Author: Willow Watcher
"Were back!" Willow announced as she opened the door to the firm.
Buffy came running through the front room. "HaveyouseenAngel?" She asked breathing heavy.
"Whoa! Calm down. What's with the hub bub...bub?" Willow asked as she placed her hands on Buffy's shoulders.
Buffy took in a deep breath. "Have you seen Angel? He ran out of here before you all left. I haven't seen him since."
"He didn't tell you where he was going?" Willow asked.
"NO!" Buffy shouted.
"Alright Buff. We'll find out where he is." Willow said reassuring the woman.
Tara hugged Buffy but didn't say a word. She walked through the house and down another hallway.
Willow watched her go. She wanted to go after her, but figured that she would leave Tara to her thoughts. She turned back to Buffy. "Have you asked the others?"
"Faith said she was going out on the streets and ask around. Xander and Anya said they were going to the local bars thinking he might just wanted to get away for a few. Cordelia has been in his office calling the hospitals and police. I don't know what to do. I can't leave. It's nearly four o'clock."
"I'll wait here with you. Let me go and see what Cordy has found out. Just try and stay calm. Get you a drink and sit down before you pass out." Willow hugged Buffy and then pulled back.
Buffy nodded and walked into the kitchen. Willow headed towards Angel's office.
"Hey." She said as she walked in.
Cordelia had the phone receiver up to her ear and held up a finger, motioning for Willow to hold on.
"Well, if you find anything, you call us and let us know. Got it!" She said as she slammed the phone down.
"So, I gather you didn't find out anything." Willow said as she took a seat.
"Damn locals. They aren't going to tell us anything. This town is run by the Giotti's. They have the police under their thumb. I even tried to call the FBI office and they couldn't tell me anything. Giles called and I gave him a situation update." She slammed her fist on the desk. "Damn it! Why did he have to run out of here like some crazed maniac? I bet you anything he went to the Giotti's."
"I wouldn't doubt it in the least. I would go and try to help find him but I need to stay here with Buffy when she gets the call." Willow said, reclining back more into the chair.
"How did it go with James?" Cordelia asked giving her full attention to the redhead.
"The only thing the bastard told me was that he owed money to the Giotti's. One of their family was in there and took care of him personally. He died when we were leaving."
"Oh my god! How did Tara take it?" The brunette asked.
"Actually, she took it...well she didn't take it in. I don't think it has hit her yet. Do you believe that man had the gall to ask for forgiveness?"
"You're joking? After all he put Tara through. What did she say?"
"She whispered something in his ear and then we left the room, then he died just seconds later." Willow said crinkling her brows together.
"Don't you think that's kinda strange?" The brunette asked giving the same expression as the redhead.
"Yeah. Actually, I never thought about it until now...but yeah."
Cordelia changed the subject. "Did you talk to whoever stabbed James?"
"Yes. He didn't say much, just that he was doing family business. I asked him about Lacey, but he said he didn't know a thing. I am beginning to wonder...." Willow was interrupted when the phone rang.
She looked at the time. Four o'clock. She turned to Cordelia. "Put the tracer on."
Cordelia nodded her head as Willow walked out of the room. By the time she walked from the office to the living room, four rings had passed. Buffy stood there over the phone.
Willow nodded her head and Buffy pressed the speaker button.
"Hello." She answered shakily.
"Do you have our money?" A voice that was synthesized came over the line.
"Yes. Where's my baby." Buffy asked. "I want to speak with her."
"No. She's safe. All I'm interested in is the money." The voice came back.
"Where do you want to meet?" Buffy asked wanting all of this to be over with.
"Tomorrow afternoon at five p.m. Meet us at the old Kenwood warehouse. Do you know where that is?" The voice asked sarcastically.
"Yes." Buffy came back.
"Good. See you tomorrow then."
The phone clicked.
Buffy heard a dial tone. She turned the phone off.
Cordelia ran out of Angel's office. "The call came from a phone booth. I'm having the number traced right now. It'll take about ten minutes."
"Good." Willow said.
"I need to go talk to Tara. I suppose I'm taking her up on her offer." Buffy said as she walked away. She hated to ask but it seemed like there was no other option.
Willow walked up beside her and they both stopped. "Let me do it. I need to talk to her anyway about today."
"Yeah. How did that go?" Buffy asked.
Willow looked over her shoulder to Cordelia.
"I'll fill you in Buffy." The brunette said.
Willow smiled then looked back to her oldest friend. "Do you happen to know where Tara might be? I thought I saw her head down that hallway." Willow threw her thumb over her shoulder.
"Oh. She probably went to work out. Third door on your left, the steps lead down to the training rooms."
"Thanks." Willow hugged Buffy. "Everything's going to be alright."
"Everyone keeps saying that." Buffy said as she pulled back.
"Just have faith, Buffy. Have faith." Willow smiled and walked down the hall.
Willow got at the bottom of the stairs and could hear loud rock music playing and the slight sound of thumping coming from a room to her right. She opened the door and saw Tara in a sports bra and jogging pants that were rolled down enough to see her hips. The blonde was kicking and punching away at a bag.
Willow stood there and looked at the beauty in front of her. She loved the way that Tara moved and just everything about her, especially her heart. Willow walked over to the stereo and turned it off.
Tara stopped and looked at the redhead then resumed her workout.
"Hey." Willow said as she walked closer.
"Hey." Tara said as she did a roundhouse kick at the bag.
"You're pretty good at that." Willow said standing still. She didn't want to get too close.
Tara didn't say a word. She stood in front of the bag, throwing punch after punch. The punches became harder and quicker. Sweat streamed down from her forehead, dripping off her face or so Willow thought as she inched closer. When she was in clear seeing distance, she realized that sweat was mingled with tears.
"Tara?" Willow walked closer.
"What?" The blonde asked as she punched harder.
Willow walked around and behind her. "Tara, stop."
Tara kept on.
"Tara, please baby, stop." Willow pleaded. She could see the sadness in her love's eyes.
Tara started growling throwing punches. Then the sound that came from her was louder as the thumping on the bag became more and more. She screamed out and her arms were flailing basically out of control. Willow grabbed the blonde and held her arms still. Tara screamed and kicked at the bag as it swung from its chains.
Willow held the blonde tight. "Let it out baby. I'm here, just let it out." Willow said as she cried herself.
Tara finally broke down. She let Willow catch her fall as both slid down to the soft blue mats.
Willow held Tara from behind as the blonde screamed out and sobbed.
"I'm...I'm such an awful person." Tara said behind her cries.
"What? No baby, you're the best person that I know." Willow said trying her best to be calming.
Tara sat there and just shook her head.
"Tara, baby, you are not an awful person. Why would you think that?" Willow asked.
"I didn't forgive him. He asked me to forgive him and I..." She looked back at Willow. "I couldn't."
"Honey, he didn't deserve forgiveness. You can't forgive evil people like him." She said letting Tara know that it wasn't the worst thing in the world.
"I told him that if I had the chance, I would have stabbed him myself. I told him I hope he burns in hell for what he did." Tara broke down even harder. "I hate him. I hate that he's making me feel this way again."
"Feel what way?" Willow placed her head on Tara's shoulder.
"Weak." She said putting it all in one word.
"Remember years ago when I told you that you were the strongest person that I knew?" Willow asked as she slowly rocked them back and forth.
"It's even more so now. Look at you. You're strong, more beautiful than I remember; more self confident and you have the gentlest soul that I couldn't even touch. I love you." She kissed Tara's shoulder.
"Have you ever killed someone?" Tara asked out plainly.
Willow's eyes dropped to the floor. "Yes." She whispered out.
"I believe I did, today. I believe I killed him when I said what I did and the worst part is I don't care." She said as she just stared forward.
"You didn't kill him. He was dying and I believe he held on just long enough so he could basically torture you one last time. Now someone like that doesn't deserve to be forgiven." Willow said trying to convince her love that it was the truth.
Tara turned back and looked into those drowning pools of green. "You believe that don't you?"
"Yes I do." She said jutting out her chin.
"Willow?" Tara said still staring into her eyes.
"Yes baby." Willow answered staring into blue.
"Make love to me, now." Tara said as she pulled the boxing gloves off her hands.
"Huh?" Willow asked totally taken by surprise.
Tara turned her body around. "Make love to me. Right here, right now. Show me how much you love me. Show me that you need and want me."
"Huh?" Willow asked again.
Tara pushed herself on top of the redhead, throwing them both down on the mats that lined the entire floor.
Tara kissed Willow hard. More forceful than passion.
"Buabby." Willow tried to get out behind the lips that were on her.
Tara growled as she moved her hand underneath Willow's shirt.
Willow cringed when Tara took her breast and squeezed it hard.
Willow pushed Tara up from her.
Tara's breathing was hard. "What? Don't you want me?" She asked.
"More than anything, but not like this." Willow said.
Tara pushed herself down on the redhead again, taking her lips and biting them.
Willow pushed Tara completely off her and the blonde landed on her back. Willow stood up. She put her finger on her bottom lip and pulled it back and saw blood.
"Tara, what are you doing?" Willow asked as she darted her tongue out at her lip and licked the tart taste.
"I want you. I need you." Tara said as she stood up. She walked towards the startled redhead.
Willow held up her hand for Tara to stop. "Not like this. I don't want to make love to you when you are like this. I love you more than anything in this world. I will always want you and need you, but you are upset and angry and to me that's not making love."
Tara walked closer. "Get...out!" She yelled.
Willow didn't say a word. She just turned and walked out, slamming the door behind her.
Tara walked over to the stereo and turned it on and blared the music as loud as it could come out.
She walked back over and picked up her gloves from the floor and began to beat on the bag again.
Willow opened the door to the upstairs and slammed it behind her. Buffy came out from the kitchen as Willow walked up the hallway.
Both jumped back when they almost ran into one another.
"Hey." Buffy said as she looked at the redhead. "What's wrong?" She always knew by looking at Willow's facial expressions when she was mad.
"Nothing." Willow said with a short answer.
Buffy noticed the blood on Willow's lip. "What happened?"
"It's nothing. Forget it." Willow said as she walked passed the blonde.
Buffy caught up with her and turned her around. "Something happened. Now tell me."
Willow sighed. "It's Tara. She's like all to hell about today. I knew she shouldn't have gone with me. Goddamn it!" Willow licked her lip again.
"She didn't hit you did she?" Buffy asked.
"No. Nothing like that. She's just...I don't know how to explain it." Willow said dropping her eyes to the floor.
"Come on in the kitchen. I'll make you some tea and you can try and explain it to me." Buffy linked arms with the redhead and led the way.
Willow sat down at the bar as Buffy put on a kettle of water.
"Alright. What's the deal?" Buffy asked as she took a seat across from Willow.
"Well, if Cordelia explained it right, James died today when we were leaving out." Willow said.
"Yeah, she told me about it."
"Well, when we left the prison to come back here, Tara didn't say anything on the trip back. I mean not one word. I thought it best to leave it alone. Something like that kinda shakes a person up a bit."
Buffy nodded her head, agreeing.
"Anyway, when we got back, as you know she just gave you a quick hug and walked away."
"Kinda noticed that. Go on." Buffy said. She got up from the stool and prepared a cup with sugar and a teabag. She sat back down.
"When I went downstairs, she was more or less beating the shit out of the punching bag. I tried to get her to stop, but she just kept punching and then she started screaming. I grabbed her and held her. She told me that she didn't forgive James and she blames herself for him dying. She said she killed him."
Buffy looked confused. "O.K. so she didn't forgive him but that doesn't mean that she killed him. Daniel told me over the phone that James was really bad off."
"Exactly. I told her that he just probably held on long enough to make her life one more trip down hellsville and that he didn't deserve to be forgiven."
"That's probably true. But that still doesn't explain why your lip is bleeding." Buffy cocked her head to the side.
"Oh well yeah, she umm...she kinda forced herself on me and asked me to make love to her right then and there. For me to show her that she is needed and wanted. I pushed her up off me and told her no but she pushed herself right back down and started biting my lip. Buffy, I love her more than my own life and I would do anything for her, but she was scared and so pissed off, I told her that I didn't want to make love with her when she was like that. So basically she told me in a not so gentle fashion to leave and well, I did."
"Probably for the best. I'll talk with her." Buffy stood up when the kettle started whistling. She poured the hot water in the cup, stirred it and handed it over to the distressed redhead.
"I appreciate it Buff, but please don't. I mean I'm sure you can talk to her and help her and all. You have for all these years. You've been here when I wasn't and maybe she's mad at me for that, in which I can't blame her. I mean, yeah, I lied to her but she told me that she forgave me...no wait...did she? I don't know if she did or not. I said I was sorry and she said she was sorry but I have a lot more to be sorry for than she does. But I really haven't asked her to forgive me. But I probably shouldn't seeing that James, that fucker, asked her to forgive him and she didn't and she might think that I'm just saying it because he did, but that doesn't make any sense. Does it?"
Buffy sat there wide eyed and shook her head. "How can you breathe? You're babbling is getting worse all the time."
"Sorry." Willow said as she stirred her tea with the bag.
"I always thought it was adorable, but sweetie, you're gonna have a brain hemorrhage one day from the lack of oxygen.
Willow giggled out. She held the cup up to her mouth and took a drink. She quickly put the cup back down and grabbed a napkin. She placed it on her lip and saw spotting of blood that remained.
"Damn it!" She swore patting the napkin on her tender sore.
"I tell you what. I won't mention a thing to her, but if she comes to me and wants to talk, then I will. O.K." Buffy suggested.
"Thanks." Willow smiled at her friend.
"Can someone help me please?!" A shout came from the front room.
Buffy and Willow didn't hesitate. They both ran out of the kitchen to find Faith trying to pull something big inside the door.
"What is that?" Buffy asked as she approached. She stopped when she recognized what it was.
"Oh god!" Willow helped Faith drag the almost lifeless body inside the door.
"Where did you find him?" Willow asked as she turned Angel on his back. His face was bloody in some places but it was more bruising than anything.
"Right outside. I was walking up the street and saw a black van dump something big outside on the curb. I ran as fast as I could, trying to see who it was but they were gone. I turned around and then I saw it was Angel." Faith said hysterically.
"Cordy!" Willow yelled out.
The brunette came running out of the office. "What's going on...oh my god!"
"Call an ambulance, now!" Willow ordered.
Cordelia didn't waste any time.
"Angel, come on buddy, talk to me." Willow patted him on the cheek.
A moan came from him as his head moved back and forth, slowly.
"Honey." Buffy knelt down beside her beaten husband. "Come on."
Angel opened one eye. The other one was swollen shut.
"Hey." Buffy said as tears fell from her face.
A white sheet of paper pinned to Angel's shirt caught Willow's eye. She opened up and read it:
SIMPLE? WE HAVE HER HIDDEN
BETTER THAN THAT. MONEY TOMORROW AT 5:00 OR YOUR
LITTLE GIRL WON'T BE SO LUCKY LIKE ANGEL.
Buffy stood up. She ran into Angel's office. She emerged just seconds later with a pump action shotgun in her hands.
"Oh no you don't!" Faith said as she headed towards the blonde.
Buffy aimed the gun right at Faith. "You aren't going to stop me."
Willow jumped up and grabbed the gun away from Buffy. She pumped all the shells out of the chamber and threw the gun over to Faith.
"Are you half cracked? You wanna get yourself killed." She grabbed Buffy by the shoulders and shook her. "We are going to get Lacey back tomorrow. There is no reason for you to go and get yourself hurt like Angel. Your little girl needs the both of you."
Buffy started crying. "I'm just tired of all this. God, I can't even count the days since I've seen her. They have to pay, Will. They have to."
"And they will. Trust me on this. They'll get what they deserve. Alright?" Willow held Buffy to her.
"The ambulance said that they are on their way. They should be here in a few minutes." Cordelia said as she came running over.
Xander and Anya came in the door. Faith stopped the door just centimeters before it hit Angel in the head.
"Oh dear god! What happened?" Xander asked.
Anya couldn't stand the sight. She hid her face in Xander's shoulder.
Sirens were heard from down the street and getting closer.
"No one mentions what happened. We'll just say it was a gang fight. Keep to that story. No one breathes a word about what really happened. Understood?" Willow asked looking at everyone around the room nod their head.
The ambulance stopped and two men got out. Willow and Faith pulled Angel's body further into the room so the medics could get through the door.
Willow ran to the phone and dialed a number.
"Hey. It's Willow. We need you." She said into the receiver.
"I'll brief you in when I get there. I'll head out now." Willow hung the phone back up.
She walked back over and saw them put Angel on a stretcher and wheel him out the door.
Buffy started heading out when Willow stopped her. "I've got to go out of town for a bit. I'll be back in an hour. I've got my cell on me. Call me with any news."
Buffy nodded her head and walked outside and got into the back of the ambulance.
The vehicle with lights and sirens blaring sped down the street.
"Were going to the hospital." Xander said as him and Anya headed out towards their car.
"Cordy, can you man the fort? I'll be back in a little while. If anything comes up, call me." Willow said as she headed out as well.
Cordelia shut the door. She heard someone walk up behind her. She whipped around and saw Tara standing there.
"Where did everyone go?" Tara asked wiping the sweat of her brow.