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 7

Tara opens the door as the first rays of sun come over the horizon, sighing quietly at the sight of Buffy curled up asleep outside the door. Feeling a streak of pain go through her, followed quickly by guilt at her actions, Tara kneels beside Buffy. Gently stroking a finger down Buffy's cheek, Tara calls quietly. "Buffy, honey? Wake up."

Buffy whimpers quietly, feeling cold inside and out. Hearing Tara's voice and feeling her finally running her fingers through her hair, Buffy opens her eyes and practically launches herself at the Wiccan. Wrapping her arms around Tara, Buffy buries her face in her neck. "I'm sorry."

"Oh, honey…" Tara feels the tears come to her eyes as Buffy cries fitfully in her arms. The slayer had knocked her down to the floor and was literally trying to burrow into her. Running her hands firmly up and down her back, Tara presses a soft kiss to the top of Buffy's head. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I should have told you last night that everything would be okay, I just needed some time to myself." Tara whispers, hugging Buffy tightly.

Buffy shakes her head and grasps Tara's waist tightly with her hands. "No. I was stupid and I knew better. I KNEW BETTER! I know you wouldn't keep something like that from me intentionally without a very good reason. But I was stupid and hurt you, and I didn't mean to. I don't ever want to hurt you."

Tara closes her eyes and presses her lips firmly to Buffy's head, leaving them there. Just holding the slayer and letting her slowly calm down. As Buffy finally relaxes and her swirling emotions come under control, Tara sighs in relief. "How do you feel about sausage gravy and biscuits along with scrambled eggs with cheese for breakfast?"

"I'll help." Buffy offers quietly, Tara has been trying to teach her to cook, though not having much luck. Leaving the actual cooking to Tara, Buffy just does the mixing and prep work. Easing her grip from Tara's waist, Buffy hops up and holds her hand out to Tara, easily helping the woman to stand. Wiping the tears from her face roughly, Buffy looks intently at Tara. Reaching up, Buffy strokes her fingers tenderly down Tara's cheek. "I am sorry, Tara. You can't know how much." Buffy leans in and brushes her lips quickly over the shocked Wiccan's lips before disappearing into their bedroom.

Tara blinks in surprise, the kiss so quick, with the slayer literally disappearing right afterwards, that Tara wonders if she imagined the whole thing. Lifting her fingers to her tingling lips, Tara slowly shakes her head when she realizes that it wasn't her imagination. "Well, I'll be." Tara whispers, her lips curling up in a half smile before she turns and hurries into the bathroom.

Buffy tears apart four biscuits and pours a couple generous spoonfuls of sausage gravy over the biscuits and scrambled eggs. Smiling as she feels Tara gently rub her shoulder as she moves around the kitchen placing drinks on the island for both of them as she settles beside her to fix her own plate. Enjoying the easy silence between them, along with being in one of her favorite places in the house, Buffy starts to eat.

Tara gently tears a biscuit into bite size pieces before pouring a small amount of gravy over it, smiling as Buffy's already tearing a couple more biscuits apart and throwing them on her plate to scoop more gravy onto them after she sets the spoon back in the bowl, extremely happy to see the slayer eating again and putting on much needed weight. "What do you want for lunch and dinner?"

Buffy looks over at Tara with a fork piled up with eggs, gravy and a piece of biscuit. "You know you don't have to cook every meal, right?" Buffy tries again, having had this same argument with Tara for the last week. Tara had even insisted on fixing her sandwiches and other things for lunch when she had to be at school.

"Yes, but I know you enjoy the food, and I like to cook." Tara points at Buffy's plate, grinning at the piled up food.

Buffy growls quietly, bringing the fork the rest of the way up and putting it in her mouth. Pulling the fork out while eating the bite of food, Buffy bounces gently against Tara. Finally swallowing, Buffy shrugs. "I'll eat whatever you cook. But why don't we just make sub sandwiches or something like that for lunch, instead of you actually cooking? I was thinking about taking you out shopping." Buffy finally admits quietly, stabbing at a piece of biscuit with a huge hunk of sausage on it, quickly eating it.

"What?" Tara looks at Buffy in surprise.

"I need some more jeans and another pair of leather pants since one of them got ruined earlier this week. I thought I could entice you into driving me there if I offered to buy you some clothes." Buffy grins hopefully at Tara.

"First off you don't have to bribe me, Buffy. I'll be happy to go with you to the mall. And I can buy my own clothes, thank you." Tara grins crookedly at the slayer.

"But I wanted to buy them as a thank you." Buffy pouts slightly as she pokes at her food without actually scooping any up on her fork.

"A thank you will make me just as happy. And why am I getting a thank you?" Tara furrows her brow in confusion.

"For everything you've done for me. For cooking and putting up with me and bratty Dawnie." Buffy chuckles as Tara smacks her lightly on the leg. "Well, she can be a brat, you know."

Tara hums noncommittally, before going back to finish her breakfast. "How about this, you can buy lunch at the mall and we'll leave after we clean up from breakfast?"

"Deal." Buffy nods her head and holds her hand out to Tara, chuckling as Tara rolls her eyes but shakes hands with her. "And maybe a movie while we're there, if there's anything good playing."

"What in the world are you doing?" Tara tilts her head as she watches the slayer with an arm full of jeans and tops.

"Come with." Buffy nods her head towards the changing rooms. Smiling apologetically at the woman, she nods towards Tara. "She's the money bags, so she has to approve what I buy, is it okay if she goes in with me to the changing room?" Buffy puts her best innocent combination pleading look on her face.

Tara looks at Buffy and blinks before turning her gaze to the woman, smiling softly at her as she finally nods her head. "How many items do you have, Buffy?"

"Ummm…" Buffy shifts and tries to count them, chuckling as Tara takes a handful away from her, making it easier for her to count. "Fifteen pairs of pants and ten shirts." Buffy looks hopefully at the woman, knowing they usually put a limit on the amount of clothes they allow you to take into the changing rooms.

Sighing quietly, Debbie waves the two women towards the change room. "Don't make me regret this." She warns softly, though the two women seem nice enough.

"We won't." Buffy grins happily and grabs the clothes, taking them from Tara and following the Wiccan into the changing room.

"Good thing these are halfway decently sized, or you'd end up knocking me out as you tried to put on the tops." Tara jokes, helping Buffy hang the clothes up.

"Or maybe you knocking me out, too." Buffy smirks as she hands a pair of jeans to Tara. "Try 'em on."

"Buffy, you're not buying me clothes." Tara states exasperatedly.

"Don't argue with me. I may be little but I's strongs…." Buffy makes a muscle in her arm, looking at it and poking it with her other hand. "Well, it don't looks likes much, but it's there!" Buffy narrows her gaze on Tara as the blonde laughs. "Not that funny." Buffy pouts and tugs on Tara's jeans. "Off!" Chuckling wickedly, Buffy tugs on Tara's shirt, also. "Off!"

"Buffy!" Tara whines quietly.

"Come on, Tara. Please???" Buffy begs and flutters her eyelashes at Tara, grinning happily as she sees the capitulation in the woman's eyes. Quickly stripping her own shirt off, placing it on a different hook, Buffy bends over, accidentally banging into Tara's butt. "Damn. That sucker's harder than it looks." Buffy grumbles, rubbing her head while looking at the item in question. Curiously poking it with a finger of her other hand, squeaking as Tara yelps and turns around to look at her. "Sorry." Buffy shrugs. "It was right there."

"I'm going to see if the changing room next to this one is open, if you keep this up." Tara warns with a narrowed gaze, trying to keep from laughing at the innocent looking slayer.

"Not my fault. They should make these rooms a little bigger." Buffy grumbles, smirking as she leans back over, banging into Tara's stomach this time.

"Okay, you're doing this on purpose." Tara smacks Buffy on the shoulder before shifting away from the slayer, watching her baby step towards her as she unties her boots. Putting a hand on the slayer's head, Tara effectively stops the woman from coming any closer. "You keep that up, I'm going to buy a paddle and beat your bottom." Tara warns, though the laughter bubbling from her after the comment takes the seriousness out of the statement.

"But I'll fall if I don't have something to lean against." Buffy looks up grinning at the Wiccan. "Come on, Tara. What's a little leaning and poking between friends?"

Tara blushes at the word poking as her mind takes a definite trip into the gutter. Closing her eyes, she tilts her head up silently beseeching the Goddess for the strength to keep from saying or doing something that'll embarrass her, or Buffy.

Buffy frowns at the dark blush on Tara's face, trying to think what might have caused it. Shrugging her shoulders, Buffy moves her hand and rests it on Tara's shoulder while lifting her foot to untie her boot and pull it off, before switching to do the same for the other boot. "I'll behave. For now."

"Thank the Goddess." Tara murmurs taking a deep breath to calm her racing heart as she looks down at Buffy. Sliding off her slip on tennis shoes Tara quickly undoes her jeans and slides them off, folding them to set on the little corner seat where Buffy had tossed her jeans.

"What do you think?" Buffy turns to show how the jeans fit her. "Though I'm wondering if I shouldn't buy a size larger, since you've been feeding me I've put on some weight." Buffy runs a finger around the waistband of the snug jeans.

"You need to gain weight, honey." Tara comments softly, her eyes taking in the jeans, trying not to let her eyes linger on the slayer's perpetually tanned flesh. Sighing quietly at the sight of the way the jeans accentuate the slayer's ass, Tara licks her lips. "Those fit perfectly. But I know I would like for you to put on some more weight, and if that's the case…"

"Better to be practical." Buffy grumbles quietly in understanding. Knowing that she'll have money to help with expenses again, but not an unlimited amount to where she can go out and buy five new pairs of jeans every couple weeks. Buffy pulls down one of the silk feeling tops that are on sale, watching as Tara finishes unbuttoning her shirt. Looking at the expanse of Tara's smooth, soft back, Buffy tilts her head curiously as she sees something small on the woman's shoulder blade that she had never noticed previously. "Tara?" Buffy steps closer, running a finger gently over the dime sized item, blinking in surprise at the small tattoo of a pentagram. "Well, I'll be…" Buffy chuckles.

Tara smiles at the surprise and humor she hears in Buffy's words. "Believe it or not, my mom gave me that before she became ill." Tara looks over her shoulder, smiling at Buffy. "I've actually thought about getting another tattoo, but I never can make up my mind as to what I want, or where I want it placed…" Tara shrugs as she trails off.

"I honestly never would have expected you to have a tattoo." Buffy admits, running a finger around the item again. "Don't have any piercings or anything else, do you?"

Tara turns around facing the slayer and wiggles her eyebrows. "Why, you want to see them?" Tara laughs as Buffy's eyes widen in surprise before her eyes drop to chest level. Laughing even harder as Buffy steps closer, and her head drops down slightly, Tara gently pushes on the slayer's forehead, pushing her away. "Behave, Slayer."

"Do you?" Buffy looks up wide-eyed at Tara. Deciding the octopus in her is going to have to play a little more in her 'sleep' to find out, if Tara doesn't let her know.

"Only someone that knows me intimately and my female doctor know the answer to that question, Buffy." Tara teases as she grabs the pair of jeans down and slides them on.

Buffy scratches her head, realizing she can't very well ask Willow, that would just be… bad. Knowing that if she called Tara's doctor's office, they'd probably laugh their asses off before they hung up on her. Pouting slightly, Buffy realizes she doesn't have anyone else to ask. "Did you date anyone before Willow?" Buffy questions curiously, finally pulling on the top and buttoning it. Looking in the mirror, Buffy turns and looks at the way the item fits before taking it back off and hanging it up to add to the keep stack.

Tara snorts quietly at the slayer's question. Looking in the mirror after Buffy shifts out of the way, Tara has to admit that the jeans fit well and they hug her bottom nicely. Turning around she decides she'll get them.

"Here, try the top on." Buffy hands one of the tops she'd picked up, thinking the blue color would accent Tara's eyes perfectly. Watching as Tara buttons the top, only leaving the top button undone, Buffy shakes her head. "Tara, do I need to teach you to dress? You're a woman, you're stacked and you need to learn to flaunt it." Buffy reaches up unbuttoning a couple more buttons, fussing with the edges of the shirt making it gape just the way she wants it to. "We need to visit Victoria Secrets. Get you one of those lacy bras and then have you unbutton one more button to flash the edges of it." Buffy nods her head at the thought, her eyes gleaming.

Tara stares at Buffy in disbelief, her breathing having picked up along with her heartbeat as the slayer's fingertips caressed over the skin of her chest while she played with her shirt. Swallowing to try and calm herself, Tara reaches up and gathers the top together at her neckline. "I'm not trying to attract a guy, Buffy." Tara whispers, turning her back on the slayer while unbuttoning the buttons to slip the shirt off and hang it back up.

"Don't women like breasts, too?" Buffy questions softly, frowning at Tara's back, unaware of the woman looking in the mirror at her. "I mean, you are…" Buffy raises her hands up like she's cupping Tara's breasts. "Well, you seem to be nicely built, and I assumed…" Buffy finally blushes darkly and turns away, realizing she likes Tara's breasts and can't understand why another woman wouldn't.

Tara takes a deep breath, seeing a brief glimpse of desire cross Buffy's face before she blushed and turned away. "I guess so. I mean every woman's different, Buffy. Pretty much like a guy would be, I assume. Some like breasts, others asses, legs and so forth. It just seems that guys seem to get distracted a lot easier when they see breasts."

"Personally wouldn't know." Buffy mumbles as she pulls off the shirt, looking down at her own meager breasts before hanging the shirt back up, to grab another one down, quickly trying the shirts on.

"Some people would say more than a handful or mouthful would be a waste." Tara offers quietly after a while, as she finishes stripping and putting her regular clothes and shoes back on. Without looking at Buffy, having felt the slayer stop moving and become completely still, Tara puts her hand on the door handle. "I think you can decide for yourself, Buffy."

Buffy watches in silence as Tara leaves the changing room. Looking back at the clothes hanging on the hook, she realizes Tara didn't try on the other pair of jeans and shirt she'd picked out for her. Shivering slightly at the thought of Tara's mouth on her breasts, she looks back down at the items, running a hand up to cup her right breast curiously. Shaking her head at her thoughts, Buffy hurriedly tries on the rest of the clothes, putting them into two different stacks before dressing.

"What do you want to eat?" Buffy finally questions, the two women having been shopping in relative silence since they had tried on clothes together in the changing room.

Tara looks at the plethora of food kiosks and shrugs her shoulders. "I don't have a taste for anything in p-particular, Buffy. Whatever you want is fine with me."

Buffy groans quietly, before heading towards the stairs and a corner seating area out of the way. Setting her bags in the corner, she waves Tara to sit down. Settling across from her, Buffy searches wary blue eyes. "If I made you uncomfortable, I'm sorry, Tara. I didn't mean to."

Tara looks away and shakes her head. "Buffy, you have to remember, I am a red blooded lesbian. And we've been spending a lot of time together lately, let alone sleeping in the same bed. I know a lot of your comments are just harmless flirtations on your end, because you aren't interested in me like that. But it puts thoughts in my head that I've been trying to not let get in there."

Buffy watches Tara intently while she talks, listening to what she's saying and not saying at the same time. Not knowing if she's ready yet to take the big leap to letting Tara know she cares about her, and that the flirtations were just that, her being flirty and the harmless could go to hell in a hand basket, Buffy sighs softly, deciding it's too soon after the break-up between her and Willow to say anything. Reaching across the small table and gently squeezing Tara's hand that's nervously moving in small circles, Buffy looks into blue eyes that turn towards her. "I'm sorry, Tara. I didn't mean to push that much. It seems like I'm doing my damnedest to upset you this weekend, and I honestly don't mean to." Standing, Buffy lifts Tara's hand and gently presses a soft kiss on the palm before releasing it. "I'm going to get us some food. Last chance to tell me what you want or you'll have to eat whatever I buy."

Tara stares in stunned shock at her hand, feeling a tingle from her palm all the way up her arm from the warm, open mouthed kiss. Not hearing the slayer's question, it takes her a minute to notice Buffy has walked away. "Goddess, does she have the slightest clue what she does to me?" Tara holds her hand to her chest, trying to fight the desire wanting to course through her.


Chapter 8

Tara laughs softly as she looks at the tray piled up with food. Standing, she grabs the two large drinks that are in danger of tipping over. Setting them down on the table Tara smiles softly at the slayer. "Did you buy everything?"

"Not quite." Buffy shakes her head and places the tray on the table. "I got a couple salads. One's a chef salad, the other's one of those oriental salads with real chicken on it. There's also a couple cheese steak subs, a fruit and cheese plate, chicken sandwiches, waffle fries… and who knows what else." Buffy waves at the tray grabbing one of the cheese steak subs. "Grab what you want."

Tara grins crookedly at the slayer before looking at the tray and slowly sorting the items, the chicken oriental salad actually looking pretty good. Placing that in front of her, she digs for a fork and dressing while watching Buffy tear through the sub and one of the orders of fries. Looking through the rest of the items, she pulls out the cheese and fruit plate. "Have at the rest, honey." Tara waves at the tray still piled with items.

"These waffle fries are pretty good, you sure you don't want to try one?" Buffy offers, holding one of the fries out to Tara, smiling as Tara accepts it.

Tara chuckles and grabs the waffle fry dripping with cheese. Licking her lips as a bit of cheese didn't quite make into her mouth, she laughs softly. "Yes, it's good. But I'll stick with what I have here. You eat to your little heart's content." Tara knows Buffy can put away the food, the woman's appetite having come back with a vengeance. Realizing the small slayer probably ate more than her father and brother did put together, and her brother had been no slouch in the food department. Sighing quietly at the thoughts of her family, Tara pokes at her salad and slowly works on eating it.

Buffy looks at Tara curiously, seeing the sad look along with the sigh. Grabbing another sandwich and unwrapping it, Buffy looks at the item for a few moments before finally questioning Tara. "Having you fix me with the cleansing and ritual thingy, what are the pluses and minuses of it?"

Tara drops her fork and looks up at Buffy in surprise. "Are you just c-curious or are you thinking seriously about this?"

Buffy looks at Tara for a moment before looking back down. "These mood swings I'm having are driving me crazy, Tara. I go from being happy to depressed, to ready to rip somebody's head off at a second's notice. I don't like it when I take my anger out on you, my jumping on you and becoming angry yesterday scared me." Buffy admits quietly. "I just want a better idea of what it entails and what the side effects may be."

Tara takes a deep calming breath and looks at Buffy. "This probably isn't the best place to discuss this, Buffy. But what I can tell you is that I can't tell you for a fact exactly what the side effects are. I can tell you what they COULD be, but it depends on how much of myself I'd have to put into the healing of you, and how strong of a connection it makes. We could just be aware of the other person being in our heads, per se. But not really knowing what that person is thinking, without sending them a specific thought. Or we may know each other's most intimate thoughts and feelings with no way of blocking them out. We may be able to block the other person's feelings, or thoughts but not both. Each person is different, and I may just be able to put a temporary patch on you, and have to let you heal on your own."

Buffy looks into worried blue eyes as Tara tries to explain. "So, we really don't know what might happen, except for the fact that it should help me. You may or may not be in my head. I may or may not end up in yours."

"Basically." Tara runs a hand through her hair nervously. "But while I'm doing it, we would literally be open to each other, Buffy. All our fears, thoughts, wants, and desires would be there for the other person to see and know. And once I start the ritual, we will need to finish it. There will be no way of stopping in the middle of it if you change your mind."

Buffy nods her head in understanding, looking back down at her sandwich. "Let me think on it. Maybe when we get back home if there's anything else you can think of that might be of importance, you can tell me." Buffy frowns and slowly looks up as Tara continues to sit there quietly. "You never said whether or not you would want to do this, Tara. This doesn't just affect me, it affects you, too."

Tara swallows and stares at Buffy for a few minutes, seeing the silent question in the slayer's eyes. "I'll do whatever you want me to do, Buffy." Tara finally whispers.

Buffy leans forward to look into worried blue eyes. "That wasn't really what I was looking for. Would you want to do this Tara? Do you want to chance me knowing you better than anyone else in the world? To know you completely, as only you know yourself? Because that's basically what you're telling me, right? That this could happen. And if it does, what if you fall in love with someone, could it be like I'm with you as you make love? And vice versa?"

Tara pales at Buffy's questions and slowly nods her head. "It's possible, Buffy. Very possible. There are reasons people aren't meant to be brought back from the dead. Willow's very lucky you came back as well as you did. Most people's minds would have been completely shattered by the experience, and I tried to explain to her that it wasn't something she should do, but…" Tara takes a deep shuddering breath, her eyes filling with tears. "I can't tell you how happy I was to see you. At that moment, I thought anything and everything that possibly could happen, would be worth it. Now, knowing the pain and heartache you're going through…" Tara wraps her arms around her waist and shivers uncontrollably.

Buffy reaches across the short distance and grasps Tara's forearm, gently squeezing it. "Don't blame yourself, Tara. It's over and done with. I'm here now, so we need to go forward, right?"

Tara slowly nods her head, the tears filling her eyes and making them glassy, but not falling. "It doesn't make it right, though Buffy." Tara whispers, the tears finally falling.

"Shhh." Buffy frowns and shifts the chair around the small table until it's against Tara's chair. Finding herself in the unlikely position of trying to calm Tara, Buffy wraps her arm around her shaking shoulders. "Damn it, I did it again. Come on, Tare. I don't want you to be upset." Buffy places her forehead against Tara's temple, reaching up with her free hand to gently brush the tears from Tara's cheek. "I go from making you cry, to not talking to me, to running away from me. I'm starting to wonder how good of an idea it was to keep you from leaving." Buffy whispers softly closing her eyes as she contemplates the Wiccan.

Tara swallows hard and shakes her head slightly. "I'm glad you d-did, Buffy. S-since my m-mama d-died; your house is the only p-place that f-feels like home." Tara leans heavier into the slayer. "It's n-not just you. I th-think I'm f-finally starting to r-realize that I've l-left W-willow for good." Tara sighs heavily at the thought, knowing how true it is. The feelings she has for the slayer bringing that home with a vengeance. Almost not wanting Buffy to want to do the ritual, there being no way she could keep the slayer from learning how much she cares for her.

"I want it to be your home, too." Buffy softly admits, settling the hand that had gently brushed the tears away from Tara's cheeks on the Wiccan's thigh, gently squeezing it. Shifting her head up, she presses her lips firmly against Tara's temple. "No more anger, tears, hurt feelings…" Buffy tilts her head and tries to think of anything else to add to that list. "Or just plain meanness allowed for the rest of today. We're going to have some fun. But not watching any of the movies that are showing here, they all sound like crap." Buffy grumbles.

Tara chuckles as she relaxes, unwrapping her arms and gently patting Buffy's hand that's still clasping her thigh. "So, what do you have planned, Slayer?"

"Stop at the movie rental place and pick up some oldies but goodies, along with some Sno Caps, Goobers and Red Licorice to pig out on while we watch them." Buffy rambles off quickly, smiling at the quiet laughter coming from Tara. "But right now, we have food to consume. So eat." Buffy points to the salad, hugging Tara quickly before releasing her and shifting back around the table.

"Yes, boss." Tara grins crookedly at Buffy before relaxing to start eating the late lunch.

Willow lets herself back into her parent's house, carrying the Chinese food. "I'm back." She calls out quietly, hoping not to startle Amy. Having come across a spell Saturday when she went to the Magic Box that ended up being the right spell to de-rat Amy, she had taken her over to her parent's house and performed it. Now the nervous, scared and extremely twitchy woman was staying in her room and refusing to leave the house.

Amy scurries from the corner she'd been hiding in since Willow left, quickly following the redhead into the kitchen.

"I picked you up some of the Egg Drop Soup you wanted, along with House Lo Mein and Egg Foo Young." Willow starts pulling out the containers of food, setting them on the counter. "Have you thought any more about calling your dad?" Willow questions softly, her eyes worried as they glance at Amy, silently wondering if the young woman will ever be okay again, having spent the last three years as a rat, obviously having taken its toll on her.

"No." Amy twitches nervously while picking up the container of soup, pulling the lid off to sip directly from the plastic container.

Willow pulls down plates and silverware along with a bowl to put the soup in. Setting the kitchen table, she gently eases the soup container from Amy and dumps some in the bowl, setting a bag of the crunchy noodles beside it. "Sit down, Amy. Would you like water, juice or milk with dinner?" Willow questions as she opens the refrigerator pulling out a soda for herself already learning not to give the woman anything with caffeine in it.

"Milk." Amy sits down and taps nervously on the table, watching Willow apprehensively. "Are you sure your parents aren't coming home soon?"

"No, Amy. They're over in Eastern Europe somewhere." Willow explains to the woman for the sixth or seventh time. Filling the glass with milk, she puts the gallon back in the refrigerator and grabs her soda, setting the drinks on the table as she settles in beside Amy and places some food on her plate, handing a fork to her. "Eat, Amy. You know once you've eaten you usually calm down some." Willow gently taps the plate before putting some food on her plate, watching as Amy shakily starts to work on her food.

"Has anyone questioned you about me, yet?" Amy's eyes twitch, moving constantly between her food and Willow and back again.

"No, not yet." Willow shakes her head, sighing quietly as Amy's nervousness starts to affect her. That not being something she needs right now, already nervous enough on her own with not having done any spells after changing Amy back into her human form.

"Can you tell me more?" Amy looks hopefully at Willow, the redhead having been explaining to her what happened since she turned herself into a rat their senior year of high school. Willow having told her about what happened with the relatively newly arrived slayer, Faith. Willow's own vampire double, killing the mayor and Angel's subsequent leaving to go to LA.

"After you eat, I'll tell you about freshman year of college and what transpired there." Willow looks pointedly at the barely touched food, smiling softly as Amy hurriedly picks her fork back up and starts to eat. Relaxing back into the chair, Willow slowly eats while watching Amy. Silently wondering how the woman is going to react to finding out that she's gay. Shrugging her shoulders, figuring she'll know soon enough, Willow sips her soda and stares out the window at the darkening sky. As usual, trying to figure out when she'd taken such a drastic turn for the worse.

Amy hurriedly eats the food on her plate, looking up at Willow repeatedly, surprised as always at how much the woman's changed in the past three years. The power practically oozing from her pores scaring Amy somewhat, as she realizes it feels close to what her mother felt like at the end. Not wanting to go that route again, Amy silently decides to do her damnedest not to get sucked back into the magic again. Knowing how easy it is to just let magic fix everything that's wrong, and look at what happened. She lost three years of her life and can't even sit calmly for two seconds.

Willow purses her lips as she continues to consider what's transpired recently. Buffy and Tara being almost inseparable, but she is almost positive there's nothing going on between the two women. The almost being, that she occasionally catches Tara looking at Buffy like she used to look at her when they were first together. Buffy's looks were harder to decipher, though she had caught Buffy looking at Tara more often than not with a curious look in her eyes. Sighing quietly at the thought of the two women becoming a couple, Willow feels a bolt of jealousy shoot through her before she buries it deeply within her. Running a hand through her hair, she blinks as Amy coughs quietly and waves to her empty plate and bowl. Smiling softly at the ex-rat, Willow nods her head towards the living room. "Let's go sit in there where it's more comfortable."

"Okay." Amy hurriedly stands, heading towards the living room before stopping and turning nervously, quietly mumbling. "Remember to put up your dishes, not a rat anymore, pick up after yourself."

Willow quickly closes the containers of food and puts them in the refrigerator as Amy cleans off the table, placing the dirty dishes in the sink before wiping down the table. "I'll load the dishwasher later, Amy."

Amy bounces slightly and nods her head before hurrying to the living room.

Willow rubs her forehead as she slowly follows Amy. As Amy sits on the couch, fidgeting, Willow slowly paces back and forth, crossing her arms over her chest as she thinks about how to start telling Amy about what happened their freshman year. Slowly talking about how Buffy had an evil roommate, to her moving in with Buffy, through Oz cheating on her with Veruca and killing the werewolf before he left for Tibet.

Amy listens intently as Willow talks about what would have been her freshman year in college, her eyes twitching and her body shifting slightly on the couch. As Willow explains about the Initiative, Spike and her failed attempt at the 'My Will Be Done' spell, and what happened with it, Amy inhales deeply, wondering if Willow knew that she was playing with fire by doing that spell.

Willow slowly explains about the Wicca Group meeting she went to on campus, the Gentlemen and meeting Tara while they were running for their lives, her voice softening unbeknownst to her as she thinks about that time.

Amy looks in surprise hearing the warmth coming into Willow's voice as she talks about the other witch. Willow's voice hadn't shown that much warmth when she talked about Oz to begin with. Licking her lips nervously she continues to listen to what happened. When Willow becomes nervous and starts babbling more, Amy whispers quietly. "Willow, relax. Whatever it is, I'm not going to hate you for it. You saved me from my own stupidity. I could have stayed a rat for the rest of my life."

Willow twists her hands nervously together as she looks at Amy seeing the honesty in her pale blue eyes. Finally explaining in a little more detail about her relationship with Tara through Oz coming back and her choosing the Wiccan. Seeing the surprise but no censure or hatred coming from Amy, Willow finishes telling her about Adam and how Buffy was supercharged and able to take out the Initiative's creation.

Amy blinks in surprise at Willow admitting she dated a woman, the warmth in her voice as she talks about Tara making a lot more sense now. Fighting the smile on her own face at the realization that she and Willow were more alike than even the redhead knows Amy relaxes a little more.

"You're not going to freak out on me?" Willow questions nervously, looking at Amy

"No." Amy shakes her head, grinning at the redhead. "I'm not much of one for the guys, Willow." Amy comments softly, chuckling as Willow looks at her, the surprise obvious.

"But… I…" Willow sits down heavily in the chair facing Amy. "You never said anything?!"

Amy shrugs and blushes lightly. "It wasn't exactly like people were real accepting of certain things. I don't know how they would have reacted if I had said something." Amy admits quietly. "So, how long did you and Tara date?"

Willow pales slightly and looks away, before answering Amy. "Until last week."

"What?" Amy blinks in surprise, realizing Willow had dated the woman for almost two years.

"We were living together at Buffy's house, taking care of her sister Dawn after Buffy had died." Willow admits shakily, frowning heavily at the thought. "There's a lot that happened between our freshman year and now, Amy."

"Buffy's dead?" Amy pales, feeling sick at the thought of the young woman being dead.

Willow hurriedly shakes her head. "She was, but she's not now. I kinda brought her back after roughly four months." Willow admits, watching as Amy pales even more before turning a greenish cast and hurries from the room to the bathroom. Worriedly following Amy, Willow slides into the bathroom and rubs her back gently as she finishes getting sick. Reaching over to the sink, she grabs a clean cloth and runs it under the cold water and hands it to Amy. "Are you okay?"

Amy nods her head, flushing the toilet as she sits more on the floor, scooting back to lean against the wall. Pressing the cold, wet cloth to her face, she feels Willow hesitantly sitting beside her, but not coming into contact with her. "Explain."

Willow worriedly picks at her pants at the single, simple word. "I have to go back a ways to explain how it got to that point…" Willow whispers before slowly explaining about Dawn's origins, Joyce dying, Glory, even the argument she and Tara had before Glory sucked Tara's mind through everything that happened pretty much the past year. How Buffy sacrificed herself for Dawn, her and Tara moving into Buffy's house to take care of the teenager.

Amy listens carefully as Willow explains what happened, and how they had the robot of Buffy and how she came to be. Shivering slightly at that thought, Amy gets her mind off the sex toy as Willow finally whispers about the Urn of Osiris and bringing Buffy back from the dead. Interrupting, Amy questions Willow hurriedly. "What spell did you use, Willow?"

Willow swallows and stands. "I'll get it." Willow hurriedly runs into her room and sorts through her books to find the right one. Carrying it back into the bathroom, she flips it to the right page and hands it to Amy. Watching as the young witch reads over it and becomes even paler and looks like she might throw up again. "What is it?"

Amy shuts the book and takes shallow breaths trying to keep control of her stomach contents for a few minutes before she finally feels like she might not get sick. "How is she acting right now?"

"Angry at the world one moment not seeming to give a shit the next. I was literally afraid she was going to beat me when I did the spell on Tar…" Willow pales and turns away as Amy looks at her in shock.

"You did a spell ON your girlfriend?" Amy whispers, her mind shutting down, not believing Willow would do something like that. "That's why…" Amy realizes that's why Willow and Tara were broken up now. Rubbing her hands roughly over her face, Amy shakes her head. "We'll get back to that. So basically, Buffy has serious mood swings and has a hard time controlling her temper. Willow, what you did by bringing her back from Heaven was put a crack in her soul. You're lucky she didn't come back completely insane and uncontrollable. Could you imagine Buffy with her strength deciding on going on a rampage? She wouldn't know any better! There's something broken inside of her, and I honestly don't know if it'll mend, or not." Amy explains softly, her eyes shadowed as she looks at Willow. "For everything you do, there is a reaction, Willow. You brought Buffy back, but Buffy's hurt and not right. You're lucky she hasn't decided to rip you into a million pieces. Most times when someone has tried to do this type of spell in the past, the person it was done on kills it's 'creator' for lack of a better word, before it's gone on a rampage and killed anything and everything in its way. Besides fracturing the person's spirit, a lot of time it shatters their soul and leaves just a completely wild animal in its place with no reasoning capabilities at all."

Willow swallows convulsively, feeling sick at what she's hearing. "How… How do you know so much about it?"

"My mom's book. There was some serious black magic in it, and one of the spells and consequences of the spell was detailed in it. It stuck in my head for some reason, and I recognized this spell as being almost identical to that one." Amy waves at the notebook, her eyes shadowed and worried. "You're damn lucky Buffy came back as well as she did, Willow. But she's not right and it isn't something that can easily be made right again."

"Is there a way to make it right?" Willow pulls her knees up to her chest and wraps her arms around her legs tightly, feeling sick beyond measure.

"I don't know." Amy admits, shivering slightly at the thought. "The people that they mentioned before were too far gone to help. They had to put them to rest."

"Goddess." Willow whimpers, burying her face in her knees. "Tara's been talking with Buffy, and trying to help her." Willow finally admits quietly. "I think she saw that there was something seriously wrong with her."

"She can see those type things?" Amy questions curiously.

"She can see auras. When Faith woke up from her coma, she did a body switch with Buffy. Tara could tell it wasn't really Buffy in her body without ever having met her. She helped me access the Nether Realms to find out what happened and we created another Draconian Katra to switch them back." Willow explains a little more in detail, from the brief synopsis she'd given Amy earlier.

"Willow, if you don't get control of yourself, you're going to end up like my mom… or worse." Amy finally admits, hating to have to say it, but knowing she needs to. Coming so close herself, she doesn't want to see the redhead lose herself to the darkness. "We probably both need to seek help." Amy whispers softly, but knowing the couple Coven's her mother had mentioned were Black Arts oriented.

"But who can I get help from? Tara was willing to help me before… but now I don't think she will, even if Buffy would let me near her." Willow whispers, the tears in her voice obvious.

Amy, surprised at the comment looks at Willow. "Willow? Are Buffy and Tara…"

Willow shakes her head slowly, though not so sure. "They weren't, but they've become closer here recently since I did the spell on Tara… The second spell."

Amy groans and slumps further down the wall, covering her face with her hands. "What's Tara like?"

Willow bites her lip as she fights the tears coming to her eyes. "Very kind, considerate, loving and powerful in her own right as a Wiccan. She does strictly light magic. She won't touch anything that's remotely dark. She only uses magic if she has to, or has an extremely good reason to use it."

"A good witch, through and through." Amy comments softly, before sighing heavily. "You're too personally involved with her to listen to her, Willow. Is there anyone else you can contact that could find somewhere for us to get help? I know you're fighting the magic running through your body, it's calling to mine truthfully."

Willow winces at Amy's admittance before slowly nodding her head. "I can probably call Giles. If he's still speaking to me, I wasn't exactly nice to him the last time we talked."

"What do you have to lose? Other than yourself?" Amy questions softly, her eyes showing how serious she is.

Willow whimpers and wipes the tears from her eyes, nodding her head in silent agreement.


Chapter 9

"What are you doing?" Tara questions curiously, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she looks at Buffy who's blushing darkly.

"Nothin'." Buffy purses her lips and shifts her hand from where she'd been trying to push Tara's shirt up to see if there are any piercings. Not having a chance the last couple weeks to look when she remembered. Between Tara's busy school schedule then more often than not, going out with her on patrol they'd kept busy. Having been keeping up on the house, laundry and even working out in the yard to keep busy while everyone went to school, they had settled into a comfortable way of doing things that made Buffy feel a little more settled, though the anger and pain makes an appearance, but not to the degree it had been.

Tara quirks her eyebrow at the slayer, before covering her mouth as she yawns. Knowing Buffy was up to something, she tries to remember what the slayer was doing before she'd woken up. Shaking her head slightly and rubbing her eyes again, she looks down and sees the covers somewhat shifted down and her shirt askew more than it normally is. Fighting the smile that's trying to come to her lips, she looks at an all too innocent looking slayer. Tapping Buffy on the nose, she chuckles as Buffy blushes again. "Intimately and doctors only." Tara laughs and rolls out of the bed, heading towards the dresser to get clothes to wear after she showers and gets ready for her classes.

Buffy grumbles quietly, her eyes following Tara surprised as she thinks that it's been a month since Tara had almost moved out. Willow was spending more and more time at her parents' house than here with them. Though most of her personal stuff is still here, she'd only taken part of them back home.

Sighing quietly as Tara heads towards the bathroom with a quick smile towards her, Buffy rolls over onto the Wiccan's side of the bed, burying her face in her pillow. Getting to know Tara was a surprisingly enlightening experience. Never realizing how deeply Tara felt for friends and family until all this had happened. How hard it was for Tara to leave her father and brother, even though it was absolutely the best thing for her to do. Feeling the anger trying to surface as she remembers Tara explaining what her home life was like, and the mental and physical abuse she'd gone through with her father and brother. Really wishing she had a second chance with the two men, knowing she'd probably either knock some sense into them, or knock them completely out for the shit they had pulled. Taking one more deep inhale of the Wiccan's scent, Buffy rolls out of the bed and makes it quickly.

"It's still okay for me to go to Kelsey's house after school today and spend the weekend, right?" Dawn questions as she hurries towards the stairs, stopping to glance into Buffy's room as her sister gathers her clothes.

"Yes it is. But if you have any homework this weekend, you have to do it." Buffy reminds Dawn quickly, smiling a little bit at her sister, thankful that Dawn had relaxed somewhat, knowing Tara had spoken with her multiple times and was trying to straighten her out with some of the shit she'd been pulling.

Dawn rolls her eyes, but nods her head in acceptance. "I will. I have my clothes in here." Dawn holds up the gym bag and grins before turning away. "I'll probably just have a bowl of cereal this morning."

"Be good." Buffy calls out after Dawn as the teen pounds down the stairs, groaning at what sounds like a herd of elephants. Hearing the water shut off to the shower, Buffy grins wickedly and hurries across the hallway. Gently trying to open the door, she pouts as she realizes it's locked. "Damn. Never gonna get to see."

"See what?" Willow hurries out of the bedroom towards the bathroom. "I really need to go to the bathroom. Can I sneak in before you?"

"Yeah. Tara's in there though." Buffy admits, pointing to the door. Looking at Willow, noticing she's already dressed and ready to go, Buffy frowns as she swears that she doesn't have a class this early. "Where are you heading to this early?"

"I have to meet someone and we're going out of town for the weekend." Willow admits, shifting nervously from foot to foot. Not having told Buffy or Tara about the fact that Giles had contacted a Coven just outside of LA for her and Amy to visit. Wanting to check it out this weekend, along with the woman in charge there being able to talk and discuss a plan of action to hopefully help her and Amy both. Knowing that the magic is still calling to her strongly, making it hard for her not to give in to the dark magic. Thankful Amy had finally talked with her father, and even got her license renewed, along with her father giving her a nice used vehicle. He'd been ecstatic when she'd come back and was literally doting on her.

Buffy narrows her gaze on her nervous friend before nodding her head. Tara having told her that as far as she could tell, that Willow hasn't done any magic whatsoever in a few weeks. Honestly believing the last spell the redhead had done was to transform Amy back to her human form. Willow still not having told them that Amy was back, Buffy finally questions her softly. "I assume you and Amy are going somewhere together?"

Willow pales and places a hand against the wall as she stares at Buffy. "How did you know?"

"She's been gone not long after the big problems here, Willow. Tara noticed it right off the bat and told me that you probably were able to change her back." Buffy explains quietly, her eyes searching worried green eyes. "Tara's also aware of the fact that you've been good about not doing any magic."

"I haven't." Willow whispers, crossing her arms over her chest, nervous as she realizes Buffy and Tara know more of what's going on that she was aware of, though they hadn't really talked since she'd done the spell on Tara, along with the ultimatum from Buffy. "How are you two?" Willow finally questions.

Buffy shrugs and grins slightly. "I never realized Tara had such a good sense of humor, or how caring of a person she is."

"She is." Willow agrees nodding her head up and down repeatedly, her eyes going to the closed door and the dryer they can hear running. "Can I speak to her today, before I leave, or…" Willow looks nervously at Buffy.

Buffy sighs quietly and looks down at the ground. "It's up to her, Willow. I'll leave it Tara's decision, but if you do anything to harm her in any way, you'll be answering to me." Buffy explains softly, her tone serious. "She's been through enough in her life without you adding to it."

Willow swallows hard and nods her head. "She explained to you…?"

"Yeah, she told me about her family life, Wills." Buffy runs a hand through her hair, fighting the anger again that's wanting to rise within her. "I have to ask… How in the hell could you do the spells on her, Willow? She's the most kind, unassuming, caring and loving person I have ever known. What did she do to deserve you doing that to her?"

Willow's lip trembles and her eyes fill with tears as she looks at Buffy. "Nothing, Buffy. She did nothing." Willow finally admits, wiping the tears that started falling from her cheeks. "I didn't like the fact that she was mad at me, and not liking the amount of magic I was doing, so I figured I'd fix it. I didn't want to notice that everything she said was the truth, and I was getting deeper and deeper into the dark magic's." Willow sighs quietly, her eyes turning to the door once more before looking at Buffy. "Did I screw up beyond all hope?"

Buffy clenches her jaws and looks away from Willow. Knowing what she wants the answer to be, but also knowing that she has no say in what Tara decides. Tara having made the comment a few weeks ago that things were pretty much over between her and Willow, but not knowing if it was just a gut reaction, or if Tara might have changed her mind. "You'll have to ask Tara, Willow. She's the only one that can truthfully answer that question." Buffy waves to the door before turning around. "I'll wait and hit the bathroom later. Tara will probably be out in a couple more minutes."

Willow watches Buffy head into her bedroom, the door shutting with a quiet click behind her, silently wondering again if there's anything going on between Buffy and Tara.

Tara sighs quietly as she hears the quiet murmurings of Buffy and Willow outside the door, along with Buffy's emotions flitting between anger, sadness and worry. Finishing drying her hair, she brushes it out and pulls on her clothes, surprised to see Willow nervously standing outside the door. Nodding to the redhead, she starts to ease by her when she's surprised at the feel of a tentative hand on her forearm. Looking warily into green eyes, Tara waits for Willow to say something.

"Can we talk in a few minutes?" Willow finally questions as she realizes Tara isn't going to say anything to her.

Tara looks down at her watch and looks back at Willow. "I have about twenty-five minutes before I need to leave for the campus if I take the Jeep. I'll check with Buffy to make sure it's okay that I drive it today." Tara offers quietly before stepping towards her and Buffy's bedroom.

"Thank you." Willow whispers before hurrying into the bathroom.

Tara looks at Willow for a moment before easing the bedroom door open, surprised to see Buffy standing at the window staring out of it with her back tensed, and her emotions locked down tight. Knowing Buffy has been trying to work on keeping her emotions somewhat under control, though the two of them had talked about the fact that she needs to talk about things and vent her anger and worry.

"You're welcome to the Jeep whenever you want it, Tara. You know that." Buffy quietly states without turning to look at her.

Tara sighs quietly and shuts the door behind her to walk up to Buffy. Gently placing her hands on the slayer's tense shoulders, Tara kneads them gently. "What's wrong, Buffy?"

Buffy leans forward, placing her forehead against the window, slowly relaxing as Tara's hands continue to knead over her shoulders and back. "Do you want to hear what I was planning on telling you, or the truth?"

Tara runs her fingers through Buffy's hair, sighing again. "The truth."

"I don't want you to go back to Willow." Buffy states quickly and concisely. "I may be selfish, but I want you for myself. It drives me crazy that I might lose you, if you decide to go back to her."

Tara stills her hands movements at the extreme amount of pain coming from Buffy with her words. Gently wrapping her arms around Buffy's waist, Tara hooks her chin over her shoulder and rests the side of her head against Buffy's. "Why?" Tara asks simply.

"Why am I being selfish? Why is it driving me crazy? Why don't I want to lose you?" Buffy shrugs lightly and continues to look out at the beautiful blue sky. "Because the idea of that happening scares me, Tara. I've come to care for you and depend on you so much in the past month. If it wasn't for you, I'd probably be either fucking Spike or dead."

"No…" Tara shakes her head and hugs Buffy tightly, pulling the slayer hard against her body. "Don't say that. You're doing so much better, Buffy. Eventually you would have gotten here on your own. I've just given you a shoulder to cry on, an ear to talk to and a body to cuddle up against. I haven't done that much."

"You put your life on hold for me, Tara. When you aren't at school or studying, you're with me, doing something for me or helping me in some way. What do you want to do? Do you want to get back with Willow? Do you… want to date again?" Buffy almost strangles on the last two questions, the fear of what the answers to them might be almost makes her want to climb out the window and run away.

Tara holds on tightly to Buffy, feeling the woman's body coil in her embrace, knowing what she's thinking about doing, even as the fear washes over her from Buffy. Thinking long and hard about the slayer in her arms, Tara tilts her head and presses a soft kiss to her jaw, before resting her chin again on her shoulder. "My life isn't on hold, Buffy. I'm spending it in the one place I really love being. As for what I want to do? I'm extremely happy being here with you and Dawnie. You're my family in so many ways, and you probably don't even realize it. As for Willow…" Tara takes a deep breath and closes her eyes as she really thinks about her ex-lover. Realizing she cares for Willow, but she doesn't love her anymore, at least not in a girlfriend or lover way. "No, I don't want to get back together with Willow. Not now… not ever. We're through. Hopefully one day we can be friends again, and I might learn to trust her in a friend capacity, but I won't ever be able to trust her as a lover again. She doesn't hold that part of my heart anymore."

Buffy slowly relaxes a little more and leans heavier back into Tara's comforting embrace. "What about dating again?" Buffy finally questions after a few minutes.

"Eventually I would like to find someone special to date. But it would need to be someone that won't freak out at the thought of vampires, demons, slayers and witches being real. I want to be myself with the person I decide to love and loves me. Unfortunately that's harder than I would have ever believed possible." Tara admits quietly, her eyes thoughtful as she thinks about the woman in her arms, knowing she's falling in love with Buffy, but not wanting to hope that one day that love might be returned. Knowing the slayer has never been interested in a woman, and right now, she's just her 'lifeline' more than anything.

"It is hard." Buffy agrees, turning her head and pressing her lips softly to Tara's cheek. "Let me know when you're ready to get back into the dating game, please." Buffy whispers softly against Tara's cheek. Lifting her hand to cup Tara's other cheek and strokes it gently with her fingertips. "I know someone that wants to be at the front of that line." Buffy presses her lips softly against her cheek again before easing from Tara's embrace and heading out of the bedroom without giving the stunned Wiccan a chance to do or say anything.

Tara swallows hard and raises a hand to her cheek where Buffy's lips had softly caressed over the flesh. Feeling the flush of desire coming through her body at the thought of Buffy caring for her and wanting to date her though worried at the same time. Slowly shaking her head, Tara's eyes become worried as she wonders if it's simply because of the help she'd given her is the reason why Buffy's 'attached' herself to her. Running a hand through her hair, Tara turns, grabs her tennis shoes and slides them on, tying them quickly before grabbing her book bag and trotting down the stairs, not daring to think too much about Buffy's actions until they've had a chance to discuss things a little more in depth.

Hurrying into the kitchen, Tara opens the refrigerator and pulls out a bottle of juice before grabbing an apple out of the basket on the island, looking at Willow who seems somewhat subdued as she walks into the kitchen.

Willow watches as Tara opens her juice after shaking it, taking a sip. Taking a deep breath to get her thoughts in order, Willow finally just plunges in and asks the question that she needs to. "Is there any chance you'll take me back?"

Tara hurriedly sets down her juice bottle and stares at Willow, the question coming as somewhat of a shock to her. "Do you want a simple yes or no answer, or something more?" Tara finally questions.

Willow swallows and looks up into shuttered blue eyes before whispering. "Yes or no will be good enough." She admits, though wanting more, but realizing she has no right to ask for anything from this woman she'd betrayed so badly, along with her best friend that she's caused so much pain and heartache.

Tara slowly shakes her head. "I can't, Willow. You destroyed something in our relationship that I desperately need, and we'll never be able to get it back."

Willow feels the tears coming to her eyes even as she nods her head in acceptance. "I know this is late, but I'm sorry for everything I did. I never realized how much I was hurting everyone. I never meant to do that, and I hope one day you can forgive me." Willow looks up into surprised blue eyes. "I'm not going to fight you, Tara. You or Buffy. Someone brought it to my attention that Buffy could have come back a thousand times worse than she did, and I know you're helping her to get better. She couldn't be in better hands." Willow allows a small tremulous smile to cross her lips as she looks at Tara. "Take care of her, Tara. I know that you two care for each other it's in the way you look and act towards each other. If something should happen between you… Not that you need or want it, but you have my blessing. Amy and I are going to visit a Coven outside of LA this weekend, to see if we can get some help. If we can, we'll probably be there over the summer and possibly even longer, depending on how things go. But I'll probably move back into my parents' house to give you guys more privacy when I get back. I know I've made things more tense than they need to be, and I'm really, truly sorry for that. I want to start doing things right, instead of wrong, but I know it isn't something I can do by myself. I need help, and like a foolish know-it-all, I refused your help. I'm sorry for that, but then again, they say hindsight's twenty-twenty." Willow hurriedly rambles off with barely a breath between sentences. "Good luck, and… I love you both." Willow hurriedly runs out of the kitchen and out of the house.

Tara blinks as her mind tries to make sense of Willow's fast ramble, trying to decipher what her ex-lover had said and understand it, unaware of Buffy coming into the room.

Buffy slowly walks into the kitchen, staring at the stunned and silent Wiccan. Having stayed close by in case anything happened, Buffy looks worriedly into Tara's eyes. "Tara?" Buffy finally whispers, trying to catch Tara's attention.

Tara blinks and stares into worried hazel eyes. "Buffy? What happened?"

Buffy smiles sadly at Tara. "Willow's grown up and is taking responsibility for her actions." Buffy explains, searching Tara's eyes, wondering how the Wiccan is going to take the comments Willow made about the two of them possibly becoming a couple. "You're going to be late for class if you don't hurry."

Tara tries to make sense of what Buffy said, Willow's words still not coming together in her brain. Letting Buffy gently usher her out of the house, Tara automatically climbs behind the wheel, her brain starting to function again as she starts the Jeep, her eyes lingering on Buffy standing on the porch watching her.

Buffy tucks her hands in her pockets as Tara backs the Jeep out of the driveway before waving to her and heading down the road. "I really need to find something to do, to keep myself busy during the day." Buffy admits quietly to herself as she looks at the yard and flower beds, having already whipped them back into shape, understanding a little better how her mom considered it her 'therapy'. Sighing softly, Buffy looks at the clouds lazily drifting by. "Maybe I should just tell Tara I like her as more than a friend. But does she care for me in that way? I mean, I know she's mentioned a few times about being physically attracted to me, but she's never hit on me." Buffy grumbles quietly before slowly turning around and heading back into the house. Grabbing the newspaper, she plops down on the couch and flips it open, deciding to look at the help wanted ads.


Chapter 10

Tara grabs the grocery bags and heads into the house, frowning at the quietness. "Buffy?" Tara calls out, knowing Dawn was staying at a friend's house, which has almost become an every other weekend occurrence. Not getting an answer, Tara sighs quietly and heads to the kitchen, putting away the pork chops she'd bought, planning on making Buffy's favorite items for dinner that night.

Folding the bags, Tara tucks them away outside in the garage, smiling at the sight of the cleaned out area, everything stowed away where it belongs, Buffy having been working on cleaning out all the different parts of the house while looking for something to occupy her time. Having tried to talk her into taking college courses again to no avail, Tara flicks the light off and closes the door. Working her way through the house before jogging lightly up the stairs, Tara looks into Willow's old room. Noticing that the last few things Willow had left in there are gone, Tara leans against the doorframe for a moment, thinking about the redhead.

Remembering Willow introducing her to Amy, surprised at the young witch when she asked if she could talk to her alone. When Amy questioned her on how Buffy was handling being back, and explained what she knew about the spell Willow had done, Tara had been surprised and curious about what Amy knew about the spell. The ex-rat having told her what she remembered from her mother's book before promising to bring it by and drop it off at a future date for Tara to have. Admitting she didn't want to be tempted, that she and Willow were planning on cleaning their act up, but right now it was a temptation probably best not anywhere near either of them, if ever.

Having been surprised at Amy's comments at first, Tara realized that the young woman being a rat for the last few years probably made her look at her life a little differently now. Along with the fact it probably left a seriously bad taste in her mouth in regards to magic. Turning slowly, Tara makes her way to her and Buffy's room. It takes a moment for it to actually sink in that the room is in shambles. Swallowing hard at the sight of what had obviously been a book, but was now just papers strewn all about the room along with the mirror smashed above the dresser. Whimpering at the sight of the blood drops now visible, Tara takes in the rest of the carnage in the room. "Oh, Buffy. What happened?" Tara questions the empty room, the worry obvious as she tries to figure out what happened.

Buffy's hands shake as she reads Catherine Madison's magic book. Seeing in black and white what was done and what could have happened, hitting her hard. Angrily ripping the book in two, flinging the two halves so the pages fly about the room, she literally tears off the doors to the closet, sending them crashing behind her in the room as she yanks out weapons, feeling the urge to do some serious damage to something evil, a small part of her brain understanding that she can't take it out on the person she really wants to.

Happening to glance over into the mirror as she's passing it, Buffy stops and stares at the angry looking woman staring back at her, hardly recognizing herself before slamming her fist into the mirror, ignoring the pain of the broken glass imbedded into her knuckles and hand as she runs out of the house and out the back door, letting it slam shut behind her as she heads out the back gate, yanking the manhole cover off and dropping down into the sewers to hunt for anything to take her anger and pain out on.

Tara runs a hand over the pages of the book, having finally come across what most likely set Buffy off, having spent the last two hours cleaning up their bedroom and trying to put the book back in order. Unconsciously rubbing the palm of her hand where a piece of mirror had sliced it. Tara plays with the edge of tape holding the gauze in place. Sighing heavily, she looks at the clock once more. "Sorry, honey. But I need to know you're okay." Tara whispers to the silent house. Gathering a few stakes, tucking them away in her cargo pants along with her own 'weapons' of choice, Tara calms her racing heart, taking deep slow breaths until she's calmed down enough to whisper the spell that will lead her to Buffy.

Buffy snarls angrily as she slams the demon into the concrete wall of the sewer system, ducking automatically as she feels a presence behind her. Buffy kicks back with all her strength grinning at the satisfying cry of pain and crunch of bones. Slamming her fist into the demon's stomach, Buffy curls her nose up in disgust as she pulls her fist out of the hole, shaking the demon guts out onto the floor. "Gross." Finally taking pity on the demon she'd been fighting for the last fifteen minutes, Buffy quickly slices its head off with her short sword before turning around to look at the demon that had tried to come up behind her.

Shaking her head at the small, dead demon with the broken neck, Buffy quickly takes its head to be on the safe side before wiping the sword clean on its clothes before striding out of the dead end to work her way down another section of the tunnel. Her anger still glowing brightly inside her, but it's more focused, where when she'd first come down here, she'd just been attacking anything and everything, even to the point of having taken some pretty brutal hits, rubbing the side of her face, wincing slightly at the sting. Remembering seeing a water faucet a short distance back, Buffy backtracks and kneels turning it on. Quickly washing her hands and arms, she brings the clean water up to rinse her face before trailing her fingers down the jagged cut. "Fuck, when did that happen?" Buffy leans down and lets the water run a little more over the wound, cleansing it as well as she can before turning the water off and running her hands through her hair, leaving it damp.

Not knowing how long she's been down here, Buffy debates for a few minutes on whether to continue hunting for more demons or head up top and find out what time it is, possibly doing a regular patrol before heading home and seeing how fucked up her face is going to be.

Frowning as the area starts to lighten Buffy turns around, seeing a small light heading towards her. Not feeling anything remotely evil or demon-y, Buffy tucks away the sword and crosses her arms over her chest waiting to see what's heading her way.

Tara breathes a quiet sigh of relief as the dim light brightens perceptibly as she finally comes across Buffy. Now close enough to feel the slayer's anger, wincing hard as she gets closer, quickly putting her shields up on full force at the centered and red hot, almost piercing anger coming from Buffy. Whispering softly to make the tracer light just lighten the area as she slows down, allowing the light to illuminate her instead of hide her.

Buffy doesn't know whether to feel happy or even angrier as Tara becomes visible to her, the anger winning out, Buffy growls roughly at the blonde Wiccan. "What the fuck are you doing down here? Are you fucking insane?"

"No more than you, obviously." Tara murmurs, trying not to jerk at the anger now being focused on her.

"I can take care of myself." Buffy unconsciously closes the distance between her and Tara. "I'm doing my job. Now get the hell out of here and go back home!"

"No." Tara answers simply, fighting the urge to turn tail and run as she's bombarded with Buffy's anger. Not able to stop the wince of pain and her uncontrollable step back.

Buffy growls deeply, taking the additional two steps, putting her body literally an inch from Tara. "Go the fuck back up top and go home! I don't want or need you!"

Tara turns her head as her heart hurts at the slayer's angry words. Knowing Buffy is just angry right now, but her words still slicing her to the quick. Knowing better than to open herself to see the slayer's aura, and soul, the slayer's feelings so raw and powerful that they would literally incapacitate her right now, Tara shakes her head. "If you don't want or need me, fine. I'll be more than happy to leave you alone… after you let me clean and fix your wounds." Tara looks back at the slayer's bruised and battered body and face, the jagged cut across her face worrying her. "Please, Buffy. No comments and no talking. Let me help you then I'll leave you alone." Tara begs softly.

Buffy clenches her jaw tightly. Her anger fighting against her mind as she mentally debates on following Tara, or taking off knowing there is no way Tara would be able to keep up with her. Though she could still follow her… and possibly end up getting hurt. Spinning around, Buffy slams her fist in the wall, ignoring the pain shooting up her arm and the concrete falling from the fist-sized hole now in the wall of the tunnel. Striding the four yards give or take to the entrance up top, Buffy climbs up it without saying a word, pushing up on the manhole cover, looking out to see where she is, surprised to find that she'd circled around under the town and was less than five blocks from her house. Pushing the cover the rest of the way to the side, she climbs out surprised at the darkened sky.

Tara sighs softly and quickly follows Buffy, whispering the words needed to end the spell, Tara watches as Buffy replaces the manhole cover and starts to stride towards Revello Drive. Surprised to realize it had taken her longer than she thought to find Buffy if the darkness is anything to go by. Hurrying after her, Tara's eyes take in the dirty, disheveled, bruised, cut and limping slayer. Practically jogging to keep up with the ground eating, angry strides Tara fights the urge to talk. Knowing she'd promised her, but wanting to know what's going through Buffy's head. Sighing softly, Tara runs a hand through her hair, before letting it rub at the back of her neck, trying to relieve some of the tension and pain that she's feeling caused by Buffy's emotions battering against her senses.

Buffy unlocks the door and takes the stairs three at a time, heading straight to the bathroom, stripping her clothes off without a care before turning the water on to the shower, ignoring Tara coming in behind her and gathering her clothes. Thankful in a way that Tara has decided to not say anything, like she'd promised. Stepping under the hot stream of water, Buffy allows it to rinse over her for a few minutes, ignoring the sting of the water hitting her many wounds. Finally grabbing the shampoo, she works on cleaning her body from top to bottom.

Tara places Buffy's destroyed clothes in the trash before silently placing a couple fresh towels on the sink. Hurrying back downstairs, she pulls the large first aid kit out of the closet, carrying it back upstairs to the bathroom. Clearing the vanity of the make-up, brushes and other items, she settles the kit gently on top and opens it, pulling out the alcohol, swabs, antibiotic cream, bandages, suture kits and tweezers. Turning on the bright make-up lights on the vanity, and the additional light above the sink to make the bathroom as bright as possible, Tara pushes up her sleeves and waits for Buffy to finish with her shower.

Buffy turns the water off and runs shaky hands through her hair, the long shower having helped her anger settle somewhat. Pulling back the shower curtain, she steps out onto the bath mat, grabbing one of the towels Tara had obviously gotten her, her eyes landing on the blonde who's sitting on the floor, her chin on her chest and her arms resting over her knees to hang almost limply. Drying her body automatically, she watches as Tara doesn't move. Becoming worried, Buffy looks intently over the Wiccan's body, sighing in relief when she doesn't see any physical damage. Tossing the towel into the hamper, she shifts the chair in front of the vanity out and settles on it, her mind going back to the first time Tara had helped her, remembering the tender touches and caring nature.

Tara finally lifts her head as she hears Buffy move the chair and the slight squeak it always makes when someone sits in it. Wearily pushing herself up off the floor, she looks at the battered slayer. Deciding to start at the top and work her way down, Tara grabs the alcohol and gauze pads. Kneeling beside Buffy, Tara doesn't make eye contact as she starts to cleanse the gash on the slayer's face, realizing too much healing has already happened to make stitching it prudent.

Buffy watches Tara for a few minutes as the woman works on cleaning the wounds on her face, her eyes trying to catch Tara's, but the Wiccan not willing to make eye contact. Sighing internally, Buffy drops her gaze to her hands, plucking at a piece of glass still imbedded in her knuckles as Tara gently places butterfly bandages on the major wound before continuing to work her way down her body.

"Leave it. I'll get it." Tara whispers after seeing what Buffy is doing, having started working on the wounds on the slayer's arms and upper chest. Skipping down to her hands, Tara cleans them gently before grabbing the tweezers to gently remove the piece of glass. Looking over the flesh intently, she sees a couple more slivers and gently removes them before cleaning the wounds again and carefully bandaging them.

Gently clenching and unclenching her hands, Buffy's eyes stay on Tara as the Wiccan finishes taking care of her wounds. As Tara grabs the ace bandage and gently starts to wrap her swollen ankle, Buffy waits until she's done. Starting to open her mouth, she snaps it shut quickly as Tara starts to speak.

"I would suggest icing your ribs and your ankle." Tara still doesn't look into Buffy's eyes as she quickly packs everything away, taking the first aid kit and striding out of the bathroom without another word.

Buffy drops her chin on her chest, sighing loudly. Not knowing what to do, Buffy sits on the chair for a while, unaware of how much time has passed before she finally stands. Replacing everything back to where it belongs, she grabs her hairbrush and runs it through her hair to get the majority of the tangles out before finally looking in the mirror, wincing at the bruised and swollen face looking back at her. Lifting her hand to touch the edge of the bandage Tara had placed on her cheek Buffy pulls it away after a few minutes and grabs her toothbrush. Brushing her teeth quickly, Buffy turns off the lights and makes her way to their bedroom. Glancing at the clock, she's surprised to see it's almost one in the morning. Pulling on her robe, she ties it haphazardly around her waist before heading towards the stairs. Making her way quietly down them, stopping halfway when she notices Tara curled up on the couch in a tight ball, her back towards the room. Slowly finishing her descent down the stairs, she takes a couple steps towards the couch, stopping when she notices Tara stiffening.

Feeling the slayer come closer to her, Tara can't help but stiffen. Honestly knowing she won't be able to deal with having a discussion right now with the woman, though she does feel slightly relieved at the lack of anger coming at her from Buffy, though still getting a low current of it. Wrapping her arms more tightly around her body, Tara closes her eyes tightly trying to keep from sobbing out loud. It having taken everything in her not to question Buffy, beg her to tell her what she's feeling or to ask if she really didn't want or need her.

Buffy's hands tighten convulsively as she stares at Tara's back. Swearing she sees her shoulders shaking slightly, though she doesn't hear anything. Finally heading into the kitchen, she opens the refrigerator, grabbing a bottle of water her eyes land on the large package of pork chops that she knows wasn't there earlier that day.

Resting her forehead against the freezer as she continues to stare into the refrigerator, seeing the large block of Velveeta cheese, realizing Tara had planned on making her favorites for dinner tonight, or last night as the case may be. Finally shutting the refrigerator door, Buffy flicks off the light as she makes her way back through the house, standing by the stairs and staring at Tara's back. "Are you coming upstairs?" Buffy finally questions hoarsely, her shoulders dropping like the weight of the world is on them when all she receives is a slight shake of the head from Tara. At a loss as to what to say or do, Buffy finally turns and slowly makes her way up the stairs and to their bedroom. Actually looking this time, she notices that Tara had obviously picked up the mess she'd made and the book was nowhere in sight. Not knowing, and really not caring what Tara did with the book, Buffy shuts off the light and moves to the front window, staring out at the night occasionally sipping from her bottle as she wonders if she's managed to scare Tara away for good this time.

Tara slowly rolls over onto her back, and rests her hands on her stomach as she stares up at the ceiling. Feeling Buffy's unrest and worry almost like a physical pain, knowing the slayer isn't even attempting to rest. Sighing quietly, Tara brushes a tear that escaped from her eye away from her cheek. Wondering what's going to become of the two of them. Having almost believed that Buffy liked her in more than a friend way, but wondering exactly how much of it is just because she's been helping her. Throwing an arm across her eyes, Tara fights the tears that want to fall. Her feelings for the slayer stronger than anything she's ever felt before, the anger and rage being pointed towards her earlier with Buffy's hurtful comments that she didn't want or need her, striking a blow to her heart. Not knowing what to do, but needing to know if what Buffy had read had set her back, Tara swallows hard as she slowly lowers her shields so she can see how her soul and spirit are doing.

Whimpering quietly as the crack that had been slowly closing had obviously widened to the point of where it had been originally, Tara finally lets the tears fall. All the hard work they'd done for practically the past two months for naught.

"Goddess, do we start over? Or will she even think about letting me help her now? And Goddess help me, but do I want her to know how I feel now with everything that's happened and happening?" Tara whispers softly, quietly sobbing as she closes her eyes. The emotional roller coaster ride finally taking its toll on her, Tara falls into an uneasy sleep, tears occasionally slipping out from between closed eyelids along with the occasional whimper.

Buffy tilts her head as she can barely hear Tara whispering something. Not able to make it out, she slowly steps out of the bedroom to the top of the stairs. Stepping down onto the landing, she looks at the Wiccan, frowning heavily as she sees the tears slowly trailing down from her eyes and the quiet sobs and whimpers coming from her as the night progresses. Finally not being able to take it anymore, Buffy quietly steps down the stairs. Easing down onto one knee, she gently wiggles her arms underneath Tara. Picking her up, she cradles the sleeping woman against her body and makes her way slowly up the stairs.

Pressing her lips to Tara's forehead, Buffy gently eases down onto the bed, continuing to hold Tara against her. Brushing her cheek against Tara as the woman snuggles against her, burying her face in the crook of her neck. "I'm sorry." Buffy whispers to the sleeping woman as she remembers what she'd said to her and the anger she'd directed at her. "I don't know why you don't run away from me and just leave me, Tara. I've probably caused you ten times the pain Willow ever has." Running a hand through Tara's hair, Buffy leans back against the headboard and closes her eyes. Working on the meditations that Tara taught her, silently wishing the Wiccan was awake to help her, feeling the difference of not having her calming influence to help guide her, but continuing on stubbornly anyway.


Chapter 11

Tara rubs her face against Buffy's shoulder as she slowly wakes, before stiffening as the previous night's occurrences come back in a flood.

"Shhh." Buffy whispers softly, brushing her lips gently over Tara's forehead. "Don't run away from me, please. I don't think I could take losing you on top of everything else, Tara." Buffy unconsciously rocks back and forth, holding tightly onto the Wiccan. "Promise me you won't go. Please? I didn't mean it, I promise." Buffy begs quietly, unaware of the tears trailing faster and faster down her cheeks, her eyes closed as she continues to hold onto Tara and rock her.

Tara shifts slightly, wrapping an arm around Buffy's neck, while raising her other hand to gently stroke Buffy's cheek, pressing a firm kiss to her temple. "I'm here, Buffy. I promise. I promise." Tara whimpers softly at the pain coming from Buffy, along with the hurt, knowing part of it's because she's afraid that she'll leave her.

Buffy brushes her cheek against Tara's hand, frowning as she realizes there's a bandage on the palm. Turning her head, she looks at Tara's hand and reaches up to grab it, gently pulling the bandage away, frowning even harder at the relatively deep cut across Tara's palm. "What…?" Buffy turns her gaze to look at Tara.

"An accident." Tara shakes her head, smiling sadly at Buffy, shifting up to press her lips to her forehead. "Just an accident."

Buffy searches Tara's eyes for a few minutes before looking back at the cut. Gently pressing her lips to the wound, she carefully covers it back over, tucking Tara's hand against her chest. "Cleaning up my mess, you cut yourself on the glass didn't you?" Buffy finally questions a few minutes later as she tries to figure out how Tara hurt herself.

"Not paying attention to what I was doing, I cut myself." Tara offers instead, slowly leaning her head down, burying it against Buffy's neck. "What are we going to do, Buffy?"

"I don't know." Buffy tilts her head to lean it against Tara's, sighing heavily. "When I read what the book said, I just felt my world crumble. The anger I felt towards Willow and what she'd done was overpowering. What if I had come back nothing better than an animal, Tara? There's no way anyone would have been able to stop me, without putting a bullet in me…"

"No, Buffy!" Tara presses her fingers against Buffy's lips to keep her from continuing. "You can't think about that. It didn't happen that way, and there is absolutely NO reason to think along those lines. We all have enough on our plates already without dealing with 'what ifs'."

Buffy lets herself look into Tara's worried blue eyes, realizing they're more of a grayish blue at this moment. Gently stroking her fingertips over Tara's cheek, Buffy gives in to her desires and leans in to kiss Tara softly across the lips, a soft moan escaping her as she makes contact with the softest lips she could ever imagine.

Surprised at first, Tara soon finds herself returning the soft caress, whimpering as she feels Buffy's tongue stroking gently between her lips, silently asking for entrance. Finally granting it, Tara's hand clenches in the slayer's hair as Buffy doesn't waste any time in exploring her mouth.

Growling softly at the heat of desire flowing through her, Buffy increases the pressure and hunger of the kiss enjoying the fact that Tara's meeting her half way as they start to battle strongly against each other.

Finally ending the kiss, Tara tilts her forehead against Buffy's, panting heavily as she tries to get control of her emotions and desire, groaning quietly as Buffy's fingers start to caress firmly over her upper thigh. "I don't think this is a s-smart thing to do right now." Tara whispers as she slowly eases back so she can look into Buffy's eyes, surprised at the flame of desire and want burning brightly in her hazel eyes.

"Why not?" Buffy hardly recognizes her own voice it's so low and rough.

Tara tugs gently on Buffy's hair, the roughness of the slayer's voice making her body pound even more with desire, unconsciously wiggling slightly to try and relieve the ache between her legs. "Because it has the p-potential to hurt both of us." Tara admits quietly, her eyes sad as she looks into Buffy's eyes. "We're together almost all the t-time, Buffy. I'm afraid because I've been trying to help you that you are l-letting that cloud your judgment. Maybe thinking your thankfulness is s-something more."

Buffy watches as Tara finally drops her eyes after she finishes speaking. Closing her own eyes, she slowly shakes her head. "I care for you, Tara. Am I thankful? Yes. Am I sorry for the pain I've caused you? God!! You don't know how much. Am I transferring my caring for you as a friend into something more? I don't think so." Buffy shakes her head, finally easing her eyes open, silently pleading with Tara to look at her. As Tara finally lifts her head and eyes, making contact with hers, Buffy brushes her lips over Tara's once more. "I care for you as more than a friend, Tara. A lot more."

Sliding her hand that she had left tucked against Buffy's chest, upwards to let her thumb brush over kiss-swollen lips, Tara sighs quietly. "Your emotions are all over the place right now, Buffy. Why d-don't we take a step back that way you can think about it?"

Buffy growls softly, opening her mouth to capture Tara's thumb gently between her teeth, flicking her tongue over it. Her lips quirking upwards around the digit as Tara groans loudly, and the smell of arousal coming from the woman seems to almost triple. As Tara shifts slightly again, Buffy releases the thumb, and allows her lips to smile fully.

Tara groans as she looks at the mischief starting to come into Buffy's eyes. "Go ahead and say whatever it is you want to say, Buffy." Tara finally growls the words loudly.

"Well first off, I don't need to take a step back. But out of deference for your wishes, I will." Buffy offers, becoming serious for a moment, and leaning in to brush her lips over Tara's again, loving the taste of the Wiccan. "Secondly, I still want to know if you have any body piercings anywhere." Buffy quirks her eyebrow up, the mischievousness coming back into her eyes.

"Already told you…" Tara starts, being stopped by Buffy's mouth covering hers and kissing her thoroughly. Blinking as Buffy finally pulls away, Tara tries to remember what she was going to say.

"You tell me once more that only someone that knows you intimately or your personal doctor, there won't be any waiting." Buffy warns very seriously. As Tara grins crookedly at her Buffy growls deeply, her hands already heading towards the edge of Tara's shirt, pushing it up.

"BUFFY!" Tara yells, as Buffy quickly pulls her shirt up and over her head, the slayer's nimble fingers at the back of her bra already unhooking it and sliding the straps over her shoulders. Crossing an arm across her chest, Tara blushes darkly. "What in the world do you think you're doing?"

"Checking you out plus doing a little investigating." Buffy's eyes glimmer with amusement as she looks into Tara's wide eyes. "I figure it's only fair, you've seen me multiple times, so I figure it's time for me to see you in less than your underwear." Buffy lets her fingers trail over Tara's soft skin and up her side to play along her ribs.

Tara blushes even darker and shakes her head. "But you were hurt and I w-was helping you." Tara points out the difference of what she'd done and what Buffy was doing.

Buffy sighs quietly and leans forward, pressing her head gently against Tara's shoulder. "Do you care for me, Tara?" Buffy finally questions quietly. "In more than a friend way?"

Tara blinks in surprise at the slayer's questions, never having expected Buffy to come right out and question her on her feelings. Not knowing what to do, she sits there quietly.

"Please, Tara. It won't change us being friends, I promise. But I need to know." Buffy finally begs, her emotions starting to swirl around again, fighting to try and keep control. "God! I feel like I'm back to where I was at before when I first came back." Buffy whispers shifting her hand that had still been stroking over the warm flesh of the Wiccan to run roughly through her hair and rub the back of her neck.

"You basically are." Tara answers the non-question, sighing quietly as she feels the slight stiffening of the slayer. "And yes, I care for you in more than a f-friend way, Buffy."

"But you're afraid?" Buffy questions intuitively.

Tara slowly nods her head and answers simply. "Yes."

"Why?" Buffy shifts to look at Tara silently begging her to help her understand.

Tara nibbles on her bottom lip and looks into confused hazel eyes. "That's not an easy question to answer, Buffy." Tara admits, slowly shifting the arm that she has covering her breasts to reach up and gently trail down the slayer's cheek, just on the edge of the bandage running down it. "I'm falling in love with you, Buffy. And I'm s-scared that what you're feeling for me is just…" Tara shrugs her shoulders, not really knowing how to explain it.

"How can I prove to you that I really do care for you?" Buffy questions softly, closing her eyes at the tender touch as Tara's fingers brush lightly over her face and neck.

"Time, I guess." Tara brushes her lips over Buffy's forehead. "When you're healed we'll go from there. That way you have a chance to examine your f-feelings a little better without everything else b-bombarding you at the same time."

Buffy growls loudly, burying her face in the crook of Tara's neck her hand grasping the Wiccan's waist firmly. "Tara, we've been working on me getting better for two months, and in one night I fucked it all up. The rate I'm going, I'll be lucky to be 'healed' in a year's time. I don't want to wait that long, and I'm really sick and fucking tired of my emotional roller coaster."

"We'll double-up on your meditations, and try a couple different spiritual cleansings to see if that might help." Tara offers softly. "Right now, I want to check out your wounds and see how they're healing."

Buffy's hand slides up to her cheek. "It's probably going to scar, isn't it?" Buffy finally questions, already knowing the answer, but wanting Tara's honest opinion.

"Honestly, it probably will. But you don't scar badly, and it probably won't even be noticeable, especially with make-up if you're worried about it." Tara worriedly brushes her fingertips over Buffy's hand that's still playing with the bandage.

"Would you still love me, even if I was scarred?" Buffy finally questions after a few minutes.

"I love the person, Buffy. Not the package." Tara whispers, brushing her lips over Buffy's other cheek. Honestly not even paying attention or seeing the bruising and scratches that were healing, just seeing the woman that she's fallen in love with.

Buffy has to smile at the honest sincerity in Tara's words and tone. Knowing instinctively that that's what the woman would say, but feeling better once she hears the words coming from her. "But the package does play a part, right?" Buffy jokes and wiggles her eyebrows slightly.

Tara growls playfully at the slayer before leaning down to nip gently on her bottom lip. "The package definitely plays a part and is absolutely gorgeous. I'm afraid that I don't measure up." Tara blushes lightly, as she thinks about her fuller figure compared to the slayer's slim, athletic figure.

Buffy slowly shakes her head, finally allowing her eyes to take in Tara's chest, moaning quietly at the full, soft-looking breasts, the rosy colored areolas and soft nipples. Buffy growls softly as the areolas start to crinkle and the nipples slowly harden as she looks at them, her eyes jerking up to look at the blushing Wiccan. "You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. As a matter of fact…" Buffy trails off, letting her eyes drop again to Tara's chest, unconsciously licking her lips at the full breasts, surprised at the arousal starting to ease from her body with just the sight of the woman in front of her. Buffy slowly runs her hand up Tara's side, unaware of having moved it out from under Tara's hand. The woman's skin so soft and warm, Buffy's eyes darken with desire as her fingertips finally caress over the swell of Tara's breast.

"Buffy…" Tara whimpers quietly as strong, curious fingers start to stroke over her breast, teasingly not coming into contact with her aching nipple, but circling and stroking all the flesh around it, even kneading and squeezing gently.

Buffy slowly learns the texture and feel of Tara's breast, fighting the desire to pinch and twist the hardened nipple to see if Tara enjoys it as much as she does when the pleasure borders just slightly on pain without actually crossing over.

"Buffy, please." Tara finally grasps the slayer's hand, easing it down her body to rest on her thigh, panting heavily at the desire coursing through her from the slayer's caresses.

Buffy growls loudly as her hand is removed from the place she wants to spend hours learning. Shaking her head slightly, Buffy finally shakes off some of the desire she's feeling and looks over Tara's desire flushed body, noticing the difference immediately from Tara's blushing. A small smile crosses her face at the light pinkness of Tara's chest and how the heavy breathing is making Tara's breasts move up and down enticingly. "No piercing." Buffy finally comments, just now noticing that Tara's breasts are free of any kind of piercing.

Tara has to chuckle at the slight sound of disappointment in the slayer's tones. "You sound disappointed."

Buffy nods her head, her eyes staying on the Wiccan's breasts, eyes narrowing as a wicked smile comes across her face. Starting to dip her head down, she grunts as a hand grabs hold of her hair to keep her from coming closer to her goal.

"No you don't." Tara shakes her head. "I'm already one step away from exploding, if you do what you're planning on doing that'll be all it'll take." Tara quickly shifts and moves off Buffy's lap, rolling off the bed and grabbing her shirt to yank back on.

Buffy groans and falls over onto her side, watching Tara pull her shirt on and cover the delectable looking breasts. "Damn." Buffy grumbles rubbing a hand across her eyes as she fights the desire working through her own body. "Is it normal to be turned on just by the sight of someone?" Buffy finally questions after a few minutes, not looking at Tara.

"It depends on how attracted you are to the person, I guess." Tara shrugs her shoulders as she stares down at the slayer.

"I've never just looked at someone and been turned on before, Tara." Buffy growls, pulling her hand away from her eyes so she can look at the Wiccan. "It takes being touched, kissed… basically I need a helping hand. Sometimes kissing didn't even turn me on."

"You've done more than just look, Buffy." Tara points out, grinning crookedly at the slayer.

"Uh, huh." Buffy props her chin up on her hand and stares at Tara. Deciding not to admit to the blonde that she'd been turned on before watching her just do normal things around the house, like vacuuming and cooking. Admittedly it was just a low buzz of arousal, but a lot more than she'd felt in the past with some of her lovers after they'd been making out for ten to fifteen minutes.

Tara taps Buffy on the nose. "Now that we're more or less on an even keel, let me look at your wounds." Tara orders quietly as she heads towards the door.

"Tara?" Buffy hesitantly whispers before Tara makes it completely out of the room, watching as Tara turns to look at her with a questioning look on her face. "I really am sorry for being an ass yesterday." Buffy continues softly.

Tara sees the deep regret and pain in Buffy's eyes, and smiles softly at the slayer, forgiving her completely. "It'll be okay, Buffy. I promise. Do you want me to bring the kit in here, or do you want to do this in the bathroom?"

Buffy tilts her head as she thinks for a few minutes. "I need to go to the bathroom, so if you want, we can meet back in here?"

"You and me both." Tara grumbles, smiling quickly at Buffy as the slayer chuckles softly. "I'll be quick, and then the bathroom's all yours." Tara offers as she hurries from the bedroom.

Buffy stares at the empty doorway, thinking about Tara. "I do love you, Tara whether you believe it or not." Buffy whispers as she waits for Tara to finish in the bathroom.


Chapter 12

"How bad is it?" Buffy questions soberly, as Tara gently cleans the wound on her face.

"It'll scar." Tara admits, her eyes flickering to make contact with Buffy's for a moment. "How did it happen?"

"Honestly, I don't know." Buffy rolls her eyes at the admittance. "All I can remember is a demon had something in its hand and swung at me while another one had hold of me. Before I could get loose it connected. That's the only thing that I remember that could have done it."

Tara winces slightly. Reaching down for the antibiotic ointment, she gently works it into the healing wound. "I know your slayer healing keeps scarring to a minimum, so it won't be bad. But it is there and it'll probably be noticeable unless you wear make-up to cover it up once it's healed." Tara explains quietly, carefully working the ointment into the area close to Buffy's eye, thankful that it hadn't hit her there, as she probably would have lost her sight. "How do your ribs and ankle feel?"

"Ribs achy, ankle a little bit off but okay." Buffy looks down at her ankle and the bandage still wrapped around it.

"You didn't ice them down last night, did you?" Tara purses her lips as Buffy shakes her head. Sighing softly, Tara finishes working antibiotic cream into the other scrapes, though most of them were healed enough to not need it, but deciding it won't hurt. "Can I see your ribs?" Tara steps back, letting Buffy pull off her shirt. Gently pulling the closures from the cloth, Tara unwinds the wrap and looks at Buffy's ribs. "Are they broken?"

"A couple." Buffy admits, gently twisting her body around, trying to loosen up the stiffness as Tara's fingers gently probe the area.

"It's too late to worry about icing them down now. They'll be healed in what, another day or two?" Tara glances up at Buffy to see her nod. "Should I re-wrap them?"

Buffy moves around a little more, and shakes her head. "You don't have to. They're healed enough to where they don't really need the support."

Tara looks over the other bruising and hurt areas, checking to make sure they seem to be healing fine as she works her way down Buffy's body. Checking the slice on her leg, she gently places more antibiotic ointment on it after pulling off the bandage. "Go ahead and sit down, I'll unwrap your ankle and see how it is."

Buffy shifted back and sat down on the edge of the bed watching as Tara kneels on the floor, gently lifting her foot and unwrapping the Ace bandage.

Looking at the lightly bruised ankle, Tara gently runs her fingers over it before rotating it while looking up at Buffy. "You could have put your top back on, you know." Tara points to the item sitting on the bed beside Buffy.

Buffy smirks and shakes her head. "Why would I want to do that?"

"To help me keep my sanity." Tara mumbles quietly. "How does this feel?"

"A little twinge here and there, but it'll probably be pretty much healed by tonight." Buffy's hand goes to her stomach as it makes an ungodly rumbling noise.

Tara chuckles and looks at the slayer's stomach. "Sounds like you might have swallowed a demon or two last night instead of just wiping them out." Patting Buffy's ankle she sets it down and stands. "I'll go fix breakfast, any requests?"

Buffy shrugs. "Whatever's easiest to make."

"And fastest, right?" Tara laughs as Buffy's stomach rumbles again, and the slayer looks at it in disgust.

"Yeah, I guess so." Buffy grabs her shirt and pulls it on. "I'll help. Maybe scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage links and toast?"

"Can't get much easier than that." Tara chuckles as she jogs down the stairs.

"Easy, she says. I burn everything I try to make." Buffy grumbles as she follows Tara down the stairs at a more sedate pace not wanting to push her ankle too much.

"Are you sure you're not doing this to try and sneak in a quick grope?" Buffy questions as she sits between Tara's legs, her back pressed against the Wiccan's chest. Having to admit she's enjoying the closeness.

"I haven't been the one feeling you up in the middle of the night." Tara growls softly in Buffy's ear, smirking as Buffy blushes darkly.

"I wasn't feeling you up. I was just trying to see where, if anywhere, you might have a piercing." Buffy tells on herself, blushing even darker at the knowing laughter coming from Tara.

"Busted." Tara chuckles. "No, no free feels." Tara strokes her fingers gently over Buffy's stomach, her hands under the slayer's top as they sit in the back yard. "I want to try something different on the meditations we've been doing, and it is better done Sky clad, but as long as we have bare skin touching, we should be okay." Tara explains.

Buffy smirks and wiggles back into Tara, the Wiccan having unbuttoned her shirt. With Buffy having lifted up her shirt, her bare back was pressed delightfully against Tara's breasts. Smirking as she feels Tara's nipples hardening against her, Buffy wiggles even more.

"Stop that!" Tara pinches Buffy's stomach, while taking a long deep breath to try and clear her mind.

"I don't mind being Sky clad, I mean if it'll help…" Buffy tries again, chuckling as Tara growls deeply in her ear, the rumble sending a streak of desire through her body.

"If you keep distracting me, I won't be able to see if this will help!" Tara states exasperatedly, having been trying for the last fifteen minutes to calm her center enough to connect with Buffy without actually invading the slayer's spirit. Hoping the influence of her own body, mind, soul and spirit will help align Buffy's so it'll heal fully and properly this time. Not feeling comfortable enough before to touch Buffy more intimately, but after this morning's happenings and with Buffy's consent, they'd decided to try it.

Buffy pouts before finally mumbling. "Fine, I'll behave."

"Thank you." Tara settles her hands back in place, one directly beneath the slayer's breasts, the palm pressing slightly against the ribs while the other hand is directly below that one, the fingers spread out over Buffy's lower abdomen and pressing firmly against her. Ignoring the feel of the slayer's short wiry curls brushing against her pinky, she takes calming deep breaths, her chin resting over Buffy's shoulder.

Slowly Buffy relaxes more into Tara, opening herself to the Wiccan without even being aware of it, the two women's breaths slowly coming into sync with each other, even as their heartbeats become one. Buffy's hands move to lie overtop of Tara's larger hands, pressing against them without her even being aware of it.

Tara slowly allows her spirit to connect with Buffy's, almost overlaying it to show her what an undamaged spirit is supposed to be like, urging her silently to try and mend herself. Knowing if this doesn't help, the only other step open to them would be for her to actually come in and try and heal the slayer with her own spirit, using part of it to put the slayer back together again while absorbing the shattered pieces within herself. Knowing that would cause a permanent connection between them of some sort, to what degree Tara doesn't know without doing it.

Buffy frowns as she feels what Tara's trying to tell her what to do. Seeing her damaged spirit and soul Buffy 'sees' Tara's whole spirit and soul shining brightly. Imagining hers looking like Tara's, Buffy tries to 'slayer' it into doing what she wants. Not having any luck, she unconsciously growls until she feels Tara's calming influence settling her back down again. Realizing Tara's trying to tell her that she can't bully it into doing what she wants that she needs to coax it along.

Tara feels Buffy slowly relaxing and trying to do what she's urging her to do. Watching some of the smaller sections slowly coming together, Tara smiles internally as she watches Buffy determinedly working on putting her 'puzzle' back together again.

Unaware of the time passing the two women work together. The process slow and more draining than either of them realizes as the morning becomes afternoon and afternoon heads towards evening.

Finally the drain becoming too much, Tara works on slowly pulling her spirit back within her, her consciousness hearing the whimper escape Buffy's lips as she slowly brings the first session to an end. Feeling drained but happy at the fact that the two of them were able to get Buffy back to where she was before she'd backslid. Groaning as she slowly moves her stiff arms from around Buffy, Tara falls back on the ground her body sore and aching from spending too many hours in one spot without moving.

Buffy, not fairing much better than Tara, slowly moves out from between Tara's legs to lie beside the Wiccan on the ground, staring up at the sun. "We've been out here for over eight hours, haven't we?"

"Uh, huh." Tara doesn't even bother opening her eyes again to look at the sun. The glimpse she'd gotten of it and the location of it in the sky letting her know that it's probably around five or six o'clock in the evening.

Buffy turns her head, frowning as she sees the tired look on Tara's face, the Wiccan not even taking the time out to cover herself after the in depth meditation. Shifting, Buffy gently pulls the two sides of the shirt together and buttons it for Tara before leaning down and placing a soft kiss on her lips. "Thank you. That helped a lot."

Tara slowly drags her eyes open, a small flitter of a smile crossing her lips as she looks at the slayer. "I would like to work on doing it again tomorrow. The only thing is, is if Dawnie comes home, it would probably cause her to freak out if she saw us."

"She'll deal. I'll leave a note for her or something. But we'll only do it, if you're up for it." Buffy gently strokes her thumb under one of Tara's eyes. Knowing the Wiccan didn't get much rest the night before, and honestly she didn't either. "I'll order a couple pizzas for dinner. Would you like some wings or something to go with them?"

Tara nods her head, past the point of arguing about the pork chops she could fix, not having the energy to do it. "Maybe order a salad also?"

Buffy slowly shifts and stands up, groaning as she stretches her body, trying to get the blood flowing back in it. Offering her hand to Tara, she pulls the woman up so she's standing in front of her. "Anything you want." Buffy watches as Tara winces slightly as she puts her weight down on one of her legs. "Fall asleep?"

"Goddess… did it." Tara groans her hands going down to the deadened leg.

Buffy kneels in front of Tara and slowly works her hands up and down the flesh, enjoying the feel of the silky smooth skin more than she probably should, since she's trying to help Tara and not get a free feel. Hearing whimpering coming from Tara Buffy looks up stilling her hands.

"Thank you." Tara winces as the blood starts flowing through her leg, causing the pins and needles sensation.

Realizing what's happening, Buffy removes her hands and stands, placing her hands on Tara's waist to help her balance as she keeps from putting weight on the leg.

Tara places a hand on Buffy's shoulder as she wavers slightly, waiting for the worst of the tingling sensation to subside before trying her weight on the leg. Sighing in relief as the pain becomes bearable, Tara smiles thankfully at the slayer.

"Come on. Why don't you go in and relax while I order the food." Buffy urges Tara towards the house, surprised when Tara doesn't budge. Looking up into shimmering blue eyes, Buffy frowns at the sight of the tears showing. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know how much it will help doing it this way for the worst of the splintered portions, Buffy." Tara finally admits. It taking longer and been a lot more draining on her than she would have imagined, with trying to walk Buffy through helping herself.

"We can try, if you don't want to do the more invasive part." Buffy shakes her head for Tara not to worry about it right now. "Come on, let's go in. Personally I'm hungry, and I swear I can even hear your stomach grumbling." Buffy pats Tara gently on the stomach, smiling at the light blush that comes to the Wiccan's cheeks.

"Maybe a tad." Tara admits. "I think I'll run upstairs and take a shower."

Buffy slowly follows Tara into the house, enjoying the sight of the blonde Wiccan. Having to admit that she never would have believed the absolutely gorgeous body the woman usually hid under her long skirts and loose shirts if she hadn't seen it for herself. Of course being plastered up against it at night, or as the case may be more often than not, on top of it, she's learned the feel and muscles the woman has more intimately than she would have believed, without the two of them being lovers. Fighting the groan and burst of desire, Buffy picks up the phone, hitting the speed dial to place the order for pizzas, along with hot wings, salad and some cheesy breadsticks.

"I can go with you on patrol, if you'd like." Tara offers as Buffy stands in the middle of the living room, obviously debating internally about something.

Buffy's eyes flicker as she turns to look at Tara. Replaying what the woman had said, Buffy shakes her head. "I honestly don't think there will be that many demons left. From what I can remember from my anger induced haze I probably wiped out around twenty-five demons give or take last night. I was planning on just hitting the cemeteries looking for newbie's." Buffy waves her hand towards the newspaper where the obituaries were that let her know which cemeteries to look in.

"Then it'll be a relatively quick night. I'll go with you, if you don't mind." Tara offers her eyes serious as she looks at Buffy. Her eyes looking at the reddened area of the jagged cut on Buffy's face, it was starting about a quarter of an inch from Buffy's right eye and traveling in a somewhat jagged line down just shy of her chin. Tilting her head slightly, Tara tries to imagine a pale, thin scar in place of the angry red wound. Thinking about it, Tara smiles as she realizes it'll add a little something to the slayer, making her normally beautiful looks a little more dangerous, and honestly probably even more desirable.

Buffy quirks her eyebrow up at the sight of Tara smiling, knowing the woman was looking at her wound, but not understanding for the life of her what would make her smile. "You're going to have to explain that smile." Buffy comments as she makes her way over to her weapon's chest.

Tara blushes as Buffy looks over her shoulder at her. "Do I have to? Or can I plead the fifth?"

"We're not a court of law here. And yes, you have to." Buffy becomes even more intrigued at the blush on Tara's face.

Tara whimpers and covers her face with her hands, before mumbling against them. "I think the scar will make you even sexier."

Buffy stares at Tara, the surprise obvious on her face. "You think I'm sexy?" Buffy finally questions softly. Admitting she thought she was decent looking, maybe even cute by some peoples' standards, but she'd never consider herself sexy, beautiful or gorgeous like she would some people. Looking at Tara and admitting she would definitely consider Tara a very beautiful woman, and sexy in her own right when she relaxes and allows that extremely sexy half grin to cross her face.

"Goddess, Buffy! What do you think?" Tara answers, pulling her hands down from her face, her eyes wide as she takes in the slayer's surprised countenance. "You don't…" Tara shakes her head and moves towards the petite blonde. "You're one of the most beautiful, sexy women I know, Buffy. And you are extremely sexy." Tara more breathes the words, than says them as she leans in to caress her lips across Buffy's.

Buffy steps into Tara's body dropping the stake in her hand and wrapping her arms around her neck, tugging gently to encourage Tara to deepen the kiss, even as she opens her mouth and flicks her tongue across Tara's lips. Groaning deeply as Tara's arms wrap around her waist pulling her tighter against the slightly taller woman, the feel of Tara's breasts being crushed against hers, making her body tighten with want and desire. Threading her fingers through soft, silky hair, Buffy tilts her head for a tighter fit and growls into Tara's mouth as the Wiccan takes control of the kiss, plundering her mouth as if she can't get enough even while her body's pressing more firmly against her.

Breaking off the kiss for some much needed oxygen, Tara rests her forehead against Buffy's, panting heavily. "Goddess, Buffy! I was planning on a simple, brief kiss."

Buffy chuckles as she slowly gets control of her breathing, scraping her nails gently over Tara's neck, smirking at the low groan she gets in response. "Wanted more." Buffy admits.

"Obviously." Tara grins crookedly at the slayer before easing back from her, gently squeezing Buffy's waist before releasing her completely. "Patrol." Tara murmurs finally, heading towards the stairs.

Buffy shifts so she can watch Tara hurry up the stairs, a huge grin crossing her face at the little wiggle Tara does while unobtrusively pulling downwards on her pants. "A bit of a problem, huh?" Buffy questions softly, smirking before bending over, groaning herself as her pants press against her aching body. Grabbing the stake, Buffy straightens quickly and does her own wiggle while pulling her jeans down. "Damn." Buffy growls softly, before finishing grabbing her tools of the trade.

Part 13

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