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Breaking the Hourglass

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"Dawn listen to me. Listen. I love you.

I'll always love you. But this is the work

I have to do. Tell Giles I... I figured it

out. And I'm okay. Give my love to my

"Dawn listen to me. Listen. I love you.

I'll always love you. But this is the work

I have to do. Tell Giles I... I figured it

out. And I'm okay. Give my love to my

friends. You have to take care of them

now -- you have to take care of each

other. You have to be strong. Dawn.

The hardest thing in this world is to

live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."

Buffy – The Gift, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

friends. You have to take care of them

now -- you have to take care of each

other. You have to be strong. Dawn.

The hardest thing in this world is to

live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."

Buffy – The Gift, Buffy the Vampire Slayer


 

She is lost, lost in her own mind.

Trapped, locked inside with no way out, ever since Glory took from her, her own mind energy.

Tara never imagined the pain when the Hell goddess's hands griped her head and sucked something out of her, and then Tara was trapped in her own mind, and she could feel the part that was stolen by the goddess, feel Glory's madness seep into her own head. It hurt, like a thousand little needles poking Tara at the same time.

It was painful and she could only watch; like an outsider in her own body. Detached.

Only the helpless observer that was possessing the shell, but unable to take control, only there was no other soul occupying her body but her own.

She was just not there. She didn't feel anything physical either. Not the cuts or the rope binding her or Willow's hand stroking her hair.

"Tara … baby, is there somewhere you should be?" Willow asks gently, while tugging the ropes free.

'Why is Willow doing this,' Tara asks herself, not that herself noticed her free hands or that Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Xander are standing by the doors.

"They held me down …" she hears her own voice say; it is oh so strange when she doesn't feel her own mouth move or her eyes blink.

Her mom was correct when she said, 'You don't know how important little things we take for granted are, until they're taken away.'

"Nobody is holding you. It's the big day, right? Do you want to go?" she hears Willow's voice; it was funny, Tara thinks, how soft and sweet Willow's voice is, like a breeze in the willow branches.

Losing all ability to use her body upgraded her ability to perceive reality. That part was the only highlight in this experience as far as Tara was concerned. She feels herself look around and standing up. She sees Giles from the corner of her eye. Her body feels a pull that surprises her, she feels her lips part as her hand points at Mr. Giles.

 "You're a killer, it's all put down …" her voice is bitter, jaded; she is surprised at the bitter taste of those words. Why did she say that … no, she muses as her body moves away and out of the shop, like some sort of sleep walking person, only she is awake, but powerless in her own body. Giles has an unmistakable swirl of wrathful red around him; he will kill somebody today.

Tara just hopes for his sake, for Buffy's sake, that it is not Dawn who he plans to kill. She had perceived really strong mystical bonds tethering Buffy and Dawn together, coercing the Slayer into protecting her blood that transcended those of family members.

She is sure that it is connected to Dawn being The Key. She also hopes that Dawn will lose that aspect of herself after the time limit for using The Key passes. Tara fervently hopes that no lives of her friends, family really, won't be lost today.

Because the Scoobies became a family to her. Willow is her lover, that is true, so it doesn't really feel like a real family should, but Joyce had the same feeling as Tara's own mother, Tamara, had. Joyce was like a mother to them all; Mr. Giles has that feeling of an uncle, and Xander like a cousin of sorts with his funky girlfriend Anya.

But Buffy and Dawn, Tara would never tell them this, but she views both of them as her sisters. That feeling started when Buffy said to her father, brother, and cousin that Tara is family.

It resonated in Tara as something that fitted. She never felt so a part of a family before as she did in that moment. Not only friends, they are family.

 

***

 

Tara can feel Willow following her; she could always recognize Willow's magical signature, now more than ever. Tara would blush if she could, when she remembers that this particular ability manifested when they were intimate for the first time.

But Tara is glad that her family came up with a plan to save the world, to set her loose and let her lead them to where ever her body leads. After all The Body expresses a lot of anxiety to be somewhere to get to someone.

To Glory, Tara thinks as she retreats back, she can't influence her body anyway …. She might as well think on the thought she had about her experience; she remembers that her mom once told her of a belief that humans consist of five forces, which consisted of the forces of nature.

This was before Tamara got so sick that she could not talk any more, Tara was ten years old at the time. When her mother had no strength left she lapsed into sleep and then seven years later she passed away.

Her father often said that it was the demon blood in her that acted up like that. That it was killing her, making her sleep all the time. Tara believed what the rest of her family was telling her, all of that, truly, after all her mother was unable to tell her daughter that that was not the case. It was only later when she enrolled in UC Sunnydale that Tara found out the truth.

But now the memories are crystal clear to Tara; she can almost hear her mother's voice telling her that:

Water represents the mind energy of a human because water by nature is very changeable; it can be in vapour form or liquid or solid. Tara supposed that Glory feed on that, it would explain why all her victims are acting so crazy.

"You can't stop in the same running water twice," Tamara said before she lapsed into the coma. "No story that is told from mouth to mouth is the same as the previous retelling," she also said, Tara remembers. She also remembers the reason why Tamara got sick, and she was partly relieved that her father had nothing to do with it.

It was just Tamara's time, and she wanted to ensure that Tara herself would live independently from the Maclay family.

Earth represents a body. "Our bodies are born of the Earth, and to earth we return," her mother's voice floated around Tara. "Our bodies gave life to others, and other bodies gave life to ours. Death and birth."

It made sense now, Tara also supposed as she mused that Water and Earth are connected, one can not exist without the other. That also means that Water and Earth are the only elements that vampires keep, while losing the other three and gaining the "soul" of the demon so to speak. Tara did not know if what demons have is called a soul by them. So the term will have to stay that way.

Unless of course Tara finds the right term for it.

Fire represents the beating heart and blood, the life force of a human. After all, fire and blood had a lot of similarities. They were red; they gave life; they could take life and there was no life without either.

And as Spike said "It's always about blood." Something that Tamara's words echoed. And there was also a warning, "Rituals and spells that involve blood are highly dangerous, and any practicing Wicca and/or Witch have to be extremely cautious while using them. Blood spells are the spells that are the most connected with Threefold Law."

Air represents the conscience or soul of a human, something that is indestructible, something that is very much like air itself. Something that should not be touched carelessly and for dark purposes or there is a rich of contamination.

Tara supposed that that was the reason why the phrase "Breathing life in” is in the existence. That made Tara wonder how an  ensouled vampire had beard his existence, though knowing how curses worked, … Tara shuddered, those Gypsies were so blinded by their quest for vengeance, not revenge – those seeking revenge do not harm innocent bystanders, or bystanders that have nothing to do with actions of a person that the revenge is centred on.

That their eventual destruction was guaranteed the moment they cast that spell. Since the spell was used for dark purposes, to extract vengeance, to inflict pain – they contaminated themselves.

Willow cast her ensouling spell for Love. So there was no contamination, Thank The Goddess.

Quintessence or Aether, well Tara supposed, her experience now confirms its existence with great effect.

 

***

 

Night is coming, but Tara is not afraid. When she watches through her body's eyes, she knows, feels Willow behind her, and knows that Buffy and the others are close behind, knows that soon … 'oh,' she thinks when she catches sight of a metal tower, 'this is new.'

When she nears the place, she notices that tower is complete, though Glory's victims are still milling about gathering bricks, metal bars, and chains. Were they arming themselves, Tara thinks, it is a possibility as she also saw a couple of Glory's demonic minions armed with blades. She nears a pile, guessing that her body will grab something heavy as well; a hand stopping her is unexpected.

And considering that it's the Hell-goddess didn't calm Tara's inner panic one bit, since she did not know if Glory can see her.

Aether Her.

"You, what are you doing here?" Glory demands the answer eyeing her with suspicion. But a flash of red and Tara is instantly calm, she knows this red…

Then she feels the same sensation in her head; she can see Willow's hand on Glory's head, her red-headed lover's fingers sinking into the Hell-goddess' temple; Tara just knows that the same is happening to her.

"She is with me," Willow says, there is no waver in her voice, but a dead set dark seriousness that for a moment startles Tara, even when she feels a tug on herself, as a white, crackling energy bursts from Willow's hand, flowing from Glory's head, making Glory gasp in paralysing pain. It travels along Willow's arms straight into Tara's head.

She can feel the crackling energy that wraps around her pulling, tugging … and then her vision whites out and everything snaps back in place.

 

***

 

"Tara? Tara!"

Somebody is calling her, who, who is it. And why is it so dark?

Oh her eyes are closed, why she is so tired, she thinks as she blinks awake. Willow's worried face greets her …

"Willow?" she whispers weakly, her voice cracks, like she hadn't been using it, why … oh right, she wasn't using it.

It probably takes a while for all five elements to align properly.

"Tara …" Willow trails off. She looks so lost, her red little tree, Tara thinks as her eyes well up with tears.

"Willow," her voice is stronger now, though she still feels like her body is on pins and needles. "I got so lost."

"I found you." Willow bends down to kiss her. "I'll always find you."

Tara wraps her arms around her, and Willow embraces her tightly in return.

"I knew you'd find a way to bring me home, thank you, Willow," Tara says, then freezes when she remembers where they are. Her gaze snaps upward just in time to see the energy ball as it grows.

Tara closes her eyes in mourning, Dawn's blood has been spilt, and they were too late; when she opens her eyes again the ball shoots out a lightning like tentacle of energy toward the town. She briefly hopes that it will not do too much damage.

"Willow, we have to go … can you stand? Willow!" her last words are concerned shouts as Willow crumbles back into a sitting position.

"I can't move yet," Willow says just as a bolt from the ball strikes a nearby building and transforming it into an alien looking structure. Tara shivers as she senses the beings inside, white faced, that she can see, are already crawling out of the holes, like termites.

And like termites, those creatures Tara sensed were never human in the first place. She wants to move, to help Buffy to stop … but Dawn … if the end of the world is to be stopped, the blood must stop flowing. And though she knows that Dawn wasn't real, she exists now; she is an innocent teenager, with dreams and a life of her own. She didn't even have a chance to live and Buffy …

Tara holds Willow tighter in their little huddle. Buffy will not kill Dawn, she'd rather kill … Tara's eyes widen in sudden realization … and she wonders, did Buffy know, realize … she probably did.

Just as she thinks that the energy ball that was expanding ominously until now suddenly contracts and then with a crack blinks out of existence.

Was it Dawn?

Or was it Buffy?

Tara doesn't know what would be worse. Both are terrible.

The world didn't end.

But they lost either way.

 

***

 

As the smoke begins to clear, Tara and Willow are leaning on each other; Tara sees Xander carrying Anya. Spike is stumbling over, and then falling on his knees, weeping. Mr. Giles is standing over Buffy's dead body at the foot of the tower built by crazy people. Still Tara is lucky; those poor people will not be getting their wits back like she did. Willow managed to extract her brain wave energy.

"Death is stupid. You plummet off a tower and, phfft, that's it. It's shocking and I don't like it," Tara hears Anya mutter, for a change Xander does not shush her for her comments; he is to numb to react.

Willow trembles for a bit, but Tara is watching Dawn, having climbed down from the tower wearing some sort of old styled dress, the furthest behind, the most alone.

"Even in high school she warned me: she told me she'd die young. I never believed her, until now," she hears Willow say so quietly. But she doesn’t look at Willow; she is too distracted with watching Dawn.

Tara sucks in her breath when she sees Dawn explode in shower of green sparks that coalesced and seep into Buffy's dead body.

She shimmers green all over then there is an exploding light, so bright that all of them shield their eyes.

 

***

 

When Tara opens her eyes, could really… her eyes rested on her friend's body, which is shrinking, and glowing all over. When the light and shrinking subside instead of a dead body of a twenty something Slayer there is a live body of a little girl. Tara thinks that she looks about eight or really small eleven year old.

"Dear Lord," Tara hears Mr. Giles mutter and by the sounds of his clothing he is polishing his glasses.

"Bloody Hell, Watcher, the Slayer is a bloody kid." and that was Spike’s voice.

But, Tara thought, she lives. Unbidden a small smile touches her lips when she looks at the small child nestled in the middle of too, now, big clothes on the pile of rubble.

"To live is to die, to die is to live," Tara mutters smiling slightly.

"Huh, what's that Tara?" asks Xander, who is still staring at the sleeping little Buffy.

"Nothing, just a thought, that's all." And, Tara thinks, a quote she heard on TV in passing and it struck her as a fitting line for this moment.

"Spike," she turns to the chipped vampire, "can you pick her up, and I don't think any of us are in any condition to carry her."

"Fine." Spike bends down to gather lil Buffy, clothes and all. "Oi Glenda where too now, we really don't want to bump into those pale zombies things from that building and what about that dragon that swooped out of the portal, before Buffy did a swan dive?"

Giles frowns and clucks his tongue in thought. "Those retreated back to their dwelling, the moment the sun began to rise."

"I have a question." Xander raises his hand, as much as he can since he is still carrying Anya.

"Where will we crash down, and what we will do about Buffster, now that she's not dead but …" he gestures at the Spike and little still sleeping Buffy. "And why is her hair white blonde?"

"That's what you are bloody worrying about?"

"Well yeah, she looks like you and Princess Yue's love child now, I don't like it."

"Whelp, if I didn't have my hands full right now I'd hit you, chip or no chip. And who the bloody hell is Princess Yue, characters from your comic books, Droopy Boy?"

"Where do you live, Dead boy No.2? It is from the classic cartoon, get down with modern times."

"Oh wow the Poof knows something else besides the white haired Black Cat women in spandex…"

"Actually," Anya pipes in, "this colour is not unusual; after all she did get her life force drained by the Portal, and then was returned to life by The Key. And hair does white out if a person's life force is drained." Anya nods.

"Or if she channelled a lot of powerful white or neutral mojo through her, which she) happened to; she did pass through the portal, meaning there was a lot of neutral mojo that went through her and she died, meaning she had her life force drained... Just think she won't have to waste money for hair colouring any more." Then she pins Xander with a look. "And what is Spike talking about, about other woman you like to watch? You are mine Xander not theirs!"

"An," Xander starts to explain.

"Hey!" Willow shouts. "In case you hadn't noticed," she waves her free hand around, her resolve face firmly on. "We are still here; we need to get to a safer place. Now the closest is Giles's place, so we'll go there."

 

*** Week later; Summers residence***

 

Tara is sitting in the Summers' home, specifically Buffy's bedroom, watching over Buffy as she sleeps.

Tara often came to the room and told stories, or talked about her mother Tamara and her own childhood. Spike sometimes came and told his own tales to the sleeping Buffy.

Willow and Xander visited their best friend turned child once. Mr. Giles sometimes watched from the door's threshold, but he never said anything – Tara supposed that must be an older British gentlemen thing, for him to keep silent vigil over his … family member.

Tara sometimes wasn't sure if Mr. Giles knew what he felt for Buffy; love that a father holds for a daughter, or did he build a Watcher Slayer dynamic in to some new higher form. Tara thought that it was the latter on his part. Buffy, Willow, and Xander viewed him as a father figure. Even Tara is the same, before her Aether experience, now she knew that while Mr. Giles values them, cares for them even, he certainly didn't feel like a father to them, not even Buffy.

Sighing, Tara picked up a comb and ran it through Buffy's hair and made two plaits so that her hair did not tangle. All the while either telling fairy tales or singing. Sometimes she would tell her the tales from The Silmarillion, but only because Buffy's new hair colour reminded her of the colour that she imagined Celebrían had something between Galadriel's gold and Celeborn silver.

It's been a week since Buffy jumped to close that portal…five days ago, the gang's original memories re-settled, they knew exactly when Dawn was inserted into their lives. Townspeople of Sunnydale however didn’t remember that Dawn Summers ever existed. That she once was among them was only a memory shared by Willow, Xander, Anya, Mr. Giles, Spike and Tara herself and they held a Wicca memorial held for Dawn.

Little Buffy was still sleeping though, both Willow and Giles checked on her; Tara did aura reading as well. The conclusion was Buffy was now nine years old and because she had yet to awake, they didn't know if she still possesses memories of old Buffy or nine year old Buffy.

Admittedly Mr. Giles was a bit panicked and wanted to call the Watchers Council in London, but Willow and Xander stopped him. Citing that, they would just take Buffy away now that she is a helpless kid and without her mother's legal protection and brainwashed her to be some kind of Slayer robot like Kendra was.

Anya agreed. Spike even threatened Mr. Giles with bodily harm if he even thinks of dialling Britain. Then Willow managed to fix Buffy-bot and now all of Sunnydale is under the impression that The Slayer is alive and well, so life in Sunnydale is running pretty much as it always did.

Spike did not manage to find that dragon; he did hoverer set fire to that alien building. So now they only have to worry about the occasional vampire, until apocalypse season of course. Tara suggested that they take steps in getting Faith out of jail.

Xander eminently said a vehement no, but Mr. Giles seemed to consider that opinion. Willow then said that they should look for a way to bring Buffy back. Mr. Giles explained that that was not advisable attempted. Willow did not push after that, but Tara felt uneasy by Willow's research books that were of questionable nature. Also Willow started to use magic for everything and that worried Tara.

"Mommy?" came a thin voice from the bed, making Tara jump for a bit, then she looks, and sure enough Buffy's eyes are open. She is a bit startled when she finds that they are not hazel any more; it's like Dawn's blue mixed with Buffy's original colour.

"No, sweetie. I'm …"

"Tara," Buffy pipes in. "I'm Buffy, hello! Big Sister talked about you. And Spike and Willow and Xander and Giles. And I heard you and Spike telling me lots of stories; I like those stories very much."

"Big Sister?" Tara asks, wondering.

"Mhm, she said her name is Dawn." Buffy nods enthusiastically, "Dawnie was little sister before but now when she is gone I'm little sister to Dawnie."

"Do you remember what happened before you went to sleep."

"Nope, I remember Dawn and you and Spike and Wills and Xander and old guy Giles, but it's funny in my memories I'm taller. And Dawnie always glows green, like, like … green light."

Tara is slightly amused at the appellation, "I see, so ready to meet with the others, or would you like to nap some more?"

"Nope, I had enough napping, thank you."

"Then let's go downstairs to the others; they are worried about you and …"

Growllllll.

"But first breakfast," Tara amends when she hears a sound. Buffy wraps her small hands around her middle and blushes.

"Oh wow little bird that was some growl," Spike says who just came into the room. He picks Buffy up, making her squeak at the sudden move.

"How about some pancakes, hmm. I can make those," Spike offers, which surprises Tara, so she can not help but ask.

"You can cook, Spike?"

"Sure Glinda, didn't you know?" Spike says, and then winked at the little girl in his arms. "Joyce taught me, before she got sick, just in case, she said."

Buffy scrunches up her nose in confusion "Who's Joyce?" she asks looking from Spike to Tara and back again.

"Err, you don't remember Joyce, Pet?”

Buffy shakes her head in denial, her white blonde hair swishing about her head. "Nope."

"Uh," Spike's eyes make brief contact with Tara.

"Buffy sweetie," Tara steps closer to Spike and Buffy, and lightly touches the little girl's shoulder. "She was a very special lady who adopted all of us; she was also your mother."

"Oh, was?"

She would notice the past tense, Tara thinks. "Yes, was, she died before, when you were taller."

"Oh, I don't remember her," Buffy mumbles eyes downcast. She looks so downtrodden that Spike shifts his hold so that he is simultaneously holding and hugging her, and Tara hugs them both.

"Oh don't worry Buffy," Tara says still holding onto both child and vampire; the warm moment is interrupted by … a giggle.

"Uh, uh, you are blushing…" Buffy giggles some more while patting Spike on the cheek. That Tara notices; that yes, there is a very light redness to both of the vampire's cheeks.

"Shut up, little bit." Then he throws an annoyed frown at giggling Tara. "You can stop laughing now little witchy girl. This is nothing; I just drank a minute ago."

"Ahh, right, sure you did," Tara says, while patting the irritated vampire on the shoulder.

 

***

 

In Tara's opinion, the meeting, or re-meeting with everybody, went badly. Not only did all of them barge into the kitchen when Buffy and herself were eating the very delicious pancakes that Spike made but Anya started to barrage Buffy with questions, and then started to talk about her sex life in front of an eight year old!

Xander and Willow crowded Buffy asking her questions if she remembered this or that, and then being all disappointed when she said that, no, she doesn't remember.

Mr. Giles was at the loss with how to deal with a child that was not The Slayer or a Potential and Buffy had no emotional connection to her scattered memories of him either.

"Oi! Whelp, Watcher, Red, Demon Girl pipe the bloody hell down!" Spike yells, while Tara quickly steps to a blushing wide eyed and a bit scared eight years old and picked her up, fork and all.

"So Bleach Dead Boy Wonder..." Xander starts, but he didn't get far as Buffy starts to tear up.

"Spiky is nice!" she yells waving her hand. "Stop being mean to Spike, you Meany!"

"Ouch!!!" yelps Xander when little Buffy throws fork at him and Tara notices that with enough force and precision that the fork's teeth bit Xander's shin. Luckily there is no blood drawn.

"Now, now, little birdie no need to break whelp boy." Spike laughs messing up Buffy's hair, while Buffy is rubbing her eyes.

"Can you be my mommy and daddy?" comes a quiet question from Buffy. Tara quickly checks if she heard it right, but before she can say or do anything, Spike asks Buffy first.

"Why us duckling?" He moves closer, Tara notices that Spike also checks on the position of everybody else but he needn't worry.

Giles went to the cabinet and he is pouring himself a glass, and Willow is, along with Anya, fussing over Xander.

"Well," Buffy drawls quietly. "Mr. Giles is stuffy and old, and he wants something from me. He is making me uncof, uncofe …"

"Uncomfortable."

"Yes that, uhhh, I saw him and another guy do stuff with a couple of others, and then there was that Eyghon thingy and he drugged me when I was bigger. So he is uncomfy," Buffy asserts, and then she peers at the trio that is on the sofa.

"Em, Anya is a weirdo that talks about no-no topics and ughh she feels edgy and way to weird. I … I know that she was a demon before but umm, she is like … human but dresses up in her demon shoes sometimes … does that make sense."

"And whelp?" Spike asks.

"He is a Meany, and I didn't like him asking me if I remember all those stuff, and then he got a bit angry at me for not remembering …"

"Oh, Buffy he's not angry, he is just sad."

"Buffy some people lash out at others when they are in pain, that doesn't make them bad people."

"Just mean," Spike smirks at Tara's affronted expression and nodding Buffy.

"Spike," Tara hisses.

"What, it's true, but why not Willow. What about Red, Pet?"

"Um she, she scares me," Buffy mutters. "She loves bigger Buffy, and wants her back. But I'm me, little Buffy and I will grow into bigger Buffy … but she wants Big Buffy now."

"Oh so because we ..."

"Nope, it's because you both took care of me when I was asleep. That's what a mommy and daddy does, right?"

 


"I just want Buffster back, Wills."

"Yes, we will get her back."


 

*** TIME SKIP: July 2001***

 

Tara, Spike, and Giles chase a very big, sumo sized even, vampire through the Graveyard. Of course he got away, making Spike curse loudly.

"Come on! I'm never going to get anything killed with you lot holding me back!" he complains at the top of his voice.

Tara catches up to him first, only slightly out of breath, who would have thought that keeping up with little Buffy is doing wonders for her stamina. "And I thought the big ones tire more easily."

She checks her surroundings, a habit she is picking up, thanks to the one sided prank war that broke out in the Summers house.

"No, Glenda, that's over the hill shopkeepers," Spike answers her, and then he narrows his eyes on Mr. Giles who comes running, and panting heavily. "Or Watchers …"

"I'm fine." Mr. Giles waves his hand, the one that is not holding a heavy battle axe. "I just need to die for a minute."

"So what was that powder you blew at him?" Spike asks her, "Red's experiment again?"

"It was Sobri root! It's supposed to confuse him but it kind of made him peppy…and wait a minute …" She pulls a small compact box inspecting it more closely, then groans.

"So it is something Red is experimenting on?" That curious vampire and his questions, ugh, Tara just knows that Spike will have a good laugh out of this when he gets the story in full.

"No," Tara grunts out, and all right, she is a bit annoyed that she grabbed the wrong magic powder box. "It's something Buffy was concocting for Xander."

"Ohh so what did the Poof do to annoy Nibblet this time around?" Spike asks eagerly.

"Guys heads up!" Willow's voice in their heads prevents Tara to replying. Oh well, it's not like Buffy didn't know what Sobri Root did; she'd been teaching the little girl about how to make potions and balms since the girl had shown some sort of aptitude – Tara thought and later confirmed that it wasn't just some of Buffy's fragments of memories in that little head, but from others as well, Dawn's that she gained when The Key gave her new life, Willow's, Xander's, and Giles when they did that spell to defeat Adam and of someone who was named Lady Erienne Saxton nee Fleming.

Now the last one confused and to tell the truth worried Tara, not just because it didn't fit with Willow's assumption that it was the generic 18th century noble lady Buffy dressed up as on Halloween. When they became their costumes during the spell. Though it was possibly that Dawn wore the costume and they merged somehow?

What worried her far more was the increase in vivid memories, and then she discovered that that was Willow's doing. Really she understands that neither Willow nor Xander can move on, but Willow attempt to return Adult Buffy's memories into the body of Little Buffy …it just enforced all the memories Buffy already had.

But Tara shelves that thought as Willow's voice continues: "the vampire's circling back towards you. Six o'clock. Try to drive him towards the Van Elton crypt."

"Van Elton?" Giles turns to question Tara.

"Is that the one with the cute gargoyle?"

The Big Peppy Vampire bursts back into the clearing, teetering to an abrupt stop when he sees them, whirling around with the intention to rabbit off again, but a crypt is directly so he stops moving and … well Tara can see that he is confused about which way he should go.

"Left! Make him go left!"

"And how do we do that, Red?"

Giles then throws the battle axe he's been carrying all this time, which hits the tree on the vampire's right side. Making vampire dart to the left.

Spike shrugs "Never mind then. Shall we, Glinda?"

Tara makes a slight show off curtsy and loops her arm around Spike's proffered arm. "After you kind, Sir"

"I'd appreciate it if you two didn't do this, it's disturbing," says Giles, frowning at the witch and vampire.

"Well Captain Slowpoke that's why we do this, to yank your chain," Spike answers cheekily.

They round the corner just to witness BuffyBot standing over Peppy.

"Big, fast and dumb," the Bbot says. "Just the way I like'em." The Bot kicks Peppy and moves in to stake him, but Peppy is on his feet before she can dust him.

"Peppy looks pissed," Tara notes to Spike. Earning herself a raised eyebrow from him.

"You named him?"

"Well he is peppy …"

"True, oi English, you alive there?"

"I'll be all right."

"Well we better help the Bot."

With that Spike, Tara, and Giles jump into the fray. Peppy however manages to throw Giles, who had jumped on his back, but before he can do any more, Tara aims a hard blow at his kneecap, making him buckle.

But that puts Giles in near vicinity so peppy starts to choke him.

"Spike, a little help, please."

"What ya talking about, Giles?" Spike drawls and lights a cigarette, and then waves his hand at Peppy who is on fire. Peppy then shrieks, like a little five year old girl and implodes, raining his ashes all over Giles who lies on the grass.

Giles adjusts his glasses, which had slid off his nose due to Peppy choking him and glares at Spike. "You might have let me in on your plan while he throttled me."

"Ohhh. Poor Watcher, did your life pass before your eyes? 'Cuppa tea, cuppa tea, play guitar, cuppa tea, almost got shagged, cuppa tea ..."

"Guys!" Willows voice cuts off Spike's teasing… "Help Xander and Anya! Over by Anderson's tomb."

 

*** Summers home – morning***

 

Tara is watching Willow work on BuffyBot in the basement. Willow did most of her computer and online work in the basement.

"Did you manage to fix that Pie glitch, Willow?" Tara announces her presence.

Willow nods. "Yep, and I deleted that, 'Knock, knock' joke glitch."

"That's good. Willow…" Time to brooch the subject, after all summer is ending and somebody needs to go to school.

"Mhh?"

"School is starting soon."

"Yes so? We all finished that and we are going to college, aren't we? And Xander has a steady job over at construction."

"I mean school for Buffy," Tara elaborates, knowing that Willow is avoiding the topic. It seems to her that her lover is still hurt over Tara's reaction when she found out that Willow was casting Memory Retrieval Magic on Buffy. Needless to say, the spell backfired and had some side effects on Buffy.

"But…" Willow says, biting her lip, something that Tara always found endearing on Willow.

"Willow, we've been through this. Buffy has to go through growing up the normal way. There is no safe spell to bring Buffy back in exact shape she was before the jump. Mr. Giles told you, I have told you and Anya has told you as well."

"I just…"

"You want your best friend back, I know," Tara finishes Willow's sentence. Perhaps she should take a page from Anya's book and be less considerate and say that Willow's best friend has died and is not coming back and that Willow and Xander should look at little Buffy as an offspring of said best friend.

"Yeah," Willow says looking down, frowning.

"Just give it some thought," Tara reaches over and comfortably squeezes her lover's hand "and you could talk with little Buffy. She is a smart little eight, almost nine year old girl, and she is getting impression that both you and Xander hate her, so she decided to dislike you two in return."

"We don't, and hey why isn't Anya included in the bashing?" Willow babbles.

"Buffy said that she is too weird to dislike." Tara smiles, remembering, how Buffy delivered that news. "Really Willow, you need to let go."

No reply, right, Tara thinks, Willow just needs some more time to accept that her friend is gone, but her best friend and the Slayer legacy and Dawn's legacy still lives in little Buffy.

After all little Buffy told Tara what Big Buffy said to Dawn and what Dawn said to her: 'that little Buffy will live for both of them, free of their troubles.'

For both of them.

 

***

 

Tara climbs the stairs to Buffy's room, lightly knocking on the door; she waits to receive a muffled answer.

"Hey Buffy ready for your day."

"Yup," comes the muffled reply. Tara then enters the renovated room.

"By the way, what did you do with that Sobri Root powder?" asks Tara while she sits on Buffy's bed. Buffy meanwhile is petting …

"Is that Amy?" Tara asks.

"Yeah, she was getting angry being in that cage in the side room alone all the time, so I took her out," Buffy says, while giving another pat to a rat that is now curled in the blanket.

Buffy meanwhile looks at Tara, "Why?"

"Because I accidentally took your Specialprez for Xander powder," Tara says.

"Oh how did it work? Did it work?" Buffy is looking very excited. And that excitement is probably left by that memory imprint left by Willow. Or possibly Giles, but then again Dawn was interested in magic as well.

But Tara will be damned if she'll raise someone who doesn't respect the Craft. So she started to teach little Buffy the basics of magic.

"You didn't cast the spell on that powder did you?"

"No, in was just Sabri Root, with a bit of Tylenol and pepper," Buffy explains. "I didn't do any spell infusion, you said that bad things can happen and I don't want something bad to happen to Xander even though he is angry and hates me."

"Xander doesn't hate you, sweetie."

"Yeah he does, and he is mean to Spike. He calls him names and glares every time Spike plays with me…I just don't know what he wants, he is worse than, than ughh, …" Buffy ends her babble in an irritated huff and a pout.

"So, how about I show you how you make a salve that heals minor to medium wounds," Tara says changing the subject "and then we'll work on your Math for a bit. After all you'll go to school in the fall."

"Really, do you think I'll make some friends to play with?"

"I'm sure you will, and Buffy, you'll be enrolled under a different name."

"Yeah because it will take a while for me to grow into Big Buffy, but I'm almost nine so it will be soon right?"

"Yes. It will be," Tara says, assuring Buffy that yes, she will grow up naturally in her own time.

"Umm, Tara?"

"Yes?"

"Why didn't Willow turn Amy back yet? She is not Scabbers and can't turn herself back."

"Don't know Buffy, would you like me to look into it?"

"Yes. It's not fun being a rat ya know."

"I can imagine."

"I think I was a rat once."

"You were? How come?"

"Well, there was a spell cast …"

"And it went wrong, there is inherent danger casting spells in the rifts, like the Hellmouth here in Sunnydale, though even here there are places that are cleansed. Can you remember which ones?"

"Mhm, the oldest cemetery, people are no longer buried there, and one glade by the river in Miller's Woods because running water can ward of bad stuff."

"Correct."

"Sooo, how does magic work?" Buffy asks; Tara can see that she is curious.

"Well, you know everyone can use magic," Tara says, while Buffy curls by her side, drawing the blanket that held Amy on her lap.

"Even the bigger you used magic once or twice; Xander once accidentally set a book on fire because he read a spell. The fact of the matter is the more exposed you are to magic, the more magic you can channel, the more apart of magic you become."

"So magic is like, temperature?"

"That's actually a good analogy; everyone has a magical temperature. Most people are not aware of it though, or simply they don't believe in magic. We, magic users, like reptiles can 'heat up' and draw magic into ourselves, mix in it with our own to give the spell shape, and let it flow out of us, when casting the spell."

"And we don't need wands," Buffy says, and then pouts.

Tara laughs, knowing that Buffy, when she was big, was no fan of the Harry Potter books, but when she became little Buffy she suddenly loved them – now that there is definitely Dawn's influence.

 

***

 

Tara is walking through the hallway, anxious to broach the subject of school again. They really should make up a story for Buffy's history. Granted in Sunnydale that won't be hard, but what if Buffy decides to go to University in, for example, Florida.

"Ohh Willow's and Tara's domain with the cool lesbo witchy stuff," came Xander's voice from their room.

"Where is my clog? Did you see my clog; I think there is clog eating monster under the bed."

"You can look if they are with … you know."

"You mean did B …little one take my clogs?"

"Yeah, you know if that spell works this time…"

"It will work, I'm sure of it."

"So she'll be exactly like…"

"BUFFY did not take your clogs, Willow and we talked about this exact thing before. Do not mess with the natural order of things. And come down to the kitchen there'll be breakfast."

"Tara," Xander says. "It's not messing with natural order; Buffy should be with us …"

"Buffy is already with us." Then Tara turns toward Willow. "Don't do the spell; it's to dangerous to mess with …"

"I know what I'm doing Tara, Tara honey …where are you going?"

"To make sure that BUFFY has everything she needs for her first day in school; you know the important things every normal almost nine year old needs."

"What about what we need? The Hellmouth is bound to act up again. Anya agrees with that," Xander tries to mediate, the voice of reason. "We need a Slayer here."

"The world already has The Chosen One, doesn't it?" Tara said.

"Faith is a Psycho and in jail for murder," says Xander. "Right Willow?"

"Yes."

"Faith might be in jail, but she is there to make up for the mistakes she made. When will you take responsibility for your own mistakes, Willow?"

"Hey now, Wills didn't do anything wrong."

"She a-abuses magic," Tara says, almost wincing at the return of her stutter; she notices its return every time she'd argue with her loved ones. "She tries to bring her dead friend back, instead of looking after the legacy both her best friend a-and Dawn had left behind to live for THEM."

With that Tara storms out of the room, leaving Willow and Xander in Joyce old room. Their bedroom now, since they moved into the Summers' home after Glory was defeated.

 

***

 

When Tara enters the kitchen, BuffyBot is already making breakfast, sandwiches. Tara then goes to the fridge to take out the already made jam and batter for pancakes. She can hear Willow nearing but doesn't turn around to greet her girlfriend; she is too upset and doesn't want this to develop into another fight.

"Morning, I was thinking we could go over your programming again …" she trails off when little Buffy skips into the kitchen.

"Morning," Buffy greets Willow, getting a mumbled reply in return. Tara can just see, even if she had her back turned to them, what kind of facial expressions her important people wore right now.

Willow avoiding eye contact with the child and Buffy being hurt by it. Tara has seen this happen before, she is hoping that eventually Willow will accept it, but her lover is adamant in getting her way. She isn't the only one that wants Buffy back; Xander wants her back too. And Anya complained loudly to Buffy, an eight year old, that she can't have Xander.

"Here is your juice and pancakes with jam from vine peaches; it's the one you helped me made yesterday," Tara says, putting the plate and glass in front of Buffy. "So, excited at the prospect of going to elementary school, you'll be in 3rd grade?"

Willow did a spit take with her juice she was just drinking. "Um sweetie we … err."

"It's time to look for school, Willow, it will start and Buffy has to get her education for living you know. She no longer has a destiny except to live her life."


 

"What about Buffy's life."

"Well she is getting her life back; Anya found that thing. For today."

"She did great. When  will we do the thing?"

"As soon as the house is empty, Tara will take B … little one to Giles' place. And Anya says you are her Sweet Cookie face."

"I go by many names."


 

"Umm Tara what's with the Bbot, she's making lots of sandwiches?" asks little Buffy when she finishes her pancakes and juice.

"Oh, oops, she wanted to help. I got her started before I went up, and then I forgot to un-start her, it's good that Xander is here, he can take some of these to work with him."

"Do I hear my name?" and Xander enters the kitchen. "House o'chicks, relax. I'm a man and I have a tool."

"That's faulty foul."

"Spike!!!"

"Up with you," Spike lifts the giggling eight year up, "have you eaten?"

"Yup pancakes. They were very good."

"Course they were. I made the batter."

"Many sandwiches! Excellent, men like sad sandwiches."

Spike watches Xander for a while, opens his mouth, but Tara shoves a spoon with jam into the vampire's mouth. "This is jam from the vine peaches Buffy and I made yesterday, what do you think Spike?"

"Yeah isn't it yummy?" Buffy says exited. "So it's good?"

"Very good," Spike answers.

Tara breathes a relieved sigh, another round of bickering between the supposed adults averted.

Willow meanwhile goes to Xander with sandwiches. "Here share it with Anya, Bot made too many."

"Yeah, thanks Wills. Oh I got that soldering wire you wanted. For the Buffybot's tune up."

"Hey, didn't Mr. Summers say that he'd call today?" asks Willow. BuffyBot nods. "Yes my biological ancestor said he'd call."

"Maybe you should just let the machine, the other machine get the phone from now on, okay?"

"Is my phone manner not correct?"

"Oh no," Tara starts.

"It sucks robot girl," mutters Spike, who is currently pulling Buffy's hair into twin tails.

And Tara continues after shooting a warning look at the vampire. "It's perfect, we just can't take the chance that Mr. Summers might talk to you and know something's wrong. But that is just temporary."

 

*** Couple hours later***

 

"And then Spike said that Dru started to talk about stars …" Buffy babbles and skips by Tara's side when they turn the corner and enter the Magic Box. Specifically Mr. Giles' office, Tara thinks when she ushers Buffy inside.

"Hello, Mr. Giles," she greets the watcher who is at his desk, piled with papers that he is sorting through. "Did my order come through?"

"Err, yes, here it is. Talisha Brown Maclay's 'Touch the Earth'. I must say, I haven't read this book – it's a spell book you said?"

"Yes, it's not a very well known book about magical warding and curse breaking in practice, but it was written by my great, great grandmother to help the young beginning on their magical discovery."

"Yes perhaps it's good that Willow looks at it, perhaps then she would not be so rash in her magical endeavours."

"It would be useful for her, yes. But the book is not for her, it's for Tamarina."

"Tamarina? Who's …"

"That's me!" waves Buffy bouncing on her heels. "Guess what Giles?!"

"Buffy?"

"That's also me!" Buffy says, then pouts at the flustered man. "But you didn't say 'what' Mr. Giles."

"Err terribly sorry …" Giles says, reaching into his pocket for a handkerchief to clean his glasses.

"I enrolled her in 3rd grade today under the name of Tamarina B. Maclay," Tara says, taking pity on the flustered man. She has to admit though, that if she'd been in to men, she'd find Mr. Giles endearing and attractive in that older gentlemen way.

"Ah."

"I also listed myself and Spike as her legal guardians."

"Spike?"

"He genuinely cares for Buffy, Mr. Giles."

"I'm aware of that Tara. I'm sorry that all this puts you in …"

"That is not the issue," Tara interrupts; she really has become an assertive person, hasn't she? "Also I'd like to purchase twelve gem stones: 2 Aventurine's, green and orange. 2 Dendritic Agates'; 2 Ambers', 2 Aqua Berly's, 1 Chrysoprase, 2 Bloodstone's and 1 Lapis Lazuli."

"You're casting a protection spell," then his eyes widen, "with a built in backslash for the person that threatens the protected … will you warn Willow?"

"I already did, if … if my Willow disregards it yet again, I can't …" she rubs her eyes that she feels are tearing up, but she (is) so tired of arguing and then Willow hurting Buffy who Tara took into her care.

"I see, well … I suggest that you take the stones, they are over there. I also suggest that the spell is cast in my flat today. But use the opportunity of distraction to take the stones now and you'll return them tomorrow, yes … Anya!?" Tara walks to stand over the shelf with labelled boxes with the gems. What she needed are easily located.

"This register report for January looks off. Let's pull those files again."

Anya moves from the store to the office, "Are you mad at me?"

"Mad? No I'm not mad, why?"

"I punished someone like this you know, when I was a demon. I made them double-check spreadsheets for all eternity."

 

*** Giles' flat – nightfall***

 

"So if we are casting protection on little Nibblet," Spike says, "What do you need me for? And why is Scabbers here?"

"Huh, didn't page you as a Harry Potter fan," Tara comments, while setting the stones, the herbs, and runes into their proper positions. Giles already cleansed the room for any malignant influence before they arrived.

"I'm not, but Buffy is, so I've read a couple of books."

"You'll go out to stand guard, so we won't be interrupted because once we start casting we can not stop," Giles explains.

"Will I cast the spell too?"

"Actually Buffy …"

"You will be most important person here, Buffy," Tara interjects before Giles can say no. "You will be sitting in the middle of the circle, and you'll have your own chant. Now did you learn the worlds I gave you?"

"Yes."

"Then I suggest you keep repeating them so that you won't mispronounce anything."

"OK," Buffy says, then goes and climbs on the sofa and starts to chant. "Obsectro te, terra mater est, ut det mihi praesidium de malus. Da mihi arma."

"Tara is this wise? To let Buffy ..."

"Mr. Giles, the best protection comes from power within as well as outside casting. According to my great,great grandmother's teachings," Tara says, and then sighs. "I checked and this is the safest method, and Spike sorry but …"

"No harm done Glinda, and hey I'm a de-fanged Big Bad ... but still Bad so I can't be here, but I can beat up anything that shows up on Watcher's doorstep," Spike says, turning and exiting the apartment.

"To think that there were such spells in that book." Tara hears Mr. Giles mutter when he thumbs through her great, great, great grandmother's book. She can not help but smile slightly at the irony; if Glory didn't do what she did, if Buffy died and not regressed to an eight year old, she would have never thought of this book. And Amy would stay rat for a while longer, or at least until Willow recalled Amy the Rat again and tried another spell of restoration on her.

"Mr. Giles, it's ready," Tara says, then waves Buffy over, "first we will do the protection spell on you Buffy, then we, Mr. Giles, you and I, will cast a spell to de-rat Amy."

"Okay I'm ready," Buffy says nodding and sits in the circle Tara prepared.

 

 

To be continued…

 


 

The instalment in Spike's centred chapter is that picks up when Tara lefts of… but Chapter 2: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: Loyalty, Fear and Books is next in Breaking the Hourglass.

 

Aventurine – healing gems, emotional hurts

Dendritic Agates- one of the most protective stones

"Obsectro te, Terra Mater est, ut det mihi praesidium." – "I implore you Mother Earth, to grant me your protection from ill intent. Grant me your shield."