Disclaimer: See Part 1

The Varos Triad
By Rebelgirl

Part Fourteen:-

Faith woke, relishing the body heat so close behind her and realised with a smile that Tara had somehow managed to spoon herself behind the brunette. Her smile widened as she pondered on how touchy-feely her relationship with Willow must be. Then she remembered the blonde witch's face falling when she described her take on the events that had put them here and her visage became more wistful.

She sighed and extricated herself softly from the taller girl's grip, wondering what it would feel like to wake up in Cordelia's arms. She blocked those thoughts off as quickly as they started. The dark slayer had shut the Seer out, as soon as they had hit a bump in their relationship. She could hardly expect Cordelia to stick around and trust her, when she couldn't even trust the ex-cheerleader enough to talk things through.

Her movement was enough to disturb Tara and the tall wiccan yawned loudly before looking at Faith, her cheeks reddening with embarrassment, realising that she must have curled up practically on top of her to get as warm as she currently felt.

"If you're gonna apologise again, don't," Faith advised her with a smile. "We've got too much to do without having to worry about saying sorry all the time."

"Sorry." Tara shook her head in frustration as the word slipped out but started to laugh as Faith slapped her forehead in mock annoyance. "I can't help it," she told the brunette. "I've spent most of my life apologising. You'll just have to be patient with me."

"Not one of my stronger attributes but I'll see what I can do." Faith smiled back at the girl and wondered about the past Tara hinted at. There was more to her throwaway comment than met the eye. Perhaps Faith's own experiences allowed her to see its hidden depth. Faith reflected on what she knew about Tara. The blonde witch seemed to have coped with whatever crappy hand life had dealt her. Perhaps it was an intrinsic part of her character. There was something about the quiet girl that Faith found compelling. "Why have you been defending me?" She asked suddenly.

Tara blinked at the directness of the question. "Because you've changed," she replied simply, hoping that it would be enough to satisfy the raven-haired slayer.

Faith shook her head. "You don't know that. You never knew me before."

Tara sighed. "You're right. But I can..." she struggled to find a suitable word. "I can 'sense' someone's aura." She shook her head, flustered by her own inadequacy at description. "I knew it was you inside Buffy's body," she continued, by way of an explanation.

Faith coloured and looked away. "I was pretty crazy back then," she muttered. "Sorry for being such a bitch to you." Her words were almost inaudible.

"I thought we had put a ban on apologies," Tara replied gently. Faith just shrugged and refused to look at the witch. "You admit to being crazy back then. Would you admit it if you were still crazy?"

"Dunno," answered the Bostonian gruffly. "Probably another aspect of my psycho nature."

"Faith, stop running yourself down. I defended you because I know you've changed. You think about what you do, you consider other people's feelings and opinions and you apologise for your mistakes. That's not 'psycho'." Tara held up her fingers to gesture quotation marks round the word. "That's being normal." She shook her head sadly. "It's just a shame that people are more comfortable sticking with their memories and perceptions than trying to move on and give credit where its due."

Faith snorted. "It shouldn't matter, but it does," she admitted. "But I don't know what else I can do to convince them." She shook her head ruefully. "There's not much point talking about this at the moment though. If we can't get back, it doesn't really matter what the hell they think." She stood up, suddenly uncomfortable with revealing her feelings. "We need to get moving. I don't want to miss our summons home."

Tara stood up and stretched carefully, stiff after sleeping on the cold floor of the cave. The blonde girl studied the slayer. "I always imagined you as not being a morning person," she told her.

"Years of prison routine are difficult to break," Faith returned candidly. "Besides, who says it's morning? I have no idea how long we've slept. Have you?"

Tara frowned as she thought about it. Her watch just flashed the figure 12:00 at her repeatedly. Somehow, it had decided to reset itself and was effectively useless in her determination of the time. "I don't know how long we've slept," she told the shorter girl. "But I do know that I'm hungry."

Faith groaned. Her stomach automatically growled in response. "You had to say it," she whined as she held her hand over her abdomen, trying to muffle another loud protest. "I'm starved."

"Don't suppose you can rustle up breakfast can you?" Tara asked hopefully.

"Do I look like a cook?" Retorted Faith quickly.

Tara giggled. "No, I can't see you with a chef's hat on somehow," she confided, grinning as the slayer poked her tongue out at her.

"Not really my style," the slayer concurred. "Come on, let's get moving. The sooner we get back to our," Faith faltered as she tried to find a word to describe where they had appeared. "Our landing site, the sooner we can get back and eat."

Satisfied with her description, the brunette woman took the lead and headed towards the exit of the cave. "Stay behind me while I check it's safe for us to break cover," she told the wiccan, trailing an arm behind her to prevent Tara from getting too close to the opening of the cave. She glanced back to make sure that Tara was doing what she had asked and then crept out of the cave stealthily, rolling her weight on her feet to minimalise any sound she was making as she stepped out of the cave's safety.

Blinking rapidly as her pupils contracted with the sudden change in luminescence, Faith looked round quickly before ducking back inside. Feeling her pupils dilate once again, she looked at her companion. "It looks like it's all clear to get going. Are you sure you're up to this? Do you want more time to recuperate?"

Tara smiled at the brunette. "Don't worry about me. I feel much better. No pain at all now, other than from sleeping on a hard floor anyway. I just hope that I can help you if we run into trouble."

"When we run into trouble," amended Faith pessimistically. "Don't sweat it Tar. One stage at a time," she told the older girl.

Tara nodded in agreement and then tucked in behind Faith as they stepped out of the cave. She stood up and then turned round in a slow 360, taking in the bizarre scenery and alien skyline. The sky was a dark purple, and darker coloured clouds were shredded throughout it, scudding across the vista by an unfelt wind. The landscape before them was covered in tall, forbidding trees that bathed any open areas in dark shadows, giving the whole area a darkly sinister undertone. "We're not in Kansas anymore," she breathed.

Faith rolled her eyes. "Yeah, well if the only enemies we have to face are munchkins and the Wicked Witch of the West, we'll do Okay."

Tara glanced at the dark slayer. "I never pegged you as watching The Wizard of Oz," she confessed with a grin.

"I had a shitty childhood, doesn't mean I didn't have a childhood at all," Faith replied, unconsciously getting defensive.

Tara rolled her eyes at her own insensitivity. "I-I-I'm sorry Faith, I didn't mean..."

Faith held up a hand, realising that she had overreacted. "Whoa, whoa. No apologies, remember? Besides, if you never thought I watched it, at least I got my image right, huh?" She wiggled her eyebrows, making Tara relax slightly. "So tell me, did it really go into colour? We only had a black and white."

Tara looked at the girl open-mouthed, wondering if she was teasing her. Somehow, she didn't think so. "When we get back, I'm going to make you sit down and watch it with me," she vowed.

"Not likely," the slayer demurred. "You'd end up comparing witchy spells."

At that, Tara burst out laughing. "Come on. I have no idea where we're headed otherwise I would have forged ahead to make a point by now. Knowing my luck, I'd head in the wrong direction."

Faith smirked. "Okay. But this doesn't mean I'm watching some crappy film," she repeated as she began to stride along a barely visible pathway.

Tara stretched out her legs to match the other girl's pace and fell into step next to her. "How long do you think it will take for us to get back to where we started?"

Faith shrugged. "Can't say for sure, Blondie," she replied. "I don't know how much you slowed me down on the trip out, and I don't know what we're gonna come up against before we get back. But we're looking at hours here, not minutes."

"I'll try not to slow you down too much on the way back," the taller girl commented dryly.

"I'm counting on you speeding us up," replied the brunette cryptically.


Faith stole a quick glance at her companion before looking ahead once more, her eyes constantly scanning the vicinity for any unwanted company. "Well, rather than me fight our way through, maybe you can come up with some distractions or diversions for the munchkins," she explained.

"I told you Faith, I'm not sure how my magic will work here," Tara replied nervously.

"We'll find out soon enough. No point worrying till we have to," the Bostonian reassured the wiccan. Tara shook her head worriedly, not wanting to let the slayer down, but fearing that she would do just that. She remained silent though, and the two women continued to make progress under the shadow of the trees back to where they had first materialised.

Willow stretched out languidly and yawned as she woke up, realising belatedly that she was in the Magic Box and had spent another night curled up on one of the sofas there. The witch no longer felt so bone-numbingly exhausted after the magical effort of the night before, but she had a deep-rooted weariness blanketing her and she wondered how long it would take before she recovered fully. She scanned the room carefully before sitting up, wondering who else was in the shop with her. Finding that she was apparently alone, the red- haired wiccan got up and stretched again, feeling the satisfying pop of stiff tendons as she raised her hands above her head.

Satisfied that she had got rid of the kinks, Willow made her way over to the coffee pot and was gratified to see that, as ever, there was plenty in the pot. She quickly poured herself a large mug and then moved over to the table where she and Tara had been studying the incantation.

At the thought of her lover, Willow faltered and sat down quickly. She had no idea how to retrieve the blonde witch and Faith but she knew that she had to have seen the spell somewhere before for her to be able to draw on it. It looked like she was going to have to sit down and peruse a great number of tomes in the hope that as soon as she began reading the correct incantation, she would recognise it and research a way of summoning the two women back.

Despite an eagerness to find the spell as quickly as possible, Willow was practical enough to know that she was still in no fit state to perform whatever the ritual was, so in a perverse way, she hoped that she didn't stumble across what she needed straight away. It would be difficult, if not impossible to convince Cordelia that she was not capable of the task till at least tonight.

Willow sighed heavily. She wanted Tara back certainly as much as Cordelia wanted Faith back. If only her lover hadn't realised how Willow was manipulating the power she had stored, none of this would matter. Faith would be gone forever out of their lives and everyone could finally move on. It appeared that Cordelia seemed to have feelings for the rogue slayer, but they couldn't possibly be that strong. Faith was incapable of dealing with her own emotions, let alone forming a relationship with other people, unless it was a hate- hate relationship. It wouldn't be that difficult for the ex- cheerleader to move on and find someone else. Finding someone who wasn't a deranged murderer would be far healthier for her, not to mention less fatal.

Unfortunately, Willow had sent her lover to another realm in the company of said deranged murderer. Willow felt herself get angry again. If Faith did anything to harm Tara, she would stop at nothing to ensure it was the last thing the rogue slayer did. She just hoped that Tara had the strength and ability to deal with the manipulative bitch and stay alive long enough for Willow to get her home.

Focused now on rescuing Tara from the fate that she had placed her in, Willow started her search with the books already on the table. Maybe she would be lucky and find what she wanted in what she had read recently.

Angel looked out of the side room window nervously. The sun would be rising soon and he needed to leave. However, he really didn't want to leave Cordelia until he had spoken to her and reassured her that he had stayed with her all night. He glanced over to where the Seer slept, a bag of fluid dripping into her arm and a loop of tubing feeding her oxygen through her nose. The brooding vampire sighed. He was starting to spend far too much time in hospitals, worrying over his friends as they recovered from injuries. Faith had been in this very room the night before. Now, Cordelia lay there. Angel was beginning to wonder if he expected too much from his work colleagues. Even as the thought formed though, he realised it was futile. Faith was a slayer, called to protect the world from demons and despite going off the rails in a spectacular way, was now fulfilling her destiny with determination and vigour. Cordelia, ever since she had been 'gifted' with visions had begun to change her outlook on life and was determined to help those in need, regardless of the danger she put herself in.

When Faith had been released from prison, Cordelia had surprised Angel by tolerating her presence, stating that as long as she was on the payroll and doing her bit, she could hardly complain. After one case though, Cordelia had cut the slayer more slack and they had become friends. Faith had become more trusting and had been more open with her emotions. Cordelia had become more tolerant and perceptive to feelings. Of course, it didn't always apply, and both girls were still capable of cutting comments and sarcastic put-downs, but they were more often said for amusement value rather than out of spite. And they always managed to calm each other down, often with just a few words or a look. What pleased Angel the most was the fact that they could be themselves in each other's company. They felt no compunction to hide behind masks or the preconceived images others expected from them.

Now, it would appear that they were more than friends, and Angel couldn't be happier at the development. They were more similar than most people realised and had helped each other to sort out inner demons. The dark vampire just hoped that they would get the chance to actually build on their relationship. That meant getting Faith back from where ever she had been sent to. In a twisted way, it was fortunate that Tara had gone with her, for had she been the only one banished, Angel was convinced that Willow would not find a way to retrieve her.

The souled vampire shook his head sadly at how Willow had changed. She was starting to get consumed by the magic she used and yet could not see the changes in herself. Despite the need to get Faith back, he hoped that Willow didn't have to call on black-hat magick to get them back, for it would only continue to meld and change her. Something pretty drastic would have to be done to pull Willow back to the way she was. The irony that Faith and Willow seemed to have, for all intents and purposes, swapped their positions, was not lost on Angel. He just wasn't sure if he was capable of helping the red- haired witch in the same way he had helped Faith.

A slight moaning broke him from his reverie. He spun quickly and closed the gap between him and Cordelia's bed. "Hey. How are you?" He asked softly.

Cordelia opened her eyes slowly, already knowing that if it was Angel asking her questions then Faith had not been located. Her mind felt fuzzy and thick and there was a general aching around her abdomen. "Hey," she whispered, wincing as the word scraped past her parched throat. "What have they told you?" She murmured.

"You were in Theatres for about an hour. You lost a lot of blood but you're going to be fine. No major damage to any of your organs."

Cordelia winced as she changed her position slightly. "That's twice I've been lucky. I don't fancy my chances next time," she commented roughly. She pinned Angel with a steady glare. "Where's Faith?"

The vampire returned the stare. "We don't know Cordelia. Willow went back to the Magic Box to get studying. I haven't heard from them since. I thought I'd concentrate on making sure you were going to be all right first."

The Seer nodded and smiled gently at the concern Angel showed her. "Thank you. But you know that all I want to do is get Faith back. I'll be fine here. I need you to act as my muscle man to make sure Willow gets her back."

Angel sighed. "You realise that its not going to be easy," he started but Cordelia cut him off sharply.

"If they could get sent there, they can be called back. There has to be a way Angel," she told him firmly. "And if you can't fight my corner for me, then get me my clothes so that I can do it myself."

"Wait up Cordelia, that isn't what I meant. Of course I'm with you," Angel replied. "But you have to face reality..."

"Reality?" The Seer interrupted incredulously. "Our lives are far from realistic. Or have you not noticed? I work for an un-dead vampire and provide messages from the 'Powers That Be' so that he can continue to justify the existence of his soul. The woman I love is a vampire slayer that also works for a vampire, which is ironic in itself, and we're currently back in good old Sunnydale, home of the Hellmouth. I do not lead a 'normal' life, though God knows, sometimes I wish I did. So I will not react normally to this situation. The 'reality' is that Faith and Tara need to be located and found. And the 'reality' is that I will not stop until they are."

Cordelia drew a shaky breath, shocked at how weak she felt. "I won't give up on her Angel," she whispered. "Not when I've only just realised what I've got." She shook her head slightly. "You wouldn't understand."

"You're wrong," Angel refuted angrily. "I do understand. I care for Faith as much as I care for you. We have a lot in common. But you're making a point about love aren't you?" He clenched his fists and stalked across to the window. "I lived a short life to have it taken away from me by a cruel woman. I spent nearly 200 years believing that all humans wanted to do was hurt each other, and had a lot of time to do my share of hurting. Then I went to Sunnydale and found out that there were some people out there who were different. I learned to love again and learned to let go, when I knew that I couldn't give her what she deserved." Angel stopped for a moment and swallowed. "So don't tell me I don't understand."

Cordelia stared at the normally reticent vampire. "I'm sorry Angel. I'm just lashing out because I feel so useless stuck here," she whispered.

Angel turned round and nodded before returning to the hospital bed and sitting on the edge. "I'm sorry too, Cordy. We *will* get her back." He took her hand and squeezed it gently. The Seer returned the pressure, even as she felt comforted by the vampire's touch. Cordelia then stole a glance at the window and noticed the pink tinge in the darkness, indicative of the approaching dawn. "Angel, you need to get out of here. I'll be all right on my own," she insisted.

"I'll be back later," the dark-haired man vowed, squeezing her hand again. "Gunn will be around during the day. He said he'd rather be here than going through a load of books."

Cordelia nodded, feeling tired again already, but suspecting that it had something to do with the painkillers she had probably been given. "Keep me informed please," she pleaded. "Even if it's just a phone call to say you haven't come up with anything. I don't want to be left out of this," she insisted.

Angel nodded quickly before glancing at the window worriedly. "Cordy..."

"Go. I'll see you later," Cordelia smiled at her employer. "And thanks," she told him, grateful that she had not woken up alone, even if the person who had kept her company was not the person she desperately wanted nearby.

Part 15

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