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Tough Love

Screencaps will be added within a few weeks.

At the university, Buffy goes to visit one of her professors and apologizes for missing his class. She helps him to dislodge a slide stuck in the projector and explains that she needs him to sign some forms so that she can drop the class — in fact she's dropping every class, and not finishing the semester, as she needs to look after Dawn. The professor offers his condolences for the loss of her mother. Buffy expresses regret at not having time for poetry, but speculates that she might find time to study short poems instead. She hopes that she can carry on next semester. The professor signs the forms for her.

Over at Sunnydale General Hospital, Ben turns up for work, much to the surprise of the head doctor, who explains that Ben is fired, mainly due to his not turning up for the past fortnight. Ben is surprised and dismayed and attempts to explain, but can't. His boss doesn't want excuses, and tells Ben that he must take responsibility for his actions. Ben goes to the locker room and packs his things into a bag, furious at Glory for ruining his life. He feels the change coming, and freaks out, shouting "I'm Ben, I'm Ben" and slamming his fist into the locker. His hand flattens out against the locker, and transforms into Glory's — who reveals that she's hungry.

Glory lies in a bubble bath in her apartment, relaxing while three of her minions stand around blindfolded, one holding a loofah, another a box of chocolates and the third a mimosa. She relaxes in the bath commenting that this is the one part of human existence that they got right. Her minions agree and Glory jeeringly comments that they never bathe. They say they bathe in her radiance. After drinking some of her mimosa, she turns the conversation towards more important matters — the Key. Glory is angry over being brought Spike and orders her minions to tell her everything that they saw while watching Buffy and her friends. She will decide who the Key is.

At Dawn's school, Buffy is angry with Dawn. It turns out that Dawn has been skipping school for a while, and the Principal has asked them to discuss matters with her. Buffy attempts to explain that the last few months have been tough, presumably referring to her mother's illness and then death, and Dawn's discoveries about herself. The principal extends her regrets over Joyce's passing, commenting that she was a lovely woman. She says that Dawn is a talented and intelligent girl, but needs to apply herself more. The principal asks Dawn to leave for a moment, and Buffy braces herself.

Xander and Willow sit in the Magic Box, Xander reading comics and Willow doing homework, while Anya stares disapprovingly at some customers who are looking but not buying. She asserts that they would buy things if they were patriotic, and reveals that she is revelling in her identity as an American (calling Giles a foreigner), and more importantly, as a capitalist. She dislikes both old people (because they never buy anything) and French people (because they never tip). Therefore, she really dislikes old French people. Xander asks her to be a bit less prejudiced, but Anya seems to just ignore him, and goes over to the customers, determined to sell them something. Buffy and Dawn come in and sit down. Buffy remarks that she's "all dropped out" and Xander congratulates her on entering the real world, offering to support her in whatever she decides to do in the long-term. Buffy wants to talk alone with Giles, and practically orders Dawn to get on with her homework. In the training room, presumably after Buffy has told Giles what the principal said, Giles tells Buffy that she needs to put her foot down in order to control Dawn, but Buffy wants Giles to do it. Giles says that Dawn needs Buffy to be her authority figure, and Buffy reluctantly agrees. As they return to the shop floor, she asks Giles one more time, and he refuses again. They step back onto the floor to hear laughing and see Dawn standing in the middle of a human triangle consisting of Willow, Anya and Xander. Buffy angrily suggests that Dawn should do her homework at home. Dawn tries to explain that they were enacting a geometry problem, but Buffy ignores her. Dawn goes to pack her bag, while Willow talks to Buffy, explaining that kids can learn better using visual images. Buffy tells Willow that she doesn't understand, and Willow is hurt. Buffy admits she's tense, and Willow offers to take her and Dawn with she and Tara to the world culture fair for some educational fun. Buffy declines, saying that she and Dawn have to go home.

Meanwhile, Glory is ecstatic. She thinks she knows who the Key is, and is impressed by the monks' work when making the Key human — but it wasn't quite convincing enough. It's time to collect the Key.

Willow and Tara are getting ready to go to the world culture fair. Willow discusses Buffy's crabbiness and strictness, saying that it will only make Dawn more rebellious. Tara says that she can understand how Buffy feels, and that Willow can't fully understand what Buffy is going through, as she hasn't experienced it. Willow snaps back at her, and Tara asks what she said to offend her. Willow wants to drop it, but Tara wants to know so that she doesn't do it again. Willow says Tara just dismissed her opinion, and admits that she feels like the junior partner — Tara can understand Buffy better, she's been out (as a lesbian) longer, and she's been practicing magic longer. Tara attempts to console Willow about her magic, telling Willow that she's zoomed past her — in fact, Tara is frightened by how powerful Willow is getting. Willow is disturbed by this, and asks Tara if she trusts her. "With my life" is Tara's reply. But Willow doesn't believe her. She asks what it is that makes her hard to trust. Tara confesses that she doesn't know where she'll fit into Willow's life in the future, causing Willow to start a tirade about her sexuality. She thinks Tara is worried that their relationship is just a college experiment and that she'll go running back to "boys town." Tara asks if she should be worried. Willow storms out, telling Tara to have fun at the fair.

Outside the Summers' home, Glory's minions peer through the window into Buffy's dining room, then move away. Buffy is folding laundry while Dawn is doing her homework. Buffy talks about setting up a task chart for Dawn, where she can write down Dawn's chores and give her a gold star when she completes them. Needless to say, Dawn is unimpressed. The sisters argue, Buffy saying that she just wants to give Dawn a normal life. Dawn retorts that the Key doesn't need an education — the monks popped all the previous grades into her head, so maybe the next will pop in as well. Buffy slams her fist down onto the table, telling Dawn that this is serious. Dawn asks her why. "Because they'll take you away" is the reply. Dawn is visibly rattled. Buffy reveals that the principal explained that if Buffy can't make Dawn go to school, she won't be found fit to be her legal guardian. If Buffy loses guardianship, Dawn will end up going to either her father's, or a foster home. Dawn is clearly not pleased at either prospect.

At the fair, Tara sits alone on a bench, engrossed in thought, while Willow mopes at the magic shop. A woman's hand slips through Tara's and she smiles and turns, expecting to see Willow — but it's Glory.

Meanwhile, at the Magic Box, Giles asks Willow what's wrong. Willow reveals that she fought with Tara, for the first time ever. Giles reassures her that it's over. Willow is shocked, but Giles explains he meant the argument is over, not their relationship. He says it will be better now — and the two of them will know that they can quarrel and still go on with their relationship. He picks up a box to take it out and opens the door, only for one of Glory's minions (who must have been leaning on the door) to stagger in, before Giles slams the door against him. Giles then grabs him and throws him into a chair, demanding that he tell them why he was spying on them. The minion refuses, and boldly insists that he would never betray Glory. Giles instructs Anya and Willow to pick up some twine from the counter to tie the minion up with, and while their backs are turned, Giles apparently menaces the minion in some way (off screen), prompting him to exclaim fearfully that he'll do whatever they want. He admits that he was sent to watch them while Glory collects the Key, to make sure they don't interfere. The trio are horrified, and plan to call Buffy, but the minion scoffs that Glory will find the witch and there's nothing they can do about it. Anya and Giles are momentarily confused, but Willow realizes instantly that "the witch" is Tara. Willow runs from the magic box, instructing Giles to call Buffy and Anya to check Tara's room while Willow goes to the world fair.

Glory squeezes Tara's hand, hard enough that we hear bones cracking. Tara is about to scream, but Glory warns her not to. Tara desperately tries to make eye contact with people for assistance, but Glory taunts her with the knowledge that if she tries to get anyone to help, Glory will kill them and it will be Tara's fault. Besides, no one there could possibly help her. She crushes Tara's hand further, as Tara desperately manages to refrain from crying out, and the bones breaking through skin cause blood to drip out and onto the bench. With relish, Glory licks some of the blood, but then spits it out. The blood has alerted her that Tara is not the Key, just another "worthless human being." Glory is furious at Tara, and accuses her of lying about being the Key. Glory decides to bargain with Tara, so this trip won't be a complete loss: if Tara tells her who the Key is, Glory will let her go. Glory tells Tara that if she thinks her hand hurts, she should just imagine what it would feel like to have Glory's fingers wiggling inside her brain. She threatens to drain Tara's sanity, offering a detailed description of what it would be like when Glory's done — Glory obviously knows whereof she speaks. Tara is tearful and terrified, but remains bravely silent. "Fine", says Glory, "let's get crazy."

Willow runs through the crowds, frantically calling for Tara. She spots Tara and Glory on the bench and runs towards them, trying to cast a spell, but the crowds are too thick and as she struggles to reach them Glory slides her fingers into Tara's head. A Chinese dragon procession blocks Willow only a few feet away, and by the time it has moved, Glory has vanished. Willow runs to Tara, who is trying to scrape imaginary dirt off herself, before murmuring some gibberish. Willow is too late, Glory has drained her. Willow apologizes and holds Tara, crying.

At the hospital, Tara's hand has been set in a cast and the doctor (the same one who fired Ben earlier) informs Willow that Tara will need to spend the night under observation in the psychiatric ward. Willow protests, wanting to take her home. The doctor asks if Tara is Willow's sister — Willow replies, "She's my everything." Tara seems oblivious to the situation and talks in random, meaningless sentences much like Glory's other victims. Xander, Anya and Giles express their unhappiness at the situation as Buffy arrives. She hugs Willow and Tara and explains that Dawn is safe with Spike, so she can be here as long as Willow needs her.

Underground, Dawn and Spike are hiding out, unaware of what Glory has done, but knowing that she set out after Tara. Dawn is especially upset as she believes whatever happens to Tara will be her fault. She also blames herself for Spike's current bruised condition, the remains of the severe beating he received at the hands of Glory. Dawn wonders if only an evil thing can lead to such evil, meaning that she herself must be evil. Spike disagrees. Dawn agrees that perhaps she's not evil, but doesn't think that she can be good, either. Spike consoles her, saying that he's not good, but he's okay.

Back at the hospital, a nurse wheels Tara out in a wheelchair to the psych ward. Willow is distressed — she doesn't know if she can sleep without Tara. Anya offers to sleep with her, then says that sounded a lot less lesbian in her head than it came out. Buffy and Willow move outside the hospital room to talk; Willow tells Buffy she can't allow Glory to get away with this. Buffy tells Willow that there's nothing she can do. Willow wants revenge. Buffy attempts to dissuade her, but Willow is adamant. She claims that Buffy won't do anything until it's Dawn who is threatened. Buffy denies this, and says that they can only fight Glory when they have the right chance and that doing anything now would be suicide. Willow tells Buffy she will wait, and then leaves the hospital, saying that she wants to be alone.

Willow runs into the Magic Box and heads straight for the most powerful texts, searching for books. She grabs knives and other items on the way and shoves them into a bag. Finally she finds a tome called "Darkest Magick" and strikes the seal open. The book blows open and the pages turn rapidly.

Glory and her minions are at her apartment. Glory is on a high after such a good feed. She's not terribly concerned by her failure to locate the Key, noting that Buffy only has so many friends, and all she has to do is rip through them one by one until she finds the Key. The ground suddenly begins to quake. Glory asks if any of her minions ordered an apocalypse, and the apartment doors burst open, revealing Willow. She's floating a foot off the floor and her eyes are black. She begins to float inside, chanting, but Glory is unimpressed. Willow completes her spell and the air around Glory thickens, slowing her down. Willow faces Glory, and shouting at her, "I owe you pain!" Lightning bolts emerge from her hands and strike Glory, who screams.

In the caves, Buffy has returned. Dawn blames herself and asks if Willow is okay. Buffy remarks that Willow was "looking to go all payback-y," but she stopped her. Spike is sceptical about whether she really succeeded. There is no way that a person as powerful and angry as Willow currently is would not seek revenge, in his opinion. Buffy says that she told Willow it would be suicide, but Spike is dismissive. He says he'd do it, for the right person (looking at Buffy). Dawn gets it and asks Buffy — what would Buffy do if it had been Dawn? Buffy finally understands, jumps up and runs.

Willow continues to battle Glory. She causes a mirror to shatter and sends the jagged glass flying all over Glory, but it only succeeds in tearing her dress. Glory rips off the torn red dress to reveal a black slip underneath. She's starting to get annoyed. She hits Willow, sending her flying, and taunts her about how pleasurable it was to feed on Tara's mind. Furious, Willow gets back to her feet and levitates the bag to her, telekinetically lifting out several very sharp knives and hurling them at Glory, who simply bats them out of the way. One embeds itself in a wall. Willow begins to perform a spell to summon serpents, but Glory hits her with a table she hurls at Willow. Willow is tiring fast, but completes the spell. A snake emerges out of the ground and begins to wrap itself around Glory's leg. Glory simply shakes her leg and the snake turns to dust. She reaches down and grabs Willow, remarking that Willow is tired. Willow responds by spitting in her face. Furious, Glory drags Willow across the floor and pins her to the wall. She asks Willow if she knows what used to be done to witches, and tells her they were crucified. She grabs the knife from the wall and draws back her arm, ready to skewer Willow — but her arm is grabbed by Buffy who retorts to Glory, "They used to bow down to Gods. Things change." Glory and Buffy fight. Buffy is successful in stunning Glory after she shoves a couch into her, and grabs Willow, preparing to flee. Glory tries to follow them, but Willow uses a spell to thicken the air once more. As they flee, Glory calls out, promising that things are not over.

Willow, Tara, Dawn and Buffy sit in Tara's room. Buffy has a bag full of food, and hands out sandwiches to everyone. Willow asks what they got for Tara. Dawn explains they didn't know what she wanted, so they got tuna. She offers the sandwich to Tara, who is unsure and looks to Willow, who reassures her. Willow feeds Tara some applesauce, and Dawn asks if she can help. Willow hands the food to Dawn, who proceeds to feed Tara. Buffy asks Willow if she needs anything. Willow explains that the doctors have given Tara medication to keep her stable; they even told her she might need to tie Tara up some nights. She says sadly that sometimes, Tara is fine, like nothing happened. Buffy apologizes for not being able to save Tara. Willow says that she will care for Tara, even if she never recovers. Buffy understands, looking at Dawn. Willow tells Tara that she is her "always" and kisses her forehead. Tara smiles. Suddenly, one of the walls of Tara's room is ripped off, revealing Glory, who reminds them she said this wasn't over. Tara panics and starts to become hysterical. Dawn tries to calm her, which makes Tara look at her. This calms her, and Tara stares, fixated on Dawn. "Such pure green energy!" she cries. Buffy is horrified. Glory smiles.

Synopsis written by Chris Robus.

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