The sun was two hours from rising when Faith slipped in the back door/sunroom entrance, not expecting to see her sister slayer and still occasional rival, sleeping there. Not alone. With a girl. Probably naked too, under those sheets. Her eyebrow-raise of surprise gave way to a grin--about time. Then she continued on to the kitchen. Responsibility made her hungry, and the return trip? Wasn't doing that again.

Tossing the sole backpack she'd brought through to the dining room so it landed somewhere in the living room, she turned her attentions to the fridge. More specifically, to raiding the fridge. She heard Buffy enter minutes later, poked her head out, took in the ruffled, thrown on tank top and drawstring flannels, and asked smirkingly, "Who's the dirty blonde?"

Buffy smiled completely involuntarily. "So you saw." She continued once Faith had gathered all the remaining lunchmeat into her arms, and plopped them on the counter. "When'd you get back?"

"Just." Then came the mayo and mustard--dark--before she shouldered shut the fridge.

"You drove in a blizzard? From Scotland?" Buffy looked over at the window. Clear sky. "Or not. Still, bad roads and--"

"Got the mystics t'beam me express. I'm wicked jetlagged." She sat on the stool at the counter, moved her neck in a circle until she heard the pops, and then began to prepare her feast.

"We have mystics now?" Buffy asked in wonderment.

"We have every damn thing, B."

"Neat." She watched Faith, in silence, make four, quad-decker, turkey-ham-roast beef-and-salami sandwiches. "You're not really..."

The Bostonian took the first victim into her hands, and positioned her fingers for their part in all this. "Like hell I ain't."

"You used all the bread!"

Faith ignored the accusation, choosing to eat. "Should consider movin' the troops. There's this bad-ass castle beggin' to be the main HQ. Image, location...'sides, we ever got attacked, defending this place is gonna be a bitch."

"Is this because you watched Lord of the Rings with Andrew when you were in Italy?" Buffy questioned with a knowing smirk, sitting on the opposite side on the counter. Faith was like a deer in headlights. "Yeah, I heard."

Cheeks puffed with food and Buffy still managed to decipher Faith's next words. "I was bored! And we had downtime!" It was time to take the reigns of this conversation. Which Faith did. Once she swallowed. "Still waitin' for an answer."

"She's Tara."

Faith had never bought the whole "glowing" thing. But then, she'd never let herself be in a position to purchase that particular cliché. Wasn't the type. Buffy however, was, and the last time she'd seen their leader this happy, the woman had been staring at a crater. It was a rare sight--Tara must've been fantastic.

Hang on, why'd that name sound familiar?

"Wasn't she--?" The brunette began.

Willow's or dead, she wasn't sure how she'd intended to finish.

"Not anymore." From the immediately somber expression on Buffy's face, maybe it was better she hadn't.

Faith's eyebrows went up, and she shrugged. "Yo, there any Dr. Pepper left?"

What'd she care about why Buffy left her lover's arms to sit in a goddamn kitchen for some stupid reason and have a chat? When she did eventually learn why, through no fault of her own most likely, she'd probably want to kick Buffy's ass. Not that that was new.

She stared expectantly until Buffy went to the fridge to fetch beverage. Buffy did it wordlessly, with just a sigh and shake of the head. Beat her when she developed this kind of power, but it was awesome. No way was she going to jinx it.

Less than a minute later, she reached up and caught the can thrown at the back of her head. "Think we met. Me and her."

"Technically. But it shouldn't count." Buffy stated while she sat back down, the smallest sliver of "Still Not Over It" to her words.

Oh. The body swap.

Faith just cast her gaze downward at the counter and took another bite. "So, uh, Willow do it?"

"A mother country of no." Buffy nipped that in the bud, and was quickly distracted by the disturbing sight of Faith chugging soda. Capped with carbonation's loud expulsion. "Tell me your secret to getting guys this whole time hasn't been out-belching them."

Faith casually flipped her off. "Be happy to demo 'The Skills' for ya, up close and personal...but I wouldn't wanna rub your honey the wrong way." Wink. "So what's the deal? She bring you all in? Y'know, to the fold?" There was a barest hint of a plural, through closed teeth, at the end. Buffy didn't rise to the bait. "Like Red? 'Cause I can't wait to lay the news on Bob."

"Bob" was Angel's latest spy/intern-promoted-to-spy. They didn't know his real name, therefore, Xander dubbed the dude, "Bob." It'd been his turn. Faith liked messing with sad, sad little men before sending them back to LA.

Buffy's reply was two-fold. First she picked off and consumed a bit of crust, marring one of the sandwiches, much to its maker's displeasure. Then she spoke. "Tara says I hafta sit in the 'Bi' corner when we bar-hop." She was serious, forcing Faith to choke on soda and to laugh at the same time. "What?" The blonde was lost; the brunette only laughed harder. "What's the funny?"

While Faith caught her breath, she thought about how much she liked Tara already.

In the meantime, Buffy had pieced it together. "No corner?" After a final snigger from the younger slayer, nothing was said for a couple minutes. "Cordelia pulled strings. Before she died." And "Somber Buffy" returned. "Up till four hours ago, I was letting myself believe they were unattached strings. Big surprise, they weren't."

"I bet Tara's gettin' cold." Faith had pieced together enough of the reason to not be interested in the rest.

She didn't know the ins and outs, but she knew Buffy, and Buffy was about to spew some guilt/angst/pessimism-ridden crap. Somehow, Buffy factored into the catch, so her pint-size predecessor would screw up the glowing because she couldn't "se la vi" and enjoy. It was like she hoped for screwed. Pissed Faith off.

She wasn't the right person to talk to about this shit, anyway.


Speak of the witch. They both turned to see Tara, just as hurriedly dressed as her girlfriend, enter the kitchen. "Hey. Long time." Faith greeted.

"Yeah, um...yeah." Tara said awkwardly, yet politely. "How are you, Faith?"

"See my chow?" Faith gestured to said chow. "Five by five."

"Did-did we ever find out what that means?" Tara asked her slayer, who'd chosen to wisely come to her side.

Buffy's head shook. "Nope. Still a mystery."

"Good, I didn't wanna be out of the loop." There was a clear question in Tara's eyes, but it wasn't the same one she was actually asking. "Does she know I'm making pancakes in a little while?"

"Aw, the woman cooks? Better keep her, B. A chick can only take so much Cajun." Faith said playfully, but her stare was anything but. "You were just saying 'Welcome Home,' yeah?"

Buffy decided to shut up and agree. Second, wise choice. "Mm-hmm."

"Should take her back to bed, Tara. She needs her beauty Zs." Faith knew mission accomplished when Buffy glared back at her: 'Point gotten.'

Tara looked to Buffy, and let out a breath when a strong arm went around her waist. "We don't have to."

"I'm pretty positive I'll regret turning down that option later, when I can't keep my eyes open and fall asleep in the middle of a Giles' meeting, and probably drool, but...take a walk with me?" Buffy requested, a reassuring smile spreading. "I'll grab coats."

Faith didn't expect her instructions to be followed to the letter. She would've been disappointed in Buffy if they had. "Know what else'd keep you warm?" She saw the blondes brace themselves for innuendo--was she becoming predictable? Oh well, se la vi. Once more, a mouthful of food and, "Pair'a muffs."

To illustrate her meaning, she cupped her hands over her ears.

"We're stable bound." Buffy informed her, successfully resisting another baiting. "'Cause with my luck, today'll be the day Dawn decides to live up to her name and wake early. Then there'll be freaking when she can't find us. 'Us' meaning Tara."

The ravenous East-Coaster gave a thumbs up.

-Santa Monica Mountains, February 2002-

"Like your present?" Tara asked Buffy as they rode side-by-side along the trail.

Their guide rode ahead, Dawn a little bit behind. It was beautiful out here. Peaceful. Company wasn't bad, either.

"Now that I'm getting...yes, muchly." Buffy said, speaking both of the delay as well as the gift's mechanics, as she adjusted her feet in the stirrups and stroked her horse's mane. "The secret's letting him do all steering. Mean, he clearly knows the how and the where better than me. Or he's just great at faking." Her voice lowered. "But he pees like a..." She was going to say, "racehorse," when the age-old saying finally clicked. "Oh, um, right. 'Cause he' that. Uh huh."

"Is anybody else's butt sore?" Her sister asked, making both blondes turn their heads and grin. "I have like, welts, guys. Seriously."

Since her birthday, life made scheduling Buffy's gift difficult, but a lull in Tara's coursework and Buffy's Doublemeat duty, helped today be workable. Quick breakfasts, too brief patrols...all well and good, but a whole day with the wicca? Much more preferable. It felt like they were trying to cram two years worth of missed friendship into the last month and a half. Not that there was anything wrong with that.

"You don't have welts." Buffy rolled her eyes.

"How would you know?" Dawn challenged.

The retort? "Because you don't."

Now the brunette rolled her eyes. "It's my butt. I think I probably know what's usually..." At this point, she realized she was outside, in public, and got shy. "...supposed to be on it."

"Why? D'you look in a mirror?" Buffy questioned, innocent in tone but not in look. "Thought you got over that."

"What?" Red as Mars, that was what the younger Summers turned. "Tara, I didn't ever..." She looked at the witch, horrified. "I--"

"--did. While dancing. Every night after Mom made her bathe." Buffy remembered, putting a hand to her mouth like she was going to whisper, but she didn't. Whisper, that is. "Was called what again?"

She got the death stare and a mumbled answer. "The 'Cheeky Cha-Cha.'"

Tara tried hard to sound stern. "Don't tease your sister."

Buffy frowned. "But s'my duty." One she'd slacked on, but she was trying to make up for that. "My other, less grill-y and kill-y, duty."

"C'mon, Clip-Clop." Dawn said to her horse as they skirted just wide around her sister and Tara to pull ahead. She smirked as they passed. "I still have 'The Copy,' y'know."

Buffy felt her stomach knot. "Destroyed. It was a destroyed copy."

"Nuh-uh." The teen sing-songed, and turned to poke out her tongue.

After the slayer whimpered, she looked over at Tara, who smiled. There was a bit of "Aww," and "Told you so," in those lips. The woman wasn't even hiding it. "Quiet, you."

It was nice feeling like the sister she was supposed to be, but part of her "sibling duty" was pretending otherwise.

"I didn't say anything."

"Yet...Miss, 'Might Wanna Put Ice On That Cramp'." Buffy tacked on, mistrusting the sly witch. She couldn't say what she wanted to--innocent ears and all that. But she allowed herself a smirk, remembering how much it hurt to hold in giggles at Spike's absolutely clueless face. "So you don't like, whisper to them, do you? The horses?"

To which Tara belly-laughed. And Buffy thought (the latest in a long, growing string of such thoughts), that perhaps she liked hearing it a bit too much. Sure wasn't driving her away, though. If anything, it was reeling her in.

"I just like riding." Tara answered once the laughter had gone out of her. "Back home, if I wasn't w-with my mom, I was down the road at Mr. Hubbard's. His farm was pretty huge. With chickens and cows and horses--"

"--and possibly a cute, older, crush-worthy farmhand daughter?" Buffy was teasing, but then the ducking/blushing combo confirmed. "Okay, now I need details."

"There aren't any. Really. I was twelve, and she..." Tara saw the stare of, "Don't believe you," and sighed. "...Lissa was nineteen. Y-yes I had a crush on her, and yes I only learned to ride horses b-because she taught me how, but nothing happened. I don't think she ever knew." The shorter blonde still looked skeptical. "I was twelve!"

Laughing herself, Buffy mercifully took another fork down the same path. "At least tell me how she ranked on the 'Scale of Cuteness.'"

"Since when are you interested in how cute we are?" Tara teasingly posed, likely happy to get some payback. Her "we," spoke of their gender as a whole. "And why? Need details."

Buffy wanted nothing more at that moment than to be able to follow Tara's lead and hide her face. Except, she'd cut her damn hair too short. Then the next thing she wanted to do was tell Tara the extent to which she sucked, but Dawn might hear and get the wrong idea. Resulting in a massive step backward for their repaired relationship.

So internally-focused was she, that her mouth nearly got away from her. "I'm not. I'm only interested in y..." What had she been about to say? "...your interest. In we. Us. The us that is we." Man, mouth and brain weren't cooperating today. "Because we're good friends, and good friends like to know about each other's lives, even the parts where styles might, um, clash. And they're also...curious occasionally."

As their guide on the lead horse stopped, so did theirs. They'd arrived at a little stream, and the thirsty horses went without direction, to go drink from it. Being side-by-side and stationary, Tara was able to reach across and touch Buffy's knee.

"What d'you wanna know?"

Buffy hadn't really thought that far ahead. Her given reason was half the truth. She wanted to know Tara. Know the person who Dawn idolized, and who, from what Xander told her recently, had kept their odd, little family together and positive when she was dead. Humble as the woman was, she probably didn't believe she did anything.

Her unstated reason? She remembered never asking Willow. Never wanted to. Because of that, the redhead's relationship with Tara never got discussed. It became an unspoken rule. They used to talk about everything. About Oz, Angel, Riley...but Tara? No. Willow wouldn't say it, but that hurt their friendship.

She didn't get it then, and being so afraid of saying something wrong, she chose not saying anything at all. Maybe she was trying to correct her mistake. To get it. Already started to a little.

Met the witch's eyes. "What's your favorite thing about girls?"

"Hearing 'em." Tara didn't even have to ponder.

"Hearing 'em...what?" Buffy figured she better prepare herself for more blushing.

"Laughing, babbling..." That Tara was blushing, meant yep, Buffy was right to prepare. Voice got hushed and...something else. "...moaning..." Face reddened on schedule. "And if I'm lucky enough to be the one who makes it happen? That's the best feeling, Buffy. You have no idea."

Uh, thanks to that, Buffy sort of wanted to have an idea. Mental pictures. Pictures and sounds. They originated in a place having to do with moaning, how to get to moaning, and more specifically, her moaning while Tara made it happen. The longer she thought, she conjured ideas of after, with comfortable, soft spooning, feeling Tara's breath on the back of her neck as they slept...

She couldn't seem to help it. It was like a dam just broke, flooding her head with these scenarios. Most had no reality, but some did. She simply re-envisioned.

There were times when she'd watched Willow and Tara. Not in a peeping way; they'd just be sitting together. At the house, at Giles' apartment, the Magic Box, the Bronze, and Tara would have herself wrapped around Willow, and Willow would always look so safe in her arms. Truly safe.

Never having such an experience herself, not even with Angel (because, vampire), Buffy had been envious that her best friend found someone who gave her that. Now that she was flooded, she pictured herself in Willow's place during those times. That meant something. It meant that her slayer, sex overdrive wasn't the only thing at work here.

It meant she liked Willow's ex. Wait, no. It meant she liked Tara. Holy crap, it meant she liked Tara. When did that happen? She couldn't give herself up.

Tara answered her question, she had to reply. "Well, they say it's always the quiet ones." She could hide behind a grin.

"Are you okay?"

Maybe not.

"I'm fine, Tare." Buffy had called her by that slight nickname during coffee last week, and when she saw Tara smile at it, she'd adopted it ever since.

"That wasn't too m-much information?" The witch bashfully followed up with.

"Hey, I asked." 'Not enough,' was what Buffy wanted to say, but kept that to herself. Despite being caught off-guard by her epiphany, she loved when stuff made sense. "'Cept someone sounded a tiny bit full of herself."

"Did I?" Tara attempted her clueless act, which Buffy was getting good at seeing past.

Every day she learned something new and surprising about her friend. "Tiny bit." Another smile. They were getting frequent. "Thanks for my prezzie. Again."

Tara smiled back. "You're welcome." God, she wanted...but couldn't. No kissing. "My turn--first crush?" The upside of that question? Her sudden lesbianistic crush and related, fantasy activities took a backseat to a deep, long-buried embarrassment. "No stalling. Come clean, sweetie. I could've asked about 'The Copy.'"

This was true. "Mr. White." Buffy revealed, causing mild surprise to register on the other girl's face. "Not that Mr. White."

Back to Tara and surprising--closet, Tarantino fan. "Kill Bill" being a favorite. That was unexpected. At first, anyways. When pressed, she said she liked the art of it, the style, the words, plus, well, Uma, while still wincing at each, over-the-top death. Except the Crazy 88s. Tara hated those guys.

"He was my third-grade teacher." The slayer finally elaborated, looking elsewhere.

Before Tara could react, Dawn felt she had to announce, holding her nose, "Oh my god. Clip-Clop just farted."

-Bath, England, Present-

Tara understood why Buffy was upset. Why the slayer had listened, and then didn't say anything afterwards, choosing sleep instead. In the course of a day, they'd ridden quite the emotional roller coaster. It could hold off until morning when they'd both had some amount of rest. She just didn't to ruin what they'd gained by making Buffy hate her. That wasn't how she wanted the coaster to end.

Morning (later morning, anyhow) had arrived, and they walked to their destination, reflecting on one thing.

The Powers agreed to follow through on Cordelia's request--her life to restore Tara's. However, it would've been an even trade. Back in LA, Cordelia's body had been alive, but stuck forever a mystical coma. So too, in taking her place, would Tara have been. They could restore the physical; it was only meat. Life force was a different matter entirely, and hers and Cordelia's had both long expired. For good.

The only way around, was for Tara to share another's. Already being connected to Buffy as her spirit guide, the Alpha slayer seemed a logical choice. Or put another way, the only choice. She wasn't given an Option B. Tara liked to think of life threads from Greek Myths to explain it. She'd become entwined with Buffy's.

And that was the extent, really. Also, she'd most likely be called upon down the road to act on their behalf, but that wasn't what had her girlfriend upset. See, the next time Buffy died? The very moment, without warning, even if she was nowhere near her, Tara would as well. Because no longer did she have her own, separate thread.

Coming to the stable, Buffy opened a door and allowed Tara inside first. She shut that door as she followed in behind, trying to keep the cold out. The wicca looked nervous after the task was completed, wondering who was going to start, when in a blink, she was being made out with. Thoroughly. It was over far too soon.

Once Tara's tongue regained the ability to let her form coherent words, she put her grin on and breathlessly commented, "Fine, you can, um, be mad all the time."

"I'm not mad." Buffy corrected, resting her head on Tara's chest. "Never was. Being backwards's worked well for us so far, so I said to myself, 'Why wait? Start off with the kissing. Go against the grain.'" She explained, and rolled ahead. "And, keeping thought train on track...we could go do that 'nudity' thing, then--slowly--work our way back to this part. Feel quite peppy." Beat. "Love hearing you...jeepers."

"Sweetie, if I had your stamina..." Tara held her tight, and kissed the top of her head. "But sometimes waiting's fun, too. Until tonight. After you take me out."

"Oh, that's how it's gonna be?" Buffy looked up with a smile that turned down after a few seconds. "What if there isn't a tonight? Or a tomorrow? Dying while slaying? Pretty much my hobby. It can easily happen--so say the odds." She kept going. "And it'd kill Dawn. Losing both of us, at the same time, again. S'not like she doesn't already need massive amounts of therapy. Plus? Everyone'll hate me."

"They wouldn't."

"Why wouldn't? I didn't stay alive for you."

Seeing Buffy's need for space just then, Tara let the tinier woman slip from her arms. Her girlfriend retreated to the stable's rear, grabbing the salt lick pouch that hung beside the brushes. Gave Tara a moment to think about Buffy's perfectly valid view.

There was a strong possibility their life wouldn't last long, and hurt would be caused to family left behind. Except, her view? More optimistic. And truth be told, she wasn't too concerned with how the others would take it. Selfish? Yes. But what she'd seen time and again from her stint above was that--

"People heal." Tara said as Buffy walked back her direction, but stopped at a stall along the left side. She put a salt lick cube in her palm, and held it out for a honey-colored horse to eat. Tara joined her as the animal had his snack. "What's his name?"

"Argo. Willow's choice." There were six stalls, three on each side, but only five horses. Buffy pointed to the one next to Argo. He had a spotted rump, and was dark brown. "That's Jagger. Giles named." She turned around and pointed to each of the three across from them. The black horse? "Fury. Xander's." The horse colored like a cow? "Bunga. As in, 'Cow-A.'"

Tara chuckled. "Dawn?"

"Dawn." Buffy confirmed, and it was plain to hear how sorry she felt for the poor thing. But now she was down to the last horse, colored a really beautiful gray, with a half-moon shaped, white mark on the top-middle of her head. "She's Clay." She moved down to Jagger and got another cube. "I didn't wanna be too obvious."

How could she not come back, Tara was asking herself, her eyes shining with unshed tears. She was compelled to hold her girlfriend again, and she did, coming up behind. This was already getting to feel familiar. No, she didn't regret agreeing to the Powers terms. She'd known the risks, and accepted them.

"I love you." She uttered softly into Buffy's ear. "If there isn't a tonight, I'm still glad there was a yesterday." She wouldn't trade it, not ever. "And I'll tell'm."

"We will." The slayer amended, her eyes closing. "So am I. Buffy glad." And they reopened. "Boy is she."

"You are?" Tara exclaimed, picking on another sentence, and let Buffy catch on without help. "Well, that's it. We have to break up. Right now."

"Wow. Shallow. Can't you see past the physical?" Came the mock-hurt/disgust. "Ooh! And bar-corners that don't actually exist? Splainy."

"Um..." The witch held out as long as she could, but she had to laugh. Then, adding insult to injury, she swiped the pouch from Buffy's hand and ran across to the other horses.

The victim of theft whirled around, crossed her arms over her chest and shot her best disapproving glare at Tara. Tara flashed her an innocent, apologetic smile, and started feeding the horses. She felt hazel eyes on her. "I wasn't looking." Buffy's words were a lot less icy then her stare. "Didn't think, 'Hey, I know! Tara!' But, happened, and it was very brand new and scary Emphasis on fun. I'm not gonna waste our chance.

"We'll talk to the gang, and I'll deal. Like always. Part'a the fun of us, though? We weren't this epic, dangerous, magick vending machine-moving, soul losing, soul getting, or soul mating...almost couple." She paused to breathe. "Don't get me wrong, as crazy as my previous relationships've been, still wouldn't wanna have missed out. And I know how important Will is to you.

"But the point, which I have...there was a simpleness. Slaying and witchcraft? Non-factors. For once, it didn't feel like the universe went all 'Cupid' on me; the falling for was completely separate from the guiding. We were friends--who discovered feelings. No more story." She walked over to Tara, who still had her hand out for Bunga, but the cube had gotten consumed a while back. "Now? The universe is back in the middle, creating the world's largest Catch-22 ever."

"I know."

With Willow, magick was the catalyst that connected them at first. It was a powerful thing, and through that, they fell in love. There'd never be anything like what she and the redhead shared, which might've been a plus, because sometimes the relationship felt beyond them. Glory, the dark magicks...they'd had no control. She imagined it was the same way for Buffy and Angel.

With Buffy, the catalyst was a night of communication. Open, honest and heavy communication. Then there was a beach, coffee, horseback riding, air-hockey, shopping...that was powerful in a way having to do with no one but her and Buffy. Mystical forces strayed clear. Until presently. She thought what scared the slayer the most, was the déjà vu. Their relationship wouldn't be in their hands anymore.

"Don't care how 'Romeo and Juliet' mutual dying is. It isn't fair...but I'm done. This is me dealing." Buffy finished her piece, grabbing Tara's free hand and squeezing it. "Love you."

Wasn't much to be said. Tara certainly couldn't think of anything. They were here, and there was love. That'd have to be enough. She didn't deserve to be greedy; she wasn't supposed to be alive. Buffy neither. Who else got to return from the dead without the severe consequence of blood and/or brain-cravings? Nobody else that Tara knew of. They were let off easy, and to demand more felt ungrateful.

She sighed. "You're right. We should start a-a club."

"I call President." Buffy slowly smiled, and they left the other shoe on the floor.

"Presidents need interns..." Tara said it so casually.

Damn that hell-spawn.

The slayer looked hopeful. "Are you applying?"

"Tonight. Maybe." When her girlfriend's head turned, she kissed the frown. "Can we go into London? For dinner?"

"Depends. Will the 'centipede story' be a topic of conversation?"

The witch's eyes? Saucer-wide. "H-H-How'd you...?" No, she wouldn't win. "Will 'The Copy'?"

"If I still get to interview you later..." Buffy seemed to be really struggling with her decision. Brow was creased like nobody's business. "...okay. But why do you hafta suck?"

"Like you don't?" Tara challenged, dimples betraying her scoffing. Before she knew what she was doing, the salt lick was on the floor with the shoe, and she was kissing Buffy feverishly while on the move. Progress stopped when Buffy's back hit wall. "Screw it. Waiting sucks."

"Horses, Tare." Buffy somehow reminded. "Could...spook..."

"Better be quiet, then." Tara's grinned, lowering to the ground and slid her hands down Buffy's sides in the process, what at the same time getting her jacket to fall off.

"Me quiet?" The slayer's hips began to move, and the witch hadn't even touched yet.

Both stable doors opened wide. Kennedy strolled in, a group of the new generation--including Nadia--with her. "Hey, Boss, I was just gonna take some of the girls for an early run, and--" The blondes froze, seeing their audience. "Whoops. I'll ask later." The smirk said this was no accident. "Move out, Maggots."

Giggling teens rushed out, and still smirking, Kennedy closed the doors, leaving them as alone as before. Except for the horses.

"I'm gonna kill her." Buffy promised. "Once the teapot's dead."

Tara was more stuck on, "I can't make that many pancakes."

Beat. Several.

"Sex first?" Buffy suggested.


They'd be fine. They would. And when death came (at a time like this, in a year far away) something else would live. Nothing sucked about that.