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Author's Note: We finish this season on a four part story, which crossovers into Btvs; becoming a rewrite of the end of Season 6. This series is turning out a lot darker than I originally planned, so lookout.

Dodging the Bullet.

Previously, in Sunnydale........

"Hey. Clothes." Willow remarked, after she had finished buttoning up her blouse.

"Better not get used to 'em," Tara returned.

"Hmm, yes ma'am," Willow replied, before hooking her fingers in Tara's belt loop, pulling her in for a kiss. A chaste embrace in contrast to the ones the night before, and they moved into a hug now with comfortable ease.

"Mmmm... Xander!" Tara said suddenly.

Willow pulled back from the hug. "Okay, not quite the response I was fishing for," she joked.

"No, he's here," Tara explained as she advanced to the window. Despite the barrier created by the net curtains, the figure of their friend could be seen outside, walking around the garden of 1630 Revello Drive. "So's Anya," she added in surprise, leaning forward to get a better look.

Willow looked up from her opened dresser drawer. "Think they're making up?" She asked.

Tara turned from the window to smile at her. "I hope so, that's the best part."

Her girl returned the smile, and silently their thoughts drifted to the scene outside and below them, wondering what the once couple could be saying to each other.

If they had heard and seen them, this is what they would have witnessed.

Anya was exploring the bushes with a stick, her mind focused on what she was searching for, and trying not to think about the consequences previous discoveries had caused.

"Time for the Spring Poking already?" A voice asked her, making her turn round. Xander stood there before her, bringing the memories of those consequences back, and more besides.

Anya tried to sound normal as she replied. "Just making sure there are no more Evil Trio cameras. Or Evil Uno."

"The sinister yet addictive card game?" Xander queried.

"Warren. Jonathan and Andrew are clinked now, remember?"

"Vividly," Xander answered, his meaning ambiguous, making her turn away. Hurriedly, he continued. "We'll find him. He won't be much good without his friends."

"No, he won't," Anya added softly. Now it was her turn to have her words contain double meanings.

Silently they moved to the nearby bench, a token agreement to start peace talks. Uncertain, both waited for the other to make the first move.

Eventually Xander let his breath out in one long exhale, before speaking. "How did we get here?" He asked her.

"Scenic route," Anya replied. "Long drive."

"The past few weeks..." Xander trailed off, hating to recall them.

"I know," Anya answered.

"I thought I hit bottom, but ... it hurt. That you didn't trust me enough to tell me about Spike," Xander paused, before repeating softly, "It hurt."

"I thought....... there was nothing left between us. That it would have only made things worse," Anya replied. "But, I'm sorry. I should have told you,"

"Maybe you would have, if I hadn't given you so many reasons to think I'd be an ass about it," Xander pointed out.

"Guess we've all done a lot of things lately we're not proud of," Anya added, remembering what else she had yet to tell him.

"I think I've got you beat," Xander said with a smile, and suddenly, even though she knew it could wreck this fragile peace between them, Anya wanted to tell him. "Wanna compare?" She asked.

"Not so much," Xander replied, unconsciously making her impulse fade away. "I don't know what I'd do," He added, after a moment, "without you, Tara and Will."

"Let's not find out," Anya said suddenly, causing him to nod. He drew her into a hug, and there again, was that confessional need, the desire to have everything straight between them. The want to begin their relationship again.

"I love you," Anya uttered softly, her voice laced with tears, as he hugged her tightly. "You know that, right?"

Xander flinched, making Anya regret her statement, but she soon discovered that it wasn't from her words. "Anya!" He remarked, jumping up from the bench and pulling her up with him.

Warren strode towards them, still clothed in the all black outfit from the night before when the four of them had tried to catch the trio, minus his rocket suit. "You think you can just do that to me?" He cried to them. "You think I'd let you get away with that?" He laughed inanely. "Think again."

He raised his arm, revealing a gun in his hand. His finger pushed the trigger back feverishly, letting two bullets escape the barrel.

Xander shoved Anya down to the ground before hitting the grassy terrain himself.

Warren fired again as he ran off.

Two bullets hit the ground, their power to injure rendered an end by the earth.

Another made a soft shattering sound as it broke through the glass of the window above.

Willow was still standing by the dresser, smiling at her girl, when she felt something splatter her clothes. She looked down to see her white blouse was splattered with a red stain.

"Your shirt," Tara uttered making Willow look up, to see her worst nightmare happen before her eyes. "Tara?" She asked, rushing forward to catch her in her arms. Frantically she clutched her shoulders. "Tara?! Baby?" She pulled her over into her lap. "Baby, come on! Get up!"

There was no response. Tara lay limp in her arms.

Willow clutched at her, rocking back and forth as the horror of reality stole into her mind. "No... no....," she cried softly.

Grief held reign over her for but a moment. Other emotions soon took over. She turned her gaze away from her love, and displayed her anger to the heavens, the colour of her eyes transforming to match her emotion, and the stain which was spreading rapidly across her lost love's clothes.

Heaven or hell hath no fury like a avenging witch, and one of them was going to help Willow in her hour of need.

Though they would never replace that which she had lost.

 


Seconds later, at the Hyperion Hotel, Los Angeles......

"So, civil or religious?"

Buffy looked up from the glossy magazine she had been flicking through and replied to Roisin's question with one word. "Civil." Receiving a surprised look, she elaborated, "Angel had this nightmare about one in a church, or rather what happened outside the church after the ceremony. I'd rather not give him or me cause for concern. Besides, church weddings were never in my dreams. Outside, we were thinking."

"Ah," Roisin uttered in understanding. "On a beach?"

"No," Buffy shook her head. "There's this place that is very special to us. A spot where all are hopes and dreams were answered in one moment. We're thinking there, providing we can find someone who'd be willing to perform it in such a place."

Roisin was about to ask where, but the lights of the Hyperion's reception suddenly dimmed and flickered, causing the two slayers to look about the entrance hall of the old hotel. Soft chimes abruptly became audible, as something suddenly shimmered into being before them. Transforming into a familiar sight, the new arrival had time only for one word before collapsing to the floor.

"Buffy."

"Oh my god, Tara," Buffy cried, leaping from her chair to where the wiccan lay on the floor. She got there in time to cradle her in her arms, her shock acquiring a deepening addition of puzzlement as she surveyed the large pool of blood which was clinging to her friend's clothes, circling a small gaping wound.

"I'll call the paramedics," Roisin decided, her hand going to her cellphone. The motion was stopped by however, by Tara clutching her wrist with surprising strength. "Leo," she urged.

Buffy understood where Roisin did not, raising her head and calling aloud to the heavens beyond the ceiling. "LEO!"

A cloud of white lights appeared, and the angel arrived. "Buffy?" He queried, before catching sight of the woman she held in her arms. "Tara," he uttered then, before kneeling down and placing his hand over the wound.

Silence formed around the small group as he worked his healing magic; the glowing light under his hands forming a halo around the slowly closing wound until nothing remained.

Tara opened her eyes, to find his looking at hers in unspoken inquiry. "I don't know," she replied. "But they must have allowed this to happen. Therefore, Buffy is meant to help in avenging my murderer."

Leo nodded in understanding. "Normally I would stay," he remarked, "but the girls need my help."

"I'll be fine," Tara replied, knowing who he meant. "Go." Leo inclined his head towards her in silent gratitude and acceptance, then with one last glance at Buffy and Roisin, he reverted into white lights and orbed away.

"What was he?" Roisin asked as Buffy helped her friend to the nearest comfortable chair. "My Whitelighter," Tara answered, her voice still strained from the agony of those now non-existent internal injuries. "He's helped us before," Buffy added, though neither explanation could adequately serve, but Roisin accepted them for now, understanding like all slayers that now was not the time for detailed explanation.

"What happened?" Buffy asked her friend.

"I'm not sure myself," Tara replied. "I was with Willow;- we had just made up," she smiled at the thought of that, but the expression was quickly soured by the memory of what happened next. "I was standing with my back to the window, talking to her, when I heard the window break. Then I found myself in her arms. Her hands were covered in blood. She was crying. Then I appeared before you."

"And you don't know how?" Buffy sought to confirm. When Tara nodded, she turned to Roisin. "We better get everybody here. And call Willow; she must be out of her mind with worry."

"I'm not sure worry is the word," Tara remarked softly, making Buffy look at her. "The last thing I saw of her;- she was crying, but her eyes were red."

 


A few minutes later the rest of Angel Investigations had assembled and caught up with what had happened during their absence, while Buffy tried in vain to contact Willow or Xander.

"The number is too within the calling area," She objected into her cellphone before flipping the device closed and giving up completely. "I think we need to get down there," she added, looking to her boss.

Wesley nodded, his gaze not on Buffy, but instead studying the small object which she had handed over to him when he arrived. A bullet from the gunshot wound, which had fallen to the floor after Leo's healing finished. "Forgive me, Tara," he said, "but I still don't understand how you were brought back. Your wound was caused by a bullet, by human causes. No mystical forces were involved. By all the laws of the universe, you shouldn't be in the land of the living."

"I don't understand it either," Tara replied softly. "I thought I was dying. But then I was here."

Wesley shook his head again, still puzzled, but resigned to let the matter rest for the moment. "We'll need a place to stay," he remarked, looking to Buffy.

"I can't volunteer my place," she replied. "It'll be a crime scene, won't it?"

"What about the Mansion?" Angel suggested, causing his fiancee to turn to him in surprise. "I didn't realise you could still use the place."

"I brought it for the firm," Angel confessed. "With the funds from those Nahdrah demons. I thought we might need a place on the hellmouth."

"Then it's settled," Wesley decided. He turned to Tara. "Are you up to travelling with us?"

The wiccan nodded. "I need to see Willow."

"Are we all going?" Gunn asked. Again Wesley nodded. "I see no need for anyone of us to stay here; we don't have any cases requiring our attention, and we have no idea how bad things are going to be over there."

"I'll stay," Roisin said suddenly, Groo echoing her decision barely a second later. "We need someone here just in case we have to retreat back to this base," she added. "And if any cases come up while you're gone."

Wesley nodded in agreement. "You're right," he conceded before looking to the others. "Let's go," he decided.

 


Two hours later and the mansion on 1902 1 Crawford Street was rescued from the darkness of abandoned property, as lights were turned on inside the living room. During the journey Buffy had continued to try Xander and Willow's mobiles, even resorting to the land line of her old house which Tara and Willow had moved into originally to take care of Dawn when she 'died.' But no answer had met each fresh attempt, forcing her to admit defeat by the time Angel pulled up outside the Mansion.

Despite three years of neglect, the place was none the worse for the abandonment of its previous occupiers. Thanks to Angel's recent purchase, all the electric's and plumbing were still in working order, and the furniture which he had used before he left Sunnydale remained in their original positions, covered only for preservation.

Dusts sheets were lifted off furniture as Angel Investigations proceeded to establish their hellmouth base of operations. Cordelia set up the laptop for internet access to any sites they might need; while the others unpacked clothes and books, and aired the rooms in the mansion for sleeping arrangements.

When everything was ready, they left the house and split up to search for Xander and Willow. Wesley taking the traditional route for the hospital with Cordelia, while Fred and Gunn went to search the town.

After a little discussion Tara, Buffy and Angel took different destination from their friends and colleagues, deciding to speak with someone who could have heard of the news via the demonic grapevine communication of the underworld.

"Are you sure this is the place?" Angel asked her as they came to a halt in one of Sunnydale's many graveyards.

"He was still living here the last time I saw him," Tara replied, making them turn to her in surprise. "I kept in touch with him. He had a soft spot for Dawn, and it was the only way I could see her, without running into Willow."

"Are you sure you should be out here?" Angel asked.

Tara nodded. "Honestly, I'll be fine," she assured him, "once I see Willow."

"I know," Angel uttered in understanding, before turning to his beloved. "I was also talking to you," he added.

"Angel, stop worrying. I could have come here alone, you know," Buffy returned.

"I don't like the thought of you out here alone," Angel replied.

"Why? 'Cause of Spike's feelings for me?" Buffy asked, making Tara look at them, surprised by the level of honesty between them.

"No," Angel uttered, taking his girl's hands into the grasp of his own. "Buffy, the last time you were here," he gestured with his gaze at their surroundings, "you died."

"Oh." Buffy looked at their joined hands, remembering that night. "Technically, I came back to life," she reminded him.

"I know, but it..... scares me," he confessed, his earnest gaze upon her clearly showing that deep fear. Buffy nodded in acceptance, and a exchanged a gentle kiss with him before leading them into the crypt.

"Hey luv," Spike greeted her as she came in, followed by Angel. "Angel," he added, tossing his cigarette away. "Wondered if news had spread as far as the big city."

"You could say that," Buffy replied, as she stepped aside to reveal his third visitor.

Spike leapt off the tomb he had been sitting on in shock. "Tara?" He queried.

"Hey, Spike," she returned the greeting.

"She suddenly appeared in front of us at the Hyperion a few hours ago, suffering from a gunshot wound," Buffy explained.

"You went to them?" Spike sought to confirm, and when Tara silently nodded, his astonishment increased. "Blimey. According to what I've heard, she was found dead by Xander earlier today. Body taken to the morgue and everything."

"That's impossible," Angel uttered. Tara sought the support of the stone walls in a silent shock of her own. After meeting her gaze with his own, Spike shrugged and replied to Angel. "You said it, mate. I'm just telling what I heard."

"Did you hear who did it?" Buffy asked him. Spike nodded. "Word is that it was Warren. Xander, Anya, Tara and Red apparently put a stop to the three geeks schemes and he shot at them. I don't know if he even knows that he caused any harm." He paused, turning his gaze on Tara, who was still standing against the wall of his crypt. "Are you all right, luv?" He asked her softly.

"I'm fine," Tara replied. "My whitelighter healed me."

"I'm glad to hear that," Spike said. "Gladder still to see you as well. As will Willow be, I imagine."

"Where was Willow while Xander called in the medics?" Buffy asked.

"According to what I heard, she saw red; literally. Summoned up a higher power to bring Tara back. And when that didn't work, she ran off seeking revenge."

"What about Jonathan, and...... who is the other guy?" Buffy asked him.

"A something,....." Spike shrugged, giving up trying to recall the name. "They're in the clink, courtesy of Sunnydale's finest. The Scoobies collected enough evidence on their robberies to have them jailed for some time."

"And Warren?" Tara asked.

"I don't know, luv," Spike answered. "But if I was him, I'd be on the next bus out of town."

"And if I know Willow," Buffy added, as dread seeped into her mind, "she won't let him get that far."

Angel took out his cellphone and pressed the speed dial for their boss. "Wes, its me. We've just talked with Spike, and things are more complicated than we thought."

"Your telling me," Wesley replied, his voice audible as Angel held out the cell so everyone else could hear. "I'm at the morgue, where I've just seen records that Tara's body is being stored pending autopsy and police inquiry."

"We're just as surprised as you," Buffy said into the mobile. "Apparently Xander discovered her 'body' soon after she was shot.'"

"Xander discovered her?" Wesley repeated. "Where was Willow?"

"She called on the higher powers to bring Tara back, and when that didn't work, ran to seek revenge," Buffy answered him. "Listen, I think you need to call the others and see if you can retrieve Jonathan and the other guy from jail. Meanwhile, Tara, Angel, Spike and I will search for Warren. I think we need to find him before Willow does."

 


Yards of yellow tape surrounded 1630 Revello Drive, which Angel calmly lifted up as he, Buffy, Tara and Spike advanced cautiously inside her old home. Darkness had fallen some time ago, which together with the seeming emptiness of the house provided an aura that was spooking even vampires, let alone slayers.

They advanced into the living room, Buffy switching on the nearest lamp, causing the only occupant to blink as his eyes adjusted to the sudden light. "Xander," she uttered in greeting. When she received no reply, she walked towards him, and kneeled down in front of his seat to get his attention. "Xander, I'm here."

"Buffy," Xander uttered at last, his tone desolate. His eyes remained fixed on his hands. "When did you get here?"

"A few hours ago," Buffy replied. She turned briefly to Tara, silently motioning with a look for her to find something to calm her once best friend. "Have the police gone?"

Xander shook his head. "Coming back tomorrow with more of their pretty yellow tape," he uttered.

"We need to find Willow," Buffy added, looking at him. Tara returned with a tray of drinks, handing one to Xander, who nodded in silent gratitude. Suddenly he noticed who he was nodding to, and his surprise caused Buffy to hurriedly take the drink from him.

"What the......" he trailed off puzzled, staring at her. Tara backed away under the gaze, while Buffy clasped his knee to get his attention. "We're just as flummoxed as you are," she said, "but right now, we don't have the time. We need to find Willow."

Xander nodded, taking his mug from her. He took a sip, then sighed, letting the caffeine do its work. "Yeah, she's off the wagon big-time," he said eventually. "Warren's a dead man if she finds him."

"Don't say that," Buffy remarked, making him look at her, startled. Around them the others stilled, mugs hovering before their lips.

"Why not?" Xander queried, oblivious of the shock his words were causing. "I'd do it myself if I could."

"Because you don't really feel that way," Buffy replied.

Xander shook his head. "Yes I do. And you should too. He 'killed' Tara, and he nearly killed me and Anya. He needs to pay."

"Xander," Angel began to say, but Buffy clasped his hand, the unspoken words in her look preventing further speech.

His once enemy again ignored the cautioning tone. "I'm just saying he's ... he's just as bad as any vampire you've sent to dustville," he added, staring into his mug.

Buffy shook her head. "Being a Slayer doesn't give me a license to kill. And Warren is human."

Her old friend scoffed. "So?"

"So the human world has its own rules for dealing with people like him," Buffy continued.

"Yeah, we all know how well those rules work," Xander commented with bitter sarcasm.

Buffy inwardly sighed and moved to the sofa. "Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. We can't control the universe. If we were supposed to, then bad magic wouldn't change Willow the way it does. There are limits to what we can do. There should be. Willow doesn't want to believe that. And now she's messing with forces that want to hurt not just her, but all of us."

Xander sighed and reluctantly accepted her truth. "I just ... I've had blood on my hands all day," he explained hollowly. "Blood from people I love."

"I know. And now it has to stop. Warren's going to get what he deserves. I promise you. But I will not let Willow destroy herself."

Her friend nodded, sipping his drink. "Okay," he began, leaning back, laying the mug aside. "Where do we go? She could be anywhere."

"Maybe the Magic Box for some kind of locating spell." She paused, evaluating him carefully. He looked nowhere near prepared for what she imagined was to come. "We could just go," she offered, gesturing at herself, Tara, Angel and Spike.

"No no. I'm cool. I'll come," Xander rose from his seat. He glanced around, noticing the others at last. "Angel," he uttered. "Guess the whole fang gang came, huh? Spike." His tone was hard, making Buffy glance at the bleached blond recently souled vampire, who refused suddenly to meet her eyes. "Let's go," Xander decided, heading out, causing the four to follow him.

 


When they entered the Magic Box, it was to find the upper floor- and everywhere else for that matter -in chaos. Anya was standing still, seemingly frozen to the one calm spot in the middle of this mess, much resembling a statue, until she blinked, causing Xander to rush towards her in concern.

Buffy hung back, her inquiring gaze focusing on Spike. "What happened?" She asked him softly, making sure they weren't overheard. "I thought Anya had met up with one of her vengeance friends and left here."

Spike still refused to meet her eyes. "She did. Hallie was her name. I think they did some stuff, but nothing that matched her previous rep. Then she came back here, alone. I came to get something for Tara; she didn't want to run into Willow, and I found Anya here, sorting the place out. Right about the time those three idiots put us under surveillance. Not that any of us found out until it was too late of course. Anyway, we got to talking over things and........"

"And you slept with her," Buffy finished astutely. Spike nodded shamefully before continuing his tale. "Neither of us were proud of it afterwards. We were both feeling lonely, and it just happened. Anyway it was caught on tape, and he and Red saw when they were trying to trace the source of the camera feeds."

Buffy nodded, and clasped one of his hands, making Spike look at her. "You were both hurting. Things fall apart. Particularly in this town." She turned her attention back to Xander and Anya.

"You feeling any change? Can you talk?" Xander asked her. Anya walked away from him. "It's wearing off," she remarked, before siting down on a bench. "Willow was here earlier. She put the whammy on me and went straight to the dark arts books. Sucked them dry."

"Look, Anya, something terrible happened," Xander began.

"I know," she stopped him. "Tara," she added softly. She cast her gaze to the people behind him, who were exploring the remains of the books scattered on the floor. She gasped as she saw Tara hesitantly helping the slayer. "But how....."

Xander nodded. "I know, but now's not the time. And they've yet to explain it anyway. Willow's out for blood, big time. We need to find her before she finds Warren. Is there something you can do, a, a locator spell?"

Anya shook her head carefully, the spell still affecting her body. "I don't need a spell. I can feel her."

"You can...?" Xander let his question trail off, not liking where it was heading.

"Feel her," Anya repeated. "Her thirst for vengeance, it's overwhelming."

"Is that like, left over from your vengeance demon days?" Xander asked hopefully. "You just sense her?"

"No. Not left over," Anya remarked, causing Buffy to look up from her examination of the blank open books, as she realised that Xander didn't know what Giles had managed to discover before he left for England.

Until now. "Oh," he uttered. "When?"

Anya looked at him bitterly. "When do you think?" She asked, making him look away.

"So," he eventually said. "Willow's all wrathy ... why don't you go to her? Isn't that your gig?"

"Normally, I'd have to ... but she doesn't want me."

"She wants to do it herself," Buffy remarked in understanding. "Look, Anya, we don't have much time. Which side of this are you on?"

"If you know where she is, you can help us," Xander added.

Anya nodded, looking them. "I'll help," she replied slowly. "But I'm helping Willow," she added for clarification, causing Xander to step back from her.

Buffy inclined her head in understanding. "Where is Willow?" She asked.

Anya stood still, letting her mind gain focus. "She's close to him," she remarked after a while. "He's in the woods."

 




Thanks to Anya's demonic sixth sense, the six arrived at the forest while it was still dark. A voice could be heard over the trees and they followed the trail of it's sound until the words became audible.

"Something, isn't it?" Willow was saying. "One tiny piece of metal destroys everything. It ripped her insides out ... took her light away. From me. From the world. Now the one person who should be here is gone ... and a waste like you gets to live. Tiny piece of metal. Can you feel it now? I said, can you feel it?"

Buffy was in the lead, and as she came upon the scene from behind, she instinctively halted, causing the others to stop behind her. Tara advanced to stand beside her, eyes fixed on the scene before them, where Willow was holding Warren hostage. He was strapped to the trunks of two trees, his gaze fixed on something small and golden which was hovering before his chest.

Tara took another step forward, causing Buffy to whip out her hand, holding her back. "Buffy, I have to go to her."

"If you go now, her concentration will be shot," Buffy reasoned, her voice a whisper so as not to alert the torturer and murderer to their presence. "And who knows who else besides." She waited for Tara to agree, then let go of her hand, before walking forward herself.

And this time it was her who was stopped by a hand, capturing her wrist in a tight, unyielding grip. She turned, to find her soulmate standing by her. "I have to go, Angel. She's gonna kill him. And whatever my feelings about what she did to me last year, I can't lose Willow."

"And I can't lose you." Angel replied. "You may be powerful Buffy, but you're still mortal. You're no more immune to what she can do than Tara is. And the mood she's in right now, I don't trust her not to kill you."

Buffy stared at him, and reluctantly conceded. She turned her gaze back to the deadly scene before them.

Warren was begging now. "Please! God! I did wrong, I see that now. I need, I need jail! I need......" he trailed off, deciding to try a different tack. "But you, you don't want this. You're not a bad person. Not like me. Oh, and when you get caught, you'll lose your friends. You don't want that. I know you're in pain, but....."

"Bored now," Willow uttered, cutting his appeals off. Her hand made a slight gesture. The small golden bullet disappeared. A bolt of magic unleashed itself from her hand.

Flinging caution to the wind, Buffy wrenched herself from Angel's clasp, and rushed forward.

She was too late. Abruptly Warren's skin ripped itself from his body, making the six come to another sudden halt.

"Oh my god," Xander uttered, horrified.

"What did you do?" Buffy asked Willow hollowly. "Willow, what did you do?" She repeated, making her once best friend turned to her.

Willow stared at them for a moment. Behind her the body transformed into a funeral pyre, reminiscent of a victim burning at the stake, before fading into the darkness around them.

"One down." Willow uttered before the fire flashed in her eyes. Lightning struck around her body, making them back away.

Then she turned into smoke and was gone.

To Be Continued In
Two to Save.

Note: 1. Most of the Slayerettes' addresses can be obtained from The Watcher's Guide, Volume 2, but Angel's Crawford Mansion street number is my own creation, which is a reference to the year Arthur Conan Doyle published Sherlock Holmes Adventure of the Sussex Vampire in the Strand Magazine.