Even before her eyes had opened, Willow knew that Tara was not lying in the bed next to her. Although this had far more to do with the size of the bed than any internal sense she had about Tara's presence, she felt Tara's absence keenly. Her small nose wrinkled as she distinctly remembered that Tara had promised to hurry back to her after attending to whatever it was that had dragged her away. Willow was justifiably disgruntled that anything had been important enough to pull Tara away from her naked body. While such thoughts toyed with her emotions, she felt a weight on the bed beside her. Willow rolled over to find Tara looking down at her. Tara's blonde hair partially obscured her somewhat ashen face. Willow also noted that she had once again donned her tank top and leather pants, the leather coat was tossed over the back of her computer chair nearby.
"Hey you," Tara whispered, speaking before Willow could ask the inevitable question.
The blonde did her best at a convincing smile which emerged genuine enough when faced with a sleep-tousled Willow. Her red hair fanned out on the pillow in a far from perfect manner and the sheet had travelled down her body to expose the creamy curve of her left breast. Tara watched Willow start to return the smile before it suddenly morphed into an angry frown.
"You fell asleep," Willow said accusingly, her frown deepening for a few moments before softening as though she had just realised she was looking at the woman she loved, she compensated with a stream of apologetic babble, "It's okay that you fell asleep because you were tired...people get tired, even you...although I wouldn't have thought it given how strong you are...not to mention really well built with nice muscles..."
Willow trailed off, rapt as she was in tracing Tara's arms from her shoulders down to her wrists. She paused at the sight of the bloodstains on Tara's top and suddenly sat up in her bed, the sheets falling away from her naked upper body and bunching around her hips. Her hands went to the base of the dirty garment and she began tugging upwards over Tara's lean stomach before Tara moved to try and stop her, catching a hold of both her wrists.
"Will, I don't think it's the time for..." Tara's protest trailed off as the sight of Willow's body stirred fierce longings within her own body.
Willow's eyebrows rose in mock horror as she recognised the look, "You're the one that fell asleep last night, what makes you think you're going to get some hot gay lovin' now?"
"T-that..." Tara bit her lip at the painful sound of her own stammering and she finished quickly, "That wasn't on my mind."
Willow pouted, she looked down at her own body and then back up to Tara, "What do you mean it wasn't on your mind? I'm one hot mama, how can it possibly not be on your mind?"
A short, brief smile flashed across Tara's face before disappearing once again as her angst reclaimed her emotions. It was one of Willow's traits she loved the most, the ability to make her smile even when humour and happiness were farthest from her thoughts. Gently she reached out and cupped Willow's cheek, brushing it lightly with her thumb.
"I meant it shouldn't be on my mind," Tara spoke quietly, "but it always is."
Willow accepted Tara's explanation with a satisfied smile, secure in the knowledge of her sex appeal. She reached across Tara to the small chest of drawers beside her bed and flopped forward onto her stomach across Tara's lap as she strained to pull out a drawer. When she dragged herself back up a few moments later she pressed a white t-shirt into Tara's hands.
"And I was just trying to get you out of that filthy rag, the blood stains are repelling me and making me cringe," Willow's satisfied smirk grew a little broader, "You really need to start taking more care of your appearance."
Tara glanced down at the garment as if she hadn't noticed before peeling it off in one swift motion. Even as she moved to pull on the clean top in her hand, she was assaulted by a small body leaping into her lap and wrapping a pair of strong legs around her waist. All she saw was Willow's lips, slightly parted in anticipation as they moved towards her.
"Sorry," Willow whispered between feverish kisses, "Couldn't resist."
For a short moment, Tara was able to give herself over to those lips as she eagerly responded. Her hand moved to the exact spot she had coveted as soon as the sheet had revealed them...Willow's breasts. She kneaded the tender flesh hungrily, rubbing an erect nipple between her fingers as she readied it for her mouth. Breaking off the kiss, she bent to take the flesh into her mouth and Willow responded with a sudden display of strength.
The redhead shoved Tara backwards slightly to the left so her back fell against the pillows and she remained on top with her legs still wrapped around Tara's waist. Tara found herself looking up at a determined Willow. The white shirt slipped to the floor from Tara's outstretched hand as Willow caressed her exposed chest with both hands. Her hands went to clasp Willow's bare arse, holding the naked girl firmly as she thrust her leather clad hips instinctively upwards.
I am aware of everything that's happening around me and yet at the same time I know nothing except the feel of Willow riding me like she means business. My leathers suddenly feel as though they're a foot thick, an unwanted barrier between my skin and hers. I am incapable of protesting as she wriggles backward in order to strip them away. I'm laid out, naked beneath her and I realise without a qualm that I'm vulnerable...vulnerable like I swore I'd never be again. As she sucks in a mouthful of tit I don't care and I give myself over to the sensations coursing through my body. My cunt is throbbing like a mother, crying out for much needed friction. I thrust upwardly desperately.
The part of me that's still aware of my surroundings can't stop thinking about the suitcase I've laid out on the floor. It's packed full of Willow's stuff for her trip out of Sin City with Evie. She's gonna hate me for doing this to her...and she damn well should. I need to stop her before things go too far. It's too late...her hand is groping between my legs, soft and yet urgent. Her finger flicks my clit and I'm so far gone that I almost come from that brief pressure. A whimper escapes my lips that I think may have been a plea for her to stop but the little minx silences me with a fierce kiss. Seconds later she pushes two fingers up inside me and my back arches instinctively. She's fucking me and there's no way I'm gonna tell her to stop now. With her fingers pumping and hips bucking my thighs wrap around her back to keep her as close as possible. It feels as though she's fucking me like she's never gonna see me again. In the early morning darkness I clutch at her sweaty body, consumed by both my guilt and my desire.
Tara felt her fingers slip on Willow's sweat coated back so she embraced the bucking girl fully, wrapping her arms around that small but powerful body that was so intent on its one purpose. Willow's breath was loud and hoarse in her ear and her own came in between moans that she was trying her utmost to stifle. As Willow's fingers dove deep into her cunt, her palm worked against her clit. She had been on the edge of orgasm from the first thrust and it was only through some amount of willpower that she kept herself from falling over the edge, a desire to prolong the experience of Willow moving within her.
She wanted the intimate contact to last and yet Willow's movements were going to be her undoing. The redhead's move moved across every inch of her exposed upper body flesh, paying special attention to her already swollen nipples which she teased between her teeth and the fingers of her left hand. Tara gave up trying to restrain her release and thrust her hips insistently, both her hands moved to Willow's arse where her nails dug into the tender flesh. As Tara's breath grew short and urgent, Willow met her gaze directly, managing to hold it even as she continued to intensify the pace of her movements. The connection in their gaze was intense, with Willow focused while Tara struggled to keep her senses from flying apart. As she came, she squeezed her thighs hard against Willow and dug in nails in sharply in a vain effort to keep from crying out. A strangled gasp was all that emerged as her flesh contracted around Willow's fingers but it conveyed far more than the loudest scream.
Tara closed her eyes, allowing the thudding in her ears to gradually die down and she became aware of the moist pool between her legs, Willow's fingers still nestled in her passage and the layer of dripping sweat that coated her body. It could have been minutes or hours later that she felt Willow gently remove her fingers and settle contentedly into the contours of her body. Tara could swear she heard her purring.
"I vote we stay right here," Willow announced in a quite but emphatic voice, "Glory and her minions be damned!"
Tara couldn't think of anything she would rather do. Rather than reply, she concentrated on stroking the soft skin of Willow's flank as though she were etching its feel and texture into her mind. However, her lack of reply caused Willow to raise her head and study her face quizzically. She knew something was up when Tara awkwardly met her gaze.
"Okay, I was going for enthusiastic agreement with that one?" Willow asked cautiously, she paused as though thinking on what she had just said before continuing, "Although enthusiastic agreement coming from you would probably just be a nod of some sort, but I'm getting nothing here...not exactly bolstering a girl's ego here, baby."
It was then that Willow happened to glance to the carpeted floor and she frowned at the fully stuffed suitcase sitting in the middle of the floor. It looked as though it had been packed by someone who had no idea what they were doing and had simply thrown everything in. She dragged herself into a sitting position and transferred her gaze from the suitcase to Tara.
"Okay, unless I've started walking in my sleep as well as talking, I don't think it was me that packed that suitcase...in fact, I'm pretty sure it wasn't me as I hate that blue shirt and even if I was sleep walking I'm sure I would have the good taste not to pack it," Willow narrowed her eyes at the t-shirt that lay on top in the open case, "Are we going somewhere?"
Tara peeled herself away from Willow's body and retrieved the white shirt from the floor where it had fallen from her hand. She pulled it on to find it somewhat tight but wearable and resumed her packing. Tara began randomly grabbing make-up and other toiletries from a stash atop Willow's chest of drawers as the redhead looked on in confusion.
"We're not going anywhere, Willow," Tara paused and drew a breath before she could bring herself to meet Willow's gaze directly, "You are."
All pairs of eyes in the lobby of the Palace followed Tara and Willow's rather impressive entrance. Tara came thumping down the stairs, a bulging suitcase held in one hand and a smaller vanity bag in the other. Willow was at her heels, clad only in a thin satin shift that barely covered the tops of her thighs. She made an attempt to wrestle the suitcase from Tara's hand but the blonde barely seemed to notice as her pace did not even slow, only a slight tensing of her arm muscles indicated that she was intent on retaining her hold on the case.
Willow obviously realized that she could not match Tara for physical strength and resorted to a barrage of words. She did not raise her voice but instead forcefully inquired what the hell was Tara doing and why had she packed a suitcase. She continued even as Tara seemingly remained oblivious to the noise in her ear.
"Tara Maclay, if you are even thinking of sending me away then I've got news for you, I am most certainly not going anywhere...and even if that's what you are thinking there's no way Faith will agree with you, she'll back me up because she knows how damn stubborn I am!" Willow glanced down to the lobby and picked out Faith from amongst the assembled onlookers, "Faith, tell her...tell that goddamn woman that I am not leaving the Palace!"
Tara reached the lobby and moved to stand next to Faith, Dawn and Buffy. Joining the small, select group of Ladies, including Mandy who was obviously on desk duty, was a circle of suited muscle men and a hooded female figure. Willow's eyes automatically drifted to the woman and as she drew down her hood the redhead's pretty featured morphed into a pissed off scowl.
In response, Evie Abernathy's gorgeous face was warm and her lips curled upwards into an approximation of a friendly smile. Given the informal situation, she was clad in a handsome crisp white pants suit beneath her coat. The jacket cut low to reveal more than an ample curve of her breasts. The flattering line of her pants ending in an elegant heeled sandal.
Despite the movie stars carefully groomed exterior, Willow tilted her head definitely and stood in a confident pose. Even as she continued to scowl she matched Evie for elegance and far outstripped her in terms of raw sex appeal. She was not softened by the friendly smile on the starlets face.
"Who the hell invited her?" Willow said as she stabbed an angry finger in Evie's direction.
Before Tara could own up as the architect of Willow's anger, Evie spoke in her trademark sultry tones, obviously intending to diffuse the situation. Tara was pleading with her eyes to get her to shut up instantly but Evie's gaze was directed at Willow.
"Tara just wants the best for you sweetie, in fact, she loves you so much it makes me want to throw up, not to mention arouse surges of jealously for an old flame I let go years ago..." Evie glanced to Tara to see the ex-cop giving her a look sharp enough to pierce her tough skin and she pursed her lips together for a moment before returning her gaze to Willow, "Just come with me okay kid? Whatever goes down here will be really bad, and you don't wanna be a part of that...Tara doesn't want you to be a part of that."
While some were anticipating the redhead to explode in a fiery temper, she remained composed. Her expression shifted from one of anger to disappointment, directed not at Evie but rather at her lover. She slowly turned to face Tara and spoke in a voice no louder than necessary,
"That's not for Tara to decide."
Tara did not respond, she met Willow's disappointment with a resolute expression. The tension in the air between the two lovers was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. Both were stubborn women who had opposing points of view, and would brook no argument. It would have been a stalemate if not for the fact that Tara had supporters where Willow had none.
"Will, we'll deal to Glory," Faith added, "We'll deal to her for you, Tara and all the Ladies she's oppressed over the years...she's going down in flames mark my words...but you don't need to be a part of it."
Willow's jaw hardened, "What about Dawn? She's younger than I am and even less adept with a weapon!"
Dawn scoffed in outrage but she was effectively silenced by a stern glance from Buffy. She folded her arms somewhat petulantly but did not speak. It was left to Faith to explain that Dawn was also leaving with Evie.
"Evie can take Dawn, I'll stay," Willow decided firmly, squaring her small shoulders in preparation for the ensuing argument.
Tara was acutely aware of the fact that it was her place to speak, to convince Willow that leaving her friends and her lover at this turbulent time was the best course of action. She had to admit that Evie had already spelt out the situation plainly. Tara would do everything in her power to keep Willow out of what was sure to be one of Old Town's bloodiest and most brutal battles. She knew that she would have to have all her wits about her just to stay alive. While this was the plain, honest truth, she could not explain it to Willow.
In the face of Tara's seemingly stony silence, Willow fronted up to her. The redhead stabbed an angry finger in the middle of Tara's chest with so much force that it knocked her off balance.
"It's not your place to tell me what I can and can't do, Tara," Willow growled, "You may think I'm going to get in your way..."
"You are going to get in my way," Tara finally spoke and her voice rang with a quiet authority that stopped Willow mid-sentence, "There's work here that needs to be done...terrible, dirty work that people like you have no business getting involved in. You're a genuinely good person Willow, whereas I'm not. This is my sort of work and I can't do it if you're with me...you'll get me killed."
Willow stood staring in mild shock, her lips parted. She was struck silent by the force of Tara's words and any argument she might have made seemed silly in the face of Tara's last statement.
"I don't think you understand," Willow whispered, on the verge of tears, "I have to be with you."
Tara ducked her head, hair falling forward over her face. Her fists clenching at her side betrayed that she was angry, but it was not clear whether she was angry at Willow, herself, or just the world in general.
"There isn't the time for this," Faith growled, ever the pragmatist who was immune to pleadings and romanticism, "Buffy, if you would be so good as to escort Willow out to Evie's car."
Buffy's idea of 'escorting' Willow was to pick the still protesting redhead up and toss her over her shoulder like a boisterous sack of potatoes. Obviously the move did not appeal to Willow and she struggled futilely against the silent blonde's grasp. The movement did not appear to trouble Buffy in the slightest and she carried Willow effortlessly out the front door and down to the waiting car. Evie and her burly entourage followed after the starlet shared one more passionate kiss with her Lady lover, Mandy. A rather petulant but subdued Dawn was lead out by Faith close behind them.
I stand unmoving in the Palace's lobby. I want to run out there and stop Buffy from forcing Willow into the car but I'm trapped by my own inhibitions and a strong sense of the righteousness of my actions. Willow was right in saying this wasn't my decision to make but she would never have chosen this for herself...she's far too stubborn and she loves me too much. I love her more, which is why I'm doing this to her.
I have to say goodbye. I know she doesn't want to hear it but I want to face Glory with nothing but Willow in my mind. Even as my feet are moving I see the car pull away. I can see nothing through the darkly tinted windows but I know she's watching me as I run into the middle of the road and stare at the car as it draws away. Faith moves to my side to offer some sort of support but I tell her to fuck off.
Now Willow's gone I can turn my attention purely to spilling blood...Talbot blood...and lots of it...
The night felt wrong. Tara stood at the window, a silent figure watching the dead outside world. It was made all the more wrong by the fact that Willow was gone. It had been less than four hours and already she felt the gaping hole in her existence. There was no irrelevant but irresistible babble and no firm body to draw into her arms. So Tara had stood staring into the darkness, unable to even think about sleeping.
Movement caught her eye. A lone figure staggered down Mainstreet making slow process towards the Palace. Tara watched until she could see the figure more clearly. She knew exactly who it was without seeing the bloody katana being dragged along the road...the fact that the weapon was being dragged at all sent a chill through Tara's body. Moments later, she saw a figure dash from the Palace's front door below her. It was Faith. She ran straight for Buffy. Tara felt the world move in on her, something had gone very wrong. Something had happened to Willow...
Tara wasn't aware of how she made her way down to the street below where she had watched the scene begin to unfold. She was walking towards the two figures huddled in the middle of the road, shadows creeping in from all edges of her vision.
Faith cradled her dying friend's head in her lap, stroking blood soaked hair out of her face. Tears ran unchecked down her normally stony visage. Buffy's normally pristine black garb was torn into rags that hung from her body, revealing the nature of her hideous injuries. Her skin was gashed open in several places and one arm hung uselessly from her shoulder, the bone protruding from her elbow. Buffy coughed and blood bubbled forth from her lips, blood was pooling out from beneath her body. Faith wiped away the blood running down her chin with her shirt.
Tara stood over the two women and Faith glanced up once before returning her attention to the fatally wounded blonde.
"I think our carefully thought out plan has been shot to hell, T" Faith choked backed tears, unconcerned at her loss of control in front of Tara, "Those goddamn rat bastards...and that fucking whore Glory! I'm going to gut her like a pig!"
"She'll pay," Tara replied blandly, too many thoughts were racing through her mind for her to concentrate on words.
Blood continued to bubble forth from Buffy's lips as she attempted to speak. It was clearly a great effort for the blonde but there was obviously something that had to be said as she lay dying in the middle of the street. Eventually just one word came forth in a strangled whisper...Mandy
Buffy's eyes lingered on Faith's as she gave one final shudder and she died. There was no sudden outpouring of grief from Faith, she simply laid Buffy's body gently on the ground as she eased herself out from beneath her. She then stood and marched determinedly back towards the Palace. Tara glanced down at the dead woman before back up at Faith's retreating back. She felt nothing but cold, whatever it was that Faith was about to do to Mandy, she wasn't about to get in the way. Her only concern was discovering Willow's fate.
When Tara re-entered the Palace, Faith was at the centre of a cluster of ladies. She crouched down beside an unmoving form lying on her back. Tara moved closer to see Mandy's face was a bloody mess, her nose having been broken with one swing of Faith's powerful fists. Faith's face was scarlet with rage as she held Mandy by the scruff of her shirt. The bloodied woman showed her strength as a Lady by holding her leader's gaze steadily.
Tara wasn't in the mood for a drawn out interrogation, her method would have been to plant one of her Berettas at Mandy's temple and count to three...pure and simple. Faith was all about her fists, she slapped Mandy over the head, sending a shower of blood to the floor.
"Stop lying," Faith growled in response to a denial that Tara had missed hearing, "Your name was the last word from Buffy's lips, and I trusted her more than life itself...if Buffy says you're responsible for this then that's the truth of it! The only way you can save yourself is by telling me exactly what you told them...or I'll smash your brains into the floor."
Mandy's bottom lip quivered at the ferocity of Faith's words, she also sent a fearful glance in Tara's direction. The ex-cop stood with her hands at her side in a seemingly relaxed pose but in actual face every inch of her body was tensed to breaking point, her expression must have reflected this as Mandy's eyes widened a little.
"I only told them the route and the time...that's all, I swear," Mandy replied feverishly.
"Only?" Faith growled, clearly unimpressed, "I would have thought that information would have been more than sufficient to put the lives of our friends in danger...more than sufficient!"
"Not all of us want to die for her!" Mandy lifted herself from the ground slightly and stabbed an angry finger in Tara's direction.
"So you gave Willow to them to save yourself? And Dawn?" Faith growled, clearly unimpressed, "As well as Evie...was she nothing more to you than a fuck?"
"No one is going to die!" Mandy protested, "She swore that no one would die...no one except Maclay and I don't give a shit about her."
"Buffy died," Faith replied quickly in a low tone that indicated just how sore she was about the death.
"I'm sorry, Faith." Mandy whispered, "I didn't know you'd tagged Buffy to trail their cars...if I had of known..."
"You'd have done the same thing because you've clearly shown that self-preservation is more important than loyalty and your family!"
"She swore to me..." Mandy's voice trailed off.
"You stupid little shit," Faith spat, her voice dripping with fury, "This is Glory Talbot we're talking about here, the queen of snakes and liars and all manner of scum, how did you ever think you could trust someone like that to keep her word...Evie's dead...Willow's dead, and you killed them!"
I stand, a silent presence listening to their conversation. I know exactly what's happened and I swear I'll kill that blabber-mouthed movie star myself if she isn't dead already. I watch as Faith draws her piece and plugs the poor woman on the floor straight away. I don't agree with what Mandy did, ratting out your family is an instant death sentence in Old Town, but I know exactly why she did it.
I wouldn't die for myself either.
Grim work done, Faith stands and turns to me. There's nothing more to be done here and she knows what's going through my mind. Together we turn and run for the Oldsmobile sitting outside. My whole body feels like ice as I move, trying not to dwell on thoughts of what we might find. Despite the fact that Faith seems to believe Willow dead, I know she's not. Not only do I feel it...I know full well that bitch Glory has her and she's waiting for me...