They remained silent for a long while. Tara was trying to sort out her words and Red was trying to sort out her feelings, Finally Red broke the silence, she just had to know once and for all.
"Why?" she asked simply.
Tara knew exactly what she meant. "I was scared Willow, so scared. One of Donnie's men saw us, from the phone booth on the street one night when we were kissing and making our way upstairs."
Red winced and cursed under her breath. "Son of a bitch, how could I have forgotten about him, so stupid!"
Tara continued nervously. "Donnie contacted me and told me that he knew about us and he would have you killed if I didn't help him. He wanted me to take advantage of being here and look for some legal papers with my mother's signature on them or some papers that would look like they came from a bank. I was going to tell you, but then he also threatened to hurt my cousin Faith. I knew that you could take of yourself, but Faith is in a coma and don't even know where they're keeping her." Her voice began to crack and waver "It seems that everyone I care about or cares about me gets hurt." She said.
Red put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey kid it's o.k and Faith is o.k too, she's awake and she's going to be alright."
Tara smiled. "Really?"
Red smiled back. "Yeah, really." Tara was overcome with emotion and hugged Red tightly, quickly and awkwardly pulling back. "S-sorry." She said, not being sure where she stood with the detective. "How did you know about Faith?"
The detective smiled. "That's my job kid. The night that you were going to slip a 'mickey' in my drink I followed you and heard the whole deal."
Tara lowered her head in shame. Red tipped up her chin, "Hey it's o.k you were forced into it. I know that now and it's going to be o.k I just wish you would've trusted me a little more. Why didn't you tell me about Faith in the first place? It would've saved us a whole lot of time."
Tara took Red's hands into her own. "Faith's condition was so delicate and it was supposed to be a secret 'Donnie's secret' he's the one that put her in the hospital. If he had one more trouble with the law he would be put away, the Judge had said so. They took her away and I didn't know where to, they promised me they would treat her and cure her if I didn't talk and if I did they would kill her. I've been afraid for so long Willow I just forgot any other way of being or feeling. Finding you gave me strength, I need you know that. I confronted Donnie, when you went away and I felt that I could lose you anyways I told him that I wasn't going to play his games anymore and that's when he tied me up and took me to the warehouse."
Red was moved she caressed the hands that held her own. "That was real brave sweetheart."
"I couldn't stand the thought of having to betray you or having you hate me. I want to tell you something that I've wanted to tell you since we first met, but I'm afraid of what you'll think."
Red furrowed her brow. "What is it?"
"I've seen you before." Tara said quickly.
"Come again? When I think I would've remembered meeting you before."
Tara shook her head. "No. Not exactly seen... I've dreamt of you Willow, so many times, for years now. I've had dreams of you, of us in different times, different places, different bodies even, but it was us. When saw you I had to hold myself back from just running towards you and touching you to see if you were real or if I was just having another dream. I know it sounds absolutely crazy and if you don't want anything more to do with me, I'll understand."
Willow laughed. "Honey, you think I'm gonna let a little thing like insanity keep me from you? Then you're really nuts!"
Tara laughed and caressed Willow's face sweetly.
"All kidding aside you may not believe this, but I'm the one who thought was going nuts when we first met. Maybe I didn't have dreams like yours, but I sure knew that I knew you and that we belonged together." Red said before leaning in to kiss Tara softly and lovingly.
After the kiss Tara smiled and looked at Red with absolute adoration. She ran the tips of her fingers along her love's pale and bruised face. "Sweetie you look awful."
Red quirked and eyebrow, "Gee, thanks honey that's something every gal loves to hear now and then. For your information that shiner on you face isn't looking to swell either. Come on let's get patched up."
They tended to each other's cuts and bruises slowly and lovingly. They still had a lot to talk about but the events of the day had taken a toll on their bodies and after bathing each other they retired for the night, they kissed unhurriedly before turning off the light and falling asleep in each other's arms.
In the mean time both Tara's father and grandfather, plus their associates had been taken into federal custody and were now facing the grilling of their lives. Donnie hadn't been so lucky and it's best not to describe how he, Warren Mears and Mickey Malone ended up.
Two weeks later after tying up all the loose ends Red explained to everyone how she had put the puzzle together.
Everyone was on the edge of their seat listening attentively to the Detective's tale.
"So after Mack mentioned 'uncle Johnny' something just clicked. I remembered that shortly before he had died he had sent some letters and postcards to my Pop. I knew that Pop had wanted to find out what had really happened to him and that he was close to finding out when he had the accident, I didn't know much cause he had been tight lipped about the whole thing and I had been busy closing the Miller case. I tried chasing a few leads myself, but kept hitting dead ends. I eventually let it go so that we could continue our work here in the agency." Red spoke the last sentence with a pained expression on her face.
Xander stepped up to the plate. "Hey it's o.k Boss, you did everything you could. I remember we didn't have much to go on, we had to save the agency from goin' bankrupt and we were also still dealing with Mickey and the aftermath of the negotiations."
Red nodded in appreciation of Xander standing up for her, but she still felt lousy. She could never shake the feeling that there was something more that she could have done.
"Thanks Xander, so like I was saying, things were leading towards Johnnie and his last connections to the South. The first time I went snooping I got nothing cause I was barking up the wrong tree, cause the name that he had registered in his last case file was Ann Harrington."
Tara covered her mouth in surprise. "Ann was my mother's second name and Harrington was my Grandmother's last name."
Red assented and crossed her arms over her chest. "Right, your mother was the woman that Johnny had fallen in love with and from what Faith told me she loved him back. She wanted to divorce your father and have custody of both you and Donnie; she also wanted back the control of her business and Mr. Duncan the family lawyer was helping my uncle dig up dirt both on your father and your grandfather cause neither wanted to give any of it up. Even Mr. Bogarty helped out by getting in touch with some friends of his in Washington, but they never got to use the information that he uncovered.
They found out that my uncle was close to unmasking them and that Tara's mom had changed her will and had left everything to Tara and Faith. She hadn't cut Donnie out of the will completely, but had left certain stipulations that I'm sure Donnie didn't agree with.
It seems like Sarah was one strong and smart woman. She always saw straight trough ol' granpa that's in part why she never even mentioned the stone to anyone, including Tara. The less Tara knew the safer she'd be.
Red noticed Tara's discomfort at mentioning her family. "You o.k sweetheart?" she asked genuinely concerned for the blonde's feelings.
Tara shook her head. "Please go on, I need to know the truth, all of it. I can take it, honest."
Red continued and wished that there was something that she could do to make things less difficult for Tara. All she could do now was state the facts and be there for the blonde after everything was said and done to offer her comfort.
"They wanted the stone, but they couldn't wait any longer for Sarah to just come around and give it up so they decided to poison her and kill Johnnie. I guess they figured Tara would receive news of the stone after her mother's death and that they would just take it from her. They didn't count on my uncle being so clever though, he knew as soon as Sarah begun to get sick that something was up, so they arranged to hide a copy of the will, the location of the stone and get this, even the majority of profit that the companies had produced over the years. Sarah knew that the men in the family would be underhanded enough to try and rob Tara's inheritance. So they fixed it, that's why the companies seemed to be in financial trouble, they hid all the money and tied up any incoming profit in mortgages.
"See, as it turns out Tara's grandfather and father are both German spies. Mr. Maclay senior's name is actually Heimlich Vonbraun and Tara's father is really Frank Vonbraun"
Tara's eyes were as big as saucers even after all she seen at warehouse it was all very difficult to believe. She had always suspected that both her father and grandfather hid many secrets and led a sort of double life, but she had never expected them to be spies and she certainly hadn't expected her father to stoop so low as to have consented to murder, her mother's murder. She wanted to cry, but she remained stoic.
Red sneaked glances Tara's way every once in awhile jut to make sure that the blonde was holding up o.k under the full weight of the truth.
"The original idea was that Tara's father would come to America and sweep the na´ve southern girl off her feet, gain her trust and steal the stone. But the road is never straight; it's always topsy-turvy my friends. Tara's father really fell for her mother and when news came overseas that his father had been killed in a bombing of a building in Berlin, I figure he thought about starting a new life. That's why it was so nice for a while, but then, Vonbraun resurfaced and Frankl wasn't man enough to stand up to the old guy, so he hid behind a bottle of booze and let him run his family into the ground."
Red rubbed her temples and took a sip of water before continuing.
"Alright, so Heimlich is a spy and a recognized archeologist and historian, he researches the kind of stuff that Hitler just goes nuts over. From what I can figure out, this is what happens, he stumbles onto the story of the 'Eye of the Raven' and he becomes fascinated by the idea of absolute knowledge and power. Just imagine what his Fuhrer could do with such an artifact? So he follows a trail and the trail leads to America. Now, I don't quite know yet how it is that Tara's family ends up having possession of the gem but they do, it's a sort of family heirloom passed down from generation to generation."
Tara had to interrupt at this point. "But, how come even after she died I knew nothing about the stone, why didn't anyone tell me?"
Red rubbed her chin. "I had that same question and thing is, it's passed down from generation to generation, but it's kept a secret until a specific time and the other funny thing is it's not really the possession that's passed down every time, but the knowledge of the location of the stone. I know... I was confused too, the thing is... the stone is passed over for safe keeping and it's not always 'safe' for one individual to guard it, so the responsibility is sort of shared. Try to stay with me here. Johnnie's letters and postcards were meant to be used like map. The 'map' lead me to the evidence gathered on Tara's father and grandfather, to a journal, a bank safe and a monastery."
Everyone looked confused. Red took another drink of water. "In the monastery I found the jewel. It's kept safe by an order called the guardians of Asgard. It all goes back to the story of 'the eye' they have an ancient alliance that dates back to the first keepers, Beowulf and Gwinn. Beowulf entrusted them with the stone when it was no longer safe for him to keep and that's how it's gone down time after time, the keepers and the guardians sort of take turns watching over the gem as it's passed down from generation to generation.
It was in the monastery that I also answered a question that had been nagging at me, why the urgency of finding the stone only every once in awhile? I mean when Frankl came to America it seemed imperative, but then it was just forgotten for years, then sought after again just before Johnnie got shot and then boom everyone disappears again, why not come and try to find it then? Why now after almost two years? First, I figured that they were thinking about taking the money from the inheritance and just living the good life or that the Reich was upset over the Vonbraun's failures and had withdrawn their support, I would bet on the latter. Second, the guardians told me that a spell was placed over the stone and that it only works if a bunch of elements that have to do with the alignment of stars and planets come together. Please don't ask me to explain... cause frankly most of what the old guys said went right over the top of my head."
Anya got up from her chair with a start. "Over the top of your head? At least you've still got a head boss, I think my head exploded about twenty minutes ago! I need coffee, anybody else want a cup?"
Everyone in the room raised their hands including Red. Anya counted hands and ran out the room, just when Red was about to pick up the story she poked her head back in. "Hey and don't start without me or I'll need a chart and notes in different colored pens to figure this one out." Red closed her mouth and waited patiently, secretly appreciating the break.
The coffee was served and Red resumed the telling of the twisted tale.
"Now, that planets-stars hocus-pocus is what gets everyone riled up again, it's this month. So the Vonbrauns got no money and no stone, and the only girl who can tell them anything is in a coma. The krauts contact Heimlich and tell him he's got one more chance to get in good with the Fuhrer, who by the way is getting his ass whipped all over Europe by the allied forces, this would be a good time to have an artifact that powerful. They have no choice but to come here and see if my uncle left something behind that they could go on.
They send Tara and Donnie, not knowing that Donnie wants to bust loose and is going to betray them. They get more desperate by the hour cause there are no clues and they find out somehow that Bogarty is going to tell me about the Vonbraun's. The day I went to see him they clipped him just he wouldn't tell me about them being spies. That was a mistake, cause they killed him too soon, he died before he could tell me about them, but also before he could tell me anything truly useful that would lead me and them to 'The Eye'. So I spent a whole bunch of time running around not knowing what the heck I was looking for, after I finally figured out about the postcards and found Faith I finally knew, the key was for a bank safe, there I found Sarah's journal and that helped me to fill out a lot of missing pieces, the copy of the will and the numbers to the accounts where the company money had been hidden, the evidence on the Vonbraun's involvement with the Gestapo and also a half of a symbol that matched another half on a postcard, following that I found the monastery and after speaking to the monks I headed back here.
The evidence Was turned over to the feds, the money has been returned to the respective company accounts, Tara and Faith have official control over all the family businesses and the stone is still in the monastery, cause I wanted to consult Tara first about what she wanted to do with it. That's it guys. Case closed."
Everyone was silent for a long moment it was a lot to take in. The gang had seen their share of 'weird' but this case took the cake and smothered it with a thick creamy coat of 'bizarre'.
Tara was overwhelmed and didn't know exactly what to say. Red strode over to the couch and crouched in front of her taking the blonde's hands in her own. "Hey kid I know it's a truck load of events to take in one swallow. Take your time, clear your head, no one's rushing you."
Tara smiled, Willow seemed to always say exactly what she needed to hear. "Thank you." She said.
"For everything... you saved my life, my family's birthright, you brought 'them' to justice all of that, you did it even when you thought that I had betrayed you."
The gang sensed that a private moment was coming on and they quietly scurried out to give the two women their privacy, even Anya caught the drift and left without saying a peep, well that is after Xander nudged her 'discreetly ' in the ribs and pointed with his head to the door.
Red didn't miss a beat and blushed lightly. The 'mushy stuff 'as she called it was definitely not her specialty, but with Tara around she could also definitely see herself developing a taste for it. She cleared her throat and tried answering in a nonchalant way, "Shucks ma'am it's what I do. Crack cases, rescue damsels in distress... all in a days work."
The blonde smiled and kissed the redhead on the lips. "So I'm a day's work?" she asked teasingly.
The gumshoe shook her head adamantly, "No you're a lifetime."
The blonde's smile got impossibly big."I like the sound of that. Willow... will you come back home with me while I get everything in order... I know it's a lot to ask cause it could take weeks and... ."
"Yes." Red answered before Tara even continued.
"Oh Willow I'm so happy, everything has changed and it's all very scary but I just know that with you by my side I can face anything that comes my way now."
The detective took a place on the couch next to the blonde."I'm glad sweetheart. Have you thought about what you want to do about everything?"
The blonde was nervous and exited all at once, like she never had been before.
"Well about 'The Eye' I think we should leave it with the order for now, it seems to be safe there. I want to read my Mother's journal to find out more about it. I'm not sure I believe in it's magical properties, but it's still dangerous, people have died for it. As for my inheratance, a lot of people suffered with some the companies closing down so I'm going to re-open them. I don't want to run them personally cause I just don't feel that I'm ready for that, I do have some ideas about who could, my mother had quite a few trustworthy friends and workers I'm sure they'll do a good job. I think I would like to go to college and learn about business. I know there are some great universities I could apply to here, I could study while you work and still have time to help you out and make dinner and... oh gosh I'm making all kinds of plans without... do you want me... I mean I don't even know if..."
"Yes." Red answered.
"Yes?" The blonde asked.
"Yes." The redhead confirmed and found herself being thrown down to the couch by a flying blonde that kissed her senseless. Just when things were getting heated Tara yelled out. "Faith!"
Red looked miffed. "Not the response I was fishing for."
Tara shook her head. "No I meant I just remembered Faith, when can I see her we have so much to talk about. I have so many things I want to share with her."
Red grinned at her girl's new found enthusiasm. "Doc said, she would be good to travel in a week's time. Can we go back to the smooches now miss Maclay or am I going to have to get tough with you?"
Tara bit her lip and gave the detective a smoldering look. "Oh please detective, do get tough."
Red loosened her tie and flipped the blonde on her back. "You asked for it sweetheart."
One week later:
Buffy and Red walked into the waiting area of the office to find Tara and Anya whispering to each other and giggling like school children.
Red raised her brows. "Hey watcha talking about?"
Both blondes looked Red up and down and burst out laughing hysterically. Red turned to Buffy who shrugged her shoulders and mouthed, "beats me."
Red scratched her head as she headed into the sanctuary of her office with Buffy on her heels. They shut the door, but could still hear the other two women laughing outside. "I think I liked it better when they weren't so chummy."
Buffy grinned. "They're just having fun your girl sure has come out of her shell."
Red's eyes lit up "Yeah, she sure has. I'm glad too, she's been through a lot. She's a tough cookie, my girl."
Buffy sighed. "Gosh boss I'm so happy for you two. It's about time you found somebody to settle down with. I gotta tell ya, I'm a little jealous of you guys, you seem so close and in love and... ahem... hot to trot for each other, sometimes it feels like I've dated the entire male population of this town and still no luck finding 'the one' maybe it's me."
"No way, you're great. Guys can be real chumps, if they can't appreciate a gal like you they don't deserve you."
The blonde pouted. "Sure some of the fellas I've dated were more like the creatures from the black lagoon then men, but other guys have been nice and decent enough, like Riley Finn for example, but there was just no... no... I dunno... oomhph! Ya know?"
Red raised her eyebrows and smirked in amusement. "Ooomhph? Yeah, I definitely know about the 'Ooomph!' factor."
The blonde pouted even more. "Yeah I'm sure you do. Some girls have all the luck."
"Cheer up blondie there are plenty of fish in the sea you'll catch yours or get caught by 'it' when you least expect it."
Buffy sighed deeply before sadly exclaiming,"I sure hope so, everyone gets to use their handcuffs in this office but me!"
Later that evening at Red's house:
Tara arranged the flowers on the dinner table before rushing into the kitchen to check on her pot roast and then rushed out again to dust the coffee table for the umpteenth time in the day.
Red swiped her dust rag and held it just above her head. "Sweetheart calm down, if you dust that table one more time and you're gonna make a hole in the wood. The house looks great it cleaner than it's ever been, dinner smells wonderful and the flowers are perfect. Please sit down and take a breather."
The blonde protested with a disapproving look and tried taking back her rag with no success, until finally giving up and sitting down. Red sat next to her and gave her a reassuring hug. The blonde relaxed a little and sighed in contentment. "I've been a little nutty today huh?"
The detective chuckled. "A little, well... o.k... a lot! Why so nervous?"
"I dunno, I just want everything to be perfect. I really care about her and I can't wait to see her. I just don't know how she'll take the news about us. Plus, I still feel just a bit guilty about what happened to her."
Red stroked the blonde's head. "If you guys are so close the news about us will make her happy and I've told you a million times it wasn't your fault."
"I know but..." Tara's protest was cut short by the doorbell and she jumped up and practically ran to open the door. As soon as she opened she enveloped in huge hug by her favorite cousin. "Faith!"
"Tara, I'm so happy to see you again. Let me take a look at you. You look fantastic! Better than that, you look happy!"
Tara blushed and looked Red's way.
Faith didn't miss the look and clapped her hands together. "Tara you vixen! This is something to celebrate."
Tara breathed a sigh of relief and hugged her cousin again. "I'm so glad to see that you're o.k"
"Ditto." Red said from a safe distance.
"Hello detective I'm glad to see you've been taking good care of my cousin."
Giles came in carrying the brunette's luggage and complaining about his back. Willow gave him a hand hauling the massive cases up the stairs and joined in his complaining. "Sheez what does she have in here? For Pete's sakes..."
"Rocks would be my first guess" Grunted a disheveled looking Giles.
In the mean time the two cousins made themselves comfy on the couch and began making up for lost time.
Faith had wicked gleam in her eyes. "So you and Red huh?"
Tara blushed a deep crimson. "Yup, what do you think about that?"
The brunette smiled. "If you're happy I'm happy, besides it's just one more thing we have in common cuz."
Tara's jaw nearly hit the floor. "You mean... you?"
"Why do ya'll think my parents disowned me and made come back from France?" Faith said half laughing.
"Really? I just thought it was because you had gotten kicked out of school again."
Faith raised an eyebrow. "That was part of it, but I bet they never mentioned why I got kicked out."
Tara scrunched her eyebrows together. "Come to think of it they never did."
"Well the reason's name is Marie."
Both girls burst out laughing as Giles and Red came back down the stairs they shared an amused look and retreated to the bar. "What will be G-man?"
Giles glanced at the two guffawing girls on the couch and wiped his glasses. "Scotch and better make it a double."
Red smirked. "I hear ya. So at what time is the rest of the crew getting here? I'm guessing with these two girls together I just might need reinforcements by the end of the night."
The doorbell rang right on cue and Red went to answer the door. Everyone came bearing gifts and were in good spirits. Tara and Faith got up to greet every one, Faith was looking forward to meeting all of the people who had contributed to saving her family and her life.
Tara made the introductions and every one seemed to be really friendly, everyone was there except for Buffy who had been held up at the office finishing some paper work.
The gang sat at the dinner table and eagerly waited to be served from the smells coming from the kitchen it was bound to be a memorable meal. When the doorbell rang again Faith had just gotten out the hall bathroom. "Don't worry guys, I'll get it she said and opened the door."
Buffy saw the door being opened and was about to let herself in when she just simply stopped in her tracks. Standing before her was the most gorgeous woman she had ever seen and she was simply struck speechless and motionless. Faith seemed to have fallen under the same spell and they both just stood there staring at each other.
They both recovered at the same time and tried to speak but it sounded something like, "H-hi... you must be Faith, I'm B-bunny- I... mean Buffy, Hi" "Hey, you're Buffy, I'm Faye..I mean Faith."
They both blushed and giggled a little making their way to the dinner table. By some miracle they made it there without knocking anything over. All through the dinner they didn't speak much to each other but their eyes sought each other out at every opportunity.
The glances at the dinner table didn't go unnoticed by Red and Tara who shared conspiratory looks of their own. When everyone was about ready to leave Red took Buffy aside discreetly and Tara did the same with Faith.
Red grinned and put her hand on Buffy's shoulder. "So..."
Buffy wagged her eyebrows and giggled. "Boss I think I've been hooked, reeled in and canned and what do you know... it wasn't a fish that I was waiting for it was mermaid, with Ooomph!"
"Now you're a lucky girl too." Red said with a wink.
Tara nudged Faith in the ribs while she washed the dishes in the kitchen. "So you and Buffy, huh?"
Now it was Faith's turn to blush. "Oh, cuz I think I'm trouble, big-big trouble."
The blonde grinned. "A dame in trouble and gorgeous detective willing to 'help her out', I think I know this story."