Hi there. Here's the last past. I hope you enjoy it.


Dressed now in her warm pink bunny pajamas that made her look about six years old but were so warm and cosy-looking that she'd brought them anyway, and her furry cow print slippers, Buffy tapped gently on the connecting door to Dawn's bedroom. There was no answer, but she let herself into the dark room anyway.

"Hey," she said softly to the lump under the covers.

"I'm asleep!" The lump muttered angrily.

"Good, then perhaps for once we can do this without you talking back the whole time." As soon as Buffy had spoken, Dawn sat up and faced her. Buffy sighed. "Or maybe not."

"We weren't doing anything," Dawn insisted immediately.

"So Reece was in his underwear because he was finding the forty degrees outside too balmy?"

Dawn smirked. "Well, he is from England."

"Dawn, I'm serious. I get that you're the smitten little kitten right now and in your world the sun shines out of Reece's butt…"

"And in your world it shines out of yours, right?" Dawn said snarkily. "Are you, like, scared of the competition or something?"

Buffy stopped, feeling hurt. "There's no need to be so rude to me."

"Well, then, don't patronise me and I won't be," Dawn shot back irritably.

"Fine, no patronising. You are not old enough to be having sex…"

"In the State of Ohio the legal age of consent is…" Dawn butted in.

Buffy almost laughed, the little monster had gone and looked it up so she'd be ready for this conversation. She didn't miss a beat as she continued, "And in this house the legal age of consent is eighteen. And don't tell me how old I was," she added, guessing Dawn's next argument. "I know how old I was, but there are plenty of differences between my situation and yours."

"Name one?" Dawn challenged.

"Angel and I had known each other for nearly two years and we'd been together for six months. You've known Reece a month and you've been together for two weeks – actually you'd been together for one day the first time you slept together. I was seeing Parker for longer than that!"

Dawn shifted on the bed, not losing her insolent look for a moment. "Okay, so I'm not you. Newsflash. I knew that already. Not everyone has to wait six months to know they're in love."

"And not everyone has to have sex to prove they're in love," Buffy countered. "And if you really fell for the 'If you loved me you'd do it' line, you really aren't old enough to be having it."

"Of course not! I'm not just some stupid girl. I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't wanted to."

"Good, but the bottom line is, Dawn, if you want to be treated like an adult around here, you have to take the responsibility that goes with it…"

"We were responsible…!"

"I'm not talking about using a condom. Although, that's a must obviously, but there's more to it than that. We have girls younger than you living here. Impressionable girls filled to the brim with Slayer hormones. Their parents are trusting Giles' fake school to take care of them. What are they gonna think, worse, what are they gonna do if Miranda or Cici or Alison see you running around having sex with Reece all willy-nilly and figure its okay for them to do it too? I'll tell you. At the very least they're gonna drag the girl home and leave her vulnerable to any nasty that wants to pick off a fresh-faced, under trained Slayer. Or worse, they'll tell the police that their precious, innocent daughter is being corrupted by all the underage sex going on under the school's roof!"

Dawn was listening quietly, but from her expression Buffy could tell she was just using her quiet time to think up as many arguments to her logic as she could.

"Giles is already dancing on a tightrope as far as getting this 'school' approved by the authorities goes. The new Council is a house of cards right now, Dawnie, and trust me; it won't take a lot to knock it down. Even the wrong kind of rumours could do it, let alone one serious evaluation by someone looking for trouble. Do you get that?"

"I think you're over-reacting."

Buffy sighed. "I'm not; and you thinking that just proves you're not as ready as you think you are to make the kinds of mature decisions you've been making recently."

Dawn just scowled at her.

"I know it sounds like it, but that wasn't a criticism. It's just a fact. Those three girls look up to you, and we all need you to lead them by example, as responsibly as possible."

That got to her. Buffy saw Dawn's expression soften just a touch before she broke her obstinate stare and looked down at her bedcovers.

Buffy softened her tone too. "And even if you don't think you owe it to me, you owe Giles a little responsibility too for giving you a home. Which, incidentally, you won't have anymore if the 'school' gets shut down and he has to move back to England."

The dark bedroom was silent for a few moments until Dawn muttered, "We really were just kissing tonight."

"Well, that's good," Buffy said at length. "Kissing is good. I have no problem with you kissing him all you want. Just, please, keep it to that for the next year… or three. Three years is good." Dawn looked up at her in disbelief and Buffy smiled to show she was sort of joking. "And kissing with clothes on is preferable; especially if you're in the garden… actually that's a good tip no matter what age you are."

Dawn ducked her head again, embarrassed. "I didn't think anyone else would be out there. Craig came in and started complaining about us kissing and we were sort of… caught up in the moment," she explained in a small voice.

"I know how that one goes," Buffy admitted with a weary sigh. There was another minute of silence, during which she thought about her own reckless behaviour in the woods. Shaking it away, she asked, "Did you enjoy the party?"

"I think interesting would be the best word to describe it. Did you slay the monsters?"

"Actually, no, we partied with them," Buffy gave a rueful chuckle. When Dawn looked up at her in surprise, she added. "It's a long story. I'll explain in the morning."

"Okay. Well, as much as I've enjoyed our little sister chat… not, I'm going to sleep now." She lay back down, arranging the covers so they were tucked under her chin.

"Fair enough. I'll see you in the morning." Buffy remembered why she'd actually come in here as she walked to the door. "Kennedy and Will had a bit of a disagreement earlier. Is it okay if Ken crashes in here so they can both get some cooling off time?"

Dawn half sat up again. "Oh my God, they didn't split up, did they?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't know, and I don't think they do either. But it's late. We should get some sleep and deal with it in the morning. Things will probably be okay then." Buffy honestly didn't know if she believed that or not, but she didn't want Dawn worrying about it at this time of night.

Dawn slowly lay back down. "Yeah, tell she can sleep in here if she wants."

"Thanks. Goodnight." Buffy let herself out of Dawn's bedroom door into the hall.

She wanted to take her own advice and go to sleep, but there was one more thing she had to do first. Quietly she went down the back stairs to the kitchen. It was empty, but the door to the Magic room wasn't completely closed. Walking to it, Buffy tapped gently a couple of times and poked her head around.

Willow looked up and over her shoulder at the tapping. She gave Buffy a wan smile before turning back to her laptop.

"Can I come in?" Buffy asked, already entering.

"Sure."

Buffy pushed the door to again. "How are you feeling?"

"I've been better, but hot cocoa helps." Willow lifted a full steaming mug to demonstrate and then set it back on its coaster. "If you're looking for Faith, she's in the garden. Smoking herself to death."

Buffy glanced around at the walls of spell ingredients, magical apparatus and mystical charts and texts as she wandered closer to the desk. It was Willow's space, Buffy rarely came in here. It was cosy; in a trippy, incense-smelling way. The canary yellow curtains across the small window shut the darkness outside and the desk lamp and laptop screen together provided a bright, but soft light.

"I'm not. You have it looking nice in here," Buffy said quietly as she stopped at the desk beside the witch.

"Welcome to my bolthole," Willow murmured, her eyes not leaving the web page she was scrolling slowly down. "And possibly my bedroom now. Pity there's not actually room for a bed."

Buffy hesitated. "You still have a bedroom. Kennedy's kipping with Dawn tonight."

"Figures," Willow muttered, not sounding happy about it.

"I think she thinks you want it that way."

"Yeah, well, that's Kennedy. Why ask me when she can save time by making my lines up in her head?"

"Don't you think that's a bit harsh?" Buffy asked gently.

The look Willow gave her plainly said no. "But you obviously do so let's just not talk about it."

Buffy put her hand on Willow's shoulder, trying to get her to look away from the laptop again. "I just meant Kennedy's hurting right now too."

"Well why don't you go comfort her some more then," Willow grumbled petulantly.

"Will, are you mad at me?"

"Why would I be mad at you?"

Buffy leant her butt against the edge of the desk, regarding her best friend closely and partially blocking her view of the laptop screen. Willow still resolutely refused to look at her.

"I'm sorry if it looked like I was taking sides earlier," Buffy said carefully. "I wasn't, you believe that right?"

"Generally I only believe what I see with my own eyes. So, no, not really."

"I wasn't taking sides," Buffy said firmly. "Kennedy just took me by surprise and then you ran off… Would you look at me please?"

"I'm busy."

"You're looking six inches to the left of the screen!" Buffy reached behind her and closed the top down with a tap.

"Hey!" Willow looked at her angrily.

Buffy capitalised on the attention. "You know if I was going to take sides it would be yours."

"Yeah, I really felt the team spirit out there."

"What would you prefer, Will? Me, you and Xander ganging up on Kennedy just because you have a fight? What? Shall we depants her while she's shouting orders at the new girls? Make her run laps with a wedgie? Stick a sign saying 'kick me' on her back before she goes out on patrol?"

Willow smiled at that last one, but then resolutely quashed it. "I don't want anyone ganging up on her, but Xander's already joined Team:Kennedy anyway. So have you by the looks of it. And that's fine, whatever you both want." She stared sullenly at her laptop, skimming her fingers over the smooth cover.

Buffy used one finger to tip Willow's chin up. "I am perfectly satisfied with my Team:Willow membership, thank you. Now, do you wanna talk about what's really bothering you or not, because I'm too tired for any more snippiness tonight."

"Well, all I got is snippy."

Buffy sighed. "Do you realise how childish you're being?"

Willow turned to her once again. "I'm being childish?" she asked incredulously.

"Well, I'm not and you're the only other one here!"

"I meant Kennedy," Willow snapped. "She's acting like an immature, jealous brat, and you accuse me of being the childish one! That's wonderful. Tell me that quaint little story about how you weren't taking sides again?"

"Kennedy did a really stupid thing tonight. She did. You know it, I know it, she knows it. But can't even a part of you see why she did it?"

"I know why she did it. She was jealous of Oz. That's not a good enough reason to do something so stupid."

"Haven't you ever done anything really stupid because you were jealous?" Buffy asked. "I know I have. Tonight, for instance. Rubbing a Wolfman's belly, even over his shirt, is not a memory I'm gonna get rid of in a hurry… unfortunately," she added with a shudder. "Or the other week when I kissed Naomi because Faith was getting pizza with…"

"You kissed Naomi!" Willow almost shot out of her seat.

"Oh." Buffy's eyes went wide and she gave an embarrassed chuckle. "Forgot I hadn't told you that one. Anyway, the point is jealousy can make you act like a complete idiot; it brings out the worst side in people, but Kennedy's basically a good person, right? You wouldn't have been together this long if you didn't think so. Are you really sure you wanna give up what you guys have just because she let her emotions get the better of her tonight?"

"Did she ask you to come down here and defend her?"

"What, no!" Buffy sat back in surprise. "Of course not."

"Of course not? So she still thinks I'm the one in the wrong?"

Buffy held her hands up in surrender. "I'm not making this any better, am I?"

"What gave it away?"

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Willow opened the cover of her laptop up again and recalled the web page she'd been browsing. Class dismissed. Buffy glanced at the screen and saw the professional website of the Werewolf lady they'd visited that morning. The page listed the types of disorders she worked with; Buffy briefly wondered which category Faith fell into, before dismissing it as more extra-curricular Oz-stuff. Maybe Willow didn't want to talk about Kennedy because she'd already chosen her ex instead.

"Do you want me to just go away?" Buffy asked helplessly next.

Willow nodded silently, never looking up from her reading.

Buffy hung her head for a moment, feeling twice as tired as she had before she'd entered the Magic room.

"Alright," she said eventually and pushed herself off the desk. "Goodnight."

"I'm not mad at you," Willow said softly before Buffy could open the door. "I just can't talk about this anymore tonight. Sorry."

Buffy paused, fiddling with the doorknob. "That's okay."

Seeing the red-head's shoulders slump low as she ran a shaky hand through her hair, Buffy walked the few steps back to Willow. Squeezing her shoulders gently with both hands, she dropped a kiss on top of her head and felt Willow shudder with suppressed emotion.

"But when you do… " Buffy murmured. "… just come and find me, 'kay?"

Willow nodded slightly, and her returning "'Kay" was barely audible.

Giving her shoulders one last squeeze, Buffy left the room.

In the kitchen she stopped to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. That had been painful. With that in mind, she looked out of the window. Faith was just visible sitting on the picnic bench with her back to the house. Every twenty seconds or so there was a short orange trail as she lifted her hand to flick the ash away to her side.

Buffy watched maybe seven or eight of these as her heart beat faster and her palms grew damp, deliberating over what to do. In the end she let a gigantic yawn make up her mind for her, and with heavy feet she went back up the stairs.

When Buffy made it back to her own room Kennedy was sprawled out on top of the bed covers, fast asleep judging by the snoring. Fully clothed, right down to her boots.

Buffy sighed as she toed off her furry slippers, wondering how her night had ended up like this. Okay, she might have contemplated sharing her bed tonight with a hot, inebriated slayer, but firstly: wrong slayer, and secondly: way more inebriated than she'd had in mind.

Also, the snoring had to go.

"Ken?" She went to the end of the bed and picked up a boot, giving it a little shake. "Ken?"

"Sorry, sorry," Kennedy mumbled, but no change to the situation became apparent; for all intents and purposes, the girl was still fast asleep.

Giving up, Buffy decided to just do what she could to make the circumstances more bearable and then go to sleep herself. It was late. She was tired, upset, irritable and fed up. Sleep was probably the only thing that would make her feel better at this point and so she was fully prepared to welcome it with open arms, unexpected bedfellow or not.

Dirty boots on the bed, though, were a Buffy no-no. She loosened the laces on first one and then the other without Kennedy stirring. As she started to tug them off though, she got a mumbled, "Gerroff!" She ignored it and the boots thudded softly to the floor as there was a gentle tap on her bedroom door.

Buffy closed her eyes, groaning inwardly. There were only two people that might be, and she didn't really have the energy to deal with either of them right now. She thought about ignoring it altogether, but if it was Willow deciding she was ready to talk after all that would make this innocent thing thrust upon her look highly suspicious – and she really didn't have the energy for that!

She walked to the door slowly and opened it to see Faith fidgeting on the other side.

"Hey, I saw you go speak with Red." Faith's eyes flicked to Kennedy quickly and then back to her. "I just came to see if you were alright?"

"Other than having an unforeseen bed-guest for the night, I'm fine," she lied, not even trying to muster a smile.

"You don't look it."

Buffy shrugged.

"Can I come in for a while?" Faith asked hopefully.

"No."

"Not even for five minutes," Faith teased, taking a step closer and reaching for Buffy's waist.

Buffy stepped back, avoiding her. "As you can see, that's not exactly convenient right now."

Faith let her arms drop as her shoulders slumped. "Well, do you wanna come to my room?"

Buffy looked away, shaking her head. "Do you really think I'm interested in making out with you right now?"

Now Faith looked guarded. "Why wouldn't you be? Wait, I get it. You're still sore about the whole Drac thing?"

"Of course I'm still sore about it! It only happened five minutes ago. So sue me if I don't feel like fooling around with you when I still have the image of you drooling all over Count Dracula at the forefront of my brain!"

"It was thrall, Buffy! You said so! So why don't you get over yourself and give me a freakin' break."

"Yeah, well you didn't have to be quite so enthralled, did you? Especially when I was sitting right there. I told you to stay away from him, didn't I? But no, you knew better, never mind the fact that you knew I didn't like him, which should have made you want to stay away anyway, or you know, stake him even! No, you go and sit on his lap! You flash you neck about and go all 'Ooh, look at my stitches; ooh, look at my vampire bite, ooh, look at my nice, throbbing jugular!"

Faith just looked at her funny, clearing checking for signs of sanity and coming up empty. Obviously deciding there was no reasoning with a crazy lady, she tried a different approach.

"Okay, you know what? I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I should have listened to you. I was an idiot and I let myself get thralled. It won't happen again."

"No, next time it will be something else," Buffy said with too much certainty. "And the time after that it will be something else again."

"What exactly are you saying here?" Faith asked, sounding slightly worried now. "Are you gonna break up with me over something as stupid as this?"

"No. Because it's a little hard to break up with you when we're not even together in the first place."

"What?"

"We're not together yet, remember? We're just getting to know each other better, seeing if we'll work. And after tonight…?" Buffy gave a gentle shrug as she left the sentence there.

"We felt pretty together in the woods," Faith said defiantly.

"That was before… and it was clearly a mistake."

"I did nothing wrong tonight!" Faith said, her voice rising with her anger. "So don't come the frigid bitch with me again just 'cause you've sobered up!"

"Keep your voice down!" Buffy looked over her shoulder at Kennedy, but she still seemed to slumbering noisily. "And if that's your attitude, I think this conversation is over."

"My attitude?" Faith asked in disbelief, pointing at herself. "You're the one who seems determined to screw all this up. You wanna tell me why?"

"Not really, no."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because I'm tired and I don't really feel like having this conversation with an audience." Buffy hiked her thumb towards the bed.

"So come to my room," Faith said again. "Not to do stuff, just to talk this shit out before I explode. And you can sleep in there too if you want. I don't snore."

"No, I don't want to," she said simply. "I've had a long day, a really long day, and I'm beat and, rightly or wrongly, I'm angry right now and I don't think anything good is gonna come out of us continuing this conversation tonight."

"Ya don't, huh?"

"No, I don't. It can wait until tomorrow."

"And what about what I want?" Faith demanded.

Buffy rolled her eyes, groaning. "God, don't start this again."

"I'm serious, B. I'm asking you a perfectly reasonable question and I'll settle for a short answer, but you won't even give me that much, will you?"

"After you just called me a bitch, I'm not feeling all that inclined to give you anything." Buffy said. "I don't like being spoken to like that by people I'm in relationship with."

"Well as you just helpfully pointed out, we're not in a relationship." Faith sneered.

"Really good answer, Faith," Buffy sneered back and started to close the door. "I'm going to bed."

Faith's hand lashed out, holding the door open. "Yeah, well, I'm getting a little sick of having to come up with good answers for every one of your neuroses. I'm supposed to be your girlfriend, Buffy, not your fuckin' shrink!"

"My neuroses? I'm not the one being forced into 'voluntary' therapy!" Buffy snapped back.

Her words hung in the air between them, too late to be taken back. Buffy held her breath, cringing on the inside.

"Screw this," Faith stepped out of the doorway.

Buffy reached out a hand to stop her. "Look, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I'm dead on my feet and its making me irritable and I know I'm blowing our argument out of proportion, but I just can't seem to help it right now."

Faith stared coldly at her, still on the verge of walking away.

"So please can we just stop for the night and pick this back up in the morning when I feel saner and calmer?" Buffy continued into her frosty silence.

"Well I guess if that's what you wanna do, that's what I'm doing."

"Faith," Buffy implored. "Please, I just want to go to bed."

All she wanted to do right now was introduce her head to her pillow. She'd never asked to get into all this tonight. If Faith had just waited until the morning, the whole conversation would have been totally different, and probably a lot more relationship-friendly. But Faith had pushed, and Buffy had given in to her urge strike back for Faith's indiscretion and now here they were.

"Yeah, I bet you do." Faith's eyes glanced past her again to Kennedy. "Bet you two just can't wait to get with the comfort snuggles, huh?"

"Don't be ridiculous!" Buffy spat, giving Kennedy an embarrassed glance.

"What a surprise," Faith grinned nastily. "When I'm being a little friendly under thrall, that's a breaking up offence, but when you're sharing a bed with another chick, a chick you kissed a few weeks ago, I'm ridiculous for thinking that's a bit… inappropriate."

"That's because you know there's nothing to worry about!" Buffy insisted.

"Oh, but you were really convinced that I was gonna run off to Transylvania to start a little Vampire family?"

"I was never gonna break up with you over it!"

"Whatever."

"Look, I promise we'll talk through it all in the morning."

"Yeah, maybe."

Buffy didn't like the sound of that. "What do you mean, maybe?"

"It means don't count on me being in the mood to talk in the morning." Faith turned and walked off down the hallway.

No, she definitely didn't like the sound of that. Buffy watched her walk away for a second before calling out, a little too desperately, "What about your goodnight kiss?"

Faith flipped her the bird over her shoulder without slowing down and then she turned the corner out of sight.

"Damn," Buffy muttered, wondering if she should go after her.

In the end, after standing in the corridor for five minutes, getting colder and wearier, she decided not to. Faith was just being grouchy because she wasn't getting any tonight after all; and Buffy wasn't about to start giving into that kinda crap.

'I am too controlling!' she mused as she softly closed her bedroom door and walked to the bed. 'But I'm doing it for the good of us, in the long run. Faith just has to realise that.'

Not exactly in a gentle manner she pushed Kennedy to the far side of the bed so that she could get under the covers on her side. The light was out and her head was finally meeting her pillow when Kennedy murmured,

"You okay?"

"Not really," Buffy admitted. "How much of that did you hear?"

"Most of it." Kennedy rolled onto her back. "On account of you not exactly whispering."

"Yeah, well believe me, it wasn't exactly a conversation I wanted to have tonight at all."

"Yeah, I coulda lived quite happily without the conversation I had with Willow tonight, too."

"Well, to be fair, yours was less conversation, more getting into fights and throwing things," Buffy pointed out.

"True, but I had a little more to be upset about than my girl acting all flirty while under the influence of some hocus pocus thrall shit."

Buffy rolled onto her back too. "No you didn't. That's exactly what you had to be upset about."

Kennedy pointed a finger at the ceiling, being as dramatic as possible while lying down. "Yeah, but my sitch escalated. It might have started off with Willow just being flirty, and kissy, but now she's moved on to cuddling with him in her underwear – without the excuse of pocus too!"

"Were they really cuddling?" Buffy asked, sympathetically.

Kennedy sighed. "Honestly? I don't know. I just know I didn't like that I saw and… decided to ask questions later."

"I'm so scared of letting Faith hurt me, that I can't seem to stop hurting her," Buffy said quietly.

"And I'm so scared of losing Willow, I can't drive her away fast enough," Kennedy whispered back.

The darkness was silent for a moment before they both started chuckling softly.

"We still seem to be stuck on sucky loser square number one, don't we?" Kennedy said.

"Every time we climb a ladder away from patheticness, there does seem to be a slippery snake waiting right there, yes." Buffy sighed.

"So are we the good guys or the bad guys in this, because I can't even tell anymore."

"We're the good guys," Buffy said firmly, but then with less certainty "I think. We must be, right? All we want is to be happy with them and have them be happy with us. They're the ones making it all difficult."

"Valid." Kennedy nodded.

"I thought so."

The two slayers lay in silence for a while. Buffy settled the covers around her more comfortably. Kennedy linked her fingers behind her head, crossing her legs at the ankle as she stared at the dark ceiling thoughtfully.

"So, do you wanna screw to get back at them?" The younger slayer suddenly asked.

Surprisingly amused, or amusingly surprised, Buffy asked, "Each other?"

Kennedy turned her head, and Buffy could see her grin in the moonlight coming through the gap in her curtains. "Well, we're the only two here."

Buffy smirked. "I'm thinking that might push us towards the bad guy side."

"That a no?"

"'Fraid so."

"Good, 'cause I'm freaking exhausted." Kennedy laughed and rolled over to face the other way. "G'night, Buff."

"That's fine. You can sleep there. No problem," Buffy groaned sarcastically, but couldn't help smiling when all she received was a chuckle. "If you're gonna stay you might as well get under the covers."

"Thanks," Kennedy mumbled against the pillow. "But it's probably more sensible to just stay where I am."

"True. Getting…" Slow snores stopped Buffy from adding anything else. "Oh, that's just great."

Rolling her eyes, she turned over herself and tried to get comfortable. Lying there, waiting for sleep, her mind inadvertently ran through her exchange with Faith.

'She called me her girlfriend!' she suddenly realised, smiling into her pillow. 'That's a first.'

Maybe it was a silly thing to focus on now, Faith might not even feel the same after their argument, but it felt monumental. It was a sign – bigger than her sweet words about trust earlier, which at the party Buffy had been starting to think were just to get in her pants – that Faith was serious about her.

Pity she'd blown it before the sentiment had even sunk in, but it was still enough for her to fall asleep with a smile on her face. The rest they could work out in the morning.

Hopefully


Willow opened her bedroom door and looked around the empty room dejectedly.

It wasn't completely empty. Goorzar was in her bed, gnawing at the plastic side fretfully. She looked up in anticipation when the door opened, but seeing it wasn't her Mommy, she immediately went back to the gnawing; little whimpers escaped her and her eyes followed Willow as she moved around the room getting ready for bed.

"Kenny deserted you too, huh?" Willow sympathised as she pulled on her pajamas on the other side of the room.

Goorzar made a strange little bleating sound and buried her head under her blanket.

"Don't feel bad. She still loves you." Willow promised. "She's just not thinking straight right now."

She brushed her hair as she stared at the bookcase recently refilled with books, remembering the night before when she'd been so sure she and Kennedy were finally making progress.

Giving a quiet, humourless chuckle, she muttered, "Boy, was I wrong."

But where had they gone wrong? She honestly didn't know. She'd never stopped caring for Kennedy, never stopped inching cautiously into love with her. Maybe that's what she'd done wrong; she'd been too cautious, but, hello, she had good reason!

And coming out and saying the words wasn't something that should be done lightly, because what if she'd made a mistake… like she so obviously had!

Willow didn't really believe that, as much as she wanted to, but Kennedy had changed over the past couple of weeks. She'd been totally supportive about finding Oz, right until he showed up. And the lust spell induced kiss obviously hadn't helped anything, but Willow hadn't meant for that to happen. Kennedy had kissed Buffy and she wasn't holding that against her!

"Maybe I should," she said to Goorzar as she rubbed moisturiser onto her arms. "Maybe me not being jealous enough is what made her so jealous."

There was no other reason she could think of. Okay so she'd been spending some time with Oz, but nearly all of it had been work related and they'd never really been alone. A concession she'd made without Kennedy needing to ask her too, which should have counted for something… but apparently didn't.

Willow shook her head as she recapped the lotion bottle. She wasn't going to stop seeing her friend, just because Kennedy didn't like it. Either they were strong enough to survive that or they weren't; and if they weren't maybe they weren't meant to be together. Tara would never have acted like this. And yes, before Goorzar could learn more words than 'Bad girl' and remind her, she knew Kennedy wasn't frickin' Tara, but sometimes it was difficult learning to live with and love someone else.

The bottom line was Tara would have understood and so would Oz have… so why couldn't Kennedy?

"Oz had a point too," Willow mumbled as she turned back her bedcovers. "He never treated me the way Kennedy has recently. Not that she's been treating me bad, just… indifferently."

The last couple of weeks Kennedy's indifference had hurt so much, and she'd been trying to put a brave face on it, but… maybe what if that had come off as indifferent to Kennedy?

She wished she hadn't thought that; somehow it made it worse. Of course it made it worse. If Kennedy didn't know how she felt then it made a little sense of her actions tonight. It didn't condone them, no way, but maybe Willow could see it, just a little.

"I nearly killed Veruca," she said in a small voice. "I couldn't do it, but for a moment, or several, I wanted to."

She sat on the edge of her bed staring into space until Goorzar gave an extra loud whimper. She looked down at the baby demon to see her just poking her head out of her blanket. Only her nose and eyes were visible and she gave Willow a look more pitiful than she had seen on any human.

In her raspy tone, she burbled, "Mommy."

"Oh!" Willow's heart broke a little and she slid off her mattress to land next to the dog bed. "You just said Mommy for the first time! She still loves you, Sweetie. She just can't be here right now, because… because… she, uh, can't. But you'll see her in the morning, I promise. I'm here though."

"Wizzow," Goorzar burbled as she climbed from her bed to crawl onto Willow's lap.

"Oh! Oh! You just said Willow!" She returned the cuddle the demon was offering her.

"Mommy," Goorzar mumbled again, burying her furry head in Willow's neck.

"She still loves you," Willow repeated softly as she held her. "And, hopefully, she still loves me too."

"Love-zus," Goorzar burbled as Willow rocked gently from side to side, unexpected tears dampening the demon's thick fur. "Love-zus."

The end


There you have it. Thanks for reading.

To be continued in Episode 9: Anywhere but here... sometime soon.