Willow stared down at the list of names and addresses on her palm pilot, carefully marking off each of the ones they had already checked. It was the list Tara had e mailed her of the people who had purchased hellebore from the Magic Box in the past month. As it turned out it was not a popular purchase, only six people having brought it. It had been simple enough for Willow to match the names to addresses on her trusty laptop.
Buffy turned the car off as they pulled up outside the second to last address, a wry grin on her face as she stared at Willow for a few moments.
"I'd really like to know how you got that list Will," Buffy commented while they both exited the car, "Something tells me that it was not through official channels."
"Buff..." Willow began, a dangerous tone in her voice.
"Yes?" Buffy asked eagerly.
"Shut it," she growled.
Buffy just smirked and looked up at the quaint, narrow townhouse in front of them. Carefully manicured window boxes were a riot of late spring colour and a black cat sat patiently on the porch. Willow doubled checked the address and had an annoying feeling of déjà vu. It was almost exactly the same as the last four houses they had visited. All occupied by little old ladies who swore that hellebore was very effective for ridding roses of aphid infestations.
"Your girlfriend could've told you this stuff is as common as garden fertiliser," Buffy growled as they walked up to the front door, the cat rubbing at her leg as though she were an old friend.
Willow reached out her finger and pressed the doorbell once, "Firstly, she's not my girlfriend... and secondly, this stuff isn't common, it's just..."
The door swung open to reveal a tiny old woman, her wild grey hair doing it's best to escape from the bun atop her head. At first she did not even see Willow and Buffy but instead her attention went to the black cat who bounded inside.
"Oh Mrs Kitty, I completely forgot about you..." just as Willow and Buffy were about to roll their eyes at one another the small woman looked up at them with a broad smile on her face, "And what can I do for you young ladies?"
"Mrs Gibbs? I'm Detective Rosenberg," Willow said nodding her head politely, "This is Detective Summers and we'd like to ask you a few questions if you have the time."
"Certainly, certainly, come on in," she ushered the two detectives inside with a wave of her hand.
Willow and Buffy entered the well-kept house that smelt faintly of cats. Indeed, as they walked through into the kitchen they found Mrs Kitty watching protectively over a basket full of tiny kittens. Even as they watched one ventured forth on it's stubby little legs, practically falling out of the basket. Once it had discovered its new freedom it began to explore, watched over by its mother. Willow found herself smiling, she had always wanted a cat when she was young but her parents had only gone as far as to allow her a few goldfish.
"Have a seat dears. Would you like a cup of tea?" Mrs Gibbs asked, indicating the kitchen table before crossing to the old fashioned kettle to fill it with water.
"Ah, no thank..." Willow began.
"That would be lovely," Buffy silenced Willow with a look.
Mrs Gibbs beamed happily before she turned her back on the pair to pull cups and saucers out of the cupboard. As her back was turned Willow raised her eyebrows questioning at Buffy. The blonde replied in a low whisper,
"We've been traipsing around all morning Will!"
And with that Willow was silent. They refrained from asking any questions until Mrs Gibbs had delivered two steaming cups of tea and two ample slices of coffee cake.
"Now, you had some questions to ask me I believe?"
Willow took a polite sip of her tea, "Yes, Mrs Gibbs, are you familiar with he herb known as hellebore?"
A look of complete surprise passed over the elderly woman's face for just a moment before she quickly composed herself once more.
"Yes, I recently purchased some... it's not illegal is it?"
"No, s'not," Buffy replied, her mouth completely full of cake.
"It is not," Willow clarified in case Mrs Gibbs had not managed to pick up what Buffy was saying through her food, "But we would like to know what your purpose was in purchasing it?"
"My roses of course," Mrs Gibbs replied quickly.
Buffy and Willow shared a small, hopeless glance. Willow felt Miss Kitty rub up against her leg, for some reason the black cat was purring loudly even though cats usually sensed Willow's hostility and steered well clear of her. For some odd reason she felt compelled to reach down and scratch the animal behind the ears. Miss Kitty purred even louder as Mrs Gibbs continued.
"But you must understand, they are prize winning roses you see... I would not use hellebore on a common garden rose, it's much too dangerous and expensive. You only need a minute fraction... I would never use large quantities of it, I would never have even known to use it but for my dear friend Elizabeth Goldstein put me on to it, Libby was very knowledgeable about herbs and such..."
"Was?" Willow asked, her fleeting hope quickly dashed.
Mrs Gibbs face fell slightly, "Libby lived in Chicago and we used to correspond frequently. We went to high school together you see and always remained close chums despite moving away from one another. However, the last letter I sent in 1996 came back marked deceased, I never did find out how she died."
Interesting... Willow instinctively scribbled a quick note on her palm pilot, Elizabeth Goldstein, Chicago? "Well... we're sorry to have troubled you Mrs Gibbs... but thank you very much for your help," Willow said, her chair scraping back as she rose to her feet.
"It's no problem at all..." Mrs Gibbs was saying as Buffy glared at Willow, annoyed at the interruption to her morning tea.
The blonde drained her tea in a few quick gulps and joined Willow in standing, the two detectives moved towards the hallway and the front door, followed by the curious black cat and Mrs Gibbs.
"If you need anything else, don't hesitate to call again."
"Thank you Mrs Gibbs, good day," Willow said impatiently.
"Fanks for... cake," Buffy was still chewing.
Buffy and Willow pulled up outside the last address, an apartment block in a part of town neither would want to venture into after dark.
"Right, last one," Buffy checked the address against their list as she climbed out of the car.
"And we are not staying for a cup of tea!" Willow snapped as she slammed the car door behind her.
Buffy frowned at her best friend and partner as they walked up the front walk together, "Will, what's your problem?"
"Nothing," Willow muttered sullenly, feeling like a child for her impatience, "I mean... .I'm just sick of the lack of info... we don't have anything at all pointing to the people who did this and this whole day has been a waste of time. I don't know why I thought this would get us anywhere. If you were going to commit a crime, you wouldn't just walk into the local magic store and buy the ingredients would you?"
"Why not? I seem to recall a red head, who shall remain nameless, once telling me that any lead at all should be explored at the risk of missing something important... do you remember that Detective?"
Willow glared at Buffy as they entered the building, it's walls were covered in a liberal amount of graffiti and litter was built up against the walls and in corners. Just as she pressed the button for the lift, Willow felt Buffy smack her in the arm. The blonde pointed to a sign tacked right in front of the red head which read, ‘lift fucked.' Buffy grinned and started bounding up the stairs as only she could. Willow followed at a much more sedate pace.
"So?" Buffy called back down the stairs where Willow was already started to feel her heart rate lift, "Do you remember saying that?"
"No," Willow mumbled.
"Well, you did... so stop your whining and follow me!"
"I wasn't whining," Willow puffed, trying to keep up with Buffy who was taking the stairs two at a time.
Buffy reached the fifth floor well ahead of Willow, searching for the number on the door. She found it and knocked very sharply as Willow caught up to her. The red head was puffing slightly just from the exertion of climbing up the stairs. Buffy looked at her and smirked widely.
"Getting a bit lazy in your old age are we?" she asked as she rapped on the door again, "You know, you are looking a little saggy around the middle these days..."
"I am not!" Willow retorted angrily, "Just because you can't eat all the donuts you want and still look like that! Stop being bloody stupid, we're working."
Buffy looked at the door with a raised eyebrow, "Well, this isn't working," she pounded the door once more and altogether much louder this time.
"Buffy!" Willow hissed, "They're obviously not home, you don't need to disturb the entire building!"
There was a click of a door handle turning behind them and both detectives spun around to see a grey covered head peering out from behind a thick pair of glasses. The frail old man just stared at them for a few moments before actually speaking.
"What you ladies want with him?" his raspy voice gravelled out.
"Sir, do you know Mr Belov?" Buffy asked, deftly flicking open her ID.
"Weird bastard!" the old man snapped, "You come to arrest him?"
"Sir, have you seen him lately?" Willow was trying to remain patient.
"Nope... hasn't left his apartment in days... and I would know!"
Willow did not doubt that he would. He appeared to be the sort of person who closely observed comings and goings with military-like regularity. She glanced to Buffy and the blonde nodded. Buffy walked to the door, standing directly in front of her.
"Sir, if you don't open the door in the next ten seconds we're going to kick the door down!"
"We?" Willow asked dubiously.
Buffy shrugged and started counting down, "... 3... 2... 1..."
With an almost effortless kick the door went sailing inwards and both Buffy and Willow were greeted with an awful stench as they entered cautiously. The source of the stench was not just the disgustingly dirty state of the apartment... but a body lying face down on the floor. It was clear he had been dead for days, the blood surrounding him on the floor long since dried up. Both women wrinkled their noses at the smell as they edged closer to the body of the middle-aged man dressed in only a bathrobe.
"The door was locked from the inside," Willow commented needlessly, "Suicide?"
"How on earth would you stab yourself in the back?" Buffy was nearer the body, she could clearly see the stab wound, "Nothing about this makes sense," Buffy murmured as she fished in her pocket for her cell phone.
Willow on the other hand was pacing a small track of floor in anger, "Why are we always one step behind? All we do is play catch up to these monsters and I'm getting sick and tired of it!" Willow burst out angrily.
"It might not even be related," Buffy had to point out as she held her phone, about to dial.
"No..." Willow whispered hunkering down close to the floor, "It's related."
Buffy frowned, "What makes you think that?"
Willow stared down at the grimy floor. Her index finger hovered a few centimetres above the ground and traced out the occult symbol drawn on the floor in dry blood.
She sighed, "My spine's tingling."
Willow was bent over her desk, head down, pen flying when Buffy barged in late that afternoon. It was a typical Willow pose, deep in concentration and oblivious to any distractions. Or so it seemed. Even as Buffy watched, Willow would work furiously for a few moments and then stop as though she had a sudden and very important thought. This happened several times in the space of just a minute. Buffy snorted with laughter when she saw a very large ink stain on Willow's upper lip from where she had been sucking on her leaky pen.
Willow looked up as though only just realising that Buffy was in the room even though the blonde had entered the room with all the finesse of a bull.
"Why are you so jumpy this afternoon Willow, anyone would think you were on drugs?" Buffy plonked her butt down on Willow's desk.
Willow shrugged and immediately went back to tapping her ball point pen on the edge of her desk.
"You're seeing her aren't you?"
"Seeing who? No I'm not," Willow replied quickly... much too quickly.
"You are!" Buffy seized upon Willow's slip in concentration and grabbed her partner and best friend in a headlock, squeezing gently.
Willow flailed her arms helplessly as Buffy refused to let up, her actions demanding an answer. However, just as Willow was about to spill due to lack of oxygen, she was mercifully saved when her phone suddenly rang. Buffy immediately released a pink-faced Willow from the headlock. Willow picked up the ringing phone and answered with a brisk hello, all the while still glaring at Buffy.
"This is all most perplexing Tara, are you sure it was hellebore that the detectives found at the scene?" Giles asked as he studied the symbols in the books open around him. He looked up at Tara to find her glaring playfully and he smiled apologetically, "Of course it's hellebore... it shouldn't be though, it has no place in spells with either of these symbols as far as I know... maybe..."
He removed his glasses and began polishing vigorously as he always did when he was unsettled. Tara came to stand behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as though in reassurance.
"Maybe it's because it's something you don't know," she ventured quietly, knowing full well that Giles liked to think he knew almost everything when it came to the occult.
Giles spluttered, "Well, no... I'm sure if I..." he sighed, "You're very right, I don't know... I'm going to get on the phone with the Council and see if they have any references to hellebore being used in banishing spells..."
"Or spells of opening," Tara added thoughtfully, "How can you banish something and let it in at the same time?"
"Whatever it's purpose, you were right to bring this to me Tara. I have a feeling this case is beyond the skills of our intrepid detectives..."
"Willow is very bright," Tara was quickly to defend the red head, she blushed beneath Giles' scrutiny, "I mean, Detective Rosenberg is very capable and she seems very open to other explanations other than science or reason."
"Nevertheless, I'll have Faith see what she can pick up from the local demons about this cult... if it is a cult... and I'll get back to you as soon as possible if I learn anything from the Council."
Tara nodded before biting her lip, she did not know why she was so nervous asking Giles to baby sit Ashley. He had done it countless times in the past, and even while she was on a rare date. For some reason though, the fact that it was with Willow made her a little more conscious of the Englishman's opinion and whether he would approve her seeking to further her acquaintance with the detective. She settled for the bare facts...
"Giles... I'm going out on Friday, can you watch Ashley for me?"
Giles looked up at her with a regretful expression, "I'm sorry Tara but I'm going to Boston Friday morning. I'll be gone the entire weekend," the Magic Box's door opened and Faith sauntered in, "What about Faith?'
Tara's heart sank as she knew her last option was leaving Ashley with Faith. It was never a pleasant prospect when the baby sitter was a magnet for all the nasty things that lived in the city but as a last resort she would have to do.
"What about me?" Faith asked, coming up behind Tara to encircle her waist with muscular arms, her eyes narrowed suspiciously, "You want me to baby sit Ashley while you go bump pelvises with that cop?"
"Faith!" Tara snapped, squirming out of Faith's grip, "I'm not going to be bumping anything with Willow...but will you please?"
Faith looked genuinely sorry, "Tare, it's a Friday the 13th, natural party time for vamps... I can't sit at home at night, who knows what will be going down in the nasty little dark places around town... but what's to stop you from inviting Willow over here?"
Tara snorted, "I can't do that, I mean Ashley would be here... and what would we do?"
"Send Ashley to her room and have lots and lots of sex of course."
"Faith!" Tara snapped again in horror.
"See, precisely what I mean, you don't want to get down and dirty with Red anyway so why do you need to go out? Order pizza... rent a schmaltzy movie... just spend time with her... that's all you want isn't it T?" Faith asked.
For a few seconds both Giles and Tara could only stare at Faith, not quite believing the display of seriousness coming from the brunette. Giles found himself nodding and it was Tara's turn to stare at them both in bewilderment.
"I hate to say it, but it appears that Faith is right," Giles added.
"What is this? I'm being double-teamed!" Tara exclaimed even as Faith grabbed her arm and propelled her towards the office at the back of the store.
Faith just laughed as she pushed Tara in, "Phone," she pointed, "Call," she made a phone shape with her fingers and then shut the door on Tara.
Tara just sighed and looked at the phone sitting on the desk as though it were an instrument of torture. She drew Willow's card from the pocket of her jeans where she had put it for some strange reason that morning. She ran her thumb lightly over the embossed name, Willow Rosenberg... Willow and Tara... Tara smirked, their names sounded pretty damn good together...
After several attempts at dialling and hanging up she finally let it ring. Although she very nearly slammed the phone back down when she heard Willow's terse and grumpy-sounding greeting on the other end.
"Um, hi W-Willow... it's Tara..."
"Hey!" Willow's voice was surprised and overly enthusiastic on the other end. Tara's heart leapt just at the sound of her voice but even as she began to speak Willow added quickly, "Can you wait just a second?"
"Sure..." even as Tara replied she heard a muffled conversation , Willow had obviously cupped her hand over the receiver but not very effectively.
"Get out!" she heard Willow whisper urgently.
"Why? Who is it?" someone else was saying.
"Buffy, just leave! It's... it's... please just leave will you?"
"It's her isn't it? Ooh! Can I stay? Can I?" Buffy was pleading.
"Buff! Piss off!" Willow hissed.
Tara heard the door close in the background and a short moment later Willow's unmuffled voice was back on the other end.
"Hey, sorry about that..."
"Say hi to Buffy for me won't you?" Tara said whilst giggling slightly.
"I-I..." Willow giggled nervously, "Sorry...your call took me a little by surprise that's all and the last thing I wanted was Buffy listening to every stutter and giggle that comes out of my mouth."
For a moment Tara almost forgot while she had called in the first place, it was intoxicating listening to the sound of Willow's voice, "Tell me about it... I had to dial you three times because I kept chickening out and hanging up..." Tara paused, "You must think I'm a complete doofus..."
"I do!" Willow replied emphatically, "but I mean that in the best way possible!"
"Um, no, Willow the reason I called is I can't find anyone to look after Ashley Friday so I won't be able to join you for dinner."
"Oh," the single syllable from the red head sounded so completely and absolutely disappointed it made Tara wish she could reach out and hold her close, Willow continued albeit in a much more subdued manner, "T-that's fine Tara..."
Tara quickly interrupted, "But I-I was wondering if you would care to join us for dinner... at m-my place... if you want to spend your Friday evening stuck in a crappy apartment drinking pop and possibly, god forbid it, playing board games..." she let out a nervous giggle to fill the momentary silence over the phone line.
The silence however, did not last long at all. Willow quickly recovered from the crushing disappointment she had felt for a few awful seconds. It was replaced by a sense of jubilation and even more excitement, She wants me to come to her house! And she asked me to play board games with her! Willow grinned as though the act of playing board games together was highly significant in itself. Which of course it wasn't... she was just over the moon that she would still get to see Tara on Friday.
"Yes!" Willow burst out, practically yelling down the phone before she managed to reign herself in, swallowing quickly she continued, "I mean, that's fine Tara... of course I'll join you... wild horses couldn't keep me away," Willow paused as though she were considering something, "Well, to be honest, I think they might because I really don't like horses and wild ones would be altogether more frightening..."
"Um Willow," Tara laughed at the red head's adorable babble, "Somehow I don't think there will be wild horses in your way... but if there are I'll forgive you if you don't make it."
"Oh I'll make it, I'll make it," Willow said quickly.
"So is 5pm alright?"
"Fine... do you want me to bring anything?"
"Nope, just yourself," Tara said quietly, wishing she had the guts to say, your beautiful self.
As soon as Willow hung up a few moments later Buffy burst back into the room, a ball of ballistic energy as she relentlessly questioned Willow on her plans with the mysterious blonde.
Friday night Willow practically bounded up to the door of the Magic Box and unlike her previous visits she had no hesitation in opening the door. The closed sign was showing but Willow felt a surge of excitement in knowing that it applied to everyone bar her. Tara was leaning against the counter as she studied the account books while Ashley was sitting at a small round table scribbling away in a book of her own. When she saw Willow her face broke out into a broad smile and she leapt down from her chair.
"Officer Willow!" she said excitedly, coming to stand before Willow, still grinning from ear to ear.
She looked remarkably like her mother, right down to the gorgeous, half-smile. However that the trace of shyness that seemed to be permanently evident in Tara's own beautiful smile was missing in Ashley's. Her bold eyes twinkled with mischief and energy.
"Hey Ashley," Willow hunkered down so she was more of a height with the small girl.
She drew out a baseball from the pocket of her jacket and tossed it in the air, "I caught this in the last game of the World Series last year and I thought, after seeing your baseball cap, that you might like it?"
Willow handed it over and Ashley's eyes lit up as her small fingers closed around it, rubbing the leather gently with her thumb.
"Thank you so much," she grinned up at Willow and then over to her mother, obviously pleased that she had remembered her manners.
Enthusiasm quickly replaced manners as Ashley whooped and tossed it into the air. She caught it and almost unbalanced into a table full of crystals. Even as the last crystals had ceased tottering precariously she glanced up at her mother with a very sheepish expression on her face.
"Upstairs with you!" Tara scolded lightly.
"Can I set the monopoly board up?" Ashley asked, keeping a tight grip on her new baseball.
"Willow might not even want to play monopoly," Tara directed the question at Ashley, all the while looking at Willow from the corner of her eye.
"Monopoly it is," Willow grinned at both the girl and her mother.
"Woohoo!" Ashley took off up at the stairs in a dead sprint, only remembering hallway up them to slow down a little, proceeding at a brisk walk while Willow and Tara followed at a more sedate pace.
Tara ushered Willow up the stairs first in the manner of a good host, the side effect of this being that she could ogle Willow's butt as she walked behind her. She felt the heat rise in her face at the sight of Willow in her tight jeans. A few moments later she had to glance away lest she do something inappropriate. Hands to yourself Maclay! When they reached the to of the stairs, Willow turned to Tara with the tiniest of grins on her face as though she knew full well what Tara had been thinking. Tara had to fight to keep the heat rising from her face as she tried to take her mind off what had just transpired.
"C-can I-I take your coat Willow?" Tara asked from behind her, even the simple question making Willow's heart flutter.
"Thank you," Willow removed her light jacket and handed it to Tara, their fingers brushing ever so lightly in the process.
Willow watched Tara move to hang up the jacket on the old fashioned coat rack to one side of the apartment's door. The blonde was gorgeous even in a simple flowing print skirt and a casual top which lightly hugged her breasts. The red head found herself letting out a long, silent breath, This is going to be a long night...
The three of them settled in for an enthusiastic game of monopoly. Ashley was concentrating hard due to the fact that she was usually limited to junior monopoly. She had her game face on, her tiny nose wrinkled in concentration.
A few hours later the game was drawing to an exciting close as both Tara and Ashley were running neck and neck. Between them they owned most of the properties on the board and had large piles of cash sitting in front of them. Willow on the other hand was down to her last few dollars, having just landed on one of Ashley's key properties much to the little girl's delight.
Willow landed on a chance square and took the card from the top of the pile and her face fell when she saw what was written on it. She clutched it to her chest and would not show Ashley or Tara. Tara for one was not about to let her conceal it. She made a dive for Willow's hands and struggled to prise them apart. Willow collapsed into a fit of giggles as Tara set about tickling her.
"Oi! I'll show you, just lemme go!" Willow squeaked, fully aware of Tara's fingers on her body.
Tara snatched the card from Willow's hand and read it with great delight, "Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200!" Tara exclaimed, throwing the card into the middle of the board and clapping with delight.
Willow moved her playing piece into the jail cell and Tara grinned from ear to ear as the detective was sent to her place. She groaned loudly and put her head in her hands.
"I have no money, mortgages galore and now I'm in jail! I suck at monopoly" Willow wailed.
"You've told me you're very good at other things," Tara smirked suggestively, recalling Monday's conversation, "Like... cooking and reciting the periodic table among other things..."
"What other things?" Ashley asked in a curious voice.
"Um, I think that's it for monopoly," Tara spoke up quickly, "How about you and I tie for first and Willow finishes a respectable second?"
Ashley looked as though she were seriously considering this for a moment before nodding gravely, "Willow is second... even though she got her butt kicked."
"Shut up you and go and put a video on," Tara scolded lightly as Willow laughed.
Tara and Willow settled back onto the couch. Willow trying discreetly to position herself so that Tara would be tempted to lean on her shoulder at some stage during the movie. However, even as she was edging along the couch closer to the blonde, Ashley leapt back onto the couch right between Tara and Willow. The little girl snuggled into her mother's shoulder completely oblivious to the sound of Willow's bubble bursting.
Nevertheless, Willow loved the computer animated cartoon and she loved it even more when Tara laughed. Listening to the musical sound almost made up for the fact that her own snuggling efforts had been thwarted by another woman... a pint sized one at that.
When the closing credits began to roll Willow glance across to see Ashley's eyelids half-closed, well on her way to falling asleep. Tara ruffled Ashley's hair, the seven year old looked up sleepily and replied with a very wide yawn.
"We should get you to bed kiddo, I think bed time came and went about four hours ago."
"Not... sleepy," Ashley mumbled in a voice that said otherwise.
Willow realised that she really ought to make her exit despite the fact that she could have stayed with Tara all night long and it would still not be enough time spent with the blonde. She had the feeling that forever would not be long enough.
"I should take my leave as well," Willow could not keep the reluctance out of her voice.
Tara glanced up as Willow rose from the couch, her bottom lip moving as though she wanted to say something to the contrary. One part of her was screaming inside her to ask Willow to stay... and yet Tara knew that was not the part she ought to be listening to. Her mind knew full well that they had all the time in the world.
Gently easing a half-asleep Ashley down onto the couch, she joined Willow in standing. Crossing to get Willow's jacket for her. As Tara handed her the jacket Willow stood in the doorway, feeling a terrible heat rise up in her face.
"Um, I had a really great time tonight," Willow said, glancing up to meet Tara's gaze.
"Y-you're not just saying that are you?" Tara asked nervously, "Because if you were terribly bored you can say so..."
"Bored? Tara I haven't had that much fun for simply ages. Tara... I meant it... how could I be bored around such a fantastic... interesting... and beautiful woman?"
"Now you are just saying that!" Tara let out a nervous giggle although her cheeks went beet red and she ducked her head.
Willow reached out and with two gentle fingers lifted Tara's chin back up, "Please don't do that when you're around me... you shouldn't be embarrassed to show people that face... it's breathtaking."
Tara's face went almost as bright as Willow's hair as both stood unmoving in the doorway. Neither it seems, were prepared to make any sort of move other than stare into one another's eyes with very stupid expressions on their faces.
"Aren't you going to kiss her goodnight?" Ashley asked with a curious grin on her face.
Willow and Tara had both completely forgotten the small girl was still in the room and they both turned around now to see her standing in the middle of the room. Her small face was looking up at them expectantly. Both women were caught off guard by the child and both were red faced and embarrassed. Willow shuffled her feet while Tara ducked her head once more. Gazing at the soft skin of Tara's cheek even as she shifted from foot to foot, Willow felt a momentary surge of boldness. Leaning forward quickly she pressed her lips against that smooth surface. Her heart leapt as she did so, the touch was electric and even as she pulled back a second later she was still buzzing. Tara looked up in surprise, her expression not unlike that of a school child pecked on the cheek for the very first time. Willow's face broke into a cheeky grin as she made her exit,
"Bye Tara," she whispered.
"Bye Willow," Tara replied in what was a slightly sultry voice that promised so much more than just a peck on the cheek.
Once outside into the night air, Willow tossed her car keys in the air and caught them with a jaunty flick of her wrist. After a night like this, nothing was going to get her down. The strains of her favourite Black Eyed Peas song filled her ears and as always it took her a few moments to realise that it was her phone ringing. She dug into her pocket and answered with an enthusiastic hello.
"Hey Will..." Buffy was on the other end.
Willow burst out before Buffy could even finish her greeting, "It went great!"
"What?" Buffy asked in a confused and impatient tone.
"My date of course dumb arse! Aren't you calling to ask how it went. Although I do think it's a bit presumptuous of you to call me this early... I mean, Tara and I could've been... no scratch that, this Rosenberg taking it slow... she's worth it Buff..."
"Willow! I'm really glad to hear your night went well but will you shut the hell up for two seconds!" Buffy almost yelled down the phone.
Willow was suitably chastised, "Steady on, if you're not calling to ask how my night went then what..."
It was Buffy's turn to interrupt and she did so very quickly, "I am calling because I just received the strangest phone call... from someone calling himself a guardian..."