"Did you know that food tastes better barefoot?"
"Don't be pedantic."
"I know, you minx."
"Anyway, it's not only food that tastes better barefoot."
"What else tastes - oh my god, is that all you think about?"
"Are you saying this because we're lying naked in bed?"
Another small pause.
"May be. Do you want to lay naked somewhere else?"
"We don't have any other furniture."
"Stoic today are we?"
A sly grin.
"What? Tell me."
Instead of using words, she used her lips, tongue, teeth and fingers.
They returned to California. Willow found a job at a boutique venture capital fund as investment specialist, with an option after one year of buying into the partnership. They were very keen to have her, and even agreed to her delaying her start date until after summer.
Tara, who had taken an unconventional route through the college system, partly due to Wilkins' influence, managed to transfer to the full-time program at UCS Law School.
They had time.
Time for house-hunting, and to leave behind trading floors, noisy clubs and solving international art theft cases.
Most importantly, time to be together.
They attended Buffy's graduation while they were still on the East Coast. Their friend graduated in the top third of her class but was slightly disappointed to have gotten the Cleveland field office as her first assignment.
Agent Burkle was in Washington for meetings and attended the ceremony with a very suave-looking Detective Gunn. His protestations that he was only there because he was "in the area" was met with dubious smirks from all.
For their part in solving the crime, Fred was promoted to Special Agent in Charge; Gunn made detective second grade and Lockley received a commendation also.
Richard Wilkins was currently enjoying the trappings of a maximum security prison facility while waiting for a trial date. Despite calling in numerous favors, he was unable to persuade the judge to waive bail.
It took detectives more effort to wrestle a confession from him, he protested his innocence with the fervency he put into his every endeavor. When confronted with statements from his former associates and employees, he dismissed them with the observation that they were clearly all delusional.
His cellmates crowned him "Mayor of Suckville" and he found out the hard way what sucking really entailed in prison.
Tara didn't want to leave the car.
Willow gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry, you'll be fine."
"Why does it look like half of Sunnydale is here?" Tara asked.
"It's only Xander, Anya, and, um, people Xander invited."
"It is his baby."
"I know, I know," Tara sighed. "Why does Sunnydale need another car dealership again?"
"You're more bothered about meeting my parents later aren't you?"
Tara's pained look said it all.
"It's not as if you hadn't met them before."
"We weren't sleeping together then."
"Yes we were."
"Not like that, though I wish ..."
Ira called her his long lost other daughter, and kept wanting to pat her on the back like a new pet pony. Instead he kept her wine glass constantly topped up.
Sheila couldn't stop interrogating them on when they first "started" and seemed to be obsessed about their relationship when they were in high school. Not until Willow slapped on the table and declared that no, she and Tara weren't having sex as teenagers that she huffed and flustered. Willow refused to engage in further "academic" discussion with her mother.
"Your parents haven't changed," Tara remarked when they got home.
There were advantages to only having one piece of furniture.
"I don't want to leave the bed, ever," Willow said as she curled up further into the contours of Tara's embrace.
"I don't want you to leave the bed either," Tara added, feeling Willow's warm skin turning her body into an aroused furnace.
"May be we should explore whether we can live our lives completely in bed."
Tara leaned in to kiss the nearest Willow-softness, which happened to be luscious, full lips. "We'll only be doing one thing."
Willow returned the open-mouthed kiss, which was turning heated. "That's the idea."
"Hello Lily. It's Tara."
"Hi! Oh, I go by Anne now."
"Okay, Anne. How is Europe?"
"Amazing. I love Mrs George. And your Aunt ... I swear, I wouldn't have gotten better so quickly if it wasn't for her. I can walk without a stick now."
"Did you get the invitation?"
"Yes, Will and I will definitely be there."
"Who would've thought, girl from nowhere. I want to give something back to the community."
"A shelter for homeless kids is a wonderful idea."
"I have so many people to thank, including you."
"I'm so proud of you, Anne."
Tara closed the front door as quietly as she could, slipping off her shoes so she didn't make any sound on the hardwood floor. She checked each room, finding them still empty. Creeping upstairs, she almost dropped the bouquet she held behind her back.
She expected to find Willow in the bedroom, and was puzzled when she found the bed empty.
A faint scent of citrus wafted through the still atmosphere, and when she turned her head toward the bathroom, she was taken by the chorus of candlelight flickering at her.
"Bubble bath, my love?" a gloriously naked Willow beckoned.
They strolled through Sunnydale. Tara had her arm around Willow's shoulders and Willow had one hand in Tara's back pocket.
"Town seems more peaceful than I remembered," Tara remarked.
"May be it's because we're contented," Willow murmured.
"Yes, I think we are."
"Funny. I always thought 'contented' was for old people," Tara laughed.
Willow nuzzled into the crook of Tara's arm. "I don't mind being old, as long as we grow old together."
Tara didn't need to say anything.
They stopped underneath a street lamp, and their kiss seemed to brighten the dim glow of the lamp light.