Red Moon Rising
Joyce met Giles in the hall and they went back downstairs to the kitchen where she made coffee.
"Giles, do you even begin to understand what’s happening with the three of them?" she asked, sitting down at the breakfast bar across from him.
"Not really," he admitted. "I don’t believe it’s a casual sexual experimenting thing, though."
"I think I’m glad of that," Joyce said with a frown. "I really don’t want to see Buffy get hurt anymore and experimentation usually leads to some painful lessons."
"I agree," Giles said thoughtfully as Joyce poured the fresh brewed coffee. "Slayers don’t usually live this long, relationships are usually just of the high school crush kind."
"Being the Slayer does rob the girls of their youth and most human pleasures, doesn’t it?" Joyce asked bitterly.
"Yes," Giles admitted. "They seem to be sincerely in love with each other, all three of them."
"Giles, it’s bad enough that Buffy is the Slayer," Joyce said softly. "She pays such a high price. She doesn’t know it but I watched her tossing with nightmares months before we left LA. I figured out that’s the time that Merrick found her and she began her path of destiny as the Slayer."
"Probably," Giles’ voice was heavy with his own guilt at being a Watcher, at the heavy price he paid for his part in destiny and fate.
"She truly loved Angel and couldn’t be with him without endangering the world, what kind of destiny is that, Rupert?"
"I don’t know," he admitted.
"Now Willow almost died, Buffy would be destroyed if anything ever happened to Willow and probably Tara as well," Joyce said wearily.
"Willow and Xander both realize that they would have died a long time ago if it hadn’t been for Buffy’s Slayer skills and her love for them," Giles said gently. "They joined the fight, probably at first for the excitement, but later out of devotion and a sense of honor. Oz still would have been a werewolf and he probably would have killed Willow a long time ago."
"Giles, do you know how hard it is accepting that my daughter probably won’t live long enough to get married, settle down and have children?"
The Watcher reached across the bar and wiped a tear away as he felt his own eyes filling with tears.
"Yes, I do," he said softly. "I’m very fond of Buffy; working so closely with her day in and day out will do that. All of them are like kids I’ll never have. Then I turn around and send her and all of them out into danger. Knowing each night could be their last."
Giles ran a hand through his unruly hair. "I send them out to find danger, not just to stay away from it like most parents try and teach their kids in Sunnydale, but to seek it out, fight it and destroy it and hope they come back alive."
Joyce gently took his hands into hers.
"I know, it’s hard for both of us," she agreed. "Maybe even worse for you because you know what she’s facing and I don’t. Thankfully, she doesn’t tell me what she fights against and how bad she gets hurt."
"I won’t lie to you, Joyce," Giles responded. "She does get hurt and she even died once. Xander saved her with CPR. She’s come very close to dying, all of them have and she’s had more emotional pain than most Slayers."
"Then I guess we should be happy," Joyce announced.
"Excuse me?" Giles questioned, raising his eyebrows in question.
"If Buffy, Tara and Willow can find some happiness in this constant struggle they’re in, shouldn’t we be happy?"
"Well, if you look at it that way, I suppose that would be the logical thing, wouldn’t it?"
"You are so British at times, Rupert," Joyce laughed lightly.
"Since we’re talking about grabbing happiness while you can," Giles hesitated and glanced up into the eyes of his Slayer’s mom. "Would you go out with me this Friday?"
"Yes, I would," Joyce answered softly and moved across the bar, her lips meeting the Watcher’s.
* * *
Willow woke up to find Tara gone but Buffy still on the bed with her, the Slayer’s arm over the computer wiz’s ribs and her face nuzzled in Willow’s hair. The hacker turned over and felt Buffy stirring slightly. Willow smiled when Buffy opened her eyes and smiled at Willow.
"Hey, beautiful," the Slayer muttered and smiled even wider when Willow began blushing.
"Hey, you, don’t you have class?" Willow questioned.
Buffy groaned and raised her head to look at the clock on the nightstand. "Yup, just enough time for a shower and a dash across campus. Where’s Tara?"
"Gone when I woke up a moment ago," Willow answered. "I hope she isn’t regretting last night, not that we did anything last night. Unless kissing two girls in the same night in the same bed would make her wig, that might when you think about, it’s not something…"
"Willow! I haven’t pried my eyes open yet," Buffy protested with a laugh and a gentle hug.
"Sorry," the hacker grinned and was about to saying something usual about her babbling, which probably would have led to another trade-mark babble when Buffy’s lips stopped her.
Willow moaned and felt her body becoming very warm all over and settling below her stomach. She growled when she tried moving her left arm and found it encased in a cast once again. Willow wanted to touch the Slayer very badly right then as one of Buffy’s hands roamed through Willow’s red hair and the other was moving lightly over the hacker’s ribs.
Willow pulled back slightly and Buffy lowered her head to the hacker’s neck and lightly nibbled.
"Oh Goddess," Willow whispered, feeling her body jerk with the sensations that Buffy’s lips and hands were sending through her. "Buffy, yes."
Buffy’s hand roamed under Willow’s t-shirt and repeated her movements across Willow’s ribs and stomach, under the cloth this time.
Willow moaned again and pulled Buffy’s head back up for another round of kissing, this time more intense and exploring as she felt Buffy’s lips open in invitation. Then the computer student whimpered and jerked as Buffy ran her fingers lightly over Willow’s nipples.
"Oh Gods, Buffy," Willow whispered, breaking the kiss. "We gotta stop! Class, you have class. I know you’ve missed too much watching out for me this semester."
Buffy reluctantly stopped and pulled back slightly. Willow was amazed at the sight of the Slayer, the flushed face, heavy eyelids and heavy breathing and it was all for her. Willow felt in awe that two of the most wonderful women she could ever know wanted her as much as she wanted them.
"Okay, I’ll be a good kid," Buffy finally relented with a smile and then her face grew serious. "Wills," she hesitated. "It feels different than it has with anyone, even Angel. With you and Tara, it’s like… I don’t know how to describe it."
"Me either," Willow agreed. "Kissing Xander and having sex with Oz doesn’t begin to compare with what just kissing you and Tara does to me."
"You’re both different and yet it feels similar," Buffy said thoughtfully as she swung her legs over the side of the bed. "Damn, I’m going to be late," she growled and stood up quickly. "Do you need me to get you breakfast or help you get dressed?"
"No, go!" Willow said with a grin. "Anya is dropping by this morning until Tara gets back with the home teacher the university is sending out. I’ll be fine. I promise I won’t go downstairs without someone here and I have the cell phone and beeper right here on the nightstand."
"Okay," Buffy said reluctantly and walked around the bed with a feline grace that Willow knew the Slayer wasn’t aware of. Willow blushed when Buffy leaned over and kissed her before heading for her own room and the shower.
A few minutes later she heard Buffy yelling a goodbye to her and the front door slamming shut.
Willow knew that she wouldn’t be alone long. One, they didn’t want to leave her alone so soon after heart surgery; two, they didn’t want her alone in case Oz found out she was still alive.
The hacker reached onto the nightstand and grabbed her laptop as she pulled herself into a sitting position on the bed. Willow knew her friends would throw a fit if she tried to take a shower without someone in the house so that would have to wait, in the meantime, she booted up her computer and began to surf. She had researched the subject a lot when Oz first went through the changes of becoming a werewolf but Willow thought there might be some new information somewhere, or some old information buried somewhere she might be able to get to now.
Giles hadn’t mentioned it but Willow knew he was very aware of the calendar and exactly how far away the full moon was for all of them. The first thing popping up on Willow’s computer was a calendar with a large red star showing the first day of the full moon.
Now that it was possibly Buffy who was infected, Willow was twice as determined to find a cure. After a cure would come tracking Oz down. Willow frowned at herself. <A few months ago she would be hunting for Oz to help cure him, no matter what he had done. > Willow even figured that she would have forgiven him killing someone while as a werewolf. Now she knew that she wouldn’t be looking for him to offer him a cure if she found it, she wanted Oz dead.
The young witch felt slightly sick to her stomach when that realization hit her. <She was willing to wish someone dead, someone she had once loved.> Willow had been willing to look for a cure to save Angel from his Angelus self, even after he had killed Jenny Calendar. Even after he had tortured Giles for amusement and had tried to bring about the end of the world. While Buffy fought to stop him, Willow was fighting to find a cure. Buffy was ramming a sword through his heart and Willow was casting a spell to bring his soul back.
Now Willow was willing to kill someone. She thought about why and found her answer.
<Oz had tried to rape her and intentionally infect her with lycanthropy. What was unforgivable, however, was that he intentionally hurt her Buffy. She also knew he wouldn’t hesitate to hurt Tara or Buffy again, especially if he knew how much they meant to her.>
"If Buffy is sick and a werewolf, I swear you will pay, Oz," she muttered over her computer. "I will find a way to hurt you, a lot!"
<One place to start was with one of her new on-line friends,> Willow reflected. She had made several acquaintances on the internet, especially among those interested in the paranormal. This one corresponding friend seemed to know what he was talking about when it came to psychology and parapsychology.
Willow grinned; she had a secret desire to meet her new friend, if only to get him in the same room with Giles. She had a feeling that once they met, they’d never shut up and wouldn’t notice a tornado ripping the building around them apart.
Grayfox seemed like the scholarly type, like Giles.
Another nice thing about him is that he didn’t go into personal stuff, unlike most of the males on the internet and some of the more needy females wanting anyone to latch onto. He hadn’t said much about himself, hadn’t asked her a lot of personal questions and hadn’t offered to meet her.
After dealing with people on the internet for a few years, Willow knew this was unusual to the extreme for almost everyone corresponding on the ‘net. Grayfox genuinely seemed interested in exchanging information about anything paranormal and seemed to take Willow seriously.
The hacker began composing her email to him, trying to figure out how to word it without giving too much away. <It couldn’t reveal that a friend was a werewolf and had bitten another friend and, by the way, did he know a cure for lycanthropy that no one else had heard of and would he give it to her?> The only time he had gotten personal was when Willow slipped and mentioned that she had dealt with a particularly rough demon, actually Buffy had but Willow had helped Giles research it. Grayfox was suddenly very interested in knowing where Willow lived and if things like that happened often.
Willow had politely refused to answer the questions and that was the only time Grayfox had pushed, trying to get the information out of her. She had finally shut down her chat with him and refused to answer his emails for a week until he apologized for pushing and promised he wouldn’t ask those questions again.
She had answered his emails after that and even chatted on-line with him and he had kept his word. Willow had finally relaxed enough but was cautious after that. As a member of the Scooby Gang, she had a responsibility to protect their battles in Sunnydale, even if Grayfox sounded like he might be able to help. Willow knew she couldn’t risk bringing in outsiders and endangering Buffy. It was bad enough that the Initiative had moved in.
<Initiative, Riley Finn,> Willow suddenly thought. She hadn’t even asked Buffy how her relationship with Riley was going while she had been in the hospital. She didn’t think Buffy would admit her love for Willow if she was still with Riley. The hacker wondered how Buffy had dealt with her unhappy relationship with Riley.
Willow returned to her email.
* * *
"Buffy!" a voice caught the Slayer’s attention as she walked down the hall after her first class. She smiled politely at the sight of Riley rushing towards her. She let him fall into step beside her. "I’ve been calling and just getting the machine, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I haven’t moved all my stuff out of the dorm yet and haven’t checked the machine for a few days," Buffy answered.
"Moving? Where to?" Riley Finn questioned, his face puzzled.
"Back home," she responded. "We moved Willow into the guest room so we can all watch after her and take care of her. I figured since she wasn’t in the dorm, I might as well move back home too. I can protect her better if I’m living there."
"Can we talk, Buffy?" he asked.
"Yeah," Buffy agreed although inside she was screaming ‘no.’ The last thing she wanted that day was to talk with Riley, especially when he looked so serious and hadn’t tried to kiss her yet. All she wanted to do was get through with classes and get back home to Willow and Tara and a good home cooked meal from her mom.
They walked to a bench under a tree and sat down, Riley still didn’t try to kiss her, hold her hand, or sit too close. Buffy knew the energy had changed between them and that Riley was finally realizing it.
"Why didn’t you call me when Willow was attacked?" he demanded. "We could have had a squad there in minutes and could have protected her that night."
"We protected her, Riley," Buffy frowned.
"Some protection," he snapped. "I read the police report and figure it was mostly made up but between the lines tells me and my superiors that you, Giles and Tara got tossed around pretty good and Willow had her hand mangled."
Buffy’s eyes flashed angrily at his accusation and with the guilt that he was actually right; they had failed Willow that night. Only taking the werewolf bite herself had kept Willow from being claimed by Oz.
"Oz was our friend, we weren’t sure he was that dangerous," she tried to explain.
"And you didn’t want the Initiative getting hold of him because of how we treat hostiles, right?" he growled. It was an old argument between them.
"Some of those ‘hostiles’ are people who can’t help being born half demon, cursed as a werewolf, or being possessed, you treat them like animals!" she hissed back. Buffy didn’t want to think of anyone she knew on the wrong side of the Initiative, especially now that she might be one of those ‘hostiles’ as they were called by the government.
"Is that why you wouldn’t let me see Willow? Was she bitten?" he demanded.
Buffy’s eyes widened. "No!" she snapped. "You saw the doctor’s report, right? Her hand might never be at full strength again but she wasn’t bitten."
"What happened with her second attack?" he asked. "The police report says that Oz stabbed her in a fit of rage. Did he?"
"No," Buffy answered bitterly. "She stabbed herself."
"What?" Riley whispered, his face reflecting his shock as Buffy nodded.
"That’s right, he didn’t have a chance to bite her," Buffy growled, trying to fight back the tears as she remembered Willow lying on a cold crypt floor with a silver knife through her heart, blood everywhere. "She stabbed herself through the heart with a silver knife to keep him from biting her."
"Oh God," he muttered, his mind obviously racing.
"You can report to your superiors that Willow Rosenberg was brave enough to kill herself rather than turn into a werewolf and endanger her friends or innocent citizens," Buffy said softly, ignoring several students passing close by as she angrily wiped away the tears trying to escape her eyes. "What do you do with werewolves?" she asked.
"The scientists have had some success at implanting a chip similar to the one they used on that hostile that hangs with you now," Riley answered.
"Spike, his name is Spike," Buffy growled. "Not ‘hostile whatever.’"
"Okay, okay," he snapped back. "The chip doesn’t prevent the change into semi-wolf form but it helps."
"What does it do?" Buffy asked softly.
"Its like an embedded dog whistle," Riley shrugged.
"It emits a noise inside their ear canals that no one else can hear but the hostile, uh, werewolf. It drives them insane when they’re in semi-wolf form. They roll around on the floor all night, howling and growling in pain. It doesn’t hurt them or affect them permanently and in the morning they remember nothing," he explained.
"You torture them every night of the full moon?" Buffy asked softly.
"It doesn’t hurt them permanently, it keeps them off balance and easily managed, and the human side doesn’t remember it," Riley protested.
"The wolf is just an animal!" Buffy countered, trying to keep her voice down. "It’s not like they can help changing! Would you do that to your mother?"
Riley’s face flushed with anger. "No, I’d shoot her before letting her turn into one of those damned things!" he snapped. "Why the questions? Who got bitten by Oz?"
"No one," Buffy said hastily. "I wanted to know what the Initiative did with werewolves. We still might have to deal with Oz again."
"Let us handle it, Buffy," Riley urged. "Just continue killing vampires and demons, let our scientists figure out the lycanthropy virus."
"How, by torturing werewolves?" she demanded, a fear of falling into the hands of Riley himself if he knew she had been bitten swept over the Slayer.
"They’re also looking for ways of preventing the change or giving the human control over the werewolf," Riley snapped.
"If you get your hands on him all I want is assurances that he’ll never get near Willow again," Buffy said flatly.
"Done, those werewolves who like being the beast and kill for sport are locked away, permanently," Riley promised and Buffy was hoping she wouldn’t be on the receiving end of that described fate. "Can we switch subjects now?"
"Sure," Buffy agreed with a tired smile.
"What about us?" he asked softly. "You’ve barely said hello to me in the last couple of weeks. I know things were a little rough between us but I’d like to be given the chance to make it up to you."
"Riley, I apologize," Buffy began, hesitating. "I should have talked to you before this. I haven’t been fair to you lately."
"There’s someone else," he said bitterly.
"Yes, there is," Buffy answered softly. "I didn’t realize exactly how I felt about someone until recently. Then there was the mess of whether they cared for me at all."
"So I was held in reserve in case it didn’t work out?" he demanded.
"No," Buffy said sadly. "I wouldn’t do that to you or me. I was about to break up with you when Willow was attacked. Things got crazy after that."
"It’s not Angel," Riley growled and Buffy looked up into his eyes, puzzled. She didn’t care for the grin that he gave her questioning look. "I’ve got friends in shadowy places. They tell me Angel is still in Los Angeles and that he’s probably involved with his secretary."
Buffy felt the anger hitting her again and resisted smacking her now ex-boyfriend in the teeth.
"Angel isn’t capable of being ‘involved’ with anyone, even Cordelia," she snapped. "No, it isn’t Angel even though I still care for him very much."
"Oh don’t goddamn well tell me the rumors are true!" Riley demanded, a look of disgust crossing his face.
"Rumors? What rumors?" Buffy asked.
"Well, I thought I had pretty well blown those out of the water, especially after that possessed Frat House thing and hours of incredible sex with you," he smirked and Buffy felt herself blushing. "Maybe it wasn’t enough."
"What the hell are you talking about?" she demanded.
"The rumors about you and Red," he continued to smirk. "It’s known she’s hanging around with that other dyke witch. Tell me, Buff, did they pull you into their little game? Do you make it with one or both of them?"
Buffy felt like her blood pressure had hit the ceiling if she had been under one at the moment and heard nothing but a roaring in her ears from the intense and blinding anger sweeping over her. Riley’s continued smirk caused something to snap inside the Slayer.
The Slayer became aware of her surroundings as she struggled against two very large football player type students holding her arms. She blinked and looked down at Riley, who was now lying on the ground, his hands between his legs as he moaned and turned very pale and then purple.
"You done?" one of the guys holding her asked and Buffy nodded, breathing heavily. Her hands hurt and she glanced down to see that her knuckles were bruised and cut. Riley’s nose was bleeding freely and his lip was cut as well.
The small crowd that had gathered waited, morally torn. They wanted to see more fighting, especially a small petite blonde beating up a tall and athletic looking male and yet they knew they should step in and stop whatever was happening.
"Did he attack you?" the other male asked.
"No, he just insulted my friends!" Buffy growled and mentally restrained herself, keeping herself from kicking Riley again. The Slayer realized the men had finally stepped in when she had kicked Riley between the legs, squarely in the groin. Their maleness had demanded that they stop her from doing any more damage to a fellow male after a blow like that one.
"Remind me not to piss you off," one of them grinned and let go of her arm, the other laughed in agreement and released the small blonde. The two males went to Riley and pulled him to his feet. The commando soldier looked stunned and still in a massive amount of pain.
"Let’s get him to the nurse, he’s going to need some ice for those balls," one suggested.
"Yeah, bet his girlfriend won’t get any for a week!" the other one laughed, putting one of Riley’s arms over his shoulders.
"That is his girlfriend," the other one grinned.
Riley managed to focus enough to catch Buffy’s attention.
"It’s true, isn’t it?" he whispered. "You’re a fucking dyke after all."
"If the choice is having sex with a female or with you, I’ll take any female, any day. Get him out of here before I really hurt him," Buffy warned and sat down on the bench heavily, trying to ignore the students gathered around her.
The two football players laughed and practically carried the wounded soldier away towards the Health Center. The crowd slowly melted away, leaving the Slayer alone, still fuming.
"Buffy?" Tara asked when the Slayer slammed open the door to the house and stormed into the living room.
It was obvious that Buffy was very angry about something. Her hair was mussed up and the Slayer was practically growling with anger. Buffy threw her books down on the coffee table and began pacing across the room.
"Buffy, what’s wrong!" Tara demanded from the doorway of the kitchen.
The Slayer finally looked up and acknowledged Tara’s presence in the house. "Nothing," she muttered, making an effort to calm down. "I just got into a fight with Riley and he pissed me off."
"Come on in the kitchen, I’m cooking lunch," Tara suggested. "There’ll be plenty for all four of us."
"Four?" Buffy questioned.
"Yeah, Willow’s teacher is upstairs going over lessons and stuff. She’s staying for lunch," Tara explained as they entered the kitchen. "Willow’s missed a bit of school and they’re trying to decide if she should withdraw from some classes or take incompletes and take the classes again next semester."
Buffy laughed lightly. "Willow Rosenberg dropping a class or taking an incomplete? The sun will not rise tomorrow and hell will bring forth an ice age that will cover Sunnydale for the next five years," Buffy predicted and Tara blushed and grinned.
Willow Rosenberg was well known as a straight A student and a permanent fixture on the Honor Roll and Honor Society. Dropping a class or taking an incomplete was about as likely as Buffy’s predicted events.
Buffy sighed, trying to ease her anger away and walked up into a hug with Tara. Without a word her lips demanded attention from the young witch, pulling Tara to her almost forcefully. Tara moaned and ran her hands through Buffy’s hair, melting into the embrace. After a moment she pulled back, slightly breathless.
"Gotta keep an eye on lunch," she muttered.
"Smells good, what’s cooking?" Buffy asked, going to the refrigerator and grabbing a Coke.
"Lasagna, salad and garlic bread," Tara answered.
"I didn’t know Mom had bought a big frozen thing of lasagna," Buffy reflected.
"She didn’t, I’m making it," Tara answered, her head dropping and letting her hair almost cover her face, reverting back to her shy mode.
Buffy refused to let the witch become a mouse again and walked over to Tara and brushed the hair behind the witch’s ear. "Smells wonderful and I’m very impressed," Buffy whispered. "With the cook and the person."
Tara really began blushing at that point and then frowned when she noticed Buffy’s hands.
"What happened?" Tara demanded.
"I got into a fight with Riley," Buffy repeated, smiling and hoping that it would distract the witch.
"I thought y-you meant a verbal fight," Tara protested, not being distracted by the charming smile at all. "A p-physical fight?"
Buffy shrugged. "Yeah, he told me what the Initiative does with werewolves, demanded to know about me and him, and then called you and Willow dyke witches."
Tara turned pale and her head dropped again and Buffy cursed.
"I knew people would talk, maybe I should…" Tara whispered.
"What?" Buffy demanded, lifting Tara by the chin until the witch looked at her. "Do what? Leave Willow and me because of some narrow-minded jerk? Tara, I’ve been dealing with rumors since I became the Slayer. It hasn’t been easy; all I wanted was a normal life and being the Slayer is anything but normal. Being in a relationship with me or Willow or both of us won’t be easy and people will talk."
Tara nodded slowly.
"If it’s not about our sex lives then it’d be about something else," Buffy continued. "I remember how vicious Cordelia could be to Willow when I first met them both. She could cut another student down faster than a sword with that tongue of hers. Cordelia calmed down some over the years but there are a thousand more like her. They won’t go away and they move in at the first sign of weakness and they don’t stop unless you stand up to them or ignore them and they get bored."
"I just don’t want Willow or you hurt because of me," Tara protested in a soft and shy voice.
"Tara, I’m falling for you and I’m in love with Willow," Buffy smiled gently. "Nothing is going to change that. Accept it with a smile and make me a promise."
"What?" Tara asked, smiling slightly.
"Teach me how to cook like this," Buffy grinned. "I think your lasagna is done."
Tara squeaked and rushed for hot pads and pulled out the most delicious lasagna Buffy had seen in a long time and the smell set her mouth watering. She quickly joined in setting the table for their guest and themselves.
"I’ll go get them," Buffy volunteered and took the stairs two at a time to try and work off some of the energy left over from the fight with Riley.
Buffy’s heart soared when she opened Willow’s door and the redhead’s face brightened at the sight of the Slayer.
"Lunch is ready, guys," Buffy said simply. "Let’s get you downstairs and good home cooked food in you."
"Sounds good," Willow agreed.
"I’m Buffy," the Slayer introduced herself to the woman sitting in the chair next to Willow’s bed. The Slayer quickly took in mental notes about the teacher.
The teacher looked to be somewhere in her late 30s with short brown hair, brown eyes and a calm manner that Buffy knew Willow needed right then. She was wearing a moderately priced tweed skirt; button up light blue blouse and Buffy spotted a jacket that matched the skirt. Buffy wondered if she should introduce the teacher to Giles if the Watcher and her mom didn’t work out again.
"I’m Theresa Santiago," the woman introduced herself with a friendly smile.
"Santiago?" Buffy questioned and found Willow nodding slightly.
"Detective Santiago’s wife, she’s a home tutor teacher," Willow explained.
"Is this a coincidence?" Buffy asked with a slight smile.
"Not totally," Theresa Santiago admitted. "When Brad found out that Willow would need a home tutor for awhile, he suggested I request the assignment. That way he can sort of keep an eye on Willow through me."
"Very smart," Buffy admitted as she held out her arm for Willow to lean against as the hacker got up from the bed. "We’ll move Willow down to the sofa in the mornings; doctor wants her to start walking a little more each day."
"Excellent, I’m impressed with Willow’s school record and I have no doubt she’ll catch up quickly," Theresa grinned and Willow blushed.
Buffy was pleased that Willow wasn’t as out of breath when she got to the bottom of the stairs as the hacker had been the day before. Both teacher and student marveled at the sight and smell of the lasagna and Tara in turn blushed nicely.
The Slayer grinned to herself. <It felt wonderful to have Tara and Willow in good moods.> Buffy was even more pleased when the lasagna was indeed delicious and she loved watching Tara blush when Willow raved about the cooking and so did Theresa. Within moments the teacher and the blonde witch were exchanging recipes.
Buffy saw Willow watching Tara and Theresa Santiago interacting and smiled. The look on the young witch’s face was one of absolute affection and the Slayer found she wasn’t jealous and that surprised Buffy a little bit. The Slayer knew that she was "supposed" to be jealous and should be hurt that Willow was looking at another woman like that and not at Buffy. The Slayer had the feeling that one glance in her direction and Willow would be looking at her like that.
The Slayer reflected that somehow everything felt good with Tara and Willow around.
The other three women became involved in comparing recipes and school work and Buffy merely grinned when the telephone rang and she jumped up to grab it.
"Hello?" she answered cheerfully.
"Hi, Buffy!" a male voice answered as cheerfully and it chilled Buffy to her bones.
"Oz?" she whispered, hoping that Tara or Willow hadn’t heard but the conversation around the table stopped instantly and a glance over there revealed a very pale Willow and an angry Tara listening.
"Yup! Ready to go howling at the moon?" he asked.
"Damn you, Oz!" Buffy shouted. "You can go to hell and I’ll help send you there!"
"Been there," Oz said easily. "Don’t worry, I’ll take you into the pack and take care of you until you learn to control it."
"Never, damn you!" she hissed. The Slayer noticed Theresa pulling a cell phone out of her purse and talking rapidly in Spanish to someone.
"By the way, Buffy," Oz said sweetly. "I know Willow’s alive. After I take you in, we’ll bring her into the pack yet."
Before Buffy could respond the werewolf hung up the phone.
The Slayer stared at the receiver in her hand for a moment and then slammed it against the wall, putting a good sized hole into her Mom’s kitchen wall, snapping the receiver in half as well.
Buffy wanted to hit something, especially Oz but her anger quickly melted when she saw Willow’s pained face and rapid breathing. Tara was up and wrapping her arms around the redhead in an instant and Buffy was kneeling beside her chair.
"Easy, Wills," Buffy said softly.
Theresa Santiago reached out and took Willow’s wrist into her hand and quickly checked her student’s pulse and frowned.
"Oz?" Willow stammered. "Wh…what did he say?"
Buffy glanced at Theresa and hesitated over her answer. "He threatened my life and said he knows you’re alive and still wants you."
"Does she have medication to slow her heart down or maybe one of the pain killers?" Theresa asked. "I called Brad, he’s on his way over to take a report and put a tracer on your phone."
"I’ll get her pills," Tara offered and dashed out of the kitchen.
"Buffy?" Willow asked softly, tears filling her eyes. The Slayer quickly pulled the young hacker into her arms.
"Brad said not to go outside and don’t answer the phone again," Theresa instructed.
"Okay, you’d better stay here, we have no idea where he is," Buffy suggested as Willow broke into tears. "He obviously knows Willow is here and he was willing to kidnap and kill our friends to get to her."
"Brad said the same thing," Theresa smiled at the strength radiating from the young college student in front of her. It was obvious that her husband had been right; Willow Rosenberg’s friends were loyal and highly protective. "I’m going to wait in the living room for Brad. I’m also going to watch for your miserable ex."
Buffy was grateful for the moment while Willow sobbed gently in her arms. After a moment the hacker composed herself and pulled back slightly.
"What did he say about you?" she asked softly.
"He said he’d take me into his pack and then we’d take you in," Buffy admitted.
"Goddamn him!" the witch suddenly shouted, wanting to slam her fist down and remembering the cast on her arm just in time to prevent injury to Joyce’s kitchen table and possibly her arm.
Tara returned with several bottles of pills and Willow looked over the variety and pointed to one. The blonde witch quickly undid the bottle and handed Willow a pill. The red-haired witch swallowed it with her milk.
"I’m okay, guys," she tried smiling at the two concerned faces looking down at her and sighed happily as they both wrapped their arms around her and each other in a wonderful group hug.
"We’ll get through this, Wills," Buffy said softly.
"We won’t let him near you," Tara promised.
Joyce was dismayed to find two police cars, one unmarked police car and several strangers in her house when she arrived home from the gallery. She went very pale when Buffy described the telephone call from Oz and had quickly cornered Brad Santiago, demanding to know what he was doing to protect Willow and her other kids.
She was relieved to learn that the police were taking Oz’s threats seriously but Detective Santiago warned her that it probably wouldn’t last long. Something always seemed to come up in Sunnydale that often qualified as an emergency.
Joyce, knowing more about Sunnydale and its strange goings on, merely nodded. She quickly went to hug her daughter, Willow and Tara. She frowned at how pinched and strained Willow’s face looked under the tension and the half open eyes.
"She took some meds to slow her heart rate down," Buffy answered her mother’s unasked question.
"Why don’t you take her upstairs back to bed?" Joyce suggested. "Tara and I will come up in a minute."
"Okay, Mom," Buffy agreed and easily pulled a weakly protesting Willow into her arms and ignored the stares of disbelief from the police officers hanging around in the living room while technicians played with the telephone as she carried the taller Willow up the stairs.
Joyce walked over and introduced herself to Theresa Santiago and discussed Willow’s schedule with her for a few minutes while Tara watched the technicians installing listening and tracing devices on the Summers’ phone.
It had been planned for Willow to return to school within the week on a limited schedule, but both women and Detective Santiago agreed that the young college student should probably stay on home study for at least another week or two.
He also promised to increase the patrols around the Summers’ home and an immediate response if Oz dared called back.
Joyce nodded, unhappy that it didn’t seem enough but understanding that it was probably the best she could hope for in Sunnydale. She nodded for Tara to follow her upstairs.
They found Willow beginning to doze in Buffy’s arms, the Slayer holding her protectively and gently. Willow opened her groggy eyes and smiled. Tara sat down on the edge of the bed while Joyce sat down on the end.
"I’d like Tara to move in with us," Joyce announced and all three looked surprised and glanced at each other. "I know there’s been an unspoken agreement not to discuss whatever is developing between the three of you, but I need to bring it up."
"Let me talk for a minute," Joyce insisted. "I want to see all of you happy and if it works between the three of you then I will be very happy, honestly. I think it’ll be good for all three of you in the same house until all three of you figure out what is going on, especially for Willow’s recovery. It would also make me feel better about Tara’s safety. Oz has seen her and he knows what dorm room is hers."
"You’re right, Mom," Buffy agreed and the three young college students glanced at each other, each questioning silently the suggestion and all three nodded to each other.
"Okay, Tara and I will go over with Xander and Anya and grab Tara’s stuff," Buffy said firmly.
"Good, I’ll also drive you both to campus in the mornings. I’m going to call Giles, Xander and Anya and work out a schedule to where Willow is never left alone," Joyce said firmly.
"Okay," Tara said softly.
"I need to go see Giles," Buffy said thoughtfully.
"Something new?" Willow mumbled.
"No, but the full moon is coming up and I think Giles and I need to plan some precautions," Buffy said softly.
"Buffy!" Willow whimpered and Buffy held her closer and Tara reached over the redhead and touched Buffy’s arm.
"We need to talk about it," Buffy insisted. "We had a couple of good days but we need to face it. Oz isn’t going away and I was bitten by him. I might turn into a werewolf on the full moon and we need to be prepared for that."
"What’s your plan?" Tara asked. "Especially since the full moon is on Halloween this month."
"Well, I’m going to suggest that we change the lock on that cell Oz had built and use it," Buffy explained.
"But Oz knows about it and used it to hold Xander and Anya," Willow protested. "Won’t he go back there?"
"He might be there now," Buffy agreed. "I’m going to get Giles, Xander and Anya to go with me slaying tonight and check out the crypt. If he’s there then we’ll take him out."
"Goddess, you’ll be careful, won’t you?" Tara said softly.
"You bet!" Buffy said cheerfully but Willow and Joyce could sense the strain in her. "Tomorrow, I’m going to start teaching you self defense and you’ll teach me cooking. How’s that for a trade?"
"You bet!" Tara agreed.
"Maybe Tara, Giles and I can research a spell that will be more powerful on Hallows," Willow suggested. "It’s not often that there’s a full moon on Samhain."
* * *
Like Brad Santiago had predicted, the police protection had only lasted three days. The patrols continued their increased surveillance but even the men listening for Oz to call packed up their gear after a week.
The week went easier for the household. Everyone settled into a routine, Joyce taking Buffy and Tara to school in the mornings and Buffy ensuring they got home before dark after school. The University provided extra security in the halls for the two young women and for Theresa Santiago when she picked up Willow’s schoolwork assignments and talked with her instructors.
It was decided by Willow, Joyce, and Willow’s doctors that she should stay out of school for at least a couple more weeks. Willow continued to get stronger but still worried all of them with how easily she grew tired.
Tara was indeed a magnificent cook and took over a lot of the duties around the kitchen for the household. Xander and Anya seemed to almost take up residence on the Summers’ sofa after sampling Tara’s cooking. The two of them helped Buffy on her slaying duties at night and watched over Willow during the day when Xander wasn’t at work and Anya wasn’t helping at the Magic Box.
Buffy kept to her deal with Tara and began teaching Tara self defense moves, demonstrating them for Willow and Tara began showing Buffy the basics around a kitchen. Joyce Summers, having long given up trying to get Buffy interested in household skills, merely shook her head in amusement.
It was only one week to the Full Moon.
Willow grinned as Tara sparred with Buffy. Surprisingly Buffy and Giles were slow and gentle with both Willow and Tara because of Willow’s recovery and Tara because of her shyness and lack of confidence.
Giles had thought it a very good idea for Buffy to train the Scooby Gang in self defense.
Willow slowly moved back upstairs to concentrate on her studies.
A submission hold brought Tara into Buffy’s arms. After a moment of struggle they both hesitated and Buffy turned Tara around and they began kissing. Tara moaned at the contact and ran her fingers into Buffy’s hair, holding the shorter woman to her as Buffy’s arms wrapped around the witch.
As the kiss became more passionate, Buffy felt a heat spreading through her system and her body jerked when Tara’s lips left hers and the witch began nibbling on her ear lobe and her tongue trailed down to the Slayer’s neck. Buffy clung to Tara when the other blonde lightly bit down on her neck.
"Oh God," Buffy whispered, her hands moving under Tara’s shirt and moaning when her hands found Tara’s breasts. Tara whimpered and fell back against the wall behind her as her hands fought their way under Buffy’s sweatshirt as well.
Buffy moaned at how sensitive her nipples suddenly were and how her body jerked when Tara touched them. The Slayer felt her emotions beginning to rage and a growl beginning in her throat and so pulled back.
"I… I’m about to lose it here," she admitted as she leaned against Tara.
"I don’t want to stop," Tara whispered.
"My mom is right upstairs," Buffy reminded both of them and Tara nodded.
"Okay," Tara whispered. "This is so hard to figure out. I keep having erotic dreams about you and Willow."
"Me too and Wills says she’s having the same dreams."
"Are we all just frustrated or does this we mean we’re connected?" Tara said thoughtfully.
"I’m betting on the connection thing," Buffy smiled, backing out of Tara’s embrace before she lost it again.
"With all of us, it’s not just because Willow and I got involved?"
"You mean am I paying attention to you and wanting to kiss you and make love to you just to keep you around because you make Willow happy?"
"I think I followed that," Tara grinned. "Yeah, s…something like that."
"I think you are beautiful, intelligent, sexy, strong, gorgeous, and have got some killer magick moves," Buffy grinned as Tara blushed at the gushing of adjectives describing her in Buffy’s eyes.
With her emotions a little more in check, Buffy pulled Tara into an embrace again, wrapping her arms around Tara’s waist and lightly kissed her.
"How can this work with three of us?" Tara questioned.
"I don’t know and I’m tired of second guessing emotions, relationships and Fate," Buffy said in an irritated voice. "I did enough soul searching and yelling at the cosmos when I was with Angel. I turned around and got Mr. Boring Riley. I’m done questioning. If you and Willow make me happy and I can make you both happy, then I say if it’s not broken then we shouldn’t fix it."
Tara grinned and leaned down slightly and kissed the Slayer.
"If this goes any further, will we get jealous?" Tara pondered as they walked up the stairs out of the basement where Buffy had set up a sparring area.
"You mean if you end up in Willow’s bed one night instead of mine, will I get jealous?" Buffy asked with a playful grin. "I don’t know, I don’t think so. The thought of you with Willow or Willow with you doesn’t make me jealous for some reason. The thought of Willow with Oz, now that drives me nuts!"
"Me too! She’s…she’s so hurt that he tried to not only infect her but rape her as well," Tara commented with a frown.
"I know, he was her first in some ways and she can’t believe he would turn out like this," Buffy nodded.
Both of them smiled at the sight of Giles kissing Joyce in the kitchen when they opened the basement door.
"Hi, Giles," Buffy said cheerfully, "Hi, Mom!"
Both girls giggled as the adults separated with blushing faces and stammering voices. Buffy and Tara ignored the stutters and moved into the living room with Willow. All three settling in for the early evening of homework.
Unknown to the others, Willow was also waiting for a response to her frequent emails to Grayfox. He was promising some new information if his leads panned out and Willow was praying they would It was only five days to the first night of the full moon.