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 Lisaof9



The small contingent quickly regrouped and left the hospital. With Maggie’s ex in town, it was decided that they should go to the doctor’s security apartment, though the protective doorman did seemed a bit unnerved when Maggie showed up with the motley crew in tow. Spike, despite his repeated whining, was not invited to the gathering.

"Easy," Willow said as she helped Tara to the couch.

"I was healed," Tara said and then paused to take a deep breath. "Why do I feel so…so… drained?"

"It’s to be expected." Giles looked up from the floor where he was spreading out some blankets. "Your body did undergo an incredible transformation. All those broken bones…your body had to transmute the cells. It’s quite tiring."

"Actually, they don’t transmute," Anya said as she came out of the kitchen chewing on an apple. "The cells shift dimensions and exist in an altered state while they heal at a different rate with some mystical energizing tossed in."

Willow, Tara, and Giles stared at the former demon.

"Well, you really should get your facts straight." Anya rubbed her apple, polishing it to a bright red. She smiled at the others and shifted her weight to one leg and tilted her head. "Want some," she offered, holding out the fruit with one clean, glistening bite. She meant it as an attempt at sharing, which Xander had insisted was a good thing, but she ended up looking very much like Eve in the Garden.

"Uh, no… thank you," Giles said as he suddenly had a new understanding of temptation. He realized that Anya looked much more beautiful when she wasn’t trying to look seductive.

"Whatever," Anya said. She went back to the kitchen to find Xander.

Maggie came out of her bedroom with a mischievous smirk on her full lips. She sauntered down the hall toward the kitchen and saw Kate leaning against the wall watching her.

"What are you up to?" Kate asked. "And does it involve Betty?"

"Betty is securely tucked away in my gun safe." Maggie rolled her eyes. "And what makes you think I’m up to anything?"

"That sparkle in your eyes," Kate said as she lost herself in the doctor’s gaze. "And that cocky smirk." She let her eyes linger on Maggie’s pouty lips.

"You think you know me so well after a day?" Maggie leaned against the wall and studied Kate’s face. She was beautiful, that was obvious, but her eyes were tinted with sadness, a sadness that mirrored Maggie’s own.

"I know that look." Kate copied Maggie’s pose on the opposite wall. "You’re up to no good."

"I’ll have you know…" Maggie playfully moved closer to the detective until her face was only a few scant inches away. "I am up to something very good." Her voice was like silk that skittered down Kate’s spine.

"Oh?" Kate asked in a high pitched squeak.

"Uh huh." Maggie rested one hand on the wall beside Kate’s head, effectively trapping her. "I am playing cupid," she whispered.

"Oh," Kate said. Her throat constricted and she licked her lips. "Cupid?"

"Yeah, Willow and Tara have had a really rough time," Maggie explained. "I want them to have some privacy."

"Willow and Tara," Kate said. "Yes, they need some privacy." She could feel the heat from Maggie’s body and wanted nothing more than to pull the doctor the last few inches and close the tiny gap that was separating them.

Angel rounded the corner and stopped dead in his undead tracks. "I…Uh, you… I…" He looked at the wall, the floor, the ceiling, anywhere except at the two women in front of him.

"Hey, Angel." Maggie pushed off of the wall and faced him. "You going to be okay on the floor? You don’t need like a coffin or something?"

Angel scowled.

"That’s a myth," Kate whispered in Maggie’s ear, her hot breath distracting the doctor.

"Oh, so I uh, guess you don’t need to dangle upside down in the closet or something either?" Maggie tried to calm her pounding heart. As much as she was drawn to Kate, she couldn’t let herself fall for another cop.

"I’m not a bat," Angel said with a confused tilt of his head. He nodded to Buffy when she came out of the bathroom, fresh from a shower. "Hey, Buffy."

"And he doesn’t need to come out of the closet," Kate added cheerfully. "Not after…Yorkshire."

"Ignore me," Buffy said as she cringed and headed toward the living room. "I am SO not here right now."

"W-we can’t take your b-bedroom," Tara stuttered. She looked away from Maggie’s eyes and felt her cheeks burning.

"That wouldn’t be right," Willow agreed. She stared at the king-sized bed and then back to Maggie.

"Fine, Xander and I will," Anya said from the hall. She pushed past the two Wiccans and sat on the mattress and bounced enthusiastically. "Oh, springy, and no squeaks."

"I want you to sleep in here," Maggie insisted as she took Tara with one hand and Willow with the other. "You’ve been apart and you need to reconnect."

"Xander and I need to reconnect," Anya whined. "We haven’t connected since yesterday." She continued bouncing on the mattress.

"Anya, you’re not getting the bed," Maggie said. "Do I have to go get Betty?"

"All right." Anya rolled her eyes as she climbed off of the bed. "Do all lesbians name their little toys?" She paused and then smiled broadly. "Oh, that was a double entendre." She snorted and headed for the door. "And Xander says I’m not subtle."

"Is she always like that?" Maggie shook her head and then sighed.

"That’s pretty much Anya," Willow said.

"She’s really very sweet for an ex-vengeance demon," Tara added. "She acts like she doesn’t care, but she does."

"If you say so." Maggie went to her dresser and picked up a small plum colored box. "I really want you two to stay in here," she said as she turned to face them. "When I saw that spell in Ireland so many years ago, my Aunt Brigit said it was my destiny to use the spell. I feel very connected to you both." Her eyes widened. "Uh, not in that Anya-Xander connection way."

"No, not in that way." Tara smiled. Her face was tilted slightly down and she gave Maggie a crooked grin. "But I feel it." She took Willow’s hand. "We feel it."

Willow nodded and flashed a crooked grin of her own.

‘God, they are so adorable,’ Maggie thought.

"You really don’t mind us using your bed?" Willow asked. She blushed. "To sleep in! To sleep in your bed."

"I just put my softest flannel sheets on it for you." Maggie grinned deviously. "I sure hope you do more than sleep."

"Doctor!" Tara blushed until her face looked like she had a third-degree sunburn.

"She’s…hurt," Willow whispered.

"The incision is a surface injury. The internal damage was healed." Maggie smirked. "So as long as you don’t swing from the rafters, she’ll be fine."

"I didn’t think doctor’s talked about sex," Willow said as she looked at the door to make sure no one was coming into the room. "Except Doctor Ruth, and I don’t think she’s a real doctor."

"I’m a romantic," Maggie explained. She held out the box from her dresser. "Speaking of which, this is for you both."

"A present?" Willow’s eyes lit up and she bit her lip, but then she twisted her lips and frowned. "We couldn’t," she said. "You’ve done so much already."

"Hey, I bought these a few months ago in a little shop downtown. They were on sale, two for one, and I didn’t even know why I got them since I just stuck them in the closet until now. I guess I know why I bought them, now."

"Are you s-sure?" Tara scooted closer to Willow and leaned on to her lover. She was tiring from standing too long.

"Positive." Maggie tossed the box onto the bed. "Now, I want you both to go to bed immediately. Doctor’s orders. Get plenty of rest, and plenty of non-rest. That’s an order too."

"Can doctors prescribe that?" Willow’s eyes opened wide like a startled owl.

"This one can." Maggie grinned. "Good night." She spun and headed for the door. "By the way," she said as she paused and tapped on the wall. "This is a nice apartment…very thick walls." She grinned without turning around and knew that both of the young witches were probably blushing furiously.

"Wow, she’s not like any doctor I’ve ever seen." Tara smiled and let more of her weight rest on Willow.

"In bed, now," Willow insisted. She guided Tara onto the huge bed and then brushed a stray piece of hair out of her lover’s face. "She was terrific with you while you were… well, she was terrific." She looked into Tara’s eyes and frowned. "You look tired still."

"A little." Tara looked down at the bedspread and bit her lip and then drew tiny circles on the fabric with her finger. "You gonna’ open that present?"

"Oh, the present," Willow said nervously. She sat next to Tara and cleared her throat. "Um, well, Doctor Maggie, while being quite terrific, is also a little wild. I mean, she named her gun Betty." She looked at the package and blushed. "There’s no telling what might be in there."

"No telling," Tara agreed. She moved further back onto the bed and then carefully scooted against Willow’s back so that her legs wrapped around the redhead’s hips and legs. "So, tell me," Tara whispered in a sexy rumble. "What do you think she gave us?" Her arms wrapped around Willow’s belly as she nuzzled her lover’s neck. "What wild thing could be in a box that size?"

"Um, almost anything," Willow said. "Is it hot in here?" She took a few deep breaths. "Maybe you should get under the covers and rest." Willow tried to stand but Tara held her in place between her legs. "Tara," Willow whispered with a giggle as she felt warm lips sucking on the tender flesh just under her ear. "They all know we’re in here."

"So?" Tara asked with a wicked growl.

"So… they’ll know." Willow blushed.

"They already know we make love, Willow," Tara said patiently.

"But they don’t know when we make love," Willow pointed out. "The exact moment."

"Oh!" Tara stiffened as she thought about Mister Giles in the other room knowing that she was making love to Willow…while she knew that he knew she was making love to Willow.

"Let’s open the present," Willow suggested.

"But they’re out there," Tara reminded her lover. "And what if it’s something…wild?"

"Well, they don’t have x-ray vision." Willow turned and gave Tara a reassuring smile.

Tara bit her lip, which was Tara-speak for ‘I can’t deny you anything, Willow.’

"Okay then," Willow, said triumphantly. "We’ll open the present!"

Tara backed up to allow Willow unrestricted access to the mystery package and watched with keen interest.

"Oh, nice," Willow said. She lifted a forest green nightgown out of the box. "Silk, wow." She smiled when she saw a similar nightgown under it that was ruby red. "Very nice," Willow said. She was already picturing the how the red silk would compliment Tara’s coloring.

"That green will look perfect with your hair." Tara reached out and tucked Willow’s soft tresses behind her ears.

"Red and green." Willow smiled happily. "It’s so seasonal."

"Solstice colors," Tara pointed out.

"You’re the best present ever, Tara," Willow said as she kept her gaze on the two shades of silk in her hands.

"No," Tara said as she crawled over to her lover and kissed her forehead. "We are the best gift, my soulmate."

"Yeah." Willow smiled.

Tara took the package from her lap and began taking off the redhead’s shirt. "How about we put these nice soft nighties on and just snuggle for now?" She tossed the shirt aside.

"I’d like that." Willow cupped Tara’s chin in her hand and stared into her eyes. "Holding you is one of my favorite things."

"Maybe later we can try a few of your other favorite things." Tara leaned in a left a lingering kiss on Willow’s full lips.

"We just did," Willow whispered. "Tara kisses are high on that list of things."

"You get them all tucked in?" Kate asked when Maggie returned to the kitchen.

"I left them to tuck each other in." Maggie opened the fridge and grabbed a diet soda.

"Anya just announced that you gave them the sex bed and that you are punishing her by giving her the floor." Kate eyed the soda. "Got another?"

Maggie had the soda almost to her lips for her first sip. She pulled it away and handed it to Kate and then got herself another one.

"So, is it?" Kate asked coyly. She traced the top of the soda can with one elegant finger.

"Is what…what?"

"Is it a sex bed?" Kate asked impishly.

Maggie sprayed soda out of her nose, the carbonation burning as it hit her nasal passages. "What?" She coughed and pounded her own chest to dislodge the soda already seeping down her windpipe.

"Just an honest question." Kate’s eyes sparkled. "You know how curious we cops are."

"Ever see how much trouble that little monkey gets into? You know, Curious George?" Maggie moved closer and held her soda over Kate’s ample cleavage.

"I have every one of the Curious George books," Kate said with a sexy purr. "And I’ve never seen him get soda poured on him by a cute doctor."

Maggie’s body stiffened as she back away. She looked at the soda and then tossed it into the sink. "I’m sorry," she whispered.

"Hey, what happened?" Kate moved closer.

"I just can’t do this." Maggie backed up until her back hit the small tiled counter. She couldn’t open up to another cop. Kate seemed sweet and playful, but Maggie knew that many cops had tempers. She had seen Kate almost kill Spike in the parking lot.

"Maggie?" Kate whispered. "What did I do?" Her eyes were full of pain.

"It’s not you," Maggie said honestly. "You’re very nice, and I like you, a lot," Maggie said sadly. "It’s just that you are also tall, muscular, blonde and a cop."

"I’m not Shannon," Kate said gently.

"No, you’re not." Maggie caught Kate in her steel blue gaze. "On the inside I don’t think you’re anything like her. It’s just that I had a pretty good reminder of Shannon’s physicality tonight," Maggie said bitterly as she rubbed her arm.

"How’s the shoulder?" Kate edged closer.

"Shoulder’s fine." Maggie edged her tee shirt up and scowled at the fresh bruise over the one Buffy had given her.

"Ouch." Kate leaned closer. "How about some ice?"

"Sure," Maggie said, forcing a smile.

Kate got the ice from the freezer and then Maggie showed her where to find a Ziplock bag. She put it into a soft towel and wrapped it around the doctor’s arm. The young doctor smiled warmly as she watched Kate’s eyes focus on the ice pack, making sure it wasn’t pressing too hard. The corner of Kate’s mouth parted and the tip of her tongue peaked out as she concentrated. Maggie thought it was adorable, and she was quite charmed.

Anya walked in and saw the tender exchange. "You gonna’ have sex in here?" she asked as she rummaged through the refrigerator. "That table doesn’t look sturdy enough. I’d try the counter if I were you." She took her soda and left before the two older women could respond.

"Kids," Maggie said as she watched Kate blush. "I bought that table just because it is sturdy enough for recreational use."

Kate’s head lifted up from her task and her jaw dropped.

"What? You’ve never bought furniture for non-approved uses?"

"I am not eating from that table," Kate said with absolute certainty.

"Oh, come on," Maggie said with a half grin. "I bought it after I moved to Sunnydale, and I haven’t even dated since I’ve been here." She watched as Kate’s ears began blushing since her face was already completely red. "Besides, you might like eating…from that table," Maggie added wickedly.

"Are you aware that it’s a felony to kill a peace officer?" Kate asked as she locked eyes with the sassy doctor. "You…are… killing me."

"Crybaby," Maggie said with a flash of her white teeth.

Giles walked in, saving Kate from her predicament. "Do you happen to have any tea?"

"Cupboard over the toaster, top shelf," Maggie said casually. She wandered out of the door toward the living room.

"Would you like some?" Giles asked as he opened the cupboard.

"What?" Kate’s mind had drifted.

"Some tea? Would you like some? It’s only orange pekoe, but it will do in a pinch." Giles sighed and once again wondered how Americans ever survived going independent.

"Uh, no," Kate said as she looked down at the soda in her hand. She tilted her head to one side and studied the table, finally bending down and looking at the reinforced leg braces. "Well, I’ll be damned. It would hold." She shook her head and went toward the living room.

Giles heated his water and steeped his tea and then made his way back into the living room. It was still early, barely eight o’clock in the evening, and the small group was already restless.

"Okay, who’s up for party games?" Xander held up is empty soda can. "Spin the soda can, anyone?"

"Kick the ass, anyone?" Buffy held up her fist.

"Choke the boyfriend, anyone?" Anya slapped Xander’s arm.

"Ouch." Xander cringed.

"Hey, I’m in for that last one." Kate smiled as she sat on the couch next to Buffy. "The choking not the boyfriend part."

Xander swallowed and then cleared his throat. "Enough of the killing of Xander," he said. "You can’t kill me, I’m an original Scoobie. I have Scoobie immunity."

"I do believe that can be revoked," Giles said. He was sitting in a large recliner. "But I will have to check the Official Scoobie handbook."

"What exactly is a Scoobie?" Maggie sat in front of the small gas fireplace and warmed her back.

Angel looked down at her and shrugged. He leaned against the wall and let his skin warm to an almost human temperature.

"We’re Scoobies," Xander said. "We help Buffy. We’re her homies."

"Xander, please, never try to use the word ‘homies’ again." Buffy shivered. "You might hurt yourself."

"The Scoobies is the affectionate term for the small, integral group that assists Buffy," Giles said. He had already given the doctor a brief explanation of what a Slayer was.

"And you got the name from…?" Maggie stared at Buffy.

"Well, Scooby and his pals fight ghosts and baddies," Buffy said with a shrug.

"I’ve been watching the cartoon trying to figure out the dynamics," Anya said. "But it’s very confusing." She bit her lip. "If you go by the ‘core Sunnydale Scoobies,’ everyone had a part." She looked over at Maggie as she began her explanation. "Of course Willow is that frumpy, smart one, Velma. Xander is Shaggy. Giles has to be that weird Fred guy. Only an Englishman would wear an ascot. That makes Buffy the idiot bimbo Daphne."

"Hey!" Buffy yelled.

"And of course, as for Scooby the slobbering, talking dog, well, that’s Oz." Anya smiled brightly. "That’s Willow exboyfriend. He’s a werewolf."

"Werewolf?" Maggie looked over at Kate.

"Don’t ask me. Before my time." The detective raised her hands in surrender.

"I suppose that is as accurate a description as the next," Giles admitted.

"That’s when it gets really, well, weird," Anya said. "I mean, if Willow is Velma, and Oz was Scooby, does that mean that Buffy and her little gang think Hanna Barberra was advocating bestiality?"

Xander choked on his popcorn, shooting a mouthful of it across the coffee table in a spray of half-chewed white kernels.

Buffy’s eyebrows shot up but she managed to carefully put her glass down before giggling.

"And given the whole Scooby scenario," Anya said with a frown. "The more disturbing thing is that on the show, Daphne, who is Buffy…was always sneaking off to have sex with Fred, who is Giles, and that’s just more disgusting than the bestiality."

"All right," Giles said. "That’s quite enough vile speculation."

"That’s disgusting." Buffy glared at Anya.

Kate covered her mouth and burst into laughter.

"I always thought Scooby and his friends were a bunch of potheads," Maggie said with a smirk. "The cartoon Scoobies, not you guys. That would explain why they forgot the exact same plot from the week before as it played out every time. Pot causes memory loss," Maggie said as she gave Xander a raised eyebrow.

"Don’t look at me." Xander smiled. "I get to see giant snake monsters eating cheerleaders at graduation and I’ve been turned into an Olympic swimming fishboy. I don’t need drugs."

"That van certainly was rolling probable cause," Kate chimed in. "All those psychedelic colors? And Scooby and Shaggy? They were always looking for the kitchen and giggling. Definitely signs of marijuana use."

"Well, thank you very much." Buffy glared at Kate and then Maggie, and then Anya. "You’ve ruined a cherished childhood memory. How can I watch Scooby and Shaggy now without vile images of depraved drug use, bestiality and most disturbing, Watcher-Slayer interactions that will certainly give me nightmares involving multicolored ascots?"

Kate stood and moved over to the fire and warmed her hands. "What kind of private eyes were they?" she asked Maggie in a whisper. "Every case was the same. The supernatural monster was always fake, and the perp was always the guy that came in during act two, the lodge keeper, the inn keeper, or sometimes, for variety, the ship’s captain."

"I know," Maggie said as she moved over to let Kate get closer to the fire. "And they fought jewel thieves every other week and it never occurred to the them to buy a gun?"

Angel moved over to the couch and sat next to Buffy. He shrugged and looked around the room.

"Patrol?" Buffy suggested.

"Yes," Angel said as relief flooded his body.

The phone rang, and Maggie went and took it from its cradle on the wall. She spoke quietly with the caller and her face paled.

Kate went to the doctor’s side as if pulled by some unseen force. She stood at her elbow.

"Thanks," Maggie said into the phone. "You did the right thing." She looked over at Kate, her features covered in fear. "No, give them to the police. I don’t want to see them."

Kate took Maggie’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze and the doctor closed her eyes, the contact with the detective soothing her frayed nerves.

Buffy stood and moved closer, giving the doctor a questioning glance.

"Okay, thanks," Maggie said. "Bye." She hung up and let out a slow, shaking breath. "Shannon sent me flowers."

"I’ll put them on her headstone," Buffy said.

"Maybe we should have looked at them," Angel said as he came closer. "They might have some clues."

"He’s right," Kate said gently. She still held the doctor’s hand in hers and she was stroking the back of Maggie’s hand with her thumb. "Even the choice of flowers might mean something."

"Oh, I’ve seen the flowers before," Maggie said with a bitter laugh. "She sends the same bouquet every time."

"Well, the choice of flowers may have symbolic meaning," Giles said. "That might help us understand what she’s thinking."

"I know what she’s thinking," Maggie said. She looked over at Kate, and for a split second, she almost felt safe.

"What were the flowers?" Giles asked. "I have some knowledge as to the meaning of different plants."

"Same thing every time," Maggie repeated. She studied the Watcher and decided to see if he knew as much as he thought he did. "Orange lily, primrose, and purple columbine."

"Oh, dear," Giles said. He tugged his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. "That is a powerful message."

"I used to send orange lilies to Drucilla," Angel said darkly.

"Was that before you turned her into a vampire, during that ‘drive her crazy’ stage?" Buffy asked. "Or after you turned her, during that still continuing ‘she is completely insane’ stage?" Buffy asked.

"Before," Angel said. "When I was driving her insane."

"Well, what do these damn flowers mean?" Buffy put both hands on her hips. "Why would anyone give a flower an evil meaning? That’s just sick! Flowers are cute and pretty and should bring smiles. They shouldn’t have ‘Love ya’ hope ya’ go stark raving mad’ messages."

"Any message can be frightening if it’s unwanted," Angel pointed out. "And there’s nothing quite so unnerving as flowers with powerful messages from someone you don’t want to hear from."

"Did you take a class in stalking?" Buffy asked as she moved closer to Angel. "Or is it just part of the whole demon sucking your soul out thing?"

"We should focus," Giles said.

"What do those flowers mean?" Kate asked.

Maggie looked over at Giles, giving him one last test.

"Yes, well," Giles cleared his throat. "For orange lily, the traditional meaning is, ‘I burn for you’. Primrose means ‘I cannot be without you.’ And the columbine means, ‘I will conquer you.’ Combine those, and that makes quite a statement."

"Yeah, a message I don’t want," Maggie agreed. She looked at Giles with a great deal more respect. He had pulled the meaning of the flowers off the top of his head. Maggie only learned them after one of Shannon’s early letters told her that each flower was a message to her.

"She won’t get near you again," Kate whispered.

Maggie looked into Kate’s eyes and believed the detective.

"So, I’m thinking patrol is canceled," Buffy said.

"Yeah, but I will make a few sweeps around the building." Angel looked over at Kate. "Do you have a picture of her?

"You have got to be kidding?" Maggie asked. "You couldn’t pay me to have her photo in my house." She sighed and rubbed her forehead, then trailed her hand through her hair and down over the back of her head. "The doorman has a copy of her police ID photo. I’ll call down and ask him to give you a photocopy."

"Thanks," Angel said.

"No," Maggie said. "Thank you."

"Angel, should you go pick up Cordelia?" Giles asked.

"No," the vampire said. "She told me that she’s staying with her uncle. I guess the IRS didn’t freeze his assets."

"I’ll stay here on Maggie watch," Buffy said. She looked at the doctor expectantly. "Got any games?" She turned her head and looked at Xander. "Games that do not involve spinning beverage containers?"

"I have Chutes and Ladders and Uno," Maggie said. She shrugged her shoulders when everyone gave her curious looks. "What? I have nieces and nephews."



"Where’s Anya?" Buffy asked as she looked up from her cards.

"She went to the little demon’s room," Xander said without looking up from his cards. He was down to two cards and was about to make that one.

"I’ll be right back." Buffy stood and stretched. The former demon had left quite some time earlier and the Slayer didn’t trust Anya’s motives to be completely moral.

"Hey, I’m winning here. I’m uno away from Uno." Xander frowned. "You can’t just leave."

Buffy raised an eyebrow and tossed her cards into the pile and left. Her suspicions were confirmed when she found Anya sitting in the hallway with her ear pressed to the door of Maggie’s bedroom.

"What the hell are you doing?" Buffy whispered.

"Um, listening." Anya looked at the Slayer as if Buffy were incredibly dense.

Buffy’s eyes flashed as she moved toward the demon to grab her when a sound, a definite moan, came from inside the room. The Slayer froze in place and a blush covered her face. Then, to Buffy’s complete horror, she heard someone calling out.

"Oh, yes," the voice from the room said. It was husky and the words drawn out. "Yes… yes… oh, yes."

"Get up," Buffy hissed as she yanked the exdemon to her feet. "You are not going to sit here and listen to Willow."

"Actually, I’m pretty sure that was Tara," Anya said casually. "Willow’s the one who says, ‘oh, god,’ or just moans incoherently. She also says, ‘oh, sweet Jesus,’ which is pretty weird considering the whole Jew turned Wiccan angle. Tara’s the ‘oh, yes,’ girl."

Buffy pointed Anya down the hall but not before her ears picked up a long, drawn out keening that was obviously one of her friends reaching climax. It was more information than the Slayer ever wanted to have about Willow or her girlfriend and Buffy decided she might just have to kill Anya. Buffy was about to tell her that fact when a wave of energy hit her. Buffy’s body stiffened and her eyes widened as she felt a familiar sensation, a sensation localized between her legs, and then her legs felt like they had turned to Jello. She drew in a shuddering breath and bit her lip to stop from moaning.

"That’s what I was doing there," Anya said with a lazy grin. She leaned onto the wall for support.

"What was that?" Buffy pulled Anya away from the wall and stumbled down the hall.

"Riley must need some serious tutoring of you don’t know what that was." Anya patted Buffy’s shoulder comfortingly.

"I know what it was," Buffy growled. "Why the hell did we just feel it?"

"Willow and Tara are much stronger than any of us realized," Anya said. "When two witches that strong get together, the sexual energy rolls off them in waves. Good thing there aren't any sucubi in Sunnydale. They could feed off of those two like nobody’s business."

"Speaking of nobody’s business…" Buffy shoved Anya in front of her and then yanked her into the kitchen. "You stay away from them."

"Oh, come on," Anya whined. "Xander and I can’t have sex, and everyone just sends those two off to have orgasms. Why can’t I just…absorb a little energy?"

"Because it’s between them," Buffy said as she pushed the exdemon against the refrigerator. Her eyes widened. "Did everyone just experience that little energy…surge?"

"No," Anya said. "You have to be within about ten feet." She smiled sensually. "Thank god that doctor has her bed on the wall next to the door." She shivered.

"I don’t want to see you anywhere near that room again. Do you understand me?" Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. She didn’t want to think about Anya’s revelations, and she really didn’t want to think about the warm, satisfied sensation she was swimming in courtesy of some Wiccan orgasm profit sharing program.

"Fine," Anya whined. "But you know, I think Giles needs to test their powers. Normal witches shouldn’t send off that much power."

"Not another word," Buffy said as she pressed her finger to Anya’s lips.

Anya raised an eyebrow and then smirked as she let her eyes drift down to where their breasts were pressing together. "You want me," she said casually. "It’s a curse. Everyone wants me."

"Ew." Buffy jumped back as if a white-hot flame had just scorched her. "Ew," she repeated as she actually shuddered.

"Or not," Anya said with a sigh. "I need to find Xander." She turned and left the room. Buffy stayed in the small kitchen and tried to collect her thoughts.

"Wow," Tara whispered. She smiled when Willow kissed her neck.

"I missed you." Willow snuggled closer, careful not to bump her lover’s incision.

"That was incredible." Tara rolled toward her lover and cupped Willow’s cheek in her palm. "You’re so gentle."

"Well, you’re hurt and gentle can be good, and I love you," Willow babbled.

"Gentle can be very good," Tara said huskily. She rested her forehead on Willow’s and then shifted her face from side to side rubbing noses with the redhead. "It’s always perfect with you."

Willow smiled into the embrace and sighed. Their lovemaking had been slow and sensual and not as athletic as it normally was, but somehow it was just as satisfying. The slow, lingering caresses seemed to stoke a fire that ended up consuming them both. Willow was once again grateful for everything that she had. She let out a happy squeak and nuzzled into Tara’s sweat dampened hair.

"What about you?" Tara asked. She let her fingers wander a lazy path down her lover’s back, her nimble digits drifting side to side and then back up Willow’s spine.

"Me? I’m fine." Willow smiled into Tara’s hair.

"Just fine?" Tara’s voice dropped to its lowest, rumbling register, a seductive tone that never ceased to make Willow’s body tremble.

"Very fine," Willow amended. She swallowed but her mouth was dry while other lower parts of her anatomy were definitely not dry.

"You sound better than fine," Tara whispered. She let her hand wander across Willow’s hip. "You sound…almost…ready," the blonde Wiccan said wickedly.

"If ready were a town, I would be mayor," Willow said as she shifted to look into Tara’s eyes. Then she thought about Sunnydale’s oversized snake-mayor and made a scrunched, disgusted face. "Not the mayor, the queen. Queen of Readytown, that’s me," Willow said playfully.

"Really?" Tara asked with an impish grin. "Where is this Readytown?"

"Well, I am ruler of all the towns in the Kingdom of happy sensations," Willow said with grave seriousness. "Readytown, Satisfied City, and of course… Downtown." Willow smirked.

"Can’t forget Downtown," Tara agreed sagely. "Do you rule alone or do you have a Consort?"

"No Consort." Willow shook her head. "I have a co-queen." She leaned over and kissed Tara, letting their lips gently explore for a brief moment before easing back. "And we share all the towns."

"So, could I get a tour?" Tara eased forward and nibbled Willow’s bottom lip. "A lay of the land, so to speak?"

"Most definitely." Willow ran her fingers through Tara’s hair and looked into her slate-blue eyes. "I think there’s a train heading Downtown right now."

"Actually…" Tara said as she leaned closer and ran her tongue over Willow’s collarbone. "That train has an extended lay over in Uptown before it goes Downtown." Her hand cupped Willow’s small, firm breast with gentle command. "Or so I heard," she added innocently.

Willow nodded as her eyes drifted shut. "It’s good to be Queen," she squeaked.

"Co-queen," Tara said in a throaty whisper as she disappeared under the covers.

Buffy went back into the living room and sat at one end of the couch. She glanced around the room, pausing to shoot Anya a dirty look and then leaned back into the cushions. She was still spinning from the energy surge in the hallway and felt slightly unsettled.

Kate was sitting by the fire with Maggie. The two women were looking through a gun magazine, excitedly pointing out the latest accessories. They looked like Cordelia and her friends at a Macy’s shoe sale.

The gun-happy doctor looked over at Buffy and tilted her head to one side. "Hey, are you okay?" Maggie asked as she climbed off of the floor and went to the couch. "You feeling sick?"

"I’m fine, just peachy." Buffy looked down at her hands and studied her fingernails.

"You look a little flushed." The doctor gently rested her hand on Buffy’s forehead and frowned. "You’re warm, and a bit clammy. Are you coming down with something?"

"No," Anya said with a snort. "But I’m sure ‘going down’ had something to do with it."

"Anya!" Buffy glared at the exdemon.

"Well, Giles really should look into the situation," Anya said logically.

"What situation would that be?" Giles looked up from his handful of cards. "Bloody hell," Giles said as he watched Xander play his card. "Draw four? Look at these cards. I can’t hold four more cards."

"Read ‘em and weep," Xander said.

"Why can’t we play something civilized like Bridge?" Giles asked.

"What situation?" Kate asked. She dog-eared the holster page of the magazine and put it beside her on the floor.

"Nothing," Buffy said harshly.

"You need to test Willow and Tara’s power," Anya said as she stood behind Xander and played with his hair. "They’re demonstrating levels of energy that are far beyond normal." She smiled and leaned down and kissed Xander’s ear.

"Indeed?" Giles leaned forward. "And how has this energy manifested itself?"

Buffy flopped sideways onto the couch and covered her head with a pillow.

"Well, that spell Tara used to save Willow was a little out of a normal Wiccan’s league." Anya rolled her eyes. "And then, there’s the fact that the Powers That Be brought the lesbian doctor into their lives. That stuff just doesn’t happen on its own. She saw that demon text in Ireland, and her demon cousin just happens to be Angel’s dead sidekick. There is no such thing as a coincidence."

"Oh, not the Powers That Be," Kate whined. She rested her elbows on her knees and put her face onto her palms. "I am so sick of the Powers That Be."

Buffy sat up, thinking that perhaps Anya was capable of having a conversation without using the words orgasm or sex.

"Plus," Anya said, drawing out the word. "When Willow and her soft, curvy girlfriend were just having sex, and Buffy and I were listening the hall, we learned quite a few things. Tara’s orgasm shot through that wall and sent Buffy and I both to our knees. I swear our non-smoking Slayer looked like she coulda’ used a cigarette. I know I could have."

Giles’ expression didn’t change, but the Uno cards slipped from his grasp one by one as he slowly looked over at Buffy.

"That is SO not what it sounds like," Buffy insisted. "I was trying to get Anya out of the hall. I didn’t know Tara was gonna’ go shooting her maximum strength orgasm vibes through the wall!"

"I never thought I’d say this," Giles said as he stood and went to the fireplace. "But perhaps we should discuss that Scooby Doo cartoon." He spun and glared at Anya. "Leaving out any mention of the Daphne-Fred relationship, of course."

"Wait just a triple X-rated minute." Xander threw his cards onto the floor and looked into Anya’s eyes. "You and Buffy had orgasms with Tara and Willow? Can we back up and at least set the scene here, ‘cause I’m not quite picturing how that would work."

"Oh, lord," Kate said. "Why don’t we talk about the Powers That Be?"

"Xander," Buffy growled. "If you even try to picture that sick scenario in your dirty little mind, I am going to kill you."

"What does sex have to do with magical powers?" Maggie asked.

"Well, duh," Anya said. "Haven’t you been listening? Willow and Tara are transuding major mystical energy during sex."

"I don’t know what ‘transuding’ is," Xander said. "But it sounds naughty."

"Actually, ‘transude’ is from the Latin word ‘sudare,’ meaning to sweat." Giles was in full librarian mode. "In this form it means to pass through a membrane or permeable surface. Mystically speaking, that’s a perfect description of the energy seepage."

Anya smiled brightly.

"So, Willow and Tara are leaking energy?" Kate asked.

"More like overflowing," Anya said. "Exploding, like a volcano…all and oozing and steamy." She shivered and leaned into Xander. "Hot and pulsing…"

"Do you always talk about sex?" Kate asked. "Angel is such a prude. He must have just died of embarrassment when he lived here. Well, not died," she added when she realized who she was talking about. "Since he’s already dead."

"This is not our traditional topic of choice," Giles said with a disgusted sigh.

"Speak for yourself," Anya said.

"I was not listening to Willow and Tara," Buffy said empathetically. "I was dragging Anya away from the door, for your information." She had seen a glimpse of Willow’s jealousy when Michael from the Initiative had been foolish enough to ask Tara out. She didn’t want any misunderstandings.

"Yeah." Anya rolled her eyes patronizingly. "Like you didn’t enjoy that orgasmic freebie."

"You mentioned energy transuding?" Giles wanted to shift the topic away from young females and their orgasmic encounters. "How much energy could have possibly transuded."

"A lot, tons, they were transuding their Wiccans hearts out," Buffy said and then blushed. "What is transuding?" As soon as the question left her lips she prayed it wasn’t some English sex term, then thought how unlikely that was.

"When Wiccans with extraordinary powers combine their energy, whether during spells or, um, other ways," Giles paused and took off his glasses and rubbed the lenses with his handkerchief. He cleared his throat. "If the power is especially volatile or explosive, it’s difficult to remain grounded. The energy sometimes bleeds off, like leaving a garden hose running in a bucket."

"More like shaking a can of soda," Buffy said under her breath.

"Yes, well, if Willow and Tara are transuding, leaking their mystical energy, perhaps I should test their powers." Giles leaned forward and clasped his hands together, not wanting to ask his next question but needing the information. "The amount of energy transuded is usually quite minimal. It, uh, sounds like the two of you experienced something more," he said delicately.

"Definitely not minimal," Buffy said. She cringed and then blushed again.

"Are you kidding?" Anya asked. "That was better than most of…" Her voice trailed off and she looked over at Xander. "Private talk?" she asked sheepishly.

"Yes." Xander nodded his head enthusiastically

"See? I’ve mastered this tact crap." Anya moved over and sat next to her boyfriend and draped her arm over his shoulder.

"Tact?" Bluffed cleared her throat. "Pressing your face to the door while your friends are making love? Real tactful."

Anya smiled brightly. "It’s so strange to have friends," the former demon said. "I mean friends who aren’t demons talking about disemboweling and carnage." She smiled at Buffy and then looked down at the floor. "I have friends."

Buffy shook her head but a smile kissed her lips. She grudgingly admitted to herself that the former demon did tend to grow on her. ‘Like a fungus,’ she told herself in her thoughts. ‘But her honesty is refreshing.’

"Sometime I miss the old days," Anya said. When the others stared she shrugged. "We talk about carnage now," Anya said "But we’re always trying to prevent it. In the old days…" She sighed. "There’s just something about unleashing a plague on a nasty village that burned most of its women as witches."

All eyes were on Anya as a dreamy look covered her beautiful face.

"What?" Anya yelled. "They killed women for being midwives and using herbs to heal!" Anya said angrily. "Trust me, sending a little Black Death their way was much better than they deserved."

"Powers That Be?" Kate asked, trying to change the topic.

"Oh," Anya said. "This whole thing reeks of the Powers That Be. They love to weave tangled webs over several decades, heck, sometimes generations."

Giles took a deep breath and released it. "If the Powers That Be have taken an interest in Willow and Tara, they might be much more than simple Wiccans."

"Great, everyone gets a destiny but me," Xander whined.

"It’s not all it’s cracked up to be." Buffy smiled at her friend. "Want mine?"

"Be the chosen young girlie Slayer? Fight vampires every night?" Xander shook his head. "No thanks."

"I’ll start researching in the morning," Giles said. "I’ll find the best ways to test their skills and power, but I will need to return to the shop to get my books."

"So we can go home?" Anya asked. "Goodie, we can have sex!"

"On that note, perhaps we should retire," Giles said.

"Yes," Buffy agreed. "Let’s just go to sleep and forget this night ever happened. I suggest we never speak of this again. Ever!" She glared at Anya.

"Okay, bunk assignments?" Xander suggested.

"I am staying right here," Buffy said as she pointed at the couch she was stretched across.

"I think Xander and I should get that spare bedroom." Anya looked toward Maggie with a determined pout.

"Not gonna’ happen," Maggie said sweetly. "I gave up my bedroom and my Jacuzzi bathtub. I am not sleeping on the floor."

"They got a Jacuzzi?" Buffy sat up, her mouth hanging open. She looked over at Giles.

"No," Giles said. "You are not getting a Jacuzzi for Christmas. I have to put my foot down somewhere."

"The spare bed’s a queen-sized," Maggie said as she looked over toward Kate. "Someone could put a sleeping bag next to me…if they wanted to…"

"Oh!" Buffy looked over at Maggie but then saw where the doctor was looking. "I mean… hey, Kate, why don’t you sleep in there." The Slayer settled back onto the couch. ‘Sleeping bag my ass,’ she thought as she watched the flirtatious glances the detective and the doctor were sharing.

"I guess I’ll just sleep on the floor." Giles rolled his eyes. "Next to Xander and Anya. Oh, joy." He turned toward Xander and scowled. "I had better not hear anything unseemly."

"He’s old," Anya whispered. "His hearing is probably terrible."

"I heard that," Giles said pointedly.

"You want to sleep out here?" Maggie asked as she walked over to Kate. "Or you wanna’ listen to me snore?" She smiled evilly.

"Point me at that sleeping bag. Snoring is not a problem." The detective smiled shyly. She looked over and Anya and then back at Maggie. "Please," she said in an exaggerated stage whisper.

Maggie smirked and pointed down the hallway.

"I shall of course wait up for Angel to return," Giles said. He looked up at Maggie. "Would you mind if I used your telephone? I will post the charges to my own account."

"Sure." Maggie yawned. "Goodnight." She turned and disappeared down the hall in search of Kate.

"Well, that’s just discrimination," Anya said from her pile of blankets on the floor. "Only the lesbians get beds? What kind of crap is that?"

"After your little stunt you should just keep your mouth shut," Buffy said as she settled into the couch.

"I guess things are changing," Anya said with a yawn. "If the lesbian doctor had another bed, maybe Buffy would get it. Starting to like girls, now?"

Buffy covered her head with a pillow and prayed for sleep.

"Anya, honey," Xander said as he pulled his girlfriend down beside him. "Try not to piss off the Slayer with the many killing skills."

"I used to have killing skills." Anya rolled over and hugged Xander as tears welled up in her brown eyes. "I was really scary in my day."

"Aw, honey." Xander kissed her temple. "You’re plenty scary now."

"Really?" she asked in a whisper. "You aren’t just saying that?"

"Nope," he promised. "Sometimes you make me so scared I wanna’ scream like a little girl and wet my manly pants," he joked.

"Oh, Xander." She hugged him close. "You say the sweetest things."

Giles rolled his eyes and went to the phone in the kitchen.

Angel came in a few hours later, which gave Giles time to contact several friends abroad. The Watcher told Angel about the transuding, carefully avoiding any use of the word sex or orgasm, and then went to sleep on the floor. Angel spent the remainder of the night making his own phone calls and trying to find out what he could about Maggie’s exgirlfriend and the vampire cult. He had staked three of the black robed vampires near Maggie’s building and thought it was more than a coincidence, but he didn’t mention it to the Watcher. Giles had his hands full trying to figure out a way to test Willow and Tara without panicking the two Wiccans.

Kate slept next to Maggie, without the extra sleeping bag. Maggie had quickly pointed out that Angel would need somewhere to sleep so she took the bag out to Giles so he could give it to the vampire. The two women had looked toward the wall and Maggie laughed and pointed out that there were two bathrooms separating them from Willow and Tara’s room. They raised their eyebrows in unison and pushed their own bed to the opposite wall to give them a few more feet of safety, just in case.

They crawled into bed shyly, each hugging to the outer edge of the mattress as if they were afraid to get close to each other. Finally, after Kate had almost rolled out of the bed, Maggie turned over and faced the detective and called out her name in a whisper. Kate had turned to face her, and they admitted their mutual anxiety. After a few nervous giggles, they talked for several hours about any topic they could think of. As the night wore on, they edged closer, using the excuse that they should keep their voices as low as possible, until they were only a few inches apart. Even as they drifted into slumber, neither was ready to cross the tiny distance. They were growing closer, but neither wanted to rush. Even while sleeping, they managed to not tangle their bodies together, though at some point, their fingers met and gently interlocked. They slept soundly, holding hands like schoolgirls, content in the innocent contact.

Willow inhaled deeply, slowly rising from a deep slumber. She smiled, her eyes still closed, as the scent of Tara’s shampoo filled her nostrils. She opened her eyes and felt her heart fill to near bursting. Tara was snuggled on top of her in the familiar position they woke up to every time they shared a bed. Tara was draped luxuriously over the redhead, one arm tossed possessively across Willow’s chest while one leg was resting in a similar position over the redhead’s naked waist. All was right in Willow Rosenberg’s world.

‘I almost lost you,’ Willow thought as she touched Tara’s hair with reverence. ‘I love you so much, my Tara.’

Tara sighed and snuggled closer, kissing Willow’s bare chest. "I love you too, my Willow," she mumbled in her sleep.

Willow’s eyes widened and then her smile blossomed with mischievous intent. She focused on her lover and sent her thoughts out in a powerful surge. ‘My Tara.’

"My Willow," Tara responded, still sound asleep.

‘Kiss me,’ Willow sent. She realized the telepathic communication must be a side effect of their bonding and she intended to make the most of it.

Tara giggled and twisted her face and left a sleepy, sloppy kiss on her girlfriend’s chest.

‘Touch me. Move your right hand down.’

Tara sighed and happily complied. Her hand slipped down and covered Willow’s breast and then slowly circled. "Nice," Tara said as she climbed toward consciousness. "Mine."

‘Wake up and love me,’ Willow whispered in her mind.

Tara smiled, still half asleep and her hand traveled further south, detouring to caress Willow’s flat tummy, and then heading down to the redhead’s hip.

‘Nice,’ Willow said in her mind.

"You are a vixen," Tara said with a yawn. Her hand continued toward its goal, gently parting her lover’s legs.

‘Tell me with your mind,’ Willow pleaded.

‘I love you, Willow.’ Tara’s words filled her lover’s thoughts, wrapping around her mind and soul like a soft, warm blanket against the cold wind of a harsh, bitter storm.

‘Wow, it worked.’ Willow shifted on the bed and her legs seemed to open of their own free will.

‘It must be from the bonding,’ Tara sent with her thoughts.

‘It’s so cool!’ Willow replied. ‘But I miss your sexy voice.’

"Morning," Tara whispered as she crawled further onto Willow’s chest. Her blue eyes were rested, but already full of passion as she smiled demurely, half her lip lifting into the crooked grin that Willow never could resist. She leaned down and softly kissed her lover. Their lips met with infinite softness befitting their gentle souls. They shared many hedonistic kisses, with one melting effortlessly into the next. They explored in earnest even as Tara’s hand mapped every inch of her lover’s inner thigh. It was familiar territory, but she loved remapping it every time, making sure not one beautiful pore of the soft expanse was overlooked.

‘Take me,’ Willow sent as she buried her fingers in Tara’s soft, tangled hair. The redhead was enjoying this new dimension of their connection. Speaking with their minds allowed their mouths to do other things, other wonderful things.

‘Not take,’ Tara answered playfully. ‘Give yourself to me.’ She was enjoying the new arrangement as well, and her mouth sought out Willow’s even as their thoughts intertwined like their tongues.

Willow giggled into the kiss. "Silly," she whispered between kisses. "I’m already yours."

‘Mine. My Willow,’ Tara whispered in her thoughts as she lovingly accepted what her lover offered. ‘I love you forever.’

‘Oh, yes, my beautiful Tara.’ Willow quivered and her skin came alive, aware of every sensation, of Tara’s weight lovingly pressing on her, of the softness of the flannel against her back, of Tara’s kisses, softer than the flannel, and Tara’s gentle, through loving, each stroke full of joyful abandon and unbelievable grace and tenderness. ‘Good to be Co-Queen,’ Willow thought.

‘Yes, is it,’ Tara responded wickedly.

A while later, Willow’s passions could not be silenced any longer and she called out in the stillness of the morning. "Oh, sweet Jesus!"

‘Nope, just Tara.’ The blonde Wiccan continued her loving attention, but a smug smirk covered her classical features.

Kate and Maggie slept soundly, unusual for both women. Maggie was used to sleeping in the ‘on call room’ at the hospital and normally couldn’t relax completely. Kate, after years of being called at all hours to work on homicide cases, usually slept fitfully at best. This night, the closeness they shared covered them like a beautiful Kevlar vest, or maybe SWAT body armor. Whatever metaphor the two gun-happy women would have come up with, they both slept deep and sound and smiled as their fingers remained intertwined.

Maggie shifted in her sleep and moaned and then gripped the fingers she was holding.

"Oh, god," Kate mumbled as she was ripped from her peaceful sleep.

"Oh, yes." Maggie’s eyes shot open as her body shook. She locked eyes with Kate and could see the passion in the detective’s eyes. Before she could even think, she rolled closer and gave Kate a smoldering kiss, her tongue invading without invitation, possessing the blonde as if she were a prize to be claimed.

Kate may not have extended any invitation, but she gladly accepted the kiss. Her own tongue sought out the treasures of Maggie’s mouth. They were lost in the kiss when another white-hot surge hit them. They moaned into their kiss and clung to each other.

Maggie eased back, taking gulps of air and then her eyes widened as she realized what she had just done. "Oh, my god." She scooted to the far edge of the bed. "I’m sorry. God, Kate…I didn’t…I."

"It’s okay." Kate smiled even as she fought to control her breathing. She was blushing, and suddenly found it hard to concentrate when all she could think about was the feel of Maggie’s achingly soft lips touching her.

"I guess I understand what transuding is, now." Maggie cleared her throat. "I’m really sorry, Kate. I had no right…"

"You were sound asleep," Kate pointed out with an embarrassed smile. "And…um…Did I seem like I was resisting?"

"Well, no."

"That was a pretty nice first kiss." Kate rolled onto her back and squeezed her arms to her chest.

"I should get up," Maggie suggested. She didn’t comment that by saying ‘first kiss,’ Kate had implied more would follow.

"Wait," Kate whispered in a tiny voice.

"What is it?" Maggie moved closer as concern filled her frame.

"I, well, after I… well, I feel vulnerable." Kate looked as unguarded as Maggie had ever seen her.

"What do you need?" Maggie whispered as she caressed the detective’s cheek.

"Hold me?" Kate asked in an uncertain whisper.

Maggie smiled and pulled Kate to her. "I’ve got you." She felt Kate trembling in her arms. She settled onto her back and let the detective climb half onto her, but it didn’t feel confining, it just felt right. She kissed Kate’s temple without really meaning to. "I’m here." She now knew that Kate Lockley was nothing like Shannon.

Kate relaxed into the embrace and let her body recover from the unexpected awakening. She briefly wondered if that was the way Willow and Tara woke up every morning. ‘Not a bad alarm clock,’ she thought as she felt Maggie’s arm around her. The doctor’s gentle hand was making small figure-eights on Kate’s back and she was mumbling soothing words. Kate closed her eyes and ignored the fact that she should not be so content in Maggie’s arms, she barely knew the doctor, and yet she felt like she had come home. She also thought about the Wiccans who had provided the unique wake up call. The bed Kate shared with Maggie should have been well outside the range of the transuding Giles had described. She would have to explain what had happened to him, and that brought a brand new blush to her cheeks. She decided to forget that for the moment and just enjoy the warmth and softness of Maggie’s body. It had been a long time since she let anyone hold her, and she liked they way Maggie left butterfly kisses on her ear as she murmured words of comfort. They locked out the rest of the world, and for a moment, there was nothing that could hurt them.



Willow Rosenberg’s face was as red as her hair. She sat at the kitchen table, her mouth agape and couldn’t seem to find her voice. She glanced over at Tara and saw that the blonde Wiccan was also in shock.

Tara Maclay was redder than her lover was, and if it was possible to stutter while remaining completely silent, she was. Her full lips parted, then closed, then parted, and yet no sound came out.

"So as you can see," Giles said as he refused to look at either of the Wiccans. "We need to test your powers."

"And Buffy, she…" Willow paused and looked over at the Slayer. Buffy was busy examining the sink as if it were the most interesting thing she had ever seen. "Buffy felt our, she felt…Buffy, you felt it?"

"It was an accident." Buffy turned but couldn’t look at Willow or Tara. "I was in the hall and I…" She sighed. "I feel just awful about it, Willow." She looked up and locked eyes with her best friend. "I didn’t know."

"Well, of course you didn’t," Willow said. She was holding Tara’s hand and kept looking over at her shy lover. ‘You okay,’ she asked Tara in her mind.

‘Yeah,’ Tara answered mentally and then looked up and smiled into Willow’s eyes. ‘At least it was Buffy and not Anya.’

‘Yeah…ew.’ Willow giggled and then cleared her throat. She looked at Buffy and gave her a reassuring glance. "At least it wasn’t Anya," Willow told the Slayer.

Buffy’s eyes widened.

"What?" Tara asked in a panic.

"Well," Giles said quietly. "You see, it wasn’t just Buffy. Anya experienced it as well."

"Anya?" Willow squeaked.

"And Kate," Buffy added.

Tara’s eyes shot open and her face suddenly felt very warm again.

"All three of you?" Willow demanded.

"And Doctor Doyle as well," Giles said as he looked down, suddenly fascinated by the tabletop.

"The doctor?" Tara yelled.

"Anyone else?" Willow demanded. "And is there some reason nobody bothered to come tell us that we were handing out witchy orga—" She dropped her face to the table and whimpered. "Oh goddess, this is my worst nightmare. Next I’m gonna’ be naked and singing opera, and frogs. When do the frogs get here?"

"H-how did you all g-get exposed?" Tara asked as she rested her hand on Willow’s back.

"Anya and Buffy were directly outside the room," Giles explained. "And we had assumed that the Doctor and Detective Lockley were at a safe distance." He looked away as he tugged at his collar. "Not that we expected another outburst, what with Tara recuperating," he said almost to himself.

"Safe distance?" Willow asked without lifting her head. "And just what is a safe distance? Were we broadcasting to half the city?"

"I calculated that Doctor Doyle and the detective were approximately… twenty-five feet away." Giles wondered if it were possible to die of embarrassment.

"T-there are apartments directly b-below us," Tara said as her face shifted from bright red to a pasty white. "And t-twenty-five feet is more than two stories."

"Oh god," Willow moaned.

"I hadn’t considered that," Giles said with a thoughtful expression. "The energy would disperse in a spherical pattern."

"I’m a ho," Willow mumbled. "I’m the high security apartment party girl. Me, little Willow Rosenberg."

"H-how are you going t-to test us?" Tara squeezed Willow’s shoulder as she changed the topic. ‘You are not a ho, my Willow. You’re just…a little Wicca energizer bunny.’

"Tara!" Willow sat up.

Giles and Buffy stared, not quite understanding why the reasonable question had elicited such an extreme response from Willow.

"I mean, yes, how will you test us?" Willow said quickly. She gave Tara a quick smirk. ‘Vixen!’

‘I am your vixen. Forever.’ Tara smiled as her hair slipped over her cheeks hiding most of her face.

"You’re doing some witchy telekinesis!" Buffy accused. "You’re talking in your minds!"

"You mean telepathy," Giles corrected. "And they don’t have the kind of power required for that, not without active spellcasting in progress."

"Um, Giles?" Willow cleared her throat. "Buffy’s right."

"About the telepathy, not the term for it," Tara added.

"See?" Buffy crossed her arms over her chest.

"This might be related to the recent bonding ritual you performed," Giles speculated. "Perhaps we should ask Anya. She seems to understand a great deal about the transuding of energies."

"Only because she’s the Encyclopedia Slutanica of all things orgasmic," Buffy said sarcastically.

Willow and Tara cringed.

"Yes, well, be that as it may, Anya might have some insights." Giles gave Buffy a warning glare. "Go get her, but do it gently."

While Buffy went to get the former demon no one in the kitchen said a word. Giles looked up and noticed that the counter had lovely black and white tiles bordering the entire room. It reminded him of his family home in England.

Tara leaned over and rested her forehead on Willow’s shoulder. ‘I am so embarrassed,’ Tara told her lover telepathically. ‘Can I just go home and hide under my covers?’

‘Not unless I can go with you,’ Willow responded. ‘And that’s sorta’ how we got into this mess.’

‘Vixen!’ Tara wrapped her arms around Willow and absorbed the love and affection the redhead seemed to always be brimming over with. She froze as she realized how true that had been the night before.

‘What?’ Willow asked with her mind. She felt her lover tense and it concerned her.

‘What if this is gonna’ happen every time?’ Tara asked.

‘Then we get that new house…out in the country…with no neighbors for miles,’ Willow replied. ‘And then we make love every night,’ she added playfully.

‘I like the mornings, my co-queen.’

‘Mornings go without saying,’ Willow responded as she felt her lover shake with repressed laughter. She smiled, happy that she had gotten Tara to giggle. ‘It’s a law. The co-queens must make a tour of the land every morning to inspect all cities… especially Downtown.’

‘Tease,’ Tara whispered with her mind.

The kitchen door opened and Buffy tugged Anya toward the room.

"No," Anya said. "You told me Willow got all jealous of that Initiative guy. If she does have extra power, I don’t want her pissed off at me."

"I’m already pissed off at you, Anya." Willow raised one hand toward the former demon, keeping the other in contact with Tara, and then pulled Anya into the room with her mind. "Right now, I’m trying to let you redeem yourself."

"I didn’t see anything," Anya reasoned. "You can’t be mad that I just listened. And as for the whole transuding, I mean, it’s not like I took energy you needed. It was extra. Overflow. Wasted. It would be wrong to not use it. Ask Buffy."

"Anya, we’re not going to hurt you," Tara said tolerantly.

"You may not, but you’re butch girlfriend might." Anya stepped behind Buffy.

"We need your assistance, Anya." Giles motioned for her to come closer. "How did you know they would transude?"

"Well, the mirror spell takes a lot of energy. And that injury absorption thing? It’s like unheard of for Artemis to actually grant that request, even for bonded couples."

"You told her we’re bonded?" Willow glared at Giles.

He shook his head.

"Oh, well that explains a lot." Anya moved closer. "Do you have the Tears of Diana?" she asked uncertainly.

"Yes," Willow said slowly.

"What color are they?" Anya asked. "I didn’t even know you could still find them. Wow."

"They’re c-clear now," Tara said. "But they were kinda’ orange during the ritual and then kinda’ purplish."

"Purple?" Anya’s eyes brightened. "But the stones didn’t change color permanently?"

"No," Willow said certainly. "We didn’t know what to expect, but they are definitely still clear."

"Wait." Anya held up her hands. "What do you mean you ‘didn’t know what to expect?’ You haven’t done the second ritual yet?"

Both Wiccans shook their heads.

"And you did the ritual without knowing the consequences?" Anya demanded.

"Well, um, yes?" Willow leaned into Tara.

"We knew it would bond our souls, if that’s what was meant to be," Tara said firmly. "Obviously it was."

"Yeah," Anya said slowly, drawing out the word into more of a whine. "But, hello! What makes you think this is the first time your souls have bonded with each other? Don’t you humans have any clue what you’re toying with?" Anya growled and tossed her arms into the air. "The odds that after millennia of existence…that your two souls have never bonded before is, well, it’s huge. Mel Gibson Huge. And if the bonding worked, which I think we can be pretty sure it did, that means you’ve bonded together in past lives."

"Cool," Tara said with a smirk. She leaned over and kissed Willow’s cheek.

"Couldn’t this be their first bonding?" Giles asked.

"Not with these results," Anya said as she went to the fridge and took out a soda. "When you bond, your mystical powers are unleashed so that you can do magic with your soulmate. It’s not meant to be some juvenile romantic gesture like bringing flowers." She glared at the two Wiccans.

"Hey!" Willow glared at Anya.

"Could you go back to the ‘unleash’ part?" Buffy cleared her throat. "Because ‘unleash’ is a word that hardly ever means something nice. You don’t leash things that are pleasant. You leash bad things, demonic nasties, hellmouth things."

"The bonding allows the couple to access the powers that they have achieved in past lives," Anya explained. "It might not be horrible. They might have just been dabblers into the occult. But…" Anya drew the last word out. "With our luck? What are the odds of that? I mean for all we know, they coulda’ been some evil witchy couple bent on world domination."

"We were not," Willow said defensively. "Tara and I would never dominate."

Tara nodded in agreement.

"You wouldn’t now, but there’s no telling what you may have done in a past life." Anya looked at Willow and raised both eyebrows. "We’ve seen what you are capable of in an alternate timeline, miss ride-people-like-ponies."

"That was a vampire Willow!" Tara said defensively.

"Whatever," Anya said. "Anyway, we probably don’t have to worry too much. You have the Diana’s tears. Just keep them with you when you two combine your elemental forces. The stones will contain any transudance." She sighed, becoming somewhat bored. "It’s not like either of you ended up marked by Artemis."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.

"Artemis, big goddess of woman, very into the moon." Anya took a drink of her soda. "If she was going to unleash any powers of consequence, she would have arranged for a mark."

Tara’s eyes widened as she lifted her shirt and exposed the crescent-moon shaped cut from the blade and the surgical intervention. "Like this?" She was frightened to let the others know she might harbor some evil, but they had stood by her when her family came to town, and she wouldn’t keep any more secrets from them.

"Holy crap!" Anya dropped her soda and lunged to Tara’s side, bumping Willow away. She ran her fingers over the injury.

"Hey!" Willow put both hands on her hips. "That’s my girlfriend you’re groping!"

"Oh, man," Anya said as her fingers touched the cut that was sure to leave a scar. "It’s waxing." She looked over at Giles, slightly panicked. "Giles, it’s waxing!" she yelled.

"W-what does that mean?" Tara asked as she pushed Anya’s fingers away.

"What kind of witch are you?" Anya asked angrily. "You don’t know what a waxing moon means?"

"Coming into power," Willow responded as she took Tara’s hand. "We knew that. We just want to know what it means now."

"Oh, dear." Giles paled visibly. He took off his glasses and tossed them onto the table. "You’re only just coming into whatever power you will have."

"So we’ll get stronger?" Willow asked in a squeak.

"Do you have any marks?" Anya poked Willow’s shoulder.

"No," Willow said slowly, then looked at Tara. ‘Do I?’ she asked in her mind.

‘No, love,’ Tara sent back. She let her hair cover half her face and gave Willow her trademark half grin.

"I don’t have any marks," Willow said more certainly.

"Dear goddess," Anya said as she stepped back. "Are they?" She glared at Giles. "Telepathy? We are so screwed. I wouldn’t be surprised if their crystals turn lavender."

"The lesbian color?" Buffy asked. "And that would be…bad?"

"The shades of purple denote mystical power," Giles said tolerantly. "You really should study."

"So… like Kings chose purple for their capes and stuff," Buffy said.

"Precisely," Giles said, somewhat surprised. "They chose the color purple to give off an air of the mystical."

"Well, no," Anya said. "They chose that color to inspire pee-in-your-pantaloons-terror. Only a wizard would have the mystical color of purple for his grounding crystal. Kings just wanted everyone to think they had kick-ass powers so no one would mess with them."

"Ah," Buffy said sagely. "Dress for success. The first power ties. Cool."

"Something like that." Giles picked up his glasses and put them back on. "Must your analogies always relate back to the mall?"

"What do we do now?" Tara asked.

"Well, if you don’t do the second bonding ritual, you break the ties set up in past lives," Anya said. "Karmicly speaking, you would be cutting each other off and going down two separate journeys. You couldn’t be together in this life or any other. Bad Karmic juju."

"We won’t do that!" Willow and Tara said in unison.

"Of course you won’t," Anya said calmly. "Bonded couples are like guaranteed commitment and loyalty. As a vengeance demon I only ever heard of one bonded partner summoning us against her mate. Where do you think that whole mess in Atlantis came from? The King cheated on his bondmate and his whole kingdom paid for it. His wife said, and I quote… ‘Let his kingdom drowned in my tears.’ And well… we vengeance demons take our work seriously."

"Atlantis was real? Who knew?" Buffy said with shrug. "But uh, drowning a kingdom over a disloyal leader? I hope Hillary Clinton doesn’t give Anya’s boss a call."

"They were bondmates," Anya pointed out. "Besides, drowning in tears… sinking an island into the salty sea? Pure genius. You just don’t see work like that anymore."

"And if they do the second ritual?" Giles asked. His eyes crinkled around the edges showing his concern.

"There is no IF!" Willow said vehemently. "We will do it."

"I am meant to be with her," Tara whispered. "If you wanted us apart, it would have been kinder to just let me die."

"No." Willow spun and looked into Tara’s eyes. "That was not an option. Just like us bonding is the only option now. If we have to, we’ll leave Sunnydale."

"Leave Sunnydale?" Buffy’s eyes widened.

"She’s my soulmate, Buffy." Willow looked up at her best friend. "If Giles or anyone else thinks they can keep us apart, they are wrong."

"No one will stop you," Buffy promised. "You have my word." She looked over at Giles. "This is my determined face. No one interferes."

"I wasn’t suggesting any such thing." Giles gave Willow a wounded look. "I was just asking for clarification." He looked over at Buffy. "We need to figure out what will happen after they complete the bonding ritual."

"It’s not really an issue," Anya said. "As long as they keep their crystals with them during any orgasm time or when they do spells, they’ll keep their energy to themselves."

"All this worry and stress and they just have to keep a rock with them?" Buffy glared at the Watcher. "Giles, why were you making me worry?"

"And their increased powers?" Giles asked with a raised eyebrow.

"We can help Buffy," Tara volunteered. "Slayer helpers. No world domination here…just Slayer-helping-witchy-goodness."

"Yeah, Slayer-helping-witchy-goodness." Willow’s face lit up.

"It’s not like lightning is gonna’ go shooting out of their eyes like Cyclops." Buffy laughed at her own joke. "What kind of name is the X-men?" She looked over at Anya. The exdemon looked worried. "They’re… not… gonna’… have lightning eyes, are they?"

"No," Giles said with a disgusted sigh. He paused and looked at Anya. "Are they?"

"No," Anya said. "You call yourself a Watcher? They’ll just have more powerful abilities. Like the telepathy, and the manhandling telekinetic powers Willow was showing off earlier."

"So what do we do now?’ Tara asked.

"Well, I think you should definitely not have a repeat of last night," Buffy said delicately. "Not unless you go get that special crystal."

Tara blushed and looked down at her lap. She was holding one of Willow’s slim hands between both of hers. ‘Why do they keep talking about… that?’

‘Too much exposure to Anya?’ Willow asked in her mind.

Tara giggled.

"Okay, new rule," Buffy said as she waggled her finger at Willow. "No more talking with the not talking thing. That’s just rude."

"What if it’s something that would make you blush?" Tara asked with her innocent version of a leer.

Buffy’s eyes widened and she blushed.

"Then you damn well better say it out loud," Anya said.

"Why don’t we table this discussion until we can get the Diana’s tears and I can research the situation." Giles didn’t want to hear any more embarrassing comments. "I’m going to freshen up so we can leave."

"Is Tara okay to leave?" Willow asked.

"If she’s well enough for last night, I’m sure she’s fine," Anya pointed out.

"What about Doctor Doyle?’ Tara asked. "That woman is still after her."

"We’re taking care of that," Giles assured her. "Angel is staying here, as well as Buffy and Detective Lockley. If you and Tara would like to remain here, I am sure the doctor would be happy to have you. I’m sending Xander and Anya home. I think it’s safe with most of the vampiric cult eliminated."

"Most?" Willow stood, her arm wrapping protectively over Tara’s shoulder. "I thought we staked them all, or at least sent them running for the hills."

"Angel staked a few of them last night," Buffy said.

"Great! They’re still chasing after Buffy’s friends?" Anya said. "I picked a perfect time to have friends again. This is all Xander’s fault."

"Would you rather stay here and sleep on the floor?" Giles asked pointedly.

"Guess I’ll just gather up my things and be on my way." Anya backed out of the room.

"So…" Willow nodded her head and looked back and forth between Buffy and Giles. "How about LA’s Yankees? That new quarterback is great." She didn’t want the conversation to wander back to her and Tara’s lovemaking.

"That’s a New York team," Tara whispered.

"And I think they play baseball." Buffy looked over at Giles.

"Don’t look at me. Those American sports are all so violent." Giles stood and tugged his cuffs into place.

"Says the stuffy man from the country that plays rugby." Willow smirked.

"And invented the soccer riot," Tara added.

"Well, that’s just good clean fun," Giles said with a half grin. "Besides, it’s those Irishmen who always start the riots."

"Hey! No Irish bashing!" Maggie said as she came through the door.

"Well, they do," Giles said playfully.

Tara looked down at the table, unable to meet the doctor’s eyes.

‘I can’t look at her,’ Willow sent to her lover.

‘I know,’ Tara responded.

"Yes, and like everything the Irish invent, the English took it," Maggie retorted.

"Not getting the whole point here," Buffy said. "Ireland, England, both little islands right next door, kinda’ like two states of the same country."

"Buffy!" Giles said with a shocked stare of utter and complete horror.

"Don’t let an Irishman here you say that." Maggie smiled sweetly and bumped Giles with her hip.

"Or an Englishman," Giles agreed. "Ireland and England are nothing like states of the same country. I think I may have to make you read some history books on Europe."

"Make?" Buffy raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, well, suggest," Giles restated. "Strongly suggest."

"We should go, um, get ready," Willow said without looking into Maggie’s eyes.

"Yeah, ready to leave," Tara said. She was watching the floor and almost ran directly into the doctor.

"Wait." Maggie gently rested her hand on Tara’s shoulder. "I need to examine you, sweetie."

Tara slowly lifted her head and met the doctor’s eyes. She nodded, her face blushing furiously.

"It’s okay," Maggie said gently. "Everyone does it."

"Well, not everyone shares it with half the building," Willow said as she held Tara’s hand. "Literally!"

"Don’t worry about it." Maggie gave Tara’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I’ll come into the bedroom in about five minutes and examine you, okay?"

Tara nodded.

"And don’t ambush me with any funny stuff," Maggie added.

"We’re never going to live this down." Tara dropped her face onto Willow’s shoulder.

"Come on." Willow tugged her girlfriend from the room.

"That was mean," Buffy said as a smile blossomed on her lips. "Wish I’d thought of it."

"Figure out how to keep those two’s bedroom activities…in their own bedroom?" Maggie poured a cup of coffee.

"Yes," Giles said. "Did Angel talk to you about the information he gathered last night?"

"Yeah," Maggie said darkly. She sipped her coffee.

"So, this ex of yours just took a medical leave and came out here?" Buffy asked.

"That’s Shannon." Maggie sat at the table. "Very focused."

"I know what you’re going through," Buffy said as she rested a hand on Maggie’s shoulder. "Well, not exactly, but I did have a psychotic vampire stalk me until he got his soul back."

Maggie grinned, then chuckled and shook her head. "You know, you have a way of making me see the silver lining in everything. At least Shannon isn’t a vampire."



"This is incredible," Maggie said as she ran her hand over Tara’s ribs. "No sign of any breaks, no sign that there ever were any breaks."

"Yippee," Willow said. She was standing behind the doctor, leaning over her shoulder double-checking every diagnosis. "But Anya said she was just gonna’ heal at a different rate…shouldn’t there be scars or calcium deposits on her bones?"

"Someone been playing doctor?" Maggie asked. She glanced back at Willow and winked.

"Anya mentioned that my body was existing out of phase during the healing," Tara said. She giggled when Maggie touched her side. "Sorry, ticklish."

Maggie smiled and handed Tara her top. "Okay, I think I’m done." She took off her stethoscope and put it on the dresser and then turned. "Anya told me that if the injuries were something that wouldn’t heal, like most of yours were, the spell would make the cells go back in time to before the injuries occurred. So, you are literally as good as new."

"Except for this." Tara ran her fingers over the moon shaped cut.

"Yeah," Maggie agreed. "But a mark given to you by a goddess? How cool is that?"

Tara smiled and dipped her head.

"See?" Willow said as she flopped down beside her lover. "I told you it was sexy."

"Why don’t you two stay tonight," Maggie suggested. "You can even get that Diana’s tears thing so you two can…"

"Doctor!" Tara blushed and leaned into Willow.

"You’ve been around Anya too long." Willow smiled at the doctor and then kissed Tara’s cheek.

"Yeah," Tara agreed. She cleared her throat and then nuzzled into Willow’s embrace. "But we will pick up the crystals, just to be safe."

"Right, in case you do any spells." Maggie laughed as she left the room.

"We might do spells," Willow said with a determined glare at the door.

"Yeah," Tara said with a lazy drawl. "Course we might do other things too." She kissed Willow’s neck.

"Definitely," Willow purred. "But they don’t all have to assume we’ll be doing that."

"Let’s go get our crystals, love." Tara stood and pulled Willow up with her.

"Yeah, it’ll be fun," Willow said with a happy sigh.

The small group made their way to the secured parking lot. Maggie’s SUV had been towed to a repair shop from the hospital and a plain white rental car had been delivered to Maggie’s apartment. It had been left next to Giles’ red convertible.

"It’s ugly," Anya announced. "Uglier than Giles’ old car."

"It’s a rental, honey," Xander said. "It’s supposed to be ugly so you take it back."

"Well, take it back…now!" Anya waved her hand at it.

"Just get in," Maggie said.

"At least the back seat is big," Anya said as she climbed in. She bounced up and down, testing the springs. "Nice and roomy."

"Don’t even think it," Kate said as she got into the front seat next to Maggie.

"Oh yeah?" Anya pulled Xander down next to her. "I am thinking it and there’s nothing you can do about it." She leered at Xander.

Kate slowly turned and smiled at Anya. "You so much as try to grope each other and I will handcuff you to the seat."

"Sorry, butch," Anya said. "I’m taken. But maybe I can borrow the cuffs?"

"Lord, let’s get them home," Maggie said as she hurried to start the car.

"Seatbelts," Giles ordered as he adjusted his rear view mirror. "Buffy, have you been using this for putting on makeup again? This is a safety device, not your own personal makeup salon."

"Fashion is a safety device." Buffy fluffed her hair. "I would be very distracted during a fight if I thought my makeup wasn’t on straight."

"Fine, you and Cordelia can install lighted mirrors in the back seat," Giles retorted.

"What’s Cordelia like?" Tara asked from the backseat.

"Like Anya, but without the nice side." Willow reached across Tara’s lap and doubled-checked her lover’s seatbelt. "And more into fashion."

‘I’m fine,’ Tara told her lover. ‘Quit fussing.’

‘I am not fussing. I’m fretting.’ Willow smoothed the belt into place over Tara’s hips. ‘I’m allowed to fret. You scared me and I thought I lost you and I get to fret for at least two weeks. Two weeks of fretting, and I am gonna’ fret every one of those two weeks, a full fourteen days.’

‘You even babble in your head.’ Tara giggled.

"Ahem," Buffy said. "What is the rule about the secret talk?"

"Sorry," Willow and Tara said in unison.

‘I love you,’ Tara sent.

‘Me too,’ Willow answered and she snuggled against her beloved’s shoulder.

"So this is the famous magic shop?" Maggie asked as Giles unlocked the front door.

"You’ve heard of it?" Giles smiled proudly.

"Um, yes. You were all talking about it." Maggie smirked. "Damn English egos."

"Oh, yes of course," he said. "Though you really don’t have to insult all of England." He swung the door open and Maggie went inside with Kate on her heels. "Don’t touch anything," Giles called after them.

"Cool knives!" Kate said as she rushed toward the back counter.

"Not knives," Giles yelled. "Those are athames. Don’t touch them! I just cleansed their auras. They’re ready for their new owners! Don’t disturb… damn." He frowned as he watched the two women dueling with sacred athames.

Maggie laughed as she ran from Kate. They both had daggers and were running around the research desk. Thankfully, they kept the sheaths on the athames as they smacked the leather-covered blades like pirates in the middle of a brawl.

"Now see here," Giles chastised. "Those are not toys!"

Buffy walked in and glared at her Watcher. "You never let me play with the witchy knives!"

"I’m not letting them play with them either!" He gave Buffy a pleading look. "You’re the Slayer. Stop them."

"I see no demons here." Buffy marched past him and went to the book shelve. "You wanted me to do more studying. Notice…this is me studying." She grabbed a book and flipped through it.

Willow walked in just as Maggie jumped onto the research desk with a squeal. Buffy’s only reaction was to lift her book up and pivot to avoid being stepped on.

"No fair!" Kate yelled. "Get down from there." She waved her sheathed athame. "Coward!"

Willow was holding Tara’s hand, smiling at her lover. She saw the detective and the doctor and frowned. "Those are not toys!" the redhead yelled.

Tara looked up and just giggled. ‘Looks like fun.’

Willow gave her lover a stern look. ‘Athames are sacred tools, not playground toys.’

‘Admit it,’ Tara sent back.

‘Okay, it looks fun…BUT it’s just wrong.’ Willow laughed and pulled Tara to her.

"Hey! Put those down, you morons!" Anya pushed Xander out of her way and barreled toward the brawling women on the table. "I spent two hours cleansing the auras of those things!" She stomped over to Kate and yanked the athame away from her. "Great, just great. I’ll bet you got your cop cooties all over it." She yanked on Maggie’s pant leg. "Hand it over. Now." She stuck out her hand with a withering glare that left no room for questions.

"Man," Maggie whined as she handed the athame to Anya. She pouted and looked down at Kate and then hopped down. "Best toys in the whole damn place and we can’t touch them."

Kate folded her arms over her chest and gave Giles a pitiful pout that mirrored Maggie’s.

"Oh, all right," Giles caved in. "Come this way. You can explore the training room."

"What?" Buffy tossed the book aside. "They’re not going into my training room. They’ll break my stuff."

"Somebody doesn’t like to share." Anya crossed her arms over her chest smugly. "Xander told me that it’s polite to share."

"But…Giles!" Buffy whined. "My weapons…"

"Weapons are off limits to demons. I see no demons here." Giles smiled triumphantly. "Why don’t you show me your study skills again?"

"Ah!" Buffy looked at Giles and squeaked her disapproval.

"Um, I think we have a demon something over here," Xander said as he leaned over the counter and looked at the trash can. "It may have been pizza, in a past life."

"Well, take it out to the trash bin," Giles said. He was enjoying watching Buffy squirm as he unlocked the door to the Slayer’s sanctuary.

"Hey, I don’t work here," Xander said as he walked away.

"Anya?" Giles said without turning around.

"I do the money thing. I don’t do demon mildewed pizza." Anya looked over at Buffy. "This is a Slayer job."

"Oh, I’ll do it." Willow grabbed the trashcan and held it as far away from her as she could. "Xander Harris, you are the only one who eats mushroom and anchovy pizza. You owe me." She trotted toward the back exit.

"I’ll get the text on ancient Greece." Tara carried the pouch with the Diana’s Tears over to the large oak desk.

"Oh, wow!" Maggie said as the door to the work out room opened.

"Hey! Fighting sticks!" Kate yelled as she sprinted for them like a child racing for the last swing on the playground.

"Not sticks!" Buffy yelled. "Quarterstaffs, damn it! And those are tools… Don’t break them!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Maggie yanked a staff from the wall and swung it like a baseball bat. "Ooh!" She saw a heavy punching bag and went over and whacked it. "I feel like Gabby on Xena."

"Yo, Gabby," Kate said.

Maggie spun and saw Kate coming at her. They began giggling as they slapped the oak staffs together.

"Not like that!" Buffy yelled. She glared at Giles. "They’re gonna’ warp them, or chip them or something."

"Tara, check those texts and see if the transudance of energy causes childish behavior in others." Giles shook his head and walked away.

Tara smiled and flipped through the index of an ancient Latin text. She wished Willow were with her to witness the staff fight in the workout room. Buffy was cringing with each impact as if her precious weapons might shatter.

Willow carried the offensive item into the alley behind the store. She didn’t notice the dark forms that were in the sewer watching her through a storm drain.

"That is the one. The one who killed Judas," the vampire named Marcus hissed to his companion.

"And she is invulnerable?" asked the other. He reached up a cloven hand and placed it gently on Marcus’s shoulder.

"Yes, Lord Thanatos. I saw her fight beside the Slayer and she had equal skill and strength, yet we could not even scratch her," the vampire said as his face morphed in anger.

"Her blood will make me strong." Thanatos tapped his cloven hand on the sewer wall and laughed, but it was more like a choked cackled, his forked tongue not quite able to make the correct sounds. "And I will once again walk in the sunlight."

"Okay, that’s gross," Willow said. She shook the trash can but the pizza held tight. "Hmm," Willow stared at the grey fur covering the cheese and wasn’t about to touch it. She smiled and mumbled in Latin and concentrated. The cheese wiggled and then fell into the dumpster. "Ha!" she said triumphantly. She knew her powers were much more intense when she was touching Tara, but she had defeated the demonic pizza fur monster, and it felt good, not save the world good, but good none the less.

The redhead spun to go back inside when she felt someone coming up behind her. She spun, focusing her mystical energy when she saw the barrel of gun, a big gun, pressed to her forehead.

"Are you her bitch too?" Shannon asked. She twisted the barrel and shoved Willow into the brick wall.

"Um, well, I’m actually very nice. No one ever calls me a bitch except maybe Cordelia, and as for the her you’re talking about, well that depends on which her you mean and in what way you mean that because I don’t belo—"

"Shut up," Shannon said as she punched Willow in the stomach.

Willow nodded. She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut and focused all of her energy. ‘Tara, I’m in trouble. Big trouble, big blonde trouble with a big gun, a really big gun. And tell Giles… she makes Drucilla look sane.’

"Ah, ah, ah. Don’t pass out on me." Shannon moved the barrel down to Willow’s rib cage.

"No passing out here." Willow tried to swallow, but her mouth had gone dry. Now that the gun was lower, she could see that it was a sawed-off shotgun. ‘Tara, if you can hear me…please answer.’ Willow felt her lover before she heard her and it was a side of Tara that Willow hadn’t known existed. It was dark, and feral and dangerous.

‘I’m coming,’ Tara answered. ‘Whatever happens, don’t move, love.’

"What are you to her?" Shannon asked as she ground the barrel into the Wiccan’s body.

"Um, well, I’m her patient’s girlfriend?" Willow said with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Who’s the blonde?" The gun pressed closer.

"That gun’s kinda’ pinching a little and well, you are kinda’ squeezing on that trigger thingy when you yell."

"Shut up." Shannon slammed her elbow into Willow’s jaw. "Who is the blonde?"

Willow pursed her lips. She was angry. "Well, you said shut up and then asked a question. So, should I answer or shut up?" She gave the armed woman her determined look.

"Neither," Shannon said. She smiled and her eyes looked like a dog before it attacks, a rabid dog. "I’ll let Maggie find your body. Then she’ll know I’m serious."

"Eep," Willow squeaked. "I did not know that was an option."

Shannon’s eyes narrowed and she looked down at the shotgun with a confused stare.

Willow looked down and saw the black barrel was turning orange. She smiled. ‘What took you so long, Tara?’

"Get away from her." Tara’s voice was deeper than Willow had ever heard. It sounded like she had been drinking whiskey for days while swallowing gravel.

Shannon squeezed the trigger but nothing happened. She turned toward the newcomer and her jaw dropped.

"Move now, or I’ll boil you alive." Tara was standing with both hands extended toward Shannon. Her palms were glowing orange and her eyes seemed to be turning red.

The gun glowed as the metal heated. Finally, Shannon couldn’t hold it any longer and she dropped it as she staggered back. "What are you?" she yelled as she rubbed her hands.

"I’m her soulmate," Tara responded. She tilted her head to the side as flames erupted from her palms and danced across her skin.

"Too bad for you." Shannon reached into her jacket and pulled a 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun from her shoulder holster and fired at Willow point blank.

Willow screamed and dropped to the ground as flames shot from Tara’s hands in huge spheres the size of Willow’s favorite over-sized beachball, only these were made of solid flame and not friendly rainbow striped plastic.

"Let me go," Kate yelled. "She’s shooting!"

"Tara told us to wait." Buffy pinned the detective in place just inside the back door of the magic shop. It wasn’t in the Slayer’s nature to wait, but something about the cold, calculating anger in Tara’s eyes made Buffy promise to do just that. Well, that and the fact that Tara had told her she was going to torch everything in the alley except Willow. Going out there with Tara flaming everything in sight was just begging for a bad hair day.

"She’s not bullet proof," Maggie growled.

"And we’re not fireproof," Giles pointed out.

They all turned when they heard a loud rumbling whoosh and then silence.

"Okay, waiting’s over." Buffy pushed the door open and stepped into the alley. The first thing she noticed was that all of the garbage that used to liter the edges of the small street was now smoldering in ash piles or tiny fires. She looked to her left and saw Tara on her hands and knees a few feet from Willow. "Oh, man!" Buffy yelled as she ran toward the redhead.

"Don’t loose your focus," Tara said in a husky whisper. She was trying to crawl toward her lover but the flame spell had left her completely drained. ‘Focus, Willow. Push them away.’

Buffy stopped a few feet away from her best friend and stared. Willow was hunched down on the pavement with both hand held if front of her face, palms out. A small, floating army of bullets was hovering inches away from the young Wiccan, spinning as if as soon as Willow moved her hands they would continue their deadly path.

"Don’t touch her," Tara whispered. ‘Willow, focus. Push them.’

Kate slowly moved alongside Buffy and then scanned the alley for something to deflect the bullets with. "Right now, I’d kill for my Kevlar vest," she mumbled as she realized nothing in the alley would work.

Maggie dropped down beside Tara and wrapped her arm over her but yanked it back when she felt the heat coming off of the young witch. She knew she had to get her temperature down.

"Giles," Tara whispered. She was still inching her way toward Willow, only now she had collapsed onto her belly.

"I’m here." The Watcher dropped down beside her. "We can’t touch her without breaking her control," he said quickly. "But can we touch the bullets?"

‘Tara, I can’t hold them,’ Willow sent weakly.

‘I’m coming, love. Hold on,’ Tara responded. She looked up at the Watcher. "Get me to her."

Giles scooped her up, amazed at how fragile and light she felt and how much heat was radiating off of her body. He moved her to within a few inches of Willow and set her down.

Tara took a deep breath and then reached out her hand. It was shaking as she gently placed it over Willow’s wrist. The bullets changed direction and went scattering into the opposite wall and then Willow and Tara both collapsed into a heap as they tangled their arms around each other.

"Let’s get back inside." Kate had her gun drawn and was scanning the alley for any sign of Shannon. She headed toward the door and draped her arm around Maggie. "I’ll get her. I promise."

Maggie nodded and leaned into the warmth of Kate’s embrace. She walked along in shock that her ex was now striking out and hurting innocent people.

"Can we touch you now?" Buffy asked. She was kneeling next to Willow, wanting to touch her friend, but afraid to hurt her.

Willow didn’t respond; she just buried her face in Tara’s hair.

Tara lifted her gaze and nodded to Buffy. The blonde Wiccan was exhausted, and her eyes were bloodshot and pained. She tried to stand as Buffy lifted Willow, but her legs gave out. Luckily, Giles was there to gently wrap a supporting arm around Tara’s waist.

"I’ve got you," he said in an emotion filled whisper. "I’m getting rather tired of seeing you in peril, Tara. I think you should leave the action to Buffy. She loves it and I think it keeps her stress levels down."

Tara smiled and let more of her weight press onto Giles.

As soon as they were all inside and Willow and Tara were sitting at the chairs around the large oak desk, Buffy pulled Giles aside.

"Okay, you know that Slayer sense you are always bugging me to develop?" she whispered in a near panic.

He nodded and guided her away from the others.

"Well, it just went off big time in that alley." Buffy shuddered. "There is something big and supernatural out there, like a vamp but Godzilla-sized. Mega-vampsaurus or something."

"Mega-vampsaurus?" Confusion covered Giles’ eyes. After a brief moment he glanced over to where Maggie was examining the two Wiccans and then focused back on Buffy. "What in god’s name is Mega-vampsuarus?"

"I don’t know, you’re the Watcher!" Buffy glared at him. "It was big and old and very… vampy."

"Oh, yes, that clears things up considerably." Giles sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Was it Doctor Doyle’s… um…"

"Her psycho-stalking-exgirlfriend-from-hell?" Buffy asked. "No, I’m pretty sure she’s just your run of the mill, gun-toting human." She rested her hand on Giles arm, as if needing contact with her Watcher and mentor. "Giles, whatever it was, it scared me." She edged a bit closer to him. "It reminded me of Kakistos."

"You defeated Kakistos." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, a clumsy action because they very rarely showed any physical affection, but his supportive intent was clear and gladly accepted.

"I had Faith helping me." Buffy hugged Giles, ignoring the shocked stares from her friends across the room.

"And you’re much more experienced now." Giles held her close to him, feeling very protective and paternal. "You’re stronger than you’ve ever been, and I’ll bet you could give Kakistos a thorough bashing if you had to face him now."

"Yeah?" Buffy asked with a tiny hint of a smile. It wasn’t often that she let her fear show, but Giles’ reaction soothed her, and she thought perhaps she should be vulnerable more often if Giles was gonna’ go all fatherly on her. It suited him, and it fed a part of Buffy’s soul that had gone unnourished for far too long.

"Yeah," he said, deliberately using the slang he abhorred.

"Research?" Buffy eased back, knowing neither of them could take large doses of affection.

"Proceed boldly to the stacks," Giles said. "I’ll make a scholar of you yet." He followed behind her hoping no one noticed the slight mist in his eyes.

"What is it Lord Thanatos?" The vampire watched as his cloven-handed master paced the sewer with a muted clomping of black hooves on the wet cement.

"It cannot be," Thanatos said as he stared down at his misshapen hands. "My restoration has been handed to me."

"Not that you actually have hands," Marcus whispered.

"Blasphemer." Thanatos hit the younger vampire in the chest, though not using his full strength. "I do not need hands to take your life."

"I meant no harm, master." The lesser creature recoiled as terror filled his undead eyes. "So many of the vampires have witty repartee. I was merely practicing."

"A less witty servant will have a longer life," Thanatos said grimly.

Marcus nodded. "I serve at your pleasure."

"Then see that you please me." He moved closer until his twisted features were inches from the vampire. "Soon, with the power of that one, I will be restored. You fools thought the small witch was invincible when obviously it is her mate who welds the power."

"What should we do, master?"

"We will do nothing." Thanatos stretched his back. He was more than seven feet tall and the low ceilings in the sewers forced him to walk hunched over. "I shall drain the blood of the fair-haired witch, and then I will walk in the day with the face of a harmless lamb."

"A lamb?" the younger vampire asked. "With wool?"

"No." Thanatos slapped his servant, sending him stumbling away. "I will wear the gentle face of the shepherd I was before I was turned so long ago. I will be so seemingly harmless that I could walk up to the Slayer in broad daylight and snap her pretty neck."

Part 13

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