Willow felt as though all four pairs of eyes were boring a hole right through her. She glanced at each in turn. Faith was looking suitably impressed...her arm had since dropped from Tara's sleeve to rest at her side. Although Willow had no doubt that she was still hovering protectively. Giles was frowning as though a million thoughts were racing through his mind, problems, solutions, scenarios and so forth. Buffy just looked horrified, as though she expected Willow to explode or something equally as startling. However, this was nothing compared to the look on Tara's face and this was the face that Willow searched the longest for answers...and acceptance. She searched but Tara's face was completely unreadable, almost a mask. Willow was saddened, wondering what emotions the blonde hid beneath her impervious exterior.
"Are my eyes black?" Willow demanded insistently when she saw everyone was tongue-tied, she hated being the centre of attention...especially bad attention.
Everyone nodded tentatively. Buffy, seeing her partner's obvious distress, came forward with her hand held out in placation. She gently took Willow's arm, hoping to offer a measure of reassurance with her touch. Angry and frustrated, Willow snatched her arm away and Buffy took an all too hasty step back as though she was worried that Willow was going to burn her in a fiery ball as well.
"Willow...everyone," Giles began in a calm, almost normal voice, "I think we should all return to the magic box, a hot drink and a few biscuits would go down a treat I believe."
"Nothing like tea and cookies after some slaying," Faith agreed in a slightly sarcastic voice, she sounded as though she would rather be downing something with a little more punch.
Willow clenched her fists and scrubbed them fiercely against her eyes as though that would make them return to normal. However, she knew inside that it was not the colour of her eyes which disturbed her the most despite all outward appearances. All too clearly she remembered the feel of power coursing through her body. Before and after she burnt the vampire to a cinder it was in her veins, surging with potential and straining to escape. She had the overwhelming feeling that what had been let loose tonight was just a fraction of the power inside her. Willow shivered at the thought of burning everything around her, her new found friends...Tara. However, what made her shiver the most was the fact that in those moments, and most of all when she had unleashed the magic...she had felt awesome.
"Will?" Buffy asked quietly, seeing the strange look pass over Willow's face.
"I'm going home...I'm exhausted," Willow mumbled, although she wasn't quite sure how to describe how she felt...drained, filthy and thoroughly weirded out.
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Buffy didn't like the idea of someone who burnt people with mere words going home on her own.
"Fuck off Buffy," Willow muttered and turned her back on all of them.
No one said a word as she walked back into the darkness of them cemetery on her way to the car which was parked near the entrance. She half-wished that another vampire would leap out at her, fangs bared. Although she wasn't sure if she wanted to see if her power worked again or if she just wanted to die.
The four remaining in the graveyard stood awkwardly and in silence until Willow was out of sight. The silence lasted until Buffy realised that Willow had been her ride home.
"Fuck!" How am I supposed to get home?" she was also annoyed at the fact she would most probably miss out on biscuits and tea.
"I'll take you home, my bike is parked just over there,' Faith thumbed in a general direction.
"Bike?" Buffy squeaked, "As is pedal bike or..."
"Bike as in my Harley," Faith replied, obviously enjoying Buffy's discomfort.
"Um...okay," Buffy replied nervously, she turned to Tara and Giles, "I guess I'll see you later."
Giles stepped forward to say something before the two of them could leave.
"Can you and Willow please come to a meeting at the Magic Box tomorrow, mid-morning if possible...or earlier? We open at nine," Giles asked as Faith possessively took hold of Buffy's arm.
"I don't want to speak for Will...but..."
"It's important," Giles insisted.
"Okay, sure..." Buffy let loose one last squeak as Faith dragged her off; no doubt biscuits and tea were not on the brunette's mind.
Giles and Tara were left alone; the blonde feeling as though the weight of the world was pressing down on her shoulders and at any moment her knees would buckle. Then Giles was at her side and everything became a little easier.
"I'm sorry Tara...when you told me what Willow was, what was inside her, I didn't take you seriously enough. I should have acted then and there to remove further danger from us all," he spoke calmly.
"Acted how Giles?" Tara asked quietly, although her voice betrayed an uncharacteristic hint of rage, "By killing her? Banishing her to another dimension?"
"No Tara!" he replied, mortified by her suggestion that he would even think about killing an innocent, although the more he thought about it he wasn't sure Willow was at all innocent, "But you can't deny that she is an unknown in this mix... we have to all work together to understand what she is, what she can do...Willow most of all."
"Willow is what she is," Tara whispered, rubbing her temples with her fingertips as though she had a migraine.
"But what is she to you?"
"I-I don't know," Tara replied, "I-I...I just want to go home and see Ashley...oh god Giles! Who the hell is looking after Ashley? If you're here, Faith was here...I'm the worst mother in the world!"
"Tara, calm down, you're being hysterical...did you forget that Anya and Xander were arriving back from their honeymoon today...Ashley is at their place, no doubt interrupting their newlywed bliss."
Tara stared goggle-eyed at Giles for a few moments as though she were trying to comprehend what he had just said before she signed heavily. She remembered, it was the twenty-fourth, Xander and Anya had been set to arrive back on the five-thirty from New Zealand via Los Angeles. Giles was right...she was hysterical. She knew exactly who to blame for her embarrassing emotional state, a certain detective with a beef against vampires.
"I just want to go home Giles," she whispered, "I'm exhausted and I just want to go to bed."
"I think there has been more than enough excitement for one night," Giles agreed and the two of them were the last to leave the cemetery.
Willow pushed open the door to her apartment and immediately stumbled on something in the darkness. Between work and Tara she had very little time to attend to household chores, as a result her apartment was now looking as bad as she felt. Now of course was not the time to do anything about it. She fought her way to the window seat which overlooked the street. Willow sat heavily amongst the cushions and hugged one to her breast.
She could not get their faces out of her head. All of them, staring at her as she just wanted to disappear completely. Willow scrubbed at her eyes which now felt red and raw from doing it too often. During the whole drive home she had continually checked in the rear vision mirror to make sure her own green ones stared back at her.
Her cell phone began ringing, the cheery, fast tune completely out of sync with her mood. Willow glanced at the screen long enough to see it was Buffy before jabbing her finger down to cut her partner off. Buffy tried ringing once more and got the same result. Willow contemplated turning it off but a part of her wanted to answer it, wanted Buffy to reassure her that everything was fine.
It's not fine goddammit, I barbequed a vampire! Willow clearly remembered the sensation, the anger that she had felt and it all came flooding back to her. Her fists clenched, one around the pillow in front of her and the other around her cell phone.
The phone beeped twice, no doubt it was Buffy resorting to text messaging. Willow glanced down at the screen to read, Meeting @ Magic Box at 10am 2moro. If u not there I kic yr arse! With all the force she could muster Willow then threw the offending piece of technology across the room.
Willow did not even wince as the five hundred dollar phone smashed into half a dozen pieces against a wall. She just wondered when she had started to become so angry at everything. She knew exactly when it was...right after she had met Tara. However she refused to believe that it was the blonde's fault...or that it would have been better had they never met at all.
She closed her eyes tightly and tried to dwell on all that was peaceful in her life...which at this point in time consisted solely of Tara.
Willow couldn't quite say what it was that brought her to the Magic Box at 10.30 the next morning. Perhaps it was that she knew deep down this was the best place for her to find answers.
Buffy looked up as soon as the doorbell chimed and she scowled when she saw it was Willow. Her scowl however changing to a look of concern as she saw Willow was wearing the same rumpled clothes she had on the previous night in the cemetary. She was pleased however to see that Willow was carrying her laptop in a bag slung over her shoulder.
"Where have you been, I've been texting you non-stop all morning?" Buffy could barely conceal her concern as Willow came to stand at the edge of the table, she looked deathly tired.
"Um, my cell phone died last night," Willow whispered, wishing everyone would stop looking at her for once.
Buffy was seated at a large round table, while that in itself wasn't strange, the fact that it was piled high with books was. Buffy hated reading anything longer than a magazine and non-work related. However, a very large book lay open in front of her. Three other people were also seated at the table, Giles and a young man and woman whom Willow had never seen before. Tara was nowhere in sight and Willow's heart sank. She had been hoping for a chance to redeem herself and apologise for her behaviour in leaving suddenly last night.
"Right!" Giles began brightly, sensing Willow's discomfort, he bounded quickly to his feet and pulled a chair out for Willow, "Let's get underway then. Have a seat, can I get you anything?"
"A very strong coffee, black, three sugars," Willow realised how desperately she needed a caffeine injection.
Giles nodded with a warm smile and went to fix her drink. His manner towards her making things a little easier for Willow. She took the offered seat next to Buffy, taking off her bag and setting it down beside her.
Her partner leaned over and hissed in her ear, "You threw your cell phone at the wall didn't you?"
"Um...err, did not," Willow ducked her head, was she that obvious?
"You did too...stop feeling sorry for yourself! We've got bigger problems than you going all dark eyed and big with the hocus pocus stuff...like people dying!"
"Well said!" a perky blonde whom Willow had never seen before piped up from across the table.
Willow threw the instantly annoying blonde a look that could have melted steel. It was one thing for Buffy to be telling her off but a complete stranger she had never seen before was a different case altogether. Before Willow could burst and say something entirely inappropriate, Buffy stepped in to diffuse the situation.
"Will, this is Anya, and her husband Xander...they've just returned from their honeymoon...and I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that they're helping us out. They're old hands at this sort of stuff."
"Very nice to meet you," Willow managed, although the jury was definitely still out on whether she meant it.
"Hey there," Xander waved a little awkwardly, obviously uncomfortable with his wife's rudeness, "Glad to see you're been inducted into the weird and wonderful world that is our lives. Still thinking all this is nuts?"
Willow managed a smile, "Yeah, a little."
"Well, so am I and I've been doing it for years!"
Willow decided that she liked the affable young man, although she couldn't say the same for Anya who was currently eyeing her up as a potential rival for her husband's affections.
She turned to him now and said bluntly, "You can't possibly think she's better looking than me?"
Xander looked flustered and started to stammer an answer beneath Anya's baleful stare.
"Hello, ah...Anya?" Willow stepped in quickly to diffuse any martial tension, "I'm gay." and already in love with someone else...
"Ahhh!" Anya stopped heckling Xander and beamed brightly, "Welcome then! Sorry about that...but after a thousand years spent as a vengeance demon I can't stop thinking about cheating husbands."
"A what? Demon? Vengeance...what?" Willow frowned.
Buffy leaned over again and whispered discreetly, "Just smile and nod...and your cell phone cost five hundred dollars! What were you thinking!"
"I kinda wasn't Buff," Willow replied, she had rather liked that phone.
"Willow, can I talk to you for a moment?" a voice came from the back of the store.
Willow looked up instantly when she heard it was Tara who spoke, she nodded wordlessly and followed the blonde from the room. They moved into another space. Although Willow only had eyes for Tara she did note the strangeness of her surrounds. It was a training room of sorts, with all the usual gym equipment but odd weapons stored on the walls and symbols painted there too. She glanced back to Tara to find the blonde looking at her with the same unreadable expression that she had displayed the previous evening. Willow knew that she herself was as pale as a ghost, she felt awful.
Rather than launch into a furious tirade in the same manner as Buffy, Tara's question was simple, "How do you feel Willow?"
Willow was slightly taken aback, although it was a simple question she was unprepared...and in Tara's presence every sentence needed to be spoken with prior consideration lest the blonde consider her unstable. Her mouth opened and shut a few times as she pondered before she settled on a tight-lipped smile that betrayed her anxiety.
Tara sighed, "Willow, it's me...you don't have to put on a brave face. We're alone and it's just me."
"That's part of the problem," Willow replied quickly, emboldened by the solidity of Tara's smooth voice, "Everything is all so mixed up...it started out with a case like any other...well maybe not like any other because of the weird symbols and stuff but you know what I mean, just a case. Then I met you and all I wanted for starters was a date, maybe a few dates if things went well...and now everything is all mixing together, you being involved with the whole magic thing...and Faith, am I allowed to say that she is one scary, arse-kicking chick! And you set fire to the vamp the same as I did! I should be just as weirded out by that as by my own unexpected pyrotechnics!" Willow was in full babble mode with no sign of letting up until she met Tara's eyes and saw that the blonde was still looking at her, still meeting her gaze with those calm blue eyes, and she was able to reign in her runaway tongue, "What are you doing to me Tara Maclay?"
Tara managed a small laugh as she lent back against the wall behind her, arms folded casually, "I thought you just wanted to know my name...I don't know how you managed to get dates in there as well."
Willow relaxed visibly, "By being persistently charming I suppose."
"You are undeniably persistent!"
"And charming?" Willow prompted.
"I'm still trying to work that out for myself," Tara's voice retained an edge of seriousness which indicated that she was not referring solely to Willow's dating etiquette.
"Still trying to work out whether I'm bonkers?" Willow added morosely, feeling a little of her misery from the previous evening returning.
"Willow, you're not bonkers...some people can do magic, you just have to have time to accept that you're one of them."
"But I don't understand, how in the frilly heck did I get it? Am I dangerous? I burnt that vampire to a crisp by just wanting him to burn, what if that happens to someone else who isn't all pointed toothed and lumpy? And the black eyes, how come your eyes don't go all black when you work magic?"
Tara refused to be drawn into Willow's tirade of self-pity, "Buffy was right...you really have to stop feeling sorry for yourself. There is a bigger picture but you're an important part of that, what exactly none of us knows but that's what we're here to help you find out, Giles, Faith, Buffy, Xander, Anya...and me, we're all here to help you. Please let us Will?"
She called me Will... Willow let the musical sound wash over her like a calming balm. Just that one simple word, but it felt as though Tara were letting her in. Just a little, but closer nevertheless. For some reason she felt incredibly weak her legs buckled under her. Willow plonked down on the floor in a most unceremonious fashion, much a like a ragdoll. When Tara moved to help, Willow raised her hand and she didn't move any closer. Willow glanced up and Tara and her heart did a funny little flip as it were increasingly apt to do in her presence...she had never ever loved anyone quite as much as she loved the beautiful blonde. Which in itself was ridiculous, she had known her for all of two minutes...and there was evil magic afoot, not least within her own body...but for some reason all of that seemed just fine.
"Help?" Willow asked quietly.
"Help you up or help you understand your magics?" Tara asked, although she knew full well which one Willow was meaning.
"Would it be presumptuous of me to ask for both?"
Tara reached down and took both of Willows hands in her own and in one swift movement she drew the redhead back to her feet. She tugged a little too hard and she and Willow ended up very close together, hands held in front of them. Both women blushed bright shades of red and yet neither made a move away.
Willow met Tara's eyes, green melting into blue...and she held that gaze. For the longest time she could not draw away. Nor did she want to, in those eyes she found the peace that had eluded her since last night.
For all the forces that repulsed her away from Willow, Tara could not help but be drawn to the detective. Every voice in her head was telling her to back away, to keep Willow at arms length and yet she was helpless to do anything but accept what was happening between them.
Bridging the already miniscule gap between them, Willow brought her face closer to Tara's, lips parted ever so slightly in anticipation. She stopped just short, so close that their hot breaths fell on one another's lips.
"Ahem!" there was a quiet but insistent cough in the background, both women heard it through a dim haze, barely aware until it happened again much louder and even more insistent.
Willow and Tara sprang apart to see Giles standing in the doorway, a concerned look on his face. Willow got the immediate and distinct impression that he didn't approve of this new development in their relationship.
"Willow...Tara, I thought you might be having a little chat about what we can do to help Willow learn to control her magics."
Tara looked suitably guilty but there was a twinkle in her eye, "I was just getting to that."
Giles was too much of a gentleman to have anything to say in reply.
"You can cure me?" Willow asked hopefully, trying to move her attention away from the burning sensation that Tara had left on her lips.
"I wouldn't call it a cure Willow...once given the magics cannot be taken away...but we can teach you techniques that will enable you to assert control over the power that you do have, spells perhaps to enhance it when it is needed. It is very important and I hope you would let yourself be guided by Tara and I. Otherwise I fear the magics will end up controlling you," Giles said gently, but his tone of voice also said that he would brook no refusal.
Willow however did not need any persuading, "Great, I get to go to Hogwarts. Where do I sign up?"
"Hogwhat?" Giles asked, seeing the bemused looks on Tara and Willow's faces he shook his head, "Tomorrow...we need to start as soon as possible...after work tomorrow?"
Willow nodded, any excuse to spend more time with Tara was welcomed.
"It's all settled so we should hit the books," Tara could think of nothing but drawing Willow back into her arms, she needed something to take her mind off it.
The three of them joined Buffy, Anya and Xander who were pouring over their musty collection of old books on the table. Willow sat down and picked up a copy of 'A General Guide to Banishing Spells and Potions' and began leafing through it.
"I am at Hogwarts," she muttered after a quick scan of the incomprehensible gibberish inside.
Giles resumed fixing them all coffee in the small kitchen behind the counter. Tara sat down beside Anya, where she could happily gaze at Willow from the corner of her eye.
"Where's Faith?" Willow asked, almost grateful to not see the brunette, she didn't see Buffy blush furiously beside her.
"With Ashley, at the movies, supposedly seeing that new Disney cartoon...but I bet she's smuggled her in to see something with gore, blood and gratuitous violence,' Tara replied with a sigh, she then looked up to see Anya staring at her with a funny look on her face, "What?"
"I like your new girlfriend, so much better than the last one," she said simply.
It was Tara's turn to blush and both she and Willow replied at the same time,
"Tara's not my girlfriend"/"Willow's not my girlfriend."
Anya rolled her eyes, "Whatever!"
A few hours and several very large cups of coffee later, Willow was beginning to see tiny little black letters even when she wasn't reading a page or looking at her computer screen. She was trawling through the police homicide reports from the past few weeks.
"Are you supposed to be accessing police files from your own computer?" Xander asked in amazement, trying to peer over Willow's shoulder at the confidential information as he returned from a sandwich buying mission.
"Errr...no," Willow replied succinctly, "But it's really quite easy, you just route the connection to make it look as though you're accessing it from the precinct and the securities don't know any different..."
"Will," Buffy leaned over and clamped her hand over Willow's mouth, "Shut up, no one really cares how it works, as long as it works."
"I thought it was interesting," Tara said quietly, her voice completely serious, Buffy responded by poking her tongue childishly out at the blonde.
"Sandwiches!" Xander piped up, holding aloft the brown paper bag in his hand to steer people's thoughts in another direction, "I have sandwiches cos people love sandwiches!"
"Any donuts in there?" Buffy tried to peer into the bag, the little incident with Tara quickly forgotten at the mere mention of food.
"No, but I have Twinkies?" Xander offered one.
"That'll do," Buffy snatched the little cake from Xander's outstretched hand.
Willow continued to trawl through the files as she ate, very careful not to get her roast beef sandwich anywhere near the laptop. She was unaware that Tara was watching her as she ate and took each delicate little bite. Her hand was held at an awkward height, off to her side and as far away from the computer as she could get it and still eat it. Tara watched as her eyes light up when she found something of interest. Her hands momentarily left her screen and searched amongst the pile of books on the table. Finding what she watched, she hefted it onto her lap. A smile curled Tara's lips as she saw Willow bent over the book, munching her sandwich directly above it. Obviously her dislike of covering things in food did not apply to books.
Giles has noticed too and without warning he swooped down and rescued the book from beneath Willow's chomping jaws. Willow looked up with a mouthful of roast beef, a dollop of pickle on the corner of her mouth and a very sheepish expression on her face. Giles' face contorted in a state of apoplexy as he gently brushed crumbs from the pages of the heavy tome.
"Sowwy," Willow quickly swallowed her mouthful, "But look at this..." She grabbed Giles by his tie and pulled his head down to see her computer screen, "Jack Falla, seventeen, a student at Rosewood Academy..."
"Dats da 'ame 'ool as the 'ock," Buffy replied too quickly with her mouth full of twinkie and she quickly swallowed, she rose from her seat to come and stand behind Willow's chair next to Giles, "That is the same school that the jock went to, the jock from the first killing."
"He had a name Buff," Willow replied quietly, she had studied the file of the young man's murder all too much, "He was Harland Baker, seventeen. Anyway, Jack was found face down in the lake...the file says suicide but look at this photo..."
Buffy, Giles and Tara crowded around the same computer screen as Willow brought up one of the autopsy photos. It showed the body of a young man who had been handsome in life but was now bloated and discoloured from lying in the water. Willow drew their attention to a tiny mark on his chest that she had enhanced. It was almost unnoticeable unless you knew exactly what you were looking for.
"That's the mark of a Rumarian demon," Giles peered closer, so close that no one else could see past his head, "Without a doubt...Willow how did you know."
"I saw the mark, at first I passed it off as a bruise but I remembered reading something when I was flicking through one of the books, I was just double checking...I have a good memory."
"A photographic memory," Buffy chipped in.
Willow stabbed her finger at the page she had been looking at before Giles had snatched the book away. Giles looked down to see a Rumerian demon staring back at him and he read a passage out loud, "This demon kills in water and leaves a telltale mark upon the skin of the victim in order to claim his trophy...Willow, you're very astute, you ought to try your hand at demon research more often."
"So this guy was Harland's guardian?" Buffy asked.
Willow nodded, "No doubt...there was obviously no connection made between the two deaths as one was ruled a suicide...still, two guys dying from the same school...I would have thought someone would have brought it to our attention..."
"So?" said Buffy in mild annoyance, "It's no good finding out the fact after all of this has gone down...we need to stop people from dying don't we?"
"Precisely!" Giles spoke up, "I've found something too while you were searching on your computer...I just had to double check."
Giles placed the book Willow had soiled down on the table and from the counter behind him retrieved the particularly old and musty book that he had previously been reading. Tara's eyes widened at the sight of it,
"Giles, you're handling the Nox Noctis Veneficus without gloves on!" she said it as though it were the most scandalous outrage since Tom left Nicole.
Giles looked slightly guilty and Buffy and Willow just looked confused. Tara saw their expressions and filled them in, "The Veneficus is a dark magic book, the darkest of dark magic. The information contained within is so potently malevolent that the Watcher's Council, sought to the ends of the earth for copies of it and burned all that they found. Only one copy they found was spared, it resides under greatest protection in the Watcher's library in England. They believe that at least three other copies also survive...one of which Giles keeps under his bed."
"It's protected!" Giles snapped indignantly.
"What's the Watcher's Council?" Willow asked with a frown.
"The Watcher's Council is a body of bureaucrats that try and tell us how to run our operation," Xander added in quickly from across the other side of the table.
"That's a big word sweetie," Anya smiled at her husband.
Giles glared at the pair of them to silence their banter, "They're a body of concerned and connected individuals who govern the Watchers of vampire slayers like myself, I'm Faith's Watcher, they do research and keep records. Anyway, they're quite irrelevant in all of this...as Tara so nicely put it, this is the Nox Noctis Veneficus. It mentions a powerful evil which was held at bay by a spell cast in the seventeenth century...in fact, it was one of the reasons why the book was destroyed in the first place...to protect the spell casters. As the young man told Willow and Buffy, the evil was sealed using the seven life-forces of an original coven - their names are inscribed in this book. As long as their lines continue, the seals remain unbroken," Giles looked questioningly at Buffy.
Buffy shrugged, "Something like that...sounded like a big muddle to me! How come you can get it straight and you weren't even there?"
Giles tapped the page of his book excitedly, "It's all here! The seven seals are therefore the youngest of each of the lines of seven witches and warlocks who banished the powerful evil from the world. In order to resurrect it, each of those seals have to be killed. It would appear that this is where the symbols come in. The inverted banishing symbol and the murder of the seal is used in order to undo the original spell that holds the evil at bay. The summoning spell needed to guide it to our plane, no doubt the bodies found in these circles have been sacrifices...most probably willing victims."
"Ewww," Buffy added.
"So far we've had two murders...so there's still five seals out there?" Willow looked to Giles who nodded in agreement, "And we have to find those seals? Those people I mean...not the sea creatures? Even though baby seals are sooooo cute!"
"Exactly! That is where we'll come in, Anya, Xander and I will work from genealogy records to trace the lines of the original coven down to the present day," Giles traced his name over the list of seven witches and warlocks in the book.
"Boring!" Anya burst out but she was silenced with a sharp look from Giles.
"Yay for geneaology research!" she quickly chirped.
"Meanwhile Willow and I will be at work...doing real police work," Buffy said firmly before Willow gave her a sharp look which told her to shut up, "But we'll be looking for hocus pocus type clues as well!"
"Buffy's right," Willow began packing up her computer, "We are behind in our case work, I don't want our boss coming down on us or inspecting what we're working on too closely, it could raise some uncomfortable questions."
"You never know, he might be pleased to learn he has a detective that can do magic tricks," Buffy put her foot right back in her mouth.
A dark look crossed over Willow's face for a few moments but she quickly regained her composure. Tara was going to help her deal with the magic and everything would be fine. She could laugh and joke about it...why let it ruin her life?
"Sure, I'll be doing party tricks at his kids birthday party, want me to pull a rabbit out of a hat for you all?"
Anya gasped in horror and snapped at Willow, "You wouldn't dare! Why would you do that? Don't you like me?"
Willow frowned and Xander quickly jumped in, "Bunny phobia."
"Ahh," Willow nodded as though it were the most perfectly natural thing in the world.
Willow tucked her laptop back into its bag and she and Buffy stood to leave. Tara stood too.
"I'll walk you out," she said quietly.
Buffy rolled her eyes and quickly made a beeline for the door, not wanting to hang around like a bad smell when Willow and Tara were saying goodbye. She was out the door before anyone could say a further word to her. The whole world of magic was still sitting quite uneasily with her, she suspected that it would take a while for her to fully come to terms with the reality of it all.
Willow continuously fiddled with the straps on her carry bag as she and Tara walked to the door. Once outside, she swung it half shut behind them. Willow felt a delicious shiver go up her spine as though they were involved in something mischievous when all they were doing was standing in a door way. Both women acted as though they were teenagers, Willow continuing to fiddle and Tara scuffing her slip ons against the worn step.
"I guess I'll be seeing you," Willow began, hoping that Tara would automatically chime in with an exact date, destination and time for their next meeting.
"I-I guess," Tara whispered.
"Okay..." Willow lingered but the moment was becoming increasingly awkward between the two of them, "Bye."
"Bye," Tara watched as Willow turned her back and began walking to where Buffy waited by Willow's car, Say something you doofus! She'll be gone in seconds. Say it now!, "Um, Willow...Willow!"
Willow stopped and looked over her shoulder, Tara could have been mistaken but she was sure there was an expectant look on her impish face.
"T-There's a costume party at the Kitten next Saturday night, I-I was wondering if you would like to go with...g-g with m-me?" Tara asked quietly, her stutter had never been so pronounced and she swallowed before she continued, "The theme is Saints and Sinners."
"Hmmm, I know which one I'd rather be," murmured Willow quietly, but just loud enough so Tara could hear.
"Will!" Buffy snapped from where she was becoming impatient by the car, she had heard Willow's little comment as well, "We have work to do...hello! Earth to Willow."
"Y-you'll be seeing me tomorrow night anyway...for your...magic lesson" Tara added for want of a better descriptor.
"Ah-huh," Willow nodded, unable to draw herself away from the blonde, "I guess I'll see you."
With one last very sheepish grin Willow turned away from Tara and joined Buffy in walking towards the station. Buffy angrily cuffed Willow across the back of her head and Willow yelped in protest.
"Hey!" she rubbed her sore head, Buffy didn't know her own strength sometimes.
"I liked you a lot better when you loved 'em and left 'em...now you're just trouble!" Buffy muttered, "If I find you daydreaming while we're supposed to be working then there will be hell to pay! And you'll owe me donuts for the next month!"
"I thought you were all supportive of me in my quest to win over Tara?" Willow unlocked the car and hopped in.
Buffy clambered in the passenger side, she continued to glare at Willow, "I am, but not to the point that it interferes with our work...you know I'm not a huge fan of working too hard but I do like getting paid to keep myself in donuts and stylish yet affordable boots. I can see where this is going and in that place lies questions from superiors and a stern talking to leading to handing in of badges!"
"I lo...really like her Buff...really like her," Willow said quietly, glancing back over her shoulder to see Tara still watching her, she waved before starting the car.
"That's what I'm worried about!" Buffy snapped, absently stroking the badge in her pocket while looking at her stylish yet affordable boots.
"If we get fired I'll buy you some new boots," Willow assured her.
"Shut up and drive Willow, you're already forcing me to work on a Sunday...you are not getting back in my good books for a very long time," Buffy folded her arms across her chest and huffed grumpily.