Title: Again Rated: R Category: Drama Disclaimer: Joss owns these characters but he left the playground so we're playing with them now. Spoilers: Huh? Both BTVS and Angel are toast. What's a spoiler? Takes place after Buffy Season 7.
Distribution: You want it, take. Just let me know.
Feedback: That mythical beast that many have heard of it but few have seen. If you're so inclined, I'll appreciate it.
Pairings: You wanna know? That would be like telling the punchline before the joke. There's some lesbian couples involved so if that's not for you, well, you've been warned.

PART ONE

She was sitting at the bar, just as she said she would be. He slowly took in the mostly empty room before returning his gaze to her. Short, her feet dangling above the floor as she swiveled slowly from side to side on the barstool, attractive legs accentuated by a short skirt...somewhat small-chested, though his eyes lingered on the opening of her unbuttoned blouse...fiery red hair. He smiled.

He liked redheads.

Glancing around the room again, no one paid him any attention as he made his way to the bar and eased himself down onto the stool next to her. She looked up and flashed him an inviting smile even as she stirred her untouched drink with a plastic straw. Smiling in return, he raised a hand towards the bartender to catch his attention.

"Rolling Rock."

The bartender nodded and reached under the bar, popping open a green bottle in a smooth practiced motion and sliding it in front of him.

"Keep the change," he said, handing the bartender a five.

"Thanks," smiled the bartender, eyebrows raised in grateful surprise. Gulping down almost half the bottle, the man waited until they were out of earshot then turned towards the young woman beside him, eyes searching the room behind her one last time.

"Willow?" he offered confidently.

"Frank?" she countered, grinning. He nodded.

"So…come here often?" he asked, rolling his eyes at his own cliché.

"Actually, yes, I do."

Frank laughed but abruptly stopped, realizing that she was serious.

"It reminds me of another bar I used to, well, spend some time at. Thanks for meeting me. So...is Frank really your name?" asked Willow, shifting on the bar stool so that her leg brushed up against his.

"Yeah, it is. Might ask the same of you," said Frank, eliciting a laugh from Willow.

"You might," agreed Willow, nodding her head.

Wrinkling her nose at the condition of the bathroom, Kennedy closed the restroom door behind her and stepped aside to let another girl enter but stayed here at the back of the room, her eyes fixed on the couple at the bar. Willow threw her head back with a forced laugh, smiling at some unheard joke as Frank took another swig from his bottle. She nonchalantly placed her hand on his leg and Kennedy briefly looked away, taking in a deep breath and shaking her head.

"You know, it sucks that you can't smoke in here anymore. I need a cigarette. Wanna go outside?" suggested Willow, nodding towards the exit. Ever so slightly she pressed her leg a little more firmly against him.

"Sure," agreed Frank quickly, knocking back the rest of his beer. Willow slid off the stool and headed for the door, looking back over her shoulder to make sure he followed but not waiting for him to catch up.

Kennedy counted to ten after they left and then headed for the exit as well.

It was a foggy night, common in the spring here. The day had been warm but the water in the Sound was still cold this early. The mist seemed to part and close behind them as Willow and Frank silently made their way down to boat slips in the harbor just below the bar. Their footsteps at first crunched on the gravel of the parking lot then echoed dully on the wooden boardwalk above the docks.

Willow stopped and turned, leaning back against a thick dark post that anchored one end of a floating dock. The fog pressed the aroma of the low tide mud to them, laced with the distinct oily scent of boat fuel. An unseen boat passed slowly by, its gentle wake rolling enough to make the rigging of the moored boats rattle with a muffled metallic clanging.

"You, um...have the stuff with you?" ventured Willow meekly. Frank nodded, reaching into his jacket pocket. He withdrew a small plastic bag of white powder and handed it to her. She smiled but then winced when he grabbed her wrist.

"You have the money?" demanded Frank.

"Yeah. Yeah, of course," nodded Willow firmly. Frank let go of her wrist and she slowly lowered her hand.

Willow opened the bag, wet her finger with her tongue and touched the powder, quickly tasting it. Her eyes closed in approval.

"Told you it was the good stuff," said Frank. Willow nodded and reached into her front pocket, fishing out a few twenty dollar bills.

"Okay, see, the thing is...I'm a little short," cringed Willow.

Frank glared his disapproval and snatched the money from her hand, thumbing it to get a count. He crossed his arms and stared at her.

"Not good enough," threatened Frank.

"I know! I know. But, well...what I mean is...I've heard you make...arrangements," said Willow, her voice trailing off to a whisper, her eyes opening wide with suggestion. Frank didn't say anything but slowly uncrossed his arms and then thrust the money into his back pocket.

Willow undid the second button on her blouse, waiting, watching his reaction before reluctantly undoing the next button. She quickly reached out and touched Frank's arm with a trembling hand.

"I noticed you noticing me before and, and so, what with the noticing and all...if I...if you wanna..."

Willow nervously swallowed and hesitantly pulled his hand to the side of her breast, encouraging him with an innocent shrug. He smiled as she stood up on her toes and awkwardly found his mouth with her own. With one hand he explored her body and with the other he pulled her fiercely to him, her hips to his. Willow turned her face to catch her breath, smiled and looked him in the eyes as her hand slipped down between them. Tugging at his zipper and grinning now with a forced eagerness, she felt his arm around her relax.

With a wink she tiptoed upwards again, her lips brushing across his mouth, his cheek, playfully working down to his neck, her hand pressing against him between his legs. He spread his legs slightly, urging her on.

And Willow sank her fangs into the base of his neck.

His body went rigid and he tried to pull away but Willow now wrapped her arm across his back, holding him to her. Frank twisted but couldn't break free, his eyes bulging in disbelief at both her strength and the pain. With a feeble groan he collapsed against her and now Willow had to hold him up.

Reaching behind her, she kicked up her heel and pulled a knife from her boot. Flicking it open with ease, she forced it deep across the bite wound. She sheathed the knife, slipped it back into her boot and then shoved the packet of drugs into his front pocket, easily holding him up with one hand. Almost as an afterthought she dug into his back pocket and withdrew her money. Only then did she release him, his body splashing into the water below with barely a sound.

"Guys," muttered Willow, shaking her head with a smirk. "So into penetration."

She buttoned up her blouse, not bothering to turn around to face the approaching footsteps. Finally glancing over her shoulder, she turned and smiled, licking her lips and opening her arms to welcome Kennedy in a deep embrace. They kissed, slowly. If the taste of blood bothered her, Kennedy didn't show it.

"Hey, girlfriend," smiled Willow. "What say we go get us a beer?"

Kennedy stared into the water behind them but either the darkness or the current hid the body.

"The knife wound will hide my bite and since he's in the water they won't be suspicious about the loss of blood," comforted Willow.

Kennedy frowned, not looking at Willow.

"Hey, we talked about this," tried Willow, upturning Kennedy's chin with her thumb so that she would look at her.

Kennedy reluctantly nodded and, forcing a smile, slipped her hand firmly into Willow's. After another kiss they walked back towards the bar with Kennedy's head resting on Willow's shoulder.

"By the way, love that top," commented Willow. "Takes my breath away."

Kennedy couldn't help but laugh and snuggled just a little closer against her girlfriend.

***

"You know, this place really does remind me of the Bronze," stated Willow, looking around approvingly. Seated across from her, she noticed that Kennedy didn't seem to be paying attention.

"I forgot, you weren't there but a couple of times. Probably don't remember it the way I do," sighed Willow.

"Huh? Oh, um...no. No, I remember it," nodded Kennedy. "Every table, every color, every scent...every song. How could I forget?"

Willow smiled warmly for her.

"I mean, it's where we...where we..."

Kennedy's voice trailed off and she looked away from Willow.

"Hey, you okay?" asked Willow, reaching over to touch her hand. Kennedy shrugged but didn't answer as she pulled her hand away.

"Wanna dance?" suggested Willow mischievously.

Kennedy took in a deep breath and slowly looked up at her.

"We're not on a mission...are we?"

"Hey! That's my line!" snapped Willow.

"I know," recoiled Kennedy. "I'm...I'm sorry."

Willow leaned back into her chair and crossed her arms.

"It's this place, isn't it? Makes you...homesick?" wondered Willow.

"No. No it's not this place," sighed Kennedy.

"Then what..."

"You're not her, we're not in Sunnydale and this, this isn't the Bronze!"

Kennedy immediately lowered her head, unable to look at the girl seated across from her. She stared at Kennedy and slowly uncrossed her arms. When she spoke her voice held no anger; if anything, her tone was sympathetic.

"No, I'm not. I'm not her. I have her red hair, her green eyes...most of the time I wear the clothes you buy for me so I'm thinking I dress like her. You even call me by her name."

She leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper.

"My name is Leigh, not Willow. And yet...you haven't left."

Kennedy closed her eyes, one hand slowly rising to touch the scarf on her neck.

"Why?"

Kennedy didn't answer the question.

"How empty you must feel, knowing she left you for..."

"Don't you dare say that name!" hissed Kennedy, eyes glaring, her fingers clenched into a fist. She stood up and took a step away from the table.

"For...another Slayer," challenged the red head, trying not to smile. "Even though you are now a Slayer too, that wasn't enough."

"That's not...that's not why..."

Kennedy just stood there, her back to her, and after a moment her shoulders slumped. Turning, she glanced up but quickly looked away. Needing to hold on to the back of the chair for support as her knees betrayed her, she eased into the chair, now refusing to raise her eyes to meet that lifeless, cold stare.

"We're not on a mission, are we?" whispered this Willow.

Kennedy bit her lower lip. Tears welled up in her eyes and she raised a trembling hand to clear her vision.

"We're not on a mission, are we?" repeated this Willow, only louder.

Kennedy winced, her throat tight, the words refusing to come. And yet she allowed the game to begin.

Again.

"Hey, trust me, I told you. I have a thing," said Kennedy, forcing the words out, her voice small, barely a whisper. Leigh stood and turned away as if to leave. Kennedy began to cry.

"Come on. Just hang out with me a little," pleaded Kennedy. Her Willow turned to face her, sighing. She simply stood there, waiting...playing her part. Kennedy closed her eyes.

"You...you're sexy when, when you pout," cried Kennedy, her body shaking.

"Why do you do that?" demanded Leigh, her inflection tinged with laughter.

Kennedy took in a deep breath, collecting herself, ignoring the wetness on her cheeks.

"To get you to stay," breathed Kennedy flatly, all emotion purged from her voice. Across from her Leigh slowly sat down.

"All right, I'll stay for one drink, then I'm going home."

Leigh sat there, silent, waiting for her next cue. Kennedy sniffed once and simply stared at her. Smiling for encouragement, Leigh reached across the table and held her hand out, palm open. Kennedy laughed once and, shaking her head, almost smiled. She reached out and gave her Willow's hand a gentle squeeze.

"I'll be right back. I must look like..."

"You look great. Really," nodded Leigh sincerely.

Kennedy laughed again and slipped free from her hand. Walking to the restroom she was grateful to find it empty. She leaned her palms against the sink and shook her head at her reflection, one corner of her mouth raised in a frown.

"Look at me! What a mess," she sighed, shaking her head. "And not just my face. What am I doing?"

Kennedy stared at herself, afraid to answer that question.

"Wow, if my girlfriend could see me now...of course, my Willow could be standing right behind me and I wouldn't see her in this mirror."

"Oh? And why not?"

Kennedy whirled around, not realizing that someone had walked in.

"Willow!!" shouted Kennedy. She turned back to the mirror, staring at their reflections.

"Hey, girlfriend. Love the scarf. New look?" asked Willow.

Kennedy stood there, mouth and eyes wide open as if she had just seen a ghost.

"Not for nothin', but the scarf? Kinda clashes with the Doc Martins. I mean, come on, who're we kidding here?" smiled Willow.

Kennedy spun and almost took a step forward. Her arms instinctively reached out to embrace but Kennedy suddenly froze, the smile vanishing from her lips.

"Girlfriend? You called me your girlfriend?" barked Kennedy, hands on hips now.

"Well, um, okay, taking some liberties with the word there," winced Willow. "It's sorta generic, ya know?"

Kennedy clenched her teeth and glared at her.

"Did I mention the we need to talk part? Yeah. Maybe I left that out," frowned Willow.

Kennedy looked down at the floor, glanced up, teeth still clenched, and then again looked away.

"Kennedy," said Willow softly.

Kennedy ignored her.

"Kennedy," repeated Willow tenderly.

Kennedy looked at her but now crossed her arms.

"You're not easy to find," said Willow. "Who woulda thunk you'd come back here to your hometown?"

"What, a simple locator spell too much for you now?" snapped Kennedy.

"Simple? Hey, you need to be close by. I thought you were just blowing off some steam. I didn't think you'd..."

"Well, consider the steam blown off, okay?" spat Kennedy.

It was Willow's turn to look away.

"I'm sorry," added Kennedy quickly. "I shouldn't have yelled at you."

Willow shrugged.

"Why don't we..." suggested Willow, nodding towards the door. Kennedy lowered her arms and warily looked in that direction.

"Um, you mean...have a drink?" winced Kennedy.

"Why not? I think I saw an empty table out there."

"You did?" answered Kennedy just a little too quickly. "I mean, right, why wouldn't there be an empty table?"

"Meet ya outside," replied Willow, giving Kennedy a strange look.

"Um, sure. Just give a minute, okay? I'll catch up with you."

Not waiting for an answer, Kennedy turned back towards the mirror. She heard the door close and knew she was alone. Taking in a deep breath, she slowly released it, puffing out her cheeks. She turned the faucet on, splashed some water on her face and, biting her lower lip, stared at herself in the mirror. Again splashing cold water on her face, she reached for a paper towel and pressed it against her skin, waiting for her heart to stop racing.

Taking one last deep breath, Kennedy pushed open the door, her eyes frantically darting from side to side searching for Leigh but not finding her. Willow, seated at the table Kennedy had just left, waved to her to catch her attention. Kennedy walked towards her, pretending not to notice the drinks with the tiny umbrellas.

She smiled bitterly, touched that Willow would remember.

Kennedy sat down and ignored the drink for a moment but then rolled her eyes and took a sip from the straw, eliciting a grateful grin from Willow. Trying to avoid an awkward silence, Willow spoke first.

"Almost didn't come here," said Willow, almost to herself. "I called your mom and...and she said didn't know if you were still in town. That she hadn't heard from you. Thought she might be lying for you, that maybe you didn't want to talk to me..."

"Willow."

"That, understandably, maybe you didn't want to see me..."

"Willow," winced Kennedy, knowing what was coming. Willow inhaled deeply, looked down at her hands and then forced herself to meet Kennedy's eyes.

"Kennedy...your mom didn't know who I was!"

"Willow, it's not what you think! Really!" said Kennedy, reaching across the table for her hand.

Willow pulled her hand away, avoiding her touch.

"My mom and I, we're not very close, okay?" explained Kennedy with an edge to her voice.

"Oh, and I'm real tight with my mom," countered Willow sarcastically. "At least she knew your name."

"Did we ever meet?" asked Kennedy matter-of-factly.

"Wh-what?"

Kennedy didn't say anything, instead she simply watched Willow for her reaction. Willow narrowed her eyes and then tilted her head slightly. She slumped down into her chair.

"No, Kennedy, see, we just never...I mean, she was busy, we were traveling..."

"Whatever. We have more important things to talk about anyway, don'tcha think?" asked Kennedy, again sipping from her straw. Willow now sat up straighter in her chair.

"I know what you think you saw but it's not...hey! You never gave me a chance to explain!" protested Willow.

"It left little to the imagination," answered Kennedy dryly.

"No, see..."

"Though I might add that my imagination had fun with me after I left," sighed Kennedy.

"It's not what you think!" said Willow, leaning forward and trying to keep her voice low. "Not at all!"

"You were naked and kissing your best friend!" shouted Kennedy. Willow cringed and looked around but none of the few patrons seemed to have heard. If they had they discreetly ignored the two girls.

"We were skinny dipping and we were drunk!" protested Willow. "And, okay, I can see where you just might get the wrong impression."

Kennedy's eyes opened wide.

"Ya think!?"

"But, see, there was a dare and, and silly laughter and, well, I didn't think she'd...but she did and, um, yeah, we kissed but..."

Willow shrugged her shoulders and sank back down into her chair.

"Just a dare? That was one hell of a kiss. And I do believe hands were involved," added Kennedy angrily.

"Yes! There were hands and lips and, and you know, I can't defend what happened. But it wasn't...oh, fuck it!" groaned Willow.

Stunned, Kennedy blinked. And then she laughed. Willow looked up at her and she only laughed harder. Even Willow had to smile, though her face was turning red.

"You swore!" grinned Kennedy, shaking her head.

"Guess I did," pouted Willow. "Fuck."

This time they both laughed.

"Willow, we had some other issues before that," said Kennedy, now playing with the straw in her glass.

"You mean that anchor thingy?"

"For one! Buffy was so mad at me," sighed Kennedy. "Told you I wasn't any good at magic."

"So I was a little woozy for a day. Or, okay, two. And Buffy was mad at me, not you," explained Willow. "It was my fault, not yours. I was rushing you."

"Astral projection," said Kennedy, shaking her head. "Willow, let's be honest. We just weren't connecting."

"The sex was good," offered Willow weakly. Kennedy slowly smiled and nodded.

"There's that," she agreed.

They sat there, sipping their drinks, each unsure of what to say.

"I missed you," whispered Willow.

Kennedy closed her eyes. This was so familiar. Willow was so close and she desperately wanted to just reach out, touch her hair, hold her...

Kennedy stood up so quickly it startled Willow..

"Okay, not really the reaction I was looking for," winced Willow.

"Willow, I, I can't just...I mean..."

Willow stared at her, holding her breath.

"I'm seeing someone," blurted out Kennedy.

Willow's mouth fell open.

"You don't understand what seeing you...look, I gotta run. Yeah, I know this sucks and we still need to talk. So, uh, if you...how 'bout...there's a coffee shop around the corner. Tomorrow morning. Meet me at, say, nine o'clock?" shrugged Kennedy.

Willow blankly nodded. Kennedy stood up just a little straighter, her body expressing a confidence she didn't feel.

"Speaking of issues and stuff, there's a package for you at the bar. Just tell the bartender your name. He'll know. Always knew you find me," smiled Kennedy. "Just thought it'd be more the sooner than, well...now."

"Kennedy, I don't..."

"Not sure why I took it. Curious, I guess," shrugged Kennedy, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "Still, after what happened...well, I think you'll appreciate it. You don't have anything like it."

Kennedy hesitated, not wanting to leave but knowing she couldn't stay. Not with Willow this close, so near she could just reach out and touch her cheek with her hand.

"Not anymore," added Kennedy, her voice breaking.

"Kennedy, wait!"

Kennedy quickly walked away, not looking back. Willow slowly stood and, glancing once over her shoulder at the exit, made her way over to the bar, embarrassingly stumbling once but catching her balance before anyone noticed.

"Excuse me," she said, catching the bartender's attention. "My name's Willow. Do you have a package for me?"

"Sure do," smiled the bartender, reaching under the bar. "You a friend of Kennedy's?"

"Yeah," nodded Willow absently. "A friend."

He handed Willow a small flat package wrapped in brown paper and went back to the business of pouring a draft beer. Willow tore open the paper and gasped. It was a framed photograph of her and Tara, one that she had kept in the bottom drawer of her desk back in Sunnydale. With Sunnydale gone, she had lost all the mementos of her life there. Until now. Willow glanced at the exit, suddenly understanding the double meaning of Kennedy's words.

"Yep," whispered Willow, running a finger softly over the cold glass. "Just a friend."

Kennedy ran hard along the sand. The fog was thicker now and she couldn't see the water to her left but could hear the surf and knew she must be somewhere near the mouth of the harbor. Sure enough the dark wall of granite boulders that made up the jetty emerged from the fog in front of her. She stopped, hands on knees, inhaling sharply. Out in the distance the red flashing strobe of the harbor lighthouse eerily struggled with the shroud cast by the fog.

Her breath slowly eased and Kennedy stood up, knowing she wasn't alone...and she smiled. She felt Leigh's arms wrap themselves around her waist but Kennedy didn't turn around. Closing her eyes as Leigh's body pressed against her from behind, Kennedy lowered a hand and sought out her hand, gently intertwining their fingers together. Allowing herself to be turned around, Kennedy rested her chin on Leigh's shoulder and pulled her close, holding on tightly. Suddenly seeking out her mouth with her own, Kennedy kissed her lover deeply then just as suddenly pulled away, resting her forehead against Leigh's.

"I need something from you," whispered Kennedy, smiling.

"I know," grinned Leigh.

Kennedy wet her lips with her tongue and looked into Leigh's eyes.

"Kiss me, Leigh."

She felt Leigh's body tense. Kennedy's smile widened but Leigh pulled her head back.

"You called me..."

Kennedy nodded and tried to place a finger over her lips.

"Kennedy, it's okay. You don't have to..."

Her protests were silenced with a kiss. Pulling Leigh down, they fell to the damp sand, clothes being pushed aside, pulled away, hands finding familiar places. Kennedy rolled so that she was on top of Leigh but Leigh kept her hand between Kennedy's legs. Kennedy inhaled sharply, her breath rapid and uneven.

"Kennedy, open your eyes," whispered Leigh.

Kennedy ignored her.

"Kennedy...look at me," whispered Leigh.

Kennedy opened her eyes...and she began to cry.

"It's okay," comforted Leigh softly. "I can be what you need."

Kennedy moaned, her breath more frantic than before, tears now dripping down her cheeks.

"It's okay. It's okay," promised Leigh, nodding. "Say my name."

"Oh," groaned Kennedy, her hands tensing on Leigh's shoulders.

"Say it," smiled Leigh.

"Willow," gasped Kennedy. "Oh...Willow!"

END OF PART ONE