Suddenly the ballroom went pitch black as Dawn flipped the master light switch behind the stage without waiting for any signal from Tara. The little Lady stood trembling in the dark, wondering if she had done the right thing until she felt something heavy slam into her. She was about to scream when a hand clamped over her mouth and she felt hot breath near her ear.
"Quiet! Out the way we came in now!" it was Tara speaking in a low and urgent voice.
Dawn was making for the tiny slit of light ahead of her when the shooting started, they were blind shots fired in the spot Tara and Willow had been standing just mere seconds before. She burst through the door, almost tumbling head on into a man who had been about to enter and she barely suppressed the scream she wanted to let out. Even as she watched him level his own handgun at her, she knew she ought to fire her own first. Dawn was frozen, unable to jerk her trigger finger forward to fire the weapon in her hand. There was a small eruption from behind, the guy's head jerked back with a single hole in his forehead and he toppled to the floor. Dawn glanced over her shoulder to see a thin plume of smoke coming from the barrel of one of Tara's Berettas. She looked behind Tara and saw a pale Willow clutching her lover's hand tightly.
There was no time for reunions of any sort, Tara prodded Dawn forward with the handle of the Beretta, "Straight ahead and then right, continue down the hallway and take a left into a foyer...the glass door at the end is our way outta here...stay close, it's gonna get dark again!"
Dawn had started forward when she heard a muffled explosion which jarred the substructure of the house around them. It was immediately followed by the lights above and on the walls winking out in an instant. Tara prodded the young girl forward once again and Dawn stumbled blindly down the passage, trying to remember Tara's directions. She slammed into several walls before emerging in the glass foyer Tara had mentioned, it was dimly lit by the glow of the city beyond the gardens. Before she could even get close enough to try the handle, there was a painfully loud bang as Tara blew the lock off with her shotgun.
The blonde ex-cop pushed past Dawn, shouldering the door open with a powerful shove of her shoulder. All three of them escaped out into the night. Tara surging forward ahead of the two girls, her shotgun raised. A goon came from the right, Tara pumped the gun once and fired, sending him crashing backwards straight into an imitation Grecian stature. White shards of marble flew out in a cloud around his body. A bullet slammed into brick inches from Tara's head and she whirled, pumping again before dispatching the second goon before he could loose off a second shot. He went crashing through a window, shattered glass falling around him.
"The fence, both of you...keep low!" Tara hissed, pushing both Dawn and Willow forward.
Willow paused, reluctant to be separated from Tara as the blonde turned to scan for pursuers. Tara sensed Willow's lack of movement and glanced over her shoulder with an angry scowl on her face. She saw Dawn making a cautious but swift path straight for the wall while Willow was poised on the edge of movement but held fast by her fright and concern for Tara.
As she made her way towards the wall, expecting a bullet in her back at any second, Dawn kept her head down like she was told. There was movement ahead and she saw a figure moving atop the wall, this time managing to lift her gun to shoot whoever it was. She was about to pepper the shape with bullets when she recognised a welcome and familiar face.
"Faith!" she gasped, reaching up for the hand that was offered.
With one strong pull, the brunette pulled her up atop the wall and Dawn scrambled up to lie flat next to Faith. She turned and saw both Willow and Tara still next to the house, her eyes opened in horror as she had expected them to be directly behind her.
"Fuck! Maclay couldn't organise her way out of a paper bag!" Faith growled angrily, watching the two figures in the distance as they both turned towards the wall.
Faith could only watch as another figure emerged from the house while Tara's attention was focused on Willow. A warning was on her lips as the large figure strode towards her friends. She was about to spring down from the wall when Dawn screamed once beside her and disappeared from the wall, dragged backwards by her ankles by someone unseen on the other side of the wall. Before Faith could move, she felt vice-like grips around her own ankles and she too was hauled down from her perch with an angry snarl.
Willow watched over her shoulder as Dawn disappeared over the wall but she did not follow. She knew she should do exactly as Tara said and get the hell out of that garden but as long as Tara stayed, she stayed. Willow wasn't even sure why Tara had to stay behind, they had no immediate pursuers. The blonde just stood in a tense stance, watching the house as though she were waiting for something...or someone.
Tara knew she should run. She had nothing to gain by staying in the garden but she was compelled to face the one aspect of her past that she could run from no longer. If she ran again, she would always be running. The coast was still clear and she cast a quick glance over her should to discover Willow stubbornly standing right on her heels, a determined expression fixed on her face. Tara gave an exasperated grunt.
"Go! For fuck's sake, Willow!" Tara urged with a wave of her hand, "I'll be right behind you!"
"No!" Willow shot back, just as forcefully as Tara, "You'll be right beside me!"
Willow's hand shot out to latch onto Tara's wrist and she tugged insistently in the direction of the wall. Tara tugged out of Willow's grip with one swift jerk of her arm but her face had already softened slightly.
"You stupid girl..." Tara whispered, "I have to stay and do this."
"What can be more important than getting the hell out of here?" Willow demanded.
Tara's attention was focused on Willow when she heard solid footsteps on the marble tiles behind her. She spun on her heels, drawing both her Berettas as she whirled about. The barrels of her guns were levelled directly at the face of Baby Dedara who was marching towards her in a confident stride. Although the con carried no visible weapons she was rubbing her palms together in anticipation, not in the least bit disturbed by facing Tara's Beretta's.
Tara instantly knew why the bitch was so confident and her guts turned to stone. Keeping her guns on Dedara she glanced over her shoulder just as she heard a strangled gasp from Willow. Even as she swung one Beretta around to face Willow's attackers, black suits swarmed the redhead's small frame, manhandling her quickly into submission despite her valiant struggles. In a few seconds she was caught in a headlock with a pistol pressed firmly against her temple. Tara was standing with one gun trained on Dedara's forehead and another in the general direction of the thugs bunched around Willow. It was impossible to keep an eye on both directions at once.
Although the situation was decidedly not in her favour, Tara remained composed. She shifted her gaze between her targets and kept up a reassuring façade for Willow's sake.
"Us ex-cons can see well in the dark eh, chica?" Baby stopped a few metres away from Tara and commenced flexing her knuckles with great enthusiasm.
"Tell those goons over there to let the girl go," Tara was straight to business, "Or I'll drill a hole straight through your forehead...it's a pretty big target so I won't miss."
Baby laughed, "You always were a pretty funny lady, Maclay," she then inclined her head slightly in Willow's direction, "Your girl's pretty...would be a shame to blow the side of her head apart, I don't think she'd look so pretty with half her face missing, no?"
It was a stalemate. Tara knew she could blow Baby a new air hole and possibly even plug the guy holding Willow and one of his buddies, she also knew that as she squeezed off a fourth shot, bullets would slam into either her own body or Willow's, probably both.
Willow kept up her struggle against the thug holding her but his trunk like arm held fast around her neck. With it struggle it grew tighter to the point where she could barely breath. The barrel of his gun felt as though it were breaking the skin at her temple. Although she was hardly an expert in such situations, Willow could clearly see that Tara had very few options, all of which would end up messy.
"This isn't going to get us anywhere," Baby grunted impatiently, "What you say you get rid of those cannons, just you and me Maclay, just like the old days."
"Yeah, just like the old days," Tara replied sardonically, "Just you and a gang of thugs to back you up if something goes wrong."
"You always were a spoil sport...I promise okay, is that enough for you?"
"I kick your arse and Willow and I are out of here?" Tara asked warily.
"On my honour," Baby placed her fist against her heart.
Tara arched an eyebrow as though disputing the essence of that statement. She remained motionless in her same position for some moments with one weapon pointed unwaveringly at Baby's head.
Willow's attention was riveted on Tara's body as she expected the blonde to move at any second and she knew she would have to be prepared to move as well. When Tara finally did move it was slow and deliberate. She slowly raised both hands and flipped her Berettas so the barrels were facing her palms. She then dropped the guns to the ground and kept her hands in the air. Willow's felt her heart thud against her chest and hoped to god that Tara knew what she was doing as she stood unarmed in the midst of a gang of ruthless thugs. She heard her captors murmur in anticipation before roughly dragging her further away in order to give the two women more space.
"We're on, puta!" Baby slapped her hands together excitedly before taking up a loose fighting stance with her huge mits out in front.
Tara's body remained still in the face of Baby's posturing, an expression born of boredom and contempt displayed plainly on her face.
Dedara is dancing around like a prize-fighter in the ring. It sickens me but that's not the worst of it...it's the fact that I know it's not all posturing. She's built like the bull dyke she is, six foot, two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle. I know from experience that trying to drop her is like trying to drop an elephant with an air rifle. I'm aware of Willow looking on and a part of me wishes they would take her away because I know that it would destroy her to see Dedara beat me to a pulp. That's not something I'm especially keen to see happen either...but I can't rule it out. I remember all too clearly what happened the first time she caught me alone and unprepared eight years ago. I remember how much it bloody hurt, both physically and mentally. There's nothing more degrading, nothing that leaves so big a scar as having as loathsome and cruel an individual as Baby lay their hands on you...it makes me sick to look at her now...
For all Baby's size, she moved like lightning. Her first right-handed jab shot out straight at Tara's temple like a piston with a follow up blow from the left swinging around to catch her as she tried to duck. Tara just managed to weave to one side as she felt steel-like knuckles graze the side of the head and then ducked low to miss the second swing.
From that moment the fight was on, with the two women moving across Glory Talbot's lawn at a frenetic pace that did not appear to let up for a moment. Baby relied mostly on her brute power as she sent crushing blows towards Tara's face and body, any one of which would have sent Tara reeling.
In the face of Baby's brutal attacks, Tara had to reply on her speed and the hope that eventually Baby would tire. The con was a large woman with dense muscle packed onto her frame. It gave her brute power but at the same time sapped her staying power. Tara was lithe and fit which of course meant she could tough it out for longer. Staying power combined with her hatred meant she could tough it out as long as it took to bring the bitch down.
She ducked beneath another of Baby's right punches; it missed her by a mile. Too late Tara realised that it had been a feint with the sole aim of putting her directly into the path of her left. The meaty fist crashed into Tara's jaw and sent her spinning sideways, senses disappearing into blackness. She came to with blades of grass pressed against her cheek and the smell of earth and cut grass filling her nostrils. Her limbs felt oddly disconnected from her body as she struggled to make them work. Tara planted both palms in the dirt and dragged herself upwards. Despite the ringing in her ears and persistent double vision that gave her four hands, Tara knew she had mere seconds before Baby pressed home her advantage.
Tara rolled onto her back just as a heavy boot thudded into the earth where her body had lain. Her double vision led to the awful nightmare of two Baby Dedara's standing over her with their arms drawn back, about to strike again.
"Hasta la vista, chica," Baby grunted as she let loose on the seemingly helpless woman beneath her.
At the moment the fists came crashing down, the two merged into one and Tara lifted her own hands to catch the grapefruit sized hunk of flesh and bone before it could pound into her face. She stopped the punch cold and lifted her leg to ram her foot forward into Baby's hefty gut and drive the wind right out of her. Baby fell backwards along with her fist.
"Cheese, Dedara," Tara sneered at Baby's clichéd comment as she sprang to her feet, her own banter disguising her inability to stand properly, "You know it'll take more than one of your bitch slaps to keep me down!"
Angered by Tara's taunts, Baby unleashed a growl from the back of her throat and threw her bulk forward. Tara was reminded of a charging bull, complete with bared tusks, as Baby came crashing towards her. She had all the time in the world to avoid Baby's charge, diving easily beneath her outstretched arms and spinning to face her broad back. Baby then turned into Tara's fists before she had time to straighten out. Tara unleashed a right, left, uppercut combo which snapped Baby's head from side to side and then jerked her chin backwards sharply. She then brought her knee up into Baby's chin before she could even shake off the last blow. Each blow struck Baby's flesh with a satisfying crack. The big woman stumbled backwards beneath Tara's furious blows, shoulders sagging. As Baby stood, half-hunched, Tara brought her leg in a sweeping roundhouse kick aimed at her midsection. Baby saw the kick coming and, far from finished, she twisted slightly to catch Tara's leg in her form grip. She then used the leg as leverage to lift and hurl Tara through the air like a log of wood.
Tara spun several times before she crashed into the ground once again. Although dazed, she quickly sprang to her feet and was ready to meet Baby as she charged once more. Baby approached more cautiously, resorting once again to her fists rather than using her whole body weight. Tara was forced to concentrate for all she was worth, watching each blow, judging the timing and staying wary of the feint. She managed to sneak in several blows of her own to Baby's head and gut although none appeared to have much of an effect.
"Slowing down, Maclay," Baby taunted as Tara danced away from her latest punch, the two women faced each other out of arms reach.
"Not in the slightest," Tara hissed in reply, trying to keep the exhaustion from sounding too clearly in her voice, "Why, are you?"
"Maldita puta!" Baby spat a bloody gob onto the ground in front of her, "Baby won't slow down until she's finished you off good and proper...should've done it eight years ago."
Baby bounced lightly on her feet, flexed her neck from side to side and threw a couple of air punches to prove that she still had more than enough left to cause Tara considerable grief.
"You're a fucking pussy," Tara replied contemptuously, lightly stepping in a semi-circle around Baby, forcing the other woman to keep moving to face her, "You didn't have the balls to do it then, you wouldn't have even dared touch me if it hadn't been for your posse backing you up. You couldn't lift a finger to wipe your arse without them."
Tara laughed as Baby came at her once again in the heat of anger, missing by a mile with her badly timed swings. She was content to duck and dance around Baby as she swung and tired herself without so much as managing to hit a hair on her arm.
"Let's not forget why you took a shine to me in the first place," Tara commented, planting a few of her own punches on Baby's face, feeling the satisfying crunch as he fingers pounded Baby's flesh back against her skull, "Your Mommy ordered you to take care of me didn't she? Taking orders, that's all you do. Glory Talbot owns you, Baby."
"Eh, Maclay, you gettin' on my nerves, want me to tell your little whore over there about our first night together in the joint...maybe we could swap bed stories eh?" Baby paused and glanced over to where Willow was being held to direct her next words to her, "She didn't tell you did she Willow? She didn't tell you that Baby is one mother-fucking hot lover!"
Willow had felt her fists clench instinctively with each sound of flesh striking flesh, each blow that Tara took felt as though it had been delivered to her own body. The latest blow sent her reeling more than any other...and it had been mere words. Across the short distance that separated then, she watched the red flush of exhaustion drain from Tara's cheeks to be replaced by the while pallor of terror. A lump was jammed in her throat as Tara turned to look at her with those blue eyes of hers shining with unshed tears. Willow stood, frozen in place, the lump threatening to choke her as she tried to process the myriad of feelings running through her mind, the thousand and one thoughts that she could not express all at once. Willow herself was scared, cold and hurt but her gut ached most of all for Tara.
Her eyes were riveted on her blonde lover and she had never seen her appear so vulnerable despite her leather clad thighs, ripped biceps and bloody clothing. Willow knew she had to make it to Tara's side and protect her from Baby Dedara. She turned her attention to the other woman, a gloating, self-satisfied expression on her face that made Willow clench her fists and strain against her captors.
Tara was somewhere else...
It shouldn't happen like this, not now, but I'm drawn back to that night. My first night in hell, I was already on laundry detail. It was stinking hot, steam filled the air and the sweat ran in rivers down my body, soaking my clothes to my skin. I didn't even know what hit me really, but there were five of them and they caught me by surprise. I was thrown forward against the metal table, face first into the dirty laundry...
With Tara's attention drawn away from the fight at hand and buried within her own private terror, Baby caught her with a powerful right hook on the jaw. Tara's head snapped sideways and she crashed to the ground. Once again she tried to struggle to her feet but only got as far as her hands and knees before one of Baby's steel caps thudded into her gut. Tara was thrown onto her back by the force of the kick. She crumpled as Baby continued to boot her, a look of malice and determination creasing her face.
Willow watched forced to watch in horror. Despite the fact that it was already clear Tara would not be leaping to her feet in a hurry, Baby planted one foot on either side of her body, grabbed the front of her shirt to lift her up from the ground and being laying into her with repeated jabs to the face. After several blows she threw Tara back to the ground and wiped her hands.
"Eh boys, show's over," Baby turned her head and called out to the men who held Willow, she waved them towards the house, "Better take the girl inside, Mr Talbot will be waiting for her...I'll finish up out here.'
Focused solely on Tara's motionless body, Willow was blinded to everything else that was going on around her. The sight of Tara's bloody face filled her vision and she wanted nothing more than to move forward. When hands tightened even further on her already bruised arms and attempted to drag her backwards, away from Tara, Willow snapped out of her terrified trance. She unleashed a sudden and violent struggle against the arms that held her, twisting every which way as she tried to extract herself all the while calling out desperately for Tara.
"Tara!" Willow yelled as she kicked out with her legs, trying to catch one of her attackers, "Tara! Lemme go you big brutes!"
Willow struggled so furiously that she managed to escape their clutches altogether. However, she barely managed to break into a run before they tackled her and dragged her to her feet, still lashing out.
"You sack of shit!" Willow yelled in Baby's direction, "Hot lover my arse...you're a coward! A great big coward!"
One of the 'big brutes' grunted in annoyance and reached down to fumble for the holster at his waist. In one swift movement he drew his pistol and brought it crashing down on the side of his captive's head. The struggling ceased immediately and she sagged like limp sack of potatoes. He grunted once more, obviously pleased to have shut her up, and with very little effort tossed her over his shoulder. The pair moved inside with their unconscious prize, leaving Baby to put an end to the bloody and broken woman at her feet.
Dragged unceremoniously from her perch on the wall Faith was then dumped on the ground. Indignant that she could have succumbed to such treatment she bolted to her feet, angry and impatient to kick the arse of whoever was responsible. She stood straight into the path of an incoming right hook which snapped her jaw to the side and sent her spinning to the ground where she landed with an audible thud.
Faith's ears rang as she lifted her face from the gravel. More than a few stones remained embedded in the skin of her cheek as she did so. She heard the crunch of boots behind her and feigned a more serious injury. When her attacker was within striking distance she lashed out with her boot and caught both legs in a sweeping kick. He grunted as his body struck the gravel hard, more from surprise than pain as he bounded lightly to his feet. Despite his speed, Faith had time to kick herself to her feet. In a split second she was standing with her feet firmly planted and a wicked looking knife in her right hand.
It was in that moment, as she faced off against her attacker that she could see just who she was up against. He was a lean man with an angular face, his body clad in a leather jacket that hung to the tops of his combat boots. A pair of piercing eyes bore through the darkness and into her own.
The two warriors faced one another in the shadow of the wall. Their battlefield was an expanse of gravel and lawn, a sharp line down the centre where shadow and streetlight met. The quiet was only broken by the sound of the girl, Dawn, scrambling across the gravel on all fours to a spot behind Faith. Her eyes were wide with terror at the sight of the man she recognised all too clearly.
"Faith, be careful...he killed Buffy!" Dawn called out, having witnessed the blond killer's considerable strength in the fight with her sister she knew just how dangerous he was, and she also knew full well that her words would incite the brunette with a desire to revenge her friend's death.
Faith's eyes immediately narrowed as she felt hate and a desire for revenge surge through her body. Her grip tightened on the haft of her knife.
"Name's Faith," the brunette hissed clearly, "Just so you know who's going to rip your fucking throat open and laugh as you gurgle away your last few moments of life!"
"Spike," he drawled casually in reply, a small smirk creasing his face as he drew his own blade from inside his coat and ran his thumb along the edge, "Your girl Buffy was a right little spitfire...she was good, are you sure you're better...because if you're not...I'll be the only one doing any ripping here tonight."
"Am I better?" Faith growled, further incensed by his mention of Buffy's name, "Why don't you come over here and find out?"
Their banter over, Faith and Spike surged forward at the same moment both searching to make the first strike. Faith was faster on her feet, and she received a grunt of surprise from her opponent as he had to twist his body and grab at her knife arm to avoid being run through.
With her wrist ensnared in a vice-like grip, Faith delivered a swift kick to Spike's knee even as he brought his own knife up towards her body, he crumpled slightly and the sharp blade narrowly missed her arm instead of plunging beneath her rib-cage. They then began a dance, trading delicate jabs and swiping knife blows as their feet moved across the gravel beneath them. Unlike a fist-fight, it was all too quiet. The only sounds being the crunch of small stones and the barely audible swish of metal through the air. Every so often Faith or Spike would grunt in frustration as yet another blow went wide or was blocked.
The pair was evenly matched. Both Faith and Spike knew that inwardly, although neither would admit it in any way. They traded blow after blow with a few hits striking and even fewer actually taking a toll on the opponent. Faith was bleeding profusely from a deep gash along her forearm but she stoically ignored it. She had managed to swipe Spike across his chest, ripping open his shirt and leaving a trail of red.
After their evenly matched contest, the conclusion was almost an anti-climax in its finality and apparent ease. However, the actual execution of it concealed the difficulty of learning and understanding the way your opponent moved which culminated in the ability to predict the next attack. Faith did just that, she knew Spike favoured his right side while the left was for little more than defence. He went in high, aiming for the throat with many of his swipes. Faith suspected that he craved the sight of a person's life-blood pumping out of their severed jugular.
It was almost simple, Spike's left crashed into Faith's shoulder and she used its force to spin around her opponent. She ducked beneath his awkward swipe as she moved around him and deftly spun her knife mid-twirl so it lay face down in her palm. He was already moving to face her once more but she was fast, driven by the need to finish this fight. She leapt and slammed the weapon downwards between his shoulder blades. Spike let out a long groan and slumped forwards. Before he could fall or stumble Faith had moved completely behind him and wrapped her left arm around his body to prop him up. As she cradled his body, feeling hot blood from his wound soak into her own clothing, she wrapped her right arm around his body and brought the knife straight down into his chest and twisted savagely.
"I guess I am better," she whispered in his ear as blood gushed from the second, fatal would.
With a grunt of disgust, she released his dying body from her hold and took a step back to allow him to slump to the ground. He fell face forward into the gravel and an ever-widening pool of blood began to form beneath him. Spike gave one last spasm before he died. Faith stood over his body feeling little emotion other than anger.
"That's for Buffy you nancy piece of shit!" Faith contemptuously spat blood onto the corpse at her feet.
Faith turned away from the corpse and found Dawn standing a few metres behind her, a small half-smile creasing her face. She reached out her arm to the girl and Dawn came running forward. She flew into Faith's body with a dull thud and wrapped her arms tightly around her waist.
"I know it's not going to bring your sister back," Faith remarked dully as she stared at the body lying before her and stroked Dawn's hair, "But it sure as hell makes me feel a damn sight better!"
Dawn looked up at Faith and nodded in agreement as she stated simply, "She'd have been impressed."
Faith glanced back towards the Talbot mansion and was deeply disturbed by the silence and absence of either Willow or Tara. She glanced back to the Oldsmobile parked a ways down the street and checked her pocket to find the keys still there. They jingled in her hand as she ran her fingers over them, lost in thought for a few moments.
"I think it's high time we found out what the fuck has been keeping Maclay," she announced resolutely.
Willow Rosenberg regained consciousness with her last memory being her lover lying senseless on the manicured lawn as Baby Dedara kicked her repeatedly in the stomach. Combined with her pounding headache it was not a good way to wake and it put her in a decidedly angry frame of mind. She moved her limbs experimentally but soon felt heavy metal cuffs encircling her wrists. Willow lifted her head to find herself manacled on her stomach to the headboard of a large bed. She twisted her head awkwardly and found herself in a sumptuously appointed room with rich furnishings and a marble fireplace. There was no doubt in her mind as to why she was there. At any moment, Tommy Talbot would swagger into the room and find his long-awaited and much-fought over prize lying spread-eagled on the bed for him.
The thought of lying helpless on the bed as Tommy made his triumphant entrance made Willow sick to her stomach. She pulled experimentally at the cuffs that held her by the wrists and found them to be poorly tightened, although not nearly enough for her to slip out of them. Willow took a deep breath, gritted her teeth and then jerked her hand backwards, trying to tear herself free from the metal cuffs. There was no way her hand was going to come free without breaking her skin but Willow was desperately determined. There was no rescue coming now...she only had her anger to get her out of this.
Willow bit her lip to stifle the inevitable scream as her right hand tore free from the cuffs. She glanced down at the swollen, bloody wrist to find that it was not as bad as she had prepared herself for. It stung like hell...but strengthened her resolve to rip the second hand free. Ignoring the pain in her wrists, Willow swung herself from the bed and padded quickly across the floor to the heavy door. She gently pressed down on the handle but found it securely locked. She was about to growl in frustration when she heard shuffling footsteps outside the door. Willow looked around frantically for something...anything that she could use as a weapon. Much to her annoyance the dominant furnishing in the room appeared to be cushions. She then glanced across to the fireplace and found the perfect tool...
Tommy entered the room to find his captive laid out on the bed in front of him, satin night dress barely concealing the mounds of her buttocks. He took a few steps into the room and closed the door behind him. As he approached the bed he licked his lips in anticipation, feeling confident enough to toss his cane to one side. A little awkwardly, he began stripping his clothes from his body before he joined the unconscious girl in bed. He stopped when he was down to his white shirt and boxer shorts, leaving him a rather pathetic specimen of manhood as he clambered up on the big bed. He greedily took in the sight of Willow's flesh laid out before him and although he itched to tear the only item of clothing from her body, he also wanted to draw things out as long as possible...several days at least.
"Wakey wakey, Willow," he whispered, hunkering down behind her.
It was then that Tommy saw the blood staining the bed covers, he paused in a kneeling position behind Willow. His gaze travelled up her body, expecting to find that his men had injured her in some way but instead he saw the bands of red around her wrists. A lump formed in his throat when he saw the bloody, empty cuffs dangling from the headboard.
It was all he had time to say before Willow moved in a blur, rising from her face down position and bringing her right arm swinging around. The fire poker in her hand caught Tommy Talbot a glancing blow on the side of his head and he toppled backwards off the bed. Willow followed, poker in hand. She watched him for a few moments as he tried to raise himself into a crawling position and felt a cold contempt for her would be rapist.
"Goodnight, Tommy," Willow whispered, feeling an odd hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach as she raised the poker above her head.
Tara was dimly aware of the dull thud of something hard into earth. She recognised the sound all too well; it was the sound of someone digging a hole. If there was one thing a con doing hard time knew about, it was digging holes. Tara had dug enough of them in her time to know the familiar thud of the shovel striking earth - soft earth in this case - a booted foot forcing it further into the ground, the squelch as it was levered upwards with its load and the swish just before the earth spattered into a pile. In conjunction to the sound, she felt the vibrations through the earth as she lay face down, her cheek turned to one side. She was aware of all this before she could even open her eyes.
Tara forced her eyes open but she could only manage small slits, enough to see who's boot it was that was doing the digging...Baby. Someone else who had plenty of practice digging holes. She must have seen Tara's eyes open because she stopped digging and tossed her shovel down onto the large mound of dirt at her side. Baby hunkered down to place herself within Tara's line of sight.
"Digging you a nice little grave here, Maclay," Baby inclined her head towards the hole, "Figured Ms Talbot would enjoy the thought of you pushing up her roses.
Tara didn't reply, she couldn't get her mouth to move. All she could do was lie and stare at Baby. She closed her eyes fairly quickly and found herself in agony not because of the battering her body had taken, but because she had let Willow down. Her beautiful, surprisingly innocent girl was in the hands of that sick little monster because she had let the sadistic pig squatting in front of her get to her.
Baby was apparently enjoying the occasion with the intention of savouring it and drawing it out as long as possible. She grunted as Tara refused to open her eyes and look at her, returning to her digging. As she shovelled, she continued talking. Tara ceased to listen, she blocked the guttural sounds out and willed herself to sink into unconsciousness. It was all she could do as she'd already tried to move her limbs and felt nothing but excruciating pain. There was no way she could drag herself to her feet unaided.
A few minutes later Tara was aware of fingers curling around her ankles. Her legs were raised and someone tugged, dragging her deadweight body across the grass. Tara felt the blades of grass scrape against the skin of her cheek. Any second now and her body would be shoved into the hole Baby had lovingly prepared for the purpose. She imagined her face thudding into the soft, cool earth. That same earth would then begin to land on her body as Baby refilled her hole. At first it would just be a splattering, barely any weight at all. However, all too quickly it would cover her completely and the weight would become intense and suffocating. Tara had always imagined her death coming in a hail of bullets, even though someone had already tried that. Being buried alive was a hell of a way to die...
A sharp crack suddenly sliced through the night air. Tara immediately recognised it as a shot from a Beretta, her own tool of the trade. The grip on her ankles disappeared. She heard a thud, the sound of a large person falling several feet into soft earth. Moments later came the barely audible sound of bare feet striking grass, growing louder as they drew closer. A weight hit the ground directly beside her and she felt gentle but insistent hands on her body. Then came the sweetest sound she'd heard all night...
"Please tell me you're not dead!" Willow's voice pleaded, her voice sounded close as she was obviously leaning directly over Tara.
"Just about," Tara heard herself reply, the words squeezed out between clenched teeth.
Willow choked out a laugh of relief and she manoeuvred behind Tara, hooking her arms beneath Tara's armpits. She strained to pull Tara upright with some urgency. At the sudden reappearance of her pain, Tara's eyes snapped open. Willow was behind her so all she could see of her was strands of red hair fluttering past her face.
"We gotta go, baby," Willow huffed and puffed as she managed to get Tara into a sitting position, "They would've heard that shot for sure."
"What?" Tara asked dimly, feeling an overwhelming rush of blood throughout her body as Willow moved her about roughly in her haste, even though she was trying to be as gentle as possible.
"I shot the bitch," Willow replied simply.
It was then that Tara realised she could see her would-be grave. For a few moments she had the eerie sensation of looking down at herself in death before her mind registered that it was in fact Baby Dedara, a single bullet hole through her forehead. Her piggy little eyes stared sightless at the night sky.
As I lay in Willow's arms I reflect on the fact that Baby didn't deserve such a merciful end...especially after the bitch was going to bury me alive. Still, I am able to enjoy the irony of her lying dead in the grave that she dug for me, that alone feels pretty fucking fantastic...
"Well done," Tara murmured, almost oblivious to Willow's efforts to try and move her limp body.
Willow grunted with superhuman effort but could not lift Tara to her feet. She could not bring herself to dwell on Tara's bloody face. The brief glance she had already caught was enough to confirm that Tara had taken a brutal pounding.
"Tara, baby, you've gotta help me here, I can't carry you outta here...can you just try a little for me?" Willow pleaded.
"Sure," Tara whispered.
She willed her legs to move, they jerked a little before working slowly to try and gain a foothold on the ground as Willow continued to lever her upwards. It wasn't so much that her legs weren't working, it was the connection between her legs and her brain that had been completed fried...in fact, the connection between her brain and absolutely everything was fried. Leaning heavily on Willow to the point where she was almost forcing the girl to her knees, Tara finally managed to stand. She was standing in time to see almost a dozen Talbot goons tearing out of the mansion, guns in their hands and faces twisted with fury. They were yelling and cursing as they made their way towards the two women struggling to move. A woman's voice joined them and Tara awkwardly lifted her head to see Glory Talbot standing on a second floor balcony, gripping the railing with both hands.
"You fucking little bitch!" Glory screamed, her voice carrying with its power and fury, "I'm going to make you wish you were never born!"
"Will...what did you do?" Tara asked as Glory's shrill voice rung heavily in her ears.
"I bashed Junior's head in with a poker," Willow admitted quickly, even as she realised they were never going to be able to move fast enough to get over the wall.
Something even louder than Glory's threats drew Willow's attention, a grinding of metal, exploding masonry and screeching of tires. She turned as best she could with Tara in her arms and saw Faith's Oldsmobile being driven straight through the wrought iron gate that protected the entrance. The carnage continued once the car was through the gate as Faith pulled herself out the passenger window and opened up with two guns blazing. Dawn was at the wheel, driving straight towards their friends on the grass.
As the bullets started to fly I know I am going to die with many regrets...but I also know that Dedara and that snake, Tommy Talbot have not outlived me. They've both gone to the hell they deserve.
While Willow could clearly see the Oldsmobile screeching towards them, it took both Tara a few moments to realise that they weren't the ones being shot out. When the first of their attackers flew backwards with a bullet in his chest she looked in the same direction as Willow to see a familiar and welcome sight. It was the very same car that had so brazenly held up the prison bus what seemed like an eternity ago. A wild Faith, hair streaming out behind her, had guns in both hands and was plugging goons left, right and centre. Behind the wheel, Dawn steered the car directly in front of Willow and Tara.
The Oldsmobile ground to a halt, carving wide grooves in the manicured lawn. Faith continued to shoot until the last of their pursuers had been hit and was either dead or lying on the ground writhing in pain. She turned to face Willow and Tara, hair wild about her head and fire in her eyes. Holstering her guns, she slid out of the car window and ran to Willow's side. She took Tara's weight from Willow, moving her swiftly towards the back door of the Oldsmobile. Willow opened the door, as she did Faith glanced up and gave her a brief smile.
"I thought Maclay was supposed to be rescuing you?" she asked Willow archly.
"She did rescue me," Willow replied as Faith moved Tara onto the back seat, "Then I had to rescue her..."
Lying back on the leather of the Oldsmobile's back seat, Tara lifted her head at the sound of Willow's words and smiled. Willow went to climb into the back seat with Tara but stopped when she lifted her hand towards her. She was grasping a small cylindrical object which she tried to press into Willow's hand. Accepting it, Willow glanced down to find a small button on top.
"We gotta go!" Faith slammed the flat of her hand down on the roof of the car, she leapt back through the passenger window as several more guards came running from the house.
"Will, sweetie...give that button a jab will you?" Tara whispered.
Willow stood just outside the car and looked from the device in her hand back to the house. Her eyes moved from the rushing goons up to the balcony where Glory Talbot stood, screeching for her dead son. A small smirk crossed Willow's face and with a feeling of immense satisfaction she jammed her thumb down hard on the device's button.
At that same moment, within the depths of the Talbot mansion, the devices that Tara had placed earlier that evening picked up the trigger that Willow had pressed. Each device gave off a solitary high-pitched bleep, an all too late warning of the fury to follow.
Glory Talbot watched with a manic sort of rage as her men rushed to intercept the car full of whores before they could make good their getaway from right beneath her nose. Already they were firing on the car, bullets pinging off the metal and one shattering the side window. She watched the little redhead bitch duck behind the door and her white-knuckled fists clenched even tighter as she willed the bullets to strike her.
She suddenly felt hot air at the nape of her neck and looked over her shoulder just in time to see a wall of fire cascading towards her. Glory Talbot didn't even have time to scream before the explosion blew her off the balcony and sailing out over her garden.
Willow felt the intense heat even as she stood behind the Oldsmobile. She watched in gruesome fascination as the Talbot goons were swallowed up within the hungry depths of the fireball and as a single dark object went sailing out from the second floor balcony and came crashing down on the lawn. Although she found it difficult to tear her gaze away, she dimly heard Faith screaming at her to get in the car. She lowered herself on the backseat next to Tara. Faith had taken over from Dawn behind the wheel and she jammed the stick into reverse and gunned the engine.
The Oldsmobile reversed at speed and its occupants felt a sudden jarring as the tyres hit something in their path. Faith then put it in gear and drove forward, a second bump followed before the car went careening out of the gate and off into the night.
"Next stop...home!" Faith announced as she floored the pedal with great gusto.
As we pull away from the fiery inferno that is the Talbot mansion, I lie back on the leather set and watch the red hot glow of the flames reflected on Willow, her hair, her skin, everything is golden. She must sense me watching and she turns her head to meet my brazen gaze. I can see she's exhausted but she flicks me a little smile that makes me forget my own injuries. The glow fades as the mansion is left far behind us, left to burn itself to the ground and all the pain it holds within it. I know that the cops will arrive pretty damn fast...as soon as they find out their number one source of funding has just gone up in flames. They'll find a smoking, gutted ruin, with the lady of the house lying blackened and very much dead on the front lawn, tyre marks ingrained into her flesh. Baby Dedara will be lying in her grave, a single shot through the head and they'll probably never find anything of little Tommy.
"You're a mess," Willow whispered as she edged across the wide back seat of the Oldsmobile to kneel on the floor beside Tara's bruised and bloodied face, "What you did..."
Tara's hand darted out surprisingly fast and she pressed a finger to Willow's lips, "Don't even start to thank me kiddo, we're even and that's the end of the story okay?"
Tara let her hand drop to leave Willow free to reply.
"Okay," Willow nodded.
"And those things that Dedara said..." Tara began awkwardly.
"Forgotten already," Willow nodded again.
Tara shook her head insistently, "No, not forgotten...kept between us."
"Okay," Willow felt her voice catch slightly, she reached out and took Tara's hand in her own.
"I want you to know me completely..." Tara whispered as her other hand reached out to cup Willow's cheek and brush away the tears that were welling at the corner of her eye, "Does that scare you?"
"I think maybe that it should," Willow replied, "But I love you...so no."
I hear those soft words from her lips and I close my eyes, wanting to hold onto them for a little longer before I realise, possibly a little presumptuously, that I'll be hearing them repeated for a long time to come. It's strange concept, making plans for the future but I know I'm not letting this girl go...and planning starts with a nice little hotel somewhere far away from Basin City. I imagine me, Willow, a hot-tub and no clothes in sight...
"Right back at you, Willow."