Willow had not relinquished her grip on Tara's hand as they made their way through the park toward downtown Sunnydale. Tara offered to drive, but Willow preferred walking. I can't hold her hand if she's driving...but more importantly, I can't see her eyes if she's watching the road. She felt as if not touching Tara would result in her waking from a dream. A beautiful dream. Willow focused on their clasped hands and once again smiled at how perfectly their fingers intertwined.
Tara turned her head slightly to look at Willow and smiled. She was also enjoying the feel of Willow's hand in hers. She marveled at how easy it was to find contentment in Willow's nearness. The sight, the feel of her is so natural, like she's always been near me.
"What?" Willow caught Tara gazing at her, the blonde seemingly caught up in her own thoughts.
"I know you," Tara stated simply.
"Of course you do." Willow returned Tara's smile, her eyes sparkling. "You've known me since 4th grade, silly."
Tara's smile grew wider and she gently squeezed Willow's hand. So cute. "No, Will. I mean...I know you. I feel like I know everything there is to know about you. It's like we haven't been apart for 8 years, like I've been with you every one of those days. Do you know what I mean?" Oh, please get it. Please feel the same thing.
Willow looked away from Tara for just the briefest of moments before answering. "Yeah, I do." Willow spoke slowly in deference to the battle currently being waged in her mind. Language skills are needed here, Willow. Don't waste the IQ points now...But...eyes...smile...pretty. GAH! No cave Willow! "I do know what you mean, Tare. It's like someone implanted these false memories of the past 8 years in our brains...like that Total Recall movie. But in reality, we've never been apart. We've experienced everything together and those false memories are starting to crumble."
Willow's eyes went wide as a new and infinitely more exciting thought entered her mind. After taking a deep breath, she continued, all the while guiding Tara through the park. Willow was practically skipping.
"Oh! Or that Xena episode where Caesar got the Fates to mess with the Loom of Life and alter their realities so Xena and Gabrielle didn't know each other. But when they did meet, there was this attraction that they couldn't explain or deny. And then Gabby burned the altered tapestry at the risk of destroying the world so she and Xena could be together. Yeah...it's like that."
Willow turned to look at Tara, a proud grin gracing her features. She was met with an expression of amazement and wonder.
"Tara? Didn't they have Xena in Germany?" Way to go, Spaz. She has no idea what you're talking about. Way to completely disprove the 'like we've never been apart' theory.
Tara stared at Willow in absolute awe. How does she do that? She doesn't turn blue from lack of oxygen or anything. Amazing.
"Um, Tare? Are you okay?" Willow grew concerned over Tara's dazed expression. I think I broke her.
"Huh? OH! Yes, I'm fine. I was just thinking about what you said." Tara gave Willow's hand a reassuring squeeze.
"Oh, yeah. I guess I wasn't making much sense. You really should stop me when I go on like that," Willow said as she blushed in embarrassment.
"Will, I'm not going to stop you," Tara laughed and leaned into Willow's shoulder as they walked. "Don't forget, I like your babble. And you made perfect sense. I know exactly what you mean."
Willow grinned, her tongue slightly peeking through her teeth. A giddy feeling washed over her as she felt Tara's shoulder touch her own. "I'm glad."
They continued to make their way downtown, their clasped hands gently swinging between them. Tara was taking in her surroundings, reacquainting herself with Sunnydale, appreciating the warmth of the afternoon. Willow was reveling in Tara's presence, amazed that she could see and touch Tara. She thought over all they had said to each other that afternoon, as if to lock the words into her memory. Of course, being Willow, she quickly shifted into an analytical mode.
What am I glad about? That she understands what I was saying? That she likes my babble? That our shoulders are touching? All of the above? Who cares, Rosenberg...she's here. That's all that matters. This day could have turned out so differently.
Willow's smile faded and her pace slowed. Her furrowed brow gave her a worried look.
Tara noticed the change in Willow's demeanor and quickly brought the two of them to a full stop. "Will?" Tara spoke gently and waited for Willow to lift her head. When Willow's eyes met her own, Tara saw a lost little girl looking back at her. "Sweetie, what is it?" Tara carefully pushed some red locks away from Willow's face and allowed her hand to linger, gently cupping Willow's cheek. "It's okay, Will. You can talk to me."
As Willow leaned into the warmth of Tara's touch, she closed her eyes and felt a single tear slide down her face. "I don't know, Tare." Willow took a ragged breath and looked up to be greeted by the bluest, most loving eyes she'd ever seen. "Oh, God," Willow breathed. She lifted her hand to cover Tara's, again pressing her cheek into her friend's warmth. Tears fell freely. "You're here. After how horribly I treated you, you're still here. I don't deserve this."
Tara swallowed the lump in her throat and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, the sight of Willow crying and holding desperately to her hand broke Tara's heart. Oh God, what have I done?
"And the thing that really has me peeved," Willow continued, "is that it's not enough." Her features crinkled into a grimace. "No...no...that's not what I mean. I just...it's....UGH! Everything is swirling around in my head and I can't get it organized. I need a spreadsheet for my brain." Willow took a deep breath and collected her thoughts. "I mean, you being here is more than enough; it's more than I'd ever expected. But, it's like I'm forgetting something...something necessary...and I can't remember what it is. I'm afraid you're gonna think about what happened...about everything I said...and...and..." Willow was struggling to hold in her sobs and spoke between gasping breaths. "I just...Tara...I can't...I don't-"
"Hey!" Tara interrupted Willow, who was on the edge of hyperventilating, placing a hand on either side of her friend's head. "Look at me, Will." Tara waited until she saw the tear-filled green eyes looking back at her. She hooked her left index finger under Willow's chin and wiped away the tears with her right hand. "C'mon, Sweetie...no tears, okay? Be happy to be with me like I'm happy to be with you."
Willow's eyes widened, shocked that Tara would think she wasn't happy to be near her. "Oh God, Tara...I am happy to be with you! So happy. I'm Happy McHappy because I'm with you right now. But, I keep thinking about what I said to you...about what I did. I just expect you to...to look at me and say, 'Haha! Joke's on you! I actually hate you and I'm leaving now.' And...and...I would deserve it, Tara. It would kill me, but I would deserve it. And if that happens before I remember the necessary thing, it would kill me even more." Willow looked away for a moment, in thought, and then returned her gaze to Tara. "Is it possible for something to 'kill even more'...I mean, once you're killed, you're killed, right? You can't be killed more, cuz that wou-"
A gentle finger covered Willow's lips, effectively cutting off her babble. "Mara? Mut id it?" Willow mumbled.
"Shh. I need you to be quiet now, Will. Just breathe, okay?" Tara looked pointedly at the petite woman in front of her and waited for Willow's answering nod. Once she was satisfied that Willow was breathing normally, Tara removed her finger. "First of all, Will -- and this is very important -- I would never hate you...I can't imagine how I could possibly ever hate you. That being said, I would not just leave like that." Tara paused for a brief moment, a pained expression on her face. "Though I understand it may be hard for you to believe that since, for all intents and purposes, I left you last year when I wouldn't answer your letters." Tara quickly held up her hand to stop Willow's protest. "Hear me out, Will, please. It's true; you shouldn't have said those things. But you did."
Tara paused again, this time to take a steadying breath.
"We both did. I'm not proud of how I treated you, Willow. I shouldn't have shut you out like that. If we could go back in time I know we would each do things differently, but we can't, Will. So we'll just have to deal with it and move on. And we will deal with it; we will talk about it. For right now, at this moment, let's just be with each other. It's been 8 years, Will. I don't want us to spend our first 24 hours together crying over something that happened a year ago, okay? I forgive you, Sweetie. I forgave you so very long ago. I was wrong to not tell you that before today. Willow, can you forgive me too?"
"Oh, Tara." Willow sighed as she moved forward to wrap her arms around Tara's waist and pull her into a hug. She nuzzled into the crook of Tara's neck and held tightly to the friend who had been in her heart for so many years.
Tara leaned her cheek against Willow's head and embraced her, adoringly stroking the red hair she loved so much. "Is that a yes, Will?"
Willow pulled back just enough to look into Tara's eyes. She gazed deeply into the blue orbs before her and sighed again. "Of course," she whispered, as she returned her head to Tara's shoulder. "I figured it out, Tare."
"What's that, Sweetie?"
"The necessary thing. I know what it is." Willow grinned against Tara's shoulder.
"Hmm?" Tara was lost in the feel of having the redhead in her arms.
"Yes," Tara whispered. She closed her eyes and tightened her arms around Willow. "A hug is certainly necessary."
Whether it was a few seconds or a few minutes that Willow and Tara spent wrapped in each other's embrace neither could tell. All they knew at that moment was that it felt right.
"Will?" Tara continued to run her fingers through Willow's hair.
"'When Fates Collide'"
Willow pulled away from the hug just enough to look at Tara, her eyebrows scrunched together in confusion. "What?"
"The Xena episode...it's called 'When Fates Collide.' I watched it too." Tara giggled at the surprised look on Willow's face and then continued, "Do you think Xena and Gabrielle were lovers?"
The people walking through the streets of Sunnydale were shaken from their peaceful afternoon by the pounding rhythms of "I'm So Excited." Many looked around to locate the source of the disturbance. They were greeted by the sight of a petite blonde in a bright red, convertible Tracker, her hair blowing freely in the wind.
Buffy had lowered the top on her vehicle as soon as she reached the parking lot. It's a beautiful day and I'm going to enjoy it! After popping in her favorite music mix CD, Buffy began her drive home. Go home...change into comfy "no work for Buffy" clothes...find Willow so she can congratulate me. Perfect plan. Still thriving on the buzz that resulted from the meeting with her boss, Buffy found that she couldn't resist singing along with the music. Apparently, the Pointer Sisters' lyrics weren't good enough for her today.
"I'm not in trouble/ so don't burst my bubble/ I'm gonna get promoted and my pay will double!"
Men and women along the roads grimaced and shook their heads. Teenagers pointed and laughed. Small children covered their ears and hid behind their parents. A few babies cried, which earned Buffy a few glares from angered moms and dads.
Buffy, however, was oblivious to everything around her. Fortunately, she did notice the red traffic light and brought her vehicle to a complete stop at the intersection. The "Buffy Karaoke Party" continued until she heard a knocking sound come from a nearby source. She looked to the passenger side of the Tracker and greeted the trooper who had pulled his motorcycle alongside Buffy.
"Oh, hey, Danny! How are you today?" Buffy enthused as she reached over to turn down the music. "So gently you came rapping, and so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my Tracker door, that I scarce was sure I heard you." Buffy giggled at the uniformed man.
"Hey, Buffy. You probably didn't hear my tapping because you were busy rapping to your rather loud music." Danny smirked at Buffy.
"You're channeling dead poets too! Cool!"
"All right, Buffy, E.A. Poe aside, you need to bring it down a notch, okay? Keep the music down to a reasonable level...and could you try just humming along with the music? You're kinda scaring the kids." Danny's features flushed a bit at having to gently reprimand the blonde, but he couldn't let the citizens of Sunnydale -- the people who pay the taxes that provide for his salary -- suffer needlessly.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah...definitely...music levels so that ears don't bleed...check. And, um, humming rather than singing...gotcha." Buffy looked at Danny with a sly smile and quickly batted her eyelashes for good measure. "You're not going to give me a ticket, are you, Danny?"
"No, Buffy," the trooper laughed. "No ticket today. Just pay more attention to the road than to the music, okay? The light is green...get going."
"Thanks, Danny! You're a gem!" Buffy shouted back to the trooper as she slowly pulled away from the intersection and continued her drive home.
"So, Miss Maclay, what will it be?"
Willow and Tara continued their walk down Main Street as Willow offered suggestions for their upcoming meal. The redhead pointed to each restaurant, café, or bistro in turn.
"There's Mama Angela's - great lasagna. The Three Marys has a healthier fare - sprouts, granola, and tofu. My parents loved that place. Um, Watty's Wok & Kettle is an interesting place - you can get Kung Pow Chicken with a side of Bangers and Mash. Not my combination choice, but it's an option. Deb's Deli has great sandwiches and a Soup & Salad bar. Or we can go to Cameron's Fish Market - just for the halibut."
Tara giggled at Willow's infectious enthusiasm - and her joke.
"You're so silly sometimes, Will. Don't change, okay?"
"It's a deal. Now, were do you want to eat?" Willow turned to face Tara. If it were possible to skip while walking backwards, Willow was doing it.
"Well, they all sound good," Tara said thoughtfully. "Do any of them have outside seating areas? The weather is lovely."
"Deb's Deli and The Three Marys do."
"The deli then. Soup and salad sounds tasty and I'm not in a mood for sprouts." Tara crinkled her nose as she finished speaking, earning a hearty laugh from the redhead. I love that sound.
"The sprouts are an acquired taste. You'll have to try their tofu sometime, it's pretty good." Willow squeezed Tara's hand and gently lead her in a new direction. "But not today. Today my Tara wants soup and salad."
For the second time that afternoon, Tara found herself dazed, moving on autopilot as she followed Willow's lead. "My Tara." She called me her Tara.
Willow noticed Tara's dreamy smile and glazed eyes. Returning the smile and cocking her head just slightly, Willow asked, "What are you thinking about, Tare?"
"I am, you know."
Instinctively, they both stopped walking and stood in the middle of the busy sidewalk. As if by magic, the rest of the world faded away in that moment. Willow took a half step forward, closing the distance between herself and Tara. She raised her right hand to Tara's brow and allowed the tips of her fingers to gently move soft, blonde hair away from Tara's face. Never losing contact with the blue eyes before her, Willow tenderly ran the back of her fingers down Tara's face and across her chin. As her hand reversed direction, Willow rotated her hand so that the tip of her index finger softly traced the curve of Tara's bottom lip. Her breath hitched as she felt Tara's lips move to lightly kiss the caressing finger.
Oh, God. Is this really happening? Please let this be real. Tara's mind slowed to a near standstill as she let herself fall into Willow's touch. It had to be instinct that made her kiss Willow's finger as it ran the length of her lip; her mind certainly wasn't fully functional at the moment. As she gazed into the deep green eyes before her - they're darker - Tara saw the question Willow was asking. She knew her answer; there was no doubt in her mind. Yes. She tried to say the word. She tried to give the answer that would change everything. She tried to give voice to her desire. Yes...please. The words wouldn't come; her verbal skills had fallen in line behind the pounding heart in her chest and the coursing blood in her veins.
Willow cupped Tara's face, her thumb lovingly stroking the softness of her cheek. Occasionally, the pad of her thumb would come in contact with Tara's lips. Willow's eyes darted between blue eyes and parted lips. She felt her own breath become labored and gently bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from capturing Tara's lips with her own. Wait. Be patient. Her heart skipped a beat when she felt the slightest movement from the hand clasped in her own -- Tara's thumb lightly brushed across the back of her hand. She said yes. The corners of Willow's mouth curved up slightly as she took a small step closer to Tara.
Their lips moved nearer each other...slowly...savoring the moment. This is it. Their hands remained clasped at their sides, fingers entwined, holding tightly to each other. It's really happening. Willow's fingers buried themselves in the blonde locks behind Tara's ear, softly massaging the skin underneath. Yes. Tara's free hand moved to Willow's waist, lovingly pulling the redhead closer. Please. Their breaths mingled as they moved still closer...inches...centimeters. Their eyes closed simultaneously as their lips were about to touch. This is it. It's really happening.
Willow's eyes snapped open. A fraction of a second later, she looked into startled pools of blue. Willow's head and eyes turned away to seek out the source of the disturbance. What the -
"Buffy?!" I'm gonna kill her!
Tara's head dropped to Willow's shoulder and she let out a heavy sigh. Oh, this isn't happening.