Red Moon Rising by Hunter Ash

Title: Red Moon Rising Part 4
Author: Hunter Ash 
Copyright � 2001 by Hunter Ash. All Rights Reserved.
Email:
carrkjar@yahoo.com Feedback welcome!!
Homepage Addy:
http://www.hunterash.com/ 
Disclaimers:
The characters and show all belong to Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, and God only knows who else. The storyline, however, is the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
F/F romance
: the story assumes a loving and sexual relationship between people of the same gender and may even include 3 at the same time <G>. If this offends or is illegal for you, then please leave. Come back when you are older, have an open mind, moved, or changed your laws.
Spoilers:
Some general 5th season stuff, but nothing major.
Summary:
OZ is back and causes havoc when he demands Willow join him as his mate. Buffy, Willow and Tara have other ideas.
Rating:
R, violence, werewolf attacks, major character injury, angst, hurt and comfort. It�s Buffy, there�s violence.
Author's Note:
While this is not my first story, it is my first Buffy story. So�.kind words are hoped for�<G>. Oh, and by the way, this will be posted in parts. This being part one. Feedback always welcome.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 |

Red Moon Rising

Frau Hunter Ash

Part 4

October 10

Willow smiled when she opened her eyes again and saw Xander sitting in the chair last occupied by Tara. The young man was reading one of Willow's schoolbooks and had his feet on the bed. She also noticed he had a pistol tucked in his waistband.

Her friends were determined to protect her, Willow realized with a smile. First they saved her life and now they were going to make sure Oz didn't get a second chance at the redhead.

"Hey," she said softly and smiled wider at the extremely pleased look on her best male friend's face as he scampered to his feet and hugged her gently.

"Hey, yourself, beautiful!" he grinned and put the book down. Willow noticed it was her biology book as he reached for her glass of water and handed it to her one good hand.

"Biology? I thought you and Anya were practicing enough already," she said softly, teasing him.

"I thought I might take some junior college classes next semester and maybe try for the University next fall," he responded with a blush.

"How long was I asleep this time," she asked. Willow was becoming used to waking up and finding she had been asleep for hours. The doctors had told her that it was a normal reaction after what her body had been through. Being stabbed through the heart and having her hand mangled had been rough on the young witch. Especially since she had died from the knife in the chest, only Tara leading a magick circle had saved her, pouring the unconditional love of her friends and the two women she was very much in love with: Buffy and Tara.

"About nine hours," Xander smiled.

"Your eyes are better," she mumbled, trying to keep her eyes open.

"Yeah, the nose isn't too bad either," he continued to grin and turned on the light above Willow's bed, looking at his watch.

The young man's nose hardly looked like it had been broken at all and his eyes were finally losing their boxer look. Anya kept insisting that it gave him character and crowed how brave he had been trying to protect her by fighting off vampires and werewolves.

He noticed Willow's head falling forward again and turned out the light as he realized she probably wasn't going to stay awake this time.

Xander's hand went to the gun in his waistband as the door to Willow's hospital room opened; he relaxed with a smile when he saw Detective Santiago. The would-be college student dropped his shirt over the evidence of a gun in his trousers and Detective Santiago ignored the movement.

"Has she woke up at all today?" he asked softly.

"Yeah, just a minute ago but drifted right back off," Xander answered softly and moved to the end of Willow's bed. "Any sign of Oz?"

"No," Brad Santiago noticed Xander's frown and nodded in agreement. "It's been a week and I won't be able to keep up the massive manhunt for him much longer. He's going on America's Most Wanted and they'll want to talk to all of you."

"I don't know if Willow will want to be on camera," Xander's frown deepened.

"The show helps catch some of these bastards and they won't use Willow, they'll use an actress," Brad assured him.

They both looked over as Willow whimpered in her sleep and then was quiet again.

"She has nightmares all the time," Xander growled.

"They'll ease up over time," Detective Santiago said softly, his own face reflecting his concern. The young Ms. Rosenburg looked a lot like his young teenager daughter and the police officer wanted to get his hands on Daniel Oswald very badly whenever he saw Willow's pale and pained face lying on that hospital pillow.

"What about the guys outside the door?" Xander asked the Detective about the police protection outside Willow's door ever since they had found her.

"Only for the weekend and then they'll be re-assigned," Brad answered and tried to ignore the sullen look on Xander's face. "Once Willow is out of the hospital next week we'll increase the patrols past Ms. Summers� house and Mr. Giles' place as well. That's about all I can do."

"I know, it just sucks," Xander complained.

"At least she won't be returning to the dorms this semester," Brad pointed out.

"Yeah, they're putting her on home-study and she's staying at Buffy's home," Xander confirmed. "Mrs. Summers wants to look after Willow with the rest of us since Willow's parents are in Europe."

"I can't believe they went to Europe with Willow in the hospital," Brad growled, looking down at the fragile looking young woman. "Didn't they know how close they came to losing her?" he hissed, trying to keep his voice low.

He was surprised when Xander Harris merely shrugged. "It's Sunnydale," the young man said, as if that explained everything.

"What do you mean?" Brad Santiago, a newcomer to the Sunnydale police department from New York City, demanded.

"You'll figure it out eventually," Xander said sullenly. "Nobody cares here, Detective. They don't notice things like people disappearing for no reason and without a trace, nobody notices their kids."

"Experience that yourself?" Brad asked softly.

"I think the last time my parents noticed me was when my father walked in on me having sex with my girlfriend last week," Xander grinned but it wasn't a happy smile, it had more bitterness than pleasure in it. "Before that I think they went to a fifth grade play I was in."

"Mrs. Summers and Mr. Giles seem to like all of you," Brad commented as Xander walked with him outside of Willow's room into the hallway. Xander's eyes always looking for the guard stationed outside the computer geek's door.

"They're the best!" Detective Santiago's quick eyes noticed how Xander's face lit up at the mention of the two adults. Santiago had interviewed Joyce Summers and Rupert Giles over the last couple of weeks in dealing with Oz. At first he had been suspicious of what the older Giles could have in common with kids barely out of high school. He became even more suspicious when he discovered the Englishman had been the librarian for the burned out high school and had been very close to Xander, Willow, Buffy and Oz when they were in school.

Some of his skepticism was eased once he met Mr. Rupert Giles and Mrs. Summers and realized that they either were or had been dating and still cared for each other. Detective Santiago assumed that Giles had gotten to know Buffy and her friends through his interest in Buffy's Mom.

Brad Santiago still held some reserve judgment about the Englishman though. A background check had revealed nothing out of the ordinary except a couple of arrests for drunken behavior when Giles was much younger. Somehow the clean record made Santiago uncomfortable, his instincts flaring that something wasn't right and felt wrong about Giles' overseas record.

What the detective couldn't deny though was the affection that Giles had for the group of young adults and no alarms or warning flags went up in the detective's mind about it. Brad Santiago came to the conclusion that Giles was actually the closest thing to a father figure that most of the kids had. He also concluded that Giles actually loved them very much and they loved him with nothing kinky involved.

Brad Santiago wasn't surprised when both he and Xander looked down the hall and saw Buffy and Tara walking their way.

"The night shift?" Brad asked Xander with a grin and Xander blushed and shuffled his feet. "You know the police officer won't let Oz near her, that's what he's there for."

"We know, we just feel better being with her," Xander muttered. "The hospital quit trying to kick us out last week, now they ignore us."

Having seen the desperate looks on the faces of Ms. Willow Rosenburg's friends, Brad wasn't surprised the hospital caved in and let at least one of them stay with her twenty-four hours a day. It helped keep the young student calm and made her feel safe. That was a major plus, Brad reflected. The doctors had warned against any excitement or fear for at least a month until her heart muscle had healed a little more. Having her friends there ensured Willow didn't wake up in a panic, and that Oz wouldn't get through the door, and they could wake her out of any nightmare before it got too bad.

Brad Santiago had seen the gun in Xander's belt and knew the others were probably armed as well. He knew he was obligated to at least take the illegal weapons from the kids but didn't have the desire to. He didn't feel totally secure for Willow with just one police guard on the door and he knew Willow's friends would die protecting her.

"Detective Santiago," Buffy said when she got close to Willow's room. "Any sign of Oz?"

"No," the detective repeated. "I'll let Xander fill you in. I've got to get home for dinner. My wife gets nervous when I'm out past dark if I'm not on a case. She says she hears strange things in the alley sometimes," he said with an amused grin.

"Tell her not to go outside and look," Buffy said sternly.

Brad Santiago frowned. He had expected the kids to smile at the thought of his wife being spooked by noises in the dark, instead they looked deadly serious. Brad began to wonder exactly what it was about the town that he had been trying to put his finger on since he had arrived last month.

<It was like something out of a gothic novel,> he complained to himself as he walked down the hall. The inhabitants were reluctant to talk about anything, the parents seemed to be lost in a fog, and the kids seemed to keep to crowds and well lit places after dark but seemed confused as to why they did it if you pointed it out to them. It was like a village living under the shadow of Castle Frankenstein.

Brad glanced back and saw Xander encompassing both Buffy and Tara in his arms.

The detective had a gut feeling that it wasn�t quite over for the young group he had come to like over the last week.

"Hey, Xander," Buffy said easily, her eyes darting to the police officer sitting outside Willow�s room, ensuring that he was alert and watching everything.

"Hey, Buff, Tara," the young man answered as he pulled back.

Both young women could see the unasked questions forming on his face once again and Buffy held up her hand.

"No, we haven�t �decided� anything and we haven�t talked to Willow about what any of this means," Buffy snapped.

"I�m sorry," Xander said softly.

"Its okay, Xander," Tara said softly as Buffy turned and entered Willow�s room. "It�s just been so hard watching Willow struggling to get her strength back and none of us can do anything, we haven�t even mentioned relationships and feelings."

"You know you don�t stutter as much when you�re around us now?" Xander pointed out with a smile and laughed softly when Tara began blushing. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder affectionately. "I know we didn�t spend a lot of time together before this but you�re one of the gang, you�re an official Scooby type person. I know you�d never hurt Buffy or Willow."

Tara blushed even more and he quickly hugged her and slipped his pistol to her. The young witch stuck it in the waistband of her own jeans and pulled the t-shirt over the butt.

When Tara opened the door she knew she�d find Buffy in a chair by Willow�s bedside, holding the computer geek�s uninjured hand, whether Willow was awake or not.

Night and day both women were by Willow�s beside, especially when the young witch didn�t bounce back from the knife injury as quickly as the doctors had hoped. None of the Scooby Gang could tell them that it was probably because Willow had died that night and it was only the combined efforts of love and magick that had brought her back.

"Hey, Xander go home?"

"I think he was heading to his job?" Tara commented.

"What is it this week? Pizza or burgers?" Buffy asked softly, hoping not to disturb the redhead in the hospital bed.

"Actually he got a job as a security officer at the mall," Tara grinned at Buffy�s surprised expression. "He wants to save some money and move out of his parents� basement and go to junior college."

"He mentioned that," a groggy voice joined in the conversation and both Tara and Buffy smiled as Willow opened her eyes and smiled back. "Hi, guys."

"Hey, Wills!" Buffy�s smile widened as green eyes met her blue ones and the Slayer felt her heart melting all over again.

Without thinking about it, Buffy held out her other hand and Tara responded by holding it and gently brushing back a lock of Willow�s hair with her other hand, unconsciously forming a triangle between the three women. Willow noticed and smiled even more.

"I love you both," she said softly.

"I can�t stay long, I�m patrolling tonight," Buffy said as a way of avoiding the emotional stuff they had been dancing around.

It had been a hurried decision not to talk about the emotional confusion the three women were going through until Willow was out of the hospital and a little more stable. The doctors had warned against extreme emotional distress and none of Willow�s friends were willing to add to any worries she might have, especially Buffy and Tara.

"I�m staying the night though," Tara said cheerfully and felt the warmth of Willow�s smile hit her like a physical blow. Then she looked in Buffy�s eyes and felt the same warmth.

Xander told Willow earlier that during the week, as she had been in and out of consciousness from her wounds, that Buffy and Tara had been acting strange. Willow had been worried that they weren�t talking or something but Xander had said that was the weird thing. Without Willow around, the two women seemed lost unless they were together. The strangest thing was that they didn�t seem to talk much, as if they were avoiding issues but couldn�t seem to be apart from each other. Willow thought she understood, any time she had tried to bring up her feelings for either or both young women they had dodged and changed the subject, saying it could wait until she was better.

Willow figured they were going to kill her with kindness if she let them.

Buffy noticed Willow�s "resolve" face faster than Tara did, having been around Willow since they were sophomores in school. The Slayer drew back slightly and Tara felt the blonde slam down mental and emotional shields without even being aware that she was doing it.

"Wills?" Buffy asked softly as Willow seemed to be gathering her strength and had a most determined look on her face.

"Look," the young witch began as Tara caught onto the "resolve" face. "I�ve told you both that I love you and you can both say it back. I don�t expect us to work this out while I�m here but I don�t want to dance around it and feel like a criminal because I love you both."

Buffy and Tara both looked pained. "Willow, we�re not blaming you for loving both of us and you shouldn�t feel guilty. I�I love you both too," Tara began.

"And I feel lucky that the cutest women at the University happen to like me," Buffy finished with a smirk that eased the tension.

"More than like you, silly," Willow grinned. "I know you want to go patrol but can you stick around for a few minutes?"

"Sure, anything for you, Wills," Buffy agreed immediately. "What�s up?"

"They want me to take another walk down the hallway tonight and I�d like some company," Willow said, blushing at how weak she was.

Both Buffy and Tara nodded eagerly, knowing that it was Willow�s way of asking for help. With a broken arm the patient couldn�t use a wheelchair or walker and the doctors and nurses had warned about weakness. Having a friend on either side made Willow feel more comfortable and not as scared of falling.

"This recovery thing sucks," Willow grinned.

"That�s why I love that Slayer healing thing," Buffy grinned back, showing the movement of her left arm. Just the week before both bones had been bitten in two and the muscles ripped viciously by Oz, now there was just angry red scars on both sides of the Slayer�s arm. Willow knew from experience that those would settle down into barely noticeable thin white scars.

The main question was whether the inner wounds had scarred or were just beginning.

The Slayer had been bitten by a werewolf and there was still the question of whether Buffy Summers was now going to be cursed and turn into a werewolf on full moons. They hadn�t talked about that much during Willow�s recovery either. Tara had assured Willow when they were alone that Giles was practically living in his books and Tara was helping Joyce, Buffy�s Mom, do the research on the internet for anything pertaining to werewolves.

They had three weeks before the next full moon would reveal whether Buffy had fought off the infection or not.

For now, Buffy refused to talk about it, had threatened Xander with another broken nose when he had attempted to joke about it, and ignored the research going on around her.

"Listen, guys," Willow continued. "The doctors say I can get out of here in a couple of days if I regain some more strength and don�t over do the walks. Tell me that one or both of you aren�t going to disappear on me when I get out of here. I mean, that would not be good, the doctors said so. No major emotional trauma they said. Girlfriend leaving would be a bad thing, or girlfriends leaving. Bad, very bad."

Both Buffy and Tara grinned at a typical Willow ramble and the computer geek began blushing.

"Well, since you�re moving into my Mom�s house, I guess I�ll stick around," Buffy teased.

"And I�m the one that will be handling bringing your assignments and working with the campus teacher they�re sending out, guess I�ll stick around too," Tara smiled shyly.

"Thank you," Willow said seriously. "I know this isn�t going to be easy for any of us, I don�t want to lose either of you."

"Wills, you died so Oz wouldn�t hurt any of us or use you to hurt us," Buffy said softly as Tara sat down on the other side of the bed, still holding Buffy�s hand. "I don�t know what�s happening between the three of us but I�m willing to talk and work on it."

"Me too," Tara agreed simply.

"I died," Willow said thoughtfully and looked down at the cast on her hand. "It�s still hard to think about."

Buffy reached up to gently wipe a tear away from Willow�s cheek.

"We live in Sunnydale," Willow continued. "Buffy is the Slayer and has died before fighting the Hellmouth things. I�ve come close several times because we help Buffy. Even Tara almost got killed with those weird Gentlemen creeps. I can�t live without either of you."

"I�ve always known as the Slayer that I probably wouldn�t live to collect Social Security," Buffy said thoughtfully. "Seeing you lying there with that dagger�" Buffy swallowed and fought back tears. "I�m willing to accept whatever this means between the three of us. Life is way too short for a Slayer to let outdated morals get in the way of being with who I love."

"How do you feel about Tara, Buffy?" Willow asked softly and noticed Tara�s body language retreating back into her normal "shy mode" of dropping her head and letting her hair cover most of her face, almost shrinking into herself.

"Wow, truth discussion, huh?" Buffy asked with a smirk. "Thought we weren�t going to talk about this until you were out of here."

"Now," Willow insisted.

"I� I know for certain I�m in love with you, Willow. With Tara, it is more than the beginning of a wonderful friendship. It feels complete with her near me, especially when I�m with both of you," Buffy said, trying to put awkward and new feelings into words.

Then Buffy�s eyes sparkled with an impishness that Willow hadn�t seen in a long time. "Besides," the Slayer continued. "I think you are both incredibly hot and I get weak in the knees fantasizing about kissing both of you."

Tara�s head snapped up and her eyes were wide with surprise and Willow began blushing as bright as her hair.

"I guess that teaches me to ask!" she muttered as the Slayer laughed.

"Well, I�ve been dreaming about both of you," Tara admitted, blushing even worse than before.

"So have I," both Willow and Buffy responded at the same time and raised their eyebrows at each other.

"Whoa," Buffy said softly. "Does this mean something cosmic with us?"

"I don�t know and I�m not sure Giles wants us to ask him either," Willow grinned.

"Well he does begin coughing and cleaning his glasses whenever he catches us holding your hand," Tara agreed.

"He can be so British it hurts," Buffy agreed and they all laughed easily.

"Goddess, this feels good," Willow smiled. "I feel better. Thank you both."

"Anything for my Wills," Buffy said easily.

"Any sign� has anyone seen or heard from� Oz?" Willow asked hesitantly.

"No, America�s Most Wanted wants to put him on their list and re-enact the kidnapping and attempted murder," Buffy explained what Xander had told them while hugging the two women.

"I don�t want cameras and Hollywood type people!" Willow protested, her breath suddenly quickening.

"Willow, calm!" Tara urged. "Think calm! We�re not going to let them near you. We, we haven�t discussed it but they won�t get near you if you don�t want them."

"Nope, have to go through one bad witch and one bad Slayer," Buffy agreed and was grateful when Willow smiled slightly but was worried at how she now looked tired.

She saw the same concern in Tara�s eyes and they both knew that the recovery was going to be long and hard for their beloved.

* * *

October 15

Willow surprised everyone by rapidly regaining her strength after the reassurances from Buffy and Tara that things weren�t going to change until Willow was out of the hospital. She was able to walk about the hospital several times a day and had finally gotten rid of the IV of extra fluids.

The doctors were pleased with the change in her progress and pronounced her well enough to go home, with lots of hesitation, cautions, and stern warnings.

Willow�s friends and adopted family listened closely to the doctor�s instructions, especially when they explained that Willow wasn�t like a normal heart operation patient. Most patients had valves replaced or even heart transplants and recovered within a few weeks of the surgery and most were home within a week. The doctors, especially Dr. O�Connor, had explained that Willow�s injuries were more serious because the operation had been more invasive. Having a knife rip open your heart was more damaging than the gentle touch of a surgeon carefully opening a clogged artery or replacing a valve under perfect operating conditions. The scars of having her breastbone sawed into two pieces, a rib spreader thrust into her chest and hands trying to rapidly repair jagged wounds were going to be painful to heal, long and bright red. The actual healing of the heart muscle would take longer than a normal patient but the doctors were confident of a complete recovery, eventually.

All of the small crowd gathered to lend support to the young computer geek had gotten very quiet as the doctor�s described Willow�s wounds and the steps the doctors had taken to save her. They all knew that technically Willow had died and somehow their love and magick had brought her back. It was hard to hear how serious the wound had been even with the magickal intervention. Willow wasn�t totally out of danger yet.

Willow did find it strange to be in Buffy�s home and not the dorm room or her own room at home. Not that the room at the Rosenberg�s house felt like home anymore, she thought as she lay back on the guest bed. The redhead fought back a sense of displacement, of depression over not really having a home and reminded herself that it was just probably one of those moods that the doctors had warned her about. She had been told that depression was common after such an intense operation; her emotional state would probably be even more up and down since her operation was the result of an attack by her ex-boyfriend.

Having heart surgery brought up a lot of feelings and fears, they had told her. Fears especially about death, about never being healthy again, fear of physical exertion and even serious fears about sex.

Willow had blushed a bright red but had managed to keep from squeaking and was pleased when her voice didn�t crack from embarrassment when she had pursued questions about that kind of activity. The doctors had been frank and honest and hadn�t seemed embarrassed about talking about sex with a beautiful young female patient.

Willow hadn�t gone into details about her sex life or her questions and was grateful that the doctors seemed to have expected such questions. She mentally kicked and reminded herself that they dealt with that question from almost every patient undergoing operation, especially life threatening ones.

The computer geek grinned; she had no idea what was going to develop between her and Tara, her and Buffy, or between them. She was hoping, however, that they might explore some of those sexual areas.

"Goddess," she whispered to herself, listening to Buffy and Joyce moving in the house outside her door. "What am I going to do? I love them both."

A knock didn�t answer her question but it did give her a break from the thought. She fought the urge to jump up and answer it. Willow reminded herself that she wasn�t healed yet and it was going to take time to return to her normally active self. Everything was going to be a hassle for awhile, including just sitting up from a bed without losing her breath and increasing her heart rate significantly.

"Come in," she called and smiled as Joyce walked in the room with Buffy behind her. Willow sat up slowly, shifting positions to have the headboard behind her.

Joyce sat down on the edge of the bed and Buffy moved around to the other side and sat down. Willow caught Joyce watching her daughter�s interaction with the young witch and couldn�t blame her. Buffy�s interests in Willow had come as a surprise to Joyce and Willow knew she was still adjusting to the situation. It didn�t help that all their friends were confused over the relationship between Willow, Tara and Buffy.

Buffy, not noticing her mom�s concerned gaze, smiled widely and took Willow�s good hand in hers.

"Are you settling in okay?" Joyce asked, ignoring the questions she was dying to ask.

"Yes, Mrs. Summers," Willow smiled. She didn�t have to admit to them that she was tired; they could see it. Just getting her checked out of the hospital, into Joyce�s car and back to Buffy�s home had tired her out. She still blushed when she thought of Buffy suddenly playing gallant knight and lifting Willow into her arms and carrying the college student up the stairs to the bedroom after seeing Willow hesitate at the bottom of the stairs.

Xander had laughed and made a joke about Slayer strength, Anya had clapped at the apparent act of chivalry, Tara had grinned at Willow�s embarrassed face and Giles and Joyce had pretended not to notice.

"Call me Joyce, please," Joyce Summers insisted. "I have to go to the gallery and help set up a new exhibit. Will you two be okay tonight?"

"Sure Mom," Buffy said cheerfully. "I�m not going out slaying tonight and Tara is coming over to help set up Willow�s computer stuff in here. We�ll probably watch a movie or something."

"No pizza!" Joyce warned. "The doctors said no extreme food for awhile."

"I�ll get Tara to pick up something on the way over," Buffy promised as Willow turned red from all the attention.

"Okay, I�ve got my beeper with me in case you need me and Rupert has his pager and cell phone too," Joyce continued thoughtfully, reluctant to be away from the young recovering girl her first night in the Summers� home.

"Giles is going to be there?" Buffy asked, her eyebrows raised.

Willow resisted grinning as Joyce began to blush herself. "Yes, he�s going to help me with the exhibit."

"Excellent!" Buffy exclaimed. "You two are �on� again?"

"Well, maybe," Joyce admitted with a shy smile.

"As long as you have �relations� at his place and not here with me in the next room, I think it�s cool," Buffy declared.

"Elizabeth Anne Summers!" Joyce squeaked and Willow tried to hide her grin. "I�m leaving now, thank you!"

"Love you, Mom," Buffy said sweetly, not passing up the opportunity to tease her mom. It had been awkward enough to learn that her mom and Giles had been dating when she was in high school. It was more than awkward to discover that, while under a spell, they had wild and uninhibited sex on a patrol car. Twice. Buffy wasn�t sure if she was still in need of some therapy over those images in her head.

Willow grinned at Buffy and drew the Slayers hand to her cheek, relishing the warmth. She saw Buffy�s eyes close and the Slayer�s breathing increase a notch.

"Buffy," Willow said softly. "How long have you been in love with me?"

"Right to the point, huh?" Buffy asked with a teasing smile. "I don�t know, I realized recently that it�s always been you, Wills."

Willow smiled and sighed. She patted the bed beside her and Buffy moved to the head of the bed and the young hacker snuggled down into the Slayer�s arm. Willow sighed at the feeling of peace settling over her, even the throbbing of her arm and the pain of the incision down and across her chest didn�t hurt as much with Buffy holding her.

"I figured out what a jerk I�ve been with Riley and the damned Initiative thing," Buffy continued as Willow interlaced her fingers with Buffy�s. "When Oz left you needed me and I wasn�t there. You were always there for me, even when I made major mistakes. You were there when Angel turned and there when I had to kill him. You even stood by me when he came back and I made the mistake of keeping it a secret. I let you down, Wills."

"You were trying to form a relationship with Riley," Willow protested.

"Yeah, and turned into a bitch while doing it," Buffy said bitterly about herself. "I�m sorry, Willow, I should have been there for you and I wasn�t. By the time I discovered that Riley was no substitute for having you in my life, on any level, you were gone."

Willow started to sit up in protest and Buffy tightened her arm around the witch. "I wasn�t gone!"

"Yeah you were," Buffy countered, her voice still soft. "You had found Tara and had gotten back on your feet, all without me. It was like I had been smacked in the face when I realized that one. It hurt a lot and I had no one to blame but myself. It also didn�t help that I was fighting the same feelings you were having for Tara."

"When did you realize that you�re� what, bi?"

"That terms fits better than most, I guess," Buffy replied easily. "I asked Giles once about sexuality and Slayers."

Willow giggled and Buffy smiled. "I bet he was so not happy with that questioning!"

"Nope," Buffy agreed. "I pressed him though. Faith was always so damned� frisky, especially after a good night of slaying. I thought it was just me but Giles said that it was common and it was also common that almost all the Slayers were bisexual. Actually, I think it�s just sexual."

"Did you and Faith ever�?" Willow asked, her voice becoming soft and timid as her hand played with Buffy�s.

"Yeah," the Slayer admitted, hating the way her face suddenly flushed. "After one really heavy night of slaying, I went back to her dingy hotel room and we had a beer. I don�t know how it happened, we were both so turned on from the Slayer blood lust and we were both on the same bed. I don�t know who kissed who but it happened."

"Did anything else happen?"

"Yeah," Buffy said, almost in a whisper. "There was ripped clothes, lips everywhere and a lot of hand action. I couldn�t take it any farther though. I ran out of the room with my clothes in tatters."

"Why couldn�t you? Because of what you felt for Angel?"

"No," Buffy hesitated. "It was� I didn�t see Faith�s face; all I could think of was you."

"What? That long ago?" Willow asked with a frown.

"Yeah," Buffy admitted.

"Why didn�t you say anything?" Willow demanded.

"What? Why?" Buffy countered. "You were dating Oz and were like totally happy. I wasn�t going to tell you that while Faith had her tongue down my throat I was wishing it was you with Oz sitting there."

"Okay, I get it," Willow said reluctantly. "I was always so jealous of Faith; she knew it too and used to tease me. She more than hinted that you two did more than just slay together."

"She could be such a bitch," Buffy grumbled. After a moment of both young women contemplating the past, Buffy kissed the top of Willow�s head with a smile. "Have you ever�?"

"With a female, you mean?" Willow squeaked.

"Yeah, I know you and Oz got together," Buffy clarified.

"No to both," Willow whispered.

"What? I thought you and Oz�"

"He was so terrified that a condom might break and I would have his werewolf baby," Willow said bitterly. "We did mutual things. Like, well� you know."

"You haven�t been with anyone?" Buffy asked. The Slayer was surprised, she had assumed that Willow�s relationship with Oz was serious enough to include most acts of sex, including �going all the way.� On the other hand, she wasn�t surprised the shy computer geek hadn�t gone that far either. It kinda described Willow, a hidden passion held back by a shy exterior and self doubt.

"Well, we did cover a lot of sexual action except that," Willow smiled, further clarifying and embarrassing herself in the process.

"So no males or females," Buffy grinned.

"Not technically," Willow agreed, closing her eyes and snuggling down on Buffy�s chest.

"God, Wills," Buffy asked softly. "What are we going to do? I like Tara."

"Me too," Willow mumbled. "Fantasies of both of you in the same bed with me are rather nice."

"Willow?" Buffy squeaked, never dreaming that her shy best friend would have those kind of fantasies. She realized with an irritated grimace that Willow had fallen asleep in her arms.

Tara and all of the rest of the Scooby Gang were now carrying cell phones and pagers. They had learned, anti-tech feelings or not, they needed to keep in touch with each other with Willow recovering and Buffy possibly infected by a werewolf.

When the young witch appeared on Buffy�s doorstep she arrived bearing Chinese food and rented videotapes.

Buffy�s tenseness eased when she saw Tara�s shy smile.

"Hey, Tara," the Slayer said easily and reached for some of the bags of food, snacks and tapes.

"Hey, how�s Willow?" the witch asked as she entered Buffy�s home.

"Taking a nap, checking out and in wore her out," Buffy smiled and headed for the kitchen.

"She�s okay, though?" Tara frowned.

"Yeah, doctor said she�d tire out easily," Buffy continued as Tara followed her.

"Maybe we should take a tray up to Willow�s room?" Tara suggested.

"Yeah, I agree. I moved my TV and video recorder into her room while she slept," Buffy responded, pulling out plates and bowls from various cabinets.

"Cool, like a slumber party," Tara grinned.

"Tara, I know we�ve been avoiding things while Willow was in the hospital, I just want you to know that I admitted to her that I�ve been in love with her for awhile," Buffy said softly.

"So have I," Tara smiled.

Buffy lost her smile and frowned, appearing puzzled. "I know I�m in love with Willow but you�re driving me crazy too," the Slayer admitted, gripping the sink with a killer grip.

Tara hesitated, watching the shorter but powerful woman in front of her. She felt Buffy stiffen when Tara walked up behind her and wrapped her arms around the Slayer. It was Buffy�s turn to hesitate and then Tara felt Buffy relax. Buffy leaned back into Tara�s arms and sighed, letting the witch�s warmth encompass her. She laid her arms on Tara�s.

"Guess that means you kinda like me, too?" Buffy grinned.

Tara felt Buffy�s breath quicken along with her own and leaned down to nuzzle the Slayer�s neck.

"I don�t know what�s happening either but it feels right and I�m not sure we should fight anything that feels right in Sunnydale," Tara said softly.

"I�ll second that!" Buffy agreed, her head leaning back into the witch. "God, that feels good."

"What else did you talk about?" Tara questioned, relishing the smell of Buffy�s hair and the feel of her skin.

"Uh� that I, uh," Buffy stammered. "That I fooled around a little with Faith but didn�t� That we didn�t�"

"Neither have I," Tara said softly.

Buffy turned in Tara�s arms and wrapped her own around the taller witch�s neck and resisted kissing Tara right then.

Tara leaned down until their foreheads were touching and both of them closed their eyes in the moment.

"Maybe we should get the food upstairs before it turns into cold leftovers," Buffy suggested.

"Buffy," Tara whispered, refusing to let go of the Slayer yet. "Willow and I have kissed."

"I know," Buffy said softly. "We haven�t. I mean, Willow and I haven�t."

Both women hesitated, unsure as to what to do next when Tara finally broke the embrace.

"Let�s get upstairs with Willow," she suggested.

"Sounds good," Buffy agreed and began a delicate balance of plates, bowls and glasses. "This might take a couple of trips," she complained as Tara grabbed the boxes and bags food.

"I agree!" Tara grinned, realizing they still had the soda, tapes and snacks.

Both Tara and Buffy broke into wide smiles when they opened the door and found Willow opening her eyes and grinning at them.

"Hey, guys!" the redhead smiled and moved to a sitting position on the bed.

The next fifteen minutes were spent arranging dinner on the bed with the three women. The difficulty of eating Chinese food on a medium size bed was finally solved with a combination of trays and two nimble college students and one giggling Willow.

The three ended up feeding each other egg rolls and shrimp and somehow the bedspread was spared any kind of mess.

After awhile, Willow held up her hands in protest as Tara started to pass her another round of noodles. "I�m stuffed," she declared.

"Me, too!" Buffy grinned.

"Let�s clear this stuff and settle in for a round of movies," Tara suggested and started grabbing boxes and plates with Buffy gathering up bowls and boxes.

"Wish I could help," Willow complained. "I feel silly sitting in bed while you guys clean up."

"Don�t worry about it," Buffy grinned. "You can take a trip down the stairs later for your walk."

"Does that mean you�ll carry me back up the stairs?" Willow began blushing.

"Maybe," Buffy continued the grin and managed an impressive balancing act out the door with Tara a step behind her.

The rest of the evening for the three students relaxing watching rented movies, Buffy and Tara on either side of Willow and somehow leaning behind the computer geek so they could touch as well.

"This is nice," Willow said softly while one of the tapes rewound.

"I agree," Buffy said, bringing Willow�s hand to her lips and kissing the fingertips lightly.

The redhead giggled and Tara laughed a soft laugh. Buffy grinned at the blonde witch and ran her other hand through Tara�s hair.

Willow caught Tara�s intake of breath and her own quickening heart rate.

"Guys?" Willow said softly.

She glanced up into Buffy�s face and felt her breath quicken when she saw Buffy�s eyes a shade darker than usual and her eyelids looked heavier. Willow realized that the Slayer was aroused.

Willow was about to launch into another "we need to talk" bit when Buffy lowered her head and lightly kissed the redhead. Willow whimpered as sparks of energy dashed through her system. It felt like the rest of the world melted away as the kiss started out tentative but became more passionate as Buffy moaned and shifted her body even closer to Willow.

Buffy pulled back and leaned her forehead against Willow�s. "God, Wills," she whispered. "I�ve wanted to do that for so long."

"Me too," Willow agreed and then began blushing when she realized the arm around her waist was Tara on the other side of her. The redhead turned to face the other witch, her face fearful.

"Its okay, Willow," Tara said softly and leaned in to kiss Willow.

Willow felt like she was melting and once again cursed the cast on her arm, she wanted to hold and touch both of them.

The computer geek leaned back, panting slightly.

"That was very nice!" she stated.

"I agree," Buffy smiled.

"Me too," Tara concurred.

"I love you both," Willow whispered.

"Feeling�s mutual," Buffy smiled and drew Tara�s head to her for a kiss while they both held Willow.

The computer tech smiled and snuggled in between the two of them and basked in the energy flowing from them.

She smiled as Buffy�s hand played with hers and Tara�s arm tightened around her ribs as the kiss between the Slayer and witch intensified and Willow heard Tara moan and then break contact.

"Oh God, I� I need to slow down," Buffy whispered.

"Me too," Tara agreed.

Willow sighed a sigh of contentment. "Me too," she smiled. "Not ready for that heart rate."

Both Tara and Buffy were instantly attentive and Willow playfully shrugged their concerned protests about doing too much and apologies for causing her any pain and smiled.

"I�m fine, guys, honest!" she smiled. "It�s not out of control or anything, just beginning to race and it still hurts a little."

"Gods, Wills," Buffy whimpered. "I wouldn�t do anything to hurt you! Neither would Tara."

"I know that, just looking at either or both of you sends my pulse racing," Willow admitted and watched both of them blush. "If you two want to continue the kissing stuff then I need to move and lower my thermostat."

"Well how about another movie and snuggles?" Buffy suggested and was greeted with approving clapping from Tara and a wave from a one-armed Willow.

The Slayer laughed delightedly and went to put in another tape into the VCR.

"This feels good," Buffy said with a shy smile. "It doesn�t happen often. Thank you."

"Hey, our pleasure," Tara grinned.

"Then let�s continue it before Buffy has to go back to patrolling tomorrow night and I have to start catching up on classes tomorrow," Willow suggested. "More snuggles!"

Buffy grinned and leaped onto the bed to the squeals of laughter from Willow and Tara.

None of them mentioned the upcoming full moon in two and a half weeks.

October 16

It was well after midnight when Joyce and Giles peaked into the room they had established Willow in and both of them first shook their heads and then smiled at the sight of three figures on Willow�s bed. They both figured the girls had fallen asleep watching videos given they were all on top of the covers and still dressed with the TV on.

Joyce smiled and walked quietly into the room and glanced down at her daughter and, apparently, at the two women she was in love with. Buffy, her senses sharper than the others, opened her eyes and smiled when she saw it was her mom and closed her eyes again. Willow was still in between the other two women and facing Tara, her good arm draped over Tara�s waist. Buffy was snuggled up against Willow�s back, her own arm thrown over Willow�s ribs.

Joyce turned off the television and pulled a blanket over the women.

Continue to Part 5

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