After a shower and a quick breakfast, Tara donned her cloak, took the scythe from the umbrella-stand and got ready for her first ever solo harvest. Using the magic of the cloak, she teleported to Sunnydale. It didn't take her long to find Willow's home. It was on the bottom floor for a student apartment complex near campus. One bedroom, one bathroom, a small backyard and one combination kitchen/living room.
Nice suburban little dollhouse, Tara thought while strolling through the living room. A bookcase stood against the wall, piling out with all sorts of publications, from comics to an entire row of computer related books.
Tara skimmed a few titles. 'The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3', 'Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach', 'The Java Handbook', 'Programming Perl', 'Society of Mind : Creating Artificial Intelligence', 'Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice.' The titles alone made Tara's head spin.
She moved on to a well-used desk. Several books lay open among written notes... the only patch of chaos in an otherwise neatly organized home. Next to the books lay various computer components Tara couldn't even begin to identify, but all were neatly stacked and packed in clearly labeled anti-static bags. Some game-boxes lay on top of each other, and one labeled 'Prince of Persia' lay prominently on top of the pile. Next to two old desktop cases in various states of (dis)repair stood a rather expensive looking laptop with the screen folded up, ready for use.
On a small shelf above the desk, in a place of honor, stood what Tara first thought was a really fat keyboard. Then remembered seeing a picture of this machine and finally recognized it as one of the first personal computers, a Commode? Was it called a Commode?... Something like that anyway. She figured it was probably Willow's first computer. Next to the old computer stood several framed pictures. She took a look at the biggest one, taken in front of a high-school building. In it, Willow was flanked by two others, a handsome black-haired boy with more than a little hint of mischief in his eyes, and a short blonde girl with brown, doe-like eyes and a ready smile.
There were more pictures. The three of them sitting around a campfire. The three of them standing in front of a high-school building. The three of them shooting hoops at somebody's garage. And then there was one taken at a Halloween party in which the boy was dressed up as Superman, the blonde girl as Miss Piggy and Tara guessed Willow was the girl in the ghost-costume.
They look happy... Tara looked away from the pictures and watched the fish swimming around in Willow's fish tank for a moment.
Willow's it home was well-lit and pleasant. The only downside was that all of Willow's plants seemed to be dying despite this abundance of light. Most were either had their leaves turning a shade of brown, some looked as if they were trying to escape the parched earth in their pots.
Tara paid it no mind and decided it was time to start doing her job. It was time to look for potential 'domestic accidents'. She started in the bathroom.
Ah, radio precariously placed near the edge of the shower, Tara thought. Bit of a cliche, though. Hm, an old non-grounded hair dryer.
Tara floated back into the living room and noticed an elaborate web of power-cords, extension and t-spitters, all hooked into the same single power outlet. And quite close to the fish tank to boot.
In the kitchen, Tara found a full set of steak-knives, barely used. A gas-lit stove. And the batteries in the smoke-alarm probably haven't been changed in years. Hm, old-style garbage disposal unit without any safeties built in...
Tara placed one hand on her hip and held out her scythe with the other, smiling to herself.
Willow's house is a death-trap, thought Tara. Perfect! What to do. Hm... First harvest, she sighed. Alright, Faith, we'll make it spectacular. Hm, what if that ceiling fan would mysteriously dislodge running at full speed?
At that moment, the floor door flew open. Tara was startled for a moment, until she remembered she was in ethereal form and could not be seen or heard. Willow was standing right in front of her. And for a moment, Tara took in the sight of woman whose life she'd end. The picture had not done her justice. Piercing green eyes, gorgeous half-long red hair, wearing a fuzzy sweater and a red plaid skirt. The young woman seemed flustered and looked around the room frantically. Tara briefly wondered what Willow was looking for, until the red-haired girl dashed to the couch and picked up a bookbag which lay at the side of it. Just as quickly as she came in, she left her house and locked the door behind her.
Tara frowned for a moment and decided to follow her. Her ethereal form allowed her to walk through the door and follow Willow as she sped across the street, possibly headed towards campus. Still thinking professionally, Tara noticed that Willow paid little, if all, attention to traffic... That might come in handy later.
The young harvester suddenly tripped over her robe as she was trying to keep up with Willow. The ungainly robe, the scythe in her hands and the hood that was constantly falling in front of her eyes didn't make travel by foot all that easy.
After Tara had picked herself off the ground, she just saw Willow rounding about the corner. Tara followed. Willow had apparently taken a short-cut through an alley. For such a clever girl, that's not a very smart thing to do, Tara thought wryly while following Willow through the dark, narrow alleyway. After leaving the Alley, Willow crossed the street, again not paying much attention to traffic, to a small coffeeshop called the 'Espresso Pump.'
Alright, Tara thought. Time to figure out how to end Willow's life, Maclay.
Xander Harris was enjoying his first cup of coffee at the Espresso Pump when a slug against his arm almost caused him to choke on his drink. After a brief coughing fit, he found Willow sitting across him in the booth, staring him down.
"You stood me up yesterday morning," Willow stated calmly.
"Okay, 1. Hey! 2. I'm really sorry, Will. 3. HEY!"
"It was Anya, wasn't it?"
"Uh," Xander bit on his lower lip. Saying 'No, Anya, I can't have steamy sex with you right now, because Willow's waiting for me with coffee' yesterday would not have been good for his relationship or sex life on the whole. But he still felt guilty about it. "I refuse to answer that question on the basis that it might incriminate me," Xander finally said with an apologetic half-smile.
"I knew it," Willow crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "So I was just sitting here yesterday, staring into my coffee, waiting and waiting, wasting away my young life. A young woman alone sitting in a booth on a lonely, lonely monday morning, waiting for her friend to show up, the friend that she has breakfast with every morning. But not yesterday, oh, no, cause Xander was too busy yesterday. Too busy to remember his loyal friend that did show up and waited and waited and waited and waited..."
"Oh, god," Xander shook his head and avoided Willow's eyes as he caught the expression on his friend's face. "Not the Willow-pout. Anything but the Willow-pout."
Willow simply intensified the expression, torturing Xander even more.
"Forgive me?" Xander tried again. "You're breaking my heart here, Will."
He hadn't thought it possible, but Willow pouted even more. It made Xander feel as if he had kicked a thousand puppies.
"Yeah, for a moment there I forgot that I was asking forgiveness from a girl that has no heart and no soul," Xander smirked.
"I have a heart," Willow huffed. "A big, fluffy heart, with lotsa room for all my friends. Even those who don't show up and keep me waiting, and waiting, and waiting and..."
"Hey, it's not like you were miss punctuality today," Xander challenged.
"Forgot my bookbag," Willow sighed. "Again. I ended up being Roadrunner Willow beeping across a busy street and back. But least I showed up...."
Xander crossed his arms for a moment. "You're playing me like a cheap violin, aren't you?"
Willow's pouty expression suddenly changed into a broad smile. A twinkle in her eyes told Xander all he needed to know.
"So, miraculous change of subject coming up to save suffering Xander from his predicament. Looking forward our monthly camping trip?"
"Darn tootin'," Willow smiled. "A whole weekend of roughin' it in the wild. Roasting marshmellows over the fire, fishing at the lake, telling each other scary stories..."
"... and watching the Buffster getting eaten by mosquito's," Xander smirked. "And this time you are leaving the laptop at home, Wills."
"But..." Willow started to protest.
Xander grimaced again. "That pout should be registered as a deadly weapon, Will. So, again, let's go for the miraculous change of subjects again. Any news on the Willow Gone Wild front?"
Willow's blush was as deep as the color of her hair. "Uh, no. There are no wild Willows here."
"C'mon, Will," Xander smirked. "You've been away from the ole Rosenberg homestead for three whole months. You're free! Living college life! Party hardy, Will!"
"I do party," Willow huffed. "Well, sometimes... Really... It's just that I've just been very busy with classes and homework and stuff like that. Besides, I don't really fit in with the college partying crowd."
"Come on, there's a whole campus filled with girls out there," Xander replied. "You can't tell me there's not at least one cute girl you're interested in. "
Willow shook her head, blushing a little. "I, uh, I haven't really... been looking."
Xander smiled. "Open your eyes, Will. Find someone to be happy with and finally get the last shreds of Amy out of your system."
And still, after two years since Willow and Amy's break-up, the genuine sadness washed over Willow's face. Xander offered Willow a soft smile. Neither he or Buffy never found out the details of Willow and Amy's bad one-sided break-up, but he knew that Amy had not only broken Willow's heart, but had ripped it out of her chest, cut it up, seasoned it, flambee'd it and served it to her for lunch. Xander put his hand over Willow's and squeezed it slightly.
"Hey, that skank was never good enough for my Will," Xander said. "You deserve someone who wants a serious relationship with you. Someone funny and smart. Someone who appreciates you for who you are and sees your heart."
Willow looked up, offering Xander a weak smile. "Thanks," she whispered softly, then cocked her head a little to the left. "But that doesn't mean I'm not still miffed you stood me up yesterday."
As the two friends were continuing their playful argument, the ethereal Tara was pacing around the shop and noticed that Willow was sitting at a perfect trajectory to bear the full brunt if the espresso machine were to suddenly and violently explode. Earlier, she had noticed that the cook had the shop's rat-poison sitting just above the stove. Both would have been good methods to try out.
But she decided against ending Willow's young life by these ways. It'd certainly be spectacular, but there might be a lot of innocent bystanders. And Tara was no Drusilla, after all.
And so Tara followed Willow all day long, studying her and thinking of more ways to end her life. After leaving the Expresso Pump, Willow had headed to Sunnydale UC for her classes. Tara continued to observe Willow and decided to sit in with Willow's lectures. Sadly for Tara, it ended up being a very, very, very long day filled with esoteric computer... stuff... things... mysteries... pain... During some of the more difficult lectures, Tara almost felt like ending her suffering by letting herself fall on top of her own scythe. Willow devoured it all, though. And, in turn, Tara devoured the sight of Willow, making her day at Sunnydale UC at least somewhat bearable.
Grateful for the distraction, Tara followed Willow home when her classes had finally ended. At Willow's home, she watched the red-haired woman while she was talking on the phone with another woman called Buffy. Their conversation seemed to go on for ages. And during all that time, Tara simply listened to the sound of her voice. Willow's tender voice had an almost hypnotic quality to it. She closed her eyes and started to lose herself in the melody, dreaming away. Until suddenly her reverie was broken by the loud beep of a phone being switched off. When Tara's eyes snapped open again, Willow was no longer sitting on her couch, but was walking over to her desk.
For a moment, Tara thought that Willow might start to do some homework. Instead, Willow booted up her laptop and started up a game from her collection. Tara watched Willow play for a moment. She had quick reflexes and made the character she was playing perform some impressive moves.
Tara's own experience with gaming had been limited to a few sessions again Faith on her Playstation. Despite the fact that Faith had mercilessly wiped the floor with her every single time they played, she did have some fun. Willow was enjoying herself too, a simple pleasure of getting a bit further into the game. Tara realized that Willow would never finish the game, but pushed any regrets she might have had away. She had a duty to perform.
Willow saved her game and turned off her computer. A rumbling noise came from her stomach. She rose from her seat, and walked to the fridge to get something to eat.
Healthy food, Tara thought when she saw Willow's choice of meal. Good girl.
Willow started to clean her vegetables under the faucet. Until Willow let out a strangled noise. Tara saw that Willow's ring had slipped off her finger and had fallen right down into the garbage disposal. Willow wisely opened the cupboard underneath the sink to switch off the unit and reached into the sink.
Tara saw a perfect opportunity. All she had to do was to reach into the mechanism with her scythe and start it up while Willow's hand was inside of it. Cut wrist. Shock from loss of blood. Nobody'd hear her. She'd bleed to death. It would be so easy.
Willow continued feeling around for her ring, sticking her entire fore-arm into the unit. Her wrist was brushing the blades inside the machine.
Not like this.
Willow smiled as she pulled her ring out of the unit. She placed it on top of the counter and continued to clean her vegetables. Tara looked on. She'd missed an opportunity, but did not really regret it.
After cutting the vegetables, Willow gathered out a pan to cook them in. She filled the pan with water and the vegetables and put it on the stove. She turned the gas valve and tried to light it.
Nothing happened. The stove seemed to be malfunctioning. Willow closed the gas valve, but as soon as her back was turned to it, Tara pointed her scythe at the valve, using its magic to open it again.
"Matches," Willow whispered to herself while looking through the cupboards. Finding nothing, she want into the bedroom to look through the drawers of her nightstand. "Matches, matches, matches... Ah!"
Willow held her prize in her hand and opened the box, finding all of three matches left.
Meanwhile, the deadly hiss of gas seeping from the stove into the room continued. Tara moved closer to Willow, so close that they almost touched. She looked over Willow's shoulder as she was struggling with the first match. Tara knew her timing had to be precise. Using the power of her scythe, Tara blew out the match right after Willow had struck it.
"Oh," Willow narrowed her eyes at the now spent match.
Tara enjoyed the smell of Willow's hair. It was a sweet. And entrancing... So much that she almost forgot to blow out the second match.
More gas was filling the room. Tara figured there was now almost enough gas in the air to create a rather nasty and fiery explosion. Willow would only need to walk back into the kitchen area with the lit match in her hand to earn herself a one-way trip to the afterlife..
"Please," Willow pleaded with the third match while the deadly gas was slowly filling the room. "I'm hungry..."
No, Tara thought again. She doesn't deserve to die like this...
Tara blew out the third match, and was rewarded with the cutest pout she had ever seen. She had stayed her hand and spared Willow's young life... but that pout still made her feel very guilty for ruining Willow's dinner.
Willow started sniffing the air. Her eyes grew wide for a moment as she realized that her home was slowly filling up with gas. She quickly turned off the gas-valve and opened the window to let the room air out. She turned to the valve for a moment, scrutinizing it.
She shook her head, dismissing whatever was on her mind, and walked to the phone to dial a number.
"Hi. Greasy Joe's? I'd like to order a pizza."
Tara felt it was time to leave Willow to her privacy. Tomorrow, there'd be new opportunities.
Tara was happy to finally shift into normal reality again and had tossed her cloak on the couch the moment she arrived at home. She was pleasantly surprised to find that Faith had left a couple of tv-dinners and a few cans of liptonice in her fridge. Normally, she'd prefer healthier food, but at the moment she wasn't really all that picky.
She took a bite from the insta-lasagna while scribbling on a notepad, striping off possible causes of Willow's death, which included exploding espresso machines, gas explosions, electrocution and decapitation by spinning fan-blades.
Spectacular deaths?! Goddess, what was I thinking?! Tara thought to herself, feeling more than a little ashamed she had even considered these methods. You've been hanging around Faith too long, Maclay.
Tara thought it was time to stop listening to Faith and find her own way of dealing with her assignment. She had quickly decided Willow didn't deserve to die a violent death. Though she wouldn't completely rule out a domestic accidents, it meant she had to look for new opportunities tomorrow. She'd have to find something quick and painless.
Another day of observing Willow. Tara didn't consider that a bad thing, though. No, it wasn't a bad thing at all...