Outside the window the night is a washed out black, moonlight rendering it less threatening somehow. Should've been spending the time sleeping, recuperating, but my goddamn nightmares won't let up. I may not be spending the rest of my life behind bars physically, but my mind is sure gonna give it a good try.
I shift the slightest fraction and the wound in my side lets me know exactly how bad an idea that is. The stitches feel as though they're trying to rip out of my skin. Even so, I sit up slightly, enough to feel like I'm sitting up instead of lying down. Lying on your back for an entire day isn't my idea of a good time and I'm mad as hell. Although I'm not sure whether I'm angry or insane.
In my boredom my mind inevitably shifts back to the conversation I was having with Willow before I passed out. Although god knows why I want to torture myself with something I want so badly to block out. Damn kid almost had me being honest, baring my fucking feelings. I find myself wishing I could've retained consciousness a few minutes more, just long enough to set her straight. There's knock at my door and I know it's her. I invite her in, half-expecting to be presented with a 'get-well' card drawn in those damn coloured pens of hers.
Willow entered Tara's room with a heavily laden tray rather than a get-well card. Carefully balancing it with both hands, she moved to the foot of the bed and stood a little awkwardly. She didn't quite want to look up at Tara but nor could she take her eyes off her.
"I know this is a stupid question, you lying in bed with a stab wound and all, but how are you?" Willow spoke quietly but there was a definite effort in her voice to at least sound cheerful.
Tara watched the tiniest attempt at a smile flicker across Willow's face. She responded with a weak one of her own, although tired, sore and starving, the smile came out more as a grimace.
"That is a stupid question...but thanks for asking," Tara replied, eying up the tray Willow carried with barely concealed desire, "I'm better...good almost."
Willow brightened as the answer seemed to please her, "I'm glad, because for a moment there I thought you were going to die, you know, blood loss and all of that. Although you were probably never in any danger, being so...strong and all..."
"I've had worse," Tara pulled herself up a little further, defiantly ignoring the pain and determined to stop Willow babbling before she embarrassed herself, "And then been back out to work within a week. It's nothing really. Whoever patched me up did a real good job."
"Oh, we've got a doctor...well, he's not ours as such, but he does stuff for all of us. Faith saved his life once. He was being beaten up by a couple of low-lifes for the fifty bucks he had in his wallet. So now he's pretty much on call whenever we need him," the tray was starting to get heavy and a yet as Willow shifted her weight slightly she seemed to have forgotten while she was carrying it in the first place.
Tara however, had most certainly not. Her stomach was threatening to tear its way through her skin and find food on its own as Tara seemed to be doing nothing to ease the hunger pangs. The situation was made all the worse by the fact that she could smell something rich and meaty wafting from a large bowl in the centre of the tray.
"Ah, Willow," Tara asked cautiously, as though she were about to ask a huge favour.
Willow raised her eyebrows in anticipation, "Yeah?"
"Is it presumptuous of me to assume that's my dinner?" Tara nodded towards the tray.
Willow's eyebrows flew upwards in shock and she surged forward in her haste to deliver the tray. The contents of her tray mimicked her movements in almost sliding right of the tray and onto the floor. She barely managed to correct herself and for a second engaged in a comical balancing act which drew a suppressed snicker from Tara. Once the tray was under control Willow looked up with a sheepish expression on her face. Even so, she had not missed Tara's brief display of mirth and it heartened her somewhat...even if it had come at her own expense.
Willow safely deposited the tray on Tara's lap, her hairs prickling at their momentary close proximity. She drew away quickly, but not so quick as to be noticeable and took up a position standing next to the bed.
Tara barely stopped to take in what was on the tray before pouncing on the food. She did note that the large bowl contained a thick, hearty beef soup complete with large chunks of meat and vegetables. Next to the soup was a steaming loaf of bread, butter melting at its centre. There was a cup of black coffee, and a little oddly, a glass of milk. A separate plate held a large wedge of cheesecake, complete with yoghurt on the side. She tore off a large hunk of bread and sopped up as much soup as it could hold before cramming the oversized chunk into her mouth. Her jaws worked fiercely to stop herself choking on the bread and soup and she felt a dribble of gravy make its way down her chin. However, she did not pause until two more hunks of bread and several spoonfuls of soup had gone the way of the first. She followed it up with a gulp of the scalding coffee and perfunctorily dashed her fist across her chin to wipe away the mess.
Willow watched with a look that was somewhere between amusement and disgust. Tara looked up with no apology on her face.
"Fanks," her mouth was partially full as she had popped another piece of bread into her mouth, she swallowed quickly and spoke a little clearer, "Did you make all this?"
"I opened the respective cans and boxes, and pressed the 'start' button on the microwave, " Willow admitted honestly, "So if you could call that 'making', then yeah, I did. You were obviously hungry at any rate."
Tara was scooping up soup as she retorted quickly, "Understate things much? Sorry, this is good though...but the milk?"
"Um, options?" Willow replied sheepishly.
"You want it?" Tara nodded at the milk, "Take a seat."
Willow took up a perch on the edge of the bed and retrieved Tara's unwanted milk from the tray, she took a long swallow before letting it rest on her lap with the support of one hand. They sat in silence for a while, silent except for Tara chewing with her mouth open and the scrape of her spoon against the bottom of the bowl. Willow tapped her heel on the ground and stared out the window, unsure of the best way to resume their conversation of the previous evening. Tara however, did not feel the need to talk. She was staring regretfully at her empty soup bowl. Her regret did not last long however, she fell upon the cheesecake with great gusto. Half of it was gone before she realised that she was poor company indeed. She pushed the tray toward Willow a little, nudging her with the corner.
"Want some?" Tara secretly hoped that Willow did not.
Willow's attention was drawn away from the window and back to Tara, she shook her head politely. She continued sipping her milk, the question she was dying to ask Tara trapped on her lips.
The last of the cheesecake was finished in mere seconds; Willow picked up the tray and set in on the nightstand. She left Tara with just the coffee in her hands. The blonde burped slightly and lifted her hand to cover her mouth belatedly.
"Sorry," she murmured embarrassed.
"No problem, I'm sorry I didn't feed you earlier...I'm not a very good host I'm afraid. Too busy talking your head off and making an idiot of myself," Willow dropped her gaze slightly.
Tara opened her mouth to rebut Willow's words when her mind flashed back to the girl leaning all over her in the car, mere moments after their reunion. She reflected that the behaviour had been somewhat inappropriate, especially at the embarrassment it had caused...but she wouldn't go as far as to say it was idiotic. Nor could she doubt the sincerity of Willow's feelings for her.
I was almost justifying her behaviour...goddamn, next thing I know I'll be flattered by her attentions...aren't I already? I look at her and she looks right back at me, I know she's thinking back to that conversation. I can see the yearning to ask me written plain as day on her face. I can honestly say that I would rather face another couple of those thugs in a back alley than sit for one more minute alone with this kid...
The silence was finally broken as both spoke at the same moment.
Both shut their mouths immediately and waited for the other to speak. Tara realised that Willow had no intention of speaking first and she sighed before opening her mouth once again.
"Listen Willow, I'm sorry I haven't exactly been verbose since I got out of prison," Tara began slowly.
Willow interrupted briefly, "Understate things much?"
Tara's eyebrows rose slightly and Willow couldn't tell if she was amused or annoyed at the interruption, she continued talking however.
"At any rate, I'm sorry. It's a difficult transition to go from...i-in t-there to out here."
Willow cocked her head to one side ever so slightly as she listened to Tara, she had never noticed Tara's stutter before although as she reflected she remembered hearing it the previous evening. She had been so startled by what Tara had said that she had not noticed the manner in which it had been said, and the exact word over which Tara stumbled...love. She studied Tara's face, seeing her vulnerability for the first time.
Tara saw the expression on Willow's face and scowled angrily, "Don't look at me like that!"
Willow fixed an innocent expression on her face, "Like what?'
"Like..." Tara stopped, Willow's previous expression was nowhere to be seen in her now adorable gaze and her scowl deepened as a result of frustration, "Like whatever the look you had on your face before, two seconds ago, before you went all..."
Cute...adorable...it's fucking impossible to stay frustrated at someone like her.
"Just don't look at me okay!" Tara snapped.
Willow's eyebrows raised sharply, mostly she asked herself whether Tara was intending that she take her literally. Her question was answered a few moments later when Tara looked her straight in the eye. She was biting her lip as though she were in deep thought. Willow found herself stealing small glances up at Tara, as though she were expecting another outburst.
"I-I..." Tara swallowed and began a new, "I had something I meant to say to you last night before I fainted."
"Yeah, I did wonder about that a little," Willow inwardly groaned at her understatement.
Willow studied Tara closely, saw the tightness around her mouth and her clenched fists. Whatever she had to say, she was struggling with some aspect, or perhaps all of it. Her bottom lip dropped slightly when she realised that Tara was poised for movement, as though she desperately wished she could disappear out the door. Instead she was restrained by her wound, unable even to face the opposition direction without irritating it.
"Look Willow, I'm really tired..." Tara began.
As soon as Willow realised that Tara was about to brush her off, her mouth dropped fully and she rose on two very firmly planted feet to stare down at Tara. She interrupted her without mercy.
"Oh no you don't...don't you dare go all avoidy on me right when you were about to speak your mind! Tell me honestly what you want to say to me...and don't make up another excuse because I'll see right through it," Willow almost felt like shaking her finger at the recalcitrant ex-cop lying in the bed before her.
She managed to stop herself before she sank to using such an inane gesture, especially given the tense situation. Willow had finally come to the point to which she had been working and was not about to screw it up because she was pissed off.
Tara was every bit the petulant child as she stared at Willow from the corner of her eye to avoid moving her body for the second time in less than a minute. Willow confronted her with a steadfast gaze.
It's always been too late for me...it's been that way since I put slugs into Glory's devil spawn eight years ago but I always felt safe in the knowledge that I could still save Willow. I saved her all those years ago and I could save her this time too...until now. I can't save her anymore, I can't save her because I'm going to drag her down with me, get her killed, all because I can't keep my fucking dumbarse self under control. She's looking at me expectantly, she knows it even if she doesn't understand what it will do to her. She's getting impatient, foot starting to tap on the ground. Fuck! I need more time to think, work out a plan so we can all be happy and get out of this alive...since when did I start caring about saving myself?
When Tara finally spoke, she spoke the words simply, "I feel something for you, Willow."
While Willow had not been expecting a declaration of undying love from Tara, she had to admit that she was expecting a statement that carried a little more conviction than the one she had just heard. As it was, she was rather confused.
"I feel something for you?" Willow repeated, feeling more than a little stupid, "Tara, what the hell is that supposed to mean? You feel something for me as in the affection that you would feel for a little sister...or you feel hot all over like you wanna fuck..."
"Willow!" As she snapped at the capricious redhead, Tara rolled over to face her in a movement that caused a considerable amount of pain, "Stop deliberately provoking me!"
Willow raised her hands in placation and let Tara continue, albeit in a milder voice, "I'm not lying, I am really tired...and nor can I answer your questions...I just need a little..."
"Time," Willow finished quietly.
The redhead took a few steps closer to the bed and reached out to take Tara's hand in her own. Tara felt the small, warm fingers enclose her own in one gentle squeeze before she released them all too soon.
"Yeah, time," Tara heard herself say.
Willow backed away from the bed, a small but radiant smile of victory spreading across her face. She was still smiling when she turned and headed out the door. Her victory wasn't over Tara. She knew full well she hadn't beaten Tara at anything, but she had beaten back the demons...at least a little...
The kid must have taken me seriously because it's been a week and I haven't heard a peep out of her, at least nothing to do with my feelings, fuck, what a stupid thing to say. I've been kicking myself all week about it. I've never been much of a wordsmith but that little bit of verbiage really takes the prize in the sappy crap sweepstakes. You're losing it Tara, really losing it...
Still, she's not much of a kid, not really. Especially not after I've just seen her show for the second time. I search her out across the floor of Kitty's and her eyes meet mine. She's standing next to Faith, a long coat thrown over her stage costume. The coat parts slightly as she lifts her arms to wave and I see creamy skin, creamy and bright even in the gloom of Kitty's. I don't wave back of course; it's not my style. I nod...that's what tough guys are supposed to do.
However, there's a slight curl to my lips as I turn back to face my drink sitting on the bar in front of me. I think I'm a fool...
Tara let the cacophony of Kitty's constant humming flow over her as she savoured the cool beer. She downed it in one long, slow drag and set the empty back down on the bar with a thud of satisfaction. Somewhere over her shoulder was Willow and Tara knew she was waiting for her.
Across the bar, Willow watched Tara down her beer and looked nervously to her own drink. Her show had finished at least ten minutes ago and she'd been standing at Faith's side for most of that time, barely sipping her drink as she waited for Tara to cross the room and join them. However, just as it looked as though Tara was sliding the stool back to begin the rise to her feet a tall figure shrouded beneath an expensive and beautiful coat moved to block her path. Willow found herself watching the newcomer intently, the figure hugging coat outlined trim curves and coal black curls peeked from the raised hood. She noted that Tara did not look up at her although she would definitely know there was someone standing so close. Willow's breath caught in her throat as the woman slowly peeled back the fur-lined hood of her coat. The movement appeared to be seductively calculated and turned more than one head in the bar. In fact, Willow noted, it turned almost every head besides Tara's. She shrugged the coat off her shoulders and a man, who Willow had not previously noted, stepped forward to take the coat and fold it over his arm.
Willow watched as the woman then leaned down to speak softly in Tara's ear, finally rousing Tara from her intent concentration on the beer glass in front of her. She continued to watch as Tara glanced up at the women and saw the resulting clouded look that passed over Tara's face. The look spoke volumes, which was saying a lot considering that Tara was the queen of brevity. Willow then studied the woman's face once more, knowing she had seen her somewhere but ultimately coming up blank.
"Who's that?" she leaned over and asked in Faith's ear.
Faith too had been staring at the woman. When Willow addressed her, she turned and regarded her with a wry but sympathetic smile that said she knew something.
"You spend too much time with your nose in a book kiddo, we need to get you out more often...say to a movie?" Faith suggested, knowing full well Willow loved her books, "Have you never heard of Evie Abernathy?"
Willow snorted, "Isn't she an actress?"
"Yup," Faith replied with a nod.
"What's she got to do with anything..." Willow stopped short and she turned back to look at the woman once more, comprehension dawned, "That's Evie Abernathy? Why the hell is a movie star talking to Tara as if she knows her?"
Willow narrowed her eyes suspiciously; Evie Abernathy looked as though she knew Tara a little too well.
Faith's reply came out reluctantly, "Because Willow, Evie Abernathy is Tara's ex."
Despite the reluctance of Faith's speech, the words shot straight towards Willow and hit her square between the eyes. Such was their impact that she almost fell backwards.
"Tara has an ex," Willow whispered it out loud for the benefit of her own ears, "Tara's ex is a fucking movie star."
"It was in all the papers about ten or eleven years ago, I guess you were a little too young to be reading the scandal rags," Faith let out an appreciative whistle, "Damn, they both look as hot together now as they did in all the photos back then."
"They're not together now," Willow whispered between gritted teeth, slamming the palm of her hand down on the table.
"Will, I didn't mean together as in 'together together', I just meant it as in seeing them standing side by side like that...Will?" Faith turned around in time to see Willow's departing back passing through the back door towards the changing rooms, "Someone's jealous."
I smell her before I even lay eyes on her. A hot, cloying scent that fogs my brain, gives me a headache and drives me wild all at the same time. She whispers in my ear, a tropical summer breeze that does not cool but is hot and suffocating.
"Got time for an old flame?"
Sure enough, I turn around and she's standing right in front of me, looking exactly the same as she did ten years and nine months ago. This is a new development that I really don't need...Evie Abernathy. Movie star, somewhat of a drama queen...but that little fact means very little in the face of the fact that she is just plain fucking gorgeous, and a dyke to boot.
Evie straightened herself to her full height to look down on Tara, "Well, well, well...I thought I read you were in jail serving a life sentence for killing a couple of people and kicking the shit out of Junior Talbot?"
Her voice has changed with the passing of time. It's lost that girlish quality which limited her to the roles of ingénue or high school student. I often heard her joke that she'd spent several lifetimes at high school. It's mellowed now, mellowed into something sophisticated and rich. It matches her scent perfectly. Last I heard she'd been nominated for an Oscar. How appropriate, the two of us always had been poles apart.
"I was," Tara tried to keep her voice level and nonchalant, "But I got bored of it."
"Same old Tara. So you just walked out of a maximum security prison?" Evie teased.
The star turned to the bartender and ordered a scotch and a double of Jack as Tara was still trying to sort out what was happening, the fact that Evie was really there in front of her had thrown her slightly and she quickly moved to recover by throwing her defences up once more.
"Yes, they were only too happy to let someone like me get out of their sight," Tara replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Evie just smiled and accepted the two glasses from the bartender, one of which she placed before Tara as she slid elegantly onto the dirty stool that stood empty beside her. She crossed her legs and somehow managed to sit on the stool as though it were a throne.
"I'm not here to bait you Tara, I know you escaped and I knew where I'd find you," Her tone was somewhat apologetic, "Let's just say a few of the Ladies are good friends of mine."
Tara saw a smirk flicker across Evie's face. She hadn't changed one bit, still drawn to bad girls...as bad as they came by the sounds of it. Tara lifted the Jack to her lips and took a hearty swallow.
"What did you come here for then?" Tara asked bluntly.
"Nice to see that prison has made your manners even worse...I know you've been fucking awful, don't you want to know how I've been?"
I've been away for too long and I can't tell whether she's serious or just trying to piss me off. I know exactly how she's been...making movies, making millions of dollars and fucking scores of women, straight, lesbian and everything in between...what else is there to ask?
"How have you been, Evie?" Tara humoured her, the question emerging though gritted teeth.
"Swell! The movie business has been good to me, I don't know if you've seen any of my latest flicks but I've established myself as the world's greatest action heroine...Angie can only look at me and go green with envy, not to mention the two Oscars but who's counting really? I've just purchased a house up in Sacred Oaks as well as the penthouses in New York and LA and the estate back home in England."
Tara didn't bat an eyelid, modesty had never been one of Evie's strong points, "Why would you want to move back to Sacred Oaks, why the hell would you want to live anywhere near Basin City for that matter?"
"It has its good points...and I've recently discovered that despite all that I have, I miss the one thing I let get away. Tara, I realise now that I was a childish fool and it' all so empty and positively boring without you in my life," she finished with a grand flourish in her voice.
"Are you serious?" Tara shot back, her voice laden with scepticism.
"Honestly Tara, being involved with you was one of the greatest trials in my life, do you really think I'd miss the fact that you made me miss countless parties and benefits, or else I had to attend on my own, all because you threw a tantrum of some sort..."
"I never threw tantrums! That was your bag!" Tara protested indignantly.
Evie continued, "and not to mention the fact that you refused to move out of that dive you lived in and in with me. God knows why you preferred squalor to luxury..."
"I valued my independence," Tara replied stubbornly, thinking back to her old one-room apartment.
"Yes, I know, you valued independence over hot-running water," Evie replied dryly, she had never possessed any qualms about Tara compromising her independence.
Tara growled, she had qualms a plenty and most of them involved Evie Abernathy dictating her life, "Enough with the pleasantries, you're pissing me off."
"Fine then, small talk has never been one of your strong points anyway," Evie took a long swallow of scotch, "I came to offer help, namely, to get you to leave town. Just say the word and you're gone anywhere you want...the Caribbean, Australia."
Although the situation hardly warranted it, Tara found herself laughing. Evie was staring at her as though she'd gone mad and she very probably had.
"What's so funny?" Evie asked cautiously.
I'm thinking the exact same thing myself but the truth be told, I feel more like crying than laughing...although I would be dead before I ever admitted it. I sit staring at my Jack wondering just how much to tell Evie, how much of the pathetic story should I reveal and I make my decision quickly.
"Last week that was my plan...you were the ticket to my getting the hell out of here. It's just that now that the offer's on the table, I have to turn it down," once it was out, Tara realised it had not been that hard to say and she was quick to respond to the perplexed expression on Evie's face, "I have to stay, I owe these women my life, I can't let them fight on their own....and there's this girl, I made it my business to save her life once, I can't abandon her now."
Evie knew exactly who Tara meant but she clarified anyway, "The little girl you saved from Talbot?"
"She's not so little anymore," Tara replied in a heavy voice.
Evie's next question was automatic, "You're in love with her?"
Tara drained the last of her Jack and ground the remaining ice cube with her teeth. She eventually shook her head awkwardly in reply.
I'm not a liar...
Evie just smiled as though she could read Tara's thoughts. There was always something more to it with Tara. Things were never that simple. However, she could not resist a jibe at her ex,
"You keep telling yourself that darling, might make you feel better," she stood up as gracefully as she had sat down and gave Tara a cheeky little wave, "I'll be off now, give you some time to think and maybe get all naked and sweaty with your little girlfriend a couple of times so you can decide if she really is worth the price of going up against the Talbots."
Tara stood in one powerful movement and jabbed her finger angrily in Evie's direction, "Too far, Evie, too far!"
Almost automatically, Evie's bodyguard was at her side with the pretence of helping the star back into her coat. However, he kept his steely gaze on Tara, who he regarded as a bit of a loose cannon. Tara seethed inwardly for a few moments, her finger shaking in Evie's direction before she realised how ridiculous she must have looked and lowered it. The object of her frustration flashed her a dazzling and very knowing smile. Tara had lost the round, completely.
Tara sighed, for all Evie's faults, she had a heart of gold and coupled with the small measure of nostalgia for what they had once shared, this meant that Tara would hate to see something happen to the star. Although it infuriated her to have to admit it.
"She knows we were close, have those bodyguards keep an extra good eye out, even up in Sacred Oaks," Tara kept her expression serious.
Evie laughed it off, "Tara, I'm a fucking movie star, no one's gonna mess with me, especially not that bitch Talbot...frumpy, ugly tart that she is."
"She's a powerful woman, Evie," Tara continued to urge Evie despite the flippant brush off she received, "You may be famous but she thinks she's a god."
"Well, it's high time someone took her down from her pedestal," Evie replied as though it would be a relatively easy task, "Looks as though that job's fallen to you...so I would say 'see you later' but I don't know how much longer you'll be around."
Tara swallowed, her throat was already dry and she needed another drink, "See you in hell would be more appropriate."
Evie smiled and turned to leave Kitty's, as she did she spoke over her shoulder, "You're too fucking virtuous for hell, Tara."