Buffy, Tara and Willow emerged into the almost silent dockyard, the only real sounds were of water slapping gently against the hulls of the few boats moored there and their rhythmic footsteps against the concrete. As they walked, they found themselves heading towards Main Street, from out of nowhere it seemed, people hustled and bustled around, going about their daily lives without the first clue as to what the trio of women had been through.
"Mochas?" Willow asked cheerfully, making both Buffy and Tara jump. Despite her ordeal, Willow felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders, the encounter had allowed her to face the truth of the world that few people knew and acknowledged, and she had conquered the fear accompanied with it. "I'm a-buying!" her voice was almost childlike in its sing-song quality. Buffy frowned, she was having a hard time believing that what she was seeing from the vivacious redhead was the truth. She nodded slowly and followed Willow as she skipped into the Espresso Pump. As Willow waited patiently to be served, Buffy turned to regard Tara who, as yet, still hadn't said a word since leaving the warehouse.
As she opened her mouth to speak, Tara fixed her with a solid gaze, and as if she knew what the Slayer was about to say, she responded; "She's fine!" a huge grin, bigger than any Buffy had seen on the longest time, spread over her face, highlighting her already captivating eyes and brightening the very air around her. "I don't know how, but she is. She really is!" Tara announced, a little too loudly, drawing impatient looks from the patrons sat around them.
Before Buffy had a chance to respond, Willow returned, armed with a tray filled with three tall mugs and various sticky pastries. She slumped down on the sofa next to Tara and handed out the beverages, offering each woman their choice of pastry before choosing the large, cream filled éclair topped with dark chocolate.
Finishing the first bite, Willow returned Buffy's puzzled look with a grin, not dissimilar to the one Tara had flashed her only minutes before. "It's ok, Buffy." she said, her anticipation and the similarities of the exceptionally rapid response made Buffy feel a little uneasy, although she had no idea why. "I'm ok, really. I've dealt and moved on and I really don't want to talk about it expect to say that...." she paused briefly to take a sip of her mocha before continuing. "I now don't have a reason not to visit more often!" the mischievous glint that danced in her eyes made Buffy smile before the words she had spoken had fully reached her brain.
"Oh Will." She beamed, leaping from her seat to hug Willow tightly, the joy written clearly over her face.
For the remainder of their drinks, and a good few afterwards, Buffy, Willow and Tara chatted. Not about demons, vampires, werewolves or the past but about things that the regular people chatted about. Movies, their jobs, their future plans.
As the sun began its descent behind the Sun cinema, the trio gathered themselves up and headed back to the Summers' house for one last evening together before Willow and Tara returned to LA and back to their Hellmouth-free lives.
Willow, always the sensible one, had declined the offer of mass alcohol consumption in favour of pizza and a movie, her primary reason being that they had a long drive ahead of them the following morning and, after getting lost twice on the way there, she wanted to have a clear head for the return trip.
Xander had volunteered to fetch the snacks and evenings entertainment with minimal fuss, and it had resulted in much in the way of ribbing from the ladies. They had playfully made him their servant for the evening and delighted in making him run errands for them. To his credit he had played along, right up until the point when Buffy, who had cracked open one too many beers, had decided that they should dress him up to fit the part. At that point he officially cut her off.
Two films and more pizza and popcorn than the human body should be able to handle and both Willow and Tara said their goodnights, before heading upstairs, showering quickly and collapsing into bed, the efforts, both mental and physical, of defeating Oz had left them both drained and totally exhausted.
Willow recalled only one other moment in her life when she had felt this tired. It had been the night that Tara had proposed to her. They had been to Tara's first art show and she had been a phenomenal success, from there moving onto Willows favourite restaurant to celebrate her 30th birthday. Tara had organised everything as a surprise, a long white limousine had ferried them from the gallery to the restaurant where they had the V.I.P area completely to themselves. After a perfect dinner, Tara had arranged for one of Willows favourite singers to serenade her before Tara had stepped onto the stage herself.
Stealing a glance at the woman she considered to be the most perfect creation in the universe, Willow felt a pang of disappointment to see that Tara was already asleep. Willows mind wandered back to that magical night. In her mind it played like a movie, everything was in total surround sound and she could smell the chocolate of her cake and the faintest aroma of incense - vanilla and apple - Before her, Tara emerged onto the stage, her long black dress flowing from her as she had glided into the spotlight. Tears stung her eyes as she took in the beauty of the goddess standing before her, the dress sparkling in the soft light, Tara's deep blue eyes swimming in love, seeing nothing but her as she began to sing Willows favourite song; Elvis Costello's 'She'.
Tara had crossed the room on invisible wings as she sang, coming to a halt in front of her as the song had ended. Willow could never remember if she had spoken, couldn't remember what she had worn, or anything. Her mind only saw Tara, her words etched for eternity in her mind.
"Willow," Tara had said, her voice shaking clearly as tears seeped from her eyes. "I never thought I would find something so special in my life, never believed I was worthy of the love you show to me every day and in so many ways. Before I met you, I thought true love and soul mates were the things of fairy tales, but you have shown me that they are real. You make me feel safe and warm and loved, when I'm with you I'm home, only to no home I've ever known.... Until you!" Everyone had cried, that much Willow could remember, Tara had gracefully dropped to one knee before continuing.
"I love you, I have always loved you. And if you give me the chance I will spend the rest of my life trying to make you has happy as you make me. Willow Rosenberg, will you make me the happiest woman on earth. Will you marry me?"
Of course she had said 'yes'. What else could she have said to the blonde haired angel before her? Their friends had made various excuses for not returning to the house with them, although it had been Vince who was the most honest about it, maybe the large amounts of alcohol had helped loosen his tongue more than usual but he had told them; "We don't really wanna hear you two fucking all night!" as he'd been dragged into a cab by his girlfriend.
On returning home, that's exactly what Willow and Tara had done, although Willow preferred tried think of it as making love, she knew that the raw, animal passion that had ripped Tara's beautiful dress beyond repair and destroyed her couch was definitely not 'making love. They had spent the remainder of the night and all of the following morning 'celebrating' their engagement, stopping only when they could physically no longer move or breathe, only to pick it up again on recovery.
As the night replayed itself in her mind, Willows arms reached for Tara, wrapping around her waist as she fell into the first peaceful sleep she'd had since reaching Sunnydale.
The sun rose early, forcing everyone up a little after dawn. Bleary eyed, they stumbled into the kitchen and sat around the island in its centre, trying to wipe the sleep from the eyes enough to focus to pour coffee or OJ. Willow had told Buffy that she had to return home that day, she had meetings and other engagements to attend and their 'cat-sitter' had to leave town that night for her own business reasons. Buffy had tried to convince her to stay, of course, but in her heart of hearts she knew that she must, once again say her farewells.
As Willow and Tara fixed breakfast, Buffy watched them in happy awe, they moved as one fluid unit, automatically knowing where the other was and gliding effortlessly around the other, never bumping so much as an elbow. In watching the two women, Buffy knew that this is why she got up every morning, this is what she wanted. Not a lesbian relationship but the kind of love that Willow and Tara had. Lost in her own longing, Buffy was snapped back to reality when a huge plate of food was placed in front of her. They ate in reasonable hush, each content to enjoy the comfort of one another's company.
The morning passed by in a blur and before she knew it, Willow and Tara had packed up their car and were ready to leave. Tears choked Buffy's throat and she wanted more than anything to have Willow stay. As she hugged the redhead for many minutes, the tears flowed freely from her eyes and she made no effort to try and cover them. In the short time that they had been there, so much had transpired and joined them, forced them to bond and survive, or split off on their own and risk death. It was one of the best things about the Hellmouth, the friendships you formed on it were powerful and forever, once you made a friend, you had them for life - providing they didn't get killed by a hell beastie or turned into a vampire!
"I love you Willow." Buffy said as she eventually pulled back from the hug, a smile spreading her lips. Willow returned it with a grin. "So, we'll see you in 6 months at the wedding!" she beamed.
"Not if I come up there first!" Buffy laughed as Willow walked slowly down the path to the car. Turning to Tara, Buffy felt at a sudden loss for words, her coming to Sunnydale had, undoubtedly changed her forever and Buffy felt oddly guilty.
Before she had time to dwell over her feelings, Tara wrapped her in a firm yet gentle hug. "Thank you, Buffy. For everything." Tara had whispered, her breath tickling the Slayers ear and making her realise how easy it had been for Willow to fall in love with her. In all her life, Buffy had never felt safer than in those moments. Pulling back, Tara grinned and gave Buffy a playful wink, almost as if she had known what she was feeling. "You look after my girl!" Buffy yelled after Tara as she hopped into the passenger seat of the car. "I always do!" Tara yelled back as Willow revved the engine and, with a final wave, they disappeared into the distance.
A puncture, road works and a multitude of accidents on the freeway meant that it was almost 6 o'clock when they arrived back at home. "Blaze is going to be sooo mad!" Tara said as they pulled into the driveway. "She has a gig at 10, she'll never make it in time." they dragged their bags from the car and were met in the doorway, not by an enraged woman who was late for her job, but by the ever grinning Vince who swept them both into a hug before dragging their bags inside and ushering them into the living room.
Shortly after Willow and Tara had got engaged, Vince and Blaze had returned to the area but they still lived too far away, at least for Tara who resented having to drive over an hour to see him. "Lovers! ladies! How was your vacation?" he asked, sounding more like a ringmaster in the circus than a friend enquiring over a holiday. They beamed at each other for a moment, before turning back to him, their eyes shining with conspiracy. "You wouldn't believe us if we told you!" they giggled in unison. Vince, despite his urgency to find out all the gory details of their time away had left a little after an hour since their return. Willow looked exhausted and he knew that they would want time to re-bond with Miss Kitty and probably get an early night. Tara's constant yawning had confirmed this and he had excused himself in a flurry of thank you's.
As she pushed the door closed, and locked it behind Vince, Tara turned to Willow, who appeared to also have been pretending to yawn. A naughty grin spread over her face as Willows eyes met hers. "Let's go to bed!" she purred softly, grabbing Willows hand and dragging her into the bedroom.