True to Us
by Alan Hitchen
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon and others.
Information: Sequel to Dead on Time.
Thanks: To Vicki, for giving me the idea, to Vanilla for the title, and Gaelle, for her helpful comments.

+1=2=3+

PART 1

It is now some weeks since Faith's life was saved by Tara.

Tara broke away from the passionate kiss that pinned her to the bedroom wall, pushed her eager lover away and readjusted her clothing.

"We can't do this now," she panted. "What if Willow should come back and catch us? She's only gone to the library, she won't be long."

"Aww, c'mon, T, why not? What if she did catch us? She'll have to find out sooner or later anyway, why not live a little in the meantime," the Slayer argued persuasively.

"Okay," Tara conceded. She liked the excitement of cheating almost as much as her lover, but it still nagged at her conscience. "But I'll have to tell Willow soon, and it's not just Willow is it? What about your other half, when is she going to be told?"

"Soon enough. Don't worry, Faith'll be okay about it," Buffy lied reassuringly. "She's just survived certain death thanks to you. This'll be a cake-walk by comparison."

"Really? And what do I say to her? I saved your life and in payment I'm taking your girlfriend?"

"Well, that's pretty much the truth isn't it? What do I say? Sorry, babe, but I only ever felt sorry for you. The sex was great, but it's Tara I really love."

"Is that so, B?" said the voice from the doorway. A grim-faced Faith entered the room with an angry Willow close behind her. "Care to explain it to us before Red here turns you both into pot plants?"

"W-willow, F-faith," Tara stammered in surprise.

"What, Tara?" Faith said accusingly. "How do you explain this? I thought we were friends. You risked your life for me." A thought hit her. "Was it guilt? Is that why you did it?"

"Yes," Tara hit back, "but not the guilt you mean. I admit the risk to me was quite small as I took precautions, but if I hadn't acted you would have died. That guilt I couldn't have lived with."

Faith turned her attention to Buffy. "B?"

"How did you know we were here?" Buffy asked with cool unconcern.

"I overheard your phone call. Slayer hearing," she explained. "Did you forget about it, or did you want me to hear your plans?"

"Yes, I hoped you two would. Why? I just said it. I only ever felt sorry for you. You were a pity date, nothing more. I'm tired of it. I want rid of you."

"You cold-hearted bitch!" Willow interjected. "I used to hate Faith and I still don't like her much, but you, Buffy, you did love her. I know that better than most. And you... You're supposed to be my best friend. How could you do this to me?"

Buffy shrugged regretfully, but spoke in a way that just didn't ring true. "It's not that I wanted to hurt you. It's just what happened. I fell in love with Tara and she fell in love with me."

"Is that true Tara?" Willow butted in. "Was I just a pity date too?"

"No. Never," Tara stated sincerely.

"Then why?"

"Do you really want to know?" Tara sighed.

"Yes."

"You bore me. I was a shy virgin when I met you. You were my first, and for that I will always be grateful, but I've grown up. I want a proper relationship. I want Buffy."

Willow turned away in disgust. "I'm sorry, Faith. I hated you because you hurt me. But you're just an amateur compared to these two bitches."

She turned back to face Buffy and Tara. "You make me sick. I never want to see or speak to either of you ever again!" She turned again and left the room in a hurry.

"Goes for me too," Faith snarled and followed Willow, banging the door shut behind her.

"I think that went well," Buffy said dryly. Tara started to cry.

"Hey, Red! Hold up!" Faith cried out after the rapidly moving figure.

"What is it?" Willow called back over her shoulder. "And for just once in your life could you call me by my proper name."

"Sorry. Willow. What are you going to do?" Faith asked as she caught up with the stormy redhead.

"Not that it's any of your business, but I'm going to get drunk."

Faith laughed. "Well, that's the first five minutes taken care of. What are you going to do for the rest of the evening?"

Willow suddenly stopped walking and dissolved into tears. "Hey, hey," soothed Faith as she gave Willow a comforting hug. "Let's get you a skinny latte and we can talk it over." Willow nodded dumbly in agreement and they set off for the Expresso Pump together.

"Why are you doing this?" Willow asked between sips of her coffee. "We're not exactly friends."

"No, but I'd like us to be," Faith replied.

Willow looked curiously at her. "You're taking this very well."

Faith shrugged. "Yeah, well, I've been expecting it. I was happy, so I knew it couldn't last."

"I was happy too. I thought it couldn't end," Willow said with a sniffle.

"Where are you sleeping tonight?" Faith asked, hoping to keep Willow from crying again.

"Well, thanks to you I'm not going to be lying drunk in a gutter, so I guess I'll go home to my parents and get a lecture on the evils of lesbianism instead."

"I thought your parents were cool with it?"

"You gotta be kidding. Gay is a 'lifestyle choice' open to everyone but Mr and Mrs Rosenberg's daughter."

"Okay then, you're coming home with me. Buffy can stay with Tara at your place and you'll stay with me at our place. There'll be no funny business, I promise. I prefer blondes," Faith said lightly.

"Funny that, so do I," Willow replied with a tiny smile. "Do you think we can get them back?" she added.

"We can try, Willow," replied Faith hopefully. "We can try."

PART 2

At the regular meeting of the Scooby gang you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Buffy seemed transfixed by Tara and spent the entire time lavishing attention on her carmine-complexioned girlfriend. The others pretended not to notice and even Anya was embarrassed into silence. Willow and Faith sat side by side in stony-faced solidarity, concentrating on a distinctly ill at ease Giles. They stayed on after the others left to ask his advice.

"We need your help," pleaded Willow.

"I don't think domestic disputes are quite my thing," he cavilled.

"Look, G-man, this is not right. We're not sure about Tara, but Buffy is just not herself," Faith pointed out.

"Yes, I had noticed. Willow, I don't suppose... You remember when you caused Buffy to fall in love with Spike, have you been doing something you shouldn't?"

"No!" Willow denied the suggestion vehemently. "I'm absolutely certain it's nothing I've done... but I can't vouch for Tara," she reluctantly admitted.

"Tara didn't seem very comfortable with the situation. And it's not in her nature to do such a thing, is it? So, has anything out of the ordinary happened recently?"

"No, nothing," said Willow.

"Well," said Faith after some thought, "there was that postcard."

"Oh?" queried Giles.

"Yeah, Buffy got a postcard a couple of weeks back. It had an arty shot of umbrellas in the rain on the front and an odd message on the back. 'Into each life some rain must fall.'"

"Longfellow," said Giles.

"Who?" Faith asked.

"Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The American poet. Don't they teach you anything in school these days? It's a quotation from 'The Rainy Day'. Who sent the card?"

"No idea, that's all there was on it."

Giles thought for a moment, then an idea struck him. "Ethan Rayne," he announced with a groan. "This sort of prank is just his style. Where is the card now?"

"Err, Buffy put it in a drawer, it's still there I think," replied Faith.

"Good," said Giles. "Could you go get it please. Don't touch it, put it in a bag. Better yet, I'll drive you there."

Giles carefully lifted the card out of the drawer with a fish slice and placed it on top of the side table.

"Nice picture," Willow opined.

Faith gave her a 'who cares' look. Giles turned the card over.

"Yes, it's his handwriting all right," he said. Then producing a salt cellar from his pocket, he sprinkled a powder that was not salt on the card. As it touched the card the powder glowed bright pink. "Just as I thought, the card has been enchanted with an infidelity spell."

"How do we fix it?" asked Faith.

"Oh, that's easy," Giles replied. "Just burn the card and the spell is undone. However, the damage already done may be harder to put right. Did Tara touch the card?"

"I don't think so," said Faith. "As far as I know it's not moved from this drawer."

"Well, that means that only Buffy has been affected," said Giles, confirming Willow's worst fears. "Tara has been acting of her own volition."

"I understand," Willow said tearfully. "The things she said she meant. Buffy couldn't help the way she acted, Tara could."

"Sorry, Willow," said Faith. Giles echoed the comment.

"Thanks, Faith, Giles," she said, forcing a watery smile. "I guess it's up to me now."

Later that evening Buffy quietly let herself into the house. Faith was watching TV on her own.

"Hi," Buffy said tentatively, not sure what Faith's reaction would be.

Faith turned in her seat to greet her errant girlfriend. "Hey, babe, get me a Coke willya," she said with a warm smile.

"Wouldn't you prefer a grovelling apology?"

"Nah, B, the Coke'll do just fine for now. We'll discuss the apology later when we're in bed," she said with a twinkle in her eye.

A very relieved Buffy grinned back as she thought of what form that apology might take, and went off to get Faith a Coke.

Willow quietly let herself into the apartment. She found Tara sitting on a chair surrounded by her bags and cases. As Willow entered the room she hurriedly stood up.

"I'm waiting for a taxi," she said, not daring to look at Willow directly. "When it comes I will be out of your life forever."

"And you think I want that?" Willow asked softly.

Tara looked at Willow in surprise. "Don't you?"

"No. I love you, Tara."

Tara teetered on the brink of tears. "How can you say that after what I've done to you?"

"I can't not say it," Willow replied, "because it's true. I know why Buffy did what she did. She was under the influence of an infidelity spell, but..."

"Oh," Tara interrupted, slumping down onto the chair, the wind knocked out of her. "So it was all a lie, she never..."

"No," Willow confirmed. "She would have fallen for the first person she saw who wasn't Faith. It just happened to be you. But, Tara, why? Am I really that boring?"

"No, no, no, but with Buffy... it was so exciting. No one, apart from you, has ever noticed me. So when she did, I... I couldn't say no. She was so persuasive and I was flattered and I foolishly thought... Well, I didn't think, did I? If I had, if I'd thought of you I'd have never let it start. But I did. Then I couldn't stop it. Then it all came out and I said those awful things to you, trying to justify the unjustifiable. Then Buffy suddenly says she's come to her senses and leaves me to go back to Faith. So here I am, the world's biggest fool, who threw away the only thing that ever mattered for a spell induced fling."

A car horn blared.

"That's the taxi. Thanks for hearing me out," she said while rising to her feet. "I'll be leaving now. I'm sorry, Willow, so sorry."

"Tara, you made a big mistake, but I'd be making an even bigger one if I let you go, stay here, I'll be back in a minute and then we can work things out," Willow said firmly.

She went outside to send the taxi away as Tara sat back down, put her head in her hands, and cried and cried and cried.

PART 3

Buffy's enthusiastic application of her talented fingers and tongue to Faith's most sensitive regions soon produced the desired effect as Faith's body blossomed into a senses-scrambling climax of epic proportions.

"Baby, that was one wicked apology," Faith stated with unabashed pleasure.

Buffy slithered up to gently kiss her satiated lover. "Thanks, hun, am I forgiven now?"

Faith kissed her back. "Sure, babe," she said, stroking Buffy's hair and gazing deep into her mist-green eyes. "Everything is five by five with us."

Buffy snuggled up close, nuzzling Faith's cheek. "I'm really sorry," she whispered.

"Taken as read, B," Faith replied softly. "You couldn't help it. What really bites is that Tara could. I thought she was my friend."

"She was. She still is," said Buffy. "She was no pushover. I really had to work hard to get her to even consider the idea at first. You don't understand the pressure I exerted on her. That spell sent me crazy. I would have said and done anything to possess her. Saying no was an option I wouldn't accept."

All cried out and emotionally drained, Tara had been listening to Willow's outpourings for what seemed like a small ice age. "What do you want from me, Willow?" she asked listlessly.

"An explanation I can understand," came the sharp reply. "Why? How could you do this to me, to Faith? Did you love her? Was she that good in bed? Was she better than me?"

"YES!" Tara suddenly snapped. "She was GOOD! She was BETTER than you! I WANTED her night and day. Buffy is a TERRIFIC fuck! The best I've EVER had! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW!!!"

Willow, shocked into immobility by the ferocity of Tara's response, stopped pacing the room and sank into a nearby chair. For long minutes nothing was said, until Willow turned to face Tara and ventured to speak her mind.

"The thing is, Tara. I love you. More than words can say. The question I haven't dared ask up till now is... Do you still love me?"

"Of course I do," Tara replied with absolute sincerity. "But the guilty pleasures are the sweetest and I wasn't strong enough to resist them. So the question I haven't dared ask you is: Can you forgive me?"

Willow bowed her head. "I don't know," she said truthfully.

"If only I could turn back time," Tara sighed in resignation.

"That's it!" Willow announced excitedly. "We can't, but the powers-that-be can!"

"Yes," Tara agreed cautiously. "But not for us. For Buffy and Faith maybe. To save the world certainly. But not for us. Not for this."

"Okay," Willow said thoughtfully. "Who else do we know that has that sort of power... Anyanka!"

"What? She's Anya now, she's a powerless ex-demon."

"Yes, she is, but her boss, D'Hoffryn, once offered me her job. With her power I could do it. All I have to do is stop the postcard being delivered and none of this would ever have happened."

"Yes, but take the job, and you'd be a vengeance demon and I'd be the girlfriend who cheated on you with Buffy. Do you think that stopping the postcard would matter then? That sort of dark power is so corrupting. Anyway, even if it did work and you did stop the postcard, you'd still know what happened. I wouldn't have cheated, but you'd still know that I had. Could you live with that? I mean that's what it comes down to. I say, and I do, love you, but when temptation came my way I cheated on you. Could you ever trust me again?"

Willow stood up and went to stare sightlessly out of the window. After what seemed like forever she turned and sat down next to Tara. She took her hand in her own and squeezed it gently.

"Would you do it again?" she asked.

"No," Tara replied, meeting the redhead's searching gaze unflinchingly.

"Well then, that's all I need to know. What's done is done. Tara... I forgive you. I trust you. I love you."

"And I love you too, Willow. I give you my word. I will never knowingly do anything to hurt you ever again."

Tara squeezed Willow's hand back, then they kissed in joyful reconciliation.

"You see," said the female who was observing their actions in the pool of revelation. "Their love was true. Your scheme did not work. They were tempted to use the forces of darkness for their own ends but they did not do so. Tara vetoed Willow's misguided plan. They are well matched, and as I said, they are worthy assistants to the Slayers."

"I agree," said the male. "They have passed the test. They were tempted by power but did not succumb. However, you must agree Tara did not resist the temptations of the flesh."

"Oh, my brother, do you think me so naive? I am well aware you weakened her resolve, but I let it pass because I knew they would not fail when it really mattered."

The male smiled. "Nothing escapes your eyes. But had I not acted Tara would have refused Buffy's advances and the test would have ended prematurely. Now it has ended and come the morning they will not remember what has transpired."

He swept his hand over the pool and the picture faded away so only the faces of himself and his companion could be seen.

"There will be other tests, other challenges," he continued. "The forces of darkness will not let them rest for long. But until then, may they enjoy their happiness together."

The female concurred. Then they both faded from the scene. Oblivious to this fact, Willow and Tara went to bed, they were both very happy.

The End

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