DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the slayerettes belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: These stories contain adult material with scenes of women loving women. Consider this story to have a R rating. If this is illegal in your state or you are underage, please go to a more appropriate site now.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Tears of the Goddess
By Lisa Countryman

 

CHAPTER FIVE

When Maggie Doyle returned to Tara’s room an hour later she was shocked to see the tiny space filled to capacity. The entire group that had been at the ER the night of the attack was standing around Tara’s bed. The only exception was the pretty, sandy haired woman named Anya who was sitting in a chair reading a Vogue magazine.

"Hello?" Maggie cleared her throat and came into the room and shut the door. "Willow? Can we talk privately about that matter?"

"Doctor Doyle, wasn’t it?" Giles went over and held out his hand. "I’m Rupert Giles. Willow has told us everything and we’re here to help."

"All of you?" Maggie took his hand and was surprised that the British man had such a firm grip. "Are any of you related to Tara?"

"Tara’s blood relatives…kinda’...well… completely abandoned her when they found out about us," Willow said. She was sitting beside Tara, holding just her fingers since the blonde’s battered hand was inside a cast.

"Well, that and the whole demon thing," Anya offered. "Or should I say non-demon thing?"

Xander cleared his throat and gave Anya a look that even she could tell was signaling her to shut up.

"Demon thing?" Maggie moved closer to the bed and felt Tara’s pulse.

"Um, well, this is gonna’ sound weird, but Tara’s family told her that on her twentieth birthday she would kinda’ turn into a demon." Willow shrugged her shoulders.

"What kind of demon?" Maggie asked.

"See?" Anya said as she pointed at the doctor. "That was my first question when I heard, and Xander said it was stupid."

"Well, there are many kinds of demons…" Maggie looked down at Tara wondering why nothing odd had shown up in her bloodwork.

"Exactly!" Anya said as she slapped Xander’s arm. "Even though it turned out Tara isn’t even part demon."

"You seem rather well versed in the mystical," Giles said. He moved alongside her and watched as she gently went over Tara’s body with graceful and caring diligence.

"So do you," Maggie pointed out.

"Yes, well…" Giles looked to Buffy.

"So what did you find out?" Buffy asked. "About the spell?"

Willow nodded and gave the doctor her full attention.

"As best as I can remember it, this situation would be perfect." Maggie looked down at Tara and brushed a stray strand of hair off of her cheek. "The spell can heal any mystically caused injury so long as it effected a witch during a selfless act."

"Well, this case certainly fits that description." Giles took off his glasses and polished them as he tried not to remember the sight of Tara’s bloodied body inside the herb circle.

"I still don’t know what happened," Maggie pointed out.

"I was the one fighting the vampires," Willow said with chilling calm. "Tara knew they would hurt me, so she cast a spell that made any injury to me… effect her while leaving me completely unharmed."

"Oh my god," Maggie gently traced Tara’s swollen cheek. "She’s quite brave."

Willow nodded.

"Now then, about this book?" Giles asked.

"I’m not sure where it is," Maggie admitted. "But if we can find it, I think it might work…providing we have a witch to do the spell."

"I can do it," Willow said instantly.

"I kinda’ thought you would," Maggie said with a half smile. "Now we just have to find the damn book."

"What is it called?" Giles was holding a notebook, ready to go into research mode.

"It didn’t have a title, just some markings." Maggie held up a scrap of paper with a drawing of the book. "Something like that. I remember when I used to look through it, I thought the cover looked like the drawings were pictures of a chicken foot, a lighting bolt, and another chicken foot."

"Runes," Giles said as he looked at the scribbles. "Possibly a demon family designation." He held it out to Anya.

"Yep, that’s a demon mark, all right. Celtic, maybe from County Cavin," Anya said as she leaned forward. "It’s old, more than a thousand years, so whichever clan it comes from…it’s a long standing family."

"Who are you people?" Maggie asked.

"The good guys," Willow said with a smirk.

"When did you last see this book?" Giles asked. "If it is a family text, and we don’t find it, the chances are there isn’t another copy."

"I saw it in Ireland, about ten years ago, but I’m pretty sure it’s in LA now," Maggie said.

"LA?" Giles asked. "As in Los Angeles?"

"Yeah." Maggie frowned. "But it’s a big city and I don’t know if Tara has much time."

Willow’s eyes narrowed. "We will save her. I know it."

"Who has the book?" Giles asked.

"I’m not sure…exactly." Maggie looked down at her feet. "My cousin had it, but he…well…he died."

"Why did your cousin have a demon family text?" Anya asked.

"He was half demon," Maggie said quietly.

"What kind?" Anya asked brightly. She glared at Xander, daring him to suggest that it wasn’t a good question.

"Are you a demon?" Riley asked from the back of the room. He had been watching in silence, trying to get a feel for what the doctor was planning.

"No, I’m not," Maggie told Riley. "It’s from his mother’s side." She looked over at Anya and smiled. "He was half Brakken demon."

"Ew, too spikey. It’s worse that razor burn." Anya leaned over and rubbed Xander’s cheek. "Xander keeps his face all nice and soft for me."

"Indeed, a Brakken demon?" Giles asked.

Buffy raised an eyebrow in silent question.

"Rather a harmless breed. Blue, covered with green spikes," Giles explained. "Often quite helpful to humanity. Don’t you ever study?"

Buffy shrugged. "So what happened to your cousin?"

"I don’t know." Maggie cleared her throat. "My aunt said he died a hero."

"The demon mom?" Xander asked.

"Yeah," Maggie agreed. "My cousin Frances was one of my best friends, even though in the last few years we only talked a few times a year. He was a good man, and he tried to make a difference. His mom told me that he was killed in LA. Frances had the family text with him, and he had mentioned to his mom that if anything happened, he wanted to give it to a close friend. He said this guy would put it to good use."

"Great," Xander said. "All we gotta’ do now is go through the LA yellow pages and find a mysterious guy who puts things to good use."

"Look, I know it’s not much to go on," Maggie said. "Frances trusted this guy. He was a friend and he was his boss. All I know about the guy is that he lives in LA and his name is Angel."

"Angel?" Buffy asked as her eyes widened.

"Angel? A do-gooder in LA?" Xander smiled and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Wonderful, Angel the great to the rescue," Riley said.

"You know him?" Maggie asked incredulously.

"Know him?" Willow asked. "We’ve saved him like a ton of times. And he’s like saved us even more times."

"Do you know how to get a hold of him?" Maggie asked.

"I’m sure she does," Riley said bitterly.

Buffy glared at her boyfriend but then looked back at the doctor. "Oh my god. Your cousin…Frances? Frances Doyle?"

"Yeah," Maggie said, drawing out the word. "Actually his full name was Alan Frances Doyle."

"Doyle was your cousin?" Buffy said loudly.

"Yeah," Maggie said again. "I’m Doctor Maggie Doyle…and my cousin’s name was Alan Frances Doyle. Why do you keep asking me that?"

"I knew him," Buffy said quietly. "He was sweet… and I liked him."

"Oh." Maggie’s eyes widened.

"We should call Angel and get that book down here right now," Willow said as she ran back to Tara’s side. "You’re gonna be okay," she whispered and then kissed her temple.

"Uh, Will?" Buffy said slowly. She pointed out the window at the bright sunlight. "Angel can’t exactly bring it right now."

"We shouldn’t wait," Maggie said quickly. "Tara doesn’t have that much time. As it is, Willow’s been buying her time with the energy transference."

"Energy transference?" Giles asked angrily. "Why didn’t anyone tell me about the bloody energy transference?"

"What’s the biggy?" Xander asked. "Call Cordy and have her drive the Angelmobile up here with the book. Problem solved."

"Yeah!" Willow said.

"Yes, well, one slight problem," Giles said. "A mystical book like that…would beckon all kinds of demonic forces."

"My aunt kept it in her kitchen under the toaster for god’s sakes," Maggie said. "I never saw any demonic forces."

"Yeah, but your aunt’s a big ol’ demon," Anya pointed out. "Mystical texts are fine so long as they stay in the hands of… well… demons. As soon as a regular mortal takes them out for a spin there’s sort of a psychic demon alarm system so humans can’t just cart them off." Anya rolled her eyes. "Damn humans. They steal everything they can get their grubby little hands on."

"Precisely," Giles said. "So having Cordelia bring it down here would be disastrous."

"And waiting for this Angel guy would help us…how?" Maggie asked.

"He’s a Vampire," Anya volunteered. "But it’s okay because Buffy had sex with him…oh wait, that was the bad thing. That’s when he went all evil again." She smiled. "It’s okay because Buffy isn’t having sex with him." She looked over at Buffy who was blushing and looked positively mortified. "You’re not gonna’ have sex with him, are you?"

"No," Riley said quickly.

"I don’t think I want to understand whatever she’s talking about." Maggie moved over to Tara and felt her weak pulse. "If you do know where the book is, get it here. Fast."

"I’ll call Angel," Buffy said as she hurried toward the door.

Riley moved to join her but she stopped him with a withering glare.

"Do you think this will work?" Willow asked.

"I have no idea." Maggie lifted Tara’s eyelids and frowned when she shined her light into the fully dilated pupils. "Aunt Brigit said the book was real and that the spells worked, but she never saw the healing spell."

"Wasn’t it her book?" Anya asked.

"Yes, but she couldn’t see the spell. No one could but me." Maggie blushed. "I know it sounds crazy. I was reading the spell when Frances looked over my shoulder and asked why I was staring at a blank page. I thought he was yanking my chain so I asked Aunt Brigit. She couldn’t see it either."

"So, how do we know it wasn’t just some delayed drug trip?" Xander asked. "Or some leprechaun induced vision?"

"I read the spell to her," Maggie said through clenched teeth. "She said if I could see it, I must be a healer. I had wanted to be a doctor, but my dad really wanted me to be a cop. Brigit convinced me to go into medicine."

"Yeah, well you’ve got that whole toss them against the wall and make them assume the position thing down," Willow said under her breath.

"Did you have orgasms with the doctor right here in front of your unconscious girlfriend?" Anya asked incredulously. "Even I wouldn’t do that."

"Anya!" Willow blushed and then looked down at Tara. "She’s just being Anya. Ignore her, baby." She leaned down and kissed Tara’s forehead.

"You people need some serious therapy." Maggie crossed her arms over her chest and took a deep breath. "And that’s my professional opinion."

"Hey, doctor demon cousin lady," Xander said. "We’re not the ones seeing imaginary spells in books covered with demon chicken feet."

"Runes," Giles corrected.

"Covered with demon chicken runes," Xander clarified.

Buffy came through the door and paused as she took in the tension filling the room. "What did Anya do?"

"I didn’t do anything!" Anya glared at Buffy and then Xander. "Why do you always blame the ex-demon?" She turned to Maggie. "I know what you’re going to ask… Vengeance demon. I’m retired now…No more flaying and impaling for me. I’m good now." She smiled brightly.

"What did you find out?" Maggie asked. She wondered what kind of group she had gotten herself hooked up with.

"Cordelia’s bringing the book up right now." Buffy moved over to where Willow was holding Tara’s hand. She ran her hand through Willow’s hair and smiled. "It won’t be long."

"What about the demon alarm thing?" Maggie asked. She cringed internally. ‘I’m asking about demon alarms?’ she thought with a shake of her head. ‘Aunt Brigit would be so proud.’

"Apparently Doyle had a talisman for it. It keeps it safe even if a human transports it," Buffy explained. "At least it’s supposed to. Angel is sending someone with Cordy to keep an eye on her just in case."

"A talisman?" Anya asked. "Not many demons would be that foolish. With a talisman, any human could just cart it off." She turned and glared at Maggie. "Didn’t your aunt teach your cousin anything? Sounds like she hasn’t even had her first molting."

"Her what?" Maggie lifted both eyebrows high onto her forehead.

"How old is your aunt?" Anya rolled her eyes. "Brakken demons shed their first set of spikes at sixty years, though in demon terms that’s a mere child."

"I think Brigit is almost sixty." Maggie crinkled her face showing her disgust. "Are those spikes just gonna’ slough off?"

"Hey!" Anya said angrily. "It’s an important time in a demon’s life."

"Yeah…" Maggie rubbed the back of her neck. "I’ll see if hallmark has a card for that."

"When will Cordelia be here?" Willow asked harshly. She was tired of all the wasted bantering while Tara’s fate hung in the balance.

"It takes three hours just for the drive, and that’s with Cordelia driving like a wildwoman." Buffy still had her hand tangled in Willow’s silky hair.

"That’s Cordy," Xander agreed.

"She better not make a move on you," Anya said. "I still know demons. As a matter of fact, I still remember how to eviscerate someone using only a spoon."

"I’m not in love with Cordelia," Xander said. "I love you, eviscerating skills and all."

"I’m going up to the on-call room to get a few hours of sleep," Maggie said. "I’m officially Tara’s personal physician so they’ll wake me if anything comes up. Just ask one of the nurses to page me if you need anything." She eyed Anya warily. "When I come back, can you stop with all the talk about killing, maiming and eviscerating? I am a doctor and I have to clean up any bodies you maul."

"I don’t maul," Anya said with an insulted glare. "These human teeth can barely break the skin."

"Uh…yeah." Maggie cleared her throat. "I’ll be back here in three hours."

"Thank you," Willow said.

"Hey, it’s all part of being a doctor demon cousin lady." She smiled warmly and left.

"She’s nice," Buffy said. "I kinda’ feel bad about tossing her around earlier."

"Buffy!" Giles’ eyes widened.

"What? I thought she was a demon or something." Buffy leaned against the bed and looked down at Tara. The blonde was even paler and her breathing was slow and labored. "I didn’t want anyone else hurting Tara or Willow."

"Did you give her that nasty bruise?" Anya asked.

"What bruise?" Buffy asked quickly.

"Am I the only one who pays attention?" Anya sighed dramatically. "Her arm had a huge bruise all the way around it." She pointed to her own upper arm. "Up here, the typical wife-beater handle."

"Um, An, in English?" Xander implored.

"You know…" Anya took Xander by the upper arm, mimicking the exact hold that Buffy had used on the pretty doctor. "Wife beaters love this part of the arm. It’s all fleshy and it hurts really bad when you squeeze it. Plus it bruises easily and stays tender for days." She rubbed Xander's arm and then kissed it. "Damn humans. Wanna’ know what I used to do to all the wife beaters I caught?"

"No!" Everyone in the room said in unison.

"Okay," Anya agreed. "I try to share with you people but you just won’t let me open up. Don’t you ever watch Oprah? Opening up is good."

"Yeah, well not when it’s someone’s belly you open up, my little evisceration queen," Xander whispered.

"Oh, Xander." Anya’s eyes lit up. "That’s what D’Hofrynn used to call me. God, I miss those days."

"Willow, you should go home and get ready for the ritual." Giles tried his best to ignore the exchange he had just been forced to witness.

"I’m not leaving Tara." Willow shook her head as she spoke.

"If this is a Celtic demon tribe, the ritual will be traditional." Giles looked over at Anya and she nodded in agreement. "That means you will need a ritual bath before you can do the ceremony."

"I’ll stay with her," Buffy whispered. "She won’t be alone for a second."

"And I’ll go to the magic shop and wait until you call me when the book arrives." Giles looked over at Anya and Xander. "I’ll take them with me so we can bring whatever supplies you need for the spell as soon as we know what they are."

"What about me?" Riley was sitting in the chair next to the door and looked like he had been sulking.

"You can keep me company," Buffy said with a half smile. Her eyes were sad as she looked over at him. He really didn’t fit into the group.

"You mean until Angel gets here?" Riley asked.

"Angel isn’t coming. Just that skank whore Cordelia," Anya said. "See? No one pays attention except for me."

"He’s coming after dark though," Riley said with an accusing tone. His eyes bored into Buffy’s.

"Yeah, he is." Buffy returned the glare. "He cares about Willow and wants to do whatever he can to help." She crossed her arms over her chest. "Even if that means just being with her."

"Wow," Willow said. "He cares?"

"Of course he cares," Buffy said gently. She smiled at Willow. "You’re pretty darn easy to care for."

"Yeah, that’s Angel. A big, caring vampire," Riley added. "A regular teddy bear with teeth."

"Maybe you should help at the magic shop," Buffy said bitterly. "They might not mind your petty, insecure bullshit, but I do. I’m here for Tara and Willow. We don’t have time to soothe your bruised ego."

"I don’t think they need me either," Riley said, stressing the last word. "I’m outa’ here." He stood and yanked open the door.

"Where are you going?" Buffy asked without moving away from Tara.

"Like you even care," Riley snarled. The door swung closed behind him and the room was silent for moment.

"Buffy, maybe you should trade him in for that cute doctor," Anya suggested. "She seems like a big ol’ lesbian to me."

"Not now, Anya," Giles said with a sigh.

"Again, I am the only one paying attention." Anya sighed and flopped onto the nearby chair. "Though, she is a bit old for you," Anya said under her breath. "But in Slayer years, you’re like an old lady." She frowned when everyone glared at her. "What?"

 

CHAPTER SIX

Willow hurried off of the elevator and towards Tara’s room. She had been gone just over an hour, which wasn’t long considering she had performed a Gardenarian cleansing bath. Gardenarians were the most formal of Wicca practitioners, like Catholics of Wicca, their rituals being full of pomp and ceremony.

According to Gardenarian custom, a witch must be completely cleansed before performing an important spell. That meant Willow had to cleanse her body and aura. The bath itself required sea salt, lavender, and rosemary, all of which Willow had on hand. The aura cleaning required smudging with holy smoke. Willow used white sage and mugwart since she wasn’t sure what the Celtic herb of choice was, but she had used it before in Gardenarian rituals so she was sure that it would work.

She moved down the hallway and saw Tara’s door. She felt her body relax. She didn’t like being away from her lover when she was ill. She opened the door and stopped with her hand on the door handle. The room was empty except for some scattered medical trash on the floor next to the bed.

"Tara?" Willow whispered.

"Miss Rosenberg?"

Willow turned and saw Nurse Trent coming toward her.

"They moved Miss Maclay to respiratory ICU," Nurse Trent said gently.

"What happened? Where is that?" Willow felt tears stinging her eyes.

"It’s on the third floor," Trent said. "Doctor Doyle tried to call you, honey."

"What happened?" Willow asked again as she let the nurse pull her toward the elevator.

"Miss Maclay stopped breathing," Nurse Trent said as she gave Willow a comforting squeeze. "She’s on a respirator. Your friend is with her."

"No," Willow whispered. This couldn’t be happening. They were so close to saving her. She watched as the nurse hit the button and the elevator carried them up one more floor.

The door opened and Willow felt herself led down the hallway past small rooms cordoned off by curtains. There were people in some rooms next to patients in the beds. The mechanical hissing of the respirators sounded like some unholy monsters sleeping. It was like walking through a lair of dragons.

"Here," Nurse Trent said as she eased aside a curtain at one end of the hall.

"Willow," Buffy said as a feeling of relief flooded through her. "Thank god you’re here." She moved out of the way as Willow took her place beside Tara.

"When did it happen?" Willow asked as she stroked her lover’s cheek. Thin tape held the respirator in place and obscured most of Tara’s face.

"About half an hour after you left," Buffy said. She nodded to the nurse as the woman backed up and pulled the curtain closed to give them some privacy.

"Tara?" Willow pressed her lips to her lover’s ear. "I’m here. You hold on. We are going to save you, but you have to fight. You have to hold on ‘til we can do the spell."

Buffy watched in silence. She hoped Cordelia got to Sunnydale soon. ‘Never thought I’d actually want Cordelia here this badly,’ she thought as she wrapped her arms around her chest. The room was slightly chilled and Buffy smiled briefly when she saw Willow root around in the small cabinet next to the bed and pull out two blankets. The thin redhead covered Tara with them and then rested her head next to the unconscious woman’s shoulder.

‘You have to be all right, Tara,’ Buffy thought as she watched her best friend fading away with her lover. Buffy was no fool and she knew if Tara died, Willow’s heart would be shattered. What scared Buffy more than that was that she was pretty sure Willow wouldn’t survive the loss. She knew Tara and Willow had done some kind of soul bonding ritual, a ritual that had made Giles furious when he found out. He had mumbled something about the dangers of tying two lives together and then quickly left the room. He hadn’t mentioned it since Tara had been injured, but there was a sense of dread that shadowed his eyes every time he looked at Willow. A worried Watcher makes a nervous Slayer. Right now, Buffy was very nervous.

Willow held her hands over Tara’s forehead and mumbled in Latin. The energy tendrils snaked out as she gave her lover energy from her own body. The orange tendrils were less vibrant than they had been before. Willow was tiring and her own body was being pushed to its limits. She gasped and fell forward, carefully avoiding leaning against Tara’s battered frame.

"Easy there, wicca-girl." Buffy knelt beside Willow and kissed her cheek. She knew better than to try to stop the fiery redhead from doing the transference. Besides, if Tara didn’t make it, Willow wouldn’t be around to use the energy anyway. "Is there any way you can tap my energy?" Buffy asked. "I mean, I am the Slayer. I should be like an energizer bunny."

"No." Willow shook her head but she smiled at her best friend’s offer. "We’re bound, so our energy is compatible. So unless you and Tara secretly became soulmates, you can’t help. But… thanks for the offer."

"Soulmates, huh?" She gave Willow a gentle squeeze. "You two are gonna’ have to explain that in detail when she gets outa’ here."

Willow blushed, which was a nice change from the pasty appearance of her cheeks seconds earlier.

Buffy raised one eyebrow. "I take it this soulmate bond thing involves… smoochies?"

"Uh, yeah, smoochies," Willow squeaked. "Let’s just leave it at that. A smoochie ritual. Yup. Smoochies…nothing more."

"Uh huh," Buffy whispered, completely unconvinced. "Why do I get the feeling that your rituals are more intimate than anything I’ve ever experienced?" she asked sadly.

"Some day," Willow whispered as she cupped Buffy’s chin. "Some day you’ll meet your soulmate… and I don’t think it’s Angel…or Riley." She smirked and blushed again. "…or that cute doctor."

Buffy rolled her eyes.


Doctor Maggie Doyle moved down the hallway toward the respiratory ICU ward. She had been called earlier in the day when Tara Maclay had suddenly stopped breathing, so the ER doctor decided she wouldn’t go to sleep until after the young girl’s friends tried their spell. It had seemed destined that Maggie would help the young witch, or at least that was Maggie’s first thought. When she realized that Tara Maclay was indeed a witch, as was her girlfriend, Maggie assumed that was the reason she had been able to read the spell in the mystical text so many years earlier in Ireland. Now Maggie wondered if that was the case. She wondered if Tara Maclay would live long enough to have the spell performed.

"Hey, Doctor Doyle," Renee Parker said from the telemetry station when she saw the ER physician come off of the elevator on the third floor.

"Hey, Parker." Maggie paused and leaned over the low counter and looked at the readings coming from the machine monitoring Tara Maclay. "How’s my patient?"

"Holding her own," Parker said sadly. "Can’t really hope for much more." The young technician shook her head. "It’s a shame. That redhead seems so devoted."

"She is," Maggie said. She watched the erratic beat of Tara’s heart on the monitor. The bouncing green line that flickered on the screen told Maggie that Tara’s heart was struggling to hold on.

"You off tonight?" Renee asked. "You’re not dressed like you’re on duty, and I know you haven’t been home to sleep." She looked up and down the doctor’s trim body. Maggie was wearing blue jeans and a form fitting white tee shirt. Black boots rounded out the ensemble giving her an almost dangerous appearance.

"Yeah, I’m off for the next three days." Maggie cleared her throat. "I just want to keep an eye on this case." She smiled at her friend. "I have a good feeling about this one."

"Uh, Maggie, you’ve seen her brain activity… or should I say, lack of brain activity." Renee’s eyes caught Maggie’s. "I don’t want to see you disappointed."

"She’s tougher than she looks," Maggie assured her. She turned when the elevator opened and watched a thin, athletic blonde come toward her. The woman moved dangerously, and Maggie felt a familiar fear grip her chest. The blonde walked right past the nurse’s station and headed for the end of the hall. She headed straight for Tara’s cubical.

"Maggie?" Renee asked when the doctor shifted her weight on her heels and followed the blonde stranger.

Maggie looked back over her shoulder and held her finger to her lips. She wanted to see what this dangerous woman was up to. She followed the blonde, noting the way she moved with an animalistic grace, a grace not unlike the bumpy-headed, fanged man who had attacked Maggie in the parking lot one night after work.

The blonde was almost to the cubical when she paused. She reached back, pushing her coat aside to get at her belt and the handle of a gun.

Maggie grabbed the woman in a headlock while she trapped her hand away from the gun and then drove her through the thin curtain into Tara’s small room.

"What the…" Willow’s head shot up and she stood to keep the struggling pair away from Tara.

"Hey!" Buffy watched as Doctor Doyle rode the new arrival to the floor and pressed the startled newcomer’s cheek into the cold tile.

"She’s got a gun," Maggie said as she yanked the Smith and Wesson snub-nosed thirty-eight out of the woman’s belt. Her knee was firmly planted in the center of the woman’s back and she had a handful of her shoulder length blonde hair.

"I am gonna’ kill Angel," Detective Kate Lockley said in a muffled tone.

"Uh, Doctor butch?" Buffy said with a smirk. "She’s with us… well, kind of."

"What?" Maggie looked down at the woman she was smashing against the yellowed tile.

"Get off me," Kate said in a growl.

"Oh, sorry." Maggie jumped up and then stared down at the gun she had just confiscated from the woman sprawled on the floor.

"Maggie?" Renee Parker yelled from a few meters away.

"It’s nothing, Renee. Mistaken identity." Maggie felt her cheeks warm as she blushed. "Um, I’m really sorry." She offered her hand to the blonde who was now sitting upright at Maggie’s feet.

"Did I hear her call you doctor?" Kate took the offered hand and allowed the brunette woman to haul her to her feet.

"I’m Doctor Doyle." Maggie smiled sheepishly.

"Nice tackle," Kate grumbled. "Christ, what else can happen to me? First a three-freaking-hour ride with Cordelia and now some mini-linebacker wails on me when I walk in the door." She took her gun and secured it, and then reached to her back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "Here’s the note from Angel." She handed it to Buffy.

"Thanks." Buffy looked over the list with a confused expression before handing it to Willow.

"Good," Willow said when she saw the note. "Oh, that’s gonna’ be tough." She frowned as she looked around the tiny cubicle.

"What?" Maggie moved closer.

"The Talisman will keep the text safe indefinitely, but it only works for one person. Once Cordelia took the book, the talisman was activated," Willow explained. "When you read it, you’ll have possession of it. The Talisman won’t work for you. As soon as you start to read it to us, the demons will be drawn to us."

"Then let’s round up the gang," Buffy said.

"We need the ingredients from the magic shop," Willow pointed out. "Giles will bring them after Doctor Doyle reads it to us."

"Oh, yeah." Buffy crinkled her brow. She looked over at Kate. "Where’s Cordy?"

"She’s parking the car." Kate smiled evilly. "It was either come up and get you, or I was gonna’ kill her. I still don’t know if I made the right choice."

"I really am sorry about that whole thing," Maggie said as she moved away from the blonde detective. Old fears gripped her heart and she wrapped her arms protectively over her chest. "I saw the gun and just reacted. I’ve been on edge with the whole demon thing."

"Demons don’t usually use guns," Kate said. She locked eyes with the doctor. "But some humans who do are certainly monsters in their own right." She raised one eyebrow and tried to look supportive.

Maggie’s mouth went dry and she felt herself backing up. Only the wall at her back stopped her. She didn’t want to think about the past but the athletic blonde cop in front of her was dredging up memories Maggie had tried very hard to bury.

"Doc?" Buffy asked. She started to reach out to the brunette and then saw the bruise peeking out from under the sleeve of her shirt. A wave of guilt crashed down on the Slayer. "Are you all right? You look a little spooked." Buffy tried to put her hand on the doctor’s shoulder but Maggie skittered away like a frightened kitten.

"Don’t touch me," Maggie said in a growl. She yanked her arms back and felt her heart hammering in her chest. One look at the concern on Buffy’s youthful face brought her back. "I’m sorry. I’m jumpy. I need to go splash some water on my face and then I’ll be fine." Maggie spun and hurried out of the cubicle.

"She was scared," Willow said quietly. "Really scared. I could feel it clear over here and I’m not very empathic."

"I should have realized who she was right away," Kate said. "I checked her files."

"You did a background check on Doctor Doyle?" Willow asked angrily. She felt protective of the small doctor who was trying to save Tara.

"I asked her to," Buffy said. "Well, I asked Angel to and I’m guessing that he asked her to."

"Yeah," Kate said as she looked out of the cubicle where the doctor had just left. "She’s from Chicago, a family of cops." She turned back and smiled at Willow. "Buffy was just worried since this woman seemed too good to be true."

"And is she?" Willow asked pointedly.

Kate almost said yes, but not for the reasons Willow was asking. "Um, no, she’s just a doctor. There is a restraining order on file here in Sunnydale and Chicago."

"Who would put a restraining order out against her?" Buffy asked. Like Willow, she was suddenly feeling very protective of the dark haired doctor.

"Not on her." Kate rolled her eyes. "By her."

"Someone hurt her," Buffy said with absolute certainty.

"I called Chicago to get the details." Kate moved closer. "She’s got a restraining order out against a cop named Shannon O’Donnell from the fifteenth precinct. There’s a copy on file here in Sunnydale as well. Your doctor has special status. Which means whatever O’Donnell pulled, it was major. There’s a flag on Doyle’s home address so if any calls come in, they roll with extra firepower. That’s pretty intense considering the restraining order is for someone who’s out of state and a cop."

"Well, I feel like shit," Buffy said as she leaned against the wall. "Some woman hurt the doc and then I go and use my Slayer strength to damn near squeeze her arm off."

"Hello? Wasn’t someone supposed to come get me?" Cordelia said from the curtain. "What’s the point of bringing the big bad cop with me if I have to wander through the damn parking lot waiting to get eaten by some demon?" She had a large rectangular object wrapped in cloth tucked under her arm.

"You look like you’re in one piece," Kate pointed out.

"Yeah, well just barely." Cordelia hugged the book to her body. "They don’t even have a valet. I had to park that huge car myself." She looked over, finally noticing her old friends. "Hey, Buffy. Willow, how are you…" Her eyes fell on Tara’s body and her mouth hung open. "Okay, I’m thinking we should do this spell thing, right now."

"Hello, Cordy," Buffy said. She moved behind Willow and rubbed her friend’s shoulders.

"Thanks for bringing it," Willow said in a whisper. She could feel Tara getting weaker.

"We ready?" Maggie Doyle asked from behind Cordelia.

"Who?" Cordelia spun and stared at the small brunette. She reached out one hand, pausing near Maggie’s cheek. "Doyle," she whispered.

Maggie locked eyes with the young woman who was several inches taller than she was. Something about the loving expression in her eyes held Maggie in place.

"You have his eyes," Cordelia whispered. She gently touched Maggie’s cheek, cupped it as if in a trance. "The color’s not right, but the shape, and the intensity." A tear rolled down Cordelia’s cheek. She yanked her hand back and wiped the offensive streak from her face. "Oh, great. I’m going all soft."

"I’m Maggie Doyle. You must be Cordelia." She cleared her throat. "Frances told me about you, so I doubt you’re going soft," she added with a half grin.

"What did he say?" Cordelia demanded, but then her expression softened. "He told you about me?"

"Yeah." Maggie said, her throat thick with emotion. "We should get started." She looked over at Tara.


Once Cordelia gave the book to Maggie, the doctor quickly found the spell. It only required a few herbs, rose oil, and some sea salt, all of which was on hand at the magic shop. Giles collected the items and hurried to the hospital while the others prepared for the coming demons.

"How long until the uh, demons…start showing up?" Maggie asked as she looked around the small room.

"Couple of hours from what Angel said," Cordelia said with a yawn.

"That’s taken care of," Giles said as he came around the curtain. He reached behind the thin fabric and yanked Spike into view. "Here’s a demon to take possession of the text. We had to come via the sewers," he added distastefully.

"He’s a demon?" Maggie asked.

"Vampire," Spike corrected. "And I bloody don’t appreciate being drafted."

"Shut up and get to work." Buffy grabbed the text and shoved it into Spike’s hands.

"You’re welcome," Spike said sarcastically.

"Vampire?" Maggie stared at Spike. "You slept with…him?" She spun and stared at Buffy.

"Ew!" Buffy said. "No."

"Hey, you should be so lucky," Spike said defensively.

"Do you have the ingredients?" Willow asked.

"Oh, yes." Giles handed Willow a pouch from his pocket. "I measured the herbs exactly as Doctor Doyle said." He looked toward the nursing station and then back at Tara. "How are you going to perform the ritual without drawing attention?"

"I have that covered." Willow reached over to the nightstand and took a small candle and lit it. She chanted in Latin and walked over to the edge of the cramped room and briefly closed her eyes and then put the candle on the floor. "Done," she said as she turned toward her friends.

"I’m impressed, Red," Spike said. "A masking spell so no one can see us? Just like that? You must be a hell of a lot more powerful than I gave you credit for." He looked over at Tara. "Is your bird as strong as you? I mean when she isn’t a vegetable?"

"Shut up." Willow’s eyes narrowed and a pencil flew off of the small table and hovered in front of Spike’s heart.

"Touchy," Spike said as he stepped away from the pencil.

"We should get started," Maggie said. She was a little unnerved by the flying pencil but then when she compared that to seeing the tiny redhead sending tendrils of energy into her lover’s forehead, it seemed rather tame. The doctor looked over at Tara’s monitor. The blonde’s heartbeat was erratic.

Willow nodded and began putting the herbs around Tara’s body and then anointed her forehead with the sacred rose oil.

Maggie leaned over Spike’s shoulder to read the text. She was careful not to get too close, considering he was a vampire and she didn’t like the idea of having her throat ripped out. She read the chant out loud and Willow repeated it with reverence. The sea salt began humming and Willow poured it over Tara’s chest. The salt shook and the sound increased until it was almost deafening. Then suddenly the salt flashed bright blue and disappeared in a puff of white smoke.

Willow collapsed, but Buffy grabbed her before she hit the floor.

"Easy," Buffy whispered.

"Tara?" Willow staggered toward her lover. "Why isn’t she waking up?"

"Nice light show," Spike said. "Pink Floyd should try some of that humming salt."

Maggie went to Tara and began checking her. The doctor’s shoulders slumped when she realized there was absolutely no change. "Damn it."

"Why didn’t it work?" Willow asked. Her eyes spilled tears she had been holding back for hours.

"Maybe the damage was just too severe," Giles suggested.

"No," Willow said angrily. "It has to work. We’ll try it again. Right now."

"We can’t." Maggie pointed to the demonic text. "The spell can only be used on a person once."

"Willow…" Buffy tried to move closer.

"No! She will be okay. She has to," Willow’s voice cracked. "She has to," she said again in a strangled whisper.

"This is rich," Spike said. "Although if I was going to pick a Scooby to watch die, it wouldn’t have been Red’s bird. She’s the least irritating of the lot of you. And she’s not all skin and bones." He raised one eyebrow as he leered at Willow.

"Spike, if you don’t shut up I am going to take you downstairs and help you work on your tan," Buffy said through clenched teeth.

"Right, and then you get to deal with all the nasties this little book of Angel’s is gonna’ call." Spike took a cigarette out of his pocket but before he could tuck it between his lips Maggie ripped it out of his hand.

"I think we’re done with this blood sucking Sid Vicious wannabe," Maggie said as she crumpled the cigarette in her fist.

"Oh, I like her." Spike licked his lips and studied Maggie. "Wanna’ see how vampire’s play Doctor?"

"Shut up," Kate said as she grabbed Spike.

"Naughty," Spike said. "Double teaming me with the rough stuff."

"He’s not worth it," Maggie said as she pulled Kate away from the vampire.

"Why don’t you take Spike and stash that book until Angel gets here," Buffy suggested. "I’ll wait here with Willow and see if anything happens. Maybe there’s like a delayed reaction or something."

Willow slumped into the chair next to Tara’s bed and rested her face near her lover’s hand. "Please wake up," she begged.

The respirator was the only sound that broke the silence.

"Giles, can I stay at your place? Angel didn’t exactly give me any money for a hotel." Cordelia wanted to be as far away from the unfolding scene as possible. She didn’t want to see Willow’s face when the blonde on the bed finally gave up her fight.

"Yes, of course," Giles said. He was staring at Tara and trying to figure out why the spell had failed.

"I should go home and shower and get a change of clothes," Maggie said. Her throat was thick with emotion. "I won’t be long."

"You shouldn’t go alone," Kate said. "Not with that book calling all the local demons into the area. Why don’t I go with you?"

"Hello?" Cordelia said indignantly. "You were brought along as my bodyguard."

"I was asked to watch over the book," Kate corrected. "And since Dracula over there has the book, I think I should keep Tara’s doctor from being eaten alive."

"Oh yeah," Spike said with a laugh. "You’re going along so she doesn’t get eaten. You sure you just don’t wanna’ beat the demons to the punch?" He leered at the detective. "Didn’t know you went that way, copper."

"All right, Spike," Giles said. "Time for us to move along." He grabbed the vampire by the throat and jerked him toward the curtain.

"Hey! " Spike whined. "I am doing you a bloody favor here and you’re choking me."

"Vampires don’t breathe," Giles said as he gave Spike’s throat another squeeze.

"Ouch!" Spike slapped Giles’ hand away and then doubled over when his chip sent a wave of pain into his head. "Bloody hell!"

"I’m sorry for what he said," Kate whispered. "He’s an ass."

"I thought he was a vampire," Maggie said with an absolutely straight face.

"Uh…" Kate felt her cheeks warm as she blushed.

Maggie smirked and Kate knew she’d just been had.

Giles reached down and snuffed the candle near the door and then pulled Spike out of Tara’s small curtained off area. His hand was firmly attached to the vampire’s throat.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

Willow spent the rest of the day holding Tara’s hand. She was too exhausted from the spell to transfer any more energy to her lover so she sat at her side and willed the blonde to wake up.

Buffy stayed, sitting in a chair pulled off to the furthest corner of the cramped space to allow the two lovers as much privacy as possible. The Slayer wondered about the vampire cult and decided that she would go on patrol to see if any of them were still hanging around Sunnydale. The robed vampires had repeatedly mentioned their ‘Lord.’ Buffy wondered if they had an actually leader in Sunnydale.

Angel showed up three hours after nightfall. It was an uncomfortable situation for all, especially Buffy. She filled him in on Tara’s condition and then told him about the vampire cult. He hadn’t ever heard of them and they decided it must be a new group. Angel insisted on going with Buffy on patrol. She accepted, but she did think briefly about what Riley would say when he found out.

Kate Lockley rode along with Maggie when she went home. Home for Maggie Doyle was an apartment building with better security than Fort Knox. Maggie went through the main entrance and had to stop between a double set of locking doors with a foyer between them. Kate stood beside her and realized that the two glass walls were most likely bullet proof. The guard just inside the lobby stiffened when he saw Kate and went to the speaker and asked Maggie to step into the office for a moment. Kate waited in the tiny glass cage, and then it dawned on her that the doorman was probably aware of the restraining order and was pulling Maggie away to make her she wasn’t there against her will. Kate shivered and wondered what kind of horrors the doctor had endured that would make her seek out a building with such intense security measures.

Maggie’s apartment was compact and organized with just a hint of color splashed around. A perfect compliment to the woman who lived there. Kate also noticed a discretely placed panic button in every room.

Doctor Doyle returned to the hospital quickly as promised but felt like an intruder so she waited in the cafeteria drinking stale coffee and bland donuts that were hard enough to chip a tooth. Kate waited with the doctor. She wasn’t sure why but she was drawn to the petite brunette.

"So, you like being a doctor?" Kate asked as she sat next to Maggie and handed her a relatively fresh cup of coffee.

"Yeah, I do," Maggie said a bit sadly. "But when I lose a patient, it really bites."

"You think you’re gonna’ lose Tara." It was a statement. Kate agreed with the doctor’s assessment. The young blonde in the bed upstairs didn’t look well.

"I really thought that spell would work."

"So, you do spells a lot?" Kate asked in a whisper.

"No." Maggie laughed. She looked up and caught Kate’s eyes with her own. "I am pretty much your average, boring doctor. Other than living in Sunnydale, I’m as normal as the next doctor."

"I’d never call you average or boring." Kate looked into her cup. "So, Angel said Doyle was your cousin. Does that mean you’re a demon?"

"God, no," Maggie said as she almost spit her coffee onto the table. She was still unnerved by Kate saying she wasn’t boring. It set off alarms that Maggie didn’t want to deal with, and certainly not when it involved a lanky blonde cop. "Frances got that from his mom’s side. Actually, of all my aunts, she is the nicest."

"You have any family here?" Kate wondered why the doctor had settled in Sunnydale.

"No," Maggie said darkly. She stared down at her hands on the table.

Kate said nothing. The forlorn tone in Maggie’s voice told the detective that being alone didn’t please the doctor.

"Chicago," Maggie said without looking up. "I know you’re dying to ask. You cops are always so damn curious."

"You know a lot about us cops." Kate didn’t volunteer that she herself knew a lot about Maggie Doyle.

"Most of my family back in Chicago is on the job. Hell, if you cut me, I should bleed blue." She looked up and tried to smile at Kate but it didn’t reach her eyes. "So, yeah, I know a little about cops."

"I’m sure you do," Kate said sadly. She bit her lip and then blew her bangs out of her eyes, not quite knowing how to say her next words. "Look, I… when Angel called me, he wasn’t sure you were who you said you were…"

Confusion covered Maggie’s dark eyes.

"And I am a curious cop…"

"You checked me out." Maggie felt fear gripping her body and her face went pale. "So detective, are you gonna’ line up behind the brotherhood of the badge, or should I say sisterhood, Detective Lockley?"

"If I had my choice, I’d see that the bitch in Chicago didn’t have a badge." Kate leaned forward. "I’m not judging you."

"How much do you know?" Maggie asked without making eye contact.

"Not much. Just the paper trail."

"And a lovely trail it is," Maggie said bitterly. "Did you see my hospital records? Or the psych evals from when she held a gun to my head for nine hours?" Maggie shoved away from the table and stood.

"Hey, I’m on your side here." Kate stood and tried to move closer but Maggie backed away.

"The last thing I need is another blonde cop ‘on my side.’ It’s not very good for my health." Maggie turned and headed for the exit.

"I’m trying to help," Kate said in a hushed whisper. "Don’t compare me to that criminal."

Maggie paused, her instincts warring for dominance; Fight and Flight were each tugging at the young doctor. Apparently Maggie didn’t have an instinct for sitting down and processing things rationally, though she doubted there had been much use for that in the days of early Homo sapiens. The ER doctor trembled as she fought to keep herself from bolting out the nearest door.

"What can I do to make you more comfortable? Kate asked sincerely.

Maggie laughed bitterly and wrapped her arms over her own chest. "How about changing the entire Illinois legal system?"

"Okay," Kate said solemnly. "But…that’ll take me at least…ten minutes. Want some coffee while you wait?" She nodded toward the table.

Maggie cracked a half-smile and let out a long shaking sigh. "I’m sorry I overreacted," she said quietly.

"Hey, after what you’ve been through, nothing is overreacting." Kate tugged out a chair for Maggie and then sat across from it. "So, when I was trapped in that little glass playpen at your apartment, was that guard making sure I wasn’t one of the bad guys?" she asked.

"Carl’s a very thorough doorman," Maggie explained. "It’s just that my doorman carries a gun and did a stint as a Navy Seal." She cleared her throat. "He also knows that I have a restraining order against a tall, muscular, blonde woman."

"I thought so." Kate smiled disarmingly. "I’m glad he takes such good care of you. I just wish it wasn’t necessary."

"Me too." Maggie’s eyes drifted down to the table. "Though in Sunnydale it’s a nice perk." Her beeper chose that moment to vibrate on her hip. She grabbed it and checked the number filling the tiny screen. It was the telemetry station on the third floor. "It’s Tara," Maggie said.

"Come on." Kate stood and waited as Maggie tossed her coffee into a nearby waste can and then they rushed for the door side by side.


"Doctor Doyle!" Renee said as soon as the doors to the elevator opened on the third floor.

"What happened?" Maggie rushed to the telemetry station and leaned over the low counter.

"I thought you’d want to see this right away." The fair-haired nurse pointed to Tara’s monitor. "Normal sinus rhythm. I just checked her vitals. Her BP is up and I swear her pupils are reacting to light." She smiled and gave Maggie’s hand a squeeze. "I guess your hunch was right about her."

Maggie’s smile practically lit the entire room.

"I didn’t wake her friend," Renee said quickly. "I wanted you to check her first before I gave that sweet girl any false hope."

"Thanks, Renee." Maggie was bouncing on her toes. "Oh, and can you keep this under wraps? This case is kind of odd and I don’t want anyone else poking their noses into it."

"Gonna’ write a paper on that Maclay girl?" Renee asked. The nurse knew how competitive the medical profession was.

"Something like that." Maggie turned and hurried toward Tara’s small cubicle. She pulled Kate along with her and then paused at the curtain. She quietly pulled the fabric aside and her smile widened.

Willow was sound asleep, cradling Tara’s cast encased hand between both of hers. The thin redhead had climbed most of the way into the tiny bed and Maggie knew that her neck and back must be extremely stiff from the awkward position.

The doctor moved to the head of the bed and felt Tara’s pulse. It was strong and steady and most of the bruises on her face seemed to have faded away. She lifted one eyelid and shined her light into the pupil. The black circle constricted immediately and Maggie smiled broadly. A quick check of the other side confirmed it was reacting as well. She stepped back and shook her head.

"With that goofy grin, I’m guessing it’s good news?" Kate whispered as she leaned against Maggie and cupped her hand around the doctor’s ear so she wouldn’t wake Willow. The close contact left both women’s bodies tingling and warm.

"Yeah, very good." Maggie nodded and bit her lip. She moved over to Willow and gently shook her shoulder. "Willow?"

"Tara!" Willow sat up in a panic and her eyes darted around the room. "Oh, Doctor Maggie… Is Tara okay?" She spun and looked at her lover, unable to stop from reaching up and caressing Tara’s cheek. "She’s stronger," Willow said. She turned and looked at Maggie. "Much stronger."

"Yep," Maggie said. "I think her bruises are fading too."

Willow stood and checked over Tara’s face, searching with a soothing touch. She quickly moved down to her arms, checking the edges of the casts and then lifted her gown and checked her belly.

"Well, Doctor Rosenberg?" Maggie asked.

"Most of the bruises are fading." Willow rested her palm just over Tara’s forehead. "And her energy level is much better." She tilted her head to the side and closed her eyes. "I feel her," she whispered, awestruck. Both eyes shot open. "I haven’t felt ‘her’ since this happened. She was just blank but now I feel her. It’s definitely her and she’s in there and I think she wants to be out here."

"Whoa," Maggie said as she took Willow by both shoulders. "Deep breath." She waited for the babbling girl to inhale before she continued. "She’s much better. Her heart is strong, beating with a healthy, normal rhythm, and her eyes are reacting to light. These are all very good signs, and it hasn’t even been a whole day."

"I guess the spell just needed some time." Willow nodded.

"Yeah," Maggie agreed. "Now, I think she should be okay to breathe on her own, so I’m gonna’ get a nurse in here and we’re gonna’ see about getting her off that damn respirator. Okay?"

"Very okay!" Willow said. She leaned over the bed and left dozens of whisper-soft kisses on Tara’s cheek and temple. "You’re gonna’ be okay, love. I just know it. Fight. Come back to me."

Kate watched in rapt fascination. "How could anyone refuse her anything?" she asked quietly.

"True love sure is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?" Maggie asked as she pulled Kate out of the room with her.


Maggie and Renee Parker unhooked Tara from the respirator and held their breath while they waited for Tara to take a breath of her own. Willow watched, holding her lover’s hand. A brief moment passed and then Tara’s chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm. After a few minutes, Maggie felt it was safe to remove the tube from the young woman’s throat. Tara gagged as the thick tubing was eased out of her throat. The action had concerned Willow, but Maggie insisted it was a good sign, that the gag reflex was a healthy reaction. They moved Tara to a private room and left Willow sitting vigil.

Buffy arrived a few hours later and went to the ICU. At first, seeing Tara’s bed empty had caused the Slayer to panic, expecting the worst, but then the nurse explained that Tara was moved downstairs. She hurried down to find out what was going on.

"She’s out of the Intensive care," Angel said as he rushed to keep up with the Slayer. "That has to be good news."

"I need to find out for myself." She scanned the doors and continued down the long hall. "There it is," she said when she saw Tara’s new room.

"Maybe I should wait out here," Angel suggested. "I mean, vampires did this to her."

"Come on, you big baby." Buffy yanked him along beside her. "You never could do the soft fuzzy stuff." She eased the door opened and smiled. Tara was resting comfortably, her face free of any bruises, and Willow was snuggled in the bed with to her.

"That’s gonna’ make her back stiff," Angel pointed out. He motioned toward the railing Willow was pressed against to avoid smashing her injured lover.

"I don’t think she’ll mind." Buffy shook her head as she studied Willow. Her right hand was carefully draped across Tara’s chest resting over her heart.

Tara sighed and then her eyes fluttered open. She grimaced and then looked up at Buffy. "Hey," Tara whispered. Her voice was gravelly and her throat was sore from the tubing that had kept her alive only hours earlier. She looked down at Willow and smiled as she tried to swallow.

"Welcome back." Buffy moved closer, tears forming in her eyes. She ran her hand over Tara’s cast and then tickled her fingers. There was no trace of any injury. "I’m guessing we can take these off." She pointed at the casts on Tara’s arms and legs.

"What happened?" Tara asked. She tilted her head so she could study Willow’s face. "Is she okay?" Tara looked up at Buffy. "She’s pale."

"Having the love of your life almost die will do that to you," Buffy said.

"The spell?" Tara asked. She leaned down and nuzzled her lover’s hair since she couldn’t touch her with the casts covering both arms.

"It worked," Buffy said with an angry glare. "And as soon as you are out of here, you are in some very deep trouble."

"You only survived because of another spell," Angel said as he moved closer to the bed. He looked down at Willow and almost smiled, but he stopped himself. He was a brooding vampire so smiling wasn’t very good for his image.

"Mister Angel?" Tara cleared her throat as she looked from the vampire to the Slayer.

"He helped," Buffy said with a smile.

"Well, just a little." Angel looked down at the floor and moved his foot in a lazy arc across the tiled floor. "Cordy helped too…and Kate."

"Willow," Buffy whispered. "Wake up, Wills. There’s someone who wants to talk to you."

"Mmm, Tara," Willow mumbled. "Is she okay?" She tried to open her eyes but her own exhaustion was catching up with her.

"I’m fine, Sleepyhead," Tara said with a smile. She kissed Willow’s temple.

"Tara?" Willow sat up and her eyes opened wide. "Oh, goddess, you’re awake." Tears poured down Willow’s cheeks and she kissed every inch of her lover’s face. "You came back to me. Oh, Tara, thank you." She was crying uncontrollably now, sniffling as she held Tara’s face between her shaking hands. "I thought… Oh, Tara…" She fell onto her lover and sobbed.

Tara tried to lean forward into her lover since she couldn’t wrap her arms around her. "Ouch," Tara said as she inhaled sharply.

"What? What ouch?" Willow pulled away, concern filling her eyes.

"My tummy," Tara said as she reached for her belly. She couldn’t move the blankets aside with the casts acting like plaster of Paris mittens.

Willow eased back the blankets after scrambling off of the bed. She lifted the gown and frowned at the crescent moon shaped cut on Tara’s stomach. The bruising around the stab wound had disappeared but the surgical incision hadn’t healed at all.

"Why didn’t that heal?" Buffy asked as she edged closer. She looked up at Tara was who blushing. "Cute belly button, by the way," she added with a smirk.

Tara’s eyes widened as she looked over at Angel. He was staring intently at the injury.

Willow realized she was putting her lover’s stomach on display so she yanked the gown back in place.

"The spell won’t heal the surgical incision," Angel said bluntly.

"Why not?" Buffy demanded.

"It wasn’t magically caused," Angel explained. "The original cut was, but the actual surgery wasn’t supernatural. They probably cleaned up the edges of the cut before they sewed her up. That means it has to heal naturally."

"Will I have a scar?" Tara asked.

"Maybe," Angel said noncommittally.

"It’ll be a cute crescent moon scar," Willow pointed out with a smile. She was just happy to have her lover back in one piece. A few scars wouldn’t bother her in the slightest. "Besides, a witch should have a moon shape on her body. Especially after our bonding with Artemis."

"It won’t gross you out?" Tara asked.

"It’s part of you." Willow leaned down and pressed her lips to Tara’s. A tear rolled down her face as she thanked Artemis and every other deity for letting her experience her lover’s kiss again. "I love everything about you, Tara."

"Wow," Tara said shyly.

"Angel sent the spell book that saved you," Buffy said. She wanted the two Wiccans to stop the smoochies since standing next to Angel watching two soulmates kiss wasn’t something that brought up happy memories for the Slayer.

"Thank you, Mister Angel," Tara said. She looked down at her hands. "Can we get these off?"

"I’ll go page Doctor Doyle," Buffy volunteered. "And Angel will help me."

Angel gave Buffy a confused look. He had assumed the Slayer was capable of paging someone unassisted.

Buffy cleared her throat and then raised her eyebrows before nodding at Willow and Tara. The two witches were staring into each other’s eyes as if no one else existed on the planet.

"Oh, yeah…help Buffy. That paging can be complicated." He rushed for the door.

"Yeah, so…paging now," Buffy whispered as she backed out of the room.

"I was so scared," Willow admitted as she leaned over and hugged Tara. For several minutes she clung to her lover’s chest, sobbing as relief flooded her thin frame.

"Willow?" Tara asked quietly. "Willow, I’m okay," she insisted.

"I almost lost you," Willow said as she squeezed her lover tighter.

"But you didn’t, love."

"You stopped breathing." Willow’s sobs escalated again until she was taking in shuddering gasps.

"I’m okay, now." Tara kissed the top of Willow’s head. "I’m here and I’m fine."

"How could you do this to me?" Willow demanded in an angry growl. She pulled back and stepped away from the bed. "You almost died and it was my fault. Do you know how horrible I felt?" she yelled.

"I couldn’t let them hurt you," Tara whispered. She looked down at the blanket, wishing she could pull it up against the chill.

"Hurt me?" Willow yelled. "What the hell do you think getting yourself killed would do to me?" She spun and paced the room. All of her fear from the past several days bubbled to the surface disguised as anger. "You made me kill you! I fought them and got hit and it was just like I put you in that bed!" She stopped and stared at the wall with her back to Tara and clenched her fists until her knuckles went white.

"Willow," Tara whispered, tears in her eyes.

"No," Willow said angrily. Her voice lost all emotion. "I saw you lying in your own blood. Your skull was crushed in and I did it. I might as well have stabbed you myself. Every inch of your body was battered and bruised, the same body I made love to, the same body I touched in the night when I needed comfort." She crossed her arms over her chest and continued staring at the wall. "If you had just done the mirror spell, I could have fought and I wouldn’t have caused myself that much damage because I could have felt what it was doing." She took a shaking breath. "You didn’t give me that choice."

Tara stared at her lover’s back, watching as tension tightened the muscles into knots, knots she couldn’t even massage because of the casts binding her hands.

"I didn’t do it just for you," Tara whispered.

Willow turned and gave her lover a wounded look. Her green eyes were ringed with red from days of crying.

"If I had let you be injured, it would have broken my heart," Tara said. "Those vampires would have killed you. You couldn’t have beaten them and you would have died." Tara met Willow’s eyes. "Without your help, Buffy would have been killed too." She lifted her jaw defiantly. "And then those vampires would have come back and killed Xander, and Riley, and Anya, and Mister Giles."

Willow let that reality sink in but something occurred to her. "And they would have killed you too."

"No," Tara said with absolute certainty. "I would have known the moment you died. I had my athame. I would have killed myself before the vampires ever had the chance to."

"No," Willow whispered. "You can’t say that. And besides, an athame is for magic and it’s never supposed to cut anything."

"Willow, we are bound." Tara sighed and looked away. "If you die, my heart will never allow me to love another."

"So you’d rather that I go on living without you?" Willow yelled. "That I’d suffer a life of torment without you?"

"No." Tara allowed a tiny smile. "I was hoping you’d find a magic spell to save me."

Willow’s jaw dropped and she stomped her foot.

"And you did." Tara bit her lip and let her grin bloom into a dazzling smile. "Just like I knew you would."

Willow ran to the bed and threw her body onto Tara’s chest. "How can you have such faith in me? I didn’t even find the spell."

"But you performed it, didn’t you?" Tara asked as she clumsily lifted her casted arm onto Willow’s back.

Willow nodded.

"See? You never let me down." Tara kissed her lover’s head.

"I was so scared," Willow admitted in a tiny voice.

"I’m sorry." Tara closed her eyes and absorbed the love coming off of Willow’s body in warm waves. "I had to take the chance."

"But it hurt you," Willow whispered.

"I’ve been hit before," Tara said, her voice almost hollow. "I’ve learned to just leave my body until the hitting stops."

"I hate them," Willow said harshly. "If they ever come back to Sunnydale, I’m gonna’ do that mirror spell again and show them what it feels like."

"I thought you and Buffy killed the vampires?"

"We did," Willow said darkly. "Those aren’t the monsters I’m talking about." She ran her hand down Tara’s arms, stopping at the tops of the casts. She wanted Tara’s family to pay for all the pain they had caused the gentle blonde witch.

"No," Tara whispered. "I don’t want you to do that. You couldn’t. You’re not like them."

"They hurt you. And knowing how much you’ve been through makes me want to hurt them right back."

"That’s not who you are," Tara whispered.

Willow eased back and met her lover’s gentle eyes. "I know," she admitted. "But sometimes I wish someone would hurt them like they’ve hurt you."

"Forget them." Tara smiled and leaned forward. "We have each other, and we will fill our lives with love… never pain."

Willow leaned down and met Tara’s lips. It was a gentle kiss to convey the sweetness of their connection. A few more decadent kisses followed, the passion kept in check while they basked in the tenderness and happiness of the reconnection.

The door opened and Maggie Doyle leaned in. "Someone here looking to get a cast removed?" She held up a small cast saw. "Oh, I see you’re busy." She cleared her throat as Kate came in with Buffy close behind.

"Geeze, Willow, let her recover before you maul her," Buffy said as she sauntered into the room.

"Doctor Doyle!" Willow eased back and pointed at her lover. "She’s awake!"

"I kinda’ figured that out from the mutual liplock you two were engaged in when I walked in." Maggie smiled and went to the side of the bed. She put the small saw near Tara’s legs and took her penlight out of her pocket. "I’m Doctor Doyle," Maggie said with a wry grin. "Nice to meet you, Tara."

"Hi," Tara said shyly. She could feel her cheeks blushing.

"Wow," Maggie said as she shined the light into Tara’s eyes. "Willow was right. You do have beautiful eyes."

"Willow!" Tara’s eyes widened and her blush deepened.

"Well, you do," Willow said in her own defense.

Giles arrived and saved Tara from further embarrassment. The Watcher came into the room and his stoic shell crumbled.

"Tara! Thank goodness you’re all right," he said as he rushed to her bedside. "You are all right, aren’t you?" He looked at the doctor for confirmation and then quickly looked over the young witch’s face. "You look flushed? Is that normal?"

"I’m fine, Mister Giles," Tara said with a demure smile. She looked down at the blankets and her hair fell onto her face.

"I’ve missed that shy glance," Willow whispered.

"As have I," Giles seconded.

"Okay folks, I need a little room to work," Maggie said as she plugged in the saw.

"Should we go?" Kate asked.

"Not unless Tara wants you to," Maggie said as she tested the saw. She revved it menacingly.

"Leaving now." Buffy paled. "Not liking the whole mini-chainsaw near Tara’s flesh. I’ll wait outside."

"Yes, quite right," Giles stammered and bolted for the door.

Willow giggled and moved closer to the bed as Angel retreated without comment.

"They fight demons," Tara pointed out. "Who woulda’ thought a little saw would scare them." She looked at the razor sharp blade and then up into Maggie’s eyes. "You do know what you’re doing, right?"

"Pretty much." Maggie shrugged. "Basically, you jam this sharp spinning thing onto that cast and hope it doesn’t hit skin."

"What?" Willow moved between the doctor and Tara.

"Kidding," Maggie said. "Geeze, no sense of humor."

"I’ll cover her with my gun," Kate suggested. "If she nicks Tara, I’ll shoot her."

"Do you always joke?" Tara asked. "I’ve never seen a doctor make jokes."

"Sorry," Maggie said sincerely. "I only joke when I’m feeling very good, and seeing you awake has put me in a great mood."

Tara smiled and looked up at Willow. "I’ll be fine, love. Look at her aura. She’s nice."

Willow crinkled her brow and studied Maggie intently.

"What about me?" Kate asked. "Do I have a nice aura?"

"Yo, detective," Maggie whispered. "Whining really doesn’t become you."

Tara began giggling and then Willow joined her.


The casts came off and Buffy and the others filed back into the room. They visited for a few minutes and then Anya and Xander arrived.

"She’s awake," Anya pronounced. "So we can go home." She yanked Xander toward the door.

"An, we can stay a minute," Xander said as he rolled his eyes. "Tara, good to see you bruise free and all sparkly eyed."

"Hi." Tara was embarrassed by the attention.

"We saw vampires in the parking lot," Anya said casually. "Is some human playing with that book?" She glared at Maggie.

"No," Angel said. He reached into his oversized jacket and pulled the book out. "It’s right here."

"That’s big pocket," Buffy observed.

"It’s for my crossbow," Angel said. "It’s custom made." He held out his arm. "Calf skin."

"How come I don’t have one of those?" Buffy gave Giles an accusing glare.

"I’ll put it on your Christmas list…right after the bright shinny red jeep and the miniskirt with built in stake pockets." Giles was standing next to Tara’s bed. The Watcher would occasionally reach out and touch her, unusual since he normally didn’t display affection.

"Why didn’t you just leave it with that Spike guy?" Maggie asked.

"He’s not really one of the good guys," Willow explained. "But he’s not completely bad either."

"Oh," Maggie said, confusion bathing her features.

"Don’t try to figure it out," Kate suggested. "Just nod like you understand and avoid anyone without a pulse." She looked over at Angel. "Present company excluded."

Angel shrugged.

"Well, I’ll keep Betty nice and handy," Maggie said. She reached back and took a small revolver out of a waist holster.

"Um, gun," Buffy said. "Why is a doctor carrying a gun?"

"And a gun, while being loud and a bit scary, really doesn’t help with the whole vampire problem," Willow added. "And it’s name is Betty?" The redhead raised one eyebrow.

"This one does." Maggie smirked and then flipped open the cylinder. She pulled one of the bullets out and held it up. "Don’t you, Betty?"

"Cool," Kate said as she took the bullet. "The slug’s made of wood."

Buffy let out a jealous squeak and looked over at Giles.

"Adding it to the list," the Watcher said with a sparkle in his pale eyes.

Tara yawned and snuggled against Willow’s hand, which was resting on her shoulder.

"She should get some rest," Maggie said.

"Got anymore of these," Kate asked as she turned the wooden bullet over in her fingers. She looked at the doctor with an adorable pout.

Maggie laughed. "As a matter of fact, I have three boxes of them in my trunk." She took the bullet back and reloaded her gun and snapped it closed. "You run all these guys outa’ here and I’ll run down to the parking lot and get you a box."

"Really?" Kate’s eyes lit up as if the doctor had offered her a ten-caret diamond ring.

"Yeah, really." Maggie chuckled. "Cops, they get so excited by their toys." Her eyes widened and she blushed. "Um, be right back." She spun and practically ran out the door.

"Gifts?" Buffy looked over at Kate. "Someone has a crush."

"Shut up," Kate said angrily.

"Huh?" Angel looked back and forth between the two blondes.

"He never gets it," Willow whispered in Tara’s ear.

Tara giggled and leaned her cheek toward Willow.

"Hate to interrupt here," Anya said. "But…should that doctor demon lady be roaming around with vampires on the prowl?"

"Oh, god!" Kate ran toward the door.

"She has her Lone Ranger bullets," Xander said.

"Damn," Buffy bolted for the door with Angel close behind.

Giles shook his head tolerantly. He knew that with a Slayer, a vampire, and a lovestruck detective looking out for her the doctor was probably quite safe.

"The Lone Ranger had silver bullets," Tara pointed out with a yawn.

"And a cute horsey," Willow added.

"Why did he have silver bullets?" Anya asked. "It’s not like he ran around killing werewolves."

Willow gave Anya a dirty look.

"I didn’t say anything about Oz!" Anya whined. "I was being sensitive!" she insisted as she looked over at Xander.

Tara gave the ex-demon a dirty look at the mention the werewolf musician.

"You were talking about the silver bullet guy." Anya put both hands on her hips. "Like I’m the only one who was thinking werewolf!"

"Well, she does have a point," Giles admitted. "I was thinking werewolf."

"Me too," Xander said as he gave Anya a playful squeeze.

Tara raised her hand. "Okay, me three."

Willow looked over at Anya, then back to Tara. "I wasn’t…" she blushed. "Okay, I was." She looked over at the door and figured that Maggie was safe. She had no way of knowing how wrong she was.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Maggie Doyle hurried across the parking garage toward her car when she realized that she was roaming around, alone, with vampires on the prowl. ‘Brilliant, Maggie,’ she chastised herself internally. Maggie had been so excited about getting the ammunition for Kate that she hadn't even considered her own danger. She hurried her paced when she saw her black SUV in the doctor’s parking.

In the shadows, someone watched, someone without a pulse. "Oh, the cute doctor," Spike whispered. He had hoped to catch her when she went off duty and see if she could get him some blood from the hospital supply. He was sick of drinking pig’s blood and hoped he could con the doctor into helping him. He started to walk toward her when he saw movement behind one of the cars. "This could be interesting," he whispered. He always did like watching a good show.

Maggie pushed her keychain button, feeling relief wash over her when the alarm gave off a distinctive chirp that meant the doors had just unlocked. She went to the back of the SUV and popped the hatch and began digging for the bullets she had hidden under the spare tire. She felt movement behind her and then something cold pressed to her throat as a body slammed her against her car.

"Miss me, lover?"

"Shannon," Maggie said in a strangled whisper. "How the hell did you find me?" She swallowed hard as she felt the barrel of her exgirlfriend’s gun pressing into her neck.

"Is that any way to greet me?" Shannon said as she pulled Maggie off to the side and pressed her against one of the other cars. Her hands groped Maggie’s body, quickly finding the revolver at her waist and tossing it across the parking lot. "So predictable," Shannon whispered.

"You can’t be here," Maggie whispered. She was shaking and felt sweat beading on her brow.

"But I am." Shannon grabbed her arm and squeezed, smiling when the doctor winced. "Do you have any idea how many fucking hospitals I’ve called looking for you?" she asked angrily. "I spend my days off flipping through phone books and calling every hospital." She ran the gun down over Maggie’s shoulder and pressed it sharply into her ribcage. "I have phone books from ten states that I’ve gone through. I hadn’t gotten to California yet. So nice of that detective to tell us where she was calling from."

"You’re a sick fuck," Maggie growled. "Does the word ‘obsessive’ mean anything to you?"

"Not obsessive," Shannon said as she slapped Maggie’s temple with the gun. "Devoted," she whispered into the doctor’s ear.

Maggie swallowed hard as she fought the urge to vomit.

"‘Scuse me, either o’ you ladies ‘ave a light?" Spike said as he stepped out of the shadows.

"Get the fuck out of here," Shannon said as she moved the gun behind Maggie’s back and pressed it into the doctor’s ribs.

"No need to be rude," Spike said. He took a cigarette out and hung it from his lip. "Just need a light."

Maggie’s eyes locked with Spike’s as her breathing increased.

"Leave," Shannon ordered.

"Did I interrupt something?" Spike waggled his eyebrows. "Love to watch the ladies. Gonna’ give her a go right here in the parking lot?"

"I told you to leave," Shannon said as she pulled the gun out and aimed it at Spike’s chest.

"Now that’s not fair," he said calmly. "Here I am all defenseless." He gave her a wounded pout but then smiled. "Well, not quite defenseless." He snarled as his face morhped and he ran at the two women.

Shannon panicked and fired her gun at Spike. She screamed when he shook off the impact and kept coming.

Maggie broke loose and dove behind her car but then scrambled back into the open as she looked for own gun.

"Stay down, doc," Spike said angrily as his face went back to normal.

"You know her?" Shannon’s anger overcame her fear and she turned the gun on Maggie and fired.

"Bloody hell!" Spike dove onto the doctor’s body and they rolled to a stop against one of the cars. "I’m doing the rescue thing here, so bloody stay down."

Shannon reached down to her ankle holster and pulled out her back up gun and took aim. "I don’t know what you are, but you’re both going to die." She emptied the weapon at the pair. Spike held Maggie behind him as he flinched with each bullet’s impact. When the Shannon’s gun was empty he opened his eyes.

"See, that’s the problem, I’m already dead." Spike morphed into his vampire form and he hissed menacingly at the deranged woman.

Shannon looked down at her empty gun and then turned and ran.

"Ouch," Spike said. "Nobody said this hero stuff would hurt so much."

"Are you okay?" Maggie said in a shaking whisper.

"Just bloody groovy," Spike said. He turned and looked down at her and inhaled deeply. "But you’re not. You’re bleeding. I can smell it from here."

Maggie winced as she reached up to her shoulder and shoved her jacket aside. "Well, damn."

"Let me have a look." He knelt beside her and ripped open her tee shirt and then and poked the wound. A bullet had grazed her shoulder. He licked his lips as he looked at his reddened fingers.

"Thank you," Maggie whispered.

"Just don’t tell anyone." He sighed as he twisted his body to the side. "My reputation is already shot to hell."

"You’re hurt." Maggie poked at the bullet holes covering his shirt.

"Well, I am a bit weak," he whined. "A bit of a snack would really help." He eyed the blood running down her shoulder as idea came to him. He saw her eyes narrow in concern. "I mean with all these bullets, I might faint. Even vampires can be injured." He groaned and leaned against the car. "So whada’ ya’ say?" He nodded toward her shoulder.

"You want to drink my blood?" Maggie asked slowly. She swallowed. "I don’t want to be a vampire and Buffy told me you can’t bite anymore."

"I can’t injure a human," he corrected as he licked his finger clean. "You’re already bleeding like a stuck pig. It won’t turn you, and I’ll be careful. Like going to the pub… I’ll only take pint."

"You can measure what you take?"

"Well, yeah," he said, a bit insulted. "I’m getting weaker," he whined and then looked around. "I hope she doesn’t come back."

"Okay, but just a little," Maggie said as she leaned into the car behind her. As she watched the platinum-haired vampire lean in closer she realized she must be in shock to allow him to take her blood. "But no bumpy face," she added quickly.

"Righto," he said as he wrapped his lips around the wound. He moaned when he tasted warm blood for the first time in months. It was like ambrosia, and as the thick, sweet liquid pumped into his mouth he almost forgot his promise. His touch was surprisingly gentle as he cradled her in his arms and drank. He quickly pulled back and looked down at the doctor. She was pale. "Okay, that’ll hold me," he said as he turned and looked toward the elevators. He heard footsteps approaching.

"Whoa." Maggie let out a breath and swayed to one side.

"I only took a half pint," Spike admitted. "I think your shirt soaked up at least that much." He licked his lips and studied the stained tee shirt. "You gonna’ just throw that away?"

"Ew!" Maggie said. "I don’t even wanna’ know why you asked that."


Kate bolted out of the elevator with Buffy and Angel rushing to catch up. They saw the door to the parking garage but then staggered to a stop when they saw three security guards hovering at the end of the hall.

"What’s going on?" Kate yelled as she ripped her badge out of her pocket and waved it at the men.

"Shots fired," one of the guards said quickly. "You with Sunnydale PD?"

"No, LAPD." Kate pushed past him. "My associates and I will take it. Wait here for back up."

"You’re a cop?" The shortest guard asked Buffy as he studied her leather pants.

"What? You can buy Drew Barrymore as a private eye but I can’t be a cop?" Buffy shoved past him.

"I’m Charley," Angel said as he followed the two blondes.

The guards stared at the door even after it closed.

"I gotta’ get a new job," the taller guard said as he let out a sigh.

"His job’s nice," the final guard said as he quietly wolf whistled.


Buffy grabbed Kate and pulled her to a stop. "Let me go first. I am the Slayer."

"That guard said ‘shots fired.’ Last time I checked the cops handled shots." Kate tried to rip her arm loose but Buffy’s grip was too strong.

"And neither one of you is bullet proof," Angel said as he sauntered past the two. "I’ll go first."

"Angel," Buffy said as she cleared her throat. "Two words for you." She held up one finger. "Wooden," she said slowly as she raised a second finger, "Bullets."

"Come on." Kate shifted her weight tugging Buffy along beside her. "Stay behind us, fang boy."

"I’m supposed to go charging into danger," Angel whined under his breath. "It’s my thing."

"Get over yourself, Angel," Kate hissed as she pulled Buffy behind a car and scanned the garage. "Where would Maggie have parked?" she asked, angry that Maggie had dropped her off at the front entrance before parking.

"I’m thinking…there?" Buffy pointed to a large sign that read, ‘Doctor’s Parking.’ "What do you think, Detective?"

"Come on," Kate yanked Buffy along with her as she snaked between cars toward the Doctor’s Parking.

"I am perfectly capable of sneaking and creeping on my own, thank you very much," Buffy whispered angrily. She ripped her arm out of Kate’s grasp.

"There’s her car," Kate said as she pointed at the black SUV. "Oh, god," she whispered when she saw dozens of bullet holes in Maggie’s SUV and the surrounding cars.

Angel leapt over the car in front of him and ran toward the SUV.

"Is he always like this?" Kate asked as she sprinted to keep up with him.

"Yes, and it pisses me off." Buffy grabbed Angel’s calf skin jacket and yanked him to a stop as she passed him. "What the?" Buffy saw two people crouched beside the SUV. "Doctor Doyle? Are you okay?"

"Maggie!" Kate screamed as she ran frantically, her gun gripped uselessly at her side as she sprinted toward the scene.

Spike stood up and turned to face the newcomers. "She’s better than okay," he said as he licked his bloody lips. "She’s delicious."

"You bastard," Kate yelled as she dove into Spike and sent him sprawling onto the pavement. "Buffy! Give me a stake," she yelled as she pressed her gun to his forehead. "This may not kill you, you bastard, but having your brains blown out will slow you down ‘til I can stake you."

"Calm down," Maggie said without getting up. "I’m fine."

Buffy had her stake poised but then spun to look at the doctor. Her white tee shirt was covered in blood.

"What happened?" Angel asked as he lifted Kate off of Spike.

"She got shot," Spike said as he brushed the dirt off of his leather jacket. "I saved the day, thank you very much, miss-macho-I’m-gonna’-stake-you-copper."

"What?" Kate fell to her knees beside the doctor. "Maggie?"

"I’ll be fine," Maggie assured her. "But we need to call the cops." She looked down at the ground and her pasty completion paled further. "My ex is here."

"This would be the ex who hurt you?" Buffy clinched her hands into fists. "I’m thinking I’d like to have a little talk with her one on one."

"No!" Maggie said. "Let the cops deal with her." She tried to stand but then fell back to the pavement. She took a deep breath as she waited for the dizziness to fade. "I have a restraining order, and California has the strictest laws of any state. They’ll put her in jail."

"They have to catch her first," Kate pointed out.

"And she’s got nothing to lose now," Spike added. He stepped back when everyone glared at him. "What? It’s true and you bloody well know it. She shot the little dyke doctor and now the cops are gonna’ be after her for sure."

"Spike," Buffy growled.

"Well, they are," Spike insisted.

"I meant your rude mouth," Buffy said as she grabbed his jaw and squeezed.

"Um, Buffy, I am a dyke doctor. Besides, he saved my life." Maggie tried to stand again but only managed to get to her feet after wrapping her arm around Kate’s waist.

"See?" Spike said. He rubbed his jaw as soon as Buffy released him. "And that copper’s a skirt chaser too."

"She is not," Angel said.

"Um, Angel," Kate said quietly. "For a private detective, you really can be dense." She smiled and waggled her eyebrows.

"Is everyone a lesbian now?" Buffy rolled her eyes.

"I’m not," Angel said defensively.

"No, you’re just a nancy boy with fancy hair gel," Spike taunted.

"I’m thinking you might wanna’ leave the gay hair topic off the table." Buffy ran her hand through her hair as she stared at Spike’s bleached coif.

"I do not have gay hair," Spike insisted. "Takes a man to pull this hair off," he whined.

"There was that time in Yorkshire," Angel said but then quickly cut himself off.

"That was grand-sire worship and you know it!" Spike yelled.

"Okay," Buffy yelled as she raised both hands to her ears. "Too much information! Everyone just shut up and let’s take the doctor inside."

"We have to get Betty," Maggie said as she slumped against Kate.

"The gun…" Buffy nodded at Angel. "Go on, find her gun," she said in a chastising voice. "And never…ever… EVER mention Yorkshire again."

"Nothing happened!" Spike yelled.

"Yeah, right," Kate snickered. "And what the hell is grand-sire worship?" she asked Maggie in a whisper.

"I really don’t want to know." Maggie winced. "Kate?" she whispered as her legs buckled.

"Buffy!" Kate yelled as the doctor’s weight slipped from her arms.

"Oh, man." Buffy moved to Maggie’s other side and helped carry the doctor inside.


Maggie sat in the examining room and finished talking to the Sunnydale detectives. The bullet had passed through her shoulder just under the skin leaving a deep gouge over the trapezius. Eight stitches later she was mostly repaired. The detectives were competent and well meaning and quickly left to notify the other officers about Shannon’s arrival in town.

"Hey." Kate slipped in the door as the Sunnydale officers left. "How you feeling?"

"My car is full of holes, my shoulder hurts and I lost Betty," Maggie whined. "How do you think I feel?"

Kate smiled and reached into her jacket and pulled out the missing revolver.

"Betty!" Maggie smiled brightly.

The door opened and Spike leaned into the examining room.

"I found your precious Betty under one of the cars," Spike said as he came into the room with Angel.

Kate smirked. "Who calls their gun Betty?"

"My grandfather gave her to me on my sixteenth birthday." Maggie flipped open the gun and emptied the chamber and then proceeded to check the action of the weapon by dry firing it at the wall.

"Twisted," Spike said with an approving nod. "A sweet sixteen present that’s lethal. I like it."

"Are you all right?" Angel asked.

"Yeah," Maggie said as she turned the gun over in her hand and tried to buff the scratches off of the chrome.

"Will she come back?" Angel asked.

"Oh, yeah," Spike said. "She’s off her rocker, that one. And she liked running her hands all over the doc." He stared at Maggie’s compact form. "Though I can’t say I blame her for that."

Kate glared at the blonde vampire.

"She will be back," Maggie said grimly.

"You shouldn’t be alone." Angel glanced over at Kate and then looked away. "Maybe…someone could…" He ran his hand through his hair trying to think of a delicate way to phrase his suggestion.

"Deputy dyke will stay with the doc. Problem solved." Spike moved next to Maggie. "Now, can you get these bloody bullets out of my chest?"

"Let me do it," Buffy said as she stepped into the room. "After that little drinking the doctor’s blood stunt, I have a few ideas. I’ll just run get my pliers and my red hot fire poker."

"Maybe when I’m feeling better." Spike leered at the Slayer. "I’m not up to playing right now, pet."

"Will the bullets hurt him?" Maggie asked. She frowned as she studied the numerous holes peppering his shirt.

"They won’t kill him," Angel said.

"But they sting," Spike whined.

"Let me get a trauma kit," Maggie said as she stood.

"He is a vampire," Kate reminded her. "And he tricked you into letting him drink your blood."

"I’ll consider it a donation," Maggie said. "A very sleazy, disgusting, perverse donation that if he ever tries again will get him an up close and personal visit with Betty and her wooden children." Maggie opened a cabinet and took out a small tray. "But he did save my life."

"Yeah," Spike said. His eyes narrowed as he realized that the statement wasn’t exactly a glowing recommendation. He glared at Kate. "You’re just mad that I got the first taste."

Buffy slapped the back of Spike’s head.

"Ouch! Be careful. There’s a chip in there, you know." Spike looked over at Kate, smirking when he saw the anger in her eyes. He slowly licked his lips.


Willow yawned and rested her head on the pillow next to Tara and then let her eyes drift shut. Tara was already sleeping, and Willow wanted nothing more than to join her lover in slumber.

"How come we have to babysit them?" Anya asked. She was sitting on one of the chairs near the wall. "Can’t we at least use that spare bed and have sex?"

"No." Willow lifted her head and glared at the ex-demon. "As for babysitting, you don’t have to. Go home."

Anya’s eyes lit up and she stood.

"No," Xander said as he walked over to his girlfriend. "Willow needs to sleep, and we have to make sure she and Tara are safe."

"That’s Buffy’s job." Anya flopped back down into the chair.

"Xander…" Willow cleared her throat. "If I have to choose between a demon attack and sitting here while you two have sex in the next bed…I will take the demons behind door number one."

"No one’s gonna’ have sex." Xander sighed and rubbed his face. "I can’t believe that I, Xander Harris, just said that."

Anya crossed her arms over her chest and pouted.

The door opened and Giles came into the room.

"He can babysit," Anya said happily. "And we can have—"

"Anya…" Xander shook his head. "Private talk, remember that?"

"Yes, but when I talk about sex, they all blush and then they let us go home." She smiled brightly. "See? I’m learning."

"Willow, we need to leave the hospital," Giles said. He looked over at Anya and raised an eyebrow.

"I’m not leaving Tara." Willow shook her head.

"She’ll be leaving as well." Giles smiled and walked over to the redheaded Wiccan. "There will be too many questions about Tara’s recovery. Doctor Doyle wants to check her out tonight."

"But, she’s sleeping," Willow whispered. "Sleeping, not in a coma. Sleeping is good and she needs rest and doctors and nurses to make sure she’s okay."

"Willow, Doctor Doyle will monitor Tara. That’s the whole idea." Giles took off his glasses and wiped the dust from the lenses. "It will work out best for all of us."

"Not me," Anya said. "I just want to go home with Xander and—"

"Yes, you want to go home with Xander and have sex," Giles said with an exaggerated sigh. "I’m sure young Mister Harris is quite the sex machine, but right now we will all be safer together."

"You said sex machine." Willow smirked.

"And you said it about me," Xander said triumphantly.

"Good lord, you’ve corrupted me." Giles looked at Anya.

"Again, they blame the ex-demon." Anya stood and walked over to Xander and hit his arm. "This is all your fault."

"Why?" Xander whined.

"I don’t know. It just is," Anya said.

Part 9

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