Willow looked down at the pathetic little plant in it's shiny green pot as she stood outside the door of the magic store. She felt like an idiot... what on earth had possessed her to buy a plant? She held it up to eye level and inspected it critically, it was squat, it's leaves were covered with fluffy stuff but the flowers were a beautiful deep shade of purple. Willow had no idea what it was, she had picked it off the shelf at the supermarket on impulse.
Her hand went to the knob, about to turn it before she suddenly drew it back again. Willow sighed, despite Buffy telling her there were plenty more fish in the sea there was just one she wanted wriggling on the end of her hook. However, for the first time it was the other way around. Willow was the one well and truly caught, unable to escape even if she wanted to try.
I never thought this day would come... Willow Rosenberg afraid to open a door. There's not even a murder suspect or other vicious criminal lurking behind it... just a blonde...
"I should've brought chocolates," Willow muttered as she went to open the door once more.
She drew in a deep breath and opened the door slowly, the bell above the door jangled rendering her stealthy entrance completely redundant.
"We're closed," A dark-haired young woman standing behind the counter announced in a loud, brusque voice.
Willow stopped dead in her tracks, there was definitely something in that voice that meant business.
"Um, I know... I was just wondering if I might be able to speak with... well, I don't actually know her name, but the blonde woman who works here?" Willow risked taking a few steps closer.
"She's not here," the young woman went back to... sharpening an axe, Willow hoped it was for display purposes only and not unwelcome guests.
"Well, do you know when she's going to be back?" Willow asked timidly.
"No, and if I did I wouldn't tell you... who the hell are you anyway?" she placed the axe on the counter with a steely thunk and walked around the counter until she was standing in front of Willow, her hands on her hips.
Willow's lips tightened as she finally stopped worrying about being hacked open by an axe wielding woman. She wasn't a spineless teenager but rather a bad arse dyke with a badge who could be just as brusque.
"I'm Willow, you?"
"I'm Faith... I live here," she replied calmly.
In a few long strides she was standing in front of Willow. She was gorgeous in a skanky kind of way, her full lips stained with some outrageously deep shade of red lipstick. Willow's eyes flicked over the woman's body, her breasts straining against a tight tank top, leather pants hugging her legs. Yesterday morning Willow would have been drooling and yet now she was unable to think of anyone but the blue-eyed blonde. Faith was smirking, she had seen Willow check her out and the resulting lack of interest. Far from being insulted, Faith was impressed. She stepped even closer, completely invading Willow's space. Willow was reduced to being spineless once more.
Willow blinked and managed to squeak, "You live here?"
"That's what I said isn't it?"
"You live here... with... her?" Willow felt her heart stop beating for a few seconds, Chill Rosenberg... she's probably just a roommate... or maybe she's her lover? Oh god I hope she's just a roommate because there's no way I can compete with that Willow's eyes drifted back to the other woman's breasts for just a second and she felt somewhat inadequate, Nor can I compete with those... but hang on... oooh, I hope this means she's not married!
Faith watched the play of emotions across the red head's face and her eyes narrowed suspiciously, "Are you on drugs or something Red?"
"What... no, of course I'm not!" Willow replied indignantly, gritting her teeth at being called 'Red.'
"Well? I said T's not here... is there anything I can do to convince you to leave?"
T? Willow frowned, As in Mr T or as in her name starts with a T?
"Ah, Red? Earth to Red?"
Willow felt her cheeks grow warm, "Um, can you just tell her... no don't bother, just give her this," Willow quickly shoved the little plant into Faith's hands before, for the second time in two days made a quick exit from the Magic Box.
Willow was almost thrown backwards as Buffy delivered a flying spin kick to the punching bag she was holding steady for her. Buffy followed up with a series of short jabs, pummelling the poor thing into complete submission as she worked up a lather of sweat. Willow was exhausted just looking at the Buffy the ball of ballistic energy. With a last jump kick that did knock Willow to the mat, Buffy stepped back and grinned.
"Whew, that's my tension out... your turn Will," Buffy reached out her gloved hand to help Willow up.
Willow strapped her own gloves on and assumed her stance in front of the bag. She jabbed half-heartedly and Buffy looked at her in disgust.
"What the hell is up with you today Will... or for that matter, what the hell has been up with you for the past two days?"
Willow circled the bag, bouncing slightly on her toes as she tried to work up a little enthusiasm for her work out. She stopped bouncing with an exasperated sigh.
"I can't believe the lab results for that substance came back unidentifiable... I mean, save for a bunch of chemical compounds that don't mean squat to anyone without a PhD," Willow was extremely annoyed despite the fact that it meant her approach to finding information had worked more successfully, "At times like these I really start to wonder why I've put all my faith into science and technology."
"Why am I not convinced that that is the sole reason for you having your undies in a twist?" Buffy commented dryly, "Now give this bag hell, you know you want to!"
Willow launched herself into a flurry of punches and yet there was never much force behind any of them. Whenever she felt as though she were settling into a rhythm she saw a pair of blue eyes flash across her vision and she lost concentration once more.
"I just don't understand," Willow said miserably, stabbing the bag twice with her right fist before letting her arms fall limply to her sides.
"Understand what?" Buffy asked on cue.
"Women," Willow replied, punctuating her word with a dull thud of fist against bag.
"Ah Will..." Buffy raised her eyebrows, "If anyone understands women it's you, I mean, all the guys around here ask you for dating advice for godssake! I don't think you mean women at all... I think you mean woman... singular, just one and that certain one would work in that hocus pocus store if I am not mistaken."
Willow raised her gloved hands in the air in a sign of frustration.
"Why can't I get her out of my head... I mean, for all intensive purposes I damn well should be able to! I mean, firstly, she hates my guts, secondly, she's either married or shagging a skanky, leather-clad ho who could beat me into a pulp in seconds and thirdly, gorgeous women who I know for a fact want me, are just a cell call away."
Buffy frowned, "Skanky ho? Do I even want to ask?"
"No," Willow shook her head quickly, "Buffy, I don't think I'm myself..."
"Cos you're in luuuurve!" Buffy sang out happily, "Lick 'em and leave 'em Rosenberg is in love!"
Willow glared at Buffy, annoyed that she would even suggest such a thing. If there was one thing about her reputation that she had to keep intact, it was the fact that she didn't go for any of that love crap.
"Take that back Buffy, anyway, you're dead wrong... I'm not the type for falling in love, I don't have the patience for it."
Buffy however was having too much fun to listen to any more of Willow's reasoning, she continued to taunt in a juvenile sing-sing manner, "You want to hug her, you want to kiss her, you want to love and touch her..."
"Buffy shut up!" Willow slammed her fist into the punching bag, narrowly missing Buffy's grinning mug.
"You're just all uptight 'cos you're not as cute and sexy as you always thought!"
Willow slammed her gloved fist into Buffy's face and the short blonde stumbled backwards away from the bag, clutching her nose. She looked a little stunned and surprised before raising her own gloves in an attacking stance. Willow moved around the bag and out onto the training mats to stand in front of Buffy, she raised her gloves.
"C'mon Will, you know who's gonna win," Buffy circled teasingly.
The fight was short and furious. Willow's temper dictated the way she fought, throwing wild punches that Buffy could see coming a mile away. The blonde ducked and weaved easily, every so often delivering a sharp jab to Willow's jaw or stomach that succeeded in making her even more determined. Following a particular ill-timed punch, Buffy caught Willow off balance and in one swift movement kicked her legs out from beneath her.
Willow landed on her back with a dull thud. She didn't even have time to move before Buffy was sitting astride her prone form, straddling her stomach in a compromising manner. Buffy lent forward, her hands on either side of Willow's head. She grinned down at her defeated partner.
"Well?" Buffy asked with raised eyebrows.
"I concede," Willow admitted reluctantly.
"You concede what? That you're in love with her?"
"Do you need another round of arse kicking?"
Willow sighed, "I don't know... I mean... I... like her... a lot," each word sounded distinctly forced.
"See, that wasn't so hard to admit," Buffy climbed off Willow and yanked a glove off in order to help the red head to her feet, "You okay?"
Willow flexed her jaw experimentally, "Yeah, I'll live."
"So," Buffy said as they began walking towards the locker room, "When are you going to make your next move?"
"I already did," Willow replied glumly, tugging off a glove and tucking it beneath her arm as she went to work on the laces of the other, "Last night."
Buffy clapped awkwardly with her gloves still on, "Well?"
"Not well at all, she wasn't there and instead I meet her roommate-slash-butch lover-slash-scary axe wielding psychopath."
Willow sat heavily on a bench in the locker room and threw her gloves at her feet. She began unwinding the strapping around her knuckles. Her knuckles were red and swollen despite all the padding.
"Ouch!" Buffy sat next to her, "But you took her a box of chocolates right? Maybe a nice big bunch of roses, something tastefully overdone... true Willow-style?"
Willow shook her head, "Nope, I took her a plant from the supermarket that cost all of a dollar ninety-nine."
How could she explain to Buffy how, from their brief conversation, she had decided that the young woman would prefer the tiny, cheap plant to a fifty dollar bunch of arranged flowers?
"You've really got it bad," Buffy wrinkled her nose.
"I'm going to hit the showers," Willow waved her friend off, grabbing her towel as she stood up.
"Should've given her chocolates," Buffy grabbed her own towel and ran after Willow.
It was barely after nine in the morning and yet already the Magic Box had its first satisfied customer for the day. A young man looking for a birthday present for his mother.
Tara Maclay placed the carefully wrapped package into a gift bag and passed it over the counter to the young man,
"I hope your mother enjoys it," she said warmly, her trademark smile making him blush in reply.
As the shop door closed behind him, Faith scooted across the floor to Tara's side, lightly banging their hips together.
"Oh, almost forgot, a chick stopped by for you last night while you were at your parent-teacher meeting," Faith said casually.
"A girl? For me?" Tara blinked and looked at the brunette in surprise, "What did she want?"
"Kisses and lesbian lovin' most likely I don't know really... left you this though," Faith pushed the little potted plant across the counter top.
Tara looked down at the African violet, there was even a purple ribbon tied around the pot. She stared at it in complete bewilderment.
"Um, who was it... did she leave a name?" Tara asked quietly, gently running her finger over a furry little leaf.
"Yeah, Willow... not sure if that was her real name though, red hair, green eyes, about this high... and she was kinda weird. T have you been seeing someone that I don't know about?" Faith asked suspiciously, "Because she hardly gave me a second glance and I'm one hot mama."
"You're not that hot," Tara commented as she finished logging the sale in her ledger,
"Ah! So you're not denying it!"
"No!... I mean, yes!" Tara paused before shaking her head vigorously, "I am most definitely not seeing that woman, I only just met her yesterday... she's a police officer... or rather a detective... but that's beside the point, she was rude and arrogant..."
"And hot!" Faith laughed.
"I'm really not interested in her Faith..."
"Chick, you haven't been thoroughly swept off your feet by anyone since... well, you haven't been swept of your feet period but what about a good old-fashioned fuck?"
"I think you get enough of that for the both of us," Tara replied with a smirk.
"T!" Faith slapped Tara's hand playfully before nodding in a conceding manner, "Granted yes but what's wrong with enjoying life? You need to get out and get some of your own, there hasn't been anyone in your bed since that psychology student you picked up at one of your witchy Wiccan meetings and did that even last a whole week?"
"Two weeks," Tara muttered.
"She was a sweet girl and from what I heard she was pretty good in bed too," Faith winked.
Tara glared and Faith raised her hands in surrender, "Whoa, don't go all bad arse Wicca on me... I'm just saying you have needs just the same as me, well, maybe not exactly the same but that besides the point. There's more to life than work..."
"Yes there is. I've got Ashley..." Tara began.
Faith had heard the speech too many times and she wasn't going to listen to it again, "For heaven's sake! Stop using your daughter as excuse T! Ash knows you're gay and she's not going to freak out if you start dating someone. She didn't last time, that was just you freaking out that she was freaking out. She knows you're not happy, kids pick up these things."
"I am happy."
"You're not! Ash and I love you to pieces and we can tell. If you don't go out and at least get laid soon then I'm going to put an ad on a dating site for you!"
"You wouldn't dare!" Tara narrowed her eyebrows threateningly.
"Hey, are you forgetting who I am?" Faith stepped back and flexed her arms, "Super-strength Slayer chick here!"
"I'll turn you into a toad!" Tara snapped back.
Faith cocked her head to one side and smirked, "We both know you would never do anything like that. I've got your ad all planned out in my head as well, "Lusty blue eyed blonde with great tits seeking a sexy woman for steamy, all-night sex... And I'll use that photo of you... y'know the one... dancing in front of your mirror with the door open... naked."
Tara went beet red when she remembered her less than stellar rendition of "Hey Mama" in what she thought had been complete privacy, "The door was shut! You opened it! And you refused to relinquish the photo for destruction!"
"You bet I did! You'll have so many responses you won't which one to pick!" Faith did a little dance of her own, eyes twinkling.
"Please don't Faith," Tara was serious this time.
"I'm just kidding T, lighten up a little... see, you're too serious," Faith reached out and made a honking sound as she pressed her finger to Tara's nose, "Don't worry, you're one hot, sexy chick – the red head will be back."
"Goddess, I hope not!"
The door bell chimed and both girls looked up to see a tall older man with glasses enter the store.
"Giles," Tara breathed a sigh of relief.
"Oy, Giles, you're here just in time to tell Tara to go and get laid!" Faith whooped.
"I will do no such thing," he retorted swiftly as he approached the counter.
"Can you at least tell her to get a date?" Faith pleaded.
"That I can do," Giles turned to Tara, "Get a date... for all our sakes please."
Tara's mouth fell open in disbelief, she had expected Giles to defend her. Instead he was joining in on the 'make fun of Tara' game.
"I haven't been that miserable!" Tara protested and was answered with 'looks' from both of them saying otherwise.
There was a sudden commotion from the stairs as small feet thundered down at a gallop. Ashley raced across the floor to throw herself into Giles' arms with a happy squeal.
He laughed and swung her around, "How's my favourite goddaughter?"
"Missed you! Did you bring me back a present?" she asked as he settled her onto her hip.
"Ash," Tara said in a low voice.
Ashley looked slightly guilty, "Um, did you have fun in England?"
"Not so much... too much work and not enough play."
"Well, you can play with me now you're back!" Ashley announced happily, "Mom's too busy and Faith is always out."
"I am not!" both Faith and Tara replied in unison.
"You're going on a date?" Giles asked Tara as he set Ashley back on the floor.
"Not yet, but she will soon," Faith grinned.
Ashley looked up at her mother and asked quite innocently, "Are you going on a date with Officer Willow Mom?"
Tara looked at each of the three pairs of eyes fixed on her, feeling the weight of each. She spied Giles' briefcase sitting on the floor at his feet.
"Have you got our tax forms? I'll go and start on them right away!" Tara grabbed the bag and retreated to her office at the rear of the store.
"She likes her," Ashley announced with a firm nod.
Faith put an arm around Ashley's shoulders and pulled the small girl close, "That's my girl."
Tara closed the door of the office behind her and collapsed gratefully into her chair at the desk. The bag with the tax forms was thrown unceremoniously to the ground, there was nothing Tara hated doing more. Instead she looked at the plant that she still held in her other hand. Tara lifted it up and stared at it while she reflected on the red head's short but memorable visit to the Magic Box. She remembered the way she had felt with Willow. She had not been entirely sure what was happening between them and yet something about it felt very familiar. Almost as though she could have said yes to Willow's proposal because she already knew her...
She sighed, Faith was right, there hadn't been anyone since Jo and that short relationship with the psychology student had ended over a year ago. Since then she had thrown herself into every facet of the running of the Magic Box. A few months ago, Giles had made her an offer to buy a half share in the shop. He had so obviously undervalued it's worth but would not take no for an answer, nor would he let her raise his asking price to something that actual resembled market value.
After coming to the city pregnant and with virtually nothing except the clothes on her back she now found herself at a point in her life where she could actually say she had accomplished something. At the age of twenty-six she was paying off a loan that would give her a half share in a successful business that she loved. This was before she even thought about her greatest gift of all... three feet and eight inches of pure, bubbling energy that went by the name of Ashley. Her daughter was precious... despite the fact that she, Faith and Giles were all equally responsible for spoiling the bright girl silly. Ashley was her responsibility first and foremost. She had to keep her daughter safe... that meant no time for dating red headed detectives.
C'mon Tara... she's gorgeous... even if she is a little rude... rude and arrogant and not at all my type... I like nice girls! Don't I?
Tara carefully set the plant on the windowsill in the light and sat staring at it, her thoughts dwelling solely on the young woman who had given it to her. It took her a few moments to realise that, despite all her protestations, she couldn't wait to see her again. She tore her eyes away from the plant and picked up the bag at her feet. If anything could succeed in putting her into a mind numbing stupor where she was incapable of thinking stupid thoughts of any kind it would be tax forms.