As usual, enjoy the chapter you guys!

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or any of the other characters. They belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.

Chapter 4

"Ok, Wills, I'm starting to think that you're sick." As she stopped writing with her blue pen, Willow saw the look of pure concern that dotted her friend's face.

"Why do you say that?" Trying to avoid making her voice sound shaky, the Witch breathed in and out numerous times, making the action look inconspicuous.

"Because you look sick-y. You're always tired, you don't talk to us hardly anymore, and you haven't been research girl lately." Perking up her eyebrow, Buffy waited for the other girl's response somewhat patiently. "So what's up?"

"I've just had some stuff going on in my life right, stuff that I do when I'm not around you guys. You shouldn't worry." Shaking her head, the red-head could already tell that Buffy wasn't going to accept her answer. "Really, no need for worry here. We're all worry-free."

"Is something going on between you and Tara?"

"No, no, we're fine. She's just having some family issues that she's trying to work out."

"Dawnie misses seeing her."

"I know, she made Tara a card." Digging into her bag, the red-head pulled out the hand-made card and flashed it to the Slayer. "I'm going to give it to her later."

"Does she feel like we don't want her around?"

"No, Buffy, she's been sick recently, and she's dealing with her family. Why do you keep asking me so many questions?" A touch of anger dripping into her voice, the Witch pushed herself out of her chair, grabbed her bag and began walking towards the door in one swift motion. "I gotta go. I'll see you later."

"Remember, we're meeting up at the Bronze tonight!" The blonde shouted after her, unsure if the other girl had heard her properly before the door shut with a loud bang.

"No, no, no, Buffy, stop, please, stop." Clutching the sheets underneath her palm, Willow kept her eyes shut, the dream refusing to relinquish its hold over her mind. Tossing and turning in the bed, the Witch's muttering continued to grow louder and louder, the anguish she was suffering through continuing to worsen with each passing moment. The previous dreams she had had the nights before had been nothing compared to the horror that she was suffering through at that very moment.

As the girl's whimpers echoed out of the bedroom and into the other areas of the mansion, Tara looked up from the roaring fire in front her. Waiting for only a moment, she threw the last log into the fire, and looked into the room, the small joy she had experienced only an hour earlier at finally getting the girl to go to sleep effectively gone.

"She's not evil, she's not, please, please, please." Shaking her head, the Witch continued to shake underneath the covers, the result of the dream able to be seen by the vampire even from across the room. Part of her wanted to rush over and comfort the girl, but yet another half wanted to wait and see the result of the dream, the mumbling continuing to give away invaluable clues. Willing herself to stay in place against the wall, the vampire waited.

"Buffy, please, it's Tara! Can't you see that?!" Again, more clues as to what the dream itself was about. The part of the vampire that wanted to rush to Willow's side continued to cry out inside her, making her head hurt for a single moment before the pain subsided. Just one more minute, and then I'll wake her.

"Tara, Tara, Tara, Goddess, I'm sorry." Her feet falling into step, the vampire calmly walked over to the side of the bed, her finger coming to rest gently on the red-head's cheek. Her body stiffening for a single moment, Willow's whimpers began to stop, the sound of them growing more and more faint with each passing minute. Smiling at the effect she was having on the sleeping girl, Tara slowly moved the digit up and down the other girl's cheek, stopping only for a moment to trace a strand of the girl's red-hair. The minutes continued to pass by, and eventually Willow was fast asleep yet again, the dream seemingly having faded away as soon as the girl had felt the vampire's touch.

As she turned to leave, the vampire stopped dead in her tracks as she heard the girl call out her name. Turning her head in order to see if the red-head had woken up, she found the girl to still be somewhat asleep, her hand searching for another presence on the bed beside her. Waiting, the vampire continued to stand still, her mind wanting to hear the girl call out her name again. It made her smile to know that the other girl dreamed of her often, and that she could calm those nightmares with the simplest of touches.

"Tara?" Finally giving into the urge she felt to join the sleeping girl on the bed, Tara laid down beside the sleeping girl, her arm wrapping around the red-head's stomach to show her that she was there. Melting into the vampire's grip, Willow sighed in her sleep, her head pushing itself deeper into the pillow.

"I'm here." The vampire finally said, answering the girl's earlier question with a soft voice. "Always."

As the music continued to pour out of the Bronze's P.A. system, the countless people on the dance floor continued to fill out the room, their bodies weaving in and out of each other's space in response to the music's beat. On the stage, the band kept pouring out its song that seemed to be oddly reminiscent of the alternative music that had controlled the radio waves during the earlier portion of the decade.

Continuing to sip at the drink she held loosely in her hand, Willow couldn't help but feel anything but confusion making its way through her mind in large droves. For the past three or four years of her life, the lines dividing good and evil had been so clear and divine, with vampires being on one side and humans on the other. No mingling between two…apart from Buffy and Angel, and that led to bad things….and for good reasons. She had been able to deal with hoards of vampires trying to kill them on a nightly basis, packs of Demons, a werewolf boyfriend, and the occasional substitute teacher who was really a bug in disguise. There had been evil robots disguised as men, the swim-team being turned into fish creatures, and even the Mayor of the entire town trying to 'ascend' and take over the entire world.

In the span of two weeks, one vampire had blurred every single line, and left them in utter ruins. Tara was supposed to be evil now, she didn't have a soul, and a vampire not having a soul was an evil demon, Angel being the perfect example. Tara was supposed to be a killer, something that would go out in the middle of night and break someone's neck in order to drain them of every single drop of blood in their veins. She was supposed to try and kill her, to try and drain her of blood until not a shred of the red liquid remained to flow through her veins.

And yet, Tara had shown her nothing but love. She had comforted her when she had woken up screaming because of how real the dreams had continued to feel. She had only, with one sole exception, drank the blood that the red-head had brought her. She had had the opportunity to kill her if she had truly wanted to, and the vampire had still only drank enough to sustain herself for a few days. No matter how hungry she got, she had never tried to drain Willow.

Was it possible for a vampire to love someone, without having a soul inside them? Spike had loved Drusilla, in his own twisted way. Was it the same with how Tara felt about her? Taking another sip of her drink, Willow knew that she would only be lying to herself if she said she didn't love the vampire, blood-drinking or not. The soul wasn't there, but the body and mind were, the things that had made Tara who she was were still there. The red-head had seen numerous times the love and compassion in the vampire's eyes, emotions so strong that they couldn't have been faked. Not that easily and quickly.

"Are you still just sitting there?" Looking up from her drink, the red-head saw Buffy slide into the other seat across from her at the able, a smile gracing the Slayer's features. "Come on, Wills, I know you're down about Tara being sick, but that doesn't mean that you can't have fun!"

"I'm just not feeling very festive tonight." Frowning, Willow's gaze fell back to the drink in front of her. "I might go home and study."

"Ok, you've got a serious face on, what's wrong?"

"Nothing. I don't feel good, and I haven't been sleeping well."

"That doesn't sound good. Bad dreams?"

"Yeah." You have noooo idea. "Just nightmares that keep happening."

"About what?" Her mind wishing that the Slayer would just drop the conversation, the red-head resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Subtle was something that Buffy was not skilled at being.

"Nothing. Just bad memories." Frowning slightly, the blonde looked back at the other girl with sympathetic eyes.

"Have you talked to Tara about them? Maybe she could help you out with them, talk about them with you and stuff."

"Maybe I could." Her eyes lighting up with a mixture of shock and sudden fear, the red-head turned her head in one swift motion, her eyes catching sight of the brunette standing at her side, a smile on the other girl's face.

"Tara?!" As she said the vampire's name aloud, Willow eyed the girl from her feet up to her face and back again, noticing how 'normal' she looked amongst everyone else inside the club. She had been unable to avoid letting the shock inside her from bleeding into her voice, and she silently began to pray that Buffy hadn't heard the change in her tone.

"That's m-me." The words passed through the vampire's lips with such a casual tone that it wanted to make the red-head believe that the girl standing in front of her wasn't dead, and that everything was just as it had once been.

"I thought Willow said you were dealing with some family issues." Buffy asked, taking a sip of her drink as she finished her sentence, completely unaware of the emotion that had filled out Willow's voice only moments before. "Did you finally get them 'done'? If that's the right word."

"I decided to t-take a break from it. I was k-k-kinda going stir crazy, plus I was s-sick and I'm starting to feel b-better." Smiling, the vampire shyly pushed part of her hair back behind her ear. "So, I t-t-thought I'd come see y-you guys."

"Pull up a seat then." Patting the chair next to her, the Slayer offered the other girl a smile, remembering how much Tara didn't function well in large crowds. Nodding her thanks, the vampire sat down, offering a smile at Willow as the other girl continued to stare at her with countless emotions dancing across her expression. Looking down at the nearly empty drink in her hand, the Slayer frowned before her gaze bounced back to the two other girls in front of her.

"I'm gonna get us more drinks, be right back." Rising from her seat, Buffy disappeared into the heart of the crowd, her body becoming lost amongst the countless others lingering around on the floor of the Bronze. As she watched the other girl disappear, the red-head turned her eyes towards the vampire sitting beside her.

"What are you doing here?!" Willow hissed, knowing that despite the loud music, the vampire would hear her perfectly well.

"You said you were having nightmares about Buffy, so I'm here. To protect you, just like I promised."

"But she might be able to sense you. She's …she's…Buffy!"

"And I'm a vampire. I've been reading those books you brought me. If she tries to attack me, I'll be ready."

"Tara, I can't lose you again." Smiling, the vampire gave the other girl a quick kiss on the cheek as if it would reassure the Witch that she would be alright.

"Don't worry. Let's just have fun."

"Drinks, drinks, drinks, I brought drinks!" As Buffy's voice echoed back across the table, all traces of the previous conversation dropped off. "I didn't know what to get you Tara, so I just got you a soda. Hope that's alright."

"It's f-fine." Toying with the straw that lay in the middle of the glass, Tara had no intention of taking a sip of the beverage, considering that she would gain nothing from it apart from the appearance that she was fine. Personally, she was amused at the excuse that her lover had come up with about her being 'sick', and she wanted to play on that for just a few moments.

"You ok, Tara, you seem a" Narrowing her eyes at the other girl, Buffy couldn't help but feel like something was wrong. Willow's girlfriend still acted like she always had, with the shy and nervousness glances at everyone else besides Willow in place, and the stuttering in her voice on the tip of her tongue, threatening to spill over at any moment. And yet, she didn't seem...there. Like something was missing from the way she was acting…

"Yeah, I'm f-fine. Why do y-y-you ask?" As the stuttering left the brunette's mouth, the Slayer almost swore that the sound of the words seemed somewhat forced, and not the way they would sound normally. Her mind still ablaze with questions, she swallowed them down in order to make sure that she could observe anything else.

"Nothing, you just seemed a little out of it. I'm probably just imagining things." Forcing a smile, the Slayer went back to her drink, her 'Slayer senses' all the while continuing to pick up that something wasn't right with the girl sitting beside her. She hadn't survived this long in Sunnydale by being careless. If there was one thing that she had learned, it was to trust her gut instincts when they told her something was wrong.

"I am k-kinda tired though, must be the medicine w-w-wearing off. Willow, do y-you want to go b-b-back to the d-dorm?" Turning her head towards the red-head sitting beside her, Tara caught Willow's eyes as the other girl looked up from her drink.

"Y-yeah, sure. That's sounds good. I'm starting to feel a little tired myself." Pushing herself away from the table, the Witch found the vampire at her side within moments, their arms linking together as if it were second-nature to the two of them. "Sorry, Buffy, guess we're leaving you to the wrath of Xander and Anya."

"It's fine. They're pretty caught up in themselves." Tilting her head in the direction of where Xander and Anya were dancing out on the floor, the blonde took another swig of her drink.

"No Riley tonight?" Frowning slightly, Willow knew that something had been happening between the two of them , and it was beginning to show on the other girl's face.

"Nah, he took the night off. Guess he's at home sleeping." Rolling her eyes, the Slayer swallowed the remainder of her drink before setting the glass back down onto the table. "Night."

Making their way through the crowd, the two girls were largely silent, their fingers locking together as they walked. For all intents and purposes, they looked largely like a normal couple, enjoying each other's company on a simple night out.

Both of them knew entirely too well how untrue that was.

As soon as they stepped out into the slightly cold evening air, Willow turned an angry look on the vampire, with Tara seemingly oblivious to the girl's gaze as they continued to walk through the streets, eventually turning towards an empty alleyway. Above them, the dark clouds continued to threaten to unleash wave after wave of rain upon anyone caught below them.

"What were you doing?!" The red-head nearly shouted, her voice echoing off of the alley-walls that surrounded herself and the vampire. There was no-one else around, but the girl still held back, not wanting to attract any attention to herself or Tara that they didn't need.

"I told you. You had bad dreams about Buffy, and I said I would protect you."

"Tara, Buffy could have found out what you were! Do you realize what could have happened if she had?!" Pacing a little bit in front of the other girl, the red-head almost wanted to growl in frustration as the anger she had barely managed to keep under control in the Bronze came boiling to the surface at an unbelievable pace. "How could you take that risk?!"

"Do you realize how much you were whimpering in your sleep? How you kept repeating both my name and Buffy's over and over again like we were fighting? I wanted to protect you."

"Just tell me why!" Willow continued, obviously not hearing what the vampire had answered her with. "Goddess, tell me why you would even think about doing something that could involve me being alone without you!"

"Willow..." The vampire's answer going in one ear and out the other, Willow continued to fume in front of the other girl.

"Don't just stand there, tell me why! Were you going to tell Buffy right then and there?!"

"Willow!" Raising her voice, the vampire lifted her hands and grasped the other girl's forearms, effectively making her stop shouting. Stepping closer to her, Tara pressed her lips against the red-head's, pushing both herself and the other girl towards the closest wall until Willow's back was firmly pressed against the slightly dirty-bricks with no chance of her wiggling out of the vampire's grip. As she pulled away, Tara's eyes remained locked with the red-head's, with the vampire trying her best to pour some warmth into her pupils in order to show that there was nothing the red-head had to fear.

"I wanted to protect you. I came because I could tell that you didn't feel a hundred-percent safe with Buffy around. So I came. For you. I came because you wanted me to, even if you didn't tell me." Looking deep into the vampire's eyes, Willow wrapped her arms around the other girl's waist with an instinctive pressure.

"Tara, oh, Goddess, I was so scared. I could see Buffy looking at you, and that dream just kept playing over and over again in my head, and I couldn't stop it." Laying her head against the vampire's shoulder, the red-head could feel the waves of emotions inside her continuing to pound at her mind without end.

"Sssshhh, no more talking. Just relax, you're tired." Pulling her head backup, the Witch looked down at her wrist-watch, plainly seeing the time looking back at her. It was late, almost midnight.

"Wow, it's later than I thought it was. You should go back to the Mansion. The sun will be up soon."

"Will you be coming with me?" Resting her forehead against the red-head's, Tara's fingers toyed with the button of the other girl's jeans, a sly smile spreading across her face. "I've been lonely without you."

"Tara...I came to see you last night." Rolling her eyes, the vampire continued to play with the other girl's jeans.

"That was hours ago. That's a long time to not see you." As she heard the vampire's words flowing through her brain, Willow felt something wet land on her face, and as she looked up, she could see the rain-drops beginning to pour down from the clouds above.


"Ok. It's a longer distance to the Dorms than it is to the Mansion. I don't feel like getting caught in the rain, because you know that someone could get sick from that, and I don't need to be getting sick right considering that that wouldn't be a good thing, and…" Smiling at the Willowbabble, Tara pressed her finger against the other girl's mouth.

"It's fine. I understand, you don't want to get wet." Her fingers ceasing with their torment of the red-head's jeans, the vampire grabbed the other girl's hand, and gently made the red-head's feet fall into step as the rain-drops' force began to grow more and more intense with each passing second.