Lovers, Slayers and Witches

by Rebecca Ashling

Copyright (c) 2011

Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and his corporate affiliates own "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" or "Angel". I do not own this property and I am writing this story for fun, not profit.
Distribution: Anywhere! But please ask my permission first.
The Mystic Muse:
Spoilers: Seasons 5 to 8 of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Season 4 of "Angel".
Feedback: Yes
Author's Note: This story begins about a week before Tara's 20th birthday. Dawn is Buffy's fraternal twin. Willow has known she was a lesbian since adolescence.
Pairing: Buffy/Willow/Tara
Summary: Season 5 in an alternate Buffyverse.


Tuesday, 10th October 2000

We're lying on the bed we've just made, Faith and I, she on her right side, me on my left, facing one another. Faith looks sad and desolate. The zest in her dark, amber gaze has turned to ash.

"What's up, Faithy?" I ask her.

She glances at the pool of blood between us. "It hurts, B." she says in her husky voice. "It hurts real bad. Please take it out. Please...please forgive me, Buffy."

I see the wound in her belly that I made with her own knife. It oozes red corruption. I can't bear the sight of her pain or the weight of her tears. I slide the weapon from out of her flesh. The wound disappears, replaced by a scar. A sunburst of dimples illuminates her features, golden flecks of mischief dance in her eyes. She brings her head toward mine and I lean forward to meet her kiss. The taste of chocolate and honey fills my lungs. My heart beats so fast it's almost painful. We embrace, make love. I feel the warmth of her soft skin, slicked with sweat and our combined essences. Hands and tongues play rhapsodies of joy on the other's body as we breath hard to our climax. When we are spent, Faith's expression turns sorrowful again. But there's no despair there now.

"I gotta go, B." She caresses my cheek tenderly. "Tell Willow I'm sorry. I didn't mean...I shouldn't have hurt her or you, your mom, Angel...I love you, Buffy."

And then Faith is gone. "I love you." I whisper and awake weeping to the urgent ringing of the phone. I answer it.

"I'm sorry to call you at such at an early hour, Buffy but I have-"

"I know Giles." I interrupt him. "Faith is dead."


A/N: A big thanks to wiffyscoob for her help.

Tuesday, 10th October 2000

I stomp into the training room at The Magic Box in the foulest of moods. I am beyond cranky, beyond pissed, beyond the limits of my vocabulary. And it's a darn big vocabulary. Also, I'm kind of worried.

"GILES!" I yell, transfixing him with my most resolute scowl.

Giles is flustered, makes a series of vowel sounds and stuttered consonants as he tries to find words. Buffy is quicker to recover of course.

"What ya do to your hand, Will?" she asks.

I give her a baleful glance. Last week, she did the whacky, accusing me of hurting her mom. There was an apology, there was chocolate, and there was ice-cream. But Buffy DIDN'T explain why. Screw her, even if there were mochas, too.

"That spell, Dawnie asked you to do?" I say to Giles. " The one to see if someone's a demon?" Can you believe it? Dawn found out that Tara's dad and brother told her she'd grow up to be a demon. My gentle Tara, a demon! Poopheads!

"Er, yes. What about it, Willow?" he asks me in a cautious tone.

I hold up my injured southpaw, waving it in front of them. Severe bruising, a wrist sprain and a dislocated pinkie. Ouch! "Tara did this!" Now this is why I'm scared. Did Giles and Dawn screw up?

"My God!" Buffy begins to tool up for Slayer mode. "Tara really is a demon!"

"Stay where you are, Buffy Anne Summers!" I order her sternly. If looks could maim, I'd have me a bottle-blonde wig and a nifty Buffy bodysuit. "No slaying my girlfriend without permission, missy!"

"That spell is a very reliable one. It's been taught to Watchers for generations. "There is concern in Giles' face. "Perhaps you could tell us exactly what happened, Willow?"

So I tell them about this morning.


Tuesday, 10th October 2000

It's now after sundown in Sunnydale. I have no money and I'm barefoot in my jammies. I feel miserable and empty. I've hurt Willow. While thinking over the events of this morning I debate whether to turn myself over to Buffy for slayage or jump in front of a car. It had seemed such a promising day...

At about six I awoke from fretful sleep. Willow was at her laptop overnighting on a chem paper. She can really be twee to the point of annoyance and I hadn't appreciated having my breasts referred to as "cute little cuddlebumps". Hence her midnight oiliness. My busy little bumblebee with her quirky, no make that insane, colour coded course notes. I grinned at my pretty, red vixen. "Morning, sweetie."

Willow came over to the bed and clasped my hand, kissed me. "Hey, baby. Forgiven me?" Her hazel eyes sparkled with lustful speculation.

I squeezed her hand. Willow screamed. Her little finger was oddly askew. Horrorstruck, I went to call the paramedics. The phone splintered in my hand. I was astonished and dismayed. A panicked realisation came to me. I'd harmed Willow and I really was what my father told me I was. I fled.

About four months earlier, I remember that soon after Willow and I had become an item, Buffy had taken me aside. She had stared at me for a long, discomfitting moment with hard, agate eyes. Always intimidated by her, I had felt afraid. I'm not good with the whole violence thing. Then she'd begun to tell me about Willow and Faith.

Willow had been in her senior year at Sunnydale High. She had a crush on Faith, the other Slayer. One night, Faith had wanted Willow, had taken Willow, had had Willow. Then, after Faith had gotten some, she'd made Willow get gone, pushing her out of the door, naked and clutching her clothes. Leaving her in the dark in some sleazy motel.

Focusing the full intensity of the Summers Death Glare on me, an expression I'd grown to know while dating Dawn, Buffy had said with cold, precise clarity:

"If you harm Willow, I will batter you unconscious with a shovel and then bury you alive."

I'd almost bolted. "I'll never deliberately cause Willow pain." I'd told her.

"That's not good enough." she replied.

"Dawn never meant to break my heart." I'd countered. "But when Oz came back, she chose him over me. These things happen."

Buffy had sighed with concession. "You've got a point." And that had ended the discussion.

So what am I to do? I decide to get it over and let Buffy kill me. I think I can trust her not to play with me. Then I hear a growl from behind me.


A/N: A plot element from the Season Eight comics is introduced here.

Tuesday, 10th October 2000

I'm in love with darkness. That's why I broke up with Riley after all the stuff with Dracula. Don't get me wrong, Riley's a good man, a brave man. As Xander's said, he's dangling steel. There was lust, affection, caring. But he never called to what's deep inside me. The people I've felt, feel, true passion for, have shadows braided into the threads of light which are their souls: Angel, Faith...Willow. Sometimes she's callous and strange. Hey, she said it, not me. Oh, Willow!

Is Willow real? I have my memories of her, all the Christmas and birthday presents she gave me. There are photos, school transcripts and year books. She has a closet with a really bad wardrobe. She's corroborated to the max. But after I cast that trancy spell Anya told me about and later found that dying woman, nun?... Willow's something called The Seed, is both The Door and The Source, made flesh, for the Slayers to protect. Cryptic, much? Then there was that little girl who wasn't a little girl. Slayers, plural. I thought it meant Faith but she finally died of her coma. Who was called in her place?

Now I'm hunting for Tara. She gained my respect when she stood up to my bullying. She was so obviously frightened of me that I felt ashamed. But she wouldn't give Will up and even argued back. She's the only one of Willow's suitors I haven't scared off.

I hear a woman scream and ice squirms in the pit of my stomach. Vampire. I sprint toward the cry and pounce on the vampire like a lion with a zebra,worrying it with quips and blows. I slip in the muck of the alley and the vamp gets my stake from me. I'm badly positioned and the monster's pus- yellow eyes flare with delight as he aims the sharp wood at my heart with demonic speed. No way can I dodge this. A hand seizes his wrist, twists and breaks it. The beast snarls in agony. Then there's that hissy, screamy sound and he's charnel dust. I look into the turquoise eyes of my rescuer and know her for what she is. It's Tara. She is Faith's heir. She is the Slayer.


Tuesday, 10th October 2000

Anya puts some water and a couple of antacids in front of me. "This is for your acidy stomach. There will be no charge as Tara is not only one of my best customers but also my friend. I worry too." She pats my shoulder. I'm touched and surprised by the concern in her brown eyes and give her a grateful smile. One day, I might come to like Anya, but I don't think I'll ever grok her. Why are Tuesdays so fraught? Dawn says it's because the day is associated with Mars. So war, fire and all things troubly and strifey.

Xander and Oz have been dispatched on a munchies mission. Giles and Dawn are having a magicky research party for two. The mojo is so not my thing. Tara says I have great potential as a witch. But given all the dumb things Dawn has done with magic over the years, especially that My-Will-Be- Done spell which nearly resulted in a marriage between Anya and me? Really sorta put off. Reckon I'll stay Laptop-Geek Willow and leave the broomstick action to Tara and Dawn. I blush as an unbidden image comes to mind. That wasn't quite what I meant, I scold my errant brain. Naughty synapses!

The bell rings as Buffy and Tara enter the shop. Tara's still in her night things and wearing Buffy's jacket. "Tara!" I exclaim as I engulf her with a hug.

Tara stiffens and awkwardly cuddles me. Carefully, like I'm made of glass. "I'm s-sorry, Willow." she sobs.

Buffy grips Tara's arm. "Hey. Not your fault. I was clumsy at first, too."

I catch on before everyone else does. Well, I am GPA 4.0 girl. "Tara's a Slayer?" I'm aghast.

"Didn't Giles tell you guys? Faith died early today." Buffy points at Tara. "This woman is The One Girl In All The World. She dusted her first vamp and saved me from utter humiliation." She beams proudly.

"Good Lord!" ejaculates Giles. Then, "Utter humiliation?"

"Yep. Was nearly kebabed with my own stake."

Tara huddles into herself, veiling her face with her hair. This will not bode well.


Tuesday, 10th October 2000

My father seldom fed the dogs on our farm. "Keep 'em lean, keep 'em keen." he would say. I now know how those mutts felt. I've never been so ravenous, tearing into slices of pizza like a shoal of piranha fish.

"Is this appetite of mine a Slayer thing?" I ask curiously.

"Adrenaline reaction?" offers Oz. He's seated next to Dawn with his arm around her. Dawn's blue eyes are peering intently at me.

Buffy nods in agreement. "You survive danger, your body wants to party. Food, dancing, sex, whatever. It's more intense for Slayers, though."

"So everyone gets the hungries and hornies, huh?" jokes Xander. Buffy winces.

"Not just the body, Xander." I tell him. "The mind and spirit too." Dawn's regard is making me edgy. "What?" I snap at her.

She doesn't answer me but turns to Giles instead. "What happens if a witch is called? Never heard of a Slayer-witch, before." Dawn sounds anxious.

"Oh, dear God!" Giles exclaims as he obviously recalls some disquieting fact. "I should have realised..." he trails off.

"Realised what exactly?" Willow has caught Dawn's unease.

"Yes, tell me." I demand of him. What other crappy thing do I have to deal with?"

"Your aura's changed." says Dawn. "It's like Buffy's now."

That wasn't very illuminating. I arch an eyebrow at Giles.

"Slayers and witches both need to have magical potential." he's polishing his glasses so he doesn't have to see my expression. "Witches have been called in the past and while they don't lose their magic, it does transform."

I feel numb. "My witchiness came from my mom. I don't have it any more? My power's turned from a beautiful butterfly into a very hungry caterpillar?"

"Oh, baby." mourns Willow.

Giles is silent. What else is there to say?

"It's my fault." says a crestfallen Buffy. "If I hadn't put Faith in that coma..."

"Actually, Little Sis, I'm to blame." Dawn's tone is sardonic. "If I'd strangled you with your umbilical cord before we were born, none of this would have happened."

There's a shocked silence. Then Buffy makes a wry smile, laughs ruefully. Everyone's uncomfortable. Then Spike comes into the shop. A welcome distraction. He nods at Buffy and Dawn. "Danny, Arnold."

Buffy and Dawn both bristle in unison. They're both sensitive about their height. Especially when people can see them together. So very much the wrong thing for Spike to say. I'm feeling agitated. I want to-

"Hey, Tare." says Buffy with a smirk. She flicks a malicious glance at Spike. "You look a little restless. Wanna work out some aggro? On our very own vampire training dummy?"

"Oy!" protests Spike.

"Tara's a Slayer now." Buffy tells him. "She'll need a lotta practice, intensive practice."

"Oh, bloody Hell!"


Wednesday, 11th October 2000

Last night, Tara didn't take up my kind offer to beat Spike into pulpy oblivion. She said she had something else in mind to help take the edge off. It's a nice morning. There's actually some breeze and it's pleasantly cooler. I'm to meet Willow at UC Sunnydale. I'm in a good mood. But it's a veneer, I'm still grieving for Faith. I see my favouritest redhead and wave at her.

"Hey, Will. You look well." I say brightly.

Willow's eyelids are half-closed and puffy. It's either a mondo lack of sleep or a truly fricking awful hangover. Willow grimaces horribly. "Are all Slayers such mystical energizer bunnies?"

"Sorry, coppertop. Just feeling happy."

"Firstly, Buffy, don't ever call me that again. Secondly, I know I look like a goddam zombie."

"Moving swiftly on, where's Tare?" I ask her.

"Tara's checking in with Giles. He wants to see you and me after classes." Willow frowns.

I look sadly at Will. She looks so worn. "Perhaps, you should have taken the day off."

"What! Miss classes?" she splutters with indignation. "The very idea is...I think you're overestimating the severity of my near-death state of utter exhaustion here, Buff." Her bleariness suddenly clears. She jabs an indicting digit into my chest. "You've known Tara for several months now and you start giving her, my girlfriend, cutesy pet names. What's that about, huh?"

"Hamnoo?" I didn't order this conversation. My frail good cheer is rapidly fracturing into jagged fragments of chagrin.

Willow looks searchingly at my face. "You're as unhappy about Tara being called as a Slayer as I am." she states. Then: "Was jealousy girl just then. Sorry."

"I don't want to take Tara from you, Will.It's just...I'm so lonely being the only one. And I do worry about Tara being my paddywhack."

"Padawan." Will corrects me. "And Faith went all Darth Vader on you."

"Well, Obi-Wan did OK with Luke." I reassure her.

"Yeah, Buffy.Because Obi-Wan died before he could botch his training too." she retorts.

It's like a hard punch in the heart. Her now tangible distrust wounds me. I grip Willow's uninjured wrist. She gasps in pain. "I will NOT fail Tara like I did Faith!" I say vehemently. "I can't, I won't!" I release her. There are my fingermarks showing vividly on her pale skin.

"I'm not sure I can believe you, Buffy. See you later." She gives me a cold gaze. And Willow walks away.


A/N: Some dialogue is taken from the episode "Doppelgangland" by Joss Whedon. A quote from the Season Eight comics ...arc: "Wolves At The Gate" by Drew Goddard... is used here.

Wednesday, 11th October 2000

Buffy was right. I should have stayed at home. Valencies, electron orbitals, binding energies? All phooey! I think about my latest quarrel with Buffy instead of listening to my chemistry lecture. Things haven't been right between us since my senior year at high school, since after Faith seduced me.

This was how it all happened. Dawn and Anya, but mostly Dawn, summoned a creepy vampire me from another 'verse. Oops! After Dawn had tranquilised Vamp Willow, we all surveyed the unconscious creature.

"It's extraordinary." Giles had said with dispassionate fascination.

"It's horrible! That's me as a vampire?" I was really freaked out. "I'm so evil and skanky."

"And like totally gay." said Dawn with seemingly disturbing relish. Everyone looked at her. "She tried to get it on with me. Ew!"

Dawn's comment dismayed me. Buffy misinterpreted my expression and was quick to reassure me. "Just remember, a vampire's personality has nothing to do with the person that was."

"Well, actually..." Angel began. Buffy and Xander glared at him. "That's a good point."

I'd been nerving myself for months to come out to the gang. Their less than positive reaction made me decide otherwise. A few weeks later, I'd managed to rescue Faith from a demon. We ended up in her motel room and in her bed. Faith ground her apex along and against my thigh until she came. Then she attended to me. It was rough and not sweet. Her nails drew blood. But it was what my body craved. Tara is often too diffident, too gentle for my liking when it comes to sex. Faith instinctively understood. We snuggled together afterwards and talked.

Faith smiled gently at me and ran her fingers through my hair. "You're wicked cool, Red. I think B's a fool."

"Huh?" I was perhaps not quite back from orgasm heaven.

"She loves you, ya know?" Faith sighed.

I picked up her wistfulness, did the algebra, and found the wrong soulution for 'x'. "What's Buffy like in the sack? Does she make that high-pitched squeal? I call it her 'shoe sale noise'..."

Faith's eyes went flat and a glimmer of hurt flickered across her face before it hardened. "I wouldn't know, Willow." A beat. "I am not a whore." Then she frogmarched me out of the room.

For days afterwards, I was despondent. Buffy finally got the whole sorry mess out of me. She didn't interrupt as I told her. But Buffy only heard what she wanted to hear. Faith had taken advantage of me, she said, I was too innocent to know that I was gay. I remember trying to reason with her but Buffy was adamant. Her ideal vision of me trumped my own self-knowledge. And that was the beginning of how Faith became a pariah, and eventually Buffy's victim.


Wednesday, 11th October 2000

Willow and Buffy arrive separately at the Magic Box. Their expressions are similarly angry, sad and pensive. I think they've had another fight. Giles has shut up the shop and given Anya the afternoon off.

"Tara has already mastered how to control her strength."

"Only a day? It took me longer." Buffy pouts.

"I'd imagine it has a lot to do with her having been a witch. Control is necessary to properly work magic. Also," Giles glances at Willow, "Tara had an additional incentive."

Willow is radiant. "That's great, baby!" She smothers me with hugs and kisses.It's like Will is an overexuberant Red Setter.

"Buffy was a cheerleader, wasn't she?" I ask curiously. "Doesn't that require discipline? It is kinda athleticky."

Buffy hangs her head. "Not really. At Hemery, you had to be minimally competent but prettiness and popularity were what got you on the squad."

Giles coughs politely. "In addition, Tara and I discussed your encounter with that, little girl did you say? And the matter of the Seed."

Buffy is stunned. "You take too much on yourself, Giles!" she exclaims wrathfully.

He is unrepentant. "I did what I thought was necessary. Also, I believe you mentioned that the Seed was for the SLAYERS to protect." Buffy blinks, reluctantly nods.

"I'd like you to go through your account again. Leave out no detail."

"OK. We'll go into your office. Will, you wait here." orders Buffy.

"We're telling Willow too." I say.

"Oh, are we?" Buffy raises a sceptical eyebrow.

"Will needs to know for her own protection. You'll be doing her, and us, no favours otherwise."

"I'm in danger?" squeaks Willow apprehensively.

Buffy glowers at Giles and me. Then sighs. "OK, then." She turns to Willow. "I'm sorry, Will, I'm so sorry." Then Buffy begins.


A/N: Dialogue from "No Place Like Home" by Douglas Petrie is used here.

Tuesday, 3rd October 2000

The nun was dying and she knew it. The vampire I'd just slain had taken too much blood. "My journey's done, I think." she whispered.

I was having none of this, tried to get her up. "Don't get metaphory on me. We're going."

Her piercing gaze was urgent. "You have to...The Seed. You must protect The Seed."

"Protect The Seed." I made another futile attempt to get her on her feet. "Right, I know, we'll do it together! Far, far from here." By this point even stubborn old me had to acknowledge that this woman, in her pale green robe, was going to die.

I studied her sharp-featured face as she said "Many have...died...many more, if neither of you...keep it safe.

"How? What it is it?" I asked. What did she mean by "neither"?

"The Seed is wonder. It's The Source. It is The Door..."

"What does it look like? Where is it?"

The nun coughed. Regained her breath. "It has always been in this place. For centuries it had a different form. My's only keepers. Then... The Master found us, stole it. You destroyed him, we retrieved it...We had to hide The Seed...Gave it consciousness, context, connection. Ensouled it, moulded it into flesh. And sent it to you both." Again with the dual personages.

I remembered what I'd seen in trance earlier that day. A beloved face fading in and out of a graduation photo. Someone who wasn't at the door when I answered it but then one was. "Willow."

"She is The Seed." she confirmed.

"You put that thing in my life." I was angry, grief-stricken.

"We knew the Slayers would...protect." Slayers? Faith?

"My friends'..."

"We built them."

I felt violated. "Then unbuild them. This is my life you're-"

The nun was implacable. "You cannot abandon..."

"I didn't ask for this. I don't even know what...Why?"

"Human. Human, now, and in danger. Please, she innocent in this, and she needs you."

"She's not my friend."

"She doesn't know that." she exhaled and didn't breathe again.


Tuesday, 3rd October 2000

I wasn't necromancer girl so no more answers to the many questions I still had. I bent down and closed the dead woman's eyes.I saw about her neck a pendant depicting a tree, a snake coiling around it in an embrace. Giles would have to see this. I'd asked her why these convent enchantresses had turned The Seed into a person. I could make a guess, I think. They didn't trust me to safeguard a mere object, no matter how vital. But a human with a soul? Someone with Willow's special personality? My memories and this girl, had been handcrafted to appeal to my protective instincts. God what sly bitches!

"Hello." I heard a child's voice from behind me. I turned and saw a little girl in a somewhat old- fashioned red dress. Sunday best. Her gaze was ancient, confident, full of playful malice. "A small heap of dust and another unfortunate barbecue fork incident." she remarked.

"Who are you?" I demanded.

"Don't be anile, Buffy Summers. Names have power. You may call me...whatever you like."

"I think Rhoda Penmark would suit you well." She had that prissy, psycho neatness.

Rhoda was amused, laughed. "Speaking of seeds, good or bad, what did the recently deceased have to say on the subject?" She dismissed my incipient reply with a a commanding gesture. "That was a rhetorical question. I don't care what you know."

"Oh." I was nonplussed.

"A little information. Many factions desire The Seed, two in particular. You can deny it to them, and save this world, by simply destroying it."

"What's your motive?" I asked her suspiciously.

"I love trouble and hate chaos." she replied. What was that supposed to mean?

"And what's the cost? There are always strings."

"I've told you the price. Enjoy your agonizing, Slayer." She smiled spitefully.

Then Rhoda vanished in a burst of glaring, migraine-inducing whìte light.

She knew! Oh, Rhoda knew that Willow was The Seed. And could I? Would I? Kill Will?


Wednesday, 11th October 2000

Giles puts a mug of tea in front of me. There's a plate of cookies too. "I've made you a good strong brew with plenty of sugar. You've had a shock, Willow, and this will help." His voice is kind.

I think I need to sit down which I am 'cause, hey! Tara's face is snuggled against my side as she kneels beside me, rubbing my tummy in a slow, circular motion. She likes to do that when I'm upset, my Tara-koala. Buffy's arms are doing the octopus thing around my shoulders as her head nestles into my neck. She's standing up and must be getting cramp as I haven't said anything for several minutes now.

"Oh, look!" I say with wonder. "Giles has used some of his jealously guarded Ceylon tea from Whittards of Chelsea. It is Ceylon, isn't it? And there are McVities Chocolate Hobnobs! Which have escaped the dread cookie-eating monsters called Buffy, Dawn and Xander."

I burst into giggles which are more like sobs. Then I start crying in earnest, the Willow snot machine in full production mode. Eventually, I get to the hiccoughing stage. Buffy must be really concerned as she let me blow my nose on her new sweater while I bawled. I sip the oversweet and now lukewarm tea. My trembling eases. Wise people those English. The cookies are scarfed down as quick as boiled asparagus. I'm entitled, I'm not feeling good.

"Oh, darn!" exclaims Buffy. She points to a box of unused tissues on the other side of the table. Then pouts.


Wednesday, 11th October 2000

"So what now?" I ask the others. "Those monks went all Ministry of Truth on you guys. I'm feeling like Comrade Ogilvy here."

There is puzzlement in Buffy's face. "It's a literary allusion." Giles tells her. "George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'."

"Dawn's right." admits Buffy wrily. "I should crack open a book. I miss so much."

"How long, how long have I been, you know, actually existing?" I ask.

Buffy frowns in consideration. "I think they knew Tara was going to be Slayerized. So I'd guess after she and Dawn broke up but before Faith's death."

I feel bereft as one of the implications hits me. "But after Faith was in her coma. She never knew me, we never..." I'm too full of misery to go on.

"She came to me in a dream just before she died. She wanted me to tell you she was sorry." says Buffy.

"But it turns out she never ever hurt me." I counter.

"She didn't know that." Buffy sighs. "This is such a damn muddle."

"I'm angry at having my memories altered." says Tara flatly."I didn't consent to this. They had no right." We've almost certainly been intimate since I came along. She's effectively been raped. I look down at the floor. She lifts my chin and aqua eyes look deeply into my own. There's ferocity in her gaze. "It's not your fault, Will. Now, that I know what's going on I can choose. And I choose to love- YOU!"

"But-" I protest.

"We can't touch the past, sweetie." says Tara. "All that was, is now memory. This history these nuns created is as ephemeral as the actual one, the true story as unreal as the false."

"And I choose to be your friend." declares Buffy. "You were dumped on me, but I wanna keep you." She kisses me on my forehead.

I don't deserve such a friend and such a lover, such riches. I embrace Buffy and Tara, cling to them fiercely. For this one moment, everything is all right.


Thursday, 12th October 2000

As we're sitting outside the Espresso Pump, sipping coffee and munching muffins, Buffy remarks "Ya know, your stutter, it's completely gone."

"It has?" I ask in surprise.

"Well, you always did it less around the gang." she says. Her face falls."Except for me. I really scared you when I gave you that shovel speech, didn't I? I'm sorry."

"You did it to protect Willow. I can relate, sweetie" I slurp some more sugary, caffeinated goodness. "So does being a Slayer often change you? Other than the obvious, I mean."

Buffy looks uncomfortable. "It did me. Don't know about Kendra or Faith. I'll tell you sometime. Just not today." Her teeth tear off a big chunk of muffin. "How's Will?"

"She managed to get to sleep last night." I notice Buffy smirking. "What?"

"Oh, Willow was pretty tired yesterday. So I thought..."

"She couldn't sleep Tuesday. She was too anxious." I glare at Buffy. "Buffy! Surely you didn't imagine I'd be intimate with Willow when I couldn't control my own strength?" My God, Buffy could be so dense at times!

Buffy puts her head in her hands. "Oh! Foot in mouth alert! Shoe leather has such a vile taste."

I change the subject. "So what's the dealio for today?"

"Well, we need to get you some custom slaying togs." She waves a credit card at me. "Giles' treat. Then back to the Magic Box for Slayage 101 with Giles and me."

"Okey-doke. Sounds like a plan. I got classes this afternoon, mind." I pick up my purse. " Oh, yeah. I got this idea about asking Spike..."


Thursday, 12th October 2000

Time to meet Willow for lunch before classes. It's hard to take in that my Willow-tree has only been around for a handful of months, at best. It's also frightening: the sheer amount of magical mojo needed, the intrusively extensive knowledge of the Scooby Gang required...I'm not one for murder, wholesale or otherwise, but I could kill those nuns, I so could. Memories are identity and if that's meddled with, then just how much of me is still me? And in spite of my words to Willow yesterday, the care with which, last night, I showed her how beloved and cherished she is... She's not to blame, focus on that, Tara! She needs me, needs Buffy. She's the true victim here, created as a means and not an end, the fleshly vehicle for a numinous thing, a beguiling fiction to ensnare the Slayers. Aargh! I'm so full of rage and grief. I've lost my magic which Mama taught me since I knew the difference 'twixt right and wrong. I know that my power is still within me, has merely changed into something equally a gift. Merely! My heart tells me I've been robbed of something precious. But Willow is also precious. She is my bones' desire, the marrow of my soul. And this also true for Buffy. When she threatened me with that Texan funeral, I violated Buffy's privacy, read her aura and saw she is as deeply in love with Willow as I am. Will Buffy enertain that proposition I made? She promised to give it thought and I hope she accepts. But I worry about jealousy, I worry- Oh, there's my Willow! And despite myself, my spirits lift.


Thursday, 12th October 2000

The trip to the mall never materialises. Tara nixes that from the get-go: "I've seen the state of your clothes after patrol. New things would be a waste. So it's the thrift store."

"But Tare-" I begin and then shut up. Tara is giving me this LOOK. She'd make a great mother but it'd be, as Giles would say, the nadir of irresponsibility. He once told me about a newly-called Slayer who had a small son. She was killed by some anonymous vamp in a New York subway car. I think I'd like my kids to have children of their own before orphaning them. Which brings me to the better of two suggestions Tara made to me.

"I've heard that Spike has killed two Slayers, right?" she says.

"Uh-huh." I think I can see where she's going with this.

"So why don't we ask him how he did it." Tare continues.

"And develop a counter to whatever move he used." I finish for her. It's a good idea. That vampire Tara saved me from had been covered in grave dirt. A newbie.Who had managed to disarm and almost kill me with my own weapon. "It's about time Spike earned his keep. Good call Tara!"

She smiles this adorable half-grin which quickly fades. "I've got another thing to ask you." Tara says seriously. "Will you hear me out to the end and then think about it?" Her mouth quirks. "You do have a rep for being...impulsively volatile."

"I guess." I acknowledge. "Spill."

As she tells me, my mouth drops open in astonishment. Too astonished to interrupt with one of my outbursts of self-righteous rage. When she finishes, I yell "Are you serious? More to the point, are you crazy? You must be kidding, right?"

"I've never been more serious in my almost twenty years." A glint of humour in her eyes. "And I'm known to be a pretty serious person."

"I-" I cut myself off. I don't know what to say.

"Buffy, just think about it." Tara pleads. "I want Willow to be safe and I believe this will improve her chances."

"It's for my Wills." I nod at Tara. "OK, I'll consider your...proposal. But ultimately it's her decision."

"I wouldn't have it any other way." Tara says. "So what kinda clothing do I need for slaying...?"


Thursday, 12th October 2000

I enter Tara's dorm room bearing potables, snackables and watchables. Fixings for the video night extravaganza we have planned. The combined sugar, salt and preservatives in my offerings are enough to cause a spike in the nation's health statistics. Not that I will have to worry about diabetes, hypertension or cancer. I'm a Slayer on a hellmouth. Life expectancy of a mayfly in a monsoon. I've never been in Tare's room before. Kinda pretty, I love the Christmas lights!

"Hey, Will. Tara not here yet?"

"Oh, she's got to finish up some research in the library." Willow replies. "What ya bring?"

I lay out the videos on the bed so Willow can see.

"Action movies?" Will puts her hands on her hips. How unflinchingly stern she looks. It's so cute. "Buffy!" she chides.

"I did bring 'The Princess Bride'." I say in my defense. "Without which a video night would be..."

"Inconceivable!" we chorus, giggling.

"So how did the shopping trip go?" Willow asks.

"I'm used all my many powers of persuasion, including sticking out my trembling bottom lip, tears and a tantrum." I'm hyperbolising slightly. " But Tara would not be swayed. To the thrift store we must perforce go."

"Aw. You so like to dress people up." Willow says. Then with mock sympathy: "Poor baby! You musta had a Barbie-deprived girlhood."

"Perhaps it's for the best." I sigh. "Hooker chic would not suit Tara."

Will laughs. "Yeah, I remember that Hallowe'en when you-" A shadow passes over Willow's face. "Oh."

"Hey." I give her a morale-boosting hug. Tare's right. I do love this woman. But sharing Willow? With Tara? Is that gonna work? Does Willow want me that way? Do I want to take this risk after Angel and Faith caused me such pain? Will suddenly grins at me, the sun taking off its mourning clothes. If anyone's worth whiplash of the heart, she is. I give myself a determined nod. I'll do this.


Thursday, 12th October 2000

The thought of Tara with raccoon eyes and a tight, leather mini makes me smile. It's so not Tara, it's ridiculous. "I'm poopin' the party before it begins. I'm a bad, bad person, Buff."

"Poop is for the potty, Wills." Buffy quips. She casts her gaze around Tara's room. "We usually do these things at Buffy Central. Why not the usual venue?" she asks inquisitively.

"Oz had a talk with Tara earlier. He has Dawn problems." I inform Buffy. "She's deratted Amy, you know."

"Isn't that a good thing?" says Buffy.

"Apparently not. Tara and Oz think Amy's bad for Dawn. Also, Dawn has been casting lickerish eyes at my Tara." I have all this involuntary empathy with Dawnie over this issue but she chose Oz, rejected Tara. Hard cheese with stale bread and water!

"Right." Buff says. "Hence the preemptive avoidiness. Is your mom in Sunnydale then?"

I scowl with pretend affrontedness. "I'm beginning to think you don't like Tara's room. Yes, Dr Sheila Luxemburg is in town." I'm now annoyed for realsies.The thought of my mother has that effect.

Buffy looks sympathetic. "Your mom not OK with Sapphic Willow?"

"An embarassing incident took place. Actually, it was mortifying, humiliating, degrading. I so wanna get Dawn to turn my mom into a baby goat. We shall speak of it no more."

Curiosity is afire in Buffy's hazel-flecked green eyes. "Will! You can't leave me hanging here. Tell me!" Buffy then adds sententiously "A therapy-worthy experience shared is a therapist's fee saved."

I feign resignation. "OK." I'm looking forward to making Buff blush. I'm having one of my very seldomly naughty moments. She is kind of virginal, like the goddess Artemis, and somewhat prudish too. Tee-hee. This'll be fun!


Thursday, 12th October 2000

I glance slyly at Buffy as I begin. "I was polishin' Tara's pearl with my tongue when-"

"Huh? What? Oh!" Buffy's face is so red that it could beat a beetroot in a can of red paint.

I smirk, cool as a cucumber. Which simile is not a good idea as it reminds me of this argument I had with Tara. I blush extra flamey. We never did decide whether it was physically feasible or not...

"Oh, God! Brain bleach! Must drink brain bleach." she wails. "That was definitely too much information, Will." Buffy says. She considers for a moment. "Or maybe it wasn't ENOUGH information. I can never tell with myself sometimes. Pray continue, Miss Luxemburg.Tell me more! I'm a Slayer, I can deal."

I'm momentarily flabbergasted. Is Buffy flirting with me? Nah! Course not! "My mom walked in on us." I announce dramatically.

"Oh, I can't bear to look!" Buffy whimpers.

"All our clothes and undies are scattered higgledy-piggledy, hither and yon. Some of them have probably been thrown into the next galaxy." I pause in thought. Is that the Larger or Smaller Magellanic Cloud? I can never remember. "As we're scrambling to get dressed AND save our dignity, my mother just stands there, channeling the spirits of long-dead radical feminists..."

Buffy is writhing on the floor in paroxysms of giggles. Or possibly giving birth to a litter of rabid ferrets. No pity for my pain and humiliation at the hands of the parental unit there.

"And Tara just loses it and yells at my mom-"


Thursday, 12th October 2000

They don't hear me come in. Buffy is gasping and squealing, contorted with merriment. Willow is enraptured by her own dramaturgy. "Hi." I say to them, giving them a little wave when they see me.

Will jumps, puts her hand on her heart. "Wow! Super ninja sneakiness!"

"Yes, soon I shall construct my own lightsabre and become a Jedi Slayer." I joke.

Willow scowls at Buffy. "You corrupted my girl with your evil Star Wars references." she whines.

"Speaking of sneaky, where's our sneaky cat? Where's Trixie?" I ask.

"MISS KITTY FANTASTICO." Will looks under the bed, no mean feat with a sprained wrist, and gently drags out the black kitten "Is here."

"So you haven't decided on a name for her?" says Buffy.

"Oh, we've decided." Willow replies. "We're just not in agreement."

"So Tare. Coppertop here says you socked it to her mom." Buffy snickers at Will.

"Buffy! What did I say about using that name?" Willow is indignant.

"Serves you right for using adult content." Buffy retorts. "Polishing the pearl, indeed!" She frowns. "Does that really mean what I think it does, or is it perfectly innocent?"

"Willow!" I exclaim with reproach.

"Yes, Will. Embarassing Little Miss Shy, how could you?" Buffy turns to me. "C'mon Tara! details, details, details."

"I think Willow has beeen giving you enough details, Buffy." I say drily.

Buffy makes forlorn, bedraggled kitty-cat eyes at me. Seeing I'm immovable, she tries another tack. "I liberated this bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk from a certain tweed-clad acquaintance of ours."

I snatch the blue-wrappered candy from her. "Done."


Thursday, 12th October 2000

All three us are on the bed, Willow in the middle. She's at least a couple of inches taller than Buffy and me. It gives the seating arrangement a pleasing physical, as well as conceptual, symmetry. I've unwrapped my stolen chocolate and broken it in two, giving Willow one of the halves.

Willow breaks off a square and drops into Buffy's palm. "A little taste, so ya know where the path of vice can lead and what losses it can bring."

Buffy sulks. "Meanie."

I smile to see them both bonding so well. I get on with the story. "When Will first came out, her mom was proud of her."

"So what changed?" asks Buffy.

"Well, she was under the misapprehension that Willow's gayness was a political act."

"Don't quite get ya, Tare." Buffy says. She makes an attempt to regain her precious candy.

I'm ready for her, slap her hand away. It's a feint though, Buffy is after Will's share of the chocolate. But Willow is wily, and wise in the ways of chocovores, and Buffy's prey eludes her. I throw a quelling glare at Buffy. She singularly fails to quail. I go on. "Will's mother is what they call a political lesbian."

"No truckin' with the stubbly crowd." Willow puts in. "Sorta like Amazons. But not in a Xena and Gabrielle way."

"And not necessarily into the hot girl lurve either." I continue. "Some of them are agin' that."

"Why?" Buffy is nonplussed.

"Oh, 'cause straight guys are turned on by lesbians." Will explains. "So if two girls are doin' the nasty then it's basically pornography."

Buffy snorts in derision. "Men fantasise about women in a nunnery too. And I'm pretty sure they, the good sisters that is, aren't having sex."

"I pointed out that very flaw when I was ranting at her." I say.

Willow beams at me. "My mom NEVER listens to me but she did to Tara."

"I was very angry. One thing I said, which pretty much summed up my feelings, was: 'a private act of sexual communion cannot possibly be construed as being for the entertainment of men'." I put some candy into my mouth to melt. "Plus, we were interrupted at moment."

"Anyways, enough about my mother." Will then picks up one of the videos, commands me in her haughtiest tones "Farm Girl! Put 'The Princess Bride' on."

"As you wish." I smile sweetly at my Willow. "Coppertop." Willow throws a pillow at me.


A/N: This story got its 1000th hit yesterday and I'd like to thank all who read or reviewed this fic. Thank you!

A/N: Buffy quotes Lewis Caroll in this chapter.

Friday, 13th October 2000

There are dozens of churches in Sunnydale and many of them have clock-towers. It takes a few minutes for the discordant chimes to subside as they mark the Witching Hour. Can't they synchronise them or something? This is America, the can-do nation. On the other hand it's also America, the don't- tread-on-me nation. A big no to dastardly federal plots like making the clocks agree. It's been a fun evening. We've laughed, wept and sniffled our way through 'The Princess Bride'; we've winced at Keanu's wooden acting in 'The Matrix' and agreed that Jonathan couldn't help but do a better job as the lead; we've watched anxiously as Ripley rescued Newt from the Queen Alien. Now it's showtime.

"The time has come to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings..." I declaim, doubtless misquoting the darn thing.

Willow pretends shock. "You've read a book? The apocalypse is upon us. We must call Giles at once!"

"Yes, Will. Books with syllables and words and sentences and stuff. I loved reading Alice when I was a kid." I frown. "Didn't like the Disney cartoon though. Gave me the wiggins."

"Really?" says Tara. "It was the other way round with me."

"Me too!" Willow then asks "So we're gonna have a talk. What about?"

"It's an idea of Tara's." I tell her. Will and I direct our eyes at Tare.

Tara takes a deep breath. "When you and I started dating, Willow, Buffy gave me a friendly warning."

Will casts a venomous glance at me. "Friendly warning, huh? Like with Veruca? When you beat the carp, crap dammit! Out of her?" The anger then goes from Willow, is replaced by pained confusion. "But that didn't happen."

I take her hand. Trace a tiny heart on her palm with my thumb. "We'll have to accept it all as truth. I want it to be true! Even the bad stuff. If we keep second-guessing our memories, we'll go mad."

"I think I'm startin' to." Willow mutters bleakly.

"You're coping better than I would have, sweetie." Tara tells her. Willow springs to her feet.


Friday, 13th October 2000

Willow snarls in misery and frustration. "That's easy for you to say!" She gets up and begins pacing, hands moving in brittle gestures. "It's eating me up inside, ya know? I wish I knew when I was...actually me! It wouldn't make things any better, necessarily, but I'd have somethin' solid." Will points at Tara. "I'd know if Tara and I really fell in love. 'Cause if we were both programmed to be starry-eyed lesbian couple of the year it would tear my heart into little, hurty, bloody gobbets. And that's a disturbing image. But at least I'd know!" In the course of Willow's orbit around the small room she comes back to me. "And you Buff! I've all these precious moments. Moments that I remember sharing with you. Best friends for ever, and more than friends if you weren't so damned straight! And another thing-" Will freezes. Puts her hand over her mouth, looks guiltily at Tara. "Oh, God! Tara, I'm so sorry, I-"

Tara silences Willow with a loving kiss. "I've known for quite a whiles, my sweet willow-tree." Tare then asks me "Should we do thing some other time?"

"No. Best to do it now." I reply. "Wills," I announce. "I'm actually kinda gay."

Willow rolls her eyes gives me a Buff-you're-being-airhead-Valley-Girl-again look. Amazingly versatile face my Wills has. "The nuns musta programmed you think that way."

"Faith." I counter simply.

"Oh! So you did...?"

"Once. In that dream Faith and I shared. When she died." My mask of insouciant Buffy slips a little.

"A reconciliation, a consummation and a farewell." Tara muses.

"It's better than nothin'" Will says. Trite but true. Also sad.

I sigh, pat the bed beside me. "Come back to your place and we'll talk more."


Friday, 13th October 2000

Tara has made me some chamomile and honey tea. I'm still antsy though.

"Will," asks Buffy. "If your mom's supposed to have this no-men-until-the-Patriarchy-is-overthrown kind of a deal, then where do you fit into all that?"

Does it really matter? I think to myself. We've already gone over the unhistory thing so why is she asking? "Sperm donor. One Ira Rosenberg, a cultural anthropologist. One of my mother's colleagues."

"Another 'burg', huh?" Buffy muses.

"With an 'e'. Which makes him a mountain and me a fortress." I inform her. "Are you going somewhere with this?"

"Yes, I am." Buff replies. "So your dad's firing blanks?"

"Oh, he's my mom's brother. My Uncle Jeff."

"Oh, that sounds kinky!" Buffy looks a bit nauseated.

"No kink." I assure her. "He's strictly cover story. Mom wants to be radical AND respectable." A pause. "She didn't tell me he wasn't my dad until I was twelve." I prod Buffy with my finger. "Your point?"

"It just strikes me as hinky, that's all. I mean, wouldn't it have been a lot easier if those nuns made a little baby? My daughter f'rinstance? Riley could so plausibly've been the dad, or even..." Buffy shudders. "Parker."

"Buffy's right, you know." Tara says. "There'd have been no shortage of babysitters: we've got a whole Scooby gang. And we're a bit more responsible than the average bear. Plus, a college girl getting pregnant? Not so unusual."

I look at Buffy in bemusement. Sometimes, she seems only a bit brighter than Harmony. Then she pulls some legerdemain of cogitation out of a hat. Tricksy that's what she is. Then I notice that I feel a lot calmer. She's done that. Very tricksy, indeed!


Friday, 13th October 2000

"OK. Enough of the speculative." orders Buffy. "We'll sleep on it." She looks at Tara. "Tare had just gotten to the part where I threatened her with dire consequences."

"It was sweet of you. Protecting Willow like that." Tara says. Then she puts her hands on my shoulders, gazes into my eyes. What lovely ultramarine peepers she's got. " at Buffy's aura and saw something."

"Saw something?" I'm alarmed. "Is Buffy OK? You didn't sense a hyena energy, did you? 'Cause hyena possession, it's- "

"She's in love with you." Tara cuts through my babble.

"She is?" Well, that's incisive of you, Willow Luxemburg. "She is? Wow!"

"I know you're in love with Buffy, Willow." Tara tells me calmly. Yes, she would have to tell me calmly, considering. "And I want you and her to start dating."

"Dating? With Buffy? What about you? Are you, are you breaking up with me?" I feel cold dread well up in my tummy.

"No." says Tara embracing me with a hint of Slayer strength. "I wanna share you with Buffy. If you're willing."

"Anoxia of real concern here." I gasp. Tara loosens her grip. "This is. Oh! Wow! Are you crazy? How could this work?"

"That was pretty much my reaction, Wills." Buffy says. "But Tara's reasons sorta make sense."

"And what are Tara's reasons?" I demand.

"My reasons?" Tara asks. "I love you and I want you safe. You need me for this and Buffy. She loves you. Slayers live dangerously. If I get through the night's peril I'll be able to come home to you. If Buffy can't do that, what's she gonna feel? Despair. Because she can't have the woman she loves. That kind of despair when there's so many ways to commit suicide by monster? It's not fair to her. Do you understand, Willow?"

"I want to do this." Buffy looks oddly shy.

I'm feeling too emotional for logic here but it's not a logic thing. This is a heart and gut thing. And if I have time to think on it... "Yes." I say with all my will and heart. "But there's a condition."


Friday, 13th October 2000

"There is?" I ask Willow warily.

Will nods. "I'm the point of a chevron and you two are its arms. That's the shape of what you're suggesting, yeah? It's geometry." Trust Willow to bring math into it.

Buffy and I exchange glances. "Go on." Buffy says. I can see the tension coiling within her spine.

"You guys probably think the chevron's point is on top, being supported by you two. But I disagree."

Buffy and I wait in silence for Will to continue.

"But the chevron's pointing downwards.. You're pressing on me. I'll be taking all that weight. Do you get it at all?"

"Triangles." Buffy says suddenly. "Triangles are stronger than chevrons."

"Oh. You want Buffy and me together." I realise aloud. "But I'm not in love with Buffy, Willow. Nor she with me."

"But you can be friends, right?" Will asks.

"Tare and I are friends." Buffy states firmly.

"That's of the good." Willow says. "You mentioned suicide earlier, Tara. I'm thinking murder."

I'm shocked. "I would never-" Buffy growls angrily.

"Not deliberately. But as it stands, neither of you mean as much to each other as both of you do to me." Will picks up an unopened soda. "You're only human. You'll get jealous, you'll try and hide it. Especially from yourselves. And then one day, you, Buffy or you, Tara, will be just a little too slow coming to each other's aid. One of you will die. The survivor will feel real bad about the whole thing. She'll cry at the funeral. But she'll have me to herself."

I can't deny the possibility. "You want Buffy and me to value each other as much as you do."

"Uh-huh." Willow agrees. "So starting Friday night. You two will date."


Friday, 13th October 2000

"Will!" protests Buffy. "You can't order me to do that!"

Willow wags her finger. "Course I can. Question is, will you obey? In any case, it's a suggestion not a command. No shotgun marriage here." She gives up on her fumbling attempts to open her soda. "Someone please open this?"

I take the can from her and pull the ring. "I see the sense in it." I think about what I've learned in Greek history. "You know, among the Spartans, gay men would fight alongside their lovers in battle."

"Like guy Amazons?" asks Buffy.

"Sorta." I confirm.

"I'm not even sure if Tare-bear's my type." says Buffy trying to put off the inexorable doom that Willow has decreed for us.

Will scoffs, rolls her amused, hazel eyes at Buffy. "You're attracted to her Slayerness. You as good as admitted that."

"I did?" Bemused Buffy's back in residence.

"Yes, Buff." Will sing-songs. "Tare! Tare-bear!" This from the pot who calls me her Tara-koala.

Buffy flushes with embarrasment then looks at me speculatively. "Yeah, I did, didn't I?" She laughs. "So, TARE. Where d'ya wanna go for datey fun?"

I yawn. "Tell you breakfast time. I'm too exhausted to think."


A/N: Dialogue from the Season Eight Comics ...Arc: "Time Of Your Life" by Joss Whedon... is used here.

Friday, 13th October 2000

I'm watching myself. She, this other me, is fighting a purple-haired girl. Both of them bear red- bladed axes hafted with stakes. It is clear to me that Purple is a Slayer. She has the speed, the strength, the instincts. But something is missing in her: knowledge to give assurance to her strikes, feints and dodges, that half-remembered experience from previous Slayers that needs to be teased out with training and sparring, slaughter and survival. Purple has the advantage of unpredictability but Other Buffy's gonna take her down. It's that obvious. But why, oh why is Other Buffy fighting in a dress? I stand on the roof of a tall building. I've seen this skyline many a time on TV. It's a little different. An unfamiliar tower squats where the World Trade Center should be. This is New York. But she's decayed, her skyscrapers are giant's bones of pitted brick and moth-eaten mortar. Beside me is a swirling, golden vortex I guess is a portal. The smell of the city is awful, rust and swamp.

Other Buffy vanquishes her opponent. "I'm sorry." she tells Purple.

"About what?" I ask Other Buffy. "Failing?" My voice sounds like Willow's but it has some of the quality of her vampiric doppelgänger. I'm blocking Other Buffy's access to the portal.

Other Buffy looks gaunter than I ever recall being. She's older, terrible things have marked her with bad wisdom. "You know I'll go through you." she states.

"And you know you'll have to." I confirm.

"Why?" she asks lornly.


Friday, 13th October 2000

I sneer at her. "Maybe I think the Twentieth Century can soldier on just fine without you." I notice I'm wearing a dark crimson gown of raw silk. Its short sleeves reveal black leather worn beneath.

"I'm cute and blonde and popular but I'm not stupid, Will." Other Buffy says. "You dragged me here and then told me exactly how to get out. Everything, every lie, to get us here. Why? What happened?" There's pain in her face. "Why does it have to be me?"

I bow my head, hood my eyes.I finally understand I'm just an observer. This little scene is gonna end in misery and death and I can't stop it. "It's a long story."

She strikes, swift as a serpent, thrusting the sharp shaft between my breasts, into my heart. The impact lifts me off my feet. Pale green light and white jags of lightning burst from my body. There's a concussion like a sonic boom, like thunder, like the beat of a massive drum. My last sight is of Other Buffy's expression. It is indescribable. I recognise that depth of agony, that intensity of sorrow. I recognise them because this was what I felt when, two years gone, I plunged my sword into Angel's chest. A needful act to stop Acathla entering the world, to seal the threshold of hell with beloved blood. A tear trickles from Other Buffy's left eye.

I scream and flail in the throes of grief and terror. I'm entangled in a sleeping bag. A blonde woman pins me to the floor with firm but gentle strength. "Buffy, sweetie." Tara soothes urgently. "It's only a dream. Ease down, hon, ease down."

"I'm Buffy?" I ask hopefully. "Not Willow?"

"All three of us have been dreaming, I think" says Tara. "Dreams of death but not our own." She looks back at the bed. I can hear deep, heaving sobs. It's Willow.

"See to Will." I tell Tara. "I'll be OK."


Friday, 13th October 2000

The first thing I did when Tara shook me awake from my nightmare was make certain she was still alive. I touched her, kissed her, squeezed her, tasted her, smelt her. Felt her warmth, heard the beat of her heart. I'd have f%$#ed her too, all the better to know, to believe she was alive. Then I saw smears of blood on my arms, her ruined fingertips.

"What the frilly heck?" I asked Tara. She thumbed at the headboard of our bed. Bloody gouges had been clawed into it. A whole fingernail was sticking into the wood. I felt sick.

"Willow, sweetie. Promise me-" Tara shivered. "Promise me that if I, if my time'll have me cremated. No burial. Scatter my ashes."

I gaped at my love. "What?"

"Promise me!" she said fiercely.

"OK." I was bewildered. "You, you can't die! You mustn't!"

"Not for a very long time if I can help it." said Tara. "But I must never be buried."

Buffy screamed. Tara was loath, very loath to leave me, I could see it in her eyes. Then Buffy started keening. That broke Tara's indecision. She scooped up our kitten from where she'd been cowering and put the trembling animal in my lap. "Look after Trixie while I help Buffy." Tara commanded.

"Miss Kitty Fantastico." I said automatically. In spite of my distress, I was still intent on outstubborning Tara. Any ole cat can be called Trixie. Tara smiled weakly and left my arms.


Friday, 13th October 2000

I've broken down into convulsions of weeping. Not even Miss Kitty's purrifying powers can console me. I want Tara, I want Buffy. Then Tara is here, then after a while, Buffy.

Buffy kneels at my feet, wraps her arms around my hips. Her right cheek presses against my belly. "I love you Will." Her tears are a torrent.

"Willow, I've brought the first aid kit. Could you see to my..." Tara trails off.

"Buff. Could you shift a little?" I ask her. "Gotta patch Tara up."

"Why? What she do?" Buffy sees Tara's wrecked fingers and the ravaged headboard. "Oh, God!" she cries in horror. Then she looks at me, opens her mouth to say something and then just gawps and stares at me.

"What is it?" I'm alarmed. I can't take any more of all this eldritch jazz. It's very wearing. And causes wrinkles.

"Your eyes! Your hair!" Buffy tells me. Tara gives her an irritated glance.

I fish a compact out of Buffy's purse, look into its small mirror. My eyes are like solid orbs of onyx. There's no white in 'em. My hair seems to be made of fine strands of obsidian, my skin is corpse-white. Veins of sooty blood mar my face. "What the hell?"

"It'll pass." says Tara. "I will explain. But not now."

"But-" I begin.

"Later." Tara actually snaps at me.

Suddenly a shrill ringing fills the room. Buffy goes all defcon girl. Tara snarls, pounces on something. The sound stops.

"OW! Yow! Wow!" Tara has slain the alarm clock and further devastated her damaged digits. "Oh! Yo! Woe!" she continues to whimper. Buffy and I both collapse into giggles. Tara glares at us, gives us the finger. It's the one with the nail torn off. For some reason it makes our apparent glee worse and Tara catches the infection. We all laugh until we sob in exhaustion.


A/N: Some of Tara's dialogue is adapted from the Season Six episode "Smashed" by Drew Greenberg.

Friday, 13th October 2000

"Good God, that's a lot of ice-cream!" I exclaim. Buffy has bought the biggest, most humongous container of ice-cream she could lay her graspy paws on. We're poised, with spoons drawn, to fall upon the hapless goodness within. "I mean, I know...part of our big Rocky Road therapy fun day. But...good God, that's a lot of ice-cream."

We're at Willow's house. Dr Sheila Luxemburg has departed for some academic errand at Berkley. We've spent the morning telling Giles about our nightmares. Tears and terror and torment. Typical Sunnyhell fare.

"Promise me both of you will eat something green tonight. Leafy green, not...gummy green."

Buffy jabs her spoon in my direction. "Tara, I so don't wanna date my mom."

"Sorry." I apologise. We didn't have the stomach for breakfast this morning and inner Momma Tara isn't happy.

We eat silently for a few minutes then Buffy suddenly asks "Do you think I have a weak chin, Will?"

"What?" Willow is taken aback by the question. "There's nothing wrong with your chin. Or your nose."

Buffy frowns. "What's wrong with my nose?"

"Nothing! You've got an excellent schnozz. And, and you've got beautiful eyes. Like lime mixed with chocolate and..." Will scowls at Buffy, slaps her upper arm. "Hey! Stop it, missy!"

I look curiously at Buffy. "What's with the vanity?"

"In my dream, I could see myself through Willow's eyes. And...I've got a weak chin."

"Huh!" Willow scoffs. "In my dream, I saw what Tara sees every day and even though I've got the figure of a twelve-year old boy, Tara still thinks I'm a hot mama-yama!" Will glances uncertainly at me "Don't ya, baby?"

I roll my eyes at the pair of them in amusement and bemusement. "Willow, Buffy, both of you are gorgeous and hot. Now shut up and eat up!"

"Yes, ma'am!" they chorus.


A/N: Dialogue from the Season Five episode "The Gift" by Joss Whedon is used here.

Friday, 13th October 2000

Eventually, the ice-cream is all but gone, Buffy running her fingers along the sides of the container, licking the last delicious smears of Rocky Road from her fingers. It's kinda hot.

Buffy breaks the companionable silence that came upon us as we devoured our frozen, confectionary enemy. "So, are we gonna talk about it?"

She means the dreams of course. Should we? Talk about it? I'm suddenly caught in the memory of my nightmare. I stand at the top of a ramshackle tower, twisted into shape out of insanity and detritus. I am there, Dawn is there. A younger Dawn poised at the awkward boundary between girl and woman. Black robe-clad, bound and bleeding from long, shallow cuts incised in her belly.

"Here." I release Dawn from her bonds.

"Buffy, it hurts." She sounds so young, so afraid. I'm Buffy?

"I got it." I soothe in Buffy's voice. "Come here. You're gonna be OK."

A blue-white conflagration erupts below us. "Go!" I urge Dawn.

She doesn't move. "Buffy, it's started." Arcs of energy twitch and spasm outward from the mad chaos. "I'm sorry." she says.

"It doesn't matter." I say. I can sense what Buffy senses, do what she does, say what she says. But I do not feel her emotions, think her thoughts. Only my own are present. Dawn lunges, makes to leap from the tower. I stop her. "What are you doing?"

"I have to jump. The energy." Dawn says.

"It'll kill you." I tell her.

"I know." she says with resignation. "Buffy, I know about the ritual. I have to stop it."

I shake my head. My tone is distraught. "No."


Friday, 13th October 2000

How many times, when I was Dawn's lover, did I see her war with her sister? Contending with the verbal weapons of bicker and whine. As in life so in the dream. Dawn and I argue and plead but I, Buffy Me, prevail. I speak the last crumbs of comfort she'll ever hear from me, kiss her tenderly before sprinting to my doom. I know nothing of what's in Buffy's mind but I can feel her body's exultation. I leap, graceful as a dying swan, into the actinic maelstrom. Long, sweet moments of delirious agony and then...I awake with a gasp in an enclosed space. I feel the texture of wood beneath rotting fabric. A coffin. I claw, I tear, I rip myself through oak and earth, sobbing and panting. I-

"TARA!" yells Buffy. My cheek stings from the slap she's just given me.

Willow hugs me. Anxious hazel orbs search my face. "Are you OK, Tara?"

"OK?" I laugh shakily. "No, I, I'm not OK. I'm so glad Giles is gonna find you someone to, to teach you magic."

Will flinches. "I'd hoped you wouldn't make that connection. In MY dream, that wasn't the first time I'd summoned Osiris. Was it?" Fat tears slide down her face. "I'm sorry."

"What for?" I ask harshly. "You didn't do anything to me. This happened to Buffy." Or it will, or it may. Visions are unchancy things."

"Not directly."Willow gently kisses my healing fingers. "I don't wanna learn magic." she bursts out. "I'm, I'm afraid out of it. Of hurting my friends, my loved ones."

"It's too late." I say gently. "Your magic's been awakened. You gotta be trained."

"I'm a hacker, not a witch-doctor!" Will snarls, her big eyes bright with fury.

"I know, Willow." says Buffy. "I didn't want to be the Chosen One. But I was."

"Tell me about it?" asks Willow.

"All right." Buffy sighs. "Tare needs to hear this too. And it doesn't show me at my best."


A/N: An adapted line from the film "Chance" ...2002, directed by Amber Benson... is used here.

Friday, 13th October 2000

Why the hell did I agree to this? I own three kinds of secrets: ones to be given, ones to be stolen, ones to be kept. Kept forever, NOT to be volunteered. This is betrayal of self, it's treason. I scan the Luxemburgs' lounge for a diversion, see it in a framed photo of a doe-eyed man with wild hair.

"Hey, Will." I take the picture in my hand. "What's this pic of Einstein doing here?"

"Rosenberg family legend." Willow replies, gazing at me narrowly. "Einstein's first child, Lieserl, is supposed to be Ira's great-grandmother. That clinched the paternity deal for my mom." Will sighs. "I never thought that was actually true, but I liked to pretend it was. Can't do that now." She moves her right hand in a vague spiral. "I feel..."

"Maimed?" Tara suggests. "I've practiced witchcraft always, since I was little." Her voice is bitter.

Willow nods. "Absolutely. You've hammered the sticky-out nail, baby." She looks at me sternly. "Don't think I don't know what you're up to, Buff. You're gonna disclose." Will scrunches up her forehead then lifts her eyebrows. "My uncle pretending to be my dad? Keep shtumm on that, OK? Apart from you two, only Xander knows."

"Oh." realises Tare. "Then that explains..."

"Explains what?" Willow asks.

"I... um overheard something Spike said to Anya." Tara tells her.

Will frowns. "What? What did he say?"

"Red's mum can't be asexual, she's gotta want to fuck something." Tare blushes.

Willow gapes in angry astonishment, growls in exasperation. "I'm gonna kill Xander!" I swear I can hear her teeth grind. "Telling Spike..."

"I expect Xander only told Anya, sweetie." Tara tells Will. soothingly. But Willow, she keeps on steaming.

Tare and I exchange glances. "You rub her tummy, I'll stroke her hair. If that doesn't work..." I wiggle my fingers menacingly. Costernation crosses Will's face. "We'll tickle her."


A/N: I'm suffering from writer's block so apologies for the quality of this chapter.

Friday, 13th October 2000

Tara and I go directly for the tickle assault option. Willow wriggles and giggles, shrieks and squeaks as we visit our fingerly torments on her tender flesh . She's so adorably cute! After we've finished I congratulate myself on a question well dodged. Alas, it ain't necessarily so. Will and Tare exchange glances.

"Stop stalling, Buffy." Willow says with as much command as a breathless victim of a recent ticklefest can muster. "Get talkin'!"

"Yesterday, you said you'd tell me how becoming the Slayer changed you." Tara puts in. "Now's, you know, good."

"If I must." I grumble. Newly bossy Tara is gonna be a pain, I just know it. I also find her assertiveness... intriguing. "You've never met Cordelia, have you, Tare?" I ask her.

She shakes her head. "No, but Willow's described her. In exhaustive detail."

Will snorts. "She means I ranted." She turns to me. "And what does Cordelia have to do with anything?"

"You know that I used to be a lot like her, once." I tell them. "Actually, I was worse."

Willow's big hazel eyes widen hugely at this admission, threaten to engulf her face. "Worse?"

"Worse." I confirm. "I was sort of a cutprice Kathryn Mertuil."

"You mean like that chick in 'Cruel Intentions'?" asks Tara. Her aquamarine gaze is calming.

"Oh, my God, Buff!" exclaims Will. "You didn't! Not with Dawnie!" She looks very queasy all of a sudden.

"Huh?" I then realise what she's getting at here. EW! "No! Whole leaves and forests, rivers and oceans, mountains and continents, moons and galaxies of NO!"

"Oh." Willow looks decidedly relieved and less panicked. Comparing myself unfavourably with Cordy was not perhaps the best tack to take with Will.

To Be Continued

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