|Story Title:||Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?|
Saturday, June 26th, 2004 in the Rome!Universe
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle, "Dani" and William, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004
Annie turned five on February 14th.
Spike and Buffy have been married five years in February. (seems longer, doesn't it?)
Buffy turned 23 on January 19th.
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions in May, 2003.
Buffy and Spike get the bond back… Rome!Buffy and Rome!Spike are married and have done the claim, as well. Everyone's perfectly happy (except Angel, of course) ... They've found out what could possibly go wrong ... now what?
Heartfelt thanks to my "ET" and wonderful Beta,
her wonderful suggestions, corrections and encouragement!!
This story involves jumping dimensions to the Universe where Angel and his team work for W&H - where Buffy visited before and sent Spike to Rome to be with the Buffy in that dimension. In lieu of calling it the "EvilJoss!" Universe, which is what I normally call it in my own mind, I'm calling it the "Rome!" Universe.
Where characters cross over (where the same character from both universes are in the story), I will differentiate the ones from the Rome Universe by calling them Rome!Spike or Rome!Buffy, for example. If, however, only one of the characters is present, then I won't make that distinction ... I hope it doesn't get too confusing. If it does - please email me and let me know so I can change it in future chapters.
I know that, in canon, this time frame is after NFA on AtS … Things changed in the other universe, too, when Spike left for Rome.
Keep in mind the following:
Rome!Spike was sent away from W&H and to Rome by Buffy before the following happened:
Avril Lavingne, "Slipped Away" (I Miss You)
Pop Culture reference:
“Tea and Crumpets”:
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY. Parents, it is up to YOU to control what your children are reading.
Saturday, June 26th, 2004 :
After Giles and Lorne left the room, Buffy turned back to Angel and asked, “Ok, what’s the rest of the plan?”
“That’s it,” Angel told her.
Buffy’s eyes went wide as her eyebrows shot up. “That’s it!? THAT’S IT!?? I thought you were the King of Planning! That’s your whole plan?”
“Yeah …” Angel admitted.
“Well, you better go back to the drawing board, ‘cause that’s not good enough!”
“Buffy, I can’t plan for every possibility … I don’t know what the Senior Partners will throw at us – we need to be ready for anything and everything, but there’s no way to plan for anything and everything …” Angel informed her.
“Oh, so now we’re going with the ‘Spike’ plan? Hit it hard and hope?” Buffy asked Angel, folding her arms across her chest.
“OI!” came in stereo from the two Spikes in the room, but Buffy ignored them, keeping her gaze locked on Angel.
“No need to get insulting,” Angel told her, before shrugging and rolling his eyes. “Yeah, that’s kinda the plan …” he admitted.
Both Buffy’s snorted softly and rolled their eyes while both Spikes smirked.
“That’s bloody brilliant,” Rome!Spike told Angel. “You bring us all here for your tea party and you forget the bloody crumpets!”
Everyone in the room looked at Rome!Spike with wide eyes. “Oh, get your minds out of the soddin’ gutter! Where were you people raised, in a bloody brothel?”
“I think what Spike meant is, you said you weren’t doing this half-assed, but you only have half a plan …” Rome!Buffy interjected.
“Well, deal with it … that’s what we’ve got – the second half of the plan is to improvise, adapt … hit it hard,” Angel said, rebuffing their verbal attack.
“Now, I suggest that you use the rest of tonight and tomorrow to do whatever makes you happy … ‘cause I’m sure that starting tomorrow night at sundown, none of us will be very happy for a good while,” Angel instructed them.
“There are rooms set up for you here … all within the glamour. I don’t have to tell you that you shouldn’t speak of any of this outside the glamour or that fire and brimstone could arrive sooner rather than later,” Angel continued, looking around the room for concurrence. When everyone nodded, he got up from the head of the table and headed to the door. “See you all tomorrow night. Darla, are you coming?”
Darla leaned over and gave Lindsey a soft kiss. “I’ll be back later, darling,” she whispered to him before standing and following Angel out.
When the rest of his people stood up to follow Angel out, Buffy grabbed Lindsey by the hand before he could get away from the table and said, “Could we have a word with you?”
Lindsey shrugged and he sat back down while Gunn, Wesley and Illyria left the room.
“What the fuck is going on?” Buffy asked Lindsey.
“Regarding?” Lindsey asked with a furrowed brow.
“Regarding … well, let’s start with Darla and then, maybe you can enlighten us as to why you’re working with Angel and Wolfram & Hart again,” Buffy clarified.
“It’s kind of a long story …” Lindsey started.
“It appears that we aren’t going anywhere …” Buffy pointed out.
Lindsey sighed. “You know about Connor, right?”
When everyone looked at him with blank stares, he continued, “Angel and Darla’s son? Connor?”
“What!!??” came from all the Buffys and Spikes and Willows.
Lindsey rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, oh yeah, this was going to be a long story!
Lindsey explained how W&H had brought Darla back a couple of years ago and, well, to make a long story short, Lindsey fell in love with her, but she hooked up with Angel and the PTB blessed the two vampires with a son who had vampire strength and speed, but was human. His name is Connor. In order to give birth and life to the baby, Darla had to dust herself … leaving their newborn child in the care of Angel.
“Wait right there!” Rome!Buffy said, stopping Lindsey. “If Darla got dusty … again … then how was she sitting right here a minute ago making googly eyes at you?”
“I told you it would be a long story … give me a chance!” Lindsey told her, before starting back where he had left off.
Lindsey went on to explain that Connor was kidnapped and grew up in a hell dimension, but his memory of that was erased by W&H at Angel’s request and he was now living a normal life, with a normal family and attending college. Angel and Darla were going to visit him tonight, just in case they didn’t make it through the apocalypse, to answer any questions he had about his past and say goodbye.
“So, he’s like a boy Slayer … is that what you’re saying?” Rome!Buffy asked, interrupting Lindsey’s story.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that…” Lindsey agreed before continuing his story...
November 2003, about 8 months ago in the Rome!Universe…
“I’m not asking for your opinion, Wes, I just want to know if it’s possible and, if so, can she be cured. I don’t think Holland Manners actually did everything that could’ve been done – I don’t think he wanted her to live that long; just long enough to drive me insane or happy my soul out of me,” Angel told Wesley across the desk in his office at Wolfram & Hart.
“Angel … I know you don’t want my opinion, but what purpose would bringing Darla back serve?” Wesley asked him.
“I owe her, Wes … I was with her for a hundred and fifty years and I couldn’t love her, when I could finally love her – could give her what she deserved, she was taken from me by Lindsey and Dru and by her illness. She gave up her life for our s … ummm … she didn’t have to die like that. Just please look into it and let me know, ok?” Angel explained to Wesley.
Wesley nodded slowly and stood up. “I’ll check the old records and see what was done … or not done, and get back to you,” Wes told him before leaving the office.
December 2003, about 7 months ago in the Rome!Universe …
Wesley picked up the phone and dialed. “The sorcerers are ready, Angel …”
Wesley listened a moment before speaking again. “Yes … they’re quite sure that she can be cured … she could’ve been cured before if she’d just been given the antibiotics immediately when she was … reanimated.
“Yes, everything’s set. See you upstairs then ...” Wesley said before hanging up.
The sorcerers that worked for W&H were quite sure they could bring Darla back again … and the doctors that had examined her records from before were equally sure that, if she had been given a simple antibiotic treatment immediately when she was brought back the first time, she could’ve been cured of her syphilis before it became life threatening.
Angel had been right, Holland Manners didn’t want Darla living that long … her ‘employment’ with W&H was temporary, her mission short – drive Angel insane or bring him perfect happiness … either outcome would be fine, according to the old files. Neither had worked for them.
Lindsey falling in love with the former vampiress hadn’t been in the plan at all, and his intervention into her welfare: locating Dru and having her save Darla by turning her, was tantamount to treason. But love makes you do crazy things – like throw wrenches into the plans of the Senior Partners.
April, 2004, about 2 months ago in the Rome!Universe ….
“We've got a big problem,” Eve spoke in a low voice into the phone from the W&H offices.
“Yeah, tell me about it – Spike’s gone! That goddamn Slayer sent him off to fucking Rome!” Lindsey agreed, pacing back and forth in the now empty basement apartment where Rome!Spike had lived.
“Cordelia Chase is awake,” Eve continued, ignoring Lindsey. “She's talking about some vision she had. She’s steering Angel right to you.”
“Well, now... I guess this calls for a change of plans. I’ll just have to go in sooner rather than later …” Lindsey told her over the phone. “You need to get out; I’ll be there shortly,” Lindsey instructed before punching the ‘end’ button on his cell phone.
Lindsey looked around the empty apartment he had set up for Rome!Spike and sighed. Rome!Spike was gone and Lindsey wasn’t sure if he could get him back; he was sure he’d never get him back in time now that Cordelia Chase had awoken from her coma and was having visions again. He’d just have to handle Angel himself and quickly.
The Senior Partners gave that eurotrash vampire everything I'd worked for. So Spike’s gone – that doesn’t change anything, I can still get to the fail-safe and take Angel and his barrel of dead monkeys out, Lindsey thought as he left the small basement apartment and headed to the street.
Lindsey walked undetected into his former employer’s offices and headed towards the door that he knew would lead him to the fail-safe in the bowels of the large building – the fail-safe that would take Angel out of everyone's misery.
As Lindsey was passing through the ‘hospital’ section of the building, he heard Angel’s voice coming from down the hall.
“Just humor me, Cordy … get checked out. Wesley’s looking for the meanings of the symbols from your vision. It would make me feel better if you’d just let our doctor’s look you over …” Angel was saying.
Lindsey heard Cordelia start to object, but didn’t stick around to hear more, ducking into the first door he came to to wait for the pair to pass. Once inside the dark room with the door closed, he leaned his ear against the door to wait and listen for Angel and Cordy to go past.
“Lindsey?” a familiar voice called from the other side of the room.
Lindsey spun around to face whoever it was that had recognized him, hands coiled into tight fists, ready for the fight, but the room behind him was completely dark; he couldn’t see anything.
“Who’s there?” Lindsey asked and suddenly a bedside lamp was switched on, casting a low light across the large room.
“Lindsey? It’s Darla …” the voice said as a woman moved further into the light cast by the lamp.
“Darla?” he asked, confused. “How’s that possible? What’s this, some kind of trick?”
Lindsey had worked hard to get Darla out of his heart, out of his mind, and out of his dreams since she left him heartbroken all those years ago. Yes, he was upset about her sleeping with Angel, but he really blamed Angel for that. Lindsey was sure he and Darla could’ve gotten past it … right after he beat Angel to a bloody pulp and dusted him – but that hadn’t worked out, either.
But he and Darla never got a chance. She left and he couldn’t find her, and he had tried…for months he tried in vain to find her, but never could. Since then, he’d put his energy into forgetting her … burying those feelings deep down within him – away from the light of day. But the sound of her voice now brought them all flooding back to the surface … could it really be her?
“No…no trick. I wish it were sometimes, but no,” she told him softly, moving slowly forward towards him.
“Then what … how?” Lindsey asked, reaching out to touch her face to assure himself that it wasn’t just a dream – a dream that he’d had too many times over the last years.
“They told me you were … gone,” Darla said, closing her eyes as Lindsey’s hand cupped her cheek tenderly. “I thought it was lawyer-speak for dead …”
“No, not dead … just gone a while. But you … you’re warm, you’re human … how?” Lindsey questioned.
“Angelus … Angel … brought me back … again,” Darla told him with a sigh. “They cured me … cured me so I could live a dull and dreary life with the weight of this soul in my heart. The life I was cheated out of before, he told me – Angel’s guilt really gets to be annoying sometimes, don’t you think?”
“Well, his guilt will be over soon,” Lindsey assured her. “God, Darla … I never thought I’d see you again … I … you know I … love you. You didn’t have to leave … we could’ve worked it out.”
“I did, sweet boy – I had to leave. I couldn’t be what you needed, not like that. You were the only one who ever believed in me – who ever really loved me and I … I just couldn’t appreciate it. I wasn’t capable of returning your love, Lindsey … not then,” Darla admitted, raising her hand gently to his face.
“And now?” Lindsey asked softly, searching her eyes for the answer he longed for.
Darla smiled softly. “Now … now I belong to Angel … I wish I didn’t, but he seems to think we have an epic love – honestly, I think Spike haunted him too long – got in his head, gave him some kind of illusions of romantic grandeur.”
“C’mon,” Lindsey told her, grabbing her hand and leading her towards the door. “We need to get you out of here … Angel won’t have any illusions about anything very shortly … but I need you to be safe first.”
As Lindsey reached for the door handle, it turned, seemingly on its own, and the door swung open.
“Darla, it’s me …” Angel started before pulling up short when he saw Lindsey standing there.
“Lindsey!” Angel exclaimed in surprise.
“Angel, how nice of you to stop by to check on your prisoner,” Lindsey remarked calmly, stepping back and keeping himself between Angel and Darla.
“What are you talking about!? What are you doing here?!” Angel questioned, moving towards Lindsey.
“Surprised I could get in so easily?” Lindsey asked as he backed Darla away from Angel.
“Not really – people are breaking into this building on a regular basis. This place might as well be a bus station!” Angel informed him.
“I am curious as to why you'd come back after I told you not to … Oh, I know! You didn’t get your ass kicked enough the first time, or the second time … or the third time – came back for more?!” Angel quipped, moving forward slowly.
“Yeah … I’ve learned a thing or two about ass kickin’ since then,” Lindsey informed Angel.
“You shouldn’t have come back, Lindsey,” Angel retorted.
“What can I say? I missed you,” Lindsey told him as he pushed Darla back into the farthest corner of the room behind him before spinning and hitting Angel in the stomach with a round-house kick which sent the vampire flying back against the furthest wall, where he hit with a hard thud and slid down to the floor.
“C’mon, Angel! You just gonna lay there and bleed? Or has workin’ here turned you all soft and lawyery?” Lindsey taunted, moving quickly across the room towards the downed vampire.
Angel was just getting to his knees when Lindsey reached him, grabbed two handfuls of shirt and pulled him back to his feet.
“C’mon, big guy … I’m waiting for my ass kickin’” Lindsey informed him, as he drew one arm back and punched Angel in the jaw, snapping Angel’s head to the side violently.
Angel vamped out and roared in anger, he wrapped his arms around Lindsey’s waist, like a middle linebacker tackling a running back, and drove with his legs until Lindsey’s back hit the wall, momentarily knocking the breath out of him and bloodying his mouth. Lindsey slumped down and doubled over, trying to get air back into his lungs and stop the searing pain.
“What was that about ass kickin’?” Angel gloated, standing back up and wiping blood from his nose. “You never change …”
Lindsey said something under his breath that even Angel couldn’t hear and waved his arm in a wide sweeping motion across the room. Suddenly, the room was filled with crosses of every size and shape imaginable; they were on the walls, on the floor, on the ceiling – covering every surface.
“Neither do you …” Lindsey retorted as he sprung up and tackled Angel, driving him down to the floor and pinning him down on the crosses. Every spot where Angel’s skin touched the floor began to burn as he screamed in pain and struggled to get Lindsey off him. Angel was finally able to kick Lindsey up and over his head and jump up off the cross-covered floor.
“I love the smell of burning vampire in the morning …” Lindsey quipped with an evil smile as he picked himself up off the floor and turned back to face Angel.
“Cute trick … so you went and got yourself a little mojo …” Angel surmised.
Lindsey ripped his shirt off to reveal his tattoos. “Little something I picked up in Nepal … you like?”
“You’re not really my type …” Angel retorted. “I mostly go for blondes … with the occasional skinny brunette thrown in for variety.”
Lindsey snorted. “You won’t be going for anything very shortly …” he informed Angel as he lunged forward and tackled Angel again, shoving him back against the wall and more crosses.
The two men fought … each taking as much as they gave … for what seemed like hours, but was in fact perhaps only about fifteen minutes… fifteen of the hardest minutes either of them had ever lived through.
Darla stayed back in the corner and out of the way of the battle as it unfolded in front of her. There was a time that she would’ve jumped into the fray … but Lindsey was right, she was a human now – not a vampire. Not that she didn’t still have a few tricks of her own … but, as long as Lindsey was holding his own, she saw no need to intervene.
Angel bent over at the waist, his hands on his knees as he tried to recover from the battle … his face, hands and now chest and back – where his shirt had been ripped off during the struggle, were covered in cross-shaped burns and blood flowed freely from his nose and mouth.
Lindsey sat on the floor, his back against one wall as he breathed hard, trying to draw in oxygen to his depleted muscles. He had cuts and bruises covering his body … blood flowed from the places where Angel had sunk his fangs into his skin during the fight and he was pretty sure his nose was broken.
“Well, are you two boys just about finished with the floor show?” Darla asked, finally daring to move out of the corner where Lindsey had placed her.
Both men looked up at her tiredly as she stepped between them.
“As much as I’d like to think this fight was about me … I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. So, who’d like to share just exactly what this fight is about?” she asked, looking from one to the other of her amours.
“It’s about you … it’s always been about you …” Lindsey told her, still trying to catch his breath.
“Oh spare me!” Angel said, standing back up straight. “This is about payback … payback for so many things. Meet any nice cops on your way out of town, Lindsey?”
“Fuck you, Angel,” Lindsey retorted, using the crosses on the wall to pull himself up to his feet. “You’re so blind … do you even know what love is? Love is holding on when all hope is gone … love is caring more for someone else than you do yourself … love is forgiving mistakes and moving forward and it’s never giving up and never forgetting – no matter how hard you try.
“You took that chance away from me … from her,” Lindsey told Angel, sweeping his arm towards Darla. “You’re nothing but a selfish ass hiding behind that tortured soul routine – admit it! You don’t even know what love is! You’ve never really loved a woman!”
Angel glared at Lindsey. “That’s. Not. True,” Angel said through gritted teeth, his hands curling back into fists at his side.
“Who did you love, dear boy?” Darla asked softly, turning to Angel and meeting his eyes with hers. “It wasn’t me … I know it wasn’t me …” Darla informed him, keeping her voice soft.
“Oh – the little cheerleader … what was her name?” Darla realized, brightening slightly as she tried to recall the name.
“Cordy,” Angel supplied quietly.
“Cordy? No … Butty … Betty … Buffy!” Darla thought aloud. “Wait! You loved Cordy? That bitchy brunette with the big mouth?!”
“She’s not bitchy … she’s candid … honest … forthright …” Angel started.
“Bitchy …” Lindsey supplied.
Angel folded his arms across his chest and glared at Lindsey. Lindsey just shrugged. “Call ‘em like I see ‘em.”
“So, I was right … this fight isn’t about me,” Darla continued, turning her back on Angel and facing Lindsey. “So what is it really about? Lindsey?”
Lindsey sighed. “It’s so much about you that it’s not even funny …” he started. “But, yeah … it’s also about the Senior Partners giving this halfwit what’s rightfully mine.”
“You came back to apply for a job?” Angel asked, incredulous. “I think we have an opening for a crash test dummy in the auto industry division …”
“Cute … too bad you sold that soul of yours, huh? From Champion to pathetic corporate puppet in just a few short months … You used to have fire in your heart … now, you just have it on your skin,” Lindsey told Angel, his own hands clenching back into fists. “Spend enough time here and eventually you can’t wash the stench off …”
“Lindsey, why are you here?” Darla interrupted him as she stepped within arm’s reach of him.
“To take down Wolfram & Hart … and Angel in the process,” Lindsey admitted quietly.
“Then you should meet your new best friend … CEO of Wolfram & Hart’s L.A. division,” Darla told him, waving her arm behind her towards Angel. “You two should really talk … you know, guys just don’t share enough. Why do you suppose that is – are you just scaredy cats? Afraid someone will think you’re gay or something?”
“Pffffftt,” Angel and Lindsey both snorted.
“Right, that’s what I thought …” Darla said, rolling her eyes. “Why don’t you boys stay here and have a nice chat … I’ll be back in a little while to check on you,” she told them, as she stepped past Angel towards the door to the room.
Darla paused and turned back to the two beaten and bleeding men. “The Senior Partners will win if you keep trying to kill each other instead of focusing on the real threat here,” she told them. “I suggest you get your testosterone under control and start thinking with your heads … the ones atop your necks.”
“I mean it … no more fighting,” Darla warned them as she stepped out the door. “I still have a few tricks of my own … I can kick both your asses if I have to.”
After the door closed behind her, Angel and Lindsey stood glaring at each other for several long moments. “So…” they each said at once.
“Go ahead …” they both said, again in unison.
Finally, Angel rolled his head back to look at the ceiling. “Think you could, you know … nix the new décor in here?” Angel asked Lindsey, dropping his head back down to look at the other man.
“Yeah … yeah, I could probably do that,” Lindsey acquiesced before waving his arm across the room and removing the crosses.
“Now, about the Senior Partners …” Angel started as he dropped down heavily into a chair.
Lindsey sat down in a chair across from him. “About the Senior Partners …” he began.
Back to present day, late evening, Saturday, June 26th, 2004 (Rome!Universe):
“Turned out, our agendas were pretty much the same … make the Senior Partners pay for what they did to me … what they did to Darla,” Lindsey told Buffy and the others as he finished his story.
The Buffys, Willows and Spikes sat in silence for a few moments, absorbing the whole story … from the realization that Angel and Darla had a son to Angel bringing Darla back from the dead ... to Lindsey and Angel working together to bring down Evil, Inc.
“Does Angel have a son in our dimension?” Buffy asked, looking at Spike.
Spike shook his head. “Not that I’d ever seen or heard from his groupies …” he told her. “Wouldn’ bloody surprise me, though – soddin’ PTB always liked the wanker best …”
Buffy sighed and looked back at Lindsey. “So … what are we gonna face after we chop down the Black Thorn bush?”
Lindsey ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know … no one really knows – we need to be ready for anything, it won’t be pretty,” he admitted to the group. “Most likely, none of us will make it …”
“I don’t accept that!” Buffy exclaimed, standing up and beginning to pace back and forth across the room.
“We have the resources of Wolfram & Hart, at least for now … we have powerful witches and … you – you’re what, a warlock or something now?” Buffy stopped looking at Lindsey.
“No … just borrowed magic,” Lindsey told her, touching one of his tattoos.
“Ok … still, we need a plan – other than hit hard and hope! I will not walk into this blind!” Buffy told the group. “What’s the worst they could send at us?” she asked, looking at Lindsey.
“They’re on a different plane of existence … they could open portals to any of a thousand different dimensions and rain any number of hell-hounds down on us,” Lindsey informed her.
“So how do we get to them before they get to us?” Buffy questioned.
“You can’t get to them … my friend, Eve … she was the liaison between the Senior Partners and Angel,” Lindsey started. “Not even she could see them – the closest she could get was the white room.
“When I told her I was going to work with Angel … and be with Darla, she freaked out … started threatening to turn me in. Angel made it look like she was twenty pounds of crazy in a five pound bag; like she was the threat to the Senior Partners. They whisked her away from here quicker than a virgin busting his first nut …”
All the women looked at Lindsey with raised brows, while the Spikes smirked at his analogy.
“All I’m saying is … you can’t get to them – so I suggest you just do what Angel said … spend some time … do what makes you happy, ‘cause no matter what our fearless leader says, we’ll be lucky to live through this…” Lindsey informed them, as he stood up from the table and left the room.
Buffy stopped pacing and sat back down at the table. “Buffy … God that feels weird …” she started, looking at her counterpart from this dimension. “Buffy, can you get Dawn on a plane over here … like now?”
Rome!Buffy looked at her with wide eyes. “No … Dawn’s not coming over here! I just sent Giles and Andrew away – you think I’m gonna bring Dawn over here into this? No way,” Rome!Buffy told her with a shake of her head.
“We need that blood…Buffy, Spike – you know we don’t belong here – even if we stay and fight … if we do live, we’re gonna need that blood to get home,” Buffy reasoned. “What if something happens to Angel … who knows how long it would take us to find a way home …”
“If that happens, Dawn can come over then – I’m not bringing here anywhere near this place until this is finished, one way or the other. Would you bring your daughter here now? No,” Rome!Buffy answered her own question. “And I’m not going to bring my sister here.”
Buffy sighed and looked at the clock on the wall, 3:00am, they should’ve been home hours ago … their friends must be thinking they were having so much fun at the party that they’d lost track of time.
“We’re gonna go see about these rooms Angel’s set up,” Rome!Buffy said, standing up and pulling Rome!Spike by the hand. “See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah …” Buffy said unenthusiastically. When Rome!Willow stood up too, Buffy stopped her. “Could you teach Willow that dream jumping thing you do with Spike?” she asked the witch. “We’d like to be able to say goodbye to our friends … to Annie,” Buffy explained.
“Sure, it’s not hard – just need a few ingredients to make a magical tea. I’m sure they must have them around here somewhere …” Rome!Willow told Buffy. “C’mon, I’ll show you …” she said to Willow as she stood up from the table and headed for the door.
As Rome!Willow opened the door she stopped short and her eyes went wide. “Tara!” she exclaimed before losing consciousness in a dead faint and falling into a heap on the floor.
“Oh Goddess!” Willow exclaimed, kneeling down next to her to make sure she was alright before looking up at Tara who was standing in the doorway with Harmony.
“She said she’s with you guys …” Harmony said to no one in particular. “Is she, or do you want me to kick her out?”
Buffy and Spike had gotten up and gone to see what was going on. “Leave ‘er be, Harm … she’s with us,” Spike answered her as he bent down and picked Rome!Willow up and carried her over to a couch in the corner of the room.
“Tara, Oh, Goddess!” Willow exclaimed, pulling her girlfriend into a hug, when Spike moved Rome!Willow out of the doorway.
“W-w-what’s going on?” Tara asked. “They took the vial of blood from me…”
“Oh, what’s NOT going on would be a simpler question … what’s not going on is us going home …” Willow answered her as she backed up into the room and Tara followed her in.
Willow, Buffy and Spike explained to Tara what was going on and Tara listened intently, interrupting them only occasionally with questions.
When they were done, Tara asked, “Why did she faint?” indicating Rome!Willow. “Her aura went completely black and she just fainted when she saw me! Did I do something bad to her in the other dimension … err … this dimension?”
Buffy and Spike looked at each other and Buffy sighed. “Tara, she fainted because … well, you’re not in this dimension anymore. In this dimension you …” Buffy blew out a long breath and breathed back in deeply. “…you died – when you got shot here, you died in her arms.”
“Oh Goddess!” Willow exclaimed putting one hand on Tara’s shoulder and one on Rome!Willow’s arm. “That’s … wow, Buffy, you never told us that!”
“Well, there’s more …” Buffy told Willow and Tara about what happened after Tara was shot and how Rome!Willow had gone crazy with grief, how she’d flayed Warren alive and nearly ended the world.
“Wow …” Willow and Tara both muttered, looking at Rome!Willow who was still unconscious on the couch.
After about half an hour, Rome!Willow woke with a low moan and Tara sat down on the edge of the couch next to her. Willow stood a few feet away, far enough to not intrude, but close enough to offer support, if needed. Tara laid her hand over Rome!Willow’s as she slowly focused her eyes on Tara and Tara gave her a small smile.
“Are you alright?” Tara asked her.
Rome!Willow reached up and touched Tara’s face. “Not a ghost … not The First … how … Tara?”
“I’m from the other dimension,” Tara told her. “We got worried when Buffy, Spike and Willow didn’t come back, so I came to see what was going on. I have to say, I expected to find a big party going on, maybe they drank a bit too much … not that they’d been taken hostage by an apocalypse.
“Are you ok?” Tara asked Rome!Willow again.
“Oh God, Tara …” Rome!Willow cried as she sat up and took Tara into a strong hug. “I’m so sorry … I’m so, so sorry. It should’ve been me … never you. You never hurt anyone, you loved everyone – helped everyone – it should’ve been me. I’m so sorry.”
Tara hugged Rome!Willow back but wasn’t sure what to say to her. After a few moments she pulled back and looked at Rome!Willow, both women had tears in their eyes. “She loved you … you know that, right? And she wouldn’t have wanted it to be you – never in a thousand years.”
Rome!Willow shook her head. “But you didn’t deserve that … I … I lost it, afterwards, I totally lost it, ya know? You believed in me and made me believe in myself, you made me a better person, and then you were gone and all I could see was red … blood, hate, fury – it was horrible; I was horrible.”
Tara shook her head as tears rolled down her face. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through … but you could never be horrible …”
“You’re wrong … ask Buffy, she’ll tell you … I was evil … uncontrollable … I murdered a person in cold blood, a human being – I was no better than he was – a ruthless killer!” Willow admonished Tara.
“Please forgive me … Tara, I’m so, so sorry. I love you so much – I miss you every day … please forgive me for being so weak. I know it’s not what you would’ve wanted me to do … I just couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to stop myself. I held you in my arms and you slipped away and I couldn’t stop it …
“Some days I don’t think I can take one more breath … my soul aches for you … I miss you so much,” Rome!Willow told Tara as tears streaked her face.
Tara pulled Rome!Willow back into a tight hug. “Shhhh … I know, she forgives you, honey … trust me, she forgives you. She loves you, too.”
"Slipped Away" (I Miss You)
cause I remember it
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