Faith broke through the tree line as Buffy was being lifted off of the ground, the Turok-Han snarling in contempt as it shifted its clawed hand to break the blondes neck. Wasting no time, Faith launched into a series of kicks, each one faster and more powerful than the last; the vampire finally broke its hold on the blonde and turned to face the new threat.
Buffy gasped for air and rubbed her neck, trying to gather a breath. She looked, expecting to see Tara, but was shocked when she saw Faith instead. She was a lot more shocked to see that Faith was holding her own against the ancient vampire.
Faith leveled a backhand fist across the vampires jaw, sending it flipping through the air, landing in a bone-crunching heap next to Buffy. “Hey B. Damn. They got a lot uglier since I was here last.” She said, nodding to the Turok-Han.
“Yeah, well. A Hellmouth does nothing for your complexion.” Buffy said, standing and retrieving her branch. “And stakes are useless.” She sighed, tossing the twisted and broken piece away.
Faith picked up Buffy’s sword and smiled. “Decapitation still work?”
Buffy smiled. “Yep.” She turned back to the uber and frowned. It was gone. “That sucks.” She sighed. She looked over and saw Tara, kneeling and clutching her stomach as blood poured through her fingertips. “Oh god…no.” she said as Jensen raised his own sword.
Tara coughed and clutched her sword. Jensen had fallen for the bait, although the stabbing was a new part of said plan, it was still a solid one. She raised her sword, stopping his blow a few scant inches from her exposed neck. Shoving with all of her strength, she sent him staggering back a step and preceded to spin her sword in the complicated dance Duncan had spent the better part of three months showing her.
Jensen parried as each spin brought the blade closer and closer to his body. He hadn’t seen this attack before and felt uncomfortable with the seemingly chaotic movements.
Tara fell into the last part, leaping and feigning an overhand strike. Jensen brought his sword up, as expected, but Tara just dropped, thrusting her sword deep into the older immortal. It had worked. Jensen staggered back, pulling himself off of Tara’s sword while dropping his own. Tara frowned. “You’re right, Jensen. There can be only one.” She said sadly, raising her sword. “I’m sorry.” She said, dropping her blade swiftly, throwing all of her strength behind the swing.
Suddenly, Tara felt her stomach tear and she doubled over, her muscles constricting in protest to the use. She dropped her sword and watched helplessly as Jensen stood, dragging his own sword as he staggered off.
“Another time, Maclay.” the wounded elder coughed, catching a spray of blood in his hand. Flicking his wrist, he stumbled into the darkness and disappeared.
Tara saw the trees spinning and finally let her head drop to the ground. The last sound she heard was Faith’s voice. “She alive, B?” Faith asked Buffy before Tara finally succumbed to blackness.
Willow sat in the waiting room as the doctors hurried around Shannon’s bed. She had to lie, saying she was a cousin, to get the doctors to keep her informed. ‘Ironic.’ She thought as she paced. ‘How many doctors here think all of the scoobies are related in one way or another. We’ve all been in here for something, and we’ve all lied, saying we were cousins, sisters or some other variation.’ Willow glanced at the clock and sighed. It was already late, and she was due back a few hours ago. Digging in her jeans for change, she dialed Buffy’s number and waited.
“Hello.” Came a warm and familiar voice.
Willow smiled. “Hey Kennedy. How are things?” she asked cheerfully, relieved to hear the brunettes voice.
“Um…ok. We’re kind of busy right now. Buffy got attacked by an uber-vamp, so we’re busy patching her up.” Kennedy said, sounding a little nervous.
“Oh. Is Faith with you?” Willow asked, deciding to let the nervousness go.
“Yeah. Hang on.” Kennedy answered.
After a few seconds, Willow heard the receiver being picked up and Faith’s voice came over the line. “How’s the girl, red?”
“Get right to the point, don’t you?” Willow smiled. “She’s fine. A nasty stab wound and a burn on her neck, plus various bumps and bruises from being tossed from the truck.”
“Cool. When can you be here?” Faith asked, also sounding nervous.
“Um…well, I kind of want to wait, make sure that Shannon can come too.” Willow said, shifting her weight. She decided to forgo tact and try blunt. “Faith, what’s going on?” she remembered the fight. “Oh god. Buffy’s not dead…again…is she?” she asked.
Faith actually chuckled. “Nah, nothing like that. Just…well…get here as soon as you can.”
Willow frowned. She was half tempted to just go now, but she wanted Shannon to come with her. She was safer with the other potentials, and slayers. “I’ll try to hurry them.” She said.
“Gotcha.” Faith replied quickly before hanging up.
Willow listened to the dial tone for a few seconds in stunned silence before replacing the receiver. “What the frilly heck is going on now?” she whispered to herself.
Tara opened her eyes and looked around the room. She smiled slowly and inhaled the soft scents that, even after a year, were so familiar to her. The Summers home had been her home for a long time, and lying in Buffy’s bed, she had to admit that she had missed it terribly. Home, not Buffy's bed. As she reached to push the blankets back, she felt the cool air hit her exposed skin and quickly looked around for her clothes. Seeing nothing, she frowned. She wasn’t about to go prancing around the house in her underwear, no matter how much she may have changed.
Duncan was chopping vegetables when he felt the quickening awaken inside of him, alerting him that Tara was awake. “Richie.” He said softly to the teen, who was busy trying to impress a group of girls. “Take over, and try not to mess it up.” He said.
Richie nodded, taking the knife from Duncan. “Sure thing Mac. What’s up?” he asked, when suddenly the sensation hit him as well. Hairs stood on the back of his neck. Even after two years, the sensation was still very weird. “Oh.” He said, starting the chopping again. “Never mind.”
Duncan walked into the living room and saw Buffy sitting beside Faith on the couch. “She’s awake.” He said softly, noticing Dawn asleep in the chair.
Buffy stood and headed for the stairs. “Is she going to be ok?” she asked.
Duncan only smiled. “She should be as good as new. We heal pretty fast.” He said.
Buffy nodded and headed up the stairs. It had only been about three hours since she, Tara and Faith returned from the patrol. Dawn had been livid, and terrified about Tara’s injury. She actually smacked Buffy, which amused Faith to no end.
Buffy knocked softly on the bedroom door and risked a peek inside. “Hey? You awake?” she asked, smiling at the blonde witch.
Tara grinned back. “Awake and naked. Is this your doing or am I going to have to hurt Duncan?” she asked, grinning to show she was kidding.
Buffy entered the room and shut the door. She handed the clothes to Tara and discreetly turned as the shy wiccan dressed. “It was me. I figured we would get rid of the bloody clothes. I still had some of your stuff from when you and Will…” she paused and coughed, suddenly very tense. “From before.” She said.
Tara slid into the jeans and laughed lightly. “It’s ok, Buffy. You can say her name.” She said, slipping the shirt over her head and stepping in front of Buffy, only to see tears in the slayers eyes. “Buffy? Are you ok?” she asked, gathering a crying Buffy into her arms.
Buffy had broken down when she had shown up but then immediately went into super slayer mode, pushing all of her feelings down and taking charge. She gathered Giles, Xander and Anya and had done it all in a flurry of activity, which meant that she still had raw emotions to deal with. “Buffy? Are you ok?” Tara asked again, gently stroking the back of Buffy’s head, rocking the slayer gently.
“I saw him stab you. There was just...so much blood.” Buffy choked out. “I thought we had lost you again.” She said, looking at Tara again. “I…Duncan said you would be fine, but there was just so much blood.” She said.
Tara felt her eyes water and shook her head. “Anything short of cutting my…anything short of…” she tried to find a word to replace decapitation, as it brought very unpleasant memories, but was stumped. “Anything short of beheading me will only be temporary.” She settled. “Anything else, and I will heal back.”
Buffy nodded. “It is going to take a lot of getting used to.” She said. Suddenly there was a loud knocking on the door.
“B. Red’s gonna be home soon.” Faith called, then Buffy heard the dark slayer turn and go back downstairs.
Tara swallowed hard. “Willow.” She said softly.
“Are you gonna be ok seeing her?” Buffy asked.
Tara nodded, trying to smile as if nothing was wrong. “Sure. Absolutely.” She said. Buffy wasn’t convinced. Tara wasn't really that convinced herself.
Willow opened the front door and sighed as she entered the house. “I’m back from the hospital. And I have some good news for once.” She called, tossing her keys onto the small table in the foyer. “The doctors say that Shannon will be fine.” She called again, before turning and peeking into the normally crowded living room. What she saw made her raise an eyebrow. “What’s going on, ladies?” she asked.
There were about a dozen girls all sitting around the room. Some on the couch, one or two perched on chairs and the rest were either sitting on the floor or standing. “Where’s Buffy?” Willow asked, turning and looking around. “Kennedy?” she looked over at her girlfriend and raised her eyebrow in question.
“She’s in the kitchen.” Kennedy said, not making eye contact. “Dawn, Giles and Faith are in there too.”
Willow frowned. Something was happening and she wasn’t sure she liked what was going on. She headed for the kitchen door. “Buffy? What’s up with everyone? They’re all acting like they’ve seen a…” her words froze in mid sentence. Sitting at the table with Buffy and Dawn was someone she never thought she’d see again. She felt her hands start to shake and she glared at the figure. “What the hell is going on?” she demanded, her voice tight and fierce. She felt rage bubbling to the surface and the magic inside of her flare, just slightly. “Is this some kind of sick joke for you?” she spat at the blonde, who seemed to be calmly sipping her coffee.
Andrew saw Willow’s hair darken slightly and made a quick, yet discreet, exit. It hadn’t turned black, but it was almost a blood red now.
“We need to talk, Willow.” Buffy said softly.