Willow smiled at the police officer who was standing in front of the door of the private room that Tara was in.
"Hi, I'm Patricia Stone and I'm here on security detail for Tara Maclay," she said.
She flashed her badge and the officer smiled and said, "Well there you go sweetie. Right in there.Youre a cute little thing for a prison guard now aren't you?"
"What?" she asked confused.
"Well it ain't exactly what you picture for a prison guard," he said staring at her chest.
"Well I'm flattered," she said glancing downward to her bust, which did look pretty damn good in this uniform, "but still I think it's inappropriate. So, if you don't mind I'm going in there," she said pointing to the door.
"Okay, no problem, and if you need any help, I'm right outside. You just call out and I'll come on in," he said winking an eye at her.
"Well I do appreciate the offer, but I've got my spray and my, stick thing here," she said wiggling her billy club in her belt, "and I've been trained to use it so it's not likely I be calling you anytime soon." She turned to enter the door.
She wasn't prepared for what greeted her when she opened the door. The sight of Tara caused her to stop short. Her hand immediately went to her chest and covered her heart. She took two deep breaths and proceeded forward.
"God, what the hell did they do to you?" her voice cracking.
She approached the bed and tentatively lifted a hand to her face. She let her fingers brush over the side of her face stopping at the point where the swelling had become so bad that were she awake she probably couldn't have opened her eye. She closed her eyes tight, allowing the tears there to escape. Swallowing deeply and taking in a deep breath she allowed her eyes to open yet again before resuming her delicate mapping of the woman's face with her fingers.
"Why don't they just leave you alone?" she said, her voice unable to hide the pain she was feeling at that moment.
"Just stop hurting her," she said. Her body now racked with silent cries. "Just stop, stop. Leave her alone." She went down on one knee and held her uninjured hand to her face as she let the pain of what she was witnessing free. "Please," she said between sobs, "please don't hurt her anymore... Just leave her alone!" she yelled, not caring if she was heard. Her body shook with the force of the emotions that she could not control. "Just stop...just... God."
She felt the drops again, only this time they were different. They felt warm and comforting rather then cold and ominous. There was something else too. The feeling in her hand. A warming sensation that started in her fingers and continued down her hand. She looked to the sky again and the clouds where beginning to dissapate. The sun was beginning to break through, its rays forcing back the darkness and cold. The warming sensation was growing stronger too. It worked its way down her wrist and into her arm. She looked skyward again and she thought she could see it. It was just barely there, but there none the less. The family of ducks was once again visible. Abby once again pointed to the sky, no longer crying, but smiling and dancing with excitement. She had seen them too. And the warming sensation had worked its way up her arm and into her chest, making its way to her heart and spreading the warmth thorough her entire being. She was alive once again. With this new birth she found something else had made its way in. A feeling she had thought was lost to her forever. For the first time in what seemed a lifetime Tara felt hope. And as she opened her eyes she saw her there. Willow was there holding her hand. Tara spoke the name and Willow looked up and into her eyes.
"Are you real or is this a dream?" Tara asked.
"No, I'm here Tara. I'm right here," Willow answered.
"They told me you were dead," Tara said.
Willow was smiling her beautiful smile and Tara raised her hand to Willow's face. She wanted proof, proof that this was real and not a dream.
"No Tara, I'm not dead. See?" She kissed Tara's wrist. "I'm right here with you."
"There's something I have to tell you," Tara said.
"What is it baby?"
"I love you."
They stayed there for just a moment. Then Willow leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
She ran her hand over Tara's face and behind her ear. "I love you too baby. So much."
"There's something else. You're going to find her Willow. I know now, I know." And then Tara's eyes closed. No longer able to fight the effect of the drugs and physical strain and for the first time in a long time, she slept peacefully.
"I'm sure going to try baby, I promise you."
Willow stayed there stroking Tara's hair, watching her breathe. Learning every feature of her by heart. She was amazed. Even as beaten as she was, she was still the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life.
She turned and looked behind her as she heard the door open, quickly pulling her hand away for fear of blowing her cover.
"It's okay, it's just me," said Xander. "So how she doing there?" he asked nodding his head toward her.
"I think she's going to be okay. I really do," Willow answered looking into her face as she ran her fingers through her hair.
"So I think this is a good a spot as any don't you?" Spike said to the little girl.
"Looks good to me."
"Alright, now if you just pass me that hammer there we'll get on with it."
He reached down and grabed the hammer from the little girl and began to hammer in the hook to mount Spooky's cage on.
He heard a car pull up and a door slam. He smiled to himself and said, "It's Showtime."
He heard the footsteps coming down and when he turned to see who it was his hammer missed its mark smashing into the light fixture overhead throwing the room into almost complete darkness.
"Oh bullocks," Spike spat as Donny entered the room.
"What the hell you doing Spike?" he asked.
"None of your damn business. You worry about your own troubles not mine," he said.
"Hey little lady," he said to Abby. "Don't you got a hug for your Uncle Donny?"
She stood not moving arms folded and said, "I don't think so."
"Well ain't you just a nice little thing. Bitch just like your Mama."
"Alright, why don't you just get your bloody picture and get the hell out," Spike said.
"Can't get a picture in the dark now can I?"
"Then bloody well go up top and take one out by the dust bins. I imagine you came in you squad car. Like we need someone to see that here."
"Just cool it down a bit alright. This is almost over. If we're lucky this should be the last picture I need to take."
"Hey Lil Ab', do me a favor and go in the bathroom and shut that door. I need a word with your uncle here."
"Can I take Spooky?"
"Yes, go on. Take him with you."
She picked up her bird and made her way toward the bathroom and went inside.
"I've been thinkin about that. You know if that sister of yours talks we're all done here. I've been minutes away to being dead before and your attitude gets a whole lot different right before you think your done. I wouldn't be worried if she wasn't related to you but I don't think that family loyalty runs through your veins. That's the reason we're in this bloody mess in the first place. If you'd of just let the people who were assigned to doing the deed to your old man do their jobs, we wouldn't need to worry now would we?"
"Well you know, it is what it is, and there ain't no way to change it. So that's that," Donny said smiling.
"If I were you, I would seriously think about lettin' her hang on to that picture instead of showing it to her. Little bit of insurance that she won't forget why she needs to finish this. Keep her perspective in place if you know what I mean. Personally, I don't feel like frying over this cause she forgets why she's there."
"Yeah well. You might be right there. I think I'll take that into consideration. Not a half bad idea really," Donny said chuckling. "You should see the bitch when I show her the pictures. She gets all teary eyed and shit. Enough to make you toss your breakfast."
Spike smiled and laughed along with Donny. "Yeah well, I'll take your word on that."
"So alright then I'm gonna go on an' get this here done," Donny said. "Hey let's move it along now Abby. Uncle Donny gots criminals to catch." He laughed, turning to Spike to make sure he got his joke.
"Just go on up there set her on one of them dust bins, get your shot and get on out before someone sees your car up there," Spike said.
"Yeah, ya know, I think you're right. Im gonna do just what you suggested. Can't hurt none right?"
"Safe than sorry. That's my motto," Spike said.
Donny took Abby by the hand and said, "Come on, let's get this done."
When Spike heard the door shut he said to himself, "That was just to easy."
He hopped down off the stool and headed toward the paperbag on the table and pulled out a light bulb. "Just too bloody easy." He hopped up on the step ladder and began untwisting the broken bulb, whistling 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'.
"Well I don't get it? She attacked me just last week. Why are you standing up for her? She's always causing trouble here.You always saying that you care about the people you work with, but it doesn't seem that way," Faith yelled at Buffy. .
"Hey, I think you better remember who you're talking to here. I don't care what goes on when we're not here. Here, I'm your boss and you're going to treat me that way. Are we clear?" Buffy spat back.
"Oh yeah. We're clear. We're really fuckin clear." Faith left the office.
"Hey, Faith. What was that about?" Sherry asked.
"You know. She's all convinced someone attacked that Maclay bitch. Talking about finding out what happened and shit. I mean what the fuck? There's not one of here she hasn't attacked at some time or anouther. What really pisses me off is that I didn't get invited too the party." Faith answered.
"Well there'll be another party. I'll make sure you get your invitation next time. If you like, you can be the hostess," Sherry answered and ran a finger down Faith's arm, giving her a look that could only mean one thing.
Faith turned around and looked Sherry up and down and said, "What time are you off anyway? I know a nice little bar down the road here. Buy you a drink?"
"Well what about your boss? Don't you think it might cause a little trouble for you at home?"
"Well, here's the thing. You know what they say about love and work not mixing? I couldn't tell you if that was true cause I'm only in this for the perks."
"Well then in that case I'll accept your offer. One other thing. You don't need to get me drunk. So if you just want to skip the bar part..."
"Yeah, but after today, I need to burn a little steam off, you know?" 'And there ain't enough booze in the State of Texas to get me drunk enough to touch your skanky ass,' Faith added to herself mentally.
"Alright then. I'll meet you at Trevors at 7:30?" Faith asked.
"I'll be there," Sherry answered.
"So you know where it is?" Faith asked.
"Yeah. I've been there a few times."
"Alright. I'll see you there."
"Faith?" Buffy called as she opened her office door.
"Shit," Faith said just loud enough for Sherry to hear.
"Yeah what?" Faith answered with a hint of annoyance in her tone.
"I need you to sign off on these timecards for your station," Buffy said turning around and heading back into her office.
"Right on it." She turned to Sherry. "So I'll see you later." Faith headed for Buffy's office.
"So, tell," Buffy said once Faith was in the office and the door closed.
"Worked like a charm. We got a date at 7:30."
"A date? What date? There was no dating type stuff in our plan," Buffy said, visibly unhappy.
"Oh a little jealous aren't you?" Faith said as she made her way over to Buffy.
"What? No. Don't be ridiculous. I don't get jealous."
"Oh really? Well what if I told you that her date idea was to take me to a bar, get me sloshed and do the wild thing with me in the bathroom?"
"Nope, still not jealous. Not at all."
"Well I am disappointed then, cause I was planning on coming home tonight to show you just why you have nothing to be jealous of," Faith said as she came up behind her.
"Well, umm, just how did you plan on unjealousing me? Is that a word?"
Faith moved Buffy's hair off one shoulder and began nibbling her neck.
"Well I would start by doing just what I'm doing now." Faith ran a hand up the front of Buffy's shirt and squeezed a breast.as she continued her attack on Buffy's neck.
"Well I... could see how this could work. Yes I... I think I am a bit jealous, mmm. Really, really jealous now that you mention it," Buffy said slightly out of breath.
"And there's one reason above all that you should know that I would never do the nasty with anyone but you. Do you know what it is?"
"No, no I, umm, damn you're good at that. What is it?"
"You used to be a kickboxing champion," Faith answered.
"Stop it!" Buffy said laughing. "You love me and you know it."
"Oh yeah. I know it. I'm very well aware of just how much I do."
She then turned Buffy around in her arms a kissed her with a tenderness one would be surprised she was capable of by looking at her. As the kiss ended she closed her eyes and pressed her forehead to Buffy's. "I truly do," she added.
"So. Now that that's clear," Buffy said clearing her throat, "I have work to do. So do you."
"Now that's the most romantic thing I've ever heard."
Then they both laughed and Faith turned around and left the office.
Willow was propped up on one elbow. Her head resting in her palm. Her mouth opened slightly and a trickle of drool at the side of her mouth. She had just the slightest bit of a snore going and Tara found it to be attractive. She laughed at herself for this. 'She snores and drools and I still can't take my eyes off of her. Even when its kinda gross. Yep, I'm in love.'
She continued to watch Willow as she slept in what had to be a very uncomfortable position. She thought she should wake her, but she didn't have the heart. She had been camped at Tara's bedside for the last eighteen hours and knew she had to be exhausted.
She saw the note pad that Willow had been writing in and reached down to try and slip it out from underneath her elbow. She got a hold of it and began to tug. The notebook seemed to be glued to Willow's elbow and Tara tried to turn on her side slightly in order to get a better hold. She felt the pain shoot through her body due to the fractured ribs and decided that she didn't need to see the notes that badly.
She knew what they were. They were Willow's game plan as to how and go about finding her daughter. She knew that there time together was short.Willow had explained it to her early last night when she had actually been able to carry on coherent conversation. She had told her about her friend Anya and needing to make sure that Donny and his cohorts believe that she was dead. She felt terrible that this had happened to Willow's friend and feared that the same may happen still to Willow.
She was determined now though. Determind not to let Donny take anything else away from her. There was nothing she could do about her father but she still had a chance to keep Abby and Willow safe.
She glanced at the clock on the wall and saw that it was 11:30 am. She had to wake Willow now. She was to be discharged at 8:00am tomorrow morning and she and Willow needed to get as much information together as possible in order to try and find Abby. Once Tara was back at Huntsville, Willow would not be able to see her again until... 'Until when?' Tara thought. In reality this could possibly be the last time they would ever see each other. It was not safe for Willow to return to the prison. It was not even safe for them to correspond in anyway whatsoever. They would only be able to pass information through Warden Summers.
They had decided if they didn't find Abby before the date of her execution was here, Willow would keep the secret even after she was gone. The threat to Abbys life didn't end with Tara's death. The only way to keep Abby safe was to find her. Willow had also promised that she would continue to look for Abby after she was gone.
She was watching Willow now and thinking how much she wished that they had made love that first night. At the same time though she was happy that they didn't. She thought they deserved better then to have their first time be in a cell in solitary on death row. She laughed at this thinking how strange that sounded. As she watched Willow now, she felt the same feeling that she had felt when she first saw Willow here in the hospital. She would find Abby. She was certain. She would have the chance again to make love with her. She would have the chance to spend her life with her. She, Abby and Willow would be a family.
"Willow, hey sweetie, Willow, wake up," she shook her just a bit and she began to stir.
"Well hello there," Willow said as she opened her eyes. "Owie, owie, owie," Willow said as she began to shake her wrist. The results of using her hand as a pillow was sending needles through her hand and wrist.
"What, your hand's asleep?" Tara asked.
"Yes," Willow said pouting. "Ouchie."
Tara giggled and reached over and began to massage the wrist. "Is that any better sweetie?"
"Yeah. A little bit. I think a kiss would be a lot better though. Don't you?" She said as she leaned over to bring her lips to Tara's.
Tara lifted her hand and placed it on the back off Willow's head pulling her in a little bit tighter. She ran her tongue along Willow's bottom lip and Willow opened her mouth slightly. She slid her tongue gently into Tara's mouth and opened her mouth just a slight bit wider. Tara increased the pressure of her hand at the back of Willow's head and pressed her tongue farther into Willow's mouth. Willow stood up from her chair and leaned over Tara's bed. She placed her right hand on the flat on the bed and her left on the metal guard rail. Changing the angle of her mouth, Willow deepened the kiss. Tara's hand slid down around Willow's neck and began to pull her down even closer.
Willow broke the kiss reluctantly and slowly raised her head back up.
She looked into Tara's eye's and said, "Good Morning."
"Very good morning," Tara answered.
"So how are you feeling?" Willow asked.
"Right this minute?" Tara asked. "Extremely overheated."
"Oh. Really? And why is that?"
"It's the drugs they're giving me, I think," Tara answered trying to keep a straight face.
Willow looked at Tara, pouting. "Hey, wrong answer."
"It's an experimental drug. Willowsutomediphine. It has the same effect as Niacin."
"Oh, I know that. That's that vitamin that makes you feel all warm and tingly right?".
"That's the one."
"Well, is it working?" Willow smiled.
"Yes. It's a wonder drug. I'm the test subject. No one else can have any."
"Well you are just one lucky lady aren't you?" Willow joked.
"Very, very lucky"
"Well now that that's settled, we need to get to work," Willow said.
"Okay then. Where do we start?" Tara asked seriously.
"You told me that you're dad had some evidence about some illegal activities. Do you have any idea about what it might have been?"
"No, just what Donny said, vague, nothing specific. I know there were a lot of members in law enforcement. I also know they have a number of judges in their hip pockets. Heman Spotniz is one. He was the sitting judge on my trial."
"Okay that's something to start with I suppose. Your father's house? What's the deal with that? Who inherited his estate?"
"He left the ranch to Abby. She is entitled to it in her eighteenth birthday. Right now Donny is the trustee. Why?"
"Well I think I'm going to go over there and see if maybe I can't find something there that might be helpful. Is anyone living there now?"
"Yes Donny. So no, you can't go there. I mean it Willow. That's far too dangerous. I mean who knows who he has living there with him."
"Tara, everything at this point is dangerous. There is no way we'll figure this out if we don't take risks. You must understand that right?"
"Yes I know that, but some risk here are far to risky. That's one of them."
"Tara, baby look at me. I'm going to be careful here. This is the only move I can think of right now. I'll watch the place for a day or so. Make sure no one's there. I have to go to that house. I need you're help here."
"God, I don't believe this. Okay, I trust your judgement. You have to promise me one thing though. If it looks to dangerous, you don't go in."
"Promise," Willow said crossing her heart.
"Alright. What do you need me to do?"
"Tell me something. Is there a way in there you can think of that doesn't look breaking and entering like? A key hidden somewhere or something?"
"Yeah. There used to be one in the barn. There's a tackle box. If you open it and lift out the insert, it's taped to the bottom."
"Alright. Where's the tackle box exactly?"
"It's on the shelf next to the rods that are hanging on the far wall. It's pretty big. You can't miss it."
"Okay. I need to know a couple of other things too. Which room is your dad's, which one is Donny's. Maybe you could draw me a little map or something. Put anything in it that you might think I need to know. Things like where your dad would hide things. Like a safe or a secret stash place. If it's a safe write down the combo etc. I'm also going to need a picture of Abby. Will there be one there?"
"Are you kidding? Unless Donny has changed it, its a regular Abby Museum. My dad has picture of her everywhere. The most recent one would be the one of her on her Pony Timmy. It's the only one of her on horseback so it will be easy to recognize."
"Alright, now what about friends of your father's? Is there anyone you think he may have confided in?"
"No not about this. He would have kept it to himself."
"Well I guess that's enough to start with."
Buffy arrived home about 4:15 . She knew Faith would be out most of the night trying to get information out of Sherry. She smiled when she thought about how lucky she was to have found her. She was one of the strongest women she had ever meet. Not strong in the physical sort of strong, although she was that as well, but emotional strong.
She had a rough time of it growing up. Her father was a drunk and left her mom when she was six. Her mother had worked two jobs to try and support the two of them and Faith rarely saw her. She never had babysitters due to the fact that the money was just not there. She pretty much raised herself. When she was thirteen her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she died on Faith's fifteenth birthday.
She was sent to live in a foster home and the people who took her in were basically using her for the money they would get to take care of her. She was frequently beaten and was used as a live-in babysitter for their eight year old son and five year old daughter. She rarely went to school and when she did she seemed to always be in trouble. She came home one day from school early and made it to the front door but never went back inside.
She was sixteen years old at the time. She knew that her foster parents would not report her missing nor would they look for her. They were just fine with the fact that the checks kept coming and they didn't have to deal with her at all. She lived on the streets in Round Rock which is about six miles south of Austin. It was close enough to the collage that there was always a lot of younger people around. She had gotten mixed up with a couple of small time drug dealers and she started dealing for them. It was pretty decent money and she was able to support herself pretty well with it. She was eighteen years old when she tried to sell some cocaine to an undercover officer and she was arrested. She did two and a half years and when she was released she had wanted to make a clean go of it.
She had become friendly with a lot of the staff in the Huntsville minimum security ward and when she was released they gave her a job as a guard in the ward. She'd been there ever since. She had come to Buffy's unit about two years ago. They started dating about a two months later and the rest is history as they say. She loved Faith more than she ever thought possible and it just seemed to be getting better everyday.
She stopped at the mail box and collected the mail. She made her way inside and went to her answering machine and saw that there was a message. She hit the play button and listened while she looked over the mail in her hand.
"Hey B. It's me. Just wanted to call and remind you that I love you and we have a date tonight when I get home from my date. So you better wait up for me."
Buffy smiled and pressed the reset button. She turned to head toward the bedroom and walked straight into a man who had been standing right behind her. She looked up at him and said, "What the hell are you doing in..."
That was the last thing she remembered before the world turned black and she collapsed on the floor.