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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:07 pm 
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I'm curious as to what makes Donny an ass without his dad around. Great update, can't wait for more!

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:56 pm 
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Are you a psychologist? You should be. I want to go to you for therapy :lol You're really good!

Actually I'm a lawyer specialized on Family law…

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All I'll say is I think you'll approve of where his story goes :)

Good to know! :)

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I mean, uh, they don't even know I exist, right? I know all about them, but…”


Willow’s shoulders tensed but she worked not to make it show up in her voice.


“Hey…”


Tara ducked her head.


“I-I mean, t-that's totally cool. It-it's good. It-it's better.”

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“Tara, it's not like I don't want my friends to know you. It's just… well, Buffy's like my best friend, my other best friend and she's really special. And there's this whole bunch of us, and we sort of have this group thing that revolves around school, and-and I, I really want you to meet them. But I kind of like having something that's just, you know, mine. And I, I usually don't use so many words to say stuff that little, but do you get that at all?”


Tara inhaled softly.


“I do.”


She glanced down at the half-heart hanging from her wrist. She rubbed her thumb over it for a moment before looking up again, where Willow had gone back to the silverware. Willow had said something similar before, the night they ‘first’ kissed. Did Willow even know it was true?


She watched Willow move back to folding napkins and raised her head a little.


“I am, you know.”


“What?” Willow asked, without looking up.


Tara breathed the word so softly it was almost inaudible.


“Yours.”

:flower I LOVED that dialogue in the Show and am happy that you used it here.

I must admit though that I don't understand that Tara doesn't know Xander. If Willow became friends with both of them when she was still a toddler / kindergarten-child, I can't imagine her deciding back then that she wanted to keep her two "best buddies" seperate. And why didn't Tara visit the same kindergarten and elementary school as Willow and Xander?. You wrote she visits a special school for performing arts, but I would think that is some special highschool?

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Patience.


She sometimes felt cursed with falling in love with her best friend but figured she was already ahead of the curve by having some of the feelings returned. So patience was her friend. Only Willow could figure out what she truly wanted and either way, Tara was at the end of the road as a friend or a lover.


All she could do was try to make the journey as smooth as possible and make sure she didn’t influence the direction.


Sometimes love meant holding in your pain while they worked through theirs. You have to trust they’ll be there when it’s your turn.


Tara trusted.


More than anything in this world, she trusted Willow. And so she took in a deep breath, remembered that smile that had lit up Willow’s face and trusted that one day Willow would allow herself to embrace those emotions for more than minutes at a time.


Patience.


Wow, Tara really is an angel in disguise…

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Willow felt like she was in a bubble that was being threatened with a big needle, ready to burst it at any moment.

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“The whole reason I want to travel is to see life outside of my bubble…


Great use of the same image showing the great difference in their emotional state: Willow wishing to stay in a small bubble alone with Tara and Tara wishing to break free from her home / childhood. Although I am wondering a bit if Tara is aware that this would also mean leaving Willow behind for a long time and that her plans for this trip might feel like a deadline for Willow to figure out what future she truly wants with Tara ("decide before she leaves because otherwise she might never come back to you…"), which doesn't fit with her "patience-plan".

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“When you go to college, are you going to become a guidance counselor?” Tara asked, receiving a confused shake in return, “Then would you mind not counseling me?”


Willow noted the clipped tone and dropped it.


For Tara-standards this sounds really snippy, I guess she doesn't talk like that with Willow often...

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“You got 1360! 610 math, 750 English!!”


I have no idea how good this is, is it the aquivalent of a B or an A even? How many points did Willow get?

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Willow shook her head. College was just what you did. There was a linear progression through life and college was a very defined part through high school and grad school, or maybe straight through to a career, though any career that was acceptable for Willow to have would require grad school.


Acceptable to who?


I get that Willow right now might doubt all her plans for the future but I'd say she should stick to attending college and afterwards grad school for her own sake, not beacause of her parents' expectations. She is no artist but a scientist / computer-genius and therefore shouldn't quit her education just to prove she is "her own boss" or something.

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“Want me to shut that brain off?”


Willow blinked slowly and exhaled a breath as her head turned toward Tara.


“Yeah.”


She turned her body closer and Tara met her the rest of the way, closing the connection mouth-to-mouth.


They engaged in some mindless making out, but with hearts full of what words just couldn’t convey.


Yet.


:wtkiss :flower Love the emphasis on the "Yet."

I'm looking forward to the next chapter, wondering if the girls will celebrate hanukka and / or christmas together.
Maybe Donny will have a visit from 3 ghosts at christmas-night? But I guess that would be too easy, lol.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:00 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
DIBS :clap I loved how you incorporated the Buffy dialogue into this story. Donny wasn't as horrid, which was nice.


He knew pie was coming :lol

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This submission was less emotional for me, it was more peaceful. I am loving the story. I, for one, would come to the board daily to read your writing, maybe go to a 3 a week posting? Great story, thanks for writing.


Well I take that compliment on board, believe me :)

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So true...


Tough sometimes, but true.

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Ok, Weird question, but do they have whipped cream in Ireland that doesn't need to be refrigerated? Where I live, whipped cream/ whipped toppings would be soft, drippy goo if it had been in Willow's room and then Tara's room. It would not make a nice pie topping.


Yes! UHT aerosol cream. Pretty much the only cream you can find in a can over here :)

Thanks for commenting!

leftindust

Quote:
I'm curious as to what makes Donny an ass without his dad around.


You will find out, I promise!

Quote:
Great update, can't wait for more!


Thank you so much and thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

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Actually I'm a lawyer specialized on Family law…


That is impressive and I'm sure that you see more than your share of the human psyche at play.

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Good to know!


Oh man I hope it doesn't disappoint now :lol but it's not a 'bad' direction', as you expressed concern for.

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:flower I LOVED that dialogue in the Show and am happy that you used it here.


I think it's my favorite W/T dialogue. I just love it so much. Their facial expressions, everything about the scene.

Quote:
I must admit though that I don't understand that Tara doesn't know Xander. If Willow became friends with both of them when she was still a toddler / kindergarten-child, I can't imagine her deciding back then that she wanted to keep her two "best buddies" seperate.


She did, and why will be explained.

Quote:
And why didn't Tara visit the same kindergarten and elementary school as Willow and Xander?. You wrote she visits a special school for performing arts, but I would think that is some special highschool?


She went to the same elementary and they were in the same grade but different classrooms (Willow didn't orchastrate this, it just happened). Xander I think would know Tara to see her but they've never hung around each other enough to have a full conversation. It was pretty easy for Willow to keep them apart outside of school - she just went to his and Jesse's houses instead of inviting them to her own. At school, all she had to do was avoid common areas and never introduce them to each other and they wouldn't know they were both friends with her. Did this take a lot of effort and anxiety in such a deep, subconscious way that it fucks up your entire perception of yourself? Well, let me present you the complete ball of angst Willow has become...

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Wow, Tara really is an angel in disguise…


Is this news? :lol

Quote:
Great use of the same image showing the great difference in their emotional state: Willow wishing to stay in a small bubble alone with Tara and Tara wishing to break free from her home / childhood.


If only they could have a bubble they fit in together.

Quote:
Although I am wondering a bit if Tara is aware that this would also mean leaving Willow behind for a long time and that her plans for this trip might feel like a deadline for Willow to figure out what future she truly wants with Tara ("decide before she leaves because otherwise she might never come back to you…"), which doesn't fit with her "patience-plan".


Right now Tara seems them as two different facets of her life but as time goes on she'll see that one is going to effect the other and will start to try and reconcile it.

Quote:
For Tara-standards this sounds really snippy, I guess she doesn't talk like that with Willow often...


I should have clarified this better but Tara said this with a smile. Her tone was still pointed and she would have given Willow a raised-eyebrows look but it wasn't overtly snippy or aggressive, more like a firm-but-friendly 'can you drop it please?'. Also you are 1000% correct that Tara does not get angry or anything like it with Willow often at all.

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I have no idea how good this is, is it the aquivalent of a B or an A even? How many points did Willow get?


It places you in the top 93rd percentile. A perfect score is 1600 and I'm betting Willow got pretty darn close to perfect.

Quote:
I get that Willow right now might doubt all her plans for the future but I'd say she should stick to attending college and afterwards grad school for her own sake, not beacause of her parents' expectations. She is no artist but a scientist / computer-genius and therefore shouldn't quit her education just to prove she is "her own boss" or something.


Not doing something to spite her parents would be the same misplaced idea as doing it just to get her parent's attention. This fic is not about channeling her insecurities onto a new path. It's about overcoming them to discover who she truly is.

Quote:
:wtkiss :flower Love the emphasis on the "Yet."


Such a hopeful word, isn't it?

Quote:
I'm looking forward to the next chapter, wondering if the girls will celebrate hanukka and / or christmas together.


I'll preempt this by saying I think Ira in particular would not be okay with Willow celebrating Christmas and only wanting family around for Hanukkah, hence why I jump to the point that I do in this chapter.

Quote:
Maybe Donny will have a visit from 3 ghosts at christmas-night? But I guess that would be too easy, lol.


:lol that’s genius actually!

Thanks so much for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 3rd 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:00 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 7



December



And I Don't Want The World To See Me
'Cause I Don't Think That They'd Understand



Willow finished tying the last gold balloon to the wall and jumped down the last rung of the step-ladder she’d been standing on.


“Don’t jump like that, Willow. It’s inelegant. And where’s the dress I picked out for you?”


Willow snapped the ladder into a flat form and made sure any eye-rolling was not in her mother’s vision.


“I’m going to get changed and Tara’s going to help me with my—”


“Oh, are Terri and Kerri coming?” Sheila interrupted, “I hope that delinquent son of hers knows he’s not invited. I’m not starting off a New Year dealing with his teenage alcoholism.”


Willow didn’t even know where to start with that list of offensive statements, but she wasn’t given a chance anyway as Sheila picked up one of the hors-d'oeuvres and peered at it with scrutiny undeserved of a plate of pastries.


“What are these? They’re supposed to be wild mushroom bouchees.”


Willow came over and pursed her lips to hide a grin.


“Um…I think these are pigs in blankets.”


The doorbell rang in the background, while Sheila dropped the little wrapped piggy and held her hand like she’d been contaminated.


“Oh, those inept caterers. Do not let your father see this. I’ll get rid of them.”


Willow didn’t need to be told twice.


They still didn't go back to the restaurant where Ira had accidentally been served real bacon instead of turkey bacon. And she hadn't even been in double digits when it happened.


Willow didn’t keep kosher herself, but only in secret. Besides, Ms. Maclay made really nice pigs in blankets for her sometimes and the ones being thrown into the trash didn’t look like they could be any competition. The weenies looked a little, well, weenie.


She skidded out of the room to answer the door, but her father was already there. Willow tugged the living room door closed behind her and Ira glanced over.


“There you are, Willow. I was just saying hello to your friend.”


He stepped aside and Willow’s face lit up.


“Tara.”


She hadn’t seen her…


She hadn’t seen her Tara in a while with the holidays keeping them both with their families. She rushed over and, forgetting herself, threw her arms around the girl. When Ira cleared his throat to indicate the cool breeze being let in by the open door, Willow pulled back with a blush.


“Um, Tara’s going to do my make-up.”


Buffy had always done it in the past but Buffy had still been…unavailable of late and Willow had been a little unavailable herself.


Willow could have done her own make-up, but she wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to hang out with Tara. Plus, she liked Tara’s unique flair.


“Not too much now,” Ira advised as he shut the door.


Willow threw him some side-eye.


“Dad, I’m nearly an adult.”


He pulled her into him, her head hitting against the top tuft of chest hair protruding from the top open buttons on his shirt.


“You’ll always be my little girl.”


“Dad!” Willow protested loudly, pushing away and grabbing Tara’s hand to tug her along, “Um, don’t go in there.”


She pointed at the living room door.


“You’ll get roped into…straight stuff,” she said, her eyebrows lifting in horror as she contemplated her words, “Like, like, straightening stuff. Like…the streamers! And balloons.”


Ira nodded and walked off in the other direction, lifting either side of his undone bowtie and approaching the mirror in the hallway.


“Fair warning, thank you, Willow.”


“We better hurry upstairs,” Tara interjected, lips quirked up on one side, “I’m not very good at straight stuff.”


Willow’s cheeks flamed and she stared wide-eyed at Tara for a moment before pushing on her back toward the stairs. She closed the door behind her and watched as Tara unzipped her backpack on the bed, chuckling.


Part of her was angry for teetering way too close to the edge of a revelation she was nowhere near ready for, but most of her listened to Tara as she laugh and the angry burn turned to sizzling desire. She flicked the lock, a reflex at this stage, and strode over, standing just behind her.


Tara put an eyeshadow palette down and turned the rest of the way to face her.


“Hey, you.”


And Tara kissed her, with the achingly soft purpose that filled all of their kisses; that made Willow feel like they were lifted off their feet and floating. Tara-thirst was very real and the quench was the most satiating of experiences. She was so lost she didn’t even realize Tara had parted from her and was speaking.


“Huh?” she asked, not-so-elegantly.


“Did you have a nice Hanukkah?” Tara repeated, stroking a brush against her palm to get off any residue.


“Oh,” Willow replied, blinking several times, “Um, yeah. How was Christmas?”


“Like every other holiday with my brother around. Actually, it was pretty nice. My mom made egg nog. She wasn't going to bring it over to you but I told her you'd come over for it. Don't want to be in your Dad's bad books,” Tara answered with a sigh that turned into a smile, “So what are you wearing tonight?”


Willow walked to her closet and opened the door, revealing the dress hanging on the back of it. It was silver and gold like Sheila’s color scheme and managed to be frumpy and clash horrendously with itself at the same time.


“Oh. It’s…it’s nice,” Tara said, trying not to react externally as she was internally.


She failed.


“Uh, oh, well, my mom picked it out,” Willow replied upon seeing the look on Tara’s face.


Tara reached out and ran her fingers along it, only making her cringe more.


“Do you have to wear it?”


Willow nodded sadly.


“It’s been picked out and approved.”


Tara motioned her head toward the closet in a silent ‘Can I?’ and Willow stood aside to give her access.


“Put the dress on,” Tara advised as she rooted through the contents of Willow’s wardrobe.


Willow went into her bathroom and reluctantly pulled the dress on. The tight shoulder straps and taffeta underskirt weren’t any more comfortable than the first time she’d tried it on. She robot-walked back into the room and was surprised to see Tara actually smile softly when seeing her, and not in the way Cordelia smirked when appraising her outfits.


“Wow, you really can make anything look beautiful.”


Willow didn’t blush, not on her cheeks, but somewhere much deeper inside that made her heart race with the extra flow of blood.


She looked down and took a side of each pleated skirt in her hands.


“But please tell me you can do…something?”


“I can do something,” Tara confirmed, and produced a small travel-sized sewing kit she carried around with her from the front pouch of her backpack ever since an unfortunate incident in school with a pair off tight pants she'd bought off the rack, “But it will need to be drastic.”


Willow let go of her dress and spoke easily.


“I trust you.”


Tara folded her arms cautiously. She'd made minor alterations to some of Willow's clothing before, but mostly just fixed the occasional tear.


“It-it's not like anything that we've ever—”


Willow smiled and put her hand on Tara’s arm.


“I trust you.”


Tara’s heart glowed, as Willow’s just had moments before and she gestured Willow forward. She had her do a turn and made the plan of attack in her head.


The first to get attacked with the scissors was the underskirt, being hacked away until the dress transformed from whatever mess it was before into a more free-flowing princess cut style (or the best she could do without ripping it to the seams completely). Willow was relieved at the immediate change in comfort.


She watched as Tara worked in a blur, snipping and pulling things here and there, completely ridding her of those ugly shoulder straps and repurposing them into a band around the waist, pulling more attention to Willow’s chest.


A necessary change, Tara thought.


Definitely not done for any selfish reasons.


If she had time and her real sewing machine, she could have really transformed that dress and take out the glaring back piece that looked like it had been plated in gold, cheap gold at that. Instead, she utilized a fuzzy white scarf to wear over Willow’s shoulders and let it fall down her front. She loved quirking up an outfit and that did it wonderfully.


She had Willow sit down to do her make-up and used a shimmering green, matching Willow’s eyelids to it so it emphasized the already beautiful green that shone around her pupils.


Then, again for totally non-selfish reasons, she gave Willow a deep red lip.


“Okay, go look,” she said, running a brush through Willow’s hair once to settle it.


Willow stood up and took two steps toward the mirror, then stopped still.


“Whoa,” she said, turning on her side and swishing the end of the dress, “I look…I mean, you did…”


She straightened up and gulped at her reflection. Where Buffy went dark and subtle, Tara went bright and vivid. Willow had been told she looked smoldering under Buffy’s palate but she looked dazzling under Tara’s and she liked that too.


“Whoa,” she repeated, eyes widening as she looked down and up again, “Gosh, look at those.”


Tara looked down shyly.


“I think you look amazing,” she said, then softer but not quite under her breath, “But I always think you look amazing.”


Willow glanced over, then found her feet and closed the gap. She put her hands on Tara’s shoulders and very softly pressed their lips together.


“You don’t just look amazing, you are amazing. You have no idea how talented you are. Seriously, I—”


The door handle jostled and then a hand smacked against the wood.


“Willow? Why is the door locked?”


Willow hurried over and opened the door to her mother.


“Uh, hi, sorry, didn’t want one of the caterers to stumble in here needing to use the bathroom,” she said, glancing away as she cringed at the telling off they’d probably gotten from Sheila, “Or to cry in.”


Sheila huffed.


“Well guests are arriving, you need to come downstairs,” she stated, then paused for a moment and really looked at Willow for the first time, “You look…”


She looked her up and down again, then nodded once. The closest thing to a compliment Willow had received outside of her schoolwork in a while. Sheila turned on her heels and headed back down to the party, while Willow sighed but was smiling to herself over her mother’s reaction.


“Well, have to go play the dutiful daughter.”


Tara kept her gaze downward as she packed her things up again.


“You should join a drama class. You’d be good.”


Willow paused and frowned.


“Was that…”


“Shade?” Tara finished for her, raising an eyebrow, but Willow’s brow just creased in confusion so Tara explained, “That’s what we call it when someone is being…sassy, I guess.”


Willow’s eyes narrowed slightly.


“Who’s ‘we’?”


Tara brushed it off without an answer.


“Don’t you need to go downstairs?”


Willow heard the music start to play and nodded. She wasn’t sure about their exchange, but there were more pressing matters.


“Are you staying?”


Tara glanced up.


“Do you want me to?”


Willow offered a confused smile. As if there was anything but one answer to that.


“Always.”


Tara smiled softly and nodded.


“I’ll be down in a minute.”


Willow threw a wink and turned out of the room.


Tara made herself look a bit more presentable with the make-up and took her sweater off so she was just in her dark jeans and flowing shirt. She slowly made her way through the throngs of people who had suddenly shown up. They all looked the same; suburban white couples in expensive clothes with fake nails and faker laughs. They were all academic associates of the Rosenbergs and notably, Kimberly was the only neighbor to attend, despite not being the only neighbor invited.


Willow was on her ‘rounds’, aka being shown off, so Tara slunk off into the corner by way of the hors-d'oeuvres. She'd had her fill of turkey leftovers at this point. At the end of the table, near the zucchini fritters, there was a sudden rush of silvery, gold fabric and then Willow was standing in front of her. Close.


Very close.


Dangerously close.


“Hide me,” Willow panted, eyes darting around enough that she didn’t notice Tara’s breath so heavy against her lips.


Tara gulped and looked down, shaking her head slightly to compose herself.


“Who am I hiding you from?” she asked, impressively coherent.


Willow puffed out a breath.


“Dickie Babcock.”


Tara’s eyebrow arched.


“What’s his real name?”


Willow met Tara’s gaze, pained.


“Dickie Babcock.”


Tara visibly winced.


“Ouch.”


A boy with greasy hair and a face that screamed ‘entitled’ walked by, but was more interested in the food so passed by without noticing. Willow exhaled a breath of relief.


Tara realized she recognized him from the country club and then put the name together, placing him and his family. She understood why Willow would want to avoid him.


“I’m almost done with the parentals, I think,” she said to Tara with an appreciative smile, “Think you could grab us a couple of sodas and find us some primo couch real estate? We can play ‘rate the most pretentious smile’.”


Tara eyed the floor, smiling.


“I think I can do that.”


Willow brushed past again as she was silently summoned by Sheila’s hand motioning her over. Tara poured a diet cola for each of them respectively, the easiest drink to access. She weaved her way through the crowd and couldn’t help stopping a foot from the Rosenbergs chatting to their friends, to watch the ripple of Willow’s back muscles as she tensed during the conversation. She so desperately wanted to reach over and relax that tension.


“…so thrilled that our Willow here got early decision into Harvey Mudd. Of course, with her genes…”


Another round of fake laughter hit the ceiling but Tara just felt a thick haze settle around her.


She pushed through to the closest object available for sitting, the loveseat, and stared ahead; working out what she’d just heard.


Finally, Willow found her again and gratefully took the cola and downed it in one go.


“Phew. I think I’ve paid my debt to society for any past and future crimes. Hey, think you could bunch up for a little Willow butt in there?”


Tara finally lifted her gaze.


“Did you get accepted to Harvey Mudd?”


“Oh,” Willow replied, paling slightly, “Um, yeah.”


She shrugged, but her face betrayed her.


“When did you find out?” Tara pressed.


“Couple of weeks ago,” Willow answered, looking around awkwardly.


Tara met Willow’s eye.


“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, clearly hurt, “That’s your dream school.”


“Yeah. It was. Is, I mean,” Willow corrected quickly, “We haven’t really seen each other.”


“In a few days,” Tara answered, “Not two weeks.”


Willow felt like she was being punched in the gut by the tone of Tara’s voice.


“Is it loud in here?” she asked, fanning herself with the scarf, “Do you want to go back upstairs?”


Tara was silent so Willow brushed her leg against her.


“Please Tara,” she said sincerely, “Let’s talk about this somewhere…quieter.”


Tara considered it, then nodded. She put the glass down and followed Willow back upstairs. She sat on the bed while Willow locked the door and hung the scarf from the back of it.


The room was painfully silent but Tara didn’t give Willow a reprieve and waited for her to speak.


“I didn’t purposefully keep it from you,” Willow said eventually, “I didn’t tell anyone but my parents, and only because they’d already opened the letter.”


Tara looked up with a creased brow.


“Why wouldn’t you tell people? I don’t understand. It’s your dream.”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“I guess I don’t want to think that far ahead right now.”


Tara stood and took Willow’s hands.


“Aren’t you happy?”


Willow stayed rooted to the spot, gazing into Tara’s eyes, grateful for the excuse to tell the truth.


“Yeah, I’m happy.”


Tara smiled softly; it’s not like she wasn’t used to Willow’s quirks.


“I’m so proud of you. C’mere.”


She cupped Willow’s face and kissed Willow’s lips and Willow was in heaven. A perfectly soft, plump, warm heaven. She pressed herself into it and Tara willingly pulled her in. Willow wasn’t expecting it and tumbled forward, making them fall onto the bed in a heap. Tara’s legs hung off but Willow was stretched across her entire upper body.


The smallest of conscientious hip rolls would have had her straddling Tara and pressing together fluidly. Instead, their bodies remained in inexperienced disarray but their faces stayed pressed close yet again that evening. Willow’s impulse was to scramble up with a chorus of apologies but heaven was right there staring her in the face.


Tara was in a much more precarious position. Not only was Willow on top of her, breath warm on her lips, but Willow’s cleavage was very much exposed and just a heaved breath away from thrusting into Tara’s face. She was trying so desperately not to look that her eyelashes seemed permanently fused to her lower lids.


Willow could feel a new heat burning between them, the embers from earlier stoking into a full-blown flame. It was new and terrifying and enthralling all at once. Willow was a teetering on panic but it quickly subdued and was replaced with excitement when Tara rolled them over and Willow experienced what it was like to have a warm body on top of her.


Her breath left her lungs for a moment, only returning when she gasped as Tara’s lips pressed into her neck and she knew what it felt like to be marked.


Never in her life had Willow been so aware of her ears as a tickling, thumping sensation sparked there and shot downward; further and further south each time Tara kissed her there. The collar on Tara’s shirt scratched her exposed collarbone and she had no idea how a brush of fabric could make her feel so wild.


She wasn’t sure she liked it.


Or, more accurately, she wasn’t sure that she liked that she liked it.


She used both hands to pull at Tara’s collar, which Tara took as being pulled back up and obliged with landing her lips to Willow’s mouth, really smearing her lipstick now. Willow moaned, a deep moan from the back of her throat. Her fingers tensed and there was a ‘pop’ as the first closed metal button on Tara’s shirt released from the pressure.


Tara pulled away from the kiss, flushed and looked down at the position of Willow’s hands. Thinking she was waiting for permission, Tara shyly nodded.


Willow’s eyes widened and she looked at her now quaking hands, putting together what the silent exchange meant.


She—oh, she’s saying I can…oh…OH…well…okay. They’re just boobs. I see my own all the time. No big deal.


She slowly pulled her hands further apart, nearly jumping each time a metal button popped. She didn’t dare look anywhere but Tara’s face until the shirt was just left hanging and Tara’s bra-clad breasts were just sitting there in view.


Willow’s eyes finally fell on them.


Her world would never be the same.


WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG, I WAS WRONG. WRONGY MCWRONGERSON. WRONG.


She hadn’t seen Tara in any state of undress since they were tweens when Kimberly took pity on her and brought her bra shopping with them when it was apparent Sheila wouldn’t make the time to. Willow had been jealous, then, of how Tara was developing. Now, envy was the last thing on her mind.


The swell of Tara’s breasts; the supple curve; the nipples she could see, hardened under the fabric all covered in that sweet, all-too-kissable skin.


This was too much.


Willow was INTO it and that was NOT OKAY.


Danger, Will Rosenberg. Danger!


She forced her eyes to look away; up, down, anywhere but the new direction of her affections. As her mind whirred, it was only further confused by a flash of something decidedly not-skin colored across Tara’s ribs.


“Wait…what?”


Tara looked down and immediately clutched both sides of her shirt, pulling them across each other to hide what had been seen. She turned her back to Willow, sitting on the edge of the bed, still catching her breath from their activities.


“Shit.”


There was silence for a full 30 seconds before Willow finally gathered herself enough to speak.


“Is that a tattoo?”


Tara slowly released the tight hold on her shirt until the black etchings on her skin were visible again.


It was a musical staff, notated in a way Willow couldn’t read. It stretched across Tara’s ribs, right under her breasts; the top, in fact, was hidden under the wire of her bra. It highlighted the taut muscles Tara had there from all her breath training.


Willow wanted to trace the lines and shapes but held back.


“Is it real?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.


Tara just nodded.


“When did you get a tattoo?” Willow asked again, hurt.


“Last summer,” Tara answered, a shallow echo to her voice, “At band camp.”


Willow’s brow creased.


“How? You were underage.”


Tara’s lips pursed before she answered.


“A friend knew someone.”


“A friend?” Willow prompted, knowing she was only getting snippets of the story.


Tara finally raised her gaze.


“A girl.”


Willow physically felt herself shatter.


“…oh.”


Tara immediately began shaking her head emphatically.


“It’s not…it wasn’t…nothing happened.”


Willow avoided Tara’s gaze, only minorly relieved.


“But you wanted it to,” she said quietly.


Tara shook her head again, closing her eyes like it might all go away.


“It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t…real. It was a reaction. I never had any real feelings for her.”


“You hid the tattoo so…” Willow replied accusingly, making Tara’s eyes snap open with anger.


“You hid your college acceptance.”


“I had a reason,” Willow retorted.


“I did too!” Tara replied, looking like she was near tears, “I was embarrassed, okay?”


She rubbed the heel of her hand against her eye to stop herself crying.


“I was heartbroken over our fight.”


Willow immediately felt a pang of guilt and allowed Tara time and space to continue speaking. After a minute or so, she did.


“She was the only person who was nice to me. Everyone avoided the weird crying girl who had to clear snot out of her saxophone. She’d just slip me a Kleenex and wait after classes so I’d have someone to walk to dinner with.”


Looking back, Willow would realize this was the moment she knew she was in love with Tara because her first reaction to hearing this was feeling grateful that someone had been kind to her love and not the feelings of jealousy that bubbled underneath.


Unfortunately, at that moment, the jealousy was still all too easy to access.


“We snuck off one night and got drunk. I convinced her to bring me to the guy who did her tattoo. It was this cool design, a feather floating around a flute—”


Willow stood up, her foot stomping on the way down.


“I knew you were going to meet a sexy flutist!”


Tara just looked bewildered.


“Why do you keep saying that?”


“Everyone knows they’re the sluttiest of the band players,” Willow replied snidely.


Tara gave Willow a look that Willow never wanted to see directed at her again: disappointment.


“That’s ridiculous and totally misogynistic and I just lost some respect for you.”


Willow knew that was true and looked down, crossing her arms over her chest.


“Sorry that I insulted your secret camp girlfriend.”


“Emmy wasn’t my girlfriend,” Tara protested, having to stop herself from adding on ‘are you?’, “She wasn’t anything but a friend. Yes, okay, I stupidly tried to kiss her because I was sloshed and she was nice and I was hurting so much. And she very politely turned me down and I was totally humiliated.”


She sniffed and it broke Willow’s heart.


“And I went back to my room and looked at my slideshow of photos of you and cried for the millionth time.”


Tara finally sought Willow’s gaze again.


“I was hurting and acted dumb but all it did was make me realize how much nobody could compare to you. You rejected me, pretty harshly—”


Willow looked away but Tara stayed on her.


“And you were still my whole world.”


Willow’s eyes moved back again because Tara’s eyes silently demanded it.


“Can you get that at all? Just…clutching onto something, anything, when you’re feeling lost? I know it was wrong and I know I would have hated it if we actually did kiss. But we didn’t.”


Willow’s arms fell to her side, then she dropped beside Tara on the bed with a ‘poof’ of utter deflation.


“Something…something similar happened to me.”


Tara didn’t even have to ask. Her forehead muscles tensed.


“Xander.”


Willow nodded slowly, regretfully.


“It was that day you left for camp,” she said and took in a breath like she would when she was about to release a babble, “I thought I could prove—”


Whatever she was going to say was suddenly gone, popped like a balloon.


“Well, it did the opposite of what I wanted it to.”


Tara didn’t want to feel tense. She wanted to be reasonable and understanding but her stomach burned, and not in the pleasant way it had earlier.


“So the reason you’re not speaking to Xander is that you slept with him and didn’t like it?”


Willow shook her head desperately.


“No—Cordelia walked in.”


“So it’s because he cheated on Cordelia with you and got caught,” Tara deduced, “She won’t let him speak to you?”


Willow’s eyes creased.


“Almost.”


Tara took a moment to respond.


“Sorry?”


“Almost cheated,” Willow corrected purposefully, “She walked in before I could do anything but surprise the shit out of Xander by jumping him. And I saw the look on her face…I thought I’d enjoy seeing Cordelia getting some comeuppance but I just felt sick. I thought I was going to throw up right on top of him. I ran, I was halfway down the street before I even heard Cordelia screaming. I haven’t spoken to him since. The idea of him hating me on top of everything else…”


She paused for a moment and swallowed.


“It was like this big slap in the face. I thought I had romantic feelings for him and friendship feelings for you but I’d completely inverted it. He was the friendship and you were the…”


Tara was stunned as she got her head around both of their revelations of the evening. It was a lot, but also completely nothing at all.


“…so we’re arguing over the fact that neither of us had sex last summer?”


It was funny, but Willow wasn’t in much of a laughing mood. She stood up and walked toward her balcony door.


“I need to cool down.”


Tara waited for a moment, then two, then stood up to follow Willow out.


She was sitting on the ground, legs bent and tucked under so her dress stretched over her knees and kept her modesty. She really did look stunning, if not a little morose at that moment.


Tara sat beside her, using the wall to guide her back down. She said nothing, but left her hand flat on the ground, near Willow’s. After a few moments, Willow covered it with her own.


Their fingers linked together and Tara scooted that tiny scooch closer so that there really wasn’t an inch between them. She looked out into the night sky and used their conjoined hands to point upward.


“Remember the ones we made up when we were little?”


Willow smiled softly and nodded. Tara returned it and sighed into the night.


“There's not a star left in the sky tonight that hasn't been wished on.”


She leaned her head on Willow’s shoulder.


“My wish would be to forget about our ‘almost’ mistakes…especially since I know mine meant nothing.”


Willow brushed their palms and looked into Tara’s eyes.


“And you know mine meant nothing if Xander is the best I can come up with as a surrogate.”


Tara frowned.


“You should try to talk to him. You were such good friends, maybe he’ll understand—”


Willow quickly shook her head.


“I see how Cordelia looks at me in school. I can't put him in that position again.”


“How does he look at you?” Tara asked softly.


Willow closed her eyes.


“I don’t wait long enough to find out.”


Tara thought Willow might be pushing Xander away in the same way she’d pushed her away, but honestly, she was just about managing their own situation without trying to intervene in another relationship.


“Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard.”


“No kidding,” Willow sighed on an exhale.


“But this didn’t,” Tara continued softly, “We cracked but we didn’t fall. And we mended.”


Tara turned her head to Willow.


“And I feel whole when I’m around you.”


Willow swallowed and met Tara’s eye.


“I feel like that too.”


Tara smiled; the smile that Willow loved when the corners of her mouth and eyes would crease; the smile that made Willow’s heart skip a beat; the smile that made her feel like if evoking it was her only accomplishment in life, she could die happy.


“I think that we came up with a good resolution,” Willow said, holding Tara’s hand a little tighter, “Forget the bad stuff.”


“And do what makes you happy,” Tara added softly.


Willow gulped at the weight of that and tried to relax. She leaned in and Tara met her halfway for a reunifying kiss. It wasn’t as heated as the kiss they’d parted from, but it was soft and sweet and everything they needed at that moment.


It was warming, enough to distract themselves away from their exposed skin, even in the cool winter evening. With just the moon to bathe them, they stayed tucked in the quiet corner of the balcony until a loud, obnoxious voice floated up to them.


“Hey, that you Rosenberg? I’m feeling generous if you want a smooch at midnight.”


Willow never moved so fast in her life. She shot up, twisting herself in the process and getting preciously close to going right over the railing had she had even a little bit more momentum. Tara caught her by the waist to stop her but was immediately shaken off.


Willow looked down at Dickie Babcock munching on a pile of pigs in blankets stacked in his hand that he must have raided from the trash. She pulled a face and with her heart hammering scoffed in his direction and turned on her heel to march back into her bedroom. Tara followed her, still in shock at how close she saw Willow come to tumbling off the balcony.


“Willow, you—”


“He could have caught us!” Willow hissed, pacing and wringing her hands nervously, “Anyone could have walked out and seen us!”


Tara stopped and swallowed.


“Would that be totally awful?”


“Yes!” Willow almost shouted, her hands smacking against her face in alarm, “Your top is open, oh my god, oh my god! What was I thinking, we can’t take our clothes off, anyone could walk in!”


Tara looked down and quickly began buttoning herself up again.


“The door is locked,” she said quietly.


“What if we forget?!” Willow asked in a fluster, “No way, no way.”


Tara finished fixing her shirt and walked over. She wasn’t sure Willow would be receptive to being touched, so she kept her hands by her side.


“Just breathe for a minute, baby. Breathe.”


Willow couldn’t help but respond to the comforting tone. It wasn’t the first time Tara had called her baby and it felt something akin to her heart melting and spreading its warmth throughout her whole body. It was a quick enough moment that she allowed herself to feel it and calm herself down.


She reined in her breathing but kept herself at a distance.


“I should be with my parents for the countdown.”


Tara just nodded.


“You should fix your lipstick,” she said, and fetched it for Willow, “Let me.”


She touched up Willow’s lipstick and wiped her neck of any residue of the lip gloss Tara herself had been wearing. Willow blushed as she realized what Tara was doing with the wipe.


“Thanks.”


“Don’t have to thank me,” Tara replied, pulling Willow’s hair forward at her shoulders.


Instead, Willow leaned in and rested her forehead on Tara’s chest for a moment.


Tara wrapped her arms around Willow and held on for them both.


With another quick once-over for anything out of place in their appearance that screamed ‘we were making out up there’, they headed back into the party which had thinned slightly but still had a lot of people filling out the large function room.


Tara decided to copy Willow and found her mother for the New Year countdown. She barely heard a single number as she watched Willow fend off Dickie’s advances, though it was obvious she didn’t need help and rebuffed him easily.


Tara didn’t even realize it was all over until her mother poked her and she heard the bars of Auld Lang Syne from some of the men in the room.


“Happy New Year,” Kimberly said, giving her daughter a sidelong hug, “Any resolutions?”


Tara looked down at the bracelet hanging from her wrist and glanced across the room to where its match was hanging off another.


“Believe,” she answered finally, dragging her gaze to her mother, “You?”


Kimberly smiled, it brightening her face as Tara’s smile did her own.


“I like yours. Can I borrow it?”


Tara chuckled.


“Sure.”


“I’m going to head home. I saw Donny’s bike come in a little while ago. Are you okay here or do you want to come with?”


Tara looked around; she knew no one but she also didn’t want to abandon Willow.


“I’m good. I’ll be quiet coming in.”


Kimberly nodded, kissed Tara’s head and went to say her goodbyes. She was lost in her own thoughts for a bit until she felt a glass being pressed into her hand. She looked up and Willow was smiling down at her.


“Cherry cola. Found a can of my secret stash. Are you bored? Do you want to pick the music? My parents are too tipsy to notice.”


Tara smiled naturally. That was a generous offer, considering how much she knew Willow craved her parents’ approval.


One of Willow’s greatest attributes was how thoughtful she was. The flip side of that was being full of thoughts, not always positive. Tara wished she could help with that.


“Thank you,” she said finally, taking the glass, “I’m okay…alone with my thoughts.”


Willow gave Tara a curious look, but accepted it and moved away again. Tara found the quietest corner, where she could still keep an eye on Dickie if needs be. She knew staying wasn’t all based on chivalry…in fact, it was all based on fear. She didn’t want to lose Willow to blind panic.


Not again.


Willow waved from across the room and Tara waved back.


She relaxed.


Her eyes and mouth creased.


She was happy. At that moment, with their eyes meeting across a room, she was happy.


And that was more than something to hold on to.


That was her anchor, and there was no letting go.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:58 pm 
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DIBS :bigwave Ok, I must be the President of the Laragh fan club, because I've been checking the board all day. I think there is about a 6 hour time difference... Another great chapter that made me experience the ups and down of your characters. A tattoo, the description sounds like a perfect tattoo for Tara. I must admit that I continue to absolutely hate Sheila and Ira as well. Willow's internalized homophobia is so strong. Poor kid.

Y
Quote:
ou’ll get roped into…straight stuff,” she said, her eyebrows lifting in horror as she contemplated her words, “Like, like, straightening stuff. Like…the streamers! And balloons.”
“We better hurry upstairs,” Tara interjected, lips quirked up on one side, “I’m not very good at straight stuff.”

LOL

Quote:
Their kisses; that made Willow feel like they were lifted off their feet and floating.
“It-it's not like anything that we've ever—”“I trust you.”

Great use of cannon.

Quote:
Willow could feel a new heat burning between them, the embers from earlier stoking into a full-blown flame. It was new and terrifying and enthralling all at once. Willow was a teetering on panic but it quickly subdued and was replaced with excitement when Tara rolled them over and Willow experienced what it was like to have a warm body on top of her.
Her breath left her lungs for a moment, only returning when she gasped as Tara’s lips pressed into her neck and she knew what it felt like to be marked.Never in her life had Willow been so aware of her ears as a tickling, thumping sensation sparked there and shot downward; further and further south each time Tara kissed her there. The collar on Tara’s shirt scratched her exposed collarbone and she had no idea how a brush of fabric could make her feel so wild.


She wasn’t sure she liked it.


Or, more accurately, she wasn’t sure that she liked that she liked it.

Kind of surprised that it is about three months after their first kiss and they are just exploring chests and ears... I admire Tara's patience. How embarrassing to be caught by Cordelia. I find the juxtaposition of them saying they didn't have sex either at band camp or with Xander and their slow progression of intimacy interesting.

Quote:
Looking back, Willow would realize this was the moment she knew she was in love with Tara because her first reaction to hearing this was feeling grateful that someone had been kind to her love and not the feelings of jealousy that bubbled underneath.


Great realization.

Quote:
“It was like this big slap in the face. I thought I had romantic feelings for him and friendship feelings for you but I’d completely inverted it. He was the friendship and you were the…”

The wonders of how similar friendship and love feelings can be. I think it can get even more confusing in same sex friendships. The pull of friendship is often similar to limerence.

Quote:
One of Willow’s greatest attributes was how thoughtful she was. The flip side of that was being full of thoughts, not always positive. Tara wished she could help with that.

This is Willow. Thoughts. Tara knows how to shut off Willow's brain.


I would think that Willow would want to go to college Far Far away from her parents. But I guess with Tara talking about not going to college, staying in CA is a way to stay near Tara, if she's not in Europe discovering herself.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:06 pm 
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Willows panic about being caught and Tara's reaction is just super painful. Tara's got a lot of strength, do wonder when that's going to break though if Willow keeps denialing all over the place. Can't wait for more!

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 2:58 pm 
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first off, sorry for the lack of feedback for the Thanksgiving chapter: Kimberly is in a hard spot, Donny is a shit and her two kids not getting along has got to be rough. Donny needs some tough love- or just you know, to come home to changed locks and all his belongings on the front lawn.
Yay for Tara's feistiness here- she won't be defined or pushed into a lifestyle by others- the exact opposite of Willow. We can see a lot of why in who their mothers are. Sheila is a piece of work and I am surprised Kimberly would even go over there considering the woman can't get her or Tara's name right- its only been, what 13/14 years??

And that party-whew- what a rollercoaster of emotions. Tara was passive aggressive and snippy- and I like it, it makes her more human. I like too that she doesn't back down from it either - like: yeah, Willow, I'm given you shade, it's a long time coming, can we actually be honest now??? this and her thought of are you my girlfriend? Fair question Tara, super fair question. I feel for them both.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:00 am 
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taranwillow4ever

Quote:
DIBS :bigwave Ok, I must be the President of the Laragh fan club, because I've been checking the board all day. I think there is about a 6 hour time difference...


:lol I'm sorry you kept having to check. Admittedly, I was late posting that last chapter because...well, I'll be real honest, I forgot :laugh. You're in NC right? I think we're 5 hours apart. But I do intend to post earlier for sure than last week!

Quote:
Another great chapter that made me experience the ups and down of your characters. A tattoo, the description sounds like a perfect tattoo for Tara. I must admit that I continue to absolutely hate Sheila and Ira as well. Willow's internalized homophobia is so strong. Poor kid.


Willow is dealing with a lot all at once, I agree, she could use a hell of a lot more support than she's getting.

Quote:
Great use of cannon.


Thank you! I like to pepper canon liberally.

Quote:
Kind of surprised that it is about three months after their first kiss and they are just exploring chests and ears... I admire Tara's patience. How embarrassing to be caught by Cordelia. I find the juxtaposition of them saying they didn't have sex either at band camp or with Xander and their slow progression of intimacy interesting.


Well, remember this is the first intimate relationship either of them has had. Three months for high school kids isn't too long I don't think (obviously some are doing it in three minutes!) But the real brakes come from Willow who is still trying to deny her feelings. It's a slowly unraveling ball of yarn.

Quote:
Great realization.


Just a little too late.

Quote:
The wonders of how similar friendship and love feelings can be. I think it can get even more confusing in same sex friendships. The pull of friendship is often similar to limerence.


I love the word limerence, thank you for reminding me of it! There can definitely be confusion (although obviously this is not the case here!)

Quote:
This is Willow. Thoughts. Tara knows how to shut off Willow's brain.


A skill she'll never lose!

Quote:
I would think that Willow would want to go to college Far Far away from her parents. But I guess with Tara talking about not going to college, staying in CA is a way to stay near Tara, if she's not in Europe discovering herself.


Harvey Mudd is a really good school for Willow's interests and she actually at this moment doesn't want to get away from them. She's still very much trying to please them and win their affection.

Thanks for your feedback!

leftindust

Quote:
Willows panic about being caught and Tara's reaction is just super painful. Tara's got a lot of strength, do wonder when that's going to break though if Willow keeps denialing all over the place. Can't wait for more!


She'll do her best but she's human too and it's a lot for her to deal with!

Thanks for commenting :)

shirrey

Quote:
first off, sorry for the lack of feedback for the Thanksgiving chapter


Sorry is so not necessary, I appreciate feedback in all manner of intervals :)

Quote:
Kimberly is in a hard spot, Donny is a shit and her two kids not getting along has got to be rough. Donny needs some tough love- or just you know, to come home to changed locks and all his belongings on the front lawn.


Unfortunetley I don't think she'll ever do that. Something might have to force her hand...

Quote:
Yay for Tara's feistiness here- she won't be defined or pushed into a lifestyle by others- the exact opposite of Willow. We can see a lot of why in who their mothers are. Sheila is a piece of work and I am surprised Kimberly would even go over there considering the woman can't get her or Tara's name right- its only been, what 13/14 years??


Exactly right on that timeframe. I think Kimberly is polite to a fault and also has been Willow's only consistent parent.

Quote:
And that party-whew- what a rollercoaster of emotions. Tara was passive aggressive and snippy- and I like it, it makes her more human. I like too that she doesn't back down from it either - like: yeah, Willow, I'm given you shade, it's a long time coming, can we actually be honest now??? this and her thought of are you my girlfriend? Fair question Tara, super fair question. I feel for them both.


Tara's trying to be real but Willow is only willing to do it at moments at a time. She's like one of those salt containers were you spin the top to have little openings, then closed again, then a big opening and zoop closed again. It's extremely difficult for Tara to know when those moments will happen and as patient as she is, it has to come out somehow.

Thanks for your feedback!



Update(s) Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

NOTE: A double feature to give you the second of three flashback scenes.

Chapter 8



The Night It All Began



Yes It Was Plain To See, Yes It Was Meant To Be



The first time they met did not start out as an occasion of joy.


In fact, Willow was pulled screaming and crying from her house and across the street.


She had been playing with her favorite abacus and what with it being attached to her wall, she couldn’t bring it with her. This resulted in her trying to squirm out of her father’s clutch, pulling his bowtie undone in the process.


Ira was trying his best to soothe her.


“Maybe I should stay home with her. You said you had a sitter—”


“Ira, you have to ignore the bad behavior at this age or it encourages the attention seeking,” Sheila advised, holding the end of her ball gown up so it wouldn’t get dirt on the hem.


“She’s not a dog,” Ira replied sullenly but smiled when the idea seemed to calm Willow down. He tickled her tummy, “Woof woof.”


Tears still stained the four-year-old’s cheeks but she smiled and cuddled into Ira. They arrived at the house across from theirs and Ira put Willow on her feet, holding onto her shoulders for support. Sheila rang the doorbell and a young woman barely out of her teens answered.


“Hello I'm Sheila Rosenberg, I live across the street—” Sheila started her spiel, stopping when the person on the other side wasn’t quite who she expected, “Oh, are you the babysitter?”


“No, I’m the resident,” the woman replied, trying to not show the signs of confusion as to why the well-dressed family she had seen walking in and out of their house, but had never actually spoken to, were doing on her doorstep, “How can I help you?”


Sheila’s eyes narrowed for a moment.


“The children here are yours?”


The woman’s face buckled into a concerned frown.


“Have they done something wrong?” she asked, noting little Willow’s tear-stained face and worrying about what one of her children, in particular, might have done to her, “Are you okay, sweetheart?”


“She’s fine,” Sheila dismissed and extended her hand again, “I’m Sheila, this is my husband Ira and our daughter Willow. We’ve been meaning to introduce ourselves.”


The other woman somewhat warily shook Sheila’s hand.


“I’m Kimberly.”


Sheila looked at Kimberly with barely-disguised pity.


“Is it just you and the children?”


Kimberly didn’t dour under the gaze; she’d endured a lot worse than a pretentious suburban neighbor.


“Yes, Donny and T—“


“So listen, Kerri,” Sheila interrupted and Kimberly thought she might have seen Ira wince, “The woman who lived here before you, so sad to see she’s passed on.”


“She just moved to Toledo to be closer to her fam—” Kimberly started but was once again interrupted.


Sheila seemed to like the sound of her own voice.


“Yes, well, she’s left us in a bit of a lurch. You see, she would watch over Willow here when we had events. And as you can probably tell from our dress, we have one tonight. Hosted by my university, we simply must attend. The sitter I had arranged has proven to be unreliable.”


Sheila took Willow and thrust her toward Kimberly. Kimberly instinctively held the crying child against her leg, stroking her hair in comfort.


“Oh—”


“She won’t be a bother, just put a book in her hands if she’s getting on your nerves, or a calculator works,” Sheila said, calling over her shoulder as she grabbed Ira’s elbow and led them both away again.


Kimberly watched them go in shock for a moment, then shook her head and bent down to Willow’s level.


“Do you want to come in and play, sweetie?”


“We’ll be back by 11,” Sheila called back, her voice carrying through the wind.


“We’re very grateful,” Ira added on, waving to Willow, who clung harder to Kimberly’s pants leg.


Kimberly rubbed Willow’s back, trying not to show her disdain for the young girl’s parents.


“Come inside, honey.”


She led Willow inside and to the living room, where a young boy was strewn across a bean bag watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV while a slightly younger girl was playing with her My Little Ponies.


“Did you say your name is Willow sweetheart?” Kimberly asked, and received a reluctant nod in return, “This is Donny and Tara. Tara, Donny, this is Willow. She’s come over to play for the evening.”


Donny barely looked up, but Tara did. Her hair was messily pulled into a zig-zag parting and could probably do with a cut to stop it falling into her eyes, but her gaze lifted and caught Willow’s eye.


Willow stared back, making Tara look away momentarily, but then she got the confidence to slowly approach.


“Hi, I’m T-Ta-ra.”


Willow looked Tara up and down and slowly extracted herself from Kimberly’s legs. Tara’s presence felt safer.


“‘m Willow.”


Tara’s little face was full of empathy for her scared new friend.


“Are you s-sad?”


Willow slowly nodded and Tara offered her open arms.


“Do you wan’ a h-hug? When I’m sad Momma gives me a hug and I, I feel bettah.”


Willow smiled and accepted. Tara’s hug made her feel like when she ate too much Jell-O and she liked it very much.


“Wanna play p-ponies?” Tara offered, prepared to give Willow her pick of the lot.


Willow shook her head furiously.


“I don’ like ponies.”


Tara didn’t seem too put out.


“Yur hair is pr-pretty,” she told Willow sweetly, “You look like d’Little Mermaid.”


Willow’s eyes lit up.


“She’s my fav’wit.”


Tara jumped up and down excitedly. She’d never had anyone to watch with before.


“We have d’vid-yo! Wan’a watch??”


Willow nodded eagerly.


“Yah!”


Tara went up to her brother.


“Don-nee, can we w-watch Ariel please?” she asked politely.


Donny just scowled.


“I’m watchin’ this!”


“Donny, you had the TV all day,” Kimberly advised from across the room, “Give your sister a turn, please.”


Donny jumped up and threw the remote across the room, barely missing the two girls’ heads.


“Donny!” Kimberly exclaimed as he stomped out through the kitchen to the backyard to kick his soccer ball against the wall.


She knew he was still confused about all the changes in their life lately and she couldn’t bring herself to discipline him harshly, so she let him go.


She set up the video for the girls and took a seat on the couch, taking out the newspaper she’d saved so she could look through the job section. Partway through the movie, Donny returned with his hands stuffed in his pockets.


“Mom I’m hungry. I want pizza.”


Kimberly put the newspaper down.


“You’ve had dinner. I can make you a snack—”


“I want pizza!” Donny repeated loudly.


Kimberly got up and discreetly checked her wallet, did some mental math and nodded with a sigh.


“Tara honey, Willow, will you eat some pizza?”


“Uh huh!” Tara replied cheerily.


“Yes pwease!” Willow replied a smile stuck on her face in stark contrast to when she’d first come in.


Kimberly smiled. It was nice to see at least one of her children happy. She called for a pizza and poured the kids some juice. Donny sulked up to his bedroom when it arrived, so Kimberly let the girls eat in front of the TV.


Willow giggled as Tara made the cheesy pizza stretch as far as she could make it. Tara seemed to enjoy making Willow laugh.


“Willow, ar’ yew my b-best friend now?” she asked shyly.


Willow nodded as she gobbled her bite of pizza.


“Are you mine?”


“Yeah I’m yours,” Tara replied with a bashful duck of her head.


She’d never had a best friend before, apart from Donny, but he didn’t seem to like her much lately.


Willow reached out and took Tara’s hand.


“Your hand makes my hand feel like sparkles.”


Tara giggled.


“Your hand makes my hand feel like unicorn magic.”


They played around pressing their hands together and giggling together each time they clasped.


A few hours later, they had passed out together on the couch, Tara’s slightly larger body spooning Willow’s. Kimberly covered them with a Flintstones blankie and kissed them both on the forehead.


When a knock came to the door, Kimberly braced herself to deal with the brazen Sheila again, but it was just a weary-looking Ira. He said hello and extended a hand with a fifty dollar bill in it.


Kimberly looked at it for a moment, then raised a hand to refuse.


“That’s…okay. Maybe our girls could keep playing together. We haven’t had a chance to make many friends yet.”


Ira smiled softly.


“That would be nice for Willow too.”


Kimberly offered an understanding look.


“They fell asleep together. Why don’t I bring her over in the morning?”


Ira just nodded cordially.


“Thank you. Was she a handful? Kids say the darndest things sometimes and she can be her own unique little person.”


“Have you ever listened close to the games they play, or the little songs they sing?” Kimberly replied affectionately, “You should have heard them tonight, they made up a little double act.”


“It’s nice to hear,” Ira smiled, “She often plays alone. Well, we’ll see you in the morning.”


Kimberly said goodbye, turned off all the lights and settled to sleep in the armchair. She didn’t like letting Tara out of her sight lately. She noticed the peaceful smile on her daughter’s face as she slept and it made her smile too.


She also noted the smile on Willow’s face, though she had no idea it was because it was the first night in months she wasn’t having nightmares about ponies.


Kimberly fell asleep for the first time hopeful for their future in this place.


The girls spent their first night ever in each other’s arms with no idea of just how much they would have to overcome to stay there.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 6th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 9



January



I Wanna Shout It From The Rooftops
(I Wish That It Could Be Like That)



Donny kicked the dirt under his boot as his bike yet again stalled instead of starting.


“Goddammit!”


He hurled his helmet off his head and stomped back inside, grunting along the way. If he was an actor being method for an upcoming zombie movie, he’d win an Oscar. But he wasn’t. He was just an asshole.


“Mom!” he called gruffly; a demand, not a request, “I need car keys.”


Kimberly came out from the kitchen, drying her hands on a dishcloth.


“What happened to your bike?”


“Needs juice,” Donny grunted.


Kimberly sighed to herself but didn’t push.


“Are they not at the door? Your sister took the car out yesterday.”


Donny scowled harder at the mention of Tara and bounded up the stairs.


“Stupid dumb bitch thinks she owns the place,” he muttered on his way up, before explosively barging his way past Tara’s bedroom door.


She wasn’t there. He snarled at her perfectly made bed and her perfectly tidy room and everything else that went along with Little Miss Perfect.


His eyes scanned the surfaces to see if he could spot the keys, but there was nothing. He tried to yank open the drawers, but Tara had become wise to him years ago and they were all locked. He dropped to his knees to peer under the bed, but it was barren under there.


Except for something buried away in the corner, seemingly forgotten and covered in dust. Donny reached, then hesitated. It was probably some nasty tissue that had slipped down from under Tara’s pillow, or worse, some old food wrapper that could have anything growing on it.


But it wasn’t often there was something misplaced in Tara’s room and curiosity got the better of him. He laid down flat on the floor and shuffled in enough that he could reach the far corner.


He was pleased to find on contact that it was just an old piece of crumpled paper. He flattened it out crudely and read the words scribbled.


The silly jokes you've said
Your different colored pens
The secrets you can't keep
The babble in your sleep
Some may call you strange
But me I'd never change
A thing
About you
Oh, about you



His eyes narrowed but he didn’t have time to do much but glance over it when Kimberly shouted up the stairs.


“Donny, did you even look? They’re right here.”


Donny paused for a moment, then stuffed the piece of paper in his pocket and hopped back up. He quickly opened his bedroom door to toss the paper in amongst the other mess, then bounded down the stairs, grabbed the keys from his mother’s clutch without a thank you and stomped out the door.


In a neighboring town, Tara was at her locker in the break room, changing out of her work uniform.


Another woman came in and offered Tara a smile, before going to her locker to retrieve a Vitamin Water. Her long, dark hair reached right down to her thighs when she bent back to pour the contents past her lips. When more than half was gone, she wiped her mouth, twisted the cap back on and returned it to her locker.


“Was that group hassling you, Tara? The young guys are always the worst.”


Tara shyly settled her fresh t-shirt over her hips and looked over her shoulder, shaking her head.


“They’re harmless. I’d take them over the snooty customers I used to have to serve any day.”


The other woman sighed for a moment, then straightened herself back up and fixed on a smile.


“Gotta get back out there. Just ran in between tables,” she said, waving her fingers as she headed for the door, “Have a nice evening.”


Tara smiled softly in farewell and grabbed a brown paper bag resting on the bench beside her.


“Thanks, you too, Nascha.”


She left out the back door, unlocked her bike from the stand, put the bag in the basket at the front and hopped on.


It was only a short ride to where she needed to go, a nice change from her usual slog back to Sunnydale.


She had to keep her mind on the prize; her lack of car meant more money going into her Big Trip fund, the round-the-world jaunt she’d been dreaming about since she was 12 and saving for almost as long.


Her mom had promised her the base ticket as her 18th birthday/graduation present but she was on her own for the rest, so every dollar saved was another dollar toward a life-changing experience.


She’d been working since she was legally allowed to at 14, stacking shelves until she turned 16 when she got the job at the country club. This job was the first outside Sunnydale but since she went to school out here, it evened up in terms of travel time to and fro.


Plus her calf muscles were super defined now from all the cycling.


She rode up the driveway at the house she was going to, waving to the man mowing the front lawn on the way.


“Hi Tara,” the man called over the mower, waving back.


Tara hopped off her bike and leaned it against the wall.


“Hi, Mr. Williamson.”


Mr. Williamson indicated with a thumb over his shoulder.


“He’s in the garage.”


Tara nodded gratefully, grabbed the brown paper bag and walked around to the garage. The door was closed, so Tara knocked on the metal, then bent down and opened it upward. The whole garage had been converted into a mini-studio, fitted with instruments and equipment for recording. Tara dreamed of having a space like it and utilized it whenever Nate asked her over.


He was standing behind a keyboard and sent a bright smile across the space as she walked in. Tara waggled her fingers and pulled the garage door down behind her.


“Hey Tare,” Nate greeted, his fingers skimming across the keys before settling into place, “What do you think of this?”


His fingers pressed smoothly across the keys and his deep, dulcet voice sang along with the jaunty tune.


“Hanker Oatmeal takes your hunger hankering for good.”


Tara played it over in her head.


“Is that your jingle for Mr. Simmon’s class?”


Nate nodded.


“Yeah,” he said wearily, “And it sucks.”


“No,” Tara replied, quickly, then added on in a kind tone, “It maybe trips over itself a little bit. I like the tune though. Play it again.”


He played the jingle without singing and Tara started to answer it in a hum. Her eyes were closed, or she would have seen Nate staring at her, a bit in awe.


He snapped out of it when Tara’s eyes open again.


“What about…‘Hanker Oatmeal, you’ll hanker for more.’”


Nate played the final two notes over again, whispering under his breath until he figured out the right cadence. He grinned.


“I think you just did my homework for me.”


“Not the first time,” Tara replied with a bashful smile, “The music is the hard part.”


“Have you done yours?” Nate asked, standing up from the keyboard and offering it to her.


Tara positioned herself behind the keyboard and put the paper bag on the floor by her feet. Her fingers brushed the keys and found where they needed to be.


“Pick up your very own Dolls Eye Crystal today by calling 555-0121,” she said in her best announcer voice, before playing the jingle tune she’d created, “The crystal that spellbinds and blows your mind!”


Nate laughed and clapped twice, the sound booming between his large hands and echoing around the room.


“I love it. What the heck is a Dolls Eye crystal?”


“I saw it in the window of a magic shop downtown,” Tara answered, “Downtown Sunnydale, that is.”


Nate raised an eyebrow.


“Sunnydale has a magic shop?”


Tara’s face scrunched.


“It’s had a few come and go. It’s a weird little town.”


“What’s it do?” Nate asked curiously.


“Weren’t you listening?” Tara replied with an elusive crooked smile, “It blows your mind.”


Nate smirked, nodding slowly.


“That’s good actually. I’m intrigued. I want to learn more.”


Tara spun off the small seat and thrust the paper bag toward Nate.


“Speaking of blowing your mind…I brought you spicy wings.”


Nate eagerly grabbed the bag and dropped into a bean bag chair to tear it open.


“Sweeeeet,” he said, popping the top on the take-out box and picking up a sticky wing, “Still like it there?”


Tara nodded noncommittally.


“It’s not as bad as people make out. Waitressing is waitressing.”


Nate shrugged and cleaned a bone with his mouth.


“Well, you make good wings.”


“I merely deliver,” Tara replied earnestly, then moved off and picked up one of the guitars, “I want to work on our set list for the show on the 14th. Maybe come up with a few more originals. I feel like we could make our set a bit meatier y’know?”


Nate toasted that with a chicken wing salute and listened as Tara tried out a few chord progressions. Nate nodded along and then suddenly picked up the beat. He jumped up and headed for his keyboard.


“I could add in some—”


“Don’t touch it with those sticky fingers!” Tara protested immediately, pained to see any instrument sullied with BBQ sauce.


She picked up the wet nap that had been with the regular napkins beneath the wings and brought it over to him. She perched next to him on the keyboard seat and tore the packet open with her teeth, plucking out the wet napkin and holding Nate’s hand up to clean off the sauce residue.


Nate stared at her mouth as it tore the packaging, then down at his hand as her fingers looped through his. His gaze slowly lifted and Tara, sensing the look, just smiled in his direction.


Then, in a fleeting second, Tara realized Nate’s face was moving toward hers. Her eyes widened and she hurried so much to back away, she ended up on her ass on the ground.


“W-What are you doing?”


Nate’s mouth suddenly went dry and he shot up, one hand reaching behind to rub his neck free of tension, while the other extended to help Tara up.


“Shit, Tara. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I thought…I thought wrong, clearly.”


Tara slowly took Nate’s hand and pulled herself up. Nate held on; clutch lingering and gaze searching Tara’s.


“You don’t feel anything?”


Tara took her hand back, looking awkwardly apologetic.


“Nate, I’m sorry, this isn’t…” she started and watched his eyes fall.


Her heart started to pound as she contemplated whether to say the next thing or not. Ultimately her mouth acted before her brain decided and she heard the words echoing as if she wasn’t the one saying them.


“Nate, I’m…I’m gay.”


That was the first time she’d ever said those words aloud. She’d alluded to some people that she liked girls but that huge three-letter word had never left her lips. Her whole body was shaking.


Nate was silent for what felt like forever.


“Oh,” he said eventually, tone neutral and giving nothing away, “That’s…less of a blow to my ego. I think.”


Tara was snapped from her fear and into annoyance. Nate saw the look on her face change and immediately held his hands up.


“I’m sorry, that was a dick thing to say. I just had no idea.”


Tara folded her arms into an X shape across her chest and looked down. She wasn’t sure this had been a good idea until suddenly she felt enveloped by Nate’s huge frame.


“Hey, c’mere,” he said, his soft lyrical voice comforting in her ear, “You know I don’t care right? You’re my friend no matter who you love.”


Tara relaxed into his embrace. That certainly was a lot easier than telling Willow. She started to rub her eyes free of the few tears of relief that had filled them. Nate kindly made no comment, but went to the beer fridge in the corner and took out a bottle of water. He guided Tara to take a seat on the keyboard chair again and stepped away, pressing his back up against the wall.


“Have you told anyone else?” he asked eventually.


Tara had to consider the question.


“Well not…exactly,” she said, guardedly, not wanting to give anything away that could hurt Willow, “I’m kind of…with someone.”


“Kind of?” Nate questioned.


Tara could only nod.


“It’s complicated,” she answered, averting her gaze again, “She’s not…out. She’s scared. But I love her.”


Her lips couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Willow.


Nate noticed. He smiled too.


“Hey, you’re in love,” he said, his voice full and his hands coming over to cover his own heart, “That makes my heart happy. It does. You deserve that, babe.”


Tara looked up again, eyes still slightly clouded.


“I’m sorry if I—”


“You didn’t,” Nate interrupted, holding a hand up to stop her, “Hey, a guy had to have hope. You’re rad.”


He pushed himself off the wall and came toward her.


“But it doesn’t change…this. I hope. I love creating with you. Are you still in?”


“I want to be,” Tara said sincerely, unsure where they stood now, “I really enjoy our partnership …and our friendship. But…”


Nate allowed her the time to finish, but when she didn’t, spoke up.


“I understand what’s on the table. I just want to keep making music with you. No funny business. Friends?”


He offered his hand, which Tara took and was pulled into another hug. Tara let out a bubbling laugh and Nate smiled at her, a little sadly.


He let out a hearty sigh, releasing the enormity of everything that had just happened and relaxed, stretching his hands behind his head.


“So… who’s your secret boo?”


Tara’s eyes creased for a moment in thought, then she smiled and turned toward the keyboard.


“Say that again.”



Nate’s truck pulled up on the curb outside Tara’s house. He turned off the engine.


“Great jam sesh,” he complimented, then paused for a moment to look at Tara, “I’m glad you told me. And don’t worry, no one will hear it from me. Not that you have anything to hide.”


Tara leaned across the center console to hug Nate, feeling invigorated and liberated.


As they hugged, she felt his phone vibrate in his top pocket and a familiar tone play.


“That noise has been going off all evening, what is it?”


“Dating app,” Nate admitted, grinning and Tara could only laugh.


“Of course.”


“Ladies love me,” Nate boasted playfully, “Almost all of ‘em.”


Tara jokingly punched his arm.


Across the road, and up a floor, Willow peeked out from her bedroom curtains and watched the exchange in the dim light of a street lamp. She felt a pang of jealousy.


She looked on as Tara exited the car, took her bike from the rack at the back and waved Nate off. Then Tara’s gaze flicked upward and Willow knew she was spotted. Tara didn’t seem bothered though, she just waved as her face lit up animatedly.


That smile. That radiance.


Tara was so ethereally beautiful.


If Willow knew nothing else, she knew that.


After a moment, Willow noticed Tara was gesturing at something. Her bike, she realized.


“Oh,” she said out loud, understanding. She nodded. Tara could tie her bike up over there so Donny might leave it alone.


She made her way through the quiet, empty house and around to the side gate to unlock it and let Tara in. She was waiting.


“Hey,” she said with that bright smile as she wheeled her bike alongside her.


“Hi,” Willow returned, waving her hand again in an awkward little wave, “You were with Nate?”


Tara just nodded.


“Yeah.”


She desperately wanted to share with Willow the freedom she was experiencing from saying her secret out loud, but she was scared it would make Willow pull away.


Patience.


“Hey, we’re playing a show at the Bronze in a couple of weeks. Will you come along?”


Willow brightened and nodded.


“Yeah, I’d love to. I love listening to you play. You guys, I mean, but you especially.”


Tara smiled bashfully but let her gaze meet Willow’s.


“Can I give you a hug?”


There was such hope in Tara’s voice; it made Willow’s heartbreak to think she thought the answer would be ‘no’.


And then she realized, that’s exactly what she’d done before; any time she was afraid they were being watched. That really broke her heart. She never wanted Tara to hurt, especially not because of her.


That look Tara had given her when Willow called her…that word. Willow thought she might die on the spot if she ever saw it again.


“I’d love a hug.”


Tara closed her arms around Willow and sighed contentedly.


“I miss you when you’re not around.”


Willow swallowed and took in a soft, but sharp breath, feeling Tara’s body against her and gaze penetrating inside her.


“I never felt like this with anyone before,” she whispered, “You only have to smile and I'm dizzy.”


Tara beamed. She kissed Willow and Willow let her. It was quick and chaste but the feelings between them lingered through a nose nuzzle.


“It’s getting late,” Tara said softly, “Want to hang out tomorrow?”


Willow nodded quickly.


“Yeah, definitely.”


Tara pecked Willow’s lips one last time and moved off with a wave.


Willow watched her go, feeling like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes. Being alone in the dark was usually a source of fear but for Willow, at that moment, it provided the absence of it. No one could see her, no one could judge her.


Her world was small and fit into a five foot four retreating frame.


For the first time, she really wanted to keep this feeling deep inside of her and not push it away.


Tara meant everything.


She couldn't lose that.


She wouldn’t.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:58 pm 
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Topics: 4
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The part when they were kids was with Sheila being a monster. And totally adorable with little Willow and Tara. You mentioned that Donnie and Tara used to get along, wonder if the split made him so hateful. Speaking of what exactly does Donnie think he's got with Tara's note? It doesn't say anything incriminating and Willow already knows. Plus, Tara writes songs it wouldn't be weird for her t have written something love letter like. The rest was sweet I like that things with Nate are cleared (I loved the dialogue between them ) and that Willow is being a little braver

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:29 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 201
Yesterday I wanted to comment on chapter 7 but for some unknown reason I couldn't log into the board. So here is my late comment now:

Quote:
He pulled her into him, her head hitting against the top tuft of chest hair protruding from the top open buttons on his shirt.


“You’ll always be my little girl.”


Ira, this would sound much more credible if you wouldn't leave your underaged daughter alone at home to fend for herself for weeks! :fit

Quote:
And Tara kissed her, with the achingly soft purpose that filled all of their kisses; that made Willow feel like they were lifted off their feet and floating. Tara-thirst was very real and the quench was the most satiating of experiences.


Yes Willow, you and Tara together can be magic if you just overcome your fear and let it happen!

Quote:
“I trust you.”


Tara folded her arms cautiously. She'd made minor alterations to some of Willow's clothing before, but mostly just fixed the occasional tear.


“It-it's not like anything that we've ever—”


Willow smiled and put her hand on Tara’s arm.


“I trust you.”


Tara’s heart glowed, as Willow’s just had moments before and she gestured Willow forward.


Another of my favourite Willow-Tara-moments of the show and I love that you included it in your story (even if here it "just" means "I trust you to not make my dress uglier than it already is" instead of "I trust you to not get my spirit/soul lost.").

Quote:
Tara kept her gaze downward as she packed her things up again.


“You should join a drama class. You’d be good.”


Willow paused and frowned.


“Was that…”


“Shade?” Tara finished for her, raising an eyebrow, but Willow’s brow just creased in confusion so Tara explained, “That’s what we call it when someone is being…sassy, I guess.”


I've got to admit I don't understand why Tara is angry here all of a sudden. She wouldn't expect Willow to tell her mother that she locked the door because she wanted to be alone with her or to praise to her mother the work Tara did to improve her look, would she?

Quote:
She didn’t dare look anywhere but Tara’s face until the shirt was just left hanging and Tara’s bra-clad breasts were just sitting there in view.


Willow’s eyes finally fell on them.


Her world would never be the same.


WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG, I WAS WRONG. WRONGY MCWRONGERSON. WRONG.

Quote:
The swell of Tara’s breasts; the supple curve; the nipples she could see, hardened under the fabric all covered in that sweet, all-too-kissable skin.


This was too much.


Willow was INTO it and that was NOT OKAY.


Danger, Will Rosenberg. Danger!


How sad that Willow inwardly beats herself up for loving Tara's breasts. This poor girl is so scared all the time, not only of what other people might think about her but of her own thoughts and feelings as well.

Good that both girls now told the secret that they almost kissed somebody else during the summer.
It makes my heart ache though that Willow won't try to salvage her friendship with Xander but is sure that he hates her now. Poor Xander probably suffers because Willow has been totally ignoring him for the last months.

Quote:
“Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard.”


“No kidding,” Willow sighed on an exhale.


“But this didn’t,” Tara continued softly, “We cracked but we didn’t fall. And we mended.”


Tara turned her head to Willow.


“And I feel whole when I’m around you.”


Willow swallowed and met Tara’s eye.


“I feel like that too.”


Tara smiled; the smile that Willow loved when the corners of her mouth and eyes would crease; the smile that made Willow’s heart skip a beat; the smile that made her feel like if evoking it was her only accomplishment in life, she could die happy.


“I think that we came up with a good resolution,” Willow said, holding Tara’s hand a little tighter, “Forget the bad stuff.”


“And do what makes you happy,” Tara added softly.


Willow gulped at the weight of that and tried to relax. She leaned in and Tara met her halfway for a reunifying kiss. It wasn’t as heated as the kiss they’d parted from, but it was soft and sweet and everything they needed at that moment.


One big step forward...

Quote:
Willow never moved so fast in her life. She shot up, twisting herself in the process and getting preciously close to going right over the railing had she had even a little bit more momentum. Tara caught her by the waist to stop her but was immediately shaken off.


Willow looked down at Dickie Babcock munching on a pile of pigs in blankets stacked in his hand that he must have raided from the trash. She pulled a face and with her heart hammering scoffed in his direction and turned on her heel to march back into her bedroom. Tara followed her, still in shock at how close she saw Willow come to tumbling off the balcony.


“Willow, you—”


“He could have caught us!” Willow hissed, pacing and wringing her hands nervously, “Anyone could have walked out and seen us!”


Tara stopped and swallowed.


“Would that be totally awful?”


“Yes!” Willow almost shouted, her hands smacking against her face in alarm, “Your top is open, oh my god, oh my god! What was I thinking, we can’t take our clothes off, anyone could walk in!”


Tara looked down and quickly began buttoning herself up again.


“The door is locked,” she said quietly.


“What if we forget?!” Willow asked in a fluster, “No way, no way.”


...two jumps back!

Quote:
Instead, Willow leaned in and rested her forehead on Tara’s chest for a moment.


Tara wrapped her arms around Willow and held on for them both.


Quote:
She knew staying wasn’t all based on chivalry…in fact, it was all based on fear. She didn’t want to lose Willow to blind panic.


Not again.


Willow waved from across the room and Tara waved back.


She relaxed.


Her eyes and mouth creased.


She was happy. At that moment, with their eyes meeting across a room, she was happy.


And that was more than something to hold on to.


That was her anchor, and there was no letting go.


Those last two parts leave me with some hope, but I also share Tara's worries. Willow's emotional state seems so unstable right now that another bout of panic (f.e. if Donny "caught them" kissing) might lead to her running into traffic or something like that...


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:14 pm 
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Now to the last two chapters:

I thought I couldn't hate your Sheila more than I already did, but you proved me wrong! :fit Seriously, what is wrong with that woman? It seems that she never had real love or empathy for her own child, even when she was still a baby/small kid. I'm also angry with Ira for following her lead although he obviously loves Willow and must know how she feels when her parents just "abandon" her like that (with total strangers no less).

I wish that Kimberly will have a serious conversation with Ira sometime in the future (after Willow came out) and he will understand that he failed as a parent so far but has the chance to still change this by not abandoning her then and choosing the relationship with Willow over his marriage (because I'm sure Sheila will demand that they both cut all chords with Willow forever).

Kimberly really has a heart of gold, caring for Willow as if she was her third child after that first fateful encounter and refusing to take money for "babysitting" although she obviously was in financial distress back then. Her only fault is that she failed educating Donny when she still had a chance…

Quote:
She didn’t like letting Tara out of her sight lately.

That makes me wonder if Kimberly left the father of her kids because he treated Tara badly? Only six or seven years old, Donny might not fully understand this but blame Tara for him loosing his dad…

Quote:
A few hours later, they had passed out together on the couch, Tara’s slightly larger body spooning Willow’s. Kimberly covered them with a Flintstones blankie and kissed them both on the forehead.

How cute, I really wish I could see a picture of this.

Quote:
She wasn’t sure this had been a good idea until suddenly she felt enveloped by Nate’s huge frame.


“Hey, c’mere,” he said, his soft lyrical voice comforting in her ear, “You know I don’t care right? You’re my friend no matter who you love.”


Tara relaxed into his embrace. That certainly was a lot easier than telling Willow. She started to rub her eyes free of the few tears of relief that had filled them. Nate kindly made no comment, but went to the beer fridge in the corner and took out a bottle of water. He guided Tara to take a seat on the keyboard chair again and stepped away, pressing his back up against the wall.

Quote:
“It’s complicated,” she answered, averting her gaze again, “She’s not…out. She’s scared. But I love her.”


Her lips couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Willow.


Nate noticed. He smiled too.


“Hey, you’re in love,” he said, his voice full and his hands coming over to cover his own heart, “That makes my heart happy. It does. You deserve that, babe.”


Aww, I love Nate, he's such a great friend to Tara!
What a pity that Willow has no friend left to whom she could come out and who would tell her he/she still loves her etc. (like Xander in "Neverland").

Quote:
That smile. That radiance.


Tara was so ethereally beautiful.


If Willow knew nothing else, she knew that.

Quote:
“Can I give you a hug?”


There was such hope in Tara’s voice; it made Willow’s heartbreak to think she thought the answer would be ‘no’.


And then she realized, that’s exactly what she’d done before; any time she was afraid they were being watched. That really broke her heart. She never wanted Tara to hurt, especially not because of her.


That look Tara had given her when Willow called her…that word. Willow thought she might die on the spot if she ever saw it again.


“I’d love a hug.”

Quote:
Willow watched her go, feeling like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes. Being alone in the dark was usually a source of fear but for Willow, at that moment, it provided the absence of it. No one could see her, no one could judge her.


Her world was small and fit into a five foot four retreating frame.


For the first time, she really wanted to keep this feeling deep inside of her and not push it away.


Tara meant everything.


She couldn't lose that.


She wouldn’t.


Those moments really give me hope that Willow will overcome her fear and choose to come out because them staying in the closet would only cause heartache for Tara.
But I'm scared how Willow would react if Donny reads the truth behind the lines of Tara's poem and calls Tara and/or Willow a "dyke" in public or something like that. I fear Willow's first impulse would be to deny it and distance herself from Tara again...


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:55 pm 
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Oh, I forgot to mention that I loved this little quirky hommage to canon:

Quote:
“Pick up your very own Dolls Eye Crystal today by calling 555-0121,” she said in her best announcer voice, before playing the jingle tune she’d created, “The crystal that spellbinds and blows your mind!”


Quote:
“Sunnydale has a magic shop?”


Tara’s face scrunched.


“It’s had a few come and go. It’s a weird little town.”

:laugh Maybe Buffy is a vampire slayer in your story too, that would partially excuse her having no more time for Willow - and Sheila might turn out to be the big bad… :devil


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:00 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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shirrey

Quote:
The part when they were kids was with Sheila being a monster. And totally adorable with little Willow and Tara.


Unfortunately those parental patterns start so young! And you can see it in the way Willow so wants to present herself as perfect.

Quote:
You mentioned that Donnie and Tara used to get along, wonder if the split made him so hateful.


All will be revealed, I promise...

Quote:
Speaking of what exactly does Donnie think he's got with Tara's note? It doesn't say anything incriminating and Willow already knows. Plus, Tara writes songs it wouldn't be weird for her t have written something love letter like.


Well, first of all, it was clearly something Tara had disposed of (he thinks anyway) and, well, I'll remind you of Willow's reaction when reading them:

The lyrics were identifiable and personal and Willow knew immediately they were about her.

He's grown up with both of them too...

Quote:
The rest was sweet I like that things with Nate are cleared (I loved the dialogue between them ) and that Willow is being a little braver


I'm glad you enjoyed it! I think it's great for Tara's confidence to have told someone about herself.

Thanks for commenting!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Yesterday I wanted to comment on chapter 7 but for some unknown reason I couldn't log into the board. So here is my late comment now:


I apologize for all of the issues with accessing the board lately. It's all been for necessary upgrades, but frustrating nonetheless.

Quote:
Ira, this would sound much more credible if you wouldn't leave your underaged daughter alone at home to fend for herself for weeks!


I think there's a giant cognitive dissonance in her head about what kind of father he is. Sheila too, or for her I think, she believes she's doing her best by her in a very academic way and Ira thinks he's just giving her what she wants (she originally asked not to keep traveling with them).

Quote:
Yes Willow, you and Tara together can be magic if you just overcome your fear and let it happen!


I agree with you. Should we kick her ass together or separete?

Quote:
Another of my favourite Willow-Tara-moments of the show and I love that you included it in your story (even if here it "just" means "I trust you to not make my dress uglier than it already is" instead of "I trust you to not get my spirit/soul lost.").


Hey, don't forget that Sheila picked this dress and one of Willow's whole issues of being with gay stems from wanting to be perfect for her parents (and by extension, the world) :wink

Quote:
I've got to admit I don't understand why Tara is angry here all of a sudden. She wouldn't expect Willow to tell her mother that she locked the door because she wanted to be alone with her or to praise to her mother the work Tara did to improve her look, would she?


She's not so much angry as frustrated. She's spent her whole childhood watch Willow disappear into herself to hide her wonderful self from her parents in place of what she thinks they want. Tara gets this but has never quite been able (or willing) to communicate this to Willow and now they're closer than ever and she's burgeoning on being ready to tell people about her sexuality and Willow is just so not there yet and it's frustrating.

Quote:
How sad that Willow inwardly beats herself up for loving Tara's breasts. This poor girl is so scared all the time, not only of what other people might think about her but of her own thoughts and feelings as well.


Because she doesn't want to fight them. She just wants to be what everyone expects effortlessly. She's gotten away with this for a lot of her life, but Tara? Tara's always been her achilles heel.

Quote:
Good that both girls now told the secret that they almost kissed somebody else during the summer.


It's one of those teenage things that feels SO IMPORTANT when it happens but they'll laugh so hard at years down the line.

Quote:
It makes my heart ache though that Willow won't try to salvage her friendship with Xander but is sure that he hates her now.


No good is borne from the estrangement. Everyone's confused about who hates who and who doesn't. It's stupid and I hope they will all see that.

Quote:
Poor Xander probably suffers because Willow has been totally ignoring him for the last months.


Ding ding.

Quote:
One big step forward......two jumps back!


You see now why Tara is so frustrated? :lol

Quote:
Those last two parts leave me with some hope, but I also share Tara's worries. Willow's emotional state seems so unstable right now that another bout of panic (f.e. if Donny "caught them" kissing) might lead to her running into traffic or something like that...


Well I'll tell you that last thing ain't happening. I'm not drawing any parallels with that here (I couldn't if I wanted to, I haven't watched any episodes without Tara). But yeah, no, she won't walk into traffic. A person maybe...

Quote:
Now to the last two chapters:

I thought I couldn't hate your Sheila more than I already did, but you proved me wrong! :fit Seriously, what is wrong with that woman? It seems that she never had real love or empathy for her own child, even when she was still a baby/small kid. I'm also angry with Ira for following her lead although he obviously loves Willow and must know how she feels when her parents just "abandon" her like that (with total strangers no less).


I said to someone else they are clueless and I think they definitely are. I actually have a whole backstory of how they ended up married and with having Willow and I think it speaks to their parenting; Sheila being emotionally distant and treating her as another academic subject because she knows she's good at that and Ira being led by Sheila because he sees her as the strong one while also just giving Willow what she wants (but not what she needs). It doesn't actually come out in this story though, I have it planned for a one-shot later on.

Quote:
I wish that Kimberly will have a serious conversation with Ira sometime in the future (after Willow came out) and he will understand that he failed as a parent so far but has the chance to still change this by not abandoning her then and choosing the relationship with Willow over his marriage (because I'm sure Sheila will demand that they both cut all chords with Willow forever).


I don't see Kimberly ever seeing that as her place but that might not be necessary conversation :)

Quote:
Kimberly really has a heart of gold, caring for Willow as if she was her third child after that first fateful encounter and refusing to take money for "babysitting" although she obviously was in financial distress back then. Her only fault is that she failed educating Donny when she still had a chance…


Donny has been her major blind spot. In more ways than we've seen. This will have consequences.

Quote:
That makes me wonder if Kimberly left the father of her kids because he treated Tara badly? Only six or seven years old, Donny might not fully understand this but blame Tara for him loosing his dad…


I can tell you will know the whole story by the end of the week!

Quote:
How cute, I really wish I could see a picture of this.


If I had any drawing skills, I would attempt it!

Quote:
Aww, I love Nate, he's such a great friend to Tara!


He is and has been and I thought it was important to show you can be friends with someone who held/you held a candle for.

Quote:
What a pity that Willow has no friend left to whom she could come out and who would tell her he/she still loves her etc. (like Xander in "Neverland").


Willow's not going to be friendless forever, I promise.

Quote:
Those moments really give me hope that Willow will overcome her fear and choose to come out because them staying in the closet would only cause heartache for Tara.


Well I mean, she will, of course. What would the story be without that being an eventuality. Baby steps... (Or as Tara would say, Patience...) :wink

Quote:
But I'm scared how Willow would react if Donny reads the truth behind the lines of Tara's poem and calls Tara and/or Willow a "dyke" in public or something like that. I fear Willow's first impulse would be to deny it and distance herself from Tara again...


Tara does too. Tara does too...

Quote:
Oh, I forgot to mention that I loved this little quirky hommage to canon:

:laugh Maybe Buffy is a vampire slayer in your story too, that would partially excuse her having no more time for Willow - and Sheila might turn out to be the big bad…


:lol :lol :lol No, the closest this universe becomes to being 'supernatural' is Kimberly being a Wiccan.

Thanks so much for your feedback and hopefully there's no more board trouble!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 10th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:02 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: R

Chapter 10



February



Just A Touch Of Your Love Is Enough To Take Control Of My Whole Body



Willow awoke to a stream of light as her curtains were thrown open and allowed in the morning sun.


She sat up, groggy and confused, and finally made out the figure of her mother when she brought a hand up to shield her eyes from the bright intruder. The only thing she wanted shining that brightly at her this early was Tara’s smile.


“What are you wearing?” Sheila’s stiff voice asked as she moved over to Willow’s closet and began looking through it.


Willow looked down at her Insect Reflection t-shirt, although technically it was Tara’s. Her one, with the cool rip, was folded away to be worn to Tara’s shows. The one Willow was wearing was one she had talked Tara into giving her as a ‘replacement’, that just happened to smell like Tara and was fitted to Tara’s body and so was the clothing equivalent of a Tara-hug.


“It’s a t-shirt, mom,” she answered gruffly, though a quick glance by her mother made her drop the tone quick.


“You have proper nightwear to wear to bed,” Sheila scolded and Willow just rolled her eyes.


Well, she thought about it.


“Can I ask what you’re doing?” she enquired politely, dropping her chin discreetly to inhale from her shirt.


“Picking out what you’ll wear to the club today,” Sheila replied airily.


Willow sat further up, sharply.


“What?”


“Pardon,” Sheila corrected with a click of her tongue, “I told you, Willow. We’re meeting up with the Babcocks at the Valentine’s Day brunch.”


Willow’s eyes widened.


It’s Valentine’s Day??


She then registered the rest of the sentence and withheld a groan.


Shit.


“Do I have to go?”


“Yes,” Sheila replied in a way that it was obvious no more complaints would be entertained.


Willow’s brow furrowed.


“Wait, I thought you and Dad were leaving for Canada today?”


“This evening, yes,” Sheila nodded, “We’ll continue on to the airport after.”


“And abandon me there?” Willow asked, unsure whether to be annoyed or hopeful.


“Don’t be ridiculous, we’ll call you a car,” Sheila said, shaking her head.


Willow sighed.


At least I’ll still have time to change before Tara’s show.


“Can I pick my own clothes?”


Sheila responded by laying out a denim dungaree dress and long-sleeved white top.


“Wear this. Be ready for noon.”


She left without another word and Willow silently seethed.


Eighteen years old…I am nearly eighteen damn years old.


She kicked the clothes off the end of her bed and brought her knees up to her chest, pouting for a minute. She knew how that outfit looked on her and she looked like a child.


She felt like a child.


Remembering how Tara had transformed her at New Year’s, she decided it was time to transform herself.


She could show her mother she could be trusted to look presentable enough for the cronies at the club. Just because her wardrobe contained lots of bright yellows and fuzzy pinks didn’t mean she couldn’t try for something a little more elegant. She’d never even been given the chance. So she decided to take it instead.


Her mom would just have to deal with it.


A plan started to form in her mind.


She checked her watch.


She should have just enough time, as long as she was quick and wasn’t too fussy.


She jumped out of bed, dressed in some old clothes, grabbed her wallet and snuck out the back of the house.


As long as she wasn’t delayed, her parents would never even know she left.


She hurried to the mall where there were no less than three generic chain hairdressers. Willow chose the one that was the least full and got seated almost immediately after refusing a wash. This was an in and out job.


“Cut it all off!” she announced heartily as the young man who was to cut her hair stood behind her.


He arched a perfectly sculpted eyebrow.


“All of it?”


Willow’s eyes widened.


“Oh, well…” she replied sheepishly, “Not…all of it.”


She brought her hand to just above her shoulder.


“Maybe like, to here.”


After a few checks that she was happy with the length, the hairdresser got to cutting. Willow’s heart pounded a little as the snips of red fell past her arms to the floor. This was the first time she’d even come to a hairdresser without it being at her mother’s instruction. She marveled at how utterly ridiculous that was as the thought floating through her mind.


Finally, the hairdresser removed her gown and held a mirror up to the back for her to look. Willow’s smile broke out across her face.


“Perfect.”


She quickly paid and left, the bounce in her step matching the bounce in her new ‘do. She walked right past Sears, past the ‘trendy’ stores where she’d probably run into Cordelia and to a store at the other side of the mall that Tara talked about but she’d never actually been to.


That was going to change today.


She approached the older lady at the register.


“Hi. I need a dress.”


The woman, wearing a dark brown, earthy dress that reached her ankles and a braid that went on forever, closed the stock book she’d been looking in and offered her attention.


“I’m sure we can help you. What is it for?”


Willow just smiled.


“For me.”


Forty minutes and no less than five dresses jostling inside store bags later, Willow dashed back across town and sneaked back into her house. It was as quiet as it ever was and she wasn’t caught even when she slammed the door a little too loudly.


She tiptoed back up to her room and laid her new dresses out on her bed. She was still smiling from ear-to-ear; she loved each and every one of them.


Some were bright, some were darker; some were plain and some had designs; some were evening wear; some were daytime; some toed the line and could be used as both but she had picked each one herself and was looking forward to wearing them.


She picked out the one she was going to wear; it was soft, long-sleeved and burgundy with paler red circles blended into the print. It was so comfortable, Willow felt like she was wrapped in a blanket.


She checked the time and had just enough to give it a quick iron before pulling it on. She resisted her brightly colored leggings and went for the black ones with the flecks of silver and a pair of grey boots that matched nicely.


She brushed through her hair again, finding it odd when the bristles touched her skin on the back of her neck. Finally, she looked at herself in the mirror and smiled.


Today was her day.


She skipped downstairs, where her parents were getting their coats on at the door.


Sheila looked at her, surprised.


“Willow, you cut off your hair!”


Willow brushed her palm over the back of her hair and over her now-exposed neck.


“It’s just a sudden whim I had.”


Sheila peered at her and Willow realized she was trying to figure out had it been like that when she woke her up.


“I like it,” she said in a reasoned tone, though still threw a discerning eye over the outfit, “That’s not what I picked out.”


“Do you not think I look nice, mom?” Willow asked, with a purposefully sweet smile.


“I think you look lovely, sweetheart,” Ira interjected and Willow beamed.


“Thanks, dad.”


“You do look nice,” Sheila added on, her tone unsure but ultimately accepting, “Well…lets go then.”


Willow grinned.


Victory.


She followed her parents out to the car and was smug the whole ride to the country club. In fact, it lasted right up until they entered the restaurant and she was reminded of where they were. For an expensive club, the place was decorated with cheap heart cut-outs and lackluster red balloons.


Worse: their dining companions.


Dickie Babcock looked about as uncomfortable in his shirt and tie as Willow would have been in her dungaree dress. She momentarily felt pity for him.


They were made to sit together at the table, exchanging sour looks and bumped elbows for the entirety of the brunch.


After their plates were cleared, Dickie’s mother Judy looked toward them with hopeful eyes, completely oblivious to the animosity between them.


“Why don’t you two go have a walk around the grounds? It’s a lovely, crisp day. Beautiful time for a stroll.”


“Oh, I’m sure Willow would love to,” Ira interjected before Willow could protest.


They both eyed each other and grudgingly stood; Dickie throwing his soiled napkin straight onto the tablecloth.


Willow crossed her arms over her chest as they walked out from the restaurant into the courtyard.


“Don’t try anything,” she said guardedly, and Dickie just scoffed.


“As if.”


“You tried to kiss me on New Year’s,” Willow retorted with a scowl.


Dickie’s top lip curled with disgust.


“My parents told me I had to ‘cause no one else would.”


Willow looked down and swallowed audibly.


Ouch.


Except someone did. A very beautiful someone.


“Yeah well I’d rather be anywhere but here,” Willow shot back, “I’d rather hang out with a tarantula than with you.”


Dickie rolled his eyes, a slow and concentrated effort to make sure Willow knew just how annoyed he was.


“I don’t want to be hanging out with you either!” he said, then added on in a mutter as he kicked some dirt in front of him, “I’m missing a comic writing seminar for this. Got the ticket weeks ago.”


Willow stopped by a stone wall separating the golf course. She sat on it and looked at Dickie, surprised.


“You write comics?”


“What’s it to you?” Dickie asked with narrowed eyes.


“Jeez, nothing,” Willow said with an annoyed click of her tongue, “I was just asking.”


Dickie considered her for a few moments, then said a word that barely left his lips.


“Sorry,” he said, some internal wall dropping, “My parents think it’s stupid and I should only be drawing for architecture or cartography or something.”


Willow resisted the urge to comment on him knowing a long word. But wow, could she relate to that.


And he said sorry.


Maybe she could try to make conversation.


“What do you like to draw?” she asked, still a little cagily but with some empathy showing, “I doodle sometimes.”


Dickie leaned up against the wall, hesitated a moment, then produced his phone and pulled up some pictures.


Willow’s eyebrows lifted right into her brow. They were impressive.


“These are really good,” she said, finally, sincerely.


She brought her hand up behind her neck, feeling the ends of her hair tickle her skin.


“If you want, you can go and I’ll cover for you.”


Dickie eyed Willow suspiciously.


“Why?”


Willow looked down at the grass and the dead patches at the base of the stones.


“Because I know what it’s like to have parents you can’t be yourself around.”


Dickie seemed to perk up at the idea but didn’t move, yet.


“How do I know you’re not gonna rat me out the second I leave?”


Willow shrugged.


“You don’t. But you’d rather be somewhere else, I’d rather be alone…seems like it works for both of us.”


Dickie played it over in his mind and then made a running start, calling back over his shoulder.


“I owe you one, Rosenberg.”


“We’re leaving at six!” Willow called after him, “I’ll meet you back here!”


“Got it!” Dickie called back, already several feet away.


Willow swung her legs off the wall and contemplated what to do.


The restaurant was out of bounds; she’d be questioned why Dickie wasn’t with her.


She didn’t particularly want to stay out here, with couples lounging on the grass having picnics or relaxing after brunch.


It just reminded her that she couldn’t be like that with Tara.


And never could?


She jumped down from the wall sharply, almost tripping over her boots but managing to steady herself without messing up her new dress. She smiled and shook her hair out. She was going to walk around and show her new look off to every damn person in this place.


Hours later, her shoes were making the patch of dead grass she’d jumped down onto earlier even larger as she paced back and forth.


Finally, Dickie jogged into view, securing his tie back around his neck.


Willow marched up to him, furious, and poked his chest.


“I told you six!”


“Chill, there was a creator there I got talking to,” Dickie replied with complete disregard for her anger, “My parents didn’t figure it out did they?”


“No, but my parents had to go to the airport!” Willow protested, “I had to pretend I wanted to stay here with you just so I could cover for you!”


Dickie paled.


“Oh god, they don’t think we’re,” he had to stop himself from gagging, “kissing do they?”


Willow’s face contorted in disgust.


“Ugh, you are such an ass. Why did I cover for you? I’m supposed to be watching my—” she stopped and shook her head, “I’m going. Bye.”


She stomped off at speed.


“Hey Rosenberg,” Dickie called after her and for some reason, Willow turned around, “Thanks.”


Willow just rolled her eyes and hurried out to call a car.


Now she was late. Late, late, late. She’d had plans to go home and change and eat and leisurely get to the Bronze to get a good spot for Tara’s show, but now she’d have to ask the driver to drop her right there and step on it!


The evening Sunnydale traffic decided to toy with her and she had to jump out near the Pump and speed-walk the rest of the way, cursing under her breath. She’d spent the day bored and alone and now she might miss Tara’s performance because of Dickie Dickhead Babcock.


When she finally got into the Bronze, she didn’t even try to scope out if Cordelia or anyone else was there. She didn’t have time, not today. Especially because she could hear Tara’s sweet voice already playing out over the speakers.


She could hear her, but not see her. There was a crowd and she had to fight her way through it until finally she pushed through a group of girls ogling Nate and she could see the stage.


Most importantly, she could see Tara, hugging the microphone stand like it was a lover and singing as sweetly into the microphone as if it was too.


Tara’s face lit up in surprise and delight but didn’t break stride when she spotted Willow. She lifted her hand to discreetly wiggle her fingers in a wave. Willow’s heart leaped into her throat and she waved back, awestruck. She’d listened to Tara sing for years but it never failed to make her burst with pride.


Willow bopped along to a few songs with not a care in the world.


Her dress swayed against her legs, her hair swung against her neck and she felt free.


Her heart sped up when she spotted Tara getting her saxophone secured around her neck. Willow really did love to watch her on the sax. Nate set up a backing keyboard track and fixed a guitar over his chest.


“We’d like to end the night with a new song we’re debuting for you here right now,” he said into his microphone, shooting a look over to Tara to confirm she was ready, “This is Secret Boo.”


Willow didn’t think too much about the name, she was too busy watching Tara’s mouth close around her mouthpiece and bellow out that beautiful, sultry sound.


Tara played the opening notes, gradually slowing until Nate’s guitar beat took over fully and Tara replaced her mouthpiece with her microphone pressed up close to her mouth.


Hush, shush, quiet down
Tilt those lips, no need to frown
Covert, furtive, underground
It don’t matter, I’ll still drown
In you
Oh, in you



If Willow thought Tara was getting up close and personal with the microphone stand before, it was practically molded to her body now. The song was erotic, making the hair on the back of Willow’s neck stand up.


You…
You’re my
Secret boo
You just can’t argue
That this thing ain’t true
You might think it grew
But it ain’t nothing new



Willow was entranced by Tara’s breathy voice but slowly her expression changed to confusion as the lyrics caught up in her brain.


Rooted like a willow tree
As deep in you as I can be
You call my name
You have me there
Clinging to the dirt of our affair



Willow’s face suddenly fell.


Everything started to feel hot and restricting; the distinct feel of panic rising.


You…
You’re my
Secret boo
You just can’t argue
That this thing ain’t true
You might think it grew
But it ain’t nothing new



Tara’s head tilted back and took in a long breath, while Nate sang an elongated note.


Now…


His breath hitched like he was about to launch into a fresh verse, but instead, he closed it with a grin and Tara took over the unexpected rap.


—boo I hope one day you hear me
I hope one day you feel me
I hope one day you know just how much I hold you dearly
You know you got me addicted
You know you got me afflicted
But I hold on tight to you because I know this ain’t constructed
We don’t have to broadcast it
But our thing ain’t the culprit
I’m spinning on your axis
Boo now please don’t bounce us



The crowd loved it and roared for Tara, who dropped her head for just a moment, before returning to her position at the microphone to taper off the song.


Secret boo
You make my vision skew…



Tara found Willow’s gaze in the crowd and lingered.


I’m just as scared as you
But I’ll see this through
Because I—



Tara winked and pursed her lips as if she was blowing a kiss.


—‘m your secret boo too


Nate played them out on the guitar, while Tara caught her breath and enjoyed the praise they were getting from the crowd.


“Goodnight Sunnydale!” Nate called out and the group of girls to the side of Willow squealed.


Willow thought she was going to be sick.


Her heart was pounding between her ears and every person bumping into her felt like a steamroller about to flatten everything in her life.


She did the only thing she could think of.


She ran.


She always did.


The crowd was just as dense as it had been when she came in, if not more so, making Willow struggle to get through. She worked herself into a frenzy by the time she pushed herself through the back doors onto the alleyway behind. She put her back up against the wall and cast her eyes furtively around for anyone that might be staring at her funnily.


No one else was there, so she focused on catching her breath.


She had almost recovered, externally at least, when Tara appeared through the doors, momentarily letting out the noise pollution of the follow-up band before they banged shut again.


“There you are,” Tara said, her face bright as she practically floated over, “You look so pretty.”


She put her hands on Willow’s neck and ran her fingers through the ends of Willow’s hair.


“This dress and your hair! I love it. You look beautiful.”


Willow stepped out of Tara’s grasp, her facial muscles tense. Tara frowned.


“Are you okay?”


Willow wouldn’t meet her gaze.


“How could you?” she asked, her voice echoing.


Tara immediately felt tiny, but she had no idea why.


“I-I don’t understand.”


“That song!” Willow wailed, although in a whisper.


“Was it the rap?” Tara asked, looking down with embarrassment and her voice grew quiet, “I knew I should never have let Nate convince me to do that.”


Willow had actually been impressed, and more than a little turned on, by the rap. That made everything so much worse.


“No!” she protested, and could see the stunned look in Tara’s eye, “You sang a song about me, publicaly! You used my name!”


Tara shook her head quickly, resolute.


“I would never out you like that. It was coded, no one knew, not even Nate knows who it’s about, honey—”


“Don’t call me that!” Willow hissed again, throwing her arms up, “You made it all, all…sexual!”


“It was a metaphor, I w-was talking about emotions,” Tara replied, a tight knot forming in her belly, “I wasn’t trying—“


“Stop! Just stop!” Willow spat and she watched Tara’s eyes crease, but not from that lovely smile that usually graced her face.


“I’m sorry,” Tara replied, her voice strained as she struggled to swallow a lump, “I would never have…I would never hurt you on purpose.”


She tried to reach out but Willow slapped her hand away and immediately regretted it. Unable to take the hurt look on Tara’s face, she turned and pounded the pavement as fast as her boots would allow, hearing Tara’s pained voice slowly get lost in the wind.


“Willow, I’m sorry!”


Willow just kept walking, her own demons screaming loud enough to drown anything else out.


Turning on the opposite end of the street Willow walked onto, another young woman was running away from her demons. Both lost in their own worlds, they didn’t realize they were on the same path as each other until they collided.


“Sorry, sorry,” Willow spoke in a winded tone, her vision hazy for a moment until it settled and she realized she recognized her bumping buddy, “Buffy.”


Buffy seemed startled to hear her name, then relaxed when she saw who it was.


“Willow,” she said, filling an awkward lull pretty quick when she noticed Willow’s ‘do, “Hey, you cut your hair. It looks great.”


Willow blushed, curling the ends of her hair between her fingers.


“Uh, yeah. Thanks. It’s new,” she said, finding herself oddly nervous to be around the person she’d known as a sister for years, “Must be on your way somewhere important.”


Buffy let out a sigh.


“Just home to mope.”


“Mope?” Willow asked voice etched with both concern and curiosity.


Buffy rolled her eyes.


“Dumped. On Valentine’s Day.”


“Oh,” Willow replied, face falling into sympathy, “I’m really sorry. That sucks.”


Buffy just nodded and despite everything, Willow hated to see her friend in pain.


“Do you want to talk about it?” she offered sincerely.


Buffy looked at Willow for a long moment, then finally cracked smiled; a mix of relief and the comfort borne from friendship.


“My place?”


Willow smiled back the same way and nodded. They walked to Revello Drive, cracking easy jokes that told of their comfortable bond but also their lack of communication in a while.


When they arrived, Buffy was pounding the staircase before the front door had even closed and Willow was following close behind.


Joyce looked up from her position on the couch, channel-surfing and brightened as the two sped past her.


“Oh, Willow, how lovely to see you!”


“Thanks, Mrs. Summers, you too!” Willow called back as she quickly ascended the stairs with Buffy, as she had so many times before and then flew by the first bedroom, “Oh hey Dawnie.”


“Hi W—” Dawn started to reply, clearly excited to see her, but Buffy pulled them into her room before she could even finish.


Buffy opened the door to her bedroom and the first thing to strike Willow was how different it looked. Buffy had changed the position of the bed, taken down all of the posters that had been there before and added in more lamps in what seemed like an attempt at ‘mood lighting’.


“You changed your room,” Willow commented a bit unnecessarily, her hand reaching across her body to grab her opposite arm, “I guess it’s been a while.”


Buffy perched on the end of her bed and nodded solemnly.


“Yeah, it has.”


Willow looked at her friend, the one who’d changed her life and high school experience so much, and just saw sadness. She couldn’t hold a grudge when Buffy’s eyes were so forlorn. She came and sat right beside her on the bed. She put her hand on top of hers and offered a kind smile.


“He must have been pretty special.”


Buffy’s shoulders slumped and she leaned her head on Willow’s shoulder.


“I thought so. I just totally fell for him.”


“What happened?” Willow asked, giving Buffy a sidelong hug.


Buffy was silent for a long moment.


“He just changed after we…”


Willow nodded along, then her eyes widened.


“Oh, OH! Wow!” she said, unable to hide the surprise, “You guys…?”


Buffy blushed and nodded.


“Yeah. I called you to talk about it but it rang out.”


Willow paused. She had seen a missed call or two from Buffy, but she’d ignored them.


On purpose.


To make Buffy see how it felt.


She felt guilty now.


“I’m really sorry.”


“No big,” Buffy replied, but her tone indicated otherwise.


“Yes, big,” Willow protested, putting her arm around Buffy’s shoulders, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. He sounds like a jerk.”


Buffy sighed and sat back up, rubbing her eyes.


“I guess I got caught up in the secrecy of it all,” she said wistfully, then further explained off Willow’s look, “He was older. It was…thrilling. I’d sneak out at night and meet in places no one would see us, like the graveyard.”


Willow’s eyes widened as much as physically possible and Buffy grimaced as she heard her own words back.


She flopped back onto her bed.


“I think I lost my damn mind,” she reasoned, shaking her head, “And somehow I think I still love him. But it just couldn’t…work. He decided to move to LA to make it hurt less, but it doesn’t.”


She made her hands blew up and looked to the ceiling sadly.


Willow lay down beside her, both on their backs, looking upward.


“Was it, um…well, I saw you hanging out with this other girl sometimes…”


Buffy covered her face with her hands.


“Oh her. Yeah, she just showed up one day. She’s the one who kept convincing me to sneak out and stuff. She was intriguing. But then she fell in with an even worse crowd. I ended up knocking her out when she tried to fight me one night.”


“You knocked someone out?!” Willow asked in disbelief, “Jeez, Buffy, no wonder you haven’t been available.”


Buffy crossed her arms over her chest.


“I guess I got caught up in the bad girl vibe for a while. The excitement, the naughtiness…the leather.”


Willow frowned.


“I don’t think the cleavage-y slut-bomb look is you, Buff.”


Buffy actually chuckled.


“I don’t think so either,” she said, turning her face toward Willow with a smile and taking a moment to appraise her outfit, “I like this look on you, though. It’s…surprisingly subdued.”


She glanced down at Willow’s feet kicking at the end of the bed.


“Are those the boots I gave you for your last birthday?”


Willow brightened and nodded.


“Uh huh.”


“I didn’t think you liked them,” Buffy admitted. She’d never seen Willow wear them.


“I did, I do!” Willow replied resolutely, “I was just…waiting for the right moment I guess.”


Buffy’s grin grew curious.


“And tonight was the night?” she prompted, raising an eyebrow, “Trying to impress someone?”


Willow’s face changed, noticeably and Buffy shot up, mouth hanging open.


“Has Xander finally seen the light?”


“No! God no,” Willow protested, feeling a wave of what could only be described as ‘ickiness’ and she wondered how she ever believed she had a crush on him.


“Someone else taken your fancy?” Buffy teased, poking Willow in the belly, “Come on, you have to tell me!”


Willow sat up against the headboard and clutched one of Buffy’s pillows to her chest.


She would have to leave, right now, if she wanted to keep getting away with this.


She couldn’t look into Buffy’s eyes and lie.


“It's complicated,” she answered finally, very aware of the passing seconds and the intent look on her friend’s face.


Buffy’s brow creased in confusion.


“Why complicated?”


Willow sighed and steeled herself.


What was happening? Was she actually about to say—


“It's complicated… because of Tara.”


Her heart was racing and she felt on the verge of puking, but she managed to keep it in so that was a plus. More tentative seconds passed as she moved between her eyes boring into Buffy’s face for a reaction, and looking away to avoid one.


“Tara?” Buffy asked, bewildered, “Your friend from across the street? You mean Tara has a crush on Xander?”


Willow’s eyes shut tight and she shook her head.


“No. Never mind.”


Buffy put a hand on Willow’s leg.


“I know I’m missing something here. Help me— Oh!”


All the air rushed from Willow’s lungs.


Why had she done this?


This was everything she was terrified of. Her mouth opened before her brain caught up as she rushed to explain.


“There's something between us. It-it wasn't something I was looking for. It's just powerful.”


Buffy stood up and awkwardly massaged the back of her own neck. She paced up and down the length of the bed and forced a cheerful tone as she processed what Willow was telling her.


“Well, there you go, I mean, you know, you have to — you have to follow your heart, Will. And that's what's important, Will.”


Willow’s gaze faltered.


“Why do you keep saying my name like that?”


“Like what Will?” Buffy asked in that same painfully chirpy tone.


Willow’s eyes stayed painfully open because if they closed for a second she’d burst into tears.


“Are you freaked?”


“What? No, Will, d—” Buffy started, then stopped herself and sighed, “No.”


She sat back on the bed and looked Willow in the eye.


“No, absolutely no to that question.”


Willow felt the sincerity and while half of her was screaming ‘panic, panic, panic’, some part of her stayed grounded and recognized she had an opportunity to release all the dark, painful thoughts she’d been wrapping herself up in all these months.


“I am,” she said, barely audible.


“What?” Buffy asked softly.


Willow very slowly, hesitantly and while shaking met Buffy’s eye.


“F-Freaked,” she replied with a tremor in her voice, “I want her but I don’t want to be…”


Her head dropped into the pillow and she started to sob. Buffy didn’t hesitate for a second, she wrapped her in a hug, as best she could in this position.


“We can’t control who we fall for,” she comforted, then added on wryly, “Or I wouldn’t have fallen for such a monster.”


A laugh broke through Willow’s tears, shocking her enough to stop them. She lifted her head and swiped at her eyes until Buffy got up and offered her a tissue.


“Thanks,” Willow said, and looked at Buffy in such a way that they both knew she meant for more than the tissue.


Buffy took both of Willow’s cheeks in her hands and smiled.


“You’re my best friend, and nothing could change that. Especially something that makes you happy. Or someone.”


Willow thought she could actually feel pressure evaporate from above her shoulders. Her negative feelings hadn’t just disappeared, but they’d lifted for that moment, and even when they pressed down again, the weight wouldn’t seem so heavy.


Buffy pressed a quick kiss on the highest center point of Willow’s forehead and released her again.


“Hey, you wanna order a pizza? All this reuniting makes for quite the hunger pang.”


“Yeah, I’d love some pizza,” Willow replied through a tearful laugh. She hadn’t eaten since brunch and the reminder of food made her stomach ache in a much better way than it had been just minutes before.


Buffy went about ordering the pizza, while Willow cleaned herself up and gathered her thoughts.


It still scared her when she thought too much about it, but there was a definite relief that the person she cared the most about in the world, apart from Tara, had embraced her after she revealed what she had considered her biggest shame.


“Pizza’s coming!”


Willow trashed her tissues and hurried back from the bathroom, the thought of the pizza making her stomach rumble.


When the pizza arrived, they sat on the floor together and dug in, catching up on some of the more minor aspects of the last few months of their lives.


After they’d gorged themselves, they lay on their backs on the floor, both quietly contemplative.


“Can I ask you something?” Buffy asked after a long time of companionable silence, which Willow enjoyed greatly.


She was so used to the lonely kind.


“Yeah,” she answered softly.


Apparently, she was an open book tonight.


“You’ve known Tara forever right?”


Willow nodded evenly. Buffy propped herself up on her elbow.


“And you’ve never dated anyone else?”


“No…” Willow replied, starting to become unsure of Buffy’s tone, “Not really.”


Buffy finally just asked what she was thinking.


“So how do you know you’re not confusing your friendship feelings?”


Willow paused. It was easier to speak like this, staring upward with nothing staring back but a white ceiling with no agenda.


“Because I wish I could tell you I was and not have to deal with…everything. I wish I could walk away. But then she looks at me and…I just…I can’t describe it.”


Buffy lay back down.


“I get that,” she sighed wistfully, “The undescribable.”


“In,” Willow corrected.


“In what?” Buffy asked with her mouth pursing, trying to figure it out.


Willow just chuckled.


“Insane, as in I must be,” she said, picturing Tara’s smile and trying to forget how they’d left things. Tara was probably furious at her for blowing up like that, she thought, “Insane for her and not in a friendship way. Because, no offense Buffy, but I never looked at you and thought your lips looked too dry and I should fix that with my own mouth.”


Willow blushed as she realized what she said, but Buffy seemed to be thoughtfully musing it over.


“And you think that about her?”


“Only once,” Willow reasoned, a wrinkle slowly growing taut in her furrowing brow, “Or twice. A day. Since we were 11.”


“What about Xander?” Buffy pressed, not to persuade, just to understand, “You’ve been crazy about him the whole time I’ve known you.”


“Xander was like a surrogate,” Willow explained, immediately feeling a sense of sadness and loss, “Girls had to like guys, so I picked a guy. I even made myself believe it for a long time. It’s so weird because if I hadn’t fixed this idea of having a crush on him as part of my life, we might not have even stayed friends and he is a really good friend.”


A melancholy breath pushed past her lips.


“Or, was. We’re not friends now after my failed seduction attempt, of course.”


Buffy nodded along, then her head turned sharply.


“Wait…what?!”


Willow sighed, turned on her side and filled Buffy in on that whole debacle. Buffy’s eyebrows grew further and further upward until they almost disappeared into her hairline.


“Damn…I really have missed a lot.”


“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it didn’t happen,” Willow added on quickly after the story, “But…I got used to having him around, the big lug. But I daren’t face the wrath of Cordelia.”


Buffy shrugged.


“They broke up, you know.”


“They did?” Willow asked, and now that she thought about it, he hadn’t seen him hanging out of her at school, but she had been running the opposite direction any time she saw either of them.


“Like, during the summer,” Buffy confirmed, then continued in realization, “Actually, it must have been right around that time…”


Willow covered her face with her hands.


“Great. I’m sure he absolutely hates me, even though he’s way better off without Queen C. I feel like I’ll be leaving a trail of destruction when I leave for Claremont.”


“Claremont?” Buffy asked, wondering what else she missed, but was able to figure this one out in time, “Wait, you got into college?! Where you wanted, Harvey Milk??”


“Harvey Mudd,” Willow amended, smiling bashfully and a little uncertainly.


“That’s the one!” Buffy exclaimed and rolled over to throw her arms around Willow. “That’s great, Will. That’s really great.”


Willow’s shortened name didn’t sound so weird anymore.


“I’ve been slacking off so much I’ll be lucky to get a place at UCSD. My mom would be happy if I stayed local though.”


“I’ll come visit,” Willow offered, then tacked on, “If you want me too. I won’t be that far away.”


“Of course I do,” Buffy replied as if Willow was nuts to think she’d say any different. She paused and sat up, cross-legged, “I know things have been distant between us, but I don’t want that anymore.”


Willow sat up in the same way.


“It’s not your fault.”


Buffy put her hands on Willow’s pointed knees.


“Will, I miss you. And it is my fault. I've been wrapped up in my own stuff. I've been a bad friend.”


“Well, I haven't been Miss Available either,” Willow replied in an apologetic tone, “I-I kept secrets. I hid things from everyone.”


She looked down for a moment.


“I wanted to tell you, but I was so scared.”


“You can tell me anything,” Buffy replied emphatically, “I love you. You're my best friend.”


Willow looked back up, smiling in delight.


“Me, too. I love you too.”


They leaned in and embraced tightly until Willow pulled back a tad.


“Platonically.”


They both started laughing and Buffy picked up the pillow she’d been leaning on and smacked Willow with it, who giggled, feeling almost high at being able to make such a joke so freely. When they settled again, Buffy started and stopped talking a few times.


“So why aren’t you with her tonight…?” Buffy questioned cautiously, “Valentine’s…?”


Her voice dipped and Willow knew she was reminded of the very recent break-up.


“We…I…” she didn’t want to admit to how she’d acted, “It’s complicated?”


Buffy nodded in understanding.


“You know what isn’t complicated?” she said suddenly, jumping up, “Ice-cream!”


Buffy hurried off to get them a tub and two spoons but turned back at the door at looked at Willow, unusually shy.


“Will… you wanna stay over? Have a slumber party?”


Willow smiled softly. She could see the look in her friend’s eye. Buffy needed her, probably to have a good cry, and Willow had already had hers. There was only one answer, the truth.


“I’d love to.”



Tara crept slowly along the street from The Bronze, her feet dragging behind her.


She was worn out from a restless night of sleep and her guitar case was heavy on her back.


She’d run home, a mess, after Willow had blown up at her and Nate had been kind enough to drop her saxophone home, but the guitar had been left behind by accident since Nate had had to pack up by himself.


Thankfully, Tara had her name and phone number on the case and the owner of The Bronze had called her when he found it that morning. The last thing Tara had wanted was to face the world or even get out of bed, but she grudgingly dressed and headed downtown to collect it.


As she passed by the Espresso Pump, she spotted a familiar bobbing head of red hair sitting alone at a table.


She hesitated, unsure whether to go in or not, but her heart hurt too much to just walk away. It was fairly busy and Tara stood out with her guitar case on her back, but Willow still didn’t spot her until she got to the table.


“Willow,” she said softly, eyes creased with pain instead of their usual brightness. She sat at a slight angle on the opposite chair to accommodate her case and reached across the table, taking both of Willow’s hands, “Can we please talk?”


Willow took in a sharp breath as she took in Tara’s appearance. Tara always put herself together nicely but her clothes were disheveled, her hair brushed but with no care in her parting. Her eyes were red raw and she’d clearly been crying all night.


Willow frowned but didn’t move her hands away and began to return a tender look. She opened her mouth to speak but before she could, a large circular mug was placed in front of her, a little chocolate heart sitting in the foam.


“Mocha, right?” a male voice asked, his eyes slowly moving between the two women.


Willow looked up at him and felt Tara’s hands snatch away from hers.


She didn’t like it.


She really didn’t like when she realized she was usually the one to do the snatching. Was that how Tara felt when she did it to her?


She realized two sets of eyes were on her and looked between the two of them, scrambling her brain for a response.


“Right,” she said eventually to the boy, swallowing quickly as she glanced back to Tara, “Um…”


Tara felt her stomach turn. The boy was holding another mug of plain black coffee, which he took a casual sip from.


He wasn’t wearing a uniform.


Willow was not receiving table service.


“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t—” she stammered, almost falling as she turned around herself to get up out of what seemed to be ‘his’ seat, “I’m sorry.”


The boy just nodded at her cordially.


“Hey. I’ve heard your music. I like your sound.”


“T-Thanks,” Tara replied, averting her gaze as she tried desperately to get out of there, “I j-just came in for a coffee, so I-I’ll leave you to your…”


She gestured at the table and hurried off to join the coffee line, the only dignified escape route possible. Unfortunately, there was already a few people waiting and she ended up only a foot away from them, arms crossed over her chest to hold herself in place.


At the table, Willow desperately sought Tara’s gaze out of the corner of her eye but to no avail.


“So, this is nice,” the boy said evenly, now sitting opposite her, “You. Me. Coffee.”


He’d asked to buy her a coffee when they were in line together and Willow had said yes after floundering for a moment, from years of having politeness broken into her.


“Yeah. I like coffee,” Willow reasoned and unable to take the thrum of awkwardness between them or the waves of pain she could feel in spades from Tara.


She couldn’t take it. She stood up and brought her mug with her.


“Um, I was actually going to get this to-go, so…”


The boy, sweet and affable, stood with her like this was a normal way to have an exchange.


“Maybe we could do it again…officially some time?”


Time slowed down for Willow for a moment.


Was this happening?


This was happening.


There was little to misinterpret; this boy was asking her out.


Here it was, the thing she thought she wanted most of all for so many years — and it felt empty. A boy — a nice boy, a cool boy — was asking her out and she felt…nothing. And ‘nothing’ was the opposite of what she felt for Tara.


For Tara, she felt everything.


Being with Tara terrified her, but not being with Tara terrified her more. She couldn’t do this, she wouldn’t — to either of them. It was time to take a step, even if it was just a baby one.


“I’m sorry, I’m seeing someone,” she said, and actually heard the sharp intake of breath from the line, “I’m going to get them to put this in a to-go cup. I’ll… see you.”


The boy just nodded once, dejection hidden in the purse of his lips.


“Yeah, sure. Bye.”


Willow took out her wallet and the boy held up a hand, looking at her for a sincere moment.


“Please.”


“Well, um, thanks,” Willow said quickly, and moved off quickly for both of their sakes, “For the mocha. Really kind of you.”


She turned away from his desolate smile and stepped into line with Tara; their shoulders brushing together.


Tara’s heart was hammering and she was too scared to look at Willow. Her eyes stayed fixed ahead unnaturally.


Until she felt the barest hint of a pinky brush against her own. Her eyes flickered over to Willow who smiled back, a little sad but also full of sincerity.


Willow saw the lump protrude in Tara’s throat as she swallowed. She stepped in for her when they moved up in the line and the barista looked at them expectantly.


“Can I get a medium hazelnut macchiato and an extra to-go cup please?”


She paid and they took their respective cups when they were ready and headed toward the exit. The chatter and music got fainter with each step taken away from the busy street.


They wordlessly moved toward the direction of their own houses, from the main town to the quieter residential streets.


Willow couldn’t help but notice Tara sneaking glances and smiling like she couldn’t believe they were walking together each time their eyes connected.


Why had Willow never seen that before? She’d looked and watched and witnessed those looks for… for years when she actually thought about it, but she’d never appreciated the entirety of what it meant.


If I can make someone else that happy, why can’t I make me that happy?


When they were on an abandoned, sleepy street with no one else around, Tara brought up a hand to shyly tuck some hair behind her own ear.


“Um, about—”


“That was nothing,” Willow cut in quickly, splaying a hand out in front of her and shaking it from side to side indicatively, “He just arrived at the same time as me and asked to buy me a coffee and my brain spazzed for a moment. It really was nothing, really.”


She did the sneaky glance this time and made sure their eyes locked.


“I wouldn’t do that to you.”


Tara swallowed and Willow watched relief flood her face. It brought back her guilt and she began to wring her hands around her coffee cup.


“I was actually on my way home from Buffy's. I was gonna bring you a coffee as a peace offering.”


Tara stopped, her eyebrows rising closer to her hairline.


“Wait. You guys hung out? That's great, I'm so happy for you!” she said, flinging her arms around Willow, then pulling back sheepishly and falling back into step with her, “I, um, I know you’ve missed her.”


“Yeah,” Willow said, smiling softly as her breath caught a little from Tara’s embrace, “Yeah, it was good. It was…good.”


Tara nodded agreeably but her fingers kept tapping her cup.


“Before, I, um…I actually meant about last night.”


“Tara,” Willow started, taking in a deep breath, “Tara, I’m so sorry. For how I acted. You didn’t deserve it.”


Tara quickly shook her head.


“I should never have sung a song about you without checking with you first.”


“No, I overreacted. I got scared but I should have just talked to you,” Willow pressed, then smiled to herself, “It’s really flattering actually. The first song I’ve ever had written about me.”


Tara looked down bashfully.


“Not the first.”


Willow smiled slowly with a hint of intrigue. They fell back into silence for a while, both in their own thoughts.


“Tara?” Willow said eventually, her voice echoing softly.


Tara looked in her direction and Willow spoke again, only loud enough to be a whisper on the wind, between them and nothing or no one else.


“Wait for me?”


Tara felt Willow’s pinky fully curl around hers and her heart soared as high as it had ever been.


“Forever,” she answered without a beat, holding Willow’s pinky in place.


Willow’s heart fluttered and she looked at Tara, who just smiled and held their fingers tighter together.


Willow squeezed back in the same way and just gazed at her from the side.


This was the most Willow had ever allowed herself to feel everything Tara outside of their bedroom walls. And it was nice. It was really, really nice. She couldn’t stop smiling.


They walked on the road instead of the sidewalk and stopped between their houses, neither wanting to part.


“My parents are out of town,” Willow said, trying not to fidget with the lid on her cup, “Do you want to come inside?”


“I’d love to,” Tara answered simply, but full of joy.


Willow brought them over to her house and inside and felt oddly awkward as if she’d never had Tara in her home before.


“Um, do you want a different drink or anything?”


“Oh, no, I’m good,” Tara replied, waving her half-full cup of coffee, “Actually can I use the bathroom?”


Willow finally snapped out of it; it was Tara, for god’s sake.


“Yeah, of course, you know where it is. Here, I’ll take your cup.”


She took Tara’s cup and watched her go up the stairs. Very definitively watched a certain part of her sway with each step.


Her cheeks reddened, but she didn’t look away until Tara’s body curved out of sight. Willow looked around and wondered whether to go into the living room, but that was still a little bit too public to the street outside, at least for the smooch or two she planned on stealing. Curtains closed during the day was suspicious.


She skipped upstairs to her bedroom.


“Will?” Tara’s voice called a minute or two later from outside the bathroom.


“In my room,” Willow called back.


Tara walked in, where Willow was sitting on her bed, the coffee cups still in her hands, grinning.


“I just took a sip of my mocha and then your hazelnut latte and it was basically liquid-y coffee-light Nutella.”


Tara set her case down under Willow’s window and walked over to her.


“Let me try,” she replied, sitting beside Willow and taking each cup to try, “You’re right, that’s really good.”


“How have we never tried this before?” Willow giggled, “We’ll make our own blend and be millionaires!”


Tara returned the laugh and Willow couldn’t help scooting over and planting a kiss on her lips. Tara recovered from the surprise and quickly returned it. Willow pressed her palm against Tara’s cheek and caressed her jaw while pulling away slowly.


“Sorry. I’ve been turned into a crook,” she said, adding on sheepishly, “To steal a kiss.”


“You can’t steal what’s freely given,” Tara replied sweetly.


Willow had a flashback to when they were kids; Tara giving her the Barbie she wanted to play with even though Tara had been playing with it first. Willow hadn’t had to say anything; Tara just knew.


“Tell me about Buffy,” Tara broke Willow out of her thoughts, “If you want. Last time we talked about it, she wasn’t being very communicative.”


Willow drank the last bit of her mocha, left her empty cup on the nightstand and lay down on her stomach. She started recounting the story to Tara, who slowly moved closer as she finished her coffee, then lay on her back alongside Willow when she was done.


“So, yeah, she ended up pretty weepy for the night what with being dumped on Valentine’s Day, but we had great friend-time and it just felt so good to connect again.”


“That’s really wonderful,” Tara empathized, then corrected herself, “Not about the break-up. That must have been very difficult. I-I’m guessing. I don’t know her.”


Willow’s brow fell sadly.


“Tara…”


Tara just smiled it off.


“I got you something,” she said, changing the subject as she threw her legs off the bed and walked over to her guitar case, “For Valentine’s Day.”


She opened the little pouch on the front, while Willow looked on, curious. Tara turned toward her again, something closed in her palm.


“I was going to give it to you last night but…um. Anyway. I knew you wouldn’t want something, uh…obvious. But I thought this was pretty.”


She laid back down and opened her hand, revealing a pink-purple crystal. She offered it to Willow shyly, who took it and turned it over in her hand.


“It’s gorgeous,” as she turned it and watched the reflection of the rock in the sun shining in the window, “So cool.”


“It's called a Doll’s Eye crystal,” Tara explained, “I had to write a jingle for a class and I recognized this in a store window. My grandma, my mom’s mom, was big into crystals and my mom keeps a small collection of them.”


“It's like a family heirloom?” Willow asked cautiously.


Tara shook her head.


“No, I bought a new one for you.”


“Oh good,” Willow replied with a relieved sigh, “I just wouldn’t have been comfortable.”


Tara nodded understandingly.


“I went in and asked the owner about it. He said it was for spellbinding and… you’re spellbinding to me.”


Willow suddenly became very aware of her heartbeat.


“He also said it electrifies reactions,” Tara added on, “Whatever that’s supposed to mean.”


She grew more nervous as Willow remained silent.


“I-if you don’t like it—”


“I love it,” Willow interrupted, clutching Tara’s hand, “I-I feel bad. I didn’t even remember what day it was, meanwhile, you got me this cool gift and wrote me that cool song.”


She looked up at Tara through her eyelashes.


“It was really cool, by the way. It was… sexy. I didn’t know you could sing like that. You know all…seductive and stuff.”


Tara felt a pressure in her stomach at the way Willow was looking at her.


“Y-you think I’m seductive?”


Willow reached up and brushed her fingers against Tara’s jawline, then tilted her chin down and leaned up to kiss her. Tara immediately melted, her body falling over toward Willow. Willow shifted herself onto her side and crossed her arms behind Tara’s neck, making it known certainly that she wanted Tara close.


Tara’s hand settled on Willow’s waist as she welcomed Willow’s tongue against her lips. She’d thought she’d blown it all last night and this was heaven.


The kissing got deeper and both of their hands migrated. Tara’s curved just slightly, so that her fingertips were brushing over the fabric on Willow’s ass and Willow’s palm was molded to Tara’s breast. Tara had just thrown a tank top under her shirt that morning, so this was as close to bare skin as Willow had ever felt. Without the thick material of a bra, the tightening of Tara’s nipple was playing out across her palm and driving her crazy.


Her other hand moved away from massaging Tara’s neck and brushed down Tara’s chest to where the hem of her shirt was riding up from the belabored breathing of its host. Her fingers connected with skin and she experienced the most erotic sensation of her young life: Tara moaning into her mouth.


Her hand bunched the material of Tara’s shirt for a moment, but she released it quickly in favor of her hand slipping beneath to find Tara’s skin again. Tara was a normal and healthy 98.6 degrees, but Willow’s fingertips still tingled and burned as they caressed what was underneath.


Tara felt like she couldn’t quite catch her breath, but it was suffocating in the best possible way. Willow’s hands and body were pressing into her in all sorts of ways and it was more than anything she’d ever felt before — Willow was near and far and always and everywhere and everything.


This was what they’d always had; secret moments shared in the heat of the afternoon, but today it felt more.


Tara was so caught up in it all, she didn’t realize Willow’s hand had crept lower until she suddenly felt the brush against the top of her panties that sent a wave of arousal flooding through her.


Willow paused and looked at her breathlessly.


“Should I stop?”


Tara was almost afraid to move.


“You d-don’t owe me anything.”


Willow dipped her hand a skosh lower and continued to fix Tara with an unbroken stare.


“Should I stop?”


Tara gulped.


“I-I want what you want,” she said, returning the intent look to make sure there was no confusion, “And only what you want.”


Willow kept Tara’s gaze for a few long seconds, then kissed each corner of Tara’s mouth. She left another kiss fully against Tara’s mouth, soft and sweet on her lips.


Tara felt Willow’s hand slide out from her underwear and breathed out once, just to calm and gather herself. That was okay. She would hate if Willow did anything she wasn’t comfortable with.


She was thrown off course again immediately though, when Willow just popped the button on her jeans, pulled down the fly and slid her hand back in, going right under her panties this time until there were fingers gliding and—


“Oh my god,” Tara rasped, fireworks going off behind her eyes.


Willow mouthed ‘whoa’ as she tentatively explored this new place. It felt similar to when she touched herself, but also very different too. Tara felt hotter and wetter and just so much more inviting.


Her fingers explored Tara’s lips and pretty quickly she felt a little bump.


Tara’s breath hitched and her thighs twitched and Willow was immediately bewitched.


She proceeded gently and brought her gaze up from her disappearing wrist to Tara’s face.


Tara’s cheeks were pink and her nostrils were flaring and she was biting on her bottom lip hard enough to nearly draw blood. Willow thought she’d never looked so beautiful.


She felt molten, deep in her core and light in her heart and dizzy in her mind.


It was intoxicating. Tara was intoxicating.


She had a little idea of what she was doing; she’d done it to herself plenty, but her fingers still explored, finding where Tara dipped and curved and feeling that wonderful wetness flow for her. It was the most exciting and satisfying sensory experience of her entire life.


She learned pretty quick that she loved the short moans Tara made when she brushed against her clit and brought the pads of two fingers up and over them repeatedly. She listened as Tara’s breath grew more and shallow.


Then there was a quick jerk and a caught breath and Tara was panting above and felt white-hot below.


Willow realized what had happened, what she’d made happen, and slowly grinned. She watched Tara’s face until her eyelids flicked open.


“You okay?” she whispered softly.


“Yeah,” Tara replied in the same way, unable to stop herself from smiling.


Willow kissed Tara’s forehead then her lips, soft and sweet like the one that had started it all. She reluctantly pulled her hand out, watching Tara exhale slowly at the same pace.


She glanced down at her hand and was kind of startled by the evidence making her fingers shimmer in the daylight. How did she clean off? She couldn’t remember what she did when she was alone. Nothing really, it was dark and she just rolled over and went to sleep. And it was never this much.


She had no idea of the etiquette here – was it rude to just wipe it off? Did she wait for it to dry, try to rub it off against her skin, excuse herself to go to the bathroom?


“Sweetie?” Tara asked, not for the first time.


Willow snapped to attention with several rapid blinks.


“Sorry?”


“Do you need this?”


Tara was shyly offering her a tissue, plucked from the box on her nightstand.


…or I could just do that.


Willow blushed and accepted it gratefully.


“Thanks.”


She twisted the tissue around her fingers and crumpled it on the nightstand. She then fixed up Tara’s open jeans, complete with an awkward little pat on the button when she tied it.


Tara watched Willow smile at her clumsily and reached up to brush some hair from Willow’s face. With the beginnings of strength returning to her, she pushed herself up and pressed their lips together. She used the leverage to softly push Willow onto her back while she lay alongside her, essentially reversing their positions. Willow bent her arm at a right angle above her head and Tara covered it, linking their hands together.


They kept kissing and Tara’s hand slowly crept down Willow’s arm, over the swell of her breasts and paused, palm flat on her stomach.


“Do you want…?” she asked lightly, no pressure.


Willow looked down at herself, wondering if she was about to have an experience that would change her forever.


Heck…that already just happened.


“I’m kinda nervous,” she admitted.


Tara followed her gaze down, and then back up again.


“Have you?”


Willow squirmed.


“Not with anyone else in the room.”


She paused, first with embarrassment, then shock as she realized something.


“I don’t cry anymore,” she whispered to herself.


She hadn’t even realized she’d been slowly absolving herself of her internal shame that she’d stopped crying immediately after pleasuring herself — if she could even call it that. It had always been more like hate fucking herself but lately, no…


“C-cry?” Tara asked, confused.


Willow’s eyes widened as she slowly navigated them toward Tara.


“Chai,” she covered, not very smoothly, “I don’t…chai anymore. Went through a phase. Back on the mochas.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, nodding along, used to Willow’s topic jumps, “D-Did you want me to get you another drink?”


Willow looked up at Tara, eyes glassy with vulnerability. She clutched Tara’s shirt and pulled her in.


“No, I want you to stay right here.”


She tucked her head into Tara’s neck and kissed below her ear.


“You can if you want.”


Tara ran her fingers down Willow’s hair.


“Do you want?”


Their eyes met and Willow nodded.


Tara smiled and played with the short ends.


“I really do love this cut.”


Willow blushed and reached to cover Tara’s hand, giving it a squeeze. Tara slid her hand onto Willow’s cheek and tilted her up for a kiss.


Willow relaxed, her fingers massaging Tara’s fingers until she was pulling her hand away.


Tara’s hand brushed over Willow’s knee and Willow suddenly froze.


“Um…”


Tara stopped and looked up, waiting for Willow to make the next move.


“We, can’t, um…” Willow gulped, “We can’t take our clothes off…a-anyone could walk in.”


She laughed nervously and Tara just looked at her kindly.


Both the front door and Willow’s bedroom door was locked; Willow’s parents weren’t even in the country and no one ever visited anyway, but she wasn’t about to argue. She remembered Willow freaking out at New Years and she would never want to make her uncomfortable.


“Show me what’s okay,” she said softly.


Willow melted under that soft, trusting and trustful gaze. She linked their hands again and shyly guided it under the skirt of her dress, then brought her grip up to the wrist, making Tara’s hand skate over her thighs.


Willow’s quite loose-fitting leggings suddenly felt very restrictive. She felt pressure over her pubic bone and goosebumps broke out across her flesh. Finally, Tara’s fingertips skated below her bellybutton and Willow thought it was so stupid that her body was reacting like this when Tara had probably grabbed the same spot in hugs or posing for photos a hundred times since her memory began.


Except then the elastic waistband on her leggings was giving way to Tara’s hand, and her underwear was accommodating the same bulge and then Tara was touching her somewhere she definitely never had before.


“Oh,” Willow breathed out.


Never had her mind offered so little thought, her mouth offered so little words and her body given her so, so much sensation.


Her neck arched into the pillows, straining her throat and causing the subsequent gasp to whimper into the air.


Tara was a very tactile person, in fact, it was the reason she got into music; being able to touch things in different ways and produce beautiful sounds spoke to her soul.


She was thinking about this because that little sound that got caught in Willow’s throat was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. It made her body react in ways she would never even be able to express or even the sweetest of chord progressions could ever replicate.


Two fingers glided Willow’s length, learning how she felt intimately. She laid her head on the pillow alongside Willow, enjoying watching her face as the expressions changed with each little movement.


She pressed her lips under Willow’s ear and almost immediately felt Willow’s face turning to hers and capturing her in a kiss. Tara’s hand stalled for just a minute in surprise, but a soft push as Willow’s hips lifted and returned to the bed made her fingers twitch again. They rolled over Willow’s clit and Tara felt a pulsation between them; she didn’t know if it was hers or Willow’s heartbeat.


The kiss got more heated and the pace of Tara’s rolling fingers only increased in kind.


Willow’s hand clutched the back of Tara’s shirt, then fell down to cup her butt. She squeezed and gasped simultaneously as the heat began to throb in her belly and spread out. It was entirely different to feeling an orgasm building by herself; the journey was as important as the end goal. The lack of control was surprisingly alluring. The intensity was…


She whimpered again as clenchings of pleasure rocked throughout her, followed by a rhythmic thumping inside that passed in seconds but held her in that moment for an age.


She had to blink several times for her vision to return from the firework/fuzzy screen hybrid it had momentarily turned into. She glanced over at Tara with scarlet cheeks and an awkward smile, who just pressed a warm kiss against her cheek. Tara slowly popped her hands from underneath Willow’s leggings, letting it rest on her fabric-clad thigh.


They lay together for a little while, silent; just being with each other.


“You okay?” Tara whispered against Willow’s neck.


Willow just smiled and nodded.


“Yeah.”


She was the best she’d ever felt, in fact.


Tara kissed Willow’s pulse point once, then twice; soft, barely there kisses that made Willow shiver right to the base of her spine.


Tara thought Willow might be cold and rolled over to reach for the blanket hanging off the end of the bed. On the way, something sharp dug into her lower back.


“Ow!”


Willow lifted her head to see what the problem was but was surprised to hear Tara giggling as she reached under herself and brought out the Doll’s Eye crystal.


“Why are you laughing?” Willow asked, lips quirked up in amusement.


Tara held the crystal up between them, twisting it around.


“In my jingle, I said the crystal would 'blow your mind'. I had no idea. I was just looking for a rhyme.”


Willow blushed, but couldn’t stop the amused twitch of her lips breaking out into a full-blown grin.


“I don’t think I ever thought that phrase could be literal,” she said, pressing her palms against her forehead where a thin layer of sweat was drying, “Seriously, I don’t even think I can remember the quadratic equation right now!”


They laughed together and naturally fell toward each other, pressed together at the hips and faces with barely any space between them at all. Tara brushed the hair from Willow’s face and Willow leaned right into it. She loved when Tara touched her like that; those little caresses that warmed her skin and lit the flame inside her.


They’d always been like this, she thought. Close. Drawn to each other. Physical, affectionate. And she’d always felt like it was something to hide.


Why…why?


Tara brought the crystal up and closed it into Willow’s palm.


“But seriously…I thought you could keep it and hold onto it when…when we're apart.”


Willow was drawn from one source of agony to another. She really hated thinking that in mere months…


“It’s beautiful,” she said as she closed her fist and held it against her heart, “So, um, have you gotten your ticket? Planned it all out? I can’t believe…I mean, I’m so glad you’re getting to do it. The Big Trip.”


“My mom is getting me the ticket as a late birthday gift when I graduate,” Tara replied, her eyes lighting up as she spoke, “But I have a pretty good idea. I’m going to start with skiing in New Zealand and I think I’m going to try a bungee jump there. Did you know that’s where bungee jumping originated?”


Willow shook her head, watching how animated and joyful Tara became as she spoke about the trip.


“I’ll keep going west from there. Australia, up through Asia…and maybe train across Europe or see some of Africa then come home through South America. It sounds like it’s nothing more than a quick hop when I say it like that, but I want to take in everything, see everything. I want to go on safari in South Africa like you did and see the Sydney Opera House at night. See the temples in Thailand, tour the cobbled streets of Rome, boat through the falls in the Amazon,” she gushed as she closed her eyes for a moment and basked in the anticipation. She opened her eyes again and looked at Willow, shyly, “All of your stories are what made me want to do this, you know. I was so jealous of all your adventures.”


Willow’s eyelids closed, feeling a stab of guilt. She never knew she’d been the source of Tara’s fascination with travel. She’d figured it was karma that her deception was what was taking Tara away from her.


“I-I lied,” she admitted, wincing as the words came out of her mouth.


Tara’s brow creased but she didn’t move away.


“What do you mean?”


Willow’s jaw tensed for a moment. She felt angry at her younger self for forcing her current self to deal with the fallout of this.


“I lied about doing all those things,” she said a bit more forcefully.


“…you didn’t go overseas?” Tara tried to deduce, even more, confused since she definitely remembered Willow being away, and missing her.


“I-I did, but…” Willow stopped and sighed, “It wasn’t like how I said it was. I was stuck inside hotel rooms. I never saw anything. I watched pay-per-view movies and ordered room service and if I was lucky the restaurant we went to in the evenings was a bit of a drive away and I got to see the area that way. I made it all up. I’m sorry.”


Tara’s hand paused in the middle of stroking Willow’s hair.


“Why did you say…?”


Willow looked down.


“Because I wanted to sound cool.”


“But I’ve always thought you were cool,” Tara replied, genuinely confused.


Willow’s head shot back up and even more embarrassingly, she felt tears starting to fall on her cheeks.


“Hey,” Tara replied softly, wrapping her up in a hug.


Willow lifted her sleeve to her eye and wiped it.


“Are you mad?”


“We were kids. It doesn’t matter,” Tara comforted, kissing the top of Willow’s head, “And you put the idea in my head, so I’m grateful. Don’t worry about it.”


Willow exhaled a shaken breath.


“Sorry,” she said, sniffling to herself, “I just wish…”


“What?” Tara replied gently.


Willow kept her glassy gaze on Tara’s.


“I just wish your trip is everything you dream it to be.”


Tara put her palm under Willow’s chin and lifted her up into a soft kiss.


“As close as a dream can be without you.”


That was the moment Willow realized that gazing into each other’s eyes was more than just a cliché.


And even if it is…I’ll happily be one.


Several hours later, when the sun had already set, Tara walked across the street in darkness and let herself into her house. She brought her guitar straight upstairs to put into her closet safely.


“Tara? Is that you?” Kimberly’s voice called up the stairs.


“Yes!” Tara called back and turned around to come back down.


She smiled at her mother as she landed back downstairs, who looked at her strangely, not that Tara noticed.


“I’m going to get a drink, do you want anything?”


Kimberly shook her head as Tara moved past her.


“No. Thank you.”


Tara poured a glass of sweet tea from the jug in the fridge and downed it all in one go.


“Thirsty?” Kimberly asked with a raised eyebrow.


“Apparently,” Tara replied with an easy smile, refilling her glass.


“Sit with me for a bit?” Kimberly requested and Tara nodded amiably.


They went into the living room and sat on the sofa together. Tara hugged a cushion to her chest and just smiled.


“You seem brighter,” Kimberly commented, with a bittersweet look on her face.


“Just hung out with Willow,” Tara replied, shrugging one shoulder, “She…made me feel better.”


Kimberly nodded along, lips pursed together.


“Mmhhm. I’m glad you’re feeling better,” she said eventually, and lapsed into silence again for several long moments, “Were you really with Willow?”


Tara was startled by the question.


“Where else would I be?”


“Nate’s?” Kimberly asked, her tone probing, “Or…another boy?”


Tara’s brow only knitted tighter. Kimberly sighed.


“That crying last night was not ‘bad show’ crying. It was ‘bad boy’ crying. I’m quite familiar. And you’re very chipper all of a sudden.”


Tara’s jaw clenched and she sat forward.


“You honestly couldn’t be more wrong.”


Kimberly’s arms folded lightly over her chest.


“Did you trip and fall today?”


Tara held back looking at her mother like she was crazy.


“What? No.”


“Get into a fight with the suction end of a vacuum cleaner?” Kimberly wondered aloud, though her tone was a lot heavier on the sarcasm than she normally was and it unnerved Tara.


“What are you talking about?”


Kimberly reached out and pressed her fingers right under Tara’s pulse point. It was surprisingly tender.


“Well something bruised your neck pretty good and you’re telling me it wasn’t a boy.”


It took a moment, but then Tara’s eyes suddenly widened and her hand shot up to cover the apparent hickey on her neck. She turned her body so it was angled completely away from her mother to hide the blush she knew was rising on her cheeks.


Kimberly reached out and put a hand on Tara’s shoulder.


“Okay, you don’t want to tell me, fine. You’re an adult, you can do your own thing,” she said in a reasoned tone, “But are you being safe?”


Tara’s shoulders just tensed more.


“Mom, seriously—“


“it’s very important—” Kimberly pressed.


“It’s not an issue,” Tara interrupted, clutching the pillow tighter.


Kimberly sighed again.


“I’m sorry, Tara but it is an issue. If it’s about money—”


“Neither of us has slept with anyone else, okay?” Tara spoke in a rush, “There’s no issue here.”


Kimberly’s voice started to verge on annoyance; she knew Tara knew better, she’d raised her to be sensible about these things.


“And you’re not the least bit concerned about pregnancy?”


Tara’s mouth was trembling as she swallowed; her jaw tensing in the process.


“No, not really.”


Kimberly’s heart began to beat a little faster. She had to take in a breath before she was able to speak again.


“Why is that?” she prompted, suddenly terrified Tara was about to tell her history was repeating itself, “Well?


The last bit came out a bit stronger than she’d intended.


With her back still to her mother, Tara’s voice broke out through a sob caught in her throat.


“B-Because she’s a girl.”


Kimberly blinked.


That wasn’t what she expected.


Tara tried to stand and bolt, but Kimberly snapped to attention and caught her shoulder.


“Tara, wait. Please, sweetheart. I love you. Nothing could ever change that.”


Tara slowly sat back down, but with her gaze downward. Kimberly wrapped her arms around her and tucked Tara’s head under her chin.


“Oh, honey-bun. Did you think you had to hide that from me?”


Tara swiped at her eyes.


“I-I know you go to church. And read the bible.”


Kimberly kissed the middle of Tara’s messy parting.


“Sweetheart some of that book…well, some of it is just really dumb,” she said, matter-of-fact, “But now and again in spouts up some wisdom.”


She pulled back and held her daughter’s sad face in her hands.


“Like ‘Love is patient, love is kind’,” she said softly, “And I don’t believe restricted by something as superfluous as gender.”


Tara’s eyes filled with fresh tears and Kimberly allowed her to cry the relief into her chest. No matter how big or old or far away she got, Tara would always be her little girl.


She got her a tissue and refreshed her drink and after a little bit, Tara was composed, if not still silent. Kimberly had a hand on her back and was rubbing in circles like she would when Tara wouldn’t settle as a baby.


“I’ll tell you a secret. I always felt more of an affinity with Wicca. The spirituality and nature…that spoke to me. My mom had dabbled growing up, you see, so I knew a little. We were San Franciscan hippies. It’s even why I called you Tara, after the earth goddess,” she said in a fond tone, which faltered, “Your father…well, he didn’t approve. He wanted to call you Sally.”


“Sally?” Tara asked, brow furrowing. She didn’t feel like a Sally.


“After Mustang Sally, a horse that he won a lot on over the years,” Kimberly replied with a disapproving clipped tone, “But he wanted Donny to be named after himself so I won that one. In the end, he didn’t associate himself with the paperwork too much and you were Tara. But I wonder if I did you a disservice because he never liked the origins of your name and so I suppressed that part of me. And then after him, coming to a small town already a single mother…I never felt able to express myself in that way.”


She tugged Tara into another sideways hug.


“All I want for you is to always feel able to be yourself.”


Tara cautiously turned her gaze toward her mother, focusing on the first part.


“I kind of knew that. About you being interested in Wicca. You’ve mentioned your mom before. I’ve actually read up on it myself. There’s a Wiccan shop downtown. Well, a magic shop. But it has Wiccan stuff. You should check it out,” she suggested softly, “It’s called Uncle Bob's Magic Cabinet. The name could use some improvement, something snappy like…The Magic Box. Or something. But it seemed, um, authentic. It’s on Maple Court. Near the Espresso Pump.”


Kimberly nodded agreeably.


“Maybe I will. Thanks.”


They were both quiet for a few moments, pensive.


“Who is she?” Kimberly asked eventually, softly.


“You don’t know her,” Tara answered immediately, stilted.


“I’d like to,” Kimberly replied with a hopeful lilt.


Tara shook her head.


“She’s not…”


“Okay. That’s okay,” Kimberly reassured quickly. She lifted her hand and brushed some of Tara’s hair away, “Do you love her?”


Tara slowly turned her face until her eyes met her mother’s. She nodded repeatedly in quick succession and Kimberly started to stroke her head again.


“I’m happy for you. I hope she makes you very happy.”


A quiet sob left Tara again as she shook with the relief of sharing that secret. Kimberly just held her for as long as she needed.


Eventually, the tears dried and Tara felt like she could barely keep her eyes open. She stood up, looking down to hide how red she knew her eyes must have been.


“I’m going to head to bed. I didn’t sleep great last night.”


“Okay, honey,” Kimberly replied, standing too, “Just remember, I love you, always.”


Tara gave her mother a hug, mumbled a ‘thank you’ and left the living room to head upstairs.


Kimberly exhaled slowly as she sank back down onto the couch, taking everything in.


She took a deep breath and glanced over her shoulder to the Rosenberg residence, with a face full of concern.

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:50 pm 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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Joined: Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:32 pm
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Topics: 14
Location: H-Town, Texas
Dibs!

Laragh...wow. That last chapter was well beyond intense and I loved every word of it. I'm reading this story and it's amazing how well you are capturing the elation and confusion of first love and coming out. You can only hide being in love for so long before it eventually starts to show in your daily life. When you have someone in your life that treats you well and makes you feel special, everything about you changes.

So, where to begin...

Quote:
“Don’t be ridiculous, we’ll call you a car,”
As if this was the main concern here. My hope is that, as Willow grows and becomes more confident in herself, she eventually tells Shiela to fuck off.

Quote:
She didn’t particularly want to stay out here, with couples lounging on the grass having picnics or relaxing after brunch. It just reminded her that she couldn’t be like that with Tara.
I think this particular point strikes home with all of us, especially in the coming-out period.

The song...beautiful, and Willow's reaction...gut-wrenching. I wanted to slap and hug Willow all at the same time. Poor unsuspecting Tara, getting the full force explosion of Willow's anxiety and denial.
Quote:
Willow thought she was going to be sick. Her heart was pounding between her ears and every person bumping into her felt like a steamroller about to flatten everything in her life.


I was actually happy she 'literally' ran into Buffy and then THRILLED with this one simple line...
Quote:
“It's complicated… because of Tara.”
I have to admit, I never thought in a million years, especially after what happened at The Bronze, that Willow would come out to Buffy. A huge leap in the right direction!


Quote:
Being with Tara terrified her, but not being with Tara terrified her more. She couldn’t do this, she wouldn’t — to either of them. It was time to take a step, even if it was just a baby one. “I’m sorry, I’m seeing someone,” she said, and actually heard the sharp intake of breath from the line. ”
Willow is most definitely evolving and starting to accept who she is and what Tara means to her, even though she hasn't allowed herself to even think about using 'love' to describe her feelings. Baby steps indeed.

Quote:
Tara looked in her direction and Willow spoke again, only loud enough to be a whisper on the wind, between them and nothing or no one else. “Wait for me?” Tara felt Willow’s pinky fully curl around hers and her heart soared as high as it had ever been. “Forever,” she answered without a beat, holding Willow’s pinky in place.
So VERY sweet! :luv2

The exploration and their connection...undeniable and oh so very sweet. You did a wonderful job writing this, because it wasn't really about the sex, it was all about their connection and another very important step in Willow's acceptance process.

Finally, Tara gets home and her mom calls her out...every teen's worst nightmare, lol. As always her mom is wonderful, says all the right things and keeps the knowledge that she knows it's Willow to herself. If I was Kimberly and knowing Willow as well as she does, I would be worried too. Especially when Sheila finds out.

So, Tara officially came out as gay to Nate and told her mom she is in love with a girl. Willow confided in Buffy her relationship with Tara is 'complicated.' Again, a slap and a hug all at the same time.

Great chapter JMT, I can't wait for the next!

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:52 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
Posts: 663
Topics: 2
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I typed up this feedback when the board was down. So this is previous submission feedback.

Quote:
So listen, Kerri,” Sheila interrupted and Kimberly thought she might have seen Ira wince, “The woman who lived here before you, so sad to see she’s passed on….Yes, well, she’s left us in a bit of a lurch. You see, she would watch over Willow here when we had events. And as you can probably tell from our dress, we have one tonight. Hosted by my university, we simply must attend. The sitter I had arranged has proven to be unreliable.”

Ok, just because the person who used to live in a house babysat for you, doesn’t mean the new people will do it Sheila!!! What gall.

Quote:
Sheila took Willow and thrust her toward Kimberly. Kimberly instinctively held the crying child against her leg, stroking her hair in comfort.

“Oh—”

“She won’t be a bother, just put a book in her hands if she’s getting on your nerves, or a calculator works,” Sheila said, calling over her shoulder as she grabbed Ira’s elbow and led them both away again.


Well, we know how they kept Willow quiet. Just hand her something. Ugh, I hate Sheila.

Quote:
“Yur hair is pr-pretty,” she told Willow sweetly, “You look like d’Little Mermaid.”


Willow’s eyes lit up.

“She’s my fav’wit.”

Tara jumped up and down excitedly. She’d never had anyone to watch with before.

“We have d’vid-yo! Wan’a watch??”


A perfect 4 year-old reaction. I like your interpretation of 4 year old pronounciation too.


Quote:
Yeah I’m yours,” Tara replied with a bashful duck of her head.
This episodes Easter Egg.


Quote:
Kimberly said goodbye, turned off all the lights and settled to sleep in the armchair. She didn’t like letting Tara out of her sight lately. She noticed the peaceful smile on her daughter’s face as she slept and it made her smile too.

Rut Ro…why doesn’t she like to have Tara out of her sight? What happened.
Quote:
Donny paused for a moment, then stuffed the piece of paper in his pocket and hopped back up. He quickly opened his bedroom door to toss the paper in amongst the other mess, then bounded down the stairs, grabbed the keys from his mother’s clutch without a thank you and stomped out the door.
Shit, what is he going to do…

Quote:
“Pick up your very own Dolls Eye Crystal today by calling 555-0121,” she said in her best announcer voice, before playing the jingle tune she’d created, “The crystal that spellbinds and blows your mind!”

Easter Egg too. Loving it.

Quote:
Across the road, and up a floor, Willow peeked out from her bedroom curtains and watched the exchange in the dim light of a street lamp. She felt a pang of jealousy.
As you should Willow.
Quote:
“Can I give you a hug?”


There was such hope in Tara’s voice; it made Willow’s heartbreak to think she thought the answer would be ‘no’.


And then she realized, that’s exactly what she’d done before; any time she was afraid they were being watched. That really broke her heart. She never wanted Tara to hurt, especially not because of her.

For the first time, she really wanted to keep this feeling deep inside of her and not push it away.

Tara meant everything.

She couldn't lose that.

She wouldn’t.


Great Realization Willow. Stick with it.


Today's episode. Wow, so much stuff in one submission. I think I will have to read it again to fully get the gist. Have you mentioned how many weeks your story is going to take to post? Loving the story. thanks for writing.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:55 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 201
Wow, what a long chapter and rollercoaster-ride of emotions!

I loved Willow's courage to finally decide about her own look and her self-confidence about it in front of Sheila.

Maybe in the future Willow and Xander might be friends with Dickie and go to comic-con together…

My heart broke with Willow's panic attack-reaction to the song and Tara's devestation about it (although I wondered why Tara who is usually very empathic towards Willow didn't imagine that Willow might feel "outed" by the text of this song or read it as a demand to end the secrecy of this "affair").

Yay for Willow running into Buffy, coming out to her and receiving a "supportive" reaction like Tara did from Nate. I'm very glad that this friendship is salvaged and hoping for a reunion with Xander in the near future.

Although no name was mentioned I guess the "cool boy" at the "Espresso pump" was Oz, am I right? I'm proud that Willow told him she "is seeing someone" with the intention to give Tara at least some sense of security in their relationship.
I loved the "Wait for me? - forever!"-pinky swear and their "first time" together.

Quote:
“Sorry,” she said, sniffling to herself, “I just wish…”


“What?” Tara replied gently.


Willow kept her glassy gaze on Tara’s.


“I just wish your trip is everything you dream it to be.”


I guess what Willow really wishes is to accompany Tara on her big trip. I hope she will and that they will both start college afterwards.

Quote:
“Tara, wait. Please, sweetheart. I love you. Nothing could ever change that.”


Tara slowly sat back down, but with her gaze downward. Kimberly wrapped her arms around her and tucked Tara’s head under her chin.


“Oh, honey-bun. Did you think you had to hide that from me?”


I expected a loving, accepting reaction from Kimberly to Tara's coming-out but can understand that Tara had her fears about it.
After her coming-out to Nate and her mom went smoothly, Tara probably wouldn't have to fear if the whole world knew she is gay if she didn't have to worry how this would affect Willow.
Willow on the other hand still has to fear utter rejection from her parents and that Corderlia and her followers would make school-life even harder for her than before if she was outed.
I fervently hope Willow and Tara won't be outed by Donny against their wills...


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
User avatar

Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
Posts: 4127
Topics: 36
Location: Ireland
Finey_McFine

Quote:
Dibs!


:banana

Quote:
Laragh...wow. That last chapter was well beyond intense and I loved every word of it. I'm reading this story and it's amazing how well you are capturing the elation and confusion of first love and coming out. You can only hide being in love for so long before it eventually starts to show in your daily life. When you have someone in your life that treats you well and makes you feel special, everything about you changes.


Love definitely shows on the face!

Quote:
So, where to begin...

As if this was the main concern here. My hope is that, as Willow grows and becomes more confident in herself, she eventually tells Shiela to fuck off.


:lol :lol I kind of want to write that in now

Quote:
I think this particular point strikes home with all of us, especially in the coming-out period.


We angst so much don't we?

Quote:
The song...beautiful, and Willow's reaction...gut-wrenching. I wanted to slap and hug Willow all at the same time. Poor unsuspecting Tara, getting the full force explosion of Willow's anxiety and denial.


Poor Tara did not deserve that. But she is very forgiving...

Quote:
I was actually happy she 'literally' ran into Buffy and then THRILLED with this one simple line...

“It's complicated… because of Tara.”

I have to admit, I never thought in a million years, especially after what happened at The Bronze, that Willow would come out to Buffy. A huge leap in the right direction!


Something had to give. Willow was on the verge of exploding. Plus this is a positive journey I'm trying to tell, she's gotta keep moving forward :)

Quote:
Willow is most definitely evolving and starting to accept who she is and what Tara means to her, even though she hasn't allowed herself to even think about using 'love' to describe her feelings. Baby steps indeed.


There's a lot of years of denial and pain to get through. But she will. I promise.

Quote:
So VERY sweet! :luv2


It's the truth. Tara would wait forever for Willow to be hers and to hear Willow say it...but I won't make them wait forever...just a a little longer :wink

Quote:
The exploration and their connection...undeniable and oh so very sweet. You did a wonderful job writing this, because it wasn't really about the sex, it was all about their connection and another very important step in Willow's acceptance process.


Tara needs some physical connection because she's not verbally getting the emotions from Willow. So that was an important moment for her, to feel that.

Quote:
Finally, Tara gets home and her mom calls her out...every teen's worst nightmare, lol. As always her mom is wonderful, says all the right things and keeps the knowledge that she knows it's Willow to herself. If I was Kimberly and knowing Willow as well as she does, I would be worried too. Especially when Sheila finds out.

So, Tara officially came out as gay to Nate and told her mom she is in love with a girl. Willow confided in Buffy her relationship with Tara is 'complicated.' Again, a slap and a hug all at the same time.

Great chapter JMT, I can't wait for the next!


Everything is up in the air! But things are still moving.

Thanks so much for your feedback JMT!

taranwillow4ever

Quote:
I typed up this feedback when the board was down. So this is previous submission feedback.


Wow, amazing to get some back even when the board was down. Awesome!

Quote:
Ok, just because the person who used to live in a house babysat for you, doesn’t mean the new people will do it Sheila!!! What gall.


She is the definition of self-important.

Quote:
Well, we know how they kept Willow quiet. Just hand her something. Ugh, I hate Sheila.


Unfortunately she's still Willow's mother, and Willow wants the relationship.

Quote:
A perfect 4 year-old reaction. I like your interpretation of 4 year old pronounciation too.


Thank you!

Quote:
This episodes Easter Egg.


:lol

Quote:
Rut Ro…why doesn’t she like to have Tara out of her sight? What happened.


All will be revealed...

Quote:
Shit, what is he going to do…


He's going to...well, read on!

Quote:
Easter Egg too. Loving it.


I love that you pick on them. If you want to do another easter egg hunt, there's also at least one song lyric in every chapter. Sometimes it's very obvious from a character singing, sometimes it's made into dialogue, sometimes it's worked into the prose...

Quote:
As you should Willow.
Great Realization Willow. Stick with it.


She's getting there, slowly but surely!

Quote:
Today's episode. Wow, so much stuff in one submission. I think I will have to read it again to fully get the gist. Have you mentioned how many weeks your story is going to take to post? Loving the story. thanks for writing.


I did the math and this story will conclude on February 4th

Thanks so much for commenting!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Wow, what a long chapter and rollercoaster-ride of emotions!


That kinda becomes a theme in this fic if I'm honest! It was one of the main reasons I decided to stick to two updates a week Image

Quote:
I loved Willow's courage to finally decide about her own look and her self-confidence about it in front of Sheila.


Baby steps in every direction...

Quote:
Maybe in the future Willow and Xander might be friends with Dickie and go to comic-con together…


That may be asking too much for Willow :lol

Quote:
My heart broke with Willow's panic attack-reaction to the song and Tara's devestation about it (although I wondered why Tara who is usually very empathic towards Willow didn't imagine that Willow might feel "outed" by the text of this song or read it as a demand to end the secrecy of this "affair").


Because she doesn't think anybody even considers knowing about them. She doesn't even think Willow's friends know she exists never mind that anything else could be inferred from her song. She's written a lot of songs about Willow no one ever picked up on, so this was just another for her.

Quote:
Yay for Willow running into Buffy, coming out to her and receiving a "supportive" reaction like Tara did from Nate. I'm very glad that this friendship is salvaged and hoping for a reunion with Xander in the near future.


Of course, of course.

Quote:
Although no name was mentioned I guess the "cool boy" at the "Espresso pump" was Oz, am I right?


It can be him, if you want. His actual identity was so insignificant; that was why I didn't name him. I'm happy for people to assign whatever identity they want for him.

Quote:
I'm proud that Willow told him she "is seeing someone" with the intention to give Tara at least some sense of security in their relationship.
I loved the "Wait for me? - forever!"-pinky swear and their "first time" together.


This was everything for Tara, just a simple acknowledgement that there's something there to wait for.

Quote:
I guess what Willow really wishes is to accompany Tara on her big trip. I hope she will and that they will both start college afterwards.


Image :wink

Quote:
I expected a loving, accepting reaction from Kimberly to Tara's coming-out but can understand that Tara had her fears about it.
After her coming-out to Nate and her mom went smoothly, Tara probably wouldn't have to fear if the whole world knew she is gay if she didn't have to worry how this would affect Willow.


If Willow's fear of coming out wasn't a factor, Tara would just come out here and now. If Tara had never been into Willow, she would have come out a couple of years ago.

Quote:
Willow on the other hand still has to fear utter rejection from her parents and that Corderlia and her followers would make school-life even harder for her than before if she was outed.
I fervently hope Willow and Tara won't be outed by Donny against their wills...


I'll tell you one thing...not a big fan of outings. I think it's very important for one's psyche that you come out in your own time. I think Willow's creating enough drama for herself without adding others.

:)

Thanks for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 13th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 11



March



All This Feels Strange And Untrue
And I Won't Waste A Minute Without You



Willow walked into the Maclay kitchen but paused when she saw Kimberly sitting at the table.


“Oh, hey, Ms. Maclay,” she greeted politely, “Is it okay if I get a drink?”


“Of course, Willow, you’re at home here,” Kimberly replied with a welcoming smile, if a bit tired, “Are you ever just going to call me Kimberly?”


Willow returned the smile as she opened the fridge.


“Not a chance, Ms. Maclay.”


She poured a glass of apple juice, while Kimberly looked on covertly.


“Doing homework?”


“Uh huh,” Willow replied easily, “Study buddies.”


“I’m glad you’re both working to keep up your grades,” Kimberly said, taking a long sip from her cup of tea.


Willow’s hands fidgeted around the glass. Kimberly thought she knew why, so was surprised when Willow came to sit with her.


“Can I ask you something?”


Kimberly set her tea down and nodded. Willow considered her question for a few moments before she asked it.


“Don’t you think she should go to college?”


“Yes,” Kimberly answered unequivocally.


Willow’s brow creased.


“But you’re letting her go away.”


Kimberly just chuckled wryly.


“It’s not my choice.”


“But, you’re paying for it, or some of it anyway,” Willow protested, “And, and her music. Her talent. She could get into all kinds of schools, all kinds of programs, scholarships. Taking a year out could be…catastrophic for her entire future.”


Kimberly took in a slow breath and leaned toward Willow.


“Well, honey, if losing my parents at fifteen and getting pregnant at sixteen to an…unsuitable man has taught me anything, it’s that there is always more than one avenue in life and that no dream can’t be picked up again even if it has to be put on hold,” she said with a sadness pricking the corner of her eyes, “Especially if you’re not even sure what that dream is.”


She smiled.


“And my Tara is working out her dream. I thought music might be it, that’s why I sent her to her school. But even if it isn’t, her high school years have been filled with the freedom to express herself. You won’t remember, but she had a very bad stutter when we first moved here. There was a time I worried about how she’d ever communicate with the world. Then she picked up an instrument and I knew.”


Willow bit on her bottom lip as she listened.


“Doesn’t that make you feel like she’s wasting that? That opportunity you gave her?”


Kimberly shook her head.


“I didn’t give it with any expectation.”


Willow sat back in her chair, while Kimberly finished off her tea.


“Besides, the things she’s going to see and learn…there is a lot more to education than a textbook. It’s what she needs to know what she wants to come back to.”


“So the trip isn’t her dream, exactly…” Willow replied, slowly working it out, “It’s like…the catalyst. To know what she wants.”


Kimberly smiled over at the family photos sitting on a shelf above the table.


“If she’s only ever one thing, I want it to be happy,” she said, with some melancholy but mostly hope, “And I’m living proof that school does wait. Is it as easy? No, but it’s always there in some shape or form. I’d much rather her go away for a year to find herself and come back knowing what she wants, then to choose a path now just because it’s expected and end up 10 years down the line with a life she hates.”


Willow was silent, so Kimberly leaned in and patted her hand softly.


“The catastrophes we build up in our mind are never usually as disastrous as we think,” she said with a wink, “Sometimes they turn into the best thing you ever did.”


Willow blinked several times, then stood up and smiled appreciatively.


“Um, thanks for the talk, Ms. Maclay. I’m sorry if I was pushy.”


“You care about her,” Kimberly stated understandingly.


“Yeah, I l—” Willow caught herself, “She’s my best friend.”


Kimberly smiled and Willow downed the last of her apple juice, before placing the glass in the dishwasher and heading back up to Tara’s bedroom.


“How’s the calculus going?”


“It's functioning,” Tara joked and Willow had to quickly sit down beside her on the floor before her legs gave way due to that smirk.


“Hey, did you know it’s um, Pi Day?”


“Pie day?” Tara asked, using the eraser end of her pencil to scratch above her ear, “I didn’t know there was a day. I would’ve asked my mom to make some.”


Willow giggled.


“No, not pie, Pi. Like the number. 3.14159— you get the picture.”


“I didn’t know it got its own day,” Tara replied, smiling at Willow’s lightly flushing cheeks.


“Well, today’s date is 3/14…Geddit?” she said, slightly giddy, “It’s also Einstein’s birthday. He was born in 1879. What am I even saying? Hey, we should make up a pi song.”


It only took a second for Tara to catch up with Willow’s conversational jumps; it was a skill she’d learned early. But before she could answer, Willow’s face was scrunching up as she tried to imitate…something.


“Pi is fly, it ain't a lie,” she attempted to rap and immediately knew she should never, ever try to do that ever again, “Okay well, there's a reason you're the musician.”


“That was good, sweetie,” Tara encouraged kindly, “I find it easier to keep a melody sometimes.”


She stood up and took her guitar from its stand, put the strap over her shoulder and sat down crossed-legged again with it sitting in her lap.


She hummed first, then strummed a tune.


“Sweet or not,
Cool or hot
The best kind of Pi
Is the one you’re taught.”


Willow giggled.


“Do more,” she asked, eyes bright with the kind of awe only Tara could bring on.


Tara changed up the tune slightly and smiled adoringly at Willow.


“This isn't a complex equation,
You see
It's you plus me
Equals less than 3.”


Willow’s heart fluttered and she couldn’t stop staring as the melody altered once more. Tara seemed a little nervous, but it didn’t show in her voice when she decided to add lyrics.


“With you,
I feel my heart entwined
Love is patient,
Love is kind.”


Tara saw Willow working out what she’d just sang and shyly tucked a piece of hair behind her own ear.


“You don’t need to say it back. I just wanted you to know.”


Willow’s mouth opened, then closed. This happened several times before she took Tara’s hand and lifted it to her mouth to kiss her knuckles.


Tara let out a low laugh of relief; at least Willow wasn’t bolting out of there.


After a minute or two of silence, Willow spoke, still holding Tara’s hand clutched in her own.


“You weren’t lying when you said you’d written more than one song about me.”


Tara shook her head.


“Those were just ditties,” she said bashfully, “I do have another song I wrote for you…but I always wanted it to be just for you. I didn’t write it to share it so I’ve never sung it at a show or anything.”


Willow frowned.


“Why haven’t you played it for me?”


“I wasn’t sure if you were open to hearing it,” Tara answered honestly, “But I think you might be now?”


“Can I hear it?” Willow asked, offering a smile of encouragement.


She gave Tara her hand back, who held it motionless for a moment while she closed her eyes. They started an almost imperceptible tap before falling into their starting place on the guitar.


“I call it Crayola Heart.”


She opened her eyes again, with great effort as she wanted to close them and shield her vulnerability, but she wanted Willow to feel as much of her heart as she’d put into the song.


(All of it.)


I’ve stared for hours
Trying to ascertain
The subtle spectrum
That you ingrain


I know your stare but your eyes still strain me
Emerald, chartreuse, mint cream maybe?
I see your depths, but not in vain
Your soulful spark:
My heart’s terrain



Willow was captivated right off the bat. This was truly a serenade.


It’s not black or white
It’s rainbow baby
That swell of light
I know I’m in safety


I can clearly see from our own hue
That this pigment on my heart is nothing new
My true colors belong to you


Our chromaticity, intensity, luminosity
Shines
Take this injection of color
Don’t be afraid to be mine



Willow’s heart was beating fast now, as she processed the words a split second behind the emotions Tara’s voice evoked.


Head of fire
Heart of gold
Your copper tones
Bright and bold
-ly falling into those sad eyes
Jade, Kelly, Apple Green?
You’re my everything in-between



Willow swallowed softly as Tara swung back into the chorus


It’s not black or white
It’s rainbow baby
That swell of light
I know I’m in safety


I can clearly see from our own hue
That this pigment on my heart is nothing new
My true colors belong to you


Our chromaticity, intensity, luminosity
Shines
Take this injection of color
Don’t be afraid to be mine



Don’t be afraid, Willow thought, If only it was that easy


Sometimes I can see your undertone exposed
I see your white pain
The blue feelings you’ve imposed


I only wish I could make you see
Make your eyes open
To the shades of your beauty
Not the parts you see broken


You think that you’re flat
But I see what’s true
You fear a scarlet G on you.



Willow took in a sharp breath.


It wasn’t like she didn’t know Tara knew her; she did — better than anyone.


Always had.


But hearing herself being laid out flat like that from a conversation they never even had was a punch in the gut and a hug to her heart all at once. Tara knew her deep down depths and still wanted her.


It’s not black or white
Oh, It’s not black or white
It’s rainbow baby
That swell of light
It’s rainbow baby


I can clearly see from our own hue
That this pigment on my heart is nothing new
My true colors belong to you


Our chromaticity, intensity, luminosity
Shines
Take this injection of color
Don’t be afraid to be mine


It’s not black and white baby
We’re living in color



Tara played out a few endnotes and let her hand fall motionless again. Willow took in several long, slow breaths.


“You used chromaticity in a song,” she said eventually.


“You taught me that word,” Tara smiled softly.


Willow swallowed again and stared at Tara for a second.


“You’re amazing,” she said eventually, making Tara look down, “No, you are.”


Tara looked up from the floor with a crooked smile.


“I just have an amazing muse.”


Willow shuffled forward, closer. A hand on Tara’s knee, up her thigh, anywhere, she just needed to touch her.


She rubbed that spot for a second or two and wondered how to respond. There were so many things she wanted to say but couldn’t find the courage to. But maybe she could show Tara she didn’t want to be like this; she wanted to be an open book for Tara’s eyes only.


“Can I talk to you about something?”


Tara lifted the guitar away and leaned it against her bed.


“Anything.”


Willow scooted over so she was shoulder-to-shoulder with Tara.


“You know how I didn’t tell you about Harvey Mudd?” she proceeded cautiously, receiving a nod in return, “There was… kinda a reason.”


Tara turned her head but didn’t say anything. Willow wiped a sweaty palm on her jeans.


She barely knew how to voice what she was trying to say.


“It didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would,” she said finally, “I keep thinking I made the wrong decision.”


“The wrong school?” Tara asked softly.


“See, that’s the thing,” Willow replied, throwing her hands out in frustration, “I love the idea of that school, I do. It concentrates on all the things I love, it has a great reputation, a good student life. Everything I could want.”


Except you.


She paused and swallowed deeply.


“Um, but something just feels off. Like it’s the right path but I’m going in the wrong direction? Oh, I don’t know, I’m not even making sense.”


She sighed, banging her head back with a soft thud.


“I don't know what to do, I… I wanna know, but I don't.”


Tara put a finger under Willow’s chin and tilted it toward her. She brushed the back of her fingers against Willow’s cheek, both of them smiling when she leaned into it.


“Do you remember what I told you at New Year’s?” she asked softly, “Do what makes you happy.”


That moment could have made Willow believe in magic; she was sure she could feel it twinkling around them and fizzing over her skin.


Not for the first or last time, the moment was ruined by Donny.


He barged into Tara’s room, making Willow grab the nearest exercise book and pretend to be writing in it.


Donny didn’t notice; he barely glanced in their direction.


“Gimme the car keys.”


Tara folded her arms at her waist and looked down to avoid his gaze.


“I need them to get to work. I’m in until closing and it’s not safe to cycle that late—”


Donny’s old, mucky boot took a loud and threatening step toward Tara.


“I don’t care. Gimme. Now.”


“No,” Tara protested, trying to keep the tremble out of her voice.


Donny leaned down with his fist balled.


“I said gimme!”


“Hey!” Willow shouted, jumping up and in front of Tara, “Back off!”


Donny’s lip curled in disgust.


“What’s it to you?” he sneered, “Oh, I get it. You’re her little g—”


“Just stop,” Kimberly’s tired voice came from behind Donny’s looming frame, “This is ridiculous.”


She stepped into the room, in a robe, eyes flashing between anger and exhaustion. Just what she needed when trying to sleep off a night shift.


She surveyed the room, but couldn’t glean what exactly had happened. Same fight, different day.


She was, however, surprised to see the math books scattered about.


They were actually doing homework.


Maybe she’d been wrong about them.


“She won’t give me the car keys,” Donny grumbled.


“I need it,” Tara said to her mother, “I’m working the late shift.”


Willow was still shielding her, and the hands that were entwined behind her back.


Kimberly sighed.


“Donny, I promised Tara the car today, so she gets it.”


“Of fucking course she does,” Donny spat and stormed out, hitting Kimberly’s shoulder with his along the way.


She stumbled and Willow reached out to steady her.


“Ms. Maclay!”


Kimberly looked at the door, worried, then patted Willow’s hand.


“It’s okay, sweetheart.”


The front door slammed loudly and Tara stood, looking like she might burst into tears.


“I’m sorry, mom, I don’t try to start fights with him.”


Kimberly came over and gave Tara a hug.


“Just try to keep it down, okay?”


Tara nodded quickly.


“I’m leaving soon anyway. I won’t make any noise.”


Kimberly took Tara’s face in her hands and kissed her forehead. She left again and Willow gestured awkwardly at the door.


“I’ll get out of your hair,” she said, then waited for a beat before looking Tara in the eye, “Don’t let him bully you. You’re so much better than him. I don’t even know how you came out of the same gene pool.”


Tara shrugged one shoulder, gaze still downcast. Willow pulled her into a hug, which Tara closed immediately.


Willow lifted her hand to Tara’s shoulder and up to her neck, splaying out her fingers there. She turned her head and pressed her lips softly to Tara’s.


Tara pulled Willow’s hips in and returned the kiss.


Across the hall but with a view through the sliver of open door, Kimberly snuck out of the bathroom as quietly as she could.


That was certainly confirmation.


Without disturbing them, she crept into her own room for some much-needed sleep. Thank god that was her last night shift for a while.


Willow walked Tara down to the garage to make sure Donny hadn’t tried to flatten a tire or anything, but he seemed to have just stormed off. Willow made her check the brakes anyway. She had zero trust when it came to Tara’s brother.


When Tara had driven around the corner and off the street safely, Willow returned home. Her mom was ‘home’ but not actually home. Willow went into the kitchen to see about getting a snack and saw a note affixed to the refrigerator.


Gone to LA for the night, she read, Guess that means Oreos for one.


She grabbed the bag of cookies and headed up to her room to change into sweatpants and her (Tara’s, actually) Insect Reflection t-shirt; her favorite lounge clothes.


Once comfortable, she pulled her book bag onto her bed and lay on her stomach to finish off the homework she hadn’t completed at Tara’s.


As she was finishing up, she got a message from her father that he wanted to Skype. Willow took her iPad from the drawer in her nightstand and loaded up the app to call her dad.


She giggled when she got a close-up of a wrinkled forehead.


“Dad, you need to hold it further away.”


The camera shifted and finally settled on Ira’s face at an appropriate distance.


“There’s my girl.”


“Hi, Dad,” Willow replied, waving her fingers, “How’s it going?”


They chatted for a while about what they’d missed in each other’s lives over the past few days until Ira had to go and get ready for a business meeting.


“Dad, wait,” Willow said before he hung up, “Can I ask you one thing?”


Ira nodded amiably and Willow reached for the back of her neck, massaging the spot where her hairline ended and tension began.


“Well, um, I wondered…” she started, then focused her gaze on her father, “If I could only be one thing, what would you want it to be?”


Ira considered it and with a twinkle in his eye, answered Willow in a way he thought unexpected and supportive.


“Successful.”


Willow smiled a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.


“Thanks, Dad. See you soon.”


“Bye dear,” Ira signed off and the camera bounced from the screen.


She put it on the bed beside her and returned to the bag of Oreos.



Tara brought a set of dishes back into the kitchen and over to the industrial set of sinks.


Though waitressing posed some difficulties, she never envied that job. She always made sure her dishes were well scraped of anything lingering before she brought them over to the dishwasher.


“Thanks, Tara,” the dishwasher said with a smile. He appreciated that gesture.


“No problem, Paulie,” Tara replied with a returned, if slightly tired, smile.


When she turned her manager, Wes, was approaching her. Tara loved the girls she worked with; they all looked out for each other.


Her manager, not so much.


He kept his head above the water enough to never attract trouble, but he was incompetent at best, often on a power trip and Tara had caught him more than once perving on the servers.


“Hey. You can knock off if you want.”


“Really?” Tara asked, unsure.


Wes nodded.


“Yeah, those people you served just left and a crowd of young guys just took up two tables. They seem pretty hammered. There’s no need for all of you. I’ll send Madeline and Nikita out. I think that’s all we’re going to get tonight.”


Tara took the hint. He had his favorites, due to no fault of the girls’ own.


“Great,” she said evenly, “Thanks.”


She’d miss out on some tips but she was plenty ready to go home anyway. She slipped past and through the bar, letting Madeline and Nikita know they were the chosen ones tonight and headed right through to the break room. She could hear that loud group of guys hollering as she went through the door, but thankfully they were blocked out as soon as she closed it.


She changed out of her uniform and headed out to the car to go home.


Once there, after parking in the driveway, she glanced over to the Rosenberg’s house, but Willow’s bedroom light was off, so Tara opted not to disturb her.


She let herself in and heard the television, so poked her head into the living room to see her mother curled up on the couch.


“Hey.”


Kimberly looked up with a smile.


“You’re home early, sweetheart.”


“Knocked off early,” Tara explained, sitting down beside her mother, “Quiet night.”


Kimberly offered Tara some chocolate and put her arm around. She’d miss this when Tara was gone.


And honestly, she was a little scared of being left alone with Donny.


Think of the devil and he doth appear, at least a little while later when one of his friend’s cars pulled up outside the house. He stomped up the path and let himself into the house.


Tara thought she’d avoided him for the evening when she heard him stomp upstairs but moments later his feet came back down them and he stumbled into the living room with Jack on his breath.


“There you are, you little slut,” he slurred with contemptuous eyes toward Tara.


Tara looked taken aback. Kimberly’s eyes grew wide.


“Donny!”


Donny pulled a face at them.


“All ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ preachy innocent, meanwhile, you’re showing your tits and ass off to anyone in the tri-county area!”


Kimberly stood up, anger flaring in her eyes.


“Stop it right now.”


Tara’s head tilted down and she closed her eyes. Donny fed off her obvious uncomfortableness.


“She tell you where she works, hmm?” he asked his mother smugly, before scowling at Tara, “I saw you. Sneaking off in that washcloth you call a uniform. You didn’t even look around to see who was watching you.”


Tara lifted her gaze, her jaw tense. Kimberly looked between them, eyebrows raised a half-inch.


“What on earth are you talking about?”


“Honkerburger,” Donny said, spitting on the ‘b’, “She works at Honkerburger. That goddamn breastaurant over in Las Brujas. In two pieces of nothing showing herself off with no respect for anyone.”


He shot Tara a venomous look of hatred.


“You know what it’s like for your buddies to leer at your sister's tits while she lets it all hang out?”


“It’s not like that,” Tara said, almost whispering.


“You’re right, your ass is hanging out too,” Donny scoffed.


“Donald Edward, that is quite enough,” Kimberly snapped.


Donny’s nostrils flared in anger at being scolded.


“You think that’s bad? That’s not your only secret, is it?”


Tara’s eyes widened to saucers.


Donny put his fingers through his belt loops and rocked back and forth on his heels.


“She’s gay, she’s a frickin’ lessssssbian,” he said, smirking first at the horrified look on Tara’s face, then at his mother, “What do you think about your perfect child now?”


“Donny, enough—” Kimberly began but was cut off.


“I can prove it!” he said, reaching deep into his pocket and producing an old, crumpled piece of paper, “Look, they're about her stupid, dorky friend!”


Tara felt like she was about to throw up. It was bad enough he knew about her, but Willow? She’d freak out. She might never talk to her again.


She jumped up and tried to snatch the page, but Donny anticipated it and lifted it higher.


“It was just a stupid crush,” she tried to cover, but her voice was breaking.


“Yeah right,” Donny scoffed.


“Donny, I said that's enough!” Kimberly shouted, “None of this is any of your business. You are acting like a child right now.”


Donny’s eyes bugged, making a vein pop in his forehead.


“So she gets away with being a dyke too?! Oh now I’ve really heard it all.”


Tara’s face crumpled. He could, and would, make her life a living hell with this information. Her heart was thumping between her ears; she could barely make out her mother shouting at Donny.


“Apologize right this second.”


“I don’t believe this!” Donny screeched, “The perfect fucking princess can never do wrong! Never fucking ever!”


He made a lunge toward Tara.


“Fucking dyke slut. I swear by god I will beat you down.”


Tara flinched, but Kimberly caught Donny by the collar on his shirt before he made any contact. She was half his size, but well used to handling patients for her job. His off-balance center of gravity only helped her drag him out to the front door.


“Get out of this house right now!”


Kimberly watched Donny trip over himself to get down the lawn with anger pricking at her eyes.


Years, this had been going on; years she spent separating arguments until she’d eventually just given up. But that cruelty, the rage. It was a slap in the face of how bad things really were.


The sound of Tara hyperventilating brought her attention back and she realized she couldn’t see Donny anymore. She closed the door again and hurried in again, sitting with Tara and gathering her into a hug.


“Darling…”


“If he says anything…” Tara sobbed into her hands.


“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Kimberly soothed.


Tara shook her head desperately.


“Mom, you don’t understand.”


“I do,” Kimberly said in a resolute tone, only for Tara’s eyes to fill with fresh tears, “Hey, listen.”


Kimberly wiped the tears from Tara’s eyes.


“I do.”


Tara’s brow creased and all Kimberly could do was offer a consoling smile.


“I know about you and Willow,” she said, and heard Tara’s sharp intake of breath, “It’s okay, sweetie. I see how you look at her. And how she looks at you. And I understand this feels so very big right now, but I promise, it’s going to be okay.”


Tara looked at her mom like she was a little girl again, hoping she could make it all go away.


“She is not ready, Willow, she’s not, she won’t, oh god—”


She dropped her head into her mother’s lap and cried.


“It’s okay sweetie,” Kimberly comforted, stroking Tara’s hair, “Leave Donny to me.”


“Please, Momma,” Tara cried, muffled as her words came out in gasps of air, “I don’t care what he does to me, but Willow…”


The pain in Tara’s voice broke Kimberly’s heart. She closed her eyes and wondered if she would even be able to rein in her son. She didn't know how, but she'd have to.


“I promise you that I will sort this out.”



Tara awoke in the middle of the night to what sounded like a door banging in the wind.


It was repeated and annoying and enough to stir her out of bed. She checked her own door first, but it had been closed securely. And she couldn’t hear any wind.


She opened her door and quickly realized the source of the noise as Donny let himself in and made his way up the stairs.


If she thought he was drunk before, he was absolutely steaming now. One foot barely made it in front of the other, his eyes were sunken and every part of him reeked of stale beer, cigarettes, and dirt.


He stumbled up the last step and faked it into a curtsey.


“Ooh look, it’s the pwincess.”


Kimberly’s came out of her room. She’d left the door open so she’d hear Donny come in, and hadn’t been able to sleep anyway.


When her eyes adjusted to the light, she got a fright. She could have been looking at another man, one she hadn’t seen in many, many years. She had to bite her lip to contain a gasp.


“We’re not doing this again. Go to bed, Donny and we will be having a conversation in the morning.”


“Let me guess,” Donny replied, putting on a gruff angelic voice, “Tara is great and Tara is perfect and I wish she was an only child.”


“That is not true,” Kimberly replied in a heartbroken tone, “How could you think that?”


Tara wanted to take a step back from him; that stench was eye-watering, but she was frozen on the spot. Donny slurred in her direction.


“She gets the ffffffff-fancy equipment and the ffffffff-fancy school and the ffffffff-fancy trip around the world! What do I get? To be forgotten.”


Kerry pressed her fingers against her forehead.


“Donny I told you if you wanted to go to college I would find the money. You decided not to. I paid for all of your football stuff in high school, your Scouts even though you quit them both. You wanted a bike for your 18th birthday and you got it. It is time to grow up, Donald. I’ve let this petty sibling rivalry go on too long. You are a man, you better start acting like it! Why do you behave this way? Why do you antagonize your sister so god damn much?!”


Donny’s face contorted in rage and his fist flew to his mouth. His eyes bulged and terrified both women, but not as much as his booming voice did moments later.


”Because he hit me too!”


Kimberly’s brow creased for a moment, then flattened in slowly-dawning horror.


“W-what?”


Tara was tense between mother and son as they stared each other down.


“He hit me too and you did nothing,” Donny spat, gurgling on air before attempting and missing a swipe at Tara’s arm, “First time the little princess here gets a slap across the face and you had your bags packed in an hour.”


The world was spinning for Kimberly. She thought she might throw up.


“Donny, I didn’t…I didn’t know,” she said, her voice an echoing whisper as she closed her eyes and a single tear fell out, “I should have.”


She opened her eyes to give her son the remorseful gaze he deserved.


“Donny I’m sorry.”


Donny’s chest continued to heave in rage, while Tara shook beside him, more confused than ever.


“W-What is he talking about?”


Donny screamed, really screamed and he grabbed Tara’s shirt with both fists.


“Oh just shut the fuck up for once you stupid—”


With his balance off and his strength uncontrolled, one misstep sent Tara flying down the stairs. The thump of her body against the wood made the walls shake uncomfortably until there was a crack and then silence.


Eerie, strained silence.


Donny stared down the stairs in shock and looked on in slow-motion as Kimberly’s feet pounded each step down.


Kimberly, cheeks wet and eyes frantic, kneeled by an unconscious Tara at the foot of the stairs.


“Donny, what did you do?!”


Her voice was just an echo to Donny, who thought he might be next down the stairs if he didn’t move away, or throw up, or both. He watched his mother reach for the phone and instinct kicked in; he bolted. Kimberly didn’t even realize he was coming down the stairs until he was already passed her and out the door.


Her fingers shook as she dialed 911 to request an ambulance. Her nurse training kicked in, but so did her maternal instincts, so she held her daughter steady while choking back the tears.


Across the street, Willow woke still fully dressed, star-fished on her bed with her phone on one side of her and a half-eaten bag of Oreos on the other. She was unsure at first what had woken her up, apart from the uncomfortable position and questionable nutrition choices, but then noticed unusual red and blue lights flashing in her window.


Her eyes squinted to shield herself from them and she scooted off the end of the bed. She walked over to her window and had to rub her eyes with her fist to make them focus. Finally, she was able to make out what she was seeing; a parked ambulance on the street and Tara being brought across the lawn in a stretcher, Kimberly at her heels.


Willow’s heart jumped into her throat.


“Tara!”


Her palm hit the window with a thud, leaving its imprint behind as she sped out of her room to get outside.


As her socked feet hit the tarmac, the second paramedic was swinging the back door of the ambulance closed.


“What happened?!” she shouted, voice high and panicked, “What’s happening?!”


There was a seconds-long siren and the ambulance drove off, leaving Willow in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a crisis.


She stayed there until the lights flashed out of existence and she realized her feet were burning from running over stones and pressing into the rough ground almost barefoot. She looked down, her smiling Tinkerbelle socks a stark contrast to how she was feeling at that very moment. She glanced at the Maclay house, which was all locked up, and then back at hers, the door swinging open.


She hurried back inside and rushed around to find her shoes.


Finally, she found them peeking out from under her bed, where she’d kicked them off earlier. She shoved her feet into them and did her best to tie them on the move. She only just remembered to grab her keys before rushing out the door again. The bang could have woken the neighborhood, but the ringing only added to the one already in Willow’s ears.


She rushed around to the side of the house and grabbed the first bike there, not even noticing it was Tara’s. She pushed it off the wall and immediately felt the deflation of the wheels as she pressed the bike into the ground.


“Dammit, Donny,” she swore under her breath and let it fall again.


She rounded the corner to the back of the house where hers was locked up, but the Tire Bandit had been there too. Donny didn’t often go for her bike; he must have been really pissed. That scared Willow all the more.


She put her hands on her head and tried to breathe for a second and figure out what she was going to do. She could walk, but it would take a while and Sunnydale was creepy at night. She doubted there would be many cars hanging around waiting for a rideshare notification; this town was a desert past 10 pm. Probably because of the creepiness.


Her mom had taken her car, and Willow would have been in definite trouble if she took it anyway.


She suddenly remembered another bike, her father’s, though she hadn’t seen him on it since she was learning to ride one herself. Luckily it was tucked away in the garage and away from whatever sharp object Donny used to puncture the other tires.


Probably his nose.


“Heh,” she sniffled at her own little joke, quickly dabbing her sleeve against her eye.


She’s okay…she’s okay…‘okay’ people get taken off in stretchers all the time…


She jumped on the bike and forced the pedals through a few creaky rotations as it slid down the drive, finally getting into a rhythm as it rode onto the street.


The saddle was so uncomfortable that Willow spent most of the ride standing, which was not easy on this rusted hunk of metal, but her feet kept pushing and pushing, burning through the tears of worry that wanted to wet her cheek.


Finally, she got to the hospital, barely even parking the bike. In fact, the wall parked it for her when the breaks didn’t respond all too enthusiastically and she just about avoided a trip to an ER bed herself.


Stumbling off, slightly dazed for a moment, she pushed through from the dark night into the fluorescent lights of the emergency room.


There was beeping and muffled shouting, the occasional scream of pain. It smelled like a rotten soup of antiseptic and burning metal with a side of BO crackers.


Willow walked across the floor, sticky with god-knows-what, to the front desk.


“Was Tara Maclay brought in?” she asked, her voice hoarse from all the air she’d gulped in on the bike ride.


“Are you family?” the man behind the counter asked, glancing away from the computer for a moment.


Willow blinked several times.


“Um…”


He looked at her apologetically.


“Sorry, I can’t give out information unless it’s family.”


Willow’s eyes closed and she really had to stop herself from bursting into tears. She turned back and took a proper look at the waiting room, spotting an open seat near the door. The only seat left, for a reason — it was drafty and uncomfortable and hidden behind the main doors so that they slammed at you every few minutes, but Willow sank into it.


No phone to text Tara, no clue how serious the situation was.


She’d just have to wait.



Kimberly was sitting by the bed in the ER treatment room while Tara slept beside her.


They’d examined her and taken x-rays and given her painkillers and she’d fallen asleep again pretty quickly, having mostly just been groggy when she’d come around in the ambulance. Her arm hurt, she’d said.


You’re okay, love, Kimberly had soothed and Tara slipped back into slumber while Kimberly sunk into self-hatred.


Her head was in her hands and her stomach was in her throat.


One child was injured, the other was off the rails. Both of them were in pain and it was entirely her fault.


How could she not have known?


And how did she let it get…here?


She knew her son’s genes, if not his pain and it was so strikingly obvious her greatest fear was coming to life — her son was turning into his alcoholic, abusive father but it was not because of him. It was because of her.


It made sense, now, with hindsight. How he’d changed when they moved to Sunnydale; how he’d gone from doting brother to evil sibling. How her sweet boy’s eyes changed, hardened with anger and resentment.


She always thought it was from being uprooted and taken away from his father without knowing why. She’d even brought him to doctors and counselors but he would just sit in silence, then come home and pull his sister's pigtails, responding to no discipline or correction or any attempt at intervention.


They told her he probably missed his father, so she’d tried to get him into sports, scouts, anything with good male role models. Football was the only one he wasn’t asked to be removed from but he had removed himself once he discovered beer.


Kimberly had tried to go to one of his games, with Tara in tow, but he had freaked out and refused to participate so Kimberly never went again.


She should never have given up.


Why had she given up?


She knew why: time and money and every other life stress. She thought he missed his father and she could never give that back to him. It wasn’t an excuse, but it was the reason. Living under his cloud of resentment had become so normal, that she forgot it wasn’t.


And this was the climax; sitting with her daughter’s broken body while her son’s broken soul roamed somewhere unknown.


She stayed in that state; too broken to cry, to move even, until a doctor burst into the room. He barely looked at them as he rattled off his name and orthopedic standing before he put the x-ray film into the illuminator. Kimberly put her hand on Tara’s shoulder and gently woke her.


“Fracture of the ulna…radius looks intact.”


He attached a new film to confirm.


“You are a lucky young lady, we should be able to treat this non-operatively. You must have gotten a direct blow just as you landed… it was a stair fall, right? This looks like a classic nightstick injury where you lift your hand to block something attacking your face.”


“Yeah, I feel really lucky right now,” Tara remarked groggily.


“You are. 90% of the time I see falls like yours, both bones are broken and require surgical plates, or there’s associated dislocation or countless other complications,” the doctor replied gruffly, “Or if you hit it a little higher up the bone, months of therapy or permanent loss of functioning.”


Kimberly’s sunken eyes were brimming with concern.


“She’s a musician. Will there be any lasting damage?”


“You’ll regain 85-95% functioning in the wrist and elbow. Depends on what she plays and how often,” the doctor replied evenly, “I need to set that bone and then I’ll get someone to bring you down to the casting room. Nurse!”


He aggressively called a nurse passing by the door, who clenched his jaw but resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He was on her way in here anyway.


The doctor told the nurse what he needed to know, and the nurse nodded diligently. He was looking forward to his shift finishing up soon. The nurse came up to Tara and brought a blood pressure cuff to secure on her good arm.


“Hi, I’m Adam. The doctor needs to align the bones before they go into the cast. It’ll be over quickly and we’re giving you more pain meds,” he reassured kindly, “How are you feeling? Any dizziness, nausea, blurred vision or confusion or pain cropping up anywhere else?”


“No,” Tara answered, letting herself be poked and prodded without complaint so that it would just be over.


The doctor returned and pushed past Kimberly to crouch alongside Tara.


He touched her arm and she groaned. She heard her mother choke back a sob, so just closed her eyes and braced herself.


She went to her happy place; lounging on a beach with white sand and clear water. Sand so soft her feet couldn’t tell when it became water; water so still it didn’t even ripple when it enveloped her. Best of all, Willow holding her as they floated together in peaceful tranquility with no absent parents or murderous brothers or societal expectations to weigh them down.


Just the two of them, together, alone.


Wearing nothing at all.


She was able to stay in that place, half imagining, half dreaming as she laid in a drowsy state from the painkillers, all the way down to the casting room.


The technician was a woman in her mid-fifties who was light on her feet as she walked around the room and wore the wrinkles of someone who’d spent a lot of time laughing. She introduced herself as Charlene and explained to Tara what she was going to do as she gathered the equipment.


“What’s your favorite color?”


“Willow-green,” Tara answered, a dozy smile gracing her lips.


She still couldn’t work out the exact shade of Willow’s eyes, so she’d decided it deserved to be one all of its own.


“Well, I’m not sure about that color, but I do have regular old green,” Charlene replied with a cheery smile unbecoming of the early hour, “Some of the kids call it Kermit green.”


Tara’s head slowly tilted to one side.


“Does that make me the rainbow connection?”


Charlene sailed over on a wheeled stool.


“You’re funny,” she said with a deep chuckle, “Hold still for me now. We’re going to wrap this soft material around your arm and then bind the cast on top. It’ll just take a couple of minutes.”


Tara suddenly realized the doctor from before was back, locking her arm in place as the cast was applied. A pained groan passed her lips once or twice when it was done and he turned her arm to feel how it was sitting. They wheeled a portable x-ray over and checked the placement before finally Tara was turned back over to an orderly to return to her room.


She stared down at her green arm and felt a wave of anger that this had happened. She wasn’t even out of the woods yet; anything but full function might hinder her finger dexterity and make her lose ability on some of her instruments.


Anything that brought her joy, he took. She wouldn’t let him take Willow from her too.


She thanked her nice orderly as she got out of the wheelchair and Kimberly helped her back into the bed. Her happy place was not working and she was really starting to feel grouchy.


“This gown is so scratchy.”


Kimberly moved toward the end of the bed, where a plastic bag was hanging off.


“I have the pajamas they took off you,” she said, opening the bag and taking the pajamas out, “Let me help.”


She pulled the collar of the gown away from Tara, who twisted away.


“No, don’t!”


Kimberly backed away and Tara kept her back to her mother while she changed, with cursory glances over her shoulders. She was able to pull her pants up one-armed and gingerly put her arms through the top. The only struggle came when she tried to use her restricted fingers to close the buttons. She wished she’d just worn a t-shirt or tank but, ironically, she’d dressed in her proper pair for comfort after the rough day she’d had.


Kimberly hovered on the other side of the bed, trying to respect Tara’s privacy. She watched Tara’s shoulders rise and fall with her arms as each button and decided to come around.


“Honey, you need help with the buttons.”


Tara tried to grab both sides of her top to yank them across each other and shield herself, but she wasn’t proficient enough yet in cast dexterity.


“Stop! I said I’m fine!”


Kimberly lifted the loose fabric away from Tara and stared at the surprising markings etched onto her skin.


“When did you get a tattoo?” she asked evenly, after a moment.


Tara snatched the fabric back and worked out a way to pull the hole over the button one-handed instead of working the button through the hole.


“Last summer.”


“When you were 17?” Kimberly asked with a quiet gasp.


“Oh, I’m sorry, is an underage tattoo the worst thing a child of yours has ever done?” Tara replied sarcastically.


Apparently, she’d lost her filter too.


Kimberly looked stung and walked a few feet off to the side, her back to Tara with arms loosely folded over her chest, but the rest of her body rigid.


Tara fixed herself up and put her legs back up on the bed. She covered her lower half with the blanket and turned her head to the side, watching the hospital world go by outside the window.


After a minute, Kimberly turned back around, a permanent line of tension on her forehead.


“This is not an easy situation for anyone, Tara,” she said, unable to hide the choke in her voice, “I'm realizing that your brother is an alcoholic.”


“Yeah, no shit,” Tara replied and Kimberly was shocked because Tara had never sworn in front of her.


She sunk down into the chair beside the bed.


“Tara…I’ve supremely let him down.”


Tara's eyes flashed with pain that went much deeper than her broken bone.


“He’s spent my whole life torturing me.”


Kimberly smiled sadly, her eyes glassy with unshed tears.


“He didn’t. You were best buddies…once. He loved being a big brother. He brought you in for show and tell at pre-school when you were a baby.”


Tara just looked bewildered; that was not the Donny she had in any living memory.


Kimberly dropped her face into her hands.


“I wanted to save you, to save you both and I’ve just let all of this spiral out of control.”


Tara turned it over in her mind, but she was just more confused than ever.


“What are you talking about? And what was he talking about last night?”


Kimberly straightened up, her cheeks pale. After a few false starts and several calming breaths, she spoke.


“I always told you that your father left us. But that wasn’t true. I left him.”


She started to shake her head, her nostrils flaring as she struggled to control her breathing.


“He was…not a good man. I knew that he was cheating on me, and using family money to drink and gamble. He was older than me when we met and I was impressed by him, but years and kids made me see his true colors. Thankfully he never asked me to marry him as I probably would have said yes,” she rolled her eyes at herself, “He started to scream at me, in private at first, then in front of you two. He would tell me I was a monster, try to control me. Then he started hitting me. I was at my wit's end, and I looked into what I could do to get away. I was saving money, planning on bringing us all back to San Francisco.”


She wiped the corner of her eye quickly.


“Then one day, you were playing with your toys and he thought you were being too noisy. I heard him yell at you from the laundry so I came out to bring you outside and he was pulling you up by your shirt collar.”


Her chest rose more aggressively with each breath.


“Your little face was so terrified. As I was running over to you, he slapped you hard across the face and dropped you,” her voice caught as the memory played out in her mind, “Donny came over to comfort you and I kicked your father out of the house.”


Her eyes closed painfully.


“Just like I kicked Donny out.”


She swallowed and offered her attention back to Tara.


“My aunt who took me in after my parents died and continued to support me even after I ran off upstate and got pregnant…she lived in Santa Barbara. I gathered what money we had, our favorite things and anything I could fit in the car that could be sold and we left that night. We lived with her for a few weeks until I figured everything out. San Francisco was way out of our budget and the cheapest properties in the area were in Sunnydale. She helped with the deposit. She died a couple of years later and the inheritance allowed me to go back to school, with a few scrapes along the way.”


Tara remained stony-faced.


“Did he ever try to find us?”


Kimberly nodded.


“Once. He found my aunt. She wouldn’t tell him where we were. I’m sure he went home to that sister of his after that. The poor woman was beaten into submission by their father.”


She looked down.


“I always felt most sorry for her little girl, Beth. The cycle was just going to continue. That’s why I was so determined to get you out, to get you both out.”


Tara was silent for several long moments, parsing together that story and what Donny had said the night before. She thought about how Donny had treated her his whole life. It was, at least, an explanation, not that it made the physical or emotional abuse any more tolerable.


“I don't remember any of that. Why didn't you tell me?”


“Because I hoped you’d forget. And you did and I don't regret that. I’m glad you have no memories of that man,” Kimberly’s voice burst with emotion as she spoke, “But your brother does, even more than I realized. I-I should have known. But I didn’t. I failed him.”


Tara didn’t think her mother being around her was going to benefit either of them right now.


“You better go find him,” she said curtly, “Before he beats up someone that will press charges.”


Kimberly just nodded and gathered her things to leave.


“Mom,” Tara said when she was at the door and Kimberly looked over her shoulder, “I’m not living in the same place as him.”


Her stare remained hard as Kimberly tensed.


“And if he breathes a word about Willow I will press charges and never be in the same room as him for the rest of our lives.”


Kimberly swallowed, nodded once and continued out of the room.


Tara closed her eyes; she was reeling.


She’d always thought her father was a deadbeat, but never that it had gotten as bad as it did. She couldn’t help feel sorry for a little Donny dealing with all of that and retaining the memories. He had been a victim too. But it didn’t absolve him of making her his own victim.


With too much playing on her mind, she fell asleep until the same nice nurse from earlier came to check on her blood pressure.


“Holding steady,” he said, as he noted it on the chart, “Would you like me to send your friend up? It’s not strictly visiting hours, but she’s been sitting out there all night so I won’t say anything if you won’t.”


Tara’s brow creased in confusion.


“Young, red hair?” Adam offered as an explanation upon seeing the look.


Tara’s eyes widened considerably.


“Willow!?” she asked in a gasp, “Willow is here? Yes, please send her up!”


Tara waited somewhat impatiently until she saw Willow pass by the window directly opposite her bed. Willow looked through it, saw Tara was there and picked up speed. She looked disheveled, exhausted and so thoroughly relieved to see Tara’s face.


“Tara,” she croaked as she came through the door and rushed to her side, “Tara, are you okay? I saw the ambulance take you, I didn’t know what happened, are you okay?!”


She leaned in to hug Tara, but noticed the cast and pulled back again.


“Tara…”


“I’m okay, I’m okay,” Tara reassured, squeezing Willow’s hand as they fell into her good one, “You’ve been out there all night?”


She cocked her head and frowned.


“Are you wearing my shirt?”


Willow looked down in confusion for a moment.


“I-I like to sleep in it,” she answered in a preoccupied tone, “Tara, what happened?”


“It’s just a broken arm and a few bruises,” Tara played it down, “It was…”


She sighed.


“Donny got drunk, like really drunk. He grabbed me and threw me down the stairs.”


Willow’s eyes bugged out of her head.


“What?!”


“Sit down,” Tara said, and Willow complied, but didn’t let go of Tara’s hand.


That alone made Tara smile, but it faltered when she saw the concern etched across Willow’s face. Tears suddenly sprang to her eyes as she felt the vulnerability of the whole ordeal pierce through her.


The legs on Willow’s chair dragged closer to the bed and Tara felt her hand clutched tighter.


Slowly, she told Willow the story her mother had told her and how she’d ended up lying in that hospital bed.


“That’s…horrible,” Willow said, shaking her head to herself, “For all of you…but this…this is not okay. All these years, everything he’s done…it is not okay.”


She started to get choked up.


“He could have broken your neck or given you a brain injury or…”


Her eyes grew wide again.


“Your music!”


“I’ll be okay once it heals, the doctor said, probably,” Tara said, lifting her cast and gingerly wiggling her fingers as she wondered what instruments she might still be able to pick up and play.


Willow watched her do it with an ever-growing snarl on her face.


“I’d like to break every one of his fingers off and feed them to him,” she said, only lifting her chin higher when Tara raised an eyebrow in her direction, “Occasionally, I'm callous and strange.”


Tara’s lips quirked upward on one side.


“I like strange.”


Willow finally smiled and started to lean in when a woman wheeling the lunch cart pushed into the room. Willow immediately pushed right back and dropped Tara’s hand.


Tara quietly chose the salmon and tried not to show her hurt. The tray was slid in front of her and she started to tear the plastic utensils out of the pack. She’d missed breakfast; she was starving. She figured Willow must be too. She’d stayed out there all night, and that told Tara more than the dropped hand.


“Hey,” she said softly, rearranging the tray so the bowl of soup and bread roll was closest to Willow, “Have the soup.”


Willow shook her head.


“No way, I’m not eating your lunch.”


Tara held out the spoon for her.


“It’s minestrone, that’s your favorite soup.”


“After ice-cream,” they said together and both broke out in smiles.


Tara pushed the spoon insistently.


“Please.”


Willow offered a grateful look and scooted in close again so she was sitting in front of the tray. She helped Tara cut up her fish and vegetables and pulled back the foil lid on the orange juice.


Tara drank the juice and Willow drank the milk and they shared the slice of apple pie, though Willow did only take tiny forkfuls so Tara would get most of it.


By the time they were finished, Willow’s hand was in Tara’s again.


“Can I borrow your phone?” Tara asked, “I need to call work and tell them I won’t be in.”


“Yeah, sure—” Willow started to reply, then looked stricken as she felt her pockets, “Shit. I didn’t bring it. I got scared when I saw the ambulance, I wasn’t thinking straight.”


“Oh, that’s okay, don’t worry about it,” Tara replied quickly.


Willow suddenly jumped up, grateful for something to do to help.


“No, no I’ll get one!”


“Willow wait—” Tara began, confused, but Willow was like a bullet when she wanted to be.


Sure enough, just a few minutes later, Willow returned waving an old cell phone.


“Got one, see? They keep these burner-type phones at the nurse's station, too cheap for anyone to want to steal them. Some people still do though. I saw it in a documentary on Netflix, he tried to stick it up his butt,” she rushed out, not allowing Tara to speak before she continued, “I’m sure this hasn’t been up anyone’s butt. What’s the number?”


“Oh,” Tara replied, briefly scratching her ear, “Um…I don’t know off the top of my head actually.”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“That’s okay, what’s it called again? I’ll look it up. They have an internet station in the family room. It’s right around the corner, I’ll only be a minute.”


Tara started to pale.


“You know, it doesn’t matter.”


Willow’s brow creased in confusion.


“But don’t you need to let them know?”


“Well…yes,” Tara replied with a gulp, “It’s…it’s H-Honkerburger.”


“In Las Brujas right?” Willow asked, with little reaction, “Is there just the one?”


“Um, yes,” Tara replied, eyeing up Willow unsurely.


Willow noticed and her face scrunched up.


“Are you okay?”


Tara cautiously met Willow’s gaze.


“You’re not mad?”


“About what?” Willow asked, frowning.


“A-about where I work,” Tara replied with a slight nervous quickening of her words.


Willow thought for a moment but still couldn’t work it out.


“Why would I be mad about where you work?”


Tara suddenly felt like a heavyweight was pushing down on her shoulders.


“A lot of people, they…don't like that sort of place…or judge it…because of the uniforms and stuff.”


“A lot of people are assholes,” Willow replied curtly as she finally started to get it, “Have you been hiding this from me intentionally?”


Tara hated that inflection of hurt in Willow’s tone.


“I didn’t really tell anyone,” she said, “Nate knew, but—”


“You told Nate but not me?” Willow asked, really showing her hurt now.


“He picked me up from work when it was raining once. I would have missed a show if he didn’t, that’s all,” Tara explained, “I didn’t want to hide it but people have ideas, and they’re mostly wrong. Even I thought it would be worse than it is. The manager is a bit of a jerk, but the other girls aren’t and the customers are mostly really nice.”


Willow took a moment to take it all in.


“Do you get harassed?”


Tara shook her head.


“No more than I did at the country club. And they were worse tippers.”


“Typical,” Willow rolled her eyes, “Is the uniform uncomfortable? It’s not the kinda clothes you usually wear.”


“It’s just a uniform,” Tara replied, still a bit downcast, “One of the girls dresses like a goth in her downtime, another is a Mormon. I only have to wear it inside those walls.”


Willow’s hand slowly crept up to find Tara’s hand.


“I support whatever you do. You don’t have to hide things from me.”


She lifted Tara’s hand to kiss her knuckles, and Tara would have swooned if she wasn’t already lying down. She lifted her hand to touch Willow’s cheek.


“I-I have to tell you—”


“How are you holding up?” Adam the nurse returned for another vitals check, and Tara was worried hers would be all out of whack with Willow there. She regulated her breathing and made herself look away.


“Oh. It’ s okay. Just aches a bit.”


Willow made a motion that she was going to leave, which confused Tara but she was busy getting attended to.


Tara waited while her blood pressure and heart rate were taken, relieved that it was normal.


“I’ll see about getting you some more painkillers,” Adam said before going off again.


Tara sat, quite sad, but perked up when Willow returned unexpectedly, with a small piece of ripped paper with a phone number on.


“Oh, thank you,” Tara replied, understanding.


Willow shrugged, a silent ‘no big deal’.


“I’ll let you make your call.”


She looked so tired and Tara was once again overcome by the tenderness Willow had shown.


“Honey, go home, get some sleep. I’m so sorry you got a fright,” she encouraged, “My mom will bring my phone in. I’ll stay in touch. Honestly…I was going to try and get some sleep anyway.”


Willow was exhausted and she didn’t want to intrude on Tara’s sleep either.


“I’ll come to see you again this afternoon if they don’t let you out.”


“Thank you,” Tara answered, a smile filling her face when Willow kissed her forehead.


Willow walked back out of the building and to where she remembered leaving the bike, but it was gone. She was extremely confused as to why would anyone would want to steal that rustmobile. After a quick look around, she realized the trash had been collected and apparently it had been taken along with it. An assumption Willow really couldn’t argue against.


She just sighed and turned, ready for the long walk home.


In another part of town, Kimberly dragged her feet behind her as she walked. Between night shift adjustments and this ordeal, she hadn’t slept in more than 30 hours and that was before all of the stress she’d been under as she tried to figure out how she was going to fix her broken children.


No matter what, one was going to hurt more because of this.


She wandered around the supermarket, trying to pick out Tara’s favorite treats but was so unsure. She thought she knew; watermelon jolly ranchers, cherry Twizzlers, peanut butter M&Ms. But she hadn’t known her daughter was gay or had gotten a tattoo either, so what did she know?


She paid for everything and continued on to the hospital, stopping after she parked just to breathe for a second. This was not going to be easy.


She braced herself and made her way into the hospital and to Tara’s room. She tried her best to seem chirpier than she was, hoping the makeup hid her red-rimmed eyes.


“I got you some treats and magazines,” she said as she came in, hanging the shopping bag from the end of the bed and placing the overnight bag on the nightstand, “How are you feeling?”


Tara was curled up on her side, silently frowning.


“Pretty crap, really,” she said, sniffling, “My manager told me I can’t perform my duties with a cast, so I might as well not come back in.”


Kimberly was torn between indignation and relief, though she recognized the latter wasn’t very feminist of her. Still…


“I can’t say I’m not pleased you won’t be going back there,” she admitted, knowing how worried she’d be if she thought of Tara working there, particularly late at night.


“You don’t know anything about it,” Tara replied curtly, “There are good people there. And now I’m down everything I would have saved between now and when I leave for my trip.”


Kimberly’s head dropped. Her jaw clenched. Her feet pressed themselves into the floor and kept her in that spot when all she wanted to do was run from this situation. She hadn’t felt like this since the morning the two pink lines showed up. It was too much responsibility.


She finally raised her head and pulled herself into the seat next to Tara.


“I found your brother.”


She swallowed, finding it hard to keep moisture in her mouth.


“He hadn’t gotten into any more trouble,” she continued, nodding along, “And he’s sorry.”


“Sure,” Tara replied, throwing her eyes upward.


“He is,” Kimberly insisted, “He thought he’d killed you. He was very upset.”


“That he didn’t succeed?” Tara replied, almost a sneer.


Kimberly didn’t expect Tara to make this easy on her, but she was making it so much harder.


“He knows he’s out of control,” she said, voice wobbling, “I’ve gotten him to agree to rehab.”


Tara’s eyes closed for a moment, then opened again, but downcast.


“Well, that’s good. I’m glad…I’m glad he’s doing something.”


Kimberly reached for and took Tara’s hand, relieved to hear her say that.


“I’ve been in touch with a residential center I worked in doing my nurse training. They’re good, they have a great success rate. They said they’d give him a bed today. It’s a 90-day program, it would give us all some…breathing space.”


Tara’s eyes narrowed.


“Why do I feel like there’s a big ‘but’ coming?”


Kimberly’s whole body started to shake. She didn’t even know if she could get the words out.


“But I would have to use the money I set aside for your trip ticket to pay for it,” she said, a hand flying up to her mouth, then covering her eyes to stall the tears.


Tara’s bottom lip wobbled but she tensed stoically, refusing to give any reaction. She closed her eyes to stop her tears, but one slipped out anyway.


Kimberly squeezed Tara’s hands tighter.


“It was for you, so you can decide—”


Tara’s eyes snapped open as she snatched her hand back.


“Don’t put that on me like there’s even any choice.”


Kimberly felt a pang of guilt as her arm fell away from Tara.


“I'm so sorry Tara. I'll work to get the money together for your ticket as soon as—”


“Go,” Tara interrupted, her head and heart throbbing now alongside her arm, “I said leave!”


Kimberly obliged and left, wiping her eyes with her sleeve along the way.


Tara tucked her chin into her chest and pressed the nurse call button, hoping he’d hurry up with those painkillers.


She was too afraid to sleep, as it seemed every dream was snatched away.



Willow returned to the hospital by way of a car this time, for which her thighs and calves were most grateful.


She’d gotten just a few hours sleep, but a bed and a shower had been heaven after her night and she felt much more rested.


She walked around the block, making a couple of stops, then returned and went into the hospital and up to Tara’s room.


“Hi,” she greeted when she saw Tara just lying on her bed, absently staring into space.


“Hey,” Tara returned, eyes glassy and limbs floppy as she tried to sit up properly, “You look pretty.”


Willow blushed as she took the seat beside Tara.


“You couldn’t not look pretty,” Willow replied, casting a glance around to make sure no one was passing or looking before placing a kiss on Tara’s cheek, “I wouldn’t use a double negative for just anybody, you know.”


Tara reached out and gently ran a finger in a half-circle pattern on the collar of Willow’s shirt.


“You definitely have some double positives…”


Willow cleared her throat and gently guided Tara’s hand away.


“They gave you some more pain meds, huh?” she asked cheerily, “Good. Hate to think of you in pain.”


She kept Tara’s hand and ran her thumb over the knuckles.


“When I broke my wrist that time in 2nd grade, my parents wouldn’t let me get a colored cast. How lame is that? My mom said they were ‘gauche’. As if everything about me wasn’t already ‘gauche’. I think that’s when I started picking out brighter colored clothes,” Willow mused aloud, “I just laughed at her though, because white light is basically a hidden rainbow, so technically my cast was all the colors.”


“Now you’re the rainbow connection,” Tara giggled, throwing her hands up in delight, “You were mine and I was yours and one day you’ll let the light at the end of it shine on us.”


She poked Willow gently in the chest, then laid her palm flat and slowly frowned.


“It’s lonely where you are.”


Willow felt the hair stick up on the back of her neck and a brief wave of nausea pass through her stomach. She quickly stood and started rooting through the bag she’d brought in with her.


“Um, I brought you one of those falafel pittas you like so much. Did you get my text? I wasn’t sure so I got the tahini on the side.”


The delicious smell made Tara sit up straight.


“Sorry, Will, I’ve been distracted,” she said, reaching for her overnight bag, “I didn’t take anything out yet.”


She unzipped the front pouch and retrieved her phone. A few missed messages, from Willow and her mom, and a few from the girls at work telling her to get well soon.


Willow brought the table up to Tara and put the pitta on there with the cherry cola she’d bought with it.


“I didn’t want to just show up unannounced again but I saw your mother drive off with Donny and I didn’t want you to be alone,” she explained, helping Tara by unwrapping the sandwich, “I hope she was dropping him to a bus station to go somewhere far, far away. And even then, she should have made him walk.”


Tara nibbled on the corner of the falafel.


“He’s off to battle his demons with a baseball bat made out of my dreams.”


Willow paused; that amount of bitterness had never been something she’d known Tara to possess.


“What’s going on?”


Tara sighed deeply.


“Where to start?”


“I find usually the beginning is a good place,” Willow encouraged softly, “As slow as you need to.”


Tara told Willow what her mother had told her, growing more upset as she explained.


“I lost my job, I lost my trip,” she cried softly, “I’ll lose y—I’ve lost everything!”


Willow sat in the chair right at Tara’s side, an arm across her waist. She really couldn’t believe this and was so mad at Donny and Kimberly, but she recognized who she needed to be right then and it was being a support to Tara.


“Tara, no. What about all the money you’ve saved for the trip yourself?”


“I need that for the actual trip to y’know, live for a year, do the things I want to do, see the things I want to see. I’d already be doing it frugally. I guess I could cut out some stops, maybe? I don’t know, I’d have to work it out, price everything up again.”


“No, you’re not missing out,” Willow replied, shaking her head, “I promise you, we’ll find the money somewhere else. Your dream is not over. He won’t take this from you too.”


Tara shook her head, despondent.


“I’ll never raise that much, especially not in time. My mom has been saving for a long time, so have I and I’d been hoping to save between now and summer and—”


Willow made Tara meet her gaze.


“Do you trust me?”


Tara nodded without hesitation.


“Of course.”


Willow kept Tara’s gaze, intently.


“I promise you will go on that trip. Just as you’d planned. Doing everything you want to do.”


Tara finally nodded and Willow held her quietly and reassuringly until there was a knock at the door.


“Can we come in?”


Tara’s eyebrows rose in surprise as she saw a group of the girls she regularly worked with huddled by the door.


“Hi! Um, yeah, sure,” Tara replied, sitting herself up properly, “Um, Willow these are all the girls I work with. This is my, um, this is Willow.”


Willow waved a little awkwardly and pushed back on the chair to stand.


“I’ll let you talk.”


She passed by the girls as they came in and huddled around Tara. She sat in the corridor to wait, twiddling her thumbs and trying not to think about how attractive they all were, or how much of them Tara regularly saw.


In the room, all of the girls were espousing how lousy Wes the manager was to Tara for cutting her like that.


“We wanted to give you this,” one of them said, handing an envelope over to Tara, “We know how hard you save for your adventure, so we pooled our tips. Even Paulie put in.”


Tara looked in the envelope and felt a lump form in her throat.


“You don’t have to do this.”


“We want to,” Nascha said with a firm but affectionate smile, “You’ve covered shifts for every single one of us. We’ll let you rest but we just wanted you to know we’ll miss you on the floor.”


“And we’re complaining to head office too,” Madeline added.


Each other came around to give Tara a hug individually, which almost left her in tears. As they left, Nascha hung back so it was just the two of them.


“Tara?” she said softly, pulling up the chair. “This conversation is just between us for the moment.”


Tara seemed confused, but Nascha’s brilliant white smile was on display.


“The area manager is getting rid of Wes. She’s training me to take over.”


Tara’s eyes widened and a grin lit up her face too.


“That’s amazing, congratulations.”


“I know you’ll be graduating and then traveling, but when that thing is off if you want to pick up a few shifts just let me know,” Nascha continued with a wink, “In the meantime I’ll make sure you get everything you’re owed and that you stay on the books, yeah?”


Tara rubbed the heel of her palm against her eye. She didn’t want to look weak in front of her prospective future boss.


“Thank you.”


Nascha just gave her a hug and followed the rest of the group out, while Tara cried silently into her hands. Willow came back in and rushed over when she saw.


“Hey, did they upset you?”


Tara shook her head.


“No, they pooled their tips for me, and I might be able to get some work again when the cast comes off.”


Willow stroked Tara’s hair and smiled reassuringly.


“See? We’ve got a head start already.”

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Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:35 am 
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3. Flaming O

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Dibs, and wow, this is dark girl! I wasn't expecting such angst when I started the story. I missed a couple of updates so read the last few chapters in one sitting. It's rattling along at a fair pace and I can't wait to see where you're going with this.


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 2:47 pm 
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4. Extra Flamey
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Well... Fuck. That went places. Damn.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 4:34 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:33 pm
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Last Week's feedback:

Quote:
The one Willow was wearing was one she had talked Tara into giving her as a ‘replacement’, that just happened to smell like Tara and was fitted to Tara’s body and so was the clothing equivalent of a Tara-hug.

I must admit that I have done this a few times....


Quote:
“I’m sorry,” Tara replied, her voice strained as she struggled to swallow a lump, “I would never have…I would never hurt you on purpose.”

I would think that Tara would have realized how this song was pretty obvious. She knew WIllow as going to be at the concert.


Quote:
“It's complicated… because of Tara.”

Easter Egg

Quote:
Willow looked up at him and felt Tara’s hands snatch away from hers.


She didn’t like it.


She really didn’t like when she realized she was usually the one to do the snatching. Was that how Tara felt when she did it to her?


Good insight Will.


Quote:
If I can make someone else that happy, why can’t I make me that happy?

Ain't that the truth. Message for many of us.

Quote:
Both the front door and Willow’s bedroom door was locked; Willow’s parents weren’t even in the country and no one ever visited anyway, but she wasn’t about to argue. She remembered Willow freaking out at New Years and she would never want to make her uncomfortable.
Paranoia. Hopefully she will become a little less worried and allow them to enjoy intimacy.

Quote:
Tara was a very tactile person, in fact, it was the reason she got into music; being able to touch things in different ways and produce beautiful sounds spoke to her soul.


She was thinking about this because that little sound that got caught in Willow’s throat was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. It made her body react in ways she would never even be able to express or even the sweetest of chord progressions could ever replicate.


I liked this

This submission:

Quote:
“Well, um, I wondered…” she started, then focused her gaze on her father, “If I could only be one thing, what would you want it to be?”


Ira considered it and with a twinkle in his eye, answered Willow in a way he thought unexpected and supportive.


“Successful.”


Yup, here is the difference.

Quote:
She wandered around the supermarket, trying to pick out Tara’s favorite treats but was so unsure. She thought she knew; watermelon jolly ranchers, cherry Twizzlers, peanut butter M&Ms. But she hadn’t known her daughter was gay or had gotten a tattoo either, so what did she know?

This sums up what it is like to be the parent of a teenager.

Quote:
“Now you’re the rainbow connection,” Tara giggled, throwing her hands up in delight, “You were mine and I was yours and one day you’ll let the light at the end of it shine on us.”


Sweet.

Quote:
“He’s off to battle his demons with a baseball bat made out of my dreams.”

What a perfect sentence to explain it all...

This story is so intense. It is definitely heavier than your usual writing. I am enjoying it tremendously.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:58 am 
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Quote:
I did the math and this story will conclude on February 4th


Wow, much longer than I expected, I'm thrilled! So if you keep posting an update for each month of their lives, we will see them evolve over the next 5 years or so, right?

Quote:
If you want to do another easter egg hunt, there's also at least one song lyric in every chapter.


I don't recognize it, but this part sounded like it could be from a songtext:
Quote:
But hearing herself being laid out flat like that from a conversation they never even had was a punch in the gut and a hug to her heart all at once.


I loved Tara's rainbow-song dedicated to Willow and how you came back to the rainbow-motive later in the hospital.

Quote:
“If she’s only ever one thing, I want it to be happy,”

Quote:
“If I could only be one thing, what would you want it to be?”

Quote:
“Successful.”


Once again the difference between her parents and Tara's mom slaps her in the face…

Quote:
I swear by god I will beat you down.”

Very sad canon-easteregg!

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“She is not ready, Willow, she’s not, she won’t, oh god—”


She dropped her head into her mother’s lap and cried.


“It’s okay sweetie,” Kimberly comforted, stroking Tara’s hair, “Leave Donny to me.”


“Please, Momma,” Tara cried, muffled as her words came out in gasps of air, “I don’t care what he does to me, but Willow…”


The pain in Tara’s voice broke Kimberly’s heart. She closed her eyes and wondered if she would even be able to rein in her son. She didn't know how, but she'd have to.


“I promise you that I will sort this out.”


My heart bled for Tara's despair and Kimberly's helplessness.

Quote:
Why do you antagonize your sister so god damn much?!”


Donny’s face contorted in rage and his fist flew to his mouth. His eyes bulged and terrified both women, but not as much as his booming voice did moments later.


”Because he hit me too!”


Kimberly’s brow creased for a moment, then flattened in slowly-dawning horror.


“W-what?”


Tara was tense between mother and son as they stared each other down.


“He hit me too and you did nothing,” Donny spat, gurgling on air before attempting and missing a swipe at Tara’s arm, “First time the little princess here gets a slap across the face and you had your bags packed in an hour.”


How sad that once again an abused child grew up into a violent adult! I really hope the shock about Tara's fall and the temporary horror he felt that he might have killed her is the wakeup-call Donny needs to go through his rehab successfully and turn his life around.

Although I understand that 18-year-old Tara is furious because her mother will use the money saved for her big trip to pay for the rehab (shame on the crappy social-system in the USA that this is not covered by insurance!) I trust she will understand later on that Kimberly had no other choice. Alcoholism is an illness and of course for a mother the treatment for the illness of one child has to take priority to (partially) financing a "life-finding"-trip for the other child.

I fervently hope that Tara will still have her full musical-abilities after the cast comes of or I fear she might never forgive Donny. I also wish that Donny will apologize to Tara personally after his rehab and try to make amends to her (he could try to at least partially pay her the trip-money back by selling his bike, f.e.).

Quote:
She’d stayed out there all night, and that told Tara more than the dropped hand.

I agree. That crisis is also a chance for Willow to prove she always wants to be there for Tara.

Quote:
“I lost my job, I lost my trip,” she cried softly, “I’ll lose y—I’ve lost everything!”

No Tara, you won't lose Willow, you will win a happy life with her, just have faith in Willow (and Laragh)!

Quote:
“No, you’re not missing out,” Willow replied, shaking her head, “I promise you, we’ll find the money somewhere else. Your dream is not over. He won’t take this from you too.”

Quote:
Willow kept Tara’s gaze, intently.


“I promise you will go on that trip. Just as you’d planned. Doing everything you want to do.”


Tara finally nodded and Willow held her quietly and reassuringly


Yay Willow! I picture her resolve face here and you can't argue with that!


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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:33 pm 
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Well, that certainly took a turn.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:40 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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So, is this set in the past, is Willow super neurotic, or is it really that bad in the US?

Asking because Willow seems a bit overly dramatic about the 'gay' thing.

Anyway, nice story, and looking forward to more.
But i hope Willow de-stresses soon.
Tara and Kimberly have their hands full right now.

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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NorthernLass

Quote:
Dibs, and wow, this is dark girl! I wasn't expecting such angst when I started the story. I missed a couple of updates so read the last few chapters in one sitting. It's rattling along at a fair pace and I can't wait to see where you're going with this.


It's definitely darker than my usual shtick but I think not too much so. Gotta iron out a few kinks in life before you're ready to face it sometimes!

Thanks for commenting!

leftindust

Quote:
Well... Fuck. That went places. Damn.


Hopefully places you still want to read about :)

Thanks for your feedback :)

taranwillow4ever

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I must admit that I have done this a few times....


I think the ole clothes wearing trick is a classic action of love and heartache

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I would think that Tara would have realized how this song was pretty obvious. She knew WIllow as going to be at the concert.


She didn't mind Willow thinking it was obvious. She wanted it to know about her; it was written for her.

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Good insight Will.


She's getting there...

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Ain't that the truth. Message for many of us.


Preach

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Paranoia. Hopefully she will become a little less worried and allow them to enjoy intimacy.


In time, in time.

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I liked this


Thank you :)
Quote:
Yup, here is the difference.


And the saddest part is he doesn't even get it

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This sums up what it is like to be the parent of a teenager.


:lol I take that as a compliment coming from the parent of a teenager!

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Sweet.


I really enjoy that this Tara gets all philosophical went she's drunk/high/etc

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What a perfect sentence to explain it all...


Poor Tara feels beaten up any which way.

Quote:
This story is so intense. It is definitely heavier than your usual writing. I am enjoying it tremendously.


Thank you so much! I hope you continue to do so!

Thanks for your feedback :)

Will's redemption

Quote:
Wow, much longer than I expected, I'm thrilled! So if you keep posting an update for each month of their lives, we will see them evolve over the next 5 years or so, right?


Not necessarily...

Quote:
I don't recognize it, but this part sounded like it could be from a songtext:


Nope! The song lyric used in that chapter was “It’s lonely where you are.” (Goo Goo Dolls - Name)

Quote:
I loved Tara's rainbow-song dedicated to Willow and how you came back to the rainbow-motive later in the hospital.


I always loved rainbows even before I knew I was gay. I find them so hopeful.

Quote:
Once again the difference between her parents and Tara's mom slaps her in the face…


And he thinks he's being kind, not pressuring her...it's physically painful for Willow

Quote:
Very sad canon-easteregg!


The worst

Quote:
My heart bled for Tara's despair and Kimberly's helplessness.


Tara's actually just as much (okay maybe not just as much) a ball of angst. Something's gotta give.

Quote:
How sad that once again an abused child grew up into a violent adult! I really hope the shock about Tara's fall and the temporary horror he felt that he might have killed her is the wakeup-call Donny needs to go through his rehab successfully and turn his life around.


I hope so too. I hope his mother's genes win out in the end.

Quote:
Although I understand that 18-year-old Tara is furious because her mother will use the money saved for her big trip to pay for the rehab (shame on the crappy social-system in the USA that this is not covered by insurance!) I trust she will understand later on that Kimberly had no other choice. Alcoholism is an illness and of course for a mother the treatment for the illness of one child has to take priority to (partially) financing a "life-finding"-trip for the other child.


Oh, she understands that now. Doesn't stop it hurting.

Quote:
I fervently hope that Tara will still have her full musical-abilities after the cast comes of or I fear she might never forgive Donny. I also wish that Donny will apologize to Tara personally after his rehab and try to make amends to her (he could try to at least partially pay her the trip-money back by selling his bike, f.e.).


Great minds...

Quote:
I agree. That crisis is also a chance for Willow to prove she always wants to be there for Tara.

No Tara, you won't lose Willow, you will win a happy life with her, just have faith in Willow (and Laragh)!


I think both of those things become abundantly clear very, very soon.

Quote:
Yay Willow! I picture her resolve face here and you can't argue with that!


Never!

Thanks so much for your feedback :)

Finey_McFine

Quote:
Well, that certainly took a turn.


It did. Life does that to us sometimes.

Thanks for commenting JMT :)

Azirahael

Quote:
So, is this set in the past, is Willow super neurotic, or is it really that bad in the US?

Asking because Willow seems a bit overly dramatic about the 'gay' thing.


This is set pretty much in the current. Is the US that bad? In parts, yes, unfortunately; in her part, probably a little. Small towns tend to be provincial and sometimes snooty. Sunnydale has a higher amount of Christians too.

Is Willow super neurotic? Abso-fucking-lutely. But she has her reasons, a lot of which are revealed in this update(s). You have to take the trauma she's experienced and double down on the years and years she's internalized and hated herself for it.

Quote:
Anyway, nice story, and looking forward to more.
But i hope Willow de-stresses soon.
Tara and Kimberly have their hands full right now.


Willow will figure herself out, don't worry :)

Thanks for your comment!



Update(s) Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

NOTE: The last of three flashback scenes

Chapter 12



The First Day Of Kindergarten



You Were A Child, Crawling On Your Knees Toward Him



Willow stared ahead at the large building looming in front of her and clutched the straps on her bigger-than-herself backpack.


Ira took a knee beside her and gave her a gentle, encouraging push forward.


“Look at all the other kids running inside, they can’t wait to go in and have fun.”


Willow looked down at the grass and scuffed her newly-shined shoe.


“I wanna be with Tara.”


Ira took her hand and brought her along into the school.


“She’s in another class, honey. You’re in Ms. Finnergans’s class. Look, there’s Cordy Chase. You know her, you were in tennis club together.”


Willow looked over at the familiar girl and noticed she was showing off the latest Barbie to a gaggle of other girls in the class. Willow had her Barbie in her backpack and wondered if they could play together.


“Okay, Daddy.”


Ira smiled proudly.


“Oh, you’ll be just fine, honey. You’re my big girl now. You’re going to learn all kinds of things. I’ll collect you after school and you can tell me all about it okay?”


Willow bent her arm to bring up her Doogie Howser wristwatch, tied securely on.


“When the little hand is on the one and the big hand is on the twelve?”


Ira nodded reassuringly.


“That’s exactly right. Let’s say hello to your teacher.”


Willow came along agreeably, met her teacher and was shown her cubby. Ira hung back to let her get used to him being gone, watching his little girl grow up before his eyes.


“I'd give all I have, honey, if you could stay like that,” he sighed before leaving her with a lump in his throat.


Willow was led to a circular table where some other children were coloring and given a sheet to join in. Willow was immediately content and started in on a drawing for Tara, of them playing make-believe as witches, their current favorite game.


As she was coloring in the broom head a nice, bright yellow, she pushed the crayon into the page a little too hard and it snapped in half. She stared down at her own hand in shock, then clasped her fist closed as tears sprung to her eyes.


Beside her, a boy with floppy brown hair haphazardly rubbed a red crayon over the page, making an edge-to-edge picture of a Ferrari. He stopped when he noticed Willow’s unusual stance and looked at her, scratching the side of her head.


“What’s wrong?”


Willow’s eyes flew to him, panicked.


“Nothing!”


The boy just kept looking at her and his soft gaze comforted Willow. She slowly opened her fist and revealed what was inside.


“I broke the crayon!” she whispered, nearly sobbing, “I’m gonna get in trouble!”


The boy blinked several times, then took the crayon, threw it back into the basket with the rest and shook it so it mixed back in. Willow stood shocked at the act of utter rebellion and threw her arms around the boy.


The boy just smiled goofily.


“I’m Xander.”


“I’m Willow,” Willow replied, sitting back down to finish her drawing, “This is me and Tara. We’re best friends.”


Xander started in on the wheels.


“I wanna be best friends with Spock.”


Willow giggled at the funny name.


“Who’s Spock?”


After a while, Mrs. Finnergan came around and bent down between them both.


“What a lovely picture, Willow. And you, Xander. Can we hang them on the wall?”


Both children nodded and helped affix their creations to the wall above their cubbies.


Willow decided to fish her Barbie out of her backpack and approached Cordelia and the girls sitting around her. She held her doll tightly in her hands and nervously approached.


“Can my Barbie play too?”


Cordelia, already adept at an eye-roll, slowly brought her gaze to Willow’s.


“This is only for Barbies with boyfriends.”


“And you haveta have a boyfriend to join the group,” a younger girl with platinum hair and a slightly absent stare added on.


Willow frowned, working out the mechanics of that word. A boy that was a friend?


“Boyfriend?”


“A boy that you want to hold hands with and stuff,” another of the girls almost fearfully explained.


Willow’s eyes lit up excitedly.


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


Cordelia’s mouth dropped with shock.


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


Willow frowned again.


“Why not?”


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


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


Cordelia jumped down from her perch on the cubby shelf and narrowed her eyes at Willow.


“Which one?”


Willow’s eyes darted around the room until they landed on the familiar kind face that had gotten her out of her last predicament. Her finger jabbed in his direction.


“Him!”


Cordelia followed the point and snorted some more.


“Stinky Xander Harris?”


Xander looked up and Willow felt a need to defend him.


“No, he’s nice! He doesn’t smell bad!”


“Whatever,” Cordelia retorted and led her cronies away to another area of the room.


Willow’s heart was pounding through her tiny body and her grip was so tight on her Barbie, it almost snapped in half too. Not wanting to stand in the middle of the room alone, she approached Xander again, who was playing with his own doll.


“Hi,” she said shyly.


Xander looked up and across to Cordelia, then back at Willow.


“She sucks,” he said indignantly, “I’m only stinky sometimes.”


“We should make a club,” Willow said, eyes wide with excitement to have a shared passion, “A ‘We Hate Cordelia’ club!”


Xander looked at her curiously.


“Can I be president?”


Willow frowned. She wanted to be president.


“You can be treasurer,” she suggested.


Xander smiled affably. He had no idea what that meant.


“Okay.”


Willow’s eyes cast from side to side conspiringly.


“Will you be my boyfriend?”


“Okay,” Xander agreed again easily.


Willow held her Barbie up to him.


“Does your G.I. Joe wanna marry my Barbie?”


Xander shrugged.


“She has to help him fight Doctor Mindbender!”


“Okay!” Willow agreed loudly, her little eyes darting to make sure Cordelia and the first incarnation of The Cordettes saw, despite just becoming President of her first club.


Xander tried to snatch Willow’s Barbie and she ran after him.


“Hey! Give her back!”


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


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


When the big hand finally crept up on the twelve, Willow waited in her classroom for her dad to come in and collect her. She just nodded that she’d had a good time and took his hand. When she heard Tara call her name across the lawn, she pulled him faster.


Tara figured Willow mustn’t have heard her. She shrugged and ran to her mother to tell her about the day and how much she’d loved the xylophone she’d gotten to play on. She could just tell Willow later at home.


Willow looked through the car window at her best friend in the whole world jump into her mother’s arms and for the first time in her life, she experienced guilt.

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 Post subject: Re: New Fic: Inevitable [AU] (Sept 17th 2019)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:00 am 
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CHAPTER RATING: PG-13

Chapter 13



April



The Tears That Drip From My Bewildered Eyes Taste Of Bittersweet Romance



Willow hummed as she secured the seal on a padded envelope and added it to the growing pile.


Tara, sitting opposite on the floor of Willow’s bedroom and stuffing the envelopes before she pushed them over to Willow, recognized the bars of ‘Heigh Ho’. She watched Willow’s hands move in the same sequence for each package and it made her smile.


“Quirky,” she said as she caught Willow’s gaze.


Willow looked at Tara peculiarly as her fingers deftly pressed the sticky seal down and her wrist flicked it so it sailed over her shoulder and landed in the waiting box behind her.


“Huh?”


“If you were one of the seven dwarves,” Tara clarified through a laugh, “You’d be Quirky. I guess that would make you the eighth.”


Willow’s eyes narrowed playfully.


“You’ve tried that one before, Maclay. I know you mean ‘insane’.”


Tara smiled for a moment, then crawled over to Willow on her hands and knees. She pressed a gentle kiss under Willow’s right ear.


“Insanely smart,” she whispered, bringing her mouth around to kiss under Willow’s other ear, “And talented.”


She faced Willow and kissed her lips; soft, sweet and lingering.


“And beautiful.”


Willow flushed right down into her chest and reached out to cup Tara’s cheek. Her fingers splayed out against Tara’s skin and ever-so-softly held her chin to keep her there so Willow could keep kissing her.


Tara parted with a kiss to the corner of Willow’s mouth and returned to her spot. Willow blindly reached for the next packet, while waiting for her belly to stop doing flips.


“You’re the talented one. Your designs are gorgeous.”


Tara hadn’t believed any of her crafty things would ever be sellable but had finally agreed to try if it brought her closer to raising the funds for her trip ticket.


Willow had used her computer skills to facilitate.


“I can’t believe how many orders we got,” she said as she put the most popular sale, a repurposed guitar string made into a bangle with different gemstones, into an envelope, “I’ve been making these things for years…mostly just to occupy my hands. I can't believe you were actually able to sell all my old junk.”


“Most people have fidget spinners, you make art,” Willow replied affectionately, “And it's not junk Tara, it's couture design. They're one of a kind pieces. I can't believe you had this much and I didn't know about it! I thought you showed me all the stuff you made.”


Tara shrugged one shoulder.


“Only if I wear it myself, usually. The rest are just experiments.”


“Well you're very good at experimenting,” Willow replied, then realized what she said and blushed, “Um, did your mom get mad that you blew off school to make extra stuff? I would have blown off class too to help you if you’d told me.”


“Sweetie, you wouldn't blow off a class if your head was on fire,” Tara replied, shooting a crooked smile across the room, but it faltered, “She’s not picking fights right now.”


Willow noted the quiet tone. Tara had talked with her and cried with her in the first few days after the ‘incident’ but everything had quieted down as routine invariably snuck back into their lives.


“Are you still mad at her?” she prompted gently.


Tara shrugged one shoulder, not looking up.


“It’s messed up for everyone.”


Willow nodded, eyes trying to catch the emotion on Tara’s face.


“How’s…?”


“I don’t ask,” Tara replied, just barely hiding a sigh, “My mom goes to see him at weekends. He hasn’t abandoned the program, at least.”


She pushed another envelope across the floor.


“I can’t thank you enough for helping me out with everything. All of this printing and packing, setting up the website stuff… I couldn’t have done it without you.”


“Well, I’ve only been telling you forever that you should have an online store! It was your genius idea to market it as a pop-up,” Willow replied cheerily, “An online pop-up shop, it’s kinda so crazy that it works. It was super cool to actually start trending too, even if it was just for an hour.”


She picked up her phone and opened the spreadsheet where she was keeping a tally of the money.


“We’ve raised almost half of what you need. If we sell out the stock of what you’ve made we’ll only be a few hundred bucks away from what we set out to make.”


Tara shook her head, awed.


“That’s crazy,” she said, and grew quiet for a moment, “It’s great, phenomenal even but…it’s not enough to get there. I was thinking about pawning my instruments. Even if I go back to work when I get the cast off, I’m looking at scaling the trip back or sitting out another few months to save up again.”


Willow looked up sharply.


“You have to go this year!” she replied loudly, then stumbled over her words as she rushed to continue, “A-and you can’t sell your instruments! There’s no way! They mean so much to you, Tara. Promise you won’t?”


“Okay,” Tara agreed, a small line of confusion furrowed on her brow, “I just think it might come down to a choice…and I can always buy another sax.”


Willow pursed her lips, then tried to speak nonchalantly.


“You know I do have some m—”


“And again, you are so generous to offer,” Tara interrupted in a stern but sincere voice, “But I can’t. I just can’t. Nothing is worth things getting weird between us.”


Willow’s lips grew into a smile.


“Yeah, wouldn’t want to do anything to mess up our friendship.”


Tara offered a small grin.


“I’ve been babysitting and I’ll be picking up shifts again soon. That will help. Nate mentioned some shows he’s going to book for us. Basically, I don’t have a single minute to myself…but everything helps.”


“While Donny gets to swan around in a luxurious treatment center,” Willow sneered.


“Your prom is next weekend, right?” Tara cut her off, very much intentionally changing the subject.


“Is it?” Willow asked with a shrug, though she did know it was happening from all the posters around school.


She and Buffy had already agreed to sit it out and have a slumber party.


“Yeah, I think so,” Tara replied, an undeniable note of eagerness in her voice, “Are you going?”


“Nope,” Willow scoffed, “Buff and I are doing a girls’ night instead. Seems less…high school hierarchy.”


“Oh, okay,” Tara nodded to herself, “Well, um, thanks again for all of this…really, I’d have zero chance of still getting to go on the trip if it wasn’t for you.”


Willow scooted closer and kissed Tara’s cheek.


“You don’t need to thank me. I’d do anything for you.”


Their foreheads rested together and each pair of lips sought the other for a quick peck. Willow nuzzled against Tara for a moment, before grudgingly dragging herself away, but with determination on her face.


“Next box!”



“Pass the pizza.”


Willow lifted the pizza box to slide across Buffy’s bedroom floor to her, but it was decidedly light.


“We ate it all.”


Buffy frowned deeply.


“That makes me sad.”


Willow lifted the lid to confirm and frowned too.


“Sorry Buff. There’s still cookie dough.”


She held up the tube with a conciliatory smile. Buffy took it and scooped some up in her fingers.


“Cookie dough never lets me down.”


Willow frowned at Buffy’s demeanor and tried to think of a way to distract her.


“Do you want to work on your French?”


Buffy shook her head.


“There is nothing I want to do less right now than French homework,” she sighed as she picked up her phone.


After a minute of her thumb moving about the screen, her bottom lip protruded in a pout.


“I keep seeing pretty dresses and I keep wanting me to be in one too.”


She showed Willow the photo log of all of their classmates arriving at prom. Willow brow scrunched.


“You’re the one who said we should sit prom out…that you didn’t want to be surrounded by lame couples making lame poses, listening to lame music and—”


“Yeah, I get it, lame,” Buffy cut her off before arching a sculpted eyebrow at Willow, “Except maybe… it’s kinda not? We could…swing by…check it out?”


“I don’t think it’s a swing-by kinda thing,” Willow reasoned evenly, “What with the endless planning people put in.”


“We’ll sneak in,” Buffy replied, grinning now.


“Buffy,” Willow replied, lowering her voice lest anyone else inside the closed room heard them, “It’s school property.”


Buffy started bouncing on the spot.


“It’s better than sitting in on a Saturday night, right? And the music won’t be lame. I heard they’re getting a good band.”


“So, what?” Willow asked, biting the corner of her lip, “You want to gatecrash our own prom?”


Buffy nodded eagerly.


“In pretty clothes.”


Willow looked down at her multicolored sweater and faded jeans.


“I am not prom appropriate.”


Buffy’s eyes grew wide with excitement and she jumped up.


“Well lucky for you…”


She hurried over to her closet to throw the doors open.


“I have ‘appropriate’ for every occasion there is!”



Willow stood behind Buffy as she tried to hoist herself up to sneak in the bathroom window at the school.


It was not made easier by the fact that they were in dresses, bare-legged and getting scratched by the wall.


“Is this really worth it Buff?” Willow asked unsurely.


She’d actually enjoyed dressing up with Buffy but this seemed nuts. That window was barely big enough and she had no idea how she was supposed to do it when Buffy, the strong one, couldn’t even get up.


“Maybe we could try and sneak past the entrance? Ooh, we could try to distract them and steal the ink stamper.”


Buffy hopped down off the wall, sighing.


“Okay, honestly?” she asked, opening her purse and producing two tickets, “I have tickets. I bought them before I split with he-who-must-not-be-named. I didn’t think I wanted to go without a date, but I don’t see why a guy should make or break my only prom.”


Willow looked at her friend, exasperated.


“If you have tickets, why are we trying to climb in through the bathroom?!”


Buffy reached across herself to hold her arm meekly.


“I miss the excitement. I miss being wild.”


“Well wild on me equals spaz, so can we please go in the normal way?” Willow half-joked, half-huffed.


“Well we’d be breaking the habit of a lifetime, but I guess if ‘normal’ is so important to you,” Buffy replied, nudging Willow’s shoulder.


Willow offered a slight smile but averted her gaze.


Willow started to feel a bit nervous as they walked into the school and headed toward the gymnasium. There were definitely some people she’d gone to great lengths to avoid this past school year and she felt a bit like she was walking into the lion’s den.


They got their hands stamped and walked through the door, where the normal gym that haunted Willow’s dreams had been transformed. Everything was a stark red and black, accented with masquerade masks and tall feathers on the walls and some candelabras with candles away from anywhere there could be dancing.


“What…is this theme?” Buffy questioned, looking around, “Cheap Vegas showgirl?”


Willow noticed one of the homemade posters still adorning one of the walls.


“Illusions,” she read.


Buffy picked up the hem of her dress and moved toward the masses.


“Well, I’m going to illude myself over there!”


“That’s not a word,” Willow replied, though quickly followed her, “Wait, I’m coming!”


They coasted through the room until they found a spot to huddle and chat in. They spent a while commenting on the other clothes and giggling at the bad dancing to the generic playlist blasting out of the speakers.


After a bit, Buffy excused herself to go to the bathroom and after a quick glance around the room, Willow declined to join her, figuring it was probably where her nemeses were hanging out.


She made her way over to the punch bowl. As she ladled her second scoop of the fluorescent drink into her red solo cup, she heard a voice, or more so a laugh, that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.


She furtively glanced over her shoulder and confirmed that Cordelia was approaching her at speed. Willow immediately folded in on herself.


“Wow, I can’t believe someone actually asked you to prom,” Cordelia cackled, staring at Willow intently.


When Willow just looked down, Cordelia snickered.


“Oh my god, they didn’t, did they? You came alone! What, not even—”


“I d-didn’t come alo—” Willow started to reply, but was caught off by what felt like a cacophony of laughter around her.


Cordelia sure knew how to make her singular presence feel like a gang even without her cronies hanging on. Where were they anyway?


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


Willow felt some droplets of punch fall onto her wrist as her hand began to shake.


That taunting hit her somewhere deep.


She tried to eye an opening she could push through, but an unexpected rescue came to her in the form of a voice she hadn’t heard in a long time.


“Leave her alone.”


Cordelia stared Xander down for a moment and looked hurt before averting her gaze.


“I should have known you’d still defend her,” Cordelia sneered, though her own voice was close to breaking as she tried to stumble an insult out, “I hear Hallmark is making the movie about you two. I hope you weren’t cheated out of the rights.”


Willow felt a rush of embarrassment and guilt. As horrible as Cordelia had ever been to her, she’d done her wrong as well.


“I really am sorry about—”


Cordelia held her hand up, just shy of saying ‘talk to it’, as she was aware that it was no longer the 90s.


“The stench of dork is just too much. I’m getting out of here before it clogs up my pores.”


She turned on her heels and left but didn’t go to anyone and just stood around by herself, checking her watch and looking like she was waiting for someone.


Willow stared down at her cup, very purposefully avoiding Xander’s gaze, though she could tell he was still there by the presence of his old but newly-shined shoes.


After a moment or two, that joking voice she’d come to value so much as a friend spoke up again.


“I hear the punch is extra-punchy this year.”


He held up his own cup as a demonstration or a toast, he didn’t even know himself which it was.


Willow finally looked up and felt a rush of emotion at seeing her longtime friend.


“Xander,” was all she could say, swallowing a lump and offering a small smile, “Hey, you scrub up well.”


He fidgeted with his bowtie but smiled back.


“Long time no speak.”


Willow sighed deeply.


“Long…long time.”


Xander bounced back and forth on his toes.


“I texted ya, but you didn’t reply.”


He continued to smile, no animosity in his tone or attitude.


“Honestly, I blocked your number,” Willow admitted shamefully.


“Was I sending too many fart jokes?” Xander joked and Willow couldn’t help but laugh, but then shook her head.


“I thought you’d be really mad at me. And I didn’t think I could handle you mad at me on top of…everything else.”


“How come you thought I’d be mad?” Xander asked as if it was an amusing thought.


Willow’s eyebrow arched.


“Um…breaking up your relationship? A-and the events leading up to it.”


Xander waved a hand.


“Pfft, pretty, popular…who wants a girl like that anyway?” he asked, but followed it up with a single shoulder sheepish shrug, “She never really liked me anyway. She was probably going to dump me as soon as school started back up before her friends found out. I thought we’d made peace earlier this week when I helped pay off her prom dress but I guess she’s still mad.”


Willow frowned; why would Cordelia need help paying off a dress?


“I think it’s me she still hates,” she supplied uneasily, “Hard to change a habit of a lifetime.”


“She’s been going through some stuff with her family,” Xander said with a sad bob of his head, “Lost her friends anyway.”


Willow swallowed. Did she actually feel sorry for Cordelia?


“Irony’s kind of ironic that way.”


There was a small silence and Willow’s heart started to speed up. She had not anticipated that reuniting with Xander might go so easily.


“Are you mad now? That I haven't spoken to you for months?”


“Not that I was missed,” Xander said, smiling sadly, “Felt like you and Buffy went off and just forgot about me.”


“No, no,” Willow replied quickly, “Buffy and I…there was a whole mess…we all just…poomf!”


She made her hands blow up indicatively.


“And then…I was so embarrassed about what I did. I was…temporarily insane.”


“I figured,” Xander bobbed his head along easily, “I mean no one of sound mind would take on the wrath of Cordelia willingly. I kinda thought it was a weird prank. Then I thought it was just an elaborate ruse to keep me out of the gang. Or maybe flunk out.”


He grinned boyishly.


“Turns out I need a Will in my life or I just become a lumbering oaf of stupidity.”


Willow quickly shook her head.


“No, I’m the bastion of stupid in this situation,” she replied, her cheeks flushing hotly. “You were collateral damage of my own confusion. I used you to work out some feelings and I'm really sorry. And I’m so, so sorry that I just ran away and blocked you out of my life and made you feel…god, that’s awful Xan. I’m so sorry. I was so concerned about myself I never stopped to think about how it affected you.”


“Did you?” Xander asked, dropping his chin to look at her, “Work out the feelings?”


Willow blushed some more.


“Kinda.”


Xander’s hands knocked together awkwardly.


“I think maybe I would have kissed you back,” he said, looking up to meet Willow’s eye, “Given the chance.”


Willow swallowed deeply.


“I don't think that would have been good for anyone.”


Xander held up his hands, mimicking a scales.


“That mistake or losing my virginity to a malevolent force dressed in leather,” he said, lifting each side up and down, “Either way I'm coming out on bottom.”


“Hey, you’ve been reading that word of the day calendar I got you,” Willow chuckled nervously then swallowed again, “I-I didn't know.”


Xander shrugged.


“Buffy knocked her into next week.”


Willow looked up, wide-eyed.


“Wait, it was HER?” she exclaimed, mouth dropping, “The cleavage-y slut bomb?”


Xander frowned a bit.


“Where ya been Wills?”


Willow frowned too.


“In my own little world, I guess,” she said in a tone that may have been sad but was fighting against it. She looked back up to Xander’s eyes, “But I definitely worked out that you're one of my best friends and not…”


Xander held a hand up.


“Say no more. The Xan Man has gotten the 'just friends' speech often enough to fill in the rest.”


“Can we be?” Willow asked hopefully, “Friends again?”


Xander bumped Willow’s shoulder playfully.


“Will you help me bump my chemistry grade? I'm trailing a fail here and risking not graduating.”


Willow wasn’t sure if that was a joke or not, but her answer was the same either way.


“You bet.”


Xander opened his arm in offering and Willow immediately closed it, her drink sloshing as she did so.


“Whoops!” she giggled, feeling utter relief that this wasn’t hanging over her head any longer.


Xander smiled at his friend-again.


“Oh, and I missed ya, Wills.”


Buffy suddenly came screeching up to them on the heels of the hug and threw her arm around each of their shoulders.


“Are we all back to being the three amigos again?”


“Well, Jesse was just here too…” Xander started, then shook his head when they spotted him across the floor trying to chat up Cordelia, “If he still wants to go there after all the stories I told him…It's his funeral.”


They all laughed and for the first time in a long time, Willow felt like everything was normal again.


“Hey, Xander needs help with schoolwork too…so maybe we can start studying together.”


“We can be study buddies,” Buffy suggested.


Willow cleared her throat.


“Um, or, a study group,” she said more definitively, “Let’s go with study group.”


They all refilled their cups and fell back into conversation and observation as if there’d been no conflict in their friendship at all. Willow was on cloud nine, feeling as elated as she ever had been.


The music stopped through the speakers and there was a brief moment of dissatisfaction in the crowd until a melodic male voice spoke into the microphone.


“Good evening everyone. Are you having a good night?”


There was a cheer from everyone except Willow, who frowned. She knew that voice.


“We are Insect Reflection and together we represent our insignificance in terms of the karmic cycle. The universe is really big and we're really small - we hope our music reminds you why we matter at all. Let’s do it! Sunnydale High class of 2018!”


He started strumming a guitar and if Willow didn’t know before that Tara was there, she knew as soon as Tara opened her mouth to sing. She stood on her tiptoes to try and see over the crowd and could just about make out Tara’s face and the harmonica she was holding in her hand, which was still mostly covered in green fiberglass.


“Hey, isn’t that your… friend’s band?” Buffy asked with a pointed look at Willow, “I didn’t know it was this band.”


“I-I didn’t either,” Willow replied with a gulp.


Tara was serenading the crowd but it only took a few seconds for her to find Willow.


In any room, their eyes would always find each other. Willow watched Tara’s expression change, but her voice didn’t falter.


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


Just then, a girl with mousy brown hair approached Xander.


“You want to dance?”


“Uh…” Xander hesitated, “Why?”


Anya shrugged.


“You're not quite as obnoxious as most of the alpha males around here. Plus I know you don't have a date,” she said, then appeared to get angry when Xander didn’t reply right away, “Fine. Look, I know you find me attractive. I've seen you looking at my breasts.”


Xander smiled.


“Nothing personal, but when a guy does that, it just means his eyes are open.”


Anya rolled her eyes.


“Whatever. Look, do you wanna dance with me or not?”


Xander was silent for a moment, looked at Buffy and Willow, then followed Anya’s…body out onto the dance floor.


A few minutes later, after Jesse struck out with Cordelia, Buffy took pity on him and offered to dance. Willow pushed her way toward the top of the stage and waved demurely at Tara.


Tara looked right at her, but it was piercing in a way Willow had never felt from her before, and not in a good way.


“Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?”


Willow felt a knot in her belly. She’d never known Tara to look at her and not see love and adoration returned. She pushed back out into the crowd, got some more punch and went to join in with the others dancing.


The band finished up for the king and queen to be announced, but Willow didn’t hang around to see who it was. She left the school and walked around to the back where Tara had come out to take a break.


“Tara!” Willow called when she saw her walking away.


Tara stopped and Willow jogged up to her, as best she could in a dress.


“Tara,” Willow said again when she got to her, “I didn’t know you were playing tonight…why didn’t you tell me?”


“Thought you weren’t coming,” Tara replied curtly.


“I wasn’t,” Willow answered honestly, “It was a last minute thing.”


“With Buffy. And Xander,” Tara replied in a clipped tone, “Thought you weren’t talking.”


Tara’s tone made Willow want to throw up. Tara had never been angry with, ever, not like this. Even when Willow had called her that horrible name, she’d just looked sad.


“W-We weren’t.”


“Seems like you’re doing a lot of things you weren’t before,” Tara replied, hurt dripping with every word, “Without me.”


Willow shook her head repeatedly.


“It’s not like that Tara, I swear,” she protested, swallowing repeatedly as her mouth went dry, “Y-you were here anyway.”


“You didn’t know that,” Tara replied in disgust, “You didn’t even know if I was busy. You never asked.”


Tara’s eyes shut with tears and she turned her head away.


“I wouldn’t have asked you to declare in the middle of the dance floor. When have I ever pushed you to do anything you weren’t ready for? It would have meant something to me to ask me and no one else would have had a clue.”


Willow stood, silent and helpless and watched as Tara’s pain played so animatedly across her face.


“It never even crossed your mind that this might be something that you might ask me along to.”


Willow’s voice choked up.


“You know I can’t.”


“I know you won’t,” Tara returned harshly, shaking her head, “I only did this show so I could afford tickets to my prom. I was going to ask you but I think you’ve been pretty clear that that’s not something you want to share with me.”


Willow’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly.


“I…”


“What?” Tara prompted, and waited.


Willow’s jaw set to stop from trembling.


“I’m sorry,” she said eventually.


Tara closed her eyes for a second, then reopened them and nodded.


“Me too,” she replied sadly, “I’m glad you’re talking to your friends again.”


She turned and walked back toward Nate's truck.


“Tara—” Willow called, but Tara was gone and someone else was calling Willow’s name.


“Willow!” Buffy called, coming toward her with Jesse, Xander, and the new strangely literal girl following behind, “There you are. We’re all going to go get shakes, are you coming?”


Willow had to take a moment to gather her thoughts.


“No, um…”


“Are you okay?” Buffy asked, stepping toward her in concern.


Willow nodded.


“I just have a headache.”


“Probably from all of the vodka,” Anya offered, “You were consuming a lot of the punch.”


“It had vodka in it?” Willow asked, feeling it roll around her stomach even more.


“Oh yes,” Anya nodded, “Lots.”


Willow clutched her head.


“I’m going to head home. Do you mind if we call off the sleepover?”


“Yeah, that’s fine, we’re thinking of making a night of it,” Buffy replied, smiling at the newly put-together gang, “Are you sure you don’t want to come?”


Willow nodded again. She wanted to go home. And cry.


“I’ll wash the dress.”


“Don’t worry about it,” Buffy reassured, “Just call if you want to join in. Come on, we’ll drop you on the way.”


Willow smiled gratefully and gave her a hug. She made sure to unblock Xander’s number in the car and tried not to show how she was really feeling inside. Thankfully it was a short journey and she didn’t have to fake it for long.


She stood on the path outside her home and looked across the street. Tara’s light was off but that made sense.


She went straight up to her bedroom and threw herself on her bed. Her dress caught as she was going over and she jumped back up again to tear it off. She dropped it to her feet with its confusing complexity of memories seeping into it on the floor. She’d gotten Xander back, but had she lost Tara?


A sob released itself from her throat at the thought and she curled up in sweatpants and her (Tara’s) IR t-shirt, for the small comfort it gave.


She didn’t know if it was the alcohol or bile at the back of her throat, but it burned with each new cry into her hands.


Why was she like this? Why was she trying so hard to hurt them both?


After a good cry, she suddenly bolted upright.


Maybe she could make this better.


She ran over to her closet. She frantically searched through it and fished out two separate hangers. Checking them front and back, she ran back downstairs and across the street to the Maclay house.


It was late, but the living room lights were on and so was the one in Tara’s bedroom, so she knocked. Kimberly answered the door and didn’t even ask, just opened the door to allow Willow inside.


Willow hopped up the stairs and knocked on Tara’s closed bedroom door.


“I don’t want any tea!” Tara called through an obviously strained voice.


Willow knocked again and the door swung open aggressively a moment later.


“I said I’m fine—!”


Tara swallowed as she saw Willow standing there, both of them noticing the other’s red-rimmed eyes.


Willow thrust each hanger, one an earth tone with greens and browns and the other a neutral black, toward Tara.


“Which one?”


Tara just looked bewildered and Willow swallowed deeply.


“Which one should I wear?” Willow repeated, looking right into Tara’s eyes, “Which one matches your prom dress better?”


Slowly, realization dawned on Tara’s face.


She smiled and shakily pointed to the green.


“That one.”



“Thanks for doing this, Buff.”


Buffy hummed as she looked through Willow’s limited makeup collection.


“Well, I had to make sure you looked your best. This is like a real prom with a real date,” she said, arching her eyebrow playfully, “Isn’t it?”


Willow, sitting on her bed, ran a hand over the patterned dress she had yet to put on.


“Kinda.”


Buffy came over and sat next to her.


“Are you rethinking…?”


Willow shook her head.


“Not about how I feel,” she said with a sigh, “It just gets stronger.”


She paused.


“I just…”


She shrugged.


She couldn’t say for sure if she would have extended this offer to Tara if she hadn’t been drunk on vodka and misery that night.


“It’s hard sometimes. And I know I’m the one making it harder. I hurt her and…I never ever want that.”


Buffy patted Willow’s shoulder.


“I know I don’t ‘get it’ exactly…but I know what it’s like to keep a relationship secret. I’m always here if you need to talk.”


Willow felt herself welling up.


“That means so much. I was so scared for anyone to know and…”


Buffy turned and pulled Willow into a hug.


“Willow is Willow, no matter who you love.”


Willow’s cheeks flushed lightly and Buffy tapped her back with a smile.


“Well, let’s get you ready for this thing,” she said as she swayed over to Willow’s docking station, “We need some tunes.”


She went through the playlists to find a good one to get ready to.


“What’s ‘T Time’?” she questioned, her eyebrows rising when some R&B began playing, “The T is for…trigonometry? Oh. Tara.”


Willow rushed over with bright red cheeks and quickly flicked a different playlist on.


“So should I wear my hair up or down?” she asked with a speedy need to change the subject.


Buffy was just as happy to move on and sat Willow in front of her mirror to experiment with some different styles. They finally decided to keep it down and Buffy would straighten it. Willow changed into her dress and Buffy applied light make-up but didn’t overdo it.


Buffy presented Willow in the mirror, smiling behind her.


“I wouldn’t go for the long sleeves myself, but you know, it looks great on you.”


“Thanks,” Willow replied with a bashful smile.


Willow looked at the clock hanging on her wall through the mirror.


“Hey, could you hang around for a couple of minutes?”


“Sure!” Buffy agreed.


They went downstairs and Willow was very grateful her parents had gone on another trip so they could be home for her graduation. She didn’t want to have to explain this.


After a few minutes, the doorbell rang and Willow stood up nervously.


She opened the door and her breath was instantly taken away.


Tara was in a dress of very similar style to Willow’s, but black with a floral design. They weren’t traditional prom dresses, but neither of them had ever been traditional dressers. Tara’s hair was down too but as shiny as it had ever been and softly bouncing below her shoulders.


Willow found herself falling in love with everything from the small crinkles at Tara’s eyes to the way her sleeves flew out at the wrists and how the creamy white skin of her calves contrasted against the dress where the hemline fell.


She swallowed several times as her eyes gave Tara the more-than-once-over and finally noticed an absence of something.


“Look at you, no cast.”


Tara twisted her freed arm around shyly.


“All healed.”


Willow finally stepped aside to allow Tara in.


“You look gorgeous.”


“So do you,” Tara complimented shyly as she walked inside.


Willow closed the door behind them and Tara handed her something. Willow wasn’t sure what it was at first, but as she took it she realized it was a leather purse with a thick but not-to-heavy chain strap.


“I knew you wouldn’t want me to get you a corsage,” Tara explained quickly before Willow could look at her strangely, “So I made you this.”


Willow started to smile, but it turned to stun when Tara continued.


“I-I used the swing. I’ve been working on it a while.”


“Wait…our swing?” Willow said, eyes wide as she turned the purse over in her hands and took it in for all its glory, “The one we broke the night we…?”


Tara nodded shyly and Willow stared at her, in awe.


“You…you made this from that?” she asked, tears almost springing to her eyes at the thought and time and consideration that must have gone into it, “This is amazing. Thank you so much.”


She threw her arms around Tara’s neck and kissed her, hard.


After a moment, Buffy cleared her throat and made Willow pull away.


She blushed, but she couldn’t stop smiling. She went over to show Buffy the purse.


“Look what she made me. From an old swing!”


Buffy’s eyebrows lifted, impressed.


“You made this? Wow. You’re talented.”


“So talented,” Willow gushed, then shyly took Tara’s hand, “I wanted you to meet Buffy. Properly.”


Tara’s eyes softened and she smiled in recognition of what Willow was doing.


“Tara, this is Buffy. Buffy… this is Tara.”


They shook hands and Willow glanced between them nervously.


“She got me ready tonight.”


“You did a great job,” Tara said to Buffy, though her eyes were all for Willow.


Willow was staring right back with what only could be described as heart eyes.


Buffy watched the exchange for a minute or so before deciding she was very much superfluous to requirements.


“So I’ll see you guys around!” she said, walking away awkwardly toward the door, “Enjoy your prom!”


“Bye,” Willow and Tara both echoed, but not without taking their eyes off each other.


Tara brushed her hand along Willow’s arm.


“You really did tell Buffy about us.”


Willow swallowed and nodded. Tara smiled and linked their fingers so their palms squeezed together.


“I’m so proud of you.”


Their moment was interrupted by a beeping sound from outside. Tara smiled and tugged Willow’s hand.


“Our ride is here.”


Willow quickly transferred everything to her new purse and proudly wore it on her shoulder. She followed Tara outside but stopped short when she saw a black limo waiting for them.


“Tara, this is way too much money! You’re saving every penny.”


“We’re collecting others on the way,” Tara replied easily, “Everyone chipped in, so it wasn’t expensive. I know this is big for you…I wanted it to be special.”


Willow was touched and smiled as the driver opened the back door for them. The seats were plush inside and lit up by luminous under lighting that changed colors.


“Cool,” Willow giggled as she slid across the seat, “Ooh, they have fancy sodas!”


She picked out a green one for herself and a red one for Tara and felt über suave as she cracked the tops off the counter.

The long necks of their bottles clinked as the limo set in motion. Music played and Tara put her arm around Willow’s shoulder.


Willow snuggled in. It took her an entire minute to realize how comfortably she’d gotten into that position. How unselfconsciously it felt to fit into Tara’s side.


She thought of all of the moments she lost, that they lost because she was afraid of…what, even?


“Tara?” she turned as the romantic music swelled.


The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall.



Tara’s hand covered hers and Willow opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again and leaned up for a kiss.


You say it best when you say nothing at all.



She cupped Tara’s cheek while she kissed her, then tucked her head under Tara’s chin.


They had the limo to themselves for the entire journey into the next town, where the school and the rest of the prom attendees were being picked up. Tara stepped out to open the door at the first house and Willow heard a loud cheer as everyone greeted each other. She grew a bit nervous again as everyone piled in, particularly as she and Tara got separated.


Tara mouthed ‘sorry’ and smiled apologetically across the car before introducing her around, just as ‘Willow’.


The only person she vaguely knew was Nate, but she waved and said hello to the group. They were as you might expect a group of performing arts students to look, heavy on the alternative aesthetic and expressive in their demeanor. Willow was kind of surprised that this was Tara’s circle; she certainly was much shyer on home ground. Then again, she still seemed to be the quietest of the group.


Not unexpectedly, when a catchy tune came on, everyone started breaking out in harmonies.


Willow smiled; they were a fun bunch and Tara certainly fit in with her voice. Hers was the most beautiful, of course, and there wasn’t a human being on earth living or dead that could compete with her as far as Willow was concerned.


Much to Willow’s gratitude, no one pressured her to join in and she was happy to bop along in her seat and share ‘secret’ smiles with Tara.


When they got to the school, everyone piled out and Tara hung back for Willow, the last one out of the car. Tara didn’t try to take her hand and shrugged her shoulders when the others headed for the photo booth outside the auditorium.


“We don’t have to do the pose thing.”


Willow opened her mouth. She wanted so desperately to be able to throw caution to the wind, but no words came out, just silent cowardice. Tara smiled understandingly and gestured her forward.


“Come on. I’ll show you around.”


Willow gulped and tried not to hang her head as they bypassed the line for photos and headed straight inside.


“I never asked what the theme was.”


As they walked in, it became abundantly clear. The decoration standard was so much higher than it had been at SHS. Fairy lights hung from the ceiling and the walls were decorated with quotes from famous lovers written in different mixed media styles. Black and silver balloons were formed into arches and strewn loosely about and glow in the dark stars were dotted at different places along the walls.


“Written In The Stars,” Tara answered.


“Wow,” Willow breathed, “It’s so…pretty. Hey look, it’s like those lights you have up in your room.”


Tara smiled shyly.


“I may have offered an idea or two.”


Willow could only smile back.


“Of course you did. Only you could be responsible for something this beautiful.”


She linked her arm with Tara, who beamed at the contact.


Tara brought Willow out to the dark corridors and showed her around the school. Willow was surprised by how similar it was to SHS at first, a normal high school, but as they continued through the building, the specialized art and music rooms were revealed.


“So this room is completely soundproofed?” Willow asked, turning in a full circle.


“Yes,” Tara smiled, enjoying her childlike expression.


Willow looked straight up at the ceiling and suddenly let out a loud scream.


Tara jumped and covered her ears with her hands as her heart thumped steadily out of her chest.


“Oh my god, Willow. A little warning next time!”


“Sorry,” Willow replied sheepishly, “Could definitely do with a room like this when my parents are around.”


Tara placed a finger on the collar of Willow’s dress and she let it drop, following the neckline down to her chest.


“You can scream at my house…”


Willow blushed considerably; Tara’s tone was so innocent she would have almost thought it to be a genuine offer and not a double-entendre, were it not for that inquisitive finger brushing against the exposed bones in her collarbone. That finger told her everything she needed to do and it was not lost on Willow that it was generally that finger involved in getting to know her.


Tara took her hand back and smiled demurely.


She brought Willow back to the auditorium, through the back doors, outside and around the building and in again, so the cool air would calm Willow’s cheeks.


“I hear they cut the pizza into star shapes on the snack table,” Tara said with a grin as they entered the party again, knowing that would get Willow’s attention.


Willow, sure enough, quickly looked at her, then over to the large table in the corner.


“Any chance the punch is spiked?”


Tara shook her head.


“No, nobody here would get someone drunk without their consent.”


“No, you have to be a Sunnydale High asshole to do that,” Willow muttered under her breath, “Is it okay if I go snack? I kinda forgot dinner.”


Tara nodded for her to go ahead, so Willow went and grabbed a biodegradable, of course, paper plate to sample the snacks on offer. She was impressed by that too. Even the punch had starfruit floating in it.


After a moment, she felt something brush up against her back, then Tara’s familiar warm voice whispered in her ear.


“I asked them to play a song just for us.”


Willow shivered as the hair on the back of her neck stood up. She turned around to respond but Tara was already backing away from her, grinning and throwing her a wink.


Willow was confused for a moment until she tuned into the song playing.


We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no



Willow felt a fresh blush rise, but deeper this time, much deeper. Tara was teasing her way more than ever tonight, and while part of her felt paranoid that she was pushing the boundaries in public, she also felt excited to get the attention and for once, the latter was outweighing the former.


Tara spun around as she saw the penny drop with Willow, grinning as she disappeared into the crowd of dancers. Whilst still lost in the thrill of her little joke, she bumped into a short girl with black ringlet curls, who was standing over the stage, unpacking a microphone.


“Oh, I’m sorry.”


The girl turned around and a smile lit up her face.


“Tara.”


Tara’s face made the exact opposite expression.


“Emmy.”


“Hi,” Emmy greeted, throwing an arm around Tara in a warm hug.


“Hi,” Tara returned, quickly swallowing to get some moisture in her mouth, “Um, what are you doing here?”


“I was invited,” Emmy replied with a grin, then lifted the box beside her indicatively, “I’m with the band. We’re playing later. I didn’t know this was your school. We never really got a chance to talk about it at camp.”


Tara paled and felt the elation she’d been feeling begin to shrivel.


“I’m really sorry about…the last time I saw you. I’m still so embarrassed.”


“Don’t worry about it,” Emmy waved a hand easily, “How’s the tattoo holding up?”


Tara looked down at her chest as if her dress might become transparent and revealed her inked skin.


“Oh, it’s fine?” she said, more than slightly distracted, “I like it. It maybe wasn’t the wisest decision, but it worked out.”


She cleared her throat and looked remorseful.


“I haven’t touched alcohol since,” she admitted, then added on quietly, “Or cornered any unsuspecting girls.”


Emmy laughed, which startled Tara.


“You definitely didn’t corner me,” Emmy replied, lifting and dropping her eyebrows once, quickly, “And if you think I said no because I didn’t like you, you were wrong. I said no because you were so clearly hung up on someone else and not thinking clearly. It wouldn’t have been right.”


Emmy looked far away for a moment as if recalling a fond memory.


“I was worried I was going to have to talk you out of a tattoo with her name on it. It was a relief when you said you just wanted a musical score,” she laughed again and Tara’s face momentarily flashed with guilt, “Of course if I hadn’t been drinking myself I wouldn’t have let you get it at all, but hey…it’s a story.”


Tara tensed; wondering if the ‘story’ had been shared amongst a lot of people.


“Well, um, good luck with your set.”


“You playing tonight?” Emmy asked as she unstrung the microphone.


“No, I’m here with—” Tara started and stopped herself, “I have someone with me, so…”


Emmy nodded along with Tara, then placed a hand on her arm and squeezed.


“Tara, you have nothing to feel badly about. Everything is so cool between us. I’m glad I was able to help you through something, even a little. That was a gift. I’d hate to think there was any bad energy between us. Have I made you feel uncomfortable?”


Tara felt the waves of harmony flow from Emmy to her and she flooded with relief.


“Thank you,” she replied sincerely, “That means a lot. And no, you haven’t, at all. It’s all my own stuff. But you’ve really made me feel a lot better.”


Emmy nodded once, still grinning from ear to ear; she seemed to suffer from the polar opposite of resting bitch face.


“Oh I’m so glad to hear that,” she said and went in for another brief hug, “I’ll see you around, Tara.”


“Emmy?” Tara asked, approaching shyly like they hadn’t just had the conversation they’d had, “The ‘story’…have you told people…or that it was me?”


“Your story to tell, Tara,” Emmy replied with a friendly wink, “I’m just the bit player.”


Tara exhaled quite a-many emotions in one short breath. Many months of worries dissipated in one go, except…


She waved at Emmy and turned back to find Willow. She didn’t have far to go, Willow was still making friends with all of the food on offer at the snack table.


When she spotted Tara approaching, she lifted a cookie to her lips and nibbled on it, purposefully slow and evocative.


Tara swallowed.


She had to ignore that.


For now.


She took Willow’s elbow in her hand and brought her into the corner.


“So, um, I was just speaking to, um, that girl up there with the band,” she said, gesturing toward the stage.


Willow looked over and spotted who Tara must be talking about.


“Is she a friend?” she asked with a smile, though it was faltered as she suddenly wondered if she’d made a faux pas, “Oh god, she’s not a celebrity I should know, is she?”


“Sh-she was,” Tara replied unevenly, “A friend I mean. Not a celebrity.”


She heard Willow make a sound of relief and tensed as she said her next sentence.


“I haven’t seen her since…band camp.”


“Oh?” Willow nodded, which gradually slowed as she worked out what Tara was saying, “Oh.”


She gulped.


“So she’s…”


“The girl who couldn’t make me forget about you,” Tara replied softly, her eyes piercing Willow again but this time with utter love and devotion.


Willow suddenly felt nauseous but tried not to let it overwhelm her.


“So she’s…here. Emmy. The Emmy. Not The Emmys, but the Emmy.”


“I didn’t know she’d be here,” Tara replied, trying to keep her voice low and respecting Willow’s space, “I bumped into her, literally. But we had a good talk. She made me feel less embarrassed about what happened.”


Willow blinked several times as she processed everything. Tara’s words were familiar, and she could only be happy that Tara was given the same respite of bad memories she was granted with Xander.


“I’m glad you got to see her again,” she said finally, nodding to herself mostly as a reminder that that was the right and deserved a response, “I know you were embarrassed. I know how much a relief it can be to know a stupid, crazy moment is really in the past. So I’m glad you talked.”


Tara almost looked more relieved to hear that than her conversation with Emmy.


“Thanks for understanding.”


She didn’t try to push a hug but she brushed her pinky against Willow’s, who smiled softly and linked them.


Another girl came up then and asked Tara about fixing some lights that had broken.


“Will you be okay for a few minutes?” Tara asked, looking at Willow intently enough to know she could say no and Tara would stay.


“Of course,” Willow replied, nodding her reassurance, “I haven’t even tried the star pretzels yet. They’re like a doughy Star of David. My dad would approve.”


Tara smiled at Willow’s humor and very discreetly pursed her lips in a kissing motion before walking off with her peer.


Willow walked around the table again, furtively casting glances at Emmy every so often to try and get a better look at her. After picking up a pretzel, covert glance #7 became a failed attempt as she was no longer on stage. Before Willow could even react, she realized instead that the girl was making a beeline straight for her.


Emmy arrived in front of Willow with a swing of her arms and a cheery smile.


“So I think you must be Willow,” she said, offering her hand, “I’m Emchelle but everyone calls me Emmy. Love your dress. Very mother earth chic.”


Willow tried not to choke on the bite of pretzel she’d taken and quickly wiped her hand on her side as she swallowed.


“Oh, hi,” she fumbled Emmy’s hand, “Hi. I said that. Hi.”


She tensed for a moment, then frowned.


“You know my name.”


“Tara talked about you a lot,” Emmy said brightly, “Last summer.”


She put her hands on her hips in a friendly manner.


“Do you know how I knew who you were?” she said, her eyes kind and tender as Willow shook her head, “By the way she stares across the room at you. I knew you must be the same girl because she looked like that when she looked at photos, but much sadder. Now I see joy.”


Willow reached across her body to hold her arm, looking around uncomfortably.


“We’re kinda low-key.”


Emmy nodded, respectful.


“Just don’t mistake low-key with low-love. She adores you. Don’t underestimate how special that is.”


Willow did a double take.


“I don’t, I—”


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


Willow stared at the, slightly strange, woman who’d come up and invaded her space in the most polite and kindest of ways and immediately flipped the basket of insecurities inside her head out into the cold.


She was reeling slightly and as was often the case for her when too many thoughts and feelings bombarded her at once, the most inappropriate one burst to the forefront.


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


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


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


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


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


Willow stared in disbelief at this perpetually cheery woman.


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


Emmy laughed, a deep belly laugh that actually made her hunch over.


“You’re funny, Willow. I can see why you’re the ‘chosen one’.”


Willow waved her pretzel around, slightly uncomfortable with the attention on them.


“Well, you know, chosen people and all.”


Emmy threw her head back and laughed some more.


“You’re a hoot,” she said, then glanced over her shoulder to where her band was finishing setting up on stage, “We’re about to start our set. Hope to see you out there dancing.”


Willow nodded, then took a step forward between them.


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


“Living your best life is thanks enough,” Emmy replied, clasping her hands together and doing a slight bow, “Be brave.”


Willow watched the living embodiment of a ray of sunshine skip off, in slight disbelief.


“Probably super annoying before coffee though,” she muttered to herself as she finished off her pretzel.


The band started up and the floor filled up again. There were lots of very skilled dancers, and even the ‘bad’ dancers were at a level Willow could only dream of.


Willow went to the back of the room and spotted Tara chatting to a couple of friends they’d been in the limo with. She began to walk toward her, her hands spinning around themselves nervously.


Be brave, be brave, be brave, be brave.


She got to Tara, who instantly turned to give her full attention.


“Are you having a lousy time?”


“No, no, not at all,” Willow replied quickly, “I-I just, came to see…um…if you needed another drink or anything?”


She kicked herself for chickening out, but not enough to gather the courage.


“Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” Tara replied with a smile.


“I’m gonna go listen to the band,” Willow said, throwing her thumb over her shoulder indicatively.


“Do you want me to come?” Tara offered.


Willow shook her head that it was okay.


“No, you talk to your friends.”


She brushed her pinky against Tara’s again as she passed and felt that nice warmth settled in her belly. She moved to the front of the crowd and noted the band was a three-piece of girls. Emmy seemed to be doing backing vocals and keyboard. Another girl was playing guitar and adding in an occasional echoing vocalization, and the lead singer was dancing with the microphone stand as she sang into it.


Willow didn’t even know if they were doing covers or originals, she didn’t recognize any of the songs, but it was fun and pop-y and easy to dance to on her own.


She didn’t notice Tara casting glances her way and smiling.


A few songs in, she was as into it as everyone else in the crowd, and not a single person was sneering or jeering in her direction. A new song started and she felt the beat immediately.


Hoping, waiting for a chance I was never taking
Safe here, this fear, behind the smile I was faking



Her dress swished at her feet and she swayed and swayed.


Despite doubt, I stepped out into the future unknown
This I'm facing, heart racing, but I know that I'm not alone



Willow looked over to Tara just in time to see her laughing at something Nate said.


Nate threw a lazy arm around Tara and gave her a friendly pat on the back. Willow felt an uncomfortable shift inside her. She used the clapping at the end of the song to escape out the back door to get some air.


There was a bench against the outside wall, a strangely plain white one considering the robust artistic expression she’d seen displayed elsewhere in the school.


She stretched her legs out and closed her eyes, still able to hear the faint pump of the music as it blasted through the auditorium.


She wasn’t sure how long passed, but she was pulled back into the moment as a screech of loud music as the back doors opened again. Willow thought she’d been caught out, but it was just Tara approaching, smiling somewhere between relief and exasperation.


“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you,” she said, placing her hand delicately on Willow’s knee, “You are having a lousy time.”


Willow shook her head.


“I just needed a break,” she said, leaning back with an arm stretched out either side of her, “And this trusty bench was here waiting for me.”


“Do you like it?” Tara asked shyly, “It’s one of my senior projects.”


Willow’s eyebrows shot up.


“It is?”


Tara nodded.


“You inspired it,” she said with a smile.


“Me?” Willow asked in surprise, and suddenly nervous that Tara saw her as a plain, white bench.


Tara ran a hand along the armrest.


“You told me in the hospital that you had a white cast but that white light is really just hiding the rainbow. I liked the symbolism of the color hiding in the ordinary.”


Willow was stunned, but also confused.


“Wait…rainbows?”


Tara bent down to get her purse, which she’d left at her feet. She fished out her phone.


“It’s better in the sun, but…” she stood and turned on the flashlight, waving it over different places on the seat and arms.


Willow finally realized there were flashes of silver and when the flashlight hit one at the right angle, it produced a light spectrum on the spot of the bench directly opposite. Upon closer inspection, Willow realized they were sculpted pieces of glass built into the frame that mirrored rainbows.


“When it’s sunny you get a bunch of pocket rainbows all at once,” Tara said, showing off a few more of the spots.


She sat again and Willow looked at her in awe.


“You are extraordinary,” she said, completely overcome, “The planning, the design, getting all those angles right…you’re amazing. You’re so amazing.”


“You’re amazing,” Tara returned softly.


Willow shook her head.


“My greatest accomplishment this year is getting Buffy and Xander up a letter grade.”


“And you think that’s not amazing too?” Tara asked in disbelief, “You helped them get better grades, improve their education. Shared your time and knowledge so selflessly.”


Willow cast her eyes downward.


“I am not selfless. I am quite selfish in fact.”


She crossed her arms lightly over her chest.


“Case in point…I’ve been jealous of Nate for a long, long time.”


Tara remained quiet for a few moments.


“Can’t you trust me?” she asked eventually.


Willow just nodded.


“It’s confusing for me. I thought I’d be jealous of Emmy…but I’m not. I totally get it, in fact. She gets inside you and makes you shine a light on all your positives in like 10 words. It’s crazy,” she laughed to herself, “She respected you and treated you right when you needed a friend. I’m not jealous of that. I appreciate it.”


She kept nodding, verbalizing what she’d spent a good chunk of the night thinking about.


“Admittedly, I got a little jealous when I saw all of your co-workers at the hospital that day. I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t have a problem with it, it was just when I saw them and how gorgeous they are…but I also get that that is me being insecure, not me thinking that you actually wanted any of them. I know it’s not a real threat or anything more than my own pettiness.”


She grimaced.


“But Nate…it’s always bugged me. It bothers me seeing you together, seeing you interact. Seeing how he looks at you…I still think he had or has a thing for you, but that’s between you guys because I do trust you. But it still made me so angry.”


Her face bunched and released.


“I think tonight, I finally realized, I’m not jealous that you want him in any way, or even that he wants you…I mean who can blame him, right?” she stopped and looked up to Tara, swallowing, “I’m jealous that he doesn’t have to hide it.”


Tara exhaled a slow breath.


“Oh.”


All she could do was place her hand on Willow’s thigh and meet her gaze softly.


“You don’t either.”


Willow closed her eyes. Every day she believed it more and more.


Tara felt a dull ache in her chest, one she’d been feeling more and more each day too with the weight of one particular conversation they’d never had: what would happen when she left.


It felt so pointless to Tara when she didn’t even know when she’d get the money together, much as Willow assured her it would happen.


She felt Willow lift the hand on her thigh and kiss her knuckles and Tara felt everything else evaporate. She took her hand back and cradled it as if her favorite star had just kissed it.


Whenever the moment for that conversation came, it wasn’t right now.


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


“My dance?”


The smile that lit up Tara’s face could have sustained Willow for years. Willow stood and brought Tara with her to a patch of grass directly under the moon.


Tara looked away bashfully at the intense stare Willow was giving her.


“What?”


Willow put her arms around Tara’s neck.


“Sorry, I just…” she sighed happily, “I can’t take my eyes off you.”


They swayed in that spot, arms around each other and nothing but each other in their thoughts.


Under the shadow of the night sky and every star that populated it, another line of their story was written.


A tale as old as time.


And just like time, no matter how much they had of each other, it was never enough.


It was bittersweet.


But it didn’t have to be.

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

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


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