Chapter 8 (Willow)
Willow couldn’t help but glare at Spike, sure he wasn’t the reason the military was up in arms with the Scooby Gang, but his cocky attitude was doing little to calm her down. She was supposed to wait for a phone call from Dawn’s cell phone so she knew when to go over to the Espresso Pump.
Tension coiled itself around her core, she should be at the Espresso Pump, if this military group tried anything funny in the next few minutes, Willow wouldn’t find out until it was too late to do anything. Sure she would use everything in her vast arsenal of Magical spells, and knowledge to track her girlfriend down, but that knowledge did little to calm her down.
Willow thought back to the last time she had lost Tara, remembering the look on Tara’s face as Glory fed from her mind, the overwhelming panic that almost seemed physical.
Willow eyed the clock on the wall anxiously. Surely it had been at least a half of an hour since Tara had left. She was somewhat shocked to discover that it had only been three minutes since Tara had left to go to the Espresso Pump.
Willow began to pace, sure even she found the habit to be annoying, but she couldn’t help it. Willow walked the length of the store three times before Spike said anything.
“What?” Even she was surprised at how snappish she sounded,
“It’s gonna be alright.” Spike answered, somehow not bothered by the situation, or by Willow snapping at him.
“You don’t know that!” Willow provided in an attempt to argue with Spike.
“Seeing as how she’s got the Bit there to protect her, I’m sure she’s fine.” Spike returned evenly.
An unbidden memory of Tara’s birthday flashed through her mind. Almost as happy as the memory made her, it also brought a renewed wave of melancholy. Buffy wasn’t there to enjoy the memory with her. Buffy was dead, and her soul was probably in the Hell bitches home dimension. Her sadness turned to anger; she wouldn’t be helpless for Tara.
She was about to begin pacing again when her phone rang. Seeing Dawn’s name flash across her screen spurned her into motion.
“Spike it’s time!” She practically ordered the vampire. “We’ll rendezvous at the Espresso Pump.” Willow smiled a little at how much she sounded like a soldier.
“Oi! Don’t forget the marshmallows!” Spike called after her.
Willow walked with purpose driving her every step. The three hundred and some odd number of yards between her and Tara were too many in her opinion. Willow began to cross the street when a car beeped angrily at her.
“Sorry!” Willow called out to the driver, somewhat chagrined.
The driver made no response as he continued down Maple Court. Willow huffed and checked both ways before crossing the street. Children ran out of Noah’s arcade, scurrying to a minivan, their mother following behind them.
The Espresso Pump loomed in front of her. A quick glance through the patio showed Tara engaged in conversation with the military group. Willow quickly studied the group. She had met the Major the previous day; she was with the kind of overly friendly, smiley guy Jonas. The other two from what she could see were different. There was an older guy who kind of reminded her of Nicodemus Legend from a TV show she watched as a child, and a dark skinned guy that looked like he could bench press a tank.
Willow took a calming breath and walked into the Espresso Pump. Willow smiled when Tara turned to face her, hoping she looked reassuring. Tara quickly turned back to the military group. Deciding that Tara was safe enough for now Willow made her way to the counter.
The attendant Chelsea smiled warmly at Willow. Willow returned the smile.
“How are you doing today?” Chelsea asked.
“Good!” Willows response was light hearted.
“So do you want your regular?’ Chelsea asked after a beat.
“No.” Willow answered; even she recognized the answer as rushed. “I think I want to try something different today.” She continued, hoping that it sounded like a plausible answer.
“So, what can I get you?” Chelsea asked smiling.
Willow studied the menu for a second. “I think I’ll try the Double Pump Caramel Mocha Cappuccino.”
Chelsea seemed scandalized. “Willow that has caffeine!”
“Ok.” Willow shrugged her shoulders, not really paying attention to what Chelsea was saying. “And can I have a hot chocolate?” Willow asked politely.
Willow knew if she didn’t at least ask about the marshmallows for Spike she would never here the end of it.
“Oh, and do you have the marshmallows, you know the little ones?”
Chelsea chuckled warmly. “I’ll check, but I make no promises!”
Willow couldn’t prevent the warm smile that crept across her face. “How much?” Willow questioned after a short minute.
“They’re on the house today.” Chelsea said.
Willow was about to protest, and it seemed that Chelsea realized it too, because she interrupted the protest before a word left Willow’s mouth.
“Eh, eh, eh. How many times have you and your friends helped keep the gang members away?” Chelsea demanded.
Willow blushed slightly, “A few times” she admitted.
“And how many times have I said thank you?” Chelsea asked again.
Willow paused to consider, did anyone really say ‘thank you’? She couldn’t recall too many times.
“Nowhere near enough!” Chelsea said fervently, “so just take the drinks already will you?”
Willow was somewhat humbled, was this how Buffy felt at Prom? When everyone recognized her efforts. If she had known what it felt like, she would never have suggested the ballot to the Prom Committee, not that she was the only one.
“Thank you.” Willow said sincerely as she accepted the two cups.
Willow turned around and searched the café for Spike. He had chosen a table in a darkened corner near the restrooms. There was little chance of any ambient sunlight from hitting the corner. Willow smiled somewhat warmly as she approached the table.
“So, what’s going on?” She asked as she sat down, hoping that it sounded convincing enough to whoever was paying attention.
“They keep asking Glinda questions about that night.” Spike informed her. “She keeps getting flustered.”
“How can you tell?” Willow asked, noticing that Tara was directly out of Spike’s line of sight.
“I can smell her fear.” Spike admitted. “The big guy and the overly friendly guy –“ Spike paused to make sure that Willow understood who he was trying to indicate, “- there’s something not right with them.”
Willow considered what Spike could mean, and not having reached any conclusions she just asked him. “What do you mean?”
“They smell off.” Was all Spike imparted.
Willow considered her own lifestyle, and examined the evidence Spike presented. “Whatever makes them happy.” She considered further, “I wonder how they get around that whole don’t ask don’t tell thing.”
Spike snorted into his hot chocolate. “Not that kind of different, luv.”
Willow focused on trying to hear what they were saying, a blush coloring her cheeks. After several seconds of straining her hearing to its limits she turned to Spike. “What are they saying?”
“They keep implying that some kind of machine might be the reason behind Glory’s portal.” Spike answered.
“What’s Tara telling them?” Willow asked.
“Not really much of anything.” Spike told her. “The old guy is getting pretty angry.”
“Is Tara ok?” Concern flooding her tone.
“He’s controlling the anger though. I don’t think Tara even noticed.” Spike answered.
“This is killing me!” Willow admitted.
“Yeah, I figured you were never cut out for the whole James Bond kind of lifestyle.” Spike jabbed at her.
“I’ll have you know that I could totally be James Bond buster!” Willow defended herself.
“If I had the gadgets and the gizmos I could do the same thing!”
Spike grinned, “And there is the fact that you have the same taste in women.”
“Exactly!” Willow stated rather loudly.
“Yeah, you’d be a perfect 00.” Spike replied, “It’s just the keeping quiet part of the training you would fail.”
“Oh shut up!” Willow said dismissively.
Willow knew it was true, she even remembered the time Riley had brought Xander, Anya and herself out on patrol.
“These guys are good.” Spike stated simply. “Better than the bloody joke you guys call the cops.”
“Are they like the Initiative?” Willow asked quietly.
“I’m not sure pet.” Spike answered her question. “They want to know about the wanker.”
Willow was confused. “Who?”
“Ben.” Spike elaborated. Suddenly he growled.
Willow reached her hand out to cover his mouth. “Are you trying to give us away?” Willow asked.
“Tara’s scared.” Spike’s simple answer caused shivers to run up and down her spine.
Willow reached out to Tara’s mind. ‘Is everything ok?’
And although she heard Tara’s answer psychically, Spike heard her speak aloud.
“She said yes.” Spike informed Willow.
“Thank you.” Willow answered, genuinely grateful for Spike’s presence.
“Sounds like the wankers think the portal was caused by some kind of hardware.” Spike informed her. “Even found some doohickeys or something.”
Willow was puzzled, “What kind of doohickeys?”
“Something about an interface something or other.” Spike curtly informed her, trying to focus on the conversation.
Willow immediately thought of the Buffybot. Sure there had been some parts of the Buffybot that had gone missing in the fight with Glory, it was only natural. Willow tried to remember everything that she had salvaged from April, Warren’s sexbot. Maybe she had used had taken an interface drive, one of the problems she had in the beginning was power regulation.
“They’re back on the subject of the wanker.” Spike announced suddenly, and just as suddenly he snorted into his hot chocolate.
“What?” Willow asked impatiently.
“The old guy thinks Ben was a cross dresser.” Spike couldn’t keep the smirk from his face.
Willow found herself smiling as well. She wondered how the old guy might take it if he found out that Ben morphed into a crazy hell goddess. Probably not that well.
Spike announced that they were wrapping up the meeting. Willow turned to look towards the table, they were all standing. The older guy handed Tara a card and shook her hand.
Spike headed out of the back door, the sun was low enough that he could probably make it out the front door without becoming a crispy pile of ash, but he obviously didn’t want to risk it.
Willow watched as Tara made her way to the door, Tara turned and made eye contact briefly before she pushed open the door and walked out into the late afternoon air.
Willow tried her hardest to remain in the seat she had been sitting in, but her desire to hold Tara was too strong for her to worry about the obviousness of her immediate departure. So without a glance at the military team’s table Willow walked out of the Espresso Pump.
Willow absently noticed her hands were shaking, not from fear but probably from the coffee she had drank. Come to think of it she hadn’t been able to sit still the entire meeting. Willow trudged her way across the street and quickly made her way back to the Magic Box.
Willow opened the door to the oddly comforting scene of Xander hugging Tara.
“I hope you’re not getting any funny ideas Mr. Harris!” Willow’s voice echoed in the silent shop.
Tara turned to glare at Willow, her face ashen.
“Sweetie are you ok?” Willow couldn’t help but ask as she moved forward to envelop Tara in a hug.
Willow felt Tara relax in her arms. “I think I will be.” Tara whispered softly into her ear.
“Not to break up the happy reunion…” Spike interrupted impertinently, “…but where is the Bit and the Bot?”