Title: Thoughts of Love (2/2)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at http://fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=62966

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13 for slightly naughty thoughts.

Spoilers: Nothing specific from the show, really, except the Mayor's Ascension plans. Spoilers for Dancing Around Love parts eight and nine, though.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Tara's last moments in a devastated world without Angel.

Author's Note: This fanfic is based off the AU briefly visited in parts eight and nine of my other fanfic, Dancing Around Love.

* * *

"Xander!" I pull him into a friendly hug, resisting the urge to grope that gorgeous butt. "You're back," I smile breathlessly.

He smiled, "Yeah, I am. I ran into someone while I was out. Woman named Anya. G-man's giving her the heads-up, so she should be stopping by soon."

I try not to look upset when I pull away and give my sister her chance to hug him. I'm not jealous. I'm not.

Okay, so maybe I am. The guy's married, and he's got me ready and willing to jump his bones in case Willow's not enough, and he goes and meets someone out in _that_ warzone?

I suppose I'm not really being fair, though. Survivors are rare, and finding someone new to town before they get turned or killed is always good news, and new arrivals do tend to be more comfortable with whoever pulled them out of there, but still...

"C'mon, Dawn," I tug her arm back inside when the happy couple start snuggling. I can guess how they're going to celebrate, and I only wish I could join them.

* * *

"Battle alert," I say in a hushed whisper as I feel a cold ball of ice form in my gut. The air raid siren's not supposed to go off unless a full-scale assault's under way.

Dawn looks up at me, "We go?"

"Yeah," I say absently as I reach into the nightstand and pull out the small handgun stored there. It's a 9mm Beretta M9, standard Army issue, according to Xander. With the way things are and the abundance of such weapons available, there's practically a gun stored in every room.

I'm not really a very good shot, but I know I can't rely on my magic if it's a full-scale assault on the compound.

I step out and see a Willow holding little Buffy, along with Xander and a woman I don't recognize. I look at the only man I've ever loved and ask, afraid of the answer, "A battle alert?"

He nods, confirming what I fear.

"Well, come on!" The woman -- that's probably Anya -- picks up the shotgun we keep next to the front door of the suite and shoves it at Xander, demanding, "Are you just gonna stand there? Let's _go_!"

* * *

It's a warzone out here. The base has been overrun. It looks like Adam must have reprogrammed one of Warren's Terminator robots to open the gates.

Xander just ordered a full evacuation, the only reasonable course of action. With the perimeter breached and the base under siege, we can't hold our position.

Wait...

"Xander!" I call out to his retreating form. "Where are you going?"

He turns, and I can see it in his eyes. He doesn't expect to live. "Get out of here, all of you. I'm gonna blow up the armory. We can't let Adam get that much firepower."

He's going to sacrifice himself for us. Well, not if I can help it. Shaking my head, I mimic Willow's Resolve Face, "No, I'm going with you."

He hesitates, but he doesn't argue. "All right." Turning to the other woman -- Anya -- he pleads, "An, take care of my wife. Please."

* * *

Shotguns are loud, especially at close range. They're very powerful too, but even up close, they're not enough to kill Adam's hybrids.

Certainly not enough to kill Adam's brother. But it's enough to stun him. A grenade later, and we're there. I recognize the three men who had been holding their ground. I'd been tutoring Jonathan in magic, and he's got a lot of potential. I hope he lives long enough to achieve it. I don't know the Wells brothers that well, but aside from Mr. Giles, they're the experts on demons.

Xander's ordering them to get moving while I survey the situation. The armory's got a lot of stuff, and it's a pity we'll have to destroy it, but Xander's right. We can't afford to let Adam get ahold of all this.

But Jonathan's not leaving. He may be small, but he's one of the bravest people I know.

* * *

"I'm done," I look up, and Xander signals Jonathan to go first.

I breathe a sigh of relief when I see him go off to safety, but movement catches my eye, and I'm able to protect myself a little from the explosion.

I peer through the clearing air, and my heart leaps to my throat. Riley's standing over Xander, ready to kill him. "Vis zenobia! Solvere!"

The spell flings the hybrid through the wall, and I rush over to Xander's side. "You okay?"

"Yeah," he says absently, but his attention's on the detonator. "Damn. Riley blew up the timer."

"So we stay and detonate it manually."

"No, _I'm_ staying," he says. "_You're_ getting out of here."

"I can't leave you here, Xander," I tell him, shaking my head.

"Go. That's an order."

I can feel my lips curl into a smile. "I'm not a soldier. I'm not leaving."

"But..."

This is it, my chance to tell him.

"I love you, Xander. And I can't just run and leave you behind to die."

I don't give another chance to argue and pick up the detonator. He wraps his hand around mine. I look into his eyes, eyes I could get lost in forever. He doesn't know what I'm going to do.

But he will soon enough.

"Take care of Willow."

"What?"

I can't protect both of us. Even the strain of protecting just him will kill me. But I made a promise.

I blink back tears, weave the spell... and press the button.

Goodbye, Xan-...

* * *

Author's Postscript:

And that's the end of that little plot bunny.