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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:19 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Update incoming!

But it's gotten late here, so i'll have to post it tomorrow.

More answers, and plenty to read :)

_________________
“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 Aug 31, 2015 12:05 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Sometimes, they come back:


As the girls were getting ready to head out for a picnic, a well-deserved break from the drama of the day, an exhausted trio staggered into the Scooby lounge.


“God, I’ve got green stuff jammed in places I didn’t even know I had!” Dawn groused.

Heather blew her nose into a tissue, dislodging bits of plant matter. She looked faintly horrified and dropped the offending tissue into the waste paper bin.


Jules groaned. “Is there an opposite to ‘vegetarian?’ ‘cos whatever it is, that’s what I wanna be.”


Buffy piped up. “What happened to you guys?”


Dawn shed her body armour and weaponry in a heap on the floor and collapsed bonelessly onto the couch with a groan. “Evil peas. Don’t ask.”


Buffy took in the bits of greenery stuck in Dawn’s braided hair and the splashes of green and orange goop stuck to their gear.


Heather dumped her own weapons and flopped down next to Dawn. “Oh man. I'm so tired. I can’t move my arms.”


Dawn put her arm around Heather. “Hey come on, we did great. We were awesome tonight.”


Jules sprawled across her two friends and received a friendly pat from Dawn. “Yeah. We were awesome. Can we sleep for a week? I never wanna move again.”


Willow wandered into the room, looping the strap of her purse over her shoulder. “Oh hey. What happened to them?”


“Evil peas, apparently,” Buffy responded.


“Oh right. The vegetable mage.”
She leaned closer to Buffy and stage whispered. “It was their first solo case.”
“How’d it go guys?” she asked in a more normal voice.


Jules, still face down across the couch and her two friends, raised her hand tiredly and gave a thumbs-up.
Dawn flicked a chunk of green stuff off her butt.


“How come I didn’t hear about this? And what’s a vege wizard anyways?” Buffy asked.


“It’s been on the alert board for a few days now. I did a little probing and figured it would be a good case for the terrible three to cut their teeth on.”


“Hey!” Dawn protested. “We are not terrible!”


“Yeah,” said Heather sleepily. “We’re awesome.”

Jules grunted and raised her thumb again.


“Again I ask, what's a vege-wizard? was he all 'death to meat-eaters!' or something?" Buffy said.


Dawn groaned. “Urgh. No he was just this slightly nutty magic-using guy. He liked to do his magical wackiness using plants and stuff.”


Heather chimed in. “Seriously, the guy read way too many comic books when he was a kid. He was all ‘forward my green minions!’ and stuff. We weren’t trying to slay him or anything, we just wanted him to tone it down around the muggles, y’know?”


“But nooo!,” Dawn chimed in. “he was all ‘no-one understands my genius!’ and then he sicced his pet plant-monsters on us.”
She frowned at her sister. “Plants are largely bullet proof I'll have you know, so it was away with the pistols and out with the swords.”


Heather picked up the explanation, Buffy's head turning back and forth between the two like a spectator at a tennis match. “And plant monsters take a lot, and I mean a LOT, of hacking to bring down. Even if they aren’t that fast or even particularly dangerous.”


Dawn continued. “So after we spent all night chopping through his plant minions,”


“And plant booby traps,” Heather added.


“And plant grenades, and other kinda silly stuff. We put him on a train to Oregon, where there are no hell mouths that I know of,” Dawn finished off.


“You put him on a train to Oregon?” Willow asked.


“Yup,” grunted Jules.


“Well what else were we supposed to do?” Heather asked. “He wasn’t a monster, so we couldn’t slay him. He was a magic type person, and he hadn’t actually committed any crimes yet, so the police were out.”


Dawn frowned. “As far as I know, there’s no such place as Azkaban, so we had nowhere to put him. Plus he wasn’t evil, just kinda bonkers.”


Heather yawned. “Best we could think of on short notice.”

Jules just snored softly.


Tara wandered in carrying a blanket, and lay it across the three friends.
Willow stroked her face gently, careful not to put any pressure on her cheek, which was still a little puffy.


Faith wandered in behind Tara and grinned at the sleepy trio. “Cute. They’re like ‘Scoobies, the next generation.’”


Willow bobbed her head cheerfully. “Except, y’know none of them are actually ours, or the next actual generation.”


“Well that one’s kinda B’s,” Faith said, pointing at Dawn, who was slowly nodding off.


“In that case, that one’s yours,” Buffy retorted, pointing at Jules, only visible by her butt and the hair hanging out from the end of the blanket. “She’s practically your clone anyway.”


“Neato! That means I get Heather, she’s so bouncy and cute! She kind of reminds me of Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh.”

The three Scoobies looked at Willow, who winced slightly. “I’ve got to stop saying stuff like that.”

Tara’s soft tinkling laugh was her only response.


+++


Winona’s engine purred smoothly as she flew down the road, Tara’s hand steady at the wheel.

It was later in the day, sometime after a nice relaxing picnic, and they were heading in to town to do some shopping.
She glanced into the rear view mirror, and saw Buffy and Faith wriggling around in the back seat, each attempting to win a low-key tickle war.

The scene made her smile. Her smile broadened as she looked up and saw Willow’s goofy expression. Through the link they shared, she could sense Willow’s inner contentment. Though there were things about their relationship still to be dealt with, the fact that Willow was reunited with her true love formed the bulk of her happiness.

What would have surprised anyone who did not know Willow, was how much of her inner happiness was due to her friends finding love. Tara could sense little surges of warmth from her beloved, at the squeals and giggles emanating from the back seat.

Things were not perfect. But having her family together gave Tara a sense, that the problems they encountered could be overcome. And that gave her hope for the future.


She felt Willow’s inner glow darken and she saw her goofy expression fade to a frown.

They were still discovering the ins and outs of the link they shared. Usually they could sense emotions and one-another’s general wellbeing, and with some thought, they could talk at range. Though their link did not bestow mind reading powers, Tara knew the pattern of Willow’s thoughts well enough to realize she was thinking of her oldest friend.

Concentrating carefully on her driving, Tara sent Willow the sensation of a cuddle down the link and smiled as Willow sighed. “Mmm... snuggley.”

In the small hours of the night, snuggled up in bed, Willow shared her fears for Xander. Though he had dealt with Anya’s death as well as could be expected, the wound was still raw and Willow knew how lonely he was.

As much as he was surrounded by people who loved him dearly, Tara knew there were just some things that no amount of quality best-friend time could completely cure.

And for her own part, Willow missed Anya too. She could be annoying and tactless, but she meant well, and her heart was in the right place, however disconcerting her mouth could be.


‘I think Xander will be alright sweetie,’ she sent.


‘I know,’ Willow returned, ‘I just worry about him sometimes. I mean here we are all couple-y, Buffy and Faith are...’ Willow waved her hands vaguely over her shoulder at the giggling Slayers, ‘well whatever they are, they look pretty happy together. And Xander has no-one.’

Willow reached out and squeezed Tara’s hand as it rested on the gear shift, ‘I just feel sad for him.’


‘He misses Anya. I know I do,’
Tara sent.
She smiled sadly, ‘We were the original strange Scoobies together, the ex-demon and the other ex-demon.’
Her smile warmed, ‘She could thumb-wrestle really well. Though when she lost, she blamed my victory on my, um, lesbian sex-muscles.’


Willow burst out laughing as Tara waggled the fingers of her free hand.
‘She said that being with Xander left her out of practice,’ Tara added.


‘Wow. Really?’ Willow said, surprised.
‘Well, 1100 years is a long time...’ Tara trailed off, noticing that the giggles and squabbling from the back seat had ceased.
She glanced in the mirror, half expecting to see the two Slayers making out in the back seat. She was greeted by Faith’s grin and Buffy's puzzled expression.


“You guys look really weird when you do that,” Buffy said.


“Yeah Red, wanna let us in on the joke?”


Willow shook her head vigorously. “Uh-uh, no way. That would just be too embarrassing.”


With a perfectly innocent expression on her face, Tara glanced in the mirror and asked. “Are you any good at thumb-wresting Buffy?”


Willow made choking sounds and turned bright pink.


“No to the thumb wrestle-age. My hands are too small. Why?” asked a puzzled Buffy.


“Practice makes perfect, Buffy.”


Willow was gasping for breath at this stage and had wound the window down a little to get some cool air on her heated skin.

Buffy and Faith exchanged puzzled looks and Faith held up her hands in a ‘who knows’ gesture.


“You know, I bet If you practiced with Faith you’d get better.”


Willow switched from making noises that sounded like she was in danger of passing out, to making noises like she was trying to pass out.


“You know, you two are weird,” Faith said.


“I'm going to have to agree with my girlfriend on this,” Buffy said with a bashful smile.


“God-damn,” Faith breathed. “Buffy frikkin’ Summers is my girl.” She looked at Buffy, still a little starry-eyed. “I swear that is never going to get old.”


“And Faith is mine,” Buffy said. She was still a little shy, but she smiled radiantly.


“You two are really cute,” Willow said. After she’d gotten her embarrassment under control enough to speak.


Buffy poked her tongue out at Willow, but took the opportunity to snuggle into Faith. Faith looked absolutely wonder-struck at Buffy's actions.


Willow waggled her finger at Tara. “And you missy, are in such trouble when I get you home.


Tara ducked her head with a shy smile. “Promise?”


Willow grinned. “Yup.”

At the complete lack of clever comments from the rear, Tara glanced in the mirror again. This time the Slayer duo were making out in the back.
She smiled, and as they broke for air they saw Tara’s smile in the mirror.


“Enough checkin’ us out Blondie, quit being sensible and put ya foot down.”


Tara raised her eyebrow at Willow. Willow nodded back.
She down-shifted and put her foot to the floor.

Winona leapt forward with a roar, accompanied by Faith’s best impersonation of Xena’s war-cry.


+++


Sometime later the four were enjoying celebratory shakes, outside the 50’s themed diner in town.

Buffy and Tara were seated on Winona’s hood, enjoying the heat of the slowly cooling engine warming their rears. Willow and Faith were seated at high stools facing them.
The Slayer duo were also stuffing their faces with a huge burger apiece.


Willow rolled her eyes. “It’s just annoying the way you two can just eat a whole cow and not gain a pound.”


Faith grinned. “Takes a lotta fuel to feed the beast Red.”


“Wow. This burger is really good,” Buffy said, admiring her burger.


“I know right? This thing is ginormous and real damn good.”
She took a huge bite out of it and munched cheerfully, making little happy sounds all the while.


“I don’t know about being related to me, but are you sure you’re not related to Xander?” Tara asked between sips of her shake.


She grinned horribly and shrugged, her cheeks stuffed with burger. “Mpf! I fud boo werf I fupofe.”

Buffy rolled her eyes at Faith’s complete lack of table manners.

“abchully, ib was fander vat tolb be aboub fis plafe,” Faith said.


“Ow, ow, ouch,” Willow complained, clutching her head. “Ow, brain freeze.”


Tara rubbed her head comfortingly. “Poor Willow-brain, all frozen because Willow likes to slurp her shake.”


“Mmm, worth it for this,” Willow said, leaning into the head rub.




Unknowing, the four friends were observed from a dark alley across the road. Dark eyes glittered in the shadows as they focussed on the figure with the dark hair.

“Kill the Slayer they said. Don’t kill the other Slayer they said,” the shadowy figure muttered to itself. “This would be so much easier with a bomb or something. Or some kind of large truck-based disaster.”


Faith looked up sharply, but was distracted from her thoughts by a cheerful voice.
“Wow! Your boyfriend has an awesome car!”


A pair of freshly scrubbed college boys were admiring Winona’s deep, deep purple paint.
Four pair of eyes turned silently on them.


“Oh my god! You did not just say that!” a disbelieving Buffy complained.


“Uh, what?” said the curly haired one on the left.


Faith finished chewing and swallowed her mouthful of burger-y goodness. “Seriously guy, what the hell?”


“Wait, what?” said the blond one on the right, looking worried, sensing the conversational landscape changing rapidly.

Curly haired guy rallied. “Uh sorry ladies, we weren’t hitting on you or nothing, we were just admiring the sweet ride.”

Blondie joined in. “Yeah, we didn’t nothing by it, just someone’s boyfriend is a lucky guy is all,” he said smiling disarmingly at the girls.


“This is why I normally eat at the peach, you almost never have to kill someone for being this stupid,” Faith muttered.


Willow huffed and looked annoyed.


“Redemption is a bitch sometimes,” Faith groused.

“Hey kid,” she said, catching curly’s eye.

“Ya prob’ly stood there wonderin’ what the hell went wrong, and how come four chicks are pissed at ya for no reason, right?”


“Uh...”


“Yeah, about what I thought. Look kid, in one shot you managed to insult Tara here, who owns the car you’re ogling, ‘cos you prettymuch said to her face, that you don’t think she owns the car ‘cos she’s a girl. And you pissed off everyone by assuming we all have men folk to look after us.”
She craned her head forward to look under curly’s bangs and waved her hands in front of his face to get his attention. “Ya with me so far?”


“Uh, yeah I get it. Uh sorry I guess?”


“Apology accepted,” she handed her burger and shake to Buffy to look after. “Now drop and give me fifty!”

Both boys looked stunned.

“You heard me maggots! Hit the god-dammed deck and give me fifty!” Faith said, in her best drill sergeant voice.


After nearly four months straight, pounding newbie Slayers into shape, her drill sergeant persona was rock solid.

She helpfully kicked their feet out from under them. “That’s one kiddies, only forty nine to go!”

The bewildered pair started doing push-ups. Being in decent shape they weren’t having too much trouble.

“Sound off, maggots!” Faith growled.


They grunted and sweated their way up to fifty and Faith obligingly helped them up.
“Now you might not agree, but I have just done you two a favour. As long as you live, you’ll remember this, and one day when you meet that special someone, you won’t make that same mistake. Now git lost.”

They got lost.


“Thanks B,” she said, snagging her burger back.
She rubbed the back of her neck uncomfortably and glanced across the road.

Buffy just gaped at Faith, Tara giggled.


“Wow. Really Faith, you’re good at the whole drill sergeant bit,” Willow said.


“What can I say, I love my job,” she said between slurps of her shake. “That was a blast.”


Buffy gave her a look. “You realize that everyone is looking at you like you’re an unexploded bomb?”


“Aww, don’t be like that B, I just did those two a favour. Y’know redemption an’ all.”


Tara smiled. “All you need now is a cigar and you’re set.”


“Heh, I just steal the G-man’s stash.”


“I thought you gave up smoking? And when did Giles start?” Willow asked.


“Naw, it ain’t like that. Watcher-boy just likes a cigar or a pipe every once in a while. Sometimes I join him. No big thing really.”


Willow huffed. “You know, we really don’t know Giles do we? I mean he smokes cigars, hangs out doing poetry and rocky horror songs in gay bars-“


“Cuts quite a rug too,” Faith added.

Everyone looked at her.

“What?” she protested. “We go dancin’ a few nights a month, no big deal.”


“You? Go dancing? With Giles?” Buffy said, clearly having trouble fitting the concept in her head.


“It ain’t like we go slam dancin’ B. Giles was teaching me ballroom dancing, giving me a bit of class an’ all that jazz. Turned out to be fun. Also, he looks way sharp in a tux, and you should see me in a ball gown.”


Stunned silence greeted her revelation. Had there been any justice in the world, crickets would have chirped.


“Why are you two lookin’ at me like I just up an’ grew another head?”


Buffy sighed. “I am so oblivious. Faith goes ballroom dancing, Giles has this crazy secret life, and I am completely unaware of all of this.”


“Don’t forget Xan-man’s car hobby, ya missed that too, an’ Red here getting ready to bring her girl back,” Faith helpfully pointed out.


Buffy hung her head in shame. “I am a bad friend, aren’t I?”


Willow fluttered her hands in panic. “Oh don’t say that Buffy, you’ve just been focussed on training the junior Slayers. It’s been crazy round here, and you’ve been doing most of it.”


“B, c’mon don’t be like that. There are worse qualities to have than being a bit oblivious. You’re the best friend anyone could have.”

She put her arm around the sad figure of Buffy. “How many other friends would take a bullet for someone? Or wade into hell for their buds? We know you B. Sure, you’re a little blonde from time to time, but you’d give your life for any one of us, an’ we know it.”


Buffy cheered a little.

Willow finished her shake with a determined gurgle and a happy sigh of pleasure. “C’mon ladies, there’re shops out there that still have things in them, and you know how Buffy likes a challenge.”


+++


While they were in the furniture store getting a replacement, more durable bed for Buffy, Faith was looking around almost nervously.

Buffy bounced up and down on the bed with childlike glee. “What do you think? I think it’s pretty, and it's really heavy wood. Even we shouldn't be able to break this bed.”

Buffy’s shy, flirty smile was lost on Faith. Faith was looking everywhere except where Buffy was.

In fact she had been acting squirrelly all morning.

Buffy was starting to worry. Things always went wrong in her relationships after they took that last step. And last night they had taken that last step. And how!
That last step was the edge of a cliff, and they hadn’t stepped off it, they had hurled themselves over.
And how they had flown.

Faith was still there in the morning, and they had shared snuggles and talked so tenderly, that even thinking about it now made her eyes prickle.
But as the morning ground onwards, Faith was acting more and more jittery.
And it was starting to affect her.


For all that they’d talked about their fears, and promised that they would never fall into those traps again, Buffy couldn’t help but wonder. Maybe Faith was having second thoughts. Especially given her long-standing ‘get some, get gone’ policy.
Faith had promised that she wouldn’t, it made no sense, but that didn’t mean Buffy wasn’t worried.


Her bounce gone, she reached out from the bed, frightened. “Faith? Are you having...”


Faith finally focussed on her, a hunted look in her eyes.
“B? What?”


Worried, her voice small, Buffy asked. “I was worried about you... I was worried you were having second thoughts... about us.”


Faith’s frown melted away. “Never! No way and no how am I having second thoughts, B.”
She took Buffy's hands in her own, and spoke quietly, but with deep feeling. “If someone told me that last night would cost me my life, I would call it a fair trade B. An’ I still woulda been right there with ya.”


Buffy smiled sadly and squeezed her hands tightly. “I was worried. Things always seem to go wrong after...”


Something crystallized in Faith’s expression. “We’re being watched, B. Don’t look around.”


Buffy's expression likewise changed, her worried look vanishing instantly. “Then we find the others, they can find whoever is doing the spying.”


“And then whoever it is, is gonna get their ass kicked for making me freak out my girl,” Faith said fiercely.


+++


“Ok, cover me,” Tara said.

The friends gathered close, hiding Tara’s gestures and sparkles of light from casual onlookers.

“All done, let me just sit on this couch while I have a look around.”

She flopped onto the couch, looking for all the world like a tired shopper. Willow sat carefully next to her while the two Slayers stood nearby, attempting (poorly) to conceal their tension.

Moments passed while Tara concentrated.

“I think I have something,” She said in a thoughtful tone.
“It’s cloaked, whatever it is. It’s really hard to get a look at,” she groaned.
“The alleyway across the street from the front door.”


With that, Buffy and Faith both exploded into motion, bolting for the front door and ploughing through the complaining shoppers like icebreakers through pack ice.


“Is it demonic?” Willow asked.


Tara frowned. “Hard to tell. Whoever they are, they’ve cloaked their powers pretty well. Um, Maybe?” she said.


From the couch they could hear crashing and banging coming from the alleyway across the street, punctuated by Faith’s swearing.


“I'm thinking they got away,” Willow said.


Tara nodded. “The signature is fading, I think they’re gone.”


Willow looked up to see two aggravated looking Slayers wandering back into the store. Buffy looked annoyed and Faith was stomping the ground as she walked.


“No luck?” Willow asked.


“Nope. Nothing there but some boxes and a dumpster,” Buffy responded.


“And they ain’t in the dumpster, I looked,” Faith grumbled.


“I think they either cloaked and ran away, or maybe just teleported. Either way seems to suggest someone with a fair amount of magical power,” Tara said.


“Demon?” Buffy asked.


Tara held up her hands. “I don’t know. Um, maybe?”


“Coulda been another witch? Scoping out the competition?” Faith asked.


Tara shook her head. “Willow? Could you have teleported out in the time it took for them to get over there?”


Willow shook her head. “No way. Maybe if I was prepared and just waiting for it. But teleporting is not a spell I’m super familiar with. I’ve only cast a teleportation spell, maybe twice? And I got nosebleeds both times. That’s what you get for rushing this stuff.”


“Great. This can’t be a coincidence. Jimbo manipulated some demons inta tryin’ to off me a few days ago. Now we are being stalked by demon-y types. Betcha they’re after me.”


Buffy looked seriously irritated. “Can’t we even have a shopping trip in peace?”


“Could it be a servant of the Powers That Be? Keeping a beady eye on us?” Willow said to Tara.

All eyes turned to Tara.

“Don’t look at me like I'm Big Knowledge Woman,” Tara protested. “This time last week, I was in a dimension filled with dragons and airships. I don’t know anything about the supernatural landscape here.”

She looked thoughtful. “Though Cordy did say that servants of the Powers really have a hard time with areas around a Hellmouth, and here we are wedged between three of them. Cordelia could barely tolerate half an hour, and I think you’ve been on edge most of the day.”


“Doesn’t it bother you?” Buffy asked quietly.


Tara shook her head. “I'm no Whitelighter. No ascension for me, so no problem with the Hellmouth.”


She nibbled her thumb thoughtfully. “This didn’t feel like Cordelia. This might be some new bad guy or demonic presence.”


Buffy sighed. “I guess summer really is over then. The mini-me’s will enjoy themselves, but I was enjoying the quality goofing off.”


“Gotta say, all morning, I felt like I had a bulls-eye painted on my back,” Faith said. “which pretty much sucked,”


+++


After an hour of browsing through second hand shops, looking for furniture for Tara’s room, Buffy and Faith were both flopped out on a big second-hand bed.

“C’mon Snowy, I know ya got loads a cash, Red here took care of that. Why not just go buy some new stuff?” Faith asked.


“I like second hand things,” Tara replied mildly. “They have history to them. Depth.”

She smiled. “Also better made, and cheaper.”

Tara had a fairly large stack of nice second hand furniture picked out for delivery to her room. It could be best described as ‘quirky’. Lots of polished dark wood with whimsical decorations.


“I thought this would be right up your alley Blondie, what with the roses an stuff all over it,” Faith said, leaning on a polished walnut dresser of antique design.


Tara shook her head. “It is very pretty, but it belonged to someone who died a violent death. They died in the room with that dresser, and it left a rather unpleasant residue on it. Given the choice, I’d rather not have bad vibes in my bedroom.”


Buffy was surprised. “You can feel that?”


Tara nodded. “It’s not always fun sensing things like that.”


“That why ya bought a grandfather clock then? ‘cos it’s got good vibes?” Faith chipped in.


Tar smiled and nodded cheerfully. “There’s power in the very wood of that clock. Power, and love.”

Her face took on a dreamy expression, as she gently stroked the dark wood. “The oak that this clock was made from still stands, though centuries have passed. The man who owned this clock fought evil all his life, to his dying breath. He fought alone, in the darkness, for the sake of his loved ones.”

“He died for them. Willingly, bravely.”

She smiled sadly. “This clock reminds me of mister Giles.”

Tara realized that her friends were staring at her in amazement.


“Wow, you got all that just from touching it?” Buffy asked.


Tara smiled softly. “Some things you can’t help but see, Buffy.”


“Is there a word for ‘weird, but in a cool way,’” Faith asked.


“Quirky?” Willow supplied.


“Then your girl is quirky, Red,” Faith said with a disarming smile.


“Thanks. I think,” Tara said.

She stroked the clock admiringly. “I want mister Giles to have this clock. I think he would appreciate it.”


Faith shrugged. “Cool. Grab the other side B, we’ll put it with the other stuff.”

The pair carefully carried the tall clock to where they had been stashing the rest of Tara’s furniture, Buffy placing it carefully with a reassuring pat.


“So, what’s next? We got bedding and bed-type things, furniture of awesomeness now too,” Buffy asked.


Faith frowned. “Uh, yeah. How come we are getting stuff for your room Snow-White? I thought you an Red were all big with the love now? What gives?”


Tara smiled radiantly. “We are. We’ve been spending every possible moment together, and I’m totally happy with that. I still want my own space though, even if I’m never in it.”

She quirked a half smile at Buffy. “Besides, my room is, um, quieter.”


Buffy blinked and blushed furiously at Faith’s huge grin.


“It’s nice to have somewhere that’s just mine, that I can invite people to.”


“So, you an’ Red gonna shack up when Little Bitty gets the Scooby palace built?”


Tara smiled softly. “We haven’t really talked about it, but I would be happy to. Willow?”


“Do you even need to ask?” Willow said.


“That sounds like a ‘yes’ to me,” Buffy said.


Willow bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yes, to the yes. Yep, yuppers, definitely even.” A goofy smile spread across her face as she imagined a little house-making scene, with Tara carrying her across the threshold.
When she came back from her happy little scene, her friends were smiling at her.


‘That was beautiful baby, I’m looking forward to making it a reality someday soon,’ Tara sent.
If anything, Willow’s expression became even more goofy as Tara snuggled up to her, cuddling her from behind. She sighed happily.


Buffy giggled.
“You two look so cute when you do stuff like that,” she said.


“Yay for the cuteness,” Willow said dreamily.


Her expression changed to one of dazed joy as Tara nuzzled her neck and sent, ‘Goddess, I can barely wait to be Mrs Tara Rosenberg.’

Willow let out a high pitched sound, somewhere between a gasp and a squeak of joy.


“Ya know you're doing it again, right?” Faith said.


Buffy smiled at the antics of her friends, her expression turning to one of awe as Faith snuggled up close on the bed and laid her head on her breast.
She stroked Faith’s hair and took in the clean, almost spicy smell of Faith as she looked at Willow’s almost delirious expression of joy.
‘This is... Joy,’ she thought.


‘You’re telling me,’ Faith whispered, ‘world ends tomorrow? I die happy, ‘cos I’m with you B.’


‘You know you have a real gooey streak going on there Faith,’
Buffy whispered back.


‘Shh, I got an image to maintain.’


The pair slowly became aware that they were being watched. Tara was watching them with clear amusement and Willow was grinning so broadly that the top of her head was in danger of falling off.

“You two look so cute when you do stuff like that,” Tara said.


“You do realize that your lips aren’t moving when you do it, right?” Willow added.


“And I can sort of, feel, when you do. Though I can’t tell what you’re saying,” Tara said.


Faith looked embarrassed. Buffy just poked her tongue out at the pair. They both simply smiled.
The friends sat together in comfortable silence, basking in the warmth of love. Love directed at them, and reflected in their friends’ eyes.


“I hate to be the practical one here, especially given y’know, Buffy boobs. But we are gonna hafta get up at some point,” Faith said.


“Uh-uh, never moving again,” Buffy protested, cuddling Faith to her chest.


“Ya know we can do this at home right? Home is that place that’s not in the middle of a store?”


“Yes but then I’d have to stop.”


“I think the store owner thinks it’s funny,” Tara said, catching the cheerful grin of the man at the front counter.


“C’mon Glinda, We gotta get you some’a that fancy organic shampoo and crap that ya like. ‘cos havin’ ya runnin’ around smelling like Red here is givin’ me a headache,” Faith groused.


Willow blinked at this apparently random revelation.
“Ok, I’ll take ‘Huh?’ for one hundred please Faith,” Willow said.


Faith explained from her spot on Buffy’s chest. “Look, everyone’s got their own unique smell, right? Well given that I barely know Snow-White here and that you two are always together, and all over each other, and that she’s wearing your shampoo, body wash and clothes in some cases, it really nags at my Slayer senses. ‘cos she smells so damn much like you, and yet not quite, ya get me?”


“Wow, I had no idea,” Willow said turning to Tara. “Maybe I should have given you that sweater to wear.”


“Sweater?”


Willow glanced at Faith, who gave a small nod. “Um, Faith got me a present a little while ago.”


“I’m guessing that there was more to this present than icecream,” Tara said with a small smile.


“Well at first I was worried it was something like lingerie, because she was being all mysterious and telling me not to open it in public,” Willow said.


“You get Willow lingerie?” Buffy said, her eyebrows vanishing into her hairline.


“God, seriously? What have I done, that everyone thinks I would be buying Red lingerie? I mean really, she’s a cutie, but not my type. No lingerie dammit!”


Buffy smiled cheekily. “Well you did buy Dawn the purple monster. Someone who could do that could do something wacky like a random drive-by lingerie attack.”


Buffy squawked as Faith poked her in the ribs. “No, I bought her a sweater. After you had your, uh, thing in the body shop, I figured if I got Red here something that reminded her of Snowy... well I figured it might be nice. Ya know, like in them movies, where people hug the sweater of their ex or some shit?”


Willow and Tara both nodded sadly. Faith for her part had a sad, faraway look in her eyes.


“You did that too?” Buffy asked Faith softly.

Faith looked utterly mortified. Blushing furiously, she nodded jerkily.
After a moment, she explained. “Uh, yeah, well I was bopping around in your bod for a while B. I was gonna bail from Sunny D wearing your skin, so I stashed some gear for a quick getaway.”

Faith closed her eyes, unable to meet anyone’s eyes as she told the story of the all-up worst time of her life. “After everything went to hell and I made a run for it, I kinda took your stuff with me and slept with it. Slightly. Uh, gotta say, the real thing makes a better pillow. Smells nicer too.”


“Ignoring the creepy aspects of that story, that’s quite sweet, in a slightly stalker-ish kinda way,” Willow said.


“I was a mess ok? A hurting, angry, confused, obsessed mess. I hated B for not loving me, and I didn’t know how to be without her.” She chuckled sadly. “Hell I tried to kill her ex, an’ when that didn’t work, I tried to get him to kill me.”

Buffy squeezed her tight, but said nothing, not wanting to interrupt Faith’s unburdening.

“God, I brought new meaning to the term ‘Fucked up’.”

She fiddled with Buffy’s shirt. “B? I know I said this before, but I am really, really sorry about alla that shit.”


“I know Honey, I know. It was a bad time for everyone. Let’s just put it behind us. I forgave you and so has everyone else.”


“How do ya do it B? How do you have so much forgiveness inside you?”


“Baby, I stabbed you and dropped you off a roof. How did you forgive me?”


Faith shrugged. “’cos I loved ya B. Also I had it coming, deserved it.”


“No you didn’t. You were stupid and angry and so was I. But neither of us deserved even a fraction of what happened to us,” Buffy said with certainty.


“Normally B, we save this sorta thing for the tree,” Faith muttered into Buffy’s hair.

‘That tree! It’s their tree baby. I think they must be where you sensed all the love and fear from,’ Willow sent on her private line.


‘I think so. We should make a move so we can finish the shopping and they can have some alone time,’ Tara replied.


“Um, guys? Maybe we should finish the shopping and get home so we can be a little more not-public?” Willow said.


“Girl’s got a point B. C’mon Honeybun, let’s go get our little angel smelling pretty.”


Buffy grimaced at the silly name, but didn’t complain.


+++


“Think B might need a little help with this Snowy,” Faith said to Tara.

The pair were a distance away, talking quietly as their beloved partners were happily buzzing around the store taking in all the wonderful scents, sights and skincare products.
Faith was holding a small sample bottle of perfume.


Tara took a cautious sniff and smiled happily. “My favourite!”


Faith looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, well this was what I got Red to remind her of you. I told her to hide it from B an lil’ D ‘cos they’d think I was being twisted. They didn’t know you were coming back.”

She handed Tara the bottle. “This was the smell that gave B the wiggins.”

Faith had a faraway look. “We ain’t so different her an’ me, neither of us let on how much we’re really hurting.”


Tara nodded sadly. “I guess maybe we can make it a happy smell for her again.”


“I hope so. It’s nice. Not my thing, but I’d hate to have B freakin’ out every time she smells, uh,” Faith read the label. “Vanilla and honeysuckle.”

Faith scuffed her boot against the ground. “Uh, Tara? Could you maybe help me shop for something? For B?”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “I think Willow might be a better choice if you wanted to get Buffy something special. I don’t know Buffy anywhere near as well.”


Shaking her head, Faith said. “Nah, ‘s gotta be you. I wanna surprise her just a little bit, and you know Red can’t keep secrets from B.”

She looked up from the floor. “Please? I kinda need a wingman for this, an’ I can’t take B.”


“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a woman,” Tara said.


Faith snorted. “Yeah, but ‘wingwoman’ sounds weird.”


Tara smiled. “Sure, I’ll be your ‘wingman’. It can be a chance to get to know the Faith I’ve heard so much about.”

Faith winced.
Tara put a reassuring hand on Faith’s arm.

“Not everything I heard was bad, Faith. I think part of the reason Buffy was so angry was that she really missed you.”


Faith nodded sadly. “Man that whole period of my life just... sucked.”


She shook herself. “Anyways, this next bit is gonna be good, an’ I’ll tell ya all about it when we get away from our girls.”


Tara smiled again, “I’m looking forward to it, it sounds very mysterious.”


“Lil’ D just about broke the windows when she found out. Man, that girl’s got some pitch.”


Tara gave herself a little spritz with the sample bottle, smiling dreamily as she took in the scent.


“Smells nice,” Faith said. “I think you were wearing’ that when I ran inta ya at the bronze that one time.”


“Probably,” Tara said. “It’s always been my favourite, though I think this is a little nicer than the blend I had back then.”

She grabbed matching bottles of shampoo and body wash along with a few other essentials and put them in her shopping bag.

They re-joined the others, Tara getting a nudge from Faith as they did so.


“I was thinking, I’ve never really had the chance to get to know Faith, maybe a little quality shopping time might give me the chance,” Tara said.


Buffy’s face lit up. “Yes! That gives me and Will a chance to have some best friend time! We can ramble on about how awesome our girlfriends are.”

Buffy scuffed her shoe against the floor, suddenly bashful. “You’re my girlfriend Faith,” she said with a coy smile.


And with that, Faith, the Dark Slayer, Terror of Sunnydale and former would-be world destroyer, went all gooey.
Faith took in a breath, almost with a squeak.


‘They are just so adorable!’ Willow sent privately, grinning madly at the smitten couple.


‘Were we ever that shy and cute?’ Tara asked.


‘Us? Cuter, definitely,’ Willow sent with certainty.


“See ya in a lil’ bit, ok?” Faith said. “Go have some fun with Red while I make a new friend with Snowy here.”

Faith threw a companionable arm around Tara as she did so.


Buffy pressed a soft kiss against Faith’s lips. “Don’t be too long, there might be smoochies when we get back,” she said softly.


“No fear B, I am definitely down for that,” Faith said huskily.


“I’m not leaving my girl without smoochies,” Willow said, kissing Tara softly.


Tara smiled into the kiss, ‘I think they’ve brought out your competitive streak sweetie.’


Buffy smiled, still coy, before grabbing Willow’s hand and scurrying from the store with her in tow.


“Bye sweetie!” Tara called as she waved to Willow.


Tara smiled affectionately, before turning to Faith.
“So, what are we shopping for.”


“Engagement rings,” Faith said simply.


+++


Tara’s mouth hung open in shock.


Faith smirked. “Figured that’d catch ya by surprise.”


“How... how did you know?” Tara finally said.


Faith just looked puzzled. “How do ya normally find out? I asked her.”


“And she just... told you?” Tara said incredulously.


“Well, I’ll admit it kinda caught me by surprise, but she said yes, then she had a go too,” Faith said a little sheepishly.


Tara looked completely at sea. “She... had a go... too?”


Now Faith was starting to get a puzzled look on her face. “Wait, what are we talking about here?”


“Me proposing to Willow. Why? What did you think we were talking about?”


The light dawned in Faith’s eyes. “Yes!” she said punching the air in triumph. “I knew I got that right. Uh, actually, I was talkin’ about me proposin’ to B.”


Tara smiled as she clicked, then her eyes went wide. “You proposed!? When!?” she gasped.


Faith cringed, looking around the store nervously. “Jeez Blondie, don’t tell the whole damn world.”


“Sorry, I was just a little surprised. When did you propose?” Tara asked.


Faith smiled. “About ten minutes after ya brought me back to life.”


“Wow. You really don’t mess around, Faith.”


“Tara honey, ya just hauled my sorry ass kickin’ an’ screamin’ back from the grave. Ain’t no way I’m gonna wait afta’ that.”

“My whole life, I never got the good stuff, never got the puppy,” she sighed sadly. “After a while I just stopped hoping for it.”

She eyed Tara carefully. “I’m, thinkin’ maybe you can relate.”


Tara nodded silently and offered Faith her silent support, in the form of a friendly squeeze on her shoulder.


“Well I never figured I deserved B, but what can I say, I’m selfish, and I’d just been brought back to life. No way I’m waitin’ afta that.”

She ran a hand through her hair in embarrassment. “To be honest, the proposal thing? It just kinda slipped out.”


“How does a proposal just, um, ‘slip out?’” Tara asked with a hint of amusement.


Faith was still looking slightly awkward, but she put on a brave front. “I was sayin’ to B, ‘you and me against the world’ ya know? Lettin’ her know, that whatever happens I’ll back her play, that I’ll be there for her, against anything.”


Faith rubbed her face. “Then B asked if I was proposin’, which was kind of an odd thing to say I guess. Uh, anyways, I said no, ‘cos that wasn’t what I meant, then I thought ‘what the hell’ and proposed properly, like on bended knee and shit.”


Tara smiled. “Wow, I wish I’d seen that.”


Faith rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, Buffy wanted to get in on the act, so after she said yes, she had a go too, which was when lil’ D bopped on in.”


Tara winced. “Ooo, awkward.”


“Yeah, well. That was when people started to get suspicious about Dawn’s tendency to just wander inta places that were supposed to be locked.”

Faith gave Tara an expectant look. “Alrighty, I spilled my guts, your turn now.”

“Well, it all came on rather suddenly. I’d been thinking about the whole ‘Maclay’ name for a while. And I had sort of felt that I wasn’t happy about carrying around a name that had caused me so much pain, but I hadn’t made any kind of firm decision about it.”


Faith smirked. “Well whatever ya said, Red seemed to like it a whole lot. I swear I thought we were gonna hafta check ya out for busted ribs after Red finished squeezing the life outa ya.”


Tara grinned. “Well I did ask her how ‘Tara Rosenberg’ sounded, and well, you saw the rest.”


“She looked like all her Christmas’s had come at once. It was kinda cute,” Faith said.


Tara smiled and the two of them stood quietly together, basking in the happy glow of recent events.


“We should make a move if we are gonna go ring shopping without our girls catching on. We don’t have all damn day, so let’s book.”


Faith grinned as she got up. “Ya never know, we might find something for you to give Red.”


“Maybe,” Tara said, getting to her feet, a thoughtful frown on her face.


“What gives Snowy? Ya got that ‘if only’ look in your eye,” Faith said.


The pair left the store, Faith leading the way. At this time of day the streets were fairly empty, giving the women plenty of opportunity to talk.

Tara sighed.
“I really wanted to give Willow my mom’s ring,” she said sadly.
“She told me that it had been in her family for generations, and she was saving it for me.”

She looked at the pavement sadly. “For my special someone.”


Faith grimaced. “An’ now it’s at the bottom of the crater that is Sunnydale.”


Tara shook her head. “Worse. It’s still on the farm.”


“Well that’s good news!” Faith said. “Just go get it!”


Tara looked unconvinced. “I’m not sure that’s the best idea Faith. I’ve only just got back to the world, I’m not sure I’m ready to face my demons yet.”


“C’mon Tara, just walk in there all big and bad with Red by your side and demand it!”


Tara smiled sadly. “Daddy doesn’t know about the ring. Mama hid it away so it wouldn’t get lost or sold.”


Faith was exultant. “Wicked! Then just sneak in, grab ya stuff and sneak out again.”


“That might be a good idea. I don’t know though, part of me wants to have it out with them both, to show how far I’ve come and that they don’t control me anymore.”


“Preachin’ to the choir sister. If ya need backup just say. I know B will back ya. An’ after Red told me about your family, I’ve been itchin’ to unleash some righteous whup-ass on ‘em.”


“Righteous whup-ass?” Tara said with a raised eyebrow.


“What? It sounded good.” Faith protested. “Righteous whup-ass. I’m stickin’ with it. Makes me sound all country an’ crap.”


Tara chuckled. “We need to get you some cowboy boots and a hat, then you’ll be set.”


“Wicked.”


Faith eyed Tara, her cheery grin fading. “You ain’t the scared little girl anymore, you’re one of the most powerful women in the world, an’ ya engaged to one of the others. Go to the old homestead and get ya stuff. Because you’re strong, and you got nothing to fear. An’ if anyone tries to lay a hand on ya, Red will personally make their world end.”


Faith looked down at the pavement, scuffing the toe of her boot in the cracks in the concrete. “My Ma told me she had some stuff stashed away from my Da’s early days. I guess she meant my real Da, not the guy I thought was my Da. Maybe while you’re raiding the old homestead, I can take B to Boston and do the same.”


Tara nodded slowly. “You make a good point Faith. I’ll give it some thought.”


Faith nodded. “Good. Ya need backup, just call, an’ me, an’ B will come runnin’. An’ we’ll bring a fucking army.” She cocked her head in thought. “Where is the old homestead for you anyways?”


“Dixie, Utah.”


“Utah? Your folks were Mormons? That explains a lot,” Faith said.


Tara laughed and shook her head. “Not everyone in Utah is a Mormon you know. My father was a Baptist, my mom was a pagan.”


“That can’t have been easy.”


Tara shrugged. “I don’t know much about it. All I know is, their spiritual beliefs became more important to them as they got older. When they were first married it wasn’t so much of an issue.”


“Yeah, I heard that. It’s always the way, they start out with a hiss and a roar and it all ends with a bang and a whimper.”

Faith froze. “Shit.”

She slumped. “Sorry Tara, my mouth gets me in a lotta crap. I just didn’t think.”


Tara squeezed Faith’s hand. “It’s ok. I know what you meant.”

She pulled Faith to a halt. “And look,” she said, gesturing with Faith’s hand. “The jewellery shop.”


Faith blinked in surprise. “Huh? Oh yeah.”

She was further surprised when Tara took the lead and towed her into the shop.

“Damn girl, you been working out.”


Tara smiled and bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yup. Plus I’ve been going for a morning run with Xander and Giles.”

“Now that I’m not marching across the continent on a daily basis, wearing armour, I need something to keep me fit.”


“Workin’ out with the X-man and the G-man eh?”


“Willow too, though she’s not too happy about the running part.”


Faith chuckled. “Yeah, I bet.”


“Given our lives, being unfit and unable to run away is just not a good idea.”


“Heh. You practically had to carry her back that first time. Wicked, check out the pretty sparkles.”


They both stopped to admire the pendants and rings on display. Faith had picked this shop on purpose.
Though it was the smaller shop, it had the most interesting jewellery in Faith’s opinion.


“Can I help you?” said a man’s voice.


Faith looked up and almost took a step back. The man was dressed in a suit and wearing glasses in an ‘Early Wesley’ motif.

“Uh, yeah maybe. Engagement rings, two of,” she said holding up two fingers.


The man smiled. “Of course. And may I say, congratulations.”


Tara chuckled as the man saw their still joined hands.


“Huh? Oh, uh. Nope, not her man. We’re just pals,” Faith said, letting go of Tara’s hand self-consciously.


Tara smiled and explained to the jeweller. “We are both getting married, but not to each other.”


The man bowed his head slightly. “My apologies ladies.”


“What sort of budget were we working with?” he gently inquired.


Faith smirked and rummaged in her wallet. She flicked a shiny platinum card onto the counter.
“There is no budget.”


The jeweller broadly smiled and gestured to his wares.


“You know, that card doesn’t really fit with how we are dressed,” Tara said.


“What? We got you some new gear, you look nice. I look wicked good too,” Faith said gesturing to their outfits.


Tara was dressed in a flowing blue and cream top with an open back, and jeans. Faith was wearing tight black pants, a form fitting burgundy top and a denim jacket.

“We look fine, just not like the kind of people who wave those around,” she said pointing to the shiny card on the table.


Faith shrugged. “Meh. If he’s worried we stole it, putting in the number for it should let him unclench a little.”


“Let’s look at rings then,” Tara said.


For the next half-hour the enthusiastically browsed through the jeweller’s stock of rings.

Faith had picked out a platinum ring with tiny diamonds and garnets, surrounding a modest diamond.
Tara picked out a small silver ring with a dark sapphire surrounded by vines and tiny diamond flecks.


Faith flicked the card at the jeweller and opened her mouth to say something clever, when an avalanche of emotion landed on her.
She staggered under the load, and her head snapped around to face the door.


“Faith what...” Tara said as she was similarly overcome.

Willow was angry.

Really angry.


“Buffy?” Faith said, nearly bursting into tears over the feelings pouring through her.

She could feel shame, guilt and panic through the connection she had to Buffy. Whatever was going on, she could feel none of the fighting fury of the Slayer in the connection, so she figured Buffy wasn’t in the ‘fighting for your life’ kind of trouble. This was emotional trouble, something neither of them had ever been good at dealing with.

She concentrated on the link between them, ‘I love ya B, with all I got. Remember that.’

She felt the quality of the emotion change, though the pitch remained high.
She felt Buffy hammer down her guilt and shame. She felt Buffy reach for her, and Faith answered with all the love she had in her battered heart.

She felt her love respond with joy and pride as she got her emotional footing.
And just a touch of righteous rage.

Whatever the hell was going on out there, she figured Buffy was giving someone an earful.

Tara looked worried, but Faith was starting to grin.
‘That’s my girl,’ she sent.

“Faith, I don’t know what’s going on, but Willow is very upset.”


Faith grinned savagely. “B is tearing strips off someone. I think. Damn that would be something to see.”


The puzzled jeweller gave them some space, and the two friends silently sent their support and love to their loved ones.

After what seemed like hours, a certain sense of satisfaction flowed down the links to the worried pair.


Faith glanced at Tara. “Uh T? I think they’re headed this way. We might wanna grab our stuff and book it, if we wanna have any chance of a surprise.”


Tara nodded and Faith turned to the Jeweller. “Charge us suit-boy.”


Already prepared, he handed Faith a stack of papers and receipts along with a form to sign.
Faith signed her name on the line and scribbled her address on the forms.


Tara smiled as she saw Faith’s swirly and surprisingly feminine signature, so unlike Willow’s neat but idiosyncratic handwriting, or her own loopy script.


Faith handed her a small black box, and grabbed one of her own. “C’mon Snowy, we gotta bail, otherwise they’ll get wise to us.”

Tara took the small box with its precious cargo and hid it at the bottom of her purse.
“I want to find out what happened,” Tara said seriously. “I have no idea what could make Willow so angry.”


Faith lead the way from the shop. “I got an idea. B was freaked out and feelin’ kinda ashamed. I think someone might have been giving her a hard time about me.”


“Oh!” Tara said. “It’s been such a long time since I had to deal with any of that. I guess I forgot what this world is like.”


“No gay bashing over there?”


Tara sighed. “I don’t know. I never saw any. People seemed to be more concerned over horrible things from another dimension, and the problems of artificial intelligence, to really worry about that sort of thing.”

They walked together down the street, rapidly getting closer to their distressed loves.


“I was never with anyone romantically, but when I told my friends that I was in love with another woman, no-one batted an eyelid.”

She smiled at the recollection of her friends. “Well, Takarn didn’t really ‘get’ romantic love, and Melchior was just confused by the whole concept. Catherine… well there’s a story there. She wanted to know all about Willow though.”

She wrinkled her nose and smiled. “It was really nice to have someone to rabbit on with about Willow, who didn’t just roll their eyes.”


Faith smiled. “Nice.”


“No really. No one can roll their eyes like those two. Takarn can roll his in opposite directions, and one of Melchior’s is detachable, so he can roll it around in his hand.”


“That’s wicked gross,” Faith said.


Anything more she might have said was lost, as she felt a sudden spike of glad emotion run through her link with Buffy. Through the tingle that told her when supernatural things were about, she could feel roughly where she was and looked for her.

Buffy was striding determinedly down the sidewalk towards her, Willow bobbing along in her wake. Though the sidewalk was nowhere near crowded, it was pretty obvious that no sane person wanted to get in the way of the tiny blonde woman.

Buffy’s expression was thunderous, and the power she projected from her small frame reminded Faith, that this was the woman that had destroyed the Master, brought down a god, and risen from the grave to drive back the First Evil.

It was an attractive look to Faith, a woman strong in her own power.

‘Huh. That explains a lot about our screwed up relationship. Angry B is hot,’ Faith thought to herself.

Buffy collided with Faith and pushed her back against a convenient lamppost, kissing her fiercely, almost possessively as she did so.


Willow snuggled up to Tara. “Hey Baby,” she murmured into her hair.


“What happened Willow?” Tara asked gently.


Willow muttered under her breath, Tara catching only ‘poopyhead’ and ‘closet’.


“Baby?”


Willow huffed. “We were shopping for jewellery in the big store uptown. It was fine, until the horrible woman asked Buffy why she was buying the ring, when it was traditional for the man to buy one.”


In the background, Faith and Buffy were still smooching.


“It was really sweet. Buffy got all shy and said she was marrying the most beautiful girl in the whole world, hence the ring.”


Faith broke away from Buffy’s almost desperate kissing. “Whoa B, you said that?!”

Buffy was still flushed and breathing hard but she nodded, combining reticence and anger in a way that Faith just found adorable.
“Damn woman, you are just wicked bad!” Faith said.


“The shop lady turned all nasty after that. She said the we were profaning the sanctity of holy matrimony and spitting on all that was good and righteous and handed down from Jesus. The big poopy-head.”


Faith’s expression darkened. “Go on.”


Willow looked a little nervous and awkward. “Um, well Buffy kinda freaked, a bit. And slightly, um, cried. A bit.”


Faith’s expression softened. “Oh, B. I’m so sorry.”


Buffy nuzzled Faith’s hand. “Don’t be. I got my own back.”

Faith quirked an eyebrow.


Willow bounced a little. “You’d have been so proud Faith, it was amazing, like a light coming on. Buffy really went off at her!”


“Really?”


“Yup, really. She said that the last god that took a dislike to her, and tried to take someone she loved? Well they didn’t come off so good.”


“I have killed gods,” Buffy said flatly, her tone as hard and unyielding as hammered iron.


“Um, yup. Like that,” Willow added.


“And she believed you?” Faith said to Buffy.


Willow nodded her head cheerfully. “Buffy didn’t leave her a lot of choice, she was in full ‘I am the Slayer’ mode. It was very impressive. I think the shop lady might be having a religious experience right now.”


Faith growled. “Well she’s about to have a crisis of Faith. Possibly involving a crowbar and some napalm.”

Buffy looked worried.

Faith clenched her fist. “Buffy Summers is strong. She doesn’t need me to protect her from the big bad world,” she said cupping Buffy tenderly behind her ear.

She spoke tenderly and with love. Buffy’s eyes shone. “This stunning, powerful woman can take on the world. And win.”

Faith’s expression changed, a dangerous fire lighting in her eyes. “But no-one does that to my girl and gets away with it. No one!”


“Revenge is in order,” Willow said.

All eyes turned to her.


“Um, not like ‘break your legs’ revenge. I was more thinking like telling all the mini-Slayers to smooch outside the shop, or putting up flyers about them or something.”


“This Friday at the Peach,” Faith said. “We put the word out then. Should drop their business quite a bit.”


Buffy fingered her necklace thoughtfully before snapping it off. She carefully removed the gold medallion from it and put it in her pocket. “I got this chain from there. I want it destroyed.”


“There’s another jewellery shop just back here B. C’mon, let’s go get you another chain.”


“And ice-cream. I need the reassuring goodness that is ice-cream. And many, many cuddles.”


“Me too,” said Faith. “If ya hold on to me tight enough, it should stop me runnin’ off and doing something dumb.”


“Ice-cream for you too then. What’s your favourite?”


“Vanilla crunch. Y’know, with the little bits in it?”


“Chocolate, Definitely chocolate,” Buffy said in response.


“Ooo, rainbow ripple,” Willow added.


“There’s a sort of walnut-coffee-fudge flavour I quite like,” Tara said after some thought.


Buffy nodded, an expression of determination on her face. “Ice-cream followed by petty, petty revenge-ness.”


“Follow me,” said Faith. “I know all the best places in town for food.”


“And revenge,” she added as an afterthought.


+++


Ten short minutes later, the four were seated on the couch at the Peach.

“Trust me, after extensive research, I can tell ya, this is the best place for ice-cream,” Faith said, scooping up a spoonful.


“Makes sense when ya think about it. Most of the customers are girls, and nothing beats ice-cream after an emotional rollercoaster or weepy week,” Faith said through a spoonful of vanilla crunch.


The four friends ate their ice-cream in content silence.


+++


“... which is why I prefer sausage to taco.”

Xander cringed as if expecting someone to make a crude remark.

His face fell as he realized no one was.

“I miss Anya,” he said simply.

His heart was in those three small words.


“I know Xander, I wish she was still with us,” Dawn said.

She put her hand over her mouth and her eyes widened. “Sorry! Sorry! I forgot!”


“Done!” came the clear, cheerful voice.

There was a flare of light, and Anya appeared.


Xander just gaped at her. Her hair shone like spun gold and she was dressed in a flowing gown of shimmering white.

“Hello Xander,” she said, and promptly sat in his lap.

Xander smiled and wrapped his arms around the blonde woman.

He smiled dreamily and passed out.


Anya sighed. “Somehow, I was hoping for better.”


Dawn stared at the somewhat disappointed Anya, and the unconscious Xander. “Crap. This is my fault.”


“Don’t feel too bad, I’ve been lurking for ages waiting for someone to say ‘I wish’. Another day and I would have just showed up in the middle of dinner and made you spill food all over yourself.”


“You! You’re who Cordelia was sending!” Dawn said.


“Hey! That’s really annoying, figuring stuff out before I get to tell you. Stop being so smart.”


“Who’s next? Mom? Giles’ old girlfriend?”


Anya deadpanned. “Not till next week.”


Dawn’s eyebrows vanished into her hairline. “Really?”


Anya grimaced. “Ah, no. Just a little Whitelighter humour. Sorry, still getting the hang of it.”


“Ohmigod, you’re a Whitelighter. You, Anya Jenkins, former demon, are a Whitelighter?”


“Hey! Don’t sound so surprised, I’ve been one of the good guys for ages now!”


“You were a Demon!”


“Technically ‘Demonically Empowered Ascended Being’ but close enough.”


“And now?”


“Angelically Empowered Ascended Being,” Anya said, examining her nails.


“Like Tara?”


Anya huffed. “No. Not like Tara. No-one upstairs knows what the hell happened to her.”


“So, um. Why are you here now?”


Anya smiled cheerfully and said. “To kill Faith.”


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:52 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Big yay for furniture and ring shopping... I really hope the rest of the Scoobies convince Anya & PTB that killing Faith is definitely not good for their long term health...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2015 8:47 am 
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Wow. I had a slight hunch it was Anya creeping around the shadows on the last few chapter, but it's still a shocker to have her come out and say "Oh yeah I was totally sent here to kill Faith."

On the one hand she might not be planning to go through with it and have a plan to get herself off the PTB's radar. On the other this is Anya and anything could happen.

On a happier note the ring shopping and BFF bonding was nice. Looking forward to more when they get back to base and Anya's return is either resolved peacefully or hits the fan.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 12:17 am 
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Heya!

Glad you liked it :P

Yeah, i love Anya, i had to have her back. She just says all the things other people keep quiet about.
I think the World Needs More Anya's.

And Emma Caulfield is very Anya-like, though i'm told it's not wise to mentin that to her.

She had a Vlog sort of thing for a while. It was awesomely funny.
Imagine 'Anya discovers youtube, and decides to be an Agony Aunt.'

Sage advice given in Anya-esque bluntness :)



Back to the story: Resolved peacefully? Where would be the fun in that? :P

See ya in a week, for the next half. It's pretty big too :)

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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 Sep 20, 2015 11:56 pm 
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Ooops!

So, i'm running a little behind this week, sorry.
It took longer to format this chapter than i thought, and it got late. :moo
I wear the cow of shame.

But, as a slight bonus, I chopped off the last chapter a bit early.
So you get an extra part :)

Technically, it's 'sometimes they Come Back part 1 B'

but that's just silly.

so i smooshed them together.
And you boys and girls get an extra long chapter tonight :bounce

It should be up in the next hour or so :P

See you soon!

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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: Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:18 am 
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Sometimes they come Back – Part 2


The sound of conversation echoed from the corridor.
“Seriously, I thought that broad was gonna blow a fuse!”


“It was kinda fun. Plus that’s the first time I’ve actually smooched someone for a good cause. Y’know it was neat, smooching for a good cause. More people should do it. Plus smooching Tara? Always good.”


“In here guys!” Dawn called out.


“Hey D! We had a blast! You shoulda been there!” Faith said as she strolled into the room. “’Cause then you’da had to find a girl to make-out with. But hey, all good.”


She dumped her bags and flopped down on the couch before she even registered a sleeping Xander held to Anya’s breast.
“Well I’ll be goddamned,” she said, impressed.


Anya winked at Faith.

Faith waggled her eyebrow and grinned.


“Faith, what did you do?” Willow said, wandering into the room.


Willow ground to a halt as she caught sight of Anya smiling beatifically. “Eeep!”


“Hey Will, I may be a Slayer but I don’t have Super bag-handlage powers. You’re blocking the door,” Buffy complained mildly.

Willow absently stepped out of the way to let Buffy into the room.

Buffy sighed happily as she dumped the shopping bags on the floor.


She froze as she took in Anya, Dawn’s grin and Xander’s unconsciousness. “Ugh, I need caffeine, this day has officially gotten too weird.”

She staggered zombie-like over to the couch and flopped down next to Faith with a groan, gratefully leaning into Faith’s welcoming embrace.


Anya’s eyes narrowed as she saw the shiny new bling on her finger.

“So you’re a lesbian now?” Anya asked.


Buffy flushed furiously and glared at her. After a short, awkward moment, she nodded.


Anya smiled warmly and held out her hand. “Pay up!” she said cheerfully to Faith. “You owe me fifty dollars.”


Faith gave her the fingers British-style, though she dug her wallet out of her jeans and bounced it off Anya’s head.


“Hey! No need to be mean about it!”


“It’s been a hell of a day Ahn. Just take ya fifty and shut the hell up.”


“Fine, but I’m taking an extra ten for you being rude.”


“Um, Hi? But aren’t you dead?” said Tara, who had managed to slip into the room without anyone noticing.


“Aren’t you?” Anya replied with a half smile.


Tara blinked in surprise.


She threw up her hands at Tara’s lack of response.


“Sure, let’s all pick on the dead girl, because she’s dead,” Anya said, with a trace of humour.

“Though in all fairness, the dead outnumber the living in this room. Hands up if you have never died,” Anya said.


Willow obediently put her hand up.


So did Faith. “Technically I never died.”


Anya waved her protestations away. “You were in heaven for four days. You count.”


“I’m all out of wallets. All I have left are knives. And what’s with Xan gettin’ a face full of boob?” Faith asked.


“He fainted. I thought it might be nice for him to wake up to some nice breasts,” she said stroking Xander’s curly hair gently.

Xander sighed in his sleep and cupped Anya’s breast.

She smiled. “Aww, he still does it,” she said affectionately.


With the exception of Faith, everyone else looked away embarrassed.

Faith said “Not that I mind the free show, but ya might wanna wake him up before he does ya right on the couch.”


“I would enjoy that too,” Anya said with a sigh.


“God, she’s gotten worse,” Buffy complained quietly.


“Honey? Sexpoodle?”


Xander just mumbled and squeezed a little.


“Xander! Wake up! You’re going to be late for work!”


“Buh! Sorry Ahn… I guess I fell asleep. I... eek!” he said, looking around at the sea of smiles. “Argh!”


Giles stepped quietly into the room, unnoticed in the middle of Xander’s dramatic reaction. “Good lord,” he said softly, unnoticed by everyone but Tara. She turned her head at his quiet exclamation and smiled, somewhat embarrassed.


“X-man, just chill ok? I don’t wanna lose any more money to your girl,” Faith said.


“And later you get to explain your bet to me. In excruciating detail,” Buffy said, looking just a little bit annoyed.


"Oops. Busted," Faith said. “Thinks a bunch Anchor butt, ya got me busted by my girlfriend."


Anya just smiled, completely unrepentant. “You're welcome. And here's your wallet back."


"Wait... What... Wallet... What?" Xander sputtered.


Anya patted him on the knee. “I am very sorry I broke your brain Xander. I just wanted everyone to be impressed with my triumphant return from the grave. I just thought I would have to try harder, given how many other people have done it. Recently even."


"You're alive!?"


"I'm in 'other than alive' status, but that's just a technicality. For most purposes, I'm alive. So yes Xander, I'm alive and kicking," she said, matching actions to words and kicking out at Faith.


"Hey!” protested Faith. “Quit ragging on me, dammit.”

Faith grumbled. “I kept your frikkin’ secret, even though I knew it was a dumb idea. Ya take money from me and get me in the crap with my girl, and now you’re kickin’ at me!”


Anya poked her tongue out at Faith.


“I will kick your ass…” Faith muttered.


“Ah, um, er,” Willow said, getting Anya’s attention and trying to forestall a fight. “Not that I’m not glad that you’re here… but why are you here?”


Anya smiled brightly. “I am on a mission of murder for the Powers That Be.”


“What?!” the collected Scoobies exclaimed in disbelief.


“Well officially, I’m not here at all. But unofficially officially I’m here to arrange the death of Faith-” she said before Buffy interrupted.


“I don’t know if the dead can die again,” she said flatly. “But if you lay a finger on Faith, we are going to find out.”


“Very butch Buffy. You’ll get the hang of the lesbian thing in no time,” Anya said brightly.

Buffy glared at Anya, though her best glare bounced off Anya’s armour of cheerful indifference.

“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted: unofficially-unofficially, I’m here on behalf of the resistance. Cordelia sent me.”


“Poor Xander, all your ex’s in one place, and talking,” Willow said.


“And comparing notes,” Anya added.


Faith winced and put a comforting hand on Xander’s shoulder. “Welcome to every man’s worst nightmare.”

Xander was glancing from face to face as each spoke, looking as though he was going to lose it soon.


“Um, guys?” Tara interjected, waving to get everyone’s attention. “Can we maybe, um, not break Xander? I mean, he’s had kind of a stressful day today. It might be nice if someone told him what’s going on. Also I’m kind of curious myself.”


“Lemme handle this,” Faith said.


Anya waved her hands encouragingly at Faith and snuggled down with Xander. “Breasts later, now you should be listening to the butch Slayer.”


Faith glared at Anya, to no better effect than Buffy.
Anya just smiled pleasantly.

“Ok, so I was sorta dead for a bit a while back, yeah? Well, while I was upstairs I ran into Cordy and Anya here.”

“Now Cordy figured she could wangle Anya into the ranks of the Whitelighters, but she wasn’t sure she could actually pull it off. So she asked me to keep quiet about it so that no-one upstairs found out.”

Faith ran her hand through her hair. “Uh, and she didn’t wanna hurt Xan-man here in case she couldn’t pull it off.”


“Wow. I really wouldn’t have thought she’d have cared,” Willow interjected.


“Nah, Queen C likes him,” Faith said.


“But not in an orgasm-y way,” Anya put in. “That’s my thing.”


The collected faces looked as though they were unsuccessfully trying to un-hear Anya’s words.


Dawn tried to jolt the conversation back into life. “Uh, so Faith, you were saying you met them in heaven? Was that where Buffy was?”


Faith shook her head. “Nah squirt. I never made it to the Fields. Was too busy wreckin’ the place.”


“The Fields?” Xander asked.


“The Elysian Fields. Where those who have died violently or have suffered greatly go,” said Anya. “Soldiers and such. Slayers also apparently. Faith was supposed to go straight there, but being technically still alive messed all that up.”


“So what are the fields?” Dawn prodded.


“Bliss. Pure bliss,” Buffy said in a dreamy tone of voice.


“Pretty much that,” Anya said pointing at Buffy. “It’s a ‘Final Reward’ kind of thing.”


Dawn interrupted, puzzled. “So heaven is not all the same?”


“No,” Anya said. “Not any more than Earth is all the same.”


“So these fields…” put in Xander, talking mostly to Anya’s breasts.


“Are where we put the messed up people, until they’ve absorbed enough joy and happiness to make up for their horrible lives. Then they join the rest of us.”


“Hey! I was not messed up!” Buffy protested.


“Died twice, killed your first love to save the world, boinked Spike? You were pretty messed up,” Anya responded.


Buffy looked a little crestfallen. “It wasn’t the best time I suppose.”


Faith hugged her tight. “I’m glad you’re back B. I kinda lost my mind when you died.”


“Angel told you huh?”


Faith shook her head sadly and touched her hand to her heart. “In here B. When you died, I felt like a part of me died too,” she said hollowly. “They had to shoot me up with tranqs and chain me down in solitary for weeks.”


“And if you had died, we would have put you in the fields, there to bask in joy and contentment until you had your fill,” Anya said. She sighed. “All the Slayers end up there. Most never come out again.”


Buffy blinked in surprise. “They don’t come out?”


Anya shook her head. “Nope. You only remember fragments of what it was like, and you know how much that messed you up when you were brought back. For a girl who spent her nights alone fighting evil things in the night, on behalf of a world that would lock her up as a freak if they ever knew… well, you can imagine it would take a lot of joy to make up for that.”


“My mom was there,” Buffy said with a dreamy tone of voice.


Anya nodded. “She visited you regularly.”


“Can we go back to the part where you are supposed to kill Faith? That seems sort of important somehow,” Xander said.


Anya nodded cheerfully, ignoring Buffy’s flat stare. “It’s really very clever, I’m quite proud of myself for that.”

She looked around at the little family. “Really I have Cordelia to thank for all of this. The Powers That Be were really unsure what to do with me. I mean I fought on the side of light for years, and died saving the world, but then there were 1100 years of top quality evisceration and mayhem to consider.”

She smiled as she reminisced over her work, shaking her head to clear the memories away. “So anyway, Cordelia was looking for someone to help out, the powers were looking for someone to kill Faith, and I wanted to get back to Xander. So Cordelia suggested to them that perhaps I should work my passage into heaven as a Whitelighter.”

She smiled radiantly. “So here I am, condemned to 1100 years of service until I can enter heaven and rest. 1100 years of good to balance out the 1100 years of bad.”

“Wait, they made you a Whitelighter?” Willow asked.

Anya nodded cheerfully.

“And gave you super powers?”

Anya bobbed her head again.

“And gave you permission to hang out with us?”


“Yes. I find I’m quite pleased with myself for that.”


“And the Faith-killing parts?”


Anya sighed. “I convinced them that I hated Faith for taking Xander’s virginity-”


Xander interrupted. “Hey, I wasn’t a virgin when Faith, er, when I, er…” he trailed off.


“Yeah ya were,” Faith said. “You were pretty good Xan, but when it’s your first time? It shows.”


Buffy scowled. “Can we not talk about Xander’s sex life? Please?”


Anya rolled her eyes at Faith’s grin.

“Anyway, as an expert in killing people in creative ways, they elevated me to Whitelighter status and gave me the task of killing Faith.”


“Why?


Anya shrugged. “I don’t know, but they want her dead in the worst way possible. Believe me, after you spend 1100 years dealing with powerful demons and such, you learn to spot when powerful types get nervous.”

“So I volunteered, played up the ‘I hate Faith’ thing and set out to kill her.”


“I swear Anya, if you try I’ll-“


“If I was actually here to kill Faith, Buffy, I wouldn’t be telling you would I?” said Anya.

“Think for a minute. They want her dead. Badly enough to elevate a former demonoid to angelic status to act as their assassin. If they didn’t send me, they would have sent someone else.”


“So what happens now?” Tara interjected quietly.


Anya threw up her hands. “I don’t know. I used the whole demon attack thing to buy some time. I told them that the job needed to be done right, otherwise it would make it impossible. Also, they don’t know that you guys know about me.”

“Oh! And they are absolutely terrified of Buffy,” she said cheerfully.


“Me?” Buffy squeaked. “Why are they scared of me?”


“Maybe ‘cos ya kill every damned thing that pisses you off?” Faith interjected. “Seriously B, you and the Scoobies are a frikkin’ legend.”


Anya nodded. “There are worlds out there Buffy. Some so far away, that they have never even heard of Earth. And they have heard of the Slayer. On some worlds you are known as the ‘God-Slayer’.”

Buffy looked surprised.

“You brought hope to millions Buffy. Because you destroyed a goddess. On a thousand worlds, across different dimensions, resistance fighters battle impossible odds, because you showed them that a mortal can kill a god.”


Buffy’s eyes were huge as she squeaked out. “Me?”


Anya bobbed her head cheerfully, her tone oddly bright for the subject matter being discussed.

“People who had no hope of a better tomorrow. Slaves and the downtrodden, they stand and fight because they have hope. Hope that you gave them,” Anya said quite cheerfully.

She waved her fist in an awkward, sporty gesture. “Go you hero you.”


Buffy was dumbstruck.

Giles for his part looked quite shocked.


“That sort of thing leaves a mark you know. You can’t go round slaying gods willy-nilly.”

“Anyway, they said that it was absolutely imperative that I not hurt the Summers sisters. They actually used those actual words ‘absolutely imperative.’ Oh, and Giles.”


“Uh, not that I’m suggesting it or anything,” Dawn asked worriedly. “But why not just send someone with a gun and shoot Faith? I mean Slayers aren’t bulletproof, we’ve learned that lesson the hard way.”


Anya shook her head. “I don’t know why, but they wanted it to look like an accident or natural causes. Anything but an assassination, which a bullet… well, there was that whole president thing.”

“I really don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, but they need Faith dead on a specific timetable. I got them to swallow four to eight weeks for her guaranteed death, but they wouldn’t give me any longer than that. They got really pompous when I asked why, which is a total giveaway for those guys.”

“Given how things are up there currently, I’m the only direct agent of theirs around, but if I don’t kill Faith, I think we can expect an army of demons and vampires to show up to kill everyone.”


“They’d do that?” Willow said, incredulous. “Aren’t they meant to be the good guys?”


Anya shrugged. “They are more scared of Tara returning Faith return to life, than they were of the First Evil taking form and conquering the world.”


“Oops,” Tara said softly.


Anya looked at Tara and shrugged. “Demons and vampires are relatively easy to manipulate. Also remember: panicking.”


“So we got a couple of months?” Faith asked.


Anya shook her head. “No. they are way too nervous to actually hold off that long. I can guarantee they are going to step in and make a mess of things before then. I give us maybe a month.”


“I’m already bein’ stalked,” Faith said.


Anya grinned. “No, that was me. I had to make it look convincing. The Powers can’t really observe anything around a Hellmouth, but I figured they would at least try for a little while. I’m pretty sure they can’t see us now, what with us being alive and all.”

She smiled one of her alarmingly cheerful smiles. “Or close enough anyway.”


Faith looked around awkwardly. “Uh, right, so I pretty much guarantee no one else is gonna say this, but thanks Psycho girl, thanks for steppin’ in and givin’ us some time.”


Anya smiled graciously. “You are most welcome,” she said, as if reciting from memory.

She smiled around at the gang. “Is that everything? Because I want to take Xander away to somewhere nice and have orgasms with him.

Xander looked like a deer in the headlights, and Buffy just rolled her eyes.


Tara smiled. “We should catch up… later.”


Anya bobbed her head. “Yes. I would like that. We can probably have a break in a couple of hours.”


“Don’t I get a say?” Xander protested.

Anya leaned over, giving him a good view of her cleavage and whispered in his ear at length.

He blushed furiously and looked shocked, but he jerkily nodded his head.

“Bye everyone!” Anya said.

She vanished with a flash, taking Xander with her.


“Could this day get any weirder?” Buffy grumbled.


“I could give birth to pterodactyls. That might be worse,” Dawn quipped.


“As long as they don’t sing,” Willow said, a serious expression on her face.

There was silence for a while.

Dawn broke the silence. “I don’t know about you guys, but I feel as if I’m adrift, and the whole world is turned upside down.”


Nods greeted Dawn’s observation.


“I’ve felt this once before,” Tara said. “when my relatives came to take me away, and I found that my whole life had been a lie.”

Dawn grimaced at the unpleasant memory.

Tara hugged Willow close, smiling adoringly at Willow’s goofy expression. “That was the day I found my real family.


“Welcome to the family Tara,” Buffy said with a smile.


“Sweet. Now she can be your cuz too,” Faith said throwing an arm around Buffy and none too subtly putting her new ring in a spot of bright sunlight.


Dawn’s hawk-like gaze picked out the sparkly bling instantly and she locked wide eyes with Faith. Buffy had a panicky expression on her face as Dawn spotted her new ring. She looked across to Willow and Tara, lost in their own little world, gazing into each other’s eyes, and sporting brand new rings of their own.

Her gaze snapped back to Faith, who was sporting a grin and a raised eyebrow.

“You mean…” Dawn got out, the pitch of her voice rising breathlessly.

Faith nodded.

“I can…”


Faith nodded again. “Go nuts.”


Dawn poked a few buttons on her phone, a sense of tension about her, not unlike the sensation given off by an unexploded bomb.
She let out an ear-splitting squeal of unparalleled joy into the phone. She jumped up and down on the spot, squealing with glee the whole time.

“ohmigodohmigodohmigodohmigod!”


Both Slayers winced, and the two witches looked on owl-eyed at the paroxysms of joy embodied by Dawn Summers.

The doors popped open and Heather scurried into the library, folding her own phone away.

Dawn bounced her way over to Heather, almost levitating with joy. Within seconds the pair were jumping up and down hand in hand, shrieking in stereo as Dawn passed on her news in the most incomprehensible manner possible.

Somehow the information made it across the communications divide, amidst squeals and giggles. The pair bolted from the room, on a mission to tell absolutely everyone in the known universe.


There was a stunned silence so profound that it almost rang.


“It’s like the language of dolphins,” Willow said dazedly. “It’s not meant for human ears.”

Faith was shaking with silent laughter and holding onto Buffy for support.

“Ouch,” was Buffy’s only comment as she waggled her finger in her ear.


“Rather,” said Giles.

“I understand congratulations are in order, for all of you,” he said with a tired smile.


Tara and Willow both held out their hands to show off their rings, smiling happily.

Buffy flushed and looked down, glancing at Faith with what could only be described as her ‘flirty smile’.

Faith held out her hand, her arm proudly around Buffy.

Buffy eventually raised her head and stood proudly under Faith’s arm, also holding out her hand own for Giles to inspect.


“We were going to hold off for a little while Mr Giles,” Tara said. “But after our run-in at the jewellery store… well none of us wanted to wait any longer.”


“Yeah. That and we needed some extra stuff to rub in the bitchy jeweller’s face,” Faith added.


Giles inspected Willow’s dark sapphire ring, wreathed the vines and diamond chips and nodded approvingly. Buffy’s ring was superficially similar, having come from the same designer, but the platinum ring was engraved with roses and thorns, and had tiny diamonds and garnets surrounding a brilliant cut diamond.


“Red is pretty much Faith’s colour, and garnet is my birthstone,” Buffy said. “Plus, it has words.”

Giles inspected the ring. Tiny lettering adorned the band: ‘MY Chosen One.’
H
e nodded and smiled gently in approval, before inspecting the ring that Buffy had bought for Faith. It was somewhat more traditional than Faith’s gift to Buffy, in that it lacked any carving, and was made of gold with a single diamond. The ring was tasteful, and expensive enough to show that she was serious, without being ostentatious. It too carried the inscription ‘MY Chosen One.’

“I was going to give her my mom’s ring,” Buffy said. “But I remembered that dad gave it to her and… just no. So I got her a brand new one.”


“Check out the new bling G-man,” Faith said, looking inordinately pleased with herself.


Giles let his least favourite nickname pass without comment and pronounced the ring. “Very nice, very traditional.”

Tara’s ring was similar to Willow’s, though rather than a single sapphire, it had a trio of emeralds and tiny diamonds. Like the others it carried an inscription: ‘Always.’


“My mother always said that one was a lonely number, and two was never enough, but three would always prove to be sufficient. It was one of her favourite sayings.”

She smiled dreamily as she remembered her mother. “Everything in our house came in threes,” Tara said.

She held up Willow’s hand and said proudly. “One day I am going to go home and claim my mother’s ring, and that will be Willow’s ring forevermore. But for now, this will do.”


“It’s all heirloom-y,” Buffy chipped in. “All ‘handed down from mother to daughter’ sort of thing.”


Giles nodded approvingly. “I understand. I wish you all the best, both in recovering your mother’s ring, and for the future.”


He had a faraway look in his eye. “I… I have a similar heirloom. That my mother gave to me, for that special someone. I… just wish I had…”

He fell silent as he looked down at the floor.

“I wish I’d had the courage to…”


Buffy moved over and silently hugged him, looking up into his sad blue eyes. “It’s ok Giles. She knew.”

“Plus, you may never have married, but you have the best kids.”


He looked down at her fondly, though his eyes were still tinged with loss. “Indeed I do.”


He enfolded her in his embrace. “And I could not be prouder of them.”


They shared a moment of silent memory of Joyce Summers. Departed, but not forgotten.


+++


Later in his office, Giles was coldly furious.

‘Bitchy jeweller indeed. How dare the woman make Buffy and Willow feel bad about finding love!? And at such a critical point in their relationship.’

Any kind of knee jerk stupidity angered Giles, but this was beyond the pale.
Luckily he had the resources to do something about this.

He reached for the phone, a call to the local media tempted him, but that would not serve their purpose of remaining out of the limelight.
No, a call to the college paper, and another to the more friendly of the two jewellers should do.

Faith had already put the word around at the peach. Shortly the world under the age of thirty would know exactly how unpleasant and narrow minded one woman could be.

And how fierce Giles could be in defence of his own.


+++


“Tara? Can I ask you a personal question?” Dawn said.

The pair were sitting in the library, where Dawn was attempting to add ‘magic’ to her repertoire of skills.


Tara looked up and smiled. “Of course.”


Dawn looked a little uncomfortable and hesitated before asking. “How come you never got addicted to magic?”


Tara thought for a moment. “Are you worried about Willow’s bad time happening to you?”

Dawn looked terribly embarrassed, but she nodded silently.

‘Sweetie, I’m having ‘the talk’ with Dawnie. Can you give us a while?’ she sent.

All she got in return was the impression of tinkling laughter in return.

‘Goof. Not that talk’

Out loud she said. “I understand Dawnie, I do.”


She thought for a moment.

Dawn’s perceived age was sometimes a problem. Usually she didn’t mind being called ‘Dawnie’ by her family, and often enjoyed being the kid of the group. But Tara had to remind herself that this young woman had seen more death and destruction in her young life, than most soldiers saw in their entire careers.

‘And she is third in charge of a world-spanning organization,’ Tara thought to herself.

Tara had always been open and up front with Dawn, and saw no reason to change that policy now.

“It’s not possible to get addicted to magic. If it were, everyone who worked with spells would fall down that hole. But It is certainly possible to get addicted to the power and control that magic can bring.”

Tara gave Dawn a serious look. “Plenty of people in the non-supernatural world have fallen into that addiction.”


Dawn thought for a moment. “Uh, like Faith? And that Travers guy that tried to boss my sister around?”


Tara nodded. “Power corrupts.”


“So how come Willow went dark and you didn’t?”


“I didn’t have Willow die. If... Willow had been killed... I would have.”


“Tara! You’d have killed people?”


“I have killed people Dawn. If Willow had been taken from me, just as I’d started to have hope, to lose her so cruelly... I’m not sure anyone could have brought me back from that.”

Tara looked at Dawn and smiled sadly. “Maybe you. You might have been my Xander.”

Dawn blushed and looked away.

“We’re different people Dawnie, we react differently to things. There have been times when I’ve felt useless as a Scooby, and felt the need to do something to help.”

She thought for a moment. “I guess I was just happier fading into the background. That was my safety mechanism. I still wanted to help, but it wasn’t this driving need to help, like it was for Willow.”


“Well what about me? Now you’ve got me worried, I mean, I’m studying magic and sometimes I feel pretty useless. Especially when I’ve been practicing levitating things or magically peeling fruit and I’ve exploded stuff.”


Tara squeezed her shoulder sympathetically. “You have two things going for you. First you have the knowledge of what happened to Willow to remind you what not to do.”

She pulled Dawn into a one-armed hug. “And more importantly, you have me and Willow both here to help you.”


Dawn smiled but still looked a little sad. “I wish you had been here to help Willow.”


Tara spoke softly. “Me too Dawnie, me too.”

She sighed. “I think in many ways I was the junior partner in our relationship. I sat back and didn’t say anything for too long, let Willow lead the way.”


Dawn looked at her feet. “Um, a little bit.”


“Don’t worry Dawn, we won’t be making the same tired old mistakes.”

She smiled. “We’ll make all new mistakes.”


“Yay?”


Tara laughed. “Don’t worry so much. I love Willow more than life, but I know how to stand up for myself.”


They sat in companionable silence for a while.

“So, exploding things?” Tara asked.


Dawn sighed. “Yeah. Same problem as Willow, I keep overdoing it. Like, I can’t do big spells yet, but I can power them. But when I try to do the small stuff, stuff that takes a lot of control, like peeling apples or writing with floating pencils? I overpower them and stuff explodes.”

Tara raised an eyebrow.

Dawn groaned. “I am so sick of the smell of exploded apples. If you ever wonder why we have so much apple pie, apple sauce and apple crumble? Well now you know.”


“I wonder if it’s an effect of growing up on the Hellmouth?” Tara wondered.


“I’m back to being un-reassured now,” Dawn grumbled.


Tara made a face. “Sorry sweetie, I wasn’t thinking.”


“So me and Willow are all power and no control, because of where we grew up?”


“Possibly. I just don’t know,” Tara said.


“Well if magic is not addictive, what about Rack and his druggie mojo? Didn’t that get Willow pretty, um, high?”

Tara hunted for an analogy. Inspired, she lifted her hand and summoned sunlight to it.

Dawn lit up. “Cool! Um, sorry, you were all with the ‘splainin’ and stuff?”


Tara continued her explanation.

“I used my magic to create light. But there are other ways I could have created light, I could have used a flashlight, or lit a fire, or broken one of those light-stick things,” Tara said.


“Right…” Dawn said slowly and questioningly, obviously expecting more in the way of an explanation.


“Drugs don’t get you high, they sort of trick the body into getting itself high, releasing endorphins and such. There are other ways to get there, religious ecstasy, runner’s high and things like that.”


“Okaay,” Dawn said uncertainly.


“Magic can be used to generate the same effect as drugs, in the same way that magic can be used to generate the same effect as a flashlight or fire.”


“So Rack was a drug dealer, but with magic instead of like, cocaine or something?”

Tara nodded.

“Why not use, y’know, actual drugs? Wouldn’t that be easier?” Dawn asked.


“Magical energy pours from a Hellmouth and saturates the land around it. It makes magic lots easier to use and quicker to recover from. Rack had a constant, ever renewing source of highs he could sell to anyone who wanted them. No gangs, no competition, no police.”


“Oh. Makes sense I suppose. So as long as I stay out of drug dens and don’t lose my true love, I should be alright?”


Tara smiled a little. “I imagine so.”


Dawn thought for a moment.

“I’m glad you’re here Tara, I think if it weren’t for you offering to teach me, Buffy would have exploded when I asked to learn magic.”

Dawn grimaced. “I’d have been cleaning up explodey Buffy mess for weeks.”


Tara nodded sagely. “Explodey Buffy is bad.”


Dawn sighed dramatically. “No one wants to deal with bits and pieces of Buffy mess everywhere.”


“Not really, no.”


+++


‘Baby? Is it safe to come up now?’ Willow asked.


Tara smiled, ‘Yes sweetie, we’re done with our delicate talk.’


Willow came in carrying a tray of munchies.

“Hey girls!” Willow said cheerfully, sitting down on the beanbag next Tara.


“Ooo! Dip!” Dawn cooed.

She grabbed a couple of carrot sticks and dunked them in the hummus.


“So, what are we learning, Dawnie?” Willow asked, gesturing to the open spellbooks and herbs scattered around.


Dawn munched cheerfully on her carrot sticks. “Sunlight. Tara was showing me how to do a light spell, then she was going to show me about auras and stuff.”


“Ooo! Neato! Can I join in?” Willow asked excitedly.


Tara smiled. “I am more than happy to have you join in Willow, if Dawn doesn’t mind sharing her Tara-time?”


Dawn shook her head. “Nope. Not going to try and get between Tara and Willow. That’s just not a winning proposition.”


Willow wriggled a little with excitement. “It’s been ages since we did spell work together baby.”


“I’m looking forward to it. And Dawnie here is very talented, she’s gotten the basic teeny Tinkerbelle light down already.”


“Really? I’m impressed. It took me all week to figure out how to do that,” Willow said.


“Well Dawnie has a couple of advantages. For one she’s not distracted by her teacher.”

Willow smiled shyly.

“And secondly she’s not quite as focussed on technology,” Tara said, poking willow gently in the nose.

She smiled as Willow went cross-eyed trying to look at her finger.


“Why don’t you show us how well you’re doing?” Tara said to Dawn.


Dawn grinned cheerfully and started arranging the crystals on the cloth next to her.


“No stinky herbs?” Willow asked.


“Nope. Past that stage already,” Tara replied.


“Wow. I think you must have had a better teacher than I did.”


“Who taught you magic, Willow?” Dawn asked.


Willow thought for a moment. “Amy, I guess. I mean, Tara taught me some things later, and Giles taught me some things too, and I learned a lot of stuff in Devon as well, but I guess when I was starting out, I kinda figured it out myself. Amy and Michael helped, which might have been the problem I suppose,” she said nervously.

Dawn nodded seriously as she read her notes.

Willow and Tara fell silent as Dawn prepared to cast her first spell in front of both of them.

Dawn read out the lines of her spell in Latin, cupping the tiny grain of green-tinted quartz in her palm, until her spell reached completion.

“Fiat Lux!” she declared.

The tiny crystal flickered into bright green light and floated up from her palm. The tiny spark of green buzzed around the room twice before shooting out through the door and down the hallway.


A faint, dismayed squawk could be heard in the distance.

“Daaaawn!” Buffy complained from down the hallway. Her complaint was accompanied by the sound of laughter.

Dawn and Willow smiled impishly.


Tara chuckled softly. “I think you have the hang of the Tinkerbelle light, and using it to find, um, Buffy.”


“Yup. I intend to tell her it’s so I can find her in an emergency.”


“You should see if you can get that bit of crystal back when the spell wears off. The more you use something for a specific spell, the easier it is to cast with it,” Tara said.

Dawn nodded.


“Now for a new spell, or rather, two new spells,” Tara said as she shuffled through a set of papers.


Dawn snagged a sheet and started reading. Her eyebrows vanished into her hairline. “I’m not sure this is the right spell Tara. I mean, I can read Latin pretty well, and I’m not sure we should be doing spells that break off a piece of someone’s soul.”


Tara winced. “Um, yes. That is definitely the wrong spell.”


Willow leaned sideways and read the spell over Dawn’s shoulder. “Why would you have a spell to break off a piece of...” she trailed away as she absorbed the meaning behind the spell.


“You know, this isn’t that complicated,” Dawn said. “It’s just kind of dangerous, messing with people’s souls and stuff.”


Willow slowly turned to Tara. “This means...”

Tara nodded shyly.

“We could...”

Tara nodded again.

“Woo... hoo,” she breathed quietly, staring off into space.


Dawn spoke up as she puzzled through the Latin. “Hey guys? I think this is a spell to make a new life out of two bits of... oh!” she said as she finally twigged what the spell did.

Her eyes were huge as she turned to look at her two friends.

Willow and Tara had practically raised her during the years following Glory. She smiled as she remembered telling some of the kids at school that she had three moms.

Moms.

“Oh. My. God!” she gasped.



Willow was staring at Tara, her expression a strange mixture of intense desire and amazement.

“Sweetie, this was going to be your fourth surprise. Um. Later. Much later. When we had talked about things and were ready. Um.”


Willow just stared.

She spoke dreamily. “Just when I think I could not possibly love you more, you do something like this, and just totally reset the bar.”


“Would you want to... with me?” Tara asked.


Willow sighed, absolutely smitten. “Goddess, yes. More than anything in all the world.”




Dawn stared, owl-eyed as the two stared soul-deep into each other’s eyes. She sighed happily to herself, and fell back onto the cushion pile.

“Oh that’s so romantic.”


After a few minutes of soulful gazing, Willow finally broke away from Tara’s eyes and turned to Dawn. “Um, hey Dawnie? Um, this is going to sound kinda awful but-“


“Don’t tell anyone?” she said with a grin.


Willow nodded. “It’s kind of private and our secret ok?”


Dawn nodded. “Hey, you can totally trust me guys. Seriously, I kept quiet about Buffy proposing to Faith and Omigod that was HUGE!”


Tara smiled. “Tell you what, we’ll make the same deal that you made with them. You keep our secret, and when it comes time to tell everyone that our little family is going to get larger by one, you get to tell everyone, ok?”


“And you totally get to be ‘Cool Auntie Dawn’”


“And help us think up names for her.”


“Her?” Dawn asked. “You know already?”


Willow nodded. “Yup. No Y chromosomes here Dawnie. Or ‘Male Essence’ if you want to get mystical.”


“Ohmigod this is totally awesome I love you guys so much!” Dawn said at a rush.

The two witches were immediately pulled into a huge hug.


“Um, weren’t we going to do a spell?” Willow said when she finally disentangled herself from Dawn.

“A different spell I mean, because whoo! It’s just a little sudden to be doing the other spell today.”


Tara nodded slowly.


“Um, right. So auras then,” Willow said, awkwardly trying to restart the conversation.


“Ok, I’ll let that slide,” Dawn said cheerfully. “As long as when it comes time to make the announcement, I do get to tell everyone.”


Willow glanced at Tara and received a happy nod. “Ok missy, you can, I promise. Now onto other spells. Spells which we can talk about without being turned into a toad.”

Willow looked significantly at Dawn, before turning to Tara.

“Oh! Um, Yes. Yes, I was going to teach you both how to see auras and have you practice reading them. I have the spell here,” Tara said, waving a page in their direction.

“I am also going to cast the spell for you so that you know what to expect and so you can get in some practice actually reading auras.”


“Cool. Is this what Buffy saw when we had the big Scooby hug-a-thon?” Dawn asked.


Tara nodded. “Yes.”


“So, are we seeing souls?”


“No. More sort of… the energy given off by the soul,” Tara explained.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

Willow was almost bouncing in her seat with excitement.

Tara quirked a smile. “Goddess hear my prayer, let the scales fall from their eyes, let them see the truth of the world, let them see the light within... let them see, as I see.”


Sparks of white and blue swirled from Tara’s hands and spiralled around Willow and Dawn’s heads.

“Open your eyes and see the world,” Tara said gently.


“Whoaaa,” Dawn sighed.


“I’ll see your ‘Whoa’ and raise you a ‘Wowie!’” Willow said.


“It’s like you’re made of light,” Dawn said wonderingly as she looked at Willow.


“I was gonna say the same thing, it’s like you have this beautiful green light shining out through you, like the sun through a stained glass window, a green one,” Willow said.

She looked closer. “It’s like you’re filled with stars, green stars. You’re so pretty!”


Dawn wriggled at the description, clearly pleased.


“You are sort of, glowing really bright,” Dawn said as she looked speculatively at Willow.

“There’s green and gold... and a smudge, kind of right there,” she said, pointing to Willow’s chest.


Willow nodded sadly. “The ghost of old pains,” she said hollowly. “The bullet that took my heart.”


Tara took her hand. “A pain that is fading now baby. I promise you, we will fill all the dark places with light.”

Willow smiled and kissed the back of Tara’s hand, prompting a gentle smile.


“Hey! Where’s your aura?!” Willow yelped.


“I was wondering when someone would notice,” Tara said with a half-smile.


“Oh yeah, no glowy stuff on Tara. I kinda didn’t notice, ‘cos you’re not normally glowy,” Dawn said.


Willow smiled cheekily. “I dunno about that,” she said under her breath.


Tara turned slightly pink and cleared her throat. “Ahem. I concealed my aura before I cast the spell. It tends to be a bit showy,” Tara said.

She closed her eyes and let go of the spell that was concealing her aura.


Willow basked in the glow of Tara’s light, a happy and dreamy expression on her face.


Dawn’s eyes widened as she took in the white fire that was Tara’s aura.

White flame covered her body, spreading out behind her in wings. The tongues of flame wreathing her body moved slowly, almost languorously, adding a sense of serenity to what could have been an alarming sight.


“Oh. My. God.” Dawn said slowly.


Willow nodded silently.
MY Goddess’ Willow sent.


Silent tongues off white flame languorously reached out from Tara towards Willow, reminding Dawn of pictures of flares and stuff from the sun, that she had once seen on the discovery channel.

The three gazed at each other for a moment in silent contemplation.


“So how come we all look so different? I mean you’re all flamey, Willow’s all glowy, and I’m all starry. Shouldn’t we be kinda the same? At least a little bit?” Dawn asked.


“Um, well, we are not your average cross section of the population,” Tara explained. She pointed at each of them in turn. “Mega witch. Key. Um, angel.”


“None of us are really normal Dawnie. Buffy and Faith are Slayers, Giles is a sorcerer of sorts, Anya was a demon, the only normal one is Xander,” Tara said.


“Um, and I’m not too sure about Xander either,” Willow said.


“Wait, what?” Dawn said.


Willow looked uncomfortable and squirmed a little. “Well this goes back to my, um, Bad Time.”

Dawn nodded solemnly. They hadn’t really talked about what happened very much, what with the crazy stuff going on at the time.

“I was lost and horrible I know, and I don’t remember everything that happened, but I know Xander saved the world.”

Tara and Dawn both reached out to Willow.

“I unleashed enough dark power to wake the queen of hell. All of my power, all that I stole, all my rage and hatred. And he stepped in front of it.”

Dawn and Tara kept quiet as words poured out of Willow. This was something that was never talked about, and with good reason. But as with any taboo subject, a certain amount of curiosity was inevitable.

Willow’s unsteady voice rose in pitch. “Xander soaked up enough power to burn a city to ashes! All my pain, all my hatred at the world, all that darkness; he took it and he loved me. He loved me, and he held me as I cried my heart out.”

A tear rolled unnoticed down her cheek.


Tara enfolded Willow in her arms as she cried.

“Shhh, sweetie, I’ve got you,” she murmured as Willow cried sadly.


Dawn added her own arms to the hug and pressed a kiss into Willow’s hair.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, Tara stoking Willow’s hair and murmuring reassurances to her, until willow sniffled and said. “Thanks guys, I needed that.”


Dawn flashed Willow a radiant smile as Tara stroked her fingers through Willow’s hair.

They sat in silence, pondering Willow’s revelation.


“So Xander has a power? Like ‘Super-not-dying” powers?”


“I don’t know Dawn. All I know is that Xander stepped in front of enough magic to level a mountain, and didn’t die. I don’t have any idea how he survived,” Willow said.


Dawn smiled. “Wow. Xander really is awesome.”

She thought for a moment. “So is he magical? Like, can he do magic?”


Willow shrugged expressively. “I don’t know. As far as I can tell, he’s the least magical person in the world. Despite the fact that he grew up on a Hellmouth, totally awash with magic, he has the magical talent of a small rubber ball.”


Dawn giggled. “Maybe that’s it then, he’s immunized against it.”


Willow smiled back. “Could be.”



The faint sounds of Buffy and Faith bickering, drifted up the corridor towards them. “C’mon B, it’s kinda cute! Plus it makes you real easy to find.”


“Which is exactly the problem! Suppose I want to be hiding? Suppose I’m sneaking up on some Vampire or something else icky? What am I supposed to say? ‘Pay no attention to the Slayer behind the curtain?’” Buffy protested.

A slightly frazzled looking Buffy made an appearance in the doorway, with a tiny green speck of light orbiting her head.

Faith was grinning and leaning on Buffy as Buffy complained. “This is yours I presume?” she said, pointing up towards the light.


Dawn bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yup! It’s my Teeny Tinkerbelle light. I use it to find you, or other important stuff, like my best top. Or my socks.”


“Yippee,” Buffy said flatly. “Remind me again, why the girl who can break things by looking at them, is actually being taught to break things. By looking at them?”


Dawn grinned cheerfully. “Because you have no choice, that’s why.”


Buffy glowered, until Faith swatted her on the butt, prompting a surprised yelp.

“Hey! What’s with you and my butt?” she protested.


“Sorry B. Just can’t keep my hands off something that tight and perfect.”

Dawn stared at Buffy and Faith, until Buffy protested again.

“Dawn? Why are you staring at me like that? It’s kind of creepy,” Buffy said.


“I’m looking at your aura. It’s really pretty, sort of blue with little gold, uh, flames I guess, and sort of pink in the middle.”


“Cool, what do I look like, lil’ D?” Faith asked.


“Sort of the same, but the bright bits are brighter, the dark bits are darker, and it fits more inside you, y’know?”

“You both have this kind of dark area right here,” Willow said, gesturing to her midsection. “I don’t know what that is.”


“Suffering,” Tara said simply. “I think it’s loneliness and pain.”


Faith nodded glumly. “Yeah, sounds about right.”


“Don’t feel bad. It takes a lot of pain, over a long time to leave a mark on someone’s aura,” Tara said gently as she stood and approached the pair.

She touched Faith and Buffy on the shoulder. “That’s nothing to feel ashamed of. And the darkness was much darker earlier this week, so much of it has lifted in a few days.”

She smiled softly, and looked Buffy and Faith in the eye. “To scrub that much darkness from your aura in a few days is nothing short of incredible.”


Faith shrugged. “I got B. That’s all I need.”


Buffy hugged Faith. “I’m home. Really, really home. My family is together and happy. If I was Angel I’d be all ‘Grr. Argh.’” Buffy said.


Faith brightened. “Oh man, I gotta check in with fang boy and tell him... oh crap.”


Buffy nodded. “Oh yeah. That is going to be the all-time winner in the category of awkward conversations.”


“I feel pretty bad about this B, I mean I owe the guy my soul, and then I run off with the love of his life.”


“Look, I’m not denying that it’s going to be awkward, I mean Angel took the gold medal in the Olympics, for awkward silences,” she thought for a moment before adding. “and silver in the category of long distance brooding, after losing to a statue.”


Faith snorted.


“But the thing is… I love Angel with all my heart, but it’s a lot like how I love Willow. We’ll always have history, we’ll always be there for each other, but we’re not in love.”


“Yeah, I hear ya.”


Faith grinned. “Plus: imagine how he’s gonna look when we catch him getting a bit of action with Queen C. Turnabout is fair play, B.”


“Angel, and an angel. There’s a sort of symmetry there I think,” Willow said, popping their bubble. “And I love you too Buffy, I hope you know that.”


Buffy blinked and smiled.


“And you wonder why we are all with the squeaky clean and dark-stuff free?” Buffy raised her arms and twirled around happily. “I’m so happy I can barely believe it! I feel warm all the way through. I don’t care if another apocalypse is coming, I’m alive and in love, and my family is whole and happy.”

She grinned. “Bring on the apocalypse I say! We’ll kick butt and celebrate on the beach with mimosas or some other such fruity drink of your choice.”


Willow raised a questioning eyebrow. “Fruit?”


Buffy nodded cheerfully. “There must be fruit, it’s a thing.”


“Think ya mean a Pina Colada B. Mimosa’s just OJ and fizzy white wine.”


“Ooo yes! Pina coladas are yummy! I so want one tonight. Or a bunch. At least until I’m feeling spinny.”


Faith grinned. “Tonight is gonna be wicked. We are gonna bring down the house!”


+++


“Can you show me how to scry?” Willow asked.


Tara smiled. “Of course sweetie. That is what I did over there for the most part. When I wasn’t gluing my friends back together.”

She gestured for Willow to sit on the floor next to her.


The pair had returned to the sanctuary, Willow’s circular spell-casting and meditation chamber.

“Tomorrow we are going to cast the teleportation spell to take us to the monastery. I think it would be good to do some more minor spell casting together to get in sync.


Willow bobbed her head happily. “And it’s also fun.”


Tara smiled warmly. “Yes it is. It’s been far too long.”


Willow happily sat down. “So, what are we scrying for first?”


“Willow I… I want to scry for Miss Kitty Fantastico. I want to make sure she’s ok. If she’s not happy then… I want to go and get her. Is that ok?”


Willow smiled with a mixture of sadness and pride. “Of course baby. If she’s on the street or something we’ll go and rescue her, wherever she is. We’ll do it together.”


Tara nodded gratefully. “Thank you Willow. It means a lot to me.”


“I just hope she’s happy. If she’s not, we’re going to have to rescue her after we get back, and I don’t like the thought of her waiting for days while we poke around a monastery.”

Willow frowned.

“I’m really hoping for happy now, ‘cos that’s going to nag at me the whole time. I don’t think I could sleep at night until we got her out of there.”


Tara got a look of quiet determination. “Then we rescue her, and god and goddess help anyone who stands in our way.”

Willow nodded, her own resolve face firmly in place.

Tara passed her one of the spell books she had with her. “This is the spell I’m using. Just familiarize yourself with it sweetie, so you can help me find her.”


Willow nodded, her eyes already drilling holes in the page.

After about 15 minutes of intent study she looked up and smiled. “I think I have it, or at least enough to be all helping girl.”


Green eyes looked fiercely into blue. “Let’s find our baby, baby.”

Willow gathered the crystals. “Do we need the stinky herbs?”


Shaking her head, Tara spoke. “No. I think the only spell I know better than this is the healing spell. I’m confident of finding her with your help, and this very special crystal of course.”


Willow’s eyes widened. “Where did you find that?”


“In a box of Tara things, in the bottom of your wardrobe.”


Sitting between them was the vaguely pink mass of Tara’s doll’s-eye crystal.

Willow looked embarrassed. “Um, I kept it.”


“I see that. I’m glad.”

Willow’s embarrassed expression was replaced by sadness.

“I lost so much. There were just some things I couldn’t give up, no matter how much it hurt to see them.”


“I think I would have been the same sweetie.”


They sat in silence gazing at the big pink crystal, Tara’s thumb rubbing small circles on the back of Willow’s hand.

“My um, ex, didn’t like me holding onto your stuff. I got rid of most of it, but there were a few things I kept. Even after we ran like crazy people from Sunnydale, with just a few bags of things stuffed in a bus.”

Tara smiled.

Willow chuckled. “The thing that gets me? Is that even with the apocalypse to end all apopcalypses: big battle with ancient evil, and Sunnydale becoming a crater. Buffy still found time to stash Mr Gordo in the bus.”


Tara laughed. “Buffy still has her stuffed pig?”


Willow bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yup, and I have your crystal.”


“Our crystal.”


Willow smiled and leaned forward. With her best seductive smile she said. “Wanna do some spells with me?”


“Oh yes,” Tara said, just a little breathlessly.


“Then let’s find Miss Kitty and make sure she’s ok. I’m all worried now, and I don’t want my tummy to be all acidy all night.”


Tara reached for Willow’s other hand. In this particular spell, she was taking the lead and Willow was providing a bit of extra push, but it was still nice to be casting together.

As soon as she started on the spell she felt Willow’s power hit her. It was intense, and staggeringly strong, like caged lightning.


Willow was similarly impressed with the depths of Tara’s strength. It seemed as limitless as the ocean, able to absorb all her crazy energy.

They complemented each other perfectly, Tara grounding Willow’s wild power, Willow pushing Tara’s magic to greater effectiveness.

After a few minutes where the girls did nothing but bask in each other’s energy, Tara finally opened her eyes.


“It’s time. Let’s find our baby.”

Willow nodded and closed her eyes.

“Just concentrate on Miss Kitty, Willow. I’ll take care of the spell, you focus on strengthening our link to her.”


“How far will this reach?”


“The divide between this world and where I was is huge. And I managed to reach out to you across that void. Believe me when I tell you sweetie, I can find her anywhere in this universe and probably a number of nearby ones as well.”

“Now focus. Remember her, how she looked, how she played, how she smelled. And I will add that connection to mine.”


And Willow focussed with all her intensity on her memories of Miss Kitty.

She remembered when Tara had spotted her in the pet store, her little nose pressed up against the glass, looking curiously at the passers by. Tara had recognized her instantly and called out her name.

She remembered the giggles as she and Tara smuggled her into her dorm room, her ‘Tara Sanctuary’.

And she remembered playing with a cute fuzzy black and white kitten as her feelings for Tara slowly deepened from friendship into love.


Tara shared those memories with Willow, and using their strength to add to her own she cast her spell out into the world.

And felt it snag.

‘There! Hold on sweetie, this is going to feel… a little weird.’

Willow’s mind was filled with images. Disorientated, she gripped Tara’s hands tightly and felt her viewpoint shooting outward with shocking speed.
She rocketed into the sky until she could see the whole country laid out below.
She squeaked in shock as the viewpoint rocketed down to the earth again with pants-wetting speed.

Willow let out a strangled “Gnrrk!” sound

When she recovered from the shock, she found herself looking into a basket filled with nursing kittens and a very content Miss Kitty providing dinner.

A tortoiseshell cat affectionately licked the nursing mother behind her ear.


‘I think she’s happy, baby,’ Tara sent.


‘Look at all those kittens! I can’t believe they all fit inside a small cat!’


‘They’re a bit smaller when they come out sweetie,’
Tara sent with a chuckle.


‘You know, I’m a little surprised. I, um, wondered if Miss Kitty shared our, um, interests.’


Tara’s mind voice tinkled with laughter, ‘Oh Willow, you are adorable!’


‘I didn’t think it was that silly, I mean if people can be gay, why not animals too?’


‘There’s no shortage of gay animals sweetie. Trust me, growing up on a farm, you see all sorts of things.’

‘I got quite the education when my father had to deal with two stallions that had been, um, ‘fighting,’’
she sent with finger quotes.

‘He was most disapproving.’


‘That’s… I’m not sure I can picture it. But I’m ok with that.’


Tara smiled. ‘Willow, look closer. What do you see?’


‘Um, a very happy Mrs Kitty?’


‘And Mr Kitty?’


‘Is surprisingly supportive... and has nipples!’



Tara laughed over their link.

‘I thought the tortoiseshell colour would have clued you in.’


‘Wow, so Miss Kitty is gay?’


‘Or they may just be heterosexual life partners,’
Tara sent with just a hint of teasing.


Willow smiled, ‘She’s happy, baby. Our Miss Kitty is happy.’


‘And a very cute mommy,’
Tara sent back as they watched the two mothers caring for their litter of kittens, ‘they’re adorable’

‘Do you think… when things have calmed down, could we go and visit Miss Kitty?’


‘I would definitely be in favour of that.’


‘And-and could we get a kitten too?’
Willow sent in a pleading tone, somehow managing to convey clasped hands and puppy eyes.


Tara thought for a moment and smiled, ‘I think Trixie is a good name.’


Willow squeaked with joy.


+++


“C’mon B, it’ll be fun!” Faith said, just a hint of whine in her voice.


Buffy gave her a ‘look’. “Both of the Chosen Two on the same vamp nest, with the super weapons? That is some serious overkill.”


“Hell Yes!” Faith said, punching the air. “That’s why it’s gonna be fun. C’mon, it’s good, safe fun that helps the world a little bit. Where’s the harm? Hell if it’s as easy as ya think, we’ll be home in time for tea.”


Buffy looked at Faith, who had more than a little of the ‘little kid pleading’ going on.

“Home in time for tea? You have been spending way too much time with Giles. The Britishness is rubbing off on you.”


Faith gave Buffy her best puppy eyes.


Putting on her best ‘tired mom’ voice Buffy said. “If we must.”

Her lips quirked up at the edges and the link she shared with Faith made it obvious that she liked the idea, despite her protests.


“Yes!” Faith said victoriously. “We’ll rip through that place like a hurricane with sharp metal bits in it. And we’ll get back for some food and serious makin’ out on the couch.”


“The double ‘H’s’ again?” Buffy said.

“Nah. The three ‘F’s.’ Fightin’, Food and Fu-“ Faith broke off at Buffy’s outraged look.

She smiled, her dimples showing. “Too easy B, gotta relax a little, girl. Non-fat yoghurt ain’t gonna feed the beast forever.”


“I like non-fat yoghurt. The regular kind is too… gukky. I like the coolness and fruitiness of it. It helps me relax after a hard night of slayage.”


Faith slinked over to her and rubbed herself cat-like against Buffy. “I know somethin’ else that’ll relax you after a hard night slayin’.”


Buffy leaned into Faith’s slinky rubbing. “We don’t need to go slaying for that.”


“Yeah but think how good it’s gonna be, all wired and shit from dustin’ all those vamps. No kids, no training. Just the two most dangerous things ever to walk the earth, an’ a mess o’ vamps.”


Faith bounced eagerly. “It’s like calorie free chocolate cake! All the fun, none of the guilt. ‘cos we’ll be slaughtering evil and shit.”


“Not that we ever worry about calories.”


“You do. Spent too long as a valley girl before you became the Slayer.”


Buffy grinned, hunger visible in her eyes. “Get your gear hot stuff. We’re hunting evil.”


“Hot damn. Let’s go kill shit,” Faith breathed.


+++


The chosen two strode confidently through the halls of Slayer central, fully geared up in black, each carrying their chosen weapon.

Faith had a huge grin on her face and Buffy was chattering away cheerfully.

On the threat board was a huge map of the surrounding area and a collection of pins showing the disposition of various squads.


Faith grabbed her pin, a big red one that she had drawn a skull and crossbones on with magic marker.

There was a note on the threat board about a big vamp nest that one of the recon patrols had found. She rammed the pin home enthusiastically into the note.

Buffy grabbed her own pin, gold with a smiley face drawn on it. The face had its tongue poking out, Faith’s handywork.

She jammed it in next to Faith’s pin with a grin.

“Let’s go muffin,”


“Oh yeah. Lead the way B, I am seriously jonsein’ for this. So much so that I’ll overlook the muffin thing.”

And with that, the pair left for their slay-date, looking for all the world like a couple of giggly teens headed out for a night on the town.

Curious, Danni made her way to the alert board and saw the two big pins. “Oh wow. Those guys are so dead.”

She almost felt sorry for the vampires.


Nonetheless, she picked up her phone and hit speed-dial.

“Jules? Gather the Valkyries, someone might need some backup.”


She held the phone away from her head as Jules yelled out to someone nearby. “Heather! Dawn! Grab your shit! We gotta go rescue someone!”

“Yeah, See ya in the armoury Danni. We’ll be there in like, three minutes.”


Three minutes later, the girls were gearing up in the armoury.

“Who are we recuing?” Heather asked awkwardly, her mouth full of straps as she buckled Dawn into her armour.


“Slayer one and Two. Also known as Faith and Buffy.”


Dawn froze. “Buffy’s in trouble‽”


“No. yes. Maybe?”

Danni pinched the bridge of her nose, a habit she had picked up from Giles. “Look, relax for a split second. Buffy and Faith went out on a slay-date from the look of things. They went out fully geared for battle, but they seem to have forgotten that someone is hunting for Faith, or they just don’t care.”

“They also decided to take on the biggest nest of vamps in the area. Now I wouldn’t worry too much except for the fact that someone in that nest fancies himself as the next big-bad, and has been recruiting new vampires around the clock.”

“I’ve had teams keeping an eye on them 24-7, but our most recent update is that they’ve recently picked up a big batch of out-of-town vamps. Faith never reads the reports, so they are probably expecting 12 vamps, instead of the 25 or so that we think are there.”

“The real problem is that Buffy took the Scythe with her, and that’s not a thing we want the bad guys to have.”


Jules grinned. “Relax Dee. We don’t need to take weapons. We need to take video cameras and munchies. It’ll be all educational and stuff.”


Danni frowned. “I’m trying to be serious here Jules.”


“Me too. Seriously, 25 vamps? Buffy and Faith at the same time? Buffy with the Scythe? If we don’t hurry there will be nothing left to see.”


“She’s got a point Danni. You weren’t on clean up last week. They took out that many Anara demons each. And they were working separately,” Heather said, closing the last of Dawn’s buckles and turning so she could return the favour.


“We should back them up and take notes. If they need help, we can ride to the rescue, but let’s not stress here,” Dawn said. She finished strapping Heather in and moved on to Jules.


“I would have thought you’d be more worried Dawn, given the things you’ve seen.”


“Nope. Faith can be pretty terrifying when she’s all wound up. But Buffy?” Dawn shook her head. “The reason she has to keep dealing with big-bads all the time? They never believe what they hear about her. They always assume that it’s all luck or BS.”

She looked at Danni. “Even you kinda feel a little bit that way, and you’ve met her.”

Dawn’s calm grey eyes met Danni’s worried gaze.

“I’d back my sister against anything. Absolutely anything.”

She loaded her pistols with a smooth metallic snap.

“If the entire forces of hell are on one side, and Buffy is on the other? My money is on Buffy.”

She smiled grimly. “I’ve seen that battle. We won.”


The room was silent for a moment, before Jules spoke.

“So… popcorn?”


+++


“Do you ever wonder if we lost something? When we called all the Slayers?” Buffy said.


The pair were strolling through the dark backstreets, headed for Diamond Falls’ extensive warehouse district.


“Nah. I felt the spell Red did a few months ago. Felt pretty much the same afterwards as I did before.”

Faith flexed her hand. “I figure I’ve still got my mojo.”


Buffy nudged her with her shoulder. “Goof. No, what I meant is more sort of… like are we the last two who will ever experience what it was like to truly be the Slayer?”


Faith put her arm around Buffy’s shoulder. “Being ‘The Slayer’ sucked hardcore. Alone? No friends? Weight of the world on your shoulders? A watcher who didn’t care? Ok, so we both got lucky with that one, G-man is awesome. But ya know what I mean.”

Faith gave Buffy an affectionate squeeze. “We’re putting a new spin on what it means to be a Slayer. Now being a Slayer means friends, backup, even love.”

Faith leaned in and pressed a smooch into Buffy’s hair.

“Know what’s even better? With Red looking into this Slayer spell thing, the next batch of Slayers will be given a choice. We’ll get less of them, but they won’t be the Chosen Ones. They’ll be like Xan, and Red and Snow White: the ones who chose this life.”


Buffy smiled. “You’re right. Old slayage sucked, new slayage is awesome.”


“Comes with a real nice benefit package too,” Faith said with a smirk, squeezing Buffy’s pert bottom.


Buffy smiled. “Save it for later,” she all but purred. “Slayage first, smoochies afterwards.”

They both felt the cold tingle that warned of the approach of evil and their eyes met with a grin.


Buffy grinned. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”


Faith responded in a squeaky voice. “I think so brain, but if we didn’t have ears, we’d look like weasels.”


Buffy laughed. “Why did I know you were a fan of weird cartoons?”


“Zort!” Faith blurted out.


Buffy blinked in surprise, and burst out laughing, Faith joining in with her.

The pair held each other while they laughed fully and freely. Had anyone been around to observe, they would have made quite a sight: two dark-clad warrior women, armed for battle, laughing until tears came to their eyes.


“Oh, I needed that,” Buffy said, wiping her eyes.


Faith straightened up. “Good to know ya still got it in ya babe.”


She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Hey B? That tickle ya feelin’, that feel a bit strong for a dozen or so vamps?”


Buffy concentrated, her brow furrowed in thought. “Maybe. Not so sure. I can tell you that it’s only vampires in there. No demons.”


“Sweet. Ya know, I’ve killed all sortsa nasties, but there’s just something… satisfying about dustin’ vamps, y’know? Like, extra right.”


Buffy smiled. “Hey, you were the one that called this junk-food slayage. Geared up like this? It’s going to be actually fun.”


Faith held up her axe. “You know, maybe I should let you have this axe. I mean Glinda said it glows when wielded by a holy warrior, an’ I saw it light up when ya rescued my ass.”

Buffy shook her head. “Ignoring the fact that I can’t use something that long properly, it’s yours Faith.”


She made eye contact with Faith. “You’re The Slayer Faith. You are a holy warrior.”


Buffy hefted her own axe. “Now let’s go do what we were made to do: kill bad things.”


Faith grinned evilly, and Buffy added. “But in a totally cute and lovable way of course.”


+++


The door shattered, spraying wood fragments everywhere.


“Knock knock!” Buffy called cheerfully.


“Yeah, Avon calling. Or some shit.”


“Ah, right on time,” a voice said quietly to itself.

Clearing his throat, a red haired man stepped out of the shadows, flanked by a half-dozen minions.

“Slayers!” he hissed.


Faith and Buffy strolled casually towards him. Taking in his jeans and surprisingly presentable leather jacket.

“Pinky, do you think we can handle six vampires?” Buffy said.


“Egad Brain! Vampires!” Faith said in a squeaky voice.

“Yeah, so that’s killin’ my throat. Time to end that joke,” Faith complained in a more normal tone of voice.


“We can take two newly called slayers! Get them!”


Buffy started talking as the pair sauntered forward casually. They walked with the easy power of lions, confident in their territory.

“You know, to really complete the stereotype you-” Buffy pointed at the redheaded man in the leather jacket. “should be wearing a trench coat. At least Spike had the decency to wear a full length leather trench coat. This jacket business is so… what? 90’s?”


“Any minute now B,” Faith murmured.

Buffy nodded minutely.

The gathering tension was broken by the pattering sound of vampires, falling from the rafters and landing relatively silently on the ground.


The posture of the redheaded man changed quite noticeably, becoming dramatically more relaxed and assured.

“Surrender now slayers and I promise you, your end will be swift and as painless as is possible. Under the circumstances,” he said.


“Yo, who are you man?” Faith said in a puzzled tone as the dozens of vampires slowly circled and the red haired man moved slowly closer.
“I am Marcus of Antioch. I bid you welcome young Slayers, for you are going to help me ascend to godhood. Truly I thank you. I have roamed the world for centuries, learning it’s secrets. And today I will drink the blood of three Slayers and become invincible.”


Faith smiled broadly.

Buffy grinned savagely.


“Well you lucked out Marcus, because this is Faith,” Buffy said, gesturing to Faith.

Faith took a little bow.

Marcus started to look worried

“And this is Buffy,” Faith said, returning the favour.

Buffy copied Faith’s bow. If Marcus could get any paler, he would. “We’ll be your Slayers tonight.”


Buffy whispered to Faith, ‘Faith, your axe!’

Faith glanced at her axe. A happy smile spread across Faith’s face as she realized it was starting to glow white.

Faith spoke up. “And Marcus? You are beyond fucked.”


+++


A tiny green spark flew through the air, hotly pursued by a half dozen girls in black.

Gasping for breath, Dawn panted. “Guys! Hold up! I think we’re here.”


Jules quirked an eyebrow. “Ya think?” she said gesturing to the factory.


Animalistic hisses and swiftly silenced shrieks of pain were interspersed with the whooshing sound of disintegrating vampires and the occasional Xena-esque war cry.


Dawn held out a video camera to Jules. “Here. You take it. I’m too wobbly,” she said, in between pants.


Jules grinned and put on her best documentary voice. “We are travelling through darkest Diamond Falls, looking for that most elusive of creatures, the lesser spotted Slayer.”


“Dork,” Heather muttered quietly.


“Here we find the lesser spotted Slayer and its mate, the Greater, seriously-hot-Slayer in their natural environment: horrible abandoned buildings, the natural lair of their prey. Vampus horribilis: the vampire.”


The group spread out, as if wanting to avoid getting tainted by the weirdness.

At that point there was a wet crack sound. A headless vampire flew through the flimsy roof towards the girls, showering them with ash as he disintegrated.


“Gross. I’m covered in vampire,” Heather grumbled, shaking vampire ash out of her hair.


“How’d that happen?” Dawn asked.


Jules shrugged and the squad got closer to the action, awestruck.


The chosen two were surrounded by clouds of ash as they tore into the vampires like the wrath of god.

Back to back they twirled and spun, perfectly synchronized. They moved so smoothly that they looked relaxed, almost like they were dancing.

And they were dancing around a vampire that had both legs and an arm severed from his body. Dark blood oozed from his wrecked form, and a look of stunned horror was indelibly etched into his face as the Slayers ignored him, to concentrate on exterminating his minions.

And extermination was the right word.


By the time the massed vampires had realized they were outmatched, half their number were dust in the wind.

Buffy decapitated one vampire, staked another and ducked as the handle of Faith’s axe crashed into the head of a third.

They were staked with such speed that the sounds of disintegration were almost a constant hiss.


Faith was holding up her end of things quite well, wielding her long axe almost like a quarterstaff, only occasionally snapping out to cleave its glowing blade through dead flesh.

But when it made contact, the blade destroyed the vampires, burning its way through their flesh with all the difficulty of a blade cutting water.

As Jules watched, Faith hammered the axe through three vampires horizontally, reducing them all to ash in a huge glowing cloud.

Faith let out a scream of savage joy.


The vampires dwindled by the second , and by the time their extinction penetrated their bloodlust, only four remained to turn and run.

Two went face down on the concrete, to muffled cracks and a sprays of stale blood from the head. The remaining two were brought down by a hurled axe and a dagger respectively.


Buffy retrieved her axe from the shallow pile of dust and looked up. Faith retrieved her knife and casually beheaded the remaining vampire with her burning blade.


She held up the shining blade and pressed many smooches into it as the glow faded. “I love this axe! This is like, the coolest present anyone ever gave me!”


Buffy smirked. “Would you two like to be alone for a while?”


“Nah. There’s no substitute for the most beautiful girl in the whole world, even if this is a wicked-bad axe.”


Buffy looked down, blushing slightly and gave Faith a flirty smile through her eyelashes.

Faith blew her a kiss. Her eyes hungry.

Buffy opened her mouth to say something and saw the two remaining vampires twitching and flopping on the floor amidst a pool of dark blood, looking unpleasantly like fish flopping and twitching in the bottom of a boat.

She grimaced in distaste. “Dawn! Come clean up your horrible… fishy… vampires… eew!” Buffy complained, unable to find the right words to adequately describe the grossness.


The squad of junior Slayers entered the factory warily, moving carefully through the drifts of ash.

“Pretty sure the only ones in the area are stumpy here,” Faith said, kicking Marcus for punctuation. “And those two.”


The near limbless vampire groaned as Faith’s heavy boot made contact with his ribs.


Buffy slid into Faith’s arms with a happy growl. “I want to get home… quickly.”


“And I wanna take care of the other two F’s at the same time,” Faith growled.


“I’m not sure food and-and… stuff… mix,” Buffy said uncertainly.


Faith whispered in Buffy’s ear. “I meant, I wanna eat you.”


Buffy whimpered with desire, before her eyes widened in realization. “Faith! There are mini-me’s present! Also Dawn!”


“You know we had sex-ed in school, right?” Dawn said over her shoulder, approaching the twitching vampires with every evidence of distaste.


“Plus there was Tara’s lesbian themed sex-ed yesterday,” Jules said. “That was all kinds of awesome.”


“Tara’s definitely recruiting,” Heather added.


Jules nodded sagely. “She really wants that toaster oven.”


“Har har,” Buffy said, deadpan. “Now that you two have finished your comedy double-act, what’s this about lesbian sex-ed?”


Further muffled cracks and a whoosh of fetid air gave testimony to Dawn’s clean-up activities.


Faith fought down her post-slayage arousal. “Uh, actually B, that was my idea. Sorta. Also it was all kindsa hilarious. Really, I think I peed myself a little.”


Buffy raised an eyebrow and wiggled her butt into Faith’s crotch.

Faith lost focus completely.

“Make with the explaining Faith. I’m looking forward to… supper.”


Faith swallowed. “Uh, right. So yeah, I was talking about the hungry and horny effect of a good slay with lil’ D here.”


Buffy gave her a level look.


“Anyways D mentioned that a whole lotta the girls we got here have no idea about that sorta stuff. An’ I thought that was just askin’ for trouble, so I figured we should take care of it.”


“And Faith here actually got embarrassed about the idea of talking about sex in front of a whole class full of girls,” Dawn said, re-joining the group.


“So I talked Red and Glinda into it. It was awesome. Like, Snow White was all understanding and professional and shit. But when she got into details and techniques, Red lit up like Rudolph the frikkin’ reindeer. I swear she lit up the whole place in a cheery shade of embarrassed pink.”


“If you ever want to make Willow blush, just say ‘gentle flicking motion’. That will pretty much do it,” Heather said with a grin.


Faith chuckled at the memory. “The really funny thing was when Snow-White thought she’d finished, and someone asked her about boys. Then she turned pink, ‘cos she realized she’d forgotten all about the straight girls.”


“I shouldn’t laugh, but the bit with the banana and the condom was hysterical,” Heather said.


Dawn grinned. “I don’t think Tara is going to be able to look at another banana as long as she lives.”


“Then Willow tried to rescue her with her superior expertise with the penis,” Jules added. “But she was A: nearly as embarrassed as Tara, and B: Willow.”


Dawn jumped in. “So what we got was a ten minute hail of words about how penis’s work, plus how they’re ok, but girls are where it’s at.”


“I think she realized, that reminiscing about stuff she did with her old boyfriend, in front of her girlfriend, was maybe not the best idea, and she kinda panicked,” Heather added.


Faith chuckled. “Hell, I think Blondie was just grateful to stop dealing with bananas and condoms. I swear, we were this close to getting a show, complete with sock puppets.”


“Can you blame her? Boys are gross. All hairy and angular and… eew!” Jules shuddered.


She paused for a moment and looked across at Heather. “You know, at this point, you normally jump in with a comment about Xander.”

She eyed her friend, who she realized looked kinda bummed out and was staring at the ground.


The others tactfully drifted away, leaving the three friends some privacy.


Jules put her arm around Heather. “Hey babydoll, are you ok?”


Heather shook her head sadly. “No. Not really.”


“Is it because of Anya?” Dawn asked gently.


Heather nodded and sighed.


“I just… I hoped, you know? Like maybe one day we might be together, like one day in the future maybe. But now there’s Anya, and she’s so pretty and there’s the whole sex thing.”


Jules rolled her eyes at Heather’s mention of sex and Anya. “I’m pretty sure she only does that to get a rise out of people.”


Dawn shook her head. “Nope. If you ask her, she’ll tell you anything you want to know about sex. She’s utterly shameless, and proud of her repertoire. If you let her, she’ll go on for ages about positions, places and stuff. She really can’t understand why people are so weird about sex.”


The three friends locked eyes, each of one thought. “We get Anya to do the sex talks!” they yelled together.


“She’ll love a chance to show off!”


“And nothing bothers her! She’s like, bulletproof or something!”


“And everybody else will be so embarrassed they’ll explode into like, a gazillion pieces. It’ll be awesome!”


The three jumped up and down squealing with glee.



A little way away, Buffy looked across at the squealing girls. “That can’t be anything good.”


Faith shrugged. “We’ll find out soon enough.”


“If they turn into some horrible hive mind that tries to conquer the world… well I’m totally going to tell you ‘I told you so.’” Buffy said.


Faith snorted. “Seems fair.” She turned to the limbless and brainless vampires. “What are we gonna do with these two?”


Buffy grinned savagely. “The would-be big-bad here, is going help train a new generation of Slayers. I have plans for him.”


Faith raised an eyebrow. “Ok. And twitchy?”


“We let him go.”


“For real? How come?”


Buffy huffed, and looked tired, despite the post-slayage energy burning through her small frame.

“Because I’m sick of dealing with stupid, wannabe big-bads who want to kick off the apocalypse, or prove how badass they are by taking down ‘The Slayer’.”

A new, fierce light grew in her eyes. “I want word to get out. I want every vampire and demon terrified of us. I want our names whispered in tones of dread, Faith. I want every icky demon and vampire, terrified of what might happen if they attack anyone. I want every evil thing in the hell dimensions terrified of the idea of coming here.”

“Time we stopped doing things their way and took a lesson from history.”


Faith grinned. “Ya really liked that Mama Wolverine comment I made, didn’t ya?”


Buffy smiled sheepishly. “Well… a little bit. I was a little jealous of how you were with your, uh, death squad.”


“Valkyries B, they call themselves the Valkyries,” Faith said looking puzzled. “You were jealous? Of me? How?”


“Well, the Valkyries are your special girls Faith. They really look up to you, but they like you Faith. That was what I was jealous of.”


“Cool, we’re Faith’s special girls. I like the sound of that,” Jules said, joining the pair.


“So why don’t you build your own squad Buffy?” Heather asked. “Leave the massive destruction to the Valkyries, and build a squad that specializes in other stuff, like recon, or rescuing or something.”


Dawn touched Buffy on the shoulder. “And make friends with them, that way they’d be your special girls Buffy.”


“They could be like, ‘Buffy’s Angels’ or something,” Jules said.

Buffy gave her a level look.

“Orrr they could have some other name, but you get what I’m saying, right?”


Buffy nodded quickly, fidgeting somewhat. “I guess. I’ll give it some thought.”


Faith nudged her affectionately. “You’ll be ‘Den Mother Buffy’ in no time babe.”


“Summers’ Scouts? Buffy’s Rangers? The Golden Girls?” Heather said, trying out names.


“Ok, I am taking anything that sounds like a crappy sitcom off the table. In fact, I’m taking the table, there is no table here.”


“Right, that’s enougha that,” Faith said to the girls. “Ya remember the 3 F’s?”

The girls nodded.

“Well we just slaughtered a small army. Do the math.”


Jules gave them both a measuring look and grinned hugely.

Buffy flushed pink.

”I’m takin’ my girl home for some quality lovin’ and snuggles and shit.”

She looked across at Dawn a serious look on her face. “D? time for ya to step up show us how good ya really are.”


Buffy looked grim. “This guy knows Spike, and wanted to be the next big bad. So, I want him locked down hard, and watched.”


She kicked the head-shot vampire, who had finally stopped twitching. “B wants this guy released, so lock him up separately so we can put the fear o’ god into him before we let him go.”


Buffy looked at her sister with a level gaze. “This guy managed to organize more vamps that the master, so he’s not your typical vampire. I’m trusting you with this Dawn, because I know I can.”


Dawn nodded solemnly.


“And not because she wants to run home and get wriggly with me,” Faith said, absolutely straight faced.


“Nope. Not that at all,” Buffy said, her ponytail waggling as she shook her head, still slightly pink in the face.


“You think she bought it?” Faith said in a stage whisper.


Buffy nodded cheerfully. “Yup,” she said out of the corner of her mouth.


Jules sniggered.


Dawn rolled her eyes at the antics of the pair. “Go on, shoo. Go get wriggly,” she said, a small smile quirking the corner of her mouth. It had been a while since Buffy had been relaxed enough to be silly.


Buffy drew herself up to her full, if unimpressive height, and said with as much dignity as she could muster. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


Her attempt at dignity was somewhat undercut by her pink flush and Faith’s huge grin.


It was also not helped much by the way she and Faith both ran from the room, in the direction of home.


“Dorks,” Dawn said affectionately, though in truth she was happy to see the silly side of her sister.


She turned to the others. “Fan out, see if there are any stragglers and see if the big bad here left anything interesting behind.”

She sat on a nearby crate at simply observed the truncated vampire.


“And what is to be my fate?” Marcus asked in a pained voice.


Dawn grinned.

It wasn’t a pleasant grin.


+++

Bonus section: Spells ‘n’ Fun.


“You’re going to use magic to make the school pretty?” Buffy said, blinking in surprise.


Tara laughed softly. “No Buffy, that’s not what a glamour does, though I think maybe the fashion term does come from it.”


Willow jumped in with an explanation. “We’re just gonna put a little perceptual filter over the school, Buff. A spell that makes anyone who sees the school or whatever we are doing there, as unimportant, boring, really not worth getting interested in. It’ll just make us uninteresting to anyone who looks.”


“Oh poo! I was hoping for something Hogwarts-y,” Buffy grumbled.


Willow patted her on the shoulder. “Sorry Buff. It’s a big spell, but it’s very, y’know, sneaky. I’d be kinda surprised if you even saw a shimmer.”


“If it helps, the protection spell I’m doing tomorrow morning will probably shimmer a bit,” Tara said.


Buffy perked up. “Neat!”


“It’s a larger version of the shield I put up every night. I guess if it protects me, it should do fairly well to protect everyone else. It’s a bit of extra protection that I wanted to put up while we were away.”

Tara quirked her face into a lopsided grin. “If you want to see, just join me a little before five am.”


Buffy’s eyes widened. “No way! They have a five in the morning now?”


Willow nodded. “Since early last week. Congress passed a bill. Five o’clock, twice a day now.”


“Poop! There’s no way I am ever going to be up that early, even for something Hogwarts-y.”


“Well, if you squint really hard you could pretend the glamour is all Harry Potter, though you’ll most likely end up with a headache.”

Willow’s face took on a mock-stern expression. “Though if you yell alohomora, or anything in bad Latin, I will turn you into a toad.”

She shivered. “And then I will run away shrieking like an idiot, because the only thing grosser than frogs are toads. They’re like frogs, only bigger and even lumpier and… ick.”

She waggled a finger at her friend. “So don’t be responsible for that scene, Buffy. No Latin.”


Buffy held up her fingers scout style, though Willow was confident that the scout salute included less finger wiggling.

“I promise, no Latin while spell casting is going on… Alohomora!”


Willow’s eyes bugged out. “You little sneak!”

She made an attempt to grab Buffy, to no avail. Luckily for Buffy, years of slayer training were also useful for avoiding the clutches of rampaging Willows.

Willow ended up chasing a shrieking Buffy around the rear courtyard as she yelled “Whomping Willow is trying to whomp me!” and “Incendio!” and other mangled Latin words.


By the time a gasping Willow gave up chasing Buffy round the courtyard, Tara was in tears laughing.


Despite her speed, Buffy was so busy shouting random harry potter phrases, that Willow was almost able to keep up. By the time a very determined witch finally gave up on trying to catch her blonde friend, she was very red in the face and Tara was giggling helplessly.

Willow staggered over unsteadily, leaning over and gasping for breath.

“What I can’t figure out *Gasp!* is how she can’t manage words like ‘proactive’ *Gasp!* but she knows every scrap of bad Latin ever said by Harry.”


Willow sat down to catch her breath and was immediately hugged by her beloved.

“Well done sweetie,” Tara said wiping the tears from her cheeks. “You nearly caught her.”


Willow did a tired little victory dance, all while sat down.

“Yippee. Urgh. I guess that morning run horribleness was useful for something after all.”


After Willow caught her breath and Buffy had promised to not speak bad Latin, this time for the rest of the day, Willow set out to complete her spell.


“You guys wait here, I have to walk the circle waving this censer. I’ll look very catholic, which is y’know, oddly ironic, considering.”


Tara gave Willow a little wave. “See you in a few minutes sweetie.”


Willow gave Tara a radiant smile and blew her a kiss. She lit the censer and started chanting in liquid Gaelic syllables.


The pair sat and watched her wander off, attracting some funny looks from the newest batch of sophomore slayers.

The older slayer trainees just took Willow’s latest adventure in spell-casting in stride, and politely stayed out of her way.


Tara nudged Buffy with her shoulder. “Hey Buffy.”


Buffy smiled softly. “Hey Tara.”


“So, how’re things going with you and Faith?”


Buffy’s face acquired a goofy expression.


“That looks like a ‘good’ right there,” Tara said.


“God Tara, you’ve got no idea,” Buffy said, her face taking on the slightly awestruck expression the other Scoobies called her ‘thinking of Faith’ face.


She looked at the smiling witch. “Actually, you might be the only person who does have an idea.”

Playing a hunch, Buffy said a word. “Willow.”


Tara’s expression softened and became somewhat goofy.

Buffy giggled. “So that’s what it looks like. Xander keeps using words like ‘goofy’ and ‘cute’. I see what he means now.”


Tara got revenge. “Faith.”

She giggled when Buffy went goofy again.


“I love her Tara. I really love her. She’s my… you, I guess.”


Tara grinned at Buffy, who looked a little embarrassed.


“You know, like Willow has you, and-and I have Faith.”


Tara smiled reassuringly. “It’s ok Buffy, I got it.”


“Um, so… yeah, we’re good. It’s like it was in the beginning, y’know? But so much better, because there’s love and snuggles and hand holding and stuff.”


“I’m glad for you Buffy.”


“She’s my best friend Tara. She gets me. Even more than Willow does. She’s my everything, she’s my… Faith.”


Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand. “I know how that feels Buffy, I really do.”


Buffy smiled sadly. “Do you know why me and Faith hold hands all the time?”


“Um, I would have said because it feels nice, but I’m thinking there’s more to it than that?”


Buffy nodded sadly. “No-one ever held her hand before, Tara. Not her mom, not her friends,” Buffy looked up to Tara with tears in her eyes. “Not even when she was a little girl.”


Tara squeezed her hand again. “She’s got you now Buffy. And the rest of us too.”


Buffy held up their clasped hands. “We are kinda touchy-feely aren’t we?”


Tara smiled. “I think it’s a good thing.”


“I feel so sad sometimes, when I think of all the things she missed out on. But I guess sometimes it feels special to me too, that I get to share so many firsts with her.”

“Faith is my first girl, and I got to be her first love. Also first snuggler, first hand holder and first breakfast maker.”

Buffy smiled, a little more naturally this time. “That last one is very important to Slayers, Faith especially.”


Tara chuckled. “I believe you, I’ve seen her eat.”


“And believe it or not, I can manage breakfast without burning things.”

That produced a smile on Tara’s face.

“What about you Tara? What firsts did you get to celebrate with Willow?”


Tara blushed a little. “All of them.”


Buffy looked more than a little surprised. “Wow. Really?”


Tara nodded. “First kiss, first love, first, um, lover.”


Buffy squeaked. “First kiss? Wow. That must have been really something.”


Tara smiled dreamily. “Oh yes.”


Buffy looked a little awkward. “Um, not that I’m being mean, but-but how come she was your first kiss? I mean you’re really pretty and nice and stuff.”


Tara smiled shyly. “I grew up in a small town Buffy. I’ve always known I was interested in girls. Which was great for pleasing my dad. In that he was pleased I was avoiding the boys and not getting pregnant.”

Buffy snorted.

“But it wasn’t so good for having close friends, or meeting girls. Who also liked other girls.”


“Not even kissing practice?”

That got Buffy a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, you know, where you make out with you best friend? So that you’re not terrible at it, when you do it for real.”


Tara blinked in surprise. “Um, Buffy, that might be a California thing or something. Girls, um, we didn’t do that sort of thing where I grew up.”

Buffy looked surprised.

She smiled. “Though it might have been nice if they did.”


“Huh. I thought everyone did that, you know, practiced for the ‘real’ thing.”

Tara raised her questioning eyebrow again. Buffy looked down, embarrassed.

“And I am just now realizing how bad that sounds.”


“Hmm, girls practicing kissing on each other. Sounds nice actually. And a little bit … gay?”


Buffy’s mouth opened in surprise, closing with a click once she realized. She nodded, embarrassed.

“Um, I think you have me there. Guilty as charged. God, girls kiss so much better. Well Faith does anyway.”

“I really, really like kissing Faith. It’s like coming home,” she said in a faraway voice.


Tara smiled warmly. “I think you got it bad Buffy.”


Buffy lost her faraway expression as she focussed back on Tara. “Oh yeah. Like, terminal badness, no hope of recovery.”

A cheeky grin spread across her face. “I'm starting to see why Willow couldn’t shut up, once she started dating you.”

Tara laughed softly.

“Well, after she told me about you guys, and after I’d finished being a big spazz about it.”


“Level two lesbianism,” Tara said knowingly.


Buffy looked surprised. “So that’s an actual thing? I thought Willow was being, y’know, Willow.”


Tara laughed out loud.

“Yes Buffy, it’s Willow being Willow. You wouldn’t believe how thoroughly she researched our first time together.”


“Researched?” Buffy said with a distinct squeak.


Tara nodded cheerfully. “You know Willow, she’s research gal.”


“And boob gal. Starting to see why now,” Buffy said with a grin.


“Oh my,” Tara said with a chuckle. “Of course with Faith, it would make certain amount of sense.”


Buffy flushed pinkly and looked away for a moment. “She’s amazing.”

After staring fondly at nothing for a moment she turned back. “Um, better not think too much about that, don’t want to distract Faith with sexy thoughts when she’s dealing with vampires and mini-me’s.”


“Very wise. I’ve closed down my link to Willow so she can concentrate on the spell. It’s quite a big spell.”


“You can do that?”


Tara nodded. “Witch.” She tapped the side of her head. “Things like that are part of the training. Opening yourself up, closing yourself off. Vital skills.”


“Might have to get you to show me some time.” Buffy grinned again. “So, spill, what was the research like?”


Tara blushed a little. “Well, after we started getting, um, passionate, Willow went to the library to learn as much as she could.”


“There’s stuff in the college library about this?” Buffy said, surprised.


Tara shook her head. “No. There is now. Um, well there was before Sunnydale disappeared, because Willow put some there.”

Buffy’s eyebrows raised questioningly.

“Willow was frustrated by the lack of information. After she went on the internet, she discovered that lesbian porn made by straight men does not make for the best training tool.”


Buffy just squeaked and turned a slightly brighter shade of pink.

“So she wrote her own ‘how to’ guide for new lesbians, under the pen-name Fleur Delacroix.”


Buffy’s voice was nearly supersonic. “Willow wrote that?!”


Tara’s head snapped around. “You read it‽”


Buffy’s cheeks flared a bright red and she choked, unable to answer.


Tara laughed. “It’s ok Buffy, you are allowed to read things. It was meant to be instructional.”


Buffy looked away and muttered something inaudible.


“Sorry Buffy, I didn’t quite catch that,” Tara said teasingly.


“I said ‘Faith wants to buy her a pony.’”


Tara blinked in surprise and grinned. “Should I ask why?”


Buffy squirmed a little. “Well after our first time, y’know, together?”

Tara nodded helpfully.

“Well, Faith said there was no way that it was my first time with a woman.”


The confession raised a chuckle from Tara. “Well done Buffy.”


Buffy shook her head. “No, well done Willow. So, I told Faith about the ‘lesbianism for dummies’ pamphlets I had. Then she said she was going to buy ‘This fleur chick’ a pony as a thank you present.”


Tara looked surprised again. “You kept them?”


Buffy squirmed a little more. “Actually no. but I remembered them, so I got them from a nearby college.”


“A college in another state has Willow’s guide on how to be a lesbian?” Tara said, her eyebrows climbing ever higher.


“They prettymuch all do now. It’s a seminal work, only without the… I'm just going to stop now.”


“How?”


“Riley.”


“Why is a straight man interested in distributing lesbian orientated literature?”


“Ah, um, er,” Buffy said uncertainly. “Well, when I was with Riley things were a bit… ordinary, so I got them for him to read, plus I was curious. They were on the campus website, along with a book written by Fleur Delacroix called ‘Discovering Our Secret Garden.’”


“Willow wrote a book?” Tara said, clearly surprised.


“Oh my god! You’re Seren!” Buffy squeaked.


“What? Buffy, please?” Tara said pleadingly.


Buffy held up her hand. “Ok, ok. I’ll explain I promise, just in my awkward Buffy way.”

Tara nodded, all ears.

“Riley was in the Gay-straight alliance on campus, because his sister is gay,” she said.


“Ok. Nice of him to be so supportive.”


Buffy nodded. “Riley is a good guy. Anyway, after I showed him the Lesbianism for Dummies pamphlets on the campus website, he sent them to his sister, along with the book. They tried to track down the author, but they couldn’t because Willow is a super-whizz hacker.”


Tara smiled. “She is the whizz.”


“If ever a whizz there was,” Buffy said, automatically. She shook herself and got back on track.

“So his sister put them on her campus website, and put the pamphlets around campus. Then after Sunnydale became a giant hole, Riley and his sister published the book as a tribute to Fleur, and distributed it and the pamphlets free, to GSA’s all over the country.”

Buffy looked up. “Sorry Tara. You and Willow are a gay cultural phenomenon now.”


“Well Seren and…”


“Danni… I am so blonde.”

Buffy buried her face in her hands.


“I should have guessed. Willow Danielle Rosenberg is Danni.”


“Danielle is a fairly common name Buffy. There was no way for you to know.”


“Wow. That book made me a little envious of them… you. It was so romantic. Seren was from Wales and had the bluest eyes imaginable. And now that I look, you do have very blue eyes. They’re pretty.”


“Thank you Buffy. Blue eyes run in our family, especially my mom’s side.” Tara grimaced a little. “Wow. So I'm a gay cultural icon? That’s going to take some getting used to.”


“Faith says it’s one of the best lesbian romance novels out there.”


“Faith read it?”


“She gave it to me. She read it in prison. She used it for romance tips. I used it for sex tips. Oops, I didn’t say that.”


Tara raised one eyebrow questioningly. “Sex tips?”


“It’s really…”


“Explicit?”


“Hot. I could only read it at night when no one was around.”


“That good?”


Buffy nodded silently. “I don’t know how close you and Willow are to Seren and Danni, but wow. Just… wow.”


“Now I'm afraid to read it. I don’t want to see all my, um, secrets on a page.”


Buffy put a reassuring arm around her. “Don’t be. It’s a beautiful story. There’s lots of wonderful things in it, like long romantic walks in the park, snuggling on the couch and going on dates. It’s not just sex you know?”


Tara smiled. “Ok, I might have to give it a read when the crazy dies down.”


“Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Not the way our lives work. I’ll lend you mine.”


Tara quirked a smile. “Willow is going to die of embarrassment when she finds out.”


“Combust-age is pretty much guaranteed at this point.”


“Oh?”


Buffy squirmed again, looking embarrassed. “Well, you know how I said that campus’s around the country have the pamphlets and stuff?”


“Yesss?” Tara said slowly.


“Well we are a campus too, officially. So we have all of ‘Fleur’s’ stuff here. It’s really popular with the mini-me’s, given how many of them like girls.”


“Oh my.”


“So at some point, Willow is going to trip over a hard-back copy of ‘Discovering Our Secret Garden’. And spontaneously combust.”


Tara stifled a chuckle. “Well, I’d best get your copy and be discovered reading it. Better to deal with combustion in private I think.

She quirked a smile. “I like my Willow regular, not extra crispy.”


Buffy squirmed again, clearly agonising over asking Tara something. Tara knew Buffy well enough to guess what it was.

“It’s ok Buffy, you can ask me anything. I might not answer, but it’s ok to ask.”


“Was… was your first time during a big power cut, with a big candle?”


“Extra flamey. Yes it was.”


Buffy sighed. “Oh my god, you guys are so romantic. I feel like swooning all over again.”

She looked up at Tara. “I cried so much when I read that, it was so beautiful.”


“Thank you Buffy. I thought it was pretty special too.” She frowned a little. “I’m not sure I like the idea of our first time being on a page for everyone to read though.”


“Nonono!” Buffy protested, waving her hands about in a passable imitation of Willow.

“She drew the curtains after Danni blew out the candle. I think she wanted it to stay special.”


“Well, that’s something of a relief.”


“I think it really had an effect on Faith. She’s using it as a ‘how to’ guide on romance.”


“Is it working?”


“God Tara, she’s amazing. She takes me places and shows me wonderful, beautiful things. She shares her world with me.”

Buffy smiled as she gazed off into the distance, looking at something only she could see.

“It’s funny in a way. There’s an innocence to Faith sometimes, like a big kid hidden away under the armour. And I get to see it.”


“She loves you very much,” Tara said softly.


She fiddled with the hem of her sweater. “I still can’t believe it sometimes. I thought after Angel and Riley, I wasn’t going to get love. Y’know?”


“Oh?”


“Well, with Angel, it was all drama and angst and impossible longing. And with Riley it was comfortable, but we just didn’t click. I mean I love the guy, but in a Xander kind of way, you know?”


Tara nodded. “You made better friends than lovers?”


“Yeah. Like, he calls me every week or so, and we write letters and stuff. It really makes me appreciate him more. Plus he’s married now, so he’s all mature and grown-up and stuff.”


She grinned. “I can’t wait till the weekend. When I tell him I'm marrying Faith, he’s going to explode. You’ll hear him yelling clear from South America, or wherever the heck he is.”


Tara laughed. “Coming out is a big deal Buffy, it’s only fair you get the most mileage out of it.”


“Durn tootin’,” she said, in a passable Willow impersonation.


“He doesn’t even know we’re dating, ‘cos he missed last weekend for some crazy demon-druglord thing, and I forgot to call him this week, because of all the drama with Faith nearly dying.”

Buffy stared into the indigo night, her expression stricken.

“It scares me silly how much I need her sometimes. It makes me feel very vulnerable to need someone so much.”


Tara followed on her words. “To know you’d do almost anything for her? To realize how far you’d go to protect her?”

Buffy nodded solemnly.

“Believe me Buffy, I know. Truly I do.”


The pair sat in understanding silence until Willow finally made an appearance, waving her censer as she approached.


As she crossed her starting point, Tara felt the surge of the spell releasing, and Willow staggered.

“Whoo, swimmy,” Willow said, as she flopped down next to Tara, receiving a welcoming cuddle for her hard work.


Buffy pouted. “No Hogwarts. Not even a shimmer. Are you sure it worked?”


Willow leaned gratefully against Tara. “Oh yeah. It definitely went off. It’s a spell of subtlety and concealment Buff. Not much use if it’s all glowy and stuff."

Willow yawned.


“Bed time for tired Willows, I think,” Tara said, pressing an affectionate kiss into her hair.

She gave Buffy’s hand a final squeeze and helped a sleepy Willow to her feet.


“I think I might say out a little bit longer,” Buffy said. “Faith is due back from the brick factory soon.”


“See you tomorrow then Buffy,” Tara said. “If anyone is hurt, please come and get me. As much as I like a good night’s sleep, it won’t take me long to patch up any injuries.”


Buffy nodded. “Hopefully no one dropped a building on themselves this time.”

She waved goodnight with a smile.


+++

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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 21, 2015 8:17 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Great chapter. I especially liked the educational angle towards the middle and end. With Anya extolling the virtues of the penis to everyone willing to stay in the same room with her, Tara actively earning the toaster oven by explaining tongue techniques in fine detail and all of Willow's pen named "how to work a pussy" pamphlets and romance novels the entire school should be very well informed. Whether they want to be or not.

The only question now is whether Anya uses the metric system, U.S. units, or cubits to describe the length, girth and dead weight of Xander's penis to Heather, Andrew and all the girls with recently dashed hopes.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:55 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Hey Citanul!

Glad you liked it :)

Yeah, there's some fallout from giving Anya the job :P

I had too much to keep track of the core scoobs, plus a couple of new chars, so the Sunnydale vets are 'away' most of the time.
plus i never liked andrew. or She-who-shall-not-be-named. so sadly we miss out on Rona and Vi too. Oh well.

Yeah, the pamphlets and the book come up later :)

Something to look forward to, after things take a slightly darker turn.
Don't stress, it's temporary (Kitten Promise!).

See ya in a week-ish :bounce

R :flower

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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 04, 2015 5:38 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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I am such a spazz.

And running behind.

Formatting today's chapter now.

Should be up soon :P

Edit: and here it is.

Kind of a fun chapter, where the girls go out for a night on the town before their big adventure.

A little drama tonight. Much drama next time.



Paint the town Red


“C’mon B, this is gonna be a blast!” Faith said, twirling her huge axe as though it were nothing more than a baton.


“I’m not sure a bunch of teenage Slayers are going to be that much with the fun Faith.”


Faith grinned evilly. “Ya got no idea babe, these girls know how to put the hammer down!


Buffy laughed softly. “What does that even mean?”


“It means that these girls are fearless. They have an army of friends, just like them. Girlfriends some of ‘em too. They are happy, they love their lives B, an’ they party hard!


“Slayer mosh pit?” Buffy quipped.


“Awesome!”


Faith and Buffy were talking by the obstacle course, dressed sporty and incongruously carrying large and threatening weapons.


Faith looked thoughtful for a moment. “Y’know B? I kinda envy these girls,” she said, gesturing vaguely to the Slayers training in the distance.

Buffy raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t get me wrong B, it’s wicked cool being the Chosen Two an’ all,” she said, doing a series of limbering up exercises with her axe.

“But these girls? They all got friends and family right there with ‘em. They get trained, not by dopey British-types, no offence to the G-man, but by the previous generation of Slayers.”

Faith’s eyes positively glowed as she gazed upon her inner vision. “It’s gonna be a frikkin’ massacre B. These girls are gonna be trained good by us an’ Xan and G-man. Then they are gonna go out there in teams, with backup.”

She looked almost star-struck. “It’s gonna be beautiful. They are going to exterminate every evil thing that crawls in the dark. And we did it B, you an’ me together.”


Buffy smiled. “Wow, listen to you, all waxing wordy and everything.”


“Waxing eloquent, B. The word is eloquent.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Well you know me and words. I’m not good with the… word… age.”


Faith grinned. English was a second language to Buffy. “What we really need is an English to Buffy dictionary.”


Buffy twirled her own shorter and heavier axe. “We have one. It’s called Willow.”

“She also translates Giles to Xander, and computerese to English.”


Faith snorted as she spun with blinding speed, rolling the long handle of the axe across her shoulders and beheading a practice dummy a good seven feet away.
“Man I’m glad Gilesey-boy got me to work on spears back in the day. Comes in real handy with this thing,” she said, waving her long handled axe for emphasis.


“Giles wanted me to learn the spear too, but I told him it was too long and thrust-y, and he went all British on me. He blushed and polished his glasses, and never bothered me about the spear again.”


Faith looked a little surprised. “Damn, I miss all the good stuff. I think back in the day he was tryin’ to get us to work as a team, me with the reach, you for the close-in stuff.”


Buffy tossed her own axe at a dummy, skewering it through the painted-on heart with the stake-like handle.

“I’m just glad this thing is magic. I hate when the vamps dust and take your favourite stake with them.”


“B, ya gotta learn to pull out in time,” she said with a smirk at Buffy’s ‘yucky’ face.


“’Sides, who needs a stake?” Faith said.

She unleashed a brutal upwards strike with the handle of her axe, ripping the thick post from the earth and launching the dummy into the air. Before the dummy came down, she completed the movement by spinning and bringing the axe-blade down, splitting the thick wooden post of another training dummy from head to foot.


“Show-off. At least I’m faster than you,” Buffy said, poking her tongue out at Faith.


“Well, yeah, ya need to be. Ya got them short little arms an’ legs. Got no reach, an’ ya gotta move them little legs fast to keep up.”


Buffy gaped, outraged.

“I am not short!” she protested.

“Babe, one inch shorter and you’d be legally a dwarf.”


“I’m five-four!”


Faith left her axe wedged in the dummy. “That sounds like an invitation for round two,” she wiggled her fingers. “You’ll cleverly note that my hands work now. Wanna see how it’s really done?”


Buffy’s feet slipped into a fighting stance. “You have no power over me,” she said with a smile.


“Quotin’ old movies ain’t gonna save ya Blondie. Bring it on.” Faith quipped. She dropped into a similar fighting stance with a smirk.


Buffy moved like lightning, and cannoned into Faith while she was talking, taking them both to the ground.

Faith however, had been expecting something like that, and simply pivoted as they fell, using her greater mass to ensure that Buffy ended up on the grass.


“See babe? I do learn stuff from time to time,” Faith said, and she began to tickle Buffy accurately and without mercy.


Buffy squealed and thrashed as Faith used her memory of all of her sensitive spots to evil effect.

When she got her hands on Buffy’s leg and tickled the extra-sensitive spot just behind her knee, Buffy’s squeals rose a whole octave.
“Say uncle, B.”

Buffy’s only response was to squeal and thrash some more.

“Saaaay it honey,” Faith said teasingly, as she continued her merciless tickling campaign.


Buffy was red in the face and incoherent, but between struggles and squeals she yelled out. “Never!”


Faith pinned her hands above her head and whispered in her ear. “That’s my girl,” and placed a gentle kiss on Buffy’s soft lips.


“No fair, you know all my tickle spots.”


“B, I dunno how ya even made it as a Slayer, you are one giant tickle spot. Even your elbow is ticklish, I mean seriously, who has a ticklish elbow?”


Buffy chose to answer by pulling Faith down for a kiss, which rapidly grew more heated.


“You know, there’s a special place for that sort of thing. It’s called ‘anywhere that’s not the training field.’”


The smooching continued unabated.


Dawn sighed. “Fine. We’ll just train over the top of you then.”


“Aww, they look so cute!” Heather said.


“Plus check out Faith’s ass: that is a nice ass,” Jules said.

Faith reached out and gave Jules the finger, but she didn’t stop kissing Buffy.

“Still a nice ass,” Jules replied.


Buffy pushed Faith back just a little, breaking their kiss. “My ass, I’ll have you know.”


Faith smiled. “All yours honey,” she whispered.


The ghost of old pains passed briefly across Jules’ face.

“We can hear you, y’know,” Dawn added.


Xander’s voice was heard. “Ah, really guys, you might want to do that somewhere else. Not because I mind the girl lovin’ particularly, but I’d hate to see what you’d do to me if I stood on you with my huge feet.”


Buffy sighed. “Darn your sensible thinking,” she said.


Faith rubbed her nose intimately against Buffy’s. “C’mon babe, we got a better place for this sort of thing. Also we are meant to be training with our shiny new toys.”

She got up and hauled Buffy to her feet.

Buffy flicked a small pebble at Dawn’s beret, pouting when Dawn caught it and blew her a raspberry.


Faith’s chuckle made her smile.

“She might not be a Slayer, but she’s got your speed.”


The girls and Xander were in full battle-dress, all black armour and weapons. And in the case of Dawn and Xander, guns too. Weirdly, Dawn also was wearing a beret. Not a military style one, but a French-style poofy number that really should be going along with hamburglar stripes.


“Aren’t you going to be all melty and gross in that?” Buffy said, gesturing around at the beautifully warm sunny day.


Nearby birds chirped, and the sleepy sound of bumblebees in the flowers added the final touch to the scene of idyllic summer beauty.

Dawn made a yucky face. “Oh yeah. We are gonna be all stinky and gross. But like Xander said, we gotta get used to this stuff, even when it’s no fun.”


“Oh man, you broke three of them already?” Xander complained. “And what is one of them doing in a tree?”


Faith blinked. “Huh. So that’s where it came down.”

The wooden dummy was upside down in a tree, a good thirty feet from where they were standing.


“Man, if the juniors ever get as strong as you two, we are going to go through these things like corn chips,” Xander muttered.

“Ah, Faith? Would ya?”, gesturing at the dummy in the tree.


Faith shrugged. “Sure Xan, I can get it down for ya. I mean, I did put it up there I guess.”

Faith wandered over to the tree and stared thoughtfully at the branch high above her.

In the background, the Summers sisters debated the finer points of hats and combat, while Heather and Jules mortified Xander by having a discussion over whether he or Faith were the hotter of the two.


Xander stared at Faith with desperate intensity, trying hard to pretend he was somewhere else. “Need a hand? Please?”


“Nah, I got this.”


She crouched down, looking for all the world like a cat about to make a jump, and with good reason. She leapt, straight up into the tree, and a loud wooden ‘thok!’ sound was heard immediately thereafter.

And she didn’t come down.


A smirking Buffy wandered over, followed by the rest of the onlookers.

Faith was dangling from her axe handle, a good 20 feet in the air, wiggling around rather bizarrely.


“You’re stuck aren’t you?” Buffy said, a big grin on her face.


“No,” Faith said.


“And you can’t get any leverage to use your strength,” Buffy continued.


“No,” Faith said, sounding slightly more sulky.


“And there’s no way you’ll let go of your axe is there?”


Faith wiggled some more, looking somewhat like a worm on a hook. “No,” she said.


“Uh Faith? Why not just climb the handle to the branch?” Xander asked.


Faith stopped wiggling.

“Dammit,” she muttered, and climbed, hand over hand up the long handle to the branch.


Once up on the branch she struggled to remove the axe from the wood, straining to pull it loose from the thick branch.

With a horrible wooden groan, the branch reluctantly let go of the axe. The force of Faith hauling on it snapped the branch wetly where the axe had bitten into the wood.

With a muffled curse, Faith fell out of the tree to the forest floor, landing with a thump. The branch and practice target crashing down nearby.


She groaned and laughed. “Ow. I think I broke my butt.”

She opened one eye dazedly. “Ya coulda caught me y’know.”


Buffy shook her head vigorously. “Uh uh. Sorry honeybun, not while you’re holding this huge axe.”

Buffy picked up the long axe as Faith clambered to her feet, dusting leaves and twigs from herself.
Faith looked at the axe. “Fair enough, ya always were the smart one B.”

“Hey, I’m the smart one!” Dawn protested.


“Huh! If you’re the smart one, what do I get?” Buffy protested.


Dawn smirked. “Alarming physical strength? Remarkable self-involvement?”


Faith grinned hugely, clearly trying to suppress the laughter.

“What?” Buffy said, a little lost.

Dawn was also trying to suppress the giggles, with less success.

“What?! Do I have dirt on me or something?” Buffy protested, looking around as the giggles broke out.


“B? You’re holding an axe that’s actually taller than you are. You look kinda cute, like a kid playing with daddy’s tools.”


Buffy looked annoyed and glanced at the axe. Sure enough, the hilt was resting on the ground, but she had to look up to the blade.

“This thing is huge, plus hey! What’s with all the cracks about my height lately?”


“Aww babe, don’t be like that. We only poke fun at your height ‘cos we got nothing else to work with. You’re just too perfect B.”


“Nice save, Faithy-poo.”


“So does this mean I’m not sleeping on the couch?”


“You have your whole entire bedroom. But yes, no metaphor couch for you.”

Faith did a little victory dance.


“Ya know, there’s a downside to this spirit-link thing,” Faith grumbled. “It kinda wrecks my favourite pastime: messing with ya head.”


“Because now I know you’re messing with me,” Buffy picked up smoothly.


“Huh? What?” Xander interjected.


“They’re doing the Willow and Tara thing. You know?” Dawn said tapping her temple.


“Speaking of ‘witch,’” he said, and waved as a trio of figures approaching across the field.


Jules groaned. “So lame. I think that pun actually cost me brain cells.”


Approaching across the grass were Giles, Tara and Willow. Giles and Willow were dressed in black gear much like Xander and Dawn, while Tara was wearing her shining armour with a blue half-cloak thrown over her shoulders. Willow for some reason was wearing a dark pair of huge ‘movie-star’ shades.


“How’s Giles doing?” Buffy asked Dawn quietly, before the newcomers were in earshot.


Dawn looked sad. “A little better. I found some more stuff that helped. The gulf between the Council and the actual Watchers was pretty huge. I don’t think any of the actual Watchers knew what the Council proper was up to.”

Dawn looked embarrassed. “And uh, I kinda bitched Giles out for being a sad sack.”

Her face had a faraway look. “More than half the Watchers assigned to Slayers or potentials died Buffy. They died protecting the ones they were watching over.”

Dawn met Buffy’s eyes. “Not the actions of someone all about the evildoing. But about right for a bunch of people like Giles.”


“Pssst!” Faith stage whispered. “Aren’t we supposed to be all geared up like these guys?” she said gesturing to Dawn and co.


“No, because… icky. And sweaty,” Buffy explained.


Tara and Willow both gave a little wave as they approached.

Giles looked a little careworn, but better than he had been. His cheeks had some colour and he was breathing hard.

He also was dressed in black body armour, and adorned with a few select weapons. The martial outfit made his height all the more impressive.


“Lookin’ a little better there G-man. Did a few laps huh?”


He nodded. “Yes, thank you Faith. Dawn gave me a rather, ah, stern talking to, and put a better perspective on things.”


Dawn made her way over to him, her gear jingling, and gave him a big hug. “All in a day’s work Giles.”

She lowered her voice. “It was totally selfish of me though. Because you know we all need you right?”


He smiled gently. “Of course. And thank you my dear.”

Giles frowned as he looked across at Buffy and Faith.


“I was rather hoping you would take this opportunity, to familiarize yourself with your equipment, in adverse conditions.”

Faith was wearing her trademark red ‘Bitch Queen’ halter and black track pants. Buffy was wearing form-fitting shorts, and had a similar pink top with ‘Princess’ written across it in feminine letters.


“You mean you wanted us to get sweaty and gross… What?” Buffy asked.


Giles tried to suppress a smile and failed. “Princess? Really Buffy?”


Faith snorted, covering up a laugh.

“Hey, I’m petite! It’s hard to find adult stuff in my size, ok?”

She looked desperately at Tara. “Um, hey, so your armour is really pretty Tara,” she said.


“Real smooth Summers,” Faith murmured.


Tara smiled. “Thank you Buffy. For what it’s worth, I like your top.”


Buffy beamed. “Pink is my friend.”


“So how come everyone’s loaded for bear?” Faith asked.


Giles looked slightly embarrassed. “Well after I suggested that it would be wise to acclimate to wearing protective equipment in a variety of conditions, Xander handed me my own set of armour and told me to, ah, ‘put my money where my mouth was.’”


“And Red?”


“My explanation is much shorter: Tara.”


“So why are you all suited up, Tara?” Buffy asked.


“Well Mister Giles asked about a, um, ‘battle magic’ demonstration. And my armour has a bunch of useful spells woven into it. And it is air conditioned,” she said with a slightly embarrassed smile.


“And plus, she looks amazing in it!” Willow chirped. “She’s my knight in shining armour.”


“Ya look the part Snowy, very butch,” Faith said.


“Thanks,” Tara said, frowning slightly. “I think. So, um, what are we doing?”


Giles looked thoughtful. “Well I thought we might run through a basic scenario or two, much as we do with our sophomore Slayers. Nothing very complex my dear, just something to get a feel for your abilities in a fight.”

He looked at Xander and Dawn. “Would be so kind as to set up a basic scenario on the obstacle course?”


Dawn and Xander consulted Dawn’s note book and started positioning dummies with Jules and Heather’s willing assistance.


“Um, ok, I’ve done this sort of thing with Takarn. He never was able to teach me to fight with weapons, but he taught me how to avoid getting hit and things like that. The armour was his idea.”


“C’mere Will,” Xander said, dragging Willow out to the obstacle course.


“Wait, what?” she protested as she was towed away.


“Bye sweetie!” Tara called, blowing a kiss to her reluctant volunteer.


“Relax Will, you just have to get rescued, no sweatiness involved,” Xander said.


“Hey how come I have to get rescued?” Willow protested. “How come she can’t rescue you?”


“Wouldn’t it be more fun to have Tara come to your rescue?”


She thought for a bit. “Just as long as it’s not every Tuesday,” she said.

Dawn re-joined the group. “Ok, basic hostage scenario: the rest of your team is someplace else, it’s night time and these dummies are all vampires,” Dawn said waving at the wooden training dummies now occupying various spots around the training course.

“Xander is the hostage taker, so don’t mess him up too bad. Let’s assume he’s human for now,” Dawn said, sketching out the scenario.


Tara quirked an eyebrow. “You’ve really done this sort of thing before.”


Dawn shrugged. “It’s usually my job to think up likely and believable scenarios, I guess from experience. I still hate Tuesdays by the way. Anyway, in order to properly finish, you need to hit all the dummies with something, otherwise they’ll stab you in the back or eat someone, so hit ‘em all.”


“Um, normally I try to talk everyone down o-or stay out of the fighting. I’m not really comfortable with the fighting stuff,” Tara said, her slight stutter betraying her nervousness.


“It’s alright Tara, it’s just a training scenario, just tell us what you would likely do,” Giles said.


“Well, normally I would cast a protection spell on myself or the group of us,” she said waving her hands around in a vaguely spell-casty way.


Giles nodded. “Go on.”


“Then I would cast a spell of seeing, to allow me to anticipate their actions a little and to spot the monsters from the people.”

More vague hand waving followed.

“Um, after that I’m not so sure. I kind of only get involved as a last resort, usually I save my strength for healing my friends.”


“That’s alright my dear, we don’t intend to push you onto the front lines, this is just an exercise. To see where you stand, as it were.”

Dawn waved at Xander, who had his arm across Willow’s neck and was waving a rubber knife in classic ‘taking a hostage’ pose.

“Tara? Imagine Willow is in danger,” Dawn said with a calculating look.


Tara’s expression changed. “Willow is in danger?” she said, all trace of her stutter gone.


“Uh-huh.”


“And these are all vampires?” she said, a sense of resolve spreading throughout her frame.


“Yup.”


“And all attempts at negotiation have failed?”


Dawn nodded cheerfully.

“Right,” Tara said, dropping her helmet on the grass, a determined look on her face.

She gathered herself, putting on her own resolve face.

Dawn clicked the radio clipped to her collar. “Uh-oh, Tara’s got her mom-face on. Xander, you’re in trouuuble!” Dawn said in a cheerful singsong voice.


“Copy that, mom-face is a go,” Xander replied, audible over the radio.


“Eeek! Help me Tara!” Willow called from the other end of the obstacle course.


“And… start!” Dawn said, clicking a button on her stopwatch.


Tara locked eyes on her beloved, around a hundred yards distant across the assault course.
‘I’m coming baby, hold on!’ she sent.

With that she started striding confidently forward.

With a practiced hand she gestured and a lance of sunlight slammed into the first dummy, setting it on fire.

Another lance of sunlight blasted a second dummy, then a third.

She strode confidently across a balance beam, throwing burning beams of golden light left and right, annihilating ‘vampires’ as she advanced on a very worried looking Xander.

The whole time her eyes never left Willow’s.

She approached the last group of dummies between her and her love. A burning star appeared in her hand and she flicked it towards the group of wooden ‘vampires’. The star exploded in a blaze of fire and light that continued to burn.

A second fierce star appeared in her hand as she stared at Xander. She extended her wings high and wide, and haloed by the inferno of magic behind her, she was a gleaming avatar of steely determination.

“Let. Her. Go,” she said quietly, but with iron conviction.


Xander dropped his rubber knife and raised his hands in stunned surrender.


“Wowie!” Willow squeaked, starry eyed.


Tara closed her hand, extinguishing the light she held. The huge orb of blazing light behind her vanishing shortly thereafter.

“No one messes with my girl,” Tara said quietly.


“No ma’am,” Xander said quickly, blinking in the sudden comparative darkness of the noon-day sun.


“Wow,” Willow breathed.


“I’m just going to stand here perfectly still, until the scary lady goes away,” Xander said, somewhat hesitantly.


Tara relaxed her stance and folded her wings across her back. She said to Xander somewhat sheepishly. “Don’t be scared Xander, I wouldn’t hurt you.”


Willow still looked star-struck. “You are my Goddess,” she breathed.


Tara ducked her head, a little embarrassed.

“I’ve never wanted to be rescued more in my life,” Willow said.


“At least I didn’t fall on my butt this time,” Tara said with a sheepish smile.


“So I’m thinking we won’t be rescuing you any time soon,” Xander said, a little breathlessly.


“Well I would hope that someone could ride to my rescue, if I need it,” she said. “But I’m ok with not needing to be rescued.


“Scoobies are all about the rescuing,” Willow said.


“We’ll take care of your recuing needs, day or night,” Xander said, sounding rather like a cheesy TV advert.

“So, um wings then… wow,” he added as an awkward afterthought.


“Ah, yes… I’m sorry Xander, usually I try to appeal to people’s better natures when I’m dealing with them. I’m not… not very good at intimidating people, even if it is safer than using magic sometimes.”


“Uh, I’m kind of intimidated right now,” Xander said.


“Um, I’m kind of in love right now,” Willow added.


“Well, um ‘butch’ armour, wings, everything on fire? It kind of gives a bit of a helping hand to my intimidation attempt.”


“I love fierce mama-bear Tara!” Willow said, still somewhat dreamy eyed behind her large pair of shades.


Xander looked over Tara’s shoulder at the obstacle course, parts of which were on fire, or molten.

The remaining Scoobies were immobile and staring, looking rather shell-shocked.


“And now you know why I was wearing the shades,” Willow said.


Xander waved his hands vaguely in front of his face. “Yep, I’m seeing many purple splotches.”

“So um, Tara, I have to say your wings are both dramatic and pretty. Also I think you broke the others,” he said gesturing vaguely at the Scoobies, only now managing to get themselves un-frozen.

The solid wooden dummies laid out along the obstacle course were guttering and smoking, three were simply reduced to ash amid glazed earth.


“Ah. Yes, well,” Giles said uncertainly.


“Wicked,” Faith added. “Nice work Big T. That was all kindsa impressive.”


“Your wings are sooo pretty,” Dawn said, more than a little spacey.


“Note to self. Never piss this woman off,” Jules muttered under her breath.

Heather silently nodded her agreement.


Tara ducked her head, embarrassed by the attention.


“Will? How come we never saw you doing stuff like that?” Buffy asked.


“Um, er, and other sounds of hesitation,” Willow said.

She was looking down and slowly wringing her hands with nervousness.

She wrung her hands for a little while, clearly giving herself time to think. If she regularly wore glasses, she’d have been polishing them.

Dawn hesitantly touched Tara’s wings, as if reassuring herself that they were real. Tara smiled at her, but her attention quickly switched back to Willow.


“Uh, fear I guess,” she eventually said. “I mean in the beginning I was all ‘woo: I can float a pencil!”, she said, waving her arms around for emphasis, “And after that I was always with the experiments, and never casting the same spell twice, because that stuff is old and hat-like, and so I never got good at any particular spell, and then after that I was all ‘woo: I think I love girls,” she said, doing a little dance. “Or really, just one very special girl, and then it all went horrible and magic was right in the middle of it, then things went so bad I wanted to die, and there was magic in the middle of that too, and so I tried to be just ordinary non-magic Willow, but then there were spells that needed doing and no-one else to do them, so I just had to pick up the broomstick again, not that witches fly on broomsticks but you know what I mean, but after all that, magic became this thing that I sort of feared, rather than just a tool, like your Slayer strength, and so up until just recently I have been too spazzy to really practice magic like Tara has… I guess.”

Willow’s frantic hand-waving died down and she was breathing hard by the time she finished.

Silence reigned for a moment, as even long-time Willow veterans absorbed the stream of words.


“Damn girl, that’s a talent right there. Ya don’t look like ya got huge lung capacity, being all skinny and such. How do ya do it Red?” Faith said.

“The secret is to take little breaths between some words and not go on too long, otherwise everything gets all swimmy,” Willow responded. She was breathing hard and looking more than a little swimmy.


“Well might I suggest that perhaps now is a good time to get some spell practice in?” Giles suggested mildly. “Now that you have a magically skilled sparring partner or two.”


Dawn’s eyes widened in alarm at his look toward her. “Giles! Don’t include me in that! I can barely do the finding spell and the basic light spell without slinky herbs! And Tara said I was doing good! So don’t go looking to me for… this,” she said, waving her arm around to encompass the ravaged training area.


Tara laid her hand gently on Dawn’s arm. “Dawnie, don’t sell yourself short. Everyone has their strengths. Willow is an experimenter, that’s her strength, like a witch scientist. You are picking this stuff up faster than either of us did, that’s your strength.”


“What’s yours?” Dawn asked.


“Um… stamina,” Tara said with a shy smile.


Faith snorted. “Yeah, I heard.”


“I meant with the spell casting, Faith,” Tara said, her look of mild disapproval somewhat spoiled by the tiny smile quirking one corner of her mouth.


Faith grinned. “I’m on to you Blondie, you’re not as innocent as you let on are ya?”


Tara said nothing, her smile was the smile of the Buddha, filled with knowledge and mystery.


“So, Snow-White’s really an angel. Ya got wings,” Faith said. “Nice to see ‘em when I ain’t all dying and crap.”


“Ah… yes,” Tara said. “I guess I’m out of the closet now… again.”

She snuggled up to Willow’s back and wrapped them both around with her pristine white wings.

Armour or no, Willow’s smile was blissful.


“It’s ok, guys, you can touch them, I won’t bite,” Tara added.


“Your wing span is frikkin’ huge T,” Faith said, gently stroking the feathered curtain.


“And the feathers are so big. Do you have to preen, y’know, like a bird?” Dawn asked.

Buffy just stared at her little sister.

“What? I watch wildlife documentaries, ok?”


“Ah, no, I don’t have to preen Dawn. These are not bird wings, even if they look similar. They are angel wings. Much lower maintenance.”

A shiver passed through the huge white canopy. “All I have to do is groom them a little and pull out any shed or broken feathers.”


“Neat! It’s like a fun new activity I can do with my girl, like painting toenails, or doing hair.”


Tara wiggled one wing. “I think there’s a loose feather there. Willow? Would you be a sweetie?”

Willow smiled goofily, and focussed on the wing, gently stroking her fingers through it, generating a happy and appreciative sigh in Tara as she found the offending feather.
It came loose with a gentle tug, and Willow was presented with a huge white feather.
With a smile she tucked it behind her ear.


“You look very cute Will,” Xander said.


She smiled. “Why thank you Mr Harris.”


“Y’know, I think you should come out with us tonight. Ya wouldn’t even need a costume, just go like that,” Faith said.


“Costume?” Tara asked.


“Oo-oo-oo!” Buffy said, almost hopping with excitement. “I remember! Tonight’s theme is ‘powerful women.’ You could go as a knight or something.”


“Or an angel,” Dawn added. “I mean most of the club is going to be junior and sophomore Slayers, plus it’s dark, so you can just be yourself.”


“Is that entirely wise?” Giles asked.


“Said the man dressed like a ninja,” Dawn replied. “Just tell anyone who asks that they’re props, like that episode of Xena.”


Xander snickered. “Does everyone round here watch Xena?”


“Swords, hot babes, hot dudes, ass kicking, general silliness, what’s not to like?” Faith asked. “Plus, who knows, we get enough weird blue drinks inta Snow-White, we might get table dancing, an’ I’d pay to see that.”


Tara grimaced. “I never should have told you about that.”


“C’mon Blondie, live a little!”


She smiled. “I’d love to come Faith, thank you. That is, if Willow doesn’t already have plans?”


“Nope, and a night out on the town sounds like fun, given the general air of doom and gloom we’ve gotten lately.”


“Think ya might have to sit this one out G-man, given the number of sweaty lesbians there tonight.”


“Sweaty ah, lesbians, don’t really concern me Faith, but Friday nights are a bit loud for my taste. I’ll stick to open mike nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays thank you.”


“I’ve already got my costume sorted,” Dawn said.


“You’re not going to a gay bar,” Buffy said reflexively.


“I am 18, pissy and armed. Don’t test me Buffy.”


“You only just turned 18!”


“I’m still pissy and armed, and I’m going to the Peach, like I have almost every Friday.”


Buffy sputtered and protested. “Every Friday‽”


“It’s nice. Plus any guys I meet are gay, so I don’t get hit on by sleazy guys. And the girls that hit on me are far less sleazy.”


Buffy looked like she was going to have a fit, until Faith gave her a squeeze. “Now muffin, don’t get all wound up.”


Jules laughed. “Relax Buffy, if someone won’t take a hint, me and Heather take turns going all dyke-y on them and telling them to ‘get away from my girl.’”


“It’s so sweet, you two fighting over me,” Dawn said, fluttering her eyelashes.


Faith sniggered at Dawn’s ham acting and the near purple expression on Buffy’s face.

“Not nice to mess with your sister like that lil’ D,” Faith said unconvincingly, betrayed by the grin she was trying unsuccessfully to hide.


Dawn shrugged. “Privileges of being a sister. Anyway I’m going. End of discussion. What’s your costume going to be?”


“Heh, it’s a kicker, and no leather. No way you’ll ever guess.”


Willow looked thoughtful. “Yup, I think I have a costume I can rustle up.”


Dawn looked at her partners in crime. “What about you guys? Got costumes?”


“No door charge, plus half price drinks? Hell yes, we have costumes,” Jules said, Heather nodding her agreement.


“Yup, me too.”


“Tell me it’s not Xena and Gabrielle,” Buffy grumbled.


Heather beamed. “Nope, that would be Mary and Bridey. I have a much cooler costume sorted out.”


Jules grinned. “Me too, mine’s a classic.”


Faith raised an eyebrow. “No Xena?”


Shaking her head, Jules kept grinning. “Nope, not even any leather.”


Heather put in her 2 cents. “This is gonna be awesome!”


“Whatcha got in mind B? You must have some good ones for ‘Strong women’ yeah?”


“Not sure if anyone would get it if I dressed as my mom.”


Faith looked glum. “Yeah, sucks that. She was a rock. Also tall, so I’m not sure if you could pull off her look y’know?”

Buffy scowled and Faith backpedalled slightly. “Hey stuff looks different when you’re, uh, big.”


“Plus my mom was a little darker and could really pull off red. Me: not so much.”


“C’mon B, ya gotta come now. If ya don’t come you’ll miss out on my costume and I shit you not B, you’re gonna faint when you see it.”


She raised a questioning eyebrow. “That good huh?”


“Better.”


“Well I guess I have to go now, otherwise I’ll miss out on this awesome costume and all this fun.”


“Damn straight. I figure the girls here are gonna look very presentable, but I am gonna blow ya away.”


“Pfft!” Dawn retorted. “I have the easiest and best costume ever.”


“How can it be the best and easiest? This does not fit with earth logic,” Heather said, poking Dawn in the head with her finger for emphasis.


“Because I’m smart, that’s how.”


“If I might interject, weren’t we supposed to be training?” Giles asked mildly.


“Well if you’re going to be all sensible about this,” Buffy groused.


And the gang proceeded to get both sweaty and stinky in hot afternoon sun.


+++


“I would have thought they’d be here by now,” Willow said.


“Are they late?” Tara asked mildly.

The pair were standing outside the Peach Pitt waiting for their friends, attracting admiring glances from passersby.
Tara was dressed in her armour, freshly polished and nicely made up for the evening, her hair brushed out and wearing tastefully applied gold and silver makeup. The makeup cunningly advertised the ‘costume’ nature of her outfit.
Her amazing ‘prop’ wings and shining armour had attracted a number of complements already.

Willow was wearing a classic outfit, consisting of a broad brimmed pointy hat, black dress and red and white striped stockings. Completing her outfit was a nice new broomstick. A huge white feather was woven into her hair.
Willow had been mildly annoyed by the compliments she had been getting, as most of those who had paid her compliments were along the lines of “Jillybean!” and “I loved Practical Magic!”

“How can they not know?” she grumbled, pouting slightly.


“Sweetie, these girls are too young to really know the Wizard of Oz.”

She stepped up close to Willow, rubbing their noses together as she smiled. “And you are far too cute and lacking in green colour to really be the wicked witch.”


Willow smiled back ruefully. “I guess we’re too young too. If it wasn’t for Buffy’s mom and her inexplicable fascination with old movies, we’d never know either.”


“Though, getting the giggles watching ‘Gone with the Wind’ and being completely unable to explain? That was kind of awkward.”

Tara quirked an eyebrow.

“‘Beautiful Hills of Tara’ has a whole new meaning when you’re dating someone with beautiful hills. And whose name happens to be Tara.”


Tara smiled shyly.


Willow grinned. “Ok, I give up. Tonight, you can call me ‘Jillybean.’”


“And tonight you can call me, um, actually I’m a bit stuck there. Gabriel maybe?” Tara said.


“You are much prettier than Tilda Swinton, however pretty she may be.”


Tara smiled. “Well she does have those big green eyes,” she said.


Willow opened her mouth to protest and waved instead. “Dawnie! Over here!”


Dawn bounced over. “Hey guys! You look great! Wicked witch of the West and, um, a much prettier Gabrielle?”

Tara laughed softly.

“Sorry Tara, you look super amazing, but I can’t think of any movies with heroic armoured angels, who are also girls. I’m kinda stuck with that episode of Xena where they ended up as angels and stuff.”


“Oh! That Gabrielle!” Willow said, twigging to who Dawn meant.


“Nice costume Dawn,” Willow said.

Dawn was dressed as Lara Croft, complete with micro-pack and twin pistols.

Tara knew enough about the franchise to recognize the outfit, even if she wasn’t sure which game or movie this particular outfit of a charcoal top and black shorts was from.

“Wow, Dawnie, you look amazing!” she said.
She thought for a moment. “And different somehow.”


Dawn bounced on the balls of her feet. “You can’t really tell out here in the dark, but I dyed my hair, and I’m wearing contacts.”

“The drugstore made out like bandits today. I saw Heather, Buffy and Faith, all buying coloured contacts and hair dye.”


“Ok, am I alone in being really, really curious as to what they’re up to?” Willow asked, bouncing a little with her own excitement.


Tara shook her head. “I have to admit, I’m more than a little curious myself.”


“Hey guys!” Buffy’s cheerful voice called, out of the darkness. She bobbed up to them, Dawn fashion.


Tara smiled as the others gaped in shock. Although Buffy hadn’t had much warning to come up with an outfit, she’d done a lot with her look.

She’d put the curlers through her hair, which now fell in chestnut waves down her shoulders. She was wearing a matching leather jacket and leather pants outfit, and had clearly stolen one of Faith’s red ‘Bitch Queen’ training tops.
Chunky boots added vital inches to her height.


“Wha… Wow… Faith! You are Faith! Wow, déjà-vue Buff.”


“That is a very different look for you Buffy,” Tara said.


Buffy bounced a little on the balls of her feet. “Yes! I figure if she likes wearing leather so much, she’ll love me wearing leather.”


Tara spoke up with an innocent expression on her face. “I’m sure Faith would love how you look Buffy, even if you wore nothing at all.”


Buffy grinned back. “Faith was right about you Tara, you only look innocent.”


Tara blinked in surprise.

And grinned lopsidedly. “Oops. Busted.”


“I was stuck for a ‘strong woman’ that had some meaning to me, and I could sort out in a few hours. It was either this, or dye my hair red and steal a fluffy sweater from the Bad Wardrobe. I figured this would have more impact on a certain brunette.”


Willow bounced cheerfully. “Neat!”


Buffy frowned. “If she still is brunette.”


“There’s been an outbreak of hair dying and coloured contacts today,” Dawn said, waggling her long braid for emphasis.


“You’re a redhead!” Buffy said. Her night vision had no trouble picking out Dawn’s new hair colour in the dim light.


“Auburn actually,” Dawn retorted.


“No way!” a voice from the darkness protested.


“Yes way!” Dawn responded automatically. “What?”


Jules and Heather approached out of the darkness, Heather’s characteristic bounce replaced by a dispirited plodding.

Jules was wearing a blue boiler suit with the sleeves rolled up, and had her wavy brown hair done up in a red bandana.

Heather on the other hand, was wearing a nearly identical outfit to Dawn’s, differing only in that she was wearing a light blue top.

“Aw man! This sucks,” Heather groused. “I had no idea you were coming as Lara.”


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Not exactly a stretch when people keep saying stuff like ‘Hey Lara’ all the time.”


“Which is where I got the idea, because people also say I look a lot like you, so I figured if it would work for you, it’d work for me too.”


Heather pouted until Jules stepped in. “Duh! You guys think you’ll be the only Lara clones in there? Hello‽ Playstations are not that rare. Just be versions from different games or something.”


“Hey yeah! You have the dark top, so you can be from the movie, and I have this blue top, so I can be the one from the game.”

She goggled at Dawn’s chest. “Hey! Those’re new! I thought they got smaller as time went by?”


Dawn looked down. “In the game maybe. Behold the miracle of the wonder-bra.”

She looked up and giggled. “They’re inflatable, so if I fall in the river, there’s no way I can drown.”


“Really? They look… real.”


“Well, yeah, they’re really boobs, it’s just how you display them that makes the difference.”


Willow chuckled at the girls and their discussions of the merits of wonder-bras.

Heather had cheered up noticeably. “Well I don’t feel so bummed now. Let’s just tell everyone we planned it this way.”


“Neat! You can be my date. Shall we go inside Lara one?”


“Certainly we shall Lara two.”


“Dorks,” Jules muttered as the pair waltzed into the club arm in arm.


“Hee hee, they’re so cute. Um, hey Buff, where’s Faith?”


Buffy waved a hand over her shoulder. “Inside somewhere. And she’s up to something, I can feel it. There’s a sense of unholy glee radiating off her that I can feel a mile away.”


Willow took her by both shoulders and grinned full-on into her face. “Yup.”

She took Tara and Buffy by the hand and lead them both inside.

“Come on girls, let’s go have some fun.”


+++


“Stupid door-guy not giving me the stamp,” Buffy muttered under her breath.


“Don’t feel too bad Buffy, I thought Faith was the point of becoming a brunette for the evening,” Willow said, one arm around Buffy’s shoulders.


Buffy pouted. “Well yeah, but it’s like a thing… with principles. I mean, I should still get a stamp. Because… ugh.”

Buffy waved her hands, frustrated at her inability to articulate exactly what was annoying her.


“Because it would validate your belief that Faith is a strong woman?” Tara asked.


“Yes! That! That validate-y thing,” Buffy said beaming and pointing at Tara.


At that point, the quiet, nondescript background music changed to an 80’s number with a solid beat.

“Where have I heard this recently?” Willow asked the group.


Dawn rolled her eyes, terribly disappointed in the older Scoobies. “It’s the Slayer theme song, duh.”


“Wait, what? When did we get a theme song? And why is it an 80’s number?” Buffy protested.


“The answer to both those questions is: me,” Faith said.

Music

Spoiler:
Oh, the night is my world
City light painted girl
In the day nothing matters
It's the night time that flatters
In the night, no control
Through the wall something's breaking
Wearing white as you're walkin'
Down the street of my soul

You take my self, you take my self control
You got me livin' only for the night
Before the morning comes, the story's told
You take my self, you take my self control

Another night, another day goes by
I never stop myself to wonder why
You help me to forget to play my role
You take my self, you take my self control

I, I live among the creatures of the night
I haven't got the will to try and fight
Against a new tomorrow, so I guess I'll just believe it
That tomorrow never comes

A safe night, I'm living in the forest of my dream
I know the night is not as it would seem
I must believe in something, so I'll make myself
believe it
That this night will never go

Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh

Oh, the night is my world
City light painted girl
In the day nothing matters
It's the night time that flatters

I, I live among the creatures of the night
I haven't got the will to try and fight
Against a new tomorrow, so I guess I'll just believe
it
That tomorrow never knows

A safe night, I'm living in the forest of a dream
I know the night is not as it would seem
I must believe in something, so I'll make myself
believe it
That this night will never go

Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control
You take my self, you take my self control ...




Faith appeared out of the darkness. She threw back her dark blue cape and stood proudly, her fists clenched on her hips.

Tara raised an appreciative eyebrow.

Willow and Buffy both gaped.


Faith was dressed as Wonder Woman.


Her skintight blue pants showed off her sleek legs to great effect, and Buffy could not get over how good she looked with bare shoulders.

Faith noticed that Jules was also gaping, and looking more than a little glassy eyed.

Faith rolled her shoulders and focussed on Buffy. “So wacha think B? Will I do?” she said huskily.


“Hello, you’ve reached the brain of Buffy Summers. I’m out right now, but if you’d like to leave a message, she’ll get back to you as soon as I get back from wherever I’ve gone.”


Faith smirked. “Well, if you’re good I’ll let you tie me up with my gold lasso later.”


Buffy blushed furiously, though the epic redness was lost on everyone but Faith.


Faith flipped the lasso around her and pulled her in. “Magic lasso B. You’re completely in my power.”


Buffy’s lips were parted and her gaze was filled with desire. “I am. I really, really am,” she said dreamily.

Faith pulled her in for a tender kiss.

Buffy whimpered.

The kiss went on some time, and when they broke for air they met Tara’s smiling eyes and Willow’s grin


“You two are so sweet. It’s nice to see,” Tara said.

Buffy looked embarrassed, but she didn’t step out of Faith’s embrace, instead looking into her eyes.

“You look pretty with blue eyes, but I miss your real ones.”


“And brown eyes look good on you too, but I like your original, uh, greeny-browny ones.”


“Hazel, they’re Hazel, Faith.”


“Right. That’s what Hazel looks like. Got it.”


Willow chuckled.

“Gotta say honey, in those pants, your ass looks frikkin’ edible,” Faith growled

Buffy blushed, but looked pleased nonetheless.

“You look good as a brunette, suits ya.”


“Don’t get too used to it, one good wash and I'm back to blonde.”


“B? Not that ya don’t look good, but why are ya wearing leather, and bein’ a brunette?”

Buffy gave her a funny look.

“Don’t get me wrong B. Ya look smokin’ hot in those leather pants, and dark hair makes a nice change, just wonderin’ why is all?”


Buffy said quietly. “Tonight’s theme is ‘strong women,’ so I came… as you.”


Faith was speechless.

Eventually, after a long period of stunned silence, she recovered the power of speech. “Uh… me?” she said roughly.


Buffy smiled her flirty smile. “Yes silly, you.”


“I'm… strong? How am I strong?”


“You lead, you take care of our girls Faith. You came back to Sunnydale to help us stop the first. Even with all the bad stuff between us, you took responsibility and turned yourself in. and served time. Faith, you are strong in ways I can’t even grasp.”

She smiled her shy, flirty smile again. “And I love you.”


“B… I dunno what to say, no one’s ever said that to me before. Like, any of it.”


“And I second it,” Willow said.


Faith turned and tossed her lasso around Willow’s slim form. “Your turn. Now ya gotta do what I tell you,” she said with a smirk.


Willow’s eyes widened. “Um, Faith I like you and everything, I mean I think you’re cool, super cool, the coolest, but I don’t like you like that. I was, um, seconding the strong part, not the ‘I love you’ part.”


Faith snorted. “I was gonna say ‘go get us some drinks’ but hey, if ya wanna get busy, go nuts, I ain’t gonna complain. Just buy me candy or flowers afterwards, ‘cos I’m all delicate and girlie.”


Willow blinked and looked at Buffy in surprise. “You’re being very calm about all this.”


Buffy just smiled. “Because I know she’s not serious Will. I’m pretty sure you could dance naked in front of her and yeah, she’d enjoy the show, but you’d get nowhere.”


Willow looked surprised. “Um, can I just say no to the naked dancing?”


“Oh I don’t know. I like the sound of a little naked dancing later,” Tara said softly to Willow. “Just you and me.”


“This is the down side to the damned link, I don’t get to have no fun,” Faith grumbled.


“No, this is the up side to the link, it prevents the kinds of misunderstandings that leave scars.”


Faith nodded sadly. “Makes ya wish we’d listened to it back in the day huh?”


“So am I getting drinks, or smooching Tara?” Willow asked, breaking into the conversation before it could get gloomy.


“Beer Red, if ya would. Ya wanna beer B?”


Buffy shuddered. “Beer and Buffy are un-mixy things. Nope, I’ll have my pina colada, complete with fruity things and an umbrella please.”


“That sounds nice. Will, could you get me one please?” Tara said.


“Okie-dokie. Pina colada’s all round and a beer for Faith, back soon,” Willow said shedding her gold restraints and making for the bar.


“Where did you get this?” Tara asked, fingering the gold sparkly rope.


“Curtain place. Wanna take it for a test drive?”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “Well handcuffs are so cold. And they chafe.”


Buffy sputtered and squeaked. “Tara!”


Faith just laughed. “Damn girl, I’m gonna hafta watch myself around you.”


Willow chose that moment to return with drinks. “Ooo bondage fun! Can we borrow that later?”


Faith was speechless, and Buffy made like a goldfish, her mouth opening and closing, completely unable to articulate.

Tara laughed out loud.

“Oh Goodness, that was good! I wish I had a camera.”


Willow giggled. “You two are so easy.”


Tara shook her head in disappointment. “Really Buffy, you actually thought we’d want to borrow Faith’s rope for bondage fun?”


Buffy looked down at the floor, embarrassed.


“Um, well you had us going there for a minute.”


Tara glanced at Willow’s smile. “Well Buffy, it wouldn’t be very good. The glitter would rub off and be all itchy.”


Willow nodded cheerfully. “And it would never hold up to any real kind of use.”


Buffy was silent again.

“We are definitely being messed with, B.”


Buffy nodded. “I can’t tell if they’re serious, that’s what’s scaring me.”


“Oh hey, nice distracting pina-coladas. Yummy. We should drink them,” Willow said fitting actions to words, and sipping her moisture-beaded drink with a straw.

Tara joined in, both girls sipping their drinks with identical impish expressions.


“What terrifies me, is that you can’t just write it off as crazy talk. Because they just might be getting up to that naughty stuff behind closed doors.”


Willow shrugged. “Well, you know, me and Tara, we play ‘mistress of pain’ every night.”


“See! That’s what I meant! You’ve said that before Rosenberg, I remember. That makes it a thing!”


Faith just shrugged. “Let em. Gimme that beer.”


Buffy stared narrow-eyed at Willow, before huffing mightily and sipping her extra-fruity, umbrella-laden pina colada.


Willow bounced in her seat, suddenly excited about something. “See? This is great! Now you two are a two too, we can do lesbian things together!”

Faith gave her a level look, Buffy looked faintly horrified.

“Um, no not like that! I… I meant like, Lilith fair and double dates and stuff, nothing weird I promise!” Willow looked down and fiddled with her drink. “I’ll just be shutting up now.”


“Well there was that whole ‘mistress of pain’ comment not moments ago. You kinda set the stage there Will,” Buffy said.


Faith joined in. “So what did you have in mind Red? Wear Birkenstocks and complain about men? ‘cos I gotta say, Birkenstocks ain’t my style and all the guys in my life are pretty solid.”


“Except Andrew,” Buffy added.


“I don’t count him as a man. He’s an… Andrew. I’ve dated guys, and he ain’t one. Hell, I’ve dated chicks that were more butch than him.”


“He’s more girly than Dawn, and that’s saying something… speaking of Dawn and co, where are they?” Willow asked.


Faith waved her hand. “Dance floor.”


Willow deflated a little. “Oh right. Maybe I scared them off with the lesbian thing.”


Tara patted her hand reassuringly.


Buffy laughed gently. “Could be. You sort of worried me there for a moment Will.”


Willow looked a little crestfallen. “Sorry Buff. It kind of came out wrong.”


Buffy shrugged. “Eh. I’m not worried. I’m dealing. I’m a girl in love with a girl. It’s so common these days, they even have a name for it.”

Buffy was blushing somewhat pink, something that only Faith could see in the dim light of the club.

She held Faith’s gaze solidly despite her pinkness. “Lesbian. I’m a lesbian. With Faith.”


Faith smiled, all dimples and sunshine.

“Yeah. Me too I guess.”


Buffy smiled happily. “You know Will, you were right. It does get easier.”


Willow squeezed her arm. “You’re good at this sort of stuff Buffy, it just takes you a while to get your head around it.”


Buffy blinked in surprise. “I’m good at this? Cool. Behold the Zen of Buffy. Wait, how am I good at this?”


Bobbing her head and taking a sip of her drink, Willow explained. “Sure you are Buff! I mean, Slayers kill vampires and demons, but you got over it to date Angel. You dealt with me dating a werewolf with barely a blink. Heck, when I came out about Tara, you went from freaked, to totally supportive friend in 30 seconds. And that was in the middle of dealing with Riley, the initiative, Adam, Faith and no sleep. Sorry Faith.”

Faith shrugged. “I was a psycho bitch. I’ve dealt with it. I don’t got Zen.”
She held up her beer. “I got beer. Can’t buy more Zen. Beer you can buy.”


Tara giggled. “You sounded pretty Zen just then. And so much like someone I used to know.”


“The big guy with wings, right?”

Tara nodded, all smiles.

“Cool.”


Anya chose that moment to appear out of nowhere, a brief shimmer announcing her arrival. She held a stunned looking Xander.

“Hello lesbians!” she said cheerfully.


“Eeek!” Willow squealed, recoiling in surprise. “Don’t do that Anya! And I have a name you know!”


“But I love doing that! It’s so much fun watching you go all wide eyed when I appear.”

She sniffed. “Besides, you’ll get used to it soon enough, so I have to have my fun now. Also, as soon as the Powers That Be figure out that I don’t hate Faith, and haven’t killed her, they are probably going to strip me of my powers and drop me in limbo. So I really need to get all my fun right now.”

She saw what they were drinking. “Ooo fruity alcoholic drinks! Xander? Could you go and get fruity alcoholic drinks for us please?”


“Uh, sure. Be right back.”

He wove his way unsteadily through the throngs of girls, headed for the bar.


“I didn’t realize you could, um, orb with people Anya. That might make it a little easier and safer to get to Bohemia than the teleport spell.”


Anya shook her head. “Sorry Willow. I can orb myself wherever I want to go, but if I take someone with me it’s a real strain. I won’t be able to orb for hours after showing off with Xander, so we are walking home. Orbing everyone there would take days, and be deeply unpleasant for me. Which would make it unpleasant for you, because I would be telling you how unpleasant it is. All the time.”


Willow huffed. “Okie-dokie then. Teleport spell it is.”


Xander returned with a pina colada and a beer, looking only slightly more on-balance than he had been.

Faith clinked beer bottles with him.


“Hell of a day X-man. How are ya holdin’ up?”


“Happy. Stunned. Disbelieving. Stunned some more.”


“I hear ya man. It’s beer o’clock. Beer will fix this.”

Faith clinked her cold beer against Xander’s. “Beer fixes everything.”

Faith took a sip and looked at Xander thoughtfully. “Ya sure you’re ok dude?”


He nodded. “Sure just give me a while. A month should do it.”

He swigged his beer.

“Maybe a year. Ugh, my brain is broken.”


“Xander, I would have thought you would be happy that I’m back. Also blonde, super-powered and available for sex,” Anya grumbled.


“Anya honey, I’m still dealing with it. I had barely dealt with the fact that you were gone. I never expected you to be killed, and I sure as hell never expected you to be back, however much I’m glad that you are.”

“I guess I still can’t really believe you’re here.”



“I am here Xander,” she said taking his hand.

She pressed his hand against her breast. “Feel how real I am. My breasts are real, in every sense of the word.”

She sipped her fruity drink with her free hand. “At least until the Powers That Be lose patience and do something horrible to me,” she said in an oddly cheerful matter-of-fact tone.


“Hey Ahn, come sit on my knee and give the gay people conniptions, while I try to imagine this is all really happening.”


Anya cheerfully hopped into his lap.

“This place is strangely comforting. Except for the whole lack of demons thing, it reminds me of D’hoffryn’s halls.”


“Though, filled with lesbians,” Willow added.


Anya shrugged. “I guess that’s why, though I was thinking more that it was comforting because it was dark, but being filled with lesbians was similar too.”


“Huh?” Buffy said.


“D’hoffryn recruited mostly girls. There are more desperate and wronged women then there are men. We mostly hated men. We were together for over a thousand years. There were lesbians.”

“In fact, if I spend the next hundred years enthusiastically riding Xander, I think I’ll still technically be a lesbian.”


“That’s a lotta girl lovin’ there, twinkle-toes.”


Anya shrugged. “I definitely prefer penis. And the men that go with them. But there’s only so many ways the humanoid body goes together with another. Eventually you lose interest in the mechanics of it all, and focus on what it means.”


“Wow, I really wouldn’t have expected you to have said that Anya, especially how much you like those, uh, mechanics with Xander.”


“It helps that he’s a mechanic now I guess,” she said with a grin. “And a mechanic with a great big tool at that.”

Faith snickered, while the others all blushed.

“You see what I did there Xander? That was an allusion to the size of your penis! Aren’t you proud of me?” Anya said cheerfully.


Faith was watching Anya intently as she chattered on.


“Yes honey I caught it. Go me I guess,” Xander said with some embarrassment.


“Ya got nothin’ to be ashamed of Xan,” Faith said. “Just be cool alright?”


“Uh, thanks Faith. Uh, honey, can you get up for a sec? I kinda need to visit the little boys room.”


“Excellent!” she said.


“Um, you know, to actually use it for its intended purpose?”


“Oh. Well, I’ll be here when you get back,” she said cheerfully.


Xander walked off to the men’s room, leaving the girls to talk.

Faith saw him take a left at the men’s room and head upstairs. She caught Willow’s eye and nodded in Xander’s direction.

Willow looked puzzled for a moment, before the light dawned. She nodded to Faith. “Um, actually if we are going to be dancing all night, I might visit the little witches room.”

‘I think Xander needs a little best friend time baby, I’ll be back soon,’ Willow sent.


‘Of course sweetie. Look after him, he’s had a trying couple of days,’ Tara replied.


+++


Willow found Xander leaning on the upstairs balcony, looking out over the town.

“Hey,” she said, sliding the door shut behind her.

She joined him, leaning on the painted metal railing. Together they listened to the faint sounds of the town’s nightlife, barely audible over the muffled music.


Xander nodded. “Hey.”


They stood in silence for a few minutes, just observing the comings and goings of the town at night. In the distance, a particularly observant eye could see dark dressed figures, moving stealthily in the dark places of the night, searching for evil to destroy.


Willow moved closer and put her arm around her oldest friend.

“What’s wrong Xander?”


He leaned into the hug. “I’m not sure I even know Will.”

He thought for a moment, struggling to put his thoughts into words.

“I mean, I should be happy right? I got Anya back, everyone else I care about is happy, and there’s no apocalypse. It should be good right?”

Willow squeezed her oldest friend tight, letting him sort out his thoughts in peace.

“Will, I don’t know what to do… what to feel… anything.”

“I never really got the chance to mourn her properly, there was always too much to do, too many people relying on me. And now there’s something screwy going on with the Powers That Be, and now all of a sudden it’s… just too much Will.”


“Oh Xander,” Willow said sadly. “I’m here for you. You don’t have to be strong all the time.”

His good eye met hers.

“If you need to fall apart Xander, I’ll always be here to hold you together.”


“Thanks Will. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”


“Luckily, that’s a question that will never need answering.”


The two stood in companionable silence, Xander sheltering in Willow’s comforting embrace.

“A very wise and very cute woman once said to me, ‘do what makes you happy.’”


Xander smiled. “Wise and cute huh? You should ask her out sometime.”


“I did.”


A companionable silence fell as Xander thought and Willow gave him room to think.


“Xander?”


“Mmm?”


“Do you love her?”


He had a good solid think.

“Yeah Will. I do, I really do. She drives me bonkers sometimes, and you can wave goodbye to peace and quiet when she’s around. Also dignity and taste. Restraint too sometimes.”

Willow chuckled.

“But she has common sense for miles. And she sees what’s really there you know?” he said earnestly. “And she’s 1100 years old, an immortal, superpowered angelic being.”

He shook his head. “And she loves me.”


Willow squeezed his shoulder in silent support, giving him the space to verbalize his thoughts.

“Me. Xander Harris, regular guy.”


“Oh, hey, now I have to jump in there mister! No way is Xander Harris just a regular guy. He fights demons without slayer powers, runs a world spanning secret organization and personally saved the world single-handedly, when even the Slayer couldn’t.”

Willow leaned in a rested her head against Xander’s. “And you saved me too.”

He smiled sadly.

“Sounds like a very special guy to me,” Willow said affectionately.


He puffed up a little when she said that.

“Well when you put it like that, sure.”

The silence fell again, or at least as much as was possible given their proximity to a very active club.

“Do you still love her?” Willow prodded softly.


Xander didn’t have to stop and think any more. “Yep. I do. There’s no one else for me.”


Willow grinned. “Then go get her Xander! Take her away from here and talk and be with her. And we’re dealing with Anya here, so yes, some kind of sex related activity would be appropriate.”

Xander grinned.

“The other crazy weirdness that is our lives? It can wait, go get your girl.”


Xander stood and squared his shoulders, pushing an imaginary hat forward on his head. “Why, you just watch me little lady.”

He turned and smiled with such shyness and tenderness that it made Willow’s eyes prickle with tears.

“Thanks Will. I… I love you, y’know?”


She smiled warmly. “I love you too, you big doofus. Now go, there’s a crazy, ex-demon, post-mortal being out there waiting for you.”

He grinned and made the imaginary hat pushing, shoulders-squaring motion again.
And strode into the Peach, looking for his girl.


+++


“… and then I realized: Hey, that’s way too many tentacles for one demon to have!”

Xander strode determinedly up to the group, and without stopping, scooped Anya into his arms.
“I'm gonna go ahead and take my girl home, if that’s ok?”


Anya was typically enthusiastic. “Yes please!”


“Yes. Please?” Buffy said, looking more than a touch mortified.

Willow looked similarly alarmed at the conversation she’d walked in on, though Faith was laughing.

Tara had an amused expression on her face, which drew comment from Willow.
“I would have thought you’d be more… eew?”


Tara smiled. “I’ve heard that one before sweetie. Now if she starts to tell you the one about the three hellhounds and the butterscotch pudding, then you’re in trouble.”


Anya smiled, a look of fond reminiscence on her face. “Ah, good times. Home Xander. Then you can paddle my behind, while you tell me what a naughty girl I have been.”


Xander blushed furiously, something only visible to Buffy and Faith in the dim light. He nodded jerkily and left, carrying Anya close.


“Mmm, pink cheeks, sound good B?” Faith said with a cheerful leer.


“I'm trying quite hard not to think about Anya’s bottom, thank you.”


“I meant mine. I think I’ve been a very naughty girl, maybe I need a little discipline.”

Buffy just gave her an amused look. “I know you’re trying to make me blush, I can feel it. The only ones you’re embarrassing are Willow and Tara.”


Faith looked at the pair, Willow was perched on Tara’s knee, Tara’s gleaming arms wrapped around her.


Tara smiled cheekily. “Anya’s my best friend. For her that’s pretty tame.”

Willow just sipped her drink in silence.


“You’re suddenly quiet there Red. Something ya need to share with the class?”


Willow just shrugged. “I like getting spanked. As kinks go, it’s pretty mild.”


Both Buffy and Faith fell silent after that.
And then Willow and Tara grinned cheekily at them.


“Nuts, can’t get a rise out of anyone tonight,” Faith grumbled.


She finished off her beer. “Back in a minute, I need to visit the little Slayer’s room.”


Buffy watched her go, before turning to the other two. “What was that all about?”


Tara smiled. “I think Faith is a little bit like Anya, in that she likes to push other people’s buttons.”


“Well, yeah to Faith. But Anya likes to push buttons?”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “Buffy, Anya has been around for millennia. Do you really think she hasn’t figured out people in all that time?”


“Well she just-”
Buffy broke off and stared into space.


“Sorry Buff, you were saying?” Willow prompted.

Buffy went a little cross-eyed, but said nothing.
“Uh, oh! Ee, ah!” she eventually said.


“Um… ok?” Willow said uncertainly. “You picked a strange time to practice your vowel sounds Buffy. Normally I’d say that was the sound of a complete brain disconnect, but that would be more, you know, me.


Buffy gripped the heavy resin table-top tightly with both hands.
She had yet to speak, though for some reason, she was rather pink.

“Buffy? Are you ok?” Tara asked, starting to get a little concerned.
Buffy whimpered.

Her steel grip slowly crushed the all-but indestructible bar-table beneath her hands. The heavy resin crushed into powder, and spilled through her fingers.
She shook just a little, her face a rigid mask of blankness that would have made millions for botox purveyors around the world.
A squeak escaped from her.
And she relaxed.


“Buffy? What’s wrong? You looked like you were having a seizure or something!”


Buffy was silent and taking deep breaths.
She sighed, an oddly contented sound.


Tara’s eyes widened. “Oh my.”


Willow was starting to look a little panicked. “What? What?!”


Tara covered her mouth, trying to smother her giggles.
‘Sweetie, just relax. Buffy is ok. I think Faith was having a little fun with her.’
‘Wait, what?’
Willow replied.

Buffy by this stage was making happy little sighs and smiling contentedly.

Tara tapped her temple, ‘Remember, they have a link a little like ours, I think.’


‘I… oh. Oh!’

Willow blushed furiously, thankful for the dim light that made her almost invisible.

She thumped her forehead against the table. “I’m scarred forever. I’ve just seen my best friend’s ‘having a happy’ face.”


“No, you’ve seen your best friend’s ‘trying really hard not to look like she’s having a happy’ face,” Buffy said with a sigh.


“That’s very nearly as bad,” Willow mumbled into the table top.


Buffy hummed a little happy tune. “I’m thinking I really shouldn’t have told Faith that this thing we share stops me from freaking out when she does stuff. I think she took it as a challenge.”


Faith sauntered back to the table, likewise rather flushed. “What’s up, chicks?”


“You. Are in soo much trouble. My revenge will be terrible. Terrible and petty.”


“Will it involve paddling my behind, and telling me what a naughty girl I am?”


Buffy gave her a level look, though an element of amusement was present. “No. you’ve already told me that it wouldn’t be much of a punishment.”


“Damn, that sucks, was kinda looking forward to that.”

Faith grinned. “Well maybe I can make it up to ya?”


“I'm all ears,” Buffy said.


“Lemme get up on stage.”


Buffy looked a little surprised.
“Hey, I said I’d sing ya a song right?”


“Ok, now I'm starting to get worried,” Buffy said, still slightly breathless.


“Nah, I won’t embarrass ya much. Promise.”

Faith sauntered up to the stage, Buffy watching the amazing things her skintight blue pants did to her rear.
“I am so gay. I mean really, look at that!” Buffy said with amazement, gesturing at Faith’s tight behind. “I should be jealous, but all I want to do is drag her home and get most of her clothes off.”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “Only most?”


Buffy looked a little squirmy. “Well, yeah, if she takes all of it off, she’ll be my wonderful amazing Faith-“


“And if she doesn’t?” Willow interrupted with a smirk.


“Then I get to make love to Wonder Woman!”

She looked up on the stage, where currently Faith was bribing the DJ.

“Oh my god, how did I get so lucky?” she sighed.


Willow gazed at Tara, adoration written all over her face. “I know the feeling Buff, I really do.”


“I’m the lucky one,” Tara protested. “Who could look at this beautiful witch and not fall in love?”


“I love you baby, but I must lodge a formal protest with the board of lucky people. I’m the lucky one baby.” She looked into her fiancé’s eyes with wonder. “You overturned death to get back to me.”

She held up her hand and kissed the knuckles softly. “And now you’re going to marry me. I swear baby, I feel blessed. No one deserves such wonder, and yet I have it.”


Tara smiled, and gently cupped Willow’s face. “You’ve been through so much Willow. You more than deserve happiness.”



“Ah, young love,” Bridey said, as she hopped up on the tall barstool.


Mary stood behind her, arms wrapped around her waist. “Hey guys.”


“Can you believe it? These two are bickering over who’s the lucky one.”


“Ah, foolish women, I am the lucky one, as everyone well knows. I mean, hey I’m dating Gabby, how awesome is that?”


Willow snuggled into Tara, a task made slightly awkward, as her normally snuggly form was currently wrapped in armour.
“I’m not doing this guys. I’m not going to get into an argument as to who’s the luckiest one, despite having the very best case ever. Nope, not going there, nope, nope,” Willow said, shaking her head comically.


“Nice costumes,” Tara said, looking admiringly at the two newcomers.


Bridey was done up as a red-headed Gabrielle, Mary as classic Xena.
Bridey bounced excitedly. “Yeah, well, we’ve had a while to perfect them y’know. My cousin-brother works in New Zealand on stuff like that. He snagged us a few bits and pieces from the show. Mainly though, he sent us specs for the gear so we could make our own.”


Mary shook her Xena-esque mane of dark hair, and took in the two witches. “Uh, I was gonna say, ‘wow, nice outfits’ but up close, well the detailing is amazing. How did you get it looking so shiny?”

Willow rapped her knuckles on Tara’s forearm, making a metallic ‘bonk-bonk’ sound.

“Whoa, that’s real? That must be heavy.”


Tara smiled. “You get used to it. Not that I’m going to be wearing it every day, but it does have its compensations.”


“It’s magically air-conditioned,” Willow added helpfully.


“And magically light. So it’s more bulky than heavy,” Tara said.


“It must be nice to just, uh, hang out. If you get me?” Bridey said, gesturing to Tara’s wings.


Tara shrugged expressively, her wings adding something to the movement.
“A little. It’s not like they get cramped when they are put away, but yes, it’s good to be myself and ‘Hang out’.”

The music faded away and the faint sounds of someone grabbing a microphone were heard.
Faith took centre stage in the spotlight to a few wolf whistles. Buffy broke out her frowny face in response, though she felt she couldn’t really blame them, Faith was stunning.

“Hey everyone. So, I know it ain’t open mic night or karaoke night or nothin’, but I got up here to sing my girl a song anyway. Weirdly enough, it ain’t a fast dance number, so grab someone ya wanna slow dance with.”
The dim, multi-coloured lights of the Peach darkened even further, leaving only Faith as the brightly lit icon in the centre of the stage.

Faith’s voice was a little rough, but she sang with a power and feeling no one knew she possessed.
As the first few words rolled over an utterly stunned Buffy, she was slowly illuminated by a spot light, until she and Faith were the only two things visible.
She drifted over toward the stage as though she was in a trance and the spotlight followed her until she stood in front of the small stage and Faith sang directly to her.

Faith sings
Spoiler:
Laura Branigan: Power of love

The whispers in the morning
Of lovers sleeping tight
Are rolling like thunder now
As I look in your eyes

I hold on to your body
And feel each move you make
Your voice is warm and tender
A love that I could not forsake

'Cause I am your lady
And you are mi-ine
Whenever you reach for me
I'll do all that I can
Lost is how I'm feeling lying in your arms
When the world outside's too
Much to take
That all ends when I'm with you

Even though there may be times
It seems I'm far away
Never wonder where I am
'Cause I am always by your side

'Cause I am your lady
And you are mi-ine
Whenever you reach for me
I'll do all that I can
Lost is how I'm feeling lying in your arms
When the world outside's too
Much to take
That all ends when I'm with you

We're heading for something
Somewhere I've never been
Sometimes I am frightened
But I'm ready to learn
Of the power of love

The sound of your heart beating
Made it clear
Suddenly the feeling that I can't go on
Is light years away

'Cause I am your lady
And you are mi-ine
Whenever you reach for me
I'll do all that I can
Lost is how I'm feeling lying in your arms
When the world outside's too
Much to take
That all ends when I'm with you

We're heading for something
Somewhere I've never been
Sometimes I am frightened
But I'm ready to learn
Of the power of love

The sound of your heart beating
Made it clear
Suddenly the feeling that I can't go on
Is light years away…




Willow pulled Tara to the dance floor and held her close as Faith sang her heart out to Buffy.
To one side of them, two Tomb-raiders were dancing together, one resting her head on the other’s shoulder.
One the other side, Xena was slow dancing with Gabrielle.

The two witches had a little more room than most, largely due to Tara’s wings, which took up a fair amount of space, even when folded.

‘Remember that night at the Bronze?’ Willow whispered.


Tara smiled beatifically, ‘That was one memory I was overjoyed to have back.’


‘We were so happy, we floated.’


‘Look down sweetie.’



Willow looked down, sure enough they were floating several inches off the ground.

Willow felt tears come to her eyes, ‘Goddess I’ve missed you.’


‘You are never going to miss me again Mrs Rosenberg. I swear, as long as we live, we are never going to be apart for more than a few days.’


Willow gasped. Every time she thought of the ring on her finger, or their eventual marriage, it took her breathe away. When she thought of being Mrs Rosenberg, or Mrs Rosenberg-Maclay, it was heart-stopping.
‘Hold me baby, hold me and don’t let go.’


Tara smiled radiantly, ‘I won’t let you go.’


‘Um, Tara? I hate to mess with a really romantic moment, but, um, you’re glowing.’



Tara blinked in surprise, ‘Oops, I thought I had it under control.’
She concentrated for a moment and the glow faded.


‘Is it a problem baby?’


Tara chuckled, ‘No. not unless you consider being happy to be a problem. It happens when I haven’t cast any spells in a while, and I’m happy.’

She kissed Willow tenderly, and the glow returned, ‘Darn.’


She felt Willow’s smile against her lips, ‘We have to get out of here and let off some… steam?’

It was hard to kiss with both of them smiling, but they gave it a valiant attempt.


‘I think a couple of flight-related spells should stop me, um, ‘leaking’ sweetie.’


‘Ooo! Ooo! I’m pretty sure I have my latest flight spell sorted out, and plus: I’m dressed for it! See ‘cos I’m a witch, and I have a broomstick!’



Tara broke away from the kiss giggling.

“Oh my, with the stripy stockings even!”


“You two are weird. You know that right? I mean I love you both, but you're definitely weird,” Dawn said, appearing as if from nowhere.


Tara realized she’d been dancing next to them the whole time, with Heather.

She raised a questioning eyebrow at Heather’s head, resting comfortably on Dawn’s shoulder.

Dawn just shrugged slightly with her free shoulder.

Tara smiled warmly and gave her a discrete thumbs up, to which Dawn responded with an eye roll.


Willow was looking over Tara’s shoulder at the stage, where Faith was finishing up her love song to Buffy.

Buffy was leaning against the edge of the stage with tears running freely down her cheeks, a look of adoration lighting her face.

When Faith had let the final notes fade, she was on her knees at the edge of the stage, and Buffy hurled herself into her arms.

Now that Faith’s solo was over, the regular multi-coloured lighting came back up, which served to make Tara’s faint glow a little less obvious.

The couple passionately kissing on stage attracted a few well-meaning whistles and some applause. When they finally broke for air, Buffy grabbed the mic and sniffled. “She’s mine, so don’t even think about it!”


Willow laughed. “Definitely level two!”


+++


“My turn,” Tara said.


“Um, I’m guessing you don’t mean kissing Faith or Buffy? Not that they’re not pretty, but you’ve never-“


Tara smiled and pressed a finger softly to Willow’s lips.

“My turn,” she whispered again.

She smiled at her puzzled fiancé and moved towards the stage.

Willow remembered Tara’s earlier comment about a song, and found herself wondering what she was going to sing. Had anyone asked, she would have expected Faith to go for a rock number and Tara to do something ballad-y.

But given Faith’s epic rendition of an 80’s love song, she had no idea what to expect.


She saw Tara talking to the DJ, as Faith carried a crying Buffy from the stage.
Buffy had her arms wrapped around Faith’s neck and a strange expression on her face: crumpled and tear stricken, but almost luminous with joy.

“No-one’s ever… and I…” she said, and treated Faith to a teary kiss.


“Shh, it’s ok baby. I’ve got ya,” Faith murmured reassuringly.


Willow was distracted from her best friend’s moment of teary joy, by the soft sound of the song’s background music slowly swelling.

Tara took the stage, and everything else vanished from Willow’s world.
And as Tara sang, Willow felt the river of melancholy flow through her as Tara told of her life without Willow.

Tara sings
Spoiler:
Somewhere

Lost in the darkness
Hoping for a sign
Instead there's only silence
Can't you hear my screams?

Never stop hoping
Need to know where you are
But one thing's for sure
You're always in my heart

I'll find you somewhere
I'll keep on trying
Until my dying day
I just need to know
Whatever has happened
The truth will free my soul

Lost in the darkness
Tried to find your way home
I want to embrace you
And never let you go

Almost hope you're in heaven
So no one can hurt your soul
Living in agony
Cause I just do not know
Where you are

I'll find you somewhere
I'll keep on trying
Until my dying day
I just need to know
Whatever has happened
The truth will free my soul

Wherever you are
I won't stop searching
Whatever it takes me to know

I'll find you somewhere
I'll keep on trying
Until my dying day
I just need to know
Whatever has happened
The truth will free my soul…



As the last notes of the song faded, Willow became aware of sensations other than Tara. Eventually enough of her brain came to life to recognize her friend’s awestruck looks.


“Wow. Glinda can really sing huh?”


Buffy sniffled. “Will? You’re crying.”


Now it was Willow’s turn to sniffle. “Am I? oh, hey look at that, I guess I am.”


“Makes two of us I guess,” Buffy said with another sniffle.


Tara hopped down from the Peach’s small stage and was enveloped in a huge Willow-hug.
Neither of them moved for the next minute, as they silently communed by touch.


“As much as I love your outfit baby, it’s not very huggable,” Willow said, once they had separated enough that much needed oxygen could flow between them.


“True. We shall have to get me out of it at some point. Does that sound ok?” Tara said, her glow becoming less understated.


Willow bobbed her head cheerfully. “Oh yes. More than ok.”


“Though it is good to wear when I’m flying. It keeps me at just the right temperature, and keeps the rain off quite well.”


“Baby? You’re glowing again.”


Tara smiled. “Well I am happy, in love, and with my friends. Of course I'm glowing.”

Willow gently steered Tara towards the lights, making her glow seem a little less obviously magical. They took a seat on the couch, Tara sitting carefully so that the edges of her armour didn’t gouge anyone, and so her wings didn’t get caught on anything.

Faith was sitting on the other couch holding a somewhat recovered Buffy on her lap. The pair were contentedly snuggling and murmuring sweet nothings to each other.

Out on the dance floor girls were dancing wildly, throwing themselves around with the kind of abandonment that only the young and invincible can manage.

It probably helped that the vast bulk of them were Slayers, though Dawn was still out in the thick of it with them.

Tara was smiling fit to bust, Willow could feel a strange sense of pride coming from Tara. She followed Tara’s gaze out to the dance floor where Dawn was whipping around wildly, her dance style owing more to enthusiasm than skill.

‘Just look at her sweetie. Look at Dawn.’

Willow hugged her beloved from one side, and rested her head on Tara’s warm shoulder plate.
‘She’s become a beautiful young woman.’


‘And she’s happy, for the first time in a long while. She’s got friends, family and a place in the world.’


‘She’s blossoming sweetie,’
Tara said, resting her head lovingly against Willow’s.

The pair affectionately watched Dawn dancing with Heather, who was dancing only slightly more coordinatedly. The pair were really dancing up a storm, Jules dancing nearby with a rapt blonde girl.

‘I feel like a proud parent. Our little girl is growing up baby.’


‘Buffy is going to implode when it comes time to have ‘that’ talk.’


Tara chuckled, ‘I think we covered that the other day with the banana.’


Willow winced, ‘God, was anyone we know not hanging around when we did that? That was possibly the most embarrassing thing I have ever been involved in. Parts of me are still embarrassed, and refusing to speak to each other. Which makes me less coordinated than usual. If that’s possible.’


‘Oh I don’t know, I think you dance quite well. And you never seem to have trouble with… other things,’ Tara said, smiling sweetly.


‘Yes well, my mind is fully occupied then. ‘Other things’ are far more interesting than dancing. Or vampires.’


As one beat-heavy dance number finished and another started, Dawn bounded out of the press, towing Heather.

The two of them were positively glowing and were covered in a fine sheen of sweat, though Dawn was breathing much harder.
“Slayers. Hard to. Keep up. With,” she gasped.


Heather bounced. “This is so much fun! You two should get out there and mix it up a little!”


Willow shook her head. “Nope. Too sweaty for me. Plus we’re going flying later, we need to save some energy for that.”


“That is so cool! That has to be like, the coolest date ever!” Heather gushed, clearly envious.


Tara smiled crookedly. “It certainly is an exclusive date. We don’t run into many other couples out there, flying above the clouds.”


There was a chuckle from Willow. “It certainly brings new meaning to the term ‘skyclad’ that’s for sure.”


“Especially the other day, sweetie. You looked like the Moon Goddess come to life.”


“Well, Moon Goddesses are apparently quite cold. The flying was neat. Though I could live without the mortal terror part. And the freezing my butt off part wasn’t too spiffy. But the flying with Tara part? That was pretty cool, you know apart from the actual cold.”


The light went on in Dawn’s face. “Oooh!” she said with a sound of dawning comprehension. “That explains the dramatic appearance of Tara dropping out of the sky.”


“My baby was shivering and cold, I was in a hurry,” Tara said.


“It’s surprisingly cold up in the sky. Less surprising when you’re naked.”


“With that in mind, I think we might head off fairly shortly. We’ve got a big day tomorrow and we don’t want to be up too late.”


“Um, Tara? Why are you glowing?” Dawn asked.


“Oops. My, um, magical tank is full, and it tends to leak out as a glow. I leak more when I’m happy.”


“Oh. So you weren’t happy before?”


“I was happy, though it took a while to really sink in that I was home. But I also had to recharge my batteries from my journey. I was running on empty when I arrived. If it wasn’t for Willow, I would never have made it.”

Willow looked away, tears pricking her eyes.
Tara felt the sudden surge of emotion through their link. She took Willow’s hand in hers.


“Sweetie? What’s wrong?”


Willow shook her head slowly. “It wasn’t me.”

Tara seemed quite surprised.

“Don’t get me wrong, I put everything into getting you home, into tearing open those last dimensional boundaries. And mean everything. I had been preparing for weeks, with Faith’s help.”

“I put absolutely everything I had into that barrier, to tear it open. I put my life and soul on the line. And it wasn’t enough. I don’t know where the power came from.”


Faith looked surprised. “Wait, you: super witch, didn’t have enough power to get Snow White home? I thought you were like, mega powerful?”


“Faith, between us we unleashed enough power to turn most of north America into molten rock. But it is nearly impossible to open a dimensional gateway. Which is why naturally occurring ones, like Hellmouths, are such hot property.”


“And it still wasn’t enough.” Tara said softly.


Willow’s voice was hollow. “You were a long way from home baby. I used every scrap of power I had: light, dark, everything. I used all the power stored in the crystals, and every bit of power I could tear from the earth. It nearly killed me, and it wasn’t enough.”


“So where did the power come from?” Dawn said.


“It felt like… love. Like family. Like belonging,” Willow said in a faraway voice, remembering the feelings of that fateful evening. “I think the Goddess opened the door.”


“The Goddess does not answer prayers sweetie, she doesn’t take sides,” Tara said softly.


“Well somebody did. I was desperate and I screamed to her. And suddenly, there you were,” Willow said with suspiciously moist eyes.


“Hey T? when ya were telling ya story the other day, didn’t ya say that she helped ya make contact with Red here? Like, mojo’d up ya buddy, and that tree?”


“True.”


“Well, um, that’s slightly terrifying when you think about it,” Willow said.


Faith scratched her head. “Uh, I’m lost. Why’s that terrifying? Sounds like good news to me.”


Tara spoke. “Because the Mother Goddess does not get involved. She does not take sides, not even in conflicts as serious as the Master, or The First. So why now?”


Willow waved her arms nervously. “The terrifying-ness comes from the idea that whatever is going on is worse than anything we have ever dealt with, or anyone else for that matter, which is pretty scary because, whoo, that business with the First was really not-fun!”


Buffy pouted. “Great, more apocalypses. Behold the fun that is our lives.”


“Got somethin’ ya didn’t have before though,” Faith said.


“You?” Buffy asked, smiling warmly.


Faith nodded. “Yep. Though what I meant was, that there’s a coupla’ weddings that ain’t gonna happen, if we don’t save the damn world.”


“So we’re not saving the world? We’re saving Willow and Tara’s wedding?” Buffy said.


“Ours too,” Faith added. A small and disbelieving smile appeared on her face. “Goddamn. I can’t believe I just said that. I’m getting’ married. An’ it don’t freak me out. Much.”

Buffy giggled as Faith spoke with amazement in her voice.

“God help me, I’m actually looking forward to it.”


“Can we even get married in this state?” Tara asked.


“Fuck ‘em. We walk to the church, marriage place or whatever, over the bodies of whatever demons are involved in the latest apocalypse, an’ we force them to marry us.”


“Now that’s something I’d pay to see!” Jules said.


“Hell yes. I’ve saved the world once already-”

“Twice,” Buffy interjected.

“-An’ you guys have a buncha times. Bout time we got some damn recognition. Also whoever’s runnin’ this state is a shithead, if gay people ain’t got the same rights as everyone else.”


“Can I slay them?” Buffy asked cheerfully. “They sound pretty evil.”


“Pretty sure being a shithead ain’t a slaying offence B. If it was, we’d kinda have to kill the world.”

She got up. “C’mon B, let’s show the tiny tots how it’s really done. Then I’ve got a little announcement to make about an asshole jeweller.”

Buffy took her hand, and Faith pulled her upright.

They made their way to the dance floor, and proceeded to dance with such energy and abandonment that a number of the junior slayers stopped to watch.

Watching miniature-Faith dirty-dancing with Wonder Woman was not a sight to be missed.


“They certainly are, um, physical,” Tara said.


She and Willow just stared with amazement at the steamy antics of their friends they ground and writhed against each other unashamedly.


“I feel so conflicted,” Willow said, as her two friends rubbed and ground on each other.

“On the one hand, I’m happy for them both, but on the other hand I can’t help but feel embarrassed watching them, and on the other other hand, so I guess I have 3 hands now, is it wrong that seeing them turns me on a little? Am I a bad person?”


Tara laughed musically. “If seeing two beautiful women dancing like that doesn’t turn you on at least a little, you might have to hand in your lesbian card.”


“Oh well, still have my lesbo street cred then.”


She eyed her two friends. Dawn was still dancing with Heather, and trying desperately to look everywhere except where her sister was.


Willow whistled under her breath. “Baby, I don’t think they’re dancing. That looks like sex, done to music.”

Tara looked at the pair, who despite their obvious arousal, showed no inclination to run off home just yet.


“They don’t seem to be in a hurry to stop,” Tara said amusedly. “This must be more of that Slayer stamina I keep hearing about.”


Willow muttered to herself. “Note to self: next spell to research: some kind of sound blocking spell.” She grumbled. “I don’t think I could survive another ‘till the break of dawn’ Slayer sex marathon, not that I would be involved in any way, but you know what I meant. You did know what I meant right?”


“I know what you meant sweetie.”


Tara leaned over and spoke softly in Willow’s ear. “You know, I'm not one for this much dancing, but I do know one special activity that I like, one for just you and me. One that I’d like to do tonight.”


“Are we talking about the flying, or the smoochies and snuggles?”


Tara bobbed her head. “Yes, definitely.”


“Gosh,” Willow said happily. “My lucky night.”


Tara spoke quietly in her ear. “Not yet baby, not yet.”


Willow put on a really bad western accent. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand, missy.”


Tara laughed lightly. “I’ll just let the others know.”


She pulled out her phone (now Willow certified) and sent a message to the Scoobies. Catching Dawn’s eye she waved and mimed flapping wings with her hands, fluttering her wings slightly for emphasis.

Dawn grinned hugely and gave her a thumbs up, before returning to dancing with her co-Lara.


Tara smiled to herself and wondered when ‘that talk’ was going to make an appearance.
“Let’s go sweetie, many good things need to be done before we sleep, and we have an early start tomorrow.”


“We should head back on foot before we um, take off. Less witnesses. And while I don’t think I'm gonna blow my clothes off this time, let’s not take chances.”


“You are most definitely going to be naked this evening, but that comes after flying.”


“Or during?” Willow said, with a Faith-style eyebrow waggle.


Tara laughed at her beloved’s antics. “Smoochies, definitely. But I prefer not to be rushed when it comes to the good things, and in the air, I don’t think we could be anything but rushed.”


“I heard that there are some species of bird that, um, ‘do it’ in the air. Dawn saw it on the discovery channel and gave me this awful grin.”


“Sounds a bit hit and miss,” Tara responded with wry half-grin.


Willow held her head in mock-hurt, producing a chuckle from Tara. “Ouch. I think that actually hurt.”


“Come on Willow, before we turn into pumpkins.”



Out on the dance floor, the chosen two were finally enjoying a slow dance.

“You did that for Willow?” Buffy asked quietly.


Faith looked down, embarrassed. “Sure. Red needed a hand and no-one else could help, so… yeah.”

Buffy’s gaze moistened a little.

“Don’t get too impressed. Mostly I lugged big chunks of crystal around and did a bit of meditating,” she muttered.


Buffy lifted Faith’s chin with a gentle finger. “This is why I love you,” she said. She pressed a tender kiss against Faith’s soft lips.
She looked down bashfully and shot Faith an upwards glance with her flirty smile. “That and your big gooey center,” she said.


“Hey! It’s not that big…” Faith protested, and interrupted herself. “Uh, you meant my big heart or somethin’… right?”


Now Buffy looked puzzled. “What else could I possibly mean?”

Faith glanced around the room, not really taking in any of the sights, just really trying not to look at a really confused Buffy.
“Uh, nuthin’ B. Just y’know, wanted to keep some shreds of my cool image.”


“Why don’t I believe you?”


“Just caught me by surprize is all.”


Buffy shook her head. “Nope. Still not buying it.”
She had felt the spike of upset emotion from Faith, followed by the building tidalwave of embarrassment.

Faith had made a national sport out of making her blush. And it was almost impossible to do the same in return. So when something like this dropped into her lap, she intended to make the most of it. After all, Faith was adorable when she blushed, which to be fair, was always her excuse for messing with Buffy.
That, and revenge for the remote orgasm she had been blasted with, not so long ago.


Buffy put on her best pout. “Honey? What’s wrong? Did I say something bad?”


Faith just shrugged. “Just got the wrong idea is all. No big deal B.”


“But I don’t want to upset you Faith. Tell me what I said wrong, baby. I need to know so I don’t do it again.”


Faith opened her mouth to protest, when she realized that she could feel the sense of anticipation from Buffy.
If anything, she realized that being caught out by Buffy made her embarrassment worse. She could feel the heat in her face, the heat of a rare and furious blush. And Buffy’s night-adapted eyes could make it out perfectly.


She groaned and fell back against the couch, almost able to feel Buffy’s ‘I win’ smirk with her eyes shut.
She opened one eye, and there it was, the smirk.


“I’d bet dollars to donuts, you have no idea why I freaked. You’re just happy I did, so’s you could have your revenge, right?”


Buffy bobbed her head and grinned, snuggling into Faith.
“Yep. All true. So what was all that about?”


“Babe, you are reading all the wrong kinds of romances. Lemme tell you what ‘center’ means to some folks.”



+++

_________________
“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 Oct 05, 2015 4:18 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that Willow helped Xander understand his feelings for Anya... I guess The Goddess helping Tara to get back to Willow has something to do with the comming smackdown with Powers That Are Soon Gonna Get Their Asses Kicked...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:35 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hi Azirahael. I liked the humor in this one. Though now I can't help but ponder the idea of D'hoffryn running his inner circle of vengeance demons like the average "Harem" style anime. It was also fun when Anya admitted to the fact that over the course of the last eleven centuries of vengeance she and her coworkers still found the time to get down.

And Faith's reaction to Buffy's use of the word center was great. Though now the episode of Family Guy where Stewie dresses in drag and asks if girls worry about having "big vaginas" is stuck in my head.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:46 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Hi Citanul!

Not so much a harem.
I look at it as D'hoffryn couldn't care less. Sex-stuff is not his thing.

But so much capacity for vengeance in the downtrodden female of the species, oh yess.

So, D'hoffryn's crew is mostly female.

And what follows it what happens when you have forever :)

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:01 pm 
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*** Trigger warning: attempted rape***
I don't dwell on it, but it's there, so be warned.


A Darker shade of Red.



“I love flying! Nearly as much as I like cloooooothes!”
Willow went zooming past Tara, somewhat erratically, like a highly caffeinated bird.

For reasons known only to herself, Willow had her prop broomstick tucked tightly between her legs, and was using it to steer. She also had a small blinky-red pushbike light attached to her dress’s sash at the back.


‘It’s weird, but using a tool to direct the spell? Makes it a lot easier to steer,’ Willow sent on their private line.

She went whooshing past in the other direction.


Tara had a huge grin on her face. Watching her fiancé zooming about on a broomstick, like an extra from a Harry Potter movie, brought a smile to her face.

Willow was almost child-like in her joy discovering new things, and it filled Tara with wonder and love to see it.


‘I think I see why witches used broomsticks, it’s vibrating quite a bit from the spell!’ Willow sent.
Tara just about fell out of the sky laughing.


Willow made quite a comical sight in her witches outfit, with her flying goggles on and her broomstick firmly clutched in both hands. Her hat was long gone, there was just no way to keep a wide-brimmed pointy hat on. Not while flying at any rate.
She had a huge grin on her face as she went zooming past.
‘Ack! pthbpt!’ Willow sent, ‘I think I swallowed a bug!’


Tara lost height again.


‘I think I’m getting the hang of this flying thing!’

Willow went flying past, upside down this time, grinning madly as she went.
Willow seemed to have mastered actually moving through the air, but seemed to be lacking in turning ability. Or direction.


Tara laughed, managing not to lose too much height this time, ‘You-you look very cute with the goggles.’


‘They’re really useful! Not only am I not a Willow-sicle, I can actually see what I'm doing!’



Tara was sedately sculling her way through the night sky, well above the damp and uncomfortable cloud layer. And far from prying eyes. Willow was orbiting her erratically as she struggled to control her flight, using Tara as something of a landmark in the dark sky.

Tara’s joy was still leaking from her as light, though up above the clouds it was less of an issue with no one to see. Though Willow found her to be a wonderful thing to orbit erratically around.

And she simply let go, letting her excess energy bleed off and her glow brighten. As bright as they were, even her brightly glowing form was not particularly visible at range.

The night air was crisp and cool, and the clouds below were thick and clumpy, like whipped cream.
Willow zoomed past more slowly, but if anything, a little more erratically.


‘You look pretty when you glow,’ she sent, ‘also this flying thing is a little easier when you don’t try to make with the slowness.’


‘I think that’s just you all over, sweetie.’


‘Heeheehee!’


‘And you managed to keep your clothes on too.’


‘Not for long missy.’


‘I insist, no getting naked until we are back home, in our rooms.’


‘Oh poop.’



Tara used her superior manoeuvrability to flick over to Willow, behind and above her slightly wobbly form.
She pinched Willow’s pert bottom, before taking a huge scoop out of the air and banking away at speed.


“Eeek!” Willow shrieked. A couple of miles in the air is not when one expects to get one’s bottom pinched, and Willow gave voice to that surprise.

Willow turned as tightly as she could manage, her broomstick protesting by vibrating fiercely. The heavy vibes and the location of the broomstick about her person, made her powers of concentration vanish.
Which made her wobbly flight downright erratic.

Tara wiggled her bottom teasingly, and put on a burst of speed.
That focused Willow.

Her wobbling stopped and she picked up speed, zeroing in on Tara’s bottom.

Tara could sense the change in the currents of the air as Willow stopped wobbling around and picked up speed.
Partly to test Willow’s speed, and partly for the simple joy of flight, she drew more magic from the sky and shot ahead with redoubled speed.

Willow had a lock on the yummy bottom in her mental sights, no way was it getting away. She focussed, really concentrated all her formidable will on that cute behind, and she caught up.

Tara could feel Willow catching up. She was impressed, though for some reason her bottom felt warm. She was going flat out, close to the fastest she could move through the sky, save in emergencies.
So she started jinking and dodging, snapping from side to side with lightning speed.

It cost her some forward momentum, but Willow was unable to match her manoeuvrability in the air.

Not wanting to discourage Willow, or particularly minding a bit of touching, Tara slowed her high speed aerobatics and started to fly in a spiral, gaining height.
She sensed Willow’s grin, and the laser-like lock on her rear, as she joined in, spiralling around the night sky.


+++


Ted yawned.

He was tired and annoyed.

He muttered to himself about the vagaries of fate. That fate saw him making a night delivery of a plane, to an airfield two towns over.
Worse, he had to leave the plane there for much needed maintenance, so he had to catch the train back.

This would never have happened if he hadn’t told his co-workers about his alien theories. Now he got all the annoying jobs.
If they’d only paid attention when they were flying, they would have seen what was really out there.

He squinted out the window of his single engine Skyhawk.
He caught a small flash of red light.


There it was again!


Looking carefully, he saw a flickering red light and a dim white one spiralling around each other in the dark night.

He reached for the radio. “Uh, Redstone tower, this is Skyhawk eight-Charlie-Papa requesting position check,”


Radio hissed slightly as the tower called back. “Skyhawk eight-Charlie-Papa we have you northbound on heading 023 at 3000 feet… Ted, you’re right where you’re supposed to be.”


“Uh, hey Marcus, can you check the scope, I’ve got running lights off my left side and I don’t wanna hit anyone.”


“Skyhawk eight-Charlie-Papa, scope is clear, just you up there Ted. You seeing UFO’s again?”


“Dammit Marcus that ain’t funny I-“


He cut off as the flickering red light went past him, the staggered line of red in the night sky revealing itself to be a witch. On a broomstick. With a very determined expression on her goggled face. A blinking red light was attached to her dress.

Ted was utterly speechless.


“Skyhawk eight-Charlie-Papa… Ted? You ok there buddy?”


Swimming in out of the dark, the fuzzy white light revealed itself as an angel, illuminated from within by her own heavenly glow. Her gleaming armour was lit by the strobes on the bottom of his plane. He only glimpsed her for a moment, lit up by the strobes on his fuselage, but he thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

She waved at him, then she snapped her white wings and peeled off with a speed that a fighter jet would have envied.


“Ted? Talk to me buddy, I’m starting to worry.”

Ted realized that he had one hand up, frozen in a wave.


“Uh, Redstone Tower?”


“Go ahead Ted.”


“Uh, never-mind, just city lights reflecting off my canopy I guess… No big deal.”


+++


“Aww c’mon Dawn, come on patrol with us!” Heather whined.

The trio were standing under a street light, enjoying the cooler air and quiet night outside the peach.


“Guys, I’m beat! Believe it or not, I am not a slayer. I can’t train all day, dance all evening and slay all night. I’ve got a big day tomorrow, and I need my beauty sleep.”

She pointed at Jules. “And you are not even up for patrol tonight, the Valkyries have the night off.”


Jules shrugged. “Yeah well, Buffy’s taking Heather’s squad out to the train station tonight, an’ I wanna help out.”


Dawn grinned. “Show off is more like.”


Jules buffed her nails on her boiler suit. “Don’t know what you mean.”


“Faith has you guys pulling way harder training schedules than anyone else, and now you want to do extra work?”


“Just going to hang with my BFF is all.”


“Sure-sure.”


Dawn yawned. “Well have fun. I have to be up at stupid o’clock tomorrow, so I’m going home to sleep.”


Heather put a comforting arm around Dawn’s waist. “You’ll be fine tomorrow, and you can tell us both about it when you get back.”

She bounced excitedly on the balls of her feet. “We can have like, pizza and ice-cream and you can spend all night telling us about it.”


“Yeah, it’ll be fun. We can make a girls night of it, stay up late, have a sleepover, all that good stuff.”


“I still wish you guys were coming though.”


Heather gave her a squeeze. “So do we.”


Dawn yawned again.

“Ugh. Night guys.”


“Night Dawn,” Jules said. “Looking forward to having you back.”

Heather just gave her a squeeze.



As Dawn wandered off to bed, Jules gave Heather a grin. “So… that was some interesting dancing in there.”


Heather looked embarrassed. “You shut up.”


+++

Dawn smiled as she walked the few blocks back to base.
As tired as she was, and as worried as she was about tomorrow, there was a sense of excitement about their upcoming adventure.

She was finally going to get some answers about her origins.

She was still smiling when hands reached out from the darkness and grabbed her.



Strong hands wrapped around her mouth and waist, lifting her easily off the ground and silencing her as she struggled. A sweet, fumy smell filled her lungs as she was carried with contemptuous ease into the alleyway.

She struggled and kicked to no avail, and she was carried deeper into the alleyway. At the far end of the narrow, dimly lit passage, she could see a dark green van, highlighted by the orange streetlights.
Instinctively, she held her breath, trying to fight off the dizziness and fumes. She knew that if she ended up in the van, things would be much worse for her.

She tried kicking up and behind her body, but her assailant was walking in an odd crabwise fashion, that made it impossible to connect with anything meaningful.
She tried hitting with her fists, but her assailant was obviously experienced at this sort of thing, and she did not have enough reach. All she could hit was his muscular thigh, and though she was a fit young woman, she was no slayer.

And she was trying hard not to think about what that was pressing into her bottom.

The cold, hard part of her started to think. Her instinctive reaction to kick and thrashed had actually helped her, in that her assailant probably expected her to just be a regular panicky girl.

“Don’t struggle girl. I don’t mean to hurt you. Quite the opposite, we’re going to spend lots of time together.”

Dawn’s innards knotted as she realized what he intended to do. No blood draining rituals, or insane plan hatched by barely human vampires. Just pure, human, horror. As if the rampant erection pressing against her behind wasn’t clue enough.

Dawn had seen as many apocalypses as she had birthdays, and that sort of thing will burn the fear right out of a person. She focused on what she was doing, not what might happen.

Her pistols were real, but they were buttoned down for safety and not loaded.

But the knife she had, that was real too.

She drew the slim, almost stiletto blade from her wrist sheath, and drove it back behinds her with everything she had, muscles driven by fear and fury.

She felt the body carrying her freeze in disbelieving horror, as the tip of the knife grate on bone.
She gave a muffled scream as she wrenched the razor sharp blade out with a slash, freeing herself as the powerful arms went suddenly limp.
The formerly terrifying presence curled himself into a ball around the spreading stain on the crotch of his jeans

Dawn looked at her hands.
Blood.
Warm blood.

Her assailant was making an almost inaudible sound of uttermost agony, almost like steam escaping from a kettle, somewhere in a neighbour’s house.

All fury left her, leaving her shivering and cold.
He looked almost pathetic, lying on the ground, clutching at the source of his agony.

And Dawn remembered what he had tried to do, she felt her gorge rise in her throat and almost vomited.


She fled.


+++


‘Willow!’ Tara screamed across their link.
Her mental voice conveyed her alarm every bit as well as her physical voice did.

Willow quit chasing her and came close alongside.
“Tara, what’s wrong?”


“I don’t exactly know baby, just something feels wrong. Really wrong.”

Willow’s expression became determined, ‘we should get back home.’[i]

Tara nodded. Ribbons of light rippled across her wings as she called upon her connection to the endless sky. She pushed for home with all possible haste, Willow kept pace, with little arcs of lightning popping and snapping from the end of her broomstick.


+++


When they arrived at home, it did not take them long to find the cause of the distress.

Tara and Willow found Dawn in her bathroom, muttering and frantically washing the sticky, half-dried blood from her hands.


Tara almost froze. “Oh no.”


Willow cried in shock. “Dawn!”


Dawn ignored them as she kept scrubbing.

The sink looked like a slaughterhouse, awash with red, her knife lying discarded in the bottom of the pool of unclean water.
The back of her beige shorts was flecked with dark red, but she seemed otherwise uninjured.


“Dawnie? Are you alright?” Tara asked, touching her gently on the shoulder.


Dawn flinched, but kept right on washing feverishly until all the blood was gone.

She dried off her hands almost obsessively and turned to them, her face as white as any vampire, save for the red around her eyes.


“That’s a lot of blood Dawnie,” Tara said softly, her every aspect radiating compassion. “What happened?”


“I was walking home, after I left the Peach,” Dawn said in a monotone.

She was shivering now.

Her voice turned hollow. “And this guy… he grabbed me and…”

She fell, sobbing, into Tara’s arms and bawled loudly, as red-faced and unrestrained as any newborn, almost screaming with her cries.


“A guy did this? What did he… oh!” Willow said.


Tara was shocked almost beyond her capacity to think, but she registered the expression changing on Willow’s face. Shock. Followed by revulsion. And finally anger.

Deep anger.

She could feel it flooding into the link they shared, white hot fury, forged by Willow’s fearsome will into something terrifying.
And cold.

Tara was forcibly reminded, that this woman had taken on a goddess in [i]her
name. She had fought an immortal, invincible goddess, and made her scream.

Willow might be adorable and slightly spazzy, but deep down was hidden a soul of fire. Something that only threats to her loved ones could bring forth.


“Dawn? Did he hurt you? Did he do anything to you?” Willow said. Her voice was filled with compassion, though Tara could sense an edge to it.

Dawn was inconsolable as she wept, but she managed to shake her head.


Relief swept through Tara.
“Willow-”


“It’s going to be ok Dawn. He’s not going to get away with this, I promise,” Willow said, her voice cold and hard, something Tara had never seen.


“Willow!”


Willow’s dark green gaze met her own.


Tara said evenly. “I'm coming with you.”

Willow shook her head.


Tara spoke in a tone that brooked no disagreement. “If there’s this much blood, he’ll be at the hospital, or the morgue. So there’s no hurry. We will look after Dawn and then we will find him. Together.


Willow’s implacable gaze met one milder, but every bit as determined as her own.
She blinked, almost as if she remembered something.

“You’re right. Together.”


‘Later, you and I are going to talk, but for now there are more important things to deal with.’


Together they lead a weeping Dawn to her bed and carefully dressed her in her alarmingly pink pyjamas.
Willow tucked her in as Tara shed her gauntlets, and tossed the blood flecked clothes in the hamper.
She sat down with only slight metallic noises and stroked her hair as Willow held Dawn close.
Willow rocked Dawn gently back and forth as she cried, murmuring reassurances to her all the while.
After a few minutes Dawn stopped crying and simply stared into space, red eyed and lost.


Softly Tara began to sing, as warm and softly reassuring as only she could be.

Willow was struck by the memory of the two of them getting up early one morning and sharing pancakes, before the rest of Scoobies were even up. It was one of her most content and peaceful memories. This song brought that peaceful time to mind.

Willow felt magic in the air. She felt warmth and a smell that she could only associate with warm summer days.

Small sparkles of white and blue drifted down from the air to rest upon Dawn.


Rest tired eyes a while
Sweet is thy baby’s smile
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee

Sleep, sleep, grah mo chree *
Here on you mamma’s knee
Angels are guarding
And they watch o’er thee

The birdeens sing a fluting song
They sing to thee the whole day long
Wee fairies dance o’er hill and dale
For very love of thee

Dream, Dream, grah mo chree
Here on your Mamma’s knee
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep may Angels watch over
And may they guard o’er thee.

The primrose in the sheltered nook
The crystal stream the babbling brook
All these things God’s hands have made
For very love of thee

Twilight and shadows fall
Peace to His children all
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep
May Angels watch over and May they guard o’er thee
* Love of my heart.




The look of fear faded from Dawn’s face and she slept.

“What did you do?” Willow whispered.


“It is a an old lullaby my mother used to sing me when I was a child. And a spell of healing sleep.”


“I thought you said it was best to work through these things naturally?” Willow said, her cold resolve set aside for a chance to learn.


Tara nodded and spoke softly. “It is. The healing sleep just gives you the best possible chance to work through it. It speeds up the natural process of healing, both physical and mental. It doesn’t fix anything, it just gets you there quicker. The fact that you get a good night’s sleep is a big help, all by itself.”

She stood, brushing her dark skirt off.

“Dawn will be alright I think. She’s stronger than we give her credit for, and the spell will help.”


“And she has friends. Good ones,” Willow said quietly.


“We have a job to do,” Tara said quietly. She lead Willow to the door and closed it quietly behind her.


“I don’t like leaving Dawnie alone at a time like this, but if we don’t track down the man that did this, before anyone else does, it’s going to be so much worse.”


“Worse!” Willow hissed. “How could it be worse than this!”


Tara’s sad eyes met the flashing eyes of her love. “This… monster tried to rape Dawnie.”


Willow’s eyes blazed, her nostrils flaring as her rage burned, fanned by Tara’s words.


“And how angry do you feel right now? How much do you want to hurt him? To kill him?”


“A lot,” Willow grated out.


Tara nodded. “Now imagine how Buffy is going to react.”


The fury left Willow with a rush, leaving her cold and afraid. “Merciful goddess,” she whispered.


There were not words in the English language, to adequately describe the kind of limitless fury that this would kindle in her small blonde friend.


“Or Faith.”


“Oy vey!” Willow said, clutching her head.


“If they get him, they’ll probably kill him. And if they do, it will most likely destroy them.”


Now Willow was starting to look worried.

“I can only think of one way to save our friends from that. We get to him first. And we seek justice.”


Willow looked a little surprised. “Um, I was expecting you to be all turn the other cheek and stuff.”


Tara shook her head. “I'm not going to kill him. But I love Dawnie as if she were my own.”

She met Willow’s gaze with a look that showed the steel within. “And no-one messes with my girls.”


++


Still carrying the magic from their flying jaunt, they flew to the hospital, carried on wings of light and lightning.
No words were said, no fun was had.
They were on a mission.


A mission to find the one who had tried to defile one dearly loved, and to punish him.


‘Willow, we’re nearly there. Can you cast a quickie version of that glamour you wove over the school?’


Willow thought for a bit, ‘No. I don’t have any of the right things with me. The best I can do on short notice, is a glamour of forgetfulness. They’ll still see us, but we won’t stick in their memory. As soon as we’re gone, they’ll forget about us.’


‘Please. I'm not worried about making a scene, but I’d really prefer if we didn’t make the front page.’


‘I’ll ready it now, but I can’t cast it until we’re on the ground.’


‘That looks like the hospital over there,’
Tara said pointing with a gauntleted hand.


Willow looked and saw the large chunky assemblage of white blocks that made up the hospital. From the air it looked as though it were an attempt at a building made from children’s blocks, haphazard and untidy, all in white.

They landed together, Willow landing amid a spray of lightning, her magic bleeding out of the spell, her emotional state not the best for tightly controlled magic.

If anything, Tara’s landing was less dramatic, for all that she was lit from within by an angry light. Ripples of light bled from her wings as her wings beat the air, spilling her speed and dropping neatly in front of the gaping visitors.

In their haste to get to Dawn’s attacker, they had simply landed at the front door.

Whether they were relying on Willow’s charm to deflect drama, or simply not caring, if later asked, even they could not say.


Willow quickly chanted the Latin words of the charm, plucking a couple of her hairs and a couple of Tara’s to focus the spell.

She nodded as they were consumed.

They strode into the lobby of the hospital wreathed in their anger.
Willow positively crackled with power, her body wreathed in lightning. Her anger visible in the way her slim frame stalked forward.

Tara burned from within, her wings folded behind her, her eyes like a glimpse of the sun in the deepest desert. The way she strode left none with any illusions as to whether she was someone to mess with.
They swept up to the desk, bypassing the queue that was there.

Those queuing raised no complaint and simply stared in amazement.


Tara spoke to the rapidly paling woman. “We are looking for someone. A man, brought in with severe stab wounds. Sometime in the last hour.”

The woman at the front desk looked as though she was about to faint, her dark skin looking ashen in Tara’s light.

She swallowed convulsively. “We-we’re not allowed to give out p-patient information.”


“Really?” Willow said in disbelief. “A flying witch and an angel walk up to you in the middle of your shift… and that’s what you say?”

Her steady green gaze appraised the woman in front of her as lightning crawled across her body, occasionally arcing to the floor with a crack.


“Uh…”


Tara spoke softly. “Please? It’s important that we find him. His life is in extreme danger.”

She met the woman’s gaze evenly. “Enough danger that a witch and an angel had to come for him.”


“Uh… right. Um,” she looked away for a moment and typed on her computer. “Um, Ben Hardy, aged 42, brought in 20 minutes ago, with stab wounds to the groin and severe blood loss.”

She looked up at Tara’s glowing face, a look of wonder painted across it. “He’s in theatre prep two, through there,” she pointed.

As Tara and Willow moved to leave, she grabbed Tara’s hand. “Is… is heaven beautiful?”


Tara paused for a moment, remembering Buffy’s words.
She smiled wanly at the worried, hopeful woman, and squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Yes. It is beautiful.”


“Thank you,” she whispered.
The room full of people simply stared as they left.


A ripple of movement passed through them as the pair rounded the corner and vanished from sight.
People blinked in surprise, as though they had forgotten something. Each in their own way, they shook off their stupor and went about their tasks.
The woman at the desk found herself smiling, though she had no idea why.


Around the corner, Tara said. “I really hope that the glamour holds. I’d hate to deal with mister Giles’ disappointed look if we ended up on the front page of the paper.”
Willow winced as she pictured Giles’ look of disappointment.



“Ooo we’re going to get a lecture for this. And he is definitely going to make that clucking noise that he makes when he’s extra grumpy.”


“If the cause is just, I’m willing to brave mister Giles’ grumpy face. And the cause is just.”

Willow nodded sternly.


They strode briskly into the surgical wing, checking the signs until they found the prep room they were looking for.

Willow shoved open the heavy door, ignoring the incredulous looks that they were getting from scrubs-covered nurses and orderlies. Inside were two nurses working away, one changing an IV bag of blood, the other checking blood stained bandages around the man’s crotch.

“I think we’ve found our monster,” Willow said evenly.


Tara nodded. “You might want to leave,” she said to the two nurses.


The one nearest the door simply left, the other challenged the pair.

“What are you doing here? This is a surgical prep room! You are not gowned or masked! You are putting my patient at severe risk of infection!”


Tara checked the chart while Willow dealt with the nurse.

“The man we are looking for is a would-be rapist, who tried to rape someone dear to us. If this is him, and I think it is, then infection is the very least of his problems.”

Lightning arced from her body to the polished floor, evidence of her emotional state.


Tara spoke to Willow on their private line, ‘I think it’s him Willow. They’re waiting for a micro-surgeon to arrive to try and reattach his, um, parts.’


‘As much as I am for being vengeance girl, I don’t want to hurt an innocent bystander,’
Willow said.


‘Take my hand,’ Tara sent, ‘I can read him and see the events around his injuries. That should tell us if he’s the one we’re looking for.’


Willow reached out and took Tara’s larger, gauntleted hand in hers as she began to chant. Tiny red sparks and black flecks drifted from him to the girls. And as the ash and spark-like flecks touched them, they saw flashes of imagery.

They both saw flashes of him stalking a beautiful young woman, one they recognized as Dawn.


They tasted a flash of his excitement, his sickening eagerness to possess that beauty for himself, to take, to penetrate, to defile.

Again.

This was not his first time.


They saw him waiting for her, felt his hunger and anticipation build, held in check only by his sense of coming gratification.
In another flash, they saw him grab her and carry her easily into the alley, kicking and struggling all the way.

They sensed his puzzlement at her continued struggles despite the cloth he held firmly over her mouth.
And then his world became pain.


Tara gasped and let go of the spell. She retched at the vileness of the emotions she had felt. Sick and poisonous, they screamed at her of corruption and defilement.

Willow was not retching, she stood as hard and still as a statue. Her eyes were dark with fury beyond words.

Tara looked up from her dry retching and saw Willow’s dark eyes. Black, like the void between the stars.
And just as cold.

If death were to take the form of a beautiful woman, this is what she would look like.


“It’s him,” Tara gasped. “He’s the one.”


“I saw. I think he needs to be awake for this,” Willow said, her voice glacial and her eyes dark.

She jabbed a stiff finger into the man’s forehead and commanded him. “Awake!”


A small spark leapt from Willow’s finger to the man’s head and he jerked awake, despite the sedative in his system.


“The fuck?” he mumbled fuzzily.


“Hey you can’t do that! He needs to be kept sedated and immobilized!” the nurse protested.


Tara intercepted her before she could interfere. “Among other things, we’re going to heal him. I told you the truth we are here to save his life. We are going to heal him, and get him out of here.”


“But what?! Why?! It thought you said he was a rapist?”


“He is. But if his victim’s sister finds him, she’ll kill him. A lot. And we don’t want that kind of darkness to touch her.”


“So heaven sent and angel and a um…”


Willow raised an eyebrow as a fat spark arced from her to the bed. “Witch,” she said.


“Uh, to save a rapist, so someone wouldn’t go bad by killing him?”


Tara shook her head slowly. “We aren’t saving him. He is going to be punished. We’re saving her.”

She touched his knee drawing a wince from him. “I will be healing him however. We need him to be well, to survive his punishment.”


“What gives you the right?” he croaked. “What gives you the right to punish me? What could be worse than this?” he gestured weakly at the stained bandages swathing his groin.

Willow’s bottomless glare silenced him, though she didn’t speak.


Tara was coldly furious. “Right? The girl you tried to-to defile is loved! She is family! That gives me the right!”


“I wasn’t going to hurt her,” he mumbled. “Was going to show her a good time is all, show her what she’s been missing out on.”


“Wasn’t going to hurt her?!” Tara raged. “You can’t imagine the harm that kind of pain and terror can cause! But you are going to find out, I swear in the name of the Goddess, you are going to find out!”

Tara’s expression changed, becoming resigned, almost sad, but still determined. “I have the power, and that gives me the responsibility to act.”


“You don’t know me!” the man said desperately as the fog of drugs cleared from his brain. “You don’t know my life! You can’t judge me!”


“It’s not my judgement you should be worried about,” Tara said flatly.

The man’s eyes flicked to Willow’s void-filled gaze.

“Nor hers.”


“Then who?”


Tara gathered her power, her gaze burning. “A Goddess will judge you.”

She took Willow’s hand, and the darkness slowly faded from her eyes, to be replaced with burning light.

It was not an improvement.


He began to scream.


+++


Faith slammed her fist into the hospital wall, sending chips flying. She barely noticed the pain in her knuckles.

“I made a promise! You understand? I swore an oath, on my life! That I would die before I would let anything happen to Dawn! And that son of a bitch jumped her on her way back home!” Faith raged.

“I have a pretty good idea what he wanted too. You haven’t lived through that shit Red, I have! You better believe that bastard deserves to die, so you better put me down now, ‘cos if I have to tear this town apart to find him I will!”


“You’ll kill him!” Tara protested.


“Fuckin’ A! Motherfucker signed his death warrant the second he touched her!”


“Do you remember the damage that killing a human did last time?” Willow asked. “Because I do!”


“I’m going to kill him,” Faith enunciated with terrifying resolve. “I’m going to tell him exactly why he’s an evil son of a bitch who deserves to die, then I’m gonna stab him through the heart. Quick an’ clean, ‘cos I’m tellin’ you, if Buffy gets hold of him, she’ll tear his heart out with her bare fucking hands!” Faith shouted.


“It is dealt with already,” Tara said quietly, into the shocked silence.


Faith’s fury was tinged with surprise. “He’s already dead?”


Tara shook her head. “No, but I can tell you he won’t be causing trouble anymore.”


Faith shook her head. “No way! Not nearly good enough!”


Tara spoke softly to Faith. “I put the fear of the Goddess into him Faith. I didn’t just scare him a bit, I cursed him in the name of Brighid, goddess of eternal flame!”

Tara’s voice rose, enough that Faith could sense that the soft-spoken woman was deeply angry. “Believe me when I tell you she was angry! He is currently feeling every scrap of pain and terror he ever inflicted, and will do so for the rest of his natural life! If he even thinks of something like that again, he will be tormented by unendurable agony, far worse than you could ever dish out.”

“His only hope is to spend the rest of his life helping the kinds of people he hurt, the weak and defenceless. Otherwise he will live in a worse hell than anything you could imagine. Believe me Faith, there are no half measures here, he’s not going to slip out of Brighid’s grasp.”


Faith’s body was as rigid as iron, every muscle standing out as she shook with the fury and hate coursing through her as Tara spoke.

“I don’t want any more of my family to go down that dark path Faith, not while I have breath in my body. Not you, not Buffy, not anyone.”


Faith’s voice grated. “Swear it to me! Swear it on your fucking life, that this bastard is gonna suffer every bit as much as you just said!” Faith said, desperately.


Tara nodded. “I do so swear, on my life. He is punished as I have described. I swear it in the name of the Goddess herself, in the name of Brighid the fiery arrow, and on the love I bear Willow. It has been done.”


Faith relaxed microscopically, though her taut frame almost vibrated with tension. “I’m putting a helluva lotta trust in you Tara, maybe even my future with B. I hope you realise what that means.”


Tara nodded. “I do. I won’t let you down Faith.”


Some of the tension drained out of Faith’s frame. She wasn’t relaxed by any measure, but at least she didn’t look like she was going to explode at any moment. She blew out a huge breath and scrubbed her face, suddenly looking exhausted.

“God, we are gonna hafta find some way to tell B. If she finds out the wrong way, it’s gonna be like the goddamn holocaust.”

Faith eyed Willow, who had remained silent throughout the whole exchange. “Red? You still know that blessing? The one that helped me not screw up dealing with B? We could use a hit of that I think.”


Willow nodded. “Yep, got it right here,” she said tapping her head. “We can do it now if you like, ‘cos we are still charged up with Brighid mojo, from the curse.”


“Do it. I’m trustin’ you Red, Snow,” she said looking at each of them in turn. “But everything I got is screaming at me to find that guy and cut his heart out. It’s a fucking miracle I’m still here listening to ya. So I could seriously use some wisdom right about now.”


Willow nodded and repeated the blessing she had given Faith, so long ago.

“Brighid
Daughter of Dagda
Fiery Arrow
Smith, Healer, Protector
You are a woman of peace.
You bring harmony where there is conflict.
You bring light to the darkness.
You bring hope to the downcast.
May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious, and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all the Goddess has made.
Brighid you are a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
In the name of the Goddess, may it truly be.”



Faith closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. “God. This is gonna really, really suck.”


Willow squeezed her shoulder. “We’re here with you Faith, you’re not on your own with this.”


She held up her injured hand. “Ow. Gotta stop hitting stuff like that. It hurts.”
She glanced at the concrete support pillar she had hit, and the big chunk she had knocked out of it.


Tara took her hand. “Let me have a look.”

She prodded and squeezed Faith’s hand. “Hmm, nothing broken and it’s healing already.”


“Just leave it Glinda. I’ll be alright. And to be honest, I could use the goddamn distraction.”


Tara smiled sadly. “I understand.”


“Jesus, what am I gonna do?”


“What are we going to do?” Willow said. with a significant look at Faith.


“We are all in this together. Someone tried to hurt Dawnie, that means we are all involved,” Tara said softly, but with conviction.


“B is on her way now. I’ve been tryin’ to block her out, but I ain’t in the best frame o’ mind right now. She knows somethin’ bad is up, and she’s headin’ home now.”

Faith leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, tilting her head back, almost in supplication to the light. “I figure we only got a few minutes till B gets home,” she said tiredly.


“It won’t be long after that before she’s on the warpath. Literally.”


“Then we go home to head her off.”


“Right. Let’s motor, ‘cos I’m thinkin’, the further B is from this place when she blows, the better.”


+++


The trio met Buffy in the lounge, not far from Dawn’s room. There had been enough time for Tara to get out of her armour and into a more normal attire of jeans and her new cashmere sweater.

Buffy strode briskly into the room, and Faith felt a spike of dread through their link as she took in their grim expressions and sorrowful postures.

“What’s wrong?” Buffy said, clearly concerned, and getting more worried as the seconds ground on.


“Buffy, maybe you should sit down,” Willow said worriedly.


“Oh god, people only ever tell you to sit down when it’s really bad news. Who died?”


“Buff-“


“Was it one of the Seniors? Oh god, I hope it’s not Vi, I liked her.”


“Buffy it-”


“Giles is ok right?!”


“Buffy! Giles is fine, Xander’s fine! No one is dead ok?”


“Well uh, good?”


“B?” Faith said, her voice rough and raspy with sorrow.

Buffy’s worried gaze fell on her.

“Dawn ain’t hurt, but she had a bad time of it. Got a real bad scare, ok?”


Buffy’s features looked as if they were fighting between looking cold and looking horrified.

“Dawn?! what the hell happened!”


“She… she got jumped comin’ home from the Peach.”


“Tell me she dusted him,” Buffy said.


“Buffy, it wasn’t a vampire,” Tara said gently.


“Why are you guys being so weird about this? Dawn patrols several nights a week. I hate it, but these things happen…”

Her voice trailed off as her brain began to process.


“B, it was a human, an actual person. He tried to rape her,” Faith said hollowly.

Buffy was silent, staring off into space, as if lost and alone. The silence dragged on, becoming unbearable. Faith could feel nothing on their link.

“How could this happen?” she whispered.


She focussed on Faith. “How could you let this happen?” she said.


“Buffy I-”


Buffy cut Faith off, her expression hard, accusing. “You said you’d look after her. You swore you’d protect her.”


Faith looked at her feet, ashamed, Buffy’s words and emotions cutting into her.

“B, I-”


“You swore,” Buffy said, disappointment clothing the two terrible words.


Tara tried to placate her. “She didn’t know Buffy. She thought it was safe, the town is awash with Slayers, we all thought it was safe.”


Faith stared at her feet, ashamed of her own existence. She could feel the wheels turning in Buffy’s head as she processed what she’d been told, turning rapidly from shock/horror to pissed. Seriously pissed. The kind of Buffy-pissed that left someone with a knife in the guts.

As much as she didn’t want to revisit that part of her life again, if Buffy wanted to stick a knife in her, she was just gonna close her eyes and let her.

The way she felt at the moment, it would be a relief.

All her own furious anger had vanished, leaving nothing but ashes and guilt behind.

She had failed. She had sworn on her life to protect Dawn, and she had failed, in almost the worst way possible.

The shit that had ruined her childhood, had ruined her, it had almost happened to Dawn.


Buffy stood up. Resolute, angry, coldly determined.
“We need to find this guy, so I can kill him,” she grated out.


“Taken care of B.”


Buffy zeroed in on Faith, stalking closer. “Really Faith? Tell me, how is it taken care of? How did the guy who tried to RAPE my little sister get taken care of?”


Faith mumbled, still unable to meet Buffy’s gaze. “Uh, Snow and uh, Red, they took care of him.”


Buffy turned to look at Willow. “Did you go all dark eyed and kill him?”


Willow winced. “Um, a little bit.”


“Willow helped, but it was my spell, my punishment Buffy,” Tara said.


Buffy turned her coldly angry gaze on her. “You ‘took care’ of it? Forgive me if I don’t seem too impressed Tara, but I don’t see you being heavy on the punishment side of things.”


Willow huffed. “That’s because you didn’t think Buffy. We love Dawn as much as you do.”


She held up her hand, her finger and thumb millimetres apart. “I was this close to calling out to the darkness to flay this guy alive! This close, Buffy!

“And he would have gotten off light, compared to what Tara did to him.”


Buffy crossed her arms and tapped her foot in a gesture of impatience.

“She cursed him Buffy. She cursed him in the name of Brighid, goddess of women warriors, justice and fire. Her demesne is excellence, intelligence, skill with words and war. Dawn was hers Buffy, as much as anyone in this world could be, and she protects her own.


Tara interjected softly. “There was an element of vengeance to it Buffy, but this was justice. He’ll live. And he’ll live with the abject terror and pain he caused his victims.”

Buffy met Tara’s eyes, surprised. Tara’s eyes were unexpectedly hard.

“Every time he closes his eyes, he’s going to see what he’s done, from their point of view. All that fear and pain, all that despair that he’s caused, visited on his head. Forever.”

“He has one chance Buffy, one chance only. If he fights to protect those he hurt, those whose lives he ruined, the weak and the helpless, then maybe, if he fights long and hard, maybe Brighid will set him free. When he dies.”


“Whoa. So she condemned him to be raped, in his mind, every day, for the rest of his life?”


Tara nodded solemnly. “This is a real curse Buffy. Not a gypsy curse, but the vengeance of a Goddess.”


“And more,” Willow chipped in. “When she spoke through Tara, she told him that Dawn had claimed her prize in battle. And, um, when Tara healed him, Brighid saw fit to leave him without his, uh, boy parts.”


Tara recited. “Taken in battle, by one beloved of the Goddess. He has lost his manhood, and the right to it.”


“I’m starting to think I like this Brighid person.”


“Yeah well, if the slayers had a patron Goddess, it would be her.”


“That good enough B?” Faith said, her tone carrying an edge of anger.


“What are you trying to say Faith?” Buffy responded, the edge of anger audible in her own tone.


“I’m askin’ is it enough?!” she said roughly. “Has this shithead paid enough? Or do ya still need to stick it to him?!”


“Don’t you dare get angry about this Faith! You swore to protect her! Where were you?”


The harsh words tore at Faith’s heart and left her bleeding. Her voice was very tired and hoarse as she replied. “With you.”

The look in Faith’s eyes penetrated Buffy’s sense of cold rage. Her dark eyes were filled with guilt and she felt that bottomless pit of shame and failure sucking at her, as Faith’s emotional control crumbled and she lost her grip on the block she had put up.

Her eyes glittering, Faith turned and strode from the room.


“Crap,” Buffy said, slumping.


“Um, maybe we should all get some sleep, and talk about this in the morning?” Tara said carefully.


Buffy sat down at the table and nodded, defeated. “I’ll never be able to sleep. Possibly ever. I think I’ll stay up and talk to Heather and Jules. They’re in the showers.”

She looked at the pair of witches tiredly. “Call it my penance for being a bitch. Again.”


Tara and Willow both gave her a sympathetic look.
However not-good her encounter with Faith had been, truthfully they were expecting far worse.


“Good night Buff,” Willow said, putting an arm around her.


“Good night Buffy,” Tara said mirroring Willow. “Things will look better after a night’s sleep.”


“How can I sleep without her? I don’t feel safe, don’t sleep right if she’s not there.”


“Then don’t,” Tara said. “Find her and work through it with her.”


Buffy nodded glumly.

With a final squeeze, the pair left the lonely slayer to her vigil.


+++


“If anyone has the right to go crazy and kill this guy, it’s me,” Buffy said. “And I haven’t. So you can’t either.”


Jules was unconvinced. “We kill monsters Buffy, that’s what we do. And this guy was as much a monster as any fanged thing crawling around in the night.”


Heather’s expression was thunderous. “He tried to hurt Dawn! He wanted to... Argh!” she screamed.

Her expression was implacable. “I won’t have it! I won’t live in a world where someone can try to do that to Dawn and not die!”


“An’ I’m gonna help her cut this fucker into tiny, tiny pieces.” Jules added.


Buffy shook her head slowly, her expression fierce. “No. I don’t want him getting off that easily.”


“Huh?” said Jules.


Heather blinked. “What she said.”


“You thought I was going to tell you no, because it was wrong or something, weren’t you?”


The duo nodded, their rage momentarily paused by Buffy’s unexpected revelation.


“Well it is. But Tara took care of it.”


They both looked disbelieving at this. Though Tara had not been at Scooby central long, her gentle nature was well known.


Jules complained. “C’mon, Tara? She’s a soft touch! There’s no way-”


Buffy interrupted. “There’s nothing soft about what she did to him. She cursed him to feel every bit of misery and terror he ever put anyone else through. He is going to feel that fear, that helplessness, that soul destroying despair forever,” she said flatly, her voice as cold and unyielding as the side of a battleship.

“His only hope is to spend the rest of his life defending the exact kinds of people that he hurt.”

She drilled her gaze into both their eyes. “If he fights long enough and hard enough, when he dies, the Goddess Brighid might let him go.”

“You need to understand, you’re not the only people who feel like this. But I want him to live a long and unhappy life to make up for what he tried to do.”

She grinned savagely, an expression worthy of Faith, and without a trace of humour in it. “Plus Dawn’s quite the scrapper, her parting shot took away his ability to make those kinds of moves on anyone ever again.”


Heathers eyebrows vanished into her hair. “You mean she shot him in the...” she trailed off, gesturing vaguely at her trouser area.


Buffy shook her head. “Nope. She didn’t have time to get the cannons she carries around. But she did have that knife Faith gave her.”


Even Jules winced as Buffy made stabby motions behind herself at groin height.


Heather hissed. “Ouch. That had to hurt.”


Jules scowled. “Good. Fucker. If I get hold of him, it’ll be a dull rusty knife. And I’ll dip it in salt. And vinegar.”


Buffy watched her intently. Jules still looked frustrated and pissed.

“I gotta go… I gotta… do some shit.”


Buffy spoke up. “Don’t-”


Jules cut her off, by walking out the door.


Buffy sighed. “I really hope she doesn’t do something… bad.”


Heather left at that point.


+++


“Yo, purple pants!”

Jules looked up from her resolute staring at the ground.

“Wadda you want, Faith?”


Faith took in her pissed off expression and the way the muscles in her shoulders were tensed, ready to hit something. Anything.
She gave her an appraising look, and nodded.

“Grab your gear. You and me? We’re gonna go kill shit till the sun comes up.”


Jules took in Faith’s black battle gear and the sullen expression on her face.

Jules had only known faith for a few months, the good months in Faith’s life. Had she known her in the Sunnydale era, she would now be worried.

She did not know it, but Faith’s expression now was the same mix that she carried during her worst times, times when she had to turn her guilt and anger outwards to survive.

Seeing that angry expression would have given Buffy nightmares.

All Jules saw was a pissed off Faith. And her own blood was already boiling with hate, and the desire to smash anything that even looked at her wrong.

“Yeah. Good.”

It would feel good to pour out her hate and revulsion and guilt on something that deserved it.


+++

Much later, Heather tapped quietly on Dawn’s door.

“Hey sweetie, how are you doing?”


Dawn looked a little pale and shell-shocked, but seemed at least semi-together. She was sitting cross legged on her bed, cuddling her huge pink octopus, Squiddy.

Dawn had been most insistent that he was just Squiddy. Mr Squiddy, she had announced, would just be lame.

“Better. Still kinda freaked out, but I’ll deal.”


Heather quietly sat down on the bed next to Dawn and put her arm around her. Dawn leaned into the hug gratefully and the pair sat in companionable silence.

The wind blew outside the darkened windows, sharp gusts rattling the window panes, blowing hard enough to remind of the darkness outside.

“This has happened before you know,” Dawn said in a hoarse whisper.


Heather squeezed her tight. Unsure as to what to say, she settled for stroking Dawn’s long hair reassuringly.

“People are forever trying take me, or take from me. Either because I’m the sister of ‘The Slayer’ or because my blood can destroy the world.”


“Whoa. I had no idea. That’s… bad,” Heather responded.


“Oh. I should probably have said. Uh, my blood can destroy the world.”


“Right. Got that. Uh… bummer?”


“Oh yeah. It sucks.”


She leaned into her friend and sighed. “Why can’t anybody want me for me?”


“I want you for you, Dawn,” Heather said. “Jules too. We both think you’re pretty cool.”


Dawn looked up and found herself nose to nose with a startled Heather. Her grey eyes drilled into Heather’s blue, with penetrating intensity.

Heather looked back, putting every iota of belief into her gaze, wanting her best friend to believe what she was saying.

Slowly Dawn nodded and started to smile.

Still nose to nose with Heather, she softly parted her lips…
And wrapped them around Heather’s nose.

Heather went cross-eyed as she saw her nose in Dawn’s mouth.


“Yuck!” she said pulling away. “Eww! Summers you are one twisted chick!” she said. She laughed as she fell back on the bed, wiping her nose frantically.

Dawn burst out in giggles, giggles which rapidly twisted into painful, hysterical sobbing.

Heather looked slightly horrified as Dawn burst into tears. Carefully she pulled her sobbing friend close, and comforted her as she cried her eyes out.


“He wanted… wanted to…” Dawn blurted between sobs.


“I know baby, I know,”


“Why? Why is it so terrifying? So awful?”

Dawn looked up at Heather with tear filled eyes, her gaze a mix of revulsion and confusion.

“Things have been wanting to eat me or kill me for years. A god wanted to bleed me dry to get home. I’ve seen the hunger in vampires’ eyes as they want to kill me and drain my blood.” Her confused gaze reached out to Heather. “So why was this worse?”


“I don’t know Dawnie, I just know that it is.”

Heather stroked her hair comfortingly, holding her close. Unwilling at this point to let go, even for a second.

“Maybe because there’s an honestly to a vampire’s blood lust. Or maybe because that bastard would have ruined something special and intimate. Something that you could have shared with someone you really loved.”

A hesitant tap came from the door, and it opened slowly.


Jules stood there, battered and red eyed, her knuckles swollen and bleeding.

She looked at them, lost and unsure.

She managed to choke out one world. “I…” before she looked down at the floor in shame and confusion.


Without hesitation or even conscious thought, the pair on the bed made room for their friend, reaching out to give comfort.

She saw her friends reaching out, Heather with open arms, Dawn with a comforter ready to wrap them all up in.

She shuffled over to the bed and gratefully crawled into her friends’ embrace, Dawn pulling the comforter up around the three of them.

And together the three friends cried and let the healing balm of sleep overtake them.


+++

Later, after the storm of emotion had passed, Tara and Buffy looked in on the three, finding them huddled in a heap beneath the comforter.

“She’s going to be ok Buffy,” Tara said softly.

Buffy nodded silently.

“She has good friends,” Tara said, touching Buffy’s shoulder comfortingly.


“She does,” Buffy whispered.


“Come on Buffy, let’s let them get some sleep. Let’s all get some sleep.”


Buffy closed the door behind them, and nodded again. “Big day tomorrow.”


“And Faith is waiting for you.”


She froze, paralysed by indecision and guilt. She had been horrible to Faith.

Again.

‘Maybe that was how Slayers were meant to communicate: loudly, and with lots of threatening gestures instead of punctuation,’ she thought to herself.

She sighed. “Time to go mend bridges, or whatever the saying is.”


Tara sighed as well. “For both of us. Willow and I have a lot to talk about.”


Buffy pulled her into a heartfelt hug.

“Be ok? Please? I don’t think I could take it if you guys weren’t ok.”


Tara smiled and pressed a reassuring kiss into Buffy’s hair. “We’ll be fine Buffy. There are some things about our relationship that we’ve needed to talk out. We’ve been avoiding them for a little while, I think because neither of us wanted to break the bubble.”


Buffy squeezed her tight and let go, meeting her eye seriously. “I'm not kidding Tara, I'm kind of the junior lesbian around here, I'm still shaky and new. Me and Faith both need you guys to look up to, to give us hope and stuff.”


Tara chuckled at the junior lesbian comment. “We’re all going to be fine. I'm not going anywhere, and I'm surely not breaking up with Willow. We just have stuff to talk about Buffy, to stop us falling into the same old holes we fell into before.”


Buffy smirked cheekily. “I bet some holes are nice to fall into.”


“Buffy!” Tara said, looking surprised.

She smiled at Buffy’s cheeky smile.

“Shoo! You’ve got some making up to do, and I have heavy relationship stuff to talk through. See you bright and early tomorrow.”


Buffy slumped and waved glumly as she walked slowly away.

She turned. “Tara? Tell me… tell me it’s going to be ok?”


Tara smiled. “It’s going to be ok Buffy, I know it.”


Buffy looked a little heartened and left.

The smile faded from Tara’s face, ‘Time to face my demons.’


+++


When Tara entered Willow’s room, Willow was waiting.

Gone was the sorcerer supreme, the coldly angry channel to god-like power.

Regular Willow was there, currently wavering between nervous hand wringing and looking like someone awaiting execution.


Tara found a smile creeping onto her face. As upset as she was, nervous Willow was very cute as she stepped from one foot to another.

She chuckled, and Willow looked up surprised.

“Oh my. Willow, calm down! You look like you’re on death row or something.”


“Well, uh, I was all black eyed and evil, and after all you went through with my magical power issues before…”

She looked down, so terribly woebegone and ashamed.

“You must be so disappointed in me,” she muttered.


Tara shook her head and gently lifted Willow’s chin with a finger. “I’m not here to stand in judgement of you baby. Do I wish that you hadn’t done that? Yes.”

Willow tried to duck down, but Tara wouldn’t let her. “But I’m not some standard that you have to measure up to.”

“I'm not upset that you went all dark eyed and bad-ass when you found out about Dawnie.”

Tara’s gaze drilled into Willow’s worried green eyes. “You didn’t abuse your power, you did Brighid’s work this night.”

Willow looked rather surprised, but wisely kept quiet.

“I know you’ve got anger inside you Willow. A little dark-eyed bad-assery doesn’t put me off. What I am upset about is the way you instinctively tried to go off and deal with this without me.”

Willow looked as though she were trying to vanish into her own shadow.


“I'm not the little woman, Willow. You don’t leave me behind while you go off to save the day.”

“Our relationship is a partnership Willow. No more falling into old bad habits.”

“I love that you want to protect me. And to be fair, I feel the same way about you.”

Tara held Willow close, taking in the wonderful scent of Willow. That and a hint of ozone.

“But I don’t need that kind of protecting. I haven’t for a long time.”


Willow still looked glum, though she no longer looked quite like she was expecting the end.

“I'm sorry baby, I guess I'm still kind of a dummy about this stuff.”


Tara smiled, all comfort and forgiveness. “That’s ok Willow. At least you’re my dummy.”

They embraced, happy at last.

“You don’t have to be perfect Willow. I'm not going to leave you if you make the slightest mistake. You don’t have to walk on eggshells around me.”

“All I ask is that you try. And that you are honest with me.”


Willow sniffled. “Sorry Tara, it’s just a little hard to get used to you being a whole person y’know? Like the idea of you being hurt or even in a fight drives me totally bonkers, and-and I can’t see past that, and I’m sorry.”

Tara held her close and breathed in the unique blend of Willow: strawberry shampoo, clean hair and the unique scent that was just Willow.

Willow snuggled into her thick sweater, breathing in her reassuring scent.

“Shh baby, it’s ok. We’ll figure it out together I promise.”

She pulled back. “I’ve only been back a short time sweetie. Up until recently I was supposed to be dead.”

She looked Willow in the eyes, once again amazed by how clear and beautiful those green eyes were. She marvelled at the brown stars hidden amidst the green.

“Oh my love, I don’t think we are meant to deal with such things. We have no script for dealing with it. No way of knowing how it’s going to affect us, or for how long.”


Willow sniffled into Tara’s thick collar and mumbled. “Can we just skip it?”


Tara smiled hugely. “For tonight at least. I’m worn out sweetie. I want to go to the best place in the world, and I want to go there right now.”


Willow made a questioning noise, her face still buried in Tara’s sweater.


Tara whispered mind-to-mind, ‘In bed, snuggled up next to my love.’


‘That is the best place in the world,’
Willow replied.


‘Come with me?’ Tara asked, tugging on Willow’s hand.


Willow looked up and smiled, ‘Always.’


+++


Buffy followed her connection up to the roof of the admin building. She found Faith sitting on the edge of the roof, facing the lights of town and kicking the heels of her boots against the concrete.

Behind them the woodlands and grasslands that formed the grounds of Slayer Central were steeped in darkness.


The two remained side by side in the darkness, simply watching the town go about its nightly business. Buffy listened to the quiet, steady rushing sound of life in the city.


Faith could feel the guilt and melancholy silently building in Buffy. Felt it building until she just had to speak.
“I’m so sorry B.”


Buffy put a gentle hand on Faith’s shoulder.
“No. You did good Faith. It’s me who should be apologising to you. Grovelling even.”


Faith looked lost for words, which was good because buffy wasn’t done yet.
“I freaked, like I always do.”

Buffy’s recriminations felt like daggers of ice digging into Faith’s chest. “Naw B-” Faith tried to interrupt. Buffy wouldn’t let her.

Buffy stared to cry. “And I took it out on you, like I always do.”

Buffy wept, but soldiered on. “I’m-I’m a horrible person and a sucky girlfriend!” she sobbed, her emotions pouring from her in a tidal wave.


Faith turned around at Buffy’s wail. “B? Ya ain’t my girlfriend. Ya haven’t been for a while.”


Buffy’s sobbing stopped as though door had slammed shut. The look on her face and the emotions from the link they shared were the same: of dawning horror.

Faith spoke softly. “You’re my wife to be. Ok?”


Buffy still looked stunned, though the horror had been replaced with confusion.

“Look, you were right to be pissed, ok? I let ya down in the worst possible way, an’ I'm never gonna be sorry enough for that.”

“But I ain’t ever gonna leave ya. If ya wanna get rid o me, well, that’s upta you. But I'm never gonna run, never gonna leave, never gonna give up on you B.”


Fresh tears spilled down Buffy’s cheeks, though no sobs were heard. She bobbed her head in agreement and spoke in an unsteady voice. “Honey no. You-you didn’t let me down. You didn’t let Dawn down. You protected her.”

At Faith’s slowly shaken head, Buffy pressed on. “You did!”

She reached out and took Faith’s hands in hers. “She couldn’t get to her guns, which weren’t loaded anyway, because: party. But she had that knife you gave her.”

She met Faith’s disbelieving gaze with her own. “You trained her while I was off doing my ‘Buffy can’t cope’ bit. You gave her the tools to defend herself, the strength to fight back.”

“And if I hadn’t been such a self-centred bitch, I’d have seen it and thanked you, instead of dumping on you.”


“B-” Faith tried to interject.


Buffy put her finger on Faith lips, stilling her protests. “No baby, I’ve got to get this out. You did everything perfectly, and I was wrong and mean and cruel, and you deserve better.”

She took a deep breath. “And I'm going to be better, if you’ll let me.”

She looked again at Faith, her eyes threatening to spill over. “If you still want me?”


“B, never, not ever, do you ask that question, ok? I will always love you, always want to be with you. Death can’t separate us. Nothing can. ‘Cept maybe us being retarded and shit.”


Buffy essayed a small smile.

“I'm sorry Faith. Can you forgive me?”


Faith smiled, dimples and all. “Already done.”


Buffy looked up at Faith through her eyelashes, with her flirty smile. “Bed?”


“You little minx! You just wanna get your smooch on don’tcha?”


“Willow tells me the correct term is ‘vixen’ but yes, I think a few post-drama smoochies are in order.”


“Damn, this lesbo stuff is hard to remember. I hope there ain’t a test, ‘cos I don’t do so good on those.”


“There is. But according to Willow, we already passed.”


“Uh, what? I was kinda joking there B.”


“Willow said that breaking the bed with your girlfriend, sorry, wife-to-be, is a pass.”


“That girl is freakishly organized.”


“Yup.”


Buffy froze. “Oh my god. I'm gonna get married. To a girl.”


“Freaks ya out a little huh?”


“Oddly, not as much as I’d have imagined, which is freaky in its own way. But yeah, sometimes. I get flashes of ‘oh my god, what am I doing!’ that pop up out of nowhere. I am so far out of my tiny comfort zone, it’s just unreal.”


“Probably good for ya B.”


“I think so. It seems to get easier.”


“Uh-huh. C’mon hun, let’s go get those smoochies you were lookin’ for.”


Faith held out her hand to Buffy. Buffy smiled and took it gladly.

“Do ya trust me?”


“Um, yes?” Buffy said cautiously.


Faith scooped her up in her arms, and stepped up onto the concrete ledge that surrounded the edge of the building.

“Still trust me?” Faith said.


Buffy looked up, her eyes shining. “I do.”


“Better practice that phase babe.”

Faith smiled.

And stepped out into space.


+++


Her armour stacked neatly on a chair, Tara closed the door quietly behind her.

“I’m... sweetie, are you ok?” Tara said hesitantly.


Willow huffed. “About as well as can be expected, i suppose. Why?”


“I’m wondering, are you... can you...” Tara looked down and away for a moment. She almost looked as though she were hiding her face with her hair for a moment. Or trying.

“I need to not be the strong one anymore. At least for a little while.”

She looked up, her blue eyes pleading, brimming with incipient tears. “Please?”


Willow opened her arms and gathered Tara to her.


Tara’s face crumpled, and wordlessly she rushed into Willow’s embrace.

Willow held her tight as her love, her strong and beautiful woman, laid down her strength along with her burdens, and took shelter in her loving embrace.

Tears flowed.

Tara cried, really cried. There was nothing genteel or ladylike as she bawled her eyes out. She poured out all her fears, all her stress and tension of the evening, all of her need to be strong. She poured it all out on Willow, and Willow took it in. she held her love close, and was strong for her.

“I was so frightened Willow,” she sobbed. “so terrified that he had taken something precious from her.”


“I know baby, I know.”


“I was so frightened that he’d taken our little girl from us.”


So often in their relationship, new and old, Tara was the strong one. Not a strength that was obvious to many, but it was there. She had her insecurities, they all did. But in their relationship, on an emotional level, Tara was the strong one. The one who gave comfort, who looked after, who made sure everyone was cared for.

Which was why Willow felt so privileged, so touched that Tara could let down her burdens in this way, with her. That Tara would trust her with this, this was truly precious. This was the wonder that was their love.

“He didn’t Tara. He didn’t take her from us.”


This was their secret, something Willow had thought they had lost forever.

When Buffy had sacrificed her life for Dawn, they had sworn that they would love her and look after her as if she was their own.

In the dark of the night they had huddled together beneath the covers. And in that place of safety, they had talked of their hopes and fears. Their hopes for their little family, and the fear that they may never have a child of their own. That given their lives, perhaps they shouldn’t.

And Tara had revealed a secret to Willow, before things had gone wrong. That she considered Dawnie to be her daughter. Hers and Willow’s, as much as she was anyone’s. and slowly but surely, Tara’s strength and confidence had grown from that seed. Her natural tendency to mother the Scoobies, had blossomed in the face of Dawn’s need. And slowly she had transitioned from loving Dawn as a daughter, to loving Dawn, her daughter.

It was something they only ever talked about in their safe place. Dawn’s need fulfilled an undiscovered need in Tara, and to some degree Willow too. And in the dark of night, in each other’s arms, they had spoken of Dawn as if she was theirs. They had talked of their pride in how she had grown as a young woman and they had spoken of their hopes for her future, and their role in it.

This was their special, secret talk, for them alone. Something they didn’t talk about during the day. Something that had faded as the days grew darker and harder.
And once again Willow gave thanks to the Goddess, that this precious and fragile secret had not been lost.


Tara burrowed into her lap, ending up sprawled on her back looking up at Willow, taking comfort from Willow watching over her, the way she normally did for Willow.

“Our little girl,” she whispered.


“Shh-shh-shh,” Willow whispered softly. “Under the covers baby.”

For all her tears Tara couldn’t help but quirk a tiny smile.


“We should-“


“Uh-huh,” Willow nodded enthusiastically.

Under normal circumstances, Tara would have taken the time to savour watching her love get undressed for bed, but she was in too much of a hurry herself.

Though the sight of her svelte fiancé chucking her clothes off with abandonment raised a smile. Especially when, rather than taking the time to undo all the buttons on her blouse, Willow tried to take it off like a pullover.

And got stuck.


She hopped about, wriggling madly with the blouse inside out and up over her head. With an undignified squawk, she collided with the edge of the bed and fell onto the covers, still trapped.

‘Help! A Willow eating blouse has got me!’

Tara could not stifle a giggle.

‘Are you going to help me, so we can get into our snuggle cave? Or are you going to stare at me all night, all tied up and helpless?’


‘Help, definitely. Though another day, the tied up and helpless thing could be good,’
she sent, taking in Willow’s pale skin and slender curves. ‘Mmm…’ she sent appreciatively.

She nuzzled Willow’s belly button, prompting a squeal and a certain amount of wriggling.

And then she helpfully undressed Willow. Starting at the bottom and working her way up.

By the time the blouse was unbuttoned, revealing Willow’s smiling face, she was completely naked.


‘Oh hey, clothes. They went away,’ she said silently.


‘Uh-huh,’ Tara responded.


Willow looked down, ‘When did you suddenly become naked?’


Tara smiled, ‘When you were losing the battle with your blouse.’


‘Well I'm glad you came to rescue me from my evil clothes. Bad clothes, grrr!”


‘Come on sweetie, in to bed. I want to be in our safe place.’


Willow exploded into motion as she scrambled frantically into bed, pulling the huge black-plush comforter up over her head.

She was a huge furry lump in the middle of the bed, and Tara could feel the nervous smile radiating off her, even though she was completely hidden.


[i]‘Goodness! This thing is huge!’
she sent as she crawled inside the furry cave.


‘Buffy got us all one. She saw that the temperatures actually have negative values in Colorado sometimes, and that was enough to make her shiver. She got me this extra huge one, because she said I hog the blankets when she sleeps over.’


They were both sitting cross-legged in the snuggly darkness, ‘Um, I hope you don’t mind, but Buffy sometimes sleeps with me. Not sexy-funtimes ‘sleeps’, but sad best friends who are so very lonely ‘sleeps’.’


Tara smiled, ‘I know sweetie. It’s ok. In fact I am feeling very grateful to Buffy right at this moment, for looking after my Willow so very well while I was gone.’


‘We took turns. She would hold me when I cried. And I would do the same for her. I tried so hard to be there for her, but things got so hard. Buffy got so hard.’


Tara took Willow’s hand and rubbed her thumb comfortingly across her knuckles, ‘Was this after you broke up with…’


Willow nodded silently in the dark of their cave.

She felt the warm, gooshy surge of affection from Tara.
‘I think I need to do something very special for Buffy as a thank you.’
Willow thought for a moment, ‘Take her flying. Ever since she found out you can fly, she’s been wanting to ask you.’


‘Really?’


‘To be completely honest, um...’


‘It’s ok sweetie, we’re in our safe place. We can say anything here.’


‘I think she has a bit of a crush on you. Or at least she did before Faith swept her off her feet.’



Tara’s mental voice sounded almost squeaky with surprise, ‘On me? Why me?’


‘You took care of her, loved her. You took care of all of us. She always has to be the strong one. And you took care of her. I think she just wants to be looked after a little bit, from time to time. And you were always there for her. Plus she had that undiscovered lesbian streak.’


‘Apparently I'm a magnet for awakening lesbians,’
Tara sent with a mental grin.


‘Totally! You pulled me in. Best thing that ever happened to me.’

She turned serious for a moment, ‘I think it would be great if you spent time with her baby. She loves you so much, more than I think she even realizes. When you were gone, she missed you more than she knew how to deal with.’


‘I’d like that. Are you sure it’ll be ok, with her crush though?’


‘I think you’ll be ok. I think it’s fairly safe to say that any lesbian-type feelings can be safely absorbed by Faith.’


‘She would distract anybody.’


‘I know I’ve looked in her direction more than once.’


‘Really?’


‘Safe place remember?’



Tara nodded, ‘Well she does have those boobs, and I know how much you like those.’


Willow bobbed her head, ‘She’s really not my type. I learned that one from my ex. But she sure is nice to look at.’

Tara sent her silent agreement.

They sat in silence for a little while.


‘I think I left that little bike light downstairs.’


Tara held out her hand and concentrated. It began to glow.

‘Who needs bike lights?’


‘Hee hee! Can you make it red? Like the light we used to have?’



Tara concentrated and the light changed from pure white, through golden, to a rich deep red, which slowly spread to the rest of her body.

They observed each other in the warm red light.


‘I don’t know if it’ll stay red. It tends to go white if I lose concentration.’


‘That’s ok. I wonder if when you light up, does the light fill your insides too?’


‘I think so. I was curious once, so I looked.’


‘Really?’


‘And Catherine had a look and told me it did.’


‘Eeeep!’


‘Baby, what’s wrong?’


‘You… and Catherine?’


‘Me and Catherine what?’


‘I didn’t realize you were together.’



Tara smiled, ‘No, silly. I was glowing and opened my mouth, and she looked and said that I was glowing inside.’


‘Oh. Um. Mouth. Er. I feel foolish now.’


‘So you should.’



They sat in comfortable silence for a while. Long enough to unwind for a little bit. Long enough that Tara figured they should stop distracting themselves from the important topic.


‘I feel so conflicted Willow. When I found out what he had tried to do to our girl… I wanted to kill him. I wanted to turn him into a star and burn him from the world.’


‘Wow,’
was all that Willow was able to manage.


‘But that was nothing compared to Brighid. I channelled a Goddess Will. Never in my life I have imagined that kind of rage. I think after that, I understand Buffy just a little better. I think there may be only two other people who could even understand that kind of limitless fury.’


‘Me,’
Willow said, her mental voice barely a whisper.


‘And Buffy,’ Tara finished.


‘But when she punished him, when I felt her vengeance singing through me, I felt sorry for him. I know what he’s going to feel, and he’s going to feel it forever Will. And I did it to him.’


Willow shook her head, something that Tara could feel through the furry comforter over her head.


‘If a goddess thought it was the right punishment, I'm pretty sure it is. And Brighid? She pretty much the patron saint of us: Women warriors, builders and scholars. I think she likes us.’


‘Willow, there’s more. When I channelled her power, I felt something. I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure out what it was.’


‘Oh?’


‘Brighid took it personally Will. Like we did. She was angry on a level you can scarcely believe. That someone tried to violate one of her own, that she took as sacrilege. But under that, she was afraid.’


Willow squeaked, mentally she said, ‘Afraid? What could make a warrior goddess afraid?’


‘I don’t know sweetie. I don’t know, and it scares me.’



A worried silence descended again.


‘I don’t want to see our little girl hurt Willow. Especially not like that.’


‘She’s not so little any more you know. She’s got a few inches on both of us.’


‘She’ll always be our little girl. Even she grows into a giantess.’


‘Yup. Though the giant thing seems pretty silly.’


‘Giant Dawnie, where would she find pants?’



They laughed softly together.


‘I'm glad we have this. This place where we don’t have to be strong, where we can be ourselves and let our fears out,’ Tara said.


‘And talk about our deep dark secrets. Don’t forget that.’


Tara wriggled around until she was able to lay back in Willow’s lap. Willow’s flaming red hair didn’t particularly stand out in the red glow from Tara’s body. Everything was red. She found it oddly soothing.


‘I can’t believe you’re laying your head in my lap and I'm not getting scorched. You look hot,’ Willow said.


Tara smiled a little at Willow’s playful banter. The smile soon faded.

‘I understand Buffy a lot better after tonight. Dawnie is, I think, a symbol of the innocence that we lost. And I understand now why Buffy wants to wrap her in cotton all the time. It’s a hard thing to fight.’


‘Um. I never really felt that. Does that make me a horrible person? All, uncaring and such?’


‘No sweetie. You just react differently to it, is all.’



They lay in comfortable silence for a time, until Tara broke the silence.

She idly stroked Willow’s pert breast, ‘I'm glad we took the time to visit those kids at the hospital. It really helped to take the taste of vengeance out of my mouth. I don’t know how Anya managed it all those years.’


‘I think she’s just naturally blood-thirsty. I hope Giles isn’t too mad tomorrow.’



Tara shrugged, looking past the luminous red breasts above her to Willow’s glittering red eyes, ‘I had the power to do something. I had the responsibility to act. It was the right thing to do.’

She yawned, ‘And I am really tired.’


‘It’s been a rough day. I'm thinking we should do a Scooby breakfast for everyone tomorrow.’



Tara quirked a smile, ‘Are you thinking what I'm thinking?’


Willow bounced excitedly, which had an amazing effect given the way she was sitting, ‘Pancakes! It’s been so long since we had your special pancakes. In fact any pancakes. But yours are the best!’

Willow yawned, ‘I feel like a kid at Christmas. I can’t wait for tomorrow now.’


They rearranged themselves into a more normal sleeping positions, with Tara tucked into Willow’s arms.


‘There’s going to be some bad stuff tomorrow. But I'm looking forward to breakfast.’


Willow pressed a soft kiss into her cheek, ‘Night baby.’


‘Willow, where’s my proper goodnight smooch?’


She tipped her head back for Willow’s tender kiss.

‘That’s better. Now all is well with the world.’


She yawned again, ‘Night sweetie.’


Willow whispered with a sleepy smile, ‘Night, little mommy.’


+++

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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 18, 2015 12:40 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I'm glad that Willow & Tara took care of the creep before Buffy & Faith could massacre him into tiny bits...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 2:05 am 
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Great chapter. You handled the tough subject matter well. I'm looking forward to Giles' reaction in the morning and Anya's appraisal of Tara's and Brighid's brand of vengeance. Though I may be dreading Xander's reaction.

On another note, is "The" Goddess that doesn't answer prayers and helped Willow and Tara punch a hole through reality to get back together a separate entity from Brighid? Or are you using them as the same being or maybe two halves of the the same being?

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 10:45 pm 
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Heya Citanul!

Glad you thought i handled it ok.

You're not the only one to be confused by the 'Goddess' business.

Real life wiccans worship a variety of gods and goddesses.
Depending on the wiccan, it can be whichever god is most approriate to the spell, or always the same god.

Tara explains it all later, but to save you waiting/being horribly confused:

three goddesses are mentioned in this story all up.

Brighid: Goddess of poetry, excellence, women warriors, the forge, flame and water. She is referred to in story as 'Brighid' 'The Goddess Brighid' 'The forge Goddess' 'The Fiery Arrow' etc. Anyone familiar with the Epic: Unexpected Consequences should be familiar with her :P

Hestia: called Hestia when Willow & Tara call on her for a healing spell.

And THE Goddess. The Goddess so all encompassing, that she is simply called 'The Goddess' by most. In this story, she is known by many names: The Mother, Gaia, Mother Nature, The Earth. And she does not take side, or answer prayers.

Or so the lore tells us...
;)

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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 Nov 01, 2015 1:18 am 
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Fall-out and silliness.

Buffy is shocked by Giles!
Dawnie does magic!
Faith causes a huge mess!
Tara throws things at people!
All this and more!


Bohemian Rhapsody



Oh come on, they’re going on an adventure to Bohemia, what else was I gonna call it?

Tara awoke, feeling warm and relaxed, snuggled even.
Willow was snuggled into her chest and was cupping one breast possessively.

‘Goddess above, I have missed this.’ she thought with lethargic contentment.

As some point in the night they had moved and assumed their more usual position, with Willow snuggled up against her.
Her sleepy mind knew there was some big thing just building in the background, waiting to come crashing down, but for now she was more than happy to just luxuriate in Willow’s embrace.


Willow was still sleeping, but the feelings coming from her sleeping mind let Tara know that it wouldn’t be too long until she was awake.

‘Mmm… chocolate,’ Willow’s mind murmured.
Vague flashes of chocolate and a naked Tara drifted through the link. Inevitably Willow’s sleeping mind put the two together and there were images of Tara dipped in chocolate.
Willow’s tongue came to the rescue.

‘Oh my,’ Tara thought to herself with a smile. She filed the image away for future reference.


Willow’s arousal was pushing her towards wakefulness, at least if the gentle massaging of Tara’s breast was anything to go by.
Willow burbled softly as she drifted towards consciousness. “Ghhhffzzl.”


She looked down at her beloved, tucked into her side, only the tip of her nose visible past her mop of soft red hair.
“Chocolate kittens… terrible!” Willow murmured.


Tara chuckled softly. The part of Willow capable of speech often seemed to wake up before the rest of her, which lead to some amusing morning conversations.

It was a shame that Willow’s eyes were shut, as the stifled laughter made Tara’s breasts jiggle in a way that she would have found hypnotic.

“Mine,” Willow muttered. “Mmm… nummy marshmallow.”
And began to make soft mouthing motions on Tara’s breast.


There was more stifled giggling.
The giggle quakes seemed to have had an effect on willow as she opened one bleary green eye.
“Wuh?”


‘Sorry sweetie, you were just too cute for words.’


“Mmm… I had a dream about chocolate marshmallows. They were yummy.”

She looked across Tara’s chest to see one breast with her hand cupping it. She gave it an experimental jiggle. “Oh hey, there they are!”

She slowly put her mouth around one of Tara’s nipples and began to make toothless ‘Omnomnom’ motions.

‘Mmm… chocolate covered.’


Tara’s giggle turned into a sigh as Willow began to work her expert tongue languorously around her nipple, almost as though it actually were covered in chocolate.
‘Actually, I think you are even yummier than chocolate! And I think… Oh poop! Dawn!’ Willow said as she sat bolt upright.

The smile vanished from Tara’s face as the things which had been waiting in the back of her mind came rushing back.

Willow clutched her head and groaned as the room spun alarmingly in response to her sudden change of attitude.
“Oh that’s horrible!” she said as she slowly got the spinning room under control.

She waved her hands anxiously. “I feel like a horrible person! Here I was about to enjoy yummy Tara-snuggles when something awful happened to Dawn!”


Tara cuddled into Willow from behind and rested her head on her shoulder. “Baby stop, please.”

She wrapped her hands around Willow’s smooth tummy, luxuriating in the bare skin feeling.

“It was a terrible, horrible thing, and we need to talk some more about it at some point.”

She gently turned her love around, meeting her worried green gaze. “But life goes on, and our loving each other doesn’t detract from how much we love and care for Dawnie, alright?”


Willow nodded glumly, clearly unconvinced.


“Are we going to go around tense, guilty and unloved because of what happened? Will that help Dawnie move on?”


Willow sighed. “I know. You’re right. It just feels like we’re celebrating badness, y’know?”


‘We’re celebrating goodness Willow. We’re celebrating that our girl has grown into a strong and beautiful woman. One who can quite evidently look after herself.’

She pulled Willow close, breasts pressing together as Tara pressed a tender kiss to Willow’s lips.


‘Mmmm… good point, shutting up now,’ Willow sent.

Breakfast could always wait a while.


+++


Hazel eyes snapped open.

Buffy rifled through her senses, trying to determine what had awoken her.

A smell. A hauntingly familiar smell. She thought for a moment with her sleep fogged brain.


‘Pancakes!’ her brain helpfully reported.

Sadness lanced through her, followed by the beginnings of anger.
Then something clicked, as the fuzz cleared from her brain.


‘Pancakes, pancakes, pancakes!’ her brain helpfully explained.
And she squealed with joy.


Faith exploded from the bed, finding herself on her feet and ready to fight, before she even registered that she was awake.
She looked around wildly for threats, before Buffy saw the light of intelligence dawn.

“Jesus B! You just about gave me a frikkin’ heart attack!” Faith said, her eyes widening as she saw the little blonde bounce out of bed in her birthday suit.


“Pancakes! Pancakes-pancakes-pancakes!” she sang, bouncing up and down with joy.


Faith’s heart was still battering against the inside of her rib cage and her body protested at her sudden and alarming verticality. She groaned as the room spun, but her eyes were drawn to Buffy’s chest as she bounced happily.
Faith had catapulted out of bed so fast that she had effectively stripped it. She was still wearing the remains of the bedding as an impromptu toga.


Buffy excitedly unwrapped Faith and snuggled into her, still somewhat bouncy.
“Pancakes honey! Pancakes!”


“Oh my god B! it’s still dark outside! What the hell!”


Buffy looked crestfallen, and more than a little sad.

“But-but, pancakes?”

There were tears in her eyes.


Faith’s brain was slowly coming to life, piece by piece.

Pancakes. Scoobies never ate pancakes.
She bludgeoned her brain into some semblance of order, trying desperately to think, before the waterworks started.

Why? Why the hell did no-one here eat pancakes? Something lil’ D told her once… ages ago… Tara.
It all fell into place. No-one ate pancakes. Because Tara used to make them for early morning Scooby meetings. Made ‘em real good too by all accounts.

Once again she was struck by how much emotional trauma her little family was carrying around, how much damage had they taken over the years? How many scars?

And not the proud scars of battle.
No. These were the scars that never showed, never fully healed.

Any given Scooby carried around enough hurts to put them in for a lifetime of therapy. And still they soldiered on.
Her little family.

Faith stopped, awestruck as it finally sunk in.
Her family.
Her family!
And just like that she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.


“I'm sorry hun. I didn’t mean to bust ya balloon,” she said in a rough voice. “Just a little thrown is all.”


“I know, it’s just…” she said in a quavery voice, “sometimes you don’t realize just how hard everything’s gotten, until something shows you.”


Faith just hugged her tight. “C’mon babe. Enough sad-face, let’s go down and have crazy, insanely-early- morning pancakes.”


Buffy sniffled into Faith’s shoulder. “Sorry I freaked you out, it’s just I felt really… happy.”


“S’ok babe. You deserve some happy. Sorry I yelled at you an all. I guess pancakes are cool now huh? Now that Tara’s back an’ all?”


Buffy bounced a little. “Yup. I mean, we only did pancakes because they’re cheap and easy for feeding hordes of hungry Scoobies. But Tara did them so well, no one wanted anyone else’s ones. Then…” she trailed off.


‘I get it B. It’s alright baby, I understand,’ she sent on their secret wavelength.


Buffy wriggled happily snuggling herself even closer to her blanket wrapped love, ‘I love when you do that, it feels so intimate.’


Faith smiled, ‘More on the intimate thing later B. Pancakes now. I wanna see my happy Buffy, bouncing all over the place, high as a kite on sugar an’ general happy vibes.’


Buffy smiled radiantly, one of those megawatt beams that lit the room and made her relationship to Dawn obvious, ‘You said My Buffy. I feel so special.’


Just seeing it made Faith melt just a little, ‘God B. I just love seein’ that.’


Buffy leaned in close, and spoke to Faith mentally, ‘Pancakes!’
And with a quick kiss on Faith’s nose, she went bouncing out the door.

Faith grinned. It was really nice seeing the big bad Slayer all excited and hyper, like a big kid. Plus any second now…


“Eep!”
Buffy bolted back inside and slammed the door shut.


Faith snorted. “Ya might wanna put the goodies away B.


Buffy was blushing furiously.
“You could have said something!”


“Hey, you’re just too fast for me babe. I was still reeling from the eskimo kiss and the morning heart attack. Forgive me if I'm a little slow.”
Her grin widened. “Also it was funny as hell.”


Buffy shot her a dark look before putting on Faith’s dark blue dressing gown.

‘Mmm, snuggly. Smells like my wife-to-be.’

And before Faith could say anything, she bounced out the door, this time at least somewhat covered.


‘Brat.’

All she got back down the link was an impression of laughter, that and the vague impression of pinkness.

Looking around she spotted Buffy’s significantly smaller, significantly pinker bathrobe, hanging from the wardrobe door.

She shrugged and threw it on as she sauntered out the door, following the delicious smell of pancakes.


+++


Buffy was cheerfully chattering away as Faith walked in. “… and Faith just about took a bazooka to my balloon of happiness.”

Tara raised an eyebrow and smiled a little, as Faith walked in wearing a scandalously small pink bathrobe.

“Good morning Faith. How are you doing?” she said with genuine concern.


Faith gave her a slightly sheepish smile. “Five by five Tare-bear. We talked, we cuddled, we’re both idiots. All good.”

She sat down, causing her pink bathrobe to ride up a little and become slightly more scandalous. “Why’re you up at the crack of dawn?”


“Ugh, I wish everyone would leave my crack alone,” a pyjama-clad Dawn muttered, as she staggered in and sat down.

She blinked for a moment, clearly still waking up. “Uh, that didn’t come out right.”


A few smiles were raised at that.

“How are you feeling Dawnie?” Tara asked softly.


Dawn yawned hugely. “Better.”

She rubbed her face sleepily. “Plus I learned some very important things last night.”


“What, uh, what did you learn Dawnie?” Willow asked.


“I learned… that I have friends that will hold me all night as i cry.”

Soft smiles greeted this response.

“I learned that my family will go to war for me.”


“Durn tootin’,” Willow said.


Dawn smiled. “I learned that I am loved.”


Tara touched her gently on the shoulder, her voice soft and filled with love. “You are Dawnie, so very much.”

She smiled at Tara gratefully, and reached out to take Buffy’s hand, earning a pleased look from her sister.
“And I learned that I am not a helpless little girl,” her gaze turned fierce. “I'm Dawn Summers. I'm a hunter of monsters. I am a force to be reckoned with.”


“Told ya B. She’s got it: Summers’ steel.”


“How do you feel about what happened?” Tara probed gently.


Dawn shrugged. “It was terrifying and gross and I hated what he wanted to do to me. I also hurt him pretty badly, maybe even killed him. Between that and you guys, I feel about as good as I can be, I suppose.”

Silence greeted her response.

“If it helps, you didn’t kill him, though you did hurt him quite badly.”


Dawn absorbed Willow’s comment with a slow and thoughtful nod.

“Good. I don’t like the idea of being an accidental killer.”

She met Faith’s eyes. “I’ve seen the damage that can do, so I'm glad that he’s alive.”

She frowned. “I want him punished though. I hate the thought that someone can go around… doing that to girls, making them feel terrified, violated and powerless, and get away with it.”


Faith cleared her throat. “Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much on that score sister. He’s about as punished as a man can get and still be alive.”

Dawn looked at Faith curiously.


“When you defended yourself, you, um, hit him in a sensitive spot,” Tara said awkwardly.


Faith barged in. “What she’s trying to say, is that ya cut his dick off.”


Tara shook her head. “No. not just that. All of it,” she corrected.


Dawn winced. “Ouch.”


“Don’t feel too bad. Tara healed him, so he could run away from the army of angry Slayers baying for blood. She channelled the goddess Brighid, and Brighid was angry. She healed him up alright, but she said that he had lost his right to manhood, that it had been taken in battle and was no longer his.”


Dawn looked a little lost. “So…”


“So she healed him without his boy-parts,” Willow said.

This was absorbed in silence.

Eventually Dawn spoke. “Ow. Well if a warrior goddess says it’s right, it probably is. Plus: ha-ha, fuck you. Let’s see you rape anybody now, mister rapist.”


“Not just that,” Willow said.

Dawn’s eyes widened. “There’s more? Geez, I woulda thought the tribal vengeance thing would have been enough.”


“Brighid didn’t think so. She was not happy about his choice of pastimes, and when a goddess of war gets angry, she lets everyone know it. So she cursed him to feel the pain and terror and violation of all his victims. Forever. He will only be released from his curse, if he spends the rest of his life protecting the innocent. And then only after he dies.”


Dawn’s eyes were wide. “Whoa. Remind me never to get on her bad side.”


Tara smiled a little. “I think you’re ok Dawnie. She is rather protective of you. I think she thinks of you as one of her own.”


Dawn blinked. “Wow. So not only do I have the world’s greatest monster hunters and general good guys looking out for me, I have an actual Goddess on my case?”

Tara nodded.


She did a little victory dance on her stool. “My life is awesome. Except for the sucky parts.”


Buffy padded softly up to Dawn and softly enfolded her sister in a hug, resting her head on her shoulder. “Mom said it best, ages ago. You are precious Dawnie, precious to me, to all of us. And the world.”


Dawn leaned into the comforting hug. “Thanks sis.”


Buffy spoke softly. “When mom… when mom was going in for surgery and she thought she might not make it. She made me promise to protect you. She couldn’t rest until I promised to protect you with everything I had.”


“I know Buffy. I love you, you know?”

She looked around at the women that made up the bulk of her family. “You guys are awesome. Now I don’t wanna talk about nasty icky stuff for a while. I just wanna bask in the glow of my family, and stuff my face with pancakes before we have to go.”


Buffy spoke up. “About that-”


“We can’t go,” Willow said.


“What?!” Dawn protested. “I’m not that traumatised! And no way are we backing off because of what some asshole did!”


“It’s not about that Dawn,” Tara said. “It’s because teleportation is a difficult spell. And after last night, neither of us is in the best frame of mind. Which is not a good thing for spellcasting of the tricky sort.”


“So I suggest a day of blobbing out, spending time with friends and stuff, getting plenty of rest, and talking about things if you have the need to,” Willow said.


“Then we go tonight or tomorrow morning,” Tara said, picking up smoothly.


Tara slid the first batch of pancakes in front of Dawn with a little flourish, and Buffy herded the maple syrup, lemon juice and other pancake toppings in her direction.

Dawn very carefully painted a pattern with the chocolate syrup, sprinkled lemon juice on it and rolled it up.
And she bit into it with gusto.

Everyone seemed to be watching her as though she was going to explode.

“Mmm… if’s vood. Fara mafes duf beft fancakes.”


“I'm glad you like them sweetie. I made enough mix to feed an army.”


“You’ll need it. 2 hungry Slayers and Xander. Plus normal people,” Buffy said, winking at Willow.


That broke the ice and everyone dove for the small pile that Tara had built, only to be swatted back by a deftly wielded spatula.

“No. You can have one each, while I make more.”


Buffy muttered something about “bossy pants” under her breath.

Faith just laughed.


“Check you out sister! Butch looks good on you Glinda, I gotta say.”


“Thank you Faith. I think. Have a pancake.”


Faith squirted a little butter and syrup on the pancake and deftly rolled it up. Then she took a huge bite out of it, eating half the treat in one bite.

“Oh yeah. That’s some good pancake. IHOP be damned.”


Unbeknownst to anyone, Xander had followed his nose to the food place. He stood, leaning against the doorway and just watched the happy, slightly sticky group.

He smiled at the scene: Willow waving her arms excitedly, Dawn poking her sister with a sticky finger as Buffy tried to shoo her away, Faith grinning as she wiped butter off her chin, and Tara beatific with a soft smile of contentment.

‘Thank you god. Or whoever. Just thanks, ok?’


“Are you ok honey?” Anya whispered.


A tear spilled from his good eye. “No. But I think I'm gonna be.”

He stood behind his girlfriend and hugged her tight. “Just look Ahn, just look at them.”


Anya smiled broadly. “They seem to be sticky and happy. Come on Xander, let’s join the fun.”
And with that she took him by the hand and towed him into the room.


“Xander!” Willow cried happily.


“Hey Wills, ladies. I smell extra special Tara-pancakes.”


“Hi Xander! I saved you some,” Dawn said. “The Slayers here were going to slay them all, but I rescued them for you.”


“Hey!” Buffy protested.


Dawn tilted her head. “Why are you dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia?”

Anya was wearing a gown of shimmering white, and had her now dark hair done in a braid. Xander had on waistcoat, pants and shirt. All suitable for dressing as Han solo.


“Ah, um. Oh hey, pancakes. Omnomnom.” Xander said to avoid having to answer.


“It’s a sex thing,” Anya explained casually. “Apparently the Princess likes being bent over and stuffed up the mmrmph mrrble mmrrph.”
Xander flushed a brilliant red and put his hand over her mouth. Anya cheerfully explained with alarmingly descriptive probing gestures and a happy grin behind his hand.


Dawn just grinned impishly. “You could do worse, Leia has such long pretty hair, and Han’s not so bad either.”


“Well we were going to do Buck Rogers, but Xander complained that he didn’t look good in white, so I changed the outfit just a little and he got dressed up as Han,” Anya said cheerfully.


Xander concentrated on his pancakes.
Samurai in preparation for ritual suicide would have envied him his concentration.


“I always liked Buck Rogers,” Anya carried on. “It’s sort of horrible and 80’s, but the name is very dirty.”

She smiled. “Ask Giles about ‘rodgering’ some time. He should turn a charming shade of red. The English have so many harmless-looking dirty words.”


“Anya! I'm trying to eat over here!” Buffy groused.


Faith smirked. “Might have to start calling you Rodger there, dead-girl.”


“Better than anchor butt, or those other names you tried out on me.”


“I dunno, I thought Anyanka: Anchor, was a pretty obvious. Plus your ass is huge.”


Anya deftly snagged one of Xander’s pancakes. “No it isn’t. My ass is perfect,” she smacked the aforementioned body part with her free hand. “As you can plainly see.”


“Uh, right. Actually, I been meaning to ask about that,” Faith said, pausing her pancake inhaling activities long enough to speak.


“You’ve been meaning to ask about my butt? Have you been admiring it? Are you jealous? Horny? I mean, it is amazing, so I don’t mind you admiring it.”


“That wasn’t what I meant. Your ass is nice an’ all Angel-girl, but it’s no Buffy-butt.”

Buffy wriggled a little, looking rather pleased with herself.


Faith smirked. “What I meant, before you got all ass-obsessed was, how come you look like you? Y’know, like before you died?, and not all ghostly and strange?”


“And blonde,” Anya interjected. “I’m blonde for good this time.” She pointed at her hair, which was now blonde.

She looked expectantly around and was disappointed by the uncomprehending expressions.

She sighed. “It was a pun? When I was bad and angry, my hair was dark. When I was trying to be a good person, my hair was blonde. Now I’m blonde for good. It’s a pun.”

She looked around expectantly again and sighed, “You smile now.”


Dawn was the only one that spoke. “Riiight. I see it.”

She essayed a small smile, which seemed to mollify Anya somewhat.


“Alright. I look like this, because this is what I want to look like. I don’t look all ethereal and strange, because I don’t want to look all ethereal and strange.”


“But, um, didn’t you die?” Dawn asked, trying to do so politely.


“Yes. It was painful and unpleasant, though not as bad as you’d think.”

She gestured to herself. “This is my soul. That which was growing inside my fleshy body. This is my true form. My body is just the uninteresting discarded shell. Like a peanut shell. This is my peanut.”


“Uh what?” Buffy said, clearly confused.

Xander just grinned, clearly having heard the peanut explanation before.


“Generally peanuts, souls, are not well suited to this plane. They tend to roll off to one of the other planes of existence. A little spiritual chocolate, and it’s a lot easier to stick here and do stuff. Like Xander. So I'm a chocolate covered peanut now.”


“But you’re real? Like, I can touch you?” Dawn said.


“Yes, I'm real, yes you can touch me,” Anya said. She reached out and squeezed Dawn’s hand, and then held it to her breast.


Dawn blinked in surprise.

“Uh, I’ve felt boobs before Anya. No need to do that.”


Anya grinned. “I see. Caught the lesbian bug did you? Good for you. Though I find myself wondering if I am I the only woman still interested in penis around here.”


“Er, no, not that, Dawn said. “Just that I have my own. Boobs that is, not so much with the penis,” she said, retrieving her hand.


“What’s with the boobage Anya?” Buffy asked, giving her a weird look.


“Do you like them? I'm quite proud of them,” she looked up from her self-examination and smiled brightly. “Of course you like them, you’re gay now.”


“Anya!” Buffy growled.


“And they’re going to stay perky forever!”


“Anya, don’t make me gag you,” Buffy said.


“No need to get kinky, slugger,” Anya said, brushing Buffy’s shoulder with a slightly awkward mock-punch. “Just enjoying the good life. So to speak.”


Dawn spoke up. “It’s not that we don’t wanna know all about you and your cool powers and adventures… just after breakfast, ok?”


“Ok, deal. But now you have to let me show off.”


“Sure.”


“No traumatizing the young person Anya,” Buffy said, waggling her finger at Anya.


“Relax Buffy, I’ve already heard the one about the hellhounds and the pudding,” Dawn said evenly, as she organized another pancake.


Tara looked somewhat shocked. “Oh my.”


Anya turned and waggled an accusing finger at Tara. “I only ever told you that story! I knew there was someone listening in,” she said accusingly.


“Well, why did you keep talking?” Tara protested.


“Because I don’t care who hears about my exploits. Frankly you could all loosen up a good deal.”

Anya reached over and snagged a pancake that Faith had sprinkled cinnamon and brown sugar on.


“Wow, you’re brave, stealing Faith’s food,” Dawn said.


“Relax D, I ain’t gonna bite her or nothin’,” Faith responded in a suspiciously even tone of voice. “I ain’t a dog ya know.”


She calmly reached out and squirted a generous amount of maple syrup into Anya’s hair.

Anya looked surprised.
Faith smirked.

Everybody else just looked on in stunned silence.

Until Dawn flicked some soft butter at Buffy.
It landed with a soft splat right on her chest, just above the swell of her breasts.


Buffy gaped at her sister, completely unbelieving. “Did you just flick butter at me‽”


Dawn shook her head. “Nope.”


Buffy carefully scooped up a generous amount of low-fat yoghurt with a serving spoon, and with excessive casualness flicked it at Dawn.
Who ducked with rattlesnake speed.


And Willow was splattered with low-fat goodness.


It was on.


+++


Giles ambled downstairs with his tea tray, in dire need of some soothing breakfast tea.

As he approached the Xander-named ‘food place’ he heard squealing and shouting.
Happy squeals, if his highly over-exposed hearing was anything to go by.

He rounded the corner with some care and looked.
Inside the food place, the girls and Xander were hurling a variety of food products at each other.

Each was liberally splattered with yoghurt, butter, pancake batter and syrup, if he was any judge.

Years of life lived on the Hellmouth had trained him to think clearly in the most dire of situations, and this was no exception.
He rummaged in the pocket of his smoking jacket and retrieved the celphone Willow had given him.

Technophobe though he undoubtedly was, even he could handle pushing a button with a little camera icon on it.
He managed three good pictures.

One of Buffy and Willow smooshing something sticky into Xander’s hair.

One of Tara throwing butter at Faith.

And one of them all, looking owl-eyed and staring at Giles with the celphone.


“Giles has a celphone?!” Buffy said, somewhat shocked.


Giles’ face had a put-upon expression. “Buffy, I may not be enamoured with technology, but even I can operate a phone.”


“That, and I sat him down and forced him to learn how to use it,” Willow said with a sticky grin.


Buffy was still trying to fit a celphone-wielding Giles into her head. “But-but taking photos?!”


Giles sighed. “It has a button with a little camera on it. I can puzzle it out you know.”


“Great, now he has a photo of me with yoghurt being rubbed into my hair,” Buffy groused.


Everyone was standing around looking decidedly sticky, with the exception of Anya, cheerfully perched on a stool, and as clean as fresh fallen snow.
She just smiled at the sticky humans, not a hair out of place on her blonde head.


“That is so not fair,” Dawn grumbled.


“I’m a peanut. Dirt sticks to shells,” Anya replied cheerfully.


“Dawnie? Perhaps now might be a good time to break in that wand I gave you?” Tara said with a slight smile.


“Will it do all of us?”


Tara nodded. “If we stand close enough together.”


“Woohoo! Hermione Summers to the rescue! I’ll go get my tools.”

Dawn bolted from the room. Thankfully most of the yuckage she’d been splattered with was of the sticky, rather than drippy variety, so she managed not to leave a trail of goop leading up to her room.


Buffy glowered at Tara. “When she turns us into frogs, or takes over the world, I’m holding you responsible.”
Buffy’s attempt at a stern expression was completely ruined by the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.


“That’s fair,” Tara said, bobbing her head in agreement, and smiling faintly.


“Ain’t that against some witchy code or somethin’?” Faith said. She peeled the lapel of her tiny pink dressing gown from her skin with a wet sound. “Y’know, usin’ magic to make life easier? Not that I’m complainin’ or anythin’.”


Willow shook her head. “No. It’s not using magic to make life easier that’s the problem. It’s not respecting the gift that gets you in trouble. You could use magic to slay vampires, night after night. Important stuff. And still get in trouble if you take it for granted.”


“Cool, just didn’t want my best friend to get in crap over somethin’ small is all.”


Willow smiled. “Thanks Faith.”


Buffy pouted. “I thought I was your best friend?”


“Nope. You’re my fiancé, my girl, my squeeze, my woman.”

They shared a sticky, sticky kiss.


“Aww,” Dawn said, having made the trip in record time.

She had a big dopey grin on her face.

The pair ignored her, to continue their soft, if sticky, smooching.


Willow for her part had a goofy expression and a slight blush as Tara licked a drip of syrup off her nose.
“Yummy. I told you that you were sweet, Willow.”


“Ugh, why am I up?” Jules grumbled.

Heather was in a borrowed pair of Dawn’s pyjamas, Jules looked more rumpled and was wearing a pair of track pants and a tank top.


“Magic. Shush,” Heather responded. She was significantly more awake and watching Dawn fiddling with her wands with interest.


“Ok, so how do I use this?” Dawn said, holding up the shiny wand.


“After you say the command word, you use the wand, a bit like a leaf blower. You sort of… whoosh all the mess off everyone and into the garbage bin.”


“Cool!” Dawn said, beaming.


“Everyone stand together in the mess, so I can get you all.”


“Lil’ D? ya might wanna get in here too. Ya got more hair than any of us, an’ cleaning pancake goop outa it is really gonna suck.”


Dawn hopped into the mess.

“Cala!” she said in a clear voice, pointing the wand back towards herself and the sticky gang.

The accumulated sticky mess vanished off them, the floor, and the walls, as though it had been hit with an invisible water cannon.

“Whoa! That was wicked!” Dawn squealed, suddenly and shockingly clean.


Faith peeked down the front of her scandalous bathrobe. “I feel squeaky clean.”


“Dawnie?” Tara gestured to the faintly glowing wand and the pile of accumulated yuckiness in the corner.

Carefully Dawn herded the pile into the trash bin.

“That. Was. Socool!” Heather gushed.

She bounced over to Dawn and enveloped her in a jumping, squeaky hug.

Then she froze and backed off awkwardly.

“Um, sorry, sorry, didn’t think. Uh.”

She looked away, ashamed. “I’m such an idiot.”


Dawn grabbed her and pulled her close. “You never apologize for holding me, you hear?”

She looked over Heather’s shoulder to Jules. “You either, ok?”

“You guys held me all night, as I cried until I passed out. And I know you guys. You’d have fought off the First for me. So anytime you want to hug me? It’s the right time.”


“Um, cool. But I don’t wanna give you like ‘nam flashbacks or whatever.”


“As long as you don’t surprise grab me from behind, I think we’ll be ok.”


“Oh. I can do that. Hug?”


Dawn nodded. “Yes please.”


Heather enfolded her in a hug. “There you go. One hug, free of charge.”


“Well, that was proper Hogwarts-y, I’m officially impressed,” Jules said.


“Well done Dawnie, you’re a natural,” Tara said.


“At cleaning the kitchen,” Buffy said with a smirk.


“Wow. This place looks like new,” Willow said.


Faith cautiously sniffed herself. “Hey, I smell clean. Wicked.”


Dawn grinned. “Hermoine Summers to the rescue.”


“If she tries to take over the world-” Buffy said with mock seriousness.


“Cower brief mortals! Flee before the power of my cleanliness!” Dawn said, waving around her wand dramatically.


“Sadly, you’ll have to wait until this time tomorrow to do that again Dawnie. These wands only have one use per day,” Tara said.


“Oh pooh.”


“Though they’ll last for many years.”


“Yay!”


“If perhaps we could finish breakfast, with just a mote of dignity intact?” Giles said mildly, helping himself to one of the surviving pancakes. Lemon juice, sugar and cream swiftly followed.


“Not gonna have a heart attack on us are ya Jeeves?” Faith said, eyeing his pancake.


Giles raised an eyebrow. “Hardly. I’ll have you know, that I passed my last physical exam with flying colours. My doctor said I had the heart of a man half my age.”


He munched his pancake with barely restrained delight. “Oh my. Tara, how we have missed you.”


Tara ducked her head a little, and flushed slightly pink.

“You’re welcome mister Giles.”


“You have a doctor? ” Buffy asked, incredulous.


“Indeed. He was most impressed with my general health. He asked me what my secret was.”


“What did you tell him,” Tara asked with a gentle smile.


Giles looked rather awkwardly around. “Ah, daughters. I told him I had a number of daughters, and they kept me young.”


Dawn gently sat on his knee and gave him a big hug. “Yes you do, Giles.”

She pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Eww, stubbly!”


Giles looked slightly embarrassed and muttered. “Well I wasn’t expecting to be ambushed at this time of morning you know. I only came down for a pot of tea.”


Faith punched him gently in the shoulder. “Don’t fret G-man. The number of daughters you have, you’re kinda gonna hafta live forever.”


He quirked a smile. “So it would seem.”

He looked around at the self-proclaimed family, several of whom had already made the ultimate sacrifice, and the others who would, if need be. He could not feel more proud at that moment.

Sitting there in his smoking jacket, feeling decidedly rumpled, and listening to his family cheerfully squabbling as they finished off the last of their breakfast, he was truly happy.
And very glad that his soul had no intention of leaving.


Dawn saw the soft look on his face, something that had been lacking of late, and squeezed him tight.

“You know you’re never going to be rid of us, right?”


He essayed a genuine smile. “Perish the thought.”


Over at the stove, Willow was working with ferocious concentration, poking and fiddling with something in the pan using a spatula, aided (or perhaps hindered) by Tara, who cuddled her from behind and made helpful suggestions.

Tara supplied her a plate upon which to place her masterpiece, and Willow presented it to Giles with a flourish.

“Tada! Or perhaps something more British, like ‘raaather’,” she drawled in a terrible upper-class English accent.


Giles looked down. He was well aware of the Scoobies preference for funny shaped pancakes, but Willow had outdone herself. It was a very funny shape. In truth if it was just the tiniest bit more irregular, it would in fact be several smaller pancakes.


“It’s an angel. See, it’s your very own, funny shaped pancake,” Willow said eagerly.


It did indeed look like an angel. If one had recently been bludgeoned around the head, and was suffering a terrible concussion. Though there was no possible way Giles was going to say that.

Willow had an astonishing array of talents, though apparently artistic ability was not one of them.


“But how will I eat it? I simply cannot destroy such a masterpiece,” he said with just the tiniest hint of a smile.


Faith snorted and helpfully tore a chunk off the pancake, popping it into her grinning mouth.

“Just a pancake now. You can eat it.”


Giles wasn’t sure, given the uneven shape of the pancake but it looked awfully like Faith had just pulled the ‘head’ off the angel.

“I may as well then.”

He ate the very funny shaped pancake, as Willow glared at an unrepentant Faith.


After he had finished, he dabbed a napkin at his mouth and stood.

“Thank you girls, that was wonderful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a pot of tea, some books and a shower to deal with. After which, I may I feel ready to face the day.”


Tara quickly lost her smile. “Um, mister Giles? I-”


“We,” Willow interrupted , meeting Tara’s eyes steadily.


Tara looked from Willow to Giles. “We owe you an apology.”


Giles looked surprised. “Why, whatever for?”

“For-”

“Maybe,” Willow interjected.

“Making things difficult for us here. I couldn’t not help those children. They were suffering mister Giles, and I could help them. So I did. I had to.”


Giles blinked owlishly in surprise. “While I have no idea what you are talking about, I will remind you that the sun has yet to rise.”

He rubbed his temples. “I feel terribly ashamed if I have ever given you the impression that you should not help children, but would it be too much to ask that you explain what you mean?”


Willow jumped in at high speed, looking more than a bit nervous. “Well after channelling Brighid, we were feeling a bit vengeance’d out,” Willow said. “And plus after our dramatic entrance, even with a glamour to protect us, we figured we should sneak out the side door.”


Tara added a bit more to the explanation. “We got lost and ended up sneaking out through the children’s ward.”


Willow nodded. “More specifically, the children’s really severe illness ward, whatever it’s called. They had cancer, leukaemia, HIV, all that nasty stuff.”

“And, um. Now they don’t,” Tara said awkwardly.

“Yay? Kind of a happy miracle,” Willow said nervously.


Giles looked at the two women, who, despite their obvious pride, were looking as though they expected to be soundly told off.

“I’m sure I’m going to have cause to regret this later, but good for you.”

Both women looked surprised, Willow especially.

“I don’t doubt that if it keeps happening, people will come flocking from all over. Doubtless, the more desperate or religious will come anyway. And I don’t doubt that this will cause you some sleepless nights as you ponder the implications.”

He looked around at all of them gathered together, and smiled. “But don’t let that stop you.”

He looked at Buffy with a small smile. “I would imagine Buffy can tell you how satisfying it is to save the life of an innocent.”


“Very,” Buffy put in.


Giles tidied away his breakfast things and organized a pot of tea. “Now, I think I handled that rather magnificently given the hour, so would you take pity on my poor old brain and tell me what actually happened last night? And what on earth you’re talking about?”


“And vengeance? Tara you don’t really seem the type, but if you want any tips, I’ll be happy to help,” Anya said with disturbing cheerfulness.


Everyone shared a number of accusing or surprised looks.


“Oh! Uh, sorry Giles, I figured Buffy or someone had told you,” Willow said.


“Dawnie was attacked last night,” Tara explained.


Giles looked shocked, his green eyes sought out Dawn’s grey. “My dear are you all right?”


Dawn nodded slowly. “I guess. I mean I’m a bit freaked, and I’ve been sorta not thinking about it if I can, but I think I’m ok.”

She hooked an arm around her two best friends. “I avenged myself, my girls looked after me, my family fought for me, a Goddess brought down vengeance for me. Things are about as good as they can be, I guess.”


“And the demon or vampire is now slain, I presume?”


Dawn shook her head. “It was a man Giles. No vamp, no demon, just a man.”


Giles looked confused. “A man? But why would a man attack…”

For just a moment there was a look of comprehension, followed by uttermost revulsion and horror, just for a moment. Then it was covered by the cold, calculating look that the Scoobies had come to recognize as Giles’ darker side, his ‘Ripper’ face.

And just for a moment they were reminded of the hidden depths of the man. That this stuffy British librarian, would go to any lengths to get the job done. For a moment he gazed into the middle distance, with the cold calculating eyes of a predator.


“No!” Dawn shouted, making everyone jerk in surprise. “Don’t you dare!”

Dawn’s explosion got some surprized looks from everyone.

“I can see you thinking Giles. I can see you thinking to yourself that you’re going to go off and deal with this guy quietly, without anyone knowing.”

She glared at him, her eyes grey fire. “Well don’t. He’s punished. I stabbed him in the crotch, Willow and Tara healed him without his bits. The goddess Brighid punished him with the feelings of all his victims are on constant replay. At this point killing him would be a mercy, and I don’t think you want that do you?”


“Not… as such, no.”


“Just. Leave it,” she commanded.

Her fierce gaze softened. “Giles, I know you care, and I know you want to do something. I know how hard it is to do nothing, and I love you for it.”

She let out a huff. “But it’s dealt with about as much as it is possible to. Really. A Goddess got involved.”

Dawn leaned into Heather’s comforting hug. “I just want to put it behind me now.”


“We’re taking a day off from going to the land of cheese and garlic to recuperate,” Buffy chipped in.


“That’s France, B.”


“Sausage?”


“Germany, but you’re getting warmer.”

Buffy shrugged.


“What made you an expert on-” Anya said. The light went on in her eyes. “Ah, yes. Food. I should have guessed.”


“Plus Tara did a spell on Dawn, which might have helped,” Buffy said, ignoring Anya’s aside.


Giles gave Tara a questioning look.


“It’s a restorative spell,” Tara explained. “It doesn’t really fix anything, it just speeds up the healing process. It’s like having several good night’s sleep, all at once.”


“Several good nights worth of sleep after a trauma? That sounds like powerful medicine all by itself,” Giles said absently, almost reflexively.

He looked down at the table, his face showing hints of supressed anger and revulsion. “I am deeply angered by the nights events, and I do not have it in me to do nothing. Not when my loved ones are attacked.”

He held up a hand to stifle the protests. “I will not stand idly by and do nothing!”

He looked at Dawn. “I will however promise you that there shall be no Ill-thought-out vengeance sprees, or emotional responses to this attack.”

His gaze softened slightly. “I promise you Dawn, I’ll not shoot him in a fit of rage.”


Dawn smiled sadly. “Ok Giles.”


“I realize I’m often the last to know,” Xander said, looking deeply annoyed. “But could someone please explain to me what the HELL happened last night?”


+++


“I shan’t hold you up for too long, I imagine there are places you’d rather be.”


Willow and Tara were seated side by side on a comfy couch in Giles’ suite. They held hands, as they often did, but the way they were seated made them look more than a little defensive.


Giles sighed. “Please girls, do relax a bit. I’m not going to bite your heads off, or ‘chew you out’ as you Americans put it.”

He paused in his tea making. ”You know, I’ve just realized that phrase might have rather a different meaning in certain company.”

He awkwardly went back to stirring the tea. “Perhaps it would be best if we pretend that I never said that.”


Willow and Tara said nothing, too tense to comment.

He finished making up the pot of tea and brought the tray over, laden with tea and cups. And, in deference to the country he was living in, he had cookies, as well as tea biscuits.


“I’m not going to attack you over last night, I promise you.”

He sat down and poured them all a cup.

“I am absolutely outraged over the events of last night, but not your part in them, quite the contrary.”

His mild blue eyes met Tara’s own. “I think that, yet again, I owe you a debt of thanks my dear. Were it not for your actions, I daresay we would be in dire shape this morning.”

Tara gave him a sad half-smile.

“And while I do want some more information about last night’s goings-on, so that I can deal with any potential fall-out, that’s not why you’re here.”

He sipped his tea.

“I called you here this morning to offer you a job.”


That got a reaction, eyes both blue and green blinking in surprise.


“A job?” Tara said.


“Yes, a job.”


Tara picked up her cup and added a little sugar and milk, relaxing a bit as Giles’ words sank in.

She handed the cup to Willow without a thought, and made up her own.

Both girls sipped their hot tea thoughtfully.


“Your contributions so far have been nothing less that extraordinary. I would happily keep you in splendid fashion for the rest of your life, purely on the basis of all that you had done for Buffy and Willow, not to mention the rest of us.”

He sipped his tea again.

“But I don’t doubt that it would begin to grate on you after a time. So I would like you to take up a position in our organization, one uniquely suited to your talents.”


Willow had finally relaxed a bit and was sitting back into the couch, silently lending her support, but letting her girl take the field.

“What job did you have in mind mister Giles?”


He smiled. Even after all this time she still called him ‘mister.’ He found it absolutely charming.

“Well, in times past you would be a ‘wise woman’ or witch, but in terms of modern job titles, I was thinking of ‘Counsellor.’”


Tara smiled warmly at the terms.


Giles looked at her quite seriously. “We need you Tara.”

She raised an eyebrow at his serious expression.

He responded. “I’m quite serious I’m afraid.”

He sighed. “The original Watchers Council made a great many mistakes. I believe due to the lack of a moral centre, a ‘soul’ if you will. I fear that in the years to come, our new council may fall prey to the same influences that corrupted the old. To combat that, I want to have a human side to our operation, a soul, so to speak, and I can think of no better person to fill that position than you, my dear.”


“Wow,” Willow said.


“I mean for us to stand the test of time, Tara. I mean for us to be a shining beacon of hope in a world of darkness. And for us to do so, I need each of us to be the very best person we can be. The most human.”

He looked at Tara. “And for that I need you.”


Tara squeaked. “Me?”


Giles nodded. “You. My dear, I say this without any pretence. You are the best of us. You have made some mistakes, as all of us have, but you have a moral centre and a sense of compassion that puts the gods to shame.”

Tara blinked away sudden tears.

Giles spoke softly. “Your presence gave life to Buffy, Willow and Xander, who had been slowly but surely hardening, losing a little of the spark that made them special as the years went by. You very literally gave life to Faith, and gave Buffy the chance to find love. You have more than earned any reward.”


Tara sniffled and got a warm hug from Willow. “Thank you mister Giles. Um, if it’s not too much to ask, what would my job actually be?”


Giles busied himself with his tea, giving Tara a chance to compose herself.

“Well, in addition to calling on your healing talents should the need arise, I would like you to help Willow train the new witches when you have time. But your primary focus would be the emotional and spiritual well-being of our little family and the new slayers.”

More tea was quietly sipped. “Many of them have had the sorts of unpleasant upbringing that you and Faith might be able to relate to. She has being doing a magnificent job with them so far. Her work with those from difficult backgrounds has been nothing short of heroic. But she lacks your innate abilities, and she has her hands full with the physical aspects of their training.”


Tara blinked in surprise and looked at Willow. Willow nodded slowly, confirming Giles’ words.


“You may have met them, they call themselves the Valkyries.”

Giles sipped his tea as he sought for the right words to explain himself. “She has taken those who had the greatest potential for disaster and shown them the path they could have fallen into. With her help and her utterly relentless training schedule, she has forged them into something magnificent.”


Tara smiled at the naked pride in his voice.


“They have pride in themselves and what they do, and I believe they have the potential to be the best slayers the world has ever seen.”

“But Faith needs help. I need someone who can relate, someone with compassion, someone who though strong, is not a warrior. Someone to show them that strength is not always found at the sharp end of a weapon.”


Tara nodded.


“Buffy is driving these girls till they drop from exhaustion. They come back from training, battered and bleeding, sometimes with broken bones, and then Faith picks them up and hammers at them further. And they are thriving on it. Frankly the pace of training they are maintaining is brutal, and it works. Slayers training slayers, the way only they could. They are being pushed beyond human limits day after day, and they are victorious, blossoming even.”

He looked away for a moment, a look on his face as if picturing something wondrous.

“There is something ancient and powerful inside a Slayer, something glorious, and it responds to other Slayers. The new girls are gaining strength and skill at a rate that is frankly stunning, and Faith and Buffy are continuing to advance by leaps and bounds. Frankly I am amazed by what they have become.”

“The younger Slayers are even pushing for a reinstatement of the Cruciamentum, in a modified form, as a badge of honour. And as a sort of graduation ceremony.”


That raised eyebrows on both Willow and Tara’s faces, neither of which were deeply involved with the training of the new slayers.


“But you do not simply forge Slayers into steel, you must also temper them with compassion and love.”

He sipped his tea, giving them a moment to absorb his words.

“I truly believe that the reason Buffy was so successful as a Slayer, were the reasons she had to fight. Her friends and family. To my shame, I witnessed what happened when that started to fall apart for her.”

He looked at both girls with renewed seriousness. “We have made the mistakes. Now I want to pass on what we have learned from them, to the next generation.”

He smiled sadly. “I don’t want the new girls fighting against the darkness. I want them fighting for the light. I have seen Buffy at her finest, and that was when she fought for her loved ones. She was magnificent,” he said reverently. “I want the new girls fighting the same way, fighting for love.”

He sipped his tea, creating a pregnant pause.

“And to that end, I intend to give you the power of veto over all Council decisions.”


“What?!” Tara blurted, shocked.


Giles smirked a little, showing just a twinkle of the mischief hidden inside himself, before putting a serious expression once again.

“I can think of no better person to act as moral oversight. To act as a ‘reality check,’ I believe the phrase is.”

“If neither I, nor Xander, nor Dawn can convince you that what we are doing is right, then it probably isn’t. And I want you to have the power to stop us from falling down the slippery slope.”


They sat in silence for a while, Giles sipping his tea, the girls thinking about what he had said, letting the weight of his words sink in.


“Wow,” Willow said again.


“Uh-huh.”


The three drank their tea in silence, silence broken only by the occasional tinkle of a spoon or the crunch of a biscuit.


“I’ll do it,” Tara said suddenly. “But there are a few things I need to add.”


Giles raised an eyebrow. “I was rather expecting you to take a day or two to think it over.”


Tara shook her head. “Buffy sort of beat you to it. She offered to set me and Willow up somewhere. Away from all the nastiness if we wanted.”


“Oh?” Giles said.


Tara nodded. “I told her the same thing that Willow did, all those years ago. I want in.”

She smiled softly at Giles. “People take jobs for two reasons. Money, or because it’s something they want to do. Thanks to you, I don’t have to worry about the first one, so I can focus on a job that really matters.”

She took a moment to sip her tea thoughtfully. “Doctor. Teacher. Social worker. None of those careers matter even a fraction as much as what happens here. And I can’t just walk away, knowing that my loved ones are fighting the good fight and that I could be helping.”

“But we need to do more mister Giles. We fight evil, and there’s more evil in the world than just vampires and demons. There’s true evil that happens, even when the person has a soul. Human evil.”


Giles nodded slowly, the events of last night fresh in his mind.


She paused and took a couple of deep breaths, steeling herself. Willow squeezed her hand in support.

“I’ve been talking to Faith, and we both want to do more, we want to help the helpless, mister Giles. We have money and power, and I want to put that to use to help people.”


“What did you have in mind?” he said carefully.


“Children, mister Giles. All those mothers and children in horrible situations like Faith’s.”

Her voice dropped noticeably. “And, um, mine,” she said softly.

She looked up again, determined to continue.
“We could open up a shelter somewhere nearby. We could use it to help people hide from their abusive family members and start a new life. If we see anything terrible and um, human happening on patrol, I want us to be able to step in and help them. Faith wants to teach everybody self-defence stuff too, so if it happens again they’ll know how to defend themselves.”


“To act as rescuers?” Giles asked thoughtfully.


“Isn’t that what we do Giles?” Willow asked. “Save people? How is this any different?”


“We could also have a few Slayers as guards at the shelter, in case things get out of hand,” Tara added.


“I see you have put considerable thought into this,” he said with a slight smile.


“Well, mainly me and Faith.”


“Indeed.”


Giles looked thoughtful for a moment, clearly weighing possibilities, before coming visibly to a decision.

“What we do here is important. Enormously important. More important than what we might achieve doing work that others can do, and do do already.”

He raised his hand to stall Willow’s furious protest. “With that in mind, I see no reason that we cannot do both. If, and I stress this, IF, we can ensure that our Slayer training is not jeopardized.”

He looked at the pair with absolute seriousness. “What we can do here cannot be done by anyone else in the world, and I will not risk that. However, if you can come up with a plan to build what you need, keeping the security of our organization paramount, then I see no reason why we cannot set up what you need.”


Tara smiled radiantly, the light levels in the room actually changed. “Thank you mister Giles. I think you’ll be very proud of what we come up with.”


He smiled back. “I already am my dear. I recommend having a talk with Xander when you get back. I think you’ll find he’s full of good ideas.”

He took a moment to polish his glasses. “Xander it seems, has a positive genius for explaining complex situations, in ways that make sense to other people. Once he has his head around what it is you’re trying to tell him. I think with his input, things will go so much more smoothly.”


Willow touched Tara on the hand. “I think he’ll really want to help baby,” she said softly.


Tara nodded, sharing a moment of understanding with Willow.


“With that in mind, may I ask, ah, your healing abilities, how strong are they?”


Tara thought for a moment. “You remember the story I was telling?”

Giles nodded thoughtfully.

“Well, in the other world I worked as a healer. If they could get them to me alive, I could keep them that way.”


“Is there anything you cannot heal?”


Tara shook her head. “Barring strange things like curses, I can heal anything. In my time I have re-attached arms, and legs, fixed punctured lungs and healed damaged hearts. I can give Xander back his eye and cure any disease.”


“Um, at the children’s ward she cured cancer, HIV, leukaemia and a few other um, ‘fatal’ conditions,” Willow explained.


“Good lord.”


Tara looked embarrassed. “With great power comes great responsibility.”


Giles nodded, solemnly. “Indeed. Uncle Ben has much to teach us.”


The smirk fell off Willow’s face and appeared on Giles’. “I do watch movies you know. In fact you may recall, I watched that one with you. I believe I called Peter a pratt for not being with Mary-jane.”


“Oh, oops.”


“My dear, what did you do last night?” he asked gently.


“Well, um, to be honest, we weren’t thinking that clearly.”

She looked down, feeling nervous about revealing one of her innermost secrets to anyone.

“Mister Giles? After Buffy died, we looked after Dawn for the better part of a year. While Buffy was dead, and while she was getting herself back together, um, afterwards. To be honest, we both kind think of her as our… our daughter.”


She looked up and met his understanding gaze. “How you felt earlier today? That’s how we both felt, and we knew that if we wanted to stop everyone from killing that man, that we had to do something fast.”


“So we flew.”


“You flew?”


Tara nodded sheepishly. “Um, yes. We were still in costume from the party at the Peach, so we went straight there.”


“Willow had on her witch costume, and I had my um, Joan of Arc get up, as Buffy calls it.”


Giles sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.


Willow waved her hands around nervously. “Uh, it’s not quite that bad Giles, I cast a spell, a glamour so that no-one would remember us.”


“Oh, well that’s a relief at least,” Giles said.


“Um,” Tara said.


“But…” Giles prompted.


“Glamours draw from the subconscious. Little kids mostly don’t have one, so glamours usually don’t work on them.”


“Ah. Awkward.”


Willow shrugged. “I’m not worried. A bunch of kids tell everyone that an angel came down from heaven and healed everyone? Even if they didn’t dismiss it, what are they going to do, put out an APB for an angel?”


“True. But I will point out that you two hardly blend in to the background. You are both very attractive, and are hardly ever apart. Do be careful. If the description of a very blonde woman partnered with a red-headed woman gets out, it’s likely they will look at you rather closely. And what happens if you meet one of the children on the street?”


“Should I dye my hair?” Willow said.


“Don’t you dare,” Tara said. “I happen to like your hair just the colour it is.”


“I’m in trouble if they stop making this colour then,” Willow said cheekily.


Giles gave her a strange look.


“What? Giles, I’m a natural redhead, just not this shade of red.”


“Ah. I suppose I hadn’t thought about it. I've always seen you with titian hair.”


Willow rolled her eyes. “Don’t you remember when we met? My hair was as long as Dawn’s, straight and auburn. That’s my natural colour.”


“I've seen the pictures, you were absolutely adorable,” Tara said snuggling into Willow.


She smiled softly. “I wish I’d known you then.”


Willow shook her head. “Nope, you don’t. I didn’t just have geek infested roots, I was carved out of pure geek-onium.”


“I have to disagree, I found you to be quite charming, even as a younger person.”

Giles cleared his throat as Willow looked embarrassed.

“But back to our original topic, the, ah, goings-on at the hospital.”


“Uh, Giles, not that I’m being all sassy lassie here, but what’s the worst that could happen?” Willow asked, her voice carrying a slight edge.


“Well, any new incarnations of the initiative could take an interest, as could unscrupulous, powerful individuals with an interest in living forever, or with health issues not amenable to money and science.”

He looked up. “But what I truly fear, is the kind of silliness that is seen in Europe and South America, where thousands upon thousands of desperate people flood into the area in the hopes of a miracle. Places like that attract thousands of utterly desperate people, and those places were founded on nothing more than a fanciful tale, and someone’s good luck.”

“What will you do when thousands of the sick and dying show up? Will you spend every second of your day healing the sick? What will happen when your strength fails? What will happen when you want a day off, and many die because you were not there to heal them? And what will happen when fights break out among the desperate, as to who should be seen first?”


The somewhat horrified looks on Willow and Tara’s faces showed that they had not thought quite that far ahead.

“I don’t say these things to cause hurt, quite the contrary. I say these things to make us think of the consequences, so that we are prepared when they do occur.”

He looked rather sadly at the pair. “It’s rather my lot in life I’m afraid.”


“Has anyone ever thanked you mister Giles?” Tara asked softly.


“Er, no, not as such.”


“Well thank you mister Giles, thank you for watching out for us.”


He looked rather embarrassed by the thanks, but he managed to mutter. “You are quite welcome my dear.”

He cleared his throat. “Please give some thought to what we have spoken about, and talk to Xander and Dawn about your plans. They may be able to give you some quite valuable insights.”


The pair both stood. “I’m sorry if I made things difficult for us mister Giles, but I couldn’t stand by when I saw those suffering children.”


“I understand Tara. It is one of the things that make you a truly good person. And it is why I offered you the job.”


“Thank you mister Giles.”


“From me too. Thanks for not being all growly guy.”

“That’s quite alright, now off you go. I’m sure there are any number of things that need to be done before your belated trip.”


After they left, Tara turned to Willow. “What am I going to do? I don’t think I can stop this Will. I can’t stand by and watch people suffer, not when I have the power to help.”


Willow smiled softly and poked Tara softly on the end of her nose. “That’s where you're a dummy, because that’s the wrong question. The right question is, what are we going to do?”


Tara smiled wanly. “What are we going to do Willow?”


“I don’t know yet baby. But I have to say, that helping you heal those kids was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done, right up there with the uh, Slayer spell, and blowing up our high-school.”


Tara quirked a smile. “That sounds very satisfying. I should have gotten you and Buffy to visit my old high school. It could have used a bit of blowing up, I think.”


“You’d need Xander too. He was the one that organized the explosives.”


The pair stood in silence, thinking furiously.

“I don’t know how, but with Scooby cleverness, we are going to think of a way to keep helping people. Without disaster. Let’s be clear on the no disaster part.”


Tara smiled. “I’m definitely in favour of no disaster.”

Willow bobbed her head in agreement, Tara joining in until they burst out in giggles at their head-bobbing silliness.


When they had calmed down, Tara took Willow’s hand and kissed the back of her knuckles with a smile.


“I can’t believe we’re doing this. We’re going to be rescuers.”


Willow smiled back. “I think you would make a nice ‘Miss Bianca’ baby.”


Tara laughed. “We really should sit down and watch some of Joyce’s old movies sometime. I think it would be a nice way to remember her.”


Willow nodded. “Maybe after we get back, and before we start our new… thing? Project? Career?”


Tara leaned her head against her love’s. “It’s terrifying and exhilarating sweetie. I can’t wait to get started, but it scares the pants off of me too.”


Willow squeezed her hand. “Me too.”

She tugged on Tara’s hand. “C’mon Tara, we’ve got a big day tomorrow and a couple of big spells to do before dawn.”

She thought for a moment and smiled. “In both meanings of the words.”


“Definitely time for bed if you’re punning that badly.”


Willow pouted, puppy dog eyes and all.


“Goof.”


+++


There was a soft tap at the door frame.

“Hey Dawn, do you have a minute?” Buffy asked, leaning against the door frame.


Heather and Jules clambered out of bed. “That sounds like a cue for sisterly talking. We’ll go get snacks and give you guys a chance to talk.”


“Yeah. Snackage is imminent. We’ll wait out here until you’re done,” Jules said pointing over her shoulder with her thumb.


Buffy nodded. “Thanks girls. I won’t take up too much of your sleepover time.”

Dawn waited pensively until her friends left, Buffy quietly closing the door after them.

“Time for a big sister talk?”


Buffy shook her head slowly.

Slowly, almost zombie-like she made her way over to Dawn and wrapped her arms around her.

Dawn leaned appreciatively into the hug, but she was shocked when she felt her sister shaking.
Silent sobs shook the Slayer’s small frame.

Tears rolled silently down her cheeks.
Dawn wasn’t sure what to do, but she felt the tears prickle in her eyes. It felt like all she had done since last night was cry, surely she should be cried out by now?
Apparently not. She felt her walls of normality and ‘I’m fine’ crumble and she held on to her sister as she too began to cry.

Near silent sobs, and hiccups broke the silence.
Eventually, the sisters cried themselves out, at least for a little while.


Dawn sniffled. “Ok, I know why I’m crying, why are you?”


Buffy sniffled, and smiled a watery smile. “Doofus. Same reason.”


Dawn smiled a similarly watery smile and bumped her head gently against her sisters.

“Buffy? What was it like? For you, when Spike…” she trailed off, unable to finish the sentence, but needing to know.


Buffy was silent.

The silence dragged on long enough that Dawn was sure she wouldn’t answer.


Eventually she spoke. “It was almost the worst thing I’ve ever had happen to me. Worse than when I had to kill Angel. Worse than when Glory made me feel… powerless… to save you. He made me feel helpless. Weak. As thought there was nothing I could do to stop him taking anything he wanted from me.”

Dawn squeezed her sister’s hand reassuringly.

“For a moment I wasn’t Buffy, the vampire Slayer. I was Buffy, victim, terrified girl.”


“Why… why did he? And why didn’t he… you know?” Dawn gestured helplessly, unable to put her thoughts into words.


Buffy sighed. “This is where I upset every therapist known to man, and say it was my fault.”

Buffy looked tired and sad as she spoke. “I kinda know how your attack made you feel Dawnie. But you need to understand, my situation was way, WAY different to yours.”

She held her baby sister’s hand tight in hers and stared off into the middle distance as she spoke. “I was using and abusing Spike every bit as much as he was doing it to me. That night, I’m pretty sure Spike thought it was one of our rough games. We had been beating each other up and sort of… taking what we wanted from each other for a while. I don’t think he’d even realized how beat up I was.”

She looked down at their hands clasped together. “He backed off once he realized that I was really freaked. But just then, when I realized I couldn’t stop him, when I wasn’t in control, that it wasn’t my game anymore, I was absolutely terrified.”


Her hazel eyes met Dawn’s grey. She saw no judgement there, only understanding.

“Did you love him?”


Buffy slowly shook her head.

“I thought I did. For a while. I figured that after angel, that I’d had my big love, and now all I was going to get were scraps. Pale imitations of love, the best I could hope for.”

She thought for a moment. “He was what I needed right then. But love?” she shook her head. “Pretty much the definition of lust.”

After a little more thought she pronounced. “I think I was a little bit in love with… with what I hoped he would be. Not who he was.”


Dawn nudged her sister with a smirk. “And then you met Faith.”


Buffy inhaled deeply, and smiled radiantly, the change was stunning.


Dawn felt her heart squeeze as she saw the change. And she was filled with a sense of envy.

She didn’t want Faith all to herself, however she might have crushed on her when she was younger. No, she saw the light in her sister’s eyes, and she wanted that for herself, she wanted someone special just for her, someone that made her light up the same way.

Seeing the awe inspiring love Tara and Willow had for each other, and now Buffy and Faith, it showed her what she was missing out on. Hell, even Xander and Anya seemed bizarrely happy. Or happily bizarre.

She sighed. It sucked.

“It does, doesn’t it,” Buffy said, answering a question heard, if not spoken.


Dawn looked up, puzzled. Even after all these years, she was still occasionally caught out by her sister’s adversarial relationship with the English language. “Huh?”


“It feels like everyone’s saying all this stuff, but they’ve got no idea. And you’ve been alone for so long. And no one gets it.”

Dawn stared at Buffy, just a little surprised.
“And then love blindsides you. It just comes out of nowhere and scoops you up and makes you warm all the way through, makes you feel like you’re flying.”


“You know, that’s not actually helping me feel better. Now I just feel like I’m missing out more.”


Buffy looked a little sheepish. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make it worse. I just wanted you to know, that I know what it feels like.”


Dawn nodded glumly. “Have you noticed we tend to make jokes, or talk about other stuff instead of the really scary things?”


Buffy nodded. “Probably better than getting drunk or just living in denial.”


“Probably.”


She looked across at Buffy. “Thanks Buffy, y’know, for sharing, about Spike and stuff.”


Buffy smiled sadly. “You know how bad I am at dealing with this stuff. I just wanted you to know, that I love you, and that I can understand, just a little bit, about how it feels.”


She hugged Dawn extra tight. “Plus finally talking about this makes me feel a little bit lighter.”


“I’m glad we shared something, even if it is something sucky.”


“That’s how you know it’s important.”


Dawn stared thoughtfully off into the distance for a moment.

“Buffy? Can I ask you a really personal question?”


Buffy shrugged. “Sure, we’re all sharing the deadly sisterly secrets. So shoot, ask away.”


“What was the worst? You said that Spike was nearly the worst, what was worse than that?”


Buffy jerked a little in surprise. “Uh, lemme think a sec.”

She nibbled her lip as she thought.

“Ok, in terms of uh, feeling helpless and horrible, something that Buffy is really terrible at dealing with…” Buffy said trailing off.

She slumped.

“Tara,” she said in a small, sad voice.

Buffy stared silently into space until Dawn nudged her again.

Buffy’s lost gaze met Dawn’s.


She gave a tiny nod, a tiny recognition of Dawn’s maturity.

“Both the worst times in my life, both times when I’ve felt most helpless, when my strength counted for nothing, it was for Tara.”

She took a deep breath and gave Dawn’s hand a comforting squeeze.

“When Glory caught Tara and stole her mind there… there was nothing, NOTHING I could do. I couldn’t do magic, I couldn’t heal Tara, I couldn’t even put a dent in that bitch for what she did to her.”

Dawn kept silent while her sister unburdened herself, but gave her a comforting squeeze of support.

“I’m the Slayer, and I couldn’t do anything. I’ve never felt so useless in all my life. I couldn’t even help Willow much.”

“Tara was so strong Dawn. She wasn’t a Slayer, or even a fighter, but she stood up to Glory, for you.”

She stroked Dawn’s hair comfortingly. “She loves you so much Dawnie.”

Dawn smiled sadly and leaned into her sister’s embrace.

“She gave me the strength to jump off that god-awful tower.”


“That’s not exactly a ‘yay’ moment you know.”


Buffy thought for a moment. “Yep. It is.”

Dawn frowned.

“Look, it was awful,” Buffy said. “And I wish it had never happened.”

She turned to face her sister, looking her full in her fathomless grey eyes. “But I would do it again, without a second’s thought. You’re mine Dawn. More than my sister, more than my daughter, you’re part of me, and I’ll fight the entire world for you.”

Dawn’s eyes were huge, but she said nothing.

“You never have to wonder if you are loved Dawnie,” Buffy said, using the ‘younger’ name she normally avoided. “Never. No matter how much we cat-fight or get bitchy, I will always love you.”

She leaned her forehead against her sister. “And if you’re in trouble, I will always come for you. Always.”


And Dawn Summers, Vampire Hunter, Key, and sister to the Slayer, summed up her complete trust in two simple words.

“I know.”


She thought about asking Buffy about the other ‘worst’ time, but realized, she already knew. A day that ended in a gunshot. A day she lost both her other moms, one to death, the other to darkness and despair.

And right there she swore on her ancient, young soul that if anything happened to Tara, she would tear down the heavens and lay siege to hell to get her back. And she was the Key, that had to mean something. It HAD to.

She smiled. “You know Janice, from Sunnydale?”


Buffy looked puzzled. “Um, yep.”


“Well, her cousin Stacey used to say she had two moms, ‘cos they were gay and stuff.”


“Okaaay,” Buffy said slowly and questioningly.


“Well I told people that I had three moms, which is even better.”

She paused. “Though it got me some funny looks sometimes.”


Buffy smiled and whispered. “Four, really.”


Dawn raised a regal eyebrow, something she had copied from Tara. “How’s that work?”


“Well they made you from the Slayer, me, which kinda makes me your mom.”

Something tugged at the back of Buffy’s mind, and popped into the light. “Oh! Five! You have five moms.”


Dawn looked at her sister like she’d gone bonkers and voted Republican.


“They made you out of the Slayer, right?”


Dawn shrugged. “I guess. Isn’t that why we’re going on a trip tomorrow?”


Buffy just smiled. “And who’s the Slayer?”

Dawn just pointed her finger at Buffy.

Who smiled triumphantly. “And who else?”


“Err. Like, a couple thousand girls.”


“I meant at the time, doofus.”


“Erm, Faith?”


“Tada!”


“Faith is my mom?”


“That’s my whacky theory. It would explain why you are so much taller than me, and brunette, cos mom’s blonde and so’s dad.”


“I’m pretty sure mom dyed her hair. So did dad.”


“So do I. Look we’re all natural blondes, just not that shade of blonde.”


“I’m pretty sure everyone dyes their hair around here. Willow and Tara both do, or at least Tara did. Giles’ grey seems to have mysteriously vanished, so I’m pretty sure he’s got himself some grey-away. And little Chrissie has pink hair, which I don’t care what anyone tells me, is not a natural colour.”


“Hey, the brunette is coming out tonight, in the shower.”


“Hooray, the false hair colour is washing away to reveal the other false hair colour,” Dawn said with a smirk.


“Brat,” Buffy said poking her tongue out.


Dawn responded in kind.

She sighed, reasonably happily and flopped back on her bed.

“Thanks Buffy. Y’know,” she waved her hands around. “For everything.”


“No problem. One ‘everything,’ anytime.”


She hugged her sister. “I should get out of here and let you get you sleepover started. Whatcha doing?”


Dawn shrugged. “Chick flicks, hair and nails. The traditional girls sleepover.”


Buffy smiled.

“There may be crying. Oh! And another dose of Tara’s sleepytime spell. God I hope so, that thing is awesome.”


Taking in Buffy’s look, she explained. “Ten straight hours sleep, plus whatever else the spell does. You wake up feeling like a million bucks.”


“I might have to give it a try.”


Buffy got to her feet and made for the door. She stopped in the doorway and said goodnight. “Night Dawn. See you bright and early tomorrow,” she said with a cheesy grin.


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Night Buffy.”


+++

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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


Last edited by Azirahael on Sat Nov 07, 2015 9:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 11:39 pm 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Big yay for the Scoobies working out the kinks before heading out to Bohemia...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 11:52 pm 
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zampsa19752001 wrote:
Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Big yay for the Scoobies working out the kinks before heading out to Bohemia...



Glad you liked!

Yep, bohemia is going to be a full-on Scooby adventure.
Or at least the girls, anyway :P

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:10 pm 
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I have to say I enjoyed the fact that this chapter was almost completely filled with solid Giles scenes. It was good to see so many aspects of his character come out as well. From nurturing mentor to wrathful protector, we got to see the full gamut of Giles and a bit of Ripper for a change.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:07 pm 
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Hi Citanul!

Yeah, i like writing Giles scenes, especially ones where he shakes up the Scoobs default view of him :P

In a scene not too far away, Ripper goes for a quiet walk.

Also, Giles gets the band back together. And breaks Buffy's brain.
There may also be a Tardis.
I think you'll like it. :)

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:23 pm 
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A short-ish chapter today.
A little more preparation before the trip, and Giles strutting his stuff a little.

And a few other small revelations :)



Bad Dreams


The Dreamweaver approached the buildings of Slayer central, floating smoothly and invisibly through the air towards its targets.

A creature of desire and fantasy, the dreamweaver was a creature of dreams and nightmares. And nightmares were to be its task tonight.

As little as the creature thought about its past works, this task seemed different.
Though in the past it had been given nightmares to deliver, it’s usual job was the delivery of uplifting dreams and prophetic visions.

Tonight it was weighed down by nightmares. Nightmares of such horror, betrayal and loss that it could barely shoulder the burden. Three nightmares it was given to deliver, though inflict would be a better word.

Never did the spirit question why it was given a task, but this evening it did ponder. What disaster could be averted with such horrors? Why was it told to avoid some inhabitants? And where did the maelstrom of power come from that radiated from this building?
Not a creature given to such thoughts, it shrugged its spiritual shoulders and prepared itself for its task.


The spirit passed easily through the walls of the room and looked around. It spied two naked forms asleep atop the bed, one the unlucky recipient of its load of nightmares.
The other was one it had been told to avoid.

The target was curled protectively around a smaller form snuggled into her chest.
If the spirit could have shuddered, it would have.

The Powers That Be were explicit that the other slayer should not be harmed.
Extremely explicit.

Exercising great care, the Dreamweaver hovered over a dark, tousled head.
And fell purposefully into her dreams.

When the dreamscape took form, the creature found itself on a sunlit hill.
Beneath a spreading tree, both girls were talking quietly, the occasional giggle breaking the silence as they took turns feeding each other choice morsels. Cheese formed much of the menu.


The spirit approached, ready to warp this dream world into a nightmare.
And was stopped.

Standing between the spirit and his prey, was a small figure dressed in rags and leather.
Her blonde hair was in rough dreadlocks, and her face was painted in threatening black and white, her golden eyes glittering in her darkened face, a warning to all who encountered her. She was symbol of that which nightmares feared.

The Slayer.

Her expression was as hard and unyielding as a glacier. Utterly implacable.
She stood between the spirit and his prey, tension visible in her small frame as she crouched, ready to spring.
She drew a flint dagger and growled out a single word. A word freighted with all the fury and protectiveness that was the birth-right of the Slayer.

“Mine.”

Her taut frame radiated menace and barely restrained violence.
And for the first time, the dream weaver, creature of shadows and fantasy, knew the mortal fear of death.

The Slayer attacked.


The dream weaver staggered back into the mortal plane, reeling from the blow it had been dealt.

The stunned creature had never encountered the like. Driven from its place of strength, the dreams of a mortal mind, by the limitless rage of a slayer.

It did not know how such a thing could be possible, such things did not happen. And yet something had given the Slayer the power to drive out a servant of the Powers That Be, from its most favoured battleground.

Terrified, the presence fled the room, searching for safety, any place not filled with such impossibilities. It hid in an empty hallway for a time, recovering.

Gathering itself, it returned to its task, hoping on some level to redeem itself with its next task, and angered by the inability to carry out the charge given it by the Powers That Be.

Sensing its other targets were nearby, it closed on the nearest one, determined to succeed, and hoping that this task would be easier than the first.


The two forms within were asleep, much as the others had been, the red-headed one pillowing her head on the chest of the white haired one.
Both shapes were alive with power, their energies wrapping around both of them, blending together


The spirit advanced, reaching out for the red haired one.
And encountered a glassy barrier, so solid, so profoundly impenetrable, that it was akin to polished diamond.


The dream weaver moved around the barrier, looking for a weakness, a chink, a crack in the armour, tasting it.
The barrier tasted of love and loss. And stubborn, unyielding determination.

And it was absolutely without flaw.
The spirit spread itself out seeking any entrance, trying to penetrate like fog.

The protection was seamless.


Terrified by the impossible Slayer, and frightened of failing in its appointed task, the frightened creature attacked the barrier with claws and fists, and the fury of the nightmares it carried.
The barrier reacted not at all, it was as solid and impassive as a cliff face.


The white-haired one murmured in her sleep, her arm making a vaguely swatting motion, as though batting at mosquitoes.
The swatting motion slammed into the dream weaver with crushing force, hurling it from the room into the lounge beyond.


Stunned, the spirit hovered in the air, unable to comprehend what had happened. To be driven back with such punishing, relentless force was terrifying. But to have such power wielded by one sleeping? That harrowed it to the core.

Though it had no biology, no wounds to lick, no breath to catch, it took the spirit a goodly number of minutes to gather its wits and move on.

Though the spirit’s confidence was utterly shaken, it still had a mission to perform. One success would still be better than none, even if the Powers That Be were likely to be unimpressed.


It penetrated the door to the former director’s suite, finding its last target asleep in a comfy recliner, a book open in his lap.
Grimly determined now, the dream weaver leapt at the sleeping man, vanishing into his dream world, whipped into a frenzy by its own fear and failure, determined to accomplish at least one task tonight.


It found itself in a library it did not recognize. Shafts of sunlight penetrated the comfortingly hushed and dimmed room. The sounds of young people laughing and talking could be heard outside. A large wooden table adorned with reading lamps dominated the centre of the room, and a pair of swing doors closed off the room behind the dream weaver.
Several books were neatly stacked on the table and a man in a waistcoat stood by them waiting patiently.

Looking at him.

No. Not looking at him. Even here in the dream scape of another, the spirit knew it was as invisible as it was on the physical plane.

The man took off his glasses and polished them thoughtfully on his tie.
“I can see you, you know.”

The spirit was starting to panic. It tried to pass through the doors and was shocked to discover that it could not do so.
The waist-coated man approached. “Eyghon likes to attack through one’s dreams you see, and I have been prepared for him for a good long time.”

He removed his glasses, tossing them carelessly onto the table.
Cold green eyes bored into it, though it had no eyes of its own to meet them with.
“These are my children,” he said, cold anger colouring his words. “Did you really think that an attack on them would go unanswered?”


Panicked, the dream weaver manifested a claw and struck, sinking it’s talons deep into his chest. It began to force the black fog of nightmares into him.
The shafts of sunlight flooding into the library darkened, and the sounds of young people outside faded, leaving Giles alone in his darkening library.

He looked down at the hand penetrating his chest, unperturbed, and looked up and saw the dawning horror on the face of the dream weaver.

It gasped in awed terror. “What… what are you?” it chocked out in a whispering voice, a voice far from human.


“A father.”

And with that simple statement he clenched his fist and snuffed out the terrified spirit.

Brushing off his smart waistcoat, he returned to his books, the sound of laughter and life returning to his library.


+++


The next morning, while it was still dark, Willow and Tara were sitting on one of the couches in the Scooby lounge, books and spell materials arrayed around them.

“Hey guys. Workin’ on spells?” Faith asked, in an oddly bright tone considering the early hour.

They were snuggled up on the couch amidst copious pillows and cushions, quietly reading together.

Tara held up her book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
“Sort of,” she said with a wry half smile.


Willow looked up from her spell book and notes to see the worried and slightly fidgety expression on Faith’s face.
“Willow? Ya got a minute?”


‘Baby, she used my actual name, I think this might be serious.’ She sent.


Tara gave Willow a gentle nudge. “Go on sweetie, I’ll be right here when you get back.”
She pressed a kiss into Willow’s hair and shooed her off the couch.

Willow disentangled herself from her paperwork and pens, though she took the time to press a tender kiss against Tara’s soft cheek.
Though it was usually Willow who went wide eyed and goofy after a Tara kiss, it seemed that Tara was not immune to the effect. Her expression could be described as a little goofy.

She gave Tara a little wave before joining Faith.


Faith looked, worried? Frightened? Confused?
Her face was a melange of emotion, none of them good.

Willow was a little lost. As far as she knew, there was nothing new on the doom and gloom horizon, and Faith had seemed generally ok with the background level of craziness in their lives.

She squeezed Faith’s hand. “Hey, are you ok?”


Faith shook her head. “No, not here.”
Faith lead her in the direction of the grove, a place of special significance to all the Scooby gang.

The early morning walk to the grove was automatic, instinctual. They could have found their way in total darkness.


Once a place of bittersweet tears, the grove had changed, transformed, become a place of hope reborn.
It had become a symbol of the fulfilment of impossible hopes, of the power of love.
It was a place of joy.

And if the small family of Scoobies considered any place in the world sacred, it was this place. This place of green and cool peace. A place of hushed voices and smiles.

No argument ever came to that place. All anger was left outside, and more than one person had gone there to unburden themselves, when there was no other way open to them.
It was a place where prayers were heard, and sometimes answered.


Willow was starting to worry a little. She and Faith had become quite close, certainly a LOT closer than they had been. And though they had bonded more than once over their shared ‘dark-side’ experiences, Faith had only felt the need to talk to her in the grove once.
At the pace Faith set, it didn’t take long to get to the grove, and when they did, she sat down, quietly waiting for her companion to find the words she needed.

Faith paced around the clearing, radiating worry and fear.
Unable to contain herself any longer Willow spoke out, worry tinging her voice.
“Faith? What’s wrong? Where’s Buffy?”


Faith stopped her pacing. “B’s organizin’ a class right now. Cover for the few days we are gonna be gone.”

She tapped the side of her head with a finger. “I’ve got her blocked off for now, so she’s got no idea how screwed up I am right now.”


“Why would you… is she… what’s going on Faith?” Willow stammered uncertainly.


Faith sat down abruptly, almost like a puppet with its strings cut. Willow saw the glitter of unshed tears in her eyes.

“I…”

Faith struggled with her words. “This is somethin’ I could only talk to you about, Red. You’d be the only one who gets it. I don’t think anyone else would really get it, y’know?”


“I’m a little scared now Faith, but I’ll take a leaf from the book of Tara and say: I’m here for you Faith.”


Faith looked down at the grass and mumbled. “I love Buffy so much it scares me.”


Willow thought for a moment, chewing over what Faith had said. “Um, I get the feeling that you don’t mean what most people mean, when you say that.”


Faith nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’ve had a lot of time to think about stuff in the big house. I hafta say, I know myself pretty well by now. An’ talkin’ to you these last few months helped a lot too.”


“Faith? What’s so scary about loving Buffy?”


“Nothin’. Lovin’ B is like lovin’ life or some shit. It’s the best frikkin’ thing ever. She lights me up. I feel myself comin’ to life when she’s around. I’d do anythin’ for that girl.”


“Um, my supposedly big brain feels more embarrassed than it usually does, because I’m thinking ‘that doesn’t sound so bad.’ Bad Willow brain, silly thing. Um.”


“It’s not B that’s the problem Willow. It’s how much I love her, it’s me that’s the prob.”

She fell silent for a minute, tensely ripping out blades of grass one at a time.

“I looked inside myself Red. I looked inside and I saw that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her.”


“Well that’s-“ Willow said before Faith cut her off.


“Absolutely nothing.”

“If B was in trouble… and I had to burn down the world to save her, I would. She’d hate me forever, an I’d sooner die than have that.”

“All the evil fucked up shit I did in the past? I’d rather be cold and dead on the ground than let any of that happen again.”

She locked eyes with Willow. “But I ain’t all the way sane when it comes to B.”

“An’ I think you feel the same for your girl, which is why you’re the only one I can talk to about this.”


Willow’s face crumpled and she looked away.

She nodded, a sob escaping her control.
“If anyone k-killed Tara, I’d have nothing left to live for.”

“I love Xander, and Giles and Buffy and all of them. I do. But without Tara, it’s all so tiny and meaningless.”

She met Faith’s glittering gaze with her own watery eyes.

“I’d have nothing. Other than vengeance. Tara would hate it. She’d be so disappointed in me.”

Her expression hardened. “And I would still do it.”


Faith nodded, and whispered hoarsely. “I hear ya Red.”

“If someone managed to finally take B out of the picture, y’know, permanently, there wouldn’t be anywhere in creation they could hide from me. I’d tear the whole world apart to find them.”

Willow nodded silently, lending her agreement.

“I’m fucking terrified Red,” Faith said, her head hanging down behind a curtain of dark hair. “It’s like having this huge sign saying ‘kick me’ on my back, y’know?”


Willow carried on from Faith, verbalizing feelings that until now were below the threshold of consciousness. “As though someone out there was jealous of what we have, and wanted to take it away. To watch us suffer, needed to see us suffer.”

Faith looked up, and Willow nodded. “I’ve felt it.”


Faith slumped, her head hanging.

“Fuck. Whatta we gonna do Red?” she said into the grass


Willow’s resolve crystalized in that moment, becoming something implacable, adamantine, harder than diamond.
“We fight.”

Faith looked up at the unyielding tone in Willow’s voice and saw Willow’s resolve face in its purest form.

Again she was reminded who she was dealing with. Was reminded again that this woman, for all her bizarre dress sense and slightly silly behaviour, had made GODS scream, had pit her will against the greatest evil in existence, and won.

This woman had power enough to destroy the world.

And when she said fight, she meant it.

“I promise you this Faith, that anyone who tries to take your happiness, tries to take Buffy from you? They’ll answer to me.”


Faith got chills. Good chills.
“Ditto.”

Willow’s resolve face broke as she smiled goofily at Faith.

“I mean it Red. Anyone comes after Tara or you? Anyone. They’ll find out why they used to call me the Dark Slayer. It ain’t ‘cos a my hair,” she growled.


The hairs on the back of Willow’s neck prickled as she heard the naked threat in Faith’s tone. And remembered why she had been so terrified of her all those years ago. This woman knew no limits, would go to any length required.

And she wanted that terrifying power protecting the one she loved most, in all the world.

She held out her hand.

And Faith took it.

“Deal.”


+++


“God, I can’t believe I’m up this early. Again! I want congress to repeal the two 5 o’clocks. Or something.”

Buffy was dressed for adventure: jeans, hiking boots and a wool-trimmed leather coat Giles had Identified as a ‘bomber jacket’.
She was however still clearly sleepy.

“Ugh. I’m barely operating at the level of: fire bad, tree pretty.”

Her slightly frumpy expression melted as Faith (similarly dressed, save for black cargo pants) nuzzled the back of her neck and wrapped her in a cuddle.

“Ohhhh… I can add: Faith nice, to the list,” she said with a soft, happy squeak.


Dawn giggled as she saw her sister’s goofy expression.


“Oh that feels sooo good,” Buffy sighed.


Dawn looked wistfully as her sister’s blissfully goofy expression.


“Don’t worry D. You’ll find someone,” Faith said with surprising gentleness.


Dawn sighed. “I know. Somehow it never feels like it’s going to happen though. Especially with the life we lead.”

Dawn looked glum.

Buffy struggled internally, her big sister side was completely satisfied that her little sister was staying well out of the sexual arena. The other part of Buffy, the part that just wanted her to be happy, was not satisfied. “Penny for your thoughts?” she said with a soft smile.


“Just thinking about what you said earlier, about there being someone special for me.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow.

Dawn scowled. “I wish they’d hurry up and get here.”


Buffy poked her in the ribs with a teasing smile. “They don’t always fall out of the sky on you, you know. That one’s unique to Willow. You might have to go get him. Or at least look for him.”


Dawn slumped. “Huh, like that’s gonna happen. I am way too busy, way too freaked out to go guy hunting right now, and way too…” she shrugged helplessly. “Whatever it’s called when you don’t know any single guys.”


Buffy leaned in for a sisterly hug. “It won’t last forever Dawnie. It’ll happen one day, I promise.”


Faith nuzzled her neck again and a look of dopey ecstasy crossed her features.

“Sooo worth the wait though,” she sighed.


Heather and Jules wandered up. “Heya Daybreak, wassup?”
Heather slung an arm over her shoulder.


Dawn gratefully leaned into the hug. “Despite my name, I don’t in fact enjoy being up this freaking early.”


Jules yawned and tucked her hands into her leather jacket. “Yeah, I hear ya. I’m only here ‘cos she hauled my ass outta bed, and she’s here ‘cos you are. So I therefore blame you for me being out of bed at stupid o’clock.”

She slumped down onto a nearby wall grumbling about getting a damp behind from the dew, though it wasn’t enough to make her actually move from her spot.

“Why are we all up this bloody early anyway?” she said with a yawn.


“Because we are seeing Dawn off in a little bit, and so we can watch Tara’s spell go off too.”


“Hi guys!” Willow called.

She waved as she approached, similarly dressed to the others, save for her dark green sheepskin jacket.

“I don’t remember Sunnydale being this cold,” she grumbled.


“Hey Will,” Buffy said, luxuriating in Faith’s embrace.


“Bunch of pansies,” Faith said. “This ain’t cold. Sunny hell was never cold. Boston is cold.”


“Well, um, to be expected I guess. Sunnydale was in a desert after all.”


“Wasn’t even cold at night,” Faith said, “Hellmouth I figure.”

Buffy shrugged, and then snuggled back into Faith’s warm embrace.

Dawn rolled her eyes, but was at least somewhat mollified by Heather’s hug.


Buffy looked at Willow, who was busily rearranging stuff in her many pockets. “Hey Will, how come you’re not with Tara, working on the hogwartsiness?”


Willow flushed slightly. “Um, partly it’s because I have no idea how Tara’s spell works and even less talent with it. It’s all about spirits and souls and stuff. Not really my area of expertise.”


“An’ the other part?” Faith said, her head resting on Buffy’s shoulder.


Willow flushed a little more. “That would be the part where I can’t keep my hands to myself, and she made me wait here so she could concentrate on the spell.”


Faith looked fake-shocked. “You little hussy! You should be ashamed of yourself! Leading that poor innocent girl into who knows what kind of vulgar situations,” she said in a put-on Giles-ish voice


Willow just shot her a look that said ‘Really?’

“Tara is beautiful, caring, really smart and a whole bunch of other really cool stuff.”

She grinned knowingly. “But innocent? No so much.”


Dawn yawned. “It’s true. I came home early one time, and Tara had Willow up on the kitchen table. It was very educational.”


“Willow! I ate off that table!” Buffy protested.


“So did Tara,” Dawn said, deadpan.


“Dawn!”


Faith just snickered.

“Faith!”


Faith frowned. “What are ya getting at me for? Gotta relax about this stuff Bumblebee. You’re a vag-badger now, same as the rest of us. Just chill.”


Buffy reached over her shoulder and poked Faith in the head. “I’m not worried about Tara eating Willow. And I think I’ve acquitted myself quite well in that regard, thank you very much.”


“Tru dat,” Faith murmured. “That tongue was wasted on guys.”


“Faith!” Buffy protested, swatting at her arm. “I was just saying, I would be every bit as squicked out if I found Xander or Giles… No.” She shook her head, trying to remove the terrible images. “I’m just not finishing that sentence. But my point stands.”


Willow was furiously red. “Um, we did clean the table afterwards.”


“And made me promise not to tell you,” Dawn added.


“Well, um, Buffy had enough on her plate. No sense adding stress by getting unnecessary yell-age,” Willow said, squirming like a worm on a hook.

“Plus I totally became ‘secret’ girl.”


Willow frowned at Dawn. “Except for the part where, y’know, totally blabbed on us just now.”


“Aw come on, I totally kept it a secret for like, 2 years. That’s completely outside the statute of limitations and stuff.”


Whatever might have been said next was lost as watery dome appeared over the grounds. It was as transparent as glass, and rippled like water. The dome covered the whole grounds and was easily a mile across, and half a mile high.


“Woooow,” Buffy breathed. “Now that spell is Hogwarts-y.”


Over the next few seconds, the dome faded to invisibility.


Buffy sighed. “You know, it would have been all sorts of awkward, but I kinda wish it had stayed up there.”

Willow gave her a funny look.

“It was pretty!” Buffy protested. “Plus it says: this place is protected, start something here and get your butt kicked.”


“And totally not: come look at the weirdoes living in a glass bubble,” Willow added.


Buffy nodded. “See, Wills agrees with me.”


Willow frowned. “That concealment glamour I cast had some real power behind it. I tied it to the hell mouths. Note the plural. It’ll last as long as they do.”

She eyed Buffy. “But I don’t think even it could cope with a mile-wide glass-bubble looming over the town.”


“Speaking of ‘witch,’” Willow said, complete with finger quotes and accompanying groans. “I think our spell is going to get its first test.”

She pulled one hand from her fleece-lined pocket to point up the road. A set of headlights was rapidly approaching, as was the sound of a badly tuned engine pushed somewhat too hard.

With a squeal of bald tyres, a beat-up car pulled up and three college boys leaned out of the windows into the chill pre-dawn morning.

“Dude, I know it was over here somewhere.”


“Whatever,” said the driver, in a tone that made it obvious that he just didn’t care.


“Just chill bro, there’s nothing here, nothing to see. It’s just some school.”


“What about them?” he said, pointing at the seated girls.

“Just some chicks.”

Faith seemed to take that as a challenge, and she stood up.

“Hey fellas!” she said. And with that, she pulled up her tank top and halter, giving them a spectacular view of her goodies.


“Faith!” Buffy hissed, clearly shocked.

The two guys on their side of the car glanced at Faith, with all the attention that frat-boys pay to rocks.
Faith put the twins away and readjusted herself for comfort.
“I’m no expert on spells and shit, but I’d say it worked.”

The boys looked bored and sat back down in the car. They drove off at a much more sedate pace.


Faith sat down and put her arm around a glowering Buffy.
“We needed to know it worked B. A buncha hot chicks hanging around in the wee small hours, no guys in sight, one of ‘em topless, an’ not one clumsy pass or dumbass comment? I’d say Red’s spell can take the heat.”


She glanced at Jules’ open-mouthed shock. “Close your mouth Purple Pants, somethin’s likely to fly in.”

Jules closed her mouth with a click, and a shy grin.

She turned to Dawn. “I knew hanging around you would have some fringe benefits.”

Dawn said nothing, and rolled her eyes.


“Ooo-ooo, Tara’s back! Time for breakfast, then our first big spell together,” Willow said, nearly bouncing with joy.
Tara was only just visible as she rounded the trees, some distance away. Willow almost wriggled with excitement, before scampering off to hug her, unable to hold it all in.


Faith chuckled. “She’s pretty cute. Like a kid at Christmas.”


Buffy smiled. “I know. Whenever I got in trouble with mom, especially with the Slayage, I’d hide behind Willow.”

She hugged Faith’s arm. “She’s so huggable and cute, mom could never growl at me with her around. Plus, I’d sort of hint that my new outfit got ripped rescuing Willow, and then she’d quit bugging me about it.”


“Pussy,” Faith smirked.


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Then Will twigged to what I was doing, and made me promise to stop it.”

She slumped. “Suddenly I got yelled at so much more.”

“I miss mom so much sometimes,” she said in a sad voice.


Faith had to bite her lip, really bite it, to avoid blurting out her secret. It was so hard, but she hoped the wait would be worth it.


Buffy looked up sadly. “Did you see mom when you were up there?” she said in a small voice.

Faith closed her eyes and groaned.

In the distance Willow glomped Tara in a huge hug, and was all but carried back toward the group.


Faith gritted her teeth, knowing what was coming. “Yeah B. I talked to Mrs S a fair bit. Her, an’ Queenie an’ Psycho-gal, an Giles’ little bit of fluff, and Xander’s old pal.”


Buffy’s eyes went wide. “You talked to mom, and you never told me?!”


Faith winced at the betrayed tone in Buffy’s voice, a feeling that echoed down the link they shared.
She winced. It was every bit as bad as she’d feared.

“Look B, I told you somebody made me promise not to tell ya, ok? Ya remember that?”


Buffy nodded angrily.

“Well, who the hell do you think made me promise that B? Who in all of heaven would I give two cents about?”


“Um, my mom?” Buffy said uncertainly.


“You’re damn right, your mom.”

“Jimbo, Queenie. Hell, the big damned leader of the resistance can all go jump off a cliff.”

Faith took Buffy’s hand. “But Mrs S made me promise, promise not to talk to you about this stuff, if I could.”


Buffy’s expression took on a rueful cast. “Um, sorry Faith.”


“S’ok bumblebee, I forgive ya.”


“Um, why did mom make you promise all that stuff?”


Faith sighed. This stuff was never easy.

“Because she wants to tell ya herself, ya big dope.”


Dawn bust out instantly. “Mom’s coming?!”


Faith held her head in her hands. “God, I suck at this,” she muttered.

“Yeah, lil’ D, your mom is comin’ for a visit. Maybe not for a couple months, which is WHY she told me to keep my trap shut, dammit.”

“I ain't kiddin’ when I say it’s nuts up there. Ya got no idea. So what if it gets a bit extra crazy? And then they can’t sneak ya mom down here till sometime next year, then what? How ya gonna feel then?”


“Happy. Totally, deliriously bloody happy,” Dawn said, the tears already glittering in the streetlights as they rolled down her cheeks.

She cannoned into Faith and crushed her in a hug that would have left bruises in most folks.

“Thank you Faith,” she whispered. “thankyouthankyou thankyouthankyou,” she said.

She sniffled. “I thought I’d never see my mom again. And now you tell me I only have to wait till next year? I love you so much!”

She peppered Faith’s cheeks and forehead with smooches.


“Ack! Stop it D, you’re messing with my badass image.”


Jules chuckled. “Yeah, that’s long gone.”


Faith glared at her. “What’s that Purple Pants? You wanna do a million pushups? Well okay smart girl, keep talking.”


Jules rolled her eyes and grinned, but she did shut up.

Faith gave Dawn an affectionate squeeze and gently shoved her off.

“So yeah, Mrs S is comin’ for a visit at some point, as is the big bad leader of the rebellion, who really wants a word with the woman who brought down a god.”

“But here’s the big thing: don’t tell Giles about this. Mom was real serious about this, ok? No telling G-man. No little hints, nothing.”


“Um, why?” Dawn asked.


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. Probably a good reason though.”

Faith turned to Heather and Jules. “You two clowns are in on this now, so I’m kinda trustin’ you. You keep ya traps shut an’ we’ll be ok. But if this gets out, I’m gonna be lookin’ at you two real hard.”


The pair looked at each other.

“We won’t be talking Faith.”

“Yeah, no worries on that score.”


“Ok then. Let’s go get some food, without the sticky stuff this time. Then we can watch the wonder-witches do their thing.”


“Wave their wands?” Dawn asked with a cheeky grin.


“Nope. Too many wubble-you’s.”


“So, um,” Buffy said, fidgeting a little.


Faith sighed dramatically. “Just spit it out B. What’s on your mind?”


“What, um… what did you talk about with mom?”


Faith smirked. “You mean, did I tell her about us?”


“Um, that would be a yes?”


“Nah, no need. She already knew.”


Buffy looked surprised. “She knew?”


“C’mon hon, think for a second. Do you really think your momma wasn’t watching over you all these years?”


“Wow. I’m not sure if that makes things better or worse. Like, yay, that’s some of the awkwardness out of the way, but also, oh crap, my mom knows I’m gay.”


“Relax Bumblebee, I have it on good authority that she’s ok with it. She said ‘well at least you have a pulse.’ Which was kinda ironic, given that I was dead at the time.”


Buffy winced. “It was a phase. No more boinking the undead for Buffy.”

“Um, what else did you talk about,” Buffy said, changing the subject.


“Well, now I know why your mom liked those flowers,” Faith said with a shit-eating grin.


“Oh. You could have asked, I know.”


“Really?” Faith said looking a little surprised.


“Sure. Mom told me that, one summer before she met my- before she met Hank, she fell in love with a guy called Joe and he got her the flowers. She always kept them around to remind herself of him.”


“Close, little grasshopper. Jo was named after the flowers.”


Buffy snorted. “And I thought ‘Angel’ was a girly name for someone. Who names their kid Jonquil? Poor little guy was asking to get his butt kicked in grade school.”


Faith laughed heartily. “Oh man, this is priceless! Jo with no ‘E,’ Bumblebee. Jo was a girl.”


And arm in arm, hand in hand, Faith dragging a somewhat shell-shocked Buffy, the girls went off to breakfast.


+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 2:54 pm 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :bounce

Yay for great update-y goodness... Yay for Nightmare creap getting it's non-corporeal ass kicked. Another message for the PTB's that now would be a good time to surrender before they start to lose body parts... I hope Buffy soon recovers from the news that Joyce also visited Girlstown...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:12 pm 
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Loved the "Death of a Sandman!" part at the beginning of this chapter. It was neat to see that Buffy's inner Cave Slayer has already set up shop in the dreamscapes Faith shares with Buffy.

Part of me suspects that any other ethereal attackers that come for Willow and Tara later on won't be able to get through the bedroom walls, let alone the harder than diamond force bubble around their bed. Just a hunch about Tara's ability to Ward a room.

And I especially liked Giles' part. It figures that he would have spent at least a few of the years, between the death of his former gang member and meeting Buffy for the first time, with rigorous mental training specifically designed to fight off anything trying to attack his sleeping mind. He may not have the magical power to keep creatures from other dimensions or ones that can phase through walls out of his head. But he can make the place as absolutely hostile to them as he can imagine. Which is quite a lot.

Also gotta love Faith's test run of Willow's Perception Filter / Someone Else's Problem Field / Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain spell. There can't be too many better ways to catch the attention of a gaggle of horny frat boys looking for something goofy their weirdo friend thought he saw in the sky.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:25 pm 
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Hi gang!

Yeah, on of my favourite things is busting Buffy's view of the world :P

It's pretty solid in cannon, and most story writers have picked up that Buffy isn't stupid, but she has a LOT of preconceptions, and does not handle change well.

And while not everyone is gay, far far more people have had gay experiences than most people realize :)

And the 'Mine!' scene was fun to write :)

I have a similar one to write for Willow/Tara, but seeing as a certain someone did such a good job with green-fire-willow, (i'm looking at you Citanul) i'm thinking i might tweak it a little.

Perhaps we'll see what happens when a dreamweaver goes after a vulnerable willow, and meets an angry Tara head-on. Without all the conscious safeguards she has when awake.
Yep. i'll do that now. Thanks @Citanul!

And one of my favourite themes is that there's a lot more to Giles than he lets on.
And yes, it's a British thing, as well as a generational thing :)

Of course if i was really thinking, i'd have had Faith turn around at Buffy's shout, and accidentally flash everyone.
That would have been good for some guilty Willowbabble :)

Sigh. Opportunity missed.

See ya in two weeks ish :bounce

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:00 am 
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Hi Gang!

sorry about missing a post.
The board was acting funny for a few days, then i got busy, then i discovered that the board acting up had screwed up my browser. Then more busy.

Here it is:



A Door through Space and Time.


“Ok. I have researched the stuffing out of this spell, plus I have already cast it twice, plus I have Tara helping me, so I guarantee, no exploding stuff, or arriving without your clothes.”


“That’d be a hell of a way to make an impact with the locals there, Red.”


Willow held her head up and looked down her nose, all snooty-like. “That would send entirely the wrong message, Faith.”
She grinned to let Faith know she was only teasing.


All the Scoobies were present, Anya had even prised Xander out of bed to say goodbye. He stared blearily around with his good eye, looking like a rather hung-over pirate, his hands wrapped around a huge mug of coffee.
He glared at Giles, who was impeccably dressed and entirely too chipper for this time of morning.


Giles for his part simply smiled back and sipped his hot tea.


The travellers were in full battledress, black armour and axes on display. Willow had her own commando suit, but kept fidgeting with it as she walked the circle. She sprinkled herbs and salt, marking out the mystical area that was to be part of the spell.


Dawn gave her pistols a final check and sat down carefully so as not to skewer herself on anything.


Tara was sitting in the middle of the circle meditating, She had her Joan of Arc outfit on, gleaming dully in the pre-dawn light.

In front of her was a conical chunk of pink crystal. The dolls-eye crystal that she and Willow had used to cast so many spells together. It had been in her family for many generations and was a powerful conduit, something she thought could be very important today.


Willow finished up marking the circle and scurried over to sit across from Tara, the crystal between them.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to go wearing armour? It’s going to be sorta awkward to explain if we show up in the middle of everything all amazon like,” she asked.


“Pffft,” Faith scoffed. “Better a bit of awkwardness and some explaining to do, than wondering why someone got chopped up, with their frikkin armour still in their pack.”

She eyed Willow. “Quit pickin’ at it Red, it fits fine.”


“It feels weird,” she grumbled.


“That’s ‘cos it’s armour. Not a pullover.”


Before Willow could complain any more, Tara smiled and opened her eyes.

”Are you ready to help me with the scrying sweetie?”


Willow smiled goofily. “Oh yup. Yup, yup, yuppers. Um, yes?”

She scooted a little closer.


This was more than their first time casting together.
They had worked on spells together a lot in Sunnydale, researching, casting, experimenting together. Often they used the Dolls-eye as a focus.

But this was the first time they had ever tried to cast a really major spell together using the crystal.
The scrying was not a big spell, just a way to have a look around really. A way to make sure that they didn’t give a passing shepherd a heart attack.

But teleporting five people around the world? That was big mojo.
Actually being able to see the target would make the teleportation spell so much easier.


This time they had a few ingredients. Dawn would have been easy enough to find, but they weren’t trying to find Dawn, they were trying to find the place Dawn was from. Sort of.
Using her connection to the place.

And Tara wanted all the help they could get, so they broke out the stinky herbs, a small tuft of Dawn’s hair, the dolls-eye crystal, and a casting circle with all the trimmings.

Probably it was a bit overkill, but to be honest, Willow felt like she was on show. And she had had enough of embarrassed explanations about how a spell had gone wrong in some unexpected way.

No exploding would be tolerated today. Or unexpected nakedness.

As before, Tara would be taking the lead with the scrying, with Willow providing a little extra ‘oomph’.
Then the teleport.

Buffy wanted Hogwarts-y? Well this would be proper Hogwarts-y.


She took Tara’s hand, marvelling at the tingles that flowed through her as their power blended together.

Individually, each was one of the strongest witches in the world, but together? She smiled.
There wasn’t anything they couldn’t do.


Careful not to interrupt Tara’s murmured casting, she sent a soft flood of love and affection down the link that they shared.
Tara smiled warmly, but did not stop her casting, and as both their hands touched the chunk of pink crystal she felt their combined power surge.

An image formed in the air above the crystal. As before the viewpoint zoomed up into the stratosphere, showing the world beneath them. Knowing what to expect made the experience noticeably less alarming, and she couldn’t help but smirk just a little when Buffy let out a strangled ‘Gnrk” sound.


Dawn breathed a soft “Whoa!”


With meteoric speed the scene shot down towards Europe.
Moments later, the Scoobies found themselves looking into a rather odd looking valley. The valley seemed to be a cold, windswept place, with plenty of rocks sticking up from the areas of scrubby vegetation.


What made it odd, were the patches of lush, nearly rampant greenery scattered about. The further north Tara moved her scrying viewpoint, the more spectacular greenery was revealed.

She frowned. “It’s getting difficult to move my spell closer to the cliff over there.”


The scrying was starting to look a little fuzzy, but a large stone building was just visible perched at the top of a steep cliff.
Willow’s tongue poked out just a little as she focussed her formidable will, the picture cleaned up noticeably, and Tara was able to move the viewpoint closer.
The building definitely had the look of old European stone construction, entirely appropriate for a monastery.


“Oh wow, ouch,” Willow complained.


The picture became distinctly fuzzy and the viewpoint was shoved miles further back.


Tara winced. “Ouch. I’m pretty sure that’s the monastery. There’s a lot of power there, and something or someone doesn’t want us looking at it.”


“Look around for a good place for us to arrive baby, somewhere with no surprised looking shepherds.”


Tara smirked a little at the ‘shepherds’ comment and let her viewpoint do a wide circle of the valley.

“I don’t see any shepherds and it’s nearly night time, so a bit of sneakiness should be possible.”


“Uh, Red, how much light does this spell of yours put out?” Faith asked as she watched the 3D picture of the valley fly past.


“A bit. Um, a bit more than a campfire maybe? It’ll be quite visible at night, but it only lasts for a couple of seconds.”


Buffy bounced a little and waved her hands. “Wait, what about that stone thingy, Tara? A bit to the left?”


Tara nodded. “I see it Buffy. That looks like a good place to arrive.”

The image above the crystal moved smoothly toward the ancient stone circle.


“Ooo, it looks like Stonehenge!” Buffy said.


“It most certainly does not,” Giles retorted. “It’s a circle of standing stones, that I’ll grant you. But it’s not remotely like Stonehenge.”


“Stonehenge is circle-y and made of stone. So is this,” she said pointing to the standing stones Willow was studying intently.
“Ergo, it’s Stonehenge-y.”


Giles look slightly miffed. “I suppose I should be glad that you managed to use the word ‘ergo’ correctly, and quit while I’m ahead.”


Buffy smiled. “Well, some of that britishyness was bound to rub off on me sooner or later.”


“I’ll have you know it’s not britishyness, it’s called a vocabulary.”


Buffy shook her head cheerfully. “Nope we did this already, it’s ‘wordiness.’”


“Red, Blondie? Please tell me we’re nearly done. Before the chuckle twins kill each other,” she gestured with her thumb over her shoulder.


Both witches smiled, though they couldn’t see the gesture.

“Yeah, I think I’ve got it. Yup, thunderbirds are go.”

She looked around at her friends. “Now this spell is big mojo, lots of power. Big medicine. So zip it!” she mimed zipping her lips.

“It’s gonna take a lot of concentration, so no interruptions please, at least for the next ten minutes, after that you can talk your heads off, though half of us are going to be somewhere else.”

She smiled at Xander. “Bye Xander, see you in a few days.”


He grinned back, his sleepiness mostly banished by the fresh air and hot coffee.
“Wish I was going with you Wills. Send me a post card. Oh and one of those dolls!”


She smiled at him. “Doofus, that’s Russia. I’ll make sure and get you a souvenir though.”


“Thanks Willow.”


“Next Scooby adventure we go on, I’m definitely bringing you, ok?”


“Deal.”


“Even if I have to leave Buffy behind.”


“Hey, you can’t go without me! Who’s going to provide the cute and lovable factor?”


“Willow,” Tara said, completely straight faced, before she broke out into a smile.


Buffy poked her tongue at Tara, which produced a happy laugh.


“Bye Giles!” Buffy said with a small wave.


“Keep safe Buffy,” he said, returning her wave. “And do try to enjoy your overseas adventure.”


Dawn waved at her friends. “See you in a few.”


Jules grinned. “I want a souvenir too.”


“Done. And you?” she said, turning to Heather.


Heather shook her head, her long braid waggling. “Just come home safe, ok?”


Dawn got a bit of a lump in her throat. “’kay. I will, I promise.

She smiled a watery smile. “There I promised. So I will, ok?”


“You better, or I’ll kick your butt.”


“Ok, so, I’m gonna cast the spell now, I’m totally going to do this thing. Yup. So this is going to be a little rough, because I’ve never tried to move a whole bunch of people all at once. So nobody talk, or you’ll end up in Timbuktu, or wearing someone else’s pants. Or something.”

Everyone was appropriately (and slightly anxiously) silent.

“Right then.”

Willow closed her eyes and started chanting in Latin, her preferred language for mystical doings. Spells could be done perfectly fine in English, but somehow, Latin seemed so much more appropriate.

She lit the smudge stick and passed it ritually around her head 3 times before handing it to Tara.

Tara duplicated the action as Willow chanted, building the complex diagram in her mind, balancing the energies of the spell, getting it ready to confuse time and space and drop them neatly in her pictured destination.

She reached out for Tara’s hand, and felt the power flow from her, it felt like warm honey. It felt like love.

Together they reached for the crystal and pushed the swelling power into it.
The crystal readily accepted the power, drawing it in, steadying it, damping down all the little eddies and spikes.


Willow opened her eyes and met the eyes of her beloved.
They were surrounded by a warm pink glow, illuminating their skin lovingly.

Willow thought Tara had never looked so beautiful. Calm, but alive with power, connected on a fundamental level.
Willow’s eyes widened in surprise.


Standing behind Tara was a woman, seen as a reflection illuminated in the light of the crystal. She smiled at Willow warmly and Willow knew that smile, she’d recognize it anywhere.

It was then that Willow realized there were more figures, other women of similar stature, similar face shape, though each with their own unique take on those features. Some taller, some heavier, some fuller lipped.

Hundreds.
Generations of witches.


But all family.


Tara’s smile was beatific.


The figure reached down and laid her hand on Tara’s head, a simple gesture, but one filled with infinite love.


‘Hello Mama,’ Tara said lovingly across the link they shared, [/i]‘This is Willow.’[/i]


Rhiannon Maclay smiled, ‘Hello Willow.’


And suddenly they were somewhere else.


+++


Cold, fresh, mountain air washed over Willow, jerking her to life. “Whuh… what… happened?” she sputtered.
She looked around.


There were no strange glows or radiant figures to be seen.


Tara’s smile was radiant. “That was mama, Willow.”

She met Willow’s amazed gaze. “I think she likes you.”

There was a groan from next to them and they remembered they were not alone.


“Jesus Red, you weren’t kidding about the rough stuff,” Faith said through gritted teeth.

She scrambled to her feet and bolted to the far side of the circle. The sounds of a very thorough retching could be heard. Buffy scrambled to her feet to help Faith, though really, all she could do to help, was hold Faith’s hair back.


“That was your mom?”

Tara nodded, still smiling radiantly.


“Wow. I don’t know what to say. Um, other than uh, hi Mrs. Maclay, and I love your daughter very much, and now I feel kinda like a dummy, because she’s not here to say it to.”

Tara smiled at Willow’s nervous stream of words.


“It’s ok Willow. I think she knows.”


Willow smiled worriedly. “Baby? What was that? I mean, yay! I got to meet your mom! But a little warning would have been nice, but I thought she’d gone! Was she in the crystal the whole time?”


Dawn stared at Willow, then looked to Tara for answers.


Tara was still smiling slightly as she shook her head. “I’m sorry Willow, I don’t know what happened, though I do know a few things.”

Willow looked at her eager for answers.

“Well, one: Faith does not react well to teleports,”


“Damn straight,” Faith groaned from some distance away.

Buffy looked at Tara, upset and helpless. Not a combination she was good with.

“Um, two: I think we’re here.”


“Yay!” Said Dawn, bouncing to her feet and looking around. She was careful to avoid the spot where her sister was comforting a distinctly unhappy Faith.


“And three, I think it’s safe to say you have the Maclay, um actually, Ó Liatháin, seal of approval,” she said with a wry smile.


“Um, I got the impression there were lots of women there, not just your mom and Grams, but like, hundreds.”


Tara nodded. “I think the Craft has been in our blood, longer than anyone realized. I mean I knew my ancestors were witches, but I had no idea it went back that far.”


Before Willow could ask any more questions Faith staggered over, wiping her mouth on a moist napkin that Buffy had provided.

“Ok, so. I learned something. Chilli cheese fries? Not good before teleporting.”


Buffy wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“Eww. Really.”


“Are you ok Faith?” Tara asked softly.


“I just puked my guts out, and have barf breath. Ya wanna try that one again?”


“I meant, are you feeling better?”


While Tara was speaking, Dawn handed Faith a toothbrush and toothpaste. Faith nodded her gratitude and got to scrubbing vigorously.

Tara raised an eyebrow in question, Faith just shrugged and kept brushing, taking care to spit outside the circle.


Taking a swig of water Faith rinsed her mouth out and glowered at the rest of the gang.

“How come none of you are losin’ ya lunch?”


Willow held up her hand. “Witch,” she said.


“Also witch,” Tara added, her hand raised.


“Mystical green blob,” Dawn said.


Buffy just shrugged awkwardly. “Sorry. Just lucky I guess.”


Faith huffed. “I’da felt better if at least one other person puked.”


“If it helps, I feel a little dizzy,” Dawn said.


Willow blinked in surprise. “I don’t.”


Faith gave her an unhappy look. “Rub it in why don’tcha.”


Willow waved her arms around excitedly. “Nonono, you don’t understand. My head should be all swimmy, so should Tara’s. But I feel fine.”


Tara frowned as she thought. “I don’t feel dizzy either, which is a little odd now that you come to mention it.”


“Maybe it was your mom helping?” Willow suggested.


Brow still furrowed in thought she shook her head. “I don’t think so sweetie. I think those were just echoes, past users of the crystal, the last being mama. I think if all the Ó Liatháin women vanished into the crystal, the Powers That Be would have noticed before now.”


“Um, plus, crowded,” Willow said.

She bounced a little in her seat. “Ooh! So, except for Faith being all barfy girl, our first big spell together worked really well.”


“And no surprised looking shepherds looking for new pants,” Dawn said, having been exploring a little while the others talked and recovered.


“Always a plus,” Buffy said.


Tara looked around the darkening sky. “We don’t have a lot of light left. We should think about setting up camp.”


“Oh, I love take-charge-Tara,” Willow said. “Especially when I get to-” she looked around at the ring of faces, each carrying a grin or curious expression.

“-Stop talking,” she finished, looking a little embarrassed.


“On behalf of the impressionable teens in the group, I thank you,” Buffy said.


“Pfft!” Dawn scoffed. “I’m already, uh, impressed. The damage is done. Remember the kitchen table?”


“Dawn! I’ve been trying to forget that!”


Willow and Tara both looked away from Buffy, unable to meet her annoyed gaze.


“Also the back yard, lounge, kitchen, bathroom and once, the hallway,” Dawn explained.


Faith managed a slightly green grin.


Buffy just looked shocked. “What is it with you two?”


Willow was an utterly mortified shade of red.

Tara simply said. “We are in love Buffy. You know how it is.”


“The lounge, the peach, the food place, the shower, and in a field,” Faith said.

She grinned. “And we ain’t even been at it that long.”

It was Buffy’s turn to blush furiously.


“Given that Giles normally pulls us back to reality at this point, I’m going to do that part and say, ‘Shouldn’t we be looking for places to make camp?’” Dawn said in her best Giles voice.


“I dunno squat about camping, but I’ve slept rough a time or two,” Faith said looking around. “Pretty sure a hilltop in the mountains is not too awesome for that kinda thing.”


Tara nodded her agreement. “We need a cave, stand of trees or a deep valley, in roughly that order.”


“Orrrr, that village over there,” Dawn said pointing to some faint smoke and dim lights in the distance.


“Hmm, let’s think about this. Sleeping in the cold stony wilderness, up a mountain in the scary darkness, or sleeping in a hotel or tavern,” Willow said, her hand on her chin as if thinking hard.


Buffy stuck her hand up. “I vote for the hotel thing.”


“Actual beds sound pretty good.”


“I vote bed.”


“I think a bed sounds nice. If they’re clean.”


Buffy made a show of counting. “So that’s five for actual beds and zero for cold and stones. Let’s go find some civilization.”


Tara judged the distance with an experienced eye. “I think we’ll arrive a bit after dark.”


“Ya sure ya don’t wanna go explore now?” Faith asked. “I mean sure it’s getting dark, but it’s our morning, and we’ve got torches and witches. An’ me and B can see in the dark anyways.”


“I think we are more likely to find things, and not break a leg if there’s actual daylight around,” Tara said.


“Sweet. Let’s go play tourist then. I could use some foreign food.”


“You just ate!” Buffy protested.


Faith shrugged. “Yeah, but by the time we arrive I’ll be hungry. That and you really need to eat more B, you’re kinda skinny.”


“That goes for you too Willow,” Tara said.


“Well I’m sorry,” Willow said. “But up until just recently I was all depressed girl, and that sort of thing messes up your appetite.”


“Uh, what Willow said,” Buffy added.


“Right, let’s go turn B into a cute little butterball Slayer,” Faith said hauling a huge pack onto her shoulders.


Buffy just rolled her eyes, her general skinniness being something of a sore point. “Great, not even married yet and already she’s trying to change me.”


Willow got the giggles when Buffy shouldered her enormous pack. It looked for all the world like the pack was bigger than she was.

The two slayers, being inhumanly strong, had huge packs.

Everyone had a fairly large pack to carry, after all, they were not sure what they would find and had packed to live rough for a week if need be.

Buffy glowered at Willow and took off after Faith.


As they walked the sky grew darker, until maybe an hour and a half after they had arrived, the sun set, and they were just outside a small village.


“We should get changed into less, um, warlike gear I think,” Tara said.


“I am really tired,” Willow said.
She looked every bit as tired as her words suggested.


“I could use a sit down too,” Dawn added.


“I could live with not carrying this stupid pack for a bit,” Buffy said in agreement.


“It is freakishly huge,” Faith said. “Not that much fun either.”


Dawn started peeling off her armour, stripping down to the black body suit beneath, and getting dressed in her tourist outfit of jeans and a warm jacket.


The others followed suit, and soon they resembled well to do American adventure tourists. With enormous packs and a big sack each filled with clanking, rattling armour.

Tara looked snug and warm in her new leather jacket, which prompted a smile from Faith.

Faith gestured at her back. Tara turned to show the new leather panel added to the back, an overlapping flap which allowed her wings to slide out, without leaving her at the mercy of cold winds.


“Nice.”


“Nope, this doesn’t look the tiniest bit suspicious,” Buffy said, her pony tail waving as she shook her head.


Faith grimaced. “How’d you handle this sorta stuff in the other place, Snowy?”


Tara smiled at Faith’s affectionate nickname. “Normally not so much of an issue. In a pinch, we’d have a base camp out of town and send a couple of the not-so warlike ones in to do some talking. Usually me and Catherine.”


Faith hefted her sack. “Ah screw it. Let’s go get stared at by the locals.”


“Before we do that, I want to cast a spell on everyone,” Tara said.


“A protection spell?” Dawn asked excitedly.


Tara smiled at Dawn’s excitement. She too remembered when every spell was exciting, just because of its newness.
She shook her head. “Nope. I don’t think it’s quite that dangerous here. But does anyone here speak Czech or German?”


Surprisingly, Faith stuck her hand up. “Uh, yeah, I speak Dutch German fairly good. I could maybe puzzle out the local lingo in a pinch.”


Tara smiled, she’d always suspected there was more to the ‘Dark Slayer’ than met the eye.

“Good to know Faith. I think it would be good if everyone could speak to the locals, though.”


“Cool, do it,” she grinned. “I like your spells, they feel real buzzy.”


Tara grinned crookedly. “Everyone hold hands.”


Everyone put their hands together in the centre of a rough circle.

“One for all?” Dawn said with a smirk.


Faith grinned and squeezed Dawn’s hand. “Sure, I’m down with that.”


“Weirdo,” Buffy muttered.


“Shush,” Tara said and began chanting softly.


“Butch,” Faith muttered, mirroring Buffy.


Tiny white sparks mixed with occasional flecks of blue swirled from Tara to circle their heads. They faded rapidly, the whole process taking only a few seconds.


Willow giggled. “Pretty.”


“Buzzy,” Faith added.


“Uh, I know this is going to sound like dumb-age, but how come your spells look different to Willows?” Buffy asked.


“Everyone has their own take on spells Buffy. Mine were always sort of sparkly, but after my um, resurrection, they got a distinct colour theme. Willow’s are usually kinda lightning-ish, and Dawn’s are green.”


“Because that came as a complete surprise,” Dawn said sarcastically.


“How it looks depends on the spell, but generally it’s influenced by each person’s magical signature.”


“How would mine look do you think?” Buffy asked. “If I could actually cast spells.”


“Gold,” Faith said without a seconds hesitation.


“Really? That’s how you see me?”


Tara gestured Buffy to come closer, and placed her hand above her heart. She concentrated for a moment.

“Buffy, you’re not a witch. But you’re filled with power. Goddess but you are filled, It’s like fire. But that’s your Slayer-ness I think.”

“You can do ritual magic, same as anyone can. But I think the ‘point and shoot’ spells you see us doing occasionally are beyond you.”


“Poop,” Buffy grumbled.


“Yay me!” Dawn said. “I finally have something that my sister can’t do.”


“We need to test the spell. Faith, you said you speak German, can you give us a taste?”


Faith shrugged. “Sure. Just so’s ya know, it’s Dutch, so it’ll sound pretty shitty to the locals prob’ly.”


“That’s ok, just give it a try,” Dawn said.


Faith blinked at Dawn in surprise, completely missing Tara’s smile.

“Lil’ D, I am speaking German.”


“With a Boston accent. Which is very impressive,” Willow said.


She turned to Tara and placed a soft kiss on her cheek. “You just get more amazing baby.
Tara smiled and gave Willow a hug in response.


Buffy looked deep in thought.

“Faith? Ages ago you said something in the coffee shop. Something in Spanish.”

She met Faith’s deep gaze. “What was it?”


“God B, I love you. I swear the sun rises in your eyes,” Faith said softly. If she spoke in Spanish, Buffy certainly heard it in English.


Buffy looked absolutely smitten. Her eyes shone. “Can anyone doubt why I love you so much?”

She slid into Faith’s arms for a passionate kiss that raised the temperature of the area by quite a few degrees.


By the time they finished, Dawn was flushing pinkly and fanning herself.

“It’s suddenly not cold out here anymore,” she said awkwardly, looking everywhere her sister wasn’t.


“Sorry Dawn,” Buffy said.


Dawn shrugged, Faith style. “Eh, seen plenty of that before. You forget, we lived with these two for ages,” she said pointing at the two witches. They were holding hands and trying their absolute best to look innocent.


Faith smirked, looking distinctly less green. “Lotsa love in the Summers house eh?”

“Oh yeah,” Dawn said gathering her gear. “Pretty much daily. And the smooching never stopped.”

She snuck a grin at a mortified Willow. “That part was pretty cool actually. I just kinda wished Buffy could find someone like that, always with the touching and the cuddles and smiles.”


“What am I? Chopped liver?,” Faith said, looking annoyed.


“And now she has,” Dawn responded with a cheeky wink.


“Thank god for ear plugs. And best friends dorm rooms to sleep in, otherwise I’d never get any sleep.”


“C’mon ladies and… other ladies. We don’t have forever,” Willow said.


++


The sounds of mild bickering could be heard as the party approached the village.

“…I’m just saying, it’s as if I had walked further than you, that’s all.”


Faith made a motion for everyone to stop. “Hold up girls.”


Everyone gratefully dropped their packs and had a stretch.


Faith gently steered Tara to stand in front of Buffy, which got a puzzled look from Tara.

Faith eyed her carefully, noting that Tara was just a little shorter than herself.

“Look straight ahead honeybunch,” Faith said to Buffy.
Buffy for her part, looked puzzled, but complied.


“Hey Snow-White. How tall are ya?” Faith asked with a smirk.


“Um, five-four. Why?”


The smirk grew. “Red? How tall are you?”


Willow grinned as she caught on. “Five four also. Actually I’m just a teeny bit taller than Tara, but she usually wears platforms or heels.”


“Uh huh,” Faith said, noting that Buffy’s eyes were lined up with Tara’s neck.


“Ok, pumpkin, how tall are you?” she said with sugary sweetness to Buffy.


Buffy glowered at Faith’s shit eating grin. “I’m five four, as you well know.”

At Faith’s raised eyebrow and relentless grinning, she protested. “Hey these are not my proper shoes! They make me all short and stuff!”

Faith looked significantly down at their feet. Buffy and Tara were wearing the same brand of hiking boots.


“Now B, you can tell us you’re five-four, in which case you’ve walked the same distance as the rest of us.”


“Except me,” Dawn put in.

Faith nodded politely in Dawn’s direction.

“Or you can quit being weird about it, tell us how tall you really are,” Faith slung an arm comfortably around Buffy’s small shoulders. “And because you have been such a trooper and walked so much further than the resta the gang, I’ll give ya a nice foot massage when we crash for the night.”


Buffy fumed for a bit at the smiles all around, before she huffed mightily. “Fine. I’m five-nothing. Ok?”

Faith kissed her sweetly on her cheek and shouldered her pack.


Dawn laughed. “Wow, you caved pretty easily sis.”


Willow laughed gently. “I don’t blame her. Slayer fingers are like magic.”


Dawn’s eyebrows vanished into her hairline.


Willow winced. “And that sounded a lot less dirty in my head, I swear.”


Tara chuckled. “Come on sweetie, we’re nearly there.”

She smiled cheekily at Willow. “I might have to ask Buffy for a demonstration of those magic Slayer fingers.”


Up ahead Buffy was blushing furiously. Sometimes Slayer super-senses were a pain.


Faith was grinning. “Practiced on Red huh?” she said quietly.


Buffy was still blushing, but she nodded and said. “All part of the Buffy best-friends package.”


“And X-man?”


Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Eww! I’ve given him a few shoulder massages, but boy-feet are stinky,” she shook her head, ponytail bouncing. “No foot massages for Xander.”



Further back Tara trudged up next to Dawn. “Hey sweetie, how’re you getting on?”


Dawn smiled radiantly. “This is awesome!”


“Really?”


“Yup, totally. I like physical stuff, at least when my sister and besties aren’t making me feel like a cripple. Plus, I’m on an adventure with,” she smiled shyly. “With all my moms. What’s not to like?”


Tara smiled. “You really have more moms than anyone. I think I’m just a bit jealous.”

Dawn smiled back.

“So roughing it is ok?”


Dawn shrugged, Tara wondered if she got that from Faith, or if she’d just picked it up somewhere along the line.
“I guess we’re only going to be out here for a few days, so I packed, like, eight pairs of panties and a spare bra, and stuffed them in Buffy’s pack.”


Tara chuckled.
“She’ll never know. There were already lots of underthings in there. Plus I snagged some of her under things and put them in there, just in case.”


“I’m pretty sure Faith did the same,” Willow said.


Faith dropped back to chime in. “Yup. B gets the shakes if she goes more than a few k’s from a mall, so I figure she’s likely to forget, bein’ all urban mall-rat an’ everything. Packed her a few things as well.”


“So let me get this straight,” Willow said. “Everyone figured Buffy would be all spazzy and forget to pack fresh undies, so they packed some for her?”


“And some spares for us,” Dawn added.


“And put them in Buffy’s pack? Because there were already some in there?”


“I didn’t,” Tara said.


All eyes turned to look at the little blonde, trudging down the path ahead of them.

Sensing all eyes on her, Buffy frowned and looked around.

“What? Why is everyone looking at me like I’ve got a giant spider sitting on my pack?”

She craned her neck, trying to look at her pack. “Do I have a giant spider on my pack? Do I need to slay it?”


“Uh, no worries B. Don’t think we’ll be runnin’ out of undies any time soon though.”


“I say Huh?”


Faith just grinned. “Don’t worry Bumblebee, I’ll explain when we hole up for the night.”


“Uh, okay then. Plus I get a foot massage remember?” she bounced cheerfully.


‘Ok, now I feel slightly bad about all this.’


Tara smiled cheekily, ‘So Buffy is carrying a huge pack, almost entirely filled with underwear? I recommend telling her after we get settled. I’m not sure just outside a village in outer bohemia is the best place for an explosion of underthings.’


‘True. Ok, I’ll fess up after we get settled. This secret bat-phone thing is really handy sometimes. There is no way we could keep a secret from those two otherwise.’


‘Buffy’s hearing is that good?’



Willow nodded, ‘That’s why I gave up trying to be quiet at home. Buffy told me that she could hear us, even if she was sitting on the side-walk.’


‘Eeep! I’m not sure if that’s the most comforting thought. I feel a little exposed now.’


‘If it’s any consolation, she did tell me she was happy someone was getting some love.’


‘Oddly, it’s not that reassuring.’


Several more minutes of brisk walking saw the five women on the outskirts of the village.
By American standards it was probably too small to rate even ‘village’ status, but they were willing to allow that European standards were different.


“Ok Glinda, this is your show. What’s the plan, ma’am?”


One or two passers-by eyed the group with interest, but made no move to talk to them.
Or chase them with pitchforks, thankfully.


“Well, my experiences were on a different word, but people are still people. We go in, get rooms at the inn or tavern and ask around a bit.”


“Somethin’ weird about this place,” Faith said.


“You mean besides the fact that it looks like it’s from an era before combustion engines? Or the world war 2 era clothing?” Willow said.


“That, an’ the locals look twitchy.”


“I thought that was normal?” Buffy said.


“Buff, this is a first world country,” Willow said. “It’s not Bosnia, it’s not a warzone. I don’t think there’s been any major badness since world war two.”


“So how come this place looks like the places we see on the news?” Faith added.


“Well, we have Appalachia, maybe this place is the same. All hill-billy-ish and back-of-the-woodsy?” Buffy said.


“Well we are in the mountains,” Dawn said. “I think folks who live in the mountains like mountain-y, not-suburban things. Otherwise they’d just move to the, um, not-mountains?”


“And if I was from Appalachia, I’d be offended, but I’m not, so… meh,” Willow said shrugging.


“All comments about hillbillies aside, I don’t think we’re going to be in for too much trouble. So please don’t stake or shoot anyone unnecessarily,” Tara said with a small grin.


Dawn grinned. “Define ‘unnecessarily.’”


Tara laughed. “Heeheehee, flashback.”


“I thought you’d remember.”


The smile stayed on her face. “Let’s just go in and be strange American tourists. No danger, just silly foreigners.”


Buffy hefted her sack full of armour and weapons. “Great, let’s go!”


“She’s certainly full of beans,” Tara said.


Willow smiled. “Well it is her first real foreign adventure. Plus she has a shiny new fiancé to show off. That would make anyone more than a little chipper.”


“I know how that feels,” came Tara’s happy response.


Willow leaned over for a hug. “Me too. Come on, let’s catch up to Buffy before she buys a famous local land mark.”


The girls were not walking long before they spotted an inn. They attracted no small amount of interest, foreign visitors obviously not being something that the local people frequently encountered.


Buffy, clearly used to leading, arrived at the door to the inn before anyone else did. Cheery light and the sounds of music and laughter could be heard through the closed door and curtained windows.


While Buffy was wondering anxiously how to go about dealing with the locals, Tara strode confidently past her and into the tavern. She politely held the door open for her friends, who filed through the narrow door.


And just like in the movies, the conversation in the inn petered out, as folks realized there was something new to look at.


Tara smiled pleasantly around the room and made her way to the bar. “Good evening. We need rooms for a few nights, do you have any to spare?”


The huge, bearlike bar-keep smiled with genuine warmth. “American? Yes, yes! We have rooms!”

The others drifted slowly toward the bar, the conversations slowly resuming, along with the music.


+++


Giles stared at the phone with an expression of what could be called worry, were he a lesser man.

Voices. Echoes. Memories of times past. They all made themselves felt as he pondered what he was going to do.

[i]‘There will be no going back from this, old boy’



He sighed and ran his hand nervously through his hair, glad that no one was around to see him acting like a lad, nervous and twitchy before the school ball.

‘This is going to re-open some old wounds, but there is no choice.’

Not all the things he had left behind in his troubled past were bad, quite the contrary. ‘And that’s the problem isn’t it? What’s it going to be like, seeing them again after all these years?’

He pondered for another few moments.


“Blast,” he said quietly.

With quick, decisive movements, he picked up the phone, and from memory dialled an impressively long phone number.

When the phone picked up at the other end, he spoke with all the gravitas he could muster. “It is time. I need you.”

He listed for a time to the voice on the other end of the line.


“Ah… most terribly sorry… perhaps I have the wrong number? No, I’m trying to reach Brie… no, I’m sure this is the right number… what do you mean ‘Which one?’”


Giles was clearly getting impatient. “Look, you stupid girl, I am looking for Brie, the one formerly known as Emily Giles, so why don’t you have a bit of a rummage around until you find her? There’s a good girl.”


Time passed.


“Emily? It’s so good to hear your voice again. I-I have missed you terribly. No? Really? Well, congratulations are in order. No, that’s not why I called. I…”

Giles sighed, seeming to shrink. He looked almost defeated. “I need you. Truly.”


He listened for a moment. “Because I didn’t think you could help before. Now we appear to be out of our depth and I need the help of those in unique positions with higher powers, such as yourself.”

He listened again, possibly for a shorter time.


“Because it seems as if, after all we have done to save this sorry world, we have been betrayed. And I need an outsider’s perspective. Someone I can trust. And someone with ancient knowledge.”

He listened again. “Yes. I rather thought it did.”


He sighed heavily and pinched his nose. “I know. I am calling him next.”


“It isn’t the least bit like getting the band back together,” he protested.


“I really wish I didn’t have to, but if this goes where I suspect it might, I’m going to need someone with a rather mercenary attitude to higher powers.”

“I promise you, I will be careful.”


“Emily? Please get here as soon as you can. It… it may be that the heavens have declared war on my family.”

“I will. I love you too.”

He put down the phone with every evidence of reluctance.


He sat down and rested his head on one hand. It was pretty clear that he was rather dreading this next call.

And just as he was reaching for it, the phone rang.

“Bloody show off,” he muttered.

He picked up the phone.


+++


“How are you enjoying your first wilderness adventure Will?” Buffy asked.


Willow looked puzzled. “I’m not sure this counts as wilderness, given that we are sitting on couches, in a tavern, and sipping huge foreign cups of coffee.”


She eyed Buffy’s drink. “And root beer.”


Buffy smiled and sipped her drink. “Still kind of wild out there though. Not a Starbucks or DoubleMeat to be seen for miles.”

She glanced over to where Dawn was talking animatedly to some grey bearded men. She hid her concern with only moderate success.


Willow grinned cheerfully. “This kind of wilderness I like.”


Buffy smiled at her. “Not one for the wilderness either?”


Willow shook her head. “Hey, when I was younger I though cows were supposed to go moo. When I went to visit a farm, I met a cow and was convinced it was defective because it didn’t moo. They made this weird groaning sound. The cows were defective.”
Buffy was somewhat relieved when Faith looked across at Dawn speculatively, analysing the folks she was talking to for threats.
She glanced across at Buffy and gave her a nod of her head.

Buffy smiled back and mouthed the words. “Thank you.” And blew her a kiss. Neither of them spotted Tara, who was cheerfully talking with some local women. She too had positioned herself so that Dawn was always in her field of view.


Buffy turned back to Willow and grinned. “Sounds like me. The only thing I know about cows is that they are small, red, and come in shrink-wrapped packs.”


“And they taste pretty good with garlic and mushrooms.”


“True. Faith does a good steak. The best. In fact so far I’ve asked Mary stay away from steaks, ‘cos I don’t want her to cook a better one than Faith.”


“Faith turns out to be surprisingly good at a lot of non-Slayage type things,” Willow said.


“I. Know.” Buffy said, saying each word with special emphasis. “It’s like there’s this whole world out there I just… never knew about, and now Faith is showing me.”

She smiled shyly at Willow, something she recognized as Buffy’s flirty smile, which was rapidly becoming known as her ‘Faith’ smile.

“There’s just so much to Faith, I had no idea!”


“Ok, Buffy, spill the beans, best friend privileges and all,” Willow said.

She paused for a moment. “But only if you’re not giving away Faith’s deep dark secrets. I don’t want her getting really mad at you. Or-or me.”


“Ok, in no particular order: cooking, ballroom dancing. Moonlit walks, hand-holding, snuggling and sweaty girl-sex. Oh, and foreign languages. And she likes poetry.”


Willow smiled goofily. “I’ve missed this, sitting around talking with my best girl-friend, talking about boys. Or hmm, girls, as the case may be.”

The smile faded to a sad, wistful expression. “I’ve missed you Buff. I’ve missed us.”


Buffy smiled, also a little wistfully. “Well, I’m back now.”


She nudged Willow with her shoulder.


“I’ll tell you a secret Will.”

Willow pricked up her ears and if possible, paid more attention.

“It would have been too painful and sad to talk about before. But I feel ok telling you, now things are better.”

Willow looked owl eyed.
“There are no words in heaven. There’s just a sense of connection. But it’s deep, it’s rich. So much so, that things like words seem like hollow meaningless things.”

She took Willow’s hand in hers. “It’s why I was so disconnected. Even when things were better, I was missing something. I did come back wrong Will. Not because of the spell, but because after I died, I became so much more. And then when I came back I lost it, lost that connection.”

She looked up from the middle distance she was staring hopelessly at, and smiled. A warm, true, Buffy smile that warmed the cockles of Willow’s heart, whatever cockles might be. It was like the sun coming up after a night filled with terror and despair.

“And Tara gave it back to me. Will, I-I have never felt love like that in all my born days. It’s like…”


“The sun,” Willow said with a soft and understanding smile.


Buffy smiled dreamily. “And it warmed me right through.”


She looked a little embarrassed. “I’m just glad Tara showed me Faith. I connected with her. I’m not alone any more Will. She’s like my little slice of heaven.”


Willow was almost radiant with joy. “I am glad for you Buffy, I really am.”


“Ah, um, and it’s a good thing too, because after feeling Tara… dear god Willow, how do you survive that? I mean if it wasn’t for

Faith, I’d be following Tara around like a love sick puppy.”


Willow smiled. “She is amazing, isn’t she?”

She patted Buffy on the hand. “I understand the lovesick puppy thing. There are days I just can’t believe how much she loves me. I mean, she loves everyone, she’s filled with love. But when she looks at me, Goddess, I just can’t believe it.”


“And you just melt inside when she turns those beautiful brown eyes on you,” Buffy said dreamily.


“Yup, only, y’know, blue. Because: Tara.”


“Oh. Yep. Went a bit Faithy-spacey there.”


Willow giggled. “That’s ok Buffy. I’m used to your spacey ‘thinking about boys’ face. Though now it’s a ‘thinking about Faith’ face.”


Buffy laughed. “True. So what about you Will? Any big plans?”


“You mean besides the large-big-hugeness, that is our upcoming double wedding?” Willow said nervously. “Yeah. I was sort of repressing that.”


“Second thoughts?” Buffy asked softly.


“No… yes… maybe?” Willow said. “I-I mean I don’t regret being with Tara, no-way no-how missy!”


“But the wedding?” Buffy prompted.


“Yeah. That.”


“I’m thinking that, as much as I do want to spend the rest of my life with her, making wedding plans might have been a tiny wee bit incredibly hasty.”


Buffy nodded. “I claim extenuating circumstances. Those circumstances being the narrow-minded, dough-butted, bitchy-pants at the jewellery shop.”


“Yuppers.”


“And oh wow, was Giles angry when he found out!”


“Uh-oh,” Willow said worriedly. “Um, how angry? Like on a scale of one to ten?”


“One being, ‘drat, I’ve run out of my favourite tea’, and ten being hearing that they’ve outlawed tweed?”


Willow smiled. “Come on Buff, Giles hardly ever wears tweed any more. Though he does wear a lot of suits when he’s on ‘Council Business,’ which come to think of it is pretty much all the time. So, angry? How, um, angry?”


Buffy looked thoughtful for a moment. “On a scale of one to ten?”

Willow nodded.

“Think, Hitler in a bottle, with a swarm of angry bees.”


Willow blinked in surprise. “That’s-that’s pretty angry there Buffy.”


“Yep.”


“You don’t think he’s going to do something, ah, crazy do you?”


Buffy sipped her root-beer-like drink, and shook her head cheerfully. “Nope. I think he’s going to do something that she is really going to hate, and it will be really well thought out.”


Willow sighed. “That does sound like Giles’ overprotective streak.”


Dawn wandered over and sat down. “Hey.”


“Hey back,” Willow said.


“So, I’ve been doing a bit of snooping,” Dawn said.


“Oh?”


Dawn gave them a wide-eyed glassy smile of clueless incomprehension.


“You do that freakishly well,” Buffy said.


“Thank you,” Dawn said with a less glassy-eyed smile. “I had a good teacher.”


“Hey!”


Dawn giggled. “Anyway, it’s interesting what people say when you’re a foreigner, and you give them your best cheerleader smile.”


“So, what did you find out?” Willow asked.


Dawn stuck a straw in Buffy’s drink and slurped up some of the coke-like fizzy stuff. “Not bad. I might have to get some.”


The smile fell off of her face. “Faith was getting a weird vibe. Something about it being like Bosnia. And Tara said the locals are acting scared. So both of them are trying to find out what’s going on.”


“Uh and oh,” Willow said.


Buffy sighed. “As long as it’s not a zombie attack. It’s not a zombie attack is it?”


“I don’t think so. They’re being pretty quiet about things, even with the dumb act. I guess they figure if two of us speak the language, the rest of us might too. They did seem worried about ‘them’ though. And whoever They are, they’re due to show up soon.”


“Vampires?” Willow asked.


Buffy shrugged. “Hopefully. At least Vampires are stupid and don’t have any particularly surprising powers and stuff. I mean they are evil and really annoying, but at least you don’t end up dying of mind reading badness. From having them bleed on you, and stuff like that.”


“True.”


The three sat in silence for a little while, listening to the sounds of the village life happening around them.


“I’m betting: Vampires,” Buffy said decisively.


“Demons,” Dawn put in.


“I bet… evil wizard!” Willow chipped in, looking just a little buzzy from the big mug of European coffee.


“Wizard?” Buffy asked.


“Hey, I’m a witch!” Willow said. “I’m trying not to besmirch the name with evilness. Nope, no besmirching here.”


Buffy smiled and looked across the room, to see Faith in a conversation with an old gypsy-looking lady. Bangles and layered skirts were present in abundance, as was a large platter of some meat dish Faith had balanced in one hand.”

Faith for her part was looking down at her ring with a shy smile on her face.


+++


“I believe congratulations are in order.”


Faith raised an eyebrow in question.

The old woman gestured down to where Faith had her thumb hooked on her belt, her engagement ring showing.

She smiled, a flood of gooshy emotions swirling gently inside her.

She fingered the ring, savouring what it meant to her.


“Your first?” the cheery old woman asked.


Faith’s dimples showed. “Yeah.”


The old woman smiled and nodded. “I remember what it was like. Ah, you can imagine it was a long time ago for me.”


Faith grinned. “If you say so.”

She fidgeted with the ring on her finger, her thumb still hooked in her belt. “It’s kinda awesome and terrifying at the same time,” she said with a soft smile. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world though.”


The old woman laughed softly. “Very true, the first is always the most exciting. And the most terrifying.”


“Hey, no offence lady, but this is a one-time thing. For life. No-one else, alright?”


The old woman laughed lightly, a knowing expression on her face. “That’s what they all say.”


Faith glared at her. “Not exactly putting me at ease here lady.”


The old woman raised her hands in a placating gesture. “Your speech is good, but perhaps I misunderstood. I meant no offence.”


Faith shrugged. “It’s cool. I do alright with languages, but it happens.”


She felt a wave of mortification that could only be Buffy’s.

She glanced across to a shocked looking Buffy, locked in a clearly terrifying conversation with Dawn, if the expression on her face was anything to go by.


“If it’s all the same to you, I am going to go and spend time with my girl, and stoke up the furnace. See you around old lady.”


“Of course. My best wishes to your sister.”


Faith snorted as she left, shaking her head.


+++


“So, what about you Dawnie? Anyone you’re sweet on?” Buffy asked.


“Pu-leese, as if I have time for any of that stuff. Plus, if I did bring anyone home, you’d scare them off, or Faith would break their brain.”


“Hey, Faith promised no breakage,” Buffy protested.


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Without even trying. ‘Turn a gay man straight’ is what Xander said. Which now raises interesting questions about Xander.”

She glanced at her sister and grinned. “or ‘turn a straight woman gay’ might be a better fit.”


“Er... um... yes,” Buffy said awkwardly.


Dawn patted her on the shoulder.

“She a hottie, it’s true.”

Dawn thought for a moment. “Between you two, and Willow and Tara... well, you’ve set the bar pretty high. I’ve decided I’m not going to settle for anything less than full-blown, four-alarm, true love. And in the meantime, I’ll be busy kicking ass and taking names.”


“So... no to the hottie question?”


Dawn shrugged. “Nope, I’m happy enough with the purple monster for now.”


Buffy looked confused for a moment. “Purple...”

Her eyebrows vanished into her hairline as she twigged.

“Ack! Argh, argh!” Buffy said, thumping her head against the table.

“I can’t know this stuff! I cannot live in the world where I know these things about my little sister!”


“Pfffft! You’re the little one now, I’m the big sister. Plus I’m like a thousand years older than you, so… deal.”

Dawn raised an eyebrow. “I thought you’d be relieved, I know how uptight you are about the issue of sex, and me.”


“Ack! Purple! Argh! Monster!” Buffy said, punctuating each word by thumping her head against the table.

She looked up blearily from her head banging. “I understand Giles’ pain now. Thank you Dawn.”


“Drama queen much?” Dawn said with a sardonic expression

Her expression brightened. “Faith got it for me, it’s awesome! It does the wiggly round and round thing, and it’s even got the little extra bit at the back,” she said grinning at Buffy’s horrified look.

Buffy’s expression made it obvious she was trying to convince the part of her brain that held this new knowledge to die. Unsuccessfully.

“Faith?”


Dawn nodded cheerfully. “Ah-huh! We were shopping and got to talking about girl stuff, so she took me to the sex shop and we looked at stuff and she bought me the purple monster.”


“Please never say the word purple ever again. Thanks.” Buffy rubbed her forehead. “I am gonna kill Faith!”


“For what? Treating me like an adult, instead of a little girl?” she huffed. “If you could get Giles to not die of extreme Britishness, he’d tell you that this is a very responsible thing.”


“Well... yeah, but... eeew!”


Dawn put on her best ‘Giles’ tone. “Oh do grow up Buffy.”

Throaty laughter greeted her impersonation.

“Nice work lil’ D. You have him nailed.”


“Faith! You! This-” Buffy waved her arms around frantically, trying to indicate something. “is all your fault!”


Faith looked around, puzzled. “Huh? What? I ain’t seeing a problem.”

She flopped down on the comfy chair, a huge stein clutched in one hand, and a platter of meat in the other. “Wassup Summers?”


“Buffy is having a brain thing, because she is yet again,” Dawn poked her sister in the head with a finger. “Having a spaz over me growing up.”


“Hey! Quit it!” Buffy protested.


“What is it this time?” Faith asked. “Guns? Girls? Voting?”

Buffy was inarticulate, annoyed looking and somewhat blotchy.

Dawn grinned evilly. “We were talking about the purple monster and Buffy slightly fell apart.”


“Don’t know that one. We talking about some bad guy?” Faith asked.


“Nope my vibrator, you know, the one you bought for me? The one that goes like this?” she said, miming a wiggly motion.


Faith nodded. “Yep, I like that, I got one that does that too.”


“Faith! Not helping!” Buffy said huffily.


Faith stroked Buffy’s hair. “You really gotta relax about this stuff hon, you’ll blow a fuse or somethin’.”

Buffy gave her a sulky look, Faith continued. “Little Dawnie is growing up. And growing into a smokin’ hottie. Be glad she’s way more damn sensible about this stuff than you or I were.”

Buffy still looked unhappy.

“B, I get that you care an’ all, an’ I’ve even grown to love your overprotective streak. But, let it go babe.”

Buffy muttered under her breath, arms folded.

“I’m not kidding, let it frikkin’ go already.”

Buffy still didn’t look convinced, Faith muttered under her breath. “Stubborn Summers...”

“Buffy? Repeat after me: My sister is older that I was when I first got it on.”

Buffy grumbled. Faith gave her a ‘look’ and didn’t let up until Buffy threw her hands in the air and complied.


“Fine! My little sister is older than I was when I first got it on,” she said, exaggerating Faith’s phrasing.


Faith continued. “And is therefore entitled to get sweaty with whoever the hell she pleases.”


Buffy balked at this, only relenting when Faith poked her in the ribs a few times. “Quit it! Fine! And is therefore allowed to get sweaty *ick* with whoever the hell she wants. Can I stop now?”


“Nu-uh. My little sister is now a strong young woman who kicks ass and takes names. And I am totally ok with it.”


Buffy sighed dramatically, but went along with Faith’s prompting. “My little sister is now a strong young woman who kicks ass and takes names. And I am totally ok with it,” Buffy finished.


“And dresses sensibly to do so, don’t forget that,” Dawn interjected.


Buffy protested. “Hey! If I had a work uniform, I’d never be out of it!”


“Hence the reason I prefer sensible black. Or jeans, because when they get ripped, it’s stylish.”


“B? We kinda do have a work uniform now. And it is black. In fact it’s in a big bag over there,” Faith said, pointing.


“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Buffy said, looking suspiciously at the ‘root beer’ that Faith had provided.

“I do not have good experiences with uniforms. Need I remind you of the horror that was the Double Meat? Red and white stripes? Polyester?!” Buffy shuddered.


She took a sip of her drink. “This root beer is weird.”


“Yeah, had a little trouble getting’ across ‘root beer’ to the barkeep.”

She grinned. “Bet you looked cute as a button in your little pyjama pants though.”


Buffy shook her head. “Definitely not. Those pants were not of the good. Definitely evil. When I eventually quit working there, I took my uniform out back and ritually slayed it.”

She sipped her drink again. “I have no idea what this is, but it’s kinda nice.” She looked up at Faith. “I thought we could all speak the language now? What’s with the root beer weirdness?”


Faith shrugged. “Yep, we can. But B? You have any idea what root beer is? ‘cos I sure as hell don’t.”


“Um, looks like coke? Tastes kinda liquorice-y?”


“Yup, and if you take that description to Big Pete over there, what you get is that.”

Buffy followed the line of her finger back down to her drink.

“If I read him right, it’s made out of gay cats and weeds.”


“Uh, what?” said Buffy, alternating between looking worriedly at her drink, and Faith.


Faith chuckled. “Glinda wasn’t kidding when she said this universal translator thing has a few bugs.”


“I heard my name. Or I should say I heard one of my special ‘Faith’ names,” Tara said.

She sat down on the small couch next to a smiling Willow and snuggled up close.


“Hey c’mon, I’ve narrowed to down to Glinda, or Snow White for special occasions. Mainly ‘cos you kicked up a fuss at ‘T-bone’.”


Tara made a yucky expression. “That makes me sound like a rap star, or worse.”


Faith put down the beer and tucked in to her meal, now revealed to be some kind of spicy lamb and potato dish. “Fair point. So, did ya find anythin’ useful?”


“I’m not sure. There has been talk of people going missing from some of the other nearby villages. They’re isolated, but not as much as this place. And these villagers are worried about something, but so far no-one has said what.”

The five absorbed this in silence, thinking hard.


Buffy looked on in amazement as Faith inhaled her meal. “How do you do that?”


“B, I’m empty here. Hell, I’m emptier than I’ve ever been, gimme a break,” Faith said with a half-full mouth.

More sounds of dedicated eating followed.


“You eat that fast, don’t be surprised if you get sick again later,” Buffy said.


“Yes mom,” came the mumbled reply.


“Where are we anyway?” Buffy finally said, switching to a ‘nicer’ topic.


“You’ll pee yourself when you find out what this place is called,” Dawn added with an impish grin.


“Oh?” Willow said.


“Yup. This place is called ‘Little Rock’.”


Buffy giggled. “Really?”


“That would be the translator spell,” Tara said. “If a word translates to anything that the person knows, that’s what you get.”


“Because Diamond-Falls and Sunny-Dale are sooo inventive,” Dawn said, dripping with sarcasm.


“I meant because of the Flintstones,” Buffy replied tartly.


Dawn responded by childishly poking her tongue out, Buffy responded by maturely poking hers out.


Tara grinned a little and stole a sip of Willow’s coffee. “Ooh, that’s nice.”


“You can share,” Willow said happily. “I don’t want to be up all night.”


“Speaking of which, what are we gonna do about sleeping arrangements?” Faith said.


All eyes turned to Buffy.

“Don’t look at me. Adventure girl is over there,” she said, pointing at Tara.


All eyes turned to Tara.

Tara smiled. “Well, I suggest that we turn in early so as to, um, line up with the local time. Then tomorrow we can hire a local guide.”


“Good plan. Shame we got out of bed like, four hours ago,” Faith said.


“I can fix that,” Tara responded. “The healing-sleep spell I used to help Dawn can be used on all of us.”


“Are you sure?” Buffy put in. “I’d hate to go all Cinderella and wake up next century.”


Tara smiled and nodded cheerfully. “I promise both comfort and safety. I’ve used it quite a lot.”


Dawn chipped in. “It’s a good spell, I’m telling you.”


“And the actual arrangements? Like, where are we going to sleep?” Buffy asked.


Tara looked sheepish. “Ah, um, there’s good news and bad news on that score. The good news is there’s a bed for all of us, and it’s safe. The bad news is that it’s a family room, so we’ll all be sleeping in the same room.”


Willow looked upset. “But-but that means no morning snuggles!”


Tara cuddled up closer. “There can be snuggles sweetie. Just no morning sex.”


“But, morning snuggles usually lead to morning sex,” Willow protested.


“Ain’t that the truth,” Faith muttered around a mouthful of spicy lamb.

Buffy flushed a little.


“Poor Faith, constantly hounded for sex by my horn-dog sister, at all hours of the day and night.”


“Da-awn!” Buffy protested, a hint of whiney sister in the tone.


“Buffy, you’re dating Faith. You’re engaged to Faith. Of course you’re having sex. Lots and lots of sex, if the noises I hear are anything to go by.”


“Dawn!” This time there was more outraged shock in the tone.


Dawn ignored it. “Thanks for letting me tell everyone by the way. Uh, the engagement, not the sex. Vi and Rona are still halfway convinced we’ve all been taken over by pod-people.”


“Will? help?” Buffy plead.


“Sorry Buff. Dawn invoked big-sister privileges.”


Dawn grinned. “So now that we’ve established that there will be no sex while the impressionable teens are in the room, what now?”


“Eat, relax, sleep. I figure we kick back with the locals, see if we can get anything out of them, then crash when they all fall over for the night,” Faith said.


“And no sex,” Willow said grumpily.


“Just think how much you’ll enjoy getting home, Willow,” Tara said teasingly.


“Screw it, I’m heading out to the monastery place now,” Faith said, faking a move to rise.


“Oh my god! Can’t you guys go without for a couple of days?” Dawn said.
She looked amazed, revolted and just a touch curious.


Willow squirmed, as did Buffy. “Well, um, it’s sort of all the excitement of new relationship, plus all the comfort of an old one, so we’re having the best of both worlds.”


“That, and unlike driving stick, girls are always good for a second go,” Faith put in. “Or third, fourth, whatever.”


“Faith!” Buffy protested.


“What? It’s totally true! Fingers and tongues always do what you tell them. You never have to tell a girl ‘honey, it happens to everyone, we can try again in a little while.’”

She writhed her fingers suggestively.

Willow coughed as a bit of her shared coffee went down the wrong way.


“Don’t tell me I brought back a memory there Red?”


Tara rubbed Willow’s back soothingly as she coughed.


“Um, no. Um, no, that never happened with me and Oz... But there was this thing with Spike-“


“Damn Red! Didn’t figure you for doing the nasty with dead guys.”


“Eeew!” Willow said.

“Sorry Buffy,” she said, looking slightly apologetic. “But… eew! No, it was when he first got his chip and he discovered he couldn’t bite me.”

She looked all embarrassed at the incredulous looks. “Hey! He was all broken up and stuff. Because he couldn’t… perform.”


“Ohmigod! I don’t know whether to laugh or be squicked out. So I’m gonna go with Hahahah! Eeeew!” Dawn said.


“If it helps, I did bash him over the head with a lamp and run away,” Willow said hesitantly.


“That’s better,” Faith said.


Buffy scowled a little.

“What? You’re my girl, that means I get be all crazy and possessive, and stake all your exes.”


“Stake?!”


“Uh, hate. Yeah, hate all your exes.”


“Spike’s gone, you won’t stake Angel, and Riley is a good friend, so I forbid you from staking Riley. No stakage, ok?”


“And Parker?” Willow asked.


“Stake away.”



Over by the fire, a pair of locals were tuning up their instruments, a violin and some form of pipe.

After a few experimental twangs and blows, they struck up a jaunty tune, something reminiscent of a sea shanty.
The rest of the bunch by the fire started to stamp their feet and gesture to others to come join them.


“Um, are they trying to get us to join in?” Willow said.


“Uh, yup, I think they are,” Buffy said, a little worriedly.


The cheery and only slightly beery folk were beckoning enthusiastically and pointing to the open space by the fire. Two local lads got up and started to dance in counter point to the music, their quick stomping steps being somewhat reminiscent of Riverdancing.


“Cool,” Dawn said, looking a little awed.


“Now that looks like fun,” Faith said, taking a swig of her huge beer.


Dawn squeaked in surprise when Tara doffed her jacket and made a beeline for the impromptu dance floor.

“Oh hell no!” Faith said. She took another swig of beer and dumped her own jacket, hurrying to join Tara.


The two young men finished their enthusiastic stomping watched carefully by Tara and Faith.

When they finished their set Faith and Tara both jumped in, enthusiastically stomping away in a rapid rhythm.

Willow was absolutely hypnotised, watching the muscles work under the smooth skin of Tara’s back. Her back was revealed by the halter top she wore, tied throat and waist, and for the life of her Willow could not look away.

If the dancing of the local boys was anything to go by, the actual steps were not particularly important, as long as you had a good rhythm going. And the staccato rhythm did amazing things to her favourite part of Tara’s anatomy. And Willow thought her butt looked specatcular in jeans.

Willow wouldn’t have looked away if you set her on fire.


Faith for her part had managed to combine practical and sexy. She was wearing a long sleeved shirt made of some soft, deep red fabric that clung to every curve and left Buffy hypnotised. Between the skin-tight top and Faith’s tight jeans, she was as transfixed as any butterfly on a board.

“Wow,” she breathed softly.


“Uh-huh,” Willow sighed.


Willow collapsed against Buffy with a happy sigh. “Oh my god. How can anyone get so lucky?”


“I. Know.”


“I really wasn’t expecting Tara to get up and start stomping, but I’m sooo glad she did.”


Buffy grinned evilly, and clambered to her feet, dragging Willow with her.

“C’mon Wills, let’s dance!”


“What? Nononono!” she protested.


Her feeble struggles were no match for a determined Buffy, and she was dragged, protests and all, up to the dance spot by the fire.
Laughing and cheering, the locals shoved the tables and chairs back a little further to give a bit more room, and shouted their encouragement.


“C’mon Red! Stomp those feet!”


“Yes! Dance pretty girl!” the fiddle player called cheerfully.


Never the most rhythmic person, or coordinated, Willow froze.

Until Tara rescued her. Taking her hands with a loving smile.


Dawn smiled as Tara coaxed a reluctant Willow into jumping up and down, in a passable imitation of Heather-and-Dawn enthusiasm.

She frowned. She really missed Heather being here. Jules too. But not having Heather around was eerily like having a piece of herself missing.

She sighed. This was undeniable fun, but without her bestest bud to share it with, it just wasn’t the same.

Well, if she couldn’t jump around with her girlfriends, at least she had the next best thing: a horribly expensive camera.

She managed to get a good half a dozen snapshots of Willow slowly loosening up and getting into the stomp-y dance-y thing. It seemed that foreign visitors got a couple of extra goes, as no-one seemed to mind them pseudo-riverdancing their way through a couple of extra sets.


Although Buffy seemed to be the only one with any kind of dance step going on, it didn’t seem to matter. Willow gathered as much appreciation as anyone, with her rendition of Xander’s famed snoopy dance.

And after three sets, the visitors were replaced by other locals, allowing a sweaty quartet of girls to stagger back to the comfy chairs, and their drinks.

“Well, we have some new friends I think,” Tara said, breathing hard.


“They sure got their money’s worth, staring at our asses,” Faith said.


“I’m so glad you didn’t tell me that before I dragged Will up there. She would have frozen solid,”


“Wow. All new, and slightly alarming fun,” Willow said, mopping her brow.


Tara nodded. “I think I can see why the locals only do a set each before they swap out. It’s really warm by that fire.”


“Yes, it is an old tradition,” the barkeep said. He leaned against the part of the bar closest to the guests. “We are very isolated. TV does not reach up here, and we only get one radio station. In the old days they would sometimes run out of fuel for the fires, so we would dance to keep warm.”


“For real?” Faith asked.


The man she had christened ‘Big Pete’ shrugged. “So they tell me. We still lose power often in winter, so it’s a handy tradition to have.”


“That seems little unusual for central Europe,” Tara said.


Big Pete shrugged again. “We are in the mountains. Things are different here. Often we are starved for entertainment.”


“Ya mean new butts to look at,” Faith said with a grin.


Big Pete grinned back. “In jeans even. Tonight has been a good night.”


Faith laughed as the others looked embarrassed. “Knock yourself out my man. Just don’t overdo it, otherwise my girl here will likely knock you out.”


His grin was irrepressible. “I’ll have all winter to recover. Worth it, I think.”

Several men at a table caught his eye. “Excuse my exit ladies, customers are calling.”


Buffy glared at an unrepentant Faith, before turning back to Tara. “So the dancing was fun, but I’m kinda surprised you started it. I figured you more for the slow, snuggly dance-y stuff, and not so much with the stompage.”


Tara grinned a little. “Well, we are on the other side of the world and in the mountains. It’s safe to make a fool of yourself here. No-one’s ever going to find out.”


“Which is why I made with the dancing,” Willow said. “And totally not because my freakishly strong best friend dragged me up there.”


Buffy chuckled. Tara saw a light go on in her eyes, rapidly followed by fidgeting and squirming.

She’d had enough practice reading Buffy over the years, and reading the almost identical mannerisms in Dawn. She could tell that Buffy wanted something, but was embarrassed to ask.

“What is it Buffy?” she said softly, releasing Buffy from her torment.


“Well… um, I was wondering if-if you could… take me flying?” she said hesitantly, before blurting. “Because we’re up in the mountains away from everywhere and across the other side of the world.”


Tara smiled. “If you like. I’d be more than happy to take you flying.”


“I could probably take someone up too,” Willow added. “That way we’re not wasting time, we’re doing um, aerial recon. And enjoying it!”


Faith agreed. “Take lil’ D here. I can bop along on the ground and shift some gear. You guys can meet me when you’ve had enough.”


“Would now be a good time to talk about my terrible fear of heights?” Dawn said. “And cheap construction?”


“Really?” Faith asked.


Dawn nodded. “Towers, mad gods. It was a thing.”


Tara rested a gentle hand onto Dawn’s. “It’s ok sweetie. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”


“I want to. I really, really want to. I’m just scared.”

She frowned. “I want to get over it, and I really can’t think of a better way than to go flying with my family.”


“There’s a phrase you don’t often hear,” Faith said, stuffing the last of her meal in her mouth.


Willow bounced in her seat excitedly “And plus, up the mountains is about as safe as you can get. At least, y’know, for witnesses.”


“I’m looking forward to it,” Tara said. “Even in the city of light, where pretty much everything could fly, I still had to fly at night.”


“Uh, why?” Buffy said. “I would have thought people would have been all cool and stuff with the wings and the fly-age?”


Tara looked a little embarrassed. “Well at first I was repressing, then I was shy. After that it was just a good idea. With so many people after us, well it’s a good idea to keep that sort of thing a surprise if you’re cornered.”

She looked a little wistful. “I could really only safely fly during the day, when we were away from civilization.”


“Well you’re in luck Snow-White. This is about as far from civilization as you can manage.”


“And yet we somehow find ourselves in a pub, despite the absence of civilization,” Willow said cheerily.


“Pub?” Buffy asked.


Willow bobbed her head. “Yup. Pub. I brought that one back from merry old England, land of tea and tweed. I thought I’d show off, y’know, my British-ness. Because we’re in Europe.”

Dawn gave her an amused smile.

“Well, if you lived in my head, it would make more sense. And I’m just going to drink this coffee now.”


“I thought it made perfect sense,” Tara said, her eyes sparkling.

She pressed a soft kiss against Willow’s cheek. “I’ll be back in a little while. I want to see if I can find out a little more about the monastery, and maybe whatever is bothering the locals.”


“I’ll help!” Dawn chirped. “Plucky girl detective, that’s me!”


“The locals won’t know what hit ‘em,” Faith said. “Go on, do the girl detective thing. We’ll be right here, drinking weird fizzy stuff.”

She made shooing motions, and Dawn grinned enthusiastically and took off for some quality bonding time with Tara.


‘Only in our family,’ Buffy mused, ‘would Dawn be bonding with Tara, over questioning the locals about the creepy old monastery.’[i]


Faith laughed out loud, attracting a puzzled look from Willow. “And they woulda gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids!”


Buffy grinned. “There’s a reason Xander named us Scoobies, you know.”


Willow held up a hand, looking suspiciously like she were in class. “Is that what it looks like? Y’know, when Tara and I do the head thing? Were you doing the head thing?”


Buffy flushed a little with embarrassment. “Uh, yep. I guess I forgot.”


Willow grinned. “Dawn’s right, it does look kinda weird. Then out pop the random comments.”


“Well, at least we’re all weird together. Except Dawn, and she’s her own special kind of weird.”


“Careful Buff, they made her out of you. So be nice, otherwise you’re insulting yourself.”


“I blame Faith for her weirdness.”


“Uh, what?” Willow said, confused.


“Yeah,” Faith added. “Plus, you’re the weird one in this relationship. I’m the badass one.”


“Hey no fair! Will, tell her I’m the sensible one.”


Willow looked up from the remains of her spicy coffee. “Oh no way. I’m not getting involved in this. There’s nothing I can say that won’t get me in trouble.”


Buffy mock-glared at Willow. “Traitor. You’re supposed to take my side.”


“Well, I’m Faith’s friend too. And a real friend, they wouldn’t make her friends choose between her friends and her, um, other friends. So there.”

Willow put on a sad kitten expression.


“Ah, no! The cute and lovable defence! Not that!”


Faith looked at the two friends messing around with each other and rolled her eyes. “And somehow she gets her weirdness from me. Despite my near total absence from her life up until the last few months.”

She pointed an accusing finger at Buffy. “This from the woman who believes she has the supernatural power to detect shoe sales?”


“Hey! My Buffy senses were tingling!”


“That like spidey senses?”


“Yep,” Buffy said cheerfully. “But it goes off for Vampires, demons and shoe sales. Ask Willow, she’ll tell you.”


“It’s true,” Willow put in. “She gets all spazzy when they have… had, the big after-Christmas sales in Sunnydale.”


“Target rich environment huh?”


“Yep.”


“I think your Buffy-radar has gone wonky though, I’m not sure there’s going to be a shoe sale in a tiny village, up a mountain.”


“I’m telling you there’s something shoe-y going on here.”


Faith grinned indulgently. “Fine, you have your super ability to find shoes, and I’ll have my ability to actually FIND vamps.”

She poked Buffy in the arm.


“Hey! I can find them,” Buffy protested.


“Pfft! Most times you wander along looking all tiny and blonde and ‘please eat me,’ then the bad guys come find you.”


“Help, Willow! Faith is being all mean and sarcastic.”

Her smile made it obvious that she wasn’t particularly serious.


“Well, I can protect you from the mean old Slayer. C’mon, we’ll head up to our room and get the place organized. And figure out what where we’re going to put Dawn.”


“You’re going to put Dawn in her own bed,” Dawn said.


Willow jumped in surprise, as Dawn spoke up from by her elbow.

“Eeep! Sneaky girl,” Willow protested. “Well, you best come up and help us with the sleeping arrangements then.”


“I love you guys. Really. But I’m not sleeping in a bed with either of the pair of you. Getting groped by any of you guys in the morning is waaay out of my comfort zone.”


Faith chuckled softly, having “I’ll be up in a bit. Wanna finish my beer and wait for Snow-White,” Faith said.


Buffy nodded, silently agreeing to the idea. Something just was not right about this place, and it had made her a little edgy all night. Faith it seemed, was getting the same vibe.

“Come on up when you’re done. It shouldn’t take us too long to make everything sensible.”

The three women filed up the stairs, carrying a variety of awkward packs, bags and sacks making suspicious clanking sounds.




It wasn’t long before Tara made her way back to the table.


“Hey Faith.”


“Heya blondie. They’ve gone up to sort the room. Figured I’d stay and watch your back. Also beer,” she said, holding up her huge stein.


Tara smiled, something she seemed to do quite a lot these days. “Thanks Faith. Glad somebody thought ahead.”


Faith grunted in acknowledgement and swallowed her beer. “You find anything yet?”


Tara nodded. “I have hired a local guide by the name of Alphonse. I think he can show us the best way to get there, and we can talk to him while we’re travelling. We might be able to find out what the problem is that way.”

Faith nodded and took another swig of her beer.

“Are you alright Faith? Are the sleeping arrangements an issue? They only have the one room, but we might be able to sort something out.”


“Nah, I’m ok. Used to sleeping with other folks in the room. Sorta. Still feeling a little off from the whole teleport thing earlier though.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment before sharing her thoughts.

“You know one of the best things about bein’ with B? [i]Sleeping
with her.”

Tara raised an eyebrow.

“Not sex. Though, dear fucking god, she’s good in bed. Nah, what I mean, is that I never slept with anyone before. Like cuddling is cool an’ all. And you better believe B is a snuggler.”

Tara smiled a little at this un-revelation. Faith returned her smile.

“But the big thing? I sleep[i/] with her. I mean safe and secure, babe-in-her-mothers-arms sleep.”


Tara smiled warmly. “I’m happy for you faith. I’m guessing that you weren’t getting a good night’s sleep all the time?”


Faith picked at the table-top. “Yeah. Pretty much had nightmares since forever. When I was a kid I had nightmares on steroids. G-man thinks it was a Slayer thing. After that my life [i]was
the nightmare, and don’t it just suck, but I had to relive it all when I was asleep too.”

Tara squeezed her hand, her face filled with compassion.

“Thanks Bl… Tara. I figure you can relate huh?”


Tara nodded. “A little.”


“After that, I had the whole Kakistos thing, then the whole ‘going crazy’ thing, then the massive guilt and redemption thing.”


“None of which made for a good night’s sleep.”


She caught Faith’s eye. “And Buffy.”


“Point. Also a factor.”

She poked her finger into the ring of moisture that her drink had left on the coaster.

“The thing that really pisses me off, when I stop to think about alla that bad stuff, is how dumb I was. I mean really, here I was all distant and closed off, balls-to-the-wall bravado an’ crap, all to keep myself from being vulnerable, from getting hurt, right?”

Tara nodded silently.

“So I got hurt anyway. Closed off, got excluded, got hurt. Did it harder, got hurt some more. Went crazy with it and got a whole hell of a lot hurt. I mean I ain’t talkin’ rocket science here, but how hard is it to figure out? If it hurts, stop fucking doing it!”


Tara thought for a moment. “I don’t think emotional things are too clear to anyone. Maybe you thought you just hadn’t pushed people away far enough, so you had to try harder?”

Faith grunted, obviously unconvinced.

Tara pressed a little. “Faith, it was horrible, I agree. But it was all you knew. What else were you going to do?”


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. Not that shit, I hoped.”


“I was there Faith, and though we didn’t have a lot of contact, I really got the impression you were in pain.”


Faith grunted again. She took a sip of her beer, and just as she opened her mouth to say some more, she was randomly hugged from behind by a petite blonde form.


Her expression melted as Buffy snuggled into her, nuzzling her hair. “No more bad thoughts snuggle-bunny.”


“’kay,” Faith said dreamily. “You keep doing stuff like this an’ I’m gonna wanna have more bad thoughts.”


“Nope. Because you can still get snuggles, even when you don’t have bad thoughts.”


Tara chuckled softly at Faith’s blissed-out goofy expression.


“Mmm, definitely liking the whole fiancé thing here B. I was just telling Glinda the good witch here, how you scared my nightmares into submission.”


“Yup. You’re my girl Faith. Anyone, anything wants to get to you, it’s gotta go through me.”


Buffy grinned. “And I can kill anything. Even bad dreams.”


“It’s true.”


She smiled warmly and turned to Tara. “I shit you not, I sleep like a baby now.”


Tara laughed lightly. “Is that another one of your Slayer powers Buffy?”


Buffy smiled coyly. “Nope. It’s my super girlfriend power. It’s right up there with calling dibs on the passenger seat and glaring at people who hit on Faith.”


“Which is frikkin’ hilarious by the way,” Faith added.


“Hey! You're not supposed to laugh!”


“What? It is!”


Buffy glared.

“They get all freaked and run off. What’s not to like?”


“You’re still not supposed to laugh.”


“Aww baby, don’t be like that. I just love it when you get all butch and possessive is all.”


“Har. Har,” Buffy said with infinite sarcasm. “Just so you know, you’re the butch one in this relationship.”


“Are you sure? ‘cos you wear leather pants more than me. And you’re all bossy.”


“I am not bossy! You take that back this instant!”


Faith just grinned. “I’m ok with being the butch one. Even if you are a bossy-pants.”


“Grrr!”


The antics of the foreigners on the couch had attracted some attention from the locals. Most glances were amused, a few were worried. And one or two were disgusted.

One man in particular had been shooting glances Buffy’s way since they arrived. His expression had originally been cheerfully interested, but had changed after Buffy had cuddled up to Faith with every evidence of enjoyment. Now, despite his attempts to disguise it, his face showed flashes of fascination and disgust, as though he had found something unique and grotesque beneath a log.

His glances had not gone un-noticed by Faith. She obviously put her arm around Buffy, and without so much as a glance in his direction held out her hand, wiggling the ring in the light. She also gave him the finger.

Angrily, he threw back the last of his drink and stormed out of the inn.


Faith frowned and glanced across at Tara. Tara returned her look with a tiny nod, she had seen the exchange as well.

They shared a moment of understanding, one survivor to another.


“C’mon, let’s get upstairs. Wanna find out about this magic thing. Looking forward to not feelin’ so weird in the morning.”


The three climbed the stairs together, heading for an early-early night.


“Are you still feeling bad Faith?” Buffy asked.


“I’m ok. Lots better, honey-bee. I think the epic puking session helped.”


“Well I’m glad. I hope you get over it, because I was going to get Will to send us to Hawaii. For sun and sand and surf. And other things beginning with ‘S’”


Faith grinned suggestively. “I’m up for it. Not a fan of teleporting though.”

Faith rubbed a breast gingerly. “Plus I think I banged my tit when I threw up. And I think I threw up stuff I ate in Sunnydale.”


Tara stopped in the narrow stairwell. “Gentle massage should help.”

Her expression was as innocent and pure as fresh fallen snow.


Faith raised an eyebrow. “You offering to help, Snow White?”


Tara responded by raising her own eyebrow. “I am[i/] a recognized medical professional, Faith.”

Buffy looked torn between awkwardness and embarrassment, and flushed pinkly.

Tara quirked a twisted grin. “Though that’s in a whole other dimension.”


She opened the door behind herself, just as Buffy said. “If there are boob massages to be delivered, I will be doing them.”


Tara backed into the room followed by a blushing Buffy and a grinning Faith.


“So that whole ‘lesbian’ thing seems to be working out for you Buff,” Willow said, with a smirk.


Dawn nodded sagely, clearly bent on getting maximum squirm factor out of Buffy’s verbal faux pas. “That certainly explains why you took off out of here so fast.”


Willow joined in. “I know how it is when there’s a boob emergency.”


“Har. Har.” Faith said.


She rubbed her right breast gingerly. “I was just telling Blondie here that I think I hit my tit-” Buffy frowned. “Sorry, [i]boob
while I was puking up everything I ever ate.”

She frowned at Willow. “Remind me to thank you for that experience some day.”


“Sorry,” Willow said. “Nausea is one of the common side effects of transformation and translocation spells. Things like that affect people differently, kinda like not everyone gets sea sick. I didn’t think it would affect anyone that badly.”


“Which really sucks, ‘cos I don’t get seasick,” Faith grumbled.


“Sorry,” Willow said. “It should get better as I get better at the spell. And you’ll get used to it too.”


“Yippee,” Faith said flatly.


“Sorry,” Willow said again.


Faith stretched. “Not your fault Red. I’m not pissed at you, just not looking forward to ‘getting used’ to puking up.”


Worriedly, Willow rummaged around in her pack, until with a happy sound, she held up her green fluffy pyjamas and a packet of seasickness pills.

Faith peeled her top and sports bra off in one go. She got tangled with the elastic around her head, long enough for Willow to turn around and be confronted with Faith’s topless-ness.


Willow was transfixed. “Uh… okay. Hi, Faith’s boobs. I wasn’t really expecting… that, but… I’m not entirely, um.”


“Faith!” Buffy said, swatting her shoulder.


“Huh? Oh right. I should put the goodies away huh?”


Willow was still staring, amazed, at Faith’s chest.

“Willow!”


Willow jerked her eyes away, blushing furiously.

“Sorry, they sorta took me by surprize. Snuck up on me.”


“Cool, check it out B, I got stealth boobs.”


Tara and Dawn, in the meantime had simply turned their backs and gotten changed. Both were now wearing fluffy pyjamas and watching the antics with an air of amusement.


“What! How? Did you magic into your pyjamas?” Willow protested.


“Nope, just got changed while you three were having a spaz,” Dawn replied.


Faith put on her fluffy-duck pyjamas, by the simple expedient of having Buffy jam the top down over her shoulders.
A lengthy wriggling later and Faith was decently attired.


“I thought you slept naked?” Dawn said.


“It has been explained to me that I should wear pants and stuff, while in bed,” Faith responded, looking oddly like she had been coached. “At least while you guys are around.”

She grinned evilly at a blushing Willow. “Not that I mind giving people a free show, it’s just that some people get all jealous and crap.”

She looked down with a frown at the pyjama top she had had thrust upon her. “Lil’ duckies? Really?”


Buffy swatted her. “Hey!”


Faith mock cowered. “Oh no, domestic abuse! Won’t some one save me from the mean blonde?”


“You. Bed.” Buffy commanded.


“Ooo, I love it when you’re all bossy.”


“Just wait till I get you alone,” Buffy threatened.


Faith waggled her eyebrows. “Promises promises,” she murmured.


Dawn rolled her eyes. “Children, I’m surrounded by children.”

Immediately she was thwacked by a pillow, mussing her hair.

“Not the hair!”


“And you insist there’s no resemblance,” Faith teased, poking Buffy with a finger.


Dawn looked around, parting the curtain of her loose hair, wavy from the braid it had spent the day in.

And was surprised when a grinning Tara thwacked her again with a pillow.

“Hey! Watch the hair!”


Faith and Buffy stealthily picked up the pillows from their bed.


“Don’t you dare…” Dawn said warningly.

*thwot!*


And this time it was Willow with the offending pillow, taking advantage of Dawn’s preoccupation with the Slayers.

Dawn spun around to glare at Willow, and Faith casually bashed her with a pillow, raising a squawk of protest.

And then proceeded to batter Tara around the head and shoulders with skilful strikes.


“Eeek! Slayer, help!”


“I’ll defend you my lady!” Willow said, and leapt into the fray, hitting Faith with clumsy but powerful strokes.


“Ack! B? Little help here?”


Faith was being bashed from all sides, Willow and Dawn getting some well-earned revenge. When she looked up she saw Buffy standing triumphantly on the bed with a camera, gleefully snapping shots.

Faith pointed. “Get her!”


“Eeek!”


Buffy’s next few photos were a blur of pillows.


+++


All five women were sprawled across one bed, some breathing hard, all with a happy glow.

“Poor Xander,” Willow said. “He really wanted to come, and he missed out on an all-girl pillow fight.”


Faith snorted. “He’d have been trippin’ over his own dick if he saw that.”


Buffy grimaced. “Eeew! Thanks for the mental image Faith. Now I can’t show the photos to him without wondering if he’ll be all… uh.”


“Erect?”


“Ahh! Stop it!”

Faith’s next comment was lost in a flare of light.


“Hello Les-urk!” Anya appeared, and disappeared almost immediately.


Everyone sat bolt upright.


+++


Faith blinked in surprise. “Well that was different, but what the hell?!”


“Will?” Buffy asked cautiously.


Willow looked a little shaken, and had definitely lost her post pillow-fight buzz.

She looked across at Tara, who looked no less surprized. She gave Willow a small shake of her head.

“I’m not sure Buff. Maybe it’s like the scrying spell, and she couldn’t get too close to the monastery?”


“She didn’t seem too happy,” Tara added.


“She looked like she got bounced out of here on her ass, is what you mean,” Faith said.


“That too.”


“Well, that should put a stop to surprise visits,” Willow said. “And if she can’t orb in, and we are this far from the monastery, that suggests that we’re not likely to be mystically observed.”


“Remember, I could scry within a couple of mile of the big monastery building,” Tara said.


“True, but that was with us working together. And don’t forget, we’re awesome.”


“True,” Buffy said. “Willow the witch is a whizz.”


Tara quirked a smile. “If ever a whizz there was.”


Willow shook her head. “Nope. We’re the witches who’re the whizz’s.”


“Next person who says a ‘w’ word is sleeping outside,” Buffy grumbled.


“Why?” Dawn said with a cheeky smile.


“Grrr.”

Faith just chuckled, getting a sharp look form Buffy. She just laughed.


Tara broke in to the sister’s squabbling. “Sleepy time soon.”

At that, the Summers sisters stopped and looked at her.


“Last spell anyone cast on me was all kinds of fun. In that special, not-fun kinda way. Hoping this one’s a little less exciting,” Faith said.


“I think you’ll be ok. But before we do that, I want to check on Anya. I don’t think she’ll be seriously hurt by bouncing out of here, but I’d like to know for certain.”


“How’re you going to do that?” Dawn asked. “They barely have radio here. I don’t think they have cel coverage.”


“Magic,” Willow said simply. “We scried our way here, we can scry Anya and make sure she’s ok.”


“And gouge our eyes out if she’s doing something gross with Xander,” Buffy said.


“What could she possibly be doing that is that bad?” Faith asked.

All eyes looked at her in disbelief.


“What? Don’t tell me Xander is all kindsa kinky, and I never knew? C’mon he ain’t that bad.”


“Um, Anya is 1100 years old and obsessed with sex,” Tara said. “And she spent all of that time with demons. And when she was a vengeance demon, she was prized for her creativity, inventiveness and thoroughness.”


Faith let out a low whistle. “And how long have they been together?”


“Four years or so,” Tara replied.


The group was silent as they absorbed some truly mindbending concepts.


“Damn, this I have to see,” Faith said.


“I feel I may lose whatever shred of innocence that I have somehow managed to retain if I do,” Dawn said. “But I’m morbidly curious as to what they get up to.”


“I’m not,” said Buffy. “I’m really, really not.”


Tara looked trapped by indecision until Willow came to the rescue. “Baby, just look. It might be embarrassing, but it’s better than having it worry you for the next few days.”


Tara nodded, silently agreeing. She sat down cross-legged on the bed she shared with Willow and closed her eyes.


While she was meditating, Dawn organized her pull-out bed for sleep.


Tara whispered. “Let me see.”


In the space in front of her an image quickly formed. An image of Anya, lying on a couch in the Scooby lounge, her head pillowed on Xander’s lap, with her eyes closed. Although she seemed to be nursing a headache, she did not seem to be seriously injured.
Xander gently stroked her hair, producing a small smile.


Tara smiled softly at the tender scene. She let the spell fade and her smile broadened as she opened her eyes.


“More power to Xander,” Faith said. “But after all that buildup, I feel just a bit disappointed.”

She grinned at Tara. “I still don’t know about the thing with the pudding.”


“And I’m not telling. If you want to know, ask her. Just make sure there are no minors in the area.”


She smiled devilishly. “And make sure you have plenty of room. The hand gestures alone are enough to give people nightmares.”


“And on that note, time for bed,” Willow said.


“Ahem,” Buffy said, attracting everyone’s attention.

She pointed at her feet and gave Faith a significant look. “I believe me and my tiny feet are owed something? Given that we did walk so very far today.”


Faith smiled softly, and surprisingly didn’t make a single sarcastic comment. She just perched on the edge of the bed and lifted Buffy’s foot into her lap.


Willow clambered on to the bed and sat down behind Tara. She wrapped her arms around her tummy, and cuddled close. Her green eyes peeked over her shoulder at the antics of her friends.


Faith gently started working her thumbs into the instep of Buffy’s delicate foot, eliciting a long drawn out “ooooohh!” of delight from Buffy.
She collapsed back onto the bed with a happy sigh and let Faith work away with her fingers.
Occasional happy squeaks were heard from the depths of the squooshy comforter she was lying in.


“You know, she never makes those sounds when I do that,” Willow said.

Tara turned and looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“And that’s a good thing,” Willow said quickly. “Because, well, how awkward would that be?”


Tara quirked a smile. “Well I’m no Slayer,” she said, wiggling her fingers. “But I’m told I have healer’s hands.”

Tiny sparks of blue and white swirled around her fingers, attracting owl-eyed looks from both Dawn and Willow.


“You-you can do that?” Willow said.


Tara smiled. “Of course. Massage is a time honoured healing technique. And I am a healer, sweetie.”

She kissed Willow’s cheek and stood. “Lie back baby. And let me take care of your tired feet.”


Willow quickly stuck out her feet, complete with thick fuzzy socks.

Tara pulled them of with brisk efficiency and got to work.

Willow’s feet twitched and jumped at her touch, until Tara grabbed hold of one firmly and began to work. Willow squeaked in surprize, the toes on her free foot scrunching up into a little fist.


Buffy laughed languidly, well aware of how ticklish Willow’s feet were. She groaned and chuckled as Faith dug into a sore spot at roughly the same time as Willow said “Grnfzzl!” from the other side of the room.


“Merciful goddess… that feels good,” Willow managed to sigh.


“I hope you realize I’m taking notes here,” Dawn said. “So if you don’t want truly massive therapy bills, keep it clean, ok?”


“Relax squirt, just a foot massage. Nothing freaky happening, I promise.”


10 minutes of foot massage later, Willow and Buffy were both happy puddles of smiley pink goo. Willow hummed a happy tune as she waited for Tara to finish getting ready for bed.

Dawn grinned as she recognized a version of the Muppets theme tune.


Tara dabbed her with lavender oil in preparation for the spell.

“Ooh! I like this stuff, it smells nice,” Dawn said.


“Tara’s spells always smell nice, Willow said dreamily.


Tara smiled as she dabbed Faith and Buffy on the forehead. They were already snuggly under the covers, Faith spooning a happily smiling Buffy.


“How come your spells never smell this nice Will?” Buffy said.


“I do research,” Willow said dreamily. “Magical science. Science is stinky.”


Dawn chuckled.


“Get comfy girls, sleepy time is coming.”

Tara began to sing her spell, a lullaby her mother had sung to her when she was a child, a song that always spoke to the deepest places in her. The song was one of family, the spell one of comfort and ease, and most importantly, love.


Rest tired eyes a while
Sweet is thy baby’s smile
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee

Sleep, sleep, grah mo chree *
Here on you mamma’s knee
Angels are guarding
And they watch o’er thee

The birdeens sing a fluting song
They sing to thee the whole day long
Wee fairies dance o’er hill and dale
For very love of thee

Dream, Dream, grah mo chree
Here on your Mamma’s knee
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep may Angels watch over
And may they guard o’er thee.

The primrose in the sheltered nook
The crystal stream the babbling brook
All these things God’s hands have made
For very love of thee

Twilight and shadows fall
Peace to His children all
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep
May Angels watch over and May they guard o’er thee
* Love of my heart.



And all was quiet.

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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 Dec 14, 2015 4:04 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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This was a nice, easy little beginning to what is sure to be a wacky Eastern European romp.

I liked how they had to remind Buffy several times that they were only in sparsely populated hillbilly territory and not a Bosnian war zone. One side of my family always had a saying for that kind of remote wilderness. "Out where the hoot owls screw the chickens." But I'm honestly not sure if that expression is a slur against interracial couples or not.

It'll be fun to see how Giles' estranged biological family comes to the aid of his adopted family. I'm also wondering if they'll get to the monastery and find the guy Faith gave the finger to waiting as part of some new cult that has moved in there. Or he'll possibly just find some way to embarrass himself as the girls are hiking up to the monastery.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 8:20 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Kaskinen, Finland. Citizen of Kitopia
Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I wonder if the monastery's anti-scrying field was an old defence against Glory or a new defence against Scoobies and their allies...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 12:16 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Hi Citanul!

Yeah, there's a kind of person who finds a sick fascination with things they disapprove of, and this guy is a stand-in for them.

Homophobia pisses me off, but it's not something i have personally encountered. Here in New Zealand, no-one cares.
Or at least, that's been my experience.

So they are my version of acceptable targets :)

As to the estranged family... yeah, they're a ways off yet. Much Scooby adventure yet!
And it's really not what you're expecting :P

As to the warzone bit, there is definitely something wrong there. Central Europe is very definitely NOT Bosnia.



Hi Zampsa!

Drama abounds, and you don't have too long to get some clues about the anti-scrying field :P

Let's just say, next Ep, the girls get to let their hair down. Or is it strut their stuff?

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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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