"I've got to say, I'm surprised Willow. I mean, you're just going to get over your fear, just like that?" Sam couldn't keep the skepticism from creeping into her voice. It wasn't that she didn't want Willow to face her fears; it's just that she was uneasy with who was going to be helping with said fears.
"I thought you'd be happy for me. It's not everyday that a girl gets the chance to remove cause for nightmares. At least if I get over this horse thing, and hopefully remove them from my dreams, then the tadpoles won't be able to get around so fast. Because, you know, the tadpoles aren't so scary if they're not riding ponies. Of course, they could still swim really quickly while the frogs attack from dry land... But that's not the point. I want to do this Sam. Why are you being so weird about it?" Willow took a deep breath and tried to block out the images she had accidentally introduced into her mind. Instead, she let her mind conjure up the image of that night at the Bronze; Tara so close she could almost feel her breathe, her head tilted and her lips so near to her own. Willow shook her head, trying to make that image go away as well. She couldn't deny the attraction she felt towards Tara, but Sam was a good person, and she loved her. Willow took another deep breath to calm her spinning mind.
"Fine, Willow. If you want to do this, go ahead. Far be it from me to express some concern. I just don't want to get hurt. I mean, you; I don't want you to get hurt." Sam decided to ignore the Freudian slip her mind had subtly worked into the conversation. Fortunately for Sam, so did Willow.
"I won't get hurt Sam. I'll be fine." Willow smiled, even though she knew Sam couldn't see it over the phone.
"Alright, Willow. I'll talk to you later. I love you."
"I lo-" she stopped herself, unable to let the words pass her lips this time for some reason. "OK, talk to you soon. Bye." Willow hung up and walked back over to her desk, opening her laptop and her books. If she was going to miss an entire Saturday to learn how to ride a horse, then she needed to get back to work.
"She likes you Tara," Nate insisted over the phone.
"Stop it, Nate."
"It's true kid. Her best friend told me." He stopped and thought for a moment. "Well, ok. She said that she probably did, or something like that. I don't really remember the exact wording."
"This is exactly what I'm talking about Nate! I'm not going to be a part of this he said, she said business. And besides, even if you're right, she has a girlfriend! A girlfriend for goodness sake! You know I would never..."
"I know Tara. I'm sorry, it's just, I can see it. You love her, and I hate seeing you hurting." In all the time Nate had known Tara, she had never really yelled, except for now. It had taken Nate all of ten seconds to decide to tell Tara about his conversation with Buffy. The reasoning was pretty simple; he loved Tara, especially a happy Tara. And what would make Tara happiest? The knowledge that the woman she'd been pining over for a year might actually return her feelings. In no scenario did he imagine that she would be angry with him for revealing this secret.
Tara sighed and lowered her voice. "I'm sorry Nate. Just drop it, okay? I'll deal with this, and it'll be fine. It's just some horse riding lessons." She sighed again and said her goodbyes. Just some horse riding lessons. Even her thoughts couldn't keep the sarcasm from those words. Tara had to admit to herself that had she been able to think more clearly that night at the Bronze, she doubt that Willow would be coming to her house tomorrow for riding lessons. When she asked, all she had been able to think of was Willow; talking with Willow, laughing with Willow, looking at Willow. Now all she could think about was Samantha. Thoughts of the woman, whom Tara believed was far prettier than herself, led to an ache in her heart. The previous gusto with which she returned to Sunnydale was nowhere to be found. Her plans to tell Willow of her feelings gone, crushed with the appearance of the beautiful brunette. Even if she does like you, it doesn't matter. You know that breaking up a relationship is wrong. Just don't even go down that road.
Tara knew it wasn't that simple. It did matter if Willow liked her. It meant hope, but unless Willow was planning on leaving her girlfriend, then that hope was pointless. Tara put the phone back in its cradle and left the house. She walked towards the stables and opened up her horse's stall. Damon was a beautiful animal; dark brown, almost black, with a single white streak that ran down his snout. The horse had been a going away present from her parents. He had been a small foal then, but now he was full grown and the best horse Tara had. She grabbed a brush from the bucket outside the stall and began to lovingly brush him down. Her thoughts once again easily drifted to Willow, though they didn't have to travel too far; the red-head was never too distant from her contemplations.
"Alright, Willow. The first thing we have to d-do is get you used to b-being near a horse. Are you r-ready?"
Willow nodded her head slowly, petrified and excited at the same time. She took a deep breath as she took in the sight before her. The horse was huge, or at least it looked huge to Willow. She nodded her head again and looked at Tara. Tara met her gaze and, without thinking, softly took the red-head's hand. Willow looked down for a moment at their now clasped hands and then looked back into Tara's eyes. Tara smiled and took a step forward. She waited a moment to allow Willow to follow and then took another small step. Several moves later, they stood in front of the horse. Tara lifted Willow's hand and moved it near the horse's snout.
"This is Damon. He's the best horse I have. I p-promise, he's very sweet." Tara looked at Willow before continuing. "Just flatten your h-hand and allow him to g-get acquainted with you." Willow did as Tara instructed and reached her hand towards the horse's nose. She almost withdrew it as she felt the animal's breath across her palm, but gritted her teeth and steadied her hand. Tentatively, as if the horse was just as wary of Willow, he nudged his snout forwards.
"I'm scared to move," Willow admitted. Tara took a firmer grip on Willow's hand and moved their joined hands up and down across Damon's muzzle. After several moments of letting Willow get used to being near the horse, Tara let go of her hand. She took a step back and just watched for a moment, admiring the way Willow had warmed to the horse. Tara walked over to the fence and took off the saddle and bridle she had placed there. After a few more minutes of letting Willow become used to being around Damon, Tara showed her how to put on the bridle and the saddle.
"How are you d-doing?"
"Oh my gosh! I pet a horse! And, and I was scared at first, but now I'm ok. And I pet a horse!" Willow jumped up and down excitedly and then grabbed Tara in a tight hug. "Thank you so much!" Tara didn't move, afraid that if she did Willow would release her immediately. The two women stood there holding each other for longer than they probably should have, and then Willow let go and stepped back. She smiled sheepishly at Tara, her eyes sparkling with happiness.
"You don't have to thank m-me Willow. You're the one who d-did it." Tara smiled. "So, are you r-ready to try riding?"
Willow's bright smile dropped slightly as she realized that she would have to actually ride a horse. Willow nodded her head slowly and moved beside the animal. Tara moved to her side and put one hand on Willow's waist. She put her other hand on the stirrup and told Willow to lift her left leg and put her foot into the hold. Willow did as Tara said and then stopped moving, awaiting Tara's next instruction. Tara's grip tightened on Willow's waist as she motioned for Willow to push off the ground and settle onto the horse's back. The red-head jumped off the ground and used her left foot to throw her other leg over the horse. Once she was atop the animal, she finally realized how high up everything looked; she started to panic.
"Tara, I can't do this. It's too high, and I'm gonna fall, and please just get me down," Willow pleaded.
"Willow, would it h-help if I was up there with you?" Tara was proud of how far Willow had gotten, but she wanted her to feel comfortable on the horse. She was afraid if Willow left now, she wouldn't be able to get back on. Willow squeaked out a yes and Tara swiftly pulled herself up onto the horse, settling in behind Willow. Both women let out a soft sigh at the feeling. Tara's thighs molded around Willow's hips. She slid forwards and grabbed the reigns, pressing them into Willow's hands. After showing her the correct hand position, Tara let go of the reigns and put her hands on the outside of Willow's.
"Alright, I'm just going to stay back here and help you l-learn to guide Damon around." Willow breathed a sigh of relief and tried to relax. That task proved to be difficult as her mind was clouded due to being so close to Tara. Tara was in a similar state. She tried to stay calm, but inside she was going insane. The feeling of Willow's hips was breaking her concentration. She breathed deeply and showed Willow the commands for guiding Damon. After twenty minutes, Tara felt that Willow was doing well enough that she could try alone. After making sure that the red-head would be alright, Tara dropped to the ground and walked over to the fence. By the end of the lesson Willow was able to walk Damon around the ring. She jumped off the horse and ran over to Tara, once again enveloping her in an embrace. This time, Tara wrapped her arms around Willow and squeezed her back.
"You did so g-great, Willow!" Tara smiled brightly and squeezed Willow again. She released the red-head reluctantly and walked over to Damon. Tara ended the lesson by showing Willow how to brush the horse and put him away in his stall. The blonde walked Willow to her car and they agreed to meet the next Saturday at the same time. Tara sat down on the porch swing and tilted her head back, resting it on the edge of the swing. Willow had been so adorable all day, it had taken all of Tara's restraint to not grab the red-head and kiss her senseless. She sighed deeply and contemplated telling Willow to not come next Saturday. As much as Tara loved seeing her, it was difficult to spend so much time with Willow and stay in control. But Tara knew that she would never give up the time she had with her. She loved her too much.
Several weeks passed, and Willow went to Tara's every Saturday. Willow was the happiest Sam had ever seen her. Every time they talked, Tara came up one way or another. It was always something Tara said, or a funny story Tara told Willow. And it wasn't only Sam that noticed the changes in Willow. Buffy saw it too. Her best friend was happier than she had ever been, and Buffy knew the reason. It wasn't until the morning of Willow's fifth lesson that Buffy decided to tell Willow about her conversation with Nate. She had been keeping the secret the entire time, afraid that it could somehow hurt Willow. Of course, seeing the changes in her friend made her think that she had been stupid to keep the secret this long. Willow was making coffee, getting ready to drive to Tara's for another lesson. Buffy poked her head into the room, watching as Willow sat down at the table with her coffee. The red-head just stared straight ahead and nursed her drink. Buffy walked into the kitchen and sat down in the chair across from Willow. Willow's eyes focused on her friend and waited for Buffy to talk.
"Will, there's something I need to tell you. I-" Buffy stopped talking for a moment, trying to gather her thoughts. After several moments of trying to find a way to say what she came down there to say, Buffy realized it didn't matter. "Tara's in love with you," Buffy blurted out.
Willow spit out the mouthful of coffee all over the table. She tried to breathe but only succeeded in choking slightly. "What?!" Willow squeaked.
"She's in love with you Willow. Her best friend told me. She's loved you since she went away." Buffy looked at Willow, trying to gauge the emotions on her face. Willow's mouth was opening and closing and she looked very similar to a guppy. After taking a breath, she was finally able to speak.
"He, he told you this? That night at the Bronze?"
Buffy nodded her head. "I didn't mean to keep it a secret for so long Will. I just, I didn't know if I was supposed to. I'm sorry, Willow." Buffy looked away from Willow, almost ashamed to look into her eyes.
"It's alright, Buff," Willow said softly. She paused a moment, before asking a question. "Why did you decide to tell me now?"
"Honestly Will? You just seem so happy, and I thought if Tara was the reason for you being so happy, then you should know. I guess I'm trying to say, if you were to say something to her, then this information might make it a little easier." Buffy sighed and looked at her best friend. "What are you going to do?"
Willow returned the look and took a breath before answering. "I don't know what to do Buffy. I just, I don't know what to do."