"Tara!" Willow crashed through the studio door, knocking the security guard into the wall. Jumping out into the crowd, she lost sight of her. It was only when Tara was out of her field of vision that Willow even became aware of the swarm around her.
Holy moly! They all saw that, didn't they? Willow threw her hands up over her face as her skin grew crimson with embarrassment and fear. Not even her DJ alter-ego could handle this. She ran through the crowd, parting the spectators with her elbows.
"Wait, you have to stop hyperventilating for me to understand a single word you're babbling." Buffy had only managed to turn partway around to face her roommate after the whirling dervish had blown through their door and landed on her unmade bed. "Did you just say 'you're a silly meany wearing ugly pants'?"
That was almost enough to quell Willow's frenzy, but not quite. What ensued was a strange combination of hysteria and hilarium, resulting in Willow snorting between sobs. She tried to calm herself to get the words out a little more clearly.
"I said Tara saw me doing a dance."
"OK, not any better Will, still have no idea what you're talking about." Buffy finished her turn and approached Willow's bedside. She knelt beside her crying friend and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. The contact had an immediate effect, like petting a whimpering puppy. Buffy knew this was bad. Willow was not known to be this emotional. Most of her brain space was reserved for logic and reason. "I think maybe you're overtired Will. Maybe you should try to take a nap before processing this one?"
Buffy really did want to know what the emergency was, but she also really thought her prescription was necessary. Willow hadn't gotten much sleep since the mixer Friday night, and as a result, neither had Buffy. She knew how her best friend's mind worked, namely tirelessly. Perhaps it had finally reached the point of exhaustion trying to decipher the whole "I'm a lesbian and crushing on Tara" thing.
"How can I sleep right now Buffy? The world is ending!" Willow turned her face ever so slightly to allow the words to escape from under her, but then reeled it back in, stifling further sobs.
Given Willow's penchant for science combined with Buffy's own exhaustion, she was inclined to believe any Chicken Little tale her intellectual friend could conjure. It took her a moment to accept this out-of-character irrationality as just that. "Willow, what happened?"
In one frantic, sweeping movement, Willow sat up, brushed Buffy's hand from her shoulder and began blurting. "I was in the studio mixing, and I don't know what happened to me. I closed my eyes to blink, but they wouldn't open again, and the next thing I know, Tara was there with me, hands all-in-new-places, and well, you know..."
Willow looked over at Buffy. Over the course of those few short sentences, Buffy's jaw had dropped to a low that left Willow wondering if maybe it had come unhinged.
The unthinkable had happened. Buffy was temporarily at a loss for words. The room was silent. Slowly, her look of shock morphed into one of confusion. Once the transformation was complete, her vocal chords restored function.
"Huh? What? Tara was in the studio with you? And touching you?" Nothing further was registering. "Wow, that's a, well, a little fast don'tcha think?"
Realizing the misunderstanding with a huff of frustration, then a shudder of embarrassment, Willow squeaked.
"NO! Tara didn't do that. I imagined it, but my hands decided to act out the whole thing." The tears began to flow again with the recollection. "Everyone saw me, including Tara."
"Oh," was all Buffy could think to say. Her brow wrinkled. The two sat in near silence for a few minutes with Willow's fading sobs the only sound in the room.
Once she stopped crying, leaving the room completely silent, Willow interrupted it, this time with words. " 'Oh, Willow, it's not that bad' would be a great thing to say right now. Even if it's not really true." She raised her eyebrows questioningly.
Buffy reacted on impulse. "Right. Of course. It's not that bad Will." She immediately doubted her words. "Is it?"
A similarly disheartening conversation had taken place in a dorm room across campus the same day. Kara had blasted into her shared space to find her roommate sobbing face down on her bed. She felt her stomach drop. For four years, the two girls had formed a friendship so strong, shared emotions had become shared physical experience of those emotions. Kara felt tears welling up in her eyes just knowing Tara was upset. It didn't matter why.
Her first emotion was panic. This was something bad. Tara wasn't just a little misty at her desk, or weepy sitting up reading. The girl was shaking and slowly rocking, her favorite teddy bear a victim of the lack of space between Tara's body and her comforter. Even with her face pressed into her pillow, Kara could hear the desperate sobs from across the room.
Abandoning her purse, backpack, and travel mug on the floor where she had entered, Kara flew over to Tara's bedside, immediately placing her hand gently on the Tara's upper back. She didn't want to startle her, but Kara wanted Tara to know that she was not alone, physically or mentally through whatever this was.
"Oh honey, what's wrong?"
Tara stiffened slightly at the contact, then melted back into her bed. God I'm being so stupid. I had hoped I would calm down before she got home. Just thinking about having to tell Kara what happened renewed the saline assault on her pillow.
All she could respond with was a nod of her head. No.
"Wow, Tara, you need to tell me. You're making me all nervous." That was the truth too. Kara couldn't think of a time she had seen her friend so upset. "Whatever it is, you can tell me." Kara was feeling worse by the second. If this went on much longer, She was going to need comforting too. She slid onto the bed and started rubbing Tara's back, hoping to calm the tidal wave.
A few sniffles later, Tara managed one word. "W-willow."
Kara stopped rubbing. "Willow? Did you say Willow?"
Again, a nod was the only reply.
"What about Willow, hun?"
All at once, it came out. The whole sordid scene.
"...a-nd the w-worst part was..." More sniffles, ones that threatened to tumble into more sobs. "J-jack."
"Jack?" Kara wasn't really following the story. She understood what had happened, but not why Tara was so upset.
"It was for Jack. The whole th-thing. He was at the front of the crowd. She obviously really likes him. If s-sleeping with him d-didn't prove it, this d-did."
Kara started rubbing again, fighting off tears herself. Ok, it is that bad. You're finally interested in a girl and she's off sleeping with...thought became excited words.
"Wait! Tara! I forgot to tell you!" Kara leapt off the bed.
Tara was startled. The sobs stopped, but so did her breathing. She turned her head and glared at the odd behavior of her roommate.
"She didn't do it!" Kara was nearly jumping up and down in the center of their room.
Tara breathed again in the form of a heavy sigh. "No, she really did. I w-was there. I s-saw the whole th-thing." She started sitting up, not relinquishing her death grip on the bear.
Kara laughed, "No, not that silly. Willow didn't sleep with Jack!" She punctuated the statement with a clap.
Seeing that Tara wasn't believing her, she continued. "I saw Jack outside, I kicked him a little, ok, a lot, but that doesn't matter. Well, it does matter, cuz man it was fun, but... "
Tara seemed to be moving from upset to angry at Kara's seemingly inappropriate joy. "What are you saying Kara?"
Kara tried to remain calm. She was excited to be delivering good news after all the crying. "I am saying that Jack admitted he was lying."
"L-lying?" A few more lingering sniffles ensued while the information soaked in. "Huh."
"Huh? Not huh! Yay! Right? I mean, that's what you wanted to hear isn't it?" Now Kara was confused. This was supposed to be good news.
Tears started to flow again. This time silently.
"Oh god, what now Tara?" Kara flopped back down on the bed.
"She s-stil l-likes him though. The d-dance." Tara refrained from taking up her previous prone position in favor of a sitting collapse into herself, and the bear.
"Oh, that." Kara's hopes were dashed now too. "Well, there's still that I guess."
The two girls sat in silence for a few minutes. Kara knew she had to say something. What though? "I don't know what to say Tara. I wish I did."
To say Willow wasn't herself would have been an understatement. It was as if there was no Willow at all. She didn't want to talk to Buffy about anything let alone Tara, "the incident" or coming out. If Buffy did try to bring any of those topics up, Willow would either ignore her, or completely deflate with a simple, "Please no, Buffy."
It pained Buffy to see her best friend like this. It was a new and unwelcome experience.
She wanted to do something. She had to do something.
Alone in their room, after Willow made a now characteristic silent exit to, well who knows where, Buffy decided it was time.
Not knowing what to do to help her friend, Buffy tried to think of who she could consult on the matter. Nothing like this had ever come up before. In fact, Willow was the one she went to for advice, or to talk through a sticky situation. The two girls depended on each other for everything. That fact, and the feeling of emptiness now created by Willow's mental absence, bubbled with an urgency Buffy was beginning to fear would not go away with time. She had to find someone else to talk to.
No one I know can help me with this. Can they? I had no idea Will was gay, maybe more of my friends are? Am I really that clueless? Buffy was thinking harder than possibly ever before. I might need outside assistance here. Looking around the room as if, once again, the answer lie in some inanimate object, her eyes settled on Willow's laptop. She really is out of her mind right now. I don't think she's ever left this room without that thing. A light bulb flashed over Buffy's head. That's it!
"Time to go Tar." Kara hoped the cheer in her voice wasn't too transparent. It was getting harder and harder to act chipper around Tara everyday. The girl hadn't so much as smiled in nearly a week.
Tara didn't even look up. "Kara, I just can't do it tonight. I've got so much work to do."
Kara sighed. She had expected the response. It was the same one she received every time she asked her roommate to leave the room with her. No amount of coaxing could get the girl out from within those same four walls for anything other than class or the occasional meal.
The last part was worrying her most. Not being social wasn't a completely new behavior, but Tara wasn't eating or sleeping much at all. Just that morning, after her forlorn friend turned down a quick bite before her morning class, Kara had inquired as to the time of Tara's last meal. Tara just shrugged, giving some vague statement about having had something at some point the day before.
It had gotten so bad, that at this point, Kara wasn't sure if the bags under Tara's eyes were from lack of sleep or lack of nourishment.
"You want some company? I could stay home and we could order a pizza or go over to the café, or something." She was sure to sound as nonchalant as possible. If she let on even a little about how important the meeting was, there was no way Tara would let her stay behind. Apparently she wasn't successful.
"You n-need to g-go." Still not making eye contact, "A-at least o-ne of us n-needs to be there."
"Blah! I know, I know. President and all." She exhaled heavily, causing her hair to blow a bit around her face.
"Are you sure you'll be ok? I could just call Jeffrey..."
"I-I'm sure Kara. I'll go grab something out of the vending machine in the lobby later." She sniffled and tried to look "ok". She knew it wasn't working, but she was trying as hard as she could. She had been on the verge of tears all week. Anytime Kara sounded too concerned, which was nearly every time she spoke, the waterworks started.
Kara turned and walked over to her roommate slowly, careful not to startle her. Slowly bending down over a seated Tara, she reached across with both arms and surrounded her in a big bear hug. She knew staying really wouldn't do any good. Nothing she could say would make it better. If Tara wanted to be alone, then she would respect that.
Kara stood, not breaking their physical connection. She ruffled the top of Tara's already tousled hair. "I'll go, but if you need me, just call my cell and I'll come running, ok?"
Receiving a semi-convincing nod from Tara, she walked to the door and opened it. Turning to take another look at the broken girl, Kara sighed heavily and finally closed the door, knowing there was nothing more she could do right now.
With great difficulty, Buffy had located a listing of campus clubs and organizations on the Internet. After getting a handle on just using an Internet browser without her favorite computer-geek to assist her, she stumbled across two groups she thought might be helpful. The first was the LGBTA- Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Association.
That would obviously be a good place for Willow to go to meet girls. But that's not what I'm looking for. I'm the one who needs help right now. Help with the helping. Yup, that's what I need.
From a link on the LGBTA page, Buffy discovered PFLAG. After reading up on the group, she liked it for two reasons. First, they might be able to give her the support she needed, and Second, her sexuality was less likely to come into question at a group for friends. As supportive as Buffy was trying to be to her best friend, there was still a layer of discomfort that existed within her. It was something she needed to work on, she knew, but right now, Willow was more important.
Oh goody, they're meeting today. Buffy checked her watch. Oh, make that right now!
"Ok, so the date is set, now we need to figure out everything else." Jeffrey stressed the lack of progress the group was making. He looked around the room. Mostly Freshmen and Sophomores this year. They were always a little harder to motivate, and even harder to get to take on responsibilities. It seemed that these younger students were much more interested in partying through the ball than working towards it or during it. Not that the organizers didn't have the chance to enjoy the event, but it was essential that they be present and in good condition during setup and cleanup. Drunk was not a useful condition for this, and that was the condition Jeffrey figured they wanted to be in.
He sighed. "Alright, let's form some committees. Maybe that will get us going?" Usually undyingly chipper and bouncy, the "Head Fag" as he liked to call himself was having a hard time staying enthusiastic about the event.
The PFLAG Drag Ball had been the group's major event for more than 10 years. It had started as a small party with the intention of drumming up new membership and visibility, but over the years had grown to a major fundraising event, with a different GLBT related organization benefiting from each. Besides being for a good cause, the Ball was a blast. Gay, Straight, or otherwise, everyone loved dressing up for the event.
"I move for a bathroom break first." Kara was all in favor of the committee forming, but needed a few minutes to regroup with her co-president. She knew the mood of the group was changing, but had not anticipated such a lackluster response to the planning. She flashed Jeffrey what she hoped would be a "we need to talk" look.
"Give everyone a few minutes to think about what committee they might want to be on." She turned back to the group after a knowing nod from Jeffrey Kara was trying to compensate for Jeffrey's pessimism. . "Ok, folks, 15 minutes, and then the fun will start."
"I hate this part." Willow had been less than enthusiastic about everything lately; classes, studying, hanging out with Buffy, breathing, but even on a good day, Willow really did hate this part of her job.
Chin in hands, DJ Red glared through the glass partition into the studio where three freshman boys Beavis-and-Buttheaded their way through snide remarks about who had a better ass, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera.
Isn't this topic a little old? Willow rolled her eyes and adjusted her headphones. She was there technically as the "producer" of the amateur show, but she and the other upperclassmen knew it was more of a babysitting job. DJ Red did not have her own show on the station, nor was she an officer of the radio club, but she traded the work for the use of the mixing equipment. Yeah, like I'll ever be doing that again. That was where her life as she knew it had ended. I will never stand in front of that window again.
Willow's mind wandered back to that day. What came over me? She really didn't have to ask the question. She knew exactly what had come over her. Tara. She makes me feel things I've never felt before. Naughty things. Obviously cuz, hello, never danced like that thinking about any boy. She closed her eyes and tried to conjure the images again. Just as the picture was tuning in her mind, another part of her subconscious stepped in, uninvited. STOP! No! Those thoughts are what got you in trouble. You have to stop. You scared off the girl you love. If you stop now, at least maybe you won't freak out the rest of the world while you're at it. Before she could reason with herself and prevent acceptance of such a resolution to not think of Tara anymore, a horrific noise ripped through her headphones.
"EW!" It was the freshmen. Apparently without Willow's watchful eye and ears trained on them, the pair had rapidly descended into juvenile bodily function humor. Certainly they had come without a script and were not capable of thinking on the spot. Or maybe of thought at all. Willow rolled her eyes before pressing the intercom button to intervene. "Uh, guys, ya think maybe you could play some music?"
Ugh She thought, maybe out loud. Still another half-hour of this crap.
She studied the fumbling boys on the other side of the glass and considered them as representatives of "the alternative". That's It. She resolved. I'm becoming a nun. A Jewish nun!
Shortly after Kara left, Tara reconsidered her decision to be alone, and regretted the move. I can't call Kara. She would come running like she said, but they need her there. Tara picked up the phone and dialed.
She wasn't Kara, but she was a decent substitute. Tara's conversation with Lynn had gone much more smoothly and calmly than the one she had with Kara just a little while ago. Lynn didn't have much to add either.
"Tar, look. I still stand by the Bi theory. My gaydar is never wrong. She's just unavailable is all." Lynn winced. "That didn't help did it."
Tara laughed a little. "No, not really. But you're right. I got my hopes up for no apparent reason. I mean, Willow never gave me any reason to think she was interested in me. She was just being friendly is all."
Lynn thought back to that day in the café. She had watched the whole exchange. "If I had been in your shoes, I would have thought Willow was flirting too."
Tara genuinely laughed this time. "Lynn, you think everyone is flirting with you."
"Well, they are!" Lynn acted shocked that Tara would even question the idea. She couldn't help but laugh at herself too.
"We aren't talking about me here, Tara. We're talking about you and Willow." Lynn's voice was firm, but radiated a clear sense of caring and concern.
"Correction." Tara's voice was more firm. "We are talking about me NOT talking, or even thinking about Willow anymore."
"Oh Tara, are you sure that's what you want to do?"
The firmness was gone.
If she had more time, she would have gone through her usual process of event planning to attend the PFLAG meeting. Given that by the time she learned of the groups existence, she was already 10 minutes late, Buffy skipped outfit contemplation and makeup adjustment and made a quick exit from her dorm.
She found the meeting room easily enough. After four years, there didn't seem to be a corner of the campus she hadn't memorized. The group met in one of the smaller theaters in the Arts building. Must be a pretty big group. As she reached the door to the theater, she stopped short. What am I going to say exactly?
Not being able to come up with a good game plan, she decided to go in with no plans of saying anything at all. I'll just go in and listen. Yeah, that might work.
She raised her hand to push the swinging door open, but was beaten to it by someone on the other side. "OH!" Buffy jumped back from the doorway. Two guys she knew from her psych class filed out and headed towards the bathroom across the hall without even acknowledging her.
Oh great! She let her arm flop to her side in resignation. I missed it.
Buffy's exclamation drew both Jeffrey's and Kara's attention to the entrance.
"Who's that?" Jeffrey jumped up and assumed a defensive stance. "Oh great, we've got crashers now?"
While he did have good reason to be cautious these days, Kara was pretty sure he was overreacting. She craned her neck to get a better look. As the door swung open again from the force of those leaving, Kara saw the interloper clearly. "What the hell is she doing here?" She hadn't really meant to say it out loud.
"Who is she?" Jeffrey abandoned his fighting stance for rubber necking with interest.
"She's a man-stealer." Kara stomped towards the door.