Twisted

By Magrat

Copyright © 2003

Rating: T

Disclaimer: Not mine blah, blah.

Distribution: If you want it you can have it, just tell me first.

Spoilers: Everything from up to the end of season 6 and I mean everything; Tara's dead and Spike has a soul. This has no resemblance to anything that happened in Season 7 or after Benediction in Angel.

Feedback: Yes please.

Pairing: Willow/Tara

Summary: The twisted L.A. lawyers are at it again

Author's note; I wrote this a long time ago, I've decided to post a couple of my old Buffy stuff.

Prologue

Spike stood in the shadows watching the Summer's house. It had taken him all summer to make his return trip from Africa, the burden of his soul had made him slower, and the guilt of all the things he had done past and present lying heavy within him.

It still amazed him that even with this burden that the first thing he did as soon as he had stored his stuff in his crypt was to head here. The love or whatever it was he felt for the slayer still burnt bright.

He stiffened as he watched the slayer leave the house and head out for patrol. He tracked from a safe distance and watched in surprise as she headed for a grave and laid one red rose on it. His keen vampire ears caught the words she was saying and it chilled him in his newfound soul.

"I'm trying so hard for you," said Buffy tears flowing from her eyes. "But it's hard, the family is falling apart without you; I saved Willow you know, she opened her wrists with your athame." Buffy shuddered as she remembered the sight of her friend in the bathtub; blood everywhere. "I don't think she will ever forgive me. She said she wanted to join you. I was right to stop her wasn't I? Giles took her to England after that, it hasn't helped, she is like a shadow, her body is alive but her heart seems dead."

"Tara, what can I do you were always the wise one, the kind one; Xander's drinking too much, Dawn just stays in her room most of the time, she misses you so much and Anya is a demon again but I know she is still hurting over everything that happened."

"God if I had taken those stupid nerds seriously none of this would have happened, I wish I could have saved you, saved Willow from what she is going through. I have to go now Tara but I promise I'll be back tomorrow, probably just to repeat everything I've just said," the slayer kissed the rose then laid it gently on the grave and walked away.

Spike stood stunned his mind not processing everything he had just heard. The gentle, blonde, witch dead.

He waited until he was sure the slayer was gone and walked over to the graveside and read the tombstone Tara Maclay 1980-2002. She was ripped from us by evil, But she will be remembered with the deepest love.

He stood starring, unable quite how to understand why anyone would want to take this gentle soul; he knelt and touched the cold earth. "I'm sorry love."

His vampiric senses picked up more movement, something big. He looked around wildly for somewhere to hide and noticed a nearby crypt was open. He snuck inside. Making sure no one could see him but he had a good view of what was going down.

He saw a big black van appear and watched in amazement as a number of men jumped out the back dressed in black military gear. Sweet Jesus he thought, The Initiative are back but then he noticed a handsome well-dressed Asian man appear. He seemed to be giving them orders and he looked more like a lawyer than a military goon.

His shock increased as he watched them remove the turf from Tara's grave and quickly dig out her casket and replace it with another. It took them about 5 minutes and by the time they had finished even down to replacing Buffy's rose it hadn't looked like anyone had been near the grave.

He strained his ears trying to catch something that would clue him into what was happening.

The men carrying the casket almost slipped and he heard the Asian man's voice ring out "If anyone damages her, the senior partners will have them disembowelled. Do you understand?"

Spike watched him run his hand across the side of the casket "It's almost time for you to wake up sweetie. You will be a great asset to the firm."

Spike watches them drive off his mind racing; what could he do, would the slayer and all her friends believe him and after hearing what Buffy had said what the hell would this do to Willow?

Part 1

Lilah marched into Gavin's office, looking absolutely furious. "What the hell is going on?"

"Going on?" he countered looking innocent.

"I have been told that there are no witches, or spellcasters available at the moment because they are all on a special project for you," she said shaking with anger.

"On direct orders from Linwood, he didn't call you?" asked Gavin looking smug.

"Oh, has this something to do with Angel?" asked Lilah. "Because I never understood why we pulled him from that crate."

"Well, Linwood likes to see him while he suffers," said Gavin.

"We couldn't have just put a fish cam or something down there to watch him," said Lilah a cruel smile crossing her face.

Gavin gets up from his chair and makes for the door. "Look this verbal sparring is very nice but I'm busy."

"I'll find out what's going on and if Angel..."

Gavin starts to lose his cool slightly "This has nothing to do with your pet project and if you weren't so obsessed with him you'd realise there is something a lot more important going on. Now if you can just let me get on with my work."

Spike sat on his armchair in his crypt trying to think what to for the best. The door opened and he dived behind a pillar and then stood up trying to look cool "Clem what are you doing here."

"Spike you're back, I have so much to tell you," said Clem and he spent the next 20 minutes filling Spike in on the happenings while he was gone.

Spike just sat with his mouth open and finally mutters. " Chap disappears for a couple of months and the children go to hell. Did Red really do all those things; skin someone. Shit, shit, shit..."

"Spike?" asked Clem.

"Last night I was in the graveyard and I saw some goons take her body," said Spike.

"Whose body?" said Clem looking confused.

"Are you brain dead, Tara's," said Spike.

"Oh crap," said Clem sitting down heavily

"You'll have to tell them," said Spike.

"Me no way, I like my skin as it is, well actually I'd like it just a little tighter, but point being, I like it on my body," said the demon shaking visibly.

"She wouldn't hurt you, you'll just be giving them the news," said Spike.

"The news that me or someone I knew just stood and watched while someone stole Willow's sweetie's body; yeah I'm sure they'll all be very understanding," said Clem.

"You've got to tell them I can't; they'd never trust me. I heard him say it was time for her to wake up soon," said Spike trying desperately to make Clem understand. "Whoever they are they are going to bring her back."

"That could be a good thing," said Clem.

"No," shouted the vampire losing it. "How can you say that, after everything that Buffy went through, plus what do they want Tara for? I'm sure they haven't just plucked her body out of the ground randomly."

"Giles," said Clem, Spikes concern finally reaching the demon. "Giles is staying in Sunnydale at the moment, he'll know what to do"

"I don't like this," said Gavin

"I know you don't," said Linwood. "But Lilah has been cultivating that former watcher and he knows all of her old friends."

"But he left before she even came to Sunnydale, he's never even met her," objected the younger man. "I don't need her on board."

"I don't care what you want or need, nothing can go wrong. You know how important she is. The senior partners would be most unhappy if we were to lose her," said Linwood.

"I know how important she is; I have been drinking, eating and sleeping Tara Maclay since the day she died. There is nothing about her I don't know."

"How has she come through the re-animation?" said Linwood.

"Fine, she's a little confused and scared, but her powers are intact," said Gavin.

"Good, good I told Lilah you would fill her in on the whole situation this afternoon, and Gavin nothing can go wrong," said Linwood smiling with his mouth but his eyes showing nothing but deadly intent.

Anya looked up as the bell went on the Magic Box "Clem what do you want?"

"Is Mr Giles here?" asked the nervous demon.

"Yes he's in the training room...that's right I just co-own the shop," said Anya as he pushed past her and ran into the training room.

"Giles...oh Buffy I didn't realise you were here. I'll come back later," said Clem.

"No way," said the slayer grabbing hold of Clem. "If you have something important to say, I want to hear it too."

"Me, something important...what makes you think...'kay, you know last night when you put that rose on Tara's grave..."

"How did you know about that, have you been spying on me?" said Buffy looking furious.

"Just listen, this is really important and I know I'm risking everything by telling you this, but these guys dressed in military gear came, they took Tara's casket and replaced it with another," said Clem he could see that Giles was about to interrupt. "And one of them said it was almost time for her to wake up."

Buffy collapsed on the floor her head in her hands "I don't believe this...I don't believe this...I don't believe this..."

Clem moved forward toward the slayer "I'm sorry..."

Buffy springs up and grabs him "If you are lying I will kill you; I swear I will rip you apart."

"B-Buffy it's t-true," said the terrified demon.

"Buffy leave him," said Giles and then to Clem. "Leave now, while you can."

"Giles, what the hell does this mean," said the slayer tears slipping down her face.

"I don't know," said Giles looking shocked "Why would anyone want to bring her Tara back."

"It's nothing to do with Willow; she hasn't left the house for days," said Buffy just in case that was on his mind.

"I know, I know...Willow...of course. Buffy if you wanted to control Willow push her over the edge. What better way than with..."

"Tara," said Buffy finishing off his sentence. "We have to find out who these people are and we can't let Willow know it would totally destroy her." Not that she isn't destroyed now thought Buffy

"Here she is," said Gavin proudly pointing through the viewing panel,

Lilah looked through "I see a scared looking girl in a white cotton robe huddled on a bed. I'm impressed; I'm sure she is terrifying."

Gavin grabs her arm. "Don't look down at her like that. Do you remember all that havoc that was wreaked on Sunnydale in May."

"Oh, the witch who went nuts. Is that her?" asked Lilah eagerly.

"No that's the reason," said Gavin.

"I thought she was dead," said Lilah.

"She was," said Gavin

"We've bought her back, hmmm that's one powerful witch who is going to owe us, I like It" said Lilah.

"We don't want the other one, everybody was going on about the great, dark power that was rising because of grief, but no one seemed to comment on the fact that nearly every scryer and coven with any sort of power felt her pass, like they had taken the bullet themselves. She is our target. Do you know it's taking nearly all the magical power that we have at our disposal to stop her presence being announced to the outside world and she has no idea of the power she posses," said Gavin. "She is so pure."

"Hmm," said Lilah. "Stop drooling it isn't very attractive. I read a little about her but she is just an ordinary witch and she wouldn't work with us anyway. Problem being, that purity you've got the hots for."

"We have put a block on her memories; she has no idea who she is or what happened to her and believe me Lilah she is far from ordinary," said the lawyer with a triumphant grin on his face.

Part 2

"Things fall apart, they fall so hard..."

"Tara..." Oh god what is wrong with her, thought Willow, she looks so young, so vulnerable.

"Can you just be kissing me now?"

Did she really say? Oh my god she still wants me, disbelief coursed through Willow's brain, but with just an enough sense to move her legs and join her lover in an earth shattering kiss.

"Your shirt?"

""No," screamed Willow over and over again.

Buffy and Dawn both reached Willow's room at the same time and it crushed their hearts to see their friend hunched in a ball sobbing hysterically.

Buffy puts her arms round Willow trying to soothe her. "Ssshh Will, please did you have the nightmare again?"

Willow looked at her and nods, her green eyes now dead, no emotion showing but pain.

"Do you want the sleeping pills the doctor gave you?" asked the slayer

One shake of the head.

"Can I get you anything?" asked the desperate slayer.

"Tara,"

"Oh, Willow," said Buffy sadly and pulled the fragile woman in closer wishing she could make the hurt disappear.

Cordy sat down as a vision flashed through her head, she didn't have the pain that she felt before but sometimes the connections she felt were really intense. She looked round just to make sure she had Angel, Gunn and Fred's full attention. "Blonde girl, she's very scared, scrap that she is petrified and shit I can see Lilah."

"Well, you've got my attention," said Angel. "Anything else?"

"No, the girl was in what looked like a hotel room," Cordy frowned slightly. "And she looked familiar like I've seen her before or her picture."

"An actress maybe?" suggested Fred

"No, I can't remember...wait...no way...it can't be," said Cordy closing her eyes for a second.

"Come on Cordelia you've got your audience on tender hooks here," complained Angel.

"Tara," she said uncertainly.

"Tara?" questioned Gunn looking puzzled. "Do we know anyone...you are not serious?"

"Okay, I'm still lost," said Angel.

Fred took in Cordelia and Gunn's frozen expressions and her mind skipped back a year when a woman with sad green eyes had been at the hotel to tell them about Buffy's death, the next time she had seen her was when Gunn and herself had accompanied Cordelia to the woman's lover's funeral and the sadness in those eyes had intensified beyond belief. "You mean Willow's girl?"

"But she's dead," objected Angel.

"If I was crass and insensitive I would point out that you are too," said Cordy

"And you didn't even meet her," said Angel deciding to ignore her last remark.

"I'm sure it was her and while we argue over it she is being held by Wolfram and Hart and did I stress how frightened she is? " asked Cordelia.

"We should call Buffy," said Angel.

"Jeez do any of those folks in Sunnydale stay dead?" asked Gunn. "Okay shutting up now," he muttered as the other three people in the room turned and glared at him

Dawn picked up the phone. "Angel hi...yeah Sure Buffy's here.

"Buffy it's Angel on the phone," said Dawn.

"Angel," said Buffy looking surprised, she took the phone from her sister. "Hi Angel...Willow? Well you know she has good days, where she almost passes for a human instead of a robot, but that's usually 'cause she's screaming with pain, add the attempted suicide and you could say everything is hunky dory."

Dawn listened intently trying to catch what was being said on the other end of the line.

"I'm sorry," said Buffy "It's been a hard couple of days, actually it's been a hard couple of months; since Tara died..."

The slayer stared at the phone in disbelief. "I don't understand..."

She listened some more then turned to Dawn "Dawn can you give me some privacy to talk to Angel?"

"If this has something to do with Willow I want to hear too," objected Dawn.

"Dawn I will explain everything but this is important," said Buffy.

"'Kay but you better explain," said Dawn.

Buffy waited a few seconds to make sure her sister was really gone. "Someone told me they saw her grave being dug up a couple of nights ago, I wasn't sure if they were telling me the truth. We thought maybe some big nasty was looking at controlling Willow, but as no one got in touch so we just presumed it was a hoax."

Buffy listened for a while. "What would some lawyers for the underworld want with Tara and if they have the magical muscle to bring her back to life I don't see that they would need Willow either."

Buffy heard a short gasp of breath "Oh god."

"Who the fuck are you talking to and who has my Tara?" said Willow her eyes burning with anger.

Part 3

"Will," said Buffy. "Please calm down."

"Calm down," said the redhead shaking visibly. "You are talking on the phone about someone stealing Tara's body and bringing her back to life, how do you expect me to feel."

"Please, Willow if you sit down I will explain everything to you, as soon as I have finished talking to Angel," said Buffy.

"Angel, how the hell does Angel know?" Asked Willow.

"Willow if you want to help Tara you are going to have to trust me," said Buffy.

The redhead sat down but Buffy could see the energy crackling within her.

"Sorry Angel. Yeah that was Will, she overheard...We are coming to L.A...as soon as possible...is there enough room for me and Giles" she stole a look at Willow. "And Willow...I'll leave Dawn with Xander."

"Willow overheard," said Angel to his assembled staff.

"How did she take it?" asked Cordy.

"How do you think, I could hear her ranting. God I'm glad that her power has been dissipated," said the vampire.

"Are you sure?" Asked Cordy.

"Well that's what Giles told me," said Angel and then a little more hesitantly "They are coming here,"

"Who are they?" asked Cordelia. "And don't tell me Willow is coming here."

Angel stands looking down at his feet.

"She is, isn't she; a powerful witch who went on a vengeance kick that could match you at your best is coming here to face Wolfram and Hart. Why have I a bad feeling about that?" Asked Cordy.

"She seemed so small and vulnerable at the funeral," said Fred.

"Well she is that too," said Cordy "But I don't think she has that much control when it comes to Tara."

"She loved her," said Gunn. "Love makes people do stupid things."

"Before we get into the meaning of love and everything else shouldn't we do some research and try and figure what lovely people at Wolfram and Hart want with Tara?" asked Angel.

"I'm still waiting for you to tell me what's so special about the witch," said Lilah now that she and Gavin were back in the office.

"It's not really so much about the witchcraft but about her psychic abilities, without even thinking about it she was able to tell when the two slayers swapped bodies, she is a natural empath and we believe she can read aura's and when trained will be able to read minds," said Gavin.

"I don't see how that makes her that important, we already have people who work for the firm that have these powers," said Lilah.

"She also come from a long line of witches who have the ability to borrow," said Gavin.

""Borrow?" asked Lilah. "I'm not familiar with that term."

"They have the ability whilst in a trance to go into the minds of animals, control their movements; with Tara's other physic powers we think we can get her to control humans and demons. We believe if we can harness all these power together she will be able to influence people in much the same way as Billy did. Basically we are sure that not only could she ruin a number of trials for us, but with the right sort of training, people will kill for her and because of her innocent looks and demeanour no one would ever suspect a thing," said Gavin.

"I think you've been watching to much 'La Femme Nikita' I don't see her as the trained killer type," said Lilah. "And I can't see her persuading someone to kill for her."

"Well a perfectly nice young witch ripped a man's skin off because of her," said Gavin.

"Come on, she had enormous power and an addiction to black magic, and had just had her lover's heart splattered all over her I don't believe that proves the point," said Lilah.

"Maybe not, but the senior partners have been tracking Tara for a while and her death gave them the perfect way to get her from the slayer and all the do-gooders who live in Sunnydale," said Gavin.

"I still think you have an impossible task to make her a killer. She isn't evil and she isn't part demon like Billy was," said Lilah. "You are going to fail."

"That's where you and the memory block comes in, you've just got yourself a little sister," said Gavin.

"I don't think so, I'm not getting involved in this," said Lilah. "You can sort out your own mess."

Gavin smiled and tossed her a folder. "You better brush up on your part before you go and see her and Lilah that order is not from me it's from Linwood."

"Hi Lilah"

"Angel," said the lawyer a little twisted smile on her face. "Recovered from your swim yet and have you and your son been on any more bonding trips."

Angel kept a tight grip on himself not allowing the lawyer to see how much her baiting was getting to him. "I'm here to find out why your company has started to bring dead witches back to life."

"Angel you know there is a word for men who stalk women in underground car parks; oh wait you're not a man are you and the witch, don't get involved she is more important than you are. At last gentlemen," said Lilah indicating to the men who had appeared surrounding the vampire. "Angel try this again or come anywhere near Tara and the senior partners will have you put down, at last."

"Gavin, how the hell did Angel know about the witch," said Lilah looking angry "I thought you said that we were making sure no one could sense that she was back in the world of the living."

"I don't know, it doesn't matter though," said the lawyer looking confident.

"It doesn't matter, Angel knows all her friends in Sunnydale, do you think for one minute that the slayer isn't going to arrive here all pumped up and ready for action," said Lilah wanting to shake Gavin for his smugness.

"It doesn't matter we are going to transfer her to a secret location, so that we can get on with her training. Do you understand your part?" said Gavin.

"Yeah," said Lilah sharply. "And I hate taking orders from you."

"There aren't from me they are from Linwood, now are you ready?" said Gavin.

"Won't she be able to read me?" asked Lilah.

"No, she is very confused at the moment, she might sense that there is something wrong but I think she'll put that down to the situation," said Gavin.

"Lets hope your right," said Lilah.

Tara sat huddled on a bed in a very comfortable hotel room, she felt so scared, she kept trying to remember things but nothing came to her. She had had a few visitors but they brought back nothing. If she closed her eyes tight she could see flashes of red and green but nothing else and she was starting to feel claustrophobic, she had been in this room for two days but the doctor who visited her had told her she couldn't leave, that she needed to rest.

She heard the knock at the door and looked up when she saw the man who had told her that he was her lawyer enter with a woman she didn't know.

"Oh Tara sweetie, I'm so glad your alive," said the woman rushing forward and hugging Tara " I was so scared I had lost you too."

"W-what," said Tara struggling to release herself from the woman's embrace. "W-who are you?"

"Oh god, Gavin I know you said she had lost her memory, but I thought she might remember me when she saw me." And then turning to Tara. "Sweetie I'm Lilah your sister. I came here as fast as I could but I had so much to organise, what with the funerals and everything," said Lilah.

"F-funerals..."

"Lilah, she doesn't know yet, we didn't know how to tell her," said Gavin.

"Oh no, I'm sorry," said Lilah.

"W-what's going on; p-please for god sake someone tell me," said Tara.

Lilah looked at Gavin for his approval and he nodded his head. "Tara, sweetie it's a long story but." And for added affect the lawyer lets her voice break and her lips start to quiver. "You were on holiday with mom and dad in Jamaica, someone blew up the boat you were staying on, you must have been thrown clear."

Tara desperately searches the face of the person who she believes is her sister and the tears start to roll down her face. "Are, are you saying our mom and dad are dead."

"Yes"-said Lilah. "And there is no easy way of putting this but so's Beth"

"Beth?" said Tara shaken not sure if she could listen any longer.

"Your daughter" said Lilah simply.

"D-d-daughter" said Tara feeling like all the air had been sucked out her body. "I-I don't understand."

"It's because of us," said Lilah. "The job we do, that's why they were murdered."

Tara collapsed into the lawyer's lap feeling totally lost.

Part 4

"Are you sure it's such a good idea, Willow going with you to L.A?" asked Xander.

"What choices have I Xander? You try and tell her she can't come with me and see how far you get," said Buffy.

"I know Buffy, but what if it doesn't work out. We have no idea what these people want with Tara, it could get real bad," said Xander a look of honest concern in his brown eyes.

"I know Xander and if I'd managed to keep it from her it would have been fine, but she knows now and I can't think of any excuse for stopping her from coming with me. At least Giles will be there to watch over her," said Buffy looking tired and a tad despondent.

"What if she breaks down? I mean she has hardly had one meal since..." said Xander stopping in mid sentence his face contorting when he thought of that night, when he had seen the beautiful Wicca sprawled out, murdered for no other reason than because of an immature jerk's precious ego. "Since Tara was murdered. She might not have the strength for the trip."

"Believe me she does," said Buffy. "I think she is running on blind fury, I'm more worried about what will happen when we get to L.A."

Lilah and Gavin watched Tara closely from the video link they had hooked up in her room.

"Do you think we took things to far?" asked Lilah.

"No way," said Gavin. "She has to burn with hatred for everything in the world except the company. We are her family now."

"What happens when she finds out the truth?" said Lilah.

"This is the truth," said Gavin simply, "We will be controlling everything she sees, everything she reads..."

"Come on Gavin the internet," said Lilah. "She can find..."

"We took care of that, we blew up a boat in Jamaican waters, and so if she decides to look, there will be reports. Everything has been planed for. Are you ready for the next part?" asked Gavin.

Lilah takes a deep breath "Sure."

Tara sat on her hotel bed hugging her knees all sorts of thoughts flooding through her mind. It had been 24 hours since her sister had dropped the bombshell about the disaster that was her life.

Later that evening Lilah had explained that they both worked for a powerful law firm called Wolfram and Hart. Tara had been surprised and asked if she was also a lawyer. It was then that Lilah had explained that she was a powerful witch and psychic, but that she was having trouble controlling her powers and that the firm were helping her brings these under control.

She found it weird. She knew she should be mad; someone had murdered her daughter and her parents, but she just felt empty inside. She had noticed the round scar like a bullet wound just above her left breast and wondered how she'd gotten that. She had been told so many things about her life but none of it felt right, even Lilah. When she looked at her sister she felt nothing. She hoped her memories would start to come back; maybe she would be able to feel then.

She looked up as Lilah and Gavin entered the room, they had a briefcase and some clothes with them. "Hey Lilah, Gavin."

"Hi Tara, I have some clothes with me; we are going to move you to a safe house. We think the people who blew up the boat know that you are still alive, so you are not safe here anymore," said Lilah.

"Who are these people? What do they want?" asked Tara looking small, scared and frightened.

Lilah pulled out some photos from the briefcase and held them in her hand. "We thought you might want to know and we think we had better explain to you who they are before we move. They may try anything to get close to you."

Tara looked at the first photo of a beautiful young woman with vivid red hair. She ran her fingers slowly over the redhead's picture; something was nagging at the back of her mind but not presenting it to her in the shape of a definite memory. "She looks familiar, but I don't feel scared."

Lilah sighed, "She is your former lover Tara. Her name is Willow Rosenberg. She is also a powerful witch; between your combined magicks you created Beth. You ran away from her when she got involved with dark magic."

Lilah showed her another photo of a very different looking Willow; all dressed in black, with black hair and eyes, thick blue veins mapping her face. Tara recoiled from the image, finding it hard to believe it was the same person. "W-what happened to her and why would she k-k-kill our child?"

"She became involved in dark magic and could never forgive you for taking Beth away. You were both involved with this woman," said Lilah showing a photo of Buffy.

Tara looked at her sister waiting for the rest of the story to unfold. The only thing that she had been told that felt right to her was, the redhead was her lover. She didn't feel any shock to find out her lover was a woman. "Who is she, the blonde girl?"

"Her name is Buffy Summers; she is what is known as The Vampire Slayer. When you worked with her she was on the side of the good, but like her friend she has been corrupted" Lilah showed her a picture of a blonde man dressed in leather, then another picture of the same man; his face horribly contorted. "She is sleeping with this, this thing, he is a vampire called Spike or Wil..."

"V-vampires, w-witches, s-slayers I don't understand what sort of world I lived in," said Tara and she started to cry, scared, confused. Now she felt the grieving process starting to kick in, crying for everything she had lost, her child, parents, lover and memory.

"Please Tara, I know this is hard for you, sweetie, but if you don't take this is in these people will hurt you. You ran away to see me, but Willow hired this man or should I say vampire to hunt you down," Lilah again followed the same routine showing a picture of Angel in his human guise and then with his vamp face. She then produced the photos of Cordy, Gunn and Fred. "These are his associates, they hate Wolfram and Hart and when he found out that you were my sister and you also worked for the firm, they attacked us. You were shot."

Tara's hand went to the scar on her breast.

"Yes, the scar, you almost died. We received hate mail saying that next time you wouldn't be so lucky. We thought you would be safer out of the country. You went to Jamaica to live with our parents. You know the rest," Said Lilah reaching out her hand to hold Tara's.

"But maybe Willow didn't..."

"Tara she paid Angel, that is the name of the vamp, to kill you and everybody round you and because he hates us so much, he was more than happy to do it," said Lilah. "It wasn't just because of Beth, you could have exposed them all for the freaks that they are."

"Aren't I one of those freaks?" asked Tara.

"No," said Lilah gripping Tara's hand harder. "You are on the side of light. These people have great powers but choose to use them for evil and I don't ever want you to compare yourself to them again."

"Can't we go the police?" asked Tara,

"Do you think they would believe us? Tara the only way we can have justice is to do it ourselves," said the lawyer.

"But you said the firm was powerful," said Tara.

"It is but local politics means that the police would never take this serious, but if we do anything the firm will look after us," said Lilah. "Tara, here are some of your clothes, it really is time we got moving."

Tara showered and put on the clothes Lilah had given her. They felt wrong too, but she pulled on the snug leather pants, figure hugging black tank top and draped the long black leather coat over her arm.

She stepped out of the bathroom "Do I always wear clothes like this?"

"I knew I shouldn't let Gavin choose your clothes," said Lilah shooting her fellow lawyer a filthy look. "These are your going out clothes, but this is important, never take this off," and with these words Lilah gives Tara a chain with a chunky cross.

The Wicca manages to raise a weak smile. "So do these really work against vampires?"

"Yeah they do and we will be showing you other things that do too Tara. I think once you have gathered your strength it will be time for us to go on the offensive or this will never stop," said Lilah.

Part 5

Willow stared listlessly out the car window lost in her own chaotic thoughts. She couldn't believe that Tara was alive. She had tried to sense her; she had sent out her feelings but nothing. She could hear Giles and Buffy talking to one another in the front of the car. To say the last few months had been painful was too much of an understatement. Much of it she couldn't remember. Just the blood. When she closed her eyes all she could see was blood. Tara's blood. "It's punishment isn't it?"

"What?" asked Giles and Buffy as one, both of who had almost forgotten the catatonic redhead in the back of the car.

"Punishment for me because I left her body," said Willow. "It's the only thing that makes sense."

"Will, how could that make sense?" asked Buffy. "No one deserves what has happened to Tara. She didn't ask to be shot or have a bunch of evil lawyers take her out of..."

"Heaven," suggested Willow. "Like you didn't deserve to be either"

"This so isn't about me," said Buffy then eyeing her best friend warily. "Or you for that matter. Will, you are going to have to be strong and I don't mean in an incinerate a lawyer type way. I mean in a don't know what sort of state my lover is in but I'm gonna have to work real hard to care for her. We don't know what they want her for or what condition she is in."

Willow turned away from the slayer not wanting her to see the tears that were coursing down her face; the thought of her beautiful lover going through more pain was more that she could bear.

"We're here," said Giles. "Buffy, did Angel say if the hotel has parking?"

"I'll ask Cordy," said the slayer and jumped from the car.

Gunn parked the car while the tired and fraught looking party from Sunnydale, sat in the hotel lobby.

Angel looked at Buffy, Willow and Giles not really sure what to say. His soul hurt for the redhead she looked so lost and alone.

Cordelia walked up behind him "It hurts to see Willow like this; doesn't it?"

Angel looked up in surprise at his friend's words "It does and it's going to hurt her even more when we have to tell them how bad Wolfram and Hart really are."

"Why do you think they want her, I mean I had the vision and I know she's scared but I don't understand what Wolfram and Hart want with her," said Cordelia. "Oh well deep breath time."

Buffy narrowed her eyes the body language of her old friends not lost on her. "So what's the deal with these lawyer's?"

"I don't know Buffy, why they want...your friend...Willow's...Tara," said Angel struggling to find the right words. All I can tell you is that they are evil. Whatever they want..."

Cordy was listening to Angel but watching Willow, she looked like a lost little girl and she seemed to be hurting with every word the vampire said. The aspiring actress acted out of pure instinct. She knelt before the redhead and grabbed her hands. "We'll get her back I promise."

Willow moved forward and hugged Cordelia surprised by the feelings of warmth and healing coming from her.

Buffy stared open mouthed at the white light that was covering the two girls. "What's going on."

"Don't worry" said Angel "I'm not sure exactly how this works..."

"It's not magic is it?" Asked Buffy angrily.

"Of course not," said the vampire. "It's like she's healing her soul. Cordy knows Will's problem, she would never..."

"I'm sorry," said Buffy. "You didn't get to know Tara but she sort of ended up holding us all together and Willow's been just a shadow since died. If Cordy can help her it would be amazing."

Giles who had stayed silent through the last few minutes just listening and observing thought maybe it was time to ask one important question. "What has Cordelia become, because I don't remember her having the power to do things like this when she left Sunnydale?"

"You know she became a seer for the powers that be?" asked Angel.

"Yes but that doesn't explain..."

"Well to keep her powers she had to choose to become part demon. She now has some powers, I'm not sure if she can truly control them but she seems to be able to help mend souls, purge them of the bad things that has happened," explained Angel.

They watched as the white light faded and Buffy was amazed to see a spark of life showing in the redheads green eyes; the first since Tara had died.

"We'll get her back," said Willow. "I know we will, but I'm gonna have to tell her everything; everything I did. I'll never have secrets from her again," and then turning to Angel. "Do we have a plan?"

Spike walked back and fore outside The Magic Box, he wanted to make his peace with the Scoobies and figured the first place he might start was here. He walked in and was surprised to see Xander and Dawn in the shop as well as Anya.

"Unless you want to be turned into dust you had better leave," said Xander.

Spike looked at the boy with something a kin to pity. "I've just came to apologize."

"We don't need your apologizes," said Xander, "Dawn do you have a stake..."

"Stop," said Anya her eyes narrowed as she sniffed the air round the vampire. "You have a soul?"

Spike looked down at his feet "I'd better go."

"You have a soul now?" asked Anya again more firmly.

"Yes. Look I just wanted to see what has happened about Tara," said Spike.

"What do you know about Tara?" asked Dawn still looking at the vampire with open hostility.

"Hey niblet, I saw whoever took her. I told Clem to come and..."

"I don't believe you and if it wasn't for Cordy's vision, if it was just your word I would have stopped Buffy, Willow and Giles from going to L.A," said Xander spitting out the words at blonde vamp.

Spike looked at Xander sharply "Why have they gone to L.A?"

"It's none of your business," snapped back the young man the two almost toe to toe now the hostility between them boiling.

"Stop it both of you," said Dawn. "This does not help. Spike I don't even know why I'm telling you this but we have found out her body has been taken by a law firm called Wolfram and Hart..."

"Wolfram and Hart, you are joking with me. They are bad, really bad; they had Darla and Dru working for them. They hate Angel, why have the taken Tara?" asked Spike.

"We don't know. Spike where are you going?" shouted Anya as the vampire ran from the shop.

Tara collapsed into an armchair feeling absolutely exhausted; she had spent the day training and being trained. A strange looking man had come in and explained how her gifts worked and also mental exercises on how to use them. It had been very tiring; he had shown her how she could read auras and what they meant. How she almost had the power to read minds and influence people.

When that was finished Lilah had came into the room with two large men who had a partially disabled vampire with them. They had chained the vamp up and Lilah had handed her a stake. She had trained her mind on the vamp and had felt the seething hatred that he felt for everything that was living. How he just wanted to break away from the chains and kill them all, but she still couldn't do it.

She had explained to Lilah that she didn't feel she could kill it. Her sister had shook her head and asked the blonde witch what would she do if faced with Angel, the vampire who had tried to kill her and had succeeded in killing the rest of their family. She had told Tara she wasn't teaching her to kill vampires for pleasure but for her own protection.

Tara had still held back. Lilah had taken her hand and looked into her eyes. She had asked her to remember her dead daughter then guided her hand as she plunged the stake into the vamp's non-beating heart.

Lilah walked into the room. "You've done very well today."

"T-thank you," said Tara. "I'm tired it's been hard work." The blonde looked at her sister trying to read her, but finding Lilah's mind closed to her. She could sense some fear. "What are you scared of?"

"I'm not scared," said the lawyer quickly.

"I can feel your fear," said Tara. "So, please don't lie to me."

"Just for you sweetie, anything could happen to you, so of course I'm worried about you," said Lilah.

"I don't know," said Tara. "It feels like you're scared of me."

"Scared of you," said Lilah. "That would never happen, you're my sister and I love you."

"O-okay," said Tara sighing slightly. "I'm must have been imagining things. You know I'm really tired, I think I'll go to bed."

"Sure sweetie, you'll have more work to do tomorrow so it's probably best if you have an early night," said Lilah.

"She tried to read me," said Lilah.

"Well you knew that would happen," said Gavin.

"But not so quickly. She almost got through," admitted Lilah. "She is going to be able to see straight through all of us, easily, with much more training. I don't understand I've read through some of her file and although she showed some of these powers before she died, nothing to this extent."

"I think that she probably knew how much power she had but decided not you use it because of her principles. You know how good she was," said Gavin.

"Yeah I read she was a bit of goody two shoes before but I still think she is going to be able to see straight through us with ease" said Lilah.

"Well, you anyway," said Gavin with a smug smile on his face.

"You think you can handle her any better?" asked Lilah.

"Easily, you forget I've been studying her since she died. Maybe it's better if I handle her for the next few days until you get your nerve back," said Gavin.

"There is nothing wrong with my nerves but if you think you can handle her any better that me, you're welcome," said Lilah. "My bet is she'll know our plans before the end of the day."

"Do you want to put a small wager on that," countered Gavin.

"Not really, I just know she'll see straight through you," said Lilah.

"We'll see," said Gavin softly to himself.

Part 6

Angel, Gunn and Buffy returned to the hotel just before sunrise. A third fruitless night spent patrolling, shaking down some of Angel's contacts. They walked into the quiet foyer.

"It looks like no-one is up yet," said Buffy.

"Not quite," said Willow from the office. "Anything?" The redhead walked through to join the group.

"No. I'm sorry," said Buffy. Did Giles and Fred have any luck tailing Lilah?"

Willow shook her head "Same pattern as the last three days. She went to the office, went to a bar for a drink and then home. Could she be keeping Tara at her apartment?"

"It'd be too dangerous," said Gunn. "We know too much about her. She knows we'd check out her apartment."

"This is useless," said Willow. "We're never going to find her."

"We will," said Buffy.

"How?" snapped Willow. "You three have been searching every night. I've been trying to hack into Wolfram and Hart's computer system and Cordy has been researching prophecies and nothing. We are never going to find her. They could have her out of the country."

Buffy threw her arms around Willow to try and comfort her. Wishing there was something she could do or say that would make her friend feel better but deep down she had the same doubts to.

Angel piped up from the corner "I think I might have another idea."

"What sort of idea?" asked Willow.

"You may have to sing," said Angel

"Sing?" asked Willow

Gavin took a moment to check himself in the mirror in the corner of his office before calling it a night. He felt excited.

Tara's training was progressing okay. Mornings she had lessons on how to control her powers. Afternoons she had combat training. She had learnt how to stake vamps. They intensively trained on how to use a crossbow. There had been one problem, Tara had been taken to a shooting range and been given a small pistol. She had freaked out not able to even touch it.

Gavin had been called down to the range, where he had done his best to calm the agitated woman down.

Tara had started to cry not sure why but had then told Gavin she was sick of being cooped up in the apartment. He had seen his opportunity, he had pointed out that Wolfram and Hart had provided her with a bodyguard but the quicker she learnt to defend herself, the quicker she could be allowed more freedom. He promised that she could start going out by herself no bodyguard or anything but, only when Wolfram and Hart could be sure she was safe. With shaking hands she had taken the gun from him with a look of obvious distaste on her face. He put his arm around her and promised to take her out to a restaurant. She smiled and thanked him but felt her flesh creep with the contact but she was starting to wonder where Lilah had gone and why everyone she met was so good at cloaking their feelings from her. Like they had been trained and the idea of dinner seemed to be a good way of prizing some information from Gavin.

Spike was not sure quite why he was sitting on his motorcycle outside the office of Wolfram and Hart. It had seemed such a good idea when he had rushed out of The Magic Box, upon arriving in L.A he had realized the extent of his task. It was a huge office block how could he expect to find anyone and even if he did what would he do?

He stiffened as he saw a familiar figure walk from the office. It was the Asian guy he had seen stealing Tara's coffin. Spike watched as a black limo pulled up and the man climbed in, without thinking he followed the car and until it arrived outside a luxury apartment building. Spike waited patiently until the man remerged from the building with a blonde woman dressed in leather and it took Spike a few minutes before it clicked that the woman that was accompanying his quarry was in fact Tara. His jaw dropped open in shock. He had never seen the blonde witch dressed so provocatively. "What the hell have they done to you?" he said softly to himself.

He followed the limo once more until it dropped its passengers outside a very high class Chinese restaurant. Once more the vampire took up his waiting stance. A plan had formed in his mind. He would wait until they came out and follow them back to apartment building to see if he could find out which of the apartments she was staying then report aback to Angel. He had a grudging respect for his old sparring partner. He hadn't expected the return of his soul to be so painful. He wondered if that is why he had become obsessed with helping Tara as if helping her would take away the huge weight of guilt that was bearing him down.

Tara watched as Gavin engaged the owner of the restaurant in conversation while she has been shown to a table. She took in the sumptuous setting of what was a beautiful restaurant.

"We helped them negotiate a great price for the property," said Gavin.

"It's lovely," said Tara. "Will Lilah be joining us?"

"No, she's still out of town," replied Gavin.

"It's amazing," said Tara. "That as soon as I mentioned I thought she was scared of me, she had to go out of town on business."

"What are you suggesting?" asked Gavin.

"Nothing," said Tara. "It's just I can't help but wonder why everyone who has contact with me does their best to cloak their feeling from me especially you."

"It can be hard for people when they know someone can read what they are feeling," said Gavin. "Does it upset you?"

"A little," said Tara looking troubled "All I seem to feel is fear or from the vamps I...the vamps feelings just seem to be a predatory hatred. You can feel that they don't have a soul...I don't know... it think it'd be nice to feel a mind that was full of love or affection."

Gavin reached forward and grabbed Tara's hand. "If I could show you how I feel...Tara I always hoped...before you and Willow...we dated for a while...and I'll always be here for you."

Tara was stunned. It didn't feel right but what could she tell; nothing felt right at the moment. She gently disengaged her hand from his grasp. "Gavin you've been very sweet, but you have to understand, I can't make any decisions at the moment I don't even know who I am."

"I'll wait for you Tara. I just wanted you to know that," said Gavin.

"Okay," said Tara but for all of his warm words his eyes were like a shark's cold and calculating. She tried to shake herself out of what felt like a growing paranoia. Everyone had been so kind to her Lilah, Gavin and all the people who were helping train her and she was repaying them with suspicion. Maybe she decided, she should relax and enjoy herself.

The meal passed pleasantly enough with Gavin doing most of the talking. Telling Tara all about his triumphs at Wolfram and Hart and an edited version of the problems they had been having with Angel Investigations. He made the vampire and his workers sound like a bunch of urban terrorists who had decided to victimize an innocent law firm.

As the meal finished Gavin looked at his watch. "Do you want to do anything else? There's a nice quiet wine bar we could go to that's not far from here."

Tara nodded her agreement for no other reason than she was fed up spending nights stuck in the apartment with no-one but a couple of Wolfram and Hart bodyguards for company.

The lawyer paid for the meal and the manager fetched their jackets telling them that he hoped he would be seeing them again soon.

"It's only a 5 minute walk," said Gavin. "No need to call the car. We'll just take a short cut down this alley."

"Are you sure that is a g-good idea," protested Tara.

"Don't worry this is a safe neighborhood" said Gavin tugging her by the hand and pulling her down the alley.

Spike watched wondering why the hell they had gone down a dark alley. He wondered whether to pursue them by foot or use the bike. He jumped off the bike deciding the noise would be too much. He raced across the street hoping his it would still be there when he got back.

Gavin stopped as they reached half way down the alley and pulled Tara in close. The blonde woman tried to push him away as he hugged her closer trying to move in to kiss her.

"G-gavin w-what are you doing?" asked Tara panic sounding in her voice.

He didn't answer her instead he put his hand inside her coat trying to grope her breast. Tara closed her eyes and then brought her knee up sharply between his legs. He fell to the ground retching. She looked about wildly wondering what to do.

Spike saw what had happened and ran down the alley. He grabbed her hand. "Come on Tara lets get out of here."

She acted on instinct and ran with the vampire up the alley, across the road and she held on close as he gunned up his motorcycle.

Gavin lay groaning on the dirt encrusted ground as his brain started to fire up. Panic shot through him for a second. His life never mind his job could be on the line here. He pulled his cell phone from his pocket. "Hello sir I'm sorry to call you at home but we have a problem. It's Tara she's been taken by William The Bloody." He listened intently for a few seconds. "I don't know sir, either he has an accomplice or his chip isn't working anymore. Maybe he is working with Angel?" Another pause as he listened. "Yes I'll get a squad over to the hotel right away."

Tara's brain was also starting to work. She was on the back of a motorcycle holding on to a vampire and not just any vamp but one who had connections to Willow and the people who wanted her dead. "S-spike stop."

He pulled over. "Tara we have to keep moving. Wolfram and Hart will have their goons out looking for us."

"Good," said Tara. "It'll save me from having to stake you right here and now."

"Look, I know we haven't seen eye to eye over a lot things..." Spike jumped back as Tara produced a stake from her inside pocket.

"I know all about you. The thousands of people you have killed, I would be doing the world a favor if I put you down like the dog you are. My sister warned me all about you and you're perverted relationship with the slayer," spat out Tara

"Tara what the hell has got in to you? You're acting crazier than when Glory got hold of you. You haven't got a sister, you have a half-witted brother but, no sister," said Spike.

"But Lilah said...I don't believe you...you're just trying to trick me," said Tara as she reached out with her mind. She could feel confusion, guilt, sympathy and something else. "You have a soul?"

"Yes, but that's not important right now. Come on Tara we have to get out of here they are going to want you back. I know you don't trust me but I know a place it's a kind of sanctuary. No harm can come of you there. Please Tara believe I'm not trying to hurt you" said Spike desperately trying to get the witch back on the bike.

"I believe you," said Tara. "I'll come with you but any tricks..."

"Yeah, I know I'll end up in an ashtray," said Spike. "Just for once it'd be nice if you Scoobies didn't threaten me."

The Host looked up from serving a vamp and watched Angel and his friends come down the stairs of his bar. He ran out from behind the bar and went over to the vamp. "What are you doing here?"

"That's not very nice to your old friends Lorne," said Angel.

"Angel I'm not meaning to be rude but every time you turn up here my bar gets smashed up," said The Host.

"Lorne we need your help we need you to..."

"Please I need you're help," said Willow moving forward looking intensely into his eyes. "Angel said if I sang you could help."

Lorne felt the pain and the heartache coming from the tiny woman. "Oh sweetie, she is so lost, but you'll find her. You always find her."

Willow started to cry, "I've done some terrible things...I need to know...they bought her back."

"Shh," said the demon. "If I hear you sing I may be able to pin point more about your future but I already feel that she is close by."

"Oh great," said Giles. "Look what the cat's dragged in"

"What?" asked the slayer.

He pointed to the top of the stairs where Spike had just entered followed by a blonde woman dressed in leather.

"What's that idiot doing here?" asked Angel.

Buffy was still staring at the woman who had entered with the vampire something was nagging at her and then clarity struck. "Tara?"

Willow turned to look. Her brain finding it hard to comprehend what she was seeing. The one person she thought she would never see again, the other half of her soul. "Tara."

Part 7

Tara looked as she heard her name being called "You tricked me Spike. You are a dead man." She went to run out of the door but the vampire hung on to her arm.

"Don't go. I don't know what Wolfram and Hart have said to you but these people are your friends and family. Look no one can hurt you while you're here. It's a sanctuary," said Spike. The vampire couldn't understand what was going on in the witch's head.

Tara felt torn. She wasn't afraid of Spike and she had felt his genuine astonishment at seeing the others in the bar.

It was Lorne who acted decisively as everybody stared unsure of their next move. He moved up to Tara disengaged her from Spike, threw a friendly arm round her and steered her towards the bar. "Hi peaches, welcome to my humble establishment."

"W-who are you?" asked Tara feeling bewildered as the demon whisked her away from everyone.

"Sweetie, I'm the host, but you can call me Lorne," he pulled Tara to face him. "So how do you read me?" asked Lorne.

"S-sorry," said Tara.

"Don't worry, so what do you see?" asked Lorne.

"That you're worried. You feel something bad could be about to happen," said Tara.

"Hey, you're not thinking about setting up shop are you?" asked Lorne.

Tara looked at him blankly.

"Sorry, sweetie just my idea of a joke. I don't know how to put this but why did Spike bring you here?" asked the demon.

"He said, I would be s-safe that this was a sanctuary," said Tara trembling. She was scared and feeling more alone than ever.

Lorne looked sharply at the blonde and then over to Angel's group where the tiny redhead had to be forcibly restrained by the slayer. "Whom do you need sanctuary from?"

"Them, I think," said Tara pointing towards Angel. "Or maybe Wolfram and Hart...I don't know...I just feel so confused," Tara wanted to cry, curl up in a ball and have someone hold her and tell her she was safe.

"I don't need a song from you peaches. I know where your path lies," said the host watching Angel having to join in restraining a near hysterical Willow.

"W-what do you mean m-my path?" asked Tara. "Tell me."

"No," said the host. "That is something you have to decide for yourself and I mean yourself. Trust what you feel and not what you've been told"

Tara nodded.

"And sweetie..."

"My name is Tara."

"I know, but you were and will always be a sweetie. As I was saying, you have to talk her," said Lorne inclining his head towards the still struggling redhead.

"I-I can't," said Tara. "I'm scared."

"You don't have to be, you are safe here," said Lorne.

"But is she?" asked Tara quietly almost to herself as she started a slow walk toward the huddled group.

Willow stopped struggling as Tara walked slowly towards her. It felt like forever with every step in graceful, slow motion. She felt tears course down her face but nothing was as important as the woman walking in her direction.

"Tara, oh god, it is really you?" asked Willow moving to pull her lover close.

"D-don't t-touch me, it's d-disgusting," said Tara.

"Tara what's wrong?" asked Willow recoiled as if she had been slapped.

"You're a murderer," accused Tara her normally placid blue eyes on fire.

Willow felt her blood run cold. This was something she wanted to have talked to Tara about in a calm quiet place.

"How could you Willow..."

"I'm sorry, more sorry than you will ever know," said Willow.

"S-sorry, do you think that even starts to cover what you did," spat Tara her whole body shiver with a mixture of anger and fear. She reached into the back of her pants and pulled out the pistol with shaking and quivering hands, hardly able to raise and point the gun.

Buffy went to knock the weapon from Tara's hand but Angel gripped her hard by the shoulders.

"Don't interfere," said the vampire.

"She's going to kill her," said Buffy urgently.

"No." said Angel. "No, violence can happen in this place. Just let them get it out."

"Tara put the gun down," said Willow worried about the way the way the weapon was shaking in the blonde's hand. She felt no concern for herself more worried about Tara hurting herself or someone else.

Tara stood shaking; her face a deathly white and she could feel the hot streak of anger scolding her. She tried to pull the trigger but something was stopping her. She knew she end this, revenge the killing of her family but a part of her couldn't do it. She couldn't hurt the woman before her.

"Baby, don't fire it. I know you couldn't live with yourself if you hurt someone," said Willow. There are innocent people...er uhm things in here," said Willow.

"You live with it," countered Tara.

"I don't, the weight of guilt feels like it crushes me everyday. I was out of control..."

"So you went on a killing spree. Damn you, Willow you're unbelievable," said Tara.

"It was revenge and grief, for you," said Willow.

"F-for me? You killed our child and my parents for me?" asked Tara incredulously, her voice pitched high now, full of hysteria.

Willow gawped at her lover, shocked at the lengths Wolfram and Hart had gone too. "Tara. we don't have a child."

"You...killed... her," accused Tara.

"Tara, I killed your murderer!" blurted out Willow.

"M-murderer, I'm n-n-n, I'm not dead," said Tara.

"Tara, you were shot in the back, the bullet went straight through your heart and I..." Willow stopped closed her eyes trying to wish the images away, trying to stay strong and give voice to her worst memory.

Tara brought her hand up to the scar on her chest.

"I was covered in your blood, on my face, neck...hands," said Willow.

Tara tried to get words out, to tell Willow she was wrong, that she was living. She couldn't, she could feel the red heads memory. It was so vivid; she could almost see it. She could feel the depth of despair and spiral into insanity that Willow had entered.

The blonde started to shake even more; she couldn't cope with everything she had been told.

Spike who had been watching by Tara's side took the gun from her unresisting hand and held the witch close as she started to sob. "Shh Tara, I ..." The vampire was lost for words; how do you comfort someone who has just been told she was murdered?

Lorne removed the sobbing girl from the vampire's grasp. "Come on peaches, I think you could do with a lie down. I have my apartment out back."

Tara felt she should be protesting, trying to get away from a demon. She just didn't want to. She felt no threat from Lorne and she wanted to lie down and collect her thoughts try to figure out what was happening.

"Can I come too?" asked Willow wanting to comfort and take comfort in the woman she thought she would never see again.

"No," said Tara. "I want to be on my own."

Willow nodded, tears streaming down her face. She didn't argue. Wanting, no matter how much it hurt, to do anything Tara needed her to do.

Lorne lead Tara through a door that went straight through to his lounge. "Do you want to go and lie down on my bed? I'm sure I have some pajamas you can throw on."

"Do you mind, if I just sit here for while?" asked Tara.

"Feel free, can I get you anything?" asked the demon.

"A new life," suggested Tara.

"Sweetie, you seem to have already been given that," said Lorne hoping that the young woman might think of his words and become more positive. "But I meant more in the way of food, a drink maybe?"

"Water, please," said Tara.

Lorne went into his kitchen and bought out a glass of mineral water. "Help yourself to what ever you want from the fridge. Here's the remote to the cable and if you feel up to it later you can come and watch some demons massacre some classic songs."

Tara took the glass in shaking hands. "Thanks Lorne."

"How did you end up being with Tara, Spike?" asked Angel looming menacingly over the smaller vamp.

"I rescued her from some Wolfram and Hart heavy, who was trying to molest her," protested Spike.

"Molest her," said Willow in a dangerously low voice. "What did he look like?"

"I don't know...he was human..."

Try harder, Spike," said Angel.

"Hmm, he was Asian, he was dressed in a suit..."

"Gavin," said Angel. "He works with Lilah on special projects. It has to be him."

"I'll kill him," said Willow through gritted teeth.

"You can't even think that way," said Lorne. "I don't know what she was like before but she is an empath now and she can read aura's. She can feel what you are feeling almost to the point where she will seem like a mind reader. She's frightened and confused. If you want her back you will have to let your love shine through and bury any hate you feel."

"What do I do?" asked Willow. "This is so frustrating, being so close to her and yet she feels so far away."

Lorne put his arm round Willow. "I told you she is lost; you have to find her."

"She's here..."

"You know what I mean," said Lorne impatiently. "She's lost here," he touched Willow's forehead, "and here," moving his hand over the redhead's heart. "Only love can find her, only you."

Tara went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She regarded the face she saw in the mirror. Who was she? Why was she here? Why did so may people want her?

She shook her head sadly. Tara tried to reach into the memory banks; nothing came. She punched at the wall in pure frustration. Tara could hear the music coming through the walls; maybe she should take a look. Seeing the faces of people who claimed to be her friends might trigger something, spark some memory.

Lorne saw the door to his apartment open slightly and an idea came to him. He hustled the large scaly demon that was murdering 'I've Got You Under My Skin' off the stage.

"Okay, that was...different...a big round of applause. Now next on stage tonight we have Willow Rosenberg."

Willow had her deer trapped in headlights look, shaking her head vigorously at the host. She turned to Buffy "I can't..."

"That's what we came here for," said Angel.

"But he said..."

"We've all had to do it," said Fred trying to re-assure Willow.

"Even Cordy?" asked Buffy with a shudder, images of the school talent show flashing before her eyes.

"Hey," said the actress.

"I'd like, for the record, point out I haven't," said Gunn.

Angel glared at his associate and then softened his eyes as he turned to Willow. "Lorne is trying to help Will, please trust him."

Willow nodded and made her way unsteadily to the stage.

Lorne grabbed her round the shoulders. "She's watching from the apartment door. No, don't look. Sing something that you can put meaning into. While your singing try to picture and feel the memories. If you do this she'll be with you every step of the way."

"Geez, that lifts the pressure right off," said Willow wryly.

"You thought it was going to be easy, sport?" asked Lorne.

"Our lives' are never easy," said the hacker sadly.

Lorne waited a beat, letting Willow collect her thoughts. "Do you know what..."

"Yeah, that one," said Willow.

"Are you sure? Have you seen that film?" asked Lorne.

Willow glared at him. "Please, I want to do this now."

"Okay, you're choice," shrugged the host.

Willow closed her eyes as the music started and in an uncertain voice, which grew stronger as she started to sing just for Tara.

Where the silence falls There the river runs deep Where the shadow ends So begins the dream

She tried to project into the words, letting images of dreams she had had of Tara, flash through her brain. Some were sexy, twisted bodies, entwined in passion and love. Others of them walking hand in hand on a beach.

Where the hunger leads me It's hard to believe I'll be lost to you

Willow pictured Tara's funeral her feelings of loss and despair. The thoughts that were in her head at the time, about how could she survive without her soul mate?

It's the blood that ties It's the hurt that heals It's the face you hide Hides the pain you feel

Willow took things back, back to the beginning. The first image she had of Tara hiding her beautiful face behind her hair. Then finding out the pain Tara had gone through with her so called family and they way the Scoobies had all stood by her, became family. Then finally trying to show everything in heart as they danced, the night of Tara's birthday.

So hold me up now Yeah, I'm afraid to breathe An' I'm lost to you Yeah, I'm lost to you

And back to now. All Willow's fears that Tara wouldn't come back to her, that the 'alive' Tara was as far away as the dead one had been.

I believe in a heaven I believe in the night I believe there's a path to follow I believe in the light

She showed them fighting demons. How they had triumphed. Why they all had chosen to fight and even thought they had all made mistakes, they had always been on the side of the angels.

Hold me under Let the river wash away my sins Let me drown and you Let the water and the love rush you

Willow bared herself as she had been; the blackness that had enveloped her, but how she was different now. She pictured the memory of the night Tara had came to her room and asked Willow to kiss her. She remembered the way her heart had leaped and soared in disbelief. She pictured the kiss, that beautiful, wonderful, heart-stopping kiss.

You can hear me whisper When you're listenin' And I'm lost to you Yeah, lost to you

Willow turned to the door of the apartment hoping Tara was looking and feeling what she was. She let her eyes plead with the woman. In her mind all she could think was please, Tara please listen. I love you.

I believe in a heaven I believe in the night I believe there's a path to follow I believe in the light

She tried to picture a perfect future. The path she hoped they would follow. Of the two them together, maybe with a family but that wasn't important. All they that mattered was they were together, as they should be.

Tara watched from the doorway as Willow started to sing. She could feel Willow's emotions pulling to her from across the crowd. The genuine love and passion flowing in her direction felt like it was searing her. It was white hot in it's intensity. As the redhead finished, as the confusion in her heart grew, she broke away. The woman was a killer, but she had felt something for Willow the first time Lilah showed her the photo. She was so confused; she wanted to go to her. Tara grabbed her head, too many things for her to deal with. Lilah thought Tara, she needed to find her and get the truth from her. A plan started to form in her mind.

"Don't you think it's time you should be going to bed, Dawnie?" asked Xander.

"I'm waiting for Buffy to call," said the Dawn. "She thought they might have a lead from the club."

"Look, we'll wake you if anything happens," promised Xander.

"If they bother telling us," said Anya.

"An, please stay out of this," said Xander.

"Xander, you me be happy to stay at home and play house, but I'm not. Tara was my best friend and if they can't find her, I sure as hell will, said the demon with a determined look on her face.

"Anya, what are you going to do?" asked Xander.

"I'm going to L.A," said Anya. "Right now,"

"Can I come too?" asked Dawn.

"Yeah, sure," said the demon hooking one arm round the teenager and disappearing.

"Anya," shouted Xander helplessly and then quietly to himself. "Buffy is so not going to like this."

Part 8

"C'mon night, night everyone, haven't you all got homes to go to?" Shouted Lorne going through his nightly routine of throwing out the stragglers and hard-core drinkers.

Lorne approached Willow and the gang who were sitting quietly in a corner. "I'm afraid that goes for you people too."

"I'm not leaving," stated Willow. "I'm not leaving her."

"You have to give her some space. She'll be safe here," said Lorne.

"I can't..."

"You have too. Go back to the hotel get some sleep, a shower and come back in the morning with breakfast and maybe we will be able to find out what Wolfram and Hart have done to her," said Lorne.

"He's making a lot of sense," said Buffy.

"I don't care, I don't want to leave her," said Willow sticking her chin out in a determined fashion.

"I'll make a deal with you. I'm going to check to see if she is awake, if she is, I'll ask her what she wants. If she is asleep I want you to go back to the hotel and come back here in the morning."

Willow looked away from the demon not meeting his eyes.

Lorne went to the apartment and could see Tara fast asleep on his couch covered by her coat. He quietly moved back out. "She's asleep."

"Can't I just stay out here? I won't be a problem," said Willow pleading with the demon.

"Sweetie, you'll be more use to her with a decent nights sleep," said Lorne.

"I don't think I can sleep," said Willow.

"At least try," said the host. "She is going to need you fit and in one piece. Trust me on that."

With a great deal of reluctance and with more than a small piece of prodding, Willow headed back to the hotel.

"Spike you have to leave too," said Lorne,

"I've got nowhere to go...and I sort of want to keep an eye in Tara. I feel bad for her," said Spike.

"Spike," said Lorne.

"Okay, I've got nowhere else to go, so can't I just bunk down here?" the vampire whined pathetically.

Lorne decided he was too tired to argue with the vampire. "Tonight only, but you are sleeping in the bar buster."

The vampire shrugged his shoulders. "I've slept in worse."

Lorne went into his bedroom and grabbed a spare blanket from the cabinet. He covered Tara up and gently kissed her on the forehead. "Oh sweetie, I hope we clear this up for all our sakes."

Tara listened until she was sure the demon had shut the door and gone to bed. She then quietly slipped out the apartment door.

"Where do you think you're going Blondie?" Asked Spike appearing from the shadows.

"Spike, do you always lurk?" Asked an exasperated Tara.

"It's what I do and you still haven't answered my question," said Spike.

"Spike, give me my gun back," said Tara.

"No way, the slayer would have my bollocks if you start taking pot shots at Red," said Spike.

"I'm not going after Willow. I'm after Lilah, so give me back my gun," demanded Tara taking a stake from her coat.

"On one condition..."

"You are not in a position to bargain," said Tara determinedly.

"I could take that stake off you before you could move," said Spike. "So hear me out. You may think you are the big bad now, but there are some real bad monsters out there and do you even know where you're going?"

"It's not your concern," said Tara.

"Sorry, Blondie you've just made it my concern. I'm not letting you go without me," declared Spike.

"Don't try and stop me," said Tara. "Or I swear I..."

Spike vamped out and moved quicker than Tara could see removing the stake from her hand. "No more threats. I'm coming with you. Besides you need me for transport."

Tara was shaking with a mixture of anger and fear, eyeing the vampire with grave suspicion.

Spike watched her wondering how to get her trust. He closed his eyes for a second and handed her the stake and the gun. "Just for protection mind."

Tara took the weapons and stored them back in her jacket still watching the vampire's every move.

"Haven't you got somewhere you want to be?" Asked Spike pulling the blonde out of her daze.

"That's right, let's go," said Tara.

Gavin stood in the middle of the hotel lobby staring moodily around him. The squad had searched the hotel but there was no sign of anyone or anything.

"Sir, what do you want us to do?" Asked one of the black clad squad.

"We wait, they have to come back soon," said Gavin.

They all looked in surprise as Anya and Dawn appeared in the lobby.

"Oh, shit," said Anya as they disappeared as fast as they had appeared.

"What the hell was that?" Asked Gavin.

Anya and Dawn reappeared in the club. "We'll be safe here," said Anya. "But we have to contact Buffy."

She went straight to the apartment door. "Lorne where are you?" She shouted.

Lorne stumbled sleepily from his bedroom. "What the hell is going on?"

"Where's your phone?" Beseeched Anya. "It's urgent."

Lorne pointed into the bedroom without thinking.

"Please, Buffy have your cell phone switched on," said Anya as she punched the numbers into the phone. "Buffy, thank god, you can't go to the hotel. Listen to me its Anya. Just listen," shouted the demon her patience starting to run thin. "There are bunch of guys with guns and god knows what else waiting for you at the hotel. I'm at Lorne's club. Yeah, I'll see you soon."

Anya came into the living room. "I stopped them before they got to the hotel."

"Where's Tara?" Asked the host looking around his apartment wildly.

"That's what we are here for," said Anya slowly like she was talking to a child. "I've come to help find her."

"No you misunderstand, she was here, asleep on the couch," said Lorne.

"You are joking with me," said Anya.

"You found her," said Dawn a huge smile breaking across her face.

Lorne looked at Dawn not quite sure what he should tell her. "Not me, Spike. Wait a second, where's Spike?"

"Spike?" Asked Anya.

"You know, vampire, bad bleach job, English," said the host.

"I know who he is, but he isn't here," said Anya.

"Oh god," said Lorne groaning loudly and putting his head in his hands. "Willow is going to kill me. Tara must have left with Spike."

"Tara left with Spike; you've lost me," said Anya looking totally confused.

"Tara has no memory of her other life," explained Lorne. "Wolfram and Hart seemed to have made an attempt at planting false memories in her head. She does not know who are her friends or her enemies."

Lorne ran into the bar as he heard the door of the club sound like it was about to be kicked in. "Who is it?"

"Who do you think?" hollered Angel.

Lorne cautiously answered the door, worried that he was going to end up with Wolfram and Hart looking for Tara in his club.

"What is going on?" Asked Buffy. "Why is Anya here?" She then looked behind the demon. "Is that my sister? What the hell is Dawn doing here?"

"Those all could be seen as awkward questions," said Lorne.

A pale Willow was huddled at the back of the group, her eyes searching the bar. "Where's Tara?"

"And the awkwardness keeps on coming," said Lorne with a sigh.

"Lorne," said Angel sharply.

"Look sit down and I'll explain my part and Anyanka..."

"I prefer Anya now."

"And Anya will explain hers," said Lorne without missing a beat.

"Where do you want to go?" Asked Spike as Tara settled on the back of his motorcycle.

"Wolfram and Hart's offices," said Tara.

"Are you crazy?" Asked Spike. "You've just got away from them."

"They'll be looking for me," explained Tara. "They won't expect me to go to them."

"Maybe not, but are you sure you know what you are doing?" Asked Spike.

"Oh yes, I want answers," said Tara her jaw tightening.

"You're the boss," shrugged Spike gunning the machine into life.

"What do you mean Anya woke you up and Tara was gone?" Shouted Willow in near hysterics. "You said, just give her some space and then you lose her."

"I'm sorry," said Lorne trying to soothe the upset witch. "I thought she was asleep. I didn't think she would leave with Spike."

"Spike, she left with Spike," cried out Willow in disbelief. "We have to go now. We have to find her."

"How?" Asked Anya. "We don't know where she is."

"I have to find her," said Willow again softly, almost to herself.

"So we're here. What's the plan?" Asked Spike.

"We go around to the parking lot entrance. You stay out of sight and I find Lilah's car," said Tara.

"No," said Spike grabbing her arm. "That's a bad plan. They'll have security on the lot. I'm staying with you. Plus, it's 3 in the morning. What makes you think Lilah will be here?"

Tara put her hands on her hips and shook her head at Spike. "You can't come in, Gavin told me they have security that goes off the second a vampire enters the building and I know Lilah will be here."

"And you know this how?" Asked Spike

"I just do," said Tara pulling away from him. "Now be quiet while I concentrate and one other thing I will be coming out fast so have the bike revved up."

Spike shrugged and got back on his motorcycle, hoping that the witch wouldn't find a way in.

Tara stood back slightly from the steal barrier. She concentrated, imagining a complicated fuse box and surging the power towards an overload. She felt the air fizz with power and she staggered slightly as she completed the spell.

"Tara," shouted Spike ready to jump from his bike.

"It's okay," hissed Tara. She stood before the barrier and lifted her hand up. The barrier slammed upwards. She ran in, motioning with her hand behind her, slamming the barrier shut.

The security hub in the Wolfram and Hart building was in chaos as they were plunged into darkness.

"What the hell is going on?" Asked the head of security.

"I don't know," said a nervous guard.

The head of security was just about to order a search of the building when the emergency generator kicked in. He looked at the computer readout, which said that there had been a power surge, which had blown a number of fuses. He sighed with relief and reached for the phone to contact the duty electrician.

Lilah got into her car. She was tired and angry. Linwood had called an emergency meeting after Gavin's fuck up and had read them all the riot act. He had made it quite clear that if Tara were not found, the senior partners would be looking for scalps, literally. She closed her car door car and then she felt a prickly sensation at the back of her neck. "Show yourself," said Lilah without turning. "I'm not in the mood for games, so tell me what you want and get lost."

"That's no way to greet your little sister," said Tara coolly from the back seat.

Lilah felt a wave of relief wash over her and even as that emotion was happening her predatory mind was working on how she could turn this to her advantage over Gavin. "Tara, thank god, we have everyone out searching for you. I was so worried."

"Why?" Asked Tara her voice slightly higher than usual as she wrestled for emotional control.

"We were worried you could have been killed. I mean after that vampire took you..."

"Is that what Gavin said? Funny, I thought the vampire was saving me from the guy who was trying to force himself on me," said Tara with a shrug.

"I'll have him fired," said Lilah through gritted teeth.

"Big sister to the rescue," said Tara wryly.

"What's wrong with you?" Asked Lilah surprised at Tara's attitude.

"I know," whispered Tara in Lilah's ear.

"Know what?" Asked Lilah.

"That you're not my sister," said Tara.

Lilah tried to bluster. "I don't know what you're talking about...what did that vampire say...or was it Gavin? Did he..." She stopped talking as she felt the cold steal of a gun barrel pressed against her temple.

"Don't screw with me Lilah," said Tara feeling the anger and frustration of the last few hours well up within her. "I want the truth."

"You don't want it," said Lilah.

"Let me tell you some of what I know already. I was murdered. I was dead and your firm brought me back to life. I want to know why," said Tara.

Lilah's mind raced wondering what she could tell Tara that the blonde would find palatable.

Tara could feel the hesitation. "And don't lie. Remember I will always know," said Tara drawing the last part out.

"That's part of it. We...they want your powers," said Lilah.

"There are other witches, that doesn't explain why you had me brought back to life," said Tara.

We need someone who is sweet and innocent looking, who people could confide in. Most of the magick users on our pay would have people running for the hills. We thought we could get you to talk to witnesses find out what was really..."

"So that is all I am," snapped Tara. "Just another way for Wolfram and Hart to win trials." She stopped having just caught something, some emotion in the back of Lilah's mind; it was fleeting, just a flash.

"You're not telling me everything," said Tara pressing the gun harder against Lilah's head and gripping her neck with her other arm.

"Tara," gasped Lilah. "Please, your hurting me."

"Tell me," said Tara coldly, but taking some of the pressure off the lawyer's neck.

"It's all about power, they want you for power. I could help you, I could get you anything you want from the firm," pleaded Lilah pitching for her life.

"Why should I trust you?" Asked Tara.

"Because together we could get rid of Gavin, maybe even challenge Linwood. The senior partners want you and with me at your side there is nothing we couldn't achieve," said Lilah seductively.

"We?" Asked Tara. "What game are you playing now Lilah?"

"No games," said the lawyer. "You are an attractive woman..."

"You are not attracted to me," said Tara.

"No?" Asked Lilah. "I thought you could feel what people are feeling. Maybe your not as good as everybody thinks you are."

Tara closed her eyes for a second and brought her mouth to other woman's ear. "You're not attracted to me, you're attracted to power."

Lilah turned her head to the side to look into Tara's eyes. "Oh, power is the greatest aphrodisiac of all, you shouldn't knock it 'til you try it."

The air between the two is charged for a second. Tara's mouth goes back to Lilah's ear whispering softly. "For me to trust you I want some information."

"O f course, anything you want," said Lilah convinced she had the young witch where she wanted her.

"Angel, the slayer and all those other people; why was I shown their pictures?" Asked Tara.

"You were close to them, we were told that you had to hate them so when the time came you could have been a cat amongst the pigeons. You could have gotten close enough to kill them," said Lilah.

"Kill them," repeated Tara softly.

"But that probably won't be necessary now," said Lilah.

"Willow never tried to kill me," stated Tara.

"No, but she killed for you. She is dangerous Tara," said Lilah.

"Aren't I?" said Tara caressing the gun barrel down Lilah's neck watching the lawyer jump and shiver.

"Yes," said Lilah. "But I like danger."

"Danger and power," purred Tara in Lilah's ear.

The lawyer nodded. "Do you want to go up to the office, or do you want come back to my apartment first."

Tara laughed harshly and pressed the gun savagely against Lilah's head. "If you think I would sleep with a power hungry whore like you, you are crazier than I thought you were and thanks for the information. I'm sure the slayer will be interested in knowing that your firm were planning an assassination." With this the blonde opened the car door and ran for the exit.

"You bitch," screamed Lilah ineffectually.

"Come on Spike," said Tara urgently on exiting the parking lot. She jumped straight on the bike and the vampire revved up the engine without question and they were gone.

"She was in your car and you did nothing," Linwood shouted at Lilah.

"It was impossible. She did have a gun pressed against my head and she knows everything," said Lilah.

"The senior partners are not going to be pleased," said Linwood.

"What are we going to do about her?" Asked Lilah.

"Do?" Shouted Linwood. "Do, there is nothing we can do for the moment."

"So we are not going to do anything," said Lilah. "Just leave a loose canon around the way we have with Angel? Sometimes I think this firm has lost its balls."

"Be careful about what you say Lilah. There will be an investigation..."

"It wasn't me who let her go in the first place. None of this would have happened if Gavin had been more careful," said Lilah. "We still should do something to stop her."

"You want to put her back in the grave?" Asked Linwood.

"No, I don't want her crazy girlfriend skinning me alive. No, I was thinking of making her suffer a little."

"And how do you intend to do that?" Asked Linwood.

"Well, I checked her file and she didn't have the happiest of life. I think we should remove the block on her memories," said Lilah.

"Is that all," said Linwood. "I don't see a problem with that. The damage has already been done; it's only costing us money. See to it will you?"

Lilah nodded and left the room with an evil grin on her face.

"Can't you go to the powers?" Asked Willow of Cordelia.

"If I could I would but all I get are these visions and they get in touch with me when they want me," said Cordelia.

"I can't stand this," said Willow.

They all looked up the door was again being pounded.

"Get in my apartment," said Lorne. He went to the door. "Who is it?"

"Its me," said Spike. "Open the door before the sun comes up and I get fried,"

Lorne opened the door and ignored the vampire. He ran forward and hugged Tara. "Where the hell did you go? We were so worried about you."

Tara smiled. "See that's the difference, genuine affection and a little bit of anger. I'm sorry."

"So you should be Peaches," said Lorne as they walked down the stairs into the main part of the bar.

His apartment door opened and Buffy looked out.

"You can come out," said Lorne. "Its just Spike and Tara."

"Tara," said Willow who had already come though the door.

"W-willow, hi," said Tara feeling suddenly shy and ducking her head to one side.

Anya came running out and embraced Tara in a huge hug. "Tara, your alive!"

Tara looked a little surprised at the demon who was hugging her with all her might and she could feel so many emotions being given off by the group of people that once more she felt overwhelmed. She looked up and noticed a teenage girl who was standing, staring at her and crying. Her heart went out to the youngster who was so obviously hurting badly. She shook off Anya and went to the girl. "Hey you, I'm sorry I don't remember you, but I hate to see you in so much pain. Is there anything I can do?"

Dawn threw herself into Tara's arms. "Tara, I missed you so much."

Tara pulled back a second and pushed a lock of hair from the teenager's eyes. Everybody then watched in horror as Tara sank to the floor clutching her head.

Part 9

"Tara," screamed Willow rushing to her fallen lover.

Tara looked up. "W-willow?"

"Tara, you remember me...I mean all of us?" Asked Willow with a mixture of fear and relief.

"Y-yes, it's all coming b-back to me," said Tara tears flowing freely down her shirt. "There was blood on your shirt and the pain, oh god the pain and then warmth and peace; I felt my spirit was at peace.

"Tara, I'm sorry," said Willow her heart breaking all over again.

Tara pulled her knees up to her chest rocking gently back and forth, tears coursing down her face.

"Tara," said Willow her face a mask of fear.

"What's wrong with her?" Dawn asked anxiously.

Buffy watched Tara without realizing that silent tears were slipping down her own face. She moved toward the huddled figure on the floor in a trance like state, shaking off Angel as he tried to pull her back. Buffy dropped to her knees in front of Tara putting her arms around her shoulders. "I know, I know."

Willow knelt next to the pair and gathered them both up.

"This is very nice, with the touchy, feely," said Spike. "But that girl needs some sleep."

"What's wrong with you Spike? Gone soft?" Taunted Cordelia.

Spike glared at her, his jaw tightening and fists clenching.

Lorne moved between the two of them. "C'mon, he's got a point. It's been a long night for all of us."

Dawn approached the crying trio; she could see Tara's arms pulling even tighter around herself. "Buffy, Willow, I think you should give Tara some space."

Willow pulled away, and gently disengaged the slayer from Tara who was still rocking back and forth. "Tara, do you want to sleep?" Still no response from the blonde woman, Willow gently tugged at her shoulder until Tara looked up at her. " Baby, are you tired?"

"T-tired, yes," answered Tara feeling exhaustion biting into the marrow of her bones.

Spike moved forward and scooped Tara up in his arms. "Where can she sleep?" He asked Lorne.

"Take her into my bedroom," said Lorne. Spike walked through Lorne's apartment, kicked the bedroom door open and placed Tara on the bed before starting to remove her boots.

"What are you doing Spike?" Asked Lorne who had followed close behind him.

" Just thought I'd make her more comfortable," answered the vampire.

"She's not yours to make comfortable," snapped Willow. "Leave her alone Spike."

Spike turned to look at the redhead whose eyes were burning straight through him. "Red, I'm just trying to help and she doesn't belong to anyone, not Wolfram and Hart or to you and the rest of the Scoobies out there."

Willow could feel anger and resentment churning within her and she struggled to control her emotions until Lorne laid a hand in her shoulder and whispered softly in her ear. "Remember she is going to need you, don't make an issue and don't lose your temper."

"Fine," said Willow through gritted teeth. "I'll do what ever Tara wants."

Tara had her eyes closed, lying on the bed, her head pounding with tension; she didn't want to have to deal with this right now. She just wanted to sleep. "Willow, Spike please, just leave me for a while.

"Tara," said Lorne gently. "Do you want something, more comfortable to change into?"

"Thank you," whispered Tara nodding. "If you d-don't mind?"

"Of course not Sweetie," said the host as he hustled Spike and Willow out the door. He pulled out a pair of silk pajamas and handed them to Tara. "They might be a little large you might just need the shirt."

"Thank you," said Tara and quickly changed as the host turned his back. "Lorne I...thank you. Lorne?"

"What Sweetie?" Asked the demon catching the question in the witch's voice.

"Can I t-talk with you for a while?" Asked Tara.

"Sure but wouldn't you rather talk with one of your friends or Willow?" Asked Lorne.

"I-I d-d-don't, I don't think I can f-face them right now," said Tara getting more and more agitated.

"I'll just go out to make sure that everyone is settled for the night and I'll be right back," said Lorne.

"I'm s-sorry you're probably tired, I've no right..."

"Shh, Sweetie if you need to talk, I'll be back," said Lorne moving to the bed and patting Tara's hand.

"Thank you," said Tara.

Lorne looked at the anxious faces that were waiting for him as he exited his apartment.

"How is she, does she want anything?" Asked Willow, her face puffy from the amount of tears she had shed.

"She wants to talk," admitted Lorne.

"To me?" Asked Willow her face lighting up for a brief moment.

"I'm sorry no, she wants to talk to me," said Lorne.

Willow's face crumpled again. "Why? She doesn't even know you," she said, a trace of bitterness biting in her voice.

"I think that might be the whole point," said Lorne gently. "I think she is a little scared and confused right now."

"Then why doesn't she want me?" Asked Willow, her voice sounding harsh and truculent.

"She might, but you've got to give her space," said Lorne putting an arm around Willow and leading her as far away from the bedroom as he could hoping that Tara couldn't hear her.

"I tried that, but she left," argued Willow.

"And then she came back, trust her, trust yourself," said Lorne soothingly. "Everything will be fine."

"You can't know that," said Willow the fight suddenly leaving her as her shoulders drooped.

"Maybe not, but you have to let her find her own way," said Lorne. "It's probably the only way you will get her back. If you want her?"

"Of course, I do," said Willow fire sparking in her eyes again. "God, how can you even say that?"

"She is going to be different..."

"I know, we bought Buffy back, she was different," said Willow. "But we worked through it."

"Yes, but Buffy didn't have some lawyers manipulating her. Buffy was bought back by people who loved her. Tara was not. Her powers have been scrutinized in a way that they never should have been. She's not be the same woman you loved."

Willow shook her head. "She's still Tara, I can...I can feel it, I can feel her and I know I could only love her."

Lorne nodded; pleased his probing had gotten what he wanted. He felt more confident in going in to talk to Tara knowing that he could tell her exactly how much she meant to the young redhead. "I'll tell her," he promised.

"Please, " said Willow folding into his arms. "My world was destroyed when she died, I'm not going to mess things up a second time."

He nodded and turned to the rest of the group. "I don't know where you are all going to sleep, just try and make yourselves as comfortable as possible. I'll hand some blankets out to you."

"Does anyone mind if Dawn has the couch?" Asked Buffy.

Everyone gave their agreement to this. Lorne walked towards the bedroom to be stopped by Giles who had stayed very quiet most of the night, trying to get his head around what was going on. "She is in a very vulnerable place right now."

"I know," said the demon. "I won't hurt her."

Giles nodded. "Tell her if there is anything I can do..."

"I will," said Lorne laying his hand on Giles shoulder. "And will you look after..."

"Everyone else," smiled the Englishman.

"No, no, I was thinking of the bar, I've seen how Spike and Angel have been growling at one another. Keep Anya away from the schnapps and Spike from the tequila and Jack Daniels," said the host and then giving Giles an appraising look and whispered in his ear. "The decent Scotch is hidden behind the glasses under the bar and if you keep Angel and Spike from wrecking the place you deserve it."

Giles smiled at the host and then went to stand between the two vampires who were in the middle of a childish shoving match.

Lorne came back out of the bedroom and handed a pile of blankets to the slayer before disappearing back in the room.

"I was hoping that you would be asleep," said Lorne softly seeing the strained, tired looking face of the blonde witch.

"If you don't want to talk to me..."

"It's not that Sweetie, you look exhausted," said the demon sitting on the bed.

"I'm tired, but it scares me to shut my eyes," said Tara staring into the distance.

"Why?" Asked Lorne moving to sit next to the blonde and gently pulling her in close.

"I can s-see it all," said Tara her head hanging down low until it was resting against the demon's chest.

"All what?" Asked Lorne.

"My family, how they were right; my dad told me I would become a demon on my twentieth birthday. He may have been wrong about that, but he always knew I would be evil. Looks like he was right about that," whispered Tara.

"You evil? I don't feel it, not one small bit," said Lorne. "How can you even think that? And remember even if you had been a demon, not all of us are evil, look at me."

"He used to hit me, said it was for my own good, keep the demon in check," said Tara softly, not noticing his small attempt at humor, too lost in her pain and then she shivered. "But Donnie was even worse, sometimes I hoped I would die."

"Who is Donnie?" Asked the host.

"My b-brother," whispered Tara. "He used to b-beat me until I s-screamed and then he would b-beat me some more."

Lorne closed his eyes, controlling the anger that was starting to eat him. "Didn't your parents try to stop him?"

"When my M-Mom was alive it wasn't so bad, but I think he b-blamed me partly for her illness, D-dad didn't care, probably thought I d-deserved it. Maybe I did?"

"No-one deserves that," said Lorne holding her close. "You never deserved it."

"How do you know? I'm evil. I deserve anything that happens to me." The witch's voice strident, making Lorne jump after the whispered conversation they had had so far.

"I'm not buying this evil bull from you," said the host deciding to challenge her.

"Why else would they have gone to all that trouble to bring me back, if they didn't think I was evil? I threatened Willow with a gun. I so wanted to kill her, not exactly the actions of a good girl," said Tara her voice again soft.

"Tara, you have had people play with your mind," said Lorne feeling the young woman stiffen in his arms. "That means something to you; doesn't it?"

"It's all that has ever happened to me, my f-family, Glory, W-willow and now... maybe I would be better off still dead," said Tara.

"There is a room full of people out there who would disagree with you," said Lorne. "Don't let Wolfram and Hart do this to you."

"It's more than that," said Tara her voice dropping again. "All my memories came back and it was so...it hurt." Said Tara closing her eyes and drawing a slow breath as she tried to compose herself to continue. Even the good things in my life like Willow, Dawn and Buffy come with a warning label. Everything in my life is connected with pain. I just want it to stop."

"Your life or the people who love you?" Questioned Lorne.

Tara shrugged.

"Earlier tonight you were full of fire and now all you want is to give up, come on Tara; I expect more from you," argued Lorne.

"What would you know?" Snapped Tara.

Lorne dropped his voice to be less confrontational. "Tell me then, explain it to me?"

"S-she k-k-k, she killed someone. I love her so much, but I don't know that I should be in love with her anymore," said Tara pain clearly evident in her eyes.

"You were going to kill her," countered the host.

"That was different..."

"How? Why were you going to kill her?" Asked Lorne offering a silent prayer to any deity that was listening that the witch would understand his argument.

"I thought she had killed my p-parents and my daughter" Tara said plaintively, as she moved away from Lorne and pulled her knees to her chin.

Lorne cupped Tara's chin and pulled it so that he could look into her eyes. "How do you think you'd have felt if the woman you loved was shot and you were covered in her blood and you watched her life pour away from you?" He left it a second to allow the words to sink in, so that she could fully comprehend the horror Willow had faced. "Do you think you would have stayed sane?"

"Your s-shirt," repeated Tara and then seeing the question on the host's face. "I remember seeing b-blood on her shirt. It w-was h-horrible f-for her." She closed her eyes, as the memories of the hacker's pain as she sang came back to her.

"Yes, it was," agreed Lorne holding Tara in close as she started to cry. "Don't decide you shouldn't love her, not yet. She loves you, remember all the things she did for you."

"She l-loved me. She can't be s-sure, not now. I don't even know, who I am anymore." Tara said, sadly.

"She does love you and she knows exactly who you are," said Lorne kissing the top of her head.

"L-lorne?" Asked Tara.

"Yes Sweetie."

"D-do you know who k-killed me?" Tara asked trembling, anxiety shaking her voice.

"I don't, but if you promise to get some sleep, I'll promise to find out," said Lorne.

"I can't sleep," said Tara.

"Of course you can Sweetie," said Lorne. "You are exhausted." He adjusted his body and slid down the bed and he was more than a little surprised when she didn't resist and allowed herself to be pulled into his chest. Lorne started to hum as he stroked her hair and after a while as her breathing started to become slow and rhythmic he softly started to sing. "Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring..."

Part 10

Tara woke gently from a deep dreamless sleep; it took her a moment to adjust to her surroundings and everything that had happened the night before. She stole a look at the alarm clock on Lorne's night table. It read 3:30 she had been asleep for almost 12 hours.

She could feel the presence of someone else in the room. Tara spoke without giving much impression that she had awoken. "Whatcha doing Spike?"

The vampire was surprised but gave no outward sign. "Those new empathic type powers are really working for you."

Tara opened her eyes to see him sitting crossed legged on Lorne's dresser, looking rather like a devilish imp. "Maybe, but you still haven't answered my question. What are you doing Spike?"

Spike shrugged. "Just checking that you're alright. I slipped in when the gang were all talking."

"Funny," said Tara. "I never figured you as my guardian angel. So what is going on with you Spike?"

"Can't a bloke show a little concern?" Spike asked, putting on an offended air.

"Is that what having a soul does for you?" Asked Tara and then looking curious. "How did you do it anyway?"

The vampire shifted uncomfortably and wouldn't look at the witch. "It's not important and it's done now, but you…"

Tara closed her eyes and opened her mind, seeking his feelings. "It was painful, wasn't it? Worse than you ever thought and the weight of guilt you feel is crushing." Tara shivered at the mark of darkness and despair that could and would never quite leave him. "You're still not sure if you can live with it, but you think by helping me you might be able to?"

Spike stared moodily towards the door, now starting to wish he hadn't come to see her.

Tara caught his mood. "I'm s-sorry, that was rude of me. You can g-go if you want."

"In a little while," said Spike relaxing slightly. "You know you are going to start freaking people out doing that. Can you stop it?" He asked out of pure curiosity.

"Y-yes, I think so," answered Tara. "I have to concentrate to do it."

"I'm not saying it won't be useful for the Scooby's…"

"What would you say if I told you I wasn't going back with them?" Asked Tara.

Spike cocked his head to one side shocked. "Is that some kinda weird type of joke?"

"N-no, I'm n-not sure if going back is the best thing for them or me," explained Tara.

"Not the best thing for them? They travelled here to find you. They would have stormed Wolfram and Hart to get you back. If you don't go back it's for you not them," retorted Spike. "The niblet is so excited, she hasn't stopped talking about you. Red, is waiting for the moment she can talk to you, even the demon chick is happy, so don't say it's about them."

"B-but, its hard you know Spike, everything that I've been through…Its just hard."

"Isn't that another reason to return? I mean how many people have died, gone to heaven and come back? At least with The Scoobys you have someone else who has been through it." He checked Tara's face. "Okay maybe not the strongest selling point in the world, but its something." Still not getting any reaction from the blonde he finally snapped out, "Look, you're family and you better get used to it."

Spike watched the tears start to show in her eyes. "C'mon love, you're stronger than this."

" No, I'm not Spike. I'm scared…"

"Well, that's understandable, that bastard Warren shot you. Anyone would be bloody scared of being with The Scoobys, but it's where you belong," Spike dropped his voice, trying to be gentle.

Tara suddenly threw back her head, roaring with laughter. "Dying doesn't scare me, if that's what you think."

"Well, it crossed my mind…"

"No, dying is easy. It's being alive…"

"I know I was with Buffy remember, I helped her…" Spike stopped searching for the right word. "I helped her feel."

Tara raised an eyebrow. "You really believe that don't you?"

"Yes," answered the vampire with utter conviction.

"You didn't, you just stopped her from having to deal with her life," said Tara meeting his stare.

"She needed me…"

"She needed to live Spike…whatever you did together, it didn't help her live it just sunk her further…"

"This isn't about me and Buffy. This is about you and you not facing up to your life," said Spike jumping down from his perch and baring down on the blonde.

Tara backed away from his movement to the other side of the bed pulling her knees up and protectively hugging them.

Spike, stopped moving immediately and sat slowly on the end of the bed, struck by the look of fear on her face. "I won't hurt you love. I can't even if I want too."

"I bet you can," shrugged Tara her heart still pounding hard, but she reached out with her mind and could feel that he really did mean her no harm. "You can h-hurt B-Buffy, so you can probably do the same to me."

He reached out his hand for Tara and then pulled it back. Spike knew this wasn't his place. "Talk with the niblet, please."

"Why is this so important to you?" Asked Tara.

"I want to do some good," he mumbled. "For you…for Buffy…"

"It's always about Buffy with you isn't it?" Asked Tara with an exasperated edge to her voice.

The vampire didn't try and disagree, instead he just shrugged his shoulders and got off the bed but before leaving he looked over his shoulder. "I'll send Dawn in to see you."

"What the hell are you up to?" Asked Angel slamming Spike against the wall as he came through the door.

"What's it to you, you big poof?" Sneered Spike, as he pushed the other vampire off.

"Actually, I'm kinda intrigued too," said Buffy appearing from behind Angel.

Spike bit back on a sarcastic retort. "I was talking with the witch; she wants to talk to Dawn."

"Really?" Asked the teenager lighting up.

"Why don't you go in and see her," said Spike softly.

Dawn stood at the threshold of the bedroom, her heart pounding. So much had happened over the last couple of years. She had already witnessed her sister die and come back from the grave and now this. Dawn took a deep breath and entered.

Tara felt Dawn's indecision. "Hey, Sweetie."

The teenager walked unsteadily into the room. The memory of discovering Tara's dead body flashed through her head. "It's really you, isn't it?" Asked Dawn going to the bed, sitting by Tara and tracing her fingers over the planes of the blonde woman's face. "I almost imagined I'd dreamt last night, but it's real and your back. Tara, I missed you so much. It was horrible without you, I mean Buffy tried to hold us together but Willow…she was…she was dead without you." Dawn put her head on Tara's chest and wrapped her arms around her. "I can hear your heart beat." Dawn couldn't hold together any longer and dissolved into tears.

"Shh, Dawnie, it's okay. I'm not going anywhere," said Tara sealing her future, unable to hurt Dawn more.

Willow walked away from her friends and went into the bar, her shoulders dropping. She went into a booth and curled up into herself, surrendering to the heartache she felt.

The slayer followed quietly, she watched for a second before speaking. "Willow, she'll come around."

Willowed looked up and was barely able to focus at Buffy through puffy, blood shot eyes. "When, after she's spoken to everyone who isn't me?"

"Give her time," said Buffy sitting beside Willow and grasping both her hands. "It's hard to adjust to living again."

"I know Buffy…"

"Willow, I think you should forget about Tara for the moment…"

"What?" Asked Willow her voice harsh. "How can you even suggest that?"

"Look, that came out all wrong, I think you should concentrate on you, you haven't been well Will, you've hardly even eaten in months…"

"I don't care about me," mumbled Willow with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Well, I do," said the slayer firmly. "And I think Tara does too. You have to make sure you are well for her. You want that don't you?"

"Of course I do. She is my everything, I want her so much," stated Willow simply.

"But that could take a while. You have to be healthy and eat and sleep some. Will, do you think you're going to be able to wait for her? We don't know how long it'll take for her to be the Tara we both loved."

"I'll wait, as long as it takes and even if she isn't the same person…I will always love her," whispered Willow her face showing so much pain. "What else can I do?"

"Do you think you can deal with the pain of seeing her every day and Tara not being yours? " Asked Buffy as she pulled Willow into her arms, stroking her hands through her fragile friend's hair.

"At least I can see her Buffy, and I never dreamed that would happen again," said Willow. "I suppose I'll just have to wait."

Buffy nodded. "It'll be fine Willow. You'll see everything will be okay. She's here now… everything is good." As she rocked Willow back and forth, she could already feel the difference. Before Tara came back so inward had Willow turned her grief that she hardly ever let anyone touch her. Buffy couldn't believe how light and insubstantial her friend felt, she couldn't help but wonder how much longer Willow would have survived if Tara hadn't been brought back to them.

Buffy waited until Willow had pulled herself together. "Do you want to go back into the apartment? I think we have a lot of things to discuss with everyone."

Tara calmed Dawn down and eventually decided it was about time she got out of bed. She showered quickly and pulled on the clothes Wolfram and Hart had bought. She now felt uncomfortable in the leather trousers and the body clinging tank top.

Dawn sat on the bed waiting for Tara, she watched the blonde emerge from the bathroom pulling and twisting at her clothes. "It's not really you, huh?"

Tara gave her the famous Maclay crooked smile. "I wish I could carry it off, but it's just not me."

"I don't know," said Dawn grinning. "I'm sure Willow will be drooling every time…" The teenager slapped a hand over her mouth. "I'm sorry…"

"Dawn it's okay, you don't have to watch everything to you say to me. I want things back as near to normal as possible," Tara said softly, trying to put Dawn at ease.

Dawn looked at Tara her eyes shinning with hope. "You mean you'll go back to Willow?"

Tara looked away in the face of so much hope. "M-maybe, we'll just have to see how things go."

The teenager nodded trying to ignore the hesitation in the blonde's voice. "Whatcha gonna do now?"

"I think I'd better go and talk to everyone, see w-what the plans are," said Tara walking towards the bedroom door.

Tara stepped nervously into Lorne's sitting room and she blushed as all eyes turned to look at her. "Hey," she said hesitantly.

"Hey," said Buffy warmly, trying to put her friend at ease.

Everything went quiet for a few moments no one quite sure what to say.

"Do you want a seat?" Fred asked springing from her chair finding the silence unbearable.

"N-no thank you," said Tara and then deciding she had to get it out. "It's weird you know, I look around this room and…uhm there are people I barely know and people who are closer to me than my own relatives…"

"Tara…" said Willow.

The blonde raised her hand and looked at Willow. "P-people I love, but I'm standing in front of you all with nothing…I have nothing now, I have n-no identity, nowhere to live and no money. I feel like I am begging you all to look after me…and I h-hate it." Tara had dropped her eyes wanting to get her feelings out, scared of what she might see and shutting herself off to what she could feel. Tara jumped as she felt a hand grip her shoulder. She turned to see Spike standing by her. He nodded encouragingly.

"You know you have a home with us, always," said Buffy. "And don't think it's charity. You are family.

"Thank you," said Tara touched by the slayer's sincerity, but her eyes were still on Willow. "But is everyone sure they want me to…"

"By everyone, I take it you mean me," said Willow slowly, not meeting Tara's eyes, she didn't want the blonde to be put under pressure by her to come home with them by the way she felt. "And of course I want you to, it's your home and I…and we've all missed you."

Spike decided to intervene as the atmosphere became loaded. "This is great but when are we going? 'Cause I'd make it soon people, we don't know if the lawyers from hell are going to come after Blondie here and if they do I'd rather face them on home turf."

"Agreed," said Buffy. "I say we get back tonight."

"Tonight?" Asked Giles. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," said Buffy firmly. "Everyone needs to get home to their own beds. Anya can you do your thing to get out of here, so we have enough room in the car?"

"It's okay," said Tara. "If Spike doesn't mind, I'll go on the back of his bike." She was scared of being in such a confined space with everyone.

Spike shrugged. "Sure."

Tara hid her relief. "Lorne, can I talk with you for a second?"

"Sure, Sweetie," said Lorne motioning for Tara to follow him into the bar. "Oh by the way I found out who…"

"I know, Warren," said Tara and then seeing the demon's surprise. "Spike told me."

Lorne nodded. "Fine, so what can I do for you?"

"I want you to read my f-future, I…I f-feel so lost. I want to know if I'm doing the right thing. I promised my Mom, that I would never let anyone abuse me, the way Dad abused her, but you know the things Willow did to me…"

"Tara, before you died, you went back to her, didn't you?" Asked Lorne.

"Yes," admitted the blonde.

"You had forgiven her?" He persisted.

Tara nodded. "But…"

"No more buts, Tara, I'll tell you what I can see and then you can decide," said Lorne going to the machine and setting it up. "What do you want to sing?"

Tara looked at the book he gave her and pointed, "I think this would be appropriate; don't you?"

Lorne smiled. "I suppose, lets hear you sing Sweetie."

Willow was sitting in the living room as she heard the music start, she went to the door to listen and she watched Tara start to sing.

I'm coming, I'm coming home to you I'm alive I'm a mess I can't wait to get home to you To get warm, warm and undressed

Tara kept her eyes shut as she sang.

There've been changes beyond my dreams Everybody wants me to sing There've been changes beyond my grasp Things aren't sinking in

Tara opened her eyes to see Willow watching her intently and she couldn't help but start to sing to the redhead.

So keep me, keep me In your bed all day, all day Nothing heals me like you do Nothing heals me like you do

Willow felt her heart pound; she wished Tara was really singing those words to her. The way the blonde was looking at her was making her shiver.

And when somebody knows you well Well there's no comfort like that And when somebody needs you Well there's no drug Iike that

Tara wanted to go to Willow, wanted to hold her. Willow was looking at her with such open desire and love that it took all of her will power to stay on the stage and keep on singing.

So keep me, keep me In your bed all day, all day Nothing heals me like you do Keep me keep me In your bed all day, all day Nothing heals me like you do

The blonde knew it was too soon to go to Willow, but she felt the words and meant them and a part of her wanted to live out exactly what she was singing.

And when I'm home, curled in your arms And I'm safe again I'll close my eyes and sleep, sleep To the sound of London Rain

So keep me, keep me In your bed all day, all day Nothing heals me like you do Keep me keep me In your bed all day, all day Nothing heals me like you do Nothing heals me like you do

Willow went to walk towards the stage when Buffy walked in and grabbed her. "Have you got all your stuff together?"

"Apart from what's left at the hotel," said Willow as she watched Tara turn to Lorne and knew the moment had slipped from her.

Tara turned to Lorne expectantly. "Well?"

The demon looked at Willow and back to Tara. "Do you really need me to tell you where your future lies?"

Continued...

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