tamara laughed. “Hell no. She wasn’t fazed by the mess. But when she saw the bright pink, double-ended dildo by the fireplace, she ran out of here like her ass was on fire.”


‘Crap,’ Buffy sent, along with a distinct feeling of mortification.


Faith just laughed. “Well, fuck off a minute so we can clean up!”


“Yeah, alright. I’ll get breakfast. What do you want?”


“Bacon! Eggs!”


“For breakfast?” Tamara said.


“Hey, pregnant chick here. Gimme some bacon and eggs woman!”


“Aright aright. Uh, Buffy? What do you want?”


“Omelette? With cheese and mushrooms?” the Buffy-shaped lump said in a muffled voice.


“Check. Remind me not to get in any cars with you two today. Come to my room when you’re all cleaned up, and I’ll get the breakfast sent there.”


With that she left, quietly shutting the door.


After a short pause, Faith spoke up. “Told you I put the thing on the door.”


Buffy blew a raspberry against Faith’s stomach in response. “The wrong thing!”


Faith squealed and kicked her legs. “Damn, that tickles!”


Buffy stopped. “Hey! Shh!” she said urgently.


Faith quietened down, listening carefully.
Buffy laid her head against Faith’s belly with a sense of awe.


A sense of awe seeped through Faith from her link with Buffy.
“Baby… I can hear her heartbeat.”


Faith could not speak. All the emotions froze her brain, and her tongue.

“Hello Hope. Your mommies are looking forward to meeting you,” Buffy whispered.


The sense of warmth and joy flowed through Faith once again, and something clicked inside her.

“B, she can hear you,” she whispered.
Tears streamed down her face as she spoke. “Our baby can hear us.”


Tears pricked Buffy’s eyes as she pressed her cheek against Faith’s belly.
“We love you very much, baby.”


Faith’s eyes widened as she felt something happen deep inside her. “B? Did you feel-”

“-Our baby kicked!”


“Damn, that’s a hell of a kick!” Faith said proudly. “Uh, B? Ya wanna come up? Talking to the top of your head through the blankets is kinda weird.”


“Nope! I’m staying down here with the baby. Note how I cunningly said ‘baby.’ So no more ‘peanut’ comments,” Buffy admonished.


“Huh. That’s the way it is. Just usin’ me for my body.”


“Yep.”


“Damn, this relationship went downhill fast,” Faith said with a smirk.


“It happens,” Buffy said lightly.


“Well I guess I better come down there and sort this out,” she said with a grin and a sense of anticipation.


As soon as she started squirming her way under the sheets, Buffy squealed. “Nonononono!”


“Oh yeah.”


And for the next couple of minutes, all that was visible was a frantically jumping comforter, and a lot of squealing.


+++


Tamara looked up as Buffy and Faith came into the room, clean and somewhat damp.
They were all smiles, and Buffy’s hand never left Faith’s stomach.


“You guys took your time. Figured I was gonna have to eat it for ya.”


“That would have been bad. Hungry momma, right here,” Faith said.
She sat down and grabbed the lid off food, pleased to see a hefty pile of eggs, bacon, toast and a minimal garnish of greenery.

She handed the other plate to Buffy.


“Wow. That looks good,” Buffy said as she got face time with her omelette.


Faith was already inhaling her bacon and eggs. “Dig in B. Got a lotta stuff ta do today. Gonna need the fuel.”


Buffy nodded and made a start. “Mmm, yummy.”


Faith glanced around. “Your girl not joining us?”


Tamara shook her head. “Nah. Not my girl. She was really nice, but she insisted she’s not gay. Also, she doesn’t want to move ta Colorado, so…” she shrugged.


Faith snorted. “Not gay? You guys sure spent a lotta time fucking, for ‘not gay’ people.”


“Hey, I never said I wasn’t. Just… this morning after she’d gotten all snuggly, she kinda went a bit strange. Got all nervous, and wouldn’t talk.”


Buffy put down her fork. “I can relate. Not everybody can deal with big changes like that. Not everyone can shrug and just go ‘Uh, guess I’m gay.’” Buffy said.


“Wonder why that is?” Tamara said. “I mean, I told my mom I liked girls, and she just said ‘Don’t tell the airforce.’ That and ‘You’re still giving me grandchildren, one way or another.’”


Buffy laughed at the ‘grandchildren’ comment. “I don’t know. I freaked out more than anyone I know. But like, my mom worked in the art scene, two of my friends and my mom were kinda gay, and everyone was very non-judgy about all this stuff. I still went into major denial about all of it though.”


Tamara just shrugged. “Well, whatever the case, she’s gone now. Shame, she was really nice. And smoking hot.”


“Don’t worry about it. Where you’re going, there’s plenty more. Fish and all that,” Faith said.


“Faith, most of the girls are teenagers,” Buffy replied.


“Yeah. But what about Brie’s gang o’ pals? They’re all grown girls.”


Tamara waved her hand in front of them. “Hey, relax. I don’t need you guys to set me up. Got more important things to do. Speaking of which, what’s the plan for today?”


“We’re gonna be here at least one more day, probably two or three. So ya don’t have to pack your bags in a tearing hurry.”


Tamara nodded. “Sweet! That’ll give me a chance to pack my shit and wave goodbye. Uh, question? Some of the stuff I’ve picked up ain’t exactly legal. Could be a problem on a plane.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow.


Tamara cleared her throat and grinned sheepishly. “You may not realize, but it ain’t standard for a pilot to be runnin’ around with all those guns,” Tamara said, ruefully.


Faith smirked. “Not a problem. We didn’t fly. Also, any gear you don’t have, X-man can hook you up. He’s got every gun known to man.”


Tamara groaned. “Driving to Colorado? Are you nuts? That’ll take forever!”


Buffy chuckled. “We didn’t drive either.”


“Ok, quit being cryptic, how did you get here?”


“We teleported,” Buffy said.


“Now I know you’re bullshitting me.”


“I wish we were,” Faith said. “Makes me puke my ring out, but it’s still better than flyin’.”


“It makes me a little dizzy,” Buffy said. “But it’s not too bad.”

Faith gave her an evil look.

“Well, not too bad for me, anyway.”
She patted Faith on the hand. “Poor baby.”


“I’ll live. So, Tammy, we got some plans for today. Personal stuff mostly. You gonna be ok for the day?”


“Sure. I got a few friends to say goodbye to, a little packing to do. I also figure if I show up on base and bitch a little, it should speed up my discharge a bit, so hey.”


“Cool.”
Faith fiddled with her phone and sent Tamara a text. “That’s my phone number, B’s, and Slayer central’s emergency number. If something goes tits-up and you can’t get us, call that number and ask for Giles. He’s the one sent us down here to pick ya up, so he knows all about ya.”


“Aright. See ya later then I guess.”


“Do we get to finish breakfast first?” Buffy said around a mouthful of delicious omelette.


Tamara grinned. “Sure.”


“How’s the discharge thing work then?” Faith asked between mouthfuls of bacon.


Tamara sighed. “I’m officially suspended pending the ‘inquiry,’” she said, making air quotes.
“But I was given the option of an honourable discharge, if I left without making waves.”


“Did you?” Buffy asked.


“… Sort of.”


“That sounds like a ‘no’,” Buffy said.


“Well, I kicked up a bit of a stink, but nothing legal. Told them it was bullshit and all that. Mainly I hung on, hoping to get it all sorted out, so I could get back in the air.”


“Was there a chance?” Buffy asked.


Tamara shrugged. “I dunno. Airforce ain’t as bad for the whole ‘girls in uniform’ thing, and they aren’t as down on lesbians as they are on gay guys. But it’s still the military, and they still don’t like that stuff. Plus it was the general’s future daughter-in-law I ended up in bed with.”


“Oops,” Buffy said with a grimace.


“Yeah. So I figure, fuck it, I’m out. I’ll go do what I was born to do, y’know?”


Faith grinned. “Oh baby, they are gonna eat you up.”


Tamara gave her a funny look. “Huh?”


“You’re gonna have a cult following in less than a day,” Faith said.


“Yeah, you’re all bossy, and mature and stuff,” Buffy added. “Also hot.”


“Mature?! I’m not even fucking thirty!”


“Well that seems pretty old when you’re like, twenty three.”


“You’ll grow out of it,” Tamara said with a glare.


“Heh, nice one,” Faith said approvingly.


“Hey! You’re supposed to be on my side,” Buffy complained at Faith.


“We have ‘sides’ now?” Faith said. “I thought we were just makin’ jokes?”
She raised an interrogatory eyebrow. “And if ya wanna be like that, what’s with the ‘hot’ comment?”


“Oops. My bad. Sorry,” Buffy said, contrite.


Faith shrugged. “No worries. She is hot.”


“Hey, ladies? I’m sat right here,” Tamara grumbled. “Hot and all.”


“My bad,” Faith said, polishing off the last of her bacon and eggs. “Damn, that parsley was good. Remind me to get some more when we get back.”


“Cravings?” Buffy asked.


“Yeah, I guess. Just tasted real good is all.”


“Remind me never to get pregnant,” Tamara said.


“Yeah, well, we weren’t expecting it, that’s for sure,” Buffy said.
“I’m new at this whole ‘lesbian’ thing, but I was under the impression that one of the up-sides, was not getting pregnant.”


Tamara chuckled. “Yeah, I’d heard that too.”
She stood and stretched. “Well, I got to take my hot-self off, and sort my shit out.”


“Hold up.” Faith rummaged in her pack and tossed a small bundle to Tamara.


Tamara caught it, her eyebrows raising as she saw the contents. A neat stack of hundred dollar bills.


“You’re takin’ a lot on trust Tammy. I figure it’s only fair I show you we’re serious. Think of it as a signing bonus.”


“This has to be ten grand!”


Buffy leaned over to peek inside Faith’s pack. “What other goodies do you have in there?”


“Later B. Look Tam, we got more money than god. Ten grand is nothing. I didn’t even get Xander to sign out the money, I just took it out of my bank account.”


“That’s… a lot of money to just throw around,” Tamara said.


“The old Council has been around since time began,” Buffy said. “Say what you like about them, but they knew how to invest. Now we have all their money.”


Tamara gave her a curious look. “How much money?”


Buffy shrugged. “I don’t know, but our yearly income is in the billions of dollars. Anya just about wet herself when she found out how much money was involved.”


“Whoa.”


“Yep. That’s what I said. When Willow showed me the accounts, I had to count all the zeroes to figure it out.”


“How much would you pay people to risk their life, fighting vampires every week,” Faith asked, as Buffy finished the last of her omelette.


“Fair point.”


“So, the guardian types, they’re the ones who don’t really wanna be full-time Slayers. They get solid training, then they go home. In return for keeping an eye out and being our eyes and ears, they get a small weekly pay, and Red’s help getting into whatever college or job they want.”


“When we started, it was about half and half,” Buffy said. “Now after a few months training, most of the Guardian trainees have switched to the full Slayer program.”


“The only ones left are the ones with real heavy commitments to stuff. Mosta them are headed home pretty soon,” Faith said, putting her empty plate back on the tray.


“And we have some trainee witches,” Buffy said. “Not many. Thirty or so. Including my sister.”


“And a bunch of trainee watchers,” Faith added.


“Right. And the full-time Slayers get paid about a hundred thousand per year, once they graduate and get deployed.”


“Damn. That’s a decent pay scale. How does the deployment work?” Tamara asked.


Buffy grimaced. “Yeah, we’re still working out all the details of that one. In theory, every major city like LA, and New York gets a team of five Slayers and a watcher to do the research and paperwork.”


“In theory?”


“Yep. The problem is getting teams of five that can work together well, AND all want to go to the same place.”


“So far we can get one, or the other, but not both,” Faith said.


“Unit cohesion is far more important than keeping everybody super-happy,” Tamara said.
“Send them out in the good teams, even if they don’t get to go home. Hell, you’re paying them, right?”


Buffy nodded.


“Right. So, like the forces, explain this to them, then deploy them anyways.”


“Yeah. That’s pretty much what we’d settled on,” Buffy said.


“We also have a few roving groups, or we’re gonna,” Faith said.


“One of which is our Valkyrie squad,” Buffy added.


“They’re our heavy hitters.”


“Or as we call them, maniacs,” Buffy said.


“Hey! You be nice to my girls,” Faith said.


“Your girls?” Tamara asked.


“Yeah. They were kinda the problem kids. You know, angry, from shitty backgrounds, that sorta thing.”


Tamara gave Faith a thoughtful look. “Like you?”


Buffy laid a gentle hand on Faith.

Faith nodded. “Yeah. G-man figured I could relate. Turns out he was right.”


Tamara riffled the money like a deck of cards. “Well, I’m gonna bail and blow some of this wedge.”


Faith grinned. “Wadda ya gonna get?”


“Shoes. Guns. Beer. A really cool jacket. A sexy dress. And maybe some sexy underwear.”


Buffy made choking noises. “Uh, ok. Interesting list.”


“I should make a move,” Tamara said.


“B an’ me have some fairly major stuff to do today. So I’d be happy it if ya could not call us unless it’s important, yeah?”


Tamara nodded solemnly. “I hear ya. Will do. On another note, how much stuff can this teleport thing handle?”


“Well, we teleported five people plus gear on the way there,” Buffy said. “Plus six people, a tree and about a bazillion dusty books and scrolls on the way back. We still haven’t worked out how that happened, but I blame my sister.”


Tamara looked confused. “Okaaay. So a few bags shouldn’t be a problem then?”


Buffy shook her head, blonde hair swinging. “Nope. If you can carry it, we can move it.”


“Or Red and Glinda can, ‘cos we are totally useless at the magic thing,” Faith added.


“Sweet. A’right, I’m outa here. See you girls later on.”


“Bye!”


“See ya.”



+++



“Faaaith, come on! Please?”


“Nope. Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you where we were going, now would it?”


“I hate surprises,” Buffy grumbled.


“No ya don’t. You just hate bad surprises.”


The pair were walking down town, after a short shopping trip.
Buffy’s bag included some very pretty shoes and some new outfits.


Faith was wearing a dark blue t-shirt with ‘baby on-board’ in bright yellow lettering, and an arrow pointing downwards.
She was also wearing some new and expensive jeans.
Most of the money went on jeans that ‘made her butt look awesome’, while still being comfortable for someone with a growing tummy.

Faith was grinning evilly as she towed Buffy towards her destination.
Buffy was busy sulking, due to Faith’s complete unwillingness to tell her where they were going.

“Just wanted you to know I was listening, that’s all,” Faith said.


“What? When?” Buffy sputtered.


“Ages ago, when you were telling me the things that you like to do.”


“But that could be anything! I like to do all sorts of things, you know.”


“Shoes, dresses, more shoes-”


“-Pussy,” Buffy interjected.


Faith stopped and stared at Buffy’s innocently smiling face.
“You’ve been taking lessons from Snow White, haven’t you?”


Buffy just smiled.
“I have the feeling that Tara has a dirtier mind than any of us realize.”


“I bet you anything you like, that Red knows exactly how dirty she can be.”


“No bet. I’m glad they’re happy, but I don’t want to know those things about my best friends.”


“And with that, ta-da! I’ve successfully distracted you from where we’re going. Surprize, B.”


Buffy looked around, and found herself standing under a tree, outside a glass-fronted place.
“Steriti… Rink? Ohmigod!”


Faith grinned. “Oh yeah. I do listen ya know.”


“Ohmigod! I love you so much!” Buffy squealed. She glommed onto Faith and swung her around and around in absolute joy.


Faith laughed happily as Buffy spun her around and around. “Don’t get me too dizzy B, I won’t be able to skate with you.”
Buffy all but carried her inside.



+++



“Damn, that’s tight. Sure you’re not overdoing it?”


“Yep. The tighter the better, otherwise you break your ankle.”


Buffy was kneeling in front of Faith, doing up her skates. Her own were already firmly strapped on.
Behind them, a few moms and kids skated. Being the middle of the week meant that they almost had the place to themselves.


Buffy stood and held out her hand to Faith. Hand in hand they waddled awkwardly to the ice.

“Never done this before B, so don’t drop me ok?”


“I won’t. I promise.”


“Alright. I trust ya.”


“Aww, you say the sweetest things,” Buffy said, smiling shyly.


Faith smiled softly back. “Well yeah. How couldn’t I, when you smile like that?”


Buffy just blushed a little, and helped Faith on to the ice.


“Ok honey, keep your feet level, and point your feet like this,” Buffy said, demonstrating.


Faith did so. “Hey, is this like rollerskating?”


Buffy bobbed her head. “Kinda, yeah.”


Hesitantly, Faith pushed off, and made her slow way forward.

“Hey, you’re doing it!” Buffy said, impressed.


“Yeah well, Slayer. That and I can rollerskate a little.”


Buffy took Faith’s hands and skated in front of her, backwards.

“Show off,” Faith said.

Buffy just giggled, and kept skating.


By the time they had completed a circuit, Faith was moving more confidently.
She moved up next to Buffy, and started skating hand in hand.


“There are days when being a Slayer is awesome,” Buffy said with a laugh.


“All days are awesome,” Faith said. She leaned over and said quietly in Buffy’s ear, “Especially when I’m with you.”

Buffy just blushed. Faith thought it was adorable.

“You are just so damn cute when you do that.”


“What?”


“Go all shy and cute like that.”


“You just like making me blush,” Buffy said, looking a little pink.


“Guilty as charged.”

By this stage, they were going quite fast, and Faith was moving almost as smoothly as Buffy.

Buffy was laughing brightly as they zoomed around the rink, hand in hand.
Faith even essayed turning around and going backwards for a while, her eyes locked on Buffy’s impressed smile.


For the next hour or so, they skated around the rink, Faith laughing from time to time at Buffy’s antics.
Buffy was almost floating around the rink with happiness, and the feelings of almost childlike joy were flooding the link they shared.
Much to her consternation, Faith found herself occasionally giggling.
But it was hard to be worried about it, with Buffy so obviously happy.

Buffy’s radiant smiles and joy were returned by the kids they skated past and a few of the parents too.


Almost two hours later, even Buffy was starting to find the idea of food more exciting than skating.

“Hey Bumblebee, wanna get some grub?” Faith asked. As much as she didn’t want to rain on Buffy’s parade, junior miss was making herself felt, and she was starved.


“Yep,” Buffy said dreamily.


At this point, they were swinging around and around, orbiting each other in the centre of the rink.
Faith was silently glad that one of the Slayer’s many advantages was a resistance to getting dizzy.
And sick.
So far, other than the teleport situation (which seemed to be getting slowly better), she’d gotten no more than a little queasy in the morning. And that passed by the time they’d actually rolled out of bed.

Buffy had her head thrown back, and was watching the roof spin by, her loose hair trailing behind her as she spun.


“Then let’s go, before the growls scare the kids,” Faith said.


Buffy righted herself. “Growls?” she said, clearly confused.


“Yeah. My stomach. I can’t be held responsible if it gets us kicked outa here for scaring people,” Faith said with a look of fake seriousness.


“Gosh, no. We can’t have that!” Buffy said with a wide-eyed seriousness that had Faith giggling again.

Buffy smiled and pulled Faith in close. “I love you, you know that? I love that you share your world with me, and I love just how sweet you are.”


Faith smiled back. “Ditto.”


Buffy laughed and rolled her eyes. “And you’re so romantic too.”


“Yeah. I got this romantic stuff cold.”


“Goof. C’mere,” Buffy said, pulling Faith in for a tender kiss.


The kiss was warm and gentle, like coming home.

When they broke apart, Buffy looked a little dreamy. “Mmm, Faith kisses. Yummy.”


“Do you mind?” came and angry woman’s voice. “There are children present.”


“Do you mind?” Buffy retorted sharply. “We’re trying to have a romantic moment here.”


“Well take it someplace else,” the woman replied angrily.


“Why do I have the feeling you wouldn’t be this pissed if one of us was a dude?” Faith said.


“Look, I’m not saying I hate gays,” the woman said. “If you want to be that way, that’s fine. Just do it somewhere that normal people don’t have to see it.”

“Hey lady? Fuck off,” Faith said. “If I wanna kiss my girl, I’m gonna kiss my girl.”


The woman gave them a disgusted look, but before she could storm off, Buffy opened up on her.
“Lady, I don’t know who you are or why you have a problem with gay people. And I just don’t care,” she said with a look that would have stripped paint.


“You need to understand something. I had to fight for my love with Faith. I have people right now trying to kill us both, to keep us apart. You don’t know what it’s like to fight for your love like that. And if you think for even one second I am going to stop loving or kissing my fiancé, just to please you, you are terribly mistaken.”


Buffy pointed out of the rink. “Now you go away, and leave the rink to the people who aren’t bigoted idiots.”
The woman looked about ready to protest. But there was something terrifying in the eyes of the small blonde that made all protests die in her throat.

She nodded numbly and left, dragging her protesting child.


Faith gave Buffy an impressed look. “Damn B. You can be scary when ya’ wanna be.”


She nodded, the hard flinty look melting from her eyes. “Yeah well. She was taking a bazooka to my balloon of happiness.”


Faith grinned. “No worries pumpkin. I think we all know I like it when you get all hot and bothered.”


The last of the hard look faded as Buffy laughed. “Pumpkin? I thought we did that one already?”


“Uh, it’s hard to keep track of ‘em all.”


“Pear?” she suggested, looking fixedly at Buffy’s chest.

Buffy swatted her good-naturedly.

“Peach?” Faith tried, looking further down.


Buffy laughed. “Oh my god, you’re obsessed with sex.”


Faith waggled her eyebrows suggestively and leaned over to check out Buffy’s butt. “Yep. Can you blame me? Though I can’t think of a cool ‘buns’ related nickname.”


“You’re terrible,” Buffy said, smiling.


“Yep.”


“This was wonderful… darling,” Buffy said hesitantly.


Faith raised an eyebrow. “Trying out something new?”


Buffy shrugged awkwardly. “Yeah. Mom used to say it all the time. It might be a bit grown up for me though.”


“Yeah, well,” Faith said uncertainly. “A bit of grown up might be good for this next bit?”


“Uh, what are we doing next?”


Faith let out a breath. “Somethin’ hard.”
She ran her hands through her hair, something she did when she was nervous, or thinking. “Talking to Snow White got me thinkin’ about my own past. Not the shitty stuff, but like, who my Da was, an’ all that crap.”


Buffy squeezed her hand reassuringly. “What do we need to do?”


“Raid the old homestead. X-man’s digging got me thinking. Ma sometimes got kinda weepy when she talked about ‘the good old days.’ She had a stash of stuff from her first boyfriend, stuff that she used to go through when she got all weird. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I mean, what do I care about ma’s old boy toy, y’know?”


Buffy nodded her encouragement.

“But now I know my Da ain’t the dude I thought he was, I’m thinking that stuff might be my real Da’s.”


“And you want to get it?” Buffy asked softly.


Faith nodded. “Yeah. Might be able to get Red and Glinda to track him down. Who knows, he might be a stand-up guy?”


Buffy smiled sadly. “I hope so.”


Faith shrugged. “Can’t be much worse. Dave skipped out on me and Ma. Took everything we had according to her, I was too young to remember that shit. After that the dudes just got worse and worse. Ma never could handle bein’ alone, so she just latched onto the next provider.”

Her voice turned hollow. “Then there was Lenny.”


Buffy slammed her mental shield into place.
She’d been practicing, she could barely stand the level of hate and rage that flooded her, and she didn’t want to inflict that on Faith.
Had her life been anything less than a nightly battle for survival, she would never have had the strength to hold herself together.


Faith touched her shoulder to get her attention. “S’ok B. I get it. I’d feel the same way if it was you.”


Buffy nodded jerkily. Years of emotional pain gave her the tools to function, despite her feelings. “How… how are we going to do this?” she asked unsteadily.


Faith let out a tired sounding sigh. “Talked to Tara about this a little bit. I figure, we just sneak in, look around and grab it.”


“And if someone else is living there?”


Faith shrugged. “The same. I guess we could ask ‘em if they seem nice. But it ain’t that kinda neighbourhood, so don’t hold your breath.”


“And if he’s there?” she said softly.


“Fuck. I dunno.”


“Baby, I don’t know if I can… not kill him. I don’t think I have the strength.”


Faith shook her head. “It ain’t about him, B. Alive, dead, I don’t care. It’s about you still being you. I don’t want you getting hurt the way I did.”


“I know. And you’re right, and I believe you completely. I just don’t know if I can stop myself honey. I hate him so much I can barely breathe.”


Faith nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I get it. Uh, how about this, you break all his arms and legs, but leave him alive?”


Buffy nodded solemnly. “I’ll try my best Faith, I really will.”


Faith nodded. “Good enough. Let’s go.”


Ten minutes later the pair were leaving the rink, as happy as could be, under the circumstances.


“B? This might sound kinda weird, but I wanna swing by the bank.”


“Ok,” Buffy said slightly more brightly. “Why do you want to go to the building o’ money?”


“I’ve been thinking about our situation, and some of the things you’ve said. I don’t owe my Ma anything. She was a shit parent, hell Mrs S was a better mom to me in a couple of days, than my Ma was her whole life.”

She stopped and sighed, running her free hand through her hair to help her think. “But we’re gonna be Moms now, and that made me think about her sitch a little. Think how fucked up I’d have been without the Scoobs to look after me, all preggo an’ shit.”


“I get it,” Buffy said. “But what does the bank have to do with this?”


“B? My Ma was kind of a victim herself. I really dunno how much of what happened was her fault, or just her just bein’ outta her depth, y’know?”

Buffy nodded her understanding.

“So I ain’t saying all is forgiven, but if we run into my Ma, I wanna give her some money. Like the guy we met under the bridge. I figure she can use it to get her life together, or kill herself off for good.”


Buffy nodded. She searched through her feelings, and the feelings she was getting from Faith.
Faith’s feelings were very mixed and murky, but she could feel an almost desperate need to do the right thing.
And to prove something.
“Why, baby?”


“Because I don’t wanna do the wrong thing, B. But I don’t know what the right thing is. Fuck, I dunno about any of this shit. So I figure, I’ll give her the money. Enough to make a go of it, make a new start someplace else. And if she does, maybe we can talk.”


“Baby, what if she doesn’t? What if she just blows it all?”


Faith shrugged. “If she drinks herself to death, fuck her. She had her chance.”


“Baby?”


“Look, B. I don’t know what the right thing to do is. So I’m gonna give her the chance. Kill or cure right?”



Buffy didn’t know what to say, what the right thing to do was.
This woman had done so much harm to her child, to one she was supposed to protect.
As a soon-to-be mom, Buffy couldn’t imagine anyone feeling that way.
She may not have asked for it, or even understood how. But she already felt a fierce protectiveness towards the tiny life growing inside Faith.
How could someone hurt their own child? Or simply stand by and let someone else do it?
She was lost.


So she concentrated on what Faith was feeling. Anger, disappointment, loss.
And under that, almost hidden from Faith herself, hope.


Hope that she could have a normal relationship with her mother.
Hope that perhaps she could be redeemed, despite the horrors of the past.
Hope that if she could be, perhaps there was hope for Faith herself.

But Faith had been hurt so very badly, so she would have to prove herself before Faith would extend trust.


Buffy nodded. “I get it.”


Faith looked surprised. “Ya do?”


Buffy nodded slowly. “I think so. Like, you want to be forgiving, but you want to be sensible about it. So she has to prove she’s worth it, and this is her chance to do that.”


Faith just looked at her with a sense of wonder. “That’s why I love you B. You just get it.”


Buffy chuckled and took her hand. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been accused of that, smooshy pooh.”


“Oh you take that back.”


Buffy shock her head vigorously. “Nope.”


Faith threw up her hands. “I see how this relationship is. I’m gonna be all barefoot and pregnant, and you’re gonna be al ‘give me a sammich, woman!’”


Buffy beamed, and bobbed her head. “Yep.”


Faith grinned evilly. “Fine. But next time, you’re havin’ the baby, and I’ll be all ‘gimme a sammich.’”


Buffy’s eye went wide. “Next time?! I’ve only barely got a handle on this time!”


“What? I’m the chick here? I’m supposed to have all the kids?”


Buffy sputtered. “Kids?! Plural?! Ohmigod!”
She became aware of Faith grinning at her.
“Oh that’s just evil.”


“Sorry snuggle-pumpkin. Can you forgive me?” Faith said, batting her eyes in a very non-Faith way.


“Har-de-Har.” Buffy said flatly. “Come on, let’s get out of here. Maybe we can go slay something and calm that amazing sense of humour that you’ve got.”


“Or sex? We could have more of that. I’m pretty sure I’ll calm down after getting wriggly,” Faith said hopefully.


“Give the funny bone a rest, and there could be sex,” Buffy said dryly.


Faith mimed zipping her mouth, though her action concealed a happy smile.



+++



Some hours later, they were standing in the darkening streets of the nastier part of south boston.
A ‘quick trip to the bank’ had turned into a ‘long trip to the bank,’ as it had taken a while to organize ten thousand dollars in cash, along with all the paperwork to authorize it.


“You know,” Buffy started. “As a Slayer, I’ve always had a bullseye painted on my back.”
She eyed the small pack Faith was carrying, which was stuffed with money. “But somehow, now I feel like someone dipped me in steak sauce and the sharks are circling.”


Faith chuckled. “I would have gone with ‘honey’ and ‘lesbians,’ but steak sauce is good too.”


“Chocolate,” Buffy said absently, looking around.
She blinked as her brain caught on to what her mouth had said.


“Chocolate, check,” Faith said. “Anyways, we can have that later. For now I wanna show you another one of those rare bright spots in boston.”


Buffy quit looking around and paid attention. “Oh?”


“Yep. I wanna introduce you to father McIlhenny.”


“The priest guy you mentioned? Cool!” she looked around some more, this time focusing on places rather than people. “Using my amazing powers of deduction I’m guessing we’re headed over there,” she said pointing to the old church, visible in the dimming light.


“Uh-huh. Let’s go.”
Faith held out her hand, and Buffy took it happily.


“Are we likely to get a repeat of skating-rink lady?” she asked.


Faith shrugged. “I dunno. Too bad for them if we do. The few girls I hooked up with weren’t from around here, so I dunno how they feel about lesbos here.”

They crossed the street and headed for the church. The door was unlocked and Faith lead the way inside, Buffy in tow.



Inside Faith stopped to take in the smell of the place. A few deep relaxing breaths later, she opened her eyes and smiled.
She spied a familiar tall shape pottering about, getting the place ready for the evening service.

“Yo father!” she shouted into the echoing silence.

The figure looked up in surprise. “What- Faith?”


Buffy smiled. He did look a lot like Giles, though he obviously lacked the other man’s glasses, and English accent.


“Is it you girl?” he said in his strong irish-boston accent.


“Aye father, ‘tis me indeed,” Faith said in a terrible irish accent.


With that she let go of Buffy and bounded forward to engulf the man in a hug.

He laughed and hugged her back. “’tis good to see you girl! How have you been?”


She laughed as she let him go. “Good father, good. Fuck it, real damn good!”


He snorted. “Some things never change.”
He caught sight of Buffy. “And who is your friend here?”


Faith held out her hand and Buffy moved over and took it with a shy smile.
“This father, is my fiancé, Buffy.”


“Hello father,” she said with a little Willow-style wave.


He raised an eyebrow at the revelation, but held out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Buffy… was it?”


Buffy smiled. “Yes… I’m from California.”


“You don’t say?” he said with a wry grin.
He turned to Faith. “Fiancé? Since when did you decide to settle down and get married? And to a woman no less.”


Faith grinned brightly. “When you find the right girl, you just have to marry her, that’s all there is to it.”


“Never a truer word was said.”


“Um, not that I’m complaining or anything,” Buffy said uncertainly. “But aren’t you supposed to be against this sort of thing?”


The priest looked at her seriously. “Do you love her?”


Buffy nodded. “Yes.”


“Will you fight for her?”


“I already have. But if need be, I’d lay down my life for her.”


He smiled. “Then that’s all you need, Buffy.”


“Father McIlhenny ain’t your typical priest, B,” Faith said with a smirk.


“My parents come from a very old part of Ireland. This Christianity is a bit new-fangled for the likes of us.”


Buffy looked at him in disbelief. “You’re a catholic priest!”


“No, I’m Irish. Catholic priest is my job. And where my people come from, we remember the old gods.”


“B, did you notice the name on the door?”


“Saint… something or other.”


“Saint Bridgit’s church.”


“Like Willow’s goddess?”


“Uh-huh.”


“We respect our roots here,” he said. “And The Lady would never condemn true love.”


“The Lady?”


“Well, it wouldn’t do to go around worshipping pagan gods now, would it? But there’s nothing wrong with respecting your roots.”


Buffy grinned. “Stealth priest, gotcha.”


He grinned back. “I don’t know what you mean. Now, how did you two meet?”


“Uh, work?” Buffy said uncertainly.


“B’s the Slayer.”


“What?!” the father said, eyes wide with surprize.


“What?!” Buffy said, eyes similarly wide.


They stared at each other, and then turned to Faith.


“Chill B. He knows.”


“You’re the Slayer?” he said, his tone caught somewhere between reverence and disbelief.


“Um, I guess I’m outed now. Yep, I’m the Slayer. So’s Faith.”


His stunned gaze turned to Faith.


She shrugged. “Yeah.”


“I understood that the Slayer was one of the greatest forces for good in the world. I also understood there could be only one.”


“Yeah. I did kinda die that one time. Well, twice really. Then Faith eventually became the Slayer.”


“There’s a lot of us now. Nearly two thousand at the school, and maybe more coming.”


“Two… thousand?!”


Faith grinned. “Yeah. Things are different now.”


“Fucking murphy’s balls, Faith. You’re not kidding.”


Buffy chuckled at his shocked expression. “We closed the Hellmouth in California,” she said. “And we are training a Slayer army. Pretty soon we’ll be driving back the darkness, everywhere in the world.”


“We might actually win this,” Faith said. “If y’know, we can stay alive and all.”


“If the Powers That Be don’t kill us.”


“What?”


“Oh right. Yeah, sorry. The Powers That Be went all kill-y on us. So far they’ve sent demons, ex-demons and who knows what else to try and do Faith in. It nearly worked.”
Buffy took Faith’s hand reassuringly, though it looked to be as much for her own comfort as anything else.


“Powers That Be? That’s usually a term for distant bosses. And why are they trying to kill you?”


Buffy shot Faith a look. ‘Do we tell him? I mean, he’s your friend, and I don’t want to break his head.’


‘Yeah. I know what ya mean. I dunno. I guess the smartest thing would be to ask him.’



“Yeah, so father, if I told you that I knew something that would totally screw up your life, because it was the truth… would you want me to keep quiet, or open my big yap?”


He gave her a funny look. “Faith, I’ve always told you that no-one should fear the truth.”


“Yeah, you did. But are you sure? Because I ain’t kidding father, this is gonna rock your world, and you can’t un-hear it.”


“Faith, what is it?”


“Well, there’s a prophesy…”



+++



“I feel kinda bad,” Buffy said. “I mean we dropped all of that on him, and then ran off.”


“Naw, he needed some space to think, I guess.”


They turned a corner into a somewhat dingier street. “I was feeling a little bad, until I remembered what kind of guy I was dealing with. He’d wanna know the truth, no matter what. ‘Better a hard truth, than a pretty lie’ he always used to say.”


Buffy nudged Faith with her shoulder. “He’s an important guy to you, huh?”


Faith nodded back. “Yeah. I don’t think I’d have made it without him. He’s a standup guy.”


Buffy looked around. “I notice things have gotten darker and more horrible. Are we going somewhere specific?”


Faith nodded. “Yeah. Time for the big finish. There are a few friends around I could say hey to, but we weren’t that close. No, it’s time to go visit my ma, or the strange new people who live there.”


“Ah, the skating rink makes sense now,” Buffy said.


“Well yeah. I really can’t see a way that this visit isn’t gonna suck on some level. So I figured, do the happy thing, while we’re happy, y’know?”


Buffy hugged Faith’s arm happily. “Anyone ever tell you you’re super smart?”


Faith chuckled. “Not often.”


“Well you are.”



Buffy could feel Faith’s tension ratcheting up slightly as they approached a particular rundown house.
Like most of the others on the street, it was a long and narrow, two storey weatherboard building.
Unlike the vast majority of the houses, this one was freestanding, with a narrow driveway down each side.
While the street wasn’t going to win any civic pride awards, it wasn’t too bad.


Not so this house.


The house was neglected, paint starting to peel from the wood.
Obnoxiously loud music blared out into the otherwise quiet night.
Similarly obnoxious cars were parked outside, all glaring colours, huge spoilers and chrome rims.
An overflowing dumpster completed the scene of neglect.


The scenario Buffy was hoping for: kindly old people who let them have a look around the old homestead, was evaporating by the second.
The vanity plates on the car were the final nail in the coffin. ‘Stud.’


Buffy sighed. “What are the chances this isn’t some kind of gang headquarters?”


“With those cars? None.”


“So, what are we doing?”


“Fuck it. Let’s at least try to be nice. We can always go nasty if they give us any trouble.”


“I’m starting to wish I’d brought a violin case,” Buffy said. She reached into her messenger bag, and loosened the leather protector on the Scythe blade.


“I still can’t believe you brought that. What were you going to say if it was an elderly Chinese couple living here?”


Buffy shrugged. “It would be pretty dumb to bring this thing to Boston, and then not take it with us when things are likely to be badness. And I was intending to tell the elderly Chinese people that I was out shopping, saw it in the secondhand store, and had to have it.”


Faith snorted. “You really thought that one out huh?”


“Yep.”


“And if a cop pulled us over or something?”


“Wandering around South Boston in the dark, with a bag full of money, weapons and a scary axe? I was going to use my pout.”


Faith had been on the receiving end of the ‘I’m tiny and blonde and cute, please do everything I ask,’ look before. Damned if it wasn’t effective.


They were now stood on the sidewalk outside the building, looking up at it with some trepidation.


“Just… be careful, ok?” Faith said. “These guys are guaranteed to have guns, and we don’t know if we’re still, y’know, bullet resistant.”


Buffy pricked her finger with the pointy bit of the Scythe blade and held it up. By the time it reached eyeball height, the cut was gone, leaving only a spot of blood.
“I’m good. You’re the one that can’t afford to get shot, miss bun-in-the-oven.”


“Oh come on, are you gonna hold that over me for the next god-knows-how-many months?” Faith whined.


“You’re whining about this?


Faith shrugged. “Hormones.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “You can’t use that excuse every time.”


Faith smirked. “Yeah I can. If you can play the no-risk, no-fun card, I can play the hormone card. For the exact same length of time.”



Buffy muttered something unintelligible under her breath.


Faith took a deep breath. “Let’s do this.”


She stepped forward, climbed the stairs and pounded on the door.
Polite knocking had no chance of being heard.


Buffy delicately inserted herself between Faith and the door, pushing both of them back a little.


Before Faith could object, the door popped open the reveal a scowling muscular black man, in a wife-beater and jeans.
The scowl fell off his face as he broke out in a greasy smile. “Hello pretty ladies, are you the entertainment for tonight?”


“Who is it, yo?” came from inside.


The man looked over his shoulder and called back, missing Buffy’s death glare. “Some hoes ma man. An’ fine lookin’.”


He was pushed out of the way by an even more muscular white man. “Damn,” he said appreciatively.


Buffy noticed the way Faith froze like a deer in the headlights.


“Faith, is that you?” the man said, reaching out to stroke her face.


Faith seemed paralysed, the terrified little girl in her overriding the indomitable Slayer part of her.


Buffy had no such problems, the slayer part of her connecting the dots and flashing up a big sign: ‘SLAY.’
She was moving before she’d even thought. Her hand pulled the Scythe from her bag and used it like a giant pair of knuckle dusters, to slam his reaching hand against the doorframe. With a crunch, the fingers bent far past any angle they were supposed to take.

Instantly her small booted foot kicked out and up, and crashed into his chest with enough force to send him flying clear down the hallway. He flew out of the hallway, and across the room, slamming high into the wall of the front room.

He fell to the floor leaving a huge dent, as Buffy stalked inside, the Scythe moving back and forth like a snake in her hands.


“I want a word with him,” she ground out in tones of frozen hate. “You can all leave, or you can die here with him.”


Scattered around the room were various badly dressed men in various stages of shock, along with some skinny half-dressed girls, completely stunned.

One of the men had the presence of mind to pull a shiny chromed pistol from the waistband of his pants, and point it at Buffy.


The Scythe moved faster than thought, and sliced cleanly through the pistol, just in front of the trigger guard.
The dumbfounded man stared at his half-pistol, as his friend groaned on the floor behind him.


“That’s your only warning,” Buffy said coldly. “If you’re still here in ten seconds, I’m going to cut off your heads.”


Nobody moved a muscle.


She stamped her foot loudly. “One!”


They bolted.


The girls fled for the front door, the men piled out the window.

Faith walked slowly inside, after letting the terrified women stampede out of the house.
In a feeble heap at the base of the far wall, he groaned.


“That’s him,” Buffy stated, more than asked.

Faith nodded silently, her face white.

Buffy hauled him upright by the simple expedient of balling up his shirt in her fist and lifting.
“I work nights. And do you know what I do at night?”

He groaned, and pawed feebly at her steel grip.

“I kill evil things. Vampires, they drink people’s blood. It’s usually fatal. And demons, I kill demons too. They cause all kinds of trouble, some of them even eat people.”


She looked him in the eye, her eyes burning with hate.
His eyes rolled back in his head. “I’m not finished with you. Don’t you dare pass out!” Buffy shook him vigorously. “I swear, if you pass out, you will wake up in five different places!” she roared.


His eyes struggled feebly open. “Wha?”


“It’s night time,” she whispered. “Work time.”


“Don’ kill me,” he groaned.


“Why not?” asked Buffy, in a surprisingly reasonable tone. “I kill evil things, it’s my job. If you ask stuffy English librarians, it’s my destiny.”


“Not evil,” he groaned.

Several of his ribs were badly broken my Buffy’s savage kick, if his struggling breaths were any indication.


“See, you beat a little girl. A lot. You were a shitty parent to her. And you raped her. Probably more than once. My sister was nearly raped. I was nearly raped, so I kind of have a thing about that.”

She leaned in closer and whispered in his ear. “And you killed her baby. Sounds pretty evil to me.”

Leaning back, she asked in a disturbingly conversational tone, “So, why am I not killing you?”


“B? Don’t,” came a weak voice.


Buffy stopped. She knew that it was wrong to kill people, but for the life of her, she couldn’t remember why. Not at this moment.
Nonetheless, she dropped him.

He groaned as he hit the floor.


“Honey, what do we do?” Buffy said softly, and with obvious care. “I don’t think we can walk away from this. It wouldn’t be right, not with the things he’s done.”


Faith nodded, still pale, but gaining strength as the shock wore off. “Yeah, we don’t. But cold-blooded murder hurts you B. it ain’t good for the soul, no matter how justified it is.”


“Well what? Jail?”


Faith shook her head. “Nah. Too much like a holiday for this guy. No, we fuck him up. We fuck him up like only one other guy has ever been fucked with.”


Buffy looked at Faith, for a moment, until the light dawned. “The guy who tried…”


Faith nodded. “Yeah. We get Red and Glinda to do the mojo on him, and get their goddess to punish him.”


Buffy stared hard the suffering man. “Justice.”

Faith nodded silently.

Buffy crouched down beside Lenny. “You are going to suffer. I’d say you’re going to suffer more than any human being has ever suffered, but there’s one other person who’s suffering just as much.”


“If you kill yourself you just might avoid what’s coming. Feel free to run, there’s nowhere you can hide from us.”

Buffy stood, and in a gentle tone, spoke to Faith. “Honey? Did you want to look around, or go?”


Faith took a deep breath and closed her eyes visibly centring herself. “Let’s look around. See if we can find what we came for.”
She turned to the battered man, her face gaining some animation. “Hey asshole? Where’s my ma?”

He groaned something inaudible.

“What?” Faith demanded.


“Dunno. Gone,” he said feebly.


“Gone what? Gone shopping? Moved out? What?”


“Took off. Months ago,” he groaned.
He gingerly moved into a more comfortable position, though his busted ribs were clearly giving him trouble.


“Fuck,” Faith said. “Right. We’re gonna look around. See if we can find something she mighta left.”

She turned to Buffy. “C’mon B. Who knows, we might get lucky.”


Buffy nodded. “You go look. I’m going to keep an eye on mister muscles here, and make sure he doesn’t get any clever ideas.”

Faith gave her a look.

“No killy. Scout’s honour.” Buffy held up three fingers.


Faith nodded, and went upstairs.


For the next few minutes, nothing was heard, other than some thumps and bangs from upstairs.
Buffy more or less assumed that Faith was in the attic. It seemed to be the kind of house that would have one.

Faith came back, looking a good deal more dusty, and slightly happier. She was also carrying a dusty and cobwebby cardboard box.


“Struck paydirt. C’mon B, let’s get out of here before someone decides this can’t be happening, and gets themselves killed.


Buffy nodded and grabbed a small zip-lock bag of trail-mix from Faith’s bag.
She emptied it out, and roughly yanked out a tuft of Lenny’s hair. She used it to soak up some of the blood that had trickled from his nose, and sealed it in the bag.


At Faith’s puzzled look she explained. “It’s always about blood. For the spell.”


Faith shrugged. “And the hair?”


“Voodoo?” Buffy said uncertainly.


Faith smirked a little. “You watch too many movies.”


Buffy turned to Lenny. “We will be back in a few days. And when we are, you are going to suffer. You can run if you want. It won’t matter, we can find you anywhere.”

She snagged a celphone off the bottle-and-can covered coffee table. “Here, call the paramedics. We don’t want you to die before your big day.”


He took the phone with a confused and pained expression.

And without a backward glance, they left.



+++



“Wow, this is dustier than some of Giles’ books,” Buffy commented.


The pair were sitting crosslegged on the floor in their lounge area, a dusty cardboard box to one side.

“Yeah, well, he looks after his stuff. This was just jammed in the attic under a pile of crap. It was the only box that wasn’t broken shit and old clothes from the seventies.”


Buffy shuddered. “Don’t talk to me about seventies ‘Fashions,’” she said miming the air quotes. “I’ve seen pictures. It was before they invented fashion.”


Faith rummaged in the box and pulled out a small jewellery box, a photo album, and an oddly sized, flat wooden box. The rest of the box was stuffed full of receipts and old tax forms.


Buffy’s eyes locked on the jewellery box. Faith smirked and handed it over.

Buffy popped it open.


“Anything nice in there?”


Buffy poked through the collection. Mostly fake gold and silver bangles and earrings bought from a drugstore.
“Not really. Unless you’re trying to go to a party as fashion-challenged.”

She eyed the photo album.


“Oh hell no. I’m looking at this all by myself. Probably full of embarrasin’ baby pictures and shit.”


Buffy gave her a pleading expression.


“Uh-uh,” Faith said shaking her head.


Buffy pouted. Her lower lip stuck out adorably, and quivered just a little. Her hazel eyes looks like they were going to overflow at any moment.


“No fair! Not the pout!” Faith complained.


Buffy didn’t let up.


“Fuck. Fine, you can look at it with me, ok?”


The pout was replaced by a victorious grin. “Still got it.”


Faith sniffed. “Red does the sad-face thing better.”


“Yeah, but you’re not marrying her. You’re marrying me. So you have to bend to my every whim,” Buffy said sweetly.


Faith sighed dramatically. “The old ball and chain. It all happens so fast. You’re still changing the diapers though. No way you’re getting out of that.”


Buffy made a face, which just made Faith’s grin wider.

Still grinning she opened the flat square wooden box.

“Whoa.”


“Something good?”


“Damn,” Faith said appreciatively. She turned the box so Buffy could look inside.


“A gun?! Why is there a gun? A big gun!”


Faith took the revolver from the box and held it up admiringly.
It was a big revolver, all polished blue steel and beautiful polished wooden grips. There was even engraving.
“This is a thing of beauty,” she said.


Buffy goggled at Faith, who was clearly enamoured with the gun she was holding. “Would you two like to be alone?” she said with a smirk.


“Hey, just because I can appreciate quality craftsmanship, it don’t mean I’m getting all pervy,” Faith retorted.


Buffy smirked as she lifted one of the row of bullets stored in the case. “Uh, somehow this doesn’t strike me as factory standard.”
She held up the bullet for inspection. It had ‘.44 magnum’ written on the bottom. More importantly, the bullet was made of visibly tarnished silver, and engraved with a pentagram and some symbols.


“Yeah. I recognize that stuff.”


“You do?” Buffy said, surprized.


“Yep. Don’t forget I’m tight with Red now. It’s magic.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “That part I’d worked out, what with the star and all.”


“And the little wiggly symbols,” Faith said, nodding with fake seriousness.


Buffy chuckled.


“Why the hell did my ma have a huge fucking gun, loaded with magic silver bullets? An’ why didn’t she take it with her?”


“I dunno. Uh, how big was your mom?” Buffy asked.


“Uh. Taller than me. Fairly tall, maybe five-nine, five-ten. Why?”


“Powerful build?”


“Fuck no. Tall and skinny. Seriously, why?”


Buffy took the gun from Faith’s hand. She held it in her hand, struggling to grip it. “Because unless her hands were like our chef Mary’s, humongous, there’s no way this is her gun.”


“Well hung,” Faith said. “Y’know, lesbians with big hands.”


“Just use more fingers,” Buffy said matter-of-factly. “Back to the gun. I might be able to use this thing, with both hands, or with a crazy strong grip. But unless your mom was a Slayer, this isn’t her gun.”


Faith nodded. “Yeah. But what the hell? Why didn’t she sell this thing? I mean it’s gotta be worth hundreds. I mean look at it. What is that hand grip even made of? Mahogany or something?”


“Cherry burl,” Buffy said.

Faith gave her a look.

Buffy shrugged. “Mom was an art dealer. She also had a side line in antiques. Trust me, after a while, you end up learning this stuff whether you want to or not.”


Faith looked closely at the gun. “It has ‘accurized’ written on it. And it looks pretty custom, B. Why would my ma keep an expensive hand gun she couldn’t even use? And fuck, what’s with the bullets?”


“I don’t know. Maybe it’s something to remember someone by? Maybe that’s why she didn’t sell it? Ooo! Maybe your dad left it for her. Y’know, your real dad.”


“Hmm. Maybe. I guess my Da was a monster hunter of some kind. I mean, a fuckin’ forty-four magnum loaded with magic silver bullets? Gotta be huntin’ monsters with that.”


“And he left it here for her? He must have really cared about her then.”


“Yeah. Weird.”


“Weird?” Buffy asked.


“Uh, yeah. Weird to think of people carin’ about her, ya know? I mean that sounds like the kinda thing G-man would do if he had ta go away for a while ya know? Never thought my ma was the kinda person that someone would do that for.”


Buffy squeezed her hand. “Maybe things weren’t so bad once?”


Faith nodded slowly. “Maybe.”
A grin slowly spread over her face. “Cool though. I bet Snow-White didn’t get anything this cool.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Somehow I don’t see Tara’s mom leaving her a gun behind. I really can’t see her being that much different from Tara.”


“Never know,” Faith said. “Maybe she was all feisty?”


“I think Tara would have mentioned it.”


Faith grinned. “Shopping trip,” Faith said, looking at her new toy.


“Shopping trip?”


Faith nodded. “Yeah. Dunno much about guns, but I know ya gotta keep em clean and oiled. Also I’m gonna need a holster, and a buncha ammo.”


“Funny. When I think shopping trip I think dresses and pretty shoes. With you, guns n’ things.”


“Hey, I like shoes and clothes as much as the next girl.”


Buffy gave her a level look.

“Ok. Maybe not quite as much as the next girl, seeing as she’s you, and you won the gold medal in Olympic shopping.”


Buffy grinned. “I took the silver in pants, and the gold in shoes.”


“Yeah, well I’m the queen of leather and denim.”


“Ooo! I just realized, we’re in Boston. We should get some baby things while we’re here!”


“Baby things and guns? We are gonna get some funny looks.”


“Cute. But not as cute as you!” Buffy said triumphantly as she held up the photo album.


“You little sneak!”


“Well duh! I’m training the girls in being sneaky. Can’t teach, if you don’t do.”


Faith glared.

“Oh come on, let’s look through the album together.”


“You look. I don’t wanna.”


“Ok!” Buffy said brightly and flipped open the album. “Ooo,” she cooed.
She read a little and grinned. “Oh you are such a cutie!”


“Ugh!” Faith grunted, falling back on the rug.


Buffy just squealed with delight and she looked through the album. “Ohmigod Faith! Almost all of these are photos of you!” Buffy said happily.


She knew she was gonna regret it, but she sat up.
“A’right. Let’s have a look.”


Buffy’s grin was manic. “I am sooo going to get copies of these!”
She flopped down on the rug next to Faith, both of them ending up resting on their elbows as they looked at the album.
The first picture she showed Faith was one of an angry red face poking out of a pink blanket.


“Man, I look like Winston frikkin’ Churchill.”


“I think everyone does at first. I still say you were cute.”


Faith just grunted.

They picked through lots of polaroids of early Faith, until Buffy squealed with joy at a picture of Faith as a toddler with a pink bow in her wavy brown hair. Toddler Faith was frowning seriously at the camera.
“Heh. Even back then I wasn’t a fan of too much girly stuff.”


As they flicked through the album, Faith began to age at an increasing rate, the photos becoming less common.
And Buffy could see in the few photos featuring her mother, she was becoming harder, skinnier and (if she was being honest) trashier.


The last photo was taken when Faith was about ten. She was smiling happily, with a big birthday cake in front of her, though Buffy would swear she could see a sense of wariness in her eyes. Her mother was in the background, dressed like a hooker and glaring, her arms crossed.


A tear rolled silently down Faith’s cheek.
“This… this was the last photo my grams took. She died a few months after that.”


Buffy put her arm around Faith, and hugged her tight. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”


Faith leaned gratefully into the hug. “Yeah it sucked. Things went bad after that. I think my Grams was the only thing keeping my ma even slightly sane.”

She sniffed a bit. “C’mon B. I wanna get out and about. Stretch my legs, get some air, alla that.”


Buffy climbed to her feet and hauled Faith up. “Better get used to that, B. Pretty soon I’m gonna look like I ate a pig whole, and then you’re gonna have to haul me upright.”


“All part of the service. So, where to first?”


“Well, if you’re gonna make me go shopping for baby stuff, I wanna brace myself first, with a little gun shopping.”


“Right, because that won’t scare the pants off the baby shop people.”


“Eh, fuck ‘em.”


“Fine. But you get to explain it to the police.”


“Deal.”



+++



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... G_2284.JPG
“I've got to have it.” Faith said flatly, and with conviction.


She’d said it at least four times in the last two hours, and every time she said it, Buffy got a little more worried.


Currently Faith was plastered against the huge windows of a car dealership.
On the other side of the glass was a car, though Buffy thought it could easily be mistaken for a tank.

“That looks… expensive,” Buffy hazarded.


“It’s a Shelby,” Faith said almost worshipfully.


“Uh?” Buffy said. Cars and Buffy were unmixy things.


The only reason she had a jeep was that she recognized it in the dealership.
It was a slightly different model, and a slightly different shade of blue, but it was functionally very similar to her mother’s jeep.

The test drive had given the salesman a new outlook on life.


This car on the other hand, looked aggressively fast.

“Shelby. It’s basically a Mustang plus. And this is a Super-snake. This is a Shelby plus! I gotta have it!”


“It doesn’t even have a sticker price,” Buffy complained.


“Yeah. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”


Buffy came over for a closer look.

“It’s even in my colours,” Faith stated. “This would make the most totally wicked Slayermobile, ever.”


Buffy chuckled. “Well, it is traditional to get a new car when you have a baby. Though that’s usually trading in the sports car for a people-mover.”


“Yeah, well I got a bike, but no car. So it’s still a step in the right direction.”


“Honey, if you want a car, get a car. Just don’t expect me to drive it.”


“Well no offence pumpkin, but your driving skills are terrifying. You leave everything to the last second, and use your reflexes to deal. Ya really should have learned ta drive before you were called.”


“Mom wouldn’t let me,” Buffy muttered.


“’S alright. You’re getting better. C’mon.” taking Buffy by the hand, she dragged her inside the dealership.
For whatever reason, the car dealership was open late. And Faith could appreciate a guy wanting to make money, especially when it helped her out.


She approached a man filling out paperwork at his desk. “Yo, the Shelby? We’ll take it.”


He looked up, surprized. “Ah! Sorry, in theory, we’re closed.”


“The door was open, and the lights were on,” Faith responded.


“My bad. I have a sh-ton of paperwork to do, and I didn’t think it would take this long.”


“You get commission, yeah?”


He nodded. “Sure. I’m Duncan, and did you ask about the supersnake?”
He looked over the two women. Both were well dressed, and carrying a bizarre combination of bags containing leather and babies clothes, mostly in purple. They were not your typical muscle-car buyers.


“I’m Faith. This is Buffy. And yep, we want the Shelby.”


Duncan whistled. “That’s quite a piece of machinery. And quite expensive.”


Faith grinned. “Is it more than a million dollars?”


“Er, no.”


She tossed a platinum card onto his desk. “Here ya go then.”


His eyebrows vanished into his hairline. “You don’t want finance?”


“Nah. Got the juice. Just ring it up, and gimme the keys.”


He coughed. “Right. I’ll get right on it. Can I have your licence and insurance details please?”


Faith pulled them out of her wallet and handed them over. “I also need you to arrange to get this beast shipped to Diamond Falls, Colorado.”


He nodded absently. “I’d normally explain how expensive that would be, but I don’t think you care.”


“Nope.”


“When?”

“Next couple of days. I wanna take it for a spin tonight, and drive it around tomorrow. After that we’ll be, uh, flying home. If we weren’t in such a hurry we could make a road trip out of it, but we don’t have a week.”


“It’s not as bad as you’d think. Normally it takes about 30-35 hours, so you can do it in about three days if you’re determined. In this car? Less. Though you’re going to want to stop for gas.”


“Huh. Cool. I’ll remember that. Still gonna need it delivered.”


“Sure. Fill this out with your address and contact details, and I’ll make a start on the credit checks and such.”


Faith filled out the forms with only a little help from Buffy. “What is our official address, B?”


“Uh?” was Buffy’s reply.


Duncan was luminously happy when he got through the checks, and everything came out roses.

Half an hour later, after filling out enormous quantities of paperwork, pinks slips and insurance forms, he handed Faith the keys.
“Go easy with it. It’s been run in, but it’s still pretty new. Also, it’s got a shit-ton of power, so go easy on the gas until you get a feel for it.”


Faith raised an eyebrow. “I was half expecting you to make some kind of comment about girls and big cars.”


He smiled. “You have money. So I don’t care. Enjoy your new insanely awesome mustang.”


“Wicked. C’mon B, let’s go drive the slay mobile.”


“You just dropped over a hundred thousand on a car. It better be awesome.”


“Wasn’t doing anything else with the money. And it is an awesome car. It’s a Slayer’s car, and it’s like the Slayer of cars. Hence it’s a Slayermobile.”


“You’re going to stuff the trunk full of weapons, aren’t you?”


“Yep. When we get stuck in a rut, we can go on a slaying roadtrip. Y’know, travel around America, slay new and horrible things with a baby in one hand, and an axe in the other.”


“Sounds like fun.”


Duncan coughed. Faith just grinned. She opened the driver’s side door and slipped inside.


“Oh yeah,” she breathed. “Mama’s home.”
Faith’s voice sounded like chocolate and sex.
“Get in B. It’s leather.


Buffy got in.


“Ooo, comfy.”


“It should be. Damn.”

She slid the key in, and turned it. The engine started with a throaty rumble. “Oh yeah.”

She touched the gas, and the engine snarled, with a whine like a jet engine.
“Yeah baby!” Faith said, totally enthused. “I so have to drag race Tara and Winona!”


Buffy chuckled. “I don’t think Tara’s going to be into that, no matter how much you give her the puppy eyes.”


“Nuts.”


Duncan heaved aside the huge glass doors, and waved them out air-traffic style.

Gently, still getting a feel for how it handled, Faith pulled out. On the way past, she gave Duncan a triumphant high five.
He was grinning. Not surprising, given how much money he’d just made in less than an hour.

Faith put her foot down, and the Mustang took off with a snarl.


“Yeeeehaaaa!”



+++



“You fucking bought that?” Tamara said in amazement.


“Yep,” Faith said proudly. “Saving the world pays pretty well. You should see B’s bank balance.” She whistled in appreciation.
“I only saved the world once. B’s done it like, six times? Seven?”


Buffy shrugged. “Something like that. Though I’m not counting the trio of dorkness.”


“Trio of dorkness?” Tamara asked. “Sounds kinda… highschool.”


Buffy grimaced. “Uh, yeah. Three idiots who thought they were the next big thing in super villains. They were mostly annoying, but in their stupid flailing around they did a lot of damage.”


“They killed Tara,” Faith said flatly.


“Who’s Tara?”


“Did you ever meet anyone who was just… good?” Buffy said.


“Uh, sure. Met lots of good folks.”


“Nonono. I mean, did you ever meet a person who you knew they were nice, and good? Like, you could feel it?”



Tamara slowly nodded. “Yeah. I had an auntie like that, calmed everyone down just by being there. Always nice, serene I guess you could say.”


“Serene. Yeah, that’s a good description. So our little gang, had two people that were really important, super important, and we never knew until something happened to them. There’s Xander, he’s kinda the heart of the group. No special powers, but he’s the glue that holds us all together.”


“Right,” Tamara said, nodding slowly. “And Tara?”


“She’s the soul,” Faith cut in. “That thing you don’t even realize is the most important thing in the world, until it’s gone.”


Buffy nodded. “That’s what Giles said. And she is. Our soul, our moral compass. Our conscience sometimes.”


“And the dorks killed her.”


“Yeah. Warren, their leader took a shot at me. He got me in the shoulder, but one of his wild shots went through the window and killed Tara.”


“Shit.”


“Yeah.”


“Collateral damage is a bitch.”


“The worst part, is that she was the nice one, y’know? Not a fighter, not a mean bone in her body, just kind. And she was the one that died. Not me, not Xander, but Tara.”


“’S not all bad though,” Faith said. “She got better.”


“Better? How do you get better from dead?”


Faith grinned. “She’s an angel.”


“Uh, I’m guessing you don’t… actually I’ve no idea, go on.”


“Yeah, she’s an angel. Wings and all.”


Conflicting emotions flitted across Tamara’s face. “Ok. I’m going not to say ‘you’re shitting me’ given all the other stuff you told me. Slayers, vampires, witches and stuff. So, angels huh?”


“I haven’t seen any others, but yep she’s an angel. Got really pretty wings.”


“Can she fly?”


Buffy smiled. “Yep.”


“Cool. Uh, does everyone get to be an angel after they die?”


“Nope. We’ve met a few dead folks recently, and some of them can be glowy, but no wings.”


“Can they fly?”


“No, but they can teleport. Dawn calls it ‘orbing.’”


“Huh. I think I want to meet her.”


“You will. We’ll be going soon, do you have your shit sorted?” Faith asked.


Tamara nodded. “Yeah. Packed up my important shit into three big bags. Gave away my other stuff and told my landlord I’m gone. That was fun.”


She eyed Faith’s new ride. “Uh, how is this getting home? ‘cos I bet it’s a bit much for carry-on luggage.”


“Eh, getting it shipped home. Should be there later in the week. Red’s pretty impressive, but I think her head would explode if she tried to shift this beast.”


“Speaking of which. Uh, Willow, not exploding heads, I should give her a call and let her know were coming home.”


She pulled out the expensive, allegedly indestructible sat-phone. Contrary to Buffy’s gloomy expectations, it was neither destroyed, nor impossible to operate.
Willow had even included a little card with it, though Buffy thought ‘press 1 for Giles, two for me’ was oversimplifying ever so slightly.


“Hey Buffy!” Willow chirped. “How was your trip?”


“Exciting. How about you?”


“Didn’t take too long, so y’know, we’re home now. Did you need to come home?”


“Actually Will, I kind of need you and Tara to come here,” Buffy said seriously.


“Oh, ah, what? Why?” Willow replied worriedly.


“Uh, you know the thing that you and Tara did with that guy? I need you to do it again.”


“Um. Is there someone listening in?”


“Yep.”


“Ok. I think I know what you mean. The Brighid thing, is that what you mean?”


“Yep.”


“Oh.”


“Yep.”


“Um, ok. I trust your judgement Buffy, but this is some harsh and painful stuff we’re dealing with here. For us, not just the big bad. I’m coming, and I’m bringing Tara with me, but you’ll have some convincing to do.”


“I understand. And thanks Will. OH! And bring the bits and pieces for a finding spell, in case he’s gone into hiding.”


“Ok Buff. We’ll be there in about half an hour. Can you arrange a car or something? We’ll be arriving at the bridge, same as you did.”


“Done. See you soon.”



+++



“They going to be long?” Faith asked.


The three women were sitting in the darkness, under the bridge. The previous inhabitant was nowhere to be seen, which improved the atmosphere somewhat, but it wasn’t the most pleasant place to spend time.

Buffy grinned. “Right on cue.”


Blue-white fire erupted, tracing out the circle, and filling in the bars of the faint pentagram scorched into the concrete.


“Fuck!” Tamara swore, almost falling off the concrete block she was sitting on.


With a final flare, Willow and Tara appeared. Or at least, someone a lot like Willow and Tara.


“Will?” Buffy said uncertainly to the bespectacled blonde.


“Buffy!” Willow said.


“Jesus Tara, nice legs,” Faith said, ogling the aforementioned legs.


Tara chuckled. “We’re under cover.”


“You’re really not,” Faith said, totally amazed by her transformation.


Buffy cleared her throat. “Faith? She’s up here,” she said, lifting Faith’s head by the simple expedient of her chin.


“Right. My bad. Just… damn, that’s a different look for you.”


“Long story,” Willow said. “So, what’s up Buffy? And who’s your friend?”


“Uh, hey,” Tamara said.


“Guys, this is Tamara, she’s the newest Slayer. She did the Slayer thing right in front of us.”


“Neat! Are you joining us then?”


“Yeah. The airforce is being a pain in the butt, and I like fighting, so…” she shrugged.


Buffy caught herself quietly admiring Tara’s long and sleekly muscled legs, and mentally shook herself. She looked up and saw Faith’s knowing smirk.


“Right. Well, whatever happens tonight, we are going shopping. Again. This time for daisy dukes, because Tara clearly needs competition.”


“Yeah, can’t say as I’m complaining,” Tamara said.


Willow glared at her. “Yes, she has great legs. Now look someplace else.”


Tamara sighed. “Well, you know what they say: the good ones are married or gay.”


“Both in this case,” Tara said. “Now, if we’ve finished making me feel like a piece of meat, fought over by a pack of wild Slayers, could we go please?”


She put on her nice leather jacket. It wasn’t a cold day, but the weather in Colorado was positively balmy at the moment.


“Sorry,” Tamara muttered.


Faith lead the way to where she had parked the car, unlocking it with the characteristic ‘beep beep’ of the car alarm.


“Wowie! Is that a car or a tank?” Willow squeaked.


“Hey, it’s a car,” Faith protested. “Notice the wheels. Dead giveaway.”


“It’s huge! Are you sure it’s not a tank?”


“Don’t listen to her baby,” Faith said patting the car reassuringly.


“Wait, you’re acting like you own this car, not renting it,” Willow said.


“Well duh,” Faith said. “Got her last night.”


“Hmph. A clear case of car envy if you ask me,” Willow muttered.


“I’ll take Winona any day,” Tara said with a wry smile.


“Sure sure. Get in funny girls.”


“I call shotgun!” Buffy said.


“Cool. Looks like we get to pile up in the back seat,” Tamara said.
She waggled her eyebrows suggestively at both Willow and Tara. “Who’s going to sit on my lap?”


Willow gave her a level look. “Well I could, but my fiancé might complain.”


“What about you cutiepie?” she said to Tara, with a sexy smile.


Tara cleared her throat. “I’m the fiancé. And no thanks.”


Faith snickered.


“Damn. Not my day.”


“Dumbass,” Faith muttered. “Get in girls, an’ I don’t care who’s sitting on who’s lap.”


Willow hopped in. “Come one baby, you can sit on my lap.”


Tara smiled. “Goody.”



+++



“You know, there are three seats in the back? There was actually room for you all, even if it is a bit cramped,” Buffy said.


“It was Willow,” Tara said with a smile. “Sitting on her is never a bad thing.”

Willow coughed, and Tara turned pink as she realized what she’d said.


Mere minutes later. the five of them were relaxing in the lounge of Buffy and Faith’s suite, drinking coffee.


“Not that I’m not glad to see you, because I am, and nice to meet Tamara, even if she did hit on me and my fiancé in less than ten seconds,” she said with a mild glare.
Tamara responded with an unapologetic grin and some eyebrow waggling.
“But we’re here for something un-fun. So shall we?”


Buffy nodded. “Tamara? Can you give us a few minutes please? We need to talk about some very… personal things.”


Tamara raised her head in acknowledgment. “Sure. I’ll be next door, come get me when you need me.”


Willow waited until Tamara closed the door and her footsteps had faded before she burst out. “What’s with Boston girls?”


“She kissed Faith,” Buffy growled.


“What? Oh my god!” Willow squeaked.


“B punched her lights out though,” Faith said with a chuckle. “And she ain’t that bad.”


“Says the girl who was that bad,” Buffy grumbled.


“Look, Tammy’s ok. She’s just dealing with being out of the service, being O.U.T out, and also a Slayer at the same time. Cut her a little slack.”


“I fear you, and your new calmer attitude,” Buffy said. “And that’s easy for you to say, she wasn’t hitting on your fiancé.”


“I think it was more you hitting her with your fist, but ok.”


“There was talk of punishment,” Willow said. “Could we talk about that now please? Given that we teleported here and all.”


“We’re getting better, the more we practice,” Tara said. “But it’s not an easy spell.”


“There’s a very bad man, who needs to be punished,” Buffy said simply. “The man who made Faith’s childhood into hell.”


Willow nodded. “I guessed as much. Um, not trying to be insensitive-girl here, but how bad? I mean, I don’t want to bring up bad memories here, but we are talking about unleashing a goddess on him.”


“Worse than what might have happened to little D,” Faith said hollowly. “And it went on for nearly a year.”


“Goddess,” Tara whispered in horror.


“Yeah,” Faith said. “We can’t leave this guy walkin’ around. An’ I don’t want any of us killing him. He’s not worth what it would do to them. To B.”


They sat in miserable silence for a while.


“I’ll do it,” Willow said. “I’ll need one of you for the rage.”


Buffy nodded. “I have that in spades.”


“We are all going,” Tara said quietly, but firmly.


“Baby, no,” Willow protested. “This is angry angry stuff. I don’t want to expose you to that.”


Tara gave her a level look.
“I understand you wanting to protect me from the harsh things in life, and I love you for that. But it’s my decision, and I have dealt with anger before. If we are going to unleash Brighid’s vengeance on a man, we owe it to him, and to her to witness it. We also have to make absolutely certain it is the right man, for his sake, and out of respect for Brighid.”

She turned to Buffy. “And you will need me for that.”


“Ok, so we’re all going,” Buffy said, trying to smooth things over a little.


Willow nodded her agreement. ‘I’m sorry baby. I didn’t mean to be all ‘know-it-all girl,’’ she sent, looking down at her feet.


’It’s ok Willow. It comes from a good place. I wouldn’t want you to go through this either.”


“Where is he?” Tara asked.


Buffy cleared her throat. “Uh, hospital almost certainly.”


“B kinda broke him. A little,” Faith added. “One hit and he went flying. I’d say badly broken ribs at least.”


At Willow and Tara’s understanding look, Faith grinned a little. “He tried to get touchy feely. B got her slay on a little.”


“I only hit him once,” Buffy muttered.


“You kicked him in the ribs. Hard enough that he flew down the hall and bounced off the wall. I ain’t complainin’, but that hadda do some damage. Uh, we called the ambo’s.”


Willow sighed. “Another hospital. That’s how we got in this mess.”


“Uh, mess?” Buffy asked. What mess?”


“It’s why we’re in disguise,” Tara explained. “When we called down Brighid’s wrath on Dawn’s attacker, we um, unloaded I guess is the best description. By healing a whole bunch of sick kids.”


“It felt really good, after all that vengeance-y stuff,” Willow added on.


“Well, now there are some reporters in Diamond falls asking questions. So we are trying to lead them astray,” Tara finished.


“How exactly do your spiffy new looks factor into this? I mean, I’m having a hard time convincing my brain that you two are… you two,” Buffy asked Willow.


Tara grinned a little shyly. “Well the plan is to do more um, miraculous healing and lead them away.”


“And the really great legs? I mean, disguise?” Faith said with a smirk.


“Trying to get people to not focus on blondes and red heads,” Willow said, glaring.


“And a little adventurousness,” Tara added with a shy smile.


“Trust me,” Faith said. “No one is going to be focussing on your hair colour.”


Buffy elbowed her in the ribs.
“We are sooo going shopping for daisy dukes,” Buffy muttered.


“Well, maybe you could do your thing here?” Faith said. “After Lenny. Kill two birds with one stone.”


Tara nodded slowly. “Good idea.”


“Let’s do this and go home,” Willow said. “There are some surprises waiting for you two.”


Buffy gave her a look. “Nice surprises, or bad ones?”


Willow grinned impishly. “Oh, good. Definitely good.”


“Would it do any good to ask what it is?”


Willow’s grin widened. “Nope. But you’ll like it, I promise.”


Buffy rolled her eyes with a little smile. “Oh Willow, you get me the nicest things.”


“Well yes. Getting you a birthday gift is going to seem a teensy bit anticlimactic after this.”


“C’mon then,” Faith said. “Like you said, let’s do this and home.”


Willow nodded. “First we’ll need-”

Buffy held up a plastic bag with a clump of blood stained hair.

“-that,” she finished.


“You know me Will, magic’s not my thing,” Buffy said. “But after I don’t know how many years, I eventually absorbed some of what you and Giles waffled on about.”


Willow nodded. “It’s all about blood.”


“Yep.”


“I’ll need a map,” Tara said.

Faith handed her a map of Boston. All the hospitals were circled.

“Wow. Boston has as many hospitals as Sunnydale had graveyards,” Willow said in surprise, leaning over Tara’s shoulder to look.


“Rough town I guess.”


“I figure he’s in here,” Faith said pointing to the biggest circle. “It’s the closest and kinda cheap, which fits him perfectly.”


Tara nodded. “Let’s find out.”


They sat crosslegged on the floor, the map between them. Tara took the tuft of hair from the bag, and interlaced the fingers of her other hand with Willow’s.

Scrying was a spell she was utterly familiar with, and she cast it with nothing more than a whisper. “Let me see.”

As her viewpoint shifted, she moved her finger instinctively along the map. “You were right. He’s in the hospital. This one,” she said, tapping her finger at a point on the map.

She let go of the spell and looked down. Her finger was in the centre of the largest circle.


“Figures,” Faith muttered.


“Well, there’s no need to teleport or fly when we can be there in a few minutes by car,” Willow said.


“What about our lusty new friend?” Willow asked with a frown.


“Bring her,” Faith replied. “It’ll be a good intro to the weird and wacky side of our lives.”
She looked at Willow. “I’m guessing you have some mojo to get in and out?”


“Yep. An invisibility spell is a long way off yet. But I have a ‘forget me’ spell that works fairly well,” Willow said.


“Though not perfectly,” Tara said. “Thus the disguises.”


“And kiddies kinda remember us, on account of an undeveloped subconscious,” Willow added.


“Huh?” Buffy said. “I took psych in college, but I’m a little fuzzy on how that relates to magic.”


“Lying to yourself takes practice. Little kids haven’t had enough time to learn,” Tara explained.


“Oh right. So the only people who remember us, are the ones no one listens to, huh?”


“Pretty much.”


“Wicked. I’ll go get Tammy, and we can get this show on the road.”


“Are you sure she’s ready for this?” Willow asked.


Faith shrugged. “Gonna find out. ‘Sides, she’s up for a bit of rough and tumble. She’ll be fine. And if not, better we find out now.”


Buffy nodded.


Faith got up. “Yo Tammy! Get it in gear, we got a job to do!”



+++



One hour later, five women stumbled into Buffy and Faith’s suite. They all-but collapsed on the various expensive couches that the room boasted.


All five faces were pale and drawn, and the couples huddled together for comfort.
Tamara stared off blankly into space.

For several minutes nothing was said.


“Fuck,” Tamara eventually said.
If anything, the silence seemed to agree with her.

“Christ Faith. I’m sorry as fuck that happened to you.”


Faith nodded her acknowledgement. “Not your fault. Fuck that was bad. I was there the first time and… yeah it was bad, but I didn’t think it was that bad.”


“Distance changes things,” Tara said. “When it was happening to you, you could deal with it, a little, and maybe you thought there was a reason for it. But when you watch something like that from the outside, knowing there’s nothing you can do to make it better? It hits you in the heart. And you have a big heart, Faith.”


Faith nodded slowly, absorbing Tara’s words. “Maybe.”
Buffy was impressed that she wasn’t protesting the ‘big heart’ comment.
It was one of the truest things that could be said about Faith, though she normally protested such fluffy terms.

“I thought I’d feel, y’know, different,” Faith said. “I mean, I’m glad Lenny got what was coming to him. But I thought I’d feel, I dunno, better?”


“Justice was done,” Buffy said firmly. “He won’t be hurting anyone else, and he’s punished for what he’s done. So now we move on with our lives, pay respect to Brighid, and forget about him.”


“So let’s go home and give Buffy and Faith their surprise,” Willow said.


“Thought you said it was B’s surprise?” Faith said.


“Well, it’s for both of you, but I think Buffy will appreciate it more,” Willow said, the beginnings of a smile on her face. “Let me just give Giles a call and get it all set up.”


“And while Willow is doing that, you can get your things ready for departure,” Tara said.


“Cool.”



+++



When the flames cleared it revealed five women loaded down with luggage and bags.


“Ok Buff, close your eyes,” Willow said with a small smile.


Buffy groaned but she closed her eyes, putting the luggage down. “You know after all this build-up, it’s going to have to be a heck of a surprise, Will.”


Willow put down the bags she was carrying, and lead Buffy up the back staircase of Slayer central.
Tara looked meaningfully at Tamara and put her fingers to her lips, before leading Faith up the stairs with a murmured “Close your eyes Faith.”


“Buff? You know how it’s always been just the few of us against the darkness? All by ourselves, with no help in sight?”


“Yeah,” Buffy said uncertainly.


Willow turned her around to face the rear courtyard, and the fields beyond.

“Well that changes now. Open your eyes Buff, you too Faith.”


Buffy opened her eyes.

There before her, were rank upon rank of women warriors. The left half of the field was dressed in forest green, the right half in Slayer black.


Willow raised her arm.

A horn rang out, loud and clear in the evening sunlight.
And the ring of steel as thousands of swords were drawn as one.


“Don Slayer, don todhchaí !” the cry rang out over the field.
And three thousand throats cried as one, a battle cry as had not been heard in a thousand years.


The Daughters of the Flame and the Slayers roared into the evening sky, crying their support, and willingness to fight.
It was like an ocean of sound, overwhelming and endless.


Willow hugged Buffy close, and rested her chin on her shoulder. “You’re not alone anymore Buff.”


Tears spilled down Buffy’s cheeks as the cry went on and on, buoying her with it.
At last she had hope.

Hope that they might win this thing.
Hope that her love would not die, not this time.
And that her daughter might live to be born.


Faith squeezed her hand tight and smiled.


+++


Bonus extra bit:

“Why do you like the Buffybot so much?” Buffy said, trying very hard not to sound jealous.


“Because she’s you. She’s this big-kid version of you. I figure playing around with her is like taking a dry-run at the mom thing. And hey, she’s nearly indestructible, so I figure even I can’t mess her up too badly.”


“You’re going to be a great mom, I know it.”


Faith grinned. “I am so going to be the cool mom.”


“And what am I going to be?” Buffy asked, annoyed.


“The responsible one who makes her eat broccoli and do her homework. Y’know, the uncool one.”


“Hey!”


“Naw, just messing with you. You’ll teach her all that stuff I have no idea about. Like, how to be a girl and stuff. And I’ll teach her to be a badass. And we’ll both teach her how to fight.”


“We will?” Buffy said dubiously.


“Sure. We can’t keep her safe by not teaching her. Besides, with two Slayers for moms, you and me, she’s gonna be a fighter.”


Buffy smiled wryly. “No doubt.”

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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 Aug 13, 2016 3:36 am 
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Dibs-y goodness!!! :applause :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that the Boston trip was successfully concluded... Big yay for the gathering of the Slayer-army...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:16 pm 
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Great chapter. I liked how the hotel maid was completely unphased by the lingerie, schoolgirl and nun costume bits strewn around the room but the bright pink double dildo sent her screaming for the hills.

I'm doubtful that Tara will agree to a drag race with Faith but I'm not too sure that Dawn's sidekicks are above borrowing both muscle cars.

And good for Buffy getting her vengeance on, I can't wait for Anya to come up and congratulate her for proper form and technique. She can probably suggest a few more uses for Buffy's new armies while she's at it.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 10:25 pm 
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Hey Zampsa! Hey Citanul!

You make a good point about Anya, and i hadn't thought of that angle, TBH.
But, after a little more thought, i figure it is unlikely that anyone will talk to her about it.

Everyone knows what she's like, and it was kinda wrenching, personal and harsh for all concerned.
So it's unlikely they'll talk about it with her.

Well, you gotta imagine maids see all sorts of stuff when they clean, but big pink dildoes might be a bit... personal?

As to the drag race, the Impala is a beast, no doubt. But the Supersnake (a couple years too early, but eh, who cares) is a whole other creature. Not even a challenge.

Actually, the only one i see borrowing one of those cars without asking is Dawn.
I don't imagine the other two would feel brave enough.

Dawn knows no-one is going to kill her. :P
The other two, not so much :)


Anyway, new chapter shortly.
Feeling distinctly icky, so it's taken a while. :brr

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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: Mon Sep 05, 2016 10:30 pm 
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So, as before, another super long chapter, that i broke in half.
I did my best to break it off in a good spot, with only middling success.

Just a continuity note, this takes place at the same time as Buffy & Faith's trip to Boston.
Slightly before, in that their trip only takes an afternoon, so they get back in time to get the call.

And at the end, you get some explanation at to why everyone's flipping out over how they look :P
Enjoy!


Witches in Dixie


The river bank was still, peaceful. The silence was disturbed only by the gentle gurgle of the river flowing placidly along, and the gentle chirps of birds greeting the sunrise.

Blue-white fire erupted in a ring ten feet across. With a flare of light, two people appeared, hands clasped. With a quiet ‘fut’ sound the fire vanished, revealing Willow and Tara dressed in their adventuring gear.


Willow tucked her free hand into her dark green bomber jacket and closed her eyes. “Oh, that made my head all spinny.”


“Me too.”


After a few long seconds, she opened her eyes and looked around.
She looked down. “Um, oops. I think we made a mark.”


Tara looked down and saw that they were standing in a scorched five pointed star. “Wow. We really did leave a mark.” She looked at the huge ring of scorched grass.
There wasn’t a lot of actual damage, just a narrow strip of grass turned to ash, but the insignia was unmistakable across the area. “A pentagram. It’s a classic.”


“Is this going to get us into trouble?” Willow asked.


Tara thought for a moment. “Probably, if anyone sees us. I know this place fairly well, and there shouldn’t be anyone around. But I think we should go somewhere else, just to be safe.”


Willow bounced a little in her excitement before she flung her arms around Tara.
“I’m just so excited! It’s like a trip into the past! The Tara past, the best kind!”


Tara smiled at Willow’s infectious joy. “I’m glad I get to share some happy memories with you, sweetie.”
She wrapped her arms around Willow, still carrying more than a trace of gratefulness to be able to do that.
“There’s a lot of unhappiness here for me, but a lot of joy too. And that’s the part I want to share.”


“So miss Maclay, oops, miss Giles, show a girl around huh?”


“My pleasure miss Rosenberg,” Tara said, leading the way down the river.


Willow chuckled. “I’m still getting used to that. Suddenly the Giles’ are spreading like wildfire.”


“I would have thought very civilized fire, actually.” Tara said, putting on a terrible snooty accent.


Willow giggled. “Raaather,” she said, hamming it up.


“It’s a very prestigious family I’m marrying into,” Willow said, linking arms with Tara as they strolled down the river bank.
“I’ve been thinking about that actually. I was going to just be Mrs Rosenberg.”
Willow wriggled happily at that, and Tara found that the idea still took her breath away. She leaned over and kissed Willow softly on the cheek, receiving a deliriously happy sigh in response.
“Not that there’s anything ‘just’ about a Rosenberg,” she whispered.


“Darn tootin’,” Willow said.


“But now that I’m a Giles, I wonder how you’d feel about Rosenberg-Giles?”


Willow leaned over and kissed her softly on the cheek. “Wonderful,” she said softly.
Tara smiled warmly.
“Baby, I was delirious with joy about becoming Mrs Rosenberg-Maclay, because ‘Maclay’ meant everything wonderful in my life.”
Tara opened her mouth to protest, but was silenced with a finger pressed gently against her lips.
“But I know that’s not what it means to you. I’m just happy to be Mrs Rosenberg-anything baby, and I’d be proud to be Mrs Rosenberg-Giles.”


Tara stopped them in their walk down the green riverbank and enfolded Willow in a hug. “How do you know just the right thing to say?” she said softly.


Willow beamed as she melted into the hug. “Magic.”


Tara chuckled softly. “Goof.”


“Your goof.”

“True.”

They shared a quiet moment together by the riverside, until Willow’s natural enthusiasm bubbled up.
“So,” she said eagerly. “Where’s the first bit of Tara memorabilia? Remember, you promised to show a girl a good time.”


“I did, didn’t I? Behind you darling, turn around.”


Willow turned around, and Tara rested her chin on her shoulder as she cuddled close.
“Do you see the tree?”


“Yep, it’s a droopy willow.”


“And do you see the little hollow just there at the base?” Tara said, pointing with her finger.


“Yep, just perfect for sitting.”


Tara nodded. “It is. I used to sit here and read a lot when I was a girl.”


“Ooo,” Willow said, slightly reverent. “Was this your favourite tree?”


Tara chuckled. “No sweetie. That tree was planted by my mother, before I was born.”
She squeezed Willow a little tighter. “But I will be showing it to you, I promise.”


“Um, you’re not worried that maybe it got cut down, or something bad happened to it over the years?”


Tara shook her head. “No. Not that tree. My mother planted it to honour the Goddess, and in my name. My tree has the strongest protection magic she knew how to cast upon it. Even Donny wouldn’t lay a hand on that tree in anger.”
She whispered softly in Willow’s ear. “And we buried her beneath its roots. No one would hurt that tree, no matter how angry they were. Daddy wouldn’t let them.”


“Wow,” Willow whispered. “That’s a very seriously special tree.”


Tara chuckled softly. “My mom, the original tree hugger.”
She let go of Willow and, taking her hand, lead her further down the riverbank. She lead the way towards a path, visible in the distance.

“When I was little, she told me that it wasn’t the stork that brought me, like the other babies. She told me that a big flower on the tree opened up, and there I was.”


Willow chuckled. “I heard about the stork thing from Xander. And then I asked him where the storks got the babies from, and it all kinda broke down about there.”


Tara laughed. “Growing up on a farm I never needed the ‘birds and the bees’ story.” She frowned. “Though now that I think of it, I’ve never actually heard the story.”


Willow grinned. “When a mummy and daddy love each other very much-”


Tara swatted her on the butt. “Goof. That’s not what I meant. I meant, have you ever actually heard the story?


“Um, no. Something about pollen I’ll bet. Though I bet in our household, it’ll be the birds and the birds, because, y’know, gay.”


Tara smiled as they strolled hand in hand. “That will be a story for the ages. I look forward to hearing it.”


“What? Me?!” Willow protested, looking worried. “You want me to tell the story? What about you? You’re all calm and-and motherly and stuff! You should tell the story!”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “Oh? So you’re the man in this relationship?” she asked mildly, with just a hint of teasing.


Willow looked a little panicked. “Well no, but you’re more… and I’m… not.” She said helplessly.


“So I can look forward to you wearing pants, drinking beer and scratching yourself?” she said, still teasing.


Willow looked a little huffy. “Hey no fair teasing me.”

She blinked and smiled with realization. “You teased me.”


“Yep. I did,” Tara said, smiling just a little.


“You teased me,” Willow said.

Tara’s smile broadened.
Willow squeezed her tight, and bounced excitedly, which lead to an awkward staggery dance.
She pulled back, her eyes shining. “You just teased me! I was worried we’d never get back to where we could do that.”


Tara’s smile took on a sad cast. “I know. And just the thought of anything happening to you still makes my heart freeze. But I have to try.”


“Last serious bit on our trip, I promise.” Willow took her hands, looking more than a little serious. “But every day I wake up, I thank the Goddess for you baby. I can still barely believe you’re here. Every day is a fresh new miracle for me.”


Tara leaned forward until they rested, forehead to forehead. “For me too sweetie. For me too.”

They paused for a while, absorbing the moment, and the warming sun.


“Come on baby, let’s get some breakfast.”


“Ooo! Is there a special place?” Willow asked excitedly.


Tara nodded. “Yup. Best place in town. Dixie’s Diner.”
She leaned over close. “Best pancakes, ever.”


Willow waved her free hand dismissively. “Pshaw! Pfooie even! I’ve had Tara pancakes. Anything else is a poor imitation.”


That provoked a laugh. “Well, the best other pancakes then.”
She lead the way up the trail, towing a beaming Willow by the hand. “And, if we are very lucky, we may meet an old friend.”


Twenty minutes of brisk walking saw the pair round a bend in the trail and look down on a 50’s themed diner.


“Ooo, neat!” Willow pronounced. “I like the retro 50’s thing they have going. Like the one Xander likes in Diamond Falls.”


Tara shook her head ruefully. “It’s not retro. At all.”


Willow blinked in surprise. “Oh? Well, now it’s cool again. Plus, food!”

Willow lead the way, eager now that she had a destination and the promise of breakfast.


In a few minutes they were outside the diner, Willow bouncing excitedly.
The pair attracted the vague curiosity of a few early morning diners on their way to or from work in the early morning.

Tara held the door open for Willow.
“Why thank you Mrs Rosenberg-Giles,” Willow said graciously, stepping into the diner.


“You’re welcome, Mrs Rosenberg-Giles,” Tara said with a goofy smile.
She stepped in after Willow, only to find her just inside the door.


Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing in the fresh cooking smells.
“Wow, I had no idea how hungry I was. Teleport spells really take it out of you,” she said, rubbing her tummy for emphasis.

That comment attracted some odd looks from the pair of truckers eating their breakfast.
“Um, hey, those computer game things. Crazy huh?” Willow said awkwardly.


If anything, that just got even more confused looks.
Willow waved her hand in front of their faces. “These are not the witches you are looking for.”

They looked at each other in surprise at the weird behaviour. They shrugged, and went back to eating their breakfast.


‘Did you just enchant them?’ Tara murmured on their private channel.


‘No, but I did convince them that I’m a crazy person. Which is almost as good. Go geek powers!’


Tara chuckled. ‘Well, Mrs Crazy person, you go claim a nice table, and I’ll go order for us.’


“Okie dokie,” Willow said, and scurried over to the corner table. She flung herself into the corner and sat there bouncing excitedly.
Tara smiled at the sight. There were so many things about Willow to love, but one of the things she particularly cherished was her infectious enthusiasm.


Her stomach rumbled. Willow was right, teleport spells did take it out of you.
She ordered two large pancake breakfasts from a dark haired girl, and headed back to Willow.
She slipped out of her jacket and sat down in the booth across from Willow’s admiring gaze.


“You know,” Willow said, drinking in the creamy shoulders and back revealed by her blue halter top. “There’s an unexpected up-side to the whole wings thing. Halter-tops and backless dresses, oh my.”


Tara stretched like a cat, giving Willow ample reason to return her gaze to Tara’s front. “Though, to be fair, the front is nice too.”


“I’m glad you like it. It was a present from Buffy. Um, the top that is.”


“Remind me to thank Buffy when we get back.”


Willow caught sight of a waitress emerging from the kitchen with two plates, momentarily distracting Willow with the promise of non-Tara yummyness.
“You realize, that after eating Tara-pancakes, these are going to have to be the world’s best pancakes to measure up, right?” Willow said in mock seriousness.


Tara smiled shyly and ducked her head a little, a ghost of her old self making itself felt in this place of her past.
She reached out a finger and playfully poked Willow on the tip of her nose. “You’re biased.”


Willow went cross-eyed looking at the finger. “Yup.” She grinned cheerfully. “The special ingredient is love.”


Tara rolled her eyes. “So corny.”
Willow’s witty retort was cut off by the arrival of their extra-special pancakes.


“Tara Maclay, as I live and breathe!”


Tara looked for a moment like a deer caught in the headlights, before relaxing with a smile.
“Hi Dixie.”


Willow looked over the very blonde older woman. She had big caramel-blonde hair, and a matching tan, which made her stand out in her red and white waitress uniform. Mentally, Willow tagged her as being about Giles’ age.


“Willow, meet Dixie. Dixie, this is my fiancé Willow.”


Dixie smiled at Tara and turned to Willow. “Hey sweetie. Wow, fiancé huh?”


Willow grinned shyly. “Yup. Pretty soon I’m going to be Mrs Giles-Rosenberg. Or Rosenberg-Giles, we haven’t worked that bit out yet.”


“Well congratulations!” Dixie said. she slid the plates of pancakes expertly in front of the pair and snagged a chair to sit on.


“I have to admit, I’m surprised. Last I’d heard, you were dead. Was that some witness protection thing?”


Tara grimaced slightly. “It would probably be easier if I said yes. But no. No witness protection.”


“Didn’t really think that. Donny may be rattlesnake mean, but I didn’t think you’d need that with him.”


He might need it if he runs into Buffy again,” Willow murmured.


Tara thought for a moment. “Dawn,” she said. “She might shoot him. Or turn him into a hamster.”


“Rat,” Willow said. “I’m pretty sure he’d turn into a rat. And not a cute one like Amy, but a mean, nasty stinky rat.”


Dixie frown in confusion. “Ok, honey, now you’ve lost me.”


Tara glanced at Willow. ‘Should we tell her sweetie?’


Willow shrugged. ‘You know her better than I do. I’ll follow your lead.’


Tara nodded. “Dawn is practicing to be a witch. She’s picking it up with amazing speed, and she really doesn’t like Donny. At all.


Dixie blinked in surprise, clearly struggling to take it all in. “She’s met Donny? And what did you mean by witch?


Willow gestured rapidly with her finger over her plate. Then, with a gentle coaxing motion of her hand, she levitated a cut section of pancake off the plate. It had been expertly sliced into the shape of two stick-figure women holding hands. She added a small amount of syrup, and tucked in, lowering the figures to the plate as she did so.
Dixie just stared.


Tara explained. “She met Donny when they all showed up for my birthday. They wanted me to come home. Donny tried to force me.”


“Which wouldn’t have ended well for him,” Willow said over a mouthful of pancake. “Believe me when I tell you, there are a lot of people who will fight for Tara. A LOT.”


Dixie transferred her stare to Tara. “Your mother,” she whispered, her voice carrying an over tone of comprehension. “I always knew there was something special about Rhiannon.”
She smiled fondly. “I swear, the way she was, I half expected flowers to grow wherever she walked.”


“Um, I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but why did she marry Tara’s dad?” Willow said, her pancakes nearly forgotten. “It seems like they wouldn’t really, y’know, get on.”


“John?” she said. Willow nodded.
“John is a handsome man. Strong. There’s a will and a fire in that man like no one else I’ve seen.”

Willow scoffed and gave Dixie a disbelieving look.

“You definitely saw him on a bad day. But you have to understand, he loved Rhiannon with all his heart. When she took sick, it broke him. He prayed and prayed, talked to doctors, hell he even wrote to doctors out of state.”

Dixie sighed and shook her head. “Nothing worked. He was never the same after that. I think it hurt him that Rhiannon didn’t fight harder to stay with him. I remember, before she passed, I asked her about the doctors. She just smiled sadly and said it was the Goddess’ will.”

She met Willow’s eyes. “You have to understand Willow. The man you met, was not the man that Rhiannon married. When she died, the light went out of his life.”


“Um. Oddly, I can relate,” Willow said.
Tara squeezed Willow’s hand.


“Eat up sweetie. Those pancakes are nowhere near as good cold,” Dixie said to Tara.


Tara smiled a little and tucked into her pancakes.


“So is that a thing?” Willow said between bites of yummy pancake. “Everyone from here is good at pancakes?”


Dixie laughed. “Sure sweetie, and the town is named after me.”


Willow looked down at the pancakes she was eating. “Um, it is? Are you the mayor? Because the last mayor we met? Kinda evil.”


Dixie laughed. “No sweetie, I’m not the mayor. Hell, my name’s not even Dixie, I just prefer it to Chastity.”
She made a face. “What was my mother thinking?”


“Um, well my name’s Willow and I’m best friends with Buffy, Faith and Xander.” She waved a fork for emphasis, “So I’m not going to cock a snoot at anyone. Nope, no snoots cocked here. Um.”


Dixie’s eyebrows raised, and Willow turned a charming pink colour.


Tara put her hand on Willow’s with a twisted grin. “Willow spent time in England with our friend and father-figure Rupert.” She said with a hint of emphasis. “Sometimes it pops out at random moments.”


Dixie laughed. “That’s a terrible thing to do to a child, giving them a name like that.”

Before Willow could say anything in defence of Giles, the atmosphere of the whole place changed.


Donny Maclay stepped into the diner.


Willow had nightmares about that face.
Her eyes narrowed.

And she’d had more than a few vengeance fantasies.
And here he was just casually strolling into a diner, smiling a little, and clapping one of truckers on the shoulder in a friendly way.
As though he had a right to exist.


Tara’s hand squeezed hers gently, bringing her to her senses.
She smiled sadly at Tara.
Seeing those features, those cheek bones, that arched brow, on the face of Donny Maclay was nightmarish.
She let out a calming breath and nodded. ‘I’m ok.’


His smiling face froze as he locked eyes with Willow.
He may not have been expecting to see Tara, but he was never going to forget Willow’s face.


“Oh lordy,” Dixie said, becoming aware of cause of the sudden rise in tension. “Now don’t you start nothing Donny Maclay,” she said warningly. She got to her feet and planted herself between him and the girls.


A twisted smirk spread across his face. “What? A guy can’t get a simple breakfast anymore?”


He stepped forward, hands raised placating. “I got me a powerful hankering for some sausages this mornin’”


“There’s some subtext,” Willow muttered.
His grin spread as he approached. “Well if it isn’t the little red-”
He broke off, his face freezing again as he saw Tara for the first time.
“Tara?” he said disbelieving. He seemed surprized, almost a tiny bit happy to see her.


Fighting the urge to duck her head, Tara looked at her brother. He was still a scruffy blonde, still needing a shave. The passage of years had made his face a little more angular. If anything it made him seem a little more like their mother.
“Hi Donny.”


His face closed, hardening.
He took an angry step forward.
“Don’t,” Willow said. Her quiet voice was filled with limitless threat.


He froze. Her face was marble-like, cold and hard. Not even the tiniest amount of compromise or mercy was visible in her gaze.
She hadn’t raised her voice, or even her fork. But the look in her eye told him on no uncertain terms that she would destroy him. She would destroy him and forget he ever existed.
The muscles in his jaw bunched as he chewed over his few options.

He turned to Tara. “Heard you was dead.”


Tara shrugged. “I got better.”


His mouth compressed into a hard line, something he definitely got from their father. “I shoulda known it was all lies. I should have known-”


Tara interrupted him. “Donny, go away. We’re trying to have a nice breakfast and you’re making it quite unpleasant.”


Donny couldn’t have looked more surprized if she’s slapped him.
Willow grinned, impressed beyond words.
“What? So you have your little girlfriend here and all of a sudden-”


Tara cut him off again. “Fiancé, actually,” she said mildly.


At that, he almost sneered. “You think you can get married, like real-”


“Don’t you dare!” Tara hissed. “You can talk to me like that, I don’t care. But don’t you dare talk to Willow like that!”


If anything, Tara’s outburst surprised him more than anything so far.
“Donny Maclay!” Dixie said warningly. “I think you should take a walk and cool off some. Then we can see about maybe getting you some breakfast.”


He looked annoyed at the interruption, but he nodded. “Y’know, you’re right. I should go for a walk and cool off some.”
And with that he turned and left.


Willow blinked in surprise, her fork hallway to her mouth. She looked at Tara. “Did you…” she waggled her fingers.


Tara shook her head. “I was going to ask you that.”
As one, the two women turned and looked at Dixie.

“Don’t look at me. That’s just Donnie being smart. For him at least. He’ll be headed home to tell John, right now.”


Tara sighed. “So much for sneaking by without a confrontation.”


“Suddenly I’m not hungry anymore.” Willow looked sadly at her yummy pancakes. “Poop.”


“Eat up sweetie,” Tara said. “It promises to be a long day.”


Willow nodded and picked at her pancakes. “Um, so we’re expecting a big drama thing then?”


Tara sprinkled a little sugar onto her pancakes. “I’d hope not, but it does seem likely.”


“You’d best stoke those fires girls,” Dixie said. “Like as not, you won’t be in the mood for them later.”
She glared at the two truckers, who were watching the drama with poorly concealed interest. “Look at you two, rubbernecking like a pair of old ladies.”


That got a chuckle. “Aw come on Dix, don’t be like that. Most interesting thing to happen this week.”


“Eat your breakfast,” she replied. “Same goes for you girls. You tuck in to them pancakes, and I’ll get us all some coffee.”
Dixie bustled off, leaving the girls to finish up their pancakes.


Willow fidgeted with her pancake. “So… is there a plan? Because I’d really like for there to be a plan.”


Tara sighed. “It wasn’t very realistic I know, but I’d hoped we could just sneak in and sneak out without a huge fight.”


Willow made a quiet raspberry noise and dropped her fork onto her empty plate. “Well, that plan’s a bust. Any new ideas?”


Tara made a wry, twisted grin. “Good old fashioned Texas showdown?”


“Well, I have my butt-whooping boots on, and my fingers are fully loaded.” She wiggled her fingers suggestively.
She looked at her fingers as if surprised at what they were doing. “Y’know, that was a lot less dirty in my head,” she muttered.


Tara chuckled, as Willow turned pink for the second time in ten minutes. She stuffed the last of her pancakes in her mouth, and chewed ruefully.

“I thought it was fine,” Tara said. “And when we are done here, we will have ourselves some alone time.”
She grinned at Willow. “I bet I can make you turn a lovely pink colour, for an entirely better reason.”


“I’m not taking that bet missy, that’s a sucker’s bet.”
Willow flushed pink again at the look in Tara’s eye. Once again Willow was struck by how Tara managed to turn her on with just a look. And the look in her deep blue eyes was sultry. Smoking even. She fanned herself.


‘By all that’s holy, when we get somewhere private, I’m telling you. Poof! All your clothes are coming off,’ Willow sent on their private line.


‘And when my clothes are off, you won’t be telling me anything, because I will be sitting on your face,’ Tara said, her face picture of innocence.


‘Tara Maclay! Sorry, Giles. Sorry, Giles-Rosenberg.’
Tara smiled demurely.


‘Don’t eat too much sweetie, I want you to leave room for me.’


‘Always room for pussy,’
Willow said with an equally hot look.


‘Willow Rosenberg-Giles, well I never!’


Willow concentrated and sent Tara a picture, animated even.
Now it was Tara’s turn to turn pink and fan herself.
‘Wow. That’s my favourite number sweetie, and a very hot picture.’


“Now I really can’t wait till we’re alone,” Willow said breaking their intense, subconscious staring contest.


Tara sighed. “Well, thinking about dealing with my family certainly put a damper on things.”


Silence reigned for a time.
“So, how are we going to do this? Commando raid? Slayer army? Full frontal assault?” Willow said, her eyes drifting to Tara’s cleavage.


“Focus sweetie. Icky relatives now, breasts later.”


Willow huffed. “Fine.”
She thought for a moment about their situation.


“This was your home baby, and your mom’s. We should respect that. Maybe we can just visit? Like regular folks?”
Tara smiled warmly. “I’d like to try. I don’t know how well it will work, but you’re right. We should try.”
Willows smiled, though it soon gave way to a worried look. “Um, not to be all negative girl, but what do we do if they’re not all tea and crumpets?”

Tara quirked an eye brow in question.
“Sorry, residual Giles-ism. What do we do if they don’t want to be civilized about it?”


“Then we take what we came for,” Tara said simply. There was no heat in her words, just a simple affirmation of intent.
“The ring, my mother’s athame and boline, and her spellbook.”


“Book of Shadows?” Willow asked.


Tara made a face. “Mom never liked that term. She was more of a kitchen witch.”


“Aha! “ Willow said with a grin. “I knew those pancakes had some magical component!”


“The only magical ingredient is love,” Tara said.
Willow made a goofy face in response.
“That and a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon,” Tara said. She poked Willow softly on the nose and finished up the last of her pancakes.


Willow turned serious for a moment. “Are we ready to do this?”


Tara’s expression was thoughtful. “Yes. We can walk, it isn’t far. And I can show you a few more sights on the way. The swimming hole, the big tree I used to climb with April, and my pet rock.”


Willow blinked. “You had a pet rock?”


Tara nodded. “A big rock. The only pet I could have that was immune to Donnie. Anything else he would terrorize.”


Willow shook her head in disbelief. “Is there a name for what’s wrong with him? I mean really, does he have like, a brain thing or what?”


“Not that I know of,” Tara said sadly. “I know he kind of hated me for all the time I spent with mom. I mean, he was her son too, and she loved him. But as mean as he was, she didn’t really want to spend much extra time with him. I think he was jealous of our bond, and jealous of the time we spent practicing magic.”

Dixie dropped off the two coffees with a smile, and left them to talk.
“Mom tried to include him. But by that stage, he’d decided that he was too cool to spend time with his dopey sister and his hippy mom. And daddy wasn’t too pleased with the idea of him learning anything about magic. Or getting sissified by spending too much time with the girls.”


“Jeepers. No wonder he’s so messed up, if that’s your dad’s attitude to a boy spending time with his mom.”


“Daddy was a marine. So was grandpappy,” Tara said sadly. “Discipline was all they knew.”


Willow clipped the plastic lid onto her coffee. “Come on baby. Let’s drink these on the way there and get this over with.”
Tara nodded and did likewise.


“Going already?” Dixie asked.


“Yep,” Willow said. “We got some dragons to slay. Only not real ones, more the metaphorical kind.”


“Well, good luck girls. Breakfast is on the house.”


“Are you sure?” Willow asked, waving a shiny gold credit card around significantly.


Dixie nodded. “Rhiannon was one of my best friends, honey. There’s not a whole lot I can do for her only daughter. But what I can do, I will.”

She handed each of them a brown paper bag. The bags were warm and heavy, packed solid with cookies fresh out of the oven.
“Your money’s no good here sweetie. If you need anything, you just let me know, alright?”


Tara smiled. “We will.” Taking a leaf from Willow’s book she impulsively hugged the older woman.


Dixie responded in kind. “You take care, Tara. You have your mama’s light you know?”


Tara mumbled “Thank you Dixie, for everything.”


“John has powerful friends in this town. But there aren’t many people who didn’t love your mama at least a little bit.”


“Thank Dixie.”

Tara stepped back next to a slightly fidgety Willow, who then engulfed Dixie in a Willow-hug.
“Well, you know I didn’t want to cross some kind of family-hug-boundary thing, but everyone was doing the huggy thing and I kinda didn’t want to miss out,” Willow said.


“That quite a talent for words you got there honey.”


Willow blushed. “Um, yup.”


“It’s just one of the reasons I love her,” Tara said, as she intertwined her fingers with Willow’s free hand..


Dixie handed Willow a scrap of paper. “That’s the number for the diner. You call me if you need anything. Anything, you hear?”


Willow stared intently at the number, memorizing it.
“Yup. We will, I promise.”


“Now go on, do what you need to do. But Willow, Tara? Please remember, John’s not the devil. He’s a man still hurting from the loss of his wife and only daughter.”


Willow frowned. “It won’t be easy, but I promise to keep it in mind.”


“That’s all I ask.”


Tara opened the door for Willow and ushered her out.
“We’ll drop by after, if we can. Let you know how things went.”


“Please do. It’ll ease my mind considerably.”


Tara waved their goodbyes and left.
As they walked hand in hand across the carpark, the shine was rubbed off their glow somewhat by the wolf whistles and cat-calls of a group of truckers.
Unfortunately, they also had to pass by the noisy truckers to get where they needed to be.


“This is one of the not-fun parts of being a lesbian,” Willow muttered.


“I’d say it’s one of the not-fun part of being a woman,” Tara muttered back. “Gay or straight, what woman would like that?”
As they closed reluctantly on the group of four men, their joined hands caused a rise in the amount of noise.
‘Goddess, where’s Faith when you need her?’ Tara muttered.


The mental image leaked into Willow’s mind. Four fat and sweaty truckers doing pushups while a leather-clad Faith cracked a whip over them.
Willow immediately got the giggles.


As they got a little closer, the biggest and fattest trucker stepped forward, hitching his belt and grinning almost unpleasantly. “Hey there ladies. Me and the boys was just talking and wondering how two-”


Tara cut him off. “No.”


“All I-“


“I am not having this conversation. I’m not interested in enlightening anyone as to what we do. I’m not sharing that part of our lives with you.


Willow cut in smoothly, not giving the slightly scruffy truckers time to object. “And no, I don’t want to see a real man. Real men lay down their lives for those they love. Real men fight the darkness with everything they have, with no fame or hope of reward. Only that their friends will live another day, and the world will keep on turning.”

Willow poked the front man in the chest with a finger. “I don’t have time for you. So get out of the way, or you’ll find out what a pee’d-off witch looks like, and that’s not a good thing.”


Wordlessly the men stepped aside and let the women passed.
All was well as the ladies passed, until they made it about ten paces away. One of the men recovered his bravado enough to mutter “fucking dykes.”


Willow stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes narrowing. “Right. Enlightenment time then.”


“Will,” Tara said warningly.


“I promise Tara, no harm. Just a little enlightenment.”

She turned to the men, her eyes glittering dangerously, like chips of jade. ‘What was that very gay comedian called? The English one that Giles thought was hilarious?’


‘Um, don’t know. Julian Clary maybe? Why?’


‘Visualise him as best you can baby. His movements, his mannerisms, everything you can think of.’



Getting an inkling as to what Willow was up to, Tara concentrated on the outrageous comedian. Or at least as much as she could remember from her brief encounters with his show. Willow took her impressions, added them to her own and sent them out to the men. Faint streamers of ethereal light flew from her hands, almost invisible in the morning sunlight. The streamers enveloped the startled men, caressing them almost lovingly, before fading away. The men looked startled, but otherwise none-the worse for wear.


With that Willow turned and grinned at Tara, she held out the crook of her arm for Tara to link her arm into. “Let’s go Mrs Giles-Rosenberg.”
Tara hooked her arm through Willow’s and the pair strode confidently off.


When they were a little way down the road they stopped and looked at each other. “Did we just make them into Julian Clary for a day?” Tara asked.


Willow sighed. “Oh I am so bad. It’s just a glamour, Giles calls it a perception filter. But until sunrise tomorrow, everyone will see them normally, but they’ll react to them as though they were as flamingly gay as Mister Clary. Which is pretty gay, I have to say.”


“Here’s hoping it enlightens them a little.”


Willow slumped a little. “I’m sorry baby. It’s just that all this stuff, seeing Donny, your dad, all this has me on edge.”
She shuffled her feet. “And I think we both know I don’t think well when I’m all edgy.”


Tara lifted her chin with a finger. “Me too. And you’re not alone in wanting to combat a little homophobia. So brace yourself for more.”


“So I’m guessing they don’t march in the PFLAG, huh?”


Tara made a face. “Not so much, no.”


Willow smiled a little. “Suddenly I’m wishing I wore more rainbows today.”


Tara smiled. “That’s my girl. Now there’s a very special tree fort I want to show you.”


Willow squeezed Tara’s hand in hers. “I’d be honoured.”

Tara lead the way.


+++

Sometime later, after a pleasant walk, Tara lead the way through some undergrowth into a clearing. In the middle of the clearing was a moderately large tree, and in the tree was a surprisingly large tree house. It not only had a proper roof, but it also had a balcony on either side, presumably to keep watch for terrible boys.

“Wow!” Willow said. “That’s a tree house and a half.”


Tara nodded. “A memory of happier times. Daddy built most of it, and mister O’Connor put the roof on it.”


“Wow,” Willow said again. “I’ve never seen a tree house with a balcony. Two even!”


“Daddy was very good at building things,” Tara said wistfully.


“Even Xander would be impressed.”


Tara tugged Willow’s hand. “Come on sweetie, let me show you around.”
She towed Willow toward the tree house, and steered her towards the ladder fixed to the trunk.


Willow climbed carefully up the ladder, not quite trusting it to be safe after all these years, despite its sturdy appearance.
She needn’t have worried, the ladder was as safe as anything bought in a store.

Tara looked up and grinned, enjoying the view.
Sensing her gaze, Willow wiggled her butt a little in response.


She got her first look at the inside of the tree house. Though it could obviously use a clean and tidy, it was in good repair.
“Oh my god, you have cute little curtains!”
Tara smiled as her head popped up through the floor hatch. She was pleased to see that her little house hadn’t been vandalised or turned into a drug den.
She was even more pleased to see Willow bouncing about as she admired the unbearably cute house.


“This is so cute!” Willow said, her eyes lit up with wonder. “I wish we’d had something like this in Sunnydale, though we’d probably have been eaten by vampires or something. But I still wish we’d had one!”

Tara laughed with Willow’s infectious enthusiasm.

“I have an terrible urge to ask Xander to build us our own treehouse now,” Willow said with a huge grin. “With a landing pad for us to take off from, and everything!”


Tara grinned from ear to ear as her fiancé enthused about their own treehouse. “Have you given up on the Scooby palace already?”


Willow looked a little guilty. “Uh, well, maybe we could have it as a secret retreat sort of thing? You know, a place just for you and me to get away from it all?”


“Only cool flying witches allowed?” Tara said.


Willow bobbed her head. “Yep. Though at the rate Dawnie is going, she’ll be flying in six months. Don’t tell her I said that though, her head is big enough already.”

She held her arms open for Tara to snuggle in, which she did smoothly.

“I bet you loved it here baby.”


Tara nodded, snuggling into Willow’s chest happily. “It was wonderful. It was like our own little place.”


Willow softly kissed the top of her head. “April was a very lucky girl. I wishI’d lived next to you when we were kids.”


“And miss out on Xander?”


“Well, he could live next door too. He could beat up Donny for you, when April wasn’t around.”


Tara chuckled. “That would have been nice. And momma could have taught you magic, when she taught me.”


Willow wriggled. “Neat.”


The pair sat in silence for a little while.
“You know we’re going to have to get up and face the dragon at some stage,” Tara said reluctantly.


Willow sighed. “I know. I’m just enjoying Tara-snuggle-time too much to move.”


“I know the feeling,” Tara said, clearly enjoying her snuggle time.


“So… as much as I don’t want to bring up a yucky subject, what are we going to do when we get to the farm, and meet Donny and your dad?” Willow said quietly.


It was Tara’s turn to sigh as she thought about it.
“I think we should try your idea first sweetie. We should try and explain why we’re here, and ask them for my mom’s things.”


Willow nodded slowly. “And if they want to know where you’ve been?”


Tara shrugged a little. “Then we tell them.”


“That’s going to be some conversation,” Willow said.


“Uh-huh.”


They sat in comfortable silence for another few minutes.


“And if they don’t want to be all civilized about it?” Willow said hesitantly. “I now have way more respect for Giles, by the way. Looking for the doom-and-gloom stuff is hard on the old noggin.”


Tara nodded. “I really hope we can talk like real people. But if not, then that’s just too bad, because I came for my mother’s things, and I’m not leaving without them.”


Willow blinked at Tara’s no nonsense tone, and grinned. “Ooo, I like take-charge-Tara,” she said.


Take-charge-Tara raised an eyebrow archly. “What are you saying Willow? Did you want me to tie you to the bed or something?”


Willow blushed a little. “Well if you’re offering…”


Tara blinked in surprise, before her face broke out into a soft half-smile. She pushed up and kissed Willow on the nose. “Do you know what’s so wonderful about our relationship, sweetie?”


“Um, cuddles, companionship, holding hands, magic and beautiful snuggles?” Willow said uncertainly.


Tara shook her head, and snuggled back down. “Nope. It’s that we get to be equals in everything.”


Willow smiled shyly. “You mean…?”


Tara nodded against her chest. “I’ll happily tie you to the bed and have my wicked way with you, my sweet. If you’ll do the same for me?”

Willow nodded owlishly, her words having deserted her.


Tara sighed happily. “Something fun to look forward to.”


“Golly,” Willow said.
She sat in silence, absorbing the shiny new idea.
She eventually cleared her throat. “Um, I’ve been thinking…”


Tara smirked. “Mmm?”


“We’re going to have a lot more room in the new place.”


“Mmm.”


“Four. Poster. Bed.”


“Mmm!” Tara said. “I like that idea.”


“We can get one of those oldy-time ones, all polished dark wood and velvet and stuff.”


Tara hummed again. “Mmm. I might have to start calling you ‘Milady Willow.’”


“Queen Tara.”


“Mmm. If I’m queen, then you have to be co-queen.”


“Really?”


Tara grinned. “Uh-huh. Only royalty get to tie other royalty to beds. Otherwise it’s treason.”


Willow had a goofy grin. “I like the idea of being co-queen. I think that sounds pretty spiffy.”


“Queen-sized bed?” Tara asked innocently.


Willow giggled. “Goof.”


“Do you still want a treehouse?”


“Um, am I in trouble if I say yes?”


“No sweetie.”


She sighed. “I guess we should go and face the music. The sooner we get done, the sooner we can get back and pester Xander to start building us that house.”


“Neat!” Willow said brightly. “We can get Bridey to design it for us. I might be able to help with a little earth magic.”


Tara sat up. “You’re really serious about this?”


“Sure! I mean, I don’t wanna live away from the gang, but can you imagine how awesome it would be to have a house up in a big beautiful tree? That we could use as a getaway?”


Tara thought about it for a moment. “Getting close to nature, in comfort and style.”


“Yep.”


She smiled. “It does sound nice.”


Tara stood up and help out her hand to help Willow to her feet. “I’m persuaded. Let’s go beard the dragon while I’m still feeling a little bit brave.”


Willow put a restraining hand on Tara’s arm. “Baby, before we do, I think I should use some of my newfound maturity and honesty, and talk about a few things.”


Tara looked concerned. “Baby? What is it?”


“I know you’re a strong, confident woman, and don’t need me to protect you.”

Tara raised one eyebrow in question.

“But Tara, I need you to know, I won’t let them hurt you.”
Willow’s eyes glittered with unshed tears. “I don’t have it in me baby. I’m sorry if that makes me a bad fiancé for not respecting your strengths, but I can’t. I can’t stand by and let anyone hurt you.”


Tara pulled her close. “Shh, baby. It’s ok. You’re not a bad fiancé at all Willow.”
Willow whimpered, prompting Tara to explain. “I couldn’t let anyone hurt you either.”


“You’re not upset?” Willow said with a sniffle.


Tara kissed her softly. “No sweetie. How could I be? My wife-to-be said she won’t let my mean old relatives hurt me. She’s very sweet.”


Willow perked up a little. “I guess I’m just freaked about all this. I mean last time was awful, and I’m worried that this time I’m going to blow everybody up.”


Tara shook her head slowly. “No Willow. I’m not worried at all. You’ve had your trial by fire at the mountain. You held it together under the worst conditions imaginable, so I have absolute confidence in you.”


Willow felt Tara’s utter conviction flowing down their link into her, soothing most, if not all her fears.
“You really have faith in me, don’t you?”


“I do.”


Willow thought for a moment.
“Then I guess I should stop worrying, and live up to the faith you’ve shown in me.”


Tara just smiled.



+++


Hand in hand, the two witches stood at the bottom of the gravel driveway, leading up to the Maclay farmstead.
“Ready baby?” Willow asked, squeezing Tara’s hand.


Tara took a deep cleansing breath and nodded. “Let’s go take my mom’s things to our new home.”


Together they strode confidently towards the house. Whatever they might face, they had each other. And there was no way each would let the other down.

As they approached the farm house, the first thing visible were the high branches of her tree.
And then came the house.

Tara smiled as she saw the tree.
Her mother had planted it when she was carrying her, and she’d always called it ‘Tara’s tree.’

But she could only think of it as her mother’s tree.
Her mother had always smiled and said ‘My sweet Tara, this tree represents your future.’


She had always been reassured by the way the tree grew fast and strong, resisting storms, insects and blight.
In the summer heat, its green drapery created a blessed cool patch, that was just perfect for picnics on a Saturday afternoon.
She stopped as she saw the mighty tree, its branches still lush with curtains of green.


“Baby?” Willow said concerned. She’d felt to sudden spike of emotion the tree caused.


“My Sweet Tara,” Tara whispered, repeating the words her mother had told her, from the time she was a little girl. “This tree represents your future.”


“Baby? What’s wrong?”


“Willow… It’s a Willow!” she said, excitement mixed with trepidation.


“Um, poor sentence construction is usually my thing. Or Buffy. I’m confused,” Willow said.


“How did she know baby? How did she know?”


Willow looked puzzled. Tara was radiating surprize and disbelief, mixed with a sense of awe, so Willow wasn’t too panicky.
“Sweetie, you’re going to need to give me more, because I have no idea what’s going on.”


“My mom planted this tree before I was born.”


“Ok,” Willow said, trying her best to understand.


“And she said it represented my future.”


“I always thought she meant that it grew big and strong, and that I should take hope from it.”


“That sounds kind of nice,” Willow hazarded.


“Baby, look at the tree. It’s a [/i]Willow[/i] tree!”


“Um, not wanting to be a downer girl, but we walked past a bunch of willows by the river bank. They’re common trees.”


Tara shook her head. “But they were not planted by my mother to represent my future.
She looked at Willow wonderingly. “You were always my future baby.”

Whatever Willow was going to say next was lost, as a mocking voice cut across their conversation.


“Aww, ain’t that sweet.”


Both girls turned to see the owner of the mocking voice, and were completely unsurprised to see that the owner was Donny Maclay.

He shook his head with mock sadness. “As if it weren’t bad enough you bein’ a demon witch, you had to be a dyke too.”
He stepped off the porch with a frown. “Goddamn girl, is there any perverted thing you won’t do?”

Willow’s mouth gaped in shock. She was prepared for unpleasantness, but for it to be so blatant and ugly caught her by surprise.
Tara just shook her head. “It’s called love Donny. You should look into it.”


Donny nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I can see your time in California has given you a smart mouth, on top of your evil. You need a firm hand to keep you under control, I can see.”


That kicked Willow out of her shock. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. “Try anything like that, and I will fuck with you in ways that defy mortal comprehension.”

He smirked. “I might just like that. You’ve got a sweet mouth, I can tell.”


Tara looked annoyed. She had been expecting her brother to be unpleasant, but enough was enough.
“Just stop Donny. We didn’t come here to trade insults. I told Willow we weren’t hillbillies, and frankly you’re making me look bad.”


He just grinned at her, confident on his home-turf.
“Why are you here, little sister?” he asked in an almost civilized tone.


“We’re getting married. I came for mom’s ring and a few other things.”


He shook his head almost regretfully. “Now Tara, you know that ain’t possible. That sort of thing is for real people, not dykes and faggots.”


“God, could you be any more unpleasant?” Tara asked, exasperated.


“I feel like I’m in a shot from deliverance,” Willow muttered.


Donny’s grin widened. He was clearly feeling in control of the situation.


“You see Donny,” Willow explained patiently, as if to a child. “What you don’t understand here, is that you are not in control of anything. We came to ask politely for her mom’s things. Because we’re nice.”
She pointed to her face with her free hand. “This is my nice face. You don’t want to see my angry face.”


He smirked again. “You think you can just roll in here and tell me-”


“Sleep,” Tara whispered.

Donny dropped like a stone.

Tara squeezed Willow’s hand. “Sorry sweetie. I could see you were building up to a quality butt-kicking, but I’d just had enough of his nastiness.”


Willow nodded. “Yep. I was seriously considering beating him around the head and shoulders with a tractor. But your way is good too.”
She looked at the scruffy blond man, lying in a heap on the wooden porch. “I’m gonna have to learn that spell at some point. It could be really handy.”


“Tara?” a voice said. “What’s happening here?”


John Maclay stepped onto the porch.
The pair looked up from the unconscious Donny, to the new voice.


Tara met his stern gaze. “Hello Daddy.”


He nodded as if confirming something to himself. “It’s true then. You lied.”


Tara sighed. “No daddy. I died. I just got better is all.”


His stern look remained, intensifying somewhat. “Girl, people don’t just come back from the dead.”


“Buildings fall down. People die,” Tara said. “But real love is forever.”


“That’s just fanciful talk, girl.”


Tara made a show of taking Willow’s hand. She extended her wings with a snap, scattering the wind-fallen leaves on the driveway.


Real love is forever,” she said, as she stretched her wings up high, shading them from the early morning sun.


John Maclay stared open-mouthed at the display of snow-white feathers. They were as white as arctic snow, and perfect, not one out of place.


“Kinda makes the whole demon thing seem kinda stupid now, huh?” Willow remarked.

John Maclay had nothing to say. He just stared in shock as long-held beliefs just crashed together in his head.

“Where did the idea for that stupid demon junk come from?” Willow asked acidly.


Mr Maclay was able to blink and look away for a moment. “Uh, a book. There’s a book that told us the truth,” he said in a dazed voice.


“I think I want a look at that book,” Willow said darkly.


“We came for Mom’s things, Daddy,” Tara said. She folded her wings across her back, letting the morning sun warm everyone.


He shook his head almost regretfully. “All her things are gone.”


This time it was Tara’s turn to shake her head. “The things we came for are still here. Mama’s most precious things cannot be touched by anyone.”
She looked over her shoulder at the vigorous Willow tree. “Just like her tree.”


“That’s your tree girl. Your mama planted it for you.”


“I know. That’s why I think of it as hers. She planted it. And she’s buried beneath it.”


He nodded, occasionally shooting glances over Tara’s shoulder, and at the crumpled figure snoring gently on the porch.

Tara stepped towards the door, tugging Willow gently with her.


“He’ll be fine,” Willow said. “He’s just sleeping.”


“I know you don’t like magic daddy. But it’s the reason the farm did so well. Can I take the last few things away please? After this, there will be no more need to see us, and no magic on the farm, except that which naturally resides in the earth.”

He nodded slowly, clearly conflicted. “Take what you need Tara girl. She… she would have wanted you to have it.”


Tara smiled sadly and stepped up onto the porch, towing Willow by the hand. Wordlessly they stepped over the sleeping figure of Donny, and went inside.

John Maclay was left on the porch with only his thoughts and his son.
At that point, neither made him happy.



+++


Inside, Willow and Tara looked at the house that held such powerful memories.

When Rhiannon was alive, she had gathered flowers every day to brighten the hall, and especially the kitchen.
Now, the hallway was clean, spotless. But un-cared for. It held the look of transient housing, or the home of a confirmed bachelor, lacking in decoration or homey touches.

Willow Felt the sadness wash over Tara as she took in the changes in the house. All traces of her mother’s touch were gone.
It was almost as if the past had been erased, and it made Tara deeply sad.

The kitchen was worse. Once it had been filled with family pictures, flowers and bundles of fragrant herbs hanging up to dry. The very scent of those herbs and flowers being the scent of happiness to Tara.
Now it was all gone. The room had less personality than a motel kitchen.
It has a very worn sort of cleanliness. Not that of a home, but a house, where people happened to be.


Tara nodded to herself. Her mother was already gone from this place.
It was time to take her things home.
A place filled with slightly wacky people, but family in a very meaningful way.


“Baby? Where would her things be?” Willow said, looking around.
Everything reeked of an almost military precision. Like Riley’s room, on the few occasions that she’d seen it.


Tara smiled. “Look around sweetie. Tell me what you see.”


Willow looked around. The word ‘nothing’ on the tip of her tongue.
But, she could feel the relief from Tara, so something that she was looking for was still here.

She let her mind wander, not actively looking for anything, just simply being.


Her mind’s eye was drawn to the bottom drawer, down low where the awkward, seldom-used utensils were kept.
“There,” she pointed.


Tara smiled. Willow was not the best at sensing spells and charms, but she’d improved a lot since she had started her magical studies.
“It’s glamoured and warded,” she said.

In some ways it was testimony to Willow’s spiritual growth, that her busy mind could at last settle. And listen. And see.
And Tara felt a little proud that she had helped Willow make some of those steps.
She pulled the drawer open. Inside was a flat, lacquered wooden box and a large old-style book.


Tara smiled. This book was her only real link to her past.
Generations of witches had contributed to the lore held inside, and she grimaced as the guilt hit.
She’d run away from the farm in such a hurry, unwilling to risk these treasures to the journey, and college life.
She should have taken these precious things with her.


“Baby? What’s wrong?” Willow asked.

“I left it behind when I, um, left. I wasn’t sure what UC Sunnydale was going to be like, so I left it all behind.”
She looked up. “I should have taken them with me.”


Willow frowned. “Hey, don’t beat yourself up over it. What if this stuff had gotten stolen? Or wrecked in some demon attack? Imagine how bad you would have felt then.”


“I know. That’s why I left it behind in the first place. I’m just wishing that I hadn’t, now.”


Willow squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Well we have them now, and that’s what matters. Come on baby, let’s get out of here and celebrate.”


Tara took a quick peek inside the box to make sure everything was still there after all these years. Everything was as she’d left it, which was a relief.

“You’re right sweetie. Let’s go home.”


Willow fidgeted a little. “Before we go, can we see your room? I mean, it’s not like we’re ever coming back here, so we may never get the chance again.”


Tara sighed. “There’s nothing to see Willow. All the life in this house was in the kitchen. It was the place we were left alone to just be. .”
She looked around sadly. “And that is all gone.”
She looked at Willow’s crestfallen look, and smiled sadly. “But if you want to see, it’s not very far.”


Willow nodded solemnly. “Please? Even if it’s an empty room, it would make me feel a little closer to you.”


Tara quirked a half-smile. She could deny Willow nothing.
She passed her mother’s book of shadows to Willow and took her by the hand. Pausing only to pick up the box of precious things, and lead willow upstairs.


The small room was exactly as Tara expected it to be: sterile.
While her disciplinarian father had discouraged any kind of clutter, untidiness or dramatic demonstrations of personality, she had been allowed to decorate her room in a minimalist fashion.


Now the bundles of flowers, the crystal sun-catcher, dried herbs and paintings were all gone. The furniture was all as she’d left it, the bed, dresser and drawers were all in place, but the room was as sterile as a surgery and as characterless as an army bunk room.

“See?”


Willow grinned. “It doesn’t matter baby. It makes me feel closer to you, no matter how silly that might be.”

She sat down on the bed with a bounce. “Hello little Tara,” Willow said softly. She patted the mattress reassuringly, clearly talking to someone not present.
“Now don’t you worry. No matter how bad things might be, there’s someone out there for you. Someone who loves you more than life itself. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s been waiting for you all her life.”


Willow smiled up at the bemused Tara, currently leaning on the doorframe.
“You are going to be so loved, and have so many new friends. Good friends.”


“Goof,” Tara said with a half-smile.


“Yes, but you’re forgetting something. I’m your goof,” Willow said happily.


Tara pulled Willow to her feet and into an appreciative hug. “Yes you are,” she murmured contentedly into her ear.
They stood together for a little while, simply happy to be. Together and strong, chasing away some of the demons of the past.

Eventually they broke apart, Tara searching Willow’s amused gaze.
“What?” she asked softly.


“You,” Willow replied. “I could sense you waiting for me to get impatient and want to play with your new toys.”


“Sneak.”


Willow grinned. “Yup. So I didn’t. I guess you’re the impatient one today.”


“True. Let’s get out of here. I want to show you some things.”


“Special things?”


“Very special.”


“Neat.”


Tara’s expression hardened. “There’s something I wanted to say to my father before I go though. I owe him that.”


“Baby, you don’t owe him anything.”


“Oh yes I do,” Tara said. “I owe him a piece of my mind, if nothing else.”


“Whatever you need,” Willow said. “I’m here.”


Tara smiled, reassured by Willow’s support. “I know.”


“Like you said, we’ll probably never be coming back here. So I want to close this chapter of my life properly, and move on.”


“To your shiny new life,” Willow said with a smile.


Tara grinned back. “Filled with love and family and marriage and babies.”


“And the occasional apocalypse. Can’t forget them.”


“True. Where would our life be, without the world trying to end every few years?”
She pulled Willow to her feet. “Come on sweetie, let’s go.”



+++



As Tara and Willow came down the stairs, they were met by her Tara’s father.
He had a battered old leather-bound journal clutched in his hands.

“We have what we came for Daddy. We’re going now. I don’t think you’ll see us again.”

He nodded curtly.

“But before we go, I wanted to say something to you.”

He was impassive.


“You were wrong.”

John Maclay’s face did not change in the slightest, remaining closed, with a slight frown.

She took a breath to gather herself.
“You were wrong about the demon. You were wrong about the magic. You were wrong to keep us under your thumb all those years.”


He stood stoically, taking her judgement in silence.

“It was wrong of you to beat me. And just as wrong to let Donny beat me too.”
Tara felt Willow squeeze her hand reassuringly.

She let out her breath with a sigh.
“We are going home now. To our family.”


Tara’s defiant gaze bored into her father’s impassive stone-like face. “And I want you to know, that when it’s time to have children of our own, we will never be locking them in the basement!”


John Maclay nodded.
He drew himself up, like a man facing a firing squad with equanimity. “Tara, I’m not going to apologise for what I did. I did what I believed was right.”

Willow just stared, open mouthed in disbelief.

“But I will say that I’m sorry that your childhood wasn’t as happy as it could have been.”
“Here,” he said, holding out the scorched and battered journal.
“It doesn’t make things right. But at least you’ll get the chance to understand. Maybe I did do the wrong thing. But I did it for the right reasons.”


Tara took the journal, unsure about what to say.


Her father wasn’t a man to apologise. He believed that if you lived your life right, you never had to say you were sorry.
And he believed in living his life right.
But for him, this was as close to an apology as anyone had ever got.

She reached out and took the book.



Donny’s disbelieving voice cut through the solemn moment.
“That’s it?! You’re just gonna let ‘em go?!”


“Donny Maclay, you close your mouth right now!” he snapped, rounding suddenly on his son.


“Let him talk,” Willow said in a low and angry voice.

She glared at him, her eyes dark with fury.
“There’s something you need to know boy. There isn’t a darn thing you can do about any of this.”


His expression soured. “You watch your mouth, you little bitch.”


Willow grinned nastily at him. “Or what? You’ll hit me? Put me in my place?”

His eyes narrowed.
He didn’t say yes, or even nod, but his intent was clear.

And Willow laughed.


Despite the anger and tension in the air, it was a laugh of genuine hilarity.
And it wiped the stern look from Donny’s face.
He couldn’t bear to be laughed at.

Willow’s laughter stirred him to anger. She was laughing at him like he was nothing. As though he didn’t even matter.
His face twisted into an ugly expression of hate and he stepped forward to teach the redhead a lesson.


His father grabbed his arm tightly and held him back, for perhaps the first time in his life.
Shocked, he looked at his father.

Many years as a marine had given John Maclay a sense for danger. And he knew that the slight redheaded woman was more dangerous than anything he had seen on the battlefield.


Willow wiped the tears from her cheeks, still laughing. “You know Donald,” she said, putting deliberate stress on his name. “The thought of you trying to be all intimidating just makes me laugh, and you know why?”


“Why don’t you go ahead and educate me,” he said darkly.


She let everything fall away, and stared into his eyes, willing him to see the horror that she had seen.
He met her eyes, and was forced to look away.
This woman had stared into the abyss.
Unflinchingly.


“I have seen things you cannot imagine. I have seen monsters try to destroy the world, time and time again. But I have seen the worst thing in all creation.”

She continued remorselessly on, her voice hollow. “I was there when Tara died. Her blood was on my shirt, her last breath on my skin. And after that, nothing can scare me.”

“A goddess hurt Tara once. And I. Made. Her. Scream,” she said flatly.

“I called Osiris, god of the dead, from the underworld to return Tara to me. And when he wouldn’t, I punished him. I made him cry out in agony.”

“And when I found the man who shot her, I skinned him alive, and burned his body to ash.”

He met her gaze and saw the seething hatred and limitless contempt there.

“So what do you think I’m likely to do, to the angry little boy that made her life hell for so many years?”


Donnie tried to swallow nervously, but found that his mouth had gone dry.


“Nothing,” she whispered. “I’m not going to do anything. Because Tara doesn’t want me to.”
“You hurt her, shamed her and made her afraid for years! And she still doesn’t want you hurt.”

“You can’t imagine how much better than you, she is.”


Willow straightened up and brushed herself off. “I can only hope you’ll learn something from all this. But I bet that you won’t. So I want you to know, I’ll be watching. And if I find any domestic abuse calls with your name on them… if I hear about any gay-bashing near you, anything bad, I’ll come looking. And Donny?”

His eyes narrowed.

“I can find you literally anywhere.”

He forced himself to say nothing.


Tara laid a gentle hand on Willow’s arm. “Sweetie? It’s time to go.”

Willow nodded and turned away from the Maclays, toward the future. Towards Tara.
She smiled warmly, the anger and darkness fading away, like fog before the morning sun.


“One last thing to do,” Willow said.

Tara raised an eyebrow.

Willow gestured to the tree. Tara’s tree.


Tara smiled and nodded happily. Willow tucked the spellbook under one arm, and joined hands with her love.
She was lead to the tree, which Tara touched with a familiar hand.

Willow reached out and touched the smooth bark reverentially. She sighed as she felt the strength flowing through the tree.
Someone had put quite a bit of spell-work into the tree at some point, and Willow could feel the energy flowing through it.

“This feels like our field,” Willow whispered.


Tara hugged her close. “Where do you think I got the fertility spell from?”


Willow blinked. “Wow. Your mom really planned ahead.”


Tara chuckled in her ear, sending happy shivers down Willow’s spine. “Not that spell silly. The one that made the flowers grow.”


“Oops.”


“The farm was quite successful, even though the land isn’t the best. This spell is why.”


Willow closed her eyes. “Thank you Mrs Maclay. For bringing up someone so wonderful.”


“Rhiannon, sweetie. Mom’s name was Rhiannon.”


Willow smiled happily. “Thank you Rhiannon. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. Thanking people who aren’t here. For you.”
She frowned slightly. “I wish we knew where she’d gone. There’s so much happening lately that we can’t figure out. It would be nice to have one mystery solved.”


Something crystalized in Tara at that moment.

“There’s something I want your help with, Willow.”


“Sure. What do you need?”


Tara thought how best to explain. “Mom loved this farm. And Daddy or Donny wouldn’t admit it, but she was a major part of why the farm was so successful.”


“Really?” Willow said.
She looked around. “Um, I know I’m not all ‘nature girl’ but this place doesn’t scream ‘successful’ to me.”


Tara pointed at the farm truck and the RV parked by the shed. “We had a new truck, that big camper, a modern tractor, and don’t owe the bank anything. The farm’s pretty good, even if daddy never liked spending money on luxuries. Or paint.”


Willow nodded. “Ok. So… what are we doing?”


Tara squeezed her affectionately, pleased to have Willow’s unwavering support.
“We’re reinforcing Mama’s spell.”


Willow nodded slowly. “I get it. It’s her legacy.”
She grinned cheekily. “Even if it helps out a couple of giant poopy heads.”


As if reading her mind, one of the poopy-heads called out. “Y’all are still here? I thought you was going back to dyke land?”


Willow rolled her eyes. “Can I turn him inside out? Or into a frog? Please?”


Tara chuckled. “I think if you really wanted to hurt him, you should turn him into a girl. But no sweetie, no transmogrifying my brother.”


Willow grinned. “Are you sure? Because I researched this sex swapping spell a while back…”


That got a raised eyebrow. “Really?”


Willow shrugged. “Evil jacket. Made everyone fall in love with the boy wearing it.”


Tara chuckled, shaking her head in disbelief at the craziness of their lives. “And this lead to a sex-change spell how?”


Willow squirmed in her arms a little. “Well, it got me too. And hey, gay now. so…”


“So you decided to make ‘him’ into ‘her,’” Tara said as the light dawned.


“Well, yeah. Plus if he was a she, I’d have way less competition.”

She thought for a moment. “Well I thought I would. Now it turns out, no. No I wouldn’t.”


She glared at Donny, who was standing on the porch, trying desperately to get hold of the situation.
“Hush boy! Can’t you see this isn’t the day for this?”


Donny glared at his father.
John glared right back.

“Open your eyes boy! Your sister has wings! Whatever’s happening here, it isn’t what any of us was expecting.”

Donny glanced at Tara, noticing the snow-white wings folded across her back, registering them for what they were, rather than some bizarre costume or funky backpack.

She turned her back on him, giving him a splendid view of the expanse of pure white feathers.


He didn’t know what to say. None of this fit in his world. “Tara… Tara’s an angel?” he said.
Shocked wasn’t the word.
Truth be told, he had no idea how to process this.


Now he notices,” Willow muttered, turning back to the tree.


Hand in hand, the pair closed their eyes and called the power to them.
Strength flowed up from the ancient earth and down from the eternal sky. Willow pulled the power to her, gently, unhurriedly, and passed it on to Tara. She had only the vaguest idea how this spell worked, so for now she was only helping with the spell.

Tara, for her part, didn’t need to cast a spell. The spell was already in place, its structure and energy flow woven into the living tree.
All she had to do was strengthen it. In essence, to recharge the spell.

She and Willow wove their energies together, and let their combined strength flow into the tree. And from the tree, to every part of the land. They both glowed with soft light as they renewed the land, giving strength to that which Rhiannon had loved, and given so much for.


When they opened their eyes, they could see the fruits of their work.
The flowers surrounding the tree had become riotous, a veritable bounty of glorious colour and rich scent.

She smiled radiantly. “Look what we have done,” she said softly.


Willow grinned back. “This is never going to get old.”


“Time to go. Hmm, do you have enough practice with the flight spell to do it? Without all the chanting and ingredients?”


Willow looked worried. “Maybe. In an emergency, maybe. I’m pretty sure if I try it now, I’m going to end up with no pants. And I like these pants, they’re really comfy.”


Tara smirked. “As much as I’d like that, it would kind of ruin the whole ‘cool exit’ plan.”
She stealthily checked out Willow’s behind. “Plus I’m not one for sharing.”


“Tara Giles-Rosenberg, you saucy vixen!” Willow said in a mock-shocked voice.


“Oops,” Tara said with a grin. “No one told me angels have a naughty streak.”


“Well… let’s get you home. I want to find out all about this naughty streak.”


“Well, if we’re going for a dignified exit, we should probably walk.”


“Pooh-pooh I say. Let’s wow the natives a little. I mean hey, who’s gonna believe these guys?”


Tara’s mouth twisted into a wry smirk. “Julian Clary lessons and flying lessons, all in one day? You are so bad.”


Willow grinned back. “I am very seldom naughty. So let’s make it count.”


Tara closed her eyes for a moment and summoned additional strength. The last thing she wanted to do was drop Willow.
She felt a twinge of guilt for basically showing off with her abilities, but only a twinge. It wasn’t every day that you came out to your relatives like this.
The Goddess apparently didn’t begrudge her this celebration, and granted her silent prayer. Her body flooded with additional strength.

She gathered Willow into her arms as the familiar white and blue pinpoints of light flowed around her. She extended her wings up high.
“Hold on tight sweetie,” she murmured into Willow’s ear.

Willow took a deep breath and crouched with Tara, jumping up hard, as Tara brought her wings down with a powerful snap.
With a few mighty wing beats the pair were airborne, Willow making a passable imitation of Xena’s warcry.


The Maclays watched open-mouthed as the pair vanished into the sky.



+++



Willow was laughing hard, her face red as they leaned against Tara’s reading tree, down by the river.


“Oh my. I can only imagine the expression on their faces,” Tara said, between gasps.


Willow faked a terrible hillbilly accent. “Mah daughter returned from the deyed… an’ she’s a angel!”


“See it live on Sally Jesse!” Tara said, sounding like a TV announcer.


They dissolved in helpless giggles again.

“Oh wow,” Willow said with a sigh. “That was fun.”


“I can’t believe I even said my family weren’t hillbilly’s,” Tara said.


“Uh, your dad doesn’t really give off a hillbilly vibe. But your brother… yeah, he’s a different story.”


Tara shook her head, disbelieving. “I don’t know what happened to him. This is not the back hills of Appalachia, we have a good school system here. Donny went to the same school that I did.”


Willow thought for a moment. “You don’t think there really is a demon, do you? In him, I mean?”


Tara pondered the thought for a while.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably not. I don’t think people need to have demon blood to be mean to their little sisters.”


Willow brightened. “Which reminds me, we should have a look in the journal your dad gave you. I mean, we can give it to Giles to decipher, but it won’t hurt to have a look.”


“Sure.”


Tara pulled the journal out from where she had tucked it in her jacket, and handed it over.
Willow took it eagerly and quickly started skimming through it.
“Huh, looks like it’s been through the wars a bit. There’s some water damage, and it looks like the back half has been burnt.”

Tara sat on the grass at the foot of the tree, and pulled Willow into her embrace.
Willow hummed happily, warm in Tara’s arms.


After a couple of minutes she spoke. “Oh poop. Poor Giles.”


Tara felt the spike of mixed annoyance and sadness shoot down the link they shared.
“Sweetie, what is it?”


“Oh fuzzy heck. I think I know where the demon story came from.”

She waited patiently for Willow to puzzle through the pages she was looking at.

“I don’t suppose you had a great-great-grandmother called Marion did you?” Willow eventually asked.


Tara frowned, thinking. “I’m not really sure. Maybe. Why?”


“Because according to this, she might just have been a Slayer.”


Tara blinked in surprise. “A Slayer?”

Willow nodded grimly. “Yep. There’s mention in here of a Marion Ó Liatháin. And I’m thinking that can’t be a coincidence.”
She looked up into the blue eyes of her mate. “Baby, this is a watcher’s diary.”
She held up the diary, open to the front page. It showed an inscription, ‘Council of Watchers, year of our lord 1904, Errol Plummer.’
Below that was another line. ‘Herein is an account of the triumphs and tribulations of Marion Ó Liatháin, Slayer.’


“Oh my. So the ‘demon’ was the Slayer?” Tara asked.


“I don’t know yet. But if it’s not, it’s one doozy of a coincidence.”

Willow relaxed into Tara’s comforting embrace as she flicked through the pages, looking for clues.

“Huh. It looks from this as though they didn’t know where she was. All the first few months of entries are this Errol guy trying to find her.”


“I’m assuming that he eventually did.”


Willow read some more.

“Yup. He apparently followed some rumours that members of a ‘proud and ancient lineage’ had settled in the area. Uh, and then he heard about a massacre in a place called Dixie.”


Tara frowned. “I heard about that. We were always told it was Indians, but it seemed a bit too pat for me.”


“Native Americans always get the bad press.”


Tara nodded sadly. “Especially here. The whole area is kind of white… and proud of it.”


Willow sighed. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”


“Sweetie? What does the journal say happened?”


“Uh, nothing good. This Errol guy makes Quentin Travers look like a new age hippy. Get this: ‘It seems miss Ó Liatháin has defied her maker and rejected the place that man and god have made for her. She has rebelled against her betters and slain the menfolk of her family. She must be dealt with strictly, and shown her place at once!’” Willow said angrily.


“Goddess!” Tara said. “That sounds kinda harsh, even for the times.”


“No molly-coddling this criminal,” Willow quoted. “I will have none of this wishy-washy business my colleagues are fond of. The Slayer is an instrument, and must be wielded as such by a strong and steady hand, and the sooner the better!”

Tara sat in silence, absorbing the impact of Willow’s words.

“Tara? Baby, are you ok?”


“I’m alright Willow. I was just thinking. What would it be like to be abused by the menfolk and to then suddenly inherit the power of the Slayer? It must have felt like divine justice.”


“I’m thinking that was probably why she went a little crazy.”


“I can understand that. Especially with Buffy and Faith as our friends. They’re very… physical with their emotions.”


Willow thought about Faith. Given what she knew of the Bostonian, it made sense. Faith would have come down on them like the wrath of god.

“Yeah. That seems likely.”


“So, this watcher told Marion that it was a demon that gave her the power?” Tara asked.


“I dunno. Give me a minute to see if I can find anything.”


Willow flicked through the pages with amazing speed, searching for the part of the journal where the two met.
“Here we go. Um, he told her that there was a dark power inside her. He said that the dark power came from a demon, and only discipline could stop it coming out and killing everyone she loved.”


“Half true I suppose.”


“He also mentions ‘de cruciatore’ the testing potion, which I can only assume is the stuff that took Buffy’s powers.”


“So he drugged her?”


“Looks like. Then he beat the crap out of her, to show her that she was nothing without her strength.”


“Goddess, what a charmer.”


“Oh yeah. I gotta say, those council types were kinda poopy-heads, but they were nothing like this guy.”

Willow turned her head and rubbed her cheek against Tara. “You know, if you’d been around when I cast the big Slayer spell, you’d be a Slayer now, I think.”


Tara made a sour face. “I’m glad that I’m not. I don’t think I could handle all that fighting.”


Willow smirked. “There’s other compensations. Stamina, heightened sensitivity, less need for sleep.”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t need a lot of sleep. And I think I do ok in the stamina department.”


“Vixen.”


“Yes. Anything else?”


Willow shook her head. “Not right now. I’d need to do some more in-depth reading, to get anything more than a few phrases that jumped out at me.”


Tara sighed. “Well, at least we have some understanding of where this mad idea came from.”


Willow’s eyes had drifted back to the page, and a spell diagram that stood out from the hand-written words.
“Uh, hey, here’s a demon detecting spell. I think she used it to test if he was right about the demon.”


Tara leaned over a little, to get a look at the diagram. She looked closely at the page.
“That certainly looks like a detection spell, though it’s not one I’m familiar with.”


“Straight magic. No invoking of spirits, gods or anything.”


Tara frowned as her eyes traced the spell’s diagram. “’Other than man,’” she quoted.


“Huh?”


“Here,” she said, pointing to part of the diagram. “This spell is worded poorly. It doesn’t discriminate. This would pick up anything supernatural. Witches, werewolves and probably Slayers would all show the same way.”


It was Willow’s turn to make a sour face. “And now we know how he got it to stick.”


Tara nodded. “If this was her spell, she would have trusted the results.”


“Phooey.”


“Well, this isn’t what we came for, but it’s good to have an understanding of what caused all this,” Tara said.
“Put this away, at least until Giles has a chance to look at it, and we can look at things that are a little more pleasant.”
She patted the grey leather-bound spellbook.


“Neat!” Willow said. “I’ve never seen a genuine Book of Shadows.”


“Mom never called it that,” Tara said as she pulled the big book into Willow’s lap. “But yeah, that is its official title.”


“What did she call it?” Willow asked curiously.


Tara smiled. “Promise you won’t laugh?”


“No,” Willow said. “I can promise you that I’ll try. But if you’re even asking that question, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to do anything but giggle.”


“Mom called it ‘the big book o’ spells.’ Sometimes the ‘bumper fun book o’ magic.’”

Willow burst into giggles.

Tara smirked wryly. “Yeah, mom had an odd sense of humour,” Tara said, opening the book as Willow giggled madly.


The spine of the book made a crinkling sound as she opened it up to the first page, breathing in the scent of history.
Her history, the history of generations of witches. Which clearly involved herbs. Lots of herbs.

“Is é seo an leabhar litrithe de grá Bodhmal , penned ag an Liath. Mar gheall ar mian linn iad siúd a leanann a bheith in ann a léamh i ndáiríre é.”
Tara read out.


“What does that mean?” Willow asked.


“This is the spell book of loved Bodhmal, penned by the Gray. Because we wish those who follow to be able to actually read it.”


Willow snickered. “I’m guessing that Bodhmal’s writing wasn’t so good?”


“This is the book of shadows for my ancestors, Willow. It’s more than a simple spell book, it’s the living history of those who went before.”


“Wow.”


“Mom never let me read it,” she said, turning the page. “She always said I’d understand when-”

She stopped in shock. There on the page was a beautifully rendered charcoal sketch of Willow.
She was wearing some kind of gown, and her hair was in braids, but there was no mistaking that smile.


“Wuh?” Willow said.

Tara stared in silence.

“Who… is that?”


“My heart, beloved Bodhmal,” Tara quoted, translating the elegant script below the beautiful sketch.



+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:23 am 
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Dibs-y goodness! :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that the Maclay affair was concluded with minimal damage... But I guess flying angel and "extra gay" dudes are going to be front page news...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:41 am 
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No, and yes.

We are left to wonder about the guys, but there are angel related hijinks :)

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:34 am 
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More please! :flower :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:31 pm 
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vampyregurl73 wrote:
More please! :flower :flower


Well, i was behind due to distraction and illness, and the next part is due this coming weekend.
And it's already done :)

See ya on the weekend :bounce

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:01 am 
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I loved the way you played up how Donny has embraced the inbred white trash lifestyle by choice in spite of the fact that they lived in a rural town that was only mildly reminiscent of backwoods hill country. I'm guessing Dixie is more like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show and less like the Clampetts' run down shack in the pilot of Beverly Hillbillies.

Tara was all like "We went to a good school with history books that didn't refer to the civil rights movement and womens' suffrage as "Trouble a comin'!"

Also looking forward to the conversation about how Willow may or may not be the reincarnation of the woman that one of more of Tara's earliest ancestors loved/worshiped. Hopefully Donny has enough sense to stay home until they leave town and not do something suicidal like trying to round up all his "good ol' boys" for an old fashioned game of "Burn the Witch!"

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 12:57 am 
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Hi Citanul!

Yeah, i had a good hard think about the kind of situation that could produce the results we saw on the show.
I figured it couldn't be too bad, otherwise the women-folk would just leave.

So, i went with ex-marine stern disciplinarian, who was a relatively powerful man in town, and friends with the sheriff.
That should make it feel like there's nowhere to turn to for the Maclay women.

And where could this 'demon' come from?
More on that later :P

And yeah, it's like a trope or something. Redneck backwater towns.
Didn't want to go over the top.
Real people can be plenty scary and horrible, without acting like moustache twirling movie villains.

Anyhoo, new chapter coming shortly. :P

R :bounce

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 1:04 am 
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Note: credit for the Bodhmal/Liath past incarnations of Willow and Tara goes to Tim Brannon, Kitten exatraordinare.
Used with his permission, from ages ago :P


Witches in Dixie, The second dance



“Uh, is it me, or does she look a bit like me?” Willow said nervously.


“Sweetie, she looks exactly like you. Except for the hair style.”
She admired the sketch. “She’s very cute.”


“I’m not sure whether to be upset or not,” Willow grumbled.


“My lady for all seasons,” Tara translated. “Skin as fair as the winter snows, eyes as green as spring grass. Her heart is as gold as the summer sun and her hair is the colour of autumn.”


“Well, that nails it. She has my colouring too.”


“Now I’m curious to see what this Liath person looked like.”


“Her hair was… white,” Tara said slowly.


“Wuh?!” Willow said.


“Um, her name was Liath, the Grey. But ‘grey’ in ancient Irish, is like grey for horses. It usually means white.”


“This is too much of a coincidence.”


Tara cleared her throat. “Um, there’s more. The tale of Bodhmal and Liath is fairly well known. Uh, Bodhmal was a druidess, and Liath was her guardian, a warrior of great skill.”


“Well, that doesn’t sound so weird. Though it’s hard to picture anyone like you as a warrior.”


Tara continued. “Bodhmal was married to a man she didn’t care for, and eventually ran away to be with Liath, her true love.”


“So they were gay?”

Tara nodded.


Curious, Willow turned the page. She was disappointed to find a double page spread explaining something about potions, if the sketches of herbs were anything to go by.
On the next page she struck gold.

There on the page was a sketch of Tara proudly on horseback, equipped with leather armour and a long spear. Her hair shone in the sun, done as it was, in a complex braid.


Tara gaped in surprise. “What the…?”


“Oh, something hinky is going on here,” Willow said.


“Suddenly I’m starting to understand what Buffy’s talking about, when she says it’s no fun to star in prophesies,” Tara said.


“Uh-huh.”


The writing under the picture was in a different hand, one noticeably less neat.
“She is more to me than the sun and the stars, and even the moon,” Willow quoted. “She is the breath of life to me.”


“My everything,” Tara whispered.


Willow leaned into Tara, a sort of reverse nuzzle.
“Well, I’m sort of getting a reincarnate-y vibe here. I mean, there’s only so many faces in the world, so having an ancestor who looked like you is not that odd,” she said.
“But discovering that your ancestor looked like you, was gay, and in love with someone who looked very much like your girl? That’s too much to be a coincidence.”


Tara’s face twisted slightly into a half-smile. “It looks like we have danced this dance before, you and I.”


Willow smiled happily back. “Not just two lifetimes, but three!”


Tara chuckled. “That sounds nice. But if I was some big warrior woman in the past, why am I so bad with the fighting?”


“You are the least fight-y person I know,” Willow said. “Which I count as a good thing.”
She turned slightly to stroke Tara’s face. “Maybe after a lifetime of fighting, you’d had enough of war?”


Tara nodded. “I could believe that.”


“I bet even for a warrior woman, you were very gentle.”


She made a face. “I skewered people on my big spear, by the looks.”


“Yeah, bu-but I bet you did it very gently! An-and only to people who really deserved it!” Willow sputtered.


Tara chuckled. “I’m sure I did.”


Willow kissed her gently, before turning back to the book ancient.
“How old is this book?” she asked in wonder, turning the pages with great care.


“Very old. I think it predates the Christianization of Ireland. Certainly older than paper,” she said reaching past Willow to finger the pages.


“Vellum,” Willow said. “Super-thin animal skins.”

Tara raised an eyebrow.

“Hey, you spend enough time going through dusty old scrolls and listening to Giles, you pick things up.”


“The Craft has been in my family for a very long time. Longer than anyone guessed.”
She looked thoughtful. “Goddess! I knew our roots ran deep, when we saw my ancestors a little while back. But this is something else.”


“Heh, check me out, I’m marrying the fairy queen of Ireland.”


“Yes you are.” Tara said as she squeezed Willow tight. “I guess that makes you co-queen.”


“It’s good to be co-queen,” Willow said, smirking slightly.


“Hmm, another potion recipe,” Tara said, reading over Willow’s shoulder.


“What does it do?” Willow asked.


Tara read a little. “It’s a restorative. It banishes fatigue and replenishes energy. According to this it’s really handy, if you have to stay up late.”


“Like a wiccan can of ‘V?’” Willow said with a grin.


“Yep. Except more healthy, because it’s mostly fruit, with a few herbs thrown in.”


Willow made a sad face. “Well, I’ll leave it to you, I’m still rubbish at making potions.”


“As potions go, this one’s fairly easy. It’ll make good practice for you.”
She nuzzled the back of Willow’s neck affectionately, producing a happy “Okaaay.”


“Mistress of potions, wasn’t it?” Tara said.
“If you do well, I’ll get out my Hufflepuff uniform for you,” she said seductively.


“I’m starting to wish Faith had never told her story. I’m now worried that I’m developing a fetish for sexy school-marms,” Willow said, ending with a little whimpering noise as Tara’s hands covered new ground.


“I think I have a soft spot for my favourite student,” Tara murmured.


“Oh God! Talk about incentive to get it right,” Willow squeaked. “And, um… if I make… soup?”


“Then I may have to be very strict with you.”

Willow’s eyes glazed over as her brain fused. Her mind was totally locked on the image of a stern Tara (or at least as stern as Tara could manage) putting her over her knee.
The other Scoobies had no idea what ‘cute’ Willow and ‘innocent’ Tara got up to in private. Though it was possible they were starting to guess.

“Win-win sweetie,” Tara said with a chuckle.


“Uh, yeah… what were we talking about again?” Willow said dreamily.
Tara was right, it was win-win.


“The big book of magic in your lap.”


“Oh, right.”
Willow looked down at the huge book. “Y’know, this is a big book. But I would have expected a whole library, if the Craft has been in your family for that long.”


Tara smiled. “Keep looking sweetie.”


Puzzled, Willow flicked through the pages rapidly.
Passing in front of her eyes were more potion recipes, spells, snippets of history of the Ó Liatháin lineage and even advice to future generations, along with the odd sketch here and there.

And then she clicked. “Hey, there’s way more pages in this book than there should be!”


Tara laughed. “I knew it wouldn’t take you long, sweetie.”


“The book is magic?”


“Uh-huh. That’s why it’s called a Book of Shadows.”


“Cool! We’ve got to show this to Giles, it’s like-like a book-plus!” Willow said excitedly.


“He won’t be able to read it Willow. This book has a number of spells on it to protect it. One of those spells prevents it from being read by any witch not of our line.”


Willow looked at the page. It contained a complex summoning ritual of some kind. “Uh, baby, I can read it.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh no! does this mean we’re related? Because I’ve done things with you that I really shouldn’t do with relatives. In any state!”


Tara laughed, long and hard, missing most of Willow’s panicked babble, catching only ‘cletus’ and ‘yeehaw!’.


She stopped after a little while, when she sensed Willow starting to get more worried/annoyed.
“Sweetie, no. We’re not related, at least no more than most people.”


“Bu-but the book-” Willow sputtered until Tara gently stopped the flow of words with a soft finger.


“Sweetie, the book recognizes you, because you are an Ó Liatháin witch.”


Willow’s brow crinkled in puzzlement.

“Willow, you have my heart and my soul. You are mine, and I am yours. The book recognizes that.”


“Ohhh!” Willow sighed in understanding.
She smiled shyly. “I am, you know.”


“What?” Tara said, just as softly.


“Yours,” Willow finished.


No matter how often she heard that, or said it herself, the phrase always triggered a rush of nearly inexpressible joy in Tara.
“Always. Always and forever.”


“Nope,” Willow said with a knowing look. “Forever is just the beginning for us, baby.”


“So corny,” Tara said with a smile.


“Still true.”


Tara’s smile broadened. “It is.”
She hugged Willow tight and kissed her behind her ear, raising a giggle from the ticklish Willow.


“So there you have it,” Tara said, murmuring in Willow’s ear.


“Sadly I’m not so good with ancient celtic languages,” Willow said.


“It doesn’t matter sweetie. When the book fully recognizes you, it will help you to read it.”


“A translation spell?” Willow asked.


Tara nodded. “Uh-huh. You’re linked to me, so it mostly recognizes you. With a, um, ceremony it’ll fully recognize you and it will be readable, even if you don’t speak ancient Celtic languages.”


“Cool!” Willow said brightly. “Can we do it now?”


Tara looked a little embarrassed, something Willow could feel by the silence, and the emotional link they shared.
“Um, Willow? It’s a marriage ceremony.”


“Eeep!”


“We, um, get hand-fasted with our hands on the book, and recognizes you as part of the family.”


“Um, well I’m still looking forward to it, but maybe we shouldn’t do it today,” Willow said with a shy grin.


“I agree,” Tara said, with her own shy smile.


“Soon though?” Willow asked shyly.


“Yes,” Tara breathed into her ear.


“Do you think Buffy and Faith will get married before we do?” Willow asked.

“I get the feeling that Buffy was going to try to organize a double wedding.”

Willow thought about it for a moment. “That sounds like Buffy. Um, would you be ok with a double wedding?” Willow asked hesitantly.”

Tara shrugged. “I don’t mind either way. All that matters to me is celebrating getting married to you. I mean, we’re already married to a degree, but I want to celebrate it properly. Um, have a ceremony with all our friends.”


“Traditional?”


“Yes. I’m an old fashioned girl. But with us, it could be a bit tricky.”


“Hmm?” Willow said.


“I mean, what is tradition for a wiccan from a long line of pagans to do, when she gets married to a jewish-wiccan woman?”


Tara looked thoughtful. “Well. I want to wear a dress.”


Willow blinked. “Huh?”


“A real dress, not like that horrible green number that Anya made us wear.”


Willow laughed. “Baby, they were bridesmaids dresses. They were supposed to be horrible. It makes the bride look prettier.”


“I know. To quote Buffy, ‘this time I get the pretty dress.’”


Willow looked thoughtful. “I wonder what I should wear?”


“Also a dress,” Tara said with a smirk.


“Ooo, check you out miss cheeky pants. So you don’t think I should go for a tux?”


Tara shook her head. “I’m sure you’d look very sharp, Will. But I’m marrying a girl, not blindly copying the straight people. I want you in a dress.”


Willow grinned. “Yes ma’am.”


They cuddled in silence for a little while, contemplating things like dresses and vows.


“Poor Giles,” Willow eventually ventured.


“Why poor Giles?” Tara asked.


“He’s researching how many books now?” Willow said. “And we go and drop two more on him.”


One more sweetie. The only people who can see the pages are you and me. And you can’t read ancient Irish.”


“And as much as I like Mr Giles, I’m not marrying him so that he can read a book.”


An image of Tara resplendent in a beautiful white dress flashed happily through her mind.
Her brain added an image of Giles, looking sharp in a tux.
Her brain rebelled when the phrase ‘you may kiss the bride’ entered her mind.

“Ok, good point. That image… kind of refused to fit in my brain.”


Something had been tickling away at the edges of Tara’s mind for a few minutes, something that snapped into focus at Willow’s words.

“Willow sweetie, how did you read that passage?”


“Uh, what?”


“What you said earlier about the moon and the stars. I thought you couldn’t read it?”


“Uh, I can’t.” She frowned. “Um, it just seemed like the right thing to say, y’know? Like when you’re talking and it’s the obvious thing to say next.”


“Sweetie, did you read it from the page? Or did it just pop into your head.”


Willow’s brow furrowed in thought. “Definite popping happened.”


Tara looked thoughtful. “I wonder if you got it from my mind?”


Willow thought hard. “Nope. I think you read it after]/i] I said it. I remember an echo.”


“Hmm. I think you’re right. Something hinky is going on. I get the feeling that you remembered that phrase sweetie.”


Willow blinked. “Reincarnation. Okaaay,” she said slowly, analysing the idea.


“I’m not saying that’s what it has to be, Willow.”


“But it would explain things a whole lot better than anything else,” Willow finished off.


They sat in silence for a while, pondering this new development.


“Not that I’m complaining, but why do you think this happened?” Willow asked.


Tara thought for a while.

“Reincarnation is a common theme with Irish mythology.”


Willow thought about that for a moment. “I wonder how many times we’ve done this before? Like, just the once? Or like lots of times?”


“I like to think that our souls are bound together for eternity. So I’m hoping we’ve done this, lots of times before.”


Willow turned her head a little and grinned. “Well, I’m not bored. I could definitely do this for a few more lifetimes.”


Tara smiled back. “Me too. Is there anything else in there about our former selves?”


“I wonder if we ever were superheroes? You know, like in another life?”


That got a chuckle.

“Sweetie, we’re superheroes right now. We can use magic, we can fly, and we fight monsters and other evil.”


“Well, yeah. But I don’t feel very super-heroic.”


“Did you want a costume?” Tara asked mildly.


Willow frowned. “I’m not sure what I could wear. Certainly not one of those skin-tight numbers with the boobs hanging out. I see that all the time in Xander’s comics.”
She shuddered. “Brr. Also, wow, no support. And that’s from someone… modest.”


Tara quirked a half-smile. “I’ve always thought that anything more than a handful was a waste.”


Willow’s face blanked. “That’s [i]so
wrong. Just… no.” she said, looking down at Tara’s breasts out of the corner of her eye.


Tara laughed out loud, causing Willow to lose track of any remaining thoughts.

“Though in your case, I could make an exception for the costume,” Willow said, focussing hungrily on Tara’s ample… virtues.


“Focus sweetie,”


“Ok, I’m back. What were we talking about?”


“Not boobs, honest.”


Willow grinned. “You sure? Because I know this girl with a really great pair…”


“Focus sweetie.”


“Alright, alright. I’m focussed. I promise.”


“Reincarnation.”


“Gotcha. Right. Reincarnation. So, you think we’ve done it lots?”


Tara thought for a moment. “I think if we’ve done it once, we’ve done it a bunch of times.”


Willow smiled. “Can you imagine it? How many times we’ve met for the first time?”


Tara smiled back. “How many first kisses?”


Willow’s smile turned shy. “Hi. My name is Willow.”


Tara’s smile broadened. “Hi Willow. I’m Tara. You’re very pretty.”


Willow giggled at the silliness of what they were doing.
“Why thank you Tara. I think you’re very pretty too.”


“I’m not normally so forward, but I’d very much like to kiss you right now,” Tara said, unable to keep a wry smile off her face.


“Oh. Ok,” Willow sighed.


Tara scooted around slightly, and kissed Willow softly.

Willow sighed. “Oh wow. That was an awesome first kiss.”


“Also, I should mention, I’m gay.”


“Yeah. I think I’m kinda gay too. Wanna get married?”


“Sure. That sounds nice.”


They were able to hold it together only for a few more seconds before they lost it completely, and spent the next few minutes helpless with laughter.


Willow wiped the tears from her eyes. “Oh, imagine how much simpler our world would be, if we could just do that.”


“Certainly there would be less drama, which I think might be a good thing.”


“I wonder if we were ever married before?” Willow said thoughtfully.


“I don’t know. I think so. I can’t imagine not wanting to marry you, in any life.”


Willow smiled. “Me too.”


The pair snuggled, luxuriating in each other’s presence for a moment.

Tara reached over for the beautifully polished box.
“Speaking of marriage, I have something for you.”


Opening the flat box, she extracted a small box from one of the compartments.
She held it in front of Willow and opened it to reveal a complex ring in silver metal and white.
The ring was almost in the shape of a flower, finely wrought over a large clear stone. The petals of the flower caged a stone too large to be a diamond.


“Nenya! You have Galadriel’s ring?” Willow squeaked. “How do you have Galadriel’s ring?”


Tara blinked in surprise. “I feel like I’m missing something here. I know who Galadriel is, I’ve read Lord of the Rings. But why do you say this is her ring?”


“Remember that I told you that they made the lord of the rings into a movie?”

Tara nodded.

“Well Galadriel is in it, and she has a ring a lot like that on her hand,” Willow said.


“Oh. Who did they get to play Galadriel?”


“Cate Blanchette.”


“Oh, she’s pretty,” Tara breathed.


Willow giggled softly. “You’ve got no idea. The whole movie is just filled with yumminess. They have Liv Tyler as Arwen and they have Orlando Bloom as Legolas. He’s very pretty, y’know, for a guy.”


“It sounds like something we have to see,” Tara said with a slight chuckle. “But this ring has been in my family for many generations, so I think it’s fair to say that Nenya looks like it.”


“Well, it’s very pretty. Does it have a name?”


“Stróic an bandia. Or ‘Tear of the Goddess’ in English. Hold out your hand sweetie.”


“Baby, I know we came to get this, but I can’t wear it. It’s too valuable! What if I lose it or something?”


Tara slipped the engagement ring off Willow’s finger as she was protesting, and slipped the new ring on Willow’s finger.

“Oh, there you are,” Willow breathed, looking intently at her finger.
She looked up at Tara her eyes brimming with tears. “Until the stars grow cold, my love. Until the stars grow cold.”


“Even then,” Tara replied.


And they kissed as if they hadn’t seen each other in years.


When they broke for air, Willow gasped. “Ok, time out!” she said, breathing hard. “I mean, I don’t need much of a reason to kiss you, but that felt… really different.”


“I know what you mean.”


“Something is definitely happening here,” Willow said. “And why do I get the feeling that our past selves are having fun with us?”


“Keep looking in the book,” Tara said. “I think that’s the only source of information we’re likely to have in the short term.”


Willow flicked through the pages quickly, ignoring all the spells and pictures of herbs.

Eventually she came across another sketch. This one showed her past-self smiling radiantly, and displaying the very same ring on her finger.


“Her beauty increases three-fold when she smiles. By the goddess, I will make her smile forevermore,” Tara read.


“Even all those years ago, you were still a sweetie,” Willow said.


“I could really draw too,” Tara said with a little grin.


“What does this say?” Willow asked, pointing to a paragraph of text, written in a different hand below.


“Beloved Liath has given me a gift most precious. A gift almost as precious as her love,” Tara read out. “She has given me a ring, an heirloom of her ancient people’s lost glory. I shall treasure it always, and it shall be an heirloom of my bloodline.”


Willow blinked. “Jeepers! How old is this thing?” she said.
She held up her hand to examine the ring.
It was clean and unmarred, as though it had been made yesterday.


“I’d guess that it’s enchanted,” Tara said. “There’s no way anything this old could have lasted that well. There’s not a mark on it.”


“Yep. And what is your ancient people’s lost glory?”


“I don’t know,” Tara said. “I would have thought it was ancient Ireland. But this was written then, and they thought it was ancient.”


“How do we find out stuff that’s that old?” Willow asked. “Giles?”


Tara shook her head. “He has enough to deal with, I think. What with all the prophesies he has to research, as well as figuring out what we’re going to do next.”


She nuzzled the back of Willow’s neck. “Besides, I think we can figure this out ourselves.”


Willow giggled. “You know, I think you’re right. If only we had a genuine seer on tap.”
She looked over her shoulder and smiled. “Oh, there you are.”


“Indeed. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to say if I was better at healing magic, or seeing magic.”


“With a side order of blowing stuff up.”


She disentangled herself from Willow, and sat facing her. “Help me with the spell sweetie, and you’ll be able to see what I see.”


“Okie-dokie,” Willow said.
She reached out and took Tara’s hand, sandwiching the glittering ring between their palms.


“We don’t need stinky herbs?” Willow asked.


“Nope. Psychometry is a spell I know very well. It’s really handy for investigation.”


“I bet. I look forward to learning it one day,” Willow said happily.


“Well sweetie, think of this as your first lesson,” Tara said with a soft kiss.


“Ooh, well if lessons come with free kisses, sign me up!”
She looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know, I always liked school. But if my school lessons had come with free kisses, you couldn’t have dragged me out of there with a tow-truck!”


Tara chuckled. “Well, I liked the learning part of school. And the teachers. Not the children though.” She shuddered.


“Not so happy with the kids huh?”


Tara shook her head. “You remember that scene from Practical Magic, where the kids stand around shouting ‘witch witch, you’re a witch?’”


Willow looked surprised. “Really?!”


Tara nodded slowly. “Yeah. Unfortunately most of the town knew that we were supposed to be witches.”


Willow frowned. “Well poo to them!” she said loyally. “Let’s do the spell, and we’ll show them.”


“Alright.”


“So, if I’m learning, tell me about the spell?” Willow asked.


Tara quirked a smile. “Of course. So, any item picks up dirt and scratches as it goes through time. Well, the same goes for emotional imprints. With magic, it’s possible to peel away those layers of emotional imprints and sort of read an object’s past.”


Willow grinned. “What sort of things do you get?”


“It depends. The more dramatic or magical the event, the larger imprint it leaves. And the easier it is to find.”


“Ok. With you so far,” Willow said excitedly. “Tell me more.”


Tara smiled at Willow’s excitement. “Well, I think of it like an onion. Peeling back the layers, like scenes in a slide show or movie.”


“And no crying!”


“Well, sometimes there is. It’s sad, but traumatic events imprint far better than happy ones.”


“Like history books are filled with war? Like, other things happened then, but people don’t remember that Mrs Smith baked a record number of pies, because the country got invaded?”


Tara nodded. “Yes. So I imagine we’ll see a few weddings and things, maybe a few big spells that were cast while someone was wearing it.”
Tara looked sadly at Willow. “It also is likely to show us some not-so-good things.”


Willow squeezed her hand. “I’m here for you Tara. We’ll get through it together.”


Tara smiled a little. “Yes we will.”


They fell silent as Tara concentrated on the spell. It was a simple casting, and one she was familiar with, so all that was required was concentration and a whispered, “Let us see.”


Time peeled back, and as Tara had expected, most images were a blur as they flickered by. One of the first images she saw was of her mother, casting a spell over a small tree, watched by a solemn toddler.

That image positively refused to simply flash by, as Willow fastened on it with a barely suppressed squee of delight.
‘Oh, you are such a cutie!’ she sent.

Tara chuckled slightly. She didn’t remember the spell-casting, but she could imagine that it was one of the many spells her mother had layered on the small tree.


Eventually the scene was allowed to fade, and images flowed past, both blurry and crisp.
Flashes of weddings, of spells cast, of love made under the watching stars.


The past was revealed, and a glorious past it was.
Proud women stood forth to fight evil, with magic, and sometimes steel.


‘I’m betting there’s more to that ring than just looking pretty,’ Willow sent. ‘Look at how many women are wearing it to fight, and with magic!’
Scene after scene flowed past. Great battles and mighty spells, until at last one joyful image snapped into focus.


A hand-fasting ceremony, conducted by the high priestess of Danu, with a small number of friends present.
Willow’s heart was in her mouth, and tears fell unheeded, as she saw a scene of such beauty and such magnificence, that it had left a mark in the fabric of the universe. Together they watched the priestess invoke the blessing of the Mother, and of the four watchtowers.


“Today, we ask that the infinite light of the divine shine upon this union. In that spirit, I offer a blessing to this ceremony.”

“Blessed be this marriage with the gifts from the east -- new beginnings that come each day with the rising sun, communication of the heart, mind, body and soul.”

“Blessed be this marriage with the gifts of the south -- the light of the heart, the heat of passion, and the warmth of a loving home.”

“Blessed be this marriage with the gifts of the west -- the rushing excitement of a raging river, the soft and pure cleansing of a rainstorm, and a commitment as deep as the ocean itself.”

“Blessed be this marriage with the gifts of the north -- a solid foundation on which to build your lives, abundance and growth of your home, and the stability to be found by holding one another at the end of the day.”

“Bodhmal, Liath. These four simple blessings will help you on your journey that begins today. However, they are only tools. They are tools which you must use together to create the light, the strength, the infinite energy now and forever, of a love you both so richly deserve.”

“Now, I bid you look into one another's eyes and hearts. I ask you now to cross your hands over each other, and take one another's hands. “

The tall, slender woman wrapped a multi-coloured and complex braided cord around their joined hands.

“Bodhmal, Liath. This cord symbolizes so much. It is your life, your love, and the eternal connection that the two of you have found with one another. The ties of this handfasting are not formed by these cord, or even by the knots connecting them. They are formed instead by your vows, by your pledge, your souls, and your two hearts, now bound together as one.”

Tara, hand bound to Willow’s and smiling radiantly, clad in an ancient gown of flowing blue, slipped the ring Stróic an bandia onto Willow’s finger. And Willow, clad in a similar gown of forest green, smiled at her love with such devotion that their later selves could not breathe at the sight of it.


‘Goddess, it that what I look like?’ Willow sent.


’Not quite. She’s older than you, and she’s more… outdoorsy.’ Tara sent back.


Willow made a face. [i]’You mean fitter.’



And indeed it was true. Once the pair had gotten past the similarities, the differences were obvious, especially to their respective partners.
Though both Willow and Tara were quite trim, they were nothing on the two women of the vision.
Tara saw that Bodhmal was whipcord thin, with a wiry strength in her frame that testified to a life of hard work and travel.
Willow saw that Liath had a sleek muscularity and toughness that made both Buffy and Faith look positively plushy by comparison.

It was obvious to both women that their past selves were fighters, in every sense of the word.
But even so, it was like looking across the table at their beloved.
The vision faded with a passionate kiss, and much cheering from the wedding party.

The pair sat in silence for a while as the images of magic, love and battle flowed past.


Eventually, Tara spoke up. “I think you’d look lovely in a green gown.”


"And you suit blue so very, very well," Willow replied. "Um so, that high priestess... did she seem a little... familiar?"


Tara nodded, an action felt more than seen, with the images flowing past.

"Oh yes. For someone who is supposedly only two years old, she gets around."


"Baby? Is it normal to have so many images? "


"Goodness no. Most times you only get one or two images. And they stop at the creation of the thing you're reading. I've never seen so many in all my life. "


As if the ring had heard her, the images stopped with one last glimpse of a blonde woman, standing on the cold seashore, looking in towards the green land as if she had never seen it before.
She cast one longing look over her shoulder at the setting sun, before she turned and walked up the beach towards the forest.


"Um, what now? " Willow asked.


"This is very odd,” Tara said, puzzled. “Normally the last image you see is the making of whatever it is that you're reading. But this just... stops."


"Magic?" Willow asked.


"I think so," Tara said thoughtfully.


"So we push," came the reply. "We're pretty good. I don't think many people could keep us out, if we're determined."


She thought for a moment. "We probably shouldn't. But I must admit, I'm curious and a little worried as to why someone sealed it off."


"How long does our spell last for?"


"Until we stop concentrating on it," Tara said. "So we have time."


"Do we really want to leave this hanging over us?" Willow said.


"No, not really." Tara sighed. "So many mysteries, so little time."


"Yeah, well we can fix this one mystery, right now," Willow said cheerily.


Tara could feel her eagerness to investigate echoing through their link. And truth be told, she was curious, and tired of all the unexplained things happening in their lives. It would be good to be able to deal with one problem straight away.
"Alright. We push."


Their wills and strength intertwined, and together they pushed against the blankness. At first there was nothing, but after a time they became aware of something resisting them. It was a barrier of sorts, resistant and slippery, like wet plastic.

"Oh this thing is definitely fighting us," Willow said.


"Not today. Today is the day we win. And get answers," Tara said determinedly.


"This is our heritage Willow, our history. We are bringing this barrier down. So push sweetie, push!"


Willow grit her teeth and pushed hard. She cast her mind back to the moment she had laid out all on the line for Tara. No regrets, nothing held back.

Remembering that day, she let go, and hurled her anger and determination at the barrier.


Tara was similarly angered. So many things stood in their way, so many life-long manipulations levelled at them.
'I will have answers!' she shouted within the vaults of her mind, and let go the floodgates of her own formidable will.


Willow focused her will down to a fine barbed point and bored into the barrier with all of her relentless power. Joined by Tara, the force of their onslaught redoubled, and doubled again.
Together they kept up the relentless pressure, grinding away at the resistance without pause, until eventually they felt something tear.


New images flooded into their minds.
They saw an island nation. Rich farmlands spread out on the plains and hills, nestled around a mountain, capped with snow.
Sun shone down on a city, built around a mighty harbour. Their point of view fell with shocking speed to a palace of white stone and glass. In the magnificent courtyard lined with shrubs and paved in marble, ranks of women warriors trained in the warm sunlight.


It was a scene familiar to both of them from their time at slayer central, Slayers training in the warmth of the afternoon.


Their eyes were drawn to a woman watching them approvingly from a high balcony. She was delicately built and dressed in a flowing gown, much like a toga. Her wavy golden hair flowed over her shoulders in a way that both of them found familiar. She nodded and smiled as she looked out over her people training.


They could both see Stróic an bandia on her finger.
The woman glanced down at the ring, and looked up, smiling at the two women as their point of view hovered in front of her.


They were surprised at the fact that she could see them, even though this was effectively a recording.
They were ever more surprised when a very familiar face came into view, walking on to the balcony behind the blonde, and smiled at them. She put her fingers to her lips and said ‘Shhh.’


The image faded, returning them to the inside of the tree house.

“What…?” Willow said uncertainly.


Tara nodded slowly. “Uh-huh.”


“We saw her twice, in one vision of the past.”


“Uh-huh.”


“And they were thousands of years ago.”


“Yup.”


“So. An island kingdom.”


“Yup.”


“With women warriors.”


“Yup.”


“And blondes. Lots of blondes, and redheads.”


“Iceland maybe?”


“Y-nope. That island place looked fairly tropical, so probably not Greenland or Iceland.”


Tara groaned. “I was really hoping we could clear up at least one of the mysteries.”


“That would have been nice,” Willow said mournfully.


“So this ring is more than just a family heirloom. It was the ring of an ancient queen or noble woman, of an island kingdom in the distant past.”


“And she was pretty well tanned,” Willow said. “But she was Caucasian. And blonde. So I’m not sure what island it could be.”


“Uh, Ireland isn’t that sunny is it?” Willow said, brow furrowed.


Tara chuckled. “Goodness no. Ireland is famous for its rain and lack of sun. I also think it’s also bigger than the island we saw.”


“How else could people who look like me live there?” Willow said with a grin.
She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Pass me my journal? I want to sketch that island. I might be able to figure out where it is when we get back. Greece maybe?”


“Greece is bigger than the island we saw. But maybe one of the Greek islands?”


Willow quickly sketched the shape of the island with a little help from Tara. She also added some sketches of the more obvious plant-life to help with identification.


“There was a sun symbol on the palace,” Tara said helpfully.


“Yup,” Willow said, and quickly sketched it.


Over the next few minutes, they made notes and sketched as many details as they could think of.


"So I'm thinking there's more to this ring than we thought," Willow said.
She held up the ring and examined the glittering stone within the gleaming metal.
"Do you think it does anything? Besides being pretty of course."


"Sorry sweetie, I have no idea. I knew about the ring, but mom never said if it had any special properties."


Willow rubbed her hands with glee. "Hee Hee! Science!"


Tara chuckled. "I'm pretty sure it's magic, sweetie."


Willow grinned. "No but, investigation, and figuring stuff out! See? Science!"


"Ok. But we're not dissolving the ring in acid or anything, are we?"


"Never!" Willow said, shocked. "Science does not necessarily involve acid you know."
"But this is not just any ring. It's the ring of a queen. And it's part of the history of your family."
Her eyes glistened. "But most importantly, this is the ring my love gave to me when she promised to marry me."


Tara's eyes were similarly brimming. "I did. And I intend to."


"Well, I promise to marry you too."


"That's a promise I like," Tara said with a smile.


Willow grinned from ear to ear. "Now, about this ring, and the science..."


Tara quirked a smile. "I do have a handy magic-detecting spell we could use."


"Yay for science. Magic science even!"


"Your two favourite things."


"Not really. I think I like Tara-snuggles and Tara-smooches much more."


"Well you can have those later. Now it's time to find out about our magic ring, with another spell I know very well. Let's see if we can get some more information shall we?"


Still hand-linked with Willow, she cast the spell with a murmured "Let me see."

When she opened her eyes she could see the power blazing, from Willow and from the ring.

"See as I see," she whispered, passing her vision to Willow.


"Jeepers!" Willow gasped . "It’s like looking at the sun!"


Tara was forced to agree. The power pouring from Willow was a beautiful radiant glow, richer and more beautiful than ever before. Her aura included all the colours of the rainbow, but green and pink dominated.


The ring was different. It blazed white and gold. Tongues of slow moving fire leapt from it to her and Willow.
She concentrated, and saw that the ring was feeding them both power and strength.
It operated on a level she had seen only twice before.

The Scythe, and an axe made by the Goddess Brighid.


Examining the ring as closely as she dared, she tried to get a feel for its magic.
It was as familiar as her own, and staggeringly powerful.
It was the power of the Goddess, and the power of the everlasting sun.


She had never seen so much power concentrated in such a small space. And had no idea how someone had made a ring of such awesome power.

“Wowie!” Willow whispered. “That’s really bright.”


Tara nodded. “Oh yes. I’ve only seen this level of power twice before. One’s the scythe, and the other is Faith’s axe.”


“That’s a pants-wetting level of power,” Willow said. “And I’m wearing it on my finger.”
She looked at the ring carefully. “That’s an ever-so-slightly scary thing.”


“It won’t hurt you sweetie.”


“I know. But it’s like, um, a nuclear reactor. It’s almost certainly not going to explode, and is totally safe. But it’s still a little bit scary.”


Tara blinked. “My grandmother’s ring, is a nuclear reactor?”


Willow grimaced. “Sorry. Poor word choice. I just meant that that much power is scary. Like a really big heavy choppy machine. It can cut stuff really easily, but if you miss, or get it wrong… ouch. Do you get it at all?”


Tara nodded. “I get it. Um, do you want to take it off?”


Willow looked shocked. “No! absolutely no!”
She covered the ring with her other hand, almost protectively. “No, this is the second-most precious thing ever! Right after you! It’s just a little intimidating, that’s all.”


Tara smiled. “Ok. I get it.”


Willow relaxed a little. “Ok. I guess what I’m trying to say is that… experimenting with this super precious thing, could end up blowing up another mountain. Or melting the ring. And that’s scary.”


“I get it. And I think you’re right. That much power is a little scary.”


Willow fiddled with the ring. “I’m not super worried. Do we have any idea what it’s supposed to do? Besides looking super pretty, of course.”


Tara looked at the ring. Her gaze tracked across to the big book of magic. “I think if there are any answers, they’ll be in there.”


Willow chuckled. “As if we didn’t have enough reading to do.”


“Well, at least this book comes with a… I can’t remember what it’s called.”


“Uh, index?”


“No, it’s a computer thing. That lets you search for words?”


“Oh! A search engine?” Willow said excitedly.


“That sounds right. It finds things for you.”


Willow laughed out loud. “Oh poor Giles! He’s going to be soooo jealous. A book that searches itself!”


“Yes. Although I don’t think it will work for you… yet,” Tara said with a shy smile.


Willow smiled back. “Another one of those ‘ceremonial’ things?”


Tara’s smile broadened. “Yep. But I can use the search thingy, even before our… ceremony.”


“Cool. How does it work?”


Tara blinked in surprise. “Um, I don’t actually know. Mom told me about the book, and told me I’d get to read it one day… but then things went sort of… wrong.”


Willow squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Well, give it a try honey.”


Tara nodded. She set the big book up on its edge, and held her hand over it. “Stróic an bandia.”
It fell open. It was very un-magical.


“Uh, did it work?” Willow asked.


Tara looked down and saw the sketch of the ring. “I think so. Let me see what they wrote.”


“Hmm, according to this ‘My love gave me a gift, the last of her ancient heritage. The Tear of the Goddess, once worn by the Summer Queen, in lost Mu.”


“Mu?” Willow said. “The lost continent? I thought that was a myth.”


Tara nodded. “I thought so too. Um, maybe not?”


“How do you lose a whole continent? Oh my god, how many cookies would you have to bake, to make up for that?”


Tara giggled. “Maybe one really big one?”


“Mmm, cookie.”


“Well, there’s all those stories about Atlantis sinking beneath the waves. Maybe Mu wasn’t a continent, but an island, like Atlantis is supposed to be. Maybe the sinking of the island of Mu is where all that Atlantis stuff comes from?”


“Maybe,” Willow said. “I don’t know much about Mu. Or Atlantis either. Well, beyond the Disney channel stuff anyway.”


“You know, I know this one person who probably knows all about it,” Tara said innocently.


Willow gave her a suspicious look. “You mean Giles?”


Tara smirked a little. “He might not know much about the ring, but he might be able to fill in some gaps about this mystery kingdom.”


“Yeah,” Willow said. “But what I really wanna know is, what the heck Dawn was doing!”
She frowned. “Why was she roaming around this missing island kingdom, several thousand years before she was born?”



+++



With a blaze of multi-coloured fire, the huge pentagram in the rear courtyard flared. When the light died down it revealed Willow and Tara, hand in hand with books and boxes tucked under their arms.

It also revealed Jules, on her back in the flower bed.
“Jesus that gave me a fright!”


“Sorry!” Willow called cheerfully, not sounding the least bit sorry.


Jules righted herself and dusted the soil from her butt.
“I am really starting to see why mister Giles insisted someone be on guard here.”


The girls strolled over, Tara looking a little pale.
“Just you?” Willow said.


Jules nodded. “Yeah. Buffybot was around a little while ago, but she’s helping Giles in the library. Something about uploading books into the net. Heather and Dawn are having a romantic picnic, along with some books. Xander’s working on the construction site, along with every girl that wants to earn some money.”


“Willow, Tara, how was your trip?”


The girls looked around to see Giles and Brie approaching.


Willow grinned. “Hey Giles!”


Giles gave her slightly suspicious look.
“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon. And you seem alarmingly chipper.”


“We had a good trip mister Giles,” Tara said. “Has anything happened while we were away?”


Giles quirked a restrained smile, and pointed behind them.


They turned and saw what had become of the field.
Row after row of tents covered the field, along with large numbers of military vehicles. And an amazing number of armed women.
Willow and Tara goggled. “Holy hoopy! Look at all the… heavily armed… women!”


“Uh-huh,” Tara said. “Wow.”


“Yeah. That trumps our book.”


“And ring. Don’t forget the ring.”


“Yeah. But… girls. So many pretty girls.”


“Yeaah,” Tara said appreciatively.


“Ah, girls?” Giles said.


Willow shook herself. “Sorry Giles. Having a bit of a lesbian moment there.”


Tara chuckled, similarly hypnotized. “Not that I can blame her. What’s going on?”


“The Daughters of the Flame,” Brie said. “They’re here. Some of them anyway.”


“Jeepers, how many are coming?”


“Ten thousand, give or take,” Brie said dryly. “There’s around a thousand here at the moment, but the rest of them will take some time to arrive.”


“We have been integrating them with our own Slayers,” Giles said. “The results have been impressive to say the least.”


“Where are they all going to live?” Willow said incredulously.


“In the field for now,” Brie explained. “We’ll put a few more in here, and set up similar camps offsite.”


Willow looked thoughtful. “I think I can help there.”
She turned to Brie. “I think we can set something up, that’s a little better than that.”


“Oh?”


Willow nodded. “Yep. We’re going to use a bit of elemental magic to build the Scooby palace. I can use the same spell to dig out a complex under the hill. With a little bit of magic to keep the air fresh, and a little more for light, that should keep us going for a few months. Xander has access to suppliers of bulk furniture, so he can probably get us bunk-beds and such in a few days.”


Brie raised an eyebrow. “Impressive. How long will it take?”


Willow counted silently and waggled her fingers a few times. “After I get a look at the geological survey that Bridie has… about three hours.”


“Three hours?!” Brie said, stunned.


“Sure. It’s what I was planning to do anyway, just scaled up a bit.”


“Well Rupert, I have to say I’m impressed,” Brie said.


“I find my charges to be exceptional, one and all,” Giles replied.


Before Brie could retort, a trio of women approached.
All three were dressed in dark green armour and wrapped in forest green cloaks.
The one in front had a small amount of yellow trim on her cloak.
She was tall, powerfully built and had the kind of blonde colouring found in Scandinavian countries. She was also somewhat older, being around Giles’ age.
The others, a redhead with fiery curls tied back in a pony-tail, and a small but powerfully built dark-haired woman were younger, in their late twenties or early thirties.


When they got close, they all bowed low to Brie and the others.
“In the name of the Goddess, I extend greetings,” the leader said.


Brie looked awkward. “You really don’t have to do that, you know.”


The blonde leader quirked a smile. “Oh but I do. It is only appropriate to show deference, to one who speaks with the voice of the Goddess.”


Brie sighed. “May I introduce High priestess Brigandu, Mistress of the Forge Aibreann, and our Mistress of the Library Fiona, my wife.”
She said the last with considerable warmth and pleasure.
The redhead smiled warmly.


“Ladies, this is Rupert Giles, head of the new Council of Watchers.”
Giles dipped his head politely.
“And this is Willow and her fiancé Tara, powerful witches both.”


“Hey.” Tara and Willow both waved.


Brigandu looked surprised at Tara’s presence. “Forgive me, I had heard that you were dead.”


Tara grimaced. “I get that a lot. I was, but like Buffy, I got better.”


“Well… I’m glad,” she said slowly.


“We all are,” Willow said.


Brigandu dipped her head in polite agreement, before turning to Giles.
“I’m sure Brie has told you, but the full weight of our order is behind you. The Goddess herself has called us to arms, and we come to answer that call.”


Giles spoke up. “Indeed she has. And thank you for your aid.”


She bowed her head again. “You are most welcome.”


When her head popped up, she had an appraising look, and it was aimed at Willow. Her ring, specifically.

“Forgive me Willow but that ring looks very familiar. Does it have a name?”


Tara nodded. “Stróic an bandia.”


“Tear of the Goddess,” Brigandu whispered with almost reverential awe. “It has been missing for centuries, how did you come by it?” she said


“My mother. It’s an heirloom of my family line,” Tara said. “And now it’s Willow’s engagement ring.”


“Is there some special significance to this ring?” Giles asked.


Brigandu nodded. “It is ancient beyond all measure, though it does not look it. It was once a treasure guarded by one of our own in the distant past-”


“Liath?” Tara asked.


Brigand raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. She gave it to her wife-”


“Bodhmal?” Willow asked.


“Yes. May I might ask how you know these names?”


Willow and Tara shared a moment of silent communication.

“It’s us. I was Liath,” Tara said.


“And I was Bodhmal,” Willow added.


“Excuse me?” Brigandu said.


Willow held up her hand to show off the ring. “This is my ring. My love has given it to me twice now. Once thousands of years ago, and today.”


Tara quirked a smile. “We have danced this dance before, she and I.”


“Reincarnation?” Giles asked.


Willow nodded. “Looks like. I’d show you, but you can’t read the book.”


“Another magical book?” Giles said, becoming visibly interested.


“Wanna show him?” Willow said.


Tara nodded as Willow handed her the book. “Sure. I’m not sure if I can show anyone, but I’ll try.”


She put the book on the nearby wall and said “Bodhmal.”

The book fell open to the sketch that they’d seen before. Bodhmal/Willow was seated on a low wall, turning to smile radiantly at someone, presumably Liath.

“I want this sketch visible to all,” Tara said to the book. “Um, can you see it?”


“My word!” Giles said.


“I’ll take that as a yes,” Willow said.


“She looks very much like you, Willow,” Giles said.


The others came over and took a look.
Fiona let out a low whistle. “If that’s not you, that’s your twin sister.”


“Nice hairstyle,” Aibreann put in.


“It’s a little complex for every day, but I could give it a try. For special occasions,” Willow said, with a faint smile.


“I think Dawn would love to help,” Tara said softly.


“So… reincarnation then,” Brie said.

Fiona moved to Brie’s side and took her hand. “It’s a common theme in the ancient tales of druids, and Bodhmal was a druidess of tremendous power.”


“And Liath was one of our best,” Brigandu said. “So legend tells us.”


“Liath was a Daughter?” Willow asked.


Fiona spoke up. “Not just a Daughter, she was one of the thirteen, the Guardians of the Sacred Temple. She was what we all aspire to be.”


“Our version of Buffy,” Brie said. “The best and brightest.”


“Er, and you didn’t mind that she married a woman?” Willow said.


Brie chuckled. “Hardly. Members of our order are sworn to chastity. Chastity being defined as ‘abstinence from men.’”


“Oh. Oh!” Willow said as she clicked.


“We must stand outside the traditional marriage-land-feudal business,” Brie said with a smile. “But the Goddess understands that we need love.”


“And babies sometimes,” Aibreann interjected.


“Babies?” Tara said, curious.


“Sure,” Aibreann said. “We adopt. We foster. And there’s magic.”


“And sometimes, Brighid herself will grant a gift of life,” Brigand said.


“Er, um,” Willow said hesitantly. “This is going to sound odd. But does Brighid grant that particular gift, to people who aren’t her followers?”


Fiona’s brow furrowed in thought. “Not that I have ever heard of. It requires intense commitment, dedication and prayer. Brighid only honours the most intense commitment, the strongest love.”


“And then only to her own,” Brigandu said. “Why?”


“Ah, because we have a friend who’s mysteriously pregnant. And her fiancé is a girl,” Willow said.


“I assume you’ve eliminated all the usual reasons?”


“She’s definitely their child,” Tara said. “Her aura had strong traces of her sister-in-law’s magic all over it. But Dawn has only managed to learn a handful of spells, despite her talent.”


“I’ll look into it for you,” Fiona said. “But have never heard of anything like this happening before.”


“The two women are Slayers, if that makes a difference,” Giles added.


Brigandu shot Fiona a look, something that did not go un-noticed.

“What?” Willow demanded.


“That makes things a little… murky,” Brigandu said.


Willow folded her arms and looked stern. “Well, these are my friends you’re talking about, so you better fess up, missy!”


Brigandu looked pained. “Officially, Brighid makes no claim over the Slayer line. No deity does.”


Fiona interjected. “But whenever the subject of the Slayer comes up, we are always guided to help, or to stay out of her way. Brighid makes no claim, but she seems to act as if the Slayers are her chosen.”


“As much as an enigmatic Goddess can be said to act,” Brigandu added.


“While Brighid makes no claim over the Slayers, she definitely keeps a weather eye on them,” Fiona said.
“I’d have to do some research to come up with specifics, but it is something that we are told when we become chief archivist.”


“Or high priestess,” Brigandu put in.


“Is this considered a secret?” Giles asked.


“Yes,” she replied. “The Slayer has many enemies, so anything about her we treat as a secret, just to be safe. More than that, Brighid has sent visions about her, quietly hinting that we should be ready for something.”


“When did this start?”


“Around four years ago. Does this mean something to you?”


“I’m not sure. Four years ago we were facing a hell god by the name of Glory,” Giles said.


“Oh god, don’t remind me,” Willow said with a grimace.
Tara shared her unhappy look.


“I’ll look into it,” Fiona said. “We record visions and prophesies. Anything relating to the Slayer has its own file. I’ll get it for you.”


“Thank you. I am most grateful,” Giles said.


Fiona nodded politely. She cocked her head to Brie, “Coming?”


Brie smiled. “We have some catching up to do. Rupert, I’ll see you later.”

Hand in hand, the pair left.


After they left Brigandu turned to Giles. “Our whole order stands ready to fight. That having been said, I’d be most grateful if you could shed some light on who we are fighting, and why.”


“Ah,” Giles said. “We should go inside. This is going to take some explaining.”


“Lead on.”


“Tea?”


Brigandu grinned. “Smashing. I could murder a cup.”



+++



“Do we tell them?” Fiona said quietly.

She, Aibreann and Brigandu were talking in an office that had been set aside for the Daughters’ use.


Brigandu sat in her comfortable chair, and thought for a moment. “No.”


Fiona raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think that they have a right to know?”


Brigandu waved her hand, as if clearing the air. “It’s only speculation at best, and it is likely to muddy the waters. If Brighid wants them to know, she’ll tell them. Or tell us.”


“Bodhmal and Liath. Bodhmal and Liath, Brig! that can’t be a fucking coincidence.”
Brigandu nodded her agreement.


“And you saw that picture.”

“I did.”


“Brig, what’s going on? I mean, Bodhmal and Liath reincarnated, the Goddess speaking directly to Brie, and we’re gearing up for war.”


“You said it yourself. We are going to war.”


The air went out of Fiona. “Shit Brig. I know we said…”
She sat down heavily. “War. Fuck.”


“This is why we are,” Aibreann said quietly.
The other two women fell silent at her reverent tone.
“Have you never had the feeling that we were here for a reason? That the Daughters have a reason for being?”


She drew her sword slowly, and placed it on the table between them, the polished steel gleaming in the light.

“We are the sword of Brighid. Her hand in this world. This war is why we are. This war is the whole reason we exist as an order.”


Fiona eyed her. “Where did this come from?”


Aibreann gave her a wry smile. “The Flame speaks, and so does the steel.”

She held up her sword. It was a short, heavy blade that shone like a mirror. The edge simply was not visible.
It was a miracle in simple steel.
“This sword was the first weapon I ever made. As is custom, it has been re-forged every time I was graded to a new rank.”

“When last I re-forged it, the flames whispered to the blade. They whispered that this time would be the last.”

“I’m not the archivist, the seer or the leader. But we forge-mistresses have our own secrets.”

Her smile was gentle and beatific. “We will fulfil the purpose of our sisters. In our lifetime. This very year. We are blessed to live at such a time.”


Fiona blinked in surprise. “That’s more words than I’ve heard you use in a year.”


“Strange times,” Aibreann said wryly.


“I have something to add,” Brigandu said. “These people are our allies, as true as flame and wave. We will not lie to them. But, I don’t want you volunteering anything about Bodhmal and Liath’s fate.”


That got a few raised eyebrows.

“But if they ask, you may tell them.”


The other two women nodded. “Agreed.”


“Now that we’ve got that settled, I want to see this complex being constructed,” Fiona said. “Something for the archives I suspect.”



+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 2:13 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Good to have some backstory about Willow's & Tara's previous lives and the story of the Ring... I'm guessing Bodhmal and Liath didn't have a happy ending :paranoid ...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 10:47 am 
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I wanna know more about Bodhmal and Liath's fate!!! I know it isn't gonna be happy, we already know at some point she was forced back to her husband...MORE PLEASE!!! And what's the deal with Dawn?

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 9:45 am 
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So this isn't the first time in history that the key/Dawn has taken human form. Neat. Can't wait for the next time she pops up in the background of a prerecorded message left for anyone trying to scry the dawn of human history. I wonder if you'll have her do a little dance/gesture that only Willow and Tara get to see. I'm also wondering if the Powers That Be were responsible for the unhappy ending the Brighid Brigade is afraid to talk about.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:30 am 
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Right, so i'm back from the middle of nowhere again.

Sorry no update last weekend, i was visiting my mum, on the farm, in the hills with no internet to speak of, and no phone.
But, i got a lot of writing done :)

Update this weekend :)

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:06 pm 
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Hi all!

Yep, more on Bodhmal and Liath later :)
It's not a happy tale, hence the reluctance to tell them about it :(
Though there are lots of other happy things :P

And lots more about Dawn.
Eventually.

In the words of Morpheous: "Rest Neo, the answers are coming."


This chapter takes place after a side story.
Experimentation with a potion found in Tara’s big-book-o-magick™ had the unexpected effect of turning Giles, Buffy and Xander into kids for a few days.
Things eventually get back to normal, after Tara, Willow and Faith get a crash course in parenting.
As cute as it is, it’s not really a Willow & Tara story, plus I haven’t finished it yet.
I’ll post it when it’s done, or a link to it, if anyone wants to read it.

P.S: it wasn’t Willow’s fault. No, really.




Building the Castle:


“I understand you’re something of a healer?” Brigandu asked.

She and her half-dozen senior staff were standing at the bottom of the hill, close to the rear courtyard.
Tara was standing with her, as Willow and Bridie went over the plans and discussed the geological survey.


After several days chasing three hyperactive tots around, things were slowly getting back on track.
Largely because those three tots were the primary leadership of the new council.
Though if anything, their experiences seemed to have given them a new lease on life.

So, as Willow maintained, the Refreshing/rejuvenating potion was a success.
With some slight side effects.


Tara nodded thoughtfully. “Uh-huh. I also do seer-work and a few other things, but I’m best as a healer. Why?”


Brigandu cleared her throat. “Because we have yet to get any serious medical facilities in place. And a few of our more boisterous sisters have been careless, training with your girls.”


“Ah,” Tara said. “Send them over to our infirmary, and I’ll patch them up.”


“Thank you.”


“What sort of injuries?”


“Nothing permanent, but the kind of thing that will keep them out of the fight for a good while. A broken leg, a couple of wrenched shoulders and some other ligament related injuries.”


Tara winced. “Ouch.”


Brigandu nodded. “Yes, it’s been something of a learning experience on both sides. Yours aren’t used to training with non-Slayers, and ours are not used to dealing with people that much stronger and faster than them.”


“I’ll head over to the infirmary, right after I help Willow with the spell.”


“Well, there’s a few of your own there already, so don’t be surprised.”


“The learning went both ways, then?” Tara said with a hint of a smile.


Brigandu nodded. “We don’t have as many Slayers as you do. But ours have been training and fighting their whole lives.”


Tara raised an eyebrow, but before she could say anything more, she sensed that Willow was ready.
She looked over at her love, just as she in turn looked up, and smiled.
“Ready?”


Willow nodded. “Yup! The spell’s pretty straightforward, the hard part was getting the shape right in my head.”


“How does the spell work?” Brigandu asked. “Most of our magic is orientated towards battle, so I have no idea how this works.”


Willow grinned, happy to talk about her two favourite subjects.
“Well, most spells are kinda ‘point and shoot.’ You chant the words, use the stinky herbs, and something happens.”

Brigandu nodded her understanding.

“Well, that takes a lot of energy to do over and over again. Tara learned a really useful technique in her travels. She was taught how to enter a trance state that allows you to use basic spells over and over without exhausting yourself.”


Tara joined her hand with her beloved. “It’s a technique for battlefield healers. It’s a lot more effort than a simple healing spell, but you can keep going for hours without exhausting yourself.”


Willow kissed the back of Tara’s hand lovingly, before returning to the subject at hand, so to speak.
“Yep. So I thought to myself ‘Self, why don’t you learn that trick, and apply it to other spells?’”

She gestured with her free hand to the hill in front of them. The grass had been cleared by volunteer Slayer efforts and a number of spades. The hole in the earth was a few meter across, but not very deep.
“So this is our first test. Hopefully I won’t end up naked again.”


Brigandu gave her a look. “That happened?”


“Oh yeah. Trust me, there’s nothing quite like finding yourself two miles in the sky without a stitch on.”


“I was impressed,” Tara put in innocently.


That forced a wry smile from Brigandu. “I bet you were.”


“I’ve seen some impressive backfires amongst our trainees,” Fiona said.
She was standing companionably close to Brie, clearly not wanting to be separated by more than a few centimetres.
“But I’ve never heard of someone ending up miles in the sky before. How did you survive?”


“Tara brought me a sweater,” Willow said with a shiver. “Skinny people should not be in the sky with no clothes. Brrr.”


“I agree,” Tara said.
She turned to Fiona. “It was a flight spell. It worked a little too well, in that Willow left behind her clothes. Luckily, one of my gifts is flight, so I followed her up.”


“My saviour,” Willow said adoringly. “You have no idea how beautiful you looked to me at that moment.”


“More beautiful than a naked, floating, moon goddess?” Tara said with a ghost of a smile.


“Yep! You totally came to my rescue!”


“Hold up,” Brigandu said. “You can fly?”


Willow nodded her head cheerfully. “Yep! We both can. I’m a little bit faster in a straight line, but Tara is waaay better at the actual flying stuff.”


“Practice makes perfect, sweetie.”


“True. Also, that thing about witches on brooms? Turns out there’s some truth to that.”


“Wait, what?” Brigandu said, clearly taken aback.


“Well, the spell works better if there’s a focus,” Willow said. “Or at least it makes steering a lot easier, if somewhat distracting.”


“Distracting? How?” Fiona said, clearly curious.


Willow cleared her throat. “Well, it fits between your legs. And it vibrates when you turn.”


Aibreann snorted. “Starting to see why witches like brooms,” she said with a grin.


Willow flushed pinkly.


“I think I might have to get you to tech me the flight spell,” Fiona said.


“You’re married,” Aibreann stated with a smirk.


Fiona rolled her eyes. “Not for that. Because being able to fly would be so incredibly useful.”


“And fun,” Brie said.


“It is! It really is!” Willow chirped. “Are you any good at elemental magic? Particularly air, because flight? Not so much of the earth.”


“Air, I can handle reasonably well.”


“Neat! I’ll show you after, if you like?”


Fiona nodded. “Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.”


An image of a flying nun flashed through Willow’s mind, and gave Tara the giggles.


‘You know, I’m suddenly feeling just a tiny bit jealous, if that’s the right word?’ Willow sent.


‘Jealous of what, sweetie?’


’Well, the sky is kinda just ours. If we have… if there’s other people up there… well it’s just a bit less special.’


‘Like the difference between a deserted desert island, and one you have to share with other people?’
Tara replied.


Yeah, a little like that.’


‘Don’t worry sweetie. We’re still the first.’



Willow grinned. ‘We could be the first to pioneer mid-air snuggles.’


Tara smiled. ‘Alright.’


Willow’s eyes widened. ‘Really?’


‘Sure. I’ll snuggle you in the air. I’ll even kiss you. But anything more naughty than that, I’m doing on the ground. Ideally in the bedroom, where I can take my time, and anyone with a telescope can’t see us.’


Willow sighed. ‘Poop.’i


‘Sweetie, I love you. But I don’t want hurried sex, combined with the risk of death. Add that to the cold, and it’s just not sexy.’


‘Well if you’re going to be all reasonable about it.’


‘I am, yes.’


‘See, I had visions like those planes doing the mid-air refuelling thing?’



That thought drew a surprised look from Tara.



“I’ve had companionable silences, and uncomfortable silences. That was something else,” Aibreann said.


“Oh hey, the spell,” Willow said awkwardly. “I should- we should, totally do that. Now everybody be very quiet.”


“We’re hunting wascally wabbits,” Xander said in a croaky Elmer Fudd voice.


“Hey, be serious!” Willow protested at Xander’s grinning face. “There’s magic and stuff happening. Serious magic… stuff.”


“Uh-huh,” Xander said, grinning. “Do your thing, Wills.”


Willow shot him a glare, but took Tara’s hand and closed her eyes. ‘Ok, you know the layout that we’re going for?’


‘Yes. Though keep in mind sweetie, the earth is not my element. Not anymore.’


‘Poop. You would have been awesome at this spell before.’


‘True. But now I can fly. And healing magic comes to me so much more easily. All things considered, I’m happy.’



With her free hand, Tara lit a smudge stick and wafted it around ceremonially.


‘Er, did we need that?’ Willow sent. She pulled a heavy baseball-sized sphere of polished haematite from a velvet bag.


‘No, but sage gives a lovely wiccan vibe to everything,’ Tara sent back. ‘Plus our friends are watching. They’ve come to expect herbs and incense.’


‘It’ll be dribbly candles next,’
Willow sent, with the mental equivalent of a much-put-upon sigh.


Tara laughed. ‘You know, I have some candles in my bag…’


Willow giggled. ‘Nonono! We need to cast this spell, before I lose the pattern. It’s really hard to prep the spell, and try and remember the shape of the tunnels we’re digging, all at the same time.’


“So… is this normal for their spell casting?” Fiona said curiously. “They close their eyes, and stand there giggling for a while?”


“Yep,” Xander said. “You get used to it pretty quick.”



Whatever he was going to say next was lost. With a shock that could be felt through the earth, the spell was cast.
Green and gold flames wreathed Willow’s form, shading to white and blue where her hand joined with Tara’s.

The flames flowed from her body as she raised the heavy ball and pointed with it to the marked out patch of ground.
With a hiss and a rumble, the green and gold flames sank into the earth, and with a rumbling sound, the ground began to sink.

Together they walked forward, the steely-looking ball outlined in a blaze of green and gold fire.
The thin tissue of grass and roots gave way under its own weight, revealing a wide tunnel in the dirt. After a few metres, the walls of dirt became smooth rock, and the rumbling continued as the girls walked.



+++


Two hours later, the girls were sitting on a blanket, tiredly eating pizza.


Nearby, a long line of women dressed in green filed into the entrance (now outlined by polished stone) and into their temporary accommodation.

They had added a tunnel to the main complex, and another up the hill to the worksite that marked the location of the soon-to-be Scooby palace. And now they were relaxing.


“Is it ironic, or just annoying?” Willow said.


“Hmm?” Tara enquired.


“We just dug a ten level underground complex, the size of a small town. We did it in not three hours, but two.”


“Yes sweetie? I was there, remember?”


“Yeah, but it’s just weird that we did that pretty easily, but putting in a whole bunch of air circulating spells and light spells up has me bushed.”


“Uh huh. We dug the complex with one long spell that we concentrated on. That’s less effort than two dozen small spells.”


“Yeah I know, it just seems… annoying that we got the hard work done easily, and some lights and fans have us lying in a heap.”


“I don’t mind. It’s nice to flex the magical muscles every now and then, and not have it be me trying to glue my friends back together.”


Tara lay back and rested her head on Willow’s lap, and Willow stroked her hair.
“This is nice. I feel like I just went for a long run. But without being all sweaty and gross.”
She grinned. “Plus I’ve gotten used to your ‘very very blonde’ look. I need to keep you casting spells, otherwise you’ll be less blonde.”


Tara chuckled. “No chance of that. I think I’d have no avoid casting spells for most of a year, for it to stop bleaching my hair. And it only takes a week or so of serious spell casting to bleach white.”


“How long did it take before all your hair was white,” Willow said cheekily.


“Another week.”


Willow giggled. “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about the grey showing.”


“I think we have a while before that’s an issue for any of us.”


“Well, except for Giles. He seems to have decided it doesn’t suit him, and he’s gotten into the grey-away.”


“I think he looks nice. And he seems so much happier these days.”


“True. Though I think Mrs Summers might just have something to do with that.”


They lay quietly, enjoying their lunch, and listening to the quiet sounds of the Daughters of the flame moving about. Big bumblebees buzzed as they happily bumbled from flower to flower, and birds chirped quietly, adding to the idyllic feel of the whole scene.


Tara put her hand on her stomach, and burped as genteely as she could manage.
Willow raised one eyebrow. “Really liked that pizza huh?”


A smile quirked the corners of her mouth. “Yes. I’m feeling much better now.”


“Wait, better? So you were feeling un-better before?” Willow said with a note of concern.


“The teleport just made me feel a little queasy. Nothing too major.”


“Well, at least we know you’re not pregnant,” Willow said lightly.


Tara’s face froze.
Willow stopped in shock, similarly frozen.


“You’re not are you? How?!”


“I think we covered this one, quite recently,” Tara said dryly.
Her mind was a turmoil. She was getting an inkling as to how Buffy and Faith felt. Yes, this was something they’d planned to do. But not yet!


Willow’s emotions matched her own, a whirl of panic and shock. But after a few seconds, all of that was swept away by a flood of joy.
‘Woohoo! Tiny Tara tots running around!’


The joy flooding into her washed away all of her doubts, and she smiled radiantly. ‘Widdle, wobbly Willows,’ she sent back.


‘Aww!’ Willow cooed. ‘I wonder what they’ll look like?’


‘I hope they have your hair,’
Tara said silently.
A thought struck her. ‘They?’


Willow stopped. ‘Uh?’


‘You said ‘they.’’



Willow looked awkward. ‘Well, um, I love you and stuff. So… I, uh… want lots of miniature Tara’s running around.’


Tara raised a teasing eyebrow. ‘Don’t I get a say in this?’


Willow looked shocked. ‘Of course! It’s just that… uh.’


Tara took mercy on her shocked love.
Sometimes, despite the bond they shared, Willow forgot to feel for Tara’s emotions when they talked.

‘Willow, I’m just teasing. I think a large family would be wonderful. Though, to quote Faith, you get to change the diapers.’


Willow smiled. ‘I can live with that.’


‘I think I might need to book an appointment with a gynaecologist.’


‘Uh, what? Why?’


‘To make sure everything is alright, my sweet. And let’s not forget, there’s more than one reason to feel a bit queasy.’


‘You can’t do it with a spell?’



Tara shook her head. ‘I can’t see my own aura. And using a diagnostic spell on yourself is really difficult. It’s like trying to look at your own eyeball.’


Willow grinned. ‘We have these things called mirrors you know.’


‘I don’t know how Marcion did the spell to reflect your aura in the mirror, sweetie.’


‘Silly Tara. I can see your aura. Look through me.’



Tara blinked. ‘Wow. That’s really clever.’


Willow smiled happily. ‘Kisses please!’


Tara happily complied as Willow leaned over. They kissed softly and slowly, for quite some time.


‘Mmm, Tara kisses. The best!’


‘I’m not so sure. I think I prefer Willow kisses, myself.’


‘So, when can we do the spell?’


‘Tomorrow some time. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired, magically speaking.’



Willow looked up and smiled as she saw Dawn approaching. “Speak of the devil.”


Her smile faltered when she read Dawn’s body language. Whatever this news was, it wasn’t good.
Tara sensed the change in Willow’s mood and sat up.

“Hey Dawnie, why the long face?”


“Uh, something’s come up. It might be nothing, or it might be terrible, I don’t know.”


“Sweetie?”


“There’s a TV crew at the hospital. They’re interviewing everyone about the miraculous healing of all those kids,” Dawn said seriously.


“Oh,” Willow said, struggling for words. “Poop.”


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:42 pm 
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Dibs! *goes off to read*

Yeah, I wanna know the story behind the potion that made everyone kids. That sounds like a hoot.

And Tara's preggers already?!?! That was quick!

More please!

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Last edited by vampyregurl73 on Sun Oct 09, 2016 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:02 pm 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Yay for place building... Big bummer for those pesky TV-crews, I really hope they don't bother the Slayer central too much... Extra big yay for Tara being pregnant...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:53 am 
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This was a nice little interlude between catastrophes. I especially liked how the leadership of the Sisters of the Flame got their first look at Tara & Willow losing themselves in their "little talks."

I have to wonder how long it takes some characters to figure out that those long pauses are filled with something they can't begin to fathom. Of course Faith and Dawn were probably the first to figure it out with Buffy coming in a close third. But then again it might have taken Buffy weeks longer if she didn't have her connection to Faith as a great big neon sign screaming "Hey you! This is how relationships are supposed to be! Stop dating vampires and douchebags!"

While the news crew might stir up local drama it still seems like a leap to go from "mysterious unconfirmed incident at hospital" to "hey guys, why don't we go bother the staff at that giant new all girls boarding school way the hell out on the outskirts of town?"

Sounds dangerous, especially if all the townies have clued into the fact that all those girls are heavily armed. But who knows? We might meet some "intrepid go anywhere do anything reporter who always gets the story. " Or, you know, gets eaten. Either way I'm looking forward to more.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:28 am 
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Hi gang!

Sorry, it's taking a bit longer than i expected to sort this chapter out, so i'll have to post it tommorrow :P


Tara pregnant?
Indeed, it is fast. All will be revealed shortly. Possibly in the next chapter, i haven't checked.
[Edit: just checked. It's revealed in the next big chapter, which means, not this week. Chapter is too big.]


As to the TV crew, i really thought about it. This isn't someone claiming they had their artritis healed by jesus. This was 10-12 kids all healed of life threatening illnesses, all in one night, and telling everyone that would stand still about 'angels'.

When a dozen kids recover from cancer/HIV/amputation etc all in one night, people take notice.
One could be a fluke. It happens, and a lot of folks thank god.

But 12? That's gonna get a LOT of attention.
This is James Randi, 'win a million bucks for proving the supernatural' type stuff.


This is just the beginning :)
See ya soon!

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:01 pm 
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The price of success



Indoors there was a meeting of the Scoobies in the ‘war room.’

Tara turned to Willow. “Will? How good is the shield on us?”


“Really powerful. I mean it.”


How powerful?” Dawn asked.


“It’ll affect even fairly powerful witches. You’d have to be strong and skilled and suspicious to even be able to try penetrating it,” Willow explained.


“Do we show up on film?” Dawn asked, still worried.


“Yes. If we didn’t, it would look really really suspicious. Though on the plus side, we don’t show up on satellites, because this is an old FBI training facility.”


“Wouldn’t they take that away, once they sold it?” Dawn asked, frowning.


“Uh-huh,” Willow said, bobbing her head. “Unless someone hacked in and carelessly misfiled the orders. And uh, y’know, lost them completely.”


Dawn nodded. “Ok, good. But that doesn’t protect the girls that are out and about. We need to call everyone in and let them know what’s happening, just in case they end up on camera.”

“I can take care of that part,” she said. “But what are you going to do?” she asked the suddenly alert pair.


“Fix it,” Willow said. “I don’t know how yet, but somehow, we’re gonna fix this.”


“Uh, how?”


“Hey, I just said I don’t know!” Willow protested, waving her hands agitatedly. “Giles said this could happen, and so we should be prepared to take responsibility for it.”


“Which we do,” Tara added. “Now, what we have to do, is figure out how to make the problem go away.”


“Yay?” Dawn said hesitantly. “I’m still kinda worried, but I’m glad you two are on the job.”

She tapped her foot as she thought. “I’m going to send Chrissie down to spy on the TV people. She can tell us what they’re up to, and warn us if they’re about to do anything, y’know, bad.”


“Chrissie?” Tara asked. “I haven’t met everybody yet.”


Dawn shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. We’ve been here since the beginning, and we haven’t met everyone yet. Uh, Chrissie is one of the girls Buffy picked for her version of Faith’s Valkyries. She’s the one with pink hair. I’m still not sure what she is aiming for, but she seems to have picked up most of the really small girls.”
She grinned. “I’m totally sure it’s not so she can feel tall.”


“Ah,” Willow said. “I can field that one. Faith took all the ones with rough backgrounds and turned them into her own personal angels of death. Buffy is taking all the ones who have confidence issues, and teaching them to be sneaky. I still don’t know what she’s going to call them though.”


“Buffy’s Angels?” Tara said innocently.


Dawn giggled. “Nope. She got really grumpy when I suggested that one. Huh, so the little ones have confidence issues huh? Makes sense I guess.”


Willow pointedly looked up at Dawn. She smirked back.


“The Buffettes?” Xander put in.


“Well, Buffy asked me about classical mythology, and I gave her a book. So it looks like she’s going for something mythical.”


“Um,” Tara said uncertainly.

All eyes turned to her.

“She was asking me about Harry Potter, and um, the Lord of the Rings before she left.”


“Griffindor? Arwen’s riders… uh, I’m lost,” Dawn admitted.


“Um, she did seem interested in the Rangers of the North?” Tara said.


“I knew it!” Willow crowed. “Buffy’s Rangers!”


“Hey! That was one I suggested,” Dawn said.


“Armies of the Witch King?” Tara said. “That has a nice ring to it.”


Dawn groaned. “That was terrible.”


Tara blinked in surprise. “Um, I didn’t think it was that bad. Though for some reason, I find myself picturing black spiky armour when I say that. Maybe it’s a Lord of the Rings thing?”


“I can believe it,” Willow said. “Whatever Buffy settles on, we’ll find out soon enough. For now we have to deal with this new mess, so we have time to deal with all the other messes.”


Tara smiled. “Hey, it’s not so bad. At least we got a few days off.”


Willow smiled back. “Yup. Oh well, back to the rat-race.”
She stood and brushed herself off, holding her hand out to help Tara up.


As they wandered towards the buildings of Slayer Central, Willow held up their joined hands to show her ring glittering in the evening sunlight.
“I wonder if this will help?”



+++



“Well we can’t just make them disappear,” Bomber said. “Somebody sent them, and will notice if they just vanish into the shrubbery.”


“Would it be possible to, I don’t know, implant false memories?” Giles asked as delicately as he could manage.


Willow looked pained. “Not really. You’d have the same problem, if not worse. And to be honest, I’ve kinda sworn off memory charms. I’m not sure if I could do it, even if I wanted to.”


Giles pondered for a moment. “Ethan? Any ideas?”


Ethan laughed. “Of course old boy, all of them bad.”


Giles glared. “Try to be serious.”


Ethan raised his hands placatingly. “I am being serious. I am an absolute master of misdirection and chaos. But anything I could do would have significant collateral effects.”


He looked at Willow and Tara. “Someone would end up paying the price at some point. My suggestion is a little misdirection on your part. All we really want them to do is go away, yes?”


Willow bobbed her head. “Uh-huh. We don’t want anyone to get hurt, we just don’t want them poking around here.”
Despite herself, she found herself looking hopefully at Giles’ shady friend.


Ethan sighed. “Am I really the only one to spot the obvious?”


“No,” Bomber said. “What he’s working his way towards, in his convoluted and overly dramatic way, is telling you that all you really have to do, is lead them away from here.”


“Exactly,” Ethan said, annoyed at having someone steal his thunder. “They came here looking for miracles and such. So give them miracles, just do it somewhere else.”


“Heal more children?” Tara asked.


Ethan shrugged. “Or old people, amputees, whatever takes your fancy. I’d suggest doing it in a larger population centre, at least twice more. That way they end up looking for your next visitation, far from here.”


“We could do that, couldn’t we sweetie?” Tara asked.


Willow bobbed her head enthusiastically. “Sure! I’m for any plan that involves us doing more good deeds together.”


“I’d suggest Denver and Colorado Springs,” Ethan said. “They’re both a good distance from here, and have substantial hospitals.”


“Any suggestions?” Giles asked Bomber.


“No. The plan seems sound. I’d suggest taking basic precautions though. Don’t wear any identifiable jewellery, cover any distinctive scars or tattoos, and for goodness sake, don’t take your ID.”


“Let me know when you go,” Ethan said. “I have a handy charm that stops you showing up clearly on cameras. It also works on animals.”


“Handy,” Willow said.


Ethan smirked. “You have no idea.”


Willow still looked a little worried. “So we’re gonna go POOF to Colorado Springs do some healing, POOF to Denver, do some more, then come home and… what? Hope that they go chasing after the story?”


“We might be able to help with that,” Giles said quietly, looking pointedly at Ethan.


Ethan made a much-put-upon sigh. “Oh yes. I suppose I have a thing or two in my bag of tricks that might persuade them.”


“Nothing too terrible I hope?” Giles said with a hint of concern.


“Basic emotional manipulation,” Ethan said with a smirk. “I make them bored stiff, then as soon as they hear about this new story, I make them too excited to sit still. Works like a charm.”

Giles nodded. It was a technique Ethan had used to great effect in the bad old days.

“There’s one small problem though. I shall need to either slip them a potion, or enchant a small token which will need to be secreted upon the person or persons to be affected.”


“How does the potion taste?” Xander asked.


“Terrible,” Ethan replied. “I have developed a version that is colourless, odourless and tasteless. But unfortunately, that particular variation takes several days to mature. So it’s not going to be very useful in the time that we have.”


“So we either trick them into drinking something horrible, or put-pocket them,” Xander said.

Willow gave him a ‘look.’

“Hey, I thought that was pretty good,” he protested. “I mean you’re kinda anti-pickpocketing them so…” he shrugged.


“Could we spike some energy drinks?” Willow said. “They taste pretty vile. They might not notice anything in one of those.”


“If they even drink energy drinks,” Giles said. “They are known to have unpleasant side effects, so not everyone drinks them.”


Xander pre-winced. He waited for Anya to say something embarrassing and sex related, regarding his love of mega-caffeinated-death drinks.
Nothing happened.

“Uh, guys? Where’s Anya?”


Giles quirked a smile. “On an errand for me. I gave her a lot of money and told her to go and buy things. She seemed quite happy.”


Xander grinned. “Buffy’s gonna be grumpy when she finds out she missed that.”


“I doubt it Xander. She’s buying property, furniture and paint. Not Buffy’s cup of tea at all.”


“Oh right. For the thing.”


“For the new Magic Box, and the shelter, yes.”


“Is that what we’re calling it?” Willow asked, curious despite the seriousness of the situation.


Giles sighed. “We… spoke about names for the shop.”


‘Argued’ Willow mentally translated.


“It very closely matched the original difficulties we had for selecting a name. As we could both tolerate the name ‘Magic Box’ we eventually settled on that. For now at least.”


Willow grinned. She remembered the lively discussion about the name of the old shop.
The grin fell off her face as she remembered what happened to their old headquarters.


“Sweetie?” Tara said, feeling the sudden change in Willow’s mood.


“Um, I kinda… slightly blew up the old shop.”
She looked at Giles. “Sorry Giles.”


Giles smiled sadly at her. “Long since forgiven dear girl. Put it out of your mind.”


“Um, I promise not to blow up the new one?”


Tara nodded, her face the picture of seriousness. “Yes. We should leave the blowing up of the new Magic Box to a new generation of witches.”
Willow smiled, sensing the teasing undertone to her love’s thoughts.


“Quite right,” Giles said, absolutely deadpan. “We have a spanking new headquarters to blow up.”


Willow got the giggles.

“I have to say, I quite liked the fresh timber smell of the old place,” Tara said. “From having Xander constantly patching the place up.”


Giles opened his journal and wrote ‘bulletproof glass’ on his notes, under the heading of ‘Magic Box.’


“You know,” Willow said thoughtfully, “We should really set up something like a transporter pad. We can’t just keep banning people from the rear courtyard all the time.”


“Well, I believe the plans for our new domicile include such a place, along with laboratories and casting rooms,” Giles said.


“And a treehouse!” Willow chirped.


“And a treehouse,” Giles agreed.


Willow gave him a suspicious look. “I was expecting you to complain about that one.”


Giles smirked. “Willow, if you want a treehouse, you can have a treehouse. We have no shortage of trees, funds or materials, so I see no reason whatsoever to deny you a treehouse.”


Willow blinked. “Oh. Neat! We were thinking it would be great for romantic getaways.”


Giles’ eyebrows raised. “How big exactly were you thinking?”


“A house. In a tree.”


“I look forward to seeing it. Now however, we have to deal with this news crew.”
Giles turned to Ethan. “How long will it take you to make the tokens?”


“If we have silver, and some metalworking tools? About half an hour, to an hour. If not, we’ll need to get some first.”


“No problemo,” Xander said. “We have both. And we have Chrissie following the reporters around, so we know where they are.”


“How big are these tokens?” Willow asked.


“About the size of a dime,” Ethan replied. “Why?”


“Because if we have trouble planting them, we could just float them into a pocket or something.”


“Excellent. May I suggest a disguise?” Giles said.


“Easy,” Ethan said. He reached over, deftly stole Giles’ spectacles and put them on Willow. He looked thoughtful for a moment and touched her hair. With his free hand he snapped his fingers, and muttered something under his breath.

“There, that should do it.”


He turned an annoyed-looking Willow around to face the rest of the gang.

“Wow,” Xander said.
Spoiler:
Image



“Sweetie, you look really different,” Tara said.


“I do?”


Tara nodded. “Uh-huh. Sweetie, you’re a blonde now. And the glasses look really cute,” she said with a grin.


Willow brought a lock of hair around to have a look at her new golden hair. “Wow. I could save so much money on trips to the salon.”
She fiddled with the delicate glasses, and looked with surprise through the lenses at a non-blurry Giles.
Giles shrugged sheepishly.


“Me next!” Tara said brightly, stepping up next to Willow.


Ethan chuckled. “Women and hair. It never fails.”
He thought for a moment and snapped his fingers. “There. Try that.”


He turned her around.


Willow goggled. “Whoa,” she breathed.


Tara now sported an asymmetrical bob of feathered chestnut. It was daringly sort on the left and longer elsewhere, and swept across to hang fetchingly down the right side of her face.

Spoiler:
Image


Willow noticed that Ethan had darkened the makeup around her eyes, and given her deep plum lip gloss.
She thought that Tara looked shockingly different, but still attractive.


“How do I look?” Tara asked.


“Amazing!” Willow said. “I mean, wow! I don’t want you to stay that way, but you look… nice, really nice!”

Ethan chuckled at their expressions.

“What is this spell?” Willow said incredulously.


Ethan laughed out loud. “My dear girl, it’s nothing more than a glamour. A cheap bit of illusion taught to apprentices.”


“B-but,” she stammered.


“The real skill,” Ethan said smoothly, “Is to use it wisely. This spell is very fast, and very easy, but it can’t change much. Skin tone and hair is about where it stops. But within that limitation, it’s very handy.”

Giles cleared his throat in an awkward way.

“And he should know. It’s so much easier to pull off ‘I was a founding member of Pink Floyd,’ when you look just like Roger Waters or David Gilmour, eh Ripper?”


Giles didn’t know where to look as everyone just stared at him in disbelief.


“Giles!” Willow said, shocked.


Giles grinned sickly. “Groupies,” he muttered.


Tara giggled.
Willow looked shocked.
“Sorry sweetie, but it is kind of funny.”


“We got to stay in some very interesting places as a result of that spell,” Ethan said fondly.
“People go very strange around celebrities.”


He looked Willow over. “Light summer dress, something reasonably short. Pastels should do it, you’re a blonde now.”


“Excuse me?”


He turned to Tara. “And you… something athletic, and dark. Show off those arms.”


Tara gave him a ‘look’ and turned to Willow. “Sweetie?”


Willow threw up her hands. “Let’s just do what he says. Who knows, it might be fun.”


She turned to Ethan. “How long will this last?” she asked, pointing to her hair.


“About three hours. I can make it last longer, but I had thought that three hours would be enough.”


“Given that you are essentially pickpocketing a handful of people, three hours should be more than enough,” Giles said.


“Come on baby. Let’s go get changed.”


Tara nodded and took her hand. “I can’t get over how different you look as a blonde, sweetie.”


“I think if I’m a blonde, I should probably raid Buffy’s wardrobe.”


Tara nodded with faux solemnity. “It’s blonde solidarity. Buffy will understand.”

Willow nodded back, equally serious. “Yup.”


The two stared at each other for a moment, before the situation got the better of them, and they burst into giggles.

“I’d say go raid Faith’s wardrobe, but you never know what you’ll find.”


Tara shook her head a little. “I like Faith, but I don’t think we’re close enough that I can just raid her wardrobe. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it.”


“Text her. Or call her on the super duper sat-phone I got them.”


“It’s ok Willow. I’m confident I can find something that I wouldn’t normally wear.”


Willow paused at the door to ‘her’ room. In truth, barring the occasional ‘to the break of dawn’ Slayer sex-marathon, it was the room they both shared. Tara’s ‘room’ was very much like a spare room, in that it was where most of her things were stored.
Including most of her new clothes.


Tara smiled at her. “See you in a minute sweetie.”


Willow’s face fell. “You’re not gonna...”


Tara’s smile broadened, and definitely held more than just a hint of naughtiness. “It’s a surprise.”


Willow felt a sense of anticipation in her chest, as Tara damped-down the link they shared. Sometimes flashes would travel across it, and Tara clearly did want it to be a surprise.

Willow ducked inside and grabbed her favourite pair of strappy sandals, a nice broad-brimmed white hat, and some makeup, before scampering into Buffy’s room.
She knew just the dress to wear.


Several minutes later, she was dressed, annoyed, and slightly worried.

Ethan had seen fit to apply light makeup and pink lipgloss as part of his transformation.
She’d be more annoyed, had he not done a job that was frankly amazing.

The worrying part was that the dress she had borrowed fit quite well. Unfortunately, Buffy’s short-ish summer dress was of mini-skirt proportions on her, and she wasn’t sure if she was brave enough to go out with quite that much thigh showing.
She looked at herself in the mirror: blonde hair tied back in a scrunchie, delicate zero-prescription glasses perched on her nose, perfect light makeup and Buffy’s floral peach and white dress.

She thought she looked like a super-cute freshman on her first day of college.
A really, really cute freshman. One of the clever ones.

The fidgeted with her skirt a little before giving up.
In truth, it wasn’t any shorter than some of the outfits that Buffy routinely wore, but it was definitely outside her comfort zone.
She grinned a little, and stepped outside. This was really going to knock Tara’s…



All coherent thought ceased.



Tara looked back at her, similarly shocked.
Time passed, seeming like slow slabs of eternity drifting by.


“Wow,” Tara croaked.


“Uh-huh,” Willow eventually managed.


She thought she’d seen Tara before. Clothed, unclothed and every variation in between.
No.


Tara was wearing a dark blue halter top that showed off her smooth shoulders wonderfully, especially with her short, dark bob.
The delicate golden star earrings were a nice touch, showing off her cute ears.

And the darker eye shadow made her eyes the deepest blue imaginable.
Willow felt like she could see forever in those deep blue depths.

But what completed Willow’s mental meltdown, was the daisy dukes she was wearing.
Tara’s legs just went on, and on, and on… oh.


Combined with the very stylish boots she was wearing, she looked like an adventurous super-model.
Some part of Willow’s brain wondered idly how Tara managed to not have her bra show under the halter… oh.

The small scattered fragments of Willow’s brain, fragments that were slowly coming back on line, just gave up.
Even the little light that usually popped up in her brain to say ‘Error!’ was gone.


Eventually enough scattered neurons got together and tried to fire up her speech centres. “Pretty! You look pretty. Different, but pretty! Very pretty.”


Tara nodded, taking in Willow’s slender limbs on display and oh, those legs.

“You look nice in that dress… Willow.”
Tara smiled shyly. “You have nice legs. Very nice.”


Willow’s brain was jolted to life. “Me? Have you seen you? Merciful goddess! Legs! Wow! Legs!”


Tara smirked a little. “And here I thought you were a breast girl.”


Willow was silent as she gazed dreamily at her love’s chest.

“Ohhh… yeah.” She sighed.


Tara strolled over, Willow noting that she had the nice leather jacket that Faith had given her, slung casually over one shoulder.

“Hey there cutie,” Tara said warmly. “Come here often?”


Willow moaned faintly.
“Any second now,” Willow whispered, as she wrapped herself around Tara and kissed her passionately.


When they eventually pulled apart, breathing hard and flushed, Willow floated an idea. “You know, if we hurry and get Ethan’s spell thing done-”

“We can have a couple of hours all to ourselves,” Tara finished for her.


Willow grinned.



+++



“Girl, this sucks,” Jules complained.


Heather and Jules were on ‘guard duty’ at the front gate.
What this effectively meant, was that they were relaxing in lawn chairs, with a picnic basket, books and drinks in the shade of a large tree.
And though the conversation was light, they were well placed to keep a watchful eye on the surrounding area.


Giles thought it was an excellent cover, and courtesy of the lunch packed by the increasingly popular Mary, there were never any shortage of volunteers for guard duty.


Heather took her eyes of the road, and looked at her best friend. Jules looked distinctly unhappy about something.
“What’s wrong?”


Jules just muttered. “Nothing,” and went back to scanning the woodlands.


Heather sighed, and wondered if this was how Buffy felt sometimes. Jules and Faith were a lot alike, in more ways than just their taste in clothes.
“Jules, c’mon. You know you want to talk about it, otherwise you wouldn’t have said anything. Don’t make me pick it out of you. It’s annoying.”


“Don’t you hate being right all the time?” Jules grumbled.


“No. Now what’s got you all riled up? You’ve been a bit grumpy for a while.”


Jules sighed. “I know. And it’s stupid, I know.”


“So tell me. We’re besties Jules, you can tell me anything.”


“I’m jealous, ok?” she said, disgustedly throwing down the book she’d been reading.


Heather’s eyes popped open wide. “Oh! You mean… you wanted to date Dawn?”


“Uh,” Jules said uncertainly.


“You wanted to date me?”


“Wha?”


The pair stared at each other in confusion.

“Uh, I should explain myself, before this gets worse.”


“Please,” Heather said.


“It’s just… I didn’t even think you were gay! And you had the biggest crush on Xander! And I didn’t even think Dawn was gay either.”


“It was just a crush. I got over it. And I didn’t even think of dating girls up until just recently.”
She looked at her best friend. Jules’ annoyed and confused expression showed that she hadn’t gotten all of it out.
“I’m sorry I didn’t date you first, it just sort of happened.”


Jules looked confused. “What? Date?”


Heather just stared. She was lost.


“No, I’m not saying I wanted to date you. Or Dawn. I guess I’m saying… I’m just pissed off that everyone’s hooking up except me!”


The light dawned in Heather’s eyes. “Ohhh! I get it now.”


“I mean, Tara shows up out of literally nowhere to sweep Willow off her feet. Ok, cool. And then Buffy hooks up with Faith. Faith! Xander hooks up with his dead girlfriend, you turn out to be gay, or gay-ish and hook up with Dawn, who I didn’t even think was gay either, and now even mister Giles is hooking up with an old flame!”

Jules finished her rant, breathing hard, Heather wide-eyed.


“Wow. You feel better now that you got all that out?”


“A bit.”


“So why is it bugging you that people are getting together?”


“Because I’m still single!” Jules complained.


The pair sat in silence for a moment.


“Huh,” Heather said.

“Yep,” Jules replied.


Time passed.

“Why the hell are you single?” Heather eventually asked.


“Uh…”


“I mean you’re pretty, in charge of stuff, and nice. What’s not to like?” Heather said.


“Well, I’m not so sure about the ‘nice’ part, but yeah,” Jules replied awkwardly. “I mean, I’ve had a few offers, but nothing y’know, unh,” she grunted.


Heather gave her a disbelieving look. “Are you saying there are no hot girls here? Because I know you’re wrong. And sooo many of them are gay, it’s like a thing.”


“Well yeah but…” Jules trailed off awkwardly, blushing slightly.


Heather’s expression changed. “Oh hey sweetie, it’s ok. If you want to date a boy, I’ll understand. I mean I was into boys for-”


“Dope,” Jules interrupted, not unkindly. “Still a dyke here. You’re the bisexual one.”


“Then what?”


“Alright, just chill!” Jules gathered her thoughts. “It’s the dopey grins, and the gooey looks, ok?”


“Er?”


Jules sighed. “I see you and Dawn, Buffy and Faith, Willow and Tara, the list goes on. I see you guys getting all gooey, getting little smiles when someone mentions her name, that sort of thing.”


“Uh?”


“And, I guess I want that too,” she said quietly.


Heather gave her a small smile. “I should probably say something about ‘you? Gooey?’ but I get it.”


Jules nodded. “Faith said it. ‘Get some, get gone.’ It’s not good enough. I want a… girlfriend I guess.”


Heather smiled. “Yay!”
She nudged her best friend. “So? Anyone you’re sweet on?”


Jules snorted. “Ya mean besides Faith?”


Heather just sighed. “Honey, that ship has sailed. It sailed off the edge of the earth. Not only is she engaged to Buffy, she’s having a baby with her. Don’t ask how that works, I have no idea. But definitely sailed.”


“Yeah yeah. But a girl can dream can’t she?”


Heather shrugged. “Sure. As long as when you finish dreaming, you do something, y’know, useful.”


Jules waved her hands as if to scrub away the conversation.


“So, what are you looking for in a woman?” Heather asked.


Jules just looked confused.

Heather sighed. “This could take a while.”



+++



Slightly less than an hour later, Willow and Tara were sipping a milkshake in the Peach, and watching the reporters conduct interviews outside.
The Peach was smack in the middle of town, not unlike the old Espresso Pump in Sunnydale. And it made a natural gathering point for people travelling around Diamond Falls.

It also combined comfortable couches and seats with good food and a nice environment, so it was almost inevitable that the news crew would start out there.

Willow currently had six silver tokens in her pocket, each about the size of a dime.
She had the coin-like tokens, as Tara still wasn’t sure she could levitate even a coin reliably.


Outside, the reporter, a woman in her late twenties, was talking to a man in a delivery uniform and his small son.
By listening in, they could tell that the news crew had already been to the hospital and talked to the staff. They had apparently discovered that although the staff did not know what had happened, they did know that something had happened.

Something amazing if the children’s ward was anything to go by.


‘Do you recognize him sweetie?’ Tara asked silently.


’Honestly I’m not sure. A lot of that night was kind of a blur.’


‘Emotions were definitely running high. I think he might have been one of the ones we healed.’


As they watched, the man lifted him up so he could be on a level with the woman.
He waved his arms excitedly, and his father laughed and ruffled his super-short hair.


‘I think from his hair, he must have had cancer,’ Tara sent.


‘Can you tell what they’re saying?’


Tara shook her head. ‘Not through this glass.’


‘Spell?’
Willow suggested.


‘I have a spell that will do that. But there’s a much simpler option. We go outside and listen in with all the other bystanders.’


Willow blinked and sighed. ‘I always think of magic first. I guess I’m still not rehabilitated.’


‘Sweetie, that’s not it. We simply look toward what we’re good at. You’re really good at magic, so you do that first. It’s not because you’re not rehabilitated, it’s because it’s your best and shiniest toolbox.’



Willow smiled sadly. ‘I always liked shiny things.’


Tara smiled back, just as sadly. This is an issue that would take a long time to heal.
Willow’s past abuse had cost her so much, and her pain had cost even more.

‘Come on sweetie, let’s go listen in.’


Tara took a sad Willow in hand, and led her outside.


Chrissie bounced on over and gave Willow a hug. “Hi sis!”


Willow patted her on her soft-pink head. “Um, hey little sis. How’re you doing?”


Tara grinned at the pair. Chrissie usually took pains to look as adult as possible, but at the moment she was in disguise.
And she looked to be about ten years old.
Her pink hair was in pigtails, she had on shorts and a frilly top that just screamed ‘picked by my mother,’ and had glitter on her face.

They moved a little way away so that they could talk.


“What’s the story so far?” Willow asked quietly.


Chrissie smiled happily. “Well, I’ve been following them around all day. I told them I want to be a journalist when I grow up, and now they think of me as a cub reporter or mascot.”

She rolled her eyes. As someone who was young (though not as young as her small size and general cuteness would suggest) her youth was a bit of a sore point sometimes.

“Anyway, they’ve definitely being playing up the religious angle. They’ve been careful to say ‘some are calling it’ a miracle, but they seem to like using the term a lot.”


“Um, what did the kids say?” Willow asked.


“Angels,” Chrissie said simply. “They said it was angels. The adults don’t remember what happened, but once the kids started saying ‘angels’ they just sorta went with it.”


She eyed Tara. “Kinda coincidental.”


Tara grinned sheepishly. “It was us. Didn’t Giles tell you?”


Chrissie shook her head, pigtails bouncing. “Nope. And it was Dawn that gave me this job. So, what do we do now?”


“We’re going to give them some new miracles to look at,” Willow said. “Someplace else. All we need to do is get these tokens onto them,” she said, showing the shiny silver tokens in her hand.


“Neat!” Chrissy said. “I know Slayers don’t usually ‘do’ magic, but I’ve wanted to give it a go for a while now.”

She held out her hand, and Willow dropped the rune inscribed discs into Chrissie’s hand.

“Cool, magic coins.”


“If you want to study magic as anything other than a hobby, you’re going to need more time than Slayer training will allow,” Willow said. “I’d be willing to put you in with the witchy trainees, but you’d have to swap to the Guardian program.”

She put a hand on Chrissie’s shoulder. “Not everyone is any good at magic. Some people can’t even do it with any amount of training, because there’s just not enough magic inside them. Slayers don’t have that problem, but they do have a different problem.”


Chrissie cocked her head thoughtfully. “What?”


“Magic is thinky. Slayers really like to do. Not so much with the thinking. It can really get in the way of all the study and meditating you need to do.”


Chrissie nodded. “Yeah. But I’ve always been like that. I’d really like to try though. I’ve learned to deal.”


Willow nodded. “Okie-dokie. I’ll get Dawn or Danni to jigger up a new schedule for you. Something with training after the learning and meditating.”


“Cool. Now lemme show you what a Star can do,” Chrissie said.


“Star?”


“Yeah. Buffy’s been trying out names for a while now. The best two are ‘Amazons’ and ‘S.T.A.R’ or ‘Stars.’ It stands for special tactics and rescue. That one’s the favourite, because we thought of it ourselves.”

And with absolutely no attempt at stealth, she bopped right into the middle of the news crew.
She did avoid getting in the way, but she roamed around talking to everyone not actively doing the interview.
A few short minutes later, she was back.


“Done.”


She handed back two of the tokens. “One on each, two on the reporter lady, just to be sure. What do they do?”


Willow blinked. She hadn’t seen her do any planting at all.
“Wow. I didn’t even see you move. Um, it’s an emotional manipulation spell. We’re going to run off and do some more ‘miracle’ stuff, this is to make them excited, and make sure they go after the story in a new city.”


Chrissie grinned. “The Valkyries are the wreckers. We’re the sneaky ones. You send us in when you need something found out, or something done that isn’t massive destruction.”

“I figure if I can be a sort of witch-Slayer, that will really help the team,” Chrissie said.


“If you manage it, you’ll be the first witch-Slayer ever,” Willow said.


“How is it going? The Star thing?” Tara asked.


“Well, we’re thinking of getting some badges made up, like something we can wear as an armband or on a hat. And we want to get badges on our armour. There’s a place in Denver does all that sort of thing for clubs. Like firefighters and stuff, so we’re gonna ask Xander if he can sort it for us.”


“I meant how’s the group going?”


“Oh. Duh. Pretty good. Buffy tells us lots of stories about Sunnydale, and all the stuff she did. And all the things she did wrong, and all the stuff she learned. And she’s learning some sneaky things from us too, so it’s pretty fun.”

She giggled. “We take turns being bait when we’re on patrol. It’s fun to see how far we can push the bad acting before the vamps figure out something’s up.”


Curious, Willow asked. “How far can you push it?”


“Pretty far,” Chrissy said with a grin. “Like Buffy says, ‘vamps think with their fangs.’ Short of shouting ‘I am bait in a trap!’ they fall for it every time.”


“Just watch out though,” Willow said. “You get the occasional vamp that can think.”


Chrissie bobbed her head. “Yeah, one-percenters, we know.”

She looked over at the excited kid who was still waving his arms around. The word ‘pretty’ showed up a lot.
Chrissie giggled. “Looks like you made an impact with him.”


Willow grinned. “I have to agree with him.”

She looked at Tara. “Very pretty.”


Tara nudged Willow. “Oh you.”


“So what’s happening now?” Chrissie asked.


“Now we pop off to Colorado springs and Denver, and arrange some miracles,” Tara said.


“So is it true? You healed a whole bunch of sick kids?” Chrissie asked.


“Yep,” Willow said, nodding happily.


Chrissie jumped up and down excitedly “That’s so cool! Why?”


“Ah, um, er,” Willow said.


“We got… lost,” Tara admitted. “We did a big vengeance, grr-argh thing, and then we stormed off. But we didn’t pay enough attention on the way in.”


“And we kinda felt bad about what we’d done, and when we were trying to figure out how to get out, we ended up in the children’s ward.”


Tara nodded. “That place is like a maze.”


“Oh yeah. And we weren’t thinking too straight when we went in,” Willow said with a helpless shrug.


“And I spent a lot of the last couple of years as a healer. So when I saw all those bald girls and boys, I just had to do something.”


“And I helped,” Willow added.


“To healing magic, cancer, aids and all that, are just another disease.”


“So, poof. One healing ritual later, and everyone’s healed.”


“And then we had to make a run for it, before everyone came looking to see what happened,” Tara said. “It would have been nice to stay and play with the kids, but we had to go before our spell wore off, and people started to remember us.”


“Um, I think it might have happened anyway,” Chrissie said, pointing at the gathering.


Willow and Tara looked over to see the boy proudly holding up a drawing. In crayon, it showed two stick-figure women side by side holding hands.

One had bright red hair, and the other bright yellow.
Both had crudely drawn wings and rays coming off them, and both were emblazoned with a big red cross on their chests


“Wow, he nailed you,” Chrissie said.


“That looks nothing like us!” Willow protested in a tense whisper. “Neither of us are Christians, and since when do I have wings?”


“No, but you have red hair, she has blonde, she has wings and you are always holding hands. You’re doing it now. That’s pretty close for a kid.”


“I’m glad we have our disguises on,” Tara said wryly.


“Sooo… did you guys make out while you were there?” Chrissie asked with a little smile.


“What?! No! Well, there was a bit of celebratory kissing afterwards, but not in the middle of everyone!”


“We were down the hall, trying to find the way out,” Tara said.


Chrissie grinned. “And you expected little kids not to follow you out?”


Willow slumped. “Wow. We are so bad at this.”


Chrissie grinned. “Next time, take one of the Stars with you. We know how to do sneaky stuff.”
She listened intently for a moment. “Yep. He saw you. So did a bunch of other kids. Now you’re gay angels.”


Tara sighed. “You know, I’m all for equal rights, but this is not how I imagined I’d be striking a blow.”


Willow tugged on Tara’s hand. “Come on baby, we’d better go.”


Tara nodded. She turned to Chrissie. “Did you have any suggestions for who to take on this mission?”


Chrissie bobbed her soft pink head. “Uh-huh. Me!”



+++



“This sucks,” Chrissie muttered.


Willow frowned. “I thought you wanted to come?”


“I do,” Chrissy whined. “But I wanted to dress up nice. Not like a ten year old.”


“How old are you?” Tara asked, as she lit a brazier full of charcoal and herbs.


“Fifteen. Nearly,” Chrissy said sulkily.


Willow chuckled. “Relax Chrissie. Soon enough all your friends will be jealous, because you have to take your ID when you go clubbing, and they don’t. Then it will be awesome.”


“And for now, the fact that you look very young, is your secret weapon,” Tara said, as reassuringly as she could manage.


Chrissie sighed. “I guess. I just wanted to try out a new look, y’know? Like you guys. Far away from where anyone can see me.”


“I know,” Willow said. “I totally get it. But we’re going to the hospital, and we need you to get us in places. You being mistaken for a kid is part of that.”


“People are usually nice to kids. And underestimate them,” Tara said with a hint of humour.
She ruffled Chrissie’s soft pink hair. “So cute.”


“Hey!” Chrissie protested.


“It’s true,” Willow added. “You are very cute.”


Chrissie huffed. “Yeah, I know. It’s just annoying. Ok. Lemme get some gear and change.”


“No weapons,” Tara warned. “If something goes wrong, we’re running away. And a kid running around with weapons is very suspicious.”


Chrissie nodded. “I’ll just get my purse and change, ok?”



+++

5 minutes later, Chrissie was back, looking almost aggressively cheerful.

Her soft pink hair was now in four pony tails, still wavy from its previous pig-tail confinement.
Now she was wearing pink sneakers, purple knee-high socks, a pink pleated skirt, and a purple top.


“Shut up,” she said, before anyone could say anything.


“I detect a theme here,” Willow said with a smirk.


“Yeah, well. Pink and purple, very girlie.”


“Are you ready?” Tara asked.


“Are you?” Chrissie replied.


“Yep,” Willow said.


“Remember, this all happened because you got lost. So, you know where you’re going this time, right?”


“We’ve never been there before,” Tara said.


Willow face palmed. “But the floor plans are public information. They’re probably available online.”


Tara gave Willow a funny look. “Sweetie?”


“Oooh. And I’m supposed to be the smart one.”


“Relax,” Chrissie said. “Don’t forget, no woman is an island… or something.”
She waved around a handful of pages. “Giles thought you might need these.”


Willow looked at the pages. Someone had printed out the floor plans for the hospital, and clearly marked on them the children’s ward, the geriatric ward and all the fire exits, along with the roof access door, and the location of the security guard’s station.

“Wow. I thought mister Giles’ computer skills were limited to email,” Tara said, reading over Willow’s shoulder.


Willow nodded. “Email… and minesweeper. This bears all the hallmarks of his military friend.”

She flicked through the pages, and detected Xander’s hand in the sloppy writing.
She held up a page with a smiley face drawn on it in red marker. The face had its tongue poking out.

“Or Xander.”


“A man of many talents,” Tara said with a wry grin.


Willow nodded. “He’s still fairly terrible with computer stuff. But he’s good at organizing and wheedling people who aren’t.”


“Do we have a postcard?”


Willow’s brow wrinkled. “A postcard? Who makes postcards of hospitals? What would it say? ‘Stay away. From your friends at the hospital?’”


Tara chuckled. “You never know. In Sunnydale, we had our own waiting room.”


“True. Luckily, no-one’s needed a trip to the hospital so far. No, what we have is an aerial photo from some book.”


Tara looked at the picture. “That should do. It’s only for the starting point of the scry, we’ll be using the spell itself to find the best spot to land.”


“Land? Are we flying?” Chrissie asked. “Because, you know there’s stories about you two up above the clouds.”


“And if those stories have anything more racy than a cuddle or playing tag, then they are way off base,” Willow said with a faint pout.

Chrissie gave her a funny look.

“It’s cold up there,” Tara explained.


The funny look continued. “I’ll remind you that I’m fourteen, and officially have no idea what you’re talking about.”


Willow flushed pinkly. “Um, ah, oh. We… we should do this spell. A real spell, and not a euphemism for anything, just a spell.”


“You’re weird,” Chrissie observed.


“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Tara said loyally.


“Righty then,” Willow said cheerily, and glad to switch to a new subject.
She held up a little lacquered wooden box. “I have here the ingredients for the ‘don’t remember me’ spell. I’m going to cast it before we go, because casting it in a hurry last time left me with a headache for the rest of the day.”


“Poor baby,” Tara said.


“Well, it wasn’t so bad. There were snuggles afterwards, and that made everything better.”


“Describe the plan to me, oh senior Scooby,” Chrissie said.


“Uh huh. Sure. So, we cast the ‘forget me’ spell, scry for the hospital and teleport there. Then we head for the children’s wing, do the healing, and then if we can, head for the geriatric care wing. If we can, we do some more healing there, and then run for it.”


“I like that we’re organized,” Chrissie said. “Are we going on to the next hospital straight away?”


Tara shook her head. “No. We’ll come home between um, ‘missions.’ It will take us a while to recover from the healing and two teleport spells. And I wouldn’t want to rush through this and make some kind of mistake.”


“Also, Ethan’s disguise isn’t going to last forever,” Willow added.


“Disguise?”


“Yep, this is magical,” Willow said, pointing to her hair.


“I didn’t really cut off all my hair, and dye it chestnut,” Tara added. “It’s nice, but it’s not really ‘me.’”


“Wow. Handy.”


“I think Ethan was hoping people would stop looking for specific people,” Willow added. “Do you have everything? Because we’re gonna start now.”


“Yep. Holy water, a cross, a stake and mace, because no weapons.”


“That’s your idea of ‘no weapons?’” Willow said in surprise.


“Yep. All of that can be passed off as something harmless.”


“And the mace?” Tara asked, one eyebrow raised.


Chrissie shrugged. “Cute little girl. Horrible scary world. I can get away with it. And it could be useful.”


“Ok. Sit here,” Willow said, indicating the ground next to her.


Chrissie sat.
Tara sat next to her.

Willow placed shiny chunks of quartz crystal around them, leaving space for herself.

She rummaged in a little velvet pouch and took out three small purple amethyst beads, handing one to each of them.


Chrissie smiled. “Pretty.”


“Amethyst, good for so many things,” Tara explained.


“Also cheap. And pretty,” Willow said. “It makes it easier to get the spell to stick to you. No headaches.”


“What do I do with this?”


“Just keep it on you. In your pocket will do.”


Chrissie opened a locket and closed the bead inside. “I lose things out of my pockets.”


Willow nodded and lit a smudge stick. “It doesn’t have to be a smudge stick exactly, but I need some smoke. Now here’s the spell.”

Willow’s voice took on a strange echo.

“Blind Cadria, hear our plea.
Let our form be shrouded from living and non-living eyes, let our image slip from memory.
Let none remember our passing, no matter how deep our tracking.
Let the object of objection become but a dream, as i cause the seen to be unseen.”

The smoke turned purple and swirled around them, slowly fading away.


“Uh, purple is good, right?” Chrissie asked, a little nervously.


Willow nodded. “Purple is good. That should last about three hours. Now remember, it’s not a spell of invisibility, I haven’t tackled one of those yet. This will just make people forget about you the second you’re gone. So try not to leave any big holes in anything. And if you get in trouble, just hide. As soon as they can’t see you, they’ll forget what they were doing.”


“Cool. And video cameras?”


“That was the bit about the non-living eyes. It messed up my whole rhyme.”


“It might even work on vampires,” Tara said.


“I’m really hoping there’s none at the hospital,” Willow said with a frown.


“Well, if there are, leave them to me,” Chrissie said with a fierce expression.


Tara stifled a giggle. Fierce looked decidedly cute on someone who looked to be ten years old, for all that she was a Slayer.


Willow grinned at Tara over Chrissie’s head. “Will do.”


“Now for the next part,” Tara said. “Scrying the hospital.”


“Is that hard?” Chrissie asked.


“Not really,” Tara said. “Tricky maybe, but it’s not a huge spell.”


“Teleporting, on the other hand,” Willow said. “That one’s pretty heavy duty.”


Tara concentrated on the picture in her hand, and released the familiar spell with a whisper. “Let me see.”

There was a blur of colour in her mind’s eye, as her viewpoint hunted for a match to the image in her mind.
With a jerk, the image snapped into focus.
She concentrated on the image, moving the viewpoint around to make sure they had it right.
She nodded to herself that she had the right place, and set about searching for a safe spot to teleport to.
“I’ve found a spot,” she said, her voice echoing oddly.


‘Here sweetie, this looks good,’ she said silently to Willow.


“Cool,” Chrissie whispered, impressed by the strange harmonics in Tara’s voice.


‘Well this should impress her just a bit,’ Willow replied.
She reached out, and let her magic join with her love, to touch Tara.
As before, Tara’s light steadied her frantic energy, smoothing it out. Together they could achieve wonders.


‘Oh yeah baby. Together we can do anything.’


Willow grinned. ‘Let’s show off a little baby.’


Tara stood, hand in hand with Willow. With a lifting gesture, blue flames erupted in a ring around them.


“Whoa!”


Together they raised their hands up high, the blue flames rising with a roar, and with a bang, they were gone.



“Show offs,” Jules muttered.
She set out her deck chair and pulled a book from her backpack, settling in to wait.



+++

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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: Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:51 pm 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I like the plan to do healing spells in different hospitals around the country to lead the reporters off Slayer-Central... I wonder how the PTB's are going to react to news of miracles performed around the country....

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:42 pm 
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:hmm :glasses :eyebrow :clap

I see what you did there...

Great chapter. Can't wait for their mystical drive by of the Colorado Springs children's hospital. And Buffy and Faith's coming phone call to divert their third hospital run.

Chrissie was a fun way to shed a little more light on what Buffy is doing with her own strike team. Faith's girls just project waves of "here comes trouble" where ever they go. Buffy's team is all underage pigtails and "Should someone be looking for this little girl's parents?" right up until they sneak into and out of your secret vault, steal all your top secret stuff and set fire to the drapes on their way out of your evil lair.

It might be fun to see how the two teams interact with each other if they ever have a joint mission.

Lackey= "Sir! There's a group of heavily armed young women in black leather loitering by the loading dock behind the building."

Big Bad= "Never mind that you imbecile! A ten year old girl dressed all in pink with long blonde pigtails just skipped her way through the front door! If we don't find her in time she'll steal my evil amulet and burn this whole building to the ground!"

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:37 pm 
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Hi Zampsa!

Glad you liked :)


Hi Citanul!

Yep, you got it about right with the S.T.A.R.S :P You win a virtual cookie :)

And yes, they have a joint mission together in the near future.
Sadly it's all intense and shooty, so there's not a lot of time for clever quippage. :(

Jules has a Bad Day™
And Tara gets to put on her counsellor hat.


As to the PTB, the Scoobies are Generally doing what they do, fast enough to catch the bad guys (PTB) off guard.
It generally works :)

We'll see how it pans out soon.

More to come! :bounce

R :flower



P.S: Yep! Sorry, had to include a little shout out :kiss1

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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: Sun Oct 30, 2016 1:45 am 
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Two witches and a slayer walk into a hospital


“Whoa!” Chrissie said.


“Oh yeah,” Willow replied.


“Dizzy,” Chrissie complained.


“We did just jump many hundreds of miles in a few seconds. It’s bound to be disorientating,” Tara said.

Chrissie leaned over, hands on her knees and took some deep breaths.

“Are you ok?” She said, rubbing Chrissie’s back soothingly.


“Yeah, it’s going away.” She stood up. “Right, let’s go.”

She stopped. “Is that going to be a problem?” she said, pointing to the rooftop. There was another huge circle and five pointed star burned into the rooftop.


“It’s for containment,” Willow said. “It helps to contain elemental magic, which is most magic that affects the world in a significant way.”


“Like teleporting,” Tara added.


“Does it go away?”


“Uh, no.”


“Yikes. We’d better hurry then.”


“Yep. Let’s go.”


The trio hurried towards the exit door.
Someone clearly liked to come up here to think, as there was a small outdoor chair and a metal can full of cigarette butts.


Chrissie stepped up to wrench open the door, only to discover that someone had sealed the lock hole with putty or chewing gum, and the door simply popped open.

Much to the surprise of the scrubs-wearing man on the other side.


“Uh, hey,” he said.


“Uh, hey.” Chrissie balled her delicate fist instinctively. “He’s not going to remember this is he?” she said with a slowly spreading grin.


Willow looked a little worried. “No… what are you going to do?”


She jumped into his arms and said “Helloooo nurse!” and planted a big smooch on his cheek.
She then burst into giggles.


The bemused man smiled worriedly. “Actually I’m an anaesthesiologist, and what did you mean that I won’t remember this?”


Willow patted his arm. “Don’t worry about it. It’s pretty potent magic, and you’ll forget us as soon as we’re gone.”


“Magic?”


Tara nodded and unfurled her wings as she and Willow walked past. “Yep. She’s a witch, and I’m… an angel I guess.”


“Er…” the man said, as they waltzed past him and down the dark staircase.


“The children’s ward, it’s left at the bottom of the stairs, yeah?” Chrissie said, still in his arms.


“Yeah?” he said uncertainly.


“Cool. You can put me down now, please.”


The bemused man did so, and Chrissie scampered after her companions, leaving a very confused man on the rooftop.



+++



Five minutes later they were standing outside the children’s ward, nervously milling about.

“I feel like I’m about to go on stage,” Willow complained. “And I really hate being on stage.”


Tara nodded. “I know the f-feeling,” she said hesitantly.
She took Willow’s hand. “But I can do anything, if you’re with me.”


Chrissie looked at them in disbelief. “Are you always this nervous? How did you do it last time?”


“Um, ah,” Willow said. “We were sort of riding high on righteous indignation.”


“And we didn’t have time to think about it,” Tara added.


“Well, it’s showtime,” Chrissie said. She gently but firmly pushed them through the doors. “You can thank me later,” she muttered.


“Eeep!” Willow said.


Inside the ward were rows of beds, each filled with a small form.

This was the long-term care ward of the children’s wing. This was the place that sick children were put, when they were going to be staying a while.

Tara’s practiced eye saw the bright colours, and the drawings on the walls. That, along with the big bunches of sweet smelling flowers had her nodding.
However unfortunate it might be for a child to land here, it was clearly a place where those tasked with their care put in the effort to make their stay as pleasant as possible.

She took Willow’s hand and smiled, letting go of the restraints she habitually placed on her magic, and started to glow.
Wordlessly she cast a spell, another spell of long familiarity, one to let her see the ebb and flow of life force, this one tuned to the physical body.
Or as Willow had named it, her ‘CAT scan’ spell.

One or two of the children noticed her soft glow and the sparkles of her spellcasting and looked up in wonder.
‘This is going to be wonderful sweetie, she sent.
With a beatific smile she unfurled her wings, keeping them half folded so as not to get them caught on anything.

That got some attention.


Parents and children looked up with awe as the pair walked hand in hand down the ward, Tara and Willow touching each child in turn, diagnosing their illnesses, cataloguing what needed to be done, either through the spell, or through the link they shared.
There were so many sick children, but many though they were, they were not beyond healing.

Chrissie tucked herself unobtrusively into a corner by the doorway, watching in wonder.

When the luminous pair reached the end of the ward, they turned smiling with joy. This was going to be a day with a happy ending.


“A-are you here for the children?” one nervous and careworn woman asked.


Tara smiled radiantly. “Absolutely!” she said, her voice humming with the odd harmonics thrown off by the magic flowing through her.


The woman nodded sadly, a great weight sliding from her. “I suppose it’s time. I’m glad he’s going to a better place.”


Willow grinned. “Sure. I bet your place is way better than here.”


“We come to heal, not to take,” Tara said.
She looked up at the wide eyed children. “Would you all like to go home?”


That brought many excited nods and barely suppressed squeals of joy.

Willow and Tara closed their eyes as Tara called forth her strength, drawing from Willow’s seemingly bottomless reserve of energy. This was a major spell, right up there with teleporting around, and not easy. However it was considerably less draining than casting forty major healing spells in a row.

She drew on the shared energies joining them together and cast the spell.
Her teachers in the mage’s academy called it by the grandiose name “Mastery of Healing.”
Though in truth, it was not a spell, as much as an investment. With that heavy investment of magic, Tara and Willow were able to energise themselves and enter a higher state, such that they could use moderately powerful healing magic without effort.
Originally intended as a spell for the battlefield, it served as well here.

And as a side-effect common to many spells, it left the two women glowing brightly.
Glowing, they walked slowly back down the ward, touching each child in turn.

The magic flowed through them both, healing those they touched, driving disease from their bodies, and restoring sunken cheeks.
Pale flesh turned pink with health and eyes glittered as health was restored, one by one to each child in the room.

And then they turned to the parents.
Each in turn they touched on the forehead, refreshing them. Healing and restoring them, to looks of wonder.

The last mother to be healed gasped almost ecstatically. “Thank the lord!”


Tara just smiled and shook her head enigmatically.

“Nope,” Willow said. “We’re not from the god guy. We’re more Goddess friendly.”


The woman looked utterly confused. “But-but you’re an angel?”


Tara nodded, ruffling her wings slightly for emphasis. “I’ve not seen the god you speak of, nor any of his angels. We serve the Mother Goddess. Take this gift from us, in her name.”


The woman looked terribly worried and confused. “But… I don’t understand, if god didn’t send you, why?”


“Because we could. If you could feed the poor, wouldn’t you? If you could protect the innocent, wouldn’t you? If you had the power to heal the sick, wouldn’t you?”


Willow touched her gently on the shoulder. “With great power comes great responsibility. We could do this, so we should."


“But my son, he’s healed?”


Tara nodded. “Good as new. The cancer is gone. He should be feeling better already, and he’ll continue to improve. Soon he’ll be as healthy and strong as any other boy his age.”


“How-how do I repay you?” the woman asked, inadvertently acting as spokesperson for those still too stunned to speak.


Tara smiled. “You can repay me my helping the next person in need. If you can help them, then help them.”


“Y’know, pay it forward?” Willow translated.


The woman nodded solemnly. In the silence, Chrissie quietly cleared her throat.


Tara glanced at her and saw her significant look. “Sweetie? We should go.”


Willow nodded. “And no accidental smooching this time.”

The woman looked confused again.

Willow grinned sheepishly. “Um, we thought no one was looking.”


“Smooching?”


Willow frowned. “Sure. She’s my girl, and a great kisser!”


“Fiancé,” Tara murmured.


She caught Chrissie’s increasingly worried look.
“We need to go.”


She turned to the kids, who were slowly shaking off their amazement, and starting to act more like regular kids who had been cooped up for weeks. Noisy.
“I’m sorry guys, we’d love to stay and tell you all sorts of fun stories, but we have to go.”


“Yup, that’s us, miracle and run. This is the run part. Bye!”


And with that, the pair scampered out the door, Chrissie watching the way.

The adults all blinked in surprise and confusion. Each had the distinct feeling that something momentous had happened.
Together they looked around the room and the giggling and amazed looking children squealing and pointing at each other and waving their arms around excitedly.


“A angel mommie!”


She looked down and saw her son beaming up at her.
She was shocked. His skin was a healthy pink, and he was smiling. He even had a light fuzz of hair on his head, a shock, as the harsh drugs had knocked out all his hair months ago.


“An… an angel?”



+++



“Baby? What are you reading?” Willow asked.
Tara liked up from the paperback book she was reading and giggled helplessly.

It still messed with Willow’s head in a naughty-but-nice kind of way, seeing her girl with the short dark hair. And ok, daisy-dukes were a big part of the appeal.
After a surprisingly long giggling session, Tara was able to get out between gasps, “Anya gave it to me. It’s a ‘Bonnet Ripper.’” More helpless giggles ensued. “Straight people are so strange!”


Willow tipped the book back and saw the cover. It showed a prim looking woman in Amish dress, flanked by two handsome men.
She read the blurb on the back of the book, and blinked in surprise. “It’s an Amish romance novel?!”

Tara giggled and nodded.


“How does that even work?”


Tara smiled. “Well, I haven’t read the whole thing, but it seems like a regular romance, only there are more boys, and less kissing.”


At that point Willow jumped in surprise as the phone in her purse started vibrating and beeping madly.

“Ooo! That has to be Buffy. I’m hoping for no disaster here, I really am.”
She was destined to be disappointed.


She rummaged in her purse and pulled out the bulky phone, extending the antenna. “Hey Buff! What’s up?”


+++


One stressful trip to Boston later…

On their return, all five women had all-but collapsed into bed, just wanting the day to be over. Willow had dropped Tamara on Dawn and Giles, and staggered off to bed.


Giles had lit up upon meeting Tamara. Unfortunately his investigation was forced to wait for later, given her obvious emotional exhaustion.
Though he hadn’t pressed for an explanation, it was apparent to him that something drastic had occurred in Boston.
Putting his concerns and curiosity aside, he had Dawn show her to a room for the evening.


“Giles, what happened?” she asked.


Giles shook his head. “I don’t know. They all appear to be unharmed physically, though rather battered emotionally.”


“Wasn’t it just supposed to be Buffy and Faith? How did Willow and Tara get involved?”


“I don’t know that either. I imagine we’ll find out tomorrow, when they’ve recovered somewhat. Though I suspect it had something to do with Willow asking for that rather militaristic display earlier. Regardless, they’re home now, and will be in better spirits after a good night’s sleep I imagine.”


Dawn was looking worried. “I hope the baby’s ok. You know, Hope?”


Giles smiled wanly. “I’m sure she’s fine. If there was a problem with her health, I would imagine Buffy and Faith to be in far worse shape, and Tamara to be rather better, given her lack of connection. No, I rather suspect that something else happened. For now though, bed. We shall find out what happened soon enough.”


Dawn nodded thoughtfully, still worried. “Sure. We can tell them our news tomorrow I guess, when they eventually surface.”
She sighed. “I just hope I can get to sleep.”


Giles smirked. “I imagine someone can help you with that.”


“Giles!” Dawn protested, shocked.


He stammered. “I-I simply meant that, ah, cuddles and hugs do wonders for easing worries. Nothing untoward I promise.”


Dawn grinned at him. “Sucker. But yeah, snuggles and such are the best.”


“Quite.”


Her grin turned positively evil. “Right after steamy sex.”


He blushed somewhat and cleared his throat. “I shall pretend that I didn’t hear that.”



+++



It was quite late in the morning when Willow awoke.
And it was a good morning, because she awoke to gorgeous blue eyes and a soft smile.
“Hey baby,” she said with a happy wriggle, snuggling closer.


“Hey sweetie. Feeling better?”


Willow nodded against her chest. “Much.”


“I’m glad. Me too.”


“I agree with Dawn, I love that spell of yours.”


Tara chuckled. “Never underestimate the restorative power of sleep.”


“Wow, it’s ten o’clock. We are such lazy bones.”


“Well, we shall have to go for a run,” Tara said in a teasing tone.


“A run?” Willow said in tones of disbelief. “We are all snuggly, in bed, after a very stressful couple of days, and you want to go for a run?”


“Well, the run is just the warm up. Afterwards, I was thinking of a shower, and a leisurely breakfast, followed by cuddles, snuggles, and naked fun time.”


“Well, except for the run part, that sounds like a wonderful morning.” Willow had a hopeful expression on her face, clearly hoping she could get out of the run part of the day.


“It does, doesn’t it?” Tara said with an impish smile. “We’d better get dressed for the run, if we’re going to get all the other nice things done in time.”


“Noooo,” Willow whined, burrowing into the covers. “It’s all cold out there, and running makes me tired.”


Tara chuckled. “Only for a little while. Sweetie, if you really don’t want to go for a run, you don’t have to. But you should. I am going for a run, and I was hoping my lovely fiancé would join me.”


“Well if you’re going to be all sensible about it…” Willow muttered.


Tara grinned wickedly and stripped the blankets and comforter off the bed in one smooth motion.


Willow squeaked in horror, instinctively covering herself with her hands.
Tara got the giggles at the sight of naked Willow trying to cover herself with her delicate hands.

After a few seconds of futile covering, Willow blushed, and got up.


“You know, you really have nothing you need to hide, sweetie.”


Willow huffed. “It’s not about logic, it’s about instinct.”

She moved in for happy-naked-cuddles, and a certain amount of bottom groping.

“Do you think they’re going to be ok?” Willow asked.


Before Tara could answer, a muffled squeal could be heard from the adjoining wall, followed by a loud thump. This was followed by Buffy’s near-hysterical giggling, and oddly, oinking noises.


Willow sighed. “Forget I asked.”

The giggles rose in pitch, in a familiar way that told Willow that Faith was getting some form of revenge, possibly by tickling Buffy.
Shortly thereafter the squeals changed to moans.

“Right. Running then?” Willow said. “Possibly followed by a shower in your room. And breakfast. Naked fun time should be in your room too I think.”


She fit actions to words, and started getting dressed.

“I’d say they’re going to be fine,” Tara said with a twisted smile.



+++



Willow staggered into the lounge, and fell as though dead, face-first onto the couch.
Tara strolled in looking energized.

Willow protested, her voice muffled by the couch cushion.
She sat down next to her exhausted mate and patted her bottom reassuringly. “You did very well. Five miles is no mean feat sweetie.”

Willow whimpered into the couch.

Tara rubbed her hands together mister-Miyagi-style, her hands glowing with white light.
Starting with Willow’s quivering calf muscles, she started massaging Willow’s limp-noodle legs.

Willow’s first response was a pained, muffled squeak. The squeak faded to a whimper as Tara worked her strong fingers into her calf muscles.

As Tara’s fingers worked into tired muscles, Willow’s whimpers were tempered with tiny squeaks as the busy fingers found particularly tender spots.
Tara’s smirk widened as her hands worked up into the backs of Willow’s thighs. The squeaks and whimpers changed into moans, and a different kind of whimper.

When her hands reached a pair of taut buns, the moans changed pitch entirely.
Tara’s glowing hands worked away, until all the tense and quivering muscles had turned to jelly, and Willow was a happy pink puddle, lying on the couch.

“Just relax sweetie. I’ll go get us some food, ok?”


’M’kay,’ Willow sent on their private frequency.


Tara leaned over and nibbled a very cute ear, revealed by Willow’s messy pony tail. “Then we can have desert.”


“Yay?” Willow said, clearly torn between desire and the urge to never move again.


“Back soon sweetie. Enjoy your well earned relaxation.”


+++


In the food place, Tara found a hastily dressed Buffy rummaging around in the refrigerator.


Buffy stood up triumphantly, her arms filled with cheese and yoghurt.
“Uh. Hi Tara!” she said brightly. She looked slightly flushed.


Tara smiled back. “Hey Buffy.”


“Um, best you not ask what this is all for,” she said.


“Breakfast in bed?” she asked innocently.


“Yesss… that’s it. Yup,” Buffy replied hesitantly.


A twisted grin appeared. “Good to see you feeling better.”


“Yep. That’s us. All better. And having a perfectly ordinary breakfast in bed.”


Tara nodded solemnly. “Of cheeses. And yoghurt. With no spoons.”


Buffy blushingly snagged two spoons from the drawer. “Silly me.”


Tara couldn’t hold her face still any longer, and her twisted grin broke out.


Buffy coughed. “Well. I’ll just be going. Faith is a little tied up at the moment, so I have to get the food.”
Her eyes widened. “Not that she’s tied-up tied-up, just that she has her hands full. Of nothing strange at all!”


Tara chuckled. “Go. It’s fine Buffy, cheese and yoghurt is nothing to be ashamed of.”


“Because cheese and yoghurt are both perfectly ordinary things to eat,” Buffy said, trying to get her blushing under control. “For breakfast.”


“We should get together when we’ve cleaned up,” Tara said, bravely trying to keep her giggles restrained. “We found some things on our visit which we want to show you.”


Buffy nodded. “Um sure. Faith has some things we never got to show you, what with the grr and argh stuff.”
She looked down at the small box of soft cheeses and the container of fruity yoghurt. “I should take this upstairs before Faith gets loose… Hungry! I meant hungry!”

Tara could barely restrain her smirk.

Buffy bolted from the room.


‘Which level was food again?’ she sent to Willow.


‘Four I think,” came the sleepy reply. ‘why do you ask?’


‘No reason,’
Tara said as she organised toast, cereal and juice.


After a moment’s thought she reached into the refrigerator, and pulled out a tub of fruit yoghurt.



+++



“So, Whatcha got?” Faith asked.


The four of them were sitting crosslegged under a tree, out on the back field of Scooby central.
In the background were shouts, grunts and various martial goings-on, as the Junior Slayers trained with the Daughters of the Flame. They were supervised by the Senior Slayers, Xander and Dawn.


Giles had been out earlier, flexing his Watcher muscles, though he had returned to his studies after an hour or so.
He had been quite sober as he told Buffy and Faith about his prophesy related breakthroughs, but he refused to get into it then and there. He instead scheduled a presentation to make to the assembled Scoobies about it, in less than an hour.
Predictably, his gentle chiding of Buffy for her lack of patience had fallen on deaf ears.


“We got the goods!” Willow said excitedly, bouncing a little. “Tara’s family book of magic and history, a bunch of personal stuff like jewellery and spell stuff, and a ring! What about you?”


“Well,” Buffy said. “No magic book. Though we do have some unbearably cute pictures of Faith as a little girl. And a sort of heirloom.”

With that, Faith drew her pistol, and spun the cylinder. The cylinder spun with oiled precision. Xander had walked her through cleaning the long-stored weapon, and now it shone.


“Jeepers, a gun?”


“Yeah baby, check it out!”


“That’s not a gun, that’s a cannon!” Willow squeaked.

Tara leaned forward curiously.
Willow looked worried.


“Uh, sorry if I’m freakin’ out anyone here,” Faith said.


Tara shrugged. “I grew up on a farm. I know how to handle firearms.”


“Bad. Ass,” Faith said. “You’re not…” she trailed off helplessly.


“Upset? Because I was killed by a bullet?” Tara asked softly.

Faith nodded.

“No. To be honest I barely even registered what happened. It felt like I’d been hit by a baseball, and then it just went dark.”
She squeezed Willow’s hand reassuringly. “Willow on the other hand, might be upset.”


Willow squeezed back. “I’m good. I was all gun-hating and freaked, but Xander got me through it, for Dawn’s sake. Guns are fine. Misogynistic boneheads are another story altogether.”


Tara checked the weapon, noting that the cylinders were visibly empty. “Wow, this thing is huge. Way to much gun for me to handle.”


“Yeah. The size is a bit of a problem. I might take it into town, see if they can do anything to make the grip smaller. I mean, I got Slayer strength an’ all, but I still got girl hands.”


Buffy handed Willow a shiny bullet. “What do you make of that?”


“Ooo, Shiny!” Willow said as she took the bullet.
She examined it closely. “I think I’ve seen these before.”


“You have?” Buffy said, impressed. “Is there anything you don’t know?”


“It’s a bullet,” Willow pronounced, deadpan.


Tara nodded, similarly sober. “Yes. I’ve seen them too.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Behold the chuckle twins, how clever they are.”


Willow grinned. “Ok, serious now. Well, it’s a silver bullet, so it’ll hurt shapeshifters, were-wosits and anything influenced by the moon.”


“And this is a crude binding spell,” Tara said, tapping the engraving on the bullet. “Whoever did this has a very practiced hand, but it’s not a very sophisticated spell, even for it being carved on a bullet. I imagine they’d done many bullets like this, but they’re no witch.”


“So, what would a binding spell do on, a silver bullet?” Faith asked.


Tara thought about it for a moment. “Not much. Binding spells aren’t instant. A bullet would move too fast to actually bind a soul or a spirit.”


She looked at Willow, who nodded.
“This is more your field than mine, baby. But that sounds about right.”


Faith looked thoughtful. “Would it hurt? Like, a ghost or demon or whatever?”


Tara nodded. “Having a tiny bit of your spirit bound, and yanked out at high speed? Very.”


“Right,” Faith said. “So what we have here, is a bullet designed to work on anything. People, werewolves and ghosts, demons maybe.”


“Who does that sound like?” Buffy asked.


“Us,” Willow replied.


“Your dad was like, the previous generation of Scoobies!” Willow said, bouncing happily.


A slow smile spread across Faith’s face. “Wicked.”



“We don’t know anything else about your pops,” Buffy said. “But it looks like you might be able to be proud of him honey.”


“Yeah. No Slayer him, but fightin’ anyways. Sweet.”


“I picture him as a kind of older Xander,” Willow said.


“Why Xander?” Faith asked.


“Uh, he’s kind got your colouring? I’d have said ‘Giles’ but he looks too British.”


“I ain’t gonna ask what Brits look like, ‘cos you’ll just say ‘Giles.’”


Willow grinned, but managed to hold her tongue.

“What else did you get?” Tara asked.


“Some eighties jewellery. And that book B has in her hot little hands,” Faith said, giving Buffy a dirty look.


Buffy smiled in a way that could only be described as triumphant. Or smug.
“There are some totally adorable pictures of Faith in here,” she gushed. “I’m saving it for afterwards, because you are going to melt when you see how cute she is!”


Willow plomped down Tara’s photo album. “I’ll see your cute Faith, and raise you a cute Tara.”


Buffy narrowed her eyes. “This means war, Rosenberg.”


Willow squinted back. “Bring it on.”


Tara and Faith exchanged helpless glances. There was some eye rolling too.

“Aright, enough. Y’all can look at the books after. And mudwrestle or something to decide who’s got the most embarrasin’ pics or whatever.”


She looked at her other half, who was currently engaged in a furious squinting contest with Willow.
She sighed.


“So, what else ya got Snow-White?”


Tara chuckled at the nickname.
She opened the lacquered box and showed Faith the contents.
Inside were dozens of small compartments filled with herbs, chips of sparkling stones, and some dried animal parts.
Hidden amidst the spell components were two small compartments of jewellery.


“Wanna trade? I’ll trade you a dangly 80’s number for er, that hippy-looking earring,” Faith said.


“Sure,” Tara said.

They traded.

“We also found my mother’s spell book, which turned out to be… interesting.”


Buffy perked up at that. “Interesting? Sounds like a story there.”


“Oh yeah. It’s a doozy,” Willow said. “Wanna show them baby?”


Tara nodded. She opened the grey leather-bound book, instinctively opening the page to the sketch of Bodhmal.
She turned it to face Buffy and Faith.


“Cute hair Will. Uh, why’d you sketch in the super spellbook Tara?”


“I didn’t. This sketch is thousands of years old.”


“And it’s not me,” Willow added. “Well, it is but is isn’t, y’know?”


Buffy blinked. “Um, nope. ‘splainy please?”


Tara tapped the page. “This is Bodhmal, one of Ancient Ireland’s most powerful druidesses.”


Willow flipped a few pages until she came to the picture of Liath on horseback. “And this is Liath, the grey. One of ancient Ireland’s most skilled warriors. Maybe even a Slayer.”


“Holy crap. If that ain’t you T, I dunno who it is.”


Tara smiled a little. “It’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet, but Liath was Bodhmal’s protector. She fell in love with her, and they sort of eloped.”

“Bodhmal was married to some noble guy. Apparently, they weren’t happy. So she dumped him, and ran off with her girl. Can’t say I fault her decision,” Willow said.


“If he was short, and had orange hair, I think you’ve done this one,” Buffy said.


Willow cringed. “I hope not. I’d hate to mess up Oz’s life in two lifetimes. But Ireland, land of ging-ers. It could be.”


“Reincarnation is a common theme in Irish mythology,” Tara explained. “So it’s starting to look like Willow and I have lived before.”


“That’s kind of…” Buffy struggled for words.


“Scary?” Willow put in.


“I was going for ‘romantic,’ but I can see how it would be scary,” Buffy finished.


Willow and Tara exchanged glances. “That’s not even the really strange thing,” Willow finally ventured.


She held up the ring she had been concealing. “This is-”


“The Tear of the Goddess,” Buffy said in an awestruck voice.


“Oh pooh,” Willow said, looking rather crestfallen. “Well there’s my thunder well and truly stolen. You’ve been talking to the Guardians then?”


“Huh? What?” Buffy said, reluctantly tearing her eyes from the glittery ring.


Tara touched Willow’s arm. “Sweetie, look at Buffy. She recognizes the ring.”


Willow looked closer at her best friend. Buffy’s eyes were wide, and she was breathing somewhat rapidly. “Buff, you ok?”


“I feel weird,” Buffy said. “Like, kinda freaked. Or excited. I definitely have this feeling that I know that ring.”


“Lord of the rings,” Faith said simply.


Buffy blinked. “Oh yeah! Lady Galadriel’s ring!” She said brightly.


Willow made a choking noise. “Oh I am so going to sue someone.”


Tara laughed. “It’s a bit older than Tolkien, Buffy.”


“Though, it has the same sort of power level,” Willow added.

Buffy raised an enquiring eyebrow.

“We don’t know what it’s for, but it’s insanely powerful,” Willow said. “Like, ‘blow up the world’ powerful.”


“Whoa. That’s a hell of a thing to have on your finger,” Faith said, impressed.


“I know. Really.”


She looked over at Buffy. “Um, Buff? You’re kinda staring. At the ring.”


“Huh?” Buffy said, tearing her eyes away from Willow’s hand again.


“You want to check out the ring, huh?” Willow said.
She took off the ring and handed it over.


Buffy shuddered with inexpressible emotion, tears running down her face.

“B? You ok?”


Buffy nodded. “I will be,” she said. “We all will be.” Her grip on the ring was white knuckled.


“Um, Buff? It’s meant to be magically tough, but I’d really like it if you didn’t crush Tara’s heirloom.”


Buffy laughed and sobbed. The combination was beginning to worry Willow, and Faith seemed a little freaked out by Buffy’s reaction.


“B? I really think ya need to let go of the ring.”
She looked at Willow. “This thing booby trapped? Cursed or whatever?”


Willow shook her head, eyes wide. “Heck no! it’s positively glowing with goodness. Not a trace of darkness.”


“Buffy? What are you feeling?” Tara asked softly, concern evident.


“I don’t know,” she said breathlessly. “It’s deep. And complex.”


“Hope. Fear. Joy. Some more fear, and uh, I guess recognition,” Faith said.


“You can feel it?” Tara asked.


Faith shook her head. “No. But I can feel her, and it’s not hitting me as hard, so I guess I can pick through it.”


“This ring,” Buffy said, clearly struggling. “It’s central to everything.”


“Um, what ‘everything,’” Willow asked, more than a little freaked at her friend’s reaction.


“Everything, everything. Like all everything. Gah! I don’t know. All I know is that I’m feeling stuff. Really deep stuff.”

Slowly she unclenched her white-knuckled grip, opening her hand to reveal the ring. Willow was of the opinion that if Buffy had been holding a rock like that, she would now have a handful of gravel, but the ring was unharmed.

Buffy pulled the ring from her palm with her free hand, wincing a little. There was now a star-shaped dent in her palm.
“Owie.”


Willow carefully examined the ring. “Whew. Glad it’s tough.”


“Sorry,” Buffy said, looking a little spacey.


“B? You ok?”


“I’m feeling a little, uh, Golum-y to be honest.”


“Your hair is going to fall out, your eyes are going to get all big, and you’re going to go all ‘my precious?’” Willow asked, wide eyed.


“Less with the hair, but a little bit. When I look at that ring, I just want to just grab it and say ‘mine.’”


“Eeep!” Willow squeaked, hiding the ring away. “No stealing the ring! It’s my engagement-wedding ring… thing.”


“Is it like with the Scythe?” Tara asked softly, diverting the tiny drama.


Buffy looked thoughtful. “Yeah. I think so.”


Willow looked conflicted. “Well, if it’s all ‘save the world-y’ then you can borrow it I guess. But I want it back!”
She gingerly handed the ring back to Buffy, waiting for more white knuckled attempts to crush it.


Buffy’s looked was somewhat awed, but there didn’t seem to be any grabby-crushy-cry-y stuff going on.


“You ok B?” Faith asked.


“Yeah, it’s just… wow this stuff is hard to describe.”


“Deep things often are,” Tara added softly, drawing a grateful glance from Buffy. “Take your time.”


“I get the same sort of feeling with this ring that I get from Dawn. Like, this is part of the family, somehow. Am I making sense?”


Willow nodded, shooting a glance at Tara.

“Hey, what’s that about? Buffy said. “I saw that. That was definitely a look. Spill the beans you guys.”


Tara nodded slightly.
“Um, ok. Well, Tara’s a seer. So she did a reading on the ring, to find out about its past, and I helped.”

Buffy nodded, to show that she was following along.

“So, mystically or emotionally powerful events tend to imprint themselves on the environment. Tara has some spells that let her see those imprints, so we can get a look at an object or place’s history.”


“It’s called psychometry,” Tara explained.


“Right. Anyway, we looked at the ring. And we saw a lot of history, and I mean a lot!”


“We also saw our handfasting,” Tara said with a shy smile, and an adoring look at Willow. “She was very beautiful.”


Willow smiled back. “Yes you were.”


Buffy looked puzzled. “Well that sounds really shiny, but why the ‘look?’”


“Because Dawn was the priestess, leading the ceremony,” Tara said quietly.


“What?! How?” Buffy squeaked. “She wasn’t even real until a few years ago, and now you’re telling me she’s running around in the past?”


Tara and Willow exchanged another glance.

“I saw that! What now?


“Um, there’s more. Usually when you do a reading like this, the last vision you see is the making of the item or place you’re reading. It’s very mystically significant.”


“We didn’t see it,” Tara added. “So we knew something was up.”


“We were being blocked.”


“So we pushed.”


“Really, really hard.”


“And eventually we saw an island. An island full of women warriors.”


“The ring belonged to a queen, Buff. She could see us, and she seemed happy to see us. And um, Dawn was there too.”


Buffy groaned and buried her face in her hands. “Only my sister could get into trouble centuries before she was even born. And not actually be born.”


“More like millennia. Um, we took a lot of notes, so we’re hoping that Giles can help us out with this,” Willow said. She handed Buffy
her notebook, containing the combined sketches that they had made.

Faith leaned over to look at the sketches as Buffy pored over them.


“Think I know where they got the ring design from,” Faith said, pointing to the sun symbol that Willow had drawn.


”Oh? Where?” asked Willow, eyebrows raised.


Faith held up Buffy’s hand, the imprint of the ring still clearly visible as a red mark. It matched the sketch.

“Ooooh. Yeah, that makes sense.”


“I think of it as more of a star than a sun shape,” Tara said.


“Is there a difference? Buffy asked.


“Sun shapes are rounder?” Tara said hesitantly.


“You know, I was never that great in school, but somehow I managed to remember that suns and stars were the same thing,” Buffy said.


“We’re talking symbols here, not astrophysics,” Willow responded.


“We should tell mister Giles,” Tara said. “It might connect to some of the other things that are going on at the moment.”


“Poor Giles. So much dusty research,” Buffy said.


Faith made a noise. “We talking about the same Giles here? Tall, green eyes, likes books? He’s never been so happy?”



“I think Joyce might have something to do with that,” Tara said with a cheeky smile.


“Tara!” Buffy protested.


Tara looked innocent.
Buffy wasn’t fooled.


Willow coughed. “Um, so back to the show and tell.”
She patted the huge leather book. “This is Tara’s ancestral Book of Shadows, and it’s absolutely chock full of spells, potions, history and other cool stuff!”


“Or as mom used to put it, the ‘Bumper Fun book O’ Magick,’” Tara added.


Buffy and Faith gave her a funny look.

Tara smiled sheepishly. “My mom had a weird sense of humour. And yes, she really did call it that.”


“I like her more and more,” Buffy said with a smile. “Anything fun in there? Can you make me fly? Ooo, or be invisible? Or fly?”


“You said that already, Buff.”


“Yeah, but flying is really cool!” she looked at Willow. “I am so totally jealous of your flying spell right now.”


“Well Buff, you have magic inside you. I’m sure with only five years training or so, you’ll be able to cast the flying spell.”


“Five years!?”


“It’s not an easy spell. Not as bad as teleporting, but yeah, it’s a biggie.”


“So unfair,” Buffy muttered. “Could you cast it for me?”


“Sure. The problem is that the caster has to manipulate the spell to steer. So it would be me flying you, like you were a kite. I think you’d be better off taking up hang gliding.”


Buffy sighed. “Darn. Is there anything else fun in the Bumper Fun Book O Magick?” she said, capitalizing each word.


“It looks like a big book, Buffy,” Tara said. “But it’s magical. In reality, it’s more like an entire library.”


“And we’ve only been able to pick at it for an hour or two,” Willow added. “It’s going to take months just to catalogue this stuff.”


“And the only people who can read it are O’Liatháin witches,” Tara said. “Which currently, is me.”


“And me, sorta of,” Willow said.


“Because you’re a big fan of books?” Buffy said.


“Nope. More because I’m slightly married to Tara.”


“Slightly?” Faith asked. “How are you ‘slightly’ married?”


“Um, because we commit ourselves to one another in the eyes of the goddess. But we haven’t had an official ceremony yet.”


“We have to have a ceremony with the book, before it will fully recognise Willow,” Tara said. “But she can see the words, and look at the pictures.”


Buffy grinned. “I like books with pictures.”


“And here was I thinking that that you and books didn’t get on well.”


“Hey books are great. They are chock full of knowledge, and they beat back the dumbness. With torches and pitchforks of fire-y knowingness.”


“Wait, you like books?” Willow said, puzzled.


“Sure. They look really pretty all stacked on the shelves in neat rows. Like soldiers of smartness. Books often save the day.”


Willow just looked surprised. Her eyes wandered around Buffy’s outfit, looking for traces of purple.

“Uh, ok. It’s just, I never really thought you liked books. What with your history of hating them and all.”
She slid a book of spells over to Buffy.


Buffy groaned as her eyes took in the complicated spell diagrams. “I said I liked books on shelves. They look neat and proper. I never said I liked reading them!”


“Books should be read!” Willow protested.


“Yes they should. By people who are not Buffy.”

She flicked through the spell book. It had pictures. Lots of pictures.
Really neat etchings and pencil drawings. But they were all of spell ingredients, casting methods and such.
And therefore dull.
She groaned again. “I like books, and I like knowing things. I just wi… want there to be a way to go from one to the other without the Buffy-crazy-making reading part.”

“Well, Tara has a spell like that. It lets you transfer or even copy aspects of another person’s being. Like their ability to read French, or their strength.”


“Um,” Tara said hesitantly.


Buffy’s eyes lit up. “Have I mentioned how much I like you recently?”


“Not recently no.”


“I like you Tara. A lot.”


Willow chuckled. “Well she’s taken. And before you ask, the spell is only temporary. It lasts about an hour. Longer if you cast it with a bit more oomph.”


Buffy looked a bit crestfallen. “Oh pooh.”
Her eyes narrowed. “And where was this spell when I had exams?”


“Tara didn’t know it then. And using someone else’s knowledge would kinda defeat the purpose of having the exam.”


“Well, it would be great for the purpose of getting Buffy through college,” Buffy said.


“But not for the purpose of actually teaching Buffy things,” Willow replied. “And you shouldn’t talk about yourself in the third person. It’s the sign of an unhealthy mind.”


“Buffy sighs,” Buffy said.


“You should stop now. It’s kinda weird over here,” Willow said.


Buffy grinned.


“Well, that’s about it for show and tell,” Willow said. “The big book o’ magick has loads of stuff in it, but it’s gonna take a long time to work through it all, with one and a half readers.”


“Well here’s hoping there’s something in it that can help,” Buffy said.


“I think there will be,” Tara said. “It’s just a matter of finding it.”


“We’ll keep working on it,” Willow said.


“We should catch up with G-man,” Faith said. “He did wanna talk to us.”


“Sure. Let’s go see what’s new in the land of dusty scrolls,” Buffy said, getting to her feet.



+++



“Thank you all for coming,” Giles said in his best lecturing voice.


“You were expecting us all to go shopping?” Buffy said.
She sat quietly on Faith’s lap as the rest of the Scoobies arrived.

Dawn included her two best pals, by the simple expedient of shoving them onto the couch and sitting down with a pink comforter.
She looked up at Giles. “They need to be here.”


“Quite. Of course.”


“So what’s the what Giles?” Xander started.


“I’m just waiting on one more visitor,” Giles said.


On cue, Cordelia appeared.
Everyone was silent for a while, and stared.


“Er, right,” Buffy said. “I’m gonna be the first to ask. What’s with the private Benjamin look?”

Cordelia was wearing fatigues, and her hair was pinned up under a cap. She had a stack of books under her arm.
She gave Buffy a filthy look, and handed the stack of books to a very surprised Tara.

Tara and Willow curiously looked over the books.


“It’s for a job. I’m watching over someone in the army.”


Buffy waved her hand. “Can’t you just poof your clothes?”


“Yes, if they were my clothes. These are army issue.”


“No mom?” Dawn asked hopefully.


Cordelia shook her head. “Sorry Squirt, couldn’t get away. Nor could Jesse, sorry.”


Dawn and Xander both pouted.


She smirked. “I did shake someone else loose for a visit, but that’s for later.”
She looked at Giles. “Shall we?”


“Of course.”
He took center-stage by the whiteboard.

“As you know we have been working very hard, cataloguing the library that appeared in our laps some time ago.”


“I still blame Dawn,” Buffy chipped in, getting a glare from her sister.

Giles ignored her, and continued.
“Our newest watcher Alphonse, and some of our other new watcher recruits have done sterling work on this, so if you get the chance, you should show them your appreciation.”


“Giles!” Buffy complained.


Giles waved his hand at her, not actually stopping his explanation.
“Between our preliminary research of that library, and Dawn, Anya and Tara’s work on the White Codex, we have been able to puzzle out quite a bit of information.”


“Giles, we’d like to get to the point before we are all old and grey please,” Buffy complained.


Giles smirked. “Given one of the first passages we were able to puzzle out, that seems unlikely.”


“I’d come back with a snappy… comeback, but I have no idea what you are talking about.”


“Well, if you’d be quiet for a moment, I’ll explain.”


Buffy mimed zipping her lip, but her eyes were dancing, and it seemed unlikely that she’d stay quiet for long. Especially when she kept shooting glances at the uniformed Cordelia.


“Now, we are a long way from knowing everything, but we do have something to share.”


“You once asked a question, Buffy,” Anya said. “Where are the angels?”


Buffy nodded. “Yeah. Evil seems to come in all flavours, but in terms of good guys, not so much.”


Anya pointed at Buffy. “There.”


Buffy looked around. “There? There what?”


“You. Idiot.”


“Hey! And quit being cryptic.”


“And quit calling her idiot,” Faith glowered.


Anya rolled her eyes at the denseness of her friends. “Ignoring Tara for a moment, the angels are there,” she said pointing at Buffy and Faith.


“No ignoring Tara, either,” Willow said, hugging Tara tight. Tara didn’t seem to mind.


“So, we’re angels now?” Buffy said. “And yet I seem to be lacking, oh, I don’t know wings. And the ability to fly.”


“You are a child of Lilith,” Anya said. “I always knew she got a bad rap.”


“Uh, what?”


“Lilith. First wife of Adam, the first witch. Reputed as the mother of demons. Legend has it she knows the secret name of god, and can fly.”


“Right. More flying. What’s this got to do with us?”


Anya rolled her eyes. “Let me work up to this slowly. Tara, who are the people usually called the ‘Children of Lilith?’”


“Witches. Or demons sometimes. Those are the only ones I’ve heard of.”


“And how long do witches live?”


“Um, well, witches can get sick, like everyone. But most white witches like my Gran, live long and healthy lives.”


“How long?”


Tara shrugged. “I don’t know for sure, but she always said she was born in the 1800’s.”


“Right!” Anya said triumphantly.


“We all thought she was pulling our legs,” Tara added. “But she was very fit and healthy for a very old lady.”


“Right. Well, witches carry some of the blood of Lilith. Slayers carry more.”


“And we have since discovered what the passage about flowers refers to,” Giles added.


“Flowers? What the hell?” Faith said.


“Yes, well I had assumed that I’d misunderstood. As it happened, I had not. The passage I was working towards discovering was one referring to the flower of youth.”


“Giles, we have important stuff to talk about, and you’re going on about flowers? What, do, you, mean?” Buffy spelled out.


“You will remain forever young,” Giles said bluntly. “Baring accident or misadventure, you will live forever.”


There was stunned silence.


“Whoa,” Faith eventually said.


“Uh-huh,” Willow added.


“Really?” Buffy added.


“Yes,” Giles said. “The passage we eventually found in the codex, thank to Dawn, referred to the ‘ever blossoming flower of youth. Never shall it fade.’ We have also found a reference or two to it in the watchers diaries and books that Andrew brought with him from the council vaults in England.”


“Where is Andrew, anyways?” Xander asked.


“He returned to England with Violet, Rona and… others,” he cleared his throat and glanced at Willow.
Willow looked embarrassed, and studied her feet with great interest.


“Already? That was fast. We barely saw him,” Buffy protested.


Giles pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly. “He was deeply upset about what he’d found, and I believe he wished to get to the bottom of it all as soon as possible. Violet and Rona went with him, and are enjoying their time in the British Isles.”


“So, we’re gonna live forever?” Buffy said, still gobsmacked.


Giles smiled. “Yes. Between what we’ve found in the Codex, and some of the secret archives, I believe that the Cruciamentum was created to hide this fact.”


Tara put her hand up politely. Giles gestured for her to speak.

“That fits some of the things I’ve seen,” she said.


“Go on, please.”


Tara nodded. “When I examined Faith, and Buffy, well there was so much power there. Far more than would be required for simple extra strength and healing. This might explain what I saw.”


“But how are we angels? That was what you said, right?” Buffy said to Anya.


“Remember how you said it was just us and the darkness? Well, it’s looking like it was never meant to be that way. There is a counterbalancing force. Slayers. Demons on one side, humans in the middle, and Slayers on the other.”


“It is starting to look more and more, as though things have gone wrong,” Giles said. “Perhaps it was never meant to be one Slayer, alone against the darkness.”


“Which makes ya wonder,” Faith said. “How did something that big, that important, get so fucked up?”


“Power,” Ethan said.

All eyes turned to him.

“What, you think something like that happened by accident?”
Ethan shook his head. “Power. Power is always the reason that things like this happen.”


Bomber nodded. “Someone had a plan. Someone profited, gained power from this.”


“Who?” Buffy said. “Seriously, who could possibly profit from this?”


“The bad guys?” Xander said. “This isn’t rocket science is it? I mean the big bad’s want that, right? It’s like a dark creepy field day for them.”


“So how come we’re not all bowing to the evil overlord?” Dawn said. “I mean, if the bad guys did this, how come they didn’t win already?”


Silence reigned for a while, as everyone thought it over.


“Because it wasn’t them,” Buffy said, her voice more resigned than angry. “Who else is even in this story?”


“You’re talking about the Powers That Be, aren’t you,” Xander said gloomily.


Buffy nodded. “Yeah. If the First Evil had done it, we’d all be dead now. And I’m not seeing any new big bad’s crawling out of the woodwork. Who’s left, that operates like this?”


“Could it be the First?” Willow asked. “Giles?”


Giles thought for a moment. “Unlikely. If the First had the ability to do this sort of thing, it would not have done so many of the other things that it did. It would have had no need.”


“It doesn’t matter,” Xander said simply. “We were going to take them down for trying to kill Faith, and the baby. Now we’re taking them down for that, and this too. No change.”


“Why though?” Tara asked. “I get the strongest feeling we’re missing something. What could make all this mysterious skulduggery make sense?”


Xander grinned. “Skulduggery? Really?”


Tara grinned sheepishly. “It’s all the British-ness. I think some of it rubbed off on me.”


“I think you may be right,” Giles said. “The skulduggery, rather than the British… thing.”

He thumped his books with frustration. “There is some wider context here, something that gives reason to their actions. But we are unlikely to find out what, until we have more information.”


“What if it’s nothing new?” Xander asked. “What if it’s more of the same?”


“What do you mean?” Willow asked.


“Well, like the Watchers wanted to control the Slayer, but they also used her. What if this is the same? What if the high and mighty did all this to control the Slayers, but also make use of them?”


Giles nodded. “Possibly. Good point Xander, well made.”


“Follow the money,” Ethan said, finally making his presence felt.


Anya brightened. “There’s money?”


“Or to put it another way, who suffers most if there are Slayers all over the place?” Bomber said.
He turned to Giles and the others. “This is more your field than mine. Who stands to profit, or maintain power if there’s only one Slayer? And who loses out if there’s more?”
“We’re already looking at the Powers That Be. What happens to them if there are more Slayers?”


“Peace,” Cordelia said.
She looked surprized by her own words. “Holly crap, some of that military junk rubbed off on me!”


Giles cleared his throat. “How so?”


“Uh, officer training,” she said, point to her lieutenant’s bars. “One of the things they taught us was modern politics, and world history. A lot of the fashion-challenged dictatorships keep people looking out, rather than back at what they’re up to. Maybe this is the same? If the forces of light are always outnumbered, the Powers-That-Be-Dorks can keep everybody worrying about the bad guys, and not arguing about what they’re told to do.”



“It’s worked for the Russians, the Germans, and the whole middle east. Why not the Powers as well,” Bomber said, stroking his moustache in a thoughtful manner.


“Xander’s right,” Faith said. “It doesn’t matter.”
“We were gonna kill the Powers for being dicks. Now we’re gonna kill ‘em for being extra dicks. They’re still getting killed.”


“Yep,” said Buffy. “That.”
“Also, if we’re angels, are we getting wings? Because I’ve seen Tara’s, and I’m totally jealous.”


Giles looked rather lost. “I… ah, I don’t know. There’s a lot of metaphor in these books. If you are asking if there’s a passage that says ‘Slayers will grow pretty wings on their twenty third-birthday’ then… no.”


Buffy pouted. Faith patted her hand reassuringly.
“There are however passages that refer to Slayers coming into ‘the fullness of their powers.’ What those powers might be, I don’t know. As you might imagine, either no-one managed the feat, or all information was supressed.”


“Well, I’m voting for wings,” Buffy said.


“I’m not sure you get to vote, Buff,” Willow said affectionately.


“Well I am. And I’m still voting for wings.”


“Ignoring Buffy growing angel wings for a minute…” Xander said.
He blinked. “Wow, there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use. Um, maybe this ‘fullness of power thing is part of the wacky you’ve been experiencing lately?”


“Like the bulletproof thing? And the lightning?” Willow said.


Xander bobbed his head excitedly, warming to his topic. “Yeah! You see it all the time in comics and stuff. Something major happens to the hero, and they come back stronger than ever. Like you did with the Master.”


“Ignoring the comic book part, he’s making sense,” Willow said. “I mean, you’re stronger and faster than the mini-Slayers. They’re about where you were, when I met you.”

Buffy nodded slowly, thinking hard.

“And the bulletproof thing is just your super healing thing amped up a bit more.”


“Healing Factor,” Xander coughed under his breath.

Faith grinned at him.


“And the tingly lightning thing?” Buffy asked.


Willow held up her hands. “Search me. Maybe mature Slayers are resistant to magic? Or just lightning? I mean, I can do a lightning spell. But did you really want to find out that it’s only natural lightning, and not magic lightning that you are immune to? The hard way?”


Buffy thought for a moment. “Tara? Could you look us over and see if you can spot anything wing-y?”


Tara blinked. “Um, sure. But I have no idea what to look for.”


“Duh. Like what you’ve got.”


Tara shook her head. “I have no idea what that looks like up close Buffy. I can’t see my own aura. Or my own back.”
She shot Willow a look.


Willow smiled and nodded.
“We were going to have a look at Tara’s aura later. We can look then if you like.”


Dawn, eagle eyed, spotted the look. “What? Are you sick? Tara, are you ok?”


A general hubbub of everyone talking at once erupted, until Tara put her hand up.
The Scoobies quietened down.


“Well, you know how Faith was throwing up when we teleported?”

Buffy looked puzzled.


“Ohmigod!” Dawn’s eyes widened. “I’m so happy for you!”


“Wait what?” Xander said. “I get the feeling I’m missing something.”


Dawn catapulted out of the couch, bounded across the room, and glomped Tara in a huge hug.
Clearly she’d been taking lessons from Willow.


‘Somebody catches on fast,’ Willow said silently, and impressed.


‘Yes she does,’ came the silent reply.


“It’s not certain, by any stretch of the imagination,” Tara murmured to the ecstatic teen.


“And for those of us who still have trouble using the brain part of the head?” Xander said.


Willow took Tara’s hand. “Xander, we might be having a baby.”


“Whoa. It’s breaking out all over!”


“It’s really just a thought, Xander. I’d say it’s not possible, but-” she shrugged and smiled warmly at Dawn.


Dawn looked away. “Um, I don’t think I knocked you up?”


Tara gave her a little squeeze. “It’s alright Dawnie,” she murmured.


“Ah.” Said Giles. “Well, all I can say is, congratulations.”


Willow and Tara both smiled at Giles. “It looks like The Giles’ are growing fast,” Tara said with a radiant smile.


“You aren’t worried, that this makes you a target too?” Faith asked.


Tara shook her head. “I was already a target. If they come after you, they’re coming after all of us. This is no different.”


“One for all, and all for one,” Xander said grinning. “That’s great news Will. I can’t wait to meet the miniature Willow. She’s going to be a handful.”


“Um, this might be an odd question to ask, but who’s having the baby?”


Willow giggled. “Only in our lives could that question be asked.”


“Hey, for us, it’s pretty tame. Should I mention the incident with Buffybot and the shower? And that was just this week!”


Buffy glared at Xander. “Please don’t.”


Giles cleared his throat.

Xander just grinned. “And now Buffybot has a full set of purple bath towels.”

Buffy glared some more.


Dawn squeezed Tara tight. “It’s you, isn’t it?”


Tara squeezed back. “Mm-hmm.”


“You’re going to be an awesome mom.”


Tara chuckled. “I’ll try my best.”


“Congratulations,” Anya said brightly. “Can we get back to the death and mayhem now?”


“Sure,” Tara said with a nod.
Willow gave Anya a flat look.


“Mister Giles?” Tara said. “There’s more about that ring than we told you.”


“This what you told us earlier?” Faith asked.


Willow nodded. “Yup. We haven’t had a chance to sit down and swap stories properly yet, what with boinging around the country like a hyperactive ping-pong ball. So this is it.”


“Faith got a gun,” Buffy said. “And I got a photo album. Of totally adorable pictures of little Faith!” she said beaming happily.
Faith shot her a dark look, but it bounced ineffectively off of Buffy’s armour of glee.


Willow held up her hand, ring sparkling.
“We got a magic ring, a Bumper-fun book O’ Magick (note the extra ‘k’) and a photo album too.”

She grinned. “And a standing bet that baby Tara is cuter than baby Faith.”


“Leaving aside the question of who is the cutest baby, just for the moment,” Giles said with a smirk at Faith and Tara, who both were looking rather awkward.


“Faith,” Buffy said confidently.
“Tara,” Willow retorted.


“Ahem. So you were saying that there was more to the ring?”


“Yep,” Willow said. “We did a spell. It’s called psychometry.”


Giles nodded. “I’m familiar with the term. Object reading.”
He looked at Tara. “You read the history of the ring?”


Tara nodded. “Yes. There was a lot of history there. Lots of battles against darkness. It seems the Craft has been in our family a very long time.”

Giles nodded thoughtfully as he followed along.


“Mister Giles? Have you heard the story of Bodhmal and Liath?”


He looked thoughtful. “From ancient Ireland? What of it?”


“That’s them,” Willow said. “Or, maybe I should say, ‘that’s us.’”


Giles raised an eyebrow. “How do you mean?


“Their pictures were in the family spellbook. And they looked exactly like us.”


“Oh yeah,” Faith added.


“I was Liath the Grey, and Willow was Bodhmal.”


“My word!” Giles uttered, surprised.


“The Guardians of the Flame knew all about them,” Willow said.


“They would.”


Tara bobbed her head. “And they knew about the family ring. The one Willow is wearing. Apparently it was a relic of ancient Mu, and entrusted to Liath all those years ago.”


“Mu?” Giles said, surprised.


Buffy giggled.
Faith snorted. “Nice one G-man. Do you do sheep impressions too?”


Giles glared at the smirking pair. “I’ll have you know, Mu is the mythical lost continent. There’s nothing bovine about it.”

He looked to the more sensible Willow and Tara, only to be greeted by a pair of grins.

He sighed.
“The land of Mu was also known as the Empire of the Sun, the land of Eternal Summer, the Sunlit Lands and various other names.”


“So it’s a real place?” Buffy said.


“No,” Giles replied. “It is completely mythical, for reasons I’m sure you can imagine.”


He looked at Anya for conformation.
She shrugged. “I’ve never heard of it. And I’ve heard of everything.”


He looked back at the others, only to receive puzzled looks.

He smiled sadly. “While it might be possible to lose a city or a kingdom, possibly even an island if it’s small, there is no way to mislay an entire continent. The world is too small for something like that.”

He looked at Dawn, as if for confirmation. She just shrugged.


Willow held up a sketch of the island layout, and the sun symbol. “Well, this is the island or peninsula that we saw, and this is the flag that they had.”

Buffy held up her hand. The matching red mark was still visible.


“Er, what is that?” Giles asked Buffy pointing to her hand.


“I had a bit of a wig out when Willow gave me the ring. On the plus side, hey its squish proof. Really. Kinda dug it into my hand.”


“Shouldn’t that have faded by now?” Willow said. “With your super-duper healing?”


Buffy looked at her hand. “I dunno. I squeezed it pretty hard.”


“And it’s a magic ring, ain’t it?” Faith asked. “Maybe it’s different?”


Giles moved over to Willow and took the sketches.
“Interesting,” he said thoughtfully.


“Any clues, oh Watchery man?” Buffy asked.


“The island doesn’t jog any memories, though that’s hardly surprising. And there are any number of sun symbols in the world, from countless different cultures.”

Buffy looked dejected, though she perked up a little at Giles’ next words.

“Though I daresay that particular pattern is unique. I shall look into it.”


“Faith!” Buffy shrieked.


“What?” Faith said. Everyone looked at her and Buffy.


“Why do you have a knife?” Willow asked worriedly.


“Just checking something.” She poked the back of her hand with the sharp tip, creating a tiny wound and a spot of blood. She wiped it off with a tissue.
“See? All gone. That mark shoulda faded by now, B.”


“Oooh, I hope your healing mojo hasn’t faded,” Willow said. “That was going to be really handy.”


Buffy rolled her eyes and took Faith’s knife. She duplicated the poke-wipe and held up her hand.
“Nope. All gone.”


“I have a hypothesis, if you’re interested?” Giles said.


“Sure. Hit me,” Buffy said.


Giles drew his sword.


Buffy’s eyes widened. “Giles! Where did you get that sword?”


He smirked slightly. “Ethan isn’t the only one with a few tricks.”


“You’ve been practicing, old boy,” Ethan said. “I didn’t even spot it.”


“Um Giles, what’s the pig sticker for?” Buffy said worriedly.


“This is a magical weapon,” Giles said. “One I acquired recently in, ah, heaven,” he said with a slightly sheepish look.
He held up the shining blade, examining the engravings wrought into the mirror-polished metal.

He handed it to Buffy. “Try that.”


Buffy took the sword, and brushed the edge lightly against the back of her hand.

“Ow. That’s sharp.”
She blotted the small cut on the back of her hand with the tissue. The bleeding had stopped almost immediately, but the cut did not vanish.


She held up her hand to show Giles the red line.
He nodded. “As I suspected.”


“’Splainy please?”


“I hypothesise that you have developed a resistance to injury. But that magical weapons can leave a wound that your body is unable to deal with.”


“Um, ok. How long is this going to take to heal?” Buffy said, peering at her hand.


“How long would a wound like that normally take to heal? Before now, I mean?”


Buffy shrugged. “An hour or two.”


“Then I suspect that this wound will take an hour or two to heal.”


“Glad we found this out now, and not in the middle of a fight,” Faith said.


“With that in mind, I suggest a series of experiments,” Giles said.


Buffy narrowed her eyes. “I’m not a guinea pig. What sort of experiments?”


“Small, cute, squeaky. Are you sure?” Faith said, grinning.


Without taking her eyes off Giles, Buffy swatted Faith on the head.
Faith’s grin didn’t fade.


“Nothing too terrible, I promise,” Giles said. “If it helps at all, Willow will be conducting the tests.”


Buffy looked at Willow. She was grinning like a mad gnome who had suddenly gained access to power tools.
It was the look Buffy had long ago christened as Willow’s ‘science is scary’ face.


“Not really, no. She’s got ‘mad scientist’ face.”


“I’m sure you’ll survive, Buffy. As unpleasant as it is to have to test your limits, in the fight ahead we may need to push beyond our everyday limits, and find out what we are truly capable of.”


“By ‘we’ you mean me. And Faith.”


Giles looked a little embarrassed. “Well, yes. You are after all the ones who have recently gained new abilities. It would be best to know the limits of those abilities now, rather than later.”


“Find out what our kryptonite is, huh?” Faith said.


“Ah, yes.”


Buffy sigh. “Ok. Will gets to do science to us.”


“Yay!” Willow said happily.


“You shouldn’t be this happy about getting the chance to experiment on your friends,” Buffy grumbled.


“I like science. And finding stuff out,” Willow said, pouting slightly.


Buffy sighed. “No it’s ok. You can poke me. Um, wait.”


Faith snorted. “This I have to see.”


“Hey, you’re getting poked and prodded too.”


“Sure. Bring it.”


“Um, less prodding for you, what with being pregnant and all.”


A pained look crossed Dawn’s face, and she glanced at Giles.
Giles cleared his throat.


“Sorry,” Buffy muttered.


“There’s some bad news,” Dawn said.


“More bad news, you mean,” Faith said.


“Yeah. Uh, I found it in the big book. It said that the ‘Godslayer’ would fall in the final battle.”


Silence reigned in the meeting room.


“Oh,” said Willow. “Crap.”


“Oh yeah. And then some,” Buffy added.


After a moment’s silence Willow piped up. “Well, you beat prophesy once before, and-and death twice. I’m totally confident you’ll pull thorough,” she said worriedly.


“God, how am I even prophesied to die again? Aren’t I supposed to be dead already? How is there even another prophesy, if I’m supposed to be dead?”


Giles cleared his throat. “Actually, I have good news. Of a sort.”


“Please. I could use some,” Buffy said gloomily. Faith rubbed her back reassuringly.


“The prophesy isn’t about you,” he said. “It might still be possible to sneak out of it, and I hope it is. But in any case, the prophesy does not refer you, Buffy.”


“Uh, you sure, Giles?” Willow asked. “Because I distinctly remember Buffy beating the crap out of Glory with a big magic hammer. And she and Ben both died.


“Quite true. However, these two events are unconnected.”


“Well I’m confused.” Buffy said. “I pounded her or him, and now they’re dead. I mean, I didn’t finish him off, but he eventually died. After that things get a little fuzzy.”


“I killed him,” Giles said quietly.


Silence reigned again.


“Wha…?” Xander eventually managed.


“You killed him?” Anya said, impressed. “Excellent work Giles! We’ll have to start calling you the Godslayer.”


“But… why?” Buffy asked, her expression pained.


Giles sighed deeply. “Because it had to be done. You and Buffybot, and the rest of us, had indeed defeated her. But she was not gone, not destroyed. She would have returned.”

“I…” he halted. “I didn’t want you to have to be forced to kill him. Or have Glory return for Dawn when we were least expecting it.”


While Buffy was mulling this over, Faith spoke up. “You think she’d have made a comeback?”


“I do. No other being can change their nature. That is the sole gift of humanity. Non-human beings are far more tightly bound to their nature than the likes of us. She would have returned. She couldn’t help but return.”


Faith thought for a moment, and nodded. “I get it. And thanks G.”


“You killed Ben?” Buffy said, clearly still working through it all. “For me? Why?”


“I did. I did it for you, and for Dawn. Because killing changes you. And killing a helpless victim in cold blood, more than most. It hardens you, hurts your soul. And I didn’t want that for you.”


“He’s right, B. About all of it,” Faith murmured. “Take it from me.”


“We protect ourselves by telling ourselves that they’re only soulless monsters,” Giles said. “But even then, it takes its toll. All the killing, all the bloodshed.”
Giles’ lecture voice faded, becoming more unsteady. “I-I didn’t want to make it worse for you. Or allow your compassion to hurt you, and those you loved.”


Buffy let go of Faith’s hand, and moved over to Giles.
She took his hand.
“You know, we never appreciate you enough, do we?”


“I, ah…” Giles said helplessly.


“But Giles, you might die!” she protested softly.


He looked on her with infinite tenderness. “I have lived long enough, dearest.”


She hugged him tight. “No you haven’t!”


“We all die Buffy. I can think of no finer reason, than to protect one’s own family.”


“But why?”


“I don’t know. But I suspect that it has something to do with my killing of Ben and Glory. Things like that carry weight, and it may be that because of that, I may be able to achieve something that I otherwise may not.”


“But you can’t die,” Buffy protested. “I need you… alive!”


Giles chuckled slightly. “Death is not the end dear-heart. I had not thought that I would be able to serve as one of my line should. But whatever comes, I shall meet it with joy.”


Buffy looked up at him. “One of your line? What do you mean?”


"I watch. I teach. I remember. I stand at her side, ready to die in her service. I give myself wholly and freely. I pledge my soul to the demands of light."


“Wow,” Buffy said, impressed. “It sounds all oath-y. Is it the watcher oath?”


“No,” came a strong female voice. “It’s the Giles family motto.”


Buffy and Giles looked around to see Brie and Fiona entering the room.
“Really Rupert. Dusting off that old chestnut, what were you thinking?”


“The Giles family motto? How come it sounds so watcher-y?” Willow asked.


Brie sat down, Fiona snuggling into her side. “Because the Giles’ have been watchers since there have been watchers. It’s one of the reasons our father was able to get up to the things that he did. And why Rupert was able to be a watcher, despite dabbling in every disreputable activity known to man.”


“We have never been the leaders of the council,” Giles explained, gently disentangling himself from the small blonde.
“We have always been too politically awkward for that. But we were respected. The Giles name carried quite a bit of weight.”


“Giles means ‘goat’ in ancient Greek,” Brie explained. “Ancient shields were covered in goat hide. Essentially Giles means ‘shield’ and has done, since before the invention of metal.”


“So you’re Greek? That just makes you slightly more exotic and interesting,” Buffy teased.


“Greek, Italian, Welsh, Saxon. We Giles’ can’t afford to be racist, we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot,” Brie quipped.


“Did you know about this?” Buffy asked.


“Know about what?” Brie said. “We’ve just returned from a little reconnaissance mission to one of the local hellmouths. So we might be a tad behind the times.”


“Giles found a prophesy that says the Godslayer will fall. That’s him. And he’s being all stiff upper lip about it,” Buffy complained.


She eyed her sheepish looking brother. “Odd that you never mentioned this in your letters.”


“I can’t imagine why,” Giles replied dryly.


“We will talk on this more, later. Brother to sister.”


Giles sighed slightly and nodded, giving in to the inevitable.


“Are you his big sister, or little sister?” Dawn asked, curious despite the seriousness of the situation.


“I was born a year after him.” Brie said. “Though I sometimes wonder.”

She turned to the others. “Is there something you all can do? I really want to have words with my sibling.”


“Sure!” Willow said brightly. “We can take these two out to the training field and do science to them!”


Buffy groaned.



+++

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My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 6:56 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad for the Scoobie pow-pow to get all up to the latest developments and discoveries... I loved the visit to the children's ward... Big lol for Willow's enthusiasm for experimenting on Buffy...

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