Return to The Game of Love Chapter Seventy-Four

The Game of Love

Author: Shai
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Unfortunately neither Tara nor Willow are mine. Neither's anyone else in this fic for that matter!

Faith sat across Tara and Willow on the plane as it took off. She stared at the redhead, wondering how Tara could be so unaware of what was so plain for Faith to see.

The ever punctual Tara had arrived to pick Faith up at her hotel at 12:15 that afternoon, and the three girls had been driven to the airport by Susanna's chauffeur. Faith had asked Willow how she felt that morning, and the redhead's short "Fine, thanks" had not been lost on the brunette. The rest of the drive passed with Faith and Tara making small talk about Faith's friend who got drunk the previous night, handball and the concert, and Willow using ('Pretending to use, I'll bet!' Faith had thought) her cell phone to text people. They'd completed all the necessary formalities on arriving to the airport, and it wasn't long before the three women were buckled into their seats, ready to fly back to Sunnydale.

Now as Faith watched Willow, she couldn't help but notice some glaring facts about the girl. For starters, she refused to look Faith in the eye, and seemed even more nervous now that she couldn't use ('Pretend to use!!!') her phone. She obviously didn't seem too fond of Faith either, and the brunette thought she knew the reason for that too. Taking a deep breath, Faith looked at Tara, who seemed to alternate between being lost in her own world, and sneaking glances at the redhead seated next to the window beside her. As Faith allowed her gaze to drift between the two women, she had no doubt that mankind would never have survived this long if everyone was as clueless as the two women sitting before her.

Faith's own thoughts were broken by the slight 'Bing' sound that preceded the Captain's voice announcing that it was ok to unbuckle their seat belts, and looking at Willow and Tara, she saw that they were slightly more alert as well. The blonde looked up at the airhostess who came up to ask the girls if they'd like anything to drink, and all three settled on coffee. Seconds later, three steaming hot coffee cups were placed before the trio, and Tara said "I'm just going to the use the restroom'. Willow and Faith smiled up at her as she excused herself, and it was only then that Willow realized she was alone with Faith.

Willow knew Faith was watching her, and it made her really nervous. For some reason she found it hard to lock gazes with the brunette, because her self-assured demeanor made Willow feel like she knew exactly what Willow was thinking about.

"You should ask her out before someone else does you know."

Of course, now she knew for a fact that Faith knew what she was thinking about.

Willow looked up like a deer caught in headlights, and this time, try as she might, she couldn't tear her gaze away. So Willow did all she could do. "Hmm?"

The questioning throaty sound caused Faith to smirk, and she slowly repeated "You should ask her out before someone else does. Girls like Tara have a lot of admirers". The brunette raised her coffee cup and blew softly before taking a tentative sip. Wrinkling her nose she said "Mmm, still too hot", and placed the cup back onto its saucer.

Willow continued to slowly blink at the woman sitting opposite her, even as her mind worked at the speed of a million thoughts a second. 'I could pretend like I don't know what she's talking about. Ok, bad idea. I could pretend to be deaf? No, she knows I'm not hearing impaired. I could pretend the bump on my head's caused memory loss. Nope, nope. Ummm...' Willow finally went with the option that seemed right. "Really?" she said aloud.

That one word brought out a genuine smile from Faith. "Yes, really. If you like her, you gotta tell her before its too late." She watched as the redhead seemed to toss that idea around in her head, and decided to continue, "I used to have the hugest thing for Tara. I mean, she's hot right?!" Seeing Willow's eyes narrow, Faith quickly moved on, "Yeah, so you know that. But yeah, for me it was just a passing crush. I mean, I still think she's frikkin' gorgeous, and I'm constantly flirting with her" Willow narrowed her eyes again, "but it's a friendly kind of flirting, and I check her out in a 'Damn, I have a hot friend' kind of way."

Willow seemed content to let that sink in, so Faith kept on "But with much do you like her?"

Willow blinked again and asked "Is it that obvious?"

Faith noticed that she didn't answer the question, but decided to let that pass "To someone like me, yes. So, how much do you like her?"

Willow scratched her chin and once again asked her own question instead of answering the one posed to her "Do you think she knows?"

Faith let out a mini huff at Willow's continued avoidance of her query but said "I'm not sure. She looks as oblivious as you are." Willow was about to ask what she meant, when they heard the bathroom door being unlocked. Faith quickly leaned in, lowered her voice and asked in a rush "Seriously, is this just a passing crush for you?"

Willow looked up to see Tara walking back to where they were sitting with a smile on her face, and without taking her eyes off the blonde said "No."

Willow paid the cabbie and pulled her luggage along the walk up to her parents' house. They were both out of town again, and Willow knew that she could use the peace and quiet this evening. After all, a dorm isn't the best place to have a calm conversation with your two best friends. Especially if you were about to tell them what she was about to.

Unlocking the door, Willow let herself in and left her bags by the door. Walking to the couch she plonked herself down in its softness and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. She'd never been one to use shorthand in text messages, but still only took a few moments to type out 'Three best friends having dinner and conversation at mine this evening? Not the dorm. Say 7 p.m? I'll cook'., and hit the 'Send' button. She allowed her head to roll back onto the back of the couch as she waited for replies from Buffy and Xander, and sure enough, they both immediately messaged back confirming that they'd be there.

The redhead lifted her head and glanced at the digital clock by the window which did its job and provided her with the current hour. '3:29 p.m' Willow read, before allowing her head to roll back again. She stared at the ceiling, thinking about the brief conversation she'd had with Faith on the flight home. Neither girl had mentioned anything once Tara was back, but Willow definitely felt a lot more relaxed around the brunette after that. The three of them had ended up playing Uno after Faith had pulled a pack out from her backpack, and the redhead had welcomed the need to not think about anything besides colours and numbers for a while. On landing in Sunnydale, they'd decided to share a cab to their respective homes, and Faith and Willow split the bill without letting Tara contribute. Faith's argument had been simple: "Can we also split the gas bill for the flight back to Sunnydale?". As it turned out, it was also final.

They'd dropped Tara off first, and Faith and Willow traveled on in compatible silence to Faith's dorms. The initial plan was for Willow to continue on to her dorms, but she'd had a change of heart somewhere along the way, and asked the cabbie to take her to her parents' home instead. Neither girl said much till they got to Faith's stop, which is when the brunette reached out to squeeze Willow's hand and said "Sometimes it's just about throwing caution to the wind."

Willow smiled gratefully, and turning red she said "I'm sorry I was so painful before." Faith just shrugged as the car pulled to a halt, "That's ok. But hey, a possessive streak is definitely not cool! Whether or not you end up dating Tara, she's a looker, and people will always appreciate her beauty. And anyone else's." She smirked as she watched Willow's eyes go wide, and said "Yes, that was obvious too!" With that, Faith opened her door and hopped out.

Willow had sat in the back of the cab, thinking about how deceptive looks could be. 'I'd never have taken Faith to be the intuitive type.' Shaking her head in amazement, she vowed never to act like a possessive, jealous ass again either. Willow Rosenberg was above that.

Now as she sat on her parent's couch, her thoughts once again turned to Tara. It seemed that they always drifted her way these days. Willow had a hunch that Tara liked her, and the more she thought of it, the more optimistic she became. Faith had also said that she thought Tara was as oblivious as herself, so if she meant what Willow hoped she meant, then there was definite reason to be optimistic. Either way, she'd gotten to a point where she needed to tell her best friends what was going on. She'd think of what to do next after that. For now, it was 'Telling the Best Friends' time.

Glancing at the clock again, Willow saw that only 2 minutes had passed since her last time check, which meant that she just under three and a half hours of alone time before Buffy and Xander showed up. Knowing that time alone equaled mulling over Tara time, which in turn equaled going out of your mind time, Willow decided that she needed to stay busy, and going to check on what groceries her parents had in the fridge was a good way to start.

Willow glanced at the clock as she walked down the stairs, and this time it read '6:47 p.m'. The redhead was showered and changed into comfortable slacks and a singlet, and was ready for her friends to come over. She'd discovered that her parents had stocked enough food supplies to get them through a nuclear war, which left her with the option of cooking whatever she felt like. In the end, she'd settled on grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies, which kept her pretty occupied with all the dicing, boiling and peeling. Somehow she still managed to wrap all that up pretty quick, so she decided to bake a small chocolate cake for dessert too. Once the potatoes and cake mix were done, she put the chicken on the grill, the cake mix in the oven and a pot of water on the stove, and went in for a quick shower.

Now the house was filled with the scents of heaven as Willow walked towards the kitchen. She'd timed it to perfection, as the chicken was grilled just right, and bending down she opened the oven door to check on the cake. Satisfied with the progress of that too, Willow stood and was about to empty the tray of chopped veggies into the boiling water when the doorbell rang. Glancing at the kitchen clock, she was surprised to see that it wasn't even 7 p.m yet, but put the tray back down and walked to answer the door.

"Hey Willster!" Xander said, stepping in to pull Willow into a hug. Buffy followed him in, saying "We come bearing wine" and showing Willow the bottle in her hand to prove it. She hugged her friend too, but when she stepped back Willow noticed her brow was furrowed. "What's the matter?" she asked.

Buffy continued to frown, and then very slowly took a deep breath through her nose and said "It isn't my birthday, is it?"

Rolling her eyes, Willow smiled and started to walk back towards the kitchen. Xander and Buffy closed the door and followed, and once they were all in the kitchen, Buffy repeated in an awestruck voice "Really? What have we done to deserve this?"

"What, I can't cook my best friends a decent meal unless it's a special occasion?" Willow asked, as she lifted the tray again and this time succeeded in dropping the veggies into the boiling water. "Ok, since you guys are early, you can set the table, and we can eat while everything's still hot."

30 seconds later she drained the water out so the veggies were just the right amount of crispy, and placed the evening's food on the table. Buffy had successfully set the table, while Xander was pouring three glasses of red wine. The three friends sat down, and as Willow looked at them, she decided to save the serious talk for after-dinner. For now, all she said was "Bon appetite!"

And just as they had for all those years through high school, Buffy, Xander and Willow shared food and talked about nonsensical things. Conversation included Xander gushing about Anya, Willow talking about Tara's mother and the Michelle Branch concert, Buffy sharing what it was like to work at a radio station, Xander confiding in them about how he'd bumped into one of his high school exes, Buffy talking about Zak and Willow asking about Dawn's studies.

Forty minutes and a satisfying amount of wine later, Buffy and Xander watched as a gloves-clad Willow carefully pulled their dessert of the oven. "It's still hot, want to wait in the living room a while and eat it when it cools a bit?" she asked. Everyone agreed, so three friends and three glasses of wine migrated from the chairs of the kitchen to the comfy sofas of the living room. All three sat in silence, the kind you share with the people you're most comfortable around. They sat sipping their wine, lost in their own thoughts, when Willow decided that there really was no way to ease into the conversation she was about to start...

"I'm in love with Tara."

'How much wine have I had?' Buffy wondered, as she turned to look at Willow who was staring right back. The blonde then turned her gaze to Xander, who seemed to have lost control over his jaw, which hung slackly as he looked at Willow. 'Ok, maybe it isn't the alcohol...'

Buffy processed what Willow said one more time, and said the first thing that came to her mind "Tara the girl, Tara?"

"Do you know a guy named Tara? Wow, that poor sucker! I mean, Tara's a lovely name and all that, but still, it's not a boy name! In fact, I'm pretty sure it means-"

"Whoa Will! Stop!" Buffy knew Willow babble all too well by now, and also knew that if she didn't interrupt then Willow's seemingly illogical chain of thought could verbalize itself through a whole leap year. "Let's do this again. You're in love. With Tara. Tara Maclay?"

Willow just nodded, and turned her attention to Xander again. He was obviously still relearning how to control his jaw movement, so the redhead decided to continue her conversation with the more verbally able Buffy. "The handball player Tara?" Buffy continued, trying to get her head around the idea.

'Ok, this conversation isn't going anywhere' Willow thought, so in the calmest voice she could muster up she said "Yeah Buff, Tara. Tara Maclay. The blonde female handball player. The radio station script writer. The woman who took me to LA so I could watch Michelle Branch live in concert. That Tara."

Glancing at Xander, Willow saw that he'd managed to close his mouth, which gave her hope that he would be able to form words at some point that night. The three friends sat in silence for a few moments, till Buffy broke it by asking "Does she know?"

Willow shook her head, "No." Buffy nodded slowly, and went quiet again. Seconds later "Does anyone, besides the three of us?"

Willow nodded, "Faith." That caused Buffy to shoot a sharp look at her redheaded friend, so Willow quickly clarified "She figured it out herself". Buffy seemed pacified enough by that explanation.

After a few more moments of silence, Xander finally spoke up, "Are you gay?"

What Willow felt on being asked that question was indescribable. For starters, she was relieved to hear Xander get past his obvious shock enough to ask a sensible question. On the other hand though, she herself was not sure what she was yet. So again, she answered as honestly as she could, "When it comes to Tara, yes."

Buffy and Xander seemed to understand what she meant, because both slowly nodded their heads. Buffy asked "Is Tara?"

Willow let out what could only be called a frustrated sound, "I don't know! I think she might like me too, but I don't know. I've heard all these stories about her having dated all these guys, but... I don't know. Sometimes, the way she watches me... I mean, I really think she likes me, but... what if I'm wrong?"

Somewhere through this rant Willow's two best friends had made their way to her side. Buffy sat down on the arm of the sofa Willow was sitting on and wrapped an arm around Willow's shoulder, "Shhh honey, shhh." She wiped away a stray tear that had made its way down Willow's cheek, "You really are in love with her, huh?"

Sniffing softly, Willow nodded miserably, "How sad am I? I'm in love with what could most possibly be a straight girl, and I don't even know what I am right now."

"Ah, labels, schnabels" Xander said, as he squatted in front of Willow to see her face. "What we know right now is that you're in love with someone, and we're not sure if she likes you back. Let's deal with that first, ok?"

Still sniffling, Willow looked at her friends and said in a barely audible voice, "You guys don't hate me?"

"Noooo!" Buffy said, wrapping her arm even tighter around her redheaded best friend. "Never Willow, we're just... a little surprised I guess." Xander nodded in agreement, and smiled slowly, "We love you Will. And we're here for you, no matter what."

They sat in silence again, processing what had just been discussed, when finally Xander said "You've thought about this long and hard?" When Willow nodded he added, "Ok...if this is the path you choose, you know it's not always going to be easy?" Willow nodded again.

"Alright then," Buffy said, loosening her grip on Willow and pulling back slightly, "Tell us what you know, and don't leave anything out!"

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Seventy-Six

Return to Story Archive
Return to Main Page