Willow sat staring vacantly out of her office window as the early evening sun bathed the Philadelphia skyline in a dusky orangish hue. She'd been trying for hours to pay attention to the pile of project reports on her desk but eventually gave up after a few fruitless attempts at concentration. It had been four months since she last saw Tara and the pain of not being able to be with her was gnawing at her sanity.
Their short-lived trip to Vegas ended with a rather tearful goodbye at McCarran International. Willow had asked Tara if she would fly back to Sunnydale to take care of a few things for her parents and the blonde readily agreed to do so. Little did they know, what was supposed to be a two-day deal would turn into a six-week nursing assignment. Sheila Rosenberg had lapsed into a state of near catatonia as a result of the lingering effects of PTSD that left her virtually bereft of her ability to communicate. Tara stayed on to help take care of the Rosenbergs, lovingly attending to their needs as if they were her own parents. Willow's eyes misted with gratitude when she thought of how much Tara had sacrificed to help them. When the clouds of depression finally lifted from Mrs. Rosenberg, Buffy, Xander and Anya told the blonde that they would be able to take over the watch and for her to go home.
"You have a career to get back to," Buffy had noted seriously one sunny day while they had gathered to have lemonade and a barbecue in the Summers' backyard. "Besides, I'm sure Willow misses you a lot. It's been a while, far longer than I think either of you had anticipated.
"I know. Willow sounded so down when I talked to her last," Tara conceded, absently stirring her sweating glass of iced tea with a swizzle stick. "I think her boss is driving her nuts. Her officemate, Becca, told me that she was practically chewing on the furniture after one particular project meeting."
"Just seeing that would've been worth the price of admission," Anya snorted, deftly hooking her wandering son with one foot while managing to change little Sara's very chocolate stained blouse. Everyone nodded in amused agreement. Later that evening, Buffy helped Tara pack and drove her to the airport in L.A. For Tara, leaving was both a sad and joyous occasion. Willow's friends brought her into the fold and made her feel loved, like the family she never had when she was growing up. She tearfully hugged Buffy goodbye and stepped aboard the plane.
For Willow, that was an eternity ago. It seemed that, no sooner had Tara returned, she had to leave again. They had only two weeks together before her lover had to hit the university lecture circuit. She was coming up for tenure soon and needed to add a bit more padding to her vita. Between the late-night long distance phone calls, the instant messaging and emails; one would think that they had never truly been out of contact. But nothing could ever come close to the electricity that they generated when they touched, skin-to-skin, heart to heart. Willow was feeling the need for Tara's touch most keenly on this day, the day when the software development project she and her team had been working on for the better part of the year would finally be over.
She smiled briefly, recalling how excited and thrilled Tara had been when she'd gotten a huge promotion as a result of her successful hat trick that saved the project. "No one deserves the success more than you," the blonde enthused the night Willow received the news. But the tidings that evening were bittersweet. It was then that Tara had hesitatingly told of her speaking engagements around the country. Oddly enough, Willow hadn't complained.
"Do what you need to do, baby," the redhead had encouraged her. "Just come home to me in one piece." In truth, there was a lot that Willow had on her mind, things she needed to sort out. Most of all, she needed to figure out where her relationship with Tara was going. Though her mind was focused clearly on her intentions but her heart, well it just might lead her into doing something rash. Something that may not really be good for both of them. Their last night together was spent trying to love away the ache of sudden loneliness from each other's hearts.
What was that quote she'd heard once? "Love is the primary magic of the soul... it keeps pieces of ourselves from being scattered by the winds or lost among the stars," she murmured in the silence of the room. The black D-term phone on Willow's desk buzzed insistently, pulling her out of her melancholy thoughts. With a long-suffering sigh, she pressed the glowing red button. The line that lit up was Becca's and she wasn't quite in the mood for her friend's forwardness.
"What, no love for your best mate? I'm shocked," she drawled with a bit of her East End accent showing through. Willow detected a bit of snark in her tone and wasn't having any of it.
"Not now, Bec," she snapped.
"Right, right... well I thought you would like to know that whilst you were off saving Cole's ever-loving arse in the stakeholder meeting this morning, a certain lovely someone left you a message. I didn't trust that little tart of a secretary you have to give it to you so I took it meself. Now aren't you just all better now?" Becca replied winsomely.
A sudden flush rose in Willow's cheeks and she was thankful that her close friend wasn't sitting across from her just now. She took a deep breath to try to keep the excitement from her voice.
"What did she say?" Willow could practically see the broad grin spreading across Becca's face on the other end of the line.
"Hmm... I dunno. I think my handwriting is a little off. It might get better if you were to buy me lunch tomorrow."
The redhead groaned inwardly, knowing that she'd been conned into taking her to lunch for the fifth time this week. "Fine, FINE!" she said through clenched teeth. "Has anyone ever told you that you haggle worse than my mother?"
Becca's evil cackles filtered through her earpiece. "See you at noon then, luv. I'll drop off Tara's message in your inbox. And don't forget, we're going to that Greek place over on South Street again. They've got the best souvlaki and dolmas in town!"
Tara stepped off the train at 30th Street Station into the massive throng of early evening commuters pushing to board the passenger car she left behind. Normally, she would have avoided rush hour like the plague. However, her flight from Charlotte landed at Philadelphia International Airport surprisingly ahead of schedule, much earlier than she had planned. She'd rung Willow's office earlier that morning to let her know that she would be back that afternoon but Becca had picked up her line to say that Willow was in a meeting and that she would give her the message. Tara wished that her flight had not been so ridiculously early. Now she would have to either stay in the city until Willow got off work or brave the usual crush of people on the R5 and head home to deal with unpacking. Fishing her flip phone out of her carry-on, she dialed Willow's voicemail to leave a message. The blonde smiled warmly when her lover's chipper, pre-recorded voice flowed across the telephone lines.
"You've reached Willow Rosenberg with Lockheed Martin Software Engineering Group. I'm either away from my desk or on the other line. Please leave a message with your phone number, date and time you called and I will get back to you. Thanks!"
"Hi baby. I'm back in town much earlier than I thought. I'm going to head home to dump my bags and maybe take a nap. Call me when you get in. I love you!"
She closed the phone and shoved it into her coat pocket. After giving a quick glance around the rapidly filling station, Tara decided she was just too tired from the trip to deal with the haggard people and well-worn seats on the R5. She hailed one of the several waiting taxis near the entrance to the building.
"Where to, miss?" the driver asked her in a clipped foreign accent.
"Newtown, please. No rush." She settled back into her seat and closed her eyes.
The driver glanced appreciatively into his rearview mirror at his fare. He shook his head, marveling at how lucky he was to have a polite and, above all, beautiful fare. Pulling down the red flag on his meter, he began whistling to himself. He decided he just might enjoy this ride after all.