Stranger In Her Eyes
"Love, I get so lost sometimes,
And all my instincts, they return.
In your eyes,
Two young women, one in a lacy white dress, the other in a tailored black tux, cuddled together in the back seat of a limousine. For all intents and purposes, they were lost to the world. The outside world didn’t exist for them. As far as they were concerned, the population of Planet Earth was the two of them.
In a few months, to be three.
As they continued to kiss each other, Buffy and Willow reflected again on the bizarre (anywhere except near the Hellmouth) set of circumstances that brought them here; the spell book, the spell which brought their bodies and souls together, the discovery that they had impossibly conceived life and were now expecting a daughter, and now, the bonds that they had forged together just hours ago.
Valentine’s day, 2000, was the first day of their new shared life together, as Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg exchanged rings and wedding vows and drank from the same wine glass, which Buffy then broke under her shoe, amid cries of "Congratulations" and "Mazel Tov!". Their union may not have been the most conventional marriage on record, but the symbolism of the ceremony mattered greatly to them. What mattered was that they had vowed to love, honor and cherish each other, and to raise together the child that they had conceived, that Willow was carrying. No one at the ceremony could have doubted the love and passion they shared. It was clear to even the casual observer; Buffy and Willow were meant to be.
It hadn’t been an easy road for either of them, especially considering the extremes that Willow’s parents had gone to in order to separate them, and force Willow to give their daughter up for adoption. If Ira Rosenberg had been successful, Buffy might have spent the rest of her life in an L.A. psych ward, a mindless vegetable. She shuddered at the thought, but then dismissed it. She hadn’t yet told Willow about her father’s duplicity, and hoped that she would never have to. Willow still had pangs of sorrow for her estranged parents, but they had made their choice. Their actions had only produced the effect of building a wall between themselves and their daughter, and diminishing the chance that they would ever get to know this miracle that was Buffy’s and Willow’s child. But now, with Buffy and her mother, with Giles, Xander and yes, even Oz, she had a better family than she had ever known. And their daughter would know that love, not the hatred her parents tried to foster on her.
Eventually, the real world intruded on their first moments of wedded bliss. "Uh, Buffy?" Willow murmured against her lover’s lips(wife’s, she corrected herself, excited by that wonderful word). "Where did the limo come from?"
"Uh, Detroit?" Buffy suggested, reluctantly disengaging the kiss. Willow swatted her playfully.
"I’m serious, Buffy. I didn’t rent it, and I don’t think you did, did you?"
"No," Buffy pursed her lips in thought. "Good point there, Wills," she conceded. She knocked at the glass partition separating them from the driver. "Yo, Jeeves," she called out. "What’s with the fancy transport?" Silence greeted them.
"Buff," Willow suggested, "the intercom." She pointed to a small speaker box in front of them. Buffy noticed the console, complete with tape deck, CD player, and a small ice chest. She opened the chest, and pulled a bottle out of the ice. She read the label on the bottle; "Sparkling non-alcoholic apple cider." She located another compartment, and pulled out two chilled crystal champagne flutes. "Well, someone thinks of everything." she commented. Pushing the button on the intercom, she asked, "Hey, Driver 8, what’s up with the four star service?"
"Ah, Mrs. Rosenberg-Summers" a formal, proper servant’s voice greeted her cheerily. "Are you and you wife comfortable?"
"Decadently so," she answered, hugging Willow to her once more. "We were just wondering a few things, like where you came from, where you’re taking us, you know that sort of thing."
"I’m under orders from Mr. Giles to escort the two of you to the Piedmont Hotel. Mr. Giles left a tape in the tape deck for the two of you."
The two women looked at each other, surprised. Giles, springing for limo service? And the Piedmont, Sunnydales swankiest hotel? Buffy hurriedly checked the tape deck, found the tape, and pressed ‘play’. Giles’ voice came through the speakers, crisp and clear;
"Buffy, Willow. Greetings and congratulations. I am aware that my initial reaction to your newfound relationship, and Willow’s pregnancy, might have been less than perfect, but I want the two of you to know that I am very proud of you both, and couldn’t love you any more if you were my own daughters." These words deeply moved the two brides.
"I am uniquely blessed among the Watchers, as I have been granted the opportunity to see my charge grow from an uncertain, somewhat flighty young girl, to an honorable, responsible and exceptional woman. We Watchers have it drilled into us not to become attached to our Slayers, as they aren’t expected to live past their ‘teens. However, you have surpassed all expectations, and with your friends, your family, and especially Willow at your side, I know that you will have a happy, and hopefully, long life ahead of you. And I am proud to have shared any portion of that life.
"I suppose you’re wondering about the limousine. That is part of my wedding gift for you. I’ve instructed the chauffeur to bring you to the Piedmont Hotel, where I have reserved the Honeymoon Suite for the two of you. The suite is yours for the next seven nights. I knew that with your class schedule, you wouldn’t be able to get out of Sunnydale for a while, so I’ve arranged a honeymoon for the two of you. It isn’t Niagara Falls, but it’s better than nothing. And Joyce has packed some suitcases for you so you won’t have to wear you wedding apparel to the campus tomorrow. You’ll find them in the trunk of the limo.
"The two of you are hereby instructed to make full use of the suite. I understand it has a hot tub and a mini-bar, and an exceptional view of the ocean, and I’ve left instructions for the hotel staff to keep the mini-bar stocked with non-alcoholic beverages. I also understand that the room service is quite excellent, so feel free to indulge yourselves; I’ve made arrangements to charge the entire hotel bill to the Council’s account, through some computer links that Willow had hacked into some months earlier; we had needed information from the Council after we had severed all ties to them." This announcement brought a fit of giggles from Buffy and Willow. "After what they put you through, Buffy, I believe that they owe you this much at least.
"And Buffy, you are hereby ordered not to go on patrol for the duration of your honeymoon. Xander, Anya, Oz and I will take care of any threats that may surface. I’m sure that if we have to, we can save the world without the two of you this once. Your responsibility now rests with Willow, and your child. You have a family now. And I’m very proud of the both of you. Be happy together." The tape wound down, and Buffy and Willow became lost again in each other’s eyes. Especially after what Ira Rosenberg did to separate them, it did them a world of good to know that Giles had supported their marriage. And the thought of beginning that marriage with a week at Sunnydale’s only four-star hotel, that was just the frosting on the wedding cake. And at the expense of the Watcher’s Council, yet!
Buffy popped the cork on the cider, and poured some into Willow’s waiting glass, then into her own. "A toast, Wills, to Giles. Who knew he had it in him?"
"To Giles," Willow echoed, as their glasses touched. "And to Buffy Rosenberg- Summers," she added, suddenly serious, "who today has made me the happiest woman in the world."
"To Willow Rosenberg-Summers," Buffy amended, "who made it a two-way tie."
The maitre d’ greeted the newlyweds with formal politeness, as they verified their reservations and claimed their room key, and informed them of the specials available at Shelton’s, the hotel’s restaurant. He had mentioned some of the breakfast specials created by master chef Amanda Shelton, and Buffy and Willow agreed to look into them tomorrow. A bellboy carried their suitcases to the penthouse suite, as Buffy and Willow stood together in the elevator. They couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, and if the bellboy was made uncomfortable by this display of affection, he didn’t show it.
It hadn’t occurred to either of the two women to carry any money with them at the wedding, so they were unable to tip the bellboy. He brushed it aside, assuring the lovers that "all tips had been taken care of by the generous Mr. Giles." Buffy nodded towards Willow, smiling knowingly. Giles didn’t forget a thing. The bellboy deposited the cases inside the suite, and wished the two brides a pleasant evening and a happy life together.
"So," Willow asked as they stood outside of the hallway. "After you?"
Buffy grinned slyly at her new wife, and said in mock indignation; "Willow, I’m surprised at you. Have you no sense of tradition?" She then placed her right arm around Willow’s back and her left arm behind her thighs. With minimal effort, she managed to lift a surprised Willow up in her arms, and carry her across the threshold of their suite. Willow gasped as she was lifted and instinctively wrapped her arms around Buffy’s shoulders. Buffy turned her head toward Willow’s and brushed her lips against Willow’s eager mouth. The honeymoon had begun.
After they had located the bedroom (dominated by an enormous four-poster bed with a voluminous lace canopy), Buffy gently placed Willow down onto the bed, and began to kiss her more earnestly, more passionately. Willow reluctantly backed away from Buffy’s clinging mouth, causing the Slayer to whimper slightly. "Be patient, Buffy," Willow said, a teasing smile playing at her lips. She jumped off the bed, located her suitcase and started to rummage through it. "Oh goody, she remembered," she said excitedly as she pulled out a small plastic bag, and rushed into the bathroom. "I have a surprise for you," she promised. She closed and locked the door behind her.
"Okay, oh gorgeous one," Buffy answered back, "just don’t make me wait too long." She glanced around at her new surroundings; a enormous picture window, facing the west, showing a sensational view of the town at night, moonlight sparkling on the ocean beyond; luxurious easy chairs; a champagne bucket containing a chilled bottle of sparkling grape juice on ice; a silver basket of strawberries and a tub of sweet whipped cream at the bedside.
"I think it will be worth the wait," Willow called out.
"I know it will," Buffy said wholeheartedly. "Today has been perfect."
"Yeah," Willow said wistfully. "It was a wonderful ceremony. And hearing Joyce sing like that. I didn’t know she could sing so beautifully."
"You’re telling me," Buffy agreed. She fell silent for a second, long enough for Willow to get nervous.
"Something the matter, Buffy?" Willow asked.
"Nothing, really, Wills," Buffy said, as she started to loosen her tie, and unbutton her collar. "Just seeing Mom dance with Giles like that."
"And this is bugging you, why?"
"I dunno, honey," Buffy admitted. "Hey, I’m happy for them, I really am. But I’m just having flashbacks of that whole ‘Band candy’ incident."
"So?" asked the confused Wiccan.
"So what if it isn’t real? What if their feelings for each other were only caused by some magic spell?"
Buffy’s observation was greeted by dead silence. "Not like anyone else we know, huh?" Willow asked after a few seconds, and Buffy could detect an edge of bitterness in her voice.
She threw her head back on the bed in dismay. How did I manage that? she thought. I’m married to her for eight hours, and already I’m in the doghouse! Buffy immediately regretted sticking her foot in her mouth so quickly. She had to diffuse this situation, fast. She got out of the bed, and stood outside the locked bathroom door. "I didn’t mean it that way, Willow. You know that the spell that brought us together didn’t make me fall in love with you. I was in love with you from the beginning. The spell just gave us a little push, is all."
The door opened, and Willow stood before Buffy, wearing a blue silk negligee. The swelling of her abdomen was apparent under the fine fabric, and her other natural curves were accented to breathtaking effect by the garment. Buffy, struck by the beauty of her friend, lover and wife, was reduced to inarticulate utterances. Willow smiled at Buffy, an expression of forgiveness on her face, mingled with a little mischief; a look of ‘I was just funnin’ with you’. "I know, Buffy," she said warmly. "And it was the same for me. I had loved you for the longest time, but was too afraid to express it. Once the spell was cast, I guess the barriers were down, and I didn’t have to be afraid of what I wanted. But maybe that’s the case with Giles and your mom. Maybe they just needed something to get them started." Willow then glanced at Buffy, who just stared at her with lovestruck eyes. Willow turned a little pirouette, modeling the negligee, and asked, "You like?"
"Wha--" a dazed Slayer suddenly brought herself back to her senses. She appraised Willow again, and wolf-whistled, "Oh, yeah, Willow. I like. Of course, I think you’re sexy even when you’re wearing my yummy sushi pajamas!"
"Good," she breathed, her cheeks dimpling as her lips upturned, and she walked slowly and seductively toward her wife. "Because I don’t want to talk about your mother, or Giles, or anything else for the rest of the night." She pressed her body against Buffy, who emitted a quiet moan at the contact, and leaned into the hand that was caressing the back of her neck, and the arm that cradled her back. "Right now, I want to undress my wife, to see her beautiful body completely naked, and to make love to her." She leaned toward her beloved and clamped her mouth on Buffy’s. The kiss was deep, steady and passionate.
Buffy disengaged the kiss long enough to say, "I am so not having a problem with that plan," before taking Willow’s lips with her own. Willow’s hands worked gently but quickly, divesting Buffy of her tuxedo jacket and cummerbund in short order. She then slowed down, savoring the anticipation as she unbuttoned Buffy’s shirt. With each button, she traced the skin beneath it with a gentle touch of her fingernail, each touch sending shivers down Buffy’s spine. "Mmmm, yeah," Buffy murmured huskily at the delightful treatment she was receiving. As Willow worked her way down the shirt front, she applied her lips to the exposed flesh, lingering between Buffy’s breasts, and at her belly button.
Buffy moaned at the contact, and wanted more. But she wanted Willow to set the pace, to prolong the experience for maximum pleasure, and Willow was doing a splendid job in that area. She lifted Buffy’s arms, and slid the shirt off of her, revealing a frilly pink bra. Willow practically salivated at the sight, and started to growl, as she brought her face toward the clasp between the bra’s cups, and unfastened it with her teeth. Buffy, finally unable to take this delicious torture any longer, hastily unzipped her pants, and shed them and her panties rapidly. She then wrapped her arms around Willow’s waist, and fused her mouth to her wife’s.
What was it about this joining that made it special? Was it the surrounding opulence of the Piedmont honeymoon suite? The anxiety of having to remove more clothing than the usual shirt and jeans? Or was it just the perfect completion of a perfect day?
Willow and Buffy would later agree that all these factors came into play, but one thing more than any other elevated their lovemaking that night from their normal level of merely fantastic to truly incredible; the fact that they were now truly together, heart, mind and soul, as well as body. Buffy was no longer merely Willow’s lover, she was her wife, and Willow was Buffy’s. The distinction was subtle, but there.
Willow reveled in the sweet musky smell of Buffy, the silky texture of her skin, the firmness of her breasts (grinning as she considered that her own breasts would soon give Buffy’s a run for their money, as her pregnancy developed) and the growing hardness of their strawberry-red nipples, the warmth of her belly, and the heat between her thighs. She kissed, nipped, tasted, licked and sucked every square inch of Buffy’s body, and still couldn’t get enough. Buffy mirrored Willow’s passion, as she slowly peeled off her love’s negligee, revealing the beautiful form of her beloved. They feasted upon each other. They didn’t even care if their lovemaking resulted in climax. To touch, to taste, to immerse themselves in each other’s bodies, that was more than enough. Their mutual orgasms, while volcanic, were only the closure of a perfect evening.
Later, after they recovered some degree of their strength, Buffy reached for the strawberry basket. She languidly took a strawberry in her fingers, scooped up a dollop of cream with the tip of the berry, and fed it to Willow. As Willow sucked the remaining juice off of Buffy’s fingers, she commented, "Amazing, Buffy."
"I always thought you were," Buffy grinned.
"No. It’s not that," Willow whispered. "I mean, yeah, it was, don’t get me wrong, incredible. But after what we just did, I feel like I should say something deep, something profound, but I can’t think of anything."
Buffy cradled Willow’s chin with her finger, and murmured, "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I was but little happy if I could say how much." She kissed Willow again, and finished, "Lady, as you are mine, so I am yours."
"Wow," Willow breathed. "That was good."
"Shakespeare," Buffy admitted with a lopsided smile. "‘Much Ado About Nothing’. We were reading it in class the other day. And if you tell Giles I quoted the Bard, I’ll deny it."
"Oh, I dunno," Willow mused humorously. "I may need something to blackmail you with in the futureUMPH!" Her teasing was interrupted by a fresh amorous attack by her wife, and Willow promptly forgot her implied threat of blackmail, lost anew in Buffy’s arms.
The next morning they ordered breakfast from room service and dined in bed. Buffy had a Spanish omelet with peach salsa, while Willow had the French toast, redolent with cinnamon and drenched in pure maple syrup. They sampled from each other’s plates, fed each other, and then forgot the dishes as they found themselves making passionate love again. It should be noted that the Piedmont’s head chef, Amanda Shelton, had made it a matter of pride to personally prepare the meals for all honeymooning couples. She had a flair for romantic dining, and occasionally added a little something extra to make her dishes more memorable, and the newlyweds more amorous.
Finally, they emerged from the covers, dressed, and got ready for another day on campus. They headed back to the Summers residence to pick up their texts, then made it to school with a few minutes to spare before their classes.
"So, Buffy," Willow smiled as they strolled hand in hand across the
Quad, "I’ve got Human Sexuality and Computer Sciences. What classes do
you have today?"
Willow took the book and read the title aloud; "Warrior Princess; Women and the Greek Myths", by Professor Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas. Hmm. Any good?"
"I like it," Buffy smiled. "Professor Covington writes about her findings in a way that doesn’t make it dry or dull. She claims to have found artifacts called ‘The Xena Scrolls’, that prove there was a great woman warrior during the time of Julius Caesar."
"Interesting," Willow mused. "I may have to look this class up."
"Yeah, real fascinating stuff," Buffy said. "And there’s something about the writers. Professor Covington is such a fascinating person. It’s like I know her as I read her findings."
The conversation between the two lovers was disrupted by a quiet voice
asking, "H-hey, Willow, how are you?" A petite woman with straight
blonde hair and Hummel figure blue eyes stood shyly next to the two newlywed
"Oh, Tara," Buffy remembered the incident with the Gentlemen all too well. She was just barely able to defeat them when she had found the stolen voices of Sunnydale. The battle took place just three weeks after they had become lovers, two days after Willow announced her pregnancy, and Buffy had been scared to death of losing both her and the baby. "I guess I owe you a big thank you. You saved my wife’s life there."
"I’m g-g-glad to have helped," Tara stuttered, her attention riveted to the gold wedding bands that Willow and Buffy shared. Willow’s band set off by a matching diamond solitaire. "And I just wanted to congratulate you two. I hope you’re happy together."
Buffy and Willow smiled at each other, then Willow announced, "Oh dear, I’ve got to get to class. Good to see you again, Tara. See you at four, Buffy?"
"Sure," Buffy answered, wrapping her arms around Willow in a goodbye hug. "We’ll try the hot tub tonight." She punctuated her last sentence win an inscrutable grin, one that promised treasures. Buffy leaned forward and kissed Willow on the mouth, then they parted and left for their classes.
As they made their good-byes, they were unaware of a pair of watery blue eyes, boring holes into Willow’s back. Tara stared long and hard at the departing red-head, her heart breaking as she recalled seeing her at the wedding reception; her arm linked with Buffy’s, the two brides exchanging vows. She wanted so bad to be Buffy, she would have given anything to be the object of Willow’s desire.
And Buffy was unaware that she had a rival for Willow’s affections. A rival who hadn’t quite given up. Not just yet.
"I woke up in a Soho doorway,
Well, Who Are You?
Willow Rosenberg-Summers cooed with pleasure as jets of hot water cascaded against her naked body, while Buffy kneaded the area behind her left shoulder blade. "Ooh, yeah," Willow groaned as Buffy’s skilled hands eased the kinks out of a particularly sensitive spot. "You practice this out on Angel when you two were together?"
Buffy slowed down her hands, as Willow turned her head to her, grinning. "Well?" she asked, her eyes flashing, almost cat-like.
"I refuse to answer that," Buffy said, amid her companion splashing her, "on the grounds that I may incriminate myself. Hey, cut that out!"
"C’mon, Buffy," Willow insisted, feeling friskier. "We’re married now. Total honesty."
Buffy regarded her beloved’s face with a mixture of bemusement at her impertinence, and rapture that she chose to share her life with her. "No, Willow," she said somberly. "I never gave Angel a backrub."
"Just as well," Willow contemplated as she sank back against Buffy’s chest and luxuriated in the hot tub in their honeymoon suite. "One good rubdown like that, and that happiness clause would kick in. Your hands, Buffy, are magic."
"Considering who’s saying this, that’s high praise indeed." Buffy shifted slightly, turning her body to face Willow’s. "You make me happy, Wills. If I never knew you, I don’t think I’d have survived my sophomore year. I never knew what it was to truly love someone, to give my heart in exchange for another’s, before you. I love you, Wills." She stroked Willow’s cheek with her hand, and Willow smiled, taking Buffy’s hand in her own and kissing the palm.
"I love you, too, Buff. And you make me happy too," she replied,
love illuminating her green eyes. "You’re my family now. You, your mom,
Giles, the Scoobs, and soon," she rested Buffy’s hand on the swell of her
belly, "our daughter. She’s gonna be so lucky to be raised in that
family. Just as I’m lucky you wanted to be mine." She leaned in to kiss
Buffy, who reciprocated without hesitation. No more words were needed, as the
two lovers caressed each others bodies languidly. They made love in the hot tub
for over an hour, happy in their love and confident that nothing would ever part
"Candles, check. Bowl, check. Herbs, check. Spell, check. Okay, seems I'm ready."
The room was dark, lit only by a ring of pillar candles. Their flames burned steadily in the still air of the room. Tara sat inside the ring of candles, going over the supplies she required for the spell she was planning.
She looked wistfully at the bulletin board on the wall in front of her. Every square inch was covered with photographs, clippings from yearbooks, and a few newspaper clippings. The pictures were of the same subject. Willow Rosenberg, now Willow Rosenberg- Summers. The most recent clipping was of the wedding announcement between Willow Rosenberg and Buffy Summers. The clipping bore tear stains.
Tara blinked tears away as she turned her eyes from these reminders of her heartache. She had loved Willow from the day they had first met, from the time those silent demons that she called the Gentlemen attacked Sunnydale and stole their voices. But she now knew that she never had a chance. Willow’s heart had already been claimed by Buffy Summers. And now they were married. And Tara was miserable.
She began her spell, hoping to end her sorrow;
"Hark and will ye elements, I summon thee now," She began as she prepared handfuls of herbs and placed them in the bowl. As she mingled the herbs, she recited the spell;
"Control the outside, control within.
As she spoke the arcane words, her thoughts were still centered on one person.
"How’s the steak, Buff?" Willow asked, as she observed her wife on the opposite side of the table, tucking into her filet mignon.
"Mmm-mm," Buffy answers as she finishes swallowing the bite in her mouth. "I could see myself doing this regularly. Too bad our budgets don’t allow it."
"All the more reason to enjoy it more when we have it," Willow observed, as she savored her pasta primavera with shrimp. The dining room at the Piedmont hotel was subdued, as the two women enjoyed their meal later in the evening. They would have arrived sooner, but they were otherwise occupied with each other. However, the two women were so infatuated with each other that they wouldn’t have noticed if Tom Cruise were at the next table. Their eyes were fixed solely on each other.
"Hey, honey," Willow suggested, "the ballroom’s open tonight, and there’s supposed to be a live swing band playing. You wanna shake and shimmy off the calories from this decadent meal?"
"You mean a chance to see your body gyrating on the dance floor?" teased Buffy. "And to hold your body as we move against each other?" She smiled wickedly. "Wouldn’t miss it!" She took Willow’s hand in her own, her fingers caressing the diamond engagement ring. "When’s the last time I told you I love you?"
"About five minutes ago," Willow answered, her cheeks dimpling with her smile.
"I though I was behind," she chuckled. "I’m just glad I got you when I did. If I had waited three weeks more, I might have lost you for good."
Willow stopped eating and asked, "What makes you think that?"
"Oh, don’t tell me that you didn’t notice Tara looking at you today at the Quad," Buffy teased Willow. "The way her eyes were practically ripping your clothes off. Trust me, Wills, she’s warm for your form."
"No way," answered a disbelieving Willow. "Really?" Buffy nodded enthusiastically. Willow giggled at the thought. "Well, it’s a good thing you got your bid in when you did, isn’t it, Slayer?" She sobered slightly, adding, "I wouldn’t worry about that, Buffy. You had a claim on my heart long before I even met Tara. I have always loved you from afar. Now that we’re here, together," she squeezed Buffy’s hand, "married, it’s like my existence has been verified. Like I know why I’m on this planet. To be a witch, to fight evil, to help others, and above all else, to love you and build a family with you."
"I love you, Wills," Buffy breathed.
"I love you too, Buffy," the redhead answered. "Now, let’s finish our dinner, and hit the dance floor. I wanna dance ‘til the cows come home!"
"And then we’ll dance with the cows," Buffy agreed wholeheartedly.
"It is my will that my heart be healed," Tara shouted to the night. "That the ache in my soul abate and my love for Willow no longer tear at my soul." She waited for some kind of result, but still felt nothing but emptiness and pain over Willow.
She tried to test her spell by opening one of her textbooks. "I will that this book speak its words to me!" The book remained silent.
She picked up a bent Q-tip from her dresser. "I will that this Q-tip become unbendy?" Nothing happened. Tara sank to the floor, defeated. Her spell, her one chance at forgetting Willow, at ending the heartache she felt over never having known her love, had failed her.
She picked herself up and looked in the mirror. The straight blond hair, the large blue eyes, her curving figure. She wasn’t unattractive, she knew that. She might have been shy, unsure of herself, unskilled in social situations, had a tendency to stutter under stress. But she was still pretty, still intelligent, still a caring soul. So why didn’t Willow love her?
She leaned her head against the mirror, and sighed, "Willow, dear sweet Willow. If only I was the one that you loved!"
When Tara looked up again, she knew at once there was something wrong. She was no longer standing in her dorm, but in a large chamber. A ballroom. The ceilings were twenty feet high, and a large mirror-ball hung and rotated from the ceiling’s center. Rich red curtains flanked beveled mirrors along the walls, and several couples danced without care as a live swing orchestra played.
Tara didn’t have enough time to figure out what had happened, when a warm voice said to her, "Hey, lover, let’s dance." She turned to the voice, and saw her dream, her Willow, standing next to her in a stunning red strapless. She smiled happily, and only for her. For Tara.
"Uh, yeah, sure, let’s dance," Tara managed to get out before Willow dragged her to the dance floor, and took her in her arms. They swayed gently to a chorus of "Moon River", and Willow leaned against Tara’s shoulder as if she had always belonged there.
Tara was torn between rapture at finally being in the arms of her loved one, and bewilderment at being yanked from the cramped confines of her dorm into this fantasy world. She was afraid that the clock would strike midnight and she would turn into a pumpkin. As she and Willow passed one of the huge mirrors on one of the walls, she glanced at herself.
She saw not her own body, but the body of Buffy Rosenberg-Summers. Instantly, she guessed what had happened; her will-be-done spell worked far better than she had hoped. She wished to be the one Willow loved, and now she was.
She held Willow a little tighter, and said to her what she had longed to say to her since they first met; "I love you, Willow."
"I love you too," she answered. Tara smiled to hear those words. Willow loved--no, she loved Buffy, not Tara.
But now Tara was Buffy, and as Willow snuggled into her arms, she decided that it was going to stay that way.
Buffy was suddenly aware that her forehead was touching glass.
She lifted her head, seeing her reflection in the mirror. She shut her eyes hard, and opened them again. The face in the mirror wasn’t hers. She examined the face more closely. She remembered; this was the face of Willow’s friend, Tara.
She looked around her, surveying her surroundings. She recognized the layout; one of the dorm rooms at Stevenson Hall, where she and Willow had lived. The room was lit only by a ring of candles. "Hoo-kay," Buffy said to herself, surprised by the unfamiliar voice that came out of her mouth. "Spooky stuff here." She tried to figure out what had happened to her, when something in the center of the candle ring caught her eye. She looked down on the floor and saw a large, ancient book. Her first thought was "Spell book", and the candles suddenly made more sense. Tara was a witch, and she must have switched bodies with her. But why? And why now?
The answer to both questions hit her like a sledgehammer when her line of sight hit the far wall. The wall was half-covered with photographs, newspaper clippings, and drawings of Willow. "Oh--my--god--" Buffy whispered as the implications hit her.
In her body.
That was all she needed to know. It was time for action, and Buffy had to save Willow from an obsessed suitor. She ran out of the dorm room, and headed back for the Piedmont.
Willow snuggled into her wife’s shoulder, blissfully unaware of her surroundings. All she knew was that she was in her wife’s arms, dancing as the band played "Fly Me To The Moon". As far as she was concerned, she was halfway there already.
Tara wrapped her arms--Buffy’s arms--around Willow’s waist, and began to gently caress her back. Willow shivered at the contact, and Tara’s soul sang. Yes, my beloved, Willow. You are mine.
"Excuse me, miss," a large attendant stopped the blond woman who tried to enter the ballroom. "This is a private dance. Hotel patrons only."
Buffy put up a protest, trying to get past the guard. "I have to get in there. Willow’s dancing with someone else--"
"State your name, Miss."
"Buffy," she answered. "Buffy Rosenberg-Summers."
The attendant checked his registry, and turned to Buffy, a sour frown on his face. "According to the registry, Mrs. Rosenberg-Summers is in the ballroom, with her wife, Willow."
"No, that’s not her," Buffy tried to explain, her voice growing more panicky as she spoke. "This isn’t easy to explain, but she did something to me, she’s not really me, she just looks like me--"
"Lady," the attendant said, rolling his eyes. Another crazy gatecrasher, he thought, just what I need. "Do you have a key-card?"
Buffy thought back to the patrons ID cards she and Willow were issued when they checked in last night. "I left it in my other body," she answered testily.
"Then you can’t come in here. I’d advise you to leave now, before I call security and have you thrown out." He spoke calmly, but with authority, and Buffy knew that she wasn’t going to win this fight. In this borrowed body, she didn’t possess her Slayer strength, and the attendant looked too much like Evander Holyfield for her liking.
"All right, I’ll go," she threw up her hands in defeat and left the hotel. The attendant forgot the incident and went back to work.
A scared Slayer waited alone on a bench in Whetherly Park. She hoped and prayed that her hunch was correct. If not, then--she shuddered at the thought of Willow sleeping in the arms of another.
She couldn’t go back home after being ordered out of the Piedmont. Her mother might be able to accept many things, but her daughter in a different body was pushing it to the max. Besides, she didn’t want to involve her mother if she absolutely didn’t have to.
That left Giles. He had said that he and the Scooby Gang would be handling the slayage while she and Willow were on their honeymoon, which meant that he would probably be patrolling tonight. And since Whetherly Park was a favorite ‘fishing hole’ for vampires, it made sense that he would be here. She hoped that she hadn’t missed him. Or that he wasn’t taking the cemetery route that evening. Or that he wasn’t at home, making out with her mother.
She shut out that last thought quickly, and returned to her current predicament. She was, to say the least, P.O-ed. Apart from being away from Willow when they were supposed to be together, this was the second time in as many months where someone tried to screw with her identity. "Great," she mused sullenly. "Last month, Ira Rosenberg tried to convince me that I was someone named Sarah. Now, I’m stuck in Tara’s body. Sarah, Tara, who’ll I be next month? Laura? Mara? Scarlett O’Hara?"
"Well, missy," an unwelcome British accented voice announced, "I’ve never been very good with names." Buffy held her head in her hands, and moaned silently; Not him, not now!
A leather jacketed punk stepped out from behind a tree, smiling like a shark smelling blood on the water. Which is what he smelled. Blood. The crew-cut vampire nodded toward his intended quarry, saying, "Oh, my name’s Spike. Don’t bother introducin’ yourself to me, I’ll just call you," his face contorted into that of a vampire before making the attack, "dinner."
"Back off, Spike!" Buffy shouted. "Right now, you’re the last person I want to see, not that you’re ever on my Top Ten, even on a good day!" She crouched in a defensive stance, her eyes never wavering from her target.
"Oooh, scary scary," the British vampire taunted his intended prey. "Just who do you think you are, Buffy bleeding Summers?"
"C’mon, Peroxide Boy!" Buffy shouted, hoping that her fear wouldn’t be apparent in her voice. "Hey, how’s that ho Dru doing these days? Still boffing anything with a pulse? Or without one?"
Spike’s hands trembled with rage. Good girl, Buffy, the Slayer thought to herself. Just keep him mad. She knew that as long as she was trapped in Tara’s unfamiliar body, she couldn’t count on her Slayer strength and healing ability. But her mental battle computer should still be operational. She hoped.
"I was going to make your death nice and painless," Spike growled, then stopped himself. "No, wait a sec...No I wasn’t!" The vampire lunged at Buffy, who ducked instinctively, letting Spike fly over her. She timed his leap just right, and as his torso was directly over her, she pushed up, as hard as she could.
Her shoulder protested the strain, and a white hot ball of pain lodged into her back, but she managed to push Spike away from her, and the hapless Brit tumbled tailbone over head into a nearby thorn bush. She had hoped to incapacitate him long enough for her to run, but the sudden pain in her back made running difficult, and her action only made Spike madder.
"Right!" he shouted. "I’m gonna do you messy!" He scrambled to his feet, and stalked toward the frightened Slayer. She tried to run away, but the feet of her borrowed body weren’t as agile as her own, and she managed to trip and fall to the ground. Spike advanced, grinning a feral grin. "I love the smell of epinephrine in the morning," he chortled. "The fight-or-flight gland. Adds body to the blood." She struggled to stand up again, but Spike was too close.
All she could think was, Willow, I love you. Take care of our little girl...
"You may ask yourself,
Spike knew that he had his prey dead to rights. The blond girl had stumbled, and there was no way she could escape being the vampire’s sustenance for tonight. He took two more paces toward the fallen Slayer, when a stream of water landed on the small of his back. He shrieked in agony as the watery onslaught continued, and Buffy strained to see who was behind her sudden good fortune.
Xander stood behind Spike, firing a super-soaker full of holy water at the startled vampire. Anya, Oz and Giles stood at his side, as Xander quickly changed water cartridges. "Yeah, baby," Xander shouted in his best Austin Powers accent, "baggin’ vamps is my scene!"
"Enough, Xander," Giles warned the enthusiastic younger man, who reluctantly took his finger off the trigger. Giles then aimed his crossbow at the fiend’s festering heart. "You won’t be dining on her tonight, my friend," he said in a calm voice that still carried an edge of steel. "Depart, now!"
Spike looked at the squad of vampire hunters, and grumbled. "This ain’t fun anymore," he spat out before taking off at a fast clip. Xander and Oz were about to rush after him, but Giles motioned for them to stop. He warned them, "Spike is too dangerous for you to tackle alone. Let him go, he’s lost his chance to feed tonight. Besides," he added, a slight smile playing at his lips, "if we slew him and Buffy wasn’t there to witness it, she’d never forgive us."
Xander shrugged his shoulders, saying, "You’re probably right. But still, it’d be a great late wedding gift."
"She still wants to bag him herself," Oz observed. "He’s her trophy."
"Now then," Giles turned toward the blond who managed to stand up again. "Let’s see how our young friend is doing." Before he could address the blond, she rushed toward him, and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Oh God, Giles," she wept with relief, "I’m so glad I found you."
"Ahem, yes," the reserved Englishman stammered. "You seem to have the advantage over us, Miss--" he stopped, hoping she would supply the name.
She disengaged the hug, and looked at Giles’ face. "Giles, it’s me. Buffy." Giles looked hard at the young woman, examining her intently. "Buffy Rosenberg-Summers," she added. "The Vampire Slayer."
"She must have taken a fall to the head," Anya commented with her usual lack of tact.
"Guys," Buffy continued, desperation coloring her voice, "I’m telling you the truth. I know I don’t look like Buffy, but it’s really me!"
Giles calmly spoke to the girl; "I am fully aware that strange things
happen here in Sunnydale, but it will take more than your word to convince me of
the veracity of your claim."
Buffy shook her head in frustration. How could she convince her mentor that what she was saying was true? Then, she steadied herself, faced Giles, and spoke, keeping her voice as level as she could;
"On my eighteenth birthday," she began, "you injected me with a muscle relaxant, to suppress my slayer strength. It was all part of some Slayer rite of passage, that’s what you said. I was to face a powerful vampire without my powers. The vampire got loose and tried to threaten Mom. You turned against Quentin and tried to help me, and after the test, the Watcher’s Council fired you. After Quentin left, I sat in the Library and cried. You said nothing, just stood there with a box of Kleenex for me." She choked back the lump in her throat as she finished the accounting of one of her darkest days, and one of Giles’ as well. When she finished speaking, she looked at Giles’ face, which now bore a look of utter shock.
"Buffy?" he asked tentatively. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. "Oh, my dear child," Giles collected her in his arms, and let her cry on his shoulder.
After she let out her tears, Buffy turned toward the other Scoobs. Xander and Oz nodded; they could sense that this was indeed Buffy. Anya, however, had other ideas. "How can she be Buffy?" she asked innocently enough. "She doesn’t look like her. Besides, I thought Buffy and Willow were at the Piedmont, giving each other orgasms." As she spoke, Xander and Oz slowly sidestepped away from her.
Buffy approached Anya, speaking in a low growl; "Anya, I’ve had my body swiped, I’ve been kicked out of a hotel, and nearly became Spike’s midnight snack. Plus the fact that I don’t know if my wife and our unborn child are safe. So far I’ve had a really crappy evening. And if I hear the ‘O’ word escape your lips again tonight, I will have no choice but to tear out your ribcage and wear it as a hat! Same rule goes for any rude hand gestures! Questions? Comments?"
Anya blanched slightly, and grinned. "Hi, Buffy."
Xander and Oz whistled softly; there was no more doubting her identity now. "Okay, then," Xander said softly. "Anyone care to jump in with an explanation as to why our Buffy-shaped friend isn’t so Buffy-shaped anymore?"
"The spell book," Buffy suddenly announced. She ran back to the bench where she had been sitting, and collected the book she had taken from Tara’s dorm. "I was with Willow in the ballroom," Buffy explained, "and suddenly I’m in Tara’s dorm, in her body."
"That blond who was watching Buffy and Willow at the reception," Oz answered. "I got a weird vibe from her. I think she wanted Willow."
"Score one for the strong-but-silent type," Buffy answered.
"You should see her dorm. Temple of the Divine Willow. Photos of her
everywhere." She hastily turned to the bookmarked page, and showed the
spell to Giles. "I found this book on the floor, inside a ring of candles,
open to this page. Can you read it?"
"So this Tara person willed herself in Buffy’s body," Anya guessed, "so she and Willow would be--" Buffy glared at her, and Anya gulped, "uh, together tonight?" Buffy nodded warily, and Anya breathed a sigh of relief.
"So we gotta get to Willow before she and Tara--" Oz started, leaving his sentiment hanging on purpose. "But how do we get to her?"
"Good question, Oz," Buffy shook her head in frustration. "The bouncer already gave me the Golden Toe, I’m sure he thinks I’m nuts, and he knows what I look like--what Tara looks like, ooh!"
"Hey, despair not, Buffster," Xander said, smiling. "I have a plan."
"Excuse me, sir!" an irate Xander Harris pounded on the front desk at the Piedmont. "I demand some service here. I have a reservation for two here, me and my girl," he held Anya close to him, to emphasize his point.
"May I ask for your name, sir?" The maitre d’ spoke with practiced civility.
"Harris. Alexander and Anya Harris," he said loudly. "This is Anya." he added, introducing his girlfriend, who cuddled closer to Xander.
The maitre d’ thumbed through his records, and frowned. "I’m sorry, Mr. Harris, but your name doesn’t seem to be anywhere on my reservations. We do have some fine rooms available if you wish."
"The honeymoon suite will do fine, sir," Xander said. "Nothing but the best for my sweetie-pie, ain’t that right, Anya?" Anya just nodded, smiling. Given Anya’s inability to understand when it was prudent to keep her mouth shut, it was decided that Xander should do all the talking for the both of them.
"I’m sorry sir," the maitre d’ had decided at this time that he thoroughly despised this person. "The honeymoon suite is in use at this time. We do have some fine deluxe suites if you--"
"Look, my friend," Xander raised his voice to the man, "I made reservations weeks in advance for the honeymoon suite, I even paid half in advance. Now whoever you got in the honeymoon suite, obviously they’re not supposed to be there."
"Sir, I assure you," the maitre d’ snapped, preparing to call security, "the honeymoon suite is occupied. We cannot simply throw the couple out of the suite, just because you can shout louder than they can. Now, if you don’t wish to rent a suite, please allow me to wait on the customer behind you. Good day."
As the maitre d’ spoke, Xander looked out the corner of his eye, and saw two figures slip past, making their way surreptitiously toward the fire escape. He slammed his fist on the desk, drawing the maitre d’s attention away from the interlopers. "What kind of clip joint are you running here?" Xander shouted, entirely enjoying playing the part of a loudmouth jerk. He noticed a few staff members turning toward him, which suited him fine. Better they pay attention to his outburst than to his friends sneaking up to the penthouse suite. As they made their way to the stairway and closed the door behind them, he segued to the big finish of his performance. "I gave my credit card number to one of your employees, and if I find out I’ve been taken for a ride, you’ll be hearing from my attorney!"
"Sir," the maitre d’ surrendered all pretense of politeness, "if you don’t lower your voice, I will have no choice but to call security!"
"Bring ‘em on!" Xander bellowed. "I want everyone here to know what kind of scam you’re running! I put up my money for a honeymoon at the Regency, and dammit--"
"THIS IS NOT THE REGENCY!" The maitre d’ had to shout to be heard above Xander’s rant. Xander fell silent at the angered maitre d’s outburst. "This is the Piedmont," he continued in a slightly softer voice. "The Regency is on the other side of town. I’d be happy to give you the address," he continued, scribbling a message on a piece of note paper, and handing it brusquely to Xander. "There is the Regency, sir."
"You mean," Xander started, feigning embarrassment, "this ain’t the Regency? Honey," he added, turning toward Anya, who had to suppress a chuckle at his performance, "this ain’t the Regency. I’m so sorry, sir, I was given the wrong directions, I must have gotten turned around at Wilkins Circle. We’ll just leave now. Thanks for your trouble," he finished as he and Anya headed for the main doors. "Sorry again, no hard feelings, g’bye!"
As they left the hotel quickly, Oz stood outside waiting for them. "So, how’d it go?" asked the musician.
Xander high-fived Oz and said, "I’d like to thank the academy, my acting coach, all the little people, and of course, the founder of Krispy Kremes!" The three friends headed out. Their job was done. The ball was now in Buffy’s court.
Willow strolled in silence, the one she loved on her arm, to their shared suite. She leaned her head on Buffy’s shoulder, content in their love. But there was something about Buffy, something that bothered her slightly. She seemed more reserved than she had been last night, or even just before dinner. Maybe it was just the meal, but she seemed almost timid around her. Willow had to initiate any gentle caresses or kisses. She figured that once they returned to their bed, her inhibitions would be shed along with her clothes. Of course, she wasn’t aware at the time that the woman she was with was not truly her wife, but Tara in her wife’s body.
As they entered the suite again, Tara turned toward Willow, and said, "Penny for your thoughts."
"Just thinking of you, as always," Willow answered. "You?"
"I was thinking of us. The two of us, together." She smiled at Willow and added, "You seem quiet tonight, honey."
"Yeah, well," Willow said, "you know what Shakespeare said about silence."
Tara’s face looked blank. "Uh, no. What did he say?"
Willow turned suddenly, regarding her wife with growing concern. "You know, Buffy," she said levelly. "What did Shakespeare say about silence?"
"Uh," Tara hemmed and hawed for a few seconds, and then said, "It’s golden."
Willow regarded her with sudden alarm, her brows severely furrowed. "What did Shakespeare say about silence, Buffy?" she asked slowly.
"Who cares what that old hack said about silence?" Tara asked, as Willow turned away from her. Tara grabbed Willow by the arm and said to her, "All I care about is you, Willow."
"You’re hurting me," Willow strained against Tara’s grip, and managed to pry her arm loose. Tara looked as though Willow had struck her, her face an artist’s study of shock. Willow backed away from Tara and asked once more, "What did Shakespeare say about silence?"
Tara tried to speak, but all she could do was move her mouth soundlessly. Her dream was crumbling before her eyes and she didn’t know how to restore it. Before she could speak again, she heard an angry voice behind her; "You’re all out of lifelines, Tara."
Tara turned around, only to face herself. Or rather, the person who inhabited her body. "Hello, Tara," Buffy said, crossing her arms, glaring hard at the woman who tried to take all that was hers. Her voice was calm, but laced with rage; "You stole my life. You stole my body. You stole my wife. I want them back. Now." Rupert Giles stood next to the young woman, regarding Tara with a quiet contempt.
Willow looked at Tara, then at Buffy, then again at Tara. Was her claim true? Did Tara switch bodies with Buffy? How? When? Or was this an elaborate joke? Giles was with her, though, so it couldn’t be a trick, could it?
There was one way to be sure. She looked at the woman in the doorway, and asked, "What did Shakespeare say about silence?"
Buffy gazed into Willow’s face, pleading with her eyes. "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I was but little happy if I could say how much." Giles raised his eyebrows to hear Buffy quoting Shakespeare, but it did seem to have the desired effect on Willow.
Willow gasped as she heard these words. She stumbled toward the woman, and fell into her waiting arms. There was no doubt in her mind. This was her wife. She cried in her arms, murmuring, "Oh, Buffy, what happened to you?"
"Shh, it’s okay, Wills," Buffy stroked the red hair of her beloved, providing what comfort she could. "We’ll get this situation squared away."
"Now then, young lady," Giles intoned as he glared at Tara, "you have a great deal of explaining to do."
As Giles stepped toward Tara, the frightened wiccan whispered to herself, "Oh Goddess, I wish I was somewhere else!" With that utterance, she simply vanished. Giles, Willow and Buffy stared for several seconds, as the air shimmered behind Tara’s departure.
After the effect had faded, Willow turned toward the unfamiliar body that
housed the soul of her loved one, and asked, "What did she do to you? And
why steal your body?"
"She used a powerful spell to make her every utterance reality," Giles explained, displaying the book. "Perhaps if you were to take a look at it, you could find the means to reverse the effects."
"And get Buffy back in her right body?" Willow asked. "Uh, not that she doesn’t look okay in this one, but I’m kinda used to the original model."
"That’s okay, Wills," Buffy smiled at her wife’s familiar babbling. "I miss it too. But we’d better sneak out of here before security finds me here."
"Right," Giles said. "I’ll contact Oz and Xander, have them locate Tara."
"Giles," Buffy complained, "she could be anywhere. She didn’t even say where she wanted to go, just away from here."
"I don’t think the spell’s that strong," Giles assured Buffy. "If I’m not mistaken, the spell will only take her up to five miles from here. She’s probably still within city limits. Now, if we can leave?" Giles and the two women slipped out through the stairwell and left for some neutral ground.
Tara opened her eyes to darkness. She felt her way around the unfamiliar surroundings, locating a lamp. Switching on the lamp, she could now make out her location.
She was in a bedroom, sprawled on top of a double bed. She glanced around, seeing the familiar trappings; a vanity, the counter half-covered in various cosmetics; a pair of ice skates hanging over a doorknob; a small collection of framed photographs, displayed on the chest of drawers. She looked at the photographs. Pictures of two young women, one blond with a serious but happy expression, the other with red hair and a mouth created for the express purpose of smiling.
Buffy and Willow Rosenberg-Summers. She had wished herself into their bedroom. She threw her body backward on the bed and cried. All around her were reminders of her Willow, and the woman who took her away from her.
"No, she didn’t," a voice in the back of her head said. "Willow was never yours to lose. She chose to love Buffy before she ever met you." She had to get out of this room, this house, this city. She needed a new start, and in Buffy’s stolen body, she felt that her new start would be easier to come by.
She ducked out of the room, and started to run down the stairs, until she noticed something in the next room. She poked her head in the door frame.
The only piece of furniture in the room was a crib. A light toned wooden crib, decorated with Mickey Mouse designs. Tara looked around the room, which was evidently being readied for a nursery. She remembered when she danced with Willow; as she held her close, she could feel the redhead’s belly press against her own. It dawned on her with a sudden clarity. Willow was pregnant. She and Buffy were going to welcome a new life into the world. And she had tried to usurp Buffy’s role as a parent.
She felt ashamed of what she had done. She could see in this room, and in the photos she saw of Buffy and Willow together, that they belonged together. And she felt doubly ashamed at entertaining thoughts of escaping in Buffy’s body. All she would be doing was running. And the one she professed to love would be miserable.
She felt a single tear trail down her cheek, as she realized what she had to do. She lifted her head and said to whatever Goddess was listening, "I wish to be where Buffy and Willow are."
She vanished into the ether, a split second before Joyce Summers walked into the half-finished nursery, a measuring tape in her hand. She could have sworn she saw something just out of her field of view. "Buffy?" she asked tentatively. She looked around and saw nothing out of place. She shrugged her shoulders and decided it was just a trick of the light. Forgetting the incident, she started to measure the windows for curtains. She hoped to have some clear ideas for decorating the nursery once Buffy and Willow got back from their honeymoon.
Buffy picked up her burger from the cashier, and sat back down at the table of the Burger King where she, Willow and Giles had regrouped after leaving the Piedmont. Somehow a Whopper seemed like a severe let-down after the fine dining she and Willow had enjoyed earlier, but Tara had neglected to eat before casting her spell. In her borrowed body, Buffy found herself very hungry.
She sat next to Willow, who had been pouring over the spell repeatedly since they got to the BK. Just as Buffy scooted closer to her wife, Willow put down the book in weary disappointment, and said, "Oh, H-E-double hockey-sticks!"
"Easy, Wills," Buffy admonished. "I hope you don’t plan to talk like that around our little girl after she’s born."
Willow smirked at the observation, saying, "Sorry, Buff, but I’m just frustrated. If I’m reading this passage right, only the person who cast the spell can undo it. We need Tara if we’re gonna get you back."
"And somehow I don’t think she’ll be all that eager to help us out," Buffy mused. "Especially now that you know the truth."
"Yeah," Willow breathed. "Buffy, I’m so sorry. I’m married to you for less than forty-eight hours, and I almost cheated on you. Goddess I can’t believe this."
"Hey, don’t even think that way, honey," Buffy cuddled Willow closer to her. "You had no idea at first, and you were able to figure it out fast enough. You’re still the smartest, bravest, and most beautiful person I know. That’s why I married you."
"Thanks, Buffy," Willow blushed prettily. After four months of loving Buffy, she was still getting used to having someone think of her as beautiful, or brave.
"Right now," Giles brought the two newlyweds back to Earth, "we have to deal with what Tara has done to you, Buffy. If we cannot find her and coerce her to reverse the effects of her spell, you may be stuck with her body. In that event, you may never again be the Slayer."
"And this is a bad thing, how?" Buffy joked. She then took a more serious tone at the sight of Giles’ glare. "I know, sacred duty, yadda yadda. But if we don’t find Tara, how do I explain this--" she indicated her body, "to Mom? ‘Hi, Mom, what do you think of the new look?’ Over the last few years, I told her about being the Slayer, and about making Willow pregnant, I’m not looking forward to playing ‘Let’s see which weird development gives Mom a coronary’."
"I think you should give Joyce more credit than that," Giles stated. "She’s proven to be quite resilient in the face of adversity. I’m sure that she will accept you, whatever your outward appearance."
"Yeah, she’s dating a Watcher, she can take anything," Willow joked. Buffy had to laugh at Willow’s comment, and Giles, despite his attempts to look grave, still chuckled.
Buffy then looked at Willow, anxiety clouding her eyes. "What about you, Wills? Take a good look here, you could be stuck with me this way."
"Buffy," Willow shook her head, only desiring to ease Buffy’s fears. "It’s my turn to quote Shakespeare. One of the sonnets, if I’m not mistaken;
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
"Yes, Sonnet 116, as I recall," Giles muttered. Willow and Buffy looked at him suddenly, and he added, "Just verifying."
Willow smiled at Giles, and continued; "You understand what I’m saying, don’t you, Buffy? I’m not gonna fall out of love with you, not now, not ever. I’m certainly not going to stop loving you just because your appearance changes. This," she stroked Buffy’s cheek, "is not the real you, it’s just the vessel that the real you is in right now. The real you is here," she placed her hand over Buffy’s heart. "It is here, in your heart, where you keep your strength, your soul, your passion. That’s the real Buffy, the woman I love."
Buffy couldn’t speak, as emotion left a lump in her throat. She expressed herself by taking Willow’s hand in her own and kissing her knuckle.
Giles suddenly cleared his throat to get their attention. "Ladies, look over there," he said, pointing to the door.
Tara, still occupying the lithe, athletic form of Buffy Rosenberg-Summers, stood in the doorway. Her head was bent low, as though in contrition. She stepped timidly toward Buffy and her two companions. "W-Willow," she said, her voice barely above a whisper and unable to control her stuttering. "I d-didn’t know about your pregnancy b-before now. When I wished myself away from you, I found myself in your b-bedroom. I saw the nursery that was b-being set up. That’s when I realized my error. I tried to take something that d-didn’t belong to me. I-I’m sorry."
Buffy said nothing, she only gave Tara a withering stare. Willow looked at her more charitably, as Giles’ face was an unreadable mask. Tara gulped hard, fighting back the tremors that threatened to overtake her voice, as she spoke the words she had to say; "It is my wish that everything be restored as it was before I cast my spell!" Her body spasmed briefly, and Willow noticed that Buffy’s body was undergoing the same tremors. Two seconds later, it was over.
Willow looked at the companion next to her, and asked, "Buffy?"
The blond sadly shook her head and got up. Willow looked at the woman standing beside the table, the one in Buffy’s body. She smiled at her and rushed to collect her in her arms. Willow met her in a passionate embrace. As their lips touched, Willow knew that this was indeed her wife, her Slayer, her Buffy.
After they disengaged the kiss, Buffy asked, "What about her?" looking at the forlorn Tara.
"Let her go," Willow said simply. "She’ll never do anything like this again. Will you, Tara?"
"You have my word," Tara nodded. "I know better now than to break up what was meant to be. Keep the book, Willow. Don’t let anyone use that spell again, it’s too p-powerful." As she started for the door, she looked at Buffy, and said, "You are so lucky."
"I know it," Buffy agreed, too happy to be reunited with Willow to stay angry at Tara. "You’ll find someone. Just give it time."
"Sure," Tara said as she left. "I found someone already, I can
find someone else." Tara walked out into the cool night air. Buffy said to
Giles, "We should follow her back to the dorm. Make sure she’s not
attacked by vampires on her way."
Buffy and Willow laughed and cried together. They then returned to their shared life that was briefly interrupted.
Buffy caught sight of Willow sitting at a table at the Quad, waiting for her. She grinned broadly, stepped up behind Willow, and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. "Hey, honey," she whispered in her ear, as she nibbled the earlobe.
"Hey yourself," Willow greeted her wife, leaning back into her embrace. She got up and hugged Buffy back. "How did classes go?"
"Slowly, Wills, slowly," Buffy admitted. "All I could think about was you, in that huge bed in our suite at the Piedmont."
"Oh," teased Willow. "What was I wearing, pray tell?"
Buffy grinned lasciviously. "Nothing but a smile."
"Well, then, time to turn dream into reality." And she kissed Buffy soundly on the lips.
As they strolled away from the campus, Buffy asked, "Hey, Wills, you hear from Tara?"
"Yeah," Willow answered, her voice carrying strains of melancholy. "I bumped into her between classes. She’s talking about moving away from Sunnydale."
Buffy looked away from Willow, feeling guilty at the anger she had harbored toward the tragic young blond. "I hope she’ll change her mind."
"Me too, Buff. The thing is, I see a lot of myself in her."
"I was that same wallflower for most of my life. To afraid to talk to anyone, crushing on Xander but never getting up the nerve to tell him. I always make jokes about my ‘frog fear’, but the fact is, for me, it was ‘everything fear’. Then, one day it all changed."
Willow turned her face to Buffy, joy shining in her eyes. "A girl my age told off some of Cordy’s followers, and then asked me for some help with her homework. And then, between turning my life around by day and fighting undead skanky evil at night, she became the most important person in my life."
"Really," Buffy smiled, as tears of happiness welled in her eyes.
"I’ll have to look this girl up."
"Wrong, Willow," Buffy took Willow in her arms, and kissed her passionately. "We’ve got the rest of our lives."
As the two young women kissed, they were unaware of an interloper standing behind a large oak tree. The dark-haired woman had been following the Slayer for the last few hours, and was taking in the sight of the Slayer and her beloved, openly and happily kissing each other.
"So," she mused as she lit a cigarette. She stole one last glance at the two lovers, took a deep drag from her cigarette and exhaled a gout of smoke before moving on. "B and Red don’t drive stick anymore? Wicked cool! Who woulda thunk?" She smiled to herself, considering what she should do with this new information.
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