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Lovers and Lies

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Lovers and Lies by Lilachigh

 

 

Written for Elysian Fields Banner Challenge.

 

Season Six - ish

Chapter One: “Does everyone know?”

Willow sat upright in bed and stared at her lover who was sitting in front of the mirror, brushing her hair. “Buffy has slept with Spike!” Her voice ended with a squeak which was so not in keeping with her desired ‘I am a powerful woman, hear me speak’ .

Tara spun round, guilt written all over her face. “Oh, no. It was a secret. I didn’t mean to tell you. It just slipped out. But then, we don’t have secrets between us, do we. And you won’t mention it to Buffy, will you? Because she is upset about everything as it is.”

“Did he attack her? I mean, the chip and....”

Tara bit her lip. “No, I think....now don’t be angry, Will, but I think they have feelings for each other.”

“Feelings! He’s a vampire! I thought we’d finished all that nonsense with Angel.” The jealousy and anger inside her fought to escape. Having secrets meant having power. She didn’t want Tara to have either.

Tara turned away and picked up her hair-brush again. “It’s sort of nice for Buffy, in an odd way. To have a partner who’s nearly her equal in strength and....I don’t know....not being ordinary.”

“So, not just a one time thing?”

“No, I think it’s like, you know, when they’re together.”

Willow didn’t reply. She gazed round the bedroom - she still found it difficult to think of it as “their” room. It had been Joyce Summer’s and although all her possessions had long been packed away by Dawn and Buffy, it still retained her character, her warmth. The drapes had been chosen by her, the quilt on the bed was one she’d made. Willow still felt a guest in what should have been her own domain. And she hated it.

She wished Tara would hurry up and come to bed. She needed to show her who was the leader in their partnership, who was in charge. Sometimes she wondered if Tara really understood how powerful she was becoming. She loved Tara, of course she did, but sometimes the other witch wasn’t as quick at working things out as Willow would have liked. She was so good, that was the problem, of course. Not that good wasn’t good. But, oh sometimes Willow longed for her to rebel, to say no to whatever her lover suggested, to make a stand, argue, rush out of the room, banging the door behind her. But Tara would never do that. She would discuss, not fight: debate, not yell or do some magic that was just a shade darker, a hint more dangerous.

Tara slipped into bed, her head nestled against Willow’s shoulder.

“So, how long have you known?”

There was a silence and then, “Oh, not long. Buffy was worried about it. We talked. That’s all. She said not to tell anyone, but then you’re her best friend, so that’s cool.”

And long after Tara had fallen asleep, Willow lay staring into the dark, welcoming it into her mind. Buffy had talked to Tara, not to her! Best friend? Had she ever been that? Buffy and Spike were lovers. Was she the last to know? Were Xander and Anya having little bedtime chats about it? And Giles! Did even Dawn know before her?

Eyes aching, every muscle in her body taut with an anger and jealousy that wouldn’t be denied, she longed for morning to arrive. She was desperate to talk to Xander. He was an even older friend than Buffy: she couldn’t believe that he would have kept this news from her. But the little voice inside her head that told her that Buffy would always come first with Xander, went on and on, insistently, all night long. And the dark magic power that she was beginning to love so much, built and built, longing for release.

Buffy limped into the house the next morning, hair dishevelled, her lips swollen, eye-lids heavy, aching in places she never knew she had places. She sat at the kitchen table, wondering if she had the energy to pour herself a glass of juice. How could she let him do those things to her? How could she possibly enjoy them so much? Her jeans rubbed against her and she almost groaned, realising that once again her panties had long gone, torn away by hard thin fingers that quested, found and gave her such pleasure she thought she might die, again! And what was worse than behaving like this was that she knew it wasn’t just the physical side of her being with Spike that was so good. She liked hanging out with him, enjoyed his conversation, the way he knew what she was thinking, often before she knew herself.

But that was bad - weird. She was probably still recovering from the whole being dragged out of heaven thingie. And you did strange things were you weren’t fully back to being normal Buffy girl.

“How was patrolling?”

She glanced up, blinking at Willow’s sudden appearance. The red-head had an odd expression on her face. “Oh, OK. Busy. Lots of running and fighting and - well, you know.”

“Did someone punch you on your mouth? Your lips are are swolleny.”

Buffy fought to keep the colour from mounting into her cheeks. She knew only too well why her lips were swollen and from what they’d been doing to get that way! “Oh, yeah. Vamp. Got too close. Staked him finally.”

“Best thing to do with vamps.” Willow’s words sounded strained, almost sarcastic. “I mean, you wouldn’t want to be friends with one, would you? Even Spike.”

“Mmmm.” Buffy couldn’t think of a sensible reply. The best thing to do with her own particular vamp was to pull him down on top of her on his wide, crimson covered bed in the darkness of his crypt, lit only by a few flickering candles that turned her body from white to gold to rose as he plundered it...on and on and on....

She jumped up. “Must shower. Dawn will be up soon. Breakfast...pancakes...see you later, Will.” And raced for the privacy of her own room.

The day passed slowly, every hour adding to Willow’s sense of frustration. Buffy was elusive, Xander was at Giles’ apartment; apparently he was building him a whole wall of bookshelves. Tara had decided today would be a good time to clean the house from top to bottom and just frowned when Willow said it would be far quicker and easier just to magic it done. Wherever Anya was she had no idea and didn’t care. She was just impatient for the evening to arrive because apparently they were all having pizza together before Buffy went off the Double-Meat for her night time shift.

She’d made a plan. Wait until everyone was there and then confront Buffy about her involvement with Spike. Then she would see who knew and who didn’t. It was all so clear and straightforward in her mind. She would suggest that Buffy spent more time at home with her and Tara. Surely there was no need to patrol every night! She had rescued her friend from Heaven - and although everyone now thought she’d been wrong to do so, she recalled quite bitterly that no one had voiced those opinions whilst she was working on the devastatingly difficult spell that she’d needed to accomplish bringing Buffy back from the dead.

But somehow her plan didn’t work out. The response she got to her statement that Buffy was spending too much time with Spike annoyed her beyond belief.

“Yes, yes, Willow. Not good for Buffy to patrol with Spike every night. She might get lazy, let him do all the work.”

“But Giles, they’re not just patrolling - are you, Buffy?”

“We....I....”

“Does Captain Peroxide have to feature in every conversation anyone has in this house?” Xander sighed. “So not interested. Now Giles, look at this diagram. If I move the window over an inch or two, we can....”

“Will - don’t!” Sitting next to her, Tara reached out to touch her hand in reproach, her eyes wide with anxious disapproval.

Giles had turned away and was bent over some sketches that Xander had produced, their heads close together, muttering about oak or cedar, nails and screws, brackets and polish and how long it would take before Xander could start on new closets in Giles’ bedroom.

“Vampires, like demons, can be very useful members of society,” Anya said briskly, munching on a slice of pizza. “Especially Spike, because of the chip. But most demons, even ex ones contribute in lots of little ways. I expect he is teaching Buffy all sorts of things.”

Willow glanced at Buffy whose face had gone scarlet. She knew she couldn’t even begin to imagine the sort of thing Spike was teaching her.

“Buffy - I need to take cookies into school tomorrow. Can you bake me some?” Dawn’s voice wasn’t exactly a whine, but the neediness crept under Willow’s skin. Her rational mind told her it was only Dawn trying to stay a child, to cling to the life she’d once had when she had a mother, but it was still so irritating.

“Why are you doing this, Willow?” Tara whispered. “It’s Buffy’s personal life, nothing to do with us.” She stretched out her hand across the table towards the Slayer. “I’m s...sorry, Buffy. Not our business what you do. We just want you to be happy.”

Willow felt a cold anger begin to flow through her. So Tara cared more about Buffy’s feelings than she did for hers. Why did everyone want to protect her? If she was sleeping with Spike then it was dangerous, as well as wrong. Very wrong. Why couldn’t Tara and the others see that?

“Do you really think having sex with Spike is going to lead to puppies and rainbows?” she said angrily.

Buffy tossed back her hair; fished a length of ribbon from a pocket and tied it back in a tight knot. “You wouldn’t understand,” she said, choosing the worst words she could have chosen when speaking to Willow.

“So, what are you? A couple, partners, lovers - ” The anger bubbled up again. “Oh, why not go the whole way, Buffy. Get engaged to Spike!” And she clicked her fingers twice, pushing all the magic she knew into her words.

“Willow - sweetheart - ”

“Oh Tara, stop being so good and understanding!” And the fingers clicked again.

And now she couldn’t stop, because it was all so easy and she could arrange everything just as she wanted. Xander and Giles looked up, startled. “And you two might as well be married to each other!” Click. Anya pushed back her chair and started round the table towards her. “Be gone - anywhere that isn’t here!” Click. And the ex-demon girl vanished.

Dawn spun round, her face a picture of scared puzzlement. “Willow - “ she began and then: “Dawnie, remember nothing about what happened this evening!” Click! Click!

 

tbc

Chapter Text

Lovers and Lies by Lilachigh

 

Chapter Two Aftermath

 

Willow woke up lying on the sofa, moaning softly - a splitting headache pounded away under her skull and she knew if she looked in a mirror her eyes would be bloodshot. There were traces of blood on the throw under her head - from her nose she guessed. How much magic had she used last night to get this reaction? She’d been getting so good lately; doing all sorts of things without any after effects at all so there must have been quite a lot of very strong spells, cast all at once.

And what the heck was she doing downstairs? Had she and Tara argued? She swung herself upright, biting her lip as more pain shot through her brain. Searching through her mind, she found a health charm and muttered it over and over again until the pain eased slightly and she was able to stand up and stumble into the kitchen to make coffee.

Fragments of memory began to come back to her. She’d been angry with Buffy and Spike, irritated by Anya about something - but that wasn’t new. Then there was a sort of blank and then she remembered forcing Dawn to forget what had happened - what the heck had happened! - and she had the nasty feeling that some of that spell had back-fired towards her, hence the gaps in her own memory.

She gulped down the coffee, made Tara one of the herbal teas she loved and carried it upstairs.

“Here, sweetie. Sorry I was such a pig last night but - ” she stopped as she walked into their room. The bed was as neat and tidy as ever, just as Tara had left it the day before. It was quite obvious that no one had slept in it. Willow felt a cold flood of fear run through her. So where was Tara? She must have been out all night! Anything could have happened to her.

Xander Harris woke up feeling warm and content. An arm was lying across his naked shoulders and in those few blurry seconds before he opened his eyes he thought he must tell....tell....someone that they were putting on weight and should perhaps use more skin cream because hey very rough in a demony sort of.....and then he wriggled round and smiled. His husband was lying next to him, snoring gently, face half buried in the pillow. Rupert Giles, tired out after a long night of passion that made Xander’s legs tremble just to think about. How lucky he was. Of all the guys in Sunnydale that Rupert could have chosen to marry, he was the one wearing his wedding band.

He glanced round their room remembering that today he was going to start work on their new closets. They were going to make this apartment such a happy home. Tonight Rupert was going to cook him his favourite meal which would be a step up from the pizza they’d had last night at Buffy’s.

He frowned as he dropped a kiss on the sleeping face and wriggled free from his husband’s embrace as he got out of bed. Buffy’s....last night....why did that memory make him uneasy? Oh yes, he remembered now - Willow had been upset about something, yes, Buffy and Spike seeing too much of each other. Well, he was sure his friend would soon realise that wasn’t sensible. And Dawnie had been whining about cookies, Tara had been unhappy about something and - well, there was no one else, of course. Just them. His friends. Their little circle. It was a great shame that they couldn’t all be as happy as he was with Rupert! He’d cook him bacon and eggs for breakfast. And pancakes. It was such a relief that Rupert didn’t want to eat strong smelling cheese in the morning. And he frowned because he couldn’t work out why that was a relief.

Rupert Giles lay very still, pretending to be asleep. He wanted to savour this moment; it gave him such unexpected pleasure to listen to his husband clattering about in the kitchen. There was something to endearing about his clumsiness. It was odd that when it came to making things out of wood, he wasn’t clumsy at all. He smiled into the pillow, remembering the night before. He hadn’t realised Xander had such passion, such an inventive mind for what they could do to each other. He wondered sleepily where he had learnt that trick with the candles...a very demony thing to do to your loved one, but incredibly stimulating and extremely sexy.

He rolled over - perhaps he’d just spend a few more minutes in bed. He hated to admit it but he wasn’t as young as Xander and needed to recover his energy. There was a busy day ahead of him - he remembered vaguely that Willow had been upset about Buffy and Spike spending time together. He’d go and see the vampire and find out exactly what he was playing at, patrolling with the Slayer. Then it would be time to think of shopping for new drapes in the living-room, and for dinner tonight, then TV, then bed and more of Xander’s little games. Giles held back a sigh and wondered fleetingly if he could possibly ask Willow or Tara for some little potion to er...enhance things in that department.

It was nearly noon when Tara woke, sunlight cutting through the gaps between the wooden planks that had been nailed across the windows to keep them shut. A beer bottle rattled across the floor as she rolled off the dirty mattress and rubbed her hands through - for a second she felt the world rock. For some reason she had expected to find long hair and instead there was the rough texture of the shorn locks that were so much less trouble and so less girly. On the far wall of the dingy room was a cracked mirror and she peered at herself, the cracks distorting her face into weird sections which was good because she hated how she usually looked - sort of pale and placid.

Turning, she kicked at a heap of clothes on the floor and remembered, vaguely, that she’d been wearing those the night before when she’d run out of Buffy’s house, angry with Willow, angry with all of them. She’d headed for an open all night store in the mall and it had taken her just minutes to grab the black T and dark red leather trousers she was wearing now. For an instant the question, “Did I pay for them?” flashed guiltily across her mind, then she shrugged. No, she hadn’t. That was good...that was okay. If she wanted something, she took it. That was her way of living, always had been, always would be. She remembered flashing a dark spell to cover everyone in the shop. No one would recall her or what had happened.

Why she’d been wearing a long skirt she had no idea. Must have been something Willow magiced her into doing. Suddenly she realised she’d picked up her old clothes for some reason and was carefully folding them neatly into a pile. Angrily, she threw them away again and swaggered out into the hot street: the old, rundown motel she’d slept in was empty and quiet. All of Sunnydale lay before her and she reckoned it was about time she had some fun. She’d spent the last months playing mom, keeping house, cooking, washing, ironing. All so Willow could play the big witch. Well, Willow had better look out because Tara knew only too well that she could be far badder than her lover if she chose to be. And today, she chose!

Dawn flounced through the front door and flung her book bag on the table. “I’m home! Tara, Willow - Buffy! I’m back.”

There was no reply, the house echoed back her voice, which of course was perfectly fine because hey, even though weird things had happened to her recently, she could be left alone in her own home for a couple of hours. Tara was probably at the market; Buffy would be out patrolling, although it wasn’t even dark yet and Willow was - Dawn blinked as a pain snagged inside her head. Not a headache, exactly, just a sharp pain as if thinking Willow’s name made something prick her brain. Ouch! There it was again.

“Dawn!”

She jumped. Someone was calling her name, but from a long way off.

“Dawn!”

Slowly she backed towards the door. OK, mega weird and she so wasn’t going to be on her own to reply to the voice. She reached the sidewalk in three long strides and felt better out in the open air. Should she cut across town to the cemetery and talk to Spike? He was sure to know where Buffy was. Hey, she might even be there, alone with him in his crypt. Dawn bit her lip. When she put Buffy, Spike and alone together in her head she came up with all sorts of combinations that she didn’t want to think about right now. Willow had said, - “Ouch!” The pain in her head came again.

“OK, something going on. I”m going to find Giles. He’ll know what to do.”

And stubbornly ignoring the faint voice that cried “Dawn, listen to me.” she fled down the street.

“I don’t really like diamonds. Too cold.”

“That’s good, pet, because I wasn’t going to get you any.”

Buffy’s nose was buried against Spike’s chest, their legs tangled together, her hair spread in a gold fan across his face, one lock lying across his lips, the strands lifting and falling as he blew gently on them.

“Emeralds are nice.”

“Too green. Too Irish.”

She dug her elbow in his stomach and sat up, ignoring his wince. “I like emeralds.”

“I’m sure Angel likes them, too.”

“You’re just jealous.”

Spike grinned. “Never a truer word, pet. And you don’t want our engagement party to be ruined by me sulking in a corner, now do you.”

“Are we really getting the ring today?”

The vampire sat up and pulled her into his arms. “Yes.”

Buffy frowned at him. “You are buying it, aren’t you? Not stealing it from some demon guy.”

“Nothing wrong with a demon who trades in precious stones. Get some good bargains.”

“So how many engagement rings have you bought before?” She glared at him. “Did you buy one for Dru?”

“We were never engaged, Slayer. I was going to buy one, once, a long time ago, for a girl called Cecily, but....”

“I don’t want to know!”

“This will be the first engagement ring I’ve bought for a woman I love more than death itself! But no emeralds. How about a nice opal? All colours of the rainbow in opals.”

Buffy wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “No, Mom used to say opals are unlucky unless a woman gives them directly to a woman. Willow could give one to Tara.”

“You said there was a row last night between them. Was it Willow using too much magic again?”

“No, I think Tara must have told Willow about us being together and I was getting the “oh he’s so dangerous, what are you thinking of, why don’t you do what we want you to do” lecture. Tara tried to stop her and then - “ she frowned. She couldn’t quite remember but she must have lost her own temper and stormed out of the house. “And then I came round here and you pulled all my clothes off and made me do dreadful things to your body and then you asked me to marry you!”

“And you said yes! But only after you made me do equally bad things to you, if my memory serves me right.”

“So we’re engaged!”

“And buying the ring today.”

Buffy sighed and wriggled herself closer. “We can’t go out till dusk. We shall just have to stay here and make plans.”

“Or make love,” Spike growled.

“I call that a plan,” she muttered as his mouth found hers, “I can’t wait to tell the others. They’ll be so surprised,” and then, before the heat haze he summoned from her body consumed her again, she felt a surge of pure happiness, unlike anything she had experienced before.

tbc

Chapter Text

Lovers and Lies by Lilachigh

 

Chapter Three

Big and Shiny

 

“But Dawn, I don’t understand why you’re so upset? Someone was calling your name? A friend? Neighbour? Why didn’t you just call back?”

“There was no one there, Xander. That’s what you won’t understand. There was just a voice and no body! It was all sort of demony and weird - and why are you here? Where’s.....” The sharp pain flickered through her brain again and she lost the thought. She’d fled through Sunnydale to Giles’ apartment, knowing he would help. Finding Xander there had been...unexpected....

Xander laughed and poured her out a glass of milk. “Where else would I be? You know Giles and me are, well, married. You understand all that, don’t you, Dawn? Like Willow and Tara, but sort of different.”

“Married?” Dawn’s voice went off the higher end of the high scale. Giles, coming into the room, winced.

“Yes, rings and a big cake, remember. Buffy said you were perfectly OK with...everything.”

“Oh! Did she? Yes, big cake. Lots of icing.” Dawn gulped down her milk and wondered if she was still in bed, dreaming. Xander and Giles married? How could she have forgotten something like that? It made perfect sense, of course, except that she’d always thought Xander would stay with....Ouch! Pain struck again. Perhaps she’d had some sort of memory loss during the night. She only wished Spike and Buffy were here. They would know what to do. Although, hey, what was there to do. It was all good. Tara and Willow, Giles and Xander, Buffy and Spike.

She smiled at them - there was no way she was going to tell them about her loss of memory: their faces would go all worried and wrinkley and she would hear the “poor little Dawn” tone in their voices. She’d been hearing that for as long as she could remember and hated it. Spike was the only person who never seemed to pity or feel sorry for her. Even her sister, when she wasn’t sounding irritated, could sound concerned.

Just then the door to the apartment flew open and Spike - covered by a blanket - rushed in, smouldering slightly. Buffy was close on his heels, stamping out the flying pieces of burning wool as she came.

“Hi Dawn, we wondered if you’d be here when you weren’t at home.”

The teenager bit her lip. “I know I was supposed to stay indoors, but Buffy, there was a voice and - WOW - ring! Big shiny ring!”

It would have been hard to have missed it as Buffy was spinning around, her ring finger stuck out in front of her, waving her hand so the light from the windows caught on the deep crimson ruby that almost covered her finger between knuckle and palm. It gleamed, a pulsating red, like a great drop of blood.

“Isn’t it beautiful? Look Giles, Xander. Look what Spike’s given me. We’re engaged. Really and truly engaged. And I have a ring to prove it.”

The carton of milk that Xander was still holding, slipped through his hands and crashed to the floor. “Buffy!”

“Xander - jeez, what a mess. Don’t move - you’ll walk it everywhere. Dawn - get a cloth, help clean it up.”

Giles and sunk down into a chair. “Buffy - this is so...so well, I want to say unexpected but all I can come up with is - terrifying. I realised you and Spike were - close - but engaged!”

“I know, Rupert.” Spike hoisted himself up onto the work top and grinned down at the Watcher. “Surprised myself, if you must know. In a nice way, of course, pet - “ he said hastily as Buffy swung round protesting.

“I know you think it’s odd; but suddenly it was so obvious what we had to do. Bit like you and Xander getting together, I suppose. Unexpected but right.”

Giles frowned. “I’m not sure I would ever call the official union of a Slayer and a vampire right. I do wish you’d consulted me about this, Buffy. It’s so irresponsible.” He stared at the girl who meant so much to him and the slim, leather coated figure she was eating up with her gaze. Yes, he supposed Spike was attractive, in a mean, punk sort of way. Not attractive like his Xander, of course, but memories of guys he’d known at University, all those years ago, floated into his head and rang all sorts of thrilling bells.

Buffy smiled and studied her ring. She held out her hand to Spike who effortlessly lifted her to sit next to him, wrapping his arm round her shoulders. “Giles, you’re sounding old and grumpy,” she said cheerfully. “I’m engaged to Spike and I have a lovely ring. A ruby because Spike likes red and diamonds are too cold and we couldn’t have an emerald because, hey, Angel is Irish and....”

“Well I think it’s all great,” Dawn said, finishing with her floor cleaning. She glanced at Xander who was still standing on the same spot, a bewildered expression on his face. Then, as if something in his head clicked back into place, he grinned at Buffy. “Yes, of course, congratulations, Slayer! Hope you’ll both be as happy as Giles and me.”

“Yes, well, it’s a lovely ring.” Giles peered closely at it and raised an eyebrow in Spike’s direction, his face creased with worry. “You didn’t buy that at the mall. That’s a demon ring!”

Spike shrugged. “Only the best for the Slayer. She increases it’s power by wearing it.”

“But what does it do?”

“No bloody idea, Rupert. But I expect we’ll find out. I’ll have to ask - ” He winced violently and clutched at his head. “Bollocks! What was that for? I wasn’t threatening anyone.”

Xander frowned. “You usually grab hold of the other side of your skull when the chip fires. Do you think it’s moved?”

Spike scrubbed at his head with his fist. “Yes, that was weird. It hurt like the devil, but not in the same place as usual.”

Buffy ran her hand across the back of his neck. “Perhaps you’re tired!”

“Well, you do keep a chap pretty busy all night long, pet.”

“Right, Dawnie, how about some snacks,” Xander said loudly, interrupting a conversation that was getting out of hand as far as he was concerned.

Buffy broke away from kissing Spike. “I want to tell Willow and Tara. I hope they’ll be pleased. Tara knew about us before anyone. I’m sure she’ll be OK. Will, not so much, I guess but jeez, we’ve all got unusual relationships. Why should mine be any different? Any idea where they are, Xander?”

“No, we haven’t heard a word from either of them since last night. Will was all miserable and uptighty about you and Spike, remember? Then - ” he winced as a lance of pain shot through his head. “Then Giles drove us home,” he finished vaguely, because if he was being strictly honest, he couldn’t remember much about the evening until the two of them were in bed together. Well, on top of the bed because they couldn’t wait to get under the covers!

“O.K. I expect they’ll be at home when we get back. I have to patrol. Can Dawn hang with you guys?”

“Sure, no problem. Wonder where Will and Tara have gone. Unlike Tara not to be home for Dawnie.”

Buffy slid off the work top and tied her hair back with a scrap of ribbon, preparing herself for patrol. “Oh I expect they wanted a little time to themselves. I mean, I know Spike and I do. It must be hard for them, living with us.”

“They could always rent their own place,” Giles said dryly. He knew it was useful for Buffy to have Tara there to take care of Dawn when she couldn’t be around, but he was also very aware that neither girl paid their friend any rent for their bed and board.

Buffy refused to take the bait. She didn’t want to row with her Watcher on this her happy day. “Whatever they’re doing, I’m sure they’ll be happy doing it together.”

.......

“Tara! What the heck are you doing, Sweetie. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” Willow gazed round Willie’s Bar in horror. Various demons and even a couple of vamps were drinking and gambling, the air was thick with cigarette smoke and the smell of various drugs that could change your life for ever and not in a good way. She’d searched everywhere she could think of, looking for Tara. She’d only found her by using a location spell and she’d even refused to believe that at first because it showed her lover in a demon bar.

Tara was leaning against the bar, with what looked like a glass of whisky in her hand. And if it wasn’t whisky, then it certainly wasn’t a soda! She was wearing the tightest of tight T shirts red leather trousers. And Willow realised, with a gulp of heat, that her lover was wearing nothing underneath either garment.

“Hey Willow. Wondered how long it would take you to track me down. Have a drink - relax a little.”

“Tara - you don’t drink!” Willow was horrified to realise she sounded just like her mother!

“Oh don’t I.” Tara smirked and downed the rest of her drink. “No idea why you should think that.” She flicked her fingers and the bottle on the bar tilted by itself and poured another tot into the glass.

Willow squinted and made the liquid leap out of the glass and head back towards the bottle and for a long moment the two witches fought over the whisky. Eventually Willow gave in because it was hurting her head - not the magic part, but seeing how much Tara was enjoying herself. It was if this was the battle between them in miniature. Tara needed to win, to control everything around her.

“Willow - ” the low whisper came from behind her just as Tara began flirting with a tall, handsome demon, all three of his eyes being a vivid emerald green.

“Willie. What do you want?”

The bar owner looked nervous. “You must take her away. She keeps giving demons free drinks. She’s ruining my business! What’s wrong with her? I always thought your Tara was a real lady.”

“She was...she is. I’m sorry, Willie. I don’t think she’s feeling very well.”

Tara spun away from Three Eyes and glared at her lover. “I heard that! I’m feeling perfectly fine. Better than I’ve felt for ages. I feel myself for the first time since....since....”

“Sweetie, you’re not yourself! Look at you - what you’re wearing. And drinking and....flirting with a guy! Are you into guys now? Is this what all this is about?” Willow felt a flare of jealousy almost overwhelm her. Was that at the heart of Tara’s behaviour? A wish to escape from their relationship? No, that couldn’t be right - this was all the result of the spell she’d cast so carelessly last night. Wanting Tara to stop being so good and understanding.

“I think he’s kinda cute,” Tara said, pushing her long amber hair back behind her ear. “Bet he’d be a lot of fun. And I want fun.”

“We have fun, sweetie.”

For a second, the old Tara gazed at Willow, a look full of pain and worry. “No, we don’t. Oh you might. But I don’t. We do what you want to do, when you want to do it. And if you want something to happen, you magic it. You want everyone to do what you want. You think you know better than everyone. Last night I realised I’ve been so weak, giving in to you all the time; I’m just as strong as you. Look!” The old Tara vanished again and with bright, shining eyes, she clicked her fingers and Willow found herself standing outside the Magic Box.

Xander and Giles exchanged looks over Dawn’s head. She was telling then the whole back story of some soap opera on TV that they had never seen. Xander was beginning to wonder just how long Buffy was going to leave her sister with them. It was nearly midnight. Surely Dawn should have been in bed a long time ago. And he knew he and Giles should have been! He was longing to try a certain position he’d heard about. It sounded wonderfully exciting but he had the sneaking feeling that it was only possible when both partners were fairly athletic and, although Giles was good-looking and fit for a guy his age, you would never have called him agile.

“Dawn, shall we walk you home,” Giles said suddenly. “I’m sure Willow and Tara will be back by now. Buffy and Spike have obviously been delayed. Probably clearing out some demon nest or a vamp or two.”

Giles took off his spectacles and rubbed at them with his tie. He had a nasty feeling that he knew exactly why Buffy and Spike weren’t back from patrolling. Spike’s crypt was there, in the cemetery, dark and isolated and the perfect place for a newly engaged couple to celebrate their.....

He shut off his thoughts as hard as he could and grabbed a cushion to place across his legs because those very thoughts were making him....

“Giles! Xander! I have to talk to you.”

Willow flung open the apartment door and stood there, fists clenched, eyes blazing, a look of horror on her face and Giles realised, sadly, that he didn’t need the cushion any more.

tbc