It is said that time is relative. After spending one year away from home, Tara Maclay sincerely believed this. The previous year had gone by with both agonizing slothfulness and incredible speed. It had all depended on what she was thinking about at the time. If Tara had only been totally focused on the job at hand, the year would not have seemed to go by so slowly. Unfortunately, she was not always entirely focused. Willow had wormed her way into her heart and thoughts, making some days drag on forever. On those days it was impossible to push those thoughts out of her head. If absence made the heart grow fonder, then Tara's heart was bursting. Her logical mind reasoned that she had only spent two days with Willow, but her heart didn't care. After leaving abruptly one year ago, Tara had done some serious soul searching. It had taken her months to realize why she was feeling so sad about leaving her "crush."
Yea, right. That was a good one, Maclay. Crush my ass. And it only took you three months to realize why you could barely breathe whenever you thought about her; even though by all accounts you should have been having an amazing time.
Tara had left one year ago on a private jet that had taken her directly to a beautiful estate owned by John Stevenson. For the first month, she had stayed in a gorgeous guest house training an amazing race horse, and getting paid handsomely for her expertise. After that month she had toured the United States with Mr. Stevenson and his horse, staying in the best hotels and dining in the best restaurants. This was the Holy Grail to any horse trainer, and yet whenever Tara had stopped working, even for a few minutes, her mind would quickly turn to thoughts of the beautiful red-head that she had given up any chance with. Regardless that she probably hadn't had any chance with her in the first place, it didn't make her heart break any less. Three months had passed when Tara had finally realized why she was in so much pain; why a glimpse of red made her heart skip a beat; why she couldn't look someone in their eyes if they were green.
Willow. I'm in love with Willow.
And of course, once you figured this out, you didn't jump on the first plane back to Sunnydale. You didn't take a chance and bare your soul. You just stayed there, training a horse. Real brave Tara, real brave.
Tara opened the front door of her house, what had once been David's home, and dropped her various bags on the floor. One month after leaving, Nate had helped Tara sell her old house and then had moved all of her belongings into David's. Nate had gone over everyday for the past year, feeding and taking care of her horses and Sparks. She had called him often, usually when she was in a ‘Willow' mood, as Nate had termed them, which hadn't lead to uplifting phone conversations for either party. But he had been there for her, surpassing all the requirements of a best friend. When Tara had called Nate after realizing the depth of her feelings, he had asked her a question. At the time, she hadn't known the answer, but now, one year after leaving, Tara knew with absolute conviction the answer was yes. Now, after all this time, Tara knew what she had to do. The shy blonde had never been one to take chances, but Tara understood that if she passed up this chance, another one might not ever come along. She would try to find Willow and tell her. That's all she could do, even if Willow didn't feel the same way, Tara had to know. The ambiguity of it all was slowly driving her mad. Nate's question reiterated itself in her mind everyday, and every night she asked the question again, always answering the same way.
If you had known that you loved her the day you left, would you have stayed? Would you have done things differently, and fought for her?
The answer was always the same.
Will you fight for her? Yes.
Willow was lying down in bed wearing green boxer shorts and a white t-shirt. She had an arm tucked behind her head and was gazing at the ceiling intensely, lost deeply in the recesses of her mind. Willow was thinking about a subject that occupied her mind most of the time when she wasn't working.
Love. It was a difficult emotion to identify, depending on the type of love it was, and there were many types. For example, Willow loved her parents. They were family, and she knew without a doubt that while she may not get along with them all of the time, she still loved them. Willow also loved Buffy. She had loved her almost since they had met. Buffy's outgoing personality had drawn Willow out of her tiny shell, and she was forever grateful to have the woman in her life. Of course, that was the type of love in a friendship, which happened to be much easier to identify than another type of love. This was the type of love that was the subject of Willow's musings most days, and yet her mind still did not understand. Her heart knew, but it was another matter entirely to convince her mind of anything. Willow was a genius, her IQ proved that. Yet this concept continued to elude her. She had an unanswered question, and it only served to further frustrate and torment her.
How do you know when you're in love?
It seemed a simple question by all accounts, but still Willow could not wrap her mind around it. She had been trying to figure out the answer for a year, ever since Tara had left. Willow had been miserable for weeks, but she didn't know why. A crush was one thing, but love? After four weeks of torturing herself, Willow had decided to stop. Her heart had screamed at her to realize what was going on, why she was so unhappy. But then her logical mind had stepped in and overruled her heart. Willow's mind told her that you couldn't fall in love with someone after only knowing them for a weekend; and so Willow had listened, telling herself it was for the best. The resolution her psyche had provided helped Willow to stay focused on school, and for that she was grateful. She once again found comfort in chemistry, and blocked out any lingering questions of loving devotion. It hadn't lasted though, and recently Willow had once again begun to entertain the same thoughts that had plagued her months earlier.
Willow was broken from her deliberation by a hand that now rested on her stomach. She turned her head slightly to the left and was greeted by the sight of a brown-haired woman sleeping soundly. She watched the woman and sighed quietly.
Love is a pain in the butt.
Willow had met Samantha Atwood six months ago. She had booked the emergency room nurse to guest lecture for her organic chemistry class, thinking that an inside look at all of the different ways chemistry can be applied might appeal to her class. When they first met, Willow had found her attractive. There wasn't that same spark she had felt with Tara, but the red-head couldn't deny that the brunette was beautiful. She had hazel eyes set in a well sculpted face; she was slightly shorter than Willow and had a petite body. It had almost felt wrong to think that Samantha was attractive; almost like she was cheating on Tara. But Willow had quickly forced these thoughts out. Tara had left; they hadn't even had a friendship, let alone a relationship which would cement these feelings. Willow had been utterly surprised when Samantha had asked her out for coffee after her class. She reasoned that she couldn't sit by and watch her life leave without her. Six months of pining after someone who obviously didn't feel the same way led Willow to accept the coffee invitation. It had been refreshing, in more ways than just the caffeinated beverages. Samantha had made her interest very clear; she liked Willow and she wanted to get to know her.
Six months they had been together now. Six months of trepidation on Willow's part and patience on Sam's. Until tonight. Willow loved Sam, she was sure of that. This love was what had driven Willow to letting Sam in to her life and her heart. This love was also the reason that Willow was still awake and thinking instead of sleeping like the woman alongside her. She let her thoughts drift to the one person her mind always seemed to find. Willow had tried not to think about Tara, but every day something reminded her of the beautiful blonde that had inspired feelings Willow could not figure out. It was her eyes. For the past year, Willow had tried to classify the color of Tara's eyes, and to her dismay (or was it pleasure), no color could be found. The sky, the ocean, they couldn't compare. Even now, sleeping in a bed next to the woman she had just been intimate with, Willow could not deny the images of Tara floating around her mind.
Love. Am I in love with Sam? I don't know. Am I in love with Tara? No, don't go there. She's out of your life. Sheesh, one year and you still haven't learned anything.
Her heart decided to take this time to reassert itself. You know, for such a genius, you really can be dumb.
Her mind tended to disagree. Nuh-uh.
Ooh. Well thought-out reply, oh highly intelligent brain.
Stop it. You're just trying to get me to think about something that I shouldn't be thinking about, shouldn't ever think about, and should never think about in the future.
Wow. Babble much? Look, you know what I'm trying to tell you, just admit it.
No. Who has all the grey matter around here? Just shut-up and let me figure this out for myself.
Yeah, because that's been going well for the past year.
Alright, that's enough of that. Damn futile discussions. Willow closed her eyes and told her mind and heart in a not so polite way to be quiet. She rolled over to her side of the bed, knocking the hand off of her stomach in the process. Her last thought before descending into unconsciousness, a thought that would be forgotten by morning either on purpose or by accident, was that if Tara was the one in bed next to her, she would have rolled the other way to be closer and not farther away.
"C'mon Tara, just this once."
"Don't make me do it Tara; I'll play the best friend card." Nate continued in a pitiful voice. "I took care of your farm for a year. I fed your animals. I listened to you pine for a certain red-head..."
"Alright, alright," Tara conceded.
"Great! So, I'll pick you up at seven. Oh, and wear something sexy. Ooh, maybe that red skirt with the-" click.
Tara hung up on Nate and went to her bedroom. It had been a week since she had gotten home, and Nate was driving her crazy in a way that only best friends could. For the past week he had been pleading for them to go somewhere, anywhere. Tara opened her closet and looked at the multitude of clothes begging to be taken out for a night on the town.
Well, at least Nate did have one good idea. Tara took out a red flowing skirt that went down to her calves. The slit up the right side showed a bit more flesh than she was used to showing, but Nate had played the best friend card. She picked out a black and blue v-neck long-sleeved shirt that matched her eyes. Throwing the clothes on the bed, she picked out a pair of black sandals and went to the bathroom to shower. Tara stripped off her clothes and stepped into the warm water streaming from the shower head. She showered quickly and dried herself off. Tara left the bathroom and threw on the clothes, pausing in front of her bedroom door to check herself in the mirror. She had to admit, the outfit looked nice.
Glancing at the reflection one last time, she opened the door and walked down the stairs. She grabbed a red leather coat out of the closet and stepped out the front door just in time to see a red pick-up truck pull up to the porch. Nate stopped the car and got out to look at Tara's outfit. He whistled suggestively and Tara lightly slapped him on the arm.
"Hey! I was just commenting on your outfit." He put a wounded look on his face and looked at Tara with puppy-dog eyes.
"Mm-hmm. Whatever you say Nate." Tara smirked and went around to the passenger side of the truck. She opened the door and stepped in as Nate did the same on the driver's side. Tara turned her head to look out the window. "So, where are we going?"
"You're gonna love it kid. It's in Sunnydale." He smiled slyly and looked over at Tara. She looked at him with wide eyes and then recomposed herself. Tara wasn't going to delude herself into thinking that she could run into Willow. She took a deep breath and looked out the window again.
The blonde willed herself to keep her voice steady. There was no point in worrying about Willow. The red-head probably didn't even go to clubs. "What's it called?"
"Are you almost ready Will," Buffy questioned from the bottom of the stairs. A disembodied voice floated down the staircase from Willow's room.
"Almost. I don't really see why we're going Buffy. I mean, I know I said I'd go, but I mean, we could just stay here. And there are lots of things to do here. We could watch a movie, and eat popcorn. Oh! And get sugared up on mochas." Willow continued to babble as she walked down the stairs and stopped in front of Buffy. She was wearing tight black jeans and a green shirt with no sleeves. The black boots she was wearing completed the ensemble. Willow looked pitifully at Buffy with pleading eyes. "What I mean to say is, I have a ton of work to do, and it's a school night." She ended quietly.
"Will, we're going. Those big eyes will not move me on the issue." Buffy smiled and pushed Willow out the door, pausing only long enough to grab her purse. The blonde opened the driver's side door and climbed in. Willow mirrored her movements and then gripped the inside of the door in preparation of Buffy's driving. Ten minutes later they were parked outside of The Bronze. Willow's fingers popped slightly as she released her tight grip on the door handle.
Both women left the car and walked up to The Bronze. They paid the cover and stepped inside. The two women were greeted by loud music coming from the band playing on stage. Buffy went to the bar to get their drinks while Willow fought the crowd to reach a table. She sat down and tapped her foot to the music, waiting for Buffy to return. With drinks in hand, Buffy left the bar and walked towards Willow, who was now standing up and frantically waving her hand to get Buffy's attention. The petite blonde smiled and sat down at the table. Willow grabbed her drink and took a sip. She closed her eyes for a moment and breathed deeply. An image of Tara appeared before her, as it did almost every time she closed her eyes. The red-head opened her eyes slowly, re-adjusting to the dim light of the club. She turned her head towards the entrance of the club and her jaw dropped as she took in the vision in front of her.
Tara and Nate walked into The Bronze, pausing to pay the cover. Tara looked around the club, taking in her surroundings. It was crowded, but there was still room to dance near the stage. Taking a quick look to the tables behind the crowd, she realized there were probably no empty places. Turning her head back towards Nate, she stopped momentarily as a glimpse of red grabbed her eyes. She almost dismissed it, thinking that it was just her mind playing tricks on her, but another look told her that this was not a product of her imagination. Fifty feet away was Willow, waving exuberantly to someone. Tara stopped breathing for a moment, her eyes glazed over slightly. The red-head looked even more beautiful than Tara remembered. Her tight black jeans showed off every curve perfectly and the green tank top showed off her midsection slightly. Tara's breathing returned as she started to take shallow breaths. Willow stopped waving and picked up a drink. Her mouth curled around the straw and sucked lightly. She saw Willow close her eyes for a moment, a small smile on her face.
Tara was startled out of her ogling by an exasperated Nate waving a hand in front of her face. "Are you alright Tara? You sort of spaced on me for a minute there."
Tara's eyes focused on the man that was now in front of her. "Willow," she sighed.
It only took that one word from Tara for Nate to realize what was going on. He looked at the place Tara had just been fixated on and saw a red-headed woman with wide green eyes, her jaw lowered almost to the point of hitting the table. Nate smiled, secure with the knowledge that the red-head obviously recognized Tara even after a year. He turned back to Tara and saw that his friend had already returned her gaze to Willow. The two women stood there for at least a minute, openly staring at each other. Finally, Tara decided to make the first move. She started to gravitate towards the table, almost as if an invisible force was pulling her there. She stopped five feet from Willow and stood there with her mouth hanging slightly open, trying to think of something to say.
"Tara," breathed Willow. Buffy barely heard what Willow had said, but smiled when she realized what was going on. Before either woman could utter a word, Willow saw something out of the corner of her eye that made her cringe. She quickly stood up and looked away from Tara. The blonde sighed sadly when she lost Willow's gaze and turned to look at what had distracted the red-head. Tara watched as a brunette walked through the crowd and stopped right in front of Willow, cutting in front of Tara in the process. The woman gave the red-head a kiss on the mouth and then pulled away, smiling widely. "Hey baby, what's going on?"