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 Post subject: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:33 pm 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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Joined: Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:32 pm
Posts: 3121
Topics: 14
Location: H-Town, Texas
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TITLE: Ringing in The New Year

AUTHOR: Finey_McFine

RATING: PG13

DISCLAIMER: Willow, Tara and any other BtVS characters, as well as some random dialog, belong to Mutant Enemy. ALL other original characters belong to me!

SUMMARY: AU set a few years after college. It’s New Year’s Eve and Buffy is throwing a party! Willow accidently ends up with two dates, Xander gets in trouble and poor Tara is stuck in the middle.

<Thoughts are in italics>

FEEDBACK: Yes! Any glaring issues…please send me a PM!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Happy New Year Kittens! Snuggle up in a nice warm blanket with some hot chocolate and enjoy :)

___________________________________________________________________

Ringing in The New Year

Willow scowled and tapped her fingers impatiently on the grocery cart, as she slowly inched forward. Five minutes to find this stuff and twenty minutes in line. I can’t believe I let Xander talk me into coming here on New Year’s Eve! She checked her watch and sighed heavily. There was nothing Willow could do and was desperately trying not to let the unpleasant situation get her down. She glanced around at the many faces surrounding her and realized they were all in the same boat.

Another ten minutes had passed before she was able to put her items on the conveyor belt. She placed the spacer between her case of beer and the case of beer belonging to the young man in front of her. She then began strategically placing several other items according to weight, food category, etc. It would be easier and quicker for her to put the items in the cart and make with the hasty exit. The party at Buffy's house had started well over thirty minutes ago, and she knew everyone would be irritated if she didn’t get them their snacks and beverages soon.

“Finally,” She grumbled to herself as the cashier began scanning her items.

As she finished, the cashier wished Willow a Happy New Year and the redhead begrudgingly returned the sentiment. Once the cart was loaded, Willow turned and rushed towards the exit. Unfortunately, as she approached the exterior doors, something came into her line of sight, stopping her immediately.

“Damn it!” She exclaimed as she slapped her forehead. “Forgot the stupid ice. Number one on my list and one of the main reason I came to this hell-hole in the first place.” Willow grumbled as she continued to complain and berate herself.

She looked around quickly and spotted an employee policing the self-service checkout area.

“Excuse me,” Willow said to the woman, gaining her attention and smiling sweetly. "I forgot to get ice, and I was wondering if you could just let me pay you here?”

The employee stared incredulously at the young redhead. “Are you kidding me?”

“Um, no?” Willow replied sheepishly.

The employee rolled her eyes, “This register is only for making change or fixing issues.”

"Well, this is an issue…sort of."

“Ma’am, I wish I could help you, but I can’t ring you up here. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to go back through the line.”

"Come on, please? I mean, you're not going to make me go back through the line again for a two-dollar bag of ice are you?"

Once again Willow was met with a blank stare. “Yes, I’m sorry, but if I allow you to do it, then everyone will want to do it this way and it would be chaos."

"Which would be different for this current scenario how?" The redhead remarked sarcastically. And with that last comment, she was met with a cold shoulder as the employee moved away to assist another customer.

“Great, now I have to go back through the damn line…again!” Willow groused, tossing her hands up and slapping them against her thighs. Stupid Xander and his stupid obsession with making iced cocktails. Like he’s Tom Cruise or something. He just wants to impress Buffy’s girly work friends and couldn’t care less about anyone else. Big dummy.

As Willow began to make her way back into line, albeit the shortest possible line she could find, a thousand ideas began to filter through her mind. What if I just casually walk over and grab a bag like I paid for it? They never check receipts, but what if they do? What if they check mine! Willow's palms began to sweat as the panic began to build. There had to be some better way for her to get the ice and not have to endure another torturous wait in a mile long line or get arrested.

Then, as if struck by lightning, it came to her. "That's it!" She said out loud, to absolutely no one and receiving several odd looks. "I'll find someone who's already at the register to buy it for me!"

With that thought, she began to scan the area, and since she was still standing near the self-checkout lanes, she started there first. There were eight self-checking registers, all occupied, with a line of anxious patrons waiting behind them. She knew it had to be the right person; not just anyone would go for her crazy idea.

Hmm, that guy is too old, and that bickering mother and daughter won't work either. I need someone my age that'll understand my predicament. Let's see, three families- no. And two others that look like ax murderers. That leaves only one more, oh…wow. “Perfect,” Willow whispered softly, her eyes locking on the lovely blonde at the last self-check register. She still had several items in her basket and was working diligently to get them scanned.

Willow gulped audibly and repeated the word, “Perfect,” not sure anymore if she was referring to the perfect candidate for the job or the woman herself. Either way, her mind felt a bit hazy, so she blinked her eyes and tried to shake it off as she began to make her approach.

The woman had her back turned, and Willow couldn't help but smile at her attire. She was clad in the cutest pink scrubs; her top adorned with tiny Scooby Doo heads encased in flowery hearts. She was adorable.

“Um, excuse me? Hi,” Willow said, leaning in to catch the woman’s eye and giving a small wave.

The woman looked up and returned the smile. “H-Hi," She said shyly, tucking loose hair from her ponytail behind one of her ears.

Willow grinned, momentarily struck speechless. The woman was even lovelier up close and had the most breathtakingly beautiful blue eyes.

“Can I um, can I help you with s-something?” The blonde asked.

"Oh! Um, yes and I hope you don't think I'm completely crazy for asking, ok maybe a little crazy, but not completely because that would be bad and I'm not a bad person. In fact, I'm seldom naughty, and I think this may be considered cheating, although I've never actually cheated on anything before except, ok once I snuck a peek under my parent's bed before my birthday, but I don't think that counts and-"

Willow was interrupted by a loud buzz from the self check-out. “PLEASE PLACE YOUR ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA!”

The blonde jumped at the intrusive computer voice and all but threw the can of soup in her hands at the open bag. She turned back to the adorable babbling redhead with a lopsided smile. “She’s very demanding,” The woman joked.

“Apparently,” Willow giggled. Feeling a little less nervous, she took a deep breath and attempted to speak minus the lengthy ramble. “I um, I just spent over thirty minutes in line, only to forget to buy ice. So, I was wondering if I could give you the two dollars and you could buy it for me?”

The blonde frowned slightly and nodded. "Oh, sure," Tara said, quickly looking away and punching Willow's request into the computer screen.

Willow wasn’t sure what to think about her reaction. The woman had first looked like she didn’t seem to mind, but there was something else. A slight look of disappointment, maybe? She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something seemed off.

The woman finished running her groceries through and paid while Willow helped to load them into the cart. “Thanks,” the woman said, glancing up through her eyelashes.

“No problem!” Willow exclaimed, smiling brightly. “It’s the least I could do for my knight in shining armor. Errr, shining hospital scrubs?” This caused the woman to giggle, and she seemed to relax a little.

“Oh yes, they’re oh so chic and s-stylish,” The blonde added with a little curtsy, then looked down and scrunched up her face. “I just got off work and was on my way h-home or to solve a mystery...”

Willow laughed, loving her quirky sense of humor. “Well, I hear they’re all the rage this year.”

“Oh definitely, especially here at the store and on New Year's Eve, no less." The woman added with a slight frown.

Willow’s eyes grew wide, New Year's Eve! The ice! She'd been so swept up with this charming woman, that she'd forgotten all about her mission and the fact that she was also extremely late. She slapped her forehead and got an inquisitive look from her new friend. "After all my craziness, I almost walked out of here without the ice!"

The woman snickered as she held the cooler door open for the redhead. Willow placed the ice in her grocery cart and reached for her wallet.

"Oh no, d-don't worry about it. I mean, it's just a couple of bucks. No big deal."

“What?” Willow couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “No, please, you did me this huge favor. Let me repay you.” Willow pleaded.

The woman shook her head, "It was my pleasure." She said, staring deeply into Willow's eyes.

Willow smiled sappily, “Thanks,” She said as she put her wallet away and they walked side by side out to the parking lot. She’s so sweet.

They walked in silence until the blonde came to a stop. “Well, this is my exit,” She breathed, motioning towards a baby blue hatchback.

"Yeah, me too," Willow said sadly, she had enjoyed talking to this woman and could have spent the rest of the night doing so, but she had other commitments, didn't she?

“Well, it was um, really n-nice talking with you.”

“You too,” Willow said as something occurred to her. “Hey, I don’t even know your name!”

“Tara,” The blonde said shyly. “Tara Maclay.”

Willow grinned and thrust her hand forward, “I’m Willow…Rosenberg and it was very nice meeting you, Tara Maclay.”

Tara reached out and shook Willow’s hand; shooting the redhead a sweet lopsided grin.

Willow, for her part, thought she was doing a fantastic job of standing; since that smile was about to cause her to swoon. Not to mention the fact they were still shaking hands or were they now holding hands? At this point, she just wasn’t sure. “Are um, are you sure I can’t pay you for the ice?”

“Nope, not a chance!” Tara giggled, finally letting go of Willow’s hand.

Damn it, this can't be it; I have to figure out a way to see her again! Willow's mind snapped into action, and she began rifling through different scenario's, but nothing seemed plausible. I don't even know if she's gay. Not that it matters for a friend, but it's just that, God, she’s so beautiful and sweet and kind and...beautiful.

Willow’s head snapped up; on the spur of the moment, she’d decided to throw caution to the wind. “Tara, I was wondering, do you have any plans tonight? Because um, if you're not doing anything, I thought maybe you'd like to do something…with me? A-And since you won't let me pay you for the ice, the least I can do is let you partake in its use." She said, try her best to be charming and cute. “I’m headed to a party at my friend’s house and hey, it's a party! So, the more, the merrier! Right?"

There were an awkward few seconds of silence while Tara pondered the question. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Okay," Tara cooed, opening her eyes.

“Okay? Really!?” Willow was head over heels with excitement and bouncing lightly on the balls of her feet.

Tara nodded, blushing slightly and glancing down at her less than attractive attire. “But um, I need to change and get cleaned up.”

Willow beamed and waved her hands wildly in front of her. “Of course! No problem! Here, let me give you the address, and you can come over whenever you’re ready. It’s going to be a small party, and we're all perfectly harmless, I swear!” Willow madly searched her purse for a pen and piece of paper, and then hastily jotted the address and her cell in case Tara got lost.

Tara laughed; the redhead was adorable. “So um, is it formal a-and should I bring anything?”

Willow handed Tara the paper with the information. “No and no, to both questions. Totally casual, in fact, I’m wearing this,” The redhead motion to herself; clad in jeans and a red blouse with a red corduroy jacket on top. “Just bring yourself.” She said brightly, then paused, a tinge of self-doubt creeping in as she realized the blonde just might be placating her and may not be planning on attending at all. “Tara, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot or anything. You can come if you want to, or not and it's okay. I understand, you don't know me at all a-and I could be some sort of psycho that lures beautiful women to my house and-”

Tara giggle; reaching over to give Willow’s arm a gentle and friendly squeeze, “I’ll be there.”

_______________________________________________________


By the time Willow finally got to Buffy’s, there were at least ten to fifteen cars parked in front of the house. So Willow was forced to park at her place and walk over to Buffy’s instead. Her arms laden with grocery bags, she trudged through the back yard, up the steps and all but fell in through the back door

It was quite the entrance, “Ooof,” She grunted; lurching forward and nearly dropping everything in her arms.

“Oh hey, let me help you with those.”

Willow looked up to see a tallish, dark-haired woman move forward and start to relieve her of some of the cumbersome bags. "Thanks,” She mumbled sheepishly; depositing the ice and beer in a cooler by the door.

“Looks like you had your hands full. Do you have anything else to bring in that I can help you with?” The woman said, a little too enthusiastically.

Willow's brow crinkled with curiosity as she deposited the remaining bags on the kitchen island. She'd never seen this woman before and was curious as to who she was and why she was hanging out alone in the kitchen. "Um no, but thanks for the offer."

“Oh it’s no problem, I’m here to serve.” She said little, seductively? And taking a couple of steps towards the redhead.

Willow gulped audibly; her eyes wide with shock. “Umm…” Before she could finish what she started to say, the girl was up in her personal space.

“I’m Regan, and you must be Willow." The girl thrust her hand forward to shake Willow's.

Willow politely shook the girl’s hand, cocking her head in curiosity. How the hell does she know my name? “I’m sorry, um…do I know you?”

“Not yet, but you will before this night is over,” Regan smirked; winking at Willow and tickled her fingers along Willow’s palm as she released her firm grip on the redhead.

To say that Willow was taken aback would have been an understatement. Taken aback and thoroughly creeped out. She snapped her head back, and her eyes grew to the size of saucers. She was rendered speechless and not in a good way.

Regan blatantly looked Willow up and down. Proud of the effect she was having on the redhead, mistakenly taking it for a positive effect. Regan’s smirk grew wider as she turned and strutted out of the kitchen.

Willow stood stunned, her head spinning. What the frilly heck was that?! WHO the frilly heck was that?! It took her a few seconds, but then it registered.

“Hey Wills, there’s this new girl at work that I think would be perfect for you. She's even named after a president!"
Xander exclaimed proudly as if that had anything to do with
The girl’s character.

“Xander…" Willow warned, and they drove to the movies on Christmas Eve.

“I’m just saying…”

“That what, she’s gay so she must be perfect for me?”

Xander gave Willow his most charming and sheepish grin possible. "Come on Wills; it's just a thought."

“No.”

“But Wil-”

“No.”


“Damn that Xander! He never listens to me.” Willow grumbled. She heard a snort and a giggle from the other side of the kitchen. Looking up to see Buffy leaning cross-armed in the doorway, barely able to stifle herself.

“You knew about this didn’t you?” Willow accused, pointing an unopened bottle of ketchup at her best friend. “You two sent me on a grocery run so you could conspire against me!”

Buffy held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay I confess; but in my defense, I didn’t know until tonight. Please don’t shoot!”

Willow looked at Buffy sharply. "I can't believe you guys. I said no, and no means no! What, you think I can't find my own dates? Like I'm all pathetic girl or something?"

Buffy softened, "Aw Wills, come on, you know we don't think that. We just wanted to, I don't know, help you along? It's a party and New Year's Eve, I mean you don't have to marry her; just dance, canoodle and maybe have some nice smoochies to ring in the new year.”

Willow didn’t budge, “Uh huh, just what I thought. I guess my opinion about who I choose to smooch doesn’t even count.” She complained, looking away and resuming the task of unpacking the grocery bags.

Buffy sighed, she knew defeat when she saw it; especially when it came in the form of Willow’s resolve face. Instead of continuing, she opted to change the subject as she opened the freezer door. “I thought you got ice?”

“Uh huh…” Willow grinned sappily at the thought of how she acquired said ice and whispered, “Tara…”

Buffy looked all around in the freezer, but it was iceless. "I thought you said you got ice?" Buffy questioned. "Willow? Wills? Hellllooooooo?!?!?!?!”

“Huh?” Willow asked, snapping out of her giddy trance.

“Ice. Not in freezer.”

“What? Oh! I put it in the cooler with the beer. Over there.” She pointed to the bright blue cooler near the back door.

“Oh, cool. Get it?" Buffy quipped, laughing more than she should at her joke. Willow rolled her eyes. “So, how was the store, kinda crazy huh?”

Willow snorted, “That’s an understatement. There were at least a zillion people there. I had to wait over thirty minutes in line, and I was in such a hurry, I forgot to pay for the ice and oh no…TARA!”

Buffy looked perplexed. “Tara? What’s a-?”

Willow shook her head vehemently, “Not what…who. An incredibly beautiful who that I um, met at the store and sort of invited her to the party.”

Willow squirmed, "Yes, I asked her."

"Sort of?"

Buffy grinned widely, “Way to go Will!”

Willow waved her hands furiously in front of her face. “No, no no, it's not, I-I mean not that I would mind, but it's not like that. Well, not yet, but that's just wishful thinking, and maybe if I don't ruin it being me there may be a chance if I don't end up acting like a complete dork. Kinda like I am right now…and well now there’s the whole blind date thing and-”

Buffy stepped forward toward her best friend and laid a soothing hand on the nearly hyperventilating girl. "Willow, calm down. The hard part is over. You know, the asking, like ripping off a band-aid. Plus, she said yes, so she must like you too. And hey, you're not a dork. You're loveable Willow, and once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen."

Buffy's words seemed to calm the redhead, and she exhaled in relief. Although not without first blushing with embarrassment over Buffy's compliment. "Thanks, Buff," Willow said, giving her friend a big hug.

Willow's calm, however, was short-lived when Xander suddenly burst through the kitchen door. “Hey, how come I wasn’t invited to this girly hug fest?”

As the girls broke their embrace, Xander moved forward, much to his detriment and received a hard punch to his upper left arm. “Hey! And might I add, HEY! What was that for?”

Willow's fists clenched and unclenched at her sides. "That was for setting me up on a blind date when I already said no!"

Xander looked between his two friends; one smirking with amusement and the other glaring with contempt. "Well, how come she gets a hug and I get hit?"

“W-Well...” Willow stammered, “Because you’re the one I told no in the first place! What, you…you think I can’t get my own dates?” Willow repeated to Xander exactly what she’d said to her best friend only moments earlier, then continued without allowing him to answer. “Well, I’ll have you know, I already have a date…sort of, and it’s not that bratty little skank you set me up with!”

Xander’s shoulders slumped, “Okay, first, I’m sorry I didn't listen to you. Second, she’s not a bratty skank. She's just direct and to the point. Third, when did all this date stuff happen and is she cute?" He asked while wiggling his eyebrows playfully.

Buffy could see that Willow was in no mood to deal with Xander’s childish nonsense and decided to intervene before things worsened. She quickly grabbed a bag of chips and hooked her arm through Xander’s; escorting him out of the kitchen and leaving Willow to calm down. “Why don’t we take these out to our guests and I’ll fill you in.”

________________________________________________


Half a beer and fifteen minutes later, Willow had calmed enough to function properly and was anxiously awaiting Tara’s arrival. Her nerves would have gotten the best of her had it not been for the slight buzz she was feeling from the alcohol. She wasn’t a big drinker, and even half a drink was enough, plus she felt like she deserved it somehow. If for nothing more than to keep her from throttling Xander for the little stunt he pulled. Regan was becoming quite the annoyance with the suggestive leering and innuendos. Somehow, Willow had managed to avoid her advances by excusing herself to do party related tasks or use the restroom, but knew the ruse wouldn’t last all night. Willow hoped that once Tara got there, if she came at all, it would be enough of a signal to the brunette that she was not interested. One can only hope. Willow thought, rolling her eyes when she glanced across the room and caught Regan staring at her and winking once again.

Willow jumped when the doorbell rang and shouted, “I got it!” She’d made it a point to hover close by and was there within a few seconds. She took a deep breath, grinning widely as she swung the door open.

It took just a split second for the face to register and Willow’s grin was gone; replaced with a scowl. “Spike,” The disappointment evident in Willow’s voice. She wasn’t sure exactly what to make of Buffy’s latest boy-toy. He makes bad boys look good.

“Try not to look too bloody happy to see me Red.” Said the tall bleach blonde man with a British accent, as he entered with a couple six packs and another man trailing close behind him. “Buffy around?”

“Um yeah, in the living room, I think. Aren’t cha gonna introduce me to your friend?” Willow was curious about the newcomer, especially since he’d yet to lift his head.

“Oh yeah, Red – Clem. Clem – Red. There, all introduced.”

Willow glared at Spike, which he seemed to ignore. "Hi, it's Willow, my name that is…”

As the man slowly lifted his head, Willow tried not to wince at the state of his facial features. His skin was loose and droopy, and Willow was briefly taken aback before Clem smiled warmly and shook her hand. “Hi.” He said shyly. Apparently, he expected a less than enthusiastic greeting.

“Hello,” Willow replied brightly, determined to spare his feelings. “It’s nice to meet you. Drinks and snacks are in the kitchen. Please make yourself at home.” The man nodded and followed after his friend, leaving Willow to resume her position near the front door.

Time was passing excruciatingly slow, and Willow finally plopped down on the stairs to wait. She checked her watch a short time later, sighing heavily when she noticed the time. Willow had been waiting for oven an hour and realized, at this point, Tara probably wasn’t going to show up. She pulled herself up, stretching her stiff muscles and deciding just to call it a night. If Willow left now, there would still be enough time to catch most of the Dr. Who marathon on the BBC. She started down the hall towards the kitchen when the doorbell rang again.

“Hey Wills, can you get that?!” Buffy called from the dining room.

"Sure, why not," Willow answered as she backtracked down the hall.

The disappointment was making itself at home, leaving Willow to wonder why the girl hadn’t come. She was also a bit angry with herself for having such lofty expectations. With her mind swirling, she flung the door open and froze. Her mouth was hanging open like a goldfish.

The woman smiled bashfully, “Hi.”

“You came…” Willow whispered, stunned at Tara’s arrival. She’d pretty much written the girl off and left for an alternate date with a chocolate bar, but oh how things had changed. Willow couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from the gorgeous woman standing in front of her.

“Sorry I’m late, I um, had to pick something up…for you.” The blonde said softly, as she revealed a long stemmed red rose; previously hidden behind her back.

Willow couldn’t believe her eyes. “For me?” She squeaked as she reached to accept the rose.

Tara laughed lightly, “Well, unless you’re Willow’s identical twin and in that case…I’m sorry, but you’ll have to give it back.”

At that point, Willow's grin nearly enveloped her entire face. "Oh no, definitely no twins here. Thank you, Tara, that was really sweet.”

“Well, it’s the least I could do to thank you for inviting me to your party.”

Willow scoffed as she stepped aside to allow the blonde entry. “Nonsense, you’re the one that should be getting all the credit! If it weren't for you, I'd probably still be standing in that line. Hey, let’s go put this in some water, and I'll introduce you to my friends."

As they entered the kitchen, about a half dozen people were hanging out and talking. None of which were Willow's immediate friends. “Wow, this must be where all the popular kids hang out. ” Willow muttered, turning and lightly touching Tara’s forearm, “Can I get you something to drink? And Geez, where are my manners? Let me get your jacket and purse.”

Tara nodded, “A Coke, if you have one,” And turned, allowing Willow to help her out of the cumbersome garment. “Thank you.”

“No problem, I’ll be right back… don't wander off.” Willow said flirtatiously, before depositing Tara’s things in a small room off to one side of the kitchen.

Several more people entered the kitchen, and the room was now becoming quite crowded. Tara squeezed as close to the wall as possible, while still trying to keep and eye out for her new friend. Unfortunately, all she could see was a flash of red now and then.

The redhead weaved around a couple people, opened a cabinet and pulled out a small bud vase. She filled the vase with water and gently placed her rose inside, before setting it up on the windowsill out of harm's way.

Willow sighed contentedly, then turned and ran straight into Regan.

“Um, sorry.” The awkward moment made Willow blush furiously.

“Don’t be, here let me get that for you.” Regan said, opening the door to the fridge when she saw Willow reaching forward.

“Thanks.”

Willow looked in and immediately frowned; moving several items around and eventually pulling out two Sprites.

Regan snorted and put her hand up to cover her mouth. Willow looked at the girl curiously. She leaned in and all but purred in Willow’s ear; running a finger down her cheek. “You’re so sexy when you pout.” Once again, Regan was all up in her personal space, and the redhead stepped back, as much as possible in the cramped quarters, to put some space between them. She did not like the girl and did not like the inappropriate touching.

Willow was speechless and at a complete loss for words. Wow, I cannot believe this chick! Regan was leaning in yet again; a little too close for Willow’s comfort. The redhead was growing weary of the unwanted advances but somehow managed to maintain her decorum.

She scrunched her face in displeasure. “Excuse me?”

The girl grinned proudly, “You heard me and felt me too.”

Willow wasn't sure how to handle the situation with so many people around, not to mention Tara right across the room. Willow certainly did not want to cause a scene. How would she explain that to a woman she hardly knew? Instead, she decided to take the high road. “Please don’t do that again,” Then turned abruptly and made a beeline back to Tara. Leaving Regan standing dumbly, still holding the refrigerator door open.

Willow smiled shyly as she approached Tara and held out a can of Sprite. “I’m sorry, this was all I could find. I guess the Cokes gave their lives for that empty bottle of rum.” Willow grinned, nodding towards the kitchen island.

Tara returned her smile. “This is perfect, thanks. You um, you can have a drink; i-if you want. Don’t worry about me. I mean, n-normally I wouldn’t be such a s-square, but I have to drive home later, so...”

Willow laughed internally, Oh God, she’s as awkward and nervous as I am. Not wanting to make the girl feel any more self-conscious than she already was, Willow rested her free hand on Tara’s forearm and gestured towards the exit to the living room.

“Oh, no worries. I’m good; I usually don’t drink very much anyway. It um, kinda makes me a little wild and when I say wild…I mean total spazz.”

Willow quickly scanned the living room and looking for a place to sit. Unfortunately, everything was no seats available, and the volume of noise was a bit loud; not good for talking. Willow wanted nothing more than to get to know this beautiful woman and almost suggested leaving before remembering that she was supposed to introduce Tara to her friends.

____________________________________________


After the introductions had been made and the requisite small talk completed, Willow led Tara to the only two seats available; on the stairs. She motioned for Tara to have a seat and squeezed in next to her. Ha, great plan Rosenberg! I’m all about the sitting close and Tara doesn’t seem to mind either. In fact, the blonde barely moved for Willow to sit and grinned brightly when their knees knocked together. Willow noticed and gave herself an internal high five.

"So, I take it from your earlier cartoony attire; you work in the medical field?" Willow asked cutely.

Tara took a sip of soda and scrunched up her nose. “Shoot, what gave me away?” She joked, eliciting a hearty laugh from the redhead. “Well, you guessed correctly. I’m a pediatric nurse for Doctor Browning and Associates. Have you heard of them?”

“Um hmm, Dr. Browning was my doctor until I left for college. I heard he retired?”

“Yes, a few years ago. Now his son runs the practice and they have few other doctors as well.”

“Do you like it there?”

“Oh yes, I love it. The people are nice, and they take very good care of their employees. Plus, I have weekends and holidays free. It gives me more time to spend with Lucy.”

Willow frowned slightly. Great, she either already has a girlfriend or she’s straight and has a kid. “Lucy?”

Tara grinned and nodded. “Uh huh, my horse. Do umm, do you like horses?”

Willow breathed a sigh of relief and cleared her throat. “Horses, like big…tall…teeth that can take your arm off horses?”

“Well, sure. I learned to ride when I was a kid. It's fun” Tara smiled. “And, by the way, most horses don't like arm very much.”

Willow rolled her eyes, “I had a bad birthday party pony thing when I was four. I, I look at horses, and I see really big ponies.”

“You should ride with me sometime. I guarantee safety and fun!” Tara replied hopefully.

“Well, if you promise to look after me.” Feeling a sudden burst of flirty-confidence, Willow decided to take a chance and rest her hand on Tara’s knee.

She raised her hand and just as she was about to make contact, a more than tipsy supposed-to-be-blind-date, stumbled around the corner of the banister and once again, right in Willow’s personal space.

"Ah-ha, there you are, cutie! I've been looking for you. All. Night." As the brunette spoke, she pinned Willow with a seductive leer and attempted to run her index finger along the top of her thigh.

“Ugh,” To say that Willow was displeased was putting it mildly. “Regan!” Willow exclaimed as she physically pushed the intruding hand away. She’d had just about had enough of this woman. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“Well,” The girl slurred; leaning slightly closer, “I’m just tryin’ to get to know my date a little better.”

Once again, for about the hundredth time tonight, Willow’s mouth hung open, she had no words and simply could not believe the nerve of this woman. Then she felt the air shift next to her and suddenly remembered that Tara was still there. Oh shit.

For her part, Tara had been doing a masterful job of holding herself together. Until the words my date came out of the brunette’s mouth.

When Willow turned towards her, Tara unconsciously backed away. “D-D-Date? She’s um, s-she’s you’re d-date?”

“That’s right Blondie - date, D-A-T-E….date. As in Two’s company and t-t-t-three’s a crowd.” Regan spat, mocking Tara’s nervous stutter.

Willow shook her head vehemently from side to side, “Tara please, let me explain.”

That was all it took for Tara, and without warning, she jumped to her feet. She desperately wanted to get away from the uncomfortable situation, but since the brunette's body was sprawled across her exit point, the only way to go was up.

As soon as Tara stood, Willow was on her feet as well. “Tara?”

The blonde was flustered and closed her eyes as she pressed her palm flat against her forehead.

"I'm sorry, I-I didn't mean to…are-are you feeling okay."

“I’m f-fine, I just need to…go to the bathroom.” Tara turned swiftly and darted up the stairs. She needed time to clear her head.

“Thank God! I didn’t think she was ever gonna leave.” Regan said as she was attempting to stand via the stair railing.

Willow. Was. Furious. Her head whipped back in Regan’s direction, and she glared at the woman with utter contempt. "Let's get something straight, right here, right now. I am not, nor was I ever, your date. Not tonight, not in a previous life or any future lives. You need to stay the hell away from me and so help me, if you say another word to Tara and upset her any more than she is already…I'll…I’ll…personally, throw you out on your ass! Are we clear?”

Regan was shocked; her eyes were as big as saucers as she swallowed thickly and nodded in agreement. She knew she could probably take the lithe redhead in a fight, but there was something in Willow’s eyes, that made Regan not only agree, but uncharacteristically keep her mouth shut…for a change.

“Good,” Willow gave a sharp nod, “Now get the hell out of my face.”

The girl did as she was told, standing and tripping clumsily backward down the stairs. It was the redhead's eyes that had freaked her out the most. She could have sworn they'd morphed from a beautiful green to solid black in three seconds flat.

Willow reached to knock on the bathroom door, but then thought better of it; deciding to give the girl some space. Instead, she backed herself against the adjacent wall; sliding down the wall to sit and wait. No matter how long it took Tara, Willow resigned herself to the fact that she was not moving until the blonde emerged.

Some time later Tara finally emerged and was a bit startled to find the redhead on the floor across the hall.

“Willow…”

“Tara…”

After speaking at the same time, they both stood to face each other in awkward silence. Willow couldn’t help noticing how Tara defensively crossed her arms across her chest and bowed her head, allowing her hair to fall forward. The girl was obviously embarrassed, hurt and confused; it made Willow’s heart physically ache.

“Are um, are you ok?” Willow asked, taking a tentative step forward.

Tara nodded, looking up for the first time. “Yeah, but I um…I think I’m just g-gonna head out. L-Let you get back to your f-friends. T-Thanks for inviting me, though…"

Willow was in shock. That was it; Tara was leaving. The most beautiful woman she’d ever seen, who brought her a rose, who smiled the most adorable half smile…was leaving and she’d probably never see her again.

With that thought, Willow finally snapped to attention. “Tara, wait.” She called out, stepping closer and laying a hand on Tara’s arm. “Can we talk? I mean, some place quite, other than here?”

Tara sighed and thought for a moment about Willow's offer. During her extended stay in the bathroom, she'd decided it was time to go and that she'd completely misread Willow's intentions. She couldn't believe she'd been so stupid as to accept her offer in the first place or to think the girl actually liked her. But now, seeing the genuine sincerity in Willow's expressive eyes, Tara couldn't refuse. No matter how much her brain was screaming at her just to say no, her heart would not allow it and she nodded her acceptance.

“So, yeah?” Willow asked.

“Ok.” Tara quietly replied.

Willow smiled sweetly and sighed in relief; thankful that she would at least have a chance to explain and not leave things hanging between them. “Thanks,” Willow whispered and gestured for Tara to follow her.

Somehow they managed to make it downstairs, retrieve their jackets and get out the back door without any fuss. It was chilly enough outside to keep everyone inside, so they didn’t have to contend with any partygoers lingering in the backyard either.

At the bottom of the steps, Willow pulled out her cell phone and turned on the flashlight. “This way.”

About half way across the dark yard Tara finally spoke. “Um, Willow…w-where are we going?”

“Huh? Oh, I thought we could go to my place. I uh, live in the house right behind Buffy’s and I guarantee it's super quiet. Because, hello, no parties over there!” Willow was trying for a little levity, given the tense situation; except she failed to notice that Tara had stopped walking.

Tara stood nervously twisting her hands in front of her until Willow finally noticed she'd stopped and backtracked the few steps to face her. “Hey, what’s…?” Willow questioned, attempting to comfort the girl by gently touching her forearm.

It was dark, and the touch startled Tara; causing her to jump and once again, defensively cross her arms across her chest.

Willow's eyes grew wide when she realized the source of Tara’s skittish behavior and her hands shot up in front of her. “Oh God Tara, I didn’t mean…I-I was just trying to find us a nice quiet place a-and I thought if I suggested something like, ‘Hey, how about Buffy’s bedroom,’ that would be incredibly pervy and then I thought about maybe outside, but it’s sorta freezing and then your car came to mind…but then that was kinda ‘Hey, baby let’s park,’ pervy. So, then a nice cup of coffee or tea or cocoa popped into my mind, cuz of the coldness, but it's New Year's Eve, and everything is either closed or packed, Then I thought, well…I have coffee, tea and hot cocoa back at my place, and it’s quiet and-" Willow didn't get any further because there was now a cold hand cupped over her mouth.

Tara stared at Willow and couldn’t help being amused at the endless babble fest. “I get it; I just wasn’t sure about your…intentions?” Tara let the sentence hang for a second and quickly felt Willow’s mouth start to move under her hand. The redhead was interjecting something, but it was muffled, as Tara continued to keep her hand in place. “I get it.” She repeated, pinning Willow with a knowing stare. “Ok?”

Willow just nodded, and Tara released her; smiling slightly and motioning with a slight nod of her own to continue.

Once inside, Willow flipped on several light switches and led Tara to the living room. She tossed her coat across an empty chair and her keys in a bowl on a table near the front door. Turning towards Tara, the redhead noticed the woman was busy taking in her surroundings. She looked more at ease now, and Willow breathed a small sigh of relief.

"Tara? Make yourself at home, and I'll make us something. Is hot cocoa, ok?”

“Fine,” The blonde looked up, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

"Thanks, but I'd be a terrible hostess if I made my guest do all the work,” Willow said with a grin. "Besides, you look cold. There's um; there's a nice thick blanky on the couch. You should bundle up and get nice and warm."

"Thanks, Willow." Tara couldn't help but smile. The woman was so endearing and cute.

Willow nodded and set off to the kitchen, while Tara wandered around the living room; taking in the warm and inviting space. The room was cozy and decorated nicely with the usual furnishings, but what Tara was the most interested in was the pictures meticulously placed on the mantle. She instantly recognized Buffy and Xander, noticing that they were present in the majority of photos. Tara smiled at a picture of Willow and Xander at a very young age, maybe five or six, at what looked to be a birthday party; then more of the same, until about high school when Buffy and a younger brunette began to show up. There were only two other pictures present. One of Willow’s college graduation with, what looked to be, her parents and an old black and white that Tara assumed were grandparents. The blonde leaned closer to the graduation photo to get a better look at the tassel charm, class of 2003. “I can’t believe it,” She mumbled to herself.

By the time Willow returned, several minutes later, Tara had started a fire and was sitting crossed legged in front of the fireplace; nestled under the blanket. It wasn't lost on Willow how romantic the setting was, and she absently wondered if Tara had done it on purpose or if it was just because she was cold. Either way, it put Willow more at ease as she dropped down to the floor across from her new friend; handing the blonde a steaming mug of chocolatey goodness.

“Mmmmm, thank you. It’s delicious and totally hit the spot.” Willow beamed, thrilled that she had finally done something right.

Several minutes had passed before Willow sighed deeply, “I sorta don’t know where to start.”

"The beginning is always a g-good place," Tara said with a small hint of a smile; hoping to break the tension with a little bit of humor. She was truly thankful to be out of Buffy’s house and away from the noise and chaos of the party. She had never been very comfortable in social situations. “So, you have a connecting backyard with your friend?”

Willow smirked, “Well, I guess that’s about as beginning as you can get. Are you sure you want me to start there?”

“It’s as good a place as any.” Tara took a long sip and leaned back against the couch.

Willow shrugged, “Yeah, it um, wasn’t something I initially planned, but it just happened to work out. After high school, Buffy and I roomed together at UCSD, but during our sophomore year, her mom got sick and passed away.”

“Oh God, I’m s-so sorry,” Tara could see the sadness in Willow’s eyes.

"Thanks, it was pretty rough on all of us. Joyce, Buffy's mom, was kinda like…community mom. Her house was always a place of refuge for wayward angsty teenagers.” Willow chuckled and took a sip of cocoa. “Anyway, Buffy had moved home to help take care of her and her little sister, Dawn. At the time, Dawnie was only maybe thirteen or fourteen. I finished the semester in the dorm, and after Joyce had passed, I moved in with Buffy to help her out with Dawnie. Originally, it was just supposed to be for the summer, but I ended up staying five years.”

“Wow, that was an awfully long summer,” Tara quipped.

“You’re telling me,” Willow rolled her eyes playfully. "I mean, I always thought Buff and I would live together forever; until we were old and gray; cheating at bingo and forgetting to take our pills, but I don't know…" Willow shrugged, "Things change."

“Like what?” Tara was curious and hoped she wasn't overstepping her bounds, but then realized how rude and invasive the question was. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry…that’s really none of my business.”

Willow sighed deeply and blew her bangs up slightly. “No big,” Willow grinned; collecting her thoughts “I guess that’s the million dollar question…there were a lot of little things. Dawnie graduated and went off to college, Buffy’s boyfriend moved in, I finally came out, and it got a little awkward for awhile. Then I graduated, got a job and found out that adulting is a lot more difficult than it looks.”

Tara chuckled, “Adulting?”

"Yeah, for example, I got a job right out of college, that paid pretty well, but suddenly I made too much money? I had been helping Buffy out, but because nothing was in my name, I ended up owing a ton in taxes. So my Dad, ever the financial guru, suggested that I buy a house and at least I could write off the interest blah, blah, blah. It worked out because I did need to cut the cord and get out on my own."

Tara raised an amused eyebrow. “Ok, ok maybe not cut the cord exactly, more like stretched."

Tara snorted, and Willow playfully gave her knee a shove. "How about you? What’s your story, Maclay?”

“Well, my best friend doesn’t live in my backyard, if that’s what you’re wondering.” Tara grinned slyly, “But, I own my place as well. A townhouse over off of Ryerson.”

“Hey, that’s only like, five minutes from here!” Willow cocked her head curiously. “Wait, did you go to UC Sunnydale as well?”

Tara nodded, “Yes, and graduated in ’03 too, but I didn’t grow up here.”

Willow scowled, and her shoulders slumped, "How did we not meet before now?" The girl looked utterly dejected.

Tara couldn’t help but smile and shrug, “Dunno, but at least we finally did. Maybe the timing just wasn’t right.”

Willow nodded in agreement and returned a slight smile. “Maybe…Tara, I am…so very sorry for what happened tonight at the party. For the record, that girl, Regan, is not, nor was she ever, my date. Not for one single second. I mean, I just met her tonight, when I got back with the ice and stuff. Turns out my friend, Xander, decided to try and set me up with this girl he works with, so he invited her to the party tonight. Even though I told him to stop with the trying to set me up without my knowledge. A-And Buffy knew too, and she didn't even try to stop him or even warn me. She thought it was funny. Said I should relax and that I, '…don’t have to marry the girl, just hang out, get some smoochies' and then she implied 'other things,' but Tara, I'm not like that! I'm not like that at all, and I told them both that I’d be the one who decides who she wants to smooch! Which is probably one of the reasons we don't live together anymore? A-And besides, I’m a one woman type woman, not a one night type, smooch ‘em and leave ‘em type woman! A-And I know you don’t know me, but that’s the truth. I swear!” By the time Willow finished her speech/rant/babbling explanation, she was panting from a lack of oxygen and had become a tad light headed.

Tara couldn’t help the grin that took over her face. Even with the babbling or maybe because of it, Tara was smitten. To her, Willow was just about the most charming person she'd ever met.

“What?” Willow asked, as her face flushed with embarrassment.

“Well, I was just kinda wondering if you were actually gonna take a breath or just pass out?” Tara stated playfully, to which Willow rolled her eyes and smiled shyly.

“Sorry, whenever I get excited or nervous, I tend to babble.”

“I’m sorry too, Willow,” Tara said sincerely.

Willow’s brow furrowed curiously. “Sorry? For what?"

“Well, how about, jumping to conclusions and then running away? For starters a-and-”

“No,” Willow interrupted, shaking her head vehemently. “No, you have absolutely nothing to apologize for. You were an innocent bystander, and I should have told you what was going on from the start, but then I wasn’t sure you were gonna show up, and I got all moody, but then you did…" Willow whispered. "I met the most beautiful woman in the world tonight, asked her to a party, and she came." Willow was still amazed by her good fortune.

They were staring at each other, and Tara didn't know what to say. She could see the honesty and sincerity in Willow's expressive eyes and it was doing nothing but causing the lump in her throat to grow bigger by the second. Willow truly was the sweetest person Tara had ever met.

“Of course I did.” Tara breathed, not fully trusting her voice. “Can…can I ask you a question?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, I was just wondering if…if maybe I could be the p-person that you um, that you decide to s-smooch tonight?”

Willow was completely floored, but as Tara’s words began to sink in, Willow found herself up on her knees and moving toward Tara.

Once she closed the gap, Willow cupped Tara’s cheeks with both hands and pulled her closer. “For the record,” Willow breathed, “I made that decision the moment I first saw you.”

Tara smiled, her gaze shifting between Willow’s lips and her gorgeous green eyes. The redhead’s lips finally won as they pressed their lips together. They kissed and kissed and kissed. It wasn’t until they heard shouting and cheering that they finally broke apart.

Tara and Willow both turned their heads to look out the window when the bright flashes of fireworks caught their attention.

“Happy New Year Willow,” Tara whispered, turning back to face the redhead.

“Happy New Year Tara,” Willow whispered in reply; leaning in once again to claim Tara’s lips. Yes, a very happy New Year indeed.


The End.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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Last edited by Finey_McFine on Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 1:37 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Could there have been anything more perfect for Friday evening reading?

All the sweet and sappy I love :heart

When you had them unable to get a seat I was like PUT THEM ON THE STAIRS, PUT THEM ON THE STAIRS :D

Loved reading this from start to finish, well done :)

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 Post subject: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:45 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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This makes me so happy!!

Shelby, this was such a wonderful one-shot. You have a gift for "meeting and falling in love" stories.

You capture the rush of the "meet-cute", the awkwardness of "getting to know you" and the relief of "she's the one" perfectly.

Thank you for this wonderful New Year's gift!

Cheers
DW


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 Post subject: Re: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:26 pm 
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Hey, Shelby! Well, YAY!!! :dumbo I loved this! How great to read a whole new story from you! (Even if it did have the one named after one of the presidents) lol Glad to see Willow managed to tell her off and our girls rang in the New Year the way it should be. :bigkiss Fingers crossed that you'll give us more stories!


BTW, this was me reading this since it's our coldest night here since 2/2015. :brr

Great job!
Wimpy

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 Post subject: Re: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:19 am 
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Aww, that was very sweet :blush And satisfying as well, kind of the literary equivalent of the instant-appeal of snack food, but actually nutritious as well. Weird metaphor? Maybe. If it makes it any clearer (probably doesn't), one little bit that stood out for me was the unhelpful cashier person Willow spoke to first, before coming up with Plan Tara - that didn't need to be there for the story to work, Willow could've just immediately thought of asking another shopper, but it makes sense, gets the story from A to B more elegantly than just jumping straight to the next plot point - like taking the time to add shading instead of just doing a line drawing and calling it a day. Apparently I'm in metaphor mode tonight. But I wanted to single that out, because there were little details like that throughout that made the story more fleshed out than 'just' a meet-cute-chat-kiss fic. Kudos, and thanks :clap

(Also I don't want to promise anything for sure, but in a very circuitous way, this kinda-sorta-maybe gave me an idea for a short fic as well. Might take a while but we'll see what happens.)

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 Post subject: Re: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:31 am 
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Shelby, that was adorable. It's been a crappy day and that was the perfect read to lift my spirits--thank you!

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 Post subject: Re: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:32 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Very Cute :)

Never quite understood the 'so polite that it leads to misunderstandings' thing.

Mind you, without it, there would be no rom-coms/dramadies.

What a cool start to the new year.

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Ringing in The New Year [AU] (One Shot - COMPLETE)
PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:01 pm 
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Ah, Finey McFine - you did it again!

Love it! Sweet kisses and hot chocolate - doesn't get much better than that!

Of course I'm months late for New Year's but who cares! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


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