"Mmm," Tara sighed, feeling Willow's hand graze her skin as she passed the hem line of her t-shirt. The two girls were standing in the entrance to Willow's bedroom, about to take advantage of her parents' business trip. They had run off to the house after a day of sunbathing and popsicle slurping in Shelbyville. The coolness of Willow's room was a relief, as was their time alone together.
Willow threw Tara down on the bed as soon as she shut the door to her room and giggled at the shocked look on her girlfriend's face.
Tara's smile grew immediately. "You're gonna pay for that," she growled.
"Whatever did I do?" Willow asked innocently, the cheeky smile on her face making Tara blush.
Tara sat up and pulled at the bottom of Willow's shirt, forcing her to fall on top. The both laughed nervously, staring at each other with only inches between them. They were both only half on the bed; Tara's feet were still touching the floor, and Willow was standing but leaning over Tara.
They continued to stare, feeling their breathing increase against each other's chest. After a moment, Willow placed a soft kiss on Tara's lips. They stayed in that moment until Tara looked back into Willow's eyes. Willow saw the smile building on Tara's face again.
"Let's get a little more comfortable," Tara whispered, tickling Willow's nose with her words.
Willow scooted up without any hesitation, allowing Tara to slide properly onto the bed. Tara rested her head down on the pillow and waited for Willow to come to her.
All of a sudden, Willow felt Tara flinch from beneath her. Tara drew a sharp gasp from her lungs and squinted in pain.
"Baby, what's wrong?" Willow asked in pure concern, lifting the majority of her weight off Tara.
Tara looked away for a moment, wondering how to tell her. "It-It's fine..." she said.
Willow gave her a look, obviously needing a better answer. Tara looked away again and felt her eyes welling up slowly. "It's him, he didn't mean to..."
"Didn't mean to what?" Willow sat up in alarm, knowing who Tara was referring to.
"He... oh, Will, please don't," Tara said, feeling defeated. Willow's eyes widened.
"Tara, please." Tara didn't respond so Willow, afraid of what he had done, slid her hand slowly up Tara's shirt to reveal more of her stomach.
Tara flinched again, mostly from embarrassment. She felt her cheeks get warmer as Willow gazed at her exposed body.
"Oh, Tara," Willow said, saddened. She looked down at the bruise on Tara's lower ribs, which was healing. She traced her hands delicately over the wounded skin before leaning down and kissing it.
How could he? How could he damage something so beautiful, Willow wondered. She knew she had to be the strong one. Tara was still silent, and Willow worried about the conflicting emotions that were probably running through her mind. She moved up to the pillows Tara was lying on and stared at Tara, who was facing the other direction. "Tara," she whispered.
Tara turned her head around to see Willow's distressed eyes.
Willow saw the tears balancing perfectly underneath Tara's lids, waiting to fall on her cheeks by the next blink. They fell slowly.
Tara closed her eyes, feeling the salt trail down her skin. She breathed in, gaining control of her emotions.
Willow reached across and stroked Tara's soft cheek, not wanting to push anything but curious nonetheless. Tara's eyes fluttered open slowly, and she seemed calmer.
"Before he left, he was angry and, umm, he pushed me over." Tara wanted to continue but remembering that night was making her chest hurt Thank God Chrissy had shown up when she did, she thought. She closed her eyes for a second and then carried on. "He saw a photo of you, that I keep under my bed with my mother's treasures."
Willow felt the sting of guilt run through her. She knew it wasn't her fault, but she couldn't help feeling that indirectly she was to blame.
"Please don't feel guilty," Tara said immediately, feeling the change of emotion in Willow.
Willow looked down and sighed. "I can't help it. It's because of me that he gets angry."
"So I should never be allowed to love someone because of what he might think?" Tara asked quickly.
"No! Tara, you deserve every inch of love in the world!" Willow almost yelled, her voice then becoming a whisper as she backtracked on what Tara had just said. "You love me?" She asked in disbelief.
Tara flashed the crooked grin that Willow always found so adorable. "Well, I was hoping to make it a more romantic confession, but..."
"Oh, Tara." Willow leaned over and placed her lips over Tara's, feeling absolute adoration for her.
Tara reached up and pulled Willow into her, capturing her lips as if it was the last kiss she would ever experience. She opened her mouth, and as though Willow could read her mind she did the same, sucking on her lower lip delicately at first, then teasing her by running her tongue back and forth from the inside to the edge and back again.
Willow slid her leg over Tara's and pushed her thigh up slowly. Tara moaned in frustration and arousal. She placed her hand on the back of Willow's neck, making the girl shiver, and pulled her in close so she could cover her mouth with her own. Tara felt Willow's tongue snake in again. She slid her own into the eager mouth, exploring the heat of the dance that their lips were now captured in.
Willow pushed her thigh upwards again, knowing the effect it was having on Tara, who was now pressed underneath her. She felt a small shiver go through Tara's body, making her own arousal rise to twice as much as it was a few seconds earlier. She took the cue and carried on her slow rhythm of pressing against Tara's heat while sliding her right hand up the side of her chest and back again, being careful not to hurt the girl any more than she had.
Tara was getting frustrated with Willow's small ministrations. They were driving her crazy with desire, but she knew they couldn't take it too far, as much as she wanted to. As the mere seconds of Willow's soft lips sliding down from her lips to her neck passed, her breathing hitched.
Willow kissed along Tara's jaw and slid her tongue out, grazing the milky skin in small circles. Her eyes fluttered open to see a small movement underneath Tara's thin shirt. She smiled to herself and pulled away to look Tara in the eyes.
Tara stared back at the deep green pools and attempted to catch her breath. She was aware of her exposed stomach, but the embarrassment was now far gone.
Willow flashed a grin and placed a chaste kiss on Tara's now full and swollen lips. "You're cute when you're flushed." She giggled and slid off the bed. She stood looking down on her girlfriend, the golden hair spread across the pillows, her arms lying lazily at either side of her, her shirt now just below the edge of her bra, her nipples stretching the light cloth, her legs casually spread and her eyes deep, dark and filled with love and desire. My girlfriend, she thought. She felt an amazing warmth run through her, sharing her absolute appreciation for the beauty spread across her bed.
But her eyes fell back on an image she never wanted to see again, the purple abrasion lying across Tara's stomach.
Tara saw Willow's face fall, and realized what she was staring at. She pulled her shirt back down again, feeling self-conscious with the change in mood.
Willow lifted her eyes to Tara's again. "Let's get out of here," she said.
"O-Okay." Tara glanced away and sat up, avoiding Willow's gaze. She didn't know what to think, but all she felt was embarrassed and confused.
"No! Tara, I mean... let's leave, for good. Let's leave the Gas Light Edition, Shelbyville - Christ, let's leave Indiana!"
Tara looked up at Willow in shock, unsure of what she was saying.
Willow sat back down on the bed and slid over to Tara's side, encouraging Tara to turn around so she could explain herself. "I won't let him touch you ever again. It's all good and hunky dorey to acknowledge the damage that he does and ignore the pain, but you've done it for too long and I'm not going to let you do that anymore. I can't." She stressed her last words as if there was no other option.
Tara sighed and looked down. "We can't just leave. We have nowhere to go, no money, no... nothing," she said.
"I can make anything out of nothing. Let's have an adventure, get married in Vegas, buy a car and I'll learn how to drive! We can work our way around the country, traveling with hippie communes and bikers!"
Willow's eyes gleamed and Tara giggled, knowing Willow had been thinking about this for a while. "It sounds wonderful, but I can't just leave. My father, he needs me and..."
"And you need him like a horse needs designer boots," Willow finished.
Tara looked at her with a puzzled look.
"Well, you get my point," Willow said, blushing.
"If you can prove to me we won't die in a ditch and it will work out, I-I think, I think maybe I would consider it... but there a lot of issu-"
"Are you serious?" Willow jumped up on her bed, rocking it against the wall with a bang.
Tara laughed at her girlfriend's delight and nodded. "But what about our friends? I don't know if I could leave them," she said, becoming serious again.
"What if they wanted to come as well?" Willow asked.
Tara raised an eyebrow.
"We're sick of this place. I can't guarantee anything, but I have a feeling they would jump at any opportunity to leave this place in dust," Willow said.
"What about your brothers?"
Willow gulped, feeling immense guilt about what she was about to say. Her voice came out shaky and uncertain. "Mom and Dad will come home soon, they have to. I can leave them at a friend's place until then, and they will be looked after."
Tara looked doubtful and didn't speak.
"Tara, I will do anything to keep you safe from... him. Tim and Chris will be okay. If anything, they'll be happy not to have their big sis bossing them around.l" She smiled, hoping to get the same out of Tara.
"Maybe. I don't want to jump into anything, but I can't lie; the idea of never seeing this town again makes me feel something, a kind of freedom I haven't felt since, well, since she... died."
Willow would have usually given Tara a comforting hug, but her eyes were sparkling, as if for once the memory of her mother didn't make her stomach turn inside out with pain. She squeezed Tara's arm and gave her a reassuring smile. Tara looked up and stroked Willow's cheek.
"I promise this will be the most amazing thing we have ever done," Willow said simply.
"I really love you, so much," Tara said, holding Willow's eye contact with intensity. "So much," she whispered again.
Willow felt a tear run down her cheek, before Tara wiped it away with her thumb gracefully.
"You're amazing," Willow whispered back, dropping her head in fear of more tears coming. She had never felt so overwhelmed by anyone before. Someone actually loved her. She had never felt those words pierce her heart so heavily before. She felt her chest pull in a breath, her nose started to stuff up and her eyes felt heavy. Oh no, not now, she thought. Her face was stained and puffed and she felt embarrassed for reacting as much as she did, making her laugh to herself before looking up at Tara again. "I feel so stupid," she said dumbly, wiping away stray tears on her cheeks and sniffing.
Tara smiled, trying to comfort. "Don't." It was the first time Tara had felt like the strong one. She knew it was in her, but she had never seen Willow so vulnerable before, and it felt good being able to protect someone else instead of worrying about herself for a change.
Tara lay down on the soft pillows of Willow's bed and brought Willow down with her, resting her head on her chest. The feeling of Tara's steady breaths made Willow calm down immediately.
Willow believed Tara had something about her, an energy that made everything so simple sometimes. Right now, Willow really appreciated it. The girls were both asleep within seconds.