That same night, in Tara's room, Willow and Tara's kitten was playing with a small ball of yarn.
"Tell me a story." Willow said.
"Okay." Tara said. "Once upon a time, there was, um ... a kitty. She was very little, and she was all alone, and nobody wanted her."
"This is a very upsetting story." Willow said.
"Oh, oh, but it gets better."
The kitten tried to crawl under Tara's bed.
" 'Coz one day the kitty was running around in the street and a man came, and swooped her up..."
Tara swooped up the kitten.
"And took her to the pound."
Tara was sitting on the end of her bed and lifted the kitten into her lap. Willow was in the bed, under the covers.
"And at the pound there were lots of other kitties, and there were puppies, and some ferrets..." Tara continued the story.
"Were there dolphins?" Willow asked smiling.
"Yes. Many dolphins at the pound." Tara said handing the kitten to Willow.
"Or was there a camel?" Willow asked.
Tara thought for a moment, "There was the front of a camel. A half camel." Tara smiled at Willow.
"Did the kitty get chosen by some nice people?" Willow asked cuddling their kitten.
"Well, now you ruined the ending."
"Mmm..." Willow let go of the kitten and it ran off, "I'm sleepy."
"Do you mind if I keep the light on? I was gonna look up some spells." Tara asked
"It's fine." Willow pouted. "I don't need to be snuggled."
Willow smiled at Tara.
Tara smiled back. "Vixen!"
Tara took some books that were on the bed and piled them up on the floor.
"You've been spell gal night and day lately." Willow said.
"Well, I just wanna keep up with you, and I'm ... well, I just like to be useful. You know, to the gang?"
Willow looked concerned.
"I just... never... feel useful."
"You are. You're essential."
Tara smiled. She went over and got under the covers with Willow, turning off the light she kissed Willow.
"Do you think Buffy found out anything tonight?" Tara asked.
"At the factory? I don't know. If there was something, I figured she'd call us."
Tara lied down, putting her head on Willow's shoulder, and they snuggled up together.
Giles, Buffy and Michael sat in Buffy's living room. They were talking quietly. Buffy had told them both about what the monk had told her about Dawn.
"Uh, I don't know what to say." Giles said.
"Tell me about it." Buffy said and looked toward the stairs.
"That's some major magic." Michael commented.
"She has no idea?" Giles asked.
"No. She thinks she's my kid sister." Buffy told them.
"Are you going to tell her?" Giles asked.
"How can I?" Buffy sighed and got up. "She'd freak, and that's the last thing we need."
Buffy walked to the doorway and looked up the stairs. She sighed again.
"We have to keep her safe." Buffy said.
She turned and walked back into the living room.
"You can count on me," Michael said. "Kaz too, we'll help protect her."
"This... woman, this, uh, whatever she was... she knows you now..." Giles said addressing another major issue.
Buffy sat down again.
"Should we be thinking about... sending Dawn away?"
"Away where?" Buffy asked Giles.
"I don't know, uh... your father's?" Giles suggested.
Buffy scoffed, "Yeah, he's, um... in Spain, with his secretary. Living the cliché."
Giles and Michael looked sympathetic.
"I called him when Mom got sick, he hasn't even..." Buffy trailed off.
"I'm sorry." Giles said.
"When he bailed on us... I remember, Dawn cried for a week. Except she didn't. She wasn't there, but... I can still feel what it was like." Buffy said.
Giles put his hand over his mouth and frowned.
"They sent her to me, Giles. I think... I have to take care of her. I want to."
"Do we tell the others?" Giles asked.
"No one. They-they'd act weird around her, and it's, it's safer for everyone if they don't know."
"Yes." Giles stood and began to pace. "We have to find out who this woman is, and what she needs Dawn for."
Buffy pondered this.
"I mean, if she comes after you..."
"She'll come." Buffy said and looked toward the stairs again. "She'll come for us."
Back at the factory a pile of rubble suddenly exploded upward as Glory threw it off of her. She rose in the middle of the destroyed building, still wearing her red dress. She looked around angrily.
"Okay. Now I'm pissed off!"
The following day the gang helped Buffy pack all her stuff up in her dorm, she was moving out.
Buffy was stacking some boxes in the hallway. Xander and Michael were carrying a mini-fridge out of her dorm room. Michael wore leather pants and a black mesh top. Xander squashed his hand in the doorway.
"Ow! Thumb! Necessary opposable thumb!" Xander said.
"Sorry. Cry-baby." Michael said.
"You know what, you guys, just leave it here." Buffy told them.
"Got it." Michael said.
He and Xander put down the fridge. Dawn emerged from another door, carrying a stack of boxes that obscured her vision.
"I don't need help." Dawn said.
"Just be careful." Buffy told her.
Buffy turned and entered through the door Dawn just exited. Boxes surrounded Willow, Anya, and Giles.
"But we just helped her move the stuff in a few days ago..." Anya complained, she turned and saw Buffy, "...and it was fun!"
"People help each other out, Anya. It's one of our strange customs." Giles said reading a book.
"Giles, I noticed you're doing the smallest amount of helping that can actually be called helping." Buffy said to him.
"Well, I saw myself in more of a... patriarchal sort of role. You know, lots of pointing and scowling."
Giles smiled. He looked to his left, pointed and scowled.
"You two, stop that!" Giles said.
Xander and Michael were grappling, bent over at the waist. Xander had Michael in a headlock.
"He started it." Michael said.
"He called me a bad name." Xander said.
Tara looked at them and grinned.
"I think it was bad. It might've been Latin."
"Stop it, or you're going to break something." Giles said.
"Or I'm going to break something." Buffy said threateningly.
The guys suddenly let each other go and straightened up.
Willow and Tara were folding clothes, smiling at each other.
"Still can't believe you're giving up this cherry corner suite." Xander said.
Anya re-entered from the hallway and said, "Just a few days after we moved you in!"
Buffy shrugged and tried to look casual, "It's no big."
Giles looked up from his book.
"You know, with Mom not being well, I'm hardly ever here."
She picked up a pile of clothes to put in a box.
"Just figured I'd... save a little cash for this semester, that's all."
"I think that's smart." Willow said.
"Still, it's hard to give up. You've got the two entrances." Xander said pointing to the two doors to the room. "Lots of opportunity for bawdy French farce, and everybody loves bawdy..."
"Where's Dawn?" Buffy asked interrupting.
"I think she just walked out." Michael said pointing out one of the doors.
Buffy hurried forward, "Dawn!"
Dawn re-entered and breezed past Buffy.
"Some of your CDs are my CDs." Dawn told Buffy.
"I know. Come help me fold." Buffy said indicating the sheets.
Tara smiled at them. Everyone returned to packing and carrying and reading in Giles' case. Willow took a suitcase and left the room.
Buffy bent over to fold a sheet and grabbed her lower back with a sigh.
"Starting to feel that fight?" Michael asked and rubbed Buffy's lower back.
Buffy and Dawn folded a sheet.
"Nothing like gettin' your ass kicked to... make your ass hurt." Buffy told them
"You'll totally take her next time." Dawn said.
"Coz you'll have backup, baby. She's messin' with all of us." Xander said.
"Yes, uh, we'll, we'll, uh, find her weaknesses, and then, uh..." Giles struggled to find an ending to his sentence.
"Yeah. You learn her source," Tara said and grinned, "And, uh, we'll introduce her to her insect reflection."
Everyone looked at her in confusion. Tara stopped smiling.
"Um ... that, that was funny if you, um, studied Taglarin mythic rites..." Tara said softly, "and are a complete dork."
"Then how come Xander didn't laugh?" Michael asked.
Tara took a box and exited feeling stupid.
Xander, not realizing he'd been insulted said, "I don't know that Taglarin stuff."
"Oh." Was all Michael said.
Tara walked out into the hall, shaking her head. Willow approached.
"Hey. You wanna start taking stuff down to the car?" Willow said.
"Yeah." Tara said and nodded.
Willow went back into the dorm room. Tara walked off with her box.
Whispering to herself Tara said, "Stupid..."
"Okay. Guys, now remember, you have to be at the Bronze by eight." Willow told them when she entered the room.
Everyone looked blank.
"Bronze?" Buffy said not understanding.
"Tomorrow night! Tara's birthday!" Willow said almost pleading.
"Right! Right." Buffy said.
"We have to bring presents, right? Birth is a present thing?" Anya asked Xander.
"I got something... picked out, yeah." Xander said.
"You-you guys can all still come, right? I mean, I know there's... this new evil and all, but..." Willow said anxiously.
"No, no. We'll be there. I could definitely use a break from all this craziness." Buffy said.
At the hospital a woman in a hospital gown, was being wheeled on a gurney through a hospital hallway. A male intern was pulling the gurney. Ben approached.
"What's the story?" Ben asked.
"Another crazy. Got her family out there." The intern said and nodded toward waiting room.
"OK, let me guess, no history of mental problems?"
"Yeah. That makes like five this month." The intern said.
"Ah, they told me Sunnydale was gonna be interesting."
The intern chuckled "Yeah. Aren't you off?"
Ben looked at his watch, "Yeah, as of now. Have fun."
Ben turned and walked off.
Ben entered the hospital locker room and walked past two rows of lockers, opened a locker, began taking his clothes off and putting them in the locker.
A Lei-Ach demon came into the room. It had white skin broken by red bloody-looking sores, and dark sunken eyes. It opened its mouth and put out a thick, black, forked tongue. Its nose twitched as it walked forward, putting out its tongue again with a hissing noise.
Glory put one hand over the demon's mouth, the other hand on the back of its head.
"I need a favour." Glory said.
Glory pulled the demon backward.
At the magic shop Anya handed a paper bag to a customer.
Smiling Anya said, "Thank you for coming. We value your patronage." Yelling after the departing customer. "Please come again for more purchases!"
Giles went and put a box on the counter.
"Could we please be a little less effusive, Anya? Don't want to frighten the people." Giles said.
"I'm just so excited. They come in, I help them... they give us money in exchange for goods... you give me money for working for you... I have a place in the world now. I'm part of the system." Anya smiled widely. "I'm a working gal."
Giles smiled, "Yes. Well, why don't you start organizing the shipping orders."
Giles took the box and started to walk off
"Oh, no, that's boring. I just want to do the money parts." Anya said.
Buffy and Xander entered the shop.
"Well, sure I forgot about the party. I mean, there's kind of a lot going on. And it's not... you know... the most thrilling social event of the season." Buffy said.
Xander nodded, "Yeah... it's a big deal for Willow, though. I mean, you are gonna be there?"
"Yeah." Buffy shrugged, "Barring monsters."
"Hey, hi." Anya said and leant over the counter toward Xander.
"Gimme sugar. I've come to buy sugar."
Xander put his hands on Anya's face and they kissed.
"Mmm. We value your patronage." Anya said.
Buffy said to Giles, "So, any breakthroughs on the identity of Miss Congeniality?"
"Well, I have narrowed it down somewhat." Giles said.
Giles looked down at the large reading table. There was a large assortment of books spread out on the table.
"Your definition of narrow is impressively wide."
"Well, you didn't give me much to go on. She-she looks human, so the mug shots aren't any use, and, uh, you can't be more specific about what she's like?" Giles wheedled.
Buffy pondered for a moment, "She was kinda like Cordelia, actually."
Giles nodded thoughtfully.
"I'm pretty sure she dyes her hair." Buffy said.
"Ah yes! That one, of course. Our work is done." Giles said sarcastically.
"There must be something on her."
Buffy sat at the table as Xander approached.
Melodramatically Xander said, "The answer is somewhere here." He stared at the book-covered table. "It's right in front of us and we're too blind to see it!" He slammed his hand down on the table.
Buffy gave him an exasperated look. Giles rolled his eyes.
"I'm helping, I'm reading." Xander sat and whispered. "I'm quiet."
Giles took a box and began climbing some stairs to the loft that was restricted to staff only. Buffy and Xander sat at the table looking at books.
"So... what'd you get her?" Buffy asked.
"Huh?" Xander asked not understanding the question.
"Tara. You said you got a present already."
"Yeah, that was a tangled web of lies, sweetie. I'm not really sure what kind of thing she'd... I mean, I don't really know her that well."
Buffy nodded, "I know."
"I mean, she's nice." Xander added quickly.
Then Buffy just as quickly added, "Yeah! Yeah, nice... nice. I-it's just, I-I sort of..."
"I don't necessarily get her... but she's really nice."
"Yeah. There's... just that thing."
"That thing." Xander said agreeing.
"That... thing of not understanding..."
"Half of what she says?" Xander suggested.
"As for example." Buffy said but that wasn't exactly what she meant. "But she's super nice." She added.
"You betcha." Xander said.
"I'll have to ask Michael as they've been friends kind of forever." Buffy said.
They continued looking at books.
"Think there'll be a lot of Wiccas there, heavy Wiccan crowd?" Buffy asked.
"Well, that's sort of her deal. Her and Willow are all Wiccy. Swingin' with the Wiccan lifestyle."
"Which is cool."
"I just hope we fit in, not awkward."
"With Willow it's like, she's got this ... whole new thing in her life. But she's still Willow, so I can always figure her out. But Tara, I just know she likes Willow, and she already has one of those." Xander said.
Buffy groaned and slammed a book shut.
"Uhh! I have a present-buying headache. Tara's damn birthday is just one too many things for me to worry about."
"Relax. You should take a few minutes." Xander jerked his thumb toward the training room in the back. "Train or stretch out. You should do something to... work off the tension."
In Spike's crypt Buffy punched Spike in the face, then she kicked him. Spike kicked Buffy in the stomach, and then punched her in the face, once, twice, thrice. On the fourth swing Buffy grabbed his arm and punched him with her other hand. She landed a roundhouse and then an uppercut. She kicked Spike in the stomach and then did a back flip, kicking him in the jaw.
Spike span, tried a circle kick but Buffy ducked it. She blocked a punch, then he grabbed her by the throat from behind, holding one of her hands. She kicked him in the face over her shoulder, twisted out of his grip and threw him. He landed sitting on his armchair and it slid backward until it hit the wall. Buffy leapt up to stand on the arms of the armchair, punched Spike in the face four times. He pushed her legs apart and she fell onto his lap. Spike grabbed her butt and Buffy wrapped her legs around his neck as he stood up. Then she flung herself backward, landing with her hands on the floor, and used her legs to flip Spike over by the neck. She landed on top of him. Spike threw her off and she slid against a wall. Spike stood up. Buffy crouched, panting.
"You want me, Slayer, come and get me." Spike said.
"Oh, I'm coming. I'm coming right..." Buffy lunged up toward him...
Spike and Harmony, were in bed.
"... now!" Harmony said.
Spike was on top of Harmony, covered by a blanket, both of them naked and panting. Harmony caressed Spike's face.
"What are you thinking?" Harmony asked.
"All about you, baby." Spike lied.
"Aww." She pulled Spike's head down to her shoulder. "You're my little lamb."
Back in the magic shop, Giles came back down from the loft.
"Come up with anything yet?" Giles asked.
"Well, candles, maybe, or bath oils of some kind." Xander suggested.
"I saw a really cute sweater at Bloomy's... but, I think I want me to have it." Buffy added.
"And you are talking about what on earth?" Giles asked.
"Tara's birthday. We're at a loss." Buffy told Giles.
"You're in a magic shop, and you can't think what Tara would like. I believe you're both profoundly stupid." Giles said.
"Well, we don't really know... the kind of things witches like. What, are we gonna get her some cheesy crystal ball?" Xander asked.
"Bloody well better not. I've got mine already wrapped." Giles told them.
A youngish guy with blond hair and a beard was looking at the shelves. He turned and looked at the books on the table in front of Buffy and Xander.
"Uh, are all these magic books?" The guy asked.
"Uh, private collection. Uh, books for sale are against the walls over there." Giles said and gestured with his coffee mug, then walked toward the counter.
The guy continued looking through books on the table.
"So all these books got spells in 'em? Turn people into frogs, things like that?" He asked.
Everyone looked dubiously at him. Anya was also watching from behind the cash register.
"Yeah, we're building a race of frog people. It's a good time." Xander said.
The guy grinned.
"So, uh..." he gestured at them, "You all witches? Hey, don't do a spell on me now." He laughed.
"Was there something in particular you were looking for?" Giles asked.
The guy continued chuckling. The door to the shop opened and Willow and Tara entered, laughing.
"Her insect reflection. That is so good." Willow said.
"I just thought that'd be funny, you know, if her centre of power was..."
"What d'ya know." The guy said.
Tara saw him and stopped laughing; she looked alarmed.
"What's the matter? You don't have a hug for your big brother?" the guy asked.
Willow looked at him in surprise, Tara looked upset. Willow looked at Tara.
"Brother?" Willow asked.
Buffy and Xander were still sitting at the table, watching.
"Willow, this is D-D-Donny." Tara stuttered.
Willow walked forward. Tara followed, looking uncomfortable.
"Hi." Willow said.
Donny shook Willow's hand, smiling, "Nice to meet you."
"And, uh, these are my-my friends." Tara said.
Donny looked back at the others, who nodded and waved.
"What, uh, all of you hang out? Wow. That's more people than you met in high school." Donny gave Tara a friendly punch on the arm.
"How did you fi - I, I mean, how come you came?"
"Well, duh, birthday girl. Uh, we came down in the camper, been all over the campus."
"We?" Tara asked.
Tara and Willow turned as the door opened and a man walked in, followed by a girl about Tara's age.
"Look what I found!" Donny said gesturing at Tara.
"Uh, Dad, hi." Tara walked forward. Willow watched.
"Well, here's my girl." Mr. Maclay said.
Tara hugged her Dad awkwardly. Giles walked forward, as the others watched the reunion scene.
"S-such a s-surprise." Tara said.
"Yes." Donny said.
"Cousin Beth." Tara said as a greeting.
"Hey." Beth replied.
"One of your dorm-mates said I might... find you here." Mr. Maclay said looking around.
"Oh. Oh, um," Tara said turning toward the others, "these are, these are friends. Um, this is Mr. Giles, um, he runs the shop."