DISCLAIMER: Definitely no money being made. All characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. I own nothing except whatever characters I may make up for this story along with the storyline. I just like to play with them - I promise to put them back after I'm done!!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To kinetic-kid[at]earthlink.net

Chasing Daylight
By Kinetic-Kid


Chapter 1

Willow hangs up the phone and looks at the flight numbers that Giles had just given her, the plan to leave earlier changed because of the wedding. Taking a deep breath, she picks up the phone and dials the Summers' residence, having to smile as she hears Tara pick up the phone with laughter obvious in her voice.

"Hello!" Tara answers the phone, smacking at Buffy's hands, trying not to laugh as the slayer continues to tickle her.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Willow smiles softly at the carefree laughter coming from her ex-lover. Feeling a pang of loss, but not being able to feel angry or upset with either woman, the last couple months of Buffy and Tara being together, and her coming over to dinner at least twice a week made her realize that they were truly happy and in love.

"No, just a slayer on a tickle spree." Tara narrows her gaze on Buffy. "Behave, or I won't be making brownies tonight!"

"Oh, just cut me to the bone, why don't you?" Buffy presses a quick kiss on her lips, smiling. "The load in the dryer's probably finished, I'll go downstairs."

"Sorry. How are you doing?" Tara tucks the phone between her cheek and shoulder as she starts to rinse off the breakfast plates and load them into the dishwasher. "You're still coming tomorrow night for dinner, right?"

"Actually, that's what I needed to talk to you about. Giles just called and he has a flight scheduled for tomorrow afternoon to New York, then England for me. I was wondering if you and Buffy would mind driving me to the airport? I would ask Xander, but…" Willow trails off, frowning at the thought of her best friend that had taken off to 'find himself' after the fiasco of his and Anya's wedding.

"Of course we will. He still isn't ready to come back, is he?" Tara sighs quietly at the thought of the confused young man.

"No. He was traveling through Texas when he called earlier this week. I don't know if he'll ever come back, tell you the truth." Willow admits sadly.

"We all have to find ourselves. Some of us take the long route, Willow." Tara murmurs softly into the phone.

"I know. Hell, I'm one of them, Tara." Willow admits, sitting down on the edge of her bed as she stares at a picture of her, Buffy and Xander taken at their high school graduation, smiling as she remembers Oz taking the picture.

"I know, Wills, I know. But you're working on making things right. Look at us, I never would have thought things would have turned out the way they did, but…" Tara shrugs, not knowing how to continue what she's wanting to say.

"You're happy and you love each other, Tara. That makes me happy. I never would have thought that Buffy would ever be with a woman, but you two together make sense." Willow smiles sadly, it settling in her heart finally that the two women are right for each other, and she's more than thankful that they were willing to give her a chance at keeping their friendship.

"Yeah, we kind of do, don't we? You'll find someone, Willow, when you're least expecting it. One day you'll turn around and the man or woman of your dreams will be standing there." Tara grins crookedly at the thought.

Willow chuckles and falls back onto the bed to stare up at the ceiling. "Well, I do need to keep my options open, don't I? I want to thank you for everything you've done for me, Tara. The fact that you're willing to be friends with me after everything I've done means more to me than you probably realize."

"I love you, Willow. No matter what, you do have my love." Tara leans back as she feels Buffy wrap her arms around her waist and hug her gently.

"I know, Tara. In a way, I'm happy you and Buffy found each other, and what happened between us worked out the way it did. It made me realize a few things and finally gave me the chance to grow up. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And knowing and loving you has definitely made me stronger. I have to thank you for that. Anyway, if you guys wouldn't mind coming by tomorrow around ten o'clock in the morning, my plane leaves out at noon." Willow gets back on the subject of why she called as she feels her eyes fill with tears, knowing she's going to miss her friends while she's gone.

"We'll be there. Would you like to come by tonight for dinner? I'm making Buffy's favorites." Tara offers, running her fingers over Buffy's forearm, smiling as she feels lips pressing against her shoulder.

"Would you mind? I'm going to miss your cooking while I'm gone." Willow smiles as she hears Buffy mumbling something.

"Hey, Wills. Get your ass over here. Why don't you go ahead and pack today, and we'll pick you up in a couple hours to bring you back here. You can stay here for dinner and a movie night, having a good breakfast in the morning before we take you to the airport." Buffy half orders, half suggests as she takes the phone from Tara after asking for it.

Willow has to laugh at Buffy, before nodding her head. "Okay. I'll give you a call when I'm packed and ready to go."

"Good, we'll be waiting." Buffy smiles and disconnects the phone, setting it on the island to wrap her arms back around Tara as her lover turns to face her. "She's come a long way."

"Yes, she has. But she still has a lot longer way to go." Tara kneads Buffy's back, pressing a kiss to her forehead as she leans back against the counter, Buffy wiggling in close to her.

"Should we call Dawn and let her know that Willow's going to be leaving for a couple months, give or take?" Buffy nibbles gently on Tara's neck smiling as her lover tilts her head, giving her better access.

"Hmmm. We better, or she'll disown us both." Tara moans quietly as Buffy works her way up her neck to suckle on the tender skin just behind her ear.

Flicking her tongue firmly over the flesh, Buffy smirks as she eases back and reaches for the phone, punching in the number of Dawn's friend, not able to hold back the laughter as Tara growls quietly at her stopping her ministrations.

"You'll pay for that later." Tara warns, smacking Buffy gently on the thigh before turning back to finish working on the dishes.

"Planning on it." Buffy murmurs not even trying to hide the huge smile crossing her face.

"That was the most god-awful movie you've rented yet." Willow laughs as she throws a couple pieces of popcorn at Buffy.

"Hey! I couldn't help it. The pickings were slim on my way back from patrol." Buffy grumbles, before chuckling and picking the popcorn pieces off her shirt to munch on.

Tara groans quietly as she and Dawn come back in, the two of them deciding to make cookies instead of watching the movie Buffy had rented after fifteen minutes. Handing her lover a plate piled with still warm cookies before handing the other plate to Willow, chuckling as the redhead rolls her eyes.

"Oooh. Peanut butter, chocolate chip and sugar cookies." Buffy licks her lips as she picks a peanut butter cookie taking a huge bite out of it, moaning quietly.

"Glutton." Tara mumbles before hurrying back to the kitchen grabbing the other two glasses of milk as Dawn settles down on the floor by Willow handing her one glass while keeping the other for her self.

"Okay, okay." Buffy sets the plate down after finishing her cookie, standing up to grab another movie she'd picked out, not letting the rest of the group see what she'd chosen. Switching out the DVD's, she glances back, smiling as Tara sets down the glasses of milk and settles in the corner of the couch.

"What did you just put in?" Willow mumbles around a chocolate chip cookie, playfully smacking at Dawn's hand as the teenager tries to grab the plate.

"50 First Dates." Buffy chuckles at Willow's happy squeak. "You have an unhealthy obsession with Drew Barrymore."

"And the problem with that is?" Willow smirks as she watches Buffy get situated against Tara, not feeling the twinge of jealousy that she used to feel, gradually becoming used to seeing the two women together.

Tara smiles softly as Buffy curls up against her after picking up her plate and glass of milk. Wrapping her arm around her lover as Buffy snuggles in even closer, offering her a bite of one of the sugar cookies. Taking a bite, Tara happens to glance towards Willow surprised at the smiling countenance watching them. Seeing the complete understanding in her green eyes, Tara slowly returns the smile, happy not to see any jealousy or anger pointed towards them.

Willow nods before turning back to the television, slowly eating the cookies while picking on Dawn.

Towards the end of the movie, Buffy tilts her head to look at Tara, having shifted to stretch out on the couch with her head in her lover's lap. "You would do that, wouldn't you?" Buffy questions softly, just for Tara's ears, searching blue eyes.

Tara strokes a fingertip down Buffy's cheek to trail over her lips, nodding her head without saying anything, letting her love for Buffy do her talking for her.

Buffy shifts up kissing Tara lovingly, smiling as Tara's hand slips behind her upper back as support. "I love you."

"I love you, too, my sweet one." Tara rests her forehead for a moment against Buffy's, finally pressing a gentle kiss against her lips before letting her lover back down.

"What's the last movie you rented?" Willow questions curiously as the credits roll.

Buffy grins, but doesn't answer the redhead, watching as Willow narrows her gaze on her as she hops up from the floor to the DVD's sitting on top of the television. Chuckling at the giggle coming from Willow.

"What did she rent?" Tara questions curiously after looking down at her lover and seeing the lack of response.

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Willow wiggles her eyebrows at Tara. "Two pretty people to watch. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie."

"Still think he's too pretty to be a guy." Tara mumbles quietly, chuckling at the snort that comes from Buffy.

"He isn't pretty. He's ruggedly good looking." Buffy smirks as Tara rolls her eyes at her. "But with Angelina Jolie I figured I couldn't go wrong… I knoooowwww how much you like her." Buffy laughs and squirms as Tara starts to pinch her sides.

"And who was practically drooling all over herself when she watched Gia for the first time?" Tara growls softly, pinching Buffy's nose.

"And the second and third…" Buffy wiggles her eyebrows as Tara groans. "It was hot. And I don't remember hearing you complain."

"And you never will." Tara murmurs, leaning down the short distance to kiss Buffy firmly. "Brat." Tara mumbles before relaxing back into the couch and starting to run her fingers gently through Buffy's hair again as her lover shifts onto her side to see the television better.

A little while later, Buffy smiles as she feels Tara's hand that had been stroking through her hair settle heavily on her head, the other hand had somehow wiggled under her shirt and had finally settled on her rib cage. Rubbing her cheek gently against Tara's thigh, she continues to watch the movie until Willow yawns and stretches from where she had dozed off leaning back against the chair, Dawn snoozing away beside her.

"I think I'm going to go to bed." Willow whispers, chuckling quietly as Tara snores lightly. "Looks like everyone's crashing."

"Yeah. If you don't mind, go ahead and wake Dawn up, and I'll take care of Tara." Buffy offers softly.

Willow nods even as she yawns again, blinking her eyes to clear some of the haze from them. "Come on, Dawnie. Time for all good little keys to go to bed." Willow whispers, gently shaking the teen's shoulder.

Dawn blearily looks at Willow. "Huh?"

"Bed." Willow whispers, urging Dawn up and following the teen up the stairs knowing how out of it she can be when she first wakes up.

Buffy chuckles as she watches the two make their way up the stairs, closing her eyes as she feels Tara's hand stroke over her ribs as her lover wakes.

"Sorry." Tara whispers, waking up as she looks around and notices Willow and Dawn gone before glancing at the movie realizing it's almost over with and she only remembered maybe fifteen minutes of it.

"'S okay. You're tired." Buffy rolls over and stretches her body slightly, groaning as a warm hand caresses over her stomach.

"Tired, but never too tired." Tara murmurs, a small smile crossing her lips.

"Uh, huh. And you have the nerve to call me a horn dog." Buffy chuckles, wrapping a hand around Tara's neck and gently pulling her down to kiss her tenderly. Humming appreciatively as they slowly pull away, Buffy searches Tara's eyes. "I think I can count on one hand the days we haven't made love."

Tara gently caresses Buffy's cheek. "And I hope we continue making love like this for many, many, many years in the future."

"You and me both." Buffy leans up, shifting slightly and kissing Tara gently on the lips. "Stay right here, I'll clean up and turn everything off."

Tara smiles indulgently at her lover as Buffy hurriedly gathers all the dishes and practically runs into the kitchen, a few minutes later coming back to turn off the television, DVD player and the lights before coming to a stop in front of her.

"Now you." Buffy kneels in front of Tara, kissing her softly before shifting and picking her up.

"You don't have to carry me." Tara murmurs, burying her face in her lover's neck, having to admit she loves it when Buffy becomes all tender and romantic.

"I like carrying you." Buffy admits, squeezing gently as she makes her way up the stairs before heading into the bathroom for them to get ready for bed. Setting Tara on her feet, she kisses her quickly. "It makes me feel all butch." Buffy wiggles her eyebrows and grins as Tara chuckles.

"My butch Buffy." Tara grins crookedly at her lover. "I love you."

"I love you, too." Buffy sneaks in another quick peck before grabbing both their toothbrushes and running them under the water before putting toothpaste on one of them for Tara and the other for her, the two women companionably doing their nightly ritual when Buffy isn't too late getting in from patrol.

Tara leads the way quietly back to their room, turning on the lamp by the bed as she slowly strips watching as Buffy locks the door behind her.

"Would it be too weird to…" Buffy trails off, her eyes glancing towards the bed quickly before turning back to trail over Tara's body as her lover eases the sweat shorts she was wearing down her legs, unconsciously licking her lips at the sight of her partner, having to admit that if anything over the months, her desire for Tara has grown as has her love for the Wiccan.

"I love you, Buffy. And unless someone is actually in the room with us I see no reason we can't express our love for each other as we see fit." Tara closes the distance between her and Buffy capturing the slayer's face between her hands and kissing her softly, slowly deepening the kiss until they both have to ease away, breathing heavily.

Blinking to try and get her brain functions working again, Buffy presses her lips quickly to Tara's. "And can I just say, that I love the way you express your love for me."

Tara chuckles and tugs on Buffy's shirt. "Strip, Slayer. I want to express my love for you completely."

"Yes, ma'am." Buffy tugs off her t-shirt and shorts, tossing them across the room as she follows Tara to the bed, climbing in after Tara flips the covers back.

Tara slides in behind Buffy, gently pressing her body against her lover's side. Trailing her fingers softly over Buffy's flesh, Tara smiles as she watches the goose bumps rise even as Buffy's nipples harden down to tight little nubs before she even comes close to them. "You're so sensitive." Tara whispers after a few minutes, finally trailing her fingertips over one of the rigid nipples, smiling as Buffy moans and arches into the light caress. Shifting, she leans down and captures the other nipple between her lips and softly strokes her tongue over the hard flesh, smiling around her lover's breast as Buffy threads one of her hands in her hair, clenching gently.

Buffy whimpers quietly as Tara's hand slowly strokes over her breast, occasionally pinching her nipple or flicking it with a short fingernail. Starting to breathe heavier as Tara's body shifts slightly to press a thigh between her legs, effectively opening her further, just now realizing her hips had been shifting and rotating as the desire courses through her. "Oh, my…" Buffy groans as Tara's center presses against her leg, closing her eyes at the feel of the wet heat painting the side of her leg as Tara slowly rubs against her.

Releasing Buffy's red, swollen nipple, Tara brushes her lips tenderly over the sensitive flesh. "What do you want, my sweet one?" Tara questions softly.

"I want to touch, to taste, to feel you wrapped around my fingers." Buffy whispers after a few minutes, finally getting her mind to function well enough to answer Tara's question.

"That sounds wonderful." Tara admits, running her hand down to caress over her lover's stomach while shifting her body to kiss along Buffy's neck. Flicking her tongue over Buffy's earlobe, Tara questions softly. "Together?"

"Please." Buffy nods at the thought, having to admit that this is one of her most favored positions with the Wiccan, though every position they've tried along with everything they've done holds a special place in her heart. Having been surprised and very pleased that Tara was definitely open to trying different things, her lover's willingness to talk and discuss anything having led to some intense conversations along with some very intense lovemaking sessions.

Tara kisses Buffy longingly for a few minutes while letting her hand play over her lover's body, smiling as her fingers dip between her lover's lips and the desire she finds coating her lover's body making her heart beat double-time as it always does at how she can make Buffy want and desire her so easily. The slayer having admitted to her not long after they came together that it usually took a while to become seriously aroused, unless she had a serious night of good slaying, then she had admitted that she would practically wear out her vibrator when she came in. Panting quietly, Tara makes her way quickly down Buffy's body, stopping for brief moments to kiss and lick Buffy's breasts before finally continuing her way towards Buffy's center.

Buffy growls quietly when Tara's tongue strokes over her mound, finally smiling as Tara takes the hint and shifts her body around to situate herself directly above her after they maneuver further down the bed into a comfortable spot. Running her hands up her lover's strong thighs, Buffy gently urges Tara down to her waiting mouth.

Tara moans loudly as Buffy doesn't waste any time exploring and goes straight to burying her tongue inside her, wiggling the strong muscle around and suckling at her center to capture any escaping juices. Turning back to Buffy's body as the slayer gently pushes up, pressing her mound more firmly against her mouth, Tara slips her hand to her lover's apex and trails her fingers through the wetness before dipping two slowly inside her while circling her lover's swollen bud with her tongue, occasionally flicking over it as her mind splinters off and her body just reacts to what her lover's doing to her and what she in turn is doing to her lover.

Buffy groans and presses up into her lover's ministrations as Tara starts to suckle tenderly at her clit while she presses three fingers inside her, curling one to caress lovingly over her sweet spot, knowing that Tara can keep her on the edge of exploding for hours if she wants to, remembering the last time she'd been a gibbering, whimpering mass of need before Tara had allowed her to climax, having passed out and not been good for anything else the rest of the night. Of course, the Wiccan had learned the following morning what Buffy could do with a little incentive, Tara missing her classes that day and Buffy had barely made it in for her late shift at the college. Finally trailing her tongue up to Tara's clit, Buffy slides two fingers gently inside her lover, starting a slow stroke inside as she drags the length of her tongue over Tara's needy clit, smiling as Tara bucks and whimpers.

Panting heavily, Tara finally starts to increase the strength of her sucking while picking up the pace of her fingers' stroking, keeping her middle finger curled to stroke over her lover's g-spot with each stroke. Her body rocking against Buffy as the slayer finally starts to lick strongly over her, at the end of each lick flicking her tongue over the end of her sensitive clit making her almost hurt as the desire builds.

Bracing her feet more firmly into the bed, Buffy arches, effectively lifting Tara's body with hers as she can feel the orgasm building, knowing it won't take much more to tip her over the edge. "Please…" Buffy begs softly, opening herself even further to her lover as her inner muscles clench and contract around the pleasure giving fingers inside her.

"Together." Tara whispers centering her stroking over her lover's g-spot before gently biting down on her lover's swollen bud, knowing this is a major trigger for her lover.

"SHIT!" Buffy's screamed climax is muffled by Tara's body as she buries her mouth firmly against Tara, her cry and her fingers pressing firmly up into her lover's body enough to tip Tara over the edge seconds after her own climax.

Tara whimpers and collapses on top of her lover, her head resting on Buffy's thigh as she pants heavily waiting for Buffy's inner muscles to relax so she can disengage her fingers. Groaning quietly as she can already feel Buffy lapping happily at the liquid coming from her body, silently cursing her lover's recuperative powers before a lascivious smile crosses her face as to how those powers have come into use on more than one occasion. Finally sliding her fingers from within her lover, Tara sighs softly, not wanting to move, chuckling as Buffy starts to nip playfully on the inside of her thighs.

"Come up here, love." Buffy whispers hoarsely, reaching down to stroke over whatever body part she can reach of her lover. "Wants you against me."

Tara moans as she slowly shifts around, grabbing the covers on her way as she settles on top of her lover, more often than not Buffy usually falls asleep on top of her, but occasionally they switch positions, depending on what each woman needs.

"Love you." Buffy whispers, reaching over to turn off the light before wrapping her arms firmly around Tara and pressing her lips to the top of Tara's head.

"I love you, too." Tara whispers, pressing her lips to the skin in front of her and closing her eyes in contentment, her fingers stroking along Buffy's arms and sides as she slowly falls asleep.

Buffy smiles as she feels Tara settle more firmly against her, knowing by the measured breathing and the weight of her lover that Tara's fallen asleep. "You make my world complete, Tara." Buffy whispers softly, before relaxing and soon following her lover into a restive night's sleep.

"Here, call us when you get in so we know you got there safe and sound. Then call us frequently to let us know how you're doing." Tara pushes a phone card into Willow's hand after the redhead checks in at the gate and heads towards the entrance to the main part of the small airport, where no one's allowed past the security check-in except those flying out.

"I…" Willow starts and takes a deep breath, putting the card in her purse and nodding her head, fighting the tears that are already starting to fill her eyes. "I will. You take care of each other." Willow whispers, surprised to feel warm arms wrapping around her and hugging her tightly, sighing in relief as she wraps her arms around Tara's waist and hugs her back for a few moments before she finds a small strong blonde in her arms practically lifting her off the floor in a strong hug.

Buffy growls softly in Willow's ear. "Better make use of that card. Don't want to piss me off and make me fly out there. Plus Tara worries about you." Buffy finally admits softly, so her lover can't hear her. Tara having snuck out first thing that morning and went to the store to get the phone card with her blessing.

Willow nods her head, feeling the tears flowing down her cheeks again as Buffy releases her and she steps back, looking at the two women, Dawn having opted to be dropped back off at her friend's house after saying goodbye to Willow. Stepping towards the x-ray and scanning area, Willow wipes the tears from her eyes. "I'll call as often as I can. I love you guys." Willow whispers before hurrying to the area before she breaks down.

Buffy wraps her arm around Tara's waist, feeling Tara leaning heavily into her as they watch Willow go through the process before the redhead quickly gets swallowed up in the people. "She'll be okay, Tara."

"I know she will. She's already fought the hardest part of the battle and won. Now if she can learn to use it without letting it take over that would be the best thing for her. Though I'm sure they'll teach her how to properly drain the magic if she isn't going to use it." Tara admits, sighing quietly as they slowly turn and make their way out of the airport.

"Do you feel like going back home, or do you want to do something?" Buffy questions softly as they stroll to where they parked the Jeep.

"Whatever you want to do, sweet one. Anya asked if I'd cover at the shop for her this week, so I won't be home until after you, so whatever you want to do, we'll do." Tara unlocks the door and opens it for her lover, smiling as Buffy kisses her quickly before hopping in.

"Damn. I forgot about that." Buffy watches as Tara shuts the door and hurries around the Jeep to climb in. "How has she been?"

"I don't know." Tara admits, frowning slightly as she starts the Jeep. "She's been acting a little weird and of course she's had me filling in off and on for her, which I'm not going to complain about the money I'm being paid, plus it keeps me busy while you're working, but something just seems off with her."

Buffy purses her lips, having not been around Anya since the whole wedding fiasco. A niggling suspicion that's been playing in her mind makes her look at Tara and finally question her lover. "Do you think she might have…" Buffy stops before finally continuing as Tara looks at her with a questioning look. "Do you think she might have gone back to the vengeance demon business?"

Tara starts to shake her head and say no, but stops herself as she thinks about it for a few minutes, remembering how hurt and angry Anya was and remembering a certain gleam in the woman's eyes before she'd seemed to come to a decision. "I don't know." Tara finally answers truthfully. "Wouldn't you be able to tell if you were around her, though?" Tara questions curiously.

"I haven't been around her, Tara." Buffy admits as Tara finally puts the vehicle in gear and pulls out to merge with the traffic leaving the airport. "I know you would consider it an invasion of her privacy to look yourself, but could you possibly ask her and see what her response is? I mean, vengeance demons on the whole aren't usually bad demons. But I don't know what I'll do if she's going around eviscerating people again." Buffy explains quietly, her eyes shadow at the thought of possibly having to take out Anya, even though she never really liked the woman, but she didn't hate her and didn't want to kill her.

"I'll see what I can do." Tara nods, sighing quietly. "We're getting low on a few things grocery wise, why don't we stop on the way back and pick up some stuff."

"Okay." Buffy agrees readily, having to admit she really enjoys going shopping with the Wiccan. Tara making it an adventure most of the time, even if she is mean to her and doesn't let her buy a lot of junk food. Though Tara does fix her brownies, cookies and pies frequently to help with her sweet tooth.

Tara grins crookedly at the quick response. Reaching over the console, she gently grasps Buffy's hand, sighing in contentment as Buffy threads their fingers together automatically as they ride to the grocery store in companionable silence.


Chapter 17

Rack purses his lips as he considers his options. Stepping out into the 'waiting room', he looks at the magic drug addicts at his disposal, knowing that all of them together doesn't have a tenth of the magic that he needs for his customer.

Stepping back into the main room, he looks at the men, silently wondering not for the first time how they can 'see' him when in place of their eyes there're symbols carved. Shaking his head at his meanderings, he settles in his chair and presses the tips of his fingers together in contemplation. "I can get you the power you need, but it will take some time. It isn't something that will be easy."

"My brother, The First has waited this long to make his reappearance. A few more months, though upsetting, is understandable. He must be on this plane of existence before the gathering of the Champions if he is to take over this world. If you succeed in helping him, the world will be at your feet." Caleb steps forward from the shadows, the smile on his handsome face would make most people stop and smile back, but for those people that look below the surface, they see the evil looking back at them for what it is.

"I'll work on this as quickly as possible. I just want to make sure that I have everything properly prepared, so there won't be any chance whatsoever that we will fail." Rack nods to the group as they disappear out of his back exit, so no one sees them. Tapping his fingers on the desk, he tilts his head as he thinks about the people at his disposal, his mind finally hitting on one person that he hasn't seen in many months. Her power alone would almost be enough for what needs to be done. "But to drain her powers will take time, and I will need to make sure my preparations are meticulous so nothing can go wrong."

Chuckling he stands and paces about his room as he lets his mind wander and come up with different ideas, stopping to look up at the ceiling. "Strawberry, you're going to come to Daddy Rack, you just don't know it yet."

People out in the waiting room shiver uncontrollably at the evil laughter coming from Rack's room, the tingles going up and down their spines enough for two to take off out of the room and into the night to never be seen from again, the others staying, the draw of the black magic too much for them to let their fear take hold.

Buffy groans as she drags her body into the house, smiling as Tara hurries to meet her, hugging her gently.

"What's wrong?" Tara questions softly, checking over her lover, wondering if there was some demon that attacked her during the daytime.

"Stupid slayer decided she had to show the big strong men that she could move just as many tables and chairs as them today as we were getting the college ready for classes to start up in a couple weeks." Buffy moans as she plops down on the couch. "Why was I stupid to do that? Of course, they're hurting worse than me." Buffy's eyes twinkle as she looks up at her lover who's shaking her head at her.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with you." Tara chuckles and heads to the kitchen, grabbing a couple aspirins and two bottles of water before heading back to the living room, handing her lover one bottle and the aspirin as she settles beside her. "And in a couple hours you'll probably be all healed and ready to go, and most of them won't be heard from for days."

"But it's Friday." Buffy points out grinning as she swallows the pills with a couple swigs of water. "So did you get your application put in?"

"Yes, I did." Tara shifts to lean against the couch, facing Buffy. Gently running her fingers through her hair. "They're in desperate need of teachers, so I won't have a problem getting a job. I just have to decide if I want to teach the older kids or the younger ones." Tara admits softly. "And this is something you probably don't want to hear. But they're not just clearing away the debris of your old high school. They plan on building a new one directly over the Hellmouth."

"Ah, shit." Buffy groans closing her eyes. "What did you find out?"

"I asked around under the guise of possibly putting in for a position there. It probably won't actually be done until a month or two into the actual school year. They're planning on using a lot of pre-fabricated materials to put it up, however. That's why it's not going to take a year or longer to build. I think they're also planning on using a lot of the original basement and foundation that was at the old school… at least what you guys didn't mess up." Tara grins crookedly at her lover at the thought.

"Should have used more dynamite." Buffy growls before taking a deep breath. "I hate to say this, because in a way I really, really don't want you to work there…"

"But if you had someone there to keep an eye on things that are happening, maybe we could keep incidents to a minimum." Tara finishes for her lover, the same idea having occurred to her. "Looks like I'll be teaching the high school age kids. Dawn will love that." Tara chuckles at the thought. "Though she might act like she doesn't even know me."

"Smack her upside the head." Buffy grumbles as she rolls her head to look at Tara. Grasping her free hand in hers, Buffy plays over Tara's fingers for a few minutes as she thinks. "I really don't like the idea of you working there because God only knows what might happen. We know how much of a magnet that place is for evil. Hell, I have to go really patrol that area to keep it to a minimum of demons."

Tara purses her lips as she considers her next thoughts. "They'll be hiring for all positions at the high school, Buffy. With working at the college, you would probably be a shoo-in for a custodial job at the high school. Though I doubt that'll pay as well as the college."

"Dawn would really freak if that happened. Both of us working at the high school, she wouldn't be able to get away with anything…" Buffy allows a small, wicked smile to cross her face, seeing an answering grin on Tara's she starts to chuckle. "You were thinking the same thing, weren't you?"

"Sort of. She has done a lot better and has straightened her act up, Buffy. But occasionally she tries to push the boundaries which is normal for a teenager, but both of us there to keep an additional eye on her would definitely be to the good." Tara leans in to press a soft kiss to Buffy's chin before shifting down and snuggling against her lover's side.

"I probably should call Giles and let him know what's up at the Hellmouth." Buffy rests her head on top of Tara's as she considers things. "Where is Dawn, anyway?"

"Shopping at the mall with Janice and a couple other girls. Actually, I think they were going boy-watching." Tara giggles at the low growl she gets from Buffy.

"You say things like that just to get me irritated." Buffy gently pokes Tara in the leg as Tara laughs softly.

"Maybe." Tara rests her head on Buffy's shoulder as she relaxes. "I thought we could go out to dinner tonight, if you want?"

"Hmm. Sounds good. Dawn staying the night with Janice?" Buffy presses her lips to Tara's head before resting her cheek against Tara.

"Uh, huh." Tara nods slightly with her answer. "Got a call this afternoon from Willow. She's flying back in next week. She'll call when she gets the rest of the information."

"So, she's obviously doing well." Buffy comments softly.

"Yep. She's still leery of actually using her powers, but she's working on the small spells and then draining the excess magic each week, so it won't build up and throw her off-center." Tara explains softly, knowing Buffy has been trying to understand the magic side of things a little better, though a lot of time she's still lost or insists on it being 'slayered down' for her. Which usually led to her picking on her lover, knowing Buffy is nowhere near being dumb, but whereas a lot of people have to go through every step to get from 'a' to 'g', Buffy can make the logical jump from 'a' to 'g' without all the steps in between.

"Going slow is a good thing." Buffy whispers, closing her eyes and enjoying being close to Tara. Smiling as she feels fingers stroking softly over her leg, knowing how much Tara loves to touch and be touched.

"Can I talk you into stripping and lying down on the bed upstairs?" Tara laughs as Buffy jumps up and starts stripping on her way towards the staircase. "I didn't say anything about having sex…" Tara calls out to her lover as Buffy starts to jog up the stairs, laughing even louder as Buffy stops dead and turns around with a big pout on her face.

"But… No clothes… bed…" Buffy whimpers, letting her lower lip tremble slightly from where she's poking it out as far as she can.

Tara snorts and points to the top of the stairs. "Go, Slayer!"

"Okay." Buffy's shoulders droop as she makes her way at a more sedate pace up the stairs, slowly removing her clothes.

Tara stands, fighting the laughter wanting to escape her as she locks the front door and checks the back door. Grabbing a couple bottles of water out of the refrigerator she makes her way towards the stairs, biting her lip as she hears Buffy mumbling something about no lovings and the honeymoon must be over.

Buffy debates for a minute as she slides off her slacks, tossing them in the hamper without looking as she stares at the bed. "Pull the covers down or leave them as is?" Buffy questions softly, shrugging her shoulders as she reaches for the covers, gently folding them down to the end of the bed before climbing in and settling herself in the middle of the bed on her side as she waits for Tara. "I can't believe it. She wants me naked and in bed, but isn't planning on any lovings? What's up with that? I mean, I thought the honeymoon was supposed to last for at least a year. It's only been roughly seven months… surely the honeymoon isn't over already?"

Tara finally makes her way into the bedroom and raises an eyebrow at the slayer. "What was that I heard mumbling about honeymoon being over?"

Buffy blushes lightly and looks down at the bed, plucking at the sheet. "I just kinda thought that, you know… we were still in the honeymoon stage of the relationship where we can't get enough of each other."

"So, because I made the comment that I didn't say anything about sex, you're already thinking the honeymoon's over, right?" Tara clarifies as she sets the waters down on the nightstand. "Can you count how many times we've made love?"

"Can't count that high." Buffy mumbles, blushing darker at the thought. "Hell of a lot easier to count the days we haven't made love. Only need one hand."

"Uh, huh." Tara grins crookedly at Buffy as she slowly starts to unbutton her shirt watching as Buffy's eyes light up at the sight. "Why don't you lie on your stomach, my sweet one?" Tara makes the question sound more like an order as she slides the shirt from her shoulders and sets it on the dresser.

Buffy falls over onto her stomach, and keeps her head turned so she can continue watching Tara take her clothes off, having to admit that the sight of her lover's lightly muscular body being revealed to her has a decided visceral response inside her. "You know I almost had to smack the shit out of that guy that was drooling all over you while we were running yesterday morning at the college track."

Tara shakes her head. "He wasn't drooling over me, his eyes were glued to you." Tara unhooks her bra and slides it off, grinning as Buffy's eyes drop automatically to her chest and a pink tongue comes out to lick over her lips.

"Nope. He was definitely staring at you." Buffy murmurs, shifting slightly on the bed as her body heats up and the desire starts to gather heavily between her legs. Grinning as Tara leans over after undoing her jeans and pushes them down her legs, enjoying the sight of Tara's breasts swaying gently with the maneuver. "He was watching your breasts bounce as you ran around the track. I could tell where he was looking because his head bounced with them."

Tara's lips curl up in a decidedly wicked looking grin. "And how did you know this?"

"Because it was bouncing in tandem with my head." Buffy grins hugely as Tara laughs.

"So, what you're basically saying is that you were ogling my breasts at the same time he was and you just happened to glance over and noticed that you both had your heads bouncing in concert with my breasts?" Tara clarifies as she steps towards the bed.

"Yep." Buffy doesn't even argue, knowing better. Aware Tara knows it's not just her physical appearance that pleases her, but the whole package.

Stopping at the drawer they'd placed all the toys in, Tara slowly slides it open while watching Buffy's eyes start to gleam. Darting her eyes down to the drawer, Tara shifts the items around until she finds the non-flavored massage oil. Knowing what Buffy was thinking, Tara smirks slightly as she decides she'll grab something out later for her lover, but right now she's planning on giving her a full bodied massage to help the slayer healing along on the sore muscles.

Buffy whimpers quietly and loses the huge smile that was on her face as she notices what Tara has in her hand. "Tara…"

"Whiny slayers never get what they want." Tara warns with a quirk of an eyebrow.

Buffy pouts and buries her face in the pillow, covering the smirk that was slowly crossing her face. Remembering the last time Tara gave her a back massage, they hadn't left the room for four hours afterwards, the Wiccan being as turned on as she was by touching and stroking her body.

Grinning crookedly, Tara kneels on the bed and shifts to finally ease her body down on Buffy's butt. Opening the bottle, squirting a good sized amount in her palm, she flips the lid closed chuckling as Buffy shifts slightly to move her hair out of the way. Dropping the bottle on the bed, Tara works her hands together to warm and evenly distribute the oil to both of them before starting at Buffy's shoulders and neck, slowly kneading her lover's body.

Buffy groans and shifts her head to lay her cheek on the pillow, her eyes closed, as she becomes putty in Tara's hands. "You have the hands of a Goddess." Buffy mumbles a little while later as Tara has made her way to her lower back and was pouring more oil into her hands.

"I do, do I?" Tara chuckles softly at the confirming grunt coming from Buffy. "You usually tell me I have the body of a Goddess, so now I have the hands to go with it?"

"Uh, huh…" Buffy moans and unconsciously shifts her legs further apart as Tara makes her way to her butt and starts to knead and stroke her butt cheeks.

Tara resituates herself as she kneads her lover's muscular butt, smirking at the sight of the desire coating Buffy's inner thighs even as the slayer shifts slightly, pressing her body firmly into the bed. Knowing her own body's probably in much the same shape Buffy's is, and actually surprised Buffy hadn't made some smart comment about the fact.

Buffy whimpers softly as Tara doesn't stop with her butt and continues down her legs, hoping that Tara would want to ease the ache she'd caused at her center, knowing her lover's as turned on as she is, if the smell coming from her is anything to go by.

Tara chews on her bottom lip as she smiles at the whimpers coming from Buffy, knowing exactly what's going through her lover's mind. Working her hands over the strong muscles of her lover's legs, Tara works down both of them, stopping at the ankles before finally working on the slayer's feet.

"Oh, Goddssss…" Buffy buries her face back into the pillow from where she'd shifted it as Tara's strong fingers work between her toes and over the arch of her foot, kneading and rubbing every part of her feet, spending extra time manipulating her toes. Panting heavily at the desire coursing through her, Buffy wraps her arms around her pillow and groans loudly into it as she presses her hips more firmly into the bed trying to get some relief for her aching clit.

Grabbing the bottle of oil, Tara pats Buffy gently on the calf. "Roll over, sweet one."

Buffy moans and slowly pushes herself over, bringing the pillow with her to keep her face covered, wrapping both arms around it as she hears her lover laughing quietly.

"Don't suffocate yourself." Tara warns, squeezing some more oil into her hand and closing the container before dropping it to warm the oil in her hands.

"Either that, or I'll have to take care of the pain you're causing me." Buffy mutters into the pillow, intentionally spreading her legs and bucking her hips. Knowing from the painful throbbing coming from her body, that she has to be swollen beyond belief.

Tara whimpers softly at the sight of her lover, her eyes inexorably drawn to her apex that is flushed and swollen, her clit poking insistently out from under its hood of protective flesh, engorged with blood. "Would you?" Tara whispers, her voice soft and deep, filled with passion.

Buffy pulls the pillow down to focus in on her lover. "Would I what?" Buffy unconsciously wiggles her body, feeling the desire easing down between her butt cheeks.

"Take care of it yourself… with me watching." Tara's eyes drop from Buffy's hazel eyes to her bald, glistening mound. Watching as Buffy's hips jump uncontrollably with her answer, smiling as she swears she can see the slayer's clit twitch.

"Tara, I could squeeze my damn legs together and climax right now. Hell, breathe over me and see what happens." Buffy growls loudly, knowing it won't take much to tip her over the edge.

"But would you…" Tara swallows hard as she drags her eyes back up the slayer's body to make contact with hazel eyes. "Would you touch yourself for me? Would you… could you do that with me watching?"

Buffy groans softly, as she sees the hopeful, desire-filled eyes of her lover silently begging her. "Are you wanting me to?" Buffy finally questions softly, having to admit that the thought of Tara watching her while she touched herself intimately definitely was NOT a turn off. Seeing the quick nod of Tara's head, even as Tara's hands clench firmly on her leg, Buffy feels the heat suffusing her cheeks at the thought of what she was about to do. Never thinking that she could or would do something like this, but for Tara she knows she'd do anything that the woman would want, especially if it put that particular gleam in her lover's eyes.

Tara moans softly as she watches Buffy shove the pillow back under her head and small, strong hands start to caress slowly and tantalizingly around her breasts, teasingly never coming into contact with the hard nipples. Her tongue darting out to wet her dry lips, Tara's hands unconsciously start to knead Buffy's legs in direct imitation to what the slayer's doing to herself.

Buffy becomes more focused on Tara's reactions to what she's doing, than to the pleasure she's receiving from caressing her own body, a definite thrill shooting through her as she watches Tara become more flushed and aroused by the minute, the woman's hands one second stroking gently and tenderly over the flesh of her thigh to the next second digging firmly in with her short, blunt nails. Pinching her nipples firmly and twisting them, Buffy watches Tara from under hooded eyelids as Tara's body reacts by rocking slightly back and forth, her nipples hardening into tight, rosy colored buds. Leaving one hand on her breast to tease, touch, stroke and pinch, she slowly trails her other hand downwards. Smiling fully at the sight of Tara leaning forward slightly, bottom lip captured gently by her teeth and eyes glued to her hand.

Tara silently urges Buffy's hand to continue its journey down the slayer's abdomen and over her mound, groaning as the fingers stop and stroke over the smooth skin, so close yet so far away from where she wants the slayer's fingers to be.

Buffy smirks as she catches a low whimper coming from Tara as she hesitates mere centimeters from delving into heated, desire coated flesh. Her own desire at an all-time high, but the enjoyment of watching Tara's facial expressions and her obvious desire, more than worth the delay of her own release.

Tara finally growls as Buffy's fingers play teasingly over her mound without continuing any further. Finally dragging her eyes upwards, she notices the mischief in hazel eyes, along with the intense desire. Swallowing a couple times to lubricate her throat, Tara finally hoarsely whispers. "I'll remember this when it's my turn."

Buffy's eyes widen slightly, her tongue almost falling out of her mouth and her eyes become slightly glazed at the thought of watching Tara touching herself, bringing herself pleasure… "Oh, God." Buffy whimpers, it taking her a moment to get out of fantasy land and becoming more serious about her own pleasure as the narrowed blue eyes watching her intently tell her how serious she is. "Okay. Not so subtle hint taken." Buffy finally whispers.

Tara grins crookedly as she drops her eyes back down to the slayer's tanned hand as the strong fingers finally make their way down the short distance, dipping between swollen lips, separating them and stroking through the glistening juices flowing from her body. Shifting, Tara lays down between Buffy's legs, one hand settling close to the slayer's apex while she rests her head on Buffy's flinching thigh after pressing a hot, open mouthed kiss to the flesh.

Using her free hand while continuing to tease herself as she plays between her wet folds, Buffy grabs the other pillows and uses them to prop herself up so she can watch Tara more easily, groaning and closing her eyes briefly as she finally strokes lightly over her aching clit. Feeling the loud exhale of breath across her thigh, Buffy chuckles softly and opens her eyes, making contact with the passion filled eyes of her lover for a few moments before Tara's eyes slowly work their way back to watch her as she strokes more firmly over her throbbing flesh, her hips jerking into the caresses, knowing she won't last long, actually surprised she didn't climax as soon as she touched herself. Whimpering loudly, Buffy presses hard against her swollen clit as it throbs in tandem with her heartbeat and a small flood of liquid eases out of her body.

Tara unconsciously shifts closer to Buffy's apex, inhaling deeply of her lover's most intimate smell even as she watches Buffy's fingers glide down over the slick flesh to bury three fingers in her body, starting with a slow stroke, quickly picking up speed, growling deeply as she watches Buffy press her pinky inside herself, making it four fingers even as her hand shifts and her palm grinds against her clit and she pounds her fingers inside herself, her hips bucking and meeting each thrust as low, guttural groans come from deep in Buffy's chest. Panting heavily, Tara rocks her body into the bed as she turns her face and nips firmly on Buffy's inner thigh even as her eyes stay on the slayer's hand, knowing by the sounds coming from Buffy that her lover's about ready to go flying over the edge of the abyss into a powerful orgasm. Panting heavily, Tara finally shifts up Buffy's body quickly, pressing her apex against a rock hard thigh, her hand covering the slayer's hand as she continues the hard rhythm.

Buffy grasps Tara around the neck, pulling her the rest of the distance down for a rough, invading kiss, breaking it off and keening loudly as she tips over the edge when she feels Tara slide in one of her fingers along with hers, urging her fingers to press up into her g-spot making her explode in pleasure.

Tara buries her face in Buffy's neck, grinding her center down against Buffy's thigh as she floods the slayer's leg with her own climax. Her shuddering breaths and the slayer's loud pants the only sounds left in the room as their bodies press together quivering and shaking with the releases they had.

Buffy whimpers as she finally eases her hand from inside her and wraps the free arm around Tara's back, her hips bucking uncontrollably as Tara eases three of her long digits inside her and cups her mound tenderly. Pressing her lips to Tara's head, Buffy closes her eyes and smiles as she feels a tongue trailing in a small circular motion over her neck.

"Thank you." Tara finally whispers, enjoying the feeling of Buffy's inner muscles fluttering around her fingers as the slayer slowly finishes coming down from her intense orgasm. Waiting to ease her fingers out when the flutters finally stop, just cupping the slayer's body, enjoying the feel of the hot, damp skin.

Buffy chuckles softly. "You're thanking me?"

"Yes." Tara growls into Buffy's ear after shifting slightly. Capturing the lobe between her teeth, she shakes her head and growls louder before releasing the flesh to Buffy's laughter. "That was one of the sexiest things I have ever seen. You don't know how hard it was for me to keep from shoving your hand away and burying myself between your legs. I think I was actually jealous." Tara murmurs, tilting her head as she considers the thought. Reaching down Buffy's arm to grasp her hand and pull it up to her lips, pressing a kiss against the palm. "Jealous of these fingers stroking over your body, feeling the wetness, the heat and velvety body wrapped around them. Yes, I do believe I was jealous." Tara grins crookedly down at Buffy as she brings one of the slayer's fingers to her mouth to swirl her tongue around it tantalizingly.

Buffy growls and rolls them over so she's on top of her lover. "You're in a mood today." Buffy smirks as Tara just grins at her. Leaning down, she nips playfully on her lover's chin. "Are you still wanting to go out for dinner, or…"

Tara laughs softly, having already heard her lover's stomach growling loudly. "I don't think the 'or' will actually feed the beast making all that racket."

Buffy nods her head in acceptance even as she leans down and kisses Tara lovingly. "Dinner, patrol… then maybe we can shower together and spend a good portion of the night enjoying having the house to ourselves?" Buffy questions hopefully, her eyes glinting with amusement.

"What are you wanting to initiate this time?" Tara laughs as Buffy wiggles her eyebrows.

"Something more sturdy than the coffee table. I can't believe you made me explain to Dawn how the other one got broken." Buffy growls quietly.

"You didn't. As I recall you told a big, fat lie!" Tara laughs as Buffy blushes darkly.

"I was not going to tell her that it wouldn't support both our weights while in the middle of having mind blowing sex!" Buffy wiggles her fingers as Tara. "Though fingers were involved, I thought it was a little better to tell her we had a tickle fight that got out of hand instead!"

"She didn't believe you." Tara laughs as Buffy growls quietly at her.

"Yeah, because the whole time I was stumbling over telling her that story, you were fighting back laughter and winking at her! No wonder she didn't believe me." Buffy grumbles, burying her face in her lover's neck, groaning quietly as her stomach starts to growl again.

"You skipped lunch today, didn't you?" Tara finally questions as she rubs her hands gently up and down Buffy's back, feeling her lover nod slightly against her. "You're going to make me mad and then I'll have to kick your butt if you don't eat, Buffy."

"I know. I'm sorry. It's just that we got busy and the next thing I knew it was already almost two o'clock and I just wanted to finish out the last couple hours of the day and come home." Buffy mumbles quietly into Tara's neck. "Can we go to the pizza buffet place that has the different Italian dishes on the bar? I think I could eat my weight tonight."

Tara smiles as she presses her lips against Buffy's forehead. "Of course, sweet one. Let's get ready, since you need to shower first."

"'Kay." Buffy grins and nips gently at Tara's neck before easing off her lover. "I love you."

"I love you, too." Tara's eyes twinkle as she watches Buffy hurry from the room to shower and get ready for dinner. "So much." Tara whispers before preparing for their night out.


Chapter 18

"There she is." Tara grins crookedly down at Buffy who's bouncing almost uncontrollably beside her. "You've missed her, haven't you?"

"The only other time I wasn't around her and Xander for this long is when I ran away. It's kind of like missing part of your family." Buffy admits.

"I know." Tara whispers softly, gently rubbing her lover's back. Looking back up at Willow, she realizes she's talking to another woman that if possible, is even shorter than Buffy. "I think she either met someone on the airplane or she has company." Tara murmurs.

"Leave it to Wills to find a girlfriend while being gone for a couple months." Buffy snorts softly as she looks at the young woman that's probably seventeen or eighteen years old. "Damn, is it my imagination or does that woman look like a less hard-assed copy of Faith?"

Tara chokes back a laugh and leans against her lover. "I only met Faith the once, and you were in residence, but coloring wise with the dark hair, eyes and the skin tone, I'd have to agree with you."

"Paid attention to her, did you?" Buffy quirks an eyebrow knowingly at her lover.

"Had to check out the 'cleavage-y slut-bomb' that drove Willow crazy. I think she actually had a crush on her." Tara admits softly, whispering into Buffy's ear, chuckling at the cut off squeak coming from Buffy with her words.

"I think you and I need to talk some more about past happenings." Buffy waves her finger back and forth, grinning as Tara smirks at her.

"It was just an observation." Tara laughs delightedly as Buffy growls and presses a hard kiss to her lips.

"Still going to talk." Buffy growls deeply, pinching Tara on her hip as she turns back to watch Willow and the other woman closing the distance between them. Jumping slightly as when she turns Tara's palm smacks her firmly on the ass. Darting a glance at her innocently smiling lover, Buffy smirks.

"I'm sure this is just what they're going to want to hear about." Kennedy re-situates her backpack over her shoulder as they make their way through the airport.

"It's what we do." Willow sighs heavily at the thought. "You're probably going to be the beginning of a lot of potentials coming here. You're lucky Giles showed up when he did."

"But he was too late for my Watcher." Kennedy whispers, her eyes shadowed as she thinks about the man that had trained her from the time she was five years old. He'd been like a grandfather and mentor all rolled into one. Shaking off her sad thoughts, knowing Daniels would be pissed at her, she takes a deep breath and puts on her cocky attitude.

"There they are." Willow brightens automatically as she sees the two blondes ahead, waiting just on the opposite side of the metal detectors.

Kennedy blinks as she sees the redhead literally coming to life. The woman having been serious and hardly ever allowing a smile to cross her face suddenly has a light blush to her cheeks, her eyes glittering with happiness and a huge smile crossing her face that almost literally knocks her on her ass with her beauty. Watching as the redhead takes off across the short distance left and practically launches herself into the smaller blonde's arms while the other blonde chuckles quietly and hugs her from the other side, Kennedy closes the distance watching the women curiously. Figuring the smaller blonde has to be Buffy with the way she's lifting the redhead and in turn lifting the other blonde that had sandwiched Willow between them.

"I missed you guys." Willow cries softly as she feels herself surrounded by the two women, happy at being back home where she belongs.

"We missed you, too." Tara answers and releases them to slide down the short distance, chuckling as she realizes Buffy had lifted them both in one fell swoop. Turning her gaze back to the speculative brown eyes watching them, Tara pats Willow gently on the shoulder. "Did you pick up someone on the airplane, Wills?"

"Oh, sorry." Willow blushes and wipes at her tears as Buffy sets her back on the ground. "For now, this is Kennedy. She's going to be the first in a long line of potentials heading your way, Buff." Willow whispers softly, looking at her best friend.

Buffy groans quietly and rubs a hand over her forehead. "Talk when we get home." Smiling at the smaller woman, Buffy holds her hand out. "Hi, I'm Buffy Summers, and this is Tara Maclay." Buffy waves to her lover.

"Don't flirt with her, or Buffy'll kick your ass." Willow growls softly at the brunette, the woman had occasionally hit on her but stopped after the first few times but she remembers how Kennedy had went after a couple of the other witches at the Coven with a vengeance.

"She plays for the home team?" Buffy questions curiously as she picks up Willow's backpack her best friend had set on the ground before launching herself at her.

"We really need to work on your gay-dar." Tara murmurs softly and smiles at the small woman. "Hi."

"Don't believe there is such a thing." Buffy grumbles, wrapping her arm proprietarily around Tara's waist as Kennedy looks at her a little too closely for her liking.

"There is." Tara and Willow answered at the same time, before looking at each other and chuckling. "Come on. I'm planning on fixing your favorites for dinner, Wills. Give you a chance to unwind and shower after traveling."

"How many bags do we need to get?" Buffy questions curiously as they make their way to the luggage claim.

"I have just one." Willow rolls her eyes before darting a glance back at Kennedy. "She has three and probably more coming later."

"Well, let's get them." Tara smiles and runs her fingers through longer, straight red hair. "I like what you did with your hair."

Willow blushes and dips her head. "Part of the whole growing up thing." Willow admits.

"It looks good on you." Tara smiles softly at her ex-lover and gently squeezes her shoulder. "Are you going to move back in now?" Tara questions hopefully, she and Buffy having already discussed that if Willow wanted to, they'd like her to move back into the house.

Darting a glance to Kennedy who's being uncharacteristically quiet, but watching and listening to everything intently, Willow's shoulders slump. "I think it might be best. But we're going to probably end up with a full house. Major evil is afoot, if you get my drift."

"Figured as much. They're re-building Hellmouth High." Buffy grunts out softly. "I take it Kennedy here is going to be making a home with us, too."

"Yep. And they're working on getting Faith out of jail to come here, if that gives you any idea how serious it is." Willow looks apologetically at Buffy, seeing the anger flash in her best friend's eyes, Willow sighs quietly. "I read the reports on her, Buff. And you know my experience with her, and honestly I think she's changed. She's been a model prisoner and has been talking with the psychiatrists and doing everything that the Watcher's Council wanted her to do while she's in jail. If she'd wanted to, you know as well as I do she could have escaped whenever she wanted."

"I know." Buffy grumbles quietly, watching the luggage being unloaded onto the carousel, snatching Willow's as it comes by and setting it beside them as Kennedy watches for her luggage. "Is it that bad?"

"Yes, it is." Willow admits sadly. "Giles thought it best to send you a long explanation via the written word."

"He just didn't want to hear me bitching at him." Buffy growls lowly and looks at Willow as she giggles, a smile slowly crossing her face at the sound.

"That's putting it mildly." Willow's giggles turn to laughter as Buffy's eyes twinkle with mischief. "But I'm sure he's going to hear it anyway."

"Got that right." Buffy leans back as Tara wraps her arms around her from behind. Catching Willow's eyes, she tilts her head towards Kennedy who's pulling off one of her pieces of luggage and wiggles her eyebrows.

Willow's eyes get huge and she shakes her head vehemently. "Nope, not, and uh uh."

Tara chuckles and buries her face in Buffy's hair, hugging her lover tightly. "Someone doth protest too much." Tara whispers softly against the back of Buffy's head, grinning as Buffy snorts.

"That's the last one." Kennedy grunts as she lifts the last large piece off the carousel and turns to look at Buffy with an arrogant lift of her chin. "Some help here."

"I'm not a pack mule." Buffy growls softly at the young woman, having finally noticed the expensive clothes, shoes and the almost regal air about the young woman, it reminding her a lot of Cordelia, or even herself before she'd become a slayer. "I'm not your servant and around here you pull your weight. If you can't ask nicely for help, you can figure it out yourself."

Tara's eyes widen at Buffy's comments, then darts to Willow who bites back a loud laugh and blushes darkly. "Did I miss something? I mean, besides the obvious."

"Just that we aren't waiting on little Miss Priss here. And that includes you." Buffy turns and narrows her gaze on Tara. "Promise."

Tara blinks at her lover's seriousness before nodding her head. "Promise."

Kennedy shifts, crossing her arms over her chest as she glares at the slayer.

"We work for a living, Kennedy. We're not your personal servants. So you need to get that through your head right here and now. Everyone works together and pulls their own weight. If you're going to be living with us, you'll pick up after yourself, help with the household chores and treat everyone with respect. This is one thing I will NOT go back on." Buffy gets in Kennedy's face, making the young girl back up with a glimmer of fear and respect finally showing in the brown eyes. "It's your decision to have a hard or easy time of it. Now, I suggest you figure out how to get your luggage out to the vehicle." Buffy lets Tara take Willow's backpack while she leans down and lifts the bag.

The three women companionably making their way towards the exit while Kennedy pouts for a few moments before dropping her arms, sighing as she looks around. Finally grabbing and extending the handle on the one wheeled bag, she grunts and lifts the next largest bag and sets it on top, hooking it through the handle before picking up the last bag and pulling the bags behind her. "Damn." She mumbles quietly, realizing that she's not going to get by with letting everyone else pick up after her.

"How did you know?" Willow whispers as she darts a quick glance over her shoulder at Kennedy.

"I saw Cordelia and me in her." Buffy admits just as softly, smiling sadly at her best friend and then chuckling at the stunned look on Tara's face. "You haven't heard about what I was like before becoming a slayer? I was the quintessential bleached blonde, valley-girl cheerleader bitch. You would have absolutely, positively hated me if you'd known me back then."

"I doubt that." Tara smiles softly at her lover and brushes a finger gently down her cheek.

"Tara doesn't hate… but she might have disliked you immensely. And I can guarantee she wouldn't have ended up in your bed if you were still like you supposedly were originally." Willow giggles and dodges a half-hearted smack coming at her from Buffy.

"Why didn't she stay in England?" Buffy pouts, though her eyes twinkle, betraying her seriousness.

"Because you missed me too much!! And you miss having your bestest bud in the whole world to pick on." Willow grins, her tongue poking out between her teeth as she laughs and darts away as Buffy growls heading after her.

"Children." Tara laughs as she watches her lover chase Willow around outside the airport, shaking her head as she stands by the luggage she'd set down. Enjoying the sight of the two friends acting like kids.

"That's the happiest I've seen Willow in the two weeks I've known her." Kennedy admits quietly, as she comes to a stop beside the taller blonde. "So you three are all good friends and you're dating Buffy?"

Tara quirks her eyebrow at the petite brunette and nods her head. "More or less, you have it right. There's more history here, and obviously Willow hasn't told you a lot about us?"

"She didn't hardly talk to me at all. She spent almost all her time sequestered with the Coven then studying even during her free time." Kennedy looks sadly at the redhead. Seeing a side to the woman that she didn't know existed, and hopes that she gets a chance to see it more.

"She had some serious problems to work through while she was in England, Kennedy. And I'm sure she'll actually be working with them for many years to come, if not for the rest of her life. She's a wonderful, caring and loving woman but she's not without her problems. She needs someone steadying in her life, and unless you're serious about it, leave her alone." Tara warns softly, her eyes serious as she makes eye contact with the brown eyes, watching the shock cross the small woman's face.

Kennedy stares in shock at the blonde, having gotten the feeling that she was the calm, easy-going one of the group but the decidedly heated note in her voice warning her off Willow makes her re-think her original thoughts. "I'll keep that in mind."

"See that you do." Tara narrows her gaze on the brunette before turning back as she hears the loud laughter of Buffy and Willow as her lover gives Willow a piggy-back ride back towards them. "I think it's time to head home, ladies. You know Dawn's probably chomping at the bit to see you again."

"Speaking of Dawnie, why didn't she come with you?" Willow questions curiously her eyes darting from Buffy to Tara and back again after Buffy sets her down on the ground and picks up her bag to lead them towards the Jeep.

"She opted to stay home and do a little more decorating." Buffy smirks at the low groan Willow gives. "So… You know the drill."

"Act surprised and say it looks wonderful." Willow starts to laugh as she helps load the luggage as Kennedy grunts and lifts the largest bag.

"Who's Dawn?" Kennedy breathes out a sigh of relief after placing the largest piece of luggage in the back of the Jeep. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Buffy answers as she and Willow finish helping Kennedy load the other two pieces. "Dawn's my younger sister and off limits." Buffy warns, deadly serious.

"Shotgun!" Willow snorts and runs back around to the front of the Jeep, laughing as Buffy growls loudly.

"I'm going to kick her ass." Buffy warns Tara as she shuts the back of the Jeep.

"Come on!! Someone promised me a hot shower and food!" Willow calls out, stepping up on the running board and looking over the Jeep as Buffy and Tara walk around the other side.

Kennedy chuckles softly as she slowly relaxes at the friends' actions towards each other. Walking over to the same side of the Jeep as Willow's on, she waits until Buffy leans across and unlocks the door, climbing in and looking at her curiously. "You guys have been friends for a while, haven't you?"

Buffy nods and looks at Willow. "Wills and I have been friends for seven years. Tara's been on the scene for a little over three years?"

"Since the Gentlemen." Willow admits, blushing lightly.

"That long?" Buffy blinks in shock and turns to look at Tara in the rearview mirror, watching her lover grin crookedly at her. "I don't think I was aware of her until…" Buffy frowns and tries to think of when the Gentlemen happened and when she realized Tara was more than a 'friend' to Willow.

"It was about a month until you actually met her, and another couple months until you knew there was something more." Willow admits, shifting uncomfortably in her seat before finally looking at Tara apologetically. "I can't tell you how sorry I am for the way I treated you."

Tara reaches over and pats Willow gently on the hand. "I know, sweetie. No sad thoughts, okay? Today is supposed to be a happy day."

"Okay." Willow smiles as Tara squeezes her hand before releasing it to start the vehicle and put it into gear. "You two look real good. Buffy actually looks like she put on some much needed weight."

"Had to go out and buy new clothes." Buffy grumbles, patting her stomach before reaching up to gently run her fingers through Tara's hair as the witch works on getting them across town and to the house. "Tara's very adamant about me not skipping meals, or snacks for that matter."

"With your metabolism if you don't eat regularly you'll waste away to nothing." Tara comments with a soft smile as she pulls up to the stop light tilting her head back so Buffy can reach more of her head.

Kennedy's eyes widen as she looks from one woman to another, wondering if what she's hearing is the way it actually is. That Tara and Willow were a couple first, silently wondering what happened and how she came to be hooked up with Buffy now.

"I know." Buffy leans forward and presses her lips against the back of her head before relaxing back in the seat as the light changes. "I would ask what's going on, but it sounds like Tara doesn't want serious talk today."

Willow chuckles and watches as Tara shrugs her shoulder as she continues to drive, not saying anything. "Tomorrow is soon enough. Not a hell of a lot we can do right now, anyway and I somehow doubt that more potentials will be showing up on your doorstep before then. So we should be okay."

"Good. It's party day at the Summers' residence." Tara warns, chuckling as she turns up Revello Drive, happy that the group that has become a family over the years is coming back together again.

Buffy smiles and winks at Willow as her best friends looks back at her, smiling happily. "Good to have you home, Wills. We've missed you."

"And I've missed you guys." Willow admits, a shaky smile crossing her face not realizing how much she's missed her friends until she saw Buffy and Tara waiting at the end of the concourse.


Chapter 19

"XANDER!" Willow doesn't even make it all the way out of the Jeep before Xander comes running out of the house. Laughing and hugging him she cries quietly.

Buffy chuckles and leans against the back of the Jeep as she watches her two friends.

"I think we did the right thing in keeping Xander coming back quiet." Tara smiles at the sight of Willow being swung around in the arms of Xander. The Scooby having finally shown up a few days earlier having lost the excess weight he'd put on before the non-wedding and sporting a nice trimmed beard. Of course, the most shocking sight was the tall blonde that had arrived with him.

"Goddess, you look good, Xander." Willow finally reaches up and runs her fingers over the close cut beard, having to admit that the beard gave him a more grown up appearance. Finally taking in the rest of him, she blinks in surprise. "Well, I can't say that I like you taking off the way you did, but you obviously are doing well for yourself." Willow laughs and hugs Dawnie as the teen finally shoves Xander away and takes her place for hugs.

Xander chuckles and blushes lightly. "Well… I kind of met someone not even a week after running away. And I have to admit, I had to take a long good look at myself when I did. Things started to make a little more sense after I admitted a few home truths." Xander looks up at the door to the house, seeing the blonde hesitating in the doorway.

"Just wait." Dawn giggles and hugs Willow tighter.

"Goddess, Dawnie! You must have grown another four inches while I was gone." Willow murmurs, blinking as she looks at the tall teen before glancing back at Xander. "What happened?"

Xander smiles shyly and waves towards the door.

Willow's brows furrow as she looks at the house, her eyes widening as a tall, relatively well-built blonde man steps down from the porch. Looking back in shock at Xander, she blinks a couple times as she sees absolute adoration crossing Xander's face at the sight of the man. "Say, huh?"

Dawn giggles and covers her mouth with both hands, looking over at Buffy and Tara who are fighting their own laughter at the look on Willow's face.

"We shouldn't laugh at her being shocked. She's doing better than we did when we first found out." Tara buries her face in Buffy's neck and wraps her arms around her lover's waist.

Buffy leans back into her slightly taller lover and nods her head. "But it's great. Original babble queen speechless."

"Jason, I'd like you to meet Willow. Willow, this is Jason." Xander blushes lightly as he grasps the man's hand and looks at Willow with a begging look on his face for her to understand.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet the person I feel like I know better than myself." Jason smiles and steps up to the small redhead, holding his hand out to her.

Willow, eyes wide, looks from Jason to Xander and back again. "Xander? You, you're…?" Willow blushes lightly as she accepts Jason's hand. "It's nice to meet you, Jason. But Xander has some serious explaining to do."

Xander shuffles slightly, blushing lightly as Jason steps back and wraps his arm around his waist. Shrugging he smiles shyly at his lover. "I had a problem with my car, and Jason was working at the garage it was towed to. We got to talking and he asked if he could join me on my travels. A week later we knew just about everything about each other and one thing led to another…" Xander tightens his grip around his lover as Jason strokes a hand soothingly down his back.

"Everything?" Willow questions, darting a glance to Buffy and Tara before her eyes turn back to bore into Xander.

"Everything, Wills. We actually kind of ran into trouble one night that was a catalyst for things happening between us. And being a Scooby, old habits die hard and I was prepared." Xander admits, a happy smile on his face. "Talk about being thanked for saving his life in an absolutely mind blowing way…" Xander hums appreciatively in remembrance.

"XANDER!" Willow cries out before smacking him hard on the shoulder. "We'll talk more about this later. But Goddess, it's good to be home." Willow admits, hugging him again before Dawn wraps an arm around her shoulders and urges her towards the house.

"Come on, let's go in and let Willow get showered and settled before we get this welcome home party going." Buffy grabs Willow's bag out of the back.

"Anyone going to introduce the newest addition?" Xander questions curiously as he looks at the small woman.

"Nope." Buffy smirks, then grunts as Tara elbows her in the stomach. "I was just kidding."

"Uh, huh." Tara narrows her gaze on Buffy before looking at a chagrined Kennedy. "This is Kennedy. So far, all we know is that she's a Potential. The actual story of why she's here and what newest problems that are rising we'll find out tomorrow. Today is a celebration for the family being back together again."

"Damn, more Hellmouth shenanigans." Xander groans before helping with the luggage, smiling at the small woman. "Welcome to SunnyHell. First rule is don't die. Remember it."

Everyone quietly agrees as they head up to the house, chattering happily as they try and talk over each other. Kennedy slowly following as she tries to follow the three different conversations with everyone seeming to comment on everyone else's conversations. Shaking her head somewhat at the confusion, she silently hopes that things make more sense as everything progresses.

"How's she holding up?" Buffy whispers to Tara as she steps up behind her lover, wrapping her arms around her waist and looking over her shoulder to the back yard where everyone else is talking, joking and goofing around as Xander grills the steaks.

"Good. She seems to be relaxing more." Tara leans back against Buffy, smiling as she feels the slayer's fingers wiggling under her shirt to draw small circles over her stomach.

"She didn't seem terribly surprised that Anya went back into the vengeance business." Buffy frowns heavily at the thought.

"I don't think any of us were. Though Xander's been a little jumpy after finding out." Tara sighs quietly and runs her fingers over Buffy's forearms. "I did talk with Anya about Xander. Though she wasn't thrilled, she promised me she wouldn't do any vengeance on him."

"When did you speak with her?" Buffy questions curiously.

"This morning when I opened the shop. She popped in for a few minutes and we talked. She was surprised I even bothered to open the shop with getting Willow this afternoon." Tara explains quietly. "So, what do you think about Kennedy?"

Buffy snorts derisively and she looks out at the petite woman listening to Dawn going on explaining about a lot of the happenings in Sunnydale over the years. "She's a spoiled brat, used to having her way. Now that I said that, I think she can be a decent kid, she just needs to grow up."

"Same could probably be said for all of us." Tara murmurs, smiling. "Eventually we all have grown up, more or less, but we've all done it at our own pace."

"Don't talk sense. And who was it that I heard warning her off Willow, if she wasn't serious?" Buffy growls playfully in Tara's ear, chuckling as she feels the heat coming from her lover as she blushes.

"You weren't supposed to hear that." Tara grumbles before turning in Buffy's arms, kissing her lovingly. "I love you."

"I love you, too." Buffy returns the kiss, slowly deepening it to a lazy battle of wills until a loud cough as the back door opens finally makes them break the kiss.

"Should have figured you two would be in here sucking face instead of out there. Food's almost ready." Willow smacks Buffy's hands as the slayer smirks at her over Tara's shoulder.

"Sorry." Buffy laughs as Willow rolls her eyes.

"No you're not. Now get out here, you two." Willow pulls on the two women, dragging them outside. "I can't believe you didn't tell me Xander showed up!! I also can't believe that fantasy boy decided he's into another man."

"Maybe he decided that his luck with women was about like my luck with men?" Buffy jokes, letting her hand rub gently over Tara's lower back as she follows the two women into the back yard. "I think switching teams was definitely a smart move in my case."

Willow turns around, walking backwards towards Xander and Jason as they pull the food off the grill. "Though I regret what I did, I think you make a damn good couple and I believe that things worked out the way they did for a reason. I really don't harbor any hard feelings about you two coming together. At first I was upset and hurting, but I eventually came to terms with it and then while I was gone, I realized I just missed my family."

"Growing up." Tara murmurs, reaching out and hugging Willow tightly. "We missed you, too, sweetie."

"I second that." Buffy hugs Willow and her lover both at the same time. "I don't like our family being split up. And I'll be doing my damnedest to make sure it doesn't happen again." Buffy warns, before smacking both women on the ass and darting off, cackling as she hears the threats coming her way.

"How do you put up with her?" Willow puts her fists on her hips as she watches Buffy grab Dawnie up and run around the yard with her sister yelling at her between the laughter.

"How can I not?" Tara smiles softly at the sight. "I never meant to fall in love with her, Willow, it just kind of happened."

"I've never seen her happier." Willow looks at Tara for a moment, seeing the sparkling eyes and the soft smile on Tara's face as she watches Buffy. "Honestly, I'm not so sure that I've ever seen you happier, either. You're good for each other, Tara. Just be happy and love each other. That's what's important."

"Thank you, Willow." Tara whispers, tears coming to hear eyes as she accepts the gentle hug from the redhead. "We're supposed to be having fun, not crying."

Willow sniffles and rubs her cheek over Tara's shoulder. "No more tears, gotcha."

Tara chuckles and leans back wiping the tears from her face. "You're taking Xander and Jason well."

"You could have bowled me over with a feather!" Willow laughs and looks over at the two men huddled close together as they turn the steaks. "Though Xander seems extremely happy."

"He is. You going to bunk down with Dawnie tonight? Kennedy gets the couch, since Xander and Jason are staying in your room." Tara winces slightly.

"It's not my room anymore, Tara. Don't worry about it. I was just planning on staying at my parents." Willow admits quietly.

"Nope. Not happening. You're staying here with us tonight. Then depending on what we find out tomorrow, we'll go from there." Buffy slides Dawn off her shoulder and ducks the smack from her sister, sticking her tongue out at her. "Dawn already put your stuff in her room."

"And the boss has spoken." Willow smirks at Buffy and wraps her arm around Dawn's waist. "Come on, let's go pick on Xander's new boyfriend. Can't let him think we're going to let him into our family without some major grilling, now can we?"

Dawn giggles and traipses along beside Willow.

"You didn't tell her about the million questions you asked Jason?" Tara snorts at the mischievous smile crossing her lover's face. "I'll take that as a no. Though, I have to admit, he didn't go running the other way when you were done with him."

"No. He held up pretty well." Buffy agrees, chuckling as Willow separates the two men and starts her own form of interrogation. "I think he's a keeper."

"I have to agree with you about that." Tara leans against Buffy, the man's feelings for Xander obvious with every look and touch between the two. Xander's shyness around the rest of the group was adorable, though he never pulled away from any of the touches of his new lover. But he often blushed when he caught one of them watching.

"Xander's slowly becoming more comfortable around us with Jason." Buffy comments, having caught Xander reaching out and touching the other man more frequently as the day progressed.

"He was a nervous wreck as to how everyone would react to him being with a guy. I told him this morning, that the heart will love who it will. Whether it's a woman or man and to just take it as it's offered. Goddess knows that in our world, we can use all the love we can." Tara smiles sadly at Buffy.

"Loving the person, instead of worrying what everyone else will think." Buffy nods her head in agreement. "You've helped me with that immensely. Come on, the foods about ready, and poor Xander is looking like he's about ready to throttle Willow."

Tara chuckles and walks beside her lover towards their family.


Chapter 20

Buffy growls as she listens to Willow and Kennedy explain about the Bringers, The First and how different Watchers and potentials have been disappearing, and are assumed to have been killed.

"The Council had an emergency meeting, and with Giles' urging suggested that the best protection for them is you and Faith." Willow continues, wincing briefly as Buffy narrows her gaze on her.

"Faith? She's in jail, how is she going to be any help?" Buffy finally questions roughly, her body tense until Tara's hand gently starts to rub her back soothingly, making her slowly relax.

"They've already started the paperwork to have her released from jail. They're pulling in some big favors with the government, and with Faith's exemplary behavior in jail, it looks like it won't be much longer before they let her out." Willow explains softly, switching from looking at Buffy and Tara to Dawn, Xander, Jason and Kennedy, before her eyes land back on Buffy. "I thought maybe Tara wouldn't mind driving me to pick her up?"

Buffy blinks at the question before turning to look at Tara. When Tara just tilts her head slightly as she watches her, Buffy sighs. "We'll discuss it. What else?"

"The Coven is sending a couple of their best spell casters here to help set up blocks and cast glamour spells to conceal the potentials from detection. The Council is literally scrambling to contact all the Watchers to bring the potentials here. Kennedy luckily was saved from a Bringer. Unfortunately her Watcher wasn't as lucky." Willow sighs quietly as she looks sadly at the potential fidgeting nervously and looking down at the floor. "They're setting up an account and setting it up for us to be able to pull from it to pay for everything."

"They should, the stingy assed bastards." Xander growls as he thinks about how much Buffy had gone through with absolutely no help from the Council whatsoever.

Buffy snorts in agreement. "Yeah, all of a sudden they grow a conscience? Not likely. If all the potentials are killed, they have no reason to be around. I'm not stupid." Buffy growls angrily.

"Shhh, my sweet one." Tara wraps her arms around her tense and angry lover. "All you're doing is upsetting yourself when there's nothing that can be done."

Buffy growls for a few more minutes before finally nodding her head, knowing Tara's right, but it still pisses her off.

"So, what are we going to do?" Xander questions, turning to look at Jason curiously.

"I'm wherever you are." Jason calmly replies, knowing months ago he'd fallen in love with the younger man, and after finding out about the evil in the world they had actually worked together to take out different vampires before Xander felt the call to come back here to his home.

Xander breathes out a sigh of relief and nods his head at his boyfriend in thanks.

"Tara's already put in an application to teach in the new high school they're building over the old one. I guess I'll check with the college and see if they know who I need to contact about working at the high school once it gets built." Buffy shrugs, not knowing what else to do.

"I can see if there're any openings on the construction crew." Xander offers, his brows furrowing, wondering if his old construction crew is working on the new high school.

"I can start digging around on the Internet and see what I can come up with." Willow shrugs and looks at the group. "Other than that, it's more of a wait and see game."

"Until then, Jason and I can maybe work on fixing up the basement as another bedroom, the garage and the room off the living room. That'll be some more living spaces for future mini-slayers." Xander looks at Buffy for her approval.

"Extra bathroom, or two might be a good idea." Buffy admits, knowing just with four people in the house that the one bathroom wasn't enough. "Do you think you can put in a toilet and shower in the basement? Maybe instead of making the small room a bedroom use it for another bathroom. It's kind of small to be a bedroom."

"I'll have to figure out where the plumbing runs and see how easy it'll be to cut into it." Xander purses his lips.

Jason looks at the small room in question, and mentally tries to figure out where the bathroom is. "We may be cutting a few holes in the walls to find where everything runs, but we can fix it afterwards."

"We're going to need the bathrooms, so do what you have to." Buffy sighs heavily at the thought. "The money will come out of the Council's money, and if they bitch about it, I'll tell them they can keep all the kiddies themselves and find someone else to deal with the next dozen or so apocalypses." Turning her gaze on Dawn, Buffy purses her lips.

Dawn silently listens to the group until she notices Buffy looking at her contemplatively. "NO! You are not sending me away. Every time something happens you try and ship me off somewhere, and I'm not going!!"

Buffy growls at her sister. "If this is going to end up being kiddy heaven for a bunch of teenagers, we're going to need all the room we can get. And if all hell is going to break loose, I'd rather you be somewhere a lot safer than here."

"NO!" Dawn growls back at Buffy.

"Goddess, please!" Tara rubs a hand over her forehead as she looks from one sister to the other. "We'll discuss this later. And calmly." Tara narrows her eyes on Buffy before turning the glare on Dawn. "Now, why doesn't someone call Giles and find out what's going on, and whether or not the money has already been wired into either Buffy's account or a new account."

"Jason, let's go and get my tools from the storage unit, we can at least find out where everything is located for future plumbing needs and get a running list of the supplies we'll need." Xander hurries from the house, Jason on his heels, really not wanting to be around if World War III breaks out.

"Wimps." Kennedy smirks as the two guys practically run from the house.

Buffy snorts in agreement. "Maybe he'll bring munchies back with him."

Willow smirks at the thought, before taking a deep breath. "Okay, let me get my laptop and hook-up to see what I can hack into."

"I'll call Giles." Buffy brushes her lips tenderly over Tara's cheek before heading into the kitchen to get the phone.

"Well, what should I do?" Kennedy questions, looking from Dawn to Tara.

"Help me prepare lunch, or help Dawnie with gathering and doing the laundry. With the amount of people living here, the bathroom and laundry will probably need to be cleaned and done daily." Tara shrugs, looking at Dawn with a quirked eyebrow, daring the teen to argue with her.

"Fine." Dawn pouts. "But I'm not going to be doing it every day." Dawn warns as she heads up the stairs.

Kennedy looks undecided as her eyes follow Dawn before dropping back to the witch watching her calmly.

"Not meaning this in a bad way, but do you have the slightest idea how to clean or cook?" Tara softly questions, her eyes serious. When Kennedy blushes and looks away, she sighs. "Come on. You can be my shadow for while." Tara offers after a few minutes, figuring the young woman would have better luck sticking with her, than any of the other people.

Kennedy follows behind the witch, eyes widening as she listens to Buffy blasting someone on the other end of the phone when they walk into the kitchen.

"Buffy." Tara whispers softly, her brows furrowing as her lover angrily growls into the phone before pulling it away from her mouth to look at her.

"They're trying to tell me that it's going to be weeks before they can get money put in an account, but there're already two more potentials on their way here." Buffy growls, waving the phone around.

Tara grabs the phone from Buffy and steps out on the porch with a frown on her face.

"Uh, oh. They're in for it now." Buffy smirks before rocking back and forth on her feet as she unabashedly listens to Tara calmly and sweetly telling the Council that to give her to someone that had some balls and can do what they want, or they could have the potentials turn around and head to the Council instead of to Sunnydale for Buffy to protect.

Kennedy blinks as she can almost feel the coldness of the witch's words wrapping around her as Tara tells them to get the money wired into Buffy's account as she tells them the bank routing number and Buffy's account number, letting them know that any bank can wire it to her bank and it be there literally in minutes, and she wasn't going to put up with their shit. If they want them to take care of these young women and girls, they damn well will be paying for their support and the changes and additions that will be needed on the house.

Buffy smirks as Tara hangs the phone back in the cradle.

"Check the bank tomorrow, if they haven't made a hefty deposit, and I mean literally at least twenty thousand dollars, let me know." Tara opens the refrigerator and starts pulling items out to make sub sandwiches.

"Who did you end up talking to?" Buffy questions, knowing that Tara had ended up talking with someone different than the person she had originally talked to.

"Travers, the prick." Tara growls as she sets out the mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and onions before reaching back in for the lunch meats and cheeses.

Buffy snorts at the thought. "I'll help Dawn with the laundry." Buffy finally starts to laugh as she disappears down the steps to the basement, Dawn having walked by a few minutes earlier while Tara was on the phone with the Council.

"Have you ever sliced onions or tomatoes?" Tara questions as she sets the items down on the island before pulling out a couple cutting boards and knives.

Kennedy just shakes her head.

"Well, it's about time you learned." Tara smiles gently at the young woman, realizing that she had obviously always had everything done for her. And it was about time that she learned how to do for herself instead of having everyone wait on her hand and foot. Knowing that's part of the young woman's problem, hoping that this might help her straighten out some. "Here, this is how you clean an onion…"

"Oh, Strawberry, you're back." Rack smiles as he waves his fingers around the smoke from his spell that he'd been doing once a week after he realized his star witch had left the Hellmouth, setting the plans back even further. But now that she's back, he can contact Caleb and let him know that everything is back on track.

"Now to set in motion the plans to get you here so I can tap your power." Rack walks over to the harnessing crystals he'd spent the last months locating and bringing to Sunnydale to hold the witch's power until needed. Running his fingers over one of the crystals an absolutely evil smile crosses his lips, the scar on his face shifting. "To taste you again, Strawberry will make me extremely happy." Rack chuckles evilly as he licks his lips at the thought before calling out to his assistant so he can get his spy network in place to watch the redheaded witch until the opportune time to kidnap her.

Part 21

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