Return to Close your Eyes and Dream Chapter One, Part One

Close your Eyes and Dream

Author: Irene (Hot Tamale) La Cucaracha... La Cucaracha... na na... na na... na na... na! Arriba!!!
Feedback: Y porque no? Come on mi gente...this is the transfer of part of the output back to input: a response. I'm begging please, pretty-pretty please.
Pairings: Hot and Dog...French and Fry...Ham and Burger...Kool and Aid...Mexi and Can...Arroz con Pollo...Hot and Tamale...oh allright... ... W/T...X/A...B/D.
Spoilers: Usually happens when you leave food in the refrigerator too long. And then one day you walk into your home and realize that there's a funky smell. You say to yourself, "I took a shower." You begin to worry that a mouse has found its way inside, behind some appliance, usually the refrigerator. As you get closer to inspect, you realize the stench is coming from inside the refrigerator, so you open the door, rummage around, and find the 6 month old pastrami you were looking for 5 ½ months ago to make yourself a nice sandwich. It looks green, but despite that you lift it up to your nose and smell it anyway, dumb move, and gag. You curse yourself for spending almost $7.00 on the darn thing, but go out anyways and get yourself a new package because now your craving pastrami. No spoilers...AU with a cannon twist.
Ratings: From sweet angelic love to hot monkey spanking...eventually. A few naughty words and phrases, nothing kittens can't handle.
Disclaimer: Mrs. Butterworth belongs to her mama and the syrup makers. Unfortunately BtVS characters belong to the cretins at Me, Fox, to JW, WB, UPN, DNA, FBI, CIA, LAPD, NYPD, UN, etc...etc...etc. I'm a poor girl, the only thing I have left is my dignity and sadly, I think I gave that la vie!!!
Distribution: Anyone wishing to distribute my goods, sorry your too late, I think I gave those away too. Just let me know where I'm ending up...incase I need a ride home.
Author's Note: Pre-posey = The dating period prior to the guy/girl giving the guy/girl flowers. Again I want to give my sincerest thanks to my partner in crime, the other half of The Dynamic Duo, 1/3 of Las Chicas Locas (The Insano Triplets), my beta...Watson...Watson stand up and take a bow...*Cheers, hoots, and hollas*...okay sit down.
This marvelous and magnificent kitten, beta'd my little fic while she had the flu...what a trooper...except she didn't tell me, but I found out anyways. are the wind beneath my wings...just please, no more Celine Dion...don't you know she's evil incarnate? You encourage me with your thoughtful words and honest replies. Thank You.
Thoughts in Italics.
Flashbacks will be clearly marked "Flashback and End Flashback".
Emphasis on words in bold.

And think not you can
Direct the course of love,
For love,
If it finds you worthy,
Directs your course.
~Gibran Kahlil Gibran~

Hues of orange and red glazed over a blue sky as the sun ascended high over the small coastal town of Sunnydale California, illuminating the Pacific Ocean with its shimmering light. Its residents beginning a brand new day.

Some dressed in their Sunday "finest" headed off for worship services, while others decided that a beautiful, clear, warm, Spring day, such as today, should be taken full advantage of.

he smell of fresh cut grass, as lawnmowers were pushed and pulled in perfect straight symmetrical lines, permeated the air. In surrounding neighborhoods children happily ran wild on grassy lawns and on sidewalks venturing off creating endless memories of adolescence..."I'll race ya!!"..."My bike is faster!!"..."Can Watson come out and play?"..."Carleen that's my Barbie. Give it Back!!"..."Hey guys there's Jeanne with that new girl that just moved into the old Smith place, I think she said her name was Amber-she's pretty."..."Yeah!!"

A beam of sunlight broke through a small crack in the curtains of her small bedroom. She felt its warmth splayed across her face. She squinted her eyes as they fluttered open. Groaning and flipping over onto her back she raised her arms above her head allowing her body to stretch and relieve the tense muscles of a fitfull night. She let out a deep yawn and began to rub the sleep away from her tired eyes. Rolling her head to the left, she caught a glimpse of the time displayed on her alarm clock on her nightstand. W-wow 7:00am already...oops.

It had taken her quite a while to get to sleep the previous night. Her dreams of a past challenged her rest. Although not as frequent as when she was younger, they still made their presence felt and would not disappear.

"D-daddy can we have an aquarium with lots and lots of g-guppies and goldfish and lots of plants and colorful r-rocks and-"..."Off course Tare Bear. We can even go to the beach and pick out some seashells...wadda ya say darling?"..."Oh Yes!!"

"Hey you two, knock it off!! It's time for bed. Tara go back to your own room."..."It w-wasn't us D-daddy."... "Then who... Tara...David?"..."Um, well a strange k-kid came through D-david's window and told us to be quiet while he j-jumped on his bed...honest daddy."..."Tare Bear, you silly girl. I love you sweetheart, lies and all."

"Hey daddy, dinner's ready. Dad...D-daddy...D-DADDY...Please Daddy w-wake--!!"

Tara gasped as she sat up, still breathing raggedly, and wiped off a light sheen of moisture that had gathered above her lip and on her forehead. She was shivering, frightened as the echoes of her desperate voice thundered in her mind. She tried to regain some semblance of composure. Clad in memory of happier times, her mother's soothing voice filtered through. Achingly slow she rose up and headed towards the kitchen. After brewing herself a cup of herbal tea, she drank it slowly, allowing its warmth to slowly filter through her tense body, stripping away the harsh memories.

As sleep once again began to consume her, the tension from the dream was replaced by a feeling of anxiousness from anticipation of tomorrow's outing.

Her brother David's co-workers, Xander and Anya had called the night before and invited them both for a day at the beach with their friends. She met Xander and Anya when she picked up David after work one day and had taken an instant liking to the couple.

David eagerly accepted knowing that Buffy would be there. He'd been smitten with her since that night he had gone out to a local club "The Bronze" with her, Xander, and Anya, and had been talking about this petite blond, non-stop ever since. Xander also mentioned that one of their childhood friends had come down from Boston and would be joining them.

Something about tomorrow, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.

Tara smiled as she took in a deep breath. The scent of vanilla, cinnamon, and a dash of mom's secret ingredient wafted through the air signaling another pancake Sunday morning, a constant in Tara's life as far as she can remember. Life would always bring changes; children grew up, parents got older, people came and went, however the innocent child that still resided in Tara's heart would always know that this is one aspect of her young life that would always offer her a sense of security, warmth, and reassurance of familiarity.

"Okay lazy, time to get up," she said stifling a yawn as she sat up, "T-time to get ready and h-help Mom with breakfast."

Tara tossed the comforter and sheets to one side, extricating herself. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and slid into her fuzzy black and white kitten slippers. She stood up and paused to stretch her back. She bent her elbows and placed her palms on her lower back arching a bit, Ooo...why do I feel so tense? Maybe a hot shower would help.

She walked over to her desk chair and grabbed her robe, where she had draped it over its backrest the night before. She slipped it on and made her way over to her bedroom door. Wrapping her fingers around the doorknob, she turned and pulled it open. Tara screeched, rattled in surprise to find her brother on the other side of her door standing in the hallway, fist in the air, just about to knock.

David greeted his sister with a wide goofy grin. "Good morning, good morning let the sunshine in. The birds are singing and the flowers are in bloom. Good morning, good morning let the sunshine in. Where-" his song suddenly interrupted by his sister.

"Oh, David you're such a dork. Good m-morning silly!" Tara said, giggling at her brother's cute antics. She walked over to him and embraced his 6'frame and deposited a sisterly kiss on his cheek.

"Morning sunshine," he replied. "Mom just wanted to know if you were up already. It's 7:00am young lady. You're usually up by 6:00am. What gives?" David asked as he followed Tara down the hallway.

Tara turned and faced her brother. "You stay out here, me g-go in there," she said pointing in the direction of the bathroom.

"Yeah, like I'd want to be in there, when you're using the facilities...ewww!!!"

"Brothers...ughh," she said rolling her eyes as she closed the door.

"So, what's with the late-itude?" he shouted through the door.

"I d-didn't sleep well last night. It's weird David, but I've been having this f-feeling that today won't be like any other normal know? I guess maybe cos' you asked me to 't-tag along' with you today. It kinda makes me feel like the useless member of their group." No need to worry him about my dream.

David's sigh could be heard from the other side of the door. "Tara you're not 'tagging along' and you're not like some 'zeppo'. Xander and Anya invited us both. Anya seemed especially eager that you come along...something about balancing the 'coupl-y' scales. I don't know what she meant by that," he said. "We've been in Sunnydale for what...two months now? You hardly ever leave the house, except to go to school, tend the gardens and run errands. It's a beautiful day Tare, you love the beach, it's Spring Break, the day is perfect, and the swells are at 4-5 feet. Okay, so that last piece of information was more for my benefit. So no spending time indoors today...okay? Who knows, you might even meet a potential hottie."

"I highly d-doubt that David. I guess I'm just n-nervous knowing that I'm gonna be around your friends today. Though I am looking f-forward to meeting...what w-was her name...BUNNY?" she said smirking through a mouth full of toothpaste. Tara reached for the knobs of the faucet and turned both the cold and hot water on. She dipped her toothbrush under the water, wiped off the excess toothpaste and placed it back in its holder. She grabbed a small disposable Dixie cup, filled it up with water, and rinsed her mouth, Ahh...minty fresh.

David's laugh echoed through the hallway. "Bunny," he whispered to himself, still chuckling. "That's a good one Tare. And yes BUFFY will be there, as well as their friend who flew down from Boston. Buffy's really nice. I'm sure the two of you will get along pretty well. And Xander told me that...What was her name? Hmm?... Let me remember...oh yeah like the tree...Willow is really nice too."

Willow ... that's an unusual name ... I mean, Buffy and now Willow, may be you need to have an interesting name to be in their gang... "She's the one that flew down from B-boston...right?" Tara inquired.

"Yeah. Now will you HURRY UP!!" David shouted, pounding the door with his fist, startling Tara. "What are you doing in there? Retiling the floor?"

Startled and gripping her chest, "That w-wasn't very nice David," Tara yelled , hearing the faint sounds of the floorboard as bare feet padded down the hallway. "Payback's no fun!!"

Victoria Maclay and her two children, David 24 and Tara 21, moved to Sunnydale a little over two months ago from their old home in San Diego California, where they were born and raised.

About 3 months ago Victoria had heard about a great job opportunity working for the city of Sunnydale, as an Administrative Assistant for The Department of Building and Safety. She submitted her resumé online, and within that same week she was contacted by the city's Human Resources Department and an interview was set up.

David drove his Mom to Sunnydale the day of her interview. He took the opportunity, while his mom met with The Building and Safety's Manager, to take a drive around the small town. He noticed that the city was in major development. New houses were being constructed; buildings and new business were also being erected.

He stopped at a construction site and spoke to a young man, about his age and height about the "Help Wanted Sign". He talked about his previous work experience as an apprentice electrician and in dry wall. The young man, who introduced himself as Xander Harris, smiled and suggested he see his supervisor.

Impressed with his work experience and qualifications, the man offered him a position on the spot. "We're really in need of experienced workers. Our lead electrician is 3 men short, and from what you tell me, I'm sure you'll do just fine. Xander, please take him to go see Anya and have her give him an application to fill out,"

"Sure thing boss man." Xander lead David towards the trailer that also served as the main office. Entering Xander gave the lady there an endearing smile, "Anya, may I have a job application please. This is Anya, she runs payroll and also serves as our Human Resources Representative."

"Hello there burly man. Make sure you write neatly. I don't go for any of that messy writing non-sense. I wouldn't want to 'accidentally' make your check out to 'Davis Mac-n-cheese,'" she stated pointing a finger in his direction.

"Ahn," Xander warned. " We want him to work here, not scare him away...okay?" Turning to David, "I don't know how I put up with her 24/7."

David raised one eyebrow at his new friend. "Your shifts are this long?" he asked.

"Oh no. Anya and I are engaged," Xander explained.

"And you love it Xander Harris." Anya gave a fake smile to David, "Welcome to C.W.I Construction. We welcome your hard labor. Please take my pen and have a seat at the table for your comfort while filling out the application."

Xander sighed and shook his head in defeat, knowing his fiancé was outspoken and blunt. "So you say your mom is interviewing for the Department of Building and Safety? I know Jesse Palacios. He's really a great guy. I'm sure your mom will do just fine and get the job. Can you start in two weeks?"

"We'll need to call Tara right away and give her the good news David. I'm so proud of you sweetheart."

"I'm proud of you too Mom...CONGRATULATIONS!" he exclaimed giving her a tight bear hug. He opened the passenger door for her as she got in. "So when do you start?"

Strapping in her seatbelt she replied, "Two weeks. Enough time to put the house up for sale, and get a real estate agent to help us look for a new home. Also we'll need to help Tara transfer her school transcripts to the local University. With this new job sweetheart Tara won't have to worry about working part-time anymore. She'll be able to concentrate on her courses more. And did I mention the great benefits package...things are finally looking up for us again," she sighed as she thought about starting a new life. She looked down sadly at her hands, neatly folded on her lap remembering the hardships her family had gone through. Tears of joy and sadness mingled as they fell freely on her porcelain face.

One week and three days later the Maclay's moved into their new 3 bedroom, Spanish style home. Immediately Tara fell in love with the small house. It was cozy. Not too big, just right. As soon as she entered the house she noticed that the living room and dining room areas were in the same quarters, the small kitchen was to the left of the dining room, separated only by an "L" shaped tiled counter that served as an eating area as well. To the left of the living room was a door that led to a small hallway. Immediately to the right, once entering the hallway, was the laundry room, a bit further down, the only bathroom, across from the bathroom was David's room and at the end of the hallway the master bedroom and Tara's room. The whole house had new hard wood flooring which made Tara think about the different style of area rugs she and her mother would have fun in choosing. Certainly could use lots and lots of candles. Ooo, and some plants from the garden!

What Tara loved most about her new home was, without a doubt, the outside structure and gardens. The house had stucco siding with red terra cotta roof shingles. This was the kind of home that brought cool comfort on warm days, and toasty coziness on cold nights. Though modest, the house held a charm and warmth that enveloped Tara and gave her a sense of belonging.

However the two small patches of gardens, in the front and on the side of the house, held a special place in Tara's heart. The previous owners had pain-stakingly designed these small oasis as an extension of the home's personality, with a strong emphasis on native Californian plants placed in natural environment groupings for casual use and pleasure.

Tending to the gardens brought Tara's soul inner peace and a sense of calmness. She felt great pleasure and satisfaction of loving and participating in nature's abundant beauty. Gardens, like love, symbolize an ethic of giving and receiving. If you tend to it, respect it, get involved and appreciate its beauty, it will flourish. And what is reciprocated are wonderful seasonal colors and smell, and occasional wild life to continue its life. If love were only that simple. Forget to tend to it or just one day decide to give up and leave it, will it still have a chance to grow?

After a quick shower, Tara entered her room, her wet hair wrapped up in a towel and clad only in her bathrobe. She closed the door softly behind her and began to towel dry herself. Once dry, she walked over to her dresser, pulled open a drawer, locating her bra and matching panties, she pulled them out. She walked over to her closet and grabbed her outfit for today's beach trip. Flip-flops for the beach, stylish pretty sandals for now. She quickly got dressed, picked up the dirty towel and her robe off the floor and placed them in her laundry hamper.

She stood in front of her mirror and contemplated wearing her hair up in a tight bun or just letting it hang naturally loose. Well it is going to be warm today. I'll wear it up and let a couple of strands fall loosely around my face. She picked up her brush and a few bobby pins. She ran the brush through her hair, and with a final twist of her bun and a spritz of hairspray, she was ready. She took a moment to look at herself in the mirror. I don't remember ever putting this much thought and effort into my hair. And hairspray, when was the last time I used hairspray. It's official, I've gone insane.

From down the hallway Tara heard her Mom calling out to her. "Tara, darling...aren't you coming to breakfast?"

She walked over to her door and opened it. "I'm just f-finishing making the bed mom. I'll be r-right there."

"Hurry before David decides that your portion will soon become his. You know how much he eats when he's nervous."

He's not the only one. "Okay Mom. D-david step away from my pancakes!!" she yelled, giggling and mock admonishing her brother. She placed her special plush "Tare Bear" toy against her fluffed pillows and headed off for the kitchen.

Tara made her way down the hallway, passed the living room and into the cozy kitchen. She turned and saw David and her Mom sitting at the dining room table. David was leaning back on his chair, patting his stomach, sporting a gluttonous smirk. "You know David, you c-could easily go from 165 pounds to 200 if y-you d-don't stop eyeing my pancakes."

"It'll be worth it. More of me to love."

Tara laughed walking the short distance to the kitchen cabinet above the counter. She opened the door and grabbed a plate from the shelf. She closed it and made her way over to the sink and retrieved a clean glass from the dish rack. Moving towards a small drawer, she slid it open and picked-up her utensils.

Victoria Maclay felt a familiar hand on the nape of her neck. She looked up from her paper and smiled lovingly when she saw her daughter. "Good morning Bear," she sing-songed. "I missed my helper this morning. David had mentioned that you didn't sleep very well last night. Everything okay?"

Tara leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her Mom's cheek. "G-good morning Mom," she replied quietly as she sat down. "I'm s-sorry I slept in. And I'm f-fine. Just a little anxious about meeting D-david's friends today, that's all," she said with a shrug of her shoulders and a barely audible sigh.

Mothers. If there was one thing they knew very well was when they're children were lying through their teeth. Okay, one second she's playfully teasing David and then the mere mention of last night and It's sulk city. Time to investigate, mommy style. "Here you go darling," she said passing the platter stacked with pancakes and eyeing Tara expectantly.

Tara took her customary 3 and placed them on her plate. She spotted the butter, grabbed her knife, and cut out a small square piece smearing it smoothly over the top of her pancakes. Sneaking a quick glance over at her mom, Tara finally put down the knife, and sighed. "What?"

"You're a terrible liar," Victoria stated as a matter of fact.

Tara stiffened. "David, can you please p-pass the syrup?" she turned to face her mother and expected to find her glaring, but all she saw was a face that held no judgment, only quiet concern.

"You know, eating too much of this stuff is not very healthy for you. Don't you know that Diabetes is fast becoming a health epidemic? And think of what it will do to your thighs. How will any girl ever notice you Tara? Think of all that exercise-" David rambled on.

"David Maclay Jr., stop teasing your sister. Or I'll have to encourage her to tell...what is her name Tara?... Bunny?...Yes Bunny- that a certain young man's favorite movie is Beaches," both women chuckled having a bit of fun.

"I ONLY WATCHED IT BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT SURFING!! Who knew it would turn out so good," he pouted and dropped to a whisper. "And by the way dear OLD mother, you know, Tara used that similar lame joke this morning. I have to admit, it was funny then. But we're in the now, and the now? Not so much with the funny. You gotta catch up Mom, time is slipping you by."

"So what about the c-countless other t-times you've seen the movie. I'm sure that by tenth time you've seen it, you must have known that it had nothing to do with surfing," Tara stated as she saw David turn and shoot daggers out of his eyes.

"We're just teasing David," his mother said gently, covering his hand tentatively.

"Fine. Go ahead, make with the teasing. But I live here too. And on more than one occasion I've caught Tara in various embarrassing predicaments. I've got stories...oh yes plenty of 'em. Hey Tare wasn't that you with Mom's Stevie Nicks' CD blaring in your bedroom when you were 17, holding up your curling iron 'mic', pretending to be the next 'American Rock Star'?"

"You w-wouldn't."

David stood up from his chair and grabbed a spoon using it as a microphone. He held it up, cleared his throat, and began to sing. "Stand back, stand back. In the middle of my room I did not hear from's's allright. You'll be standing in a -" He swung his hips from side to side, tossed his head back then snapped it back to its upright position. He twirled and sashayed his other hand and finally held his hand up, pointing at his sister. And with a final thrust of his hips, he belted, " la... la la la."

As much as Victoria loved her daughter, the sight of her son imitating Stevie Nicks proved to be too much. She was holding her sides from the fit of giggles that consumed her. A small tear escaped and ran down her cheek.

Very calmly Tara stood up and reached across the table for the syrup. She sat back down on her chair and took a quick look over at her mother and then at her brother. With an expressionless face she began to pour a very generous amount of Mrs. Butterworth over her stack of pancakes. Replacing the cap back on the top, she set the syrup down, grabbed her fork and knife, cut out a good size portion and stuffed it into her mouth, allowing a little syrup to escape and travel down the side of her mouth, to her chin. "Mmmmm...G-GWOOD PONCAPHFF," she somehow managed to say as she chewed and swallowed her last morsel. "Straight to my t-thighs and very much w-worth it!!"

"Very classy Tara," David mocked indignantly. "Okay, so if you're through increasing your waist size, I'm gonna start loading up the truck. I don't want to be tardy, it's never a good thing committing the eighth deadliest sin. Mom...are my boards still in the garage?"

"Look who's t-talking?" Tara challenged.

"Okay you two. That's enough. I don't get paid for being a referee, so...enough! David I believe your boards are still in the basement. Are you planning on taking anything else?"

"Besides hefty over there."

"David," Victoria warned. "I was thinking about whipping up a quick chicken and fruit salad while you're loading up the truck and getting ready?"

"Sorry...sorry. The chicken and fruit salad sound great. Xander did say they're grilling burgers and stuff. I was planning on stopping by the market and grabbing chips and soda. But I'm sure they'll love the salads. Thank you Mom," he said walking over, wrapping his strong arms around her waist, lifting and twirling her in the air. "You're the best-est!"

An idea struck Tara. "Hey David, maybe you should b-buy Buffy some f-flowers when we get to the s-store."

"You don't think it's too soon?" he questioned putting his mom down. "I mean, I've only gone out with her once. And that was on a double-date with Xander and Anya. You don't think it's 'pre-posey'?"

"It's n-never too soon. She'll l-love the gesture. I promise," Tara said smiling. She stood from her chair and began to clear the table.

David walked over and ruffled her hair. And the greatest sister award goes too..."Thanks Tare," he said sincerely.

"You're welcome. Let me just help mom wash these dishes and prepare the food. I'll start getting m-my stuff r-ready. It shouldn't r-really take me too long."

"All right. We've got some time. They said to be there at 10:00am. I'll be outside. Let me know when we can get the show on the road."

Tara nodded and watched her brother walk out the back door. She turned and placed the breakfast dishes in the sink. "I'll w-wash, you dry," she told her mother.

"Okay, but after that I need you to go and get ready," she raised her hand to stop Tara's protests. "I'll prepare the food. Today, you young lady, are going to have some well-deserved fun. Don't think I've forgotten about you not being able to sleep last night."

"I had a d-dream about D-daddy," a slight frown emerged and Tara furrowed her brow "And I c-can't get this n-nagging feeling that today, something...I don't know... extra-ordinary, life changing, is about to happen. So I'm a bit p-panicky."

Victoria placed a comforting arm around her daughters shoulder. "So many thoughts running through your busy mind, Tara. I know you miss your dad, we all do." Victoria closed her eyes and took a small shuddering breath before she continued, tears threatening to spill. She thought about her husband often, sometimes crying herself to sleep. She never wanted her children to see her so emotional, she just couldn't bring herself to remind them of that time; she had to carry on, had to be the strong one, especially in their presence, she needed to comfort them. It was over, there was nothing more she could do. Memories alone would always get her through the toughest days. "What happened was not your fault. And to some extent it wasn't his. I know you still hold resentment towards him, and I'm hoping that one day you'll be able to forgive him. He always loved you Tara. Since the moment he first laid eyes on you he knew you were his 'Tare Bear'." Exhaling a deep breath, she continued. "And as for today, don't fret so much. You can't stop change. Be optimistic, obviously these feelings you're having sound like something positive will occur. If that's the case, then you should look forward to today. Think of what you'll be gaining, new friends for example? We take what life offers us, make sound choices and go on...together."

Victoria's sadness didn't go unnoticed by Tara. She hugged her mother fiercely, ducking her head in the crook of her neck. Tears now staining her mother's blouse. How could she put into words the gratitude and love she felt towards this woman who struggled through her own sorrow and hardship to keep their family going.

David chose that moment to walk back into the house. He abruptly stopped as he felt an undercurrent of sadness that was not there at breakfast. He took in the scene before him. His eyes furrowed with concern as he stepped closer to Tara and his Mom. "Hey, what's going on in here. Tara?...Mom?...Why are you two crying?"

"It's nothing sweetheart. You shouldn't worry." Victoria said in a soothing voice trying to quell David's worried look.

"I'm not buying it Mom. Obviously something is up. Before I went outside, we were all joking...happy. Now I come back in, and I see my sister and my mother...not happy? I'm not letting this go until one of you tell me what the hell is going on!"

"David that is enough. I don't ever want to hear you use that tone with-"

Tara lifted her head from her mother's shoulder, effectively cutting her off. She wiped her tears with the back of her hand and acknowledged first her mother and then her brother. "It's okay Mom. He's just concerned. I had a d-dream about D-dad last night. I'm sorry I d-didn't tell you before. I d-didn't want to have to w-worry you," she managed to say in a small shuddering breath as the last remnants of her tears were subsiding.

David's facial expression went from being worried to anger. He wasn't prepared to hear about his Dad. Some Dad...he thought with a tinge of grief. He realized he had been quiet for some time as he took in the look of nervousness from Tara and his Mom. He smiled half heartily as he closed the distance between them and embraced both women affectionately. "It's okay Tare. I understand why you didn't tell me." He pulled out of the embrace. "I guess my actions speak for themselves, huh?" He said running his hand through his hair. "I just want the both of you to know that I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE for you. Please don't be afraid of telling me anything about him." Sighing the latter with a degree of disappointment. His expression softened as he tried to comprehend why things turned out the way they did. "Believe it or not, it sometimes helps me to remember some of the good times when we were all together. The father he used to be before...well...before everything happened, is the man I loved and aspire to be. long as I'" his eyes went wide as he quickly realized just what he was about to say. His expression was apologetic and in a low voice he continued, "you will never have to do without. I'll make sure that I'll always have enough to provide for us."

"David, I know you think it is your responsibility to look after us. But darling, that's not the way this family works...we look out for one another." Victoria said patiently, seeking out her son's dropped gaze. She lifted his chin and starred tenderly into his piercing blue eyes. Her smile radiating as more tears escaped her eyes, not from sorrow but from pride. "I'm proud of the man that you have become."

David fidgeted under his mother's warm and loving stare. His cheeks flushed, a little embarrassed from ...Too much touch-y feel-y, emotions. I am a man after all...he thought as he tried to remember why he had come back into the house in the first place. Sighing, "Um...I up the truck. back in to ask...Ta-ra...if she wanted me to load up her board. And Mom, I love you too." He smiled sincerely. "So, board or not to board?"

"No, that's okay. I haven't been on that thing for quite some t-time. I d-don't want to make a fool out of myself the first time I meet your friends," Tara said, playfully nudging him in his ribs.

"Careful girly...I know kung fu...WAAAYAAA!!!"

"Nice karate chop...not." Tara deadpanned.

David smirked as he turned and strode out of the kitchen singing. "Everybody was kung fu fighting...EEEYA!!...those cats were fast as lightning..." Victoria and Tara couldn't contain their laughter. They heard his voice fading away as he walked outside.

Victoria turned her attention back to Tara. She was pleased to see that her daughter was in a much happier mood and smiled as she saw hope and love in twin sapphire orbs. She cupped her cheeks with both hands and stated, "Let me worry about the dishes and the food. Go on and get ready. I believe destiny awaits you."

Overwhelmed with joy Tara hugged her mom once more and with a light spring to her step she walked off to her bedroom, snatched her tote bag hanging from the hook nailed to the door and commenced putting her beach essentials inside. Tanning lotion, sunglasses, favorite book, CD's - ohh, I hope they like these - beach towel...that's in the hall closet, flip-flops, notepad and pen. One can never be too careful. Okay, I think I'm ready.

One hour later, Tara was dressed and ready to go. I hope I look okay. The truck was packed and the food was prepared. Victoria waved to her children from her front porch. "Have fun," she simply stated as they drove off.

Tara was holding the bouquet of Carnations her brother had purchased at a local florist shop. He thought about purchasing them in the supermarket, but decided that was too cheap. He wanted to give Buffy something...nicer...and if it put a slight dent in his was worth it. "These are beautiful David-," she said as she held up the flowers to her nose, "and they smell divine."

David smiled warmly as he continued to stare down the road. "Thanks for helping me pick them out." He turned on his signal light and made a left on Revello Drive. He slowly drove down the street, scanning the different homes for the correct address...1630...1630... He quickly spotted Xander from 3 houses down, loading up the Jeep. "Well, we're here," he stated pulling up to the curb and turning off the ignition. "Ready?"

"Ready," Tara nodded confidently.

David smiled as a familiar blond stood up from the front porch step she was sitting on and made her way over to the truck, "That's Buffy!" He hastily unbuckled his seatbelt, fumbled with the car door handle, and was finally able to exit his vehicle.

Tara chuckled at her brother's eagerness, watching him as he hurriedly made his way over to the other side of the truck, and opened the passenger door for her. "T-thank you kind gentleman."

As she jumped out of the truck, Tara would have expected to notice Buffy and her brother sharing a personal moment as they hugged, or Anya approaching her; that is if her gaze hadn't drifted over to a nearby tree that stood in the middle of the yard and the hint of red behind the trunk.

Tara lived her life cautiously. She knew the sting of abandonment all to well. She believed in love to some extent, love for family, love of children, love of ice cream...but love for another? In the end, they'll just give up and leave, figuring it's too much work. There's no commitment in love nowadays. What guarantee do I have? Love at first sight?... Not so much. Attraction at first sight?...Maybe. Throw caution to the proverbial wind?... Only if I can hold on to it with a kite string. Lose all my senses and insecurities as she continues to stare into my eyes? Yep.

Tara never would have guessed that a simple look could trigger such emotional, internal ramblings. It might have been by luck or maybe...fate?... that brought her here today. A low sounding, single beat, followed by several more, resonated in her chest as emerald eyes drew near.

The sound grew louder the closer she came, now two beats were heard. Tara opened her heart allowing it to see a little sun, and she was terrified. Her world took on a new meaning the moment a redhead came from behind the tree and walked up purposefully, extending her arm, gripping her right hand with delicate yet strong fingers, and spoke, "Hi, I'm Willow."

Continue to Close your Eyes and Dream Chapter One, Part Three

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