The key slipped in the lock. The lock unlocked, as they do. The door opened.
"Check it out, Red! We didn't even have to pick it!"
Willow gave Faith a wry look, "Yeah, that's a first..." her wry looked turned into something akin to bewilderment, "holy, shit, Faith, we have a place!"
Faith and Willow stepped together into the partly furnished flat above the old Drycleaners. They grinned at the welcoming sight before them: the lounge room and kitchen were one big (ish) room with a grimy old pullout couch, and a noisy, rattling fridge. A door led off from the right, into the tiny bedroom and another door off there led into the questionable bathroom.
"Home sweet home, ey, Red."
Willow turned and grinned at Faith, "We have a fridge!"
Faith gave a small laugh, "Yeah, we do, kid."
Faith had first saw Willow sitting on the side of the road. Her feet were in the sewer, her face was covered in dirt and tear streaks. Her hair was matted and hadn't seen a brush in a good few days. She was the saddest sight Faith had ever seen. And Faith had seen many a sad sight. She doesn't know why she stopped her movements down the path, why she sat down next to this kid, when she'd walked past so many others. It wasn't that she didn't care when she saw those ones-she'd seen the religious phonies out there, stopping at every sad kid on the side of the road, trying to fix the world and getting nowhere.
The thing is, she wasn't in their world. She was in the Kids world, the Street world, and that was a dog eat dog world.
She'd invested herself once, and it...well, it hadn't ended well. So she would normally see a kid like the grubby, redheaded girl and just keep walking. Faith was, after all, one of them, what could she do for them? And anyway, she had shit to do. She had to find a place to sleep that night, something to put in her stomach. She had to keep the pimps and drug heads of her back, she had look out for her, cause sure as hell no one else was going to do it.
But no, she'd sat herself down next to the kid.
And she'd asked her, "What's your problem, Red?"
And the girl had looked at her with these huge, green kiddie eyes and said, "Fuck off."
Faith had liked her from the get go.
"Oi, Faith, get over here and help me unpack the food." Willow ditched a balled up piece of paper at her head for added emphasis.
"We have one bag. One. You really need help to unpack that?" Faith rolled her eyes and dropped onto the couch, "So, we trading off? One week on the sofa bed, the next in the bedroom?"
Willow put the food in the fridge, which now held the essentials-and all they could afford- bread, cheese, milk and beer, "Yeah, sound fine," she grabbed her cigarettes and lit one, passing them to Faith as she sat down next to her, "And we better make a deal, Faith: no girls unless it's your week in the bedroom. I don't wanna be walking in and seeing some freaky sex act."
Faith grinned and leaned back, taking a drag, "Deal, Red."
And they sat, on their sofa, in their place, and smoked, and drank, and listened to the silence that came from not sleeping on the street. For the first time in almost four years, they had a place they could call Theirs.
Willow woke, her heart pounding in her ears. Her eyes looked wildly around the room, her hands were raised as if to fight something off. Seconds passed.
Slowly, she lowered her arms. She felt her breathing return to normal as she realised she was in the flat.
She wasn't back then.
Swallowing, Willow lay back down on the hard mattress of the sofa bed and shut her eyes, tight.
Her thoughts washed over her, and she remembered the dream. She was back then, before. She balled her hands into the sheet covering her and tried to remember to breathe.
It was like she was there, again. She felt the feeling of her bed over her, felt the carpet under her palm. She heard the banging at the door downstairs. Her mother was yelling, screaming really, begging her father to just leave and let it go.
Willow was supposed to stay quiet; she was supposed to stay here so her Daddy would think she was at her friends house.
The banging was louder, there was a splintering sound, like the world was splitting in two. Her mother was still yelling, wanting to know what her Daddy was doing. She heard her Mum ask why her Dad had a gun, heard her tell him to put it down.
Then there was a sound like the world gave up splitting, and just exploded.
Willows' breathing was in her ears, all she heard form downstairs was silence now. She knows she was meant to stay there, but she needed to see, what her Daddy was doing, why her Mum was quiet.
Her bare feet padded on the carpet, barely made a noise, but to Willow they sounded like thunder. Her hand slipped down the banister until she reached the last step. Willow turned into the kitchen and stood in the doorway. Her Mum was on the ground, and there was red, red everywhere.
It was dotted on the white walls, on the cabinets, on the bench-it pooled on the floor, spilling out and around her Mum.
Willow felt her body shake, felt like she did when she had the flu and she was all clammy and she'd thrown up a lot. She raised her eyes and saw her Daddy, his back to her, standing over her Mum.
He was shaking as much as Willow was.
She watched him raise the shiny, black little gun in his hand towards his head. Willow wanted to shout out, to tell him no, but her mouth was frozen shut.
Her Dad turned away from her Mum, turned to where Willow was standing in the doorway. There was blood on him, too. His eye's looked right at her but didn't even see her. The gun was at the side of his head, at the part where her Mum said she should rub when Willow got a headache.
His hand was shaking. Willow was shaking.
He never even saw her.
And then the world exploded again.
But that was back then. Willow was here, in bed. Faith was in the next room. Willow sat up again, leans over the bed and fumbles for her cigarettes. Lighting one, she shakily pulls in the smoke her, breathes it out, finding it therapeutic.
She doesn't really remember much after that. There were sirens, and bright red and blue lights. A nice man in a police uniform took her hand. She was put 'in the system' and bounced from foster home to foster home. She was made to talk to a counsellor, but Willow refused to open her mouth. For three and a half years Willow kept her mouth shut and refused to utter a single word. After the six foster home, and too many screwed up times, Willow bailed.
She packed her few clothes into a backpack, jumped out the window and hitched a ride to New York. She didn't care if she had to sleep on the sidewalk, as long as she got some control over when she lay herself down at night.
Willow spent her first night in New York, and her fourteenth birthday, asleep in an ally laying on some old crates.
Three days later, sitting on the side of a random street, Willow had felt someone sit down next to her.
"What's your problem, Red?"
Willow raised her eyes and looked at the face of a girl around her age, looking grubby and worn, but together.
And she spoke for the first time in three and a half years.
The girl didn't, and Willow couldn't be gladder.
Tara MaClay was one of the It girls of her school. She's not really sure why or how that happened. Her family had a lot of money, her father was the Father of their Church and her brother was quiet the stud. She blames those reasons for it.
The limousine, as always, dropped her off right out the front of her school. She stepped out and thanked Scott, the driver.
She put her chin up and prepared herself for another day.
It wasn't that her school was awful. She just found the whole thing so fake. It was an all girls catholic school, St Catherine's School For Young Women, to be exact. The girls that attended it were to pick of the richest in New York, the most beautiful and wealthy the school could find. Unfortunately, they weren't always the nicest.
Tara met her friends where she always did, outside her locker. Anya was already there, clutching her books and leaning against a locker.
"Hey, Anya," Tara opened her locker and started collecting her mornings books.
"Tara! You're late. Well, so is Buffy, but she's always late," Anya looked carefully at Tara, "Okay, what's wrong?"
Tara looked up sharply, "N-nothings wrong, Anya, I'm fine. How are you?"
Anya pushed herself off from the locker and turned to Tara, "Ah! You stuttered! Something is wrong. Spill. Now."
Tara swallowed and kept digging through her locker.
"Taaraa." Anya whined her name out. She was far too good at it. "I know! Your Dad is back isn't he. And your brother. What did they say this time? Your stutter? You sneezed at mass when you shouldn't have? I know! You didn't say eighteen Hail Mary's and dance naked under the full moon?"
Tara raised her eyebrows at that, and quirked a smile.
"I-it was nothing, Anya," Anyway kept staring at Tara and crossed her arms, "They...Dad, he...he bought up last year again."
Anya's arms fell to her side, then came up to rest against Tara's, "Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine." Tara even attempted a real smile, "See?"
"Guys! I'm here, I'm here!" Buffy screeched to a stop next to the two blondes, "Bloody Philip was late again, I swear my Mother should fire him, but she's all 'he has a family, he needs understanding' and 'life happens, Buffy, just because your driver was five minutes late doesn't mean he deserves to be fired' and I'm all, 'Mum! Its his job, he is supposed to be on ti-'" the whirlwind that was Buffy finally shut her mouth, "What happened, what I miss?"
Tara threw Anya a look, "Nothing, Buffy. We're going to be late for homeroom, got your books?"
Buffy threw Anya a quizzical glance as she started to follow Tara down the hallway.
Tara climbed into Anya's brand new Mini Cooper ("Red, of course, because it goes faster!" Anya had said). Buffy jumped in the front seat and Anya started the car and drove off.
Buffy twisted in her seat and looked at Tara, "Right, miss. What's going on?"
Buffy had known Tara since grade school, and, damn it, she knew something had happened.
Tara sighed and rested her head back, reaching up to undo her tie, "My father got back last night. We had breakfast together."
Buffy cringed, "Ouch. Longer then five minutes? 'Cause, you know, that would be a record."
Tara smiled, "No. It was about two minutes, so the usual. At least that's done now, though."
Tara turned to stare out the window.
"Tare-you wanna talk about it? He brought up what happened again, didn't he?"
Tara swallowed and looked at Buffy, "I just want to forget it, Buffy." She truned and looked outside again.
Buffy leant back in her seat and looked across to Anya, "We need to cheer her up."
Anya grinned, "Moshies?"
Buffy bounced, "Moshies!"
Tara yelled out from the back, trying to be heard over the music Buffy turned up, "Not Moshies guys, please!"
Buffy leant forward and turned the music up louder, "What sorry Tara!? Can't hear you!"
Tara scowled and leant back.
She really didn't feel like seeing Graham right now.