Tara felt an enormous weight lifted off her shoulders as she packed up Willow's books and locked them back in the drawer. The doubts that had plagued her over the past day now vanquished, she was determined to bring the investigation to a swift conclusion. With no damning evidence in the house, and the association with Rupert Giles apparently scholarly in nature, Tara was sure that Travers and Finn would shut down the surveillance.
Willow will be cleared, and then-, Tara's buoyant mood deflated in an instant. And then I'll be moving back to my drab, lonely apartment, and I'll have to tell her who I am... and... and then she'll never speak to me again.
The agent knew she was jumping to conclusions, but very little in her past had led her to place trust in optimism. This time she desperately wanted to believe it would work out, but her pessimistic nature worked against her. The strength of her feelings toward Willow - after knowing the woman less than a week - continued to amaze her. She knew she could never simply walk away from Willow, but that didn't mean that Willow wouldn't walk away from her.
She'd have every right to, Tara told herself. She may be keeping secrets too, and God only knows what her reasons are, but lying about what subjects you're studying in school just does not compare to what I've been doing. She knows my real name, and that's pretty much it. Okay, gotta stop wallowing here and go report. This isn't about me, it's about clearing Willow's name.
When Tara arrived at her building, she found it practically deserted. Unable to find Finn, she walked down the hall to Travers' office. Miss Summers looked up from her magazine and stopped smacking her gum as Tara approached.
"He's not in," she stated, not waiting for the question.
Tara frowned in irritation.
"Do you know when he'll be back?"
"Couple days at least - he had to fly to London for some big meeting or something."
"Just great. Where's Agent Finn?"
"He's gone too," she pouted. "Washington D.C."
"Um... Buffy, right? Did he say when he'd be back?" Upon receiving a jealous glare, she quickly added, "I-it's about a case, it's important."
"Tomorrow morning - he just had to meet a guy about another guy."
Tara mumbled thank you and left. It was just after 4 pm, and not knowing when Willow would be home, the agent decided to pay a visit to a friend.
"So they've both gone off for meetings about who knows what, and I have to learn about it from Travers' secretary?! Can you believe this?! Never mind that I just turned up some pretty important information and who am I supposed to report it too, huh?! Buffy?! This is such... bullshit, Sue!"
The brunette quirked an eyebrow at her irate friend, who continued to pace around the living room.
"Whoa, settle down there sailor - you want a cigarette and a shot of whiskey to go with that mouth?" Her attempt at humor rewarded with a stern glance, Sue held up her hands in surrender.
"Hey, I'm on your side. I agree it's inconvenient but, so what? So you have to wait one day - I don't see why you're getting so worked up about it, Tare."
The agent moved to sit next to her friend, leaning her head on the other woman's shoulder and letting out a long sigh.
"I just want it to be over... but...but I'm terrified of what's going to happen when it is," she confessed.
"Oh right, I know this one - this is the one where everything goes to hell and you just accept it because it's what you think you deserve."
Tara stiffened and moved to stand up, but was restrained by a strong hand on her arm.
"That's what's bullshit, Tare. You have a job to do, and if it wasn't you, someone else would be doing it - someone who wouldn't care about her, and who might not do it as well. If she can't understand that, then you make her understand. And if she means that much to you, you fight to keep her. Life's dealt you a couple of bad hands, kiddo, but they won't all be, and you deserve as much happiness as anyone I know. You just gotta stop dropping out of the race before it's even started, or you're never gonna win."
Tara had sat motionless throughout her friend's speech, but when she felt the blonde's body relax, Sue knew she had gotten her point across.
"So, do you have any more metaphors to throw at me, or are we done here?"
"Go ahead and mock me," the brunette replied dramatically.
"I believe I just did," Tara laughed.
"You're such a pain in the ass, Maclay," Sue retorted, kissing the top of Tara's head and lightly shoving her shoulder. "Now get the hell out of my house, I have a date to get ready for."
Yeah, me too, thought Tara with a smile, as she departed the house in a much improved mood.
Willow had been home when she arrived, and after a quick bite to eat, they headed to the Sunnydale Cinema for the early showing of Alfred Hitchcock's ‘Shadow of a Doubt.' Reminding her of the radio incident, Tara playfully insisted that Willow would just get scared. The redhead protested, claiming that it was the storm that had caused her reaction that night. Several hours and one extremely large sundae from the ice cream parlor later, the women returned home.
"I just don't know why you think you like suspense so much - you hardly even saw any of the film."
"I did so," Willow replied in a small voice.
"But you had your face buried in my neck the whole t-," realization dawned on Tara and she abruptly turned to face the redhead, who stood rocking on her feet and whistling, hands folded behind her back, eyes directed at the ceiling.
"Why Miss Rosenberg! You weren't scared at all! You were trying to get fresh with me!"
Tara's attempts to maintain a stern expression were foiled by the wide grin plastered on the redhead's face, and soon both girls were giggling hysterically. After a moment, Willow clutched her stomach.
"Oh... ow... I think I... ow... maybe ate too much... oh... ice cream," she managed to get out through her laughter.
"You think?" Tara asked through her own tears. "You ate an entire Sundae Ship, Will! Those are made for two people, and I only had maybe two bites."
"Okay... ow... so, not my best idea... oh, ow... this hurts."
"Are you going to be sick?" Tara asked, her mirth suddenly replaced by concern.
"Ughh... no?... I think I just need to lie down."
With Tara's support, Willow shuffled to her bedroom, where the blonde ordered her to lie on her back.
"I know something that might help... if you want me to try."
As Willow nodded, Tara moved to sit on the edge of the bed, curling one leg in front of her. She tugged the prone woman's blouse free of her skirt and began to undo the lowest few buttons. Willow watched Tara's face intently. The blonde's gaze remained focused on the redhead's stomach, now covered only by a thin chemise. Tara placed her palm flat against the smooth surface and began to move her hand clockwise in wide circles. Willow's eyes drifted closed under the soothing pressure.
"This okay?" Tara whispered.
"Mmmm," was all Willow could manage. After several minutes she opened her eyes, sighing at the sight of Tara gazing back at her, an unmistakable look on her face. Willow stilled the hand on her stomach and stood up. Never breaking eye contact, she silently finished unbuttoning her blouse and shrugged it off of her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor. Reaching behind her back she lowered the zipper on her skirt, allowed it too to fall, and stepped out of it. Blue eyes dropped to the clothing pooled on the floor, then slowly drifted upward to meet sparkling green. Willow resumed her pose on the bed, clad only in her slip and chemise, which she pulled up until it reached just to the underside of her breasts. Taking the blonde's hand in her own, she gently placed it back on her now bare stomach. Tara resumed the circling motion while Willow let her own hand rest on the blonde's knee.
The sensation of touching Willow's naked skin sent tingles shooting up Tara's arm from her fingertips to her shoulder. As blue eyes searched green, another stronger reaction coursed through her body, pulsing down from her heart to her stomach and finally settling between her legs. Her breath hitched and her cheeks blushed as she realized the extent of her arousal.
Tara felt Willow's hand slide up her knee to her thigh, where it gently massaged the taut muscle. Without conscious thought, the blonde ceased her hand's circling and began caressing up the redhead's side. When her thumb brushed the side of a breast, both women released a soft moan.
Willow was sitting up in an instant, holding Tara's face in her hands and kissing her hungrily. Tongues slipped past compliant lips as mouths opened to each other's need. Tara snaked one hand around the redhead's neck as the other kneaded a small firm breast. Willow's hands dropped from Tara's face to the front of her blouse, where they began working frantically at the top button.
Sometime around the third button, Tara realized what was happening. With every ounce of willpower she had, she took Willow's hands in her own, and pulled away from the redhead's enticing lips.
"Willow, w-we have to stop... it's t-too soon."
"But... ehh... we... I... oh... really?" she sputtered, the disappointment evident in her voice.
"I'm s-sorry... I shouldn't have let it... it's just... I just can't - not yet," Tara said quietly, avoiding the redhead's eyes. Not til I can be honest with you, she added to herself.
Willow lifted the blonde's chin up and smiled at her warmly.
"It's okay, Tara. You're right. It's not like we planned - I mean, you were just trying to make my tummy all better - which it is, by the way - and then it all of a sudden it's like, whoa!... and then with the kissing and the touching and the moaning and-"
"This really isn't helping sweetie."
"Oh, right... sorry. Would, would you at least... you know... like to... uh, stay here... with me?" Willow asked in a small, hopeful voice. Her forehead creased as Tara shook her head no.
"You're too tempting," Tara explained with a sexy half-smile. "I think it would be, um safer tonight if I go to my room. I'll see you in the morning, okay?"
The redhead attempted to sway the blonde with pouting, but was forced to settle for a lingering goodnight kiss. As the door closed, Willow lay back in the bed, thoughts of Tara swimming through her head.
Okay Rosenberg, tomorrow you're going to tell her the truth.
Tara leaned against the other side of the door, trying to steady her heartbeat as images of Willow flashed through her brain.
Okay Maclay, tomorrow you're going to tell her the truth.