"You live... in a... rock?" Tara spoke for the first time since they'd mounted, quirking an eyebrow.
"Literally," Willow had nodded, before casually walking up to said rock and feeling for the area around it, her grip landing on a particular spot - not any different than any other spot really - and applying pressure; the small space beneath her hand seeming to sink into the rest of the mountain as if she had pressed a button - and it may have well been one - because at that point the large rock began to open vertically, not revealing or hinting at the well-kept secrets that lay inside.
"What were you expecting? Open sesame?" Willow spoke off of Tara's skeptical look.
"Well, let's go in already... I'm due for a bath," Faith said impatiently.
"I'd say you were overdue," Buffy spoke following behind Willow, Tara and Bella and dodging Faith's light, playful punches.
Tara was led through a dank passageway lighted by torches hung on the sides of the corridor until the cave opened into a massive, natural open-air amphitheater that played home to an intricate network of tents and walkways - a world of timber, rope, twine and the cliffsides surrounding it, barbaric yet oh so sophisticated.
"Wow..." Tara mumbled under her breath, her eyes roaming over the crowd - warrior-bandits wearing the war-paint and leathers of different tribes, young children running about in mischief, some of the faces looked at her with open suspicion and she was... intimidated if not afraid but certainly she was in awe of the small civilization of bandits - her open-mouthed countenance was enough evidence of that.
"Well... what do you think?" Willow asked, very pleased at Tara's reaction.
"It's... decent," Tara spoke not wanting to give the assassin the satisfaction of... well just not wanting to give her the satisfaction.
"...'Decent' is it?" Willow quirked an eyebrow at the sorceress.
"Yes... it's decent," Tara spoke again.
"Well then close your mouth then... you wouldn't want to swallow a fly for something that's just 'decent'"
To which Tara just glared at her before turning her attention back to the crowd while following Willow through the numerous tents to a particular one.
And when they stopped it was in front of a customary green-brown tent not unlike every other one there, but Tara guessed that this was 'Xander's' where the assassin had said they were headed.
"Good afternoon everyone!" Willow yelled into the open tent; a young broad shouldered, dark haired man and an older sandy haired, sweet faced woman came up and smothered the three assassins with hugs and a chorus of 'we missed you' while the third occupant of the tent; a young brown haired woman just stood tapping her foot impatiently, her arms crossed at her chest "where's the money?"
"Camel has it," Buffy said tiredly; as she watched the young woman scurry away.
"Is she at all aware there's nothing here for her to buy?" Willow asked her best friend.
The young man just rolled his eyes and shrugged before his vision landed on Tara, "and who's your comely friend?" He asked with a boyish grin.
"Tara... sorceress," Faith answered.
"Well Tara Sorceress I go by Alexander and let me be the first to welcome you to what I like to call City Under The Rocks," with that said he reached to take Tara's hand but was stopped by Willow's who slapped his away.
Willow turned to Tara, "his name is Xander and he's a common, cowardly thief... and an incompetent one at that."
"Jewellery thief by specialty... what's your preferance, gold, diamonds, rubies; I can do it all."
"Excuse him..." the sandy-haired woman spoke, "he's been with Anya far too long and has forgotten that not all women are won with money."
Tara just stared at the unlikely family, and being unable to speak just nodded to the older woman.
"You should have a bath... Willow show Ms. Sorceress to a bath; just because the lot of you live like pigs doesn't mean she wants to; you'll all clean up from your journey and Anya and I will make dinner and then we'll sort everything that needs sorting out."
To Tara's surprise the assassin... Willow nodded "yes mother," and took her hand to lead her away from the tent. Apparently, at least in this household, Willow was not the one in charge. It seemed so very odd to her to hear the assassin say "yes mother," to know the assassin had a family at all; you thought those kinds of people were loners, seperated from the world as well as their emotions; how can a person who kills for money be deserving of a mother's hug?
"Are you with me my sorceress, have you gone deaf and mute since entering my home?" Willow asked waving a hand in Tara's face, "have you gone blind as well?"
"There you are then; all senses intact I assume; I was saying you just pump the water out of this here," Willow pointed to the metal machine impaled in the ground, "it's not too hard really to do the pumping, if it gets stuck let me know, just pour it in this bucket and go inside the curtain," again she pointed, this time to a thin white sheet attached to two wooden poles on the ground, "it doesn't offer too much privacy but it's more modest than bathing in the nude for all to see; anyway I'm off to find you a towel."
"Th-thank you," Tara said, watching the assassin turn around; and beginning to pump; wishing after a while that she had listened to the instuction.
Willow returned a few minutes later, Tara could see the approaching little, booted feet from underneath the curtain.
"Aren't you done yet?"
"I did not choose to spend two days in the hot, sweaty desert strapped to the back of a camel; not to mention being made to roll around on the desert sand with my ankles and wrists bound so excuse me if I take a little longer than 2 minutes."
"Are you saying you didn't enjoy our tie-up game?" To which Tara responded with a half-a-bucket of water thrown at Willow's head, "you should've said so if you wanted to bathe together," Willow said, quickly recovering.
"You are impossible," Tara said to Willow; her head peeking over the top of the curtain as she stood on her tip toes.
"Yes, yes I've been told... are you done now?"
"N-no... I um, I need more water," the sorceress said sheepishly.
"Oh you need more water? Why, why do you need more water?"
"B-because I am not yet clean."
"You would be, if you hadn't thrown it at my head... I suppose now you want me to pump it for you, well I will, though I should make you come out and do it on your own."
"Yes... what a kind-hearted murderer I was blessed with; I should thank the gods that brought you to me," Tara said sarcastically.
"It's so good to be appreciated," Willow said with a smile as she went about her task; quickly filling the bucket and slipping it inside the curtain; "hurry up would you, I'm hungry."
"I'm almost done... two-days' worth of grime doesn't just fade away you know."
"Maybe you need an extra pair of hands in there." This time 3/4 of a bucket full of water was aimed at her and Willow decided she no longer needed a bath as she was thouroughly soaked.
"I'm done," Tara said, "may I have the towel now?"
"Yes I think I'm done as well," Willow said handing Tara the towel.
Tara looked at the towel and again a wet, blonde head peared from over the curtain, "where's the rest of it?"
"Whatever do you mean?" Willow asked in a voice that was much too sweet to be considered genuine.
"Don't you think it's a little... small?" Tara asked quirking an eyebrow at her.
"It was the only one we had..." Willow said, and her face would have been the perfect picture of innocence if it wasn't for the smirk on her lips (what would one day be known as the 'shit-eating grin').
"Right... you truly are impossible."