Tara slowly rocked back and forth in one of several chairs on the saloon porch and let her heavy eyelids at last drift shut. An open book lay forgotten in her lap, a recent and wholly unsuccessful attempt to distract her thoughts while she waited for Donnie and Will's return. The gentle rays of the afternoon sun worked in concert with the rhythmic creaking of the floorboards under her chair to ease her troubled mind into an unconscious, but hardly inactive state, and she began to dream...
The heat woke Tara from a deep sleep, a heat seemingly radiating all around her. She turned to peer out her window, expecting to see bright sunlight streaming through, but in the darkness she could clearly see the crescent moon high in the sky. She threw off her quilt and padded softly to the door, her bare feet shuffling sluggishly over the warm planks, the heat growing more oppressive with each step. When she reached the door, she found the iron latch almost uncomfortably hot to the touch, and the moment she pulled the door ajar a gust of searing air and smoke suffused the room. She quickly drew a handkerchief from between her breasts and covered her mouth and nose, stumbling forward to squint watering eyes into the raging inferno. Standing motionless from panic, she took in the sight of the barroom engulfed in flames. Only the sound of her name shouted from below drew her out of her shock, and her frantic eyes sought out the source.
They moved toward each other as one, Tara lunging for the staircase and pressing herself tightly against the wall as flames danced up the banister. As she reached the bottom, Will flipped his coat over both their heads, wrapped one arm around her waist, and together they raced for the door. Tara's own horse waited outside in the blissfully cool, crisp air. Will mounted first and held a hand down to Tara, who gripped his forearm and swung herself up behind him. With a sharp snap of the reins, they galloped down the dusty street and out of town.
Miles later, Tara scooted closer as they slowed to a trot, laying her forehead against Will's shoulder, her arms encircling the redhead's waist. She felt soft fingertips lightly caress down one arm to her hand, which the redhead raised to place feather-light kisses over her palm. Tara sighed against Will's neck as her hand was returned to its former position. She squeezed the redhead's waist once before letting her fingers inch up the slim torso. She sank heavily against Will's back as her hands kneaded the small, firm breasts, their nipples hardening under her touch. She felt Will's head turn and she leaned forward to meet soft lips with her own. As they parted she again heard her name called, barely more than a whisper or a sigh.
Tara's eyelids fluttered open to meet green eyes intently appraising her. The afternoon sun shone brightly behind the boy, illuminating his hair to a fiery red. Momentarily lost in the confusion between dreaming and waking, Tara extended her hand toward Will's face, pausing just before her fingertips reached his cheek. Suddenly turning her head left and right to assess her surroundings, she leapt out of her chair and spun around to look at the saloon.
'Just a dream... of course... Will isn't... just a dream,' she thought, exhaling deeply and shaking her head as she turned back to face Will, who leaned against the porch railing, contemplating the blonde curiously.
"Hey Tare!" Donnie exclaimed as he rounded the corner and hopped up the steps. "Why ain't you gettin' ready yet? We gotta get goin' before long."
"I-," she started, but Donnie had already turned to address the redhead.
"I'll take care of the wagon. You just meet us back here in an hour in your best duds."
Will nodded his assent, still gazing intently at Tara. Donnie looked back and forth between the two a moment, an amused smirk on his face, then disappeared unnoticed into the saloon. Tara tried to rein in her disappointment at realizing that Will had already been asked to the dance.
"S-so you're going tonight?" she inquired, struggling to keep her voice light.
"I am!" the redhead replied with a wide smile. "I was told that it will be an event not to be missed... the highlight of the social season, no less. Though I was also informed that the closest competition is the annual corn-shucking contest. Needless to say I could not refuse such a kind invitation."
Tara forced a tight-lipped smile at the young man's enthusiasm and tried not to let the chagrin show on her face. 'I bet it was Buffy... everybody just loves Buffy.'
"Donnie said I could ride along with y'all... I do hope it's not an inconvenience."
"Not at all," she answered, bowing her head a fraction. "It's nice to see you and Donnie becoming friends."
Will took a step closer and dipped his head down to capture the blonde's eyes.
"Am I not your friend as well, Tara?" he softly asked.
"Yes, of c-course," she stammered, becoming increasingly flustered as the redhead inched closer. 'Great,' she thought bitterly, 'the only man I've ever been attracted to, and he wants to be friends. Irony's kind of ironic that way.'
"Good," Will stated. "'Cause I have a favor to ask and, well, Donnie's not the type of friend I can ask this particular favor of."
Despite feeling as though her heart had dropped into her stomach, Tara looked quizzically at the redhead, who nervously knitted his hands together. Long seconds ticked by as they simply gazed at one another.
"What do you need?" Tara whispered.
"You," Will breathed.
Green and blue eyes widened simultaneously, and matching blushes spread over both their cheeks.
"For dancing! I-I-eh... what I mean to say is..." the redhead hastily added then paused to take a deep breath. "Tara, would you accompany me to the dance tonight?"
Tara's smile began as a barely discernible quirk at one side of her mouth, quickly spread to a lopsided smirk before becoming a beaming grin.