Willow couldn't believe what had just happened. Even with her genius intellect, she could not wrap her mind around all of the events of the past five minutes. After falling off the horse, she had landed on Tara; that she could understand. Gravity worked. It was after the fall that the events tended to become confusing. Tara had been lying below her, looking as gorgeous as ever. Her blonde hair cascaded atop the ground and her blue eyes catching her own in a piercing stare. Those eyes had made it so difficult to think, had even made it difficult to breathe. So it was without thought that she had leaned forward in an effort to finally satisfy an ache that had been building within her ever since she had seen Tara at the Bronze. If Willow was honest with herself, it was an ache that had been present even before then, since the first time she had met the blonde. She had been so close to seizing Tara's lips in a kiss, and then it had all gone wrong. Sam had been there, watching them, watching her. Sam had run away, and now Willow was running after her.
An hour after almost kissing Tara, Willow pulled up to her house only to find Sam on the front porch steps. She turned her car off and slowly opened the car door and stepped out into the sun. The walk to the stairs seemed to take forever as Sam never once looked up. The brunette had her head down, fiddling with her hands on her knees. Willow stood in front of Sam, afraid to speak. Sam lifted her head up and looked Willow in the eyes. For several moments she just looked at the red-head as if trying to understand something that she had before been unable to grasp. Finally finding the answer in Willow's eyes, she motioned for the red-head to sit down on the step beside her. Willow heard Sam take a deep breath. She opened her mouth to explain, but before she could Sam held up a hand, silently telling her to stop. She heard Sam sigh deeply.
"I really should have known weeks ago. You just seemed so different, so much happier. It was staring me in the face for weeks."
"Sam?" Willow asked softly.
"It's alright, Willow. I mean, I can't say that I'm happy about it. I love you, but I know now that we can't be together." Sam took a deep breath and continued. "We can't be together because you're in love with Tara, not me."
Willow's eyes grew wide as she heard the brunette's admission. "Sam, nothing happened! I mean, you were there, and there was an almost, but then you left, and I left too and..."
"Willow, you still don't understand, do you? Nothing had to happen. I could tell that you were in love with her just from the way you were acting. Hell, I think I even knew from that night at the Bronze, the way you looked at each other."
Willow's eyes widened even more as she realized something about herself, and in that instant everything seemed to make sense. Everyone else could see it, even her girlfriend. She was in love with Tara. She had been in love with her since the first day they met, but she had been too stubborn to admit it. "I'm sorry, Sam. I never meant to hurt you. I just-"
"Willow, I'd be lying if I said that this didn't hurt. But I'm smart enough to realize when two people aren't going to work. But you know as well as I do that even if Tara hadn't come along, we weren't a forever thing." She smiled softly. "It was a great six months Will, but I think it's time I left." Sam stood up and started to walk away, but then turned around and quickly gave Willow one last hug. The red-head squeezed back, loving Sam more now than she ever had, then they let go. She watched the brunette get into her car and drive away for the last time.
Willow sat back down on the steps and tried to sort through the torrent of emotions bubbling inside of her. She sat on the steps for hours, mulling over the events of the day, trying to identify everything going on inside of her. As the day turned into night, Willow was finally able to pinpoint the emotions she was feeling. Sadness, loss, disappointment, these were all present. But at the moment one emotion outshone any of the others; love. Very softly, Willow decided to finally admit something to herself. "I'm in love with Tara Maclay." It was as if saying it somehow made it more real, made her happier than she had ever been. In an act of total spontaneity, Willow jumped off the step and yelled at the top of her lungs, "I'M IN LOVE WITH TARA MACLAY!"
"AND I'M IN LOVE WITH SLEEP! SHUT UP!" A man yelled from next door. Willow's face turned bright red as she ran into the house. She found Buffy watching television on the couch.
"Will, you alright? I thought I heard your car before but you never came in. And did you just yell something?" Buffy sat up on the couch and gave her friend a perplexed look.
"Buffy!" She ran over to her confused looking friend and gave her a warm hug, picking her up and twirling her around in the process.
"Whoa, Will! The last time I saw you this happy was when you get a ninety-ninth percentile on your graduate entrance exams. What's going on?"
"I'm in love, Buffy! And not just with anyone. With a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed, kind hearted..."
"So, you finally realized you were in love with Tara, huh?" Buffy smiled brightly and gave Willow another hug. "Go call her right now and tell her how you feel, before one of you leaves for another year."
Willow gave Buffy a huge grin and leapt for the phone. She grabbed it off the hook and ran up to her room. The ecstatic red-head closed the door and flopped onto her bed. She dialed the numbers to Tara's house and smiled even more as she heard Tara pick up.
Tara woke up from her restless slumber after several hours. She dragged herself off the bed and went into the bathroom. After running the water for a moment to make sure the temperature was warm enough, she removed her clothes and stepped into the hot spray of the shower. Tara washed her face, trying to remove the remnants of the day she had experienced. She stood under the stream of water, feeling some of her muscles relax as the warmth worked into her emotionally exhausted body. She finished showering and dried herself with a thick towel.
Tara walked over to her closet and put on some jeans and a loose shirt. She went around the house doing her daily chores without any of her usually energy. She felt totally void of any emotion besides heartbreak. Sparks bounded up to the blonde as she entered the stables, but stopped short of jumping on her, instead choosing to sit on the ground and whine. Tara smiled sadly. Even Sparks can tell I'm depressed, she thought bitterly. She finished her activities and walked back up to the house. The blonde poured the black lab a bowl of food and then set about making dinner for herself. An hour later she pulled the chicken out of the oven and wrinkled her nose in disgust at the smell. She promptly stored it in a container for a time when she felt more confident in her ability to keep food down.
Tara went into the living room and sat down heavily on the couch. She let her mind remember the last time she had been truly happy. Willow had been sitting on the couch, with a cup of tea in her small delicate hands. Tara shook her head softly, trying to dispel any lingering thoughts of the red-head. Realizing that she wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything tonight, Tara picked herself up off the couch and walked towards the stairs, deciding to just go to sleep. Before she could reach the stairs however, her phone rang. She walked into the kitchen and picked it up without a second thought.
"Hello?" she answered softly.
"Tara? It's Willow."
"Willow," Tara breathed. Her voice caught in her throat and her eyes welled up with unshed tears.
"Tara, I have to talk to you. See the thing is-"
Tara interrupted her as she regained her voice. "Wait, Willow. Can you j- just let me t- alk?" She paused for a moment, making sure that Willow wasn't going to continue speaking. "I, I'm sorry. It's my f-fault things went as b-b-badly as they did. If I had just b-been able to c-control myself..." She trailed off and sighed before continuing. "You should know that I l-love you. I've b-been in love w-with you ever since we f-first met. And I'm o-only telling you this because I h-have to ask that you stop coming h-here."
Willow tried to speak, but was once again stopped by Tara. "P-please Willow. I know that you d-don't l-love me. Just please, don't s-say anything to m-make this hurt worse than it already d-does." Without another word, Tara hung up the phone and took a shaky breath. After several minutes, she was able to will her tears to stay behind her eyes and she resumed her trek up the stairs and into her bedroom. She dropped heavily on the bed, not even pausing to get changed into pajamas, and quickly fell into a disturbed sleep haunted by images of Willow turning away from her and running away.
Willow stared slack-jawed at the phone in her hand. What just happened? She silently asked herself the question. Tara had answered the phone and Willow had been so excited. Then Tara had asked her to stop talking and let her speak, so Willow had complied. And then... Willow's brain went over the conversation again. Oh my god. She said she loved me. She said she's in love with me! Willow reveled in the euphoric feeling that admission induced, until she remembered what Tara had followed that admittance with. She asked you not to go there again, to not make things harder then it already was. Oh no! She thinks I don't love her!
Finally realizing what had happened, she quickly dialed Tara's number again only to be met by an answering machine. She tried again and received the same result. Willow frantically jumped off her bed and ran down the stairs. She threw the phone back into the cradle and looked at the clock. It was already past midnight. Without a second thought, Willow snatched her keys off the counter and ran out the front door.