She woke up at seven, judging from the scent that Joyce had started without her in the diner. As she stiffly walked down the stairs blinking the sleep out of her red rimmed eyes, she heard Joyce gasp an "Ohmygod" and snapped her head up to see a broken faced Tara, black and blue on the right side of her face, eye swollen shut, coming through the door.
"Yes." The blonde said simply and put a ragged canvas bag on the floor.
Willow half carried her out into the kitchen, where Joyce stuffed her with aspirin and fussed over her with cups of tea. Tara shook her head at food and Willow suspected it was too painful for her to eat. But she still insisted on trying to make Willow sit in her lap and kiss her until Willow forced her to bed, afraid it might just be half as bad as it looked. The doctor come that afternoon and reassured her that Tara would be fine.
Late that evening, Tara's father came to the diner, raging and threatening with everything between heaven and earth. Willow had anticipated it, so Charles Gunn the chef, who was not a small man by any means, and Liam the local sheriff was waiting for him.
In the middle of the night, Tara's brother Donnie showed up, bellowing outside the window about the horrid punishment that would befall Tara if she didn't go with him. Tara just scooted closer to Willow who tightened her spooning hug and waited for him to leave, so they could go back to sleep.
The following morning, Tara got up at six and started work in the diner's kitchen like she had never done anything else.
THREE YEARS LATER.
Tara was in the kitchen making some of her now famous pecan pie and humming to herself. Willow walked past her and lovingly caressed her shapely hips. She and Joyce had made it their labor of love to feed Tara back to a healthy weight again. The blonde's rosy cheeks and womanly curves underneath the raspberry colored dress bore witness to their success. A young man with a moony look on his face was sitting by the bar nursing a cup of coffee. He was just of many whom had crushed on Tara since she came to town. Willow had gotten used to it, but she still gave herself the privilege of giving them bad service and lukewarm coffee. Most of the townspeople realized the nature of the relationship between them, but some would just never take a hint...
Tara walked out into the back yard to leave food for the bums that used to sleep in the shed out back sometimes. Willow understood why Tara had to feed and shelter these men and never said a word, even though she secretly kept a pistol in the top drawer of her bedside table.
Since the blonde's arrival, Willow had a lot more time on her hands. She was even teaching science subjects every Friday at the local school. Mr. Giles, the school teacher, was only grateful for the help. He was more of a humanities and language man anyway.
And it had been discovered that Tara could sing. Very well. She had just come back from a three week tour of the state doing background vocals with the Carter Family. Willow had been so proud she thought she would break something when she had seen Tara on stage. The great Jeanette Carter had told Tara she should be doing it full time. But she had just shaken her head and said she was looking forward to going home.
When the blonde walked back in, Willow caught her up in an embrace and pressed her against the counter top. Tara laughed and kissed her, before being rudely interrupted by a tiny hand tugging on the hem of her skirt.
"I want pie, mummy! Please?"
"And you just might get some pie, too, but not until after dinner." Tara picked the chocolate colored cherub up and kissed him on the forehead.
"Now, go help uncle Gunn in the yard for a while." Willow lovingly stroked the boy's head, before he ran out the door.
Through the door they could hear Gunn starting a lecture on The Perfect Barbecue.
Isaac had just come to them one night from god knows where. There had been a big storm brewing, when they had heard a baby cry in the garden. Someone had probably left him there, or he had managed to walk into their back yard on his own. Either way, Tara hadn't even considered not keeping him. Willow had been a little concerned that someone might be looking for him, so she had made the local police ask around. But no-one knew anything about him, so Willow and Tara was now the mothers of a two-year-old.
Of course, they had had a visit from the Klan. Willow had heard them coming and had waited with her father's huge moose hunting gun and a lot of ammunition. Tara had been up on Riley's farm, helping him with a sick cow. She had seen the fire from a distance. Like a Fury from hell, she had come galloping at breakneck speed on old Butler without reins or saddle, just carrying a thick leather whip, which she had made skilful use of. Joyce had taken the boy across the street to her house during the ensuing confusion. The following morning, Mr. Snyder had a mark on his face suspiciously like a whiplash. They didn't come back after that.
"He has your brains" Tara used to say. Isaac was a very bright boy. And beautiful.
"And your looks" Willow used to add. She never grew tired of just watching Tara...
Yesterday, they had had their first argument. Tara had discovered that Willow had been able to put a fair amount of money to the side, kept in an old coffee jar under the bed to protect it from the instability of the economy.
"I want to try to buy back your farm eventually", Willow had explained when Tara had asked her about the money.
To her immense surprise, Tara had been angry.
"It's just a damn piece of land, Willow! This is my home now, I don't need any of that! I'm not that person anymore, don't you see? I wouldn't dream of letting you waste your life on some farm! You're getting out of here. You're going back to college, to make something of yourself!"
Butler wasn't the only horse in the neighborhood healed by Tara and most people would insist on giving her money for her help. Tara wanted Willow to use that money, and the money in the jar, for school fees.
Willow had refused point blank. There was just no way she was going to go off and leave Tara and Isaac to fend for themselves, spending their hard earned money. Besides, that didn't matter anymore, she was happy. Just plain happy. But Tara wouldn't believe it.
There had been some door slamming and shouting. Tara had shouted at her that she was wasting herself here. And Willow had said that so was she, so maybe she should be the one getting out.
Finally, after several hours they had agreed how to use the money. They were going to start a college fund for Isaac.
When the agreement was reached, Willow had bolted the door to the kitchen.
"No more fighting, Tara." She walked slowly towards the blonde.
"No more" Tara whispered in her ear as she started to unbutton her shirt.
Willow showed Tara that everything she needed was right here. Tara had dragged her up the stairs half naked, since they where getting flour all over themselves, leaning against the kitchen counter.
Tara had pinned her hands over her head and looked at her.
"Your know I want you to stay, really, don't you?" Willow nodded and left a mark on Tara's neck, kissing her passionately.
"I'm not going anywhere."
Willow tore a few buttons on Tara's favorite dress, but the blonde didn't care. She was too distracted by the redheads tongue following her tearing hands.
"And you're through traveling. No more."
"No more..." Tara moaned as Willow was making her way down. She entwined her fingers in Willow's red curls and pulled her almost painfully close.
Luckily for them, Isaac was a sound sleeper...
When the first sunlight came in through the window Tara was resting half on top of Willow, still overheated from their nocturnal exercises. Willow raked her fingernails along her back and smiled at the almost purring sound that Tara made when she did it.
"It was a crazy thing to do, really, wasn't it?"
"What?" Willow looked down on her with raised eyebrows.
"Inviting a perfect stranger to come and live with you like that."
"You weren't a stranger. I knew you in the biblical sense."
Tara laughed and placed a light kiss on Willow's shoulder.
"Besides, you were just as crazy, coming to live with me on the spur of the moment like that."
"It wasn't on the spur of the moment. I knew I had to have you from the first moment I saw you, standing behind that counter in that transparent dress."
"Transparent? You bitch. You've never told me that."
"And why would I want to spoil my fun like that?" Tara looked up at her with a mock confused expression.
"Anyway. It worked out ok, didn't it?"
"I think it worked out a little more than ok, Willow Rosenberg!" Tara turned and kissed her.
"Yes. Heaps of more. And not all lesbians die at the end of the story, do they?"
"They certainly don't." Tara said contentedly, snuggling closer to the redhead.