Finally, some braveness bubbled inside her and Willow's fall slowed enough for her to smile up to the woman.
A low voice slammed her mind to a quick stop.
"Hello," the voice said, a small smile coming to its owner's face.
The woman's voice was deep but soft, it trickled from Willow's ears down the back of her neck, tingling all the way to her toes. It made her tummy hurt, it made her mind buzz. Willow's voice was lost from the fall, her throat dry. She didn't know what to do.
She kept grinning.
The other woman bowed gently before speaking "You are taking me to the base?"
Willow's mind finally began to work. She jumped up from her seat, straightened her tunic and returned the bow.
"Yes sir, I'm Willow, here to take you to see Alide and Tobias and the base and..." she slowed, remembering the formality of her duties.
"We are honoured to have you here." Willow heard the nervous whistle in her voice as she strained for more appropriate words. She bowed again before turning towards the Q-ship.
"Please could you come this way while I check your, um, your clearance," Willow asked as she fiddled desperately with the buttons on the Q-ship's door that would run the security scan.
"If you could just stand there," the redhead asked, "that's right. Now, um, just turn around..." the ship's scanner let out a satisfied beeping as Willow's passenger followed her instructions... Willow pressed her thumb into a sensor and the noise stopped.
"You're cleared!" Willow exclaimed, once again loosing her formality, "So, um, just come this way, this is the..."
She was interrupted by the other woman's soft voice "Would you mind if I checked my packages first?"
"Of course, sir", Willow kicked herself and showed the blonde to the cargo hold of the Q-ship before hurrying over to the containers to demonstrate their safety.
"All fine and dandy here, yup, safe and sound indeed. Snug as a b..." Willow forced her ramblings to quiet, trying to remember her responsibility and ignore the wild excitement that had taken over her mouth.
"Follow me please," she said, and escorted the other woman back to the doors of the ship. With a great effort she showed the blonde her seat and assisted her in strapping in.
Finally, Willow was in the pilot's seat and adjusting her own restraints. She quickly keyed in the remaining security codes for departure and confirmed her clearance with the radio operator.
"Ready to go?" Willow asked, once her frantic preparations were complete. Her passenger nodded, giving Willow a reassuring and stunning half smile.
The young pilot was left motionless in her chair, once again lost in the beauty of the blonde.
The beautiful woman was looking at her expectantly. Willow took a deep breath. 'Ok Willow, get over it. Come on. Turn on the screen, key in the codes, fly the ship. Don't get lost in the pretty smile. No, not pretty, beautiful. She is beautiful. Tobias should've put beautiful in his file, 'cos how else am I supposed to concentrate? At least if I'd known beforehand I could have prepared...'
Willow steadied herself. Tearing her gaze away from the other woman, she placed her hands on the controls of the Q-ship and forced her mind to concentrate. Luckily, manoeuvring such a powerful ship without any auto-guidance was an absorbing task and it was only the bang of the Base-7 door behind them that shook Willow from her concentration.
"You made that look effortless," her passenger spoke with praise. Willow noticed the blonde searching for insignia on her tunic.
"Thanks. I mean, thank you sir. I... um... I'm not ranked yet, but it's ok, I mean, Tobias sent me here and really, it's fine. Usually you just put the ship on auto-pilot, but Tobias wanted me to..."
The blonde interrupted Willow's excuses.
"It's alright," she smiled gently at the young pilot, "I was impressed. Obviously I'm in safe hands. Willow's hands right? "
"Yes sir. That's me" Willow nodded in delight.
"Oh, you don't have to call me sir," the passenger replied, "I'm... I'm Tara."
Willow noted the slight tinge of uneasiness in the greeting, the flash of sadness in the blonde's eyes. Tara was obviously nervous about her journey, was anxious to remain safe. Willow nodded reassuringly.
"Tobias told me about your, um, struggle to get here. I... I won't let anyone know if you don't want me to..." Willow tried to make herself clear, while containing her pleasure at hearing Tara's name.
The blonde relaxed a little in her seat and spoke politely. "Thank you Willow. Sorry if I seem a little nervous. It's been a long journey".
Willow nodded in reply, it was clear that Tara was tired, her whole body was heavy with weariness. She pushed down the rabble of questions that she wanted to ask, as well as the fierce spark of anger that was quickly building up at the sight of such a brave woman made so sad.
Focusing on the needs of her passenger Willow spoke softly, "If you want to rest, it's about an hour back to the Base-1." She continued on instinct, watching the blonde nod at her suggestion. "There's nothing to worry about, I'll get you back safe just before nightfall."
"Thank you Willow, that sounds wonderful. I... I could use some rest", Tara spoke softly, before closing her eyes and leaning back as far as her restraints would let her.
"I'll let you know when we're approaching the base," Willow whispered.
Tara's features softened as she relaxed and Willow could barely drag her eyes away to watch the Q-ship's controls or the darkening landscape.
'Well, at least she feels safe' Willow reflected, feeling the surge of emotions in her chest return as she watched the other woman.
The forest beneath her sped past dark and deep, and Willow felt a shift in her path, a leap of fate sparking in her mind. The woman in the seat next to her was incredible, magical, important. Willow knew that whatever happened next at the Base, or in the war, or anywhere, she was ready to fight to keep Tara safe, she was ready to do anything for her.