Willow's thoughtful eyes glanced up from the book she had been reading and looked over Tara's slumbering form. The blonde tossed onto her side and mumbled under her breath before turning back onto her stomach. Watching the sleeping woman's face tense and relax, the doctor placed her book on the side table and moved closer to the bed.
Her movements were silent and careful as she brushed some of the blonde's hair away to watch Tara's face. The sleeper's lips trembled a little but she continued resting while the redhead studied her perplexed expression. Even in sleep, the former patient's mind wasn't at ease. Willow gave a long, quiet sigh and wished she knew what the blonde was dreaming.
The past few hours had been hectic to say the least, neither she nor Robin were entirely sure of what to do or where to begin, and their own minds constantly sought explanations. If Mrs. Evans was in some way involved with Tara's admission, who was to say she did not have something to do with her own daughter's disappearance? It seemed pretty far-fetched even to Willow, but at that point she wasn't sure what to believe.
The doctor had stored Tara's folder away and had yet to continue reading over it, partly believing and hoping that the former patient would explain everything to her. Willow wanted a different and possibly more effective way to get answers and her only hope was in Tara, but the optimism grew lesser each time the blonde seemed to draw more into herself. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Willow knew that it would be next to impossible to get solid answers so soon after such a transition and that the hospital documents were all she had to go on for now.
While the doctor's unfocused eyes drifted into thought, Tara's had opened.
Clear blue squinted at the light from the side lamp before shifting to Willow's pensive expression. Tara feared that any movement would disrupt the doctor's thoughts and so she stayed put and merely watched the young woman's meditative features. The blonde's gaze moved to the open book facing down and scanned the title with an appreciative half-smile.
So much had changed. She had dreamt about the past, forgotten memories resurfaced and crashed against her consciousness. It was rare that she remembered; having always been made to forget before an image was freshly preserved in her mind. And though it had been weeks since she had stopped taking her medication, the side effects lingered. The headaches grew worse, but she learned to deal with the pinching nerves that jumped between her eyebrows. On the other hand, the bouts of fatigue and often alertness had slowly dwindled; perhaps her body was starting to adjust after all.
Once Tara fully examined the redhead's face, Willow, as if sensing eyes on her, blinked rapidly until her sight was more alert. Tara immediately hid her gaze and sat up in the bed so that her back leaned against the headboard.
Doctor Rosenberg, embarrassed by her daydreaming, cleared her throat, "How are you feeling?" Attentive eyes bore into the blonde's temple until Tara met her gaze.
"B-Better," Tara said, mustering a brief smile. The room fell into an awkward silence, with Willow realizing that she was hunched forward in her chair. The doctor slid back into the seat, grabbing and closing her book as she did so.
"Are you hungry? Or thirsty? I could get you something," she rose from the chair.
Tara pushed strands of hair behind her ears as her thankful eyes found the other woman's. "C-Could I have some water?"
Delighted to be useful, Willow smiled. "Yes, of course," her smile grew, "I'll only be a minute." She took up the coffee mug she'd been drinking from and vanished.
During the doctor's absence, the blonde rose from the bed, neatly folding the blanket into place and smoothing over the surface. Her rest had left her strangely refreshed. She stretched her back muscles, rotated her joints, and exhaled deeply just as Willow returned with a glass of icy water.
"Thank you," Tara gratefully accepted the glass. Her fingertips momentarily grazed those of Willow's before both women stepped back. The doctor nodded and with modest sips, the blonde downed a large portion of water and set the glass on a nearby counter.
A veil of silence fell between the women, thick and uncertain. Deciding to break the awkwardness, Willow spoke. "Would you like to go for a walk?" She asked, having remembered Tara's efforts to relieve her body of some of its tension. The two women had been cooped inside all day and the doctor thought some fresh air could help them both.
Tara shot a glance toward the window. She hadn't been outside since arriving at the redhead and her friend's house, and looked forward to a change of scenery. "Yes." Her eyes rested on those of the doctor.
The cold air tinged their cheeks red but their lungs enjoyed the freshness. Bare trees aligned the streets while the weak sun barely surfaced through thick silver clouds. Everything was dying, empty. Was it all pointless?
"You do trust me, don't you?" Willow asked, wrapping her thick fleece tighter around herself. To the redhead, it seemed like she was constantly asking the same question to both herself and her former patient.
The woman beside her, who was bundled in a dark green coat, momentarily turned to face the questioner. Tara's expression was oddly sympathetic, as if she couldn't believe that Willow questioned whether or not she trusted her. But considering her own silence, Tara understood her uncertainty.
Willow observed the other woman's features when Tara looked forward once more. She always believed that trust was earned and hadn't she earned it? The doctor was not looking for a medal or some other trinket for helping Tara, all she wanted was her trust.
"I trust you." Tara replied after a moment. The women continued down the sidewalk, both silent in their thoughts while an air of hesitation floated thinly between them.
Tara wanted so much to explain it all, to reveal every moment she could remember about her past and her time at Pines View. But she was free now, did it really matter what had taken place? A part of her knew it mattered even as the rest of her conscious mind tried to deny it.
"Are you ready to talk about what happened?" Willow asked, hurrying to add, "We can go as slow as you like, I- I only want to know what's going on. I can only help you if I have a place to start." She wondered if she should go further and reveal what she knew, but feared that her words would alienate the blonde and perhaps make her shut down completely.
The doctor sensed that there were places she could not yet go. Eight years of hospitalization was bound to leave its mark on Tara; the medication and confinement would change anyone. And that was what bothered Willow the most. In her short time as a psychiatrist, she had come across a variety of people, each with their own problems. Yet the woman beside her was different. There were no wild withdrawals, no frantic mutterings, or imagery people.
Willow watched the silent woman's eyes grow distant and wondered what thoughts passed through Tara's mind. Could she have stayed in that place for all those years and have kept her mind intact? Was there even a possibility?
The redhead slowed her pace. "I know that there are things you don't want to talk about right now." Choosing her next words carefully, Willow carried on. "But will you answer one question for me?"
Eyelids rimmed red from the blowing wind, Tara faced the psychiatrist. She quietly searched the other woman's features and nodded after a couple of seconds.
"Evening, Daniel," assembling her sweetest ‘I need a favor' voice, Robin went on. "Do you remember that case I took for you last month?"
"What do you need, Robin?" His throaty tone of voice was full of mirth and the lawyer, knowing the detective so well, could picture him sitting at his desk, bitter coffee on one side and a stack of papers on the other.
The prosecutor and officer had been friends for almost four years, having met on investigation involving a corrupt District Attorney. The case had landed them both some notable exposure and offices closer to their bosses.
"How's desk life treating you?" The young woman chose to make some light conversation before diving into her purpose.
Snorting on the other end, Daniel Smith played along good-naturedly. "Coffee tastes like sugared mud and the bastard receptionist took all the jelly-donuts. Other than that, I can't complain."
"Good to hear," Robin chuckled through the receiver. "So listen, do think you could do me a huge favor?" Formalities out of the way, she jumped into it.
"Is it legal?"
"Now have I ever asked you to do something that wasn't?" They both grew silent for a moment. "No, it's completely legal, Dan." The prosecutor assured him.
"What do you need?" The detective asked. Clicking his pen, he wrote as Robin explained from the other end of the telephone. "Should I be on the lookout?" He asked once she had finished.
"No, it's nothing like that. I just need the information," she told him and hoped he wouldn't press. She trusted the officer with her life, but felt it would be best not to involve him beyond the basics.
"Okay, I'll have it to you as soon as I can."
"Great. Thanks, Daniel." Robin said, smiling.
"You just make sure I get those matinée tickets you promised me two weeks ago," he grumbled. "I've been telling Janis I'd take her all month."
"Consider it done." The attorney thanked him once more before hanging up. Pushing back from her desk, Robin stored her notebook in her briefcase and left the room.
She had heard Willow and Tara leave some time ago and guessed that they would be back shortly. In the meantime, the dark-haired woman headed downstairs and into the living room in hopes of indulging herself in the guilty pleasure of watching reruns of her favorite soap opera.
Hours of searching had ended fruitlessly. Donnie muttered as his beat-up truck pulled into the rundown motel. If it wasn't for his whiny cousin, he would continue to look but the idiot had grown some balls and threatened to tell Donald Sr. about Tara if he wasn't allowed to rest for an hour or so.
The call to his father hadn't been a nice one. The young Maclay had lied to the preacher and told him that they needed to spend a few days in the city in order for the withdrawal process to be completed. As far as Donald Maclay knew, Tara was presently tucked away in Pines View and waiting for her dismissal.
"I'm hungry," Ricky said, complaining. He flinched when a bag of stale chips was thrown into his lap.
"We have to save our money for the trip home," Donnie explained. "Here," he dug into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change mixed with balls of lint, "go get us some drinks."
Ricky frowned at the coins that had been dropped into his hand. Scowling when his cousin turned his back, he gripped the change within his fist until the coins dug painfully into his palm.
After a moment, Donnie heard the door slam shut and he fell back into the chair, switching on the television.
There was only one soda machine in the motel and it was broken. Ricky had kicked, forced his hand up the shoot, and shook the large piece of equipment repeatedly but nothing worked. Muttering to himself, he looked around and once spotting a convenient store across the street, he started toward it.
It took him less than ten minutes to purchase a six pack of soda. Pocketing the leftover change, Ricky swung the plastic bag as he walked from the store. Stopping before he stepped from the curb, the young man froze and thoughtfully looked back to the payphone near the entrance.
A Maclay through his mother's side, Ricky had been living with her in Tucson when Tara entered the hospital and other than what he had been told, he knew nothing. What he did not understand was why after so many years they would think Tara would be better at home.
His eyes altered from the telephone booth to the motel across the street.
The brief words of explanation Donnie did offer were usually followed by mockery or some other form of insult. After awhile, Ricky had stopped asking all together. Perhaps if he called his uncle he would get some answers. Donald Maclay was not always forthcoming but if he knew about Tara's disappearance, his worry would possibly make him more willing to explain. A small glance toward the motel again made the decision for him.
"No word, sir?" Doctor Christianson asked the older gentlemen sitting behind a large, oval shaped desk.
"No," running a hand through his grayish hair, the hospital director carried on, "It's out of our hands. We'll let the authorities take care of it."
Charles made no attempt to argue. He no longer cared about the missing patient. She would eventually turn up, possibly more fanatical than she was before. He had nothing to worry about. He had kept his job and he had moved on.
"Will that be all, sir?" He asked, having originally been called into a meeting to discuss his progress.
"Yes," the older doctor sorted through the small pile of papers on his desk. He frowned and his eyes stopped wandering over the pages. "Charles," he called, stopping the younger man before he could leave.
"Sir?" Christianson grimaced, paused in the doorway, and faced his superior.
"I've been looking over the patient's file," the director checked one page with another. His dark brown eyes met the younger supervisor's. "You were at Pines View when Miss Maclay was admitted, yes?"
Surprised by the question, the doctor answered. "Yes."
"You oversaw the process, correct?" What was he getting at? The older doctor looked up when he didn't receive an answer immediately.
"I did, sir." The doctor stammered unprofessionally.
Silent, the elder psychiatrist nodded. "Thank you, Doctor Christianson. That will be all." He scribbled comments on his notebook that lay atop the messy papers.
Charles closed the door and sagged heavily against the wall. Nine years ago he had been a snot-nosed novice looking for the earliest chance to prove himself. Was it likely that his past mistakes weren't completely forgotten?