Return to All Our Masks Chapter Eight

All Our Masks

Author: Jacks aka WiccanHandprintz
Rating: PG-13, might change later
Disclaimer: Neither Willow, nor Tara, nor anybody else recognizable from the Buffyverse belong to me. The story itself has a good helping of angst in the beginning and will have some action of both the dangerous weaponry and the gay lovin' kinds.
Feedback: YES, please!

Tara coughed. Tugged at the hem of the deep purple shirt. Cleared her throat. Felt like coughing again.

It was... a bit small.

Small enough, in fact, to reveal a solid two inches of pale skin above the waistband of the nicely elastic exercise pants.

So she was a little better endowed than her employer. Happened all the time!


"Oh, please," Tara muttered to herself. "Just go find her and ask for another shirt! Or just wear your own again... She gave a short sigh and pulled it off, folding it automatically before placing it on the guest bed. As she reached for her own shirt, which was hanging haphazardly from the bedside table, the door swung open. Tara yelped, whirling around. There was a split second of perfectly awful stillness, where Tara, the shirt dangling from one hand, stared at the open-mouthed Willow. The redhead's eyes were locked, impossibly wide, on the expanse of bare skin between her collarbone and her belly button, with only a small bit of that skin hidden under a dark blue bra. And then, Willow blushed furiously and Tara choked as she whipped the shirt up to hide her chest.

"Uh, um, I just- I mean, I- the door, it, you... Sweater?" The redhead finished her run-on sentences with a lopsided, awkward smile as she held out a large, soft-looking knitted sweater. Tara took it quickly, and had barely closed her fingers around the garment before Willow backed out of the room and yanked the door shut.

Tara sat down hard on the bed, pulling her shirt on rapidly. She put the sweater on a little more slowly, taking the time to notice how much her hands were trembling. Oh, hell's bells, she thought. She could feel the heat in her cheeks, and knew that the flush had spread from her face to the tops of her breasts. She wondered, a tad bit wildly, if she'd been blushing this hard before she'd managed to cover herself up, and whether or not Willow had liked the contrast between the bright pink and pale white of her skin. Liked it? LIKED it? She was horrified, Tara! She couldn't get out of here fast enough! The thought, instinctively self-deprecating, annoyed Tara.

"Well, why shouldn't she have l-liked it," she muttered to herself, and then immediately let out a breath. Stop it. You're being stupid. Smoothing a hand over her hair, Tara rose to her feet and took a few experimental steps towards the door. No shaking. No toppling over. All good signs.

Pushing open the door, she poked her head into the hallway. Seeing no one, Tara stepped out of the room and walked quickly towards the bathroom at the end of the hall, resolving to spend the next few hours locked inside it. Cleaning, of course.

It had probably been years since that bathroom had been cleaned, Tara knew, so it would undoubtedly take a long time. Maybe even all day. Just no help for it.

As she pulled the bathroom door open, Tara saw a flash of movement at the other end of the hall, but by the time she turned around fully, Miss Rosenberg had vanished.

"Oh. My. Goddess."

Willow was sitting downstairs, in her study, in her safe place. She was at her desk, her hands splayed flat against the wood. I saw her shirtless. I saw her shirtless. I saw her-

She cleared her throat loudly, trying to cut off the spiraling train of thought. It didn't work. Pale skin, smooth skin, supple curves, round...

"I'm in trouble," Willow groaned aloud, massaging her closed eyes. "I'm in big, big trouble."

She'd seen Tara heading for the upstairs bathroom, and hadn't been able to bring herself to say anything. To apologize.

Damn it!

Her heart was still racing, her breath coming in little shudders. She had not included this in the plan for the day! Willow pulled off her gloves, a bit roughly, jerking her hands in front of her face. She waited for the familiar disgust, the self-hatred, the coldness.

It didn't come.

She saw the scars, yes. But now, Willow's eyes couldn't seem to focus on them. Her gaze fell on her own skin, the white, fragile smoothness of it, beneath the burns. Her long, strong fingers. She shook her hands, as if they were machines that weren't doing their job. Swallowing, Willow found herself breathing harder than before, huge gulps of air that still weren't quite enough. Her trump card, her ace, her final defense, wasn't working.

Slowly, slowly, her belly filled with the old, familiar twist of sickness as she turned her palms over, tracing the webbing up her wrists.

She touched her cheek, feeling the roughness of her fingers. Three years ago, her fingertips were as smooth as her face. Three years ago, before Cole Raimey tried to burn her alive.

And there. There it was. There was the hate, the fear, the anger.

But so slow! It hadn't come in its usual rush, the old torrent of feeling that nearly overwhelmed her every time. It had been insidious, creeping, an acidic kind of emotive spill. She'd had to... she'd had to work at it. And even while part of her received this knowledge with a careful sort of wonder, another part backed away in horror.

What's happening to me?

Continue to All Our Masks Chapter Ten

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