Author: Willow Watcher
Rating: NC-17 for sex, and violence, and if you think it's important, the language too.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything having to deal with BtVS. They all belong to Joss Whedon and the other people out there who have a claim in the series and all things dealing with Buffy. I however did write this story and the other characters are mine.
Summary: This takes place four years after Stratagem. Agent Willow Rosenberg has many twists and turns to go through in order to solve a case.
Feedback: Yes please. I appreciatet he feedback that I did receive on my other story and I would like it on this one. Please send to
Author's Note: You might get a better idea of what this story is about if you read Stratagem.

Willow Rosenberg was sitting at her desk working diligently on her computer.

She picked up her phone when it began to ring, "Agent Rosenberg."

"Willow, can you come to my office please?" The deep British voice came over the receiver.

"Sure Giles. Can you give me about ten minutes? I'm finishing up all this glorious paperwork on the William's case." Willow sifted through the pile of papers on her desk.

"Agent Rosenberg, I need to see you now." Giles insisted.

Willow knew that it was serious seeing as Giles used her business title.

"Be right there."

Willow rushed from her office to Giles'. She burst into the door panting. "What's going on?"

"Please take a seat Willow." Giles said pointing to a chair in front of his desk.

Willow sat down. "Giles, what's going on? You're kinda freaking me out here."

Giles took in a deep breath. "Willow, normally I would be against an agent being assigned to a case considering perhaps he, or in this incidence she is personally involved."

"Giles, get to the point, please." Willow said encouraging him on.

"Yes well, it seems that your friends Buffy and Angel have come across a horrific incident with their daughter Lacey."

Willow's eyes widened. She sat straight up in her chair. "Oh my god! Lacey! What happened?"

"Apparently Lacey was kidnapped Monday afternoon." Giles said trying to explain to the alarmed redhead.

"Monday? Monday! Hello, this happens to be Thursday!" Willow exclaimed.

"I am well aware of the day Willow. Angel has been searching for his daughter relentlessly, unfortunately, with no avail."

Willow knew that she had to think through all the options. "O.K. Well, have the local police come up with any leads?"

"No dear. There was not one single clue for them to discover."

"Alright. What I want to know is how this affects me? I mean, yeah I'm concerned and I want to do everything I can to help, but you said case and...and personally involved..."

Giles held up his hand. "Willow please let me continue."

She nodded her head.

"Buffy phoned me as early as possible this morning. She briefly informed me of the situation and asked that you be assigned to the case. As I said, it is against my better judgment. However considering that Angel Investigations has been of great assistance to the bureau, I personally feel obligated to them. It is up to you Willow if you want to take the case."

"I'll take it. Just tell me where to start." Willow said jutting out her chin.

Giles smiled at the woman he practically raised. "I knew that I could rely on you. As I briefly informed you, this incident occurred on Monday. According to Buffy, she and Angel had left town on business. They had left Lacey at a center for children."

"Who was watching her? I swear these day care centers are so fucking careless anymore. It seems to get worse all the time. And they call themselves professionals. It just amazes me that they even keep their licenses..."

"Willow! It was Tara Maclay." Giles knew that the name alone would stop Willow from her ranting.

"Tara?" Willow asked weakly.

"Yes. She was found unconscious by Angel when he went to pick up Lacey." Giles said. He saw the sorrow in Willow's eyes and it nearly broke his heart knowing how it hurt her to loose Tara.

"Is she alright?" Willow was terrified thinking the worse about the woman she was still desperately in love with.

"According to my earlier conversation with Buffy, Tara is still unconscious at Cedars Sinai Hospital. Apparently she suffered a massive head trauma from her attackers. That was all the information I was given." Giles handed Willow the case file.

Willow opened the folder. Included with the papers of the case at hand, there were also pages from Tara's case. Willow ran her finger across a smeared ink blot that was caused by a tear she had shed when she forced herself to fill out the report. She was not allowed to even look at Tara's file all of these years.

Willow didn't hesitate anymore. She sprung up from the chair. "Get me the first flight out to LA. I have to go home and pack a few things. Call our office in Los Angeles and you better tell them to stay out of my way! I don't need their goddamn noses up my ass."

Willow headed for the door. She turned and looked back at Giles. "Thanks. Thank you for letting me do this. I'll get it solved."

"As I know you will dear. Take care and I will call you when everything is in order." He smiled and watched Willow leave out of his office. He picked up the phone and started making the arrangements.

Two hours later, Willow arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. After her bags were checked she walked over to the rental car center.

"I need an SUV." Willow said reaching into her purse for her wallet.

"Alright." The rental agent pulled out papers from under the counter. "I just need to see two forms of identification."

Willow handed the woman her driver's license and FBI identification.

"Yes, Agent Rosenberg. Agent Rupert Giles has already taken care of all the arrangements. If you could just sign here, you'll be on your way. The woman smiled and handed Willow the forms.

After signing, Willow was handed the keys. She walked out looking in the direction of the rental car parking area. A gray Nissan Pathfinder pulled up to the curb in front of her. A young man got our and walked around the back. Lifting the hatch, he picked up Willow's luggage and placed it in the rear and closed the hatch back down.

He walked over to Willow. "There you go ma'am. Extra keys are in the ignition. Have a great day and drive safely."

The young man started to walk back inside the airport.

"Hey!" Willow called out to him. "Let me give you a tip." She reached into her purse.

"That's alright. It's all been taken care of." The boy waved and walked inside.

Willow got in the vehicle and was on her way. Living in Los Angeles for the first two years in the bureau, she pretty much knew her way around.

She plugged the earpiece in her cell phone and called Giles.

"Rupert Giles here."

"Hey Giles. Thanks for setting everything up for me. Did you happen to get a hotel room for me somewhere?" Willow asked.

"Actually Willow, Buffy and Angel called approximately an hour ago and insisted you stay with them as long as necessary."

"That's great Giles. I'll give her a call." Willow pulled onto the interstate.

"Are you headed there now?" Giles asked.

"I wanted to go to the hospital to see about Tara. I won't stay too long." Willow said.

"Willow, I know of your feelings for Tara. It is more than evident, but you need to keep your mind on the case at hand." Giles sighed.

"I know that Giles. I just wanted to go see her. I'll call Buffy and tell her that I'll see her in a couple of hours. I told you, I will solve this case, even if it kills me. I love Lacey, Buffy and Angel. They are like family to me." Willow stated.

"As I am more than well aware of. I also know that you are very much in love with Miss Maclay." Giles stated wanting the priorities to be in order.

Willow was not in the mood to argue. "Giles, I'll call Buffy and Angel. I'll keep you informed." With that she hung up.

Willow walked up to the nurse's station.

The woman looked up. "Can I help you?"

"Tara Maclay's room please." Willow requested.

The nurse looked suspicious at Willow. "Miss Maclay is in ICU. Unless you are family, you cannot go in there." The nurse smirked and continued with her paper work.

Willow pulled out her FBI badge and slammed it down on the desk. "I think you'll make an exception in this case." Willow smirked back at the nurse and raised her brow.

The woman's eyes widened, "Down the hall to your left.

Willow returned her wallet back in her purse and walked in the direction the nurse had given her.

Willow walked down the hall to the nurse's station there. "I'm here to see Tara Maclay."

The nurse looked at list on her desk. "Your name?" She asked as she looked at the redhead.

Willow growled, "I am FBI Agent Willow Rosenberg." She said in a demanding tone.

"Room 3." The nurse said in a short manner.

Willow walked towards the room. She peeked in the window in the door. She saw Tara lying there, unconscious with monitors and IV's all around her bed. A tear ran down Willow's face. She opened the door and started to walk in when she noticed a brunette sitting in the chair asleep in the corner. Willow couldn't make out who it was seeing that the brown hair was sprawled out to cover the woman's face.

Willow was shocked. <Tara's moved on? She has someone else in her life? Why not? I mean, she is beautiful and sweet and well, she's Tara. I lost her a long time ago.> Willow sighed and closed the door.

She wiped the stream of tears away as she continued to leave the ICU department.

"Willow!" A voice came from behind her.

Willow was still in her own world and didn't hear her name being called.

She felt herself being turned around. Before the redhead knew it, she was being embraced in a hug.

The girl pulled back, "Oh my god Willow! You're here!"

"Dawn? Dawnie!" Willow wrapped her arms around the teenager.

"I can't believe you came. I'm so totally happy you're here." Dawn said as she pulled Willow by the hand back to Tara's room.

Dawn placed her finger over her lips. "We have to be quiet."

Willow nodded her head in understanding.

Dawn and Willow approached the side of Tara's bed.

"How's she doing?" Willow whispered.

"About the same. The doctors said something about swelling on the brain. They had to drain the fluid." Dawn whispered and frowned.

"She hasn't responded to anything at all?" Willow asked.

"Well, Buffy and I have been taking shifts. Buffy said that she has noticed Tara's hand move and her eyes flutter a bit. I've just noticed the eyes. She's been whispering in her sleep." Dawn said as she held tight to Willow's hand and then took Tara's.

"What's she been saying?" Willow said as she stroked Tara's face.

"Willow." Tara whispered out as her hand jerked and her eyes started to flutter, then she was still again.

"That." Dawn said. "She only says your name. Nothing else."

Willow's heart skipped a beat.

"Hey listen," Dawn let go of Willow and Tara's hand. "I'm gonna take a break. Buffy should be here soon. Are you going to be staying with us?"

Willow looked and smiled at the young woman who she practically saw grow up. "Yeah."

"Great!" She exclaimed in a loud whisper.

Dawn kissed Willow on the cheek. "I'm so glad you came."

"Me too Dawnie."

Dawn left out of the room. Willow pulled a chair up beside of Tara's bed. <Déjà vu.> She thought as she sat down.

She took the blonde's hand in hers. "Hey." Willow stroked the hospital bracelet on Tara's wrist and frowned. "It's me."

Willow heard the beeping of the heart monitor get faster.

"Tara, you have to wake up baby. Come on. Let me see those beautiful blue eyes." She said as she watched the monitor slow down. She noticed a tear stream out of the corner of Tara's eye.

"Can you hear me?" Willow said hopefully. She felt Tara's hand jerk.

"Willow." Tara whispered again, but still remained unconscious.

"That's right. I'm here, with you. I'll always be with you Tara. You know I never before believed in God, but I know that some higher power must exist because he sent an angel like you down here, to me. Tara, even though years have gone by I have never stopped loving you." Willow started to cry. She laid her head down on Tara's arm. <Please, whoever is listening up there, let her wake up. Let her be alright.>

Willow felt the back of her head being touched and stroked. She smiled and looked up, but Tara remained still.

Willow turned her head. "Hey." She said as she wiped her tears away.

"Hey Will." Buffy stood there. Her hair was frazzled, clothes wrinkled and black circles hung under her eyes where she hadn't had a decent sleep in days.

Willow stood up and embraced her best friend. Both women cried on each other's shoulder.

Buffy and Willow sat on the couch that was in Tara's room.

"So," Willow began. "how did this all happen, with Lacey I mean?"

"Angel and I went out of town on a case and we left Lacey with Tara. Lacey loves to go there. She's made a lot of friends. Anyway, when we came back later that evening, Tara was hurt and Lacey was...gone." Buffy lowered her head.

"Giles said that you left Lacey at a daycare center with Tara." Willow said wanting Buffy to fill in the blanks.

"Have you heard of the Maclay Institute for Abused Children?" Buffy asked.

Willow nodded her head. Her eyes widened with reality. "That's Tara's?!"

"Yes. After she left Sunnydale, she felt more than obligated to help other children who were in the same situation she was in." Buffy explained.

"Buff, I still don't get it. Why is she here in LA? I mean it's not like she can't be here, because hello, she can live anywhere she wants. Free country, ya know..."

Willow was brought out of her babbling when she heard the beeping on Tara's heart monitor speed up again.

Buffy looked from the monitor over to Willow. "She knows you're here. No one can mistake that babble of yours."

Willow smiled and held Buffy's hand.

"I'll start out at the beginning, Will. When Tara got out of the hospital, she came to the bar. You remember the bar, right?" Buffy smirked and Willow blushed. "I thought you would. Anyway, Spike and I were still there packing up the last remaining things we left there. She was all to hell Willow. She didn't have any place to go. Yeah, she had the house her and James lived in, but would you honestly want to live in that horrid place?"

Willow shook her head and cringed thinking about all the hell Tara had to endure.

"Well, I offered for her to stay with Angel and I. She still lives there with us. Believe me, we both enjoy her company and she is a god send when it comes to Lacey."

Tara's monitor beeped faster and then slowed down again.

"I miss her so much Buffy. I never stopped loving her. I know she has probably moved on but..."

"No Will." Buffy interrupted. "No one has even caught her eye. I don't want you to be mad at me, but I tried to set her up with a couple of dates but she never went through with them."

Willow's eyes narrowed with anger, but then she lowered them down. "Well I know she has a life and I don't expect her to pine and whine herself over me <like I've done for her> I mean it has been four years."

Tara's monitor began picking up the rate again and then slowed.

"Well I don't know about that. She has said nothing but your name since she's been like this. She asks me all the time how you are. When your mom died Willow, she went to the funeral. She stayed in the back, but she was there."

"Why didn't you tell me, Buffy?!" The redhead anger was rising.

"I promised her I wouldn't. She wasn't ready to see you again Will. It was hard for her to break up with you but she is still so much in love with you. But I wouldn't push it. When she comes out of this, take it slow." Buffy placed her hand on Willow's knee.

"I will. I don't want to fuck up again." Willow looked over at Tara. "I love her so much."

"I know. Hey, I'm gonna head back home to be with Angel. He's a wreck. Will you be there soon?" Buffy asked as she stood up.

"I will. Buffy, we're gonna get Lacey back. I swear." Willow said with determination.

"That's the reason I personally asked for you to be on the case. If anyone can do it, you can." Willow stood up from the couch. "I love you Buffy." She gave the distressed blonde a hug.

"I love you too Wills."

They both separated and Buffy left the room.

Willow sat down in the chair beside Tara's bed. "I'm gonna have to go baby. I have to find Lacey. You are strong and you'll come out of this. I'll find the son of bitches that did this to you. No one messes with my girl." Willow gave a sad smile. She bent down and kissed Tara gently on the lips. "I'll be back tomorrow."

Willow rubbed Tara's cheek with the back of her hand. She picked up her purse and walked out of the room.

"Willow." Tara whispered. Her hand jerked and her eyes fluttered open. She looked around the room. "Willow?"

Willow pulled up in front of a newly remodeled building with a sign 'ANGEL INVESTIGATIONS'. She got out of her vehicle and walked up to the door. Before she was able to knock, the door swung open.

"Willow!" Dawn said with much enthusiasm. "Come on in."

The teenager took Willow by the arm and led her inside.

"Buffy, Willows here!" She yelled making Willow flinch at the loud announcement.

Buffy walked down the stairs with her arms crossed. "Dawn, please don't shout. I know you're excited about Willow being here but there is a thing called volume control."

Dawn put her hands on her hips. "Well, would you have heard me if I had whispered it? No, I don't think so."

Buffy ignored her sister's comment and looked at Willow. "I thought you were going to stay at the hospital longer?'

"I was, but there are other matters at hand here. I'll go back and visit Tara tomorrow." She said with sorrow. She took in a deep breath. "Where's Angel?"

Buffy pointed down a long corridor. "He's in his study going over every possible case we have been involved in."

Willow nodded her head and started walking towards the room.

Buffy put her hand on the redhead's shoulder. "He's isn't himself Will. He has barely slept since...since all of this."

Willow patted Buffy's hand, "I can handle it."

Willow was more than aware of how Angel could lose his temper when he was stressed out. She knocked on the door as she opened it.

"Don't bother me now!" He shouted sitting at his desk, his back to the door.

"Not even an old friend." Willow said in a compassionate voice.

Angel whipped his head around and smiled. "Willow." He whispered.

The dark haired, pale skinned man walked towards her. He enveloped her in a hug.

"Hi Angel." Willow whispered as she hugged him, running her hand up and down his back.

For the first time in days, Angel broke down in tears. He knew he had to be the model of strength for Buffy and Dawn, but when it came to his friend and confidant Willow, he let himself go.

"It's alright. We'll get her back. I promise." She rocked back and forth trying to calm the man down.

He pulled back and wiped his tears away. "I'm so happy to see you." He ran his hand up and down her arm. He walked back over to his desk and sat down.

Willow followed and sat on the opposite side. "Have you come up with anything?" She asked looking at the massive files scattered out; part of them sprawled in the floor.

Angel shook his head. "No. I did get a note today placed under the windshield wiper of my car." He shifted some files around and handed the folded paper to Willow. She opened in and read:


"Family? Maclay? Angel, what the hell is going on?" Willow asked. She looked up and saw Angel holding a picture of Lacey, running his finger across the glass. "Angel!" Willow shouted pounding her fist on the desk.

"I don't know. I have looked through every case I can think of." Angel said placing the frame back down.

"Has Buffy seen this?" Willow asked.

"NO! And I don't want her to know about it either. She's all to hell Willow. She might have the 'I'm tough as nails' look but she cries every night."

Willow nodded in understanding. "Well, O.K. one key, family more than likely means having to deal with the mafia. As far as Maclay, the only one besides Tara is James. I'll have to get Giles to fax his case to me." Willow said as her brain was working with any other scenarios that she could come up with.

Angel opened his desk drawer and pulled out a red folder and handed it to Willow. "Talked to Giles as soon as I got the note." He said in a monotone voice.

Willow nodded and looked through the file.

Hours passed as she read and re-read every statement, note and phrase trying to find one clue. She slammed the file down on the desk making Angel jump. He had nodded off for a brief period.

"Sorry." She said. "Angel, you need to get some sleep. I'm here to help and I'll call Anya and Xander tomorrow and get them over here. We'll see if Faith can help, too. Is Cordelia still around?" Angel nodded.

"We'll get her here too." Willow rose up from her chair and walked over to Angel. She helped him up and walked with him out of the office.

Buffy looked up from a book in her lap when she heard the creak of the office door.

Angel walked up to Buffy and kissed her on the forehead. He smiled at her and walked up the stairs.

Willow plopped down on the couch beside her best friend.

"Find anything new?" Buffy asked.

Willow shook her head. "Not too much more. Trying to fit all of the pieces together is a bitch." She looked over at Buffy's lap. "Whatcha lookin' at?"

"Photo album." She flipped the laminated pages. She pointed to one when Lacey was first born. Buffy on one side of the infant, Tara on the other and Dawn poking her head up in the corner. All with proud beaming smiles. Pools of tears were in Buffy's eyes. "She's only three, Will. She's just a baby."

Willow pulled the book halfway towards her. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked at the picture.

"The four most important girls in my life."

Buffy put her arm around Willow and pulled her close. The two sat there flipping through the pages.

Dawn came barreling down the stairs when the phone rang.

"Dawn, no phone calls after ten." Buffy stated and looked at her watch. "And it's fifteen minutes 'til eleven."

"Oh please!" She rolled her eyes. "I'm almost seventeen. I'm just going to answer the phone. If it's a guy, I'll tell him to call back tomorrow."

Buffy waved her hand and looked back at the album.

"Hello?" Dawn answered.

"What?!" She exclaimed causing Buffy and Willow to sit straight up.

"Thank you!" Dawn hung the phone up.

"What is it?" Buffy asked looking at her sister jumping up and down.

"Tara's awake! She's gonna be O.K. Buffy." Buffy jumped up from the couch and was almost knocked down when Dawn hugged her.

Buffy looked around to face Willow, but she was headed out the door.

"Will? Where are you going?" Buffy asked as she chased after the redhead.

"Duh! I'm going to the hospital." Willow looked at the blonde like she had lost her mind.

"Willow you can't go. Visiting hours are well over. You'll have to wait until tomorrow." Buffy eased the redhead back in the door.

"But Buffy...?" Willow whined.

"Visiting hours start at eight in the morning. Get a good night's sleep. You wanna look good for your girl, don'tcha." Buffy interlocked her arm with Willow's.

Willow sighed in defeat. "O.K. You win." Willow smiled. <Thank you!> she thought as she looked up.

"C'mon. Let's get you settled in upstairs."

Buffy opened the door to the guest room. "Here ya go Will."

Willow walked in and looked around. Her luggage laid at the end of the bed. Willow looked over at Buffy with a raised brow.

"Dawn." They said at the same time causing both to chuckle.

Willow walked over to the bed and sat down.

"I'll let you get some sleep. G'night." Buffy said as she turned to leave.

"Buffy, can I ask you a question?" Willow asked.

"Sure." Buffy replied, closing the door and sitting on the bed.

"What if Tara doesn't want me anymore? I mean, yeah, it's been four years since I've seen her and I have changed and I'm sure she has too, but what about her feelings. I still love her so much." Willow stated lowering her head.

Buffy placed her hand under the redhead's chin and raised her head to where their eyes met. "She has changed so much but she still feels the same." Once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen." Buffy smiled and kissed Willow on the cheek.

"Thanks Buffy." Willow said sincerely.

Buffy got off the bed and headed back towards the door. "I'm gonna hit the hay. I just hope Angel sleeps through the night." She closed her eyes and shook her head. "Anyway, you have total reign of the house. Anything you need, let me know or Angel or even Dawn. She'll bend over backwards for her favorite aunt."

Willow gave a half grin. "See ya in the morning."

Buffy gave her a wave and walked out the door.

Continue to Labyrinth Chapter Two

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