Oh, man, LONG time without an update. Sorry to keep anyone waiting, hope you enjoy! :D

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

Chapter 8

"Tara!" As she watched the vampire move through the doorway, Willow's face broke out in to a wide smile.

"Hello sweetie." Unable to stop herself from returning the red-head's smile, Tara's lips broke out into a grin. "Miss me?"

"Uh-huh." Her hands rising up from the white sheets they had lain dormant under, Willow held them out as she waited for the vampire to embrace her. Wrapping her arms around the red-head's body, Tara smiled as she saw that the bandage that had been covering the girl's bite-marks had been removed, and exposed a scar that was coming close to completely healing, or as close as it would be able to.

"Did the Doctors say anything about the bite?"

"They said that it's healing faster than they expected it to. Probably something to do with the blood you gave me." Smiling, Willow buried her face into the vampire's shoulder. "I missed you."

"You just can't stand to be away from me, can you?"

"Nope." Her smile beaming proudly, Willow stared back at the other girl.

"I think I found a way to show Buffy and the others that you're mine." Smiling slightly, the vampire looked down at the red-head with a certain dancing quality in her eyes.


"I can mark you." As she stared back at the vampire with her green eyes, Willow furrowed her brow slightly.


"I found it in one of the books we have. Vampires can mark others as their mates. It serves as a way to protect them from other demons and those who know about the meaning behind the mark itself."

"H-How would you put it on me?"

"Using these." Opening her mouth and pointing to her fangs, Tara saw a slight moment of fear pass through the red-head's eyes. "It's alright, it won't hurt for more than a second. You never have to worry about me hurting you."

There was a moment of silence in the room before the other girl finally nodded slowly and found the words to speak.

"Alright." Sitting down gently onto the edge of the bed, Tara's face changed into that of its true form. Closing her eyes, Willow opened them again to find her vision overwhelmed by the other girl's blonde hair. As her fangs scrapped along the red-head's skin, Tara felt a small amount of blood enter her mouth and splash against her tongue. Underneath her grip, Willow whimpered slightly as a sharp amount of pain flowed through her system and then was gone as quickly as it had arrived. Withdrawing the tips of her fangs from her newly marked mate's neck, the blonde vampire moved her hand over the mark and smiled.

"There. All done."

"It hurt a little less than I expected." Leaning back into the bed beneath her, Willow hissed a little bit as her hand flew to the new mark on her neck.

"It still might burn a little bit." Frowning, the vampire pressed her lips against the mark and gave it a gentle kiss. As she felt the cold sensation of Tara's lips on her newly marked neck, the red-head whimpered again slightly before the burning feeling on her neck began to disappear. As she pulled her head back, the vampire laid her head against the other girl's shoulder. "Did I make it better?"

"A little." Smiling with a child-like joy dancing across her face, Willow smiled. "Maybe if you kissed me some more…"

"You have to take your medicine first." Looking down at her palm, Tara brought her hand up to her mouth and bit down on the limb with her fangs. Pulling away just before some of the blood entered her mouth, the vampire presented it to the red-head. "You'll feel better."

"Aww, no kisses for me?"

"After you drink the blood." Saying the sentence as if she were a concerned parent, Tara held her bleeding palm closer to the red-head's mouth. Rolling her eyes, Willow took the limb into her hand and pressed the palm against her mouth. As the blood flowed down her throat, the copper taste staining every inch of her mouth, the Witch felt her stomach becoming just a little queasy, but she managed to keep the liquid inside of her.

Minutes passed before Tara finally pulled the limb away from Willow's mouth, causing the girl to look up at her with anticipation lining her eyes.

"Kisses now?" Willow asked, smiling slightly as she continued to stare at the vampire, her lips reddened with portions of the blood that she had drank only seconds before.

"You just can't wait, can you?" Using the bottom of her pants in order to clean off the remnants of blood on her palm, the vampire looked up in time to see the other girl licking off a portion of her lips. Chuckling slightly, Tara reached out and pressed her index finger against one of the blood stains. "You've got a little something on your lip."

"Can you get it off for me?" Pouting, the red-head watched as the vampire moved her finger back to her side. "Pretty please?"

"Does the poor baby need help?" Returning the pout, Tara's voice dropped slightly lower in pitch as she spoke. "Can't clean off her own lips?"

"Nope, I need help." Sarcastically answering the other girl, Willow closed her eyes as she saw Tara lean in closer in order to kiss her.

"Willow, did you let her bite you again?" As she stared at the slightly hidden mark on the other girl's neck, Buffy narrowed her eyes in an expression of anger and shock.

"She marked me." Pushing aside the strands of red-hair covering Tara's mark, Willow let the Slayer look at the still slightly sore area. "I'm her mate."

"Wait-You're her what?" Still staring back at the other girl, Buffy's thoughts flew to the scar on her own neck, from when Angel had nearly drained almost a year ago. His fangs had left their mark on her skin, causing a scar to form that would most likely never go away. Even with her advanced healing abilities, it still had yet to disappear.

"The mark means I'm her mate."

"Where did she learn this?"

"In one of our books." As she waited for the other girl to answer her, Willow reached over and took one of the glasses sitting on the nearby table. "She said it would help keep me safe."

"Willow, I'm not sure you're getting what's happening here. Something is using her body to toy with you. That's not Tara, the soul isn't there. Don't you remember that? Giles must have told us that a million times when Angelus was here. No soul equals no person."

"She's there, Buffy, I've seen her. Maybe…maybe Giles was wrong." Holding the glass in her lap, Willow frowned. "Maybe we've all been wrong all along."

"I'm not hearing this." Turning around, Buffy sighed. "Willow, I need to go."

"Fine, bye." Saying the farewell with only a moment's attention, Willow leaned back into her bed, her fingers gently touching the mark on her neck. "Have fun."

As she stormed through the door to the flat, Buffy kept her fits curled, which were the only things keeping her from destroying the closest piece of furniture she came into contact with. Looking up from the book he had been absorbing, Giles could already see how angry his Slayer was.


"Giles, Tara's starting to go too far."

"How so?" Setting the book down onto the nearby end-table, the Watcher pushed his glasses back into their proper place.

"She marked Willow as a mate."

"She did what?" A small wave of shock flowing through his system, Giles got back onto his feet. "Good lord."

"So, can I stake her now? Because trust me, I'd really be more than happy to."

"Something tells me that you're not entirely upset about this one isolated incident." Looking at the Slayer standing a few feet away from him, the Englishman waited for an answer. "What's troubling you?"

"Nothing, just something about marking someone as a mate…gives me the wiggins." As if on cue, the scar on her neck itched slightly. Resting her hand against the mark, Buffy's gaze never once left her Watcher. "I'm fine, really. I just want Willow to realize what Tara is doing to her."

"Are you sure that's the entire reason then?"

"Yep, yep, sure." Shaking her head up and down, Buffy turned away and directed her attention to one of the nearby books sitting on the table. "We need to find out if Tara's put her under some kind of thrall, I mean, that's possible right? Dracula did the same thing to me."


"I mean, cause, come on, vampires like to make with the thrally thing. If she can do that, I can make with the Slaying."


"Giles, come on, we need to do something!"

"Buffy!" Finally raising his voice in order to gain the Slayer's attention, Giles took a deep breath before continuing. "I've been doing research on the matter, and I…I'm beginning to think that there might be more weight to the situation that Willow has described to us than we previously thought."

"What?! Are you insane? You've told me that a million times, no soul equals vampire with a blood fixation." Unable to believe that she had heard this idea twice within the span of only a few hours, the blonde Slayer made her way around the man until she was standing in the middle of the living room. "Come on, tell me to make with Slaying."

"I seem to be getting the feeling that there's more to how you feel about this…" Eying the girl, Giles' mind continued to come up with ideas of what could be bothering his Slayer. "It can't simply be because of what Tara has become."

"You're saying I need more reasons? Giles, this is insane, ok, we're into insane land right now."

"I'm afraid that we might not be in such a place. Buffy, understand that the chances of error are always there. Numerous people have made errors across history, but it is possible to learn from them."

"No, no, no, I'm not hearing this." Storming away towards the door, Buffy's expression only showed the anger she was feeling inside. "I'm beginning to think that maybe Tara put you under a thrall as well."

Continuing on her path through the cemetery, Buffy gripped the stake in her hand just a little tighter. There had hardly been any vamp activity for the past two or three nights, and the Hellmouth itself seemed to be relatively calm, as strange as the idea seemed. Everything that surrounded both Willow and Tara weighed heavy on the Slayer's mind. The very thought that Willow's quiet girlfriend had been turned into a soulless creature, the same thing that Buffy had been slaying for almost three years now, un-nerved the Slayer. It reminded her of just how things could work on top of the Hellmouth.

"Enjoying your walk?" Turning on her heel, stake raised, Buffy could see Tara sitting atop a nearby tombstone, her blue eyes staring at through the dark.


"That's me. How are you, Buffy? Did you enjoy seeing Willow today? She told me how happy you were to find my little love mark."

"Alright, you know what, I'm drawing the line. You can get away with almost draining her, you can get away with doing some Black Magick fireball thingy, but the minute you start leaving scars on her, that's it."

"Does it hurt?" Seemingly ignoring what the other girl had said, Tara looked down at her nails for a moment before returning her gaze to the Slayer.


"Does it hurt? To know that your precious Angel marked you as a mate, and then left you?"

"Don't bring him into this."

"And I know what you're probably thinking right about now." Pushing herself off of the tombstone, Tara slowly started towards where the Slayer was standing. "I marked Willow just to hurt you. But that's not it. I did it because I love her."

"You're not capable of love."

"Is that what you tell yourself at night so that it doesn't hurt you as much?" Rolling her eyes, the vampire resisted the urge to smile as she saw the effect her words were having on the other girl. "Because that makes things a lot easier for you, doesn't it? Knowing that he willingly walked away, after everything that happened between you. You gave him your virginity, and in turn, he tried to destroy the world. Even trade, isn't it?"


"But then again, that's not the problem, is it? It's the fact that he's carved out a new life for himself, isn't it? One that doesn't involve you at all. Hurts to know that someone who told you that you were the only one he ever loved could just act like you weren't there."

"Tara, I'm warning you." Raising the stake she held in her hand higher, Buffy already knew that if needed, she could stake the vampire, no matter what kind of damage it would inflict on Willow.

"Don't fool yourself, you couldn't do it. Imagine what Willow would say if she found out I was nothing more than dust."

"She'd get over it."

"Would she? I wonder…" Unknowingly taking a step back as the vampire came near her, Buffy heard something similar to a chuckle float into the air from the vampire's mouth.

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. I think I know what your problem with all of this is." Stopping only a few feet from the Slayer, Tara continued to smile. "Power. I've got more of it than you do now, and you don't like it, do you? After all those years of being in charge, of having all the power while everyone else beneath you has to sit back and do nothing about it, you don't like having some competition, or even thinking about the idea that maybe you're not as powerful as you thought you were."


"I'm not done yet." Taking a step closer to the Slayer, Tara made a tisking sound as she stared into the other girl's eyes. "Gotta ask, did you ever think that he would change you? Make you young and powerful forever? Cause, I gotta tell ya, it's great having all of this power at your hands. Makes you feel powerful, like nothing can touch you."

"No, I never did. Because I knew what would happen if I ever tried that. He wouldn't put me through that."

"Because he didn't want you, Buffy, don't you see that?" Laughing again, the vampire turned away and returned to the tombstone that she had been sitting upon minutes earlier. "Otherwise he would have stayed, soul be damned."

"Tara, you know nothing of what happened between the two of us, so why don't you stop, and go back to wherever the hell it is that you hide from us."

"I could do that, but you know I'll be back tomorrow night. Gotta have my nightly visit with my girl." Scotching herself off of the tombstone, the vampire seemingly disappeared in-between the endless array of tombstones. "See ya later, Buffy."

Finding herself standing alone in the graveyard once more, Buffy tossed her stake up into the air and caught it, her grip almost causing the weapon to splinter in her hand.

"Hi, um, I'm here to see Willow Rosenberg." Giving a small wave to the nurse as she managed to gain her attention, Buffy smiled slightly. "I think that her room might have been changed, cause I went to the one where she was last time I was here, and it's kinda empty."

"Let me check the records." Turning her chair towards the running PC next to her , the nurse's eyes flew over the list of names recorded on the skin. Waiting somewhat patiently, Buffy tapped her fingers against the counter-top, creating a slight rhythm to the way her fingers connected with the material.

"I'm sorry, but Willow Rosenberg was released last night." Her attention coming back to the blonde girl, the nurse shrugged her shoulders slightly. "So, I'm afraid you'll have to find where she is outside."

"What? What do you mean she was released?"

"Doctor Sanford released her a few hours ago. A Ms.…Tara Maclay signed for her release." Folding her fingers together, the woman rested her chin onto them. "Sorry, can't help you."

"…Alright, thanks." Turning away as she headed for the exit, Buffy's thoughts flew towards where both Willow and Tara could be at that moment. Considering that the sun was in full command of the sky outside, it was unlikely that the two of them were outside having a picnic. And yet, considering how large Sunnydale really was, that didn't limit the possible options down to a reasonable search range.

It was going to be a long day.

"You look happier." As she emerged back into the living room, Tara smiled as she handed a filled glass to the red-head calmly sitting on the couch near the roaring fire.

"Trust me, getting out of the hospital, big plus there." Rolling her eyes sarcastically, Willow eagerly took the offered glass and pressed it to her lips. "Drinks and food are definitely better over here than in there."

"I'm just glad to have you back, sweetie." As she laid down onto the couch beside the red-head, Tara's smile only grew larger. "I was lonely."

"Can't have Tara being lonely, can we?" Setting the glass onto the table in front of her, Willow returned the other girl's smile. "We can fix that though."

"Can we?" Her smile becoming somewhat lopsided, the vampire moved closer to the other girl's side, her fingers coming to rest on the red-head's knee. "I hope so…"

"I know so." Leaning down, the red-headed Witch pressed her lips against Tara's, her tongue almost immediately begging for entry into the other girl's mouth. Linking her arms around the Witch's neck, the vampire tried her best to smile with Willow's tongue still half-way in her mouth. Her tongue meeting the red-head's halfway, Tara felt Willow falling back onto the couch beneath the two of them, her attention never once leaving the kiss the two of them were engaged in. Nuzzling her lips into the other girl's neck, the vampire felt the other girl move slightly, the reaction one of pain.

"Ow, easy! My neck's still kinda tender." As she moved her head away from where the vampire had been attentively kissing her, Willow pouted slightly. "No love bites please."

"But I like giving you love bites." Her lips morphing into a pout, Tara's fingers continued to play with the button of the red-head's jeans.

"Just hold off on them for a while." Giving the vampire a kiss on her forehead, Willow smiled. "Pretty please?"

"Oh, alright. I'll work my way around then." Resuming her kissing, Tara pressed her lips against the lower portion of the other girl's neck. Closing her eyes once more, Willow melted back into the couch beneath her as the vampire's lips continued to lay kisses on her exposed skin.


"Did I say you could stop?" Pressing the other girl's head back against her neck, Willow groaned slightly.

"Somebody's being demanding tonight." Her cold fingertips still toying with the red-head's jeans, Tara smiled as she felt the other girl's hand guide her fingers into her jeans. Pressing her lips against the other girl's belly-button, the vampire chuckled slightly as she heard and felt her girl shutter underneath her lips' touch. "I guess this could be your welcome home present…"

Smiling again, Tara saw Willow's green eyes meet her gaze. "Is that what you want?"

Finding herself unable to properly reply to her girl's question, the red-head simply nodded. Her skin was nearly on fire from having the vampire's touch on her, and her senses began to silently beg for more.

"But I don't know if you were good…" Smiling slyly, Tara moved her fingers off of the other girl's skin for a moment, causing the red-head to whimper. Her smile only growing from hearing the girl make the sound, the vampire pressed her fingertips back over Willow's bare-stomach. "You could have done anything while I wasn't there with you during the day."

"Tara…" Breathing out the other girl's name again, Willow felt the vampire's lips meet her belly-button once more. "Goddess, stop doing that…"

"I need an answer…are you going to be a good girl for me?"

"Yes, yes, I'll be good! Stop teasing me!" Her fingers flying down to the button of her jeans, the red-head unbuttoned the article. "Tara, please…"

"Alright, if you're going to be a good girl…" Her free hand moving up from the other girl's thigh, the vampire smiled. "I guess I'll give you your present."

"When's Tara coming back?" Looking up from her bowl of cereal, Dawn saw Buffy hesitate as she heard the Witch's name said aloud. "She can't be sick anymore, it's been like, three or five weeks."

"Dawn…Tara's not coming back."

"Why not?" Setting the spoon down into the bowl, the younger Summers girl waited for an answer. Closing her eyes for a minute, Buffy sighed before letting the statement fall from her lips.

"She's a vampire."

"What?..." Staring back at her sister, Dawn's mind found it almost impossible to accept what was coming out of the other girl's mouth. "Buffy, you…you can't be serious…"

"Dawn, I'm not joking. This isn't something that's joke material. The night Willow was at the hospital? Tara put her there."

"But…Tara's still…Tara, right?" Getting out of her seat, the younger girl's voice was filled to the brim with disbelief. "She didn't try to hurt Willow on purpose, I mean, she couldn't do that. They're in love and stuff."

Seeing her older sister only staring back at her, Dawn waited impatiently for an answer. "Right?"

"Dawn, I don't think Willow knows what she's doing with Tara right now." Taking a step toward where her younger sister was standing, Buffy's eyes held nothing but seriousness. "Willow was letting Tara bite her, as a way to feed her. That's how she almost died at the hospital. Tara nearly drained her."

"But she didn't do that on purpose, right? I mean, it's Tara, and Tara wouldn't hurt Willow."

"Tara's not herself." Sighing, Buffy rubbed her eyes. "Why am I the only one that remembers this from the rulebook? No soul equals pure demon, and that means that the Tara we know isn't in there anymore."

"But why is Willow still with her, and letting her feed off of her and stuff if she's not there?"

"Willow's not thinking straight. She thinks that Tara's still in there." And she's not. Tara's done something to her…

"Well, maybe the rule book was wrong, and ….oh, I know, maybe because Tara's a witch, her soul's still inside her!" As excitement sunk into her voice, Dawn's expression lightened somewhat, causing her sister to sigh.

"Dawnie, just go back to what you were doing. I need to go talk to Giles." Giving her younger sister a small wave as she left the room, the Slayer shoved her hands back into her pockets as she headed for the door. Again, only one here remembering the rule book…