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 Post subject: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 8:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
Posts: 4542
Topics: 43
TITLE: Dachshund Through The Snow

WRITER: Laragh

STORY RATING: PG

DISCLAIMER: Willow, Tara, and any other characters from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise belong to Joss Whedon, FOX, ME, and a whole host of other entities, none of which are me.

SUMMARY: Sometimes the push you need comes from a wet nose.

Happy Holidays!

FEEDBACK: Absolutely!



Dachshund Through The Snow



Image

“Now, now, Chasie. Santa Paws is watching.”


Willow tried desperately not to roll her eyes as the grown woman in front of her slobbered all over her dog — not the other way around.


She hated the clients that named their pets after generic, pretentious white guys. If you could stand on a lacrosse field and get the attention of at least six men by calling a name, it should not be what you name your dog.


Dogs deserved better.


No, Willow enjoyed a good pun name instead. Her favorite client ever had been a black Norwegian Elkhound named James Earl Bones. Willow found his lack of poop disturbing but hey, if he didn’t want to do it on her time, all the better.


The point was: if you were going to give a dog a human name, make sure it was something strong like ‘Colin’ or ‘Erin’.


Just don’t go too far and end up with a ‘Kevin’. Nothing will get you stared at more in a dog park than trying to recall a Pomeranian named ‘Kevin’, as Willow well knew.


Also, ‘Chasie’ was a Schnoodle and looked like he would ask for an Appletini in a bar if he were human, not the pitcher of beer a human ‘Chase’ would slam down in minutes.


Although, it wasn’t the worst name she’d ever come across. ‘Chernobyl’ the Chihuahua won that title.


“Did he do poo-poos?” the slobbery woman interrupted Willow’s disgust.


“Yup!” Willow replied with appropriate enthusiasm.


She found she really had to work for her tip with these high-society women. Not just confirm the pooping but actually be excited about it. She felt sorry for the nannies they probably had on staff. At least she could walk away after walking the dogs.


“Willow!”


Willow turned around at the sound of her name and looked at the hoity-toity lady coming up the drive of the other hoity-toity lady, with a red dachshund on a sparkly, pink leash.


“Yeah?”


The woman looked at Willow like she’d just spat at her.


“I wasn’t talking to you.”


“Apologies,” Willow replied with a disarming smile, “I got confused what with you calling my name.”


The woman tugged on the leash.


“I was calling the dog.”


Willow frowned.


“Your dog’s name is Willow?”


In all of her months dog-walking, that was a new one.


“Obviously,” the woman rolled her eyes and approached Chase’s owner to air-kiss both cheeks, “I know somebody has to do the menial jobs but you’d think everyone would value some education, wouldn’t you Janelle?”


“Well, Christine—” Janelle started to lift her chin.


“I have a master’s degree, actually,” Willow interjected in that same cheery way, “In Computer Science.”


These women wouldn’t care about her burnout in San Francisco or inheriting her Bubbe’s house or the quarter-life crisis she was currently going through but she wasn’t going to let these Middle-Aged-Cordelias think they were getting to her.


Christine was suddenly very interested in Willow; eyeing her up and down with renewed appeal.


“Can you walk Willow?”


“Huh?” Willow replied incredulously though it wouldn’t be the first job she took after being insulted.


Christine held a hand up to Janelle and linked their fingers in greeting.


“The girls will just die when they hear we have a masters-educated dog walker,” she practically squealed, “Any chance you can say it’s in canine studies?”


Willow’s brow furrowed.


“Uhh…”


Christine leaned in and lowered her voice.


“I’ll bump the tip up to 30%.”


“Done,” Willow agreed without hesitation.


That was pretty much a 200% bonus.


On barely minimum wage, but still.


At least the only expectations on her were to carry scented baggies and not short deadlines on high-priority projects where the only reward for good work was more work.


Now she got to enjoy the California weather, meet plenty of good boys and girls, and sure, her arms ached and she’d been subject to the occasional nip from a cranky Jack Russell (both of which were appropriate human names for a dog) but she was her own boss and she earned enough to cover her living expenses, which weren’t very much given she inherited her house and had saved the inhumane amount of money she had pocketed while at a top tech company.


Okay, there was that reward too.


But she wouldn’t change her decision to leave for anything. At least not at this moment in time.


Another few months as a professional pooper scooper might change her mind.


Truly, she’d fallen out of love with all things tech, and falling in love had never been something that came easy to her.


Except with dogs.


Falling in love with dogs was easy as pie.


She scratched Chase’s ears to say goodbye and he looked at her with a silent stare that said something akin to ‘save me from this fresh hell’ as Janelle affixed his ‘indoor booties’ on his feet.


She stepped off to the side to wait for another of the ‘help’ to come out with her check. They would exchange commiserative looks but rarely a word and Willow liked it that way. It was hard enough to leave the dogs without getting attached to the humans too.


“Willow? Willow? Oh, there you are. Willow, come here.”


Willow paid no heed to the abrupt order until a finger was snapped in her face.


“Hello?!”


Willow kept cool and just smiled easily again.


“Oh, you mean me this time?”


“Yes,” Christine clucked in annoyance, “What are your overnight rates?”


Willow’s eyebrow arched.


“My what now?”


Christine held her back unnaturally straight.


“I have to unexpectedly depart for the weekend,” she announced like she was speaking to a small child, “My daughter is in the middle of a dispute about the contents of her car.”


Willow rapidly frowned.


“Who’s she in a dispute with?”


Christine made a noise of disapproval.


“The State of California,” she replied followed by a haughty roll of her eyes, “Our live-in dog nanny decided she was entitled to the holidays off and I have to be in St. Barts to host our family Christmas in two days. You see my dilemma.”


Willow didn’t.


“Um…”


Christine sighed; a short sound of frustration.


“I have to fly to Los Angeles and deal with this…situation.”


“Right…” Willow nodded slowly.


Christine looked pained to have to deal with such ignorance.


“At such short notice I’ll have no choice but to fly…” she lowered her voice and placed a hand below her throat, “Commercial.”


Willow still looked blank.


Christine picked up Willow the dog and covered her ears.


“Willow can’t fly commercial.”


“The airlines are usually pretty good—” Willow the human started to reply but Christine waved a hand.


“She gets far too travel sick, the poor dear. Only my pilot Fernando can give her a steady ride.”


Willow’s mouth opened and closed again quickly.


“It’s only a couple of hour’s drive—”


Before she could finish the thought that wouldn’t have been listened to anyway, there was the familiar click-clack of expensive heels. Janelle appeared with her manicured hands thrown up in the air.


“I just heard from Cecily who heard from Jane who heard from DeMarcus. Are they really holding Elodie in the riffraff cell?” she asked and linked Christine’s arm, “Come on, Jacob will take you straight to the airport.”


Willow the dog was dropped in Willow the human’s arms, who stared at the, admittedly adorable, dog in shock.


“Wait!”


“Clarisse, deal with the checkbook, please!” Janelle called back without looking.


“Never walk her off-leash!” Christine called sharply.


“I don’t even have any of her stuff,” Willow yelled back helplessly.


“I’ll have it couriered!” Christine’s voice carried before they both disappeared into a town car that had appeared at the top of the driveway from nowhere.


The housekeeper appeared and thrust an envelope at Willow, smiled painfully, and hurried back into the house.


Willow was left with two big, brown eyes looking up at her and her paltry pay flapping in the wind.


“Guess I just got upgraded to a dog sitter,” she muttered to no one, “Come on, then…Willow.”


She set the dog down and brought her out to her waiting car. She belted her in securely with her harness attachment and got into the driver’s seat.


About a quarter-mile down the road, she heard retching and then caught the exact moment of stomach content propulsion in the rearview mirror. She looked ahead, unamused.


“Great. Happy Hanukkah to me.”


She drove home and parked outside her door so she could aim her hose at the back seat. She opened the back door and immediately, the doxie tried to dash.


“Whoa there, Willow,” Willow caught the dog by the collar and frowned, “This isn’t going to work for me. From now on you’re Doggy Willow. DW okay with you?”


DW looked back up at Willow with agreeable brown eyes and barf breath.


“I hope your human sends a toothbrush with your things. Though I don’t know how much of her is human and how much of her is plastic.”


Willow held DW under her arm and bundled them all into the house. She set DW down, who bounded around excitedly, investigating this new place.


It was a nice house for a dog to explore. Three stories, lots of windows to look out of, and old, soft carpet that withstood some clawing. Willow has always known her Bubbe to have a dog around the house but her last one died the day after Willow’s Bubbe herself died and Willow hadn’t gotten a pet since she’d moved in. She had the time, time she never had when working in San Francisco, but she dealt with dogs all day and so hadn’t summoned the courage of commitment of having one herself.


It was funny, really, how she’d ended up dog-walking. She hadn’t done anything at first when she moved back home. She’d been entirely burned out and it had taken weeks for the trauma of her Bubbe passing to even hit her. She’d loved this home as a kid but it was big and lonely on her own and so she’d sought out getting a pet to keep her company.


She’d gone to the local dog rescue to see about doing just that, but the doors had been closed and Willow didn’t want to disturb despite the ‘ring bell’ sign. However, there was a noticeboard outside with multiple messages tacked on seeking a dog walker and Willow had thought that was a perfect solution — it got her out of the house engaging in some regular exercise, some canine company, and a few bucks in her back pocket too. She’d started making calls that day and had a color-coded spreadsheet out in no time coordinating every dog from Arthur to Zeus.


She’d had insurance whipped up in a jiffy, bulk-bought scented baggies and became the proud owner of the snazziest fanny pack the pacific coast had ever seen.


Before Willow could even wash her hands or call DW away from wherever she’d sprung off to, the doorbell rang.


The doorbell never rang.


With its long driveway and big, cast-iron gate, most people never got close enough to the house to even see the doorbell. Willow had even given up on getting food delivered because it took just as long to guide a frustrated driver in as it did to go out and collect it herself.


She answered the door and a man in a white dress shirt and black jacket stood in front of her. He held a mahogany chest with a bone engraved into the top, which he thrust at Willow.


“With compliments from Mrs. San-Pierre.”


Willow’s brow furrowed.


“How—” she started to say but the man tipped his hat and returned to the black Lincoln parked behind Willow’s car.


Willow figured he must have used Floo Powder to get here only minutes behind her with a fully-assembled trunk full of doggy sleepover supplies but she was appreciative to have the poor thing’s food, at least.


She closed the door, remembering she’d never actually given an ‘overnight’ rate for her services, so she figured she could make a pretty penny out of this weekend. She wondered how much of a surcharge she could get for barf…her car was due a good detail anyway.


It would be nice to fix someone else with the bill.


She set the chest on her kitchen table and opened it up — it was decidedly mediocre considering how attached the woman apparently was to her dog. Two plain metal bowls, a thin blanket that seemed to act as a bed, and cheap dog food. There wasn’t even a single toy. The chest alone must have been worth more than what was inside. It was like the appearance mattered more than the contents.


The dog appeared upon hearing the rattle of the food bag. Willow looked at the ingredients with a frown, then opened the seal. Her face contorted in disgust at the resulting smell. She promptly dropped it into the trash.


“I’ll make you some eggs, DW. Scrambled okay? I think I have some ham I could put through it. Don’t tell my Dad, if you see him. Which you won’t, because he’s not even in the state right now. And you haven’t heard a word I said after ‘ham’ did you?”


DW remained loyal by Willow’s feet as she whipped up some eggs and made them both some lunch. She brought both bowls into the living room and placed DW’s bowl by the couch, where Willow sat with her food.


It was quiet, like always, so she turned on the TV mostly for background noise.


As one famous housewife caught another by the hair and swung her around like a middle-class couple at a key party, DW jumped up onto the couch and snuggled behind Willow’s legs. Willow found herself smiling and reaching down to pet her.


Maybe it was time to revisit the idea of a full-time dog.


Then she remembered the as-yet not cleaned up barf and groaned.


“Guess I gotta go clean up your mess.”


DW stayed comfortable and cozy.


Willow rolled her eyes as she brought her bowl back to the sink and went out to the car to finish the clean-up. Retching a few times during the process, she finally returned to the house with her wet-dry vac under her arm.


“I hope you’re happy, that’s going to take forever to dry,” she called out as if DW would be anything but insolent to this news.


When DW didn’t show her face, Willow wandered into the living room where she assumed the dog was still sleeping, but the couch was empty.


“DW?”


She frowned and checked the water bowl but her house was as still as ever.


“DW?” she called again, a little bit more frantic.


Suddenly DW appeared on the top of the stairs and bounced her long body down with a little wiggle in her step.


“There you are!” Willow exclaimed with her hands on her hips, “You scared me half to death.”


DW waggled her tail and sauntered off. Willow couldn’t help but smile and rolled her eyes at herself.


“You better not think you’re curling up by the fire! I’ve got a job to do and I’m not letting you stay here alone to get up to mischief! Where’s your leash?”


DW suddenly came bounding out, all excited.


Willow attached the leash and DW started dancing in circles.


“You love the leash, not me. Just like the rest of ‘em.”


DW waited by the door with a smile.


Willow got her coat and beanie and took the leash up again. She closed the door shut behind them, belted DW into the backseat, and got into the car to drive.


“How do you feel about Ani DiFranco?” Willow asked the backseat as she lined up some music, “It’s melancholy and gay. Story of my life.”


Low, brooding notes filled the car and DW lay down with a whimper.


“Everyone’s a critic,” Willow mumbled and flicked it to the rock station.


DW perked up.


About ten minutes later, Willow was holding DW out of the door of the car to avoid a fresh spray of vomit all over her seats.


“Goddammit. When are they going to invent doggy Dramamine?”


She set the dog down for a moment to grab her water bottle so she could wash the evidence away but when she turned back around, she was all alone. Willow’s body did a three-point-turn as her eyes roamed all over the country road in search of a long, bouncy body.


“DW!” she called, slamming her car door shut.


She clicked the button to lock the car and ran out onto the quiet road.


“DW! Get that tail back here!”


She looked all around for some rustle of grass or something but everything was eerily still.


“DW!?”


Willow grabbed her head and groaned.


She would be blacklisted across all of Southern California if she lost this dog, not to mention the little thing didn’t look like she was cut out for the wild. She couldn’t even handle vintage Ani.


Willow spotted a small building in the distance and suddenly realized she recognized it. It was the shelter she’d first gone to all those months ago and had set her on this path to begin with.


Maybe DW had spotted another dog and ran after it.


She started to run toward the building but, admittedly, it turned into a jog for the last few yards.


Hey, she was a dog-walker, not a dog-sprinter.


She sped through an open set of flapping doors and slammed her palms on the desk.


“Please tell me a cute red-haired thing just came in here?!”


The woman behind the desk looked momentarily startled but then just smiled softly.


“Oh,” she replied and cocked her head ever-so-slightly, “Well, um, yes, that seems to be the case.”


Willow watched the woman’s cheeks turn a light pink and felt hers do the same.


“Oh. Um. I lost my dog. Well, not technically mi—it doesn’t matter. She’s red-haired. Um, furred. She just ran off on me down the street.”


The woman, with a bone-shaped name tag that said ‘Tara’, was quick to push away from the desk.


“Okay, we’ll find her,” she said so reassuringly that for a moment, Willow’s heart wasn’t in her stomach.


Tara whistled and a brown dachshund with speckles of honey-colored fur waddled in from the back. When Willow looked confused, Tara attached a leash to the dog’s collar.


“They’re bred to flush out other animals. She’s got a great nose and loves other dogs. Helps me find my strays. What kind of dog is it?”


For some reason, Willow felt her voice caught in her throat and could only point to the other dachshund.


“A doxie?” Tara clarified and Willow could only nod dumbly, “Excellent. Let’s go.”


Tara led them out and being back out on the barren road quickly reminded Willow of the situation.


“DW!” she started to call, “DW! I have, uh…treats?!”


Tara walked in the opposite direction which Willow only realized when she turned and watched a very pert butt wiggling away from her and WOW, WILLOW, this is not the time for a crush!


She didn’t have too much time to berate herself though as suddenly Tara called back.


“Tara found Willow!”


Willow was so overjoyed she didn’t even care that her apparent crush spoke in the third person. She jogged over there and spotted DW in amongst the long grass, wagging her tail and sniffing all around the new dog.


“Oh thank god, DW!” she said, holding her hands over her chest, then immediately dropping down to grab the leash rolling around in the dirt.


She looked up and for the first time really took Tara in, illuminated by the low sun and casting her in an angelic glow.


Willow gulped.


“T-Thank you so much.”


Tara smiled and the crooked little smirk filled Willow with an intense warmth below her stomach that she hadn’t felt in a long, long time.


“Wasn’t me.”


Willow didn’t quite understand but she barely heard anyway. Desperate to say something suave, she pointed at DW.


“This is DW,” she said, cringing at her obviousness, “Doggy Willow.”


“Is there a CW?” Tara asked conspiringly.


Willow nodded once.


“Yes, unfortunately. They queerbait the hell out of their TV shows.”


Tara laughed and tucked some hair behind her ear, which Willow found wholesome and adorable, and yep, she was definitely skidding right into crush territory.


“But no Cat Willow?” Tara asked with an alluring arched eyebrow and Willow was sure there wasn’t a single facial expression this woman could make that wouldn’t send her insides all kinds of crazy.


“Oh! No,” Willow answered quickly and shook her head, “But there is a human Willow. Me.”


Tara nodded softly.


“Starting to make sense.”


Willow chuckled nervously.


“That’s good because I rarely do.”


Tara leaned down to pet her dog for a moment.


“Well I’m Tara and this is Doggy Tara, so I’m a little more up to speed.”


Well, at least that explained ‘Tara found Willow’.


“You don’t seem the type to name a dog after yourself,” Willow said, then her eyes widened as she worried she’d just insulted this goddess…woman…goddess-woman.


But Tara just smiled good-naturedly.


“You either.”


“I’m just taking care of her,” Willow explained, “Apparently not very well.”


Tara reached out and squeezed Willow’s arm in comfort.


“She was my first stray,” Tara said, nodding down to Doggy Tara, “Her name tag was so embedded into her coat that she had to be completely shaved but it did give me her name and the phone number of the jerk who abandoned her. I thought the name was serendipitous so I kept her and like I told you before, she started sniffing out other strays and I decided to start a shelter.”


“Wow,” Willow replied, face contorting in disgust, “Did he get any comeuppance?”


Tara shrugged one shoulder innocently.


“Well, every telemarketer in the state has his phone number,” she said and smiled that crooked smile again, “But I have no idea how.”


Willow’s lips spread out into a full-blown grin.


“I can’t thank you enough for helping me find her,” she said, then her eyes lit up, “Donation! I can donate to the shelter.”


Tara smiled humbly.


“Oh, well, that’s always appreciated. I’ll bring you back to fill out a form.”


She turned to head back toward the rescue and three little puppy dogs followed her.


When they entered the shelter, the dogs all started barking excitedly from behind their mesh gate.


“They really love you,” Willow commented as she took in all of their little, excited faces and wondered if hers mirrored them.


“I feed them,” Tara replied with a wry smile as she swung around the desk, thought Willow could tell she wasn’t giving herself enough credit.


She passed a clipboard across the desk, which Willow quickly filled out with a recurring donation. When she hadn’t it back, Tara’s eyebrows rose softly on her face.


“That’s incredibly generous.”


Willow was already wandering over to the gate.


“Can I see the other dogs?”


“Sure,” Tara agreed and came over to put the code on the lock, “We have an excitable bunch at the moment, I should warn you.”


Almost as soon as Willow stepped inside, she learned this to be true as seven dogs varying in size from Collie to Chihuahua all jumped at her.


Willow lost her footing and stumbled back against the crates but laughed it off.


“Look at all you cutie-patooties!”


She started to dole out pets to everyone while Tara watched from the gateway, smiling with a spark of adoration brightening up her eyes.


“And who are you?” Willow asked a stunning looking black and tan and white spotted beauty as she approached.


Willow offered her head for pets and checked the name on her collar.


“Delayne,” she read, and looked back at Tara, “Did the engraver mess up the spelling?”


Tara shook her head.


“No, that’s how she spells it.”


Willow arched an eyebrow.


“That’s how the dog spells it?”


Tara held Willow’s look with her chin raised defiantly.


“Yes,” she said with quiet confidence and came into the space to pet Delayne gently, “She’s a sweetheart. She and Princess here are inseparable.”


A black collie hovered behind and she and Delayne went off to play.


“She was a designer import who was seized by customs. Technically still waiting for her papers until she can be adopted.”


“I’ve never seen anything like her,” Willow petted both dogs for good measure, “She looks like a beagle and a dalmatian had a puppy.”


“She’s a Bohemian Spotted Dog,” Tara replied, folding her arms lightly across her chest, “Very rare. Don’t usually see them on this side of the world, but rich people see them as accessories or trophies. It’s terrible.”


Tara exhaled softly, then took the opportunity to point out the other dogs who had come out to say hello. In order, there was a Havanese cross who was also cross-eyed, a lame Golden Retriever, and a Kerry Blue Terrier who looked old.


“This is Rosa Barks and Olivia Chewton John,” she stopped and petted the terrier who rested her chin on Tara’s palm, “And this is my old girl Sinéad O'Collar.”


Willow’s eyes were hearts or stars or whatever other shape blinded one with love.


“Those are great names.”


“Thanks,” Tara replied shyly.


Delayne nudged Willow’s hand again and dropped something into her palm.


“What’s this?” Willow asked, holding up a crunchy leaf.


Tara grinned.


“Oh, she’s our resident botanist. Loves to collect leaves. You’re very honored, she only gives one to people she likes.”


Willow patted her pockets.


“I wish I had — aha!” she plunged her hand into one and pulled out a little rectangle, “Can I give her a treat?”


“Is it cheese flavored?” Tara asked with one of those crooked smirks that sent uncomfortable feelings below Willow’s stomach, “Those are her favorite.”


“I think it is actually,” Willow replied, stopping herself from smelling it before offering it to Delayne, who gobbled it up.


Willow was quickly corned by all of the other dogs seeking treats and Tara had to bail Willow out with a bag from her personal stash.


When all the dogs were occupied with chewing, Willow saw her escape and quickly closed the gate behind her.


With no other business and DW cuddled up asleep with PT — Pooch Tara, Willow had decided on — there was no excuse for Willow not to leave, but Willow found one anyway.


“I keep meaning to come back here.”


Tara looked up curiously.


“Have you been here before?” she asked, her eyes creasing in confusion, “I’m sure I would have remembered you.”


“Not inside. You were closed when I popped down,” Willow explained quickly, “Probably helping another clueless chick with her lost client.”


“Client?” Tara questioned the terminology.


“I’m a dog walker,” Willow explained, swinging her arms back and forth, “Tried to think of what profession would piss off my parents the most but was too chickenshit to become a stripper and apparently the Catholic Church doesn't let women become priests, so here I am…”


Tara’s left eyebrow gave the barest of arches and her lips tugged in the same way.


“Are you the famous dog walker with a master's degree that’s shown up to, what do they call it…disrupt the local dog-walking industry?”


The mirth in Tara’s voice made Willow’s cheeks blush.


“I didn’t know I was famous. How’d you know about me?”


Willow followed Tara back to the desk but thought maybe that wasn’t such a good idea when Tara’s sweet scent filled her nose. She was like fresh laundry, still warm, on a cold day.


“I’m lucky that I have volunteers that take all of these guys out,” Tara replied, leaning on her elbows so her and Willow’s faces were closer, “But I was given your number by Jonathan Levinson to call if I ever needed a hand.”


“Oh, that’s James Earl Bones's human,” Willow replied excitedly, “The dog is as big as he is.”


Tara laughed and it fed Willow’s soul. She rocked back and forth on her toes.


“I’d be happy to volunteer some time.”


Tara looked skeptical.


“Do you really want to spend your downtime doing what you do all day?”


Willow scratched under her chin. Want was probably a strong word. But she certainly wanted something or someone and a reason to come back.


“Are there other areas you need help with?” she asked and immediately her eyes found something as she searched for a flaw in Tara’s amazing set-up, “…maybe getting a computer system from sometime after the internet was invented?”


She made a gesture seeking permission to come behind the desk and Tara nodded.


“Do you really understand all that?” Tara asked as Willow hunched over the old computer, “I go online sometimes, but…everyone's spelling is really bad, it's…depressing.”


“I hear ya,” Willow agreed as she easily brushed past Tara’s security screen, “But apart from my acute skills in attaching a leash and propelling myself forward, computers are kinda my thing.”


“We don’t have a very big budget,” Tara said unsurely.


“I have so many spare parts just gathering rust…” Willow smiled easily, “It would be kinda fun to have a new project.”


Tara ducked her head and smiled. If Willow wasn’t already swooning, she would have been then.


“As long as you promise to teach me how to use the new one. I got shut out of that thing one time and a technician charged me a fortune for a call-out fee for something he fixed in 30 seconds.”


Willow beamed.


“Definitely.”


Tara’s nose scrunched.


“You’re dealing with someone who misses everything because her phone is never charged.”


“That’s okay,” Willow shrugged one shoulder softly, “I’m patient.”


Their gazes locked and it was Tara who looked away, her cheeks beginning to blush.


“I have no appointments unless the phone rings. Can I make you some tea and offer you a homemade snowy treat in thanks for your generous ongoing donation?”


Willow was hypnotized.


“That sounds amazing.”


Tara smiled.


“Come upstairs.”


Tara went out to the front to switch to her ‘ring bell’ sign. There was never actually a closed sign there, just ‘open’ and ‘ring bell’. Tara had to be available no matter the time because animals didn’t use clocks but at least this allowed her to take breaks.


She returned and motioned Willow to follow her as she walked toward the back.


“Come on DW. I’m not letting you out of my sight again,” Willow said and DW lifted her head, apparently used to her new name already, but wouldn’t budge.


Willow smiled.


“Aw, DW doesn’t want to leave PT.”


Tara lifted an eyebrow.


“Pooch Tara,” Willow explained off the look.


Tara pursed her lips and smiled.


“Come on then, girls. PT,” she over-enunciated with a playful grin for Willow, “Show your friend your bedroom.”


PT suddenly jumped up and started skidding past Tara, DW on her heels.


Willow walked through the doors to the back, where there was a staircase leading to an upstairs apartment. It was all open plan and without the need for gates and crates and walled-off sections, the space looked absolutely huge compared to the footprint downstairs.


There appeared to be two bedrooms, one of which did, in fact, appear to belong to PT with a mini couch to laze on, a circular fluffy bed, a cushioned chest under the window to look out of, a patch of fake grass, and a picture hanging on the wall of her with a younger-looking Tara.


Willow could only get so-good a look at the picture as she passed by but it was enough; Tara’s smile projected right out of the room.


What is happening? Willow thought.


She never got crushes and this almost instant infatuation was illogical and dumb. She should stop it.


She tried to Resolve-Face herself but had no mirror to make it effective.


It completely floundered anyway when she followed Tara into the kitchen where she was bending down into a lower cabinet to retrieve some tea.


Never had a butt wiggled so provocatively and cutely at the same time, Willow thought, as a bead of sweat broke out on her brow.


“Peach Passion or Sensual Strawberry?” Tara asked, holding up two boxes.


“What’s your favorite?” Willow tried not to stutter.


“I’ve always liked a little strawberry,” Tara replied with such innocence that Willow couldn’t tell if it was real or not.


Willow gulped.


“Strawberry it is.”


Tara set the kettle on the burner and hummed to herself as she took cups down from a cabinet. Willow found herself captivated by the way Tara’s body seemed to move in rhythm with her own song.


The kettle whistled and Tara poured water into a cute little kitty-shaped teapot, which she brought to a square table and indicated for Willow to sit down.


Willow slowly perched herself on a chair.


“Do you invite all of the crazed loons who run in here up for tea?”


Tara brought the teapot and cups to the table.


“O-Only the ones I like,” she replied with a light pink flush on her cheeks, “I hope it’s better than a leaf.”


Willow accepted her cup and gave a wry smile.


“Technically, it is a leaf.”


Tara laughed again and it made Willow feel high. Not that she’d ever gotten high, but she’d had an experimental sniff of a marker or two in grade school to understand the general feeling. This was at least three markers worth; the scented ones too to add to the sensory experience.


To stop herself from tumbling into a whole inner monologue about pens, she reached out and grabbed one of the little balls of confection Tara had placed down on the table.


She chewed heartily at first then her eyes widened considerably.


“These are amazing!” she said, or rather tried to say as some peanut butter tried to glue her lips together.


She sipped on the tea to loosen it up.


“Do you like them?” Tara asked shyly as she sat opposite Willow, “It’s just oats, peanut butter, and a little bit of banana. I add coconut on the outside for the holidays to look like a snowball. I try to make treats that I can share with the humans and the animals.”


PT came up with DW on her heels and Tara tore a ball in half to give to each of them.


“That’s genius,” Willow replied, “You could market these.”


Tara blushed.


“Oh, I don’t think so.”


“Sure you could, if you had a website and stuff,” Willow replied encouragingly.


Tara arched an eyebrow and picked up her phone from across the table. She waved it to show it was dead.


“Right,” Willow nodded, “Not much for the technology.”


Tara idly stirred her tea, then blew on it.


Willow found the act extremely erotic.


Jeez, she needed to rein herself in. Talk about her emotional availability going from 0 to 60 in 0.5 seconds.


And her bodily availability was moving even faster than that.


Tara was the most gorgeous woman she’d ever seen but it was more than that. Her energy was deep and palpable and powerful. Willow was so attracted to it that it felt like her insides were being sucked out from Tara’s magnetism.


Willow was certain if Tara asked her with that little crooked smile that she would happily shed her clothing right that second and take her on that table.


“So what’s an information technologist with a master's degree doing in this little town?” Tara pulled Willow from her swirling thoughts, though Willow had no idea it was because she was trying to distract some thoughts of her own.


Willow chuckled.


“I don’t think I’ve heard someone say ‘information technologist’ since I got my degree,” she said, biting the corner of her lip, “Um, I grew up here. Left for college but my Bubbe, um, my grandmother died last year and she left me her house and I needed a change so…”


Tara’s eyes creased with sympathy.


“I’m so sorry.”


“Thanks,” Willow nodded appreciatively, “She was old but it gave me an excuse to come back. It wasn’t that far to come back to though. I went to school out at MIT but came back west after I graduated.”


Tara’s eyes suddenly brightened up.


“Is it magical there during the holidays?”


Willow frowned unsurely.


“Silicon Valley?”


“No,” Tara chuckled, which didn’t help the heavy feeling below Willow’s stomach, “The East Coast.”


She dropped her head bashfully.


“I’ve always wanted to see snow,” she explained and looked back up at Willow with vulnerable eyes, “I’ve never left California.”


Willow felt a deep sense of protection for this woman wash over her.


“I was usually too cooped up studying to notice it,” she replied apologetically, “Where are you from? I don’t recognize you from school and I think we’re around the same age.”


Tara’s face tensed up.


“I grew up up north. In a small town near Mendota.”


“But you came here?” Willow asked.


Tara nodded, her gaze diverted.


“I went to college here and liked it enough to stay.”


Willow started to feel the awkwardness and her legs swung under the chair.


“Go back home much?”


“No,” Tara replied softly but with such sorrow that Willow left it at that.


“So, um, why’s this place called Gracious Vision?”


Tara’s face slowly brightened in a pensive kind of way. She rested her chin on her palm and smiled on one side.


“Very swift they came; and thou, gracious vision, leaned with face that smiled in immortal beauty, leaned to me and asked, ‘What misfortune threatened? Why I had called thee?’”


Willow’s breath caught.


“Sappho.”


Tara’s eyes filled with surprise.


“You know it?”


“Be a bad gay if I didn’t,” Willow quipped, trying to sound nonchalant all the while her eyes bore into Tara, looking for a response.


Tara gave the same look back.


“Well, I-I just took the gay to the next level.”


Willow’s face broke out in a wide smile.


“Next level gay. That’s…gay,” she said and rolled her eyes at her lameness, “But um…what’s the connection between unrequited love and doggies? Aren’t they like…the opposite of that?”


“Exactly,” Tara replied with a provocatively arched eyebrow, “The poem calls on Aphrodite, the gracious vision. I always thought there was no better goddess of love than a dog. They truly embody it with no ulterior motive. I even have a portrait. It’s downstairs.”


“Okay, I have to see this,” Willow said and pushed her chair back.


Tara followed holding both cups of tea.


They went back downstairs where Willow spotted the painting hanging above the dog gate. It was a dachshund with long, flowing locks and a laurel wreath on its hair. Willow had to admit, were she to imagine a Greek goddess as a doxie, the painting was the perfect vision of a gracious vision.


“That is brilliant.”


“Thanks,” Tara replied shyly, “It was a fun way to pass a weekend.”


You did it?” Willow asked, looking back to seek every detail in the portrait, “You’re really good.”


Tara just shrugged bashfully and handed Willow her cup of tea as she passed to go into the dog section and refill their bowls.


Willow watched her work, entranced by her movements.


“So do you run this place with your girlfriend? Or…wife?” she asked not-so-subtly.


She was sure she saw Tara smile.


“No, it’s just me,” Tara answered easily, “Me and the dogs.”


“It’s just me too,” Willow answered a little too quickly and bent down to pet a dog to make her seem more natural, “Well, me and DW for the next few days until her…person comes back. Hey, it’s better than spending the holidays alone.”


She blinked.


“Wow, that sounded more bitter than intended. Why am I spilling my guts out here?”


“It’s the belly rubs,” Tara replied with a crooked smile, “Relaxes you.”


“Must be,” Willow mused softly, then looked down when she heard the lapping of liquid, “Hey, Delayne!”


Tara laughed and walked over.


“Sorry, I should have warned you. She loves tea.”


Willow left the tea down, much to Delayne’s delight, and rose so she was face to face with Tara.


“This place is really amazing.”


You’re really amazing.


Tara tucked her hair behind her ear shyly.


“Well, I don’t know what, if any, holidays you celebrate but we’ll be open all week so feel free to ‘pop by’ again.”


“You don’t close?” Willow asked with a raised brow.


Tara shook her head.


“A lot of people want to adopt a dog for Christmas but then give them back a few weeks later. I don’t allow any of mine to go out as a gift but if a family wants to get a pet as a present they can come down and meet them and play with them or walk them on the day and take them a few weeks later.”


“That’s so cool,” Willow replied, then rolled her eyes, “God, people suck.”


Tara just smiled as she gave each dog a pet before closing them in behind the gate again.


“Dog’s don’t.”


Willow watched as Tara was careful to give every dog the same amount of attention.


“Ain’t that the truth,” she replied and then frowned as she regarded Tara, “You seem like more of a cat person if you don’t mind me saying.”


“Funny you should say that,” Tara said as she disappeared behind the counter so she could bend down. She popped back up with a black and white cat, “This is Miss Kitty Fantastico. She’s our resident dog-wrangler.”


Willow did a double-take.


“Where did she come from?”


“She’s a sneaky cat,” Tara smiled at Miss Kitty and let her go to roam again.


“The dogs don’t mind her?” Willow asked, leaning on the desk.


“I think they’re afraid,” Tara replied wryly, “She’s been mine since college. We’re a package deal.”


Willow smiled. She could play questions and answers with Tara for hours.


“How come a dog shelter then?”


“Technically it’s an all-animal shelter,” Tara replied openly, “Most small animals need specialized facilities and people are less likely to recognize cats as strays and bring them in so it’s the dogs that stick around here for more than a day.”


Willow paused for a moment to consider why she had suddenly gone so gaga but her musing was disrupted by the jaunty tones of her ringtone.


She blinked rapidly and reached for her pocket, where it turned off. She frowned.


“Probably a client angry that I kinda never showed up.”


Tara pushed back off the desk.


“Another time I’ll tell you all about the duck that someone thought was a good idea to walk right in here and how it got into a fight with a bulldog.”


And Willow was in that gaga bubble all over again.


“Who won?”


Tara gave one of what Willow considered now to be her requisite crooked smiles.


“That would be giving away the ending.”


Willow’s heart pounded in her chest.


“I’ll have to make sure to come back then.”


Tara smiled; soft and humble.


“I look forward to it.”


Heart eyes, heart eyes, heart eyes.


In both directions.


Willow glanced away; suddenly feeling panic rise in her that she didn’t know where DW was. But she was right there, curled up with PT in her little bed under the heater.


“Um, looks like they don’t want to be parted.”


“I think Tara might just like Willow,” Tara said so airily that Willow could surmise nothing from it, “Come here, girl. Go play with Miss Kitty. Your pal has to go home.”


PT looked up and sadly, it seemed, and jumped away, not before bumping DW’s head with her nose. Willow got DW on the leash and stood up straight.


“I’ll be back,” she said to Tara, then blushed, “I didn’t mean that in a Terminate-y kinda way.”


Tara smiled softly.


“Goodbye Human Willow.”


Willow’s cheeks blushed more. She pulled gently on DW’s leash, who followed her out and didn’t make any more runs for it as Willow brought her back to the car. Once she was secured in the back, Willow sat into the driver’s seat and dropped her head against the wheel.


What the hell had just happened?


And why did she feel like her life would never be the same?


She brought her phone out of her pocket to reply to the client she was mega-late for but the missed call wasn’t from a number she recognized. She called her voice mail and listened to the message, her eyes slowly widening.


“Oh my god.”
Image

Willow parked outside Gracious Vision and let her hands fall from the wheel.


“Okay, DW, here’s the scoop. We’re going to go in there and we’re going to not get the weird bat-like butterflies and flippy tummies and warm sensations in places that haven’t been warm in a while. No matter what Tara, pooch or human, does we’re going to be completely calm and collected and do what we need to do without a single swoon, squeal…” she grimaced at herself, “Or sex-crazed dream.”


She caught DW’s gaze in the rearview mirror and pouted.


“It was only once, don’t judge me! And it was about the human!”


She grabbed the wheel again like she might drive away, but took a deep breath and dropped them again. She got DW on the leash and grabbed a paper bag from the trunk before heading for the shelter.


Tara was in there, alone, filling out forms that Willow knew would be much easier to complete if they were standardized on the computer. It almost made her twitch seeing the opportunity of tech wasted.


“Hey,” Willow said, her voice betraying her and cracking.


Tara looked up and her smile lit up her face.


“Human Willow. Hi.”


“I mostly just go by ‘Willow’,” Willow replied with a sheepish smile.


DW tugged on her leash and Willow glanced behind at the open door.


“Um, is it okay if I close that so Forrest Gump here won’t go jumping through the fields like Skippy if I let her off?”


“Of course,” Tara smiled easily.


Willow made sure the door was closed shut and let DW off her leash. She immediately sought out PT and they began doing zoomies around the floor. Both Willow and Tara smiled at them.


Willow hiked the blue paper bag she had and put it on the desk.


“Happy Hanukkah!”


“Wow,” Tara replied, peeking into the top of the bag, “What’s all this?”


Willow smiled somewhat smugly.


“I’ve been called Tiny Jewish Santa in the past,” she said and excitedly reached into the bag, “Um, I found a sniff mat for Delayne. It’s made of leaves! Could soak some treats in tea and hide ‘em for her in there.”


“Wow,” Tara said again, her smile slowly pulling up her cheeks, “That’s incredibly thoughtful. She’ll love it.”


Willow continued taking out some more baggies.


“I have chew sticks and snausages for everyone else,” she said while producing a little felt Star Of David pouch with a paw print on it, “And a little ‘nip for Miss Kitty Fantastico. If she partakes.”


“She’s been known to,” Tara replied conspiringly, “When the dogs aren’t looking.”


Willow laughed, leaving a permanent grin on her face.


“Um, DW got you a present too.”


She pushed a badly-wrapped gift across the desk and announced what it was before Tara had a chance to try and break the excessive tape free.


“It’s a wireless charger for your phone. You just have to put it on top. Thought you might find it…easier…”


Tara looked up and met Willow’s gaze.


“That’s incredibly thoughtful.”


Willow shrugged one shoulder shyly.


“DW’s idea.”


“Well,” Tara replied with a crooked smile, “Tara—what am I calling her now, again?”


“PT,” Willow replied with a serious nod.


“PT,” Tara gave the same nod back, “PT is much better at this whole computer stuff than I am and happened to engage in a little online shopping herself.”


Tara produced two gifts from below the desk. Immaculately wrapped, of course.


“This is for DW.”


“Look, DW!” Willow said with appropriate enthusiasm, “You got a present.”


DW waddled over, momentarily leaving PT to accept the gift before hurrying back so they could rip it apart together. When a little Kermit the Frog plush toy popped out, DW lay and rested her head on his belly, while PT went about sucking an ear.


Willow smiled at Tara.


“I think she likes it.”


“And for you,” Tara returned the smile as she pushed the second gift forward.


Willow took it in her hands and was more cautious in her unwrapping than she had been with her wrapping.


Inside, was a box for a GPS tracking dog collar.


She laughed loudly and looked at Tara.


“I deserve this.”


“Yes, you do,” Tara nodded, then looked down shyly, “But I did make you something else.”


She bent down and when she came back up, had a small 16×16 canvas in her hands. Willow took it as it was handed to her and held it out so she could see the painting atop.


A red-haired dachshund with a beanie sat at a computer looking up the poems of Sappho.


Willow’s mouth hung slightly open as she looked over to Tara.


“Did you paint this for me?”


Tara tucked some hair behind her ear shyly.


“I don’t expect you to hang in up in your home or anything.”


“I will!” Willow replied empathically, “I absolutely will! I love it!”


Without thinking much about it, she rushed around the desk to embrace Tara in a hug.


They both lingered and when awkwardly parting, caught each other’s eye. There was a tense moment before both sets of cheeks flushed and they broke apart.


Willow looked down and scratched behind her neck.


“I, um, brought some stuff to help upgrade your computer…situation.”


“Is that what they call it?” Tara breathed out softly.


“I won’t be in the way or anything,” Willow reassured.


Tara looked at Willow sincerely.


“I can’t imagine you ever being in the way,” she said and bit her lip, “I didn’t expect you to be doing all this so soon.”


Willow’s arms started swinging nervously.


“Well, uh, I kinda landed in a bit of a situation of my own,” she chuckled, trying to smile but the disparity between it and the one she had when first coming in was palpable, “That call the other day that I missed while I was here? It was from a tech company back in San Francisco. They offered me a job, Head of Research and Development. It would be all of the things I love about tech but I’d be my own boss, kinda, and make my own deadlines. None of the endless stream of crap projects flung at me or twenty-hour days trying to fix other people’s mistakes.”


Tara’s eyes creased but she offered another sincere smile.


“That sounds amazing.”


Willow slowly nodded.


“Yeah it’s…everything I thought I wanted.”


“Thought?” Tara prompted softly.


“It’s everything I want, I mean, of course,” Willow amended, her tongue falling over itself to get the words out, “That big ole house is hard to take care of and…”


Tara nodded softly.


“And?”


“And this is an amazing opportunity,” Willow finished off with a winning, fake smile, “I-I’m lucky to be able to get a foot in the door even though I’ve been AWOL for a year. But they want me there the day after Christmas. So it’s kinda now or never.”


Tara’s hand perched itself on Willow’s upper arm and gently fell away.


“Congratulations, Willow.”


“Thanks,” Willow replied and then jumped when she heard the doorbell ring, “Um, I’ll let you deal with that. Is it okay if I just…?”


Tara nodded.


“Please. And thank you. I really appreciate it.”


Tara answered the door to a man holding a litter of American Foxhound cross puppies, looking helpless. The man and the puppies.


Tara was long past the point of grilling people as to why they were leaving dogs in and so just went about preparing the puppy room to keep them from the big dogs and began the phone tree to try and get them into some foster homes.


Willow watched her, as she worked.


After the momentary excitement of the pups, Tara calmed all of the other dogs down, went through rounds of feeding and lugging things around, not to mention call after disheartening call until every single one of those puppies had a warm home to go to that night.


All by herself.


She carried a grace with her in every step and Willow almost deleted a systems folder that really shouldn’t be deleted just from getting caught up watching her.


She got Tara’s computer system in as tip-top shape as she could with her old parts but she wished she had more time. There was so much she could do here; set up a smart system so the dogs could be fed with automatic feeders, so Tara could control their heat and light even if she had to be away; install a digital assistant to help the adorable technophobe to keep track of it all and most importantly, Willow thought, to get a security system in there with a video doorbell so Tara could see who she was letting in before she did so.


The last thing Willow did was install a video messaging program on Tara’s computer.


Maybe she would want to stay in touch.


Dear god, make her want to stay in touch. Hanukkah wish? Is that a thing? I’m making it one.


Reluctantly finished, Willow came out from under the hood and wiped her palms on her jeans.


“All done. It should be running faster and I got you a monitor that wasn’t last seen on the set of ‘Hackers’.”


When Tara looked blank, Willow blushed.


“Movie from the 90s? Insultingly inaccurate? Angelina Jolie rocking a pixie cut?”


“That last part might be appealing,” Tara smiled softly.


Willow smiled back.


“How can I thank you?” Tara asked with affectionately-creased eyes.


There was a question, Willow thought. As if she hadn’t spent every hour since she’d first met Tara thinking about ways to be ‘thanked’.


“Keep in touch?” Willow requested, her voice cracking a tad, “I installed some video call software. I’d love to…chat sometimes?”


Tara’s lips rose softly.


“You’ll have to talk me through it.”


“I will,” Willow promised, a little too quickly, “I’ll do all the work. You just have to—


don’tsayliebackandenjoyitdon’tsayliebackandenjoyitdon’tsayliebackandenjoyit


—accept the call.”


Tara nodded gently and looked over to where DW and PT were snuggled up together with Kermit.


“You’ll have a harder time separating these two.”


“I wish her owner would get back to me,” Willow breathed in annoyance, “I don’t want to just drop her back to the house. The housekeepers already hate me and they’re probably not even there.”


“Why?” Tara asked with a frown.


“Because the lady is swanning around the Caribbean and it’s the holidays,” Willow answered earnestly.


Tara smiled.


“Why do they hate you?”


“Oh!” Willow replied, lifting up on her toes, “Because my job is walking away from their boss while they have to endure her for eight hours a day.”


Tara nodded evenly.


“I find it hard to believe that anybody could hate you.”


Their gazes locked again and electricity crackled.


There was less than a foot between them and the energy that passed between them was so palpable that Willow felt its actual weight push down on her shoulders and right through her body until the pull between her legs hung there like it was swinging.


Both of them moved a little closer; barely an inch.


Then another bit so their faces were close enough to feel each other’s breath. Willow’s head tilted one way and Tara’s tilted the other and just when they were at the point that there was no ambiguity left on what was about to happen, Willow felt something scurry across her feet.


Her gaze dropped and the moment evaporated with a whoosh.


Especially when Willow started screaming and pointing.


“Rat! Rat!”


Tara was quick, and of course graceful, in swooping down to catch the rat and pick her up.


“That’s just Amy,” she said, rubbing the rat between the eyes, “How did you get out?”


She looked at Willow sheepishly.


“She’s getting picked up for the rodent rescue in Sacramento later today.”


Willow gulped.


She suddenly felt like she had all those months in San Francisco: bitter.


She thought she might cry and she wouldn’t let Tara see that.


“Well, I guess I better go. Gotta pack up and all that stuff.”


Tara nodded and her eyes averted downward.


“It’s been a pleasure, Willow. Thank you again for all of your generosity.”


Willow picked up her painting and held it to her chest.


“This is the best gift I’ve ever gotten,” she said sincerely and when her voice shook, she stepped out of their little embrace, “Come on DW.”


She attached DW’s leash to her collar, threw her backpack over her shoulder, and pulled at DW. When she wouldn’t budge, Willow picked her up, with Kermit still in her mouth.


She walked to the door and looked back over her shoulder.


“Goodbye, Tara.”


She couldn’t even wait for a response before hightailing it out of there.


Why did this all happen now?


Why couldn’t anything ever be easy?


Bah. Freakin’. Humbug.
Image

Once again, Willow found herself outside the doors of Gracious Vision, and this time she was not at all looking forward to going inside.


With dread in her stomach, she pressed the bell, and a moment later, the door buzzed to let her inside.


At her heel, DW was excited to be going inside this place again and rushed ahead as they walked through the second set of doors.


Tara looked up from the computer, which she seemed to be navigating with more ease, when she heard the doors open.


Dear God, Willow thought, She’s wearing glasses.


She had a cup of coffee in her hand and her eyes were soft and sleepy and her whole face lit up upon seeing who it was.


“Willow,” she said with such deep affection perhaps unearned of the physical time they’d spent together, yet Willow understood on a deep, primal level and felt it in return, “I didn’t think we’d see you again. At least not off of a screen.”


Willow gulped as an intense silence passed between them.


“I-I thought you’d be busier. You said people come to visit on Christmas Day.”


“They do. They will,” Tara replied softly, easily with a hint of mirth in her voice, “It’s 8 am.”


Willow nodded quickly.


“Right,” she said, then slapped her hand against her forehead, “I woke you!”


Tara shook her head.


“My sleep schedule is unfortunately aligned with that of a dog’s bladder.”


Willow’s jaw hurt.


She couldn’t laugh.


She couldn’t smile.


It made all of this so much harder.


She had to drop her gaze.


“Um, I got in touch with DW’s owner and told her about the situation,” she spoke to the floor, her voice tinged with shame, “She told me, or rather her assistant told me, that it ‘wasn’t working out anyway’ and that she thought DW would be a mini she could fit in her purse. Then she told me to just take her to the shelter.”


Tara just nodded evenly.


“So you’re here to drop her off?”


Willow swallowed deeply.


“Yeah, I guess.”


Tara came over and took DW’s leash.


“Well, we’ll take good care of her,” she said professionally.


Willow didn’t think she could possibly feel anymore shitty.


But she didn’t say anything.


“Guess I better go. Long drive ahead.”


Tara picked DW up and stayed close.


“Goodbye, Willow. And Merry Christmas.”


Willow forced herself to look up with tears in her eyes.


“Merry Christmas.”


She turned and the tears spilled before she’d even gotten out the front door.


She got in her car and drove out of the parking lot; gravel screeching as her wheels skidded out.


This was ridiculous.


Why was she so upset about leaving a dog and a woman she hadn’t even known a week ago?


So what if she liked how DW slept on her feet and kept them warm or how she could make her dance if she lifted her Kermit toy high enough or that she had the cutest little belly that Willow couldn’t stop rubbing?


And so what if she’d thought about Tara and DW fighting over who got to warm her feet or if she imagined she and Tara dancing around her living room and collapsing on the couch laughing or what it would feel like to have Tara rub her belly after she overindulged in the ‘nog one night?


So what about all of those things?


Most of them weren’t even real.


What was real was this job. If she turned down this opportunity she could kiss goodbye any chance of getting back into the tech game.


But she just said goodbye to Tara and DW and she didn’t even get that final kiss.


First kiss, even.


She’d replayed that almost-moment with Tara a thousand times.


Technically, she’d given up nothing.


Then why did it feel like everything?


Grass and trees and open road whooshed past her windows while Willow’s head swam with tense thoughts.


She turned on the radio to drown it all out but nothing worked.


The news was too happy.


…Santa delivered his biggest Christmas yet…isolated blizzards bringing joy to Californian children…families reuniting across the state…


The DJs were too cheery.


…listeners, what a beautiful holiday…today is a day for happiness…get out there and celebrate with your loved ones…


Even the music cut sharply.


…all I want for Christmas is you…


At some point, Willow realized she had absolutely no idea where she was lost in the California countryside.


She still knew where she was going.


But she knew where she wanted to be more.


She glanced over at the painting on her passenger seat, belted up protectively.


Her hands tightened on the wheel.


She glanced in her rearview mirror and saw a shadow of DW, who barked at her once.


Willow's breath caught.


Talking a sharp turn, she gasped loudly and started barreling back from whence she came.


She skidded into the parking lot with even more vigor than skidding out and all but threw herself out of the car. She ran straight in through the ajar front door and into the second set to the main building.


She slapped her hands down on the desk with a desperate gasp not dissimilar to the first time she’d gone in there.


“Please don’t tell me DW’s been taken already!”


Tara’s eyes were wide behind her glasses and her eyebrow arched ever-so-slightly.


“Willow, you’ve been gone six minutes.”


Willow glanced up at the clock on the wall and blushed furiously.


“It felt like a lot longer,” she said sheepishly.


She came around so she could see DW, sitting on Tara’s lap behind the computer. She rubbed down DW’s ears and kissed the top of her head.


“But she's here.”


“Yes,” Tara nodded once.


Willow’s gaze flickered up to Tara.


“And you're here.”


Tara swallowed softly.


“Yes.”


Willow’s lower lip trembled slightly.


“Then this is where I want to be.”


Tara’s chest visibly heaved with a caught breath.


“What about your job?”


“I don’t want it,” Willow shook her head surely. “I don’t want to be the boss of all the people like I was, sprinting toward burn-out. Making them work harder just so it’s easier for me. I love the work but not like this. Maybe I’ll start my own company. Helping local businesses.”


She nodded keenly.


“Maybe you can be my first customer. Pro bono, of course, for a good testimonial.”


“Willow,” Tara tried to interrupt.


“Only if you actually like the work, I wouldn’t be asking you to lie…” Willow continued in a rush.


“Willow,” Tara repeated softly.


Willow looked off thoughtfully.


“But I think a lot of small bus—”


Tara put her palm on Willow’s face.


Willow finally stopped talking and met Tara’s gaze.


It was glassy and intense and she couldn’t look away.


“Oh yeah,” she breathed, “And I think I’m falling for you.”


Tara blinked slowly, her gaze focused on Willow’s mouth.


“Did you just offer to volunteer here because you wanted to kiss me?”


“Not ‘just’,” Willow shook her head, “This place is amazing. I would have volunteered even if you’d politely rebuffed me.”


She rolled her eyes self-deprecatingly.


“Well, okay, I probably would have been too embarrassed. But I definitely would have donated,” she said and her nose scrunched, “Anonymously. Online.”


Tara’s eyes flickered back up to Willow’s eyes.


“Lucky I’m not rebuffing you then.”


Willow’s pupils blew out.


“Really? After all that?”


Tara put a finger on Willow’s chin and tilted it down.


“I appreciate the honesty.”


She cocked her head to the side and leaned in.


This time, there was no hesitation from either of them; stealing the moment lest it be stolen from them again.


Around them, colors swirled and electricity popped and they floated a foot into the air, or at least it felt like it. The kiss may have lasted seconds or minutes or hours.


As established, Willow wasn’t very good at estimating time.


When they broke it was only to take a soft breath, shared with each other as their foreheads touched.


DW lifted herself onto her back legs and licked their chins.


They both glanced down at her and burst out laughing.


“Look at you, you little munchkin,” Willow grabbed her face and rubbed her ears, receiving many licks, “I guess you’re mine now. You wanna be mine?”


“Yes,” Tara answered evocatively.


Willow raised her gaze. She slowly smiled.


As they shared the same look, Willow couldn’t help but spot the screen behind Tara where there was a picture of a dog that looked exactly like DW.


“Have you already listed DW on the website?”


“You over-estimate my abilities,” Tara replied with a shake of her head, “I just scanned her microchip to see if I could get some history on her. Turns out she comes from a particular breed up north that were bred to track and find people that…need to be found, I guess.”


Willow arched an eyebrow.


“How north are we talking?”


“Way north,” Tara clicked over a map, “A place called the Evergreen Landmark Foundland somewhere between the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland.”


Willow’s brow furrowed.


“So you’re telling me…DW is from ELF-land…in the North Pole?” she asked dubiously, but Tara’s gaze was suddenly intently directed elsewhere, “Tara?”


Tara stood and DW hopped off her lap to go find PT. Tara went over to the window and pressed her face up close to see out.


“Is it…snowing?”


Willow looked even more dubious.


“In California? Wait. I heard something about a blizzard…”


Tara ran outside and Willow was quick to follow, closing the first doors so DW wouldn’t attempt another great escape.


As she stepped out, she found that in their little patch of land just as far as the eye could see, little droplets of snow were falling from the sky and swirling them all in a blustery embrace.


She held her hand out to catch some and smiled.


She smiled even more when she saw Tara swirling around and letting every flake melt on her face.


“Is it global warming or something?”


“Or something,” Willow murmured and approached Tara, taking her by the waist, “Can I give you your first kiss under the snow?”


“You remembered?” Tara asked softly.


“Tara…” Willow stopped and smiled, “Tara I-Don’t-Even-Know-Your-Surname…I feel like I know everything about you. How is that possible?”


Tara returned the smile.


“Magic.”


Their lips met again and the swirling was real this time.


Freezing, but real.


As they kissed, Willow spotted DW sitting with PT in the window, snuggled up on the seat.


Visibility was poor and Willow was currently feeling a lot of intense endorphins and hormones mirroring the blizzard outside on her insides, but she swore she saw that dog wink.


With cold lips, they parted and Willow reached up to caress Tara’s hair.


“Maybe Santa Paws came to town after all.”


“Hmm?” Tara asked softly, lost in Willow’s eyes.


Willow was happy to get lost in the same way because she knew she’d finally been found.


“Nothing,” she whispered reverently, “Absolutely nothing.”


She popped a kiss on Tara’s lips and then bent down to make a tiny, frosty snowball to fling at Tara.


As a kiss-chase snowball fight broke out, DW rested her chin on her Kermit toy with her body tucked up to PT, and took a well-deserved nap.

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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:12 am 
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DIBS...on maybe the sweetest short story I’ve ever read. :love

Quote:
“Um, is it okay if I close that so Forrest Gump here won’t go jumping through the fields like Skippy if I let her off?”
This line right here confirms our JMT powers...there is no one else, whom I know, on this planet (aside from my wife) who knows Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo. I ran across this show 25 years ago on Animal Plants at two in the morning. We’d stay up late and binge watch ridiculous episode after ridiculous episode. From the hopping and life saving magical kangaroo moments, right down to her little fake paws picking up stuff and delicately placing it into her little pouch. A true 1960s animal show masterpiece. The theme song is on repeat right now in my brain.

Merry Christmas JMT and thank you for this magical holiday story!
-JMT

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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:19 am 
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Finey_McFine wrote:
I ran across this show 25 years ago on Animal Plants at two in the morning. We’d stay up late and binge watch ridiculous episode after ridiculous episode.


It is now my headcanon that Willow did this too and will introduce Tara to it the same way.

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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:37 pm 
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Great one-shot. I had hoped that Willow's job would be one that she could telecommute...but her idea for her own company sounds better suited to her. Loved the story. Thanks for writing.

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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 5:56 am 
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taranwillow4ever wrote:
Great one-shot. I had hoped that Willow's job would be one that she could telecommute...but her idea for her own company sounds better suited to her. Loved the story. Thanks for writing.


Thanks so much! I think Willow will make a much bigger success of her own business than trying to get business for someone else. Thanks so much for your feedback!

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A Twisted DateDachsund Through The Snow


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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 8:57 am 
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This was so so delightful!!! A perfect little romcom with hilariously named pups - and so funny throughout!! The "Willow you've been gone six minutes" made me laugh put loud- it's a trope of a joke that you pulled off beautifully and that made it all the funnier- we expected it and then didn't and then it happened anyway= funny.


Also, about 10 years ago I also worked as a dogwalker, right after I had gotten my Masters degree, for rich people in Los Angeles, I worked for a company not on my own but I slept in bougie Hollywood Hills houses and got into gated communities I would never have even known existed- it was really weird and kinda cool and paid nothing. I actually turned down a chance to walk Eliza Dushku's dogs because I didn't think I would keep my cool if I met her, now I wish I hadn't.

Anyway, I loved this. A lot.

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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 9:20 am 
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That story was a lovely christmas gift, so funny and adorable!

Those were my favourite parts:

Quote:
She sped through an open set of flapping doors and slammed her palms on the desk.


“Please tell me a cute red-haired thing just came in here?!”


The woman behind the desk looked momentarily startled but then just smiled softly.


“Oh,” she replied and cocked her head ever-so-slightly, “Well, um, yes, that seems to be the case.”


Willow watched the woman’s cheeks turn a light pink and felt hers do the same.

:laugh Pretty sassy of Tara - she probably surprised herself with her bout of flirtiness.

Quote:
“I’m a dog walker,” Willow explained, swinging her arms back and forth, “Tried to think of what profession would piss off my parents the most but was too chickenshit to become a stripper and apparently the Catholic Church doesn't let women become priests, so here I am…”

:rofl That made me think of Lily's stripper double on HIMYM.

Quote:
Willow followed Tara back to the desk but thought maybe that wasn’t such a good idea when Tara’s sweet scent filled her nose. She was like fresh laundry, still warm, on a cold day.

Awww, great image for the appeal Tara's scent has for Willow.

Quote:
Willow was certain if Tara asked her with that little crooked smile that she would happily shed her clothing right that second and take her on that table.

Maybe you could give us an alternate version of this one shot where that happens? Although I have to admit this would not be very credible and more in the porn territory... :wink

Quote:
“Well, I-I just took the gay to the next level.”


Willow’s face broke out in a wide smile.


“Next level gay. That’s…gay,” she said and rolled her eyes at her lameness

I have to admit that I don't get that joke... :blush

Quote:
“Okay, DW, here’s the scoop. We’re going to go in there and we’re going to not get the weird bat-like butterflies and flippy tummies and warm sensations in places that haven’t been warm in a while. No matter what Tara, pooch or human, does we’re going to be completely calm and collected and do what we need to do without a single swoon, squeal…” she grimaced at herself, “Or sex-crazed dream.”


She caught DW’s gaze in the rearview mirror and pouted.


“It was only once, don’t judge me! And it was about the human!”

:rofl :rofl Perfect, so Willow!

Quote:
“You’ll have to talk me through it.”


“I will,” Willow promised, a little too quickly, “I’ll do all the work. You just have to—


don’tsayliebackandenjoyitdon’tsayliebackandenjoyitdon’tsayliebackandenjoyit


—accept the call.”

:lol

Quote:
Why was she so upset about leaving a dog and a woman she hadn’t even known a week ago?


So what if she liked how DW slept on her feet and kept them warm or how she could make her dance if she lifted her Kermit toy high enough or that she had the cutest little belly that Willow couldn’t stop rubbing?


And so what if she’d thought about Tara and DW fighting over who got to warm her feet or if she imagined she and Tara dancing around her living room and collapsing on the couch laughing or what it would feel like to have Tara rub her belly after she overindulged in the ‘nog one night?

Awww! :bigkiss I'd really love if you'll give us a sequel to this story in the future where Tara and Willow are living a cosy home life with DW and PT.

Quote:
She looked back at DW, who barked.

This part confused me because DW isn't in the car...is it an error or does Willow have some kind of vision / hallicunation here?

Quote:
“Please don’t tell me DW’s been taken already!”


Tara’s eyes were wide behind her glasses and her eyebrow arched ever-so-slightly.


“Willow, you’ve been gone six minutes.”

:lol Very funny (although the pedantic side of me thinks that Willow must have been driving longer than 3 minutes before turning the car around considering that she listened to the news, DJ talk and at least one song).

Quote:
She came around so she could see DW, sitting on Tara’s lap behind the computer. She rubbed down DW’s ears and kissed the top of her head.


“But she's here.”


“Yes,” Tara nodded once.


Willow’s gaze flickered up to Tara.


“And you're here.”


Tara swallowed softly.


“Yes.”


Willow’s lower lip trembled slightly.


“Then this is where I want to be.”

:flower So simple and perfect!

Quote:
Turns out she comes from a particular breed up north that were bred to track and find people that…need to be found, I guess.”


Willow arched an eyebrow.


“How north are we talking?”


“Way north,” Tara clicked over a map, “A place called the Evergreen Landmark Foundland somewhere between the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland.”


Willow’s brow furrowed.


“So you’re telling me…DW is from ELF-land…in the North Pole?”

:laugh Is that Evergreen a real place in Newfoundland or some genius creation of you Laragh?

Quote:
“Can I give you your first kiss under the snow?”


“You remembered?” Tara asked softly.


“Tara…” Willow stopped and smiled, “Tara I-Don’t-Even-Know-Your-Surname…I feel like I know everything about you. How is that possible?”


Tara returned the smile.


“Magic.”

:flower :bigkiss AWWW³!

Quote:
Visibility was poor and Willow was currently feeling a lot of intense endorphins and hormones mirroring the blizzard outside on her insides, but she swore she saw that dog wink.


With cold lips, they parted and Willow reached up to caress Tara’s hair.


“Maybe Santa Paws came to town after all.”

Quote:
As a kiss-chase snowball fight broke out, DW rested her chin on her Kermit toy with her body tucked up to PT, and took a well-deserved nap.

Well done Santa DW! And well done Laragh, as always! :applause :bow


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 Post subject: Re: Dachshund Through The Snow (Holiday One-Shot)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2021 9:38 am 
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shirrey

shirrey wrote:
This was so so delightful!!! A perfect little romcom with hilariously named pups - and so funny throughout!!


Like Willow, I do love a good dog pun...

Quote:
The "Willow you've been gone six minutes" made me laugh put loud- it's a trope of a joke that you pulled off beautifully and that made it all the funnier- we expected it and then didn't and then it happened anyway= funny.


:D

Quote:
Also, about 10 years ago I also worked as a dogwalker, right after I had gotten my Masters degree, for rich people in Los Angeles, I worked for a company not on my own but I slept in bougie Hollywood Hills houses and got into gated communities I would never have even known existed- it was really weird and kinda cool and paid nothing. I actually turned down a chance to walk Eliza Dushku's dogs because I didn't think I would keep my cool if I met her, now I wish I hadn't.


Holy shit, that is a hell of a story! I don't know what I would have done either!

Quote:
Anyway, I loved this. A lot.


:heart thank you so much

Will's redemption

Will's redemption wrote:
That story was a lovely christmas gift, so funny and adorable!


Thanks so much!

Those were my favourite parts:

Quote:
:laugh Pretty sassy of Tara - she probably surprised herself with her bout of flirtiness.


Who wouldn't flirt in the face of Willow arriving upon them, in fairness? :lol

Quote:
:rofl That made me think of Lily's stripper double on HIMYM.


:laugh :laugh yes!

Quote:
Awww, great image for the appeal Tara's scent has for Willow.


Thanks!

Quote:
Maybe you could give us an alternate version of this one shot where that happens? Although I have to admit this would not be very credible and more in the porn territory... :wink


Ha! A glimpse into the slow meandering of Willow's brain...

Quote:
I have to admit that I don't get that joke... :blush


Just them being dorks about admitting their gayness to each other.

Quote:
:rofl :rofl Perfect, so Willow!


:D

Quote:
Awww! :bigkiss I'd really love if you'll give us a sequel to this story in the future where Tara and Willow are living a cosy home life with DW and PT.


I'd love that!

Quote:
This part confused me because DW isn't in the car...is it an error or does Willow have some kind of vision / hallicunation here?


I've edited it to make it a bit clearer. I think of it less as an hallucination and more like DW's spirit coming in to help her out!

Quote:
:lol Very funny (although the pedantic side of me thinks that Willow must have been driving longer than 3 minutes before turning the car around considering that she listened to the news, DJ talk and at least one song).


The ellipses were meant to convey that she was radio hopping and only spending the length of the words said/sung on the channels.

Quote:
:flower So simple and perfect!


Yay!

Quote:
:laugh Is that Evergreen a real place in Newfoundland or some genius creation of you Laragh?


I may have made it up...

Quote:
:flower :bigkiss AWWW³!


AWWW³ :D :D :D

Quote:
Well done Santa DW! And well done Laragh, as always! :applause :bow


Thank you SO much for your readership and loyalty!!

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Check out my finished fics

The Love… SeriesTwo For Joy/21+InevitableConfidential Eternal

A Twisted DateDachsund Through The Snow


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