There was a strange atmosphere on the set today. Willow couldn't quite put a finger on it, but something was off with Tara. Instead of being her jovial self, Tara had seemingly transformed into the Dark Lord Sauron, menacing down upon her subjects from the top of the Dark Tower of Barad-Dur.
Oh, Tara was nice to her. Exceedingly so, in fact, but Tara had quelled any form of chatter on the set and kept everything on a business-like level for everybody else. Willow just found it all to be rather strange, and had no idea why Tara'd treat her own people so harshly all of a sudden.
Luckily, Tara wasn't half as strict as she had been this morning, and some of the gaffers even dared to chat with each other again, albeit very quietly.
Willow smiled to herself. She didn't remember what had happened last night, but she concluded that she must have fallen asleep during the movie and Tara had put her to bed. She had even put a warm blanket over her so she wouldn't get too cold. That was so nice of Tara. Just thinking about that made it seem even more strange that Tara'd gotten all cranky all of a sudden.
Willow had shot three scenes that past hour and wouldn't be needed for another 30 minutes. It gave Willow some time to relax, practise her delivery and study the script yet again. Willow stepped into a small makeshift lounge. Most of the space in the lounge was taken up by a large settee, while the rest of the room was filled with a small table and a soda-machine. All in all, it was very sparse, but with a sixteen hour work-day and precious few scenes in which she wasn't needed today, she was glad to be able to get her feet up for a little while at least. Ten hours of shooting behind her and six more to go. It was mind boggling that the result of ten long days of almost non-stop shooting would only result in a 54 minute film.
She was pleasantly surprised to find Rene Perrin sitting on the couch. Apparently, he had had the same idea that she had. Rene and Willow had worked together earlier on a production of The Scottish Play, and both enjoyed a chance to be working together again. Willow, for one, was very happy that Rene was on the movie as well, and that the older lion had been willing to take a younger cub under his wing.
Rene had a lot more experience in working in front of the cameras and had helped Willow with a lot of the little things a newcomer wouldn't know, such as knowing where to stand, avoiding even the slightest glance to the camera and giving some tips on how to focus on the scene with intensity without it seeming over the top or bland. Facial expressions in close-ups were a lot more prevalent than on the stage, and both Tara and Rene had helped her find a good balance.
The two of them spent some time drinking coffee and practised some lines together, before they started chatting a little.
"Now Tara," Rene said. "She's a director who knows what she wants and how she wants it, yet keeps an open mind. It's a real pleasure to be working with her. Did you see how she handled Jimmy?"
"Jimmy," Willow shook her head. "He's a nice guy, but he can be such a prima donna! He always keeps saying he wants to change his lines! He's walking all over poor Tara! I'm surprised she hasn't told him off yet. She's certainly got a right to."
Rene smiled. "Ah, looks can be deceiving, Willow," he said. "Didn't you hear what Tara keeps saying?"
"But, she hardly says anything at all," Willow replied. "She just agrees and shoots the scene again with the different lines."
"Exactly!" Rene snapped his fingers. "She just shoots both and decides later which one to use. And you bet it won't be the shot with the changed line which'll end up in the final version. It's Tara's way of saying 'no way you can change this line', but also her way of putting the pin back into the grenade. If she refuses him flat out, Jimmy will fly into a tantrum and the production grinds to a halt. Tara's quite clever."
"I don't get it," Willow shook her head. "I mean, you do what you're told. Sure, you need to have some input, but the director's the boss."
"We've got our roots on the stage," Rene shrugged. "Our script is holy because we can't afford messing up in front of a live audience. Jimmy's a screen-actor... if something goes wrong or is not to the director's liking, there's always a new take until it's perfect. It's a different way of working. Different attitude too."
"Well," Willow pouted. "I still don't like Jimmy's lack of professionalism."
"It's because of Tara, isn't it?" Rene smiled.
"No, no, no. It's not because of Tara. No. No... No," Willow blushed, then took a deep breath. "Yes. Yes, it is. It is because of Tara. I mean, she's just been so nice to me. She gave me this wonderful opportunity and she's really making something worth watching here. And I don't like it that Jimmy's always second-guessing her, giving her lip and changing the script so arbitrarily. I don't like Jimmy sabotaging her efforts."
"Oh, don't worry," Rene chuckled. "Don't you worry one bit. It might not look like it, but Tara has Jimmy firmly under control. She just has to stroke his ego in the right place, and she'll be able to play him like a cheap violin. She's a sharp one, alright."
A bell ringing in the distance let them know that filming the next scene would start soon.
"That's us," Rene said. "Back to grind, Willow."
Willow was taking a late night stroll through the trailer village. Unlike the previous nights, this one was mild, bordering on balmy. Today had been a hard slog and most of the lights were out already. She had hoped to catch a glimpse of Tara but, much to her disappointment, she found that the lights in Tara's trailer were out. Willow stood there for a moment, undecided.
"Hey," she heard a gentle greeting. Two trailers away, Faith emerged from her own trailer. She was wearing fluffy bunny-slippers and a white robe. This was also the first time she had ever seen Faith without her cap on, revealing her lovely long brown locks to the world. Willow glanced at Tara's trailer once more, as if hoping that Tara's lights would come on and she would step outside... but the lights remained off.
"Hi, Faith," Willow said. "Isn't Tara looking at the dailies?"
Faith removed two wine coolers from a coolbox next to the door of her trailer. "Tara went to bed early today. She was really tired and will look at the dailies tomorrow before shooting."
Willow nodded. "I just wanted to know what was going on," Willow said. "Tara was so... different today."
"Tara was on the verge of exploding," Faith chuckled. "I suppose that isn't funny, though. Look, Will, you didn't get this from me, right?" she said while putting a hand on Willow's shoulder. "Last night, you and Tara went to her trailer to watch Dawn of the Dead... but nobody saw you come out of the trailer."
"I fell asleep," Willow said. "Tara must have put me in her bed."
"A few of the crew, including yours truly, jumped to conclusions. There was a rumor floating around that you and Tara slept together last night."
Willow gasped. "But... that's not true!"
"Hey," Faith said, "Tara's a known lesbian and you're a very beautiful woman. You do the math."
"So that's why Tara was so, well, harsh today."
"Yeah," Faith smirked. "She does that more often if she wants to get a point across. Everybody's got the message, that's for sure."
"Faith..." sounded a sleepy, yet husky voice from the trailer. "Come back to bed, honey."
Willow noticed for the first time that the windows of the trailer were slightly fogged up. She also recognized the voice. "Hey, is that Buffy?"
"Yep," Faith grinned. "Buffy Summers-Lehane. We've been married for three years now. In exactly 2 minutes, it'll be our wedding anniversary."
"Congratulations," Willow said sincerely. "Did you guys meet on the set?"
"Yep," Faith smiled. "I knew she was gay even before she knew herself. But Faithy can be patient. I waited and I was there for her when the inevitable coming out came along."
"Faith..." Buffy called again. "I need my honey..."
"I wonder if Tara knows you're gay yet," Faith said. "She always did have terrible Gaydar."
"Why would Tara want to know if I'm ga... Oh," Willow blushed. "Oh, no, I couldn't! I mean, I would like to get to know her better, but not while we're shooting. It... just wouldn't be right."
"Maybe not," Faith grinned. "But it'd be fun. Gotta run, Will. It's my anniversary!"
That said, Faith rushed back into the trailer winecoolers in hand, closing the door behind her. Willow turned back to Tara's trailer and watched it for a moment. Yes, Faith did have a point. She'd liked Tara from the moment she'd met her and to say that there was little attraction towards her would be an understatement. Tara treated her with respect and valued her as a person... plus, she was gorgeous, confident and funny. It's be so nice to hit the town with her. Dinner, dancing... The image of Tara, tilting her head slightly and leaning in for a kiss...
The sound of a thud behind her broke her reverie. After turning around to face Faith's trailer, she saw a hand pressed against the fogged up window, now slowly sliding down the glass.
She blushed slightly, both from the wake of her own fantasy as well as being witness of a very private moment between Buffy and Faith, and decided to quickly make her way to her own trailer. But not before Willow herself realized just how tired she was.
The bulk of today's filming was focused on the garden chase scene. In the scene, Rosemary would be chased through a number of backyards while trying to get away from Bruce, who was chasing her with a rather sharp pair of hedge-trimmers in hand. She'd have to jump through about nine backyards in a row, jumping, climbing, tripping and falling as she went with Bruce hot in her tracks.
An added complication was that Tara, in her infinite wisdom, had decided she wanted pouring rain during this scene. So, a large rain simulator had been constructed above the already huge set and pumps were constantly creating a downpour. Also the scene would take place at night, and thus the lights were dimmed for the duration of the shoot.
All in all, it was a long, damp, cold, dark day.
For Willow, it meant being drenched to the bone for hours on end. Even though Willow and Jimmy were willing to do the climbing, falling and jumping, the insurance wouldn't allow it, meaning that Dawn would step in for those scenes and Jimmy's double would do the same. Of course, this complicated the shoot significantly, causing a seemingly endless number of small, separate multi-angled shots.
Whenever Tara stepped onto the set to give instructions, there was a certain resentment from Dawn, Jimmy and even Willow, because Tara was wearing a nice pair of Wellingtons and a huge umbrella and eventually she'd return to her nice warm and foremost dry director's chair.
After seeming hours upon hours of shooting under those conditions, Tara finally gave the long awaited 'It's a wrap! Thanks, everyone!'. A drenched Willow made her way back to her trailer, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind her. She tossed off her clothes and ran into the shower, turning up the heat full blast. After regaining some warmth, she returned to the living space of her trailer and put on a long pair of trailers and a thick turtleneck.
While she was brushing her long red hair, there was a knock on her door. To her surprise, she found Tara standing in front of the door, holding a mug of hot chocolate.
"A peace-offering of a warm drink," Tara smiled.
Willow invited her in, and gently took a few sips from the mug.
"Thanks," Willow said. "I think I'm finally getting my core temperature back."
"Still having fun?" Tara smiled. "For what it's worth, but I just watched the dailies. It's going to be a spectacular scene after post-production's been done."
"You know, I never liked Horror before I got started on this project, but I'm quickly changing my mind about that. I'm having great fun here. Uh, well, not so much today, really, but... Horror's dealing with many raw emotions and exploring with character put in unusual situations. It's hard work for an actor, but it's great fun."
"Ah," Tara's eyes lit up after hearing this. "A convert!"
Willow giggled for a moment. "I'm not buying the Elm Street boxed set just yet, Tara, but I'm warming up to horror. I watched some of your films to prepare for the role after I'd been cast. I really liked The Veil."
"The Veil is still my favorite," Tara smiled to herself. "It took me a long time to get things organized. I wanted to do the script I wrote justice, so I really wanted to make a deal with the studio that would give me the biggest budget and the most creative freedom. And that's no mean feat in Hollywood. We ended up with a wonderful movie, though."
"I heard it was autobiographical," Willow asked. "Is this true?"
Tara sat down and thought to herself for a moment. For a minute, she seemed very distant, as if her mind was miles away. "Yes," she finally said. "I was in a coma for four months a few years back."
"Was it a car accident, like Rebecca had in the movie?"
"No," Tara said. "I was shot."
"Oh, my god!" Willow said aghast and sat down right next to Tara, taking her hand. She lay her other hand on Tara's shoulder and squeezed slightly. "How did it happen? Were you mugged? How could anyone mug you, you're such a nice person!"
Tara closed her eyes for a moment and tilted her head slightly to rug her cheek against the soft skin of Willow's hand. "No," she said. "It was an accident on the set. I was doing pick-ups for Mazes and Trolls and I pulled a Brandon Lee."
"A Brandon Lee?"
"Yeah," Tara chuckled. "I can laugh about it now, I suppose. Someone mixed up the blanks with real bullets and when the scene was shot, the gun was fired and I was right in the path of the bullet. The bullet hit me in the side of the head, and got lodged in the side of my skull. Jeffrey Combs was damn lucky that extra was such a lousy shot. I was not so lucky..."
"Oh, my god, that's awful!" Willow gasped.
"Not as awful as what happened afterwards," Tara shook her head. "I don't know how, but I was fully aware of everything what was happening around me. I don't know if it was just synapses firing around the lead of the bullet, but... it was as if my vision was on fire. I heard and saw everything. And I spent the next four months in a hospital."
"I can't imagine how terrible it must be to wake up with four months of your life missing," Willow said.
"If only I would have been asleep, Willow," Tara sighed. "If only. The doctors said I was in a deep coma. But I could hear, I could see, I could think... but I couldn't move. Not at all. Not even my eye-lids. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling. Fully aware. Imagine being a prisoner of your own body. That can really sap at your sanity, Willow. In my mind, I got better, I went home. I met women and I fell in love. I even wrote whole scripts, but every single time, I'd awake in that hospital bed again, starting at the ceiling. And then it would start all over again. I'd go home, go on with my life... and end up motionless in that bed again. Over and over and over again. Every time I ended up back in that bed, I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, but I couldn't even do that. You really start to lose your grip of reality in the end."
"Oh, Tara," Willow's eyes were full of concern and of compassion. Tara smiled when she kept lightly rubbing Willow's hand, which she was still holding.
"You know what my worst fear is?" Tara kept her eyes downcast. "That I'm still in that bed. That all of this is just a lie invented by my own trapped, insane mind. That I never got out of that coma and I never will."
"Rebecca's walking through the hospital, which got more and more hellish as the movie progressed," Willow said. "And then the demons and angels swooping in to seduce her. Did that happen to you too?"
"No," Tara shook her head. "That was a plotline I made up later, and nothing that ever happened to me. But strange things happen to you when you're at the edge of death. It's as if you're standing a platform looking down into a bottom-less pit and there's no place to go but down. That's the feeling I wanted to convey in 'The Veil'. I kept very tight reigns on every aspect of the film, because I had a certain vision about it that I could never explain to anyone else while we're filming. Luckily, the crew trusted me. I especially left the ending ambiguous. It seemed in the end, that Rebecca was released from the hospital and went home, but in the reality of the film, she never woke up."
"That's crazy," Willow said. "The worst kind of horror is the kind that can happen to anybody at any time with elements of normal everyday things."
"That's the whole point of horror," Tara half-smiled. "In the end, you'll never know if you're neighbor is an axe-wielding psychopath, or if you're house is built on top of an Indian burial ground."
"Or if there's a gateway to Hell in your backyard," Willow giggled. "Or, horrors upon horrors, a rain-machine above your backyard."
Tara smiled warmly and gently pushed a rebellious red lock of hair from Willow's cheek, stealing a moment to caress her soft skin. "I hope you're real, Willow," Tara whispered. "I really do."
"I was real the last time I looked," Willow chuckled.
Together, they sat for a moment, in silent awkwardness.
On day seven, after working almost around the clock for weeks, Buffy and her crew finished the cellar sets. The two cellars, of both killers Bruce and Andy, were lovingly and morbidly created with a true sense of detail. There were the lairs of two very evil people, and had a dank and oppressive atmosphere to it. Especially Bruce's basement, which would be shot first, looked like a madman's paradise. A gruesome workbench was in the middle of the room, with blood encrusted tools lying around it. In several bloody storage compartments, there was the harvest of Bruce's previous kills. Bodyparts, both new and decaying, had been lovingly created from a secret rubber-mixture and treated by Xander and his crew and had been strew haphazardly on the concrete floor of the basement. In the corner was the place where the victims awaiting their 'treatment' would be kept.
Right now, Willow was in the middle of a scene, shackled in chains with Jimmy in full Bruce-mode menacing over her.
"So," Bruce laughed maniacally while waving a sharp combat knife before a struggling Rosemary's eyes. "That's why the little girl ran. You were so annoying that your boyfriend kept knocking you across the room," Bruce's grin was so large it seemed not quite human. "So, little girl, did you ever thought about fighting back? No, you didn't. Because you're such a weak little coward. You ran... well, everybody can run. It takes guts to fight back," he grinned while scraping the blade of the knife across Rosemary's cheek while she shivered and sobbed. "And guts is something you don't have... Well, not for much longer anyway," he said, laughing about his own joke. "I'm gonna carve you up real nice..."
"Alright," Tara called from the director's chair while keeping an eye on the monitor since the camera was in extreme close-up. "Take it from the top. One more luck. We're still rolling people."
And so Jimmy started his line again. "So," he said. "That's why the little girl ran..."
But Willow couldn't hear the words anymore. She broke out in a cold sweat and everything she saw was out of focus. The walls started coming towards her more and more and more. And then there was that terrible memory... the person she loved standing over her fallen body, fist still balled and getting ready to hit her again if necessary...
"NO!" Willow screamed. She had to get out of there. She pulled and yanked on the chains which kept her in place. It took her a few moments to remember how to activate the safeties, but as soon as she did, the shackles clicked open and she bolted from the set.
She didn't know how she ended up sitting in the actor's lounge, but she did. She hugged her legs and cried softly.
"Hey," sounded the gentle voice of Tara. "Are you okay, Willow?"
"I'm s-sorry," Willow sniffed. "I'm so sorry I messed up the scene. I... I just had to get out of there."
"It's okay," Tara said gently as she sat down next to Willow and gently wrapped an arm around her shoulders, allowing Willow to lean into her. "I'm the one that's sorry. I pushed you too hard."
"It just... hit a little close to home, that's all," Willow sniffed. "I'm sorry, I'll just go and see Xander to fix up my make-up and then we can go on."
"We'll take a break," Tara said. "It's okay, don't worry about it. Do you want to talk about it?"
"With you," Willow sniffed again. "Only with you."
"Did... someone you loved hit you, Willow?"
"Yeah," Willow said. "I mean, when we met, Harriet was such a nice person. I mean, she could be impulsive and have a very nasty temper and... well, in retrospect, that should have been my first clue."
"Wait," Tara said. "Did you say 'Harriet'?"
"Yes," Willow looked at her quizically. "Harriet is my ex-girlfriend."
Tara blinked. It took her a few moments to wrap her head around two essential bits of information. First of all, Willow was gay. Secondly, she was single and thus, on the market. Third of all, Willow wasn't straight. In fact, she was gay. G... A...Y... Gay. Homosexual. Of the sapphic persuasion. Into girls. How the hell could she have missed this?!
Immediately, Tara pushed those feelings away. Professionalism aside, Willow was bearing her soul to Tara and it simply wouldn't be appropriate to flirt with her at this moment.
"Go on," Tara said.
"She was an artist," Willow smiled for a moment. "I met her when had just dropped out of college. She was moonlighting as a backdrop painter for one of the plays I acted in. We hit it off immediately and started dating. You know how it goes, we moved in together... two starving artists together. Guess what, turned out love really wasn't enough."
Willow looked away. "I don't remember when she started hitting me, or why. She... had a bit of a hole in her hand. She spent way too much money and we almost lost our house when we couldn't bring up the rent. She kept painting, while I got some other jobs besides my acting to cover our debts. In the end, it was just her and her muse. God, she was so obsessive. She yelled at me, she pushed me around... and she hit me. At first I thought it was all my fault. That somehow I made her so mad that she felt the need to hit me. That's so cliche, isn't it?"
"Oh, Willow," Tara said and took her into a gentle embrace. "I've got half a mind to look her up and have some words with her," she whispered. Willow could in her eyes that Tara would do more than just talk with her if she'd ever meet Harriet.
"I told my fellow actors that I'd fallen down the stairs whenever I had a big welt or something," Willow sniffed. "I don't think they believed me. I might be a klutz, but falling down the stairs four times a week... Finally I had enough. I told her to leave. I think she knew I was serious. When I got home from the play that same day, she was gone and had taken all her stuff. And that was that. I never saw hide nor hair of her again. It's bitter, but I think it was for the best."
"Believe me, I know how you feel," Tara offered a half-smile. "Angelica wasn't exactly un-abusive either."
"You?" Willow said. "But, you're so... strong and confident. And..."
Tara chuckled. "Angelica knew just how to push my buttons. She didn't hit me. Heh, I would have wiped the floor with her if she did. But hers was a more psychological sort of abuse. She could play me like a cheap violin. She constantly talked down on me, she marginalized my accomplishments, looked down on my movies and spent way too much of my money. To her, I was more of a trophy, a crutch to get higher-up in Hollywood. Oh, and a money-tree, let's not forget about that. My friends and family weren't good enough for her. Like you, I had enough. I love horror too much to give it up, and she had insulted my dad one to many times. I told her in no uncertain terms that wouldn't let her have her way anymore. And she exploded."
"What a bitch!" Willow said. "Why'd you let her walk all over you? For two years, no less!"
"Why did you let Harriet get away with hitting you?" Tara asked gently. "Not because of love."
Willow looked away. "No," she whispered.
"Same like me, then," Tara sighed. "Fear. I didn't want to be alone. Until one day you realize that you're better off being alone."
"Romance sucks," Willow pouted.
"It does," Tara sighed. "It really, really does."
"I'm gonna be a happy bachelorette for many, many years," Willow said resolutely, resolve-face firmly in place.
"Ditto!" Tara smiled... while both women were still firmly holding hands.
"The worst is," Willow said, "that she made me bring my cat to the pound. She was allergic. I had Tom for eight years. The last thing I had of my childhood. If there's one thing in my life I regret, it's that."
Willow took a few breaths. "Can we do the scene again?" Willow asked.
"Are you sure?"
"I... think I need to do this."
"Okay," Tara took her hand and together, they walked back to the set, where Jimmy immediately embraced Willow and apologized profusely for whatever it was that he might have done. Willow returned the embrace and laughed gently.
The third take ended up being the best of them all.
That evening, when everybody was clearing out, Faith, Xander and Tara were in the middle of the studio, at the edge of the basement sets, chatting quietly.
"Willow's gay," Tara blinked as if she could scarcely believe it herself. "She's actually gay..."
"Well, duh," Faith snorted. "How the hell could you not know? Even Xander has a better Gaydar than you do."
"Some men have a good eye for lesbians, trust me about that," Xander chuckled. "Guess Cordelia owes me ten bucks now."
"So, gonna do something about it, Tara?" Faith chuckled. "She is darn cute, isn't she? I wonder if she's a good kisser."
Tara ignored Faith's not-so-gentle tease and accompanied nudge. She leaned back in her chair and ran her hands through her hair for a moment. After letting out a deep sigh, she turned to her friends.
"Look, it's just not very professional..."
"Oh, god, here we go," Faith stamped her foot. "Hi, I'm Tara. I'd really like to kiss you, but it's not professional, so I'm just going to my trailer to watch some scream-queen movies instead. Would that be alright? I'm gonna a die a lonely old spinster with fifteen cats, no sex and no life."
"Look, Tara," Xander broke in. "Don't tell me you don't like her. And don't tell me you're very pleased that Willow is gay."
"It does... put new light on the situation, but come on, guys! You were so happy for me when I broke up with Angelica! Oh, you're free again, Tara. You can enjoy life again."
"I'm sure you can enjoy endless vicarious smoochies with the lovely Willow," Xander said. "We're just looking out for your best interest and happiness, Tara."
"Yes," Faith added. "That and your libido."
Tara looked away. "She's an actress. Angelica was an actress."
"Oh, now you're just making excuses," Faith said angrily. "I'm not getting any 'hotter thus better than thou'-vibes from Willow. She's genuine, Tara, not another Angelica. And if I'd been single, I'd be putting the moves on her right now!"
Tara sighed. "I don't know... I didn't think Angelica was an Angelica either when I first met her!"
Faith bristled and pulled her cap down. "That's it, I give up. I'm not going to stand here listening to the excuses of a yellow chicken. I'm going back to my trailer have stupendous sex with my wife... Better way to spend my time."
That said, Faith stomped off, leaving Xander and Tara to watch her step out of the studio towards the trailers.
"Am I being a yellow chicken, Xander?" Tara asked.
"Cluck, cluck, cluck," Xander replied with a smirk.
"Et tu, Xander?" Tara sighed. "Maybe I'm just being too stubborn."
"You're not helping here, Xander."
"No. Uh... Wait, was that a trick question?"
Tara, who was supposedly trying to oversee the camera set-up for the next scene, found her mind drifting to Willow. Tara looked over her shoulders, and from the corner of her eyes, saw her passing the time by cheerfully monkeying around with Rene, Faith and Xander.
Yeah Tara told herself. I am very, very attracted to her...
But Tara wondered what she would be getting into. She just got out of one relationship... was she ready to give up her newfound freedom? Maybe it wouldn't even work out, who knows? Why take the trouble?
Tara thought for a moment. Tara + Willow = Happiness? Or Tara + Willow = Happiness, then inevitable heartbreak. Oh, for god's sake, Tara. You've only known her for scarcely eight days and you're already thinking of moving in with her?! God, what a mess...
"HEY!" sounded Faith. "Are you even listening to me, or am I talking to myself here?"
Tara blinked. "Sorry? What?"
Faith chuckled. "I think there's no room in your mind for lens-configurations when all your runtime is devoted to a certain red-head."
Tara sank into the nearest seat. "I really need to focus myself here."
"Shall I get us some coffee?" Faith asked. "You look like you can use it."
And so Tara was left staring at the sets... and Willow cheerfully chatting with Xander. She let out a deep sigh.
Why do I love Horror? Tara asked herself. The answer was more than just 'because it's fun'. It was fun, because of the crew and actors working together to make a best possible film. A lot of people in the industry got their start in the horror-genre, so ego wasn't all that much of an issue. No, mostly it was because the people working on horror productions had embraced their fears and accepted them. And they lived happier lives as a result.
Or, at least, that was what John Carpenter had told her. Of course, they had been passing the blunt at the time.
So why am I afraid, Tara thought resolutely. This is ridiculous! I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna walk over there and ask Willow for a date right now!
Tara stood up, tugged her shirt down, and got ready to stride over to Willow to...
"Ahum," sounded behind her.
"Oh, hello, Anya," Tara said sheepishly. "Sorry, I didn't see you there."
"No," Anya said, rather harshly. "You only have eye for the red-head over there. And that's what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Oh?" Tara raised an eyebrow.
"Look, Tara," Anya said. "You have to be pretty blind to miss that you wanna get inside Willow's panties at your earliest convenience."
Anya continued her speech while Tara stared at her in stunned silence.
"Oh, who are you trying to fool here?" Anya rolled her eyes. "Look, I've know you for years, Tara, and I hated Angelica as much as I hate the rats in my basement. I'm happy that you've found someone for in love with, I really am... but my first concern here is the movie we're making. And it should be yours too!"
"Let me finish," Anya said. "I know tweedle-dumb and tweedle-dumber are trying to fix you up, but both you and Willow are integral to this movie. We're running a multi-million dollar production here and we simply can't risk any personal problems between the two of you causing trouble for us. Again, I don't care what you do with Willow. You can lick her all night long as far as I care... but only after principal photography has ended!"
Tara could only nod. Anya had been harsh, but honest... and the worst thing was that she was right.
Anya took Tara's sigh as an acceptance. "Two more days, Tara," she said, more gently this time. "Just wait two more days."
Anya walked off to balance some books and almost bumped into Faith.
"Sheesh," Faith said while she handed Tara a cup of brown-colored tasteless slop. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing," Tara replied softly. "Take me through the camera setup again, Faith."
Day nine went mostly without incident. Willow spent some time watching Dawn doing what was dubbed as the chainsaw stunt. Andy would basically try to saw Rosemary in half, and Rosemary, in a desperate move, would grab a metal pipe to try to block the blade, before kicking Andy against the knee and running up the stairs to the basement.
Of course, Willow wouldn't be used for any of those shots. That honor was bestowed on Dawn. And as she watched Dawn lying on her back, thrashing about while the sparks flew off the reinforced metal pipe while the working chainsaw was inches from her face, she did not envy her at all.
Still, she was having a lot of fun today. The only odd thing was that Tara had become somewhat distant. She hadn't stopped to chat with her today. Maybe she was reading too much into it, and maybe Tara was just busy. Between every single shot, Tara had been on the phone almost constantly, so she guessed it might have something to do with the production.
She could only hope tomorrow would be different.
Today would be the shortest day. All that was left to shoot were a few small scenes to fill in the gaps. Still, that was no reason to Tara to lose her focus. The last scene to be filmed, ironically, was something that would be in the very beginning of the film. It was a scene of Rosemary in the living room her new home. There was no dialogue, but she simply stood there, looking rather lost. Rosemary was in a strange environment, all her belonging are still in boxes and Rosemary had no idea which box to open first or where to start decorating her new home.
The quality of this scene depended entirely on Willow conveying these emotions purely through facial expressions and body language. And again she pulled it off masterfully.
"Alright," Tara said at the end of the shot. "CUT! That's it people. Our movie's in the can. Thank you. Thank all of you!"
A chorus of cheers and applause sounded from cast and crew.
"And," Tara said. "An applause for Willow Rosenberg. A very talented actress who we'll certainly be seeing a lot more!"
Willow blushed as red as her hair when the chorus of applause broke out a second time.
"Now, we're got one hell of a..." Tara started to say, when she suddenly noticed someone sneaking up to her. Too late she realized this, and before she knew it, several gallons of sweetly smelling fake blood was poured all over her.
Tara let out a shriek and then a laugh, while the gathered crew broke out in a collective belly-laugh. Faith and Xander, both holding one handle of a pail which up to a few seconds hold held fake movie-blood.
"We gotta change your name to Carrie Maclay now, Tara," Faith giggled.
"Ah, you bitches!" Tara giggled while she rubbed the sticky fake blood from her face. "I was gonna invite you all to one hell of a wrap-up party, but now you can forget it!"
And so the wrap-up party started. The caterers had been setting up at a closed up part of the studio, while some of the audio-crew had taken some time to set up the sound equipment for the music. But, for obvious reasons, Tara saw the need to go to her trailer to take a shower first.
She had just dried her hair somewhat and had dressed to a t-shirt and slacks when there was a knock on the door.
"Faith said you wanted to see me?" Willow asked.
"Yeah," Tara said. "Sorry. I showered for half an hour and I'm still sticky."
"You look fine," Willow smiled.
"Just don't get too close, or you'll get permanently attached," Tara said. Not that I'd mind all that much.
"So, it's really over, isn't it?" Willow pouted. "I had so much fun. I'm going to miss everyone."
"It's not all over," Tara said. "There's still ADR and pick-ups, so we'll still be seeing a bit more of each other. But that's not why I asked you to come here. I have a little present for you I wanted to give you to thank you for your dedication to our movie."
"Oh, that's not necessary," Willow blushed. "I mean, it's my job and... I did it for you..."
Tara smiled. "That's why it's necessary," she said and took a plastic pet carrier from underneath the table. Willow frowned at this, and Tara urged her to open the box. And when she did, Willow let out a gasp.
"Tom," Willow whispered. The grey tabby cat recognized Willow as well and jumped into her arms.
"Yeah," Tara smiled while Willow hugged her beloved pet. "I had an assistant make a call to the pound and they told me who had adopted Tom. I explained the situation to the nice elderly couple and they were only too happy to return him to you."
Actually, Tara thought. I had to bribe the receptionist with two tickets to horror-con and the 'nice' elderly couple jacked up the price again and again as soon as they found out that the cat had worth to Tara. She'd spent a lot of time on the phone yesterday to negotiate a price. In the end, Tom had cost her an arm and a leg, but the brilliant smile on Willow's face was worth every penny.
Willow gently put Tom back in the pet carrier and then gently flowed into Tara's arms, embracing her softly.
Tara's heart almost gave out. The scent of Willow's hair, the softness of her skin, the rise and fall of her chest with every breath.
Two unwanted guests once again appeared on her shoulder.
"Come on!" said Angel-Tara. "Kiss her! You know you want to!"
"Oh, please," scoffed Devil-Tara. "Come on, Tar. Two chicks that are both on the rebound, how long do you think that'll last? And do you really wanna give up your freedom? Is it sex? Is that it? Tara, just go to the nearest lesbian bar. There isn't a lesbian in the world who wouldn't want to have you in her bed for a night. You don't need Willow!"
"Tara!" Angel-Tara shouted. "You wouldn't go through all this trouble if you didn't think you could love her. You'd already decided to ask her for a date and now you can. Come on, look at her, she's ready to kiss you. Go for it!"
"Yeah, go for it," Devil-Tara snorted. "By all means. And think of me when you're under her thumb. Think of me when she'll ask you to give up what you love to do. Think of me when she starts cheating on you and assume you don't know. Think of me when you still try to save what's left of a relationship that was never one of love. Then you'll think of me and weep! It's happened before, Tara! It's happened before!"
"I... I... I..."
Willow looked Tara in the eye and gently kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you," she said when she took her cat. "Thank you so much..."
"Why don't you leave Tom here for a while, okay?" Tara asked. "Go and enjoy the party."
Willow thanked Tara one more time, and, while never looking away from Tara until the very last moment, Willow left the trailer.
Tara sighed deeply and picked up Tom from the pet carrier. "Okay, Tom, will you go out with me?"
"See, you moron?" Tara told herself. "Was it really that hard?"