Friday morning dawned gloomy, as ominous dark gray clouds rolled in and settled over the city. The air hung heavy with the smell of rain waiting to be let loose. Tara woke slowly, wanting nothing more than to stay under the warmth of her quilt and hibernate the day away. As she drifted into full consciousness, she heard Willow running around the house, banging drawers and cursing.
So much for sleeping in, Tara sighed. Oh well. I have a fake job to pretend to get to and a real one to do.
Tara pulled on a robe and opened the door. A redheaded cyclone whirled by, narrowly missing the blonde as it raced down the hallway, where it came to a sudden halt.
"Oh my God, Tara! I'm so sorry - I didn't hit you did I? I didn't see you... are you okay?"
"Fine, Willow, and fully awake now."
"Did I wake you? What with the stomping and the slamming and the - oh! I don't usually use that kind of language... well, not first thing in the morning, anyway."
"You didn't wake me," Tara assured the frazzled redhead. "And even if you had, I needed to get up. I could have stayed in bed all morning and been late for work."
"Late! I'm late! I have to go - I'll see you tonight - bye!"
Tara had no time to respond as Willow grabbed her keys, swung a heavily-laden canvas bag over her shoulder and bolted out the door.
I wonder if Hurricane Willow strikes every morning, Tara mused with a grin. Where on Earth does she get that much energy?
The blonde's question was answered as she wandered into the kitchen and found a large percolator, almost empty.
At least she left me half a cup's worth.
After hastily tossing back the coffee, showering and dressing, Tara checked the lock on the desk drawer again, then left the house.
Passing through the door to her department's offices, Tara heard the sounds of a heated argument. Just past the administrative desks she spied Riley Finn amidst a small cluster of people: Travers' secretary and several agents. She cautiously advanced towards the group, which had not noticed her presence.
"I don't wanna hear it Graham - I don't like him and that's all there is to it."
Tara felt a moment's relief as she realized Finn wasn't referring to her.
"What the hell have you got against him?" the agent she recognized as Forrest asked.
"He's Navy! Isn't that enough? Mickey's Army - he's the man!"
"Technically, Riley, he's the mouse," Graham countered with a grin.
Finally catching the thread of the conversation, Tara rolled her eyes and turned to her office. Before she reached the door, she heard a female voice wail:
"But Donald's soooo cute!"
Tara quickly found her set of lock picks and grabbed her camera and several rolls of film for good measure. Eager to return to Willow's house, she quietly closed her door and turned towards the hall, only to walk straight into Agent Finn's hulking frame.
"Maclay," he stated coldly.
"S-sir," Tara replied, ducking her head self-consciously and biting her lower lip.
"Shouldn't you be working?" Finn sneered, crossing his arms over his chest and clenching his jaw.
Tara bristled at the tone. Snapping her head up in defiance, she stared Finn dead in the eyes.
"Just stopping by for some equipment. So if you'll excuse me, I have an investigation to continue. And you can get back to the important business of debating the merits of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck - Sir."
Tara turned and walked away, leaving Riley dumbstruck and fuming.
Back at the house, Tara went straight to Willow's desk. After several minutes of work she heard a satisfying click and slowly eased the drawer open.
The agent stared into the empty drawer and blinked several times.
It's empty. And locked. Why would she lock an empty drawer? Tara grasped for an explanation. Maybe it was locked when she got it and there was no key. That would make sense.
Tara closed the drawer and set about re-locking it, far from satisfied with her conclusion. Pushing the thought aside for the time being, she continued her inspection of the rest of the room. By early afternoon she had found nothing unusual save for the largest collection of fuzzy sweaters she had ever seen. The agent moved on to the living room, where she worked steadily until 4:30 but turned up nothing. Quickly changing into appropriate office attire to preserve the illusion of her steno job, she left the house.
Tara watched as Willow entered the house shortly after 5. She waited five minutes then followed, walking onto the porch just as the rain that had held off all day began to fall in torrents.
"Hey, you're home early," the redhead greeted her with a grin. " I saw your car outside - you didn't drive?"
"They, um, let us go early to beat the rain," the blonde improvised. "And I'm trying to bus it as much as possible. You know, gas rationing and all. Speaking of which, how did you manage to acquire so much coffee?" Tara flashed her a lopsided grin and raised an eyebrow. "You're not a secret hoarder, are you Willow?"
"Wha - No! No hoarding! Trade! Mrs. Merkel... next door... no coffee - for her! So we trade - coffee for gas - rations, that is. I gave her my gas coupons for her coffee. Cause drinking gas - blecchhh, and she can't run her car on coffee... but oh! That'd be cool if you could! Or, well, a waste of coffee, but, umm..."
While the half of Willow's brain that controlled her vocal chords was locked into full babble-mode, the other half was wrestling with the intense sensations caused by the devastating look Tara had given the redhead.
My knees... who put jelly in my knees?... is it warm in here?... why is my stomach all flippy?... whoooaa! - my head... fells funny, not ha-ha funny... more like - pass out?... am I passing out?... don't wanna... okay, seriously warm in here... all over - oh my... ALL over... whuh?... how?... Tara-
A loud clap of thunder shook the house, breaking Willow out of both her verbal and mental babbles. The redhead felt shaken as well, but not on account of the storm. She stood transfixed, staring into Tara's eyes as if searching for the answer to a question she did not even know to ask. After a long moment, she became aware that the blonde was no longer smiling, but was looking back at her with an equally intense gaze.
"DINNER," Willow shouted, flinching at the sound of her own voice and startling Tara. Not pausing to gauge the other woman's reaction, she bolted to the kitchen.
Tara, still standing just inside the front door, was left wondering what the hell had just happened. Unlike Willow, she was perfectly aware of what she was feeling and why. Her confusion stemmed from seeing her own desire reflected back in the smoky green eyes. She could have written off the kitchen incident as an innocent peek, but there was no denying the look she'd seen on Willow's face, and it terrified and exhilarated her in equal measure.
Dinner that night was passed in silence, other than the sound of the storm raging outside. Tara offered to do the dishes and received a softly murmured 'thanks' from Willow, who retreated to her room to study. Tara settled herself on the couch to read the paper, but found it impossible to concentrate through the whirlwind of her emotions.
Some time later, Willow emerged, chatting amiably as though nothing had passed between them. For a moment Tara wondered if she had imagined it. The redhead shyly asked if she could listen to the radio.
"It's your house, Willow. You can do whatever you want."
She had not intended any innuendo, but Tara realized her mistake the second the words were out of her mouth. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the redhead stop, hand on the dial, and take a deep breath. When she came and sat next to Tara on the couch, the blonde felt every muscle in her body tense.
"Welcome to Suspense Theater - tonight, Agnes Moorehead in 'Sorry, Wrong Number,' the gripping tale of an invalid who knows a murder is planned, but who are the killers? And who is the victim? But first, a word from our sponsors..."
"Oh! Yay! I love this program," Willow bubbled enthusiastically.
Over the course of the hour, as poor Mrs. Stevenson inched closer to danger, Willow inched closer to Tara. The redhead stared wide-eyed at the radio, lost in the story and totally unaware of her proximity to the blonde. Tara, however, could focus on nothing beyond the other woman moving ever closer to her. Willow unconsciously grabbed Tara's hand as Mrs. Stevenson realized the killer was in her house. As the tension reached it's peak, a flash of lightening and a huge crash of thunder pitched the house into silence and blackness. Willow shrieked once and dove for cover.
Tara could see nothing, but she could feel Willow's head buried in her shoulder and an arm draped over her. Willow's breathing was fast and shallow, while Tara barely dared to breathe at all. Several minutes passed in which neither woman moved. Then Willow lifted her head, ever so slowly. Tara sat still, feeling the redhead's arm where it still lay across her chest, the hand resting lightly on her shoulder. Eyes adjusting to the darkness, she turned her head and was able to just make out the outline of Willow's face, inches from her own. She sensed rather than saw the redhead leaning towards her, green eyes flashing in the dark like a cat's, lips parted slightly. Just as it seemed there could be no space left between them, the lights blazed on and the radio blared out.
Tara leapt off the couch, somehow managed to stammer out a quick 'good night,' and ran to her room.
Willow stood up in a daze, walked slowly around the living room, turning off the radio and the lights, then returned to the couch, where she leaned over, elbows on her knees and head in her hands. She felt tears begin to form and allowed them to fall freely.
Oh, God. What have I done?