Author: Jeanne (a.k.a. kindagay)
"Father, I wish to attend Prince Charming's ball."
"I beg your pardon?!"
Willow's statement came quite out of the blue and King Ira almost had to sit down rather heavily onto a chair, until, that is, it occurred to him that he was already sitting down, at which point he considered standing just so that he could sit back down rather heavily, but he decided that that would have been a pointless waste of energy.
"Well, of course you do." The King quickly tried to cover his initial shock. "All Princesses wish to attend grand balls, and of course it is essential that you do attend, to ensure that your marriage goes ahead as arranged."
"Yes, quite. I do however have certain conditions."
"Yes of course, anything you wish."
"Firstly, Tara shall accompany me; my Nurse shall escort us, so there is absolutely no need for you or mother to attend; and Alexander shall drive the coach."
"The stable boy? We have a perfectly good coachman Willow, I shall not entrust that, that boy with my best coach and horses."
"Then you should send word to Queen Gertrude that I shall not be attending the ball." Willow turned on her heel and began to walk away, at which point King Ira realised that he had been backed into a corner, he had no choice but to acquiesce.
"Wait, Willow, there is no need to be so hasty." Willow stopped, but kept her back to her father until he had said his piece. "Your demands are acceptable; Alexander may be your coachman for the evening."
The princess grinned to herself, finally turning to face her father once again, with one final request.
"And Tara shall need a ball gown."
"Of course, I shall have clothing made for both yourself and Tara."
"Thank you father."
"Father agreed to everything, I feel that our plan shall work out perfectly. Tara, my sweet, you are to have a new gown and shoes, and you may wear any of my jewels also. You shall look so very beautiful; in fact I dare say that you will look more like a princess than I." Willow skipped merrily around her room, gushing about her most favourite topic - the beauty of Tara.
"If only you could conjure quite so much enthusiasm about your own gowns and shoes princess." Elizabeth chuckled good naturedly.
"Gowns do not look beautiful on me nurse, they look awkward and uncomfortable."
"I think that you always look beautiful, Willow." Tara commented adoringly, her face lit up with a genuine, devoted smile.
At that moment, Willow wanted nothing more than to brush her lips softly against Tara's warm smile, and had Tara's mother not been present, she would have acted on that desire without a second thought. Instead, however, she replied with a heartfelt "Thank you", and made a mental note to kiss Tara at the first available opportunity.
"Well, I shall say this, it is rather refreshing to see you so happy about a visit from the dress maker; the prospect usually sends you hiding beneath your bed."
"It shall not be so much of an ordeal if Tara is there also. Nothing is an ordeal when Tara is there." The princess smiled as Tara looked away shyly, and a second kiss was added to her prior mental note.
A gentle tap on the door interrupted the conversation and Mister Giles, Willow's tutor, entered the room.
"So sorry to interrupt, it is however time for the princess's history lesson."
Willow gave a groan of displeasure, of all of her lessons she detested history the most.
"Come princess, I shall join you." Tara proposed, extending her hand to Willow, who eagerly accepted Tara's offer.
"Your father's great-grandfather's second cousin defeated the rightful heir to the throne of a small island in the far east, making him the first of your family to rule over a foreign country. Of course, his son and heir was over-thrown after only one years rule. Actually, that is quite an interesting story..." Mister Giles droned on about matters which, although they had occurred many years before his own birth, he - for reasons which were completely unclear to the princess - found terribly interesting and exciting.
"Is something troubling you my dove?" Willow whispered when she noticed that Tara was concentrating on the lesson less than herself.
"I am fine my princess. It is just that, I do wish that I really was attending the ball with you." Tara mused longingly, as she sketched a rough outline of two girls dancing closely together in the bottom corner of her writing pad.
"We shall attend many future balls together my dove, I promise. I may even host one in your honour, if you wish?"
"I hardly think that I deserve a ball Willow, besides, how ever would you convince your father to agree?"
"Father would be so pleased that I actually wanted to host a ball, that the reason for it would be quite unimportant to him. And you do deserve a ball Tara, you deserve many balls, when I am Queen, I shall host a ball in your honour every single day."
"That would be a very kind gesture Willow; however it would be quite unnecessary. Besides, you will have many important things to do, there would not be enough time for a ball every day, they do take an awful lot of planning after all."
"True, it does seem likely that I will have very little leisure time when I become Queen. I promise that I shall always make time for you though."
"I have no doubt that you will my sweet princess."
As Mister Giles cleared his throat impatiently, the girls fell suddenly silent. When the tutor was satisfied that he had the attention of both girls, he continued with the lesson.
"Tara?" Willow called softly, when Mister Giles was, once again, fully captivated with recalling the momentous events of the past. "Do you think that you would be able to, possibly, join me in my sleeping quarters this evening?"
"I am sure that that would not be a problem my princess." Tara smiled.
Not willing to wait any longer, Willow cast a brief glance towards the front of the room to ensure that Mister Giles had his back turned, before leaning over and pressing her lips against Tara's cheek in a gentle, chaste kiss.
Although it was not uncommon for Willow to spend the night in Tara's room, this night was the first of many that the Princess and Tara would spend snuggled closely together beneath warm, soft satin sheets, hidden safely behind the thick burgundy canopies surrounding Willow's large, mahogany four-poster bed.
On the third morning that the young sweethearts awoke, surrounded by the luxury of fine satin, and the bliss of each others warm embrace, their wake-up call came from a quite unexpected source.
"Princess Willow! Are you hiding beneath your bed again? If you are, I shall drag you out by your toes."
Willow sat up suddenly as the familiar voice of her dress maker's daughter shocked her into wakefulness.
"What is it Willow?" Tara mumbled, acutely aware of Willow's alarm, despite still being half-asleep.
"Buffy!" Willow exclaimed in a loud whisper. "Tara you must hide."
"We are hidden, the canopies are drawn."
"Do you really believe that that fact alone will deter Buffy?"
"Why are your drapes closed? Are you hiding from the spiders Princess? I thought you had out-grown that childish habit long ago."
"Buffy, uhm, wait outside whilst I dress." Willow practiced her most commanding voice, leaving no room for argument.
"Very well Princess." Buffy sighed dejectedly and walked out of the room.
"That was a little harsh my sweet."
"It was preferable to having her discover us sharing a bed, imagine if she mentioned something and my father found out. He would have you and your family banished. Tara, I could not bear it if you were sent away."
"Hush darling." Tara soothed, gently stroking her thumbs over Willow's cheeks. "I do not think that your father would do anything so harsh."
"Perhaps not. However, there is a reason why we draw the curtains around the bed, and, as well you know, it has nothing to do with spiders."
"Relax my sweet, everything shall be okay. Now, quickly, get dressed and join Buffy, I shall follow behind shortly."
Three generations of Summers' women had served as official royal dress makers and tailors, making suits and gowns for every member of Royalty to wear at a great multitude of events and occasions.
Joyce Summers had taken over from her own mother a short time before Willow's birth and had thus been called upon to make every single one of Willow's outfits and never before had she seen the Princess quite so enthusiastic about a dress. Willow had so many ideas about Tara's ball gown and she talked animatedly about how only the finest materials, threads and decorations would be acceptable.
"Do not forget child, this gown is meant for another, perhaps you should save your enthusiasm for the next dress." Elizabeth reminded the young princess.
"I just want her to have the finest in the world nurse, even if she will only be wearing it for a short time."
"Do you have so many ideas for your own gown Willow?" Joyce enquired as she noted down the Princesses measurements.
"I shall be satisfied with anything, just so long as it is not too uncomfortable." Willow answered nonchalantly.
"I do believe you have been telling me that same thing since you were five years old. Very well Princess, I shall make yours to compliment Tara's."
With measurements collected and armed with many ideas, Joyce set to work making two of the finest, most beautiful gowns she had made in her entire career as a dress maker.
Buffy sat at her mother's side, doing her very best to assist and to pay attention to exactly what her mother was doing, in the hopes of mastering the family trade. Unfortunately, Buffy Summers was not born to be a dress maker and her help was much more of a hindrance than anything else, and though Joyce was patient by nature, she was working to a rather tight schedule and so she suggested, rather exasperatedly, that Buffy join the rest of the children.
Buffy gave a small, silent sigh of relief - as would you have, if you had just been told that you did not have to stay cooped up inside on a beautiful spring morning - and joyfully made her way through the castle to join Willow and Tara in the gardens.