Return to The Game of Love Chapter Seventy-Five

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!

An awkward silence still hung in the room as the three best friends sat around eating the recently-cooled chocolate cake. They'd moved their conversation back to the kitchen, and Willow had figured now was as good a time as any to pop open a bottle of her father's finest French wine.

"Sooo..." Buffy said, breaking the silence as she processed the story her redheaded best friend ('Who sounds like she's definitely gay...') had just told her. "You think you catch her looking at you, you're definitely in love..." she stopped at that, giving Willow a meaningful look. When Willow nodded, Buffy continued, "You're definitely in love with her, and your memories of last night are hazy post walking into the after-party?" Willow nodded again, just as Buffy added as an after-thought, "Oh, and Tara said that Andrew said something about how she was a lucky girl?"

Nod. This time, with the hint of a blush for company. Buffy and Xander missed the extra redness on the redhead, because they were busy letting the information sink in. "Welll..." Xander began, and Willow briefly tried to remember her two closest friends ever being at such a loss for words. "Faith was right when she said you should ask her before someone else, you know, does." He went silent again, before looking at Buffy and shaking his head "I still can't believe Faith saw it, and we didn't".

Buffy reached for her glass of wine and nodded. "Well, in your defense, you haven't really spent all that much time around Tara and me..." Willow said matter-of-factly. She was met with two pairs of blinking eyes, and the barest of nods from Xander.

"Ok" Buffy started, seeming to shake herself out of it. "You're in love" she said, turning to smile at Willow, and looking like it was the first time she'd actually understood that fact. "And Tara...well, she seems really nice?" she asked, more a question that a statement.

Before Willow could answer, Xander spoke up "Buff, she teaches kids that could really use the help. It's hard to find someone that nice with a name that doesn't start with a 'Mother' or end with a 'Teresa'." Willow smiled at that, and was secretly glad that her friends were rediscovering their sense of humour after nearly 30 minutes without it. "Besides, we both know that the jock in you is very impressed at her handball skills. And hello? Your job! And well, she is kinda hot..." Xander said, wiggling his eyebrows at a wide-eyed Willow. "What? You saying I'm wrong?" he asked, with a smile on his face and in his voice.

Willow shook her head vigorously. "Nope" she said, as her head kept shaking 'no'. The teasing relaxed the atmosphere in the room, and Xander topped up his glass of wine before settling back in his chair. "So," Buffy started, now serious again, "You'd date Tara if you could right?" Nod. "And you think that you might actually have a real shot here?" Nod again. "Well then, you just have to tell her."

Willow's eyes went wide again "But how? I mean I think she likes me, but what if I'm horribly wrong? And she gets offended?"

"Will" Xander spoke up softly, "You're going to have to take that chance. Unless you have a better idea?"

The redhead shook her head slowly, "I know you're right, really, I do. It's just...I know I want to date her...but I don't know if I'm ready to put myself out there yet..." Looking up she saw confusion on the faces of her two best friends, and read their minds "No, no, I'm ok with telling people that I like Tara, if Tara were by my side...but I'm not ready to tell others yet for the chance that it's one-sided, and we know how stories have a funny way of getting to the wrong ears. And I'm not ready to tell Tara herself yet if telling Tara means losing Tara" she finished, hoping her friends understood.

"You know..." Buffy started after a moment's silence, looking thoughtful, "I'm sure there was a simpler way to say that, but...I get it".

They looked over at Xander, who seemed like he was still working out Willow's last sentence in his head. A few seconds later he spoke up, "Ok, I get it too. But Will, have you thought of the possible scenario where hanging out with possibly-only-friend Tara makes you fall more in, umm, love with her, making the possible ultimate rejection that bit harder?"

Taking a deep breath, Willow nodded slowly. "I guess that's another chance I'll have to take."

Buffy swallowed the piece of cake she'd cut for herself, then said "Right, we're your best friends, so we'll let you have your way, but there's a condition. You can't take too long to either tell her, or get over your romantic feelings for her. No matter which way you look at it, unrequited love isn't good for you, and I will not stand by and let you mope for God knows how long."

Willow understood her friends point, and promised "Not too long."

It was past midnight when Xander and Buffy left Willow's home. The three friends had been close for too long for Buffy and Xander to have any private thoughts about that evening's main subject that they hadn't already shared in Willow's house. The redhead waved goodbye from her door as Buffy started up her car, and began the drive to Xander's house. "I really like this song" Buffy said, turning the sound up on 'her new station' as 'Broken Strings' started to play.

"Who is this?" Xander asked. "Nelly Furtado and James Morrison. And no," she said, knowing what Xander would ask next, "I don't know if he's related to Jim".

Xander grinned at how well his friend knew him, and sat back. A few moments later Buffy turned down the volume, "Is that your phone?"

Sure enough, Xander's pocket was vibrating, and he pulled it out of his pocket. "Anya" he said aloud, before opening up the phone's flap "Hey you!" Buffy smiled at the obvious pleasure in his voice, and continued to focus on the road.

"It starts tomorrow? What time? ... I thought camp was next week? ... Aah ok, cool. Would you mind if I, you know, dropped in to watch? ...Great! Yeah, I'll see you after classes. Alright, sweet dreams. Night night!"

"That was Anya" he said, smiling from ear-to-ear. "I kinda figured" Buffy said, quickly glancing at Xander with a fond smile on her face.

Xander ignored his friends playful smartass-edness, and went on "We both have breaks in our time-tables at 10:45 on Tuesdays, and were gonna meet at the café?" Buffy nodded without taking her eyes off the road, so he continued, "Apparently the handball coach wants to get the Sunnydale girls selected for next week's California camp together for some extra training, so she'll be heading there at 11. I'll just see after my last class wraps at 12:30." He noticed that while Buffy still watched the street, she'd got a thoughtful frown on her face. "What?" he asked.

"You think Anya would know if know?" she asked. Xander just shrugged, "She hasn't really said anything to me...but then, why would she right? You don't really talk about other people's love lives unless there's a reason, right?..." He went silent for a few seconds before adding "I could ask her, but I don't know, maybe she'd get offended at the questions? And..."

"Whoa! Whoa!" Buffy said, laughing out loud. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves! If the topic ever comes up, see what she says. Otherwise...well, I'd really like to see Willow do this herself. Like, we could nudge her in the right direction, but, I think it's really important that she have the courage to handle this herself, you know?"

Xander nodded, before Buffy said "That doesn't mean that you can't take her along to watch handball practice tomorrow." They'd pulled up outside Xander's, "After all, Tara IS on the list of California probables, right?" The wide-smile on Buffy's face told Xander just how pleased she was with that little brainwave.

Tara climbed into bed, and pulled the covers up around her. It had been a long day. Right after Willow and Faith had dropped her home, Tara had unpacked her bags and headed straight to the radio station's headquarters. She had to make sure that all the tapes and other equipment had made it back safe to office, and there was some paper work to be sorted. During a random coffee break she'd stopped by at H.R to see how their first impression of Buffy had been, and so far it was all good. She'd also made the time to quickly ring up Sean's parents, and asked them to let the kids know that she was on for after-school study at hers on Wednesday.

Coach Giles had also rung that afternoon, asking her how her ankle was. He'd told her that he had organized for Sunnydale's California probables to get some extra training under him before next week's camp, and Tara had immediately said that she'd be there. Her coach advised her to let her ankle rest a bit, and it was only after Tara promised to take it easy and not run or jump too much that he gave her permission to come to the indoor court the next day. The blonde was looking forward to the idea of getting some extra practice in before she was joined by other fantastic players from outside Sunnydale.

Tara had only gotten home at around 7 that evening, and after making herself a quick sandwich, had immediately sat down to add the finishing touches to a paper that was due the next day. Her mind briefly wandered to Willow, as it had been doing all day. 'I wonder what Willow's studying at uni...and I can't believe I haven't asked her yet!' She added that to her list of questions for Willow, which seemed to go up by the moment. There was so much she wanted to know about the redhead, and how she felt about Tara herself was at the top of that list. Shaking her head, she'd focused her concentration on the paper. 2 hours later she was happy with her argument on why performance enhancing drugs should not be permitted in the sporting world, and satisfied, saved the word document once and for all.

Rising, she'd quickly texted Anya, and walked into her bathroom to get ready for bed. By the time she'd changed into her PJ's, the brunette had replied saying she was still hard at work on her own paper. She had added that her and Cordelia would see Tara at 10:55 a.m the next morning at the handball arena, and seemed as happy as Tara at the prospect of playing handball.

Tara yawned, as she slowly slipped into unconsciousness. 'I have to remember to careful with my foot tomorrow...' She closed her eyes 'Mmm...I hope I get to see Willow around tomorrow...'

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Seventy-Seven

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