A sense of being watched caused Willow to look up from her laptop. The only other occupant in the house at the moment was Buffy, who was sitting on the couch across the living room from Willow. 'Buffy's staring at me? Why is Buffy staring at me?' Willow wondered as the blonde quickly dropped her gaze down to the magazine in her lap.

As soon as she looked down at the essay she'd been writing, she felt the slayer's eyes on her again. 'Okay, enough is enough,' she thought as she looked up, and Buffy again immediately dropped her gaze.

Closing her laptop and setting it aside, Willow went over to Buffy, and sat next to her. "Okay, you've been all 'quiet, introspective' girl for, like, two weeks now," she said softly. "Ever since Riley left."

'Ever since you slept with Riley's wife,' Willow added mentally—not quite brave enough to broach that subject.

Buffy met Willow's gaze briefly before dropping her eyes without a word.

Willow's voice held a note of remorse as she said, "I know things haven't been all that great between us—what with my whole 'insane magic addict' thing—but I thought we were getting better." Her heart beat a little faster when she put her hand on Buffy's knee. "Talk to me, Buffy...please?"

Buffy's voice was very quiet as she responded. "If I ask you a question...would you promise to be honest?"

"Of course!" was Willow's immediate reply.

Buffy's eyes rose and fixed on Willow's as she added, "Even if the truth was, like...something ugly, or, um...painful?"

'Oh boy,' Willow thought with a gulp. 'Something tells me this is gonna really suck...'

Aloud, she whispered, "Uh, okay...yes. Even if."

Buffy continued to stare into Willow's eyes as she asked, "Are you sorry you brought me back?"

Now it was Willow's turn to drop her gaze. "I...uh–"

"Tell me the truth, Willow. Please?"

"No," Willow blurted out.

"'No' you won't tell me the—" Buffy began.

Willow interrupted, the tears in her eyes sounding out in her voice, "No, I'm not sorry."

She looked up to see the frown on Buffy's face and hastened to explain, "I hate that we...that *I* tore you out of Heaven, Buffy. I almost threw up when I heard you sing that. I'm so sorry that I hurt you like that...but I'm not sorry that you're here now."

"You're not?" Buffy said flatly.

A tear spilled out of Willow's eye, burning a trail down her cheek. "We missed you so much, Buffy. We needed you, and you weren't there."

Buffy looked surprised at that.

"Okay, I realize how selfish that sounds...and I guess it was pretty selfish of us...of me."

"Did you know?" Buffy whispered.

"That you were in Heaven?" Willow asked.

Buffy nodded.

"No. I never even considered it." Willow started. Realizing how that might be construed, she quickly added, "I mean, not because you don't deserve to be in Heaven—because if anyone does, it's you. I mean, hello? 'World-saving chosen one' here, right? I'm pretty sure that should get you into Heaven! It's just...I thought...you know—Glory opened that portal, and I figured, you know; hell god, going to a hell dimension–"

"Would it have mattered?" Buffy interrupted.

Willow exhaled sharply. "Of course it would have mattered!" she blurted out in stunned response.

Buffy's silent stare caused Willow to stop and think. 'Oh, God, what if I never considered it because subconsciously...'

"Buffy...if I had known—known for sure—that you were in Heaven I would never have–" She took a shuddering breath and admitted in a whisper, "Maybe part of me didn't want to know...maybe that's why I never—" she broke off, dropping her eyes—unable to meet her friend's reproachful gaze.

"I hated you," Buffy admitted quietly.

'Oh, God!' Willow cried silently, tears running down her face.

"Sam said I must have been in shock all that time." Buffy went on. "I couldn't feel anything but cold...alone."

"Buffy!" Willow whimpered. 'Oh, God, what did I do? I thought going to Rack was the worst I could have done.'

"I did horrible things—just to try to feel...something, anything," Buffy whispered.

"Things?" Willow whispered, feeling a cold chill of dread in the pit of her stomach.

"I had sex with Spike," Buffy said, her mouth twisting as though she had tasted something bad.

'I think I'm going to be sick,' Willow thought, aghast at Buffy's revelation.

"Not just once," Buffy continued in a tone of disgust. "I let him use me any and every way he wanted...even beat me.–"

"Buffy!" Willow cried in horror and shame, having to work to choke back her gorge. "Oh God, Buffy! I'm so sorry!"

"Why? Because you brought me back?" Buffy's voice sounded more curious than bitter.

Willow sniffed hard, trying to reign in her sobs. "No, no, I...because I wasn't there for you. I was so wrapped up in my own...problems.–"

"You aren't responsible for my problems, Willow," Buffy said.

'What?' Willow's jaw dropped in shock.

"It's not your fault I couldn't deal—" Buffy continued.

"Oh no, how could it possibly be my fault?" Willow suddenly interjected, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "After all, it's not like I ripped you out of Heaven—leaving you buried alive and having to claw your way out of your casket. It's not like I was the one who was too busy with her little magic power-trip to notice how much pain you were in, or that you were doing these horrible, self-destructive things. It's not like it was so obvious that someone you'd just met figured it out and helped you through it in one night!"

Her voice, which had been growing louder and louder, dropped to a whisper and she dropped her gaze to the floor as she finished, "It's not like I'm supposed to be your best friend or anything."

"Willow, no—" Buffy started to interject.

"Buffy, you just told me that you blame me for it—that you hated me," Willow mournfully argued.

"Oh, Willow–" Buffy's voice was soft and Willow suddenly felt her friend's hand cupping her cheek—cool against her tear-stained flesh.

"I'm so sorry that I hurt you so badly, Buffy," Willow cried softly. "I made you hate me! That's the last thing I ever *ever* wanted to do!"

"I don't hate you."

"I...huh?" Willow stammered, looking up. "But you said—"

"Did you miss the part where I was in shock?" Buffy asked with a grin and a slight head shake.

"I..." Willow again turned her eyes downward, unable to continue meeting Buffy's gaze. "I don't know what to say," she finished in a whisper.

"Then don't say anything," Buffy said gently. "I gotta go—the DMP is calling my name. See you after, tonight?" she questioned.

Willow just nodded, feeling miserable.

"Who am I?"

Willow's reflection had no answer for her pained whisper.

"I've made such a mess of things–" she sighed, shaking her head and dropping her gaze to the bathroom sink. "Not like that's anything new," she muttered, feeling sorry for herself.

'Pined after Xander for years, but might as well have been invisible...until I was dating someone else, of course. Then he took an interest. And after that mistake, I threw myself at Oz's feet, but I guess I wasn't enough for him either. No, he had to fall into bed with wolf-slut Veruca!' She unconsciously turned on the water and began mechanically washing her hands as the litany of woes ran through her mind.

'So I finally admit what I've known for sure ever since I met vampire-me...what I've felt in my heart ever since sophomore year: I'm really a girl's girl. Of course, I wasn't ever brave enough to go after what I wanted; I had to wait until Tara practically attached herself to me.'

A tear trickled down her cheek at the thought of her now apparently ex-girlfriend. Her eyes stared un-seeing at her hands as they clutched and rubbed against each other. "Poor Tara," she whispered.

'I've hurt you so much, and so often!' she thought sadly. 'I made you feel like you were my dirty little secret for so long, then I left you hanging when Oz made a comeback...almost killing you in the process. Even then, as soon as she needed me against Adam, I left you behind without a thought.'

'Our little spat last year left you unprotected: easy-meat for Glory. Even before I figured out how to get your mind back, I risked everything for her again...anything to pull her back from the brink. Not that it mattered! She went and did the big swan-dive and all I could think about for months was how to get her back. Again.'

She looked up at her reflection once again and asked the question that had been burning in the back of the mind ever since the truth came out: "Did I know? Did I somehow know where she was? And, would it have mattered even if I did realize it?"

Her eyes again dropped, staring vacantly downward. 'I told her yes...I hope that's the truth...but I wonder. I needed her back so badly...'

"I'm not sure I can live without her," she whispered.

"Who, Tara?" Dawn's voice interrupted her thoughts.

"What?" Willow yelped in shock, her head snapping to the side to see Buffy's sister regarding her with a frown.

"I heard the water running for, like, ever," Dawn started.

Willow looked back down at her hands and realized that she'd rinsed away the soap some time ago. She hastily shut off the water and reached for a towel as Dawn continued speaking.

"So, I came over here to make sure you were okay, and saw you looking all sad and stuff, and then I heard you say that you weren't sure you could live without her," Dawn explained.

"Oh, I...um, sorry," Willow muttered, feeling her face grow hot as she jerkily wiped her hands dry.

"Thinking about Tara, huh?" Dawn said, her voice sounding sympathetic.

"Um, y-yeah–" Willow stammered uncomfortably. 'Good thing I'm already blushing,' she thought as her face grew even warmer.

"I miss her," Dawn said sadly.

'Ouch,' Willow thought, ducking her head in shame. 'See, not only can I hurt my lover, and my best friend, I can hurt everyone around me!'

"Sorry," she whispered.

"Oh, no!" Dawn quickly exclaimed. "I just meant, I understand. I totally get why you're sad, and stuff. I miss her too. I mean, not like you do, 'cause I wasn't her girlfriend and all–" Dawn's voice dropped as she said with an embarrassed tone, "I'm not helping, am I?"

"No, it's okay, Dawn," Willow quickly tried to reassure her.

Dawn smiled weakly and dropped her head, her long brown hair falling around her face like curtains.

'Oh my God, she's me!' the thought ran unbidden through Willow's mind. "It's okay if you blame me," she whispered, dropping her own gaze.

"Oh, I do," Dawn said flatly.

Willow flinched as though she'd been slapped. Shame burned through her, both at the way she'd acted at the time, but also at the defensive anger that welled up inside her at Dawn's rebuke.

"Sorry, that came out a little harsher than I meant—" Dawn started, again sounding embarrassed.

"No, that's fair," Willow said, feeling completely deflated. Her knees felt a little wobbly and she stepped over to the toilet, closed the lid and sat down on it.

"Yeah, but...if there's anything I've learned being Buffy's sister—you can't hold a grudge when someone makes a mistake, cause otherwise you'd have to be all angry and stuff all the time," Dawn explained.

Willow chuckled ruefully, glancing up at the younger Summers. "You learned that by being Buffy's sister, huh?"

"Yeah, well–" Dawn started with a wry grin. "You know...she messes up a lot."

A slow grin stole across Willow's lips and her eyebrow raised high. "She does, huh?" she said sardonically.

"Well, yeah," Dawn said in a 'duh' voice.

"Mmm hmm," Willow said doubtfully. "So you just forgive and forget, huh?" she asked, feeling a pang of mixed guilt and hope in her heart.

"I don't know if you ever really forget, but, yeah, basically you gotta forgive people." Dawn said, humor absent from her voice. "Or else you'd end up hating everyone around you," she finished in a whisper.

'Been there,' Willow thought sadly. After a moment she built up the courage to ask, "Does that mean you don't hate me any more?"

"I didn't—" Dawn started to protest, but Willow cut her off with a look. "I didn't hate you for Tara leaving...I think I was more mad at her," Dawn qualified.

"You can't blame her, Dawnie," Willow was quick to correct. "She had to leave, it was my fault."

Dawn ignored Willow's protest and went on, "If I hated you for anything, it was for taking me to that creepy magic dealer, and then getting us in a car wreck and breaking my arm."

"Oh...yeah. There's that," Willow said, another flush of guilt pouring through her.

"I get it, though," Dawn said quickly. "It was the magic, it wasn't you."

"Ahh, that's...um," Willow choked out.

"Willow?" Dawn's voice was slightly brittle.

"Magic isn't like a drug, Dawn," Willow admitted. "Much as I'd like to be able to blame it on that...the truth is I was the one out of control, not the magic."

"I don't understand," Dawn said.

"Magic is a tool, and I was misusing it," Willow admitted. "I just couldn't do anything without using magic to do it."

"How is that different than...drugs or whatever?" Dawn asked, sounding confused, and a little upset.

"It wasn't about the way it made me feel, it was about how I felt about myself...strong, powerful–" she trailed off remembering with both pleasure and shame.

"Huh?" Dawn asked, now sounding completely confused.

"All my life I was the weak one, the one that got picked on–" she started. "Mousy little Willow who was never good enough. It didn't matter how smart I was, no one liked me because I was too shy, too quiet, didn't know how to dress, or act." Her stomach churned and her face twisted into a frown. "I think back about how I used to be and I don't like that me very much either."

"Willow!" Dawn's voice was shocked.

"And then I actually started to get good with magic. And suddenly, I'm the powerful one; I'm the one who is actually saving the day sometimes." Willow smiled wistfully as she added, "She called me her big gun."

Her face fell as the other memories came along behind the good ones. "If anything, I was addicted to the power," she said in an ashamed whisper. "Pretty soon I started believing that I could do anything—whatever I wanted. And it stopped mattering how other people felt, or were affected by it."

"Is that what happened? With...Tara?" Dawn hesitantly asked.

Willow nodded. "She said I was using too much magic, and she was right. But I didn't want to hear it. We had this big argument about it."

"I remember," Dawn mumbled.

"And, I didn't want to fight about it, so—naturally—I cast a spell to make her forget we even fought."

"Oh, God," Dawn whispered.

"I know–" Willow continued. "I took her ability to choose, to make decisions, I took it away from her—"

"Oh, God," Dawn repeated, a little louder.

"Yeah, I know," Willow said, hanging her head low as guilt burned inside her at the memory of her crime. "I don't know how she even found out, but—"

"Oh, my, God!" Dawn exclaimed.

"You see?" Willow continued right on. "That's how out of control I was. It didn't even occur to me how wrong and sick and selfish I was being. I was just 'la la la, I've got power I can do whatever I want'."

"No, Willow, you don't get it. It's all my fault!" Dawn said, sounding horrified.

Willow looked up sharply and saw that Dawn had gone pale.

"I told her—" Dawn began to babble. "It was when you guys were researching the dancing demon thing and I told her I was glad you guys made up, and she was like, 'What?' and I'm all like, 'You know, that fight you guys had about magic?' and I said, 'It gives me belly rumblings when you guys fight,' and she acted like she didn't know what I was talking about and I thought she was just trying to, you know, protect me from stuff but she must really not have known and it's all my fault!"

Willow stood up and gripped Dawn by the shoulders. "Dawn!" she exclaimed to get the girl's attention. Once she had it she said, "That's not why Tara left."

"It's not?" Dawn asked, breathless and incredulous. "But—"

"She gave me a second chance, Dawn," Willow quickly consoled her.

Her stomach rumbled and she felt nauseous as she continued, "I blew that one too. Even then, I still didn't think I was doing anything wrong. It wasn't until later, after I got you hurt–" In her thoughts she continued, 'Until I was looking into Buffy's eyes and saw nothing but disgust.'

They stood there, silently for several moments until finally Willow returned to the original subject. Releasing Dawn's shoulders, she sighed, "So, anyway...until I can trust myself to use it responsibly, I can't do any magic at all."

"You think you'll be able to?" Dawn asked, going along with the return to a slightly less volatile subject.

"Maybe, someday. Maybe not," she said, trying to not sound disappointed with the possibility. 'I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust myself,' she admitted silently. She looked at herself in the mirror and immediately grabbed a tissue to dab at the streaky mascara under her eyes.

"Do you...do you think–" Dawn began after another uncomfortable silence.

"Think what?" Willow asked when the younger girl seemed unwilling to continue.

"You and Tara?"

"Oh, I don't...I don't know, Dawn," she whispered. 'Maybe I need to go talk to her—see where things...see where I stand.'

"Willow? What's wrong?" Buffy's voice startled the redhead. She was sitting on the back porch of the Summers' home, her knees hugged tightly to her chest as she stared vacantly across the darkness of the back yard. "You shouldn't be sitting out here alone at night, Will. You know better than that!"

Buffy's scolding tone barely even registered. "I went to see Tara this afternoon," she said, her voice raspy.

"Oh," Buffy said, instantly deflated.

Willow frowned slightly at the tone of Buffy's voice. 'Disappointment?'

"It didn't go so well, I take it?" Buffy's voice was firmly locked in 'concerned best friend' mode, throwing Willow's thoughts off.

"No; she was seeing someone else," Willow said, returning to her pity-party.

Buffy sat down next to the despondent redhead, turning sideways to face her. "You mean *seeing* seeing?" she asked, sounding surprised.

"I think so, maybe. I don't know—it was inconclusive, and I didn't stick around to find out. Might have magicked my fist through a wall or something," she muttered.

"Will, I'm sorry," Buffy said softly, her hand coming to rest on Willow's shoulder and squeezing gently.

She attempted to think positively, saying, "Maybe...they're probably just friends, right? I mean, I press my lips against my friends' all the time," her face fell into a pout as the brief wave of optimism crashed down on the jagged rocks of reality. "Who am I kidding?"

"I'm sure they're just friends," Buffy quickly interjected. "Believe me—once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen."

Willow felt a flush of warmth at the comment. 'That's so like you, always trying to make me feel better...I've missed that.' She managed a half-smile as she replied, "Thanks, Buffy...I appreciate you trying to cheer me up, but let's face it—what I did to her was so bad that she'll never forgive me."

"Willow, no," Buffy immediately protested.

Willow looked up into Buffy's eyes, a feeling of even deeper sadness filling her heart at the emotion she saw there. "Buffy, I...I raped her mind. And, it wasn't a mistake—it wasn't out of ignorance. I knew what I was doing and I didn't care—it was all about what *I* wanted."

"Oh, Willow!" Buffy's plaintive cry was clearly filled with her own sadness.

"It gets worse," Willow whispered, dropping her eyes to the ground. "She gave me another chance—she figured out what I did and still she gave me another chance...but I blew it."

Buffy's hand was cool against her cheek. 'I don't deserve your kindness...I don't deserve anybody's kindness,' she thought with guilt and self-loathing even as she pressed against it—seeking some human contact to assuage her feeling of emptiness. 'I'm bad. I'm just a bad, evil, terrible person.'

"What happened," Buffy's gentle question interrupted Willow's dive into self-recrimination.

"Huh? Oh–" Willow shook her head, swallowing past the lump in her throat with some effort. "I did it again, only this time I screwed it up somehow and we all–" she trailed off, mortified at her actions.

"Oh, right," Buffy said with a tone of realization. "And that's the night Tara left."

Willow nodded miserably. "My life has become, like, this huge train wreck," Willow lamented. "I let everything get so out of control."

"Still, maybe—" Buffy started again.

"No, Buffy," Willow interrupted. "She won't, and she shouldn't." She turned to look the slayer in the eye as she continued, nearly whispering, "She shouldn't because...because–"

'I'm such a coward!' she railed at herself, dropping her gaze. 'I'm so afraid of how you'll react that I just can't bring myself to say it.'

"Willow." Buffy's voice sounded as though she was on the verge of tears.

Willow's own eyes welled over as she continued, "I never loved her as much as she deserved. I mean, I loved her—still do—just not like she loved me. She deserves better than I ever gave her."

"What could be better?" Buffy's voice was a whisper.

"Ha!" Willow barked out a laugh. 'How ironic is that?' she thought angrily. 'Trying to make me feel better, saying all the right things, but it just makes it worse because she doesn't have a clue—not that I've given her anything to go on.'

"I just never learn," Willow growled out, annoyed with herself. "I'm just the same stupid, hopelessly infatuated little girl I was in high school!" She stood up to go inside, ignoring the look of confusion on her friend's face.

"In high school?" Buffy muttered. "I don't get it,"

"No, of course not...couldn't change that fun little facet," Willow complained, sotto voce, as she opened the door leading into the kitchen.

"Will, wait," Buffy said, jumping to her feet and putting an arm across the opening to block the redhead's progress. "Did I do something wrong?"

Willow forced her eyes to meet Buffy's.

"I...it just seems like you're upset...with me, I mean," Buffy finished with a sad look.

After considering her friend silently for a moment, Willow's mouth formed a poignant smile and she gently cupped Buffy's cheek with one hand. "No Buff, you're just...you." She sighed sadly and added, "And I'm still just me."

"I–" Buffy trailed off into a pout, apparently unable to come up with anything to say.

"I'm going to bed. I'll see you in the morning, okay?" Willow forced her voice into a more even tone. She dropped her hand and walked into the house.

"Right...in the morning," Buffy's voice clearly conveyed her confusion.

'Great! Good job, Willow!' she thought, leaving the befuddled slayer in her wake. 'Too cowardly to actually say it, but you drop enough hints.'

'Oh, even better!' she grumbled bitterly to herself. Dawn was standing at the kitchen island, a half-built sandwich in front of her and a thoughtful frown on her face. 'It'll be just my luck—Buffy won't figure it out, but Dawnie will.'

"Good night, Dawn," she said, walking quickly to the stairs—hoping to preempt any questions.

"Yeah, goodnight," the brunette replied, sounding distracted.

'Dumb, dumb, dumb!' she berated herself as she ran up the stairs. 'I am so screwed!'

"Friday, at last the week ends!" Willow muttered softly as she entered the Summers' domicile.

"Rough week?" Buffy's voice came from the kitchen.

"Buffy!" she squeaked in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Um, I live here?" Buffy asked in a teasingly befuddled voice.

Willow glared, though a tiny grin pulled up the corner of her mouth. "You know what I mean," she chastised her friend. "I thought you'd be at work."

Her heart beat quickly at the slayer's wide and genuine smile. "I traded with Billy 'cause he needed Monday morning off. I'll have to work a double on Monday, but I get a three day weekend!" she said excitedly.

"Buffy, that's great!" Willow said, happy for her friend. She set her backpack on the entry table and opened it. 'What do I need to work on this weekend,' she thought as she went through her various folders and textbooks.

'Done it...finished that...way ahead on that...gee, I'm already like a week ahead on everything. I guess no girlfriend is good for the schoolwork,' she realized with a frown, her mood quickly returning to the melancholic state she'd borne when she walked through the door.

Turning around, she noticed Buffy still standing in place, observing her. 'Great, more staring,' she thought as she raised her eyebrows questioningly.

"So...I talked to Tara today," Buffy said softly.

"Oh," Willow sighed.

"You broke up with her?" Buffy asked with an uncertain look on her face.

"She left me, Buffy. I'm pretty sure it's too late for me to break up with her," Willow answered sardonically.

It was Buffy's turn to glare. "You know what I mean," she started.

"I know, Buff," she responded. "Yes, I guess you could say I put the final nail in the coffin." Immediately she winced at the unconsciously chosen metaphor. "Oh God, Buffy! I'm so sorry!"

Buffy stepped close and put her hands on the witch's shoulders. "Shh, it's okay Will," she reassured. "I know what you meant. I guess I'm just surprised."

"What, that I'd say something stupidly inappropriate?" Willow said self-loathingly.

"Not that, silly," Buffy corrected her. "I meant that I was surprised that you'd end it with Tara like that. I guess I thought you were still hoping to get back together with her."

"After what I did, I don't deserve her," she whispered, a pang of grief and loss choking her up momentarily. "I couldn't...I had to let her go, Buffy. I don't want to take the risk that she might come back to me out of some sort of guilt or 'cause she felt some obligation to me."

Looking slightly downward into Buffy's eyes, the love and affection she saw there caused her lip to begin quivering. 'Not going to cry!' she commanded herself.

"Oh, Willow," Buffy exhaled, pulling the redhead into her arms.

'So much for not crying,' she thought, tears running freely down her face as she instinctively tightened her arms around the slayer.

After a long moment, Willow pulled back, sniffling. "Sorry," she muttered, reaching up to wipe the tears from her right cheek.

Buffy's hand was cool on her face as the slayer cupped her left cheek and wiped away the tears with her thumb. "I'm not," she replied softly.

'Oh...oh, God,' Willow squeaked mentally when her whole body shuddered with desire. Taking a deep breath, she resisted the desire to lean into Buffy's touch and instead stepped back. "So, what'cha gonna do with your extra night off from the DMP?" she asked, moving the subject to safer ground.

"Well, do you have any plans for tonight?" Buffy asked with a hopeful expression.

'Other than fantasizing about stripping you naked and licking you everywhere?' Willow visualized as emotion and desire played havoc with her mental processes. "Uh, no. Plan free here," she choked out, grateful her true thoughts didn't spill forth.

"Well, I was hoping I could convince my best friend in the whole world to join me for a pigout slash vid-fest," the slayer replied, bouncing slightly in place with a wide grin on her face.

"Yeah...yeah, that'd be fun," Willow answered with a genuine smile of her own. "Just you, me, and Dawnie," she added, envisioning an enjoyable and relaxing evening.

"Actually," Buffy leaned forward and whispered in Willow's ear. "Dawnie's spending the night at Tara's apartment."

Willow's eyes widened and she was struck dumb as Buffy flounced away with a giggle. 'Uh, what just happened here?' she wondered as a chill ran up her spine and throbbing heat filled her lower abdomen.

"That was...um...an interesting movie choice," Willow said breathily as the credits rolled.

"I thought you'd seen Wild Things before?" Buffy asked as she got up to change the tape in the machine.

"Oh, yeah...once," she answered, licking her lips and restraining a whimper while her eyes followed her best friend's taut body across the room.

Buffy's 'girls night in' attire consisted of pair of very high cut, tap-pant type panties that offered tantalizing views of the bottom curve of her butt, and a thin silk camisole top that just covered her breasts, but made up for it by being mostly see-through.

'It's fine when she's under the blanket, but when she gets up to get anything...' Willow's thoughts tonight wandered often into erotic Buffy-fantasies, fueled by the sexy outfit and her longstanding crush on the petite slayer.

"You can't tell me you didn't like that scene with Neve and Denise in the pool, all wet and kissing?" Buffy asked challengingly, standing facing Willow with her hands on her hips.

"Uh...well," Willow temporized, remembering that she and Tara had missed the rest of the movie after being incited to action by that very scene. Unable to stop herself, the redhead's eyes roamed up and down Buffy's bare legs, exposed flat tummy, and alluring impression of breast and nipple through the semi-translucent top.

Shaking her head to stop that line of thought, Willow said, "What about you?"

"Oh yeah!" Buffy answered with no apparent shame. "Denise kinda reminds me too much of Cordelia, but Neve is definitely a hottie!"

Willow goggled at the comment. 'Buff...into the girl-girl thing? Oh my...'

Buffy giggled and hurried back to the couch, climbing under the blanket they were sharing, and ending up very close to Willow. "So, have you ever seen this one?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Um, Bound? No, I don't think I've ever heard of it," the redhead said after a shuddering breath, distracted by the fact that she could feel Buffy's body heat where her own skin was left bare by her tank top and shorts. "Uh...who plays in it?" she asked, trying to distract herself.

"Mmm, Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly!" Buffy said with evident delight.

'Oh no! Gina Gershon?' Willow worried to herself. 'Oh please, oh please, don't let there be nudity. If there's naked Gina goodness I might not be able to control myself!'

Willow's whole being was vibrating with barely suppressed desire.

'Oh God, oh God! Not only naked Gina goodness; hot lesbian naked Gina goodness!' she cried in her mind. 'Not to mention hot almost-naked Buffy goodness right here!' she whimpered very quietly. 'I'm gonna die for sure!'

"Do you think I'd look good with a tattoo?" Buffy asked out of the blue, derailing Willow's train of thought.

"Huh?" Willow sputtered, suddenly breathing hard as she turned to face the blonde.

"Like Violet," Buffy said, gesturing at Jennifer Tilly's character on the screen.

Willow's eyes widened as Buffy turned her body to face the slightly panting redhead, letting the blanket fall to her waist.

"Right here," Buffy said softly, pulling down the neckline of her camisole to reveal the upper slope of her left breast.

Her heart was pounding as Willow licked her suddenly dry lips. "Uh–"

Her brain practically shut down as Buffy grabbed onto her hand so one finger was extended and then brought it up to rub the smooth, tanned skin being discussed.

"Something pretty...maybe a rose, like hers," Buffy's voice had a soft, almost hypnotic quality.

Willow was unable to speak for several seconds, her mind locked onto the sight and feel of her finger against Buffy's breast. "Wha...what's going on here?" she stammered—unconsciously quoting Gina Gershon's question to Jennifer Tilly in an earlier scene in the movie.

Coincidentally or not, Buffy continued quoting the scene, "Isn't it obvious? I'm trying to seduce you."

Deeply shocked, Willow's eyes snapped up to meet the slayer's gaze.

"Willow, I've wanted you ever since I realized that I could be attracted to a woman...probably even before that, but I just didn't understand it myself," Buffy said sincerely.

Willow felt her whole body heat up as she flushed with desire.

Buffy's smile now had an impish quality along with the naked lust. "I know you don't believe me, but I can prove it to you," she said with deliberate seductiveness—finishing the dialogue from the movie scene. "You can't believe what you'd see, but you can believe what you feel."

A whimper accompanied Willow's full-body shudder as Buffy moved her finger up and took it into her mouth, sucking and laving it with her tongue.

The slayer then removed Willow's finger from her mouth and directed it downward, under the blanket and down under the waistband of her tap pants. "I've been thinking about you all day," she whispered.

"Oh God, Buffy!" Willow moaned wantonly as she felt the liquid heat seeping from the slayer's bald sex.

Buffy let out a soft cry of pleasure when Willow took some initiative, sliding her finger down and into the blonde's slick entry. Her voice was nevertheless tentative as she asked, "Buffy, is this really happening?"

"You better believe it is, Willow-mine!" Buffy fairly growled, her hips thrusting forward as if to impale herself on Willow's finger.

'Willow-hers?' the redhead thought with heat blossoming in her heart. She gave a small "Eep!" as the preternaturally strong blonde pulled her over on top of herself, somehow managing to keep Willow's hand and finger in place as they ended up lying horizontally on the couch.

"I may be pretty slow, Will," Buffy growled, her lips next to the witch's ear. "But I finally figured out the 'Just like back in high school' thing from the other night."

"Oh boy!" Willow gasped, anxious and eager all at once. "Mmph, Buffy!" she whimpered at the feel of her best friend's hand sliding down into her pajama bottoms.

"Do you want me to stop?" Buffy asked, just as her fingers slipped into Willow's panties and cupped the redhead's sex.

"God, no!" she grunted.

"Good!" Buffy said with a smile.

Willow had to struggle to keep her eyes open as the blonde below her pulled her head down and began to kiss her. 'I can't believe this is happening,' Willow thought, her body and soul humming with pleasure. 'I'm kissing Buffy! I've only dreamed about...oh my God, so good; Buffy-fingers...inside...'

Coherent thought went away as she ground down against the slayer's hand. She did manage to continue her own thrusts into the blonde's slippery channel, moaning into her mouth with unabashed pleasure.

Soft, sweet kisses contrasted with hard thrusts as Willow climbed toward ecstasy, determined to bring Buffy along with her.

The Slayer broke the kiss, pressing her head back into the couch as she let out a strangled squeal, "Willow!"

Willow ground herself furiously against Buffy's hand, tipping over the edge moments later while panting Buffy's name like a mantra. She collapsed against her new lover, feeling buzzy and blissful.

Willow smiled broadly as Buffy began placing small kisses all over her face. She basked in the afterglow for a minute and then drawled, "Willow-mine?"

"Uh huh," Buffy said, sounding confident.

"Kinda presumptuous there, Buff," she said teasingly. 'I can live with being Buffy's...not like I haven't been all along anyway,' she thought happily.

"Mmm, you complaining?" the slayer asked brashly.

Willow pulled back far enough to look the slayer in the eyes. 'Hmm, pretty confident...but maybe just a tiny bit worried?' she thought as she pondered what she was seeing. Smiling again, she said, "Does that make you 'Buffy-mine'?"

"Do you want me to be yours?" Buffy asked, now clearly serious despite the teasing nature of the question.

A lump rose in Willow's throat as the intensity of emotion swelled inside her. "You know I do," she answered, surprised at the roughness of her voice.

'You are so beautiful!' Willow thought ardently when Buffy offered up a radiant smile in response. She leaned happily into the caress as Buffy cupped her cheek.

"Have you really been crushing on me since high school?" Buffy asked, a combination of regret and wonder in her voice.

Willow slid sideways until she was draped half on Buffy, half on the couch, with her head resting on the blonde's shoulder. She almost purred at the sensation of Buffy stroking her face and back into her hair. 'Mmm, Buffy-scent,' she thought happily as she inhaled deeply, formulating her answer to the slayer's question.

"Well, senior year I was really jealous of how much time you and Faith were spending together, but I don't think it was until vampire-me that I admitted to myself that I was having gay-type fluttery feelings for you," she explained in a soft voice.

"Yeah, she was definitely a wake-up call," Buffy said with a chagrinned tone.

"What do you mean?" Willow asked with a frown.

"You in leather," Buffy answered. "I always thought you were pretty, Will, but that was the first time I really realized what a hottie you were."

"Really?" Willow asked, surprised.

"Yeah, well, I mean not so much like I was, you know, turned on or anything, 'cause; hey—still residing in boy's-town back then. But, I remember thinking, 'Xander, you are a complete idiot for letting her slip through your fingers!'"

"Oh, well...will you hate me if I say I was a little bit turned on when she was hitting on me?" Willow asked tentatively.

Buffy laughed out loud at that. "Really?" she asked.

"Just a little," Willow answered defensively.

"Hey," Buffy responded, hugging her tightly for a moment. "I'm hardly gonna be pointing fingers here, Will. At least you didn't sleep with her."

'Unlike you and Spike,' Willow finished in her thoughts, knowing Buffy was doing the same. "So, I guess I'm gonna have to send Sam a thank you card," she said, trying to lighten things up.

"Huh?" Buffy said, apparently thrown by the segue.

"For introducing you to the whole, girl-on-girl, gay lovin' thing," she clarified.

Buffy was silent for a moment, though continuing to stroke Willow's face and hair. "She really helped me, Will," she finally answered in a quiet, unsure voice.

A surge of jealousy was quickly drowned out by sorrow, regret and self-loathing. 'How can I possibly be jealous?' Willow chastised herself. 'I'm the one that hurt Buffy so badly in the first place, and I should be grateful that Sam was there to help her.'

"Willow?" Buffy's voice clearly carried her worry.

"I'm glad she helped you, Buffy, really," she answered.

"But?" Buffy prompted.

"No but," Willow tried to reassure her. "I mean, yeah, of course I'm a little jealous, but I totally know I don't have any right to be, and I'm so glad she could help you break out of the bad place you were stuck in, and I feel guilty for being jealous and even more guilty cause I'm the one that put you in the bad place to begin with and I just wish I could have been the one to help you out of it, or even more that I'd never put you in it in the first place. And, I'm really sorry I did that, but I'm not sorry at the same time 'cause I'm glad you're here with me and not still dead and boy, I'm really babbling now so I'm gonna shut up."

"Hey!" Buffy interjected intently. "Look at me, Will," she instructed firmly.

Reluctantly, Willow forced herself up to meet Buffy's gaze.

"All I remember about wherever I was is that I was warm, and peaceful, and happy," Buffy started.

Willow felt her eyes tearing up as she fought the shame-induced desire to look away.

"And you know what I feel right now?" Buffy continued.

"What?" Willow whispered.

"Warm, peaceful, and happy," Buffy said, her smiling face mirroring just that state.

Willow gulped past the lump in her throat. "Really?" she asked, anxiously seeking reassurance.

"Really," Buffy answered with a nod.

"I love you, Buffy," Willow whispered, her heart chasing the shame and guilt away with the warmth of love and joy.

"I love you too, Willow-mine," Buffy whispered ardently before leaning forward to kiss the redhead breathless.

Fresh desire arose in Willow as the kiss progressed. Once ended, and after she'd recovered her breath, she leaned in till her lips were brushing Buffy's ear. "I know how we might make you even warmer and happier," she said in a low, seductive voice. She was very pleased when Buffy's body arched against her own in response.

"How?" the blonde asked breathily.

"Less couch, more bed. No clothes...and Willow-tongue," she whispered, punctuating the proposition by suckling Buffy's earlobe.

The world tilted and before she knew it, Willow found herself being carried up the stairs by a growling slayer.

"Buffy-mine—definitely mine!" Willow cried with a delighted laugh.