The drive from the Bronze to the University was fast and tense.

"Um, Xander? Wasn't that a stop sign you just blew through?" asked Dawn from the back of his sedan.

"Dawnie, I've got the Master chained up in my trunk. Stop signs mean nothing to me." Xander stole a glance at Buffy, sitting beside him. "How long do you think that tranquilizer will last?"

"It took Oz down for a couple of hours, but he wasn't as big. On the other hand, we gave the Master two doses. I think that'll keep him down for as long as we need. It worked on VampWillow, didn't it?"

"So, in other words, you've got no clue," Xander deduced.

"Not even a little," said Buffy.

Dawn's eyes had grown impossibly big. "And you let me sit in the backseat?" Both she and Jonathan, beside her, pulled as far forward as they could.

"Relax, Dawn," said Buffy. "It's only a couple of minutes, and he is chained up."

None of them relaxed. When Xander finally pulled up outside the science building, all four exited the car with indecorous haste. Giles' car pulled in beside them and disgorged Giles, Rupert, Willow, Tara, and Amanda. Anya was already waiting.

"Hurry up," the demoness ordered. "There's a party in one of the houses, and I had to chase off some drunk frat boys not two minutes ago. It was horrible-they were singing."

Xander popped his trunk, with Buffy and Amanda standing by. The Master was still out. The Slayers grabbed him by the shoulders and legs and hustled him over to where the portal was hanging dimly in the air. Willow and Tara moved the stones around the portal until they encompassed an area large enough to hold the Master, Tara, Jonathan, Rupert, and Amanda. The Master was then dumped unceremoniously inside the circle, chains clinking.

"I've got the sealing incantation ready," said Willow. "Once you guys go back, I'll do it from my end."

Tara nodded. "I'll do it from our end. That should take care of the portal."

Buffy had gone back to Xander's car for something, and now she came back. "Why don't you take this, Amanda?" the elder Slayer said, handing the younger one a sword. "Trust me, staking this guy, not so easy. Beheading's your best option. And if he leaves bones, destroy them."

Amanda reached to take the sword, then hesitated, looking at Rupert. "Will it matter if I take it?"

Rupert shook his head. "It's not large enough to disturb the balance between universes."

Amanda gratefully accepted the sword then. She looked at Buffy and smiled shyly. "Thanks for everything, Buffy. Hasn't exactly been fun, but it's definitely been educational."

"Educational. Good word for it," agreed Buffy. The Slayers hugged, and Amanda went to stand in the circle. Jonathan was already there.

Rupert shook Giles' hand, then went over to Willow. "Dear Willow," he said gently. She stepped close and hugged him tight. "Do take care of yourself."

"I will," she promised. Rupert disengaged himself from her, shook Xander's hand, and went to stand by Jonathan and Amanda.

Tara was last. She stood quietly for a moment, uncertain of what to do. Then Anya practically pounced on her, wrapping her arms around the witch in a tight hug. "It was nice having you here," said Anya. "Even though you're not our Tara, and I think I'm going to cry and eat ice cream tonight because you were here, it's been nice."

Tara smiled and chuckled a bit. "It's been nice meeting you, Anya."

She went to Giles next, then Xander, letting them hug her, saying goodbye in a way they hadn't been able to with their Tara. When Tara got to Buffy, she kissed the Slayer's cheek again. "Thank you," the witch whispered.

Buffy pulled her close. "Thank you, Tara. And wherever you are, whatever happens to you . . . just live."

"I will." Tara pulled away from Buffy and turned to Dawn, who was trying hard not to cry. That lasted until Tara laid a hand on her cheek.

Dawn threw her arms around the witch, tears streaming down her face. "Goodbye," the teen said, voice breaking. "Goodbye."

"Shh, sweetheart," Tara murmured, rubbing Dawn's back. "You'll be all right. We both will."

After a long moment, they released each other. Dawn retreated to Buffy's side, and Tara moved to Willow. Willow was crying and making no attempt to conceal the fact. Tenderly, Tara took her face in her hands and pressed their foreheads together.

"Tell me what you want to tell her," Tara whispered.

"I love you," Willow whispered back through her tears. "I miss you so bad. I wanna make you p-proud of me."

"You do. I know you do." Tara was crying a little herself. "You and your friends-you helped me find something I thought I'd lost forever. Forgiveness. Hope. Love."

The witches kissed, deep and passionate, with forgiveness, hope, and love flowing between them. One final embrace, and then they parted.

"Goodbye," said Willow, her voice steadying.

"Goodbye," said Tara as she stepped back into the circle.

The portal flashed as the witches spoke their incantations. It swirled through the circle, sweeping up the inhabitants, carrying them away.

And then it was gone. The last flickers died away as Willow sealed the breach with her words.


Tara's words sealed the breach as she and her friends steadied themselves. The return trip through the portal had been no easier than Tara's initial one, but this time, they had even better reason to quickly get as stable as they could. The Master was awakening.

"Amanda!" Rupert barked as the chains rattled.

The young Slayer was there in a moment with her sword. The Master's eyes snapped open. He took in the scene around him.

"Treachery!" he snarled. "Let me loose, Slayer, and fight me. I will not be cut down--"

"Like one of your human cattle?" interrupted Amanda. "Sounds good to me." She raised her sword, readying the killing blow.

"You think you've won, little girl?" the Master blustered on. "I am the only thing that keeps this world from dissolving into chaos. Strike me down, and you seal your own damnation!"

Amanda's expression changed not a whit. "Let's give it a whirl." The sword slashed down and through the Master's neck.

Demon and dust exploded away from the Master's bones, a whirlwind of demonic energy that forced the friends back. Still, they watched as their foe of so many years was finally destroyed. In the end, only bones remained.

Tara was the first to approach them. She surveyed the bones expressionlessly, dispassionately, from severed skull to feet. Then she made a single gesture.

"Incente," she said.

The bones burst into flame. Hotter and hotter and hotter they burned, scorching the ground around them, turning red, then hot yellow, and finally, black. Only then did the flames die down. Tara spoke a single word, cooling them.

Amanda stepped up to the bones. She kicked the skull, which burst into ash. Then, suddenly, in an orgy of destruction, Tara, Jonathan, and even Rupert jumped in, stomping the blackened bones into dust until no trace remained of what they had been. They finally stilled, all hatred and anger spent.

"It's over," breathed Rupert.

"No," said Tara, turning to look at the city lights in the distance. "Something's beginning. Something new."

Amanda giggled, suddenly a little giddy. "New things. I can deal with that. Can't be any worse than the old things, after all."

She would maintain that optimism for precisely two months, until one night, a black DeSoto creamed the battered "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign and a leather-coated, combat-booted, bleached blond vampire punk declared himself to be home.

But that's another story.


Willow sipped her caramel latte, deep in thought. She couldn't decide what to do her sociology paper on. What she really wanted to do it on was vampire society, but she doubted an old fuddy-duddy like Dr. Burstus would approve of that. Of course, there was the possibility of combining schoolwork with pleasure and doing it on witchcraft in modern-day America, but that also ran the risk of-

"Whoa!" cried a voice as someone ran into Willow. The latte hit the ground, as did Willow's sociology book. "Oh, God! I'm so sorry!" said the same voice.

Once Willow was sure she wasn't going to join her coffee and her book on the ground, she looked at the person who'd appeared out of nowhere to crash into her. It was a young woman probably not too much older than Willow herself, with long, black, curly hair spilling out from under a red bandanna wrapped around her head. The bandanna, combined with dangling hoop earrings and a number of necklaces, gave the girl the look of a gypsy. Green eyes in a tanned face looked intently into Willow's own eyes.

"Are you okay?" asked the girl. "I am so sorry about your coffee. I was off somewhere in la-la land, not paying any attention at all-and if you think this is bad, you should've seen the time I walked right into a lightpole. Had to get stitches in my forehead for that one. Let me buy you another, okay?"

Willow finally discovered her vocal cords again. "Oh, no, I'm fine. I was kinda out of it, too. I've got a paper coming up." She bent to recover her textbook, only to nearly bonk heads again with the newcomer as she did the same.

They both laughed. "Okay, that's twice I've endangered your life," said the girl. "I suppose I should introduce myself." She stuck out a hand as they both stood, Willow with her book. "I'm Marnie."

Marnie. It was all Willow could do not to gape openly at her. She remembered Tara's description of black hair and green eyes, and Willow's eyes located the pentagram among the necklaces Marnie was wearing. Could this be . . . ?

Two months had passed since the other Tara had gone home. The time they'd had together had been healing for Willow in so many ways, but there was still pain attached to those memories. It came flooding back now.

"Are you okay?" asked Marnie.

"Um, yeah. Sorry." Willow realized she hadn't taken Marnie's hand and belatedly did so. "I'm Willow. I-I just, sorry, got distracted again."

"Hey, I've denied you your morning caffeine. Let me buy you another one."

"Oh, no, that's--"

"Come on, it was totally my fault. Coffee cart's just over there." Marnie looked at her, considering. "Besides, you kind of remind me of someone."

"You kind of remind me of someone, too," Willow admitted, smiling just a bit. "I've got an hour until my next class. I guess if you want to buy me coffee, I could buy you coffee."

Marnie grinned. "Deal, except I won't let you pay."

As she and Willow walked back to the coffee cart, Willow wondered if this really was Tara's Marnie, and if they'd met in this world, too. Willow hoped so. Tara had hoped Marnie was still alive in this world, and Willow understood why. Knowing there was still a Tara somewhere-it helped, even if they couldn't be together. It helped Willow feel like she could move on.

And that, too, is another story.


A/N: Finally finished! If you've stuck with the story this long, please review here or write me directly. I'd love to hear from you.