Copyright Disclaimer : Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Willow, Tara, Xander, Giles and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of Joss Wheldon, Fox and Mutant Enemy. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the authors. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Please contact the authors for permission to reproduce this story on any other fan fiction site.

Paring : Willow / Tara - Buffy / Other - Set in Season Seven, but as you will see quickly veers away from the events presented. The First is still the big bad, there is a gaggle of SIT's in town but something very different is about to happen…

Rating : M Contains scenes of violence, sexuality and nudity

Shades Of Grey : Part Twenty Nine.

The bus lumbered down Revello slightly off kilter as one of the tires had begun to deflate on the way back. Buffy had kicked out the useless front door and no one had bothered to secure the back door concentrating more on keeping the injured in their seats. Pulling the vehicle to a stop Giles turned the engine off and pushed up cradling his injured arm to his body.

"Okay for now." Buffy pushed up to stand. "The injured that need real attention need to be taken to my house." She glanced around. "The walking wounded go to the big house." She pointed to the other one.

"You going to float her again?" Kennedy questioned Tara as she went to try and move Faith back towards the door.

"Let me see if I can manage both of them." She looked at the war beaten SIT sadly.

"Together baby." Willow moved over putting her hand in Tara's.

Tara looked down at the hand that touched her own and for a moment it looked like the blonde witch would cry just from the gentle touch. Instead though she nodded softly and closed her blue eyes. The injured Slayer and the Canadian instantly were wrapped in a soft sparkling cloud, that moved them out of the bus and off towards the house.

Slowly everyone else started to file out of the bus, leaning on each other or being carried.

"Faith?" Dawn came out the front door after hastily bringing down the barrier when she'd been signalled that the bus was coming. "Oh my God, Buffy?" She looked up her eyes burning with tears as she looked for her sister.

"Dawn." Buffy's head shot up and she ran forwards to her sister pulling her into a tight hug instantly.

"You're hurt." Dawn held her tightly not even listening to her own words.

"I'm okay." Buffy shook her head and then glanced over to where the other Slayer was being levitated towards the house. "Faith's..." She frowned not able to finish.

"Is she?" Dawn's body began to shake as she looked back at the dark Slayer.

"She's alive." Buffy quickly assured her sister. "But she needs you." She added nodded for Dawn to head back to the house. Dawn took one quick step then stopped.

"Buffy, where's Owl?" She frowned hard.

"She's..." Buffy looked at the road and took a painful step towards the curb. "She went to get her bike." She looked down the deserted street.

"Zoë! Zoë!" The tight, yet still controlled voice of the young English woman announced her arrival in the front garden just as Buffy staggered towards the road.

"Beth." Willow held her hand up trying to keep her from interfering with their spell until they could get her inside.

"Just tell me." She looked up looking into Willow's eyes. "Is she..." She didn't finish her words.

The redhead's sad green eyes looked the short distance over to her lover.

"Let's just get inside Bethany." The blonde witch blinked softly and was pleased when Beth took her answer and moved to keep the door as wide open as she could.

Willow felt their powering dipping as they managed to get Faith positioned on the dining room table and Zoë landed on the couch.

"Is there anything we can do?" She questioned Tara in a whisper.

"Not yet." Tara shook her head as Beth hurried to kneel by the couch. "The best thing we can do is let Beth tend to the obvious physical things." She stepped back a little.

"So she's not..." Willow couldn't finish as she forced herself to look away over to where everyone else was trying to assess Faith's injuries.

"No." Tara confirmed. "Then again…" Her voice dropped slightly. "Neither is Candice." She reminded sadly.

"You mean she could be..." Willow swallowed her voice going to a whisper. "Like Candice?"

"Willow, I'm not saying..." Tara's voice trailed off as blue eyes rolled slightly as if suddenly all of the blonde's efforts and power draining caught up with her.

"Tara!" Willow squeaked moving to catch her before she fell and slowly lowered her to the ground. She looked around almost ready to ask someone for help but seeing how caught up everyone was she couldn't. She settled on the only course of action that she had, she gathered up a pillow and blanket from the chair and moved over to make Tara as comfortable as she could where the blonde had collapsed.

Beth's eyes flickered somewhat nervously over to Tara and Willow as the blonde sunk to the floor. Seeing Willow there to tend to her, she then turned her attention fully her lover.

"Hey we won." Beth whispered as she reached over and eased sweat-damped hair back off the Canadian's forehead. "Well you guys won, I came second in scrabble." She pointed out with a soft laugh. "I would have got more if Anya would have let me have horrification. Do you have any idea how hard it is to play scrabble with someone who's been alive longer than the game has existed?" She added still chuckling softly.

"Harder than playing with me making up words?" Zoë's hoarse voice was almost inaudible.

"Much harder, I couldn't kiss her into submission when I was losing." Beth's voice hitched and tears sprung to her eyes at the sound of her lover's voice.

"I hope not, I told you I was coming back, so no looking for a new girlfriend." Zoë managed to reach up her hand though the movement made her moan.

"Easy." Beth closed her smaller fingers around Zoë's hand softly. "Just cause you won, doesn't mean you can go and be all pushing your luck on the health front."

"Trust me, I haven't felt this crap since that time the gang took me out for my birthday." Zoë laughed and then coughed as it racked through her. "How is everyone?"

"Well at the moment the place is pretty much chaos." Beth admitted. "What can I do for you?"

"Tell me again that we won?" She struggled to open her eyes blinking as Beth came slowly into view. "Hey sexy."

Beth lightly traced her fingertip over Zoë's eyebrows, playing down her surprise as pale grey eyes looked up at her.

"Are they permanent?" She asked softly tracing her finger over and over the soft arch of short hairs.

"Is what permanent?" Zoë questioned not understanding.

"The grey eyes, not that I'm complaining, but I thought I was the one who had the stunning eyes." She gave a mock pout.

"Baby, I know I just went ten rounds with the ultimate evil but I think I have brown eyes don't I?" Zoë squeezed her hand.

"Well you did have." Beth nodded. "But not right now."

"Oh." The Canadian blinked. "I don't know, I'm just glad I can move all my limbs."

"Me too." Beth admitted. "And hey if they work, I can cope with the grey."

"They work. You put your hair up." Zoë reached up smoothing her hand over the soft locks.

"I did." Beth nodded reaching up to flick at the blonde ponytail. "I thought I might be called on to use my first aid skills. I got the impression from Xander that anything I could help with would be beneficial, even if I never finished my qualifications." She tried to sound convinced she could be of service, even while she was racked with severe doubt.

"You should be, Faith was electrocuted, Buffy was stabbed, Owl was choked."

Zoë tried to push up. "Tara and Will... ow." She gasped as her muscles cramped up and curled her body up in pain.

"Hey!" Beth put her hands on her lover's shoulders and eased her back. "You know what you need?" She said softly. "You need a nice warm Radox bath."

"You might have to hold me up, I think I'd fall asleep and drown." Zoë managed a lopsided smile.

"Well that was more of an offer than anything else." Beth smiled back. "If it were big enough I'd suggest a hydrotherapy pool. But even the big house only has a corner tub."

"Mmmmm it might be a bit hard to carry me that far." Zoë admitted.

"Well how about you try and sleep, and then we'll work on the muscle cramps?" Beth suggested.

"Okay." Zoë felt her eyes slip closed almost without wanting them too.

"Sleep baby." Beth leaned forward and pressed her lips to the Canadian's forehead.

-x-

Dawn held her spot at the head of the table, smoothing her hands down the side of Faith's forehead.

"Come on Faith, just open your eyes please." She whispered her head bent down close to Faith's ear. "You beat it, you won, you can't die on me now."

"I don't know what I can do, I'm not a paramedic." Anya scowled as she cut slowly through the thick leather coat trying to get to the wound that the staff had skewed all the way through the Slayer's shoulder.

"Dawn, maybe you should go help the SITs with some of the surface wounds." Sandra put her hands lightly on the teenager's shoulders, attempting to gently pull her backwards.

"I'm not leaving her." Dawn threw the Watcher's hands off and moved to grab a wad of bandages pressing it against the wound when it started to bleed more as Anya relieved the pressure the leather had been offering.

"We need a doctor." Giles moved in from the lounge his shirtsleeves pulled back, his arms more or less covered with blood. There was a deep frown creasing his brow and hard tiredness in his dark eyes.

"We don't have a doctor." Dawn snapped at him.

"That's not exactly true." Beth pushed up from her place on the floor near Zoë, taking a deep breath, attempting to consolidate her confidence.

"What?" The brunette's attention flashed over to her.

"I dropped out in my final year before I started my residency, but I managed four of them." She pulled off the light grey cardigan she wore and re-fixed her hair. "But if you trust me to try?" She asked quietly.

"Giles, move let her help." Dawn managed to keep herself from reaching up and pushing him out of the way. Beth smiled tightly as the Watcher moved aside.

"What we need to do is sort people." Beth looked at Anya, Xander, and the others that were gathered around her now.

"Is this where Zoë learned her skills?" Anya asked handing her a pair of sterile gloves, quickly piecing things together.

"Sword and dagger wounds though ugly shouldn't be fatal, unless they are deep and located in the thigh, arms, chest or abdomen." She nodded to answer Anya as she snapped on the hygienic gloves.

"We've got a few." Xander piped up hearing the round up and wanting to help as he could.

"Great, now anyone who's conscious and who can tell you where it hurts and how, is gonna hang in." She smiled at the willing volunteer. "See if you can move those who are actually with us and conscious upstairs. No more than two to a bed and any injured limbs elevate and isolated. I think Faith needs most of my attention right now." She assessed just glancing at the dark haired Slayer.

"On it." Xander moved off to start scrambling with the SIT's with older injuries to help.

"Anya." She looked at the former demon. "You're great at stitching, go with Xander, make initial assessments and stitch up any you're happy to do just that to."

"Are you sure?" Anya looked down at the Slayer.

"Positive." Beth took a small step towards Faith and rested her fingers lightly on the pulse point on Faith's neck. "Dawn, you're with me, get me bowls of water, towels, more dressings." She looked seriously at the teenager.

"I'll be right back." Dawn kissed Faith on the forehead quickly and moved off to get the supplies, many of that were already stacked in the kitchen.

"Giles, Sandra work with the unconscious." Beth turned to look at the Watchers. "Check breathing, pulse rates, and eye dilation." She fished in her pocket and pulled out a small torch she held it out to Sandra. "I think Tara's just exhausted, and I think Willow's gonna dip with her soon." She glanced at the two witches. "I don't know how this magic stuff works, but shock might be an issue."

"I'll check them and make them comfortable as well." Sandra took the torch and moved away.

"Okay you." Beth moved tight up to Faith. "Lets see if you've got as much spirit as your mouth suggests."

"I have the stuff." Dawn came back in almost spilling one of the bowls as she dumped it beside Beth and then stacked up towels and bandages.

Beth frowned softly as she eased the heaving wading on Faith's skewer wound, the ripped skin and torn muscle pulsating with the flow of blood. She flicked hazel eyes up at Dawn.

"Where's your sister?" She asked. "I noticed she was bleeding."

"She's on the lawn, Owl hasn't come back. Apparently she was getting her bike and coming right behind." Dawn looked up through the window to where Buffy was sitting on the front walk.

"Send someone to get her in, we don't have blood to transfuse if she looses too much." Beth pointed out.

"She won't come in for anyone." Dawn used a wad of towel to sop up some of the blood as Bethany inspected. Beth swapped the dressing on Faith's shoulder for a fresh set that she ripped out of its sterile packaging.

"This is nasty." She summed up wanting to be straight with Dawn.

"You just have to get her stable, her slayer healing can do the rest." Dawn pointed out hopefully.

"I've heard a lot about this slayer healing and believe me, she's going to need it with this. The wound is too wide to stitch on either side, it's going to need packing, it needs to heal from the inside out." She carefully packed it and secured her work. "There's no guarantee that the muscle will be as strong as it used to be."

"I don't care, she just can't die." Dawn shook her head looking down at Faith. "They won, no one can die now."

"I need to know what happened to her." Beth glanced up again at Dawn. "Perhaps you could try and get Buffy in." She pointed out. "For Faith's sake."

"Okay." Dawn nodded squeezing Faith's hand again before she ran out the front door and down the lawn. "Buffy." She moved down on her knees next to her sister.

"How is Faith?" Buffy said instantly.

"Beth needs to know what happened to her." Dawn admitted weakly. She reached out with the towel she had brought pressing it to the wound that was visible on Buffy's side making Buffy breath in through clenched teeth. "And she doesn't want you to bleed either."

"It's not serious." Buffy shook her head.

"Buffy..." Dawn pressed harder and made Buffy look at her. "What happened to Faith?"

"I... its a bit of a blur." Buffy admitted frowning a little her concentration harshly severed between her sister, the victory and Owl's absence.

"We need to know. Please." Dawn underlined.

"She, there was an electric barrier." Buffy tried to focus.

"She was electrocuted again?" Dawn gasped in.

"She's a slayer Dawn, it'll be okay." Buffy tried to assure her sister but her voice was blank.

"What happened to her shoulder?" The brunette questioned harshly.

"The staff." Buffy glanced down.

"The Staff?" Dawn snapped on the small words instantly.

A low rumble from the street interrupted the conversation as an old Citroen that looked not unlike the one Giles had driven years before into Sunnydale shakily pulled up onto the curb. The driver's door was pushed open, and promptly fell off with a loud clatter. From within it, Owl pushed out and up to stand.

"Piper." Buffy pushed up and rushed towards her.

"Hey, what are you doing out here? You're wounds still bleeding." Owl put her arms around the other Slayer.

"Where have you been?" Buffy looked at her almost not believing her eyes.

"Long story, come on, I'll tell you all about it while I stitch you up." Owl tried to lead her inside.

"Piper, what happened to Faith?" Dawn questioned as they moved closer.

"Faith." Piper spoke the Slayer's name as if remembering the recent fight. "Come on, let's get inside I'll help all I can." Dawn nodded and rushed back inside with them both.

"Owl is here." She explained to Beth as the three of them moved into the dining room.

"Please tell me that one of the Slayers made it without serious injury?" Beth glanced up at Piper as she worked on loosening all of Faith's clothing so she could examine her.

"I'm ok." Owl nodded hoping the woman wouldn't notice the large ring of bruises around her throat.

"She needs to know what happened to her." Dawn urged moving up to rub Faith's forehead again.

"Look why don't I help Beth out, you patch up Buffy?" Piper offered Dawn the deal.

"Sit." Dawn nodded slowly and moved towards her sister, she pointed to the chair.

"We won Dawnie." Buffy slid down into it.

"We did." Dawn nodded and moved to cut off the bloody section of the blonde's shirt so she could see the wound. "You did it." She whispered to her sister moving to clean it quickly.

"No, we did it, all of us, together." Buffy felt her eyes close as pain flooded her systems, beating back the endorphins she'd been surviving on.

"We did." Dawn checked the long but shallow gash. "Do you want it stitched?"

She checked moving a large packing bandage over it.

"I think it'll heal up, and I think I deserve some kind of scar don't you?" She smiled at her sister.

"Since you're retiring definitely." Dawn smiled back at her securing it in place with long portions of tape.

"What I'm I going to fill my time with if I give up fighting the bad guys?" Buffy leaned back into the seat.

"Watching me to make sure Faith and I don't do anything you don't like." The teenager gave her a wide grin and Buffy felt a tired smile tug at her face.

"Maybe I should teach, they'll need staff at the new high school." She offered with a light laugh.

"No way, I don't want you watching everything I do." Dawn shook her head. "Is she going to be okay?" She whispered glancing over to where Piper and Beth were working.

"She's tough, she's proved that several times." Buffy nodded.

"Is it really dead?" Dawn finished with the tape and leaned a little against her sister's good side.

"It's really dead." Buffy nodded letting her head droop to rest against Dawn's.

"Shit." Beth's soft curse broke the moment of respite. "Don't do this to me."

"What?" Dawn and Buffy both looked up.

The young English woman growled as she ripped Faith's tight T-shirt open pushing it clearly back from her chest, and vaulting herself up onto the table

"Faith!" Dawn moved over seeing what Beth was doing.

"Dawn." Piper put herself between the teenager and what Beth was doing trying to spare her the memory.

"Faith damn you, I don't have the equipment here to deal with this." Beth growled again. Her small hands interlocked and pressing down in a hard regular rhythm on Faith's chest.

"What else do you need?" Buffy moved over elevating Faith's legs with a pillow.

"Breathing." Beth's eyes flicked up to Buffy. Buffy moved over basically repeating what she'd been doing in the field. "Come on Faith, you loud mouthed egotistical maniac." Beth continued her work tirelessly as she badgered the dark Slayer. "You're better than this, think of everything you have to live for."

"I can help." Willow pushed over her voice a bit of an echo as she raised her hands in front of her. As everyone glanced at her, they stared longer seeing her eyes had turned from green to a light shadow of black that moved over even the white areas.

"What the fuck?" Piper pushed Dawn behind her a little harder

"Oh God no Willow, not the dark magic." Dawn pleaded.

"Willow." Buffy looked up swallowing, she felt her blood run cold as she remembered the last time she had seen those eyes.

"I can use it." Willow moved over putting her hands over Faith's heart. "You both have to move back." She warned as the muscles in her arms went stiffer.

Bethany didn't think to question as she moved herself back slipping off the table. Buffy slowly did the same, her stare fixed on the redhead.

Suddenly Willow's body spasmed a bit and in turn Faith's body jumped off the table as if she had been shocked. The redhead took a deep breath and then repeated the move before she pulled back.

"Check her." She urged breathing in and out of her nose and taking one small step back.

Beth hurried forward pressing her fingers against Faith's neck blinking almost unbelievingly at the redhead and then at Buffy.

"I have output." She breathed in a whisper.

"She's going to be okay?" Willow half questioned, half stated as she dropped her arms to her side and staggered back further.

"Will?" Buffy moved to the redhead, her insides tightening as the metal ring of the binding bracelets in her pocket pressed lightly into her thigh.

"I'm fine." Willow licked her lips, her body shaking a bit as she fought against the course of magic in her body.

"Why don't I head out to the hospital, pick up more gear and a heat monitor?" Piper offered wanting to break the instant tension.

"She's not fine." Dawn gripped her hands into Piper's arm to keep the other Slayer in place. She knew if Willow went on a bender again, it was going to take more than Buffy to stop her.

"I am fine." Willow pushed her hands out into small fists, fighting against the urge inside her that wanted to give into the magic. She was so exhausted though, they'd being casting for such a long time already and the magic was getting harder and harder to fight.

"Willow, honey what's going on?" From behind them all Tara's slightly disorientated voice called to the redhead. The soft sound of the blonde scrambling to her feet was followed by her arrival in the doorway. "I feel… magic…" She looked at her lover and her eyes widened a bit.

"Tara." Buffy looked to the blonde, her hand hovered over her pocket.

"The only way..." Willow clenched her jaw against the struggle inside her. "I am ever going to be in charge..." She squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them to show that the darkness was starting to push out from her pupils showing the green in her eyes again.

"That's right sweetie." Tara encouraged softly, glancing at Buffy she shook her head knowing instantly somehow what the Slayer was referencing. "You can control it." She kept her tone calm and soft. "Remember magic is a tool, your tool. You provide the power."

"I provide the power, I can take it away." Willow slowly opened her hands and put them carefully palms together in front of her concentrating.

Millimetre by millimetre she pushed the darker desires of her addiction away, taking control of it before she was finally able to blink clear green eyes at everyone and her body began to relax.

A broad and proud smile broke over Tara's face as she moved over and wrapped her arms around her lover.

"I love you." She breathed kissing the redhead's cheek.

"I love you too." Willow leaned against her exhausted.

"I think as the world has just been saved, can Willow and I be excused, so that we can sink into a comfortable bed?" Tara rubbed her hand up and down Willow's back gently.

"Do you want help upstairs?" Buffy offered while Beth moved to stabilise Faith further, the dark Slayer wasn't out of the woods yet by any means.

"Thank you." Tara nodded gratefully, trying to resolve herself to leave them all to tend to Faith and the others. Right now her job with Willow, was getting both of them in a better position to control their powers.

"I'm still gonna head out to the hospital, need anything else?" Piper checked with Beth.

"Just what you already mentioned, oh and a standard IV set up." She looked at the tall Slayer hopeful that she'd know what to grab and was relieved to see Piper nod.

"Bandages and sutures." Sandra called from the front room. "Saline and tape."

"Does Zoë need anything?" Dawn moved over to rub Faith's temple again, comforted by the feel of the Slayer's heartbeat as she moved one hand down to Faith's neck.

"Just to sleep I think." Beth gave the brunette a soft smile, touched by her concern.

As everyone had put in orders, Buffy had moved silently to help Tara get Willow, and herself, upstairs.

"I'll grab everything that looks useful." Piper smiled quickly jotting down things on her arm with a pen.

"Do you want company?" Buffy came down the stairs having pulled on a new shirt.

"You up to it?" The Slayer paused.

"I know the hospital well. I can show you were they hide the good stuff." Buffy nodded picking up the staff. "Just in case we find any stragglers."

"I think you just like to carry it around." Piper grinned. "Trying to look butch." She winked and held the door open

"I can go get my troll hammer if you want to carry it." Buffy teased moving outside.

-x-

Dawn leaned her head to the side looking at Faith, she could feel the exhaustion pulling at her body and mind but she couldn't dare to fall asleep until Faith had at least woken up for just a moment. The silence of the room was broken by the solid and constant beeping of the heart monitor machine that Owl had borrowed from the hospital. Everyone had been reactively patched up, and the plan was that as soon as everyone had a few hours sleep they were going to bundle up those in the worst shape and make a quick drive to the nearest working hospital.

"You should wake up now, you're going to be so pissed off if you wake up at a hospital." Dawn urged her rubbing her hand over Faith's.

"What the hell is that annoying beep?" Faith's dry and cracked lips made her whisper even softer.

"Faith." Dawn pulled her chair up closer rubbing her cheek.

"Hey D, we kicked ass." The dark haired Slayer's eyes were still closed but she did nudge her cheek into Dawn's hand.

"Did you have to get your ass kicked in the process missy?" Dawn kept rubbing and moved her other hand up resting it on Faith's stomach. "That beep is your heart monitor by the way."

"How many did we loose?" A frown creased Faith's pain etched features, her dark eyes still closed.

"No one yet, a few are in bad shape. As soon as anyone is capable we're moving most of you to the hospital." Dawn tried to explain.

"Does that mean I'll get my bed back and not have the blessings of the…" She opened her eyes and turned her head. "Summers dining room table."

"No, it means you're going to the hospital." Dawn informed her firmly. "You get to eat hospital food Miss went and got herself electrocuted."

"No way, what do I want to go to the..." Faith tried to push up and then fell back with a loud groan before she'd even managed to lift her head.

"Exactly." Dawn helped her get comfortable again. "You're shoulder is a mess, don't even ask what Willow had to do to bring you back..." She tried to keep the confidence in her voice but her eyes started to fill with tears.

"Hey." Faith blinked and looked at the teenager. "Dizzy, I'm okay."

"You are now, I know." Dawn nodded trying to regain her composure. "It's just been a crazy few hours."

"So you're packing me off to a hospital?" Faith frowned. "Can I have my own nurse and stay here?"

"When we can get a nurse yes, until then I'm going to get one of those cots and stay with you to make sure you do what you're supposed to." Dawn rubbed her hand again.

"I was kinda hoping you'd wear a nurse outfit and fill the position." Faith winked slowly.

"Are you thinking naughty thoughts?" Dawn laughed lightly and smiled, easing up Faith's hand to kiss it.

"How could I not be? That monitor proves my heart is beating, beating heart means I'm either thinking naughty thoughts or sleeping." Faith smiled but it waned slightly showing how exhausted and in pain she was.

"I love you." Dawn leaned up and kissed her on the lips. "Try to sleep, I'll be right here."

"Hey don't say stuff I might hold you to at a later date." Faith's eyes dipped closed.

Epilogue…

"Dawn, are you getting in the car?" Piper stood with the door of the large blue jeep in her hand, and then glanced at Buffy. "How long does it take a girl to get ready? We're only going to pick Faith up from the hospital."

"This is Dawn." Buffy laughed and moved around towards her. "And you know she's excited."

"How you doing baby." Owl slipped her hand around Buffy's waist.

"Am I allowed to say tired?" Buffy admitted leaning into her a bit. "I thought fighting the First was insane, the last two weeks have been worse. With everyone going their own way, Zoë and Beth moving out but staying around. I have to say I was impressed with the way they checked the hotel bookings to find a free room, note I am not commenting on the way Willow convinced the system that they had booked and paid for a two month stay."

"And here I thought you were more happy that Kennedy decided to stick around and keep her eye on them, gets her out of the house." Piper smiled.

"She needs to be needed right now, I'm hoping Giles will come up with a more long term solution for her in time." Buffy admitted.

"She'll be okay baby, I think she's got the message that the witches are a forever thing." Piper smiled at the other Slayer's altruistic concern. "So you're sure you're not lonely? You know with only having Will, Tara, Giles, Sandra, Dawn and me around."

"No, I'm enjoying only having a small army." Buffy smiled softly. "It was nice to see all the girls going home, alive and happy."

"Hey did Dawn tell you, we saw a whole bunch of people moving back in on east side on the way back from the hospital yesterday." Piper commented.

"Really?" Buffy turned to look at her. "I guess it's typical Sunnydale, the crisis is over."

"Yeah, give it a month and nobody will even remember it ever happened I'm guessing." Piper rubbed Buffy's back over and over

"Nope, though they might notice that we've looted half the town." The Slayer worried a little. "Maybe we should bring all that hospital equipment back."

"I believe Giles and Sandra are working on that today, but don't you dare get a complex about the other stuff." Piper shook her head.

"I won't, I'm glad Giles and Sandra are dealing with it thought, it gives me one less thing to worry about." Buffy nodded.

"You worried about picking Faith up?" Piper asked softly.

"You heard the doctors when we brought her in, I'm not sure she's well enough." Buffy turned a little looking up at her, admitting her worry.

"But she's just winding herself up in there." Piper pointed out. "I get the impression she doesn't like hospitals."

"I know." Buffy was forced to nod again. "But can we manage to take care of her? Willow and Tara are just getting mobile themselves."

"I think I know someone who wants the job." Owl's eyes went up as Dawn moved out of the house.

The tall teenager turned and pulled the door closed, and then ran her hand down her thigh before turning around to reveal the blue skirt that Tara had bought her back from Italy. The expensive designer skirt was designed to be a little less than knee length but on the tall young woman only managed to reach mid thigh. She wore long black boots with it and a black sleeveless lycra top with a splash of red paint over her chest and shoulder.

"Get a blanket!" Buffy's face went into a frown and she went to step away.

"Easy baby." Piper's hand on her back tightened gently on the loose fabric to hold her in place.

"She is not allowed to look that... that..." Buffy hissed under her breath.

"She looks lovely." Piper smiled. "Look at her without the whole sister-mom eyes for a second."

"Hummmmm." Buffy huffed as she watched Dawn push on a pair of dark sunglasses. "She's not allowed to look better than me."

"Never baby." Piper leaned in and kissed near her ear.

"You're biased." Buffy turned back to her pushing on her own sunglasses.

"No, I'm right." Piper winked.

"Let's go get Faith, I'm sure they won't let her out when her blood pressure goes up." Buffy waited for Piper to open her door.

"I thought you might want to drive." Piper held out the keys jangling them lightly.

"And get a scratch on your new baby?" Buffy raised an eyebrow.

"Hey it's an offer, you want to turn it down?" The youngest Slayer arched her eyebrow back.

"No." Buffy reached up snatching the keys. "Come on Miss. Summers." She called to Dawn to hurry up.

The younger Summers jogged lightly down the front walk, her dark hair swinging lightly over her shoulders.

"You're not driving her home." Dawn put her hand on her hip and stared at the keys in Buffy's hand

"Come on you don't trust me?" Buffy grinned and jumped up into the driver's seat.

-x-

"Hey, guess who has the house to themselves?" Tara eased the drapes back into place as the car carrying Giles and Sandra pulled out of the drive

"Me and this gorgeous blonde?" Willow moved behind her and hugged her arms around Tara's waist.

"Am I allowed to admit it all feels so strange." Tara leaned her head back slightly finding Willow's shoulder in its usual place ready to support her.

"Yes, I think this is the first time in ages that there has only been two people in this house." The redhead gave a content sigh.

"Like the idea?" Tara asked softly.

"It's just me and you, I love it." Willow closed her eyes just enjoying the sound of her lover's breathing.

"We should get something, just something small, for just you and me." Tara let her eyes close introducing a soft slow rock.

"That would be nice. Something like that place Xander has but maybe cosier." Willow agreed. "We could keep the place that Mr. Giles leased us, it's still ours."

"Yes." Tara nodded. "And it already has memories, of the good kind." She stressed. "Beth and Zoë are kinda showing us up, having more or less settled down together already."

"I know but I think that had a little more to do with Beth wanting Zoë to rest and recuperate properly." Willow admitted with a smile. "If we're lucky maybe we can get them a place in our building."

"I suppose there's always Anya's apartment, she and Xander were talking last night about smoochies and suitcases." Tara mused and felt Willow nod contemplatively. "You like Beth don't you?" She added teasingly.

"Why wouldn't I?" Willow questioned opening her eyes. "She's smart and very worldly." The comment made Tara laugh gently. "They make a great couple."

"I was just going to say, you have a soft spot for Zoë, what is you're always calling her in Italian? The moose?" Willow chuckled.

"It suits her." Tara laughed a little harder. "She can be so stubborn."

"From what Giles told me about the spell on the roof I think we have her stubbornness to thank for being here at all." Willow relaxed her arms a little and urged Tara to come over to settle on the couch with her.

Tara easily moved with her lover and the two settled side by side on the soft cushions.

"So what happens now?" She asked looking around the barely recognisable room the whole house had been painted with liberated paint from the decorating store and there was new furniture in all the rooms that had mysteriously disappeared from the already looted stores downtown. After the dust had settled, and the injured had been tended too a jovial mood had overtaken everyone, and with still a lot of SIT energy to burn it had been Piper that had come up with a way to give everyone a post apocalyptic focus.

"I thought we'd decided on the apartment." Willow reached out taking Tara's hand.

"I meant more..." Tara rubbed Willow's hand with her thumb. "You and me, the wedding, children?" She added in a soft whisper.

"Well once we get the apartment sorted then we can start planning the wedding. If we time it right then we can blackmail Zoë and Beth to stay and help." Willow assured her. "I think we can work on children after that."

"Or we could take some time off, and I can show you Europe, you could meet M." Tara offered softly.

"We can do anything we want." Willow urged her to come closer.

"You know in a few weeks, Sunnydale we be Sunnydale again. Full of all the old dangers and demons." Tara drew her legs up and nuzzled into her lover's body. "The First will just be another thing beaten, another apocalypse avoided."

"Are you saying you don't want to be in Sunnydale anymore?" Willow questioned softly.

"What?" Tara sat up and looked at her lover, and then shook her head, smiling softly. "No, no I'm not saying that at all," She assured her. "I was just you know, thinking." She tried to explain herself. "The First, it may have been the original evil, but evil will always exist. Just like good will." She took a breath.

"Just like the Scoobies, we get new people, we get more powerful and we keep beating evil back to where it came from." Willow smiled and kissed her lightly. "Buffy said she was thinking about selling the house." She added softly. "Getting something new, so she can start over without all the memories that are here in this house."

"I heard her talking to Dawn about it." Tara admitted. "How do you feel?" She asked tenderly.

"I think it could be a good thing, give her a place to call her own. To start over with Owl." The redhead nodded.

"This place has been our home too." Tara reminded gently.

"I know, but I'm ready for us to have our own home. I still want to be there for Buffy and Dawn, for everyone, but I want to come home to a place where it's just you and me." Willow was honest.

"A place to come home to and slip your shoes off, drinking home made hot chocolate and snuggle your adoring wife." Tara filled out the description.

"Mmmm yes, snuggle naked without having to worry anyone is going to walk in on us." Willow giggled.

"Someone's feeling perkier." Tara noted with a happy smirk.

"Considerably." The redhead smiled happily. "How are you feeling?"

"Ready to show my sweetie how very proud of her I am." Tara replied.

"Really?" Willow wiggled her eyebrows.

"Over and over." Tara leaned up and kissed Willow's lips lightly before making the soft vow.

"And..." Willow gave a slow gulp. "Over?"

"And perhaps more than that." Tara's blue eyes twinkled.

"Willow." Tara pushed up and held out her hand. Willow blinked at her waiting for her to continue. "It's really over isn't it, this whole nightmare?" She urged her up off the couch into her arms.

"It's gone love, just your normal Hellmouth problems now." Willow nodded slowly.

"I meant more." Tara glanced over her shoulder to her backpack that was screwed up on top of one of the last remaining piles of broken things that needed to be taken to the garbage dump. "The us bit of this nightmare." She admitted closing her arms around the redhead.

"I don't know what you mean?" Willow looked over but she closed her arms around Tara.

"Willow, I left you." Tara reminded her gently.

"Oh... I thought with all the marriage talk, and apartment, and kiddies." Willow bit her lip.

"That's my point sweetie. I left you all that time ago because I was frightened of who you were, what you could become, I left because I was lost and scared in a place where I had been secure and complete. I came back, I walked into a nightmare, but I even with all that was going on, I walked back into your life, and since then you have shown me over and over again how much you have grown, how much you have changed. When I stepped off that plane from Florence I was ready to come here, find Buffy and just give her this." Tara slipped her hand into her pocket and pulled out an envelope, the corners were bent showing it had gone through more than enough wear.

"You weren't even going to see me?" Willow looked at the envelope.

"That would have been your choice." Tara nodded again at the envelope.

"Do you want me to open it now?" Willow questioned looking at it.

"I don't know." Tara admitted. "I wrote it, on the plane, after a lot of thinking, crying and then more thinking." She revealed her fingertip tracing over the name on the front.

"Baby, I don't care what you put in this letter." Willow shook her head. "As you said everything has changed, we've faced and beat the First, we've both changed so much. I'm not the girl you left and you're not the girl who left me anymore, but we're still madly in love and want to spend the rest of our lives with one another. So this letter, doesn't need to be read." She leaned up kissing Tara lightly. "I've made my choice, I want to see you every day for the rest of my life."

Tara smiled and turned the envelope over, she slid her finger under the seal and eased it open, pulling out the folded pink paper from within. She turned it around and slowly opened it, uncrossing the single fold mark in it. With a smile she looked down and then turned it around to face Willow. On it were written five words.

"I am you know, Yours." She read it in a whisper as she held it out offering it to her lover.

"Oh baby." Willow took the piece of paper and held it to her heart, her eyes filling with happy tears. "I love you." She hugged the blonde to her tightly.

"When I say forever, I mean it." Tara underlined holding her back.

"So do I." The redhead's voice was a loving whisper. "So do i."

The End…