The day after principle photography had finished, Tara had withdrawn into the studio's editing facilities which had been set up for her. After ten days of shooting, she had ended up with almost twelve hours of material to be used, and started with the arduous task of putting all the pieces together into a coherent and well flowing 55 minute long feature.
Of course, of every sequence there were numerous takes of the same scene she could chose from. She already had an idea which takes she wanted to use, and focused on those parts to build up the film around them as if it was a puzzle. Following the script was a good guideline, yet it was not wise to follow the script completely when editing. Sometimes what worked well on paper would not translate well on the screen. Besides, the script never dealt well with dramatic pauses, silent exchanges and chemistry between the actors and/or characters.
And so Tara spent hours watching clips and putting them together. Her equipment consisted of a huge screen, a powerful editing computer system and almost 20 terabytes of harddrive space in external drives. Editing was one of the aspects of filmmaking that had improved the most over time, according to Tara. When she started making films, she had to work with celluloid and a simple viewer with a separate audio tape tracking system. Cutting the film had literally meant cutting it apart with a pair of scissors and putting them together with glue and tape. These days, with the advent of digital camera, the film could be transferred from the camera to the computer almost instantly and be ready to be cut. Editing itself had become so much easier too. In the early days, she would have almost a month of work on cutting 55 minutes of footage. Today, she could do it all in two or three days.
Normally, she preferred having a second professional editor who would be brought in after shooting. As the director, she knew she sometimes needed the eye of a professional who had emotional distance from the material. This time, however, due to budget and time constraints, she was on her own. In this case, she didn't mind all that much, since it was a small film with a clear plot. Besides, she felt she was the only one qualified to decide which wonderful shots of Willow she was going to use.
Tara was the kind of person who'd lock herself in the cutting room to fully focus herself on her task, but ever so often, she took regular breaks from editing, both to relax and to keep herself sharp. She'd whip out her trusty gameboy to help Mega Man fight his way through a particularly harrowing level.
After a tough fight with Metal Man, Tara switched off her gameboy and got back to work. The film was taking shape nicely. There were a few more scenes that needed touching up. She spent some time working on an introductory scene of Andy, which consisted mainly of a short conversation between Rosemary and Andy in his front yard. For some reason, she couldn't get the scene to flow properly no matter which cuts she made.
Tara took a short break to do some thinking and decided to restructure this particular scene. Originally, Rosemary would run into Andy while she was going out to the mailbox to get her mail. The two would strike up a casual conversation that would start out with a joke about homicidal mailmen and would move to Rosemary's background and then the subject would shift to the neighborhood.
Tara, however, found that the scene would work much better if Rosemary would be jogging through the neighborhood and Andy would call her over. Unfortunately, the scene didn't involve Rosemary jogging, but she did have some jogging footage from an other scene. Luckily for Tara, Willow was wearing the same costume in both scenes. So far, so good.
The next problem was that in the original scene, Rosemary would approach from the east, while in the new jogging scene, she'd be moving towards Andy from the west. Tara solved this continuity problem by flipping the image in the segment in which Andy would hail Rosemary. She then enlarged the image and cropped it slightly, so that this change would seem less apparent. She added a quick short of the street to made it seem that Rosemary had moved to the eastern side of the driveway during that time, to avoid having to flip and crop the original footage. What was left to do was to editing the dialogue. She tossed the mailman joke and had Andy start talking about the neighborhood and would then have him move to Rosemary's background. Tara ended the scene by adding a segment she had also borrowed from another scene: one in which Rosemary seemed slightly uncomfortable and continued her jog after saying goodbye.
Though many scenes could be used intact, Tara had to pull tricks like this in several scenes. The real job had been putting together the garden chase scene. She had to deal not only with many different takes, but also had to consider the many camera angles and segments. She had removed my superfluous segments and ended up with an exciting chase-scene that was neither too long to hold the attention or too short which would disappoint.
Tara spent the night on a cot she had brought into the cutting room. It was a short four hour night, but she had some rest at least. After a healthy breakfast consisting of a snickers bar and two cans of Dr. Pepper, Tara continued her intensive work.
Almost eight hours later, Tara had ended up with a very rough-cut of the final film. She had a film with a clear beginning and ending, with an excellent flow, a perfect build-up of suspense and plenty of shocking moments. There was only one problem, however: this particular cut was 70 minutes long. She'd need to trim about fifteen minutes.
For Tara, these were always the most heart-wrenching moments. It was as if Picasso had to cut off 10 centimeters of his finished painting to fit the frame that was build for it. She'd have to be hard on herself to make some cuts in scenes she really liked.
She started cutting a minute of footage which had Rosemary jogging through the neighborhood. Even though Tara thought that Willow looked so incredibly sexy in her spandex running pants, tank-top and bare midriff, the scene was primarily meant as an introduction to the suburb. And because she already had Faith's drive-by shots in the beginning of the film, which was not only shorter, but also more effective, she had to remove the scene from the final film... but she promised herself she'd keep it as a deleted scene for the DVD that Anchor Bay was already producing.
More such heart-wrenching decisions followed, but she finally ending up with a final cut that was 56 minutes long. She considered it close enough and instructed the computer to save the final product.
While the computer worked, Tara found herself staring at the screen... and a still of Willow on it.
'God, she's so beautiful. A pure goddess. Long, red hair. Those green eyes you can just drown in. Those kissable lips. Tara, you idiot. You had a chance to kiss that goddess and you blew it like the moron you are.' Tara thought wryly.
She looked at the computer again. 7% finished.
Tara sighed and took out her phone. She hesitated for a moment, but then dialed. Her breath caught in her throat when the phone rang.
'Calm down, Tara. God, what are you, a teenager? Come on, you weren't even this nervous when you first called Chrissy,' she thought, remembering her first girlfriend. The girl that first kissed her... the girl that eventually dumped her for a rock chick with tattoos and a green mohawk. 'Bitch...'
"Hi, Willow," Tara said. "It's me, Tara."
"Oh, hi, Tara!" Willow's mood seemed to brighten immediately, which in turn elated Tara. "It's so nice of you to call. I haven't heard from you yesterday."
"Yeah, sorry," Tara said. "I was editing, so I locked myself in the cutting room and kinda lost track of time. But I'm almost done now."
"It's good to hear your voice," Willow said. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Tara said. "God, we talked for hours the last time I called you. I think Anya's still out for my blood. She says I wasted valuable production time talking to you. I say it's all part of the post production process."
Willow chuckled for a moment. "We should call her the iron lady."
"Gold lady be more fitting," Tara laughed. "Lead lady would work too."
"I'm looking forward to seeing the film," Willow said. "Is the premiere still at the Toronto horror-fest?"
"Yep," Tara said proudly. "We're screening back to back with John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns. Anya put her management magic to work and got us on the bill... It's flattering, but it puts a lot of more strain on me to get the film finished on time."
"What do you still have to do?"
"Oh, some minor stuff," Tara said. "Veruca's already in the country. She's already composing and'll have the music ready by the end of the week, I hope."
Willow remained silent for a moment. "Are you and Veruca still..."
"Nah, that's tabloid talk," Tara smiled. "Veruca and I parted as good friends almost eight years ago."
Willow's sigh could only be seen as one of sheer relief. "Sorry about that, I was just... wondering."
Tara didn't mind, though, and took it as a sign that Willow was definitely interested in her as well. "How'd your audition go?"
"Not so good," Willow sighed. "I don't think I got the part."
"Oh, no," Tara said. "What went wrong?"
"Well, the fact that I got so nervous that I slipped and fell right off the stage probably didn't work in my favor."
"Goodness, are you hurt?"
"No," Willow smiled. "Just my pride. Got a big bruise on my butt, s'all. Nothing I can't handle. Us Canadians are rugged, after all. It's all the moose-meat in our diet."
"We got ADR in about two days," Tara said. "We probably don't need pick-ups this time. I... can't wait to see you again."
"I... I need to see you again soon," Willow replied softly.
"We will," Tara replied. "I, uh, think I ought to get back to work before Anya whips the skin off my back again."
"Tara, have you slept at all last night?"
"Couple of hours. Nothing a little Red Bull, won't fix. Don't worry, I'll be fine."
"I do worry," Willow replied. "But I trust you'll be fine. Get some sleep tonight, Tara."
"I will. Talk to you soon, Willow. Bye."
"Bye, Tara. Please call me again soon."
Tara switched off her phone and put it down. The screen read 98%. Still, Tara's work was not done now that the work print was finished. She still had the arduous task to apply the markers for the techs who would take care of the film's digital grading to enhance the vibrancy and depth of colors. And when that was done, she also needed to apply the CGI markers.
Tara was not a fan of over-indulgent use of CGI. She considered herself an old school horror filmmaker, and preferred to do as much as possible in front of the camera, working with life-like puppets, clever camera tricks, optical illusions and stuntwork as much as possible. But that didn't mean CGI could be used to add some minor enhancements to spice up a certain scene.
In one scene, Bruce would approach one of his victims from behind and slash at the back of her head with a sharpened garden hoe. The hoe slashed away part of the back of the poor girl's head. During filming, Dawn had taken the actress' place and was filmed from the back. Xander had dressed her in a special wig with a thin metal sheet taped to the back of her head. On top of that, he had attached a blood-pack with a miniature explosive underneath it. On this package rested a piece of bone-shaped plastic with human hairs burned into it. Just as Andy hit the back of Dawn head with the hoe, Xander detonated the explosive. The end result was a realistic looking piece of skullcap flying away from the victim, with appropriate amounts of blood seeping from the wound. The only thing Tara wanted, was some extra CGI splattering for about a third of a second to improve the effect slightly.
And when she was finished placing the markers, she sat back to watch the end result one more time. She suppressed a yawn when she heard the birds chirping outside and noticed the sun was rising. She was tired, smelly and hungry... the signs of a job well done. She was, however, slightly disappointed that there was very little need for pick-ups, aside from a few minor neighborhood shots, but no shots which required her to direct actors... or, more specifically, Willow.
But still, she found herself somewhat unsatisfied with the film's ending. Oh, it looked well on paper, but it didn't quite work for her on the screen. Rosemary would be tied up in Bruce's basement while the two killers brawled over the right to viciously murder her. During this struggle, Rosemary managed to escape her bonds, starting a fire in the process and barely escaping alive. And, in the end, she got a happy ending of a sorts, to start a new life as a stronger person. Tara didn't consider it a bad ending, but she simply wasn't satisfied with it.
It was then that Tara had an epiphany... an idea for the perfect ending for this film. Oh, it was insane. There was no time and there was no budget to do this, and it would mean a hell of a lot of extra work for a lot of people, but Tara knew she'd had to do this, because it would be so perfect an ending.
Xander'd be up for it, and she knew her actors would be too. On the other hand, there'd be war with Anya over this, and she'd have to recall Buffy and Faith, who had decided to go on a romantic camping trip together before returning home. And since a 'romantic camping trip' equated 'non-stop smoochies' for those two, there was sure to be some grumbling.
But she HAD to do this. She HAD to pull this off. She was incredibly tired, but still she booted up her laptop and started to write.
"The music is coming along fine," Veruca said as she sat behind her mixing board. "I've found some great musicians for the recording, and I have some nice licensed music picked out. It's obscure enough music, so we can get it very cheap."
"I'm glad," Tara said sincerely. She'd worked with Veruca for years and had known her for even longer. It was good for her to know she could rely on Veruca to take care of the details behind the score of her film. Tara merely needed to say what kind of mood or feeling she wanted to convey and Veruca'd come up with something appropriate.
"So, what did you eat this morning?" Veruca smirked. "No, wait... let me guess. Your breakfast were the chicken wings left over from yesterday's dinner, and you chugged down one or two cans of Red Bull on top of that."
"Hey," Tara shot her a mock-glare. "I take my art very seriously. When I'm editing, I don't have time to count calories. Or eat properly. Or sleep. It's all about the film, in the end."
"Okay," Veruca smirked and took a moment to listen to a short piece of her composition on the keyboard. "You know, I've been wondering about something for some time now. How come you never do any lesbian themed pictures? Makes sense to me. You're a lesbian. You like lesbians. Lesbian like you..."
Tara chuckled slightly. "That shows how little you know about this industry, Ruca. Type-casting is even worse for directors than it is for actors! If I do a lesbian-themed horror film, lesbian themed horror films is all I'll be doing till the day I die, so I'm steering way clear of those." Tara thought for a moment. "Well, I could be able to pull off a Russ Meyer-style light parody, though."
"Sure, why not?" Tara smirked. "We'll call it 'Kill, Pussy, Kill'."
"You gotta know how the critics think. When a heterosexual does a film like that, they call it 'foul and perverse'. If a lesbian directs that same film, it suddenly becomes a 'shocking, yet compelling and sensitively constructed documentary-drama that points out the multitude of sexually orientated discriminations that plague our society today'. And, hey presto, hello Oscar nomination."
Veruca laughed. "Cool. And, you'll get to hang out with gorgeous women who'll be topless most of the time."
"Well, there is that added perk," Tara smirked. "Still, I don't think I'll make that kind of film. I don't think Willow'd be interested to be in that kind of film either."
"What?" Veruca winked. "You wouldn't want to see Willow topless?"
"No, uh... I mean yes, I, uh... Well, I..."
"I get it," Veruca chuckled. "You would love to see Willow topless, just not in that capacity. Probably somewhere private. Someplace that has champagne, a bubble-bath and lots of mirrors."
Tara blushed heavily and sank in her seat next to Veruca. "Geez, you know me too well, Ruca."
"And don't you forget it," Veruca smiled. "I know what kind of women you like. And Willow's a cute one. She's completely in to you too. Go for it, Tara. And if you're feeling guilty, check this out."
Veruca removed a newspaper clipping from her backpack and handed it too Tara. "It's about Angelica?" Tara frowned. "Crazed B-starlet Stupendously Drunk at Benefit Concert. Heh, it says she's also been stalking the Pussycat Dolls. The slut... What did I ever see in her?! Three years of my life I wasted on that bitch."
"And finally her eyes are open," Veruca smiled. "Alright, back to business. I'll need to see the new ending before I'll compose the music."
"It's still in post-processing. I'll ask one of the techies to give you a copy so you can work with it."
"Great," Veruca replied. "You must have busted some heads to get everybody back to the studio."
"It took some doing, but I finally convinced everyone the new ending is better. Even Anya had to reluctantly agree to that. She was mostly concerned about meeting the festival's deadline, but I promised I'd sacrifice a couple of nights of sleep to get everything done if need be. The sets were still intact and Buffy and her crew managed to set it all up record time. Xander was the most enthusiastic of the lot, and all the actors were only too happy to turn up, so it's win-win. The only problem was..."
"Faith and Buffy."
"Oh? I thought they'd be keen."
"I, uh, sorta called them when they were, um, in the middle of something."
"Still, it's Faith's own fault for keeping her phone switched in."
"Yeah, well, she put it in no uncertain terms that she never wanted me to call her again while she's making love to her wife. I've got a lot of grovelling to do for a few weeks."
Tara checked the clock. "I think I have to get back to the ADR studio, now."
"Yes," Veruca winked. "Willow is waiting for you. Ready and willing."
"Oh, ha-ha," Tara shook her head and left the room.
When Tara entered the ADR studio again, Willow had already taken her place and greeted Tara with a warm smile.
ADR had always been essential to filmmaking. Unbeknowst to many, the dialogue in films and tv-programmes is more often than not re-recorded after filming has been completed, especially if filming had taken place outside. There'd almost always be background noise or unclear recording. Though the possibility existed to clean up these audio tracks, it was simply cheaper, less time-consuming and delivered more quality sound to simply re-record afterwards.
Willow had been placed in a soundproof booth and was wearing headphones. In front of her was a big screen which ran the partially finished movie in chunks. Willow'd listen to the dialogue and would try to match the delivery she had given during shooting as closely as she could, as well as trying to make sure the new recording would be lip-synched to what was happening on the screen.
Tara was there to give directions if need be, but found herself feeling a little superfluous. Willow's delivery was, as usual, near-perfect. So Tara instead settled for watching Willow perform.
'God, she's so amazingly talented,' Tara mused. 'It's so strange that nobody has discovered her earlier... I could listen to her voice all day long. God, that gorgeous hair... Those eyes... Those lips... Oh, GOD, I can't take it anymore!'
Tara stood up from her chair and rushed into the soundbooth. Willow started for a moment when she suddenly found Tara standing in front of her. She yelped when she suddenly found herself being scooped into Tara's arms. Willow's breath quickened when she stared into Tara's eyes. Then slowly and gently, they leaned in for a kiss. Their lips met, and finally the one thing they had both wanted so desperately became reality. Willow pressed her body against Tara's. "Oh, Tara," Willow whispered after Tara broke the kiss and started nipping at Willow's neck. "Tara... Tara... Oh, Tara..."
Tara started for a moment and found herself looking through the window of the soundbooth. Willow was looking at her with a worried look on her face. "Uh, was that okay, Tara? Or do I have to do it again?"
"Uh, yeah, that was fine, Willow," Tara smiled gently. "Perfect."
Willow's insecurity faded instantly. "Thanks. Uh, are you okay? You look a bit flushed."
"Uh, yeah, don't worry about me," Tara bit her lip. "It's okay."
And so the dialogue recording continued, and despite the initial disappointment, Tara was happy that she hadn't followed through with her plan to ravish Willow. Mainly because she hadn't factored two peeping toms in the form of the two nerdy sound engineers she shared the mixing panel with.
Since the very first day of filming, another small film-unit had been making a behind the scenes documentary alongside the making of the main film, which was to be released with the DVD Anchor Bay was releasing later that year. The project was being led by a young director fresh out of film-school... someone Tara really didn't like.
Luckily, Tara was able to minimize contact between them... until the DVD interviews were slated to take place.
Rene and Jimmy, and also Tara herself were able to withstand the young director's irritating personality, but Willow was having more trouble. After being instructed never to look into the camera, Willow was suddenly asked to look directly into the camera. The young director was so blunt that Willow was getting very nervous. And because Willow didn't answer the questions in a fashion that he liked, the young director was getting more and more irritated with her, which in turn made Willow even more nervous.
Finally, Tara had had enough. After stating that it was obvious that he didn't have any empathy or subtlety at all, he brushed him aside and put Willow at ease. She asked Willow the questions and this time Willow did much better, even if she hadn't had a script to work with.
Tara's last question, however, turned out to be Willow's favorite : "Will you be my date to the premiere tomorrow, Willow?"
And finally, the film was finished. And Tara even had eight hours of sleep last night...
Editing, music and sound dubbed has been completed, and literally the day before the premiere. The film had been digitally graded and CGI effects had been edited. As a finishing touch, the end credits had been added... a testament to all the men and women who had done their utmost to make 'Survival of the Fittest' see the light of day.
And there it was, above the cinema entrance, large as life : 'Toronto Horror-fest kicks off: John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns and Tara Maclay's Suburban Jungle'. The official premiere of months of hard work at a prestigious festival. This cinema could fit hundreds upon hundreds of people, and all the people involved with making the film would be there to see it... as well as hundreds of die-hard horror fans.
She waved at John Carpenter as he and his date entered the cinema. Tara didn't enter yet, because her date had yet to show.
And then she was there... and the sight took Tara's breath away. Willow was standing there, wearing a gorgeous black sleeveless evening gown. Willow smiled warmly when she saw Tara.
"Wow," Tara said when she approached Willow and took in the sight of her. "You look gorgeous."
"Thanks," Willow blushed. "This, uh, was a costume for a play I was in. The seamstress let me keep it after the run ended. The pearl necklace was my grandmother's."
It was then when Tara realized just how much of a slob she must look. Tara never dressed up for premieres and simply wore jeans, a black t-shirt, a leather jacket and matching baseball cap.
"Well," Tara chuckled. "Now I know how the pauper felt when he was standing next to the prince."
"Nonsense," Willow smiled. "You look great, Tara."
"Shall we go in, then?" Tara asked and took the liberty to hook her arms through Willow's. Together, the two girls prepared to enter the cinema. Until...
"Tara!" sounded a familiar voice. "HEY, TARA! WAIT UP, GIRL!"
Tara's eyes grew wide for a moment. She spun around and was right in time to receive a bear-hug from her brother. Behind him, she saw her father rushing up to them as well. "Donny?! Dad?!" Tara exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey," her father said. "How often do I get the chance to see one of my little girl's premieres? Not a lot. So we really wanted to be there. Got there just in time, I just parked the car. We bought tickets for the screening on Ebay."
"Yeah," Donny said. "The moment we found out they'd be screening your movie, we rushed over here to see it. We left Bubba in charge of the shop."
"Bubba?!" Tara frowned. "I sure hope you'll have a shop left when you get back."
"So do I," her father said wryly. "So, who's this young lady next to you?"
"Oh. OH!" Tara replied. "This is Willow, star of the movie and my date for this evening. Willow, this is my dad and this is my brother Donny."
After hands and greetings were exchanged, Donny nudged Tara. "Date, huh? Nice catch, girl."
"Her name isn't Angelica 2, I hope," her father asked. "You haven't snagged another girl who gives lesbians a bad name, have you?"
"No, no," Tara smiled at Willow. "Willow's nothing like her."
The warmth in Tara's smile made Willow blush slightly, causing Donny to nudge his dad instead. A 'there's going to be an addition to the family soon' kind of nudge.
"Well, what are we still doing here? Come on, let's go see a movie!" Tara's father stated.
Tara and Willow had class A seats in the massive theatre. Slowly, the theatre was filling up with crewmembers, but mostly with rabid horror fans. Some of them were dressed us as famous characters. Willow must have seen about a dozen Freddies, counted eight Pinheads, nine Jasons, at least thirty guys dressed up as Ash and even the odd Dr. Herbest West or two. Tara however, was too busy trying to find out where her family was sitting. So far, she hadn't seen them.
"Are you okay?" Willow asked. "You're so nervous."
"God," Tara tried to calm herself, but was almost shaking. "They came all the way from Alabama... I know horror fans are a capricious lot, but I least they're the devil I know. Oh, god, they're here. I... what if they hate the film? What if they hate it, Willow? What... what if everybody h-hates it. W-what if... Wha..."
Willow was upon her in an instant. "Hey," she whispered while laying her hand on Tara's cheek. "Hey, Tara, it'll be okay. You poured your heart and soul into this movie. The audience is gonna see that. Your dad and brother will see that. Don't worry about it. I have complete confidence in you."
"Sorry," Tara said, gently keeping Willow's hand on her cheek to enjoy the feeling of her soft skin on hers. "I... I sometimes get like this when... Do you really think dad and Donny will like the film? I mean, what if it sucks?"
"They will like it and so will everybody else. Tell me, has your family ever said one of your movies sucked?"
"Then why would think that now?"
"I... I suppose they won't."
"I'm sure they won't," Willow whispered. "It'll be fine, Tara."
"Thanks, Willow," Tara whispered. And then the cinema started to darken.
John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns was up first, and though Tara was still slightly nervous, she found she could tremendously enjoy John's movie. The horror fans loved it as well. What Tara also enjoyed was the closeness to Willow: in true cliche fashion, Willow would squeeze Tara's hand, or curl up against her whenever there was a shock moment. And during the showing, Tara actually caught sight of Faith and Buffy... making out in the dark, as usual.
About 55 minutes later, Suburban Jungle started. Tara was incredibly nervous at first, but then everything fell into place. The audience laughed at the right moments, shouted at the right moments and gasped at the right moments. And all the while, Willow was squeezing her hand. It must have be strange to see herself on the screen, but she too was enjoying the fruits of her labor.
The new ending finally started. On the big screen, Rosemary ran into her house, closely followed suit by the killers Andy and Bruce. The perspective changed to the view of the killers running in... then suddenly faded to black when a two-by-four suddenly swung into view.
Andy and Bruce slowly woke up and found themselves tied up and gagged on the ground. They found themselves in a room without windows... and it took them only a few moments to realize they were in a basement. Rosemary's basement.
The place looked like an abattoir. Bloody hooks and tools hung from the walls, and several freezers stood facing a central workbench.
"Well, well, well," said Rosemary as she paced towards the two men. "This girl's not so helpless after all, is she?"
Her long red hair was tied into a ponytail, and she was wearing a bloodstained apron. "The human body consists of so many different parts. If you look hard enough, you'll find all kinds of uses for all of them."
She grinned and squatted down next to the men. "You know why I moved here? Well... it's all because of my boyfriend. He was an asshole. Sometimes he'd hit me so hard I thought I was going to die on that floor in his dirty apartment... I really didn't mean to kill him, I really didn't. But the beatings just had to stop... And then I was left with a body. A body I needed to get rid of."
Rosemary stood up and walked over to a freezer. She opened it and took out a small piece of meat. She popped it in her mouth and, for a moment, a look of pure ecstasy crossed her gentle features. "My god... Do you know how intense the taste of human flesh is? God created man in his own image... so when you eat human flesh, you're tasting the very essence of God. It's purity, my friends. Purity. I suppose I should thank my boyfriend. If it wasn't for him, I would have never found my true calling..."
For a moment, Rosemary had a truly insane look in her eyes. "This suburb? It's the perfect hunting ground. You can smuggle people in and out without anyone noticing. And who'd ever suspect a lovely young woman like me? But you know all this, being the killers that you are... And, of course, I'll have to remove the competition. Just in time too... my larder was starting to get a little empty. And I so hate being hungry."
Rosemary, truly deranged, took hold of a chainsaw and pulled the chord. As the blade started spinning, she smiled in a way that was not quite human. "Don't worry, gentlemen. This'll only hurt a bit."
The audience whooped when Willow on the screen slashed the chainsaw downward, causing great amounts of blood to spray onto her apron from an unseen wound. The shock transformation from helpless scream-queen to deranged cannibal serial killer was complete, and Willow pulled it off so believably it was downright frightening.
As the credits rolled, the audience cheered and applauded. For Tara, it was the culmination of the all the hard work she and her friends had put into this movie. The cast and crew took the praise with a blush and a bow. Tara turned to Willow and embraced her. "Thank you," she whispered.
The afterparty had kicked off properly. Cast and crew mixed with fans and everybody had something to celebrate. Success of this movie would mean new work for Xander and his FX company, it would mean lots of money and prestige for Anya, it would mean continued success for Faith and Buffy, and it would mean that there was a real chance that Tara'd have an easier time to green-light her next project with the studios. Willow would be in the public eye, and could be offered some interesting parts in the future.
Tara listened to her brother rave about his favorite parts of the film... which turned out to be the entire film. Her father had some comments, but those were mostly constructive. After sipping somewhat from her champagne, Tara promised herself to check out the convention floor tomorrow. But right now, she had other things on her mind.
"Tara?" Willow asked. "Would you like to walk me home?"
"Sure," Tara smiled. In the background, Faith nudged Xander, Xander nudged Donny, Donny nudged Faith again and Faith nudged Buffy, causing Buffy to complain about having champagne spilled over her dress.
Tara shook her head and lead Willow outside. Willow's apartment was just a few blocks away from the theatre and it took only a few steps for them to be alone. Side by side, they stepped through the darkness towards the apartment building which already loomed in the distance.
"It's a little run down, but it's home," Willow said. "I don't need much space and the rent is cheap. I live on the second floor, over there."
Tara, however, was miles away. This is your last chance, Tara. Your last chance. If you let her slip away, you'll never see her again. Strike now, Tara. The time to strike is now! NOW OR NEVER!
"So, here we are," Willow said as she stood in front of the door leading into the hallway.
"Yeah," Tara said nervously, "here we are."
"Would you, uhm..."
Tara took a deep breath. "Willow? Would you, uhm, like to have lunch with me tomorrow?"
"Uhm, well, I, uh... No," Willow replied.
Tara's heart shattered and the pieces slid down her ribcage and settled on top of her stomach. "Oh... I thought..."
"Tara," Willow broke in, and blushed deeply. "I'd, uhm, I'd... really... like to have breakfast with you tomorrow."
Willow looked away quickly, not daring to meet Tara's eyes. For Tara, it took a few moments to sink in just what Willow was inviting her for.
"Willow," Tara whispered. "I..."
"I don't usually... do things like this," Willow shivered from her nerves. "More like, uh, never... But... Tara, I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever met. Both on the inside and the outside, and I..."
Tara answered with a kiss. She gently took Willow in her arms and brushed her lips against hers. Tentative at first, the kiss soon turned more passionate. As Tara started a gentle exploration of Willow's mouth, she felt Willow's hands sliding through her hair, taking off her cap. Willow broke the kiss for a moment to catch her breath. The two women kept the embrace, and only after a few moments, Willow moved down to kiss the nape of Tara's neck, gently suckling on her lover's skin. Tara felt Willow tugging the hem shirt from her pants and moaned when she felt Willow's hand slowly sliding over her belly until she was gently cupping her right breast.
"I..." Tara whispered. "I think we need to get inside..."
With a smile, Willow took her lover by the hand and led her into the apartment building.
Tara woke up when the first rays of the morning sun cut through the blinds and landed right in her eyes. Tara stirred and stretched for a moment. She smiled to herself when she felt Willow lying next to her, apparently still sleeping. She curled up against Willow and let her hand slide along the side of her lover's beautiful body.
Willow's apartment wasn't too big, but it was big enough for her. Space for a couch, a few bookshelves, a desk and a TV. A small bathroom with shower and a small bedroom that could barely accommodate the two-person bed and the dresser inside. However, this was the place where Tara had just spent the most wonderful night of her life.
Willow and Tara had made love with a passion that had been building up ever since they had first met. Then they had hugged, had some pillow talk, made love again, hugged again, talked about their lives, made love again, basked in each other's afterglow, made love yet again, had some deep talks about their place in the world and, finally, made love for a final time before they finally fell asleep.
"Hmmm," Willow stirred in Tara's arm. "Hi," Willow whispered, still sleepy.
"Hi yourself," Tara smiled and kissed the tip of Willow's nose. Willow retaliated by capturing Tara's lips.
"Time to get up?" Willow whispered. "I promised you breakfast."
"Not yet," Tara whispered back and hugged Willow underneath the duvet. "Let's just lie here a little while longer."
Tom jumped up from the floor on the bed and miaou'd loudly in protest.
"Aww," Willow said while she picked up her beloved cat and put him on the pillow. "Poor baby. We've been keeping you up all night, haven't we? And I still haven't filled your bowl."
Tara lay on her side watching Willow petting her cat. And she knew she and Willow belonged together. If nothing else was sure in the world, that particular fact was. Tara was going to made damn sure they could be together... whatever it would take. She'd either help her get into the industry back in LA, or she'd set up shop here in Canada. She certainly had several projects Willow could star in.
Whatever it would take, whatever sacrifices she'd have to make, she would to make this relationship work. Because Willow accepted her, and perhaps even loved her, for who she was. She could be happy with Willow... and, just as important, she could be herself too. And Willow was someone who so much deserved to be respected and loved.
Tara smiled at Willow, before leaning in for a passionate kiss.
Looking on from the living room, Angel-Tara congratulated herself as Willow put Tom back on the ground, and the two lovers were well underway to yet another session of passionate lovemaking. Still, Devil-Tara was strangely absent... though the bloodied baseball bat Angel-Tara held hidden behind her back might have had something to do with it.