"Maclay, you got a visitor."
Tara looked up at the two guards who was standing in her cell. She got up, put her hands behind her back and turned around to allow them to cuff her hands. She knew the routine. They then proceeded to exit the cell and take the walk down the hall to get to the visitors area. Something was off though. She knew almost instinctively and panic began to build in her. They took a turn down the hallway and she heard one of the guards say, "Is it clear?"
"Yeah. Go ahead."
"What the hell are you doing?" Tara asked.
The answer she received was a punch to the gut that doubled her over.
"You don't ask the questions. We do."
She was then taken into a small space that Tara now knew was a janitor's closet. She was pushed up against the wall and she was greeted with a violent punch to the face. The blow caused her head to smack against the wall behind her and before she could even realize it had landed she received another to the other side of her head.
"What did you tell that lawyer?" one of the female guards spat out at her.
"I don't... I don't know what you mean," she answered, her head bobbed lazily on her neck as a result of the blows to her face. There was another blow now to her stomach and she again doubled over, this time falling to her knees.
She was reeling now, barley conscious. "I didn't tell her anything. You know that," she answered. She felt a foot then connect with her side and it sent her toppling over and down.
"What did you tell her Maclay?"
"Nothing, I told you, why do you think I'm stupid?" she answered.
A foot then slammed down onto her hands that were cuffed behind her back and the pain caused her vision to go black. She wanted to scream out in pain but she refused. She would not give them the satisfaction. It was the one thing she could hold onto to allow her the slightest bit of dignity to remain intact. Another kick, this time to the back of her head and it knocked her completely to the ground.
"Ya know Maclay, it doesn't really matter now, she went home a few days ago and found that she just couldn't do the things she was doing anymore. Yeah, turns out she liked to take advantage of her position and use it for illegal gains. Can you imagine that?"
'Oh God,' Tara thought. 'Keep cool, keep cool,' she told herself.
"Yes ma'am, she sure did," the second female guard told her.
"Found her face down at her kitchen table laying in a glass of Jack, doped up to the eyeballs. Sad really. She was so young."
A pitiful sound escaped Tara's mouth.She could take the pain of the beating, but this, this. Her Willow dead.
She wanted to scream.
She wanted to cry out from the pain of it but she knew she couldn't. If she showed any kind of feeling for Willow, Abby was as sure as dead.
She needed to play the game. Put on the face of stone and move it along.
"I told you, I didn't say anything to her," Tara said
"Yeah we know you didn't. You see Donny just wanted to send along his condolences personally. Give you a little reminder of who's in charge," she said to Tara.
"Now get up," the second guard said.
Tara struggled to her feet and when they felt she wasn't moving fast enough they helped her along by pulling her up by her hands which were cuffed behind her back, the unnatural position of them causing pain to shoot up her arms and down her body.
"You know Sherry, this one just can't stop getting into fights. I don't know what to do about it."
The second guard answered, "Yeah, you're right about that. I say three or four days in the hole will fix this right up."
They both laughed.
Tara sat in the darkness of the solitary cell. She wouldn't dare tell them they were doing her a favor by putting her here. There was no light at all and she could cry all she wanted knowing that no one would notice. She could sit and pretend she was somewhere other then this. At this moment in Tara's mind there was a picnic. She was sitting on a blanket spread underneath an oak tree near a lake. She was smiling, barefoot, her toes pulling at the blades of grass that surrounded the blanket. She was smiling at the sight before her. She saw her Abby, eyes turned up to the sky. She was watching the kite that resembled a mother duck, followed by the tail of the kite that were designed to give you the impression that they were the ducklings swimming after their mother.
She let her eyes wander downward where she followed the kite's string to find the kite's pilot. She was wearing a long summer dress with a print of white roses on a field of light green. Her red hair flowing freely around her shoulders as she ran with the kite, her beautiful smile lighting up her face as she ran. She watched as she noticed that Willow turned in her direction and she stopped. She looked at Tara. Their eyes locked.
Willow brook the gaze momentarily to turn to the little girl that was squealing in excitement over her new kite. She handed her the reel and told her to hold tight with both hands. She then turned back to Tara and slowly walked over to her. She knelt down on her hands and knees and crawled over to where Tara was. She sat up on her knees and ran her hand up along Tara's face and tucked a lazy strand of blond hair behind her ear.
"Hey beautiful," Willow said as she brought her hand slowly down her face, tracing her lips with her thumb momentarily before cupping her cheek, leaning in and placing a gentle kiss on her lips. Tara's hand rose up behind Willow's head and gently held her there.
The kiss broke and Willow looked into Tara's eyes. Her head turned slightly sideways with a quizzical look. "What?" she said to Tara.
Tara looked into Willow's eyes, hoping that her own would help to express what she felt at this moment.
"I love you Willow," she said. She stayed there. Locked in Willow's eyes.
Then Tara broke the silence of the dark cell that she sat in and said aloud, "I'll never leave you."
Willow was numb. She felt sad, frightened, exhausted and above all angry. She just couldn't believe the events of the last twenty-four hours. The tag line, "My name is Jack Bauer, and this is the longest day of my life," ran through her mind, forcing her to add pathetic and insane to the list of things that she was.
She had told Buffy to meet her here at the small coffee shop in Downtown Spring. She usually loved it here. The little Dutch candy shop, the Christmas store, the glass works, the very strange and off-the-wall clothing stores. Today they were simply shops. She could care less.
She heard the bells jingle at the front door of the shop and turned around to see that it was Buffy. She waved a hand to Buffy to indicate where she was and quickly retracted it, feeling rather stupid as she realized she was the only one there.
"Hi, what's wrong Willow?" Buffy asked.
"Anya's dead," Willow answered.
"What? How?" Buffy asked.
"Suicide, only not."
"I'm lost now, tell me what you mean?"
"She's dead Buffy. They killed her."
"Are you sure? I mean, maybe she did kill herself?"
"No, she did not kill herself. She was at my house with me not eight hours before. We were sitting on my floor, playing accordions and being butterflies."
"You and Anya, by yourselves, being accordion-playing butterflies?" Buffy said with raised eyebrows.
"Well no, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were there to but that's beside the point."
"I don't want to know Willow."
"No, you really don't. Look I'm not crazy. We were de-stressing. De-stressing or un-stressing, I don't know. Anyway, trying to relax. Some kind of meditation thing. Look, I know her. There is no way that she killed herself. You remember I told you that I drove Anya's car to the prison?"
"I think someone used the license plates to get her address and killed her thinking it was me," Willow said.voice shaking.
"Well even if they did, the name would come up wrong so how could they think it was you?"
"I think maybe they matched the name to the records at the prison for the day I first came there. Anya was with me. It would come up a match. They ran our driver's licenses at the front desk when we were there. She came at the same time, same building, same visiting status."
"Shit, you're right," Buffy said.
"Is there any way you can see if someone ran a check on the names for that day?"
"I don't know Willow. I'll have to ask one of the security members," Buffy answered
"No, you can't. They obviously have people inside there and then they'll know that we know that they know we were there that night. Wait. Is that right?" Willow ran the sentence through her brain again quickly, "Yeah that's right."
"Damn it. What about Tara? What if they...?"
"No they won't. They want Tara to be executed for this. They need this whole thing to die with her. They can't afford to draw any attention to this case."
"Well the one thing I know for sure is that they need to believe that I'm dead. That way Tara and Abby will be safe, for a little while at least."
Their talk was disturbed by the ringing of Buffy's cell phone. "Hey. What's up? ... No, I'm sitting here with Willow, Tara's attorney, or deceased attorney," she looked to Willow and mouthed 'Sorry'.
"No no, that's okay. I'm not offended. I'm deceased."
"Never mind Faith, I'll explain later. ... When? Oh God. Is she okay?"
"What is it Buffy, is it Tara?" Buffy held a hand up to Willow indicating that she wanted her to wait.
"Alright. I'm on my way."
"So much for not wanting to draw attention to the case," Buffy said.
"That was Faith. She was just down in SOL passing dinner trays. She found Tara.unconcious."
"Oh God, Buffy I need to see her."
"You can't. You're dead remember?"
"That's right. Damn it. I have to see her Buffy."
"Okay, wait. I have a plan."
"Well yeah, cause the last one worked so well," Willow said sarcastically. "Hey," Buffy said pouting.
"No, I'm sorry, I'm just a little..."
"In love?" Buffy answered
"That obvious huh?"
"Yeah, just a little."
"Okay. What's the plan?" Willow asked.
Tara felt a drop of liquid hit her face and turned her eyes upward. The clouds had moved in and where beginning to roll with unnatural speed toward the blanket where she sat with Willow. She turned her head back toward her daughter who was still sitting cross-legged on the ground watching her kite as it moved from side to side. How long had they been there? Minutes? Hours? It didn't matter. It wasn't long enough. She had been here, simply watching her precious Abby, her hand in Willow's, enjoying the feel of the thumb as it caressed the underside of her wrist.
Returning her eyes upward, she saw that the clouds were moving in closer. The dark grey masses where making there way toward the picnic area and beginning to block out the sun.
"Aw, I'm sorry baby," Willow said. "Looks like we're going to have to go back now." Willow's lower lip stuck out in disappointment and Tara smiled thinking that both her girls were capable of turning her to putty when they made that face.
Willow started to move, lifting herself from the blanket to make her way toward Abby with the intention of reeling both the little girl and their kite in. Her movements where halted by the hand that still held tight to her own. Tara looked up, silently asking for just a few seconds more with her daughter.
"But it's raining. She's not safe here now," Willow answered.
Tara conceded to Willow's logic. As Willow resumed her previous task she was once again halted by Tara's grip.
"Wait. Just one more kiss. Please?" Tara asked.
Willow smiled and slowly leaned over, her lips moving slowly toward Tara's own. The moment was cut short by a loud clap of thunder. Her focus broken as her eyes immediately sought out her daughter who was standing now, crying as she pointed to the sky. The kite was being pulled away by the force of the wind, and she watched as it sailed further and further away.
She noticed immediately the loss of the hand that held hers, and as she turn to look to her side, Willow was gone. She raised her eyes back to the sky, the family of ducks sailing further and further away, til they were swallowed completely by the dark, angry, clouds.
The doctor called out to the staff as they were rolling the stretcher in to the examining area of the prison hospital.
"We have a deep laceration to the back of the head, severe swelling and bruising on either side of the face, multiple bruising to the back, chest, and side, dislocation of the pinkie finger on the left hand. I'm going to need a set of x-rays of the head, neck, chest, and stomach, possible fracture of ribs on the left side. Slight circular shaped bruising to both wrist."
"Son of a bitch," Faith said and shook her head when she heard the last assessment of Tara's injuries. Buffy raised a hand to her head and began to rub it across her forehead.
"Handcuffed," Buffy said. "She was handcuffed."
The hand then slid down and covered her mouth and she closed her eyes.
"I won't have this, I won't tolerate this," Buffy said. "Not in my unit."
"Well Buffy , I don't know how you're going to handle this seeing as everyone on shift is saying they found her like this in the yard," Faith said, her arms folded, the fingers of her left hand drumming on her right upper arm.
"We'll view the tapes. I'll see who did this on the tapes," Buffy said.
"Try again B .Just so happens the commissary truck was making a delivery and has conveniently got that camera area blocked," she answered.
"There has to be something Faith, some way of finding who did this."
"Well, there are unconventional ways this can be handled. You just give me the word," Faith said.
"No. You know I can't do that," Buffy answered. "As a matter of fact I can't do anything about this at all. It'll put her in even more danger. You know Faith, it would be really helpful if we had someone who were in that circle. You know, someone that they thought they could trust. Possibly get information on the down low."
"Now where would you possibly find someone like that B?"
If the situation had been different, the two would have passed a knowing smile at each other. At this moment however , there was nothing to smile about.
Spike came into the room holding a cage covered in a blanket. He made his way down the steps and heard the sounds of a poker game in progress.
"You stupid son of a bitch, I just called you on that hand. You go out and learn the fuckin' rules of this game or don't come here playin'."
"Oy, you forget there's a four year old girl sitting across the room from you?" he snapped.
"Yeah so?" one of them asked.
"Listen here you wanker, you forgetting I run this gig?" he snapped back. "Now get out." He motioned to the door with his head. "And for the last time, no smoking."
The little girl looked up for the first time that day and smiled as she saw Spike come into the room. She leaped to her feet and said "Hi Mr. Bill," and ran in his direction.
Upon hearing her voice the parrot, who sat in the cage, let out a wolf whistle and began, "A B C D E F G, A B C D E F G, is that very good? Spooky get treat?"
The little girl giggled in delight and Spooky responded in kind giggling back.
"Did you bring treats Mr.Bill?" she asked running over to free her friend from the confines of his portable cage.
"What? You think I'd forget treats?"
"Im jus' asking," Abby answered, raising her hands shoulder level, palms up.
"Yeah, right. By the way, I talked it over with Spooky and Santa and we decided that he's going to live here with you. What do you think?"
She looked at him, a mixture of glee and sadness crossed her face.
"But what about you? I don't want you to be alonely," she said.
A smile crossed his face and he looked down, shook his head and said, "It's 'lonely' and you don't worry about me."
"Oh, I know, you can live here too. I don't like those other people. They're mean," she said folding her arms, pouting.
"We'll I've got to think on that one. Meanwhile I'm going down the car and get the rest of his stuff alright?" Spike said
He thought as he made his way back to the car. He had made up his mind. This would be his last job. He would finish this and back to Mother England he would go. Abby had asked Santa for her mom. She got Spooky instead. This didn't bother Spike though. This was part of the plan. Today was the day he'd come to take the picture. If he worked this right he could do this with no-one the wiser and that sorry, pissant of a cop would roll for it. He chuckled and said to himself, "And roll you will, Donny, 'cause Santa Claus is indeed coming to town."
Buffy picked up her cell phone and dialed the number.
"Hey Willow, it's Buffy. You ready?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Good. I had her sent out on discharge for additional medical treatment. She should be arriving at Kingwood hospital in about thirty five minutes."
"Buffy, is it bad?"
Buffy was silent for a minute. She thought about telling her a watered-down version of what was done to her but figured there was no point. She would see her for herself in just a few minutes.
"Yeah, it's pretty bad."
"God, I hate this."
"Yeah. Me too. Now don't forget. When you get there tell them your from Huntsville and you're on watch. By law there will be a Houston P.D. officer at the door. I'm hoping he doesn't know that we don't ever send guards over. I've told Xander to tell them that you'll be stationed inside the room. I faxed over all the phony legal looking stuff already. I think it will work. The man you want to ask for is Xander Harris. He knows what's going on. He's a good friend of mine. So don't worry."
"Okay Buffy. Let's hope this works."
"How do you like the uniform?"
"You know, I think this makes me look sexy, kinda. I've always liked women in uniform."
"Tell me about it," Buffy said as she watched Faith from across the room.
Note: Spooky is a real, honest to God, living creature. He is my Red Lored Amazon and he is my Angel. He came to me at a very difficult time of my life and I can honestly say he helped save me. The things he says in this last chapter are indeed quotes from my little guy, right down to the giggling, so he needs his credits.