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.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please. Please. PLEASE. I live for feedback. I get irritable and upset if I don't get any and I might not continue writing. Hopefully you know what the meaning of feedback is and don't just send comments like… "I hope you don't make Willow evil! I don't like her being evil!!" or "I think Dawn and (Insert whomever) would make a great couple." People!!! Please!! This is not FEEDBACK! I have received some wonderful feedbacks from people, and also things along the lines of what I mentioned – if you want an example, please e-mail me and I'll copy a couple actual feedbacks that I've received as examples for you!!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To kinetic-kid[at]earthlink.net

Don't Go
By Kinetic-Kid


Chapter 1

Tara feels the tears slide down her cheeks as she watches Dawn run back into the house and up the stairs. "Goddess, what next?" Tara murmurs, wiping the tears from her face as she hears the taxi pull up behind her and honk. Turning back, Tara takes a deep breath and picks up one of her boxes. Slowly walking down the stairs, she sets the box in the back seat before dejectedly making her way back to grab her other box, turning around and stopping in surprise at Buffy standing there with her arms crossed across her chest.

"What's going on?" Buffy questions hoarsely, her eyes taking in the tear tracks on Tara's face. Sharpening her hearing she hears two more people crying in the house, realizing it has to be Willow and Dawn crying. "And why is everyone crying?" Buffy quirks her eyebrow at the blonde Wiccan.

"I… I can't." Tara shakes her head as she shifts and walks around the slayer as she heads back to the car.

"Damn it! Where the hell are you going at roughly midnight?" Buffy growls, jogging after the witch. "Like we haven't dealt with enough shit today with our memories being taken from us and almost being killed, you packing up and leaving isn't going to help matters." Buffy grasps the witch's arm gently, frowning heavily as Tara flinches hard. Releasing her arm, Buffy shoves her hands in her pockets. "Come on. Whatever it is it can be worked through." Buffy offers quietly.

"No. No it c-can't." Tara shakes her head and sets the box in the back seat, shutting the door before opening the front door to the cab.

"The meter is running." The cab driver comments looking at the two women.

"Tara…" Buffy calls out softly, her eyes sad as she watches Tara climb in the taxi.

Tara hesitates for a moment hearing something in the slayer's voice that she hasn't heard before. Turning to look into sad hazel eyes, Tara's considers the woman for a few minutes. "I'm leaving W-willow, Buffy."

"Why?" Buffy questions hoarsely, seeing the pain in Tara's eyes. "And do you have to leave altogether?"

"I c-can't stay here with her, Buffy." Tara shakes her head, her eyes unconsciously looking to the house for a few minutes, before sliding back to Buffy.

"Where are you going to stay?" Buffy hesitantly moves closer to Tara.

"I… I don't know." Tara admits, shaking her head.

"Don't go, please." Buffy pulls her hands out and clasps Tara's hand gently. "You don't have to stay with Willow, but can't you stay here? At least until you find somewhere else?"

Tara bites her bottom lip, looking into sad hazel eyes, seeing the need and pain in Buffy's eyes. Never able to walk away from someone that needs her, Tara sighs quietly. "Help me with my boxes?"

Buffy doesn't quite smile, but relaxes from where she'd been unintentionally tight as a bowstring. Not knowing or understanding why, but something inside her making her do whatever she has to, to keep Tara here. Quickly opening the door to the back of the cab, Buffy sets one box on top of the roof of the cab before pulling out the other box. Setting it on top of the other one, Buffy picks them both up as Tara pays the driver while apologizing.

Tara silently follows behind the slayer, the two women walking quietly into the house. Tara stops and shuts the door, locking it behind her as she watches Buffy start up the stairs.

Buffy stops halfway up when she realizes Tara isn't following her. Turning to look at the Wiccan, Buffy nods her head towards the top of the stairs. "My room, Tara. You can sleep there and I'll take the couch tonight. That way you don't have to worry about running into Willow." Buffy explains softly.

Tara swallows and nods, slowly following Buffy, stopping as the slayer turns to her and mouths the word 'wait'. Tara nods and watches as Buffy steps up the last few steps from the landing to the upstairs. Glancing right quickly into what used to be her and Willow's room before the slayer disappears to the left going down the hallway leading to her and Dawn's bedrooms.

Buffy breathes out a sigh of relief that the doors to everyone's rooms are shut. Quickly placing the boxes inside her door before heading back, holding her hand out for Tara's, smiling gently as Tara's warm hand clasps hers. Leading the way down the hallway and to her room, she quickly shuts the door behind her, flipping the lock for the time being. "Do you want to talk about whatever is going on?" Buffy questions softly, waving a hand to the bed for Tara to sit down.

Tara sighs quietly, rubbing her face with one hand as she hesitates before sitting down on the edge of Buffy's bed. "N-not really." Tara murmurs dropping her hand to her lap and plucking at her pants.

"Avoidance. I can understand." Buffy mumbles, sighing heavily. "I need to shower… vampire leftovers along with other stuff." Buffy sighs as she turns to the dresser grabbing out her pajamas.

"B-buffy…" Tara stares at the disheartened slayer.

Buffy slowly turns and looks into hurt blue eyes. "Whatever it is, it'll be just between us, Tara. I promise to keep my mouth shut, if you need someone to talk to."

Tara nibbles on her bottom lip, looking at Buffy for a long few minutes. "It isn't fair to y-you, Buffy. You've g-got your own p-problems, you d-don't need me adding to them." Tara admits sadly. "If you w-would want to m-maybe…" Tara waves her hand back and forth between them.

Buffy clenches her pajamas tightly in her hands as she looks at Tara, before looking down at the floor. "I don't think you want to hear what I have to say, Tara. It's pretty raw and hateful, the things going through my mind. Not really something you should hear."

"Who better? I'm p-part of the r-reason you're h-here, Buffy. Maybe I sh-should hear what y-you have to say. It's only f-fair." Tara murmurs, swallowing hard at the thought of being there with the rest of the group when Willow brought Buffy back here from Heaven.

"Did you actually help, Tara? Or were you just there? From what I've heard and understood, it was pretty much all Willow and the rest of you were there as support, not active participants." Buffy growls lowly, fighting the anger she's feeling at being here, literally in Hell on Earth.

Tara whimpers quietly, unconsciously shifting back from the slayer as she feels the anger literally flowing from the woman, something she's never picked up on before from the slayer. The woman usually keeping all feelings and thoughts locked down tight behind a protective barrier.

Buffy narrows her gaze on Tara as she watches her shift back onto the bed more, almost as if she's afraid of her. The low whimpers coming from the Wiccan making Buffy fight down her anger, getting control of it, watching Tara intently as the woman slowly relaxes again. "Shit." Buffy growls, running a shaky hand through her hair. "You're an empath. Why the hell didn't you say something? And why am I just now figuring this out?" Buffy grumbles under her breath, wondering how she could know the woman for roughly a year and a half without knowing this about her.

"N-nobody knows, Buffy." Tara sighs in relief as the slayer brings her feelings under control. "Usually m-my own mental b-barriers block out the m-majority of people's f-feelings."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to…" Buffy waves her hand around, her eyes sad as she looks at Tara. "And why doesn't anyone know?"

Tara looks up with pain-filled eyes. "I try to keep that p-part of m-me under l-lock and key, Buffy. People that understand what it m-means always end up n-not w-wanting me around. Th-they are afraid th-that I am a m-mind r-reader or something."

"You only get extremely strong emotions, right?" Buffy frowns as Tara nods her head.

"I've n-never f-felt anything f-from you before, Buffy. You h-have your own b-barriers and w-walls you k-keep your f-feelings behind." Tara admits running a shaky hand over her head. "You n-need to talk to s-someone, Buffy. The anger is g-going to eat you up f-from the inside if you d-don't let it out."

Buffy grunts quietly and stares at Tara for a few minutes. "I need to shower. I'll be back in a few minutes. I'll knock three times quickly on the door if you wouldn't mind to let me back in after you lock it behind me."

Tara watches as Buffy quickly leaves the room. Sighing quietly, Tara stands and steps to the door, locking it behind Buffy before sitting down to wait for the slayer to come back from the bathroom.

Buffy stands under the hot spray after cleaning her body, silently thinking about the blonde in her bedroom. Wondering exactly how much there is to Tara that no one knows. Going over the conversation they'd just had, Buffy starts to frown heavily as it finally registers that the woman had been stuttering badly. Something she hasn't done in a very long time.

"What the fuck is going on?" Buffy questions hoarsely, out loud. Taking a deep breath, Buffy silently wonders if she can talk with Tara about the pain and anger ripping through her. About not being able to sleep because when she closes her eyes all she remembers is waking up inside a box and having to dig her way out, Buffy unconsciously looks down at her hands and the pale scars across her knuckles noticeable probably only to her. Reaching down as the water starts to turn cold, Buffy turns it off quickly. Wondering if they should buy a bigger water heater, because that's the only time she feels halfway warm anymore, is when she's taking a hot bath or shower.

Quickly stepping out of the shower and roughly drying her body, Buffy runs a towel over her hair and brushes out the tangled mass before brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas. Sighing heavily, Buffy finally exits the bathroom, listening silently. Thankful all she hears is the quiet of the house. Walking softly up to Dawn's door, she listens to the soft snores and relaxes before heading down the hallway to Willow's room. The quiet half snores, half whimpers letting her know that Willow had fallen asleep still crying and was probably dreaming about whatever had happened. Trotting downstairs quietly, Buffy hesitates for a few minutes before grabbing a couple large mugs down and filling them with water. Throwing them in the microwave, she digs around, sighing quietly as she finds the packets of hot cocoa mix and the small marshmallows. As the microwave goes off, she places everything on a small tray along with a couple spoons to stir the cocoa with.

Quietly walking up the stairs, being careful with the tray, Buffy shifts it to hold underneath with one hand before knocking three times quickly on the door. Easing into the room as the Wiccan opens the door Buffy sets the tray down on her dresser.

Tara locks the door after Buffy steps in, surprised to see the tray with the hot cocoa on it, turning curious eyes to Buffy.

"Don't trust myself to make the real stuff. I ran the hot water out, but if you want to freshen up, Wills and Dawn are asleep." Buffy offers quietly.

Tara debates for a second, before nodding her head willing to put up with the cold water to clean up after spending the time down in the sewer. Grabbing a pair of shorts and a tank top out of her boxes, having only grabbed immediate items that she would need when she packed, Tara heads to the door, hesitating for a moment. "Are w-we going to talk?"

Buffy watches Tara for a few minutes and sighs quietly. "You won't unless I do, right?" Seeing the slight nod that comes from Tara, Buffy runs a hand through her hair. "Yeah, I guess we'll talk."

Tara lets out the breath she'd unconsciously been holding before easing the door open, checking first before hurrying across the hallway to the bathroom. Quickly stripping, Tara pulls the hair bands out of her hair, letting it fall loose before brushing her teeth, giving the hot water heater a few extra minutes before grabbing a new towel and wash cloth, stepping into the shower Tara grabs the shampoo, squirting a dollop into her other hand before working the shampoo through her dry hair. Quickly turning the water on, Tara steps under the cold water letting her hair get wet and her body while she wets the washcloth. Smiling as the water becomes warmer Tara turns it off quickly to save it to rinse with. Working up a rich lather in her hair, Tara grabs the body wash and quickly washes her body, feeling about eighty percent better. Silently praying to the Goddess that she'll get around to the other twenty percent in time.

Buffy opens the cocoa packets and dumps them into the mugs, stirring the hot water until the cocoa dissolves. Unconsciously she listens to Tara in the bathroom while keeping an ear open to the other sounds in the house.

Buffy looks at the bedroom door as it eases open, Tara coming in with her old clothes gathered in her arms. "Just set them in the hamper until we figure out what we're going to do." Buffy offers softly, locking the bedroom door after Tara finishes entering the rest of the way into the room. Picking up the two mugs of cocoa, Buffy hands one to Tara before sitting down at the end of the bed motioning Tara to sit down at the head of the bed.

Tara sits down gingerly smiling at the bag of marshmallows sitting on the bed. Opening the bag, Tara dumps a handful of the marshmallows in her mug before offering them to Buffy.

"Thanks." Buffy dumps some in her cocoa before sipping, looking occasionally at Tara. "Do you want to start?"

Tara licks her lips and dips her finger into the marshmallow laden cocoa. "Maybe you c-can start. Then I'll t-talk for a bit as w-we swap back and forth?" Tara offers, looking up at Buffy.

Buffy looks up into blue eyes, a partial smile on her lips. "Making sure I talk, huh?"

Tara blushes and looks back down. "It occurred to m-me that you m-might try to get out of it."

"True." Buffy admits quietly, sighing deeply. "I'm going to try and keep my anger under control, but if I don't, let me know and I'll put some distance between us." Buffy waves to the window, figuring she can open it and climb down like she used to do in the past.

"You d-don't have to do that, Buffy." Tara shakes her head, smiling softly at the slayer. "I was j-just so used to not having to have m-my shields up around you, that I automatically l-let them down. I can put them b-back up to where it w-won't be so strong." Tara explains quietly.

"But you will get some overflow if it happens again?" Buffy picks up on the Wiccan's meaning.

"Probably. The anger and pain is literally…" Tara frowns and looks at Buffy. "It's tearing you apart." Tara finally whispers softly, looking down.

Buffy watches the blonde as she pales with her words, realizing Tara doesn't mean it just emotionally, she means literally too. "How can I make it better? I hate being here, Tara! I was warm, comfortable and at peace. I wake up in my fucking coffin, having to dig myself out of my own grave to hell on earth. Everyone wants me to be like I was, but I'm not! I'm fucking pissed and angry at everyone!" Buffy growls angrily her eyes darkening with the anger inside her. "I'm cold and I don't feel anything else but hatred and anger… or nothing at all." Buffy finally admits, looking down at her cocoa. Lifting the mug to her lips she finishes it before easing off the bed and placing it on the dresser. Unconsciously standing there, clenching her hands so tightly that her nails dig into her palms.

Tara sets her mug on the nightstand, watching Buffy intently as she slowly lowers her shields, wincing at the emotions flowing from Buffy. The hatred and anger are foremost, but a tendril of fear and worry is buried deep beneath. Watching the blood slowly drip down Buffy's hands, Tara jumps and crosses the distance between her and the slayer. "Don't fight me, please." Tara whispers before slowly wrapping her arms around the tense slayer, holding her tightly against her as she hooks her chin over the slayer's shoulder.

Buffy shivers uncontrollably as Tara pulls her back against her. The warmth slowly seeping into her body makes her shake even more.

"Easy, sweetie. Easy." Tara whispers softly, continuing to hold Buffy as the slayer shakes harder. Burying her face in Buffy's neck, Tara slowly starts to cry. "Goddess, what did we do to you? I'm sorry for putting you through this, sweetie. So sorry…" Tara hugs Buffy tighter against her as she continues to cry for the slayer.

Buffy closes her eyes as the Wiccan's warm tears drop on her neck and her warm breath caresses softly over her skin. The pain she's feeling is obviously hurting Tara also, Buffy continues to shake as she fights the feelings trying to come through before a hard sob breaks through. "It isn't your fault, Tara." Buffy admits, as hot tears streak down her own face as she can almost feel the caring coming from Tara.

Tara loosens her tight grip on Buffy as she feels the slayer's body start to relax as the tears start to fall from her. Turning Buffy around, Tara hugs her tightly, pressing her lips to the side of Buffy's face as the slayer practically collapses into her arms.

Buffy wraps her arms around Tara's waist as she buries her face in the woman's neck, allowing the tears to continue to fall, not that she could stop now if she tried.

Tara holds Buffy tightly with one arm while stroking the other hand soothingly over the back of the slayer's head, closing her eyes as she silently cries with the slayer. Knowing that Buffy's going to need help getting through this, but not knowing if she is the one to help her… Or if the slayer would even want her help.

Unaware of the time passing, Buffy continues to hold on desperately to Tara, the warmth soothing her more than anything else she's been able to find. Being touched by anyone or anything something she couldn't stand since being back.

Continuing to hold Buffy, Tara presses a soft kiss to Buffy's head as the slayer's hard sobs slowly taper off, though the slayer's death grip on her body doesn't lessen. Slowly moving both of her hands up and down the slayer's back, Tara frowns at the ribs she feels, knowing Buffy hadn't been eating well, but not realizing how much weight the woman had lost. Knowing that Buffy could ill afford to lose weight even before with her being so tiny.

"Thank you." Buffy whispers as she brushes her cheek over Tara's shoulder.

"I'm not sure I d-deserve a thanks, Buffy." Tara whispers just as softly, continuing to run her hands up and down the slayer, taking a shaky breath. "This may not be something you want to hear, but I'm not sorry you're here, Buffy. I'm sorry that we took you from Heaven, and I'm sorry for the absolute hell you're living through now. But I'll n-never be sorry that you're here. This place needs you in it. As do the people that live here. And… I missed you." Tara admits as the tears start to flow again even as she buries her face in the slayer's strong neck.

Buffy holds Tara in stunned silence at the woman's words. The one person that probably knows her the least out of the group admitting she missed her and refusing to apologize for bringing her back, even though she was obviously sorry for what she'd been taken from. Buffy's scratchy mind remembers how Tara had called in a panic when she'd realized that Dawn was going to try and bring their mom back. Something slowly settles inside Buffy at that remembrance. "It's against everything you believe in, isn't it?"

Tara frowns as she tries to figure out what Buffy's saying. "I'm sorry, sweetie… I'm not s-sure what you're asking."

Buffy slowly eases back, but doesn't break her hold on the woman. Looking into swollen, red-rimmed eyes, Buffy sighs quietly. "Bringing me back, you didn't want to do it, did you?" Buffy gets her answer, as Tara looks away, breaking eye contact. "Why did you help?" Buffy questions curiously.

"I didn't." Tara whispers as she slowly turns back to look at Buffy. "Goddess help me, I didn't. I was against it the whole time. Yes, I knew there was a chance that you were in a Hell Dimension, but I also knew there was a better chance that you were somewhere happy and at peace. You're too good of a person to go anywhere bad. I tried…" Tara swallows and looks up at the ceiling, taking a deep breath. "Willow said she needed us there, but she didn't. It was all her."

Buffy reaches up and strokes a finger gently down the tear stained face, curious at the soft feeling skin. "What did Willow do to you?" Buffy finally questions softly, leaving her finger on the Wiccan's cheek.

"She did a spell on m-me to t-take away my memories of a f-fight we had… I found out by a c-comment Dawn made." Tara nibbles on her bottom lip as she frowns at the thought. "Then when I confronted her th-that I knew, she p-promised me to go a month without magic. I t-told her a w-week and then w-we would see." Tara looks sadly at Buffy. "That was last n-night that she promised me. Today she d-did the spell that backfired."

Buffy feels a hard knot of anger start to burn in her gut. "Who does she think she is? God?" Buffy snarls angrily as she pulls her hands away from Tara as she starts to pace her room, frowning as she notices Tara flinching as she shifts away from her. "Fuck!" Buffy runs shaky hands through her hair as she tries to get control of her anger. Breathing heavily with the effort of fighting her own emotions, Buffy looks at Tara as the woman slowly relaxes. "Has she ever performed any other spells on you?" Buffy finally questions after a few minutes.

"Honestly?" Tara whispers, looking sadly at the slayer, she slowly shakes her head. "I haven't a clue. And truthfully… I d-don't think I'd w-want to know if she d-did."

Buffy swallows hard at the words spoken softly but with so much fear. Rubbing both hands over her face, Buffy takes a couple deep breaths before sighing. "Why don't you lie down, Tara. We'll figure out something tomorrow." Buffy slowly makes her way to the bedroom door, surprised when Tara sets her hand on top of her shoulder.

"I'm not kicking you out of your room, Buffy. If y-you d-don't mind sh-sharing, the bed is b-big enough for b-both of us." Tara offers quietly, not knowing where the offer's coming from, but part of her remembering the way Buffy had held onto her as if her life depended on it floats to the surface.

"I haven't exactly been sleeping well, Tara. I'd probably keep you awake." Buffy whispers softly, not turning to look at the woman.

"If you d-don't want to share, that's fine. That's all you have t-to say. As for n-not sleeping well… I really h-haven't s-slept well for months, myself." Tara admits.

Buffy slowly moves her hand from where it was reaching for the lock on the door and moves it to the light instead. Flicking the overhead light off, she's surprised as she feels her lip curl up in a half smile at the soft thank you she gets from Tara. Turning she follows Tara to the bed, sliding in after the Wiccan, Buffy reaches up and turns off the lamp. Surprised when she feels a hand gently resting on her shoulder and squeezing.

"Maybe if y-you don't m-mind, I can t-try holding you to see if it helps you s-sleep." Tara offers softly.

Buffy slowly nods, realizing her body had already been gravitating towards the heat that was coming from Tara.

Tara smiles softly as Buffy shifts to lie against her side. As Buffy rests her head on her shoulder while wrapping an arm around her waist, Tara wraps the slayer in her arms and presses her lips softly to her forehead. "Get comfortable, sweetie. Throw your l-leg over me if you want."

Buffy grunts quietly, but does as suggested. Rubbing her cheek over Tara's shoulder, Buffy feels her eyes getting heavy even as the warmth slowly invades her body from the blonde Wiccan. "Thank you…" Buffy whispers as she falls asleep.

Tara whimpers quietly as she presses her lips again to the slayer's forehead. Stroking her hands gently over the slayer's arm and back, Tara stares up at the darkened ceiling not knowing what tomorrow might bring, but silently praying that Buffy might feel just the tiniest bit better. That way they can work some more on the slayer and hopefully make things better for her.


Chapter 2

Tara frowns as she feels movement on the bed, slowly dragging her burning eyes open she stares in surprise at a softly smiling Buffy.

"Dawn left for school, and I'm assuming that's where Willow is also. What classes do you have today?" Buffy tilts her head to look at the blonde.

"Nothing that I really want to go to." Tara admits quietly, rubbing her gritty eyes as she slowly shifts up in the bed. "How'd you sleep, sweetie?"

"A lot better." Buffy admits quietly, reaching up to brush some loose hair from Tara's cheek, gently tucking it behind the Wiccan's ear. "Can I keep you here? Purely selfish reasons in force."

"Sleep or food?" Tara grins crookedly at the slayer, her eyes twinkling.

Buffy opens her mouth to say sleep, before closing it and furrowing her brows in contemplation.

"It isn't that hard a decision is it?" Tara jokes, tugging on the slayer's pajama top.

"Nope. Both." Buffy winks and grasps Tara's hand, gently tugging her from the bed. "Why don't you go get freshened up? Then we'll get the rest of your stuff out of Willow's room and bring it in here." Buffy makes it sound more like an order than a suggestion before she quickly disappears out of the room.

Tara stares after the slayer in stunned shock, silently wondering if Buffy meant it in more of a 'for now' type thing or more permanent. Shaking her head, Tara grabs a pair of cargo pants, underwear and a top. Deciding a hot shower would feel good right now.

Buffy looks at the top and looks at Tara. "Is this yours or Willow's?"

Tara looks up from where she was finishing pulling her clothes out of the dresser drawers. "Mine, but it was shrunk in a load of wash. Willow wears it now." Tara murmurs softly, her eyes shadowed.

Buffy grunts quietly and places the item back in the closet, silently wondering if she would be better off to let Tara pick out what items are hers. Going through the rest of the clothes, Buffy pulls out what are obviously Tara's items and sets them on the bed in her pile while pulling out the questionable items and setting them in another pile so Tara can sort them. Kneeling down in the bottom of the closet, she pulls out the boots that she knows are Tara's along with the small chest she'd remembered seeing in Tara's dorm room one of the times she'd visited the Wiccan when she and Willow had first started dating.

Tara finishes going through all the drawers and looks over to where Buffy's kneeling in the closet and running her hands over her small keepsake chest. Swallowing hard at the sight of the lost looking slayer, she makes her way over to the woman. "Come on, Buffy. Maybe we should take a break."

"No. I want you to have your stuff out of here, so you don't have to come back into this room." Buffy shakes her head and unconsciously growls at the thought of what Willow had done to the kind blonde.

"Buffy…" Tara starts and stops, not knowing for sure how she wants to ask Buffy about her comment earlier that day.

Buffy lifts the box and moves it out of the closet before turning to look at the Wiccan. Seeing the confused and worried look on Tara's face, Buffy quickly closes the short distance between them, grasping Tara's warm hands in hers, sighing at the feeling of calmness slowly coming into her from Tara. "What is it, Tara?"

"Why do you want me to stay?" Tara finally questions softly, raising her eyes to look into beautiful hazel eyes that are finally starting to show a flicker of emotion in them again. Something besides anger finally coming to life in their depths.

"You let me be me. I yelled and let my anger out, and you let me. You didn't tell me that everything is going to be perfect and that I should be happy because I'm alive. In a weird sort of way, I think you understand." Buffy finally admits her eyes distant. "And you aren't going to try and make everything better, or how you think I should be. If it takes me a week you'll give me a week, if it takes a year for me to get better I think you would probably give me a year."

"I'll give you all the time you need, sweetie. I would love to be able to make the pain, hurt and anger go away. But that's something only time and you can do. But I promise you, if you want me there, I'll be with you every step of the way." Tara offers softly.

"You're the only person I can really stand to be around." Buffy looks at Tara, the pain obvious in her eyes.

"Were you s-serious about w-wanting me to stay with you?" Tara hesitantly waves her hand towards Buffy's room.

Buffy's hands clench tightly as she remembers waking up twice the night before. Both times Tara had whispered for her to go back to sleep that everything would be okay while rubbing her back. Knowing that the Wiccan was still asleep, and even then she was worried about her, making Buffy want to keep her there at all costs. Plus the fact that last night was the first time she'd really felt warm and comfortable since she'd come back. "Yes. Please."

Tara reaches up to brush a gentle finger down Buffy's hollow cheek and nods her head. "I don't know how well this is going to go over, but if that's what you want and need, I'm here."

Buffy breathes out a sigh of relief even as she leans into the barely there touch. Not caring about what might happen, how it will look or who it will hurt, just knowing she needs Tara to stay.

Tara smiles softly as she hears a quiet rumble coming from Buffy's stomach. "Make a deal with you. If you don't mind taking these things and putting them on your bed for me to put up later I'll run downstairs and throw together an omelet for you."

"I would assume you meant to say for both of us." Buffy's voice is low with warning.

Tara sighs and nods her head. "Okay an omelet for both of us, then."

Buffy growls a little. "If we're sharing, better be a big omelet." Buffy smirks as Tara rolls her eyes. Grabbing some of the items, Buffy heads to her bedroom while Tara mumbles on her way to the kitchen.

Tara flips the large omelet, giving it a few extra minutes as she sprinkles some additional cheese on top. Grabbing the toast out of the toaster and buttering it to put on the plate with the others. Sliding the toast onto the island along with the large glass of milk for Buffy and the smaller glass of juice for herself, Tara slides the omelet onto a plate and turns off the stove. Cutting a small section of the omelet for herself, she places it on her plate before calling out to Buffy.

Buffy smiles hearing Tara call her name as she finishes hanging Tara's clothes up in the closet. "Damn, what is going on with me? And why does just hearing her voice make me feel that much better?" Buffy shakes her head as it occurs to her that spending last night and this morning with the blonde Wiccan has made her the happiest she's been since being brought back. Pushing those thoughts away for the moment, she trots down the stairs and looks at the large omelet on her plate to the smaller section on Tara's. "Aren't you going to need more than that?"

"No. Between the omelet and a piece of toast or two, that'll be more than enough for me." Tara smiles softly at the slayer as Buffy settles across from her and grabs her fork to dig in with one hand while reaching for a piece of toast with the other.

Buffy makes quick work of the omelet, not realizing how hungry she was until she'd finished it and the rest of the toast. Downing her milk, she licks her lips and pats her stomach as it seems to be saying a thank you for feeding it. "That was good, Tara. Thanks."

"Would you like another one?" Tara murmurs surprised to see Buffy eating that much as the slayer usually picks at her food instead of eating it. Smiling as she watches Buffy hesitate before shaking her head, Tara reaches across and squeezes her hand gently. "It won't take but a couple minutes to throw another one together, sweetie. I already have all the toppings chopped up and in containers in the refrigerator."

Buffy finally nods her head. "Please, if you don't mind."

"Of course I don't mind." Tara shakes her head at the slayer and finishes her last bite of toast before grabbing the eggs and rest of the items out of the refrigerator to make another omelet. "Would you like a couple more pieces of toast, also?"

"I'll get it." Buffy stands to walk over to the toaster, placing a couple pieces of bread in it before watching as Tara tosses the fresh mushrooms, diced onions, tomatoes, green peppers and ham into the omelet before liberally sprinkling the cheese over all of it. "Why omelets? I know you usually fix pancakes."

"Dawnie always wants pancakes." Tara grins crookedly at the slayer over her shoulder. "I don't mind making them, but occasionally I want something different to eat."

"Well, I won't complain no matter what you fix." Buffy smiles back at the blonde. Slowly becoming serious, Buffy's brows furrow as she looks at Tara. "Do you mind staying with me? I just realized I pretty much ordered you to without giving you much of a choice."

Tara looks in surprise at Buffy before glancing down at the omelet as she considers the slayer's words. "Do you m-mean in a s-sleeping with you way? A just staying h-here in the h-house with W-w-willow way? Or here period?"

Buffy runs her hand roughly over her forehead at hearing Tara stutter again. The woman had relaxed as the morning progressed and didn't stutter at all, now it's coming back full force. Hating the fact of making her uncomfortable, Buffy butters the toast automatically after they pop up. "Pretty much all the above, I guess."

"I'm n-not going to l-lie, Buffy. Being around W-w-w-willow…" Tara stutters horribly over her ex-girlfriend's name again. Taking a deep breath to try and settle her nerves, she gently folds the omelet and places the rest of the cheese on top before finally continuing. "It's g-going to be hard. I'm afraid she's g-going to th-think I want to get b-back together with her."

Buffy unconsciously clenches her hands into fists at the thought of Tara and Willow together, not understanding where the streak of fear and anger is coming from, she slowly relaxes. "Do you possibly want to get back together with her in the future?"

Tara looks sadly at Buffy as she reaches for the slayer's plate on the island and sighs. "Buffy, I w-wish I could answer that. In the future, I can't say, all I can say is that r-right now there is no way that I can be with her. I c-can't t-trust her. It would be s-something that w-would take months, if n-not l-longer for her to re-build. B-but I w-will always w-wonder…" Tara trails off as she turns and slides the omelet onto Buffy's plate and turns the stove off. Setting the plate on the island, Tara shrugs as she looks at Buffy.

"Can I say something that probably is going to sound worse than I mean it to?" Buffy gently chews on her bottom lip as she looks at the sad Wiccan. As Tara looks at her and slowly nods her head, Buffy places the toast on the island and closes the distance between them to hug Tara. "I don't want you to go back to Willow." Hearing the quiet gasp of surprise, Buffy holds Tara in her arms. "That may have come out sounding wrong, but if you can't trust her, I don't want you to go back to her just because of your past relationship. Or because you feel like you have to. Only do it if you're completely comfortable and at ease with her. If you have any doubts, then you don't trust her completely. And I don't want to see you hurt again." Buffy admits softly, her body slowly relaxing into Tara's as the Wiccan hugs her back tightly and her chin hooks over her shoulder.

"You know, she'll p-probably think there's s-something going on b-between us, if I'm s-staying in your r-room." Tara murmurs closing her eyes at the feeling of the slayer holding her almost like she never wants to let her go.

"So?" Buffy mumbles as she buries her face in Tara's neck and closing her eyes as she soaks up the warmth and caring she can literally feel almost like a physical presence coming from Tara.

Tara blinks in surprise at the single word, before squeezing Buffy tightly. "Eat your omelet, sweetie before it gets cold."

Buffy smiles at the conflicting actions and words. While Tara's telling her to eat, she's holding her even tighter as if not wanting to let her go. Gently patting Tara on the back, Buffy whispers softly. "We'll get through this together, Tara. I don't know how or when, but I have faith in you."

"Us." Tara mumbles taking a deep breath and releasing the slayer. "Eat, sweetie." Tara points to the island as she turns and grabs the gallon of milk out of the refrigerator, refilling Buffy's glass. Putting it back inside the refrigerator, she runs the dishwater.

"I'll do the dishes, Tara." Buffy waves her fork at the Wiccan. "Sit down and relax."

Tara sighs, turning off the water and sitting down at the island watching as Buffy makes short work of the omelet and toast. "I'm probably going to need to make a r-run to the grocery store to stock the refrigerator."

"I need to visit the bank and see what the finances look like for the house." Buffy admits quietly, knowing that with everything that happened after her mother died and Glory that things might not be doing that well. The urge to sweep it under the carpet and act like it doesn't exist going through her, but knowing she can't put it off any longer.

"I think W-w-willow put all your p-paperwork in the hutch in the dining room." Tara murmurs softly her eyes sad. "I don't know what has been handled and done, and not done. But if you want my help, I'm here for you."

Buffy swallows and nods her head. "Thanks, Tara. All I know is that the majority of mom's insurance policy went to cover what the medical insurance didn't when she was in the hospital. I didn't really do anything else."

"We'll work it out, sweetie." Tara offers quietly as Buffy starts gathering the dishes. "I'm going upstairs to finish up."

"I'll be up after doing the dishes. Thanks again for breakfast." Buffy smiles as she feels Tara's hand grip her shoulder.

Tara makes her way up the stairs, turning into Willow's room as she double-checks it first. Finding a couple hair pieces and one of her shirts, she takes them into Buffy's room, surprised to see that it looks like Buffy had already put up the majority of the items. Opening the closet, Tara smiles softly at the sight of all of her clothes hanging neatly on one side with the slayer's on the other. Adding the shirt to the closet, Tara quickly looks through the clothes and sighs when they're all hers.

Curiously opening drawers, Tara smiles softly at the sight of her more sensible underwear taking up residence by Buffy's lack of underwear. Still silently wondering how the slayer can wear g-strings, the thought of the cloth being between her butt cheeks making Tara frown, knowing she doesn't like it when her panties give her a wedgy, imagining the small scraps of cloth feeling like a permanent wedgy.

Picking up her boxes she finishes putting away what items Buffy hadn't gotten to, while moving all her magical items to her small chest Buffy had set down in the corner of the room. Silently wondering if the slayer wanted it to stay there, or if she just wanted to wait and make room in the closet for the item.

Kneeling in front of the chest, Tara's fingers gently touch the different crystals, centering stones and her Book of Shadows that had been in her family for as long as anyone can remember. Opening the book, Tara reverently turns the pages until she comes to where her mom had written in it. Letting her fingers trail over the beautiful writing, Tara sighs quietly. "Oh, mama. I could use your guidance right now." Tara whispers, tears coming to her eyes as she thinks about Willow the woman she had loved, to the small blonde slayer that has wiggled her way deep into her heart over the past couple years, and with what's happening now… Tara shakes her head at those thoughts. "She needs a friend, and she's not interested in anything but friendship." Tara whispers softly to herself before slowly closing the book and shutting the chest.

Buffy settles down at the dining room table with the paperwork from the bank and all the paperwork from the hutch, trying to make heads or tails out of it while Tara finishes putting away the rest of the groceries while throwing a roast in the oven for dinner. Smiling as she remembers Tara running her out of the kitchen and saying she could put the groceries away.

Running a hand roughly through her hair, Buffy tries to work her way through the mortgage loan papers, becoming more and more confused. Setting them aside, she looks at the balance in the checking account, sighing as she realizes she's going to have to do something soon. The mortgage payment being automatically taken out, having almost depleted the account, making her close the savings account and transfer the rest of the money into the checking. Tara having insisted on paying for the groceries actually making her breathe a sigh of relief.

Coming across her mom's death certificate, Buffy stops as a streak of pain and heartache shoots through her. Swallowing back the tears, she runs a finger over her mother's name before gently setting it aside. Looking at the bills, Buffy realizes either Tara or Willow had been keeping up with the rest of the bills. Staring at the pile of papers for a few minutes, Buffy finally rests her forehead against the table, feeling a headache coming on from not being able to understand the legal jargon.

Tara walks into the dining room, stopping at the sight of the obviously confused and hurting slayer. Seeing Joyce's death certificate sitting by itself at the top of the table with the other piles of papers spread out around the slayer, Tara feels tears coming to her eyes. Gently kneeling beside Buffy, Tara runs her fingers gently through the slayer's hair. "Want help, sweetie?"

"Please. I don't know what any of this shit says." Buffy mumbles, not raising her head. "All I'm doing is giving myself a headache from hell."

"Shhh." Tara continues to run her fingers soothingly through Buffy's hair. "I'll look through it, honey. I had to d-deal with it b-before myself." Tara admits softly, leaning up to press a soft kiss on Buffy's head. Remembering how her father had been completely lost when her mom had died, and she'd had to take care of all the arrangements for everything, her brother being useless and belligerent at the time. Not wanting to think about her controlling father, and how much worse he became when her mom became sick, Tara pats Buffy on the back. "Why don't you g-go relax while I look through this?"

Buffy nods her head as she slowly lifts it and stands. Walking towards the living room, she stops and looks back at Tara. Seeing the blonde is watching her from where she's still kneeling by the chair, Buffy searches the sad blue eyes. Not really knowing how to say thanks to Tara, she sighs in relief as Tara smiles understandingly at her.

Tara silently watches Buffy finally finish leaving the dining room. Feeling the heartache coming from the slayer and the relief that she's going to stay here and help her, Tara sighs softly. "I'll be here for you, Buffy. No matter what, as long as you need me, I'm here. Family." Tara whispers the last word softly remembering how the slayer had welcomed her into their group.

Slowly standing Tara sits down in the seat Buffy had vacated and picks a pile to start reading over the legal documents and papers.


Chapter 3

Tara runs a hand through her hair as she talks with the lady on the phone, going over a couple points as she takes notes on exactly what needs to be done. Hearing a key in the door, Tara frowns, not knowing what time it is. Surprised when she hears Buffy come trotting down the steps at the same time, before continuing with her conversation trying not to be distracted by what's going on around her.

Buffy looks at the clock, realizing this should be the time Willow gets home from her last college class of the day. Heading downstairs from where she'd been silently thinking about what's happened since she'd come back and listening to Tara talk with different people on the phone. Trying to think of some way to thank Tara for her help. Not just for her dealing with the paperwork and everything but also for wanting to help her personally. Knowing Tara will stand true to her promise and stay here for as long as she needs her.

Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, her body partially blocking the entrance to the dining room, Buffy glances in at Tara who looks at her worriedly, even as she continues with the conversation.

Willow lets herself in, frowning as she'd skipped a couple classes to look for Tara before finally going to her last class, hoping that maybe Tara would have decided to come back so they could talk. Smiling as she hears Tara's voice, Willow blinks in surprise as Buffy stands in front of her, blocking her way. Looking around Buffy, Willow smiles as she sees Tara. "Good, you're here. I looked for you at the college…"

"She's on the phone, Willow, doing something for me. I suggest you leave her alone for right now." Buffy speaks softly, her eyes cold as she stares at Willow as she tries to keep her emotions under control.

"But, I want to…" Willow snaps her mouth closed as Buffy growls and her eyes flash with anger. Feeling a thread of fear streaking through her she unconsciously shifts back a couple feet.

Buffy shakes her head before she moves to stand in front of Tara, keeping an eye on Willow. Listening as Tara says goodbye. Feeling the Wiccan stand and move beside her, Buffy glances at her from the corner of her eye before turning back to look at Willow who's come forward again.

"Tara, honey. We need to talk. I know that I can get you to forgive me. I'm so glad you came back and you're here." Willow steps closer, her eyes opening wide in surprise as Buffy moves closer to Tara.

Buffy steps closer to Tara her hand going to the Wiccan's shoulder, clasping it gently in silent support as she glares at Willow. "No, she's not. She's just a figment of your imagination. For all intents and purposes, Tara left last night as she'd planned. Don't delude yourself with thoughts that she's here, or that she's here for you. As far as you're concerned, Tara left you last night when she walked out that door." Buffy nodded towards the front door Willow had just come through a moment ago. "She left you..." Buffy's eyes narrow dangerously on the redhead as her anger flares. "With GOOD reason! As of this moment there will be no more magical use from you in this house. If I have any inkling, whatsoever, that you are doing magic of any sort, your ass won't know what hit you until you land outside the door on it." Buffy turns to look at Tara, her eyes searching surprised blue eyes. "You will know if she's done something, right?"

Tara's hand covers Buffy's on her shoulder giving it a grateful squeeze, before nodding her head. "I can tell."

Willow stands gaping at the slayer in shocked silence, the words not making sense in her head. 'What does she mean Tara isn't here? She's right there, I can see her!' As she listens to Buffy continue while standing protectively by Tara, Willow's eyes narrow in anger as the slayer threatens her. "You can't tell me I can't do magic…"

Buffy growls angrily, stepping towards Willow, her eyes flashing dangerously.

"Easy, Tiger." Tara whispers softly, sliding her hand down Buffy's shoulder to squeeze her forearm. The arm so tense it feels like steel, the anger flowing from Buffy knocking hard against her walls. Turning her gaze on Willow, Tara takes a deep breath to try and calm her own racing thoughts and feelings. "She can tell you what to do, Willow. This is her house. If you want to stay here, you have to abide by her rules."

Dawn stops at the top of the stairs, having gotten home a half hour ago, and went directly to her room as Buffy had told her to do her homework and leave Tara alone as she was busy. Dawn had tried to question Buffy about Tara being there, but her sister had told her to leave it alone for now and do her homework. Having started to bitch, she'd quickly disappeared in her room as Buffy turned angry eyes on her. Now listening to what's going on, Dawn frowns heavily trying to understand.

"Tara?" Buffy questions curiously, her head tilted towards the blonde, but her eyes narrowed on Willow.

"Yes?" Tara's brows furrow at the questioning tone of the slayer.

"Can you do a protection spell around us, so that way she can't fuck with anyone?" Buffy questions in her normal tone of voice, not trying to hide anything from Willow. "I'm not going to take a chance that she's going to try something on you again. If you can do something for the rest of us that would be of the good also."

"WHAT? I would NEVER do something…" Willow starts angrily, the surprise on her face obvious.

"You wouldn't?" Buffy snarls, taking the large stride to put her face to face with Willow. "So it was someone else that decided to fuck with Tara's mind? It was someone else that did the mind fuck on all of us yesterday? I thought you were my friend, Willow. But the woman I knew wouldn't have done the things that you've done. Because of everything we've been through, I'm giving you fair warning. Either you live by my rules, or your ass is out of here. Tara is not yours, she is staying here with me and as far as you're concerned, she's staying elsewhere. I don't want you to even acknowledge she's here in the house. This is the way it will be, it isn't up for discussion." Buffy warns softly, the seriousness of her words obvious in her eyes.

Dawn winces at Buffy's words, Tara's deciding to leave the night before making a little more sense to her. Feeling a streak of guilt at the way she'd treated the Wiccan, Dawn quietly heads back to her room, having heard all that she wants to hear at this moment.

Willow's mouth opens and shuts in shock, Buffy having never talked to her like this before. She knows without a shadow of a doubt that Buffy means every word coming out of her mouth. As the slayer's eyes seem to flash even more with anger, Willow decides self preservation might be for the best right now. Quickly heading up the stairs, she shuts the door behind her as she decides to think about what Buffy said.

Tara closes her eyes, but stays quiet as the slayer's anger grows as she's talking to Willow. Feeling the pain mixing in with the anger, it takes Tara a moment to realize Buffy's feeling pain for her. For what Willow had done to her. As Buffy finishes talking and nothing else is said for a few moments, Tara slowly opens her eyes, surprised to see Buffy standing quietly in front of her and Willow gone. Seeing the slayer's body start to shake, Tara quickly closes the distance between them. "It's me."

Buffy closes her eyes as she hears Tara's softly whispered words before two warm arms wrap around and pull her against the Wiccan. Shaking uncontrollably with anger, Buffy gently reaches up and pulls Tara's hands away from her. "I need a few minutes." Buffy whispers before quickly heading out of the house, leaving the back door open in her wake as she steps out into the middle of the yard, staring up into the late afternoon sky. Trying to get her anger under control, Buffy tenses as she hears someone… No, not someone, Tara. Buffy mentally tells herself, knowing the woman's tread.

"You can't keep trying to lock it away, Buffy." Tara whispers softly from the doorway as she looks at the taut slayer, watching her worriedly.

"Yes, well… right now the anger is so bad, I know you're probably getting a major dose and I don't want to do that to you." Buffy admits between clenched teeth, keeping her back to Tara.

"It's my decision, Buffy." Tara steps outside the door, standing on the porch. "Yell, scream, throw something… I don't know what, but let it out! You can't continue like this, Buffy." Tara warns as she finally allows herself to see the slayer's aura, frowning heavily at the anger and pain flowing heavily through her being. Biting her lip at the sight of the slayer's disjointed soul everything just slightly out of alignment.

Buffy growls, roughly rubbing her face as she stares at the wood fencing surrounding the yard. Shaking with anger Buffy presses her palms into her eyes as she finally collapses to her knees. Crying out in anger, she starts to slam her fists into the ground time after time after time.

Tara flies off the porch sliding to the ground behind Buffy as the slayer keeps hitting the ground, the anger flaring brightly and slamming into her even with her shields full force. Fighting through the pain and hurt coming from Buffy, Tara wraps her arms around the slayer's waist and buries her face in her hair. "Let it out, honey. Let it out." Tara whispers softly as she's buffeted by Buffy's anger and pain, closing her eyes tightly as the tears slip between the lids. Sending the slayer her calmness and caring, hoping that some of it might make a difference, she holds on desperately to the woman continuing to hit the ground.

Buffy cries out loudly as she finally collapses, her hands swollen, sore and bloody. The anger gone for the time being, replaced by hurt, it taking a few minutes to feel Tara's love slowly seep into her as the Wiccan shifts and pulls her into her lap, holding her tightly as she cries.

Tara tucks her chin over Buffy's head as the slayer curls up in a ball on her lap. The heart wrenching sobs coming from the slayer tearing at her heart. Gently rocking Buffy back and forth, Tara presses a soft kiss to the top of her head.

Buffy grabs hold of Tara's shirt, burrowing into the woman's comforting embrace. Unaware of the time passing as she slowly calms down and the sobs turn to shuddering breaths. Slowly everything comes down to the warm body she's pressed against and the calm, soothing hands running over her.

Feeling the anger and pain lessen as the slayer calms down, Tara continues to hold and soothe the slayer as she presses soft kisses to the woman's head. Tuning back into her aura, Tara sighs in relief as some of the anger has lessened, but noticing the slayer's soul is still disjointed, knowing it's going to take time for it to heal. Slowly Tara sets her mind to think of ways to help Buffy.

Buffy's hands clench Tara's shirt before her fingers shift and clench the Wiccan's waist gently, finally opening her eyes. "Sorry."

Tara shakes her head and presses her lips again to Buffy's head at the slayer's scratchy word. "I'm not accepting sorry's, honey. I just want to help you get b-better, if you'll let me.

"How?" Buffy finally questions, her throat raw with tears as she slowly unwinds herself but wraps an arm around the Wiccan. The warmth she craves coming into her from the blonde.

"I'm not sure, but this is a good start. When you're up for it maybe some meditations that I know might help you." Tara offers softly, running her fingers gently through the slayer's hair as Buffy shifts and gives her an actual hug.

"I'll try anything." Buffy admits softly, hugging Tara gently. "Thank you for this."

"Honey, I want to help." Tara admits quietly. "All I ask is that you let me."

Buffy slowly nods against Tara's neck, sighing quietly.

Tara gently runs her fingers through Buffy's hair and over her back to help calm the slayer a little more. "Honey, let's get you inside so I can clean your hands."

Buffy whispers softly, feeling drained. "Okay."

Tara helps Buffy to stand before standing herself, the two women heading into the house.

Willow stares out the window, watching Buffy, her brows furrowed as she sees the obvious anger coming out of her friend as she collapses to the ground and starts to slam her fists into the ground. Swallowing hard at the realization that Buffy's obviously hurting more than she's let anyone know, Willow watches as Tara runs and grabs Buffy, wrapping the slayer in her arms and dragging her into her body as she rocks her gently, obviously trying to calm and help her.

Resting her forehead against the window, Willow lets the tears flow as she finally sees what Tara had obviously seen. That everything is not right with Buffy. Not just the fact that she'd brought her back from heaven, but when she did, she broke something in the slayer. Not knowing what to do, but knowing that her help isn't wanted right now, Willow closes her eyes as she questions everything that she's done. Silently wondering what else she's screwed up and how it's going to come back to haunt her. And worse yet, haunt the people she loves.

Silently sending thanks to Buffy as she realizes the slayer had kept Tara from leaving the night before. Opening her eyes, Willow watches as Buffy practically wraps herself around Tara while Tara continues to comfort the slayer. Feeling a streak of jealousy work its way through her, Willow tries to shake it off as she turns her back on the window and the display in the back yard. Looking, really looking at the room for the first time, Willow realizes that all the little odds and ends that were Tara's are gone. Slowly opening the drawers, Willow quietly closes them before gradually moving backwards until she collapses on the bed.

Looking up at the ceiling, Willow silently questions whether or not she can stay in the same place Tara's in if they're not together. But not knowing how she can't not be near the woman as Tara has been a very important part of her life.

Rolling over onto her stomach, Willow grabs one of the pillows and pulls it under her head and cries quietly into it while searching her thoughts and soul for what she should or shouldn't do.


Chapter 4

Tara finishes gently cleansing Buffy's hands, glancing up occasionally at the slayer who seems to be distracted. Gently wrapping gauze around the knuckles, Tara tapes the gauze down and brushes a finger gently down Buffy's cheek. "All cleaned and bandaged."

Buffy blinks and slowly comes back from where she was thinking about Willow, Tara and what happened between the two women. Focusing in on Tara, she looks into the caring blue eyes. Gently brushing the back of her fingers over Tara's cheek, Buffy allows a small smile to cross her face. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Tara smiles back, happy for the slayer's reaching out for human touch, but knowing it's going to take a lot more before Buffy hopefully becomes more herself. "I probably should check on dinner. Do you…" Tara stops and looks towards the stairs before looking back at Buffy. "Do you mind if I g-go on patrol with you tonight?" Tara finally questions hesitantly.

Buffy looks in surprise at the Wiccan, her brows furrowing as she tries to figure out why Tara would want to go, before realizing that she probably doesn't want to be in the house with Willow basically alone with only Dawn close by. Nodding her head, Buffy sighs quietly. "Yes you can. But you have to be careful."

"I will." Tara breathes a little easier, relaxing as Buffy gives her permission. Closing the first aid kit, Tara quickly heads to the kitchen to put the kit away and check on dinner as she thinks about the slayer. Sighing quietly at how one moment it's almost as if Buffy's reaching out for something, and the next afraid to reach for it. Pulling the roast out Tara checks to make sure it's done before turning the oven off. Pulling down plates and silverware, she sets the dining room table slowly as she considers Buffy a little more.

"Let me do this." Buffy offers, wincing as Tara jumps. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

Tara places a hand over her chest and smiles at the slayer. "That's okay. It's not your fault. I was a little lost in thought. Thank you." Tara nibbles on her lip as she watches Buffy finish setting the dining room table, surprised when she places a plate at the other end of the table away from the other three settings, before realizing she's probably planning on keeping Willow as far away from her as possible. Heading back into the kitchen, Tara grabs down glasses, setting them on the island before pulling out the salad she'd fixed earlier along with a couple salad dressings and butter. Turning around, she grabs the loaf of French bread she'd bought, slicing it quickly and placing it in a basket.

"What do you want to drink?" Buffy questions softly as she fills her glass with milk.

"Water will be fine, thank you." Tara places the roast on the platter and works on slicing it before pulling out the potatoes and carrots from the pan.

Buffy takes the two glasses to the dining room, before calling up the stairs. "Dinner's ready!" Heading back to the kitchen, she takes the platter from Tara and heads into the dining room.

Tara shakes her head at Buffy before grabbing the large bowl of salad and the bread, carrying it into the dining room.

"Fix your drink." Buffy orders Dawn as she grabs the dressings and butter before walking back to the dining room. Quirking an eyebrow as Willow slowly comes in. "Your glass is in the kitchen. Get what you want to drink."

Willow slowly nods her head and glances quickly towards Tara before heading into the kitchen. Willow fills her glass with soda, as she wonders how hard it's going to be to be living with Tara, but not being with the Wiccan. Taking a deep breath, she decides to wait and see what's going to happen. Buffy's threatening her scaring her more than she believed possible, the slayer never having done that before. Silently hoping that Tara will come back to her, but knowing she's going to have to straighten her act up for real this time.

Buffy settles down at the head of the table, reaching over and pulling Tara's chair a little closer to her before the Wiccan sits down.

Tara quirks an eyebrow at the slayer in surprise before she settles in the chair when Buffy just looks at her. "Thank you." Tara whispers as Buffy hands her the platter. Quickly placing a small piece of meat, a couple potatoes and carrots on her plate she slides the platter down to Willow. Turning back, smiling at the sight of Buffy having already filled both of their bowls with salad.

Dawn watches as everyone quietly eats, not saying anything. The silence unusual since usually at least Tara and Willow would talk and joke as they discussed different College classes or talking about the last big bad. Sighing quietly, Dawn pours some salad dressing on her salad as she settles in to eat dinner.

"Do you have any homework, Dawnie?" Tara questions softly, looking at the teen.

"I finished it earlier." Dawn smiles briefly at Tara before her eyes slide to Buffy who's eating quietly, but her eyes shift between the three other people at the table, stopping more often than not on Tara and Willow with varying emotions crossing her face.

"Good. If you don't mind could you do the dishes? I'm going out on patrol with Buffy tonight." Tara explains as she looks again at Buffy for a few minutes, being caught by hazel eyes watching her intently.

"Why do I…" Dawn starts to whine, until she's interrupted by a dark stare coming towards her from Buffy. Dropping her eyes to her plate, she shuts up.

"Maybe because Tara cooked dinner, and usually does the majority of the laundry and cleaning around the house. It wouldn't hurt if someone else occasionally helped out." Buffy growls as she looks at Dawn before her eyes shift to bore into Willow's eyes.

Willow pales slightly before nodding her head. "I'll help you, Dawn. It won't take long with both of us working on them." Willow sighs quietly as Buffy finally looks away. Surprised Buffy had noticed Tara doing the majority of things around the house, though honestly she didn't even think about it. Tara just usually did the majority of everything without comment, realizing she'd become used to Tara working around the house and taken advantage of her that way, also. Sighing quietly, Willow pokes at the few bites of her meal left on the plate, her hunger having disappeared.

Buffy places another piece of meat and some vegetables on her plate, surprised as her hunger seems to have returned today, but not questioning the fact. Accepting the bread from Tara, Buffy places a slice on her plate before setting the basket back down.

Tara finishes her salad before standing, gathering her dishes to take into the kitchen. Going the other way to head up the stairs and prepare for patrol.

Buffy finishes eating her dinner in silence while Willow and Dawn gather their dishes, taking them into the kitchen a few minutes after Tara had left. Downing her milk, Buffy gathers her dishes and takes them to the kitchen, setting them on the counter before heading upstairs.

Tara smiles at the soft knock and Buffy saying it's her. "Come on in, Buffy." Tara calls as she finishes pulling a pair of her older cargo pants on.

Entering the room, Buffy shuts the door behind her before glancing towards Tara. "If you don't want to go on patrol, I can drop you by Xander and Anya's until I finish."

Tara shakes her head, glancing up at the slayer as she finishes zipping and buttoning her pants. "No, Buffy. I honestly don't mind going with you on patrol. Do you n-not w-want me to go?" Tara questions hesitantly, stopping from where she'd been pulling on her boots, looking up worriedly at the slayer. "I'll s-stay here, if you w-would prefer m-me not to go."

Buffy unconsciously steps closer to Tara, placing a hand on her shoulder as Tara starts to stutter badly. "No, Tara. Company probably would be a good thing. I don't mind." Buffy gently squeezes Tara's shoulder before opening the closet and pulling out a couple stakes and knives, tucking them away in her jeans. Grabbing a couple other stakes, she hands them to Tara automatically before pulling down a light jacket to hide her short sword.

Tara smiles as she tucks the additional stakes away in her side pockets. Reaching behind her, she grabs her fanny pack and puts it around her waist before grabbing the bottles of holy water Buffy had set on the dresser. Tucking them away in other pockets, Tara nods her head at the thought she really should pick up more of these pants. Besides being comfortable, they had plenty of pockets to hide stuff away in.

"Tara?" Buffy questions hesitantly, looking at Tara after she finished getting ready to go on patrol.

"Yes?" Tara frowns as she looks at Buffy. "What's wrong?"

"Do you…" Buffy looks at her room, the small knick knacks placed here and there that belong to Tara making her smile briefly. Looking back at Tara, Buffy shrugs. "Do you mind sharing my room? I mean, I can sleep on the floor or down on the couch, if you don't want to share…" Buffy hesitates and waves a hand to the bed.

"I'm not kicking you out of your b-bed, Buffy." Tara looks at the item in question. "You slept better with me b-being here last night, right?"

"Yes." Buffy whispers softly after a few minutes.

"We can share, if you want. I don't mind, Buffy." Tara smiles crookedly at the slayer. "If anyone should, I figured it would bother you."

"Huh? Why?" Buffy blinks in confusion at Tara.

Tara holds up her hand and waves it around before pointing at her own chest. "I'm a lesbian, Buffy. Remember? I would say most straight women might be a little… worried about sharing a bed with me?"

Buffy quirks an eyebrow in silent contemplation before shaking her head. "Tara, you wouldn't take advantage of anyone." Buffy allows a small mischievous smile to cross her face before continuing. "Of course, sleepy groping might end up happening in the middle of the night, but I'm sure it can be overlooked."

Tara blushes lightly before noticing the glint in Buffy's eye. Biting the side of her mouth, Tara allows an answering smile to cross her face. "So, I'm allowed to grope as long as it's the middle of the night and supposedly while half asleep?"

Buffy opens the door to the bedroom, allowing Tara to exit before her, whispering as the blonde walks by. "Who said you would be the one doing the groping?"

Tara stops dead in her tracks, her eyes opening wide in shock at Buffy's whispered words, when the slayer chuckles she turns to look at her.

Buffy shrugs and grins at Tara. "Just giving you fair warning."

Tara groans quietly as she blushes darkly. "Don't do it while I'm asleep." Tara warns before heading towards the stairs, jogging down them lightly.


Chapter 5

Buffy tilts her head as she wonders what Tara meant by that comment. Jogging after her, Buffy calls out to Dawn and Willow. "We're leaving. We'll be back later." Buffy closes the door behind her as she catches up with Tara who's already on the sidewalk. "What will happen if you're asleep?"

Tara tucks her hands in her pockets and looks down at the concrete as they make their way towards town. "Some people sleep walk, other people talk in their sleep, I k-kind of…"

Buffy blinks and turns to look at the darkly blushing blonde. "Tara! Are you telling me you're a lovemaking machine while you're asleep?"

"Sort of." Tara glances quickly at the grinning slayer before dropping her eyes back to the sidewalk in front of her. "I r-respond and my f-fingers do some serious walking if I'm given the right incentive. I'll usually end up w-waking up, but it has been known to take a while."

Buffy considers Tara's words as they make their way to the first cemetery, automatically turning into it, Buffy pulls a stake as she makes her way subconsciously to one of the new graves. Leaning against a tombstone, waiting for the vampire to rise, she looks over at Tara watching Tara's back as she looks around, making sure there aren't any other vampires or demons nearby. "Well, I'll try not to grope you while you're sleeping so you won't be embarrassed." Buffy finally comments watching as Tara slowly turns to look at her.

"Are you a groper?" Tara questions curiously.

"Not normally." Buffy smirks as Tara frowns at her. Chuckling at the look, Buffy reaches down and yanks the vampire from the ground, staking him before he has a chance to do anything. Striding over to the other grave Buffy lets this vampire finish climbing out before fighting him.

Tara purses her lips as she watches Buffy fight the vampire, trying to figure out what the slayer is saying and not saying. Figuring Buffy's just picking on her, Tara relaxes trying not to think of Buffy touching her in a sexual way, having to admit the woman is beautiful. Knowing she loves Buffy and has ever since the slayer had said she was family. But loving someone and being in love with someone is two different things. Sighing softly, Tara follows Buffy as they continue on patrol after the slayer finally stakes the vampire.

"Tara, I'm okay!" Buffy hisses quietly as the Wiccan gently, but inexorably pushes her towards the bathroom. Trying to be quiet and not wake up either Dawn or Willow.

"Humor me." Tara growls softly into the slayer's ear as she finally gets Buffy into the bathroom. Turning around, Tara quickly shuts and locks the door. "Now strip, slayer." Tara orders as she grabs the first aid kit from under the sink, setting it on the vanity.

Buffy growls quietly at the Wiccan before slowly working her shirt off, wincing as the cloth sticks to her wound.

"I would have been able to handle him, Buffy. You didn't have to dive in front of me." Tara murmurs quietly as she thinks about the slayer's selfless act when the demon had turned to attack her, ignoring the slayer.

"I couldn't be positive of that, Tara." Buffy watches as Tara turns to her with a washcloth she'd run under the water and squirted a small amount of body wash on.

Tara turns and frowns at the sight of the slayer's ribs and abdomen. The wound shallow over Buffy's ribs, but getting deeper as it went over her abdomen. "Do you want to sit down?" Tara questions worriedly, her eyes rising to look into hazel eyes. As Buffy shakes her head, Tara sighs quietly. Ignoring the slayer's naked upper chest, Tara starts just below her breast where the cut starts and gently washes the wound, wincing in commiseration as she hears the slight inhale coming from Buffy as she pulls out a piece of cloth. Tara glances up at the slayer. "I'm sorry."

Buffy shakes her head and takes a couple shallow breaths. "How bad is it?"

Tara finishes cleaning the wound as gently as possible. "You need stitches in the worst of it." Tara admits quietly. "Do you want to shower then lie down so I can stitch you? Or do you want to forgo the shower tonight?"

Buffy frowns in thought, knowing she's dirty but between the blood loss and the extreme tiredness working through her body, she's afraid she'll fall asleep before she finishes cleaning herself. "Maybe just a quick wipe down with the washcloth."

Tara nods and hands the washcloth to Buffy. "Hold this, honey." Tara orders before moving the chair behind Buffy. Moving back in front of the slayer, Tara quickly and efficiently unbuttons and unzips the slayer's pants, grinning crookedly at the squeak coming from Buffy. "Do you really want to bend over to take off your clothes and shoes?"

Buffy clenches her jaws at the question before slowly shaking her head no, knowing that the pain would probably be too much for her right now. Watching Tara as the blonde slowly slides her jeans and panties down her legs, quirking her eyebrow as Tara kneels in front of her.

"Sit, honey." Tara whispers as she works on untying Buffy's boots. After the slayer gingerly sits down, she pulls the boots off, quickly followed by the socks and the rest of Buffy's clothes. "Wash what you can reach without hurting yourself, and I'll be back in a minute to finish what you couldn't reach." Tara gently squeezes Buffy's knee before standing and heading towards the door.

Buffy watches as Tara unlocks and opens the door, sliding out of the bathroom and shutting it behind her. Reaching over the short distance to the sink, Buffy runs more water over the washcloth and squirts more body wash on it before washing her face and neck, slowly working her way down her body as she hears Tara coming back into the room.

Tara sets her large t-shirt beside the first aid kit before grabbing another wash cloth and preparing it, settling on the floor to gently wash the slayer's feet and work her way up the slayer's legs. "After I help get you cleaned up, do you want me to fix you a couple sandwiches?" Tara questions softly, not looking up at the slayer, trying to keep her eyes averted from the slayer's body whenever possible.

Buffy blinks after a few moments, hearing Tara, but the question not sinking in as she washes her body while watching as Tara keeps her eyes downcast and on the body part in front of her. Knowing that she should be embarrassed at the thought of Tara helping wash her, but realizing the Wiccan was trying to make this the least embarrassing as possible. As Tara's question finally sinks, in, Buffy shakes her head slightly. "I don't think I'll be awake long enough to eat them, maybe something to drink though."`

Tara nods and stands, letting Buffy finish cleaning her lower body as she turns away from the slayer, rinsing the washcloth in the sink. "If you stand up, I'll wash your back for you."

Buffy groans quietly as her stomach pulls when she stands. She gently presses the washcloth still in her hand to the wound that had started bleeding a little more freely when it pulled as she stood.

Tara turns and frowns at the sight. "Quick wash." Tara steps behind Buffy and shifts the chair out of the way before gently washing the slayer's surprisingly long back and quickly wiping the cloth around the slayer's muscular butt cheeks. Turning back to the sink, Tara rinses the cloth thoroughly before turning back to wipe Buffy's body down quickly to get the majority of the soapsuds off. Gently drying her, Tara tucks the towel around her and drops the t-shirt over Buffy's shoulder. "Go lay down in the bed, I'll come up with some juice for you to drink along with a couple pain pills then I'll fix the cut." Tara orders quietly, nodding her head towards the door before turning back to the first aid kit to get out a couple of the suture kits, quickly tucking them in a pocket.

Buffy stares at Tara's back for a few minutes, the woman's gentle touches, and caring obvious, never realizing the woman has a backbone of steel before, metaphorically speaking. Buffy tilts her head a soft smile crossing her face at the fact. But seeing the stubborn streak along with the woman's determination was now something to behold. Gingerly making her way out of the bathroom, Buffy crosses the hall to her bedroom to wait for Tara to finish helping her. Knowing that the woman will do whatever she deems necessary to help her.

Tara exhales quietly as Buffy finally leaves the bathroom. Dropping her chin to her chest, Tara closes her eyes as she fights the feelings that had come to the surface while washing Buffy. Silently berating herself for the surge of love that had come to the surface, along with a slight feeling of arousal as she'd washed the hurt slayer. Silently calling herself every kind of fool Tara growls quietly. 'It isn't bad enough I literally have just left Willow for screwing with me and everyone else, but now I have feelings surfacing for her best friend. Her very straight and hurting, best friend that has insisted on my staying here.' Tara mentally castigates herself as she cleans up the bathroom before hurrying out and down the stairs to pour a large glass of orange juice for Buffy, knowing that the juice would be best for the slayer with the blood she'd lost from the wound. Tucking the bottle of pain pills into a pocket, Tara sighs quietly.

Quickly turning off the lights, Tara jogs up the stairs and gently pushes the door to the bedroom open, closing the distance to Buffy and handing the slayer the juice. "Drink this." Tara turns back to the door, shutting and locking it before pulling out the suture kits, setting them on the nightstand as Buffy sips her orange juice with no argument. Grabbing the pain pills from her other pocket, Tara hands three to the slayer before setting the bottle on the nightstand also. Running a hand shakily through her hair, Tara turns to the dresser and grabs her tank top and shorts to wear to bed, setting them on top of the dresser.

"You realize you could just put some butterfly bandages on my stomach, come tomorrow morning it'll be healed enough to just need a bandage." Buffy comments softly. "You'll just have to take the stitches out tomorrow afternoon sometime."

Tara plays with her shorts without turning to face Buffy. "Which would you prefer? I'm more worried about you possibly t-tossing and turning, possibly splitting it back open where the stitches would keep it together."

Buffy sips some more on the orange juice, while pressing gently against her wound with the washcloth she'd never put back in the sink. Knowing the bleeding had slowed down again. What Tara's saying has merit, but hating to have the woman poke her with the needle and thread, not knowing how Tara would react to that.

"I'll do whatever you wish, Buffy." Tara finally whispers, grabbing her clothes and stepping towards the door. "I'll go change and grab the first aid kit, just in case while you think about it."

Buffy sighs softly as Tara leaves the bedroom. Sipping quicker at the orange juice, she has to admit it tastes pretty good and is making her feel a little better not wanting to admit to Tara that she was starting to get a little lightheaded. Leaning back slightly, Buffy untucks the towel before she gently eases the washcloth away from her stomach and looks at the wound. "Fuck." Buffy grumbles at the depth of the wound, knowing that it should be stitched. Setting the glass down, Buffy grabs one of the suture kits. Gingerly moving to lie on the bed, Buffy places the towel more or less around the wound while setting the suture kit beside her on the bed. Figuring Tara could use it to wipe away whatever blood might still be oozing when she stitches her body.

Buffy turns to look at Tara as the Wiccan whimpers quietly as she shuts the door, having obviously turned to face the door after seeing her lying on the bed naked.

"Let me…" Tara waves her hand and hurries to the dresser, pulling a pair of her shorts out, figuring they'll be easier to slide up the slayer's body. Not thinking she could handle dealing with the slayer's naked body while stitching the wound closed. The breasts she could handle, but looking at the slayer's dark trimmed curls was a different matter.

"I would have thought it'd make me more uncomfortable than you to be like this." Buffy quirks an eyebrow at the blushing blonde. "I mean, it isn't like it's anything you haven't seen before."

"I haven't seen you before, Buffy." Tara comments softly, her eyes darting up to the slayer's hazel eyes. "And no matter who you are, I d-don't think you w-want to be ogled while practically b-being on display."

"I've never gotten that vibe from you, Tara." Buffy offers quietly watching as Tara quickly slides the shorts up her body. Lifting her hips as Tara looks away as she slides them the rest of the way up. Seeing the questioning look in Tara's eyes as the Wiccan looks up at her, Buffy sighs. "You don't make me feel like a piece of meat being put on display, Tara. You were just helping a friend that's in need."

Tara blushes darker, but her own need for honesty has her shaking her head at the slayer. "Yes, I did it for a friend that needs help. But I have t-to b-be honest, Buffy." Tara inhales deeply to try and get control of thoughts. "You're a b-beautiful w-woman, Buffy. Plus you h-have that whole s-superhero thing g-going for you… Then there's the fact that you're a w-wonderful, c-caring person. Everyone's f-fantasy. Men and w-women alike." Tara admits quietly. "And I am very much a red-blooded Lesbian, Buffy."

Buffy blinks in surprise at Tara's admittance. Watching the Wiccan for a few long moments, Buffy finally chuckles softly. "So being a superhero does it for you, huh?" Buffy makes light of the Wiccan's comment, trying to put Tara at ease while a part of her mind works on dissecting Tara's words and coming up with questions and thoughts of her own.

Tara stares at Buffy for a few minutes in stunned shock. Slowly relaxing as she realizes Buffy isn't going to become upset with her or freak out, Tara smiles uncertainly at the slayer. "I think it's more the p-person than the superhero, but I won't argue the point." Looking at the suture kit, Tara opens the item and quickly prepares to stitch Buffy's wound. "Are you ready?"

"Go ahead, Tara." Buffy comments softly, closing her eyes as she tries to think about anything but the feeling of the needle piercing her stomach.

Tara quickly works on placing the stitches while gently wiping what blood was oozing from the slayer's wound. Occasionally Tara glances up at the slayer, her eyes searching the woman's countenance for any clue as to what she is thinking before going back to the task at hand. Quickly finishing the stitching, Tara gently wipes the slayer's stomach again, frowning at the ribs showing and the smallness of the woman. Sighing quietly, Tara gathers the dirty towel and washcloth, gently laying them over the edge of the hamper before grabbing the bandages and tape.

Buffy watches Tara intently as the blonde Wiccan settles back down on the bed beside her and places the large bandage over her wound, gently taping it down. "Thank you, Tara."

"You're welcome." Tara answers equally as soft. "Do you want to put the shirt on, or not worry about wearing it?" Tara questions after standing, turning the overhead light off before looking back at Buffy, swearing she sees an almost mischievous smile crossing the slayer's face.

Buffy fights the smile trying to cross her face as she looks up into questioning blue eyes. "Depends."

"On what?" Tara quirks an eyebrow at the slayer, having a feeling that Buffy's going to say something to embarrass her.

"On whether or not you're planning on doing some sleepy groping… I'd rather have the real thing than through the cloth." Buffy waves a hand at her bare chest, before chuckling quietly as Tara's face becomes beet red.

"I'm putting that comment down to the fact that the pain pills and loss of blood have made you loopy." Tara mumbles as she turns off the light before hurrying around to the other side of the bed and easing under the covers. "Do you want the covers over you?" Tara questions as she grabs the covers that Buffy had flipped over to her side of the bed when she'd gotten into it.

"Please." Buffy accepts the covers and tries to get comfortable, knowing she won't be able to curl up like she did the night before, at least not without some pain involved.

Tara feels Buffy fidgeting beside her, silently waiting for Buffy to move closer to her. Turning on her side, Tara looks at the slayer in the dark room, the moonlight lighting the room enough for her to make out the slayer's features. "Would you like me to come closer and hold you?" Tara finally questions quietly after a few minutes.

Buffy bites her lip even as her head nods slightly, not wanting to voice her wants and needs out loud, breathing a sigh of relief as Tara shifts closer to her and carefully wraps an arm around her waist while pressing her head gently against her shoulder. Moving her arm slightly, Buffy wraps it around Tara and closes her eyes as Tara moves closer against her, the Wiccan's head nestling gently on her shoulder even as she feels the warm breath caressing over her upper chest.

Tara smiles as she feels Buffy relaxing and her breathing deepen noticeably as she quickly falls asleep. Allowing her lips to brush gently over Buffy's upper chest, Tara wiggles slightly and slowly follows the slayer into a decent night's sleep.


Chapter 6

Buffy looks down at the small leather braided ring, glancing back up at Tara questioningly.

"I can't make anything to keep her from using magic on us completely, but th-that'll block any m-memory tampering spells." Tara explains softly. "The ingredients n-needed to keep her from b-being able to d-do spells on us… Expensive." Tara finally admits quietly.

Buffy slides the item on her middle finger and nods her head in understanding. Tara had been staying in her room for the past week, the two women slowly becoming closer. Thankful Willow had obviously taken Buffy at her word and was being on her best behavior as far as anyone was aware. Though the redhead disappeared frequently and more often than not didn't always come home each night. When Tara had told her that Amy the Rat was no longer in her cage, Buffy had questioned her about it. Surprised when Tara whispered that she thinks Willow was finally able to turn the young woman back into her human form.

"Dawn's staying at a friend's house tonight, and since you were able to contact the mortgage company sending everything Next Day Air to them, we don't have to worry about the mortgage anymore. So, would you consider spending some of the expected refund money on dinner out?" Buffy questions softly, looking up at the blonde Wiccan that has pretty much spent every moment with her when she wasn't in class. Helping her to slowly come to terms with being back here and helping her manage the pain and anger. Knowing she's a long way from being back to normal, but also the anger and pain wasn't near as bad. Slowly feeling more 'settled' in her own mind and body, though some days she still feels like everything's so wrong. Those were the days that Tara seemed to know, and realizing that the Wiccan probably did know, and would come and hug her, insisting that she talk and meditate with her to help her through the worst of it.

Tara grins crookedly at the slayer and gently squeezes her shoulder. "That almost sounded like you were asking me on a date."

Buffy shrugs and allows a small grin to cross her face. "Well, we have been sleeping together for over a week. I thought it might be time to actually take you out."

Tara laughs quietly and smacks Buffy gently on the shoulder, the slayer having made it a habit to make little comments and do things the past week to embarrass her. Though noticing that, more often than not, Buffy would say something when she obviously noticed that she was becoming more worried or introspective. "So, where are you taking me?"

Buffy allows a full smile to cross her face. "Do you want to try that new Chinese Buffet that opened up over by the campus?"

"That sounds wonderful. Planning on seeing how long it will take for them to kick you out?" Tara jokes and winks at the slayer, laughing at the pout she gets in response.

"It's all you can eat. If they can't handle it, they shouldn't make it an all you can eat buffet!" Buffy smiles at hearing Tara laugh, knowing the Wiccan has become more serious and worried than she should be. "Come on. You've cooked dinner every night this week, plus fixed breakfast more often than not. Let me treat you." Buffy begs softly, her eyes serious.

"I already agreed, honey." Tara smiles softly at the slayer. Brushing a fingertip gently over the slayer's cheek, thankful that Buffy had started gaining some weight back. That along with the fact that her emotions weren't quite as much in an uproar as they were before makes her feel better.

"Good. Let's get ready." Buffy urges Tara up the stairs allowing her eyes to take in the form of the Wiccan, having to admit that over the past week she'd been noticing the blonde woman a lot more. Knowing that waking up in her arms every day is doing more for her than even Tara realizes.

"Where's Willow?" Tara questions curiously, having noticed that the redhead wasn't home.

"She said she was going to stay at her parent's house this weekend." Buffy shrugs, not really worried about the redhead. "She's been acting a little antsy here the last few days."

Tara slowly nods, worried. "If she hasn't been doing any magic, it's probably magical withdrawals. She has become so dependent on it, it acts like a drug." Tara pulls one of her nicer blouses out of the closet, glancing over at Buffy. "What are you wearing?"

"Jeans and a button up shirt." Buffy shrugs, sitting on the bed, watching as Tara pulls out a pair of jeans to put on, having noticed after a couple days that Tara was becoming less self-conscious and would change in the room while she was in here. Having to admit, that no matter how wrong it might be, she received pleasure from the sight of watching Tara change. "What are you planning on doing over the summer before classes start back up?" Buffy questions curiously, trying to keep her eyes to Tara's face as the woman looks at her as she finishes pulling her clothes off.

"Ummm. This is my last year, Buffy. I'll be graduating this year, so I'll be looking for a job." Tara explains quietly seeing the shocked look on Buffy's face.

"But… I thought you were the same age as us?" Buffy blinks in surprise at Tara, unconsciously leaning forward her eyes unwavering as they gaze at Tara.

Tara chuckles quietly and nods her head. "Yes, I am. But I skipped a year, and probably could have skipped more if my father would have signed the papers to allow it." Tara shrugs as she pulls her jeans on, leaving them undone as she pulls her blouse on, buttoning it quickly before tucking it in and zipping and buttoning her jeans.

Buffy watches Tara as she makes her way over to the bed, having picked up her boots to sit on the edge beside her to put them on. "I… Damn. What is your degree in?" Buffy finally questions, realizing she never really knew what Tara was studying.

"Which one?" Tara quirks her lip at the slayer, her eyes twinkling, hearing the quiet growl come from Buffy, Tara chuckles. "I have a Business Management Degree and I also was able to earn enough credits to have a teaching degree. The first year I was here, I took summer classes also, along with a completely fully loaded schedule every year."

Buffy stares at the woman as she lets that information sink in. "What are you wanting to do?"

"Find a job, what money I have put away won't last forever." Tara pats Buffy gently on the leg after she finishes tying her laces. "And since you're adamant about me not actually paying rent and will only let me help with the groceries, electric and other bills I won't have to rush out to take the first job I can find." Tara sighs quietly as she thinks about what she would like to do. "I would love to teach. Having the summers off is a plus, also. Though having to bring my work home with me isn't necessarily a plus." Tara smiles at the thought.

"What grades? And what particular classes?" Buffy finally stands, walking over to the closet and grabbing her own clean clothes to change into while turning back to watch Tara.

"Probably high school. English, History and any kind of Business courses." Tara shrugs, unconsciously watching as Buffy changes. Becoming more comfortable around the slayer as Buffy didn't freak out, and even with the teasing and occasional picking that she did, knowing the slayer had become more comfortable around her also.

"Instead of taking a full-time position, why don't you think about being a substitute teacher?" Buffy suggests, smiling at the surprised look on Tara's face. "That way you can teach the different courses and maybe not have quite so much 'homework' yourself."

Tara chuckles and nods her head. "That's actually not a bad idea. Of course substitutes don't usually get benefits, but the pay would be better to help counteract that." Tara purses her lips as she thinks about it. "Thanks for the idea, honey. That gives me another option." Tara stands as the slayer steps towards the bedroom door. "Is Dawn still a little freaked out about the sleeping arrangements?"

Buffy grunts quietly, nodding her head. "I think what freaked her out is when she came into the room and I was practically wrapped around you." Buffy admits as they walk down the stairs. Buffy double-checking her pockets for the keys and cash she'd tucked away automatically.

"There was no practically to it. I didn't realize you became an octopus." Tara jokes as she waits for Buffy to lock the door behind them. "Jeep or walk?"

Buffy purses her lips in consideration. "We need to do some grocery shopping, so it would probably be best to take the Jeep and we can stop at the store tonight instead of hitting it tomorrow."

Tara laughs quietly as she pulls the keys out of her pocket and walks towards the Jeep. Unlocking the door for Buffy, she opens it to shut behind the slayer before making her way around the vehicle to climb in from where Buffy had unlocked the door for her.

Buffy quietly watches as Tara drives towards the Chinese restaurant, enjoying the sight of the blonde Wiccan. Slowly coming to the realization that she cares more for Tara than just a friend, but knowing that Tara was still dealing with her feelings and hurt from Willow. Sighing quietly, Buffy turns to look out the window silently praying to the PTB to maybe, just this once, be on her side. To make their friendship something more.

Buffy growls quietly as she sees the bleached wonder making his way towards her. Having talked Tara into staying at home and getting some rest, knowing the Wiccan was tired between getting up early to go to school, plus being up late going out with her on patrol. Actually not even thinking about the fact that maybe Tara's presence had kept Spike from approaching her.

"Hey, Slayer. Been wantin' to speak with you." Spike lights a cigarette as he catches up to Buffy.

"There's nothing to talk about, Spike. I don't know why I kissed you, and it's not going to happen again." Buffy warns softly, her eyes sharpening as she pays more attention to her surroundings, as the vampire's nearness throws off her slayer senses.

"There's somethin' between us, Slayer. That kiss oughta told you that." Spike growls, grabbing Buffy to pull her to a stop, blocking her punch as he leers at the slayer. "Gotta do more than that pet, to hit me."

"Spike, you're a vampire and soulless. You may think you love me, but you're just infatuated with me. If that damn chip wasn't in your head, you'd probably be more than willing to try and kill me right now." Buffy growls as she pokes the vampire in the head. "Now, stay the hell away from me. There isn't anything between us and there never will be."

"What? You got somethin' goin' on with Glinda? Didn't think mousey girl would be your type." Spike snarls hatefully, his eyes gleaming yellow.

Buffy chuckles at the angry vampire. "I knew you were following us. And what of it? What if there is something between me and Tara? It's none of your business!"

Spike throws his half smoked cigarette to the ground, crushing it beneath his booted heel. "No, it might not be any of my business. But there is someone whose business it is." Spike smirks as he watches the shock cross Buffy's face. "I guess it's up to me to be letting Red know."

"It's not any of her business either, Spike." Buffy snarls, the anger starting to come to the surface with a vengeance. "She fucked Tara over and the two women have split up. And not that it's any of your business, but there isn't anything going on between me and Tara right now!"

"Ohh… the Wiccy love affair has ended, has it?" Spike smirks at the thought. "Red finally gave Glinda the heave ho, eh?"

Buffy snarls and snaps off a hard right to the vampire's jaw, knocking him down to the ground. "Don't talk about something you have no fucking clue about! Willow lost Tara because she fucked with her mind. You ought to know what that feels like, Spike." Buffy taps the toe of her boot hard into Spike head. "Now stay the fuck away from me and the rest of my family and friends. Next time you try to cause trouble, you're going to meet the end of Mister Pointy." Buffy warns, her eyes flashing with her anger.

Spike snarls at the slayer as she strides away. His hand rubbing his bruised jaw. "So Red has a pair on her, does she? Wonder if she wants the bint back." Spike smirks as he stands, pulling another cigarette out and lighting it as he watches the quickly disappearing slayer, smoking his cigarette in contemplation. "Maybe I ought to check into things a bit more." Spike nods and grins to himself as he makes his way across town deciding a drink at Willy's sounds pretty good right now.

"Damn that bleached blonde bastard." Buffy growls as she stomps up the steps, still angry an hour later after her run in with Spike. Surprised when the door opens before she has a chance to pull her keys out, she sees the worry on Tara's face. Calling herself a couple choice names, Buffy works on bringing her anger under control. "Sorry."

"What's wrong?" Tara questions worriedly, looking over the slayer, not seeing anything but a light bruise on Buffy's cheek. Watching intently as Buffy steps into the house walking normally. She's silently thankful that there obviously wasn't anything seriously wrong with the small woman.

"Bleached wonder has been trailing us this past week." Buffy finally mumbles her eyes on the floor as she pulls out her weapons, setting them on the coffee table for the time being, realizing she never told Tara about the kiss that happened after the whole singing fiasco. Sighing quietly, Buffy raises her eyes to look at Tara. "When you guys found out I had been in heaven?" Buffy starts and at Tara's nod, even as the woman winces slightly, Buffy sighs. Knowing from talking with Tara, that's when the blonde Wiccan had found out about the original forget spell Willow had done on her, not even thinking about the fact that Tara could be wincing about what had happened to her. "Well, he sung his feelings for me and admitted he loved me."

Tara stares in stunned shock at the slayer. Her eyes wide open, not knowing what to say she continues to watch as Buffy fidgets slightly.

"After the whole thing ended… I went out to the alley where he was and we… kissed." Buffy finally admits, wincing as she looks at Tara waiting for the look of disgust to come over the woman. Not seeing any change of expression, though having to admit she could swear she saw a hint of pain and hurt crossing her face before Tara closed her emotions down, Buffy sighs and continues. "Anyway, nothing else happened but tonight he wanted to push for something more. He also threatened to tell Willow that there's something going on between you and me. I thought you might want to know, just in case something happens."

Tara watches as Buffy seems to withdraw in on herself after she finishes talking. "Do y-you c-care for h-him?" Tara hesitantly questions her eyes shadowed as she watches Buffy start to walk up the stairs. Hoping in her heart that Buffy doesn't care for the vampire, though honestly having no say in who, or what, Buffy might have feelings for.

Buffy stops and slowly turns to look at Tara. "I wouldn't say that I care for him, or even that there are feelings so much, but I honestly believe if things had gone differently for me that I could very well have ended up taking him up on his offer." Buffy steps back down, slowly closing the distance between her and Tara. "I had already decided to use Spike, if I had run into him the night of the forget spell. Lucky for me, I didn't run into him and made it home in time to keep you from moving out. And in that one simple twist of fate, I was kept from doing something degrading and disgusting, possibly losing myself forever in the darkness to having sunlight in my life again." Buffy reaches up to gently cup Tara's cheek, seeing the tears gathering in her blue eyes. "Please don't take the sunlight away from me for a lapse in judgment." Buffy begs softly, her eyes searching Tara's, quietly sighing in relief as she sees the sadness but also the forgiveness and caring being shown her after a few moments.

"Buffy, honey…" Tara gently shakes her head, reaching up to press the slayer's hand more firmly to her cheek. "We all do things at one time or another that we regret. And maybe in h-his own w-way, S-spike may l-love you." Tara offers softly watching Buffy intently.

"How can he love without a soul?" Buffy questions quietly and seriously. "Becoming infatuated with someone, I can see, but loving… no. It shouldn't be possible, and I doubt that it is. Plus he's too easily moved to do the wrong thing. I don't want to become like him, Tara. I don't want the darkness that's fighting in me to win." Buffy roughly admits, her eyes shadowed and filling with tears.

"Goddess, Buffy." Tara finally wraps her arms around Buffy, gently pulling the slayer to her as the tears start to fall from Buffy's eyes. Pressing her lips to the side of Buffy's head, she closes her eyes and holds her tightly.

"Part of me wants to take him up on his offer, Tara. Something in me wants to wallow in his darkness." Buffy buries her face tighter into Tara's neck, wrapping her arms tightly around the Wiccan's waist so there isn't a single centimeter separating their bodies.

Tara feels the tears sliding from her own eyes even as she clenches Buffy even tighter. "We're not going to let the darkness win, Buffy. I won't lose you, honey." Tara whispers, gently kissing Buffy's head while digging her fingers into the slayer's waist. Realizing the slayer is seriously rattled from her own thoughts and desires.

"Thank you." Buffy breathes the words over Tara's neck as she continues to soak in the warmth and caring coming into her from the Wiccan. "Meditating helps, is there something else we can do to help even more?" Buffy finally questions after a long time as she slowly relaxes into Tara's embrace.

Tara slowly nods her head as she licks her lips. "There's a cleansing ritual that might help purge the worse of it, along with helping to heal your fractured spirit." Tara finally offers, unconsciously stiffening as she feels a quick streak of anger coming from Buffy, directed at her. Waiting for the slayer to say what's on her mind, Tara closes her eyes.

Buffy fights the surge of anger she feels, quickly getting control of it, though she tenses, her hands slowly dropping from holding onto the blonde. "Why didn't you bring this up before?" Buffy finally questions, wincing at her own cold tones.

Tara whimpers quietly as she feels Buffy pulling away from her. Dropping her arms quickly, she steps back, giving the slayer the room she's obviously needing. Walking over to the mantle, Tara leans against it, while keeping her back turned to the slayer. "The cleansing itself isn't the p-problem, but the r-ritual w-would b-be m-more than you w-would p-probably want to do." Tara finally gets out over her heavy stuttering.

Buffy's head snaps up at hearing the bad stuttering, her eyes narrowed on Tara not liking the fact that she won't look at her, along with the stuttering making her more than slightly worried. "What aren't you telling me, Tara?"

"You're slowly g-getting b-better, Buffy. If w-we continue the w-way we are, you'll eventually b-be better." Tara speaks softly, finally looking at Buffy. Seeing the stubborn look on the slayer's face, Tara sighs and looks back down. "It w-will allow m-me to be in y-your psyche, Buffy. To f-find the r-rift and f-fix it. But if w-we d-do this, a p-part of m-me will always b-be with you and a part of you w-within me. It m-may make a l-link b-between us to wh-where we'll know the other's th-thoughts, or possibly m-more. I'm n-not positive what m-might happen. And th-that's why I d-didn't m-mention it b-before."

Buffy quickly closes the distance between her and Tara, feeling bad for the anger that had been directed at the woman that was doing everything possible to help her. "Easy, Tara." Buffy whispers as she gently grasps Tara's shoulder, frowning heavily as Tara flinches hard with her touch. "I'm not angry, Tara. Not anymore, and I'm sorry for not giving you the benefit of the doubt. I should have known there was a reason for you not bringing it up before."

"It's okay." Tara shakes her head, shifting back a step from the slayer, effectively breaking the contact between them, feeling a deep hurt that Buffy obviously doesn't trust her. "I'm…" Tara waves towards the steps before hurrying away, deciding she'll sleep in Dawn's bed for the night, since it's available.

Buffy reaches for the blonde a second too late. Buffy watches Tara practically run away from her as her shoulders slump. "Great, Slayer. Just run off the one person that's done everything she possibly can to help you. She stayed here and has gone out of her way to make your world right, and at the first questionable thing, you don't give her the benefit of the doubt and get angry at her, like you can't trust her. There's no one more trustworthy than her." Buffy sighs heavily as she looks up at the ceiling frowning heavily as she swears she hears Tara moving around in Dawn's room. Not even aware of moving, Buffy takes the stairs three steps at a time to come to a halt outside Dawn's closed door, knowing it was open earlier.

Tara feels the slayer's turmoil coming from the other side of the door. Finishing changing, she wants to let Buffy know that everything will be okay, but her feelings are too raw and too hurt right now with the slayer's perceived distrust. Pulling down the covers, Tara slides into the twin bed, already missing the feel of the slayer being curled up around her. Throwing her arm over her eyes, Tara fights the tears that want to fall. Knowing that sleep will be at a minimum tonight even as she realizes that the love she feels for the slayer has deepened and slowly is turning into her falling in love with Buffy. Whimpering quietly at the uselessness of what she's feeling, Tara tries to think of other things to keep her mind off Buffy.

Buffy leans against Dawn's door, pressing her hand against the wood as she listens to the softly whimpering Wiccan. Hearing the occasional sniffle and shuddering breath as Tara obviously tries to control her tears. Silently wondering what she's done this time Buffy closes her eyes in pain. Pressing her back against the wall beside Dawn's door, Buffy slowly slides down it and pulls her knees up against her chest as she wraps her arms around her legs. Resting her forehead against her knees, she unconsciously decides to stay as close as she dares to the Wiccan, silently contemplating what she can do to make up to Tara for her own shortcomings and lack of trust.

Part 7

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