As Buffy walked along a relatively deserted street, making sure Tara was front and centre as ordered, she couldn't help but speculate. What kind of Rep volunteers for testing, has memories, and let's be honest here, hasn't got that vibe?
They always have the vibe, an agitated, life speeded up thing. You could always detect it if you got close and had contact with one for any length of time.
They hummed with it, as if they had it programmed into them. Sure some had tamed it in order to live longer, slow down their metabolism using various drug combinations, or yoga and the like. But ultimately they always run out of juice in the end.
Damn it, what was Tara's incept date, if she croaks now Willow will be devastated, talk about bad luck. Mind you, better to know now than six months down the line when Willow was really hooked.
"Tara, how long have you known Willow?"
As Tara slowed and turned, Buffy caught the broad grin on Tara's face at the mere mention of her friend's name. Double damn they both have it bad.
"Not long, I only arrived yesterday," Tara shrugged. "Actually can I ask a favour?"
"Ask away; just don't ask me to lie to my best friend. If you are a Rep, It's over. Finito. You won't ever see, or speak to her again. It's just too dangerous for humans to get involved with Synthetics. They have a tendency to get killed in the crossfire, and I won't let that happen to her."
Tara nodded. "That wasn't what I wanted to ask, and I get it, I really do. If I am one of them, I'll be no trouble. It's just.....please let me tell her...privately, calmly, in my own way."
Feeling less and less sure of Tara's replicancy with every minute, Buffy frowned.
"Sure ...but you gotta be at least 90% sure of passing, right? Or we wouldn't be doing this thing. Turn right ahead into Revello, my place is just down there on the right."
Taking the turn as directed Tara stated something she knew with all her heart.
"I just know it, deep inside me. That I want- no, need, to be with Willow. Whatever it takes. Except one thing, I won't put her in danger for me. If I am a replicant, then that's it, my life's over, a sham of a life anyway. If I pass then another hurdle appears. Why does my employer want to get me back so bad, and that's where you come in. I will need your help, but not at Willow's expense. Promise me that, you'll keep Willow safe."
"It's a guarantee, Willow's not some fragile flower you know, she has skills. But you're right Tyrell are big, if it gets nasty, I've got her back and front. Now come on, let's get this done."
As the pair entered the lobby to Revello Heights Buffy directed Tara to the stairs.
"It's only on the second floor; forgive me but confined spaces with suspects, not a good idea."
Being careful to not get too far in front of the Runner, Tara nodded. "Will Dawn be there, from what Willow said she seems nice."
With a hearty laugh that Buffy stifled as best she could, "Nice, that's a new one, no she's at Janice's next door. If she was home you'd be cuffed in my car out back."
As they reached a door just to the right of the stairs, Buffy motioned for Tara to stop. "Give me a second, just got to sort out security. No wandering."
"Got it," Tara acknowledged letting Buffy by. The Runner then took off a small key fob from around her neck and pressed it against a metal plate in the middle of the purple door.
"Beep, Enter Door code now, you have 10 seconds to comply," came a stern male voice from above the pair.
Buffy duly looked at the LCD display on the rear of the key, which had generated a random 6 digit code and entered it onto a 3x3 9 digit entry pad that appeared on the previously blank piece of metal.
"Welcome to chez Summers."
Following Buffy into a large lounge area Tara saw a large holo TV clearly tuned into one of the many Music Video channels.
Buffy also spotting the offending device shouted out "Dawn Ann Summers if you're here get your butt in here, now!"
Silence except for a particularly annoying rap artist stating what he wanted to do to President Aoki.
"Tara stay here. She's probably left the thing on as she rushed out for more important things than energy conservation; you know actually saving the planet."
Leaving Tara to look around from her spot in the centre of the lounge Buffy made her way to her sister's room on the right side of the apartment which sported the same purple paint as the front door.
Seeing Buffy disappear Tara immediately looked at her watch, and thought of her last conversation with Willow about a hour ago. "I'm sorry love, it's for the best, I'm sure of it."
Suddenly an ear piercing cry came from Dawn's room.
Running towards the sound Tara entered the bedroom to see Buffy on the floor holding a pale auburn haired girl in her arms. She was clearly unconscious and limp, her breathing shallow and laboured.
"Buffy let me help, quickly, what meds does Dawn take."
Looking up with panic Buffy responded "Mmm. Prednisone and Theophylline I think."
"Good get them, I'll take care of her," Tara ordered.
"But, I don't know where they are!" Buffy howled tears streaming.
"We have time; go get the bag she would have taken to her friends."
Dropping to the floor and taking the prone teenager from her distraught sister Tara immediately laid her down, tipping her head to the side and gently resting it on her lap.
"Dawn, I'm Tara, listen to my voice, it's going to be ok, can you relax for me honey?"
Taking Dawn's pale clammy hand into hers, Tara started to gently squeeze in a steady rhythm. Then gently brushing Dawn's hair away from her face and smiling tenderly Tara continued "Breath for me, try and keep up with my squeezes, that's it good ..good."
"Buffy how are you doing, any luck...Buffy!"
Hearing a dash of feet behind her Buffy appeared.
"Got it, but she's never this bad, never."
Continuing to squeeze Dawn's hand Tara started to feel for a pulse on her wrist.
"Can you load up the inhaler with the Theophylline for me, it should work just fine."
Handing the inhaler to Tara, Buffy mutely knelt down and waited, not wanting to crowd the medic in her work.
As Tara took the inhaler mask and placed it over Dawn's mouth pressing the bag to pump the first lifesaving breaths of the drug into the teen, she prayed that it would do its work as swiftly as she hoped.
After a few minutes when only the sound of the inhaler pumping broke the silence Tara turned to Buffy with a grin.
"Buffy can you help me get Dawn onto the bed, I'm sure she'll be more comfortable there."
Moving closer Buffy indicated for Tara to move to the side so she could lift her sister up smoothly.
"It's ok I work out, you just keep that inhaler going."
Once Dawn was safely tucked in bed both the women sunk to the floor exhausted.
Buffy was the first to voice her thoughts "Thank you that was way scary, you think she'll be ok so I can kill her?"
Tara gave a quick glace at the teen, who had it seems come round, and was rolling her eyes at her sister.
"Why don't you ask her yourself?"
Buffy immediately jumped on the duvet that was being pushed to one side by Dawn who it seemed was looking for a quick getaway.
"Not so fast missy, you are going nowhere until Tara says so right Dr Maclay."
Looking forlornly at the blonde newcomer Dawn decided cold reasoning was in order.
"I've had my scare for the month right Doctor? With all those meds in my system I'm good to go for at least 24 hours, even if my overprotective sister here would like to turn me into the girl in the bubble."
Tara looked from sister to sister and shook her head frowning.
"First of all I'm not a doctor just a medic, Buffy, and it's not fair to mislead Dawn. Secondly you're not out of the shuttle bay yet Dawn, so you need to have someone around to keep an eye on you, do you still want to go next door?"
Dawn furiously nodded her head and smiled sweetly as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
Buffy seeing that this conversation wasn't going her way interrupted.
"Hey legal Guardian trumps, sucker for an angel face, but I've got some stuff that need's doing tonight" Looking directly at Tara "So Janice will have to do for Dawn watch. But you are to stay put and do really boring things ok, and I'm going to give Janice my if Dawn's not back in the same condition she left in speech. The very special one that I had reserved for all future boyfriends."
Seeing a good deal when she saw it Dawn ran for the purple door only turning to mouth "Thank you," to Tara behind a hot on heels Buffy.
"Buffy cuffs!" Tara shouted.
Stopping dead in her tracks Buffy turned sheepishly and rummaged into her pocket for the responder.
"Oh God sorry, Bad Runner, look here is the responder, stay put I'll only be five minutes putting the fear of decapitation into a teen."
Finding herself alone for the first time since the evening's rollercoaster had started Tara looked at her watch.
"Shit Willow's going to be going frantic. Phone!"
Moving back into the main living area, Tara started a search for anything resembling communications.
Before anything came into sight a loud chirp sounded and the Holo TV automatically muted.
"Buffy, if you're there so must Tara be. Can you put her on please; it's a kind of proof of life thing. If your not there. CALL ME IMMEDIATELY WHEN YOU GET THIS MESSAGE OR SO HELP ME I'LL CANCEL EVERY CREDIT CARD YOU HAVE!"
Hearing the voice she most desperately wanted to hear Tara shouted into the air.
"Honey, its me, I'm fine. We just had an emergency. Can you hear me?"
After a short pause Tara got her reply.
"You sure you're ok? What kind of emergency? I need info here. I'm going crazy waiting for you two."
Moving towards the Holo TV which seemed the source of the voice Tara sat down cross-legged in front of the screen which although now silent was still showing pop videos.
"It's good to hear your voice Willow. I'm fine Dawn had an attack. We will be there soon I promise. Hang on in there for me."
Tara could feel the calming effect just speaking was having on both of them as she waited for a reply.
"As long as you're ok, that's all that matters, Dawns fine right? Oh and I've a bit of a plan that I need to tell you about."
Smiling the blonde had an idea.
"She's fine. Watchya doing now Willow?"
"Just sitting at my computer getting really frustrated that you're not with me."
"Can you put me on speaker and go lay on the couch for me?"
"Um ok moving to the couch, I'm lying."
"Ok close you eyes and lay as still as you can."
"Got it being still."
"And quiet," the Blonde chuckled.
"Imagine a deserted beach with golden sand, there are palm trees behind us and Blue Ocean in front of us. Oh and you and me are just laying there on the soft sand your eye's are closed against the bright sun. Your bikini by the way very sexy I like red."
"Quiet remember, or I'll stop."
"Sorry just caught a peek of your bikini top."
"Hey not fair! Back to this island; listen to the sound of the waves gently lapping at our toes. Feel me take your hand in mine and draw small circles on the palm."
"Mmm," came a soft sound from the ether.
Placing her hands on each knee in a classic meditation pose Tara closed her eyes and started to sing.
"Here as I lay beside you, I know
Opening her eyes again Tara smirked "You still here hun?"
After a long hush Tara heard a sound like someone coughing.
"Um Tara, I think you've broken my friend's emotion chip" An uncomfortable Buffy whispered in Tara's ear.
Swiftly turning to see a red faced Buffy with a face of mock outrage to cover her embarrassment Tara snapped "Buffy you sneaky! You should have said you were back."
Rising up to go gather her kit bag, the very thing they had both come to the apartment to get, Buffy glibly replied "I didn't want to kill the mood, besides it isn't often you get to hear a voice that fine, your really good, that song even got me going."
"Thank you but it wasn't meant for you it was meant for only Willow. Willow can you still hear me?"
Suddenly a crash came from the direction of the TV.
"Dam it sorry Tara I'm here, I think I just bust something fragile and glasslike. That was a beautiful song, it really was, and I wish we were together so I could show my appreciation. You're on your way now right?"
Feeling the redhead's impatience Buffy shouted "Put the kettle on in ten minutes were on our way."
"Ok will do, Tara love you, Buffy love you too."