"Have you heard of the hour of the wolf? [...] It's the time between three and four in the morning, you can't sleep. And all you can see are the troubles and the problems, and all the ways your life should have gone but didn't. And all you can hear is the sound of your own heart.
The Hour of the Wolf
Three hundred fifteen hours ships time, or 3:15 am Caprica Central Time:
And with the third night in the row with less to no sleep - of living in the hour of the wolf, as her father had called it - Willow felt like completely wasted, worn-out and tired. But not only felt she physically tired, but even more so emotionally the past three days were beginning to take its toll. What had began shortly after Tara had left, became worse after Warren Meers had felt obligated to replace her Viper's name plaque with new ones. Following her talk with fellow lesbian Jessica Cally, Willow had taken the name he had chosen to insult her, as her new call sign - a out and proud display of who she was.
The reactions that came from her spontaneous outing slash coming out, were mixed at best. Some of her comrades, mostly her fellow pilots excepted and supported her in her new way of life, with a friendly word, or a slap on her back. With Eliza 'Rogue' Jones, it was a sort of welcoming "Five by Five 'Red-Dyke'!" followed by a bone cracking slap upon Willow's poor back. At the hangar bay things were quite neutral, since none of the technicians wanted to get on the bad side of petty officer second class Jessica Cally. And most of the other people Willow encountered didn't seem to care one way or the other.
There were also those reactions from the other side of the spectrum. Walking the hallways or sitting in the mess hall, Willow could feel the prolonged judgmental stares; Willow could feel the judgements; she felt the lingering stares, heard the whispers 'lesbo', 'dyke,' 'lezzy', 'queer', and a number of other names she didn't know were associated with being a lesbian, like tom and Kesser Vater? What hurt more then them calling her names, was that most of those people didn't know Willow at all, yet still considered themselves justified passing judgment over her and whom she was loving.
And then there were those people that Willow thought she knew who disappointed her even more. Like 'Mouse', who on seeing her come down the hallway, turned around and hurried her teenage daughter into the opposite direction. Like she needed to protect her from the influence of the "bad lesbian". Of course later in the pre-flight briefing she kept on pretending like all of this had never happened.
But in the end, nothing of this was the reason for her sleepless nights, she had known before that sadly there was a price to pay for coming out in these times. Now that she'd made the step out, she knew there was no turning back, and she certainly didn't want to either. She was in love with the most wonderful woman and nothing in the worlds could ever make her feel ashamed for her feelings.
What kept her awake, had kept her living in the hour of the wolf for the past three days, was her best friend Buffy Summers, and the look of utter disappointment in her eyes, when Willow had seen her after returning from her first patrol as 'Red-Dyke'. To tell the truth, she no longer wasn't entirely sure what it was she'd seen in Buffy's eyes, disappointment, disapproval or even disgust; she couldn't tell.
Until today, all of Willow's attempts to talk to Buffy had been in vain. They had been seeing little of each other already after Buffy had started training the 'Potentials', but now it was like they hardly met at all. The only time they eventually had met, Buffy had made up some flimsy excuse and walked out on her. Her best friend either didn't want to talk about 'it', or worse, might even no longer want to talk with her at all.
It was this thought that troubled Willow the most. Ever since they'd first met at high school, an eternity ago, they'd been talking about everything, they had trusted each other with everything. But now the trust between them was broken and if she was to be honest with herself, Willow had to admit that it had been her who broke it in the first place. She should have told Buffy about Tara and herself from the start, from when she knew it to be serious between herself and the gentle blond woman. But instead she had made the promise, she'd made an excuse to not tell Buffy at all. To blame it all on the promise she made, Willow knew wasn't right.
It was like she was blaming Tara for all that had happened.
Instead of just making that promise, she should have convinced Tara that Buffy could've been trusted - that she should not make Willow promise to let her best friend completely out of the loop.
No, Tara was not to blame. Besides, the Secretary of Education had problems of her own now, with all the rumours of the homosexual affair of the high-ranking governmental executive making the rounds. At least Willow knew Tara to have the support of the President. She still didn't know what her superiors would make of all of this. Eventually people would figure out she was the 'military' person of those news. Willow opened her eyes and looked at her watch - 4 o'clock! She no longer believed that she should get any sleep tonight, which meant that in order to function later today, she should drink some extra strong coffee at breakfast. She didn't exactly like what the mess people claimed to be coffee.
Switching on the light over her bunk Willow looked up to the pictures pinned to the sealing. Pictures of her loved ones; pictures of home. Her parents, her granny; a picture of herself Xander and Buffy during their first year together at Sunnydale High.
'All too many of them gone', Willow thought sadly. Killed on Caprica by the Cylons, or like Xander burned to death in the fire aboard the Galactica.
There was a picture of her parents in front of their house where Willow had lived in a small flat over the garage. With her spending most of her time away in space, there had been no need for Willow yet, to have an apartment of her own. Willow's eyes returned to the picture of herself, Xander and Buffy laughing into the camera. Things seamed so perfect then; and now one of her two closest friends was dead and the other no longer talking to her. Something needed to done in order to save this friendship. Willow knew it. She decided. Today she would do it. Willow reached for the paperback novel she hid under her pillow, not to read, but for the picture of Tara made at her quarter some weeks ago.
"I'm sorry Tara," Willow whispered to the woman in the picture, gently touching Tara's blond hair with the tip of her finger. "But I have to break my promise to you, not all of it though. I will be telling Buffy about you. And as far as the others are concerned, I'm the dyke around here anyway. But they won't have to know that it's you I'm in love with." She tenderly kissed the portrait. "I'm sorry," she said again. "But I can't go on like this. Lying about who I am and whom I love." And with that she put the picture back in to the book and placed it under her pillow again - much like a love sick teenager, she noticed. Since she was too tired to sleep anyway, Willow decided to go for a walk.
It was officially 'night' aboard the Galactica, and so the lights in the hallways were partly dimmed down, and only but a few people were moving around. Walking around a corner, Willow saw a specialist standing there, who upon taking note of her presence looked on her in a peculiar kind of way. Still feeling completely worn-out and tired, this short specialist's stare annoyed Willow beyond belief. Not caring if anybody might be around to hear her, the entire frustration that had built up inside her within the past days exploded upon this poor specialist.
"What's there to stare at Mister!" she yelled. "Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I'm the ship's walking freak show, for every Tom, Dick or Harry to stare at!"
Willow as well as her mouth came to a complete standstill a few centimetres from the young man, who looked like completely embarrassed over Willow's unbelievable outburst.
"Sorry Sir," he said apologetic. "But I wasn't staring at you because you are... you know. But because I didn't know how to tell you that... your flap's open." Still looking into her face, he casually pointed down to Willow's uniform trouser, and following his glance, she saw her zipper wide open and her white snickers making a prominent appearance.
'Why of all days did I choose this one for wearing my private white and against regulation, underwear?' Willow thought and half consciously zipped her pants shut. Then she gasped and her hand went up to cover her wide open mouth.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered and let her hand fall to her side again. "I'm so... so sorry." Her voice failed her and tears dwelled in her eyes. She felt so humiliated for having jumped to conclusions, and letting all of her rage out upon this poor man like he was a Cylon, like he was the source of all her misery. 'And so you let him have it,' Willow thought bitterly.
"I'm so terribly sorry," Willow started again. "You did absolutely nothing to provoke or to justify these verbal attacks of mine, Mister...?"
"Levinson Sir," the specialist said. "Jonathan Levinson."
"Mister Levinson, it's just since my coming out slash outing everything has been so weird," it began to spill out of her. She couldn't help it, but she just desperately needed to explain herself to him, to tell her story to someone - anyone. "People started to act differently around me and then there's my best friend and she's..."
"Oh so you are 'Red-Dyke'?" Jonathan interrupted her babbling monologue and more quietly added to himself, "so that's what Dyke means. You see I'm working down in the engine room. And having less to nothing to do with you pilots, I only heard that some pilot had changed her call sign from 'Red' to 'Red-Dyke', but didn't get the special significance of this change that others made of it. Then you, a pilot walk around the corner, and with your short red hair I thought that you might be said 'Red', and then I noticed your pants and then you..."
"And I'm really sorry about it all. Of course you're welcome to press charges, for I was completely out of line," Willow said hastily, her babble fuelled by her overwhelming guild guilt.
"Wow slow down," Jonathan said, "no need to get all official here. First of all we are both off duty. Secondly you didn't offend me, after all one could say that I was kinda staring at you. And certainly you would never have physically assaulted me, right?"
"But most of all," he said friendly, "I do understand you."
"You do? Willow asked puzzled.
"Really I do," Jonathan assured her. "I mean I'm not gay or anything like that. But as you might have noticed, I'm rather short. I also belong to one of the more - how should I put it? - well let's say, more unpopular religious groups. And thus I'm quite used to people starring at me or whispering behind my back."
"Is it that bad?" Willow asked.
"Yea. Believe me being a Hebrew on Tauron, it's no picnic."
So they both stood together silent for a while until Willow said: "Tell you what, Mr. Levinson."
"Jonathan, please. At least as long as we are still off duty."
"Willow. Well Jonathan, how about I'm buying you a cup of coffee?"
"Given that's not exactly coffee they serve and it's free of charge anyway, I say why not," Jonathan answered with a light smile.
"Ok, and while we at it, let's throw in some breakfast as well," Willow added and so they started to make their way towards the officer's mess hall, where breakfast was already served. And with it being still quite early, Willow knew it to be safe to bring a crewman into this officer's domain.
Another two hours later, Willow woke by the alarm of her wrist watch. She'd been dozing in a quieter corner of the mess hall. Jonathan had left her earlier, having to get down to the engine room to start his shift. Willow actually only had wanted to finish her coffee before she left too. 'Who would have thought you could sleep in these hard and uncomfortable chairs after all', she thought and rubbed her sore back as she stood up.
In order to freshen up, Willow walked to the washing room near her quarters, when on her way she spotted Buffy, a clipboard full of notes in her hands, early on her way to prepare for today's training rounds with her 'Potentials'. With the hallway being somewhat crowed already, 'Slayer' hurried past passed her, seemingly without noticing her. Willow however knew better, for Buffy was the master of multitasking and so reading while walking along and recognizing her former wingman shouldn't prove to difficult for her. Having already made up her mind that she needed to talk with Buffy, Willow hurried after her. "Morning Lieutenant," she said briskly, before she grabbed 'Slayer' by her arm and manoeuvred her through the next open bulkhead.
"What the hell is wrong with you!" Buffy cried out, as she swirled around to face her friend.
"We need to talk," Willow explained straightforwardly.
"Sure, why not?"
"Because it's the men's room?" Buffy answered, pointing at those particular accessories, usually not common in the ladies rooms.
And like to prove her point, a somewhat bewildered looking Ensign Andrew Wells stepped out of the only occupied stall, quickly washed his hands and without saying another word left the now, except for the two woman, empty men's room. Locking the bulkhead behind Wells, Willow stepped back to Buffy. "We need to talk", she said once again.
"We?" Buffy inquired, raising an questioning eyebrow.
"I need to talk," Willow admitted, "but I need you to listen." She took a deep breath and waited, however when Buffy didn't make any attempt to leave, Willow went on.
"It's our friendship that's on the line here, with the worlds gone down to hell in a hand basket. With all that we lost, including Xander, we mustn't jeopardize our friendship... No that's not true," she said ashamed lowering her head.
"It was I who actually jeopardized our friendship in the first place, by lying to you."
"You did not lie to me Willow," Buffy interposed forthcoming.
"No not lying", Willow whispered, still staring at her boots. "But withholding the truth is almost as bad as telling a lie. No it's actually worse." Tears started to dwelled in her eyes, "not telling my best friend is much worse then telling a lie."
Buffy wanted to say something, but right now her former wingman wasn't to be stopped and so Willow talked on about what was resting heavily upon her soul.
"I wanted to tell you so many times. But I made this..."
Promise. Willow wanted to say, but stopped herself, knowing this wasn't true ether. Not the whole truth anyway.
"The truth is," Willow said slowly, "I was afraid." A soft chuckle from her best friend made her look up again.
"Afraid?" Buffy asked surprised, "Willow Rosenberg, whom our instructor at flight school dubbed the 'Red Battle-Ant'? What could you possibly be afraid of?"
"I was afraid," Willow said quietly, "I am afraid that you could not handle it."
Willow took another deep breath before she finally put her biggest fear into words. "I'm afraid you can't handle Tara being my girlfriend." Having said it at last, it felt to Willow like a big relief. "It's true Buffy, I'm in love with Tara. In love with another girl, I'm gay Buffy." 'You know', her little voice told Willow, 'I doubt that you could not have made this more clear then you just did. Except maybe kissing Tara right in front of Buffy that is.' Willow ignored her own sarcastic thought and instead anxiously asked: "So are you freaked?"
"About you being in love with another woman?" Willow nodded.
"No, absolutely not. Tara is a great girl. I like her and I'm happy that despite all the chaos and horror around us, you have found love," Buffy said with a smile upon her face. This however subsided when she added, "but I'm hurt Willow, utterly hurt that you didn't know me enough to know that I love you the way you are. That I would never judge you by whom you're loving or sleeping with." Buffy's voice became sadder, "and why I had to hear about all of this by the ship's great-wine and this fleet wide broadcast rumour? Why didn't you trust me? Remember we used to trust each other. In combat I even trusted you with my life and vice versa."
By now Willow was all in tears, but Buffy too had tears in her eyes.
"I don't know," Willow said weakly. "I met Tara at the reception, and from the beginning there was something between us. It wasn't something I was looking for, but it's powerful. And I only realized it when I thought she was killed, when the cylons destroyed Colonial One. But she wasn't. and I got her back and I... I fell in love like I never thought possible.
"Everything changed, I changed and it's so wonderful. I've never been so much in love before, it almost frightens me. And then there are all the other fears that came down on me, what about all those people who won't tolerate two woman living together. You know they are out there. I mean Tara told me about what she'd been through after she'd been outed by her ex-girlfriend. And with all but 50,000 people left, what to become of humanity?"
Willow thoughts started to blur into another made her babble uncontrolled as it seemed. "...'Get the hell out of here and start having baby's' the President is rumoured to have said..."
"Willow," Buffy said softly, trying to calm the babbling redhead down. But Willow still wasn't finished, and with tears running down her face, she gathered all of her remaining courage to utter the question all of her misery was coming down to.
"Did I do it Buffy?", she asked, "did I destroy our friendship out of fear..." Her voice failed her and so Willow simply looked questioningly out of red puffy eyes, at her hopefully still best friend.
Buffy, crying herself, slowly shook her head. "No you haven't," she said, "but if anybody jeopardized our friendship, then it was the both of us."
"But you didn't do anything wrong," Willow opposed, feeling rather surprised by Buffy's sudden self accusation.
"Yes I have," 'Slayer' said vehemently. "I mean yes I felt and still feel hurt, that you did not tell me. But until now I didn't realize how much you have gone through since you fell in love with Tara. I mean all those fears and uncertainties, I would never have imagined how lonely you must have felt, Will."
Giving in to what she'd wanted to do, ever since Willow had started crying, Buffy opened her arms and took Willow into a much needed 'I'm still your best friend and I love you, no matter what' embrace.'
"But I tell you what," Buffy said after a while. "You better not keep such secrets - past or present - from me again, or I might really stop talking to you."
Willow took a step back again before she said, "You mean I should tell you that when we first meet, I had like a huge crush on you?"
"And you never acted on it? I'm hurt again," Buffy teased her. "But seriously. Back then did you already know that you're gay?"
"Of course not," Willow assured her. "But all the time I did know that I was different. I just couldn't put my finger on it. I mean I had had crushes on girls before, but thought it to be a phase that everybody eventually got through. And then there was Oz and I no longer thought about it. Only when I fell for Tara I really knew. She opened my eyes - woke me up."
"Still you never came on to me," Buffy repeated giving a mock pout.
"Will you give it a rest?" Willow laughed. "Only looking back on it now, I know it to be a crush. Back then I was much to involved in my crush on Xander to notice anyway. And when I finally overcame my addiction to Xander you were already safe and sound in the best friends corner."
Willow gave Buffy another hug before she returned to the more mundane matters of the day. "And now I think it's time for us to return to our duties," she said an straightened her flight suit.
"Even more so, I need to get out of this sanctuary of manhood," Buffy said and as if to underline her words, they heard the sound of a fist hammering against the bulkhead, followed by a voice demanding this fracking bulkhead to be opened at once!
"Hope this isn't the old man," Willow said weary and wiped away the last tears before she released the lock.
Luckily for the both of them, the man outside wasn't Commander Adama, but Captain Kelly. Who, in return, was much to astonished by two female pilots coming out of the men's room whispering "Sorry Sir," while giving him their best 'innocent puppy looks', that he actually forgot to rebuke them for locking the bulkhead in the first place. Much to the relief of the two Viper pilots who hurriedly walked away.
"So you and Tara huh?" Buffy asked curiously, while they walked slowly towards their respective briefing rooms.
"Yea," Willow said gladly, feeling all content on being able to simply talk with Buffy again.
"Sounds serious to me," Buffy observed, feeling the tiniest bit jealous.
"It is," Willow assured her best friend. "I've never been so much in love before in my life. She's my soul mate, my special someone.
"It's amazing how little it takes to remind me. Like sometimes, there are moments - just moments, when Tara looks at me and I'm wonderful. I'm telling you my heart is ready to burst each and every time she looks at me like that."
"You know Willow," Buffy said and put her arm around Willow's waist. "I'm really happy for you. And I hope that someday I will find someone, who will love me as much as Tara loves you."
"I'm sure you will," Willow said and added in a whisper. "But I'm afraid that if we keep walking like this, people might think you're playing the other side... are you?"
"No I'm not," Buffy laughed and let her arm fall to her side again. "Though why should I care about what people might think? After all we are friends since high school."
"I was more thinking about what one particular person might think," Willow said conspicuously.
"Come on Buffy. I'm gay, that doesn't mean I'm blind. I've seen how he's looking at you!" "Who?" Buffy said, turning considerably red around her cheeks.
"Finn? Lieutenant Riley Finn from the Marines!" Willow said a little impatiently.
"Okay you're right!" Buffy finally abided. "Though I'm not sure if he's really, as you put it - the one. I mean I like him very much, maybe I even love him. But beyond that who knows?"
"Why are you so nervous," Willow asked helpfully. "If you think you love him, I say: go for it!" She punched Buffy cheerfully in her side.
"Perhaps you're right," Buffy said with a laugh, but soon got serious again. "Maybe it's just, with all those people, like Xander that we lost; I'm afraid that if I give into my feelings and then... What if he doesn't love me. Or it doesn't work out between us?"
"I can't answer that," Willow replied. "All I can say is; that if you think you love him, then give it a try. You might be surprised. And if it doesn't work out? Well, someone once said: 'It's better to have loved and lost; the never to have loved at all.' Either way, you too deserve to be happy."
"Sounds like a reasonable advice from Doctor Love," Buffy joked and then stopped near the pilot's briefing rooms, to give her best friend another friendly hug.
"I'm glad the two of us got to talk", she said.
"Me too", Willow answered and gladly returned the hug. Pleased to have saved and strengthen her friendship with Buffy, Willow swiftly entered the briefing room for the pre-patrol briefing with the pilots 'Mouse' and Rogue'.
"Good hunting 'Slayer'."
"Good hunting 'Red-Dyke'."