Fragile by Magenta

DISCLAIMERS: I don�t know any Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. Joss Whedon, et al, do. I�m just borrowing and I promise to return them...eventually...okay, so Tara�ll be missing for a while, but she�ll be returned as good as new...and happy. ;)
The story is mine...copyright 2002 Kimyoo Films.I don�t own any of the songs whose lyrics I�ve used. The titles, and the albums they came from, are listed below:
"The Fragile" by Trent Reznor (halo 14, Fragile)
"You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" by Meat Loaf (Bat Out of Hell)
"Suck" by Trent Reznor (halo 5, Broken)
"Outside the Rain" by Stevie Nicks (Bella Donna)
"Joga" by Bjork (Homogenic)
"An Echo, A Stain" by Bjork (Vespertine)
SPOILERS: Up to and including all that�s already aired in season six, but this is definitely A/U.
RATING: Strong PG-13 to R for f/f situations.
PAIRING: Typical canon couplings.
NOTES: First of all, I should be working on my script, but this song and this idea keeps me away. So, I�m going to make both myself and my Muses happy by writing this out, then returning to my script.
And...secondly, yes, I know I�m twisted and it�s so totally not a necrophilia thing, but I would LOVE to see Amber Benson all vamped out.
SYNOPSIS: Tara is Turned and wants Willow, who could restore her soul...if she were practicing magick...
"The Fragile" by Magenta - the_AURYN@angelfire.com
http://www.angelfire.com/tv/thexwpauryn/buffy/btvs_index.html

~~~~~

She shines
In a world full of ugliness.

"Tara...no..." the redhead whispered, the air knocked out of her lungs by the sight of what was in front of her.

She matters
When everything is meaningless.

Willow fell to her knees in sadness and defeat. Six feet away from her stood her Tara, now a blood-sucking vampire-fiend. Gone were her innocent RenFest-style clothes, replaced by slinky, sexy black velvet, leather and lace. Tara�s always been beautiful, heart-stoppingly, omigod-ingly, droolingly so...but now she was not only hot...but she was confident...and dangerous.

Fragile
She doesn�t see her beauty
She tries to get away...

The ridged brow and fangs of the daemon inside Tara excited Willow. The redhead quickly chided herself for her lust of her suddenly undead ex-girlfriend...her Tara.

Sometimes
It�s just that nothing seems worth saving
I can�t watch her slip away...

"Hello Willow," the vampire purred, her voice sending rivulets of fear and desire up and down the former Wicca�s spine.

"Tara...wha-? What happened?"

The Tara-vamp gave her living ex-lover her near trademark half smile, sending Willow�s hormones into a tizzy. As the redhead slowly backed away and stood up, the blonde vampire advanced on her prey, eventually pinning her against a nearby wall. The Tara-vamp pressed her deathly cool body against the increasingly warm one of her ex and leaned down to her neck to take in her scent.

"I couldn�t sleep a few nights ago and decided to try to see you," the vampire said as she switched sides. "I needed to be near you, to smell you, to feel your silky skin...and I thought I could defend myself...I�ve been a Scooby for long enough to know how to protect myself at night." The Tara-vamp giggled, then pulled back to look into Willow�s eyes, searching her soul for everything. "But She found me... She Turned me. She wanted me...and now I want you..."

Willow closed her eyes as desire and disgust overwhelmed her. "There won�t be any asking...will there...?"

Tara smiled. "What is it you told me Faith said? �Want, take, have�? I want you. I�ll take you. I�ll have you."

But the vampire did nothing. Willow could still feel her pressed against her heated flesh and thus pressing her against the cool brick wall behind her. She opened her eyes and looked at the Tara-vamp, who had changed from her game face back into the face of her beloved.

I won�t let you fall apart

Willow reached up and caressed Tara�s cheek, her blue eyes closing in pleasure. "I love you, Willow...I�ve always loved you, even, or perhaps especially, while we were apart..."

The redhead, though her instincts were screaming at her to not do it, leaned forward and brushed her lips against the cool, full ones that belonged to the one person in all the world who made her the happiest, that made her feel desirable and beautiful, who held her heart and soul in her hands...her Tara.

In that moment, Willow knew what she had to do. She pulled back from the sweet kiss, the reunion she�d been dreaming of, and said, "You want me? Then take me to have...forever."

She reads the minds of all the people as they pass her by
Hoping someone will see
If I could fix myself I'd - but it's too late for me

She brought their lips together again and felt as Tara changed into her game face, caressing her girlfriend�s fangs as they sprouted, her blood charged with the fear and eroticism of it all. The blonde pulled away to penetrate Willow�s neck with her fangs when, suddenly, she was torn away from the redhead.

Confused, and even a touch angry, Willow opened her eyes to focus on the cause of the interruption: her best friend and vampire slayer, Buffy.

Vampire.

Slayer.

Tara.

Buffy.

I won�t let you fall apart.

"NO! STOP!" the redhead shouted at the Chosen One as she advanced to fight, and ultimately dust, her best friend�s ex-girlfriend.

Buffy, in confusion, turned towards Willow to make sure she hadn�t already been Turned. Tara, using the distraction to her advantage, smiled at the redhead, then swept Buffy�s legs out from under her. She then ran as fast as her feet could carry her, away from the Slayer and her ex-girlfriend.

"Bloody hell, Will!" Buffy chided as she stood and dusted herself off. She looked after the Tara-vamp as she ran away. She really didn�t want to go after her...

"Okay, no more getting off on Spike �cause he�s rubbing off on you," the redhead returned. Her jovial tone not only surprised the Slayer, but it shocked the Hacker.

Buffy walked up to her and jerked her around by her elbow so she could look into her friend�s eyes. "Willow, do you even know what was about to happen? You were about to get Turned. What the Hell are you doing out here alone and unprotected at night?"

The Hacker opened her jacket and took out the cross and holy water she had on her and handed them over. "I was protected...and I wasn�t alone... I came out here because she came into the Magic Box to tell me that she needed to talk to me."

"If you had this stuff, why didn�t you use it?"

Willow looked into Buffy�s eyes. "It�s Tara," she said, then turned and started to walk away.

"Yeah, it�s Tara and she�s now a vampire...do you think she wants to exist like that, Will?"

The redhead thought about how she�d feel if she were to be Turned into the evil, skanky vampire self she�d been witness to...in a whole new light since she was absolutely sure she was indeed "kinda gay" and replied, "No, I don�t...but I can�t live without her, Buffy..."

We'll find the perfect place to go where we can run and hide
I'll build a wall and we can keep them on the other side
...but they keep waiting
...and picking...

"So then...where are we going?" the Slayer asked.

"To the Magic Box...I want to talk to Giles and why not have Anya pay for the long distance bills?"

Buffy allowed herself a small smile, that faded away as a new thought occurred to her. "You were going to let her Turn you, weren�t you?"

Willow turned towards Buffy, but kept walking. "Yes," she answered, her green eyes not leaving the Slayer�s hazel for a moment. Once her point was clear, without having to say it, she looked away.

" �On a hot summer night...would you offer your neck to the wolf with the red roses?� "

"What�d you say, Will?" Buffy asked, too wrapped up in her thoughts to have heard her friend.

"Oh...nothing..."

(It's something I have to do)
I won't let you fall apart (I was there, too)
I won't let you fall apart (before everything else)
I won't let you fall apart (I was like you)
I won't let you fall apart...

*****

Tara stopped running, knowing almost instinctually that she wasn�t being hunted and smiled.

*She tasted good, even better than before, if that were possible,* she thought to herself, unconsciously licking her lips. She reverted to her human form and walked out of the shadows towards the Bronze.

*And she was going to give herself to me...if Buffy hadn�t so rudely interrupted us. Not that I blame the Slayer. I would have done the same in her position.*

There is no god up in the sky tonight
No sign of heaven anywhere in sight
All that was true is left behind
Once I could see now I am blind
Don't want your dreams you try to sell
This disease I give to myself

The doorman, a vampire by the name of Cyrus, nodded his head to her in recognition, and let her walk in free-of-charge. Being a creature of the night had its perks.

How does it feel?
How does it feel?

The crowd parted like the Red Sea before the newly minted vampire. Even the unTurned could feel the power roiling off of Tara...even though they didn�t understand it. She looked her potential prey up and down, sizing them up. Cattle, pure cattle. She caught sight of her Sire dancing with an adventurous couple and was beckoned over.

�No women,� she told her Sire the first time she lured prey for her. �Willow is my one and only.�

She makes it sweeter than the sun
I get too tight I come undone
I bow my head to confess
The temple walls are made of flesh
Runs up my arms 'till I'm on track
Itches my skin right off my back
I'll heal your wounds
I'll set you free
I'm Jesus Christ on ecstasy

Tara sidled up to her Sire, who greeted her by saying, "�ere you are, pet...where �ave you been? Miss Edith and I �ave been worried about you..."

The blonde smiled at her as she took control of the man. "Just lost track of time, Dru..."

Tara looped her arms around the man�s neck and asked, "What�s your name?"

"Eric," he replied nervously. "Yours?"

"Tara. You don�t look to happy with what�s going on...why is that?"

Eric looked back at his girlfriend, who was having the time of her life with Druscilla. "My girlfriend, Jane, wants to experiment with women...and she wants me to do whatever I want while she�s experimenting...but I don�t want to cheat on her..."

Tara smiled in vampy understanding. "Don�t worry...it�s not cheating to just dance with someone..."

How does it feel?
How does it feel?

Eric smiled, put at ease by Tara�s kindness and generosity, and he lead her in a dance in which they got no closer than a hand apart...a Michael Jordan sized hand, that is. The blonde could feel the hunger begin in the pit of her stomach, but knew that she had to wait for her Sire�s signal that her young thing was ready.

Suck (suck)
Suck (suck)
Suck (suck)
Suck (suck)

She was always told by the Scooby gang that Druscilla was nuttier than a can of Planters, but hadn�t found that to be true at all. Perhaps Tara�s own trip into madness, via Glorificus, made her understand the rambling�s of the mad that much better.

"Come along, then, pretties...Miss Edith wants to go to the park," Dru announced as she lead Jane out by the hand. The panic-stricken look reappeared in Eric�s eyes as he looked down at Tara.

"Don�t worry...we�ll just talk," she reassured.

A thousand lips a thousand tongues
A thousand throats a thousand lungs
A thousand ways to make it true
I want to do terrible things to you

Soon thereafter, the two of them trailed Dru and Jane out of the Bronze. The blonde vampire�s smile was the personification of seductive evil as they walked to the park. When she finally got Eric relaxed enough to kiss him, and to feed from him, she knew, down to the marrow of her bones she knew, that Willow would be next and with her forever.

*****

Willow stared at the swirls the cream was making in her coffee as Buffy called Giles in London. The Slayer insisted she do it because she wanted Anya to be mad with her if she were going to get mad...or so she said. Willow was smart, she could read between the lines and knew that Buffy wanted a chance to tell Giles that the Hacker was going to give herself to her undead lover.

*He�s gonna tear me a new one,* she thought to herself, *but...it�s Tara... I just hope what I�m thinking will work...*

"Will?" the Slayer asked, gently pull the Hacker from her musings. She smiled, put down her mug, and walked over to Buffy, who held the cordless out for her.

"How mad is he?" Willow asked, calmly.

"Not very..."

The Hacker smiled as her friend walked away to give her some privacy. "Hey there, Giles. How ya doin�?"

"What the hell were you thinking, giving yourself to a vampire like that, you could have been killed! It�s a lucky thing that Buffy came along when she did or else you�d be dead right now..."

he shouted. The Hacker moved the phone arm�s length from her ear and she could still hear the ticked off Brit as if he were in the room with her.

"Giles, that was the point! A life without Tara isn�t life at all!" she shouted to stop his tirade, pulling the phone back to her ear. "But it doesn�t matter now because I have a plan. I just need your help."

"What do you need?"

he asked. She could tell by his tone that he still had more he wanted to say, but that he was finished yelling at her for now.

"I want you to do the soul restoration spell on Tara," Willow replied.

The former Watcher sighed. "Why can�t you do it, Willow? Why haven�t you done it already?"

*Geez...hasn�t anyone told him...?* "Oh c�mon...you know why," she said.

"No, I don�t believe I do,"

he said, his voice strained with impatience.

*Wow...he�s really mad,* she thought. "Surely someone�s told you..."

"Told me what? This is the first call I�ve gotten from you all in a little over two months,"

he responded anxiously.

Willow sighed. "I can�t believe no one�s told you this... I, uh...hurt people, Giles," she informed, her voice quivering as images of the recent past flashed by her mind�s eye. "And I�ve given up magick...no more spells, no chants, no candle burning rituals, no Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic or Melissa Joan Hart Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch teenybopper sitcom hilarity. Not even a dose of The Wizard of Oz, not that I would watch it anyway, but you know...I�m completely free of magick, except for this one time, after I de-ratted Amy, she tried to make me use magick again, but she cast the spell on me, not me casting the spell, and I couldn�t control it because it wasn�t me, it was her, but I didn�t do anything..."

"Willow, Willow...Anya�s going to, as you all say, wig out when she gets this phone bill... I understand what you�re telling me,"

he said, all anger and impatience gone, replaced by the tenderness of a father who could fill in the blanks until he heard the absolute truth...once he arrived back in Sunnydale.

"I can�t do the spell, Willow...not without you,"

he informed. She could almost hear him cleaning his glasses.

"I can�t do it, Giles," she informed, her voice made soft by the guilt she still felt. "Please..."

"No one who has a connection with Tara is powerful enough in the Craft...except you. But I�m coming back to Sunnydale...I�ll try to catch a flight out tomorrow and see what we can do, okay?"

he soothed. "I�ll call you when I know my flight number and everything."

"Okay," she replied. "Thank you, Giles..."

"Don�t thank me yet, Willow...we haven�t done anything..."

he said. "See you soon."

"Bye." She hit the talk button, then tossed the cordless onto one of the nearby chairs. Tiredly, she rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and pushed down the tears that threatened to overwhelm her.

"Buffy?" Willow called out.

The Slayer came from the shadows of her training room, her hands taped up as if she had started to exercise. "Yeah, Will? What�s up?"

"Giles is coming back to see if he can, if we can, work something out since I don�t do magick anymore...he should be here in a few days," she replied, slumping into a chair in exhaustion.

"You ready to go home, then?" the Slayer asked.

"Definitely..."

Willow stood and, with her head down, she followed the Slayer out of the store and back home.

*****

Two separate beings formed into one writhing mass. Hot breath mingled with cooling sweat as hands explored familiar flesh. Would the ache ever be sated? She hoped not...

Blonde hair fanned out over the creamy white skin of Willow�s thighs as they were lifted onto strong shoulders. The redhead, her eyes closed under the intense pleasure and love that coursed through her system, put a hand onto the head and gently entwined her fingers with the golden tresses.

Wanting to see her lover, to make sure it was real, Willow opened her eyes and looked down to see Tara, fangs bared, smiling at her. The undead Wicca turned her head to kiss the inside of her lover�s wrist, then returned her transformed gaze to the jade a few feet away from her.

The Hacker smiled and pushed Tara�s head back down, closing her eyes as she felt her lover�s fangs pierce the skin of her inner thigh just as the blonde sent her over the edge of pleasure...

*knock knock knock*

"Will? Are you okay?"

*Gotta hide Tara...Buffy�ll dust her, then I�ll be alone,* she thought.

"You�ll never be alone, Willow..." the blonde purred as she licked the redhead�s blood from her lips and smiled.

"Willow, open up, it�s Buffy."

Jolted out of her dream, Willow nearly screamed in frustration. Angry, she threw herself out of the bed, stalked over to the door and opened it, giving her best friend a look of death.

"Y�know, Buffy...you flipped out when I told you about Tara and I, you wanna stake her now that she�s a vampire, and now you�re even interrupting my sex dreams about her...I�m beginning to think you�re jealous. I�ll talk to you later. G�night," she said, closing the door in a surprised and embarrassed Slayer�s face.

Willow then walked back over to the bed and flopped down on it. The tears came from nowhere, as if they�d been stalking her the entire time. The rest of the night was sleepless as her body shook with uncontrollable sobs mourning her girlfriend.

*****

It took Giles longer than he expected to arrive in Sunnydale, due to inquiries about his visit and certain books and objects in his suitcases and trunk...but a few quiet rogue Council members, friends of Giles� and admirers of Buffy and the Scoobies, stepped in to help the Watcher through the American customs.

Outside the rain
And the heart skips a beat
So you�re lonely?

Buffy had been ordered by Giles, something he never did before, to confine Willow to a hotel room and to make sure she didn�t invite her vampiric ex-lover in, since the Summers house was open to Tara. The Slayer wouldn�t have left the Hacker alone anyway...

Giles also ordered Buffy to not kill Tara, a request that bothered the Slayer to no end. She knew he and Willow were up to something, but they wouldn�t tell her what it was for fear that something might go wrong... It wasn�t that Buffy didn�t want Tara back, but if she knew that they were trying to restore Tara�s soul and it didn�t work and the Slayer didn�t know and turned her back on her...well...things would be very bad...

Creature of the night
It�s been almost a week
Can you love me only?

Tara knew where the Slayer had taken Willow. She stayed outside the hotel for as long as she could, taking no sustenance, even when Druscilla brought her a little puppy or a kitten, standing well out of anyone�s line of sight from the window Tara staked out...so to speak.

Look at me for a very long time
Long enough to know
Love is a word - I�ve been trying to find
Words don�t matter
They don�t matter at all

Tara tried to communicate with Willow through telepathy, but found herself blocked. It frustrated her, but she knew it was only because the redhead had given up magick.

*When we�re together again,* the Tara-vamp thought, *you can use as much magick as you want...*

Maybe it�s only a dream
I don�t want to feel that
Well it�s one more link - in the chain
I don�t believe that

Willow hadn�t slept for a few days. Her dreams about Tara became torturous, more so than when they first broke up because these felt so real...and she knew, she knew, the Tara-vamp was having them, too.

So you�re still lonely
You say that it�s been forever
Maybe you never knew me -
Maybe you thought
That I�d never change - but
You know I�m changing
- You�re wrong -

Giles was due to arrive within the hour which was good because the sun was also due to set within that time. She didn�t want to worry about him, too. Buffy paced anxiously, one eye constantly watching Willow while, with one hand, she nervously twirled Mr. Pointy.

And it�s been like dying -
No love�s that hard to find -
And I�m tired of -
I�m tired of trying.

The redhead again rubbed her bleary eyes and watched the sun descend below the horizon. Her had throbbed with the pain of no sleep and too much thinking. She loved Tara, she would do anything for Tara, and would do anything in order to be with Tara...forever. She was close to losing everything so she could do that...

*Please hurry, Giles... I want to try this before I give the rest of me over to her...*

Outside the rain
And the heart skips a beat
So you�re lonely.

"Why don�t you try to get some sleep, Will?" Buffy asked as she sat on the bed facing the Hacker.

"Are you going to be in the room?" she asked, mysteriously to Buffy...Willow just knew where her dreaming mind would take her and didn�t want Buffy there for that.

Frowning, the Slayer replied, "Yes..."

Willow laughed without mirth. "Then I�ll stay awake, thank you..." The redhead returned her gaze to the spot Tara would occupy in half an hour, once the deadly sunlight was well hidden by the line of the earth.

Look in my eyes
Touch my face
Baby there�s no one
That can take my place

"What has happened to you, Will?" the Slayer asked rhetorically.

"My soulmate�s been Turned, Buffy, and I wasn�t there to stop it. She was coming to see me the night she was Turned. Everything...everything, is my fault..." the Hacker sobbed.

Buffy sighed. "You can�t blame yourself because she made the decision to go out alone at night, Willow. if you want to blame someone, maybe you should blame me. I mean, I�m the Slayer, right? And where was I?" The Slayer frowned as she thought about where she was, or could have been. The thought pierced her heart...

*I was with Spike...*

Before Willow could retort, or Buffy could say anything more, a knock sounded on the door. The Slayer, vowing to take the issue up again later, went to the door and checked the peephole: Giles had arrived.

"Good timing, Giles...sun�s just about to go down," she said as she opened the door to admit the former Watcher, then close it tight behind him.

"Yes, well, you can blame that on being British..." he replied as he dropped his bags and wrapped the Slayer in a hug.

Willow stared out of the window and watched as her undead lover walked up and sat in her spot. She looked emaciated...hungry...tired, but her eyes sparkled once she saw Willow�s emerald gaze.

Look in my eyes, touch my face
Baby there�s no one that
Can ever replace that - heartache.
Take away that heartache

"Is Tara out there, Willow?" Giles asked, already knowing the answer. The exhausted looking redhead turned toward him and smiled warmly.

"Yeah...she�s out there-"

"That�s good because I haven�t found anything, any other way, to restore her soul. It�s better that she�s right outside because then Buffy doesn�t have to hunt her down..." he said, taking a cue from Anya and leaving tact back on the plane. Both Buffy and Willow turned to him in amazement, to argue the point until they turned blue if they had to.

"Look, I want to save Tara as much as both of you, but there is nothing we can do since Willow can�t do the spell..." he replied, tired from his long journey and not wanting to get into an argument right off the bat with two of his pseudo-daughters.

"But Giles, there�s gotta be a way-"

"I�ll do it..."

"-I mean, you�re the bookman, Will�s the bookwoman, there�s gotta be some incredibly rare text that has some incredibly old spell that no one�s heard of for years-"

"I�ll do it..."

"-that can bring Tara�s soul back and we won�t need Willow�s powers. I mean, we haven�t exhausted all the avenues-"

"Buffy, I�ve done everything, I�ve checked everywhere, no one in the Council who still speaks to me, that is, knows of anything other than what we used on Angel to restore a vampire�s soul...don�t you think I tried to find something else? Something that wouldn�t require Willow...which, I�m very angry that I didn�t hear about before, by the way-"

"Dammit, I said I�ll do it!" the Hacker shouted. "I�m about this far away-" she said, holding her index and thumb up with nary a space between then, "-from jumping through that window and begging Tara to Turn me right now. I�ll do the spell."

"But Willow," Buffy started to argue. "You�ve been doing so well...are you willing to go through all that again?"

Willow turned back toward the window, and her undead Tara. "For her, I would do anything...I�ve already lost her and she�s my everything. I can live knowing that she won�t die, even if she gets so mad at me for breaking my promise that she leaves and never looks back...that she�ll still here. Without her...?"

Giles sighed, and gave Willow a supportive smile. "Then let�s get started, okay?" With that, Giles opened the door and dragged his trunk into the hotel room and they began the preparations for the spell.

Love is a word that some entertain
If you find it
You have won the game...

*****

All the accidents that happen
Follow the dot
Coincidence makes sense
Only with you
You don�t have to speak
I feel
Emotional landscapes
They puzzle me

Suddenly, the block on Willow�s mind was removed. It surprised Tara. She went inside the redhead�s mind and discovered their plan for her. She couldn�t run and she couldn�t do anything to stop them from restoring her soul...so she sat there, in the half-lotus position, and welcomed the new phase of her immortality.

Then the riddle gets solved and you push me up to this
State of emergency
How beautiful to be
State of Emergency
Is where I want to be...

Willow closed her eyes and concentrated on the spell. casting was like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it, but you do get a little rusty if you haven�t for a while. She discovered that she didn�t really need Giles, but he was a great anchor.

She could feel Tara in her mind, and feel how easily she accepted her new fate.

*I love you so much, Tara...I just hope I�m doing the right thing...*

All that no one sees
You see
What�s in side of me
Every nerve that hurts you heal
Deep in side of me
You don�t have to speak - I feel
Emotional landscapes
They puzzle me
Confuse

The Tara-vamp could feel the burning white light of her soul being restored. It started in her feet and the tips of her fingers and moved inwards, burning the daemon into an isolated corner of her body. Her returning soul also brought recognition of the situation, that she was now a vampire and that Willow was restoring her soul.

Her heart ached with the knowledge, not because Willow broke her promise...but because she was the reason why she did.

*I�m so sorry, Tara. Giles couldn�t do it and there was nothing to do...I couldn�t let Buffy dust you, I just couldn�t...even if you never ever speak to me again, I wanted you to still be here...just the mere sight of you scrubs away the dirt caked onto my soul and fills me with hope for the future and gives me the strength I need... I love you, Tara...always and forevermore...*

"I love you, too, Willow," the blonde vampire whispered.

Then the riddle gets solved and you push me up to this
State of emergency
How beautiful to be
State of emergency
Is where I want to be...

The burning moved inward from her limbs and met at her heart, then moved upward toward her head. Though the actual restoration took half an hour, it felt like an eternity that her soul blazed its way back into her body, purifying it enough to house both the soul and the daemon.

Released from the ravenous grasp of the daemon, Tara fell forward onto the earth, her unnecessary breathing heavy and hard, as though she�d just run a marathon... Old habits die hard...

Druscilla watched the proceedings from her spot next to her Childe. "Welly welly welly welly well, Miss Edith...we�ve never see anyfing like that before, �ave we now? Li�tle Tara�s got �er soul back now, does she?"

Unbeknownst to Druscilla, Buffy, Willow and Giles were running out of the hotel towards Tara. The blonde, her game face on, turned toward her Sire and stood, her posture exuding the menace she felt. "You did this to me...to us..."

Druscilla stood and backed away, clutching her raggedy doll, Miss Edith, close. Tara advanced on her Sire, in spite of her girlfriend�s approach.

"Druscilla?" Buffy asked in disbelief, gripping Mr. Pointy that much tighter.

"My Childe�s gone wonky...she�s the only one �ho�s understood me and Miss Edith...even William couldn�t get the meaning to my madness...and you�ve broken �er..." the crazy vampire said before catching a whiff of something on the wind.

Druscilla canted her head to the side. "That Spike�s a fun one to play wif, isn�t he, Slayer? Be careful, lest you lose more of your precious Scoobies and there�ll be no more Spin the Bot�le..."

"Buffy!!"

Just as the Slayer advanced to dust her long-time nemesis, Tara fell to the ground clutching her stomach in pain. Druscilla took the distraction of the Slayer�s attention and disappeared.

"I�ll kill you, Druscilla...that�s a promise," Buffy whispered, her vow carried on the breeze to not only the ears of her long-time nemesis, but to her currently very conflicted boytoy...Spike. Seeing Tara in such familiar pain, he put aside his confusion and rushed to her.

"Tara? Baby? What�s wrong?" Willow asked, terrified that something went awry with the spell.

"She�s �ungry, red..." Spike announced as he sidled up while lighting a cigarette. He put his zippo back into his pocket and fished out a packet of blood he swiped from a hospital a few minutes ago. He tossed it to Willow. "Give �er that."

Sparing a grateful look towards Spike, Willow opened the top of the little packet and lifted it to Tara�s lips, lips that refused to drink. "Honey, you have to...please..."

The pleading tone, and her own ravenous hunger, were too much for Tara. She vamped out and drank from the packet. The cool, though fresh, blood infused her body with strength, but not as much as she felt after the first few victims.

Thoughts about those whom she killed crowded out everything and made her stomach turn over, though it didn�t rid itself of the sustenance it just received.

"Oh god...�ere comes the guilt. I can�t stay �ere for this, sorry, mate," Spike rolled his eyes and started to walk away, only to be followed by a very pissed off Slayer.

"Why didn�t you tell me Druscilla was back in town?" she demanded, accusatorially

"�ell, if I�d known, you�ve known, pet," he replied. "We�ve got bigger worries than you might think... Dru doesn�t like losing Children unless they�ve been returned to the dust from whence they came..."

Spike took a meaningful look back at Tara, then down at himself. "We�re the only two �o�ve got�en away," he pointed out, meeting Buffy�s eyes with his. He wanted more than anything to touch the Slayer, to cradle her face, but not with Giles around...he�s worse than a father and his weary eyes were already trained on Spike and how close he and Buffy stood together.

"Go back to your friends, Slayer...blondie number two needs you," he said before he walked away, taking a long drag from his cigarette. Buffy watched him go until the shadows swallowed him up. The last thing she saw of him before she turned away was the burning end of his cigarette as he flicked it away.

Meanwhile, Willow had repositioned Tara to lay back against her legs. Part of her reveled in the feel of her lover�s body against hers, then instantly remanded herself for thinking like that and not concentrating on doing something to help her.

"I�ll, uh, be over here," Giles announced as Buffy came close. Willow smiled at his considerate nature, then looked down at her cold girlfriend, who trembled and cried. She smoothed back blonde locks and resisted the urge to kiss the top of her head, sure that such contact from a promise-breaker such as herself would be completely unwanted.

"Willow...why...?" Tara asked.

"Shh...you can be mad at me once you have to strength to do so, but for now, just relax, okay?"

"I�m not mad at you...I�m just not worth you losing everything you�ve worked so hard for," the blonde whispered, her throat choked by tears.

Willow turned around to look Tara in the eyes, laying down beside her, against her cool flesh. "Never ever think that, baby. You�re worth everything good. If I had to, I�d do it again...because it�s you...my only love."

"Oh Willow, Willow...I�m so sorry, please forgive me, I so sorry..." the blonde cried as she curled into the willing protection of the redhead�s body and let her sobs take over.

"You have nothing to be sorry for, baby, I�m the one who�s sorry, for everything, but I�ve been magick free for five minutes and I think I can even beat my last record..."

"I love you I love you I love you I love you..." they chanted in unintentional unison.

Buffy wiped her tears from her face as her friends made up and made vows... *I�ve ruined her...it�s my fault...*

"Buffy, I think we need to talk," Giles said.

"Yeah...we do, but not right now. How long are you here?" she asked.

Giles sighed. "How long do I have to be here?"

With a look communicating what she didn�t want to say, Buffy walked over to Tara and Willow and gathered them up to take them home.

The former Watcher looked up to the starry night sky as if looking for guidance for a situation he knew nothing about...yet... Then he looked at his surrogate daughters and walked over to help get them home.

~~~~~~~~FiN~~~~~~~~

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