Willow had sent her twin brothers to their friend's place for the night, so she didn't have to worry about them destroying the house while she was away. She was all set and ready to head off to Solomon's lake.
The girls and Xander sped over the rippled sand and dived into the slightly warm water. Chrissy shrieked as she scrambled down the hill to meet them a few moments later. She threw her towel into the pile and ran, embarrassed, into the water. She looked around and saw that their skin reflected the summer moon's glow.
After a few moments they all met in the middle, swimming around in a circle, feeling the comfort of the night closing in and pushing them together into a new friendship. All of them could feel the bond that was growing, they had been enjoying each other's company from the first word. A few glances swept across Willow and Tara and a few smiles were shared, knowing the growing connection between them.
Despite the concentration of thought the group had on the two, Willow and Tara were oblivious. They stared into each other's eyes whenever they met, too drawn to each other to pull their eyes away.
Relief came over the friends when they saw the sparks igniting the wood that Xander had placed on the sand. He had convinced himself earlier that morning that he would set out to make a giant bonfire; he imagined carrying huge logs across the soft sand, wind fighting against him, determination in his eyes, his pace steady. Now, he saw his friends glance at the little pile of sticks in the middle of the dark sand dune. His cheeks started burning.
"Manly bonfire?" Buffy teased.
As the night grew older, Tara caressed the softwood of the guitar, sending gentle music through the sleepy lake. Seven friends rested at her feet, their chests flowing up and down at a steady pace. Tara remembered being so young, her father sitting behind her and placing her fingers on the right places of the chords and waving her hand over the lower strings, making little beautiful noises. She would laugh at her achievement and her dad would clap for his girl. There was one difference in this memory to her later ones. Tara looked up and saw her mother sitting in an old wooden chair at the edge of the fire, bitten with many years of age. A blanket sat in her lap as she rested and tried to recover the energy that the therapy had taken away from her. Tara thought of the detail of her mother's hands sitting politely at the front of her blanket, loosely clasped over each other, fingering her wedding ring. It fell back and forth between her forefinger and thumb; it used to fit perfectly, now her hands were aging with illness and the ring slid across easily with the small movements.
Tara, only twelve, looked at her father again. There was still a sparkle in his eye, but it was fading fast. With every day that her mother felt her tiredness, felt the emptiness and upturn in her stomach and pain rushing through her head, her father's spark was fading, and Tara knew she wasn't enough to keep it alive for him. Her mother was his world, and soon it would be crashing down like a pack of cards. Her heart sank, feeling the moment of realization all over again; she was too young to be faced with something so final. The loss of her mother and her father all at once.
"Where did you put all those letters you wrote to yourself... but could not address?"
Her voice waved in the steady heat, feeling every moment running through her blood. With each new chord her attention turned to a friend sleeping on the sand, spread clumsily about, half on top of each other to keep the warmth and the moment. As she continued the light strums of the guitar, a kind understanding spread over all over them.
Looking down at her Willow, she felt a hum move all the way through her body. Her Willow. She was safe now, and her family was growing. There they were, lying at her feet, enjoying every moment of her company. Tara finished the song for them and placed the guitar lightly on the sand. She slid down next to her girl and placed an arm around her stomach; Willow moaned happily at the contact and snuggled into the new warmth next to her, putting an arm around her shoulder so Tara could rest on her chest. The blonde fell asleep to the sound of a heartbeat in rhythm with her own.