DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the slayerettes belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've posted stories under a couple of names over the years but now I'm going to bring them all here 'under one roof'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Bobby L.



They were on the move again having stopped only twice, once to look at the crater, and once to drop Robin and a couple of the more severely wounded slayers off at a clinic, then back on the road for L.A. Giles was driving, lecturing those of the new slayers as would listen. Buffy Summers had already heard ' the talk ' more times then she could count, duty, destiny bla bla bla. Sitting alone at the back of the bus (everyone seemed to sense that it would be a good idea to give her some space) she was solidifying some decisions she had made to herself if she survived, one was already set in stone. The slayer was done with it, all of it, no more slaying, no more vamps, none of it. Being the slayer had been the focus of a large part of her life, now she wasn't the only one, or even two, there were dozens of slayers now, hundreds, maybe even thousands, she would leave it to someone else to find them and clue them in, destiny and all that shit.

Dawn had posed the question, "what'll we do now?" She didn't have all the answers, not by a long shot, but she had a list. Dawn kept looking back at her, was that guilt? They had kicked her out of her own house and she'd made a lot of decisions THAT night, one of them being to try and salvage some kind of relationship with her sister, if it wasn't too late...maybe it already was, but without the slaying crap to get in the way maybe there was some kind of chance, maybe.

There were a lot of relationships that had suffered or perished because of her being the slayer, or because of her being the kind of slayer that she was. She felt her pulse rise when her eyes fell on Willow. Oh Gawd! How was she going to do this? How to start 'that' particular conversation? Maybe she'd give her the cookie-dough line, HA! What the hell had she been thinking? God, how friggin' lame was that, but what the hell, she always felt like a sixteen year old again around Angel, maybe it would be better if she took a walk before they got to the hotel, she didn't want to face him again, it was too soon.

Twisting in her seat the wound in her side pulled, fresh stitches reminding her of how close it had actually been. NO, she wasn't going to put this off too much longer, she'd make her speeches and ride off into the sunset, or whatever. Hopefully she wouldn't be alone, but the way things had been going, well... she would plan on traveling light.

Willow looked back at Buffy from her seat near the center of the bus. The slayer hadn't said one word since they had put Sunnydale in their rearview mirror, but she didn't appear to be in shock, instead she had on her own version of 'resolve face' and it kept getting harder-looking the longer they were on the road. Now her jaw was firmly set and the looks she gave those around her were cold and serious. The last time she had that look was when she... actually, the young Wiccan couldn't remember ever seeing that particular look before, and it scared her. Goddess, they had hurt her so badly, NO, SHE had hurt her, turned her out when she had needed Willow more than perhaps ever before. They all had, but she couldn't help but feel that her betrayal had bitten the deepest.

Willow felt cold, they had won, defeated the First, so why did she feel like all was lost? And what the Hell was going on with Kennedy? You'd think she had beaten the First single-handed. Ego much? A lot of things were sliding into focus now that it was all over, and what she had needed at the time may not be what she needed in the future. She really needed to talk to Buffy, and though she didn't look too receptive at the moment, putting off necessary conversations hadn't served them too well in the past. Besides, there was never going to be an easy time to get into THIS.

Buffy was staring grimly out the window when Willow plopped down into the seat beside her. Buffy didn't even turn to look at her, and she visibly tensed up before taking a deep breath and leaned back in her seat to look at the ceiling.

'Hey Buff." The slayer only glanced at her then returned her gaze to the top of the bus, she wasn't ready for this yet.

"Buffy...we need to talk, please?"

"Yeah, I know we do Wills, I guess I was hoping to wait till we got to L.A., but, to be honest, I don't see anything changing between here and there."

Willow flinched as she realized she wasn't addressing Buffy, it was the slayer here now, just the slayer, Buffy gone bye-bye, the eyes that met her own for a moment where dark and cold, the eyes of a killer of demons. They sat in silence for a moment 'till Willow concluded that she would have to begin. She took a deep breath, collected her thoughts and dove in, the way things stood; there wasn't anything left to lose.

"Buffy...do you remember the day we met? …I do." She smiled softly at the memory. "I couldn't believe that you would want to talk to me, would want to be my friend. I think about it..."

"Willow, don't."

"Don't what?"

"I can't Willow, too much has happened, too much has changed, we've changed. There's just too damned much to pretend that we're the same kid's we were then. I've started to lose track of how many times that I've died since then, and you have very little in common with the girl I met that day."

"I still love you."


"I said. . . I still love you."

"Please don't Willow, don't do this, not now."

"Buffy, I know that things have happened that weren't of the good but..."

"Fuck you Willow!"

Willow recoiled, Buffy had never said anything like that to her before, the venom in her voice was frightening, and she reacted defensively.

"What? . . .You...!"

"What are ya gonna do Wills, kick me out again?" This time it was the pain in the slayer's voice that gave the young witch pause. For the first time the slayer turned to look Willow in the eye, and it didn't take her long to realize that Buffy was nowhere to be found in the dark eyes that drilled into her's.

"Go on Willow," she continued in a dangerous tone, "go all witchy on me, we both know that you've got the power, do it . . . it couldn't hurt any worse, no matter what you do. I've got nothing left, nothing you can take from me, no family, no destiny, and no home. I've lost it all, sacrificed everything. We saved the world, but I've lost mine, so you do whatever you need to do. Just don't lie to me, I can take anything you can throw at me, but don't lie to me, I deserve at least that much don't I?"

"How dare you!! I've been there too, watched those I loved die, been hurt, bled, suffered, betrayed. . . " 'Oh Goddess, what have I done?'

Willow felt a blow to her heart at the look on the slayer's face, the only word for it was destroyed. Buffy looked at her with tears flowing freely, the slayer was gone now and all that was left was the broken, defeated girl who had never asked to be the savior of the world.

"Yes, you've been there, right there, but no, you don't know what I feel, you have no idea what I've lost. You still have so much, they still love you Willow, Dawn still loves you,..Kennedy...." She began to sob, great wracking shudders, her whole body shaking. "You don't need me anymore. Just, leave me alone."

'Me or us?' Willow found herself pounded by guilt, she was right, there was a great difference, she had never been turned on by everyone that she cared about, all at once. But that was exactly what they had done, they hadn't just rejected her leadership, they had thrown her out into the night, alone, with Caleb and the First gunning for her. What had she felt at the time? That they just wanted her to wander off and die, to just leave and not look back? But that's not what she had done, she came back, found the scythe, killed Caleb, helped saved the world, again. And now? Willow could see it so clearly, like a wall had fallen and she now had the insight to Buffy's soul. She wasn't THE slayer anymore. The one thing that Buffy felt made her special, why she believed they had followed her all these years. And why wouldn't she? No sooner had Faith showed up and they kicked her out to follow the younger slayer, who had just broken out of prison and who had at one time tried to kill many of the people on this bus. And they had, even if they had felt justified at the time. From Buffy's point of view those closest to her had betrayed her.

Willow reached out with her power, felt the slayer's spirit, her soul and found nothing, a void, she had used everything she had to defeat the First and there was nothing left, they had left her with nothing. She could feel Buffy's despair, that they had no use for her anymore, didn't need her anymore, didn't love her, that Dawn would desert her, Xander would hate her, that Willow would never love....HUH??!! What was that?! Love, it was buried, deep, but it was there, so much of it. 'Oh Goddess' she could feel it, touch it, it was so pure, and it had been there a long time, years, but buried down deep in her heart, and the blackness was crushing it. It would soon be gone, enveloped by loss and bitterness.

The witch looked around at the others, some were staring at her and Buffy, trying to figure out what the yelling was about, the others hadn't picked up on the conversation and were lost in their own thoughts or were asleep. Kennedy was staring at her, she looked mad, and... Scared? SHE KNEW! Somehow she had figured out what Willow had missed, that Buffy loved her. Was she so blind? Was she the only one who hadn't seen it?

Suddenly the last seven years flashed through her mind at lightning speed, slowing at certain points; that night at the Bronze when Buffy had revealed what she was to save a young, nerdy hacker. Trying to walk away from being the slayer in an attempt to save her own life, only to turn and face her foretold death at the hands of the master. But, only after Willow begged her to not desert them. Buffy trading for her with Faith even though it might have meant giving the Mayor what he needed for his ascension. Buffy standing up to her when she went over to the dark, willing to die to save her from herself; trusting her, no, believing in her, enough to give her the scythe even when no-one else, including the wiccan herself, truly believed she could do it. The hundreds of times Buffy had risked herself to save her, the times when she had stood up for Willow, the times she had refused to give up on her, to be there for her when she already had the weight of the world on her shoulders.

She didn't feel the tears on her own cheeks, couldn't see the looks of the others, all she could see was the woman she had unwittingly helped to destroy, how broken and fragile...NO!! Willow threw her arms around Buffy and muttered a few quick words in Latin and in a bright flash they were gone. Dawn, who had been watching the exchange with some concern screamed when they disappeared. Giles, almost blinded by the flash as he looked in the large mirror above the windshield, piled on the brakes and brought the bus to a screeching halt. Everyone stared at the now empty seat.

One minute they were on the bus then they were, where the hell were they? Buffy looked around slightly dizzy and more than a little confused. They seemed to be in a meadow surrounded by a stone fence somewhere out in the countryside It wasn't in California though, it was chilly, and the sun wasn't in the same place. Willow stepped back from her, there were tears in her eyes and her hands shook.

"What are we doing here Willow, and where is here?"

Willow cringed from the ice in the slayer's voice and fought to keep her own voice soft and steady, realizing that she needed to keep Buffy as calm as possible. A physical confrontation with the slayer would be in no one's best interests.

"We're in England, this is a place where I would come and think when I was trying to learn how to control my power."

She took a deep breath and decided there was no easy way to do this.

"When ...er... how long" she didn't really know how to ask this, "why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"Why didn't you ever tell me . . . that you were in love with me?"

"What?" The slayer looked like she had been slapped, eyes wide, hands coming up to cover her mouth, " NO, no, you don't know what...no no no" She took a step back on shaking legs before falling to her knees and burying her face in her hands, once again giving way to sobbing. "Please...don't do...this, that was mine, don't...take it away from me, please don't, it's all...it's all I've got left." Her voice was small, the voice of a scared little girl.

Willow knelt and gathered the slayer into a tight embrace, speaking softly, her lips pressed into blonde hair.

"Buffy, please listen to me, I know that I've hurt you, that I betrayed you, but you have to believe me, I love you."

"No, no...nnnNNOOOO!!!" The slayer stood, throwing Willow some dozen feet from her and she landed in an untidy pile in the tall grass.

"You...you're as blind... as me. Don't you know why...? I've followed you all this time?" She grimaced in pain, slightly out of breath, her left ankle burned and she was pretty sure her right wrist was sprained or broken. "Ow."

"Oh God Wills, oh god I'm so sorry, I didn't mean... oh fuck, I didn't mean to hurt you! "Buffy rushed over to her, cradling the young Wiccan against her."I'm so sorry, oh god what did I do? Are you o.k.?"

" 'S fine, it's alright Buffy," she looked the slayer directly in the eyes so she could see the truth as well as hear it." Just listen, O.K.? Just listen to me, to what I say. Buffy... I didn't hang around this long 'cause I have a jones for fighting evil, I didn't hang out with you 'cause I thought you were cool, I didn't come back from England 'cause I missed the joy of living on the hellmouth or being reminded every day that Tara was dead. I didn't bring you back from the dead because the world needed you to be the slayer. I've loved you since you came up to me that first day, a little at first, then it grew. I didn't see it for what it was for a long time, and never thought for one minute that it could be anything more than what we had. Yeah, we went though some really hard times, times when we weren't as close as others, but that never changed how I really felt.

"All that time, I still loved you, and when I realized that it really was love that I felt, well, I ran from it. I had already lost a great love, and I knew that being a slayer didn't come with a long life expectancy; I couldn't face the thought of going through that again. I...I also didn't trust myself enough. I mean, I almost destroyed the world over someone I loved, how would I react to losing someone that I had loved for years. So I denied it, pushed it down as far as I could and kept it there. On top of that, I thought... no....I knew that you could never love me that way. I just thought that it would be better for everyone if things went the way they were going."

"Then there was the First and I was so scared all the time and you still had Spike, and Kennedy was, well she was just there, and it was easy, but it's not love, could never be. . . I love YOU, all I'm asking is that you give me a chance, give US a chance. I promise you, I swear that I will do anything I can to prove that we can do this, that we can have something real and special."

She never took her eyes from the slayer's and watched her expressions run from guilt to disbelief to something else, something caught between pain and joy. Now Buffy raised her face to look at the sky, fresh tears dripping from her chin to land on Willow's cheek.

"I... I hate you Willow."

"What? No, please Buffy, don't...you can't..."

"Let me talk now and you listen, alright?" Willow could only nod as Buffy's words had knocked the wind out of her.

Buffy continued to watch the passing clouds as she spoke knowing she wouldn't get out everything she needed to if she looked at her friend.

"I...I do love you Willow, I've known it for a long time, but you hurt me, you all hurt me. I know hurt, and I know love. I loved Angel...he left me, I loved my father...he abandoned me, as did Giles, I loved my mother...and she died. I don't know what I really felt for Spike, but I cared for him, and he tried to ...rape me, then he died...for me."

" For a long time after you brought me back I didn't really feel...anything. When I did, most of what I felt, hurt. I knew that I loved you, but everything changed so much that I couldn't believe that I could ever have something that would make me that happy, never have you."

"I didn't really believe that I would live this long, and to be brutally honest I didn't think for a moment that I was going to survive fighting the First, and I accepted that. It was the price I was willing to pay to save the people that I loved most in the world. Then those same people...you...sent me away. You didn't believe in me anymore, I was willing to die for you, and you chose Faith over me."

"So I decided to fight anyway, not for you, not for me, but out of sheer spite. I wanted to win...to show you how wrong you all were and to defeat the first and that was it. And we did win. So on the bus I made a decision, I quit, I don't need to be the slayer anymore, don't need the pain and the fighting and the loss anymore. An hour ago all I wanted was to take Dawn somewhere quiet and start over, try to find a way to get her to believe in me again, to love me again. As for the rest of you, well I figure you were done with me, didn't need me anymore. YOU didn't need me anymore; you've got your own slayer now, what the hell do you need me for?"

"And now, NOW you tell me that you love me and that I should believe you and trust you," Now she looked down into Willow's tear filled eyes. "Now you want me to love you...and forgive you...how can you...do this to me....wasn't it hard enough?"

"I'm sorry Buffy, sorry that I wasn't a better friend when you needed one, sorry that I pulled you out of heaven, sorry that I didn't believe in you when you needed me to. I'm sorry for all the times that you got hurt trying to protect me, and I'm sorry that you feel you need to be the slayer for you to be loved. But more than anything else, I'm sorry that I waited so long to do...this."

Willow arched forward, throwing her arm around the slayer's neck and kissed her fiercely. She poured everything she had into it, all her love, her fears, her disappointments, her regrets, and her passion. After a few moments Buffy started to kiss her back, and when Willow's tongue sought hers Buffy opened her mouth and responded with a fervor that left Willow gasping for breath when the kiss finally broke.

Buffy was weeping again, and Willow held her and smoothed back her hair while whispering assurances of her love. They stayed that way for awhile, till Buffy ran out of tears. When she again met the Wiccan's eyes it was with some small measure of hope.

"How do we do this Wills? How do we get past all the baggage?"

"We start over, we go somewhere new, where nobody knows us, just you, me and Dawn. We go somewhere and we try to get to know each other again, try to live a normal life. And we take it one day at a time. I can't promise you that it will be perfect, it's going to be hard, but things have always been hard. I can do hard. After what we've been through hard should be a walk in the park. All I can promise is that I truly do love you, and I'll do everything I can to make you as happy as possible. ...We've got a lot to work out, I think we need to become friends all over again. But I have to believe that if we really love each other, then we should be together."

"I don't know how this is going to work out Willow. Not long ago I was ready to walk away and never speak to you again. It's been so hard, I mean, I really love you, but there's so much history between us, and a lot of it is so god damned messed up."

Buffy paused for a minute and closed her eyes. Maybe they could, maybe Willow meant everything she said, maybe what they felt was stronger than anything in their past, just maybe, this could be OK. Man, that's a lot of maybes. What was the worst that could happen? Well, they could end up really hating each other, maybe destroy each other, (there's that word again) GOD, why did everything in her life have to be so hard? Looking into Willow's eyes she could see how honest she was being, and how much she wanted to put the past behind them and start over. She could also see how much Willow loved her. God...she really did love her, loved her so much she had been willing to die for her, just as she had been willing to die for Dawn.

"'K Wills, I want to try. I want to believe that we can pick up the pieces and find a way to love each other, to make a real life, together, BUT... we have to take things slow. I'm going to need some time, to think, to try and get my head around it all. And I really need a rest from it all, no slaying, no magic, none of it. OK?"

"That's all I can ask for, just a chance to do it right, to make up for all the time that we've lost."

She kissed Buffy again, only this time it was patient, gentle, and tender, without desperation. Buffy moaned into her mouth, relishing every subtle change in sensation. They had both been through so much, she wanted this one moment in time to go on forever, and they held onto it for as long as they could, till the need for air forced them apart. They held each other then, for a while, wishing in their turn that they hadn't wasted so much time that they could have spent just this way.

"UM...Wills, not to be nit-picking with the details, but how are we getting home? You can get us back, Right?"

Willow looked at her a little sheepishly, "Oh... welllll... I hadn't really thought that far ahead, I just wanted to get you out of there, and, um, I'm not so much with teleporting into a moving vehicle. Oh goddess, I think I screwed up Buffy."

"God Wills!...ok.... are you hurt badly? ...I'm really sorry that I hurt you, I really didn't mean to."

"I'm o.k. Buffy, just a sprained wrist and a sore ankle. As for a town, the nearest thing is the watcher council's retreat about a mile east of here and a village about three miles the other way."

"Well, I'm thinking the village, and the truth is...I don't think I want to go back to L.A. anyway. I don't really want to face Angel again so soon, or Giles and the rest of them for that matter. Maybe we could just find a hotel or something and have Dawn meet us here, maybe Giles or Angel can arrange it."

Willow could see the fatigue in the slayer's face, and she could tell it was more than just physical. "Ok, I think that would be a good idea." And to herself she thought,' I don't really want to have to deal with Kennedy right now anyway.'

I guess I'll have to carry you, It's my fault you're hurt in the first place. Maybe the slayer strength isn't such a bad thing right now... Oh, shit! Dawn and the rest must be freaking! We've got to get to a phone or some thing, like pronto."

"It's alright Buff, I've got my cell-phone, I'll call Giles."

"Willow...do you really want to do this? I mean...after everything that's happened?"

Willow turned and placed a soft kiss on her lips, just for a moment, holding both of the slayer's hands to her heart. "Right now, I can't think of anything I could ever want more. I love you."

Back at the bus, Giles was sitting beside Dawn trying to clean a hole right through his glasses when his phone rang."Oh bloody hell!...Hello?....Willow!.....What?......England? Good Lord!......Well how do you plan on getting back? ............ ...................Are you sure that is the proper course of action right now?..................I see.....No I don't understand, but if you and Buffy are quite sure..........Yes, alright then, I hope you two know what you're doing.......Of course, I'll put her on straight away. I'll talk to you in a couple of days when all the arrangements have been made...........Yes, goodbye then." Turning to face the teenager he handed her the phone. " Dawn, your sister would like to speak to you."

"Buffy? What are you doing in England? Has Willow gone over to the dark side again? .............................NO! ................Well, I guess ...............................................................Buffy? Are you sure you're o.k.? ..................... but ...... yeah but ..................yeah I know you do ...................I love you too ................She's right here ....OH, o.k. ............yeah, I'll see you then. ......................... I'm sorry too ......Bye Buffy." She sat a couple of minutes looking at the phone like it held some hidden answers, one small tear sliding down her cheek, then got up and leaned over to where Kennedy was sitting, watching Giles as he made his way back to his own seat.

"Kenny? Willow said to tell you that she would call you in a day or two at Angel's ... She said to say that she was sorry, and she'll explain everything when she calls."

As Giles got the bus back underway Kennedy put her head down, and cried. She had always known about Willow's feelings for the older slayer but had figured that if nothing had happened by now it never was going to. Now, she knew she was wrong.

Dawn sat in her seat a couple of rows back and after a few minutes a small smile crept over her lips, Her sister and Willow huh, well it was about damn time! She couldn't wait to tell Xander, his head was going to explode.



They decided not to stay in England, Buffy didn't care for the weather, and there where unpleasant memories here for Willow, from a time she would as soon put behind her once and for all. She wanted a fresh start, a new life, away from all the pain and loss. After a couple more calls to Giles he suggested that they try one of the watcher's retreats back in the states. After some research he discovered one in Maine, it had not been used regularly in years and had been rented out to sportsmen until it could be sold. A few days later, and a few of Willow's more adept keyboard strokes and the title of said property had been transferred to one Anne Summers (everyone felt it was only fair, Buffy's house now resting at the bottom of a very large crater and all).

The three of them arrived three days later driving from Augusta in a rented SUV. When they pulled up to the large A-frame dwelling Buffy immediately got out and stood transfixed. The front of the house complete with a low porch, faced onto a clear, smooth lake surrounded by low, rolling hills covered in lush forest. There were no other cottages within sight and as the slayer stood there taking it all in, she was sure that there couldn't be a more beautiful place in all the world.

The real estate agent had hired someone to come in and get the place ready. It was clean, and had been aired out in preparation of their arrival. It had been furnished with rustic though comfortable furniture, mostly wooden. The front door led directly into the living room which was large with a high ceiling, a large window facing the lake taking up most of one wall while a rough-stone fireplace dominated another. A short hall left of the front door led to two comfortably sized bedrooms and a fully appointed bath. Beyond the hall, a steep stair leading to the master bedroom, a loft which opened out onto the living room. Past the stairs lay a very large kitchen with a rough-hewn table that would seat eight and the back door opened out to another porch and a small field, surrounded by forest as far as the eyes could see.

Dawn immediately laid claim to the bedroom furthest down the hall, mumbling something about it offering the most privacy, plus it had two windows and the other had only one. She had assumed that Willow and Buffy would share the loft but when Buffy brought in her case she took it to the remaining downstairs bedroom and began to unpack. Her sister said nothing at the time but gave Willow a questioning look. For her part, Willow could only offer a short smile and squeezed her hand.

The three weeks in England had done little to lift the slayer's spirits. She and Willow had spent many hours walking in the countryside talking, often not returning to the inn where they stayed until late at night. But other than holding hands and the occasional cuddle (and then only when they were alone) the slayer had refrained from showing her much in the way of physical affection and had , thus far, refused to sleep with her. Buffy wouldn't comment on this except once to say that she needed some time and space. Willow had accepted this, she knew that the slayer still harbored a great deal of bitterness for what had happened back in Sunnydale. Pushing her harder would only result in pushing her away, and the young witch had no intention of doing that. If the slayer needed more time, she would give it to her. Time was one thing that Willow had lots of, and she was determined to do this right. They had all made too many mistakes in the past, some costly, she wouldn't allow her relationship with Buffy to suffer any more than it already had. She also knew that Buffy was struggling with the boundaries of her sexual identity. She had never experienced an attraction to another woman before now, with the exception of Faith which she had chalked up to temporary insanity. Buffy would be the last person to want to label herself.

Still, things had been pleasant enough, they rarely fought after the first week (and there had been a couple of real whoppers) and they spent a few hours each day just being together. They talked about everything, and were slowly but surely rebuilding the friendship they once had. That is, until the beginning of their second month there.

Buffy had taken to spending more and more time out in the forest hiking, or out on the lake in a small rowboat, often rowing out to the middle and then just sitting there for hours at a time, lost in thoughts she shared with no one. One morning Willow realized that the slayer had not returned the night before. When Buffy finally did return it was two days later, dirty and exhausted, and Willow and her sister were almost beside themselves with worry. The argument that followed was long, loud and ugly. When the screaming stopped, mostly due to Dawn storming out from her bedroom and yelling at them to stop before running outside, they stood staring at each other, panting.

Willow broke the silence, whispering coldly," I'm going to bed." Buffy watched her leave before joining her sister on the porch, grabbing a bottle of scotch (Willow's) from the shelf by the fireplace. She found Dawn sitting in the old bent-wood rocker that came with the place, she walked by her and sat on the steps.

"I'm sorry Dawn."

"No, no you're not. You're doing it on purpose, you're trying to push her away, and me too. Me...I kinda get that, but Willow loves you so much and I think you love her too, she doesn't deserve the way you're acting. You . . . you can't stay mad at her forever."

Buffy glanced quickly at the teenager wondering when she had become so grown up and how she had missed it. Hell, who was she kidding, Dawn could have grown a third arm this year and she probably would've have missed it.

Dawn continued without waiting for a response that she knew from recent experience would likely never come.

" What are you doing? Is it all some kind of test? You want to see how much shit she'll take before she leaves you?"

Buffy lowered her head and her voice was almost lost in the night sounds surrounding them. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"Buffy..." Dawns voice became softer, touched with regret. "I. . . I know what we did was awful, and I know that you have every right to be angry, especially with me, and I'm . . . I'm really sorry. But someday you have to forgive us."

There were tears in her voice by the time she finished and she went back inside before Buffy had a chance to reply. The slayer sat there awhile, the scotch long forgotten. With a sigh she got up and made her way up to Willow's bedroom. She stood there for a moment listening to the Wiccan breath making sure that she was still awake. She was so tempted to get in bed with her and pour out everything that was in her heart, but she knew that she couldn't get it to come out the way it needed to. Instead she turned around, stopping for a few seconds to whisper "I'm sorry Will." then went back out into the night.

Willow heard the words but they refused to stay still in her mind. 'Sorry? Was she leaving, was it over?' She couldn't help but imagine the very worst and she buried her face into her pillow and sobbed.

Willow stood up and looked out the window at the rising sun. She hadn't slept all night and now had a pounding headache, her nose was raw from wiping it and her eyes burned. 'Oh Goddess, how am I supposed to do this?' Slowly she made her way to the closet and pulled out her suitcase, she really didn't want to leave, but it was becoming too difficult, too painful. "Maybe a couple days away?" Dropping the case on the bed she stood looking out the window again. Buffy was still sitting at the end of the dock, as far as Willow could tell, she hadn't moved all night. She looked so small and with her shoulders slumped, so defeated.

"I can't do this to her... it's hurting her, I'm hurting her, and all I want is to make things better for her, and love her."

Willow turned back to the bed for a moment before sinking to the floor, holding her arms to her sides as the sobs came.

Dawn was lying on her bed, listening to the young witch crying, she'd been crying off and on all night. 'I wish there was something I could do! Everything is so messed up!' She had felt so helpless as she watched her two favorite people in the world hurting so badly, when it was plain to see that they loved each other desperately. Why couldn't Buffy just give in to what she was feeling? Was it so terrible that someone actually loved her? Thinking back the teen could see why her sister was resisting it, every time she had given her heart to someone something terrible happened. How much could someone like her, who cared so deeply, how many heartaches could she take before her heart just couldn't accept anymore?

"And I'm such a help!" she spat, she knew that a large part of the pain in her sister's eyes was her doing. It's one thing to feel betrayed by strangers, even friends, but your sister? "Oh God Buffy, I'm so sorry! We were just so scared."

Dawn was pulled from her thoughts as she heard gravel crunching under a car's tires in the driveway along side the house. 'Who can that be, we're not expecting anyone?'

Faith got out of the rental car and stood looking at the place for a few minutes, Damn! It was more beautiful here than Willow had described it in her e-mails. Buffy sure could pick the spots, 'and I get stuck in Cleveland!' she thought with a smirk. Shaking her head she grabbed the small bundle from the dash and headed for the back door. The door burst open and she found herself pushed back by a crushing hug as the younger Summers girl flew at her.

"Faith! What are you doing here? I mean, I'm glad to see you!"

"Whoa there little D. I'm happy to see you too but give a girl a break, even slayers have to breath ya know" Faith couldn't help but smile, she'd really missed Dawn, the teenager had really grown on her during her time back in Sunnydale.

Dawn blushed slightly and pulled back from the slayer noting the ever-present leather pants and tight top. "Sorry, it's just that I've missed you and the others, it's so quiet here, well, most of the time."

Faith gave the younger girl a quirky smile but said nothing, Willow's e-mails had hinted at some trouble in paradise, it was one of the reasons she had come up here, that and she needed a break from the goings on back in Cleveland.

"How's it going up here in the wilds anyway?"

"Welll . . . I don't know what I should say, but I guess things aren't great at the moment. Buffy took off for a couple of days, and then she and Willow had a big fight. Now Willow's crying and Buffy's, well, I don't know what's going on with her. She's so . . . closed off, and I think she's still mad about what happened when . . . you know."

"Yeah I know. Listen, ya want me to try and talk to her? I mean, I know I'm not her favorite person or anything, but maybe smacking me around for awhile will cheer her up a little?"

"Could you, I mean, she's got to talk to someone. I'm sorry Faith, it's just that I can't stand to see her like this, and I think Willow's ready to give up and leave."

" 'S alright Little D., Why don't you take this inside for me, OK? Where's she at anyway?"

"I think she's still sitting down on the dock. Be careful, OK?"

"I will D, it'll be alright."

Faith walked around the side of the house and could see Buffy sitting cross-legged at the end of the small wooden dock. She walked down and stood beside the older slayer for a moment, lighting a smoke.

"What are you doing here, Faith?" Buffy didn't look up at her, just kept staring out across the water.

"I brought up some tech stuff Willow asked for, ya know, for her computer, and there's some mail and shit."

"So why are you really here?"

Faith didn't say anything for a minute, fighting the urge to slip into the familiar routine of sharp barbs and bickering. Then she found that the words were already there, waiting to come out. "Ya know what B.? I get it now . . . why you were always better, the better slayer, why you had the scoobies, why people were always trying to help you. You have to care, have to have things you love, have to have something to lose. It gives you an edge, something to fight for. I never knew what that was like before."

" But now you do, huh?" She couldn't stop the sarcasm in her voice.

"Yeah B., I do. I've got friends now, people who give a shit whether I live or die. I've got Robin."

There was a pause, just for a moment.

"Do you love him?"

"No, not yet . . . but I'm starting to feel like I could, like maybe I want to. It's weird."

They were quiet for another minute, then Buffy stood and looked Faith in the eye, then she looked down, studying the wood at her feet.

"Faith, with all that was happening and everything, I never got the chance to tell you . . . to say thank you for your help, and . . . well . . . how proud I am . . . what you've been through . . . how you've changed." She reached forward and embraced the brunette in a warm hug.

"Hey, easy there, people'll get the wrong idea," she smirked "'sides, Red might get jealous and go all uber-witch on my pretty little ass."

She had to laugh at Buffy's blush at the tease, and then grew more serious as the blonde released her and stepped back.

Faith decided then to go for broke.

"Ya know B., you were the first person that I really loved?"

"HUH! What? I mean we . . . kissed . . . but only that once . . . and then with the fighting . . . !?"

"Easy B. Don't bust a nut or anything, but yeah, I loved you. Problem was, I didn't know what love was, didn't know what it felt like. So I got scared, and 'course I got mad and the mayhem began."

"Faith, I never knew . . . that you . . . felt that way."

" 'S cool, I just thought that you should know, and for what it's worth, I don't want you to make the same mistake I did."

Buffy opened her mouth as if to argue, and then shut it again suddenly realizing that she was right.

"I knew, even back then, that you had it bad for Red, not that you could ever admit it to yourself. Why'd ya think I picked on her so bad? All I'm sayin' is, don't fuck it up just cause you're pissed. The mad part you'll get over, the love part you never will. Trust me. So just deal and get on with it." She turned and started to walk back to the house. "And for God's sake B., pull that stick out of your ass and have some fun and quit worrying what other people are going to think."

"I don't know if I can do that, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't know if I'm ready . . . if I want to be . . . you know?"

"What don't you know? That you're gay? What the hell does a name mean? Look B., you either love her or you don't, you want to be with her or you don't. "

"I . . . I do love her. I'm just so . . . scared."

"Yeah, I get that, believe me, I get that. But you gotta forget about what you think the world wants you to be and just go for it. You remember what I used to say, 'want, take, have'? Well forget that shit, if you want her go fight for her, beg, do everything you have to. She'll be right there with you. If there's one thing I've learned from you B. it's that we don't have to be alone in this."

Buffy watched her walking away, slowly taking in what the other slayer was really saying. Of a sudden she raced after her, catching her at the back door and holding her in a tight embrace. "Thank you Faith. . . .for everything. . . . Faith ... I'm sorry for . . . well for everything. If you ever need anyth..." the thought went unfinished as "Hmmmmpphh?"

Faith kissed her, open mouthed, her hands grabbing the smaller girl's behind, holding the contact for a moment before releasing the deeply blushing Buffy.


"Sorry B. just had to do that once, before you're off the market for good." She had to laugh as Buffy's blush deepened. "You take care of Red, huh? She deserves to be happy with all she's been through. And B.? So do you."

"Wait Faith, why don't you stay? For a couple of days anyway, OK? Dawn would love to have you here to catch up, and I think she could use the company."

"You got space in this little place for me?"

Buffy contemplated as she looked up at the loft's window for a minute. "Yeah, I think there'll be a spare room by tonight. Do me a favor? Take Dawn into town for a couple of hours? Maybe pick up a movie or something."

"There anyplace like that around here"

"Yeah, there's a small town about twenty minutes north of here called Weld, they've got a convenience store with DVD's, well some anyway."

"K, I'll grab Little D, and you and Red can make with the makin' up"

"Getting that transparent am I?"

"Hey, no worries B., it's all good. See ya in a couple of hours."


The Wiccan looked up at the whisper of her name, Buffy was standing at the top of the stairs, there were tears in her eyes, and something else that she didn't immediately recognize. She turned back to the suitcase she had half packed.

"It's alright Buffy, I'll have Faith drive me to the city when she gets back."

"Why? . . . no . . . don't Willow . . . don't go . . . please don't leave me . . . I'm sorry."

Willow dropped the shirt that she was folding and looked at the slayer, tears glistening on her lashes.

"Buffy, I don't want to go . . . but I'm hurting you, I can't do that again."

"No, you aren't hurting me, but you will if you leave. I'm so sorry Will, I've been so . . . scared, and angry, but I don't want to be, not anymore. And the only thing I'm scared of now is losing you. I'm sorry for the way I've been acting . . . I just . . . Oh God Wills, I love you so much!" She pulled Willow to her and held her tightly, afraid if she let go she would lose her. They were both crying, the dam of emotions broke, and everything they had held back, everything they had been holding in burst to the surface.

"Buffy . . . I love you, so much. All I want to do is love you, forever."


"Can I kiss you?"

"Please, yes."

It was almost dusk when Dawn and Faith returned. They found the house in darkness. Dawn looked around, "They must have gone out."

Faith cocked her head to one side and Dawn could tell she was listening to some thing she couldn't hear.

"What, what is it?"

"How bout you help me bring my stuff in and put it into the spare bedroom OK Little D?"

"We don't have a spare room, that's Buffy's room."

"Trust me, it's not now."

"What do you . . . you mean that . . . you mean they're. . . "

Faith only smiled as Dawn's face lit up into a huge grin, and they went out to the car.



I look into her eyes
and I can see heaven,
I look into her face
and I know peace,
I hear her voice
and know choirs of angels.
And if it must end,
even end tonight,
I know that in all my life
I have done at least this one thing right.

Willow rolled over in her sleep, one arm searching for a warm spot that was no longer there. Opening her eyes, yet still half asleep, she noticed that though she could still smell the slayer on the pillow (and herself she noted with a smile) that side of the bed was cold. Sitting up she looked around the darkened room then got up and put on a robe.

'She must be down in the kitchen' she thought with a grin, goddess knew she was hungry herself. They had skipped dinner in lieu of smoochies. That thought only widened her smile,' my god that but the girl knew how to kiss!'

Entering the kitchen she found it dark and empty, now she began to get concerned. She checked Dawn's room then the spare room sighing sadly when she found the bed occupied. After a moment's consideration she stooped to kiss the slayer's shadowed brow only to find herself face to face with the wrong slayer.


"What're ya doing Red? One slayer not enough for ya?" Faith smirked. She was a little confused and only half awake but she was never one to pass up a chance to tease the redhead.

"Faith! I thought you were Buffy, I mean you don't look like her but she's been sleeping here and she wasn't upstairs when I woke up and whatareyoudoinghere?"

The brunette began to laugh when Willow plunged into full babble mode. "Easy there Red, B. said I should stay a couple of days. She's probably in the kitchen refueling after the hot and heavies you two were into for half the night."

"Faith that is so not funny right now, I can't find her."

"OK, take it easy, try down by the lake I got the impression she likes to think down there."

Willow felt a little foolish that she hadn't thought of that, Buffy did often sit on the dock when she was thinking about something. "Sorry I woke you Faith, I guess I'll see you in the morning huh?"

"Hang up there a minute Red, why the big panic? You don't really think she'd bail in the middle of the night do you? That's more my kinda thing."

"I don't know . . . I mean it was the first time we . . . well . . . you know, and I guess I didn't think I'd wake up alone. I guess I'm scared that she freaked and doesn't want . . . oh Goddess Faith, I don't know, I just have to find her and make sure she's alright and everything."

"It's OK, go have a look on the dock and if she's not there come get me and I'll help look for her, alright?"

"Thanks Faith, go back to sleep. Sorry I woke you."

Willow opened the front door and could see well enough in the moonlight that there was indeed someone sitting on the dock though she was a little surprised when she found Buffy sitting naked, with only a towel wrapped around her thin frame, her feet dangling in the dark water.


"Hey Wills, what are you doing up?"

She tried to cover her anxiety, "Oh, you know, couldn't sleep without my new blanket heater. . . . What are you doing . . . out here . . . um . . . naked?"

"It's OK Willow, I'm not freaking, and I'm not gonna disappear," she had to smile inwardly a little because of the worried look the young witch was wearing. "I just thought you needed to sleep after . . . well . . . after us . . . we made love." Buffy ducked her head and blushed a little. "I just needed to think a little, and decided to take a swim, and didn't figure anyone was around to see sooo..."

Willow was having a little trouble concentrating at the moment, between worrying that Buffy was having second thoughts and now seeing her naked (which was giving rise to a variety of carnal thoughts).

"Buff? Are you OK . . . with . . . you know . . . everything. You're not regretting . . ." She left the thought unfinished.

"Sit for a minute Wills." Willow sat down so that she was facing the slayer with her left foot hanging in the water, she was a bit surprised by how warm the water was.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there when you woke up, I honestly didn't think that you would wake up so soon. And no, no I'm not regretting anything, not one thing. It's just that it's all kinda. . new. Ya know?"

" Did you not . . . like it?" Willow was still a little scared that they had done something that the blonde wasn't ready for. The last thing she wanted to do was something that would make Buffy uncomfortable.''

"What? NO Willow, that's not it at all, please believe me, I liked it. I just . . . I guess I was little worried that . . . well that I wasn't . . . as good, you know? "'GOD! Listen to me, I wasn't this nervous the first time with Angel.' "I'm just going to blurt this out so bear with me OK? I'm going to make with the big confession here. You remember how I freaked a bit when you told me about you and Tara?" The redhead nodded slowly not entirely sure where this was going. "Well . . . It wasn't so much freaking because you were with another woman . . . It was 'cause the other woman wasn't me."

Willow opened her mouth to interject something but the slayer put two fingers to her lips to silence her for a moment.

"Willow . . . I've thought, and to be honest, fantasized about . . . what we did . . . earlier, for a long time. But when it came time to do the real thing, God, I was so nervous, terrified really. I'm sorry Wills, I know it probably wasn't what you were..."

This time Willow interrupted her, but used her lips instead of her fingers. After a moment, when she was sure she had Buffy's undivided attention, she broke the kiss, only slightly less out of breath than the slayer.

" Buffy, I only have one question, did YOU like it?"

"Oh Wills, I loved it, I mean once I dealt with the whole scared shitless part, it was, well it was wonderful. Did you . . . um . . . like it?"

"It was" she paused a minute to find the right words, "it was perfect. Listen Buffy, I know how you feel, trust me, the first time I slept with Tara I was so scared I think I actually cried. But it was still great because I did it with her, because I loved her. Tonight, tonight I was almost that scared again. I've wanted this for so long I was terrified that I was going to screw it up. And to top that off, I'm still having 'pinch me I'm sleeping' attacks because I have a hard time believing that someone . . . as beautiful as . . . you, would want me."

"I'm just worried that we rushed it a little, and I don't want you to feel like you had to."

"Willow, I wanted to, I WANT to." She pulled Willow to her and held her close, whispering into her ear as seductively as she could. "I want to make love to you." Then she kissed her, slowly building the intensity, her tongue gently caressing the wiccan's lips until she was given access inside, teasing Willow's tongue out so she was able to gently suck on it. When she finally pulled back they were both panting. "I love you."

She smiled and stood up, taking Willow's hand to help her stand.

"Before we go inside and explore this conversation further I think we may need to cool off a bit." With that, the slayer scooped her into her arms and tossed her unceremoniously into the lake. By the time Willow came up, sputtering, Buffy had joined her, calming her angry squawks with another searing kiss. Soon, their naked bodies were pressed together and the only words to be heard were those of passion and pledges of love.



A single pair of dark brown eyes watched the two women for a few minutes before turning away from the window with a small chuckle. As Faith made her way back to her room Dawn stepped out into the hallway.

"Is everything alright Faith?"

"Yeah Little D. . . . Everything's just the way it should be."

The End

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