Author: Selena Taiki
"Oh my god, what's with this heat?" Willow asked, fanning herself with futilely with her hand as she and Tara left the air conditioning and stepped onto the scorching, yet still bustling, streets of Metropolis. The star reporter of the Daily Planet ran a hand through her limp red her, hoping it didn't look too bad. "It's 95 degrees in November." she muttered disgustedly. "If the weatherman had predicted this he would have been laughed off TV." Willow's forehead crinkled adorably. "Well, not that he could hear the laughter through the screen or anything but you get my point."
"It was 95 yesterday," Tara said with her usual good humor, trying to stifle a grin at Willow's mini babble. Willow had found Tara's even temper annoying at first, well she had pretended to find it annoying at first, but the farm girl had grown on her. Willow had made her reputation as 'the best investigative journalist in the business' somewhat ruthlessly, and had resented being paired to, in her mind, a barely qualified rooky; no matter how attractive. Gradually, Willow had come to respect Tara's skill and realized that their partnership did not diminish her in any way. Eventually, she had even begun to relish being teamed with Tara and the companionship the blond provided. Tara, for her part, had worked tireless to overcome Willow's competitive nature. When she was being truthful with herself, Tara recognized that she had crushed on this intense woman from the moment they met and felt connected with her, despite Willow's initial antagonism. "Today it's 96," Tara continued as they passed an opportunistic vendor selling fans. "With a hundred percent humidity."
Willow stopped walking as they reached the curb. "I can't work like this, I can't think like this; my brain is melting, any second, sploosh! it will come dribbling out of my ears," she griped. "God I hope the press conference is air conditioned."
Tara gave her a sympathetic smile, grateful she wasn't affected by the heat.
"Hey, Taxi!!" Willow called, raising her hand as she noticed the yellow vehicle in the corner of her peripheral vision.
The taxi rolled to stop a few feet in front of them, its hood steaming. A short pudgy man climbed out of the driver's seat and lifted the hood, hissing at the hot metal. "God damn!" he muttered. "Sorry Lady, in heat like this...." He spread his hands helplessly.
Willow huffed in annoyance. "Come on, we're walking," she grumbled, setting off at a brisker pace than the heat warranted.
Tara eyed the steaming engine, noting the cabbie was leaning in the cab rummaging for something in the dash board. Nobody else seemed to be paying any attention to her and she didn't want to leave to poor man stranded on the roasting streets while he waited for a tow truck. She leaned lower over the engine and carefully exhaled, a few small ice crystals formed on the metal has her breath touched it, but they melted immediately.
"Hey," She called to the cabbie. "Uh, I think it's cooled down."
The cabbie waddled around the raised hood and peered at the chilled metal. "Well, whatta y'know," he remarked, puzzled.
Willow, who had continued on ahead, looked around for Tara as she noticed her partner, in the business sense of the word, wasn't behind her. "Tara?" she called.
"Cab's cooled down," Tara said by way of explanation, jogging over.
"I wouldn't risk it," Tara said, touching the sleeve of her impulsive friend.
Willow sighed and nodded, reluctantly continuing down the hot sidewalk. "You're probably right." She glanced over at Tara. "Hey, what planet are you from? You were running and you're not even sweating."
Tara ducked her head, hiding a grin behind her honey blond hair. "Environment control," she said straight faced.
"Ah, mind over matter?" Willow asked, nodding.
"Something like that."
"Oh," Willow said, glancing at a group of seven to ten year olds struggling to open a fire hydrant, they're frustrated cries having captured her attention. "Poor kids." She skirted them with a sympathetic glance.
Tara smiled as she too dodged one of the kids, letting Willow move ahead a little. The last thing she wanted was to drench the red-head; being inappropriately dressed for things made Willow uncomfortable, even if an impromptu shower would cool her off. "Look an elephant!" Tara said to the children, pointing down the street, her eyes wide.
"Where?!" the kids coursed, looking at where she was pointing.
As they were distracted Tara's other hand blurred, quickly unscrewing the cap and she stepped away as the water burst into the air.
Delighted cries followed her and Willow down the street.
The press conference was not air conditioned. Willow and Tara, along with two dozen other representatives from various newspapers and TV studios stood in the sweltering room, trying to fight off headaches in the din of questions.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Ladies and Gentlemen, please!" The mayor entreated, raising his hands for silence; the microphone insuring his voice carried over the crowd. "The last thing we need right now is panic. Yes, Mister Andrews, channel six."
"Mister Mayor," Mister Andrews called. "Is it true that if the temperature reached 100 and everyone keeps driving their cars we will all die of carbon monoxide poisoning?"
"Of course not!" the Mayor said quickly to forestall the other questions on the lips of every reporter. "We are all perfectly safe. It's just," he said with a placating smile. "Hot out."
"And getting hotter," Someone shouted from the back of the room.
"And the heat goes on," The mayor joked. "Next! Yes, Miss Rosenberg, Daily Planet."
"What about the brown outs?" Willow asked, raising her voice. "There doesn't seem to be enough power to run the air conditioners, let alone the traffic lights. What is the city going to do about this problem?"
"There's no need to worry about the power supply," the Mayor said, waving his hands. Tara shook her head at his incompetence. "The situation is perfectly under con-"
At that moment the lights ironically chose to go out, the few fans in the room spinning to a stop. Willows lips twisted, pleased to have caught the man out.
The lights quickly returned as a man in a white suit, somehow looking good instead of tacky, stepped up from the cluster of sycophants behind the podium and took the Mayor's place in front of the mike. "Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may, the Mayor has asked me here to assure you that the Oz-core Nuclear Plant is 100 percent ready to meet your electric needs."
"Isn't the environmental protection committee withholding final approval on the plant pending the results of its safety inspections?" Tara interjected, glowering at the man. As Superwoman, she knew that the pleasant 'Good Samaritan' front Mr. Osborn presented was just that, a front.
"Not anymore," Mr. Osborn replied with a self satisfied smile. "I have the report right here," he said taking a stack of papers from the aid standing behind him and holding it up. "And I'm pleased to announce we passed with flying colors. Metropolis needs power, I have it to give."
Tara grinded her teeth together as most of the people in the room, Willow included, clapped. While Daniel Osborn certainly had power to give, the only power this new scheme of his was intended to create would be more power for himself, and that could only be bad, for both Superwoman and Metropolis.
"Ah Mister Mayor," Willow asked, hoping to diffuse the tension as well as get answers. She didn't know what Maclay's problem was with Daniel, but no good would come of her deliberately provoking him. Especially when Willow hope to be the first reporter to gain an exclusive interview with the powerful multi-billionaire. "Another power source is helpful," she said, her words a respectful nod to Daniel. "But it doesn't solve the problem. Where is the heat coming from?"
A short blond woman took Osborn's place at the mike. "We've been studying all meteorological data," she explained. "The jet stream, the ozone layer, and even sun spots, but all patterns have remained consistently normal."
"Why only Metropolis?" Willow asked excitedly, her mind nosily churning over the problem. "Its only 12 degrees in New York, there's eight inches of snow in Chicago, and we are having a run on sun block."
The woman opened her mouth to respond and then shut it again, looking helpless.
"Excuse me, Elizabeth," a short balding man in a worn suit stepped up beside her. "Pardon me. Um, we, uh," he swallowed nervously. "We have a theory."
"It's merely speculation at this point Dr. Snyder," Dr. Elizabeth Summers said, attempting to cut him off.
"What theory?!" Willow shouted her curiosity and reporting instincts demanding answers.
"It has not been proven and I don't..." Dr. Summers started, hoping to forestall this line of questioning.
"The public has a right to know what is causing these extreme conditions," Willow interjected; sure this would be something big.
"Um, not what," Dr. Snyder stammered. "Who."
"It's merely a hypothesis and one I disagree with!" Dr. Summers said angrily.
"Who?!" Willow demanded, playing right into Osborn's hands. The billionaire smiled briefly at his plan having gone so well. "Dr. Snyder, on behave of the citizens of metropolis I demanded to know who that person is!"
Dr. Snyder glanced briefly at Osborn. Taking a deep breath he spoke into the mike. "Superwoman."
Confused muttering broke out as Willow and Tara looked at each other horrified, albeit for slightly different reasons.
Willow, Xander, and Gunn stood chatting on the floor of the Daily Planet, near Willow and Tara's desks.
"Wow, Superwoman affecting our weather," Gunn said shaking his head, the latest issue resting in his hands. "It's intriguing, I'll say that."
"Women are intriguing, this is libel," Xander retorted.
"It's slander," Willow said, taking the paper, obviously upset and feeling vaguely guilty that it was her line of questioning that had resulted in this prosecution of perhaps the best person Willow knew; a woman who had saved her life, a woman who....
"The gossip business has heat stroke," Anya complained as she walked over to join the trio, interrupting Willow's train of thought. While even Willow and Xander were dressed minimally for the heat, the Planet's gossip columnist was, or perhaps wasn't would be a better way to put it Willow grumbled to herself, wearing nothing but a skimpy red bikini, more suited to a day on the beach than one in the office. "My sun tan, however, had never been healthier."
"On the other hand, the heat wave does have its upside," Xander said to himself, staring at her.
Willow made a face. "Chill Xander," she chided.
"A cold shower ought to do it," Xander joked.
"Not if you have a detachable shower head," Anya teased, overhearing. "Massaging jets...." She trailed off, smile mischievously at the young photographer's blush.
"What's a detach-..." Gunn started to question when wolf whistles interrupted the conversation as the various reporters parted to let the Giles through.
"Oh bloody... What's the matter, never seen a pair of shorts before?" Giles rolled his eyes, making his way over to the staring quartet. He was wearing a golfing tee shirt and a moderately long pair of beige shorts. Willow hadn't ever seen their boss so causally dressed in all her years at The Planet; normally it was tweed suits year round. "This is not a day on the beach at Topsail Island, lets keep at it," he admonished. "What have we got?" he asked his star reporter, reaching Willow at last.
"Some half-baked theory," Willow said dismissively.
"Well half-baked is better than raw. If you would be so kind as to, ah, fill me in." Rosenberg was the best reporter Giles had, but when it came to Superwoman Willow had an uncharacteristic blind-spot.
Gunn unfolded a white piece of paper he had tucked under his arm. "This is a temperature chart of the city," He explained, pointing to a jagged line running diagonally across the page. "As you can see, each temperature spike corresponds to a super activity by Superwoman."
"Coincidence," Willow dismissed.
"Maybe," Anya retorted. "But most physicists think she's solar powered; like some sort of freakish..."
"Jenkins!" Willow spat, cutting off whatever mean spirited thing the columnist was about to say.
Tara looked over at them from her desk, guiltily fidgeting with a folder. Her super hearing allowed her to hear every word they said.
"Lots of things are solar powered," the redhead continued. "Why blame Superwoman?"
"Nobody knows how strong her powers are," Tara said, finally walking over. "Or how much energy it takes to recharge her. Superwomen could be drawing the sun's heat and not even know it," she continued, voicing her own doubts.
"But she's been here for months," Giles said. "Why would Metropolis start heating up now?"
"Well it was summer and it was hot, now its winter and it's still hot," Xander said slowly, as if he was explaining Schrödinger's wave equations.
"Whose side are you on?" Willow snapped.
"Well, Willow, you have to admit, it could be possible," Anya said, mostly to annoy the red-head.
"You becoming a nun is more likely."
"I understand how you feel, Willow," Tara interjected. "We all like Superwoman, but you have to keep an open mind about this. I'm sure if Superwoman was causing the heat wave she'd want to know about it."
"Alright," Giles said, cutting off the argument. "We'll make sure to refer to it as just a theory. Now, how is this for the afternoon edition: 'Super Feat equals Super Heat'?"
"Fine, but I refuse to accept that Superwoman is responsible for this," Willow huffed. "Come on Tara, lets.... Tara?" The redhead looked around the newsroom, but couldn't find a hint of blond hair. "Now where'd she run off to?"
"Shocking, isn't it?" Osborn asked, holding up the newspaper. He was reclining in a bathtub, ice cubes floating across the surface. Bold letters reading 'Super Feat = Super Heat' took up most of the above the fold space, although a grainy picture of four construction workers emerging from a smoky, collapsing, building featured prominently below the fold, accompanied by the headline 'Superwomen Saves Four From Electric Fire.'
Noting Osborn's smug smile, Ethan felt it was safe to ignore the question. "From the utilities commission Sir," He said, holding out a form.
"Ah yes." Osborn stepped out of the icy bath, tugging on a black rob over his swimwear. He scanned the page thoughtfully. "Amazing, my nuclear planet has been approved with only a month of testing. Politicians can be so reasonable in a crisis."
"Might it be a good time to power it up then Sir?" Ethan asked mildly, not really bothered by Osborn's need to gloat in private.
Osborn smiled as if Ethan were a child that had said something rather stupid but incredibly cute. "No not yet, Ethan; any good chef will tell you that all stews must..."
He paused, their eyes meeting as they said together: "Simmer."
"In fact," Osborn continued. "I'm feeling a bit chilly, let's turn it up a few degrees."
"Warmer, Sir?" Ethan asked. The city was already at an uncomfortably hot temperature, even for the middle of summer, which it was not.
"Well, yeah," Osborn gestured with his free hand at the paper. "Superwoman was kind enough to use her powers again today and the newspaper cooperated by printing our theory, so now it's up to us to provide the proof."
A crowd of reporters, included Tara and Willow, with Xander along as camera man, flooded out of the court house. A well dress woman tried to push through them, addressing the various microphones pointed at her. "...As prosecuting attorney for Metropolis I will be seeking an injunction, ordering Superwoman to immediately cease and desist in the usage of her super powers. I have subpoena'd her to appear before the court tomorrow morning to show cause as to why she should not be so enjoined." She paused and turned to face the nearest mike fully. "And I'm making this public appeal, asking her to submit to the laws of our community."
"What if she doesn't?" the reporter asked.
"I hope," the prosecutor said as she shoved through the remainder of the crowd. "That we won't be forced to use any extreme measures."
The crowd of reporters trailed after her.
"What are you going to do, drop a nuke on her?" one asked incredulously.
Willow, Tara, and Xander remained on the steps, having gotten more than enough information for a story. No new news would be found by trailing after that pack.
Willow glared after them. "Am I the only sane person in this whole city?" she asked rhetorically. "We have to do something."
"Willow," Xander said, equally disgusted. "Professional scientists haven't been able to figure this out, what are we going to do?" He asked helplessly.
"They've been comparing events, dates" Willow said, her eyes bright as she thought about the problem. "We are going to study Superwoman. Xander, I want to look at the locations of these heat spikes."
"Got it," Xander said, catching on her enthusiasm even though he knew it was a long shot. The thing about Willow was that her long shots paid off more often than not.
As Xander headed off to get the film somewhere cooler before in spoiled, Willow turned to Tara, surprised to see that her partner was staring off into space.
"Tara, are you okay?" she asked, concerned. She laid a hand on Tara's arm.
The blond shook her head. "It can't be true, it just can't," she murmured gesturing after the crowd.
Willow nodded. Of course it wasn't true; she was surprised it took Tara so long to realize it. Still concerned she scrutinized her partner. "Tara maybe you should sit down; it looks like the heat finally got to you."
"What?" Tara asked, meeting Willow's eyes for the first time.
"You're sweating," Willow pointed out.
With an almost perplexed expression, Tara raised a hand to her damp forehead.
Willow rolled her eyes. "Come on," she said, grabbing Tara's hand and pulling her into the next door library. "I need to get out of this heat before we walk back to the Planet. We can check the recorded temperatures from here as well as she can from our desks."
"Okay," Tara said, letting herself be lead. The library was only marginally cooler than the outdoors and, with the humidity, it still felt like they were swimming. The amount of moisture in the air made her feel like she should be using gills to breath.
Willow headed happily through the stacks of books, towards the computers, while Tara grabbed some hard texts that seemed to be related and brought them back over to Willow. The two settled down companionably to research although both had trouble concentrating.
Superwoman felt very awkward sitting in her red and blue outfit behind the defendant's desk. She couldn't imagine she would have ever felt comfortable in this position, but to do so in the costume was ...strange. The court room was packed with people, various officials and numerous reporters. She, herself, should have been one of them, but Tara had called in claiming the bus had overheated and she would be very late to work. Giles sat in her chair beside Willow, but they were located directly behind her, so Superwoman couldn't see them.
The judge, a heavy set older woman with micro-braids pulled back into a neat pony tail, entered from a side door and walked briskly to her stand. "This Hearing will be in order," she commanded as she sat, cutting through the chatter.
Everyone in the room rose briefly to their feet, some of them still whispering excitedly.
"This is a court room," the judge said sternly. "Not a circus tent. And this," she continued holding up a polished wood gavel. "Is a gavel. And when I pound it," she hit the desk, making a loud rapping sound. "Is the international symbol for you all to shut up." She hit the desk again. "Got it?"
With the room finally quite she addressed the heroine. "Good afternoon Miss Superwoman."
"Uh, just Superwoman," Tara said, standing respectfully, hands clasped behind her back.
"That's your full name?" the judge asked dubiously.
"It's what people call me," Tara said awkwardly. She smiled slightly at the stern woman.
The judge seemed to mentally shrug. "Fine," she said. "Make it one word," she told the recorder as an aside. "Now," she turned back to Superwoman. "I understand that you've refused council?"
"I'd like to speak for myself, your honor," Tara said, trying to portray confidence.
The woman's face finally softened slightly. "Superwoman I have to tell you right up front, I'm a big fan of yours. A lot of the lowlifes you catch end up here."
Willow and Giles shared a smile at the judge's words.
"What you are doing in my court room," the judge continued as Superwoman finally started to relax slightly. "Is unfortunate. And between you and me..."
"Objection," The prosecutor called, rising to her feet.
The judge looked at the woman exasperatedly. "You can't object, Patricia, this isn't a trial," She chided.
The DA grimaced as she retook her seat.
"Superwoman," the judge asked. "Do you know why this district attorney dragged you in here?"
"The theory is that my powers are causing this peculiar heat wave," Superwoman said plainly, the doubt on her face evident.
"Well, what do you think?" the judge demanded kindly.
"I don't think it's true, but if Metropolis is worried about me using my powers I'd like to put the fears to rest." Tara sighed as she finished, resigned to what she knew would happen when she entered this courtroom.
"Alright," the judge sighed. "I'm going to grant this injunction pending further scientific study. Superwoman, you are hereby order to cease and desist all super activity until further notified." She fixed the heroine with a pointed stare. "Do you wish to contest?"
Superwoman shook her head.
"Alright people," the judge said with a half smile. "We've got a deal." She banged the gavel a final time and whispers broke from the gathered throng.
Reporters immediately mobbed Superwoman as she made her way to the doors, but Tara pushed though them effortlessly. She breathed a sigh of relief as she stepped out into the hallway, glad to be free of the crush of people. There was a reason Superwoman always hovered at least eight feet in the air when she had to stay to talk to an official afterwards. Moving quickly, but still at human speeds, Tara started down the corridor before the crowd of reporters could follow her, stepping past the few enterprising police officers who had found excuses to be in the hallway at this particular moment in time. Superwoman supposed she would have to catch a cab to her 'friend' Tara's apartment where Superwoman was going to be staying for a few days until this ban was lifted. The increased association between her mundane and alter egos troubled Tara, but nothing could be done about it. Tara was so caught up in her thoughts she didn't notice that the prisoner being escorted between two officers had managed to get off the cuffs they hadn't locked in their haste to see Superwoman. Her blue eyes widened in horror as she watched the scruffy man slam the smaller of the two cops into the wall and rip his gun free of its holster. Superwoman moved half a step in their direction before she realized there was no way to stop this prisoner from shooting the cop if she moved at human speeds. Hands tense at her side Superwoman stood powerless to help, her brilliant red cape limp.
"Alright," the man was saying as he grasped the gun in both hands, finger twitching on the trigger. "We're gonna walk out of here nice and easy. Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt."
Superwoman's eyes darted to the other cops and back to the face of the frighten cop as the media crowed behind her in the doorway. In a heart beat she had crossed the space between them and crushed the gun. Her hand closed around the prisoner's upper arm in a steely grip as the police officers rushed over to them.
Willow, watching from the door, felt her heart constrict as she watched the selfless superhero's shoulders deflate as she turned to face them with a helpless expression.
Two officers apologetically stepped up to Superwoman. "I'm afraid you are under arrest," one said, almost disbelievingly, mechanically reciting Superwoman's basic rights. Tara was only thankful that the media was unable to follow her as they led her unresistingly away to a small room, a double row of filing cabinets running down the center.
"Over here," the police officer attempted to keep her tone business like as she gestured to the end of the filing cabinets. "Spread them."
Superwoman turned her blond head to regard the officer in disbelief.
"Ah, if that's okay with you," the woman quickly amended, eying the skin tight red and blue outfit. Although, there might be enough space under the short red skirt to conceal a weapon of some kind; had Superwoman herself not been a weapon. A very, very small weapon.
Grinding her teeth at the indignity, Tara shifted her feet slightly and placed her hands on the tops of the filing cabinets as required. Although it was childish, she used a little more strength than was necessary and made an 'oops' grimace as the entire row toppled over like dominos.
"Sorry," she apologized to the wide eyed officers, who knew exactly how extremely heavy just one off those overfilled filing cabinets was, and were mentally calculating how to get out of having to help lift them back into place.
"Alright," the disgruntled woman said, gingerly leading Tara to the ink pads. "We'll start over here instead."
She guided Superwoman's thumb to the ink, making sure it was coated before laying a sheet of paper on the small table.
"Press firmly," she told the heroine.
Tara looked at her in disbelief. 'Alright, you asked for it' her expression said as Superwoman pressed her thumb firmly against the paper, punching through the metal table. Tara supposed it wouldn't hurt for people to get the idea that she was unable to limit her super strength, thus making the idea that she could pass as human seem more unlikely. Breaking a larger hole, she drew her hand back, looking appropriately abashed.
"Let's move on," the officer said with a brittle smile, rapidly becoming disenchanted the idea of being in charge of the destructive super powered woman.
She led Tara to the next room to get her mug shot taken. The first three were done without a hitch, but Superwoman found she could not escape without having several group shots taken with the police officers.
"I get a phone call, right?" Superwoman asked as they were finally ready to take her to a cell.
"Yes," the woman said. She gestured to a phone on the other side of the room rather than bothering to lead Superwoman to the phone generally used by prisoners.
Tara glanced meaningfully at the woman as she picked up the receiver.
"Oh! Of course," the woman said, stepping back a few feet to give Superwoman the illusion of privacy.
Tara sighed mentally as she dialed the familiar number.
"Hello?" Giles asked, snatching the phone off his over crowed office desk at the Planet.
"Uh, hi Chief," Tara started, uncertain how to explain without making the eavesdroppers aware of her dual identities.
"Tara, is that you?" Giles asked, cutting her off.
"Yes sir, it is," Tara said, relieved.
"Where are you?" he asked, eager to have the other half of his best reporting team on the job. Especially when Willow's judgment was impaired and a story this big was involved.
"I'm, uh, down at the police station," Tara said, sounding slightly sheepish.
"Good, good!" Giles said, recalling again how wonderful a reporter Tara was. "Now I want a first hand account of Superwoman's arrest," he instructed. "Don't leave that building until she goes back to court."
"I don't think that will be a problem Chief," Tara replied, her voice heavy with irony.
"Great," Giles said, hanging up.
Tara looked at the phone in her hand and around at the Police waiting to escort her to her cell. "No problem at all," she muttered.
"Chief we need to do something," Willow insisted as they walked into the court room the next morning for Superwoman's appeal.
"Willow," Giles respond tightly. "Our job here is to be objective."
Willow made a face at him as she took her seat, reluctantly turning her attention to the front of the room as the judge from that morning entered.
"Alright people, sit down," the woman said, pulling out a yellow slip of paper. "Charge here is contempt of court." She raised her eyes to look at Superwoman, again seated in the defendant's chair. "How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," Tara said softly. "The court is not something I'm contemptuous of." She added, tired and slightly cranky from having to have spent the last twelve hours in a small cell pretending to ignore the wolf whistles and malicious comments from prisoners she had helped lock away and fed up with the whole mess. "I have vowed to fight for truth and justice and to protect the innocent."
"So noted," the Judge said, equally tired. "I'm entertaining bail requests."
"I'd like to be released on my own liability," Tara requested.
"Objection," Patricia called, rising to her feet. Her elbow knocked her coffee off the edge of the table, and Tara hopped out of the way without thinking about it, hovering for a moment. "She's an obvious flight risk," the prosecutor punned pointedly.
The judge rubbed her temples. "What am I supposed to do with her?" she asked.
"Um, Your Honor," Giles called, rather impulsively, climbing to his feet. "I'm Rupert Giles, editor of the Daily Planet. We have been covering Superwoman ever since she arrived in Metropolis and she has always conducted herself with absolute integrity, decency, and honesty." Superwoman turned to face the man she knew so well as Tara but had never before met as Superwoman, with surprised gratitude. "I am personally willing to vouch for her character," Giles finished.
"Sold," the judge said, banging her gavel.
"Pardon?" Giles asked.
"Superwoman is now the responsibility of the Daily Planet. We'll try it for a few days and see how it goes," she ordered. "And you," she turned to fix the heroine with a glare. "Absolutely no superpowers at all. Is that understood?"
Tara nodded gratefully.
"Way to be objective, Chief," Willow said, fighting a grin as she stood.
Willow pushed open the door to Giles' office and handed him several sheets of paper, glancing at Superwoman out of the corner of her eye. "I hate to interrupt," she apologized. "But I need you to take a look at my copy."
Tara, breathed a sigh of relief, having been suffering through an awkward conversation with the man she couldn't help but think of as her boss, despite the uniform she wore.
"What's this," Giles asked, taking the pages and riffling through them.
"It's my take on the story," Willow said in a slightly hurt tone.
"Willow," he said, taking off his glasses and cleaning them on the corner of his shirt. "I can't run a fluff piece like this, even if it is about you," he said, gesturing at Superwoman. "No offence taken, I trust?"
Mutely Tara shook her head.
"Run it on the Op-Ed page," Willow offered.
"I need something for the front page," Giles replied.
Willow opened her mouth to argue, but Giles held up a hand. "Hold that thought," he requested. "Superwoman," he asked, turning to Tara. "Do you have a place to stay tonight?"
"She can stay with me," Willow offered quickly.
Tara looked at her somewhat longingly. "Tara already offered to let me stay with her," Superwoman apologized, hoping Willow wouldn't hold it against her mild mannered partner, but knowing this was the only way she'd get any freedom.
"Good, that's perfect," Giles said. "Where is Tara, anyway?"
"She called in the jail piece," Willow offered. "I think she's on her way home. You want a lift?" She asked the gorgeous caped woman.
"Thank you," Tara accepted, willing herself not to blush.
"Uh, Willow," Giles reminded her. "I still need a piece for the front page."
Willow looked back and forth between the two of them, her eyes pleading.
"I can stay until you're done," Tara offered. "If you don't mind me hanging around."
"Really?" Willow asked hopefully.
"Sure," Tara said, nodding.
"Great!" Willow's eyes suddenly lit up as she looked at Superwoman. "Hey! Can I ask you some questions. I'd love to get your reaction to all this, your thoughts, your views; it could give the piece just the angle it needs."
"Uh, sure," Tara offered, knowing she would have to think fast to avoid saying too much to the quick witted woman, but unable to refuse. Willow was right, a personal interview with Superwoman would give her piece the edge it needed, provided she followed Giles advice as well and cut out some of the fluffier bits.
Willow's grin made Tara smile in return. "Fantastic!" the red head exclaimed ushering Tara across the newsroom to her desk. "I have some questions I've been dying to ask you. I can't believe how every one is just all over you like this, after all you've done for us. It's beyond ungrateful, I mean..." Willow babbled, not really watching where she was going. Her hip hit the edge of Tara's desk and Tara stepped in front of her, catching Willow's arm to prevent the reporter from falling.
Xander watched to red-head progress across the news room, her body shielding the superheroine from view. Sweat dripped from his dark brown hair as he crouched behind the desk, his grip tightening around the super soaker 1400TX's trigger. Anya had brought in the gun in earlier as a joke and Xander couldn't resist the idea of soaking his workaholic friend.
"Hey Willow!" Xander cried, jumping to his feet and opening fire.
Willow's eyes widened as the jet of water came towards were she had been before Superwoman had moved to catch her fall; right at the red 'S' on Superwoman's chest.
"Xander, No!" Willow shouted, holding out a hand to forestall him way too late.
Everyone in the newsroom paused to stare dumfounded as a drenched superhero wiped the water out of her blue eyes.
"Look, Mr. Osborn," Dr Snyder said, trailing behind the powerful man as they walked down a sterile hall in the underground facilities of Oz-corps labs. "We are risking environmental disaster if we continue."
"Huh," Osborn said reflectively.
Certain he was being ignored, Dr. Snyder dodged in front of Osborn to face the man. "What if they should discover us?" The ferrety man demanded. "You have got to stop this."
Daniel stopped walking. "Is that an order?" he asked, his voice dangerously mild.
Dr. Snyder's eyes widened and he stepped back hastily. "No! No, of course not," he laughed nervously. "W-what would make you say a thing like that? I merely meant I was a bit concerned, that's all."
"Well that's perfectly understandable," Osborn said in a falsely amiable tone. "But I should think the five million dollars you've been paid would buy a little peace of mind." Watching Dr. Snyder splutter to come up with something to say, Osborn smirked. "However," he continued. "I think the citizens of metropolis could use a little break, especially since our friend in the cape has been MIA all day."
Dr. Snyder watched mutely as Osborn opened a silver brief case and punched his code into the concealed remote control.
Mustering his courage, Dr. Snyder tried one last time. "Um," he began nervously, mopping at his forehead with a white handkerchief. "You said you were only going to use this for a few days."
"Yeah, well when I find something I enjoy, I stick with it."
"When do you think you will stop enjoying it?"
"Well that," Osborn looked up from the remote to met the man's gaze squarely. "Depends on Superwoman."
A phone ringing interrupted them. "Excuse me," Osborn said to Dr. Snyder, pulling a slime grey cell phone from his pocket. "Yes?" He said into the phone. "The ten thirty five?" He paused, listening to the reply. "On schedule?" Another pause. "Very good, thank you Ethan."
"Ten thirty five?" Dr. Snyder asked as Osborn hung up.
"Yes, I'm afraid there's going to be another little mishap," Osborn said smoothly, enjoying the other man's wince. "If Superwoman intervenes the temperature will go up; so doctor, why so gloomy? It proves your theory connecting Superwoman with the heat, after all."
"I am sooooo sorry," Willow apologized again as they pulled into Tara's apartment's parking lot.
"It's okay Will,'" Superwoman reassured, using the shortened version of Willow's name without thinking about it. When Willow blushed, the blond backpedaled quickly, hoping that if she continued talking Willow wouldn't comment on it. "It was just water. Besides even if it had been a real gun I would have been fine."
"Were you ever afraid?" Willow asked, thinking about how Superwoman had just watched the water hit her, rather than use her powers. The fact that it was a water gun aside, the red head wondered if, even knowing she was invulnerable to most things, she would have had the courage to just let herself get shot.
Tara blinked. The first time she had ever been shot, she had frozen in surprise, too scared to even think. Tara remembered just looking down at were the wound should have been and running the fingers of her left hand over her smooth, unmarred skin through the bullet hole in her top. The mugger, Warren, had turned and ran while she stood frozen in her shock, almost getting away. She could still remember the coldness of his eyes before he pulled the trigger. That had been the incident that had caused Tara to create Superwoman, the reason why she put on the red and blue costume.
"I don't fear guns," Superwoman said finally, deciding to go with a half truth. "But sometimes, when you see the hatred in a person's eyes as they pull the trigger; that inhumanity... that frightens me."
Willow touched Superwoman's shoulder gently, causing the blond to meet her eyes. "We should," Willow licked her suddenly dry lips. "We should go inside. Get you some dry clothes."
Willow's words served to break the paralysis their shared gaze had induced and Tara looked down at her wet costume, surprised that she had forgotten all about it. "Oh, right," she said faintly as they climbed out of Willow's jeep.
Willow lead the way up the stairs to Tara's apartment, but Superwoman caught her hand before Willow could knock.
"She might be sleeping; she looked tired," she explained. Making a show of feeling around under the mat for her spare key, Superwoman quietly unlocked the door.
"Key under the rug?" Willow chastised under her breath, even though she thought her partner couldn't hear her. "This isn't Smallville Tara."
"I'm going to go see if Tara has any clothes I can change into," Superwoman said as soon as they entered, excusing herself. She almost offered Willow a drink before remembering that this wasn't exactly her apartment, per se.
Shutting her bedroom door safely behind her, Tara hurriedly changed into normal clothes and pulled her still damp hair back into a ponytail. Checking her appearance in the dresser mirror, Tara glanced at the reflection of the door to her adjoining bathroom and smiled.
Left alone, Willow shifted uncomfortably as she heard the shower cut on. Although she considered herself friends with Tara, she hadn't been inside the other woman's apartment before and standing in her friend's empty living room made her feel awkward. The glint of metal on the bookshelf drew Willows attention to a silver framed picture. Tara, only a few years younger than the woman Willow knew, held the reins of a chestnut horse. A thin, balding man rested a hand on her shoulder, both of them grinning at the person who had taken the picture.
"My Dad," Tara said softly as she entered the room and moved to stand behind Willow.
"Ahh! God, Tara, don't go sneaking up on people like that." Willow took a deep breath. "When was this taken?" She asked.
"My 19th birthday, five years ago," Tara smiled as she took the photograph from Willow and set it gently back on the shelf. "My mom insisted on taking pictures at every one of my birthdays. They'd bought Witch for me; one of our neighbors had owned her and had been letting me ride her."
Willow touched Tara's arm as she saw a wisp of nostalgia wash across the blonde's face. "It must have been hard to come here, being so far away from them."
"A bit, but I still visit fairly often." Tara smiled. "Superwoman decided to take a shower," She said, changing the subject. "I don't blame her, I still feel kind of grimy from being down at the prison all night."
Willow tensed protectively. "I can't believe they did that to her, she saved that man's life! You should have seen her face, Tara, after she rescued him; she looked so helpless. And now she's being punished for it. It just isn't fair, it wasn't like she could just stand there and do nothing; she's too noble for that."
Tara blushed, and turned away to hide it. "Can I get you something to drink?" she asked, stepping across the edge of the rug which divided her dinning area/ kitchen from the living room of her tiny apartment.
"What?" Willow asked, momentarily derailed. "Oh, yes please. Orange juice if you have it, if not water is fine too; I mean, with this heat and all that's probably the healthiest thing to be drinking."
Pouring the requested orange juice into a glass, Tara grinned at Willow's monolog. Glass in hand, Tara flicked the radio on as she passed it to provide background to their conversation. "Here you go," she said, handing Willow the glass.
"Thanks," Willow said, taking a sip. Her eyes widened. "Wow, this is really good, almost like fresh squeezed. Where do you get it?"
"Um," Tara stalled. Obviously she couldn't say that it actually was fresh and she had flown to Israel to get it. "Just a little health food store I like."
"Oh," Willow accepted, taking another sip. Silently, they looked shyly at one another. "Should really get back," Willow said at last. "I have to finish a story for Giles, he's not to happy with me taking off like this, but Superwoman was drenched." She paused, a thought occurring to her. "Do you think she would mind if I quoted some of what she said earlier?"
"Um, I can go check with her if you like?" Tara offered.
"Okay, but don't peek," Willow said admonishingly, thinking of the beautiful woman in Tara's shower. "If anyone gets to see Superwoman naked, it's going to be me."
"Willow!" Tara's face turned bright red.
"I was just teasing," Willow said, blushing herself as she realized how extremely inappropriate her comment was. "I know you wouldn't. You're probably the only lesbian on the planet who doesn't want to get into her pants. And you're too honorable anyway."
Tara just blushed harder and backed into her bedroom. She quickly shut off the shower and changed into her costume, taking a moment to dampen her hair in the sink. I'm never going to get dry at this rate, she thought wryly. Heading back out to Willow, she resolutely trying not to think about what the red-head had unwittingly said. It was just so hard, sometimes, knowing that the fantastically beautiful woman was infatuated with her persona while she refused to consider Tara as anything more than a friend. Taking a deep breath, Superwoman stepped into the living room and cleared her throat.
Willow turned and smiled widely, even though Superwoman, in Tara's opinion, looked like a drowned cat. Unable to help herself, the blond smiled in return. "Tara said you wanted to ask me if you could use a quote?" she prompted.
Desperately trying to keep herself from checking out the superheroine, Willow nodded. "Yeah, what you said about Warren, and the first time you were shot? It was really powerful, I think..." Willow paused and both women turned their attention to the radio whose weather debate had just been interrupted.
"-ring you this bulletin." The speaker's voice said calmly. "We have a run away express train on the green line." Willow walked over to the radio and turned the volume up. "It just barreled past hogsriver station, heading south at over 75 mile per hour. It should reach the main metropolis terminal in eight minutes. That area is being evacuated but there are over three hundred people at risk on the train itself."
"I have to go," Willow said apologetically.
"So do I," Superwoman said forcefully, heading towards the window.
"Wait! You can't go stop a train! You gave your word."
"I have to Will'," Superwoman turned and met the concerned green eyes. "You know I have to." A sad half smile formed on her lips.
Willow nodded resignedly, her voice deepened with renewed respect. "Tara and I will meet you there."
"Uh," Tara looked over Willow's shoulder and let out a breath of air as the red-head headed for her bedroom, blowing the open window shut. "I think she's already on her way," Superwoman called.
"Great," the Willow said, looking exasperated as she retraced her steps, heading for the door. "You call this loyalty? What kind of partner are you Tara?"
As the door shut behind Willow, Tara quickly reopened the window and took off, heading for the train.
The next afternoon, Willow sat sprawled at her desk, trying to convince herself that it wasn't really 110 degrees. Whatever meditation technique Tara used wasn't working for her, Willow decided.
"Willow!" Xander interrupted, hurrying over. "I asked Dr. Summers about your idea, since she didn't believe Superwoman was responsible either. Turns out she was a step ahead of you, she sent me this." Xander held up a map of metropolis with red and blue concentrations of color. "The dates match, but the really hot spots," he indicated the red. "Aren't anywhere near the super activity."
Giles poked his head out of his office, looking around of some one. "Chief," Willow called, spotting him. "I have some new information on Superwoman."
"That's great Willow," Giles said earnestly. "But I need you to get down to the courthouse right a way; Superwoman is about to turn herself in."
"On it!" Willow shouted as she practically flew out of the news room.
The entire drive over to the courthouse, Willow nervously tapped at the steering wheel. She knew that Superwoman couldn't actually be made to do anything, but she worried about what the selfless heroine would voluntarily concede to. Parking her car, Willow had to physically shove her way through protestors shouting 'superwoman must go' brandishing signs. She wasn't as gentle as she could have been, and ended up knocking at least one person to the ground. She was only three rows of people away when superwoman arrived.
The heroine looked calm and unruffled in the face of the crowd, but a solemnity hung around her that caused the chanting to die instantly. "When I first came to Metropolis," Superwoman began. "I said I came to help. I still feel this way, and so I have agreed to go, leaving metropolis by noon tomorrow. I believe this is the best way to put all your fears to rest." Her eyes sought out Willow's dismayed face in the crowd. "But I will miss everyone," she said softly, feeling her throat constrict. "Thank you."
Superwoman kept her head raised as she began to make her way through the crowd. Somehow her feet brought her in front of Willow.
"You can't leave," The red-head said desperately, tears welling in her green eyes.
"I have no choice," Tara whispered.
"But they can't be right," Willow implored, knowing she couldn't stop the woman from leaving. Overcome by emotion, Willow leaped forward and kissed Superwoman passionately, without grace or skill, bruising their lips together. "Go," she whispered, breaking the kiss. "Go!" she said louder, when the blond didn't move. Tears in her eyes, Superwoman forced her feet to move forward. "I'll find a way to prove you innocent," Willow vowed after her, under her breath. "I will get you back."
Xander approached Willow cautiously at her desk. "Hey Willow, I, uh," he stopped when he saw the tears on her face. Touching her shoulder gently he said, "Never mind, it's not important."
"It's okay Xander," Willow said thickly. "What is it?"
"Dr. Summers said she was looking into something and wanted to let you know she might be calling you later."
"Okay," Willow said listlessly. Awkwardly Xander pulled up a rolling chair to sit beside her, inviting confidence. "Do you think we should just give up?" she asked turning her head to face him.
"What? No way," Xander said, shaking his head.
Willow smiled faintly. "Me neither," she replied, smiling wanly. She could always count on Xander to back her up.
The two sat in companionable silence. "Did you see this," Xander asked finally, handing her the afternoon edition. "I guess Tara made it to the courthouse after all."
Willow took the paper from him, hearing Willows voice in her head as she read the article. Her eyes watered as she reached the closing lines. '...the crowd reacted with surprise and relief. Superwoman knew it was over. They say the Woman of Steel is invulnerable, but watching her face at that moment, I don't think it is true; in many ways, she is as human and as vulnerable as the rest of us.'
Tara entered her apartment with a sigh, her heart feeling like lead in her chest. She couldn't believe she was leaving, she had worked so hard for this, and now.... Tara paused, finally noticing the two intruders.
"Don't be mad," Martha Maclay said, stepping towards her daughter. "We had to come."
"Mad?" Tara laughed painfully as she rushed forward to hug her parents. "I've never been happier to see any two people in my life!"
"Oh sweet heart," her mother murmured into her hair. "Come on, sit down."
Tara sunk onto the couch with her parents on either side of her, and letting all her masks drop, finally being both Tara and Superwoman.
"You don't have to go," Jonathan Maclay said, putting his hand over hers.
"What choice do I have?" she asked raggedly.
Her dad grimaced. "I just don't get it," he said finally. "You've been using your powers for years in Smallville and nothing happened. Why would they make metropolis hot?"
Tara shrugged. "That was just everyday stuff, Dad," she hypothesized. "Since I've been in Metropolis I've been doing some pretty big things."
"But do you believe it?" her mother cut in. "Do you honestly," she said tapping Tara's sternum, over her heart. "Truly believe you are causing this heat wave?"
"I," Tara's eyes darted to the side. "I don't know. Everyone else seems to think so," she finished dejectedly.
"Tara, it doesn't matter what 'everyone else' thinks," Jonathan reminded her. "This was your dream, working at a big newspaper, helping people... Maybe," he paused. "Maybe you should consider that it's only Superwoman who has to leave."
"Dad, I can't!" Tara cried, finally breaking down and letting the tears she had been holding back run down her face. "I can't walk past people who are hurting, knowing I could help them and having to stop myself. I-I-I," Tara paused for breath as her childhood stutter re-emerged. "I've m-made up my mind."
"Shh, honey," he wrapped her in a warm hug. "We thought you might feel that way so we fixed up your room, but we had to try."
Tara's arms tighten around him, then she pulled back. "No, I can't go home either."
"What do you mean, Tara?" he asked.
"What if they're right and I am causing this heat? I could be putting you and Mom in danger."
"Absolutely not," Jonathan said, meeting his wife's worried gaze over their daughter's head. "You may very well think you can just go lock yourself in some fortress of solitude somewhere up in the artic to avoid hurting anyone, but that is taking the coward's way out. Your mother and I may not be able to convince you to stay here if you want to leave, but we are not going to let you go isolate yourself like that."
"Dad," Tara implored.
"No," Martha cut her off. "Your father is right. You aren't dangerous and you are our daughter, you're coming home with your family."
Willows head was pillowed on her desk when Tara entered the news room. She paused to look at her partner, blinking furiously. She had already packed her apartment; this was the only thing left. Tara took a moment to make sure she had herself under control then reached out; softly rubbing Willow's shoulder to wake her.
"Tara?" Willow said sleepily, raising her head. "I must have fallen asleep."
"It's late," Tara said, trying to think of a way to tell her best friend and unrequited love she was leaving, for the second time that day. "You should go home."
"Can't," Willow responded, shuffling thought the papers she had been napping on. "There isn't time. Here," she gather a bundle and thrust it at Tara. "You can take these over to your desk and st-" she fell silent as she finally saw the bare desk, with the lone cardboard box perched solemnly on top. "No," she whispered. "Tara, what is this?" Willow demanded.
"I, I'm leaving Metropolis," Tara said hoarsely.
"No! You can't! I need you! We have to get superwoman back," Willow broke off at the look of resolve on Tara's face. "Please, Tara," she implored.
"I," Tara shifted uncomfortably and tears welled up again. "I've made my decision Willow; I just, I just w-wanted to say goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Willow shook her head. "We're partners."
"You don't need a partner," Tara shook her head ruefully. "You never did."
"But, but I was starting to like having one," Willow whispered. Seeing Tara's resolve hadn't wavered, Willow grasped at straws. "You can't just quit, you haven't filled notice!"
Gravely, Tara pulled a white envelope out of her suit pocket. "I was hoping you could give it to Giles for me?" Tara asked.
Hand trembling, Willow took the envelope. "I won't believe it," she said fiercely. "I'm not going to give up on either of you."
Tara leaned closer to Willow and gently brushed their lips together in a tear-salty kiss. Straightening, Tara took in the curve of Willow's face, trying to memorize this final sight, before walking over to her desk and gathering up the box. Willow's eyes followed Tara until the elevator doors had close behind her, the white envelope crumpled in Willow's fist.
Giles opened the door of his office for Willow, following the drawn reporter out into the newsroom. "Are you alright Willow?" he asked.
Willow nodded. "Fine, Giles," she said hollowly.
"Willow," Giles called, as she began to move away. "Tara was one of the best reporters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but remember so are you. And if anybody can find a way to save Superwoman, you can."
"Yes sir," she said, her despondent countenance unwavering.
"Alright then," he said, watching her worriedly as she walked away.
Xander caught up with Willow just as she reached her desk. "Will' if there's anything I can do..." he began.
"Just buzz me if Dr. Summer calls," Willow snapped, her expression softening immediately as she saw the hurt look on his face. "Sorry, Xan', I just...." She looked down.
"Hey, it's okay," he reassured, patting her shoulder as he moved away.
Willow fiddled with her pen, watching Xander leave, delaying. Finally she looked across at Tara's empty desk. Looking at the empty space the blond used to occupy caused a wave of hopelessness to wash over Willow. Caught up in her misery, she didn't even hear Anya's approach.
"Hi Willow," the bottled blond said as she moved passed the red-head's desk.
"Okay stop it!" Willow snapped, jumping to her feet.
"Stop what?" Anya asked, taking a small step back. "I just said 'hi'."
"Yes! That's it exactly! Just 'hi,' no little dig, no taunting; everyone is treating me like I'm made out of glass. So what if Tara is gone? I am a heck of a reporter! I don't need a partner! Everyone needs to stop acting as if I had just lost my best friend or something."
"But you did," Anya pointed out. "Showing sympathy is a sign of my friendship. As is offering to talk, which I am."
"Why would I talk to you?" Willow snarled.
"Because while I don't date women, I do know a lot about losing someone you care about because they do something stupid and heartless."
Deflating, Willow slumped back into her chair. "First Superwoman and now Tara. And I don't know which I will miss more!"
Anya watched Willow with slitted eyes. "I know what will cheer you up," she singsonged, leaning forward.
Willow jump back, revulsion wrinkling her face.
"Chocolate!" Anya finished with false innocence. "It's a fail safe cheer-upper."
"Willow!" Xander called, rushing over.
Swallowing a retort, Willow swiveled to face him, her eyes questioning.
Xander pointed to a short blond exiting the elevator on to the newsroom floor.
"I said buzz Xander," Willow chastised, moving hurriedly to greet the woman. She reached out and shook the blonde's hand firmly. "Dr. Summers? Willow Rosenberg. I hope you're here with good news?"
"It might be," Dr. Summers said. "I think you should come with me, I have something to show you."
"Of course," Willow said eagerly, grabbing her briefcase and practically dragging Dr. Summers to the elevators.
Willow walked behind Dr. Summers though the underground tunnel. It was even hotter down here then it had been on the street above. "Where are we?" she asked her companion.
"The entrance to Metropolis' aquifers; it's basically an underground system of rivers and lakes. The temperature under the aquifer is supposed to be constantly 46 degrees even in the middle of summer."
"But it feels like we're in a sauna."
"That's the problem." Dr. Summers said, turning to heave open a door in the wall on their right. "Here we can look down directly into the main body of the aquifer."
A blast of steam accompanied to open door, when it cleared Willow looked down the see an entire lake of bubbling water. "It's boiling!" she exclaimed, shocked. Water only boiled at 100 degrees Celsius, or 2120F. "Is this what's causing the heat wave?"
"It looks like. The geological pattern of the aquifer is identical to the heat distribution maps I showed you."
"But what is causing the aquifers to boil then?" Willow asked, reining in her excitement as much as possible.
"My best guess?" Dr. Summers pulled out an identical map to the one she had sent Willow. She followed their position in the aquifer up a few inches, her finger landing on the Oz-core nuclear plant. "The Oz-core planet has sprung a major leak."
"A leak?" Willow echoed.
Dr. Summers nodded. "But that's not the worst," she said, making sure she had Willows full attention. "They plan on turning it up to full power tomorrow, and if that happens, we could be looking at a meltdown. You have to get Superwoman back, Ms. Rosenberg."
Jonathan Maclay frowned as he entered the living room and took in the sight of his only child slumped on the couch. "I don't see why you're torturing yourself by watching this." He said, disapprovingly, leaning over to pick up the remote.
"No, Dad!" Tara exclaimed.
"Leave her be," Martha called from the kitchen.
Jonathan sighed, watching his little girl's attention return the man who was slandering her on TV, live from the streets of Metropolis.
He and Tara both straightened as a red-head shoved the reporter out of the way and grabbed the microphone.
"Willow!" Tara exclaimed in recognition, afraid her former partner had finally lost it.
"No keep rolling!" Willow said from the screen, as the reporter she had displaced objected that they were live. "Superwoman, if you can hear this, come back. We found the real source of the heat, you're not causing it and you never were. But there is an emergency and we need you. Meet me at Oz-core nuclear plant and I'll explain everything. And Superwoman? Hurry." Willow handed the reporter back his microphone and dashed off screen as quickly as she had appeared.
"I have to go!" Tara exclaimed standing up and rushing off at super speed.
Jonathan smiled in the wake of his child. "That's more like it," he said to the now empty room.
"What's that, dear?" Martha called.
"Tara's headed back to Metropolis; there's been some sort of emergency," Jonathan told his wife.
"Oh," she said, poking her head into the living room. "What about the heat?"
"Turns out they found the real source of the problem and want her back." Jonathan chuckled.
"Oh good, I hated seeing her sit around here looking so miserable."
"Me too, Martha," Jonathan said, pulling her into a hug. "Me too."
Tara barely had time to savor seeing the streets of Metropolis as she shot towards the power plant, sailing over Main Street and the Planet at supersonic speeds. She landed next to Willow, who was pacing fretfully outside Osborn's plant.
"Oh Superwoman!" Willow pulled her into a brief hug. "I'm so glad you're back! There is no time to explain; the plant has a leak and they are about to start it up!"
"Come on!" Tara said, grabbing Willow's hand. Together the raced up the steps to the control room which was filled with various city officials for Osborn's big unveiling. The crowd had just burst into applause for Osborn as they entered.
"Stop!" Superwoman called, the crowd parting for her.
Osborn frowned. He had won, Superwoman had gone! So why was she here, now, thwarting his plans again? "I'm afraid stopping is out of the question," he said sharply, nodding to the leaver he had just pulled.
"There is a leak in the reactor core," Willow said, causing the people around her to gasp. "That's what is causing the heat, not Superwoman. If you go through with this we will have a nuclear melt down."
"There is no leak!" Osborn tried to say, but the people weren't listening to him anymore as a light came on to indicate the plant was up and running.
Franticly Superwoman took off down the stairs and entered the core of the reactor, ignoring the nuclear radioactivity warning signs. The control rods where already raised halfway out of the uranium container. Looking at them, Superwoman made a split second decision and leaped forward to physically force the gigantic rods back down, breaking the machinery trying to raise them, and stop the reaction.
Hours later, after Superwoman was pronounced non-reactive and she and Willow had answered as many questions as they could for the local authorities, Superwoman found herself alone in the parking lot with the reporter.
Internally debating what to say, Superwoman finally decided on a simple thank you.
"Its just good to have you back," Willow replied. "Although... do you think I could trouble you for a lift back to my apartment?" She eyed the empty space where Dr. Summers car had been parked. "My ride appears to have taken off."
"No problem," Superwoman said, scooping Willow up into her arms, ignoring her body's involuntary hum of pleasure at holding this woman so close. She rose slowly into the air, letting Willow's ears adjust gently to the change in pressure.
Willow looked down at the city in delight, content to quietly enjoy the ride. She had been in Superwoman's arms like this once before, when she had thrown herself out of a window in order to get an interview with the mysterious woman, and again she marveled at how absolutely safe she felt within their embrace.
They flew lower and Superwoman chuckled throatily in her ear. "I believe I owe you this," she said, and let go before Willow knew what was happening. The reporter had time to let out a brief shriek before hitting the water of the bay below her. Automatically, she took a deep breath and held it as the water closed over her head.
When Willow breached the surface, she spluttered indignantly at the smirking heroine.
"Remind me again why I went to such effort to get you back?" she asked as Superwoman reached down and lifted the wet woman back into her arms.
Another burst of laughter was her only answer.
Daniel Osborn's voice was deceptively calm. "The plant is a total loss," he told Ethan. "And the city wants me to pay damages for a leak I had completely under my control, until Superwoman decided to save the day. Not only," he growled. "Did she completely destroy my plant, but the radioactivity didn't even affect her. So what was it you wanted to bring to my attention?"
"I have the report from the air conditioning division," Ethan said, unruffled by the rare display of temper. "I though you would be pleased to know that they had a 200 percent growth in profits over the last three weeks."
Osborn sat back in his chair with a thin smile. "Ah," he said softly. "The silver lining."
Willow stood next to Giles in front of the wide glass windows that lined the west side of the newsroom sipping a mug of hot chocolate as they watched the snow fall.
"Snow on the ground, Superwoman in the skies," Giles sighed. "All seems to be well in with world, does it not?"
"Not all," Willow replied softly, looking over her shoulder at Tara's empty desk.
"You're right," he agreed, following her gaze. "Not everything."
A sudden disruption of chatter around the elevators drew their attention to a very familiar blonde figure.
"Everything!" Giles re-revised, heading over, Willow only half a step behind him.
"Maclay," he greeted as Tara regarded him nervously.
"Mr. Giles, I...."
"Here," he cut her off, handing her a crumpled but unopened white envelope.
She took it gingerly. "You didn't read it?" she asked, furrowing her brow in confusion.
"I, ah, didn't believe I needed to. Now, I believe Willow could use some help with the aquifer piece, so I'll leave you two to work on it." He clapped her shoulder and strode away.
"Hi Willow," Tara said, facing the red-head at last.
They stood awkwardly in front of each other.
"You really did it," Tara said at last. "You saved Superwoman."
"I'm sor-" Tara started, the red-head's hostility making her feel like she was back at the beginning of their relationship.
"Hey," Willow interrupted, realizing Tara had mistaken her shock for anger. She smiled gently. "It's good to have you back."
"Really. Come on," she led Tara over to her desk, brushing past their discomfort by plunging back into work. "Tell me what you think of the piece so far."
Tara smiled and leaned forward to read over Willow's shoulder.
"You misspelled aquifer," she said at last.
"Hey!" Willow huffed. Then she grinned mischievously. "Be careful, Tara. You can be replaced you know."
Tara raised an eyebrow.
"I was already looking for a replacement," Willow kidded. They shared a warm look, before Tara dropped her eyes back to the screen and began working in earnest.