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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:18 am 
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3. Flaming O

Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:38 pm
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Great updates. I really do think the separation had to happen, harsh or not. If Tara was not true to herself and her plans, she would spend her life regretting this and resenting Willow and there would be no long term future for them. I disagreed with the feedback given by whoever it was felt that Tara's actions were unforgivable, and strangely for the board, really couldn't see where the feedback was coming from. This is so unlike me as I am the ultimate mediator. What resulted was an epiphany for Willow and it was heartwarming reading about their reunion and subsequent travels. Willow's post was just so affirming and .........perfect.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:20 am 
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3. Flaming O

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Willow is learning so much about herself and her world is opening up to her, and she finally got round to asking Tara about when she 'realised'. Willow's growth, to see beyond her own experience is touching to see, and I feel privileged to be along for the ride.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:26 am 
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3. Flaming O
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Laragh, this had me in tears. What beautiful story you have written of growth and love and the fact that being authentic to yourself isn't easy but the only way to happiness. I love all your work, but this story is above and beyond. It's really really special and important. And you have given them such beautiful nuances as people- perfectly imperfect. Thank you for writing it!

Willow's innocent comment about Tara seeming like a top and Tara's response "i do?" :laugh :laugh So funny and adorable!

Willow is lucky to have Tara through this- knowing that the most important person to you accepts and loves you as is is invaluable and precious. And Tara is rightfully so proud of Willow!! I am so proud of Willow and I am just a reader- my heart surged at her brave talk with her parents -which was a perfect mix of maturity and a little snark that shows she is human. And then that post on social media- it was beautiful and raw and my heart is all melty.

I love reading them as they keep getting to know each other more and more, the fumbles, the exploration, the growing trust and honesty- It's so lovely. :wtkiss

_________________
You ARE Magic ~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 3:27 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 225
Yay for Willow coming out! :applause
Quote:
Tara kissed the top of Willow’s head and moved both arms down to squeeze her middle.


“I’m so proud of you,” she repeated in an even more emphatic voice

I second that and would like to squeeze Willow too (in a platonic way so I won't risk Tara's wrath… :wink)

I loved that before her conversation with her parents Willow talked to Kimberly and got her blessing. This surely helped her in dealing with Sheila.
Quote:
“Well, Willow, despite your brusque manner of delivery, I have to say, I’m quite proud that you’re making such a strong political statement.”

Kind of according to canon, at least I remember Willow saying in "The Killer in me" something like: "My mom was all proud as if I was making a political statement. Then the statement-mojo wore off and I was just gay."

Sheila's attitude angered me - although it probably could have been much worse as Willow points out to Tara later, open denial of Willow's coming out or even cutting all ties with her or something.

Quote:
Willow felt the anger tremble down her spine and then poof, it disappeared. This wasn’t what she was here for. She wouldn’t be under their thumb and she wouldn’t sink herself to their level either.


“You know what? I can’t blame you for thinking this is experimenting. I tried to convince myself the same thing for a very long time too. I just hope that you come to realize that this is what it is and won’t change. And that it doesn’t hurt you as much as it hurt me…and I hope you don’t have to carry any guilt about hurting someone along the way.”

What a pivotal moment, Willow not falling into bickering with her mother, but calmly and maturely telling them both what she feels and needs:
Quote:
“This ‘period’ has been going on since we were four years old. We’ve gone through so much together and it’s just kept bringing us closer together. Even separation just brought us closer. I’m not infatuated or desperate or misinterpreting feelings. We have a real, strong, passionate, romantic, intimate love that has ripped my heart out and put it back together. And yes, I’m young, but that doesn’t take away from everything we’ve experienced and everything we’ve built. I’m crazy about her but being willing to actually build our relationship is the only time I’ve felt sane. I’m not naïve. I’m learning how to be the other half of a whole. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s compromise. We’re gonna keep growing with each other and I won’t hold me or us back just to be palatable. I won’t deny it anymore but it’s entirely up to you how you take it. That’s all I have to say so if that’s all you have to say too then I guess that’s it ‘til next time. Sorry if that wasn’t brief enough for you, mother.”


Quote:
“We’re a math made in heaven. Get it?”

:laugh Another proof of Tara's wonderfully quirky humour - as this (if it was her idea and not printed on the lable of the bear or anything):
Quote:
“He’s for e-koala-ty,” she said with a silly grin


Quote:
“I need to hold you. Can I hold you?”


Willow exhaled softly.


“You don’t need to ask,” she replied, her voice low and harboring the tiniest tremble of emotion, “You don’t need to ask that ever again. No matter where we are or who we’re with.”

Awww! :flower

Quote:
“It’s hard to be open,” Willow sighed softly, “But I want to be. Even if it risks you not liking who I really am.”


Tara shook her head from side to side.


“I’ve always known all of you. I’ve just never had all of you.”


“I’m yours,” Willow breathed and suddenly her face softened, “And I never knew ‘til just now that it feels just as good to say that as it does to hear it.”


They kissed again and cuddled closer so that they were touching at almost every point.

Another very important, heart-warming moment. :flower :wtkiss

I loved Willow's post and the usernames, especially Anya's (patronsaintofthewomenscorned - is she a vengeance-demon in your universe too or what is the backstory for that?)


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
Dibs :bounce


Woo!

NorthernLass

Quote:
Great updates. I really do think the separation had to happen, harsh or not. If Tara was not true to herself and her plans, she would spend her life regretting this and resenting Willow and there would be no long term future for them. I disagreed with the feedback given by whoever it was felt that Tara's actions were unforgivable, and strangely for the board, really couldn't see where the feedback was coming from. This is so unlike me as I am the ultimate mediator. What resulted was an epiphany for Willow and it was heartwarming reading about their reunion and subsequent travels.


Willow needed, I think, that time to be by herself but not indulge in her own misery. And you know, if she hadn't spent the weeks before traveling with Tara and opening up, she very well may have stayed in that Melbourne room by herself the whole time. It's basically what she did when Tara went to band camp. So if there was ever a perfect moment, it was then because now they still have the vast, vast majority of their trip to enjoy together in the kind of healthy relationship neither of them even knew they were holding back on. So I definitely don't regret playing it like I did and I'm pleased you can see that too :)

Quote:
Willow's post was just so affirming and .........perfect.


Willow deserved to know she had that strength in her and Tara deserved that big, public declaration so hey, social media ain't all bad, right? :laugh

Quote:
Willow is learning so much about herself and her world is opening up to her, and she finally got round to asking Tara about when she 'realised'. Willow's growth, to see beyond her own experience is touching to see, and I feel privileged to be along for the ride.


I feel privileged to have you along for the ride! I love seeing them really settle into the healthy relationship dynamics that I know will pull them through all the drama that life brings from their tender age onward!

Thanks for commenting!

shirrey

Quote:
Laragh, this had me in tears. What beautiful story you have written of growth and love and the fact that being authentic to yourself isn't easy but the only way to happiness. I love all your work, but this story is above and beyond. It's really really special and important. And you have given them such beautiful nuances as people- perfectly imperfect. Thank you for writing it!


Oh my god, thank you for reading it!! Truly, it means so much to have such loyal readers that take time to comment on my chapters - I feel blessed! This fic was kinda my 'baby' because I've been writing it for years and it's the first W/T fic I ever finished before publishing because I wanted to get these nuances right and have the progression feel real and authentic.

Quote:
Willow's innocent comment about Tara seeming like a top and Tara's response "i do?" :laugh :laugh So funny and adorable!


:laugh :laugh Inspired entirely by Amber Benson declaring Tara a top at ClexaCon earlier this year.

(although I have to say I never really ascribed to set dynamics, so I've always written W/T as 'go with the flow' kinda people - but who doesn't love a little Take Charge Tara every now and then? :laugh )

Quote:
Willow is lucky to have Tara through this- knowing that the most important person to you accepts and loves you as is is invaluable and precious.


I think that it's literally life-changing, especially for someone like Willow who is insecure to her core.

Quote:
And Tara is rightfully so proud of Willow!! I am so proud of Willow and I am just a reader- my heart surged at her brave talk with her parents -which was a perfect mix of maturity and a little snark that shows she is human.


Tara has ALWAYS been so proud of Willow. It's like a part of her essence, being proud of Willow's essence. But now she gets to experience it with her not being a passive witness, but embroiled in the reasons to be proud. That is so fulfilling to her.

And Willow handled the parental conversation way better than I would (did, technically? My coming out was odd but not on Skype) :laugh Even though she's spent her whole life begging like a puppy for some authentic affection or praise from her parents, she's actually started to learn what that really looks like and she's not begging for scraps anymore.

Quote:
And then that post on social media- it was beautiful and raw and my heart is all melty.


I will definitely take a melty heart reaction! (And Tara sure agrees!)

Quote:
I love reading them as they keep getting to know each other more and more, the fumbles, the exploration, the growing trust and honesty- It's so lovely. :wtkiss


Thank you so much :flower :flower :flower

Thanks for your feedback!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Yay for Willow coming out! :applause


Finally, right?

Quote:
I second that and would like to squeeze Willow too (in a platonic way so I won't risk Tara's wrath… :wink)


:laugh Tara is fine with any and all platonic hugs (in fact, she supports it! Hug away! Willow is owed as much affection as she might want from friends, in her view)

Quote:
I loved that before her conversation with her parents Willow talked to Kimberly and got her blessing. This surely helped her in dealing with Sheila.


A little thing, but quite possibly made it possible for her to go through with it at all. Kimberly is both her surrogate mother AND her girlfriend's mother - approval of the relationship is two-fold.

Quote:
Kind of according to canon, at least I remember Willow saying in "The Killer in me" something like: "My mom was all proud as if I was making a political statement. Then the statement-mojo wore off and I was just gay."


I have not watched Season 7 (or anything before Hush), but there are things I have picked up as canon from other fanfic/discussions/etc. So I don't really know the context but I know it was said and it worked for this 'verse because ultimately I don't want Willow to be estranged from her parents but I also don't think it would be believable that they would be instantly be PFLAG-going, rainbow-wearing supportive parents in the way Kimberly was - because they never have been.

Quote:
Sheila's attitude angered me - although it probably could have been much worse as Willow points out to Tara later, open denial of Willow's coming out or even cutting all ties with her or something.


It was almost to be expected, and yet wasn't what Willow expected at all. I think a lot of coming-outs are like that. We're so in our head about them and then they happen and good or bad, it doesn't feel like we think it will feel.

Quote:
What a pivotal moment, Willow not falling into bickering with her mother, but calmly and maturely telling them both what she feels and needs:


She's learned a lot since they left Sunnydale, she even knew a lot of stuff already, but hadn't embraced it. I think Willow was the ultimate self-saboteur and she didn't even realize it but know she has and she won't let anyone bring her back there.

Quote:
:laugh Another proof of Tara's wonderfully quirky humour - as this (if it was her idea and not printed on the lable of the bear or anything):


All her, both times. I love Tara's nerdy humor and I think it's incredibly hard to capture so I'm glad you appreciated her jokes!

Quote:
Awww! :flower


She means it too!

Another very important, heart-warming moment. :flower :wtkiss

Quote:
I loved Willow's post and the usernames, especially Anya's (patronsaintofthewomenscorned - is she a vengeance-demon in your universe too or what is the backstory for that?)


This is a non-supernatual universe but I like the idea of Anya going around helping women enact human-type vengence on their boyfriends :laugh
Spoiler:
Ultimately I plan for her to try and make a business of it (and fail because it's mega-illegal along with another gossip blog enterprise) but it will allow a Tara-Anya roommate situation while Tara is [redacted] :wink

Thank you so much 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] (Nov 8th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 28



Fiji



If You Like Making Love At Midnight, On The Dunes Of The Cape
I’m The Love That You’ve Looked For
Come With Me, And Escape



“Wow.”


“Wow.”


“Wow.”


“Wow,” Willow repeated yet again, her mouth retaining a shocked ‘o’ shape, “…I don’t know what to say.”


“Wow?” Tara suggested and Willow could only nod.


Wow.”


Willow closed her hands around the railing of their private balcony that looked out over the pool and swim-up bar of the resort they were staying in. It was shaded by so much plush greenery, it was like a giant personal cabana; they even had a private tree offering them cover out there on the balcony.


Peeking between the trees was an endless stretch of fawn-colored sandy beach and glistening turquoise ocean sitting behind it. She wouldn’t have believed such a view was even real was she not standing right in front of it.


Tara came to stand beside Willow, placing a hand on the small of her back.


“Tell me how you snagged an ocean view room. I know it wasn’t included in the deal we found.”


Willow hesitated with a nonchalant look, but it faltered and her face scrunched bracingly.


“I used my parents’ loyalty number,” she admitted in a rush, then continued off Tara’s sidelong look, “My dad said I could! Come on, it’s your birthday and it didn’t cost any extra. And we never stay in hotels so this is the only chance I’d get to use it.”


Tara just smiled and rubbed her hand in circles on Willow’s back.


“I’m grateful. It’s a beautiful room.”


Willow sighed, relieved and looked back out at the vast view.


“There’s not many places you get this kind of view for this kind of price,” she said, then wiggled her shoulders smugly, “Plus, now we’re ‘oh, we’ve weekended in Fiji’ people.”


Tara rolled her eyes playfully and Willow bumped into Tara’s side.


“I think there’s a couple of coconuts down there with our names on them.”


They moved in from the balcony and started to get changed into their swimwear.


The room wasn’t gigantic but it was plenty bigger than a pair of corner bunk beds. They had a big queen bed, crisp clean linen, and a multi-spray shower all to themselves so it may as well have been heaven.


Tara pulled a pair of khaki shorts over her navy swimsuit and turned to see Willow struggling to tie the top of her red bikini behind her back.


If they were in a cartoon, Tara’s eyes would have been a foot in front of her face.


“Wow, it isn’t even my birthday until tomorrow,” she said in quiet awe.


She took a step forward and tied the strings together, while Willow looked in the mirror self-consciously.


“Should I wear my one-piece?”


“No!” Tara replied abruptly, then blushed and looked at Willow apologetically through the mirror, “I mean, um, you should wear what’s comfortable.”


Willow exhaled and let her stomach relax.


“But this looks okay?”


“Oh yes,” Tara nodded surely.


“I bought it before we left. It was kind of a little fantasy,” Willow explained, adjusting how the bottoms fell over her hips, “Before, when…when I would have my bad thoughts. I would imagine us having a little private island away from everyone else and the world where we’d just hang out. In our bikinis.”


Tara raised her eyebrows and grinned.


“Hang out?”


Willow smiled back.


“There was definite smoochies.”


Tara held Willow’s hips from behind and kissed Willow’s shoulder blade.


“I love this a lot.”


“Okay then,” Willow replied confidently, “Let’s head down to the pool.”


They left the room and made their way down the elevator to the pool level.


The pool was lagoon-shaped with water rushing in from a fall over a rock formation. The still water stretched out in curl formations and dipped to a hollowed-out cave where the bar was built into the walls.


They were able to settle in an actual private cabana in a double deckchair with plush seating and fresh soft towels given to them on arrival.


“The weather is so nice,” Tara said as she shook her towel over her side of the chair and lay on top of it, “Warmer than Australia, even.”


Willow sat on her side of the large chair and checked the widget on the screen of her phone.


“Phone says 75° and clear skies.”


“Perfect,” Tara replied, her eyes already closed blissfully, “I can’t believe I’m actually sitting here and it’s not in a dream.”


“Want a fruity cocktail-in-a-coconut to complete the look?” Willow offered cheerily.


“Yes, please,” Tara replied with an answering smile.


She opened her eyes, though it definitely wasn’t to watch Willow’s retreating figure dip into the pool and swim quite gracefully into the cavern to order them drinks.


She also definitely didn’t purse her lips to contain a laugh when Willow climbed out of the pool a few minutes later holding two coconuts in front of her chest in an accidental but criminally comical display.


Willow offered Tara one of the coconuts with a pretty pink umbrella-embossed-straw sitting in it and Tara got her first up-close look of Willow quite so wet.


Or at least, her first glimpse of the way the water clung to Willow’s skin and highlighted every taut movement of her abdomen. They’d never showered together, though now Tara was regretting that immensely, and Willow had always been in a towel or half-dried already when Tara had been in the same room.


“Granks,” Tara squeaked out, in probably her most awkward fumble of words yet.


She used to be so good at hiding her attraction but once she’d exhaled and was allowed to show it, it was hard to suck it back in.


“Huh?” Willow asked with a confused, if not slightly amused, look on her face.


Tara hoped she could blame the sun for the color of her cheeks. She took a quick and long sip through the pretty pink straw, her savior.


“Great,” she said again with some composure regained, “Thanks. It’s really nice.”


Willow threw her legs up and stretched her body out; water droplets already rippling to nothingness by the sun overhead peering out from between the clouds.


“The water is soooooo nice. It’s not ice-cold but it cools you off a little, plus it’s soft and silky like you’re touching…” she paused and offered Tara a knowing grin, “Well, something soft and silky.”


Tara lifted her coconut up to toast and Willow knocked hers against it.


They both lay back and enjoyed taking in the sun’s rays in their beautiful surroundings.


After a while, when Willow was reapplying some sunscreen, she noticed Tara was untangling her earbuds.


“What are you listening to?” she asked curiously.


Tara had a music app open on her phone and Willow read the name of the artist from the side before Tara said it.


“Nate put up a new song,” Tara said as Willow's lips pursed. She pushed the plug of her earbuds into her phone, “He never sent it to me. He usually sends me everything. Guess I have to get used to him being his own man now. I mean music wise, of course.”


“What’s it called?” Willow asked, using one finger to push Tara’s phone into a vertical position so she could see the screen better, “Flower Girl. A childhood dream he never got to fulfill?”


Tara chuckled and shook her head.


“Some girl he’s fallen for and doesn’t feel the same apparently. I’m not sure, I’ve only skimmed the lyrics.”


“Doesn’t happen that much with him, huh?” Willow mused, “A girl rejecting him?”


“I guess not,” Tara replied in a tone that could only be described as a vocal shrug.


“Can I listen?” Willow requested, scooting a little closer.


Tara offered the left earbud for Willow, as they had often when they listened to music together. Guitar sounds started, rough and slightly eerie with definite drawn-out notes of melancholy.


Nate didn’t start singing for more than 30 seconds but when he did his lyrics filled out the music with ease. His voice was rich and melodic and boomed; it had never surprised Willow how the girls had flung themselves at him after shows. She had actually always loved how evocative and soft Tara sounded in contrast when they harmonized.


His voice had a strangled effect on this track, Willow noticed straight away; a yearning. One she recognized.


Violet, violet, violet, Vi…
I guess I'll never be your guy
It’s time for me to say good-bye
Because you’re not



One of Willow’s eyebrows furrowed downward as those words swirled in her head and she tried to work them out before more were thrown out in a slow rap.


That tiara of yours makes me extraneous
But I still think you and me
We could have been glorious
Sax blown mouth, white key skin
The only girl I ain't been in



Willow’s eyebrows drew sharply upward this time and she glanced over to Tara, who was listening with her eyes closed and gently bobbing her head along.


I remember that first day
The one that changed everything
I knew in that moment
What people meant by worshipping

I strum; you hum
We make sweet music together
A rhythmic communion
An enduring forever



Willow started to frown; her top teeth clenching on the bottom.


But our forevers are marked
They can’t be with each other
We love the same way
And your same love is another

Violet, my never-flame
I’ll always burn bright
Violet, be my friend
Whosever flame you ignite

Violet, I think I loved you
But tonight ain't our night



Some percussive shaking rang out the track and Tara smiled, still tapping the beat on her leg.


“It’s really good. I liked the broody funk rhythm he made with the wah. What did you think?”


Willow looked at her expectantly, but Tara just stared back.


“You know this is about you, right?” Willow broached carefully.


“No it isn’t,” Tara dismissed quickly.


“Yep,” Willow insisted with a nod of her head, “Definitely.”


“You’re being silly,” Tara replied, gathering her earbuds back up to stuff into her small bag, “He’s never called me Violet in my life. Why would he?”


“I don’t know why he’s calling you Violet, but he’s talking about you,” Willow replied with a small scoff, “‘It’s time to say goodbye because you’re not’.”


“And?” Tara prompted, throwing up a hand.


“Good BYE because you’re not BI,” Willow said with enough heavy emphasis to almost spit the words.


“Willow, you’re reading way too much into it,” Tara said and then looked at her pleadingly, “Drop it.”


Willow held her hands up defensively and laid back down on the chair.


“It’s catchy, I’ll give him that,” she said, before adding in a mutter under her breath, “Even if it is about wanting to bang my girlfriend.”


Her eyes fell to Tara’s thigh and saw she was still tapping and even though it was silent, Willow could tell it was rhythmic.


“You haven’t played music in a while, huh?” she asked sympathetically.


“I guess not,” Tara replied in a breezy tone that still did nothing to suggest she ‘guessed’ anything.


Willow was quiet for a moment before noting the sucking sound coming from Tara’s straw as she finished her cocktail.


“I’ll get us a fresh coconut,” she offered.


Tara tucked her phone away and smiled.


“I’ll come with you.”


Willow nodded eagerly and Tara stood to slide her shorts off before they both sat on the edge of the pool and dipped in.


“Ooh, you’re right, the water is amazing,” Tara said as the pool enveloped her from the neck down.


They swam up to the bar and waited while the bartender served another pool-goer at the other end.


Willow sat on one of the little rock stools and took Tara’s hand under the water.


“I’m sorry, I was being a jerk before.”


Tara shrugged one shoulder and smiled softly.


“Don’t worry. It’s just in the past. I don’t care about anything right now but you, me and paradise.”


Willow smiled and gestured around them.


“Well, then you’re in the exact right place.”



Tara awoke to the sound of rustling and opened her eyes to see Willow standing on the balcony, fussing over some tissue paper at the little table out there where they’d shared dinner last night.


She was in shorts short enough to be considered hotpants and a clingy tank-top with a generous round neckline and no bra. Tara could make out the swell of Willow’s breast from her sidelong view and it took her mind a few extra seconds to catch up with how quickly her body was waking.


Willow glanced over and saw Tara’s eyes opening. Her face lit up and she grabbed something small from the table, closing it in her fist.


“You’re awake!”


She hurried back over the threshold from the balcony, flipped the object in her hand in a 180° and pulled a string coming from the end, making a party popper bang and release a flurry of confetti just above Tara’s face.


Tara startled and Willow smiled awkwardly.


“Whoops, sorry. Too much?”


“Just a bit,” Tara replied, sitting up and holding a hand over her top where her heart was beating faster, “You really love those party poppers.”


Willow jumped onto the bed on her knees and bounced by Tara’s side.


“Happy birthday!”


Tara’s smile softened.


“Thank you.”


Willow leaned in and pressed her lips to Tara’s.


Then again.


And again.


And again.


“That was a lot of kisses,” Tara said a bit breathlessly when Willow finally pulled away completely.


“Nineteen, to be exact,” Willow replied with a proud smile.


“Ah,” Tara replied, grinning as she stretched her back, “Well each one was lovely.”


Willow bounced again.


“I got you a present!”


“Oh, that’s so sweet,” Tara replied as Willow sprinted out to the balcony, grabbed something from amidst the tissue and hurried right on back.


“I tried to wrap it but I think it’s best if I just give it to you.”


Tara just smiled and nodded understandingly. Gift-wrapping had never been Willow’s forte.


“Last year I got you a bracelet…with a sneaky charm,” Willow said with a little sadness in her voice, but it brightened when Tara just raised her wrist and showed the little half-heart hanging off the silver band, “Well, this year I just wanted to get you something that wasn’t trying so hard to hide my charm for you.”


She opened her hand to reveal a thin gold ring sitting on her palm with a design that looked like three left-facing arrows. She rolled it up to hold between her fingers, while Tara’s eyes widened considerably.


“It’s a thumb ring,” Willow announced cheerily, but faltered at the confused look on Tara’s face, “I read that that’s a lesbian thing. Did I read wrong?”


Tara’s hand clapped over her mouth as a strangled sound of restrained laughter came out. She took a moment to compose herself but a smile was breaking through her fingers.


“No, you…” she started, dropping her hand down and clearing her throat, smiling openly now, “It’s lovely.”


Willow seemed relieved and held the ring in a pinch hold with each set of thumbs and forefingers.


“I went for a walk this morning and found a little store where they had homemade jewelry made here on the island. It’s called an ‘Ua Taletale’ design,” she said, focusing hard as she emphasized the foreign words, “It means ‘rolling wave’. And I’m here to roll this wave with you wherever it takes us.”


Tara placed her hand over her heart again, this time as it fluttered beneath.


“I love it,” she said sincerely and happily as she offered her left thumb for Willow to slide the ring onto, “I love you.”


She leaned in to take a kiss and her hand rested on Willow’s thigh. She could see down Willow’s top when her eyes glanced downward for a moment and she realized she still had that tiny bikini on underneath.


It was so skimpy Tara could barely tell there was anything there at all, especially with that tank top clinging to her like water. Tara’s mind had wandered to a shared shower more than once after yesterday’s day by the pool and she spied an opportunity.


“Hey, do you want to—” she started quietly, but it was too quiet.


Willow was already tugging at her hand.


“Come on, I have breakfast ready on the balcony.”


Tara hoped there would be a cool drink on offer after the abrupt change in intention and sure enough, Willow had a pitcher of freshly-squeezed orange juice ready on the table, which did happen to be Tara’s favorite. There was also bagels, cream buns and lots of fresh fruit.


“This looks really good,” Tara said genuinely as Willow pulled out her chair for her chivalrously, “Thank you.”


Willow poured her some juice and Tara began cutting into the fruit.


“These mangos are amazing,” she said as she crisscrossed the fruit with a knife and popped it out to eat, “So juicy.”


Willow watched the juices run down Tara’s chin and squirmed in her seat.


“Heh. Yeah. Yum.”


They ate breakfast leisurely, a bit too leisurely when they realized they were going to be late for their planned excursion. Willow used the bathroom while Tara changed into her bathing suit and a pale yellow sundress, and threw a few things into a bag she held on her shoulder.


They hurried down onto the beach that they’d spent the morning overlooking.


They boarded a catamaran boat and sat together on a net stretched out directly above the shimmering aquamarine water.


“I feel like I’m in a movie or something,” Tara said as she stretched back on her arms and tilted her head back toward the sun, “Like Audrey Hepburn with her hat and sunglasses.”


Willow tripped as she tried to step onto the net and Tara had to reach up and grab her middle to steady her.


“Those flip flops are way too big for you,” she commented as she glanced down and saw Willow’s footwear, at least two sizes too big and also different colors, “Why is one pink and one yellow? Did you put on mismatched ones?”


“No!” Willow protested, her butt bouncing for a moment as she sat and lifted her feet to show Tara cartoon characters grinning on the soles, “They’re Spongebob and Patrick, see!”


“Where did you get those?” Tara asked, both sides of her mouth curling upward in an amused grin.


“Beach seller,” Willow answered, stretching her legs out and crossing one over the other, “All the small sizes were gone.”


“To children?” Tara teased and Willow stuck out her tongue.


“Don’t act like we didn’t just watch Spongebob together last week in that little rec room.”


Tara smiled crookedly.


“I love Spongebob. I just don’t want you to meet him if you go overboard.”


They spent a couple of hours sailing around the surrounding islands, eventually landing on one to get lunch at a barbecue and watch a traditional dance ceremony.


Afterward, they loaded back onto the boat and were brought out to the middle of the ocean, where they donned flippers and snorkel gear and got ready to jump into the water.


Willow waited at the end of the boat and held her hand out for Tara so they could step in together. They both giggled as they made a splash.


They didn’t let go as they swam around the coral, using their free hands to point out the tropical fish they saw passing.


They swam a little away from the rest of the group and Willow brought Tara behind a large reef, where she popped the mouthpiece of the snorkel out of her mouth, did the same to Tara and pressed their lips together as bubbles escaped upward and a school of colorful angelfish passed by.


They surfaced to empty the snorkels that had filled with water and took in a deeper breath whilst exchanging smiles.


“Look, a clownfish,” Willow said when she spotted a lone traveler in the clear water below.


They fixed their snorkels back in their mouths and followed the clownfish to a sea anemone where a blue starfish was also hanging out. They shared excitement that they'd found Nemo's home and ignored the eye-rolls that fellow divers gave them as they giggled loudly while climbing back onto the boat.


Neither of them put their clothes on as they found a spot on the net again, choosing instead to dry out in the sun until they docked back at the beach outside their resort.


The sun was starting to move in the sky and was just beginning to turn orange.


“That was incredible,” Tara said, a permanent smile fixed on her face as she strolled barefoot, letting the soft sand trail between her toes.


“It was—” Willow started to agree but quickly tripped over an errant pebble and again needed Tara to steady her.


Tara ended up pulling her quite close and found herself blushing as their nipples clearly brushed through their thin clothing.


“You should take those things off. Enjoy the sand. It feels so good against your skin. Here, I’ll take ‘em.”


Willow slipped the flip-flops off and handed them to Tara, who tucked them into her bag.


“Our restaurant is up there. Can you see it?”


Willow pointed to a hill up ahead where they could actually see the terrace of the restaurant sitting on top of the cliff.


“Up for the trek?”


“Absolutely,” Tara nodded, “I just can’t get enough of all of this scenery.”


It was a relatively short walk, 15 minutes or so, up the hill to the restaurant, which they both did barefoot without any complaint. It was a safe trail with no precarious turns or edges. No cars, or even other people, passed by as they ascended atop the cliff that overlooked the whole beach. They strolled hand-in-hand as the sun very slowly moved lower and lower.


They got a table for two in the outer corner of the terrace, private and with an unobstructed view of the blue sea and the red sky darkening to purple.


“Wow,” Tara said, grinning, “I just keep saying that.”


“It’s accurate,” Willow grinned back, “Wow, wow, wow.”


She made sure to take plenty of pictures to make everyone back home jealous.


They ordered two passion fruit mojitos and toasted Tara’s birthday while they waited for their food to arrive; a seafood platter with a mahi-mahi dish in place of the shrimp, green papaya salad and an Asian slaw with coconut bread.


They had been living on cheap meals that could be made in a hostel interspersed with fast food and even the day before had just shared a pizza on the balcony, so this was like a banquet.


For dessert, the server brought out a Fijian steamed pudding with vanilla ice cream and flambé bananas, which were flambéed at the table so Tara could pretend to blow the flames out. She did so with a quiet smile and bashful look away from all of the other dining guests.


They stayed there right until the restaurant closed, appreciating the view and each other’s company.


Tara used the bathroom before they left and Willow ended up sitting on a rock outside to wait for her since the restaurant was locking up.


Tara came out, blushing as she made an apology to the nice server who opened the door for her to leave. She hurried over to Willow. She’d put a sweater over her dress to combat the change in temperature now they weren’t on the heated terrace.


“Did you get lost in there?” Willow asked, sliding up into a standing position.


“No,” Tara replied, clearing her throat, “What a beautiful, clear sky. Look at those stars.”


Willow looked up into the night; every star was visible and glistening back down at them.


“What was your favorite again? Constellation?” Willow asked as they started to walk back down the cliff together.


“The Big Pineapple,” Tara answered with a lopsided smile.


Willow smiled back and held up a hand.


“I still like Cassiopeia. I guess I’m just a traditionalist,” she said with a soft laugh, “But I love that every time I look up I see a little bit of Tara staring back at me. They never made me feel small like they do for some people…but knowing yours…that makes me feel infinite. Like we burst from the same supernova and now we just have to keep finding each other again.”


Tara swung her hand into Willow’s and squeezed.


“That’s a lot of pressure to put on ‘Short Man Looking Uncomfortable.”


Willow snorted and crossed her arm over her nose.


“You know, I thought I knew everything about you…but now I hope I never stop learning.”


They walked quietly and intimately the rest of the way back to the flat strand, but when Tara started to veer toward the hotel, Willow turned them toward the beach.


“This way,” she instructed with a secretive smile on her face.


“What’s going on?” Tara asked, her brow knotting in confusion.


“You’ll see,” Willow replied in a sing-song voice.


They walked further up the beach, amongst other couples taking walks, families on their way home with sleeping children in strollers and even a late-night jogger. Tara smelled smoke before she saw it, though her eyes focused quickly on a small campfire burning kindling just up ahead. There was a small group gathered around it with four logs making a square around it for sitting.


“It’s a drum circle,” Willow whispered to Tara, then frowned, “Even though it’s a square. And there’s no drums.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, trying not to appear as confused as she felt.


“Basically everyone just plays some music however they want,” Willow explained awkwardly, “This was a much better idea in my head.”


“This is amazing,” Tara interjected softly, squeezing Willow’s shoulder.


Tara noticed one of the guys, in a long shirt and shorts that were almost hidden under it, had a strap around his neck with a ukulele attached and another girl with an undercut fade cut on her purple hair was palming a harmonica, which she passed off to a big-boned Fijian guy in a Hawaiian shirt and fedora.


“You were a busy bee this morning,” she said to Willow, then met her gaze with a grateful look, and half-whispered/half-mouthed, “Thank you.”


Willow returned an appreciative smile and they took a seat on the logs. They sat on the connecting corners of two logs with their legs crossing each other. Tara wasn’t sure what to expect — Willow either, even though she’d sought the people out — but naturally the chatter around them quieted. There was a brief murmur of hello around the fire, though no one made any great strides to introduce themselves; they just started to hum and music followed.


Tara felt her body wake up as it felt the rhythm through the air. It didn’t matter if someone was playing a modern song or an oldie — though the Fijian jazz was so good she almost got up to dance on the spot — but no matter the tune, to be present and listening and feeling was like fresh blood; invigorating and visceral.


Tara was enjoying everyone else’s voice and music so much, she didn’t realize people were looking at her expectantly until the ukulele was being pushed into her stomach.


“Oh. Okay,” she said, recovering quickly, “Um. Okay.”


She started to strum one of the only songs she knew how to play on the ukulele.


Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you



Willow’s breath caught as she heard Tara start to sing.


She hadn’t heard this song in a long time.


She remembered exactly when the last time was; at the nursing home Tara’s mom worked at, watching Tara and Nate, feeling so desperately jealous and feeling the words were mocking her as she tried so hard not to be falling in love. To admit she already was.


She couldn’t help it then and she couldn’t help it now but now she was so happy to fall; she’d fall forever; she’d fall endlessly knowing Tara was there to catch her.


Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be



Willow smiled softly, peacefully and started to hum and then eventually sang along with Tara; just the two of them as the rest of the group gave them the floor. Or the sand, so to speak.


Take my hand
Take my whole life, too
For I can't help falling in love with you



They shared a loving look as the rest clapped, then Willow found an instrument was trying to be pushed into her.


“Oh, um, I’m a passive participant. She’s the musician,” she said, pointing to Tara with wide eyes, then looking at her pleadingly, “Take my go for me?”


A few words were one thing but she wasn’t the one the limelight needed to shine on in this department.


Tara tensed for a moment as everyone looked back to her. She nibbled on her bottom lip.


“I-I have been playing with something in my head,” she admitted, and played a note on the ukulele to find the key she was looking for, “Willow and I were cruising down the highway in New Zealand, singing along to a mixtape and well…”


She trailed off shyly.


“Forgive me, I’ve never actually played it properly. I call it… Heartstead. I think.”


She made a false start but recovered and continued on with a low tune.


All of my life
My home has been one spot
Not a town, not a house
Or even a thought


Because home is where the heart is
And my heart is you
It beats your name
It bleeds you through


Home is where I belong to you



Tara wasn’t looking at her directly but Willow could still feel her gaze, focused somewhere else but meant for her.


All my life I’ve known you deeply
I’ve loved you truly, madly
Secretly
Even silent, I was sure, I knew


Home is whenever I‘m with you



Tara paused and hummed a little quietly.


Our journey, our story
I wouldn’t rewrite
Not any hello or any goodnight
There just isn’t any other way to construe


Home is why I’m in love with you



Willow was looking down, mindlessly watching her toes tense and release in the sand to be inconspicuous, but her smile was a thousand watt.


All these years you still surprise me
Shone through my soul with a whole new beauty
When you said those three little words
Happy. Bravely.
This is a feeling that I’ll just never argue


Home is being loved by you



The ukulele strings did a final vibration from Tara’s fingers.


Home is one soul built for two


Tara immediately blushed when she finished and passed the ukulele back to its original owner.


“That’s all I have,” she mumbled, but everyone clapped for her and the person next to her gave her an encouraging shoulder bump.


Tara offered them a smile but her attention was quickly turned to Willow as a hand slid across her knee.


“Wanna go for a stroll?” Willow whispered and Tara quickly nodded.


They hopped up and politely refused a joint that was just starting to be passed around. They made quick goodbyes and said thanks for the inclusion and started to walk in the opposite direction to their resort, toward the far end of the beach, which they hadn’t visited yet.


“They’re going to attract police attention if they keep smoking so openly like that,” Willow said, looking back for a moment, “I wouldn’t want to end up in a cell in a foreign country.”


The beach was really deserted now, especially as they walked further along outside of the scope of any streetlights.


“You sounded really sweet when you sang with me,” Tara complimented, rubbing Willow’s shoulder with her own.


“Really?” Willow asked, a hint of nerves and disbelief in her voice.


“I wouldn’t lie,” Tara replied sincerely, “I always loved our homework songwriting sessions.”


Willow smiled and linked her fingers with Tara’s.


“I loved your song,” she said, then made sure to emphasize, “Your song.”


Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“Just something that’s been rolling around.”


“I’m so lucky,” Willow replied, grinning wildly, “I have so many songs written about me.”


“You’re my muse,” Tara said, squeezing their palms together, “You always have been.”


Willow frowned for a moment.


“Did you write a bunch of angsty songs at band camp last year?”


Tara shook her head.


“I didn’t write any songs at all at band camp last year.”


Willow smiled sadly but before she could speak, they found themselves blocked from walking further by a rock formation. Willow stepped up on one leg to look over it.


“We can go back up to the boardwalk and around or just head back to the hotel. No getting over it this way.”


Tara peered through the rocks and pointed inward.


“There’s a little cave in there. We could just sit for a bit. The tide won’t come in anymore, I don’t think.”


“Okay,” Willow agreed happily.


They helped each other over some of the rocks to get into the mini cave that seemed to have formed naturally. Tara took the towel out from her bag and laid it out for them to sit on.


Tara placed her palm on Willow’s thigh and danced two fingers up toward the hem of her shorts.


Willow smiled at light tickle and pressed her lips to Tara’s cheek, right beside her ear.


“Au lomani iko,” she whispered in Tara’s ear, the words elongated as she worked to get the pronunciation correct.


She pulled away enough for Tara to look to her for an explanation and brushed her fingers against the opposite cheek.


“I love you,” she repeated with emphasis on each word, “I’m planning on telling you in every language I can, in every place we visit. And I’m not even going to use the internet to find out. Little personal challenge I'm setting myself.”


Tara’s palm flattened on Willow’s thigh as her face slowly bloomed into a smile.


“I have a surprise for you.”


“For me?” Willow asked with an arched eyebrow and intrigued smile, “On your birthday?”


“Your reaction is my gift,” Tara replied coyly.


Willow eyes danced with curiosity, so Tara took Willow’s hand and made her cover her own eyes. Willow was impatient but trusting and didn’t peek until she felt Tara’s hand closing around hers to take it away again.


Willow’s eyes bugged out as she saw Tara had disrobed and was now lying there in a new light blue bikini with emblems on it, a union jack and a coat of arms that Willow quickly realized were all parts of the Fijian flag.


“…I know you weren’t wearing that earlier.”


“I changed at the restaurant. I bought this yesterday. There wasn’t much choice in the gift shop,” Tara admitted, awkwardly tugging where the union jack covered her right breast, “But I wanted you to have your bikini-on-a-private-island moment somehow. And this is pretty private so I took my chance.”


“And this is very not,” Willow giggled as she was able to trail her finger between Tara’s cleavage, “God, you’re so hot.”


Tara ducked her head as if to disagree and Willow put that same finger under her chin to raise it.


“No, you are,” she insisted, leaning in to press a soft kiss to Tara’s lips, “Good birthday?”


“Best birthday,” Tara answered emphatically.


Willow rested her forehead on Tara’s and let two fingers follow the strap of Tara’s bikini top.


“I wonder if I can make it better…”


“You make everything better,” Tara replied, moving her face in a small, slow circle so as to nuzzle their noses together.


Willow caught Tara’s lips in a searing kiss and whispered breathlessly against them.


“Ever gone skinny dipping?”


Tara’s eyes widened scandalously.


“You know I haven’t.”


“I dunno, I’ve heard some pretty wild stories about band camp,” Willow teased.


Tara looked down for a moment, then back up curiously.


“No. Have you?”


“No…” Willow replied, dragging out the vowel as she began to push the waistband of her shorts down her legs, “…yet.”


Tara watched, slightly frozen as Willow whipped her clothes off, then pulled the strings of her bikini top free and jumped up, losing her bottoms and sprinting toward the water with her arms crossed over her chest.


Tara gulped deeply as she watched Willow’s body disappear under the darkness of the water and before she even realized what she was doing, her bikini joined Willow’s forgotten garments in the sand and she was running in much the same way.


She squealed as she hit the water and Willow laughed uproariously. There wasn’t a soul about but them and the moon acting as their personal spotlight as they came together to hold each other with the added buoyancy to aid their closeness.


When they’d frolicked for a few minutes, then made a run back into their little cave. Willow sat on the towel and shivered as her skin reacted to the rippling condensation. Tara saw her tremble and reached out to rub her arms; misjudging the angle in the process and pushing Willow’s legs down across the rest of the towel while she held herself up on top. Their wet bodies hovered dangerously close, droplets merging between them and journeying down their skin together.


They panted quietly, faces close until Willow pressed three fingers against Tara’s cheek and brought them close enough to touch.


“Yeah?” she breathed, barely audible but for their proximity.


Tara’s heart pounded right out of her chest, but she only ever had one answer for Willow to this question.


“Yes.”


Immediately they tangled and Tara felt herself become instantly drunk on Willow’s kisses.


What’s the worst that can happen?



Tara marched ahead briskly with a stony look on her face and her arms folded tightly across her chest, as the door of the police station slammed shut loudly behind her.


Willow hurried to catch up.


"We're never talking about this again," Tara said without moving her gaze from where it was fixed ahead.


"Okay," Willow agreed readily from a step behind her, watching the tag of Tara's inside-out sweater tag flap in the wind.


It was very late, or very early depending on how you looked at it, and the walk back to the resort was eerily quiet. They normally kept the same pace with each other but Willow had to keep a slow jog just to keep up as Tara sped ahead.


She didn’t speak a word as they strode across the lobby of the resort, rode the elevator up to their floor, nor when she took the room key from her front pocket or when she marched across the room in a few steps and locked herself in the bathroom.


She sure did slam the door though.


Willow jumped as the bang reverberated and felt her heart start to race. She sank onto the bed and laid her hands on her lap, looking down at them as they twisted around each other.


She heard the shower start and she let her back fall onto the bed, bringing her hands up to cover her face. She spotted her phone where she’d put it charging on the nightstand and noticed Tara’s wasn’t beside it, as it had been when they left.


She hadn’t even seen Tara grab it before absconding to the bathroom, but she’d pretty much just been a blur of movement anyway.


Willow used her phone to let her fingers fidget, dismissing the notifications that had built up throughout the day and then randomly switched between apps. When she had nothing left to do, her eye was drawn to the time and she did a quick calculation in her head.


It was breakfast time at home.


Worth a shot.


She couldn’t keep this in.


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In the bathroom, Tara’s skin was a deep pink as the hot water poured on her from five different spouts.


This shower was even nicer than the one in Auckland but Tara resented that she needed hot water as a distraction when she’d been longing for Willow’s wet, soapy body to be doing that instead just hours ago.


She heard her phone beep with an incoming message notification over the thundering spray of water and looked through the clear glass window of the shower door over to the windowsill where she’d left it.


She’d grabbed it to panic-google what consequences there might be but she quickly realized there was no trail for consequences to follow and had just turned the water on hot to burn away the memories. She turned the shower off and stepped out into the steam-filled room, wrapping herself in one of the fluffy hotel towels. At least that was a comfort.


She unlocked the phone and checked the incoming message.


Her jaw clenched.


She marched out into the room and shoved her phone in Willow’s face.


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Willow’s eyes widened and shot from the screen to Tara’s face.


“Oh, Anya's calling herself your best friend now?” she asked with a sarcastic smile, but it dropped completely when she saw the look on Tara’s face, “I didn’t tell her! I don’t even have her number!”


Her top teeth moved over her bottom lip, digging in.


“I may have told Buffy,” she admitted, her eyes lolling downward cagily, “Who may be having breakfast with Xander.”


She winced.


“And Anya.”


“Willow!” Tara exclaimed loudly.


“I’m sorry!” Willow replied, pained.


Tara’s hand curled around her phone angrily.


“I wish I had a flip phone so I could snap it in your face right now.”


Willow immediately pursed her lips to contain the loud laugh that threatened to escape, but she didn’t do a very good job.


“Are you laughing at me?” Tara asked incredulously.


“No, not AT you!!” Willow replied quickly, “It’s just…the situation. It was so embarrassing.”


“You?!” Tara demanded, every facial muscle tense, “I was on top and you grabbed the towel!”


“They didn’t see anything,” Willow said nonchalantly, “They thought you were a dude.”


“What?” Tara asked sharply.


“What?” Willow shot back, quickly averting her gaze, “Hmm? Nothing. What?”


Tara sighed deeply and stretched her neck back, rolling it to relieve some tension.


“Oh my god.”


Willow returned to her original position; sitting at the end of the bed with her hands twirling in her lap.


“Please don’t be mad at me,” she said in a meek voice.


Tara felt like she’d been slapped in the face at Willow’s tone.


“I’m not mad at you,” she said tenderly, though realized almost immediately she had been acting like it, “I-I’m sorry, Willow, I was caught up in my own feelings. I…”


She felt a huge lump form in her throat and before she knew it she had burst into tears. Immediately they switched roles and Willow was bringing Tara into a hug and cradling Tara’s head on her chest. She rubbed Tara’s back through the towel.


“Hey, I know. That was really scary,” she soothed, “Rollercoasters won’t have the same thrill after that.”


She tightened her hold around Tara’s body.


“It’s over now.”


Tara sobbed into Willow’s open neckline.


“I’m sorry for saying I’d flip a phone in your face.”


Willow couldn’t help the smile, but at least Tara was under her chin and couldn’t see.


“Honestly, that was pretty funny. You’re not very good at threatening, baby,” she said, sighing softly and kissing the top of Tara’s head, “Which is a good thing. What were you going to do, nip my nose?”


A strained laugh suddenly burst from Tara between cries and Willow couldn’t hold it in any longer, she burst into giggles. They both heaved with laughter, inappropriately hysterical and at times completely indistinguishable from tears.


Tara wiped her eyes as she began to recover and suddenly remembered something.


“What happened to the bag?”


“I think I dropped the towel on top of it when they stormed us. We just left them both. Was there anything in it? Wait, my credit card was in…” Willow’s hand flew into her front pocket and she sighed in relief when she pulled out her card, “Phew. Forgot I paid for dinner.”


“Thankfully we didn’t bring much because of the snorkeling. Just my bathing suit was in there from when I got changed,” Tara replied, sniffling softly, “Oh and your flip flops.”


“Aww,” Willow replied with a pout, “Maybe it’ll still be there if I go down tomorrow.”


“I just want to get out of here as soon as we can leave for the airport,” Tara replied jadedly.


“Forfeited flip flops it is,” Willow said, understanding yet upbeat, “Shame we can’t fit in any more topless sunbathing. In the dark. Under rocks. With your fingers inside me.”


“Willow!” Tara replied, mouth dropping open in shock, “I’m recanting ‘best birthday’ by the way.”


“Hey, your birthday was over by the time they showed up,” Willow argued, “I don’t see why I should get demerited for that.”


Tara gave Willow a ‘really?’ look.


“You’re happy to win on a timestamp technicality?”


Willow nodded easily.


“Yep, I’ll totally take it.”


Tara shook her head.


“You’re so lucky you’re cute.”


Willow reached out to gently massage Tara’s shoulders and Tara suddenly slumped, exhausted.


“I am more than ready to sleep.”


Willow leaned in and pressed a kiss into Tara’s neck,


“I’ll join you in a few. I need to shower real quick too,” she said, jumping up and walking with a wiggle, “That sand-feeling-great-against-the-skin thing really has its limitations.”


“I’ll be sure to tell Anya,” Tara replied, deadpan.


Willow turned and looked at Tara, contrite.


“I’m sorry.”


“I know,” Tara replied softly.


Willow reached her hands out as an offering.


“I love you.”


Tara took them and kissed the back of each of her hands.


“I love you, too,” she said, squeezing Willow’s hands in hers, “And it was still a pretty great birthday.”


Willow threw both fists into the air victoriously.


“I win!” she announced, then swooped in with another kiss, “I win because you’re my girlfriend. I win every day.”


Tara felt a little relief in her heart and gently pushed Willow away.


“Go wash your sandy butt so we can cuddle.”


Willow went to have a quick shower and by the time she came back in the room, Tara was sleeping; her tired, fraught lines finally evened out.


Willow didn’t even get out of her towel as she laid down beside Tara. The very start of the day’s light was starting to peek in through the balcony.


She closed her eyes and laughed herself quietly to sleep in minutes.




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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] (Nov 12th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:55 pm 
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3. Flaming O

Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:38 pm
Posts: 70
Dibs! I just about choked on my wine when they got arrested. So funny! I'm really enjoying tagging along for the round the world trip.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 12th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:48 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
Posts: 675
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Location: North Carolina, USA
Another great chapter. I too was shocked to read that they got caught. It was great that they never had to give their names. That is certainly an experience that I wouldn't want to have and unfortunately it will probably leave a bit of a stain on their memories. Your descriptions were great and made me yearn for the opportunity to go to the South Pacific. So Tara's birthday in late July? Early August? How long have they been gone? Liked the post card.

Looking forward to Friday.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 12th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:36 pm 
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JMT-

I'm a little behind on feedback so here goes!

Chapter 27 Sydney Part 1:
Quote:
“Willow I have to tell you,” she said, licking her lips when their breath hit each other’s mouths, “Your personal growth is really turning me on.”
Hahahahaha! Great line and awesome chapter! I've gotta say, WOW, Willow really did "find herself." So proud of our little redhead and Tara too, for finally realizing that it wasn't all Willow's fault.

Overall a really great chapter...and not just the sex part. :wink I really enjoyed seeing them connect on such an open emotional level.

Quote:
“You’ve reached the heteronormativity realization portion of your gay awakening.”

Willow’s head popped up, frowning.

“It sounds horrible. When does it stop?”

Tara balled a fist and offered it to bump.

“When we smash the patriarchy.”
"THE PATRIARCHY!" ~Buffering The Vampire Slayer :haha

Tara getting chased into "the bush" by a "bush" turkey...priceless.

And finally, their first trip together to a gay bar... :love That whole bit brought back a LOT of memories. Such an emotional awakening.


Chapter 28 Sydney Part 2:
Naked on Skype in front of your girlfriend's mother...the things nightmares are made of.

Willow's coming out to her parents was all kinds of AWESOME and also sad that it was the first time she was ever asked if she was happy. Sheila's reply: Typical and standard. I'm already wondering what will happen in a year when they have to go home after basically living together for a year. How will Willow's parents treat her? Like an adult or just try and pick up where they left off.
Quote:
It definitely was nothing like the thousand and one scenarios I always played out in my head.
It seldom ever is.

Laragh, I have to tell you, all these little details you've added really make this fic something special. I absolutely LOVE the authentic text messages, emails, and social media posts. ESPECIALLY the Instagram coming out post and Tara's reaction, the sheet fort...just lovely. :heart

Chapter 29 Fiji:
Ok, now I'm totally jealous. I've always wanted to go to Fiji. 'le sigh'

Quote:
She also definitely didn’t purse her lips to contain a laugh when Willow climbed out of the pool a few minutes later holding two coconuts in front of her chest in an accidental but criminally comical display.
Hysterical.

Ah, the Nate-likes-Tara-talk. To my knowledge, Tara hasn't told Willow of the 'almost kiss,' has she? I was truly hoping she would just tell Willow because it was her perfect opportunity to spill the beans. I mean, Willow has seen the obviousness of his crush forever. And I don't think Willow was being a jerk, just stating the obvious in a very Willow-like way.

My battery is dying on my laptop and I'm too lazy to get up and plug it in, so I have to hurry! Tara's birthday was so wonderful and Willow was so sweet with the gifts and the dinner. I loved the impromptu skinny dipping and the getting caught after was SO FUNNY! I guess it's a good thing they were only there for a couple of days. It's one of those, "Well, I guess we can never go back there again" kind of things.

Quote:
“They didn’t see anything,” Willow said nonchalantly, “They thought you were a dude.”

“What?” Tara asked sharply.

“What?” Willow shot back, quickly averting her gaze, “Hmm? Nothing. What?”
Dead.


As always, looking forward to the next chapter!


-JMT

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 12th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:16 am 
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Oh my god, what a terrifying and embarassing experience for both girls - and hilarious for us to read in Willow's messages with the sure knowledge that they are safe back in the hotelroom. :laugh
It wasn't totally clear but I trust the cops let them put their clothes back on before they cuffed them and stuffed them in the police car...am I right?

I almost laughed out loud at Willow's "worse then the time I got a B-" comment.
Quote:
“They’re going to attract police attention if they keep smoking so openly like that,” Willow said, looking back for a moment, “I wouldn’t want to end up in a cell in a foreign country.”

Famous last words…

Their birthday-activities before they got caught were very nice and romantic. I loved Tara's song and that the song "I can't help falling in love with you" now gives only positive feelings to Willow.

Quote:
“Au lomani iko,” she whispered in Tara’s ear, the words elongated as she worked to get the pronunciation correct.


She pulled away enough for Tara to look to her for an explanation and brushed her fingers against the opposite cheek.


“I love you,” she repeated with emphasis on each word, “I’m planning on telling you in every language I can, in every place we visit. And I’m not even going to use the internet to find out. Little personal challenge I'm setting myself.”

Awww! :flower

If Willow in the future feels the need to tell Buffy as her best friend private stuff that also concerns Tara she should swear her to confidentiality - as should Tara if she chooses to risk to tell Anya stuff like that.
I have to admit that I don't get Xander's mussel-joke either… :blush

Quote:
“I wish I had a flip phone so I could snap it in your face right now.”

:laugh So cute!

I hope that after some time they will mainly see the funny side of this "adventure" in hindsight and won't let it spoil the memory of their great weekend in Fiji.

I loved Willow's postcard. Are those real stamps on the front? If so she is obviously as challenged with finding out what and how many stamps she needs to use as she is with the coins...


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 12th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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NorthernLass

Quote:
Dibs!


Yay!

Quote:
I just about choked on my wine when they got arrested. So funny! I'm really enjoying tagging along for the round the world trip.


I'm so glad, because they only just started! :D

Thanks for commenting!

taranwillow4ever

Quote:
Another great chapter. I too was shocked to read that they got caught. It was great that they never had to give their names. That is certainly an experience that I wouldn't want to have and unfortunately it will probably leave a bit of a stain on their memories.


I think they'll learn to laugh about it. I tried not to make it too traumatic :)

Quote:
Your descriptions were great and made me yearn for the opportunity to go to the South Pacific.


Doing research for this fic has left me with this feeling so many times!

Quote:
So Tara's birthday in late July? Early August? How long have they been gone?


Tara's birthday is Tara's birthday - October 16th :)

Quote:
Liked the post card.


Thank you!

Quote:
Looking forward to Friday.


Hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for your comment!

Finey_McFine

Quote:
Hahahahaha! Great line and awesome chapter! I


Thank you so much!

Quote:
I've gotta say, WOW, Willow really did "find herself." So proud of our little redhead and Tara too, for finally realizing that it wasn't all Willow's fault.


In Tara's defense, she never thought it was all Willow's fault and in fact felt quite guilty for feeling weak that she let it get to the point that it did.

Quote:
Overall a really great chapter...and not just the sex part. :wink I really enjoyed seeing them connect on such an open emotional level.


You know I love me some deep, hot, throbbing emotions.

Quote:
"THE PATRIARCHY!" ~Buffering The Vampire Slayer


I keep meaning to check out some of the Tara-centric episodes of that!

Quote:
Tara getting chased into "the bush" by a "bush" turkey...priceless.


It was vicious!

Quote:
And finally, their first trip together to a gay bar... :love That whole bit brought back a LOT of memories. Such an emotional awakening.


The first time being surrounded by other gay people is...yeah, like you say, very much an emotional awakening!

Quote:
Naked on Skype in front of your girlfriend's mother...the things nightmares are made of.


Willow's, I'm sure, for a little while.

Quote:
Willow's coming out to her parents was all kinds of AWESOME and also sad that it was the first time she was ever asked if she was happy. Sheila's reply: Typical and standard. I'm already wondering what will happen in a year when they have to go home after basically living together for a year. How will Willow's parents treat her? Like an adult or just try and pick up where they left off.


That will be an incredibly weird dynamic for everyone. The parents sent off their kids and they'll be getting back adults that have gone through a lot of growth and new experiences. Ultimately, I didn't want Willow to be estranged in this verse. Her and Sheila will never be buddy-buddy but I think they could be as close as one could hope with all of the emotional baggage they have between them. That is sure as hell not going to happen overnight, but little steps and little expectations will get them something close to comfortable :)

Quote:
It seldom ever is.


Ain't that the truth!

Quote:
Laragh, I have to tell you, all these little details you've added really make this fic something special. I absolutely LOVE the authentic text messages, emails, and social media posts. ESPECIALLY the Instagram coming out post and Tara's reaction, the sheet fort...just lovely.


Thank you!! I've loved images in fics ever since Creation Myth and have always wanted to try my hand at it. This one started with text messages and got a bit out of hand :blush

Quote:
Ok, now I'm totally jealous. I've always wanted to go to Fiji. 'le sigh'


Me too!

Quote:
Hysterical.


Ever told a girl you like her coconuts? :laugh

Quote:
Ah, the Nate-likes-Tara-talk. To my knowledge, Tara hasn't told Willow of the 'almost kiss,' has she? I was truly hoping she would just tell Willow because it was her perfect opportunity to spill the beans. I mean, Willow has seen the obviousness of his crush forever. And I don't think Willow was being a jerk, just stating the obvious in a very Willow-like way.


I don't think Willow was being a jerk at all, either. This is a bit of a conflict for Tara. If Willow came to her and said, this is upsetting me, I need to know the deal, what's going on, Tara would tell her absolutely everything. Willow is the priority and if Tara was ever asked to choose, there's no hesitation in her answer. But Willow's told her (at prom) that she trusts her and that it was between them. So Tara's just trying to be a loyal friend by not telling Willow everything that happened. But if she needed to, she absolutely would. Also when it comes to the whole Willow/Tara/Nate dynamic, Willow overcoming her insecurity around Nate is far more pertinent to the story I'm telling than whether or not Nate does or doesn't continue to have a crush.

Broadly, Nate's song shows he's moving on (since he won't appear again in-chapter) but also that he'll always hold a candle for Tara, which will make sense why that's important at the end.

Quote:
My battery is dying on my laptop and I'm too lazy to get up and plug it in, so I have to hurry! Tara's birthday was so wonderful and Willow was so sweet with the gifts and the dinner.


:laugh goddamn low battery! Willow is super romantic once she allows herself to be so!

Quote:
I loved the impromptu skinny dipping and the getting caught after was SO FUNNY! I guess it's a good thing they were only there for a couple of days. It's one of those, "Well, I guess we can never go back there again" kind of things.


I can see them joking about being on the lam!

Quote:
Dead.


:D

Quote:
As always, looking forward to the next chapter!


-JMT


I <3 you!

Thanks for your feedback!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Oh my god, what a terrifying and embarassing experience for both girls - and hilarious for us to read in Willow's messages with the sure knowledge that they are safe back in the hotelroom. :laugh


Sitting in the cell terrified wouldn't quite have imparted the same mirth I was going for :laugh

Quote:
It wasn't totally clear but I trust the cops let them put their clothes back on before they cuffed them and stuffed them in the police car...am I right?


Yes! Sorry that it wasn't clear. Basically they both threw their shorts and tops back on and when Willow tried to step into her way-too-big flip flops she stumbled and the cops pounced.

Quote:
I almost laughed out loud at Willow's "worse then the time I got a B-" comment.


She was very serious about that trauma! :lol

Quote:
Famous last words…


They didn't even get to get stoned!

Quote:
Their birthday-activities before they got caught were very nice and romantic. I loved Tara's song and that the song "I can't help falling in love with you" now gives only positive feelings to Willow.


Going back to Willow's trauma, the actual important stuff this time, that was a very healing moment for her.

Quote:
Awww! :flower


I love romantic Willow, so you can be confident she'll appear often.

Quote:
If Willow in the future feels the need to tell Buffy as her best friend private stuff that also concerns Tara she should swear her to confidentiality - as should Tara if she chooses to risk to tell Anya stuff like that.


That is a very good rule. I'll try to tell them that!

Quote:
I have to admit that I don't get Xander's mussel-joke either…


mussel because they got caught by the ocean. So did you pull a muscle having sex becomes did you pull a mussel (I know, I know, super lame :blush )

Quote:
I hope that after some time they will mainly see the funny side of this "adventure" in hindsight and won't let it spoil the memory of their great weekend in Fiji.


I was going to say maybe they can go back for their honeymoon but hmm...maybe not :lol

Quote:
I loved Willow's postcard. Are those real stamps on the front? If so she is obviously as challenged with finding out what and how many stamps she needs to use as she is with the coins...


Oh my god, I'm laughing so hard. I want to make that fic-canon :laugh It's actually a real postcard design but I totally want this to be the reason :lol :lol :lol

Thanks so much for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 12th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 30



Japan



Look At The Stars
Look How They Shine For You



A dresser of humans.


That’s all Willow could see as she took in the rows of small pods that this hotel was trying to pass off as a sleeping space.


“Guess we’re not hooking up in one of these,” she said as they stood at their assigned row and found their numbered pods.


They were directly opposite each other, in the middle row that sat right about where their heads were from a standing position. There was a little ladder on the wall space between each pod allowing them to hike themselves up and slide in.


“It is a little bit claustrophobic,” Tara said, sliding the little window across on her pod so she could see inside, “But it’s cheap and we’ll only be putting our heads down for a few hours anyway.”


Willow’s head rolled tiredly in place.


“I need to crash.”


“Yeah, okay, me too,” Tara replied and quickly glanced down the hallway before pecking Willow’s cheek and hoisting herself up into her pod.


It had enough room for her to roll over once and about a foot at the end to scoot down with a few inches above her. Plug sockets were built into the wall and she even had a little TV. She thought it was quite cozy considering how compact it was but Willow apparently didn’t feel the same.


“Feels like a morgue but warmer.”


Tara shifted onto her stomach so she could look across to Willow.


“And no toe tag,” she said with a smile that softened her whole face.


Willow couldn’t help but smile back but both of them were startled suddenly when a middle-aged man diagonally to the left slid out like he was under a car and started addressing them irately. He wasn’t shouting but his tone was clear, though his words were incomprehensible to them.


From context, they could deduce it was a half-drunken slur of words telling them to shut up.


He disappeared from sight as quickly as he had appeared and Willow pouted at Tara.


“So much for the politest nation.”


“We were probably being too loud,” Tara reasoned in a much lower tone, “There are other people here.”


“He was still rude,” Willow dismissed.


“Hungover maybe?” Tara suggested with a sloping smile, “Reminds me of, um, someone…”


Willow looked wounded and jabbed herself in the heart.


“You pierce me, right here.”


Tara mouthed ‘I love you’ and Willow’s face eased into a smile.


“Forgiven.”


Tara reached a hand out and Willow did the same, meeting the middle to squeeze together briefly.


“Goodnight…” Tara whispered, and pulled her window closed to enclose herself completely.


Willow could only shrug and settle her head as best she could. It was certainly an experience.


“Goodnight.”



“Ow!”


Willow heard a grumble from above at her loud exclamation but she didn’t really care about what other alcoholic businessmen she’d pissed off because that hurt.


She rubbed the spot where her head had met the ceiling, feeling sorry for herself until her window to the world was pulled back. Someone was on the verge of getting a very, very dirty look when she realized it was Tara, face etched with concern. The tension left Willow’s shoulders.


“Are you okay?” Tara asked quietly, reaching in stroke Willow’s hair.


“I hurt my head,” Willow replied, almost petulantly.


“Oh, baby,” Tara comforted, stretching up into the pod so she could kiss the spot her hand had been in, “I don’t think this place is very Willow-friendly. Did you sleep?”


“Yeah,” Willow said, though it hadn’t been without its discomfort, “Did you?”


Tara nodded.


“Uh-huh, a bit. I was just watching TV. I was enjoying the Japanese commercials.”


“The weird ones?” Willow grinned.


“They’re the best ones,” Tara grinned back goofily, “Let’s check out. We’ll stay in a better place tonight. Where you can stretch out your entire wingspan.”


“What opulent luxury,” Willow replied dramatically, and pulled at the collar of the hotel-issued pajamas she was wearing, “Do we even get to wear our own clothes? Or maybe even none?”


Her tongue stuck out between her teeth in a hopeful grin.


“Vixen,” Tara replied with a sultry smile.


She felt movement at her back as someone passed by and suddenly remembered they were still very, very public, even if the view inside the capsule was obscured by her head.


“Um, we should, uh, get ready.”


She retreated with her cheeks lightly blushing and went to her assigned locker to get her bag and go change for the day. She waited patiently for Willow to finish getting ready and then they headed into the city to store their luggage and get breakfast.


“It’s like Times Square on steroids,” Willow said as they walked through the packed, dense streets.


Tara felt a little overwhelmed by the so-unfamiliar symbols surrounding them.


“I should have, um, tried to brush up on my Japanese more on the plane.”


“Oh, I have an app!” Willow announced, pulling her phone out from her back pocket, “You hold it up to the word and it translates it.”


She stopped at a vending machine and aligned her phone camera with the writing scrawled across it.


“See, these are…” she started, then frowned when the translation popped up, “Used ladies underwear? That can’t be right.”


Tara, already blushing and pulling at her sleeves, cleared her throat.


“Um, Willow,” she said, discreetly pointing at the imagery embossing the vending machine of women lying with their legs spread and their panties at their knees.


Willow’s eyes bugged and she quickly snapped her gaze toward Tara.


“At least we know the app works?” she said with a nervous smile, quickly stepping away from the machine and rubbing her palms on her jeans, “Remind me to never trust a candy bar from a vending machine here.”


They fell into step back on the street again and after a minute or so, Willow looked up again.


“Tara?”


Tara looked over in answer and Willow’s eyes creased in question.


“Do you know where we’re going?”


“Um, yes,” Tara nodded, then smiled bashfully, “That is to say, sort of. I checked the big map on the wall they had back at the hotel but I got a little distracted.”


“Pull up a map?” Willow suggested.


Tara frowned and crossed her arms lightly over her chest.


“You know I don’t have the same data plan as you.”


“You can download maps at the airport or hotel at each new place you’re in and view them offline,” Willow explained, “Then you don’t need any data.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, feeling a bit embarrassed for not knowing that with all her binders of research she’d done on traveling, “I’ll do that later. Can I use yours for now?”


“What’s mine is yours,” Willow replied sweetly as she passed over her phone, adding in a wink, “Including my data.”


Tara smiled softly and opened the map to figure out where they were going.


“It’s so confusing without street names,” she said under her breath, “It’s down here I think?”


She led them down an adjacent street but didn’t spot a landmark she was expecting and so turned them around to go back to the previous street. This pattern kept up through the next hour of wandering and while it was a great way to see the streets and side-streets, neither of them had eaten since the meal served on the plane that had arrived in the middle of the night.


“Breakfast is turning into brunch,” Willow said, trying to keep the snipe out of her voice.


“I’m sorry,” Tara gushed, reached behind to massage her own neck, clearly a little upset at getting them lost.


Willow immediately softened and placed a hand on Tara’s shoulder, squeezing gently.


“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” she reassured gently, “Do we have to go to this particular place?”


“I really wanted you to see it,” Tara replied, exhaling through her nose, “I’ll go ask someone.”


There was a newsstand at the end of the street with an older man standing behind it. Tara felt like slinking away unnoticed, but those were the very feelings she wanted to confront by traveling around the world.


It just hadn’t felt as intimidating without the language barrier up to now.


“Um, Konnichiwa,” she greeted and the stand owner and he just looked at her expectantly.


Tara swallowed and brought up the address of the café they were trying to find.


“Um—”


The man took Willow’s phone and peered at it, then picked up a folded newspaper and a pen from his breast pocket and drew some lines. It took Tara a minute to realize it was a sketch of street directions when he handed it over to her.


“Ari-gat…ou?” Tara tried, blushing when she stumbled, “Oh, um… I’ll…” “


She handed over some yen and took the newspaper.


“Arigatou,” she said a bit more clearly and had to resist the urge to wave as she retreated.


She returned to Willow, a little more confident that she’d gotten through the encounter and held the paper up victoriously.


“We’re not even that far. I had the right idea.”


“Never doubted you,” Willow quipped as they headed down the right path.


“Yes you did,” Tara replied with an amused quirk in her smile.


“Only my stomach,” Willow replied quickly, “And she can be a bitch when she’s hangry but she doesn’t mean it. She likes when you give her the warm and fuzzies.”


Tara smirked to herself.


“Speaking of warm and fuzzy…”


They rounded the corner and finally, Tara recognized the building front she’d seen in the pictures online when she'd scouted places for them to visit.


“It’s a kitten café,” Tara explained as they walked toward it, “We can have breakfast and play with kitties. I just thought it would be, you know, um fun. There’s a bunch of them in the city but this one has the best rating for treating the cats well. They let the cats come up to you instead of you coming up to them. I know you’re more of a dog person but…”


“I’m not like death to all cats! This is so cool!” Willow replied, her eyes lighting up when Tara let them into the café and she could see the variety of cats walking around inside the barrier set up to stop them getting out, “Whoa! There’s so many!”


The café was clearly set up for tourists and had English translations written for everything alongside the Japanese. They passed the counter to order tea and special soufflé pancakes and waded through the cats to a little table for two with the occasional scratch along the way.


“What happened to the kitty you had when you were a kid?” Willow asked, smiling as a red tabby purred through her legs, “Trixie or something? I remember her being around and then she was just gone one day and you wouldn’t talk about it.”


“Donny happened,” Tara replied gruffly and Willow’s eyes widened like saucers.


Tara quickly waved her hands in front of her.


“Oh no, he didn’t…”


She splayed her fingers and dropped her hand, sighing.


“She was an indoor cat and he let her out. My mom found her run over. She said she’d found a farm to live in with lots of mice friends…I was embarrassingly old when I realized that was a lie.”


She ducked her head shyly.


“Anyway, I asked and she told me the truth. That’s why we weren’t allowed any more pets afterward.”


“What a jerk,” Willow said under her breath.


Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“He was just a kid too. I’m sure he didn’t mean for her to get hurt.”


Willow would never stop being surprised at Tara’s capacity for forgiveness and knew she too had been a heavy recipient of that.


“You’re right. It’s just hard for me to brush off everything he did to you, growing up. I saw it first-hand. I saw him hurt you,” she stopped and sighed and discreetly slipped her hand into Tara’s, “But I saw me hurt you too. And I trust you when you say that I’m worthy of the forgiveness you’ve offered me.”


Tara wanted to lift Willow’s hand to kiss it but refrained. Two big plates were brought down to their table and Willow’s eyes visibly brightened as she took in the giant pancakes. She liberally applied syrup to accompany the whipped cream already on the side.


They’d have to hold out for a more traditional breakfast because she was very happy to be a catered-to tourist right now.


As they ate, the cats grew more curious about them and began offering more affection. Willow wasn’t under any impression that it was them they were attracted to and not her food, but she enjoyed it nonetheless.


“Oh. I keep thinking ‘okay, that's the cutest thing ever’, and then they do something cuter and completely reset the whole scale!”


Tara reached over to pet a little black and white one that was sitting between them.


“This little one likes us. Did you see her yawn earlier?”


“Yes!” Willow replied emphatically, “I thought I was going to die.”


“Please don’t,” Tara replied with a sweet smile, “I’m too used to you.”


Willow returned the smile and squeezed Tara’s knee under the table.


“Well…are you going to take care of me?”


Tara gazed down her nose at Willow with a knowing grin.


“Don’t I always?”


Willow squirmed in her chair but couldn’t stop her smirk pulling on her lips.


While Tara went to get more tea, Willow made sure to give each cat that came up to her appropriate attention. Then a new person was served food and suddenly all the attention was diverted elsewhere.


Though sad for a moment, she busied herself with the newspaper Tara had gotten and used her app to read it. She found amusement in some of the translations like when she saw an advertisement for men’s pants come up as men’s bottoms.


“What are you giggling at?” Tara asked as she sat back down with a freshly filled pot.


“Men’s bottoms,” Willow snickered, then jerked her phone away to another part of the paper when Tara looked at her strangely, “Hey, look at this.”


Tara looked over to one of the least colorful ads on the page, just writing and a black and white picture of a house with a curved thatched roof.


“Traditional Japanese Inn here in the city,” Willow read from her phone, “That could be fun!”


“That sounds really nice,” Tara agreed.


“They have a website listed in English, I’ll see if I can book something,” Willow said as she pulled her phone back in front of her.


Tara poured herself more tea and scratched a kitty that came up to say hello. The feel of their soft fur under her nails was the perfect antidote to the stress it had been getting here.


Maybe they’d get a cat someday. In the future.


She looked to Willow and pondered to herself what that future might look like.


“Oh hey, cool, they have these indoor baths that pump healing clay water from underground volcanic springs,” Willow said as she scrolled on her phone, “And they have availability on the accommodation site we use. It’s a little out of the way but I think…yeah, we can still grab the train out there…”


“This sounds wonderful but expensive,” Tara replied with her brow furrowing into a V between her eyes.


Willow checked the price and compared it to the cheapest hostel they could book for that night.


“Twenty bucks more each than sharing at the Y. What do you think? For one night?”


“Do it,” Tara replied without hesitation, “Is it really that cheap?”


“Everything else is just so expensive,” Willow replied with a shrug, “It’s one of those cities. Worse than Sydney, but free spa, so, woo!”


“And hoo,” Tara answered with a sideways smile and a waving fist, “But, uh, maybe I’ll skip lunch.”


Willow reached across the table and snuck her hand over Tara’s.


“Baby, I’ll buy—I’ll share with you. Never skip meals because of money.”


Tara ran her thumb over Willow’s knuckles affectionately.


“My mom had to. Growing up. Before she went back to school. It was we eat or she does,” she said softly, “I remember one time I asked her why she wasn’t eating with us and gave her my fruit cup and she burst out crying. I was only six maybe. Donny sulked off and she held me on her lap and we shared it. I never asked but I always remembered and I worked out the dates later when I was older. I think that was when she decided to do something to change our circumstances. She was in school six months later.”


Willow’s frown deepened as Tara spoke.


“I never knew that,” she said as she gnawed at the corner of her lip, “All those meals she made for me…”


“She had a good job by then,” Tara replied with a reassuring smile.


“But before…” Willow continued, shaking her head, “I ate in your house all the time growing up. She bought us pizza every weekend. And I’m pretty sure my parents never stuck their hands in their pockets, not until they started leaving me alone.”


Tara squeezed their palms together.


“I think she would say it was worth it.”


“To feed the spoiled rich kid from across the street with clueless parents?” Willow asked with an unsure arch of her eyebrow.


Tara shook her head from side to side.


“To make her daughter happy.”


Willow’s eyes softened and she hid a smile toward the floor for a moment before allowing Tara to see it.


Tara finished her tea and they both got down with the cats to make sure each one got a rub before they had to leave. Willow thanked Tara for taking her there and promised the next surprise was on her.


She made true on her promise as she took Tara onto a busy subway train and then on to a building where she conversed at length with a man sitting behind a desk. Eventually, she was given two costumes in plastic; one red, one green from a closet behind the desk. She thrust the green one at Tara.


“Willow…” Tara started, confused as she tried to identify what she was even holding.


“Just put it on. Please? For me?” Willow begged.


Tara sighed; she was helpless to Willow the vast majority of the time.


“Where?”


Willow nodded toward a couple of changing rooms and took the one beside Tara. She pulled the baggy outfit over the clothes she was already wearing, fixed the cap over her head and smoothed the furry thing over her lip with two fingers.


She heard the curtain of the room next door swish open and stepped out at the same time. She looked at Tara, dressed in full Luigi gear, looking back at her, dressed in full Mario garb, and they both burst out laughing.


Willow ran her hands over the straps of Tara’s overalls, then pulled her in for a quick, sneaky kiss.


“You’re the only mustache I ever want to kiss,” Tara murmured as the fake hair twitched against each other.


Willow’s tongue stuck out between her teeth as she laughed.


“Hard same.”


Tara held up her arms helplessly.


“What are we doing?”


A smirk danced on Willow’s lips.


“Remember when we’d play Mario Kart on Donny’s Nintendo when he wasn’t around?” she asked, dragging her upper teeth over her bottom lip excitedly, “Ever wanted to do it live?”


Tara arched an eyebrow and Willow grinned from ear to ear.


Minutes later they were in separate go-karts being brought onto the streets of Tokyo and guided around the whole city with their guide in a kart up ahead.


Tara felt ridiculous and silly and just couldn’t stop smiling at the smile gracing Willow’s face as they had a mini-race around the route.


It was a comprehensive tour, taking them to the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower as well as through a handful of local neighborhoods.


“That was so much fun,” Tara said, tired but thrilled as they walked back onto the street sans mustache but full of smiles, “This city is crazy.”


“Wanna get some sushi? My treat,” Willow offered with red, windswept cheeks.


“Yeah, okay,” Tara replied gratefully, “Thank you, that sounds lovely.”


They had endless options for their chosen cuisine and so picked the nearest and fullest sushi bar after a short walk around the neighborhood they were in. They sat at two of the last seats around a conveyor belt and looked on as the food passed them by. Tara grabbed them two sets of chopsticks from a container nearby and handed one over to Willow.


They picked out drinks; aloe vera juice for Tara and soy chocolate milk for Willow and then took some of the little plates of sushi and soups which they shared.


“This is so fresh,” Tara gushed, “I love the pickled ginger.”


“And I thought I was the only ginger to have your heart,” Willow replied with a sad face before licking her lips as some wasabi caught on her gum, “Ooh. Spicy.”


“Spicy,” Tara agreed with a smirk, licking her own lips in response.


Over lunch, they discussed what they might do for the latter half of the afternoon and decided to have a more leisurely stroll around the opposite side of the city than they’d seen that morning.


When they had finished, they hopped back on the subway and navigated their stop together huddled against the doors, giggling when they were jostled together by other passengers. They couldn’t help it; they felt like schoolgirls.


When they got to the right neighborhood, they both stood still on the street just looking around in awe for a few moments.


Everything was bright and bold; people dressed as anime characters, loud advertisements projected high above them and story upon story of high-rise buildings advertising electronics. Tara could see Willow with her mouth hanging open taking in all of the gadgets screaming out to be played with. She watched as Willow’s whole body began to drift toward the nearest electronics high rise.


“I…I have to go…I’m being pulled in. I can’t stop it!”


“Go have fun,” Tara encouraged, “I’m going to go over there, I see some street artists. Meet back here in a couple of hours?”


“Yeah, uh-huh!” Willow called back, taking two strides at once.


Tara just smiled and watched her disappear amongst the throngs of people into her own personal heaven. She turned to go in the opposite direction, to a fountain where she’d spotted a woman doing origami in front of a group.


She watched wordlessly for a few minutes before she was silently welcomed into the group and learned, without a sentence passed between them, how to manipulate the paper as beautifully as this woman was.


When it was time to meet up with Willow again, she waited patiently outside the original store. When the minutes passed by, Tara worried Willow might be lost or passed out surrounded by Apple products, but then she saw a flash of red hair buzzing toward her, pushing a box in her face.


“I just saved four hundred bucks on a MacBook!”


Tara’s head reeled back so as not to be smacked in the face.


“Didn’t you just get a new one last year?”


“Yeah, but…savings!” Willow replied eagerly.


“But do you need two?” Tara asked, brow creasing, “You brought the other one with you.”


“Do you want it?” Willow asked with a shrug.


Tara’s eyes turned downward.


“I wasn’t…”


“I know that,” Willow said quickly, “I just, you’re right, I have no use for it now. Wait, here, you take the new one!”


“No, Willow,” Tara shook her hands in front of her face, “I know you love your new toys. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said anything at all, it’s your business.”


“Well, I’d rather you take the other one than just recycle it for parts,” Willow said, lowering the new box down to hold by her feet, “But it’s up to you. No pressure.”


Tara’s current laptop had also come from Willow when she upgraded, so she wasn’t unused to Willow’s generosity in this regard. She was also pretty sure her mother had taken possession of it at home so she wasn’t sure if she was getting it back.


The iPad was great but she had been trying to do some writing on it lately and it was a bit of a pain.


“Okay, then. Thank you,” she said, running her hand through one side of her hair and bringing it forward, “It’s not worth as much, but I just made this.”


She presented Willow with an origami heart with a Cupid’s arrow going through it. Willow held the box between her legs and took the heart in both hands. She turned it over gently, admiring the artful creases.


“This is worth so much more,” she said, lifting her gaze up to Tara’s, “Aishiteru wa.”


Tara didn’t need to ask what that meant.


“I love you too,” she said softly.


Willow looped her arms around Tara’s neck and embraced her warmly, careful not to squash Tara’s creation.


They got some stares for hugging in the middle of the busy street and more than one accidental bump, but they just stayed like that for a full minute, appreciating each other.


“It’s getting dark,” Willow said eventually.


“Ready to go?” Tara asked, lifting the laptop box by the handle to carry it for Willow.


“Ready to be alone for a minute,” Willow replied, hooking a finger into the belt loop on Tara’s pants and letting it slide discreetly down her thigh.


Tara nodded understandingly and they silently headed back to the subway to collect their bags and head to this supposed traditional inn on the outskirts of the city. Rush hour commuting and jet lag really ran them ragged and by the time they got there, both were barely on their feet.


“They’re probably not going to have wifi in this place,” Tara said as they approached, “You might not get to do much.”


“I can quell the new-laptop mania for the night,” Willow said, not too convincingly.


“You should get it all out before we go in,” Tara advised.


Willow’s eyes widened and she looked down at the shiny new box swinging between them. She opened her mouth and used her last burst of energy to babble about all of the new features she was excited about.


“…annnnd it has a touch bar!” Willow ratted off, puffing out a breath of exhaustion, “That’s it, gushing complete. Thanks. You’re the best.”


Tara winked and Willow felt a flutter in her tummy.


Finally, they arrived at a gate into a large garden area with lots of stone features and vivid patches of grass and bushes.


“It’s so pretty,” Tara whispered reverently as they crossed over a teeny tiny bridge.


The building hiding behind the garden was a medium-sized, two-story rectangular building with a thatched roof and wooden veranda. The door was open for them to walk in and led to a step where the reception desk sat with a young woman behind it.


Willow moved toward the desk but Tara pulled her back and pointed to a sign with a pair of shoes and an X over it. Willow nodded quickly and they both took their shoes off and left them on a mat as wordlessly guided by the host. She then asked their name in broken English and found the booking. She encouraged them to leave their belongings to be taken to the room and led them through to a small tearoom.


They sat on traditional tatami mats which were surprisingly springy and comfortable.


A pot of tea was brought to them almost immediately and poured.


“Talk about service,” Willow said, sipping on her tea despite not being much of a tea drinker, “Hey do we tip?”


Tara shook her head.


“No, it’s rude.”


“It is?” Willow asked in surprise.


“I think?” Tara said unsurely, “I’m pretty sure.”


Willow nodded and smiled as she held the warm cup in both hands.


“This is so cool. Cozy. I—”


The new host, the one who served the tea, returned with a plate of Senbei rice crackers for them. She softly explained how meals worked and what times the baths and garden were open to exploring.


When they’d finished their tea, they were brought to their room where their bags were already sitting in the corner waiting for them. There were wall-to-wall mats like in the dining room, some scroll art adorning the walls, a few short tables with cushions around them for seating and a futon bed still folded up. Two soft kimonos lay on the futon for them.


Tara went to try on a robe, while Willow played around with the sliding door and delicately touching the paper walls all around the room.


“Guess we’re not hooking up in here either,” she said quietly as she took her hand away, afraid she’d push right through it, “Pretty, but not mega with the privacy.”


“We can have a kiss and a cuddle,” Tara comforted softly, “Come try your robe on. They’re very soft.”


Willow came over and ran a hand along the sleeve.


“Yukata,” she read off the tag, “Yukata be kidding me.”


Tara pressed two fingers against Willow’s cheek and turned her face in, then leaned in and gently planted their lips together. Willow didn’t protest.


“Was that just to shut me up?” she asked between kisses.


“No, I love your bad jokes,” Tara replied, then tucked some hair behind her own ear awkwardly, “I mean your jokes.”


“Mmm,” Willow replied, unconvinced but promptly forgot anything but the taste of Tara’s lips as she was pulled closer, “Mmm!”


Tara fell onto her back on the cushioned futon and let Willow fall on top. She smoothed her hand down Willow’s back and slipped her hand under her pants to squeeze her ass.


Willow pressed down and swallowed a moan.


Tara parted and sighed after a few minutes.


“Hey, come on, we have to get to dinner.”


“Do we?” Willow asked with a pout, “I was enjoying dessert.”


“Yes,” Tara insisted, pulling herself out from under Willow and slipping the robe off so she could fix her clothes.


Willow grumbled as she stood up in a similar fashion but perked up when they wandered toward the dining room and smelled food.


Delicious food.


All of the other guests had come to eat and were sitting on the floor at their tables tucking into trays of small plates of food.


When they sat down they were immediately served sake in a decorative carafe with a set of small, intricate cups.


“Look how itty bitty!” Willow said as she picked up hers and held it in her palm for Tara to pour, and giggled while she did so.


“What?” Tara asked, amused as she filled her own cup.


“Drinking age is 20 here,” Willow explained with a sheepish smile, “Feels naughty.”


“I like naughty Willow,” Tara said, smiling crookedly over her sake.


Willow blushed, thankfully hidden in the dark lighting.


Two large trays were presented between them with sections for bowls of various dishes, like a giant bento box.


They had sashimi, grilled fish, eggplant, rice, pickled vegetables, soup; even the tofu was delicious and Willow had not been a fan before. For dessert, they were served a brown sugar sorbet with kyoho grapes and candied kinkan, a Japanese citrus fruit.


“I can’t believe we got a place like this last minute,” Tara said as she used her chopsticks to dip some daikon in soy, “And such good value.”


“I maaaay have had a credit to offset the price a little bit,” Willow admitted, straightening up when Tara shot her a look, “What? You know about it. We get points every time we book a room. It makes economic sense to use it in the most expensive city.”


“We were saving them up to stay somewhere nice to end our trip,” Tara said with a soft sigh.


Willow opened her mouth to speak but quickly closed it. She chewed on the corner of her mouth and nodded.


“You’re right. I jumped the gun. I’m sorry. I should have checked with you.”


Tara seemed surprised that Willow wasn’t arguing.


“Thanks for saying that,” she said, reaching across the table to take Willow’s hand with a tender smile, “And it was worth it. This is lovely. And we probably would have paid a fortune for a meal like this in the city.”


“It was really good, huh?” Willow asked with an answering smile, “You know, I’m a lot less of a picky eater than I thought I was.”


After dinner, they returned to their room where their futon had been fully made up for the evening and was looking much plusher.


“Hey, check it out,” Willow said as she sat down on it, “I thought I wouldn’t like being so low to the ground but it’s a helluva lot better than being part of the human dresser.”


Tara sat opposite her and ran her hand over the blanket. It was soft and she was definitely looking forward to cuddling under it later.


“Do you want to go for a walk around the gardens before it closes?” she suggested, covering Willow’s hand with her own.


“Love to,” Willow nodded, “I just need to use the bathroom and then we can go?”


Tara agreed and waited patiently for Willow to use the restroom, stretching out her legs straight ahead after sitting on them all evening.


They walked back down to the main entrance and Willow paused by the front door.


“Uh, where do we get our shoes back?”


“I think we use these slippers,” Tara replied upon seeing a shoe rack lined up with multicolored slippers. She turned politely to the receptionist, “Do we—”


She just nodded with a smile before Tara could finish and Tara smiled back gratefully.


“Arigato.”


The receptionist bowed and Tara bowed back. Willow tried to bow but felt awkward and clumsy about it all.


They picked out a pair of slippers each and slipped them over their socked feet before heading out into the garden. A path led them in a half-moon shape around the building while the full moon guided their journey.


“It’s like they took one of those little zen gardens you put on your desk and made it into a real one!” Willow said as they passed a rock garden and listened to a small cascading waterfall hit the formation.


“I think it, um, probably happened the other way around,” Tara supplied with a helpful smile.


“Right,” Willow smiled bashfully and swung her hand into Tara’s, “But still beautiful.”


“Very,” Tara agreed with a soft look toward Willow that told her she didn’t just mean the garden.


They sat on a bench between the water feature and an array of perfectly sculpted bonsai trees. Willow looked up at the sky thoughtfully.


“Isn’t it crazy we’re so far away from home but under the same moon?”


Tara rested her head on Willow’s shoulder and looked up silently.


After a while, she felt Willow’s hand rub her thigh.


“Can I ask you a question that I promise is not a trick in any way?”


Tara turned to Willow, her eyebrows muddling together in a mix of curiosity and apprehension. Willow kept her gazed upward.


“If I hadn’t come with you, would you have been with other girls?”


Tara blinked several times, then her mouth curved in the slightest movement of a sad smile.


“I was worried about the same thing with you going off to college. All those new people, shared interests. You’d have your pick of anyone. I thought best case, she doesn’t tell me about them and she’ll still want me when I get back,” she covered Willow’s hand on her thigh and squeezed it affectionately, “I never wanted you to feel like you missed out because of me.”


Willow’s head snapped toward Tara.


“That’s exactly how I feel,” she said, then frowned, “But I don’t want other girls. It doesn’t enter the equation.”


Tara’s smile lifted further up her cheeks.


“And that’s exactly how I feel.”


Willow smiled back and gripped Tara’s hand again.


“I was so scared of what I wanted, I didn’t know it would lead me to exactly what I needed.”


Tara leaned in to press a chaste but lingering kiss against Willow’s lips while they had a private moment.


“Anyway, you’re very much overestimating my, um, game.”


“You would have cleaned up,” Willow replied surely.


Tara ducked her head.


“The only other girl I’ve tried to kiss ended up with a lump on her forehead from where I smacked my face against her.”


Willow’s mouth dropped open.


“You never told me that part!” she giggled, “Wow… You gave Emmy a head bump and she was still so nice to you…us.”


Tara nodded.


“She's a saint.”


Willow was silent for a moment, then her nose scrunched.


“It's kinda annoying.”


Tara covered her hand to her mouth to hide a laugh and lowered her voice.


“It's so annoying. Willow, our non-existent relationship would have lasted two days even if I hadn’t been hung up on you.”


Tara placed her hand on Willow’s thigh and drew a circle, slowly lifting her gaze up through her eyebrows.


“I'd much rather be a sinner with you any day.”


Willow felt her heart begin to race and leaned in for a long, tender kiss.


“Wanna go snuggle?” Tara asked softly when they parted.


Willow nodded.


“Very much so.”


They stood with their hands clasped together and headed inside for an early night together.



Outside the locker room for the spa, Willow watched Tara bow for the attendant and go inside the doors.


Willow approached and bowed in the same way and quickly followed Tara inside in case she was sniggered at.


She didn’t think the overly polite girl would have ever done so audibly, but she knew what a mocking eye looked like and she didn’t need to learn it in another language. Why did her bowing always feel so much less graceful than Tara’s? It was the same 45 degree arch of her back.


“I don’t think I arch my back right,” she whispered to Tara as they found a corner of the bench to leave their stuff down on.


“You arch your back beautifully,” Tara whispered back with a wink that made Willow blush.


There was a sign to wash thoroughly before going through to the baths so they both went into a stall to shower and change into their bathing suits. Willow finished first and walked back to the bench, where she was glanced over by another white woman walking through, but Willow quickly averted her gaze because she was just strolling around naked as the day she was born.


Another woman walked past in full view and Willow felt an uncomfortable shiver start at the base of her spine.


“Is everyone…naked?” she said aloud, then tiptoed over to the curtain that separated the changing room from the baths and her eyes widened as she watched the group of naked bathers milling around, “Yep, everyone is naked.”


She backed into the changing room again, which was empty apart from the shower running in Tara’s stall.


“…um…baby?” she called out through a nervous laugh.


“Yeah?” Tara called out softly and for a moment Willow was distracted by her delicate voice carrying through the sound of water.


She positioned herself just outside the shower curtain.


“We have…a situation.”


“Did you try to pee without taking your swimsuit off again?” Tara asked.


“No! That was one time! I was eight! Jeez!” Willow protested, looking around quickly to make sure the room was still empty, “I believe that this is a…nude…event.”


The water abruptly cut off and Tara’s head popped out from behind the curtain.


“I’m sorry?”


Willow swallowed with an uncomfortable look on her face.


“Everyone is naked. I think it’s like, a rule.”


Tara disappeared back into the stall for a moment, then emerged in her swimsuit and went to peek into the curtain to the baths, as Willow had. She turned back, wide-eyed.


“Are we supposed to go in there naked?!”


Willow nodded with a scrunched up nose.


“I-I think it looks like it.”


“S-so we just leave,” Tara replied, crossing her arms over her chest.


Willow looked at the door they had walked in through and ran her palm over her thigh uncomfortably.


“Will they notice we just walked in and out? Is that rude? Are we committing some awful cultural sin?”


“I don’t know, Willow,” Tara replied abruptly, “Why didn’t you check before we came here?”


“I didn’t know I had to look out for ‘nudity required’!” Willow returned, bordering on hysterically.


She sank down onto the bench and held her head in her hands while she thought for a moment.


“Okay, look, there’s towels and the water is murky. We just get to the side and hide quickly. Stay for a courteous amount of time and bail,” she suggested evenly, then pouted when Tara just gave her a sidelong glance, “Okay, fine, I’ll make the first dash.”


She stood up and stripped down, then grabbed a towel from the pile folded on a rack above. It was barely the size of a postage stamp.


“Great,” Tara muttered.


“Not helping!” Willow replied between gritted teeth, holding the towel against her front, “Can you see anything?”


“I can see your butt,” Tara replied, turning her head sideways, “Still cute.”


Willow smiled and wiggled a little, then straightened up seriously.


“Okay. I can do this. It’s like gym class but better, because there’s no Cordelia to make fun of me for not having boobs!”


“We didn’t have gym class in my school,” Tara replied quietly, “Some people did dance but we had single-stall unisex locker rooms.”


Willow frowned.


“We had very different high school experiences.”


She walked over to the curtain with Tara on her tails to watch. Willow slipped out of the curtain and used the wall to cover her butt as she did a quick skid across the floor to get into the large square bath, dropping the towel only at the last second.


“Hot!” she squealed as her body sank in, fighting the instinct to jump up again.


She settled and with a slightly pained look on her face, gave Tara a weak thumbs up.


A breath flared out through Tara’s nostrils as she stripped down to nothing. She opted to wear the towel around her waist and cross her arm over her chest for fuller coverage. She took one step past the curtain when suddenly the attendant, a short, older Japanese woman, jumped out and started gesturing wildly at her.


“Dame! Dame!”


For all her efforts to be discreet, all the attention in the room was now on Tara, who was turning beet red.


“No!” the attendant said, physically pushing Tara back through the curtain and ushering her into the changing room, pointing aggressively at Tara’s chest.


Moments later, Willow skidded in, her legs poking out from under the white towel, red from the hot water and an arm bent behind her to (unsuccessfully) cover her butt.


“Whhhhaaaatttt is happening?!”


“I don’t think they like tattoos here,” Tara gulped as that pointing finger jabbed her right in the middle of her inked score.


“No good. Out!” the attendant said and Tara didn’t hesitate to tightly tie her robe around her body and bolt for their room.


“Dammit,” Willow swore under her breath, then tried to bow to the attendant to regain some sense of decorum, but only succeeded in dropping her towel and grabbing herself to cover up.


The attendant just shook her head and Willow also squirmed into her robe with her cheeks the same color of her legs. She hurried after Tara, slipping through the door and sliding it closed again.


Tara had her back against the far wall, an actual solid one that wasn’t made of paper and was holding her head in one hand. Willow sank down onto the futon, which had been assembled back to a sofa shape in the brief period they’d been gone.


“You know what I just realized?” Willow asked after a few slow minutes passed by.


“What?” Tara asked through a sigh.


Willow exhaled a slow breath.


“We could have just hung out in the locker room for an extra few minutes before bailing. No need to get naked or go through to the bath at all.”


Tara eyed Willow warily for a moment, then sat next to her.


“We are not making a very good impression on Japan.”


“Better than our impression on Fiji,” Willow replied and saw Tara roll her eyes, “Too soon?”


Tara leaned back, gathering her wet hair behind her, and Willow found her phone in the little pocket she’d packed it in. She unlocked and started typing on it.


“Yep, it says right here…tattoos are forbidden in the onsen…that’s the hot springs,” she explained, then chuckled, “Heh. It says it’s because tattoos are associated with gangs in Japan. They must have seen West Side Story one too many times if they think you’re involved in some kind of musical gang!”


“Oh god,” Tara groaned, “We should have checked. I-I’ve probably insulted them.”


Willow leaned back with Tara and cupped her cheek.


“Let’s just get out of here. Let’s skip the city and travel the countryside on the bullet train. We might even be able to find a sparse cherry blossom or two,” she said, then giggled, “Plus I want to use one of those fancy high-tech toilets and we might find a cheap hotel with one outside of the city.”


“As long as it’s not in public, I’m in,” Tara replied, holding Willow’s cheek to her face and getting comfort from it.


Willow leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Tara’s lips.


“This is why we’re doing this, baby. We can make our own way.”


Tara nodded against Willow’s palm and watched as she sat up to get ready, certain of one thing going forward.


Her way was Willow.


…and keeping her damn clothes on in public.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 15th 2019)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 3:12 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Topics: 6
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Fiji: Sounds breathtaking- too bad they got caught because making love in a secluded cave by the beach sounds like a great birthday. I guess its good that the Fijian police didn't know what to do with catching two girls together. I am surprised Tara wasn't more upset with Willow for immediately telling Buffy but she would have eventually been able to laugh at it.

the wow wow wow totally reminded me of Buffering lol - btw, their next ep is Family, I hope they do it justice

So is Willow in good graces with her parents again? since she sent them a postcard and they helped her with the loyalty points- i hope so

I don't think Willow was being a jerk about Nate- the song was obviously about Tara and Tara knew that- it's cool if she didn't want to talk about it, but I don't think Willow did anything wrong saying something, they are girlfriends, they should be able to talk about stuff especially if it might be something that festers

Tokyo- yeah, that place seems super wild but fun. I love that we keep learning them bit by bit as they get closer. Tara is right, public nudity maybe isn't something they should do- at least not until Greece. It makes me wonder how different Tara's trip would have been without Willow. Its great that they have each other- even if their adventures get them into embarrassing situations. Also those pods sound no fun at all

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 15th 2019)
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 11:20 pm 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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See, this is why I don’t travel a lot. Too many mishaps and misunderstandings! Can you imagine a certain child of mine traveling to Japan with a certain neck tattoo? Lol

Anyway, very nice sort of low key chapter. The kitten cafe was so cute! I’ve always wanted to take my Wifey Poo to one:) Real life Super Mario Cart...sounds like a ton of fun. I thought we’d possibly get out of this chapter without another “mishap,” but how wrong was l? LMAO

Poor Tara, perhaps she will make keeping her clothes on in public a priority from now on. :wink

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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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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 15th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 5:17 am 
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Like Willow I wouldn't have been thrilled if I had to sleep in such a pod.
Breakfast at the kitten-cafe and the Super-Mario-go-kart-tour sounded like loads of fun!

Quote:
“I’m not like death to all cats!
I keep thinking ‘okay, that's the cutest thing ever’, and then they do something cuter and completely reset the whole scale!”

canon-eastereggs!

Quote:
Maybe they’d get a cat someday. In the future.

Are we going to meet Miss Kitty before the story ends?

Quote:
She presented Willow with an origami heart with a Cupid’s arrow going through it. Willow held the box between her legs and took the heart in both hands. She turned it over gently, admiring the artful creases.


“This is worth so much more,” she said, lifting her gaze up to Tara’s, “Aishiteru wa.”


Tara didn’t need to ask what that meant.


“I love you too,” she said softly.

Awww!

I think our girls were a bit squeamish about the nakedness in the "onsen". I've been in a sauna a few times in my life and always felt that with everybody else naked too noone would stare at me.
I understand though that the tattoo-incident must have been super embarassing for Tara.

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They must have seen West Side Story one too many times if they think you’re involved in some kind of musical gang!

:laugh

My favourite moment of the chapter was this:
Quote:
“We have…a situation.”


“Did you try to pee without taking your swimsuit off again?” Tara asked.


“No! That was one time! I was eight! Jeez!”

:lol

I would advise that our girls should do some research about laws/ social rules concerning clothing, partial nudity, PDAs etc. in the countries they will visit next to prevent further problems.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 15th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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shirrey

Quote:
Fiji: Sounds breathtaking- too bad they got caught because making love in a secluded cave by the beach sounds like a great birthday.


Well Willow does still have her time technicality...

I guess its good that the Fijian police didn't know what to do with catching two girls together.

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I am surprised Tara wasn't more upset with Willow for immediately telling Buffy but she would have eventually been able to laugh at it.


She was upset, and for her especially, very upset. But it was done. There was little point in staying mad.

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the wow wow wow totally reminded me of Buffering lol - btw, their next ep is Family, I hope they do it justice


Oh I must check it out then!

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So is Willow in good graces with her parents again? since she sent them a postcard and they helped her with the loyalty points- i hope so


Well, here's the thing, I didn't feel like she left it in their bad graces. Sheila was dismissive but not angry, Ira was shocked but did ask if it made her happy. They kind of just left in a same-as-always place. They're not the closest family, never were. Willow even said she understood that they needed time, because she did too. So in my view they stayed in touch and probably didn't mention the 'gay thing' but also Willow didn't deny Tara any more and maybe they're starting to get used to it :)

Quote:
I don't think Willow was being a jerk about Nate- the song was obviously about Tara and Tara knew that- it's cool if she didn't want to talk about it, but I don't think Willow did anything wrong saying something, they are girlfriends, they should be able to talk about stuff especially if it might be something that festers


I agree, Willow was not being a jerk at all. They're still working on the open communication thing and Tara is trying to heed what Willow said about not burying her feelings around her. She didn't want to talk about it and asked to drop it. If Willow had pressed or expressed a deeper need to discuss, she would have.

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Tokyo- yeah, that place seems super wild but fun. I love that we keep learning them bit by bit as they get closer. Tara is right, public nudity maybe isn't something they should do- at least not until Greece.


:lol Public nudity is so far outside of either of their comfort zones to start with!

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It makes me wonder how different Tara's trip would have been without Willow. Its great that they have each other- even if their adventures get them into embarrassing situations.


Well it's pretty simple: Tara wouldn't have gone. She would have stayed in California and worked and they both would have hated it and probably parted ways before they had the impetus to work their shit out and it would have been a miserable, miserable year for them both.

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Also those pods sound no fun at all


Very popular though!

Thanks for your feedback!

Finey_McFine

Quote:
See, this is why I don’t travel a lot. Too many mishaps and misunderstandings! Can you imagine a certain child of mine traveling to Japan with a certain neck tattoo? Lol


Oh J...at least she's good a make up and could cover it up? :laugh :laugh

Quote:
Anyway, very nice sort of low key chapter.


YUP. That's the thing, a lot of the 'angst' that has been the focus of this fic so far has been broadly resolved...which means back to our regularly scheduled fluff! Of course, there will still be still dramas and tiffs (read below...) but now they've learned how to be in a relationship with each other, it's time to enjoy being in a relationship with each other!

Real talk, I thought of ending the fic when they came back together and had played out that arc, but I realized things don't just resolve on the spot. Willow's issues, she has to learn how to be the person she wants to be, not just recognize that she wants to be that person. And travel is such a great way to grow. So it will be more subtle, but the overall arc is still the growth of them as people and as a couple.

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The kitten cafe was so cute! I’ve always wanted to take my Wifey Poo to one:) Real life Super Mario Cart...sounds like a ton of fun.


They have them all over now. Maybe another trip to NY is on the cards? :wink

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I thought we’d possibly get out of this chapter without another “mishap,” but how wrong was l? LMAO


Traveling the world does not happen without mishap :P

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Poor Tara, perhaps she will make keeping her clothes on in public a priority from now on. :wink


Yeah, I think that would be wise!

Thanks for commenting :)

Will's redemption

Quote:
Like Willow I wouldn't have been thrilled if I had to sleep in such a pod.


I would HATE IT!

But it's a cool experience to say you've done.

Quote:
Breakfast at the kitten-cafe and the Super-Mario-go-kart-tour sounded like loads of fun!


I think so, they certainly enjoyed it :)

Quote:
canon-eastereggs!


Well spotted!

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Are we going to meet Miss Kitty before the story ends?


Yes! Well, by mention, yes.

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I think our girls were a bit squeamish about the nakedness in the "onsen". I've been in a sauna a few times in my life and always felt that with everybody else naked too noone would stare at me. I understand though that the tattoo-incident must have been super embarassing for Tara.


I think it's one of those things you're either cool with or VERY VERY NOT COOL WITH :lol They're maybe a bit typically American that way. Tara won't even walk from the showers to her room at the hostel so nudity like that, where she doesn't think she's covered by a cave with no one around and also not under the spell of arousal, is extremely terrifying to her. The fact that she actually tried is a HUGE deal and shows she's pushing herself and trying to live bravely...the resulting incident did not help reinforce this :lol

Quote:
My favourite moment of the chapter was this:


They have to deal with each other knowing a lifetime of childhood embarrassments :laugh

Quote:
I would advise that our girls should do some research about laws/ social rules concerning clothing, partial nudity, PDAs etc. in the countries they will visit next to prevent further problems.


I would think this is very, very prudent advice.

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 15th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 31



China



I'll Wait Right Here Until I See That Smile That Says We're Us Again



Image



“Tara? Hello?”


Tara’s mother’s voice came through before picture but after a few seconds, it settled into a clearer if still slightly pixelated image.


“Well, there’s my darling girl’s face, finally.”


“Ni hao mama,” Tara replied, then added on bashfully, “That means hi mom.”


“Hi daughter,” Kimberly returned with an affectionate smile, “Why is your beautiful face so fuzzy?”


Tara scooted back a bit on her stomach from her top bunk to frame her face better in front of her iPad. She waved her fingers, then rested her chin on her upturned palm.


“The internet can be difficult to get over here. Willow’s been going crazy. We finally found a hostel with wifi but it’s still pretty spotty. It’s busy here but all our roommates are out right now. I’m glad you were free to talk. It’s been a while.”


She let her hand fall and her chin rested over her crossed arms in front of her.


“Is your profile picture new? It’s pretty.”


Kimberly nodded.


“Yes. Thank you.”


Tara sensed the caginess right away.


“Is it for your online dating profile?” she guessed, raising an eyebrow, “Do you have a boyfriend? You don’t have to hide it from me. I want you to be happy.”


“No, no, I’m not seeing anyone,” Kimberly dismissed with a quiet laugh, “I’m still learning how to use all these sites and apps. I’m a little more old school, I think. I did go speed dating last weekend. No suitable men, but I have met a new friend. Joyce Summers is her name. It’s nice to have someone to share my tales of dating woe with.”


“Summers?” Tara asked, “As in Buffy Summers mom?”


Kimberly brow creased curiously.


“Yes, she does have a daughter named Buffy. Do you know her?”


“She’s Willow’s best friend,” Tara answered.


“I thought you were Willow’s best friend,” Kimberly said with an undertone of amusement.


“It’s okay mom, I thought that for a long time too,” Tara returned with a full-blown grin.


Kimberly shook her head but a smile matching Tara’s played on her lips.


“Have you sent me those documents?” she asked in a way that was plain she knew Tara’s hadn’t.


Tara hung her head.


“I know I need to send them to you. We’ve been busy but I’m going to get the new laptop out and finish everything with, um, proper spellcheck and stuff,” she agreed, then added on an explanation, “Oh, Willow gave me her old laptop because she bought a new one but I haven’t used it much yet.”


“So does that mean I can claim this laptop as officially mine?” Kimberly asked, her shoulders bouncing excitedly.


“As if you haven’t already,” Tara retorted.


Kimberly’s hands could be seen to brush over the keyboard.


“I’ve been a bit afraid to touch it much in case I deleted any of your music things.”


“Thankfully I backed it all up before I left,” Tara replied, her nose scrunching for a moment, “Well, Willow did. So, go ahead.”


Kimberly lifted the laptop from whatever stationary point it had been on — the coffee table, Tara guessed by what she could see of the couch — and onto her lap, settling comfortably back.


“Didn’t she just give you this one last year?”


“I’ve learned not to come between my lady and her electronics,” Tara replied sagely.


Tara heard the rustle of the doorknob and braced herself to say goodbye, but was relieved to see it was just Willow.


“My mom is on,” she called over.


Willow bounced over to their bunk, jumped up onto the ladder and swung herself into the upper bunk beside Tara, side by side on their stomachs.


“Hi, Ms. Maclay!”


“Willow went to a panda research center today,” Tara explained, then shot Willow some playful side-eye, “Again.”


“Maybe one day of pandas is enough for you, but I’m just a mere human with normal exotic bear loving tendencies,” Willow replied with a resolute nod of her head.


“Hello, Willow,” Kimberly greeted fondly, “How are doing?”


Willow turned to the screen with a big smile.


“I’m great!” she said enthusiastically, “We finally found a good place to stay with wifi.”


“I told her,” Tara smiled.


“Right,” Willow nodded, then gestured between them and the fact they were utilizing the wifi at that moment, “Did you tell her about the pool table?”


“There’s a pool table,” Tara told her mother.


“We haven’t played yet. We’ve been busy,” Willow added on, then bounced gently on the spot with excitement, “One panda came right up to the observation window today. It was so close to putting its hand on mine.”


“Which do you prefer, koalas or pandas?” Tara asked, turning her head toward Willow, whose face immediately fell.


“How cruel of you to even ask.”


“When did you leave Beijing?” Kimberly interjected in earnest, “How was the Great Wall? I’ve always wanted to go. I think I’m the most jealous of you now, seeing China. Going out to Szechuan Star on Ivy Street doesn’t have the same thrill. How is it?”


“Exhausting and amazing,” Willow answered with a sigh and a smile, “But mostly amazing.”


“Willow wouldn’t let me wave to the international space station at the wall,” Tara added pointedly.


“That’s just a myth; you were going to embarrass me in front of the more savvy tourists!” Willow threw back, her shoulders rising in defense.


Tara turned her head at an angle.


“Oh, but it was fine when you—”


“Don’t you bring that up again, it’s not my fault the wall is so crumbly!” Willow shot back.


Tara looked at Willow silently for a beat, then reached over and caught Willow’s cheeks between her thumb and forefinger, smushing her lips together and making her mimic a fish face.


Willow fought it, weakly.


“Stop it,” she giggled, pushing her palm against Tara’s shoulder.


She pulled Tara’s arm down onto the bed and swooped in to steal a kiss.


“You both look very happy together.”


Willow pulled back with a light blush gracing her cheeks and let her hand slide down Tara’s arm to slip their fingers together. Tara’s thumb caressed Willow’s knuckles and Kimberly just smiled softly.


“I’m going to miss you two tomorrow.”


“We’ll miss you too,” Tara replied sincerely, “We've organized a mini-Thanksgiving for our roommates. There’s an American couple, they just arrived but they seem okay. It was their idea. And then there’s a guy from Denmark and two girls from Belgium. They said they'd join in.”


“Are you cooking?” Kimberly asked.


“Uh-huh!” Willow nodded enthusiastically, “We don’t have many facilities, but Tara came up with this great Holiday Bowl idea with tofu — you can’t really get turkey here, but that’s okay because we did a cooking class in Japan and learned how to cook tofu properly and now it’s like our favorite, right?”


“Right. And very cheap,” Tara confirmed, smiling at Willow as she continued to relay the plans.


“And we’re going to mix it up with rice and green beans and corn and stuff and Tara’s going to make mac’n’cheese and pumpkin pie. And we even found a jar of cranberry sauce! It’s a Chinese style one they use with duck mostly, but it probably tastes the same. Oh and tell her the best part!”


Tara turned her smile toward her mother.


“There’s a KFC on every corner so we even get to have fried chicken. It won’t be as good as yours, of course. Are you doing Thanksgiving dinner, mom?”


Kimberly smiled.


“Well, Donny opted to work and earn some extra money and Joyce said she didn't want to leave the girls again for Thanksgiving but hates cooking the big meal for just the three of them, so she invited me over for some Mexican she's making. I offered to bring some pies but she says she hates potlucks,” she replied, then got an odd look on her face, “Though her younger daughter did whisper to me to sneak her some Jell-O.”


“Mom is friends with Buffy’s mom now,” Tara explained to Willow.


“Oh hey, that’s great!” Willow replied happily, “Being all ‘single mom’-like superheroes together.”


“And working on the ‘single’ part,” Tara teased her mother lightly, “They went speed dating.”


“Joyce hit it off with a librarian named Rupert,” Kimberly nodded with a fond chuckle, “He's English and she said she finds that exciting. She's acting like a teenager around him. Says he has good albums. It's nice to see us moms can still get besotted.”


“Wait…Rupert Giles?” Willow asked, her eyebrows disappearing into her hairline, “As in our high school librarian?”


“Well, yes, I believe so, actually,” Kimberly nodded.


“Well…that’s really great, Ms. Maclay!” Willow mused with a smile, “I’m glad…I’m glad everyone is finally getting to know each other.”


She looked over to Tara, who smiled back knowingly and winked.


“Well, I wasn’t about to make the mistake of inviting Sheila Rosenberg over again,” Kimberly inadvertently interrupted a moment she could have no idea was going on.


Willow winced.


“I’m sorry my mom is…my mom. I know it sounds a little overwrought, but really, she's…she's right. But she shouldn’t go off on people like she does.”


“How are things going with her?” Kimberly asked gently.


Willow bit the corner of her lip.


“I think she’s maybe kinda trying? She sent me an article on the statistical outcomes of homosexuality in adolescents.”


She paused and frowned at the shared, identical look on both Tara and Kimberly’s faces.


“I know that sounds weird but it’s Sheila-speak for saying she accepts it’s not a phase…or at least, it’s not statistically often a phase and she’s prepared to accept if it isn’t,” she explained, shooting Tara a quick smile, “When it isn’t.”


“That’s…something,” Tara replied softly, squeezing Willow’s hand.


“I’m certain she loves you, Willow,” Kimberly added in sympathy.


“Thanks, Ms. Maclay,” Willow replied gratefully, then spotted the time on the corner of the screen “Hey, we need to go soon.”


Tara nodded.


“Hey, we gotta go, mom. We’re doing a tai chi class.”


Kimberly lifted her hand to wave.


“Have fun you two. Enjoy your dinner tomorrow. I love you both.”


“Love you, momma,” Tara waved back, “Bye.”


“Bye Ms. Maclay!” Willow added before the video dropped and returned to the normal screen, “Um, sorry for kissing you in front of your mom.”


Tara leaned her head in, placed a finger under Willow’s chin and brought her forward to press their lips together.


“Never be sorry for kissing me.”


Willow rested her forehead on Tara’s for a moment then her eyes widened.


“I know we gotta go but I gotta text Buffy! Giles?!”


“Go,” Tara agreed, though she didn't know the man, she knew it would be text-worthy if her mom was dating someone from her high school.


Willow rolled off the top bunk and took her phone out while Tara made a quick detour to the bathroom. When she returned, Willow was still waiting by the bed.


“How goes it?”


Willow shrugged.


“She says it's better than that Ted creep her mom dated a while back but still weird and she'd rather not talk about it.”


“Sounds like Buffy's having her Thanksgiving tacos in her bedroom,” Tara quipped and Willow laughed.


“You're so funny,” she said affectionately and held Tara's elbow, “Let's go.”


They left the hostel together and went down to a nearby park where they’d walked by the class the day before. It was mostly elderly locals but they were in a spot where a lot of travelers flocked to as most of the public transport ran through it, so they weren’t the only non-Chinese arriving to participate. The locals, to their credit, didn't seem to object by the sea of white faces that turned up to crash their class.


There were no words, no instructor; it just started when all of the regualrs began to move their limbs in slow, fluid movements, moving from one direction to the other. The tourists realized it was less of a class and more of a gathering, but it was obviously open to whoever wanted to join and so Willow and Tara both hung at the back and did their best to copy the moves.


It was difficult to keep their bodies moving fluidly, more difficult than Willow had imagined. Her feet kept crossing over each other to keep balanced and she’d have to re-center herself all over again. After her fourth time nearly tumbling into the tiny old lady next to her, they finished the particular passage of movement and the woman began the next one but slower.


Willow realized the little old lady was helping her and smiled gratefully as she began to follow. She’d by no means mastered it but by the end of the session she was doing a jerky, stunted but continuous movement all on her own and was learning to adjust to stumbles without losing control completely.


When she had the progression of movement familiar in her mind, she closed her eyes to see if it helped and was very surprised when she opened them again and the sun was gone. She would have only guessed it had been a minute or two but it must have been twenty for it to have gone from dusk to dark.


“Xiexie,” Willow thanked the lady next to her, with her hands clasped in front of her in a prayer pose and her head just bowing slightly.


Her helper maybe, perhaps smiled (Willow was sure she saw a hint of it) and patted Willow’s head as if to say ‘there, there’. Willow held in a laugh for fear of causing offense and turned to Tara.


“She reminded me of my Bubbe. If my Bubbe was Chinese and a foot shorter.”


Tara smiled and placed a hand on Willow’s waist.


“I saw her helping you. That was sweet.”


Willow felt a new kind of energy inside her, but not her usual one that bounced around inside of her skin; instead it was settled and constant and clear.


“I think I’d like to keep that up. My brain actually shut off for a minute there,” she said, exhaling an easy breath and grinning toward Tara, “Can’t expect you to be around to kiss it off any time I want.”


Tara blushed slightly and nudged Willow’s side.


“That’s great, honey. I just stopped and watched for a while. Their synchronicity was amazing.”


Willow nodded quickly.


“I’d really like to learn the wisdom behind it, too. I think some discipline would be good for me.”


Tara raised an eyebrow but said nothing.


“Wanna go get something to eat?”


Willow agreed and they walked out of the other end of the park to find a new place to eat. They’d mostly been eating at the hostel to save on money but they both wanted to try a local place before they continued on their travels.


They’d chosen a trendy city so it would have some concessions for travelers. In a culture so vastly different to what they knew, it was a necessity. Of course, all of the other travelers thought the same so while there were plenty of options to eat, a lot of them already had lines out the door.


Eventually, they were drawn to a particular place, first by smell and then by look when they saw the place was nearly filled with people enthusiastically eating. Nearly, being pertinent as they spotted one table left. Also of importance, to Willow anyway, the menu had pictures and basic English translations. Being tricked into eating duck tongue once was enough for her liking.


They got the last seat inside the packed restaurant, which was also full of eclectic decorations. There were wooden carvings on the wall with shelves filled with teapots, fabric screens separating the various areas of the restaurant and lots of long lampshades hanging overhead.


There was music playing but the chatter of the space mostly drowned it out. With a nice mix of locals and tourists, Tara listened to the language foreign to her ears coming from all sides and she had a moment of wonder to herself that she was really here, really experiencing this.


“Everyone seems to be getting the same dish,” she said as she looked around, then at the menu, “It must be the hotpot here in the middle…you order the soup and then whatever you want to put in it separately.”


“Fried pork sounds good…tender beef…” Willow mused over the menu, “…duck intestine.”


She looked up and scrunched her nose.


“Might skip that one.”


Tara ran a finger around all of the meat and vegetable options on offer.


“I’m going to try the beef tripe.”


Willow grimaced and leaned over the table.


“You know what that is, right?”


Tara nodded.


“Yes. I can get regular beef at home. I want to eat what the locals eat,” she pointed to big exclamation point printed next to the picture, “It says ‘very popular’. What happened to not being a picky eater?”


“All bets are off when organs are on the table,” Willow reasoned, adjusting her back to stave off a shudder.


They ordered with lots of pointing and polite nods from the server and before long a wooden tray was placed between them with two tiers. There was a lit flame on the bottom and a huge bowl on top sitting in a hole in the wood. It had a clear, reddish broth brimming with sliced chilis and floating peppercorns and darkened pockets of oil.


Willow picked up one of the little side dishes she’d ordered, thin slices of pork.


“Is this raw?” she asked, picking a piece up with her chopsticks.


“I think we cook it in the soup,” Tara replied, lifting some bok choy into the broth.


“Ohhhh!” Willow replied, getting it and gently placing the little piece of meat into the soup where it started to sizzle.


She kept her eye on it as it floated and bobbed around, dodging mushrooms that Tara was adding.


Tara watched a peppercorn pop up through a smudge of oil and spun her chopstick around to disrupt it.


“This looks pretty spicy. Maybe I should get us some—”


Willow had not waited and had scooped a full spoonful of the broth straight into her mouth.


Tara watched as Willow’s cheeks turned the color of her hair and her tongue fell out of her mouth in shock. Tara immediately jumped up and hurried up to the bar, pointing at the clear beer fridge, the quickest and coolest option she could see.


“Liang?” she tried, holding up two fingers to indicate how many she wanted.


The server seemed to understand the urgency and quickly thrust two beer bottles into her hands. Tara quickly brought them back to the table, where Willow glugged half of it down in one go.


Tara took a sip too but savored it more.


She’d never really drank that much beer before, at all really. She’d been enjoying sweeter cocktails or cheaper coolers so far along with the occasional shot or two when out for drinks but she liked the malty taste and cool splash of the beer.


“I think I like beer,” she said, checking out the front of the bottle.


“I think I like cold,” Willow replied in a gasp, all but holding the bottle against her tongue.


Their server came over and placed a smaller bowl of white liquid in the raised center of the larger bowl of soup.


“Eat with,” he advised kindly, “Will help.”


“Xiexie,” Tara answered gratefully, then looked at Willow, concerned, “Are you okay, sweetie?”


Willow took another swig of beer, the tip of her nose still red.


“Try this one. He said it will help,” she said, swirling a spoon in the white broth, but Willow still seemed reluctant, “I’ll try it first.”


She took a half-spoonful and slowly tipped it into her mouth.


“It’s mushroom-y. Very umami. Not spicy, I promise.”


Willow cautiously dipped her spoon into the white broth and brought it to her mouth. Her nose collapsed then flared at full stretch in one quick motion before settling into a soft twitch.


“It’s like tastebud burn cream,” she said, her shoulders visibly slumping in relief.


Tara shot a crooked smile across the table.


“You must really like it. You made your yummy face. Your strongest yet.”


Her mouth soothed, Willow nonchalantly nibbled on some raw green onion.


“I’m pretty confident I’ve had stronger,” she said, her grin discreetly devilish, “My face is just usually hidden from you at the time.”


Tara’s eyes widened and shot all around the room, but no one was paying them any attention. She blushed and sat up straighter, running her hand back in her hair, all in a fluster.


Her confidence regained, Willow finally retrieved her cooked piece of pork, shook it off of excess spice and ate it without incident.


“Wow, this is actually, really, really good.”


Tara inspected and added some of her tripe, opting not to smell it directly just in case.


She gave it plenty of time to cook before plucking it back out to try.


“What’s it like?” Willow asked unsurely.


Tara tried to chew in only one corner of her mouth.


“Kind of spongey? Like… savory honeycomb,” she replied before shrugging, “It just tastes like the broth, really.”


Tara took another piece and held it out for Willow.


“Have some. Be brave.”


Willow didn’t want to lose face again, so she did it.


She resisted saying it felt like what she imagined chewing on an umbilical cord would be like.


Swallowing it required the rest of her bottle of beer.


“Well it’s no matzo ball soup…” she said, shoving a mushroom in her mouth to mask the tape, “But it’s, um okay. Not as slimy as I thought…”


“It is hard to chew,” Tara conceded, face scrunching for a moment, “I don’t think it’s an, um, regular weeknight dinner contender.”


“Oh thank god, because I really don’t think I could cook it for you,” Willow laughed with relief.


Tara smiled softly, slowly, as she took in the implications of that statement and Willow’s sweet laugh as she’d said it.


“I’m gonna get another beer. Do you want one? Tara?”


“Hmm?” Tara tuned back in, “Sorry? Oh, no. I’m fine, thank you.”


They spent a couple of hours eating their meal; enjoying the novelty of cooking it as they went along; enjoying each other’s company and some beers.


When their table was cleared, Tara rested her folded arms on the table and gently ran her foot along Willow’s calf beneath.


“Can I buy you dinner? I never have. I’d like to.”


Willow smiled graciously and then again at herself for not feeling an immediate need to protest.


“Thank you.”


“My pleasure,” Tara smiled back, hiding it shyly when she felt Willow’s foot return the affection.


They didn’t rush getting home, walking along the streets and enjoying the unusual smells; spices mixed with incense and the unique aroma of the city. Prayer flags hung between the buildings, lining the streets with color and adding to the vibrancy and local flair.


Not long after leaving the restaurant, they met another couple from the hostel, a guy and a girl they’d spoken to at breakfast while waiting for the coffee to brew. It was their last night in the city and they invited them to a live band playing at a bar a few blocks away.


They spent the night dancing to EDM beats from a band consisting of two Chinese guys with long hair and one Chinese woman with a pixie cut. They were the antithesis of everything both Willow and Tara had imagined China to be and were brilliantly loud about it too. It was electric and both could feel that electricity still dancing under their skin when it was over.


They and the other couple snuck back into the hostel in the early hours and while the others’ room was just off the main entrance, Willow and Tara had to negotiate a series of stairs, doors, and hallways to get to their room with their ears still ringing from the loud music.


Willow suddenly found something hilarious as they crept toward their door and Tara clapped a hand over Willow’s mouth to stem the uncontrollable giggling. She bit on her own lip to try and disrupt as few people as possible on the walk down the long hallway.


Once they found their corner of the room, Willow tumbled into her bed, kicked her shoes off, then rolled over and tried to catch Tara with her legs.


“C’mere.”


“Sssh,” Tara replied, just as loud and giggling tipsily as she allowed herself to be caught and brought closer, “What is it?”


She did manage to quieten down that time and Willow mirrored her whisper but not without a silent cackle.


“We’re in China!”


Tara snorted and she didn’t know why but it was infectious.


“I know,” she said, then tried to push back, “Go to sleep, sweetie.”


Willow shook her head.


“Haveta tell ya something.”


There was an annoyed grunt that sobered Tara up a little bit and she hastily placed her finger on lips that Willow was just about to make out in the dark. Willow wasn’t a totally inconsiderate drunk and so scrambled to get under the blanket and held it up for Tara to join her.


Tara glanced around but everyone was sleeping or trying to and she figured this was the easiest way to keep quiet. She stepped out of her shoes and slid onto the sheet alongside Willow, who brought the blanket up above their heads and nestled them in a little cocoon.


Willow’s hand snaked around Tara’s back and she pulled herself closer so their noses were touching and they could hear even the faintest whisper between them.


“420,” Willow announced, before her face scrunched up in confusion, “No. That’s the other thing.”


Her brow lines creased considerably, then smoothed in realization.


“520. I mean, 5-2-0. Yeah, that’s it,” she nodded, satisfied with herself, “That’s how the youth say I love you over here. The numbers sound like the words or…something. The lady drummer told me when I aksed, I mean asked, ASKED… how to say it. Or write it…”


She frowned again.


“Maybe you’re only supposed to text it…”


“The youth?” Tara asked with an amused and affectionate smile at Willow’s bouncing facial movements.


Willow nodded solemnly.


“Yeah, the kids.”


“Because we’re so old,” Tara replied, her glassy eyes soft and focused on Willow’s face.


“Feeling old is a coms…cons-sequence of meeting your soulmate when you’re four,” Willow fumbled out, placing her palm over Tara’s exposed collarbone, “And being pretty sure you’ve known them since the dawn of time…”


“You’re philosophical when you’re drunk,” Tara replied, tenderly placing a chaste kiss on Willow’s lips, “And very sweet.”


Willow’s eyes lazily fell to Tara’s lips and her tongue slipped out to lick her own lips.


“Oh, I can be spicy…”


She planted her mouth on Tara’s again and sucked a searing kiss from her that made Tara quiver and surrender for several seconds. She felt Willow’s hand fall loosely over her breast and reluctantly turned her head to the side.


“Will…I want to…we can’t…”


Tara waited for her heart to slow down to a regular rhythm again but winced at Willow’s silence.


“Honey, please don’t be mad at me. We can get a new room tomorrow if you really need to…”


She turned her head back to look at Willow but noticed her eyes were closed.


“Willow?”


Willow exhaled a snore and her hand fell away from Tara.


Tara frowned and slowly extricated herself from under the blanket.


She sat on the side for a moment, listening to the room sleeping before standing up to go to the bathroom and brush her teeth.


When she returned, she downed some Tylenol to get a head start on whatever kind of hangover she’d have the next morning and went up to her top bunk to sleep.



Willow woke up and immediately started to panic when she found herself ensnared by her blanket.


She flapped about like a trapped dog until finally, her hand found air and she was able to yank it off.


“Ugh,” she groaned as she felt last night’s alcohol sweating out through her pores.


Her body did seem to be learning though; each hangover was progressively a little less awful.


She turned to look in the mirror sitting on the wall and grimaced; her hair had not fared well in her fight against the blanket. She swung her legs off her bed and stood up to show Tara how silly she looked, but Tara’s bed was made up and empty.


Willow frowned. They always waited for each other for breakfast.


She quickly ran a brush through her hair and then another over her teeth before making her way to the communal kitchen. She spotted Tara at a little round table with their roommates — at least for the moment — Beatrice and Tom from Minnesota, Lucie and Camille from Belgium and Oskar from Denmark.


Everyone seemed a bit subdued, and Willow guessed they might be hungover too, until Beatrice suddenly stood up over them all. Willow swore she almost saw the rest of them cower.


“We better get going or we’ll be late for the bike tour.”


“Bike tour?” Willow asked, stepping forward.


Beatrice’s head turned to Willow and Willow felt a knot tie in her stomach, because she’d seen that look before, plastered all over Cordelia’s face.


“We would have invited you but there’s a six-person limit and you two would make seven, so…”


Willow hung onto the back of a chair and nodded to the rest of the group as a greeting.


“I thought we were doing Thanksgiving.”


“Oh, we are,” Beatrice smiled in the way Willow had thought of as friendly before but felt off now which made her feel disconcerted, “We’ll be back in time. Tara said 2 o’clock.”


“We’re, ah, cooking,” Tara spoke up, though her gaze was directed at the coffee mug in her hands, “Pumpkin pie is already in the oven.”


“Least you can do really after coming in so noisily last night,” Beatrice ‘joked’, her eyes casting upward and her smirk doing the same, “Must have had fun.”


“As I said, we’re very sorry,” Tara replied through a sigh, politely not mentioning how Beatrice and Tom had loudly swanned in at 4 am their first night, or that Tara was 90% certain they had been engaging in ‘hand activity’ under the covers a few minutes later and not all that discretely either.


Mostly because she was actively trying to block that last thing out.


“Mmm,” Beatrice replied, dropping her hands from her hips, “Well my family always did an early morning bike ride on Thanksgiving so this is just perf, you know?”


“Perf,” Willow echoed and looked to Tara to see if she was trying to hide a secret smile, but she looked a bit miserable, making Willow frown.


Everyone stood and shuffled after Beatrice. Willow took the vacated seat beside Tara, craning her neck after them to make sure they’d gone.


“First impression didn’t last long. Was I that rude the first time we did a hostel?” Willow tried to joke but Tara didn’t look up, “Ouch, okay.”


She pushed the seat back again to stand.


“Do you want more coffee?” she asked and Tara shook her head silently, so Willow mumbled under her breath as she went to get a mug, “And you say I’m the grouchy one with a hangover.”


“I’m not hungover,” Tara replied shortly.


“You could have fooled me,” Willow replied, her tone still light but getting sharper, “What’s wrong then?”


Tara looked up, a line etched into her brow.


“You don’t remember?”


Willow looked blank and Tara’s gaze fell away again.


“You fell asleep last night.”


Willow held up a hand helplessly.


“Was I not supposed to?”


She waited but there was no response, so she poured her cup full of coffee and took a grateful glug before sitting back down at the table.


“Tara…I was pretty drunk, I—”


“So was I,” Tara cut in, her hands so tight around the mug it was at risk of shattering from the pressure, “We were under the covers…”


“That’s why I woke up like that,” Willow nodded to herself, “I don’t know how I breathed under there all night.”


“Do you remember kissing?” Tara interjected so quietly Willow could barely hear, “I was saying we had to stop but you were just asleep.”


Willow frowned.


“So you’re mad that I fell asleep while we were kissing even though you were stopping it anyway? I did this before, I passed out drunk in New Zealand. You thought it was funny, you made fun of me. You weren’t mad.”


Tara audibly swallowed.


“I’m not mad—”


“Then what is all this about?” Willow asked, voice rising in exasperation before her face fell in regret, “Tara, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”


But Tara was already pushing off of her chair.


“I need to go do some stuff on the computer. Watch my pie.”


Willow dropped her head against the table and banged it softly.


“Wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a fight.”


It was just usually with her mother.


She crossed her hands over the back of her neck and sighed toward the floor.


An hour later, with some coffee and food settled in her stomach and no longer able to stare at the cold kitchen floor, Willow appeared in the doorway of their room holding a steamed bun in her hand.


Tara, sitting cross-legged on her top bunk with the computer in her lap, looked up at the sound of her approaching and when she kept Willow’s gaze, Willow took some tentative steps toward the bed.


She stood on the second step of the ladder so she was at the same face height as Tara and offered the bread in her hands.


“Peace offering. Didn’t think you’d appreciate me sacrificing a fawn.”


Tara took the bun and turned it over in her hands.


“I’d never get the blood off your shoes.”


Willow smiled but let it soften in contrition.


“I get it. We were being intimate and falling asleep made you feel like I was bored. But I wasn’t. I was just super hammered and kissing you relaxes me so much. I understand that once is funny, twice is offensive. But it’s not a reflection on you.”


“I knew that. I was just being stupid,” Tara dismissed, embarrassed.


“No, no, you weren’t,” Willow shook her head, reaching out to take Tara’s hand, “I should have just apologized. And I am. I’m sorry.”


Willow watched Tara slowly smile.


“It’s okay,” Tara said, lifting Willow’s hand up to kiss it quickly, “I shouldn’t have stormed out. I’m sorry too.”


Willow’s shoulders bunched up happily, able to breathe the cleared air between them. She leaned in and kissed Tara’s cheek, then gladly accepted one on the lips when Tara turned her head and offered it.


Willow jumped down to get properly dressed for the day and Tara started to gnaw on her steamed bun.


“Are you finished your work?”


Tara shook her head.


“I’m having some trouble actually. I can’t open the word processor. It’s giving me an administration error.”


“Oh, you probably need to change the usage rights and delete my profile,” Willow explained as she picked out a nice shirt to wear for the occasion, “Just go into settings and change folder permissions to open it for now if you want a quick fix.”


“I can’t find it,” Tara replied through a long sigh as she navigated through some unfamiliar settings, “Oh wait, I think it was hidden. A folder popped up. Is it a folder? Oh. It’s asking me for a password. Should I be looking for hidden-backslash-N-percentage-sign-D-3-”


Willow suddenly went wide-eyed and tugged her black jeans up her legs before leaping back up the ladder to the top bunk and snatching the laptop from Tara.


“You know, it’ll be easier if I just wipe this thing and you can set it up as new.”


Tara held her hands up, a little startled.


“Oh. Okay. You just said it would be easier not to do that so you wouldn’t have to reinstall all the software…”


“What do I know?” Willow scoffed, arms crossed on her chest and holding the laptop tight and secure, “All my settings might not be your settings, y’know, we’re different people and we do things in different ways and that’s okay, okay?!”


Tara just nodded slowly.


“Okay, Willow.”


Willow’s eyes darted from side to side.


“Don’t look at me like that!”


“Willow, I’m not looking at you like anything,” Tara replied calmly, “You don’t owe me an explanation for whatever…”


She watched Willow glanced away guiltily and felt her stomach churn.


“Unless…you think you do.”


Willow’s grip grew tighter but she couldn’t avoid Tara’s unsure gaze.


“They were for you! Okay?! I just…it was from before when I thought you were going to be traveling around the world without me meeting exotic ladies and okay, I know it was selfish of me to think I could or should stop you but I just, I thought I could keep you and I’m sorry.”


Tara’s face furrowed in confusion.


“Willow, honey…I have no idea what you’re talking about.”


Willow looked all around the empty room and leaned in to whisper to Tara.


“They’re… naked pictures.”


Tara nodded several times, considering her words carefully.


“I understand and I’m not hurt, it’s okay to look—”


“Of me!” Willow clarified in a hiss, then a grimace, “That I may have edited a little bit.”


“Oh honey,” Tara said tenderly.


“Nothing weird!” Willow clarified resolutely, “Just y’know, normal bellybutton reduction and stuff like that.”


Tara looked momentarily bewildered, but Willow’s eyes were closed and she missed it.


“I forgot all about them. I hid them so they wouldn’t be at hand if I got drunk,” she said, then further explained, “I figured I’d be getting drunk a lot.”


“Freshman freedom?” Tara guessed softly.


“Missing-my-girl misery,” Willow corrected with a glum pout.


Tara ran her fingers down Willow’s arm.


“If they were just for me, then let’s delete them. I wouldn’t want a single piece of you edited.”


“So you think my belly button is regular-sized?” Willow asked hopefully.


Tara decided not to tease out the logic of that particular insecurity.


“I think it’s the cutest belly button I’ve ever seen.”


Willow’s face broke out in a smile and she gradually reduced her firm grip on the laptop, eventually handing it to Tara. Tara opened the lid, brought the cursor over the folder it and pressed delete.


“Don’t forget the trash,” Willow advised, watching over her shoulder.


Tara emptied the trash and Willow breathed a sigh of relief.


“Gone forever,” Tara said, reaching out to massage Willow’s shoulder, “I hope you don’t still feel like you need to change anything about you. Pretty, pretty please don’t you ever ever feel like you’re less than.”


She brought her hand around to Willow’s cheek.


“You are perfect to me,” she said, then ducked her gaze shyly, “Sorry, that’s probably a bit overdone.”


Willow opened her mouth to protest, but that last word wrung out in her mind and it dropped open in shock instead.


“The pie! I forgot the pie!”


She jumped down with a thud and Tara was quick on her heels to rush back into the kitchen. Willow flung the tiny one-shelf oven open and noticed that she wasn’t hit with a wall of steam. She hit her finger against the tin and realized it was completely cold. She frowned and reached in to bring out the whole thing in her hands just as Tara caught up with her.


“Well, not…overdone,” Willow said as she jiggled the raw mix.


Tara put her hand into the oven and turned it around.


“It’s like an icebox in there,” she said, turning knobs to try and make it work but there was nothing.


She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach but it eased slightly when she was able to get the burners working.


“It’s okay. It’s okay. I can cook it in a skillet.”


“You can cook a pie in a skillet?” Willow asked in surprise.


Tara nodded.


“I can.”


Willow leaned in and kissed Tara’s cheek.


You are the perfect woman,” she said and added on pointedly, “Perfect to me.”


Willow placed the pie tin down on the counter and Tara surveyed the small space and two-top stove they had to work with.


“We’re going to have to be in perfect sync to pull off this whole meal with two working burners before anyone else comes back and wants to use it.”


“I think we’re up for the challenge,” Willow replied confidently.


A while later, she skidded across the kitchen to the little fridge, which was filthy and laden with other people’s forgotten leftovers, and made her feel the need to plug her nose as she opened it.


“Somebody stole our green beans!” she said, comically nasally.


“Is there peas leftover from the pasta we made a couple of nights ago?” Tara asked as she furiously stirred a soy marinade into a bowl of tofu.


“Yep!” Willow replied, slamming the fridge door closed.


“Use ‘em!” Tara advised and Willow quickly bolted to get the peas.


She added them to the corn and tofu while Tara took the pie off the burner and put it back into the dead oven to save on counter space.


“Okay, we’re getting there! Can you get me the cheese, please?”


Willow grumbled about getting the stinky jobs but obliged and crossed her arm over her nose to get the cheese she’d bought yesterday. She brought it over to Tara, who looked at it for a moment before peeling away the packaging.


“Willow, this is paneer,” she said, lifting it up to her nose to smell.


Willow looked at Tara blankly.


“Well, I couldn’t get American slices at the local market. I just asked for cheese.”


Tara held the heel of her palm against her temple.


“Paneer doesn’t melt!”


“I didn’t know it was some kind of heathen anti-cheese!” Willow replied defensively.


“You know what, mac and cheese is off the menu. It’s good, it’s fine. Healthier,” Tara nodded repeatedly as if trying to convince herself, “I’m going to get the chicken. All you need to do is mix the tofu and veggies into the rice so we can serve it up family-style.”


“Got it,” Willow replied and went over to the strainer full of rice in the sink as Tara left to go to the KFC on the corner.


Willow brought the rice over near the burner and left it there while she stirred the tofu/veggie mix. She tasted the sauce that was reducing and repeatedly licked the spoon before tossing it into the sink; whatever Tara had put into that needed to be on regular rotation for their meals because it was delicious.


When she felt it was ready, she grabbed the handle and brought it over to the rice to dump it in.


She realized about half a second after doing this that the rice was still in the strainer. She grabbed the handles of it to dump it all into a bowl, but the sauce dripped through onto the floor and she promptly skidded and crashed into the oven which gurgled with sound.


All Willow could hear however was the sound of her ass cracking on the floor as their whole meal scattered out in front of her.


“No! Nononononononono!”


Tara returned at that moment with a bucket of chicken in her hands and looked at the scene in shock.


Willow stared up at her from the floor and forced a pained smile.


“So the good news is…looks like we have chicken.”


“What happ—” Tara started, leaving the chicken on the nearest table and reaching down to help Willow up, but her arm swiftly snapped back when she noticed a light peering out where once it had been dead, “Is the broiler on?!”


She lunged toward it, while Willow spun on her butt.


“What? No,” she said, her mouth dropping open when she saw it, in fact, was, “Shit!”


Tara tugged the oven door open and grabbed her close-to-burning pie by the skillet handle, neglecting to think of the heat.


“OW!” she yelped as she dropped the skillet on top of the counter, where it wobbled but eventually sat still, lightly charred.


“Baby!” Willow yelled, using a chair to pull herself up so she could push Tara to the sink and get her hand under some cold water.


It took Tara a minute to recover from the shock but finally, she released a breath.


“I’m okay. It’s not bad.”


Willow breathed a sigh of relief too.


“I’ll just…I’ll clean this all up. Keep your hand under there.”


Tara let the water run over her pink skin for another couple of minutes until it felt soothed enough to pull it away. She then wet a sponge and got down to help Willow clean.


“I’m sorry, Tara,” Willow said quietly, continuing to find errant peas.


Tara looked up to reassure her girlfriend but their dinner companions, whom Tara never wanted to see again at this point, arrived.


“We’re back…” Beatrice said in a sing-song voice that made Tara hate music for a whole second, “We even brought wine.”


The non-Americans all greeted them politely but didn’t seem like they wanted to be there. Everyone had been excited about this before the other Americans took over. Willow wished they’d never arrived.


Beatrice set the (shitty) wine on the table and looked at the bucket of chicken up and down.


“Oh. I didn’t realize we were doing take-out Thanksgiving.”


“We had some mishaps,” Willow said gruffly.


“There’s also pie,” Tara added weakly.


Willow grabbed the jar of cranberry sauce and emptied it into a bowl which she stuck in the middle of the table.


“And cranberry sauce,” she said petulantly, taking a spoon and shoving it into her mouth with dramatic over-enjoyment, “Yum!”


She swallowed it defiantly, then turned to rest her head in Tara’s neck for a moment of comfort.


“Tara, it tastes like feet that sweat cinnamon,” she whispered, quiet as a mouse.


Tara patted the small of Willow’s back.


“Let’s just sit down and eat, everyone.”


All they had were paper plates with enough chicken for a piece each. Nobody suggested saying what they were thankful for. Eventually, Tara gave up any pretense of having a meal and pushed her chair back to stand.


“Why don’t I just cut the pie?”


Beatrice immediately reached for the knife, then smiled at Tara sweetly.


“Daddy always let me cut the pie at home.”


Tara didn’t fight it but immediately noticed Beatrice was cutting the pie to give her and her boyfriend the nicest looking slices. She asked Willow to help her trash the plates to stop either of them from snapping.


“Well this was fun,” Beatrice said, making no effort to sound like she meant it, “And no dishes!”


“Actually—” Willow started but was cut off.


“I’m exhausted after all that riding, aren’t you hun?” Beatrice asked Tom pointedly, who got a seedy look on his face.


“Yeah!”


“Maybe we should go for a little nap?” Beatrice suggested and Tom jumped up in a blink of an eye to hurry her out.


The other three all shared looks of discomfort and Oskar with all of his handsome, angled features tried to smile.


“Thank you for the chicken and delicious cake.”


“It was most pleasant,” one of the girls, Lucie, added, “We think we must go now. Happy day of giving thanks to you.”


Tara thanked them quietly and Willow just nodded her head, throwing her napkin onto the table when they all quickly skidded out there in the very opposite direction of the bedroom.


“I expected this from Bossy Beatrice and her beau but I’m surprised at Camille and Lucie and Oskar.”


“They looked uncomfortable. They probably think we’re crazy going on and on about Thanksgiving and serving them this,” Tara sighed, “Not to mention having to hang out with the other two all day. They’ll never want to meet another American again.”


“So much for thinking having other Americans around for Thanksgiving would be fun. They didn’t care about Thanksgiving at all. They just wanted free food,” Willow said, clicking her tongue in annoyance, “Maybe my mom is right. Maybe this is what you get when you celebrate death. It’s a sham.”


They were both quiet for several long moments until Willow spoke up again.


“I just always had one day where I felt like part of a real family.”


Tara closed her hand over Willow’s.


“You’ve always been family. You’ll always be family,” she said, frowning for a moment before allowing the line to smoothen out, “And maybe next year we could volunteer on a reservation or something.”


Willow turned slowly to Tara and finally smiled.


“I think that’s a great idea. And not just at Thanksgiving. We should look into volunteering more.”


Tara nodded to confirm their future plan.


“But… it’s not a total sham. I do have gratitude. I would like to say that I’m thankful for you.”


Willow ducked her head and Tara rubbed Willow’s thigh affectionately.


“I’m not just saying it to say something or be trite. I’m thankful for how far you’ve come with me…globally and emotionally. I’m thankful for you, Willow. Every day. For fighting yourself and fighting for yourself and for loving me even when it was the hardest thing in the world.”


Willow lifted her gaze.


“No, Tara…loving you was always the easiest thing.”


A head popped back in the door.


“Were you guys going to keep that extra pie orrrrrrrrr…..?”


Willow felt that vocal fry bounce around her brain and aggressively stood up, grabbing the pie and using it to push Beatrice out the door, slamming it behind her.


“Don’t worry that I didn’t even get a slice!”


She looked back at Tara, who reached into the front pocket of her blue hoodie and slid out an oblong pastry in a paper packet.


Willow knew a fast-food apple pie when she saw one; there had been a solid week she’d survived on them once.


“Something told me to get it when I was getting the chicken,” Tara explained.


Tears sprang to Willow’s eyes and she held up five fingers, then two, then made a zero shape with her thumb and forefinger.


Tara remembered.


She reached out for Willow’s hand, which was readily given and brought them through to the rec room so they could forget about their culinary disaster for a few minutes. The dishes could wait — for a minute or two anyway.


Willow lifted herself up to sit on the edge of the pool table. Tara smiled and offered Willow the pie, who took a hold of it and snapped it in half.


“There’s nothing I don’t want to share with you.”


Tara looked around to make sure they were alone, then pressed her lips to Willow, sighing into her mouth. Tara set the pie in her hand on the green cloth and rested her palms either side of Willow’s knees to lean deeper into the kiss.


Neither of them felt the wobble on time.


The plastic legs gave way before they had a chance to react and once again Willow found her butt connecting with the floor but with Tara sprawled across her this time.


Tara pushed herself up on her arms, breathless with shock and looked between the leveled pool table and her girlfriend’s face.


There was a strained moment where Willow looked like she was about to burst into tears, but then her mouth opened and she started to laugh hysterically.


Tara pushed out an exhale, her lips starting to quirk up in a grin and soon she was giggling along with Willow.


This seemed to be their coping mechanism; laughing at the utterly ridiculous situations they seemed to get themselves in.


Barely a minute later, the owner of the hostel barged through and started shouting loudly in Mandarin when he saw the scene.


Tara should have been intimidated, but she struggled to stop laughing.


“What is he saying?”


“Pay for it, probably,” Willow said, standing up and wincing where she knew her butt would be black and blue tomorrow, “Okay, okay!”


She handed over some cash she had stuffed in her pocket, which seemed to placate the owner though not enough for him to leave without giving them a dirty look.


“I can’t believe I’m paying for a broken pool table and I didn’t even get to have sex on it,” Willow muttered and Tara suddenly doubled over with laughter again.


At least, Willow thought it was laughter.


“Are you crying?” she asked unsurely, taking a step forward.


Tara straightened back up, her cheeks strained with giddiness and stained with tears.


“I don’t know,” Tara admitted, her voice catching as she waved her hands in front of her face to calm down.


Willow reached over and squeezed Tara’s arm.


“It’s just money. It’s not even much money. He probably found it on the side of the street anyway.”


“It’s not that,” Tara shook her head.


Willow clutched Tara’s with both hands and rubbed up and down her arms.


“Are you homesick?”


Tara exhaled slowly, calming down finally.


“How can I be homesick when I have my home by my side?” she said through a sniffle and a furtive wipe at her eyes.


Willow lifted her hands to hold Tara’s face and leaned in to nuzzle their noses together.


Tara’s body visibly relaxed under Willow’s touch.


“It’s just been a day.”


“Tell me about it,” Willow sighed, “Why don’t we move on from here? What’s the point in staying somewhere around people we don’t like?”


Tara nodded agreeably.


“Where’s next?”


Willow just smiled.


“Wherever we want.”

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 19th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:05 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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Topics: 2
Location: North Carolina, USA
Dibs :bigwave

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 19th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 12:08 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 225
I totally agree with Willow, pandas and koalas are so cute!
Quote:
“Maybe one day of pandas is enough for you, but I’m just a mere human with normal exotic bear loving tendencies,” Willow replied with a resolute nod of her head.

:laugh
Quote:
“Which do you prefer, koalas or pandas?” Tara asked, turning her head toward Willow, whose face immediately fell.


“How cruel of you to even ask.”


Yeah Tara, you won't ask Willow which of your kids she loves better in the future either, would you? :wink

Yay for Giles entering the story as Joyce's new "love interest". I hope we will read his appearance "on screen" (so to speak) after our girls' return to Sunnydale.

I was surprised that Tara was hurt because Willow drunkenly fell asleep and reproached her for it in the morning. But then again in relationships the things that bother us the most often would seem insignificant to others. I'm glad the argument didn't get out of hand and that they both apologized to each other.

That Beatrice is a real bitch! :fit But if you travel the world for a year you have to expect to encounter your share of arseholes and bitches along the way.

Their mishaps with cooking and the pool table had a slapsticky feel but I have to admit I just felt sorry for our girls because their Thanksgiving was practically ruined.

Quote:
“But… it’s not a total sham. I do have gratitude. I would like to say that I’m thankful for you.”


Willow ducked her head and Tara rubbed Willow’s thigh affectionately.


“I’m not just saying it to say something or be trite. I’m thankful for how far you’ve come with me…globally and emotionally. I’m thankful for you, Willow. Every day. For fighting yourself and fighting for yourself and for loving me even when it was the hardest thing in the world.”

:flower

Quote:
“Are you homesick?”


Tara exhaled slowly, calming down finally.


“How can I be homesick when I have my home by my side?” she said through a sniffle and a furtive wipe at her eyes.


Willow lifted her hands to hold Tara’s face and leaned in to nuzzle their noses together.


Tara’s body visibly relaxed under Willow’s touch.


“It’s just been a day.”


“Tell me about it,” Willow sighed, “Why don’t we move on from here? What’s the point in staying somewhere around people we don’t like?”


Tara nodded agreeably.


“Where’s next?”


Willow just smiled.


“Wherever we want.”

A hopeful chapter-ending for our beloved, "strong as amazons" girls.

Now I really hope the next parts of their journey won't also end in embarassing "catastrophes" which almost force them to flee to the next destination...


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 19th 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:49 pm 
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that was the worst and best Thanksgiving for the girls!! They are seeing that they can make it through bad days and grumpy mornings and suspicious food and stupid American leeches.

I could totally see the doe-y love wonderfulness when they were talking with Kimberley (but mostly to each other) they are so comfortable and sweet

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 19th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:00 am 
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
Dibs :bigwave


Wooo! :banana

Will's redemption

Quote:
I totally agree with Willow, pandas and koalas are so cute!

Yeah Tara, you won't ask Willow which of your kids she loves better in the future either, would you?


:lol :lol :lol They are adorable and clearly Tara needs to grow some bear-loving empathy!

Quote:
Yay for Giles entering the story as Joyce's new "love interest". I hope we will read his appearance "on screen" (so to speak) after our girls' return to Sunnydale.


By mention, yes (and all of these 'mentions' are written with the intention that more will be written later)

Quote:
I was surprised that Tara was hurt because Willow drunkenly fell asleep and reproached her for it in the morning. But then again in relationships the things that bother us the most often would seem insignificant to others. I'm glad the argument didn't get out of hand and that they both apologized to each other.


I think it was that it was a repeated event and placed an insecurity in Tara's mind. They definitely could have had a more casual and less argument-y conversation about it BUT it's actually a good thing that Tara is expressing her frustration to Willow because that was one of their big things, they were holding back in different ways and promised to be more honest with each other. Compared to just a few months ago, I think they resolved this quite swimmingly :)

Quote:
That Beatrice is a real bitch! :fit But if you travel the world for a year you have to expect to encounter your share of arseholes and bitches along the way.


HO YEAH! It is an unfortunate byproduct as they will come to discover, but hey, it helps hone your people skills!

Quote:
Their mishaps with cooking and the pool table had a slapsticky feel but I have to admit I just felt sorry for our girls because their Thanksgiving was practically ruined.


I was going for slapstick, admittedly, but I don't think it was ultimately ruined. They learned to laugh together and they're learning that they can get through what life throws at them together. These are little important lessons that will go SO FAR in establishing a really solid relationship that most people their age don't get.

Quote:
A hopeful chapter-ending for our beloved, "strong as amazons" girls.


More than hopeful, even, I think.

Quote:
Now I really hope the next parts of their journey won't also end in embarassing "catastrophes" which almost force them to flee to the next destination...


I think they need a break from that don't you?

Thanks for commenting :)

shirrey

Quote:
that was the worst and best Thanksgiving for the girls!! They are seeing that they can make it through bad days and grumpy mornings and suspicious food and stupid American leeches.


Yes! You totally get it.

Quote:
I could totally see the doe-y love wonderfulness when they were talking with Kimberley (but mostly to each other) they are so comfortable and sweet


They are getting so settled in their affection!

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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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] (Nov 19th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 32



Vietnam



I Volunteer The Love I Kept Inside So Long



“I can’t believe how amazing the hostels are here. You can see the entire city.”


“I haven’t even been to a hotel with a rooftop bar before,” Willow responded to Tara’s awed tone as they stood both looked out over a new city with heavy humid air making their light clothe stick to their skin, “This view is insane. It’s insane. And we’re paying like 10 bucks a night to stay here. How is that even possible? Quick, take a picture with me so we can make everyone at home jealous.”


Willow got a selfie with Tara throwing her some side-eye and giggled.


“I don’t know why you put up with me either. But smile as if you love me anyway.”


That smile came easily for Tara and she rested her head on Willow’s shoulder for her to take a picture. That was still new; Willow eagerly clambering for a selfie together, but her whole camera roll was of them both these days, with various scenic backdrops behind them.


Willow turned the camera out over the sprawling city, skipping over to the rooftop’s edge.


“And I thought eating Vietnamese food instead of Chinese on Christmas was going to be the highlight of this trip.”


“You had low expectations honey,” Tara replied, stepping up beside Willow and trying very hard not to look down.


Willow turned to Tara and let her gaze drop for a moment.


“Speaking of low, have I told you hot that dress is on you?”


Tara blushed slightly and stirred the little black straw in the tall glass Willow was holding.


“Did someone slip some vodka into that lime soda of yours?”


“I’m not allowed to think my girlfriend is hot?” Willow challenged playfully.


Tara’s head ducked.


“I guess I’m still not used to it.”


“Well get used to it,” Willow replied, her lip curling upward seductively, “Sexy.”


Tara’s blushed deepened to a noticeable pink and Willow linked her pinky with Tara’s.


“Am I being too much? I may have eaten most of that jumbo bag of M&Ms I got at the airport.”


Tara looked down at their linked pinkies; their primary source of affection for so long.


“You're, you're changing so much, so fast.”


“And that’s bad?” Willow questioned uneasily.


Tara lifted her gaze and smiled.


“No, honey. It’s wonderful. Because I’m seeing who you are when you’re true to yourself,” she said, placing her palm over Willow’s exposed collarbone, “So to answer your question, there’s no such thing as too much of the real Willow. Of my Willow.”


Willow’s eyes shone with emotion and Tara rubbed her thumb over the nearest jutting bone on Willow’s chest.


“Even if you make me flustered. Often and in public.”


Willow’s hand covered Tara’s on her chest and she lifting it to kiss Tara’s palm.


“I’ll try to be more careful with my words. In public. Maybe. But in private and often…”


Tara felt Willow’s implication burn in her belly and the flames of confidence rose through her.


“I meant by how cute your butt is,” she teased quietly with a sultry smirk to answer Willow’s earlier one.


Willow giggled in surprise and looked around at the other hostel guests milling about the bar area and taking in the view, but no one was looking at them. It was a lot easier than she’d ever thought to fly under the radar like this.


She pressed the cool glass against Tara’s cheek, who gulped. Willow then left her glass on the wall and jumped away excitedly.


“Let’s go exploring!”


Tara had heard that phrase so many times while she was growing up.


And just like when they were four years old and exploring meant trying to climb over the fence to pet the dog next door, Tara didn’t hesitate for a moment in following her girl.



“Okay, you’re either leading me into something terrifying or kinky. I guess the latter can also be the former. Oh god, there’s no other people in here is there?”


Tara removed her hands from over Willow’s eyes, who was relieved to find herself in the empty rec room in the hostel.


“Phew.”


The lights were dim in the room because of a failing light bulb and it took Willow a moment for her eyes to adjust from total blackout.


“Did you wanna just hang out for a while?” Willow asked, unsure as to why Tara had brought her in there.


It was kind of dingy compared to the bar or even the kitchen and if they just wanted to chill they’d normally lie on one of their beds together, with or without a sheet hung for privacy (depending on how touchy they were feeling).


The bean bags looked like they’d been jumped on a lot, and probably a lot of other questionable movements too given the occasional spurt of paint-patter marks over them. The couches didn’t fare much better.


“Oh,” Tara replied, realizing she hadn’t done her big reveal in the right corner.


She gently turned Willow to a better angle, who noticed a wrapped gift sitting beside an open bag of bánh rán, Vietnamese donuts made from rice and sesame that they’d been having for breakfast every morning. Though they had just eaten dinner…maybe Tara had intended them for dessert?


Willow took a step forward and finally realized there was something beside the gift and treats; a teeny tiny menorah with a pack of birthday candles that were just the right size to fit into it and matches ready beside it.


“Happy Hanukkah,” Tara greeted, a slighter wavier of nerves in her voice, “I-I didn’t light it because I know there’s a special way and I didn’t want to be, um, disrespectful.”


Willow felt her breath catch. She’d never mentioned it was Hanukkah.


Truly, she’d forgotten, but Ira Rosenberg’s daughter could never admit that.


“Tara,” she said, breathless and touched, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”


She turned and enveloped Tara in a hug, who closed it and cradled Willow’s head.


“I got you a gift.”


She reached out to pick up the present and Willow frowned.


“I didn’t get you anything.”


“I just want you for my own,” Tara said sincerely and in a soft, melodic voice, but with mirth in her eyes, “More than you could ever know.”


She held her hands out.


“Make my wish come true?”


Willow grinned and shook her head playfully, taking Tara’s hands.


“All I want for Hanukkah is you,” Willow replied emphatically; then continued, punctuating each word with a kiss, “I. Love. You.”


Tara lifted one hand and splayed all five fingers, then dropped it to two and finally made a zero shape with her thumb and index finger.


“Right?” she asked cautiously, wondering if she was remembering their code from China correctly.


“Right,” Willow smiled and nodded eagerly, then repeated the hand sign to return the visual expression of love, “But I have one better. Or, uh, maybe not better but up-to-date, geographically-wise. Em yêu em.”


She bounced giddily.


“That was a hard one to figure out without the internet. You have to change it depending on age and pronouns and stuff and it’s not super easy to figure out girl to girl.”


“But you did,” Tara smiled.


“I did,” Willow confirmed with the same lift of her lips, “You are so worth the effort.”


She kept Tara’s gaze for another moment, then clutched the wrapped gift to her chest. It felt soft.


“Can I open it?”


“Of course,” Tara replied with a nod and her unceasing soft smile.


Willow sat cross-legged on the floor, which she could at least be assured was cleaned regularly, and turned the gift over in her lap so she could slide her finger under the tape to free it.


Tara sat in front of Willow, their knees almost touching, and watched her peel back the red watercolor paper.


Inside, Willow saw a flash of bright yellow and lifted out the garment inside; a buttoned sweater with a white kitty poking out of the front breast pocket.


“Tara, I love it!”


“Really?” Tara asked hopefully, “I got it in the Hello Kitty store in Tokyo when you were distracted.”


“It’s perfect!” Willow said, lifting it up to bury her face in its softness.


She saw a little clear pouch sitting under where the sweater had been and took it out to unzip.


There were silver chains and various discs of ornamental design attached either end, though they all seemed muddled together. She reached in to pick one up. It was a straight chain with a clip either side and the discs on top embossed with a surfboard. On close inspection, she noticed that all of the chains were in the same style but with different designs on the discs.


“Ooh, what are these?”


“Sweater clips,” Tara explained, sitting with her hands under her thighs to stop them from fidgeting, “I-I thought you might like to accessorize.”


“Ooh!” Willow repeated, still not entirely sure what they were but finding amusement in making the clips snap like crocodiles.


“You have so many cute sweaters, I just thought it would be nice,” Tara said, taking the chain from Willow and clipping it onto either side of the collar on her button-up, “You can clip them onto a collar like this or use them to hold two sides of your sweater together without buttoning it.”


Willow looked down at where the chain sat low on her chest.


“It’s kinda like a necklace with no neck.”


“It’s like the front of a necklace. A half-necklace,” Tara replied with a smile, “And, um, I wasn’t sure if you did presents on all eight nights, or what to get you for them, so, um, I’ve been doing a new one for each place we’ve been.”


She briefly flicked them through her hand, showing Willow the Godzilla one and the panda one, then two identical tiles with a red lotus flower as Willow began to understand the references to all the countries they’d traveled in.


“I got these at the market we went to yesterday,” Tara spoke of the lotus clips, “They were actually earrings, I just removed the back. That’s usually the best way to get two matching sides.”


“You made these?” Willow asked, clutching the chain gently.


“They’re not that hard,” Tara shrugged bashfully, “They would be easier with my hot glue gun but Krazy Glue is pretty versatile. And um, I like peeling it off my fingers.”


“That’s what you were doing!” Willow replied suddenly, looking slightly relieved, “I thought you’d gotten sunburned or something. I was getting a little alarmed when you pulled one off the whole length of your finger yesterday!”


“You told me to use more sunscreen,” Tara replied, eyes soft and heartened.


“Well, yeah, I didn’t think burned fingers would be much fun,” Willow replied, blushing lightly as she tucked some hair behind her own ear, “I didn’t mean…”


Tara drew a gentle circle on Willow’s knee and spoke softly.


“I wouldn’t mind if you did.”


Willow lifted her gaze but it quickly dropped again to Tara’s lips.


Where did you get this?” she asked quickly, taking hold of the mini-menorah.


“eBay,” Tara answered easily, “I got it sent to the hostel when I knew where we were staying.”


“Oh,” Willow replied, nodding, “That makes sense actually.”


She set it back down and opened the little pack of candles.


“Light the candle with me?”


Tara nodded eagerly.


“I always thought it looked so pretty in your window.”


“I was jealous of how good your tree smelled,” Willow admitted as she placed a little candle in each slot.


Tara watched as she struck a match to light the middle candle.


“I was always scared to ask about it after that time when we were little and I asked your dad if you could eat ham sandwiches with me if your rabbi blessed them first,” she said, frowning, “Donny told me that just to make me look stupid.”


Willow waved a hand dismissively.


“Pfft, that’s nothing. You should have seen my Dad's face when a delivery guy came to our house by mistake on Yom Kippur. With pepperoni pizza!”


Tara pursed her lips so as not to laugh but caught Willow’s eye where the mirth shone in abundance. Willow lifted the middle candle up at the top between her thumb and index finger, leaving just enough room on it for Tara to do the same on the bottom.


Off Willow’s encouraging nod, Tara clasped the candle in the same way and Willow guided them up to light the first candle while she said a blessing.


“That was really beautiful,” Tara said when Willow had finished and the middle candle was safely returned to its spot.


Willow reached out and took both of Tara’s hands in hers, across their laps.


“Thank you so much for doing this. Hanukkah isn’t the biggest Jewish holiday, traditionally, but I always liked it. I thought the tale was cool. That the underdog got one up on the big bad army.”


“Tell me the story?” Tara asked.


Willow smiled softly as Tara’s face illuminated in the soft glow of the candlelight.


“Love to.”


Tara got comfortable and returned the smile, giving Willow her undivided attention.



“It should be just up here.”


Willow reached back for Tara’s hand as she led them with the map on her phone.


“Stay close, baby. We’re not in the best neighborhood.”


She clasped Tara’s hand against hers and pulled her closer protectively. They continued walking up the street; Willow’s eyes on her phone and Tara’s on the row of buildings.


“This is it,” Tara said before Willow could, pointing to a sign embedded in the wall.


She rang the doorbell while Willow looked on sadly.


“It’s such a sad word. ‘Orphanage’.”


Tara squeezed Willow’s hand comfortingly and there was a sound of a crackling intercom.


“Yes?” a woman’s voice with a clear New Zealand inflection came through.


“Um, we’re here to volunteer for the day?” Tara replied, slightly self-consciously.


“Willow Rosenberg/Tara Maclay?” the voice asked.


“Yes,” Tara answered.


“Have your IDs ready,” the woman said and the crackling sound stopped.


Willow fished out their IDs she was holding in her messenger bag and waited. The door opened and a medium-built woman with black bangs and deep hazel eyes checked them over before allowing them in.


They walked into a long hallway and their hands were promptly shaken before they were led through the building at speed.


“I’m Sadie Bloom. I’m the volunteer coordinator around here, along with plenty of other titles they don’t pay me for. Come on in, nice to meet you. Thank you for your time today.”


“Oh, no, thank you for the opportunity,” Tara said, quickening her pace to keep up, “Someone in our hostel recommended we try to volunteer here but that it would be a long shot.”


Sadie eyes very slightly rolled upward, an action she tried to hide.


“A lot of people like to get this place on their ‘volunteer resume’.”


Willow and Tara exchanged confused looks.


“We don’t have a ‘volunteer resume’,” Willow said, adjusting the strap across her chest, “We just wanted to help…if we could.”


Sadie looked over at them and smiled for a moment, though it turned sad.


“You know, you were the only application the agency sent us that wanted to volunteer today. We often have to turn people away because we have a schedule we keep to but it’s great for them to have some excitement today, eh? Even the most ardent volunteers take the day off to stay at home sleeping off the night before or to go to the beach on Christmas Day.”


“We’ve had our fill of beaches,” Willow replied, shooting Tara a quick glance that was purposefully not returned.


“Been traveling around Asia?” Sadie asked, keeping up the brisk pace, “I did that too and stopped here instead of going home. Ten years later…”


Willow smiled and nodded along.


“Started in New Zealand actually. Great country. Had a lot of fun.”


“Don’t get home enough,” Sadie replied wistfully, “We’re going to bring you into the playroom so it’s a more relaxed environment. The kids learn English in school but you’ll have to communicate with them slowly. We have just a couple of orientation videos for you to watch here explaining what we do and how you can help today.”


They were brought into an office, Sadie’s presumably, and watched videos play on the laptop sitting on the desk. When they were finished, they went through a few questions and answers and were brought through a small courtyard to an adjacent, attached building that was the residential area of the orphanage.


It was a very old but well-kept area, clean, though with peeling paint covered with fun art projects on the wall. They’d both been a little uneasy as to what the conditions might be but this place was clearly run well if a little worn down.


A lot worn down.


Willow exchanged another look with Tara, returned this time; mutually assuring each other of their willingness to stay.


They were brought into a large playroom where a couple dozen Vietnamese children aged between two and twelve were running around after each other. They all promptly stopped and skidded to attention in front of their visitors. The other caregivers went about tidying up while they had a chance and Willow looked at Tara for help. Neither of them expected the sudden intense interest.


“What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?” Willow tried, clearing her throat to speak louder, “Tinselitis!”


The room was painfully silent.


“Rough crowd,” Willow mumbled.


“Basic English, sweetie,” Tara advised quietly.


“Right,” Willow nodded, gulping as she looked out into the sea of innocent, expectant eyes, “Um…”


Sadie suddenly reappeared from wherever she’d disappeared to holding an old, beat-up but at least fully-stringed guitar, which she presented to Willow.


“We were able to source this for you to use,” she said excitedly, but her eyes narrowed when Willow looked at it helplessly, “It said on your application you played music.”


“Oh, no, not me,” she said, waving her hands in front of her, then pointing to Tara, “She, her. She’s amazing. I just sing sometimes, usually off-key.”


“But with lots of enthusiasm,” Tara added kindly and Willow smiled gratefully.


“The primary language of a child,” Sadie answered before thrusting the guitar at Tara.


“Better than me trying to tell jokes,” Willow said to Tara as she positioned the instrument on herself.


“I have no idea what kind of music they like,” Tara replied, her voice wavering for a moment, “None of Insect Reflection’s songs will make any sense to them.”


“What about our homework songs?” Willow suggested.


Tara shook her head.


“I don’t think they’re going to understand differential equations or geologic time, hun, at least not in English.”


“You don’t have anything new going on up there?” Willow asked, tapping the side of Tara’s head.


Tara glanced at the still waiting children and turned her back.


“I’ve been mentally writing one, but I can’t sing it here,” she whispered quietly, her eyes darting toward Willow, “…it’s about eating out.”


Willow nodded.


“Yeah, I don’t think these kids go to restaurants.”


Tara shot Willow a pointed look.


“Not that kind of eating out.”


Willow’s mouth opened in shock, but she quickly closed it again.


“We’re circling back to that one later!” she whispered insistently, looking over her shoulder again, “What are we going to do?”


Tara tested a string, pleased to find it was tuned.


“Just follow my lead.”


They turned back to the children and the carers had come over to facilitate, allowing introductions to be made. Willow and Tara made sure to wave individually to each child and to say their names to remember them. Finally, they were given two tiny chairs to sit on and everyone sat in front of them expectantly.


“Do any of you ever get bad feelings?”


The kids all looked around and then nodded.


“Do you ever sing to feel better?” Tara asked again and pointed at a sweet little girl held her hand up high, “Yeah, Thuy does. Why don’t we make up a feel-better song?”


There were nods all around and Tara played a few notes to get her bearings before putting her best improvisation skills to use.


“Whenever you feel bad or scared
Just take a breath and know you're cared-
For
-All those feelings go away
Just know you're strong and smart and stay.”


They produced some smiles, some of confusion, but everyone stayed engaged, so Tara kept going.


“If you feel tears coming down
Know that it's okay to frown
But remember it has another direction
Point it up and feel perfection.”


More smiles and giggles encouraged Tara.


“Smile and smile and smile some more
Lift those lips up off the floor
When you laugh, it's your heart singing—“


“—look at all the joy you're bringing,” Willow added softly, watching Tara in awe as she captured the rapt attention of every little pair of eyes in the room.


“Willow’s got it,” Tara replied animatedly, finishing a strum and clapping in Willow’s direction, “Who wants to write their own song?”


A bunch of hands went up and Willow threw back the front pocket of her bag.


“I have different colored pens for everyone!”


The kids clambered to sit around the big table in the room and fought excitedly over the large collection of pens and pencils Willow had brought as a gift. The caregivers brought paper for everyone and sat around to offer translations when needed.


Tara moved around the circle, helping with rhymes and playing their completed verses for them, as well as showing off a couple of chords so they could play themselves.


She eventually got around to where Willow was with a young 6-year-old boy and they seemed to be doodling on the sheet of paper that had sketchily drawn words on it too.


“Hey Danh,” Tara greeted the little boy with soft blue eyes, and shared a little secret smile with Willow, “Hi Willow. How's it going?”


“We're learning about traditional English rhyming structures,” Willow replied seriously, turning to her little friend, "Do you want to sing it?


Dahn nodded eagerly and held the page up-close to his face.


“Ro-ses ar' red
Vi-lets ar' bloo
Yoo look like a mon-kee
An' yoo smell like its poo.”


“I'm dedicating it to Donny,” Willow added, grinning.


Tara pursed her lips, withholding a smile.


“Heavily influenced by the traditional birthday greeting genre with a large spattering of Valentine's Day overtones.”


“The poo was all ours though,” Willow replied resolutely.


Dahn covered his mouth and giggled.


“Poo-poo.”


“Hey, I know my audience,” Willow said, giggling along with him.


When everyone had written a few lines, they put it all together and had the children squealing with laughter at how ridiculous it sounded; the silliness transcending any language barrier.


Afterward, they agreed on a game of musical chairs; one of the few games that needed no translation or explanation. It ultimately just turned into a giant dance party where they discovered the kids were big Elvis fans so Tara played ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘All Shook Up’ and then ‘Jailhouse Rock’ just so Willow could show off her jiving skills.


Both of them felt bittersweet as they watched the children go off for dinner screaming and laughing with each other and shouting their accented versions of Willow and Tara’s names in goodbye. A few even ran back in for hugs.


Willow and Tara were silent as they left, leaving an envelope behind quietly. They’d already agreed their gift to each other for the holidays would be a donation.


They walked home with linked arms, quietly admiring the decorations the city had hung up and that they could still hear faint Christmas music no matter where they turned. Seeing how much such a faraway place like Vietnam embraced and celebrated Christmas had been a source of amusement for them both and added some levity to the slightly somber ending to their day.


When they arrived back at the hostel, their room was empty.


Probably at the beach, they both thought, remembering what they had been told.


Willow sat on her bottom bunk and wordlessly pulled Tara with her.


They shuffled back to lie down, curling up and inadvertently making a heart shape with their bodies.


“You—” they both started at the same time, then shared a smile.


Neither said anything for another moment, so Tara took the opportunity.


“You were amazing with the kids.”


Willow shook her head dismissively.


“Me? No. You are the who, who was,” she claimed adoringly, “You’re so creative.”


Tara bent her head so the tip of their noses touched.


“I was really blown away by your empathy and how naturally you tuned in to what they needed…even when they didn’t understand you, you made them laugh. That’s special.”


Willow's eyes fell downward.


“I’m definitely nothing special.”


“No, you are,” Tara replied quickly and surely, then smiled softly when their eyes locked again, “Merry Christmas, love.”


“Merry Christmas,” Willow said, her first time acknowledging it on the day.


It had been a very rewarding first Christmas.


Willow teased Tara’s little smile with her finger.


“And now you have to tell me about this dirty song you’re writing.”


Tara’s eyes scrunched closed, her nose furrowing in the process.


“It’s not…I’m not…it’s not a song song,” she said, her eyelids slowly fluttering open to face Willow, “…I just think in music when I’m feeling something…strongly…sometimes.”


“For example…” Willow prompted in a low voice.


Tara felt a hot knot tie in her stomach at the way Willow’s gaze flickered up through her eyebrows.


Her fingertips brushed against Willow’s cheek and jaw.


“Lost in ecstasy…” she breathed in a soft, melodic tone; her thumb roving over Willow’s lips, “Spread beneath my Willow-tree…”


Willow’s heart thumped as she watched Tara’s mouth come toward her, then they were both suddenly startled by the roommates returning loudly; beach towels draped over their shoulders and skin that told a tale of a day lying out in the sun.


They separated quickly, both lying on their backs with chests noticeably rising.


After a few cursory hellos, when Willow was confident they were back to being routinely ignored, she linked her fingers with Tara and slipped their hands under the blanket together.


Tara squeezed their hands together in acknowledgment, content with the contact.


For now.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 22th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:48 pm 
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Very sweet!

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 22th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:55 pm 
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I loved that Tara organized the little Hanukkah-celebration for Willow and her thoughtful, again handmade gifts. Maybe they will visit Israel too so they can learn more about the jewish religion and culture together?

Volunteering at the orphanage on Christmas Day was a great idea, both girls learning how good they themselves and the respective other can interact with kids was a good "side-effect" which might strengthen their belief in their future together even further.

Quote:
“Ro-ses ar' red
Vi-lets ar' bloo
Yoo look like a mon-kee
An' yoo smell like its poo.”


“I'm dedicating it to Donny,” Willow added, grinning.


Tara pursed her lips, withholding a smile.


“Heavily influenced by the traditional birthday greeting genre with a large spattering of Valentine's Day overtones.”


“The poo was all ours though,” Willow replied resolutely.


Dahn covered his mouth and giggled.


“Poo-poo.”


“Hey, I know my audience,” Willow said, giggling along with him.

:laugh

Quote:
“It’s like the front of a necklace. A half-necklace,” Tara replied with a smile

Half-(camel)-canon-easteregg!

Quote:
“I’m definitely nothing special.”


“No, you are,” Tara replied quickly and surely

Quote:
“Lost in ecstasy…” she breathed in a soft, melodic tone; her thumb roving over Willow’s lips, “Spread beneath my Willow-tree…”

Full-canon-eastereggs.

Quote:
“I just want you for my own,” Tara said sincerely and in a soft, melodic voice, but with mirth in her eyes, “More than you could ever know.”


She held her hands out.


“Make my wish come true?”


Willow grinned and shook her head playfully, taking Tara’s hands.


“All I want for Hanukkah is you,” Willow replied emphatically; then continued, punctuating each word with a kiss, “I. Love. You.”

Song-easteregg (borrowed from Christmas) :wink

I'm curious where they will celebrate New Year, with proper kissage at midnight this time... :wtkiss


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 22th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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shirrey

Quote:
Very sweet!


Thanks :)

And thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

Quote:
I loved that Tara organized the little Hanukkah-celebration for Willow and her thoughtful, again handmade gifts. Maybe they will visit Israel too so they can learn more about the jewish religion and culture together?


This will come up, but not quite in that way.

Quote:
Volunteering at the orphanage on Christmas Day was a great idea, both girls learning how good they themselves and the respective other can interact with kids was a good "side-effect" which might strengthen their belief in their future together even further.


Very good point, it's always a heart-warming experience seeing your OH interact with children when you hope that they're in the future for you both. It's a like a 'will be good co-parent' pheromone :laugh

Quote:
Half-(camel)-canon-easteregg!...Full-canon-eastereggs.


Well spotted!

Quote:
Song-easteregg (borrowed from Christmas) :wink


A half-easteregg? The front of an easter egg? :lol

Quote:
I'm curious where they will celebrate New Year, with proper kissage at midnight this time... :wtkiss


You're about to find out :wink

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 22th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: NC-17

NOTE: A wild rating change appears

Chapter 33



Thailand



When They Dim The Light, Let's Begin
Kissing The Old Year Out, Kissing The New Year In…



“Got it!”


Tara dragged her eyes up from the rim of exposed skin bare on Willow’s middle from where her shirt rode up as Willow lifted her arms above her head to move her arms around.


“Hmm?”


“My signal kicked in,” Willow said, slowly lowering her phone into her lap again, “I can book a hostel now.”


“Oh, right,” Tara replied, sitting up a bit straighter. She’d sort of forgotten they were sitting on a bench outside the busy airport. In her mind, they were very much alone, “Hey, um, get us a private room?”


Willow looked over at Tara curiously. They hadn’t actually had a private room since the one in Sydney. Tara hadn’t suggested it and Willow hadn’t either, wanting to show Tara she was committed to everything she had said before. For the most part, she’d actually been pretty happy with it and the way it helped them socialize — Thanksgiving mishaps aside.


“Are you sure? The shared dorms are mega cheap—”


Willow stopped suddenly as Tara’s hand discreetly fell on her upper thigh and squeezed. It was just a subtle movement, indiscernible to anyone but Willow herself, but Willow was quick to understand what the press of fingertips meant.


That had been the one major downside to dorm living; there was always a ‘stop’ point even when they were alone. The way Tara’s hand lingered told Willow she wished to stop no more and Willow was not about to rebuff her. Her voice rose to a squeak as her finger moved around the screen with a tremble.


“Uh-huh. Booking now.”


She tapped into the first option and went through the booking process quickly.


“Got one!” she said, leaping up to check out the map of bus routes on the wall, “Okay, so we need to get a bus going to…”


She felt Tara stand behind her and then her hand come up to guide Willow’s hand off to the side.


“This one.”


“Yep,” Willow nodded, swallowing repeatedly to get some moisture back in her mouth, “Route…”


She stopped and gulped again, audibly this time.


“Route 69.”


Tara’s hand brushed across Willow’s wrist and fell away.


“We better hurry.”


“Hurrying,” Willow chirped, hoisting her bag up so they could skedaddle on down to the right bus stop.


They checked the stop and the address with their kindly bus driver before boarding confidently and finding two free seats together.


“Hey, it’s not too bad. I was kind of expecting old and rickety,” Willow said quietly as she slid in toward the window.


She felt Tara’s hand sneakily clasp hers between them and shot her a secret smile.


“There you go making my heart beat again,” she whispered and they rubbed shoulders knowingly.


The bus set off with a small jerk and lurching sound, making Willow grab onto the seat in front of her.


“Maybe a little bouncy.”


It was ‘a little’ bouncy for five or six miles, at which point the ride evened out completely because the bus whined and groaned to a full stop. They heard that puffing sound again and this time saw the smoke to accompany it.


They shared a pained look.


A couple of hours idling by a Thai roadside later, they jadedly boarded a new bus and remained tense the whole way into the city that they would get there unscathed. Willow followed the route on her phone so they knew when to get off, but they still ended up skidding onto the sidewalk when it barely stopped to let them out.


“Jeez,” Willow muttered, placing a hand on Tara’s back to keep her steady, “You okay?”


“Just tired,” Tara replied wearily, lifting her bag up to head inside the hostel they were dropped at.


Willow went to the desk to get their key, regaining a little bounce in her step.


The bounce was gone as she approached Tara again.


“Funny story…” she said, with a chuckle that shook in her throat, “This place has two locations…”


Tara’s eyes sunk even deeper before closing as her facial muscles tensed.


“Have I told you how pretty you are lately?” Willow said, gnawing on the corner of her lip.


Tara lifted her bag back up from the ground.


“Just tell me where we have to go. My eyes feel like they're gonna bleed.”


They went to find another bus stop to cross the city and had to squeeze themselves onto it. This bus ran without engine congestion but in bumper-to-bumper traffic congestion instead, which felt like the worst of the two right then. With the heat from the sheer volume of passengers pressed into the small space, it was suffocating. Willow was lucky to be pressed into Tara; Tara wasn’t faring as well and was getting up close and personal with the armpit of a Thai businessman.


Neither of them wanted to see another bus for a while when Willow finally pushed Tara to get her attention so they could jump off near to the actual place they had a room booked in.


The city actually seemed quite vibrant but they were basically walking corpses as they trudged down the streets and couldn’t appreciate it.


“I think this is it,” Willow said, stopping at a door to a small, narrow building wedged between two larger building either side and checking the sign, which was just some chalk scrawled on a board stuck to the door, “Uh, yeah. This is it.”


Tara came to the counter with Willow this time, mostly for something to lean on and almost cried with relief when she saw the key being handed over.


The relief was momentarily short-lived as she realized they had to climb up two flights of stairs but finally, they got up there. She recognized the room number and what felt like miraculously, the key worked and the lock opened easily.


Willow let them in, but they had to squeeze through one by one as the door wouldn’t open the whole way with the foot of the bed blocking it.


There was just about enough room for them both to stand between the bed and the wall, but that suited them fine right at that moment; neither wanted to be vertical anyway.


Tara pushed herself out of her worn-to-the-sole flats and collapsed stomach-down on the bed, not to move for the entire night.


Willow didn’t even get her shoes off before joining her.



Willow woke with a grumble.


Already this day felt off.


She rolled over and blinked sleepily; taking in her surroundings, remembering where she was.


Where she wished she wasn’t.


The mattress was a lot lumpier than she remembered falling asleep on. Absent was a big lump beside her that would have made up for it all.


She glanced at the empty spot in the bed beside her and sighed. No morning snuggles for her.


She sat up and pulled her bag onto the bed because there wasn’t enough floor space for both her and it. She undressed from her stiff, crinkled clothing and her nose scrunched when she got a whiff of herself.


“Shower, now,” she said to herself, unrolling her robe and pulling it over her before grabbing her shower bag to head off and find the bathroom.


She guessed its location by the winding line out the door, which she quickly saw was because there were only two showers available for use with the rest boxed off as out of order. After unsuccessfully checking for Tara in the line, she took her place in it, holding her robe close to her body so as not to share any of her stink.


In an unintended and unnoticed show of synchronicity, Willow stepped into the left shower as Tara exited the right, holding her robe closed just as Willow had, though for a different reason. She didn’t have the luxury of modesty, of changing in the shower stall, when there was a line waiting.


She returned speedily to the room with her flip-flops flapping at her heels and knocked at the door.


There was no answer.


She frowned.


She was sure Willow would be up or at least awake; she’d been making her stirring noises when Tara had been heading out the door for the bathroom. Tara had actually wanted to snuggle back up with her but the call of nature had been too strong.


She knocked a little more loudly and pressed her palm on the door but there was nothing.


After a few minutes of awkwardly trying to shrink herself into the wall, she started knocking more insistently.


“Willow?” she called softly, then again a little louder, “Willow?”


“Tara?” Willow’s voice came, but not through the door as Tara expected.


Tara turned around, clutching both sides of her robe together in a fist while the other hand tugged the hem downward so it didn’t ride up. Her eyes widened when she saw Willow.


“I thought you’d be in the room. I left the key.”


Willow’s face took on the same expression.


“I thought you took the key!”


Tara’s head slumped forward with a groan. Willow tossed her hair towel over her shoulder and closed her hand over the doorknob. She turned it, expecting it to be fruitless but at least a show of doing something, but to her surprise, it opened.


She glanced over at Tara, who hadn’t lifted her head yet and decided to wing it.


“Oh hey, look, I had it.”


Tara looked up and lifted her fist so her palm lay over her heart. She walked in front when Willow held the door open for her and sat on the edge of the bed.


Willow turned the knob a few times as she walked in and shrugged, before stepping over Tara to have a spot to stand in. She started towel drying her hair and felt the last of the cool water droplets evaporate from her skin.


“Did you get any hot water?” she asked Tara.


Tara watched the v shape in the front of Willow’s robe widen and show her a glimpse of breasts from the side.


“About a minute,” she replied after looking away and clearing her throat.


“A minute more than me,” Willow griped, hanging her towel on a hook on the wall.


“Oh, baby, are you cold?” Tara asked sympathetically but not without some throaty undertones.


Willow felt a little shiver at the base of her spine but she wasn’t sure if it was because of Tara’s words or the way she said it.


“It’s not the warmest room in the world…which is impressive because I know how hot it is outside.”


She glanced down at Tara, whose legs had involuntarily parted along with her mouth.


“I-I could warm you up,” Tara offered, her eyes fluttering upward shyly but suggestively, “If you want.”


Willow didn’t think she could look all that attractive right now with her hair likely sticking out at all angles from its lack of brushing and her skin translucent from her cold shower, but there was no denying that Tara’s look was lustful.


Tara had always had a habit of looking at Willow and making her feel like she was wonderful.


Feeling goosebumps noticeably distinct from those brought on by the brash spray of cold water, Willow stepped over into Tara’s space. She gasped softly when Tara reached out and tugged the tie free on her robe, leaving it open at the front and her exposed.


Tara then tugged either side of Willow’s open robe, pulling her into her own lap and placing her palms down on Willow’s thighs.


Willow felt herself tingle directly under where Tara’s hands splayed out on her skin; the sensation rising quickly and settling between her legs in a liquid heat she had forgotten was quite so there.


An inch up and Tara would start to feel exactly what her presence was doing.


Tara looked up at Willow and pulled her closer, spreading Willow’s legs even further.


Willow gulped as their faces got close enough to feel each other’s breath.


“Hi.”


“Hi,” Tara returned softly before pressing her lips up against Willow’s.


Willow felt the breath rush from her lungs at first contact and was suddenly very aware of how bare her skin was and how bare Tara’s skin wasn’t. She pushed back Tara’s robe at the shoulders, who shrugged the material off and tugged the tie free, then lifted her arms to pull them through the sleeves so it sat crumpled beneath her.


Willow moaned as her thighs brushed Tara’s and used her hand to hold Tara’s face and tilt her up to deepen the kiss. Tara responded enthusiastically and lifted her hands to Willow’s butt, holding her there as they scrambled back onto the bed together.


Willow landed on her back with her open robe splayed out around her body. She opened her legs as Tara climbed between them and exhaled shaken breath as Tara’s body slid up against hers.


She was certainly warmed up now.


She sought Tara’s lips again to resume the kiss and moaned again as Tara palmed her breast between them. She brought her hand around to find Tara’s breast too and rolled her nipple until she could feel Tara’s hips jerking in synced response to her movements.


Tara’s mouth fell into Willow’s neck and Willow felt a gentle but definitely noticeable press of teeth into her skin, making her whole body arch unexpectedly.


“Oh, mmmh!”


Tara’s face rose in concern.


“Did that hurt?”


“So good,” Willow panted, wrapping her arms around Tara’s shoulders to pull her back down again.


Tara began suckling on the skin where Willow’s neck met her shoulder, feeling every shudder through Willow’s back from how close they were pressed together.


With Willow writhing more and more, Tara’s thigh ended up between her legs; pressing with the same intensity of her mouth on Willow’s neck.


Willow groaned with almost-satisfaction and Tara answered with her own upon feeling just how wet she’d made Willow. Feeling that un-ignorable strong pull below her stomach, Tara started to aim her kisses lower; leaving messy kisses all down Willow’s body as she grew closer and closer to the apex of her thighs.


With one last press of her lips barely above Willow’s mound, and with Willow taut and on tenterhooks waiting for that first dip between her legs, Tara ducked her head ready to feast on what was offered.


Her mouth was poised, Willow’s legs were spread and Tara’s breath was close enough for them both to notice. Tara smiled up at Willow, who thought she might completely lose it at the way the little, crooked incline made her stomach flip, and slid her palms onto Willow’s stomach, scratching lightly.


“Please, Tara,” Willow groaned; Tara’s short nails on her flaming skin feeling every bit as carnal as if she were touching lower.


Tara felt her own pulse of arousal at Willow’s soft beg.


Her cheeks hot, she dropped her mouth; her tongue out and a millisecond away from contact… when there was a frantic knocking at the door.


Willow groaned again, but it was not with pleasure this time.


Tara looked up and over to the door, then up at Willow, who had her arm thrown over her eyes while her chest heaved with labored breath.


There was another knock and Tara shook her head while sliding off the bed to tie her robe back over her body.


There was another knock.


“I’m coming!” Tara said in frustration.


“I’m not,” Willow grumbled and Tara only had a second to look at her before she suddenly saw the door was opening to an unobstructed view.


“Oh!” she said, leaping forward to stop it, standing in the space between it and the wall, looking at the young man on the other side whose eyes were wide with alarm, “Um, yes, can I help you?”


The man gestured her out.


“Come now! Come now! Must go! Fire!”


“What?!” Tara exclaimed, unsure if she was picking up the pronunciation right.


“Fire!” the man repeated and for the first time, Tara could smell burning.


Willow apparently did too because she appeared behind Tara, her robe also fastened back over her body.


“Tara?”


Tara just grabbed Willow’s hand and pulled her out, following the guy toward the exit where the rest of the hostel was gathered along with nosy passersby.


Once they were sure everyone was out, Tara hid behind a bush and held her robe closed yet again, trying her best to ignore the stares of some ogling men passing by who were more interested in the scantily clad women escaping than the fact that there might be a fire. While she tried to disappear into the foliage, Willow went to try and figure out what the hell was happening (and if all her precious electronics were going to be okay.)


“Someone left oil burning,” Willow said when she’d found Tara again, “It’s contained now though, we can go back in.”


“Why wasn’t there a fire alarm?” Tara asked, eyes flashing with concern.


“Broken, I guess?” Willow suggested, lifting her hand to her face to nibble the skin on the corner of her thumb, “I may have been a little trigger happy when booking this place. I didn’t read the reviews.”


Tara crossed the arm that wasn’t holding her robe closed across her waist self-consciously.


“I don’t think I’m comfortable staying here. It’s New Years’ Eve, people will be crazy. I don’t feel safe.”


“Yeah, I’m 100% with you there,” Willow nodded, “I’ll find us somewhere else. With better reviews. And fire alarms. And locks.”


“Locks?” Tara asked and Willow quickly looked away.


“Hmm?” she said, then moved behind Tara to guide her inside, “Let’s just go pack our stuff, yeah?”


Tara didn’t object and walked forward back into the building. They climbed the stairs up to their room and went to opposite corners to get some clothes on because that was the only area with available space.


“Weird,” Willow said under her breath after a minute.


“What?” Tara asked as she picked out a new shirt from her bag.


Willow lifted her pile of clothing and dropped it piece by piece.


“I just can’t find my bra…I only took it off this morning.”


Tara put her fresh clothing aside and looked through what she’d taken off earlier.


“Um, my bra is gone too,” she said, brow creasing into a furrowed v, “…and the underwear I took off. That’s…weird.”


“Very weird,” Willow agreed.


Tara looked up slowly.


“Did…someone take it?”


Willow suddenly hoisted her bag up onto the bed to check all of her pockets.


“Nothing else is gone…passport, money, laptop, all here…why would somebody just take—”


She suddenly looked up wide-eyed and Tara’s face returned the same look.


“We’re leaving. Right now.”


They both got dressed at the speed of light and left without even leaving the pointless key back to the desk.


They went to the Starbucks at the end of the street to get some iced coffees and breakfast and use the wifi while they planned their next move. If there was anything they could rely on, it was Starbucks being the same in every single country they visited.


Tara played with her muffin while Willow used her laptop to properly vet the local accommodation for them.


“What do you think they’re doing with our…stuff?”


“Best not to think about it, baby,” Willow advised sagely, “Okay, I got us a room in a nice place. They have all the accreditations and good reviews across all the sites. Helpful staff and clean rooms.”


“I’d fork out for a Hilton at this point,” Tara sighed.


Willow chuckled.


“Heh. Someone actually called this the Hilton of hostels on the review site,” she said, before quickly adding on, “Without the Hilton prices. Though it is a little inflated because of the date. You still wanna go private?”


Tara just looked over with an arched eyebrow and a slowly spreading grin. Willow matched it and reached across and tucked her hand into Tara’s.


“I’m sorry I messed up with the room.”


Tara squeezed Willow’s fingers.


“It’s okay. You’ve been amazing planning everything for us. Way better than I could have ever done.”


“Are you kidding?” Willow asked with her own arched eyebrow, “All of this is because of you. You did literally years of research.”


“But you put it all in a spreadsheet we could reference and you get all the best tips from other travelers on social media,” Tara explained, then smiled softly, “Maybe we’re just best when we’re together.”


“That I can toast to,” Willow replied, holding up her iced mocha before taking a large sip through her straw to cool off, “Kinda missing those robes now. Breezy.”


Tara just shook her head and ate a blueberry from her muffin.


They finished their breakfast and Willow packed away her laptop so they could make their way to their new hostel. They didn’t even discuss using a bus this time; it was understood that Willow would order them a cab. Neither felt like trekking across the city again with their all of their belongings as they had yesterday.


Pulling up outside the new building, they noted it was in a lot better shape than where they’d come from. Professional signage was the first promising indication and then the faint, not-overpowering smell of potpourri on their arrival made them both breathe easy.


That was until Willow returned from the desk, looking at Tara with a pained smile.


“You’ve given me that look far too often in the last 24 hours,” Tara said warily.


Willow released a balled fist.


“Right place, wrong time…room isn’t ready.”


Tara sighed.


“Of course it isn’t.”


“We did just book it,” Willow tried to reason optimistically, “We can leave our stuff though. Go out and explore. Spend the day together…”


Tara’s face slowly softened into a smile.


“That would be nice.”


“Here, let me take your bag,” Willow offered chivalrously.


Willow took the bags to the desk to put them in the left luggage closet then returned to Tara with a bit more bounce in her step.


They linked arms and headed back out, stopping almost immediately at a 7-Eleven to buy water, with their usual water bottles still packed with their luggage.


“Forgot how sweaty the plastic is,” Willow said as the bottle rolled around in her sweaty palm, “Bad for the environment and my frustration levels.”


Tara offered to take it but Willow just knocked it back and tossed the bottle instead.


They found their way to the train system, a vast improvement on the bus system, which used elevated rail lines to navigate the greater city. It was comfortable and had a bird’s eye view the whole way into the metropolis.


“I’m always blown away by all the high-rise buildings…the tallest building in Sunnydale is the church with the bells,” Tara said as she looked around, and up, in awe.


“Which one?” Willow joked, then tapped Tara on the upper arm, “Hey, that’s a good idea, actually. Let’s go visit one of the temples.”


“Oh, I’d love that,” Tara replied sincerely.


They found their way to the most ornate temple in the city, a building that enveloped their whole eyeline with colorful monuments and statues.


They stood staring for a moment until a man approached, grinning and offering leaflets offering them a shopping tour.


“Oh, no thank you,” Tara said politely, but he kept pushing the flyer in her face and Willow had to intervene and walk them away.


“Come on, let’s check it out inside.”


They joined the line of other tourists and Thai people waiting to worship.


Willow closed her sweater when she spotted people up ahead stepping aside to lower their sleeves or being turned away for being in shorts. Once inside, they were met with opulent designs; murals of mythological creatures and mosaics of Buddha against gold walls. Every surface was covered in unique Thai and Buddhist art and was overwhelming but beautiful.


“There’s a goddess named Tara in Buddhism,” Willow read off a plaque, then smiled over, “Sounds right to me.”


“My mom told me she named me after the goddess Tara,” Tara replied quietly and respectfully, “She knew it from Wicca, so there must be some kind of cross-pollination of the religions.”


“There usually is,” Willow replied with a chuckle, then frowned, “Wait, Wicca? I thought she was a Christian.”


“Religion of necessity, I think?” Tara replied with a slight shrug, “She said her mom dabbled and she always wanted to explore it too but didn’t feel comfortable.”


“Your mom wants to be a witch?” Willow asked, eyes lighting up, “That’s so cool.”


“Not the dancing naked kind,” Tara joked, before a line furrowed in her brow, “I don’t think.”


Willow smirked and lowered her voice between them.


“I could be persuaded to convert if we could be the dancing naked kind.”


Tara ducked her head without a word but raised her gaze after a moment with a look that silently said a lot more.


They walked further down the hallway, where Tara stopped to admire a huge mosaic of mirrored glasses until she noticed Willow had an extra pep in her step beside her.


She turned and leaned in quietly.


“Do you need to use the bathroom?”


Willow tried to still her body by hugging herself.


“Yeah, how’d you know?”


“I know your pee dance. You should go find somewhere,” Tara said kindly but insistently.


Willow nodded once.


“Meet you back here?”


“Okay, sweetie,” Tara agreed, rubbing her hand down Willow’s back and off her body.


Willow walked off with purpose, keeping an eye out for any signs that might direct her where she needed to go.


She wound up shimmying back through the entrance line to get outside, where crude designs of men and women guided her to a huge line of waiting people to access a small building with likely few facilities.


Willow grimaced.


This was becoming A Situation™.


She whipped out her phone and did a quick search for bathrooms but it wasn’t the most accurate of findings. A public toilet did pop up but it was still at least 4 or 5 blocks away.


She hurried along the streets with a hyper-focus ahead; her legs crossing and uncrossing every few seconds like she was following an exercise regime along the sidewalk. Though the looks she received from locals all seemed to be accompanied by an eye-roll that screamed ‘American’ so maybe it wasn't all that unusual.


She finally turned down the right street but all she saw was a tin shed on grass that had an open doorway and a sign proclaiming it to be ‘free toilet’.


Operating under the idiom of ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ Willow skidded inside and was momentarily relieved to find stalls. She pulled her sleeve up over her hand to push open the door and gulped as she was faced with a seat barely elevated off the ground and a raised pool beside it filled with murky water. On closer inspection, there was also the filthiest bucket she could imagine beside it.


With no choice, she unbuttoned her pants and called back her best ‘hide and seek’ squatting skills from her youth to keep herself steady.


Don’tfall-don’tfall-don’tfall-don’tfall-don’tfall-don’tfall-don’tfal-don’tfall


With overdue relief, she soon realized there was a very distinct lack of anything resembling toilet paper around. Standing quickly lest she risk the most heinous swirly of her life, she sheepishly huddled away from the toilet and took her phone out to text Tara.


What felt like hours of trying not to breathe through her nose later, Willow heard a rustling outside, then the sweet, sweet voice that solved almost every problem for her.


“Willow?”


“Yeah!” Willow called back, knocking gently on the door she was behind, “I’m sorry I made you leave the temple. Could you get it?”


A roll of toilet paper was passed under the stall, which Willow grabbed and held in revere to her chest.


“It’s okay, I was finished anyway. It was getting pretty hot in there,” Tara called back.


Willow used the bare minimum paper on herself so as not to cause a block and have to spend longer in there, then unwound plenty of tissue to use as a buffer between her and the bucket she was expected to flush with.


“That’s just a byproduct of you being in the room.”


“Are you trying to charm me from your bathroom stall?” Tara asked, her crooked smile apparent in her voice.


A moment passed before Willow spoke again, very aware of the dichotomy of what she was doing and what she was saying.


“Is it working?”


Another beat.


“Yes.”


Finally, Willow was able to free herself from the stall and came out to Tara standing nearby, also careful not to touch anything, clutching the rest of the opened pack of toilet paper.


“What do you have all that for?”


“I had to buy some at the 7-Eleven. They don’t sell it by the roll,” Tara replied, then smiled softly, “I was able to buy a little goddess statue for my mom by a street vendor, though. I-I think he probably ripped me off, but he's just trying to feed his family too y'know?”


“It can be our gift to the next unfortunate woman who comes in here,” Willow suggested.


“The statue?” Tara asked, brow furrowed.


“The toilet paper,” Willow replied with an amused grin as she took the paper and left it by the stall door.


She walked to the sink and tried to figure out the best way to negotiate the taps without leaving her hands germier than before.


“You know there’s a fancy shopping mall like a block away, right?” Tara said, taking a step toward Willow and folding her hands in on herself again.


Willow looked over with a pout.


“I do now!”


“And you literally passed a bunch of McDonalds and stuff to get here?” Tara said sympathetically but quite pointedly.


“I just searched public bathrooms,” Willow frowned as she shook her hands free of water, then continued defensively, “My brain space was taken up with not wetting myself!”


She approached Tara, who was already taking out a small bottle of hand sanitizer from her bag, which Willow applied liberally and gratefully.


“I’m sorry I have so many bathroom-related emergencies.”


“Getting you toilet paper is the, um, most favorable outcome when you tell me you have a bathroom emergency,” Tara replied kindly, “Do you want to go back to the temple or check out the shopping mall with the better toilets?”


“To shop or to pee?” Willow questioned with one arched eyebrow.


“Mostly the first and the second if necessary?” Tara offered reasonably.


Willow nodded surely.


“So normal mall procedure then.”


She leaned in to kiss Tara’s cheek in gratitude and couldn’t help nuzzling for a moment.


“You smell so good I forgot how much it stinks in here for a second,” she said softly, but quickly moved back and pulled a face, “But seriously, I haven’t smelled anything this bad since Xander hit puberty. Let’s get out of here.”


She grabbed Tara’s hand to pull her back outside. Polluted city air had never felt so fresh.


Tara showed Willow the little statue she’d bought and Willow squeezed her hand affectionately.


“My Tara is prettier.”


Tara blushed lightly and packed it away again.


“I want to get a postcard and send it to my mom before we leave.”


They walked to the mall and decided they were hungry purely from sweat loss, so stopped to get lunch before checking out the stores. Both felt slightly disconcerted that they could have easily been in a mall at home, albeit a much grander one than Sunnydale had to offer. The temple had been difficult to navigate but felt like a real experience of the local culture. This was very westernized.


“Confirmed,” Willow said as she met back up with Tara after using the bathroom again, “Much, much better toilet facilities here. Soap and hand dryers and everything. That’s what I get for thinking with my bladder.”


“I think we should go back out onto the streets and see if we can find more local stores,” Tara suggested.


“I like air conditioning but I love you,” Willow mused fondly, “Let’s do it.”


Tara smiled back and they headed back out into the balmy but bustling streets to wander aimlessly and enjoy the atmosphere.


They spent the afternoon exploring, finding a river cruise to sail down and learn a little more about the history and then did a tuk-tuk ride downtown at sunset, just for the novelty for it.


Strolling down a street filled with food vendors in every available corner, Willow pointed out a particular hanging delicacy.


“Will you eat that?”


Tara tried to keep a neutral, respectful look on her face.


“Do you want me to?”


A grin played on the corner of Willow’s lips.


“Well, yeah, kinda. I bet it’s garlicky. You’ve had it before.”


“Not that piece,” Tara replied, folding her arms over her chest.


Willow shrugged.


“Close enough. I’ve seen you devour a drumstick.”


Tara’s brow line creased and she nodded across the street.


“I’ll eat the chicken feet if you eat the deep-fried frog.”


Willow’s face fell.


“How could you even suggest that?”


Tara’s face took on the grin Willow lost.


I bet it’s garlicky.”


Willow stuck out her tongue and pointed at another stall.


“Try that, then.”


Tara grimaced.


“What, you’re not going to eat it?” Willow teased Tara, bumping her shoulder playfully, “Oh, who’s the fussy eater now? Come on, try it.”


“No, Willow,” Tara said quietly but insistently, “No way.”


Willow relented, at least partially.


“At least try a cricket if you won’t try the scorpion.”


Willow paid for a little baggie of fried crickets and held it out open for Tara.


Tara picked one up and held it in her palm.


“Poor little cricket,” she said sympathetically, then thrust her hand out, “You eat it.”


Willow’s nose scrunched.


“I don’t know if it’s kosher.”


“You just ate a stick of pork!” Tara protested.


Willow grinned.


“It was delicious, too. Plus its cute little name; ‘moo ping’. Who doesn’t feel good when you smile every time you say what you eat?”


Tara just cocked her head and Willow dropped the smile.


“Okay, okay, I’ll eat it.”


Defiantly, she scooped up a whole handful and emptied it into her mouth. She had to crunch a little but it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. Mostly salty.


“It kind of tastes like bacon bits!”


Tara cautiously tried one but decided that one was enough.


“I don’t think cricket mac’n’cheese would catch on.”


“Not with that attitude,” Willow countered and they shared a smile together this time.


They continued to stroll as the stars got higher in the sky. Eventually, they seemed to land right bang smack in the center of the nightlife; all bustle and neon lights.


They walked through a night market, and though it seemed mostly full of knock-offs and cheap souvenirs, there was some pretty art too. Throughout, they passed bars with bikini-clad women outside trying to coax passersby in. They walked quickly past the first few, but then the bars became so close together that speeding by one just made them walk faster toward another.


Eventually, they were all but shoved into a bar. It was small with neon signs and waitresses walking around in bikinis, so exactly the same inside as out.


Barely anyone was there.


One woman approached them before they even reached the bar, in a pink summer dress that seemed positively puritan in comparison to everyone else working there. She didn’t even try to offer them a table downstairs.


“Burlesque show. Upstair. I take you.”


“Burlesque?” Willow asked, reaching a hand behind her neck to hold it, “That’s like the…”


She imitated jazz hands but quickly stopped, blushing when she realized she wasn’t making sense.


“I’ve never been to one,” Tara said with a frown.


“Me either,” Willow replied, then glanced over at Tara, “You wanna go?”


Tara shrugged unsurely and the girl gestured at them and started to walk away.


Naïvely, they followed her upstairs.


They passed through a curtain and everything darkened, with just a red spotlight on a nearly-empty stage. There was just a Coke bottle sitting in the middle of the light.


They passed a stocky lady with a lockbox sitting at a table near the curtain, with a guy standing behind her that definitely had done a class or two of Muay Thai.


The room was tiny and smoky and filled with everyone from frat boys to an older Asian couple, sitting close together with their hands in each other’s laps.


Willow was pressured to make a drinks order so ordered two beers but was starting to feel uneasy. Tara began coughing from errant smoke coming from nearby.


Two beers were dropped to their table and Willow held hers, uncomfortably warm, in her hand.


She started to look over to Tara to see what she thought of the place when a woman came out of the stage completely naked. There was no clapping or fanfare or anything but abject horror from Willow as the woman squatted over the bottle and suddenly the cap on the cola bottle popped off.


Willow’s stomach lurched.


“Tara, this isn’t a burlesque show,” she hissed, scratching her arm as she felt her skin begin to crawl at the seediness that felt heavy in the air.


Tara’s eyes were wide toward the floor; her whole body tense.


“W-we should leave,” she said plainly but clearly as repulsed as Willow.


“Right behind you,” Willow replied, standing and pushing Tara to stand with her.


They strode back toward the exit and Tara hung at the curtain while Willow tried to pay off the beers they hadn’t even drunk.


The lady with the lockbox stared Willow down as she approached, her eyebrows knitting together into one. She demanded a sum of money Willow was sure she misheard.


“Huh? No, we only ordered a couple of beers.”


The woman started gesticulating loudly and Willow felt her mouth go dry with fear. She emptied her wallet but the woman demanded more.


“I don’t have that kind of cash on me,” she said with a helpless tone.


This did not seem like the kind of place that accepted Apple Pay.


Thinking quickly and with the large-muscled Thai man standing forward threateningly, Willow threw her thumb in Tara’s direction.


“I’ll just check with her, okay?”


The lady gave one curt nod and Willow sidled up to Tara, heart beating out of her chest.


“Tara, I need you to just nod at me and hold onto your bag,” she whispered, putting a hand there too so it seemed like she was asking for money, “Now turn around and sprint out of here; turn left. Don’t talk. I’ll be right behind you. Keep running.”


Tara’s eyes flashed with alarm and Willow held her gaze insistently.


“Trust me.”


Her hand tightening around the strap of her belt and with her fingers starting to tremble, Tara turned on her heels and ran as instructed. She heard Willow’s footsteps, at least she hoped they were footsteps and not other body parts, hitting the steps. Milliseconds later there was some yelling and then the sounds of the street as she broke outside.


With one look over her shoulder to see that Willow was tailing her as promised, she turned left and weaved through the market until she met its end.


She backed up against a wall to catch her breath and immediately started to look around desperately for Willow.


She realized she’d cut through a group of people releasing lanterns and watched as light floated up into the sky upon their release. The glow radiated downward and Tara was finally able to pick out the face she wanted to see most, searching desperately as well.


“Willow!”


Willow’s eyes flung toward Tara and she jogged over, throwing her arms around Tara’s body and heaving into her as her breath finally caught up.


“What the heck just happened?” Tara panted, gripping the back of Willow’s shirt in her fist.


Willow threw an arm back where they came from.


“Eyebrows had Mr. Beefy’s intimidating chest hair all up in my face…because that’s as high as my face reached!”


“Willow, don’t call them names,” Tara chastised softly.


“They were trying to extort us!” Willow exclaimed, feeling the thump of her pulse right down to her toes, “I thought they were going to tak—”


She suddenly stopped and looked straight over Tara’s shoulder.


“What?” Tara asked, looking over blankly at the row of vending machines, “What is—where are you going??”


Tara spun around as Willow marched past her and stabbed a finger at the glass of a vending machine, the type Tara had hoped she’d seen the last of in Tokyo.


“That’s. Our. Underwear.”


Tara looked bewildered.


“What? No, it’s probably just—”


“That’s our panties!” Willow screeched, slightly hysterical as she shook the machine.


“What are you doing?” Tara exclaimed, throwing her hands up and taking a step back.


“Getting them back!” Willow replied indignantly, before looking over sheepishly at Tara, “Do you have any money?”


“It’s probably a coincidence,” Tara said, trying to ease the situation.


Willow pointed at the middle of the top row.


“I can see my name sewed in!”


Tara got far closer than she was comfortable and gasped softly as she saw two pairs of underwear she recognized.


“Oh my god.”


She scrambled to get some coins from her wallet and handed them over to Willow. Willow vended both pairs and retrieved them in their crude plastic packaging.


“At least you know what they were doing with them now.”


“You’re right. It was better not thinking about it,” Tara replied, her cheeks so pale they stayed white even after she realized people were watching them seemingly buy used panties, “Remind me to keep my underwear locked up with my phone from now on.”


Willow turned one pair over in her hand.


“You have to admit, it’s a pretty impressive turnaround time from acquisition to sellable product. Their business model is efficient,” she said, then quickly looked away at the non-verbal response she received from Tara, “Or not.”


Tara opened her mouth but before she could speak, she felt a drop of water hit her nose. In the time it took her to look up, the clouds had opened and torrential rainfall was beating down on them; the kind of rain that soaked them to the bone almost instantly. Tara covered her head with her sweater, which was actually Willow’s she’d borrowed earlier, and shouted to Willow.


“I think the universe is telling us to get out of here.”


Willow grimaced in return.


“It’s supposed to be dry season!”


They set off in a run back toward the hostel and Willow whipped out the underwear to use as a rain guard over her.


“Seriously Willow?!” Tara shrieked.


“I don’t have anything else!” Willow retorted, already picking up pace ahead of her, “You have my sweater!”


Finally drudging into their hostel, Willow threw herself against the reception desk wearily.


“We’ll take whatever room is available. It doesn’t matter how many people it’s sharing with. Anything with a bed. Anywhere warm. I’ll take a blanket on the floor at this stage.”


The polite Thai girl behind the desk asked for her reservation number and offered a friendly smile.


Willow pulled out her phone, and inadvertently the panties she’d stuffed in there.


“Uh…” she started, blushing profusely as she pocketed them again and submitted to the embarrassment as she held the email open to read, “This is it.”


The clerk took it all in her stride and typed into the computer then nodded once.


“Room you ask for not available.”


Willow’s facial muscles tensed, but the clerk continued without noticing.


“We prepare better room, same price,” she said popping under the desk again before returning with a woven basket filled with various goods, “Please accept gift for delay.”


Willow did a double-take in surprise at something actually going right.


“Oh. Thank you.”


The desk clerk slid a key across.


“Bags already in room. Please enjoy stay.”


“Thank you,” Willow replied, snatching it they lest something descend and take it from her.


She held the basket by her leg and walked over to Tara, who held a hand up before she could even speak.


“Let me guess, the sprinkler broke and our whole room is flooded? Or an elephant broke free and stampeded the whole place? Or the rest of our clothes have been stolen to—”


“We have keys and goodies,” Willow interrupted happily, holding up the basket to show her.


Tara inhaled a soft breath.


“Oh.”


“Oh,” Willow repeated, smiling brightly as she brushed their hands together by their sides, “May I take you to our room?”


Tara just nodded silently and let Willow’s hand swing down to hers so they could turn the corner toward the room.


Motivational quotes were embossed on each door and proverbs from all over the world were decorated on the walls in both English and Thai, which was a nice mix of cultures. It was impeccably clean; the soft carpet of the hallway felt plush even with shoes on.


Willow flashed the key at the sensor to let them in and felt some tension leave her when she spotted their bags in the corner, as promised. The room was easily double the size of the one they’d left, with room for the double bed, locker, closet rail and plenty of space to move between.


The temperature was ambient but Tara, the more soaked of the two, went straight over to the heater and turned it on full blast to try and dry out.


Willow backed up against the door to close it and dropped the basket at her feet. She watched Tara rub her hands together above the swell of hot air for a moment before deciding she was just too drenched for it to make any difference and started to strip down to her underwear.


Willow watched Tara’s clothes peel away from her damp skin with just the glow of the moon peeking in the window showing the shimmer against her muscles.


Willow’s eyes roved in a trance for a moment before she pushed herself away from the door and strode over in a few steps, taking Tara’s cold hands in her own. They grew warm from a sudden rush of blood through her skin.


“Maybe we should try body heat.”


Tara felt her fingertips tingle as Willow linked theirs together and gently tugged her back toward the bed. Willow’s hands moved up to Tara’s neck and Tara let out a sound between a hiss and a moan as those warm palms burned her skin so much she was sure she heard a sizzle.


They bumped awkwardly against the bedframe, making Willow glance over her shoulder and painfully away from Tara’s lips.


“I’ll just turn on a light,” Willow said, dropping her hands and making Tara feel the loss acutely.


Tara ducked her head for a moment and caught her breath, then sat on the bed and scooted back to sit against the headboard. She wrapped her hand around the post, appreciating something to hold on to. It had been a while since she’d known anything between the pillow and a wall.


She watched Willow’s outline feel around for a switch, then realized there was one just beside her.


“There’s a lamp,” she called out, reaching out to pull the cord and letting the room flood with low, soft light.


Willow turned back around and smiled at Tara’s form, warm in its glow.


“That’s… really nice.”


She took a step forward before she paused again, her eyebrows shooting up.


“Oh! Um…”


She strode over to her backpack and began zipping and unzipping the pockets while Tara tried to stop from feeling self-conscious as she lounged in her underwear.


Finally, Willow pulled out her travel speaker and Tara could see her fingers were shaking as she set it down and brought her phone out to connect. The panties again decided to peek out with it and Willow finally stuffed them safely back into the pocket she’d just vacated instead of the trash can.


It was a funny story; Tara would laugh about it one day too and they’d have the souvenir. She was definitely going to wash them before repackaging them though. With bleach.


Her thumb ran along the screen of her phone and the recognizable notes of their playlist began to play, low like the light. Willow popped up again, wringing her hands around in front of her as she faced Tara.


“Can I do anything else?” she offered, eager to please.


Tara made a circle with her palm on the bedspread beside her.


“You can get up here.”


Willow’s smile grew impish and she sprung onto the bed with a soft bounce. She climbed over Tara, who shifted downward and slid her hands behind Willow’s neck, bringing their foreheads together to touch.


Willow’s damp clothes against Tara’s bare skin felt abrasive and scratchy but Tara could feel their noses brushing and their breath mixing and the moment their lips fell against each other there was nothing in the world but that sweet sensation.


For a minute or two anyway, until those lips gave way to tongues and both sets of hands were pulling Willow’s shirt out of her pants and over her head.


Tara’s palms slid across Willow’s spine, warm now and getting hotter with each caress of skin.


“Oh Willow,” Tara breathed into Willow’s neck as her mouth left kisses there.


Her fingers slid downward, lapping at the waistband of Willow’s capri pants and dipped beneath to where she expected more light fabric but was met with bare skin.


“Are you not wearing any panties?” she asked, breath labored and pupils dilated with desire.


Willow looked over her shoulder at Tara’s hidden hand.


“We got dressed in such a rush…” she said, slowly turning her head back to Tara’s face, “I guess I forgot.”


Tara’s lips parted and her tongue poked out to lick them.


“Oh, okay,” she said as if her lower half hadn’t just turned to pure liquid, “M-Mustn’t be very comfortable.”


A slow grin spread across Willow’s face.


“Can you help me with that?”


“Yes,” Tara nodded resolutely and quickly tugged her hand away from Willow’s butt and brought both around to undo the button.


Willow moved off to the side so Tara could see what she was doing and lifted her hips when Tara kneeled to pull the pants off.


Tara’s hands spread on Willow’s thighs and her chest flushed as her gaze focused between Willow’s legs. She stared for a moment at the damp display of red hair, then dropped her head to kiss just above.


As Willow took in a sharp breath, Tara started moving upward back toward Willow’s face.


Her hands delved behind Willow’s back and with an accommodating arch, she unhooked Willow’s bra. With a finger pulling on either strap, she pushed it down Willow’s arms and off her body. Her mouth landed on the swell of Willow’s breast, kissing in a circle as she rose toward the dusky nipple, rippling tauter with each press of lips against skin.


Willow’s teeth dug into her lower lip when Tara’s tongue swirled around her nipple. She gasped sharply when she felt a graze of teeth rake against her sensitive skin, shooting sparks straight between her legs and making her body hop off the bed.


Her fingers ran through Tara’s damp hair which still managed to feel soft and silky and then stretched down to free the clasp of her bra.


She fumbled for a moment but slipped all three hooks out, feeling Tara’s bared breasts press into her stomach as it fell away completely.


She pulled at Tara’s neck once just to feel them rub against her again, then again more insistently when the scream of her lips to be bruised with kisses became too loud to ignore. Tara’s mouth stayed open as her head left Willow’s breast to answer the call; her tongue slipping between Willow’s lips as soon as it was able.


Willow’s body arched up into Tara and she rolled them over in one surprisingly graceful movement. Well, until her head knocked against Tara’s head a bit too forcefully.


“Shit!”


“It’s okay,” Tara panted lightly.


She placed two fingers either side of Willow’s face and tapped them gently. She smiled, then let out a little giggle.


“C’mere.”


Cautiously Willow let their faces be brought together again.


After Tara released a little laugh into her mouth, it was infectious and they giggled together between kisses and getting hands lost in each other’s hair.


“Sorry,” Willow mumbled after a few minutes and brushed her thumb over the spot on Tara’s forehead that had been bonked.


Her hand fell away and downward, pushing the front of Tara’s panties against the wetness laying there.


Tara let out a whimper and tried to push her hips up against Willow’s hand.


“Forgiven…” she moaned, her eyelids fluttering open and locking with Willow’s, bashful and yet spilling with desire, “B-But only if you don’t stop…”


Willow knew her pupils must be as blown as Tara’s; her vision was actually hazy with the lust she could feel pouring out and between them. She watched Tara’s smile slope up on one side and suddenly she couldn’t get her hands around Tara’s panties fast enough.


She slid them down Tara’s smooth legs, where they dangled off an angle before falling off a foot pointed downward. It joined the floor in being a closet for the rest of their forgotten clothes.


She cupped her hands around Tara’s hips and gently pulled Tara down before lying between her legs and pressing kisses to the crease of her thigh.


Tara’s legs spread and what was Willow to do? She could resist everything except temptation.


She sank her lips right into Tara, licking her length slowly.


Tara felt Willow moan against her clit and returned the noise, though it got stuck in her throat as a guttural groan fought to be released first.


The urgency passed down and Willow began to lavish her with deep kisses, making Tara slicker and slicker with each flick of the tongue. Tara could feel her inner muscles pulling and yearning and she wasn’t sure if Willow could feel the ripples or was just that in sync with her, but she felt two long fingers plunge into her right at the moment she wasn’t sure she could stand the emptiness a second longer.


Her hand shot back to grab a slat in the headboard.


Yes, she was definitely grateful to have something to hold on to.


“Oh yes,” Tara breathed, rolling her hips up into Willow’s mouth.


Her knuckles were white on the headboard and her chest turned red. The flush continued downward, though only produced a fuller pink. Her insides were swelling with heat but the air felt cold above her; the absence of any weight on top of her making her feel hollow.


Her fingers fell away from the wood and her hands reached down to squeeze Willow’s shoulders.


Willow glanced up and saw Tara’s pleading eyes. Her hand stilled for a moment as she lifted herself back up Tara’s body to kiss her. Tara moaned at her taste on Willow’s lips and wrapped her legs around Willow’s hips to encourage her to plunge those fingers even deeper.


Willow focused on the steady pump and gentle curl of her fingers as her own hips desperately fought for some friction to relieve the hot thump radiating from her middle.


Tara listened to the groans spilling out near her ear and turned her head to kiss Willow’s neck.


“Willow?” she panted softly, unsure if those noises were veering too far into pain territory.


Willow paused and rested her forehead on Tara’s. Their noses bumped against each other as sweat kissed each other’s brows.


“Can you…c-could you…”


Tara felt Willow’s arousal brush against her belly, leaving a wet patch. The heat could have burned a hole right through her.


“Yes!” she moaned in both exquisite enjoyment and answer.


She unhooked her legs and let them roll onto their sides. She brushed her palm against Willow’s triangular patch of red hair as she slipped a hand between her legs. Her fingers glided easily against Willow’s lips and were engulfed, making them both groan together.


Willow had to close her eyes to dull her senses enough to be able to focus on the give and take but Tara didn’t want to make it easy as her mouth started to suckle on Willow’s neck.


“Oh god,” Willow moaned, her other hand stretching behind Tara’s neck and her fingers weaving into the sheet.


Their hips rolled toward and away from each other in a different tempo but even rhythm; their bodies shifting closer and closer together with every wave.


Tara pulled Willow’s ear lobe between her teeth which caused a delightful jerk in Willow’s wrist that Tara felt deep inside her. Willow’s fingers pressed deep enough to open the floodgates and she felt the heat start to swell tightly in her belly. She found Willow’s mouth again and kissed her with all of that intensity.


Her hips thrust forward more insistently and her hand slid over Willow’s hand to guide her into pressing against her clit, which was hopping for attention.


“I got it,” Willow breathed into Tara’s mouth, taking over the movement and feeling a shudder quake through her as Tara returned the hand movement on her, “Oh wow.”


Tara chuckled, deep and throaty and Willow pretty much came on the spot. She threw her head back and groaned loudly. Tara kissed Willow’s bared throat and buried her face into Willow’s neck as her own orgasm washed over her.


Their legs had tangled enough to lock them together but there was just enough space between them to allow their slowed (but not completely stopped) arms separating their hips to elongate their shared blissful moment.


There was a crackle of noise but neither moved much except for Willow to sluggishly open her eyes. They found the window where shots of color were exploding in vibrant bursts.


“Are those really happening or are they in my head?” she asked hazily.


Tara looked over her shoulder as a spherical break of green and blue fireworks erupted in the sky.


She turned her head back and kissed Willow, murmuring against her lips.


“Happy New Year.”


Willow smiled against Tara’s mouth and gingerly lifted both hands to cup her face.


Tara wrapped her arms around Willow’s waist and pulled their bodies flush together. Their lips vibrated through each other’s moans and softly parted.


Tara kissed along Willow’s shoulder blade and looked over at the basket sitting by the door.


“Is there any food in that hamper they gave us? We haven’t picked up any supplies yet…”


Willow threw her leg out and tried to curl her toes around the handle. Despite impressive pinky dexterity, she failed in her effort but was able to push it along the floor enough that she could reach out for it.


“Let me see…toiletries…tea…snacks!”


She started flicking through the little brightly colored packs.


“Dried mango, lychee candy, oolong tea, roasted green peas…spicy dried anchovies. Might give those a miss.”


“I’ll try them,” Tara offered and Willow looked at her with a nose scrunched in disgust.


“Not if you want to kiss me you won’t.”


Tara pulled the bag open and picked out one of the little crunchy critters inside, popping it into her mouth.


Willow’s lip twitched.


“Okay, I’ll try not to take that personally,” she said, her nostrils flaring before she plugged them, “That’s seriously fishy.”


“They don’t taste so strong,” Tara commented with an amused smile.


Sardines on toast had been a regular dinner growing up before her mother went back to nursing school, so she’d never minded strong fishy tastes, but this was a lot milder than the waft upon opening might indicate.


Willow didn’t look convinced so Tara leaned and pressed a soft kiss to her lips.


“See?” she said, smiling as she pulled back.


Willow pressed her lips together for a moment as if to remember the pressure of Tara’s lips against hers. The kiss had not been unpleasant, but the stench from the open bag was ever-present.


“I love you,” she said sincerely, before looking over pointedly, “Or should I say, chan rak ter.”


“You snuck that one in,” Tara grinned, “I saw it at the temple too and was waiting for you to use it.”


Willow answered with the same grin.


“Chan rak ter but that stuff still stinks.”


Tara shrugged and ate another one.


“I like them. They’re like pork rinds but fishy and seasoned.”


“You say that like it’s a good thing,” Willow replied, deadpan.


“You wanted me to eat a scorpion earlier,” Tara challenged.


“I wasn’t gonna kiss you right after!” Willow shot back.


Tara casually picked up another anchovy and popped it into her mouth.


Willow started to pout.


“Your defiance is very sexy and now you’ve put me in a very tough predicament.”


Tara looked across the bed through fluttered eyelashes.


“You want to kiss me too much to resist?”


Tara’s seductive look with those sultry eyes under those thick eyelashes was bad enough but with the sheet half strewn around her naked body and her hair still lightly mussed — Willow already felt sticky between her barely-dried thighs.


She squirmed under the blanket and tried to cover by making it seem she was crossing her legs.


“I am pretty used to having this feeling, so I have that going for me,” she said with some forced aplomb.


Tara rolled up the bag of anchovies and left them back in the basket.


“Luckily, there’s a compromise.”


“I do accept kisses in various other places with no taste buds,” Willow offered graciously.


“No,” Tara laughed, then cast her eyes down Willow’s body in a quick glance, “Well…”


Her gaze settled back on Willow’s face.


“Got a mint?”


Willow struggled to break Tara’s gaze long enough to pick up a little pink and white wrapper from their hamper.


“Uh, I have a lychee candy.”


Tara took it, tore the wrapper and popped the candy in her mouth.


Willow watched Tara’s tongue roll the candy, feeling like one of those fireworks had been set off at the base of her spine.


She took in an inward breath as Tara swooped down to kiss her and released it as a moan back into her mouth.


“How’s that?” Tara asked softly, pulling back just an inch.


“Sweet,” Willow breathed and closed the gap again quickly.


She tried to push Tara onto her back but they collided into the hamper still sitting behind them.


“Ugh,” she said, picking up the basket and pushing it off to the floor again, “Sorry.”


She scooted back toward Tara, her hand floundering above for a moment before it settled on Tara’s hip.


“Sorry,” she repeated.


Tara reached up and brushed some hair away from Willow’s face.


“You don’t have to keep saying sorry,” she said softly, her lips sloping up on one side, “It's okay if we bump into each other. It's understood under the, um, first subsection of the ‘bump and grind’ contract.”


She blushed and ducked her head.


“I, uh, believe.”


Her fingers curled the ends of Willow’s hair, who closed her eyes and let it relax her.


“I just feel so stupid sometimes,” she admitted, subconsciously pulling Tara closer by the hip, which was a good thing as she had spoken so quietly it was only just audible between them.


Tara gently brushed her hand down Willow’s arm.


“Why do you feel stupid, love?”


Willow smiled at ‘love’ and relaxed a little more.


“Habit of a lifetime,” she said wryly.


Tara’s eyelids flickered with emotion and she offered a comforting caress to Willow’s face.


“Would you want me to feel stupid if the roles were reversed?”


Willow shook her head and Tara placed a quick, soft kiss on Willow’s lips.


“Your new year's resolution should be to treat yourself the way you'd treat me.”


Willow had never considered that method. It had merit.


“Okay. I’ll tr—” she paused and blinked once, really considering the vow she was making, “I will. I’ll do that. Will you help me? Remind me?”


“I will,” Tara returned sincerely, glancing down at her fingers drawing a lazy circle on Willow’s hip before moving up to meet Willow’s eyes again, “What should mine be?”


Willow slid her hand behind Tara’s neck, splaying her fingers there and letting her thumb brush the soft hair at the nape.


“Quit looking so pretty all the time and distracting your girlfriend.”


Tara looked down and chuckled silently, then reached up to hold Willow’s arm in place.


“Seriously.”


Willow inhaled and exhaled a slow breath as she thought about what was being asked.


“Well, last year…when I was such a mess…you offered one that stayed with me. And even though it terrified me at the time…it taught me that doing something that scares you opens you up to becoming a better person. And being a better person leads to a better life… if you have the balls to jump into it,” she said, her breath catching behind her words, “So, on that note…”


She turned her head in on the pillow and kissed Tara softly.


“Do what makes you happy.”


Tara felt Willow’s lips press against hers tenderly again and closed her eyes.


She’d almost forgotten saying it but she remembered now; sitting on the balcony, kissing Willow under the stars, promising to move forward. Things had turned chaotic moments later, but here they were. They’d moved forward, and backward and up and down and sideways and diagonal, but always together even when physically parted.


Willow sighed, pulling Tara back into the moment.


“My parents are probably waking up right now…getting ready for their party…planning on how to avoid questions about their delinquent daughter and her lack of accomplishments.”


“Delinquent?” Tara questioned with a raised eyebrow.


“Not going to college is a crime in the Rosenberg family,” Willow replied wryly, “I may as well have gotten probation for a year for an actual crime than to defer a year.”


Tara brushed her fingers over Willow’s arm.


“Well here’s an accomplishment…it’s only been a new year for a little bit and you’ve already made my resolution come true.”


Willow’s brow creased unsurely and Tara looked across the small gap between them adoringly.


“You make me happy…what is it you call me? Doofus?”


Willow’s smile pushed up either side of her face.


“No…” Tara continued and Willow’s smile started to falter, “You make me something more than happy. You make me feel seen. You make me feel known and loved for it. You make me feel safe and secure. You make me feel special. What's a word better than happy?”


Willow bit inside her bottom lip to stop the giggles that suddenly threatened to bubble out.


It was no use; the urge was too strong and they burst forward along with the one-word thought in her mind.


“Gay!”


Tara immediately joined in with the laughter and they convulsed into each other.


“You make me so gay,” Tara chuckled as she recovered, wiping her eye quickly with a finger.


Willow took in some steadying breaths and released the last few giggled from deep in her belly.


“You were always gay though,” she countered, before adding on quickly when she saw the start of an arched eyebrow, “I just mean, you were always so much surer of your sexuality.”


Tara considered it and slowly nodded.


“I told you about my realization journey. It wasn’t an instantaneous thing. But I had less trouble with it than you, yes.”


“I don’t mean coming out, I mean…” Willow started, then quickly closed her mouth again, “Never mind.”


“No, tell me,” Tara replied, her confusion evident in her too-quick phrasing.


Willow raised an arm and gesticulated aimlessly with her hand.


“You were always so much more…” she started, stopping only to start again quickly, “You knew what you were doing. When we…”


She pushed out a breath of frustration at her own lack of coherence.


“You knew what you were doing.”


Tara’s eyebrow lifted as she understood what Willow was referencing. It didn’t match with her own feelings but she was careful not to deny Willow’s feelings and tried to counteract the insecurity.


“Remember what your report cards used to say? I do because they were always framed in your hallway,” she joked, her lopsided smile turning sultry as she danced her fingers up Willow’s arm, “‘Attentive…dedicated…always picks things up on the first try’.”


Willow tried to smile, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.


“I mean,” she started, unsure if she should voice how she was feeling and realizing she would want Tara to tell her if she was feeling this way. Starting her new year as she meant to go on, she took a deep breath before continuing, “I just feel like the…the junior partner.”


Tara’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but not without sympathy.


“Do…I act like…the big knowledge woman?”


“No,” Willow replied quickly.


Tara frowned.


“Is that no spelled Y-E-S?”


Willow glanced downward.


“S-O-R-T of.”


She saw the twitch of hurt flash on Tara’s face and her heart sank.


“Not on purpose! Just…how you are. It seems to come easy. The only time I felt confident was when I did all that research that time before we got back together in Sydney. And I think most of that was the adrenaline of seeing you again. And you…you just seem to know. I just seem to…flounder. It’s like a horizontal science fair.”


Tara breathed softly for a few minutes, processing.


“Well… I-I'm not the expert. I mean, I've only had the one partner,” she said, adding on pointedly, “You.”


She blinked and turned her head.


“Except…”


Willow’s face suddenly fell but Tara was already looking away thoughtfully.


“I probably allowed my mind to wander more than you. Thought about it more…did ‘more than think’ about it… more. I’m saying ‘more’ a lot.”


Willow’s heart started to calm down a little as she pieced together what Tara was saying.


“Think super hard?”


“Think…” Tara clarified, her teeth dragging over her lip, “With my hand.”


Tara could see the moment where the last puzzle piece connected in Willow’s mind.


“Oh!”


She remained wide-eyed and silent, making Tara's fingers twitch nervously.


“I-It’s not a bad thing.”


“No, of course not!” Willow replied swiftly and with a continued resolute nod of her head.


Tara’s gaze fell, her hand falling away from Willow’s body.


“Good from… time to time.”


She dropped off lamely and awkwardness bubbled between the small space between them that suddenly felt like a huge chasm.


Willow looked up, down again quickly and then slowly up, reticent.


“Do you still…”


Tara blushed despite herself.


“I-I have, yes.”


Willow gnawed inside her lip.


“Is it…is it because we…we haven’t since, well…Fiji?”


Tara’s mouth promptly opened.


“Will—”


“I know it probably doesn’t even count because of what happened,” Willow continued in a flash, grimacing suddenly, “God, did you even…?”


The pain tumbling around her tummy could be seen on her face.


“Did you, y’know… finish?”


Tara’s mouth promptly closed.


“…just now?”


“No,” Willow shook her head quickly, “On the beach.”


Tara needed a moment to catch up with the jump.


“Oh. No. Not before they…showed up.”


Willow's eyes turned into a squint.


“So you haven’t since…” she paused and her eyes closed fully. She swallowed audibly, “…Sydney?”


“Well…” Tara replied, clearing her throat again.


“Right,” Willow replied softly, “Just not with me.”


Tara placed two fingers on Willow’s cheek, turning it in to face her and shook her head.


“Not with anyone else, Willow. Come on now.”


Willow nodded softly and let out a silent sigh before casting her eyes toward Tara again curiously.


“Where?”


“In the shower,” Tara answered honestly, before adding on quickly, “Only if it was a fully enclosed one.”


She felt the hair on the back of neck stand uncomfortably at Willow’s silence.


“And n-not if there was a line or anything. Does that bother you?”


Willow’s gaze quickly shot back up to Tara.


“No, no. God no. Sorry. I’m being childish. It’s totally okay, not that you need my permission. I just…haven’t,” she said lamely, her eyes flicking away and then back to Tara with a sunken vulnerability, “But…do I …is it ‘cause we can’t or…am I not doing enough? Should I have tried harder? Snuck you away somewhere?”


Tara sat up and took Willow’s hand between hers.


“Willow, no,” she replied emphatically, “It’s a separate thing. Well… I guess sometimes it’s out of necessity when we can’t be together, yes. But it’s not because you lack in anything. And it’s okay to just want to…be alone with yourself sometimes. In addition to. One is not a reflection of the other. Sometimes we watch a movie together and sometimes you just want to chill out and watch stuff on your own, right?”


Willow nodded slowly, understanding that.


“It just never feels like when you do it. It was more like…eating when you feel sick from hunger because you know it will make you feel better…even though actually eating is a struggle.”


Tara frowned, circling her thumb around Willow’s wrist.


“Oh honey, it shouldn’t be like that. That sounds kind of…traumatic, honestly.”


Willow looked at Tara vulnerably.


“What should it be like?” she asked earnestly.


Tara blushed and smiled, somewhat nervous and entirely candid.


“For me, it’s satisfying and makes me feel good about myself and just totally relaxes me. It’s very different from being with you, which is a whole experience unto itself. It makes me feel so close to you like I want to cling to forever. Like I want you to take me and know me and own me. Alone…it’s just nice to feel in control of myself for a bit. Be lost in my own fantasy.”


Willow nodded and squeezed Tara hands appreciatively for being so honest.


“I guess…I spent a long time feeling pretty shitty afterward. ‘Cause I would think about you. And that made me feel guilty. So I just got it over with quickly when I had to,” she explained, then added on quickly, “But I stopped crying when we got together…slowly. But it’s still like…like scratching an itch. Not anything amazing. I haven’t even tried since I was on my own in Melbourne that time, though.”


Tara felt a small lump form in her throat.


“Y-you cried after? Because you felt bad that you were thinking about me?”


“Not since we…” Willow trailed off and smiled sheepishly, “But it’s still not like with you.”


“It doesn’t have to be,” Tara replied sagely.


Willow looked down and shrugged.


“I think I’d be boring.”


“You’re definitely not boring,” Tara replied resolutely.


Willow looked up with sparkling eyes and Tara moved Willow’s hand onto her thigh with a crooked grin.


“Sounds like you might just to get reacquainted with yourself.”


Willow blushed all over again.


“I’d just feel so awkward. Like I’m not doing it right,” she said, then frowned, “Okay, I’m starting to see the pattern of insecurity.”


Tara gnawed on the corner of her lip.


“If you want, we could do it together…work out the kinks. Or the um…logistics.”


“You’d do that?” Willow asked, surprised.


Tara nodded.


“Of course. I love, um, getting you…there. But I don’t want you to feel like I’m the gatekeeper of your orgasms. You know my body. You deserve to know your own.”


Willow looked down at Tara’s hand still holding hers over her thigh and puffed out a deep breath.


“Okay. In the ‘treating myself as deserving' theme, this definitely qualifies. So…okay. Let’s do it.”


She jumped on the spot and looked at Tara expectantly.


“Right now?” Tara guessed off the look.


“Um, yeah?” Willow asked, an eyebrow lifting unsurely, “I mean, my refractory period is pretty much zilch.”


“Okay then,” Tara smiled and chuckled to herself, whispering under her breath, “Attentive and dedicated.”


She laid back down and Willow followed suit; settling her back against the mattress.


She moved her hands over her stomach and turned them awkwardly in place. She glanced over at Tara.


“It’s hard to be so naked.”


“And nude, too,” Tara replied softly, insightfully.


They lay in motionless silence for a moment before Tara spoke up again.


“You know, I felt guilty at first too.”


Willow’s head turned on the pillow, her eyebrow arching.


“You did?”


Tara nodded easily.


“Not because you were a girl…because you were my best friend.”


Willow’s eyes lit up.


“You thought about me?”


Tara turned her head to look at Willow as if to say a polite ‘duh’. Her cheeks flushed pink.


“I couldn’t look you in the eye for a week after the first time. I would tell myself it wasn’t you I was thinking about; that it was just a woman’s body with no head who just happened to be a redhead.”


Willow’s brow creased in confusion.


“I thought you didn’t picture a head—OH!” Willow shut herself up and stared up at the ceiling wide-eyed, “Wow.”


She only lasted a minute before looking back to Tara curiously.


“Did you…a lot?”


Tara’s shoulders shifted beneath her.


“Well, my mom works nights a good bit and Donny would be out drinking…I had the house to myself a lot,” she reasoned surely, then closed her eyes and smiled, “The first time I swear I thought SWAT teams were about to break through the window and catch me.”


She opened her eyes toward Willow, grinning.


“Then it was like a naughty little secret. I liked to read some erotic stories…the ones with good spelling, anyway. They gave me ideas and stronger fantasies…so I figured out what I liked with a little experimentation. That may be what you were recognizing…I didn’t know what I was doing…I just knew what I liked.”


Willow’s chest was flushed and hiding a steadily thumping heart.


“I’m glad I didn’t know you were reading dirty stories across the street. I think I would have imploded.”


She glanced downward at Tara’s body as if just remembering she was still naked.


“Kinda getting me going actually.”


“Yeah?” Tara asked encouragingly, moving just a little closer so the outs of their thighs brushed, “How would you normally start?”


Willow closed her eyes and lifted her hand into the air. After a brief hesitation and slight false start, she brought it straight between her legs.


“Have you ever tried…taking the scenic route?” Tara suggested softly.


Willow cracked an eye open uncertainly and Tara took in a soft breath. She let her hand slide across her own belly and slowly crept up toward her breasts. Willow mimicked her movements and felt her body start to respond.


After a few squeezes, her nipples hardened and Willow started to get it. She’d never made herself feel all over her body before. It has always been swift and localized and definitely didn’t have this delightful anticipatory tingling.


Watching Tara do the same to herself definitely wasn’t hurting.


Her hand drifted south at the same pace as Tara’s and as soon as she found her clit again she started rubbing hard, desperate for some contact. Her body was tight and hot from all of the build-up.


Almost immediately she felt Tara’s hand cover hers and slow it down. She whimpered.


Why was Tara torturing her? Didn’t she say the whole point was being in control? She wasn’t in control when Tara’s hand was taking over!


Then almost immediately, she felt Tara angle her hand and give her some relief again by making her do two forward rolls fast and one long one back again with three fingers. Willow thought she must have stained the sheet with the intense warm gush that flowed out of her.


She groaned for the entire length of the back and forth movement. It was a perfect loop of pleasure around her abdomen and dipping lower; over and over and over again.


“There you go,” Tara whispered and kissed Willow’s cheek.


Willow felt the wisp of Tara’s lips on her skin and then she was gone; her hips swaying out of bed and out of the room.


Through a curtain Willow hadn’t even noticed was there before.


She heard a shower start to run and realized their room upgrade included a private bathroom. She really must have had the get-a-roomy eyes to not have noticed that before.


She stared at the curtain for a moment, imagining Tara stepping under the spray. Throwing her head back. Running her hands down her body…


Her eyes closed again, mind flashing with all kinds of fresh images and she felt shots of pleasure shoot to her toes when her fingers picked up their pace again.


She’d felt this before, with Tara, but she was starting to understand what Tara meant about the indulgence of it just being for you. For something that had felt so out of her control for so long, getting comfortable with herself was a whole new layer of relief.


Though admittedly she was still really focused on the physical one starting to push her over the edge.


In the end, it wasn’t the blinding fireworks and emotional eruption that sleeping with Tara was, but it was good and comfortable and satisfying and she retained a sated smile on her face as her arms bent under her head. She lay nude feeling no need to hoist up the covers.


A few minutes later, Tara appeared back from behind the curtain in a towel with her hair very lightly spritzed with water. She smiled at Willow and laid down beside her wordlessly.


Willow slipped her hand into Tara’s and returned a soft smile.


They looked at each other silently for another minute or so before Willow squeezed Tara’s fingers and spoke up just enough that she could be heard between them.


“Thank you, Tara.”


“Thank you,” Tara returned and leaned in to kiss Willow’s cheek again, lingering as Willow nuzzled.


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


“How’d it go?”


Willow grinned in a way that managed to be both bashful and proud.


“Pretty good.”


“Cool,” Tara replied, her eyes creasing happily, almost looking like a wink.


“Cool,” Willow returned evenly, nodding to herself.


She bit inside her lip, looked down at Tara’s thighs peeking out from the towel and back up at Tara’s face.


“So…did you?”


“Maybe,” Tara replied coyly.


“Cool,” Willow nodded again, fixing her gaze up on the screen.


Her lips flared through a long breath, then her head turned back to Tara. After a micro-second she suddenly pounced on top of Tara, giggling.


“Oh, come on, tell me! You knew I was!”


Tara writhed against the attack, matching Willow’s laugh.


“Use your imagination!”


“It’s all worn out!” Willow protested, poking Tara in various points through her towel.


They bounced and laughed together for the rest of the night, behind a door adorned with the words:


‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage’.


And inside a wall that told them:


'สุขอื่นยิ่งกว่าความสงบไม่มี'




Image


Image

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 26th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:19 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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Topics: 2
Location: North Carolina, USA
DIBS.

Very hot. Liked the Easter egg of the Jr. Partner.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 26th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2019 12:16 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 225
Quote:
“I’m sorry I have so many bathroom-related emergencies.”


“Getting you toilet paper is the, um, most favorable outcome when you tell me you have a bathroom emergency,” Tara replied kindly

:laugh I'm not sure if we want to know the stories behind these remarks (apart from the "peeing in her swimsuit"-incident we already learned about)…
It certainly is a contrast to the confidential-verse where Tara seemed to be the only one of the two who ever had to use the toilet (and I'm probably weird for noticing something like that in stories).

The incident in the seedy "night-club" was scary, thank god they got out of there safely and only lost the obviously not that big amount of cash Willow had in her wallet.

I'm sure you did many research and there really are vending-machines for used women-underwear in Asia - gross!
Quote:
“You have to admit, it’s a pretty impressive turnaround time from acquisition to sellable product. Their business model is efficient,” she said, then quickly looked away at the non-verbal response she received from Tara, “Or not.”

:laugh Anya certainly would agree with you, Willow! I can already imagine Anya trying to install those vending-machines throughout the whole USA...

There lovemaking was super hot again :drool , yay for their very private new year-party!

Quote:
Tara’s eyelids flickered with emotion and she offered a comforting caress to Willow’s face.


“Would you want me to feel stupid if the roles were reversed?”


Willow shook her head and Tara placed a quick, soft kiss on Willow’s lips.


“Your new year's resolution should be to treat yourself the way you'd treat me.”


Willow had never considered that method. It had merit.


“Okay. I’ll tr—” she paused and blinked once, really considering the vow she was making, “I will. I’ll do that. Will you help me? Remind me?”


“I will,” Tara returned sincerely, glancing down at her fingers drawing a lazy circle on Willow’s hip before moving up to meet Willow’s eyes again, “What should mine be?”

Quote:
She turned her head in on the pillow and kissed Tara softly.


“Do what makes you happy.”


I loved that they gifted each other with the new-year-resolution, that will strenghten the determination to keep it - especially Willow will still have difficulties with hers, I'm sure.

Quote:
“Remember what your report cards used to say? I do because they were always framed in your hallway,” she joked, her lopsided smile turning sultry as she danced her fingers up Willow’s arm, “‘Attentive…dedicated…always picks things up on the first try’.”

It actually surprised me a bit that Willow's parents framed and hung up those cards (to show their pride ?), I would have thought Sheila would dismiss those cards because she expected nothing less of her daughter.

Quote:
“I just feel like the…the junior partner.”


Tara’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but not without sympathy.


“Do…I act like…the big knowledge woman?”


“No,” Willow replied quickly.


Tara frowned.


“Is that no spelled Y-E-S?”


Willow glanced downward.


“S-O-R-T of.”

Like taranwillow4ever I spotted the canon-easteregg - and was glad that here it leaded not to a fight but an honest, valuable conversation about a very intimate subject.
They've really come a long way that they are able to openly talk about masturbation and Willow's "unhealthy" experiences with it. I'm glad that Tara could help Willow to come to the realisation that it's nothing to feel guilty for or be embarassed about and doesn't indicate deficiencies in their love-life as a couple. I loved that Tara "gave Willow a hand" :wink in "working out the logistics" :laugh at the beginning but then left to let her finish on her own.

Quote:
She’d felt this before, with Tara, but she was starting to understand what Tara meant about the indulgence of it just being for you. For something that had felt so out of her control for so long, getting comfortable with herself was a whole new layer of relief.

Quote:
In the end, it wasn’t the blinding fireworks and emotional eruption that sleeping with Tara was, but it was good and comfortable and satisfying and she retained a sated smile on her face as her arms bent under her head. She lay nude feeling no need to hoist up the covers.

YAY!

I guess their next stop will be India? I'm looking forward to their adventures there.

Oh, in my last comment I forgot to mention how thrilled I was that you hinted on planning a sequel to this story:
Quote:
By mention, yes (and all of these 'mentions' are written with the intention that more will be written later)

:applause :banana :dumbo Count on me as an avid reader of a sequel!


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 26th 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 9:47 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Posts: 129
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Location: Pacific Northwest
Wow, Southeast Asia has definitely been, um, interesting for them!

when Willow found their door unlocked, I thought for sure they had been robbed- I've been robbed from my room in a foreign country- so not fun
I didn't expect it to just be their bras and panties- I mean, better than money and electronics in the long run- but how violating and squicky! Glad they got out of there stat

Tara is a lovely goddess in both religions :) I appreciate you brought Wicca into this- its such a part of who they are

Quote:
Standing quickly lest she risk the most heinous swirly of her life

:laugh :laugh :laugh what's a swirly?

Quote:
“Are you trying to charm me from your bathroom stall?” Tara asked, her crooked smile apparent in her voice.


A moment passed before Willow spoke again, very aware of the dichotomy of what she was doing and what she was saying.


“Is it working?”


Another beat.


“Yes.”


these little exchanges are so cute and sweet and quirky

Quote:
They set off in a run back toward the hostel and Willow whipped out the underwear to use as a rain guard over her.


“Seriously Willow?!” Tara shrieked.

:laugh :laugh :laugh :laugh :laugh I laughed so hard at this!!! this update had so many good lol moments

and the intimacy at the end was so lovely, that takes an immense amount of trust and every little bit brings them closer and closer. Beside, who wouldn't get into themselves (ahem) watching Tara do the same? Because wow.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Nov 26th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
DIBS.


Woo and hoo!

Quote:
Very hot. Liked the Easter egg of the Jr. Partner.


Thanks! I'm glad you liked it!

Thanks for commenting :)

Will's redemption

Quote:
:laugh I'm not sure if we want to know the stories behind these remarks (apart from the "peeing in her swimsuit"-incident we already learned about)…


:laugh I think she was referring more to the potential scenarios than anything unpleasant Willow has actually subjected her to (...so far)

Quote:
It certainly is a contrast to the confidential-verse where Tara seemed to be the only one of the two who ever had to use the toilet (and I'm probably weird for noticing something like that in stories).


Image Image Image I actually made a point of Tara peeing in that fic because of the trauma she had as a child with UTIs, so I don't think you're weird, it was on purpose!

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The incident in the seedy "night-club" was scary, thank god they got out of there safely and only lost the obviously not that big amount of cash Willow had in her wallet.


And based on true events, though thankfully not that happened to me because I would 1000% be beaten up in a dumpster somewhere in that scenario.

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I'm sure you did many research and there really are vending-machines for used women-underwear in Asia - gross!


There are...and I concur completely!

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:laugh Anya certainly would agree with you, Willow! I can already imagine Anya trying to install those vending-machines throughout the whole USA...


OMG you're so right...*adds to notes*

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There lovemaking was super hot again :drool , yay for their very private new year-party!


All kinds of fireworks

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I loved that they gifted each other with the new-year-resolution, that will strenghten the determination to keep it - especially Willow will still have difficulties with hers, I'm sure.


And not just for the year, for life. But they get easier when you're more aware of them and have someone safe to work them out with

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It actually surprised me a bit that Willow's parents framed and hung up those cards (to show their pride ?), I would have thought Sheila would dismiss those cards because she expected nothing less of her daughter.


True, true. I do think Ira is a bit more of a 'hang the picture on the fridge' kinda guy though. Maybe he just framed them in his study and Tara's kiddie memory doesn't remember that specifically :)

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Like taranwillow4ever I spotted the canon-easteregg - and was glad that here it leaded not to a fight but an honest, valuable conversation about a very intimate subject.
They've really come a long way that they are able to openly talk about masturbation and Willow's "unhealthy" experiences with it. I'm glad that Tara could help Willow to come to the realisation that it's nothing to feel guilty for or be embarassed about and doesn't indicate deficiencies in their love-life as a couple. I loved that Tara "gave Willow a hand" :wink in "working out the logistics" :laugh at the beginning but then left to let her finish on her own.


I was unsure about broaching the topic to be honest, but when I was writing the chapter I was watching this show about this guy complaining that his wife was 'cheating' on him with herself and I just thought it was the stupidest display of unhealthy sexual attitudes and the whole point of this fic has been to show these two people learning how to have a healthy relationship together and, yeah, this came out of a frustrated response to that!

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YAY!

I guess their next stop will be India? I'm looking forward to their adventures there.


Good eye, exactly right!

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Oh, in my last comment I forgot to mention how thrilled I was that you hinted on planning a sequel to this story:

:applause :banana :dumbo Count on me as an avid reader of a sequel!


There's a time lapse between the last chapter of this fic and the epilogue and I would definitely love to come back and fill in that time in some way, shape or form. Thank you so much for the support!

And thanks for the feedback!

shirrey

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Wow, Southeast Asia has definitely been, um, interesting for them!


Culture shock, to say the least :laugh Who would want to read about uninteresting adventures?

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when Willow found their door unlocked, I thought for sure they had been robbed- I've been robbed from my room in a foreign country- so not fun


Incredibly not fun.

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I didn't expect it to just be their bras and panties- I mean, better than money and electronics in the long run- but how violating and squicky! Glad they got out of there stat


I think when traveling like this, you learn when to cut and run.

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Tara is a lovely goddess in both religions :) I appreciate you brought Wicca into this- its such a part of who they are


It's something I've never really been able to before, given I generally don't write canon fics for these two but having Tara's mother here opens up a new arena. They're never going to be magick-magical because this isn't a supernatural world, but I can definitely see some Wicca being brought into holiday traditions etc especially when...oops, spoiler :wink

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:laugh :laugh :laugh what's a swirly?


Oh boy...I will let urban dictionary explain for me: (apologies for offensive language)

Image

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these little exchanges are so cute and sweet and quirky


I like those words, those are good W/T words :D

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:laugh :laugh :laugh :laugh :laugh I laughed so hard at this!!! this update had so many good lol moments


Thank you!

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and the intimacy at the end was so lovely, that takes an immense amount of trust and every little bit brings them closer and closer. Beside, who wouldn't get into themselves (ahem) watching Tara do the same? Because wow.


It does and it takes a willingness to shed some societal norms, something which Willow has clearly internalized a lot in the past. It was a little moment, but a big step for her. And yeah, her, um, source material was certainly stimulating enough :wink

Thanks for your feedback!



Update On Next Page

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