After a brief stop of at the market to buy replacements for all the things they had used for their picnic, Willow and Tara arrived back at Buffy's house a little before sunset. Buffy had left a key for Willow which she used to open the door, holding it open to allow Tara to pass through before her. "After you m'lady!" Willow said with a giggle as Tara's hair brushed her cheek on passing. "Thank you kind sir!" Tara responded and grabbed Willow for a kiss, pushing the door closed behind them and pressing Willow back up against it as her lips eagerly kissed the soft lips of her partner before gently allowing her tongue to flick softly over them. Almost automatically, Willows leg drew up to wrap around Tara's full hips and pull the blonde ever closer as she moaned softly, opening her mouth slightly to allow Tara inside.
As their tongues slowly explored the familiar territory of one another's mouths, they became lost in the kiss. Even after 5 years together they could still lose themselves totally in something as simple yet magical as a kiss, time stopped and the rest of the world went away leaving nothing but them and their love.
Around their feet were the contents of the brown shopping bags, an impatient orange rolling slowly across the floor before coming to a halt at the foot of the stairs. Outside a car pulled up behind Willow's and Xander stepped out into the rapidly setting sun, slamming the door behind himself, he made his way up the path, whistling cheerfully as he tried the handle. He hadn't noticed the shock of red hair through the glass in the door and pushed the door, surprised to find it unlocked but resisting his efforts to actually open it.
Behind the door, Willow was lurched forward into Tara, inadvertently biting the other woman's tongue as the door hit her in the back of the head. Both women pulled apart from the embrace with a disgruntled "OW!" and stared at the door which opened suddenly, spilling Xander into the hallway. As he fell, his knee met a tin and his efforts to break his fall with his hands resulted in contact with the not so impatient oranges, making pulpy orange goo on the carpet.
Willow and Tara stifled a giggle as Xanders head came to rest on a packet of fresh croissants and he uttered a surprised "Ouch!" as he finished his slow motion free fall, the contents of the shopping had been mainly soft items so they knew that he wasn't really hurt, although the tin would leave an interesting bruise on his right knee. Helping him up, Willow giggled slightly, "You ok?" Xander nodded as he brushed himself down and surveyed the spilled groceries.
After collecting themselves, and the shopping, Willow, Tara and Xander gathered up the remaining food stuffs and took them out to the kitchen, the oranges that had survived Xanders fall were placed in the fruit basket and the other items stored in their relevant places. "So, you girls up for some Bronzing it once Buffy gets in from slay...." he cut himself off, unsure as to whether or not Tara had been told of Buffy's true identity.
Having Willow back made him feel 17 all over again, they had slipped into their usual banter so effortlessly that he had almost entirely forgotten that she had been away for over a decade. "Erm, I mean..... When Buffy gets home." Willow giggled, even after so long, Xander still could put his foot in it big time and still hadn't gotten any better at rescuing himself. "Tara knows." She told him, "Well, kinda!" Tara grinned at him to confirm this and Xander sighed a huge sigh of relief. "So, the Bronze is still the only place to hang out around here then?" she asked, half of her surprised that, as they'd matured the remaining Scoobies hadn't found somewhere else to hang out of an evening, the other half knowing why the Bronze held such allure for them. Xander nodded sadly, confirming that it was the only place to have a beer and a laugh, unless you fancied Willies Bar, which was still haunted by the usual or unusual mix of vampires and demons.
Looking up at the clock that hung over the door, Willow gasped, it was almost 7 o'clock. Where had the time gone? "I better shower then!" she said, indicating the timepiece, "Buffy will be home soon?" her questioning glance fell on Xander who nodded a confirmation. "Be back soon." She said, flashing him a smile and kissing Tara sweetly. As soon as her lips met the blondes, she felt the familiar rush of electricity and promise, despite herself and her present surroundings the familiar dampness that Tara provoked between her legs made her shift, suddenly wanting more from her lover. As she pulled back, Tara squirmed in her seat, obviously feeling a similar rush. Without another word, Willow winked at Tara and left the warm kitchen. 'A shower! Then the Bronze, then we can go home in the morning!' she thought as she climbed the stairs, trying to force the consuming passion that was burning in her stomach away.
Tara had instantly recognised the look and request that Willow had silently offered and she tried to work out a way to excuse herself without being too obvious. In the early days, she hadn't cared so much, Vince had pretty much worked everything out just by looking at here, but then, she was in her domain, her place of work and he had been her friend. Now she was in totally new surroundings with people she hardly knew and was a guest in the home of a relative stranger. Yes, discretion was definitely called for here.
"So, Willow told you all about us then?!" Xander's voice cut into her thoughts and she realised from the mans stance that he was up for some conversation and that getting away to the arms of her lover was going to be harder than she'd imagined. "Yeah." She replied, trying to make it sound like she'd understood the insanity that Willow had painted for her, "Pretty intense, uh?!" Xander nodded vigorously. "So," Tara continued, "Buffy's a Slayer?" the confusion in her voice matched that written across her beautiful face. Willow had mentioned this but had offered no explanation as to what a 'Slayer' actually was. "Yep. I know it's all a little hard to take in, but Buffy fights the demons and vampires and stuff that goes bump in the night." Xander had the 'matter of fact' tone that came with years of experience; Tara could only assume that he had been as confused and perplexed as she was in the beginning. Rubbing her temples gently, Tara tried hard to fight the question that was propelled to the foreground of her mind. "What about Oz?" she suddenly blurted out, her internal fight lost against her urge to know what had happened to the man who had loved but ultimately tried to destroy Willow. Xander's eyes glazed slightly, his gaze lowering to the breakfast bar as he tried to decide what he should reveal. "He, well, he.... Erm." The silence proved to be too much but his mouth refused to make any sensible sentences. "He went bad for a while, then he left town to try and find a cure." Xander decided telling her the truth was probably the best option and since she knew Oz's name, he presumed that Willow had explained his 'condition' and what had passed between them previously. "He came back a few years ago, and then disappeared again. We haven't seen him in about 7 years." He finished, the look that had spread over Tara's face was not that of fear, as he'd expected but of pure and blatant concern for her fiancée.
Tara couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief. At least if Oz wasn't in Sunnydale, there was no danger of a repeat performance, although she had never met the man, she felt that since he'd wolfed out over Willow's leaving town, finding out she was back, and about to marry another woman might not register high on his 'let's have a happy' scale, on the other hand, he could be thrilled about it as Xander seemed to be, but Tara found this to be the least likely option.
Buffy burst through the back door and caused everyone to jump visibly, "Hi!" she said cheerfully, unaware of the momentary fear she had just filled her friends with. "Gees Buff!" Xander exclaimed, "You trying to kill us?" The Slayer grinned at him, he'd lived in a town where you could be attacked by all manner of scary things at any given time and yet he still jumped and squealed at something as simple as a door being banged. "We Bronzing it?" she asked, punching him gently in the arm as she passed him to fetch a glass. Both Tara and Xander nodded as she returned her gaze to them. "Great!" Buffy said before taking a huge gulp of orange juice. Turning to Tara, the Slayer regarded her and all that she had possibly learnt in that day, "How was your picnic?" she asked quietly as Xander buried his head in the fridge, searching for something chocolaty no doubt.
Tara nodded thoughtfully, "Very enlightening." She replied eventually, a small and knowing smile spreading her lips and dancing in her eyes.
Willow stepped from the shower and wrapped a huge fluffy green towel around herself as she rubbed her hair. She had hoped that Tara would come up and join her and the lack of Tara in the steam filled room caused her to pout slightly at her reflection.
As she dried herself down and stepped into the hallway, she walked, quite literally, into Tara and Buffy who were giggling like old friends. "You nearly ready?" Buffy asked her as she handed the towel back that Willow had been using to dry her hair. The redhead nodded and smiled, "All done in there!" she said, gesturing back to the bathroom. "Ready for the next one!" Both Tara and Buffy giggled as Willow headed into her room to get dressed. "You wanna go next?" Buffy asked as Tara watched Willow disappear into the room, a hint of regret playing in her eyes as she imagined what could have happened. "O-oh, yes. If you don't mind." She said, surprised that her stutter had re-emerged. She couldn't recall have stuttered once since the night she had proposed to Willow and having a simple question like the use of a bathroom bring it back out confused her. Buffy had, apparently, not noticed. "Cool, we'll have to leave soon if we want a table." She told her before vanishing into her own bedroom and pushing the door closed behind her.
By 8 o'clock, the new and reformed Scooby Gang were ready to head out, all except Xander who had tired of waiting around for the ladies to get ready and immersed himself in an old war film on the television. Buffy pried him from his seat and dragged him towards the door, ignoring his moans of protest she practically carried him into the street, much to the delight of Willow and Tara who laughed raucously at the event.
As they walked towards the Bronze, not one of them noticed the tall, dark haired man who stepped out of the shadows of the tree in the front yard, not even Buffy noticed the mans face contorting to its true, demonic self as he followed behind them being careful to match his footsteps with their own so as not to be heard. Even the vampire, usually the hunter was unaware that tonight, he was also the hunted.
Half a block from the house, an unearthly howl pierced the night and sent shivers through Willow, her grip on Tara's hand tightening to a skin piercing grip and freezing her in place on the sidewalk. With much prying and convincing, they managed to eventually get Willow moving again although their words of comfort did nothing to stop the shaking or sweat that had covered her in a fine layer. A second howl, this one much closer than the first caused the terrified redhead to drop to her knees, turn her head and vomit painfully into the gutter, her hands were grazed from the sudden and rough contact with the pavement and her knees bled and seeped beneath her jeans.
The tales of vampires and demons had, unsurprisingly scared Tara slightly, but this was a much more terrifying sight. Nothing scared Willow, not ever! She had faced many things in the time they had been together and each one had been met head on with confidence. That Willow was a far shot from the one who was sobbing, shaking and vomiting on the pavement before her. This Willow was small, almost childlike in her fear.
As she wiped her mouth, Willow looked up at Tara, her emerald eyes shining with tears. "I want to go home." She said, her voice weak and small. "Now!"
Buffy helped her to her feet, "Maybe we should go back to the house." Willow had always been nervous, but in the few times Buffy had seen her since she had first left Sunnydale, she had grown into a powerful, strong and confident woman. What Buffy was bearing witness too now actually scared her. "I want to go home." Willow repeated again. "Home to L.A." Tara nodded, wrapping her arms around Willows waist to steady her. "We'll leave first thing in the morning." She said solidly, leaving no trace of doubt in the minds of the others that they were going.
They walked slowly, and silently back to the Summers' home, their unknown vampire stalker had seen a short but well built man emerge from an alley to follow the group and had decided to make him a snack. Big mistake. As soon as he placed his hand on the younger mans shoulder he had spun round, his face half transformed into that of the werewolf. In the blink of an eye, the were-man had bitten the head off the unsuspecting creature and howled in delight as he burst into ashes before him. Turning his attention back to the group he had been stalking, Oz grinned as Willow froze, he could smell the fear radiating from her and she smelt good! Ducking back behind a hedge as the Scoobies helped her stand and eventually carry on moving, Oz peered through the foliage, his face still half transformed. As soon as she appeared to have regained control of herself, Oz vanished through the back gardens of the houses to his left, emerging 5 houses in front of the group he had once considered to be friends. Seeing Willows hand loop tightly through that of the blonde he felt an ugly stab of jealousy, the rage and darkness that had overtaken him since Willows original departure forced another bloodcurdling howl from the pit of his stomach.
As Willow crashed to her knees, he felt an odd sense of pleasure at her total, all consuming terror and he turned, allowing his face to return to its natural human form before slipping off, unnoticed into the night.