Tara Maclay sat in her small apartment, mulling over the events of the previous day. When she'd been summoned to Commander Travers' office and had seen Riley Finn waiting too, she'd been worried. Finn had completely ignored her presence, however, having been too busy flirting with Travers' secretary. After he'd disappeared into the office, Tara had been able to hear muted voices, but had made no attempt to listen in on the conversation. Twenty minutes or so later she'd been called in as well, and had noticed with some trepidation that Finn did not appear to be leaving.
Tara had sunk into the unoccupied chair and steeled herself for the anticipated lecture on proper respect for one's boss and being a team player. She'd known that she had been abrupt with Agent Finn - bordering on rude - but in her experience she'd found it the easiest way to avoid repeated attempts.
Tara absent-mindedly stirred her tea and grinned at the recollection of Finn's expression when she'd turned him down. It was obviously not something he was used to. She could even understand why. Riley was tall, athletic, handsome in a somewhat bland, unassuming way, and he had an easy-going manner and a nice smile. She had noticed the way Travers' secretary had practically swooned when graced with that smile.
Tara's grin turned into a full-blown smirk at the realization that Finn would never fathom the reason why she was immune to his charms. The smile quickly faded, however, as the thought of what could happen if he - or any of her superiors - found out about her.
But there had been no lecture.
Tara let out a sigh as she turned her thoughts to her assignment. She had been extremely surprised when Travers had given it to her, as had Finn, from the look on his face. She knew she was only in the department because of Travers, and she was determined to prove her worth on this case.
Several hours had been spent poring over the information passed on by Army Intelligence. Riley had oh-so-helpfully suggested that her cover job should be as a civilian employee of the Army steno pool. Travers had accepted the idea at face value, and Tara had been too embarrassed to object. Thankfully she would not have to actually do the job, but if necessary there was now a desk with her name on it in the Special Information Branch office.
Once dismissed, Tara had gone home to read over the file in more depth. Travers had informed her that surveillance on the suspect indicated that she was renting out a room in her house. A quick phone call and Agent Maclay had an appointment to see the apartment the next day.
Tara frowned into her now empty teacup. She'd been surprised by the other woman's voice yesterday. It was so open - not at all what Tara would expect of a Russian spy, no matter how experienced. The suspect had sounded exuberant, almost giddy, and kind of babbly.
Tara smiled as she picked up the directions she'd scribbled down. She didn't need them - it was all in the file - but she could hardly refuse them when offered. Grabbing her purse and locking her apartment, she walked out to her car.
Fifteen minutes later she parked on the street in front of a small red brick bungalow. Pausing outside the car, Tara looked up at the house. She caught a brief flash of red in the front window before the curtain fell back into place. She made her way up the walk and onto the small front porch, glancing at her watch, which read 10:00 a.m. - right on time. Taking one last deep, steadying breath, she knocked on the door.
A startled "oh!" escaped Tara's lips as the door was flung open almost immediately. While trying to regain her composure, she stared at the young woman standing in the doorway. She was around Tara's age, and about the same height. Her short red hair was loosely curled, perfectly framing a face that had the biggest green eyes Tara had ever seen.
Tara stood like a statue on the porch, lost in those eyes. She was only vaguely aware that the woman was speaking when she heard her own name, followed by "Willow Rosenberg."
Tara swallowed hard. She'd seemingly lost the ability to form rational thought, until one painfully clear one popped into her head:
'Oh Goddess. This could be a problem.'