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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 20th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:32 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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Location: North Carolina, USA
DIBS :banana
Quote:
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no

Perfect song and message!!! :glasses I hope that Willow will get confident enough to risk taking off the clothes though. There is nothing like skin on skin :blush

Quote:
“I’m not trying to get up in your business, or harass you,” Emmy interjected quickly, her whole body moving to emphasize her words, “I’m just saying recognize that that special look in her eyes. That’s because of you. You give that to her. Don’t be afraid to own that. You are a bringer of joy, of Tara’s joy, and that is a role made just for you.”


Emmy must be an old soul. This is a perfect comment for Willow to hear.

Quote:
“I’m sorry I called you a slut!” she said, loud enough to get the attention of two guys getting a cup of punch.

Her hand flew to her mouth as her eyes grew wide in horror. She dropped it and smiled awkwardly at Emmy.

“I had an unfair prejudice against flute players. Gone now. Prejudice-free Willow here. But still. Very sorry.”

Emmy looked at her neutrally for a few long seconds, then her whole body bounced into a smile.

“Thanks for your honesty. I’m glad you worked on that. Be proud. Go you.”

Willow stared in disbelief at this perpetually cheery woman.

“Damn, Tara really must love me if she’s choosing me over you.”


I love Emmy. I literally laughed out loud and had to put my hand over my mouth as I was reading this at work.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 20th 2019)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 6:45 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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I am behind on responding but wow so much has happened

Donnie's revelation packed a wallop and I think it was a great choice for that to be why he is so hurt and angry. How he feels is justifiable. Turning that on Tara is obviously not. I am glad he is getting help and I can also see Tara being stung by it- she gets put in the hospital and her trip that she has worked so hard for is in jeopardy. Of course its not that simple but it still sucks. You did the angst well!!

Damn, I wish my online jewelry sold like Tara's- she is one extremely talented young woman (I loved the prism bench, is that a real thing?)

I cracked up when Willow thought about Emmy not being fun before coffee- no doubt, she's nice but sometimes a girl needs to ease into being chipper.

Tara and Willow are still so push and pull, I am proud of Willow for introducing Tara to Buffy, sad that she probably wouldn't have said yes to the prom without the liquid courage but glad she didn't back out. The dance was interesting- they spent a lot of time apart, which makes sense I guess, it's Tara's friends and world and all- I guess Tara maybe didn't show Willow around b/c she wasn't sure if Willow would freak- so is she pretending they went 'as friends' ? I liked the dance at the end.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 20th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 3:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
DIBS :banana


:eatme

Quote:
Perfect song and message!!! :glasses I hope that Willow will get confident enough to risk taking off the clothes though. There is nothing like skin on skin


Well now I happen to agree...

Quote:
Emmy must be an old soul. This is a perfect comment for Willow to hear.

I love Emmy. I literally laughed out loud and had to put my hand over my mouth as I was reading this at work.


Emmy is a unique individual who shows up right when you need her. Like a chirpy guardian angel!

Thanks for commenting!

shirrey

Quote:
Donnie's revelation packed a wallop and I think it was a great choice for that to be why he is so hurt and angry. How he feels is justifiable. Turning that on Tara is obviously not. I am glad he is getting help and I can also see Tara being stung by it- she gets put in the hospital and her trip that she has worked so hard for is in jeopardy. Of course its not that simple but it still sucks. You did the angst well!!


It's one of those things, it's not super happy for anyone involved...but in the end, it had to be this way.

Quote:
Damn, I wish my online jewelry sold like Tara's- she is one extremely talented young woman (I loved the prism bench, is that a real thing?)


She is very talented for sure (but I'm sure you are too!) You can assume a little creative license in getting her stuff sold so quickly :wink (hey, I needed to push the story on :P ) The prism bench is not based on a real thing I have seen, but quite possibly someone has done something similar!

Quote:
I cracked up when Willow thought about Emmy not being fun before coffee- no doubt, she's nice but sometimes a girl needs to ease into being chipper.


There's a sliding scale dependent on caffeine consumption

Quote:
Tara and Willow are still so push and pull, I am proud of Willow for introducing Tara to Buffy, sad that she probably wouldn't have said yes to the prom without the liquid courage but glad she didn't back out.


Pushing herself showed herself that she can do it, even if she felt she chickened out during the dance, it was important that she kept her word to Tara that she would go with her.

Quote:
The dance was interesting- they spent a lot of time apart, which makes sense I guess, it's Tara's friends and world and all- I guess Tara maybe didn't show Willow around b/c she wasn't sure if Willow would freak- so is she pretending they went 'as friends' ?


Oh Tara is definitely keeping up the pretense that they went as friends. She actually hasn't even come out to anyone there apart from Nate (and Emmy). Tara did bring Willow around the school but saw her shying away from other people so didn't push.

Quote:
I liked the dance at the end.


They had to dance at prom, I had to give them that :)

Thanks for your feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 20th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 3:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 14



May

(Part 1)



I Don't Wanna Miss One Smile, I Don't Wanna Miss One Kiss



Tara checked her hair in her bedroom mirror, smoothing out the few stray pieces of hair poking out from her zigzag part.


She sat on her bed and brought her phone out in front of her. After fixing her position and leaning her head back at the most alluring angle she could think of, she found Willow’s name and pressed the little video icon. She waited for the call to connect.


Willow’s face filled the screen a moment later, her teeth flashing through her grin.


“Hey.”


Tara lifted her hands and waved her fingers by her shoulder so they were in-frame.


“Hey you,” she said, eyes momentarily falling to Willow’s lips, “You alone?”


Willow nodded and Tara bit the corner of her lip, ducking her head nervously for a moment.


Then she met Willow’s eye through the screen again and broke out her best Marilyn.


“Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday, Miss-President-of-the-Sunnydale-High-School-Math-Science-And-Computer-Clubs…”


Willow giggled, which just made Tara’s smile brighter.


“Happy Birthday to you.”


Willow was blushing, her smile as wide as her face.


“Wow.”


Tara’s gaze captivated Willow, playful and erotic all at once.


“If you want, I can come over and say Happy Birthday like I mean it.”


Willow spluttered and had to pat her own chest to stop from a deep cough from breaking out.


“I, ah, would love for you to give me a, um, meaningful Happy Birthday,” she said, eyes shining and clearly excited, “But I am alone in my room, not my house. My parents are home.”


“Oh, right,” Tara replied, blushing lightly, “Of course. That’s great, I’m glad. Will I get to see you today?”


“Yeah, of course!” Willow nodded eagerly, “I just have to go to the bank but then I’m free until dinner with my parents later.”


Tara’s nose scrunched up with her smile and it made Willow’s heart flip.


“Going to the bank on your birthday?”


“I have adult responsibilities now,” Willow replied sagely but wasn’t able to keep up the pretense without laughing, “Just want to get some stuff out of the way. And then the obligatory dinner.”


Tara sighed softly.


“That’s okay, I’m working an evening shift at Honkers anyway. The new manager is being so nice offering me shifts, I kind of have to take them whenever she gives them,” she said, her eyes betraying her tiredness, “Meet me after you go to the bank?”


Willow nodded.


“I’ll come get you.”


Tara pressed two fingers to her lips and blew a kiss, which Willow accepted with a smile before hanging up. Tara put her phone beside her on the bed and opened the middle drawer of her nightstand. She lifted out a gift box and removed the lid, looking through the contents.


She picked out one of the smallest contents and turned it over in her palm. It rolled from side to side, delicately pressing against her skin.


It was nice, but it didn’t feel enough, somehow; not special enough.


Then she had an idea.


She went to her sewing box and took out a needle, sticking it straight through the top. She used a piece of thread to get the measurement she needed but at that point became stuck with how to proceed. She didn’t have long to complete her plan, nor the resources.


She closed her eyes and quickly got a brainwave.


She pocketed the small item and hid the box away again, then began rooting through her closet. She found a plastic bag in the corner that would work for what she needed and grabbed it by the handle.


She threw open her bedroom door and pounded down the stairs, realizing too late that Kimberly was letting herself and Donny in at the same time.


Tara stopped on the bottom step.


She knew her brother had day release but she hadn’t intended on being around for the welcome party.


The three of them all froze at that moment but Tara didn’t back down from his gaze.


He looked dreadful but still healthier than ever. Eyes sad but brighter than she’d ever seen, skin fresh, beard neatly trimmed.


The last time she’d seen his face it was a blur fading to black as she lost consciousness tumbling down the stairs, yet somehow he still looked more stricken than her to come face to face.


For the first time in memory, he didn’t try to use his height to laud over her. He stood back, unthreateningly and spoke without slurring or aggression.


“Tara—”


“Can I borrow the car?” Tara interrupted, facing her mother entirely as if he wasn’t there.


Kimberly opened her mouth dumbly.


“Um—”


“I won’t be long, I just need to go to the pawn shop,” Tara continued insistently.


Kimberly blinked twice and offered the keys.


“Yes, of course.”


Tara grabbed them and sauntered off, leaving Donny shuffling away in her wake and Kimberly’s eyes darting back and forth to each retreating child.


When Tara was out of the driveway, Kimberly finally shut the door.



Kimberly was back at the door several minutes later when someone knocked.


She was slightly tense with it being Donny’s first trip home, but just smiled in relief when she saw it wasn’t a foe.


“Hello Willow, Happy Birthday, my dear,” she said, leaning across the threshold to give Willow a hug, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get a chance to bake you a cake this year.”


“That’s okay Ms. Maclay, I’ll get some for dessert later,” Willow replied brightly, “Is Tara here?”


“She’s popped out,” Kimberly replied in kind, “But she shouldn’t be long, she said she just had to run to the pawn shop.”


Willow gasped.


“What?!”


She felt her heart clench.


“No! She said she wouldn’t!”


In the middle of a sharp breath, she spotted Donny over Kimberly’s shoulder, coming from the kitchen with a can of soda. She felt rage boil over and when Kimberly would later tell the tale, she’d swear she saw Willow’s eyes turn black for a moment.


“This is all your fault!” she screeched, pushing past Kimberly to get up in his face.


Kimberly hurried over and took her shoulders from behind.


“Willow, sweetheart I know you’re just looking out for Tara—”


Willow spun around to face her, just as angry.


“Does he even know?”


She looked back at Donny, venomous.


“Do you even get it, how much of your sister’s life you’ve ruined?” she spat, “I know she won’t have said because even though you’ve done nothing but abuse her for over a decade, she’s still too freakin’ nice. You just take, take, take, sucking everyone into the void with you.”


Kimberly pulled Willow away with more force.


“Willow, that’s enough. That is enough!”


Willow brushed off the grip but kept her gaze on Donny, who was just standing there in silence.


“I’m glad you got help but it doesn’t erase all of those years and it sure as hell doesn’t erase Tara sacrificing so much just to gather the money she needs to get away from you. She loves each and every one of her instruments, they’re her babies!”


“Willow, Tara didn’t take her instruments,” Kimberly interrupted in annoyance, “You can go up and check her room if you want, but I saw her walk out of here with nothing but a plastic bag that wouldn’t even fit her neck strap. I don’t know what she was doing, but it has nothing to do with her music.”


Willow heaved a few deflated breaths and released the fists that had balled at her sides. She kept her gaze on Donny, who remained stoic and unwavering in holding her gaze.


“She’s still working her ass off for every spare dollar for the money you pretty much stole. Someone needed to say it. You don’t just get to indulge your own problems and ignore how much it’s hurting other people.”


His eyes flashed with something that was hard to identify because it had so rarely embodied him: empathy. Willow was unnerved by it and turned away, stomping back through the garden to the yard.


“I’ll wait outside.”


She pulled the door closed loudly behind her and angrily pounded down the driveway to sit on the short wall. She waited, her arms folded over her chest.


When the car finally turned back into the drive, Willow jumped up. Tara hopped out of the car, a smaller plastic bag hanging off her wrist and had a big smile on her face.


“Hey birthday girl,” she greeted, giving Willow a warm but respectable hug.


Willow had to close the hug but pulled back after a moment.


“You didn’t sell your instruments, did you?”


Tara frowned.


“What? No.”


Willow took a step back and sighed.


“Your mom said you went to the pawn shop. I thought you’d sold them and…I know how much they all mean to you. They’ve always been just… yours… and…I just don’t want you to lose what’s…” she paused and looked at Tara vulnerably, “Yours.”


Tara lifted her hands to hold Willow’s upper arms, but they dropped again when she saw a fleeting look of apprehension on Willow’s face. Instead, she put the tips of her shoes against the tips of Willow’s shoes so that they were touching in some, small way.


“I will never let go of what’s mine.”


Willow glanced down at their shoes and back up at Tara. She cracked a tiny smile, but it turned sheepish as she lifted her hand behind her neck and rubbed nervously.


“I may have freaked out a little bit.”


“Define ‘freaked out’?” Tara asked, brow creased in concern but lips tugging the corner of her mouth curiously.


Willow averted her eyes for a few seconds.


“I yelled at Donny… a lot.”


Tara considered that for a moment.


“Did he threaten you at all?”


Willow shook her head.


“No, he kinda just took it.”


Tara slowly smiled and very discreetly hooked her finger through a loop on Willow’s belt, pulling her just the barest inch forward before releasing her and rubbing her finger against the curve of Willow’s hip.


“My hero.”


Willow's toes pressed into the ground as she tried to steady her knees that threatened to quake.


“So, uh, why did you go to the pawn shop?”


The bag on Tara’s wrist blew in the breeze.


“You’ll see.”


The glint in Tara’s eye just made for sensation overload for Willow.


“Can we go somewhere I can give you a smooch?”


Tara’s eyebrows shot up; Willow hadn’t even looked around to make sure no one could hear her. The street was empty, but she hadn’t checked and was unselfconsciously grinning at Tara with hope.


“Um, yeah,” Tara replied, smiling ear-to-ear, “And where I can give you your gift.”


“Will it be in that order?” Willow asked, leaning up on her toes this time, making her overall bouncy and excited.


Tara swallowed as Willow’s breath briefly met hers before Willow landed back on her heels.


“Whatever order you’d like.”


“I’ll go with A, B, A, A, A,” Willow replied gleefully.


Tara automatically hummed the tune those letter notes produced, whilst Willow glanced either side of her where their respective houses were. The people residing in each were not who Willow wanted as company.


“Um…anywhere but between these houses?”


Tara glanced from side to side and nodded.


“Right,” she replied, tilting her chin toward her own house, “They’ll be going to lunch soon…we could hang out at our spot until then.”


“We haven’t been there since…since the swing,” Willow replied, language coded but face expressive, “The now beautifully unrecognizable one.”


“I guess we’ve been squirreled away,” Tara mused thoughtfully, not without intention, “There’s only one swing left now…but we could share.”


Willow smiled and nodded and they started walking down the street in the direction of the old park. After they turned from their street, Tara felt Willow’s hand swing into hers and her heart stopped beating for a moment. She wasn’t going to draw attention or make Willow feel uncomfortable, but she couldn’t help the smile that took over her face.


It was still there, though etched with some confusion, when they arrived at the entrance of the Paradise Park. Or at least, what used to be the entrance.


Willow stepped forward, brow creased.


“Hey, what’s going on?”


Tall metal railings extended the length of the area with yellow construction signs attached every few feet saying ‘Caution: Construction in Progress’ as well as notices of planning permits.


Willow read one, frowning sadly.


“They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”


Tara smirked quietly and squeezed their palms together.


“Well, like you said, we haven’t been here in months. Maybe it’s time to find a new hideout.”


She paused for just a moment, looking straight ahead.


“Or maybe we don’t need a hideout at all anymore.”


Her eyes cast a sidelong glance toward Willow, who met her gaze and smiled softly.


“That doesn’t solve our current predicament.”


“Why don’t we just go get a coffee?” Tara suggested.


“Oh, like normal people?” Willow giggled, “I’m in.”


They walked to the Espresso Pump, where Tara had to push Willow’s hand away when she tried to pay for her mocha.


“Willow, stop. It’s your birthday. Let me buy you a coffee. You’ve helped me get so much income, it’s the least I can do. And um, did I mention it’s your birthday?”


Willow acquiesced and waited outside for Tara to bring the drinks since all the tables were taken up. It only took a few minutes for Tara to come out and offer a cup.


“Iced mocha, extra whip, and caramel drizzle.”


“Thank you,” Willow replied, smiling down at her perfect drink, which Tara hadn’t even needed to check with her if it was what she wanted.


Tara closed her hands around her own cup.


“You want to visit the other park? I guess it’s the only park now. I hear it’s pretty. I’ve only walked past, never through.”


“I’ve been in it, but never with you,” Willow replied sweetly.


Their new path led them toward the park and they remained side-by-side along the way.


“So how does it feel to be 18?” Tara asked, eager for some insight into Willow’s changed behavior.


Willow closed her eyes with the sun beaming on her face and considered how she was feeling.


“Freeing,” she said eventually, with a single sure nod of her head.


Tara could only smile.


“That’s good,” she replied, evenly but with the delight clear in her voice, “That’s great.”


Their arms brushed and the small pawn shop bag rustled between them.


“I kinda want to give this to you in private, if you don’t mind,” Tara said, then added on quickly when she saw the look on Willow’s face, “Don’t worry, it isn’t anything inappropriate.”


Willow blinked several times but Tara didn’t give her an opportunity to respond.


“What did your parents get you?”


Willow shrugged.


“Money.”


“Hence the bank,” Tara replied, not laboring the point at all, knowing Willow wasn’t the biggest fan of the impersonal gift from her parents. It was the reason she’d gotten Willow the gift she had, “I’m really glad we came, I mean, um, ventured out today. This is really nice, just taking a walk.”


They got to the entrance of the park and both of them threw their empty coffees into the trash can there. Everything was luscious green, the flowers were in bloom and there was a guy with a guitar playing music just for everyone to enjoy.


“Well, who wants to be cooped up on a day like this? The sun is shining, there's songs going on…” Willow started, her eyes following two young guys as they passed and how their gaze lingered on Tara, “…those guys are checking you out.”


“What?” Tara asked in confusion, turning to look, “Wh-What are they looking at?”


Willow rolled her eyes playfully.


“The hotness of you, doofus.”


Tara’s eyes scrunched and she looked back again to the retreating guys.


“Those boys really thought I was hot?”


Willow nodded, a grin pulling at her lips.


“Entirely.”


Tara’s eyes widened and she suddenly turned in the direction she’d been looking in.


“Oh my god. I'm cured! I want the boys!”


Willow grabbed Tara and pulled her back, smiling and shaking her head. Tara giggled and Willow linked their pinkies.


“Do I have to fight to keep you? 'Cause I'm not large with the butch.”


Tara smiled, thoughtful. She didn’t experience getting checked out at a lot, especially not like that — from people that didn’t know or speak to her and were just reacting to how she looked.


“I'm just…not used to that. They-they were really looking at me?”


Willow just looked at Tara with utter adoration.


“And you can't imagine what they see in you.”


Tara received the emotion on Willow’s face and realized the reason she stood out because she was returning the same look back. That kind of happiness was captivating.


“I know exactly what they see in me.”


She took Willow’s hands in hers.


“You.”


Willow was overcome and tried to wave it off.


“I don’t think so. You don’t want them to mistake my dorkiness for you.”


Tara just smiled and swung Willow’s hand between them. She'd never gotten to do that before.


“I’m a dork too.”


Willow barked a laugh.


“As if! You’re a cool musician, amazing creative person, and all-round non-dork.”


Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“I was a shy kid turned band geek who only stopped being teased because I went to a progressive school. To me, you were always the cool one.”


Willow’s mouth hung open.


“Me?”


“Yes, you,” Tara insisted, “You remembered every fact you ever read, and you showed me cool tricks like the Coke and Mentos one and you could reel off math like a human calculator. Oh, and you were never, ever scared of the monsters under the bed. You were my cool monster fighter.”


She brushed her thumb over Willow’s knuckles and smiled.


“You’ll always be my cool monster fighter.”


Willow swallowed deeply. They were silent for a while until Willow spoke again.


“You were right, this park is pretty. Seems silly now that we kept going back to hide in some overgrown bushes.”


Tara nodded.


“It does. But I’m glad we got here.”


Willow rested her head on Tara’s shoulder and they continued walking through the park. They stopped at the pond to skip stones and Willow let Tara twirl her when the busker/good Samaritan passed by playing. Today she only had eyes for Tara. At least until this high passed.


“He’s not as good as you,” Willow said quietly so only Tara would hear, “His music is pretty but it doesn’t speak to my soul.”


She briefly pecked Tara’s cheek, admittedly with a quick and furtive look around first, then shyly looked away.


They walked through to the opposite entrance and decided to head back to Tara’s house from there since it should be empty by now.


And so, she was frustrated to get home and see the car still in the driveway. She let herself into the house with Willow behind her, and Kimberly appeared from the living room.


“Why are you still here?” Tara asked arms crossed lightly over her chest.


Kimberly let out a short breath of sadness at Tara’s body language.


“You took the car keys,” she said softly.


Tara held up her hand and looked at the car keys jangling in them. She blushed.


“…sorry.”


She shoved the keys at her mother, who took them.


“Donny, let’s go,” Kimberly called back toward the living room, then looked at the two girls hopefully, “You know you’re both welcome to come to—”


“C’mon,” Tara said, grabbing Willow’s hand and pulling her upstairs.


Donny appeared in the corridor and waited respectfully until Tara was out of sight.


Kimberly put an arm around his shoulder.


“It will take time,” she said softly, “Old wounds don’t heal overnight. You know that.”


Donny nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets and followed his mother out to the car.


Willow closed Tara’s bedroom door behind them and watched Tara stand over the desk with her back to Willow, fidgeting with papers.


Willow walked over and put her hand on Tara’s back, swiping it across from one shoulder blade to the other.


“Doesn’t it drive you nuts that she took his side in all of this?”


Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“He’s her kid too, and there’s…deeper issues between them.”


Willow nodded.


“Right. About your dad.”


Tara sighed, trying to settle her hands.


“I don’t remember him but they do and they went through hell. And he was just a kid himself,” she said, some hurt in her tone but not collapsing under it, “It’s not an excuse for everything he put me through…I can’t even bear to be around him…but they’re hurting too and I’m not going to make it worse on everyone. That’s why I just want space.”


Willow wrapped her arms around Tara’s middle and rested her chin on Tara’s shoulder.


“Does that include from me?”


Tara smiled and rested her hands over Willow’s, finally finding what she needed to keep them still.


“Never.”


She enjoyed Willow’s embrace as she opened her laptop and set some music to play.


Suddenly I see,” Tara hummed and sang, “This is what I wanna be.”


She turned in Willow’s arms and crossed her hands behind Willow’s neck.


“Do you… want your birthday present?”


Willow nodded eagerly and Tara smiled.


“I believe you wanted a kiss first.”


Willow closed the gap and pressed her lips to Tara, so quickly that Tara let out a squeal of surprise.


Willow giggled against Tara’s mouth and Tara looked down with a smile.


“Close your eyes for a second.”


Willow complied and Tara guided her back until the back of her knees hit the bed. Willow sat and waited patiently, hearing some drawers opening and general rustling. Finally, something was placed in her lap and she opened her eyes. A wooden box, like a jewelry box, neatly treated and soft to touch.


Giddy, Willow placed her hands either side of it.


The box had two girls dancing under a rainbow designed on top, some etched and some carved, making a striking contrast. Willow ran her finger over it delicately, in awe. When she lifted the lid, the first thing she noticed was the underside of the lid had a collage of photos decorated in the shape of a heart. Upon closer look, it was all of them through the years. There was writing carved into the wood on all four sides.


Every memory of you in here…Is everything that I hold dear…Near or far, wherever life takes us…You are the thing that makes me most joyous.


“Tara…oh my god,” Willow said softly, her breath taken away.


After staring at the collage for several long moments, she realized the box actually had contents.


Lots of contents.


Notes they’d passed to each other as children, friendship bracelets they’d made, even old yellowed tickets to the first movie they’d seen in the theater together; the first movie they’d seen in the theater at all. There were rocks they’d found in funny shapes as exploring tweens, mouse ears from a trip to Disneyland, a glow in the dark star that had adorned the wall at prom.


Willow’s gaze slowly moved back up to Tara, stunned.


“You kept…you kept all of this?”


Tara smiled bashfully.


“You know me…never able to throw a scrap away in case I can use it for something later.”


Willow looked down again and there were two larger objects in the box, a teddy bear, and a small black box. She picked up the teddy bear first and stroked his soft fur, smiling. He had a heart pattern on his stomach too, an unusual beige tint with spots of color. It took a few moments for her eyes to focus and recognize the colors were characters, and another to realize she knew that pattern. Her head shot up.


“This…this is the Flintstones blankie we played with…it was our cape and our magic carpet and…”


“I found it going through old boxes for supplies when I was gathering things to sell,” Tara explained, a crooked smile forming on her face, “It was ratty and basically falling apart…so I thought I could come up with a better way to preserve it.”


She stood up and went over to her windowsill, picking up an identical bear and bringing it back. She brought it close to Willow’s, where the bears interlocked in a hug.


“A Willow-bear and a—”


“Tara-bear. A Tare-bear!” Willow replied, grinning, “I love it.”


She leaned in and pecked Tara’s lips, leaving the bears by them. She lifted out the velvet box.


“What’s this?”


Tara nodded at her to open it. Inside was a gold chain, with an unusual pendant hanging off of it. It was a tiny glass bottle, about the size of her pinky finger with a rolled up piece of paper inside and a cork sealing it.


“Message in a bottle,” Willow replied, smiling, “Cool.”


“I had this rolling around in the box, but I just this morning thought I’d like it to be a bit more…special. So I added the chain,” Tara replied, blushing, “I knew you would be mad if I spent any of the trip money, so I went to the pawn shop to trade instead.”


Willow looked concerned for a moment.


“Wait, what did you trade?”


“The video games I bought Donny for his birthday, which he definitely isn’t getting this year,” Tara answered curtly.


“Good!” Willow replied triumphantly, “Why were you still buying him birthday presents anyway? Has he ever gotten you even one?”


“Can we not talk about him anymore?” Tara requested gently.


“Sorry,” Willow replied, shaking her head and glancing down at her hand again, “I know there’s a story. Jog my memory.”


Tara began drawing circles around the bottle sitting on Willow’s palm.


“It was summer. We were nine and we were playing mermaids at the beach,” she said, smiling fondly, “You saw a glass bottle wash up and you got so excited, you thought it was a message in a bottle. But—”


“It was just an old Orange Crush bottle!” Willow replied, shock on her face for a moment, then a pout, “I still won’t drink it out of spite.”


Tara reached up and brushed her fingers against Willow’s cheek.


“You were so disappointed. I remember because I thought the look on your face was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen and all I wanted to do was take it away.”


She paused and ran the chain through her fingers.


“I wanted to get you gold because it lasts forever.”


She took in a steadying breath and met Willow’s eye.


“I know it’s not fair to ask you to wait—”


Willow closed her hand around Tara’s, the necklace dangling between each palm. Nothing was more intoxicating, more satiating or more emboldening than Tara holding onto her and promising to never stop making her feel whole.


There was fear, terror even, and nerves and nausea and the very distinct feel of panic right at the back of her throat that she never seemed quite able to swallow, but there was also Tara sitting there, earnest and true and she could not deny where her heart lay.


“It lasts forever,” she said softly, then once more for emphasis, “It lasts forever.”


Her gaze stayed locked in affectionate stasis until it finally broke and she ran her thumb over the bottle.


“What does it say?”


Tara smiled softly.


“It’s up to you to read whenever you want. It’s your message in a bottle.”


“Well, I’m going to make you read it to me,” Willow challenged playfully, “So maybe we’ll just have to stay together long enough for one of us to give in.”


She lifted the chain and held it around her neck.


“Until then, I’ll keep it safe.”


Tara reached behind and closed the clasp, leaving the bottle hanging neatly in front of Willow’s chest.


“I love you, Willow.”


Willow swallowed, clutching the bottle in her fist. She opened her mouth, closed it again and when it opened again she found Tara’s lips covering hers and a tongue slipping inside.


Her belly turned to mush and hands fell slowly between their laps. She touched Tara’s thigh and felt a soft moan fall into her mouth.


Her hands moved to Tara’s waist and she started to lean over, only to scramble to catch her memory box when it started to fall. She carefully packed her things away, set them on the floor and sprung herself on Tara, who fell back on the bed in surprise.


Her head hit the pillows and she took in a soft breath as Willow steadied on top of her. Keeping Willow’s gaze, her hands slid along Willow’s shoulders and up to meet behind her neck.


Willow’s eyelids fluttered as Tara’s fingers caressed the short hair already standing at the back of her neck. She held her weight up with one hand while the other curved around Tara’s hip. She kissed Tara once, twice, then three times in quick succession, letting her lips linger on the third.


Tara lightly tickled the back of Willow’s neck before sliding her hands down the collar of Willow’s shirt and grabbed her by the lapels to pull her into deepening the kiss. She swallowed one of Willow’s moans and both of them adjusted their hips simultaneously.


The minutes ticked by and they remained in almost the same position but a lot more energetic. Tara’s top button was open and Willow would kiss down to just above the swell of her breasts and back to her neck, while her hand reached under the shirt to cup Tara’s bra-clad breast.


Her cheeks were red and her hair was mussed and her hips would squirm each time Tara’s fingertips would brush the skin of her lower back and dip under the waistband of her panties to press into her butt.


Tara felt Willow’s body desperately pressing into her and knew hers was only responding in kind. Her heart was pounding between her legs and she felt the strain of Willow touching her as much as she could have even with her shirt off, but with the material still holding her like a prisoner.


Sometimes, like right then, Tara felt sure that Willow wanted to shred every piece of clothing between them, but that fear of being caught seemed profound enough to stop her and Tara would never push. One day they’d be truly alone and until then there was no amount of Willow’s mouth on her neck that could be considered too much.


Her eyes closed and the next time Willow’s mouth kissed below her ear, she turned her head and took Willow’s lips in a kiss. Willow pressed her thigh between Tara’s legs and Tara gasped. Her hands flew to cup the back of Willow’s head and twined her fingers in Willow’s hair.


Suddenly she felt something tickle her right where the pressure of Willow’s thigh was pushing into her so nicely. It pricked through the fabric and then there was a very distinct pulsation against a part of her that had already been aching with its own pulsation. Her stomach dropped and her hips jerked up repeatedly.


“Uhh,” she moaned, head flying back as her top teeth dug into her bottom lip, “Umh!”


Her hips twisted to avoid, or perhaps seek out, more contact.


“Willow, your phone is vibrating! Ringing! Your phone is ringing!” she gasped.


“Shit,” Willow whispered, rolling away to pull her phone from her pocket, “Hello? Yes. Yes. Yes, I know. Reservations. Yes. I’ll be home in a minute.”


While Willow was talking, Tara swung her legs off the bed and cupped herself as she closed her knees tightly to stem the throbbing.


Willow hung up the phone and took in Tara’s positioning with guilt on her face.


“I’m so sorry.”


Tara blushed and moved her hands to rest on her thighs.


“It’s okay. I know you have plans.”


Willow grimaced awkwardly.


“I’m sorry we didn’t get to…”


“Don’t apologize,” Tara interjected quickly, offering Willow a smile, if not without a wince underneath, “I hope you have a nice dinner.”


Willow leaned over and pressed a lingering kiss to Tara’s cheek. Tara nuzzled and Willow smiled again, feeling more comfortable. She stood up and walked over to Tara’s mirror to fix herself up.


Tara averted her gaze to avoid watching Willow’s butt and started fixing her own very-skewed shirt.


Willow picked up her memory box and stood in front of Tara. Tara looked up and smiled at her with such radiance, it almost bowled Willow over on the spot.


“Tara, I l…” she stopped and swallowed, looking down at the contents of her hands, “I love my gifts. They’re amazing.”


Tara covered Willow’s hands, holding onto either side of the box and gave them a squeeze.


“I’m glad,” she said sincerely and stood with Willow, “I’ll walk you downstairs.”


They walked downstairs together and Tara opened the door for Willow.


Willow waggled her fingers.


“Bye.”


“Bye,” Tara echoed, leaning her head against the door to watch Willow cross the street home, “Happy Birthday.”


She closed the door again, shifted her hips a few times and went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water.


Her mother was home again, sitting at the table with her laptop and work binder, probably making schedules for the nursing home.


She looked up and Tara hesitated.


“It’s just me. Donny is back at the center.”


Tara nodded once and continued across to the fridge. She took a glass from the cabinet beside it and used the fridge dispenser to fill it with water and ice. She briefly touched it to each cheek and her forehead before taking it to her mouth to sip. The shock of the cold certainly made the burn in her belly ice over, though a small shiver also went through her spine.


Kimberly watched Tara move about and it made her heart ache how much her daughter was avoiding eye contact.


“What can I do, Tara?” she asked, voice breaking, “How can I make up…”


Tara continued looking downward. Kimberly closed the lid of the laptop and sat back in her chair, pain etched on her still young face.


“Ignoring the problem for all of those years? How he treated you. Brushing it off as sibling squabbles.”


Tara looked up, her gaze penetrating across the room. Her mother had only ever explicitly apologized for having to use the money. Anything deeper had gone unsaid.


“Acknowledging it was a start.”


Kimberly looked stung, her hands turning over themselves in her lap.


“I know I’ve been focused on your brother’s recovery,” she said, voice echoing, “But you won’t speak to me. I can’t acknowledge anything if you won’t speak to me.”


Tears sprang to her eyes.


“I couldn’t even get a photo of you at your prom. I had to watch you walk across the street from the window just to see what you were wearing. You looked beautiful, by the way.”


Tara looked down again, but not for her usual avoidance.


“I’ve failed you both and you are the truly innocent party in all of this,” Kimberly replied, unable to stop a sob rising in her throat, “And I don’t know how to make it better. I’m your mother, I’m supposed to know, but I don’t. All those years I was terrified I was losing Donny to whatever destructive behavior of the week he was exhibiting, but through it all, I actually lost you.”


Her head dropped into her hands and Tara was over there like a shot. She couldn’t just leave her mother crying and not comfort her; it wasn’t in her nature. She pulled a chair close and placed her palm in the middle of Kimberly’s spine.


“This must be really hard for you. Do you have anyone to talk to? Your friends from work, or church?”


Kimberly barked out a laugh through the tears.


“And somehow I produced a beautiful soul like you.”


She looked up, eyes glassy and it was the first time there’d been a moment between them in weeks.


Tara swallowed and kindly offered some sympathy.


“You lost your parents…You had two babies when you were my age, I can’t even imagine…and you got us out of a terrible situation…” she recounted, realizing it was helping her as much as her mother, “You’ve sacrificed for us and worked your ass off for us…provided us…me…with opportunities. Everything that happened doesn’t erase all of that. You were, you are, a great mom. But it’s raw and I’m still hurt.”


Kimberly nodded, a swift bobbing of her chin as she listened. Tara felt a bit of relief as she came to a conclusion.


“I know what it feels like to know something will last forever, that a feeling will last forever. This isn’t it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t very real for me right now. So I just need some time and some space. But maybe we could start eating dinner together again.”


Kimberly took Tara’s face in both hands.


“You are so smart. You’re a gift to the world, never forget it.”


Tara blushed.


“I kinda missed having you chatter at me.”


“Well, I’ll give you chatter. You took a week off school, young lady,” Kimberly laughed as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue from her pocket, “I had to pretend you had the flu when the principal called. I didn’t even know.”


Tara just shrugged.


“All my projects were submitted. It didn’t affect anything.”


Kimberly cleared her throat.


“You were up for perfect attendance. You didn’t miss a single day in all four years before that.”


“Who cares?” Tara replied, holding her hands up, “It’s just a certificate. For not getting sick or needing a day out. That makes me lucky, not special.”


Kimberly gave a pointed stare.


“You get an iPad.”


Tara paused.


“Okay, that would have been pretty cool,” she admitted, smiling a crooked smile, “But still. My point stands.”


Kimberly breathed for a moment, her easiest breath in quite a while. She just looked at Tara and appreciated the moment of peace and harmony restored to the household.


“Did you have a nice prom?”


“Yeah, I did,” Tara replied dreamily.


Kimberly raised an eyebrow.


“You two are…”


“Good,” Tara confirmed with a single nod, “And private, still.”


Kimberly took both of Tara’s hands.


“I promised you, I’ll keep that promise. And Donny knows that too,” she said, before stopping for a moment to gauge Tara’s face, “He’d like to come to your graduation.”


“Excuse me?” Tara asked, eyebrows shooting up.


“He’ll have day release that Saturday,” Kimberly explained, but quickly reacted to the look on Tara’s face, “Okay, too much, too soon. That’s entirely your choice.”


Tara nodded that that was understood and checked her watch.


“I have to get to work.”


Kimberly released Tara with a pat.


“Thanks for talking with me.”


Tara stood and gave a reassuring smile.


“It’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to.”


“You sound sure of that,” Kimberly replied, bemused.


Tara folded her arms lightly over her chest and walked away confidently.


“I am.”



Willow pushed past her parents through the door to her house and made a beeline for the stairs.


“Don’t you think we should discuss this, Willow?” Sheila asked in a reasoned tone as she removed her coat and hung it up on the rack.


Willow hated that tone because it had the effect of making everything she said sound unreasonable. She paused at the foot of the stairs and turned back around.


“About what? How you hijacked my birthday to carry out some bogus matchmaking attempt?”


Sheila’s hands went to her hips importantly.


“Don’t be so dramatic, we did nothing of the sort. You were quite rude to our guests who came out to celebrate your birthday.”


“They weren’t celebrating anything,” Willow scoffed, “They were trying to set me up with their son, who has as little interest in me as I do in him.”


“I think young Richard has a fondness for you,” Ira added in, trying to be kind.


Willow audibly groaned.


She knew it was a bad night when Dickie Babcock had actually been the most tolerable one at the table. He’d even texted her while in the car about their parents plan to ‘encourage’ them and that was the first clue Willow had that she would be pimped out tonight. Of course, he’d only told her to warn her not to touch him, but she’d appreciated the heads-up nonetheless.


Add in the fact that she’d never given Dickie her number and it was clear there was parental interference in the works.


She would have stamped her foot if it wouldn’t have just made her parents seem all the more superior.


“How many times do I have to tell you I will not ever date Dickie Babcock or any boy!” she shouted, then felt a punching sensation to gut as those words hung in the air. Barely a second passed but it seemed like forever until words spilled out of her mouth again, “That you choose! Any boy that you choose!”


Sheila cast a sidelong glance to Ira.


“She’s trying to assert her independence to provoke our disapproval, classic teenage rebellion. Delayed, but textbook.”


Willow gestured down her body.


“Standing right here. Standing right exactly here! And I’m not trying to provoke anything other than your understanding that there will never be a merged Rosenberg/Babcock empire so just…quit it!”


Sheila’s face blanched with a sharpness that could cut glass.


“Oh Willow, you’re being ridiculous now, I’m not telling you to marry the boy.”


Ira stepped forward, between the invisible swords the two women were wielding. Willow saw the look on his face and the way he held himself tall, the position he took that said he’d have to be the rational male voice to insert some reason into the situation.


So many times she’d wanted to scream at him that their conflicts came from estrangement, not estrogen.


“Maybe we should let Willow make her own dating choices,” he proposed, offering a Willow a smile that tried to be empathetic but just seemed like pity, “I’m sure she’ll choose a nice boy when she’s ready.”


Sheila smoothed her hands out over her pants and adopted a balanced tone again.


“Yes, yes, of course,” she nodded amiably, “I apologize for trying to offer some guidance. You’re still in a perfectly normal stage of socialization development. My own sister, now she was a late bloomer. She had graduated from college before—”


“Can we leave the tales of Aunt Susan the Celibate until after my birthday?” Willow snapped.


Ira stood taller over her, voice turning authoritative.


“Willow, don’t be rude to your mother, she’s just apologized,” he said curtly, followed by a long sigh, “Willow, darling, no one wants to fight, especially on your birthday. It’s a very special day and we love you very much.”


He put an arm around her and Sheila joined him on the other side.


Willow felt trapped.


“I love you, too,” she replied jadedly; not a lie but not a joy either.


“We just want what’s best for you,” Sheila said lightly, and Willow guessed in some twisted version of reality that was probably true.


“I know,” she sighed, not fighting her way out of the embrace, no matter how unnatural it felt.


There’d been a time, not even that long ago, that she craved this kind of affection, would have done anything for it but she’d finally realized that it didn’t make her whole, it just sacrificed parts of herself.


They parted and Sheila patted her back before retiring to her study. Ira offered to make her a hot chocolate but Willow shook her head.


“I’m gonna go out for a bit.”


“I don’t like you being out this late,” Ira said, a note of sadness in his voice, “But you are of age, so I can’t stop you.”


“I’ll be okay,” Willow reassured and tried not to roll her eyes. He didn’t know how late she had or hadn’t stayed out for almost all of her entire teens.


Ira just nodded.


“Happy Birthday, sweetheart.”


Willow gave her father another hug and walked back out the door.



Tara used the soda gun to fill two mugs with frothy root beer and loaded them onto her drinks tray.


“Hey, Tara,” another server, Maddie, called over to her, “Table 26 for you.”


“That’s not my section,” Tara replied without looking around, “Isn’t that your section?”


The grin was obvious in Maddie’s voice.


“You were asked for specifically.”


Tara bristled; that often meant a guy who grossly misinterpreted a connection between them. She brought her tray of drinks over to the waiting table and then weaved her way across the restaurant to the lone person at table 26, head hidden behind the giant menu.


She fixed a smile on her face and placed one hand over the notebook hanging off her apron on her waist, while the other clutched a pen, ready.


“Hi, I’m Tara, welcome to Honkerburger. Can I get you a drink to start?”


The menu fell forward and Willow smiled at her from behind.


“I was going to ask for a tall drink of water, but she’s already here,” she said in an attempt at an evocative tone, but she immediately regretted it and took in a sharp breath, exhaling it along with her next words all at once, “I’msorryIthoughtthatuponthewayoverbutitwastotallylamecanwestartover?”


Tara just chuckled and tucked the pen behind her ear.


“What are you doing here?”


Willow found that action incredibly sexy and her gaze fell down and took in Tara’s uniform; tight white tank and a bright yellow pleated skirt…or close to it.


“Is that a skort?” she asked, voice high pitched, “Don’t see those much outside the tennis courts.”


“The new manager got us some more comfortable uniforms,” Tara replied, grinning on one side, “Back to you being here…?”


Willow forced herself to raise her gaze.


“I’m, um, here to support my…” she stopped and cleared her throat, begging her peripherals to fail so she wouldn’t still be able to see Tara’s ample cleavage, half of which was tastefully covered but with still an alluring line present that drew the eye in no matter the angle, “Support you.”


Her eyes slowly grew wide.


“And I just realized this probably looks like I’m checking up on you after what I said at prom about being jealous and that is so totally not what this is, I swear—”


“I don’t think that,” Tara cut her off gently.


Willow gradually relaxed and awkwardly played with her sleeve.


“Honestly I had a shitty night and I just wanted to see you. I know you’re working. I won’t hold you up or anything. Just seeing you makes me feel better.”


Tara cast a cursory glance around, smiling and raised her voice a tad.


“You want me to describe all the specials in detail, ma’am?”


“Huh?” Willow asked, then realization dawned, “Oh! OH, yes. Please. I’m very fussy. And allergies! I have so many allergies! If I even look at a peanut—”


“Okay, I think we’re good,” Tara whispered conspiringly, “I’m sorry you had a bad birthday. Your parents?”


Willow nodded.


“Yes, my parents, but please don’t think I had a bad birthday,” she replied, leaving her hand on the side of the table and gazing up at Tara lovingly, “I had a great birthday. There are no amount of negative points that could counterbalance all the positive ones you gave me.”


Tara brushed her hand against Willow’s and Willow immediately felt the lurch of upset and anger and uncomfortable feelings dissipate from her. Unfortunately, it left her stomach a little too empty.


“Actually I’d kinda like some wings. Is that weird to ask you? I was too busy sending angry glares at my parents across the dinner table to actually eat.”


Tara laughed again.


“Of course not,” she replied sweetly, “I’ll get you some food and I can knock off soon. Buffalo, right? Extra bl—”


“—ue cheese,” Willow finished with a smile, “Exactly right.”


Tara threw a sly wink.


“Won’t be long.”


Tara went to the register to ring up the order and deliver it to the kitchen. The new manager, Nascha, was loading glasses under the bar.


Tara keyed in what Willow wanted and glanced down at her.


“Can I ring up my staff meal for a customer?”


Nascha straightened herself up, glanced over to where Willow was failing to discreetly look at Tara.


She patted the back of Tara’s shoulder and grinned.


“Just this once.”


“Thank you,” Tara replied with a smile and keyed in her code.


She tended to her other tables and Maddie delivered Willow’s wings when the kitchen called. Tara cleared her tables as quickly and politely as she could and finally returned to Willow to collect the empty plate of bones.


“It’s on the house,” Tara replied as she lifted the dishes away from the table.


“Oh. Thanks,” Willow replied, hand on her wallet, “It feels weird to tip you, but I should tip you.”


Tara grinned.


“You can leave the tip, the girl whose section this is will get it.”


“Oh, I sat in the wrong place?” Willow replied awkwardly, “Story of my life.”


“Wait by the bar?” Tara requested and received a nod in return before she went back to the kitchen.


She detoured through the break room to grab her bag and met Willow back at the bar.


“Thanks for the food,” Willow said as they walked out.


“No problem,” Tara replied, throwing an arm over Willow’s shoulder in the cover of darkness, “How did you get here?”


Willow took her phone from her pocket and waved it.


“Oh, I got a ride.”


“I drove,” Tara replied, gesturing with a finger pointing in the direction of the parking lot, “I can bring you home.”


Willow reached up and linked her fingers with the hand hanging over her shoulder. She loved how protected and snug she felt under Tara’s arm and her confidence in doing it. Every part of her that had rejected this for so long for fear of being abnormal relished in how normal it felt just to walk along like every other couple. Even if it was only a few feet, in the dark.


Tara took the keys from her bag and pressed the button to open the doors, but nothing happened. She opened them manually, sighing.


“This thing is going to give out one of these days, I swear.”


She belted up and looked across the car at Willow, who was painfully obviously trying not to look at her.


“What’s wrong?” Tara asked, momentarily concerned.


Willow gulped.


“I’m trying very hard not to objectify you.”


Tara smirked, her lips sloping up on one side.


“What if I wanted you to?”


Willow’s blush was visible even in the dark, but her head couldn’t help turning.


“Do you get to keep the uniform after you leave?”


Tara’s eyebrow lifted on the same side as her crooked smile.


“Is that a request?”


Willow’s head snapped back to look in her lap and Tara reached over to give her thigh a squeeze of reprieve.


“I’ll get you home to bed,” she said, amused, but then found herself the one blushing as she put her hand back on the wheel, “To sleep. Home to sleep.”


She turned the engine on and the radio played out as she pulled out of the lot. Willow loved watching Tara get into her own groove while listening to music.


It didn’t matter what it was, Willow had seen Tara lose herself from Beethoven to Frank Sinatra to Taylor Swift to that crazy Japanese music she played sometimes. It was like the beat entered her nervous system and made her body move in perfect sync, right down her breathing and the way her eyes moved as they watched the road.


It's you and me against the world, there's no white flags when you're my girl.



Willow could only smile as Tara smiled in her direction, illuminated in soft amber as they paused at a traffic light. Tara didn’t need it though, Willow thought, her smile illuminated itself.


Tara pulled up on the curb outside Willow’s house and Willow was overcome by the small gesture of actually dropping her to the door when she could have gone straight into her own driveway and Willow would have just had to cross the street.


Tara turned the engine off and reached for Willow’s hand across the center console.


“Happy Birthday.”


Willow glanced at the red digits of the clock proclaiming it 00:01.


“Not my birthday anymore.”


Tara lifted Willow’s hand to her mouth and kissed her knuckles.


“Then happy new year of your life, which I just know will be filled with joy and new opportunities and will be everything you wish and deserve.”


Willow felt the deepest clarity she’d ever known wash over her.


“I really feel like it will too,” she said, exhaling a soft breath, “See you soon?”


Tara nodded.


“I’m always here.”


Willow left with a lingering smile and quietly let herself into her dark house. She saw her father’s head pop out from his study on her way upstairs and she lifted a hand.


“Night dad,” she whispered.


Ira lifted his hand in the same manner and Willow continued up to her bedroom, checking out her window to see the light go on in the house opposite so she knew Tara was in safely. Once she was sure, she sat on her bed and took out her phone, seeking a number she never thought she’d be texting willingly.


Image



Her face scrunched up in frustration, which was appropriate for the recipient in question.


Image

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Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 6:22 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
Posts: 663
Topics: 2
Location: North Carolina, USA
Dibs :banana
What favor? Inquiring minds want to know...and will wait until Friday.

Quote:
“They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Easter Egg Song.

Quote:
“The hotness of you, doofus.”
Tara’s eyes scrunched and she looked back again to the retreating guys.
“Those boys really thought I was hot?”
Willow nodded, a grin pulling at her lips.
“Entirely.”
Tara’s eyes widened and she suddenly turned in the direction she’d been looking in.
“Oh my god. I'm cured! I want the boys!”
Willow grabbed Tara and pulled her back, smiling and shaking her head. Tara giggled and Willow linked their pinkies.
“Do I have to fight to keep you? 'Cause I'm not large with the butch."

Easter Egg Scene.

Quote:
“I know what it feels like to know something will last forever, that a feeling will last forever. This isn’t it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t very real for me right now. So I just need some time and some space. But maybe we could start eating dinner together again.”


So much wisdom for a high school girl.

Quote:
Who cares?” Tara replied, holding her hands up, “It’s just a certificate. For not getting sick or needing a day out. That makes me lucky, not special.”

Kimberly gave a pointed stare.

“You get an iPad.”

Tara paused.

“Okay, that would have been pretty cool,” she admitted, smiling a crooked smile, “But still. My point stands.”


I never thought that it was fair that they rewarded kids who had good immune systems with prizes. But I am guessing that Tara could have really used an IPad. :ashamed

Quote:
There’d been a time, not even that long ago, that she craved this kind of affection, would have done anything for it but she’d finally realized that it didn’t make her whole, it just sacrificed parts of herself.


Willow is starting to see her parents for who they are. I am wondering if Dicky Babcock is actually gay as well...

This story rocks.

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Last edited by taranwillow4ever on Wed Sep 25, 2019 1:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 6:38 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 201
I haven't read the new chapter yet, just wanted to comment on the last two:

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“Oh! I have a boyfriend that’s a girl! Her name is Tara and we watch lil’ mermaid and do yabba dabba!”


Cordelia’s mouth dropped with shock.


“You can’t have a boyfriend that’s a girl!”


Willow frowned again.


“Why not?”


“‘Cause you marry your boyfriend when you growed up! You can’t marry a girl!” Cordelia exclaimed and began cackling, “Willow wants to marry a girl! Willow wants to marry a girl!”


“No, I don’t!!” Willow interjected quickly, feeling rising panic at the jaunting and all of the eyes starting to close in on her, “I wanna marry a boy!”


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As she followed Xander into the corner to play, she spotted her picture hanging on the wall. It made her feel happy and was confused why she felt happy when Cordelia had said it was so wrong. She didn’t like it one bit and the emotional turmoil was far beyond what her growing mind was capable of working out.


She just knew something was wrong, something was off and that from now on, Tara had to be a secret. Her secret.


So little Cordelia is to blame for Willow hiding so deep in her closet at such a young age! :fit And Willow's parents didn't help because they probably never gave Willow the impression that beeing gay is no shame.

I loved that little Xander noticed Willow's distress and came to her aid. Yay for the yellow-crayon, stolen-Barbie and "We hate Cordelia-club"-eastereggs! How cute that Willow already knows the meaning of a complicated word like "treasurer".

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“Willow doesn’t have a date,” Cordelia shrieked, almost doubling over with laughter, “Willow doesn’t have a date!”


How sad that a destitute, date- and friendless Cordelia feels the need that she has to ridicule Willow to make herself feel better..
I'm overjoyed that Xander came to Willow's aid (again) and that Willow and Xander mended their friendship!

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“We are Insect Reflection and together we represent our insignificance in terms of the karmic cycle.

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“Did they say they were going to play Karma Chameleon?” Xander asked cluelessly, “I like that song.”

:laugh

It's understandable that Tara has run out of patience and probably suspected that Willow lied to her and planned on going to prom with the others all along.
Considering the scene Cordelia made because Willow had "no date" I don't want to imagine how she would have behaved if Willow had gone to prom with Tara, though, so I get why Willow didn't even think of inviting her.

Willow did show enough courage in the rest of the chapter to make me proud by accepting Tara's invitation to her prom (if belatedly), not backing out of it, introducing Tara and Buffy and by that proving Tara she already had come out to Buffy and thanking Emmy for taking care of Tara.

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Willow’s voice choked up.


“You know I can’t.”


“I know you won’t,” Tara returned harshly, shaking her head

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“Um, Emmy?” she said, awkwardly fidgeting with her sleeve, “Thank you. For this and…being there for her when I cou—wouldn’t.”

So Willow took Tara's reproach to heart and starts taking responsibility for her decisions, that's a good sign.

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Willow looked at Tara and offered her hand again. She might not be able to do this front and center, but she could do it out back in their own little private corner.


“My dance?”


The smile that lit up Tara’s face could have sustained Willow for years.


:flower :bigkiss Another easteregg…

Quote:
A tale as old as time.

...song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beast... :wink


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:35 pm 
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Yay for Willow giving Donny a piece of her mind! It reminded me of Willow standing up for Buffy in one canon-episode (in Season 3 I think), admonishing Giles for killing Buffy with pressure and Angel for giving her the "brush-off".

That Donny just took the force of Willow's anger without trying to talk back or evade her shows how far he has already come in rehab.

I'm glad that Willow's new "sense of freedom" gave her enough courage for their "walk in the park", a wonderful canon-easteregg (only without the Tara-song).

I loved Tara's gifts for Willow, she put so much love and consideration in it!

What a stark contrast to Willow's parents who only gave her some bills of money or a cheque and invited almost strangers to her birthday-dinner. And their attitude in the conversation afterwards, grrr! :fit

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“I’ve failed you both and you are the truly innocent party in all of this,” Kimberly replied, unable to stop a sob rising in her throat, “And I don’t know how to make it better. I’m your mother, I’m supposed to know, but I don’t. All those years I was terrified I was losing Donny to whatever destructive behavior of the week he was exhibiting, but through it all, I actually lost you.”


Her head dropped into her hands and Tara was over there like a shot. She couldn’t just leave her mother crying and not comfort her; it wasn’t in her nature. She pulled a chair close and placed her palm in the middle of Kimberly’s spine.


“This must be really hard for you. Do you have anyone to talk to? Your friends from work, or church?”


Kimberly barked out a laugh through the tears.


“And somehow I produced a beautiful soul like you.”


Oh yes, that is so Tara! I really feel for Kimberly and am so glad that they reconciliated.

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“I know what it feels like to know something will last forever, that a feeling will last forever.

I'm sure she means her love for Willow, right?

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“I love you, Willow.”

Aww, there it is, her first love-decleration! :flower
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“Tara, I l…” she stopped and swallowed, looking down at the contents of her hands, “I love my gifts.

And Willow had the answer on the tip of her tongue...I hope she will soon be brave enough to say it out loud.

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“Then happy new year of your life, which I just know will be filled with joy and new opportunities and will be everything you wish and deserve.”


Willow felt the deepest clarity she’d ever known wash over her.


“I really feel like it will too,” she said, exhaling a soft breath, “See you soon?”


Tara nodded.


“I’m always here.”

:flower :bigkiss
That made me feel all mushy (although Tara's sentence isn't true in the literal sense condidering she plans to travel the world without Willow for a year).

Like the other readers I can't wait to learn what kind of favor by which person (that Willow obviously doesn't like) she wants to call in.

Last (and least? :wink ) I spotted this song-easteregg:
Quote:
“They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 4:40 pm 
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I really enjoyed this last chapter!! the dialogue was great and ran so smoothly- serious and sweet and flirty all in one.
I especially appreciate Tara's interaction with Kimberly. She is mature and empathetic but not a saint- she gets to need time and space and to be very very hurt and angry, and I love that Tara asks for what she needs and that it took her a bit to get there. and I like that Kimberly acknowledged it to Tara- she owed her that and yet it is complicated for her as well complicated= human and interesting
the birthday stuff was super cute and sweet. Tara is a creating machine! the memories and hand made box were perfect. and Willow is getting there with her feelings. inch by inch she is settling into what her heart wants.
and their old playground shutting down is such a great metaphor for where they are- can't keep hiding behind the bushes of the past, its time to play in the sunshine of the new playground- open and public for the world to see.
Honkerburger always gives me a bit of an icky feeling, only because I always feel a little icky about places like that (after seeing a girl who couldn't have been more than 16 in teeny tiny clothes and a vacant stare at a Twin Peaks restaurant, that is the image I have)
But Willow drooling over Tara in a tight white tank and little skirt- yummy!
Oh the vibrating phone! poor Tara haha

I have a feeling the text is to Dickie but what Willow is asking I have no clue

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 6:35 pm 
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Oh and I have had Joni Mitchell in my head for days now!

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You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2019 4:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
What favor? Inquiring minds want to know...and will wait until Friday.


Your patience is appreciated :wink

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Easter Egg Song.

Easter Egg Scene.


Well spotted!

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So much wisdom for a high school girl.


Tara is an old soul!

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I never thought that it was fair that they rewarded kids who had good immune systems with prizes. But I am guessing that Tara could have really used an IPad.


It is not fair and you're right, she could have, especially with all her planned travels.

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Willow is starting to see her parents for who they are. I am wondering if Dicky Babcock is actually gay as well...


He is not gay (it was something I actually considered but opted against) but that first part of your sentence does show what he and Willow have in common.

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This story rocks.


Thank you! :blush

Thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

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So little Cordelia is to blame for Willow hiding so deep in her closet at such a young age! :fit And Willow's parents didn't help because they probably never gave Willow the impression that beeing gay is no shame.


You're exactly right. I don't think they were ever expressly homophobic but might have used words like 'abherrant' in an academic way that would have built up an ideal of the perfect child Willow didn't want to move away from.

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I loved that little Xander noticed Willow's distress and came to her aid. Yay for the yellow-crayon, stolen-Barbie and "We hate Cordelia-club"-eastereggs! How cute that Willow already knows the meaning of a complicated word like "treasurer".


I think little Willow could have played 'committee' with her playing all of the roles and was actually being quite magnanimous giving Xander treasurer as she liked to do the math :laugh

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How sad that a destitute, date- and friendless Cordelia feels the need that she has to ridicule Willow to make herself feel better..


It's unfortunately usually the way it goes with bullies.

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I'm overjoyed that Xander came to Willow's aid (again) and that Willow and Xander mended their friendship!


Me too! She was sad. I don't like when she's sad.

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It's understandable that Tara has run out of patience and probably suspected that Willow lied to her and planned on going to prom with the others all along.


That was it, really, if she knew how it had come about she might have felt disappointed but not mad. But how she interpreted it all happening, it felt like she was being completely shut out, not just physically but emotionally as well; that Willow had kept the reconcilliation with Xander secret (she also still feels some latent jealously around him which didn't help her emotions boiling over)

Quote:
Considering the scene Cordelia made because Willow had "no date" I don't want to imagine how she would have behaved if Willow had gone to prom with Tara, though, so I get why Willow didn't even think of inviting her.


And Tara was kinda right, Willow didn't think of prom as something she would go to with Tara which speaks a bit to how she still sees their relationship (or did anyway, I think it was a slap in the face to Willow herself that Tara isn't just her best friend and kissing buddy anymore, it's a romantic relationship, even if it's still a secret one)

Quote:
Willow did show enough courage in the rest of the chapter to make me proud by accepting Tara's invitation to her prom (if belatedly), not backing out of it, introducing Tara and Buffy and by that proving Tara she already had come out to Buffy and thanking Emmy for taking care of Tara.

So Willow took Tara's reproach to heart and starts taking responsibility for her decisions, that's a good sign.


She did and it is! Those were HUGE steps for her and it's always the first step that's the hardest.

Quote:
:flower :bigkiss Another easteregg…

...song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beast...


:applause

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Yay for Willow giving Donny a piece of her mind! It reminded me of Willow standing up for Buffy in one canon-episode (in Season 3 I think), admonishing Giles for killing Buffy with pressure and Angel for giving her the "brush-off".


Donny needed it. His whole life has been people tip-toeing around him and even now Kimberly is doing that to an extent because she's his outside support network as he goes through recovery. Look, he needs that, he needs to know someone out there still believes him, but someone needed to give him a kick up the butt too and I was so glad it was Willow who did that for Tara.

Quote:
That Donny just took the force of Willow's anger without trying to talk back or evade her shows how far he has already come in rehab.


Pushing Tara down the stairs (well, technically the resulting aftermath of him thinking he killed her) was his rock bottom. He basically wished her dead most of his life and then he thinks and did it and...oh no, he did not want it. So that was definitely a turning point to build on.

Quote:
I'm glad that Willow's new "sense of freedom" gave her enough courage for their "walk in the park", a wonderful canon-easteregg (only without the Tara-song).


Well don't forget, Tara started to write that song in the first chapter. It hasn't left her head...

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I loved Tara's gifts for Willow, she put so much love and consideration in it!


What else would we expect from her?

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What a stark contrast to Willow's parents who only gave her some bills of money or a cheque and invited almost strangers to her birthday-dinner. And their attitude in the conversation afterwards, grrr!


They're just so pompous and haughty.

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Oh yes, that is so Tara! I really feel for Kimberly and am so glad that they reconciliated.


Tara is lucky enough to have her mother in this verse, I couldn't keep them at odds for too long.

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I'm sure she means her love for Willow, right?


Of course :)

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Aww, there it is, her first love-decleration!


She has alluded to it, but you are 100% right that this is the first 'proper' (romantic) love declaration!

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And Willow had the answer on the tip of her tongue...I hope she will soon be brave enough to say it out loud.


Me too. She's getting there!

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:flower :bigkiss
That made me feel all mushy (although Tara's sentence isn't true in the literal sense condidering she plans to travel the world without Willow for a year).


Hmm, but...does she?

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Like the other readers I can't wait to learn what kind of favor by which person (that Willow obviously doesn't like) she wants to call in.


I went for the low hanging fruit :D

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Last (and least? :wink ) I spotted this song-easteregg:


:applause

Thanks for your feedback!

shirrey

Quote:
I really enjoyed this last chapter!! the dialogue was great and ran so smoothly- serious and sweet and flirty all in one.


Thank you!

Quote:
I especially appreciate Tara's interaction with Kimberly. She is mature and empathetic but not a saint- she gets to need time and space and to be very very hurt and angry, and I love that Tara asks for what she needs and that it took her a bit to get there. and I like that Kimberly acknowledged it to Tara- she owed her that and yet it is complicated for her as well complicated= human and interesting


They all went through a lot - and it's been going on for a long time. Like Kimberly says, old wounds don't heal overnight. But a commitment to moving forward - that's important and I'm glad Tara is feeling that fulfillment in all of her relationships.

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the birthday stuff was super cute and sweet. Tara is a creating machine!


She is! She's been creating band merch and all sorts of things for years and now she has the sewing machine she's still staying up until 2am to do it - she's just getting more done :laugh.

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the memories and hand made box were perfect. and Willow is getting there with her feelings. inch by inch she is settling into what her heart wants.


She's creeping there, slowly but surely :heart

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and their old playground shutting down is such a great metaphor for where they are- can't keep hiding behind the bushes of the past, its time to play in the sunshine of the new playground- open and public for the world to see.


You got it, exactly.

Quote:
Honkerburger always gives me a bit of an icky feeling, only because I always feel a little icky about places like that (after seeing a girl who couldn't have been more than 16 in teeny tiny clothes and a vacant stare at a Twin Peaks restaurant, that is the image I have)
But Willow drooling over Tara in a tight white tank and little skirt- yummy!


I appreciate how you feel about Honkerburger - this is specifically why I made them change the manager to a woman. I've watched a few documentary shows on the subject and too have seen things like you describe BUT when they were managed by a woman things were always 1000% better. Better uniforms, better enforcement of staff protection, the girls feeling comfortable and freedom to speak up. To reassure you, the restaurant doesn't actually come up again but also that everything is above board in my version and dare I say it's actually quite a feminist restaurant with the management it is under :)

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Oh the vibrating phone! poor Tara haha


Poor Tara, I tortured her :laugh

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I have a feeling the text is to Dickie but what Willow is asking I have no clue


All to be revealed below!

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Oh and I have had Joni Mitchell in my head for days now!


I take full responsibility for this and regret nothing :kdevil

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 24th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2019 4:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 15



May

(Part 2)



Over And Over, The Only Truth
Everything Comes Back To You



The weight of Donny’s heavy shoes made the steps on the staircase creak as he walked up them.


When he got to the top of the stairs, he reached into an inside pocket in his jacket and retrieved a thick envelope. His thumb flicked through the contents one more time and held the flap closed. He bent his knees and placed the envelope flat on the ground and he pushed it under the doorframe in front of him until it had fully disappeared. He stood again.


He turned to go back the same way he’d come up, but the door swung open unexpectedly.


He looked startled; his mouth opening and closing.


“I-I thought you’d left, I—” he pointed his thumb over his shoulder, “I saw the car go.”


Tara stood in her bedroom doorway, her hair straightened on one side and still wavy on the other, holding the bulging envelope and eyeing Donny up and down suspiciously.


“Mom went to get sunscreen, the ceremony is outdoors,” Tara replied in a clipped tone, holding the envelope away from herself, “What is this?”


Donny stuffed his hands in his pockets.


“I-It’s money.”


Tara’s eyes narrowed. He wasn’t usually the one with the stutter.


“What’s it for?”


“It’s what you need, right?” he asked, eyeing the floor, “To buy your ticket? Is it enough?”


Tara lifted the opening of the envelope, her eyebrows shooting up her forehead as she saw the stack of green bills. She briefly thumbed through them and felt her heart thud as she did the quick math.


“Where did you get this?” she asked accusingly.


Donny scuffed his shoe against the wooden floor and never had his tall build looked so small to Tara.


“I sold my bike.”


Tara was stunned into silence. She looked between the envelope and her brother, meek and docile, and tried to understand.


“What is this, amends or something?”


Donny shook his head, still not looking at her.


“No. That’s step nine. I’m not there yet.”


Tara’s brow slowly scrunched into a frown.


“You can’t just throw me a few dollars and think—”


“I don’t,” Donny looked up and cut her off in such a soft-spoken way it unnerved Tara to the core, “I’m just making up the easiest part of my mistakes. I know the hard stuff will take a lot longer.”


He took a step back.


“I won’t bother you anymore. I didn’t think you were in there. I’m sorry,” he said, those two words passing his lips to her for the first time in his life, or at least many years, “Enjoy your graduation.”


He took the first step back downstairs until Tara’s voice called out to him.


“If you want to sit at the back, you can,” she said, her voice wavering and unsure, “And you need to find your own way there.”


Donny looked back, nodded once and continued downstairs. Tara shut her door and leaned back against it, again looking through it, waiting for the shoe to drop that this was all some practical joke.


When she finally realized that this was really happening, she sank down onto her bed, staring at the envelope of cash that represented her hopes and dreams.


She didn’t know how to feel at all.


She quickly put it away safely into the lockbox she kept her tips in until she could get to the bank and busied herself with finishing getting ready.


When she’d dressed, in a yellow and white patterned summer dress that went just below her knee, she walked downstairs, where Kimberly was waiting for her.


“Oh, sweetheart, you look stunning,” she said, hand over her heart and a lump in her throat, “Where’s your cap and gown?”


Tara gave a resigned smile that every child was familiar with and went to the coat closet. She put her cap and gown on and immediately Kimberly was snapping photos in her face.


“Mom, stop.”


“Just smile for one,” Kimberly pleaded.


Tara fixed the same smile on her face and stood still for considerably more than one photo.


“Mom, we need to go…”


“Okay, okay,” Kimberly replied, sniffling.


“Oh, Mom, please don’t,” Tara said, tensing as she did not want to sit in the car with her mother sobbing over her impending graduation.


“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Kimberly replied, the second iteration a little clearer than the first, “Come on then.”


She held the door open for Tara and stepped through it, looking back sadly before getting into the car.


Tara waited in the passenger seat of the car, tapping her fingers against her thigh. Once they were on the road, she glanced over at her mother.


“Did you tell him to?”


“What, darling?” Kimberly asked in confusion, “Who?”


“Donny,” Tara replied cagily, “Did you tell him to?”


“Tell him to what?” Kimberly asked, her voice rising with concern, “Did he hurt you? He went off on his bike this morning, I thought he’d be gone for the day. It wasn’t there when I got back. Oh god, what has he done?”


“No,” Tara interjected quickly, “No, he didn’t hurt me. I’m sorry, I was mistaken.”


Kimberly’s chest was rising higher than normal.


“If something has happened, I—”


“It’s nothing,” Tara reassured, putting a hand on her mother’s shoulder, “Really.”


Kimberly glanced over at her at a traffic light, worried.


“Honey…”


“It’s okay, Momma,” Tara said softly, “I promise. Nothing for you to worry about.”


Kimberly slowly relaxed and nodded, then smiled. She opened her mouth like she was about to say something, then seemingly thought better of it.


“You have earned this beautiful day.”


The sun was indeed shining and continued to be when they arrived at the graduation ceremony. It was a compact space, a field hockey pitch, which was the only sports field on campus. Tara allowed her mother to take a few more pictures before she went to join her class at the front. She smiled at the people sitting around her, familiar faces though not ones she hung out with regularly.


Everything felt like a bit of a blur. She’d enjoyed her time at this school, made some friends and pursued interests a lot of teenagers never had the opportunity to. But for the first time, she felt truly uneasy about how her future looked.


She glanced behind and felt a squirming in her stomach as the seats filled up and the ceremony was clearly imminent.


Music played and the senior faculty said a few words. With no valedictorian or other class-ranking rituals in play at this school, suddenly Tara found herself shuffling along with the heard of cap-and-gowns to line up and take that stride across the stage.


The diploma felt lighter in her hands than it should, she thought, considering all it represented. She moved her tassel and looked out to the stage for the photo she knew her mother would want to take and stayed still as she took note of the note one, but two sets of hands clapping for her.


Another name being called had her rushing off the stage before there was a collision. She then waited with the gaggle of giddy students ready to throw their hats and declare their freedom.


Tara felt the sun catch her face as her hat sailed three feet in the air. She felt a perfect moment of peace, right until the shower of hats that had been so carelessly flung into the air rained back down on them all and she got slapped in the face with one.


Her face scrunched for a moment and then she laughed, it bubbling up from her throat and spreading out infectiously amongst the group.


That was it.


It was officially over.


They were done.


She was done.


Parents started to come up to their children and so Tara sought out her mother, who was smiling proudly, though with crinkles of concern creased at her eyes.


“Donny said you said he could come?”


Tara glanced at Donny near her and back at her Kimberly. She just nodded and Kimberly threw her arms around her in relief.


“You were wonderful. I’m so proud of you. My baby girl! I can’t believe my baby girl has finished high school.”


Tara allowed her mother to gush and hug and generally delight and despair at the exact same time. Tara started to get way too hot, so she removed her cap and gown and folded them into Kimberly’s hands when she had an opening.


“Would you keep these safe for me? I might want to do an art project or something with them someday. I’m going to go see my friends.”


Kimberly nodded, fixed the straps on Tara’s dress and gave her the thumbs up.


Tara approached Nate and tapped him on the shoulder. She smiled when he turned to her.


“Nate Williamson, official freshman of the Manhattan School of Music.”


Nate threw his arms around Tara and pulled her into a hug, picking her right up and making her laugh.


“Tara Maclay, lookin’ fine as a future student of the world.”


“Maybe,” Tara replied, straightening herself up again, “When are you off to New York?”


“Residence halls don’t open until August,” Nate nodded easily, “Me and the boys are thinking of doing a road trip to get there though. Make a summer of it.”


Tara lightly slapped his upper arm.


“Remember me when you’re famous.”


Nate stopped to look at Tara with a fond smile.


“Hey,” he said softly, his deep brown eyes looking right into Tara’s, “Playing with you was the raddest of all my time here.”


Tara held her arm across her chest, peering at the ground.


“I would never have played a show if you hadn’t convinced me to start out with you. I’d still be a lonely girl playing piano by herself after school.”


“Thank god I forgot my capo and walked in on you that day,” Nate laughed, kicking the grass by Tara’s foot, “I wouldn’t be the musician I am without you.”


Tara looked up to meet his gaze.


“Me either.”


Nate took her hands, held them in his for several seconds, then finally let her go.


“We’re all hitting a party in a warehouse downtown, open season for the stage,” he said, raising an eyebrow, “What do you say? Give Insect Reflection one last hurrah?”


Tara didn’t hesitate to nod.


“Maybe we’ll finally turn into Eagle Reflection.”


Nate laughed to himself as he led them away from the field hockey field, away from the school and away from their lives for the past four years.


“I never got all that stuff, y’know.”


Tara just smiled, dignified and amused.


“Trust me, it’s funny.”



Willow waited in an alleyway next to two industrial size dumpsters, wishing for the hundredth time that she’d insisted on choosing the meeting point.


She swore he was late on purpose just to make her stand there in the stink.


Finally, a black BMW 3 series pulled up and the driver’s side window slid down slowly.


Willow stepped up, cautiously.


“Dickie,” she ‘greeted’, giving him a nod, “You got it?”


Dickie reached onto the passenger side, lifted a brown envelope and pushed it out against Willow’s chest. Willow took a smaller envelope out of her pocket and handed it to him. He flicked through the bills inside, counting them, and tossed it onto the passenger seat.


“We’re even, Rosenberg,” he stated, raising an eyebrow, “Have a nice trip.”


Willow started to thank him, but Dickie cut her off with a smarmy smirk.


“And hey, if you’re ever looking for a third…”


“You’re such an asshole!” Willow called as Dickie drove off, cackling, “Remember our deal, you keep your mouth shut and I keep mine!”


“I’m not an idiot, red!”


Dickie flipped her the bird out the window. Willow scowled in his general direction and muttered ‘debatable’ before opening the envelope and sliding out the contents.


“Wow,” she whispered as she flicked through it all.


She sealed it back in the envelope so it wouldn’t soak up any garbage stench.


A quick stop at the party store and she would finally be ready.



Tara laid on her side in her bed, her lockbox open as she counted the bills inside.


She had come straight upstairs after leaving the graduation party and returning home, barely missing another session of maternal gushing. Her dress hung a bit looser on her after the hours of partying and playing.


It had seemed like she had some instrument attached to her every second and while it had been the ultimate in jam sessions, it was physically exhausting. As if the day hadn’t been emotionally draining enough as it was.


And now here she was, a choice on the horizon and she suddenly knew how all of her peers felt choosing colleges.


A knock at the door disturbed her counting and she quickly closed over the box and slid it under her pillow. She stood up and realized it was time to change as parts of her dress poked out in different directions from being disturbed from her lounging about.


She opened her door and before she could even see who was on the other side, she heard and felt a party popper go off in her face.


“You did it!”


Now that voice, she recognized.


“Hi baby,” she said quietly, only loud enough for Willow to hear, “I did it.”


The confetti cleared and Willow was revealed, empty popper in one hand and a congratulations balloon and small boutique bag hanging from the other wrist. Tara stood aside to let Willow into her room, balloon bobbing along after her. Tara backed up against the door to close it when Willow was inside.


“Sorry you couldn’t be there; there was a strict family-only policy. It’s a small campus.”


“It’s okay, but you’re still coming to mine, right?” Willow asked hopefully.


Tara smiled and nodded.


“Of course. I’m thrilled you want me to come.”


Willow glanced Tara up and down and began bouncing on her toes in the same rhythm.


“You look so pretty, I love you in dresses,” she gushed effusively, biting her bottom lip to contain the other emotions threatening to bubble out.


As she took in Tara’s face, she began to slowly frown.


“Why do you also look so sad?”


“I’m not sad,” Tara replied, a furrowed line in her brow.


Willow’s eyebrow arched.


“Have you told your face?”


Tara crossed her arms lightly over her chest.


“I had a great graduation. I said goodbye to everyone and we partied and played and it was wonderful. I should probably change, but I’m definitely not sad.”


“Okay…” Willow replied, unconvinced.


Tara sat on the edge of her bed.


“I guess maybe I’m a little bit, um, pensive,” she conceded, swallowing deeply for a moment before slowly lifting her gaze to Willow’s, “Because I’ve decided not to go on the trip. At all.”


Everything dropped from Willow’s hands, except for the balloon tied on her wrist which flew around wildly as she gesticulated.


“What?!” she exclaimed, mouth hanging open, “But…but why?! You’ve…you always wanted…a-and, and finding yourself and…”


“I’m actually pretty sure of who I am,” Tara replied evenly, “And how I see my life.”


She stood up and crossed the small space to take both of Willow’s hands, trying to ignore the balloon dipping between their line of vision every couple of seconds.


“And how I see my life…is with you.”


Willow felt the air rush from her lungs.


“Tara,” she croaked, her mouth suddenly dry.


The balloon booped her nose and she started aggressively attacking the string on her wrist.


“Jeez!”


She grabbed a pencil from Tara’s desk and popped the balloon, watching the string that was chafing her wrist fall underneath her.


Tara watched the whole thing play out, looking more than a little scared.


“U-Unless you don’t want me too.”


Willow realized how her aggression was misinterpreted and was quick to retake Tara’s hands.


“I want to be with you. I always wanted to be with you, even if it was thousands of miles apart.”


She watched as Tara’s eyes slowly returned the loving stare she was used to.


“I’m not putting this decision on you. I’m making the choice. Me. All these obstacles came up, maybe for a reason and this morning I got all the money and I just wasn’t as excited as—”


“You got the money?” Willow interrupted, wide-eyed.


Tara nodded slowly.


“Donny gave it to me. He sold his bike.”


Both of Willow’s eyebrows rose.


“Whoa. I thought he loved that thing.”


“He does. Did,” Tara replied, frowning, “He came to my graduation…I said he could if he find his own way, which I thought would be enough for him not to bother but…he actually came. And sat silently. And clapped. And held my mom’s purse.”


Willow didn’t have enough time to process all of that before Tara was speaking again.


“Anyway, I was thinking instead of doing a road trip this summer. Nate is doing one and it seems like a cool idea.”


“You’re doing a road trip with Nate?” Willow tried to work out slowly.


Tara looked horrified.


“No, god no,” she clarified, shaking her head quickly, “A road trip with a bunch of guys? No thank you. That car will probably dissolve under the smell by the time they get one state over.”


Willow smiled at the joke, making Tara smile back.


“But I could do it myself, or maybe you’d even come along for part of it. And then I could work for the year…n-nearby and see if I want to apply to colleges next year. I’d still be living in the real world for a year and I could make smaller trips. It would just be a different way of doing things.”


She seemed like she was trying very hard to make herself believe that.


Willow was frowning deeply.


“Is that really what you want? What about all the plans you made you were so excited about? You can’t go to…South Africa when you have a weekend off.”


Tara played with her own earlobe shyly.


“I just can’t see how I could enjoy it without you.”


Willow blinked once and slowly smiled.


“Wait, just wait for a second, because I think we might actually be on the same page,” she said, stepping up right in Tara’s space so her smile was unavoidable, “What if we did things the other way around? Instead of you staying?”


That line in Tara’s brow furrowed all over again.


“What are you talking about?”


Willow looked around, spotted the small bag where it had fallen from her wrist and presented it to Tara, with a soft, nervous inhale.


“This is your graduation present.”


Tara took the bag and looked for a name to give her any indication of what might be inside. There was nothing, just plain cream cardboard and a maroon ribbon tying both sides together.


She pulled the ribbon free and reached into the bag. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting but was still surprised as she took out a small booklet. As she turned it over in her hands she realized it was a little comic book, just a few pages long.


She found the front page and read the title, stretched out over a rainbow as two characters danced underneath.


The Adventures of Yabba and Dabba


“Oh my god,” she whispered quietly as she sank back onto the bed.


Each page had two panels, which had the two of them drawn in one of their different adventures, at all different ages, all plucked from real-life stories, from memories in the memory box Tara had given Willow.


The very last panel was noticeable as it was a singular frame with white space around it that made it stand out. It was also in a different style to the others and Tara immediately found it intimate. It was clearly the two of them in an embrace, eyes locked and Willow was speaking to ‘her’.


Image



“I did the last one myself. I wanted to keep it simple. My doodles aren’t generally immortalized,” Willow chuckled nervously, “Dickie Babcock helped me do the rest. He does comics. He’s actually not supremely awful.”


Tara raised her gaze with an unconvinced arched eyebrow.


“Don’t get me wrong, he’s awful,” Willow clarified, “Just not supremely.”


“Why would he help you do something nice for me?” Tara asked, suspicious.


“Mutual enlightened self-interest. He’s blowing off his parents’ school wishes too, going to art school instead of being the 10th generation whatever at Stuffy White Guy college. Plus he owed me one,” Willow replied, trying to pretend she wasn’t freaking out at Tara’s non-reaction, “And I paid him.”


Tara put a hand up.


“Wait, I’m sorry…blowing off his parents’ school wishes ‘too’?”


Willow’s heart began to thud.


“Look at the back.”


Tara turned the comic over and gently ran her hand down the colorful page.


There was a drawing of them sitting in a little two-person plane, flying toward an illustration of the globe. It was stylized like a preview of the next comic.


In our next adventure: Yabba and Dabba Doo The World.


Tara slowly drew her gaze back up to Willow, keeping the comic in her lap.


“Willow this is absolutely beautiful,” she said, softly and appreciatively, “But I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”


Willow clasped her hands together to stop them from fidgeting nervously.


“Well I was wondering, see, and you can totally say no; you should, in fact, say no if it’s how you feel, and I want you to be really, really honest because I in no way want to impose on you or the journey, or your journey, you know and—”


Tara slid the comic off her lap, reached out and slid her hands along Willow’s arms until they broke her grip and she could slide both sets of fingers together. She gently tugged Willow forward the foot or so between them, fluidly moved her hands to Willow’s hips and pulled Willow into her lap.


Willow was impressed with the grace and speed of Tara’s movements, but mostly that no matter how much she looked into Tara’s eyes, she always found a new depth to them.


She swallowed several times.


“I’m sorry, did you think this would make my thoughts clearer?”


Tara trailed a finger either side of Willow’s face, meeting under her chin to tilt it up.


“More like a reboot.”


She pressed her lips to Willow’s softly and lingered just long enough for Willow’s shoulders to relax.


Willow took in and released one long breath.


“Your methods have merit.”


She slid off to Tara’s side, because her thighs spread over Tara’s lap like that was far too distracting, and prepped herself for what she needed to say. She rested her forehead on Tara’s like she had in her comic.


“Ever thought about a travel buddy?”


Tara’s face moved through a flurry of emotions.


“W-What?” she asked, peering at Willow on confusion, “What do you mean? Do you mean for the summer? The road trip?”


“No, forget the stinky road trip,” Willow replied dismissively, “I mean for the real thing, the whole thing. The trip you always wanted just…together.”


Tara was just stunned, blinking rapidly and trying to reconcile everything in her mind.


“How…? What? Why?”


She paused to catch her breath.


“School, Willow, what about school?”


Willow stood up and began to pace, her words coming out frenetic and through pauses.


“I thought about this, I’ve thought about it so much, in so many different ways. And I’m not ready to just trade one institution for another. Another four years of slogging away for some misplaced sense of achievement, I don’t want to do what’s expected of me. I want to learn about the world and myself and all the things that can’t wait, but college can. Even if you say no, and again if that’s what you want, I want you to be honest. But even if you say no, I’m doing this some other way. I’ve already made the arrangements. I couldn’t go to school this year even if I wanted to.”


Tara’s mouth hung open.


“You…cancelled college??”


“I just deferred,” Willow replied quickly, “It’ll all be sitting there waiting for me nice and pretty next year. Books can wait.”


Tara’s eyebrows had essentially merged entirely with her hairline.


“Am I speaking to Willow Rosenberg?”


Willow flopped back down next to Tara and took her hand into her own lap, playing with her fingers.


“You are. Maybe for the first time. This has been a long time coming. I always thought you making this choice would ruin your life…I finally realized me letting other people make or push their choices on me was ruining mine.”


This was a lot for Tara to process; her two dreams were coming together in the best way she never thought possible.


“Is this really happening?”


Willow finally paused, a smile lighting up her face.


“I don’t know. Is it?”


Tara swallowed deeply.


“I want it to be. Are you sure?


Willow nodded, still smiling.


“Yes. And it’s about one of the only things I’ve ever been truly sure of. Are you in?”


“I couldn’t be in more in,” Tara replied, laughing and covering her mouth with her hand, “What do we do? Where do we go from here?”


“It has to be a secret, but only until we can get our tickets confirmed. If you already have the money, we can get them soon,” Willow said, squeezing Tara’s palm excitedly, “I’ll find a good place we can meet to plan it.”


“Why can’t we just do it here?” Tara asked, lowering her voice in line with the secrecy.


“Because if we get caught it could jeopardize the whole thing,” Willow explained, gulping, “My parents are…not going to be happy. I would not put sabotage past them.”


Tara seemed concerned, though Willow was just determined.


“But I’ll be happy…and for once I’m choosing me.”


Tara reached up and caressed Willow’s cheek.


“I can attest that choosing Willow is a choice well made.”


Willow bounced on the spot and lifted Tara’s hand to her chest, putting it over her heart.


“I’m terrified, can you feel my heart?”


“I always feel your heart,” Tara replied softly, splaying her fingers out to feel the thud, “I can’t believe you’ve been planning all this and you didn’t say a word.”


Willow’s eyes were bright with hope.


“You’re really in? We’re doing this?”


Tara rested her forehead against Willow’s, syncing their breathing as she did so.


“We’re doing this.”



Tara tied her bike to a bike rack in an alley and walked out onto the street to look up at the sign on the establishment.


She was at the right place, meeting Willow in a bar called O’Malley’s.


She pushed the door open, and the place was almost empty. No one sitting at the tables and just one older man sitting at the bar, hunched over and nursing a beer. The music was melancholy and the interior was drab and there was a lingering smell like what the nursing home Kimberly worked at smelled like, combined with the yeasty smell of beer and sadness.


Tara thought she must have gotten the venue wrong, but then she saw a mop of red hair pop out from one of the booths.


“Tara, hi.”


“Hi,” Tara replied, cautiously striding over and swinging her backpack off her shoulder as she slid in opposite Willow, “Why are we meeting here again?”


“Because it’s one of the only places in town I can be sure my parents don’t know anyone,” Willow replied, just as a plate was placed on the table and slid in front of her, “Plus I like their loaded sausage potato skins. This is kinda my den of pork-eat-ity.”


“I see,” Tara replied, amused, “And I thought I was your dirty little secret.”


Willow choked and grabbed at the glass of soda sitting in front of her to gulp it down. While she recovered, Tara noticed there was a glass on her side as well and smiled as she took a sip: cherry cola. It tasted sweeter knowing Willow always knew what she wanted.


Willow cleared her throat and looked grateful that Tara was pretending not to notice her throat’s protest. She noticed the binder Tara was taking from her backpack and her eyes lit up with excitement.


“Ready to plan our escape?”


“You are going to tell them aren’t you?” Tara asked with a grimace, “Not just send a text from the airport?”


“Yes,” Willow insisted, “But they are going to Freak Out with a capital ‘F.O.’ which is only one letter different from what they’ll probably want to yell at me when I tell them.”


She sighed.


“I just need to be prepared. Everything paid for, organized. I’ll have my bags packed and I was hoping I could hide them in your room.”


“O-Of course,” Tara replied nervously, “Do you think they’ll kick you out?”


“I don’t know,” Willow answered honestly, “There’s nothing they can do, nothing they can change but this is a whole new defying Willow. Unchartered territory. That’s why I have all of my important documents in my safety deposit box, my money is secured in my own account they have no access to, I have my own credit card, I’m organizing my own insurance. To protect myself…and to show them too, that I’m not just making some rash decision.”


Tara started to reach across the table, thought better of it and slid out of her seat to scoot in beside Willow.


“I can’t promise what will happen…but I can promise I’m here for all of it. You have a place by my side as long as you want it.”


Willow hid her face in Tara’s shoulder and held her hand under the table. After a moment, she lifted her head but kept her hand in place, and used the other to pull Tara’s binder forward.


“Can I see?”


Tara nodded and opened the cover.


“This is what I had planned out…before. We can change it up—”


“This is exactly what I need. To take a leap of faith. And I trust you,” Willow replied with a soft sincere smile, “Show me where we’re going.”


Tara returned the smile and began talking Willow through everything.


Willow felt a bit giddy as she realized how thorough and well-organized Tara’s binder was. It was tabbed and color-coded by continent; country in order of direction and seemed to have reams of information of experiences to have in each place like a never-ending binder of multicultural adventures.


Honestly, she was a little turned on, but their conjoined hands were in her lap and Tara’s fingers were brushing her thigh, which didn’t help.


“There’s a basic route, but we can make lots of choices on the fly, get around on trains and buses, cheap point-to-point flights,” Tara explained, tucking some hair behind her ear, “I really wanted to have the info but I didn’t want to limit myself, y’know?”


She looked up at Willow and shyly scrunched her nose.


“These are my must-dos, you can let me know if you have any too…”


Willow had spells of being mesmerized by how Tara described everything; it was as animated as she’d ever seen her.


“Wow, Tara this is…better than any guidebook. Better than every guidebook! Put together! You must have been planning this for—” she paused, her gaze soft on Tara’s smiling face, “Years. You’ve been planning this for years.”


And you were going to give it all up for me.


“I wouldn’t be going without you,” Tara replied in a tone that didn’t mean either ‘because of your help’ or ‘without your presence’; she meant both. They’d needed each other to pull this experience of a lifetime off.


“So do we do it?” Willow asked, pupils wide and breath starting to come in light pants, “Do we book the tickets? I mean, you always planned to go in June…I know you were looking at delaying when you were working out the money stuff, but that’s not an issue any longer. It’s soon but why wait?”


Tara squeezed Willow’s hand tighter under the table.


“Leap of faith.”


Willow desperately wanted to give Tara a smooch then and there, and almost did, but chickened out at the last second. Instead, she turned to take her laptop out of its pouch and opened it on the table. She shoved a potato skin into her mouth while she waited for it to boot and to sign-in to the free WiFi before pulling up a whole folder of bookmarks. This is where her research would triumph.


“So I’ve been looking up the best types of tickets to buy and I definitely think we should get the most flexible ones, especially after seeing your…” she paused and smiled at Tara, “Our plans.”


A couple of hours, several refills, a surprisingly tasty share plate of pulled pork nachos and almost an entire canister of napkins later, Willow clicked the ‘purchase’ button and they both held their breath for the few seconds it took for the confirmation screen to pop up.


They both stared in stunned silence, then turned to each other at the same time and laughed loudly, disturbing the still lonely old patron sitting at the bar, but he just grumbled and ignored them.


“We’re going!” Willow exclaimed.


“We’re going,” Tara giggled, “I can’t believe it’s really happening.”


They hugged for a few seconds and separated a little awkwardly but still smiling from ear to ear. Tara’s phone buzzed with an alarm and she was genuinely surprised to see so much time had passed.


She scooted out and started to pack her binder away in her backpack.


“I have to go, I’m working a shift. Guess I can tell them I won’t be taking many more,” she said giddily, “See you later, travel buddy.”


She kissed Willow’s cheek and waggled her fingers in a wave.


“See you later, travel buddy,” Willow returned in a dreamy tone.


She waved back and watched Tara leave, biting her bottom lip lightly.


It really was happening and she had taken a major step forward, the biggest one.


Well, second biggest after actually making the decision to go.


She had a small but needily expedient list to take care of; vaccines, visas, insurance, but she knew what she had to do and was already prepped to make the appointments.


This was thrilling, even this part, the administration of it all. She couldn’t imagine what it would feel like when they stepped on, and then off, the plane.


To only know the direction she was going and to be making all the real decisions as they went…whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, at will. It was so different from how her entire life had been. There was always a practical end goal; her mother had graded her kindergarten drawings in comparison with others of her age group for god’s sake.


Now the end goal was love and life and happiness.


She felt a little nauseous.


Was this thrilling? Maybe it was terrifying. Maybe those two things were connected.


Either way, she couldn’t wait.


She packed up and went up to the bar to pay. While waiting for her card to go through, the drunk guy was peering at her.


“Wanda?”


Willow didn’t look up right away until he grunted. She glanced in his direction but he wasn’t exactly pleasant to look at.


“Are you talking to me?”


“Wanda, right?” he asked gruffly, “Wendy?”


“Willow,” Willow replied, guardedly, “I’m sorry, do I—”


She suddenly inhaled sharply, paling.


“Mr. Harris,” she squeaked, finally recognizing him, though it had been a couple of years and a lot less rough stubble since the last time.


“Willow,” Mr. Harris said with more than a little skeevy undertone, “You doing my boy?”


Willow did what could only be described as a quadruple-take.


“God, no,” she spat like she could taste the words on her tongue. “No, no, we’re not. No.”


Mr. Harris grumbled into his beer.


“Should be. Don’t like that new one. Not a’ bit a’ finesse y’know?”


Willow’s eyes bore into the bartender, willing him to work faster.


“Well, um, I think he likes her, so…” she said, gulping as her eyes flicked toward him nervously, “You, um, you’ve been here all day?”


How much have you heard?


Mr. Harris leaned threateningly in her direction.


“You implying something little girl?”


“Nope!” Willow replied swiftly, “I never imply, you must have inferred, incorrectly, of course, not your fault. I gotta go now before they kick me out, no minors after 6! Thanks! Bye!”


She tore her card right out of the machine when it flashed green and ran out, turning the corner to make sure she was out of sight. She kicked her heel back against the wall.


“Dammit.”

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 27th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:12 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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dibs :bounce

I love where this is going. I am imagining that talking to the 'rents is going to be full of drama. How many Tuesdays and Fridays are we going to have to wait?

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 27th 2019)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2019 8:12 am 
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3. Flaming O
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SO SWEET!!!! Go Willow!! This makes so much sense for her- she's action girl, able to make big gestures as long as there is stuff to plan, easier for her than emotional vulnerability. I love that she is taking this leap of faith.

You are redeeming Donnie- it's nice. People can change (mostly)

Quote:
“I never got all that stuff, y’know.”


Tara just smiled, dignified and amused.


“Trust me, it’s funny.”


YES! reclaim it Tara. Dignified- hell yes.





Quote:
“Why do you also look so sad?”


“I’m not sad,” Tara replied, a furrowed line in her brow.


Willow’s eyebrow arched.


“Have you told your face?”
This made me laugh so hard!! :rofl

Oh man, hopefully Willow won't freak over Mr Harris- I don't think he'd remember a damn thing. then again, the world is everywhere and hiding is exhausting.



Will you take us around the world with them?? Please?

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 27th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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taranwillow4ever ⁠—

Quote:
dibs :bounce


I love that bouncy guy!

Quote:
I love where this is going. I am imagining that talking to the 'rents is going to be full of drama. How many Tuesdays and Fridays are we going to have to wait?


Not many :wink

Thanks for commenting :)

shirrey ⁠—

Quote:
SO SWEET!!!! Go Willow!! This makes so much sense for her- she's action girl, able to make big gestures as long as there is stuff to plan, easier for her than emotional vulnerability. I love that she is taking this leap of faith.


Tara makes her believe!

Quote:
You are redeeming Donnie- it's nice. People can change (mostly)


I think so (mostly) too. I think where possible, Tara in particular would always want healing to take place.

Quote:
YES! reclaim it Tara. Dignified- hell yes.


Right? She's funny, she should own it!

Quote:
This made me laugh so hard!! :rofl


:D

Quote:
Oh man, hopefully Willow won't freak over Mr Harris- I don't think he'd remember a damn thing. then again, the world is everywhere and hiding is exhausting.


True that

Quote:
Will you take us around the world with them?? Please?


Hmm...okay :)

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 27th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

NOTE: This week's second update will be early (Wednesday) because I will be out of the country on Friday. Next week's schedule will be as normal :)

Chapter 16



May

(Part 3)



So I'm Trying To Put It Right
'Cause I Want To Love You With My Heart
All This Trying Has Made Me Tight
And I Don't Know Even Where To Start

Maybe That's A Start



“Willow!”


Willow spotted Buffy waving at her and excused herself from her parents to run over. When she caught up with Buffy, they both grabbed onto each other’s arms and started squealing.


“We did it, we’re actually graduating!” Buffy exclaimed, “Does my butt look big in this?”


She turned in her robes, making Willow giggle.


“Don’t want none unless you got buns, hun,” she tried to say seriously but couldn’t, then blushed and waved politely when she noticed they weren’t alone, “Hi, Mrs. Summers. Where’s Dawn?”


“Hello, Willow, congratulations,” Joyce replied softly, “She’s having a day out with her friends.”


“Whined jealously that I was getting an ounce of attention,” Buffy added through gritted teeth.


Joyce shot her a look, then folded into a smile.


“Oh, I see your parents, Willow. I’ll go say hello.”


Buffy linked arms with Willow and pointed across the grass.


“Look, there’s Xander.”


They walked over together and Willow became nervous as she saw his parents standing behind him.


“Will, Buff,” he greeted through gritted teeth as his parents threw daggers at each other, “Please tell me there’s somewhere you need to take me.”


Mr. Harris smirked at Willow.


“Your travel buddy here?”


Buffy’s brow slowly creased.


“Travel buddy?”


“Could I talk to you guys alone for a moment?” Willow said quickly, her voice rising a tad.


She dragged them away from the parents and students congregating around the seating area.


“Thanks for saving me, Will,” Xander replied with an appreciative smile, “It’s not nice being the buffer for eye-knives.”


Willow held her hands in front of her anxiously.


“I really do have to talk to you.”


She glanced between her two friends earnest faces and slowly exhaled.


“I’ve…I’ve decided to defer college for a year.”


Buffy’s eyes bugged.


“You’ve what?”


“Wait, what does defer mean?” Xander asked a furrow in his brow.


“I’m delaying it. I’ll go next year instead of this year,” Willow explained quickly.


A silence lingered, while Buffy and Xander shared a look.


“Are you… sick?” Buffy posited eyebrows scrunched unsurely.


“No, no,” Willow laughed lightly, “No, it’s a good thing. I’m going traveling, with Tara. We have the most amazing plans and—”


“You’re skipping college to become a backpacker?” Buffy interrupted, accusatory.


Willow frowned.


“That’s…over simplistic…but….”


Buffy held her hands up.


“Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?”


“This is very not-Willow, Willow,” Xander added, confused, “But it also sounds very, very cool.”


“Maybe I want to be something else,” Willow replied simply, “Someone not-Willow. Or…more-Willow, actually.”


Buffy shook her head back and forth.


“So overnight you’ve just suddenly decided to throw away all of your life plans just for her?”


“‘Just for’—” Willow started with a defensive inhalation of breath, “Is this about Tara and I being together?”


Xander’s eyes started to narrow.


“Are you guys doing some tricky thing to cut me out ag—” he started, then swung around to fully face Willow, “Wait — together-together?”


Willow watched the concern disguised as anger fill Buffy’s face and she slowly let out the anger she’d felt bunching in her own shoulders.


“I get it. You’re worried because…love makes you do the wacky.”


“Love?” Xander questioned, but neither girl reacted to him.


“That's the truth,” Buffy exhaled, folding her arms lightly over her chest.


Willow reached out and held onto the flowy arm of Buffy’s robe.


“But this isn’t that,” she insisted softly, “This is for me. I did it all without even telling her. This is me taking on board my own mind — my own happiness. I’ve sacrificed it for too long and I didn’t even realize.”


She took a step toward Buffy, smiling emotionally.


“You were one of the first people to recognize something in me. Becoming your friend was like the first domino in me becoming a real, happy Willow.”


The same smile started to bloom on Buffy’s face and she yanked Willow into a hug.


Xander watched them, eyes wide and threw his hands up.


Together-together?!”


Both girls broke apart with a laugh and Willow turned to Xander, grinning.


“And you. Your loyalty, your kindness, you’ve shown me what a true friend is. The kind of friend I want to be to you both, wherever I am,” she said sincerely, before wiping at her eye, “And yes, Tara and I are together. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but this has been…a very big year.”


Xander stood there, stunned.


“My dad said he saw you with a girl and you were all with the get-a-roominess! I thought he was just drunk.”


“He was,” Willow reasoned, through a smile, “But he was also right.”


Xander slowly took it in and could only offer a signature goofy smile for his oldest friend.


“She was those feelings you were trying to work out, huh?” he asked, opening his arms and enveloping her in a hug, “I can’t blame you. She’s very pretty. I hubba-hubba’d when I saw her across the street one time.”


Willow had to choose her reaction to that very quickly and decided to go with the giggle. She laughed into his chest and pulled away just long enough to tug Buffy into the hug.


“You guys have been the best friends I could ever ask for. And just because we’re going in different directions doesn’t mean we’re on different paths,” she said, huddling as close as she could to them both, “I have no intention of losing my two best buds ever again.”


Xander used his strength to keep them locked together.


“We won’t lose you either, Wills.”


“I can text you anywhere in a few seconds,” Buffy added, “It’s not visiting from college…but I’ll take a coll-ege of pictures.”


Willow was smiling so much she didn’t even bother to correct her. She wiped at her eyes again, feeling a release of her worries, though there was still one in the back of her mind as she looked around the area.


“Well now that we’re all suitably reassured…” she said, taking in a long breath, “Let’s go blow this joint!”



“Excuse me, sorry, yep, woo hoo we did it, sorry, thank you, excuse me.”


Willow weaved through the crowd of proud parents after leaving the rest of her cheering class, trying not to trip over the ends of the robe.


Unfortunately, she came upon a pair of parents she couldn’t avoid: her own.


“Well done, my darling,” Ira gushed, pulling his daughter into a hug.


“Yes, well done, sweetheart,” Sheila replied, as close to sincere as she’d ever been, “We are very proud of you.”


Willow smiled softly.


“Thank you, really, um could you hold this for me?”


She shoved her diploma into her mother’s hands and tried to move past them, but Ira held onto her shoulder.


“You’ll notice we haven’t given you your present yet,” he said, a wicked smirk playing on his lips, “That’s because we thought you might like to use it right away.”


“Can I get back to you in just a—” Willow started, but Ira insisted on reaching into his pocket to retrieve a pair of car keys with a bow pressed on top.


He handed them to her, but Willow just looked at them in her hand, confused.


“Press the button,” Sheila encouraged.


Willow pressed it and a red Volvo sitting in the nearest parking space lit up. Willow did it again as she processed what was happening.


“That’s….that’s a car!”


“It sure is, sweetheart,” Ira boasted proudly, “It’s all yours.”


Willow was stunned into silence.


“Wow,” she replied, face tensing slightly as she thought of what this meant and would mean when she told them everything, “Wow. Thank you, I…thank you.”


She gave each of them a sincere hug, but her face scrunched when she saw something over their shoulders.


“Really, um, thank you! I um,” she waved the keys with a nervous chuckle, “I gotta go show it off! Amazing! Thank you so much! Thank you!”


She lifted the ends of the gown so she wouldn’t trip and ran across the grass to the back row of seats, where Tara was wearing a beautiful maroon cocktail dress, sleeveless with a halter neck and showing off every curve she had. A yellow sash was tied on her waist into a bow sitting on her hip.


This look did not help Willow in the tripping over herself department and she had to grab onto Tara’s arms to stay upright.


“Hi. You’re here.”


Tara greeted her with a smile.


“I’m so sorry I was late,” she said softly, “Our car broke down, I had to run. I saw you cross the stage, you did great.”


Willow noticed Tara’s hair ever-so-slightly out of place against her forehead and it just made her all the more attractive.


“No explosions of embarrassment,” she nodded, but started to frown, “Why were you sneaking off?”


Tara shrugged a shoulder bashfully.


“I figured you’d want to hang out with your friends.”


Willow glanced back over her shoulder and back to Tara with a smile.


“Come hang out with us.”


Tara’s eyes shone happily.


“Are you sure?”


Willow offered her hand, which Tara took with a beaming smile. Halfway back to her friends, she felt the bulge in her other hand and glanced at Tara.


“My parents gave me a car.”


“I’m sorry?” Tara asked, mouth dropping in surprise.


“I know,” Willow replied, shooting her a tense look, “That’s a later problem.”


She brought Tara to her group of friends and showed her off excitedly.


“Everyone, this is Tara. Um, you know Buffy and this is Xander and um—”


Anya placed her hands on Xander’s shoulders, hanging out of him.


“Anya. I’m sleeping with Xander.”


Everyone looked away awkwardly and Tara’s cheeks blushed.


“O-Oh, okay. Um. Nice to meet you,” she said, quickly moving eye contact, “And congratulations to all of you.”


Xander eyed her appreciatively.


“Hubba hubba,” he said again, which resulted in both Anya and Willow’s arms from opposite sides smacking against his torso, “I mean I like your dress. You’re in SHS colors. Go Razorbacks!”


Tara’s blush only grew.


“It was the only one I could find in the right color.”


“Did you add the bow yourself?” Buffy asked in a complimentary tone, “Good eye.”


“Great eye,” Willow replied, pressing herself into Tara’s side for a moment to take advantage of those curves on display.


Anya watched how Willow’s eyes diverted to Tara’s breasts.


“Oh, you’re Willow’s org—”


“Tara and I have known each other since we were kids,” Willow interrupted, straightening up and telling herself to pull it together. Some people knowing didn’t mean she wanted everybody knowing.


Anya looked between then all suspiciously.


“Then why haven’t you all met before?”


“I’ve met Tara,” Buffy offered with a smile.


“I think I bumped into you in second grade once,” Xander said with an awkward smile, “Maybe that’s why Willow said I couldn’t ask you to dance at her Bat Mitzvah. Too clumsy.”


“That was to protect her toes from annihilation,” Willow butted it, muttering under her breath.


“I went to a different high school,” Tara explained to Anya.


They all lapsed into silence and Anya gave them odd looks.


“You’re all weird,” she said, then lifted a chain around her neck from under her gown and held it up for them to see, “Look what Xander bought me.”


“It’s very pretty,” Tara said, making a point of admiring it, “Oh I made you all these.”


She produced a Tupperware from her purse and opened it.


“Graduation cookies!” Xander said excitedly, taking the first one out, a cap, “Tastes much better than the real thing.”


Tara smiled gratefully and handed the rest of them out.


“Thank you, they’re great,” Willow said to her.


Tara turned to her and lowered her voice.


“I have something for you, but I don’t have to give it to you now.”


“It’s okay,” Willow replied softly, “You can show me.”


Tara lifted Willow’s arm up and rolled back the fabric of the gown to expose Willow’s wrist. She smiled at Willow’s bracelet, the one with the half-heart charm that matched her own. The one she should have anticipated being there because Willow never took it off.


Neither did Tara.


She took it off of Willow’s wrist and Willow watched as Tara retrieved something from her purse. She recognized the face of her Apple watch she’d bought with birthday money that had gone missing a week before.


“Hey! I thought I lost that!”


“I stole it,” Tara admitted, then held it out with the strap flat either side, “But just to make you a better strap. You said the original made you sweat and left weird red marks on your wrist.”


Willow looked back down at the new strap; lightweight nylon in a bright but demure blue; Willow's favorite color. The color of the sky on the sunniest day and the exact hue of Tara’s eyes, though Tara had never figured out the last part.


“I love it. It’s so thoughtful,” Willow said softly, thievery completely forgotten.


Tara turned it over and Willow saw the other side was perforated leather that she could already tell would be smooth and cool against her skin. It was a light brown, almost fawn color and had a discreet etching indented in it — a globe.


“You are my whole world,” Tara said quietly, thankful for the bustle around them shielding their conversation, “And I can’t wait to discover more of it with you.”


Willow wished she’d asked Tara to wait to give her gift now because all she wanted to do was kiss her. She’d always thought those kinds of clichés were corny, but she’d discovered that was only because she’d never heard them come from Tara’s mouth.


After the watch was strapped on, as cool and smooth as Willow anticipated, she gathered Tara in a hug and pressed a flash of a kiss to the corner of her mouth as their cheeks brushed.


Anya watched them out of the corner of her eye. Her gift to them was not disrupting them.


Tara was overcome by Willow’s openness and returned the hug softly.


“I love you,” she whispered in Willow’s ear as they parted.


“I,” Willow started, then pressed a hand to Tara’s cheek for a fleeting moment before letting it fall, “Can I have my bracelet back now? I miss it.”


Tara nodded softly, understanding. She pushed Willow’s bracelet back onto her wrist, the charm bouncing in place as it secured its rightful position, holding court where Willow’s heartbeat could be felt through her pulse.


Buffy jogged back over to them, though neither Willow nor Tara had even seen her leave. She indicated over her shoulder.


“The parents are summoning us all to get lunch.”


“A-all of us?” Willow asked nervously, “Well, um…who wants to ride in my new car?”


There was a round of surprised exclamations about a new car before Xander started to run forward.


“I call shotgun!”


They all slid into the brand new car and Willow spent a few minutes having fun figuring out all the buttons and functions. Tara, ever the bastion of politeness, got stuck in the middle in the back between Buffy and Anya. Buffy was busy singing along with the radio channel and Anya caught Tara’s eye and smiled.


“You seem pleasant and non-threatening to my relationship. Do you want to be friends?”


Tara blinked several times.


“I-I’d love to be friends,” she answered kindly, though with an accompanying face scrunch, “I am leaving soon though.”


Anya shrugged.


“Do you have a phone?”


Tara exchanged phone numbers with Anya whilst Willow yelled at Xander to get his feet off the dash. When they got to the restaurant the parents had picked out, Willow hurried everyone out so she could get in there and run interference between her parents and Xander’s father.


They all threw their caps and gowns in the trunk and went inside.


Willow had to keep her eye on Mr. Harris the whole time, through the speeches and toasts she barely heard and the dinner she barely ate.


After dessert, she passed by Tara and Anya sitting together and Anya had a confused look on her face.


“But I thought men liked it when we complimented their penis size.”


“I-I believe that’s the case, just not in public,” Tara answered, and Willow had so many questions with answers she never wanted to hear but Mr. Harris was at the bar and Ira was sitting near the bar and she had to go and engage her father in conversation stat lest the two men pick one up.


By the time she and her parents were finally home, she was exhausted just from trying to keep them apart.


She started to thank her parents again for dinner and their generous gift but Ira cut her off as he opened the mail he’d picked up on the way in.


“Why did the insurance company send a letter to confirm your removal from our travel insurance?”


Shit.


Willow reached behind to massage her neck. Running around all day had been for nothing.


Guess I’m doing this.


“I got my own plan,” she answered honestly.


Sheila went across the foyer to read the letter.


“Why on earth?” Ira asked, dumbfounded.


Willow gulped.


“Because I’m going on a trip.”


Ira continued to gape at her.


“Wherever you’re going, our plan would still cover you, probably more comprehensively. Why would you not check this with me?”


“I needed some specialized cover…longer term,” Willow replied evenly, then added on under her breath, “And I didn’t know if you’d still be willing to cover me after this conversation.”


Sheila looked up suspiciously.


“What do you mean ‘longer term’?”


Willow sighed deeply.


“Sit down.”


“Willow—” Ira started, but Willow cut him off.


“Trust me. Sit down.”


They walked into the living room, turned the light on and Willow sat opposite her parents. She took in a deep breath and told them of her plans and her reasoning while they sat in stony silence.


Finally, Sheila broke, a shake of her head that included her whole body and culminated in an eye roll.


“You most definitely are not going off on some flight of fancy instead of college,” Sheila scoffed, “How do you propose you pay for it? Did you think WE would?”


“No, I didn’t,” Willow replied calmly, “I have my own savings and I have other access to funds too.”


Sheila’s eyes narrowed.


“If you think you’re going to use your trust fund for this young lady…”


“I already took it,” Willow replied, her heart hammering but her tone remaining even, “I didn’t need it co-signed once I reached my 18th birthday.”


Sheila stood up, furious.


“Only if you went to college. Your grandparents intended that for your education!”


“The rules were I got a quarter of it when I accepted a college place and one eighth upon successful completion of each year and the last quarter if I graduated with honors, or else my 25th birthday if I didn’t,” Willow replied, responding to her mother’s raised voice by raising her own, “I got accepted into college. I’m still going to college. I still plan to graduate with honors. Just a year later.”


Ira looked up at Willow, wounded.


“How long have you been planning this?”


Willow didn’t want to be the source of that look in her father’s eye, but what he’d never understand was that not doing this would make her eyes sink the same way.


“Longer than I even realized.”


“And not a word,” Ira said, almost with disgust, “Sneaking around behind our backs.”


“You’re barely here to sneak around behind!” Willow retorted, groaning at herself for letting herself be pulled in like this.


“Don’t you raise your voice at your father,” Sheila said, irate, “You had no business accessing that money using a technicality.”


Willow’s jaw clenched and she made herself speak slowly.


“I’m not stupid, okay? I’m not going to party around the world and blow hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve put tuition away into a deposit account that I can’t access for a year and that’s not even taking into account the scholarship they gave me so I’ll have extra living expenses. Plus I have a secondary savings account with another lump sum and I have a reasonable budget set out for the trip. Tara has a modest—”


“That family, I knew we should never have befriended a single mother,” Sheila spat, “Look at the kind of irresponsible children she produced! Encouraging her to make this feckless, irresponsible decision!”


“Sheila,” Ira interjected, holding his head in his hands.


“She’s been more of a mother to me than you ever were,” Willow said, her voice now low and palpating with anger that she tried to swallow, “And maybe that’s why I’m making this ‘feckless, irresponsible’ decision. Or maybe for once in my life I’m choosing to recognize my own happiness. I’ll let you contemplate that.”


She turned to leave but Sheila wasn’t done.


“This isn’t over, Willow Danielle.”


Willow turned back.


“Yeah, it is,” she said, letting her shoulders relax as she really took that in herself, “It’s over. I’m going. I couldn’t even go to school this year if I wanted to, I’ve officially deferred. The ticket is bought. The only choice now is to go or sit around for a year. I know what I’ll be doing.”


She smiled, not to provoke, but just because she knew truly now that this was the decision to bring her happiness.


“So you can accept it…I don’t really care if you like it or not… you can accept it or not, but I’m going.”


She went to leave again but turned back in the doorway.


“And for what it’s worth, I’d like if our relationship — our family — was not something I have to leave behind. I know it’s a shock but I’m an adult and this is what I’ve decided.”


She did leave then, heading for the stairs to her bedroom.


“An adult! You’re a child making a childish decision!” Sheila called after her, “Don’t think you’re keeping that car!”


“Oh, Sheila for god’s sake,” Ira said in annoyance, “It’s already in her name.”


Sheila spun around, eyes wide.


“You put the title in her name?”


“I thought I was doing her a favor, giving her the responsibility of ownership—” Ira protested.


Sheila perched on the edge of a chair.


“Oh Ira, she’s a child!”


“She’s not a child, that was the whole point!” Ira replied gruffly, “It was supposed to be an acknowledgment.”


“She’s making a childish decision,” Sheila repeated, her whole demeanor changing as she tried to revert to her more controlling professionalism, “I knew I should have been concerned about her delayed—”


Ira held up a hand.


“Delayed or not, she’s asserting her independence and maybe for once I won’t be so arrogant as to think it’s just to spite us,” he said, replaying everything Willow had said over and over again on a loop, “She has made her decision, as much as I do not like it.”


He huffed.


“So, just…take a breath.”


He stood and begun to stride over to the cabinet.


“Or a whiskey.”



Willow woke up to a repetitive beeping from the front of the house.


She rubbed her eyes and wandered to the window where she saw a tow truck was trying to align with her new car. She sighed.


“Yep, that sounds about right.”


She hurried to her nightstand and grabbed the set of keys she’d purposefully hidden the night before when she’d heard her father say the car was in her name.


She wouldn’t have argued if they’d taken it back, but if it was hers, it was hers.


And maybe she felt a little bit entitled after all of the years of crap she’d put up with.


She ran outside in her pajamas just as the driver was getting out of the truck.


“I’m moving it off the property,” she said, using her keys to electronically open the door.


The driver stood on the spot dumbly.


“Uhh…”


“I’m moving it!” Willow repeated, sliding into the driver’s seat and turning the engine on.


She was completely boxed in between the house and the truck, so she rolled the window down and stuck her head out.


“Can you move please?”


The driver looked a little scared, which told Willow her mom was watching. She glanced behind and confirmed Sheila was in the doorway, smirking and nodding for the driver to go ahead.


Willow looked ahead, steely.


“Joke’s on you, Mom!” she said to herself under her breath, “I got 103% in Driver’s Ed and the three percent was extra credit for parallel parking better than the instructor.”


The race was on to get out of that spot before she was hooked and as she looked in her mirrors, she saw they’d been pushed in.


“Wow, real mature,” she muttered and she pushed the driver’s side one out and looked through it to check her angle.


It wasn’t The Fast and The Furious but sweat broke out on her brow as she watched the driver hike out his equipment. Finally, knuckles white on the wheel, she got her break and lurched forward, swung around the tow truck and onto the street.


“Victory!” she cackled, lifting a fist triumphantly.


The driver was just staring at her in shock and Sheila scowled from the doorway. Willow sat in the middle of the street for a moment, wondering what she was going to do, then turned and drove up Tara’s empty driveway.


Satisfied, she jumped back out and locked the doors, looking as smug as one could look in a SpongeBob t-shirt.


Sheila marched out to talk to the tow driver, but couldn’t resist calling over to Willow.


“I’ve canceled your insurance, so I wouldn’t be so quick to drive illegally next time.”


Willow just rolled her eyes. She stood around wondering what to do next when the Maclay door opened and Tara’s sleepy head popped out.


Willow straightened up sheepishly.


“Can I come in?”


Tara opened the door fully and Willow walked in, hopping from one foot to the other as her bare soles took the brunt of the hot ground.


“They know,” she said to Tara glumly once inside, “And we’ve moved into the passive-aggressive stage of grief.”


Tara closed the door and brought Willow into the living room, sitting on the couch and holding a cushion to her chest.


“What’s going on?”


Willow dropped into the seat beside Tara, who whipped off her socks and handed them over so Willow could cover her dirty feet. Willow smiled gratefully and pulled them on so she could swing her legs up.


“She can’t take the car back because it’s in my name, so she’s doing everything else in her power to make me suffer. I knew it was a good idea to sneak most of my stuff out. She’d probably try to plant something to get me arrested at the airport.”


“Oh honey, is it that bad?” Tara asked face scrunched.


Willow reached out and brushed some tousled hair from Tara’s face.


“You look really sexy when you’re sleepy.”


She leaned in and pressed her mouth to Tara’s, and felt herself fill with warmth when Tara’s smile spread out against her lips. She started to pull Tara’s bottom lip into her mouth when she heard Kimberly’s voice float out loudly from the hallway.


“Good morning!”


Willow shot back, casting her eyes toward the door and sighing in relief when she thought Kimberly hadn’t noticed.


“I thought your mom was at work,” she whispered, “There’s no car.”


Tara cleared her throat, glancing away guiltily.


“Um, it broke down, it’s in the garage,” she explained.


“Oh yeah, you said that yesterday,” Willow replied, bringing her knees up to her chest, “Is it okay?”


“The mechanic said it’s cooked unless they replace the engine,” Tara answered, folding her legs out to stand, “Do you want some juice?”


Willow nodded and Tara moved to go into the kitchen, where her mother was making coffee.


“Good morning,” Kimberly repeated, an ever-so-slight amused curl on her lips.


Tara blushed as she took down two glasses.


“Um, Willow told her parents about the trip and they’re…reacting. If she needs to stay…?”


Kimberly nodded softly.


“Yes, of course.”


Tara filled the glasses with orange juice and headed back out of the kitchen, smiling at her mother along the way.


“Thanks, mom.”


Tara brought the juice back to the living room and handed Willow a glass before resuming her seat beside her.


Willow sipped on her juice and sighed.


“Do you think I should give it back?”


Tara sat cross-legged and rested her chin on her fist.


“Well, they gave it to you for graduating high school and maybe for going to college. You’re still doing that, so I don’t think it’s ‘unearned’. But…you won’t use it while we’re gone.”


Willow nodded.


“That’s true. I don’t even have anywhere to put it,” she said, then looked at Tara with a whine, “But it’s a brand new car and it’s mine and I want it.”


Tara smiled at the adorable pout.


“I think you’ve become pretty good at knowing what’s the right thing to do for you. Trust yourself. I do.”


She brushed her hand on Willow’s thigh, who smiled at the delicate maneuver and accompanying words.


“Thanks. Without you believing in me…I’d never have believed in myself.”


She covered Tara’s hand, then covered her own belly as it rumbled.


“Do you want to order some breakfast?”


“Let’s make some,” Tara suggested with a flirtatious jolt of her eyebrows.


“I make amazing Pop-Tarts,” Willow offered with a wide grin.


Tara mused it over.


“How about pancakes?”


Willow’s eyes lit up, then momentarily glowered.


“Is Donny here too?”


Tara shook her head.


“He has another 30 days in the program. He’s not coming home for good until after we’ve gone.”


Willow seemed relieved.


“Good. I have permanent indentations on my hand from being stabbed with a fork trying to eat around him,” she said, pushing her hand out for inspection, “Look!”


Tara closed her hand around Willow’s fist and gently lowered it. She leaned in so their faces were close.


“I’m very sorry. Is there any way I can make it up to you?”


Willow felt Tara’s breath on her lips and didn’t even try to look away uncomfortably, instead just continuing to grin.


“Funny shapes.”


Tara giggled, briefly nuzzled her cheek against Willow’s and stood up. Willow followed her into the kitchen and did hang back a bit while Kimberly was there drinking her coffee.


“We’re making pancakes,” she explained, smiling softly as Tara reached for a mixing bowl, “Funny shapes.”


“Sounds delicious,” Kimberly replied and after glancing back and forth between the space Willow was putting between them, she kindly played the oblivious card, “You know, I think I might just take this coffee back up to bed and savor my last morning before 6 am bus rides.”


She slid out of the kitchen chair, mug in hand and walked out of the kitchen, closing the door behind her. When it clicked shut, Willow embraced Tara from behind, resting her cheek on Tara’s shoulder.


“What do you need?”


“Eggs and milk, please,” Tara replied as she measured out some flour.


Willow went to the fridge and took out the carton of eggs and jug of milk. She cracked two eggs into the bowl and Tara mixed them together. Willow smiled; it had been a while since they’d done this but it used to be a weekly event when they had sleepovers at Tara’s house. They made them with Kimberly until they were about 13 and then by themselves.


They would have been allowed to do it unsupervised earlier if it weren’t for an ill-advised but extremely fun egg fight when they were 10. It was a hot summer’s day and it caked into their hair and it was not pretty. But very, very fun.


“I miss doing stuff like this with you.”


Tara pursed her lips and considered her words.


“We’ve been cooped up in our bedrooms a lot.”


Willow was silent for a moment, then grinned again.


“Not for long!”


“Not for long,” Tara smiled in agreement, “Turn the burner on for me?”


Willow prepped the skillet and Tara finished off the batter and brought it over.


They laughed together making funny and sometimes completely indistinguishable shapes.


“You have not lost your touch,” Willow complimented as she finished off her stack with a rhombus she was particularly proud of, “Best pancakes there is.”


“Wait until we taste the crepes in Paris,” Tara replied, eyes shining with excitement, “Or the blinis in Prague.”


“I have my very own pancake guide!” Willow giggled, then covered her mouth and leaned back, “Oh. Too much.”


Tara scooted her chair closer.


“Want me to rub your tummy?”


Willow nodded shyly and Tara put her hand over Willow’s t-shirt, rubbing where SpongeBob’s face was.


A minute or two later, Kimberly made a noisy spectacle of coming downstairs and into the kitchen, so Tara had pulled back before her mother ever reached the door.


She brought their plates to the dishwasher and loaded them up while Kimberly apologized and refilled her coffee.


“What are you girls up to today?”


“Jammie day?” Tara suggested, with a knowing grin in Willow’s direction, “You even came prepared.”


Willow nodded keenly. They hadn’t done that in a long time either.


“Can we watch all our favorites?”


“You bet,” Tara agreed, “Start with The Little Mermaid and work our way through the years.”


Willow clapped her hands and hurried out of the room.


“I’ll get pillows for a fort!”


Tara smiled, watching her go.


“I’m sorry, do you mind us taking over the living room?”


Kimberly shook her head.


“I’m glad to see her a little more relaxed. Especially considering she apparently had to flee here in her pajamas this morning.”


“She’s getting there,” Tara replied, nodding her head, “I don’t push. Patience.”


She smiled softly and pushed off the counter.


“We left you a plate of pancakes under the aluminum foil.”


She went into the living room and kneeled in front of the TV, loading up the VHS player that they kept around for only this purpose; so they could watch the old videos they’d done as children.


Willow ran in with pillows and blankets from Tara’s room concealing her almost entirely and tripped over the couch and onto the floor. Thankfully, being wrapped entirely in bedding, she didn’t feel a thing.


“I’m okay!” she shouted, twisted herself out and jumped up.


She started to build up the pillows until they were suitably high enough to fix the blankets over.


“Your best work yet,” Tara complimented as she crawled underneath.


Willow joined her.


“My understanding of math and angles has improved considerably since the last time I built one.”


“You always understood math,” Tara retorted playfully.


“Yes, but now I understand it considerably better,” Willow replied, giggling, “And not even any Donny here to kick it down.”


“Definitely an improvement,” Tara replied with a crooked smile.


They watched a very fuzzy version of The Little Mermaid, both singing along unselfconsciously.


(With multiple shared grins during ‘Kiss The Girl’)


Kimberly stood in the doorway and felt more than a little nostalgia. She could only see the tops of their hair and they could easily have been four years old again. She had to swallow a lump that formed in her throat and leave them to it before she burst into tears.


She’d been happy and relieved when Tara had told her she’d gotten the resources to make her trip and surprised that Willow was going with her (if not additionally relieved she’d have someone there if needed). But now she really had to face the fact that they’d be gone soon.


She sat down at the kitchen table and took out her phone.


She wondered what were these dating apps all the kids were talking about?


Time passed and she heard the television turn off, then Tara going upstairs to the bathroom. Moments later, Willow came into the kitchen and approached her.


“Ms. Maclay, can I talk to you?”


Kimberly set her phone down.


“Of course, honey. Is everything okay?”


Willow nodded and sat beside her.


“Well, um…”


She blushed.


“Sorry, I didn’t prepare anything to say properly. I just, um, wanted to say ‘thanks’, I guess, though now I say it, it doesn’t sound anywhere near enough.”


Kimberly frowned in concern, but let Willow speak.


“You’ve always been like a parent to me…the real kind who looked out for me and fed me and…put me in my place when I needed it.”


Kimberly started to smile, which made Willow smile too.


“My parents shoved money at me and they’re probably spinning right now that it’s allowed me to make this choice I’m making,” she said, scratching the back of her neck, “They also gave me a pretty sweet graduation gift. It’s kinda sitting in your driveway right now because my mother tried to have it towed lest I feel some actual enjoyment from it.”


“Oh,” Kimberly replied in surprise, she hadn’t ventured outside yet, “Well, it’s a big shock, Willow. I’ve known Tara’s plan for years and…even with the hiccup, now I know it’s happening I’m still a bit stunned. I won’t see her for a year. Or you either. It’s a lot.”


Willow shook her head sadly.


“I haven’t ‘seen’ them for more than a fleeting moment in years. It’s like when they travel for their reasons I’m supposed to raise myself, but once I’ve done it and decided I’m going for my reasons it’s a big hullaballoo.”


She stopped, determined not to let her emotions get the better of her.


“Anyway, the car. I wasn’t sure what to do. But I decided to keep it,” she continued with a resolute smile, “And I was hoping I could keep it in your driveway while we’re gone.”


Kimberly paused.


“Oh, um—”


“And, y’know, it’d be great if you could keep it busy for me,” Willow cut her off, looking her in the eye, “You know, stop it from rusting up and such. I mean, otherwise, it would just be sitting there. Doing nothing. I’d be happy to know it was…taken care of.”


Kimberly inhaled softly as she realized what Willow was doing. She covered Willow’s hand with her own and had to fight off that lump once again.


“Yes, of course, I’ll do that for you sweetheart,” she said, just about holding back the quiver in her voice.


“Thank you so much!” Willow gushed, throwing herself into Kimberly for a hug.


She pulled back sheepishly after a moment.


“Um, we can figure out insurance details and stuff if you want.”


Kimberly nodded stoically.


“Good idea.”


She stood up and walked out and Willow saw her swipe at her eyes as she went off to find her documents.


From the doorway, Tara appeared and mouthed ‘thank you’.


“She really is doing me a favor,” Willow replied softly, “And this works for everyone. There’s no one I trust more than a Maclay. Woman. Maclay woman. It’s another worry off my chest.”


She smiled happily.


“Now all we have left to do is count down the days.”

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 1st 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2019 8:33 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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Dibs :bounce

Quote:
“This is very not-Willow, Willow,” Xander added, confused, “But it also sounds very, very cool.”
“Maybe I want to be something else,” Willow replied simply, “Someone not-Willow. Or…more-Willow, actually.”

Great attitude Xander. I like that Willow is starting to assert that she is not really the Willow she has been pretending to be.

Quote:
“Wait — together-together?”

Easter Egg

Quote:
Unfortunately, she came upon a pair of parents she couldn’t avoid: her own.


“Well done, my darling,” Ira gushed, pulling his daughter into a hug.

“Yes, well done, sweetheart,” Sheila replied, as close to sincere as she’d ever been, “We are very proud of you.”

Willow smiled softly.

“Thank you, really, um could you hold this for me?”

She shoved her diploma into her mother’s hands and tried to move past them, but Ira held onto her shoulder.

“You’ll notice we haven’t given you your present yet,” he said, a wicked smirk playing on his lips, “That’s because we thought you might like to use it right away.”

“Can I get back to you in just a—” Willow started, but Ira insisted on reaching into his pocket to retrieve a pair of car keys with a bow pressed on top.

He handed them to her, but Willow just looked at them in her hand, confused.

“Press the button,” Sheila encouraged.

Willow pressed it and a red Volvo sitting in the nearest parking space lit up. Willow did it again as she processed what was happening.

“That’s….that’s a car!”

“It sure is, sweetheart,” Ira boasted proudly, “It’s all yours.”

Willow was stunned into silence.

“Wow,” she replied, face tensing slightly as she thought of what this meant and would mean when she told them everything, “Wow. Thank you, I…thank you.”


GULP.

Quote:
“Come hang out with us.”


Tara’s eyes shone happily.


“Are you sure?”


Willow offered her hand, which Tara took with a beaming smile. Halfway back to her friends, she felt the bulge in her other hand and glanced at Tara.


Yay Willow combining the groups.

Quote:
“My parents gave me a car.”


“I’m sorry?” Tara asked, mouth dropping in surprise.


“I know,” Willow replied, shooting her a tense look, “That’s a later problem.”


I guess Tara knows that all gifts come with strings...

Quote:
“You are my whole world,” Tara said quietly, thankful for the bustle around them shielding their conversation, “And I can’t wait to discover more of it with you.”

Aw...Sweet.


Quote:
Willow wished she’d asked Tara to wait to give her gift now because all she wanted to do was kiss her. She’d always thought those kinds of clichés were corny, but she’d discovered that was only because she’d never heard them come from Tara’s mouth.

Aww

Quote:
“You seem pleasant and non-threatening to my relationship. Do you want to be friends?”

Great Anya line

Quote:
“How long have you been planning this?”


Willow didn’t want to be the source of that look in her father’s eye, but what he’d never understand was that not doing this would make her eyes sink the same way.


“Longer than I even realized.”

“Oh, Sheila for god’s sake,” Ira said in annoyance, “It’s already in her name.”

“Delayed or not, she’s asserting her independence and maybe for once I won’t be so arrogant as to think it’s just to spite us,” he said, replaying everything Willow had said over and over again on a loop, “She has made her decision, as much as I do not like it.”


Ira is definitely the more rational.

Quote:
“They know,” she said to Tara glumly once inside, “And we’ve moved into the passive-aggressive stage of grief.”

“She can’t take the car back because it’s in my name, so she’s doing everything else in her power to make me suffer. I knew it was a good idea to sneak most of my stuff out. She’d probably try to plant something to get me arrested at the airport.”


To think your parents would be that vindictive.

I don't see Tara's mother driving the car as going well. I could see Sheila doing something to make life hell for Tara's mom.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 1st 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:44 am 
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3. Flaming O

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Go Willow, being all assertive and adult. Love the Anya and Xander quotes, so very them! I'm really enjoying this story and how Willow is growing so much, and Tara is there quietly supporting and loving her.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 1st 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2019 7:22 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Location: Pacific Northwest
I'm a little torn on Willow keeping the car. I mean it's hers and it was a gift but kind of under false pretenses. Which is crappy of her parents and I am so glad Ira is standing up to Sheila about it. And it shouldn't matter to them, but it does so Willows actions seem a little childish. Although again, no more so than Sheila the control freak, and it's going to a good cause so....

Everything else seems to be coming together. Only a few more days and they are off! Glad the scoobys are supportive in the end. I thought it was going to get heavy with Buffy for a minute there.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 1st 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2019 7:24 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Also I wonder if the Rosenberg's will find out about the girls' relationship before they take off

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 1st 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2019 2:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
Posts: 4127
Topics: 36
Location: Ireland
taranwillow4ever

Quote:
Great attitude Xander. I like that Willow is starting to assert that she is not really the Willow she has been pretending to be.


Me too! I'm so proud of her.

Quote:
GULP.


YUP

Quote:
Yay Willow combining the groups.


One big family a-brewin'!

Quote:
I guess Tara knows that all gifts come with strings...


From The Rosenbergs? Usually!

Quote:
Ira is definitely the more rational.


I would say less stubborn!

Quote:
To think your parents would be that vindictive.


Cruel

Quote:
I don't see Tara's mother driving the car as going well. I could see Sheila doing something to make life hell for Tara's mom.


Don't worry, Kimberly is well accustomed to a glare or two from Sheila!

Thanks for commenting!

NorthenLass

Quote:
Go Willow, being all assertive and adult.


Our girl is growing up!

Quote:
Love the Anya and Xander quotes, so very them!


Thank you!

Quote:
I'm really enjoying this story and how Willow is growing so much, and Tara is there quietly supporting and loving her.


Let's see how they deal with the new circumstances of their relationship when they're out of their comfort zone...

Thanks for your feedback!

shirrey

Quote:
I'm a little torn on Willow keeping the car. I mean it's hers and it was a gift but kind of under false pretenses. Which is crappy of her parents and I am so glad Ira is standing up to Sheila about it. And it shouldn't matter to them, but it does so Willows actions seem a little childish. Although again, no more so than Sheila the control freak, and it's going to a good cause so....


Honestly she was going to just give it back until she realized Kimberly needed a car. If she's asked to choose between some perception by her parents or actually helping the woman who helped raise her? No contest.

Quote:
Everything else seems to be coming together. Only a few more days and they are off! Glad the scoobys are supportive in the end. I thought it was going to get heavy with Buffy for a minute there.


Buffy doesn't want to lose Willow again - but she also sees how happy Willow has been since they've been friends again. So she'll let her go to keep her :)

Quote:
Also I wonder if the Rosenberg's will find out about the girls' relationship before they take off


Well...not quite

Thanks for your feedback :)



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 1st 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2019 2:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 17



June



Come on, Come On, The World Will Follow After



Tara was sitting on the couch, sifting through her travel documents and sorting them into a plastic folder.


“Do you have all your visa information?”


Tara looked up at her mother walked in and sat beside her.


“Don’t need one for New Zealand or Australia and the other ones are all available online. Willow’s already applied for some for us already.”


Kimberly put an arm around Tara’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze.


“I can’t believe you’re really off tomorrow. I’m going to miss you so much. Can you Skype your old mother between adventures?”


“Of course, Mom,” Tara replied, smiling, “Thanks again for getting us the nice hotel room for when we arrive…I don’t think Willow has fully wrapped her head around the idea of a hostel yet.”


“Well now is the time for new experiences,” Kimberly mused with a returning smile, “The least I can do, considering everything.”


Tara leaned her head on her mother’s shoulder.


“It all worked out…I’m going…Willow is coming with me… Donny is getting the help he needs…it’s okay.”


Kimberly brought her other arm around and held Tara against her. She kissed the top of her daughter’s head and held her for a precious few moments; moments she’d miss.


“Where is Willow? I feel like I haven’t seen her in a week,” Kimberly asked when Tara pulled away to continue packing her documents.


“She’s been staying with her friends, saying goodbye,” Tara replied, quickly tucking her hair behind her ear to stop it flying in front of her eyes, “She doesn’t want to lose them again.”


“Again?” Kimberly asked, raising an eyebrow.


“It’s been a rough year for everyone,” Tara sighed, then smiled to herself, “And the best one too.”


Kimberly pretended not to hear and leaned back, arms folded lightly on her chest.


“Still…frosty across the street?”


Tara lifted her hand and shook it in a ‘so-so’ motion.


“Her mother is preaching to her about the best way to spin this on her résumé, but Willow says that’s better than literally running her out of the driveway. She said her dad looks sad but is hugging her more than when she was studying for her Bat Mitzvah. He told her she did the right thing lending you the car.”


“I’m glad she’s not leaving totally estranged,” Kimberly replied with relief in her voice, “And that I won’t have the wrath of Sheila Rosenberg on my back every time I go to work. I’ve never had a car that nice in my entire life! Not even a rental. Gosh, it’s even the first new car I’ve ever driven!”


Tara chuckled.


“Sometimes I don’t even know how we live on the same street,” she said, then her eyes creased with curiosity, “How did we end up on this street? How did you afford it?”


Kimberly pursed her lips for a moment.


Oh well, she thought.


Tara asked.


“Someone was murdered in this house.”


Tara’s head spun around.


“What?!”


Kimberly’s eyes widened slightly, questioning her decision.


“This was a nice home, on the nice street—”


“Where someone was murdered?” Tara interrupted, shocked.


Kimberly reached out to hold Tara’s shoulders, rubbing her upper arms in a calming motion.


“It happened twenty years before we ever moved in. The poor woman that lived here with her husband, they were burgled and the husband was killed. Her children grew up and she lived here alone for a few years but she was never happy by herself so she moved to be closer to them. She was happy to see a new family make new memories and put the bad ones behind.”


“Where did it happen?” Tara asked cautiously, then paled when Kimberly didn’t answer immediately, “It was my bedroom wasn’t it?!”


“I never asked,” Kimberly answered honestly, “This house is much nicer than we ever could have afforded. You had your own bedrooms, a yard, it was close to town, schools. That burglary was the only one ever on this street, which was actually unusual; Sunnydale had quite a high crime rate. It was unfortunate it turned so tragic. But it gave us an opportunity to live a nice, quiet life and I took it.”


Tara blinked several times as she took that in.


“Why didn’t you tell us?”


“Tell children someone had been murdered here?” Kimberly laughed softly, “The street had forgotten about it, so I did too. They were more concerned with the single mother tarnishing their image.”


Tara frowned.


“I didn’t know you caught flack for that,” she said, closing her eyes and opening them again on her mother’s face, “You protected us from a lot. You were barely older than me.”


She offered a look of appreciation that every parent yearns for and wrapped her arms around Kimberly.


“Thank you, Momma.”


Kimberly exhaled softly; that was powerful to hear after the past few months. She enclosed Tara in another hug and cradled her like she was a little girl.


Her phone beeped in her pocket and Tara looked up at her mother with a slowly-spreading grin on her face.


“Was that a notification for that dating app?”


Kimberly looked both shocked and affronted as she whipped her phone out from her jeans and held it against her chest.


“How did you know?”


“That thing goes off for Nate every two seconds. I found myself humming it on the way to school,” Tara replied, her smirk teasing but then tender, “I’m happy for you. I’m glad you’re getting out there.”


Kimberly relaxed a little and smiled gratefully. Tara nodded toward her phone.


“Let me see him, let me see your match.”


Kimberly cautiously moved her hands back and unlocked the screen. She smiled.


“He seems…cute,” Tara said, looking to her mother for confirmation, “Is he cute? I mean, I'm not a very good judge, but… I think he seems cute.”


“I think he seems cute, yeah,” Kimberly laughed softly, “It’s been a very long time since I’ve been on the lookout for cute.”


“Mom. One of the benefits of having us so young — you’re still a hot, young thing who is now free of her responsibilities,” Tara replied insistently, “If you think he’s cute, message him.”


Kimberly’s hand hovered over the keyboard.


“Maybe it’s not the right time to be starting something, Donny will be coming home soon…”


“And Donny is a grown man who’s finally taking responsibility for his life,” Tara finished, keeping her mother’s gaze, “It’s time you do, too. You deserve to be happy.”


Kimberly put her phone in her lap and kissed Tara square on the forehead.


“I’ll message him later. Right now I’m spending some time with this amazing woman I seem to have raised.”



“I can’t believe we won’t see you for a whole year.”


Willow looked down at the floor beneath her crossed legs.


“I know,” she agreed with Buffy, who was sitting opposite her in much the same way, “It’s insane, really when you think about it.”


Buffy glanced off to the other side of Xander’s bedroom, where he was reading a book.


“…especially now with both of you going.”


Xander looked up and closed his book.


“Everything in life is foreign territory. Kerouac. He's my teacher. The open road is my school.”


Willow smiled at him.


“I think it's neat, you doing the backpack, trail mix, happy wanderer thing too.”


Xander shrugged sheepishly.


“I'm aware it scores kinda high on the hokey-meter, but I think it will be good for me. You know, help me to find myself.”


“Preaching to the choir here, baby,” Willow agreed.


“You were the inspiration,” Xander smiled back, “Wish I had the funds to do it your way. And the hottie by my side.”


Willow blushed and Buffy turned to him.


“What about the chick trying to hang off your arm?”


“If she still wants to hook up when I come back, I won’t resist,” Xander admitted.


Willow turned back to Buffy and reached out to hold both of her hands.


“You’ll be in college. Meeting so many new people, oh and going to parties!”


“Your cool points shoot up without us around,” Xander agreed with a dopey smile.


Buffy looked around at her pals and felt the depth of their absence already.


“I’ll miss you guys.”


“We’ll stay in touch,” Willow promised, “Well, I will. It won’t be that much different than if I went off to college anyway.”


“No visits,” Buffy said, looking down sadly.


“No visits,” Willow confirmed with a matching tone, “But lots of pictures and messages and video chats. And I promise I’ll bring you back a present.”


Buffy raised her eyes, eyes lit up.


“Will you bring me back Italian leather boots?”


“Probably not,” Willow laughed and Buffy joined in.


“I want in on the giggles,” Xander said, moving over to sit amongst them, “Or something that sounds a bit more manly.”


Willow changed one hand over to Xander and Buffy did the same so they were all sitting enjoined.


“And as our lives change, come whatever,” Willow promised to them both sincerely, “We will still be friends forever.”


“You’re sing-speaking again,” Buffy said with an arched eyebrow.


Willow pouted.


“Yeah, but I mean it! It's a relevant song!”


The nods she got in return weren’t as definitive as she’d like, so Willow got up, went over to the corkboard on Xander's wall and took a tack from it. She hid it in her palm and when she sat back down whipped it out and stabbed each of Buffy and Xander’s fingers.


“Ouch,” Buffy said, tugging her hand back, “What the hell, Willow?”


“OW!” Xander yelped, taking his finger and nursing it.


Willow grinned and did the same to her own fingertip. She held it out between them.


“Blood oath. I meant it. Friends forever.”


Xander and Buffy exchanged looks.


“This is super creepy, Will,” Xander said cautiously but extended his hand again, “But I’m in.”


“In,” Buffy agreed and held her finger out.


They pressed their three pricked fingers together and spoke in unison.


“Friends forever.”


They all waited a moment until it became awkward.


“Was something supposed to happen?” Buffy asked, her eyebrows knotting together.


Willow frowned.


“I dunno. I saw it in a movie.”


Buffy and Xander exchanged a look.


“…did anything good happen after?” Xander asked.


Willow shook her head.


“No, they all died.”


Buffy drew her hand back.


“Nice one Will.”


“Now I'm going to be looking over my back all night,” Xander said with a squeak in his voice.


“I thought it would be cool!” Willow defended, starting to pout again as she looked at the little pinprick on the pad of her finger.


Xander and Buffy exchanged a long stare.


“She's a weirdo,” Xander shook his head.


“A total weirdo,” Buffy agreed.


Willow started to look down and Buffy and Xander shared a smile before coming around to hug her from either side.


“But she's our weirdo,” Xander said affectionately.


Buffy rested her head on a now-smiling Willow’s shoulder.


“And we wouldn’t change her for anything.”



Willow finished tying her phone charging cable around the power adapter and tucked it into the side pouch in her rucksack.


She swung it onto her shoulders and looked around.


“Can’t say I’ll miss you too much, room, but hey, at least you were always here for me.”


She nodded once, spun on her heels and left the room, pulling the door closed behind her.


She went downstairs, where her mother was loitering but was pretending to just be passing through. She closed the book she wasn’t actually reading and tried to act nonchalant.


“Oh, are you leaving now?”


Willow nodded.


“Yeah, mom. We’re catching the noon shuttle.”


She glanced at Willow’s backpack.


“Is that all you’re bringing for this entire…year?”


“My stuff is in the car already,” Willow explained politely, “This is just for the bus.”


Sheila nodded in acknowledgment.


“I emailed you information on online TEFL certification.”


Willow opened her mouth and closed it again.


“Thanks,” she said eventually, sincerely, “But we do have a lot of other plans and work visas are a whole other minefield, so…”


Sheila nodded again, then surprised Willow by leaning in and giving her an awkward hug and pat on the back.


“Well, let us know you’ve arrived safely.”


“I will,” Willow replied, smiling widely, “Thanks, mom.”


Sheila moved off and Willow trailed the last step where she spotted her father waiting at the door. She gripped both straps on her backpack and slowly crossed over. She stood in front of him and looked up into his face like she was a kindergartener about to start her first day of school all over again.


“I really hope you’re not disappointed with me, Dad.”


Ira sighed wistfully.


“In another life,” he said with a sad smile, “Another world, perhaps I would have done the same. But I will miss you desperately.”


He extended a white plastic bag toward her.


“I got you this. Silly, really. I just thought you might like some home comforts.”


Willow took the bag, pulled the handles apart and saw a box of strawberry milk powder. She felt herself get choked up and looked back at him.


“Thank you so much, Daddy.”


She threw her arms around her and cuddled into his chest. They stayed like this for several moments until eventually Ira pulled away and cleared his throat, clearly emotional.


“You sure you don’t need a ride?”


Willow shook her head.


“Ms. Maclay is taking us to the bus station.”


She opened the front door and took a deep breath before stepping over the threshold.


“Bye dad,” she said, then called back into the house, “Bye mom. I’ll keep in touch.”


“Bye darling,” Ira said, keeping his shoulders tense.


Sheila approached the door and stood by Ira. They held onto each other and Willow thought it may have been the first time she saw them embrace in a long, long time.


Willow waved all the way down to the gate, then jogged across the road and rang the doorbell at the Maclay house. Tara answered and Willow suddenly felt the first real rush of excitement.


“Ready to get out of here?” she asked with a grin.


“Yes,” Tara replied with an answering smile, “I couldn’t sleep at all last night knowing this was a murder house.”


Willow began nodding in agreement, then did a double-take.


“Huh?!”


“I’ll tell you later,” Tara replied, amused.


Kimberly marched down the hallway then, looking at them like she had when they dressed up as Ariel and Sebastian for Halloween when they were five.


“Look at my little travelers,” she said, putting an arm around each and pulling them into her, “Are you sure you have everything?”


“Yes, mom,” Tara intoned for the nth time, though good-naturedly.


Kimberly raised an eyebrow.


“Are you really sure?”


Tara looked confused and Kimberly just grinned as she took a bag hanging on the hand rail and slid a box out, which she presented to Tara.


“Nice!” Willow said, whilst Tara’s eyes widened.


“Mom,” Tara said, shocked, “This is way too much. You already got us a room.”


Kimberly leaned in and kissed Tara’s cheek.


“You missed out on perfect attendance, you deserve it. And now you have no excuse not to Skype your mother.”


Willow took the new iPad box from Tara’s stunned hands and started reading the back.


“I can set it all up for you on the shuttle.”


“You don’t have to do that,” Tara said, but Willow just smiled.


“I want to, it’s fun,” she said, winking at Kimberly as if she wasn’t the one who had gone out to get it on her behalf, “Great gift, Ms. Maclay.”


Kimberly smiled at her knowingly and put another arm around Tara’s shoulders.


“Come on then, I’ll get you to the bus station before I turn into a blubbering mess.”


“Wait,” Tara said, suddenly remembering something.


She went upstairs and returned two minutes later with two bags.


“Christmas and birthday presents,” she said, handing the bag to her mother shyly.


Kimberly held her hand over her heart.


“Tara…”


She handed off the other bag.


“Give these to Donny on his birthday. If he’s still sober. They’re just video games, but I didn’t get a chance to wrap them.”


If Kimberly wasn’t sure before, she was then of two things; that everything would really be okay and that she didn’t need to worry about her baby going off to explore the world.


She still would worry, of course, but with a reassuring inner voice.


“He’ll appreciate that. I’ll put them away safely,” she said in a resolute tone as if her voice wasn’t cracking.


She went to put them in the closet under the stairs and Willow leaned toward Tara.


“I thought you traded those in.”


Tara shrugged.


“I bought them back.”


Willow inhaled from Tara’s neck for a moment, then pecked her cheek.


“You’re the best person. I can’t believe I get to do this with you.”


Kimberly returned and grabbed the keys.


“Come on, girls. Can’t be late.”


They bundled into the car, which Kimberly started with a smile.


“Don’t worry, Willow, your car and I are becoming fast friends. I’ll take care of your baby if you take care of mine.”


“Mom,” Tara groaned.


“Deal!” Willow giggled at the same time.


As they pulled from the drive, Willow saw her parents standing in the doorway watching her. She raised her hand and her parents waved back right until they went out of sight. Willow sat back in her seat, arms wrapped around herself, smiling.


Tara sat in the front so Kimberly could bask in the last few minutes of her presence. Willow didn’t mind; she was about to get her for a whole year.


They got to the bus station and Willow brought their luggage to the bus while Tara and Kimberly said their goodbyes.


She watched Kimberly cup Tara’s face and Tara look down and shut her eyes. There was a final tight hug and then Kimberly hurried back to the car she’d purposely parked behind the building so Tara wouldn’t see her cry.


Tara marched past Willow straight onto the bus and Willow quickly followed her on. She gingerly sat into the seat beside her.


“Are you okay?” she asked softly.


Tara nodded, cheeks wet.


“Yeah,” she croaked, “Just…hitting me.”


“Do you want some space?” Willow asked gently.


Tara took Willow’s hand and turned to look at her, shaking her head.


“You sure you’re ready for this?”


Willow just nodded lovingly.


“I'll go wherever you will go.”


She sat as close as she could and let Tara lean against her as she sniffled to herself.


“We could have flown from Sunnydale to LA you know,” she mused as her butt wiggled uncomfortably in the seat.


“It would have cost hundreds of dollars,” Tara murmured back and Willow just sighed.


She noticed Tara had fallen asleep when there was no reaction to the first bump of movement as the bus set off. She didn’t mind; it saved her having to pretend she hadn’t already set the iPad up.


She looked above Tara’s head out the window and watched as they drove further and further toward the town limits. Finally, they passed the ‘Now Leaving Sunnydale’ sign and Willow just continued to smile.


Tara slept the whole way and while Willow didn’t mind being a pillow, they actually hadn’t seen too much of each other as they prepared to go away and Willow missed chatting with her.


She woke Tara five minutes before the bus arrived so she’d have a moment to wake up properly.


Tara rubbed her eyes and sat up in her seat.


“I’m sorry, was I uncomfortable?”


“No, you were fine,” Willow reassured, “Well, these seats aren’t great, but you’re always comfortable.”


Tara’s cheeks flushed lightly as she blinked away the sleep.


“I feel like I just fell asleep. Were you bored?”


“A little,” Willow admitted, “But it’s no biggie. I’m glad you got some sleep if you didn’t last night. By the way, murder house?!”


Tara chuckled and briefly recounted what her mother had told her. Willow’s eyes were wide by the end.


“Your mom is right, I’m glad we didn’t know that growing up! Can you imagine how Donny would have terrorized us?”


“Thankfully, I don’t have to,” Tara replied and started fanning herself, “This bus is warm.”


Willow lifted her backpack from between her feet and produced a handheld portable fan.


“I have an extensive checklist of travel comforts,” she said with a smile.


“If I didn’t love you already…” Tara murmured as she flipped the switch and let the cool air blow in her face.


Willow glanced away and noticed they were pulling up to the airport.


“Hey, we’re here.”


Tara turned the mini fan off and hung it from her wrist by the strap attached. They disembarked the bus and collected their luggage.


“I still can’t believe I’m going to be living out of this thing for a year,” Willow commented, “With everything I wanted to bring originally I would have needed five of these. I guess we’ll be getting to know a lot of local dry cleaners.”


Tara’s eyebrow arched just a tad.


“More like laundromats.”


“Oh, right, yeah,” Willow nodded, “Of course. Hey, let’s get into that air conditioning.”


Tara followed Willow’s lead in getting them checked in and through security, hoping the lines wouldn’t be like this everywhere they went. The last time she’d lined up like that had been when her mother took them to Disneyland for Donny’s 10th birthday, and she didn’t have a pretty new headband to distract her this time.


“Those scanners are…intense,” she commented as she pulled her shoes back on at the other side of security, “I feel like they could see what I had for breakfast.”


“Well, there’s no way Ms. Maclay sent you off without something you love…that reminds you of home…” Willow replied, tying her hoodie around her waist, “Hmm…wait, I know, American flag French toast!”


“Correct,” Tara replied, grinning, “Impressive.”


“I know my Maclay women,” Willow said with an answering grin, “Speaking of food, wanna go grab some lunch? I just had a Pop-Tart this morning.”


Tara nodded and slung her bag back over her body, double checking her passport and boarding pass were in the back pocket.


She fell in step with Willow as they entered the terminal and was surprised by how much it seemed like a mall. They even had a food court. Willow stopped in front of the gourmet burger place and Tara’s eyebrows rose as she read off the menu.


“That’s pretty expensive for a burger…you don’t even get fries with it.”


“So I guess that’s a no to the caviar and champagne bar too?” Willow replied jokingly, then cleared her throat when Tara didn’t laugh, “Kidding…”


She glanced away.


“It’s an airport, so all the prices are jacked up,” she said, searching the names for something to stand out, “Sushi?”


Tara’s face scrunched up.


“Is raw fish the best idea when we’re about to get on a twelve-hour flight?”


Willow pursed her lips.


“I’m sure it’s perfectly safe, but, sure, okay, I get the fear,” she nodded quickly, then pointed, “Hey, look, there’s a bar and grill. It’s that or Panda Express and I don’t think we want our last image of America to be our bad interpretation of Chinese food.”


Tara raised an eyebrow.


“You lived off that stuff in high school.”


“I never said it wasn’t delicious,” Willow countered, a little impatiently, “I don’t mind where we eat, just as long as we eat kinda soon, please, baby?”


She stood up on her toes and gave Tara a pleading look, whose smile just spread across her face at the pet name.


“The grill sounds great.”


“Great!” Willow replied, pleasantly surprised, “Let’s grab a table!”


They found a table and sat with their bags tucked under it. Tara reached across and held Willow’s arm.


“I’m sorry if I’m being fussy,” she said apologetically, “I’m just really budget-conscious. I-I don’t want to miss out on things because I overspent on food.”


Willow returned the gesture with an understanding look on her face.


“You’re not being fussy. Everything will be fine.”


Tara dragged her fingers down Willow’s arms to grip her hands. Willow smiled for a moment and folded her hands back into her lap.


“What do you want? I’ll go up and order.”


Tara looked up at the menu board.


“I’ll have the chicken cobb salad,” she requested, “And water, please. Tap. Here.”


She opened her wallet and gave Willow the money, who loitered awkwardly for a second. She wanted to treat but she didn’t want to seem like she was only doing it because of their conversation.


“Um, ‘kay,” she said eventually, taking it uncomfortably.


Tara tried to work out the hesitance.


“Is that not enough?” she asked, looking past Willow again to the menu.


“No, no, it’s plenty,” Willow replied quickly, “Still or sparkling?”


“Tap,” Tara repeated, looking at her oddly for a moment before letting it go.


Willow jumped up and paid for their order, bringing Tara back her change.


“It’s kinda weird, we’ve never really gone out to eat together,” she chuckled with a nervous undertone, “Ordered in pizzas and stuff but that’s it.”


Tara nodded; that wasn’t a revelation.


“You went to the mall with your other friends,” she explained, “You really only liked to hang out with me in more private spaces.”


Willow’s face slowly bloomed into realization.


“…oh.”


Tara reached across for Willow’s arms again.


“It’s okay, I liked being alone with you, too.”


Willow smiled softly, looking down.


Their number was called and Willow collected the tray and brought it back to their table. Willow finished her tacos faster than Tara finished her salad, but they had plenty of time and nowhere to go so she didn’t mind sitting back and waiting. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world to get to watch Tara eat.


When they were finished, they found their gate and nabbed a couple of seats together before it got too crowded.


After a while of Tara watching passing gates board and disembark, she began tapping her fingers on her thigh.


“Lots of waiting.”


“Yep, we’re going to have to get used to that,” Willow replied, adjusting slightly as she too ‘got used’ to the hard plastic seat that differed from the lounge ones she’d experienced in the past, “Hey, wanna play a waiting game?”


Tara nodded.


“Sure.”


“I like to play Airport Reporter,” Willow replied, kicking her legs out for comfort.


Tara settled her head on Willow’s shoulder.


“How do you play?”


Willow cast her gaze around the gate area and discreetly pointed out a lady standing by a pillar, charging her phone. Her stiletto was tapping impatiently and she was staring at her phone intently.


“See that lady over there?” she whispered, “Eldest child, perfectionist, married her childhood sweetheart and has been cheating on him regularly since college. She told him she was coming out west for a conference but she was really meeting a citrus farmer she met on Plenty of Fish. But the joke was on her because he actually ‘farmed’ cocaine and just wanted to use her as a mule.”


“Wow,” Tara replied, slowly understanding the game.


“You do one,” Willow encouraged, nodding toward a man sitting two rows in front of them, “That guy.”


Tara turned her head and considered him; a slightly disheveled guy in an old suit with just a backpack and airport gift shop bag sitting between his legs.


“He had to move away for work but couldn’t afford to bring his wife and child with him. He hasn’t seen them in three months but now he gets to go home for his son’s birthday with a teddy bear from the airport he’s going to be bringing his whole family though because he can finally move them all out so they can be a family again.”


Willow wrapped an arm around Tara’s shoulder.


“You’re too nice for Airport Reporter.”


Tara’s nose scrunched.


“I’m sorry.”


“Never be sorry for that,” Willow replied with an adoring smile, “Want me to show you how to use your iPad?”


“Yeah,” Tara smiled back, “Hopefully I’ll be better at that.”


She lifted her bag onto her lap and unzipped it. She searched through her things and eventually found it in an inside pocket.


“Is this it? When did it get into a pouch?”


“I played around on the bus,” Willow explained, “Made sure, I mean, ah, set it all up. For the very first time. The, um, OS might be different from what you’re used to.”


She showed Tara the button to turn it on and they spent a while personalizing it to Tara’s tastes.


“You can put a picture as a background,” Willow said, showing her the setting, “But you’ll need to load some up first, or take them.”


Tara smiled shyly.


“Oh, can I take one of us—”


“Look, the plane is here!” Willow interrupted, pointing out the window as the plane came into the gate.


Tara looked up and was momentarily blown away by the size. She packed away her iPad and made her way over to the window to get a better look. Willow followed her, leaning back against the window.


“It’s crazy to think it’s going to fly us across the world, right?”


“Crazy,” Tara repeated quietly.


Willow pointed to the end of the plane.


“Do you see that spiral shape? It’s called a Koru. It’s supposed to look like an uncurling fern leaf. The silver fern is like the national symbol of New Zealand and the koru is a big part of the Māori art and symbology.”


Tara smiled at Willow’s expressive face.


“I love learning from you.”


Willow blushed and looked down, but caught Tara’s gaze again and smiled.


Thankfully it wasn’t long before boarding commenced and Tara got to stand in another line. This one was even more claustrophobic, but it was nothing compared to the pushing and shoving as they made their way up the aisle of the plane.


“Just sit in the seat and let me handle this,” Willow said, nodding for Tara to sit into the window on the two-seat section she was very glad she pre-booked for them.


Tara complied, eyeing Willow seductively a little bit and Willow used her resolve face to get their bags into the hold with little ruckus.


“Phew,” Willow breathed as she sat in beside Tara, “This is my first time in coach.”


“This is my first time on a plane,” Tara countered with a small shake in her voice.


Willow ran a hand down Tara’s arm.


“Are you scared?”


“A little,” Tara admitted, looking down shyly, “It seems much smaller inside.”


“Reverso-Tardis,” Willow joked, and Tara cracked a smile, though she only knew the reference from other references Willow made.


Willow linked their fingers.


“I’ll hold your hand. I’ll keep you safe.”


Tara swallowed and kissed Willow’s cheek gratefully. She cuddled into Willow as best she could over the armrest.


Willow started to smile until she felt the stare of the man standing in the aisle waiting to get down to his seat. He wasn’t much older than them, or at least not more than his mid-twenties. He was scruffy and wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt that would have been the first thing Willow noticed had it not been for his hard glare.


“Disgusting,” he muttered under his breath and Willow’s stomach lurched.


She glanced furtively at Tara and the people ahead and behind him in line but he had said it so low no one else had heard. Willow wanted to snatch her hand away, but Tara was holding on so tight. She grabbed the blanket she’d stuffed into the seat pocket in front, tore it from its packaging and threw it over their hands.


Tara lifted her head and looked at her and Willow tried to smile through the palpitations.


“Kinda cold.”


“Oh, okay,” Tara replied softly and laid her head back again.


Willow looked straight ahead, refusing to meet the eye of any other passenger that passed. Her second hand clutched the outside armrest, knuckles white until Tara began to subconsciously rub her knuckles with her thumb under the blanket and she felt some calm. Her eyes went in that direction every couple of minutes to make sure they were still covered.


Finally, the plane was boarded and a female voice with a delightful Kiwi lilt came over the PA system.


“Kia Ora, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Tui and I’m your head flight attendant onboard this flight today. On behalf of Captain Campbell and the entire crew, welcome onboard New Zealand Air flight NZA1, non-stop service from Los Angeles to Auckland. Our flight time today will be twelve hours and ten minutes and we will be flying at an altitude of thirty-five thousand feet with a ground speed of 550 miles per hour. At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their fully upright position and that your seat belt is correctly fastened. Your portable electronic devices must be set to flight safe mode at this time and for the duration of this flight. Please remain seated until the captain has switched off the fasten seatbelt time. We hope you enjoy your flight today with New Zealand Air. Thank you.”


Tara started to sit up.


“I switched your iPad already, just check your phone,” Willow advised.


“Thank you,” Tara replied sweetly and took her phone out to switch the setting, “That accent was cute, huh?”


Willow couldn’t help but smile at Tara; she knew what she thought was cute in the immediate vicinity.


“The cutest.”


Tara sat back and intently watched the safety demonstration intently. Willow completely lost herself in amusement at Tara’s serious expressions and double-checking of her seatbelt and it took everything in her not to laugh. Thankfully, Willow had an excuse to laugh as she watched the safety video. She’d seen a boring demonstration or two in her time, but this one was stylized as the Lord of the Rings and she followed every second of it.


The screens turned off again and Tara turned to Willow.


“Is your seatbelt secure?”


Willow nodded solemnly.


“I promise.”


Tara sat back and settled her shoulders.


“Cabin crew, prepare for take-off.”


“Here we go,” Willow whispered, fixing the blanket again and taking Tara’s hand beneath it, “It might help to close your eyes.”


“W-why?” Tara asked nervously, “D-does something happen?”


“No,” Willow reassured with a soft laugh, “No, it’s just fast and it might be easier on your stomach. Oh, and!”


She reached into her pants pocket and retrieved a pack of gum. She popped one out of the pack and gave it to Tara.


“Chew this until we’re in the air. It helps pop your ears. They get all blocked by the attitude and swallowing helps.”


“Thank you,” Tara replied, throwing the gum into her mouth.


Willow squeezed her hand.


“You’ll be okay.”


Tara nodded and rested her head back, closing her eyes. The plane turned and taxied for a minute, then began accelerating. Her grip tightened on Willow, who didn’t complain for a moment, and everything tensed.


After a few minutes of her hand being squeezed to a level she wouldn’t feel again until childbirth, Willow gently prodded Tara. She cracked an eye open cautiously.


“We’re in the air,” Willow said softly.


Both of Tara’s eyes opened in surprise.


“We are?”


Willow nodded.


“Look out the window.”


Tara turned her head and ducked it to look out of the rounded window. They were above the clouds and the sky was all kinds of wild reds and purples from the setting sun. The wing of the airplane stood out importantly right by her window and glided through it all majestically.


“So cool…” she breathed, the most magnificent sunset she’d ever seen, “That’s even better than sunset at the beach.”


“Pretty cool and pretty-pretty!” Willow replied cheerily, “Wait until you see it pitch black. It’s eerie and cool all at once.”


Tara sat more comfortably in her seat.


“So this is it. We’re flying.”


“Yup,” Willow smiled, “I’m afraid this is where it gets super boring for oh, eleven hours and fifty minutes or so. But I put games and stuff on your iPad and they have movies and other videos on these little monitors.”


Tara nodded and got her earbuds out. Willow winced. They were on the wing and Willow knew Tara’s little earbuds would be entirely useless. Hers were noise-canceling and a lot better quality. She couldn’t in good faith let Tara suffer like that.


“Here, use mine,” she offered nonchalantly, “They’re, um, more comfortable.”


Tara took them hesitantly.


“Don’t you need them?”


Willow shrugged.


“I’ll read or something.”


She took out her phone and loaded up her Kindle app to find something to read while Tara found some movies to watch. She got a Sprite when the drink cart came around and a little pack of pretzels and thought this flying thing wasn’t so bad.


Willow meanwhile had abandoned reading and was sipping on ginger ale to calm her motion sickness. When the dinner cart landed upon them, Tara took the headphones off as the flight attendant addressed her with a smile that Tara thought must start hurting her face if she had to maintain it for the whole flight.


“Spaghetti bolognese or chicken curry?”


“Chicken curry, please,” Tara answered quickly and Willow reached out to flick Tara’s tray down when Tara didn’t.


“Oh, right,” Tara added, smiling gratefully, “Thanks.”


She peeled away the packaging on her containers of food and began to eat.


“Everyone says airplane food is the worst. It’s not that bad.”


Willow was lying on her side facing Tara, arms crossed lightly over herself.


“The science behind it is pretty cool. Your taste buds and smell receptors change, numb essentially, because of the altitude, so they enhance the flavor of the food.”


Tara opened the little pod her lemon meringue pie was sitting in and nodded along.


“How come you’re not eating yours?”


Willow looked at her meal and thought she felt a little better. She peeled back the foil on her main and as the smell lifted to her nostrils, her stomach lurched.


Her hands flew to her seatbelt and Tara reacted, grabbing the side of Willow’s tray and lifting it before she bolted and sent it flying everywhere.


By the time Willow had returned, the trays were clear and Tara was holding a small bottle of airline-branded water for her.


“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned.


Willow nodded and took the water bottle with a grateful, though shaky hand.


“Yeah. Just…rocky back here, I guess.”


“I saved you the crackers,” Tara replied softly, “Do you want me to rub your tummy?”


Willow blushed, but it just looked like the regular color on her pale cheeks.


“I think I’m just going to try and sleep. They’ll turn off the lights soon.”


“Can I do anything?” Tara asked, but Willow just shook her head and closed her eyes.


She was exhaling in annoyance after only a minute.


“The engine is so noisy.”


Tara opened the front pouch of her backpack, where there were overflowing packs of earplugs. She’d invested in various forms of disposable and long-life plugs after reading all of the travel blogs.


Willow gratefully took a plastic packet of orange foam ones and twisted them into her ears.


“That’s much better,” she said a little too loudly to compensate, which made Tara giggle and put a finger against her lips.


Willow smiled sheepishly and lowered her voice, popping one plug out again.


“Whoops,” she said, then leaned over to try and peer through the space between their seats, “Is there anyone sitting behind me?”


She hadn’t paid attention as she’d stumbled back to her seat from the bathroom. Tara peered through sneakily to assess the situation.


“Yes, but no one behind me.”


Willow frowned, disappointed.


“I don’t want to be that asshole that reclines into someone else’s space.”


“Swap with me,” Tara suggested.


“Are you sure?” Willow asked but suddenly felt so exhausted she hoped Tara would say yes.


Tara nodded.


“I’m not tired, I slept on the bus. And I won’t have to wake you if I need to go to the bathroom.”


They swapped seats and Willow gratefully lay back at full recline without remorse. She fixed the other plug back into her ear and adjusted the little pillow under her neck for comfort. She felt Tara fix the blanket over her and whispered ‘thank you’ with a gentle smile before almost immediately drifting off.


The lights did dim soon after, but Tara was comfortable watching the small screen in front of her. When the latest movie finished, she remembered she needed to get up and circulate her legs, so she did a circle, though it was more of an oval, around the plane.


She saw all manners of open mouths, drooling, snoring and heard more than one baby screaming. She was starting to understand the pitfalls of air travel, which was compounded by her use of the restroom on the way back. She tried not to outwardly grimace at the people standing outside in just their socks that were about to walk into that closet of fermented urine. She was glad she brought her own baby wipes and hand gel and gave her hands a thorough going-over back in her seat.


She played with the monitor in front of her seat until the map and information channel came up. It was so crazy to think they were right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She leaned back to peer out the window from her aisle seat and decided Willow was right, it was eerie but not in a frightening way. The flight was so steady, it was like it wasn’t moving at all.


Her eyes fell away from the window and onto Willow’s peaceful face, with her mouth moving every so often and mumbles coming out. Tara had always been amused by Willow’s sleep antics as a child and as they’d grown, but she really hadn’t witnessed it in a while.


It was odd how many natural friendship exchanges had suddenly ceased to exist that night on the swing when they’d kissed for the first time ‘on purpose’. She really hoped Willow’s recent behavior and the fact that they were leaving the constant presence of family meant this was changing for the better.


She grew tired too and decided to try and sleep, even if it was uncomfortably upright. She kept Willow’s headphones on her ears in lieu of earplugs and played some calming music she used at home to relax.


It worked, and neither of them woke until the lights flicked back on and the cart came around with breakfast.


“Hey,” Willow greeted sleepily as she pulled her seat up, “Wow, I was really out.”


“Not long left,” Tara replied, stretching her arms above her head, then grabbing her neck, “Oof.”


“Oh, I know that look,” Willow replied sympathetically, “Twisty neck cramp?”


“That sounds about right,” Tara replied through a silent groan.


Willow’s eyes glanced around and then she reached out and lightly massaged her fingers against Tara’s neck. Tara moaned appreciatively and Willow retracted her hand.


“Oh, um, breakfast.”


They got trays with scrambled egg and sausage, as well as yogurt and a fruit salad. Willow was starving and tucked in without issue and Tara ate slower but finished everything too.


“This is good airplane food,” Willow concurred with Tara from earlier, “This is better than the food I’ve had in some business class. I’d buy these yogurts.”


“Maybe they’re a brand, remember it and we can look,” Tara suggested, “It is pretty tasty.”


Willow nodded and turned the pot so she could look. She stretched her legs under the seat in front when the trays were taken but kept her seat up since descent was imminent.


“When we get there, everyone goes crazy and jumps up. I think we should just wait it out and go after everyone. I don’t want you getting pushed around.”


Tara’s eyes shone gratefully and she lifted her hand to cup Willow’s cheek gently.


There was the last rush of people moving around the cabin and using the restroom and flight attendants coming around to check seatbelts. Tara held each armrest securely as she prepared for whatever this part felt like.


Finally, there was a light thud and Tara looked at Willow, alarmed. Willow patted her hand.


“It’s okay. That’s it, it’s over.”


“Did we land? Was that it?” Tara asked, surprised, “I didn’t even feel it until the bump.”


Willow smiled.


“That was the wheels. It was a smooth landing. It’s okay.”


Tara smiled excitedly back and stretched around to look out the window, even though it was only runway.


They gradually slowed to nothing and that friendly voice spoke to them again across the PA.


“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Auckland Airport.”

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Check out my finished fics

The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 2nd 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2019 8:36 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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:bounce DIBS :bigwave Continue to love this story. I never thought that we'd be taking the trip with them. Thinking a hotel with a locked door and no chance of parents might allow them some naked cuddling :blush Hostels don't have a lot of privacy (I imagine). I am not much of a traveler. I'd never have the guts to do what they are doing. Maybe in another life...
Looking forward to Tuesday.

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Last edited by taranwillow4ever on Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 2nd 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2019 11:32 am 
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3. Flaming O

Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:38 pm
Posts: 66
Great update. The joys of travel!


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 2nd 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:38 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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That many hours on a plane seems like torture. Glad they slept through some of it.
Stupid homophobes making Willow uncomfortable. I can't wait to see her embrace her identity as a Tara-loving lesbian! (Or however she chooses to identify)

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 2nd 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:47 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
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I've read the last 3 chapters in a row after my return from a vacation.
I'm super happy that Willow decided to accompany Tara on her trip and that they pulled it through!!

Quote:
Where do we go from here?”

Double canon-/songtext-easteregg! :grin

Yay for Willow coming out to Xander too and for officially inviting Tara into her group of friends!

Quote:
“You seem pleasant and non-threatening to my relationship. Do you want to be friends?”

So Anya! :laugh

I'm proud how maturely Willow handled the "revelation-conversation" with her parents. Leave it to Sheila to react childish by trying to get Willow's car towed... :gnome

Quote:
It wasn’t The Fast and The Furious but sweat broke out on her brow as she watched the driver hike out his equipment. Finally, knuckles white on the wheel, she got her break and lurched forward, swung around the tow truck and onto the street.


“Victory!” she cackled, lifting a fist triumphantly.

Go Willow! Especially impressive considering she seems to have had no driving pratice since her Driver's Ed (you only wrote about Tara driving her mom's car).

I'm glad that Sheila came around in the last chapter and Willow made her peace with both of her parents before leaving. Of course she (and we) still can't anticipate how both will cope when Willow comes out to them…

How sad that the jerk on the plane drove Willow into hiding her affection for Tara in public again! I hope she will be able to "let her guard down" more during their trip.
Quote:
After a few minutes of her hand being squeezed to a level she wouldn’t feel again until childbirth, Willow gently prodded Tara.

Nice little preview to the happy family-life our beloved girls will have in the future!


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 2nd 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Topics: 36
Location: Ireland
taranwillow4ever ⁠—

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:bounce DIBS :bigwave


Yay!

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Continue to love this story. I never thought that we'd be taking the trip with them.


I will be super honest with you: when I started writing it, I didn't either :lol

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Thinking a hotel with a locked door and no chance of parents might allow them some naked cuddling :blush


It just might...eventually :wink

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Hostels don't have a lot of privacy (I imagine). I am not much of a traveler. I'd never have the guts to do what they are doing. Maybe in another life...


You are very right, they don't. I'm not much for the hostels myself (and Tara wasn't kidding when she said Willow hasn't wrapped her head around them yet...)

Thanks for your comment!

NorthernLass ⁠—

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Great update. The joys of travel!


As we're about to discover!

Thanks for commenting :)

shirrey ⁠—

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That many hours on a plane seems like torture. Glad they slept through some of it.


Long flights can be rough but if you're prepared it's possible to may it easier.

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Stupid homophobes making Willow uncomfortable.


I'd like to see his Doctor Who shirt rolled up and shoved up his ass.

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I can't wait to see her embrace her identity as a Tara-loving lesbian! (Or however she chooses to identify)


Oh she's definitely a Tara-loving lesbian :P (It's kinda one of the rules of the board since that's how they're portrayed on the show to ID as lesbian but it's also 100% how I see her and it's definitely a conversation they have a few chapters down the line! I think if she was anything else she would have been able to deny it a lot more, or maybe I should say easier.)

Thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

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I've read the last 3 chapters in a row after my return from a vacation.


I hope you had a great time! I just came back from Italy and had a blast.

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I'm super happy that Willow decided to accompany Tara on her trip and that they pulled it through!!


So much better than moping long distance, right?

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I'm proud how maturely Willow handled the "revelation-conversation" with her parents. Leave it to Sheila to react childish by trying to get Willow's car towed...


Sheila thinks being petty is mature!

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Go Willow! Especially impressive considering she seems to have had no driving pratice since her Driver's Ed (you only wrote about Tara driving her mom's car).


She doesn't and you're not the only one who thinks along those lines too...

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I'm glad that Sheila came around in the last chapter and Willow made her peace with both of her parents before leaving. Of course she (and we) still can't anticipate how both will cope when Willow comes out to them…


It's on the horizon.

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How sad that the jerk on the plane drove Willow into hiding her affection for Tara in public again! I hope she will be able to "let her guard down" more during their trip.


I think she'll be forced to.

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Nice little preview to the happy family-life our beloved girls will have in the future!


I'm so happy you picked up on that :laugh It is a nugget because it doesn't even get revealed in the epilogue down the line.

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 2nd 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
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Topics: 36
Location: Ireland
CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 18



Auckland

(Part 1)



I Thought This Wouldn’t Hurt A Lot, I Guess Not



“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Auckland Airport.”


Tara saw the shuffle Willow had spoken of as all the passengers around them seemed to brace themselves to jump out of their seats.


“Local time is 5:17 am and the temperature is 11° Celsius/52° Fahrenheit. For your safety and comfort, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the captain has turned off the fasten seat belt sign. At that point we will have we have parked at the gate and it is safe for you to move about the cabin. At this time, it is safe for you to use your mobile devices. Please check around your seat for any personal belongings you may have brought on board with you and please use caution when opening the overhead bins, as heavy articles may have shifted around during the flight. If you require deplaning assistance, please remain in your seat until all other passengers have departed. One of our crew members will then be pleased to assist you. On behalf of New Zealand Air and the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board again in the near future. Haere mai.”


Tara rubbed her eyes and kept her hand on her seatbelt.


“Do we have to do all the security again? Take our shoes off and everything?”


Willow shook her head.


“No, we just have to go through immigration. Show them our passports and those arrival cards we filled out. They might ask to see our ticket to Melbourne so they know when we’re leaving.”


Tara smiled at Willow softly.


“I’m so glad you’re here with me.”


Willow felt her belly flop but in a nice way this time.


“I’m so glad I’m here with you too. But you would have figured it out. You’re so smart.”


Tara rested her forehead on Willow’s for a brief moment.


“I’m looking forward to fresh air and stretched legs.”


Willow laughed.


“Me too. Soon.”


The plane began to disembark and Willow nodded for Tara to go ahead when she saw a gap. The guy standing behind them was much kinder than the one Willow had encountered on the way in and helped them get their bags down from the overhead compartment.


Willow went through immigration first so Tara would see how easy it was and Tara followed through moments later.


“That wasn’t bad at all,” she said as she packed away her passport, “What now?”


“We catch a car to the hotel,” Willow answered, “That’s it, baby, we’re here.”


They walked outside and Tara stopped to inhale the air. It felt fresh after so long in the airplane, and different she thought too…clean and pure in her lungs and electric through her blood. She may have been imagining it, but it felt real to her.


She saw Willow on her phone trying to connect to the airport Wi-Fi and suddenly registered what she’d said earlier.


“Wait, um, isn’t there shuttles and buses available and stuff? Taxis are expensive.”


Willow rubbed the side of her face, the air wasn’t quite cool enough to stun her tiredness away.


“I’ll pay for the car, it’s no big deal.”


Tara shifted uncomfortably, which irritated Willow.


“I’m exhausted, Tara, please, do we have to fight about this? Do you really want to cart our luggage around this whole airport and then navigate our way around the city with it at this hour?”


The hurt look on Tara’s face had the power to stop Willow's tiredness and her words.


“Shit, I—I’m sorry,” she said softly, “Can we just get the car?”


Tara just nodded and looked away.


Willow smiled in relief and pointed down the terminal road a bit.


“There’s the pick-up zone.”


They made their way over and Tara pulled up the reservation to get the address of the hotel they were booked into, thanks to her mother.


“The pictures look really nice and it’s right in the middle of downtown,” Tara explained to Willow when they were sitting in the car, “I have to say, I’m very grateful there’s a real bed and not a bunk bed coming my way.”


“Bunk bed?” Willow asked with a scrunched up face but didn’t have time to contemplate as Tara caught her attention to show the city coming into view.


It was twilight and the city was waking up; the tall buildings still lit in their evening lights and shimmering in the surrounding water.


Their hotel was at one of the harbors.


“This is stunning,” Willow said as they stood right on the water’s edge at the front of the hotel, “I’m blown away.”


“Thank you, Momma,” Tara smiled, “She’ll want lots of pictures.”


They wheeled their bags inside the grand reception area which was all marble and sleek surfaces. There was big plush seating for people to lounge in and multiple water features were lined with lanterns.


“Thank you, Momma,” Tara whispered again as she looked around in awe.


She never would have picked something this extravagant for herself, never been able to afford it either. She knew the only reason her mother could was because she’d traded in a bunch of credit card points that Tara secretly suspected she’d been saving for herself to go on a little break.


The closest she’d ever been to somewhere this fancy before was in her junior year when she’d been part of a youth orchestra playing in Los Angeles and she’d run in to use the bathroom in the Four Seasons when their bus broke down.


She let Willow lead the check-in and admired the art adorning the walls. The desk clerk with a name tag that said Theo, and a reserved but bright hairstyle that said he was restraining his flamboyance, welcomed them and found their reservation.


“Ah yes, I see you here…we would be happy to store your belongs until check-in opens at 2 pm,” he said with an inexplicably cheery tone considering the hour.


Willow frowned, slowly turning it into a pout.


“We’ve been traveling for 24 hours. Is there anything you can do?”


“We are pretty busy this weekend…” Theo mused as he typed into the computer, “There’s a deluxe room available in the same type, but it’s an extra 75 New Zealand dollars per night. You seem like nice girls, I can do it for 50.”


“Done!” Willow replied eagerly as she whipped out her wallet, “Credit okay?”


Tara watched with concern as Theo ran the card but bit her tongue. Her neck cramp reappeared and she brought her hand to just under her hairline to massage it.


She watched Willow get the credit card shaped keys to the room and be given instructions to get to the elevator. Willow pressed the button for their floor and bounced up and down on her toes.


“That’s a high floor, the view should be amazing.”


“Hope so,” Tara replied, opening and closing her palm around the handle on her case; a subconscious release of frustration.


Willow checked the room number written on the key pouch once again when they arrived at the floor and led Tara down the corridor to the door of room 1113.


She slid the key into the reader and back out. A green light flashed and Willow put pressure on the door handle to open it.


The door opened right into the room. It had plush grey carpet, a huge king bed with crisp, white sheets, and a compact four-person table right beside the sliding glass door that led to the balcony.


“Nice,” Willow said, lifting leaving her bags on one of the two footstools that sat at the end of the bed alongside each other.


Her gaze paused on the large, but most notably, only bed in the room. Her brow creased.


“Did your mom book this room?”


“No, she booked a different room,” Tara muttered, but Willow had already stepped toward the windows.


“Check out the balcony! I was right about the view!”


She slid the door open and stepped out, then popped her head back in excitedly.


“I know we’re exhausted, but do you want to just sit here and watch the sun come up together?”


She looked so earnest, Tara struggled to hold onto her annoyance. Willow had only done something nice for them, after all.


“Yeah, that’d be nice,” she agreed softly and followed Willow out onto the balcony.


The view, indeed, was amazing; a clear scape of the harbor and lit-up city architecture, all illuminated in a soft orange glow.


“I’m on the other side of the world,” she whispered in awe.


Willow smiled softly at Tara’s profile taking in this new experience. She’d never been here either, but experiencing it with — through — Tara was amazing. It was the best filter.


She pulled up one of the chairs and put it beside Tara for her to sit into. Tara did it almost subconsciously, her weary legs responding before her mind registered what they were doing.


Willow sat in a chair beside Tara and watched her eye follow the skyline.


“Thank you,” she said, putting her hand over Tara’s.


Tara turned to her with a gently sloped, curious smile.


“For what?”


“Just being you,” Willow answered, shyly looking away.


Tara reached out and touched Willow’s cheek.


“You’re such a sweetie.”


She put her arm around Willow’s shoulders and pulled her in close.


They watched the sunrise drench the city in brightness together silently, quietly pondering all it would have to offer.



Tara woke lying beneath crisp sheets she barely remembered slipping under before she had crashed.


Her mouth felt fuzzy and desperately cried out for her toothbrush. She looked across the bed but the other side remained unslept in, as smooth and tucked in as when they’d first walked into the room.


Her eyes cast downward to the watch sitting on her wrist, but she hadn’t changed it from California time yet. She was too groggy to figure out the time difference, but when she turned over she saw an alarm clock beside the lamp and noted it was lunchtime.


Good, she thought. If she got up now and lasted until that evening, she’d been in a good position with her jetlag, or at least operating on local time.


She started to hear some clacking noises and lifted her head off the pillow. She saw Willow sitting at the table on her laptop, fingers flying as they usually did. Tara sat up fully and Willow looked over to her.


“Hey, you’re up.”


Tara made a noise of agreement as she got out of bed. She walked into the bathroom and realized her toothbrush was still packed, but there was a packaged one on the complimentary toiletry tray that seemed a whole lot more appealing than rooting through her luggage.


She ran the faucet and splashed her face, then used the washcloth folded neatly on the marble surface to dry it. It was the softest material she’d ever touched to her skin. It felt like she was being caressed by a cloud.


She squeezed toothpaste from the little tube provided and actually moaned for a moment when the mintiness instantly refreshed her mouth. She gave each tooth a thorough brushing and rinsed her mouth several times until her tongue moved around cleanly.


She glanced down and realized she hadn’t even gotten changed before falling asleep and was still wearing the t-shirt and sweats she’d traveled in. She definitely needed out of them and into fresher clothes. She walked back into the room and unzipped her suitcase.


She cast her eye toward Willow as she found new clothes to wear.


“Did you sleep?”


“No, I was wired,” Willow replied, her fast tone indicating she probably still was, “We’re so central here, we can walk to anywhere in the city. I know you wanted to do the Sky Tower, and I found this cool discount card we can pick up to get in cheaper. Plus get other things at a discount too, and not just here, when we travel south too. We can use it with the accommodation booking portal you found for us to use and build more points. Then we can redeem them for other accommodation. It’s a perfect loop of savings.”


Tara massaged the back of her neck again and picked out jeans and a nice blouse.


“That’s great.”


Willow sat back in the chair, hands crossed over her stomach.


“I’m starving. I almost raided the $20 Kit Kats in the mini bar. Do you want to go grab some lunch?”


“$20 Kit-Kats?” Tara asked in confusion as to why anyone would ever pay that, “Um, yeah, we can get lunch. Is it okay if I shower first? I’ll be quick.”


Willow nodded.


“Sure. I’ll find us a good place to eat.”


Tara paused for a moment.


“Could we maybe walk around the area and find a place together?”


“Oh, okay,” Willow replied with a shrug, “Sure, that sounds nice.”


Tara set her clothes down on the bed and lifted her as-yet unemptied luggage up onto the bed. She unzipped her snack pocket, which hadn’t been totally annihilated during the flight and took out the Kit-Kat that happened to be sitting inside. She brought it to Willow and offered it with a soft smile.


“The price is one kiss.”


Willow beamed and jumped up to accept the candy bar and proffer the kiss.


Tara felt Willow’s arms slide around her neck and then her lips press against her softly. All of Tara’s tension lifted with that first press of Willow’s lips and she relaxed into the embrace.


“I have to shower, I have to shower,” she mumbled, forcing herself to pull away.


“I have chocolate,” Willow returned, grinning, and dropped back into the chair to tear open the candy bar.


Tara went back into the bathroom and closed the door. She put her clothes folded on the lid of the toilet and pulled the door back on the huge, golden-hued shower.


Her entire bathroom at home would have fit into that shower. It had jets at various levels and the main shower head was as big as her face.


She undressed and stood into the stadium of a shower, her fingers trailing around the various knobs trying to figure out which to turn. She twisted the one she thought seemed most likely to start the main shower head and was promptly sprayed in the ass with freezing water. She screamed as her hand desperately sought the knob again to twist it off.


After a moment, there was a knock on the door.


“Uh…is everything okay?”


“Fine!” Tara screeched, making the decision to step out of the shower while she figured out the complicated system, “Just…fine!”


She huffed out a breath as water dripped down her legs onto the luscious bathmat beneath her feet and reached in again to figure out how to wash her damn hair.


Finally, water poured out from the top, taking just a moment to warm until it was comfortable enough for Tara to step under again.


The water got hot quickly and soothed her weary bones. She tilted her head forward so it ran down her neck and over her arching back, enveloping every muscle along the way.


She realized pretty quick she had nothing to actually wash with and had to pick up each little hotel-branded bottle sitting on the shelf to identify what it was. The soap was nice, but she had a lot of hair and needed every bit of the shampoo, even filling the bottle with water at the end to make it stretch a little.


Tara spent a lot longer in the shower than she’d ever spent in a shower before. At home, someone was always banging on the door to hurry up, or the hot water would cut out or, once, a missing check in the mail on a final reminder electric bill made the entire house plunge into darkness while Tara had a head full of suds. It all led to showering being a quick event.


Eventually, there was a familiar knock on the door, but it wasn’t the aggressive voice of her brother or the urgent voice of her mother than usually accompanied. It was the sweet, keen voice of the woman she loved if a little overly-keen at that moment.


“…Tara?”


Tara came crashing back down into the moment and remembered the promise of food.


“I’m coming! Sorry!” she yelled as she turned the shower off and stepped out to grab a towel.


Everything here was a cloud and she didn’t want to get dressed, but she couldn’t delay any longer.


She bundled her hair up in another towel and quickly dried and dressed in her fresh clothes. She let her hair down and toweled it through before quickly hanging the towels back up again and opened the door to a plume of released steam as she went to dig out her hairbrush.


“I’m so sorry, I lost track of time.”


Willow was leaning against the doorframe, smiling softly.


“Sounds like you were having some fun in there.”


Tara looked up, eyes wide.


“I-I wasn’t…”


Willow’s whole body lurched with panic.


“Oh god, no, I didn’t mean…!” she started stumbling over her words, “You were…there was yelping and…no I wasn’t, I just…!”


Her mouth opened and closed wordlessly and Tara turned away to brush her hair, blushing.


“I’m um, ready,” she said as she sat on the edge of the bed to slip her shoes back on.


Willow crossed her arms over herself awkwardly.


“You should bring a sweater. It’s winter here, don’t forget.”


Tara nodded and met Willow’s eye with a soft, absolving smile.


“Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me,” she said, fishing out a blue sweater to pull on, “We need to find a supermarket too and get shampoo and stuff. I used up all of those little bottles.”


“Right,” Willow nodded, “Yes, we shall do that.”


“We shall,” Tara replied with a hint of a teasing tone.


Willow stepped away from the wall, her eyes narrowing just a tad.


“You’re making fun of me.”


Tara’s nose scrunched.


“Just a little.”


Willow walked over and linked her arm in Tara’s.


“Jerk.”


Tara pressed a quick but insistent kiss to Willow’s cheek, who blushed as she led them out of the room. They got to the elevator and Willow pressed the button for going down. The doors opened and an older couple was already inside. Willow dropped Tara’s arm as the crossed into it and stood in the corner to be as out of the way as possible.


They got to the lobby and let the older couple out before following.


“Are you okay?” Tara asked quietly as they crossed the lobby and out into the street.


“Yeah, why?” Willow asked; her tone shy, just about, of defensiveness and trying to seem airy.


“No reason,” Tara dismissed, “So which way should we go? Along the harbor?”


Willow nodded in agreement and they hadn’t even walked a blocked when they turned a corner and had a wealth of shopping and food choices at their feet.


They didn’t end up walking far before settling on a place to eat since they were both pretty hungry. Tara suggested the first place that looked cheap to avoid any conflict and Willow would have eaten anything at that point.


It was an open kitchen that was reminiscent of a soul food kitchen at home with a mix-match of table styles. They picked a two-seater at the window with a glass top that looked like it could be garden furniture.


The menu was written on a board above the order counter, scrawled in chalk.


“I’m gonna get the kiwi burger and kumara fries,” Willow said, her pronunciation just slightly off, but enough to raise a giggle from two guys at a nearby table.


“Beetroot, I guess that’s beet? And fried egg,” Tara read, nodding, “…interesting. Delicious I’m sure.”


“What would you like?” Willow asked.


Tara inhaled around her.


“All this beautiful water is making me crave seafood,” she said, reading through the few fresh fish options, “The mussel pot special looks good…especially at half price.”


Willow started to stand, then sat again when she spotted those guys watching her to see what pronunciation she'd flub next.


“Would you order for us?”


“Sure,” Tara agreed and went up to the counter to place the order.


She was given the receipt and two cups inside each other with two sets of silverware wrapped in a napkin sitting inside. She brought them back to the table and put the silverware packages down.


“What would you like to drink? He said pick anything from the fridge.”


“Try L&P,” one of the men from the nearby table called over, “Kiwi classic.”


“Thanks,” Tara replied, looking to Willow to see if that was okay.


Willow nodded tersely and Tara went off to get two bottles. She sat back down and poured them into each glass.


Willow held her cup in her hands and lifted it to her mouth. The smell was strong and almost medicine-y. She took a sip and it was unusual; a little fizzy, a little salty, a little bitter. The lemon hit bubbled across her tongue and she wasn’t quite sure what that overall flavor was, but it was unique.


Tara did the same and she smiled, lifting her cup in greeting at the recommenders.


“Hey, thanks.”


They returned the toast and threw their eyes over the two for a few moments.


“You ladies new in town?”


“Just landed,” Tara replied sweetly.


The guy closest turned in the chair.


“If you need tour guides…”


“We have tour guides,” Willow interrupted curtly, “Thanks.”


The two boys grumbled in each other’s direction and stood up to leave. Willow watched them go through the door and raised an eyebrow at Tara.


“You really need to get better at realizing when someone is checking you out.”


Tara frowned.


“I don’t think…” she started, then shook her head, “It doesn’t matter anyway. I think that’s our food. Whoa.”


A huge pot of mussels was placed in front of her, sitting in a broth that made Tara’s mouth water, with a big hunk of homemade bread beside it.


Equally, Willow’s burger was the size of her head and she needed to cut it in quarters just to be able to eat it.


“Okay, so far, I love New Zealand,” Willow giggled, “Dare you try this unique combination?”


“I’ll stick these, thank you,” Tara replied, running a spoon through the broth and lifting it to her mouth, “Wow, this is amazing.”


Willow continued eating, her eyes lighting up when she tried a kumara fry.


“Tara, try these fries! They’re so good!”


Tara tried one and agreed that they were easily the best fries she’d ever tasted. She pulled the loose shell on a mussel open and lifted it to her mouth. It was salty and buttery and tasted like the ocean and hit Tara’s craving just right.


“This is actually really good,” Willow said as she ate her burger and Tara giggled at the beet juice dotting her nose from the sheer size of it.


“What?” Willow asked, finding Tara’s laugh infectious even without knowing why.


Tara lifted her napkin from her lap, reached across the table and wiped her nose clean.


“Oh,” Willow said, blushing as she saw the napkin come away, “Willow the Dinosaur, Barney’s long-lost companion.”


Tara rested her cheek on her palm and looked up coyly at Willow. Her foot slipped out of her ballet flat and reached across the underside of the table. She slipped it under the hem of Willow’s jeans and rubbed her shin.


“With imagination…”


Willow felt a knot in her stomach at the look Tara flashed in her direction, telling her everything that was happening in Tara’s imagination at that moment. She hid a smile toward the floor and shoved some fries in her mouth to replace the squeeze of arousal in her stomach with fullness.


“So good. Salty. Have some more.”


Tara plucked a fry from the basket and knowingly ate it slowly between her fingers.


Willow gulped and downed the rest of her L&P in all of its unusualness because it would cool her off and wet her throat and dammit, now her brain was the one using its imagination.


She watched Tara bring a mussel shell to her mouth and suck the mollusk free, the broth she’d dipped the shell in wetting her lips and lightly dribbling down her chin. Tara wiped her mouth and never in her life had Willow wanted to be a napkin more.


She busied herself with finishing her meal to distract herself from those feelings and avoided looking at anything that involved Tara’s mouth.


They finished their food and paid with little commotion and walked back onto the street. There was a nice breeze, which Willow appreciated on her warm cheeks and Tara started gathering her hair up in a ponytail.


Kill me now, Willow thought as she saw the loose hair on the nape of Tara’s neck wave freely in the wind, Or she’ll do it for me.


“Uh, you wanted to find a supermarket, right?” Willow asked, averting her gaze.


“Can we find one near the hotel and do a loop?” Tara asked, her arms settling by her side again, “So we’re not carrying a bunch of bags around?”


“Right, good idea,” Willow nodded, “I can map it.”


She pulled out her phone and found a store where they could pick up some necessities just a block away from the hotel in the opposite direction they’d turned in when leaving.


They decided they’d keep going in the direction they were in and find it later, and so spent the next number of hours exploring the downtown area and all it had to offer in shopping and food options and entertainment.


They took a lot of leaflets and pictures of event posters to save and come back to later and spent the day laughing and planning together. Because they wanted to do so much, there would never be enough hours in the day, but now they had options.


As night fell, they found themselves overlooking some different water; a stream running through a park about a half mile from the hotel. A rope bridge was suspended across it, with the rope braided in such a way that you could safely weave your legs through and sit over the stream in its gentle sway.


Tara was lifting her chin toward the same sun she’d watch rise that morning as it set and made the stream glean.


Water rushed beneath then and the trees rustled in the wind and if you listened closely you could hear the rope swinging through the air. The birds' songs were dying but Tara had always loved the end of a song best; the note that resonated and held you in its essence even after it was over.


“Listen,” she said to Willow, who was sitting alongside her, “That is the sound of peace.”


Willow looked at the last rays of sunshine hit Tara’s face and smiled softly.


“Yeah.”


She rested her head on Tara’s shoulder, who extended the opposite arm around and held Willow to her tenderly.


“You getting tired?”


Willow nodded against Tara’s shoulder.


“Yeah, it’s hitting me.”


Tara let her hand fall away gently.


“Come on, let’s get you back to bed. We’re not too far, I don’t think.”


Willow paused and inhaled the sweetness of the moment.


“One more minute.”


A few ‘one more minute’s later, Willow was almost snoring on Tara’s shoulder and Tara forced them both up. She kept an arm around Willow’s shoulders to help her along but had only wandered out of the park entrance for a moment or so when she realized she wasn’t quite sure which way to go.


“Um, do you know which way to the hotel? I know we came this way but is that…?”


“Use the map app,” Willow mumbled sleepily.


Tara took out her phone and pulled up the map app, but it just remained a grey screen.


“It’s not working.”


“Lemme try, lemme try,” Willow replied, taking the phone and poking at it with frustration, “You don’t have any data.”


She tried to take her own phone out of her pocket but ended up sending both phones skidding along the sidewalk. She stumbled to pick them up and Tara eventually grabbed them both and pulled Willow up straight again.


“It’s okay, it’s okay. Look, I can see the harbor between those two buildings. If we walk along it, we’ll find the hotel eventually.”


They walked, Willow mostly shuffling, to the edge of the harbor and thankfully the hotel was about five blocks away, with a little street weaving. When they were in the elevator, Willow had her head against the wall and was mumbling.


“Supermarket…”


“We’ll go tomorrow,” Tara soothed, “You need to sleep. If you sleep all night we’ll be on a good schedule. Come on, just a few more steps…”


Willow took the few heavy steps to their room and crawled toward the bed. Tara helped root out some pajamas and Willow made herself get up to go into the bathroom and minimize a disruptive sleep by changing into them.


Tara pulled back the sheets of the freshly made bed and saw their things had been tidied up. She made a note to be a bit more careful in the future; she was embarrassed that someone else had had to tidy up her mess.


Minutes, too many minutes, later Tara approached the bathroom door and knocked.


“Willow? Are you okay?”


There was no answer so Tara carefully pushed the door open and peeked inside.


Willow was wedged between the shower and the wall, toothbrush half hanging out of her open mouth as she snored.


Tara silently took the toothbrush out, pushed Willow’s jaw closed and pulled her, half-conscious, into bed.


She plugged Willow’s phone in to charge, folded the clothes that had been abandoned in the bathroom and went to sit on the balcony to overlook the twinkling lights of this new city.



“I can’t believe you almost passed out, you big baby.”


“I did not ‘almost pass’ out,” Willow huffed, “I stumbled for a moment, but not because it was so high! My shoelace just got under me!”


Tara grinned as they arrived back at their hotel room door.


“You’re wearing slip-ons.”


Willow looked down at her shoes with a look of disdain worthy of their betrayal and followed Tara into the room. She kicked them off and threw her sweater over a chair as the room was plenty warm without it.


“Okay, maybe I was a little wobbly.”


They’d spent the morning getting a bus tour and history lesson around the city and the afternoon visiting the famous Sky Tower and all its 1074 feet of glory. They had been 700 feet in the air with views 50 miles in any direction and Willow, admittedly, did have to sit for a moment as she took it all in from that great height.


On their way back to the hotel they stopped at a food truck and gotten some noodles, which they’d eaten walking along the harbor with wooden chopsticks.


They hadn’t decided what they were going to do that evening yet. Willow wanted to look through the leaflets they’d collected the day before and Tara just wanted to spend some more time together, though she wouldn’t mind if they… stayed in.


“Is this room too high up for you?” Tara teased and Willow just stuck out her tongue.


Hiding a smirk, she sat on the bed against the headboard and threw her legs up. She put her phone onto charge as it was nearly dead and crossed her hands behind her head.


“This bed is so comfortable. I didn’t wake up once last night.”


“You were out cold,” Tara replied, standing in front of the mirror to brush her hair, “I slumped a little at lunchtime today but I’m glad I powered through it.”


“Yeah, me too,” Willow agreed, “The bus tour guide helped. He was funny and this accent is very uplifting. I really like it here.”


Tara glanced at Willow through the mirror as the brush glided through her hair. She gave the ends another few run-throughs to rid any knots there and put her brush on the desk.


She gave herself the once-over in front of the mirror and turned to face Willow.


“Do you know the best thing about being here?”


“What?” Willow asked, smiling across the room at her.


Tara walked toward Willow slowly and when she got to the foot of the bed, she began climbing over her, to an ever-increasing wide-eyed stare from Willow. Tara held herself up with a palm flat above each of Willow’s shoulders and pressed their lips together softly.


“We are finally…”


Her hips pressed into Willow’s, who gasped in a shaky breath of air as Tara’s lips scorched her throat. Tara sat back up so she was straddling Willow and smirked downward.


“Completely…”


Her hand went to the top button on her own blouse and pulled it free.


“Alone.”


Willow watched each button come loose in slow motion, feeling a heavier and heavier pressure in her chest.


With one button left and cleavage gorgeously wrapped in pink lace on display (with a tantalizing glimpse of blank ink that was still so sexy), Willow suddenly shot up straight.


“I-I can’t.”


Tara’s eyes widened and she immediately grabbed either side of her shirt closed with one hand.


“Oh,” she said quickly, clearing her throat as her cheeks grew pink, “Oh, that’s fine. That’s totally fine, no problem. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”


“I just, I have my period,” Willow waffled and immediately a silent tension came down around them.


Tara blinked several times and finally caught Willow’s eye. Willow felt the cutting stare and had to stop herself from shaking.


“You had your period last week,” Tara said quietly, “You said you were relieved you wouldn’t have it on the plane.”


Willow’s mouth opened and closed, caught in the lie.


“I…”


“Is this about my tattoo?” Tara asked, gripping her shirt closed tighter, self-consciously.


“No, no!” Willow protested, waving her hands in front of her, “I think your tattoo is really pretty, I do! Actually, I think it’s really, um…it’s not your tattoo, it’s not your tattoo!”


Tara’s eyes closed as she looked down.


“Are you attracted to me?”


“Of course!” Willow replied, words coming out in a rush of panic.


Tara looked up again, hurt in her eyes.


“I’m not trying to pressure you. You know I would never do that.”


“I know,” Willow replied surely, “I know that Tara, I…”


She trailed off and Tara’s brow creased.


“Sometimes I feel like you want to tear my clothes off and then…” she said, swallowing before huffing out a couple of quick breaths, “I just… can you just be honest with me? You know I’ll wait, forever, I will. But I need you to be honest, I just need you to be real with me. Can you please tell me what’s going on, can you please just tell me what you’re feeling?”


“I’m disgusted!” Willow blurted and once again her vision skewed into slow motion as she watched the muscles on Tara’s face ripple with multiple flashes of hurt.


“No,” Willow started shaking her head, all the blood draining from her face, “NO! I said that wrong, no! NO!”


Tara stepped off the bed on shaky legs and speedily buttoned up her shirt, missing out on one on the way so it sat on her awkwardly, misaligned.


Willow followed her, falling into the wall with the speed she sought to get off the bed.


“Tara, not you, never you! I’m not disgusted by you. It’s me, it’s all me!”


“You’ve made your feelings perfectly clear,” Tara said, voice fraught as she slipped into the pair of shoes she’d taken off near the table and bolted for the door, “I need air.”


“Tara, wait!” Willow called after her frantically, rushing out and catching the door again before it closed and locked them both out, “Tara!”


She watched Tara disappear around the corner and glanced back at the door her arm was holding precariously open. She pushed her way back in and fell about the room to get her shoes on. She lifted her phone and called Tara’s number, but it just buzzed on the table in mocking silence.


“Dammit!” Willow screamed, before quickly throwing her sweater back over her and stuffing her phone and the room keys into the front pocket.


She sprinted down to the elevators, but Tara was already gone, so all Willow could do was wait with tears threatening to roll down her cheeks for it to come back up so she could get down. She pressed the button for the lobby aggressively and waited the age it seemed for the elevator to descend.


She ran straight through the lobby and skidded through the revolving doors to get out onto the street. She looked up and down each side of the street desperately, but Tara was nowhere in sight. She ran back in and up to the check-in desk, slapping her hands on it to steady herself.


“D-Do you know my girlfriend, she just ran out of here?” Willow asked, with no conscious thought that this was the first time she’d referred to Tara as such out loud.


The woman behind the desk nodded.


“Yes, ma’am, I know her.”


Willow took a key card from her pocket and slid it across.


“If she comes back, can you give her this? She forgot hers. Room 1113.”


She took the key and put it in a new pouch, writing the number on it.


“Of course, ma’am. 1113.”


“Thanks,” Willow rattled off again before stepping off to hurry back outside.


She stood in the same place she had a minute before, this time weighing up her odds.


She looked at her watch.


The Sky Tower opened late.


She turned and headed for there, running in the hopes the wind would whip her cheeks and scare the tears away.


She paid the entrance fee and it was only halfway up to the 51st level she was destined for that she realized Tara had run out with nothing, no money or anything, and would not have been able to get up here even if she’d wanted to.


She looked out of the glass elevators as they ascended higher and higher above the city where she had no idea Tara was, hurt and alone because of her.


She’d seen that look on Tara’s face once before; when she’d told Willow she liked her and Willow had…reacted. This time was even worse, somehow.


She covered her face with her hands and felt a little tug on her pants leg. There was a little girl standing with her parents, smiling cheerily at being allowed to stay up so late.


“Is ‘kay, not so high. Not so bad,” she said, “Daddy scared too.”


The girl’s father cleared his throat but didn’t lift his gaze from the floor. Willow attempted a smile, but it was strained.


The kid looked exactly like Tara had at that age, the age they’d met, and she was suddenly flooded with years of memories; not one of which made her feel disgusted.


One little suffix could have stopped this from ever happening.


Because she was not disgusted, she was disgusting, but not for the reasons she’d thought right up until this moment.


She was disgusting for putting that frown on Tara’s face. She was not disgusting for the thousand smiles she’d put there. Tara’s smile lit up the world and some of it was because of her. Some of Tara’s smiles were because of her and that could only be a good thing.


All of her walls started crumbling in an elevator full of people but no one paid any attention as she hunched down and put her head against her knees.


A hand poked her side and she looked out to see the little not-Tara stretching her arms out.


“Wan’a hug?”


“Don’t bother the lady,” the girl’s mother said, putting a guiding arm around her daughter.


“She’s okay,” Willow reassured, a little choked and smiled at the girl before the doors finally opened.


She straightened up and immediately left only to realize she needed to step back into the elevator to go down again.


She got lost in the shuffle of people coming back down, and though she appreciated the speediness of the lift, the 80 seconds dragged as she struggled not to have an emotional breakdown.


She stopped on the street when she was back on it and tried to take stock of everything.


Her internal rollercoaster was going to have to pull up to the station because Tara was out there somewhere in a city she didn’t know, upset and without any phone or money or anything but the shirt on her back.


She took her phone out of her pocket on the off-chance there was a missed call and Tara was safe in the hotel room, but there was nothing. She shoved it back in her pocket and tried to think of the places they’d seen, the ones Tara wanted to go back to.


It was only after walking another mile of dark streets that suddenly, she knew exactly where Tara would be.


Listen…that is the sound of peace.


She closed her eyes and wracked her brain. Where had that been? She knew it was a park near the hotel, but she barely remembered coming home from it, she was so tired. She pulled up a map, but there were at least six parks within a mile radius of the hotel.


A Google search for any of their names + rope bridge brought up nothing, so with technology failing her, she set about pounding the pavement to search each park.


Two hours, five parks and her voice raw from asking people about rope bridges and if they’d seen Tara (with accompanying photo) later, she crossed through the entrance of the last park and immediately heard the trickling of water.


Stream, you idiot. The bridge is over a stream.


Without bothering to check to see if she would have in fact found the park a lot quicker if she’d searched for a stream, she picked up the pace again and jogged further in until she saw the rope bridge swinging in the moonlight. Someone was sitting with their legs through the ropes, holding the ones on top between their fingers.


It would have been beautiful; it was beautiful, in fact, until Willow got close enough to see the utter sorrow on Tara’s face. It hit her hard, but so did the relief that she’d found her. She ran and skidded on her knees beside Tara, clutching her chest with one hand.


“Thank god I found you,” she panted, hands dropping in the dirt as she caught her breath, “Please let me explain, Tara.”


“I think you were clear,” Tara replied, her voice hollow, her stare unrelentingly forward on some unknown fixed point.


Willow stayed on her knees on the ground where the bridge started.


“No. I wasn’t. I was possibly the most unclear I’ve ever been.”


Tara didn’t react; she stayed completely unmoving apart from the gentle swing of her legs out and under the bridge. She looked broken and it made Willow sick to her stomach.


“Tara, you do not disgust me. You, you’re…you’re so beautiful.”


Tara’s eyes shut and Willow felt more panic rise in her throat.


“Please listen. I know I don’t deserve it but please…please listen.”


Tara finally turned her face toward Willow, her eyelids heavy with the weight of her pain.


Willow remembered seeing those eyes for the first time again. The comfort they’d instantly brought. The little face that had brightened her life so effortlessly and so immediately.


She started talking before she even realized her mouth was opening.


“I saw this little girl and she was you except Australian, at least I think she was Australian, I’m still not totally sure on the accents, I mean they were in the Sky Tower so I don’t think they were local, of course, they might be from another part of the country and doing the touristy stuff and actually now that I think about it maybe it was South African but…” she stopped and took in a breath, “But this isn’t helping.”


Her butt sank so it hit her heels, her body deflating.


“I said what I said…because I disgust me. I thought…I thought I was disgusted because…because you’re a girl,” she said, swallowing and finding herself now unable to meet Tara’s eye, “But I’m really disgusted that I’m such a coward. Disgusted about how many times I’ve hurt you just to avoid my own hurt. I’m disgusted that I let how everyone else sees me affect how I behave when yours is the only opinion I actually care about.”


Tara stayed silent but didn’t rebuff her. Willow focused the spot where the moon hit the stream and watched the water trickle along.


“I kept negotiating with myself in my head.”


Her eyelids flickered closed and she swallowed, clearly struggling to get out what she needed to say.


“I would…okay, it’s like this.”


She took in a deep breath and lowered her voice.


“I would think, ‘okay, Tara’s touching me but it's not really real if we don't kiss during’, then ‘it's not really real if our hands aren’t under our shirts too’, then ‘it's not really real if we keep all our clothes on no matter what we do.’ Really thought I’d outwitted myself pretty good on that one.”


She let out a single, sad chuckle as Tara’s brow began to crease.


“In the room,” Willow continued, gulping, “When you…when I realized what you were suggesting… I was bottoming out. There was nowhere left to negotiate. If we did… it, properly, and I liked it — and I knew I was going to like it — that was it. I was officially…that. And I didn’t want to be…that. I didn't want something else for people to ‘other’ me with for life.”


Tara inhaled softly and Willow looked at her with eyes starting to brim with tears.


“You’ve been so patient. You let me have you however I wanted you and I took advantage and I didn’t even really realize it until right now.”


She looked down again briefly, hiding her face as a sob threatened to rise in her throat.


“I’ve been trying, I really have. I know it probably doesn’t seem like it but I have. I’ve spent so many nights…”


Her voice started to wobble.


“I cried and cried,” she explained, dangerously close to doing the same right at that moment, “Up late at night. And I hurt. And I tried to fight and I cried to god. And it didn’t work. So just now it all culminated tonight and I had a moment, a panicked moment and I made you feel like shit and that sucks. But I adore you in every way there is and I think about that and you and I want it, I don’t want you to think otherwise.”


She made herself look at Tara again, showing her vulnerability.


“You asked if I’m attracted to you. I’m so attracted to you it terrifies me.”


Tara couldn’t help but reach out, intending to caress Willow’s cheek. Instinct made her start to pull back, but Willow leaned in and nuzzled, her eyes closing for a moment as she clearly took in comfort from the action. She didn’t flinch when a couple walked past them.


Tara exhaled slowly.


“Willow…” she said softly, trying to take in all of that information.


She blinked for a moment, sliding her hand down to Willow’s shoulder and squeezing it.


“Doing…anything with me doesn’t mean some absolute…I don’t care how you identify, I never did.”


“I know you don’t, but I do,” Willow replied, her voice hollow with pain and low, embarrassed, “I do; as much as I don’t want to, I do. I’m scared of what those words mean to the rest of the world.”


Tara opened her mouth to say she understood, she’d felt like that too, but Willow rushed in first.


“But I finally get that I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live in this in-between place that denies how important you are to me. I can’t bear all the pain I’m causing…both of us. I want to change. I want to be brave.”


Tara’s eyes softened and she brushed her fingers against the nape of Willow’s neck. Willow gulped.


“It’s not—” she stopped to take a moment before speaking more clearly, “I can’t promise I’m going to change overnight. I know I can’t just flip a switch. But I will change how I deal with those bad feelings. I’ll talk to you and I’ll push myself and whatever else I need to do. I’ll rise above this, rise above this doubt.”


“Willow, I love you,” Tara said, inadvertently gripping the back of Willow’s neck tighter, “All I’ve ever done is try to love you.”


“I know. And all I’ve ever done is deny it,” Willow replied sadly, “I don’t want to hurt you anymore.”


“If you want to stop hurting me, then stop hurting yourself,” Tara replied plainly, maybe as plainly as she’d ever spoken to Willow, “You have to be real with me. I never know where I am with you. This stuff, and at your prom and a bunch of other times. I feel like I'm just an experiment or a thrill but you'll never actually see me as someone you'll commit to, that you want to be in an actual relationship with. I feel that you just want our friendship and…someone to make out with or flatter your ego or something.”


Willow’s face scrunched.


That hurt.


It was deserved, but it hurt.


“Tara, no, I…” she said, swallowing several times as her mouth went dry and heart began to thud but also determined to say it, “I’m in love with you.”


“You are?” Tara asked, eyebrows lifting in surprise.


“Of course I am,” Willow replied, in a tone that could only be described as bewildered, “How can you even ask that?”


Tara’s hand moved back to Willow’s shoulder, holding her there lightly.


“You never told me.”


Willow’s face slowly fell.


“And I never showed you. Not enough. Not clearly,” she said, shutting her eyes tight as her heart squeezed to a similar tautness, “I guess I always thought in the back of my head what I was doing was okay because you knew…”


She shook her head to herself.


“It’s funny, I used to tell you I loved you all the time, before…It was as easy as saying hello. But then the words meant more and I couldn’t admit it because that was another ‘tick’ in the not-straight box.”


“You can’t even say ‘gay’, can you?” Tara asked, though gentle it still made Willow squirm.


She swallowed again.


This was all very raw and they were so very public but she owed Tara being honest for once.


“I get it. My issues are hurting you and they're hurting us. And maybe the right, proper thing is for me to go away and become a better me by myself. And if you ask me to do that I will. I'll do this trip on my own, I'll make sure we're not in the same place at the same time, I’ll take this journey and hope you find your way back to me.”


She scooted closer on her knees.


“But if there's any chance you think we can work this out together…I love you and I just want this to work. I am so sick and tired of being afraid all the time. I just…”


“What?” Tara prompted softly.


Willow exhaled, keeping Tara’s gaze.


“I just want to be happy. And you're a big part of that.”


This was everything Tara had ever wanted to hear but she knew Willow, and she knew Willow was great at telling people what they wanted to hear.


“We can't stay in this stasis. I need to feel like you want a real relationship. Not this…rollercoaster. Not one way behind closed doors and another outside. Because if all you want is friends…or friends with benefits…you have to tell me. I-it’s not fair. I promised I’d always be your friend and I will, but I can’t if you—”


“I don’t mean to cut you off,” Willow cut in, sniffling, “But I’ve never wanted to be just friends. I didn’t always understand what that meant, but I do now and I don’t feel any different. I want you to be my…everything. You are my everything.”


Tara’s heart fluttered at the emotion passing over Willow’s face. She watched as Willow took in two short breaths, then crawled on her hands and knees and leaned in to kiss Tara square on the mouth.


Tara could almost feel Willow’s heart thudding just from proximity. She knew how much this was taking and the gesture Willow was making. It was hard not to melt into it until she felt her cheek get wet.


She pulled away and cupped Willow’s cheek, rubbing the tear away with her thumb.


She mouthed ‘it’s okay’, which just made Willow duck her head to hide more tears.


“I have to ask you to be patient. And I know you have been, so much. But if you stick with me I promise I'll do better. I know that might not mean anything right now but…this is like the very last push off the cliff and I was hanging on by my fingertips. I’m going over,” she said, raising her eyes to Tara’s, “But you make me feel like I can fly.”


Tara could feel her own tears pricking.


“I really need you to mean it this time, Willow. I’ve held back so many times.”


“Don’t hold back,” Willow replied quickly, “Kick me up the ass. If I hurt you, tell me. I won’t run anymore. Nothing is worth feeling how I felt tonight when I couldn’t find you. That’s not who we are. Whatever it is, I’ve…I’ve always been able to find you.”


Tara’s heart burst and she let herself feel the affection behind those words. For better or worse, she was in this. She always had been. She held her hand over Willow’s.


“I trust you.”


Willow sat up, hope etched on her face.


“You wanna try this for real, real? Even…if I’m not perfect?”


“I don’t want perfect, I just want you,” Tara replied in a breath, “The real you.”


Willow shook her head again.


“I don't deserve you.”


Tara frowned in frustration and had a rare moment of abandoned restraint.


“You don't get to decide your worth to other people.”


Willow fell back on her butt, stunned as she processed those words.


“Well, shit.”


And with that epiphany, long-ignored neurons went to work igniting new connections that would ultimately heal them both.


They fell into a silence as everything hung in the air between them.


Reconciled but raw; hope and fear and the impending sense that there had been a massive shift and they were both entering into something unknown.


Finally, Willow broke the spell by reaching out to touch Tara’s arm.


“You're freezing,” she said, instantly whipping off her sweater and putting it over Tara’s shoulders.


Tara started to refuse, but Willow insisted and covered Tara's ice-cold arms.


“Let’s get you inside.”


Tara didn’t protest, the small bit of warmth only highlighted how cold she actually was. It was probably only 45 degrees or so and she’d been sitting in the path of many bustling trees and the associated wind for hours.


She had to stretch her legs for a moment before she could walk while Willow was wiping her own butt and knees free of the dirt she’d sat in.


As they headed for the entrance of the park, she looked around and was surprised to see no one was paying them any attention.


She felt like they’d just put on an entire stage show but other couples were just enjoying their stroll, or people were walking through focused on their music or own thoughts. Even the groups of teenagers were throwing a ball around or laughing at each other’s antics.


No one even looked in their direction until Willow accidentally stumbled into one man, who even then just smiled and apologized and continued on his way.


The way home was filled only with city noise, despite them walking close enough that their elbows kept brushing.


When they got to the hotel, Willow suddenly doubled back when they reached the elevator.


“Wait, one sec.”


The doors opened before she was back and Tara stood in, keeping it open with her arm. More people arrived and before Tara had a chance to react, she was pushed back into the corner and the doors were closing.


Willow jogged back with the second key card and stared at the empty place Tara had been.


Ouch.


She despondently pressed the up button and rode the elevator alone up to the floor.


Tara was waiting when she got there and Willow handed over the key card awkwardly.


“Guess you need this. I gave it in at the desk in case you came back.”


“I didn’t just…” Tara tried to explain, “People just piled in.”


“It’s okay,” Willow dismissed, ducking her head to hide.


As they walked down the corridor, she glanced over at Tara and really noticed how red and raw her eyes were under the bright lights.


For the eighth hundred and seventeenth time in her life, Willow felt guilt and it had only compounded every time since the first.


Once inside the room, Tara went straight into the bathroom and spent quite a while in there.


Willow just sat at the foot of the bed with no idea how to feel.


She wanted to cry, but she didn’t feel she deserved the sympathy it would invoke. Everything still felt so strained. She’d explained, she’d apologized—


She suddenly jumped up and went to the bathroom door. She placed her palm flat on it.


“Tara?” she called through, “I don’t think I said sorry. I am, I’m…I’m so sorry.”


Her hand slowly fell away.


“I’ll leave you alone now.”


She went back into the room and felt lost in the small space. She had never been claustrophobic, but she felt it now.


Tara came back out dressed in her pajamas, face clean and hair tied up.


“I’m going to go to bed. I want to go to the market tomorrow and it starts at 8 am.”


Willow internally squirmed uncomfortably. Tara’s tone wasn’t harsh but she was exhausted and little shoulder devils told Willow she was fed up. Of her.


“I can see if I can get another room for the night.”


Tara looked at Willow strangely.


“Why would you do that?” she asked and briefly ran her hand across Willow’s spine as she passed by.


That small gesture of affection meant so much to Willow, like laying a jacket over a puddle of self-doubt so she could step over it.


“I might go to bed too. Walked around a lot today.”


Tara nodded and Willow moved into the bathroom. She sat on the toilet lid and started rolling her neck to try and relieve some of the tension.


As she rolled it to the right, she spotted her pajamas sitting on top of the radiator. Tara must have put them there to warm them up for her when she was in there.


The puddle started to drain.


She changed into them and brushed her teeth, then used a washcloth to clean her face. When she looked at herself in the mirror, her eyes weren’t red like Tara’s but they were sunken and slightly twitchy with anxiety. She quickly glanced away and folded the washcloth up again.


Back in the room, Tara was already lying in bed. Willow crept over to ‘her’ side, the side she’d been sleeping on. She’d never had a side of the bed before; she just rolled around wherever she wanted.


Except when Tara had slept over, and then no matter how she fell asleep they seemed to end up pressed together in some way.


For warmth, she’d always told herself.


In California.


In fact, the last year had been the least cuddly they’d ever been. Willow figured she’d rejected it so much that Tara had stopped trying.


As she looked across the vast expanse of bed, a chasm of her own making, she desperately wanted to go back to the days of curling up together beneath one blanket.


Now it was so complicated.


But did it have to be?


She looked over at Tara again.


“Could I put my arm around you?”


“Of course,” Tara replied without hesitation or complication.


Willow slid across the sheet and through the barrier of her own mind and slid her arm comfortably around Tara’s waist. She awkwardly settled her head above Tara’s shoulder, who simply turned her head and gave Willow a brief kiss.


Willow almost burst into tears.


All she could see in Tara’s tender gaze was how much hurt she’d put there earlier.


“You know what I said to Donny, that day of my birthday when I went off on him?”


Tara shook her head and Willow lips pursed together, pained.


“I said, ‘you don’t just get to indulge your own problems and ignore how much it’s hurting other people’.”


Her eyes closed to hide.


“Such a hypocrite.”


Tara sighed deeply.


“Willow, there is no equivalence.”


“But there’s still some truth,” Willow replied sadly.


Tara placed her hand on Willow’s cheek to force her to open her eyes.


“The truth is that losing yourself in your mistakes is no better than ignoring the mistakes to begin with,” she said, not breaking Willow’s gaze for a second, “And the truth is nothing without promise. Without acknowledgment of how to move forward and not drown in a pool of what was. Without a commitment to be better.”


She sighed again, though lighter this time.


“If you meant everything you said—”


“I did,” Willow replied quickly.


“Did you listen to what I said?” Tara asked with an arched eyebrow.


Willow nodded.


“Yes, every word.”


“The part about hurting yourself?” Tara asked pointedly, “Beating yourself up?”


Willow swallowed deeply.


“Hard to change the habit of a lifetime.”


“I know,” Tara replied through a soft breath, “But you can start tonight.”


She kissed Willow again, who accepted it gladly with a smile to Tara’s mouth as the doubt-puddle evaporated.


It would fill again, but for now, it was gone.


Tara moved her hand over Willow’s head and fell off at her neck.


“Goodnight, Willow,” she whispered as her arm naturally fell to hold Willow’s around her waist.


Willow felt the most peace she’d ever felt by falling asleep with the scent of Tara’s lotion on every inhale.


“Goodnight, Tara.”

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:43 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer

Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2005 1:08 pm
Posts: 1135
Topics: 1
Location: Easton PA
There was so much in the early chapters, and it's hard for me to post at work, so I went back over it all, took notes to post at the library last Sat., and lost the notes. So I figure I'll put it off and do it this week.

Then I read this. There's no longer the right time to discuss those other details.

All I can say is, I expected this, I was sure deep down Willow would react sort of like this, hoped I was wrong, and I came to this chapter and I was the other kind of wrong, it was way worse than I expected. I know, board rules, they'll get past this, but wow, that was hard to read.

PS; didn't have time to read last few para.s before I posted, going back to do t hat now

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Snapshots:http://thekittenboard.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=10210 a Love Story
____________________________________________________________
Kim: (breaks off the kissing) I l... (Sue stops her with a hand)
Sue: We don't talk about things like that right after, you know that, no saying those things in The Moment.
Kim: (moves the hand aside) Screw The Moment. I *love* you.


Last edited by DaddyCatALSO on Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:49 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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Laragh, that was painful, very painful. I feel am pretty sure that I will be a minority, but I think that Tara is a little too hasty to run away. This could get her in BIG trouble in some of the countries they may go to. It would have been good for her to wait and let Willow get her thoughts out in the way that she meant. I think they should have been more upfront about their relationship before they decided to go on a yearlong trip around the world. Traveling with someone can be difficult. Tara needs to explain how Willow’s view toward money annoys her. Willow has grown up very comfortable, and face it, money can gain some comfort. They should make an agreement to talk to each other and decide is this an opportunity to let Willow’s extra cushion help them, or are they going to tough it out. It bothers me that Tara has not talked to Willow about hostels, not that Willow couldn’t have looked it up, but how Tara planned to save money via hostels should have been clearly delineated. I feel like they did not have some important conversations, but I guess without this angst, the story would be all roses and teddy bears...looking forward to Friday, thanks for writing. :applause :applause

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Oct 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:49 pm 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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Well, that was a tough, tough read but necessary for them to be able to move forward. You are absolutely nailing the late-teen angst. The poor communication, the running away, the panic, the lack of relationship experience...all typical for that age. Then add the awkwardness of learning how to coexist 24/7 with big old relationship question mark floating above your heads, and disaster was inevitable.

Tara, for sure, needs to bring up the money stuff before it becomes a huge issue. Unfortunately, it's about priorities and the relationship stuff is a bigger priority. Right now she's kind of stuck in "pick your battle" mode.

Quote:
“If you want to stop hurting me, then stop hurting yourself,” Tara replied plainly, maybe as plainly as she’d ever spoken to Willow, “You have to be real with me. I never know where I am with you. This stuff, and at your prom and a bunch of other times. I feel like I'm just an experiment or a thrill but you'll never actually see me as someone you'll commit to, that you want to be in an actual relationship with. I feel that you just want our friendship and…someone to make out with or flatter your ego or something.”

Willow’s face scrunched.

That hurt.

It was deserved, but it hurt.

“Tara, no, I…” she said, swallowing several times as her mouth went dry and heart began to thud but also determined to say it, “I’m in love with you.”

“You are?” Tara asked, eyebrows lifting in surprise.

“Of course I am,” Willow replied, in a tone that could only be described as bewildered, “How can you even ask that?”

Tara’s hand moved back to Willow’s shoulder, holding her there lightly.

“You never told me.”
This, this really got me. I truly feel sorry for Willow, not only is she scared to death to admit she's gay and scared to death of losing Tara, but she also has no idea what a solid loving relationship looks like. That was obvious in the last chapter when she saw her parents embrace for the first time in forever. She has no positive role models and just assumed Tara knew she was in love with her.

Quote:
This was everything Tara had ever wanted to hear but she knew Willow, and she knew Willow was great at telling people what they wanted to hear.

“We can't stay in this stasis. I need to feel like you want a real relationship. Not this…rollercoaster. Not one way behind closed doors and another outside. Because if all you want is friends…or friends with benefits…you have to tell me. I-it’s not fair.”
But Tara didn't let her off the hook and also stood her ground. Willow can only have so many free passes.

Quote:
“I don’t mean to cut you off,” Willow cut in, sniffling, “But I’ve never wanted to be just friends. I didn’t always understand what that meant, but I do now and I don’t feel any different. I want you to be my…everything. You are my everything.”
Willow can say this a thousand times, but now she has to prove it and walk the talk.

*Sighs* Great chapter my JMT. I can't wait for more:)

-S.

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"Transform your pain. Release your past. And ... uh ... get over it."
~Willow, Where The Wild Things Are


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